Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Weekly Comics Round-Up 25/10/2012

TEEN TITANS #13 (DC COMICS)

Scott Lobdell continues his gritty reinvention of the popular team of teenage superheroes, but unfortunately not to the liking of this reviewer. I've had issues with this volume of Teen Titans from the very start, but mostly due to DC throwing away the long history the core characters had together in the previous DC universe. The New 52 incarnations have been barely recognisable and not even remotely as fun as their original counterparts. However, my big fault with this issue isn't due to the screwy continuity, merely that the issue itself is particularly dull. In what is meant to be 'The Bloody Origin of Wonder Girl', Cassie falls prey to the trappings of every whirlwind romance ever written. The dashing stranger, the seductive locales, the "heartbreaking" trauma that rips the lovers apart, etc. By the time any genuine plot kicks in, about some supernaturally haunted armour, I'd grown sick of the pair of them and actually WANTED something horrible to happen to split them up. Of course, all of this is told in retrospect, with Red Robin and Superboy offering snarky comments at appropriate moments. However, the one thing that did make me smile reading the issue? Seeing Superboy back in his t-shirt and jeans motif from pre-relaunch. I don't suppose it's a lasting change, but I'll always prefer an actual teenage look for the character, as opposed to his Tron suit.

3 out of 10

THE INCREDIBLE HULK #15 (MARVEL COMICS)

Bringing to a close Jason Aaron's largely botched run on the character, we have the final issue of this volume (soon to be relaunched once again as Indestructible Hulk under the far more capable Mark Waid). After well over a year of both Hulk and Banner trying to kill one another, they've decided to put their differences aside and team up to take down the real villain...like every other Hulk story known to man. I can only describe this issue, as fun as it is, as a massive reset button. The two halves of the psyche have been reunited, the villain put in their place and any lasting consequences of Banner's stint as a mad scientist erased. The last thing in the world any story should do is put everything away tidily and leave it all exactly as you found it, but this series does. In years to come, this volume will be little more than a footnote in the continuing adventures of Bruce Banner and his big green split personality. Where the cinematic incarnation soared to new heights this past summer, the comic equivalent sunk to new lows. Just when everyone wanted to read about a likable, wry, fun Bruce Banner, Marvel offered up an evil madman. Talk about a misfire.

5 out of 10

 AVENGERS VS X-MEN: CONSEQUENCES #3 (MARVEL COMICS)

Picking up from last week's fantastic issue, we continue to watch Scott Summers aka Cyclops traverse the physical dangers of prison, not to mention the political ramifications, even from his locked cell. This series was initially little more than a curious exploration of the aftermath of a larger crossover, but with every passing issue becomes something more. Kieron Gillen has been doing wonderful work with the character of Scott Summers ever since his run on Uncanny X-Men began and Cyclops formed the Extinction Team. That continued guiding hand pays off in spades here, as the character remains fundamentally consistent, even in such a traumatic period of his life. Forget that Uncanny X-Men came to an end last week, this could be yet another issue and I wouldn't bat an eye. The most impressive aspect of this book is that despite the lead character's incarceration, despite the world at large hating him, despite the superhero community in an uproar over him, Cyclops has never been more in control of the situation. He may be conflicted over his role in the death of Professor X, but he continues to be the same man who united the Mutant race when no one else could and I don't get the feeling he's willing to give up that leadership role just yet. No matter how many replacements Captain America puts forward in his place. All in all, an excellent book that continues threads from Uncanny and masterfully sets up the soon to debut All-New X-Men.

8 out of 10

INVINCIBLE #96 (IMAGE COMICS)

For the past several issues, we've been witnessing flashbacks to Robot and Monster Girl's time in the hyper-accelerated Flaxan dimension. Which led to the untimely reveal that Monster Girl had secretly fathered a child with a native! Don't even get me started on the logistics of a girl fathering a child, I always assumed the Monster was a girl too, but I guess it's...confused. Anyway, the conflict with her progeny is wrapped up quickly, leaving a fair portion of the book to deal with the emotional impact of the revelation. Robot seemed to take the news quite hard previously, but if anything, it brings about a heartwarming reunion for the couple. I'm just going to ignore the deep dark secret he's hiding (even though I know it's bound to come out later!). Meanwhile, there's a hilarious little subplot about Mark (thought the series had forgotten about him, didn't you), wherein he and Eve attempt to rekindle their sex life in the wake of losing his powers. Sufficed to say, he's clearly been taking the easy road all these years, as his technique could use some finesse. Not a standout issue of the series, but it keeps the proverbial plates spinning for another month. Essential in the buildup to a landmark like issue 100.

7 out of 10

Follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EarthClem

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Weekly Comics Round-Up 17/10/2012

THE WALKING DEAD: MICHONNE SPECIAL (IMAGE)

While some readers may have come across this particular Michonne story in the pages of Playboy magazine, it's largely new material for the rest of us! Jumping back to the early days of the outbreak, we see Michonne before she was the katanna-wielding badass we've come to know. Initially, she wisely decides to lock herself away with her boyfriend and his best friend (despite him being an out and out idiot). Unfortunately, not knowing how to deal with zombies yet, the boyfriend is bitten before you can say 'all you can eat buffet'. Let's just say the situation doesn't get any better from there. However, it gives us a valuable insight into the beginnings of one of the best characters in comics.

7 out of 10

UNCANNY AVENGERS #1 (MARVEL)

Spinning out of the summer event 'Avengers vs X-Men', Captain America has become acutely aware of lingering Mutant prejudices, both against them and from them. Looking to put an end to such irrational hatred, he attempts to put together a team of Avengers and X-Men alike. All under the Avengers banner of course, extending the supposed public adoration to their Mutant brethren. His first pick? Ironically enough, disgraced X-leader Cyclops' own brother, Alex Summers aka Havok. The issue also features the latest funeral of Charles Xavier and a cliffhanger so disturbing you have to see to believe. While I didn't remotely enjoy the crossover this series springs from, it's wonderfully written by the talented Rick Remender and beautifully illustrated by John Cassaday. Hopefully this series can pull both franchises back up from the nosedive that was AvX.

8 out of 10

GREEN LANTERN CORPS #13 (DC COMICS)

Our first look at the terrifying 'Third Army' came in the Green Lantern Annual several months ago, but due to the need to establish rookie Green Lantern, Simon Baz, their threat has largely been reduced to the back burner. As such, this issue of Green Lantern Corps is one of the first to truly depict their spread out into the universe. Unexpectedly, the Third Army descends upon Guy Gardner's team and he's forced to watch in horror as one of his fellow Lanterns is assimilated and reborn as one of the alien menace. It's a disturbing sequence, as you watch the Corps member in question struggle against conversion, until there's literally nothing left but a faceless creature in the tatters of his former uniform. Obviously a beloved fan favourite like Guy Gardner isn't going to be the sacrificial lamb in this instance, but it is surprising to see him thrown into direct conflict against the Third Army quite so early. This issue was essential to establishing this new threat to the universe and does nothing but enrich the promise of this already highly anticipated crossover.

8 out of 10

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

New Set Photo From Iron Man 3

Courtesy of the UK's own, Daily Mail, we have a close up look at the latest happenings on the set of the eagerly anticipated "Iron Man 3"!

The picture below features our favourite heroes, Tony Stark and James Rhodes, in their brand new suits of armour. Stark sporting a fancy new gold paintjob, while Rhodey gets himself a new codename, transitioning from War Machine to the Iron Patriot!


Follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EarthClem

Monday, 1 October 2012

New Details Emerge For Joss Whedon's S.H.I.E.L.D.



Last month, Marvel and ABC made the bold step of pushing forward with an ongoing S.H.I.E.L.D. tv series created by Avengers mastermind, Joss Whedon. In the past few days, details have emerged about the characters set to star in the series. TVLine describes them as following:

SKYE - This late-20s woman sounds like a dream: fun, smart, caring and confident – with an ability to get the upper hand by using her wit and charm.

AGENT GRANT WARD - Quite the physical specimen and “cool under fire,” he sometimes botches interpersonal relations. He’s a quiet one with a bit of a temper, but he’s the kind of guy that grows on you.

AGENT ALTHEA RICE - Also known as “The Calvary,” this hard-core soldier has crazy skills when it comes to weapons and being a pilot. But her experiences have left her very quiet and a little damaged.

AGENT LEO FITZ and AGENT JEMMA SIMMONS - These two came through training together and still choose to spend most of their time in each other’s company. Their sibling-like relationship is reinforced by their shared nerd tendencies – she deals with biology and chemistry, he’s a whiz at the technical side of weaponry.

Follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EarthClem


Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 DVD Review

Twenty six years on from publication, Frank Miller's gritty dystopian epic is regarded as a masterpiece. If ever there were a definitive end to the Batman legacy, it would be "The Dark Knight Returns" (let's just forget the sequel "The Dark Knight Strikes Again" and put that down to early onset dementia, whether in us or Frank Miller). Picking up the story ten years after Bruce Wayne hung up his cape and cowl for what was meant to be the final time, Gotham City has been overrun by a new breed of criminal - the Mutants. Whether it be the elderly Wayne or the youthful Carrie Kelly, no innocent can so much as walk down the street without running into at least one member of the gang. Something must be done, but the Police aren't cutting it. The Batman must return.

First of all, let's get the gushing praise out of the way - this film is absolutely phenomenal. It captures the spirit of the original comic book perfectly. Gotham City is just that right blend of futuristic 80's grime we all imagined it would be and there's a palpable sense of dread for the residents. Whether Batman returned or not, something had to be done. This terror is effectively heightened through the use of worrying news reports throughout, not to mention occasional cutaways, showing the citizens being victimised. Never has there been a harsher depiction of Batman's hometown, let alone on film.


Fans of the original comic book may worry about how the story has been divided between Parts 1 and 2, but I'm pleased to report that this entry has been perfectly structured. It functions as it's own individual story, whilst establishing key components for the second half next year. This particular installment focuses almost solely upon Batman's war against the Mutant menace. Bruce has a lot to prove to the people of Gotham, as well as himself. Also along for the ride are faithful manservant Alfred Pennyworth, Commissioner of Police  James Gordon and new addition, Carrie Kelly, as the latest to don the mantle of Robin (her choice, not Batman's). There is a certain sequence wherein Batman chases a deranged Two-Face that feels slightly off-topic, but that subplot comes straight from the source material and it felt rather a strange choice there too. However, it also functions as a valuable insight into Bruce returning to work as Batman. He's not quite back to 100%, but this outing makes for a useful test-run.


A lovely little design flourish I noticed about the film was the way in which Batman begins the story looking like his traditional self and slowly over the course of the 70 minute runtime morphs into what most would call a Frank Miller character. It was a trick originally used in the source material and over the years, Miller has repeatedly spoken of this methodology. To start with the iconography everyone expects of the character and then slowly make it your own. He used it to similar effect in his run on Daredevil and his reinterpretation of the Kingpin character. By the time TDKR Part 1 comes to it's end, the transition is complete and Bruce has ditched the blue and yellow hues of his famous costume in favour of a more stealthy black and plain logo. The old Batman is dead. In his place, the new Batman. Frank Miller's Batman.


The voice casting, the most essential part of any animated adaption, works in spades where it counts. Peter Weller makes for an absolutely wonderful Batman. Somehow he perfectly captures the weariness of old age, yet the wistful longing for a return to one's youth. His Bruce Wayne almost didn't need the Mutant threat to get back to the Bat. He's been living a quiet, dull, boring existence for far too long and he's positively itching to put himself back in danger. For instance, the film begins with the elderly Wayne competing in a prolonged race sequence and he's taking every conceivable risk to get that last ounce of power out of his engine. Later, when Commissioner Gordon mentions just how happy he is that Bruce survived his tenure as Batman, you can feel Bruce positively squirm at the thought. In his mind he never wanted to stop, but the tragedy of Jason Todd's death forced his hand. His retirement is akin to a raw nerve, poke the memory of it too many times and he's going to do something rash and impulsive.


Ariel Winter similarly makes for an equally impressive Carrie Kelly (aka Robin III). Her story largely takes place away from Wayne's, as her decision to take up a life of vigilantism is completely her own. Like most good sidekicks, there's a moment of inspiration where she sees her hero in the flesh and can't help but want to emulate him. Even when it comes to the big battle against the Mutant horde, her presence there is of her own choosing, Bruce has no idea she's out there dressed as Robin. But when they do finally meet, the moment is filled with the appropriate amount of pathos and you're excited to see the Dynamic Duo back together again. Winter brings just the right level of naivety and fangirl enthusiasm to the role.


The only weak links come in the form of David Selby's Commissioner Gordon and Gary Anthony Williams' Mutant Leader. It's not that they're necessarily doing a bad job, as overly generic. I think maybe I've been spoiled on Commissioner Gordon ever since Bob Hastings' definitive take on Batman: The Animated Series, capturing just the right measure of gruff gusto and fatherly concern. In comparison, Selby comes away the poorer, channeling far too much an old man at the end of his days. Admittedly, that's exactly where the character is at in the story, but Jim Gordon has always been portrayed as such a strong individual, even into his elder days, that to hear him so weathered and weary, it's a little disconcerting. As for Williams' Mutant Leader, he doesn't even have the benefit of a comparison. It's simply that he's loud, brash and chewing the scenery (or Mayors) at every opportunity. When your performance goes that big, it's hard to exude a quiet menace afterwards.


Ultimately, "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1" is a fantastic adaptation of what was already a masterpiece and could quite possibly be the best animated feature DC have put out thus far. Where occasionally they'd played it safe with generic titles like "Justice League: Doom", this is as close to edgy as edgy gets, especially for a PG rated film. Animated Batman films have always pushed the boundaries, resulting in some of the best work the field has ever seen, whether it be "Mask of the Phantasm" or "Return of the Joker". I would proudly list "Dark Knight Returns" alongside them. In a year where Batman has dominated theatrically with Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight Rises", I'd ask no one overlook the home video additions, as more often than not, they're giving their big budget brothers a run for their money.

9.5 out of 10

-MC

Monday, 24 September 2012

Weekly Round-Up 25/09/2012

NIGHTWING #0 (DC)

Epitomising the notion of DC's "Zero Month", we're taken all the way back to Dick Grayson's origin as Robin. It's pretty much beat for beat everything you'd expect from such a story. No radical reinventions on display here. But even so, a solid retelling of the tale none the less. The only true alterations come in the form of furthering writer Kyle Higgins' running theme of Dick always looking forward, never back. There's a particularly clever scene depicting this, with Dick and a childhood friend racing a train and saving an endangered innocent in the process. The only possible downside is the ghastly revisionist Robin costume. What was once a tunic and pixie boots has become a godawful suit of armour with so many details it must take the artist an hour to simply remember what it looked like in the last panel. The New 52 has been rife with such outfits and sometimes they could do with taking a step back and realising - simpler is better.

8 out of 10

SPIDER-MEN #5 (MARVEL)

In the final issue of this landmark crossover between 616 and Ultimate universes, Peter Parker and Miles Morales team up one last time to take down the dimension-hopping threat of Mysterio. So why does it feel like nothing much actually happened in this mini-series? Over the course of these five issues, conflict has been kept to a minimum, instead being more of a polite meet and greet between the two Spider-Men. Mysterio is so easily defeated in this issue that you can't help but wonder why it took so long in the first place. However, it's not all bad, as the bonding between the two arachnid-themed heroes has been genuinely funny and compelling. While it's not really the 616 Peter's place to give Miles his blessing (what with being in the wrong universe and all), the advice he was relaying was heartfelt and meaningful. Miles has always been lacking in any endorsement from his universe's dead Peter Parker, so it's quite fitting he receives it here. The issue ends on a hell of a cliffhanger, with Peter looking into whether or not the 616 universe has a Miles Morales of it's own. I don't know what it is that he found on that Google search, but I'm sure I'd buy another mini-series to find out!

9 out of 10

 STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION - HIVE #1 (IDW)

As a life-long Star Trek fan, the initial news of this mini-series captivated my interest. Unfortunately, the implementation has failed to deliver on every conceivable level. Beginning five hundred years in the future, it's revealed that the Borg have achieved their goal of assimilating the entire galaxy. Yet their quest for perfection has yielded no answers, no resolution, no peace - they're actually quite bored by it. The reassimilated Locutus sets into motion a plan to restore the region to it's former glory and like all good Trek stories - uses time travel to do it. The issue itself features a horrifying scene which can only be described as Picard calling old flame Vash for a booty call, a frankly laughable Data substitute and manages to undo four seasons of character development for a major Voyager cast member (it shouldn't be too hard to guess who - she's on the cover!). Also, if the plot hinges on travelling back in time to stop the total assimilation of the galaxy, who are these new inter-dimensional beings acting as the villain and why should we care about them when all signs point to them being a wild goose chase. When Brannon Braga left the Star Trek franchise behind, that was the best decision anyone could ever have made. Why undo that all these years later?

3 out of 10

THE WALKING DEAD #102 (IMAGE)

Still reeling from the shocking events from issue 100, Rick's group have made their way back home to the Washington compound. Last issue's cliffhanger reveal of Andrea having captured a prisoner would have typically been taken as a rallying cry, especially with this group of characters. However, writer Robert Kirkman expertly turns the dynamic on it's head. Sure having a prisoner is a tactical advantage, but they're up against overwhelming numbers and one man held in a cupboard isn't going to change that. Previously, we would've expected lead character Rick Grimes to take his sweet revenge on the prisoner and set out looking for the villain, but recent events have shaken this once proud man into apathy. Where mere issues before he was offering his military support to a neighbouring community, he's now backed down and is actually conceding to the rebel's demands (or at least we think he is). For a hundred issues, these characters have proudly taken on the world all by themselves. This issue intelligently explores the option of cowardice under such circumstances, as worrying as that may be.

10 out of 10

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Weekly Round-Up 01/09/2012

AQUAMAN #12 (DC)

Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis' successful post-modern revival of Aquaman continues in this next chapter of "The Others". Arthur himself has gone rogue, leaving his team and wife in his wake, chasing after long-time nemesis Black Manta. While I hugely enjoyed this issue, not to mention the rest of the arc as a whole, this part of the story was very much transitory. Just as everyone catches up to Manta for, what appeared to be the final confrontation, he escapes once again and sets up the actual conclusion in two months time. Ultimately, it's gorgeously drawn and beautifully written, but not a lot actually happens. In the trade, nobody will notice any deficiencies though. 9/10

STAR TREK: TNG & DOCTOR WHO #4 (IDW)

The previous three issues very slowly brought together the crews of the Enterprise D and the Tardis. Bringing us to this fourth issue, for the most part relating to pleasantries. Our heroes have gotten over the initial apprehension, so now it's time to sit down for a drink and hash things out. Good thing we have Ten Forward on hand, as tended by resident know-it-all, Guinan. She and the Doctor trade barbs and let on that they know alot more about the universe than they should (duh!). There's a new revelation on the villain front, as the Cybermen appear to have turned on their Borg allies. The only problem with this being we never saw any teamwork besides one half-arsed planetary assimilation. This heel-turn was meant to catch us by surprise, when in reality I wonder how they ever got together in the first place. 3/10

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #30 (VERTIGO)

Being part three of an ongoing arc, you'd expect no major revelations in such a middle chapter (a problem Aquaman #12 faced earlier). However, that presumption assumes you've never read anything by Scott Snyder! Acting as somewhat of a character piece, "The Blacklist" finds Pearl still on the hunt for the vampires who attacked her frail elderly husband, Henry. She waxes nostalgic about the early days of their marriage, sending her into a deep depression (not as morose as it sounds). Which makes this the worst possible time to be teaming up with a manipulative bastard like Skinner Sweet! Sufficed to say Pearl makes a shocking, albeit long-expected, pass at her sire and quite possibly the worst mistake of her undead life. I can't recommend this book highly enough. Immensely enjoyable on it's own and astoundingly rewarding for long time readers. 10/10

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Green Lantern Annual #1 Review

Picking up mere moments after the last issue, Hal Jordan and Sinestro have found themselves powerless and at the mercy of a reborn Black Hand. If that fate wasn't cruel enough, the zombified villain takes his revenge by burying our heroes alive! Meanwhile, the Guardians take several bold steps in their plan to eliminate the Green Lantern Corps and free will as a whole from the universe.

If the cover of this Annual wasn't enough to tip you off, it's that time again. A Green Lantern one-shot, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Ethan Van Sciver? Any long-time fan will know in an instant we're on the verge of another groundbreaking event, that will shake the DC universe to it's core! Since 2004, this all-star creative team has guided us through many a major happening, so when they're together, you know it's about to kick-off. This time around we're on the verge of the "Rise of the Third Army", a story with genuinely horrifying implications.


Having been freed from his shackles as a living member of the Indigo Tribe and returned to his undead Black Lantern state, Black Hand casts one hell of a scary shadow. He barely even needs to lay a finger on our dynamic duo and yet he's inflicting severe psychological damage with every barb. You can almost sense the glee with which Geoff Johns writes this villain. While Blackest Night left the character on the back-burner for the most part, instead focusing on Nekron and his army, this story is the true showcase for Black Hand. A particularly sadistic moment features Hand taunting Hal with an offer to bring his father back to life. Hal knows for a fact that the Black Lanterns aren't the genuine article, but Hand throws in just enough doubt about Nekron being gone and no ring to control the body, that you can see the temptation on his face. He eventually comes to his senses, but that moment is beautifully realised. It resonates heavily later on, as even when his own life is put in danger, Hal is more concerned with not letting Hand disturb his father's remains.


Hal and Sinestro also manage to fit in a wonderful array of teamwork in this issue. To think, only a couple of years ago, these men were at each other's throats, their own worst enemies. But now, they've developed this terrific buddy cop dynamic ala Lethal Weapon. They may not like each other, but they've got each other's backs without question. Hal immediately rushing over to dig up Sinestro and Sinestro with the last second save when all else fails. Sadly, this issue acts as a last hurrah for such a team, as their final fates have been left  a mystery for the time being, making way for the new Arab-American Green Lantern, Baz. I'm definitely going to miss the combination of Hal and Sinestro. Whoever this new GL is, he's got big shoes to fill. But if anyone can write an entertaining new character, it's Geoff Johns.

Finally, several big Guardian secrets are revealed. We've long suspected that the little blue men aren't as noble and virtuous as they make themselves out to be and this is the point of no return. They ransack an ancient vault, murdering their long lost brethren as they go and steal the appropriately ominous "first lantern". Absorbing power from this relic, the Guardians channel their might into the creation of a new species - the Third Army. A mindless brute, their heart removed, seeking to transform others into unfeeling monsters in their own image. If it wasn't scary enough that the Guardians now have an army of unthinking creatures at their disposal, the way it assimilates innocents and makes them into mirror images, is downright terrifying. The crowning achievement being the victim's eyes left unaffected, a horrifying reminder of just who that creature used to be. For the moment, it's transforming random red-shirts who happen to wander into it's path, but I genuinely fear for any hero that meets that fate.

9 out of 10  

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Weekly Round-Up 25/08/2012

BATMAN INCORPORATED #3

After the brief respite of Talia's origin last issue, we're back, knee-deep in Wayne family affairs. It's quickly revealed that Damian is alive and well, hiding out from his mother's Leviathan army in the safety of the Batcave. But as anyone who's known Damian for more than five minutes will tell you, he's not likely to stay there! The majority of this issue falls to long-time Batman alter-ego, Matches Malone. It's been a while since Bruce donned this disguise, so it's good to see him take the wannabe-mobster out of mothballs. He puts so much gusto into his performance, it's hard to believe Bruce isn't having just a smidge of fun in the role. However, when coming to the aid of a hassled club singer, he gets himself into more trouble than he bargained for. Ultimately, a fantastic read with fantastic art. Why aren't you reading this already? 9/10

SUPERMAN #12

Continuing the trend of the past year, the adventures of this New 52 Superman have been spotty at best. No true drive or overarching storyline, they're simply random fights against forgettable foes. This issue is no different, opening on Superman held captive by an aggressive alien race (who bare an uncanny resemblance to Predators) and he's unable to communicate with them. Little more actually happens, besides a bizarre B-plot that bookends the issue, with Lucy Lane wanting to go bungee jumping. These don't feel like essential Superman tales that someone has been waiting a lifetime to tell. If anything, it's pure filler material. No one will remember this issue, no one will quote it in the future, it exists purely to have a Superman series on the racks. 2/10

THE PUNISHER #14

As this volume of The Punisher enters the home stretch, the reasons behind the upcoming War Zone mini-series become a little clearer. This issue opens on Frank surrounded by discarded Marvel Universe tech. Iron Man's helmet, Cyclops' visor, Spider-Man's webshooter, one of Doc Ock's mechanical arms, etc. How could he not draw the Avengers' scorn amassing an armory like that. But until then, he still has plenty of mobsters left to kill. To this end, he and his protege set up a buy for pieces of said technology, in an otherwise impenetrable location. Little do the criminals know, that's exactly where Frank wants them! The evolution of Rachel Cole-Alves over the past 13 issues has been fantastic and this installment provides yet another important piece of the puzzle. It'll be a wonder if this character isn't a permanent addition to the Punisher status quo going forward. 8/10

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: SPIKE #1

While the idea of a Spike solo mini-series is a no-brainer, this book is so steeped in recent continuity, it's sure to confuse alot of casual readers. To clarify, in a recent issue of Buffy Season 9, Spike decided he could no longer be Buffy's consolation prize, the dark place she runs to when things don't go her way. As such, our favourite English vampire has taken his spaceship (that's right, he has a spaceship now) and retreated to the dark side of the Moon for the purposes of excessive drinking and all-around moping. His insectoid crew don't take kindly to their captain's new melancholy attitude and verge on mutiny. While being a fun issue in and of itself, I can't help but feel the character is so far out of his (and our) comfort zone, the point of this series is entirely lost. Take William the Bloody back to Earth and have him carve out a niche where it really counts. 6/10

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Weekly Round-Up 23/08/2012

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #692

A nerdy high school student visits a laboratory with his class, only to be granted superpowers. Sound familiar? Well this time, it's Peter Parker on the outside looking in, as one of his demonstrations inadvertently creates a new hero by the name of Alpha! However, that is where the similarity ends, as Alpha quickly goes off the rails and uses his newfound powers for all the wrong things! What was initially touted as Spidey's first sidekick, soon becomes an in-continuity What If story. With no pretense of a secret identity, Alpha uses his abilities to do what we all would - make money, impress girls, make fools of jocks, etc. This was a fun opening chapter to a story that I'm sure will have dire consequences for our favourite wall-crawler. The bigger Alpha's profile gets (and his ego at that), the more attention he attracts... 8/10

GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS #12

This series has always struck me as the odd one out among it's Green Lantern brethren. The premise of all the Lantern Corps uniting as one sprang out of Blackest Night, where it was used most effectively. At that time, the team consisted of only the most high profile of Lanterns, whether it be Hal Jordan, Sinestro, Carol Ferris, etc. These were the proverbial cream of the crop. However, this ongoing series has basically been surviving on scraps, as all those other characters are busy elsewhere, giving the impression this is strictly the B-team. To my surprise, it wasn't as bad as I expected. As their first year draws to a close, so does their conflict against the almighty Invictus. But that isn't the real narrative meat of the issue. Instead, we finally find out who stole all those Lantern rings way back in Issue 1 and just what they hoped to achieve by sending them to Kyle Rayner. These reveals are far more satisfying than any random slugfest with a musclebound villain. The issue ends on an ominous note, leaving me dying to know what role this team will play in the DC universe going forward. 7/10

ULTIMATE COMICS: THE ULTIMATES #14

This book is a mess, plain and simple. Whether it be the plotting, telling an insane story about States succeeding and Texas threatening to nuke the rest of America. More so, the art varies wildly from page to page. One reveling in realism, another boldly stylised, as if it were straight from a cartoon. In a year where "The Avengers" is pulling in a billion dollars worldwide, how does the series that inspired it flounder so badly? Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention quite how ugly the redesigned costumes of Captain America and Iron Man are. Both are clunky and cumbersome, which is the last thing you'd expect icons to be wearing. This book reminds me alot of Squadron Supreme post-JMS. It's ugly, directionless and missing the magic that made it a must-read in the first place. This is the reanimated corpse of a once great series. Avoid at all costs. 1/10

UNCANNY X-MEN #17 

Despite falling smack dab in the middle of AvX, this arc has been more of a side story about the Phoenix Five (still intact at this point) taking down long-time foe, Mister Sinister. It's actually rather handy the focus of the event isn't on this adventure, as it would undercut everything the main series was putting across. While the combined might of every single Avenger struggled to make a dent in one of the Phoenix Five, Mister Sinister keeps ALL FIVE captive for an entire issue. Admittedly, there's a panel that proves the Phoenix is too powerful to contain, but to have such an unstoppable force...stopped, is a little strange. The majority of the issue falls to the remainder of Cyclops' Extinction team i.e. Psylocke, Storm, Magneto and Danger, as they plot to sneak their way into Sinister's castle and liberate their comrades. The teamwork on display is fantastic and even with all the ulterior motives flying around, these are combinations that work. Infact, this issue features my favourite Psylocke moment ever, bar none. I've never liked the character before, so to hear myself laughing out loud at her antics was a complete surprise. I'm positively begging for that to be her new catchphrase. It'd rival "it's clobberin' time" and "flame on". 8/10

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The New Avengers #28 Review

For those that haven't been following the universe-spanning events of "Avengers vs X-Men", the Phoenix Force has returned to Earth and splintered, taking five of the X-Men (Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus and Magik) as hosts. Despite the Phoenix Five doing everything in their power to make the world a better place, ranging from solving world hunger to providing electricity to areas without, the Avengers have decided such incomprehensible power cannot be trusted in the hands of mere mortals and that it will only be a matter of time before the X-Men are corrupted from within. As a result, the Phoenix Five have outlawed the Avengers as a group, driving them underground. This particular issue of New Avengers tells the tale of three captured team members - Hawkeye, Spider-Woman and Luke Cage, as they struggle with imprisonment and plot to escape the X-Men's brig.

First things first, glad to see that Hawkeye's condition has greatly improved since we last saw him in the pages of Avengers vs X-Men. He'd infuriated Emma Frost to such an extent, she decided Clint deserved to die and attempted to roast him like a marshmallow! There's no hint of his injuries here, so all seems to have gone well when Cyclops brought him back to life through sheer willpower. They even put him back in his costume, which I had assumed was burned up during the initial scuffle, but that's a minor quibble.

Unfortunately, while this issue may have brought an Avenger back to life, it certainly does no favours for their public relations. At several points throughout the story, the imprisoned heroes act disturbingly like psychopaths. Hawkeye and Spider-Woman being the pair most at fault. I suppose you could understand their behaviour taking their associations with SHIELD and their past life as spies into account, but they go to some questionable extremes to take down their X-Men captors. One flings a plate into the throat of a young girl and proceeds to break her arm, while the other manages to obtain a pen to write a letter...and holds it to her sympathetic teenage captor's neck, threatening to kill her. So these supposed superheroes are more than happy to physically assault teenagers and when that doesn't work, threaten their lives. Which part of these characterisations sounded good to Brian Michael Bendis as he was writing?

Thankfully, it's not a complete loss, as the moments where they aren't being totally out of character are actually rather charming. There's a particularly funny beat when Spider-Woman attempts to rescue Hawkeye from his cell, only for him to think it's a shape-shifter imitating her. The romance between the pair continues to be a highlight across the entire Avengers franchise, while also raising questions after coming out the same week as Avengers Assemble #5 which depicted an illicit kiss with Black Widow. It just goes to show, they can take the quiver away from Clint Barton, but he always has one "arrow" in reserve.

Luke Cage is the Avenger who comes out of the issue with his reputation most intact. Rather than follow suit with his deplorable colleagues, Cage's thoughts are geared entirely towards the welfare of his wife, Jessica Jones, and their baby, Danielle. It certainly doesn't hurt that the X-Man guarding him is Warpath. It's a lot easier to sympathise with Cage taking on a hardened veteran of X-Force over his team mates cowardly take downs of Magma and one of the Stepford Cuckoos.

As with the majority of these "Avengers vs X-Men" tie-ins, the intent comes across as muddled and confusing. Exactly which side are we meant to be rooting for here? This is a New Avengers issue, so you'd expect the title team to be sympathetic. However, all of the team's members come off extremely badly. Meanwhile, the X-Men, who are the captors in this scenario, are kind, considerate and polite to a fault. They're feeding the Avengers, bathing the Avengers, rushing to get whatever would make the Avengers feel more comfortable, but treated as the villains for their troubles. At the end of the day, the Avengers have never had a good reason to come after the X-Men or regard them so poorly. Infact, with so many members crossing over between the two, you'd expect the Avengers to think highly of Mutants. Until the day comes where the Avengers can produce a valid reason for fearing the Phoenix Five (other than "urmmmm, it could go wrong?"), I will struggle to empathise with their plight.

6 out of 10

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Batman: Earth One Review

Batman makes his Earth One debut in this long-awaited graphic novel from the superstar creative team of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank! The Earth One line is yet another attempt by DC Comics to entice new readers with a definitive "modern" origin for their iconic characters. So far, Superman has been the only other character to receive such treatment, getting the line off to a precarious start, with huge financial success but critical derision. Much like that attempt, this novel tackles familiar tropes, whilst altering the mythos in small but distinct ways. Whether for the betterment of the franchise or simply the writer putting his own stamp on the character, we'll never entirely know.

In critiquing "Batman: Earth One", comparisons to Frank Miller's masterpiece "Batman: Year One" are unavoidable. That story told much the same tale, with a freshly trained Bruce Wayne returning to Gotham seeking vengeance for his murdered parents. Similarly, it documents Lieutenant James Gordon's troubles as the only honest cop in a corrupt Police Department. However, that is where the similarity ends, with both stories taking a very different structural approach.

Ironically, "Batman: Year One" feels timeless in comparison to this latest entry. Nothing in "Batman: Year One" relied upon style or pop culture references, of which "Batman: Earth One" is most definitely guilty. The look of Batman's equipment, infrequent mentions of reality shows and Blurays, something tells me this incarnation will date rather badly given ten years or more.


However, the changes aren't purely cosmetic, extending to some curious character beats. Chief among them, Bruce Wayne himself. No longer was he strictly an innocent child, from Geoff Johns' perspective he was a rather petulant and annoying brat. All other retellings of the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne have Bruce as damn near angelic, focussing on the innocence lost that night. Whereas, in this world, Bruce ran off stubbornly into a dark alley and led his family to the slaughter not by chance, but because HE INSULTED THE MUGGER! This may be slightly dark and sadistic of me, but after such terrible behaviour from the young Wayne, he deserved to be taught a lesson. I hate to think of the spoiled trust fund baby this incarnation would've produced.


As to the young man's burgeoning career as a masked vigilante, I say - don't give up your day job! Other accounts typically show small errors in Batman's early outings. Whilst here, he's frequently screwing up on a grand scale. So much so, it's easier to list his flaws than anything he does right. I can't help but wonder whether or not DC are trying to steal a page out of Marvel's playbook by featuring "relatable" heroes over their traditional gods-among-men. This is very much in the vain of Spider-Man, where he'll forget to reload his webshooter and come crashing down to the ground with a thud. It's basically DC via Marvel.


Some of the more fascinating changes come in the form of Jim Gordon and his new partner Harvey Bullock. Traditionally speaking, Gordon has always been the straight laced stick in the mud who'll do whatever is right, no matter the consequence. Meanwhile, Bullock plays things fast and loose, turning a blind eye to injustice, as long as it suits his purposes. However, Earth One finds the dynamic flipped somewhat, with Bullock displaying a striking level of naivety, while Gordon has become world-weary. This version of our favourite cop has been broken utterly by the Mob. He's not complicit in their crimes or even on the take, but after losing his wife in a suspicious car accident, he's also lost his will to fight back. It takes this new bumbling take on Harvey Bullock to bring him back to the side of the righteous. Alot of my favourite moments from the book featured the duo, whether it be Gordon rediscovering his passion for the job or Bullock being chilled to the bone at the atrocities of Gotham City.


One aspect of the book that nobody could fault is the art. Gary Frank has outdone himself, which is no mean feat considering his past work on Supreme Power and Action Comics. There are multiple single panel pages that stop the story dead in it's tracks, mesmerising you with their beauty. I was particularly impressed by images of Batman laying hurt in an alleyway and another later featuring him perched atop a nasty looking villain he'd just taken down. Whatever faults lay with this book, Gary Frank can sleep well knowing he's absolutely blameless. Artists of the future will be aspiring to his high standard for years to come.


I may be the wrong person to be judging this novel. DC and Marvel have flooded the market with revamped origins every couple of years and as such, I'm absolutely burnt out on any superhero's beginnings. Just as long as they have their powers and have a rollicking good adventure in the process, I'm not sure I need to know how they got into that position. Leave it a mystery, at the very least it won't be retold a hundred times over like a bad game of Chinese Whispers. "Batman: Earth One" is exactly that - a story that once held meaning, but has been told so many times that it's lost alot of pathos along the way.


5 out of 10



Sunday, 10 June 2012

Avengers vs X-Men #5 Review

Marvel's latest summer event ends it's first act with a game-changing issue! When last we saw the company's two most popular superhero teams, they had both found their way to the Moon, the Phoenix Force drawing ever closer and the two sides locked in combat over the fate of the Mutant Messiah and soon-to-be-host, Hope. Captain America wants to take her as far away from Earth as possible, Cyclops wants her to embrace the power and reignite the ailing Mutant race. All the while, fan-favourite Wolverine hovers in the background threatening to gut her like a fish incase this all goes wrong. Never have the heroes of the Marvel Universe ever disagreed to such a degree. The superhero Civil War was a petty spat in comparison. In Avengers vs X-Men, the fate of the whole world hangs in the balance!

As I am only beginning my reviews with issue 5, I feel I should sum up my feelings on the entire event so far to give the best picture of how it is going. Unfortunately, I'm not coming down on it favourably. Ever since the first issue, these typically rational heroes have been acting like colossal jerks. Captain America inexplicably declared war on the X-Men and is talking about imprisoning the entire Mutant race, behaving wildly out of character. Cyclops has come off like a religious zealot, giving himself over entirely to a cause bigger than himself and putting the whole world in danger in the process, behaving wildly out of character. The only person who's actually acting IN character is Wolverine, but his goal of murdering Hope is so despicable, you really wish he would act out of character and try to save her instead. He's betrayed the X-Men at every turn and is actively aiding in snuffing out Mutantdom's last chance at a future. It was never going to be easy for Marvel to find a reason to have their most popular franchises go to war...and they still haven't found it.


This issue inparticular takes place almost entirely on the Moon, taking place over a matter of minutes. Hope keels over in pain at the impending arrival of the Phoenix Force, while the Avengers and X-Men simply hit each other like simpletons for twenty pages. There's an occasional plea by Captain America to Cyclops to stop this madness, but even in such a rational request, everyone is still committed to their own course of action, with no attempt at compromise. You'd think as they're on THE MOON, what's the harm in letting Hope take on the power, see if she can contain it and if not, have Wolverine use those claws he's been sharpening for the past four issues. Ultimately this issue is just another horrible example of Marvel smashing their favourite toys together and seeing what happens, regardless of whether it makes sense.



I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the schizophrenic creative team behind this series. All of Marvel's top tier writers have taken a crack at writing an issue a piece. I'm assuming that there was a huge group meeting to discuss where exactly the story was heading, but even then, these are wildly different writing styles and inner voices being used with every passing issue. A Brian Michael Bendis comic is a very different beast to a Jason Aaron comic, as it is to an Ed Brubaker comic and so on. They all have their various strengths and weaknesses and as a result, they never come together as a cohesive whole. This particular issue was written by Matt Fraction (famous for his work on The Invincible Iron Man, The Mighty Thor, Defenders, etc). He's well known for taking a step back from the emotional core and focussing on lofty bigger ideas of a grand scale. Considering he's got two superteams on the surface of the Moon scrapping it out, whilst a cosmic force moves ever closer in an attempt to consume them, you could certainly say he's guilty of that here. He does however frame the issue around a lovely metaphor where Hope questions whether she's the pilot of the bomber or the bomb itself. Amidst all the needless violence, I did appreciate such sentiment.

Ironically, the art is the one aspect of the series so far to remain consistant, with John Romita Jr handling every issue of this Act. However, the only reason he's been able to manage this feat is by turning in shoddy half-arsed art that conveys the bare minimum of detail. To be fair, I'm not saying it's the series itself that's bringing this out in him, as he's been coasting on "deadline" art for the past ten years or more. Only in very rare cases has he produced anything even remotely beautiful. For the majority of series he's worked on, he'll turn in whatever he's managed to accomplish in that timeframe, which isn't a whole hell of alot. This actually reminds me alot of his work on the recent relaunch of The Avengers. For the first 12 issues or more, he turned in some of the worst art I'd ever seen and if not for the similar style, would've had me wondering whether this was the same guy who wowed me on Amazing Spider-Man all those years ago. I'm not decrying the art as absolutely horrible, merely functional. There probably won't be any images from this series that stand out as a classic visual of our time, which is a real shame considering the monumental subject matter. I'm far more interested to see what Oliver Coipel achieves in the upcoming second Act.

Finally, the issue ends on a shocking cliffhanger, which I'd be an idiot to not address. So if you're not wanting to know what happens, please do not read beyond this point and go about your business. As established in the most recent issue of Uncanny X-Men, the Phoenix Force was definitely responsible for Hope's birth and the subsequent arrival of the "Five Lights". Not having her acolytes on hand at the time of it's arrival, the Phoenix Force possesses the five members of the X-Men's Extinction Team. Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus and Magik have all become living avatars of the Force. After their abrupt transformation, they take the broken Hope in their arms and abscond back to Earth, with their great work still ahead of them. This is actually a fantastic concept for the remains of the series and quickly dispells the notion that the Avengers have been utterly superior up until this point. The X-Men were losing, but now they've changed the game entirely and laid claim to the moniker of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. It'd be extremely easy for Marvel to make these possessed X-Men the villains of the piece and have the Avengers striving to stop their genocidal plans, but I'd be far more interested if their motivations weren't as simple as wiping Humanity off the face of the Earth and instead had the Phoenix wanting to bring about genuine change on a global scale.

6 out of 10  

Sunday, 3 June 2012

The Best of DC Comics New 52!

5. NIGHTWING

While reverting from Gotham City's one and only Batman back to original identity Nightwing could be seen by some as a demotion, Dick Grayson has proved just as important in his New 52 role as he did pre-Flashpoint. Kyle Higgins has been on writing duties since the relaunch and in conjunction with Batman's Scott Snyder has created the perfect companion piece to the recent "Night of the Owls" crossover event. Just as Bruce Wayne has come to find his life shadowed by the fabled Court of Owls, so has Dick Grayson. Over the course of the first year, it's been revealed that long-time staple Haley's Circus was aiding in the creation of the next generation Talons and Dick was to be a leading candidate, if not for the timely intervention of his adoption and subsequent crimefighting career. All being big developments in the origins of the former Boy Wonder and leave me wondering what might happen next.



4. BATMAN INCORPORATED

This is a bit of a cheat, as there's only been one issue of this series set firmly in New 52 continuity so far. However, in that single issue, Grant Morrison achieved more than some creators have been striving all year for. Due to the luck of the draw, he's managed to pick up exactly where he left off in Volume One. After being hounded for months by a mysterious organisation named Leviathan, their leader stood revealed as none other than Robin's mother, Talia Al Ghul. Not only is the writing top notch, but the art by Chris Burnham evokes the same pop-art sensibilities usually only captured by Frank Quitely. A masterful book that's only ever going to rise in my estimation over the coming months.


3. GREEN LANTERN

Geoff Johns has been writing the spectacular adventures of Hal Jordan consistantly since 2004. Picking up seemlessly from where the last volume left off, following "War of the Green Lanterns", Hal has been stripped of his power ring and banished back to Earth by the Guardians of the Universe, having deemed him too rebellious (whilst secretly fearing his true power). In his stead, long-time nemesis Sinestro has been reinstated and tasked with bringing down the Corps of his own creation, who've invaded his homeworld of Korugar. While not remotely new-reader-friendly, relying heavily on one's knowledge of the past eight years of Green Lantern mythology, this series is unrelentingly entertaining with it's buddy-cop dynamic between the two leads. It's only a matter of time before they have an inevitable falling out and Sinestro is returned to his villainous roots, so I'm enjoying the pairing while I can. In recent months, there have been no end of hints towards a major new story arc entitled "The Third Army". The Guardians have secretly turned against the Green Lantern Corps and are plotting to supplant them with a new galactic police force, just as they did the Manhunters before them. Jump on board now, before the s*** hits the fan.


2. AQUAMAN

Anyone who's not reading this series already, what the hell is wrong with you? Admittedly, Aquaman has always been a tough sell (even to me), but this new volume has addressed that criticism head on. Not happy to write a plain old Aquaman story, Geoff Johns has no problem pointing out how the world at large laughs at the notion of a water-based superhero. The first handful of issues are rife with situations where members of the public bombard our hero, Arthur Curry, with ridiculous questions about the usefulness of talking to fish or what he intends to do to stop a crime on land. Instead of shying away from the inherent trouble this character has had in the past, Johns has embraced it, making it one big running joke and taking the sting out of any true criticism. Not to mention Ivan Reis has drawn the King of Atlantis to be the most dashing, awe-inspiring hero of them all. Whether it be stopping a bank robbery on land or fighting off a legion of carniverous sea-life underwater, never has the character looked so good. Put aside your scepticism for a single night and read the first arc, you won't be sorry.


1. BATMAN

As alluded to earlier, Scott Snyder's Batman is really knocking it out of the proverbial park at the moment. Continuing themes he began way back in his run on Detective Comics, Snyder treats Gotham City as a living breathing entity, that just as soon as you think you have a handle on it, it'll churn out a new threat specifically tailored to mess with your head. In that spirit, it's revealed that as confident and comfortable as Batman has grown in his home town, there has always been an unseen force operating in the shadows, namely - The Court of Owls. Initially hinted at as merely a nursery rhyme to scare the small children as Gotham, the threat becomes increasingly real, attacking Bruce Wayne from all sides. Nests spring up unexpectedly in his place of business and home. The situation ever worsening, the fearful Talon assassins eventually drag Batman down into the depths of madness. Never has an enemy shook our hero's core belief system so utterly. He can no longer trust his place of birth, his methods, even his closest allies. The Court has it's claws in them all. If you were under the impression that Grant Morrison would strole back in after a year and reclaim his mantle as head of the Bat-writers, Scott Snyder stops him dead in his tracks. Where Morrison has been building his masterpiece over the course of years, Snyder has given us one in a matter of months. The collected saga of "The Court of Owls" will undoubtedly become a classic before our eyes.  

Friday, 1 June 2012

Batman Annual #01 Review

While "The New 52" reboot from last September left Batman's continuity mostly intact, a few changes have snuck in over the course of the year. Dick Grayson is back to being Nightwing, Barbara Gordon is back to being Batgirl, etc. Generally these changes have been rolling back the clock on our favourite heroes' careers, making them younger and dare I say more stylish. However, this first Annual of the new volume takes a radical approach and completely rethinks the origins of one Victor Fries aka Mr Freeze. I won't go into details, but it both acknowleges the classic origin of Mr Freeze, as established in Batman the Animated Series' "Heart of Ice" over twenty years ago, and yet spins it off into an interesting new direction that no one was expecting, let alone me.

What will most likely catch any potential reader's eyes on the stands is the "Night of the Owls" crossover banner on the top of the cover. However, I should warn you that this doesn't play into the hugely popular event in the slightest. Apart from a casual mention of the Court of Owls having stolen Freeze's methods to animate their Talons and a nebulous time frame between another Freeze-related scuffle over in "Red Hood & The Outlaws", this is entirely a localised character study, delving deeper into what makes one of Batman's most notorious villains tick.

Furthering this theme, the Annual is bookended by flashbacks to Victor as a child, visiting a frozen lake with his mother. Sufficed to say, any mental disturbances in the mind of Freeze began a long time before Batman or Bruce Wayne became a thorn in his side. I really liked these two scenes. While it had no direct effect on the modern day, it played heavily into the psychosis Victor feels towards his wife Nora. Yet another important woman in his life that met an icy end.


The core story deals with yet another breakout from Arkham Asylum (making three or four across all the Bat-titles since last September alone). Thankfully, this one is far smaller in scale and only Freeze himself, yet all the more impressive for it. Watching him casually despatch staff memebers, whether they be therapists or armed guards is quite the sight. Sometimes relying on his gimmick of extreme cold or in a surprising move, blunt force trauma. He may be a malformed scientist, but he has no problem snapping a man's neck with his bare hands.

Upon regaining his freedom, Freeze heads straight for the the man who "wronged" him and led to his horrific transformation - Bruce Wayne. In this version of events, the good Doctor worked for Wayne Industries in the Cryonics Division. Victor spent months working on a cure to his wife's condition, neglecting all the other projects he should've been working on. When Wayne finds out, he personally fires Fries on the spot. After an unprovoked skirmish, Fries ruptures a canister of coolant and becomes the monster we know him to be today.

I'm not entirely sure I agree with the decision to tie Bruce so intrinsically into Mr Freeze's origin. It reminded me alot of The Riddler in Batman Forever. Jim Carrey was the mad scientist in Wayne's employ, got fired and poured his talents into revenge against his former boss. You could match the stories beat for beat. Now, I'd never accuse a mastermind like Scott Snyder of ripping off a hack like Joel Schumacher, but the similarities are eerie.


As you can imagine, when someone makes a kamikaze run at Bruce Wayne, they're bound to run into Batman. Before that inevitable round of fisticuffs, there was also a welcome pair of cameos in the form of Nightwing and Robin, running interference for their father. Ever since Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne's initial team-up in the first volume of "Batman & Robin", I've long been a fan of the pairing. I'm glad to see their chemistry hasn't been forgotten by DC editorial in the rush to get Nightwing back to a solo hero. It was only a couple of pages worth, but a reminder that not every change to the DCU was a positive one. I miss these two together.

In retrospect, the events of the issue themself aren't anything much to write home about. Infact, it's worryingly basic. But the beauty lies in the small character moments. Being able to understand this new Freeze a little more, even Bruce's personal connection to events. Not essential reading, but pleasant enough, should you want a deeper insight into the New 52.

8 out of 10

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Star Trek: TNG & Doctor Who #01 Review


In years gone by, the Star Trek comic license has crossed over with everything from the X-Men to the Legion of Superheroes. But one franchise it has never crossed paths with, and what may seem an obvious choice to science fiction fans everywhere, is long standing British icon, Doctor Who. This is the first time we've ever seen our favourite Police Box land within a sector of a starship named Enterprise and it just so happens that the honour falls to the Next Generation.


Unfortunately, we're still going to have to wait another month for the long awaited crossover, as it doesn't actually occur within these twenty pages. Not once do Captain Jean Luc Picard or The Doctor come face to face and I'd be lying if I said that wasn't a disappointment. However, what we do get are the worlds of the two shows interacting, producing a rather scary power couple in the team of the Borg and the Cybermen. No one's entirely sure of their motivations just yet, instead we're left to marvel at the devastation wrought by these two cyborg races as they come upon a defenceless planet. With cold, calculating precision, we watch as they overrun a society, forcing the society's Prime Minister to flee into the depths of space and wonder if there will be anything of her home to return to. At least half of the issue is devoted to this invasion and subsequent escape. It was an impressive display of dominance from the long time villains and it'll be difficult for the Federation to bounce back from such a thorough defeat in future issues.


The second half of the issue catches us up with The Doctor and his companions, Amy Pond and Rory Williams, as they make a swift escape from a hairy situation in Ancient Egypt. Oddly enough, this segment, featuring the characters we're paying to see, was rather boring and superfluous. The images on the page are meant to convey the madcap pace and insanity of your typical Doctor Who episode, but knowing full well that this diversion means nothing, you're left wishing they'd get on with it and meet the Enterprise already. There's nothing particularly wrong with it, it's just not the story we're here to see. But don't worry, as the issue draws to a close, they're quickly back in the Tardis and teasing the eventual meeting with the Next Gen crew.


This first issue will inevitably be sought after by collectors for years to come, so if I were you, I'd pick up a copy just on the off-chance it might be worth something in the eyes of a fan with too much money. However, the contents were mere teaser. We know nothing more coming out as we did going in. The Borg and Cybermen have teamed up, are making waves in the Federation and guess who will get the subspace message to go fight them. The story was lightweight and the artwork was far too photo-realistic, making me believe the artist is planning to paint over existing pictures of the casts for the entire series. A historic event kicks off with a whimper. Better luck next month.

5 out of 10