Monday, December 18, 2017

Titans #18 - A Review

Facing the power behind their enemies The Key, Psimon and Mister Twister, The Titans are horrified to find that it is one of their own... a version of Donna Troy from the future, determined to kill her former allies and push Donna down the path to becoming her. Can Donna overcome her dark future self?


Titans #18 brings The Rise of Troia to a satisfying, if rushed conclusion. Dan Abnett still seems to be struggling to balance the overly large cast and the subplot involving Bubblebee's amnesia - probably the least developed storyline since the series started - is resolved with little explanation or fanfare. The story isn't bad but there's little of the depth Abnett delivers in his writing on Aquaman.

The artwork is similarly competent but hardly outstanding. Brent Booth can draw a good fight scene, but his facial expressions are horrendous. People smile at the oddest times in the worlds that Brent Booth creates resulting in some incredibly awkward fight scenes.

The Final Analysis: 5 out of 10.

Detective Comics #970 - A Review


Tim Drake is back in control of The Belfry and The Gotham Knights have hit the organized criminals of Gotham City with a vengeance. Yet Stephanie "Spoiler" Brown wonders at Tim's newfound enthusiasm for crime-fighting and wonders if he's still committed to their plan to give it up to go to college together once Tim's plans are in place. Meanwhile, as Basil "Clayface" Karlo considers the possibility of a cure for his condition, The Victim's Syndicate make their next move against the vigilantes of Gotham City.



Detective Comics #970 is largely a house-keeping issue, light on action with most of the text devoted to reminding the regular readers of the many subplots that are up in the air at the moment. James Tynion IV manages all of the stories with the agility of a plate-spinner, continuing to display his amazing aptitude for depicting these characters.

Unfortunately, the artwork isn't quite so skillful. Joe Bennett's pencils are decent enough, though I admit I find his design for Clayface rather dull. The chief problem is that three inkers kill any chance of a uniform look to the artwork and everything looks odd as a result.

The Final Analysis: 6 out of 10.

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #17 - A Review

A mysterious plague threatens the lives of every man in Gotham City. The Birds of Prey have gathered the rest of the city's heroines - and even The Sirens - to help them keep the peace and find a cure. Can they thwart the plans of Patient Zero - the super-genius behind the viral attack - and her followers in The Daughters of Gotham?


The story comes to a satisfying conclusion under the pens of The Benson Sisters. Despite the large cast of characters, nearly everyone gets a moment to shine. All of the characters sound like themselves, even special guests Wonder Woman and Lois Lane.

Unfortunately, the artwork continues to be an ordeal to work through. There's no consistency to Roge Antonio's work, with differing levels of detail being provided to different characters in the same panel. Patient Zero, for instance, is rendered in a more realistic style than the cartoonish, streamlined superheroines she's taken hostage. A larger problem is the colors of Marcelo Maiolo, which leave everything looking washed out or orange-tinted to the point that all the white heroines are the same shade as Harley Quinn!

 The Final Analysis: 5 out of 10.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Injustice 2 #36 - A Review

Breaking into The Fortress of Solitude in search of a working Phantom Zone Projector, Batman and the new Justice League Task Force were not expecting to run into an army of angry Superman robots. What they find inside The Fortress proves even more surprising!


Injustice 2 #36 is largely devoted to one humdinger of an epic action-sequence. Despite this, the best moments of the issue come in the quiet conversations our heroes have later on. Good as he is at writing superheroic battles, Tom Taylor's bread and butter are these quieter character-driven moments and these scenes are what keep me reading this series.

Xermanico excels at depicting both the active and static scenes, though some of the panels in the action-filled half of the story are a tad rough. The majority of the comic still looks fantastic, with J. Nanjan's finishes and Wes Abbott's letters proving as spectacular as usual.

The Final Analysis: 9 out of 10. A few oddly posed panels put this one just short of perfection.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 6, Episode 9 - Irreconcilable Differences

For a summary of the episode guide layout & categories, click here



Plot

Oliver and Felicity's wedding reception is dampened by disturbing news - The FBI have a witness ready to testify that Oliver Queen is The Green Arrow and it's someone on Team Arrow! Paranoia runs deep, as the team questions who they can trust but their fears will have to be put on hold when Quentin Lance is taken hostage by Cayden James and Black Siren.


Influences

The Mission Impossible films (the heist on ARGUS)


Goofs

Black Siren shows far more martial arts skill here than she has in previous episodes, being capable of knocking out both Thea Queen and Quentin Lance with one punch.

It is said that the nano-aluminum amplifier could be used to increase the power of a thermobaric bomb by twenty-fold. John says this is enough to destroy Star City and then some. However, it was said in the Thanksgiving episode that the bomb's radius was 200 yards. 4,000 yards is a considerable distance but not the size of a large city.

As neat an idea as it is trying to tie all the villains from the first half of this season into a unified villain group, it really doesn't make sense in the context of the characters. Forget the psychotic Black Siren being made to heel. There's no logical reason (yet) for Anatoly to involve himself with the destruction of a whole city nor for Ricardo Diaz. And don't get me started on Vigilante teaming with a group of criminals unless this is part of a major long con on his part.


Performances

You never realize how much you miss Willa Holland as Thea until she's back after being gone for a few episodes.


Artistry

The script does a good job at the beginning of playing up the mystery of who the traitor to Team Arrow is. While we know it probably isn't Dinah, enough wiggle room is left (along with the revelation that Vigilante knows Oliver Queen is Green Arrow) to make it uncertain, along with Curtis' heavy drinking and Rene's confession of wondering if they'd be better off without Team Arrow.

There is one nice shot of Oliver Queen, standing before the racks holding all of Team Arrow's costumes, after telling John to assemble the team... the whole team.


Trivia

The episode opens with the original Season 6 introduction, with Oliver once again declaring that he is The Green Arrow.

The Arrow Title Card is back to having the symbols for Black Canary, Wild Dog, Mister Terrific, Overwatch, Spartan and Green Arrow.


Technobabble

Cayden James requests a nano-aluminum amplifier in exchange for Quentin Lance's life.

The vault holding the nano-aluminum amplifier has a pressure-sensitive floor rigged to its alarm.

The nano-aluminum amplifier can be used to increase the explosive power of a thermobaric bomb by twenty-fold. That is enough power to blow up all of Star City. 

Curtis says he can disable the amplifier by back-channeling a path into the circuitry. Felicity suggests he also hide that behind the existing board.


Dialogue Triumphs

Donna: I want you to know that I have forgiven both of you for running off. And eloping. And waiting to propose to my daughter until you were under indictment.
Oliver: Oh! Actually, Felicity proposed to me.

(After Oliver and Felicity escape from her parents.)
Felicity: Those whack jobs are already your in-laws, so if you're having second thoughts, it's too late for you.
Oliver: I wouldn't have it any other way.
Felicity: (softly) You really do love me.

(Curtis is awkwardly and obviously lying to Rene about all the men he is dating.)
Curtis: There's one guy in particular who I'm dating. His name is... Dom Perignon. He is smooth and expensive, and uh, he's really nice. Uh, but there's, like, other guys too.
Rene: Who? Tom Collins? Rob Roy?
Curtis: Not actually a gin guy.

(Quentin gives Oliver a small box. It contains a fancy gold watch.)
Quentin: Yeah, I know. It doesn't look like much. (chuckles nervously)  But... my dad gave that to me on my wedding day.
Oliver: Quentin, I can't accept this!
Quentin: It's not like I've got anybody I can give it to, is it? (pauses) And besides, it's not right you don't have a parent here tonight.

Rene: True love is... so special that we all dream about it. And when I look at Oliver and Felicity, I'm reminded of... how I felt about my wife on our wedding day. We were so in love. And we would do anything for each other, I mean no matter what! And that is the epitome of Oliver and Felicity. Yeah, I mean, you guys have had your struggles, but... you always worked through it. These are two of the most genuine people in the world and they deserve all the happiness. And... I'm so fortunate to call them my friends. So please raise a glass to true love... Oliver and Felicity.

Curtis: Do you...  do you ever... feel like life would be easier... if there was never a Team Arrow?
Rene: (pauses) Only all the time.

(A hungover Curtis, disguised as a janitor, pushes a wheeled trashcan over a panel. He pulls the lid off and looks down into the bin.)
Curtis: We're clear! Ohhhh.. .also, leaning over - not a great decision.
(Felicity stands up out of the trash clan and slaps Curtis.)
Felicity:
You are not throwing up! I'm already spending my honeymoon in a garbage can! I am not wearing your puke!

Rene: Stop! Dinah, isn't the witness, Oliver.
Oliver: You don't know that.
Rene: Yes, I do. Because it's me. I'm the one that's testifying against you.

Oliver: Thinking about what Rene did... what did he do really? He kept a secret and he put his daughter ahead of the team. And I feel betrayed. How can I feel betrayed by somebody doing the exact same things that I've done?
Thea: Because you've never sold anyone out on the team, Ollie. And if you're convicted, you could wind up spending a really long time in jail. But having said that, you're doing the right thing looking at things through his perspective. And having done that, maybe you can see your way to forgiving him?
Oliver: Seriously?
Thea: Well, Rene is a very desperate guy who just did a very desperate thing. But he's also the same guy who just last night was giving such a heart-felt, sweet speech and was calling you his friend. And I really thing that he meant that! It was a betrayal. No question. But since you've been able to see things from his point of view, you should also be able to see a way of forgiving him.

Cayden James: I am a man of my word. If I wasn't, there wouldn't be much point in my vowing to destroy this city, would there?

Vince: You okay? You don't look good.
Dinah: I don't want to talk about it.
Vince: Then why did you reach out?
Dinah: Because I had no one else to call.
Vince: I'll try not to be insulted by that.
Dinah: I really needed someone who... believed in me. I needed a friend.
Vince: Friends. I can do that.


Dialogue Disasters

The whole scene of Quentin Lance trying to empathize with Black Siren. Katie Cassidy's plastic performance doesn't help.

Oliver: Cayden James knew that we sabotaged the amplifier last night. We need to find out how.
(Cut to: A POV shot from the ceiling of The Bunker. We pull back to reveal that we're looking at a monitor in Cayden James' hideout.)
Black Siren: When you had me raid their bunker and plant that mini-cam two months ago-
Cayden James: - was this the outcome that I had in mind? Quite so, Miss Lance.
(We pull back to see James standing with another man as they watch the monitor and Black Siren comes to his side.)
Cayden James: Although I must confess things have worked out even better than I anticipated.
(A door opens from one side of the room. Anatoly enters and comes to stand with the others.)
Anatoly: Hardly impressive. Left to his own devices, Oliver Queen will always push away those closest to him.
(Vince joins the group as well.)
Vince: So we've got them fighting with each other instead of fighting us.
(Ricardo "The Dragon" Diaz steps up on the side of the unknown man.)
Ricardo Diaz: Please tell me that isn't your whole master plan?
Cayden James: Oh, not at all, Mr. Diaz. In fact, I think it fair to say that this...is only the beginning.


Continuity

Oliver and Thea were allowed to sip champagne at family gatherings as part of toasts as children.

Lyla Michaels was unable to attend the reception due to an ARGUS mission.

Noah "Calculator" Kuttler is seen for the first time since 422.

Donna Smoak is seen for the first time since 423.

Noah and Donna were married by a Tom Jones impersonating rabbi. Noah said he arranged that because he mistakenly thought Donna was a Tom Jones fan.

Adam and Laura Hoffman - the neighbor couple with whom Oliver and Felicity frequently socialized with when they lived in Ivy Town in 401 - show up for the reception.

Curtis and his husband Paul had custom cocktails made at their wedding - The Holtini and the Peach Paul Sangria. They both also wore matching white tuxes.

Dinah says she doesn't really believe in marriage or life-long commitments but admits that may be due to her having several broken engagements.

Dinah receives a text message at the reception from an unknown caller who asks why she isn't answering their calls. Both Rene and Curtis have noticed her getting mysterious texts and acting strangely lately.

Curtis has been drinking more often since his divorce.

Quentin gives Oliver a watch that his father gave him on the day he got married.

Curtis catches the bouquet when Felicity throws it.

Oliver and Felicity's first dance is held to Etta James' At Last.

Thea makes reference to hoping to see someone at the ceremony. This is a nod to Roy Harper.

Thea makes reference to Chase - the League of Assassins member who posed as a DJ and with whom she had a brief romance before his death in 313.

Thea has a "no DJs" rule regarding men she dates now.

Donna Smoak says that she had made a mistake trying to drive Noah out of her and Felicity's life and admits that she does like Tom Jones.

Quentin tries to say hello to Donna. It is awkward, since she has not seen him since the start of Season 5, when he had fallen off the wagon.

Oliver refers to Evelyn Sharpe a.k.a. Artemis, who betrayed Team Arrow in 509.

Rene keeps fresh-cut sunflowers in his apartment. They are his daughter Zoe's favorite.

Dinah's mysterious texter is Vince "Vigilante" Sobel. She tells him to leave Star City and that if she sees him again, she won't let him get away a second time.

Vigilante is aware of Oliver Queen's secret identity.

Reference is made to the thermobaric bomb Cayden James made in 607.

Rene reveals that he is the one testifying against Oliver. The reason why is because Agent Watson said that she had proof that he was Wild Dog and that the only way she'd back off and let him see his daughter again is if he helped her get The Green Arrow.

Black Siren says that the Quentin Lance of Earth Two died when she was 13, killed by a drunk driven while picking up her birthday cake.

The Laurel Lance of Earth One and Earth Two share the same kind of favorite cake - yellow with chocolate frosting, from a bakery called Carlye's.

Oliver kicks Wild Dog off of Team Arrow.

Black Canary quits the team, saying she doesn't trust Oliver anymore. She calls Vigilante back, saying she'd like to try and be friends again for a start.

Curtis quits the team as well, though he is still part of Felicity's company.

Zoe is allowed to move back in with Rene.


The Bottom Line

Lackluster and nonsensical in equal measure.  "Yellow cake with chocolate frosting" will be the new "Martha" when Marvel Comics fans mock DC Comics properties. At least the wedding scenes are funny and touching.