Comics Round-up 16.07.2013

Death of Superman

Shadowhawk and Bane of Kings welcome you to the second comics round-up for July.

“In a recent full-on run with various DC titles, it has been quite a mixed bag, in a good way. Doomsday proved to be a technically great story that I mostly enjoyed while Milligan’s first arc on Justice League Dark had its great moments as well. The strongest title here is definitely Gail Simone’s breakout hit (as far as I am concerned) The Movement which continues from strength to strength.” ~Shadowhawk, The Founding Fields

With Marvel, Young Avengers and Daredevil: Dark Nights both get off to an incredible start, while at DC, Snyder proves that he can write two-issue arcs as well as year-long epics, and Kyle Higgins gives Nightwing a fantastic new direction.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

Note: Once again, I offer my apologies for the delay in getting this round-up off on time. I’ve been busy with a cousin’s marriage ceremonies for the last 2 weeks and today is actually the first day that I haven’t had to do anything, and also the marriage and all is successfully over. ~Shadowhawk

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Comics reviewed by Shadowhawk: Death of Superman Book 1: Doomsday by Various (DC Comics), New 52: Justice League Dark Vol.1 by Peter Milligan (DC Comics), and, New 52: The Movement #2-3 by Gail Simone (DC Comics).

*****

Death of SupermanDeath of Superman Book 1: Doomsday by Various

As with Knightfall before it, Doomsday is a book that has endured through the years and has become one of the most classic story arcs in the comics industry, beyond all expectations. It also happens to be the top bestselling graphic novel of all time, given certain sources. Going in, there are a lot of heavy expectations to be had from the title, considering that this is the first instance of Superman, the unkillable alien from Krypton, dying while fighting against an opponent that is far worse than any force of nature can ever be. As always, the big question is: does this live up to these expectations?

The answer is both a yes and a no.

The story is built up through several prequel issues which are little more than “a day in the life of Superman” as he was written at the time across all his titles. And then Doomsday breaks out of his underground and sets out on a rampage of epic proportions that takes him across continental US to Metropolis and a final confrontation with Superman. Given that the entire arc is told across several titles by several authors, the story lacks a certain consistency, a certain focus. I loved the way that the actual Doomsday-related issues were technically set out, with an internal countdown depicted through the number of panels (the final issue has one-panel pages, the previous one has two-panel pages, the one before that has three-panel pages and the one before that one has four-panel pages). It added a certain unconscious thrill to the entire story, getting me hyped up to keep reading through the end.

But, the story lost its steam by the end. There had been too many instances of Superman and Doomsday slugging it out across America and then suddenly, it all “crashed” in the last 3 pages of the final issue almost as an afterthought. The ending, or the death rather, happened too late and too fast. The event in itself should have been told a few pages earlier and should have been drawn out a bit more, because I didn’t get the emotional connect that I expected from the story.

The Justice League presented in this arc is one where Superman is the only big-name character. All the others are second and third stringers like Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, and Maxima among others. It was a big disconnect for me, since for me Justice League means the Justice League: The Animated Series version of the team, or Geoff Johns’ team. But, the writers countered this by presenting these superheroes’ trials against Doomsday in a really moving and emotional context. Despite his somewhat showy dialogue, Booster Gold is presented as a truly selfless hero, someone who Superman could look up to if their roles were reversed. The same goes for Blue Beetle and Maxima, despite their rather short appearances throughout the arc. This particular Justice League team-up is much more relevant to the readers of the time than it is to me, so the effect is somewhat lost to me, but it is undeniably there.

Another big flaw in the story was that we don’t really learn anything about Doomsday, anything to hint at who he is and why he was imprisoned underground as he was. This was a really telling flaw. He just appears, kills Superman, and dies. That’s it. As a “faceless” all-powerful villain, he lacks the gravitas of, say, Darkseid. But then again, than in itself is one of the character’s strengths as well. He is completely implacable, an unstoppable force against Superman’s immovable object, metaphorically speaking.

But still, I did enjoy the read and I look forward to reading the second book, Funeral For A Friend.

The art in the book is dated, but not all that bad. Like Knightfall (again!), I definitely enjoyed the artwork, despite the various inconsistencies in it, despite the simplicity of it, at times. The technical aspect that I mentioned before was the stand-out element. I didn’t even realise it until I was re-flipping through the book and went “whoa, that’s awesome”. The trick with the panels is something that I definitely enjoyed on a second read-through and something that I wish was used more often. Not too much, and not too soon either, but a balance.

All in all, a fairly good graphic novel that I would certainly recommend for its cultural impact on superhero comics.

Rating: 8/10

*****

JLD Vol.1Justice League Dark Vol.1 by Peter Milligan

With the current “Trinity War” crossover event across DC’s three Justice League books, I decided to get caught up with Justice League Dark so as to follow along what is happening, or rather, will happen. Trinity War looks all set to be a really great event, wonderfully presaged by Justice League #22 by Geoff Johns and Trinity of Sin: Pandora #1 by Ray Fawkes. Since I’m already following Justice League of America, I thought why not, better to dip in for the third JL book and see how that pans out, especially since it stars Zatanna, a character I’ve enjoyed from her various appearances in Batman: The Animated Series.

So I picked up the first volume, expecting a decent enough story. And that is indeed what I ended up getting. Justice League Dark Vol.1 has some good moments, but it also has a fair few not-so good moments, moments which make me question how tight the editing was on the arc since there appear to be some narrative skips, as if panels are missing. I’ve noticed this in some of the older comics and it provides some interesting food for thought: are the writers going for subtext or is there just a plain and simple mistake here?

The story itself, with Madame Xanadu attempting to bring together a team of individuals from across DCU who have experience and talent to tackle various supernatural threats, is fairly interesting. And therein less the big sell of this title. Peter Milligan successfully sets up a unique tone for the book to differentiate it from its much more mass-appealing title written by DC’s current top-star. The entire arc has a really dark vibe to it, because it deals with memories, loss of a loved one, identity, and the sense of self in a way that only magical stories can. Or should I say “stories with magic”.

Add to that the fact that the book has a really nice (and often badass) Zatanna along with a wise-cracking and smart-assing John Constantine and Boston Brand aka Deadman, one of the more interesting B-grade characters from Justice League: The Animated Series. Into this mix are introduced Madame Xanadu, Mindwarp and Shade, three characters I’m completely unfamiliar with. They really spice things up, especially Madame Xanadu, who acts like a cornerstone for the entirety of the events that take place in this arc. Minwarp doesn’t get to do a whole lot here, and Shade is a character that I remain unconvinced by, since there isn’t much of his backstory revealed here, but in general, Milligan has brought together some really great characters, especially Zatanna, Constantine, and Deadman, all of whom I enjoyed reading about and seeing in action here.

Partnered with Milligan, Janin made the perfect fit for the title as the artist, in collaboration with the rest of the artist who worked to make this book a reality. Some really nice panels every now and then that were full of details and hints, not to mention the completely dark vibe that was consistent throughout. A good effort, better than what I have seen on some “better” books. However, there were definitely some pencilling inconsistencies on occasion and these prevented the book from being a visual treat, unfortunately. If that had not been the case, then I would have held the book in higher esteem.

There were a few things, such as the treatment of the Justice League, and some of the art, that I didn’t particularly like, but on the whole, this was quite a decent “introductory” book for a new reader like myself. There definitely are some great twists and reveals in the entire book, especially towards the end with a post-climax sequence that I definitely did not expect, so I feel it is safe to say that Peter Milligan has delivered a fairly good book once more, given my (largely) positive experience with his first year on Red Lanterns featuring Atrocitus and his happy-and-merry band of thugs.

Rating: 7.5/10

*****

MovementComp01The Movement #2-3 by Gail Simone

Reading Gail Simone’s The Movement #1 was a rather liberating experience. It stepped away from the general superhero comics that are so prevalent at the publisher and sought to do something completely different. And it did that quite well too. The first issue was, obviously, a big set-up for all the characters and so it was inevitable, I think that the next couple issues would get down into the nitty-gritty of things and begin to give us the larger context of the story that is being told, as well as expand on all the characters we’ve seen and introduce new ones as well. And this is exactly what Gail Simone does. The end result is that issues #2 and #3 of the series have a (narratively) very natural feel to them.

We already know that those in authority are generally looked on as the “baddies” here and that the “superheroes” we see are the good guys and girls. There is a theme of social and justice equality throughout the books that Gail Simone goes to great lengths to make clear and relevant to a modern audience, especially in the cultural and societal context of our present times. With these average street-savvy characters, Gail thus delivers a great message that we should all take to heart.

However, it all doesn’t end there because these two issues also serve as a cautionary tale about vigilantism and responding to fire with a bigger fire, figuratively speaking. And this eventually plays into Gail Simone’s work on both Birds of Prey and Batgirl. Being a “team” book, there are a lot of characters involved, with some of these characters not agreeing with the others on how best to take things to the next level, and this results in some really fascinating relational dynamics between all these characters. The clashes between Virtue and Katharsis are of particular note here, and highlight their different views and opinions, brought together by the same goals and objectives.

Also, despite all the silliness, I really love Mouse’s character. He is a character undoubtedly meant for comic relief, to break up the monotony of the seriousness that permeates the series so far, but he is also clearly much more. He cares about the “little guys” and that’s really what The Movement is about, coming together to take care of the “little guy” from the “big guy”. As a meta-message on the series itself, within a microcosm, this is a really neat technique.

If there are any negatives to the story, they would be that I am not so sure about the moral conflict at play here, or that we are being frontloaded almost all of it from the get go. And the pacing of the series so far has been a little too fast. The first issue had a great balance, but I feel that the subsequent two issues have been moving at a faster, and uncomfortable, clip. The series would do well to slow down that tiny bit, and allow more character progression and less action.

The art, once again, is just truly superb. This time I have no complaints with it. All of Gail’s narrative beats are delivered on wonderfully, and the series really is a visual delight, of the sort that Greg Capullo’s Batman is or Ivan Reis/Joe Prado’s Aquaman was. Except darker. The entire “rough” setting of the city is captured beautifully and that’s really all I can say without dissolving into a gushing fanboy over how much I enjoy the art here.

So yeah, before that break down happens, go get these two issues and read ’em.

Rating: 9.5/10

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Comics reviewed by Bane of Kings: Marvel NOW: Young Avengers #1-3  by Kieron Gillen (Marvel),  Marvel NOW: Daredevil – Dark Nights #1 by Lee Weeks (Marvel), New 52: Batman #19-20 by Scott Snyder (DC Comics), New 52: Nightwing #21-22 by Kyle Higgins (DC Comics).

*****

Young Avengers #1-3  by Kieron Gillen

Art: Jamie McKelvie, Mike Norton | Colours: Matthew Wilson | Letters: Clayton Cowles | Cover: Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson

#1 – Legacy isn’t a dirty word… but it’s an irrelevant one. It’s not important what our parents did. It matters what WE do. Someone has to save the world. You’re someone. Do the math. The critically acclaimed team of Gillen/McKelvie/Wilson (with added Norton Sauce) decide to reinvent the teen superhero comic for the 21st century, uniting Wiccan, Hulkling and Hawkeye with Loki, Marvel Boy and Ms. America. No pressure. Young Avengers is as NOW! as the air in your lungs, and twice as vital. It’s the book that knows Hyperbole is the BEST! THING! EVER!

#2 – Has Wiccan made a horrible mistake that comes back to bite everyone on their communal posteriors? Spoilers: Yes. Does this guest star the Uncanny Avengers? Spoilers: Also Yes. A figure from Loki’s past emerges. Friend? Foe? What will it be? Spoilers: It’s Foe. And much more from Marvel’s most critically acclaimed book. Yes, we’re saying it’s critically acclaimed and it’s not even out yet. We are very bad.

#3 – A Fight scene, probably. And another one, but this time in a club. Plentiful feels. (aka “Meaningful emotional character beats” for people who aren’t on tumblr). The fakest ID in history.

YoungAvengersComp01I’ve occasionally brought up on my twitter feed that if there was one comic that I wish I could be following, it’s Young Avengers. The amount of praise I’ve seen for this comic is so good, that there hasn’t really been any negative feedback for it, which surprised me, as Kieron Gillen’s Iron Man #1 was a bit of a disappointment. However, rest assured – Young Avengers certainly isn’t, and over these three issues, it’s fast become my favourite ‘Avenger’s series, along with Uncanny Avengers. Gillen has made me care about characters who, with the exception of Loki (who I’ve rarely encountered in the form of a child before), and Hawkeye (Kate Bishop, in the main Hawkeye series), and want to root for them on whatever adventure they’re on. Wiccan, Hulkling, Marvel Boy and Ms. America have quickly become awesome characters in their own right in these issues. Not to mention, Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton do an incredible job at bringing the characters to life.

As one of the cheaper Marvel Now! books, Young Avengers certainly deserves your attention. It seems that right now all the $2.99/£2.75 books that Marvel are putting out right now are really awesome – Daredevil and Hawkeye are both strong books, and the two issues of Deadpool that I’ve read (#1 & #10), have also been very awesome and it’s only because Deadpool came out in a packed week that I had to drop it from my pull list. However, Young Avengers is going straight on there – I’m going to aim to get the TPB when I can, and catch up ASAP. This is a truly incredible series – and as I was impressed by #1 when I read it a while back, I don’t know why I’ve waited this long.

Gillen really gets young character well, and never comes across as a man trying to impersonate a younger teenager. Every character manages to get a decent amount of page-time across the issues, and he displays great love for the characters across these pages. It really shows when you’ve got a creative team who love what they’re doing as much as the readers love what they’re reading – and Young Avengers is a perfect example of this. Everyone from Kate Bishop to Kid!Loki is created marvellously well, and Gillen handles the two gay characters, Wiccan and Hulkling, very well indeed, and they’re more than just in there to prove that comics can have characters who aren’t always straight. Wiccan and Hulkling are incredibly strong characters in their own right, and play a very important role in Young Avengers.

Miss America and Marvel Boy are also handled pretty well – two characters that I didn’t know that much about (like Wiccan and Hulkling), and Gillen introduces them in a great way that will appeal to readers who have never read a book featuring any of these characters before, so that you know what you’re getting in for. I love the way that Gillen provides a not-quite-Tumblr Tumblr re-cap of the previous events of Young Avengers, adding wonderful charm to the book that’s really enhanced with the fantastic art, which is as wonderful as the storyline.

This is a series that everybody should be reading. It’s fun, entertaining, awesome – and has just joined my Top 5 Marvel Now books so far, along with Hawkeye, All New X-Men and Thor: God of Thunder and Daredevil. I’ll certainly be picking up a print copy of #8 when it hits shelves the following Wednesday, and hopefully I’ll have caught up on the series by then.

Rating: 5/5

*****

Daredevil: Dark Nights #1 by Lee Weeks

Art: Lee Weeks | Colours: Lee Loughridge | Letters: Clayton Cowles | Cover: Lee Weeks

#1 – A gorgeous new series featuring the greatest talents in comics brings you the rest of the Man Without Fear’s story! Legendary artist Lee Weeks returns to his favourite hero for “Angels Unaware!”A blizzard brings New York to a standstill — and a young patient lies on death’s door unless Daredevil can get to him in time!

Daredevil Dark Nights #1I have the utmost respect for creators who take on a whole series by themselves, and bar the colouring and the letters, Lee Weeks does an incredible job with this. The art and the story are both created by him, and it adds to the awesomeness – providing a great look at Matt Murdock, a character who I’ve grown to love ever since reading #26 of the main Daredevil series during a light week. As mentioned in the review of Young Avengers, Daredevil is one of my favourite Marvel Now! books, despite the fact that it actually was launched before Marvel Now! itself. However, it’s very interesting to see what Weeks brings to the table in this issue, and proves that as well as Daredevil being fantastic, Dark Nights can be equally so, delivering a powerful opener that makes it all the more frustrating that this series seems to be consistently delayed from arriving at my local comic store, and it hasn’t arrived there yet.

This series itself is probably my favourite ongoing mini-series at the moment. “Angels Unaware” is a fascinating opening storyline for Matt Murdock, when a blizzard brings New York City to its knees, with the fate of a young child being placed in Daredevil’s hands. Whilst you won’t see the character fight a stereotypical villain in this issue, Weeks proves that you don’t have to have a villain to make a compelling comic, with a issue that draws you in and hooks you right from the start. Capable of appealing to new readers who have never read a Daredevil Comic before as well as those who have read every single issue of Mark Waid’s run, Dark Nights provides an interesting look at the character with a truly captivating look at the Man Without Fear. Ladies and gentlemen, this could well be the start of a classic mini-series.

Whilst the more ‘realistic’ approach to Daredevil might not be for everyone, the issue itself provides a really strong look into the character. It’s a break for those who don’t like Mark Waid’s Daredevil or fans who just want more of Matt Murdock – immersive, engrossing, and when coupled with the incredible art, Lee Weeks proves that he’s managed to craft a great work here. Another problem that might present itself to fans is the apparent ease in which the Man Without Fear is defeated, but this, along with the minor problem that some people might have, is not really enough to detract from the wonderful experience that I had reading this comic. People who have missed out on the first two issues of Dark Nights, I strongly recommend that you find space on your pull for this one – it’s a really incredible first issue and I can’t wait to see what Weeks does with the series.

Rating: 4.75/5

*****

Batman #19-20 by Scott Snyder

Art: Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, Alex Maleev | Colours: FCO Plascencia, Brad Anderson | Letters: Comicraft, Dezi Sienty | Cover: Greg Capullo, FCO Plascencia

#19 – Who would cause Bruce Wayne to use a gun?

#20 – A strange visitor comes to Gotham City when tragedy delivers the team-up you’ve been asking for since the start of The New 52!

BatmanComp05BHaving currently entered the Zero Year storyline, Scott Snyder created this two-part Clayface arc as a way to bridge the gap between the Death of the Family (and the one-shot issue focused on Bruce’s handling of Robin’s death and the return of Harper Row), and proves that he can handle small storylines as well as year-long epics like his Court/Night of Owls storyline was, and like Zero Year looks set to be. It provides a very interesting look at the Dark Knight, and for the first time, I get to read about a Clayface storyline, having first encountered the character in Arkham City.

Greg Capullo’s visuals are stunning. The man has impressed with the entire Batman run so far, and I really hope he and Snyder stay on the main title for a very long time. This is the best DC series out there at the moment, and I’m loving that Snyder and Capullo can keep bringing something fresh to the table each time. Both issues are incredibly done, and although I found #19 slightly better than #20, mainly because in my opinion Snyder is better at setting up storylines than creating resolutions, the issues were still nonetheless incredible.

I also liked the inclusion of Lucius Fox in this two-parter, a character played so well by Morgan Freeman that I can’t imagine anybody else playing the role, and I hope we see him at some point in Zero Year. Whilst I find it hard to believe that Fox doesn’t know that Batman is Bruce Wayne, it’s still a fun addition to the New 52 and I hope he sticks around in the future.

The backup story, a two-parter in itself across these two issues, tells an interesting tale of Batman and Superman going up against a more supernatural foe. It’s creepy, and brought to life with incredible artwork – James Tynion IV really proves that he’s a fantastic choice for the backup storylines with Batman, and I can’t wait to see what he does next, having done some fantastic backups for #21-22. Both Snyder and Tynion IV work really well together, and I’m hoping that they’ll continue to produce excellent stories for the Caped Crusader.

If you think that Snyder and Capullo can’t tell small-scale Batman stories, then think again. #19 and #20 is a nice break from the epics that we’ve been getting and provides a nice breather before Zero Year, which – two issues in, is proving to be a superb retelling of how Bruce Wayne became Batman.

Rating: 4.5/5

*****

Nightwing #21-22 by Kyle Higgins

Art: Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund (#21), Will Conrad (#22)

#21 – Desperate to find a ghost from his past, Nightwing turns to The Prankster for help, unaware that they are both targets of The Mask Killer!

#22 – Nightwing takes on Ghostwalker, and the Prankster finds a surprising ally!

NightwingComp04Having jumped on board Nightwing with #20, I can say that I’m really happy with the direction that Higgins is taking Dick Grayson and he’s fast becoming one of my favourite DC characters alongside Batman, Talon and Green Arrow. He’s fun, and his stories are generally of a lighter tone than Snyder’s Batman, with a particular style of humour. He’s a strong character, and the only really bad thing that I can say about the series so far is that Brett Booth, who became the perfect fit for Nightwing in his #19-21 run, is abandoning the title for Justice League of America, and not coming back, leaving Will Conrad in his place.

On the other hand, it’s obvious that, like with Kieron Gillen and Young Avengers, Kyle Higgins really cares about his character(s), delivering a fun and entertaining look into Grayson’s new life in Chicago. I also love his choice to set Nightwing in a real city, as opposed to Blüdhaven or Gotham, and how he creates its own DCU history with interesting characters to prove that real cities can have their superheroes too.

An interesting dilemma for Nightwing is that the Chicago Police Department don’t really get on well with masked men, unlike the GCPD back in Gotham who have generally operated well with Batman over the years. The opening to #21 is really strong, delivering a great look into a character named Slipstream, and provides a great way of setting up the series for the Mask Killer’s appearance in future issues. This is one of the DC titles that I’m really annoyed is going to be delayed by Villain’s Month, but I guess they’re making up for it by having Nightwing play a pretty big part in the Forever Evil mini-series, which I will certainly be on board for.

The plot that’s been unfolding over #21 and #22 is really fast paced, action packed – delivering a fun way so that Nightwing is always one of the comics on my most anticipated reading list each month. Will Conrad isn’t my favourite artist of all time and hasn’t done anything to wow me with #22, but I’m willing to give him a chance and hope that he improves in later issues, as whilst it wasn’t groundbreaking or Booth level artwork, it was fun and enjoyable. And I know both covers are from Booth, but how awesome are they? They rock.

Despite the artist change however, Nightwing is a really strong book, one of my favourites from the New 52 at the moment. I’m really looking forward to where Higgins can take the character with future issues, particularly with the great cliffhanger sequences involving the Prankster and Nightwing towards the end of #22.

Rating: 4/5

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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