Saturday, December 19, 2009

Comic Reviews - December 19th 2009

Apologies once again for the delayed reviews, but hey at least these aren’t 2 weeks late! Now I leave tomorrow for Utah but I’m going to try and post a Week’s End when I get to the Motel tomorrow night. I will have my laptop on me but I’m not sure if the place I’m going to has wi-fi. If it does I’ll post it, if not, it will have to wait ‘till Monday.

I’m also going to try and pick up next week’s comics at a comic shop in town. If I can do that I’m definitely going for some reviews as best I can. Though I may not be able to. Also I want to focus on an Image Primer guest post I’ll be doing for The Weekly Crisis so it’s up in the air if next week’s comics will get reviewed then or not.

Also thanks very much to my friend Kenny for making this new banner for the blog to help us ring in the new year with a new banner. He did an awesome job!

So now lets get to this week’s comic reviews for the day! Only 2 but 2 good ones.

Streets of Gotham #7
Written: Paul Dini
Art: Dustin Nguyen

Opening Comments: Streets of Gotham is one of the best ongoings on the shelves right now. It’s the sleeper hit of the Batman Reborn status quo and easily has been trumping all the other bat-books in my opinion. Dini took a break for 2 months and thankfully is back and better then ever to stuff our stockings with Christmas cheer the Gotham way. Did he give us a great present or a lump of coal? Let’s find out!

Story Comments: Streets of Gotham #7 was an absolutely excellent read from start to finish. All the characters, the story, how it all develops is amazingly well pulled off and some of the best story telling I’ve seen all year.

I wasn’t really expecting a Christmas themed issue with this one. I know the cover has Manhunter in winter background but I just figured that was going to tie into it being December and nothing else. But Dini really impressed me with how he took the fun idea of a holiday story and totally twisted it.

Yes this issue is far from something for the little kids kind of holiday specials. You won’t be seeing Batman drinking hot coco as Robin tries to catch Rudolph for Santa’s sleigh. This is a harsh story and while it does tie into a Christmas theme it’s far from your fun little Christmas story. Though I love it even more for it.

Dini took a fun little concept of Christmas in Gotham and turned it into a dark eerie story that also ties into the larger story of how he’s been building up a confrontation with Zsasz.

This is what I’m talking about when I praise how Dini is able to so well tell a single story in one issue but all the while advancing a larger plot. Such as Humpty being found it because of files Batman stole from the Broker in issue #4 and Zsasz’ recent plans that have been developing for quite some time now.

Dini is using this title in a brilliant way so just about each issue is it’s own solid story but it also advances a larger plot. We don’t see this a lot in major comics nowadays like the Batman titles so Dini doing this is a really fun and unique thing right now compared to all the other books.

Dini is at his A-game with Streets of Gotham. This is some of his best writing along with the Heart of Hush storyline and of course his work for the DCU animated shows. Dini is really excelling with Streets of Gotham and making it an incredible read with each issue.

Dini really nails the characters well. We can easily tell this Batman is not Bruce Wayne as he actually likes talking and comes off as more friendly even if he still has that sharp edge. Dini writes the character of Batman very well by showing how sympathetic is to both Humpty and to Robin as they both are upset over the murders and the way Batman reacts is very much in line with the character of Dick Grayson.

Dini also excels with how he shows us Humpty Dumpty. A villain I’ve never really cared for who never really contributed much to the Batman Rogues Gallery. He’s fairly plain and big and that’s his shtick. He’s a big guy, not very exciting when it comes to villains really.

Though Dini took a boring villain and made him a lot of fun to watch. Humpty isn’t really a villain but more of someone who just is on the wrong side of the law and doesn’t get it. It’s a shame as we see here he’s a really nice guy who doesn’t want to hurt people but he just ends up doing so even if by accident.

He’s a very sympathetic character and Dini makes it work without making him feel overly sappy and boring to watch. I like sympathetic characters, heroes or villains, but when you play it up too much it gets really annoying. Here Dini does it to a right level where it gives Humpty a charming quality of how we do still care about this guy.

Then there was Robin who I swear Dini gets better then his own creator, Grant Morrison. Morrison always paints Damian as this very bland and annoying character who’s just a snobbish brat who can be a badass from time to time. Dini has taken Damian’s characters and added a layer that makes him much more interesting.

He’s still a badass who could kick your ass in the dark but we finally see a more human side of him in this issue when he gets upset over the head kids. We’ve seen Damian before get upset over a failure when he failed to save Scarlet in Batman and Robin #3 but Dini really goes the extra mile and makes Damian more compelling.

In this one issue of Streets of Gotham Damian has gotten more development then he has since his debut a few years back in the Batman and Son arc. Dini hasn’t taken away the hardened young hero he’s just shown us that he, like everyone else, can be vulnerable at times and get a little emotional.

Dini is working magic for the character with making him much more interesting to read about. His banter with Batman about Christmas was hilarious and it also fit the character well since there was still that attitude of “I’m awesome” as he spoke. I really like how Damian is developing as a character and it works well to advance the character.

Dini has been using the characters very well and spotlighting more then just Batman and Robin and it’s become very effective for the series in helping show a wider range on Gotham City and its inhabitants.

We finally have an identity for the Abuse character. People speculated that it was Colin since he did get a lot of Venom in him during the Heart of Hush story arc last year. It is nice to see Dini continuing with characters from prior storylines as it’s really nice to see him building a larger story and adding more characters to Gotham even while doing a great job with already established characters.

As I said Dini is able to tell a singular story all the while advancing a larger plot. In this case the larger plot has been Zasz as he has been building up a dream he’s had for quite some time that is now being funded by Black Mask since Zsasz saved him during issue #2.

It’s really great seeing how Dini can develop a large plot even while telling a singular story like the Broker or Hush’ taking over the Bruce Wayne persona. It works incredibly well and it was cool finally seeing Zsasz’ plan and use of the abandoned Gotham children.

It’s a sick twisted and grim plan that Zsasz is doing and it fits the disgusting horrific character well. Zsasz has always been absolutely insane and seeing him finally use that insanity for something other then killing random people is really effective in finally turning this D-list villain into a credible threat.

Zsasz has always been a creepy villain but not much else. He mumbles creepy stuff then stabs people and after that he cuts a mark into his skin. An okay gimmick for any psychotic villain but it can only go on for so far until the gimmick gets worn out and we get tired of him.

Zsasz has mostly been fodder to showing Batman be badass and saving someone. Not much else. He may kill a few people and be creepy some more but not much else. He’s never ascended to the credible threat that other villains like Joker or Mr. Freeze have. He’s always just been around for a short while then he hides away until some writer wants to use him for a 10 panel fight scene and then back away.

Dini plucked Zsasz out of his boring little corner of Gotham and finally upped the ante by turning his depraved mind into a landscape where horrors are born. We see a terrifying version of Zsasz who is so mentally out of it that he’s using orphan children as gladiators in his sick rendition of a Roman Coliseum.

Zsasz has gone beyond his bland ways and has become a truly terrifying and monstrous villain. This is just plain gruesome stuff that’s beyond just stabbing someone and marking yourself. Dini took a boring villain and made him incredibly interesting and scary boosting the villain greatly.

I must admit that while I liked the grim twist this story had, others will obviously not. Batman is a dark series but while Gotham itself is a dark and horrific places there is still lots of room for enjoyable heroics.

If you’re looking for more action oriented heroic stories you probably won’t like Streets of Gotham. The series focuses on the dark corners of Gotham that only the Batman can face and while I love it, others may not.

While I liked the reveal that Abuse is indeed Colin (or so we can figure) it was a little obvious. Still it worked well.

Overall this issue was a near flawless read that was just tons of fun to read and the best issue yet of the already great young series.

Art Comments: Nguyen also shines this month with some excellent artwork to go along with the great story. Nguyen has come a long way over the years since he first did work on Superman/Batman. While his work has always had a unique style to it the recent issues of Streets of Gotham have really propelled him as a top-artist at DC.

He’s work here is nothing short of gorgeous as he does a great job with all the characters, all the emotion and important moments are conveyed beautifully here and it all looks absolutely amazing.

I did have one problem with the art and that was the snow effect which got really annoying at times. I wasn’t sure exactly how it was done. It didn’t seem to be drawn in but the snow looked like splattered paint and it was annoying at times.

Also once again the coloring is really strong to add to the already great artwork.

Final Comments: If you haven’t been liking what Morrison is doing over with Batman and Robin (I know I haven’t) and are looking for a great Batman series that focuses on Gotham City as a whole and is really interesting and compelling then this is the series for you. This issue just proved once again why Dini is a modern master when it comes to writing Batman.

Story Rating: 5 out of 10
Art Rating: 5 out of 10
Overall Rating: 5 out of 10
Must Have

Mighty Avengers #32
Written: Dan Slott
Art: Koi Pham

Opening Comments: In a lot of ways I’ve wanted to love this title but been unable to. Slott has failed in places to use the characters well and tell a fun action series that separates itself from the other Avengers titles out there. Though things seemed to be getting better at the end of the Unspoken arc.

Now Slott is giving us a fun arc that involves 2 Avengers clashing as swell as working together and it’s looking to  be a fun time with great character work and a solid enjoyable read even for some of it’s flaws.

Story Comments: the cover does lie, there is no real fight between the Mighty and Dark Avengers. Though the two teams do clash in a sense they don’t actually physically fight but that actually ends up working out still.

Though I admit I was really looking forward to a big Avengers fight so that cover advertising one and us not getting it is rather disappointing. Slott can write some strong action so not seeing him take advantage of the two teams fighting on the cover was sad, though maybe we’ll still get some kind of fight next month.

This issue has more of Loki’s scheming to do wrong with “his” Avengers. Loki has been setting up a lot of things through Dark Reign and his current status has him using both Osborn and the Mighty Avengers so it makes sense that these two forces would collide sooner or later as things have been building up to this story for a while now.

Slott also does a great job of using the developing plots of Dark Reign to help set up Osborn’s fall even more so in Siege. We see Osborn is cracking under the armor and slowly is losing himself more and more and this issue was a nice little catch up to all the horrible things that he’s done so far like torture and his attack on the X-men. It’s all developing very nicely.

Also there’s Loki and his masquerade as the Scarlet Witch. I have liked this development a lot and it’s been working very well for the series especially since the team is wise to Loki’s tricks even if they don’t know it’s him yet. They are aware their being duped by the trickster and seeing them try to figure this out was a nice thing as it shows the team isn’t oblivious like Osborn is.

A nice twist was the use of the Absorbing Man. Not really a villain I was expecting to see in this story or recently really. He’s been a prominent villain every once in a while but this is probably the strongest he’s become in a long time. I don’t want to spoil the ending so I won’t say what happens but lets just say he’s become a major threat that is indeed worthy of 2 Avengers working at once to stop him.

This issue mostly was just set up though as while the 2 teams clearly show animosity towards each other it was disappointing that this 2 part arc mostly just gets set up for the first half even if it means the second half will no doubt have more action which will no doubt make it a more enjoyable read next month.

So far it really hasn’t done much but beef up our villain for the story and have some great character moments. That makes for a good read no doubt but on it’s own it’s not much else other then an enjoyable read.

As I said there are some great character moments in this issue but there are a couple of annoying ones as well. For instance I just cant’ see how Amadeus could outsmart Vision. Maybe it’s just the Vision fan in me but I can’t see how Amadeus could outthink the super intelligent library of knowledge android.

Also Stature continues to be an annoying character. She of course was somewhat designed that way to not be the most likable or interesting of the Young Avengers but most writers have still been able to keep that interesting and enjoyable character alongside with her annoying moments.

Slott seems to be ignoring her more interesting aspects and just focusing on the annoying teenager part of Stature and that in itself is frustrating that he’s not really utilizing the character to her fullest. He’s just treating her like the dumb blonde of the team and it’s a great misuse of character here.

US Agent continues to annoy me. But it seems Slott is really playing that up to make him an obnoxious tool and it actually is more effective here. Seeing him salute Norman Osborn, a known criminal just for his status is surprisingly effective and works for the character in highlighting how brainwashed he is to love anything that’s in red white and blue so Slott uses the character well here.

Then of course there’s Hank Pym, the Wasp. I loved how Slott really turned the Scientist Supreme thing into a fun joke. Sure it’s a serious status for Pym no doubt but it’s played into being comedic and it works well with how smug he gets about it and loves hearing others say it.

Hank is someone who’s been treated so bad that it makes sense that he clings to this new title and loves hearing it. He’s been seen so often as a bad guy who has been so desperate for redemption that when he finally finds it and no longer has the weight of the world on his shoulders he really exploits it and does his best to use it to make himself feel good.

Slott uses the character well as our leader of the Mighty Avengers. He leads the team well and interacts with all the teammates on a different level and it’s a lot of fun to read. Really it’s how a good Avenger leader should act and Slott does so without making the character lose any part of himself that would be sacrificed to be a good leader. This is still Hank Pym even if he’s changed a bit and it works incredibly well.

I am curious to see where Slott takes the Scarlet Witch is a fake reveal when Quicksilver finally finds out. His team can’t hide this from him forever and I’m really looking forward to seeing his reaction to the fake Wanda.

The Dark Avengers are handled fairly well but Norman Osborn is best written as we see him slowly losing it again. It’s great seeing his banter with Hank and a few lines just made me laugh so hard. Slott writes the character well and his interactions with Hank and the others are nicely done.

All around the story is well handled even if it has some weak points and doesn’t do too much Slott still does a good job with it and makes for an entertaining and fun read and handles it well.

Art Comments: Pham’s art has been all over the place somewhat like the stories for this series. He can turn in some great stuff when he works really hard on it and puts in that extra effort. Though when he doesn’t his art often falls apart and can look extremely messy and poor.

Here his work was enjoyable. He did a great job with the emotions conveyed, the characters and their looks and it was all very nicely done. Making for an all around enjoyable art serving this month.

Final Comments: While nothing amazing this was a fun read with some great character work and solid art. If you’re looking for a fun read that does a great job of using the super hero genre and telling an enjoyable story with it then this is the book for you and this is looking to be an enjoyable story.

Story Rating: 4 out of 5
Art rating: 3 out of 5
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
Must Read

No comments: