Category: Reviews

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: Spider-Woman #10 & X-men ’92 #3

Spider-Woman_Vol_5_10Spider-Woman #10

Dennis Hopeless/ Natasha Bustos/Vero Gandini

Marvel $3.99

Going into this issue knowing regular series artist Javier Rodriguez would not be drawing it, I was expecting myself to enjoying this issue of Spider-Woman a little less than usual. Nothing against guest artist Natacha Bustos, but the shadow Rodriguez casts on this book is MASSIVE, and it’s a hard to follow.

However, most of my issues with #10 aren’t with Bustos. She kills it with this issue, channeling Rodriguez while giving the book a softer, more manga-influenced look. Natacha never gives us any crazy, hyperactive layouts we’ve gotten in the past, but she does a fine enough job with the issue. It’s a shame that Vero Gandinis color pallet is so pale, otherwise I would have zero complaints with the art. Sadly, aside from his beautiful night skies,  his use of light colors irk me, making the final product look cheaper. I was willing to chalk it up to a printing error, but after looking at the digital copy, it’s definitely the shade. The day scenes are well lite enough, but it takes away from the night time scene.

CNWcZSSW8AAR1_CMy other issue with this comic was it being forced into being a Secret Wars: Last Days tie-in. 1/4 of the book is spent setting up Jessica’s appearance in Secret War #1, and it feels so forced, with an overly aggressive Black Widow that’s incredibly unlikable. It’s rare to see writer Dennis Hopeless slip up like this, but given how poor the Spider-Verse stuff was handled, it doesn’t come as a surprise. The book is at it’s best when it’s dealing with the A plot, which involves such greatness as HULK CATTLE and the Porcupine going full O.M.A.C. (Happy birthday Jack Kirby!), and could have used five more pages of that then lining up the events of a 4 month old comic.

Spider-Woman #10 is the uneven conclusion to a pretty great run of Spider-Woman comics. The book will be back in November with the Javier Rodriguez, and Natcha Bustos will be off drawing the All New Devil Dinosaur series. I’m excited for both titles, and I hope this next volume of Spider-Woman will be free of crossovers. Hopeless and Jessica are best when they’re left to their own devices, despite the chance of boosted sales thanks to being a major event tie in

X-Men_'92_Vol_1_3_TextlessX-men ’92 #3

Chad Bowers/Chris Sims/ Scott Koblish 

Marvel $4.99

Nothing says 90s X-men like X-Force. The New Mutants went from being the 2nd X-men book to being a sales juggernauts, launching the careers of both Rob Liefield and Greg Capullo, and introducing Marvel icons like Cable and Deadpool. It comes as no surprise that Sims and Bowers decided to use these characters for this title, and the results of pretty great.

X-Men ’92 #3 collects the 5th and 6th installments of the digital version of X-Men ’92, which are both the best and worst chapters of this series so far. The first half of this book sees X-Force off to save the captive X-men, all while Casanova Nova finds herself struggling against the combined might of Cyclops and Jean Grey. The 2nd of the half explains Casanova’s end game, ties the book back to Secret Wars, and is kind of all over the place. You can tell writers Chad Bowers and Chris Sims are having a blast with this book when their focusing on the characters, which is where is when the book really shines. It’s an extremely fun fiction of sorts, and I wish these two could continue to have their fun instead of having to wrap this thing up so the 616 X-men can pal around with the Inhumans or whatever.

004085411ce2dfd3afbf59c707e7fe85Sadly the artist Scott Koblish‘s art isn’t as solid this time around. While he manages to draw some ridiculous guns and pouches this issue, some of the pages feel rush, and the art feels less parody and more cheap 90s licensed merchandise at times.

The good more than out weight the bad in X-men ’92 #3. Its an incredibly fun and exciting read that hits a few snags, but is worth the cover price. It’s been a while since we’ve had a light-hearted X-men book on the stands, and hopefully these creators will have a chance to work their magic again after Secret Wars.

 

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Chris Comics: Welcome Back #1

STK678250Welcome Back #1

Christopher Sebela, Jonathan Brandon Sawyer, Carlos Zamudio

Boom $3.99

Sorry for the delay gang, someone had a birthday this week (it was me, I berfed), and a busted modem (also me), so interneting was hard.

Last week was an odd week for me  when it came to buying comics, as none of my usual pulls dropped, and the mountain of trades I have to get through are quite dated (no longer the case by the way, again, due to berf). Not wanting to leave Forbidden Planet NYC stranded on hashtag content, or drop $5 on a Marvel book, I decided to see what the indies had to offer. As luck would have it, the fine folks at Boom! Studios released Welcome Back, the first of 4 issue mini series with some slick twists I will attempt to not spoil in this review.

 

WelcomeBack_001_PRESS-8Welcome Back is written by Christopher Sebela, who’s work I’m not too familiar with outside of co-writing some comics with Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue Deconnick, but his High Crime series from Monkeybrain/Dark Horse is supposed to be really good. I have zero familiarity with artist Jonathan Brandon Sawyer, but man, his stuff is great. He’s a nice blend of artists like Chris Bachalo, Becky Cloonan and Sean Murphy. His line work is sharp and jagged, and fully of energy like Murphy, with his character designs and layouts very much in the graffiti and manga-influenced styles we get from Chris and Becky. And if Sawyer’s Murray in this scenario, then colorist Carlos Zamudio would be the next generation Matt Hollingsworth. The choices of colors in Welcome Back remind me a lot of Hollingsworth works on books like The Wake and Hawkeye, only not as muted. Welcome Back is easily one of the best looking books I’ve seen from a relatively new creative team in some time.

On the words side of things, I get why Sebela’s gotten a ton of praise for his indie comics. Welcome Back is wordy, but never overcrowded. It’s heavy on the dialogue and narration, but flows effortlessly, with everything coming across relatively natural sounding. Some of the stuff WelcomeBack_001_Interiors-1spoken during the action scene is a little clique and hokey, but aside from that, it’s relatively solid. My only real complaint other than that is the use of block, flat fonts for the sound effect by letter  Shawn Aldridge. It really clashes with the art, and it’s weird to see that sort of thing when the narration boxes and dialgoue balloons are position correctly. But those are only some small things that I’m sure that will improve in time, and don’t take much away from the rest of the book.

Welcome Back was a surprisingly great debut that I wish I could go into more but won’t, because again, there are some great twists that work if you go in blind. That’s what I did for the most part, and I enjoyed the book all the more. If you’re looking for something fresh and different, or just tired of one of your favorite being held up by delays, I can’t recommend giving Welcome Back enough. It’s a cool melting pot of ideas with an relatable lead character, and I’m excited to see how this all plays out.

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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: Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #1

STK680389Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #1

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles

Image $3.99

Phonograms has a special place in my heart. I bought both previous collected volumes of the series directly from creators Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson several years ago, and I’ve made it a point to re-read the 2nd volume at least once a year ever since. I’ve been asking Gillen about the long teased 3rd volume at conventions as far back as 2012, and I’m beyond thrilled that it’s finally here.

That being said, if you’ve never read Phonogram before, this is not the book to jump on with. Gillen has said the series is always been a mixture of self-indulgence and autobiographical, and that’s very much the case with the first issue of The Immaterial Girl. Gillen points out that this issue is probably the most read single issue of Phonograms to date, which is ironic to me, because I honestly think you need to read The Singles Club (volume 2) at the very least to get a basic idea what’s going on with this book.

759ad8c5-f0a0-4de9-812b-189563614783-bestSizeAvailableAs someone who’s read both volumes, I was very pleased with what I got, despite it feeling weird to be reading this book in a single issue format. The Immaterial Girl’s lead is Emily (or possibly Claire, it’s complicated to explain without getting into spoiler territory), who got obsessed with music videos at an early age, and struck some sort of deal with a magical deity. In case you’re not in the know, music is a type of literal magic in the world of Phonograms, and mucking with it tends to lead to bad times.

Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson skills have come a long way since the last installment of Phonograms, so this book looking as good as it does doesn’t come as surprise at all. While it’s been cool to see McKelvie delve into super heroes over the last few year, seeing him draw an urban fantasy book like this just feels right to me. Wilson has always killed on whatever he’s colored, but him working with Jamie usually results in the best things from the both of them. What I found interesting about this collaboration is that for the most part it’s actually pretty straight forward & traditional story telling, versus some of the more experimental stuff that we’ve seen from the pair on Young Avengers and The Wicked + The Divine. That is until we hit the final 2 pages of this book, where McKelvie completely changes his style to channel a iconic music video. It’s incredible, caught me completely off guard, despite it being something set up early in the book.

tumblr_nsxedorfil1qav783o1_1280As for the words, as I said earlier, this is Kieron Gillen at his most Grant Morrison. He assumes everyone is operating on the same level as he is, with little disregard for those who aren’t. I love it when creators expect readers to get on their level, as the comics that result from those expectations are generally excellent. In Gillen’s defense, he does include a glossary at the end of the issue to explain some locations and bands he name drops in this comic, BUT it doesnt cover everything and everyone. BUT if you’re caught up to Phonograms at this point, you should be able to enjoy this book well enough, even with it being VERY much part autobiography. Letterer Clayton Cowles is put to task this issue, but he absolutely delivers, and does some cool things with the narration boxes that falls together nicely towards the end of the book. Cowles, along with Kelly Fitzpatrick and Sarah Gordon contribute to some fun and brief B-stories at the end of the issue, which are cool little additions to this comic.

The first issue of The Immaterial Girl is a incredibly well crafted comics that’s for serious Gillen/McKelvie/Wilson/Cowles fans only. I adored it, but I imagine not everyone is going to spend some time of Spotify researching the bands name dropped in this game. But if you’ve read Rue Britannia and The Singles Club, get on it ASAP, unless you’re waiting for the trade or some junk.

 

 

 

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Chris’ Comics: Howard the Duck #5

4730614-howard2015005_dc11-page-001Howard the Duck #5

Chip Zdarsky, Joe Quinones, Joe and Paolo Rivera, Rico Renzi

Marvel $3.99

Oh Howard A Duck, you are a gift.

Chip Zdarsky, Joe Quinones and Rico Renzi’s first arc/volume (NEW HAT THOUGH!) wraps up with a massive super hero fight in Manhattan for the fate of the world, a concept Chip and Joe claim they were the first to come up with. In case you don’t know how #JOKES work, that is one and an example the A+ comedy one gets from a Chip Zdarsky penned comics.

tumblr_nt0y86mP6j1qeeerco2_1280There’s a lot to like in Howard the Duck #5. First and foremost is Joe Quinones drawing a massive amount of of Marvel’s NYC-based heroes, and them looking fantastic/amazing/marvelous/other puns. Quinones’ style is clean and detailed, and his takes on all these characters comes across as looking quite iconic. His commitment to to his craft results in some fine looking lay outs, mashing up some of Marvel most beloved, as well as some of their newer, heroes up against the ridiculous threats he and Chip Zdarsky have conceived. I like what Joe does with facial expressions, as several maskless character perfectly express the absurdity of the whole scenario, especially on the final page with has arguably the best drawing of the Human Torch and Spider-Man in some time. Assisting Quinones on art duties is the brilliant father and son inking team of Paolo & Joe Rivera, giving Quinones’ work the clean, thin lines it deserves. Rico Renzi’s colors pop off the page, completing the art package, and giving Howard a high quality look you wouldn’t expect coming from a comedic book.

Earlier this year writer Chip Zdarsky joked that he was cramming in a lot of content and guest appearances in Howard the Duck as he was expecting to be fire after every issue came out. Howard #5 won’t be Chip’s last ride with the character, but you’ll definitely get you 4 dollars worth from it. This issue wraps up the arch, reveals a supporting character’s secret, and makes several intriguing hints regarding the future of the this book. Oh and is absolutely hilarious as well. We get more “Inconsolable Spider-Man” jokes, editor notes for hilariously titled comics that never existed, several deep cut Marvel jokes and a subplot involving a rather obscure Marvel book that results in Howard freaking out. It’s not all jokes either, as Chip and Joe do some cool stuff with the Howard and Tracy relationship, injecting some heart warming material into the book. Again, a lot of stuff goes down in this book, but it never feels over crowded or bloated.

tumblr_nsznomBLdn1sajkn0o1_400Howard the Duck #5 is a great ending for a fantastic first arc. Howard is easily up there with Superior Foes of Spider-Man and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl in terms of being some of the best modern Marvel humor books, and the star power behind it should hopefully ensure that it sticks around for quite awhile. You can tell Zdarsky & Quinones definitely love or at least heavily appreciate the classic Steve Gerber era Howard, and embrace it while pushing the character forward. Howard the Duck is book I’ll continue to buy when it returns later this year, especially if the creative teams continues to put out this level of quality comic month after month.

 

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Chris’ Comics: The Wicked and the Divine #13

tumblr_noly220GkL1tuoa2wo1_500The Wicked + The Divine #13

Kieron Gillen, Tula Lotay, Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson

Image $3.50

Here Kieron Gillen returns to bad bad devil 666 man status.

Wick Div #13, drawn by the wonderful Tula Lotay, is a harsh reminder that this book is a tragedy. When the premise for this issue was first announced, I thought to myself “Oh cool, we’re going to have something fun and fanservice-ly, because the F%#$ing Tara running gag will get explained”. NOPE, turns out I was wrong about my initial theory and apparently forget that Gillen is capable of making me feel things that hurt so good.

WicDiv13_Preview_PagePeople who are triggered by harassment, bullying  and behavior related to those things should be warned going into this issue.  Tara, the never seen before goddess, is a beautiful woman who has been sexually harassed since the age of 11, and continues to catch guff from awful people even today. Seeing her face in person will make you adores her, but she’s feels it’s a bit of a cheat, and the love she gets isn’t truly deserved. She’s tired of skating by on looks alone, but any attempt to cover up her face only ends poorly for the character. Tara’s tale is a sad one, and  Gillen/McKelive/Wilson add insult to injury by ending this issue a pretty grim joke. Needless to say, I loved this issue, but it’s a bit of a bummer.

Lotay’s art is gorgeous, and is drawn in a style completely different than anything that comes before her on this book. She’s more traditional comics, channeling Michael Gaydos and Alex Maleev in her art, but also giving us a bright color palette which we’re used to from usual series colorist Matthew Wilson. The art feels dirtier and sketchier than what we’re used to, but it works for this issue, serving as a reflection of the brutality we witness in this issue.

WD13_guitarThere’s 2 things that Kieron Gillen does in this issue that I absolutely adore, despite it also being the worst. First and foremost is the narration style. The issue is narrated by Tara via a letter, and I thought it was a really cool way of telling a story. Kieron’s dialogue is very fresh and natural, and this narration technique made me really sympathetic towards the character. The other thing that I like that’s quite terrible is the use from Twitter harassment in this issue. As someone who witnessed Twitter being awful first hand when Gamergame went live (in before a parade of UM actually), the stuff Kieron writes in this issue is the worst, but rings true. And that stuff of authenticity does wonders for me, even though, again, it’s terrible.

The Wicked + The Divine highlights the tragedy of fame while deepening the mystery surrounding one of the character’s actions. It pulls no punches, and it’s a harsh reminder that fame doesn’t solve all problems. Kieron Gillen and Tula Lotay managed to tell a heart breaking tale for a character we just met, and made it hurt me like she was around the previous 12 issues. It’s a testament to both these creators talents, and it really made me thing on how to interact with people on the internet in the future.

 

 

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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: X-men ’92 #2

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BROTIP Forbidden Planet Faithful: Don’t get bedbugs. It is the worst thing. Also why yes, my apartment building does have them, however did you figure that out?

 

X-Men ’92 #2

Scott Koblish, Chris Sims, Chad Bowers

Marvel $4.99

It’s a good thing I’m not allowed to talk about books strictly with gifs and images (also known as the Tumblr method), otherwise my entire review for this comic would consist of the following image:

 

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(( BONUS BROTIP:  If you’ve never read  Chris Onstad’s Achewood, you probably should go do so now))

X-Men ’92 #2 is a delight. Collecting the 3rd and 4th digital installment of the X-Men 92 Infinity Comics, the X-men find themselves at the mercy of Cassandra Nova, who’s been revised for this tie-in with a completely new origin that involves several classic characters. With the team at her mercy. Nova sets out to make the X-men more “Kids TV friendly”, which means making Wolverine hug it out, cleaning up Gambit and Rogue’s sexual tension and dealing with the likes of Storm and Beast as well, all while Jubilee and a few un-X-pected allies try to save them all. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s all played straight, which only makes the book all the funnier. Cassanova Nova as a literal stand in for US BS & P (That’s TV talk for Broadcast Standards and Practices) is a wonderful gag that’s effortlessly woven into the plot, not requiring the reader to know what sort of ridiculous TV rules the actual X-men 1992 animated series had to adhere to.

8dcc696bce064f1ebf5705823c76ca99Artist Scott Koblish is continues to mesh quite well with writers Chad Bowers and Chris Sims, but you definitely get the sense Koblish is trying to out X-geek Chad and Chris at times. While Bowers and Sims make all sort of obscure X-Men reference, Scott’s channeling some iconic moments from X-history, as well as the people behind those books. That being said, it’s also the book’s biggest flaw. Sometimes the book is a little too inside baseball for it’s own good, and casual readers are properly going to be slightly lost at some of the references. BUT, if you’ve been reading the X-books from 1991-roughly 2012, you’re going to be fine. If you’re hoping that this is the issue that ties the story closer to Secret Wars, you’re out of luck, as it only mentions the Thors in passing, and nothing else related to the mega-event.

4704979-xm922015002_int2-3Even with the book deep in in jokes and nostalgia, casual X-fans will find something to enjoy with this issue. Sims and Bowers Wolverine feels like the more iconic version of the character, which makes his fate all the most amusing. Their Storm is over the top, Beasts is a fun genius, Rogue smoldering in generic southern angst, and like I said last time, their Gambit is PEAK scumbag. If whoever is responsible for “It not you it Gambit” doesn’t win some sort of aware in 2016, comics award ceremonies have failed me. Koblish is equally as impressive, telling a fantastic story while sneaking in all sorts of in-jokes and visuals gags.

 

This book is tie in comics at it’s finest: creators who are fans of their source material celebrating it’s rich history, even the more ridiculous stuff. X-Men ’92 continues to be everything I wanted from this sort of book, if not more.

 

 

 

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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: Uncanny X-men 35

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_3_35_TextlessUncanny X-men 35

Brian Michael Bendis, Valerio Schiti, Richard Isanove

Marvel $3.99

Okay real talk (about fictional characters) time: This is a dumb comic.

I realize that there has to be some suspension of belief when dealing with super hero books. It’s fantasy, so things that don’t work in the real world may fly in comics, and cool, I’m down with that. But man, that is not the case with this issue, where I had to turn my brain off to get past a huge plot point.

UNCX2013035_int2_00006Uncanny X-men 35 sees the kids of the former New Xavier Institute go out on their own and try the whole super hero team thing. As a result, the hilariously terrible named Goldballs goes viral and becomes a minor celebrity (because you know, super heroes are a rarity on Marvel Earth 616), until SPOILERS, it’s revealed that he’s a mutant and everyone fears and hates him again. Which I think we’ve seen before with Dazzler in the 80s, but whatever. It’s a fun little cautionary tale and that doesn’t bug me. What does is the whole “Wait he’s a mutant” reveal. I mean the dude runs around with a giant X-belt buckle and with 2 dudes who are rocking big X jackets. Not to mention paling the 3 girls who are clones of wanted terrorist Emma Frost in broad daylight. How did no one know he was an X-man of sorts prior to this reveal, especially when this was hanging out with the literal face of the mutant revolution for months? Did they miss the giant X-plane as well? This book also suffers a number of bad Brian Michael Bendis troupes, such as Avengers-level threats jobbing to Bendis’ new wunderkind, Middle age dad dialogue for teens, a cool cover that has nothing to do with the interior, and jokes that miss that mark by roughly a mile. I’ve generally been a fan of Bendis’ work on this book, but the script for this issue is sadly quite rough.

That being said, there’s a gag involving Emma Frost and her past that really works for me, and appreciate it when Bendis makes little nods to X-godfather Chris Claremont’s numerous contributions to this franchise. And the book starts off and ends well, but 80% of this book’s script and direction really doesn’t work for me.

Comics-072215-UncannyHOWEVER, this issue certainly looks great. Valerio Schiti comes over from Guardians of the Galaxy to fill in for cover artist Kris Anka, and he’s a perfect fit for this book. Valerio’s style is comparable to Anka, although there’s also some hints of Joe Quesada as well, resulting is some softer, yet clean looking takes on the casts. It’s impressive how well these characters look under Valerio, as I’m certain this is the first time he’s drawn them, not to mention he was probably under a deadline crunch as well. I particular;y dig the final few pages of this book, where Schiti draws a scene involving an angry mob quite well, perfectly portraying some real anger and violence and hitting all the proper emotional beats to make the scene really work. Schiti inks himself as well, leaving veteran colorist Richard Isanove to finish the art with a crisp and bright pallet. It’s a fantastic looking book that would have been a buy on sight if the script was a little tighter.

I hate to sound nit picky and aggressive towards this comic, but I’ve re-read it a number of times and remain disappointed with it. I think it’s more so due to the fact the Bendis has been really good on Uncanny X-men for quite a while, so a dud issue hurts more, especially if this is the penultimate issue in his run. It’s really a surprise that the book reads so poorly, as Bendis’ past X-done in one’s have been some of the best issues of this run. Luckily Scitit’s art cushions the blow, making for a great looking coming that just read poorly. This issue is far from a must read sadly, and while I feel bad trashing a creative team I like, it’s something I can’t recommend to anyone at $4.

 

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Chris’ Comics: Hawkeye #22

4677223-hawkeye2012022_dc11-0Hawkeye #22

Matt Fraction/David Aja/Matt Hollingsworth/Chris Eliopoulos

Marvel, $4.99

::: Inspiring quote and or song lyrics tangentially related to Hawkeye’s ending goes here :::

 

RIGHT?!?! HOW RELEVANT IS THAT?

After various delays, 2014’s hottest comic has finally made it into my hands, with the 2015 hot Marvel price of $4.99. To be fair, it’s double sized, AND ALSO FANTASTIC. It’s also (probably) the last time I’ll be spending $5 on a Marvel comic anytime soon I imagine, but that’s a different rant for a different day.

4633438-h2David Aja, Matt Fraction, Matt Hollingsworth and Chris Eliopoulos’ final issue of Hawkeye sees all the key players reunited in Bed Stuy for the last time. It’s the freshly united Hawkeyes, Clint’s neighbors, and Lucky the Pizza Dog vs the Tracksuit Draculas and the Clown for a brutal, but never too graphic, final throw down. This issue is gorgeous, as David Aja goes to town on the visuals, incorporating so many cool nods to past issues without it being too overboard with the references. We get Aja showing off his full range of talents, making this one of the most impressive issues in the series on a technical level. Re-reading these pages invokes memories of modern awesome ultra-violent action flicks like John Wick, Nightcrawler and Drive, all while maintaining the originality and style Aja is known for. I cringed a few times reading this due to the cast taking some nasty hits, but Aja’s excellent framing and some great use of colors from Hollingsworth never made things too graphic. Eliopoulos’ masterful position of work balloons and font choices really ties the whole package together, as it moves the narrative along without interrupting the art. Marvel deserves a lot of credit for letting this team tell it’s story relatively uninterrupted, despite massive shipping delays. I imagine the collected version of this book are going to look amazing over the coming months.

4633437-h1Hawkeye #22 gives us a relatively quiet Matt Fraction. Oh sure, it’s difficult to tell who contributed what with this issue given both Fraction and Aja being listed as Storytellers instead of writer/artist. But it feels Fraction held back on some dialogue to let Aja go nuts on the action. Which is great, because at this point, exposition and banter would only take away from the experience. Hawkeye was always a low stakes book compared to the rest of the Marvel offerings, but thanks to the talent involved in this book, it feel like the most important thing. Fraction still manages to sneak if a few running gags/reoccurring narrative tricks into this script, but this ultimately feels more like David Aja’s show than Fractions. And another upside to this is that when someone speaks, it feels important. Clint drops 2 Die Hard-esque zingers that work way better thanks to Fraction dialogue restrictions, making less ultimately more.

Hawkeye #22 ends arguably one of the most important runs in comics in some time. This book redefined Marvel (see Marvel Now and it’s various incarnations), gave Matt Fraction’s career a well-deserved shot in the arm, and reminded everyone just how good of an artist David Aja is. It in brought people who usually didn’t read Marvel to the company, and gave people interested in comics thansk to the 2012 Avengers film the perfect entry way. It’s a damn fine comic, arguably my favorite, and I hate to see it over. But I’m glad to have an ending on a high note, and am eager for more content from Fraction and Aja and friends in the future.

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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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