Sunday, September 20, 2009

Comic Reviews Double-Shot (9/10 & 9/16) - Part 2

What happened the week of 9/16? The new Red Hood worries about how to word a press release, Mr. Szasz moves into his new lair, Ray Palmer explains the Black rings in plain layman’s terms (if you’re a Quantum Layman) and Perceptor is re-born hardcore.

Pick of the Week :

Batman : Streets of Gotham #4
Story by Paul Dini
Art by Dustin Nguyen

I've said it before and I'll say it again : Dustin Nguyen rules this book. Paul Dini once again does a fantastic job crafting these stories but Nguyen's art just sells it. He combines a very cartoony style with dark shadows and violence in a way that I haven't seen in many other artists.

At the same time, Dini gives us an interesting story about a Real Estate Broker...you heard what I said (or read what I wrote). The main character in this issue is a shady character known only as The Broker. Ever wonder where the villains get their sweet villain lairs from? This guy, that's where. Need a broken down old amusement park? A candy factory? A fully functioning abattoir? Call him. After playing some hardball with the Great White Shark over the transfer of a yacht, Broker has a super-creepy meeting with the wonderfully scary new and improved Mister Zsasz. What dose Zsasz have planned? You don't want to know. OK, maybe you do but it involves the aforementioned abattoir, adding four hundred seats for what seems like spectators, and kidnapped runaway kids in cages. Happy now? I told you that you didn't want to know.

This book simply had me smiling from beginning to end and I have re-read it at least 3 times. It's this factor that makes it my Pick of the Week for this week over Blackest Night #3, which is an awesome book but not nearly as much fun as Streets of Gotham has been.

The Rest :

Blackest Night #3
Story by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis

Why wasn’t Blackest Night my pick of the week? It’s not that it’s not a good book, because it is. There were many important things revealed in this issue that keep the momentum going and the writing and art is incredible. It just seemed a bit formulaic in that we get our heart-wrenching death, our long-winded explanation of what the heroes think is happening, and then your “Oh shit!” moment when more villains appear.

I actually enjoyed the theory that Ray Palmer puts forth as to what the rings are doing, and how they are doing it. It makes sense in a fantastic comic book way. The shock value of the Black Lanterns has kind of worn off for me already, though. Hopefully there are some big surprises in store because we have 5 issues left and I’m already sort of tired of old heroes and villains rising up. The first issue was like “Holy shit, Elongated Man Black Lantern!!!!!” Now it’s like, “Wow, is that Max Lord? Seriously?”

There are also many scenes involving the Indigo Lanterns (Compassion) where they finally show up and speak and begin to show their true abilities, which include lengthy exposition. And did everyone catch that little piece of exposition that will make everyone who guessed it say “I told you so!!” The “white light of creation”, yup...a White Lantern is coming our way. Any bets as to who it will be? Paging Mr. Jordan......

Action Comics #881
Story by Greg Rucka & Sterling Gates
Art by Pere Perez

This issue mainly consists of people being pissed off at each other. Guardian is mad at Nightwing & Flamebird. Reactron is mad at General Lane. Flamebird is mad at Supergirl. Cat Grant is mad at Lois Lane and Squad K just plain hates all Kryptonians. Lots of conflict in a fairly action packed issue.

Ironically the cover title is the Hunt For Reactron : Part One, but no one is hunting Reactron while he sits in the depths of Project 7734 and recovers.

Batman & Robin #4
Story by Grant Morrison
Art by Philip Tan

I'll get this out of the way first : I miss Frank Quitely's art already. (Queue Cinderella's "Don't Know What You Got 'Til It's Gone").

Quitely brought a certain style to the B&R title that really worked. Much of that credit must also go to colorist Alex Sinclair for his bright tones that lent a certain cheeriness to the new Batman. It's not that Philip Tan's art is bad, it just seems to be too much of a change too soon.

Story-wise, we're still in good shape here. A few new characters get introduced like the new Red Hood and his sidekick Scarlet, as well as a very creepy individual by the name of Oberon Sexton aka Gravedigger. Gotham is pretty messed up is a large man in a mask, red-tinted glasses and a top hat can just wander around a party at the Wayne Penthouse, and no one seems even curious about him. Gothamites are pretty jaded I guess.

So, the big mystery is : Who is the new Red Hood? I have four suspects. (Queue Dragnet theme music)

Suspect 1 : Jason Todd - Well, duh, who doesn't think it's Todd? The evidence for Jason being the mysterious Red Hood is all there. He's been the Red Hood before, he trends towards extremely violent vigilante justice, he's got it in for Batman (no matter who is behind the cowl) and we haven't seen much of him since Battle for the Cowl. Also, guns tend to be one of his prime choices for weaponry. Hatred for Batman? Uh, have you read any Batman comics in the last decade? I'd say the hate is there. Evidence against? Jason Todd does not speak in the fluid manner that this Red Hood seems to have adopted. He tends more towards angry shouting and hitting instead of worrying how a press release is worded. He's also a bit too obvious so it seems like they're making us think it's him (Batman does say "Jason?" the first time he runs into him).

Suspect 2 : Oberon Sexton aka Gravedigger - Taking a page from Hush, they could be introducing a new mystery character while introducing a new ancillary character only to have them end up being the same person. Kind of played out, but I can see it happening. Evidence for? He's an author, so that would fit his manner of speech and worrying about how the press perceives him. His wife was killed and he was scarred by criminals, so there is his motivation for the vigilante justice gig. Hatred for Batman? Not sure on this one, but it may be that Batman didn't stop his wife's murderer or something and he feels the need to exact vengeance on him. Evidence against? Might be another fake to throw us off, and he's too new to be a shocking revelation when Red Hood is unmasked.

Suspect 3 : The Joker - This is a total long-shot but let's check it out. We haven't seen what the Joker has been up t since Damian ran him off the road in R.I.P. Evidence for? Morrison spent a good bit of time in the infamous Joker prose issue laying out the idea that Joker can re-invent his personality constantly. Maybe this new persona is being used to mock Batman and the way he operates. Joker has been the Red Hood before, in fact it's part of one of his many origins. Evidence against? Joker doesn't seem to me to be the physical type and this Red Hood is very well trained. Like I said, long shot but worth considering.

Suspect 4 : Random 1940s Batshit Morrison Character - We've seen him do it before. Morrison could pull the guy who was in the background of an advertisement for sea monkeys in Batman #12 and turn him into the big bad here. Who knows what goes on in the mind of Morrison? Certainly not me.

Transformers : All Hail Megatron #15
Story by Nick Roche & Denton J. Tipton
Art by Nic Roche & Casey Coller

You know, for a 12 part mini-series this just won't stop. So far, the "extended" All Hail Megatron has been quite a disappointment compared to the phenomenal first dozen issues....but that ended here. One of my favorite moments in AHM involved Perceptor stepping up and showing off his skills as a tough as nails sniper in the fight against the Swarm on Cybertron. The second part of this issue explains exactly how he went from science geek to weapons guy, and it is really well done.

The first part of the issue deals with the re-birth of the beloved Kup, and it ain't all smiles and sunshine. You learn that the Autobots can be shady when they need to be and the return of Kup isn't handled strictly for his benefit. One of the Autobots is revealed as quite the schemer, and it's one of the original good guys.

Final Crisis Aftermath : Escape #5
Story by Ivan Brandon
Art by Cliff Richards

I was seriously about to give up on this title after last issue's "back to the beginning" ending but, like Nemesis, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. I have a distinct feeling that this will read a lot better in one sitting and I will definitely be doing that after issue #6 releases. Nemesis begins to figure out what's going on and makes the situation work for him as he formulates a plan to escape from a prison he doesn't completely understand. Twisted visuals and disorienting dialog don't help with the reader's confusion but I'm hoping that it gets mostly explained in the end.

1 comment:

-Stephen M. Wolterstorff said...

Transformers - AHM #15 = better than I expected as well.