Batman Incorporated #8
The Boy Wonder Returns
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: Chris Burnham, Jason Masters
Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
22 pages, $2.99
My biggest problem with Batman Incorporated #8 has nothing to do with the comic itself. I’m annoyed because DC Comics pulled a Marvel by spoiling the story in a major newspaper two days before the issue went on sale. I’ve grown quite sick of the “death sells” mentality the American Comic Industry has once again adopted. Ian and I have both talked about how mainstream comic deaths do nothing but trivialize actual death in our lives. I’ve never understood the fascination with killing off popular fictional characters and, even worse, WANTING to read a comic just because one of them dies.
In reality, I shouldn’t be so shocked DC decided to beat the bushes for this book… After all, how long has it been since the speculator snakes came slithering out of their slimy holes to buy multiple copies of anything printed by the publisher? You’ll also remember DC is the company who once infamously asked comic readers to dial a for-profit 900 number to VOTE whether a Robin should live or die. No, I do NOT have a significant problem with the death (if Damian truly is dead.) My problems lie mostly with how the whole “reveal” thing was handled by DC.
So, we have a comic where DC drums up hype in order to sell more copies– by spoiling the book’s ending for actual fans… You know, the readers who have been buying and supporting this title from the beginning… The fans who are owed, at the very least, NOT seeing a major plot point ruined completely out of greed. Any possible future fans (who might want to check out the comic) are screwed too– because the book is now sold out, because non-fans are pestering comic shops all over the world for copies of it.
I was at my shop Thursday and the owner was getting numerous calls asking if he had any copies of Batman Inc. #8 left– even though he had sold them all the day before. (I could tell the constantly ringing phone was kinda annoying him.)
On top of all this, the contents of Batman Incorporated #8 are sort of a mixed bag. What you end up taking away from the ending completely depends on whether you’ve been keeping up with the series– or have, at one point, been reading the Bat Family titles in which Damian Wayne was involved.
The story also doesn’t take very long to read– you’ll probably make your way through it in less than 5 minutes. Because of this, Damian’s “death” seems to come all too quickly and with little build up. If you’ve read the previous 7 issues, I’m guessing there was some sort of sufficient story leading to this climactic plot point– but to all the new people DC wanted buying this comic? Not so much. I’m not even sure anybody outside of the current mainstream comics readership even knows who Damien Wayne is– so why should they care if he dies or not? I guess that’s another reason why DC over-shilling this story just rubs me the wrong way.
Having been in and out of the Bat Family books for the past few years, I think the “death” is handled well. The Batman comics I’ve enjoyed the most lately employed Dick Grayson as Batman with Damian as his Robin. I’m sure there are others like me who feel the same way– and I believe Morrison knows this. Towards the end, there’s a great page devoted to a conversation between Dick and Damian just before they jump into battle. It really made me miss the days when they were a team. My favorite panels of probably any comic this month were the last few on this page:
As for why I don’t have a problem with Damian’s “death”: As far as I am concerned, Damian Wayne is Grant Morrison’s character. Morrison has also been writing some kind of Batman title for what, 7 years now? As he comes to the end of his run, I’m sure he’s had his end game planned for quite some time. I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt a hell of a lot more than most of the other “big name” writers in the industry. If this story had come from anyone other than Morrison, I do think I would have a problem with it.
Damian went out a hero– which, in a way, brings an end to his character arc. I don’t think this will be the end for him (cough, couch, Lazarus Pit…) but who knows? His “death” really did come out of nowhere and Morrison could still have many surprises planned before he ends his stint on this comic. – Jose Melendez
Five Weapons #1
Jade the Blade
Writer/Artist: Jimmie Robinson
Letterer: Jimmie Robinson
Colorist: Paul Little
31 pages, $3.99
“I bet 90% of you are asking how did I get in this situation? But 10% of you are thinking how will I get out?”
That’s the first line of dialogue uttered by Tyler Shainline, the central character of Five Weapons. He says it while a number of deadly implements, both sharpened and blunt, are aimed at his head. This sets the tone for the rest of the issue: Tyler is a young-ish teen, the son of a famous assassin who is transferred from a normal Middle School to a School for Assassins. The school’s name, of course, is Five Weapons.
As I’d expect from a Jimmie Robinson project, this is a fiercely intelligent comic full of wit and clever dialogue. Its different from his previous project Bomb Queen, in that it’s unmistakably an All Ages book. Thankfully, like the other All Ages comic book I reviewed recently, Emily the Strange, this is something both kids and adults will enjoy.
Because of Tyler’s lineage, the staff and pupils from the 5 weapon faculties vie for him to choose their weapon as his speciality. The Head Teachers are a bunch of eccentric weirdos, and as the story progresses we see Tyler do his best to avoid fighting by using his wits– rather than actually learning to fight. We also get to meet the President of the Knife Club, Jade– a self-assured girl who takes an instant dislike to Tyler’s less than aggressive attitude.
There is a lot of plot to digest in this mini-series’ opening chapter but it isn’t at the expense of characterisation. Five Weapons #1 could be used as a text-book for introducing a large cast in a first issue without overwhelming the reader with exposition. Robinson is clearly an expert in “Show, not tell.” He’s able to convey the requisite amount of information for each situation without clogging up the page with extraneous narration or dialogue.
The art looks great too. Robinson doesn’t use particularly heavy linework or inking, but the colouring by Paul Little is so sympathetic to the art, everything looks just right. The facial expressions exhibited by the characters have a nice cartoony feel while still looking natural and appropriate for each scene. The one criticism that I have for the art– and the reason why my score is knocked down by a point: The layouts use the same 5 or 6 horizontal panel grid throughout. I’m sure there was a reason for doing this but to my eyes, it gave the art a certain “samey” feeling… And I think the art would have had more impact if the layouts had been mixed a bit more.
This one criticism will most certainly not stop me from buying the rest of this series. I can already see that Robinson has laid down a great concept worth exploring further. If Five Weapons were published in Japan rather than America, he’d have Anime companies banging down his door to make this comic into a series. This has the feeling of a long running series– with the potential to be adapted into prose novels, a TV series, a movie and more.
Get in on the ground floor of something new and buy this book! – Locusmortis
Five Weapons #1
Jade the Blade
Writer/Artist: Jimmie Robinson
Letterer: Jimmie Robinson
Colorist: Paul Little
31 pages, $3.99
Can I be honest here and just say I picked this title mostly because the cover reached out tapped me on the shoulder? The calm, confident young man standing there amidst bullet holes, arrows, snakes and swords fixing his tie– and the angry-looking dark-haired girl looking at him with mild annoyance? It all just jumped off my iPad screen… And I bet it really pops on the rack with all the blacks and blue hues that seem to make up most of the covers these days.
By the end of the second page I was hooked: I wanted to know more about this world, these characters. I was emotionally invested and the story maintained that sweet spot– answering some questions quickly, leaving me to chew on the ones creator Jimmie Robinson chose not to answer. Robinson’s art seems to have hints of Anime/Manga mixed in with his art style. The Manga influences keep the story light, and lets the reader know the comic doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Five Weapons is a fast and fun read. – Tim Tash
Avengers Arena #5
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Kev Walker
Colorist: Frank Martin
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
20 pages, $2.99
When my LCS owner said Avengers Arena was all about killing teenagers, I asked, “What else it good for?” Then a young lady came into the shop wanting to start reading comics. (Let’s all take a moment to celebrate the addition to our ranks.) Even more surprising, she noted that the various Marvel Studios and Batman movies spurred her to check them out. So we started discussing the recent “new” Avengers titles. And while I was being sarcastic with my comment about Avengers Arena– it’s pretty much what this series is about.
I certainly didn’t want to give her any of my opinions on Avengers, New Avengers or Secret Avengers (since they either sucked or I haven’t read them)… But I did want to make Avengers Arena sound appealing because I think the series isn’t half bad. And before people start talking about Battle Royale or Hunger Games– while I understand the resentment fans of those two creations have with this comic, I also think the controversy has been exacerbated beyond reasonable proportions. I haven’t read either property, so I have no feelings either way. I came into this comic able to judge the book by itself.
Each issue (after the first) focuses on one of the 16 young heroes kidnapped by Arcade… And we watch the overall story unfold mostly through the eyes of whichever character writer Dennis Hopeless is focused on. (We also find out bits about their past– before Arcade abducts them.) In this comic, we follow Kid Britain. While slightly exaggerated, this alternate universe version of Captain Britain is realistically portrayed as the head jock. We see how he develops, and it all makes sense in the flashbacks. We also watch as his tough persona begins to break under this dire situation. An overabundance of self-confidence is not the greatest power when 15 other kids are on the verge of killing you– including your girlfriend.
The previous two issues dipped in quality when it came to the comic’s strength– its portrayal of Teens. This issue gets back to the strong start of Issues #1 and #2. I tend to shy away from teen oriented series, mainly because they never seem to portray actual teens… They portray pre-teens. Avengers Arena finds the balance between mature and immature that is frustratingly unique to people of high school age. And while I wouldn’t rank AA among the top-tier comics, it’s still a good, fun read. – W.D. Prescott
Guardians of the Galaxy # 0.1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Steve McNiven, John Dell
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC’s Corey Petit
31 pages, $3.99
This is NOT a shit comic.
It’s also not a very good book either, as it displays most of Brian Michael Bendis’ usual flaws. I should also note (for the sake of fairness), that this comic isn’t nearly as bad as Bendis’ Uncanny X-Men #1 (which I also reviewed two weeks ago.)
I also hope you’ll understand the following– from here on, I’m going to abbreviate Guardians of the Galaxy to GOTG– since the former is a bit of a “mouthful”.
The Guardians will be starring in their eponymously titled movie from Marvel Studios next year– and rather appropriately, much of this issue looks more like a set of film storyboards than a comic book. As if we didn’t already know it anyway, it’s painfully obvious Bendis considers himself to be an unfulfilled film scribe and wants to move into that area– rather than actually giving a shit about comics and putting his attention into writing these four-color pamphlets. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say it took him about as long to write this story as it did for me to review it.
This Point One (or 0.1 if you will) is a prequel to the GOTG series starting next month– and unlike most of Marvel’s previous 0.1 issues, it fulfills that objective. We are (re)introduced to Star-Lord, as Bendis slightly rewrites Star-Lord’s origin story to fit in with the future plot of the ongoing GOTG comic. In brief, an alien craft crashes on Meredith Quill’s farm. The woman lets the alien stay to fix his craft and they fall in love– then he buggers off back to his planet, leaving his impregnated lover behind. Flash forward 10 years and Badoon warriors come after her child (Peter Quill) because he’s the son of an alien royal family. They kill Meredith and leave Peter badly injured. Flash forward another 20 years– he’s grown up and is now known as Star-Lord. On the last page we join him and the rest of the Guardians… And Iron Man… On his ship– speeding out into the galaxy on some important, unspecified mission.
As a prequel, this comic is “OK.” It didn’t make me grind my teeth or want to punch something like most Bendis books from the last 7 years or so. As to be expected, the plot is very cliché– with the distinct feeling much of it was pilfered from various films and TV shows… Most notably, the movie Starman. As usual with a Bendis production, there is oodles of dialogue– but at least he didn’t employ that Mamet inspired rapid back-and-forth shtick I complained about in my now infamous Uncanny X-Men #1 review. Peter’s father and Meredith falling in love was told in a very unBendis-like fashion– in that it didn’t take forever. Instead, it all occurs in a curious 2-page montage sequence that felt like a cross between a Hallmark Movie and The A-Team.
I have to confess the whole romantic impact of this montage was ruined by my brain insisting on playing the A-Team Theme while I was reading it. (Now that I’ve said that, I bet your brain is playing the same tune too.)
I want to touch on something Jose recently mentioned about Nova #1′s page count. Just like the Nova comic, GOTG #0.1 has 31 pages– and it seems like a lot for a $3.99 Marvel book. But as Jose said, the first 3 pages are wasted on black space with a few stars drawn on them– which is presumably to indicate to the reader that this is a WIDESCREEN COMIC. * Sigh.*
Another 4 pages are wasted on a scene where the 10-year-old Peter defends a young girl from a racist bully. This scene, of course, is here to tell us the future Star-Lord does the right thing– no matter the odds and all that baloney. In other words, it’s just Bendis pointing out the bleeding obvious as usual. This story could easily have been told in 20 pages for $2.99– but then how could Marvel pay the writer and artist’s exorbitant talent fees?
Speaking of penciler Steve McNiven— he generally does a good job, everything certainly looks very pretty… But as with a lot of current Marvel pencilers, the art has a static feel and lacks dynamism. It’s as if McNiven’s so concentrated on making things look good, he’s lost sight of the need to tell the story in an exciting way. The layouts are also generally good, though and I have to make an allowance here– as McNiven is somewhat constrained by the avalanche of Bendis dialogue crammed into most pages. I’ve never been much of a McNiven fan, but aside from a certain lack of definition in some of the faces at times… For the most part, the character design is excellent. Justin Ponsor does an amazing job on colours, the book looks very polished and his lighting effects are some of the best in the business. Ponsor’s talent certainly increases the quality of this package.
If you’re a Guardians of the Galaxy fan then you might like this. If you’re a casual GOTG reader, then this certainly isn’t an essential issue. – Locusmortis
Red Lanterns #17
Wrath of the First Lantern Part Four: Sympathy For the Devil
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Miguel Sepulveda
Colorist: Rain Beredo
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
20 pages, $2.99
One of the funny things about being a horror writer: People automatically think you read certain comic books because of your chosen profession. When the New 52 debuted, many of my friends just assumed Red Lanterns was the title I was waiting to check out. Several websites and blogs further pushed the idea that this comic would be a title for horror fans. Obviously these people never read an actual horror novel or they would realize how wrong they are. I read the Green Lantern comics leading up to Blackest Night, featuring the introduction of Atrocitus and the Red Lanterns. They weren’t horrors, they were impulse control deficient teenagers in funky alien skins. Put on a Screamo album while reading this comic, and it’s amazing how a Red Lantern storyline and the music melds.
So why would I check this title out now? To be blunt, I was surprised it’s still a strong selling comic and I wanted to see what was going on. (Granted, “strong selling comic” is a loose term for most DC books nowadays.) After reading the issue, I came to sorta the same conclusion I had come to before I read it: This comic only survives due to the near constant stream of Green Lantern crossover events.
Everything is a mess here. The main story follows Atrocitus to the Guardians’ homeworld to steal the device where they store all their emotions. For most of the story, we watch Atrocitus go through emotional puberty– dealing with other feelings besides rage. Now, when a guy looks like a replacement bassist for GWAR and his whole schtick is “RAGE!”, it’s a little hard to believe this whole idea is even happening. Not only that, but he soon realizes his proximity to the device is causing the emotional changes and the Manhunters he’s taken control of can do his job with zero hindrance… Making nearly all of the story pointless filler.
Without the obligatory last page splash, you almost wouldn’t know this story was even tied into the Wrath of the First Lantern event. Again, this is the reason this comic exists… Tie Red Lanterns to an event so it will sell to completionists who insist on having all the pieces of a crossover.
I also want to add something else: These Green Lantern crossovers are really getting old. So much so, they seem to no longer be expanding and defining the Green Lantern universe, but making a mockery out of it. – W.D. Prescott
Young Avengers #2
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Jamie McKelvie, Mike Norton
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
25 pages, $2.99
The Young Avengers are getting a second chance in the marketplace. Their first run lasted a mere year, but if page one of this comic is to believed– they’re back due to overwhelming demand. Right there the bar is set high… This should be a good book, because the people demanded it! So I settled in for what I hoped would be a fun read, figuring the subsequent review would just write itself.
Well, I was half-right at any rate.
Have you ever felt that *Bleh* feeling after reading a comic? If so, you know the exact feeling I had after I closed the cover to Young Avengers #2. The creators didn’t try to reach for greatness and fail– that would have been commendable. It wasn’t a bad comic per se, but something was definitely lacking in the story. I felt no emotional connection and no interest in the characters’ various predicaments. Why should I? Hulkling and Wiccan barely acknowledge or display any number of emotions that would be appropriate for the horror they are living through. They just brush it all aside.
The result is a comic that left me with a flat, hollow feeling. If you are a die-hard fan, feel free to pick it up… But everyone else– just skip it. – Tim Tash