Tag Archives: Flashpoint

Book(s) of the week 35: Flashpoint. Batman. Knight of Vengeance #2-3

I know that writing about a series, weeks after it’s been published, will not boost clicks to this website. But I have to give credit, where credit is due. Batman. Knight of Vengeance, in my onion, was the best Flashpoint tie-in of them all. But it’s not just a good tie-in, it’s an excellent elseworld tale that can stand on its own just fine if you don’t know anything about the world of Flashpoint.

Let me set it up for you: Issue one shows Batman, with some small visual tweaks to his costume, without his Batcave. Instead he operates from one of his Wayne skyscrapers. He’s the same brooding vigilante that we know and love, and we get so see him take Killer Croc down. But here’s the catch; this isn’t your daddy’s Batman, this is Batman’s daddy. Instead of Thomas and Martha Wayne getting shot by Joe Chill and Bruce donning the cowl to strike fear in the hearts of a ´cowardous and superstitious lot´, Bruce gets shot. He dies and it´s Thomas that sets out to stalk the dark alleys of Gotham city in a quest for revenge. As cool as a concept as it is, this much was given away in the first issue of the main Flashpoint series. So overall, back when I read the first issue I thought cool premise, good art, but otherwise nothing really special. Well, that changed in the last two issues of this series.

The first issue ends with the Joker kidnapping the children of district attorney Harvey Dent at Wayne manner. The second issue shows how James Gordon goes in before Batman and some horrible shit happens both to Gordon and one of the kids. The great, big and very unexpected reveal cliffhanger here is that the Joker is someone very, very familiar to Thomas.  Than the last issue, they fight, run around and ultimately forget about the kids.

That’s one of my (very minor) problems with this series. In the second issue, it looks like one of the kidnapped kids bites the dust, but in the last issue Batman finds out he can still save her. Sadly, he is so busy with the Joker that him saving the kids (I’d have guessed that that’d be the most important goal here) is not shown in this series. In my opinion, they should have spent a couple of caption boxes explaining how the kids ended up (or killed them off earlier).

I’m trying not to spoil anything, so take it from me that this has some solid, lean, atmospheric writing by Brian Azzarello. The art is outstanding too. Again, very atmospheric and while it’s Eduardo Rizzo’s unmistakable unique style, it is also remarkable cinematic. Great dramatic camera angles are used very effectively to enhance the tension. Also some visuals, especially the looks of the Joker and Jim Gordon, seems inspired by Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.


So, while this can be perfectly read without any knowledge of the Flashpoint series, the question whether or not Batman should pick a fight to change reality back to where Bruce lives instead of his parents, plays heavily in to this. Giving this series that extra bit of emotional punch, while also incorporating it into the events of Flashpoint. So for a good, short, standalone Batman series, look no further then Flashpoint. Batman. Knight of Vengeance.
Issue 2: Art: 9             Writing: 8.5    Overall: 8.7
Issue 3: Art: 9.2         Writing: 8.2    Overall: 8.7

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Runner ups for week 35: Flashpoint 5, The Outsider and Gates of Gotham

3. Flashpoint #5 (DC comics)
Holy shit, was I giddy for this mini-series and this final issue in particular. I can’t remember the last time I was so excited by a mainstream superhero comic. Yeehah! Some background for the casual comic reader: This September publisher DC comics of Batman and Superman fame has stopped all of their series and will start out with 52 new ones, that all start from scratch. It looks like they are throwing away all the previous continuity and introducing the characters in new and exciting ways. In the previous months, it slowly became clear that their blockbuster summer event title Flashpoint would somehow be the catalyst for all the changes that were to come. And that is why I was so excited for this issue, this conclusion forms the creative explanation for what the hell DC is doing! In this issue we learn that one of the heroes is actually responsible for changing the time stream and causing a ripple effect that alters reality into that of Flashpoint. Because this reality is whack like crack he eventually undo’s his actions. However he is not capable of putting things back exactly as they were and that allows for all the stuff DC is doing in their 52 new number ones. I loved this very much, Kubert’s art was a little inconsistent but otherwise this book, in my opinion is the best event series since Marvel’s Civil War. Some quick remarks:
*There’s a great big fight in this issue, but sadly we don’t see much of it.
*There used to be 52 alternate realities in the DC mythology, why did only three get mixed into the new status quo? What about the other timelines?
* How do the time stream alternations make everyone in the new DC younger?
*Congratulations to DC for a very entertaining and hopefully successful transition!
Art: 7.5           Writing: 9       Overall: 8.2

4-5. Flashpoint. The Outsider #2 & #3 (DC comics)
If you just can’t get enough of the world of Flashpoint than the Outsider is a series you should really pick up. Strong writing by James Robinson and solid art by Javi Fernandez make for one hell of a read that will hold up even if you don’t care for Flashpoint at al. Basically it’s the story of an Indian anti-hero/villain/industrialist/millionaire who uses his superpowers to get what he wants. He’s pretty ruthless, is involved with the resistance against Aquaman and Wonder Woman out of business principles and is targeted by either one of those warring parties. This series mainly revolves around the Outsider figuring out who wants him dead and then trying to stay one step ahead of them. If you want cool visuals, this book’s got it: from a fantastic redesign of Martian Manhunter, to a 1970’s Calcutta ligthsaber gang war; newcomer Javi Fernandez makes this book look stellar. In the second issue the art took a small dip, but was still very good, the final issue rocked hard again. Also, this book makes a cool little nod to old DC continuity where there are 52 multiple alternate earths in different timelines, the Outsider has dimension hopping technology and weaponizes it in the third issue. Both issues got 8’s all around.
Art: 8              Writing: 8       Overall: 8

6.  Batman. Gates of Gotham #5 (DC Comics)
Aaaaaaaand the awesome sauce that is Trevor McCarthy returns to grace the pages with his artwork once more. I love this guy’s art so freaking much: from the creases and folds in the cowls, to the architecture and the perfect usage of toner dots. I’m seriously looking at this guy’s earlier stuff. This final issue was a lot better than the last one, both on the writing (Scott Snyder is back on board with this one) and on the art. I can’t believe how many people have been involved with this miniseries, (story-wise three, art-wise, art and layouts four, I believe). This series wraps up pretty good (and much better than I had anticipated after last issue), and was successful in that it provided an entertaining story, introduced a great new villain, delved more into the relations between the different Bat family members and offered a little resolve concerning the changes that are coming with the DC line-wide reboot.
Art: 8              Writing: 8       Overall: 8

My pick of the week will be online tomorrow, if anybody cares.

Part one of my all DC extravaganza: Flashpoint tie-ins, Justice League 1 and random stuff

Holy shit, I read more books this week then I had planned. I was so excited for the finale of Flashpoint and the opening chapter of the new DC Universe I tried to get caught up on all my DC reading. I scoured every corner of the house for DC comics I hadn’t read and went through almost all of them. I almost succeeded, I just have a couple of the retroactive issues, two issues of Action Comics, one issue of Green Lantern and one JLA issue left that I’ll get to eventually. I did get around to reading all the Flashpoint tie-ins I follow. Since it’s such a big week I’ll only post the quick shot reviews today, tomorrow will be the rest consisting of (in no particular order): Flashpoint 5, Flashpoint. The Outsider 2 & 3, Batman. Gates of Gotham 5 and Flashpoint. Batman. Knight of Vengeance 2 & 3.

Quick shots for week 35:

Panel from Red Robin #25, published by DC comics. Red Robin no more?

Panel from Red Robin #25, published by DC comics. Red Robin no more?

7. Red Robin #25 (DC comics)                                                                                                8
This issue actually took me some time to read, which is good. It had interesting, action packed (while maybe a bit over the top) twists and turns (for instance Tim Drake, aka Red Robin, seemingly gets stabbed trough the heart by Cassandra Kane, aka the Black Bat. But later it gets revealed it was all a trick with a foldable katana, and a pack of blood). And after that the story continues for a while, depicting the break up with Tam Fox and Tim’s brand own Batcave. Plus, we get a set-up for some sweet revenge on Captain Boomerang in the next issue.
8. Red Robin #26 (DC comics)                                                                                                8
Okay so he didn’t have the stones to kill his father’s murderer, Captain Boomerang. Nothing unexpected there, but since it was the last issue before the relaunch I had that feeling that anything could happen. Sadly it didn’t, but we still got an entertaining story, though. Tim sets Boomerang up, so that his own choices will be his demise. But then he can’t go through with it, he wants to pull the trigger himself, but then he can’t go through with THAT either! The only minor irk about this one, was the dialogue of Dick-Batman, who felt a little too silver age Bruce-Batman for me. Bruce himself was spot on though… A good last issue.
9. Power Girl #25 (DC comics)                                                                                          7.9
First issue I read of this series, and it seems that all the raves about this book were deserved. Fun, quirky writing, telling an interesting story about a Muslim metahuman who gets wrongly detained at Guantanamo and escapes to visit his dying father. Power Girl literally fights up a storm, there are fun dialogues, smart, sharp references to real world politics and vibrant dynamic art. I will definitely be on the lookout for any Power Girl trades, and if they decide to give her a new series with the right creative team I will be very tempted to start picking it up.
10. Red Robin #24 (DC comics)                                                                                        7.8
Okay, I missed some issues since I last read this title and am pretty much lost now. Tim is involved in a murder tournament and he’s trying to protect someone. This gets him caught and he ends up prisoner of a hot chick who wants to mate with him before killing him… Good art, hot cliffhanger!
11. Flashpoint. Wonder Woman and the Furies #3 (DC comics)           7.7
It’s a good thing, to see the events of other tie-ins play out in this one (most notably the Atlantean-Amazonean war, which is also covered in Emperor Aquaman, and the deployment of the nuke on New Thymiscria from the Hall Jordan series). That creates the feeling of a much stronger shared universe, instead of this just being a couple of money grab books. Art is pretty good, I especially liked the sharp inks by Jose Aviles. This fills in a couple of holes that were left out of the culmination of the war in Emperor Aquaman, though overall it tells more or less the same story.
12. Justice League #1 (DC comics)                                                                                 7.7
I’m glad they dropped America from their name, seems fair. Now this was… …interesting. I liked the colors, which were really strong. I liked the opening sequence and the last splash of the new Superman (his new suit looks kinda regal and official, like he’s the emissary of Krypton), the rest of the art? Mehh… I initially didn’t like the cocky, reckless Hall Jordan, but as a caricature I understand that he makes interactions in a team interesting. I WAS excited though, to learn that Darkseid appears to be the first big villain. Overall, this feels more like a Brave and the Bold adventure, and not really like the first issue of the flagship team book of the new DC.
13. Batman. The Dark Knight #2 (DC comics)                                                     7.5
What can I say? I’m a sucker for David Finch art. Good art, okay story, not digging the subplots about the monster preying on the homeless though… Uhm… …is Bats driving another Batmobile in this series then in other books?
14. Batman. The Dark Knight #3 (DC comics)                                                     7.5
I like that Juno was stealing the Batmobile.  Other than that, this was just an okay issue. Great art once more. Read very fast though. Oh, and did I mention Etrigen the Demon? He’s in here too and he doesn’t speak in rhyme for once, which makes him just a bit more bearable than normal.
15. Flashpoint. Citizen Cold #3 (DC comics)                                                          7.4
Hmmm, this series didn’t feel very satisfying. Other than that it explains why we won’t see Citizen Cold show up in the Flashpoint finale it, just like Deadman and the Flying Greysons, this feels utterly pointless. Sorry for possible spoilers, but Cold goes back to finish the rogues after Iris West takes him in and figures out his real identity as well as his secret. Then he meets with her once more and wants to leave America with her, but is stopped by the Pied Piper, who told Iris that Cold killed Wally West. They fight, Cold gets killed, that’s it. I seriously doubt the potential of this series becoming an interesting collected edition. Still, the art was a little better than the previous issue.
16. Flashpoint Citizen Cold #2 (DC comics)                                                            7.2
The art quality varied a little here and there, as did the story. I like the concept of Cold as a hero, picking off everyone who may uncover his secret, but I feel Scott Kolins (both the writer and artist, although he is mostly known as an artist) has some more growth in him as a writer or storyteller. Especially in the action scenes where Cold is fighting the rest of the Rogues, I felt the action was very unclear.
17. Batman. The Dark Knight #4 (DC comics)                                                     7.2
The dialogues in this felt jarring and unnatural. Art was spot-on, especially the last splash-page reveal, where we see hordes of demons getting ready to attack batman, who can’t see them. This one went by to fast too. I’m starting to think that David Finch should just stick with pencils and turn away from the keyboard. I really believe in creative growth, but I think that’s a venture better undertaken in more independent or lower tier books.
19. Flashpoint. Project Superman #3 (DC comics)                                           6.7
Another one that actually ties into the main story, Kal El has grown some balls and it seems like he’ll join the fight in Flashpoint #5. The story of this series was okay, the art was pretty good, except for the design of villain Subject zero, which tainted the pages he appears on with the manga-esque.
18. Flashpoint. Hall Jordan #2
(DC comics)                                                           6.3
I always thought it silly that the reader could see Wonder Woman’s invisible plains, but if even Hall Jordan can see them from his jet fighter, then how about renaming them slightly transparent planes? Oh, but wait, two pages later he can’t see them, huh? This felt like a really fast issue, art was okay, nice layouts, but otherwise nothing special. The writing was very cliché and stiff. Basically Hall fights a kind of Amazonian Dragon monster that is attacking Ferris Industry. After that, he tells Carol everything is going to be okay and that he’s gonna pilot the atomic bomb during the invasion of New Thymiscria. Yeah, that’s EXACTLY what I would say…
20. Wonder Woman #614 (DC comics)                                                                      6.2
I wanted to check how they wrapped this train wreck up. I started on the J. Michael Strazinski issues, which I liked well enough, and stopped reading when editorial reared its ugly head and got Phil Hester involved with the writing (nothing against Hester, I just can’t stand it when stories are so obviously jumbled around). This issue, has not so great art. The first half of the story is action packed and kind of erases the weird world Diana had been living in the last 14 issues. The second half was a reunion on good old Thymiscria and involved some heavy-handed meta commentary about changes on the Horizon and Wonder Woman meeting such changes head-on.
21. Flashpoint. Hall Jordan #3 (DC comics)                                                           6.2
Carol to Hall: ‘ …have you thought of the repercussions—the thousands of deaths that will lie on your conscience? No father would wish that upon his son.’ That is SO weird to say, when you are not his father and you weren’t talking about anything even remotely related to his father… Well, the last page looked heart breakingly beautiful but the dialogues in this issue were very forced again. This had a great two page spread of jet fighters attacking New Themyscira, but I don’t recommend picking this up unless you really want everything out of Flashpoint or everything related to Green Lantern.
22. Static Shock special #1 (DC comics)                                                                    5.9
I had forgotten that this was DC’s Dwayne McDuffie memorial issues, that withstanding: What were they thinking? I have never read Static Shock before, so maybe I’m missing all kinds of things here. But to me this did not read like a good comic. Notwithstanding the art, this remained somewhat enjoyable, but the last page ups the heavy-handed writing infinitely: ’I will never let evil go standing. Taking it out wherever I find it. I am the legacy.’ The two page McDuffie tribute with John Paul Leone art, totally made up for the 21 pages prior.
23. Batman. The Dark Knight #5 (DC comics)                                                     5.7
Such a shame. I had really wanted this title to be a success. But it seems that the editorial ruckus at DC, combined with David Finch still finding his feet as a writer, have worked against this book. This feels like the conclusion of a story that was intended to be stretched over more issues. Both art (not by Finch) and writing took a bad dip. Critical things were left out of the story, like how Batman and Etrigen defeated demon mistress Blaze, how Etrigen got his rhyme back, or how Batman hooked up with the car thief from earlier in the series.


Quick shots week 33: Screams are the best sauce!

Panel from Gladstone's school or World Conquerors #4, published by Image comics, art by Armand Villavert.

Panel from Gladstone's school or World Conquerors #4, published by Image comics, art by Armand Villavert.

5. Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors #4 (Image comics)         8.5
This is my favorite new series out of Image this year, and it continues strong. The opening pages are full of action, while the rest is both sugary sweet (finally the romance between Mummy Girl and kid Nefarious kicks in) and funny. With great linework and exceptional colors, this is a beautiful book. The kids visit Mummy Girl and her dad Thoth to study for the mystical relics exam. But to do that, they first have to fight through a swarm of Ammut’s Stone Guardians of the Dead. This is a great all ages superhero book. If you’re not reading it, you really should check it out. This issue had me cracking up, when asked about comic books, Mummy girl suddenly sets of on a rant (for a preview see image below).

Art by Armand Villavert, from Gladstone's School for World Conquerors (Image comics).

Art by Armand Villavert, from Gladstone's School for World Conquerors (Image comics).

For a one minute overview of the first issue of the series check out this Comic Minute.
6. The Walking Dead #88 (Image comics)                                                              8.5
Aaaaaaaaaand the situation with Carl and especially Rick’s reactions gets more complicated! It seems both Carl’s memories, as well as his emotions got damaged by his recent trauma capitis. Meanwhile Rick seems to be fleeing from his own emotions. Solid art, just as always, and an intriguing story combining both strong emotional dialogues as well as some set-up to move the plot forward: It seems not everybody is glad with Rick’s group at their settlement.
7. BPRD. Hell on Earth. Monsters #2 (Dark Horse comics)                         8.5
Great, great art… Liz is still stuck in a trailer park filled with weird religious fanatics (as opposed to the normal ones) who want her dead, and almost every time she seems to get a break, it falls through… Plus, we also get a sneak peek of the cataclysms that Hellboy is causing/dealing with in Hellboy the Fury. Plus, we have two short departures to BPRD headquarters, where one of the big guns suddenly has a ‘critical malfunction’. Really amazing storytelling, only feels a little short.
8. Moon Knight #3 (Marvel comics)                                                                        8.3
The series as a whole (and especially the art) keeps improving. It’s a well executed comic, it just doesn’t excite me. We see how Marc Spector got his new tech expert and how he immodestly outed himself as a madman to him. We also see him trying to get together with Echo and we learn who’s hired to go after him, the Night Shift: do we know these guys?
9. X-men Schism #3 (Marvel comics)                                                                         8.2
Jason Aaron handles the X-men great. Things come to a boiling point between Cyclops and Wolverine, when Cyclops sends an untrained kid into battle against the Hellfire club (who have just defeated Emma, Colossus, Iceman, Namor and Magneto). I’m with Wolverine on this one…
10. Ultimate Fallout #5 (Marvel comics)                                                                      8
Well written stories, I especially liked the dialogues by Nick Spencer in the Quicksilver story… The Nick Fury story by Hickman has me all giddy for his upcoming run on the Ultimates, it looks to be reminiscent of the Millar and Hitch run, which is one of my all-time favorite story arcs.
11. Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creatures of the unknown #3 (DC comics) 8
Okay, so we’ll see everybody from the miniseries fight in the Flashpoint finale… Great little story with a silver age twist that stands well on its own. A shame the previous issue had some art problems, this series seems a good introduction to next month’s Frankenstein: Agent of Shade
12. Moon Knight #4 (Marvel comics)                                                                              8
This series just doesn’t grab me. While last issue Maleev’s art was up to snuff with his Daredevil stuff, this issue took a little step back, especially in the fight scenes. I love Maya Lopez, it’s great to see her again, I also love Mark Spector sitting around listening to his imaginary Wolverine, Spider-man and Captain America, it’s well written, the story is just not getting me. This was the last issue for me…
13. Ultimate Fallout #6 (Marvel comics)                                                                  7.8
I like Gwen and her new look, weird that it makes her look way older though… Very well written coping of the situation by May and Gwen. Art by Bagley looks more than ever like his nineties stuff and although I’ve never been a big fan of it, I’m loving this. In the last few pages it gets a little less good, plus I never expected to see Nick Fury cry. Let alone the Ultimate one… Misleading cover though, Cap is not featured in this issue and there’s only one line referencing the fact he quit SHIELD.
14. New Mutants #29 (Marvel comics)                                                                       7.7
Great story of Dani trying to get in touch with Hella to look for help with all the Fear Itself stuff, but instead she’s being summoned by Hella… The rest of the team is back in SF, oddly not fighting the Juggernaut. That was a little weird. Also, X-man is now part of the team and is just standing around, while he is apparently suddenly very passionate about his new team mates. Great art by David Lafuente, really reminiscent of JRjr drawing the New Mutants back in the eighties, I liked his Ultimate Spidey stuff better, but it looks like he’ still finding his bearings on the characters and settings, I think this will be beautiful next issue.
15. Flashpoint: Emperor Aquaman #3 (DC comics)                                       7.7
Solid art, don’t understand the need for the flashbacks… Hate, hate, hate, though it’s entertaining, things feel a little too convenient… And again with the empty helmet with hair, flying through the sky… Of all the gore and guts that are displayed in comics, why the hell is DC shying away from depicting the decapitation of Merra?
16. New Mutants #28 (Marvel comics)                                                                      7.5
Dani Moonstar invites an outside psychiatrist to attend to her teammates, in doing so, she has to explain concepts like Nate Grey and his relation to Hope Summers. I just love the way writers Abnett and Lanning boldly embrace decades of convoluted X-history. This is an in-between issue, but a very good one. Art was okay, a little too manga-ish for my taste but fits the book well.
17. X-men legacy #253 (Marvel comics)                                                                   7.5
Weird art inconsistencies were the art actually got better for a couple of panels, but then dropped in beautifulness again… Finally Rogue, Magneto and Gambit are going after the lost space X-men…
18. Captain America #2 (Marvel comics)                                                                 7.2
Enough with this Heroic Age shit. First we get Daredevil in daylight and now a Brubaker penned Cap that’s not dark and gritty? The banners are gone, but this feels like the same old Cap we knew before Brubaker came onboard. Mcniven’s art wasn’t as good as last issue. Weirdly, this book is trying to combine Inception with the Captain America movie. I mean, REALLY???
19. Flashpoint: Deadman & the Flying Graysons #3 (DC comics)          7
It seems rather pointless having this story concluded, the Amazons were after the Helmet of Faith, but didn’t get it. Deadman died and Dick joined the resistance… So I guess we’ll see Dicktor Faith and Deadman in the last issue of Flashpoint… It was entertaining though and better than last issue. Art-wise, some panels were great while other were rather rough…
20. X-men #15.1 (Marvel comics)                                                                                  6.8
The writing in this is just so corny. Cyclops: “Vengeance is on back order. But we just got a fresh shipment of get lost.” Or what about a demon who threatens: “…or you will still be awake when we feed on your intestines. Screams are the best sauce.” While the art was pretty good, the story seemed pretty pointless. Introduction of hopeless situation, enter Ghostrider, fight, fight, fight, twist after battle, X-men walk away… No character growth, emotional beats, forward moving of an overarching plot, nothing of the like…
21. Batman #713 (DC comics)                                                                                           6.5
I picked this up because of the solicit text: “Over the years, Dick Grayson has worn several guises: First, he was Robin the Boy Wonder, then Nightwing, and finally Batman. But now that Bruce Wayne has donned the cape and cowl once again, Dick finds himself at an identity crossroads.” This lead me to believe, this issue would get into the post-reboot changes. Turns out it didn’t, nor did the story relate even a little bit to the solicit text… Art was good, story felt kind off stocky…

Quick shots for week 31: Another bunch of number one issues

5. Rachel Rising #1 (Abstract Studio)                                                                            8.3
About a girl who wakes up from the dead without knowing that she’s deceased or remembering what happened. Very effective storytelling. The sparse use of dialogues show off Moore’s strengths. There’s a car sequence in here which didn’t look very good. The rest of the book is gorgeous, especially the opening sequence, which also introduces a mysterious female figure who looks on as Rachel rises. Which adds another mystifying layer to this story. Really curious as to what’s going on.
6. Flashpoint #4 (DC comics)                                                                                                 8
Nerdgasm! Cyborg, Flash and Batman’s dad stand around in the kitchen of the Marvel kids to get captain Thunder on board with their little invasion of the Amazonian occupied Brittain.  Kubert’s art is still improving and the writing is a marathon of kick-ass moments interwoven into a story that actually makes some sense. What more can you wish for? (Yeah, my ‘reviews’ are pretty much based on my personal taste instead of critical analysis…)
7. X-men Schism #2 (Marvel comics)                                                                                8
Great art. I have to wonder though, why Wolvie looks like an ogre? And later on Scott looks way too scrawny.  Plus on the writing side: Aaron makes Rogue sound even dumber than she’s normally portrayed, which is a shame for all the character development she has gone through under the pen of Mike Carey. “Selling organs to dire wraiths,” that’s classic!
8.  Zeke Deadwood, zombie lawman. With a hammer in my hand (SLG publishing)                                                                                                                                 8
A great little one-shot about a zombie lawman riding an undead horse, who enters a town where a mad judge has hung all citizens. Highpoint of this issue is the dramatic shootout between Zeke Deadwood and a robot sheriff in the Wild, Wild West. I picked this up on a whim, when it was recommended on the 11 O’clock Comics forum. I couldn’t be happier with it! Fun story and great looking art, check it out!
9. BPRD Hell on earth. Monsters #1 (Dark Horse comics)                                  8
Good stuff, I understood everything while this is the first BPRD issue I’ve ever read. Great art by Tyler Cook (on the cartoony side of things). First-rate story about Liz holing up in a trailer camp.
10.  Avengers #15 (Marvel comics)                                                                                     8
I’m really tired of the interview framing of the story, while it doesn’t fit a blockbuster event tie-in, it does allow for some great character development. And that is what we get this issue as Hawkeye, Miss Marvel and especially Spider-woman take center stage. Basically, this whole issue revolves around a kiss and it has some interesting quotes before and after to contextualize this development. Sounds dull? It really works very good, although I have to wonder if Bendis wouldn’t be better of writing this kind of stuff into a series like the Gillmore Girls instead of the Avengers.
11. Sweet tooth #27 (Vertigo)                                                                                                8
It looks like Gus bites the big one, though his journey is certainly interesting and looks very fascinating. Some time ago, I read a tweet by Jeff Lemire that he was painting some of his pages, well here’s the result. It looks wonderful, very dreamy and atmospheric and surreal; it shows a hint of Edvard Munch here and there. I can see that working on this got Lemire excited. But most of all, it’s exciting to see what happens next month, will the book be resolicited as Jepperd and co?
12. Ultimate fallout #1 (Marvel comics)                                                                     7.9
Perfect emotional beats, which feel a little cheap, but completely works. It made me choke up, while I’ve heard of people crying. Everyone is mourning for Peter and for Spider-man… Cliffhanger of Cap taking blame for the death of Peter before aunt May was a little lame. Great art by Bagley, which in some places looks more like his nineties style, which is not a bad thing to me.
13. Invincible #81 (Image comics)                                                                                   7.9
Art a little too loose for my taste, not bad but more Larsen-esk. Kirkman realistically writes how Invincible is dealing with the death of thousands in Las Vegas last issue, as well as a reformed (but mentally unstable) villain his obsession with Mark, especially this plot ends on a very strong note. This panel really invests in making Mark human, not just through his relations with normal people like William and his mother, but this time by digging into his mind and playing around with his guilt and insecurities.
14. Gates of Gotham #3 (DC comics)                                                                            7.8
An in-between issue, not a lot happens, the art a little worse than last time. Good squabbles between the different bat characters. The architect, the villain is becoming more interesting.
15. Punisher #1 (Marvel comics)                                                                                       7.5
Good new take on the Punisher which focuses more on the cops that are investigating the case which Frank is also looking into. If you like the movie Seven you’ll recognize the faces of detectives Somerset and Mills. I really liked Greg Rucka’s (the writer) work on Gotham Central, Detective Comics and Queen and Country. Somehow his Marvel stuff never capture’s my imagination the same way…
16.  Ultimate fallout #2 (Marvel comics)                                                                   7.4
Especially liked the Gabe Hartman pages, he changes his style to work better with the earlier ultimate Spider-man artists while staying true to his style. Liked the fallout of Pete’s death; the funeral and MJ’s uncovering of what happened. The Thor and ultimate X parts though, not so much…
17. Flashpoint: Canterbury Cricket #1 (DC comics)                                             7
Great cliché origin, some more insight into the British resistance, solid art, good writing. I hope we get to see more of this religion-based superhero. Maybe in Xombie? (-Oh, wait that great title will not be around after the DC reboot…)
18.  Ultimate Fallout #3 (Marvel comics)                                                                     7
Again the structure is really weird, I get that Marvel wants us to buy their comics. But promotional material should be free, this is very much a promo. Varying quality of art especially the Karen Grant and Kitty stories were good, it seems like Kitty, Bobby and Johnny are quitting the super-heroics, though I bet not for long…
19. Flashpoint: Wonder Woman and the Furies #2 (DC comics)           6.9
The conflict between Aquaman and Wonder Woman escalates. And Wonder Woman gets a new helmet as a reminder of ‘what the war has cost all of us’. This has a lot of the moments you’ve wanted to see, if you’ve read the Flashpoint main title. Solid writing by Abnett and Lanning, the art begins good but peters out at the end.
20. Batman. Gates of Gotham #4 (DC comics)                                                    6.9
Both art and writing take a sudden dip as the creative team gets a shake-up. This issue is written by Kyle Higgens and Ryan Parrot while original scribe Scot Snyder is acknowledged with a mere story credit. Art duties are split between Dustin Nguyen and Derec Donovan (original series artist Trevor McCarthy is nowhere to be seen), despite having two pencillers the art still looks rushed. Let’s just hope (although it’s very unlikely) that everything will turn back to normal next issue.
21. Flashpoint: Project Superman #2 (DC comics)                                6.9
Art a little better than last time, no probs with writing. But the design on subject zero is very bad. He looks like a giant from Dragonball Z or something… Story: we get to see the lab rat life that Kal has grown up in, in the Flashpoint Universe. General Lane is the only one who tries to connect with him on a human level and ultimately saves his life at a great price…
22. Robocop Terminator. Kill human #1 (Dynamite!)                                   6.5
Nothing too special about this one. It shows how a first issue does not work all too great. While the final cliffhanger has me intrigued over what will happen during the rest of the series (and fearing that it will be only action), the rest of the issue doesn’t intrigued me a bit, it just sets up the story for Robocop awaking in the future where Skynet has taken over… Great covers though…
23. Flashpoint: Deadman and the flying Graysons #2 (DC comics)       6
This is one of THOSE JT Krull issues. While there is nothing wrong with the story told, the dialogue is crude and feels to be laid down haphazardly. Art took a wrong turn since last issue (like most of the Flashpoint tie-ins)…

Holy shit, that were a lot of comics. I’m dialing it down next week but expect a review of Red Skull Incarnate #2 and some more Chew…

Quick Shots for week 30: a league of mystery men and dinosaurs

6. Mystery men #3                                                                                     8
The cast is expanded with two more original pulp heroes, the Surgeon and Achilles. I especially enjoyed the origin of the Surgeon which was lean and short (just like golden age origins should be), maybe a bit contrived but told trough the tropes of pulp/noir genres it worked excellent. The artwork was a feast for the eyes once more. The creative team of Zircher andLiss keeps delivering masterful products.
7. Detective Comics #880                                                                         8
This one has the ultimate cliffhanger, plus a great setup of bait and switch… Good art, though I’m not very keen on Jocks Joker (except on the cover). Story: The Joker has escaped from Arkham, taking the spotlight off from James Gordon jr. who uses the opportunity to settle some old family business.
8. Super Dinosaur #3                                                                             7.9
A Tyrannosaurus Rex in mech gear on ski’s, in a basketball outfit and a jet plane outfit, what’s not to like? But this all ages book delivers more than cool gimmicks. Great art by Jason Howard, especially the full-page spreads were exquisite this time. The writing was fine but it’s the crazy big ideas (villain hq on top of a giant amphibious dinosaur, for instance) that are Kirkman’s biggest asset to this title.
9. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century. 1969                 7.8
This is written upon my first reading, I will probably enjoy it more after a second reading, which normally isn’t a problem, but it felt like a chore getting through this one. And admittedly I haven’t even started on the back matter yet.  It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t hat exceptionally good as the first issue in my opinion.  There wasn’t a ton of action or anything to move the story along, a lot of character moments though…  I liked the thinly veiled reference to the Stones and their sixties flirt with Satanism (the Mick Jagger  analogue is a vessel  for the transference of a black magician’s soul), I also like the way it portrayed the 60’s with drugs and naked chicks and even more naked guys around every corner. (Seriously if you object to seeing male genitalia stay away from this one.) I appreciated the art from a technical standpoint, I personally just don’t really like Kevin O’Neill’s style and in this issue the ’60’s art style didn’t work for me at al. I liked the dark, sketchy style in the 1977 epilogue much better. All in all, a bit of a letdown, beforehand I had expected that this would be my book of the week and maybe score a 10, at least in writing… It’s easy to keep in mind that this is but the middle act of a thee acter and that I’ve never disliked any of Allan Moore’s works.
10. FF #5                                                                                                    7.5
Good art by Barry Kitson, but it feels a little like a poor man’s version of Dale Eaglesham (the artist on the first couple of issues). Kitson is a great artist, don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen him in action at a con. But certain panels just look a little ‘off’ . My favorite panel from this issue was the Thing holding a tiny tea-cup. Kitson get’s across a sense of proportion, which makes you wonder how Ben is holding the cup. The writing by Hickman is great. I especially enjoyed Susan being mad at Reed, something I can never get enough of. The best part of this book was the heart wrenching confession of Ben to his girl Alicia, that he feels guilty for taking the wonder serum which resulted in a great night with Alicia but also in Johnny’s Death…
11. Kirby Genesis #2                                                                                7.5
Solid art on by Jack Herbert and a little Alex Ross. However, almost straight out of the gates the story comes to a halt for a horrible and sudden breaking of the fourth wall. Ugh… Otherwise this book is utterly entertaining. It combines great visuals with a story that might be a bit cliché, yet both writing and art harkens back to the days of Kirby and comics that were fun, fun, fun! This issue contains a great spread of Kirby’s Sasquatch and a lot of Kirby’s character design’s that work remarkably well in the modern-day and age…
12. FF #6                                                                                                    7.5
I love this story for the big mythology that Hickman has built around the Inhumans and the Kree. The art was a total 360 from all the previous issues but it worked really well. This story explains why there are ‘alternative Inhuman’ or Kree strains and it does so very well and entertaining, the only problem is that it doesn’t really get to the point of how this plays into last issue where we see the return of king Blackbolt. Yes, we see Blackbolt awakening somewhere in ‘the rift’, but it doesn’t explain how he returns to the Inhumans. That’s a part of the story that should have been included in this issue.
13. Rocketeer Adventures #2                                                                7.3
I’m getting a bit tired of creator rights being referenced everywhere, I understand that a lot of the deals with big companies are unfair, and it’s a good cause for action, but stop filling our stories with them! It’s not like Kirby or Ditko are actually going to get richer over it… Otherwise fun stories and great art…
14. Flashpoint: Abin Sur #2                                                                  6.8
A great artist (which one?) begins and ends the book, the middle though is not very good. The story is not particularly strong, though sequentially it works fine. While not very special (or surprising) it tells the story of Abin Sur crash landing on earth and surviving, where after he joins Cyborg’s group of heroes. It ends with someone close to him attacking him to fulfill the flashpoint prophecy and change reality in his own way.
15. Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown #2 6.5
Started out strong with art by Ibrahim Robertson, but halfway through we get rushed looking art by Alex Massaci which was really jarring. The story is an entertaining one of the monsters on a road trip, while they’re being followed by general Lane’s monster hunters. Nothing really special about this, but good storytelling and dialogues.

When a book by Allan Moore ends up nr. 9 on your list, it means you’ve read a lot of great books!

Runners up, week 27: Creepy, Avangers. The Children’s Crusade & Flashpoint

2. Creepy #6
The last book I read this week was a total surprise hit. I have read an issue of Creepy last year, thought it was fine but didn’t give it a second thought. I don’t really know why I picked this up, but man am I glad I did. Normally I’m not a big fan of anthology books because for every great story there’s always one I don’t care about. But in this issue every contribution is fantastic, especially art wise. I gave out only 9’s and 8’s for art in this thing.  The stories are great too, but what makes this book really stand out is the glorious art by Nathan Fox, Jason Shaun Alexander, Kevin Ferrera, Garry Brown and Neil Adams. All very different artists, using vastly different techniques but man is this a tour de force of pure, black and white eye candy.  The stories range from a Western about a man so greedy that even death can’t contain it, a psychopathic clown, body snatching Aliens with a memory problem, Hitler’s bitches and a great collaboration between Archie Godwin and Neal Adams about an unfortunate brain transplantation. Below are some sample images, and the scores of this book.

Panels from Creepy #6 by Nathan Fox, Jason Shaun Alexander, Kevin Ferrera, Garry Brown and Neil Adams

In order from top to bottom, panels by Nathan Fox, Jason Shaun Alexander, Kevin Ferrera, Garry Brown and Neil Adams from Creepy #6 by Dark Horse Comics.

Art: 8.9       Writing: 8.2     Overall: 8.55

3. Avengers: the Children’s Crusade# 6     
Just another miniseries about a couple of kids that picked up the slack of the Avengers after they disbanded? Apparently not. This book, and especially this issue, is very important for the overall status quo of the Marvel universe, particularly for the X-men family. It was Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch that betrayed the Avengers in Avengers: Disassembled, years ago. After that, it was Wanda who, by uttering three words, decimated the mutant population of the Marvel universe, in House of M. This issue finally seems to resolve the event that has become known as M-day. Since House of M, Wanda has been mostly out of the picture. However, this series revolves around the Young Avengers Wiccan and Speed who are searching for Wanda because they believe her to be their mother. When they find her, some shit goes down. You shouldn’t just get it because it ‘matters to the continuity’, both art wise and from a storytelling standpoint this book is solid. That’s not surprising looking at the attached creators; writer Allan Heinberg and artist Jim Cheung. Looking for well executed superhero action, drama and humor? Then this is for you.
Art: 8          Writing: 8         Overall: 8

4. Flashpoint #3
The DC blockbuster summer event leading into the September reboot (as well as too many tie-ins) is moving along nicely. This third issue of five written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Andy Kubert finally explains what the hell is going on. Maybe,  I could have picked up on it earlier but apparently this new continuity is the result of the Reverse Flash tinkering with the time stream. Fried Flash convinces Batman’s dad to team up with a larger version of the Titan’s Cyborg and they go look for Superman, because if anyone can help them avert the pending world war between Wonder Woman and Aquaman (and restore the timeline) it’s him. However not everything is as we’d expect… Another exiting prospect of this issue is the further merging of the Wildstorm universe and the DC universe, with a surprise visit from a major Wildstorm character. This book will not revolutionize the industry and it doesn’t have to. It’s thoroughly entertaining and what more could you wish for on a major event book? The art keeps getting better, yet while I see the craftsmanship in the dynamic figures and character expressions it’s just not my cup of tea.
Art: 8          Writing: 8         Total: 8

Reviews for week 26: Holy keys to the Flashpoint universe, Batman!

Okay, so as soon as I sat down behind my keyboard to write this first week’s batch of reviews I realized I’ve got a problem. I don’t want to write solemnly about the comics that came out this week, or even the fairly recent ones. Truth is I’m only up to date on a handful of titles, while most books I’m weeks if not months behind on. And whites better than to read a whole slew of issues of the same title back to back?
So that’s what I did this week with Locke and Key: Keys to the Kingdom.

While issue six of Keys to the Kingdom was my absolute favorite of the week, I feel it wouldn’t make any sense to write something about issue six, before reviewing the rest of the series. So my solution is to first review all six issues of Keys to the Kingdom, which was my favorite read of the week, before continuing with the rest of the books.

So without further ado…

Reviews
I finally got around to reading Lock and Key. What I lacked for in timeliness, I made up for in reading speed. After a couple of days I opened the fourth volume: Keys to the Kingdom. While admittedly I had to warm up to the art by Gabriel Rodriguez, Joe Hill’s believable dialogues of the young protagonists sucked me right into the story. Halfway through the second series I suddenly ‘got’ why the art works extremely well with this story. It’s a horror book about children, and the art displays just that: A childlike cheerfulness with a sharp and dangerous edge to it. In the first three volumes the story of the Locke children unfolds. The briefest summary I can give is: ‘Key House mansion has many magical keys, three kids live in the mansion, a dark force is hell-bent on retrieving one such key, luckily the keys have magic properties which the kids can use to wage war against this dark force.’ Dealing with this subject matter, it an amazing feat that the story is more about character interaction than about magic key whacking.

Opening Splash page of Locke and Key. Keys to the Kingdom

The opening splash page of Keys to the Kingdom #4. Bode Locke's imaginary Squadron Strange.

Throughout the previous volumes the readers pulses have been rising as they have seen the bad guy get closer to his/her/its goal one step at a time. What’s worse is that he has taken the form of a cocky teenager who has befriended the kids. In this volume however the plot proverbially thickens as the first cracks show up in the cover of their enemy and things finally come to an ugly confrontation. With their enemy seemingly dead, it appears to the kids that better times are on the horizon. However at the end of this volume, the readers know that things are actually worse than ever.

In closing, some short thoughts: If you don’t care for Calvin and Hobbes you might scratch your head as I did during the first issue. Parts of the story seen from the youngest kid’s perspective are rendered in Calvin and Hobbes style. It fitted wonderfully however. The second issue has some clunky and heavy handed social commentary on racism, which to me felt like the worst and most contrived writing since Locke and Key started. The third issue is suddenly ultra compressed. Wikipedia describes it as 28 issues crammed into one. I agree, while I see how this played out in the overall story arc, as an issue it did not work particularly well. The three final issues however are deep fried comic book gold, nothing to complain there.

Average grades for the whole series based on the issues:
Art: 8.8 Writing: 7.9 overall: 8.2

If you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor: read Locke and Key from IDW. I’ll go and find the first issue of the volume currently being published, Clockworks.

My runner-up is a current single issue, namely Detective Comics #878. With Art by Jock and words by Scott Snyder I don’t think you can go wrong. This continues Dick Grayson‘s stint as Gotham‘s Batman. While Bruce is of gallivanting the world in Batman Inc., Dick is left with the dark streets of Gotham to protect. It’s moody, it’s atmospheric, it’s noir. While the story is very much compelling, with all its twists and turns I have no idea where this is going and why it is taking the route it has. However, I am onboard for the trip!
This issue opens with Dick being captured by pirate villain Tiger Shark, who apparently lets his henchman do all the work, and because of this becomes way more compelling than his name might lead you to believe. Plus there are Killer Wales or Orca’s as I like to call them:

Batman fighting Killer Wale

Without question, Batman struggling in the jaws of a Killer Wale was my favorite panel of this week!

Batman fighting Killer Wales as rendered by Jock, I hope to continue seeing much more of this. Killer Wales are truly terrifying animal, not?
Art: 9 Writing: 8 Overall: 8.5

Also very good was the Walking Dead #86. This goes without mentioning of course. The only real topic of discussion with this series being whether the plots are too horrific, or rely too much on dialogue. However, to me it is the balance between these two ingredients, which can suddenly shift, that makes this series not only a horror comic but also a character study. This issue is a case in point: After some serious  horrifying shit went down the last couple of issues, this is where the characters pick up the pieces and try to get on with their lives. A talk between the main character Rick and the katana wielding Michone poignantly shows the state of emotional breakdown in which these characters find themselves, Michone: ‘…After everything that’s happened, why would I think that — that I could be happy? […] What’s wrong with us?‘ Oh, and there’s also a couple of zombies that get shot trough the head.
Art: 7.5 Writing: 9 Overall: 8.3 

Another great recent Bat-book was Batman Inc. #7, which proves that Batman stories can be fun. Which, I think, was one of Grant Morrison‘s main goals for his long running writing gig on the Bat. In this issue Batman is recruiting in a native American reserve. The local franchise holders on the reserve are Man-of-Bats and his son Red Raven. Without superpowers and without the money of Bruce Wayne it turns out this dynamic duo is pretty much the laughing stock of the reserve. So much so that Red Raven is one step away from quitting as a vigilante. Luckily Bruce arrives for a team up and to open his wallet. I think the following panel shows just why his money was so badly needed:

Great art by Chris Burnham on this one! And it would have scored higher if it would not have been for the typo on page 5. I can’t stand when books (let alone by the Big Two) have typo’s. Aren’t there like at least four people that should have catched this? Anyway:
Art: 8 Writing: 9 Overall: 8.5 …Nah, let’s make that 7.5 

Seeing as this is taking up far too much time and words, quick shots:

Flashpoint Deadman and the Flying Graysons #1                           7.5
Hey look, it’s Dick Grayson being happy with his parents. Let’s just give him his moment, yes? An interesting take on Doctor Fate in the Flashpoint universe shows some mysterious revelations. And very interesting to see the story of what’s left of Europe during the war between Wonder Woman and Aquaman. Plus a beautiful cover by Cliff Chang.
Flashpoint Captain Cold #1                                                                     7.5
So I am guessing this is Scot Kollins his old style? Very painterly and less cartoony? It looks really good and reads well too. Only problem that I totally got my Flashes mixed up. At the end of the book I thought: ‘Didn’t he already die in Flashpoint #2?
Wolverine #9                                                                                              7.5
While I like Acuna‘s art just fine, I always thought it didn’t really fit Wolverine. This issue he changes his stuff up, to almost look like Darwyn Cooke. Short to say, it looks fantastic! Wolverine takes revenge on Mystique for sending him to hell, and Jason Aaron writes it pretty well.
Flashpoint Wonder Woman and the Furies #1                                7.5
The art by Scott Clark is kinda Greg Landish, but way better. While this gives an interesting insight into the conflict between Wonder Woman and Aquaman even Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s great writing chops could not prevent this from feeling rather contrived. Still an entertaining read though…
X-men Legacy #251                                                                                   7.2
In my opinion Mike Carey‘s run on X-men/X-men Legacy is the qualitatively most constant run of any X series in recent years. While he may not always work with the greatest artists and it still remains to be seen where the book matters (ugh… I know) in the greater scheme of the X-universe, Carey really delves into the characters previous continuity and hit’s X-men fanboy gold. This issue shows artist Khoi Pham‘s best work ever. Clean dynamic line art depicts the fight of prof. X, Gambit, Rogue, Magneto, Frenzy and Legion against two of Legion‘s escaped personalities.
Flashpoint Grodd of War                                                                             7
Poor disgruntled Gorilla Grodd rules Africa. But as it is known as the forgotten continent his reign is largely neglected internationally. Seeking an even fight I think he might show up in upcoming issues of Flashpoint proper… While art and story where just fine, I thought the colouring was somewhat off on this one.
 Screamland #1                                                                                              7
One Fantasy Con. One Werewolf. One Creature from the Black Lagoon. One Invisible man. One former Starship captain. One Blob. One vampire. One acting Nazi robot. And one long forgotten sex tape. I mean come on, read it!
Alpha Flight #1                                                                                              7
The first Fear itself tie-in I actually like. While I was very psyched about Eaglesham on this book, they did something (inks/colour maybe?) that makes it look more like a standard superhero comic from the ’90’s than the great artwork I was expecting after having read Captain America and Fantastic Four. Solid writing, good dialogues. Great set-up for tensions between Northstar and Aurora. Seeing as I’m new to Alpha Flight I have no idea who the alien chick is, but the ‘Die human scum’-joke was priceless.
Alpha Flight #0.01                                                                                    6.5
Was this necessary? It was an adequate story, but nothing special. It also did not add much to the set-up for issue 1. Fun read though. 
Avengers #14                                                                                              6.5
This felt really contrived. We still get only one splash page of the blitzkrieg on Washington, however we do get an awesome fight between the bad Thing the Red Hulk. Apparently the Red Hulk dies and Jarvis is very upset about it. I mean come on… The whole structure of this issue, with an interview framing device was set up for something emotional, it worked out however as very cheesy.
Wolverine #10                                                                                            6.5
Not Jason Aaron‘s best work. One villain is called Cannon Foot, he kicks objects at Wolverine. We also find out what the Red Right Hand is, which is pretty cool. The back story of this organization however was not very good. Oh and the artist from the first arc is back. Not pleased with that…
Flashpoint Emperor Aquaman #1                                                         6.5
Aquaman is all brooding and angry and floods Rome. Why? Art looks kinda ’90’s but in a good way. When Merra is decapitated her helmet is empty but her hair sticks out of it, I’m guessing she was bald… An entertaining read but I think I am missing the significance of a lot of things in this. Maybe this is more for the die hard DC fans?
Flashpoint Secret Seven #1                                                                     5.5
I do not believe there was a lot of George Perez in here. And I don’t have enough DC lore in my head to understand what the hell is going on and who all these characters are.
Flashpoint Legion of Doom #1                                                               5.2
At some point in the story Plastic Man makes an appearance, that was the only good part of this comic. This book is filled with all kinds of corny puns on heat and fire, because it revolves around Firestorm and Heatwave. Also there was some wonky sequential storytelling, I will not be picking this up again.

Okay, so the first week. I read 24 books, which I rated on average 7.3. I guess that’s a pretty big week as well as a pretty good week.