COMIC REVIEW: ‘Justice League’ #22

‘Justice League’ #22

COMIC REVIEW: ‘Justice League’ #22

The ‘Trinity War’ kicks off in massive fashion this month.

‘Justice League’ #22
‘Justice League’ #22

Written by Geoff Johns

Art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert and Rob Reis

Purchase issue #22 and the rest of The New 52 JL @ Comixology.

Beware of spoilers!The ‘Trinity War’ has arrived! Covering eleven issues of Justice League, Justice Leave of America, Justice League Dark, Constantine, Trinity of Sin: Pandora and Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger the story focusses on all out war between the three leagues.

The plans were laid at the beginning of The New 52 with Pandora appearing in all the issue #1s and many of the stories and over arching plot points across all series have led up to this confrontation.

Issue #22 of Justice League is by no means a brief, simple introduction to the premise. The plot focuses on the A-list JL reacting to the newly discovered Shazam’s decision to fly Black Adam’s ashes to Kahndaq and from there snowballs in to the beginning of an all out battle for supremacy.

Geoff Johns has long been hailed a hero to the DC Universe having worked his way to Chief Creative Officer whilst writing for DC TV shows Smallvile and most recently Arrow whilst also being the principal writer of the DC Universe Online video game.

Here he shows off the reasons he has become so successful by pulling together story strings from all across the DC Universe to create a story that leaves no character untouched. By the end of the issue all of the major players have been introduced and there’s a clear understanding that this conflict is unstoppable.

The only thing missing here is Justice League Dark whose characters, despite being lauded as major players in the conflict, are strangely absent from this story.

As for the rest of the main cast… most are given a moment to take centre stage and make sure that their voices are heard. The biggest problem with this kind of cross-title event is multiple writers can take over characters depending on which title you are reading but Johns knows those voices better than anybody else. This event will be introducing more casual readers to certain characters within the DC Universe so it’s only right that they be handled well.

The artwork is here is A+ material ranging from dark and hopeless glimpses of a post-war future to an amazing splash page of Superman completely losing it in a way that Man of Steel fans will find a de ja vu. I found it a neat little throw in that when Shazam makes an appearance the artwork adjusts itself slightly to match the visuals of his back-up story that has accompanied so many recent JL issues.

If you aren’t already reading Justice League then I highly recommend that now is the time to start!

9/10

‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Season 9 #23

COMIC REVIEW: ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Season 9 #23

Season 9 of BtVS motors towards its conclusion as all parties fight their way to the core…

‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Season 9 #23
‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Season 9 #23

 

Script by Andrew Chambliss

Pencils by George Jeanty

Inks by Dexter Vines

Colours by Michelle Madsen

Purchase your copy at Forbidden Planet now.

Beware of spoilers!I realise that coming in to this series at issue #23 of 25 is a little late but going back to review the 22 issues that came before this seemed like too much of a mammoth task.

For me season 9 has been a massive improvement over season 8 which I felt got massively lost in the scope of the visuals that a comic book can produce in comparison to what is available on the modest budget of a TV series. All credit to the writers and artists on season 8 for the ambitious scope but BtVS was always about the character at heart and when the characters get lost in the story the magic (apologies for the pun/reference) is lost.

Whedon himself has admitted in interviews that perhaps season 8 wasn’t quite the product that the team expected it to be and so season 9 started out by scaling back the action and scaling up the character.

Several mini-series and small arcs later and we have reached ‘The Core’ part 3 and find Buffy, Willow and Xander heading towards the centre of the ‘Deeper Well’ former home to Illyria and the Old Ones in a race against Severin, Simone and a whole butt-load of demons who all have a stake (pun #2) in either taking away or bringing magic back to the world.

It’s interesting that we’ve reached issue #23 and Simone is looming large over the story considering she also featured on the cover of season 8 #23 in much a similar status. In comic world some of our villains and secondary characters are experiencing a much slower burn than they would on TV again probably due to budgetary constraints.

After 7 seasons on TV to develop one of the most rabid fan bases its safe to say that 95% of those reading this series have pre-conceived ideas about how that expect the characters to behave and also how they expect them to be treated. All this makes for a massive weight to carry as the scriptwriter on this book but Chambliss has yet to disappoint and this issue feels right for where we are in the story in relation to the ‘season’ finale.

Episodic TV formats translate well in to comics and BtVS is a shining example of this. Whedon does many (MANY!) things well but building up story arcs over time and bringing them to climactic conclusions is one of his finest traits in TV and the season 9 comics are no different.

This book crams in a fair amount of action, some solid story development and yet still has time for smaller character moments. Although some fans are displeased with the relationship between Xander and Buffy’s sister Dawn but in this issue it’s the two of them who are packing the emotional punch that reminds us just why we got on this ride in the first place.

The artwork by Jeanty has also never ever let us down. There’s a great balance of making the characters recognisable to their TV counterparts but also evoking the feeling of where they are in their lives. The demons in this series, particularly with so many in this issue alone, also reflect their TV versions without making a mockery of the design work which went in their makeup.

This may not be the right place for new readers to jump in to this series but if you’ve been a casual reader then ‘The Core’ arc which began in issue #21 is a great place to come back to BtVS.

8/10

‘Batman ’66′ #6

COMIC REVIEW: ‘Batman ’66’ #6

Put your earplugs in guys… it’s the return of the Siren!

‘Batman ’66′ #6
‘Batman ’66′ #6

Cover by Mike Allred

Written by Jeff Parker

Art & Colours by Jonathan Case

Purchase your digital copy @ Comixology now

Beware of spoilers!
This week Batman ‘66 has confused me a little and I can only assume that when the Penguin story makes it’s way to print this little side story featuring the Siren – played by Joan Collins in the series – will find itself as a backup at the end of the issue.

The reason I’m so confused is that the digital version of this ‘chapter’ still features the Penguin/Mr. Freeze cover art that came with the previous two weeks chapters. It’s a small gripe but none-the-less I still have a couple of small gripes with this series.

Once again the story here is the shining star. Parker is proving each week here that he has the upmost respect for the source material as well as the wider Bat-verse and this week he threw in one massive nod to the Silver Age of comics that just took my love for his storytelling to a whole new level.

‘Chandell’s Chanteuse’ is a neat little story that finds itself wrapped up in a single issue and doesn’t even feature a full appearance by Robin. The ending – not to be spoiled here – clearly sets up a later storyline and I’m intrigued to see if we’re building towards a genuine story arc.

This week Jonathan Case is back doing art and colours and it instantly lifts this series back up to its early status. The art pops right off the screen and I have to admit that after two weeks of feeling disappointed about the lack of interactivity this is the first issue where the art holds its own against the DC² of previous issues. I’m really happy to see this comic finding its feet beyond it’s A+ story.

The hallucination sequence allows Case the opportunity to break out from the confines of the usual panels and fill the page with some highly stylised work which adds a new dimension to the series.

It’s too early to pass true judgement as we have only had a couple of artists work on the series but thus far it is Case who is setting ‘Batman ‘66’ apart from other digital comics. His style of art is what I would call the signature style of the series and I hope we can see this style continue in the weeks to come.

I’m definitely looking forward to the return of Joker next week.

8/10

‘Batman ’66′ #5

COMIC REIVEW: ‘Batman ’66’ #5

The conclusion of Penguin’s first new comic book saga…

‘Batman ’66′ #5
‘Batman ’66′ #5

Cover by Mike Allred

Written by Jeff Parker

Art by Tye Templeton

Coloured by Wes Hartman

Purchase your digital copy @ Comixology now

Beware of spoilers!

After an issue that left me feeling like something was missing last week this weeks conclusion to the ‘Emperor Penguin’ lights a rocket under the pace and blasts this shorter story through to a baffling conclusion.

The Riddler arc which came before this lasted for three issues whereas this story is split in to two parts much like an episode of the old TV series. I’m not sure if this had been published but either way it came as a slight surprise to me; especially as part one felt like it had very similar pacing to the previous arc. Going in to this issue I had assumed we would get some exposition and then an exciting cliffhanger to take us in to a thrilling final part next week.

Jeff Parker’s story is still the shining light of this series. With ‘Emperor Penguin’ he has crammed the same amount of story as can be found in the previous arc but in two-thirds of the space. This issue suffers slightly from too much story when you think that there are only 23 pages and we have to rescue Batman; solve the crime, have the big fight and save the day.

I loved the introduction of a Bat-vehicle never before seen in the TV series. It was a perfect fit for the story and didn’t feel out of the ordinary for the universe in which the story exists and this is something that I know I keep saying but Parker deserves so much credit for inventing credible stories that feel like they could have been episodes of the series had the budget been available to them.

I do still have to nitpick some of the artwork but as I said in my review of issue #4 I am not criticising Tye Templeton’s artwork for being poor, This issue is again consistent, it’s that the lack of strong representations of West and Ward are still present here. There are such details panels of Burgess Meredith throughout both chapters of this story yet a recognisable image of Burt Ward is not present at all here and after five issues I’m longing to see a great portrait of the Dynamic Duo together.

It’s not enough to put me off reading further issues but it is becoming a bugbear of mine.

Batman ‘66 is definitely a fun read, there’s absolutely no doubt about that but it could be a brilliant read. It’s never going to be a hard hitting; gritty representation of Batman and Robin but it could take the pair and put them in settings that feel like they have been translated from comics of the 60s and 70s to really up the fun factor.

I mentioned this quite a bit in relation to the last issue but the missing DC²  really has definitely impacted my enjoyment. It’s such a fun addition that fits the atmosphere of the tv series. The brilliant fight sequence in #3 is here followed up by a 2 panel page… a 2 panel page for a fight based in the world of TV Batman?! It’s just not enough.

5/10

Next week: Chandell’s Chanteuse!

'Batman '66' #4

COMIC REVIEW: ‘Batman ’66’ #4

Out with DC² and in with the Penguin in part 1 of ‘Emperor Penguin’. The results? Mixed.

'Batman '66' #4
‘Batman ’66’ #4

Cover by Mike Allred

Written by Jeff Parker

Art by Tye Templeton

Coloured by Wes Hartman

Purchase your digital copy @ Comixology now

Beware of spoilers!

After a strong introduction and a brilliant first story arc the reincarnation of Adam West’s Batman takes a knock in week four with a dramatic shift in art design and a lack of the DC² functionality which brought so much fun in previous chapters.

This week kicks off the second story arc of the revived series and brings both Penguin and Mr. Freeze to the forefront. The brilliant Jeff Parker continues to steer the story in new, exciting directions and I love the idea of these two villains teaming up. I don’t want to spoil the story too much here but the reason that these two have come together is original and in no way achievable on the kind of budget that the TV series would have available to it.

Each of the characters maintain their individual voices from both the previous arc and the source material and judging by the art on show here I think that will be a vital aspect in the longevity of this series. This issue is peppered with aptly timed ‘Waaak! Waak! Wak!’ moments which will bring back memories of Penguin capers past and Mr. Freeze maintains the accent to his speech even in print. All this just continues to show the attention to detail that Parker is bringing to the table.

The letdown in this issue is the artwork. It’s not that the art here is bad; I don’t want to criticise Tye Templeton because his work is strong and his representations of both Burgess Meredith and Otto Preminger are undeniably close to photo-realistic although as with the work of Jonathan Case in previous issues it is West and Ward whose faces are a little lost in translation.

What’s missing is the pop art feel of the Riddler arc and although it is referenced on the cover the Lichtenstein-esque artwork inside has been replaced by a straight comic style which, for me, changes the feel of this series completely. Case’s work along with the added animation made this continuation of the series for me whereas this issue feels like a comic adaption. It sounds silly but the missing animation and the change in style do make this more of a generic tie-in.

I don’t want to jump to the conclusion that the DC² aspect of the series has been a significant part of its appeal but the lack of eye-popping Bat-captions and static panels to deduct from my enjoyment of the story.

Chapter 1 of ‘Emperor Penguin’ is still an enjoyable story and leaves the reader on a clever cliffhanger for next week. I can only hope that the artwork improves or may interest may begin to wane.

5/10

‘Batman ’66′ #3

COMIC REVIEW: ‘Batman ’66’ #3

The exciting conclusion to ‘The Riddlers Ruse’ arrives!

‘Batman ’66′ #3
‘Batman ’66′ #3

Cover by Mike Allred

Written by Jeff Parker

Art & Coloured by Jonathan Case

Purchase your digital copy @ Comixology now

Beware of spoilers!

Just like the old two-part stories of the first two seasons of the Batman TV show chapter 3 of ‘The Riddler’s Ruse’ picks up directly after the end of chapter 2 with the apparent destruction of the Meow-Wow-Wow club. Only as you would have expected Batman and Robin have survived thanks to a genius last minute plan by Batman.

The jumping off point in this issue is a classic reminder of why the Batman TV series was great and even in comic form it still gets me every time I read this story. The kid inside me is loving this series and after three issues I am genuinely hooked on this reincarnation.

At this stage I’m caring a lot less about the likenesses of the characters as it is clear that this comic is not only paying a strong tribute to the source material but it is actually succeeding in recreating the spirit of the series brilliantly. We even find time in this chapter to a poke a little fun at less-believable elements of the story.

In this chapter the story builds to a ludicrous conclusion in just the same way that any episode of the Batman TV series would. Batman uses a way-ahead-of-its-time 3D printer to recreate stolen artefacts and with the help of Catwoman solves the puzzle leading to the big finale fight.

As I have now come to expect from this series the big fight at the end matches the spectacle of watching Adam and Burt on screen as a child. The DC² has captions bursting out of the screen as Batman, Robin and Catwoman all slide across the panels with ease. The artwork in the final fight is brilliant and really sets this series apart from other; darker incarnations of Batman currently available.

The dialogue continues to pop and there are some brilliant Adam West-esque lines featured in this chapter particularly as events draw to a close. Jeff Parker continues to earn his stripes as the new captain of the Batman ‘66 ship and I now cannot wait for his work with Penguin coming up in the next issue.

It would appear that DC² will not be a feature of the next story so I am now intrigued as to whether the lack of visual spectacle will take away from the magic of the series. As the classic Batman voice over would say: only time will tell!

8/10

‘Batman ’66′ #2

COMIC REVIEW: ‘Batman ’66’ #2

Re-introduce yourself to some familiar elements from the TV series in chapter 2 of ‘The Riddler’s Ruse’

‘Batman ’66′ #2
‘Batman ’66′ #2

 

Cover by Mike Allred

Written by Jeff Parker

Art & Coloured by Jonathan Case

Purchase your digital copy @ Comixology now

Beware of spoilers!

Following on from last weeks successful first entry in to the new digital first Batman comic series Batman and Robin return to continue chasing after the Riddler.

This week we get a first glimpse at several familiar aspects from the original TV series: the bust of William Shakespeare; the Bat-poles, the Batcave, Alfred and Catwoman (the Julie Newmar incarnation) to name but a few. Although my favourite is possibly the sight of Batman and Robin climbing up the side of a building for the first time.

In some respects this may seem like quite a long list but what this comic does so well in echoing the TV series is to pack in all the elements that we expected to see on a weekly basis.

Jeff Parker crams in all the elements of a classic episode of Batman but broadens the universe in a way which might be unexpected to some – this issue features two villains but not in the classic season 3 Batman team-up fashion.

I mentioned in my previous review that it would be interesting to add some continuity to this universe. As this story follows on directly we are yet to have a break between stories but my interest would be further piqued if the Meow-Wow-Wow club were to feature again in a later Catwoman escapade.

The quality of the art and dialogue is a continuation of the previous chapter; the characters remain recognisable as themselves and Catwoman strongly echoes her TV counterpart. One thing of note about the art is that the actors who portrayed the villains seem to be depicted much stronger than West and Ward. The Alfred of this book is not recognisable to me as Alan Napier at all.

The DC² features continue to integrate well with the story and I hope this continues through the series run.

Overall a strong continuation to the series; next week is the conclusion to the Riddler arc so it will be interesting to see how this transitions in to the Penguin/Mr. Freeze arc which is to follow.

6/10

‘Batman ’66′ #1

COMIC REVIEW: ‘Batman ’66’ #1

Adam West and Burt Ward return to the Batcave in new weekly digital series by DC Comics.

‘Batman ’66′ #1
‘Batman ’66′ #1

Cover by Mike Allred

Written by Jeff Parker

Art & Coloured by Jonathan Case

Purchase your digital copy @ Comixology now

Like many other Bat-fans I have long been waiting for Adam West’s incarnation of Batman to come to home video. Like all those other fans I think I’ll be waiting a long time. But in March of this year we were all given a brief reprieve when Warner Bros. officially announced that it had acquired merchandising rights to the show meaning that the market would soon be flooded with new toys; t-shirts and a comic book series based in the ‘66 Batman cannon.

On 3rd July DC Universe digitally released issue (here referenced as ‘chapter’) #1 entitled ‘The Riddler’s Ruse Pt1: Mirth from Above’ featuring new DC² technology (read about it HERE) with print media versions to be released later.

As some who reads comics purely on paper the idea of this new technology was a big draw to pick up the digital version on release day rather than wait for the separate digital chapters to be brought together and released in print.

The animations are fun and take the transitions between panels to a whole new level. In the context of Batman ‘66 this is used to great strength to reveal the on-screen captions such as ‘KABOOM!’ in such a way that it really recreates the feel of the TV series.

For those uninitiated to comics the progressive reveal of the speech bubbles help the reader to follow the dialogue in a linear fashion and focus the eye on various aspects within the scene.

The dialogue itself is in keeping with the original TV series. I’m not familiar with the work of Jeff Parker although looking at his history on Comixology I must have come across some of his work in the past. Reading his words I can hear the voices of the characters in my head and this is a big bonus in helping the story feel organic within the universe we all know so well.

There is no time for origin stories here; but then what Bat-fan needs an introduction to this version of the Dynamic Duo? We arrive to find Bruce and Dick attending the ‘Lady Gotham Ceremony’ but it only takes a handful of panels before the Riddler makes his presence known.

The artwork features a hugely 60s vibe and seems heavily influenced by the work of Roy Lichtenstein and rightly so. Again I am not familiar with the work of Jonathan Case but he seems the perfect fit for this series. The likenesses of Bruce/Batman and Dick/Robin are accents in the pop art menagerie. It’s clearly them – the costumes of Batman; Robin and Riddler are spot on – although at times I felt it could have been more like them but this is hardly a drawback to this incredibly fun continuation of the series.

There’s little room for character development here, much like in the show, but it would be interesting to see these characters developed and made a little more believable if only as a way for younger audiences to connect more with the universe.

6/10