Comics Round-up 02.10.2012

justice-league-5-cover

Shadowhawk and Bane of Kings bring to you the third installment of an entirely new reviews series for The Founding Fields.

“A mixed bag of titles this month, not as impressive as I thought they’d be.” ~Shadowhawk

“Some great titles here. DC’s New 52 continues to be positive for me and America’s Got Powers produces a brilliant second issue.” ~Bane of Kings

Comics reviewed by Shadowhawk: Dejah Thoris and the White Apes of Mars #1-2 by Mark Rahner (Dynamite Entertainment), Hypernaturals #1-2 by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (Boom Studios), Artifacts Volume 1 by Ron Marz (Top Cow), and Justice League #1-6 by Geoff Johns (DC Comics).

“Brutally violent, the title meets the expectation set by the name but the script isn’t that exciting.”

To be honest, I’m not sure what I was expecting out of this title. Dejah Thoris and the White Apes of Mars sounds like a really hardcore name but given that I’m not overly familiar with the Carter-verse, I had little to go on except the arena fights in John Carter (film) which feature two White Apes. However, Dejah Thoris is a favourite character of mine so I went in to this title wanting to be surprised. That, unfortunately, failed to happen since Mark Rahner’s script failed to grip me to any significant degree.

While telling her son (with John Carter) Carthoris about some of the famous wars of Barsoomian history, such as the recent Battle of Zodanga, Dejah decides to go on an archaeological field trip with her noble friends and her son, wishing to explore more of her planet’s past. Things don’t go according to plan though and before Carthoris’ second team arrives, Dejah’s own group is forced to touch down in an abandoned city that is home to bloodthirsty white apes. The rest, as they say, is a foregone conclusion. The best parts of the script are the interactions between Dejah and Carthoris, as well as the no-holds barred action scenes where the Heliumites fall one after another to the horde of white-furred monsters. While the first issue has a fair bit of character development and interaction, in the second it is all largely an afterthought in terms of how the narrative progresses. And I found myself not caring all that much about the story. This could really have been much better but I’m not sure how. The script focuses on shock ad awe to hook the reader, given that it lacks substance and is just not as engaging as it really could have been.

The standout feature for these two issues is definitely the artwork, pencils by Lui Antonio, colours by Alexandre Starling, lettering by Marshal Dillion and covers by Brandon Peterson/Ale Garza. The panels are all done in the same style as the Dejah Thoris titles and I really liked them. This version of Dejah is definitely the best, with a very regal and noble look to her that I find very fitting and appropriate. Antonio’s characters are also very expressive, and his clean, clear lines definitely drive home the mode of the story.

Overall, I found these two issues to be rather bland and can only hope that the 3rd and 4th issues are a step up in the quality!

Rating: 5/10

“Hypernaturals hits the ground running and aside from a minor faulter, keeps going at a good clip!

I know Dan from his tie-in work for Games Workshop and Black Library and generally, on the while, I do like his work although there’ve been a few instances where I didn’t. Hypernaturals is, fortunately the former and not the latter. Andy Lanning however is an unknown quantity for me, best as I can tell, so I had mixed feelings going in as I kept wondering how different would a co-authored script be for Dan, compared to his solo 40k comics, such as Damnation Crusade which I just love. This brand new original series is about a team of superheroes from Earth and their adventures across the stars, the setting being very much in the same vein as the Green Lantern-verse where Earth is part of a Federation of planets, of sorts.

The first issue is, I think, the better of the two issues I’ve read so far. It sets up the world quite beautifully and serves as an excellent intro to all the characters. Both writers have done an incredible job with the script and the various world-building elements, done in the same vein as all the mini-scenes from Starship Troopers although less tongue-in-cheek. The latest Hypernaturals team has gone missing on its maiden mission, leaving the HQ back on Earth with nothing more than old graduates and new superheroes who were both originally rejected. Dan and Andy have portrayed the differences between these two sets of characters quite nicely and the contrast sets up the rest of the series quit well. The second issue I found to be a bit of a letdown though as it wasn’t as engaging as its predecessor but it took the world-building to a whole another level. This time, apart from the mishaps on 28 Kosovo that led to the current Hypernaturals team to go MIA (or even KIA), we get a lot of backstory about the various characters, mostly Clone 45/Grumman Hatch and Bewilder/Creena Hersh, both former Hypers who are either retired (Hatch) and out of the biz or still work for Hypernaturals HQ as media relations coordinator (Creena). The dynamics of their relationship, with the strong hints of romantic interest, and their first mission together with Hatch as Creena’s overseer added a lot of depth to the issue. I only wish that the scenes on 28 Kosovo could have been better. The ending of issue 2 hints at some really dark stuff about to happen, with suggestions to the fact that an old enemy of the Hypernaturals, Sublime, could very well be behind the events on 28 Kosovo.

Art-wise, there are a lot of people who’ve worked on these two issues, for the pencilling that is. I found it to be a bit weird since the art styles changed randomly in the middle of the issues and I wasn’t sure why that was. It jarred from the reading experience but is mitigated by the fact that the art really is quite good. The artwork, in general, is of the quality and style I expect to see in an animated television show/movie so that’s a huge plus for the series. Going forward, I expect to see a lot more of the same.

Rating: 8.5/10

“The freshest title I’ve read to date that easily stands out in a market flooded with superheroes and mutants.”

I have next to no experience with Top Cow titles aside from the odd few Witchblade titles I’ve read in recent months. Given that, its fair to say that I’m a novice when it comes to the incredibly rich universe of the various Top Cow series. While DC and Marvel have their superheroes and mutants and are all sci-fi and stuff, Top Cow went with a different direction. Their titles, while being sci-fi to a degree, also incorporate a healthy amount of fantasy. The Top Cow protagonists aren’t differentiated so much by advanced technology but rather with the theme of there being various powerful artifacts, many of them being more ancient than ancient itself. Thirteen artifacts to be exact, with each having a bearer. Which brings me to the premise behind Artifacts. In simple terms, this is the big crossover event for the Top Cow-verse in the same style as Marvel’s Civil War and DC’s various Crisis titles. Or even a mix of the two, but only dealing with a very select few characters.

When this collection (Issues #0-4) starts we are introduced to a female cyber-android known as Aphrodite IV. An off-screen character converses with her, all one-sided as she is unable to talk, and we find out that this mysterious character plans to bring about a war between all the various artifact bearers and that Aphrodite is his chosen champion. We quickly get an intro to all the major players that we’ll be seeing in the main issues and by the end, things are looking quite promising. This carries on in the next four issues as the mysterious character begins his plans to gather all the artifacts by having Sara Pezzini’s sister murdered and her (Sara’s) daughter kidnapped by Aphrodite. As the current bearer of the ancient artifact known as the Witchblade, Sara sets out to get her daughter back and gathers allies to her, all of them artifact bearers.

Ron Marz’s script is really layered and complex. To me, it presents a refreshing look at a world of superheroes of a different variety than what I’m used to. Each of the artifact bearers that we meet in Volume 1 are interesting and nuanced in their own ways with some incredibly rich backstories that I’d love to explore in individual titles. The pacing is relentless, the action bloody, and at any given time you are just too engrossed to care about anything else. Marz hooks in the reader real good. My favourite characters would definitely be Sara, Aphrodite and Jackie Estacado, who is the current bearer of The Darkness.

Artifacts Volume 1 is the most gorgeous book I’ve read this year, hands down. No other comic book compares to it, other than possibly Kill Shakespeare. Stjepan Sejic, Michael Broussard and Chris Johnson’s pencils are just incredibly. I’ve rarely seen such expressive faces in comics, and that’s saying something, given how amazing Greg Capullo’s work is, for example. All the inkers and colourists and letterers who’ve worked on this collection also deserve some serious recognition for their efforts in the book. The… inky style (best as I can describe it!) to all the story panels is an approach that I loved, very different from the mainstream comics, or rather the stuff being put out by the Big Two.

All in all, Artifacts Volume 1 is a fantatic book, and given that I’ve read the next three TPBs as well, I can highly recommend the series.

Rating: 10/10

“A rocking start to the reboot that impresses almost all the way.”

I’ve never read a Justice League comic book in my life, being familiar with DC’s flagship superhero team only through the five seasons of the animated show and the various animated films that have cropped up over the years. Its not been for a lack of trying, just a general lack of interest. I always found He-Man and G.I.Joeto be more interesting in that regard. However, given all the praise I’d been hearing about Geoff Johns’ reboot as part of the setting-wide reboot program New 52, I decided to check out the title myself. And I was quite impressed I have to say, although there were a few things that niggled at me.

There’s a lot to like about the first arc of the new series. New character designs, new team composition, new storylines, and so on. The first two issues are all about the team coming together and hammering out its differences, with some really awesome action scenes involving Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and Flash having a fight-off, results of misunderstanding and hotheadedness. And that’s a theme that continues through to the sixth issue. As an “origin” arc, this works perfectly since the reader is given ample backstory to each of the superheroes to keep things interesting and draw them in. My only issue with the arc is that things are resolved too quickly and that the perspective on things isn’t as big as it could have been. Most of the action is centered on handful of locations and the feel of this massive world-wide invasion of Earth by Darkseid that Johns is trying to evoke doesn’t quite work. And another point would be that I absolutely did not like Wonder Woman’s portrayal as a brash, youthful, hot-headed, almost uncaring warrior. Given how Brian Azzarello has developed her in her solo title, this fails to impress.

In terms of the art, Jim Lee’s pencils are just great. No funky anatomies or poses that would give the characters broken backs for life here. Properly realized characters with clear, distinctive art that is very clean and sharp is what you get here. Alex Sinclair’s colours and Patrick Brosseau’s letters also deserve a mention here since they work so well with how Jim Lee has spread out all the panels and his own pencils. Terrific stuff. My only gripe is that Wonder Woman’s costume is just ridiculous. Yes, this is my eternal gripe about female superhero costumes in comics today. Why, when all of Wonder Woman’s fellow leaguers are in full costumes, is she showing off her legs almost all the way to her thighs and her top is more a halter than a vest? The contrast is just too jarring in every single issue. Wonder Woman really gets the short end of the stick here.

Overall though, I quite enjoyed the first arc. Too bad that the second arc, which I’ve already read, is nowhere near as good. Sad turn of affairs, although with the zero issue that came out this month, things look promising once more.

Rating: 8/10

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Comics reviewed by Bane of Kings: Batman Detective Comics #1-3 by Tony S. Daniels (DC Comics), The Flash #1-3 by Francis Manapul (DC Comics), America’s Got Powers #2 by Jonathan Ross (Image Comics)

The first three issues of Batman: Detective Comics are reviewed here by Bane of Kings, the author and the artist being Tony S. Daniels.

“Although not as strong as Snyder’s run on Batman, Detective Comics is a bold reboot for the series and has a promising start.”

#1 – DC’s flagship title is relaunched for the first time ever, with new Batman adventures from acclaimed writer/artist Tony S. Daniel!

A killer called The Gotham Ripper is on the loose on Batman’s home turf – leading The Dark Knight on a deadly game of cat and mouse.

#2 – Batman sets his sights on the Gotham Ripper, who in turn has his sights on Batman. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne explores a budding romance with television journalist Charlotte Rivers, who’s visiting Gotham City to cover the gruesome slayings – while also trying to uncover Bruce’s own mystery. But time is running out as both Commissioner Gordon and Batman work to uncover the true identity of this new serial killer.

#3 – He makes dolls out of his victims – and he’s tired of being referred to in the media as the Gotham Strangler. His moniker is the Dollmaker, and he and his insane family are going to hunt down Gotham City’s public figures and turn them into the ultimate collectables. As the Dollmaker ups the stakes, Batman finds himself in a race against time – because one of his allies is the Dollmaker’s next target!

So, another Batman title for New 52 that I find myself following and enjoying. It’s the first reboot of Detective Comics ever in DC’s history, and the fact that Batman is my favourite superhero, then I was going to get around to it sooner or later, especially after hearing positive things about it. Taking place before the expansion of the Bat-family when Batman is fighting alone on the streets of Gotham, Detective Comics kicks off with a bang and the pace doesn’t expect to slow down.

On both artwork and writing duties is Tony S. Daniel, and this is the first time I believe that I’ve read a comic that’s been written and drawn by the same guy. The art is almost as dark, gothic and atmospheric as Capullo’s creations in Batman, but that doesn’t stop it from being a strong piece of art. One of the things that I wished to see in Snyder’s run is that he would pit Batman up against the Joker, but Daniels does this in the first issue alone. But as it turns out, the Joker is not the only villain that the Dark Knight has to face, and this only adds to the enjoyment for those who like seeing how the Clown Prince of Crime interacts with the Dollmaker. It’ll be interesting to explore the Dollmaker more in the upcoming issues, as he’s certainly proved an enjoyable villain so far.

There’s one main flaw that I found with Detective Comics though, The Joker storyline introduced in #1 doesn’t really go anywhere, he just sticks around for the first issue, and then leaves. Hopefully his connection with the Dollmaker will be explored in the future issues, I’d love to see them working together more.

Detective Comics is a superb take on Batman. The first three issues are action-packed all the way through, with each issues ending on a cliffhanger, something that I seem to be finding common with most of the New 52 Issues. This has a sure fire way of keeping me buying the next issues though, I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve got from DC’s relaunch so far (with the exception of Under the Red Hood #1. I’m not quite sure about the first issues of Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Suicide Squad.) What I liked about Detective Comics is that it picks up Batman in the first five years of his career, and delivers an interesting look into him before the days of even Dick Grayson as Robin. I can’t wait to see how Detective Comics continues though, and I’ll be sticking around with this one for sure, even if I do prefer Snyder’s take on the Caped Crusader.

Verdict: 3.5/5

Bane of Kings reviews the first three issues of The New 52 title The Flash, written by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, and drawn by Francis Manapul. Published by DC Comics.

“The Fastest Man alive has a great Reboot here. Francis Manapul is on top form, and The Flash is defiantly one of my favourite New 52 titles.”

#1 – The Fastest Man Alive returns to his own monthly series from the writer/artist team of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato! The Flash knows he can’t be everywhere at once, but what happens he faces an all-new villain who really can! As if that’s not bad enough, this villain is a close friend!

#2 - The Fastest Man Alive learns he can make his brain function even faster than before – but as much as it helps him, it also comes with a steep price. Plus: The mystery behind Barry Allen’s friend Manuel Lago deepens as Barry investigates his kidnapping at the hands of Mob Rule!

#3 - If the Fastest Man Alive is going to capture Mob Rule, he must first tap into his new amped-up super brain to save the citizens of Central City from the EMP that has blacked out the city. Witness a spectacular sequence of out-of-control cars, trains and even airplanes that must be stopped from destroying the city!

So, another comic that’s written and drawn by the same guy. The Flash introduces the World’s Fastest Man to the New 52 with superb artwork, an interesting storyline and some spectacular action scenes. The Flash is one of the DC characters that I know next to nothing about, apart from his superpower. How this would translate into a storyline was an interesting prospect, and the cover art from the first issue had really caught my eye. That, the positive feedback that this series was getting, and the cheap £0.69 price on Comixology.

Although The Flash may not be as brilliant as Scott Snyder’s Batman, I still found it enjoyable to a certain extent. The artwork provided by Francis Manapul is mind-blowing, one of the highlights of New 52. The fact that like Tony S. Daniels, he’s done both the art and the storyline impresses me a lot. Everything about the art is praise-worthy, and there are several wow-scenes in the first three issues that will make sure that this thing is worth buying for the art alone, even if the storyline itself does have a few flaws. It’s too jam-packed full of stuff for my liking. I’m aware that I’m being a bit hypocritical here, as I felt Snyder’s Batman was brilliant, the over-crowdedness of the first issue at least of The Flash didn’t pull off as well as it should have done, and it just felt that Francis Manapul was trying to cram in too much into one issue.

However, that said though, the first three issues of The Flash were, for the most part, a great read. I’ll be following this series for sure.

Verdict: 4/5

Bane of Kings reviews America’s Got Powers #2, written by Jonathan Ross with artwork from Bryan Hitch. It’s published by Image Comics.

“This mini-series continues to impress with stunning artwork and a fresh storyline.” 

A generation of super-powered teens battle to be The Hero on the biggest TV event in history but Tommy Watt’s dreams of fame and fortune might be over even if he survives The Trials. Someone is coming and he’s going to destroy the show and everybody in it!

I was going to buy Issue #2 of America’s Got Powers sooner or later, and when I eventually craved in, I was continued to be amazed by Jonathan Ross and Bryan Hitch’s tale that expands on the first issue, revealing a lot more things about the storyline and the plot. I can’t wait to see where America’s Got Powers goes from here, especially with this issue being as fantastic as it was.

For those expecting a tale of superheroes, then they’ll be disappointed. Just because some of the characters involved have superpowers, doesn’t make them superheroes. Or at least, that much is true in the first two issues. The idea behind America’s Got Powers, a reality TV show with people with superpowers is pulled off brilliantly well and I will be eagerly awaiting anything that Jonathan Ross can come up with next.

After the cliffhanger ending of the first Issue, we were left with a lot of questions. Chief among which: why is Tommy Watts the only person who didn’t have a superpower after the event over San Francisco? Why has his power suddenly perked up now? What could this mean for the future? We’re left with more questions than answers in this Issue, and I’ll be picking up #3 sooner rather than later as I can’t wait to see how Ross pulls this off.

The artwork is the strongest thing about America’s Got Powers, much like The Flash and Hitch is certainly on top form, but there are a few flaws that I found with this, the main problem being the dialogue. It can range to both extremes over the course of the issue, which prevents me from giving America’s Got Powers #2 5 out of 5. But I pretty much loved everything else about this, and if you’re looking for something fresh from comics, then America’s Got Powers is the series for you. Those of you who have read Issue #1 will be pleased to see that #2 continues to be a strong read, and with the cliffhanger at the end of #2, we’ll be left wanting more.

America’s Got Powers, two issues in – shows it can be a great fun to read, and should not be overlooked just because it’s a superpower story not published by Marvel or DC. It’s also worth pointing out, something that Doctor Who fans like myself will like, for one of the characters in this series, Professor Syall, had David Tennant used as a model. I didn’t know it – it’s entirely stolen from this review here: http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/advanced-review-americas-got-powers-2-38340, but I thought that Doctor Who fans might enjoy this. And, just to add to that, Hitch was also responsible for using Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. And look what happened.

Verdict: 4.5/5

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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