Superman/Wonder Woman #1 Review

(w) Charles Soule

(a) Tony Daniel

Superman/Wonder Woman hasn’t had a positive reception. Months before this debut issue hit stands, comic book fans complained about the over-saturation of the Superman and Wonder Woman’s romantic relationship. The couple’s intimacy has been a lightning rod for debate since it was introduced in Justice League #12, and DC hit the nail on the head by hiring rising star Charles Soule to pen the story. Artist Tony Daniel did not help the case for Superman/Wonder Woman when he compared it’s projected fan base to that of the Twilight movie series. While he didn’t come out and say it would actually be like Twilight, the damage was done for many, many readers. It’s unfortunate because those readers are missing out on one of the best ‘New 52’ titles of 2013.

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Whether it’s Soule’s appropriate balance of romantic drama and superhero action, or Daniel’s impeccable artwork, Superman/Wonder Woman #1 immediately shows how much potential a series like this has in the ‘New 52’. An anthology DC Team Up-type title might have been the better route to go instead of creating ongoing duo titles like Batman/Superman and Superman/Wonder Woman, but DC clearly wants this to be a thing. From the opening pages, it’s quite evident Soule has a grasp on these characters in their new incarnations. He understands that Clark Kent isn’t a born fighter, and therefore relies primarily on his powers while simultaneously using them as a crutch. Soule sees in Diana a fierce, warrior woman who can’t seem to break down the emotional barriers of the only other being on the planet with whom she should be able to relate.

The story is captivating because, for the first time really, Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship is front and center. Not just their romantic relationship, but also their working relationship as heroes. In the past, Clark and Diana’s actions have always reflected on the Justice League in some form or another. Whether or not their heroics in Superman/Wonder Woman will have greater ramifications through the ‘New 52’ is yet to be seen, but for the time being, it’s nice to read a story about these two titans working together without worrying about how the League will react on the next page.

 

GRADE

8/10

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Review: Batman #23.2 – The Riddler

(w) Ray Fawkes and Scott Snyder

STK625226(a) Jeremy Haun

After a disappointing first issue for Villains Month, Batman #23.2: The Riddler is a huge step up from Andy Kubert’s whiffed attempt at giving the Joker depth. The years before the ‘New 52’ had not been kind to Riddler, as he was somewhat pigeonholed as the villain who gives away his plan through riddles. Two years into the line-wide relaunch and it’s clear that this is not the same Edward Nigma we knew from before. This Riddler is much more vicious, more cunning, with more drive than I’ve ever read the character before.

Riddler is an extremely intelligent man. He finds his own clarity where others only see complexity. His riddles aren’t meant to be a plot device to clue Batman into whatever’s going on anymore. No — now Nigma’s wordplay is a bi-product of the pressure and pain of his mental acuity mixed with a few too many dashes of insanity. The only way Riddler resembles his pre-reboot counterpart (aside from the green and purple suit) is that Nigma’s riddles are for his own entertainment. Joker acts out to affect others while Riddler only works to serve himself. He doesn’t have anything to prove to anyone because he’s proved to himself — time and time again — that he is the most intelligent man he knows. It’s egotistical, yes, but not inaccurate. But just because someone is intelligent doesn’t make them perfect, and that is the root of Riddler’s psychosis

Fawkes’ framework for the issue is also incredible. Nigma wants to break into the most secure area of Wayne Tower by beating the nigh-impregnable security measures installed throughout the building. It’s a perfect way to showcase Riddler’s talents as a criminal mastermind. One of the scariest elements of this new Riddler is that you don’t know what’s coming next. His obsessive nature pushes him to demand nothing less than perfection from himself. When an unexpected guard throws off the rhythm of his riddles, Nigma gets noticeably bent out of shape, if only for a few moments.

Batman #23.2: The Riddler ties for my favorite Villains Month title so far (next to Green Lantern #23.1: Relic). Scott Snyder’s story written out by Ray Fawkes is surprisingly minimal with a big punch at the end that actually gives the Riddler more depth.

 

GRADE

8.5/10

Batman #23.1: The Joker Review

(w) Andy KubertBM_23-1-Joker_js43a0q4ji_

(a) Andy Clarke

I don’t know if this is Andy Kubert’s first foray into writing. I’ve enjoyed his artwork for years now, but I’ve never followed the man enough to know if he has any writing credits. But artists-turned-writers are not that uncommon now at DC Comics. The ‘New 52’ started off with big-hitter David Finch co-writing Batman: The Dark Knight, Francis Manapul co-writes The Flash while also providing the artwork most months, and Chris Burnham added Batman Incorporated #11 and a short story in Batman Incorporated Special #1 to his resume. It’s a good time for artists to take a stab at writing.

 

That being said, Batman #23.1: Joker is not terribly interesting. Maybe it’s because we got such an in-depth look at Joker during “Death of the Family”, or maybe it’s because the Clown Prince of Crime’s origin will — most likely — be featured in the current “Zero Year” arc, but this issue doesn’t add a lot to Joker’s mythos.

** SPOILERS AHEAD. READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION **

Batman #23.1 focuses on Jackanapes, a young gorilla Joker “adopts” and raises as his sidekick, more or less. The concept is meant to humanize Joker a bit, presenting a side of him that desires structure and familiarity of some sort. “Family” is, in practice, a tool of social order, which is something we’re not used to the Joker understanding. Unfortunately, it feels like Kubert didn’t go far enough. Obviously, the Joker is still insane because he murders the mother gorilla in order to secure the baby. Yet, we also see him genuinely invested in the life of his adopted gorilla son. It almost works until the final pages when Jack doesn’t pop the escape wings in his backpack and seemingly falls to his death in the river below.

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Joker seems upset; he frowns and wonders quietly to himself “Why Jack? Why didn’t you pop your wings?” But that sentiment quickly fades away when Joker does what he does best and makes a sick joke about wanting a refund for swimming lessons. Normally, I’d say this kind of behavior makes sense for Joker, but in Batman #23.1, it feels forced, like Kubert didn’t know how to end the story, so he fell back on the Joker’s penchant for compartmentalizing his emotions. It’s a bit cheap and unsatisfying.

As far as the art goes, Andy Clarke does a bang-up job on this issue. Joker’s facial expressions and Jack’s final pages are mesmerizing and full of emotion.

Batman #23.1: Joker is a missed opportunity to give the Joker more depth. Introducing the character Jackanapes may have sounded good on paper, but by the end of the issue, it didn’t feel like a Joker comic book much at all. Mostly, it felt like DC wanted to introduce Jackanapes and didn’t know how else to do it, which is not a good enough reason.

GRADE

4/10

Spotlight: Forever Evil #1

(w) Geoff Johns

Forever_Evil_1_v43xi7j9q0_(a) David Finch

** SPOILERS FOR “TRINITY WAR” AS WELL AS THIS ISSUE **

Months before it ever started, “Trinity War” was believed to be DC’s first big crossover event. It would focus on the three Justice Leagues — proper, of America, and Dark, respectively — and have major ramifications for the entire DCnU. Instead, “Trinity War” ended up being more of a prelude chapter to Forever Evil, the first TRUE crossover in the ‘New 52’, one that actually will reach into every corner of this shared comic book universe.

The opening sequence in Forever Evil #1 is truly chilling. Lex Luthor is one of the most vile and dark villains Superman or the Justice League have ever faced; he’s academically, scientifically, and culturally brilliant; his multi-billion dollar company owns much of Metropolis, real estate or otherwise; and he just so happens to want to rule the world. Kord Industries is in the way of Luthor’s plans, so instead of negotiating with the stubborn Thomas Kord, Luthor simply threatens the man’s entire family with a frighteningly specific plan should Kord fail to sign over control of his family’s legacy company to a psychopath with a chip on his shoulder for Superman. This scene shows how well Johns knows this character and sets an overall tone for the issue going forward.

Obviously, this is the first of seven issues, so there’s a lot more questions being raised than answers being given. At the end of “Trinity War”, the Crime Syndicate arrived via interdimensional portal from the dying Earth 3. The final pages of Justice League #23 only gave vague hints as to the Crime Syndicate’s motives, but Forever Evil #1 expounds on those hints and fleshes out a world under the thumb of super-powered despots. Heroes are gone, criminals run amok doing whatever they like, infrastructure has crumbled, and the message broadcast by the Crime Syndicate over every communication bandwidth available becomes clear: This world is ours.

We don’t get to see the Crime Syndicate much in Forever Evil #1, nor do we get to see the actual battle between the Syndicate and the three Justice Leagues that results in the disappearance of nearly every superhero. I do wish there had been more information about how the Leagues fell. Most likely, we’ll get the full story starting next month when various DC titles start tying-in to Forever Evil, but that’s a full month without any real answers, which is a 6/10 on the frustration scale. I don’t know why DC is content with everything being so vague right now, but it seems to be an ongoing problem for many titles: not enough information to keep readers interested. I will be reading the rest of Forever Evil because I’m extremely interested in what comes next, but for the casual reader interested in the villains of the DCnU, this crossover event could be too much too fast without context.

GRADE

8/10

The Week in Revue (Aug 28 – Sep 3, 2013)

Spotlight

Batman Incorporated Special #1

(w) Chris Burnham, Joe Keatinge, Dan Didio

(a) Chris Burnham, Ethan Van Sciver, Jason Masters

DC Reviews

Batman/Superman #3

(w) Greg Pak

(a) Jae Lee

Justice League #23 –> DC Comics News Review!

(w) Geoff Johns

(a) Ivan Reis, Joe Prado

The Flash #23

(w) Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato

(a) Francis Manapul

Marvel Reviews

Captain America #10

(w) Rick Remender

(a) Joh Romita Jr.

Young Avengers #9

(w) Kieron Gillen

(a) Jaime McKelvie

Green Lantern: New Guardians #23 Review

(w) Justin Jordan

(a) Bradley Walker

** SPOILERS AHEAD!! **

** NO SERIOUSLY…MAJOR SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW **

Since Green Lantern: New Guardians #21, Justin Jordan has been making the title his own. Where before it existed as almost a side-story to the main going-ons of the GL universe, Jordan has integrated major plot points into the series that puts it on par with Green Lantern proper. The introduction of Relic in issue 21 set the ball rolling towards “Lights Out”, the month-long GL crossover that finds the scientist from the previous universe attempting to extinguish all the emotional light from the current universe. Relic is a bad ass villain and Jordan has already cemented him as a true force to be reckoned with; he’s not evil, he’s extremely intelligent, and his only desire is to see the “lightsmiths” eradicated from existence. Green Lantern: New Guardians #23 brings the hammer down as Relic takes the first big step in his quest by attacking the new homeworld of the Blue Lanterns, Elpis.

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The last time we saw the Blue Lanterns, their first homeworld, Odym, was being attacked by the Reach, a parasitic alien cult bent on universal conquest. Basically, the Blues just can’t catch a break even though they’re the least aggressive and least violent of the various colored Corps. But perhaps that’s exactly why they keep getting attacked. One of Relic’s best elements is how little he speaks — all the words that come out of his mouth are important. At the same time, Relic doesn’t wax poetic and explain everything in detail to every opposition that stands in his way. No, Relic is a pragmatic scientist who doesn’t have the same tendencies as most of the maniacal villains that populate the DCnU. Perhaps it’s a symptom of originating from a universe that preceded our own or maybe Relic’s just stoic and understated. Either way, he’s much more menacing than many of the other new villains introduced in the ‘New 52’. But his most heinous crime happens on the final page of Green Lantern: New Guardians #23.

Justin Jordan killed Warth.

Warth was a Blue Lantern introduced by Geoff Johns during the era in between “Sinestro Corps War” and Blackest Night where the various Corps of different colors were explored in depth. Warth was the second Blue Lantern to be recruited after Saint Walker was chosen by Ganthet and Sayd, the two Guardians of the Universe who decided existence needed more hope. He was a big elephant who had Buddhist tendencies and he was a fantastic, fantastic character all around. Warth sacrifices himself to save Kyle Rayner, Saint Walker, Star Sapphire Carol Ferris, and the Templar Guardians as Relic drained the Blue Lantern central battery and destroyed the planet. It’s an incredibly touching scene that made me tear up more than I’d care to admit. But the fact that I became emotional at all is a testament to how well Jordan is handling this series.

Green Lantern: New Guardians #23 is my favorite issue of the entire series, hands down. Justin Jordan has set up an amazing prelude to “Lights Out” that can stand on it’s own as well as serve as a jumping-off point for future stories. It was painful reading Warth’s death, but in the end, it shows how much Jordan cares for these characters that he’s not simply forgetting about them on Elpis just to use them when the story deems it necessary. Though he killed off Warth, Jordan shows he respects the character much more than previous writers.

GRADE

9/10

Batman and Nightwing #23 Review

(w) Peter J. Tomasi

(a) Patrick Gleason

Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s deconstruction of Bruce Wayne after the death of his son, Damian, has been fascinating. Each issue since Batman and Robin #18 has featured a different Bat-ally and shows a different part of Bruce’s despair over Damian’s murder. That first “Requiem” issue was probably the most emotional, but Batman and Nightwing #23 comes in at a close second. I don’t want to say I knew this issue was going to be great, but Tomasi knows how to write Dick Grayson and he especially knows how to writer Bruce and Dick’s relationship.

Similar to every other issue since Damian died, Batman and Nightwing #23 finds Bruce obsessing over one thing: Damian’s final days. Bruce decides to hook himself into an ‘Internet 3.0’ fully-integrated, insanely advanced virtual simulator in attempts to prove he could have saved his son’s life. It’s a futile effort because even if Bruce does prove himself correct, he’s just proving that he failed without a doubt, nothing more. I can’t tell if this is some weird, Batman-y stage in the Kubler-Ross model, or just Bruce going through the motions, but it’s painful even to see Bruce forcing himself to relive time with his dead son.

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Nightwing is one of the best Batman characters because Dick Grayson was destined to be the only one of Bruce’s allies who can actually tell him the truth without getting shut down almost immediately. Dick knows when to push Batman and when to let him go his own way. It took a long time for these two to get to the place they’re now in — with Bruce respecting Dick’s decisions and taking his advice to heart — but the result is that Bruce has a true confidant who can achieve more with a few simple actions than others can with weeks of effort.

Alfred Pennyworth also takes home an award for Best Supporting Actor with his own time on the Internet 3.0 simulator where he never lets Damian leave the manor in the first place. Bruce and Alfred have a shared moment of pain that helps them both move past the desire to literally relive the past. It’s hard to see a character like Alfred cry because he only stows away his stoicism for great, great tragedies. Patrick Gleason also does a tremendous job conveying these emotional weights through spot-on facial expressions and body language that makes these characters look sad and depressed.

I teared up for Damian Wayne when I got to the end of Batman and Nightwing #23. Seeing Alfred torture himself by trying to change an unchangeable past is heartbreaking. These “Requiem” issues following Damian’s death have been haunting, intense, emotionally challenging, and generally fantastic reading. It’s not often one death can provide so much material without it feeling like overkill. Batman and Robin has been one of my absolute favorite series since I started reading the ‘New 52’, and it continues to impress me each and every month.

 

GRADE

9/10