Friday, 30 September 2011

52 New Beginnings - The Dark

I, Vampire
reviewed by Kate Townshend

Well, after joking a couple of weeks ago that the next stage in female character outfit evolution would be Harley strutting around au naturel on a front cover, I, Vampire has made me realise that I’m already behind the times. Our protagonists are pictured looking mean and moody; him with jeans and rippling biceps, her with, well pretty much nothing at all actually (I refuse to count the ‘slightly darker shading’ that has been used to prevent the comic from being consigned to opaque plastic bags on the top shelf).

Despite this, I Vampire is exactly the sort of story I should like, focused as it is on the interpersonal dynamics between two rather striking characters. He is a tortured Angel type, wrestling with his darker impulses, while she is fearless and amoral and rather compelling actually. The artwork is pretty cool too, all flowing lines and stark blacks and whites juxtaposed against one another, and it works because this is a world where lines of good and evil are being drawn against a sense that it would be delightfully easy to just go with the flow.

And I love the fact that this first issue is fundamentally just a conversation between the two main characters... it’s an effective way of drawing us into their world and demarcating the lines that will drive the story. Some of the dialogue is a little clunky, but I can’t make up my mind whether or not this is just the awkwardness of the character or a flaw in the writing. The revolutionary parallels that Mary tries to draw are interesting if not terribly subtle, and there is a real sense of an epic narrative being set in place.

But back to the nakedness. Part of me wonders if this is just an explicit parallel being made between Mary and her animalistic side, in which case you could make an (admittedly rather tenuous) case for it as a justified part of characterisation. She is "magnificent", "free" and unfettered and maybe she’s just cooler than the rest of us with our bourgeois preferences for textiles. The less generous interpretation though, is that this is another tired attempt to link sexual women with evil ones. In which case, yawn.

Overall though, it’s fun, interesting and worth a second look. (At the contents… not just the cover!)

Justice League Dark
reviewed by D Kai Wilson-Viola

Of all the comics, bar Teen Titans, this has actually be one that I’ve been looking forward to. I live in a ‘Cartoon Network’ household, which means things like Teen Titans, Justice League and Static Shock are actually franchise sets that I recognise, so when I heard I was getting JL:D, I squeed a little.

And, of all the comics I’ve reviewed so far, this one has to be one of the better ones. Maybe it’s because I know some of the mythology they’re using for once, or perhaps I just really got the pace, the colouring and the techniques, but this one is definitely one that I’d like to continue with. It’s interesting enough that it held my attention from the outset, and I liked (and yes, recognised) some of the characters. There are some nice precedents established, plus, I was quite interested to see whom they’d dragged in from Justice League, so from the outset there is crossover and interaction. I won’t spoil that, but it’s enough to say that the overlay story and narrator works really well, while allowing the story just to unfold, which is something I think is very neat. There’s control and direction there while the story evolves, and as a writer, I love seeing that technique employed properly. In contrast to the Deadman comic last week (who, coincidentally makes a brief appearance), which swung and missed, this was perfect.

There are – kind of – styles associated with each character, though so far we haven’t seen them all in the same place, so I’m not sure if that’s going to be something that continue through the comic, which will be interesting, but mostly, I like the overall and underlying story, along with the stronger, deeper story going on. It’ll be neat to see where this one goes.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

52 New Beginnings - Batman/Green Lantern/Superman/Young Justice

Batman: The Dark Knight
reviewed by Matt Puddy

When the previous series of the Dark Knight was recently brought out with David Finch writing and pencilling for it, although I wasn’t immediately drawn to it, I did grow to love it. Seeing Finch’s name on the DC reboot of the same title means I’m drawn once more.

The only difference this time is that Finch has pencilled and co-plotted the issue as opposed to writing it himself; Paul Jenkins joins him as the other man behind the pen.

As a result the story, although good, doesn’t feel like it’s a reboot at all. We have a brooding Bruce watching over Gotham with his own sinister internal monologue to see us through and the story develops in a similar fashion to other previous arcs.

Considering that the story is “new” you would also expect that it would be not unique, persay, but without too many similarities. After reviewing Scott Snyder's new Batman last week, I noticed an uncanny plot resemblance. Both have gritty openings and a glitzy social event. It did have a specific point to it but this was lost a little as I found myself quickly mentally flicking back to another writer's issue.

The artwork is phenomenal and something that I really liked getting my eyes around. There is so much detail in so much of the comic that you could happily read it without using the words. My only criticism would be that in an attempt to make Batman more imposing and stand out more, the muscular overemphasis seems a little too much, although this can’t be said for the final page as I feel that it is being used specifically and to good use.

Overall this is another fine piece of Finch’s work and Jenkins has teamed up very well. It’s most definitely going to be a reoccurring title on my list and I’m really looking forward to the future issues.

Green Lantern: New Guardians
reviewed by Matt Puddy

Tony Bedard and Tyler Kirkham have teamed up again to produce a new chapter in the Green Lantern Corp. Following on from his recent closing of the War of The Green Lanterns with a two part aftermath, it feels very natural for Bedard to continue.

To induct new readers into the Corp Bedard has taken a step back to show how an impoverished illustrator was inducted and became a Green Lantern. It’s detailed but not overwhelming so that you can get a taste of who Kyle is as the main character.

There’s some really nice touches like the caricature of Ganthet when first trying his ring out.

Shifting forward the story jumps to after all of the different Corps have come to light. Interestingly enough it is showing them losing members simply by the rings choosing to decommissioning them. This in itself is a strange feat and a new twist as death is usually the main reason for leaving the corps.

There are a couple nice cut sequences as a result but ultimately we find where the rings are leading. All back to Kyle.

This is the main plot point and essential cliffhanger too as it opens up a number of questions. Firstly there is the obvious “why” but then you also have to consider some of the finer points such as the orange ring and the further implications. There are definite hooks to really get into.

Kirkham’s artwork has so much depth in it and one of the things I always look for in the GL titles is what do the constructs look like? For me, this can be a make or break point for a Lantern title and this comic reaches that with ease. My favourite was the double page spread of the three giant workers.

I’ve not been completely overwhelmed so far by the title but what I have seen is exciting. I like that you’re not spoonfed and it has left me with questions that I really want answered, but then again that’s my nature.

This may not be a title for everyone yet (and I stress the yet), but I would certainly suggest this to fans.

reviewed by Robert Barton-Ancliffe

Having followed Superman’s final days through J. Michael Strazyski’s Grounded storyline that rounded of the title’s previous run in July, it's great to see the Man of Steel back where he belongs. The creators of this new Superman issue #1 promised a book that would re-cast the character as an outsider in every sense of the word and writer George Perez certainly does that. Whether as Superman, in thick of the action in modern Metropolis or lone idealist Clark Kent struggling to come to terms with change, the titular hero is suitably alienated from the world around him without ever seeming alien.

Perez has taken the opportunity of rebooting the world of Superman, not only bringing us a hero who now feels isolated and alone, but one who inhabits a Metropolis that is anything but familiar as the old status quo falls to the inevitable march of progress, most clearly exemplified by the destruction of the old Daily Planet building in the opening pages.

While the action occupies a great deal of this book, the new Superman is a character piece through and through. The physical threat is a little forgettable, but the real meat of the story is the character interludes. We meet an array of familiar friends and enemies, with the heart of the story devoted to the interplay between Lois and Clark who, while not exactly at odds with each other, have yet to build the bond of trust that has typified these characters for the last 30 years or so. This new direction promises plenty of human drama, which has always distinguished Superman from its aptly named sister title Action Comics and it will be interesting to see Perez fresh spin on a story that is almost as old as comics themselves.

Overall however, Superman has yet to establish a cohesive artistic identity of its own. The script is a little too verbose in places, with slightly clunky narration that stops the narrative flowing quite as nicely as it should. The artwork by Jesus Merino, while by no means a failure, doesn’t quite gel overall. The action scenes are a little static and the depiction of the characters lacks warmth, but as stated above, the interest here lies in the very human story of Superman/Clark Kent so this shouldn't deter readers interested in this bold new take on a classic character.

Superman fans, whether casual or deeply invested already should enjoy this book, as it restores a little of the character’s edge while still keeping plenty of touches that evoke almost every take on the Man of Tomorrow from throughout the years. By no means the new 52’s biggest hit, but possibly the best this title has been for years.

Teen Titans
reviewed by Robert Barton-Ancliffe

Having been largely underwhelmed by writer Scott Lobdell’s new take on Superboy, it was with some trepidation that I picked up the writer’s sister title, Teen Titans. Thankfully, the contrast between the two couldn't be more evident, as Teen Titans is a fast paced and fun read that introduces Lobdell’s new corner of the DC Universe with considerable panache.

Taking the origin’s of DC’s foremost teen super-team and reshaping them for a new audience, Lobdell manages to show off the characters to great effect. We are introduced to the three most recognisable Titans here, who show off an array of impressive yet unwieldy powers and plenty of youthful character as they face of against shadowy organisation N.O.W.H.E.R.E.

While Kid Flash and Wonder Girl take their bows, this first issue’s real draw is Batman’s former partner Tim Drake as Red Robin. Tricked out with an array of gadgets and a nifty new costume, Drake is an exciting and highly impressive superhero who confidently swoops his way through a series of set pieces with all the style of James Bond and none of the angst of his former mentor. Fans of Tim can take heart, as he is very much the book’s hero as he brings all his skills and tenacity to bear in outsmarting N.O.W.H.E.R.E. whilst laying the foundations for the new team.

Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund imbue the title with a great deal of energy and character without over labouring each panel. If the pencils are a little scratchy in places, this is not to the detriment of careful characterisation as each hero and villain is instantly recognisable, their facial expressions telling us everything we need to know as much as the action, which shines without becoming too cluttered.

It is almost hard to believe that Teen Titans and sister title Superboy are from the same writer. The balance of characterisation and future threat in this debut issue is nicely done, with N.O.W.H.E.R.E., and the final panel’s reveal of Superboy bringing just the right amount of tension to keep readers interested for issue #2. I can definitely recommend Teen Titans for old and new fans alike, as Lobdell brings us a book that stands fully on its own, without the need for grown ups or showboating solo titles.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

52 New Beginnings - Justice League

reviewed by Robert Barton-Ancliffe

As a relative newcomer to the world of Aquaman, I came to writer Geoff Johns’ new take on the character with few preconceptions, other than a sense of boyish excitement at the prospect of some old-school super-heroics from a bona-fide product of comics’ Golden Age. Having just finished part one of new series opener ‘The Trench’, I’m suitably thrilled.

This book’s strength lies in its fine balance of action and characterisation. Aquaman, Emperor of the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, commands the power of the sea and its inhabitants, but behind the regal bearing is an all too human hero. After an opening that establishes his super-hero credentials in fine style, the issue slowly reveals a man who is misunderstood and mocked by the world he strives to protect. A refreshing reflection of the modern attitude towards Aquaman amongst most comic book readers.

Johns’ script is sparing, but the minimalist approach is not at the expense of depth and instead allows Ivan Reis and Joe Prado’s glorious artwork to take centre stage. Showcasing a staggering range, every page is vibrant and dynamic, flowing effortlessly in series of wide cinematic panels that are still packed with intricate detail, with the quieter moments displaying a true flair for character and stunning, naturalistic settings.

As silly as the concept could be, this take on Aquaman is nothing if not epic and full of potential drama, as our hero yearns to lead a normal life while reluctantly facing up to his legendary birthright. And although the fearsome, primal threat lurking in the shadows of the titular ocean trench is beautifully teased, Johns’ wisely keeps them to the background for now, instead concentrating on fleshing out one of the New 52’s more interesting leading men.

Aquaman turns 70 this week, but despite his age, he’s leading the charge for DC’s New 52 with a title as fresh and dynamic as the very best this re-launch has to offer. Hold your breath and dive right in, you won’t regret it.

The Flash
reviewed by Ben Fardon

The Flash. The Flash Fastest Man Alive. The Flash Rebirth. The Flash (again). Flashpoint. Wow, quickly thinking about it - DC has had quite a few goes at relaunching the Scarlet Speedster in the past decade.

And so here we are again. The Flash #1. Taking over from Geoff Johns must be a daunting task, though I have to say Rebirth and the following short lived ongoing series never really grabbed me, which is odd as I'm usually a huge fan of Johns work.

Here instead we have previous series' artist Francis Manapul taking over the writing duties whilst retaining the role of penciller. Colourist Brain Buccellato is the co-writer. The pencils are evocative and dynamic and the page layouts are sublime. Special mention has to go to the new costume which bursts from the ring in pieces ahead of Barry - he then runs into them and they form around him into the suit. It's a wonderful idea that will look amazing if it is ever realised on the big screen. It's beautifully showcased on the variant cover too! That said the colours themselves are oddly muted. I'd think brighter colours would better compliment the world of the Fastest Man Alive, so I think this is a bit of a misstep.

Aside form that though, this is probably the best first issue of The Flash I've read. Cleaner than the mess that dogged The Flash Rebirth and more compelling than the previous Flash ongoing, here we have an almost perfect mix of character development and action. Things have definitely changed for Barry in the reboot - having never been married to Iris we instead find him dating a co-worker called Patty. Iris is still present though, as a zealous young reporter creating a potential love triangle as the series develops. Older Flash fans may bemoan the change, but for me - since both women seem to be real characters rather than romantic interludes - it's a welcome dramatic complication in this instance.

Elsewhere the Flash encounters a gang of tech thieves stealing from a symposium and in his efforts to apprehend one member of the gang, he ends up throwing the criminal through a plate glass window. Seemingly killed on impact a shocked Barry is further stunned to learn the masked man is actually an old friend. Haunted, he sets out to investigate the evidence and work the case, only to be stunned when the dead man makes an unexpected return.

To see any more would ruin your enjoyment of this fantastic first issue. Run to your local shop and grab a copy today!

The Fury of Firestorm
reviewed by Matt Puddy

My knowledge and exposure to Firestorm, at best, is limited. I met the character whilst reading through Brightest Day when “they” clashed with Deathstorm and that really piqued my interest. As a character that I’ve never seen as a standalone title I was more than interested and wanted to take a peek.

Immediately the first thing you get is a massively vibrant cover. Firestorm is always been full of reds and yellows but on this occasion the crayons have definitely been worn to the nub. It’s great and so full of detail, typical of Ethan van Sciver.

What is different though as well as is that this has been written by Gail Simone but co-mapped and plotted with Sciver too. Simone has a huge association with female characters and van Sciver is prominent in artwork so the combination is not something I expected.

Saying that though, the issue felt really good and as a starting point it was easy to get into. There was a healthy skipping between a fraught first few meetings of our main protagonists and, on a collision course, a ruthless band of mercenaries on a killing spree. The story has kept its heritage and acknowledges Professor Stein which alludes to it being after Brightest Day.

What I’ve also liked is that it appears that van Sciver's influence has also been seen in the form that this takes as we are given a whole new direction for Firestorm. This is the first time that each of the heroes involved are their own individual Firestorms, as well as a new twist and the introduction of Fury.

Admittedly I was a little wary of this title but after reading it I have to say that it was all without weight. I loved it and will enjoy following it especially as on my second read you see so much more and so many little hints at further things to come. Exciting? Yes. Grabbing? Yes. Pull list? YES!

The Savage Hawkman
reviewed by Matt Puddy

Carter Hall is an interesting man, a contradiction in terms almost, but interesting none the less.

As an archaeologist he chases and seeks out the mysteries of the past. However, as a man he is depicted as running from it as he knows all about his own reincarnations. In trying to cast off the shroud of Hawkman, Tony Daniel takes the Hawkman story to a new level. Daniel also introduces a new villain in the guise of Morphicius.

Daniel has written a good story to support Hall in his personal struggling, both internal and external, and the story moves smoothly along. My problem is where it moves to.

As the story progresses and develops we see an enemy which is a black liquid which envelops and changes men as well as Carter's armour coming from within. For a new reader, or a devout DC (and only DC) follower this may not be a problem but for those who read Marvel titles then this immediately screams Venom and Iron Man respectively. It’s something I found a definite distraction which certainly took the edge off of the ending for me as my mind was directed elsewhere.

Philip Tan has used a style that I am not normally fond of, however, I have to say on this occasion with the combined inking of Sunny Gho something beautiful has been created. There are times when this slips a little but on the big moments even more detail and care is taking making for punchy and distinct moments.

I liked reading the issue but this is another character I tend not to associate with being a standalone. Enjoyable as the issue is, it’s not one I think I would follow. It’s a good jump on point for readers and has plenty of potential but I just don’t personally feel a draw to it.

Still well worth taking a look at, especially for the artwork, and Daniel has fine pedigree, I’ll just give this one a miss.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

52 New Beginnings - Batman/Green Lantern

Birds Of Prey
reviewed by Robert Barton-Ancliffe

Although I hadn’t followed previous Birds of Prey titles, I was mildly intrigued by this re-launch, based on both the colourful mix of characters on the cover and the potentially interesting fallout for the team with regards to the new 52 status quo. Even the uninitiated will surely be familiar with recent forum chatter concerning former Birds of Prey leader Oracle, aka Barbara Gordon, and her miraculous recovery from a serious spinal injury that had defined and enriched her characterisation for the last 23 years.

While fans seem resigned to accept this turn of events as the point is slowly explored in the pages of Gail Simone’s recently re-launched ‘Batgirl’, many will no doubt be a little perturbed by her cameo appearance here. While the baton passing is only natural as Black Canary and Babs discuss assembling a new roster, for me this narrative curveball proved a little distracting from what should be a fresh start, particularly as Babs’s characterisation as a holier-than-thou and rather smug matriarch does the character little favours.

The question seems to be, can Birds of Prey fully emerge from the shadow of the newly-minted Batgirl and fly on their own? Although this issue is fast paced and uses a fairly simple but workable narrative device of introducing us to the team through the eyes of an outsider, there is very little substance. At best, the characters seem a little underdeveloped, and at worst, a little objectified. Although cleanly drawn with impressive attention to atmosphere and background detail, Jesus Saiz’s pencils do little more than display the largely female cast in a serious of provocative action poses.

Perhaps this is a little overly critical of a book in which the male characters are equally drawn as perfect specimens, but there is so little else to get to grips with in the rather sparse script, with few hints of deeper layers or future arc plots. As a reader one cannot help but notice such shortcomings.

One final thought. Although the cover promises an interesting team roster, with the inclusion of a figure that I assume to be Poison Ivy together with a sword wielding samurai character, the failure of either to appear in this first issue made me feel a little duped. Its all very well teasing us with the shape of things to come, with both this hint and the recent announcement that Barbara Gordon as Batgirl will drop in for issue #4, I can’t help wishing that this first issue had been gripping enough to make me want to stick with the series until writer Duane Swierczynski’s long game plays out in full.

reviewed by Kate Townshend

I don’t want to end up banging on about this but I’m starting to sense a bit of a common theme with some of DC’s new comics. If there’s a female character in there, particularly if she’s ambiguously placed on the super villain/super hero spectrum then the chances are that she’ll be showing an awful lot of cleavage on the front cover.

So it is with Catwoman, and although I’ve always loved her sexiness as integral to the character, starting the very first story of this reboot with a bunch of frames where she’s falling out of a red bra does seem a touch... gratuitous.

Anyway, winding up the ranting and putting feminist reservations aside, I’m a little bit in love with Catwoman. Like all the most compelling characters she has her own agenda and thus her own voice, cleverly re-enforced by the fact that she narrates the events of this first outing.

Pleasingly, this thematic consistency works with the artwork too. The voiceover ensures that we see each frame through the lens of Catwoman’s own consciousness, and it’s a world of muted, twilight hues, blues and blacks and greys... (Do you see where they’re going with this metaphor yet?) Rather than being monotonous though it’s strangely engaging, particularly because the flashes of colour that do leap out of the page are a wonderful attention focuser.

And frequently, they come from Catwoman herself - that crimson bra, a scarlet wig... As she escapes from trouble she declares with a weary kind of glee, "Let them notice." And, boy, do we.

We’re not the only ones either. Apparently, Catwoman is still drawing all the right kinds of attention from Batman. I’ve never really got there dynamic before, but it kind of works here. He steams in, the voice of the patriarchy, essentially all ready to tell her off for being naughty. But like Eve with that apple, his resolve falters in the face of an eloquent bad girl. She takes what she needs from him, not what he intends to give. And ultimately even Batman’s uncompromising morality is dragged into her world and its shades of grey. Who can really blame him either?

Green Lantern Corps
reviewed by Matt Puddy

Over the years the Green Lantern Corps title has grown and evolved to become a strong title. It has always involved at least one of the human Lanterns, even when they have spun off into other titles, like Guy Gardner and the Emerald Warriors. So in contrast I was really happy to see that the opening was revolving around other members of the Corps, albeit in a bind, which then shifts to showing weakness, uncertainty and an inability to adjust. The almost ironic positioning gives it all a very good grounding. This is something that I have come to expect from Peter Tomasi, not going through the motions but trying to find an edge or new perspective.

When you also add in that amongst the personal struggles there is a completely unknown quantity in an enemy that is direct, focussed - and essentially just a hand glimpsed in one frame - you have been given a first issue that leaves you looking for answers.

My one criticism would be that although sometimes necessary some of the frames could get a little too wordy however this is also helpful in punctuating certain sections and solidifying characters opinions and feelings. The perfect example is John and his architectural foray.

Fernando Pasarin has provided the artwork for the issue. The images are very clean and smooth with an almost hygienic feel to it which is highlighted further by the blood and death as they are made to stand out. By far my favourite moment is when Guy and John are having a “heart to heart” on a satellite of all things and the use of space, both literally and figuratively, has been done really well. The only thing I wasn't fond of was the lack of detail in the contructs the rings have made. This is something I found lacking, especially with John’s background and mind.

Now as a Green Lantern fan I will happily be following this but it’s also a title that I can see, once developed, would attract more new readers. I just hope that it can grow and expand into what I hope it can be!

Friday, 23 September 2011

52 New Beginnings - Superman/Young Justice

Blue Beetle
reviewed by Robert Barton-Ancliffe

The name of Blue Beetle for me carries a few expectations, and I have to admit I was (perhaps unfairly) expecting a title with a slightly tongue in cheek style and a reasonably light-hearted tone, but from the epic space faring prologue, this is a series that looks set to establish a serious and meaningful identity.

Following this galaxy spanning beginning the action shifts focus to present day Earth as we witness two concurrent storylines. Firstly, we are introduced to our endearing but unremarkable protagonists, Texas high-school kids Joey, Paco and Brenda while at the same time a cabal of evil meta-humans seek an artefact which is revealed to be the Blue Beetle parasite that fell to Earth centuries ago. Given the build-up from the prologue and the true nature of this parasite, this sets up a nice source of tension as our protagonists head off to a party and an inevitable collision course with danger and potential tragedy.

Writer Tony Bedard clearly writes the young cast with affection, but the high school troubles our trio experience seem fairly run of the mill, and while likeable, their story doesn’t quite grip me as a reader. By the end of the issue, Joey, the most vulnerable of the teens steps up to the plate and shows hidden depth and strength that clearly mark him out to be the stuff of superheroes. Given what we learn from the prologue about the Blue Beetle parasite, this might introduce some much needed personal risk into our hero’s life, but for now there is nothing sufficiently interesting about the story to hook me on the basis of one issue.

Having said that, the look of this book is gorgeous. The art team of Ig Guara and Ruy Jose do a stunning job, providing brash and swooping action, while paying plenty of attention to the details. Guara’s pencils do seem a little scratchy during the quieter moments, but this feature does add to the frenetic, almost crackling with energy feel of the explosive action. The overall look of the characters and settings too is like a breath of fresh air, and the setting, whether outer space, or the open spaces of Texas helps the book establish a mood of its own, slightly removed from the largely urban DCU.

Overall, I like this book, but it isn’t quite essential reading. It could be the perfect introduction for new or younger readers to jump on board and find a new adventure without the weight of history behind it, but it hasn’t yet shown anything that has made me sit up and take notice.

Legion of Super-Heroes
reviewed by Robert Barton-Ancliffe

Legion Of Super-Heroes #1 puts me in two minds. Having just finished the inaugural issue of the re-launched title by writer Paul Levitz and artist Francis Portela, part of me feels a little overwhelmed with the sheer scope of the universe described within. The other part feels like I’ve just been introduced to a potential new love, so striking and confident is this introduction.

Having been largely unfamiliar with the history of the Legion prior to this re-launch, I get the impression that this issue will certainly be a treat for established fans. There are few concessions as we are introduced to a diverse team of 31st century meta-humans with an obvious shared history, several plot strands and tantalising hints of a recent tragedy, but thankfully Levitz provides enough to entice and intrigue newcomers with a mixture of dynamic team interaction and explosive stand offs all guided by a script that is dense but witty enough to hold the interest.

The future setting and planet hopping action are brought to vivid life by Portela’s artwork, which is slightly exaggerated, but cohesive and convincing. Visually interesting and showcasing a deft touch for alien foliage and expressive features alike, the attention to detail is impressive without distracting the focus from where it ought to be. Special mention must also go to colourist Javier Mena who manages to bring an already visually busy book to life with vivid colours that really transport the reader away from the everyday DCU, which is almost dreary by comparison.

My first impression of this book was that there is almost too much for the casual fan to be hooked on the basis of one issue, and while for me that is usually the sign of a book that has missed the mark, I slowly find myself wanting to re-read this issue, the maybe read some past Legion titles, and the re-read last week’s sister title ‘Legion Lost’, and…you get the idea. Long story short, I think my pull list has just increased by a Legion or two!

reviewed by Kate Townshend

Poor Supergirl. I’ll admit that when I received my trio of review comics this week, I was way more excited about reading about the women than the girls.

Typical, I had already decided, that while Superman gets to be a man, Supergirl is stuck in a state of pseudo-adoloescence. The sexism!

Except that, actually, because this DC version of the eponymous heroine really, honestly *is* a girl, it’s an awful lot less offensive. She’s a teenager who stumbles through the opening issue with no idea what’s going on and an overwhelming desire for her Mum and Dad to show up and save her. It makes her strangely endearing. Even more so as she struggles with power and potential that are enormous, but don’t seem to be entirely under her control.

The story itself is linear and unencumbered by flashes around in time or place, so we suffer along with Kara, with no more definite knowledge about what’s going on than she has.

There are robots and explosions aplenty though, if that’s enough to sway anyone in the direction of giving this a whirl. And they lend themselves to the artwork, which is epic and thus a little sparse. It’s saved from mediocrity by the emotional emphasis and attention paid to Supergirl’s facial expressions. She’s at the centre of this story and it shows.

It’s a funny one really, because a part of me feels that I ought to like Supergirl more than I do. Unfortunately though, it’s just lacking impact or pizzazz or whatever je ne sais quoi is required to make a comic sing. Solid but not exciting. A little bit like, dare I say it, her famous cousin.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

52 New Beginnings - Justice League

Captain Atom
reviewed by D Kai Wilson-Viola

A natural disaster threatens an unexpected city, and Captain Atom, whom has in the preceding pages been established as ‘breaking down’ in more ways than one, has to respond. Sounds like a good recipe for a comic right? Perhaps something even marginally ground-breaking?

It’s not all good though - I’m not sure if that was a deliberate allegory to the storyline, or if it was something accidental – but the first read through of the comic made me think ‘nothing special’. Just not till the very – absolute – last page of the first comic. Second read through and I spotted some subtleties I’d missed – but had I not been reviewing, and had that second page not caught me, I think I’d have not bothered again.

I quite enjoyed Captain Atom – like many of the superheroes that we encounter, he’s flawed – damaged in some way – and it’s a refreshing change to see someone that suffers inwardly instead of the tired tropes of being an orphan or other characterisation broad stroke that comics seem to employ. He’s been in a horrible accident, changing him, but this seems to be after his peak of power. Again, very interesting, but again, I found it difficult to empathise. There was definitively something missing from it.

Crisp artwork, mostly in shades that fit the mood that it’s trying to express, with clean, clever dialogue cap off a comic that didn’t go in the direction that I expected – and though I went into it reading something I thought was pretty much average, I came out of it wondering how they were going to run with the story. And what he’d done to create that very last thought, on the very last page.

It has action, and it has a certain amount of charm, but this is one of the comics that I think is going to kick ass on the back story – as well as go forward with what could be a very interesting – and possibly unique – setup.

DC Universe Presents
reviewed by D Kai Wilson-Viola

Amazing artwork with a bit of a cocky swagger to the inner monologue, and I was actually quite enjoying the whole thing until the third page when I got to, "flying through the air with the greatest of ease." Hello cliché. And they didn’t stop there, which is, in my book at least, unforgivable.

Deadman was a trapeze artist. Assassinated, I assume, because he was a bit of an arrogant piece of work by his own admission, he is to reincarnate and continue on to enlightenment. It kinda goes downhill from there. The concept has one touching element – the one thing that could redeem him – that he "had to do something" before possessing his next soul. The whole "cathartic healing of others via possession" concept could have been so much more – Quantum Leap for example did it in a much more interesting way.

Some of the other broad stroke characters that he’s ‘been’ that are dumbed down and expressed in one panel clichés: the priest who’s lost his faith; or the stripper who hates her father, yet cries because she misses him so much; the death wish stuntman (who makes an appearance at the beginning of the narration). All of them are trite and contrived - while I get that it’s supposed to be "just another step" for him and a life changing event for them – one panel just didn’t seem to do that concept justice. The encapsulation and back story dump, with the obvious stereotypes made me feel cheated, and that overshadowed the rest of the comic.

I guess that’s the other thing that bothered me – there was no working for the back story – and by the time I’d gotten to about the eighth panel of "I was once...", I wasn’t interested in his back story, I was bored. And to be fair, once again, that was perfect characterisation – Deadman isn’t enlightened, in the slightest. He’s still the self-centred guy that he appeared to be when assassinated. It’d might be interesting to see where this second instalment goes, but for now, I’m pretty much on the fence. It’s a pity, because the artist is amazing.

Wonder Woman
reviewed by Kate Townshend

Oh Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman! If you're expecting me to manage anything even remotely impartial on this one, then I fear I shall be a sad disappointment. You can’t offer up a gorgeous, wise Amazonian who takes down penthouse-owning misogynists and expect me to be anything other than dazzled.

Even the front cover, which is the most stylised and obviously ‘graphic’ of the DC offerings I’ve seen so far, is a feminist wet dream. She is fierce and sexy and focused, and most importantly, pretty damn well supported by that rather fetching bodice...

And although it doesn’t feel forced, the new writers have pretty much taken Wonder Woman’s status as a bit of a Suffragette icon and run with it. The most obvious ‘villain’ of the piece is introduced early on, and I think it would be fair to say that he might have some issues with his mother...

I worry slightly that other, ‘normal’ women in the series are going to be treated as slightly disposable, which rather undercuts the overall message, but I’m willing to hold fire on that for now. It is at least nice to see a female heroine protecting another woman. This is another one to add to my ‘comics that pass the Bechdel Test’ pile.

The artwork inside this issue is ‘graphic’ in the other sense of the word, and there’s a fair amount of blood being spilled from the word go. To be honest, there might even be a little bit too much going on as it all gets a little bit busy and confusing in places.

Then again, this does add to the sense of instant crisis and chaos that seems to make the pages sparkle with energy throughout. It raises questions, refuses to answer almost any of them and is generally a rather breathless read.

Most interestingly of all, is that although Wonder Woman instantly commands attention in any frame in which she features, it isn’t all about her just yet.

If the writers plan to ‘always leave ‘em wanting more’ of her, then it’s working. On me at least.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

52 New Beginnings - Batman

reviewed by Matt Puddy

Scott Snyder is currently one of my favourite writers on the DC roster, so you can imagine how excited I was to find out he was taking on the Batman reboot. Much as I admire him though, I have to be honest and admit that I have been a little confused. All of the new titles are set either now or five years in the past and I am struggling to place the timeline. Parts of the story, such as Dick’s height and appearance, say five years but other continuities such as the technology say now. Once you put that aside though it is a very easy and engaging read.

There are a number of little nods of things to come as well, such as Joker’s “escape” which means that even from the first page building blocks are being set in firm foundations.

I really like the way that the narrative, regardless of who it is, can flow with the dialogue rather than simply around it and forms part of the story to also spur this all along.

Frustratingly though, Capullo’s artwork is also a mingling affair. To me there were a number of styles across the comic which to its strength did actually punctuate the different sides of Bruce but equally it also went to extremes. The gritty grimy Dark Knight frames have some superb images with great use of shading and shadow but then also fall towards John Romita Jr's style on Kick-Ass but then the bright and open portions where Bruce is himself almost look like 'The Incredibles' in style.
As I said the dichotomy of the artwork, if intentional, can be frustrating but is also very fitting adding a good emphasised twist visually.

The hooks are most definitely there for fans to dig into and this should captivate and entice old and new fans alike. One that will be staying on my pull list.

reviewed by Matt Puddy

Kyle Higgins dives straight into the new Nightwing title and wastes no time at all stamping down on the fact that this is Dick Grayson striking out from the shadow of the Bat.

What I have really liked is that you can really feel the enjoyment and freshly found freedom that Dick is lavishly experiencing through his internal monologue. To further build on this the scene is set further by the environmental changes, the city has grown and changed, but so has Nightwing.

Aside from seeing Dick in the various Batman comics, Nightwing as a standalone title is fairly new for me so I can view this from a relative outsider's point of view. I know about Grayson’s past and childhood so the circus coming to town wasn’t a surprise, however the amount of athleticism within the issue was. There are a lot of powerful poses and flash frames given which, given a large proportion is based at night, simply oozes energy and invigoration. Even when the story (albeit briefly) slows it’s a time that is used for reflection and even more development.

Enter stage left - the villain - or at least a potential one anyway. There is a logical assumption that the shady character seen arriving is to become something more but there has been so much focus on who Grayson is and who he has become that the introduction of an assailant becomes a little lost and almost underwhelming. Nightwing is seen being left in a cliffhanger situation, however due to the build up I didn’t feel any sense of real tense dilemma.

The issue is vibrant and fierce, almost jumping out of the pages at you and it certainly makes a massive emotional connection. My big concern though is wondering if the action and deeper storylines can hold this together. For now, I am left waiting and watching this one.

Red Hood And The Outlaws
reviewed by Ben Fardon

Hush. No, don't put your fingers on your lips, this isn't a clumsy metaphor form Mark Gatiss. I'm talking about Hush, the acclaimed Batman storyline by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee that pitted the Caped Crusader against a tour de force through his rogues' gallery, before facing the eponymous new villain.

Some say it was a poor rehash of the Knightfall storyline, with Hush repeating the same tactics that Bane used to wear down the Bat, but I loved it and for me the most evocative part of the storyline was the red herring misdirection in the penultimate issues - the return of Jason Todd. The former Robin had been murdered by American comic fans who voted to end his life and in the Death in the Family storyarc, the Joker did as they demanded.

Initially Jason's return was shown to be a ruse created by Hush with the aid of Clayface, but the resurrection of the former Boy Wonder resonated through the DC Nation. It was later retconned in a subsequent storyline to show that Jason really had been revived using one of Ra's Al Ghul's Lazarus pits and Clayface had merely swapped with him at the end covering his escape.

Since then, Jason had been gunning for Batman and Joker alike as the Red Hood, but with little success. Now he's moving on. Striking out from Gotham for (clearly deliberately) sunnier climates, he's found a new companion in the form of former Teen Titan, Starfire. The new title kicks off with the two of them rescuing Roy Harper aka Arsenal from a sticky situation, then heading for some R&R by a tropical beach. Nice work if you can get it.

It's a brash and fun first issue, but it's by no means amazing. I was excited by an ongoing title focused on Jason Todd so I'll stick with it, but thus far this motley crew of Outlaws hasn't quite gelled for me. Rocafort's artwork is lovely, but Lobdell's script didn't quite capture my attention, though the teaser at the end means I want to read the second issue, if only to see if a few of my assumptions are correct.

Finally, continuity fiends beware - this issue is a mix of both satisfying references to the past and completely frustrating contradictions. Jason's hair is now dark rather than ginger, so that he looks a lot like Dick Grayson. I assume this has been done to distinguish him from Roy, but has potential narrative implications too. There are nice references to Gotham and his old friends and enemies, plus references to Dick and Starfire's past, including their incarnation of the Teen Titans. But Starfire is aloof and callously sexual, resembling little more than male fantasy wish fulfillment than a character in her own right. And most annoyingly, there is no reference to Cry For Justice, any association between Green Arrow and Roy or indeed Roy's cybernetic arm. I guess that is one of the true casualties to the reboot. A real shame.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

52 New Beginnings - The Dark

Demon Knights
reviewed by Kate Townshend

Let me get this straight, Demon Knights has the fall of Camelot, gender bending characters with super shiny armour and an extremely kinky threesome of sorts between an immortal woman and a man and demon who inhabit the same physical space? If this is less than awesome then something has gone horribly wrong somewhere...

So is it awesome? Well, it’s pretty damn good fun if nothing else. The first edition of Demon Knights has the pace and good humour of an adventure movie, combined with some darker moments that prevent me from dismissing it as pure, enjoyable fluff. We romp through time and jump between characters at speed and the distracted reader is liable to struggle to keep up, but the benefit of all this is that this issue reads almost like a particularly detailed painting. The longer you look at it the more eye-catching, idiosyncratic details appear.

The tavern scene is particularly well staged, with a veritable barrage of action and introductions - and really, what tavern scene is complete without the threat of castration hovering over everything?

Etrigan makes a surprisingly likable demon, and Xanadu is complex and long suffering, but with such a volume of character introductions it’s hard to get a real sense of anyone just yet. In itself this isn’t a bad thing, but I hope there is time in between all the action for a little bit more in the way of development.

What Demon Knights doesn’t seem to be just yet, is terribly serious. Demon babies aside, the darker moments are just that: moments. And yet the fall of Camelot echoes religious ideas about the fall of man in general, and there’s scope for a layer of much deeper thought beneath the banter and the drinking. Ultimately, it’s another wait and see factor for me, but as opening scenes go, this is an engaging one.

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
reviewed by Kate Townshend

Of all of my pre-conceptions when faced with a comic book character based on a 19th century novel by a romantic novelist I have a bit of a girl crush on, I never expected to find DC’s crime busting Frankenstein quite so, well, likeable.

Despite the reams of technology, with robots wandering around and teeny tiny space-station-like edifices all over the place, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there is a strong human element (for want of a better phrase) running through this title. Frankenstein deals with very human emotions of rejection and self-protection and this thematic link to its inspirational source material makes the English Lit geek inside me very happy indeed! Even leaving Mary Shelley out of things, it’s also a nice juxtaposition for a story that is ostensibly populated with monsters.

Frankenstein is an ever so slightly tetchy, emotionally buttoned down character who retains an air of jaded romanticism, and I suspect that what he could really do with is a big hug. The chemistry between him and Father Time is rather wonderful, because of rather than in spite of, the fact that ‘Father’ is currently inhabiting the body of a small, somewhat bossy, girl. And the more human elements of the stories really ground it; the little boy fishing with his grandfather for example lends an air of realism despite the far-fetched setting.

It all seems to be setting things up for a clash of two cultures, between traditional ‘super-hero’ territory, the ‘world gone mad’ as Father calls it, and more gritty concerns of family, love and religion. I think this is really interesting, and despite not really expecting to like this title I’m grudgingly curious about how the story might develop.

Resurrection Man
reviewed by Ben Fardon

The Devil is in the details they say. Well, it is certainly the thing that really sticks in my mind about Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's new Resurrection Man. The details. Little things like a different taste in our protagonist's mouth every time he comes back to life. Or the way he uses the magnetic powers he briefly possesses to entertain a scared baby at an airport.

This second detail told me more about Mitchell Shelley in half a page than an entire issue's worth of clumsy exposition told me about O.M.A.C. or Mr (not-so) Terrific. Mitch is a man who hasn't lost his humanity despite the horrific pain of dying and resurrecting on a regular basis or now being pursued by demons and angels.

Every time he comes back he has a whole new power, replacing whatever came before. In this issue he comes back to life twice; first with powers akin to Magneto, then with powers that appear to be like Spider-Man villain Hydro-Man. In the beginning he awakes in a morgue and can taste the metal of the gurney in his mouth. The second time, he can taste pain and tears.

Resurrection Man is one of the finest first issues I've read from the DC reboot. The supernatural elements aren't hokey, but instead invoke the later seasons of the TV adventures of Sam & Dean Winchester. The main character's inner monologue is compelling and the other people he encounters feel real and believable. It reads more like a Vertigo title than a DC superhero book of old. Madame Xanadu sneaks in on the action near the end and elsewhere two interestingly sadistic femme fatales are just getting warmed up...

The art isn't spellbinding, but it fits the tone of the writing well enough. This isn't a book that wants the pencils of Jim Lee after all. Dagnino brings the script to life with a clarity and purpose that is commendable.

I really hope Resurrection Man is a huge success. I love an underdog and this new title is more of a revival than a reboot. DnA created Mitch and they last brought him to our comic shop shelves back in the late Nineties, but the title was sadly cancelled after a couple of years. I fully expect to see graphic novels collections of the previous series being solicited with a year. Because I'm certain that this tale of a wandering hero who keeps coming back to life with a new superpower will find an appreciative audience this time around.

Certainly in the past decade, DnA have found a greater fan base between their work with Games Workshop properties and acclaimed work for Marvel like Annihilation and the various following successes. Resurrection Man #1 shares this fine pedigree and that's evident from the evocative first page.

You can just taste the details.

Friday, 16 September 2011

News on the DC New 52 titles shipping next week!

Ouch, just seen my invoice for next week's delivery. Some fairly severe allocations for the order increases we placed for some of the New DC 52 titles shipping next week. All the current customer reservations are fine, but if you want any of the following and you haven't already ordered it I advise you come in Wednesday morning!

Batman #1 (VARIANT COVER ONLY FOR THE SHELVES!!! Standard cover is sold out to pre-orders. Please note this variant will cost £9.)

Birds Of Prey #1

Blue Beetle #1

Captain Atom #1

Catwoman #1

DC Universe Presents #1

Green Lantern Corps #1

Justice League #1 (3rd Printing) (Diamond aren't sending us any of my order for the 2nd Printing - very disappointing, their response: "Allocations will occur.")

Legion Of Super-Heroes #1

Nightwing #1

Red Hood And The Outlaws #1

Supergirl #1

Wonder Woman #1


If you want something that you haven't already ordered, you'll have to get down ASAP. First come first served I'm afraid!

We are now sold out of Action Comics #1, Animal Man #1, Batman & Robin #1, Batwing #1, Deahtstroke #1, Detective Comics #1, Green Arrow #1, Green Lantern #1, Grifter #1, Justice League #1 (1st Printing), Justice League International #1, O.M.A.C.#1 and Superboy #1! Some second printings have been ordered - reservations can be made for second printings will stocks last so please get in touch.

52 New Beginnings - The Edge

reviewed by D Kai Wilson-Viola

All I have to say is wow.

An explosive start to a storyline I think I’m really going to enjoy. That said this one is very confusing – were it something I was looking at buying to read at home, I’d maybe wait for the graphic novel to come out - but I’m really keen to see where this is going. Very fast moving, and most of all, one of the most visually pleasing comics I’ve seen recently – there is a definitive focus on details that really works on both the story and the frame level.

There were a couple of areas that also made me wince – it’s one of those things that I think this comic wins hands down – the action doesn’t feel contrived, but still isn’t – exactly – expected.

The main character is a con artist/delta operator (so the army special services are involved somewhere)/terrorist (that’s explained in the first comic) and he seems to be "acting crazy", though, it turns out the voices in his head are also, kinda, introduced in the first comic. Lots of mystery and lots of action made this comic the first one that I actually felt cheated at ending. I wanted another page or two!
The storyline is something I think is going to develop as the comic proceeds – and unlike the others that I’ve read, this one has the most open questions going into the next comic.

I’m not entirely certain whether all of the open story ideas are going to coalesce into a story or if some of them are just a tease, but that’s OK – there’s enough broad stroke characterisation and hooks in this one to make me want to wait for more of the story, without making me feel like I’m being set up. It’s not just relying on the action, though, there’s plenty of it to hook people and I like that.

reviewed by D Kai Wilson-Viola

I’ve never rolled my eyes when picking up a comic book. Never.

Not till I picked up Deathstroke. Now, bear with me – it is not a bad comic, but wow, he’s got an attitude that just screams off the page at you. That attitude carries on throughout the story – a veil over even his conversations with others.

I’m the first to admit that I know very little about comic books, so I focus on aesthetics, storylines and more, but the overpowering sense of character. Once you got past being slapped in the face with it, was really what made this comic for me.
The artwork is good – crisp, but dark – the colours in a good range for the storyline, which is dark, brooding, with an electric dollop of mad every so often, courtesy of Deathstroke. Lots of red too, in some cases, an entirely red wash for scenes. I think this emphasized the elements of what was going on to about the best effect.

I thought the artwork was actually very good – on par with some of the graphic novels I've enjoyed in the past, like The Dark Tower and The Stand. So it settled quite well with me, even though, let’s face it, Deathstroke is really a bit of a nasty piece of work. He’s not a good guy but at least he’s open about using people. The first comic contains what I considered to be a bit of an unexpected twist, but I’m not sure if that’s because I just don’t know Deathstroke well. He’s not crazy, like Deadpool. In fact, I think he’s a little bit of a psychopath – something, again that came screaming off the page – a well-controlled sociopath that manipulates the situation to complete contracts.

Still, it’s a strong start and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.

Suicide Squad
reviewed by Kate Townshend

When faced with a room full of super-villains being tortured, there’s a spectrum of possible reactions from your average reader: disgust, fascination, horror. Luckily, I quite like a bit of darkness in my comics, so the rather disturbing opening to the new DC Suicide Squad is right up my street.

It’s also a clever and effective way of introducing and establishing the motley and deranged individuals who make up the squad without any forced and thus rather pesky exposition. Even for a relative newcomer to the concept, key personalities are quickly distinguishable against a backdrop of slicing and burning and electrocuting. Fun stuff.

Maybe it’s the Firefly theory that torture has a way of allowing you to meet the true heart of a person, but the opening scene also elicits sympathy which is no bad thing when your protagonists are a bunch of semi-psychotics, imprisoned for a variety of crimes against humanity.

And I hate to be predictable, but for me it’s Dr Harley Quinn who is most interesting of all, combining as she does a sense of unbreakable defiance with a damaged, masochistic obsession with her former lover. I’m torn here. On the one hand she’s a strong female character, on the other she’s all about the man in her life. I can feel the feminist part of my brain about to implode under the weight of the contradiction.
But, as with Batgirl, maybe it’s the contradiction that makes the character. Harley is damaged but she also retains a sense of agency and she’s not the only character painted in more than one dimensions. This bodes well for the series.

I’ll be honest, the story is more important to me than the artistic merits of a comic, but it’s worth noting that this one is pretty damn stylish, with thematic content backed up by the look of the pages. Not to mention the fact that there’s an awful lot of cleavage on display on the cover if you’re into that sort of thing...

...which, in this particular context, I’m really not. Poor Harley. It would appear that she is being slowly undressed with each new incarnation. Give it a couple of years and no doubt she’ll be appearing nude on a comic cover near you, legs akimbo.

All joking aside, this kind of thing can quite legitimately be accused of alienating female readers. I’m as fond of breasts as the next person, but that doesn’t mean I want Harley turned into a sex toy enabling a certain lowest common denominator to get their comic and pornography fix simultaneously. Could do better DC, could do better.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

52 New Beginnings - Batman/Justice League

Batman & Robin
reviewed by Matt Puddy

Fresh from the pen and pencils of Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason we have Batman & Robin.

Many of you will know that it was only a relatively new title before the reboot. Begun by Grant Morrison, it very much seemed like a means to an end in the wake of the Return Of Bruce Wayne, but Morrison was followed by Cornell, Tomasi and then Winnick. But after only 25 issues does it have a place in the new DCU?

Well, the answer is yes, no point beating about the bush. Tomasi has taken the opportunity and worked it well. Instead of dropping everything that has happened in the past and setting things back five years as other titles have done, Batman & Robin continues from where the things left off much like Green Lantern. This is immediately seen with the new partnership of Bruce and Damian (Dick is off playing Nightwing), the short lived Russian Batman Incorporated crimefighter and more importantly a beautifully created new adversary simply named Nobody.

The writing is direct and pushes the personalities of the characters. Damian, for example, is blunt, matter-of-fact and lacks any idea of subtlety or modesty. Just the way he should be. It makes for awkward reading, but that it what it is meant to create as this is a fragile team at best right now. Things are also most definitely harsher now, which shows.

Gleason has also worked well on the linework. There is a lot to be said for someone who can literally draw only half a comic and use the shadow and shading to produce so much depth filling the void as well. There are almost understated backgrounds too which punctuate the art. Mick Gray also uses a varied but vibrant palatte to accentuate images. The combination has worked really well.

The premise may already seem a little formulaic but ultimately this is a good multi-layered title.

I’m dying to see where this Nobody goes with the attack on Bruce Wayne and not directly Batman and it bodes very well for the future. For at least Tomasi’s reign I’ll be following.

reviewed by Robert Barton-Ancliffe

Having had her first, slightly dubious introduction in 52 back in 2006, this week Batwoman finally gets a long awaited solo title. Following departure of original writer Greg Rucka, artist J.H. Williams III and Haden Blackman have assumed the difficult task of following the character’s stellar run in Detective Comics a couple of years ago. Thankfully, the character is in safe hands, as Batwoman #1 proves to be worth the wait.

Batwoman stands up well as a solo title, and while the DC Universe has undergone a major shake-up, the character thankfully emerges largely unscathed. The story follows on directly from the events of the ‘Elegy’ storyline in the aforementioned Detective Comics, but this issue nevertheless provides a good introduction to the character for the uninitiated, as a new status quo slowly take shape across the course of the issue.

Not only do we see Batwoman thrust headlong into action against ghostly new villain the Weeping Woman, but we also see the introduction of a new love interest for alter ego Kathy Kane and a potential new partner thrown into the mix. Also, there are hints of a longer term threat as a shadowy villain (the Black Mask?) begins to take an interest in Batwoman, sending a field agent out to confront her.

It is a testament to William’s and Blackman’s careful approach to storytelling that so many new twists and turns do not feel rushed or forced for the sake of a new beginning, and can be comfortably assimilated by old and new readers alike. William’s artwork is as stunning as ever, with creative layouts, rich use of colour and spot on characterisation which gives as rich an impression of Kathy Kane’s personality as the brilliant script.

Batwoman is an adult comic, but not through use of titillation or gratuitous violence. The professional and personal trials faced by the titular hero are complex and well developed and the overall experience on reading is one of sheer exhilaration. Batwoman is as original as any superhero book I have read within a mainstream continuity. My only proviso in recommending this book would be for new readers to seek out the excellent collected edition of Rucka’s run on ’Detective Comics’, entitled ’Elegy’ as the back story given within this issue is a little rushed, and should be experienced in its full glory.

Mister Terrific
reviewed by Ben Fardon

Why? That was the question that tripped off my tongue when I read the DC solicitations in July. Why Mr Terrific? Out of all of the JSA to survive the reboot and get a solo title, why him? I've never found Mr Terrific particularly inspiring as a hero - he's just very bland. Good in a team ensemble of heroes, but he just doesn't feel up to the task of carrying an ongoing series.

At best it seemed like pie in the sky thinking. At worst it was an attempt to raise the mix of ethnic diversity in the 52 line up. That treads a fine line between being a commendable goal and positive discrimination - which is something I personally find a little insulting.

Mister Terrific is the third smartest man in the world. His real name is Michael Holt and he's the wealthy owner of Holt Industries. He uses gadgets and technology of his own devising to become a superhero. Sound familiar? Are you immediately thinking of Marvel's Iron Man? Quite so.

Mr Terrific has added pathos in that he lost someone close to him. Not unlike another wealthy, intelligent, unpowered hero in the DCU. In Mr Terrific's case, he lost his wife in a car accident. There is potentially a darker cause behind this tragedy, but that remains to be explored. In the pre-Flashpoint universe, Holt also lost his young son with his wife, but in the this new DCU his unborn son appears to him from an interdimensional portal when a grieving Holt is at his lowest. This young man tells him not to give up and to use his intelligence to change the world.

The rest of the first issue consists of Mr Terrific doing standard superheroics and briefly hanging out with Karen Starr. It's unclear whether she is Power Girl or not, though there are definite hints that she and Holt have something of a casual relationship going on. I suspect all of this will just serve to infuriate JSA fans.

Overall, I simply didn't connect with this new book and I still question why it exists. The pencils clearly try to evoke US President Barack Obama in their portrayal of Mr Terrific, but I really feel that well has run dry now after the Spidey issue, Barack The Barbarian, President Evil and countless others.

A final page twist did nothing to convince me this book would deliver something unique. It felt less like the setting of a bigger agenda and more like a misdirecting cliffhanger akin to the end of an episode of the camp Sixties Batman series. Mr Terrific isn't an awful first issue, but it is just like the title character. Bland.