Peter Panzerfaust #6
Writer: Kurtis Wiebe
Artist: Tyler Jenkins
Peter Panzerfaust is part of the wave of truly good– yet really diverse– comics Image is currently publishing. The book centers on a group of boys lost in WWII ravaged Europe, young men who must take care of themselves with no supervision from their parents. In the first 5 issues, an elderly man narrates the story for us– and it is very enjoyable to have this war-story spun through the eyes and memories of a soft, mature person. This old man ends up being Tootles, and his personality is based on a character of the same name from Peter Pan. Early on, these “Lost Boys” are taken under the wing of an adventure-loving young man named Peter, who they meet while hiding on a farm. Peter and the boys bond as they attempt to elude (and fight back against) the dreaded Nazis. In the comic’s first story arc, a terrible tragedy occurs in the group– and a life-long connection and partnership between each lost boy is born. By the time Issue #5 ends, you really are rooting for the group to survive.
Issue #6 begins the second arc of this Twilight Zone meets Peter Pan story, and it’s a damn good start. We jump into this issue with another Lost Boy telling his version of what happened– and he starts right where Tootles left off. The new narrator is Julien Gingras, a lost boy who is very smart, precise and extremely tricky. His personality melds perfectly with this issue’s storytelling style. The group is hiding out in France. After one of the Lost Boys is captured, Julien acts like a Nazi sympathizer to get close to their organization… Since he feels it’s his responsibility to rescue his buddy.
This issue moves quickly. Julien figures out a way to schmooze the Nazi soldiers into showing him where the captured prisoners are held and his plan seems to work– until he runs into a very recognizable character. The tension at the end of this issue– foreshadowing the upcoming fight– is right in our faces… And will make the month-long wait between issues torturous for me. I can’t wait to see what happens next! (I don’t want to ruin it for you, so you’ll just have to read it.)
I’m glad the book’s creators are sticking together and bringing us the tale they wanted to tell. The art is consistent and the storytelling is very good. The first Trade is out and will catch you up to this point– and it’s definitely worth the read. With the first issue of the second arc so strong, I am really excited for the future of Peter Panzerfaust. - Tom Devine
Justice League #0
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank,
Ethan Van Sciver (back-up)
I can understand why my fellow critics decided not to review this issue of Justice League. After all, we’d all bashed the HELL out of JL #12 in our very first new review column… So why beat this dead horse again? I decided it was worth it– only because I am a big Gary Frank fan. He’s worked well with writer Geoff Johns in the past… So why not look in and see what was going on in this one-and-done tale?
Yeesh. Sorry I bothered. If I was rating this issue on the art, I’d give it 4 or 5 stars. But unfortunately, this comic book also has words and a plot– so the art is not the only ratings criteria I must consider. And like JL #12, the writing here sux… Like a turbo-charged Hoover vacuum with a fresh bag.
As a Billy Batson/Shazam!/Captain Marvel origin story it was “OK”– if you don’t mind Johns ripping everything that was good and decent out of Billy Batson… And replacing him with a garden variety cookie-cutter punk. In this tale, the Wizard gives Billy the powers of Shazam! because he’s running out of time… Black Adam’s back and the Wizard (his own powers failing) needs to create a hero quick… Even if it means giving god-like powers to a self-centered, insignificant prick with a huge chip on his shoulder.
It’s all so fake. You make Billy an asshole… So you can show him the errors of his wanton ways down the line. Ho-hum. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Next.
The back-up story fares no better. Some mystic mumbo jumbo with the same Wizard using the last of his energies (Wait! I thought he used ALL his power to create Captain Marvel!) to do… Something. Basically, it was a draggy, four page advertisement so Ethan Van Sciver could draw a completely undramatic teeny-tiny picture introducing the DC New 52 version of The Question at the end of the story. Yawn.
Better than the extra buck W.D. spent to read about the origin of the Bat Signal in last week’s Batman #0… But not by much. – Ian MacMillan
Writer: Kelly Sue Deconnick
Artist: Phil Noto
Since I was 10 or 11, I’ve always wanted to check out a Ghost comic. Back then, in the early 90s, comic book women were my equivalent of Victoria Secret models– but better because they also kicked ass and had personalities. Ghost was one of many that premiered during that time, but I never thought I could get my Mom to buy this comic because it seemed too provocative to my naive, innocent mind. So you can imagine how psyched I was, almost 20 years later, to finally get my chance to read a new Ghost story.
Strange and funny how it’s a zero issue (Dark Horse is most definitely not DC Comics after all). Sadly, it also proves zero issues may be a sales tactic best left to sit for a while.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the book: The writing was good and I really enjoyed Phil Noto’s art– one of the few times I can say the art caught my attention more than the story. But like most recent zeros issues I’ve read (either from DC or other indie publishers), there wasn’t any reason for this comic. I understand it’s a lead-up to the miniseries launching next month… But after I read a comic of any number, I feel I should know more about the title character(s) when I finish than I did before. All I learned here was Ghost can “Temple of Doom” a person’s heart– hence the extra half star in my rating.
What surprised me more: This was a story serialized in three issues of Dark Horse Presents. Considering how underwhelming the comic was a whole, I’d feel really let down if I read any third of this story in DHP that didn’t include the heart ripping scene.
Like any true fan that’s been lusting after a woman hero for years, I’m still going to give the first issue of the mini-series a try (in truth, mostly because I ordered the book two months in advance from Previews). But anyone else wanting to check out Ghost before the mini-series begins, skip over this innocuous story and wait for the mini (or buy any of the Ghost omnibi currently in print from Dark Horse).
I really wanted to like this comic. The inclusion of an actual plot would have made a world of difference. - W.D. Prescott
The End of the The Beginning
Writers: Michael Green, Mike Johnson
Artist: Mahmud Asrar
Having just caught up with the Superman New Krypton storyline in the “old” DC Universe Hardcovers and Trades, I thought this would be a fair comic for me to review (and I strive to be fair first and foremost whenever I review anything). I kept a completely open mind walking into this comic– desiring to see how the New 52 was treating one of my favorite DC characters.
Here’s what I got: An origin story (Yay!) told competently.
What I didn’t get: Anything new or different.
If you aren’t familiar with the origin of Supergirl, this book will give it to you. If you do know her origin (or, at least the origin of the last Supergirl appearing in the old DCU)– you’ll be absolutely amazed how close this version is to the old version. I’ve read ‘em all and this one stands easily with any of them.
For the most part, DC really is screwing over their readership with these Zero Issues. I think I’ll just leave my thoughts at that. - Ian MacMillan
Wonder Woman #0
The Lair of the Minotaur
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Cliff Chiang
As I’ve said before, this month’s DC #0 issues have been a bit of a mixed bag. I read four Zero Issues this week– and while 2 of them were origin stories (Supergirl and Sword of Sorcery), the other 2 were “additions” to the character’s already established origins (Wonder Woman and Batwoman).
After reading these #0 comics, the whole Zero Month reeks of editorial mandate… But in the books I am reviewing this week, the creators meet the done-in-one requirements of the #0 issues– while delivering some good stories and, in one instance, the best issue of a New 52 series to date.
Since Wonder Woman’s New 52 origin was told in her own comic over the last year, her #0 issue shows how she learned to become a warrior, the training she endured and who her mentor was. The entire issue takes place over a year– beginning on Princess Diana’s 12th birthday and ending on her 13th. We are introduced to an Amazonian custom of a young Amazon needing to pay tribute– the act of giving a “suitable present” to Hippolyta in order for her to acknowledge the passing of the last year. It’s not made clear whether this custom is paying tribute to one’s mother or to the Queen of the Amazons herself, since Hippolyta is both to the Princess. Diana presents her mother with an egg (which she had stolen from a Harpy’s nest earlier in the day) and the festivities commence.
I bring up the stealing the Harpy egg because it is this action that the rest of the story hangs on. Olympian War God Ares is so impressed with Diana’s feat, he decides to teach her to be a warrior– because she may be “The One”. Years of reading Wonder Woman comics month after month has taught me this: If a god, especially Ares, is willing to do something good for Diana– it is either a trick, or he expects something in return. While War was training the young princess, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop… But it never did. It turns out War was training Diana out of the kindness of his heart. Teaching her brought him joy. He even envisioned a day when Diana might replace him and he could finally rest.
This all comes to an end on the night of Diana’s 13th birthday, with War’s final lesson. He sends her into the Labyrinth to collect a treasure to present to Hippolyta as tribute. It’s here where we see Diana show mercy and compassion for her foe– thus starting to become the strong, yet kind Wonder Woman we all know.
The issue was very well done. I enjoyed immensely that it looked and read like a Silver Age comic. From exposition dialogue like “Diana, it is I, Queen Hippolyta–your mother!” to caption boxes that read “The plucky princess plunges into the icy water, leaving the horrible Harpy hapless,” gave the book a sense of fun. Artist Cliff Chiang added to that feeling. Chiang’s art on Wonder Woman always comes off as a labor of love. His interpretation of Diana is one of my favorites.
The Lair of the Minotaur was an enjoyable story for a reader like me– someone who buys every issue of the regular Wonder Woman series… But new readers may pick it up hoping for Diana’s definitive origin. Hopefully they liked this story enough to pick up the early issues (or the trade) to get caught up. Though the comic has made a few missteps in the past year, it still continues to be one of the best DC titles. In case you’re wondering about another of “DC’s Best”, see my second review in this column. - Jose Melendez
A Dark Place #1 & #2
Writer: Victor Gischler
Artists: Paul Lee, Andy Owens
The crap site known as Wikipedia describes Victor Gischler as “… an American author of hard-boiled crime fiction”. When I think of Gischler, I’m reminded of his prolific stint as a writer for two Deadpool comics (Merc with a Mouth and Deadpool Corps)– back when Marvel was in full Deadpool exploitation mode following the character’s minor film appearance in the Wolverine Origins debacle.
Thing is, I liked Gischler’s early Deadpool efforts. They were funny and slightly better than the average Deadpool comic. Problem is, I read those collections ALL at once… And they got repetitive really fast. And by repetitive, I mean Gischler used the same phrases and the same jokes over and over… As if he’d pulled all the funny out of his bag at the beginning– and had nowhere else to go with the character.
Still, there were enough glimpses of imagination in these stories that I thought something else might be there… Hiding in the mess that is Deadpool and Marvel’s X-Men Universe. But if there is anything else left in Gischler’s bag o’ tricks, it’s still buried deep at the bottom of the bag.
Let’s face facts: When Dark Horse re-took control of Joss Whedon’s Buffyverse characters– Spike and Angel had nowhere to go but up. Hell, a bad Dark Horse Buffyverse comic is still better than the best book produced by IDW. That’s faint praise, I know. But it’s all I can muster for this version of Spike. Gischler’s Spike spends far too much time moping around, brooding as if the tortured sex relationship he shared with a resurrected Buffy was a romance for the ages.
By basing Spike’s raison d’être on a failed sex-only tryst with an emotionally empty Vampire Slayer, Gischler has given us a character whose entire existence revolves around a falsehood– making a space-traveling Vampire with a Soul even less believable than before I read this comic. Gischler can still bring the sarcasm and dry wit Spike is known for… But like this comic’s titular character… The proceedings and action all seem rote and rather hollow. The art is serviceable… A little on the pedestrian side… Not helping to elevate the mood or Spike’s emotions.
All in all, Spike is a workmanlike effort– at best. - Ian MacMillan
Star Wars: Darth Vader
and the Ghost Prison #5
Writer: Haden Blackman
Artist: Agustin Alesso
The last two pages of this comic actually made me sad this mini-series was over. I’m usually skeptical buying/reading short scheduled comics anyway– since they are usually drawn out an issue or two too long. When someone can get a story right in a 4 to 5 issue run, it’s awesome. When it is a Star Wars mini– it’s a freaking miracle.
Most Star Wars comics range from mediocre to above average in quality. (Take this fact from a fan who’s purchased the first issue of every comic that has had Star Wars in the title.) The reason these comics usually suffer is similar to why Marvel and DC comics tend to all exist at the same quality level: Massive universes and large continuity strings make creators/editors/publishers afraid to alter the status quo too much. (The previous statement doesn’t apply to Star Wars creator George Lucas, of course. He can do anything he damn well pleases to anything he has ever created any time he wants.)
Which makes Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison all the more unique. The series explores not only the burgeoning Empire, but Darth Vader himself. While I haven’t read every Star Wars comic published in the last six years, I know the history of these books– and very few have ever intimately examined Darth Vader. Maybe Lucas wanted to keep this bit of SW history for himself, I don’t know… But even if you examine the original film trilogy, Vader was more of an anti-hero in Empire and Return. We never see much of Vader the Villain after A New Hope.
But Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison shows you evil incarnate, especially in those last two pages. In a 5 issue series where you might think he would do something kind or heroic at some point (even if his actions were in his own self-interests)– instead, writer Haden Blackman shows us just how much a villain Vader was at the start of the Empire. This comic cements Vader’s villainy where the film Revenge of the Sith failed. This final issue also reminds why people feared Vader, before he was looking for his son and hoping to take over the Empire… And how even Darth Maul and Count Dooku could never be as frightening as Vader.
It also reminds why Darth Vader is quite possibly the greatest villain ever. And that’s cool. - W.D. Prescott
Cubs in Toyland Chapter 8
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha
Fables has become a staple of the Comic Book Industry. It even has its own corner at Vertigo– with tie-in books and steady graphic novel sales. Recently, the storylines have become fairly lax, with a lot of loose plot threads writer Bill Willingham only touches on over long periods of time. To be a fan of Fables anymore, you can’t be in it for the rush of a single issue. Instead, you must invest in the overall plot and be willing to wait and see where it all goes. Fables was at its best during the courting of Snow White and Bigby (The Big Bad Wolf)– with The Adversary attempting to break into the Mundy (Human) world. Something happened in each issue and it was exciting. Ever since Mister Dark was taken out, the comic just hasn’t had that same fast paced storytelling… Until now.
I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the Cubs (children) of Snow and Bigby. Major praise for Willingham making them all so different. Each child has a distinct personality, which is amazing… As there are a bunch of them. Last issue, a main character sacrificed his life to save Therese, a spoiled cub. In this issue, Therese experiences REAL character development and huge changes are made in the Fables’ world that will have many repercussions.
This comic seriously blew me away. I know I’ve been very vague, but I don’t want to spoil anything for the Trade Waiters or readers still trying to decide whether to jump in. My vagueness also comes from how fun this comic is to read and enjoy for yourself– as you experience this fantastical world. Has artist Mark Buckingham ever drawn anything bad in the Fables Universe? Not a chance… And this issue is no exception.
The main thing to understand here: Fables is back. I’ve heard a lot of talk from various fans and critics how Fables isn’t worth reading anymore… That the comic is past its’ prime. I would agree maybe it is– but even a lackluster Fables tale is better than 95% of comics currently published. So maybe Fables hasn’t seen better days… Maybe Willingham was just taking a breather… As the current story line is as exciting as the book has ever been. - Tom Devine
Writers: J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman
Artist: J.H. Williams III
Batwoman is kind of a strange case in DC’s New 52. There was no reboot for her. Her origin, as told by Greg Rucka in Detective Comics, was not tampered with at all when the character transferred to DC’s new universe. It’s also funny/absurd that this is the second #0 issue in the last two years for Batwoman… Another reason why I think the whole Zero Month was an ill thought out editorial mandate. There is also the small problem that this #0 issue takes place right in the middle of the current storyline where Batwoman teams up with Wonder Woman. On the surface, this interruption makes the whole #0 idea come off like Marvel’s .1 issues… And that is not a compliment. Like many current DC creators, J.H. Williams and W. Haden Black are forced to work around this stunt. And work around it they do– turning in the best written Batwoman comic since Rucka’s departure from the title.
Batwoman #0 2012 is really just an extension of Rucka’s Elegy storyline– filling in a few gaps and expounding on the original story arc’s narrative. The cover of this issue is actually very reminiscent of a panel from Elegy’s first double-splash page– further tying the two stories together.
The framing of the story is quite well done. Whenever Kate Kane (Batwoman) leaves to go out on a mission, she composes a message for her father on her computer– in case she never returns. This issue’s story features a message Kate leaves before she meets up with Wonder Woman (which actually took place last issue in the regular series).
Williams has 3 very distinct art styles he uses in this comic. One for when Kate is in costume, one for Kate’s day-to-day life and the last for flashbacks. With the exception of about 5 pages, Williams “flashback” style is primarily used here. Readers see new moments in Kate’s history during the day of her mother and sister’s dual funerals, the days following her dismissal from the military and more details about her training during the two years she left Gotham before becoming Batwoman.
This issue also recaps some material long-time Batwoman readers may already know. Luckily, the repetitive bits take up only a few panels and not the entire issue (like Liefeld’s Deathstroke #0). There are two things that differ from the original Rucka scripts– one quite minor and one not so much.
The first change comes in an added word balloon right before Batwoman fails to save her sister Alice/Elizabeth from falling out of an airplane (a scene which took place in Elegy). The original dialogue reads as follows:
[Batwoman is holding the hand of Alice as her sister dangles off an airplane]
Batwoman: No, don’t…
Alice: You have our father’s eyes.
[Then Alice stabs Batwoman's wrist with a knife, making Kate let go of her. Alice falls into Gotham Bay. Her body is not found.]
The new Issue #0 dialogue has been changed to this:
Batwoman: No, don’t…! The fall will kill you!
Alice: You have our father’s eyes.
Agreeably, this isn’t that big of a change– but why the extra line? Is this possibly a way to retcon Alice’s questionable death to make it a more probable one? I have no idea– but it’s not like Williams wasn’t aware of the original dialogue. Was this another editorial mandate? Maybe DC no longer wants to use a character Rucka created? Only time will tell, I guess.
The other way this issue differs from the original Rucka origin: While Kate is gone from Gotham and training, her father conducts her “final exam”. Yet in Elegy, it is made clear Kate never saw her Father the entire two years she was gone… As he was busy equipping her new Batcave. Again, I have no idea why this was changed. It did add some emotional impact to the story but also felt a little forced… Almost unnecessary, since the entire comic was already filled with great scenes between Kate and her father that added plenty of emotional punch.
These two Nerd Nitpicks aside, 2012′s Batwoman #0 is by far the best issue of the New 52 series. The script is exceptional, as is Williams’ art (with Dave Stewart colors). Judging by this issue and the one before it, Batwoman is back on track. I’m very happy to see that. - Jose Melendez
Sword of Sorcery #0
Amethyst – The Catalyst, Homecoming
Beowulf – The Perfect Soldier
Writers: Christy Marx, Tony Bedard
Artists: Aaron Lopresti, Jesus Saiz
When I started reading this comic, I was really confused. Their image of Amy Winston in this Amethyst update looks exactly like Freefall from Gen 13. So much so, I was expecting Fairchild and Grunge to pop into frame in the first five pages. But I stuck with it… And just as the story got interesting, it ended.
As Ian mentioned in last week’s Capsule Reviews, I think this is yet another example of how 20 pages is just not enough space for most of today’s writers to tell a full, coherent story. For novelists coming from the book world (like Christy Marx), I bet the 20 page limit is even harder to deal with. When this story ended, it felt like I’d hit the last commercial in a half hour animated show… I’d witnessed the climax but I was still waiting for five minutes of story resolution.
And why in the bloody hell does John Constantine have to pop up in every comic in DC’s “Dark” line of books? Doctor Fate, I can see. The Spectre, I can see. But the last time I checked, John Constantine couldn’t fly… Yet he’s in more places (seemingly at once) than Superman is these days.
And it would have been one thing if I’d paid $2.99 and just hit the back cover at the end of the Amethyst story. But no. I paid $3.99 to receive another pointless back-up. I know someone’s thinking, “Oh come on, Will. Isn’t your disdain for back-ups getting in the way of you experiencing more story and characters?”
Hell no! When I characterize this comic’s back-up as pointless, I mean, “Who thought this public domain ripoff, set in an unbelievable context, was better than finishing off a story I was actually beginning to care about?”
Have you read Beowulf? (Okay, silly question, no one reads Beowulf unless forced to.) Let me try this: Have you seen the Beowulf animated movie with Angelina Jolie (as Grendel’s mother) sporting high heels a few centuries too early? If so, there is no point in reading this story. Any changes they make in this tale are for the sake of making changes and were very lazy and unimaginative. For example, what could happen in a post-apocalyptic future that would cause everyone to revert to a stereotypical viking lifestyle and language structure? Not only that, but to have it happen so fast that metal street and highway signs haven’t even rusted or corroded?
Hmmm. Wait. Maybe that last bit is actually a commentary on the art instead of the story. Either way, I don’t know and I don’t care.
I truly feel bad giving this comic book two stars, but I’m being generous for the Amethyst story that unduly suffers because of a lame back-up that I would independently rate with a zero. If the Beowulf pages had been given to Christy Marx and Aaron Lopresti so they could finish their Amethyst tale properly, I think this issue could have been a good start to a comic that might entice some fantasy readers (not just superhero fans) into the New 52 Universe. - W.D. Prescott