Category: DC Comics

Chris Comics: Batgirl #44

4815993-bg_cv44_dsBatgirl #44

Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, Bengal, Serge Lapointe

DC, $2.99

I’m not entirely sure if it’s a coincidence or the work of Bat-Group editor Mark Doyle, but I can help but notice that the 3 DC books I read every month have really great alternative artist to fill in for their respect books. Bengal, previoulys seen on the Batgirl: Endgame one shot and the lead story in this year’s often-mentioned-by-me-Batgirl Annual, fills in for the first time on Batgirl proper, and delivers some fantastic visuals. While he’s not as experimental or fashion savvy as regular series artist Babs Tarr, Bengal’s more traditional lay outs and strong body language make for a good looking comic none the less. Bengal’s style is comparable to Tarr’s in that they’re obviously from a generation of artist raised on anime and manga, but where as Babs is Shoujo Manga/Anime, Bengal is very much shonen. This is evident in the big fight scene in the issue, which is the bulk of Bengal’s best art is present thanks to incredibly well choreographed panels. And even though some of the character heads are a little too lumpy or round at times,  my biggest fault with the art doesn’t lie with Bengal. I felt the pale colors provided by usual on point colorist Serge Lapointe take a bit away from the visuals. Batgirl has been a book which has been visually define by being kinetic and bright, but the muted colors take things back a notch this time around.


4815995-bg_44_2Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart (as well as previous series writer Gail Simone) deserve a decent amount of praise for giving Babs a wonderfully diverse cast of supporting characters. Despite living in the fictional area Burnside, based on super gentrified real life areas like Portland and Brooklyn, Fletcher and Stewart have surrounded Babs with some wonderful characters from various walks of life, and quickly made them stand out in a number of fascinating ways. It’s a shame the same can’t be said about this month’s villain, who felt rather disposable and a bit of an afterthought. I understand it’s hard to build upon on of the strongest collection of villains in comics when you’re NOT Grant Morrison, and that the team is channeling Batman 66 as well as Batman The Animated Series, but it would be nice to see Batgirl face a more formidable foe instead of another throw away villain who wears an absurd amount of eye shadow. My issues with the Velvet Tiger aside, the writing in this comic is still pretty great. Barbara’s various relationships with her friends all fell genuine thanks to the superb dialogue, and while there’s plenty of talk, it never feels like too overbearing. Fletcher and Stewart also know when to dial back and let Bengal and letterer Steve Wands handing all the heavy lifting with the fight scenes, leaving the slick action sequences relatively uncluttered.

CQAMp_kUcAA1KmPDespite my various critiques/nit-picks with the comic, Batgirl #44 is ultimately another fun issue of this great run. Bengal’s art is quite solid, and the writing is on par as usual, and I really felt like I got my $3 bucks worth with all the content crammed into 20 pages. Between this and the previously reviewed stellar Grayson installment, it was a good week for Bat-Family fans.


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Chris’ Comics: Grayson #12

Hey look it’s me, Chris, I’m back now. Rose City Comic Con was a delightful little show, and Seattle was a nice city that I’m sure Amazon will continue to ruin over the next few years. And now that I’ve dispensed some hot takes, let’s get to comics talk!

ff33f701f2ec2c8518ab96fd2acf9cc3Grayson #12

Tom King, Tim Seeley, Mikel Janin, Hugo Petrus, Juan Castro

DC $3.99

Every once in awhile I read a comic that ends with me standing up and doing and happy little boogey, or screaming something incoherent which results in my wife questioning as to why she married me. Grayson #12 resulted in both, because man, this comic was a hoot.


For most of this book’s existence, Grayson has resided in it’s own little corner of the Bat-universe by itself, only more recently having the title character show up in other books like that Batgirl annual from a few weeks back, random cameos in various Batman books and the  Midnighter spin off series. Aside from being a spy, a job that requires a low profile and less spandex, the main reason for Dick’s limited appearances was him “dying” in Forever Evil, a dumb comic you should not waste your time on unless you’re super into reading comics that were not particularly good. But now Dick is at a cross roads of sorts, and has decided it’s time to  go back to Gotham to catch up to the “family” he left behind, which of course is more complicated than he imagined. One being the fact that SPYRAL the espionage group Dick has been recently working for isn’t quite done with him yet,  and second, most of the family thinks he’s dead.  You know, typical comics drama.


grayson12_1While co-writer Tim Seeley has some experience writing the other Robins, Alfred, and Batgirl thanks to Batman Eternal, this is the first time we’ve seen Tom King handle the extended Bat-family. And it’s wonderful, as he manages to give each Robin their own distinct voices that captures their personality perfectly. Same with Batgirl, Alfred and the man who sent Dick to SPYRAL, but now has no recollection of doing so, or even who Dick Grayson is. It’s an bit of an emotional issue, light on the punching and heavy on the history of the character, and one that sets up the next arc of the book perfectly. And despite the new 52 world only being around for 5 years or so, Seeley & King draw upon Grayson’s 75 years of existence via the use of various dialogue from dozens and dozens of comics old and new.  It’s a wonderful use of continuity, giving long time readers some fan service without alienating newer readers, while explaining the bonds between these characters. It’s all very compelling and fun to read, and I really dug the Damian and  Dick reunion, especially after recently re-reading the Grant Morrison run on Batman and Robin.


GRAY_12_2Mikel Janin being as good as he is on this book comes as no surprise, but man his take on the Bat Family is stunning in a way I couldn’t have predicted. Everyone looks great, even the Robins with terrible costumes ( cough Jason and Tim ), and its fun too see Janin transition from sexy spy stuff to sexy super hero stuff. He has a great handling on the characters costumes old and new, and the body language his characters emote is fantastic. The coloring really empathizes the bright, fun colorful costumes, which contrast nicely with the mostly back background. Janin doesn’t get to experiment with layouts and positioning as much in this issue as he has in the past, but the brief action scenes still look amazing, and the talking head scene are as equally stunning. He gets some help with colors this month from Hugo Petrus & Juan Castrobut they ape his style so well you can’t tell. Janin and company continue to excel on this title, and the art he’s produced his book is arguably some of the best coming out of DC today.


GRAY_12_1I REALLY dug this Grayson #12. It was a brief but fun visit to Gotham, and I enjoyed seeing Dick interact with the other Bat characters for the first time in forever. The issue is chock full of fun little character moments, the return of a great gimmick from a previous issue, and a fun new M.O. for our lead character. It’s a fantastic done in one that showcases the entire creative teams talents, and a great start for what’s next.


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Chris’ Comics: Batgirl #43

BG-Cv43-ds-dd959-600x923Batgirl #43

Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, Babs Tarr, Michel Lacombe, Serge Lapointe

DC $2.99

Batgirl #43 is a frustrating comic (but at least that David LaFuente cover is rad). On the narrative end of this book, it’s hard to find fault with this issue, which really comes as no surprise. Writers Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart give us an narrative with plentiful content, juggling multiple characters and plot lines with little to no problem. It’s impressive considering 3.5 new characters are added/reintroduced to the mix and are given plentiful face time, in addition getting some cool moments with Babs’s roommate Frankie and another supporting character in my favorite scene in the book. All of this, plus a cool murder mystery involving tigers! Stewart and Fletcher really make me  feel like I’m really got my money’s worth with this book, which I appreciate.The various relations between all the characters make the book that much more enjoyable, and the mystery while a tad bizarre is also a ton of fun. That quality writing also makes me feel a little bad that I’m about to be a little harsh on the book’s art.

bg-43-2-148685-320x180As I said last review, Babs Tarr is responsible for the layout/breakdown for this book now that Cameron Stewart is off drawing Fight Club 2. In the span of the last 3 issues we’ve seen Tarr handle the bulk of the art either by herself, or with a guest artist. Issue 43 continues the trend with Michel Lacombe helping with breakdowns, and Juan Castro inking some of the final few pages. This is where the problems lie, as the book looks different from page to page at times, with the art either looking really good, or incredibly rushed. Some of the blame can be placed on colorist’s Serge Lapointe‘s shoulders, as some pages have a weird glow to them, and there even panels where the colors are darker than the previous ones for no reason. See the panel I’ve included; the lighting on the forearms/hands makes zero sense given where the direction of the light is coming from. There’s a few panels like that which really took me out of the 4767224-bg_43_4experience. The addition of Castro’s ink is interesting, as it gave Babs’ art a little more of a finished look, but it also clashes with her looser, sketchier style. The middle section of the comic is ultimately where the book looks it’s best, but again, the odd changes in the hue takes away from the stronger portions of Tarrs and Lacombe’s art.

Batgirl #43 is a fun comic that’s hampered by an unfortunate amount of art issues. I probably wouldn’t mind it as much as I do if we were dealing with a multi issue run, but we’re only 3 issues in after a 2 month hiatus. Hopefully Editorial can find someone who can help Tarr with breakdowns on a more regular basis, because seeing the book hampered by inconsistent art is extremely annoying. Hopefully, much like this month’s Gotham Academy, this is a rare misstep but a member of proven creative team, and thing will be back on track next issue.

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Chris’ Comics: Grayson #11

JUN150255Grayson #11

Tom King, Tim Seeley, Mikel Janin and Jeromy Cox

DC $3.99

While never being a bad read, the last few issues of Grayson were not exactly up to par with the level of quality we were getting back during the pre-break. That being said, issue 11, the conclusion of the Nemesis arc, is arguably the strongest installment of the book in awhile. Writers Tom King and Tim Seeley put all their cards on the table and the revelations that ensue shake the book to it’s core.

It’s worth mentioning that while the plotting/writing in Grayson has been a bit uneven up to this issue (Too many butt jokes believe it or not!), Mikel Janin‘s art & Jeromy Cox‘s colors never saw a dip in quality. Grayson’s always looked incredible, and this issue is no exception. It’s an exceptionally brutal issue with a fair amount of blood, but also gorgeous in it’s owned twisted way. The “acting” in Janin’s fight scene is flawless, and perfectly emphasizes how raw and intense this battle is. Janin also experiments with layouts, playing up the book’s weird spy stuff and getting some fantastic results, as if J.H Williams was channeling Jack Kirby. And Cox’s colors really enhance the whole experience, and his ability to switch from black/blues to bright reds on the fly is worth commemorating. The backgrounds in this book are also fantastic, continuing the excellent use of locations in the title. Grayson is a book I’ve never regretted buying thanks to the art alone.

4759300-4-gray_11_4-5King and Seeley also deserve their fair share of praise for this issue. Aside from the aforementioned slick revelations and possibly shaking up the statue quo for the title character for awhile (which may help set up this fall’s Batman and Robin Eternal maxi-series), the dialogue in this issue is flawless. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a comic hero banter as well as Dick does in issue 11 (see the image to the left), and it’s genuinely hilarious. Dick Grayson is a character know for being a little goofy and light hearted, and this page/rant (which continues for another page or so) is a nice breath of fresh air in a relatively dark and serious arc. And I really like how quickly that little rant is soon turned on its head and turned into a character examination of Mister Grayson, all whle dropping hints to the identity of the Faux Dick ( hehehehe) running around. This arc may be a little back loaded in terms of quality, but it makes for all the more satisfying conclusion

It’s ridiculous how good Grayson #11 is. In a week where DC needs some good news, it’s great to see a book of Grayson’s caliber hit the stands. It’s a title that really feels like anything can change in an issue, which for a heavy espionage comic, is great. This book is flying without a safety net, which I imagine is how Dick Grayson would want it. While it’s not at all accessible for anyone who hasn’t been reading the series, fans of the title are definitely going to dig it once their hearts stop breaking.

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Chris’ Comics: Gotham Academy and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

4741279-09Gotham Academy #9

Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, Serge Lapointe, Msassyk

DC $2.99

For the most part, Gotham Academy has been a delightful romp with some teen angst and a bunch of neat little shout outs to obscure Batman characters. Issue #9 is the first issue where I genuinely felt overwhelmed by a continuously growing cast, to the point where I wasn’t able to follow the plot. In this issue alone there’s our 5 members of the mystery team, 2 faculty members, a man-bat-boy, and at least 3-4 newer characters making cameos. That’s A LOT for a reader to follow, especially when there’s at least several different subplots going down in a 20 page book.

One thing the writers (Brenden Fletcher and Becky Cloonan) managed to keep a good handle on up to this issue was making the teenage characters sound like teenagers. This isn’t the case for this issue sadly, as some really dated pop culture references make the Gotham Academy kids sounds like tiny adults instead of #TEENS. I’m sure it was more of a fluke than anything else, as any creator is capable of making a misstep every so often.That being said, Gotham Academy continues to look superb, thanks to Karl Keschl‘s excellent art, and Sergio Lapointe & Msassyk’s equally excellent colors. Keschel’’s line work is always clean and dynamic, but the coloring really brings it to the next level, especially when it comes to effects such as fire, flashlight lighting and fog. The art makes up for the subpar writing, elevating the book to a decent read instead of something skippable.

While I applaud the writers for attempting to cram as much content into Gotham Academy as possible, issue nine ultimately feels bloated, while looking great. I’m sure it won’t happen again, it’s just disappointing to see it happen in a book I’ve been enjoying a lot as of late.


portrait_incredible (4)The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #8

Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Rico Renzi

Marvel $3.99

Once again, Secret Wars ends another book that was launched this calendar year. And much like the also concluded for now Howard the Duck, the 2nd arc of The Unbeatable Squirrel girl is absolutely wonderful. The book opens on arguably THE BEST note, involving a long mention running gag that actually ends up being incorporated into the plot in a major way. It’s absolutely ridiculous by the way, but Ryan North and Erica Henderson are so smart and talented make it work so well.

One of the things that I really like about USG is that it’s a book that seems like it wouldn’t fit in with the rest of Marvel’s publishing catalog, but North and Henderson skate along the thin line of ridiculous and high stakes so well, the character, her presence and her actions make perfect sense. North’s sense of humor and clever dialogue makes him a perfect fit for handling mythological characters from the Thor side of the tracks, and Erica Henderson’s art fares better with these characters than more traditional spandex folk like spider-Man. Rico Renzi‘s colors are back on track after last issue, giving me literally nothing to complain about.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #8 is the perfect ending for this chapter. The wait for October for this book’s return is going to be rough, but I’m fairly certain it will worth it.



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Chris’ Comics: Batgirl Annual 3

IMG_0099Batgirl Annual 3

Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, Bengal, David Lafuente, Ming Doyle, Mingjue Helen Chen

DC $4.99

Originally, I wanted to talk about Batgirl Annual 3 in the same review as Batgirl 42, BUTTTTT when your double sized issue has 4 artists attached to it, maybe you give it a separate review.

Batgirl Annual 3 is part art jam issue, part team up comic. Over in Batgirl proper, we’ve rarely seen her interact with anyone in the Bat-family outside of her dad. Here, Babs runs into the newly revived Spoiler, the recently cancelled Batwoman, the adorable leads from Gotham Academy AND as the cover shows, her former…something, Dick Grayson and his boss Helena Bertinelli. Drawing this issue is a murder row’s of artists; Bengal, fresh from the Batgirl Endgame one shot, Gotham Academy alternate artist Mingjue Helen Chen, and making their Bat family debuts, David Lafuente and Ming Doyle, who handle the Spoiler and Batwoman chapters respectively. The annual is written by series regulars Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart, who don’t produce the deepest of plots, but a fun one none the less, invoking silver age team up books like the Brave and the Bold and Marvel Two in One. For five bucks, you can do a lot worst out there, especially when you factor in how good this book looks.

BatgirlBengal’s Grayson chapter starts the book off, and Stewart and Fletcher NAIL the voices of Dick and Helena perfectly. It’s a amusing story where our 3 heroes have to stop a group of terrorists in Gotham, and Dick has to avoid being seen by Babs at all costs. Bengal’s manga meets David Lapham art style is perfect for this high action story, and the writers perfectly capture the tone and style of Grayson, including incorporating the series’ key running gag.  As someone who really likes the Dick and Barbara relationship, this story work for me on a number of levels.

From there it’s Spoiler and David Lafuente. As someone who wasn’t a fan of Lafuente’s Ultimate Spider-Man run, I can honestly say that his work on this story is incredible. Lafuente’s style has grown since his Marvel days, channeling some Todd Nauck and the late and great  Mike Wieringo in his pages. It’s some very kinetic and expressive stuff, and if I have any complaints, it’s that I wanted another 15 pages, or at least for Lafuente to draw theses characters again in the future. After that it’s tumblr_ns99dbFSik1rrp531o1_250Ming Doyle’s Batwoman story, which has a cool pulp vibe to it, and reminds me a lot of the good ol Greg Rucka and JH Williams era for Kate Kane. Also, there’s a pretty sweet Wicker Man reference in the story, and I for one always appreciate shout outs to movies remade by Nicholas Cage.

Finally the books ends on Batgirl teaming up with Olivia and Maps from Gotham Academy. While it feels like pure fluff (Fletcher co-writes GA, so their appearance make sense to a degree), Mingjue Helen Chen draws the hell out of this story. It’s so charming that you can forgive it, especially when you get to the final page of the story But this story, like every other one except the Batwoman story, all have the same problem. The villains are pretty forgettable and kind of generic. Like I have no idea if they’re an established threat in the DCU, something brought back for their first New 52/DC You appearance, or created for this book. And ultimately, I don’t care.

Batgirl-Annual-5-600x923Batgirl Annual 3 is something you don’t need to pick up if you think it’s going to tie into the current Batgirl on-going someway. BUT, if you want to see a bunch of great Bat family character interact with Babs while being drawn by some fantastic artists, then yeah, you should buy it.



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Chris’ Comics: Batgirl #42 & Sex Criminals #11

STK674518Sex Criminals #11

Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky

Image, $3.99 (or $4.69 for the XXX variant, which you should not open in public or your place of work.)


After a number of crazy delays, Sex Criminals returns to the stands, and we are richer for the experience. Fraction and Zdarsky give us a new character in this issue, and said character seem like a nice new person who loves their mother a bunch. Oh and they also have freaky sex powers, what a world. Issue 11 also changes the location for the book, which is revealed in a hilarious montage one would expect from the genius of Chip Zdarsky. And while we’ve seen plenty of quality Chippage as a late from both Kaptara and Howard the Duck during the Sex Crimz hiatus, having a comic he drew just feels right. Mostly because he’s co-created some incredible endurable characters I’ve missed, but also because NO ONE does sight gags and easter eggs as well as him. It’s incredible how much humor he can pack into the background of these books, never overcrowding them and distracting readers from what we’re suppose to be focusing on with the narrative.

As someone who’s met and talked to Chip and writer Matt Fraction a number of times over the past year and a half ( no restraining order yet, whooo), it’s freaky how much this books feels like an extension of their friendship. There’s a bit where Fraction breaks the forth wall and explains why there text there instead of dialogue (due to Chip’s talents ironically), and it feels like something he would be screaming about during a panel. It’s hilarious and it shows how confident and comfortable these two creators are with each other. Fraction’s words as still sharp as ever, blending pop culture jabs and jokes with engaging dialogue. His characters read very realistic, despite you know, the whole freezing time thing.

Sex Criminals‘ return is a mostly talking heads issue which pushes the plot forward a bit. The biggest reveal is hilarious, and it’s nice to see the book return hitting the floor running. This book being as good as it is surprises no one, and I’m glad to have it back.

BG_Cv42 Batgirl #42

Babs Tarr/Brenden Fletcher/Cameron Stewart/Serge Lapointe

DC $2.99

 Batgirl #42 sees artists Jake Wyatt & Michel LaCombe helping Babs Tarr with breakdowns. On one hand this is good, because Wyatt’s style is a little tighter than Tarr’s giving the book a look similar to when Cameron Stewart was assisting Babs. However, it loses some of the energy she brought to the book last issue with her dynamic layouts. Oh sure, we only got an issue with her working alone on the book, but I really like the results, and was hoping for more. The book still looks great though, so don’t expect any sort of dip in quality on the art end. There’s still a lot of energy to these pages, and Serge Lapointe‘s bright colors are fantastic. And Tarr’s Burnside is great, full of energy and sexy and confident Batgirl dealing with a new Batman and the new 52 incarnation of Livewire.

Batgirl #42 is a comic I dug a lot. The premise is neat: An experiencde Batgirl teaming up with a inexperienced Batman who’s also her dad is something new, and a fun exploration of the daughter/father superhero dynamic. Writers Cameron Stewart and Brendan Fletcher having Babs take point in their battle against Livewire makes a ton of sense given how she’s slightly more experience with dealing with super-crazies directly than her dad it, and it does so without making the Jim Gordon Batman look inept. The pacing is great, and the balance between time spend on Barbara as a grad student and as Batgirl is appreciated. Plus the team brings back a great supporting character from the Gail Simone run of this book, and ends the book on happy little cliffhanger. Batgirl remains a refreshing and fun book, with great visuals and a pleasant blend of drama and action.



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Chris’ Comics: All New Hawkeye #4 & Grayson #10

portrait_incredible (3)All New Hawkeye #4

Jeff Lemire, Ramon Perez, Ian Herring

Marvel $3.99

Following in Hawkeye volume one’s footprints, All New Hawkeye is back after a slight delay. #BURN A reverse of the previous issue sees the bulk of the issue being dedicated to the drawn out Clint and Barney origins, with the final panel of the page being dedicated to the present, with Clint and Kate dealing with the three spooky children the Hawkeyes liberated from Hydra. Much like the previous issue, those panels are mostly dialogue free, and I find them the most interesting, as it feels more in the same vein as the previous volume, and Ramon Perez more simplistic style looks gorgeous. Ian Herring‘s colors perfectly capture the style used by Matt Hollingsworth for these scenes, yet his best stuff is saved for the flashback material. Here we see a lot of interesting uses of purples and blues clashing against a brighter color which clash nicely with the muted art work.

HawkeyeBWith the origin-story stuff taking the point again for this issue, I find myself slightly less invested with this issue. Don’t get me wrong, it looks great and genuinely do like what Jeff Lemire has set up with the brothers Barton. But ultimately it’s not a story I want to read. Clint’s origin is arguably one of the least interesting aspects of the character, because who wants to read about the circus in 2015 right? I applaud Lemiere and Perez doing something different, but I much prefer Clint and Kate arrowing it up in Brooklyn than I do Hawkeye babies.  Especially after 4 issues, or in Lemire’s case, a hunk of his career. Also it really clashes with the promise of more Kate Bishop, who’s barely in this issue.

All New Hawkeye #4 takes some neat artistic risks, but I’m tired of this origin story. The modern stuff is far more compelling, and hopefully there’s more of that after this arc.


Grayson-10Grayson #10

Tim Seeley, Tom King, Mikel Janin, Jeromy Cox

DC $3.99

Grayson continues to be a god send to the character of Richard “Booty Booty Booty” Grayson. Ol’ Dick (heheheh) has been on bit of quality decline ever since the new 52 started, but his role as a spy has given him a much needed shot in the arm that Dick hasn’t seen since Grant Morrison and friends made him Batman. Grayson #10 is the second installment of the “Nemesis” arc, which finds that boy Grayson amiss of a murder mystery where he is the main suspect. Oh and Lex Luthor shows up, which is big, because Lex is one of the reasons Dick had to fake his death to begin with. It’s compelling stuff, with some really engaging dialogue from Tim Seeley and Tom King and the cliffhanger ending is spectacular.

Grayson-10-ViewOne of the advantages of turning Dick Grayson into a globe spanning hero is Mikel Janin being able to draw the hell out of a number of exotic locations in a single issue. Two moments that stand out to me visually were the scene in Madrid early in the book, and later when Lex and Dick meet in Corscia. Aside from drawing the prettiest of people, Janin draws some gorgeous scenery, beautifully colored by Jeremy Cox. Cox is also another fantastic artist, managing to mix channel travel brochure quality colors as well as Jim Steranko SHIELD era stuff. Coz is easily one of the most underrated colorists in the business and pairing him with Mikel Janin has produced some incredible looking art. Meanwhile, Seeley and King continue to provide a solid and entertaining script with some really smart and fun dialogue.

Grayson #10 is another fine installment of a book that got me back into DC Comics. It’s spy drama and super heroics at it’s best, and I’m glad to see the team’s first multi-issue storyline going so well.



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Chris’ Comics: Gotham Academy #8

STK675909Gotham Academy #8

Becky Cloonan. Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, Serge Lapointe ,Michele Assarasakorn

DC $2.99

I’ve been trying to make a “The Black Parade” joke for the last five minutes and nothing has materialized. NO WAIT WRONG GERALD WAY PROJECT, CLEARLY THIS CALLS FOR AN UMBRELLA ACAMEDY JOKE? YOU SEE, CAUSE IT’S CALLED GOTHAM ACADEMY, BUT THERE’S UMBREL-I’ll stop now. Also apologies for talking about this book a week after it dropped, I have internet problems which made posting a tad difficult.

Gotham Academy #8 is out, and it feels like a proper beginning for the 2nd arc for this series. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adored last month’s issue, but that felt more like a fun done in one than a proper beginning for the next arc. This issue sees a lot more of the cast return to the book, as well as regular series artist Karl Kerschl. Which, surprising no one, means another great look issue from one of most beautiful DC book currently being put out.

Olive-at-Funeral-e1436861340318Head’s up by the way, this issue a little bit of a bummer compared to last month’s  Maps and Damian Wayne fun timez ©.  For the first time in the series, our lead is Map’s older bro/Prince of Tennis protagonist Kyle, who’s still sweet on Olivia, who really doesn’t want much to do with the boy. On top on dealing with a funeral, our boy Kyle begins to look into the campus’ residential Man Bat, as well and a the new teacher who knows a thing or two about Men who are also Bats.

Writers Becky Cloonan and  Brenden Fletcher goes full CW teen angst and drama which this issue, which has me wondering why a live action Gotham Academy adaption isn’t being actively developed at the moment. It doesn’t get too overbearing, but it’s something unique to this book, and gives it a weird shoujo manga esque edge. We also get a Kyle and Maps team up, which brightens the atmosphere a bit, as Maps is a tiny delightful angel. Olivia also faces a major new development, and it appears that there’s a new g-g-g-host/monster running around the Academy. Again all this, plus #TEENDRAMA crammed into 20 pages is impressive, as the book never feels too crowded. There’s a HUGE advancement with the overall plot for this book, and I’m really curious how it’s going to play out over the next few month.

image9Karl Keschl’s return is also worth celebrating. Granted this book apparently has problem keeping to a single colorist (Michele Assarasakorn would be the 3rd), it still looks incredible. No one draws these characters as well as Keschel, who’s does some fantastic stuff with Maps once she realizes there’s a Man Bat on the campus. Not to dismiss the work done by alternate GA artist Mingjue Helen Chen , but Stewart helped design and define the world of Gotham Academy, and perfectly manages to balance the school stuff with the spooky stuff perfectly. Assarasakorn and senior series colorist Serge Lapointe give Kerschl art a cool, animation cell-esque look and work together so well you can’t tell the two’s styles apart.

Gotham Academy #8 isn’t exactly the happiest comic this creative team has produced, but it’s another solid entry in the series none the less. There’s a new bunch of mysteries to be delve into, and new personal struggles for the kids to overcome, making it equally charming and compelling.


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Chris’ Comics: Starfire #2


STARF_Cv2_552d9445eac847_14180805Starfire #2


DC $2.99

Starfire #2 is an interesting comic. Writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti are attempting to do something new with the character, which is an admirable task given how bloated the super hero market is, not to mention an alien trying to fit in on earth is ALSO the premise to one of DC’s most iconic characters. Setting the book in a small Florida city gives it a unique hook and a unique look thanks to artist Emanuela Lupacchino. That being said, why I’m a fan of a the concept of this issue, the actual execution wasn’t as good as I was hoping.

Comics-070915---Starfire-02Case in point: Starfire vs. an actual hurricane (Named Betty incase you were wondering) is an interesting premise. Kori isn’t an exactly a Superman level character ( Well neither is Superman these days but ignore that for now), so it actually poses a threat to the character. The downside to this is that all the emotional beats (AKA characters who are actually expendable) are tied to a lot of characters too new to feel any real attachment too. It is nice to see Starfire actually be an actual hero and try to save everyone, so the book has that going for it. And good for the creators involved for putting out 2 issues of a super hero comics that hasn’t resulted in a slugfest yet. It’s an refreshing alternative to the usual fisticuffs, and it’s cool to see Amanda and Jimmy continue to push Starfire closer to her animated counterpart. The cheesecake from the first issue is also turned down significantly which is good, as the events of this issue really don’t allow for it.

But continuing my roll as a Negative Nelly, something else that irked me slightly about this book was the humor. Granted humor is subjective, a the vast majority of the jokes in this issue didn’t work for me, including a few I wasn’t sure if we’re jokes or plot points. But I’m glad the “Starfire doesn’t understand that word or phrase gag with cute visual cue” has been overused yet, as its one of the jokes in this book that works for me still.

sf-2-panelsI also have ZERO complaints about the visuals. HI-FI‘s colors really sell the sense of danger of this hurricane, and the use of black and blue backgrounds work nice against Starfire’s skin. The book still retains its tropical vibe thanks to HI-FI and Lupacchino, which is something that could have been easily overlooked. And Ray McCarthy deserves some praise for some really clean inks, tying the art package together nicely.

Despite some disappointing aspects, the second issue of Starfire is a light, but fun read. The creators are striving to do something with this book, even with a VERY obvious callback to their run on Powergirl. Even though it didn’t succeed on every level, Starfire deserves praise for being a very different type of super hero book, and for that I am grateful to the creators and the editorial staff involved.

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Chris’ Comics: Welcome Back Babs (A Batgirl #41 review)

Batgirl_Vol_4-41_Cover-1_TeaserBatgirl #41

Cameron Stewart/Brenden Fletcher/Babs Tarr/Joel Gomez/Serge Lapointe

DC $2.99

So Batgirl’s back, and things are a little different this time around . Yes I’m well aware things have been very different since issue #36, but we have a few more changes on our hands. First and foremost, co-writer Cameron Stewart is no longer handling layout duties, as he’s busy drawing a thing I’m not supposed to talk about. What this means is that Babs Tarr is drawing this book by herself, a first for the book and her career, which is immediately noticeable. Her style is more expressive and looser than Stewart’s, giving the book a more over the top manga-style look in terms of character language and layout. It’s a little jarring at first, but it also give the more its own visual identity unlike anything else out there on the stands, and let’s Tarr experiment with her storytelling. With Babs (the artist, not the Batgirl) handling the bulk of the art now, she has Joel Gomez assisting her on backgrounds, something I wouldn’t have noticed with the proper crediting.

batgirl-41-robo-batThe book also has a new colorist in Serge Lapointe, who does a lot of neat things with the color. The book’s color has more of a softer feel to it, sometime giving it that pencils to color look to it depending on the panel. Another cool trick Lapointe does is giving some backgrounds a neat spray paint look, which stands out a bunch when slapped against white canvas-esque negative space. I definitely do miss Stewart’s visual contributions to the book, as well as Wicks coloring, but Tarr, Gomez and Lapointe are so talented it’s hard not to mind the slight changes all that much.

The other big change is the fact that Batgirl is now a little in-line with other non-Fletcher written Batbook’s continuity, which puts Babs (The Batgirl, not the artist) in a difficult position thanks to the events of Endgame. Her dad Jim Gordon is the new Batman (spoilers?), who’s under orders to get rid of the other vigilantes of Gotham .  This is obviously a problem for Batgirl, but for the reader, it’s an interesting story to bear witness too, as it adds a cool twist to the usually stable Jim & Barbara Gordon relationship. In addition to all that Bat-family drama, we get the new 52 premiere of a cult favorite villain, allowing Babs Tarr to get her Bruce Timm on, all while some seeds are planted for another Bat-character to make an appearance down the line.

sdsd-740x431The Brenden Fletcher/Stewart/Tarr team hit their sophomore arc of Batgirl at full speed. While there’s some changes on the visual side, Fletcher and Stewart’s dialogue is just as good as it’s was pre-crossover break. There’s some really cute humor here, as well as some character relations that feel honest and genuine. The book feels fresh and relevant to the times, but never goes overboard with the time-sensitive references. It’s a fun little read that looks fantastic, and you can sense the team is having a blast work on the book.

Batgirl continues to be a book that shows DC is willing to change to ensure it’s brand survives in a world where Marvel dominates the charts and box offices (Jurassic World being the exception.). It’s success is obviously the reason why we even got this DC You initiative to begin with, and I’m happy to say it’s as good of a comic as it is important to the company and the marketplace.


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Troy’s Toys But with Comics: First and Last Days Editions

Hey look, it’s  2 books that actually came out recently! Let me review them!

ms-marel-124127Ms. Marvel #16

G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring

Marvel $2.99

Let’s get this review started  by talking about how good Ms. Marvel and it’s creators are. Solicitations for this issue spoiled the last page of Ms Marvel 16 3-4 months ago, depending on what websites you read, especially if you saw what’s on the cover for 17. It’s something we’ve yet to get on this title yet, wanted forever, and have finally gotten a taste of it. Even knowing it was coming didn’t diminish the moment, and if anything, only made me hungry for more.

Ms Marvel 16 is the first issue of the “Last Days” arc, which ties into Secret Wars. G Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona and Ian Herring has put Khamala Khan through a lot over these last 16 issues, but how does Ms Marvel stop the end of the world? Knowing what we know from Secret Wars, it seems impossible, even though that Free Comic Book Day let us know that she’ll be fine when all is said and done. Still, Wilson and Alphona make the stakes feel real, without having to sacrifice all of the charm and humor this book is known for.

Then we get to the last two pages. This is comics at it’s finest, and the opposite of the bad feels Kieron Gillen and BKV have given me in the previous weeks. We see our hero doubt herself, but refusing to give up and accept oblivion. It’s inspiring, and it’s hard not to get excited when you reach the previously mentioned final page of this book. It’s a super important moment for the character, and the creative team nail it on every level, from the layout, to the dialogue and choice of colors.

Ms Marvel continues to be stellar, and this issue is no different. It may be the best, which says a lot given the fact it’s a tie-in issue. It super hero comics at it’s finest, fully embracing the legacy set by Jack, Steve and Stan, and taking it to the next level.


black-canary-1-promo-121636Black Canary #1

Brenden Fletcher/Annie Wu/Lee Loughridge

DC $2.99

I’ve seen a few comic blogger types refer to this new DC You (#killme) initiative as “The Batgirl effect”, which I think is a fair description. The Fletcher/Stewart/Tarr/Wicks Batgirl got DC attention and praise it hadn’t seen in a while, and it was only a matter of time before would attempt to recapture that magic with some of their other properties. With Black Canary, we see a one of the Batgirl writers teamed with a fan favorite artist, resulting in another strong DC Debut.

Black Canary is a kung-fu rock and roll comic, which is all sorts of my type of premise. Dinah Lance was given a cool new direction in the pages of Batgirl, and now we get to see Black Canary on the road, wrecking venue after venue while keeping her past a secret from her bandmates. However, she’s not the only person in her crew with a secret or two, which leads to violent hitting times  . It’s a fun premise that feels like a natural and much needed  evolution of this incarnation of the character.

I’ve been a fan of artist Annie Wu since her run on the often mentioned Hawkeye. Her take on Black Canary is great, giving her a slick punk rock meets MMA make over. It’s a cool take of the character’s iconic look, giving it a much needed update. Wu’s line work a little harsher and simplistic than her work on Hawkeye, which is fitting for the new status quo. Lee Loughridge‘s colors and Steve Wands letters give the book a cool vibe that can be best described as Sex Pistol ‘Zine meets DC comics. The whole thing feels very Image esque is terms of design, which I’m sure to intentional as to draw in a larger audience. And even if it isn’t, it’s still cool as hell.

On the script side of things, we have Batgirl/Gotham Academy’s Brenden Fletcher, who’s quickly carved out his little corner of the DCU. This is the first exposure to Fletcher’s solo writing duties, and it’s solid. The issue quickly establishes Dinah current M.O. in a cool bit of exposition via a number of new age media. It’s a neat narrative device, and it’s a cool way to catch readers up on Dinah if they haven’t been reading Batgirl. His dialogue is solid, and while there’s nothing that particularly stand out, it’s more than serviceable.

Between this and Starfire, DC “You” is off to a strong start with this new slate of diverse female lead books. Black Canary is another fun and good looking book with a fun premise. DC is finally beginning to fight back after Marvel‘s barrage of great quirky hits from earlier in the year, and I’m curious to see what else the company can produce on this sort of level of quality.



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(Late) Review: Starfire #1

So yeah, doing 3 shows in 3 consecutive weekends has caught up to me. Flamecon was a wonderful one day show that I’m glad I funded/attended, and Heroescon was rad as always. But it’s taken a hit on my writing time, not to mention drained me physically (and financially). So the reviews are coming, they’ll just be a mixture of new stuff, slightly old stuff, collected stuff and one advance review. Give me 2 weeks and everything will be back to normal. Well as close to normal you can get around these parts. First up, a dated review on a book that I’ve really enjoyed recently.

Starfire-1-CoverStarfire #1

Amanda Conner/Jimmy Palmiotti/Emanuela Lupacchino/Ray McCarthy/Hi-Fi

DC $2.99

I’ll start this review off with a confession: I never really cared much for Starfire, even though I’m a pretty big Dick Grayson fan. Ir’s probably because I missed her heyday as a member of the Marv Wolfman/George Perez New Teen Titans. And aside from a few random Teen Titan revivals from the 90s/00s, my biggest exposure to the character was from the animated TT animated series, which I liked enough, but wasn’t super into.

Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti however, are 2 creators I’m very much familiar with and dig. Their run on Power Girl was a blast, and I like what I’ve read of their Harley Quinn run. Putting them on a character like Starfire, who was very much in need of some direction after appearing in that ROUGH Red Hood and the Outlaws book, was a smart choice

4619905-starf_1_4Conner and Palmiotti’s Starfire is wisely located in Key West, which makes for an unusual locale for a super hero comic. The most southwestern point in the US, this tropical locale isn’t exactly full of crime and super baddies. But Starfire isn’t exactly a traditional super hero book; it’s more a comedic character exploration piece. Kory is trying to figure out her identity in Key West, not unlike how the writers are trying to find her a play in this relatively new DC. The pair of writers give her a nice cast of characters to work with, giving  the book a delightful sitcom-esque supporting cast. Amanda and Jimmy do some really solid world building in 20 pages, and I’m curious to see what they can do now that the introductions are done.

Starfire-2Emanuela Luppacchino is the penciler on this book, and he’s a perfect fit for the comic. He’s more Ivan Reis than Amanda Conner, and he manages to capture the beauty of the setting and the book’s lead perfectly. His characters are sexy, with hints of cheesecake here and there, but nothing super objectifying. And the humor is done justice with the cute little thought balloons Starfire has whenever she’s unfamiliar with earth terminology. Trever McCarthy‘s ink are clean and straightforward, with Hi-Fi making the book looking bright and vibrant.  Starfire herself is a prime example on how good the art sides of things are,  with her cool hair-flame effect never clashing with her orange skin. It’s a pretty accurate recreation of Key West, right down to the drunk bros.

Starfire #1 is the perfect introduction for people familiar with the character from the character, or didn’t care for her previous handling. It’s a little to sexy for younger reader, so maybe we keep the kids are the Teen Titans Go! audience from it until their older. But for anyone over 13 who wants a more iconic take on that character, or something that’s just fun and great looking, this is the book you want to be reading. If you like Conner/Palmiotti’s past work, or offbeat female lead titles like Squirrel Girl and Rat Queens, this is the book for you.

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Troy’s Toys, But with Comics: Called it Edition


STK674294Saga #29

Fiona Staples/Brian K Vaughan

Image $2.99











So yeah, this issue of Saga is rough. Really rough actually, to the point where I have to think issue 30 HAS to end on good note for balanced karma. I mean he really owes us that after these last two issues being actual emotional war fare on the readers.

It’s not all violence and tears in this issue by the way. BKV and Fiona Staples, who is not at fault for this issue, inject this comic with some needed drama, action and comedy. There’s an amazing panel that leads into a better double page spread gag that will probably get this book banned from Comixology (again). When this book isn’t destroying me, it’s fantastic, especially when Vaughan’s dialogue is so natural, with a flawless flow.

And yes, Fiona Staples is on point once again. No one is shocked, as she’s always excellent. But her she’s given a lot to do in this in this particular issue, and she flexes her creative muscles and crushes it. Yes I just said crushes it, I’m wearing 3 polo shirts and drinking jaeger and pre-ordering the new Call of Duty as we speak. But it’s completely true, as a lesser artist may have failed at delivering the type of comic Staples has produced. ESPECIALLY  when it comes to the violence, which is not the most graphic thing, but the composition and character placement hits you like a freight train.

It’s been a while since an issue of Saga has been this devastating. Vaughan and Staples have created a comic that always creates Water-Cooler discussion moments, and they always feel earned, rather than relying on shock value. It’s a fantastic read, although an absolutely gut wrenching one. I expect no less from team Saga.

STK672338Gotham Academy #7

Becky Cloonan/Brenden Fletcher/Mingjue Helen Chen/Steve Wands

DC $2.99

Oh look, Gotham Academy is back, I can know what happiness is once again.

Issue 7 kicks off a few days after issue 6 wraps up, and focuses on my personal favorite character Maps. Maps, unlike the usual lead/narrator Olivia, offers a younger perspective, and is all hype and excitement, making for different yet equally enjoyable reading experience. Guest star Damian Wayne wasn’t a character this book necessarily needed to improve, but he’s a welcome sight none the less. The youngest Robin couldn’t be any more different than Maps, which results in some A+ hi-jinks, and some very funny gags.

Mingjue Helen Chen is the artist for this issue, marking the first time she gets to draw an entire issue by herself. Her style is plenty different than series regular artist Karl Keschel, but not any less great. It’s super expressive and whimsical, looking like a Pixar take on Gotham Academy, which makes sense given Chen’s day job working as an Disney animator. It’s looks unlike any other Bat-title out there, and nice to see DC giving such wonderful talent like this a shot on a book that supports such diversity.

Narrative wise, it’s back to business for Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher. They masterfully mix mystery with comedy, throwing little hints of romance in there resulting a fun, modern day Scooby Doo-esque script. My only complaints is that the art and the narration are at odds early in the book, which makes the big mystery reveal a tad confusing at the end. Luckily, it doesn’t take away from the rest of the comic, which is pretty perfect.

Gotham Academy #7 is a delightful done in one for all ages. The creative team is hella charming, thanks to visuals that make the $3 price tag a steal.



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Review: Batman Volume 6: Graveyard Shift

51hNXab4FEL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Batman Volume 6: Graveyard Shift

Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo/ Marguerite Bennett/Andy Kubert/James Tynion IV/Alex Maleev/Andy Clarke/Dustin Nguyen/ Wes Craig/Matteo Scalera/Gerry Duggan

DC Comics, $24.99

With the first 5 volumes of the Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo run on Batman, we the reader got a series of cohesive and quite excellent stories by the same team of creators. Those who have been reading the book monthly have had a different experience, as there has been several issues that have interrupted this run with some guest creative teams. Volume 6 is a collection of those issues, which range back to as far back as 2012 and as recent as 2014. Needless to say, this book is a bit disjointed,  with some of the material dated already.

One of the biggest things to occur during the Snyder/Capullo era was the death of Damian Wayne, which occurred over in the Grant Morrison/Chris Burnham Batman Inc. title. With it not happening in Batman proper, trade waiters now finally get to see that event addressed by Snyder and several other creators in a few different stories. The downside of that is that Damian was already revived earlier this year (with an ongoing set to debut soon), so said stories kind of lose their impact. It’s even worse if you’ve only been reading this incarnation in trade, as there’s zero explanation as to how Damian passed. There are also 2 Year Zero-era tales included, which is odd for several reasons. The biggest one being that Year Zero was already collected in Volumes 4 & 5, and would have made more sense being included there than in this volume. Finally, the last story collected is tied into the recently concluded Batman: Eternal, which I feel would have been suited for one of those trades more so than this one.

BM_19_300-005_HD.480x480-75So while this book feels scatterbrained and uneven, it also looks fairly sharp. Greg Capullo is joined by a ton of talented artists. Andy Kubert, Dustin Nguyen, Alex Maleev, Andy Clarke and Matteo Scalera are some of the more notable contributors and while their styles are all wildly different, they all bring their A game. It’s a little jarring to see different artists tackle the Gotham envisioned by Greg Capullo at first, but these veteran artists contributions are great none the less. It helps that Scott Snyder oversees if not straight up writes a lot of the guest stories, so the tone feels consistent throughout the collection.

Joining Snyder on writing duties are two of his former students, James Tynion IV and Marguerite Bennett. The Snyder penned material is obviously the strongest, and Tylion and Bennet aren’t exactly slouches either. Similar to Snyder, both writers mix horror and action scenes well, although none of their dialogue ever hits as hard as Synder’s does. It’s almost a bit of a unfair comparison, as neither of those two have Greg Capullo to work with. The story written by Gerry Duggan is antiquate: not the best Batman story in this volume, but nothing wrong with it, and it looks great. Matteo Scalera was a perfect fit to draw a Batman story, and his stylistic take on the character is fantastic.

Batman Volume 6: The Graveyard Shift is a weird anthology of sorts. The Snyder/Capullo issues are great, and anyone who’s dug their work in the past won’t be disappointed. The other issues require some knowledge of the going-ons in other DC comics, but are enjoyable none the less. It’s not the best collection of Bat-Material in this run, but it’s a fun little collection of stories that will hold you over until Endgame is reprinted. A shame it’s not as accessible as the past collections have, but that’s not really on the creators as it is on whoever decide to collect the book like this.



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