Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: A City of Justice, A City of Love, a city of peace but there ain't peace enough, Alfred Pennyworth, Andy Clarke, Arkham Asylum, Barbara Gordon, Batgirl, batman, Batman Eternal, Blond, Brad Anderson, Brett Smith, Bruce Wayne, can't live without it, Clay Mann, DC Comics, Derek Fridolfs, Dezi Sienty, Dick Grayson, Dustin Nguyen, Giulia Brusco, Gotham, GOTHAM CITAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!, Gotham City, Hush, James Tynion IV, Jason Bard, Jason Fabok, Jason Todd, Jim Gordon, John Kalisz, Jorge Lucas, Juan Ferreyra, Kyle Higgins, Meghan Hetrick, Oh yeah, Penny One, Penny Two, places R Kelly has never ever been ever, Ray Fawkes, Red Hood, Red Robin, RM Guera, Romulo Fajardo Jr, scott snyder, Stephanie Brown, Steve Wands, The Architect, TIm Drake, tim seeley, Trickster, Wayne Manor, we all need it
Story by Scott Snyder & James Tynion
Script by James Tynion IV (21, 26), Kyle Higgins (22), Tim Seeley (23, 28), Ray Fawkes (24)
Consulting writing by Ray Fakes, John Layman, Kyle Higgins (22,23) and Tim Seeley
Art by Jason Fabok (21), Jorge Lucas (22), Dustin Nguyen (23), Andy Clarke (24),RM Guera (26), Meghan Hetrick (28),
Colours by Brad Anderson (21), Brett Smith (22), John Kalisz (23), Blond (24), Giulia Brusco (26), Juan Ferreyra (Flashback art and colours for 26), Romulo Fajardo Jr. (28),
Inks by Derek Fridolfs (23))
Letters by Dezi Sienty(21, 22, 28), Steve Wands (23, 24, 26)
Cover by Dustin Nguyen (21), Jay Fabok & Brad Anderson (22, 23), Brad Anderson (24), Clay Mann & Romulo Fajardo (26),
Published by DC
At times over the last 28 weeks it’s felt like Batman Eternal is a tremendously excited puppy, running up to every single element of the Bat universe and jumping up and down. It’s always tough with a story that’s both longform and finite to keep interest going in the first half. You have an endpoint but you also have an obligation to tell satisfying stories in their own right that also move towards that endpoint. It’s a ridiculously tough way of telling stories and is the main reason TV shows tend to have a Writer’s Room.
It’s also why Batman Eternal has a team of writers and this run of issues is where they really start to come into their own. The story has got (Almost) as wide as it can be; gang war, supernatural riot in Gotham, Commissioner Gordon exonerated (OR IS HE?!), conspiracies galore and a whole lot of people in black Kevlar being grumpy at Bruce Wayne. So, with everything laid out, what do the writers do next?
And for the most part it’s glorious.
In short order we get the following; Gordon being exonerated, Jason Bard being promoted to Commissioner, Jason Bard being revealed to be evil, The Architect being sprung on Commissioner Bard’s orders, the Architect doing some serious property damage, the reveal of another major villain being involved, something incredibly awful happening to Alfred, Jason Bard’s real loyalties being discovered, Stephanie Brown being a badass and something else EVEN awfuller happening to Alfred.
Oh and character moments galore. And the best Catwoman story I’ve read so far this year.
Let’s start with Selina, as big things are on the way for her in her own title. Seeley’s story sets up Genevieve Valentine’s run on Catwoman but does so in a way that feels organic and complete. Selina’s always been a street-level picture kind of hero and that’s exactly what she does here. It costs her, badly, and that coupled with some very well written exchanges with her dad makes her realize she needs to change her game. Selina Kyle has always been one of the smartest people in the room and now, at last, she’s decided to make it official. It’s a nice way of tying off her role here and setting up her next big plot and, aided by some excellent art from the entire team, it’s a highlight of the series so far.
Let’s look at the Bard stuff next. Jason Bard, when he was introduced, looked set to be the Ben Mackenzie/Gordon 2.0 for the comics. The revelation that he’s actually, if not evil then certainly on the wrong team, Is really nicely handled and throws some serious doubt on all his past actions. Bard’ an interesting figure that, I suspect, they aren’t close to done with. He may just be a ruthlessly ambitious asshole, he may be a tragic hero. He may even join the We Wear Black Kevlar And Hate Bruce gang by the end of the series but he’s interesting every time he shows up and remains one of the success stories to come out of the series.
The other, to the rank amazement of anyone who’s watched her treatment by DC over the last few years, is Stephanie Brown. The Ray Fawkes’ scripted 24 focuses on her and is huge fun for two reasons. Firstly because it gives Steph the chance to cut loose and fight back that she’s needed for 23 issues. The chase/debate/fight with her dad is kinetic, well thought out and confirms exactly how Steph fights; with no fear and far more brains than she’s given credit for. It’s been a long time coming but it’s great seeing her back on Gotham’s streets. Secondly because it places the C-Level villains in a really clever part of the DC villain ecology. Your Hushes, your Jokers, your Luthors? They’re big picture guys. But you need sewers backed up? Ratcatcher. You want traffic systems messed with? Trickster. It positions them less as joke gimmicks and more as very specialized high level henchmen. I’m hoping this is going to be an ongoing thing too as it bears exploring.
The last big reveal here is Hush and…it doesn’t work quite as well. Hush has always been a character so melodramatic you sort of expect crashing organ music everywhere he goes and there’s a bit of a sense of that here. Also he doesn’t seem quite right as the mastermind and I half suspect another ‘ACTUALLY, BRUCE! YOU WERE WRONG ALL ALONG!’ reveal to land in short order. Regardless, he’s actually more interesting here than he has been for some time. Juan Ferreyra does wonderful work with his flashback origin and the writers have some fun with someone who’s Batman’s intellectual equal but has none of his moral qualms. Plus his interactions with Alfred, and the scenes following them, are real ‘OH NO!’ reveals that are handled in a really fun way.
But the best issue of this run, by a mile, is 28. Seeley’s back in the main script chair and is joined by Meghan Hetrick’s wonderfully brawny art and Romulo Fajardo Jr’s subtle colours in a story that focuses on the least subtle, and the most principled, Bat family members; Red Hood and Batgirl. Hood is on his way out of the city and gets his ass good naturedly kicked by Starfire and Arsenal about the thing he doesn’t want to do; go say goodbye to Batgirl.
Batgirl has been one of the stars of this series and deservedly so. Barbara Gordon has always been one of the DCU’s best characters and, far too often, one of its least well served. Here she’s been on
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews
‘I was a Teenage Werewolf’ By PM Buchan, Jack Fallows & Michael Barnes
‘Monty’s Bank Holiday’ by PM Buchan & Phillip Marsden
‘A Krampus Carol’ by PM Buchan, Jack Fallows & Michael Barnes
‘Romance is Dead’ by PM Buchan & Trystan Mitchell
‘Fat Jackie’ by Phillip Marsden
‘People Ain’t No Good’ by PM Buchan & Jack Fallows
‘Zingo’s Dirge’ by PM Buchan & Chris Doherty
‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ by PM Buchan & Jack Fallows
‘The Frog King’ by PM Buchan & Trystan Mitchell
Krampus Pun up by Joe Whiteford
‘The Object of My Affection Part II’ by PM Buchan & Phillip Marsden
‘Framlington’s Abridged Demonology’ by PM Buchan & Joe Whiteford
Take some of the best creators on the UK circuit. Put them in a large, relatively humane bottle.
Serve over ice, between two covers.
That’s Blackout II. From the opening werewolf/booze-fueled comedy of errors to the closing panels of ‘The Object of My Affection Part 2’ this is a book that’s fiercely inventive, completely foul mouthed and pulls no punches at all. It is, in a word, great.
‘Monty’s Bank Holiday’ by Buchan and Marsden is a wonderfully unpleasant sort-of retelling of the Island of Doctor Moreau combined with a deep abiding love for alcohol. The art is rounded and friendly and the story is anything but. It sets the tone for what’s to come, especially the magnificently nasty ‘A Krampus Carol’. It’s very easy to skewer consumerist culture. It’s very difficult to do it in a way that’s funny, angry and relevant. This is all three as Buchan, Fallows and Barnes combine to tell a story of how Christmas can be (sort of) saved. If you’re not rich. And a tool.
Buchan and the deceptively chirpy art of Trystan Mitchell combine for ‘Romance is Dead’. It’s a short punchy story about love, death, a slightly cosplaying vampire and how you can never quite run far enough from your problems. Punchy and blackly funny it’s followed by ‘Fat Jackie’, Phillip Marsden’s story of an irrationally famous geordie, his fall and rise and then fall some more. This plays like Viz at its funniest and whilst the whole story is a set up for a punchline it’s worth the ride.
‘People Ain’t No Good’ is by Buchan and Fallows again and is the best strip in the book by a mile. Deceptively funny and light-hearted it’s actually a clear eyed and jet black look at abusive friendships, alcohol and what both can do for you. It’ll make you smile and then try and get you another drink. Don’t say yes.
Buchan teams with Chris Doherty for the short, horrifying ‘Zingo’s Dirge’ that shows why you should never trust clowns. EVER. SERIOUSLY. Brutal, and more so for Doherty’s light hearted art it’s a welcome gear shift in tone from ‘People Ain’t No Good’ and sets up the second best strip in the book ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ by Buchan and Fallows again is a sprint through death, a deal with the devil and another beautiful punchline. It’s a single page, there isn’t a single image that isn’t perfect and it’s worth buying the book for it just to see a perfect gag set up perfectly.
Buchan and Mitchell team again for ‘The Frog King’. A charmingly violent and sweary retelling of The Frog Prince it takes in sexism, lack of female agency, dismemberment and another killer punchline. Fast, gory and fun it’s another highlight of a very strong anthology.
‘The Object of My Affection Part II’ is the third highlight and arguably the darkest story. Esmer’s an enormous asshole and he’s starting to pay for that. As Marsden’s subtle colours and deceptively friendly art combine with Buchan’s sharp script, you get to find out just how bad he is and just how much trouble he’s in. The final scenes are all the more horrifying as a result and the book ends on a spectacularly dark, and yet still blackly funny, note.
Buchan, Fallows, Marsden, Mitchell, Doherty, Barnes and Whiteford are remarkably talented creators and that’s clear on every single page here. Foul mouthed, brutally violent, dark as Hell and twice as mean spirited it may be, but Blackout II is crammed with fantastic work. Prepare to laugh and recoil in equal proportion.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Cullen Bunn, Czarnia, DC, Lobo, Nelson DeCastro, Pete Pantzatis, Reilly Brown, The Main Man, Travis Lanham
Written by Cullen Bunn
Pencilled by Reilly Brown
Inks by Nelson DeCastro
Colours by Pete Pantzatis
Letters by Travis Lanham
Published By dc
This is a gutsy book, in both senses of the word. Firstly because any book featuring Lobo is going to have its fair share of ridiculous brutality and believe me this does. Someone is bisected, someone else has limbs ripped off and the first scene is a conversation between the lead and the severed head of his latest victim, which he electrocutes to make sure it can’t regenerate.
The electrocutee is the original Lobo, beloved anti-establishment hyper violent DC character. The electrocutor is his successor. Also Lobo.
That’s the second kind of guts, as Cullen Bunn runs headlong at the established past of the character and takes the fundamentals of it for this new version. There’s no sugar coating, no gentle removal of the Band-Aid. The old Lobo was a liar and a fraud. The new Lobo, slimmer, better looking, more angsty, is the real deal. A lot of old school fans are going to be turned off. A lot of new readers will find a perfect place to hop aboard, just as long as they’re careful of the blood all over the floor of course.
This is a really interesting set up issue,taking Lobo to Earth to kill the eight deadliest assassins in the universe. They’ve all been lured there for the same job and Lobo’s job is to take them all out before they do it. It’s clearly a set up, clearly the tip of a larger iceberg but he doesn’t care. He’s a workaholic, consumed with guilt at his past actions and burying himself in the next bout of violence. Again, gutsy move and it works. This Lobo is driven and tormented but surprisingly likable to spend time with partially because he’s weirdly sympathetic and partially because the big lug is clearly an idiot and is in huge amounts of trouble.
Bunn has a good ear for dialogue, a clear fondness for hyper violence and knows his way around stories about off the books low lifes and pseudo criminals. There’s a confidence and stride to the script that’s very welcome and he’s backed up by a phenomenal art team. Reilly Brown’s work is new to me but balances the precision and invention a book like this demands very well. Nelson DeCastro’s inks give it the detail and definition the art demands whilst Lanham’s lettering nails several different speech patterns and walks you round the complex, info-dense pages with ease.
Hands down breakout star this issue has Pantzatis though. Another name I’m not familiar with his work is astoundingly good. The flashback scene is reandered in almost pastel shades, whilst the characters, the violence they perpetrate on each other and the complex environments all have their own unique feel. It’s a remarkable job that ties the entire book together and raises every page immensely. The end result is a book that’s not just gutsy but can back up each one of its choices. A very pleasant, if blood-soaked, surprise.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Adam McGovern, Dominic Regan, Image, Lynn Brunskill, Nightworld, Paolo Leanori, Plenilunio, Steve Price
Written by Adam McGovern
Pencils, inks and letters by Paolo Leanori
Colour art by Dominic Regan
Logo and Package Design by Steve Price
Package layout by Lynn Brunskill
Published by Image
Plenilunio used to be a scholar, until his wife fell into a coma. Desperate to save her, he sacrificed his humanity and now engages in a centuries long battle with the very forces of darkness that mauled him and stole his life. A battle that is about to come to a head…
This is glorious, like David Hine crossed with Hammer horror studios at their best. McGovern’s script is on its toes throughout, moving lightning fast and throwing action beats and character moments at you from angles you never see coming. The action is fast, graceful and savage and the set up is pure pulp joy. This isn’t just the only book on the market with a speed demon as a villain, it’s the only book where that could even pretend to work.
That exuberance and sense of invention is carried across to Leanori’s art. Touching base with Kirby but never leaning on him it’s incredibly fluid, fast stuff that only adds to the scale and sense of urgency of the book. Regan’s vibrant colours help maintain that tone and the layout and design by Price and Brunskill really give the book a unique feel. It’s horror by way of Jack Kirby, Doctor Faustus by way of Luchador culture and a huge amount of fun. The children of the night don’t just make beautiful music anymore, they ROCK.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: 10th Doctor, Ariana Florean, Azzura Florean, Cerebravore, Comicraft, David Tennant, Day of the Dead, Doctor Who, Elena Casagrande, Gabby Gonzalez, Jimmy Betancourt, Michele Pasta, Nick Abadzis, Paolo Villanelli, Richard Starkings
Written by Nick Abadzis
Art by Elena Casagrande
Ink Assistance by Michele Pasta
Layout Assistance by Paolo Villanelli
Colours by Ariana Florean with assistance from Azzura Florean
Letters by Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt
‘In The Doghouse’
Written by David Leach
Layout by AJ
‘Psychic Paper Inc Claims Department’ by Emma Price
Published by Titan
Gabby Gonzalez is having A Day. The Day of the Dead to be precise, although it’s being disrupted by cereberavores, psychic parasites infecting the inhabitants of New York. Aided by the Doctor, Gabby has holed up in her father’s laundrette. There’s a dimensional bridge in there too, that seems to be the cause of the infection. That’s the good news. The better news is the Doctor just jumped through it to see what was on the other side.
The bad news?
The cerebravores have found her…
It’s a really tricky thing to adapt something for a new medium at the best of times and comics haven’t had the best luck in that regard. It’s a delight then to say that every aspect of this book nails the 10th Doctor and the atmosphere of his run on the show perfectly. Starting with the script, Abadzis manages three things in quick succession; establishing Gabby as a fun new companion, setting up a big scale adventure and showing us the 10th Doctor at a very specific time in his life. In fact, there’s a hint at the end that it may be a very unusual time as well although more on that in a second.
Gabby first off, who is immense fun and has, like all good 10th Doctor companions, family issues. However, Abadzis neatly upends the normal ‘We will dislike the Doctor until he saves us’ trajectory and has her family welcome him with open arms. Abadzis even folds a reason for it in which, looked at a certain way, provides hints as to the sort of man the Doctor would become. It’s a really smart piece of writing, refreshingly free of the dramatic baggage the show can still suffer from but still giving the characters their due.
Likewise the scale is impressive, and reminiscent of ‘Planet of the Dead’ in the best way thanks to the ticking clock aspect. Again there’s just a splash of darkness to it as well as a wonderful 10th Doctor ‘Unity will save us’ ending that works far better than a couple the show has tried. That darkness is important too, and seems to set up one of two things; either this is quite definitely the 10th Doctor at the end of his life (There’s a reference to songs ending and, like I say, a flashback or forward that’s very revealing) or it’s the 10th Doctor PAST the end of his life. Either way it’s a nice means of encoding the traditional mysteries of the show onto the page.
On the art side of things Casagrande is just as strong. Her 10 is perfect, all angles, immaculate suit, great hair and manic energy and there are some poses from the show dropped in with real elegance and subtlety. Her monsters and aliens are even more impressive and the cerebravores are a real, threatening presence in the episode. The Floreans do great work on colours too, especially in the closing scenes and Starkings and Betancourt populate each page with neatly laid out dialogue and some great, evocative sound effects. As ‘pilot episodes’ to a season go, there are few better and this is a really strong finish to a really strong opening arc.
The two one page comedy strips that round the issue out are big fun too. ‘In the Doghouse’ is admittedly an extended ad for one of the toylines but it’s a very funny one whilst ‘Psychic Paper Incorporated’ is hilarious. Here’s hoping we see more of FT in particular. Both David Leach on ‘Doghouse’ and Emma Price on ‘Psychic Paper Incorporated’ show a lightness of touch that helps immensely and closes the issue out on a hugely strong, fun note. The 10th Doctor is back. Get your running converse on.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Asgard, Atli, Ellisiv, Esad Ribic, Frigg, Girls of Thunder, Giulia Brusco, Ive Svorcina, Jason Aaron, King Thor, Malekith, Marvel, RM Rguera, Simon Bisley, Thor, VS's Joe Sarino, Young Thor
Written by Jason Aaron
“The 13th Son of a 13th Son”
Art by RM Guera
Colour Art by Giulia Brusco
“Blood and Ice”
Art by Simon Bisley
Art by Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina
Lettering by VC’s Joe Sarino
Published by Marvel
As the world turns towards the new Thor, this issue sets the stage for what’s to come. In the future, King Thor’s granddaughters (The Girls of Thunder) read stories of past deeds. But as they dig deeper they find their reading may be curiously guided…
The structure of the issue pays off instantly, giving Aaron a chance to lay out the stall for what’s to come. ‘13th Son of a 13th’ Son is a particular standout, showing the origins of Malekith. Guera’s spider-y art style and Brusco’s deep colours combine to till a story of the awful things the Dark Elves did to one another and the events that forged Malekith. It’s earthy, bloody-fingernailed fantasy and the streak of tragedy running through it is as surprising as it is welcome
“Blood and Ice” is all Simon Bisley all the time and he fits the Norse myths like an angry glove of punching and heavy metal wrapped around a fist made of spikes and mead. The story, Young Thor (With Jarnbjorn, the axe that Thor may be wielding again very soon) leading a group of Vikings into battle with the Frost Giants is simple but executed with huge muscular vigour and boisterous enthusiasm. As far as he’s concerned, it’s a victory but we, and his granddaughters, have the benefit of history…Somethine is coming and Young Thor is too close, and arrogant, to see it.
‘Unworthy’ addresses the issue of Thor no longer being worthy to wield Mjolnir. It’s the least satisfying story of the three, largely due to it being both a framing device and an opening act for the new Thor but there’s still a lot to enjoy here, especially Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina’s wonderful art. As the book closes, there’s a sense of something genuinely significant coming to it and, given the way the new Thor was decried as a gimmick that’s a real achievement. This feels significant and weighty, both a big finale and an opening act. If you’re interested in the new incarnation of Thor, I’d start here. After all, what better place to do research than the libraries of Asgard?
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Ales Kot, Bucky Barnes, Clayton Cowles, Daisy Johnson, Marco Rudy, Marvel, Nick Fury, Original Sin, Winter Soldier
Written by Ales Kot
Art by Marco Rudy
Letters and Production by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel
£2.85 or £1.99 with that SuperCardGo! Fury gave you before he…yeah…
You need to buy this book. Firstly because there is not a single comic book on the market right now that looks this extraordinary. Marco Rudy and Ales Kot have created a series that feels otherworldly from the very first panel, but done so in a way that never feels forced. Rudy’s vibrant, feverish colours and design work and Kot’s deadpan, wry script combine to create a book that looks like it’s hero feels; a man in an alien world, drowning in information and learning how to swim.
The basic concept is exactly what it was at the end of Original Sin; Buckey is the new Man On The Wall, the successor to Nick Fury as secret defender of the Earth from alien invasion. He’s the one who’ll go and seek out trouble to stop it, a far more proactive and off the books approach than Abigail Brand and SWORD. He’s the best man for the job and also clearly the most damaged man in the Marvel universe at this point. That means he’s perfect for this job, defending a planet he no longer really understands with all the ruthlessness and precision of his decades as an assassin.
But he is kind of lonely…
Kot’s work is best known for its combination of feverish invention and clear-eyed willingness to look awful things straight in the eyes. What everyone seems to forget is that he’s also really, really funny. Anyone not reading Secret Avengers (And you really bloody should be) has missed out on Hawkeye levels of comic brilliance and there’s a dash of that here too. Daisy Johnson, former director of SHIELD is a perfect foil for Bucky and Kot has a lot of fun with the surprisingly relaxed attitude Bucky has to his work. He’s a soldier who’s at peace because he’ll always be at war and that combination of serenity and scar tissue is the book’s foundation. He and Daisy are both outsiders who’ve found a new fight, as well as someone to share it with. There’s no romance to it, at least not yet, but the pair are a really entertaining platonic double act with a very nice line in interplanetary CQB tactics.
So what you have here is a book as unique as its leads. The plot combines interplanetary intrigue with a look at Bucky’s mindset, the script balances humour, horror and spectacle in equal proportion and the art is, bluntly, amazing. You won’t read anything quite like this this year. So make sure you do read this.