Monday, March 26, 2012

Yet another addition to "Night of the Owls"

The power of Google, kids. The power of Google.

This story is more than a month old, but only by typing in specific keywords did I come across it.

It would appear that now Detective Comics, and writer Tony Daniel, are getting involved with the "Night of the Owls" crossover.

This contradicts early reports that the book was not involved and was, in fact, going to feature the return of Two-Face. Instead, my guess is it's getting put off for another month to do this piece about Batman rescuing Jeremiah Arkham from a Talon.

It's certainly a surprise, but given the circumstances of Daniel's plot, a month more to flesh out his plans may be a good thing. He's at the point where a new arc is just getting going, so this month would be a great time to make his story really stand out.

I have had a love-hate relationship with Daniel's work so far. Although nothing has been offensively bad, he started so notably with the Joker in Issue #1 that the issues haven't really matched the interest.

It really has made Scott Snyder stand out, though. His NOTO storyline only kicks off the arc, which will go through Issue #12, and it sounds like the next two arcs are planned out pretty well too. This means that those of you who are enjoying his work (why wouldn't you be) have at least another year of solid, A-material.

Another point to make is that this event is ever-expanding and now will involve 10 of the 11 active Bat-titles. Only Batwoman is not tied in to the NOTO at this point (though if the issues of the title I've seen are any indicator, that may be for the best, as I couldn't tell what the hell was happening. For more on this, read my upcoming review of Batwoman #8 this April.)

Additionally, this brings the number of May books involved to 12 - the 10 titles, All-Star Western and the Batman Annual.

At this point, buying all 12 elements in May will cost between $40-$45, so I expect a lot of competing for purchasing. Add in the fact that Batman, Inc. restarts alongside five other books that month, and Issues #3 and #4 of the Avengers and X-Men crossover will be that month, and May is starting to look like a very difficult month to choose what books to buy.

Then again, I'd rather have this problem than more than a dozen stagnating stories, so you won't hear complaints from me.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A look at some Marvel news: An Epic Crossover event

At this point, this has to be old news for those who read comics. But for those who don't know, Marvel Comics is introducing a massive six-month-long crossover event between their two most valuable franchises: The Avengers and the X-Men.

As I will probably bring up later, I tend to lean more toward DC comics than the ones from Marvel. To be honest, I've only purchased one Marvel book in six months. (I've read others in stores, but haven't paid money to own one.)

However, this event is so massive that it may force my hand in buying here. Even if you don't read any Avengers or X-Men books (which I don't), anyone who reads comics on any type of recurring basis know who the teams are and know what a crossover of this magnitude means in the comic book universe.

This article provides all the information you would really need to understand the crossover, and the #0 issue will set the stage far better than anything. In an effort to build excitement, Marvel is shipping the first installment of the actual crossover a week in advance so that they are available at the parties spanning across more than 1,000 comic book stores nationwide.

But for those who would like an idea as to how this crossover event compares to, say, the "Night of the Owls" crossover in the Batman comics, here's a basic layout of the circumstances:

Marvel is giving the crossover its own title - and it's going to be around for a while.

AVX will be occurring in its own self-titled book, which will come out once every two weeks. This will be a 12-issue installment, which means the crossover will go for six months.

On the other hand, NOTO will span across 10 comic titles (nine of the 11 Bat-books as well as All-Star Western). While that seems intimidating, the crossover will only last in the May issues (DC only does one book per title per month) in a colossal majority of the books, which brings me to the next detail.

Other titles being tied in

NOTO's storylines are very loosely connected, and with the possible exception of Batman and Nightwing, the stories don't need to be purchased together in order for them to make sense. This event is only really essential to the arc plot in the Batman and Nightwing titles (coincidentally they are also the only ones doing a prologue in Issue #8), and the rest will add to the story while not forcing you to purchase them.

In AVX, there will be a six-issue, monthly tie-in where the fights shown in the month's two AVX issues will be given far more detail. It's a way to see the event without having to make sense of why they are fighting (which apparently has to do with the Avengers wanting to kill a galactic Phoenix that the X-Men want to save).

Besides that tie-in, however, this crossover will expand into active Avengers and X-Men titles. It would seem that none of them are essential to understanding the AVX issues, but it sounds like they'll be more closely related than the NOTO plots.

The amount of the universe being taken up by this crossover

OK, so this is really a statement about the unnecessarily dense nature of team books. But when it comes to the NOTO crossover, the list of heroes involved is significantly smaller than this AVX crossover.

Batman's whole family takes up 11(soon to be 12) titles, only four (probably five come May) of which routinely follow Batman. The other titles are virtually independent (Batgirl's time in the Birds of Prey being the lone notable exception). As a whole, approximately 14 major characters are represented in these books up to this point. Of those characters, Batwoman won't even be part of the crossover.

On the other hand, there are more than 100 X-Men with multiple factions represented. The Avengers have multiple teams that span across multiple titles and have expanded to a ridiculous size as well. Between the nine X-Men titles and four main Avengers titles, this crossover has "massively oversized" written all over it.

Now that's not to say it won't be great. Even I'm interested in this event. My issue is that it's hard enough for these groups to get  enough time to develop their characters in their own books. In the crossover, it will be hard to draw in a lot of new readers because the only characters that will see any real time will be the firmly established ones. Putting in too many of the lesser-known characters won't be of significance to casual readers like myself.

As I said, though, this will be an excellent event and my opinion may be chalked up to being someone who dislikes most team books. That said, I will be giving my thoughts on the crossover as it goes along.

Oh, and so you know, I'm on Team Avengers here. The few characters in Marvel that I am genuinely invested in all would fight for the Avengers, so that's where my loyalties will lie.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Comic Book Reviews: Batman #7, Nightwing #7, and Red Hood & The Outlaws #7

Is it possible to have three more epic comic books released at the same time than the three I'm reviewing today?

Much like the children in "Oliver Twist," I picked these up at the earliest opportunity (right after my shift at work), devoured them immediately and was left clamoring for "more, please."

The 45 minutes I spent with these three books was quite possibly the best 45 minutes of this week so far, and that is quite an achievement. And I guarantee that won't be the only 45 minutes I spend reading these closely. These three all have re-read value and are must buys.

Now that I've gone through my mad love for these three titles, let's dive in to them individually!

Batman #7

I wonder if Scott Snyder gets tired of hearing about how amazing a Bat-writer he is.

This book takes the reader out of rhythm right from the start, as it opens with a new take on a scene in "Batman: Year One." When I read through this initially, I thought it was a Bruce internal monologue, but then I realized this was a speech a member of the Court was giving. This is just indicative of how Snyder has managed to keep the readers guessing through this arc.

When Batman is finally seen, he is being revived by some girl who Snyder said on his Twitter is a new character. I will say this is one of two small criticisms I have with this book, as it's kind of jolting not having any clue what is happening and introducing a new character randomly in the middle of an arc transition.

My other criticism is how exposition heavy it became. I get that the faux-science of the Talons' near immortality needs to be explained, but this felt like a scene from CSI jammed into a few pages. That said, the revelations about Dick Grayson's past were incredible (sorry, I don't do spoilers here!) and it sets up Nightwing's role in this perfectly.

Getting into other mad love for this book, the art has gotten better each issue, and this is by far the best art to date. I completely was able to follow this and everything flowed perfectly.

Overall, the "Night of the Owls" prelude is next month, and I feel like this transitioned into the arc perfectly. I am pumped for the coming months of Batman.

Nightwing #7

Speaking of getting pumped for a "NOTO" prelude, Nightwing executed it by giving its best performance since the reboot.

Dick finally gets his big showdown with Saiko and for those who have been thinking that Saiko looked like one of the Talons, by the end of the book everything will become clear.

This issue has the task of ending a seven-issue arc while also transitioning into a prelude to NOTO, and it pulls it off perfectly. The scene between Bruce and Dick in the Batman book is done here as well, but mainly from Dick's perspective.

I actually prefer the Nightwing version because the exposition about the science stuff isn't there and it just builds on the pure emotion of his fight with Saiko and the betrayal he experienced.

I am glad to have been reading both Batman and Nightwing from the beginning because it is so satisfying to see it come full circle and both books finally meet in the middle, but those who haven't been following it can pick up these #7 issues and feel pretty confident they understand what is happening.

I'll briefly touch on the art, as it's absolutely brilliant. I don't really have anything negative to say here.

This could quite possibly be the best Nightwing arc ever and the conclusion was not only satisfying, but it almost requires a read in the next arc.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #7

The other two books I reviewed were so strong it would seem like RHATO has no way to follow it.


I read this book first to ensure that I didn't compare it unfavorably to Batman, but after going through all three it still stood strong in my mind.

This story comes back to the present, where Jason Todd confronts Essence, with whom he apparently had relations. Over the course of the story, there's a lot of background on Jason, and an element of loneliness is added to his character, showing a level of internal pain we really haven't seen him have to deal with yet.

It's an absolutely amazing trip into his character, and it contrasts perfectly with the comedic breaks from Arsenal. Meanwhile, Starfire is still dealing with being an outsider on Earth and is clearly the most aggressive of the three.

The best compliment I can give this issue is that this is the first issue where all three characters get written strongly in my opinion. This is the first time where I felt the writers had a grasp on writing all three at once and they each had a position on the team: Jason as the driver of the plot, Roy as comic relief and Kori as the badass (beats being... how did Yahtzee put it? "A big, fat nympho cock-slobberer waving her t**s about like maracas).

This issue does hearken back to Issue #1, but it's nothing too make-or-break toward understanding the story, and I'd say this is a good starting point because it sets up the next arc and why Jason is going to be in Gotham for the NOTO event.

Everything about this issue from the writing to the art was stellar and although it's not as knock-out amazing as Batman or Nightwing (at this point, though, what is) RHATO has become a must-buy absolutely.

One read of Issue #7 will show why there is an ever increasing (1,204 at last check) hoard of "Hoodies" assembling on Facebook. This book is finally showing its full potential and I'd advise those on the fence to get on the bandwagon quickly

I have a few more thoughts on comics before the next reviews come out, so stay tuned here!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Comic Book Alert: A shakeup in Batman writing

Those who read this blog know that I hold Batman: The Dark Knight in very low regard.

Well here's some hopefully good news.

Various sites are reporting (Batman-News had one of the most interesting pieces on it) that writer Paul Jenkins will be replaced by Penguin: Pride and Prejudice writer Gregg Hurwitz starting with Issue #10 (after the first arc and the Night of the Owls crossover).

Now, first of all I'd like to congratulate Hurwitz. He did an amazing job with the mini-series and he deserves the chance at a full Bat-title.

As to the change-up... THANK YOU DC!!!

For those who liked the Jenkins writing, I'm sorry, but just because the book is selling decently doesn't mean it should be able to be the book that goes into the ENTIRE DC Universe to make the story compare to the traditional Batman and Detective titles.

Given how ridiculous the dialogue has been in Detective Comics (see below), it's hard to believe something could be crazier in the mainstream Bat-titles.

But TDK has managed to be an exercise in insanity. Over a span of six issues (SIX ISSUES), this book has shown Two-Face, Joker, Bane, Poison Ivy (or the lair at least), Clayface, the Ventriloquist, Victor Zsasz, some new sex-toy villain called the White Rabbit, Scarecrow, The Cavalier, Deathstroke, the entire Gotham-based Bat Family (Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Batwoman, Catwoman, and the Birds of Prey), the Flash, Wonder Woman and Superman.

Additionally, Alfred has been portrayed as an  ice cream eating pervert, Commissioner Gordon has been seen as a whiny little man, and every single villain to this point has been either slutty or off their freaking nut.

Don't get me wrong here. This is not "All-Star" bad. I understand that this book's goal is to be a cameo fest and have an epic feeling.

However, there's two problems with that. First, this kind of mega-cameo styling in this endless arc resemble a video game plot. Games can get away with it because it comes at you all at once and it takes over a year to get a follow up out. In other words, people don't deal with that style more than a couple of days a year.

Spreading that style out over months and doing it on a consistent basis wears a reader out. Printed comics are not the medium for such massiveness (at least not without multiple books and limiting into a one-shot deal over one or two months).

Secondly, Jenkins is using so many of the characters, giving them further characterization that he's forcing all the other titles to operate as if that style is the way of the universe (at least for a period of time). This means Bane will continue to look like his luchador self without a real change up for a while, which isn't a huge thing, but it sucks that character's big New 52 reveals and new imaging are being set in the C-title.

So once again, good luck to the new writers. Hopefully I'll be able to start reading TDK again soon and not be totally lost!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Comic Book Reviews: Batman & Robin #7, Batgirl #7, and Batwing #7

I don't think I've ever been so happy to expand past Bruce Wayne.

My wild card picks each month so far have been lackluster and involve books that have gone completely off the deep end.

Batman: The Dark Knight is without a doubt the 'C' title in the trio of Batman solo books. I'll be giving my full thoughts on this title later this weekend. Long story short, I am VERY happy the writer is being switched out by issue 11; I am VERY unhappy this title is now going to be a part of "Night of the Owls;" but I am VERY grateful that it will not affect the main plot.

Meanwhile, Detective Comics, while being the namesake title of the whole freaking company, is also a definitive "B" brand right now in terms of storyline. This arc has turned into a deranged action film plot and I am left re-reading the book in the stores - not for enjoyment or depth, but to try to figure out what the hell is happening.

Anyway, with Bruce's titles all reviewed now, I can expand to the rest of the Bat-verse and then the rest of DC. But first, on to this month's reviews!

Batman and Robin #7

This arc comes effectively to its climax here (though the ending appears to open up a potential one-shot epilogue, if not a whole new arc).

I was impressed by the fight sequences as well as the pure psychology going on between Batman and NoBody as they fought. Damian has proven himself to be a worthy Robin as well.

I am still totally serious when I say that this arc should be mailed in as the basics to a movie script because this could be one of the few ways in which a Batman movie with Robin could work and not look like a campy display of homo-erotica. (Looking at you, Joel Schumacher.)

The art here was amazing and the two-page spread of Batman's mole vehicle coming right up in between Robin and NoBody was just awesome. I also was impressed by the detail in the final full-page spread and its surprising end for the book.

I am definitely hooked on this one and can't wait to see how this bleeds into NOTO.

Batgirl #7

Thankfully, I've learned to read Batgirl first because I would have hated if a book this good looked disappointing because of B&R. Make no mistakes: I don't consider this the equal of B&R, but this issue may have been the best of the title so far and appears to be moving into that elite class.

Barbara Gordon is telling this story in flashback, as the story starts at the end of her fight. From there, we see her spar with the Black Canary, who knocks her head on straight after Barbara goes back into depression mode.

In a side plot, Commissioner Gordon and his former wife finally meet for the first time since she was re-introduced, and though the reveals are still coming at a snail's pace, it's at least going somewhere and you can feel some authentic emotion from Jim.

The art had its moments. It wasn't epic, but every panel was serviceable and there were absolutely some amazingly drawn fight scenes.

Lastly, the flashbacks to "The Killing Joke" were used tastefully and the details of that night really help make the reveal at the end of the issue that much more sweet.

Batwing #7

OK, so for those who don't know, Batwing was introduced as the African representative for Batman, Inc. His real name is David Zavimbe, and he is a cop during the day.

I purchased the first issue a while back and the character seemed solid, so I've definitely been keeping track. I have been greatly enjoying these first seven issues and how they have developed.

That said, this book needs more Africa.

What made the first few issues great is that as the world of Batwing was introduced, you saw glimpses at a whole new plane of fighting crime besides Gotham.

Most of the African scenes here are in flashback while Batwing is flying around with Batman. Nightwing, Batgirl and Robin all make cameos, and it appears even an African cop must return to the mothership.

Don't get me wrong. I liked the story and the backstory on Africa's former heroes, The Kingdom was certainly interesting. Plus, hearing Bruce act as a mentor to the new hero, telling him to only use the past as a reference for knowledge, was gripping.

Problem was, the action scenes in the present looked weak by comparison and Nightwing and Robin got A LOT of dialogue for a book neither really needs to be in.

This book isn't getting out of here without a recommendation, but I'd highly recommend you also try to find some of the older issues - not just for backstory, but because they were much stronger across the board as well.

That's all for this week's reviews. See you next week!