Archive for the ‘Reviews – DC Comics’ Category

Birds-of-Prey-21

Written By: Christy Marx
Pencils By: Romano Molenaar / Breakdowns By: Scott McDaniel / Inks By: Jonathan Glapion / Colours By: Chris Sotomayor / Letters By: Dezi Sienty
Price: $2.99

Allow me to cut to the chase here. For those of you focused on action, his issue packs it in very nearly from end to end. And even more importantly, I’d wager that this is the best issue, at least of Christy Marx’s run on the book, if no of the entire series.

Alright, so being the best issue of a series that int quite two years old yet isn’t necessarily all that high of praise, but in the case of Birds of Prey #21, it actually is a very good issue. This is the third issue of the Birds of Prey/Talon crossover story, and it is the first issue where the stars of both books really come together. That being the case, this is the one that really kicks off the action. As I said, the action is really packed into this one, and it all revolves around a fight between our two Talons, Strix and Calvin Rose. Of course, this is an issue spanning fight sequence, so there really has to be more to it then just punches and kicks, and there absolutely is. You have to remember, these are regular Talons, these are heroes, tortured heroes, dealing with their own issues, and seeing how these things come out in the midst of the fight has a certain beauty to it. And you know what, while this fight and the character development for Strix and Calvin it brings with it are certainly the bulk of the issue, there is more going on, like for instance a bit of insight into Condor’s background and his interest in the Birds of Prey.

This really is a good one folks, a fight scene that balances emotion with excitement, character development and of course, actual story progress. My one complaint would be that this story takes place before current issues of Batgirl, so her state here doesn’t exactly line up with where she is in her own book, and because I’ve been enjoying that title so much lately, that took me out of this one just a little bit. That’s a personal gripe though, chances are it won’t effect your enjoyment of the story.

Score: 8.5

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Written By: Gail Simone
Pencils By: Fernando Pasarin / Inks By: Jonathan Glapion / Colours By: Blond / Letters By: Taylor Esposito
Price: $2.99

Batgirl may very well be the most tortured hero in the DC Universe, and oddly enough, that may actually make her the most relatable. Why? Because in a world where the pinnacle is a man with gadgets and plans for every scenario, an alien with nearly limitless power and a woman whose powers literally stems from the magic of the Greek Gods, Batgirl is possibly the most human of human heroes.

Now, you won’t get this from looking at the cover of Batgirl #21, but to my mind, the most important element at play in this issue’s story, is family. Barbara Gordon is a woman with two families, one as herself, and one as Batgirl, and both of those families have been having some major troubles in recent months. The core of the Bat-Family has been all but destroyed since the events of Death of the Family when confrontation with The Joker left the younger members of Team Batman on the outs with their mentor. Those events were quickly followed by the death of the youngest bat, and while Barbara and Damian were never given much together time in The New 52, positioning him as her brother wouldn’t be a stretch. That brings us to Barbara natural family, with her estranged mother and psychotic brother James returning to her life causing all sorts of turmoil. The former, while attempting to repair her relationship with her daughter, found herself tormented by The Joker, and the latter, Barbara, as Batgirl, believes herself to have killed recently, an event that was witnessed by their father, Commissioner Gordon. Yes, that’s a lot of background, but it plays the very important role here of giving us a glimpse not Barbara’s state of mind as she struggles with her identity and how to move forward, going so far at one point of this issue as to choose not to even refer to herself as Batgirl. The role of family goes even deeper here then just background though, as the issue kicks off with a painful, yet undeniably realistic and relatable conversation between Batgirl and Nightwing that in no way is a talk between two superheroes, but rather between two people. Then later, as the confrontation between not-Batgirl and The Ventriliquist comes to a head, and we were given a deeper look into who this villain is and the role her own family has played in things, Barbara’s own problems are given an exquisite contrast.

This issue of a Batgirl is really a beautifully scripted character drama. Yes, it probably plays better to someone like me who has read the entire series and even relatively recently The Killing Joke, a story that still plays heavily on the character of Barbara Gordon even post-reboot, but I believe that there is enough information conveyed in the initial pages that even if this is the first comic book you’ve read, you’ll be able to understand the deeper nature of what’s happening here. And even if you don’t, the confrontation with The Ventriliquist is itself certainly something to witness, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it made son people as uncomfortable as it did Batgirl.

Score: 9.0

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Written By: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Pencils By: Eduardo Pansica / Inks By: Julio Ferreira / Colours By: Hi-Fi / Letters By: Dezi Sienty
Price: $2.99

With Batwing #19 came new writers and a new penciler. With Batwing #20 came a new man behind the mask. With Batwing #21, I realize just how good change can be sometimes.

I’m not going to sit here and tear apart what Batwing was before the new direction taken over the last few issues because frankly that’s not important at the moment. The book was never particularly bad, it certainly had its moments, I suppose I just never really connected with it. However, be it the new creative team or the new star, Batwing’s stock has definitely gone up in my eyes recently. While David Zavimbe was an interesting character in his own right, and without question different from the typical superhero protagonist, the new Batwing, Lucas Fox, is, thus far, much more entertaining. To put it in terms of the rest of the Bat-Family, Zavimbe most closely compares to Batman, while Fox is more akin to Nightwing. The difference being that while the Bat-Family is Dick Grayson’s family, Lucas Fox still has his parents and two sisters which allows for a family dynamic rarely depicted in the Bat-books. And maybe that’s what works for me the most, Lucas Fox just feels more relatable. Also coming with the book’s new direction is a new villain. Introduced last issue before taking a more central role this month, Lion-Mane is probably one of the more out there villains in the DC Universe. The best way I can describe him is a cross between a lion (obviously) and a centaur, and while on the surface that sounds a bit ridiculous, somehow it just seems to work. I could certainly see Lion-Mane terrorizing Batwing for years to come.

Overall, there’s not really a better way for me to say this other, issue #21 is probably the most fun, entertaining and compelling Batwing story I’ve read. If you’ve been curious about this book but haven’t picked it up yet, now’s the time. I have a feeling next month things are going to get even crazier.

Score: 8.0

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Written By: James Tynion IV
Art By: Al Barrionuevo / Colours By: Javier Mena and Bit / Letters By: Carlos M. Mangual
Price: $4.99

Jason Todd has given up everything he once was in recent months. His road to rediscovery and reinvention starts here. Meanwhile, Roy Harper is having some relationship and trust issues as of late, but that’s nothing new to him.

Now I led with the line about Red Hood because he’s the name on the cover, but Arsenal is without question the central figure of this double-size annual. And that’s not something I have any kind of problem with. Roy Harper is a character I didn’t know a whole lot about before I started reading this series but who I’ve quickly come to like. I may even say he’s the most interesting character in this book, particularly in recent issues. And as I said, he is absolutely the central figure of this issue’s story as we get further glimpses into his past, particularly his association ith Oliver Queen, and more importantly, we get th first meeting between Roy and Ollie in The New 52. If you were expecting that meeting to be fun, you won’t be disappointed. If you were expecting them to have a calm, reasonable conversation, guess again. The meeting is anything but a happy one, and that’s in part due to their past issues, but also due to timing as Ollie arrives on the heels of an assassin gunning for Red Hood and his friends. I won’t tell you who that assassin is, but I will let Arsenal give you a little sense of what we’re dealing with here as he yells “Stop being sexy and fight me, dammit!” And that line is probably why I like Roy Harper in on nutshell. On the Red Hood front, Jason Todd recently gave up the entirety of his memories in order to purge himself of the dark touch of the Joker on his life. Obviously that’s caused some upheaval in his relationships with Arsenal and Starfire, especially when he decides to look up all the files on The Red Hood, and does not like what he finds.

Perhaps due to being nearly 40 pages, this book manages to be both narratively deep and particularly action heavy, superbly balancing itself between being both fun and heavy and ends up coming out as the better of two particularly interesting annuals released this week, the other being Batman: The Dark Knight. If you’re a fan of this series or of Arsenal in particular, this ne actually is worth the extra cost. If all you want to do is look at Starfire, you won’t be disappointed but you’ll do better just using Google.

Score: 8.0

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Written By: James Tynion IV
Art By: Miguel Sepulveda / Colours By: Rain Beredo / Letters By: Taylor Esposito
Price: $2.99

Calvin Rose is about to become everything that he hates. Bane prepares to shape Gotham to his will. This one is very much an in between issue, but that certainly doesn’t mean that it’s bad. It just means it’s stuck beneath what has come before it and the expectation of what is soon to come.

Now, I don’t like to spoil things in these reviews, but the facts are, you’ve had two weeks to read Birds of Prey #20, so if you haven’t this probably won’t hurt that much, and the reveal I’m spoiling is featured on the cover of Birds of Prey #21 anyway. So, who is it? Why it’s the star of Talon, Calvin Rose of course. But why do I need to tell you that here? Well, because the entire point of Talon #8 is to get Calvin Rose from the last page of Talon #7 to the last age of Birds of Prey #20. In order to do that, James Tynion IV pulls Calvin down to the darkest place he’s been to date in the series. This issue is not about action, its purely about the story. And this chapter in Calvin Rose’s life is not about happiness, and it’s not about winning. This about darkness, about the strength of a man’s will, and about hat happens when the hero loses. And you know what? It works. It works because Tynion presents us with a stark contrast between the characters of Calvin Rose and Bane, two characters who undoubtedly heading for a rematch afte eir confrontation last issue. While Tynion shows us that Calvin, finding himself in a spot even he may be unable to escape from, is quickly sinking deep into the darkness, he contrasts that with a brief interlude where Bane regales Sebastian Clark with a rendition of his origin story. As we watch Calvin Rose begin to break, we are reminded that Bane does not break.

This may not be an action-packed slugfest, but it is that start of a very emotional journey for Calvin Rose. The rematch with Bane is certainly in the future and Batman is almost certain to make an even more substantial appearance in Calvin’s story then he already has. But before we get to that, Calvin first has to make it through what’s coming in the pages of Birds of Prey #21 and Talon #9. So, if you don’t want to miss out on what’s going on in the slightly less Bat-heavy corner of Gotham, you might want to pick this one up.

Score: 8.0

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Written By: Christy Marx
Pencils By: Romano Molenaar / Inks By: Jonathan Glapion / Colours By: Chris Sotomayor / Letters By: Taylor Esposito
Price: $2.99

Sometimes the last page really does make all the difference. We’ve all seen the lt page cliffhanger reveals before. The villain who’s been hidden in the shadows for pages or issues finally showing his face. The ally showing up at the last minute to save the day. Or in this case, the next issues guest star making their first appearance. It’s a device that’s probably used more often then it should be, but it keeps getting used because it works. It can make an issue better as a whole. It can simply make it more memorable. Or, more importantly for the people who worked on the book, it can make people want to buy the next issue. Now, I’m not going to spoil the reveal here, I’m sure the information is easy enough to find if you really want to, but I will be honest with you here and tell you that it was good enough for me that I bumped the score for this issue up just a little bit higher.

Alright, with all that out of the way, lets talk about Birds of Prey. This may be the most unique team book that DC has going right now, and it’s not because its an all-female team, because, well, it actually isn’t anymore. No, what makes the Birds unique, is that while the Justice League is still the same Justice League and the Teen Titans are still the same Teen Titans, the Birds of Prey continue to evolve. Old members leave, new members join. Not a new concept I know, but I do believe its the only DC book doing it so far in The New 52. I mention this fact because issue #20 has seemingly set the Birds up for another roster shuffle as one of the founding members appears to make her departure. Issue #20 picks up where issue #19 left off, in the midst of the Birds battle with Mr. Freeze in a Court of Owls laboratory and the bulk of the issue focuses on explaining, or at least dealing with, last issues cliffhanger reveal, that Starling was working with Mr. Freeze. While Christy Marx doesn’t go too deep into detail, what is explained however fits together nicely enough as the book has shown us in the past that Starling hasn’t always played on the side of the angels. The other primary focus of the issue, as it has been for awhile now, was the continuing mystery of Black Canary’s powers, or rather her seeming inability to control them. This particular thread is wearing on me a bit. It’s a little tiring watching the team leader face almost the exact same moment of doubt issue after issue, so hopefully they’ll wrap that storyline up sooner rather then later. Though I do admit, that those doubts exist for Black Canary did make the moment she uses her power in this issue that much more meaningful.

Ok, so when you get right down to it, Birds of Prey isn’t a bad book, and issue #20 certainly isn’t a ba issue. For me it wasn’t great, at least not until the final reveal, but it was definitely net resting and I’m looking forward to seeing how the story progresses. I should note though, that the imact of the reveal at the end is of course entirely dependant on how much you recognize of care bout the revealed character.

Score: 7.5

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Written By: Justin Jordan
Art By: R. B. Silva, Rob Lean, Kenneth Rocafort and Chriscross / Colours By: Richard and Tanya Horie / Letters By: Travis Lanham
Price: $2.99

Ok, this one’s going to get a little timey-wimey. But just a little bit. Mostly I just felt like taking the excuse to reference Doctor Who. What we do have here though is a new writer in Justin Jordan, as you can see above a rather large number of artists, and a few new characters, with the promise of more to come. Oh, and let’s not forget, a new addition to the credits in the form of Jerry Siegel, who is noted as Superboy’s creator. I’m not going to get into why that’s a big deal though, I’m sure the Internet has all those answers available for you somewhere.

Now, normally when I tackle a book for the first time here, I’d try and give you a rundown of what’s been happening up to that point. Don’t expect a lot of that here, because trying to explain nineteen issues of Superboy is pretty much guaranteed to make my head hurt. The important things to note for Superboy’s backstory go like this. Superboy is a test tube baby created by Harvest from the DNA of Superman and Lois Lane. Harvest is Superboy’s most significant villain to date and comes from the future. Superboy has a police officer sort of friend named Jocelyn Lure who is also from the future. Still with me? Earlier in the book Superboy robbed a bank, but he’s since given most of the money back, however he now feels its time he turned himself in. That’s more or less where this issue kicks off and where Superboy runs into Doctor Psycho and other representatives of the debuting H.I.V.E. organization. What follows from there is a battle sequence that encompasses th majority of the issue and culminates in the amusing disposal of one of the bad guys. And all of this is framed as the lead in to something very bad happening to Superboy as seen in the opening page but which is not ultimately reached by the end of the issue.

Yes, the more timey-wimey aspects of Superboy’s history can make my head hurt, but overall I’ve been enjoying the character and the book to this point. While this isn’t a great issue on its own, it is mostly action oriented making it rather entertaining, and it does serve as the kickoff point for what seems like it could be a very interesting storyline.

Score: 7.0