Thursday, September 8, 2011

Why I'm Not Buying the New 52

I love comics. This should come as no surprise if you're reading this but I thought I'd get it out of the way. Like any comics fan I read a variety of books from many different publishers. So when I heard that DC would be rebootlaunching, I was excited. I started counting up which of the 52 books I'd be buying. However a funny thing happened while I was totaling up all my purchases: I lost interest. I mean the books sounded cool and I was excited about the creative teams but...something was missing. Ultimately it came down to the fact that I knew these characters and it was too much of an effort to pretend like I was reading them for the first time. Once the regular DCU ended, there was no hook to keep me coming back for the characters or stories. There was no character development to watch with pride, just new world building and I'm sick of that. So the choice comes down to this: do I soldier on and hope that I learn to like the reboot or do I save about $100 a month? For me the answer was simple, I picked the money. I still read reviews and skim through the books when I go to my LCS. I still read the plots on message boards and view scans. I still argue plot points and everything else that comes with being a fan of a character. I just don't buy the books anymore. This doesn't mean that I'm done with DC for good, I'm sure once the money is no longer an issue, I'll pick up a copy of Justice League or Batman. Even now I plan on buying trades, but single issues are out. So while I'm happy for DC and hope that the DCnU goes well, I'm withdrawing from the DC Comics buying game.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Batman Inc. #8: A review

Batman Incorporated #8
Written by Grant Morrison, Art by Scott Clark, David Beaty

Batman Incorporated #8 faces a weird challenge this week. It's the last issue before the reboot but it is not being rebooted itself. On the other hand it is the last single issue before a long break (the series returns in 2012). On the other hand two planned issues will still be published in an extra long one-shot. Not that these challenges have much to do with the actual issue, just in how the book is received.

Grant Morrison continues his epic Batman narrative by focusing on the Internet 3.0 concept that was introduced in Batman: The Return. At this point most readers know where they stand on Morrison's writing, you either love it or hate it. From a story standpoint, it's a pretty straightforward story. Bruce is showing off Internet 3.0 when the entire program is invaded by a virus and Batman and Oracle have to work to find the source of this virus and eliminate it. Nothing really special about the story, it's just a simple fun tale.

Since the entire issue takes place inside a computer program, the artists used an art form that looks very digital. I don't think that this look would be appealing if it was used commonly but within the context of the story, it works. Perhaps my only complaint is that the lighting is a little too dark, that's partly expected because it's a Batman story but the darkness is a bit overwhelming and distracting in this case.

Oracle in Batman Inc #8
Overall, this is a solid story, nothing fancy but nothing too bad either. Writing is good, art's good. The problem is that none of it is particularly spectacular either.

Score: 7.0/10

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Batman #713: A review

Batman #713

Written by Fabian Nicieza 
Art by Steve Scott and Ryan Winn 
Cover by Tony Daniel and Ryan Winn

Batman #713 is the last issue of Batman before the relaunch. It's sad and a run like this deserves a satisfying wrap-up. But while Fabian Nicieza provides a decent and competent story, it lacks that final charm that the last issue of Batman truly needs. Perhaps it's the fact that Batman is one of the few franchises that is not being rebooted or perhaps it's just the fact that the story is one we've heard a thousand times before but Batman #713 doesn't deliver the satisfying punch that a franchise like Batman needs.

I must say that Fabian Nicieza is one of my favorite writers in the buisness. To me he's one of the few writers that understands the complexities of the relationship between the different members of the Bat-Family. In Batman #713 he proves it. The story is basically a synopsis of Batman and the various Robins in his life. I honestly feel like this story might be better received if it was the last issue of Batman and Robin instead of Batman. Still Nicieza really understands the Bat-Family and it shows. The downside to all of this is that it is in fact a synopsis. It's not a new story and it's not really new information either. Honestly I would give this issue to someone who only knows Batman from the movies, it would get them caught up on the mythology that is Batman. Agains the downside of all this is that the DCU is relaunching and the new issues should also fill that role.

The art in this issue is a mixed bag. There are a variety of artists so the pages are all slightly different and it's hard to argue for or against it in any way. It doesn't help or hinder the story, it is what it is.
Last page from Batman #713
Overall the story is a nice if unsatisfying cap on this historic run. The writing is decent and the art is acceptable but not much else can be said about it.

Score: 6.5/10

Flashpoint: Abin Sur-The Green Lantern #3- A Review

Flashpoint: Abin Sur-The Green Lantern #3
Written by Adam Schlagman
Art and cover by Felipe Massafera

I picked up Abin Sur #1 because the book looked like it was going to explore Abin Sur and Sinestro's relationship. The first issue showed promise and while the second issue started to drop the ball, I hoped that the third issue would redeem this tie-in series. Unfortunately the third issue is a waste of your time and money.

Let's start with the art because it's probably the easiest to review. First off this series adopts the look from the movie versions of the characters. Nothing wrong with that except that as the series progressed those uniforms looked more and more sloppy and ugly. So much so that by this issue I personally found myself flipping through pages faster just so I could avoid looking at those uniforms. Other than that complaint  the art is decent. Nothing spectacular but nothing really bad either. Just decent.

Alright so let's move on to the story. Remember that relationship between Sinestro and Abin Sur I was so excited to explore? Yeah forget about that. Sinestro basically takes on the role of the monologuing moustache twirling evil villain here. It's especially sad because Geoff Johns has been able to revive the character and make him a complex and interesting character to read. The contrast just further serves to drive this book into the depths. Here Sinestro is promptly and swiftly defeated in a way that makes no sense whatsoever and then Abin Sur moves on. By the time the ending is revealed you're actively rooting for the character to hurry up and die so that the book will be over. Alas no such luck. Not only that but if you're still curious as to Abin Sur's fate even that is not resolved. That's not to say the book is completly worthless, there are some cool moments and a Green Lantern pissing off the Guardians is always fun to read but it's not even close to being able to redeem the book's faults.
From Flashpoint: Abin Sur-The Green Lantern #3

Overall I'd advice you to avoid this issue. Unless you're a completist who already owns the first two issues and will die without this issue, stay far away from it.

Score: 3.0/10

Daredevil #2: A review

Daredevil #2
Written by Mark Waid
Pencils and Cover by Paolo Rivera

After the enormous success of Daredevil #1, Daredevil #2 had a lot to live up to. While for the most part it succeeds, Daredevil #2 is not the absolute joyride that the first issue was.

This isn't the fault of Mark Waid though. Once again Waid absolutely nails Matt Murdock's character. The dialogue is fun and very Matt Murdock-like. Some people might complain from the overabundance of "lawyer-ese" coming out of his mouth but it fits Matt's character and is applicable in the context of the story. Not only is Matt handled perfectly but so is Foggy Nelson and pretty much every other character that is brought into these pages. In fact the only character who isn't written perfectly in these pages is the series guest star Captain America. In fact the entire fight between Daredevil and Captain America is the worst part of the issue and the only thing keeping each page of the issue from being an absolute pleasure to read. Not only is Cap written uncharacteristically but the entire fight scene is basically a recap of the last few Daredevil stories as well as talking about a story that took place in Captain America. None of the information presented is needed in the story and just distracts from the rest of the issue.

While the actual story is not as good as last issue, Paolo Rivera does a fantastic job on art! Every page is rendered beautifully. Even the Cap fight scene is a joy to look at! When Waid reveals the final villain, a reveal that Waid keeps as creepy as possible, Rivera matches him brilliant stroke for brilliant stroke.
From Daredevil #2. Art by Paolo Rivera
Overall, while not as enjoyable as the last issue, Daredevil #2 still brings up a fabulous return to the Hero of Hell's Kitchen. If you're not reading or not interested in Daredevil, pick up this issue and it should change your mind.

Score: 8.5/10

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The New Ultimate Spiderman

The new Ultimate Spider-Man is a Black/Latino by the name of Miles Morales. Predictably this was met by acceptance from most of the comic book community and met by hate from many who have never touched a comic book. Glen Beck tried to make some kind of point about the new Spider-Man looking like President Obama. The point is that this move has gained a lot of attention. Do I care that they made Spider-Man a minority? Absolutely not! As a minority myself I find it great. It's one of the reasons why I identified with Spider-Man as a young kid, he's not instantly identified as a white guy. I think Stan Lee even said in an interview that one of the reasons Spider-Man is so appealing is that he could be anyone under the mask. I do have a couple things that I'm wary about that I will be addressing here.

1. Black and Latino? Really?
It's a well known fact that Blacks and Latinos are not on good terms at all. This occurs at multiple levels of society, from intellectuals to gang members, African Americans do not get along with Hispanics. I'm not arguing that because of this Miles Morales should not have been Black or Latino but I am saying that  both aspects of his race must be fully explored in the story, otherwise it becomes an issue of over emphasizing a characters status as a minority.

2. His age
Yes I know, comic book characters never are realistic representation of how old they are. But there is a part of me that objects to a 13-year old character attempting to be Spider-Man. I understand that it would make a cool story, at 13 many kids are just starting to find themselves so it's intresting. However, at 13 the risks and consequences of a career as a vigilante are much higher than that of a 15 or 16 year old.

3. That costume
From teasers for Ultimate Fallout #4
Look closely at this costume. It looks a lot like the normal Spider-man outfit with one exception. See it now? That's right, knee pads! Now which character who's also being rebooted's costume does this remind me of? Oh yeah, that  right! This guy:
From Action Comics #1
 What is with kneepads on iconic characters? I really hope that our new Spider-Man transitions to his new costume fast!
Much better!
 Ok so maybe I don't have three reasons to object to the new Ultimate Spider-Man. I really only have one and it can be boiled down to this: Brian Michael Bendis there better be some really good stories to come out of this!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Is a Soft Reboot Possible?

With the DCnU approaching one of the biggest questions that fans are facing is which stories are included in this new continuity and which aren't. We know that Batman is mostly untouched except that Barbara Gordon is now Batgirl and her time as Oracle is up in the air. We know that the Green Lantern franchise is also in tact. That still leaves tons of questions. For example: if Superman is the first public superhero and he debuted about 5 years ago in the DCnU, then does that mean he never met Dick Grayson as Robin? (It's been said that Batman has been operating in secret for longer than 5 years, which is actually current continuity as Batman has been a hero longer than Superman. Batman has been operating this long so that we can fit his current continuity into the DCnU) If Superman never met Dick Grayson as Robin, then does that mean he was never able to inspire him to don the mantle of Nightwing? Then why is Dick now Nightwing? If Lois Lane and Clark Kent never dated, then which parts of the aftermath of the Death of Superman story actually happened? Are we as readers supposed to accept the general story but ignore the details? Still for Blackest Night to remain in continuity, all the Black Lanterns had to have died first. How many heroes died in five years? Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Batman, Superman, Superboy, Flash, Hal Jordan, Martian Manhunter, Ralph and Sue Dibny, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Aquaman, Aquagirl, Hawk, Firestorm, Jade, Superman and Lois Lane of Earth-2, Terra, Azrael, Blue Beetle, Kid Flash, Donna Troy, Animal Man, Ice, Damage, Doctor Midnight, Sandman, Mister Terrific, Johnny Quick, Question, and Swamp Thing. That's just a short list in fact. Not all these characters played a major role in that story but many of them did play pivotal roles int the story.

Speaking as someone who only entered the magical world of comics about five years ago, Wikipedia is a new reader's best friend. Yet I remember my frustration after reading a lengthy article on a character's history only to have to run into something called Crisis on Infinite Earths. Having to go back and figure out which parts of the character were changed was a bit of a headache. Eventually I stopped reading a characters Pre-Crisis story and just skipped ahead. If the DCnU is about accessibility, then shouldn't the characters and their history be less complex, instead of more? I'm picturing the new reader of the future trying to read previous stories of a hero I enjoys and running into Pre-Flashpoint continuity, some of which matters and some of which doesn't. Picture the new reader trying to get a backstory on a character and hearing about stories that still happened except for Character X no longer existing. And I thought Crisis was confusing!

On a side note, DC still hasn't said whether the Multiverse has been changed by Flashpoint or whether only the "main" Earth has been changed. We do know that Grant Morrison is continuing with his Multiversity project so I think we can assume that the Multiverse still exists in it's entirity but that's pure speculation.

If DC wanted to update their characters, how bout doing it the Marvel Way? Marvel subtly slides their characters origin dates forward without making a mess. Which war did Tony Stark get captured and become Iron Man? It's moved from Vietnam, to not a war, to the Gulf War. They're slowly updated their characters and yet no one really complains about it. I can see why DC might not go this route, their characters have become so symbolic and so iconic that it's hard to make subtle changes. Look at Grant Morrison's work on Batman. Everything from the bell that Bruce uses to call Alfred after his first night of crime fighting to the movie that he watched with his parents has now become an important part of Bat-history. Try updating that!

In my opinion, a soft reboot is nice and comfortable in theory but for a company like DC Comics,  they have to go with a hard reboot, or no reboot at all.