Tag Archives: DC Rebirth

C2E2: Interview with Nightwing Writer Benjamin Percy

Benjamin Percy is a multitalented writer, who excels in a variety of mediums. He has written four novels, a book about creative writing called Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction, was a contributing editor for Esquire and taught at the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Along with screenplays and short stories, Percy has written quite a few comic books since 2014, including DC Rebirth’s Green Arrow and Teen Titans. His next project is a run on Nightwing, beginning with issue 44, and I had the opportunity to chat with him about Dick Grayson’s role in the DC Universe and Bludhaven, collaborating with artist Chris Mooneyham, and of course, Dick’s most famous asset…

Graphic Policy: I first saw your name in print in a review of Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue (2012) for Esquire. I was wondering how your work as a critic and arts writer influenced your work as a writer of superhero comics.

Benjamin Percy: I write novels. I write for magazines. I write comics. I write screenplays. I write essays. And let’s not forget the erotica too, which I’m celebrated for. What I love about writing in different mediums is I’m always challenging myself aesthetically. So, I’m writing comics and learning things from the medium that make me a better novelist. I’m serving as a book critic or a film critic and as a result, I’m looking more sharply at my own work and holding myself to the same standards as these artists I’m putting on the chopping block.

In every single case as I leap from genre to genre, I’m not only keeping myself excited at the keyboard because it’s always fresh. I’m also hopefully becoming a better storyteller.

GP: One thing I enjoyed about your Green Arrow run was that you returned the character to his Bronze Age roots as a “social justice warrior”. What social issues do you plan to explore in Nightwing?

BP: I was part of the Rebirth era of Green Arrow and that meant looking to his legacy and recognizing that in the O’Neil/Adams era, he was a hotheaded liberal. That’s something that had fallen away from the series. I brought that back, and I channeled the zeitgeist. I was making direct reference to the headlines on the page. There were storylines that resembled what was going on at Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline. There were stories that bore some resemblance to what was going on with Black Lives Matter.

This is Nightwing. I’m not taking the same approach. But I am thinking about what makes us anxious right now. I think that’s something that comics do very well. They channel cultural unease. They give you a cracked mirror version of reality. There’s a lot of things we should fear right now. Cybercrime is chief among them.

If you look at what’s happened with Cambridge Analytica. If you looked at what happened with the election results and the possibility of Russian meddling. If you think about how many times a day you turn your face towards a screen, maybe you think about how every time you tap a mouse or swipe your hand across a tablet or click a link that’s feeding into an algorithm that’s following you and profiling you. If you think about how every time your computer makes that carpenter ant sound, or every time your phone glitches, you’re wondering, “Has it already begun? Is a Trojan worming its way through the guts of my hard drive?”

I want to realize those fears on the page. I think it’s especially apt for Nightwing to be taking on these threats.

GP: Why is he the perfect fit?

BP: For a few different reasons. One, I wouldn’t say that Nightwing is a Luddite, but unlike Batman and Batgirl, he doesn’t surround himself with a lot of gadgets. He’s got his batons, and he’s got his acrobatics. I love an antagonist that really challenges a hero. Nightwing is facing a villain he can’t punch.

Nightwing is also interestingly situated in this storyline because he’s incredibly vital to the whole DCU and adaptable. He knows everyone. He’s served as a follower, and he’s served as a leader. He has connections to the Teen Titans and the Titans and the Justice League and the Bat-group. If you think about vulnerable data as being one of the greatest weapons of this time, he is a vault of vulnerable data. If he’s compromised, everyone’s compromised.

So, he’s facing the the dark web, but he’s at the center of his own web, which makes him the perfect person to take on this challenge and the most worrisome person to fail.

GP: Yeah, he’s definitely the heart of the DC Universe. So, one thing I liked about Tim Seeley and Sam Humphries’ runs on Nightwing were that they brought Bludhaven back with its own personality and history. How do you plan to build off this in your own run?

BP: I want to give props to Tim and Sam who did a kick ass job. I also love what Tom [King] was doing with Spyral in his Grayson run. Right now, Bill Gates is funneling 80 million dollars into a plot of land in Arizona to create a smart city. Right now, off the shore of China, they’re building islands. They’re expanding their country and building these “smart islands”.

I’m taking this real world situation and putting it in Bludhaven, a city that has always been in need of rehab. So, a tech mogul has moved there and is trying to rehabilitate the place. Something else might be going on beneath the surface of his intentions. Not only are buildings being demolished and neighborhoods rebuilt within a 5G network, but every address in Bludhaven has a package arrive on their doorstep. Inside that package is a device known as the “Phantasm”. This Phantasm device is a VR unit that bears some resemblance to Alexa, and Alexa, as you know, is always listening.

GP: She’s so scary. I’m never getting one.

BP: I’m taking Bludhaven, and how it’s been established as a city of ruins, a city of scandal, a city that has seen better times. I’m applying to it the same sort of thing you’re seeing on the East Coast with gentrification, except this is sort of tech-laced gentrification.

GP: So, one thing I love about reading Nightwing comics is that he has this exuberant, acrobatic type of fighting style. How do you choreograph his fights differently in the scripting process versus Damian Wayne’s in Teen Titans or Oliver Queen in Green Arrow?

BP: There’s a lot less yelling since Damian isn’t involved. Far fewer insults being hurled. I’m thinking carefully about every action setpiece and trying to create staging that takes advantage of his particular skill set. If you look at the first scene in Nightwing #44, there’s a subway sequence that involves his batons and also involves, I won’t exactly say what happens yet, a kind of high wire act.

Right away, in a really dramatic fashion, I’m trying to say, “This is Nightwing” with an exclamation mark.

GP: Kind of like a Bond cold open. Speaking of James Bond, which you wrote a little bit for Dynamite, are you bringing any kind of spy elements to Nightwing?

BP: We’re starting off in Bludhaven, but the story is not staying there. Arc after arc, it’s getting bigger and bigger.

GP: That’s what I like to hear. Chris Mooneyham (Five Ghosts) is the artist on your first storyline. Why was he the perfect choice for Nightwing?

BP: He’s the second coming of David Mazzucchelli. If you look at the first few pages [of Nightwing #44], which have been released, you will see parallels in Batman Year One and Daredevil Born Again in what we’re doing. It’s shadow soaked, neo noir, intricately detailed, and he takes advantage of every centimeter of the panel. There’s a beautiful grit at work, classic staging, and a more mature sensibility.

GP: I have one last question. Dick Grayson is perceived both in the DC Universe and by fans as a sex symbol. How will you portray that in your run on Nightwing?

BP: I make a crack about it right away. On page 2, panel 6, if you look at the top right corner of the subway station, there’s some graffiti that says “Butthaven”. I’m winking right there at how Dick has been portrayed. There will be romance to come, and I’ll also say that Batgirl plays an essential role in this story. He needs someone who is tech savvy. I’ve always loved their relationship.

Nightwing #44 will be released on May 2, 2018.

Follow Benjamin Percy on Twitter.

Review: Doomsday Clock #1

To put it bluntly, Doomsday Clock #1 is what many comic book fans (And Alan Moore wherever he is.) have feared: a direct sequel to Watchmen. The story is set in an alternate version of 1992 about five years after the events of the original series. An actor (Robert Redford) is president, the world is on the brink of nuclear war, Ozymandias is a fugitive and pariah, Dr. Manhattan is missing, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre are still happily retired and don’t appeared, and the book focuses on the new Rorschach in town. With the exception of the final scene, Doomsday Clock #1 isn’t so much a crossover, but Watchmen II. It takes its times and gives readers a flavor of Moore and Dave Gibbons’ even more dystopian universe and kicks the plot into gear in a way similar to the back half of the original series than the initial investigation into the Comedian’s death. (Edward Blake would probably appreciate the opening riot scene though.)

Writer Geoff Johns does a pretty fair impression of the smelly, ink blot mask wearing vigilante and adds a few wrinkles of his own like his willingness to compromise and throw his lot in with criminals “in the face of Armageddon”. Having a writer, who is mostly known for writing straightforward superheroes and space cops, go into a twisted not-so-Randian psyche, is a little awkward though, and seems like a kid in his father’s clothes than the ruthless prose of crime writer Brian Azzarello in Before Watchmen: Rorschach. This clumsiness fits into the story as Rorschach II has some of the same abilities as the original character like the ability to pull off a pretty decent prison escape, a prodigious stench, and paranoia (He’s one of the few characters in this universe who uses a “gas guzzling” car.), but he “breaks character” a lot and acts like an empathetic human being even to murderers. His secret identity is pretty obvious too thanks to a diversity deficiency in the original Watchmen

Artist Gary Frank’s pencils are incredibly detailed, and he doesn’t use a nine panel grid every page although he sticks to the three row setup of panels with the exception of the title. However, he creates the occasional symphony of juxtaposition like when the US government finally goes nuclear, and Rorschach does his prison break thing. Frank’s work is strong and unwavering, like the original Rorschach’s conventions, and for the most part, colorist Brad Anderson stays out of his way and lets his pencils shine. Anderson does have a couple tricks up his sleeve like color coding some panels to different characters, such as brown for Rorschach, gold for Ozymandias, and alarm red any time there’s a nuclear threat.

Johns’ use of alternate history elements in Doomsday Clock #1 are fairly on-the-nose as he turns President Redford into President Trump of the early 90s with his incessant golfing, ties to Russia and North Korea, obsession with a single news network, and polarization of political discourse in the United States. His sheer ineptitude (and invisibility) turns Ozymandias into a sort of sympathetic character even though he was responsible for so many deaths in the original Watchmen. Ironically, Ozymandias has the same mission: saving the world.

Gary Frank’s super close-ups of frightened human faces in the opening montage of Doomsday Clock #1 do a much better job at showing world that was already hell plunging into a deeper, darker circle of that hell than any faux Rorschach voiceovers and tacked on worldbuilding from Geoff Johns. You can see the slobber in the mouth of a rioter as he goes at a police officer with a broken bottle and shatters the glass in one of Ozymandias’ old buildings. In a clever twist, the bank of TVs with endless channels in Ozymandias’ lair is turned to one showing that his actions didn’t lead to a utopia, but a dictatorship. Frank is one of the rare photorealistic artists that doesn’t have any stiffness to his work finding a sweet spot on Scott McCloud’s “picture plane” and bringing humanity to characters that would be action figures or distant gods in other artists’ hands. This skill comes in handy when a certain character appears in the last several pages. He’s also fantastic with gestures, and Johns realizes this by including a mime themed supervillain in the story that is fairly grounded and very violent in the Watchmen tradition.

Doomsday Clock #1 shows that for better or worse, Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, and Brad Anderson are taking their time with their DC Rebirth/Watchmen crossover and spend time reestablishing and tearing down the world of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ comic before having Superman punch Dr. Manhattan or having Ozymandias and Lex Luthor swap plans for world domination over vodka sodas. Johns’ writing is awkward, but his plotting is focused and gets the proverbial clock ticking while Gibbons’ art is a real treat. Some parts of Doomsday Clock are pretty groanworthy, but others are pretty damn cool.

Story: Geoff Johns Art: Gary Frank Colors: Brad Anderson
Story: 7.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 7.8 Recommendation: Read 

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Wednesday Graphic Novel Review: Aquaman Vol. 1 and Batman Vol. 1

Two weeks into the new year and two weeks of new comic days! We’ve got two more first volumes to two DC Comics “Rebirth” trade paperbacks!

Aquaman Vol. 1: The Drowning collects issues 1-6 and the Rebirth issue by Dan Abnett, Scot Eaton, Brad Walker, and Philippe Briones.

Batman Vol. 1: I Am Gotham collects issues 1-6 and Rebirth by Tom King, David Finch, Scott Snyder, Ivan Reis, and Mikel Janin.

Find out what each trade has in store and whether you should grab yourself a copy. You can find both in comic stores January 11 and bookstores January 18.

Get your copies now. To find a comic shop near you, visit www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.
Aquaman Vol. 1Amazon/Kindle/comiXology or TFAW

Batman Vol. 1Amazon/Kindle/comiXology or TFAW

 

 

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with FREE copies for review
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Best Comics of 2016 – Alex’s List

Now that 2016 is in the history books (thank the fucking gods), it’s time to have a look back at some of the comics and events that really stood out for me, personally. These comics were all released this year, and in the case of a limited series if had at least two issues released this year (if a mini-series began late this year, then expect to find it on next year’s list – if it’s any good). Remember that this is all based on what I’ve read, and if your favourite comic isn’t here, it may be because I may not have read it, not because I didn’t like it.

First up there’ll be your standard Best Of categories of Ongoing Series, Mini/One Shot, Single Issue, Writer, Artist, and Colourist, then we’ll move on to a few other things I wanted to talk about.

Best Ongoing Comic

Last year I had a hell of a time with this one, so thankfully this year was much easier. Although I could have made a case for almost any of the comics listed below  (and, like last year I’m still wishing I had decided on a “top five” for this category without an overall winner), at the end of the day there really was only one comic that would end up here.

WRATH_003_COVER-A_LAFUENTEWrath Of The Eternal Warrior (Valiant) – The final issue came out in December, so technically this isn’t an ongoing anymore, and while I’ll miss the shit out of it in 2017, it sits in the top spot for 2016 (because it was an ongoing in 2016).  This was THE book of the year for me without question; although the first issue felt a lot slower than I expected, this quickly morphed into the one series I couldn’t wait to read. Robert Venditti has crafted fourteen of the most exciting, and compelling, issues about Valiant‘s immortal soldier I have ever read as he finds a way to have Gilad deal with death – and failure – in a way I haven’t seen anywhere before.

Venditti also built this series in layers as he dropped lines of dialogue and exposition in one comic that you’d be forgiven for missing, but once the inevitable pay off happened it was something special. For an action comic, Wrath Of The Eternal Warrior made you think quite a bit, and I loved every fucking moment (even the first issue after a reread six months later).

Honourable Mentions:

  • Faith (Ongoing) (Valiant) Narrowly missing the top spot, Faith has had a fantastic cast of artists joining Jody Houser all year, with each one bringing something wonderful to the table. This is a series that every comic fan should check out.
  • All-Star Batman (DC) Scott Snyder proves once more why he’s my favourite living Batman writer, and I actually enjoyed John Romita Jr’s art for the first time in a while.
  • X-O Manowar (Valiant) Another Venditti penned series, this had arguably the best concluding arc of any long running series I’ve read in a long time.

Best Limited Series or One Shot 

Voracious_02-1Voracious (Action Lab) I could tell you so many reasons why you should read this emotional tale about a time traveling chef who hunts dinosaurs, whether it’s Markisan Naso’s fantastic dialogue (and his recipes) or the wonderful artwork by Jason Muhr and colourist Andrei Tabacaru. I could tell you that comics like this are the reason you should pay attention to indie comics publishers, because if you don’t you’ll be missing out on some of the best stories  the year. But I won’t; instead I’ll tell you tell you all the reasons why you shouldn’t  read this:

Honourable Mentions:

  • Klaus (BOOM!But not The Witch Of Winter. That was fucking awful, and it’s better if you pretend it didn’t exist.
  • Divinity II (Valiant) 
  • Faith: Hollywood and Vine (Valiant) 
  • Batman / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (DC/IDW) All my childhood dreams came true with this six issue miniseries that I  was expecting to suck. It didn’t! It was actually really good.

Best Single Issue

FAITH_003_COVER-A_DJURDJEVICThere’s no honourable mentions because there was nothing remotely close to Faith #3:  (Valiant) for me this year. That’s #3 from the Hollywood And Vine  miniseries, not the currently ongoing series

There was never a question of this comic not being the best single issue of 2016, and its almost entirely down to the scene where Faith literally bursts from a closet. Everything about that sequence, from her internal monologue to the character’s reactions were just perfect. I still think about that moment nearly a year later, and it still sends chills down my spine.

Best Writer

Robert Venditti (Flash, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, Wrath Of The Eternal Warrior, X-O Manowar)

I didn’t read a bad comic written by this man all year. Obviously, some were better than others, and I didn’t read everything that Venditti put out, but what I did read was always fantastic – and you’ve probably already noticed my love for Venditti earlier on this list.

Best Artist

faith_005_cover-b_hetrickMeghan Hetrick (Red Thorn, Faith)

In a year with some truly amazing artists putting out some beautiful work, from Juan Jose Ryp, Doug Braithwaite and Robert Gill for Valiant, to David Finch, Rafa Sandoval and Patrick Gleason for DC, it was relative newcomer Meghan Hetrick who made my jaw drop with every issue and cover that she drew. Her work on Faith is what sealed her in as my top artist of the year, although her cover to the 4001 A.D. Shadowman tie in is also superb, not to mention Red Thorn. There are few artists whose work I’ll buy regardless of the writer, but Meghan Hetrick is one.

Best Colourist

Jordie Bellaire (Pretty Much Everything)

If you read more than one comic a month this year then you have probably read a comic with Jordie Bellaire’s work. She is one of the most prolific colourists around, and yet her versatility shines with each and every comic. When Jordie Bellaire’s name is on a comic, then you know it’s going to look awesome – regardless of who drew it.

Most Depressingly Canceled Comic

Red Thorn (Vertigo)

Every year comics are canceled prematurely, but Red Thorn The series was great, but sadly the sales figures just weren’t there. Treat yourself when you have a chance and go check this out. You’ll find a wonderfully illustrated tale steeped in Scottish mythology quite unlike almost anything you’ll read this year.

The Comic I Wanted To Read But Never Did

The Vision (Marvel)
I have heard nothing but great things about the twelve or so issues of Vision, and yet for some reason, I haven’t picked it up even though I’ve heard it said that this is Tom King’s finest work from 2016. but it was never on my radar because of the characters and setting involved. Maybe I’ll check out the trades at some point.

Biggest Surprises

I) Ben Affleck Was A Fantastic Batman

I hoped going into the movie that Affleck would be decent, and I suspected he would be, but I never expected him to turn in a performance that went right into my top three Batman performances – that took me completely by surprise. The theatrical cut of Batman v Superman wasn’t quite as good as Affleck’s Batman, but because of his acting (and Gal Gadot) I left the theater feeling I’d got my money’s worth.

bruce waye affleck

II) Marvel Actually Finished Civil War II

After the amount of delays this series suffered, I wouldn’t have been surprised had Marvel just quietly shuffled the final issue or two off their publishing schedule. When the next event (and it’s prequel) Inhumans Vs X-Men unintentionally start before your Big Summer Event is over, you have to ask yourself whether anybody still cares about said summer even .

III) DC Rebirth Wasn’t A Stonking Pile Of Manure

I honestly had no faith the DC’s latest reboot would be anything other than a quick cash grab with at best mediocre titles. Thankfully, i was very wrong. While there were some average titles, good comics that weren’t for me and the occasional miss, for the most part I’ve enjoyed every comic under the “Rebirth” banner (and I’ve read them all for Graphic Policy’s Rebirth Review feature). In fact, the standouts for me came from characters I previously had no time for; Aquaman, Superman, Wonder Woman  and the Green Lantern Corp

The Moments That Had Me Grinning Ear To Ear

I) Bill Finger’s Byline

This was the single greatest thing to happen in the comics industry this year in my eyes; Bill Finger was finally acknowledged officially as having something to do with Batman’s creation, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Marc Tyler Nobleman.

moviescreen-grab

Regardless of my thoughts on the movie, seeing Bill Finger’s name here was fantastic.

II) Interviewing Marc Tyler Nobleman

I don’t know what I expected when I reached out to the man who inspired me to write about comics, but talking to him about Bill Finger was an absolute joy.

III) Having My Reviews Quoted On Comics

This year was the first time I saw one of my reviews quoted on the cover of a comic, and it was a moment that I won’t forget anytime soon (the comic was Red Thorn #3 if you wondered). Since then I’ve seen my reviews quoted on several Valiant comics, as well. It makes me grin every time.

 



 

Well there we have it; a look back at some of the best comics that I read over the year. Agree, or disagree? Let me know!

No, Geoff Johns Did Not Say He’s Writing Watchmen, But Did Hint at More #DCTV

rumorsWe’re not even a full day into 2017 and already the bullshit and clickbait is flowing on other comic sites. Numerous sites are reporting that Geoff Johns “said” he will be writing a Watchmen comic in 2017, or teased that he would. The only problem is that he did no such thing.

Here’s the series of Tweets of things he’s looking forward to in 2017 that led to the Clickbait storm.

That final tweet with the picture of Doctor Manhattan was interpreted by many to mean Johns will be writing a new Watchmen comic series, except in reality it probably means no such thing.

screen_shot_2016-05-26_at_14-19-28_vjuljcThis year DC Comics launched their latest initiative Rebirth which blended old and new in a new focus for the comic line. That initiative was spearheaded by Johns who worked with each creative team to shape their new direction and their role in the overall story arc that’s playing out.

At the end of the DC Universe Rebirth Special we get a few teasers that hint that Alan Moore’s celebrated work and characters have been involved with the “missing time” that is revealed in the one-shot comic. That comic, written by Geoff Johns, featured Batman finding a pin with a smiley face and blood stain on it. The same pin made iconic with the Comedian’s death in the Watchmen comic series. At the end of the comic we also get hints that Doctor Manhattan is keeping watch over the DC Universe and may be involved as he disintegrates two characters just like he did in Watchmen.

So, the characters are involved in the story, but considering Johns’ involvement, wouldn’t the more likely conclusion to that last Tweet be that he’s writing whatever “event” having to do with Rebirth is being released in 2017? And that event will reveal more about the involvement of the Watchmen characters?

A confirmation of Johns writing a new Watchmen comic series, we’d have to rate as “False” at this time, though DC did find mixed success in their Before Watchmen event a few years back.

However, there is news from those Tweets. Johns seems to indicate that we’ll be getting even more DC television with a new series coming!

In 2017 add one resolution to your list, “Say NO to Clickbait.”

Review: Supergirl #2

supergirl2fiSupergirl #2 has all the ingredients of an intriguing teen superhero comic: twisted family drama, killer robots, punching, and of course, adolescent awkwardness. Writer Steve Orlando, artist Brian Ching, and colorist Michael Atiyeh give Supergirl quite the hard time as various men in her life keep telling her what’s best for her from Cyborg Superman saying that he’s her dad Zor-El to her classmate, Ben Rubel, interrupting her and getting a spot as one of Cat Grant’s Young Innovators. In light of a male presidential candidate interrupting a female presidential candidate multiple times and still complaining about not having equal time, the events of Supergirl #2 are very relevant as Orlando simultaneously explores the tragedy of Krypton’s destruction and the cutthroat world of new media.

Speaking of media, Orlando and Ching’s take on Cat Grant is fantastic as they start to build her arc as a journalist who wants to go from reporting gossip for the Daily Planet to running an “open source” media empire. She is the most engaging character that Orlando has written this side of Midnighter and his original creation Virgil and gives Supergirl life lessons while Ching makes her throw choice side eye at Kara’s timidity as well Ben’s brashness to interrupt Kara and answer the question. Cat is also self-aware and understands that her ego and cult of personality could lead to fall of her nascent media empire, which is why she is getting the most talented people to research and check the news before she brings it into the world. Even though (for now) it’s missing the warm banter and friendship/love triangles of Catco in the Supergirl TV show, Orlando and Ching’s version of the organization in the comic is much more bleeding edge and intriguing. It will be interesting to see how the company as well as Kara’s civilian life fits into the storyline featuring Cyborg Superman and the return of Argo City.

For most of Supergirl #2, Kara speaks in her native Kryptonian to Cyborg Superman, who claims to be her father Zor-El, and towards the end of the issue, shows her memories that only Kara’s father would know. His story is a tragic sci-fi epic as he subjugates himself to Brainiac to save Argo City and his daughter, who meets in battle as a supervillain. However, Cyborg Superman remembers his life on Krypton when he sees the hope shining through Supergirl. The overly literal connection to the House of El is on the nose, but Atiyeh’s faded reds, blues, and yellows create the effect of long forgotten memories coming to the forefront of Kara’s brain and also make Cyborg Superman a more sympathetic figure. He cares about Kara even though his body possession and robot-obsessed ways are extremely creepy.

supergirl2interiorThree issues in, and Orlando and Ching should be praised for not resolving the conflict between Kara being a native of Krypton and a current resident of Earth as she struggles to fit in. Ching captures her loneliness in a quiet scene where she floats above her bed while her adopted mother, Eliza Danvers, calls out to her. This moment where she finds solace in her special abilities is a perfect transition for Cyborg Superman’s “flashback attack”. Supergirl has been treated like dirt over her peers so maybe a return to Argo City would make her feel better. (If the city wasn’t populated by the main family from Tom King and Gabriel Walta’s Vision.) However, just like she defeats Cyborg Superman with the power of her fists, she uses sarcasm to keep Ben Rubel on edge saying that he only got his position at Catco because of his super interruption abilities.

In Supergirl #2, Steve Orlando, Brian Ching, and Michael Atiyeh take the internal conflict between Earth and Krypton out of Supergirl’s head and into the light of day. Cyborg Superman may speak Kara’s language and give her the offer of a return to her home planet, but his Argo City is definitely not And Orlando doesn’t just focus on the upcoming battle, but deepens the characters of Cat Grant and Eliza Danvers as Kara begins to forge relationships. Ching’s loose, John Romita Jr-esque art style that adds energy to the brawl between Cyborg Superman and Supergirl, and Atiyeh’s nostalgic color palette make Supergirl #2 a comic with both a physical and emotional punch.

Story: Steve Orlando Art: Brian Ching Colors: Michael Atiyeh
Story: 8.5 Art: 8 Overall: 8.3 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Hellblazer #1

HellblazerMoritatCoverLike the Rebirth issue, Hellblazer #1 brings back memories of the title’s hey-day in the 1980s when Rick Veitch was having John Constantine act as a vessel for Swamp Thing to have sex with his girlfriend Abby Holland  in Saga of the Swamp Thing, or when Jamie Delano had him running around with telepathic hippies. It’s the comic book equivalent of pulling out a battered guitar case from the attic that smells of whiskey, urine, and Silk Cuts, which are just a few of Constantine’s favorite things. But writer Simon Oliver seems to rely too much on these past stories to create new ones for John Constantine and Chas. However, his characterization is sharp as ever as Oliver writes Constantine as a manipulative bastard, who has a lot of built up guilt and regret from New York where he had a shot at settling down with the culinary skilled, family man Oliver. Add an intriguing cliffhanger that could lead to a sociopolitically interesting, slow burn story, and Hellblazer #1 ends up becoming an above average read.

Moritat‘s art is touch and go in Hellblazer #1. Any time there is motion, action, or body horror, your eyes are riveted to the page like a cinematic cold open where an angel stops another angel from potentially stopping World War I before it starts. Colorist Andre Syzmanowicz adds plenty of rusty browns and reds to this cinematic sequence, which make the pages smell like death culminating in a panel of a skull and a blunt rendition of the casualties in World War I and World War II from  He even can do humor too, such as the manner as Swamp Thing keeps popping up in Constantine’s life from Chas’ old client’s cannabis garden to a produce cart in New York.

However, where Moritat slips up is in the facial expression department, which is a shame because he is a pretty deft gesture cartoonist.  (See the panel where Mercury slowly flips Constantine off for asking her to help him find Swamp Thing’s girlfriend.) Unfortunately, his characters seem to only to do mild consternation or blank resignation, like when Constantine just stares at Swamp Thing. This lack of “acting range” takes some of the bite out of Oliver’s combative, Anglicism-filled dialogue with extra snark, especially when Mercury takes Constantine down a peg.

JohnvsMercury

Hellblazer #1’s greatest strength and the element of the comic that will keep me checking out the book is the way Simon Oliver has constructed the supporting cast even if some of his dialogue at this point leans a little too heavily on in-jokes to older Constantine stories. He writes Chas like a kind-hearted enabler, who enjoys driving around dangerous magicians and drug offenders. He is Constantine’s firmest supporter and hopefully one day, Constantine will let him know about what happened in New York. Oliver writes Swamp Thing with majesty, a little bit of warmth, and an “I owe you one.” kind of relationship with Constantine. Swamp Thing helped keep the Justice League off Constantine’s tail in Hellblazer Rebirth #1 so he must help him find Abby Holland in Hellblazer #1. But there’s no “American Gothic” retread as Oliver introduces Mercury into the mix. She has known Constantine since she was child and knows that his friends are better off without him. Oliver gives her the sharpest lines of dialogue and basically has her hijack the book as she is the one who ends up teaming up with Swamp Thing to find Abby, which is probably for the best. And hopefully we get to see their team up on the page even though this is technically John Constantine’s book.

With an ending that could be described as theological and also doesn’t connect to the Constantine/Swamp Thing/Mercury plot line at all, Hellblazer #1 has shown itself that it is a comic that both reveres the comic and character’s past while also treating its main character with the irreverence and disdain he kind of deserves. Simon Oliver, Moritat, and Andre Szymanowicz seem to be playing the long con in Hellblazer, and hopefully it pays off without skimping on the stellar characterization of Constantine and his not-so-merry band of brothers. (And a sister.)

Story: Simon Oliver Art: Moritat Colors: Andre Szymanowicz and Moritat
Story: 7 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.3 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Suicide Squad #1

SuicideSquad1CoverSuicide Squad #1 is really the tale of two (half) comics written by Rob Williams . The first is a highly decompressed, threadbare plotted Suicide Squad story that is basically the first few minutes of the Suicide Squad movie without the flashy music and intros. Amanda Waller assembles the team, gives them a mission to retrieve a MacGuffin, and then they get dropped out of space. And that’s the entire plot, and superstar penciler Jim Lee and inker Scott Williams are relegated to drawing Harley Quinn playing a copyright friendly version of Pokemon Go, and Killer Croc puking in his space helmet. It’s really a boring read: a gorgeous double page Lee splash of Amanda Waller’s helicopter swooping into Belle Reve notwithstanding.

But what takes this comic from the “pass” to “read” zone is a stellar ten page backup story starring Deadshot and drawn and colored by Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson respectively. Fabok has an art style that is similar to Jim Lee’s recent DC work, but he brings more power and motion to the table, which is perfect for a quick fire action story that features Deadshot teaming up with Batman of all people to rescue his daughter Zoe from Kobra. This story defines the essence of Deadshot as a character while still having a thrilling plot as he wants to be a hero, but isn’t afraid to kill to protect his daughter or get a paycheck. His nihilist approach to living is told through Waller’s exposition, but Fabok’s art captures his love for Zoe as he immediately switches to live fire when he sees her in danger and immediately turns himself into Batman.

However, the vigor and emotion of the Deadshot doesn’t translate to the lead Suicide Squad story, which doesn’t even feel like a trailer, but a teaser for a trailer. It makes sense to have the lead stories more focused on action and fighting with the backups delving into the character’s personalities, but this lead story doesn’t even have action. It’s 11 pages of Amanda Waller narrating about how she doesn’t care of while the Suicide Squad members say a couple lines of dialogue having to do with the most cliched aspects of their personality. The story gives us no reason why we should care for these people except that they appeared in a movie earlier this month, and it has the vibe of a media tie-in instead of being its own entity. (Except Deadshot is white.) Alex Sinclair does do a decent job on the coloring front using a burnt orange palette when the Suicide Squad plunges to Earth that makes it feel like they might actually catch on fire upon re-entry.  Lee and Williams are stuck doing talking heads, but make Waller look sufficiently menacing as her presence is the only interesting part of this entirely run of the mill comic.

Suicide Squad #1 has one solid Deadshot and one utterly unstimulating Suicide Squad story, and it’s worth passing on unless you’re a huge Deadshot and want to see Jason Fabok draw him teaming up with Batman.

Story: Rob Williams Pencils: Jim Lee Inks: Scott Williams Colors: Alex Sinclair Backup Art: Jason Fabok Backup Colors: Brad Anderson
Story: 5 Art: 6 Overall: 5 Recommendation: Pass

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Batman #5

BM_Cv5_dsIn the final chapter of this epic, is Batman truly the hero Gotham City deserves—or does it deserve better? In this ultimate showdown, where the line between allies and enemies blurs, the question will finally be answered… and the fate of Gotham will be decided.

Despite what the direct-from-DC blurb above says, I would hesitate to call the five issue I Am Gotham an epic, but that speaks more to the frequency and size of the issues than to the quality of the comics being produced by Tom King and David Finch. Batman #5  brings the I Am Gotham storyline to a close, and while there have been some ups and downs with the storyline, I’ve enjoyed King’s take on the Dark Knight thus far. And David Finch’s artwork is quite frankly jaw dropping.

There have been so many great artists take on Batman over the last five years, but I’ve always been partial to Finch’s style, and he’s producing some amazing stuff here on a tight schedule. I do wonder whether he’ll continue as the sole artist on the comic, or whether DC Comics will rotate a guest artist every now and then to help with the bi-weekly release schedule. But that’s a question that’ll be answered another day.

Minor spoilers for the previous issues from here on out. If you want to avoid them, and have been reading the series, then go buy this issue and read it. If you haven’t been reading the series, then… do whatever you feel you  need to do.

After the newly introduced Batman/Superman-mashup characters Gotham and Gotham Girl were broken by one of the lesser known villains that King has utilized for the story (Mr. H had to illuminate me on who said villain was), the stage is set for an intense confrontation between Batman and Gotham. It’s an encounter that, while somewhat unbalanced, is an incredibly entertaining read – I won’t spoil anything, here, but despite the somewhat predictable nature of aspects of the story, there are some genuine moments of subtle (and not so subtle) brilliance from both Tom King’s writing and David Finch’s art that I honestly don’t care about the partly by-the-numbers moment that have led us to this issue.

Batman #5 is strong conclusion to an arc that has certainly had its problems, but none big enough to hamper one’s enjoyment of the story – including within this issue – but we’re getting a different version of Batman than we have in the last few years,which when combined with the moments of brilliance within the series so far more than compensates for the odd crack in the wall.

Story: Tom King Pencils: David Finch
Inks: Finch, Matt Banning and Scott Hanna Colours: Jordie Bellaire
Story: 8 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.3 Recommendation: Read


DC Comics provided Graphic Policy a FREE copy for review.

Review: Supergirl: Rebirth #1

supergirlrebirthcoverIn Supergirl: Rebirth #1, writer Steve Orlando and artists Emanuela Lupacchino and Ray McCarthy synthesize various versions of Supergirl (Kara-Zor-El) from Pre-Crisis to her return in Superman/Batman and even the CW Supergirl TV show to create a winning combination. Orlando differentiates her from Superman by making her a recent visitor to Earth, and she picks up the civilian identity of Kara Danvers towards the end of this issue. Kara has spent almost 16 years on Krypton, and Orlando doesn’t neglect this heritage by spending some time elaborating on her father Zor-El, who in his attempt to save Argo City ended up banishing one of his own people just because he was suffering from red kryptonite poisoning. Zor-El’s actions form the basis of the conflict of this first issue.

Kara’s alien nature extends to the artwork of Lupacchino, McCarthy, and colorist Michael Atiyeh who go for a serious science fiction vibe in their design choices to go along with the big splash pages of Supergirl in costume flying and punching bad guys. The first few pages are filled with spaceships, labs, and emissions of pink and yellow energy from colorist Atiyeh as Cameron Chase and the DEO are running tests for Supergirl to try to get her powers back and help them defend Earth when they are immediately set up on by a Kryptonian werewolf. Lupaccino and McCarthy’s group fight choreography is a little haphazard with guys and guns running around like the comic book equivalent of shaky cam. They fare better in one and one fights with Atiyeh’s colors punching up the big moments, like when Eliza SupergirlInteriorDanvers throws a red kryptonite grenade at Lor-On changing the panel to that color, or any time Supergirl shows up. The combination of big wide screen panels and smaller inset panels give the battle between Supergirl and Lor-On a nice rhythm as the fighting turns into talking and empathy towards the end.

And empathy seems to the main characteristic of Kara in Supergirl #1, and it is her ability to listen to Lor-On and not her prowess with her fists or heat vision that wins the day. This first begins with Supergirl speaking to him in Kryptonian instead of using that knowledge to her advantage in battle, like her adopted mother Eliza. There is a scuffle, but Kara switches from offensive to defensive moves as she tells Lor-On that getting sent to the Phantom Zone ended up saving his life when Argo City was destroyed. The final blow that changes him from a werewolf back to a Kryptonian is that Kara too is treated like a monster and mistrusted by the humans. And this isn’t just a sentiment as immediately following the battle we find out that Cameron Chase doesn’t trust Kara and only sees her as a powerful weapon to protect the Earth. Jeremiah and Eliza Danvers are little gentler with her as seen in a page where they pick up debris from the battle against Lor-On together without using superpowers. It’s “family” bonding and also an object lesson to teach Kara about humanity’s fragility compared to Kryptonians.

There have been a variety of teen superheroes over the years, but Steve Orlando, Emanuela Lupaccino, Ray McCarthy, and Michael Atiyeh don’t weigh too heavily on high school soap opera cliches and make Kara a reflection of the classic immigrant experience as she even receives the anglicized name of Danvers instead of Zor-El. It will be interesting to see how the Supergirl team explores this increasingly relevant theme while hopefully telling action-packed and heartfelt superhero/sci-fi stories like Supergirl: Rebirth #1.

Story: Steve Orlando Pencils: Emanuela Lupacchino 
Inks: Ray McCarthy Colors: Michael Atiyeh 
Story: 8 Art: 8 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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