Review: Action Comics #895

Action Comics #895
Lex Luthor by Paul Cornell, Pete Woods, Brad Anderson and Rob Leigh
Jimmy Olsen by Nick Spencer, R.B. Silva, Dym, Dave McCaig and Rob Leigh

Synopsis: Lex awakens from a robot induced sex coma to make Things happen, and Jimmy Olsen gets boring like a mah’-fucka’.

01. Superman has been absent from Action Comics for almost two years now. Crazy, right? While DC has been a bit more loose with who stars in some of their bigger books as of late, it usually hasn’t translated into sales. And then Paul Cornell came up on Action and just bust the shit out of everything.

Ever since he started on the book with #890, sales have been trickling ever upwards (at least at my shop) and the story has been incredible. In the course of six issues, Lex has done battle with an immortal, a super smart gorilla, a super assassin with one eye, a psychic caterpillar, and even Death herself – and while he’s clearly an evil human being, you still end up rooting for him. While he’s always been the hero of his own story, you really get a sense of it in these pages, and it makes for a fascinating character study. Plus, the man is cold banging a robot version of Lois Lane, who is also loaded with death missiles. And that’s just awesome.

02. Just a few issues into the Lex run, DC thought they might as well crank this shit up to eleven by adding Nick Spencer and some Jimmy Olsen adventures to the back of the book. For those of you still out of the loop, Spencer is the new indie darling turned big two golden boy, with gigs writing Supergirl and Iron Man 2.0. He’s written some amazing work for Image, including a book where a model turned assassin accidentally shoots a furry instead of killing a kid who banged an inanimate blow up doll. And it was rad.

Anyway, I knew that with this man steering Jimmy Olsen, we would definitely be getting some bizarre Silver-Age Jimmy Olsen stories – and he definitely hasn’t disappointed on that front. His Jimmy started with infiltrating a secret genie society, and continued his awesome tale by treating a group of partying aliens to the most boring time of their lives… in order to save the world. It’s been awesome, and with the next issue, it all comes to a close. For now, at least. Please, please, please, DC, give the man a chance to bring Jimmy Olsen back into the limelight again with an ongoing!

03. This Wednesday, the Action Annual will ship, and while it will not feature any Jimmy Olsen action, it will definitely still be worth a read. I mean seriously? Cornell has a young Luthor facing Darkseid. DARKSEID YOU GUYS. As if I didn’t already love this book. You really need to be picking this up, so you can feel the pure COMICS! magic.

Review: Batwoman #0

Batwoman #0
by J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman, Amy Reeder, Richard Friend, Dave Stewart and Todd Klein

Synopsis: Bruce Wayne dresses like a hobo and dons a pedo-stache in order to nab info on the new Batwoman.

01. I’ve spent more hours of my life trying to explain the concept of a “zero issue” than I would care to admit to. It’s something that really doesn’t exist in other media. Unless a television show has an un-aired pilot, rarely will you see a primer to what amounts to the main story. Comics seem to be just fine with offering up “zero issues” in quite a wide variety. Some are preludes to upcoming stories, others a preview pages for impending projects. Others still are full issues unto themselves, and rarely, they also function as a weird little story-telling trick for either the purposes of a crossover, or some other story purpose. Regardless, when you attempt to sell a #0 issue to anyone outside of the normal comic book readership, it can often elicit blank stares and confusion. Batwoman #0 is one of those rare instances where that blank stare can be erased quite easily, by telling people that it’s a prelude, like a prologue, to the main story to come. In that capacity, this book does its job quite well, telling new readers just what Batwoman is all about, while reminding old readers of the events that have already taken place. After this issue, you know pretty much all you need to know to start with the first issue in February – and that’s rad.

02. Many people were wary about what the book would feel like once Greg Rucka departed from the character, but it’s safe to say that Batwoman is in good hands. J.H. Williams III is no stranger to co-writing, having done so on Chase and a Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight story called “Snow” – and those stories were great. The big question mark here was incoming writer W. Haden Blackman, whose only credits involve Star Wars product. Would he be able to tackle the book, and still get that same feeling we got while reading Rucka’s fantastic scripts and dialogue? The signs are good here, as the story read quite nicely. There’s still a bit of a question, regarding the way Kate will eventually sound as this story was told through the viewpoint of Bruce, and didn’t feature any dialogue at all. However, I’m confident that together with JHIII, things will come together nicely.

03. There are absolutely no words for the way the art in this book looks. Both J.H. Williams and Amy Reeder killed it on this book and… well, I really suck at describing such things so here. Take a look for yourself.

(Click the image to make full sized.)

Amazing, right? Anyway, there’s more where that came from in the Batwoman: Elegy HC, which you can get from Amazon, or from your local comic book store. And of course, her new series begins in February. So you know, there’s that too.

Recommendation: Batman and Robin #17

Batman and Robin #17
by Paul Cornell, Scott McDaniel, Rob Hunter, Alex Sinclair and Patrick Brosseau

Synopsis: Batman and Robin go to a chapel. Are they going to get married?

01. Although I do enjoy the writing of Peter Tomasi, I have to admit, I squealed with glee when I discovered that due to scheduling troubles, Paul Cornell would be stepping in as writer for three issues of Batman and Robin. Both are quite accomplished, but I think that Cornell is the ideal buffer between the two, a halfway point between the more straight-forward super-heroics that Tomasi is known for, and the psychedelic romps that Grant Morrison wrote for this book.

02. This issue was pretty rad. Crafted under what I can only assume was quite a tight deadline, Cornell keeps the fast paces spirit of the book alive, while simultaneously creating a new, crazy Batman and Robin villain called “The Absence”. It’s hard to tell exactly what this person’s deal is right at the moment, but what we’ve seen so far is intriguing.

03. Some customers are excited about the art change in this issue. While I personally enjoyed the art of Frazer Irving, it definitely doesn’t match the superhero “house style” that a lot of people have a tough time breaking from. Which, you know, is absolutely fine. Not only does Scott McDaniel bring a more traditional look to the book, he must have done so in record time, what with his other run on Detective just wrapping up, and this schedule substitution made quite late in the game. A great job by this man.

04. Light spoilers for those who have not read the issue (and shame on you): Una Nemo? Roughly translated means “a nobody”, or a singular nobody. Which is just delightful. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Whelp, you should probably just up and read this book then, shouldn’t you?

Batman and Robin #17 was released on November 24th, 2010.

Review: Firebreather – Holmgang #1

Firebreather: Holmgang #1
by Phil Hester, Andy Kuhn and Bill Crabtree

Synopsis: Fresh from a battle with alien robot hunters, Duncan returns home and gets a bit grounded. Also, there’s girl troubles, because high school, amirite?

01. This is the second book we’ve read this week that mentions prom. That’s just fun.

02. Firebreather is one of those books that do two things very well. It captures all the ennui of being a teenager with crystal clarity, and hits you hard with earth shattering battles with giant crazy monsters. The pair of story styles don’t usually blend so well together, usually co-existing in a movie where the regular teenage drama is just a way to ease the audience into the fantastic battles that take place later. Here, they manage to blend together into something new and refreshing – the story of a boy dealing with life as both a regular teenager and an extra regular monster. The best part has to be the fact that Phil Hester has created a situation in which one part of his life can not function without the other. In his everyday life as a teenager, Duncan can get away from his fate as the son of the king of the monsters, while in his extra-curricular life, he can deal with the pains of being a teenager by punching giant ass monsters. Both lives carry with them their pros and cons, but come together to make a life. A hard thing to pull of, but here it is done without effort.

03. It has been quite a while since the last arc of Firebreather was on the stands – but that’s okay. While the book has always been great, it’s also always been pretty late. Unfortunately, up until this point the book hadn’t really paid all that well, and necessitated breaks in the story so that the creators could go off and make some money before coming back to Duncan and his worlds. With this third volume, Phil Hester and Andy Kuhn are hitting the ground running with a feature film under their belt – in fact, this issue and the movie were released for the first time today – and so the book stands more of a chance of coming out more often, with the momentum the book is experiencing.

04. When I first started reading Firebreather, I have to admit, I was not a big fan of Andy Kuhn’s art. I’m willing to admit that my opinions at the time were wrong – Andy has a phenomenal sense of character design, and the way he stages both fights and the everyday are full of energy and kinetic motion. At the time, though, I was just dipping my toe into the realm of indie comics, and was used to more of the regular house style of Marvel and DC. I like to keep this in mind when I’m attempting to sell the book to people in the store (usually using my line of, “It’s like Saved By The Bell meets giant monster fights”) when they tell me that the art is not their cup of tea – in that it probably won’t be, until you’re a little bit deeper into the book. The art works, and it’s great, and without it, the series would definitely not be the same.

05. Like all things we talk about on this site, we love Firebreather. We believe you’ll love it too. There are two trades available right now, if you would like to try the series out. If your local comic store is out of copies, ask them to order it in. If they won’t, get a better comic book shop or order it from Amazon.

Firebreather: Holmgang #1 was released on November 24th, 2010.

Review: Detective Comics #871

Detective Comics #871
by Scott Snyder, Jock, Francesco Francavilla, David Baron and Jared K. Fletcher

Synopsis: Batman talks about going to prom and also begins solving a mystery.

01. In a month filled with exciting new Bat-book releases, writer Scott Snyder distinguished himself from the pack by dropping some interesting science.

“…the run will also be about the dark and mysterious relationship the city has with Bat. Because for Bruce, Gotham has produced the Joker, Two-Face and all the great villains we know and love as dark and twisted reflections of Bruce himself. And now, with Dick in the cowl, the city seems to be changing, becoming meaner, more vicious. Which makes him wonder – what if being Batman in Gotham means having to face your worst childhood fears come to life, in the flesh? What if Gotham is like a black funhouse mirror to whoever wears the cowl?”

He thought about Batman so hard he found a characterization set for Gotham City. That’s just rad.

02. The book lives up to the promise of the quote. Snyder lays down some great character moments, while showing that he’s thought about the entire canvas he’s painting on, and not just the painting’s main subject. While the mystery at the story’s core is given the proper gravitas it needs, he’s not afraid to remind the reader that they are reading comics – dropping a humourous reference to the Anti-Monitor and Dick’s old fly-ass Nightwing booties. It’s a dangerous move, but one that pays off quite well, keeping the comic enjoyable and as things take a turn for the somewhat grotesque.

03. Commissioner Gorden comes off quite well in both stories – first in a chat with Dick about going to the prom with his daughter (as well as the details of the crime in question) and then in the back-up story, in which something else returns to haunt him. You can really feel the weight the man carries on his shoulders, but you get the sense that he’s not going to let that weight drag him down. At least, not for long.

04. The art by both Jock and Francesco Francavilla is amazing. Jock’s pages are more sparse and carry a modern sheen, with a cinematic overlay, whereas Francavilla’s are seeped in the juices of old pulp, using shadows and tilted camera angles to great effect. Very different, but both perfect for what they were meant to convey. In the midst of a lot of strong new books, this is one of the strongest, and I can not wait for the next issue.