Sunday, March 18, 2012

Comics Round-Up (Mar.14) the Third


Now that I’ve caught up with DC’s New 52, a few of them will start popping up in these post-release round-ups again. I should, therefore, be able to start offering more diverse and less DC-heavy round-ups and reviews in the future. That being said, they still release a lot of great titles and some of my favourites. And this week’s releases – DC and otherwise – were pretty awesome on the whole. A very happy reader, here.


Reviewed Herein: Batgirl #7, Batman & Robin #7, Batwoman #7, Demon Knights #7, Grifter #7, The Ray #4, Resurrection Man #7, Saga #1, Saucer Country #1, Star Wars: Agent of the Empire #4, Suicide Squad #7, Thief of Thieves #2

[Demon Knights & The Ray were last-minute additions to the round-up.]

Batgirl #7 (DC)

DCNew52-Batgirl-07-ArtWriter: Gail Simone | Artist: Alitha Martinez & Ardian Syaf | Colours: Vicente Cifuentes

One dark, tragic night, The Joker shattered the life of Barbara Gordon in the landmark story BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE. In this issue, see a side of that story that has never before been told, as Batgirl faces the demons of her past. And if that’s not enough, a deadly new gentleman killer, Grotesque, stalks the streets of Gotham City!

This issue starts off with Batgirl in a bit of a bind underground in the sewers, battling against a more-powerful-than-expected villain. Then we rewind to earlier in the night, when Batgirl wakes Black Canary and they spar and talk. It’s clear Barbara’s not yet herself, but Dinah won’t take any self-pity from her and tries to slap it out of Batgirl (literally). The tactic sort-of works – which could be a good thing, as Barbara starts to get over her issues (she’s basically suffering from PTSD and survivor’s guilt).

We’re then led through Batgirl’s mission, and catch up with the ‘present’, and she makes a stunning, painful discovery after facing off against Grotesque, the masked metahuman who was beating her in the introduction. He could be an interesting antagonist – like many Bat-world villains, he’s clearly insane, but what sets him apart is his taste for the finest things in life. I wonder if we’re going to see some story arcs focussing on the wealthier areas of Gotham? (As opposed to the grimier, down-trodden districts.)

The issue is designed with great, vibrant and bold-coloured artwork to complement Simone’s excellent-as-always writing and story. Batgirl continues to be a strong series, and one of my favourites from the New 52.


Batman & Robin #7 (DC)

DCNew52-Batman&Robin-07-ArtWriter: Peter J. Tomasi | Artist: Patrick Gleason | Colours: Michael Gray

Batman finally discovers NoBody’s lair and must confront Robin and NoBody in an explosive, brutal battle that will shake them all to their very core!

This issue was really, superbly dark – NoBody is, after all, slowly beating and torturing a ten-year-old (Damian/Robin) to death. And he’s enjoying it. This causes the most intense, claustrophobic, brutal and extended one-on-one combat I think I’ve ever seen in a Batman comic – both Batman and NoBody leave nothing in the locker room, and it’s ferocious. The two combatants get their shared issues, anger, frustration and hatred out in the open, and do a little opponent-psycho-analysis, and just keep pummelling each other. And then the end of the issue... Wow: Stunning. Emotional. Dark. Possibly game-changing.

The issue has three absolutely amazing full-page graphics (page six is one of the best pages in any comic; the other two are the final two pages). Overall, this is an incredible issue, one of the best so far of any New 52 series. Outstanding. No idea how they’re going to be able to top this. But I really hope they do, and confident that they will.

I must admit to eating humble pie about this series – as I mentioned in my review of the first three issues, I had originally intended to not bother with this series; for some reason, I got the impression that it would be for younger readers – boy was I wrong about that! One of the biggest, best surprises from the New 52.


Batwoman #7 (DC)

DCNew52-Batwoman-07-ArtWriter: J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman | Artist: Amy Reeder Hadley | Colours: Rob Hunter

Six lives on converging courses that will change them forever... Batwoman, in a hidden lair beneath Gotham Harbor, faces a horde of monsters inspired by urban legends led by Falchion, an evil mastermind. Jacob Kane waits in agony for some sign of life. Kate Kane tries to enjoy new romance as the werebeast Abbot begs for her help. Maro, an enigmatic wizard, evokes an evil that all children fear: their own reflections in a darkened mirror. Detective Maggie Sawyer is caught in a turf war between The Werebeast Cult and The Medusa Syndicate. DEO Agent Cameron Chase struggles with a new operative who refuses to be controlled. It’s all coming in “To Drown the World,” part 2.

There are some pretty weird and wonderful horror elements in this issue. I like that Batwoman seems to be aiming for a more supernatural darkness to complement the psychological darkness of the Batman franchises, making this series quite distinctive.

New artist, Amy Reeder (issue six was her first), and she delivers another great issue, and seems to be getting more comfortable with the material – the artwork is overall better, starting from an already strong position. The writing is also pretty good. It feels like the calm before an upcoming storm. No bad thing, but it didn’t feel like there was quite as much story in this as some previous issues. Still love it, and certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a Bat-family title with a little difference.


Demon Knights #7 (DC)

DCNew52-DemonKnights-07-ArtWriter: Paul Cornell | Artist: Diogenes Neves & Robson Rocha | Colours: Oclair Albert & Julio Ferreira

This is it! The walls have fallen, the battle is joined, and the only possible outcome is death… but the Demon Knights keep fighting! History has a grand destiny in store for this alliance of unlikely outcasts – should they survive this issue, that is! After all, beyond the mountains, on the road to Alba Sarum, greater evils than the Horde are lurking...

The first of two Paul Cornell-penned comics this week, I believe this one rounds off what will be Demon Knights Volume 1: Seven Against the Dark (published in July 2012).

This is a great, action-packed and ferocious issue, as the Queen’s full assault is launched against the town. I was a little disappointed with the previous issue, but this re-kindled my faith in Cornell’s writing. I don’t think I’ve ever read such a blood-soaked issue... It was quite awesome. A depressing ending, though, with the most pyrrhic of victories. There are some interesting developments among the Knights, as well as the horde, and a rather important, game-changing betrayal…

There’s very good art throughout, which really brings the combat and bloodshed to life on the page (a lot of blood and flames, so the artistic team draw from a rather red-orange-yellow-heavy palette...). Cornell’s a great writer, and with this last issue of Volume One, I’m going to turn my attention to Saucer Country (below) and volume one of his run on Stormwatch (in a separate review, to come in a week or so). Very enjoyable, and highly recommended.


Grifter #7 (DC)

DCNew52-Grifter-07-ArtWriter: Nathan Edmondson | Artist: Scott Clark | Colours: David M. Beaty

A voice is calling from the Himalayas; a dark secret awaits Grifter. He tracks it down, only to discover that the secret has a protector: Midnighter, who must not allow Grifter to leave the mountains alive. A massive battle on treacherous ice slopes shows Grifter that he’s in a world of heroes he cannot defeat and opens him up to new world-changing secrets as deadly as they are powerful.

Ho-hum. Ok, this issue does something that frustrates me about DC Comics (and Marvel, while I’m at it): it crosses over with a number of other series, and just assumes you know what’s going on. Usually, that’s not too much of a problem. Except, rather than be part of the overall Grifter story arc, if feels like a handy bridge for Stormwatch (which I still need to read) and the new Superman arc that’s going to start in issue seven (available March 29th). There’s one thing that will no doubt prove important in the future of Grifter, but other than that, it felt like filler and, despite being fun, left a slightly bitter taste. I felt like this issue was used by the other two, and not in a nice way.

A disappointing move by DC, but one that is nevertheless well-written and visually very nice.


The Ray #4 (DC)

DC-TheRay-04Writer: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti | Artist: Jamal Igle | Colours: Richard Perotta

The final conflict between The Ray and the evil maestro who has been behind all his woes comes to a conclusion. Lucien will need to take his powers to an all-new level to defeat the evil Director and his reality warping abilities.

Hm. That was a bit of a flat ending. I’d originally considered not bothering with this last issue, but I thought that would just be silly, so I picked it up, and... Was thoroughly underwhelmed. After such a fun, strong first issue, I had high hopes for this mini-series, but it just didn’t live up to expectations.

It’s visually very nice and strong, but the story was flat, with a rather cop-out, sudden, and deux ex machina ending. I think we can expect to see more of the Ray in another series in the future, though.



Resurrection Man #7 (DC)

DCNew52-ResurrectionMan-07Writer: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning | Artist: Fernando Dagnino Guerra

The Resurrection Man is on the run! Mitch Shelley was able to escape Arkham, but now Gotham City’s S.W.A.T. team is on his tail. And that’s not the only thing chasing after him…

Another interesting and strong issue, as Mitch starts to wonder and connect-the-dots about how his powers work, whether or not the flashback-dream he had in Arkham (in issue six) was actually a memory and that he really did used to be a grade-A asshole before this resurrection cycle began. He starts to wonder if his newfound immortality is actually atonement, rather than the result of some superhero-amnesia.

This series is really picking up. I love the artwork, love the character. All together, a great series, boasting a very talented creative team.


Saga #1 (Image)

Image-Saga-01Writer: Brian K. Vaughan | Artist: Fiona Staples

New parents Marko and Alana risk everything to raise their child amidst a never-ending galactic war.

This comic has been described as “Star Wars-style action collides with Game of Thrones-esque drama in this original sci-fi/fantasy epic for mature readers”. A bit of a mouthful, but nevertheless an intriguing proposition. I’ve only read one of Vaughan’s comics (Y The Last Man issue one), but on the strength of that have bought the first deluxe volume of the same series and Ex Machina. And, now, Saga #1.

This is so weird! But I loved it. The relationship between the two main characters feels natural and believable, the banter’s funny and realistic, and the story’s very imaginative. The narration’s good, too. Quite moving at times, but also interesting and well-written enough that we don’t think we’re being lectured or reading a history. Rather, we’re reading someone’s very personal memories. The artwork’s interesting and different – rougher lines, at times detailed at others not so much, muddy colouring.

This has a lot of potential, and I love Vaughan’s writing. It’s quite a fascinating series.


Saucer Country #1 (Vertigo)

DCVertigo-SaucerCountry-01-ArtWriter: Paul Cornell | Artist: Ryan Kelly

Arcadia Alvarado, the leading Democratic candidate for President of the United States, says she was “abducted by aliens.” As the Mexican-American Governor of New Mexico, she’s dealing with immigration, budget cuts and an alcoholic ex. She’s about to toss her hat into the ring as a candidate for President in the most volatile political climate ever. But then… a lonely road and a nightmarish encounter have left her with terrible, half-glimpsed memories. And now she has to become President. To expose the truth – and maybe, to save the world.

A very intriguing new series. Tapping nicely into the election season, but also potentially a nice spin on “illegal aliens”. This first issue sees Arcadia getting to grips with both the decision to run for President, and also the weird dreams and flashbacks she’s experiencing. What do they mean? What is real, and what is false memory to cover up something worse?

With the help of her eclectic staff, Governor Alvarado will pursue both the presidency and also the truth about her abduction. This series promises to be quite a dark thriller that blends some of the best bits from UFO lore and alien abduction with today’s charged politics. There’s also another story-arc, focussing on a recently-disgraced Harvard professor, which I have no doubt will crash into Arcadia’s political and personal life at some point soon.

Saucer Country is very well-written and -observed, and well-drawn and –coloured. This is a very promising start. I am eagerly looking forward to issue two (and beyond…).


Star Wars: Agent of the Empire #4 (Dark Horse)

DH-SW-AgentOfEmpire-04Writer: John Ostrander | Artist: Stéphane Créty | Colours: Julien Hugonnard-Bert & Wes Dzioba

So far tonight, Jahan Cross has been “killed,” has entered into a “marriage” of convenience with the sister of his enemy, and has had a knock-down, drag-out fight with a murderous droid. Now he’s onboard the Millennium Falcon and headed for an obvious trap! All in a night’s work for an agent of the Empire.

Sadly, the best I can say about this issue is that it was “ok”. It just didn’t grab me as much as the previous three issues in the series – this is very frustrating, as I really enjoyed the first three issues. I really hope the mini-series will end with a bang.

The artwork was good, although in the first couple of pages, Jahan looked a little weird – almost like a bad copy of himself. It’s sorted out pretty quickly, though. The writing didn’t seem as tight or polished as previous issues, either. With only one more issue, I will, of course, finish the story, but this issue is definitely inferior to what’s come before. A pity. I wonder if the issues are a result of Ostrander’s other series, Dawn of the Jedi – maybe he’s being spread too thin?

I’m a huge fan of Star Wars, but I have always had some issues with the comic series set in that universe. I had hopes Agent of the Empire would be the exception to that rule, but this issue just failed to impress me.


Suicide Squad #7 (DC)

DCNew52-SuicideSquad-07-ArtWriter: Adam Glass | Artist: Ig Guara & Clayton Henry | Colours: Scott Hanna

Hunted through the streets of Gotham City, her former teammates on the Suicide Squad in relentless pursuit – Harley Quinn is out of friends, out of luck and out of time. Will Harley find The Joker before the Squad finds her? Place your bets, people: It’s Harley Quinn vs. the Suicide Squad! Plus: Harley’s origin revealed – it ain’t pretty!

Suicide Squad member Harley Quinn has gone rogue and is loose in a GCPD precinct, looking for what’s left of the Joker.

The issue features a couple of flashbacks that explain how she came to be the Joker’s psycho-sidekick, and I thought it was done very well: it had equal measures of Harley pushed over the edge by circumstances (and the Joker) as well as a betrayal by her new psycho-crush. It’s a very twisted relationship, for sure, but it handled in a very believable manner. We are both repulsed by it but Glass manages nonetheless to make Harley a sympathetic character.

Lime and Light, two metahumans who appeared in an issue of Green Arrow, have been forced into joining the Suicide Squad. They are told to create a diversion, but after one gets captured, we learn what happens when Waller, the Squad’s handler, decides you’ve over-stepped your bounds and break the terms of your deal…

Deadshot gets caught in the middle of Harley’s delusions, and things don’t end well at all, ending on quite a cliff-hanger. I love how weird and twisted this series is. Very cool, and some great, bold artwork from the creative team.

Very much recommended.


Thief of Thieves #2 (Image)

Image-ThiefOfThieves-02Writer: Robert Kirkman & Nick Spencer | Artist: Shawn Martinbrough

Conrad Paulson has turned his back on his life as Redmond, international master criminal, in order to regain some semblance of the life he left behind. Will it be enough to reconcile with his wife? Save his son from the life? Or will it end up getting them all killed?

This is a pretty good series. It’s also very different to everything else I’ve reviewed this week. The story is very moody, with a strong noir feel, which I like very much.

Given how awesome the first issue was, I came to this issue with very high expectations. I think they were mostly met, but not entirely. The creative team have managed to cram a lot of story and character development into a relatively dialogue-light issue, and we get a very good sense of Paulson and his past relationships.

I’m definitely interested to see how this develops in the future. Recommended.


  1. Nice reviews. Think I'll try Saucer Country and Saga. Maybe thief of thieves.
    Never read much DC comics - more a Marvel reader - but might try the Batman titles.

  2. Reeder only has one more issue left on her Batwoman run. She was meant to do 6 issues but is being taken off the book after only three due to "creative differences". Trevor McCarthy (Gates of Gotham) will be taking over for issues 9, 10, and 11. Then JHW3 is back for his art-arc.

    Agreed, Saga was great. It looks to be heading in great places. You should definitely get rolling on the Y: The Last Man comics. They are great.

  3. There are creative differences? Huh. I thought Reeder was doing a relatively good job of matching the style. Or is it in terms of story? I think I'm going to have to investigate that... Gates of Gotham - another Snyder book I REALLY want to read!

    Y The Last Man is very near the top of the list. But, because I bought it myself, it's going to come after a few review copies I've been sent.

  4. Saucer Country and Thief of Thieves are some interesting looking ones.
    Just great reviews.