BATMAN (2016- ) #88 review

Batman (DC Comics)

BATMAN (2016- ) #88 review

Batman #88 is available now where all good comics are sold!

Synopsis

The conspiracy that will rock Batman’s world continues to unfold as the Dark Knight travels to Arkham Asylum to get answers from the Penguin! What dark secret does he share with The Joker, the Riddler, and…Catwoman? Plus, the plague of assassins descending upon Gotham City in its weakest moments continues! Will this be the moment when Deathstroke finally takes down Batman?!

Review

James Tynion IV continues his Batman run by cleverly crafting story which is both a slow burn but also has pay-off in each issue. There are so many facets to the story that it’s a pure joy to read this book at the moment.

Three issues in and Tynion has made it clear that his Batman will not follow the blueprint of Tom King’s 85-issue arc. Despite the slow burn there’s a different aesthetic and a different tone to where we are right now. There is much more immediacy to the story he is telling right now and it still feels like a breath of fresh air for the long-running series.

This issue focusses on the burgeoning issue that Selina Kyle is about to have in her relationship with Bruce. We’ve come to understand that a group of villains signed up with a mysterious (and as-yet-unseen) villain known as The Designer. We know this group involves Catwoman, Joker, Riddler, Penguin and more.

Whilst the storyline arguably sets Tynion up to feature an all-star villain roster in his run it also present Batman with some huge personal conflict.

A huge takeaway from King’s run has been pairing up the Bat and the Cat on a more permanent basis. Now we find that the new status quo is already facing its first challenge and it will be interesting to see how the new tone handles any potential fallout from Selina’s involvement with The Designer.

Given that King as his own Bat/Cat book coming later this year it’s most likely safe to say that the pairing will survive this pothole in the road to happiness.

At this stage its unfair to continue to compare the “City of Bane” arc and what Tynion is doing with the book. In the space of three issues he’s brought Batman out from the shadow of Tom King and made it entirely his own.

The new sensibility to Bruce, the focus on more Bat-gadgetry and the new status quo in his personal relationships have all ensures this new era stands far apart from what has come before.

Going back to my earlier point, the arc is very much made up of well defined chapters. This chapter focusses on Selina’s strong sense of self preservation and how that leads her to explore who is currently pulling the strings.

The story in this issue is incredibly simple but also equally effective. It’s driven by that overriding sense of impending doom she has at hearing the name The Designer and how it sets her on the path to accepting responsibility for her previous actions even though it could redefine her relationship to Bruce.

The issue is punctuated by the incredible artwork of Guillem March with Tomeu Morey’s colours. It doesn’t feel too far removed from that previous arc (we won’t mention it again) but shows off a much stronger colour palette befitting of the tonal shift in the story.

The overall product feels more fun but without becoming comedic or less impactful. There’s much less of a heavy weight on the reader in terms of following the story and in its subject matter.

Verdict

Tynion continues his incredible run on Batman with an issue that brings The Dark Knight out of the shadows of the “City of Bane” era and in to a brighter, more exciting future.

8/10

Batman #88 is written by James Tynion IV with pencils and inks by Guillem March and colours by Tomeu Morey. Cover art is by Tony Salvador Daniel, Danny Miki and Morey.


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Suicide Squad (DC Comics)

SUICIDE SQUAD (2019) #2 review

“There’s No Love In Team!

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Bruno Redondo
Color Artist: Adriano Lucas
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Review by Max Byrne

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” sang Roger Daltrey back in 1971. Well, those words were certainly prophetic when examined through the prism of Suicide Squad #2. With issue #1 seeing the stalwart Amanda Waller stepping down from her position as the head of Task Force X, this new instalment is the start of the Lok era. One hell of a mysterious taskmaster, enigmatic and cold as ice, one certainly feels that Tom Taylor is going to have a lot of fun peeling back the layers with this character as the weeks unfold. With a blank canvas to work with regarding his backstory, it does feel as though this will help with the sense of re-invigoration this title has already been given.

Speaking of which, the new recruits to the team have certainly begun to make their presence felt in a big way. Throwing in a generous helping of vibrant, fresh characters along with the old favorites is the equivalent of throwing a hand grenade into an erupting volcano, carnage will inevitably ensue. The combustible nature of the thrown together Squad is palpable, as Taylor does an excellent job of loading up his dialogue with tense exchanges, barbed comments and simmering rage.

A prime example is the entertaining and venomous exchanges between Fin and Shark, following Shark’s ravenous devouring of Fin’s twin brother in issue #1. Taylor manages to illicit a great deal of sympathy for Fin, having lost his telepathically linked twin, leaving him bereft and confused. With Shark revelling in his murderous act, it’s literally just the sub-dermal explosives that are keeping them from tearing each other apart. The dark humour that befits both the title and the author is very present too, as Taylor finds the humour in the most dark and violent situations.

With such an action-oriented title, an artist is needed that can provide the snap, crackle and pop required. In Bruno Redondo, DC have certainly found the right man for the job. His knack for drawing a combat scene is unparalleled. With panel upon panel filed with hails of bullets, crunching blows and explosions galore, Redondo has certainly got his hands full. I’ve mentioned this before, but I adore the swathes of onomatopoeic words that accompany the action, with a liberal helpings of “bang”, “brrrt” and “cruunch” present at every turn.

With a cliffhanger of an ending that changes the dynamic of the team dramatically, as well as setting up a future reckoning, the fates of Deadshot and Osita are certainly going to be on the line once the truth of the mission’s denouement comes to the attention of Lok. Seeing a mission-oriented man like Floyd Lawton taking the action he did at the end of the issue was a real shock, and I, for one, am certainly looking forward to seeing where they go with the truth as the future rolls on.

Conclusion

Suicide Squad #2 is a high quality continuation of the sterling work done by Taylor et al in issue #1. Fast paced and fun, with a deeper level of pathos behind the body count, I’m extremely optimistic for the future of this book. With the title once again becoming a hot property, it won’t be long before it is up there with our favorites as a true flagship title for DC.

8/10


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Amazing Spider-Man (Marvel Comics)

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2018-) #37 review

Amazing Spider-Man #37 is available now where all good comics are sold!

Synopsis

There are too many problems in New York City and Spidey can’t be in four places at once– unless he CAN?! Peter’s life is as complicated as ever but can science be the answer? It’s a new year and the buildup to “Last Remains” and much more starts here!

Review

The Amazing Spider-Man series is an interesting beast. It often presents Spidey in some of the biggest scale stories of his career. Huge action set pieces, big character arcs which often involve aspects of the wider so-called Spider-verse. So its rare that we find an issue which stops to take a breather and look inwards.

With his current school project, Parker has a device in his possession which analyses all possible outcomes of a situation from across the multiverse. With this tech he’s able to predict upcoming crimes as well as troubles at home and basically anything which the story requires.

But rather than have the device take him on some wild goose chase, writer Nick Spencer instead takes the opportunity to have the character look inwards.

Parker is notoriously tough on himself, as high achievers often are, but the Amazing Spider-Man series moves at such a pace that he’s rarely able to do so for more than a couple of panels.

With the device Parker amiably takes down a whole bunch of weird and wonderful criminals and also helps out members of the general public with issues he is able to predict. It’s quirky, funny and at times heartwarming to see how much Parker just wants to help.

But the book really comes in to its own as he debates using the device to help carve out some time in his private life. Through much of the story Parker laments those he has let down in recent weeks. Aunt May and M.J. being two of those.

It culminates in a small but touching moment where Parker and M.J. do some TV streaming over video chat whilst she is away working. It’s the first quality time the two have spent together in months and of course there’s a punchline to the joke. But to get there the series asks some interesting questions about what Spider-Man needs to do in order to have a life.

There’s plenty of action boiling away in the background as the series heads towards its “Last Remains” arc. But for now this much more inwards looking issue is a breath of fresh air.

Verdict

Amazing Spider-Man #37 finds Peter Parker looking inwards and assessing the priorities in his life. It’s a much needed breather following a series of large scale stories and poses some interesting questions about his future.

6/10

Amazing Spider-Man #37 is written by Nick Spencer with art by Ryan Ottley. Ottley also provides cover art for this issue.


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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW Publishing)

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (2011-) #101 review

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #101 is available now where all good comics are sold!

Synopsis

Welcome to the new world of TMNT! After the cataclysmic events of TMNT #100, the Turtles find New York City drastically changed—new factions and enemies are on the rise, and allies are in short supply. The Turtles discover that in order to survive they will need to work together like never before!

Review

Regular GYCO readers will know that I used to review Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics religiously. I’ve followed this recent run all the way back to its first issue and have stuck with it through the good times and the bad.

I stopped reviewing the series around issue #50 when I felt that is was going in narrative circles. Setting up huge events and climactic battles which would lead in to a relative period of calm and then repeat. For the next fifty issues Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has done just that. Following Splinter’s time leading The Foot and circling a potential return for Shredder.

But finally, with its landmark 100th issue, the series has done something different. Writers Kevin Eastman, Sophie Campbell and Tom Waltz took a brave step and implemented some misdirection to pull off a huge coup. Now with both Shredder and Splinter dead, the series finds itself in issue #101 treading a new path.

A new status quo has been set and finally it’s taking us somewhere we’ve never been before with the series. There’s now five turtles thanks to the addition of Jennika (not Venus de Milo like the TV series) and the landscape of New York has forever been changed by events of the previous arc.

We’re now in a kind of post-apocalyptic version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles universe. One where humans are outnumbered, at least in certain parts of the city. Thousands more people are having to adjust to mutant life and the prejudices that come along with it.

This first issue of the latest arc finds the series at its most politically aware, constructing walls to barricade mutants in to sections of the city where families are ripped apart based on whether they were infected by mutagen or not. It all stands are a perfect analogy for societal issues in contemporary America and praise to the writers for going head first into some tricky territory.

The titular Turtles are consequential in this story. This issue is very much about giving the audience an understanding of the new landscape of the book. There’s some small tidbits of information about how the four leads are coping with the loss of Master Spliter, spoiler alert… not well.

Raphael has the most exposure here as he’s still within the limits of the mutant city. Acting as a vigilante as only he could in this situation.

The others are now living in the countryside attempting to move on with their lives. This issue sets the groundwork for a lot of soul searching and potential character development as it makes it very clear that the deaths of the 100th issue have not, and most likely will not, be undone.

This is easily the most excited I’ve been to read a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles book in a long, long time…

Verdict

Coming out of its landmark 100th issue Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has a new creative vigour and a new outlook on life. An intriguing start to a new chapter for the Heroes in a Half Shell.

7/10

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #101 is written by Kevin Eastman, Sophie Campbell and Tom Waltz with art also by Campbell.


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Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BOOM! Studios)

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (2019-) #11 review

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #11 is available now where all good comics are sold!

Synopsis

HELLMOUTH TIE-IN! KENDRA THE VAMPIRE SLAYER IS HER! There’s a NEW SLAYER in town – and it’s up to TEAM KENDRA to save the day! The all-new team of Willow, Cordelia and Kendra make their First Appearance together to save Sunnydale – but it also might be their last!

Review

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its sister series, Angel, have done an excellent job of managing their ensemble casts during the Hellmouth crossover event. Both series have taken the opportunity of focussing on other characters to present some unique stories.

With Buffy the focus has very much been on Giles, Xander and Willow up to this point. But now focus shifts to the debut of the TV series first replacement Slayer, Kendra.

The character is not well reimbursed from her TV incarnation, played admirably by Bianca Lawson. Her one-note accent being the butt of many jokes (“That’s me only shirt!”) and her quick disposal at the hands of Drusilla being the butt of many others.

Jordie Bellaire does exactly what I hoped she would and injects all of the creativity of the BOOM! Studios Buffy line in to the character and presents her as something fresh and unique. She also presents an interesting problem for Robin Wood.

To a degree it’s a shame that the character has lost some of the voice she featured in the series. But given that she was one of the weakest female characters on the show, this version is much more empowered and it works in her favour.

She carries much of this issue in place of Buffy and I didn’t find my interesting waning as I was reading.

This issue also brilliantly calls back to the third season episode “Beauty and the Beasts” in which a Sunnydale High student regularly loses control of his anger and changes appearance to become something more demonic. Here it’s presented as a consequence of the Hellmouth’s effect on the residents of Sunnydale rather than a reaction to a substance of some kind.

Up to now Robin has been a more quiet and considered character. Only last issue did we see that begin to crack as Kendra arrived and revealed that he was a Watcher. Given his understanding of how Slayers are called, and his feelings for Buffy, he’s left pretty distraught by Kendra’s appearance in town.

His scenes in this issue portray a building tension which culminates in the moment he loses control in front of Xander, Willow and Kendra. It’s a prime example of how Bellaire understands the analogy for Joss Whedon’s world representing the trials and tribulations of being an adolescent.

Both Xander and Willow are relegated to a B-plot in which the two finally fall out over sharing a soul. Although much of this is down to the influence of the Hellmouth being active it’s still a huge tension relief for the series.

It stills feels a little odd to see these characters we know so well entering entirely new territory. The uncertainty over the futures of both characters is unnerving to say the least but I continue to applaud Bellaire for making unique decisions.

Verdict

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #11 presents a well rounded ensemble cast more than capable to hold the book in the absence of its lead character.

7/10

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #11 is written by Jordie Bellaire with art by David Lopez. Cover artwork is by Marc Aspinall.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #11 cover art by Marc Aspinall

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Batman (DC Comics)

BATMAN (2016- ) #86 review

Batman #86 is available now where all good comics are sold!

Synopsis

It’s a new day in Gotham City, but not the same old Batman. With Bane vanquished and one of his longtime allies gone, Batman has to start picking up the pieces and stepping up his game. Batman has a new plan for Gotham City, but he’s not the only one. Deathstroke has returned as well, under a mysterious new contract that could change everything. 
Beginning a whole new chapter in the life of the Dark Knight, the epic art team of Tony S. Daniel and Danny Miki are joined by new series writer James Tynion IV!

Review

It’s always a nervous time when a new writer takes on a huge book like Batman. There’s 80 years of history to maintain and an audience yearning for something new who needs pleasing. Will fans of Tom King’s run like the new direction? Will it please those who felt King’s story meandered to its conclusion in issue 85?

From my point of view: I enjoyed King’s run but was equally excited to see what new writer, James Tynion IV, would do with The Dark Knight.

Issue #86 kicks off Tynion’s run in epic style. It sets up an overall mystery which will bring out some of Batman’s A-list rogues in the coming months, it also tells a (mostly) self-contained story featuring Deathstroke and makes sure to reference recent events.

The “City of Bane” arc had a huge impact on the character so it was important to me to see Tynion to continue to show the impact of those events, particularly the passing of Alfred. Tynion’s Bruce has an edge to him which clearly comes off the back of what he experienced over the last year. It feels like a natural progression for the character given what he has been exposed to but it also, importantly, feels natural to the story.

When Bruce mistakenly calls out Alfred’s name on comms it was very much a heart in the throat moment. There’s still grieving to be done and it’s going to be interesting to see where it takes the character. Whether that is a dark place or somewhere more hopeful, I have every faith that Tynion is the right guy to take him there.

Given the importance King placed on the relationship between Bruce and Selina it’s interesting to see them function as a team here. The way they operate also feels like a natural progression from where King left them and it seems, for now at least, that Tynion has a great grasp on taking the story forwards.

If there were any fears this issue would feel like a mild reboot those were assuaged very early on.

There’s an interesting roster of supporting cast members in this issue too. Cheshire, Merlyn, Gunsmith and Mr. Teeth all working alongside Deathstroke as Batman’s case-of-the-week. Taking them down allows the book to bring in Lucius Fox and introduce some much needed Bat-tech to proceedings.

It’s been a while since Batman relied on his gadgets as King favoured a more street level, fists at the ready Batman. Tynion has a great balance of both the brains and brawn but I did get a kick out of the Nightclimber and Shadowcasters he implemented during those scenes.

Tony S. Daniel (pencils), Danny Miki (inks) and Tomeu Morey (colours) do an outstanding job of rendering this new version of Batman and the world around him. Outdoor scenes feature a lot of rain and bring a noir-sequence vibe to the issue, whilst party scenes with Selina feel more colourful and well inhabited. It’s by far one of the best issues I’ve read in quite some time and really got me excited for what’s to come next.

The issue also features an epilogue which teases a certain villain who is currently collecting a lot of awards nominations. It’s merely a tease for a larger part of the story but on top of the rest of the story it really whets the appetite for Tynion to get stuck in to the mystery of the villains plans for Gotham.

Verdict

The Dark Knight returns renewed, refreshed and with a new vigour in Batman #86. James Tynion IV sets up an intriguing mystery, brings the action and invents new Bat-gadgets all in the space of one issue. A great start to an exciting new arc.

9/10

Batman #86 is written by James Tynion IV with pencils by Tony Salvador Daniel & Guillem March, inky by March and Danny Miki, colours by Tomeu Morey. Cover art is by Daniel, Miki and Morey.

Batman #86 cover art by Tony S Daniel, Danny Miki and Tomeu Morey

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SUICIDE SQUAD (2019) #1 review

Review by Max Byrne

  • Writer: Tom Taylor
  • Artist: Bruno Redondo
  • Colour Artist: Adriano Lucas
  • Letterer: Wes Abbott

Following on from the white hot success of DCeased, a title that captured both the headlines and the imaginations of comic book fans the world over, it must surely have been the case that Tom Taylor could have had his pick of whatever DC property he wanted to write next. With his stock at an all time high, Taylor’s next move was guaranteed to be big news. In a move that is mutually beneficial both for himself and DC, he has taken on Suicide Squad, a title that, whilst hugely well known and the subject of one feature film and another due to drop in 2021, had seen its most recent run cancelled after a mere 50 issues.

That cancellation and subsequent resurrection has given Taylor carte blanche to take any direction he sees fit to do, and Suicide Squad #1 really does set his stall out for what kind of title this is going to be moving forward. This is darkly humorous, extremely gorey and very knowing and self aware stuff. In other words, a perfectly pitch reboot of the title! From the wonderful cover art that literally spells out that “By the end of this issue…half of this team’ll be dead!” to the liberal helpings of sudden and graphic deaths, this is highly deferential material that almost knowingly winks at its audience.

Very much a mixture of old and new, Taylor spends the first half of the issue introducing us all to a motley crew of ne’er do wells and rotters, allowing us to get familiar with them before the reaper’s axe starts to fall. Osita, Chaos Kitten, Scale & Fin, Jog and Wink all make their debuts and arrive as fully formed, distinctly individual characters. Part of a disparate band of terrorists named The Revolutionaries, they have cut a swathe across the planet, destroying Oil Fields, freeing illegals from detention centres and acquiring nuclear warheads. Always soembody with a keen eye for new talent, it isn’t long before Amanda Waller and Task Force X make it their mission of the day to capture them alive (or dead if needs be) and make them the newest Squad recruits.

It is this collision of teams that provides the catalyst for the onset of utter carnage, as old familiar favourites such as Deadshot and Harley Quinn collide with the new breed. The mixture of Taylor’s snappy dialogue and Bruno Redondo’s vibrant and graphically violent artwork make the perfect storm. Each character’s demise is accompanied by snarky exchanges of dialogue that caused this reader to laugh out loud on more than one occasion. The colour work of Adriano Lucas works beautifully too, every panel leaps off the page through the use of bright, bold colours. A dour, cerebral comic this is not, this is more of an explosion of fun.

Suicide Squad #1 is everything I had expected it to be and more. No stranger to killing off characters in the most imaginative of ways, Taylor has laid down a marker here that bodes very well for the future of the book. Always managing to stay just about on the right side of going too far over the top, this is going to be a title that consistently entertains. The transient nature of the squad line-up means that there will be constant ins and outs, maybe even on a weekly basis, so whatever you do, don’t get too attached to anybody….

8/10


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Star Trek: Picard - Countdown (IDW Publishing)

STAR TREK: PICARD – COUNTDOWN (2019) #1 review

You can pickup your copy of Star Trek: Picard – Countdown #1 now where all good comics are sold!

Synopsis

You’ve seen the trailer… now, witness the events leading to CBS All Access’s Picard. Before he retired to his vineyard, Jean-Luc Picard was the most decorated admiral in Starfleet. Then one mission changed his life forever. The Countdown starts here!

Review

Easily the most anticipated TV event of 2020, Star Trek: Picard is getting the comic book treatment in order to catch the audience up on what’s been going on since we last saw the character.

IDW has been doing some excellent work with the Trek universe of late so I was excited to see how they would handle the legend of Jean-Luc Picard and his transition in to a more contemporary Trek world.

Over the decades Picard has been tied very closely to two major alien species within the universe. First and foremost: the Borg and secondly the Romulans. When we last saw the Captain (now Admiral) in 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis he was staring down the barrel of a Romulan disaster in the form of his own clone, Shinzon (played by a young Tom Hardy).

In 2009’s Star Trek, directed by J.J. Abrams, we know that Romulus was destroyed and this is what sent Nero (Eric Bana) back in time and created what we now know as the Kelvin Timeline.

Where we find Picard at the beginning of this issue, Romulus is facing a similar apocalyptic event. Picard and the crew of the USS Verity are helping to evacuate populated words in the sector in order to ensure the future of the species.

There’s a handy cameo from Geordie LaForge to remind readers of The Next Generation, something which the TV series is set to steer away from. The idea of cameos from former characters is much less intrusive in the comic, it could be argued this is loosely cannon but also with only a fraction of the potential TV audience reading it doesn’t have as larger impact on the narrative.

It feels very much in the vein of how each of the Star Trek TV series would pass the baton to the next during their pilot episode. This is particularly poignant when the next scene introduces us to Lieutenant Commander Raffi Musiker. If that name sounds familiar to you that is because Raffi will appear in the TV series, played by Michelle Hurd.

When we attended the Star Trek Universe panel at NYCC earlier in the year the cast and crew kept quiet on Raffi’s relationship to Picard. But here we learn that she is his first officer on the Verity.

This level of detail, informing the reader about characters we have yet to meet in live-action, is peppered throughout the issue and is excellently done. There’s nothing heavy-handed about the storytelling which is impressive for a TV series tie-in book.

Instead Countdown is as measured as its lead character. Story beats are well planned and the caper unfolds at a very pleasing pace without reliance on legacy characters for shocking plot twists or unnecessary exposition.

Kristen Beyer and Mike Johnson brilliantly set up an intriguing story with a palpable understanding for the fact this is only a three-issue mini series. It’s not overly complex but conversely isn’t too simple to hold the readers attention.

Angel Hernandez’s artwork also perfectly toes the line between attempting to recreate actors likenesses and evoking the personality of the character through more unique visuals. There’s a strong likeness for Patrick Stewart and other characters, particularly LaForge are easily recognisable.

Scenes in space are typically murky and the ship designs will be familiar to fans of the franchise. The alien worlds glimpsed in this issue are immersive and representative of what fans of IDW’s Star Trek books will come to have expected.

Verdict

Countdown #1 is as measured as its lead character: distinguished, refined and entertaining to end.

8/10

Star Trek: Picard – Countdown #1 is written by Kirsten Beyer & Mike Johnson with art by Angel Hernandez, colours by Joana Lafuente and letters by Neil Uyetake. Cover art is by Michael Pangrazio.

Star Trek: Picard – Countdown #1 cover art by Michael Pangrazio

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BOOM! Studios)

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (2019-) #9 review

You can pickup your copy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer #9 now where all good comics are sold!

Synopsis

A HELLMOUTH TIE-IN! It’s up to the All-New Scooby Gang of Cordelia, Willow and Xander to save Sunnydale. There’s just one problem—the Hellmouth is spreading evil all over Sunnydale, putting everyone under its thrall. As the inhabitants of Sunnydale turn on one another, will the Scooby Gang be enough?

Review

In the midst of a crisis, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, disappears down a side-street this month in order to tell some important stories on its supporting cast. As I discussed in my recent review of Angel #6 what is striking about both these issues is that their supporting casts are able to carry the story whilst the lead is entirely absent.

With Angel that meant building the relationships between those characters. Here in Buffy it’s more about breaking them down.

Despite boasting a much larger cast, Buffy is able to handle all of its characters delicately given that each appears to be in an emotionally difficult position.

What was interesting to me on first read was the lack of distinction between the adult and teen characters. Giles and Joyce both feature heavily but neither’s dilemma feels particularly “adult” over that of Xander and Willow. Conversely Willow’s break-up with Rose and Xander dealing with his inner demons is not treated as immature or juvenile by comparison.

Instead writer Jordie Bellaire treats all the characters as emotional equals. Though their social standing and background differ no character’s circumstances is treated with higher regard than the others. Bellaire’s approach takes inspiration from the work of Joss Whedon in crafting the franchise but treats it with a contemporary elegance befitting of this new version of the story.

That being said, this isn’t the happiest comic book you will read this week. None of these characters is in a good place so prepare to end the book feeling humble about your own issues. The old analogy of demons representing our own social and personal issues is, for the most part, thrown out the window and replaced by real demons.

I felt particularly for Joyce who, in the wake of the previous issues events, see’s herself as a failure as a mother and in business. It’s a far cry from Kristine Sutherland’s portrayal in the TV series but I’m impressed by the level of depth that Bellaire has afforded her across the opening nine issues of the series.

Willow and Xander’s circumstances feel intrinsically tied together following her losing a piece of her soul to keep him from becoming a full vampire. This issue presents both of them trying desperately to hold on to their humanity but it does so from very different angles.

Willow has lost something, a spark of life that she can’t quite put her finger on what it is but without it there seems to be very little left to live for. Breaking up Rose and Willow makes sense from the perspective of the character’s current behaviour but the moment feels a lost as we haven’t spent much time with them in the series to-date. Rose isn’t a well developed character and so there isn’t much emotional connection to her as a person.

Xander’s predicament is more complex in that he doesn’t necessarily understand fully what is happening inside. He was bitten, Willow and Buffy saved him but no he is neither fully human nor fully vampire. In this issue he is described as “unfinished” by a vampire and in many ways its true.

He’s lost his identity but no longer fits fully in to either society to be able to regain it. Once the Hellmouth event ends it will be interesting to see where his character goes. He won’t be able to identify with Angel and neither would he identify with the re-souled Spike. He is the first of his kind – that we know of – and that puts him on an entirely unique path.

The scenes with Giles were the most difficult to identify with in this issue. He seems aggrieved by everything about him. He argues with Xander and then continues to argue with Jenny and comes off the aggressor in both situations. Jenny questions his health and his sanity so I wonder if he is being influenced by an outside force. But for the most part it feels like his character is being written as almost the antithesis of how he was portrayed on the show and it’s not fully sitting comfortably with me.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. A very interesting stinger introduces a new character who can only be Kendra and I’m thoroughly intrigued by who she appears to think is her Watcher.

Well played Bellaire, you have me hooked!

Verdict

BTVS #9 follows in the footsteps of Angel and crafts a solid story around the series’ supporting cast members. With the Slayer lost in the Hellmouth its reassuring to see characters like Xander, Giles and Willow are easily able to carry the book.

7/10

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #9 is written by Jordie Bellaire with art by Dan Mora and colours by Raul Angulo. Cover artwork is by Marc Aspinall.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #9 cover art by Marc Aspinall

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Batman (DC Comics)

BATMAN (2016-) #82 review

You can pickup your copy of Batman #82 now where all good comics are sold.

Synopsis

“City of Bane” part eight! Batman and his allies wage war on the City of Bane, but an unexpected turn of events will send everyone reeling. Will there be another death in the family, or can the Dark Knight break Bane’s iron grip over Gotham City?

Review

At this juncture, following an incredibly 82 issues, plus annuals, I think we can call this the longest long game in DC Comics history.

Writer Tom King has now crafted one of the most complex stories in the history of The Dark Knight and is playing it out entirely as he sees fit and I cannot applaud him enough for it. As frustrated as I am with certain dangling-Pennyworth plot threads, I have to commend King for sticking to his guns and allowing the story to breathe fully.

Batman #82 follows up on the promise of the previous issue – not annual #4 – and finally pits Batman against Bane as the two come face-to-face.

Undoubtedly this is only the beginning-of-the-end as the events of #82 make it clear there’s more to come, at least from Thomas Wayne. But for the Bat and Bane it feels like things have finally come to a head.

The fight itself is littered with King’s zippy dialogue. A great diatribe from Bane is often cut-off by the wonderful interplay between Bruce and Selina. They’re maintaining a very playful dialogue throughout despite the brawl unfolding around them and it takes on an odd, gritty Mr & Mrs Smith vibe.

Seeing the two of them work as a team to take down Bane will undoubtedly satisfy Bat-Cat shippers. It doesn’t feel like King is trying to make up for anyone’s disappointment with the wedding issue. Their relationship feels entirely organic to the story and I never sensed corporate meddling as a way of apologising to outraged fans.

The fight itself feels very guttural and brutal, in no small part due to the excellent artwork of Tony Daniels and Mikel Janin. Their artwork was the right choice for this issue, rendering both Bruce and Bane as hulking, muscular gods. Obviously Bane has the advantage but as the two strip off their costumes and gadgets it feels like much more of an even playing field.

Throughout the battle King, through dialogue, call back to plot points from across his run. There’s mentions of Gotham Girl and her venom as well as more discussion about Batman’s plan and Bane’s stupidity in falling for this current trap. It drives home the point that King is in complete control of the narrative and that despite the huge wealth of material he is still manipulating plenty of plot threads.

The sub-plot featuring Thomas Wayne appears to be creeping back to the fore. Little time has passed following his fight with the Bat-family as they all lie unconscious on the Batcave floor.

It seems he is on a path to clash with Bruce and that culminates in another “life hangs in the balance” cliffhanger ending for this issue.

So rather than ending this book with a continued sense of frustration, mixed with extreme enjoyment, I’m now hugely anticipating what comes next. Rather than hoping for the conclusion to come I’m not nervously excited because it feels inevitable that King has to deal with the remaining plot threads which are left hanging.

Finally the pieces are beginning to fit together and with the bigger picture coming in to focus I understand exactly why we’ve been made to wait this long.

Verdict

King brilliantly begins to bring the story of his Batman arc full circle as the Bat finally confronts Bane. The story balances intense action with a tense sub-plot and is capped off with the captivating visual style of Tony Daniel and Mikel Janin.

8/10

Batman #82 is written by Tom King with pencils by Tony S. Daniel and Mikel Janin who also acts as inker. Colours are by Jordie Bellaire and the cover comes from David Finch and Alex Sinclair.

Batman #82 cover art by David Finch and Alex Sinclair

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