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Review: Wonder Woman #37

ww038The previous issue of Wonder Woman was a significant change in direction for the series with the introduction of a new creative team, and many felt that it was filled with more than a few bumps along the road.  While there were some obvious reservations with the previous issue, at the same time it indicated the delicate balance which the creative team was trying to achieve between their own stories and those that preceded it, as tough an act to follow as that was.  In this the second issue of this new creative team, there is a little bit less of the immediate reaction away from what came before, but also better clues that the creative team does indeed know what it is doing here.

While still under pressure from various parts of her life, Diana takes time to work through some of her problems, both with Clark and then with her sisters.  While the plot is at times a little forced, the different layers of storytelling are evidently being well-played against one another.  This is a creative team that is juggling a lot of balls, but as is evident with the surprise final page, it would seem that they do have a plan on how to manage the task in front of them, and to do so in a way that will please the fans and do justice to the characters.

The end result is one which is not as obvious as the first issue for the new team.  The previous issue was more of the clean-break as opposed to this one which instead rests a little bit on the shock value of what has come before.   While it may be evident as well here that some of the developments of the previous issue may in fact be more of misfires, it is also evident that while this series might not yet be running on full cylinders, that the promise is there to do so.  Admittedly, Azzarello’s run on this series was a great one, but people seem to ready to write off this team before they have even had a chance to prove themselves, and this issue represents another step forward for them as they try to carve out their own part of this iconic character’s history.

Story: Meredith Finch Art: David Finch
Story: 8.2 Art: 8.2 Overall: 8.2 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Batman #37

Batman #37 moves with purely terrifying kinetic energy. With art at a higher production value than just about anything else on the market guided by writing done with a higher level of intelligence and nuance than just about anything else on the market, the latest issue of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman saga impresses more than any issue of the “Endgame” arc thus far. It creates a thrilling and claustrophobic atmosphere that makes it near impossible to look away from the page, and even more difficult not to throw money at DC Comics for the next chapter in the story. It’s amazing.

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Snyder’s writing is so grounded in horror that even his superhero stories embody terror in the same general fashion that his straight-horror creator-owned work does. Everything that happens in this issue is suspenseful music to one’s ears, all culminating into a pot that delves into deep fears of Batman, Commissioner Gordon, and other citizens of Gotham. In both “Endgame” and his past arc “Death of the Family,” Snyder and Capullo present more or less the only wholly scary version of the Joker in comic book form, save for parts of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke.

There’s a scene towards the end of the comic that spikes the adrenaline in both Batman and Gordon, delivering sequences that cut to their cores all thanks to the cunningly evil acts of the Joker. Through brilliant page layouts, these two scenes are spliced together to turn the excitement level up from 10 all the way to 20. Batman’s trouble isn’t totally original but shocking and powerful all the same. On the other half of the coin, Gordon’s run-in with the Joker reveals something rather unsettling about his character, aided most by simple, unfocused upon facial expression in his reaction.

The art team of Capullo on pencils, Danny Miki on inking, and FCO Plascencia on coloring has produced one of the most stunning issues of Batman yet with this 37th issue. The first page is a pretty realistic and completely creepy image of Bruce, frozen by paralysis from Joker-gas, trying to think himself out of emotionally breaking. It’s followed up by pages filled with detail that gets across every bit of finesse necessary for all of the twitching fear on strong men’s faces and for all of the little hands creeping in the background. It’s a comic that creates environments that feel cramped but that are still zipped through with a fast pace. Most of the comic is dark, filled with blobs of jet-black shadow, but it’s not without its tints of blue and orange, and occasional bits of jarring color.

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Not managing to be quite perfect, some small issues are worth noting. For one thing, unfortunate timing means that this story runs parallel to the “Amazo Virus” arc in Justice League. Both storylines feature an infection damaging large groups of innocent city folk, and a desperate hunt for a “patient zero” to figure out an antidote. This takes away from the oomph of the plot some because of the lame familiarity. It’s still entertaining in its own right, though, and this won’t be an issue for those reading in a trade much further down the line when this comic is inevitably recommended by comic readers of the future for anyone looking for essential Joker stories.

Another mild disappointment that hurts the arc as a whole is the drop in quality from the main story to the backups. These backups, penned by James Tynion IV, are well-written and provide captivating backstory that feels relevant to the main story. However, the art in these backups, while always unique and interesting, are never all that great. The backup of #37 is perhaps the best looking so far, with surreal and scrappy art by John Mccrea. It’s not bad art; honestly, it’s good. Coming off of art from Capullo really does leave a certain impact that makes the “good” art hard to appreciate for what it is, though. Past backups on Batman treated readers to comic book industry greats like Jock and Raphael Albuquerque, and sadly, that’s not what’s currently on the pages of the latest arc.

Most important here is the main story, and it will surely go down in history as something special. Snyder and Capullo have such a strong grasp of the Batman character that it is hard to imagine what the next creative team is going to have to do not to look puny in comparison. Batman #37 is an amazing reminder that despite any sad cancellations and weird continuity changes from DC Comics, there is a downright excellent comic that comes out every month that goes by the simple, unfettered title of Batman.

Story: Scott Snyder Art: Greg Capullo
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.75 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

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It’s new comic book day tomorrow! What’s everyone excited about?

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Comic Vine – Sixteen DC Comics Titles Ending in March 2015 – What do you expect to be back post Convergence?

Vox – The insane history of how American paranoia ruined and censored comic books – Some good comic history for those that might know it.

Vegas Inc – $15 million renovation at Golden Nugget completed; popular comic book store plans comeback – Why haven’t we seen more comic related things in Vegas?

ComiChron – November 2014 comics sales estimates online; top comic book at 135k – Nice solid numbers it seems.
Around the Tubes Reviews

Talking Comics – The Empty Man #6

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Graphic Policy Radio, LIVE This Monday

GP Radio pic MondayIt’s Monday night and that means a brand new episode of Graphic Policy Radio! The show airs live this Monday at 10pm ET.

We’re back talking comics. There’s been a lot of brand new comics debuting over the past few weeks, and some very high-profile ones at that. We’ll be discussing….

  • Angela: Asgard’s Assassin – The character debuted in Spawn, but now is over at Marvel. After a stint in Guardians of the Galaxy, the character headlines her own series.
  • Bitch Planet – The most talked about comic of the past week. This comic shows how you can take on social and political issues within an entertaining story.
  • Deathlok – The classic character who was an integral part of last season’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gets its own series.
  • Secret Six - We loved the pre-New 52 version of the series, but how does this new team and relaunch stack up?
  • and more!

So join us this Monday and let us know your thoughts about these new series! You can call in at (619) 768-2952 or Tweet us your thoughts @graphicpolicy

Review: DC Comics Deck-Building Game Forever Evil

foreverevilgameThe DC Comics Deck Building Game: Forever Evil represents the third expansion of the original game, and the second which is playable by itself.  The mechanics of this game is very similar to those games which have preceded it.  There are only with some slight changes to make it a bit more confrontational, but that also fits with the villain themed story.  Players can play as a number of villains – Harley Quinn, Lex Luthor, Black Adam, Black Manta, Bizarro, Deathstroke, Sinestro and Bane as the promo card – but this game can also be easily tied into the original in the series to create all kinds of new combinations.

As a comics deck building game, this is invariably compared to Legendary for Marvel, but with this addition it has likely overtaken its competitor.  If there is a drawback to Marvel it is that it is somewhat constrained by the mechanics of the series.  Thus while they released their only villain themed expansion earlier this year, it didn’t really fit as well with the original.  The DC Comics version is much more wide open.  Thanks to the Crisis expansion, a similar mechanic to Legendary is there, but this is not necessary either, as players can determine what they like best about the mechanics and suit it to their own desires.  For the first time in either of the two series, by combining this expansion with previous ones, players can play hero vs. villain, but still the other options are there for hero vs. hero or villain vs. villain.  If there is one criticism of the mechanics here it is the second rate importance given to some of the iconic villains of the major heroes.  Wonder Woman specifically is given a bit of secondary status.  Her main villain, Cheetah, remains as only a drawable card in the original game, and no other major villain of the hero shows up in any other game, despite Cheetah being featured prominently enough on the cover.  With the inclusion of such obscure character as Atomica having the same status, this kind of reduces the importance of some of these foes.  This is likely to correct itself though as the game is getting a number of expansions in the near future.

Perhaps the best indication I can give of the playability of this game comes from my wife.  She is a fan of board games but doesn’t really know so much about comics.  Despite that, after playing once she saw the variety of options available and wanted to play again.  This all around appeal is one of the hallmarks of this game, and puts it on equal ground with other deck buildings games such as Legendary and Dominion, as even for those that are not as interested in comics will enjoy this.

Game Designer:  Matt Hyra

Score: 8.8

TV Review: Constantine S1E8 The Saint of Last Resorts

CONSTANTINE-First-Official-Image1Anne Marie, a member of the Newcastle crew, asks John and Chas for help in Mexico City — bringing them close to the heart of the rising darkness; Zed is haunted by her past.

The religious aspect of Constantine is finally kicking in, two episodes in a row we’re dealing with religion. Last week was a faith healer and snake handling, and this one is straight up children being abducted and a church.

The episode is split though. While Constantine deals with stolen babies, Zed is wandering around back in town, and meeting up with Eddie, who we know something is up. And…. we finally get more of an idea about Zed. We know her name is Mary, and we know her father heads some cult, and she’s some sort of savior for it.

The episode gives us background not just on Zed, but also on Constantine, of whom we meet an old flame of his. And even though he’s been a bit of an ass the rest of the season, especially towards women, he seems to actually care about this one.

What’s solid about this episode is that there’s actually some creepy imagery, especially with some demons at the end. There’s some odd moments though, like Chas coming and going, and the end is a little odd as far as choices.

This is the series’ first two-parter, so we’ll see how ti concludes next week, but another decent entry into a series that’s clearly finding its footing.

Overall rating: 7.75

 

Review: Harley Quinn Holiday Special #1

harley covHarley Quinn is probably the most bizarre of all supervillains across the entire medium of comics.  Although she is presented as certifiably insane and pure evil in some contexts, in other she is presented very differently.  In a way this is maybe even comparable to her major nemesis, Batman, who at times is presented very differently in his own titles, versus those of the bigger universe.  So Harley is either a murderous psychopath or a mischievous anarchist more interested in fun than harm.  It would seem as those that are big fans of the character regard her more as the latter, as a fun-loving character with the morality turned off.

For those fans of the latter, they are likely to enjoy the Harley Quinn Holiday Special (given #1 as an issue number, does DC plan to make this a yearly thing?)  This issue contains three stories, all of them loosely tied together with the concept introduced in the first one.  And those expecting to find a murder-themed Christmas special are only going to find puppies here instead.  Lots of puppies.  While the characters is not particularly Christmas themed, it is handled well here as her own neuroses and harley carpsychoses are melded well into the stories, two focusing on Christmas and one on New Year’s Eve.  In so doing she is shown to capture somewhat the Christmas spirit, even when the match doesn’t seem natural.

In terms of quality this is probably a bit far off of what most readers expect out of mainstream superhero comics, although fans of the character are likely to find this issue exactly on mark.  DC deserves some credit though for trying something a little different here.  Although trying new directions was lauded as one of the inspirations of the new 52, it has often been absent, and despite the previous holiday themed special falling flat (the Young Justice Valentine’s Day special), it is evident here that at times DC does let its creative teams have a wider net in which to catch.  This is by no means great comic writing, but it is quaint and fun, which is part of what Christmas is supposed to be about anyway.

Story: Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti  Art: Brandt Peters, Darwyn Cooke and Mauricet
Story:  8.2 Art: 8.2  Overall: 8.2  Recommendation: Read

TV Review: Arrow S3E9 The Climb

arrowOn this episode of Arrow The League of Assassins give Oliver 48 hours to find Sara’s killer, or Starling City citizens will die. Oliver than has an epic confrontation with Ra’s al Ghul.

This season started off with a surprising death and eight episodes later we finally find out who shot the arrow that killed Sara. That shocking, but at the same time not unexpected, revelation leads to a something else we knew was coming, the confrontation between Oliver ad Ra’s al Ghul. The series has been building to that since the League of Assassins was introduced, and that is about to start paying off.

What’s interesting is the episode builds up to that confrontation and battle, but spends 50 minutes to do so. The actual battle between Ra’s and Oliver is a little short, though I guess if someone is really good at what they do, then the battle isn’t going to last long, especially when it should be as one-sided as it is here.

The ending is a bit shocking I’d say, with things just left out there until the show returns in January, which feels like forever!

Also, we get a bit more insight into Ray Palmer, and what he’s up to. All of that is fairly cool for comic fans who’ll geek out at the various references thrown out there. Where that storyline goes…. we’ll have to wait to January as well.

The episode is an interesting one. Not as strong as some others this season, but a relatively solid payoff considering this season’s build up to this point. Where it all goes, we’ll have to wait and see!

Overall rating: 8.5

Review: Batgirl #37

Batgirl 037For anyone that might think that after looking at this garish cover that the series has gone a bit overboard is kind of missing the point, because that is exactly what this issue is about.  While the story loosely follows a pretty generic story line here, it is exactly this over-the-top approach which is what makes this issue excel, not in the actual application of the material, but rather in the social commentary.  It is pretty rare for DC (or Marvel) to put out an issue like this one, but this ends up being a near perfect synthesis of fun and serious in one issue.  The story focuses on Barbara trying to find the person that has been impersonating her and ruining her reputation.  This involves both a standoff after her doppelganger is involved in a heist and then a seemingly out-of-place art show focused on her.  This involves a beautiful moment focused on the character’s past, before moving on to the final showdown with the faux-Batgirl.

Where this series has succeeded under the new creative team is with the personal focus on the character.  The villains are somewhat interchangeable thus far, both in terms of their motivation and their inspiration.  In essence, one might expect something similar from the villains out of the 1960s Batman television series.  It is not the villains where the heart of this series lays though, rather with the complexities of the main character and her supporting cast.  When they get dressed up for the art exhibit, it feels like the reader is going along with them, not as a vicarious journey, but rather sharing their genuine experiences, and while some fans might read this and think that it is not a typical superhero comic, it deserves praise for not being so.  It is character driven with a strong enough social message to make it all the more pertinent.

The end result is one of the best single issues that I have read in a long time in comics.  The first impression of this issue does lead to the concept of superficiality as the cover suggested, but once the reader realizes that this is meant as a criticism and not as homage, then it becomes clear that something a lot deeper is transpiring here.  Although Barbara is a fictional character she lives through challenges that seem real enough, as instead of worrying about stopping an invasion from Apokolips she is dealing with problems that would seem real enough to people in the real world.  This is a series with a heart and a soul, and it wears it proudly for all to see, and is really one of the standout series from DC at the moment.

Story: Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher  Art: Babs Tarr
Story:  9.5 Art: 9.5  Overall: 9.5  Recommendation: Buy

TV Review: The Flash S1E9 The Man in the Yellow Suit

theflash_full_costumeBarry enjoys holiday traditions with Joe and Iris — and is faced with his nemesis; a touching moment with Iris is interrupted by Eddie’s arrival.

It feels like the season has been building to this moment, Barry’s, aka the Flash’s, run in with the man in yellow, who we comic fans know as The Reverse Flash.

About 45 minutes in, we’ve got the big meeting, not between The Flash, but between Wells, a few others, and The Reverse Flash. Here’s where we’re diving into spoilers…. You’ve been warned….

We know who The Reverse Flash most likely isn’t. In that same room was Thawne and Wells. So can we check two off of the list? Hopefully you waited to the end to find out.

Also in this episode…. we’ve got Firestorm! That’s right, Ronnie is in full flaming glory. His part was a bit short, and stilted, but it’s an intro, and we get a better look as to what we can expect the character to look like in the short-term, and some of his powers.

Overall, this episode was pure nerdgasm. Reverse Flash! Firestorm! Flash vs. Reverse Flash!

But, even with all of that, the episode still finds its heart. There are moments between Barry and both Wests that show off the series is more than a man in red. And tell me you don’t feel a bit heartbroken in the scene between Barry and his father. For all the action, there’s as much feels packed into this episode.

The Flash is building and building, and here’s the first big payoff, and boy does it deliver. The Flash is quickly becoming THE best comic television show on the air right now, and this episode is a prime example of why.

And what an ending!

Overall rating: 9.75

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