Posts tagged “Ardian Syaf

A Mixed Bag of Reviews

I guess my Monday deadline somehow morphed into Thursday….

Hello, readers. Guess what? I read some books! And I have opinions about them! Shocker, I know. Also, I totally lied with half those covers I posted last week. Sorry about that.

 

Batgirl #3Batgirl #3
Written by Gail Simone
Illustrated by Ardian Syaf
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99

 

I’m sad. :(

I’m sad because I really want to like this title. I really, really do. But it’s so … it’s so … I don’t know how to explain why it isn’t working for me. I guess, when it comes down to it, honestly … it doesn’t feel like Barbara. It just doesn’t feel like her to me. This new role of hers, it’s so … “forced” is the best word I can think of to describe it. It’s not Barbara—not the one I know—and that’s kind of shocking considering that Barbara Gordon is Gail Simone’s bread and butter. If anyone at all understands that character, it’s Gail—they’re practically interchangeable. Yet, as much as I want this to succeed, it just isn’t firing for me.

I wish I could explain it better … it’s just not right. It doesn’t feel right. And the writing style … there’s so much narration. That worked in Gail’s Birds of Prey when you needed the POVs of several characters, but it’s not clicking here. There’s too much of it; there’s too much telling and not enough showing. It’s so flat, and I … I don’t know how much more of this I can back. And that makes me so, so sad.

You know what else? I have read this story before. I think that’s what’s really bothering me more than anything here, is that it still feels like we’re going backwards. Which, we are—literally, we’re dialing back the clock in terms of character ages and whatnot, but I also mean to say that we’re going backwards allegorically. The stories and the progressions of these characters have taken giant steps downward. This idea of a character called Batgirl finding her footing—I have read this before. I read it in Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl run, and I even read it in Chuck Dixon’s Batgirl: Year One. Why am I reading it again? I’m not getting anything different this time, not one bit. Barbara healing and regaining use of her legs is only influencing this story on a very minor level—it isn’t enough to make these issues feel fresh or different. This issue was all about reuniting Batgirl and Nightwing. I should have been moved by it, but I wasn’t. Not even close. I put this book down, blinked a few times, and wondered what was wrong with me for leaving it feeling absolutely nothing.

So … what does one do in this situation? Do I keep reading this in the hope that once the groundwork is laid and some of the setup “fluff” is out of the way, I might have a more interesting story? Might I feel more for this character by issue #13, as opposed to issue #3, and is it even fair to have to wait that long? Ardian Syaf’s artwork has been great. Other than that, I haven’t got much. A part of me doesn’t want to give up on the title, because I do love Barbara and this is apparently the only Barbara that I’m going to get for the foreseeable future. I also have a certain level of faith and respect for Simone, and I want to be able to lean on that. But with every issue of this so far, I’ve only left feeling disappointment. And I never thought I’d say that.

 

Infinite Vacation #3Infinite Vacation #3 (of 5)
Written by Nick Spencer
Illustrated by Christian Ward
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.50

 

…And with that, an interesting idea turns into utter horse poop, as Nick Spencer fills this issue with preachy drivel and a needlessly despicable downturn that I guess is meant to be humor. Biggest waste of $3.50. To say I was mortified while reading this on the train is a massive understatement. And to top things off, I read the solicit for #4 to find it isn’t even due on the shelves until April. Buhbye; I’m OUT.

 

 

 

Magneto: Not a Hero #1Magneto: Not a Hero #1 (of 4)
Written by Scottie Young
Illustrated by Clay Mann
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99

 

I was a little worried when this was first solicited, because with a title like “Not a Hero,” my immediate thoughts were that they were turning Magneto into a villain again. That would be the worst thing you could do to the character in my opinion, and just as bad a regression as Barbara Gordon re-donning the Bat cowl. Magneto has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years, and I’ve always enjoyed him as a villain, but I find I love him even more on the side of the angels. His presence is still so very grey—he’s so ambiguous, and in the hands of a writer who knows how to use it, that’s an invaluable quality. And so I shook my fist at the sky for a bit at the thought that this wonderful drama might be taken away for something as utterly boring as Magneto turning “bad” again. Happily, upon reading this issue, I find that this is not the case. Not yet, anyway.

Our introduction to this story centers around what is something of a storytelling cliché—Magneto is being framed for murder. Exciting, right? Bet you’ve never read anything like that before. It’s okay, though, because there are things here that make up for the questionable originality, and by the end of issue one, we can see that ultimately the story is going to deal with much more than who’s framing Magneto. I have to hand it to Skottie Young—everyone knows him for his great artistic talents, but he’s making a transition to writing here, and he’s not doing a bad job of it at all. It most certainly beats out a majority of the crap you see on the Marvel shelves these days, and rather easily at that. Young has a good handle on the characters in issue one, particularly in a scene that involves Captain America and Iron Man calling out Cyclops and Mags to get their act together. The cliffhanger reveal at the end—I really should have seen it coming. I can’t believe I didn’t. It’s some good stuff.

And Clay Mann on art duties … wow. What can I possibly say to do this guy justice? In a short couple of years, he’s hands-down become one of my favorites, and every book he’s on makes me drool a little bit. He’s wonderful. He’s coming to Boston Comic Con next year, and I am getting a sketch from him if I have to wait in line all weekend. Outstanding.

Did this book blow my mind? No, but it did some things well, did other things great, and was all around an enjoyable read. I wasn’t asking for much more than that.

 

Princeless #1Princeless #1 (of 4)
Written by Jeremy Whitley
Illustrated by M. Goodwin
Publisher: Action Lab Comics
Price: $3.99

 

More happiness! Have you seen this little bit of WIN called Princeless #1? Well if you haven’t, then you’re sorely missing out.

It’s soooooo great. It’s so great. I remember reading about this on the internet somewhere and I wasn’t really planning on checking it out, but then I found it on the shelf and read the first three pages and was like OH MY GOD, THIS IS SO WONDERFUL. Three pages—that’s all it took. And, you know, that’s kind of a big deal in a situation where you’re paying four bucks for a book when you weren’t anticipating having the expense at all. But this was so worth it, and I absolutely can’t wait to have the next issue in my hands.

This is a story about a princess named Adrienne who grows up being read stories about other princesses who get locked up in towers and have to be rescued by handsome princes who slay dragons and ultimately win the princesses’ hearts. Adrienne is baffled and outraged by this idea, criticizing and belittling the stories, and makes her mother promise her not to lock her up in a tower, only … of course you know that’s exactly what happens, right? The resulting scenario is nothing short of hilarious, adorable, brave, and pretty much unlike anything else on the comic racks right now. Whitley’s writing is beyond clever, and I found myself laughing at something on every page of the book. It’s smart enough for adults to enjoy, yet still written with a young audience in mind. This is exactly the type of thing you should be giving to the little girls in your life. Introduce them to comics now, with this. And actually, I take that back—it isn’t just for little girls; not even close. Adrienne is not the only character in this book—don’t let the “princess” thing fool you. Boys will enjoy this as well, and I encourage you to pick it up to find out why.

If I could get you to read one book and only one book this week, I would give you Princeless #1, and I wouldn’t even blink.

 

Uncanny X-Force #17Uncanny X-Force #17
Written by Rick Remender
Illustrated by Jerome Ope
ña
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99

 

Since the debut of this title, I’ve had nothing but praise for Uncanny X-Force and Rick Remender. That hasn’t changed yet, and I don’t see it on horizon any time soon. Just when I think the story has reached a plateau and couldn’t possibly get any better, another issue comes out and BAM—I’m smacked in the face with the awesome.

The problem with loving a book this much is that it makes it insanely difficult to review. When you have no criticisms, there isn’t much left to say beyond shameless, unabashed gushing. And you have to admit, that’s kind of boring to read.

But I literally have nothing bad to say. There is nothing I would change about this book—not a thing. Not the writing, not the pencils, not the pacing, not the colors. Well … I suppose I might change the price … and maybe I’d make it ship twice a month, because I can’t get enough of it. But that’s all. Not much to ask.

If you’ve been subbing to this title, you know that Remender has been building up the Dark Angel Saga for quite some time—since day one, in fact. It’s some of the most well-timed and patient writing I’ve seen in recent memory. The thing I love about this book is that when I pick up an issue, I can tell that Remender has taken his time with it. He isn’t writing with collected editions in mind or decompressing the story, as one might accuse of Bendis’ Avengers titles. No; there’s a level of thought and care and precision to what Remender does, and it comes through in his scenes and character interplay. It’s harmonious. It’s a melody to which I never want to stop listening. If even a quarter of the other books Marvel puts out demonstrated this much attention to their craft, I’d be a much happier comics reader.

Jerome Opeña on art is no different. You look at these pages, and you know instantly that these babies were not rushed to meet looming deadlines. Opeña is careful, crafty, and deliberate, and the results are a joy.

On the surface, this is a black ops book. It’s assassinations and unspeakable deeds; it’s an X-Men book that’s not very X-Men-like. But read deeper, and you know these characters are about much more than that. This isn’t just about taking out threats before they become threats; this is a story of addiction, inferiority, self-worth and self-hate, fear and perceived altruism … and so much more. But Remender lets you figure that out for yourself; it’s underlying, and he doesn’t beat you over the head with it. I love that. The mark of a good writer.

Big changes are coming up for this team, and I can’t wait to find out what Remender has planned for the next year of this book. Best one on the X-shelf.

 


Reviews: Another Round of the New 52

Lots to talk about this week, and lots of changes happening the DCU.  I’ve been torn between what books to try and what to leave on the shelf, and have had to pick and choose what I think might be good enough to mock enjoyable.  I haven’t picked up the latest stuff from this past Wednesday yet, although I am looking forward to Batwoman.  I’ve heard some horrible things this week—namely about Superboy and Suicide Squad (and this about Amanda Waller, which honestly disappoints me to no end), not to mention the latest fuss over the new Birds of Prey, and that flat out makes me want to cry.  I’m trying not to cry, but it might happen.  I’m all cantankerous ‘n’ stuff.  I’ll try to make this quick:

 

Action Comics #1Action Comics #1
Written by Grant Morrison
Illustrated by Rags Morales
Price:  $2.99

 

Well now.  Who’d have thought I’d ever pick up this book?  I’m not a Superman fan, and I’m not really a big Grant Morrison fan either, so it was kind of startling to find myself actually interested in giving this a shot.  But then, how could you not be interested?  After all the controversy of rebooting this title, winding back the clock on Superman, and turning him into a “Bruce Springsteen” version of himself (creator’s words, not mine), it was kind of impossible to shy away.

So I read it.  And … it was weird.  And I don’t really know what to think, other than it feels like I was reading Batman.  Superman comes off extremely belligerent, and it’s just so strange compared to the image of him I have in my head.  I mean, what’s THIS about?

 

Superman Action Comics

(Click to enlarge.)

Right?  Huh?  I don’t know.  I get what’s happening, and I get what Morrison is trying to do, and I fully understand that this is meant to be a “different” Superman or whatever, but I’m not sure it works for me.  I’d give you a plot synopsis, except that I’m on the fence right now as to how much more I’m going to read, so I’ll just say this:  if you’ve been following along in the solicitations and previews, the plot is pretty much what you’d gather.  Mostly.  There are one or two interesting changes I didn’t anticipate, but I’ll leave them for you to discover.

Really undecided here … at the moment I’m leaning toward sticking around to see how it plays out.  I wonder how the standard Superman title will fare in comparison.

 

Animal Man #1Animal Man #1
Written by Jeff Lemire
Illustrated by Travel Foreman, Dan Green
Price:  $2.99

 

The only reason I had even a remote interest in this was because I had read a four-page preview quite a while ago that sounded very well-written.  I liked Jeff Lemire’s Superboy a lot, and once I’d heard some praise for this issue after it hit the stands, I grabbed a copy.  I’m glad I did, because this may easily be one of the sleeper hits of the New 52.  I didn’t know squat about Animal Man before picking this up, but Jeff Lemire can apparently write the heck out of an intro issue to a book, so it easily passes the “new-reader friendly” test.

Flat out:  I loved this.  It’s the one and only thing I unsparingly love so far from the new batch of DC.  It’s heartfelt, creative, intelligently written, dark, intriguing, and a host of other things.  Right away, you think to yourself—okay.  It’s a guy who can call upon the characteristics of any animal—that’s neat.  But then you read it and, as a newbie, you realize it’s going to be about so much more than that.  His powers are almost completely secondary.  I don’t want to say any more than that.

Please go pick this up.  Just go buy it.  It’s so freaking cool.

 

Batgirl #1Batgirl #1
Written by Gail Simone
Illustrated by Ardian Syaf
Price:  $2.99

 

Oh man.  This … this was tough for me.  I can’t believe what I’m about to say, but I was actually disappointed by this first issue.  I never thought I’d have reason to utter that about a Gail Simone-penned book, but … I guess there’s a first time for everything.  Ouch.

The thing is, I’m not sure I can even explain to you what it is about this that’s disappointed me.  It hasn’t particularly failed in anything.  It hasn’t really done anything wrong.  It’s actually a very good set up issue, and both Gail and artist Ardian Syaf do a lot of things RIGHT.  So why do I still come off it feeling so lukewarm?

I guess it’s a problem of the lead-up to the book having set up some very high expectations.  I think Gail was put in an impossibly difficult position in being responsible to appease all the fans who are heartbroken over what we perceive to be the loss of the Oracle persona.  But speaking only for myself, I definitely went into this expecting—nay, demanding, answers.  I wanted all the information right off the bat (no pun intended) as far as why/how she’s Batgirl again, how she was healed, was she ever with the Birds of Prey, and whether or not she ever actually was Oracle in this new continuity (supposedly the answer is yes, but we haven’t found out for sure yet).  So when I read through this issue and received basically none of those answers, it was pretty deflating.  That’s not say that Barbara’s past won’t be addressed—I give Gail way more credit than to think she’d brush it all off, and knowing her writing style, she’s going to take her time setting us up.  We’ll get there, sure, but I’m having a hard time being patient.

That disappointment aside, I will say there were definitely things I loved here.  I love the fact that Gail Simone is writing Barbara as a sufferer of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, thereby acknowledging her accident and fleshing out the reaction time between what has happened from then until now.  I love the new villain she has created for Barbara, who comes across seriously dark and awesome.  I loved the artwork, and let’s face it—it’s pretty damn cool to see Barbara Gordon swinging around in the Gotham night again.  I have a few reservations about one of the plot choices—Barbara and her new college roommate—but that’s nothing I can’t get past.  So I’m keeping my head down and I’m chugging along with this at least for the remainder of the first story arc, if not more, but I still feel a little twinge of sadness for the Oracle that I knew and miss.  I suspect that will always be there, regardless of how good this title winds up being.

We’ll see what happens next.  I’ll try to abate my sadness in the meantime.

 

Hawk & Dove #1Hawk & Dove
Written by Sterling Gates
Illustrated by Rob Liefeld
Price:  $2.99

 

… BWAHAAHAAHAHAHAAHAAA.  Next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swamp Thing #1Swamp Thing #1
Written by Scott Snyder
Illustrated by Yanick Paquette
Price:  $2.99

 

Swamp Thing.  Another surprise for me.  I’m a fan of Alan Moore and have always intended to go back and read his Swamp Thing, but it’s a little low on the priority reading list at the moment.  When this title was announced, I figured it would be a good introduction of the character for me, and I have a certain level of faith in Scott Snyder’s writing abilities.  I’m please to say he didn’t disappoint here.  The story opens up in a captivating way, and even a new reader can tell that there’s a history to this character.  I have to wonder how much I am actually missing out on by not reading any previous stories, but at the same time, I’m getting enough information here where I don’t NEED to read the earlier stuff.  I don’t need to, but the urge is certainly there.  This is comics done right—this is the way to pick up those “new readers.”  You needn’t ditch years of that “scary” and “intimidating” continuity, because a book like this is what makes you want to go back and learn and read everything you can get your hands on.  It’s really a shame more comics aren’t written in this manner.

The talented Yanick Paquette was clearly made for a book like this.  I was a little disappointed to learn that he’ll be utilizing some fill-in artists in between story arcs, but I’m hoping it won’t detract too much from the book.  Paquette’s style is definitely suited to this book—while his Superman cameo came off kind of weird-looking to me, his version of Swamp Thing is awesome.  Looking forward to issue two.

 

 

Okay, kids, that’s all I have for today.  Be thankful that that crazy Comic Junkie is out of his mind enough to be reading and analyzing every issue of the New 52 over at his blog.  Really, we ought to be thanking him for sparing us some of the torture.

One final thing before I go—don’t forget the Craig Thompson signing is this week at the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square.  If you’re interested, get your ticket early, and be sure to say hello to me if you’re going to be there.

Until next week!


It’s all Flashpoint, all the time!

Actually, it’s only Flashpoint for now.  For the next hour(s) it takes me to write this, because that’s absolutely all I can take of it.  After that, I’m reading Walking Dead and X-Men: Legacy and calling it a day.  Helloooo, four-day weekend.
 

Wonder Woman and the FuriesFlashpoint: Wonder Woman and the Furies #1 – I read this book first, despite the fact that Emperor Aquaman came out before it.  I’d seen a preview online of the first few pages and was taken in by the artwork, so I just had to grab this up, and I actually wound up loving it overall (first time I’ve enjoyed a Wonder Woman book in over a year).  The story opens up with a great scene that just so perfectly captures naïve, happy, laughing Diana and makes me miss the Wonder Woman I know and love all that much more—ironic that she’s not actually the Wonder Woman I know and love.  We’re quickly introduced to Aquaman by way of baby Kraken, and although I suspected some of what would happen (yes, Diana’s mother is killed, because apparently there’s some decree that Hippolyta must die every year), there are still some nice twists I didn’t see coming that add another layer to the story.  Good job by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning in keeping things fresh via these twists, rather than recycling the same old lazy narrative over and over.  The artwork, which piqued my interest in the first half of the book, got a little weird toward the middle and started to fall flat toward the end.  It’s an odd style to try to describe, as the backgrounds have almost a CGI feel to them, but I didn’t entirely despise it.  At least, I didn’t let it detract from the story and from the better pencils.  If you’ve picked up Emperor Aquaman and if you’re at all interested in the behind-the-scenes of the Flashpoint world, I encourage you to pick up this title.

Emperor AquamanFlashpoint: Emperor Aquaman #1 – So, it’s a good thing I read Wonder Woman and the Furies first, because this would more or less have spoiled everything otherwise.  While the former title shows us the backstory of Aquaman and Wonder Woman’s encounter, this title skips ahead into the Flashpoint world as we know it.  It’s a nasty one where Aquaman has a grudge to bear, and he shows it by drowning the heck out of Rome.  Let me take a moment to say that this is where Ardian Syaf’s pencilwork absolutely excels; Michelangelo’s Pietà floating in the background, Aquaman swimming menacingly through the water, paying absolutely no attention to the dead bodies polluting it—that stuff is gold.  Wussy, old school Aquaman?  He ain’t here.  This Aquaman is villainous, and he’s even got the butch, redundant buzzcut to prove it.  Amazing.  You absolutely should read this if you want to have any hope of understanding the war between the Atlantians and Amazons.  It isn’t a masterpiece by any means, nor is the end “surprise” of the issue anything that you couldn’t already deduce, but this slightly above middle-of-the-road work is sufficient for a tie-in and the writing is decidedly better than some of the other stuff running.  Let’s see what happens next issue.

Deadman and the Flying GraysonsFlashpoint: Deadman and the Flying Graysons #1 – Umm… I honestly don’t know what I just read.  Maybe I’m zoning out because I read it so late last night and was on the verge of falling asleep, or maybe it’s just because the book was completely uninspired.  Wow.  Yeah, that was genuinely bad … then again, I saw “J.T. Krul” written on the cover and didn’t expect much, so I guess I wasn’t let down.  I generally like the guy’s story ideas, but his execution is typically poor.  There’s just too much that doesn’t fit or doesn’t feel natural, particularly some of the dialogue.  It’s too forced.  Too rushed.  I wasn’t buying it, and that makes me sad, because this is DEADMAN and the FLYING GRAYSONS, for goodness’ sake.  This should be AWESOME!  But … it’s not.  And aside from like, one page, it’s completely unessential reading.  We waste half the book on nothing—absolute nothing, because the set up (happy Grayson family juxtaposed with cranky egotistical Boston Brand) could have been accomplished in four pages instead of the ten it took.  Boring, and so very cookie-cutter.  The only positive I can give this title at all is that the rendering on the artwork was rather lovely.  Unfortunately, that alone is not worth my time.  Passing on the rest of this.

Lois Lane and the ResistanceFlashpoint: Lois Lane and the Resistance #1 – Now here’s one that really confuses me.  This is written by the same team who did Wonder Woman and the Furies, so I expected something more than what I actually got from this issue.  Maybe it’s the pressure of writing two three-issue tie-ins at the same time with a limited window in which to get them done and published, but … that’s really no excuse, is it?  I was let down by Lois Lane and the Resistance.  Especially when you look at the cover.  Check that out.  I’ll be among the first to tell you not to fall for what you see on a cover, but that totally sets you up for something different than what’s being offered here, at least so far.  I also hated the interior art, and the entire thing overall just felt so … 1991.  The story itself?  Nothing to write home about.  Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen are trapped in Europe when Aquaman’s big drowning wave hits, and Jimmy Olsen bites the bullet.  Did I just spoil that?  No, I promise you I didn’t, because his scene—which should have been emotional and tragic—just fell completely flat and took place in all of one panel where you don’t even see him.  You just see water, and Lois Lane cries “JIMMY!  OLSEN!”  Disappointing.  What feels like two minutes after that rush of flood and death, the big bad Amazons appear out of nowhere and “rescue” the select people they see fit to rescue.  I put “rescue” in quotation marks because these Amazons are just so darn mean and tough and bad that it really isn’t a rescue so much as arguable enslavement.  And in the context of the story, none of this makes any sense.  Groan.  As let down as I was by this issue, I’ll still probably check out the next one to see if it gets any better.  I demand to see a badass Lois Lane leading a Resistance at some point in this mess.  Let’s get on that.

 

The score is Likes:  2, Dislikes:  2.  That’s a better result than I anticipated, though I suspect it would be heavily swayed toward the latter if I were to read more of these.

Okay—I’m out!  Everyone be sure to fire up those grills and have a safe and happy Fourth of July.  Go out and get some sun!