Thursday, November 29, 2012

Arrow Reviews: Season 1, Episode 7 - Muse of Fire

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


After a shooter on a motorcycle nearly kills Moira Queen while gunning down a local mob stooge, Oliver follows the trail to a mysterious killer who seems to be targeting the associates of The Bertinelli crime family.  Ollie attempts to get in with the mob, but his plans are thwarted when he is passed on to construction kingpin Frank Bertinelli's young daughter, Helena. 

What Ollie fears may be a wasted evening proves fruitful for Helena - still grieving a fiance killed by violence - seems to understand the trauma that changed him like nobody else he knows.  But if Helena recognizes that five years on the island has changed Oliver Queen into something besides "the rich man's answer to Lindsay Lohan", what has her trauma changed her into?  Someone who could be a partner for The Hood AND Oliver Queen?

At the same time, Tommy Merlyn continues his pursuit of Laurel Lance though their first date is spoiled by his credit card being rejected and the revelation that his father has cut him off from the family fortune.  The episode ends with a promise of romance between both young couples but Ollie is no closer to being truthful to his family and the Mafia and Triad of Starling City are close to open war.


Henry V (the title is taken from the first line of the play's prologue - "O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention..." and the play's plot, involving a spoiled prince who grows to maturity as he wages a war, mirrors Oliver's own development), Batman/Huntress: Cry for Blood (Huntress going after members of her own family while pretending to be part of them).


Jessica De Gouw knocks it out of the park on her first at-bat as Helena Bertinelli.  The character is instantly likeable and you can easily see Ollie falling for her because of their common background even as you can see him being horrified by how vicious she is in battle.  A lesser actress might have failed to be convincing as either a vulnerable woman who lives every day in the shadow of her casually evil family or the warrior goddess she becomes in a fight.  De Gouw manages both roles easily.

I can't single out any one actor as being particularly grand this time because, honestly, everyone is firing on all cylinders.  The script offers the entire ensemble cast and several guest starts a chance to shine as we move rapid-fire through the dialogues that make up the majority of the script.  Ollie and Diggle.  Thea and Ollie.  Moira and Thea.  Tommy and Ollie.  Laurel and Tommy.  Ollie and Frank Bertinelli.  Moira and The Well Dressed Man.  Ollie and Helena.  Ollie and Detective Lance.  The whole episode is one big plate-spinning act and it is played beautifully! 


The script of this episode has Geoff Johns' fingerprints all over it and this script is Johns at his best.  There are a lot of wonderful, magical little scenes of two characters talking and the constant switching of points of view helps to keep the story moving before we realize how many talking-heads moments there are and how surprisingly little action there is in this episode. 


Helena Bertinelli a.k.a. The Huntress is another DC Comics vigilante with an archery theme, though she favors the crossbow.  In the original comics, she was a mobster's daughter who swore revenge on criminals in general and the Mafia in specific after her entire family was killed as part of a hit.  Several stories have depicted her pretending to be a typical Mafia princess in order to gain information to use in her vendetta, as we see here. While she mellowed in recent years, Helena has never been reluctant to use lethal force against the criminals she hunts - something that caused her to butt-heads with Batman and his followers on numerous occasions.  She is also, as depicted here, a skilled motorcycle driver.  Green Arrow and Huntress have never been a romantic item in the comics before, apart from one throw-away line in an issue of Judd Winick's Outsiders which suggested the two had a one-night stand.

Dialogue Triumphs

Helena: Oliver Queen - the rich man's Lindsay Lohan.

Helena: Was there ever a day when you were just... happy to be away from everything?  No pressure from your family?  No need to be the person everyone else expects you to be?  Was there ever a day when-
Ollie: - when I didn't feel lost?  When I felt... free?  More than one.  And those are the days that I miss.

Ollie: I have a confession.  I didn't want to go out with you tonight.
Helena: That makes two of us.
Ollie: But I'm really glad that I did.
Helena: That makes two of us.

(After Diggle expresses his concern that Ollie's head isn't in the game after finding out Helena is the killer)
Ollie: I know what I'm doing.
Diggle: Now I know what your family feels like when you lie to them.

Ollie: Detective.  Is everything ok?
Det. Lance: Your, um - your buddy with the arrows was at Russo's last night.
Ollie: And I was there earlier with a date.  Soooo... what?  You think I'm the Hood guy again?
Det. Lance: ...No.  Your date?  Helena Bertinelli?  If I were you, I'd stay away from her.  Her family is bad news on a good day.
Ollie: Why the sudden concern for my well-being?
Det. Lance: A few weeks ago I made a mistake.  I almost got you killed...
Ollie: ...and you felt like you owed me one?
Det. Lance: If I did, as far as I'm concerned this clears the books.

Helena: When you love someone as much as I loved him... with all of your heart and you.. you can't just turn that emotion off when they're taken from you.  You still feel things as deeply and... if it can't be love that you feel.... then it becomes hate.
Ollie: Hate for who?
Helena: Oliver... you should stay away from me.

The whole final scene between Ollie and Helena, but especially the final lines....

Helena: Why is your vendetta more valid than mine?  We're the same, you and I.
Ollie: No, we're not.
Helena: Hiding in plain sight?  Concealing our anger with smiles and lies?  Don't lie to me, Oliver!  You feel the same as I do.  I know it.
Ollie: Why are you crying?
Helena: I don't know.  Maybe it's because I have been alone in my hate for so long.  And it-
Ollie:  - it feels good to tell the truth.

Dialogue Disasters

The bit where we see Helena "unmask" for the first time, immediately after Ollie says "When I find out who this guy is, he's a dead man".  Some things are cliches because they work.  The figure in the motorcycle helmet pulling off their helmet to reveal they are a woman is NOT one of those things.


Dinah's favorite pizza is mushroom and olives (vegetarian?) Frank Bertinelli refers to the press conference where Ollie disavowed having anything to do with his family's business (Honor Thy Father).  China White (first seen in Honor Thy Father) appears as the Triad representative at a meeting between Frank Bertinelli and The Triad.  Helena's cross was a gift from her fiance.  The Well Dressed Man has plans for Starling City which Moira and Robert Queen were a part of but Robert got cold feet before his death.  Detective Lance warns Ollie about staying away from the Bertinelli family, referring to the events of Damaged.  The Well-Dressed Man played by John Barrowman is revealed to be Mr. Merlyn - Tommy Merlyn's dad, after he cuts Tommy off completely, eliminating all financial support.  Mr. Merlyn is no mean fencer.  Helena's warning to Oliver to stay away from her echos Ollie's words to Laurel in the Pilot.  Helena had planned to go to the FBI with evidence to send her father and his organization to prison and her fiance was blamed for the laptop full of evidence, resulting in his death by her father's order and the murder was carried out by his second in command.  Helena's words before snapping her father's second's neck - "No one can know my secret" - echo Ollie's own words before he snapped the neck of one of his kidnappers in the Pilot.  Walter Steele returns home from his long business trip.  Ollie reveals his secret identity to Helena but she had already figured it out on her own.

The Fridge Factor

The cops describe the shooter as an amateur though very little of Helena's behavior throughout the episode - save the ease in which her identity is exposed - is born out by that statement.  Indeed, she seems a capable hand-to-hand fighter.  Perhaps she's taken self-defense classes (as Laurel Lance did) but is new to using guns?

The Bottom Line

Damn near perfect on all fronts.  I'd say this would be the episode to show to people who are on the fence about the show but there's too many pay-offs for those who have been watching the show since the beginning.  Jessica De Gouw turns in a remarkable premiere performance and the rest of the regular cast give it 110% percent.  The script is top-notch with nary a dull line and Geoff Johns' influence is obvious and welcome.  Well done, all involved.     

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Arrow #8 (Web Comic) - A Review

Arrow #8 tells the story of three teenage boys who travel to Starling City hoping to get video footage of The Hood.  One of their group loudly expresses his disbelief that The Hood exists while another, Pat, has personal reasons for seeking The Hood out personally.  Thankfully, after the boys happen across a mob hit in-progress, the skeptic is quite happy to be proven wrong as the local vigilante shows up and saves them from certain death.

While being full of some great action sequences, the script by Mary Iacono and Wendy Mericle is rather weak.  The problem with stories like this one, where we see our main character through the point of view of another character, lies in establishing a point of reader/viewer sympathy for the spectator character.  It's rather hard to do this when two of our three teenage protagonists aren't given names!  Only Pat - the believer with a brother who The Hood saved - is given any personality beyond The Complainer or The Agent Mulder.

The artwork by Sergio Sandoval and Pol Gas is similarly troubled.  Gas' inks obscure more of the art than they highlight, even in the scenes that are meant to have good lighting.  And as in Arrow #5, Sandoval still has trouble depicting the characters in this book as resembling the characters from the show.  His take on Ollie looks more like Garret from Thief: The Dark Project than Stephen Amell. 

A larger problem is that some of the action in this issue is better suited towards a Vertigo title than a comic book based on a TV-14 rated TV show. I'm not squeamish but even I was shocked to see the depiction of an arrow going completely through a human head - something I can see this take on Oliver Queen doing in a fight but not something I'd expect to see illustrated in-detail in a comparably rated comic book.  Between that and the half-hearted characterization, I'm comfortable in saying that only the most devout Arrowheads need pick up this week's comic. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Off Target: Green Arrow (Vol. 2) #83

Since this week's episode of Arrow will be introducing The Huntress into the universe of the TV show, I thought perhaps we might take a look at the first meeting of the characters in the comic books.   The bad news is this is not a very good story.  The good news is that it's a bad enough story to be suitable for Off-Target.  So let's dig into Green Arrow #83 - The Weight.

I don't know what's more painful to think about - her leg or his neck!

The cover is an all-around mess.  The posing with their respective bows pointing up and down is just stupid, given there's ninjas moving into melee to fight them.  Ollie's head is almost completely turned around relative to his body so that we can see his face even as his back is turned towards the reader.  And look at Huntress's leg!  Her thigh alone is longer than the rest of her body!  And I'll tell you right now that this scene is nowhere in the comic. 

Our story begins with Green Arrow in the Hollywood Hills.  Literally, the hills before the Hollywood sign.  We find out that he came to LA hunting the Yakuza but (if I may briefly sound like a James Bond villain) it seems the hunter has become the hunted.  Luckily the local Yakuza do not live up the high standards that Ollie has come to expect of the ninjas who get sent to kill him on a regular basis.

The Hand they're not.  Hell, they aren't even The Foot Clan
After sending those goons to their lords like Prince Ali, Ollie heads back to his hotel room.  To his surprise, there's a message waiting for him.  The caller is one Sissy Devereaux - a supermodel Ollie had dated during his Rich Bastard days.  Miraculously - given Ollie's rep at the time - the two remained friends and only friends after their break-up.  Figuring they could catch up while he was in town, he called her up to make sure he had the right address before popping in to say hello.

When Ollie gets to Sissy's mansion, the front door is unlocked and nobody answers the doorbell.  Once inside, he finds that the lights are out, the interior is completely trashed and reeks "like someone was sick once and nobody cleaned it up.  Or sick a hundred times."   Indeed, there's flies swarming around several puddles of vomit in the living room.  Ollie is about to leave when he hears a weak voice from the kitchen.

Well, now that's just RUDE, Ollie!  I mean, her looks may have faded a little in the decade since you've seen her, but there's no need to-



Ahem.  Okay - MAYBE we can forgive Ollie for being startled.

Ollie's no shrink and he's not the detective Batman is but as a hunter he is pretty good at analyzing the signs of a trail and following them to an answer.  Though he doesn't know anorexia from bulimia, it's clear to him that some manner of delusional state or advanced paranoia has driven Sissy to this sorry state.  At least, that's what he figures before he hears the familiar sound of a helicopter at close range and the bullets start flying.

Yes, it's sad that she died. But dying thinking she was ugly? That's even worse!

In the blink of an eye, Ollie has changed into costume and is returning fire at the gunmen.  He just manages to shoot the gun out of one shooter's hands before narrowly avoiding being hit by a red convertible.  Enter our special guest star for this month's issue of Green Arrow - The Huntress!

Apparently heavily-armed, sarcastic brunettes in Kevlar leotards are Ollie's type. 
We don't get much in the way of background for Huntress in this issue, so let me give you the quick back story for this version of the character.  (Those interested in the full story can check out this article.)  Helena Bertinelli was part of a Mafia family based in Gotham City.  After her entire family was gunned down in front of her, Helena began training in the warrior's art.  Now, primarily focusing upon the gangsters of Gotham City but willing to hunt any criminals who prey on the weak, she delivers justice in a far more lethal and permanent manner than most of the Gotham City vigilantes as The Huntress.
You might well ask what a Gotham vigilante like Huntress is doing in Los Angeles.  It's a fair question and one that Ollie asks after Huntress explains that they can take their time chasing their quarry as she found their base earlier and planted a homing device on their chopper.  Ollie explains that his stake in this is because of an old model friend who had contacted him and it turns out that Huntress got dragged into this mess for the same reason - a phone call from an old school friend who had become a top model and was in fear for her life. 

(Paul Harvey Voice) And now you know the rest of the story! Good day!

 The two move in on the hangar Huntress determined was the killer's base earlier and find that it's also being used as a storage facility for something.strange and smelly.  Sadly, Ollie's hunter green leathers aren't much good for camouflage in a box factory and he's quickly spotted.  Thankfully, Huntress is quicker on the uptake and the draw. 

I apologize in advance because I'm going to be harping on this point quite a bit as I review the whole of Cross Roads.  Again, I must point this out.... Oliver Queen doesn't condone killing people unless it's absolutely necessary!  Even the thugs trying to shoot him! 


Anyway, a surprisingly effective fight-scene ensues, with Ollie making excellent use of the terrain as the other thugs TRY TO KILL HIM WITH A FORKLIFT!  Ole!  

Killed by health food.  Oh, the irony!

It's at this point that the two heroes notice that all the boxes and cartons in the hangar have the same logo - Diedre Dallas.  They also remember that both Sissy and Huntress' friend (who never DOES get a name in all of this) had lots of cartons for other Diedre Dallas microwave diet meals and snacks scattered around their respective homes.  Lacking any better leads, the two find Diedre Dallas' Bel-Air mansion on a map of celebrity homes and are greeted with gunfire as they approach.  Ollie is able to disable the security with arrows through the shoulder (THAT'S the way you do it!) and the two heroes move in to confront Ms. Dallas herself.

Huntress is looking much cheekier than usual tonight.

A quick note on the art design here.  For all the grief that Jim Lee has received over his 2002 redesign of Huntress' costume, I fail to see how it's worse than what Helena originally started out in. Granting that the belly window was dumb, let's at least credit Jim Lee with getting rid of the thong and the cleavage-revealing top that exposes most of Helena's upper torso.

Anyway, our master criminal is finally revealed!  And here comes the shocking twist!


Okay, Diedre Dallas!  Now we're going to learn the truth!  What horrible secret were you killing to hide?  Was your food so lacking in nutrients that all the people eating it and nothing else were slowly starving to death like Sissy?  Was your food so horribly addictive that it was driving people toward morbid obesity like Helena's friend, thus insuring they'd keep buying more and more diet meals to try and lose the weight?   Were your microwave dinners just repackaged Jenny Craig food?

Right.  Because you've shown such restraint and reluctance to kill until this point...

And this is the point where you realize that Diedre Dallas apparently runs her company with the same business savvy that drives Umbrella Corporation  I'm not even kidding.  He entire plan shows bad planning on a truly epic scale.  Particularly considering that nothing was said about Sissy or the other model being official spokespeople for her company!  There's also the problem that when you are trying to avoid bad publicity, it is generally recommended that you avoid murder.  Particularly murders that cannot be written off as anything BUT a homicide - i.e. strangling someone with piano wire or buzzing their home in a helicopter with machine guns a-blazing.  

There's no way to justify what Diedre Dallas does here unless you just write her off as completely crazy.  Consider the following....

You are the head of a corporation that specializes in the sale of diet foods.  You find out that a prominent model - who may or may not be a paid spokesperson for your company - has gained weight recently, after making a big deal about eating your products.  How do you handle this potentially sensitive issue?

A)  Do nothing.  Figure that - unless the model claims your food was responsible for their weight gain - most people will just assume they went off their diet and that your products had nothing to do with the weight gain.

B) Talk to the model.  If she's already in your employ, talk about hiring a physical trainer and what you must do to get her back into shape.  If she isn't in your employ, offer to sign them up as a spokesperson if they can lose the weight using your products. 

C) Call your lawyers.  If she is a spokesperson for your company, check and see if there are any stipulations regarding her maintaining a certain level of physical fitness in her contract and remind her of those terms.  If she doesn't work for you, file a cease-and-desist notice asking her to refrain from mentioning your company in the future upon threat of a libel suit.

D) Make threatening phone calls to the model, telling her to lose weight or else.  Hire a group of mercenaries and send them off to kill the women who don't get with the program.

If you said D, congratulations.  You have a promising future as a Villain of the Month before sinking into a well-deserved obscurity!  Seriously.  If nothing else, you've got to figure that the first three options - in addition to being legal - are a good deal easier and cheaper than hiring a team of professional killers, even if you do cut costs by letting the hired goons use one of your storage facilities as a base of operations!

There's also the problem that - based on Sissy's appearance - Diedre couldn't have been keeping too close a watch on her if she could go from overweight to emaciated in a matter of months.  And I'm guessing at the time frame, because we get NO indication of just how long this had been going on.

All that being said, this comic isn't all bad.  The action scenes - as per usual for a Chuck Dixon comic - are well-paced and Jim Aparo does a fine job of depicting those sequences.  And while her early-90s costume looks a bit on the ridiculous side, it wasn't that bad by the standards of the day and Huntress herself is presented as a tough, competent heroine who can hold her own alongside Green Arrow.  It's a shame the two didn't get more time to interact as the two heroes play off one another quite well.

Still, this is a bad comic for all of that.  The villain's plan compares unfavorably to those of your average Captain Planet villain, being convoluted and needlessly evil when legal means of protecting her company would have been easier and cheaper.  And while Jim Aparo is usually a fine artist, his design for Sissy looks like something from an EC horror comic of the 1940s rather than a sick woman, leading the reader to wonder at some supernatural explanation for her horrid appearance that never comes.   

Monday, November 26, 2012

Justice League #14 - A Review

First, a correction.  In my review of the last issue of Justice League, I took issue with a part of the new origin for the villain The Cheetah.  Specifically, I took issue with how the comic said that she was empowered after cutting herself on a knife recovered from a tribe in the Amazon Jungle and became possessed by a goddess of the hunt.  I asked why, if she had been empowered by a South American goddess, she had taken the name of an African predatory cat. 

What I missed was that the jungle the team journeyed to at the end of the comic was in The Congo - not The Amazon.  Further, this issue does explain how this knife - dubbed The Godslayer - had been used in Africa to bind one hunter goddess/cheetah spirit and made its' way to South America, where it wound up in the possession of the aforementioned Amazon tribe.  My apologies to Geoff Johns for the error.

Now that that's said, on with THIS issue... 

Justice League #14 offers a lot of material I wish we'd seen in this title sooner.  Still, there's no point in crying over what should have been done earlier.  The fact of the matter is that, for the first time in a long time, this book did more right than it did wrong.

The first half of the book focuses upon our team as they have to cope with the dual threat of The Cheetah running loose and a magically poisoned Superman growing ever-closer to death.  There's a lot of nice little touches here, but three stand out for me in particular.  First, the conceit of having Superman be the teammate placed in danger and - for once - through means other than a piece of Kryptonite is a novel one and really helps to sell the drama.  The second is Johns' use of Cyborg, whose powers are used in a uniquely creative fashion.  (At least I've never seen Cyborg act as a universal translator before!)  Finally, there is Aquaman's brief, wordless moment of awesome in which Johns once again showcases how Aquaman's powers are far from useless.

I think I like Tony S. Daniel more as an illustrator than I do as a writer.  His depiction of The Cheetah and her jungle realm is appropriatlye savage and would not look out of place in a Tarzan story.  He also does well with the more mundane scenes later in the second half of the book when we get to the other major subplot in need of resolution.

One big complaint that many DC Comics fans had about the declaration that Superman and Wonder Woman were now a couple lay in how sudden the declaration was made.  There was no build-up in Justice League to suggest such a thing was happening - no hint of romance or even a suggestion that the two viewed one another as anything but teammates.  While it may be too little, too late, the second half of this book is  a step in the right direction.  It focuses upon Superman attempting to show Wonder Woman who he really is - not in the sense of his secret identity but by showing her places that are important to him and taking her to do things that remind him of the people they are protecting.  This is something that the Amazon Princess has never spent much time doing and it helps to emphasize the main difference between the two heroes.  Wonder Woman, first and foremost, is a warrior.  Superman, first and foremost, is a protector.  Both characters get some much needed development and the idea of a romance between the two seems a little less forced as a result.

Less enjoyable, however, is the back-up story featuring Shazam.  Or, as I'm quickly thinking of him in my own head, Sham-zam.  I had hoped we were done with these back-up stories after last month's excellent story involving Green Arrow and Steve Trevor teaming-up.  But it was not to be.

Thankfully, we see very little of Billy Batson this time around, save for a scene in which he and his cohort Freddy buy Billy a trenchcoat to cover up his costume and ponder how to spend the rest of the $20 they were given for saving a woman from a mugger.  Most of the story focuses upon Black Adam, learning something of how the world has changed since he last walked upon it and further learning that some things have not changed.  Namely, the powerful still stomp upon the weak for their own glory, though the pharaohs now call themselves CEOs. 

Is it wrong that I find myself cheering Black Adam in this story?   Should I NOT be rooting for him to slap some sense into Billy?  Because Johns' take on Black Adam so far seems to be exactly the same as how he wrote the character back in JSA and so far Black Adam has been the most heroic person in this book ignoring - you know - the whole dropping a pension-stealing CEO to his death thing.

Gary Frank's artwork is still uniformly excellent.  Indeed, I'd argue it's far better than this story deserves.  I'm hard pressed of a way to describe precisely why I find Frank's work so good.  Like the old saying says, I don't know much about art but I know what I like.  Well, I do know a bit about art and I like this.  So take that for what it's worth.

All in all, this book is definitely worth your four bucks.  I had been on the fence about it for a while but for now I'm in, if only to see what Johns does with his upcoming crossover with Aquaman.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Captain Marvel #7 - A Review

It amused me when this new Captain Marvel book started, seeing so many sexist little fan-boys complaining about how Captain Marvel can't be a woman, how Carol Danvers taking the title was a slap in the face to tradition and the existence of this book was base pandering to the vocal minority of female comic readers, blah blah blah.  It amused me, because in their grousing they revealed their ignorance.  For this is not the first time a woman has taken the name of Captain Marvel!  And amusingly enough, we find that she's not too happy about Carol Danvers taking the name either in Captain Marvel #7

One thing I've loved about this book is the exploration of how super-powers might be used in a capacity other than fighting super-villains.  Other books have explored the concept before but - to my knowledge - none have done so with an Avengers-level hero.  We saw it in the first arc and get more of that in this issue as we see Carol Danvers assisting harbor patrol agent and ex-Captain Marvel Monica Rambeau with a salvage operation. 

The story focuses upon the two heroes as they try to locate several downed airplanes and sunken ships  that were brought down under mysterious circumstances.  Frank, a photographer colleague of Carol's from her magazine writer days, shows up pleading for help regarding New Orleans' decaying levies, thinking that a prominent superheroine might be able to help in some way.  A bargain is reached as Carol agrees to see what she can do if Frank agrees to help them with taking pictures of the wreckage.  Naturally, there are complications and the issue ends with our heroes discovering just what might be responsible for the sunken vehicles. 

The relationship between Carol and Monica takes center stage for most of the issue.  Not surprisingly, given the book so far and co-writer Kelly Sue DeConnick's pedigree, this issue passes The Bechdel Test.  More impressively, Monica Rambeau's backstory and just why she refuses to work underwater anymore (the result of a classic Avengers storyline)  are neatly and naturally explained in the dialogue and marked off with a famous "As Seen As" caption box.  Hats off to DeConnick and co-writer Christopher Sabela for bringing back that little slice of Marvel history!

Dexter Soy continues to wow me with his artwork.  I usually prefer a more realistic style, but Soy's stylized characters suit this book well.  Soy leaves most of his pencils lightly inked, effectively using the shadows in the heavily inked areas to emphasize the parts that are "in light".

If you haven't picked up Captain Marvel before, this is a good issue to start with.  I recommend this book to any who like stories with strong female protagonists, quirky superhero books that look at the effect superpowers might have on the day-to-day operations of a world and quality comics in general. 

Supergirl #14 - A Review

I almost skipped this month's issue of Supergirl.  Why?  Because for the next few months, all of the Superman Family tiles are engaging in a crossover called H'El On Earth and historically speaking, most Superman titles don't fare well whenever there is a crossover.  There's also the fact that collecting the entire storyline would require me spending money on Superboy (a book starring a character I loathe) and Superman (a book whose writer, Scott Lobdell, I loathe even more) and I hate to feel like I'm only getting part of a story.  Ultimately, I decided I could at least give the book a shot without presuming it would be nigh-unreadable. 

I'm glad I did.  Mike Johnson does move the series' multiple sub-plots on a bit and introduces the book's supporting cast and basic concepts for those readers picking up Supergirl for the first time because of the crossover.  We quickly establish that while Kara has accepted that Superman is her baby cousin Kal, she is nowhere near as trusting of the basic goodness of Earth people as he is and she has only one real friend - aspiring singer Siobhan, whose unique sonic powers allow her to understand and speak any language - even Kryptonian!  We also get a refresher on Kara's "Sanctuary" - a Kryptonian base of operations created from a piece of her ship, resting on the ocean floor.

Amazingly, things don't go south once we head out of familiar territory and into the crossover proper.  After settling down to sleep for the first time since coming to Earth, Kara is pulled out of Sanctuary and around the globe by H'El - a being who claims to have empowered by her uncle to explore the universe, gain knowledge and safe guard the accumulated knowledge of Krypton in the wake of the planet's destruction.  H'El claims his ultimate goal is to unite all of Krypton's survivors and use their accumulated power and knowledge to manipulate the time-stream so that Krypton might be saved.  Naturally, the homesick Kara finds this plan far more agreeable than her cousin's desire for her to stay on Earth, safeguarding the same backward people who keep trying to kill her or use her for medical experiments.

Mahmud Asrar's artwork continues to impress, though I still find the design for H'El to be ridiculous beyond words.  I don't know if this will wind up being a roundabout way to reintroduce Bizzaro Superman as a more serious threat or if someone said "Yes!  Clearly we want our new Superman villain to resemble a goth metal singer!"  All I know is that I can't really take H'El seriously as a threat.   Ignoring that, this is a fine issue and not at all the nightmare I anticipated.  I still won't be picking up the rest of H'El on Earth but neither will I be dropping Supergirl for a few months.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hawkeye #4 - A Review

Hawkeye #4 switches out artist David Aja for Javier Pulido to no ill-effect.  Pulido's style can only be described as Kirbyesque but not in the usual way that word is used.  Pulido's layouts are effective in their simplicity, with lots of close-ups on the characters who are speaking, as they look out directly toward the reader.  I'm not familiar with Pulido's previous work, so I don't know if the style is an artistic affectation for this story in particular or if he was chosen to draw it because of his regular style.  Regardless, it's an effective choice given that the basic story concept would not be out of place in a 1960's Nick Fury comic.

Matt Fraction's script however, despite having all the trappings of a Nick Fury comic or even a James Bond novel, reads like a modernized satire of those stories. (Try as I might, I can't recall James Bond ever forcing the SPECTER agents who captured him to give him a cavity search.) The plot, such as it is, focuses upon a mysterious video cassette.  And what is on this tape?  Nothing less than footage of Hawkeye, in costume, assassinating the world's most wanted terrorist on orders from SHIELD! With the reputation of The United States Government, The American Military, SHIELD, The Avengers and Clint's own life on the line, he has numerous motivations to make the journey to exotic Madripoor to try and buy the tape at auction.  But there are numerous villains who are interested in the tape as well and Clint with have to outwit them all with all the cunning, bravado and sarcasm he can muster.

All of this is gloriously funny and well-paced with a surprise on the final page that makes the book worth the reading, even if one isn't  a fan of superheroic send-ups and spy-game satires.  Gorgeous graphics abound throughout.  Truly, this is the best comic on the market involving an archer hero who doesn't really seem to do that much archery.

Demon Knights #14 - A Review

Demon Knights #14 sees a number of bargains and counter-bargains being struck between old enemies.  Separated from the rest of his party (who are currently trapped in Hell), Sir Jason Blood finds himself in the custody of The Questing Queen and her wizard Mordru - the villains of the first story arc of this title.  They offer him a chance to rejoin his fellows and reunite with his lost love, Xanadu.  At the same time, The Demon Etrigan plots with Lucifer to use his former comrades as a means toward opening a gateway to Avalon, allowing Hell to invade another plane of the afterlife.

I've written at length before about Paul Cornell's skill as a writer and how he's created a wonderful ensemble cast of characters and balances them all beautifully, giving each character equal due.  Having said such, I don't feel the need to repeat myself once more in this review, though I find I've already done so!  Having said that, I would like to single out Cornell's take on Lucifer, which puts me in the mind of the character as written by Neil Gaiman and Mike Carey.  Here we see a demon prince who has begun to grow bored with the politics of his realm and the posturing his position requires but not so bored that he will not play the part of The Adversary when it might prove profitable.

Bernard Chang  has grown upon me far faster than I thought any artist could following Diogenes Neves' departure from this title.  His pencils are crisp and clear, his character and creature designs memorable and his inks appropriately light and thin, giving the whole book an appearance not unlike something that might be in a medieval woodcut. 

This is not a good issue to jump onto this title but I highly recommend the first trade paperback for those who have yet to give this title I shot.  I dare say you won't regret it.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Green Lantern Corps #14 - A Review

It is an oddity that so far, Green Lantern Corps is the only book in the GL family of titles that seems to have had much of anything to do with the Rise of the Third Army storyline this month.  Then again, it isn't that surprising given that Peter Tomasi has been spinning plates with this title for several years and throwing one more on-going plot into the mix can hardly complicate things further.  Indeed, Tomasi does a fine job of giving all of his large supporting cast of characters a bit of character development. 

Perhaps the most startling development in this book is the implication that Ganthet - brainwashed by his fellow Guardians over a years ago into becoming as emotionless and cold-hearted as them - may not be quite so gone as his brothers and sisters would believe.  His actions in this issue prevent the execution of Guy Gardner and place Guy on Earth, out of The Guardian's sight. 

Why is that important?  Because unless things have changed drastically in the New 52 universe, Guy Gardner is still the same man who - with no powers or resources - managed to trick his way onto Oa and stole Sinestro's yellow ring.  I think Ganthet is either counting on Guy finding his own way back into the fight or is trying to keep him alive for his own ends.  Either way, Tomasi plays this hint subtly and the effect is marvelous. 

There are other equally amazing moments, of course.  Guy's trial as he is drummed out of The Corps is a great moment of drama.  There's the moment where John Stewart runs into an old enemy, in the midst of tracking where the pieces of the living planet Mogo are traveling.  And then there's the moment where Kilowog and Salaak - the drill sargent and seneschal of The Corps - discover that The Guardians are hiding away the rings of the Lanterns who have fallen in battle and are not recruiting replacements!

For my money, Green Lantern Corps has the finest regular art team of any book on the shelves today.  Fernando Pasarin's pencils are as amazing as ever and he meets my two main criteria for a Green Lantern artist - he draws amazingly detailed constructs and unforgettable alien figures.  Scott Hanna offers a light touch as an inker, knowing when to let the light dominate a scene and when to let the shadows take over.  Beautiful all around.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Batman #14 - A Review

How wrong is it that I find a throw-away concept from the first page of Batamn #14 more interesting than the rest of the book?  We open on Batman, trapped in a vat that is quickly filling with the same chemicals that created The Joker.  Lured there by Harley Quinn, she muses that maybe he'll become as crazy as The Joker and wind up being like he used to be "back then".

Not that what follows this is bad but I'm fascinated by that concept - Harley Quinn tries to make a new Joker that fits her idea of what "Mistah J" should be.  It would be the full cycle culmination of their relationship, with Harley finally becoming a true equal to The Joker in monstrous behavior - psychologically trying to shape others toward her own ends!  It would also be a damn-sight more interesting than anything else they've done with Harley ever since her transformation into a Suicide Girl with a clown fetish.  But I digress.

Naturally, Batman gets free of the trap and returns home to find that The Joker has kidnapped Alfred.  The good news is that he doesn't think The Joker has figured out his secret identity.  The bad news is that still doesn't bode well for Alfred or anyone else in Gotham, since The Joker is loose and needs Alfred for a big party he's planning, as he's going about reenacting some of his earliest crimes with new twists.  After his latest attack leaves Jim Gordon in the hospital, Batman determines to take The Joker down alone rather than risk the lives of his allies needlessly.

Scott Snyder does a great job of keeping the action flowing.  More, he actually keeps us guessing as to what The Joker is up to and what his next action will be.  He understands that first and foremost, The Joker is a comedian playing to an audience.  Indeed, he takes that conceit a step further here and has Joker likening himself as a court jester to the Batman's King of Gotham.  This leads to a truly shocking climax in which Joker, like the fools of old, delivers some bad news to "his lord" with a smile.

The art team proves as strong and capable as ever, though I do find Greg Capullo's expressions on Nightwing to be somewhat inappropriate.  There are several panels where Dick seems to be ginning like an idiot when the dialogue suggests he should be biting his lip or yelling at Bruce.  That's the only quibble I have with some otherwise excellent artwork.  Glapion's inks, though hard to see at times among the dark colors in the palette chosen by colorist FCD Plascencia, are skillfully applied at the points where the inking is obvious.

Batman has drawn high praise as one of the best books DC Comics published in recent months.  It is well deserved.  Pick up this issue and find out why, if you have not already.

Batgirl #14 - A Review

Batgirl #14 starts fast and doesn't slow down for a moment.  It all begins with Barbara Gordon getting a call in the middle of the night from a figure with a disguised voice.  The man on the other end knows all about the night in which Barbara Gordon was paralyzed - all the fine details, like how three men were there when it happened.  He warns Barbara that three such men took her mother away earlier in the evening and that they are on the way for her now.  After an epic ass-kicking ensues, Barbara goes after the only person who could be responsible for all of this and the man who put her in a wheelchair for three years... The Joker. 

Gail Simone's script can only be described as intense.  For the first time, we see Barbara truly frightened and get some insight into the sheer scope of her trauma.  Yet Barbara is no shrinking violet and when her fight-or-flight response kicks in, the only things flying are her fists and feet.  Any who still doubt that this is the same Barbara Gordon from Birds of Prey who once said she could easily kill The Joker without remorse if given the opportunity would be well advised to reconsider that assessment.  Barbara Gordon is a woman to be reckoned and make no mistake about it.

I also love Simone's take on The Joker, who is just as creepy here as in this week's new Batman comic.  In fact, I dare say he's creepier here because Simone has captured the one aspect of The Joker that so many writers miss out on - spontaneity.  Written properly, you should never be exactly sure what The Joker will do in any given situation.  Comedy is all about the unexpected, after all, and first and foremost The Joker should be a comedian.  It may be the dark comedy of the man falling down an open manhole and dying but his main motivator is still playing to an audience and provoking a reaction.  That's why I loved the final pages of this book - because they honestly surprised me and The Joker's actions, seemingly nonsensical, make a paradoxical sense on that level.

The artwork by Ed Benes and Daniel Sampere is equally as good as the scripts, though made somewhat uneven in its' inking.  The first part of the story has a Mike Grellian aspect, with the inks heavy and blending into the blacks of the dark room.  The later half of the comic, inked by Vincent Cifuetes, outlines the figures a bit too much in my estimation, with Barbara looking as if she used a Sharpie marker as a lip-liner at one point.  To my mind, the middle pages linking the two halves of the story (inked by Mark Irwin) find the right balance of light and shadow.  Sadly, they only amount to two pages.

Despite this quibbling over the fine details, I have no reservations about declaring Batgirl a must-read comic.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Arrow #7 (Web Comic) - A Review

Arrow #7 continues the show's recent trend of highlighting how Oliver's double-life is hurting his normal relationships.  This time, however, the focus is on Oliver's relationship with best bud Tommy Merlyn.  Currently focused on bringing down a gang of jewel thieves, Oliver has been neglecting his duties as a wing-man.  This leads Tommy to propose a Boys Night Out so the two can catch-up.  Can Oliver find a way to balance his bromance with clearing his name?.

Beth Schwartz' script deals with some of the potential complications with this story in subtly clever ways.  The first question some fans might ask is "Why doesn't Ollie just get Diggle go fight the jewel thieves?"  Shwartz provides us with an answer and it is a satisfactory one.  Schwartz also refuses to dumb down any of the characters for the sake of the story and there is some implication at the story's end that Tommy may be starting to put two and two together regarding what Ollie is spending his evenings doing.

As usual, Jorge Jimenez's artwork is appropriately atmospheric.  The inks are heavy this time around, subtly reflecting the shadow-world that Oliver Queen now inhabits and the deception that is now second-nature to him.  The color palette is well chosen, using darker, paler shades in the scenes where Ollie is Ollie - again reflecting how unreal those moments seem to Oliver now, who only comes alive - visually speaking - when he is fighting as The Hood. 

Off Target: Green Arrow (Vol. 2) #84-85

What's the first rule of Green Arrow covers?  If you see Ollie packing heat, it's going to be a bad issue.

  What do you think about me changing my name to The Green Gunman?

I should note that - ignoring that Green Arrow using guns is rather antithetical to the character and superheroes in general - this cover really isn't that bad.  In fact, rereading this comic, I was amazed to find that the artist on this issue was the late, great Jim Aparo, whose work on various Batman books in the 1980s first got me interested in comics.  I mention this because, for once, all of the problems with this book are in the writing and concept rather than the artwork.  So while the story we're about to read is going to hurt, at least it will look good!

Speaking of concepts, I should probably take a moment to briefly describe the year-long endurance trial that was Cross Roads.  I'll go into more detail in future installments because the whole storyline was uniformly awful and I plan to cover every issue of it eventually.  For right now, all you need to know is that Oliver Queen is drifting around the United States and that he keeps running into other costumed vigilantes and getting into trouble that doesn't really involve him.  That's the biggest problem with Cross Roads in a nutshell - every single story feels like an issue of someone else's comic that Green Arrow is guest starring in..

Our story opens in the thick of it, with Ollie going Harrison Ford on a pair of attempted hijackers, as the plane that he's on lands in Las Vegas.  The action scene here is actually quite effective, showcasing that while Green Arrow is an archer, he's no slouch when it comes to close-combat.

This never happens to Wesley Snipes!

Good news - the plane lands safely with no civilian casualties.  Bad news - Ollie now has a rather nasty eye injury and the cops, who don't take kindly to vigilantes operating in their town, now know that he's operating in their town.  Worse news - apparently so do Joey and Arnie; a  pair of stereotypical Mafia goons, who are staking out the airport looking for someone matching Ollie's description.

And hold the phone up to your mouth, ya mook!  I can barely hear ya!

Arnie and Joey follow after Ollie, eventually being joined by some back-up henchmen from Thugs & Stooges Local 401.  They follow Ollie - first to a pharmacy (where he bought an eye-patch) and then to a diner, where he's grabbing a bite to eat.  In the middle of all this, they express their shock that they haven't been noticed by Ollie, having been told the man they were waiting for was "one a the very best" and "a one-man army".  It is then that they decide to pull a hit in the middle of the diner, showing all the subtlety you'd expect of a group of men who all wear three-piece business suits and fedoras while talking loudly about whacking a guy in the middle of an airport. 

And here, dear reader, is where things start to get stupid if you're a Green Arrow fan.

Where to begin with what's wrong with this picture?

1. Ollie MEANT to shoot a man in the chest? - This may come a shock to those who only know the character from the Arrow TV show or the more recent comics, but as a general rule Green Arrow does not use lethal force intentionally.  He has killed in the past when lives besides his own were at stake but only as a last resort and when shooting to disable wasn't an option.  Why do you think he had so many trick arrows if not to spare the lives of the criminals he was fighting? 

2. One-Eyed Archery - A loss of depth-perception isn't much of a hindrance in archery.  Many archers whose vision is weaker in one eye will shoot with their bad eye closed.  Indeed,  this technique is favored by several archers, including your humble author and the current World Record holder for archery, Im Dong-Hyun - a South Korean Olympic athlete who is legally blind in one eye.

3. He can't Hit A Man In The Chest... but he CAN cut two ropes simultaneously?  - Slight disparity in how horribly off Ollie's aim is.  A man's chest is much easier to hit than a rope, especially at closer range.  As for shooting two arrows at once... as Joey the Mook would say, fergid about it!

The cops show up, sending the goons running.  Ollie decides to flee the scene as well since the cops have already warned him about starting trouble and they're not likely to believe his story. He also decides to take a souvenir off of one of the downed mooks.

Question One: What is the most troublesome thing about these three panels?

A) Ollie deciding he needs a gun, because he can't rely on his archery skills despite being still being capable of firing two arrows at once to cut ropes on the other side of a room.
B) Ollie deciding to take a gun that was just used in committing a crime, while fleeing the crime scene.
C) The police not stopping the suspicious looking man with eye-patch and the large bag.

Deciding that anybody who knows him and his habits will try looking for him in seedy hotels or living on the streets, Ollie decides to hide among the high-rollers and check in to a fancy hotel.  To his surprise, the woman at the counter seems to recognize him and says his room is already ready.  It sounds to good to be true and -naturally - it is.  The hotel room has a small arsenal hidden inside and Ollie soon finds himself being shot at by rockets from across the way, as a somewhat more professional group of thugs in SWAT gear start trying to kill him.

Good thing Ollie has that small arsenal to fall back on...

Eat your heart out, John Rambo. 
With the black-clad thugs dead, Ollie starts to fight his way out of the room as he hears shots elsewhere in the hotel  And it's here that he runs into a figure who may be familiar to those of you who are fans of the classic Teen Titans.

That face! That face! That marvelous face!

Yes. it's Slade Wilson - a.k.a. Deathstroke the Terminator, as will be made obvious by the cover of Part Two.

Remember The First Rule Of Green Arrow covers, kids?

Slade recognizes Ollie as Green Arrow but Ollie has no clue who Deathstroke is until Slade tells him, prompting him with "your boy Speedy was... with my son Jericho for a while."  He then clarifies that they were in The New Titans together, relieving Ollie and saddening Titans slash-fic authors everywhere. 

It's at this point that Ollie realizes that the people who have been trying to kill him have mistaken him for Slade.  And it's a completely honest mistake.  Okay, so Slade is 2-3 inches taller than Ollie and outweighs him by about 20-50 pounds depending on which Who's Who in the DCU website you check.  And Slade is certainly more muscular than the leaner Ollie and has platinum white hair compared to Ollie's darker blonde.  And sure - the two have completely dissimilar beards, what with Slade favoring a close-cropped goatee and Ollie having his stylized Robin Hood van-dyke.  But if you put an eye-patch on Ollie, the two are virtual twins!

One problem - the thugs were already trailing Ollie before he got an eye-patch!


After getting pinned down, the two make a hasty escape from the building by jumping out the 13th floor window and landing in the pool below.  They shoot their way to the parking lot, dodging a grenade that conveniently takes out another van full of mooks.  Throughout this whole sordid scene, Ollie is surprisingly cavalier about gunning down assassins, with his only objection to the proceedings being a note that the cops aren't going to like what he and Slade have been doing. 

Looks like Ollie's gotten over his lack of depth perception. And his moral code.

After a quick cut to the cops who bothered Ollie last issue (Long story short - they don't like what Ollie and Slade have been doing.  Not that it matters since we never see them again.), our "heroes" ditch their hijacked bus, buy brand new motorcycles and - after pausing to gun down yet another group of black-clad mooks - flee to a private airfield outside Vegas, where Slade has a secondary base set-up.

It occurs to me at this point that some of you may be wondering why Ollie is going along with all this and didn't shoot Slade in the kneecaps on principal - especially given Slade's antagonistic relationship with The Teen Titans, inculding Ollie's adopted son, Roy Harper.  The fact of the matter is that - at this time in the comics - Ollie and Roy hasn't talked in years, so it did make a degree of sense that Ollie hears the name Deathstroke and thinks "best hitman in the world" and not "that jerkass who tried to kidnap my son a few years ago." 

This story was also written back in 1994 -  before The Powers That Be at DC Comics decided to change Deathstroke from being an anti-heroic mercenary with a complex code of honor into a mustache-twirling villain who does EVULZ FOR THE LULZ.  I'm not enough of a Titans expert to detail just how horrible that backslide was (try asking Linkara - I'm sure he'd love to rant about this) but it's rather odd to come back to these issues and see the two interacting as allies, albeit ones born of circumstance given Deathstroke's current characterization and how Judd Winick briefly tried to turn Deathstroke into an archenemy for Green Arrow in his own book.  But that's a tale for another day.

He left his bow behind in the hotel room but kept the backpack holding his costume and quiver?

Anyway, Deathstroke explains that he was hired by one of the local Mafia bosses to take out another Mafia boss - one whose business depends entirely upon drug-peddling, prostitution and drug-addled prostitutes.  Slade agreed to take the job because drugs are bad.  Unfortunately, the second-in-command of the guy Slade was supposed to kill beat him to the punch and framed Slade for the murder.  Impressed with how well Ollie handed himself under fire, he invites Ollie to come along for the ride.

To make a long and stupid sequence short, the two jump onto the bad guy's balcony from a helicopter, shooting their way through his casino.  To author's Alan Grant's credit, he does have Ollie focus on ushering civilians out of the building instead of shooting people.  That is good and totally believable to Ollie's character.  What happens next, isn't.

As I said before, Ollie generally has no trouble with killing in self-defense or to protect others if there are no other options.  Killing a man who is begging for mercy and seems to be unarmed is not something he'd be cool with.  True, we do see the bad guy try and pull a gun after he realizes Slade is going to kill him anyway... but Ollie already has his back turned and doesn't see that!  And so the comic ends with Slade giving Ollie his promised paycheck for the hit ("It was going to go to charity, but, well, I guess you qualify."), Ollie betting it all on one spin of roulette to spite Slade (Black 13, of course), winning and Ollie deciding "to hell with it" and speeding his way out of town in a top-of-the-line sports car.

So why, out of all the bad Green Arrow comics I've ever read do I consider these two the worst ones ever?  Because at it's heart, this book is built around a stupid concept and it requires the characters to be stupid in order to work.  The whole mistaken-identity angle doesn't work at all and would be contrived even if Ollie had come into town wearing an eye-patch.   Between his gun use, indiscriminate killing and turning his back on an unarmed man getting killed, Ollie is horribly out-of-character throughout most of the story.  And the idea that Ollie can't use a bow because he only has one working eye but can still shoot a gun just fine is ludicrous at best.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Conan The Barbarian #10 - A Review

As Conan The Barbarian #10 opens, Belit grows fearful that Conan may be getting tired of their life together.  She's certainly growing bored, as their reputation now inspires merchant ships to surrender their booty without a fight.  This state of affairs has made them wealthier than gods but holds little attraction for a warrior queen who lives for battle and she fears the same restlessness may drive Conan away. 

Naturally Conan hasn't put as much thought into this, being a straight-forward man of simple tastes.  He is as content as any man of action may be when he's offered regular combat, decent food and drink, good friends and a girlfriend who spends much of her time lounging on her throne wearing nothing but jewelery and a sultry smile.  Naturally this state of affairs won't last and a chance encounter with an abandoned ship and a sickly prisoner promises horrors aplenty next month.

One might accuse Brian Wood of feminizing Robert Howard's famous pirate queen a bit much with her mooning in this issue.  Yet this faucet of Belit's personality does not seem untrue, considering Howard wrote her as similarly thoughtful and brooding in Queen of the Black Coast, as she pondered the nature of the gods and asked Conan for his thoughts.  And while Belit may voice concerns about herself and Conan to her shaman, she is no shrinking violet and is quick to call Conan out on his behavior and equally quick to action when needed.

The artwork by Declan Shalvey is a step-up from the artwork seen in previous months, no less stylized but far less cartoonish and exaggerated.  Conan is once again lean and wolvish, as Howard described him.  Belit is a pale beauty, no longer white as a drowned corpse.  Skillful shadowing captures the somber mood evoked by Wood's script perfectly. 

If you had told me a week ago that I'd ever have nice things to say about a Conan The Barbarian comic with more scenes of Conan and Belit talking about their relationship than scenes of our favorite Hyborian heroes kicking ass and taking names, I'd be forced to call you a liar.  And yet - here it is - a Conan comic that is virtually all set-up and no action.  And I enjoyed it, as I suspect you might too if you are a fan of low fantasy and high adventure.   

Red Sonja #71 - A Review

 Red Sonja #71 brings back artist Edgar Salazar.  And oh how sorely did I miss him last month.  Not only does Salazar avoid the gratuitous, nonsensical and anatomically impossible extremes favored by Marcio Abreu but he has a fine eye for detail and a gift for visual storytelling that sets the standard for all sword-and-sorcery artists.

The final chapter of Swords Against The Jade Kingdom, Eric Trautmann's script is full of strong emotion and high adventure.  Having seen her rival of recent issues buried by the traditions of his people, Sonja turns her eye toward completing his mission and slaying the last of three shape-shifting sorcerer brothers who have plagued the land of Khitai for many years.  Sonja is portrayed consistently throughout as strong-willed and strong-armed - a true warrior.

I read recently that Eric Trautmann will be leaving this title soon.  More is the pity, for he's the best writer Red Sonja has had in recent memory and his scripts have been the best thing this book has had going for it more often than not.  This time, however, the artwork is the equal of the script and Edgar Salazar perfectly depicts the action that Trautmann describes. 

Enjoy this book while you can!  We may not see it's like again for much longer.