Sunday, August 2, 2015

Batgirl Annual #3 - A Review

Batgirl Annual #3 is not really a Batgirl story. Or perhaps it would be more fair to say that this is not your typical Batgirl story. You see, Batgirl is the main character and this issue was written by her regular writing team of Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher. But the actual purpose of this issue seems to be to give some attention to the lesser-known Bat Family books, such as Grayson and Gotham Academy.

Under lesser writers this could be a recipe for disaster. But Stewart and Fletcher more than meet the challenge of making the patchwork nature of this sort of story engaging through liberal application of their famous humor. Perhaps the best portion of the issue details Babs' encounter with an overly-excitable Stephanie Brown a.k.a. The Spoiler.  Hopefully we'll be seeing more of these two heroines playing off of each other in the future.

This issue features a dream team of various artists and inkers.  They all do a wonderful job with their respective chapters and there's not a bum comic in the lot. This issue more than justifies its cover price, proving quite the bargain at $4.99 and its a wonderful introduction to the series for those who haven't given Fletcher and Stewart's run a chance yet.

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #10 - A Review

It's a hot night in Vegas 1964 as alien invaders move in to take control of the city from the Mob! Luckily The Doctor is on the case, with a former heavyweight contender backing him up. Meanwhile, Clara Oswald and the infamous Rat Wolf Pack try to wiggle their way loose from their alien captors.

As with the last issue, the biggest weakness this month is the disparity between the two artists working on this story-line.  Brian Williamson's work is great, perfectly capturing the appearances of the characters from the television show and offering vivid details and splendid inking.  Mariano Laclaustra on the other hand is merely competent, at best, with fine details being lost past the middle distance and many visible signs of sloppy shortcuts.

Thankfully Robbie Morrison's scripts are as strong as ever, though I still wonder if a legal issue required The Rat Pack to be changed into The Wolf Pack.  Never the less, Frankie, Dean-o and Sammy are enjoyable characters no matter what you call them. And as in the best Doctor Who stories, we see - through interactions with a boxer turned bodyguard - that The Doctor's greatest gift as a hero is his ability to inspire other people to heroism.

The Tithe #4 - A Review

Samaritan's final heist went badly for all parties involved. The raid on a corrupt mega-church resulted in a successful theft but also the death of Mike. And the civilian casualties caught in the crossfire of a shoot-out between The FBI and the mega-church's private security have resulted in Agents Campbell and Miller being taken off their case pending an investigation.

What follows next will forever change the lives of those involved. Those who survive, at any rate.

Perhaps the most miraculous aspect of this issue is that creators Matt Hawkins and Rahsan Ekedal had to change things at the last moment  in order to accommodate The Tithe expanding into a monthly series from a mini-series. You'd never know it from the artwork, which looks as fine as ever.

Matt Hawkins' script for this issue is a thing of wonder. With the exception of the corrupt preachers, the series doesn't have any real villains and the story avoids being preachy in regards to matters of religion. The friendship between the two agents is perhaps the best example of this, with both men finding common ground in their belief in helping others despite their disagreements on politics and religion.

All in all, this has been a rocking roller coaster of a story. I'm not quite sure how the series will progress from here but I can't wait to find out!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Superman #42 - A Review

Lois Lane has finally put two and two together and uncovered Clark Kent's secret identity. But even in the face of Lois' trust being shattered, the two have bigger problems. For a hacktivist called HORDR_ROOT has also uncovered the truth of who Superman is and has plans to recruit The Man of Steel for his organization... or else!

I feel conflicted about Gene Yang's script for this issue. On the one hand, the idea of HORDR_ROOT is a novel one and the idea of an enemy who utilizes the power of information against Superman is a novel one. Sadly, the threat he presents is resolved far too quickly.

A larger problem is the character of Lois Lane, who - in the New 52 universe at least - lacks the closeness to Clark that is required to sell the feelings of betrayal she expresses here. The whole thing rings false but I fear that's more the fault of editorial demand than Yang's script, because otherwise the character interactions are wonderful.

The artwork inspires similar feelings of conflict. The pencils and inks by John Romita Jr. and Klaus Johnson are up to their usual high standard, but there's nothing in the issue that stands out as particularly fine work. The greatest problem is the color art, provided by three different colorists with distinctly different styles and palettes.  Just look at the tone of the characters' skins and you'll see the obvious disparity, with the characters appearing pale in one panel and ruddy-cheeked in the next!

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #13 - A Review

Things are, in a word, complicated.

The good news is that Gabby Gonzales has finally convinced her best friend, Cindy Wu, that she wasn't lying about her adventures traveling time and space with the mysterious man known as The Doctor. The bad news is that Cindy wants to help, as the two young women are dragged into the latest crisis to threaten the Earth. Or, to be more accurate, crises.

It all started with an aging movie star named Dorothy Bell, who was seeking a means of restoring her youth and extending her life.  She was rejuvenated by a strange device which has also forcibly bonded her to some alien intelligence, given her the power to manipulate reality at will and summoned some hostile force from deep space. And as if that weren't all bad enough, there's a group of heavily-armed cultists standing between The Doctor and Dorothy, who are convinced she is the messiah of their prophecy...

One can't accuse writer Nick Abadzis of thinking small.  The various plots of this issue are intricate and incredibly complex.  Thankfully, the action is easy enough to follow, though what precisely is occurring may require multiple readings to fully comprehend.

The artwork does a good job of helping restore that sense of clarity. Elena Casagrande is an amazing artist, who manages to keep the action flowing smoothly despite many scenes involving crowds of talking heads. And the inks and colors by Simone Di Meo and Hi-Fi respectively enhance Casagrande's original pencils perfectly.