Green Lanterns: Rebirth #1 Review

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‘Green Lanterns: Rebirth #1’ was something of a mixed bag in terms of quality and, due to the overpopulated creative team, cannot be taken as wholly representative of the series going forward. Still, it did at least kick off the new storylines set to take place in the Green Lantern sector of the DC Universe. Should you be keeping up with them?

The primary function of this, and every other Rebirth title, was too introduce the new lead characters to audiences in such a way as to ensure that they latch onto them and invest immediately in the series as it progresses. On this side of things, Green Lanterns succeeds. The first identifiable character you are introduced to is Simon Baz and his first few scenes show that, rather than focusing on the extraterrestrial and fantastical from the off, this book is just as interested in portraying the real life struggles of its characters. Baz can be seen scrubbing the word ‘terrorist’ off of his sister’s house as he laments over the ostracising of his family due to his actions as a part of the Corps. It’s something you will have seen occurring more and more as of late but these relatable, or at least understandable, insights into the lead character’s lives really do make for a better rounded cast who are easy to identify with. Giving these superbeings real world problems humanises and normalises them to some degree and their journeys to redemption and triumph become all the sweeter for it.

Speaking of characters being relatable, Jessica Cruz ticks that box more than any other. Picture it, you’re young, perennially anxious, and you’ve just been given a ridiculously powerful alien ring, chances are you’re going to be a little lost and unsure of yourself. That is exactly what you get to see in Jessica as she nervously makes her way through life, reticent to leave her apartment and completely out of her depth when it comes to fighting alien threats. Due to the way in which Geoff Johns and Sam Humphries have written her, Jessica looks set to be the audience’s window into this world as it is very easy to see things from her perspective.

As is typically the case it’s not all great on the writing front as the slow nature of the plot and the complete lack of impact held within it make for a largely disappointing read. In terms of the main plot there is precious little to sink your teeth into as, once they’ve been introduced, both new Lanterns are transported away to deal with a threat. You get more character and relationship building between the two and their squabbling should prove to make for an enjoyable back and forth later on but you don’t get any real action. That’s not always the end of the world but it would have been nice to see a little more fighting and a little less talking. Really this whole comic reads like a blatant hook for the upcoming Hal Jordan title more so than one that was focused entirely on its own tale as he is introduced near to the end and does more in a few pages than the others do in a whole book. That being said, the side story involving a fleeing Guardian carrying a box containing some unexplained power does offer up a good deal of intrigue, as does the big villain reveal at the end.

The art was taken care of by a duo too this time out and it left things feeling a little disjointed. The first of these names was also the more impressive partner, Ethan Van Sciver. His attention to detail is, at times, remarkable as he squeezes the most visual information into each page as is possible. There is no sign of him taking any shortcuts to get to the finished product and as such his pages can be gorgeous in their detailing. The page featuring The Justice League is ill-fitting though as it jars entirely with what has come before it and appears a little confusing on the page.

Ed Benes is the other artist and, sorry to say, he really isn’t very good. It has been pointed out in more than one review on this book but he just doesn’t distinguish between his characters very well at all. If you look closely at any given page you will notice that the same basic facial elements are used for a good number of individuals and it leaves the book feeling quite underwhelming and rushed. Had he taken more care in ensuring this was not the case then you’d have a better book on your hands.

So yes, mixed is the word to describe Green Lanterns: Rebirth. It is by no means a bad comic and it in fact offers up a great deal in the way of characterisation, it is just in terms of plot that it all falls down. The fact that only Sam Humphries is staying on for the future books means that everything could change quite markedly in just one issue. Until then let’s be cautiously optimistic about the new Green Lantern comic.

Score: 7.0/10.

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Green Lanterns: Rebirth #1 Review

DC Universe: Rebirth #1 Review

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‘The New 52’ has been one of the most polarising, divisive eras in DC history and with good reason. For every good move that was made, such as in the beloved ‘Batman’ comics from the mind of Scott Snyder, there were also a deluge of terrible ones that turned fans off in their droves. At long last DC have seen fit to attempt to fix what ails them with the much hyped ‘Rebirth’, are they off to a good start?

If you were to ask a long time DC fan about their main gripe with the New 52 the answer would probably come back as a complaint about the handling of iconic characters. There is an expectation of respect from writers towards their, and others, creations but all too often that seemed to be absent in the last half a decade of comics. Some big names were written out of history, cast aside as though they never mattered, others saw their roles reduced to that of a sideshow who didn’t matter to the overall story. In many cases relationships that fans had grown to love were done away with and in that move a lot of heroes lost their motivation and a good portion of their goodwill along with it. Due to all of this it was clear that something drastic needed to be done.

Enter Rebirth. Now, of course, it is early days what with this being the first glimpse at the revamped DC Universe but it is safe to say that it looks promising so far. This 66 page epic made great strides towards fixing the problems of the past and, as though to compound that feeling of moving forwards by looking backwards, the whole thing was narrated and underpinned by the long lost Wally West.

Wally is a character who many have missed throughout his prolonged absence and one whom a lot of people were calling for to return when this whole initiative was first unveiled to the world. How fitting it is then for him to be the one to guide the audience into this new era, and to do so by looking at it in essentially the same light as each and every one of them too.

He is a man on the outside of the current universe trying to break his way back in. That’s a feeling that a great number of readers have had of late as they yearn for more poignant storylines and a return of the grandiose nature of the characters. Wally is attempting to fix a gap in time in order to return the inhabitants of DC’s world to their former glory and, again, that is something that has lit up message boards ever since the toned down, underpowered versions of these icons were first wheeled out. This meta commentary is peppered throughout every page as Wally recalls a time when Green Arrow and Black Canary were an item, and when he and Linda were a married couple. With regards to the first of those pairings, fans will be happy to hear that movements were made in this issue to reunite the two lovebirds with one another.

To carry off such an ambitious issue, Geoff Johns had to have a great story to go right alongside all of the fan service. Thankfully, there was no let down in that department either as the narrative presented gives more than enough in the way of intrigue and excitement to keep the vast majority of fans satiated. Naturally a large amount of that is all in order to hype the upcoming relaunch titles but then the idea that all of this is playing into a larger story is no bad thing. The fact that the story isn’t entirely overt and won’t require the purchasing of every single title is another big plus as very few people have enough disposable income to justify such a reckless spending pattern.

The key idea to explain the return of Wally and the gradual shift back to an older continuity is that an extremely powerful being has literally plucked a whole decade of history out of the timeline and left the heroes and villains of the piece unable to recall their past selves. Watching those memories return and old events be rediscovered should be highly entertaining and it is something which will hook people onto these new books.

Due to the fact that this event did not see the immediate rewriting of history and scrapping of the current continuity it also means that all of the good work that has been done over the last five years, and there is enough of it, will not be lost forever. It will all stay as canon which allows for the best of the past and present to blend together, making for a much richer history for each character than they previously had. Some may complain about this as it could seem like a half-in approach but really it is far more logical than the alternative and it means you get to sit back and watch something important unfold as Rebirth continues to ripple through each book for the foreseeable future.

This comic was written in chapters and as such it had a very large artistic team with different people taking responsibility for each chapter. Those people were Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, Phil Jimenez, Joe Prado, Matt Santorelli, Brad Anderson, Jason Wright, Hi-Fi, and Gabe Eltaeb. What is remarkable to note is that the sense of continuity throughout the book is unbelievable. Such a diverse range of talents shouldn’t be able to pull off a single issue that retains one set style for its entirety but somehow these brilliant individuals managed it here. In every chapter there is a human quality to the character’s faces and it helps to create this wonderfully resonant tale of loss and, to steal the title again, rebirth. Just one gaze upon Wally’s journey between sadness, hope, despair, and eventual relief is a whole story in and of itself.

There will always be naysayers who refuse to forgive DC for past failings and who just want to rubbish this new effort from the company. There are valid criticisms to be made by those people but ultimately this was a tremendous showing and one that should gave gotten you suitably hyped for the what is to come. Rebirth can certainly be called a success thus far.

Score: 9.5/10.

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DC Universe: Rebirth #1 Review

Batman/TMNT #6 Review

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Don’t cry that it’s over, smile that it happened. You probably don’t need to be told that since this series has had more than enough humour and likability to keep you smiling for its entire six issue run. Now though, it has come to an end. Did James Tynion IV sendoff Batman and The Turtles with a bang?

The overwhelming success of this run has always been due to its keen understanding of both Batman and The Turtles fan bases. There may well be a good deal of crossover between the two but they still both expect something very different from each set of characters and it must have been challenging to attempt to please everyone at once. Somehow Tynion and co. managed to do just that in every one of these issues and this finale was no different as the long awaited fight sequences perfectly represent both universe’s heroes and rogues.

For Batman there is that familiar sense of control and emotional detachment as he launches headlong into a war with the veritable army of species swapped villains held up in Arkham. He and Damian provide all of the bone crunching action that one could want or expect from this comic as they take down The Joker, who is now a snake, or Mr. Freeze, who is amusingly a Polar Bear. The villains themselves fight in their typically frenzied fashion as, like sharks smelling blood, they circle the caped father son duo.

As for The Turtles, they are written to be as plucky and noble as ever. Despite the fast fading Mutagen in their systems they still stay in Gotham to fight alongside their new friend. Something that Tynion does very well is highlight the learning curve that the four must go through as they fight with the new enemies. It is something that puts one in the mind of some of the earlier Turtles comics and TV shows as they prove themselves to be highly adaptable, reflecting the immense training that Master Splinter put them through. It is something that really shows the fantastic grasp that Tynion has on these characters and it does a wonderful job of increasing fan confidence ahead of his takeover of the Batman franchise.

Another facet of Batman/TMNT that has endeared fans is the sense of humour that is woven throughout every issue. Never is it more apparent than in issue #6 as, with the stress of their situation relieved, The Turtles and Batman can engage in a wittier back and forth than has been glimpsed previously. Alongside this you also have the serious note shown through the mutual respect so clearly held between these men/reptiles that makes for genuinely touching moment of emotional honesty that is quite the rarity for a character such as Batman but something that works so well for him when done as well as it was here.

Not to play the spoilers, Freddie E. Williams and Jeremy Colwell treated fans to yet more wonderful art work. For the entirety of the series their character depictions have been beautifully detailed and are a massive part of the success of this crossover, here though you also got a look at their fluid representations of the extensive fighting on offer. The best way to describe the colours is to call them wildly vibrant as they bring such life and illumination where appropriate though they are also not afraid to tone things down to a decidedly more Batman inspired shadowy sprawl when it is called for. Essentially, these two men have fused two disparate worlds together to make something quite gorgeous that fits both perfectly.

It is indeed sad to see the back of this series but everyone can be thankful that it happened. The hope will be that Tynion sees fit to revisit this bizarre but brilliant world down the line as it is hard to think of a better comic of this kind.

Score: 9.0/10.

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Batman/TMNT #6 Review

Batman #52 Review

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Batman has now officially left the immensely talented hands of Scott Snyder and found its way into the equally brilliant grasp of James Tynion IV. Due to the fact that this is the last issue in the series before Rebirth hits, there was never going to be too much room for the new team to put their individual stamp on proceedings but nonetheless it was interesting to see what they could do with the character that they will be chaperoning into a new era.

With the limitations that are inherent with essentially writing a one shot issue no one could expect this to be a standout Batman tale. It was always going to be slightly hamstrung but then the whole point of this from a fan’s perspective was simply to see what Tynion et al were capable of and how their run stood to fare. After this instalment it seems sensible to approach that Rebirth renumbering with some caution.

This was not out and out a bad issue at all. In fact, it had some very interesting elements such as the splicing of Batman’s current life with his childhood introversion following the death of his parents. Seeing the two play out side by side did a lot to inform the motivations of this character, though that is not something the audience really needs to be told about due to writer’s propensity to revisit the formative years of The Caped Crusader. Still, it did a lot to take Bruce Wayne from those petulant early stages of his journey all the way to this new stage of his life where is seems to have been afforded some clarity though not any reprieve from his self-sacrificing lifestyle. That journey involves crossing items off of a list detailing how to cope in life, each one more destructive than the last until he finally reaches the cathartic entry penned by Alfred in the hopes of saving him as a child.

All of this is going on whilst a very minor plot plays out in Gotham where Batman is chasing down a low level bank robber who can walk through walls. The robber, Crypsis, is a rather goofy looking character who would be more at home in a carnival. He offers precious little in the way of drama or entertainment value but he does facilitate Batman’s complete journey which began with Snyder’s issue #1 way back when.

The writing itself is perfectly good as one would expect from a creator as talented as Tynion. He has turned in some amazing work through collaborations on this very series with Snyder and with his excellent miniseries pairing Batman with the Ninja Turtles. So despite the lack of spark in this issue it is still easy to believe that the series is in good hands going forwards. It will be key that Tynion uses more dynamic villains and impactful stories than the ones on display here though. It must be said that the way in which he moved Batman on from being a broken wreck of a man to one who is a touch more contented and at peace with the loss of his parents was masterful and incredibly difficult to pull off.

Moving on to Riley Rossmo and Brian Level who have taken over the art from Greg Capullo. Those were some pretty big shoes to fill and sadly this pairing just couldn’t manage it. The drawings are weirdly angular and just jar too much with the sleek, stylised designs of before. Yes, they needed to put their own stamp on the title but this feels like the wrong way to go about it as even Batman doesn’t look as crisp as he did. The action is far less fluid and the settings do not carry the same sense of foreboding or oppression that Gotham should always hold. It’s far from the worst art around but it really leaves a lot to be desired.

Truly this series should have ended with #51 as it was the perfect way to sign off on the New 52 Batman. It was stretched to #52 for obvious reasons but that should be deemed a mistake as this proved to be an unnecessary entry. It did nothing different from Snyder’s last offering except to do it all slightly worse than he did. The future for Batman could still be very bright indeed but Rebirth will need to bring with it a complete change in direction.

Score: 5.5/10.

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Batman #52 Review

Lucifer #6 Review

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Lucifer has officially entered its second story arc and it is quite unlikely that anyone expected such a major departure from the first one. This comic marks a very brave move by Holly Black as the established characters are thrown to the side in favour of some entirely new faces. Did it work?

The first thing to say is not to panic, it is clear that this issue will tie back into the main story next time and you will be getting your fix of Lucifer soon enough. For now though, you get to see into the lives of Rosemary and Takehiko.

So who are they? Well Rosemary is a seemingly quite ordinary American college girl who is taking her boyfriend, Takehiko, home to meet the folks. That’s a time that would usually be fraught with anxiety but luckily her family belongs to a Satanist church and are remarkably laid back about all things having to do with the pleasures of the flesh. Takehiko, for his part, comes across as a rather awkward though affable young man who is suitably nervous about meeting the parents. All of that gets flipped on its head in the final act of the book but there will be no such spoilers here, even though that leaves so little to write about.

The danger in switching the cast so markedly for an entire issue is that fans won’t care to read about their lives and will instead simply wait for the next issue when their favourites return to the page. In order to stop that from happening you need to create an immediate sense of intrigue in your audience. Holly Black didn’t actually manage to do that as the characters initially come across as quite dull and lifeless. Neither of them gives much hope for this being a fun instalment and they certainly don’t jump off the page as hot new protagonists. In fact, it isn’t until the last act that either of them becomes the least bit interesting and by then it is too late to reel in anybody.

There are little moments that will keep fans of this series engaged as the book crawls along but those who aren’t fully invested will likely be turned off by the story on offer here. Thankfully something else is present to keep them flicking the pages… the art.

It is something of a theme in these reviews to praise most current artists but it so richly deserved this time around. Stephanie Hans is the guest this time out and she brings with her an amazing ethereal quality that suits the insipid tone of this piece so brilliantly well. Every scene has a mix of awe inspiring beauty and creepy foreboding, making for a read that sets your skin acrawl. Here is an example from the opening of the comic, undoubtedly you too will find its beauty quite apparent.

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So yes, this was not a sterling outing for Black as she put forth a middle of the road story that suffered greatly from having none of the characters you’ve come to know and love. That being said the ending does set up something potentially massive for the rest of this arc and everyone should look forwards to seeing it.

Score: 6.0/10.

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Lucifer #6 Review

The Dark and Bloody #4 Review

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Last month’s instalment in this ever improving horror saga saw a bevy of big moments which finally added some fuel to the fire of this story. It was something that the book has been desperately needing and the issue was just about perfect. With that in mind, could that good work continue into this issue?

As you’ll hopefully be aware, Shiloh’s friend Ayah was revealed to be the shadowy monster that has been stalking Iris and his military brethren. It was a move that finally gave a face to the terror that had been lurking on the periphery since the very beginning of this series and the fact that it was such a familiar face to readers only served to ramp up the tension even further as you got the sense that this monster could easily strike out at any moment. For a book that is undoubtedly about tension rather than out and out brutality or terror, that made for a very wise creative decision.

In issue four that is built upon very well as Shawn Aldridge keeps her close to Shiloh, leaving the reader wondering whether she will punish him for his father’s misdoings. The wisest decision made though is the one to keep her in the background still. The temptation for some writers would have been to push the monster to the fore of the story now that it has its face but to so would have made no sense for such a stoic and clandestine figure. Ayah, or rather the creature that inhabits her, is not the Jason Voorhees type who kicks down the front door and charges you but is rather the type who exists on the edge of what is occurring, striking when it is convenient.

For the time that Ayah is not on the page though there is no let-up in the excellent characterisation and plot development. Iris’ family continues to be focal point of this series and they give a potentially quite aloof and detached character some much needed grounding, in turn making him more relatable to the audience at large. His struggles feel natural in an unnatural setting and that is really the crux of good horror, you need to have a strong protagonist to latch onto or the actions of the antagonist are entirely meaningless. Both his wife and son serve to humanise him as well as provide him with something to lose. The stakes are never higher than when a person’s family is put in the line of fire and the audience can understand such a predicament and root for Iris in an organic fashion.

The only sticking point in an otherwise superbly written comic is the addition of Iris’ boss and former commanding officer. He is far too much of a pantomime villain and seems to be doing evil things simply for the sake of villainy. He has no discernable motive beyond basic jackassery and that doesn’t make for a compelling antagonist at all. He needs to be humanised a little or done away with entirely as he currently offers nothing to the story.

In terms of the art, it appears that this is the issue where Scott Godlewski has really been able to shine. That’s not to say that he hasn’t been excellent up to this point, he has, but it is just far more noticeable how talented he is when he is given the opportunity to draw the series’ monster in glorious detail. The transformative scenes are equal parts grotesque and fascinating, making an image that is hard to look away from. As usual his character and scenery work is on point as one would expect it to be given the consistency shown in this series.

With the exception of one character based misstep, this is a very good comic book. Once the series is finished and is available to read in one go it will certainly flow better but it is not suffering from the month long gaps either. If you’re looking for a gripping horror story with intelligent writing and captivating art, then this is the book for you.

Score: 9.5/10

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The Dark and Bloody #4 Review

Batman #51 Review

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The end of an era has arrived and for all those who have been following Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run on ‘Batman’ it is quite an overwhelming time. For fifty-one straight issues they have steered DC’s most iconic hero through trials and tribulations beyond the imaginations of most ordinary men. Forget the movies and TV shows, this was the definitive look at Batman in all his brooding glory and now it is over it is time to look back on this most incredible of runs.

It began with the advent of the misguided ‘New 52’ initiative. From the first arc it should have been clear to everyone who picked up the book that this was something entirely different to what the Caped Crusader had experienced before. ‘The Court of Owls’ was storytelling on a grand scale and it set the stage for the most inventive run in the character’s history. With this introductory arc they took Batman completely out of his typical setting and threw him into a world of the impossible. Under the reign of a lesser writer this would likely have been an absolute mess of a story but Snyder made it into something special. He gave you a look at a broken Bat, one who found himself wholly outmatched and reached down deeper than ever to eke out a win under impossible odds. Batman may be no stranger to triumph but this was one of those rare moments where you first questioned if he could truly make it out in one piece.

Not satisfied with one iconic arc though, Snyder set about crafting another one immediately afterwards with his ‘Zero Year’ story. The special thing to note about Zero Year was not what it did for Batman himself, although it did shine a new light on the character once more, but rather what it did for The Riddler. Riddler has long been a steadfast enemy to The Bat but it is surprisingly rare to see him portrayed in a way that makes him seem dangerous. He relies entirely on his smarts but they never really seem to be enough which has the effect of making him come across as a second rate villain, not worth Batman’s time. In this story he wasn’t just a good villain, he was one of the most dangerous of all time.

Riddler crippled Gotham with relative ease. Think about it, it was this story that Snyder used to reset the Batman mythos he was working on. Riddler was the bad guy that brought about monumental change in this series long before Joker managed it in Endgame. It was that attention to all of the characters at his disposal that made Snyder’s run so memorable, he didn’t cast anyone aside in favour of the titular Knight but instead he knew that a hero is only as good as their opposition.

From there fans got gold heaped upon gold in the forms of ‘Death of the Family’, ‘Endgame’, and the most recent ‘Superheavy’. Not once did Snyder ease up or allow the quality to lower, such is the respect he has for the character and for the fans. But all good things must come to an end and issue #51 provided the perfect opportunity to take a retrospective look at the past five years and to finally close the lid on it all.

There was no grand battle to finish things off, no mad scientist creating his mutant army, no psychopath holding the city to ransom. No, instead there were simply people going about their ordinary lives as Batman soared above them, and it was all beautifully summed up through a column called ‘Gotham Is’.

The issue told how the city was once a den or darkness, how people wrote into said column with fear in their hearts and no hope in their words. It also told of the transformation since Batman became the symbol everyone beholds today. People now see a brighter tomorrow and even when a madman attacks there is a hope for the future. This book is entirely an homage to Batman as well as a fitting handover to the next creative team. It ends this run with a new status quo in place rather a reversion to the old time honoured one.

Snyder takes the time to revisit many familiar faces as a rolling blackout consumes the city. Each villain shows trepidation where they would once have seen opportunity and it is a testament to Batman’s power over the city but it also makes fans wonder what exactly each of these people have in store for the future. Should the next team acknowledge everything that happened in this run, which they most certainly should, then it will be fascinating to find out what becomes of the rejuvenated Joker or the humbled Penguin.

A moment must be taken to thank Greg Capullo, FCO Plascencia, Danny Miki, and Steve Wands for their work both on this book and on all of the others respectively. They have each contributed to this series immeasurably and without them this would not have been the remarkable series that it turned out to be. Every single book has been teeming with life thanks to the collaborative efforts of these artists. They have told a fantastic story just as much as Snyder has and they deserve their share of the praise.

It is said that this team will work together again in the future and you can bet that that book, whatever it may be, will be glorious too. In the meantime, let’s look back at these fifty-one issues with a smile and look forwards to All-Star Batman which Snyder will helm once Rebirth hits.

Score: 10/10.

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Batman #51 Review