Friday, April 27, 2012

New 52 in Review - All Star Western

I’d heard good things about the Jonah Hex comic before the new 52, but had never really found the need to pick it up.  I enjoyed the Hex short before the Red Hood animated film.  Since the writers were the same as were working on the character before the New 52 and it was set in Gotham with Amadeus Arkham I thought this one could be interesting.  And I like supporting books that star lesser known characters.  Spoilers below, reader beware.

The story starts out in Gotham, and later moves to New Orleans.  Neither of these cities is really the West as we tend to think of it, but whatever.  The writers pick up several threads from the Gates of Gotham miniseries, referencing old families of Gotham.  It’s nice to see these familiar names and really gives you a sense of the city’s history while reminding you that these stories are set firmly within the same universe as all the other books, even though it’s in the past.  But then we also had the giant bat creatures and the Miagani tribe from the Return of Bruce Wayne and I’m reminded how that story really didn’t make much sense.  And wait, Hex was in the Return of Bruce Wayne and shot Bruce and was working for evil Thomas Wayne, but in this story the current head of the Wayne family is named Alan and apparently not a devil worshipper.  So I guess the shared universe thing is a bit of a win some lose some situation, and I’m still not sure what still counts in continuity…

Hex and Arkham have a sort of Sherlock Holmes and Watson thing going on.  Things are told from Arkham’s point of view, as though he is writing these tales down.  His are the only internal dialogue boxes I think we’ve had.  He observes Hex and comments on his skills.  Like Watson he is also a doctor.  Hex isn’t too Holmes like, although Arkham does remark on his deductive reasoning skills (which I’m not quite sure we’ve seen too clearly in the comic itself). 

I’m kinda with Hex though in that I don’t really understand what Arkham’s role is.  I thought Arkham would be words and Hex would be actions.  But Hex often seems like he’d do just fine on his own.  In Gotham at least Arkham was Hex’s link to the city.  Arkham was familiar with the city and its people and had the manners to talk them into certain places.  Now that they are out of Gotham I’m not really sure what purpose Arkham is really going to serve.  He did save Hex’s life, but I can’t see that kind of situation popping up on a regular basis, especially since Arkham doesn’t seem to want to hurt/kill anyone.  I would also be thrilled to learn that some of his assumptions about Hex’s past are completely wrong.  Or at least have him psychoanalyzing someone other than Hex a bit more.  But it seems from the solicitations that we’ll be heading back to Gotham after this, and we’ll connect more with the history of Gotham, so perhaps that will be Arkham’s time to shine.

The back up stories are pretty good, although I would happily lose them so we could go down to $2.99.  I’m not sure they are worth and extra dollar every month.  It’s a way for them to introduce some new characters who may or may not show up in the story down the line.  And with the story set in the past I suppose it needs these supporting stories to help set up the world that these stories are taking place in.  The stories were okay, but not really remarkable.  I liked the Barbary Ghost if only because she was the first woman we had in the comic who wasn’t a prostitute or a nun. 

Also interesting is that this comic doesn’t seem to have the same no kill rule as most superhero comics.  Hex kills people.  A lot of people.  And so do the heroes in the back up stories.  And so did Arkham.  It sets the tone a bit differently when your hero is torturing people.  And honestly makes for a bit more interesting characters.  It stays away from the black and white idea of good and evil. 

I’m not a huge fan of the art.  The colors are sometimes very muddy and there is something loose with the figure work, especially in the faces, at times that I don’t really like.  It also feels a touch inconsistent (which doesn’t seem like the right word but I honestly don’t know enough about art to tell you the right one) with some pages that almost seem as though they were done by a different artist entirely.  I appreciate the art.  It’s not bad, it’s simply not to my taste. 

And thus we are left with yet another bubble title.  It’s not bad, it’s just not great.  It never wowed me and I’m not especially looking forward to reading the next one.  I’ll probably stick it out at least until we get back to Gotham and see how the pacing of the series settles down.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New 52 in Review - Resurrection Man

Resurrection Man is a character I knew nothing about, but I was excited that DC was pushing some of their lesser known characters and his power seemed interesting, so I picked this series up.  Not much more back story than that.  Spoilers below, reader beware!
My first complaint is that I hate the depiction of women in this series.  I HATE the Body Doubles and the panty shots that come with them.  The angel chick isn’t much better.  There are a lot of cheesecakey poses and clothing getting ripped.  And if they were characters we would never see again I might be able to get past it easier, but I know they will be back.  I didn’t find them to be interesting characters and it bothered me that we don’t seem to have any strong women who aren’t bimbos.

My other big complaint was with the pacing.  I knew nothing about this character and I was hoping for a bit of a more controlled start.  I wanted to learn about him and his powers.  I wish we had spent a few issues with just Mitch being drawn to some place and solving some problem to start with and then thrown in the crazy angels and demons and mysterious people from his past.  I know that there was a comic some years ago and I can’t help but think that many of these characters might be from there.  So if you were a reader then you probably really enjoyed getting thrown right back into the story.  But for me, it was a bit too much at once.  I didn’t even really feel I had a good grip on what kind of person Mitch is before they started throwing stuff in about his past and what kind of person he was before.  So basically I wish the first few issues had been more like the sixth and seventh issues, and then I might have been able to process the arc they put in the first five issues better.

I know it was probably only done to boost sales, but I kinda liked that the last two issues I read were set in Gotham and Metropolis respectively.  It makes sense to me that someone who claims to have powers from dying would end up in Arkham.  This is the kind of shared universe I enjoy, one where it is clear that these things are all happening in the same world without causing other books to get off track.  Neither Batman or Superman appeared in these issues.  Some of their supporting characters did (like Jimmy Olsen and a number of Batman villains) so it felt like Mitch was in those corners of the DCnU without having to wave the big guys around.

I do like the character and feel that he has an interesting power.  I just wish that his power was a bit more of the focus rather than these other characters and his soul and all.  Which, again, the sixth and seventh issues did very well.

I really don’t have much else to say about this one.  I was ready to give it up entirely while reading the first few issues, but it did get better.  I’m not sure if it will stay better though.  I felt the sixth and seventh issues were the best, but I don’t know if we’ll continue to tell stories like this or if this was merely a side quest.  Again, I’ll have to wait until I read more of the new 52 to decide, but this one is definitely on the bubble.

Monday, April 23, 2012

New 52 in Review - Aquaman

So I’m pretty sure we picked this one up because my fiancé wanted to read it.  So I didn’t have any preconceived notions going into this one really.  Aquaman…sure why not?  Spoiler below as always, you have been warned.

First off let me just say that this is the first out of the new 52 series to really impress me.  I really enjoyed this one and will say right off the bat that this is a keeper.  It was fun and interesting and the pacing was really good. 

Aquaman isn’t quite the same character as in Justice League.  I guess he’s had 5 long years of jam packed DC action to bring him a bit more down to earth (seriously, a crap ton of stuff that is still apparently in continuity happened in those 5 short years…).  But he is very similar to the version that popped up in Brightest Day in the old DCU.  I never finished Brightest Day (still intend to, but I want to get caught up on current series first) so I wasn’t sure if things were resolved there or just ignored like his telepathy thing controlling dead fish, but it really didn’t matter.  Everything I needed to know was explained in the comic so I didn’t feel I had any giant lingering questions about who Aquaman was.

The first issue does a great job of showing us what a badass Aquaman is, which I really appreciate since a lot of comics tend to tell us characters are so great without ever really showing us why.  Here we have the opposite though, as we see how awesome Aquaman is and everyone around him is saying that he is lame.  And it’s true that in pop culture Aquaman gets picked on a lot, so I’m okay with this being a reality in the comics as well.  Especially if Aquaman spent a lot of time in Atlantis previous to this, his powers would probably be misunderstood by the general public. 

I could not have given you a list of all of Aquaman’s powers, so I appreciate that they are being introduced to us as they come up naturally in the story.  No info dump or anything, just as things happen you get a sense of what he can do.  I’ve also enjoyed the bits of his backstory we’ve had.  It is all presented in a genuine way that fits into the story without being too intrusive.  It helps a lot since I’m sure I’m not the only reader who knew very little about the character before this series. 

The first arc is only four issues long, which seems short compared to the other new 52 series I’ve read.  But it was really as long as it needed to be and any longer would have been padding.  The first issue introduced the main character and the enemy.  The second issue had the two getting into a direct confrontation.  The third issue ended that first direct encounter and set up the goal of the arc (saving the towns people).  And the fourth issue had the big finale.  And all along the way we learned more about Aquaman and Mera and the Trench, who I suspect we will see again at some point.  The fifth and sixth issues were basically one shots that continued the larger story, but had self contained problems to be solved (which I really enjoyed) and then the seventh continued with the threads from the previous issues and introduced us to something new.  Each issue felt like a rewarding read to me, which doesn’t always happen since many monthlies are now written for the trade paperback release.  They each had a nice cliff hanger to keep you coming back the next month, but none felt over the top.  Just great pacing all around.

I like Mera.  She’s a strong female presence with her own powers and problems.  I love that he has a dog that can’t swim.  I’m happy that although he wants to stay on the surface and protect the people who live on the shoreline he is still very much connected to Atlantis.  I hope this back and forth with things relating to Atlantis and thing on land will continue.  Although he wants to be connected with humans, Aquaman’s connection to Atlantis makes him somewhat unique among superheroes, so I’m glad we’re not ignoring Atlantis entirely. 

I was kinda mad when the second issue had a cute little kid pointing at the incoming boat full of hungry Trench.  I thought that they were introducing the kid just to be killed off so it was even more sad.  I was thrilled when the kid came back at the end, safe and sound thanks to Aquaman.  Even though there was death in these issues, there was also a great rescue and that was really the focus.  It made the whole thing less grim and depressing than it could have been and I appreciated that.  It was also nice to see that Aquaman felt sympathy for the Trench.  He had his priorities and would not sacrifice human lives, but he clearly wished that there was some way they could work things out without killing an entire species.  He was a king and it stands to reason that he would look at problems with a larger viewpoint.

It’s interesting to me that Aquaman doesn’t have any real secret identity.  It makes for some interesting storytelling since anyone can just drop in to see him and he can’t exactly go anywhere without being recognized.  Which also means that villains can find him too.  I’ll be interested to see what they do with that.

All in all, it’s a very good comic.  Definitely recommended and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

New 52 in Review - Justice League

So I picked this one up because it looked impressive.  I loved the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons, so I know that the team can be done in amazingly entertaining ways.  Super teams at their best use each member’s strong points and rely on teamwork to do something none of them could do on their own.  And this comic was back to the big guns, which many people had complained about before the new 52, that the Justice League wasn’t the Justice League they wanted to read about.  So I gave it a shot.  Spoilers below, you’ve been warned.

The team gathers slowly over the first four issues, which gives some nice spotlight time to each character’s first appearance.  I enjoy that everyone is shocked that Batman is real.  We also get the origin story of Cyborg, which was the weak point for me as I felt it was a bit too rushed.  As much as I love the character he didn’t have any time to deal with the transition from normal kid to half machine.  He just kinda jumped in and became a superhero.  That could have made for interesting storytelling, but was kinda skipped over in favor of more punching.

Geoff Johns has a massive boy crush on Hal Jordon and Barry Allen and that’s more than apparent here.  It’s hard to fault a creator for focusing on characters he enjoys writing, but I really don’t like Hal Jordon myself, so I didn’t enjoy it as much as he probably enjoyed writing it.  I did grow to like Barry Allen, despite my continuing anger that his return has all but erased Wally West from existence.  Superman was a bit strange as he was portrayed very differently from his traditional boy scout persona.  But this is set five years in the past and I guess that might correspond with his growth in Action Comics, which I am not reading.  Wonder Woman, while very kickass, was a bit flat for my taste.  Kind of a mindless berserker character who just wants to fight things.  Although the ice cream scene was precious.  Aquaman was amusing, and I enjoy his regal arrogance.  He didn’t really do that much, but I did like what was there which gives me high hopes for the Aquaman series I’ve yet to read.  Batman was okay, not the best I’ve seen but also far from the worst.  Solid Batman without being anything too special.

My biggest complaint was with the use of Darkseid as the first villain.  I understand that the threat had to be large in order to assemble all of the great heroes together to fight it, but since these characters are younger and untested and don’t quite understand their powers as well as they could yet and have no idea how to work as a team it kinda just made Darkseid look like a punk.  They use a tiny bit of teamwork, but it all seems to boil down to everyone just punching him.  And woo they win and Darkseid promises he’ll be back, but I don’t care much as they beat him pretty easily this time once they attacked together.  He doesn’t seem like much of a threat. 

Also, when Darkseid first show up at the end of issue four we have a panel that takes up ¾ of the two pages that I have to turn on its side to see followed by a two page spread of I guess Darkseid’s spirit energy smacking everyone and then splash page of just Darkseid’s face.  To me that is an incredibly inefficient use of 5 pages.  You only have 22 pages a month to tell me a story, don’t waste 5 of them telling me that exact same thing.  On the other hand, I thought the splash page at the end of issue five was the perfect use of a splash page.  It shows Batman looking out at Apokolips (I assume, I don’t think it was ever actually named, but its what’s on the other side of the Boom Tube so I feel it’s a safe guess).  It’s an effective page because it demonstrates the massive scale of what Batman is up against, while subverting our expectations as he was in a small hallway moments before.  But by far the worst offender of the overuse of splash pages and double page spreads is issue six with nine out of twenty three pages used in this way.  That’s not quite half, but it’s far more that I want.  The full page spread losses its effectiveness when used that often and just really bugs me.  Although this is perhaps something I should come to expect from Geoff Johns (as demonstrated by this comic).

I don’t feel the comic made great use of everyone’s abilities in the final battle.  Green Lantern got to be a lure, and most everyone else just kinda stabbed or punched at Darkseid.  Cyborg used his crazy alien technology powers to save the day, making him important in the fight.  And I appreciate that Batman had something to do with going to save Superman.  Because really, once you pull out Darkseid, what on earth is Batman really going to do? (Ignoring Final Crisis as I’m still not sure I understand what went down there…)  So it was nice that he didn’t just have to stand on the sidelines throwing Batarangs or something.

Issue seven started a new arc, jumping forward to the present with a government support group and the team still not really understanding teamwork since Hal Jordon is just sooooooo impulsive (why do the Guardians put up with him, anyway?).  The start of the new arc was okay, with some cute stuff with Steve Trevor.  But it was a slow issue that didn’t really do much to introduce the next big threat.  And we get a backup with Billy Batson being a troll of a child that will somehow be found worthy to be Captain Marvel who I guess we’re calling Shazam now and who I really don’t want to read about.  I suppose it was really a teaser more than anything, but it really didn’t make me care about what happens to Billy at all.  I didn’t follow the Marvel family much before all of this, but he is way different from what I remembered or expected.  His costume also has a hoodie cape which I think looks incredibly stupid.

I guess I should also mention the short backup in issue six with Pandora, the mysterious hooded lady from Flashpoint and every issue one of the New 52.  I thought it was a bit odd that this was even here referencing that she “rewrote reality” and all that when the New 52 is supposed to be about new reader accessibility and all.  I would think that they would be avoiding referencing things as they used to be in order to not confuse new readers, but what do I know.  Instead it seems like this is only the beginning for this character and whatever mad quest she is on.  Which makes me wonder how we’re going to keep everything straight if she starts referencing things from the old DCU.  But maybe she won’t.  I dunno, but it just felt like even six months after reshuffling all the cards we couldn’t help but pick up the deck again.  I don’t really mind it too much, but I feel like any new readers who the book attracted could be put off by all of this.

Despite the fact that the story and action were often unimpressive, the dialogue was pretty fun.  There were lots of great lines and bits of interaction between the characters when they weren’t punching each other.

So yeah, it’s another book I am torn on.  It isn’t horrible but it also isn’t fantastic.  It’s just sort of there and hasn’t really wowed me at all.  I know there are plans to add some more characters (and many other DC people have already been mentioned in the comic) so I’m interested in seeing how that all works out.  Also hopeful that they will try to even out the genders a bit so that Wonder Woman isn’t the only girl.  But I have no idea if/when that will happen, so it comes down to if I’m willing to wait it out.  This is another I’ll have to wait until I can see the big picture of what we’re keeping/dropping until I can make a decision.

Friday, April 13, 2012

New 52 in Review - Teen Titans

This is another one I was on the fence about picking up at all.  For some reason almost no one seems to be able to write the Teen Titans well lately.  I don’t know what is so difficult about the concept of the book, but recent writers tended to do certain things with the series such as kill off characters for shock value, cause massive internal strife among the teammates, make everyone angsty, write horrible dialogue, and completely changing the team line up because I guess they don’t feel like writing certain characters.  I am drawn to the book mostly because it is the only place I can read about some of the characters I really like.  With the new 52, this is now the only place I can read about Red Robin, whose solo series was one of my top ten favorite ongoing series before the massive cancellation of the old DCU.  So I picked this one up…  Possible spoilers to follow; you’ve been warned.

First of all I might as well mention that I hate a lot of the new costumes.  Especially Red Robin’s.  I can understand the desire to give him wings and make him able to fly like a lot of the other heroes, but to me it just takes away from the team aspect.  Tim could not fly and that was a personal weakness.  The team had to plan for that and make use of the various strengths that each member had.  Now he’s just Super Tim and flies about.  Wonder Girl’s red costume doesn’t really appeal to me either.  She didn’t have the greatest costume in the old DCU but this really isn’t an improvement to me.  With Red Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash and Superboy there is an awful lot of red in these costumes.  

It pains me to say that Tim Drake is a jerk in this.  They play it off as him not being an insensitive prick but actually just wanting to protect everyone and being all business like in order to accomplish that.  But he’s a jerk.  He simply is not the Tim Drake I knew and loved and that pains me.  One of the best things about old Tim Drake was the great relationships he had with his friends and teammates.  He had very close friendships with Conner, Cassie, and Bart.  I guess they could be trying to develop that again with these new characters, but to me that’s boring as it’s already been done (and done well).  I’d rather read about the characters already being friends and trusting each other and working together on interesting problems than reading about all the strife that goes along with getting there.

But I guess that’s really my biggest problem.  This entire storyline with NOWHERE and capturing and containing metahuman teens has all been done before.  This was all done in Young Justice (the old series not the one based on the cartoon), and done very well.  None of this really feels original in any way.  If I want to read about the young heroes battling a shady organization I’d rather read that series, since I know it was good.  I’m not saying that comic writers can’t tell similar stories from time to time, but for the big debut of the new 52 I was expecting something fresh and unique.  Sure it’s not exactly the same story, but I can’t help but compare it to the Young Justice one and find this one lacking. 

The dialogue is horrible.  I mean, it’s just bad.  The kids don’t talk like teenagers.  And everyone exposits like crazy.  They even lampshade it at one point, pointing out that letting the villain talk is your best bet as he’ll tell you how to beat him.  Many of the jokes fall flat.  It’s just not good writing. 

This is probably nitpicky as well, but I got really really sick of all the editor boxes telling me things that were pretty obvious.  Or telling me that something happened in issue 1.  Seriously we haven’t even been going a year yet.  If I want to know more about something the characters are talking about I think I can handle picking up a handful of previous issues to figure out where it is.  The reader doesn’t need to be told this information constantly, especially since most of the readers at this point have probably read all the issues out at the moment.  Unless it’s something that happened 3 years ago (impossible at this point) or in a different series I really don’t need a note about where to find it.  It was probably more annoying since I read all of them at once, but it was just really unnecessary and made me feel like the editor thinks all the readers are morons who can’t handle characters talking about anything that happened in a previous issue without a guide map of where to find it.  I also did not need what NOWHERE is spelled out for me in every issue.  In issue 4 the comic even tells me what NOWHERE is in context, but then on the next page I get an editor box shoving it in my face, just to be sure.  I like editor boxes when they are used correctly, but here it was just a misuse. 

I appreciate that there is almost an even number of guys and gals on the team.  And that the girls seem pretty strong and able to fend for themselves.  But I really don’t like Solstice’s redesign.  And Wonder Girl is a jerk too.  I wish the team wasn’t half made up of unlikeable characters.  Other than Bunker the team already feels full of potential angst.

Bunker is likable and fun and interesting, but I have to be kinda upset at DC one part.  I knew going in that he was an openly gay character.  But how do they introduce this fact to the reader?  Well he is written as rather flamboyant I guess, but that in and of itself doesn’t mean anything.  I know plenty of guys who are straight who act similar.  But they finally spell it out for us when he is having a conversation with Wonder Girl.  I’m almost certain this is the first conversation they have ever had having just met in the previous issue.  He tells her she is “awesome” and she questions if he uses that line on all the girls (calling someone awesome is a pick up line now?  Really?).  To which Bunker replies “Girls?  Uh…Not exactly.  You do realize I’m gay, right?”  My main question here if why on earth Bunker and perhaps the writer of the comic seem to think that Wonder Girl should have realized he is gay.  It’s not like he was making out with Red Robin or anything.  That would be a legitimate clue.  But short of that I don’t see why Wonder Girl should have just assumed that.  Unless the comic is encouraging making snap judgments about people.  With Bunker’s cheerful character and openness about his sexuality it would have been much better for him to say something like, “Nope, but it’s been known to work on a guy or two.”  Just anything that wasn’t the “Hey person I just met how can you not have noticed that I am gay” that we got.  But I do like the character.

The formula of the issues so far seems to be meet a teen, have a fight, teen joins team.  It isn’t quite as flat as that in the later issues, but it isn’t much better.  The team hasn’t done anything interesting so far.  They haven’t done any investigating.  All they’ve really done is punch things.  They don’t even find the big bad behind NOWHERE themselves, he just kinda shows up and announces himself.  And there hasn’t been much teamwork to speak.  We got a touch of that in the seventh issue with a planned two part attack from Superboy and Kid Flash.  But it just seems like most of the time they all do their own thing and hope for the best.  It’s still a young team and I guess that could still come, but Tim is supposed to be the smart one and the leader here, so why hasn’t he even tried to make use of his assets yet?

The art is okay.  My biggest problem was in issue two when Thrice shows up.  I had no idea he was supposed to be a teenager until Red Robin spelled it out for me.  He was not drawn with the proportions of a young adult.  It also annoyed me that Grymm’s weird mouth never moves but he totally talks.  But other than that I can’t remember having an issue with anything.  It’s not my favorite but it wasn’t bad.

So yeah, long story short I’m torn.  It’s not a horrible comic.  I just don’t think it’s very good.  So at this point I have to decide if I want to keep reading for the characters or drop it due to quality.  It’s a tough call, and one I probably won’t make until I see how many other series we’re dropping.

New 52 in Review - Birds of Prey

I was hesitant about picking up this series.  I really enjoyed the old Birds of Prey series and was upset that lots of plot lines would be left up in the air with it being canceled for the New 52.  I liked the team and the interaction between the members.  From the initial previews, this series seemed to have little to do with the series I loved besides a single member and the name.  But it still looked interesting enough and I took a chance.  Possible spoilers below; you’ve been warned.

My very first observation has to be that this series is hella confusing.  I feel like most of that is intentional story motivated confusion, but since even after seven issues I haven’t reached the end of the first story arc, I’ll have to wait to find out if the payoff is satisfying.  There has been group memory loss/manipulation which makes it kinda hard to figure out what is really going on as none of the girls are reliable narrators.  There was also a bit with Batgirl that seemed to contradict her earlier attitudes in the series, but again I’m not sure if this was due to sloppy writing or if that moment has some bigger implication.

The pacing is also a bit off in places.  I was really thrown by the gap in time between issues 5 and 6.  All of the other issues pick up where the last one left off, so having 6 start somewhere completely unfamiliar with seemingly no acknowledgement of what happened at the end of the previous issue was jarring.  I almost feel as though the writer had something planned and then changed his mind once he sat down to write the issue, since Ev’s ending with her “they really are all out to get me” is just kinda ignored and hand waved away in the next issue.

My biggest complaint is with a rather major inconsistency.  I feel like the writer was told after 3 or 4 issues, “Hey, you know these characters don’t kill people right?”  Because in issue 7 Black Canary makes a big deal out of Ivy killing an innocent dude (completely understandable) and then freaks out again when Katana kills a criminal (which Canary knows Katana has spent the last year doing).  She lays out the fact that no killing is rule number one.  But wait… Back in the issue 2 after Katana joins the team Black Canary says “In battle Katana is everything I’d hoped for.  Lethal.  Disciplined.  Able to watch my back.”  Lethal.  As in, kills people.  And that is what Black Canary herself says she wanted.  She says this after Katana stabs a dude through the chest and then slices up two others.  The only caution she gives at that point is that they need “at least one of them alive” for questioning.  It’s not, “Hey Katana, don’t kill anyone,” it’s more like, “Hey Katana, don’t kill everyone.”  So when did Black Canary suddenly decide that killing was their number one no-no?  It may seem nitpicky, but it was really confusing to me as I was reading through.  I figured they were the team that works kinda outside the law and although they still have morals and all, they wouldn’t hesitate to kill in kill-or-be-killed situations.  But I guess that isn’t the case after all. 

I like the characters.  Starling is fun, although I know very little about her.  I enjoy that she likes breaking things.  Katana is interesting when we aren’t dwelling on the fact that she talks to her sword and could possibly be crazy.  This version of Ivy has potential.  I do appreciate that no one really trusts her, although I’m still not sure what she gets out of being on the team.  The addition of Batgirl makes me happy, provided that they coordinate with the writer of the main series to keep her personality and the timeline of major events in her life consistent.  And Black Canary is okay, although she may be the least interesting of the members.  They have some nice interactions going on, which I appreciate.

The art had a few mistakes that I noticed.  The first might not have been a mistake, but if it wasn’t it was poor sequential story telling as Black Canary kinds just suddenly appears on the cart Starling was driving away from the authorities alone on the previous page.  The other annoyed me as it was a case of the artist forgetting to draw in some bandages on Starling’s arm, despite the fact that she has them on the same page in the bottom panel.  But nothing too bad.  Overall I like the interior art quite a bit.  Even though the girls are all pretty well figured I feel like it isn’t super cheesecakey.  There aren’t a lot of gratuitous ass shots or weird poses.  The girls are portrayed as active and action oriented and they kick a lot of butt. 

Overall I’m still okay with this series.  I’ll probably keep getting this one for a while.  The mystery, although confusing, is still interesting and I want to know how it all works out.  I suppose if the ending is terrible I might drop it, but so far the comic has done its job of entertaining me. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

New 52 in Review - The Fury of Firestorm the Nuclear Men

Why is this series first?  Because it was on the top of the pile that I randomly decided to start with.  Possible spoliers below.  You've been warned.
My interest in Firestorm began with the Superfriends cartoon.  I really liked the younger characters, and an episode was better for me if it included Robin, Cyborg, or Firestorm (but not the Wonder Twins; they were just never as cool).  Firestorm was cool because he wasn’t just an energetic kid with really cool powers, but he had another side, or rather another person who helped to balance him out and be the voice of reason.  This two man team was interesting.  It was like the sidekick and the hero in one.

When I got back into comics Firestorm no longer had his own series and in fact had at some point died and been replaced by a new version.  I didn’t really see much of the new Firestorm until Blackest Night.  I liked that he was in many ways different from the old version.  I liked that while Ronnie needed Professor Stein to help him use his transmutation powers, Jason studied really hard so as to make the most of the power himself (and I am a super nerd, so powers that you can improve by studying appeal to me).  Even though I hadn’t know the characters very long I was quite effected by the death of Gehenna, and the back and forth between the newly not dead Firestorm and his replacement was interesting.  I have not finished Brightest Day to see how all of that turned out, but that storyline was one of the main reasons I picked up Brightest Day in the first place. 

So now we have the new series and everything is different.  Ronnie and Jason start off as normal high school kids who end up thrown together and both become Firestorm, this time with separate bodies, although they can combine into some sort of monster thing called Fury.  Gone is the interesting dynamic with the powers of two normal people in one superhero.  Another thing that seems to have vanished is the need for scientific knowledge to be able to manipulate the powers. 

I could be wrong about that though, because very little was explained in the first seven issues, despite the fact that they had a great excuse for exposition as Ronnie has no idea what is going on and Jason seems to be rather in the know.  My only clue about the powers comes from a battle they have with the Russian Firestorm who mentions something about "first level powers".  I suppose that since Jason and Ronnie both became Firestorm from a bottle that maybe was only supposed to make one person Firestorm that the powers were spilt somehow, with neither receiving the full set.  Maybe Ronnie only got the energy blasts and Jason ended up with the transmutation powers.  But this is all conjecture on my part.  As I said, it’s never really explained.  And I'm sorry, but if I'm a kid with super powers I gonna ask questions to the guy who claims is super smart about how the heck they work. They should have discussed this.  So either they both have the powers and Jason is just being a dick and not telling Ronnie how to use them at all or the powers are split which means that killer blue lady from the first issue should have some part of their power set too. 

And speaking of killing, it really seemed like there was a lot of death in this series.  I mean the first issue starts off, not with our heroes, but with some mysterious soldier terrorist dudes torturing and killing a family for information.  They later do the same thing to a scientist then casually mow down some teachers and students at a school.  And later in the series a stadium of 2,000 people are killed by a suicide bomber with hacked Firestorm powers.  I get that the comic wants to show that the powers these boys posses are dangerous, they are nuclear based after all, but the destruction of the stadium just left me kinda cold.  I appreciate that the event did have significant impact on the main characters and wasn’t simply forgotten about on the next page, but it still didn’t quite feel like enough to me.  It was a shocking event for very little reason other than to have a shocking event and have our characters fail.  And while Ronnie wasn’t killed, he was tortured and had an arm cut off (an injury I am biased against as a sign of poor comics).

The other thing that bothered me is that I never really felt connected to these characters.  The comic started with an origin story with the characters gaining their powers in the first issue.  This didn’t give much time to establish not one, but two main characters, their families, and a love interest, along with a shadowy evil organization.  This bothers me the most with Jason.  I feel like the comic did a lot of telling me how smart Jason was, but it never really showed me that he was as smart as they kept telling me he was.  He wasn’t especially strategic and without the explanation of the science behind the powers, he’s just kinda doing magic. 

I also really don’t understand the motivations of Zithertech.  First they were like kill them at all costs.  And then, for no readily explained reason they were like, “Hey, want a job?”  I have no idea why they suddenly don’t want them dead.  They easily could have just gassed them in their sleep, but instead they are putting on this elaborate ruse and I just can’t think of a good reason why.  Also, there was that whole business with the killers from the beginning, one of whom may have powers and another of whom totally wants these guys dead for nearly killing his girl.  They’ve just been kinda sidelined and not mentioned now.  I’m sure they will make a comeback in some big dramatic way, but I would rather we were dealing with that now rather than leaving us scratching our heads and wondering where those characters ended up.

There was some cute dialogue ("I burned the lake down.  How the hell do you burn a lake down?" for one).  I liked the art, but really didn’t like what I assume is the fill in artist that took over in issue 7 (it wasn't bad art, I just personally hate when characters look different than they did in previous issues).  I kinda liked the Hyenas, with their abilities enhanced by drugs that make them efficient although giggly killers.  But all in all it was not the comic I was hoping it would be.  The characters aren’t the ones I previously enjoyed.  The powers haven’t been explained enough to keep me interested.  I just don’t care enough, even though I wanted to. 

So yeah, chances are very good that I will be dropping this one.  I had far more to say about this than I thought I would, but I don't anticipate them all being this long...

Pull List Maintenance - New 52 in Review

Okay, so for a number of reasons, including an international move and comics piling up during the time surrounding the move and a long vacation in which comics piled up again, I have gotten rather far behind in my comic reading.  There are a few series (Morning Glories, for one) that I have stayed up to date on, but the most notable neglected comics have been the new 52.
You see, I had big dreams.  I wanted to be completely caught up on all of the old DCU before I stepped into the new DCU.  And I started out well.  And then I kinda burned out.  And so the new 52 just kept piling up.

My fiancé was reading them and kept bugging me to do the same.  We bought a lot of the new 52 and so we always planned that we would drop the ones that we weren’t enjoying.  But with me not reading them there was no way to tell which we should be keeping and which we should be dropping.  So we just kept getting all of them.  But after this vacation I made a vow that this month, before we order any more comics, I would read all of the new 52 we currently have.  That’s 7 issues of about 28 series each. 

And so, since my lack of comic reading has also lead to this blog being neglected, I have decided to write up a short blurb on my thoughts about each series as I read them.  Things I like, things I don’t, things that don’t make any sense, and my thoughts on if I’m going to continue the series or not.  The write ups may be long, they may be short; there’s really no telling until I get going on it. 

And here we go!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A crafty shout out! Geeky plushies sure to make you smile!

So I haven’t updated for a while as I was busy with a wonderful trip to Japan immediately followed by a trip to AggieCon, a convention I helped run while I was a student but enjoy immensely more now that I am not responsible for it. So while I haven’t been reading many comics I do have something relevant to the interests of anyone who happens upon this blog.

So the vendors at AggieCon carry a wide range of items from swords to comics to board games. There are also several vendors selling handmade items like art sketches and jewelry. And for the past several years I have purchased some wonderful products from one particular vendor named Chelsea Smith who makes adorable crocheted plushies.

It all started about three years ago when I just had to have this adorable little Robin. She had a good number of cute comic inspired dolls (I seem to remember a Rorschach from Watchmen and a Harley Quinn), but for my money, it doesn’t get much better than an adorable huggable Robin.

Last year I bought an adorable little Kaylee of Firefly fame. I saw her while casually browsing the booths and knew that she just had to come home with me. She’s just too cuddly! She’s a good bit bigger than Robin, which allows for more detail and huggableness.

This year I bought both Batman and a fox. Batman was the first to catch my eye this time, and I just had to have him. And as I stood at the booth and chatted with the lovely artist I found the fox and just couldn’t say no to him. Both are about the size of Kaylee and make me smile just about as much. She also had several Pokémon, a Yoda, an amazing Wookie, and an Iron Man among many other wonderful creations.

On top of the wonderful goods she sells at conventions she also does commissions. I plan (once I have a bit more money to play with) to commission a Nightwing and possibly even a Batgirl to help fill out my Bat family. She clearly knows a lot of great geeky characters and if she doesn't know the character you want I know she is more than willing to look them up in order to create something great for you.

And what’s more, she is really looking for commissions right now, as she is trying to raise money to travel to the Cannes Film Festival for an internship (which you can find out more about here). You can see some more examples of her work on her deviant art page, and I wholeheartedly recommend these little guys. They are well made and obviously super cute and cuddly. If you have a younger brother or sister, niece or nephew, or kid of your own this is a great way to get them something geeky and cute and made just for them! Or yourself!  So help an artist out and pay her to make you things!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Won’t Be Watching Comic Book Men

I’ll admit to being skeptical about AMC’s new series following the Walking Dead from the moment I first saw a preview for it. But I decided to give the first episode of Comic Book Men a try and really see what it was about, since it was a show that spoke to my interests. But after that first episode I was pretty certain that the show is not for me.

My first clue was when in the opening minutes of the show the cast bursts into giggles because Batman’s sidekick is named Dick. That certainly didn’t establish a maturity level that I was excited about watching. At that point I checked to see which episode of Criminal Minds was playing on another channel, and finding it to be one I had seen, resolved myself to finish the episode to come.

There were moments on the show that made me smile. I don’t remember what any of them were exactly, but they were likely just little snippets of conversation between the cast members that reminded me of sitting with my friends in college and having similar, although likely more ridiculous, conversations.

I read that the show would be sort of like Pawn Stars with comics, but I feel Comic Book Men really fell short in this regard. One of the things that always impresses me about Pawn Stars is just how knowledgeable Rick and company are about just about everything. They do call in experts from time to time, especially to verify the authenticity of items, but they have a huge foundation of knowledge to draw from and I never watch an episode without learning something. On Comic Book Men, I really only felt that the store owner, Walt, knew anything. When customers came into the store he dealt with the items they were trying to sell while the others just sort of stood around and made silly comments. I felt this distracted from the actual knowledge Walt might have.

The other problem with this model is that people bring things to Pawn Stars often because they don’t know what they are or what they could be worth. They are often things that would be difficult to find prices for without consulting an expert. On Comic Book Men, except for the Bob Kane autograph, it seemed like most of the items could be easily priced by consulting sites like eBay (at least for a ballpark figure). The sellers knew what the things were in most cases and that took away a bit from the fun of discovery. And I can’t help but think that most of them would get a better price on eBay than they would at the store, if only because the store isn’t going to give you retail price so that they can make some money.

I was also surprised by some of the comments they made about their customers. Its one thing to say something to your coworkers after a customer has left the store; it’s another to do so on camera. I have to wonder if they will still be able to get people on the show if it’s successful enough for more seasons. I certainly wouldn’t want to be on the show. I can probably get just as much money on eBay without being harassed on television.

I’m sure that many people liked the show and thought it was funny, and it may simply be the case that I am not the target audience for this show. But even my fiancé, who is a fan of Kevin Smith’s movies, didn’t like the show. He had had enough and left the room before it was even half over. That put me at an even greater loss as to who the target audience really is.

Although now that I think about it, I may have an idea of whom the target audience is. I think that for Comic Book Men, the target audience is people who enjoy making fun of diehard fans of not only comic books but general geek culture. The cast are clearly diehard fans and so are the customers. The cast makes fun of the customers and of each other. Audience members can enjoy making fun of all parties involved.

That isn’t to say that the audience is made up of horrible people or anything. Although I don’t consider myself part of the target audience for the show I know I’ve been guilty of such enjoyment myself. It’s almost a defense mechanism. I think we all sometimes feel self conscious about our hobbies so it can be reassuring to see people who are “more out there” than we are. And of course, if we are not a part of a fandom we are often baffled by the enjoyment others get out of it.

I didn’t watch the second episode this past Sunday, so I won’t be able to comment on the show further than to say that I really didn’t like the first episode and have no desire to watch any more of it. If you like it, I hope that you enjoy it. I would have preferred a show that was a bit more mature and involved a less stereotypical look at comics and their fandom. And I accept that the show I want is not this show.