Thursday, April 26, 2012

Comic Reviews: Night of the Owls Part 1 (Batman and Nightwing #8) and Red Hood #8

It's finally here!

The Night of the Owls crossover event began with Wednesday's set of comics.

The majority of Bat titles will all hold their parts of the event in May, and I'll be reviewing each of them as they come out. However, Batman and Nightwing are getting started this month.

Sorry for the delay in my reviews here. Between my last two research papers in this semester and a death in my family (no comments about this, please), I really haven't had much time to draft up blogs.

Nonetheless, let's get to the reviews!

Red Hood and The Outlaws #8

OK, so I am going to go out of order in the reviews this month because I want to take out the non-Owls story first.

I will say that I did enjoy this story, but it was the second part that really carried it. The first part was, well, fine, just not great.

Red Hood, Starfire and Arsenal head down to Gotham in this issue to save child hostages from Suzie Su. While  this did manage to get all three involved in a mission (and tease a Starfire-Arsenal relationship), I can't help but feel a little underwhelmed by the villain. It was Jason Todd vs. a 600-pound woman.

The woman was disgusting to look at, and I can certainly rejoice in the fact that this woman is dead and gone.

Her last monologue really didn't do much to give make a reader feel sympathy. It was basically, "I'm bad, don't want to change and will keep killing until I kill you." Although the killing is still not something the normal Bat-family would do, it's hard to blame Jason for this one. Maybe that's the point, and he's not supposed to look like a man who crosses the line whenever someone pisses him off, but this just felt like a caricature of an ethical crisis than an actual one.

The second half of the book was far better in my opinion. It led into the Night of the Owls, set up an awesome fight between the Outlaws and Mr. Freeze, and it showed some really nice insight into Jason's relationship with Tim Drake. I am definitely looking forward to Jason-Bruce and Dick-Starfire reunion issues.

On the whole, I would pick up this issue. The first half was weird, but it advanced all three nicely, and the second half is a good NOTO set-up.

Batman #8

I am SO GLAD the worker at Maximum Comics told me to read this before Nightwing.

Don't let the "Prologue" mantra on Nightwing fool you: This is where the storyline begins, and boy is it amazing.

Bruce's house is under attack and the Owls force he and Alfred into a hidden compartment of the Batcave to reorganize.

Batman fights in what I can only describe to be a robotic body suit while Alfred decodes the plans of the Talons. Everything about the last two sentences reeks of awesomeness.

Bruce's multiple storylines of stress and damaged body cause him to put his guard down for just a moment, and it costs him the high ground in this ambush. That armor of Batman's is EPIC and I love the concept of him racing the sub-zero temperatures to the end of the fight.

The book was $1 more because of an 8-page supplement, which actually was not a side story. It was actually the same story continued with a different artist, and it actually worked.

Obviously, the whole book was done well, but the change in art style really matched the hurried, desperate mood of the situation.

I loved this book and can't wait for next month.

Nightwing #8

As I said, this is called a Prequel, and in many ways it is. But it goes past the end of the Batman book, and what happens before isn't necessary to understand Batman.

So I read this second. Basically it's two stories: One of Dick Grayson's great-grandfather and the other on Dick trying to save the mayor of Gotham City.

Both are done incredibly well, and I love how the two stories collide at the end of the book to set up the next issue. My only complaint is that William Cobb's story was hurried toward the end. Not much detail is given as to the 'betrayal' he suffered, and I hope next issue fleshes that out more.

The art of this book is immaculate, and in many ways is right on par with Batman.

I am so excited to see where Dick's storyline goes after the NOTO crossover, but I am even more excited to see how this showdown turns out.

Sorry again for the whole delay, but I promise I'll be on my game for the May issues. I'll see you in the first Wednesday in May!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Just a brief update - OWLS!

My reviews of Batman #8, Nightwing #8 and Red Hood & The Outlaws #8 will be up this week, as the books come out tomorrow.

I figure now is a good time to let you all know that I will be doing reviews of each of the Night of the Owls books as they come out. I'm not sure whether they will all be purchased or whether I'll just get the gist from inside the stores, but I will give you all my thoughts on all the different Bat-books and their takes on the crossover event.

Also, that month will be my wild card reviews of Catwoman and Birds of Prey, so be ready to be immersed in the Bat-verse next month!

Finally, I am looking at reviewing all the Batman movies dating back to the 1966 Adam West film. This would be to get everyone ready for the Dark Knight Rises film that is coming this summer. Stay tuned for all the Bat-fun!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Comic Book Reivews: Batman & Robin #8, Batgirl #8, and Batwoman #8

A lot of people complained about DC Comics after the first issues of the New 52 came out regarding the treatment of female characters.

Legendary characters like Starfire and Catwoman took on a sexual nature that was extreme even by comic book standards, but luckily, there were still plenty of strong female characters like Wonder Woman, Batgirl and  Batwoman.

Well, after this month it would appear that the two female members of the Bat-family have a completely different problem: They are simply not written strongly.

But before we get to those books, I've been waiting a whole month for this one:

Batman and Robin #8

It may not have the same universe-wide impact of the Snyder Bat-book, but if this wasn't the best-written Bat story for the last few months then I must be insane (which I may be, but that's another story).

This issue pretty much just concludes the first arc of the New 52 era, but man, was it done well!

Following Damian's finishing blow to NoBody, Bruce takes his son home and a level of emotion not seen often in Batman is shown. He yells at Alfred to pay attention to Damian and treat him first, and it's clear that Bruce is going through an unbelievably tough time here.

For a man who had been taken to the limit by the Court of Owls, Bruce's emotion actually came out in an equally strong manner here. The difference is that Batman's sanity was tested by the Owls; his humanity and affection for those he cares for are tested through his feud with NoBody.

Both characters grew tremendously through this arc, and the message Bruce left for Damian is finally addressed. Damian and Bruce appear to now have an understanding why each other is the way that they are, and Damian now can see the seriousness of Bruce's moral code.

Alfred has been characterized brilliantly here, and it's great to see his character used not just as a butler, but as a valued confidant and member of the team.

Lastly, the art is absolutely great here. It's smooth and doesn't have the same grittiness of the other Batman-featuring books and as such can appear far more natural when lighter moments happen. And with Bruce's son involved with this book, there needs to be a capability for lightness here.

If you haven't followed this arc, you'll have to skip this one because the entire story is dependent on knowing the prior plot. That said, this was a great conclusion and the book is set up perfectly for a one-shot tie-in to "Night of the Owls."

Batgirl #8

I think I'm starting to wear out of this book, to be honest.

There was plenty of good storyline here, but it was marred by messy dialogue and completely stupid emotional reactions to situations.

Case in point: Barbara Gordon has run into one of the criminals who was with the Joker the night she was shot. He's now working for a meta-human whom she needs to catch.

Meanwhile, Barbara finally chooses to meet with her mother for the first time since she left, and she finally learns why she left.

Both storylines sound amazing, and the first does lead to an awesome fight scene while the second sets up one hell of a cliff-hanger ending involving her roommate.

Here are the problems: While the art is seemless and great, and while the ending itself works, the expositions and everything that leads to the conclusion is bad.

Upon seeing the man who helped the Joker cripple her, she lets him go. There is no explanation, no rationale. It just happens.

One would assume it was to catch the big fish of the group, a meta named "Grotesque," but it appeared that she wasn't prepared for his counter-trap, so if that was it, then she's incompetent. It could be that she wanted to let him go for what happened that night (It makes sense with spoilers, but I don't do that), but considering he is accessory to murder, if that's it she's sociopathic.

Speaking of sociopaths, Barbara's mom (who is also named Barbara and looks like Barbara in most shots. Try sorting that one out) gives possibly the worst explanation as to why she left her children. EVER. Of all time.

Not to give it away, but Jim Gordon Jr. is involved. And given the extreme reaction she has to a situation that a psychologist, Jim Sr. or Batman could have easily helped to fix, I am now kind of regretting the return of this mother character.

I feel like Gail Simone is trying to make every revelation shocking, and by doing so the book is getting progressively more insane. This issue made me really miss the old Casssandra Cain and Stephanie Brown volumes of the Batgirl title (the former I own in its entirety, the latter I own three-fourths of the series). Both knew what they were and lived by that tone, whereas Barbara's volume is trying so hard to be serious while keeping the original fun roots of Barbara that it looks ridiculous.

Thankfully, Batman Inc. should bring Cass back into the Bat-verse. At least with that Batgirl I know what I'm getting (hopefully).

Batwoman #8

Next month, I'll get to review both the Birds of Prey and Catwoman, so this month, I figure I should touch on the one active Bat title that isn't in the NOTO crossover: Batwoman.

I'll admit freely, I only read this title in the stores, and from what I gather from the brief looks at the book, the art is still amazing (though not as great as the first arc), the story is ridiculously annoying to try and follow.

The story-telling is non-linear, goes into flashbacks frequently and maybe it's just me, but I like when the panels are squared and don't have distracting shapes (or characters that bleed into multiple panels.

I already struggled to get into this book because it deals with the supernatural far more than any other Bat-book (something I don't relate too all that often in Gotham-based titles), but now the story breaks into background adventures every few pages. It's like the story format is done to accommodate "Naruto" levels of filler except without taking months to get back to the plot.

Also, while Amy Reader is a great artist, I can see now why she's tired of working for this title. There are pages where the work looks a little half-assed, and I can tell she is done with this book.

I know a lot of people like this title, but it's not that good right now. I would not pick this title up at any point in the near future. Wait for the arc to conclude, see how the new artist draws, and make a new judgment in after the summer.

The biggest week in Bat-comics is next week! I'll see you then with Batman, Red Hood and Nightwing reviews.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Avengers vs. X-Men #1; Detective Comics #8 reviews

Anyone who has followed this blog for any period of time knows that I am a DC Comics fan, and more importantly a Batman fan.

Now, it's not I have an inherent distaste for anything Marvel related. Heck, I had been dissociated with the comic world for a few years before the Spider-Man and Fantastic Four film series got me back in.

However, I do prefer books that go on a monthly format and $2.99 books feel like they're properly priced. If I have to buy twice a month, that extra dollar in Marvel books starts to add up.

That said, even I was excited about Avengers vs. X-Men. Even though I am not a fan of probably 90 percent of team books (I avoid any team books that aren't the 1980s-era Teen Titans or Red Hood & the Outlaws), these are the legendary franchises of Marvel and a fight crossover sounded amazing.

Then I read Issue #0. And I lost interest immediately.

For a book that was supposed to help set the stage for the event, I was bored out of my freaking mind trying to educate myself about these two characters I had no emotional investment in.

Nonetheless, I liked the art of the issue and it at least earned my readership for Issue #1. And boy, did it earn my readership.

I actually was FAR happier with this issue, as it starred the characters I actually care about (Spider-Man, Captain America, Cyclops), focused on the actual cause of the conflict, and featured a coherent story accompanied by good (albeit very busy) art.

The story flowed well, switching from the Avengers to the X-Men then to their meeting with smooth transitions. It's clear the X-Men see the coming Phoenix force as a rebirth for their people and needing to inhabit Hope's body, while the Avengers want her in protective custody so that they can try to fight the force without dealing with any extra factors.

It's easy to see either's argument, though Cyclops seemed a little quick to anger when he fired at Captain America. But then again, this is a crossover where people want to see their favorite heroes battle, not shoot the sh**.

Ultimately, this book can be readable for even a casual comic fan or someone unfamiliar with all but the most notable Marvel characters (which is good for me). Time will tell if this execution holds up, but for now I'd recommend it.

Detective Comics #8

Since I was in the comic book store anyway, I took a look at Detective Comics #8 in hopes of a good Batman story.

I hadn't enjoyed the Penguin arc much, and I certainly didn't want to pay an extra dollar for a book that's been losing quality and an eight-page side story. But with the big Night of the Owls event being next month, I figured it's best I see what the flagship was doing.

I will say I was pleasantly surprised.

I'm not sure how much of an arc this is, as it was pretty much opened and closed in this issue, but honestly, it was nice to not have the issue dragged down by a bunch of side plots like in the Penguin arc.

This story hearkens back to the side story from Issue #5 at the end, as Eli, son of Hugo Strange and Catwoman, makes his grand return. Amazingly, this story probably could have dragged another issue, but I guess Tony Daniel wanted to wrap it up for NOTO, which I can understand.

What I appreciate about this issue is it involved actual detective work from Batman. I have been a proponent of Detective focusing on the more sleuth-like aspects of Batman, Batman: The Dark Knight focusing on the Bruce Wayne and human side of Batman, and Batman doing the complex universal storylines. This is the first time this book really felt unique in that regard, and I hope that that execution is continued after the crossover.

Besides this story, there is an eight-page supplement about Two-Face. I won't get too into the plot, but I assume it will be back in a couple of months. The art was not great in it, as it was covered in shadows and I could hardly tell at times which one was Harvey Dent. However, the dialogue was good and if you are paying attention, the words tell a story that makes up for the art.

Overall, the issue was a little rushed so that a new arc could begin after NOTO and the strong artwork in the main story did not carry over at all into the side story.

Additionally, unless this storyline is brought back at the end of next issue, there's no serious urgency to pay the extra dollar for this one.

That said, it is the best Detective issue since the first one, tells a good story and shows that Daniel isn't just wasting time with his side stories.

If you buy to see a storyline unfold and be an important plot-point for a few months, this book is not worth your money.

But if you want a story that can be reread a few times and shows Batman living up to his "World's Greatest Detective" moniker, then it's definitely worth a $3.99 price.