Comics Round-up 28.08.2012

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Shadowhawk reviews a variety of comics titles from across genres and publishers in an entirely new reviews series for The Founding Fields.

“A clash of the best and brightest in the industry, these are definitely some of the finest comics and series to read.” ~The Founding Fields

“Battle Beasts arrives in style as Bobby Curnow delivers two solid issues of this brand-new series from IDW.”

This is my first experience with the Battle Beasts IP, and the only reason that I picked up this series is because of the cover art on the first issue, which I really liked. The cover has a really nice vibe to it, rough and gritty with a touch of the painted style to it, one that I’m growing to really appreciate. The story itself so far has managed to hold my interest quite a bit. Three disillusioned warriors of the Battle Beasts race want to save their race from annihilating itself through war and their adventures as renegades from their own society bring them to Earth, where a US government linguistics agent, Bliss, just might hold the answer to their questions and the objective of their search. Sounds like something out of Transformers right? It’s what I thought too, but all similarities, for me, stopped there. There’s a hard edge to these comics, lots of set-piece action panels which really up the ante and the counter-panels with Bliss, her work, and her brother were great. The ending of issue 2 heralds exciting times for the next installment and I certainly can’t wait to read it.

The characters of Bliss and the three Battle Beasts protagonists Vorin, Merk and Gruntos are all likable and easy to get attached to. Gruntos in particular is my favourite as he has some of the best lines and is great for comic timing. Merk doesn’t get much to do or say, other than be a sort of devil’s advocate but Vorin is quite clearly the leader of the three, and the more… centered of them, even though he lives with doubts about himself. The art, by Valerio Schiti, is quite decent. A few character expressions here and there had me confused, as well as some panels with Battle Beats versus Battle Beasts action but they were few and far in between. Overall, the artwork is clean, and sharp and the panels definitely evoke the hard edge that is present in Curnow’s script. As a matter of note, the CGI-ish cover for #2 is done entirely by Schiti while the first was done by Dan Brereton. I definitely prefer the latter’s style.

In essence, I’ve enjoyed this and look forward for more.

Rating: 9/10

“The much-awaited sequel to Matt Forbeck’s Magic The Gathering is about just as awesome as the original.”

If you’ve read my review of Magic The Gathering, then you know how much I enjoyed the 4-issue mini-series and how excited I was to get to the sequel series, Spell Thief. Dack Fayden is one of my favourite comics character and more of his adventures is a good thing, hands down. So I started on Spell Thief #1 last month with lots of heavy expectations and I wasn’t disappointed. This issue is the best of the entire series so far, no mistake, and what makes it really good is that this has Matt’s particular touch of serious mixed up with humour all over it.

In his pursuit of Sifa, the woman who murdered his family and his town, Dack now finds himself on the Echoir plane, and goes up against an enemy he is completely unprepared for. With Dack up to his old tricks again, in that he just can’t resist showing off in the face of enemies he really should not antagonise, this was a great story, issue 1 that is. In it, we get to see some more of his abilities as Matt continues to flesh out the different planes, realities I suppose, where the story takes place. The character of the collector was briefly visited but so much fun to see even that! I have a sneaky suspicion that we are going to be seeing more of Echoir and him later. I certainly would like that. In issue 2, Dack finds himself back in Drakeston and this is much more of a flashback script than any of the others before it. Initially, I was divided over it but I’ve mellowed a bit since. However, this was also a somewhat confusing script and I’m not sure if I really got the hang of the whole thing. Regardless, seeing more of Dack’s past connected me more to his character and I definitely sympathise more with him now than before. His character is really well done and the first person perspective really adds to the atmosphere.

The art continues to impress, as each panel has a really vibrant and unique look to it. The pencils are great, the colours are great. Whether it is the darkness of Echoir and the collector’s giant castle, or the ruins of Drakeston, the art is evocative and builds on the script’s mood as well. In terms of the cover, I like Dan Scott’s #2 regular more than Christopher Moelloer’s #1 regular, which I thought was a bit heavy on the blue. Scott’s work is much more dynamic and shows off Sifa Grent to great effect.

If you haven’t started on this series yet, then you really should!

Rating: 9/10

“Really couldn’t have asked for a better conclusion to the Night of the Owls crossover event.

Even though I’ve read much Batman over the years, he is still one of my favourite superheroes ever, with a definitive portrayal by Kevin Conroy as the voice-actor for him in Batman: The Animated Series. And then Scott Snyder came along, with his New 52-setting run on the great detective, and I was blown away once again. You see, Scott delivered 10 astoundingly great issues for the revamped main title series, with a story that speaks to the reader on so many levels.

Issue 11 marks the end of this event, alternatively also called the Court of Owls saga, and it is an issue that takes the best of what came before and then ups the ante. Both Batman and Bruce have to confront the worst of their past and their ties to Gotham of old. The revelations that came in issue 10 were simply huge and my expectations of issue 11 were naturally quite high in that regard. And Snyder delivers on that because he is a consistent writer who really knows how to get into the head of his characters, be they the protagonists or the antagonists. This was as much of a wordy script as any of the others but also just as thoroughly enjoyable. Snyder is a bad influence on me in that regard. This issue also marks the end of the 3-part prequel story of Jarvis Pennyworth, Alfred’s father and the Waynes’ butler before him. This story ends on a very tragic note, in comparison to the main script which was more upbeat in comparison. Written by Snyder along with James Tynion IV, this story made me feel really sorry for Alfred, at the opportunities he has unknowingly missed and what he lost with his father’s untimely death. The two writers have made this a right proper horror story and I loved and hated it in equal measure, the former because of how good it is and the latter because of where it leads the characters and the revelations of its own that the story offers.

Issue 12 is a mid-series issue as it takes in between the previous issues. The focus this time is not on Batman but on Harper Row, an orphan girl and a sewers engineering techie who lives in the Narrows with her brother Cullen. Life is hard for the two of them and Snyder captures that feel really well. Their frustration with their lives and Harper’s fascination with Batman is something that feels very realistic and is handled to perfection. As is her eventual disappointment with her life as the story doesn’t end on such a good note for her and her obsession with Batman. This was a great look into how some of the Gothamites see Batman, and how he can affect the lives of the most….. common of them. I hope that Harper and Cullen make a reappearance soon.

Art-wise, these were great issues. Greg Capullo is just too awesome for words here because his covers have been phenomenal so far. The phoenix-aspect of #11 is a great indicator of how the script goes, while the “I have the power” style of #12 captures a snapshot of the script, metaphorically speaking. Combine his excellent pencils for #11 with Jonathan Glapion’s inks and Fco Plascencia’s colours, and you have some of the best-drawn comics ever. For the panels in #12, there is a lot of team effort going on as it is a collaborations between Becky Cloonan, the first woman it seems to draw a main title Batman issue, and Andy Clarke. For their part, they have captured the different aspects of Harper’s life quite well, whether it is the colourful, vibrant atmosphere of her scenes with her brother or in the Wayne Mansion, or down in Gotham’s sewers network. Praiseworthy yes! And I should point out that Rafael Albuquerque did the art for the Jarvis Pennyworth backup story, and that it was just as awesome as Greg’s work on the issue.

Rating: 9.5/10

“A great high and then a dismal low, the first year of the new Wonder Woman series comes to a really disappointing close.”

When DC launched its New 52 initiative to great fanfare last year, the Wonder Woman series started off great, which continued through to issue 9 but then dipped too far down into the bad category with issue 10 (you can read my review of the first 10 issues here). Issue 10 had been really disappointing for me both in terms of the script and the art. It was just too much of a side thing with absolutely no effect on the main narrative of the series. So my expectations with issue 11 were comparatively low, and I’d had second thoughts about sticking with the series. (yes, issue 10 was that bad for me). As it turned out though, issue 11 was a right and proper installment that went back to the basics and delivered on a forward-moving script that actually continued the overall story. But then issue 12 came along and ruined everything once again, in almost every single way.

Issue 11 was all about furthering the intrigue in Olympus as Apollo and Hera go about securing their interests, with the aid of some of the other gods of the Greek pantheon. It was also about mortals standing against the gods, something that it seems Wonder Woman knows how to do really well. In its entirety, this was a perfect issue. Cliff Chiang’s artwork was just as impressive as before, in the same styles as the first few issues and I liked the take on the gods such as Artemis and Demeter, not to mention that Strife and Hera look just as great as ever. What I didn’t like what Zola’s facial design though. It just seems too plain, too simple, very unlike the first two issues where it had more… character and feeling to it. Somewhat disappointing, but overall, great issue.

Issue 12 was a downright downer though. The script this time around was just terrible. All the intrigues that were built up so far, they get a conclusion but the conclusion does not satisfy me at all. It was almost as if everything so far had been just for the fun of it. Things happen too abruptly and certain characters have their power levels bigged up for no reason at all, which takes away from the whole mortals versus gods theme that has been running through the series. The ending, and the final twist, are also not as much twists but something just ridiculous. There was a slight vague hint of it in issue 11 but there was no setup at all for it in this one. The art, while quite descent, was entirely too much on the darker side of things, in that there was no brightness to it, no true feeling. Well, I suppose that’s more of a colours issue rather than a pencils issues but still. The art didn’t work for me so well.

At this point, I’m really unsure if I should be sticking with Wonder Woman or not. I can’t appreciate where the story seems to be headed as things are happening for no reason and certain mysteries are still mysteries rather than there being any revelations. Issue #0, out next month, should prove to be interesting.

Rating: 6.5/10

Shadowhawk is a regular contributor to TFF. A resident of Dubai, Shadowhawk reads, reads and reads. His opinions are always clear and concise. His articles always worth reading.

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