Tagged: Brenden Fletcher

Chris’ Comics: Gotham Academy #

GOTHAC_Cv11_559c14eab7e5c4.74432291Gotham Academy #11

Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, Msassyk, Minhjue Helen Chen, Serge Lapointe

DC $2.99

As much as I loved Gotham Academy pre-Convergence break, I haven’t been as keen on the book since its return, the Damian Wayne issue aside. I think the problem was that the last few issues felt too busy for their own good, crammed with way too much content with little room to breathe. Issue #11 finally puts that to an end, as the gang heads into Gotham City proper to do some research on Olivia’s deceased super villain mom, or in Kyle’s case, play tennis. And much liked the previously mentioned last issue I really dug, a Robin shows up for a cameo! This time it’s Tim Drake, aka Red Robin, aka the best Robin, who never takes up too much space, and plays off of the cast incredibly well.

The creative team doesn’t cut back on the amount of exposition or action that we’ve seen in the previous issues, but the issue seems to flow much better than the previous ones Maybe I’m biased and think it has to do with the increase of jokes/focus on Maps? While it 4866252-gothac_11_1certainly could be a factor, it’s not the only reason why I’m big on this issue. This issue seems less removed from the proper Bat Universe (there’s Red Robin, a flashback involving the Dick Grayson Robin and Batman that ties into Olivia’s mom heavily, as well as a shout out to We Are Robin), and the inclusion of all of that works in the book’s favor. I also love how we’re getting more of proactive Olivia, who determined to get some answers and work with a team than the reluctant sack of angst we’ve been getting as of late.

This issue sees 3 artists working on the book:  Karl Kerschl, regular fill in artist Mingjue Helen Chen, and colorist Msassyk stepping up to lend Kerschl a hand. I really like Msassyk’s line work, as it’s very much in line with Kerschl’s style, to the point where I was assuming it was mostly Kerschl drawing this issue until I re-read the credits. The coloring is a little uneven sadly, but it’s still good enough that it doesn’t take away too much from the art, especially in the earlier portions of the book, the flashback scene, and the book’s climax. A lesser book would have suffered from having too many in the kitchen, but these 4 creators really do a excellent job of giving this comic a nice, cohesive look.

GA03Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher‘s dialogue is excellent in this issue. The duo do an excellent job of sprinkling some quality humor throughout the issue, which contrasts nicely with the all the action and sleuthing that goes down. Also, I could read Maps interacting with a member of the Bat Family forever, because it is delightful.

 Gotham Academy #11 is a well crafted comic that’s nice mix of everything really. It’s a book that well aware of the current on-goings of they’re darker sibling books, but thanks to a filter that heavily influenced by Batman The Animated Series, it also posses’ a sense of charm the other books don’t have. I’m back on board with this book 100%, and I’m excited to see  how the mysterious surrounding this issue will be resolved when this arc is over.

 

 

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

WHAT DID I SAY?!?!

STK674294Saga #29

Fiona Staples/Brian K Vaughan

Image $2.99

IMG_5092

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DONE!

BRIAN K VAUGHAN IS A BAD BAD MAN. WORSE THEN KIERON GILLEN, WHO I GUESS IS A LESSER DEVIL NOW? I DON’T KNOW HOW DEVILS WORK AFTER A CERTAIN POINT.

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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Troy’s Toys, but with comics: Platinum Blondes edition

backgroundSpider-Gwen #3

Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriquez, Rico Renzi

Marvel $3.99

Spider-Gwen #3 lacks scumbag Matt Murdock for SOME reason, but writer Jason Latour slips in a Wu-Tang Clan reference, so I guess i can let it slide.

This issue is heavy on fights, which is great, because it allows Robbi Rodriquez to go all out on the layouts. Rodriquez uses a lot of unique “camera angles” and hyper exaggerated body language to sell the fight scenes, lead to some over the top and more importantly visually stunning panels. Rico Renzi’s green heavy color palette is very crucial to this, making this book pop, drawing the reader in more than a lesser colorist would. There’s also some very fun and creative uses of sound effects in this comic, reminding me more of Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim film adaption than the tradition comics sound effects. The end product is a comic that feels very loose, bright and chaotic, but so visually appealing you can’t help but love it.

Jason Latour’s scripts are getting tighter and tighter with every issue. He ramps up the traditional Spider-related drama and action with this issue, but he continues to add new elements to story to make things interesting. An important character to the Spider-mythos makes his debut this issue, and while it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before, the execution makes it seem fresher than it actually is. I know that seems like a backhanded compliment, but it’s pretty impressive given how long the Spider-Man concept has existed.

Spider-Gwen continues to be a delight month after month. It gives off an fresh indie vibe unlock any other Marvel book, despite being tied to such an iconic comics character. Latour, Rodriquez and Renzi are so in sync with each other for a relatively new creative team, it’s scary to think how much better this team will get with every issue.

GA02Gotham Academy Endgame

Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Jeff Stokely, Jenny Donovan, Cilo Chiang, Joy Ang, Vera Brosgol, Sonia Oback

DC $2.99

Once again I have bought another Endgame tie-in, despite not having bought a single issue of Batman proper in years (#tradewait). Also once again, I am charmed by a Endgame tie in.

While crazies and shipping delays overrun Gotham, Maps, Olivia and Pomeline are having a sleepover of sorts, swapping SPOOKY stories that are Joker-related. It’s a lot like that episode of Batman: The Animated Series where kids sit around swapping Batman stories, and I can’t help to think that this issue may be a homage to it. It’s also a surprisingly gruesome issue in some parts, which I guess makes sense given its semi Joker related.

Sadly, Karl Kerschl couldn’t draw this issue, so he’s replaced with 4 different artists. While I’m crazy over the art that sets up each story, Jenny Donovan, Cilo Chiang, Joy Ang, Vera Brosgol, and Sonia Oback all come through on their shorter stories. The end product is a bit uneven, but good none the less. It’s also nice to see DC let new talent work on one of their more highly acclaimed titles.

On the script/dialogue side of things, there’s a lot of good stuff from regular writers Brenden Fletcher and Becky Cloonan. Using the campfire spookum stories as a framing device, the duo cleverly incorporate horror movie clichés and folklore into their Jokers tales, making for some fascinating results. Sadly thanks to to the slightly amateurish and rough at times art by Jeff Stokley, the book suffers in places.

Gotham Academy Endgame is a nice showcase for new talent, but it’s strictly for GA fans only. It’s not exactly a good introduction to anyone coming by from Batman proper, but regular Gotham Academy readers should get a kick out of it.

 

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Troy’s Toys but with Comics: Wicked Academy

WickedDivine_09The Wicked & The Divine #9

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson

Image $3.50

KIERON GILLEN IS A JERK!

He’s not really. I’ve met him several time, if anything he’s the complete opposite. But man, this issue of The Wicked and the Divine ends on a bummer of a cliffhanger.

Gillen’s pacing has been incredible throughout the series. The previous issue of #WicDiv ended on saucy note, and this issue lead up to believe sexy times were instore for everyone. That couldn’t be any farther than the truth, as we’re instead treated to a few reveals, some heartbreak, and some choice dialogue by KG once again.

Surprising no one, Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson are still in top form with the art for this book.  McKelvie reminds us just how good he is by giving a trio of familiar supporting characters a new look, and it’s gorgeous. McKelvie excels at designing and redesigning character, so I shouldn’t be surprised the end results are as good as they are, but I’m impressed time after time.  Wilson remains equally important, as his choice in colors for these character really give them a visual style that helps win the reader over.

Wicked and Divine volume 2 continues to be a consistent and stellar read. The WicDiv fandom has come to expect certain things from a Gillen/McKelvie/Wilson project, and they deliver in usual  fashion again with this is, despite its being quite brutal at times.

 

 

 

STK666956Gotham Academy #6

Brenden Fletcher/Becky Cloonan/Karl Kerschl/Mingue Helen Chen/Msassyk/Serge Lapointe

DC $2.99

Guys, I’m not sure if I get this message across in my reviews, but this is the BEST time to be reading comics.

Gotham Academy wraps up its first arc, and it’s delightful. It’s funny that arguably the most light hearted of the Bat-titles, this is the book that has Batman come off as a villian. Obviously he and Croc has a history that says otherwise, but a teenager with mom issues may see the Bat in a different light. Batman’s extended appearance doesn’t detract from the feel and tone of the book though, as it shakes things up a bit and takes the book in some interesting directions. The most  shocking being the tease of the addition of a established Bat-character who’s presence is welcomed and makes a ton of sense.

Karl Keschl gets some help on the art end of things from Mingue Helen Chen and style wise it couldn’t be better. While it’s not as bright & colorful as Keschl’s art, it’s definitely beautiful in its own way, channels the same animation vibe, and fits the narrative quite well. Becky Cloonan and Brendan Fletcher are in top form, writing very believable kids & a very rich and interesting world. In the span of 6 issues, these  5 kids have been given an impressive amount of depth in such a short period of time, and it kills me I’m going to have to wait until June before we re-visit this world again.

Gotham Academy #6 is another great installment of the best Batman book no one’s reading. Hopefully the new addition to the cast will get the book some new readers, because I would hate to see it end after the next arc.

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Troy’s Toys But With Comics: #BatgirlofBurnside Edition

So in case haven’t sold a large  small portion of your humanity to the internet like I have, you may have missed this week’s Batgirl controversy. The Outhouse has a good summary of the insanity if you care to catch up on it, and I agree with DC‘s  decision to recall the cover. Sadly, there’s a loud internet minority that doesn’t agree with me, but I really don’t give a toss about their whacks opinions.

As fate would have it (“or maybe it’s a CONSPIRACY?!” says that one guy on Facebook no one really likes), not only did this month’s issue of Batgirl drop this week, but the Batgirl: Endgame tie-in issue dropped as well. Since Barbara is once again in the spotlight, I’d figured I’d cover both issues in the column, because it makes or better narrative or something.

batgirlendgame1BG40cover-copy_5488f03771edf2.26063680Batgirl: Endgame #1

Cameron Stewart/Brenden Fletcher/Bengal

Batgirl #40

Cameron Stewart/Brenden Fletcher/Babs Tarr/Maris Wicks 

DC $2.99

Batgirl Endgame wasn’t what I expecting, but delightful none the less. Taking place before the events of Batman #40, but after Batgirl #40, the one shot sees Babs helping out with some evacuating while dealing with the ( HERE LIES SPOILERS) The Joker plague that infected Gotham.

The comic is impressive on 2 major levels. It’s a silent issue of sorts, which ever since G.I. Joe #21, is nothing new, but still an hard feet to pull off. What separate this silent issue from past ones is the clear use of Emojis, thus making it the MOST 2015 of comics. The other things that wow me was the art of Bengal, who has the not easy task of being the first artist to draw something related the series since Babs Tarr. This France-based artist delivers some gorgeous and really expressive art, and successfully manages to tell a emotional story without the use of any dialogue.

The story, by series regulars Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart, itself is fairly straight forward, and a tad on the fluff side, but let’s be real, there’s only so much you can do with a editorial mandated tie in. Upside, it’s a simple one-shot (unlike the Death of the Story arc from a few years back), the gets to see Batgirl be a creative and triumphant hero, which is nice when dealing with Joker related stuff. It’s a solid alternative to the pretty grim stuff that’s been going with Batman proper, and shows that Barbara can be triumphant and stay true to her character even in the darkest of situations.

With Batgirl #40 we have a story in a very modern setting with a some retro plot elements. The previous issue gave us the reveal of the first arc’s big bad, and we get it’s origin with this issue. It’s a bit disappointing in my opinion, as SPOILERS a rogue AI based on Batgirl’s brain patterns is something  straight out of Wargames. I do appreciate it being  an analogy for the Batgirl’s ongoing struggle with her identity, but I thought it was a little ham fisted. That being said, I REALLY dug the last few pages of the issue, and I’m hyped to see what June will bring for this title and the upcoming Black Canary title.

 

Even though I wasn’t exactly the biggest fan of the book’s plot, Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr and Marius Wicks’ visuals are still gorgeous. Tarr’s facial expressions, beautiful character designs & outfits and brutal yet clean fights scenes combined with Wicks’ crisp colors palette are still the main reason to buy this book. And while Stewart and Brenden Fletcher’s script wasn’t as strong as i’ts been in the past, they do drop some interesting hints about the possible future of some of the cast members.

 

Batgirl #40 is a bit uneven, and Batgirl Endgame is a bit of light read, but I wouldn’t call either comics bad. They’re fun books, with visuals that aren’t afraid to try new things. They both feel fresh, which is appreciated and welcomed, as I rather see comic try and fail then stick to  a proven but tired formula. Batgirl is a book that embraces the changing comic book medium, and that makes it a must read.

 

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Toys Toys But With Comics: Teen Hi-jinks Edition.

Hey look at that, some reviews, but on time! We live such a brave new world!  Also this is totally not me trying to get as much writing done before the Super Bowl as possible, no no no.

 

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_3_30_TextlessUncanny X-men #30

Brian Michael Bendis/Chris Bachalo/An army of inkers

Marvel $3.99

 So here’s the thing. I know it’s in fashion to be a pretty pretty internet hate machine and smack talking big 2 comics to show your indie cred is a trend. But even with that being the case, I’ve tried avoiding going that route, and praise Cape Comics  when they do things right.

But man, it’s hard to stay positive when a comic is all kinds of bad, especially when a comics is disappointing enough to make me consider dropping the series.

I applaud  Brian Michael Bendis for taking some risks with Uncanny X-men with this current arc, despite it being drawn out like no one’s business. Last month’s cliffhangers were crazy, and there’s some follow up to it this time that would be really neat if they actually stuck. But between upcoming solicits, Bendis himself putting future covers online, and the decompression mentioned earlier, a lot of the impact of these events is lost. Also quick side note: this book was solicited as a book that deals with the repercussions of AXIS. This arc began during Original Sin, and is still going on. There’s zero crossover with AXIS (or OS come to think of it), and feels more like an issue of Doctor Who with all the timey whimey nonsense. I know Chris Claremont was a master of the long game and was also guilty of time travel shenanigans, but he did it early enough in the X-men history where it was still fresh. It feels cliche and tired here, nearly 30 years later.

 

This mostly talking heads issues wastes Chris Bachalo’s talents. Bachalo is a skilled and kinetic artist that gets to stretch his muscles a bit with some brief action scenes but it’s the kind of dialogue heavy issue that’s better served by a Kris Anka (who did a dope job on the cover). That being said, the book still looks good, but not good enough for me to recommend on visauls alone, especially with the inking and the coloring being all over the place.

Ultimately this book is the worst type of bad by just being boring. Bendis’ mutli-MccGuffin balancing act isn’t working out for my tastes, and if this ship doesn’t steer itself right with the next issue, I’m afraid my time with Uncanny X-men is done for the foreseeable future.

 

GalleryComics_1920x1080_20150121_GOTHAC_Cv4_5490db710bf4f8.47907702Gotham Academy #4

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

 DC $2.99

Man that last review was kinda rough. Let’s focus on a good comic now, yes?

Gotham Academy #4 is a hoot. A hoot that involves one of the leads painting D&D monsters in art class, which I adore, and  I don’t even play Dungeons and or Dragons.

What I like about this book is aside from looking AMAZING month after month, is that is operates far enough outside of the DCU where it’s not affect by whatever crossover or event is going on that month, but is close enough to remind you that it’s still a Batman-related book. This month does that by giving 2 REALLY cool shout outs to the classic Batman: The Animated Series, as well as the monthly Bruce Wayne cameo.

Fun easter eggs aside, the book also effortless blends TEEN romance, school, and spooky mysteries, which are my favorite type of mysteries. It’s reminds me a lot of what Marvel was going for in the mid 2000s with The Runaways, which is a good look.  Combined with the gorgeous visuals, it reminds me more of a Japanese Role playing game than a Batman comic. It may not be for everyone, but it’s nice to see DC make an attempt to go after the same market who would also be reading something like Ms Marvel (aka people with great tastes).

 

Gotham Academy is a fantastic read month after month, and it really deserves more of an audience. Word on the street (Twitter street that is) is that sales for this book aren’t so hot, which is a shame because it’s a great little book that’s truly all ages. If you want something that’s fun and a visual delight, I can’t recommend this book enough.

 

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Troy’s Troys But With Comics: Everything is OKAY edition

PREVIOUSLY ON TTBwC: You may remember some of my recent reviews for DC’s Grayson and Batgirl have been either slightly negative, or concern about some of the content. This month, said books are released on the same week, and man I am no longer concerned about either title’s quality.

GRAY_Cv6_543db3662f95c5.33622396Grayson #6

Tim Seeley/Tom King/Mikel Janin/Jeromy Cox

DC $2.99

After 6 issues, 1 Annual and one Editorial Mandatory Tie in Issue, Grayson gets an issues that isn’t a done in one. And man, the cliffhanger is everything I love about this book.

Grayson #6 is a return to form for the creative team, as Dick and the Midnighter final get to throwing down mano y spanish word for hand. Well technically this is like the 3rd time they’ve fought in this series, but this one takes up the bulk of the issue for a change. We also get some new insight on the SPYRAL organization and the people who run it, and the reveal of a new big bad, as well as some jokes. Great jokes at that, including at least 2 laugh out loud bits of dialogue.

There are a few deep cuts to both Pre and New 52 comics continuity in this issue, as Tom King and Tim Seeley really come through with this issue. It’s a smart fight book, that perfectly blends weird sciences with a great fight scene, complete with some superb dialogue. And artists Mikel Janin and Jeromy Cox continue to amaze, which some really kinetic line work and some outstanding coloring. This book looks as good as it reads, if not better, especially with some of color choice’s Cox uses to really make the fight scenes pop. Especially with the throwdown’s location, the almost psychedelic color pallet has this book almost out Jim Sterankos your average issue of Secret Avengers.

Grayson #6 comes damn close to being a perfect comic. The creative team starts 2015 off on the right foot, and I’m eager to see what a full year of Grayson will bring us.

tumblr_ne60quQzFV1qfd9cso1_1280Batgirl #38

Cameron Stewart/Brenden Fletcher/Babs Tarr/Maris Wicks

DC $2.99

Speaking of A+ plus coloring, Maris Wicks does some really neat stuff with this month’s issue of Batgirl. Wicks has been doing some dynamite work since this creative team took over the title, but the color in this issue really stands out. There’s several scenes, ranging from a confrontation in a alley way to a high speed motorcycle race that really pop thanks to Wicks’ skills.

Great coloring aside, Batgirl #38 finally raises the stakes with the plot, and moves the story in an interesting direction. Batgirl’s new boyfriend doesn’t approve of the vigilante in town, Black Canary doesn’t approve of her heavy social media presence or her behavior, and there’s still a large helping of jerk-ass white boys making Burnside not so great at times. Granted some of these elements may not seem like the boldest and most original, they’re blended together well enough to seem fresh and entertaining, especially given how well Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher write dialogue. Batgirl is very much a book that reads like it takes place in 2015.

Babs Tarr (with Cameron Stewart on breakdowns) is a beast with this issue. She crams pages with a numerous amount of panels (her average is about 7 in this book, where your usual comics is 5-6 at most), which a frightening amount of detail and expression. It’s impressive to see her talents grow with every issue, especially when she’s this new to the medium.

Batgirl #38 is another delightful issue from the creative team, with a cool mystery, fantastic character interaction and slicks visuals. It’s exactly what this book needed after some of the more controversial material from the previous issue.

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What I dug in 2014: DC Comics edition

It’s the end of 2014, which means it’s time for everyone to drop “Best Of” lists. Truth be told, there’s been a ton of acclaimed comics I didn’t read this year, so me complying one is kind of whack. HOWEVER, I’ve read a bunch of good comics this year, so I’m going to make 3 articles dedicated to some of my favorites from the past year. A solid cop-out if you ask me, #biased.

2012/2013 saw me drop a number of DC Comics titles, mostly due to the lack of interest in the direction DC editorial was heading. 2014 changed that, as  editor Mark Doyle came aboard the Bat-line and shook things up a lot, assigning some top notch creators to old and new titles. It’s resulted in me getting interested back in Dc’s catalog for the first time in a while, with the exception of one book I never really stopped reading.

Batman_Vol_2_31_Textless-1That exception is Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo‘s amazing run on Batman. This book has been constantly excellent since the beginning of the new 52, and this year saw the conclusion to the incredible Year Zero story line, as well as the fantastic Endgame arc. Snyder’s Batman has been a more human take of the character, way different from the Bat-god we’ve seen from Grant Morrison‘s run, and has been the most relatable take on the character in some time. Greg Capullo, inked masterfully by Danny Miki with amazing colors by FCO Plascencia, is doing some next level stuff with this book. His villains are grotesque, his Batman is a mix of iconic and pulp hero, and his Gotham varies from modern metropolis to nightmare-fuel garbagetown depending on the scene.

4008079-grayson01But Snyder and Capullo kicking ass isn’t anything new. What is new is Grayson, the spy thriller that saw Nightwing go from vigilante to spy who refuses to kill. Which is problematic given his new profession. Written by Tim Seeley and former actual spy Tom King, with  Mikel Janin and Jeromy Cox, it’s been the most compelling Dick Grayson has been since he was Batman, and is a fun book that incorporates espionage with some weirder elements of the Batverse. While the book suffers the occasional misstep, it’s also incredibly smart and sexy when the book (in a non-insulting/offensive way) delivers. The Future’s End tie-in was easily one of the best editorial mandated tie-in book to an event I don’t read this past year, and would be the best single issue for the series if we didn’t have a surprisingly sweet issue involving a Manty Raid.

STK652755586cfd30a87203654de3e206e1093d7dI also can’t overlook the trio of female lead books set in the Batverse. Gotham Academy, but Brendan Fletcher, Becky Cloonan, Karl Kerschl and and a trio of amazing colorists ( Geyser, Dave McCaig and John Rauch) is Batman meets Harry Potter, and is a slick looking book I didn’t know I wanted, but now am incredibly happy we have. It reminds me of Jason Aaron‘s insanely charming run of Wolverine and the X-men, only with less mutants and more #Teens. Harley Quinn, by Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Chad Hardin and Alex Sinclair, has became a massive hit for DC Comics, and while the book is pretty hit or miss to me, it’s hard to overlook it’s importance. It’s the closest DC has an book that truley appeals to the Deadpool audience, and when the book is good, it’s good. And finally there’s Batgirl, DC’s arguably most hyped book of the year. The book, seeing Fletcher joined by Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr and Maris Wick, set the internet aflame when it was announced, and has delivered ever since they creative team’s debut in October. It’s a much needed book that does some interesting things with Barbara Gordon, and much like Gotham Academy, it’s gorgeous and incredibly fun.

 

So yes, while DC has put out some incredibly bad books this past year (Forever Evil and the current run of Wonder Woman spring to mind), it seems they’ve finally found some books that match some of the gems Marvel has been offering as of late. I’m hoping this trend continues well into 2015.

 

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