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Review: The Joker #2

The Joker #2

The Joker #2 continues the surprisingly strong debut of the series. When announced, the thought of a series focused on the Joker created a cringe reaction. Expectations of a comic was one for the edge-lord crowd. Instead, the comic focused on a worn-out force of good who’s tempted to do one last positive thing before he can truly retire. The Joker #2 continues its focus on James Gordon while also throwing in a few more factors.

James Tynion IV delivers a comic that’s more Nazi-hunter than the spandex and tights stories of Batman’s world. There’s a grounded aspect to the series that keeps the story focused and the fantastical at the minimum. At its core The Joker #2 is a man struggling to decide what to do. Should he do what probably needs to be done, kill the Joker or does he still believe in the concept of the judicial system? There’s a debate within Gordon and not just in his words but the agony on his face do we understand what he’s struggling with.

But, the issue drops so much more.

Tynion taps a little Guy Ritchie and Joe Carnahan and injects numerous other factors into Gordon’s mission. We get glimpses of the other groups and individuals who have the same mission. They all want to kill the Joker. This includes criminal organizations, enhanced individuals, and so much more. The pieces on the board are varied and should make for some entertaining and action-packed moments. It takes some of the grim nature of the comic and adds a little levity through action.

There’s also a revelation within that changes Gordon’s relationship and history with Batman and his allies. It’s something that’ll have individuals going back to re-read key moments in their interactions and what he knows. It adds a layer of trust, respect, and honor to what Gordon is doing and what he did as Police Commissioner. It also could be easily spun that it taints his relationship in some ways as well. Depends how you read into the revelation.

The art by Guillem March continues to be fantastic. With color by Arif Prianto and lettering by Tom Napolitano, the art has a style that evokes the grittier Batman comics of the 1980s. There’s also some additions to the story that creates a less dour feel to the issue. With the various groups also with a similar mission as Gordon, we get the “goofier” aspects of the story. It’s more of the costumed shenanigans that Batman deals with and while it can be action-packed it’s not so much a man trying to close that final chapter in his life and wrong his mistakes. The Joker’s scene too adds a bit of brightness and comedy that’s the trademark of the Joker. The pages are literally brighter in color an interesting contrast to what Joker is experiencing compared to others.

The comic also continues its back-up Punchline story. Tynion is joined by Sam Johns on art. Mirka Andolfo handles the art with Romulo Fajardo, Jr. on color and lettering by Ariana Maher. Punchline as a whole has become a much more interesting character after “Joker War”. This story, along with her one-shot, added a lot to a character who started as a much more serious riff on Harley Quinn. We get an interesting debate on how much of her persona is real and how much is clout chasing and her influence on others. There’s some really interesting aspects to the character to explore and doing so in ways to show how others perceive her is a solid choice.

The Joker #2 is another fantastic issue. The series has begun to balance its serious tones with the lighter aspects of Batman’s world. It also sets up what should be an action-packed series going forward as the various competing groups eventually clash. It continues to surprise me forgoing the expectations I had of it and instead delivering a series that doesn’t celebrate the chaos of the Joker and instead examines the lingering damage that endures.

Story: James Tynion IV, Sam Johns Art: Guillem March, Mirka Andolfo
Color: Arif Prianto, Romulo Fajardo, Jr. Letterer: Tom Napolitano, Ariana Maher
Story: 8.75 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.75 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: The Flash #768

The Flash #768

The Flash kicks off its Infinite Frontier run with Wally West taking center stage. It also stumbles right out of the block with a forgettable issue that feels like a filler arc. The Flash #768 has Wally West making the decision that he wants to hang up his suit to spend more time with his newly reunited family. And, to do that, he feels like he needs the Speed Force taken from him.

Writer Jeremy Adams delivers a story that’s just ok. There’s nothing bad about the comic but it also doesn’t deliver anything that really stands out. It takes what should be some solid concepts and distracts things with a time travel sci-fi comedy. While Wally and Barry race so Barry can suck the Speed Force from Wally, the Speed Force acts up. Wally is sent to the past for unknown reasons that are teased as the issue progresses. There’s a lighthearted take to it all and some comedic moments. But, the issue’s strength is the exploration of how Barry and Wally have approached their roles. That is far too short.

But, this is jus the opening chapter in this arc and it all might come together. Beyond Barry and Wally’s different approach to life there’s an interesting exploration of Barry and Wally’s attachment to the Speed Force. Barry has a better understanding but Wally has a greater attachment to it. Again, there’s potential.

The art races around with Brandon Peterson, Marco Santucci, and David Lafuente mixing things up as the story hops around time. Mike Atiyeh, Arif Prianto, and Luis Guerrero handle the colors. Steve Wands provides the lettering. The art is good but it lacks a certain sense of motion that has been a highlight of the art of the series for some time. While Wally and Barry race, there’s a lack of flow that makes the art feel more like a snapshot in time as opposed to enhancing the movement of the characters.

There’s some small details to enjoy in The Flash #768. A scene of Wally and Barry and Iris walking down the street has some great comments from those watching. There’s also a lighthearted and “fun” tone about the comic as well. It’s a throwback in some ways. Overall though, this is a starting arc that doesn’t excite enough to have readers coming back for more.

Story: Jeremy Adams Art: Brandon Peterson, Marco Santucci, David Lafuente
Color: Mike Atiyeh, Arif Prianto, Luis Guerrero Letterer: Steve Wands
Story: 6.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 6.0 Recommendation: Pass

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Review: The Joker #1

The Joker #1

When I first heard DC was releasing a comic focused on the Joker, I rolled my eyes. The concept of a comic with the Joker at the center didn’t appeal to me, as certain iterations of him have attracted a negative edge-lord element. Then I read The Joker #1, and quickly changed my mind. What’s presented is an updated “chase” story with some zeitgeist thrown in.

The “Joker War” is over and the Joker is on the run having left Gotham. Months later, an attack has taken place on Arkham Asylum pinned to him, though not proven it was him. Unknown elements have decided they want the Joker off the playing board and decide to turn to Jim Gordon to do exactly that.

While Joker’s name might be the title of the comic, writer James Tynion IV focuses the comic on a former cop whose nightmare still walks the Earth and haunts his dreams. This is a story about a man’s unfulfilled mission and one last opportunity to change that. While we get an update on the Joker, this is Gordon’s story so far.

And Tynion gives us an interesting flair to it. The comic feels more like Nazi hunters than a detective story. This isn’t so much INTERPOL as it is Wiesenthal. The fact Gordon is focused on taking out such an evil contributes to that, it’s rare that a character is so definitively evil. Gordon feels like the grizzled, tortured individual, who needs to put an end note to what has haunted him, and remove an evil force from society.

The art by Guillem March is solid. Guillem is joined by Arif Prianto on color and Tom Napolitano on lettering. There’s a worn vibe about the comic. Gordon feels like a tortured and weathered individual beat down to a low point and not sure what to do next. There’s a great use of visuals to dive in what haunts Gordon and where Gotham stands in the wake of the latest chaos. An opening sequence involving another officer really hammers home the drive that Gordon is experiencing toeing the line of crossing into shock value.

The Joker #1 also features a secondary story “Punchline” following up on Joker’s latest sidekick’s trial. Tynion is joined by Sam Johns on the story while Mirka Andolfo handles the art, Romulo Fajardo, Jr. is on color, and Ariana Maher handles the lettering. Much like the one-shot featuring Punchline, this chapter has a feel like it’s an examination of our current world. Punchline is the center of the alt-cult she and Joker have spawned. This is a group that rejects reality and social norms, instead bracing chaos as a finger towards others. It’s hard to not think of the MAGA-cult and alt-right when reading this and the comparing the protests to free Punchline as similar pronunciations of innocence for real-world leaders who are clearly guilty though the evidence may be flimsy. How much this story will continue to make that sort of connection will be interesting as it could be a hell of an allegory.

The Joker #1 surprised me. It’s a comic I thought could be good but wasn’t sure what we were getting. With a focus on those hunting the villain, we get a story of one last attempt at justice as opposed to something that might deify or wash a reprehensible individual. It’s a debut that shows a hell of a lot of potential for what’s to come. Hopefully it keeps its focus on the nightmares that haunt us throughout life.

Story: James Tynion IV, Sam Johns Art: Guillem March, Mirka Andolfo
Color: Arif Prianto, Romulo Fajardo, Jr. Letterer: Tom Napolitano, Ariana Maher
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Warhammer 40,000: Marneus Calgar #4

Games Workshop’s world of Warhammer 40,000 comes to Marvel comics with Warhammer 40,000: Marneus Calgar!

Warhammer 40,000: Marneus Calgar #4 takes us to the past to show what it takes to become a Space Marine and in the present Marneus battles Chaos forces!

Story: Kieron Gillen
Art: Jacen Burrows
Ink: Guillermo Ortego
Color: Java Tartaglia
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Get your copy now! To find a comic shop near you, visit http://www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.

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Review: Warhammer 40,000: Marneus Calgar #4

Warhammer 40,000: Marneus Calgar #4

What does it take to be a Space Marine in the Warhammer 40,000 universe? Warhammer 40,000: Marneus Calgar #4 answers that question in a comic that focuses more on the warrior’s growth than the battle currently waging. The series has been an interesting one doing a solid job of mixing two eras for its main character Marneus Calgar. Through his battles in the present, he reflects on what it took for him to become the leader he is today. And through the past, we get to see more of the world and his difficult journey.

In the past Tacitan, now Marneus, has helped defeat a Chaos cult and is going through the trails to join the ranks of the Ultramarines Space Marine chapter. writer Kieron Gillen does an excellent job showing how difficult a task it is as the bodies pile up and Marneus goes through a torturous transformation. It’s been years since I read up on all of the specifics of the augments that go into being a Space Marine, but Gillen takes us step-by-step. It feels like an update to the rather dry spec-readouts I remember reading as a fan of the Warhammer 40K miniature game. Organs are added and training is done and through it all we get to see Marneus grow, literally.

Warhammer 40,000: Marneus Calgar #4 does an impressive job of taking what has been told so many times before and making it interesting. There’s been a lot written as to the various upgrades in Space Marines but Gillen breaks it down as to what those upgrades are, when they’re given, why they’re given, and what the gains are. He does that through Marneus’ training in the field. For new readers, some of it might be surprising as things like acid spit and the ability to gain memories through the consumption of others are presented. And it all just flows without a hint of silliness.

In the present, Marneus battles the Chaos forces. The blood flows with somewhat comedic effect. The art by Jacen Burrows works well this issue delivering an over the top experience. The training scenes, especially towards the beginning are full of chaos at times as the numbers dwindle due to death. The present battle we see heads up and bodies crushed under tanks. Whether it’s meant as a comedic spin, I don’t know. But, it’s over the top and hard to not enjoy it in that way. Java Tartaglia‘s colors deliver some of the fun in rather bright colors and Clayton Cowles‘ lettering the right touch for the calls of Chaos warriors.

Warhammer 40,000: Marneus Calgar #4 is a fun comic that feels like a nice updated take on a “field guide”. We get to see what it takes to be a Space Marine step by step. And we get a lot action in both the past and present. It works really well to educate people about this new new world and property and entertain at the same time.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jacen Burrows
Ink: Guillermo Ortego Color: Java Tartaglia Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Exclusive Preview: Warhammer 40,000: Marneus Calgar #4 (of 5)

Warhammer 40,000: Marneus Calgar #4 (of 5)

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Penciler: Jacen Burrows
Inker: Guillermo Ortego
Colorist: Java Tartaglia
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Designer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover: James Stokoe
Variant: Luke Ross, Arif Prianto; Mico Suayan, Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Parental Advisory
In Shops: Feb 03, 2021
SRP: $4.99

THE MAKING OF A SPACE MARINE!
• Young MARNEUS CALGAR has passed his Space Marine Aspirant testing…but that means the real trial is only just beginning!
• As Marneus undergoes the rigorous training, excruciating organ implantation and strenuous physical augmentation, he will have to prove that, against all odds, he has what it takes!
• And in the 41st Millennium, the assault on CALGAR ESTATES reaches a deadly climax!

Warhammer 40,000: Marneus Calgar #4 (of 5)

Review: Ghost Rider: Return of Vengeance #1

Ghost Rider: Return of Vengeance

I honestly don’t remember much about Vengeance, the Ghost Rider also-ran. I remember he existed and the design but as a whole the specifics elude me. Thankfully, Ghost Rider: Return of Vengeance catches readers up with a nice recap of what you need to know and why the character is important.

Ghost Rider: Return of Vengeance lays things out in its title. It’s a one-shot that’s focused on the return of the character. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Michael Badilino, aka Vengeance, is in Hell, held prisoner for whatever reasons. With threats of torture and being forced to battle for his life, Ghost Rider: Return of Vengeance is a prison break story.

Your enjoyment of the comic will really depend on how much you care about the Ghost Rider corner of the Marvel Universe or the character. This is a piece of whatever puzzle is being put together for all of that. It’s a jailbreak story with a beginning, middle, and end, but that’s about it. There’s little more than that and Badilino’s background. It’s a chapter of whatever is going on with Ghost Rider and the battle in Hell.

Howard Mackie’s story is fine. It doesn’t stand out in any way but also isn’t terrible either. It feels like a throwback to the comics of the 1990s when Vengeance was a thing. The dialogue is a bit cheesy and there’s a slight choppiness to the narrative. But, it’s a straightforward story. There’s little that’s surprising and a few things you just need to accept.

Javier Saltares handles the art. Saltares is joined by Marc Deering on ink, Arif Prianto on color, and Joe Sabino on lettering. The art too is a bit of a throwback though the opening has a bit of a modern feel to it. There’s not a whole lot that screams “Hell” to me beyond the demons on the page. It feels like a missed opportunity. There’s some details dropped in characters and panels as well that makes the art just ok.

There’s nothing bad about Ghost Rider: Return of Vengeance but there’s also little that stands out. It’s a perfectly entertaining comic in a turn off your brain sort of way. The comic exists as part of the big picture plans for Ghost Rider and that corner of the Marvel Universe. It doesn’t really stand on its whole but it gets the motorcycle rolling for whatever is to come for Vengeance.

Story: Howard Mackie Art: Javier Saltares
Ink: Javier Saltares, Marc Deering Color: Arif Prianto Letterer: Joe Sabino
Story: 6.75 Art: 6.95 Overall: 6.85 Recommendation: Read

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Review: Dark Nights: Metal Infinite Hour Exxxtreme!

Dark Nights: Death Metal Infinite Hour Exxxtreme!

Dark Nights: Death Metal has been a mixed bag of an event. Often, the one-shot tie-ins have been better than the main series. They’ve also been vital to the main story. The one-shots have filled in gaps fleshing out key moments not taking place in the main series but referenced there. Dark Nights: Death Metal Infinite Hour Exxxtreme! is Lobo’s mission in the event. Hired by Lex Luthor, Lobo is tasked with obtaining Death Metal which can remake the universe. Made up of a trio of stories, Dark Nights: Death Metal Infinite Hour Exxxtreme! is a flimsy one-shot. In the end, it’s a comic that’s neither exciting, interesting, or funny.

Frank Tieri kicks off the first story “Part I: The Batman Who Frags“. In a drawn out sequence, Lobo bounces between trying to drink, capture a bounty, and also tangles with the Lobo version of Batman, The Batman Who Frags. Tieri is joined by artist Tyler Kirkham, colorist Arif Prinato, and letterer Dave Sharpe. As has hampered some of Dark Nights: Death Metal, the story feels like it’s more focused on introducing the Lobo Batman than actually getting the story going. With a distraction of a bounty to bring in, some fights and events that are a bit choppy, the kick-off never quite makes sense in its narrative. Why did The Batman Who Frags show up? How did he find Lobo? It’s a segment that kicks off a series of events rather than a flowing narrative.

The second part by Becky Cloonan, artist Rags Morales, colorist Andrew Dalhouse, and letterer Rob Leigh is titled “What the Frag is a Death Metal Anyway!?“. Blackhawk Island and Hawkman are at the center as Lobo tracks down the Death Metal. Again, the story devolves into a series of events than narrative as Lobo must tussle with Black Monday and then convince Hawkman to turn over the metal. An attack from the air by The Batman Who Frags feels out of the blue and not explained enough as much of what happens. It, just happens. Why would Hawkman trust Lobo? Why wouldn’t Hawkman use the power of the Death Metal himself? There are so many questions out there that just kills the narrative if one takes a moment to think about it at all.

Wrapping up the trio of stories is “Lobo Land!” from writer Sam Humphries, artist Denys Cowan, inks by Bill Sienkiewicz, colorist Chris Sotomayor, and letterer Dave Sharpe. With the Death Metal in hand Lobo does what he does best and gets distracted. Again, it adds little to the narrative and again opens up questions. Lex Luthor was able to snatch Lobo initially but doesn’t once he has the metal?

Instead, Brainiac is part of the story sent by a missing Luthor. It’s a series of jokes as Lobo changes realities creating different versions of himself in a series of one-page jokes. They’re not even long enough to nail down the joke with barely a setup. It also adds little to the story and feels more of an exit that’s created because there were pages to fill and unsure of a way to wrap up the issue for Dark Nights: Death Metal #5. What the team does evoke is classic Lobo stories and the kinetic, almost Mad Magazine-like rapid-fire jokes.

Dark Nights: Death Metal Infinite Hour Exxxtreme! is just an ok tie-in. Yes, it probably tells something important that won’t be covered in the main series but it also doesn’t feature enough to stand out. It feels like something that probably could have been told in a few pages stretched out to over 30. Most of it is filler with the meat of the story featuring little explanation and a resolution that takes place in a few panels. It’s about as filler as filler gets.

Story: Frank Tieri, Becky Cloonan, Sam Humphries Art: Tyler Kirkham, Rags Morales, Denys Cowan
Ink: Bill Sienkiewicz Color: Arif Prianto, Andrew Dalhouse, Chris Sotomayor Letterer: Dave Sharpe, Rob Leigh
Story: 5.0 Art: 7.5 Overall: 5.0 Recommendation: Pass

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DC Reveals this Week’s DC Digital First Releases

DC’s Digital First continues this week with another installment of Shazam: Lightning Strikes, plus the return of Birds of Prey: Sirens of Justice and a new story in Superman: Man of Tomorrow! These three, plus today’s Batman: Gotham Nights featuring a story by Tom Taylor and Daniel Sampere, give fans even more choice of characters while expanding DC’s digital publishing line with original stories.

And don’t forget to watch for the fifth chapter of Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red on Friday, July 24!

Monday July 20

Superman: Man of Tomorrow #12

Superman’s Day Off” by Robert Venditti, Scott Hepburn, Ian Herring, and Dave Sharpe
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Metropolis is without the Man of Steel for a day and villains are coming out of the woodwork to take advantage. Can the city stand against the many threats? And where is Supeman?!

Superman: The Man of Tomorrow #12

Tuesday July 21

Batman: Gotham Nights #14

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Bad News” by Tom Taylor, Daniel Sampere, Juan Albarran, Adriano Lucas, and Tom Napolitano.

Deathstroke is hired to take out the only witness to a corrupt politician’s mob ties, but his newest mark has some friends in high places…

Monster” by Frank Tieri, Tyler Kirkham, Arif Prianto, and Tom Napolitano

A surprise during a bank robbery brings back old memories for Killer Croc. But he’s not that bullied, defeated kid from the freakshow anymore…he’s something much worse.

Batman: Gotham Nights #14

Wednesday July 22

Birds of Prey: Sirens of Justice #2

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Disguises” by Robert Venditti, Isaac Goodhart, Chris Sotomayor, and Travis Lanham

Harley reluctantly agrees to meet with an old roommate from med school and finds herself considering the paths not taken. Turns out, she wasn’t missing much.

The Killing” by John Layman, Cully Hamner, Dave McCaig, and Justin Birch

Huntress is on the trail of a mobster on the lam, but her mission turns into a race when another bounty hunter joins the fray. And it’s no ordinary gun for hire—it’s none other than Deathstroke!

Birds of Prey: Sirens of Justice #2

Friday July 24

Shazam: Lightning Strikes #2

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On the Job!” by Louise Simonson, Bret Blevins, Chris Sotomayor, and Marshall Dillon

Pedro takes his new crossing guard responsibilities very seriously. But when disaster strikes, can he keep his Shazam Family identity a secret and keep his classmates safe?

Destroying Eugene Choi” by Phil Hester, Eric Gapstur, David Baron, and Marshall Dillon

A mysterious glowing artifact proves to be the perfect power source for Eugene’s robotics project—until it grants his robot a life of its own! Now Eugene must dismantle the rogue battlebots before they destroy Fawcett High…and to do it, he’ll need the helpof his greatest rival!

Shazam: Lightning Strikes #2
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