Wednesday Comics Reviews – Aquaman, Justice League Dark, Voodoo, Firestorm, Dark Knight, New Guardians, Blackhawks, Superman, I Vampire, Hawkman, Flash, Teen Titans, All Star Western

Posted by September 28, 2011 Comment

Voodoo #1 by Ron Marz and Sam Basri

Bleeding Cool reviewed Voodoo #1 here, yesterday.

Teen Titans #1 by Scott Lobdell, Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund.

It’s a total reboot as Red Robin plays Ozymandias, monitoring the world, and in a race to recruit teenage superheroes to his cause against that of the N.O.W.H.E.R.E. crew, seen in Superboy #1.

Talking of which this book has the same ending as Superboy #1. Exactly the same, it looks like these two books will have their continuities tied tighter than a nun’s… very tight thing.

It also mirrors the plot of Justice League pretty much exactly as well, one hero from a potential future team finding another who wishes to be hidden, fighting some kind of robot helicopter, with a Kryptonian character appearing as a final splash page. Oh and most of the people on the cover don’t appear in the comic, save for the Ozymandias Board Of Doom.

It’s a smaller volume in more ways that size though, there’s motivation for the “something must be done” theme, with Kid Flash causing serious property damage while doing no good at all, but no real explanation for what the something that Red Robin has planned, nor what N.O.W.H.E.R.E. are actual up to. There’s a lot of tease, but not much hook, the threat needs motivation, Red Robin needs more than “stop the threat by doing just what the threat is doing, but first”. Everything seems a little improvised and without being let in on people’s plans, I felt… hanging.

The Rob Liefeldian artwork of Brett Booth avoids shoulder pads, pockets and doesn’t mind drawing feet but its Andrew Dalhouse’s colours which are a standout here, especially in the Wonder Girl scenes. Sorry, don’t call her Wonder Girl. But what do we call her?

All Star Western #1 by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and Moritat

He’s a cowboy-styled Wild West bounty hunter. He’s a newfangled psychiatrist with a taste for the bizarre. Together they fight crime. Even if that’s neither of their primary motivations. Even staying together is hard enough.

Jonah West and Amadeus Arkham, treading the streets of Gotham in the 1880s and plunged into something that is clearly the American Jack The Ripper, with nods to Jekyll And Hyde along the way. And it’s Conspiracy Ripper as well, with women in refrigerators prostitutes gutted, words left in blood on the walls, and everything pointing towards a Masonic style ridding of the women of the street.

Narrated by Amadeus, we also get a cod-psychological breakdown of Jonah, both complimentary and… not as this non-buddy cop comic takes us through the streets of a Victorian American City, with its Cobblepots and its Arkhams, and discover a place not too dissimilar from the Gotham of Batman. There are the criminal underclass and there are the elites – who are no less criminal. And between them, Arkham and Hex threaten to bring the whole house of cards down.

This is a gorgeous, book, rich in detail as it is in character. Less pulp fiction or wild western, this is closer to  penny dreadful fiction, it is glorious in its goriness, convincing in the world created, and while I’d never want to visit, I’m happy to gawp from the sidelines.

Aquaman #1 by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis.

This comic has a mission, and it’s one it wears on it’s green glove. To tell the world that Aquaman is no longer to be regarded as a joke character. Which it does, quite literally. By saying it over and over again.

We get a demonstration of strength, speed and more importantly willpower, as his actions belie the voices of those around him. And yet as serious as he is in the face of insult, he retains a sense of humour and perspective.And this reversal of how Aquaman is perceived is mirrored by the reversal from a threat from the deep which seems to be fishing for me. And all with touches of widescreen comics and a style that recalls Bryan Hitch’s work on The Ultimates. a mixture of grandeur, kineticism, individual detail and a sens of space and place on the page. This could well be Reis’ best work to date.

The conclusion? Aquaman rocks. And he eats fish and chips. What’s not to love?

I, Vampire #1 by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Anorea Sorrentino

Part of the Flashpoint ending mission it seems is not just to merge the Vertigo superheroes with the DCU but also to broing a little of the tone. We’ve seen it most visibly in Wonder Woman so far, but I, Vampire makes little concession to the superhero crowd save for a passing mention. For now. This is the beginning of a war to pit vampire against human, and a rebellious vampire who stands in the gap between them. Dark, nasty, bloody, messy, this eschews any of the comforting vampire you may find in Buffy, Twilight or True Blood. This is vampire as a natural disaster, this is vampire as an invading army, this vampire as the evil that must be stopped, not understood. And certainly not loved.

Not that the notion of love is absent, Andrew, our four hundred year old protagonist has to negotiate his own emotions with as much peril as the hundreds of vampires around him, for they are just as dangerous. There is tease here, but also met. Freshly cut, and dripping.

Sorrentino’s work recalls Jae Lee’s Hellshock most visibly, and I couldn’t think of a style more suitable.

Savage Hawkman #1 by Tony Daniel and Philip Tan

This does have the tenor of Swamp Thing #1 – a man saying goodbye to a previous identity, only to discover that it just won’t let him go, becoming a part of him. There’s also the influence of Warren Ellis and Adi Granov’s Extremis here, with a costume burrowing itself under the skin, becoming part of the man. This comic, while ostensibly about some kind of long forgotten alien invasion rising to the surface, is more about identity – the superhero brand given to a person, how two identities become distinct personalities, and also how they merge. Carter’s speech and his thoughts seem so distinct, opposed at times, without any self realisation of that fact. But now he is a man possessed.

Some interesting thoughts that are wrapped around a standard, unexceptional plot. Tan’s work is exceptional here, depicting rich autumnal forests, a man ripped from his environment, and an aggressive looking new Hawkman. If there is savagery to be found here, it’s coming from the heart.

Justice League Dark #1 by Peter Milligan and Mikel Janin

This is  weird book. Mostly in a good way. And while it may be being portrayed as a meeting of Vertigo characters in the DC Universe, with appearances from Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Cyborg, alongside John Constantine, The Enchantress, Deadman, Madame Xanadu and Zatanna, there is only one character who really counts here.

Shade The Changing Man.

Written in the eighties and nineties by Peter Milligan, that is the tone that is most prevalent here. Identical women walking across motorways to get killed, superheroes attacked by witches teeth that cut even the Kryptonian, and bored nuclear power stations, this is all cut from Shade cloth and could have hapily fitted in this series. He is clearly the man of the hour as well, the one desired by Zatanna to put things right, if he even has an idea of what that is.

It’s a big, dark and bold book and if figures have a touch of the uncanny valley about them, in some places this exacerbates the oddness of this comic, as all sorts of people are created who are never even there…

This is the third putting-the-gang-together-partially book I’ve read this week, and at least they manage to get a reference to everyone on the cover in some form

Flash #1 by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato

What happens when an artist becomes a writer? Sometimes plot falls away in preference to a cool visual. Sometimes character is replaced by a cool looking kick.

And sometimes, just sometimes, the artist finds a way to fuse writing and art together so that you get something like this.

While this may be the most extreme example in the book, there are plenty of examples of different styles, different shots, the panelwork itself creating a story, a viewpoint, a perspective. The book is written by Francis and Brian, who together also provide the art and the colour work. And, like Action Comics, it is all about movement, more so, the story ripping you from page to page, it’s a thrilling experience to read. And everyone runs. And keeps on running. Bad guys, good guys, its all against movement.

Traditionalists may bristle about The Flash’s marriage being deleted, transformed into a will-they-won’t-they relationship, others may get annoyed by the way the Flash’s ring transforms his costume. But I was happily won over by this beautifully balanced book. You;ve never seen pastel colours move so quickly.

Of course, even the greatest journey needs a destination, and this gives us one. Tease and substance again, it’s not that hard folks.

Fury Of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men #1 by Gail Simone, Ethan Van Sciver and Yildray Cinar.

Black and white. Jock and nerd. The electron and the proton. Opposites attract.

And much of this book is set up to emphasis those character opposites, with symmetries and juxtapositions, both in panel structure and plot. But also, as in any atomic structure, embedding them in part of a much wider world. Complete with its own torture scene – you know the drill, throats cut, family members executed, teeth removed, eyes slashed. Good wholesome stuff.

While recognising the existence of previous Firestorms, this is a back to basics reboot with a mysterious agency using deadly force (yes another one), almost relishing in it are tracking down the final Firestorm cannister with extreme force. But nothing like the force waiting for them.

In lesser hands that would have been the issue cliffhanger, but here we get to see beyond that a bit, beyond what we may have expected into the new state of play for the character – or characters. And suddenly everything comes together. This is an angry book, and it’s anger that will fuel it.  The size and the power of the Firestorms here, takes their differences, their opposites and increases them exponentially before combining them into something new and far scarier. The comic, just like the physics allusions it draws from, thrives on instability…

Blackhawks #1 by Mike Costa, Graham Nolan and Ken Lashley.

This is an action comic book. Really. Lots and lots and lots of action. And in the first pages it gives us a several novel action scenes I have never seen before, in comics, TV or cinema. Seriously, shooting the ocean so that it doesn’t kill you when you hit it? Spectacular. No idea if it would work, but in this comic, it feels like it should. And that’s Blackhawks biggest trick, to bring you along with it, even when it seems to do spectacularly stupid stuff.

In that respect, and in others, this reminds me of one of those nineties Warren Ellis comics. Emphasis on the high sci-fi tech, including infection, implanting of super powers, with a terribly block ops operation, and a hard woman with cropped hair and some sexual issues she needs to work out. If only she smoked as well. But it is a T book, I suppose.

I had no interest in picking this book up before, it was going to be a forced read, it just wasn’t my thing. It is now.

Oh and it has pretty much nothing to do with any previous iteration of Blackhawks, I’m sure. But that’s okay. I really liked Men Of War too.

Sigh. They’re both going to get cancelled aren’t they?

Green Lantern: New Guardians #1 by Tiny Bedard, Tyler Kirkham and Batt

This is another bringing-the-team-together books, but it accomplishes this with far more skill than any other this week, in that Kyle Rayner Green Lantern isn’t the one actually bringing the crew together, the Lanterns of another ring colour, they are doing it themselves, led by an unknown force. And they all want to kill him, of course. Nothing like a bit of team bonding, especially a colourful one.

We even get an origin story, that’s complete without being overbearing. It’s no All Star Superman opening but it’s not far off, and as a reader I didn’t feel shortchanged. And while Aquaman may be dealing with being a joke, Kyle Rayner has his own issues, being the other Green Lantern. And no, not the black one either.

The book is told in a Michael Turner-seque approach, especially his first transformation into Green Lantern. The down-to-earth scenes feel rather odd, as if somewhere not quite in touch with reality but the interstellar scenes are spectacular in line and colour.

I had no interest in this book before picking it up but now I have… some. Rayner has a much more appealing personality than Hal Jordon and I’m quite happy to see what else he’s going to be getting up to. And just how he’s going to deal with all the colours under the rainbow…

Superman #1 by George Perez and Jesus Merino.

Forget the thinning of Amanda Waller in Suicide Squad. Superman #1 brings you the bulking up of Perry White. Now his look is more like a body builder, his gray locks sitting on his carved temples, above his chiseled chin, a suit hiding sensitive eyes from what is clearly a muscular body.

Oh sure, many people will concentrate on the Lois/Clark relationship being completely erased, and Clark dealing with Lois’ current bedroom partner. Some will focus on the Daily Planet and globe being destroyed, callously and deliberately it seems. But for me, it’s all about Perry White Action Hero!

This feels a full book, and a page count indicates that at 25 pages, yes it is. But there’s more than that, Perez seems devoted to a packing as much in every page as possible. He’s been synonymous for a long time with crows scenes and large casts, but he excels here, while Perez gives the book a loser, funkier feel.

And while Superman has monster upon villain to deal with, the rest of the world has its own problems as media war comes to town with the Daily Planet, jobs changing and Lois being promoted to a position that challenges her own ideals.

There’s further juxtaposition between the experiences of Superman and the final news report that accompanies his battle – which can only be written by one person. Soap opera and superhero battle simultaneously. The expanded page count helps, and I’m wondering if a few more pages may have helped some of the other books I dismissed over the past few weeks.

I still want to see Superman Vs Perry White though. On this portrayal, I think the Chief could take him.

Dark Knight #1 by Paul Jenkins, David Finch and Richard Friend.

Both Dark Knight #1 and Batman #1 start with narration that resolves itself to Bruce Wayne giving a speech in rather posh surroundings, while the camera pans across Gotham and the Batman. Dark Knight cuts to the chase quicker, and also gives Bruce a slightly cooler entrance into the bargain. After that concludes, and we get a some conforntation with police and flirtation with the next focus of Wayne’s obsession, it’s straight into an Arkham Asylum breakout. Just like in Batman #1. Look, Batman’s always going to make speeches as Bruce for some good cause, he’s always going to have to deal with breakouts from Arkham. Just there is such a thing as too much too soon.

Of course this time, he’s dealing with a new take on an old threat which seems to have riled the inmates.

There is a not a lot to his book, in depth, in intrigue, in substance. I criticised Batman #1 for seeming shallow but it’s ocean deep compared to this boojk. However, it is delievred with such unshakable confidence and with a great degree of bravado and style hat it’s hard not to like it, just a little bit. Although the  “batty boy” reference did put pay to that I’m afraid. Odd choice of words.

Comics courtesy of Orbital Comics, London. Check out their New 52 podcast here.

(Last Updated October 2, 2011 2:17 pm )

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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