Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Batman 23.2: Riddler #1

I know, I know, another comic review. For a blog about whatever I read, I sure do read a lot of comics. This time, though, it's one I felt I really needed to talk about.

With the conclusion of "Trinity War," the DC universe is overrun by villains, and the heroes are presumably dead. Suffice to say, that won't take, but the writers are using this time to focus on the villains of their comics, creating several in-between issues dedicated to them for their "villains month." In this case, we have an issue of Batman focusing on The Riddler.

Now, I like The Riddler. I cosplay as him, and I've stocked up on quite a few riddles for those moments. This comic gave me a few new ones to use, and out of the five riddles presented to us at the start of the comic, I managed to solve three of them, though they are all well-crafted. (I'm also glad that the design they used for this issue is similar to the version I cosplay. I couldn't stand how he looked earlier on in the reboot, with his hair cut into the shape of a question mark.)

Snyder and Fawkes use this issue to not only show Edward Nigma, aka The Riddler, as he carries out a heist. It shows his thought process and plans as he carries out each step expertly, in a manner befitting his intelligence. He's not just leaving riddles around for Batman to know where he'll strike, he incorporates each riddle into his plans without basing the plans around them; the closest we get to them being set for anyone to find is when they appear on the security monitors, otherwise he asks them to either the other characters or himself as he carries out his plan. This makes his M.O. all the more effective, while still remaining true to continuity and character.

It can be hard to make a villain whose theme is "riddles" appear threatening and effective, but this comic does it quite effectively. I could believe everything was calculated, without him being the type of character who claims everything that happens works right into his plans; the unexpected can and does happen with every plan, and his is no exception.

The believability is made possible with the look into his mind the comic provides us with. I put it down feeling I had a better understanding of the character, and very entertained by his plans and heists. This makes a nice companion to "Forever Evil" without having to connect to it completely. If you want to read a Villains Month issue that can be enjoyed on its own and gives some nice character exploration, this is one to read.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Deadpool #7

If you've been following my blog, scarce though my updates may be, you'll probably note that I only do single-issue reviews of a comic if it's a really good issue.

This is one of those.

Deadpool #7 takes a time-out from the ongoing story arc, framed as an "inventory issue" from the "late '70s/early '80s," and published now to buy the creative team some time. As such, the entire issue is a lovingly-crafted callback to an earlier time in comics. Everything is designed to look like it was made in that time period, but with the Deadpool being Deadpool, well, he's still got plenty of anachronistic references to throw out there.

This issue ties in to the classic "Demon in a Bottle" Iron Man storyline, with Deadpool hired to make sure Tony Stark doesn't quit drinking. Mind you, that doesn't stop the writers from throwing in plenty of other characters from the Marvel universe, from Spider-Man to the Power Pack, and even Cable, who sports a very 90's look to him, especially since he wasn't even created at that point, but since he is a time traveler… wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey.

Along with the brilliantly old-timely artwork, what sells this issue is the excellent dialogue. It manages to seem perfectly in-place with the time it's supposedly set in, without seeming forced or dry as a result. Peter Parker gets some great lines at the beginning, Tony Stark's snark is strong, and Deadpool, well, they have Deadpool's dialogue as an art form by this point.

There's even a brief scene where it looks like Deadpool's going into one of those old comic strip commercials that have heroes saving the day with whatever they're advertising. The way it was worked in was perfectly-timed, and the scene was executed wonderfully.

Oh, and be sure to read the letters page. The issue is from the 80's, so the letters are too.

Am I going on about this comic too much? Okay, so maybe I'm heaping on the praise, but frankly, this comic earned it. It was fun, it was entertaining, and there's a lot of heart in this issue. It was enjoyable every step of the way, and re-reading it for this review, it just gets better. Whether or not you follow Deadpool's comics each time a new one comes out, or if you're just a casual reader of comics, this is a great one to get.

Until next time, this has been whatever I read.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Age of Ultron (and what I've been up to lately)

Hey, look, an actual post! Yeah, this blog is still up and running, although very slowly. It's not that I haven't been reading, of course, just that I've had so much else to do that I haven't had the time to write any reviews. Still, here's something.

So, what have I been reading in this time? Well, I picked up plenty of Love Hina omnibuses, which is a series from one of my favorite mangaka; I'll write a full review of that series later, although it's an older one. I've also been reading the Dresden Files books, which I've found quite entertaining, although I doubt I'll review any of them any time soon.

I've also been following plenty of comics, aside from my last post about Throne of Atlantis. So before I get to the main review, I'll do a quick glance at some of those.

Hawkeye: an excellent look at the life of Clint Barton when he's not wearing a mask and acting as an Avenger, showing a more vulnerable and human side to a man without powers who fights among supers.

Swamp Thing and Animal Man: While Rotworld ran for quite a while, it had some excellent moments (Green Lantern Frankenstein, anyone?), and the conclusion that came out this week brought about a nice end. So much so that I think I'll give the series a break for now.

Cable and X-Force: I have mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, I don't really care about Cable (at least when he's not teamed up with Deadpool) and I'm not fond of the new outfits. But it has Doctor Nemesis, and the good doctor is awesome in so many ways; that's what's been keeping me reading.

Thunderbolts: Surprisingly better than I expected; maybe it's just Deadpool's presence, but it's been entertaining enough to keep me reading.

Justice League of America: The first issue proved interesting enough to keep me on for at least another issue; a nice introduction to a promising team, with the settings for a big showdown later on.

All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men: the fallout after AvX continues, with the X-Men of old looking upon their future selves and getting freaked the hell out. Meanwhile, Cyclops continues to go off the deep end, but things are looking interesting as new mutants emerge.

Wolverine and the X-Men: If you need me to tell you how great it is, that means you haven't been reading it. Why aren't you reading this comic? Go out, get the paperbacks, catch up with the comic, and start following it. Seriously, it's great.

Deadpool: Same as WatXM.

Okay, now that I've given you a brief overview of some of the titles I've been following, time to take a look at the first issue of Marvel's newest event: Age of Ultron. For those unfamiliar with Ultron, I'll give a quick overview: Hank Pym built a robot, the robot is super-powerful and super-evil, and it occasionally stops by to try and wipe out and/or enslave humanity. That's the very short version of it, but frankly, I don't know enough about Ultron myself to give you a more complete version.

Issue 1 features a nice and shiny cover, featuring a pile of defeated heroes, with the reflection of Hawkeye in Ultron's shiny face as he readies an arrow. Will the purple archer be the hero this time around? Well, judging by the role he plays, it could very well be.

The story begins "in media res." That is, we start off in the middle of the story, with no idea how it reached that point. It's a storytelling device used to build intrigue and mystery before offering an explanation. We see a world in shambles, where society has crumbled and only the ruthless remain.

This is a world that has reached such a low point, the heroes of it are doing one of two things: either hiding away in shame and fear, or taking lives. Hawkeye, in this case, is one of the latter; he's unafraid to kill if it means getting to his goal, although in this case, that goal means rescuing a friend.

We also see Hammerhead and The Owl, two villains who are typically C-list at best, running gangs and making deals with Ultron in order to survive just a bit longer. If these are the villains still alive, one can only wonder what happened to the rest.

The world is policed by robotic drones, content to wipe out any and all organics. There's also a threat of being infected by something, although whether it'll make the victims go Matrix Agent on everyone or just plain die has yet to be explained.

This is a "darkest hour" story. Spirits have been broken, and heroics are no more. Even the unbreakable have fallen, whether physically or spiritually. It is not a light and happy story about heroics.

So what is it that makes Hawkeye the best character to follow in this world? How is it that he can continue to fight when even the bravest now cower? I believe that it is because Hawkeye is "just human" that allows him to do this.

The other heroes tend to have powers to back them up. Even Iron Man has his suit and his mental link with electronics; all Hawkeye has is a bow and arrow he can aim well with. To him, every super villain who he has to face overpowers him as much as Ultron overpowers the others. He is used to the odds being stacked against him, and that is how he has the strength to keep fighting even now.

That said, we still don't know how Ultron wrecked the planet, unless there's a comic that I missed leading up to it, in which case, please let me know. Hopefully this will be shown in detail later, but until then, I'll casually follow this, just to keep in the loop.

There are also plenty of Age of Ultron tie-ins, but each of them are marked with "AU," which would indicate "alternate universe," unless I'm mistaken. Feel free to speculate as to what that means, but my assumption is that things will get wibbly-wobbly and timey-wimey before the reset button is hit and everything returns to normal.

Whether or not you'll like Age of Ultron depends on your taste in comics. If you like hopeless, last stand, gritty sorts of comics, you'll probably enjoy this; it's well-written, for what it is, and the artwork is fine. If you prefer to have some fun with what you read, though, then you'll probably want to give this a pass.

Until next time, this has been whatever I read.