Comic Book Review: Dark Days: The Forge and Dark Days: The Casting

Details: Published in 2017 by DC Comics. Official sites: http://www.dccomics.com/comics/dark-matter-2017/dark-days-the-casting-1 http://www.dccomics.com/comics/dark-matter-2017/dark-days-the-forge-1

DC Comics is gearing up for their next big event and these two issues act as a preview to what’s ahead. I wasn’t really sure what this was going to be about, but after reading these two books I am hyped and definitely going to read what comes next.

Continue reading “Comic Book Review: Dark Days: The Forge and Dark Days: The Casting”

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Comic Book Review: We3

Details: Purchased the trade paperback which collected all three issues. Listed price is $12.99. Released in 2005. Official site is http://www.vertigocomics.com/graphic-novels/we3

I originally read this book a few years ago and forgot about it. More recently, as I was looking for a gift for an artist friend of mine who loves animals, I decided to pick this book up for her and to also give it a quick read through again. Thus, this review.

This is a really great book. It won a bunch of accolades that first year it came out. It won the Eisner Awards for best art and letterer. It is a New York Times best seller, which isn’t very common for comic books. Most importantly, it was written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Frank Quitely, two of the most well-known and respected creators in comic books who have a whole collection of top-selling books under their belts.

The premise is this: A dog, a cat, and a rabbit are cybernetically enhanced by the U.S. military into killing machines. When they are ordered to be terminated, the three escape and try to make their way “home.”

It’s like the movie Homeward Bound, but a little more science fiction-y and R rated. I think a large reason why it sold so well and was so well received was that at its core, it’s a story about animals. I think I wouldn’t be alone to say that while it isn’t primarily an animal rights story, the story does a great job getting the reader to feel for these animals.

The art is amazing. Frank Quitely almost always amazes and some of the panels and fold out art in this book are stunning. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of another book that has art this good. Some of the violence is pretty graphic though, so keep that in mind if you intend on letting younger reader read this book.

In conclusion, this is a great book that anyone who likes comic books should give a read. I purchased the trade paperback which collects all three issues into one book. I think this is only way that this book should be purchased. The trade paperback came with some sketches and comments from the author, which I generally enjoy.

Score: 8/10

Comic Books Reviews: Comics Released On December 28, 2016

Got a lot of books this week. Here they are in alphabetical order.

All Star Batman (2016) #5

Official preview: http://www.dccomics.com/comics/all-star-batman-2016/all-star-batman-5

One of the best books on the shelf. Anytime you get Snyder writing Batman, you’re in for a treat. Going along with the style Snyder established from his run on the main Batman book, Snyder explores the mythos of Batman’s history, in this case Two-Face, and puts forth an opinion and a statement about this character. I’ve loved all the insight Snyder has offered towards Batman and that adoration continues here. I don’t love Romita’s artwork, but I felt like it was fine here.

Score: 8/10

 

Captain America: Steve Rogers (2016) #8

Official preview: http://marvel.com/comics/issue/57873/captain_america_steve_rogers_2016_8

There have been lots of times in comic book history when a publisher decides to take a hero into completely new territory. Sometimes it goes terribly, sometimes it comes out great. This is one of the times where it comes out mostly great. The character of evil Captain America possesses everything that made good Captain America who he is; he is devoted, idealistic, relentless, and he believes in his ideals to an extreme degree. Watching the evil Captain’s machinations is an interesting experience in that it gives insight into what makes people evil. In another way, it shows us that there is no such thing as good or evil, just people fighting hard for different beliefs. This is a great twist and given what happened in Civil War II, I’m very interested in seeing how things play out for Cap’.

Score: 7/10

 

Civil War II (2016) #8

Official preview: http://marvel.com/comics/issue/62349/civil_war_ii_2016_8

What was the point of this book? Nothing happened. Nothing was achieved. They killed off some major characters to little fanfare. This just felt like an enormous waste of time. The main point of this book was mainly as a preview for upcoming story arcs that Marvel intends on putting out. The only salvageable thing was the art, which was great. Even so, the story is such shit that I would not recommend picking this book up.

Score: 2/10

 

Dark Knight III: The Master Race (2015) #6

Official preview: http://www.dccomics.com/comics/dark-knight-iii-the-master-race-2015/dark-knight-iii-the-master-race-6

Not a story on par with the prior Dark Knight books, but a fun story nonetheless. There are no great themes at play, no greater meaning to this story, and no big emotions to be felt. It’s just a fun continuation of the characters Miller established all those years ago.

Score: 5/10

 

Hulk (2016) #1

Official preview: http://marvel.com/comics/issue/61531/hulk_2016_1

I feel like there are many different tones for comic books and this book shows off one of them. This is not the kind of superhero book where heroes smash everything. This isn’t an action book. This also isn’t Archie. This is something in between. If you’ve read Soule’s She-Hulk miniseries, then you’ll have a taste of the kind of book this is. It’s a book that centers more on the legal profession mixed with the strangeness of super powers. It’s an interesting book which I’m probably not going to continue reading because I’m not in the mood for a story like this. I can happily recommend it to anyone else who is though.

Score: 5/10

 

Infamous Iron Man (2016) #3

Official preview: http://marvel.com/comics/issue/61549/infamous_iron_man_2016_3

Infamous Iron Man has consistently attracted my attention and is once again my book of the week. Similarly to how Captain America is now evil, Doctor Doom is now good. Even better, Doctor Doom’s transformation into a superhero from a super villain does not come from some magical cube, it is a decision he makes after realizations he has on his own. Reading this book is an exploration into the character that is Victor Von Doom and an observation watching a bad man try to be good, something completely foreign to him. Maleev’s art is also pretty great.

Score: 8.3/10

 

Spider-Man (2016) #11

Official preview: http://marvel.com/comics/issue/55705/spider-man_2016_11

The cover of this book has nothing to do with the story inside. This book is about Miles’ father and his involvement with SHIELD. It’s an okay story, but I read Spider-Man to get that mix of superhero action mixed with the antics of a middle school student. I did not get that here.

Score: 4/10

Manga and Anime Review: Kingdom

The last time I was this obsessed with an anime/manga, it was One Piece (http://onepieceofficial.com/). Anyways, let’s go over the manga first before touching on the anime.

Kingdom isn’t radically different from various properties that have come before. Names like Braveheart, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and any other medieval/war property you can think of pretty much prepare you for what this is about.

The Premise.

Kingdom takes place during the Warring States period in ancient China; the seven states of China are locked in a constant state of war. We are introduced to Xin and Piao (Piao is pronounced Hyou in Japanese), two child-slaves who wish to become the greatest generals under the heavens. Through happenstance, they meet someone with ties to the royal capital and we see a former slave try to work his way from the bottom rung of the military to the top.

It’s fun wandering through history.

There are many aspects of this title which drew me in. Firstly, the history. China’s warring states period is a lot like feudal Japan or the wild west in that it’s an often revisited and romanticized setting for fiction. Like in many other properties, Kingdom use of famous figures (e.g. the first emperor of China, famous generals, etc.) lends it some authenticity and intrigue. In my case, whenever a new character is introduced I would hurriedly go search the character on the internet to see if it was a real person. It’s a lot of fun reading about the real history of a character and trying to predict what the author is actually going to do with the character. It should be noted that the author takes extreme creative license with history, but I feel that that is a positive and adds the entertainment of the story.

Further, reading through Kingdom actually makes me feel like I’m learning something. I’ve never really had that much in interest in Chinese history, but after reading this I can say I’ve gained a great curiosity for it. Things like the politics and relationships between states in that period as well as the military tactics employed at that time. With that said, I’m sure many parts of Kingdom are fictionalized since the author took such creative license. Still entertaining though.

The battles are the best part, along with the art.

The battles are brutal here. Stabbed in the throat, cleaved in half, decapitated, eyes knocked out of the head, heads crushed, it is all drawn in impressive, brutal detail. I remember the first time I saw Braveheart (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112573/) uncensored. The sights and sounds of men dying had never been portrayed so brutally. It was an impressive cinematic feat. The same is true for Kingdom. The violence is brutal and only adds to the visceral nature of the manga.

The character design is also… interesting. Sometimes it leads something to be desired. Other times, it perfectly portrays how large and frightening some of the characters are. These great generals are meant to be larger than life, and the art perfectly portrays that.

The story isn’t bad, but it is a war story so it is mostly action anyways.

As for the parts that are not related to warfare, they are surprisingly inspired by actual historical records. The part involving harems and affairs and the King’s origins, all of that was actually part of the historical record where all this comes from (the Shiji). I’d like to give the author credit, but he merely elaborated and embellished a little what was actually written. Once again, real life can be stranger than fiction… or at least inspire fiction.

In regards to the action parts, they are amazing. My favorite types of story is the one where an individual stands against overwhelming odds and overcomes them. There are many such stories here. The protagonist, Xin, is a looked down upon former slave. Over and over again he must overcome obstacles in order to realize his dream of being a great general. It’s awe inspiring at times and there were many times where I choked up watching him stand against overwhelming odds.

And… the anime, sigh.

All that needs to be said about the anime is that the first season is pretty crap. It is only appealing if you like bad looking computer generated images. In the second season however, the producers probably realized how nasty the computer generated models looked and went back to hand drawn models. Computer generated art is only used in the background while hand drawn art is used in the foreground, where the viewers’ attention is centered. It works a lot better and, as a result, the second season is infinitely more watchable. Accordingly, I hated season one because of the art, enjoyed season two somewhat, and am curious about the upcoming season three. A lot of the violence is also censored in the anime, which sucks since the violence of war is a big part of this story.

In conclusion:

 Watching the anime is unecessary. READ THE MANGA. Kingdom is currently my favorite manga right now. There is no other manga out there right now which I have enjoyed as much as this. The only people I would not recommend it to are people who are squeamish and hate action.

Score: 9/10 This score only applies to the manga. The anime gets a 3.4/10.

Comic Book Review: Batman #50 (2016)

Official site: http://www.dccomics.com/comics/batman-2011/batman-50

It’s been a long road with Snyder and Capullo, and it seems to be nearing it’s end. For the better part of five years, Snyder and Capullo have been telling the best Batman stories to date, at least in my opinion.

Issue #50 is the penultimate issue for Snyder and Capullo’s run on Batman and a tear certainly formed in my eyes when I thought about their run ending. Over the years, I’ve read many comic books, but right now, there is no comic book on the shelves more important to me than Batman and that is because of the efforts of Snyder and Capullo. When they leave, I may just stop reading Batman altogether.

Well, enough about the past and let’s get to the issue at hand. Issue #50 ends the current “Superheavy” story and returns Bruce Wayne as Batman. What I love about Snyder’s characterization of Batman is that Batman is a beacon of light in a dark city. He inspires the people of Gotham to be better. In prior incarnations, Batman becomes one with the darkness to as to fight those who utilize that same darkness. Snyder instead goes the other direction. Batman represents the faith that Bruce has in the city and his belief that people will do the right thing.

Some additional notes:

Batman’s new costume isn’t all that different, just a little gold thrown in.

I like that it’s hinted that Jim Gordon has always known Batman’s true identity, he just ignores it.

I like how the city of Gotham saves itself in a way because Batman inspires them to do so.

I love any discussion about Gotham, such as the conversation between Bruce and Gordon near the end. Gotham truly is a character in and of itself and Snyder understands that.

Score: 8/10 Parting is such sweet sorrow. The preview for the next issue is that there aren’t really any big story beats, just a side story as a goodbye from Snyder and Capullo. The Batman universe will miss you guys.

Comic Book Review: Secret Wars #9 (2016)

Link to the Marvel page: http://marvel.com/comics/issue/57620/secret_wars_2015_9

Secret Wars #9 concludes Marvel’s most recent universe spanning miniseries and it was great.

This is largely due to Hickman’s interpretation of the Fantastic Four. I’ve written about this in a prior blog post, but Hickman shows he truly understands the core of what makes the Fantastic Four appealing: that balance between cosmic science fiction and the intimacy of familial relationships.

Secret Wars #9 — as does much of the whole series —  focuses on these two themes. The final climactic showdown occurs with all of the most powerful aspects of the Marvel universe clashing together. Piercing it all is the final battle between Reed Richards and Doctor Doom. It’s another look into their relationship; two rivals/brothers striving for a better world and pursuing it in different ways. One method being kinder while the other is ruthless.

The ending panels explain perfectly why I love the Fantastic Four and what they represent to me. I only hope Marvel is putting together another comic book series and not trying to screw Fox (who holds the Fantastic Four movie rights) by shutting down the Fantastic Four down forever.

Score: 8.2/10

Comic Book Review: Doctor Strange #1 (2015)

I love Bachalo’s art. I’ve loved it since the Ultimate X-Men vs. the Ultimates crossover. So when I hear he is drawing a book, I am already sold. I am happy to report that this books is everything I wanted it to be, in terms of art and in terms of story.

This book is a true relaunch of the Doctor Strange character. Historically, Doctor Strange was the foremost authority of all things mystical in the Marvel Universe. His character was akin to that of Doctor Fate in the DC Comics universe. That is, Doctor Strange was a bookish, old sage of a man, a magical wizard kind of like Gandalf or Merlin. He was someone you would consult with when world ending magics were at hand.

This current incarnation of Doctor Strange is something different. He’s kind of a hipster doctor who makes house calls. The tone of the character reminds me heavily of Constantine, kind of an off color, cool dude. Doctor strange now wears a scarf not because he’s cold, but because it’s fashionable. Doctor Strange now likes hanging out in a bar versus a library. Doctor Strange also likes kissing chicks, demon chicks, but still chicks. Doctor Strange also likes fighting with swords and battle axes.

It’s an interesting take on the character and does a lot to bring him further down to earth and far more digestible for main stream audiences. It suggests a lot about what Marvel plans to do in the upcoming Doctor Strange movie. If this is the direction the film will take, I approve.

Score: 8.2/10 An interesting relaunch that keeps somethings, but changes a lot and explores a character many might not be familiar with. Bachalo’s art is great as always. A great read that I would consider buying when it comes out in trade paperback.

Comic Book Review: Secret Wars #6 (2015)

Secret Wars is great. It’s Marvel’s great comic book event this year and, thankfully, it is really great. Hickman has often times written long winded, overly complex stories and this time, I am happy to say he has not done so.

The story here has many moving parts, but all parts feel essential to the eventual conclusion. The story moves along and each plot line has just enough to keep the story moving without going into the superfluous monologues I’ve come to expect from Hickman.

Fun moments abound, from a conversation between Reed’s, the current state of the relationship between Black Panther and Namor, and the discovery of what happened to the Fantastic Four in Doom’s Battleworld. It’s all interesting developments and interesting takes on the characters.

Which leads me to the saddest bit of this book: the Fantastic Four. Most prominent in this book is the Fantastic Four’s involvement in the story. They are essential. It is my greatest fear that this will be the last Fantastic Four story, that this will be Reed’s last story. I sincerely hope that is not the case because, while I have not enjoyed most of the Fantastic Four stories, I have enjoyed Hickman’s run. It embodies what is great about the Fantastic Four: family and fantastic science fiction. Reading through Secret Wars one cannot help but feel that this is Reed Richard’s last stand. His ultimate defeat comes not from Doom, but from Disney/Marvel and their desire for money (in case you are unaware, there are rumors that Marvel is ending the Fantastic Four comic books, not for narrative reasons, but because they cannot reacquire the rights to the films and they no longer want to promote the property).

Score: 8.0/10 While many characters from the Marvel universe are present, this is a Fantastic Four story to me and it is a great one.

Comic Book Review: Batman (2011) #40

Details: Official site is http://www.dccomics.com/comics/batman-2011/batman-40

Again Snyder and Capullo, you do this to us. We, the readers, love what you’ve done with Batman. The introductions to new characters, the retelling of Batman mythos, the twists and surprises, you frighten and delight us. And now, you’ve given us one more thing: an ending.

Batman’s current story arc comes to a conclusion as Batman engages in the climactic final battle with the Joker. And just as you would expect, it comes with some twists and turns.

While the primary plot point/conclusion brought by this issue is somewhat predictable given the progression of events in the prior issues, it is the way this ending is brought about that deserves praise. The highlight of this issue — and really the whole arc — is the final fight between Batman and the Joker. Its bloody, violent, dirty, and desperate. But more than the actions taken, the words they exchange hold even greater importance. Snyder once again defines his Batman and Batman’s relationship to the Joker, giving a definitive interpretation on decades of Batman’s history and mythos. It is an amazing end to an amazing arc, which really started all the way back in the Death of the Family arc a while ago.

Score: 9.5/10 As exciting as this ending is, I’m even more excited for the new beginnings hinted at in the solicitations for Batman #41. In my opinion, this is the best comic book being released right now. There were other comics released this week (like the Avengers books) but the other books were boring to read in comparison to the hype and love this book brings me. As far as I’m concerned, Snyder and Capullo can do no wrong and I will continue to read Batman as long as they continue to write and draw it.

Spoilers

I was a little disappointed Alfred got to keep his hand. When things like that happen, I want them to occur with some permanence or else it is a meaningless act. I mean Thor lost his arm and then go t a cyborg arm. Oh well, I kind of knew it wouldn’t stay cut off. Minor gripe over.

Comic Book Review: Batman (2011) #39

Details: Published by DC Comics. Official site is http://www.dccomics.com/comics/batman-2011/batman-39

Mannnnn I have loved Snyder and Capullo’s run on Batman. I have freakin’ loved it. Arguably the best Batman run yet. And that is an amazing thing. Because when his run started, so many great Batman stories had already been told like Batman RIP and when Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne took over as Batman and Robin. It seems that no matter how much time passes, the Batman book surpasses all expectations and continues to deliver exciting, enrapturing stories. Batman is without a doubt the comic book I look forward to most each month.

*spoilers*

While still very good, this issue is likely the weakest one in the current story arc, which is saying a lot considering how much I loved it.

Short synopsis of the current story arc: Joker has returned yet again to attack Batman and Gotham and nothing is held back this time. Joker knows Batman is Bruce Wayne and he goes to the cave. And then he fucking cuts off Alfred’s FUCKING HAND. Thank goodness Alfred survives. Then Joker goes on to have a parade and Batman and gang attack to try to get the chemical from Joker’s spine in order to synthesize an antidote to the poison Joker used on the city.

Lots of fun in this issue as in the prior issues, such as watching the bat gang and the rogues gallery team up to fight the joker-ized city. As much fun as it is, the Joker continues to be a force of nature thanks to Capullo’s art. Snyder’s writing is also up to snuff as you can begin to feel Batman’s desperation as he tries to combat this new and more dangerous Joker.

Score: 8/10 Love this book. Only thing I need to read each month. Go get it. If you haven’t read the last thirty-eight issues, go get those, too.