Webcomic Wednesday – Batman ’66

Holy atomic pile Batman! It’s Webcomic Wednesday, the day I trawl through the digital space to show the readers something new and exciting. This week I’m checking out DC’s latest digital effort Batman ’66, courtesy of writer Jeff Parker, and the various artists he conjures up each issue.


Batman ’66 is a continuation of the 1960s live action Adam West Batman television series, complete with its camp, silly attitude. It  follows the antics of Batman and his trusty sidekick Robin as they deal with the everyday threats to Gotham City. This series takes almost all of its cues from the television show, right down to the character designs. But you don’t have to be familiar with the original series to have a good time.

Parker’s stories are all suitably silly and fun. The first issue finds the Riddler crashing the Lady Gotham Awards ceremony to steal the award for himself. Why? Because he’s a bad guy. And how does Batman recognise that something is wrong? Because he notices that the plane is flying below FAA guidelines. It’s the silly dialogue, lack of any proper motivations and the POW! BIFF! BANG! that makes this series a certified hit.

It also helps that the series is taking a cue from other successful digital comics like Moth City and the Marvel Infinite titles and utilises the format to help create the motion comic. This allows the full effect of the onomatopoeic sounds to work within the confines of the comic.

If you needed any more reasons to read this series, but you don’t, each issue features covers by the great Allred team who are working away over at FF as well. Check it out here. A dollar a pop for something that is both visually impressive and a huge laugh is well worth your time and money.

Got a Webcomic you want me check out? Holy priceless collection of Etruscan snoods! Let me know over on my twitter @Pipes815, or send me a message via our contact form.

Review: Batman & Superman #1 Greg Pak, Jae Lee & Ben Oliver

batman-superman1I am in complete agreement with a whole lot of sentiments being thrown around the Internet. We need another Batman or Superman comic just as much as we need another X-Men title – they just keep coming, and there’s going to be a point of over-saturation. So when Batman\Superman #1 dropped into stores, I merely bought it because I felt I should check it out – and I’m glad I did. Greg Pak and Jae Lee (with Ben Oliver on art duties for the last few pages) have begun something that while it  doesn’t entirely break the mold in the written sense, is still a good story in among some of the most unique and impressive art I have seen in a while.

Firmly rooted in New52 continuity, Batman/Superman #1 sets up the first time the  two met. While it doesn’t initially address the continuity issue of their apparent first time meeting back in Justice League #1, Pak decides to instead have Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne first meet as Clark investigates the murders of Wayne Enterprise employees. Their initial meeting is great, as it reaffirms each of their own personal philosophies, while also pointing out the flaws as well. It’s not new ground whatsoever, but it does help to highlight that this pairing comes from two very different people.

Pak also brings back the signature double narrators that was made popular during the initial run. I’ve always been a huge fan of this form of storytelling – if it’s used correctly. Too often it can appear cluttered and noisy, but Pak doesn’t fall into this trap and manages to control this aspect well. He makes sure each character gets their due, before moving onto the next one. It works really well.

The real star of this issue is Lee’s art though. Each panel is absolutely beautiful – a soft watercolour effect mixed with a muted colour palette making the work look stunning. It’s a shame that he doesn’t do the entire issue however, as Ben Oliver steps up for the final few pages. Oliver isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination and his work manages to hold his own against Lee, but it does feel a bit jarring when we move to a more pencil drawn approach. Just give Oliver his own title to truly show off his work and that’ll make everyone happy.

With the introduction of a more magical based villain, drawing on the back-ups of Batman in recent months, Batman/Superman is off to a great start. While it doesn’t appear to be breaking any new ground story-wise – just a standard buddy story for two of DC’s biggest hitters – the choice of artist really makes it stand out. If Pak and Lee can keep this momentum going, those qualms of over-saturation will be soon forgotten.

Review: Superman Unchained #1 – Scott Snyder & Jim Lee

unchainedSuperman is getting a lot of love lately, and why shouldn’t he? He’s the superhero archetype, celebrating not only 75 years of his existence, but also essentially heralding the 75 years of  superhero comics as we know it. He’s got a new movie, new digital series, and now a new ongoing series – Superman Unchained. Courtesy of comics legend Jim Lee, and current superstar Scott Snyder (who we’ve established many times is killing it over on Batman), this new ongoing series is out to revitalise the otherwise decidedly mediocre current main title line-up. And boy, does it deliver.

Superman Unchained reads like a true Superman tale. We have flashy action, honest human (Kryptonian?) heart, and good old fashioned Clark Kent journalism. Following a mystery regarding satellites falling from orbit, as Superman exercises both his raw strength and journalistic skills – it’s standard fare for Kal-El and that’s a good thing. It seems like Snyder went out to make sure he hit all the right notes of  making a great Superman story and delivered. While it definitely doesn’t break any new ground, it’s 100% fun.

Snyder also manages to make it immediately accessible to new readers with only a cursory knowledge of the Man of Steel. Aside from needing to know that Clark Kent has left the Daily Planet, Snyder crafts a story that could be read by anyone, and stays true to the fiction. Lois Lane is smart and sassy, Jimmy Olsen is loyal, and Lex Luthor is… well, Lex Luthor. For the brief period each of these characters appear, you just get their character. Snyder’s grasp of the world of Superman is uncanny, and it makes you wonder why he hasn’t written him sooner.

Speaking of the world of Superman, this issue has a healthy amount of references to the DC Universe around him, not just the Superman family. Starting with a fun jab at Batman, Snyder treats this like a title within a universe, rather than just treating it like it’s own entity. It’s simple, but incredibly effective.

Jim Lee does not hold back for this issue, as we are treated to some of the more spectacular works I have seen from the artist. The issue comes with a large fold-out poster for print readers, which is treated like any other page for the digital crowd, and it looks amazing. Lee really seems to get Superman, and alongside making the New52 outfit look cool, really has a grasp of Superman’s character design. From the softly drawn quieter Clark Kent moments, to the more powerful “super” moments, Lee draws Superman brilliantly.

The only issue I have with Lee’s art is that at times it can feel a bit claustrophobic, with the more action packed sequences throwing a little too much at the page. This is only a minor quibble, as Lee absolutely kills it otherwise.

With a cool new villain set up, which leads to some interesting historical implications, Snyder and Lee have set the stage for Superman Unchained. While its first outing didn’t really break much new ground, if it is going to be this good I don’t really care. This is too much fun.

Review: Batman #21 – Snyder and Capullo

batman21Batman perhaps more than any other comic book character has had his origin examined and scrutinized, most notably by Frank Miller in his masterfully written Year One. So when Zero Year was announced I was cautiously optimistic. The fact that Scott Snyder, who has just amazed and impressed us with Court of the Owls and Death of the Family eased many of the doubts that persistently crept into my mind. Like legions of comic book readers out there, Batman is and has been since childhood my favorite character and his origin is like gospel, a subject not to be taken lightly. Admittedly most of my concerns stemmed from the continuity discrepancies that arose from the birth of the New 52. That being said, Batman was the least impacted by these sometimes drastic changes. His origin is not so much changed as it is more fully explained and some of the blanks are filled in by Zero Year. There are years in Bruce’s past that have yet to be addressed, formative years in the Batman mythos. Scott Snyder does an excellent job here of driving away the shadows that remain and linger around some of those years.

The story begins six years ago – Gotham City is in utter disarray, looking more like the Savage Land than a major municipality. Scott Snyder, more than any other writer, writes Gotham City as another character. He gives it life and personality and Greg Capullo enhances this effect by rendering the city as though it were a living organism. A child is spear fishing in the flooded entrance to the Gotham subway when suddenly he is assailed by a pair of mask-wearing thugs .He drops his fish and runs for his life. Batman shows up in a tattered makeshift uniform minus cape ,riding a dirt bike that looks like it was used in a Mad Max film. He saves the child and returns his dinner to him.

The time line jumps further – it is now five months earlier and The Red Hood makes his appearance but just who is under that hood at this point is not known. Bruce is heavily disguised and driving a truck full of men that The Red Hood is quite interested in killing for refusing to join his gang. This sets up an edge of your seat escape scene and shows a more reckless Bruce at a time when he was more likely to take chances. Bruce returns to a pre-Bat Cave headquarters which appears to be a secret room full of computers and training equipment hidden inside Wayne Manor. Here Bruce and Alfred discuss the state of modern crime fighting. Snyder is a master of writing dialogue. The conversation flows with a natural rhythm that lends a deeper level of credibility and realism. The discussion is complex without being pedantic and illuminates a deepening relationship between two friends.

Bruce’s Uncle Philip plays a major role from here on out. He shows up and takes Bruce on a drive around Gotham to show him the new Wayne Enterprises building. As an interesting detail we are shown the giant penny that we all know will come to be housed in the Bat Cave. It stands before Wayne Enterprises as Uncle Philip tells the story of overseeing its forging. He also gives us some history of the relationship between the Wayne family and the Kane family. Snyder then takes us back to a time when Bruce was a boy. He sees his father working on an old Lincoln and runs happily to him. His father looks lovingly into his eyes and what follows is some of the most revealing dialogue in the book. Bruce explains his desire to be anonymous and that his love for Gotham stems from the fact that he can be anyone he wants when he is in the city. His father then shows him a visual mapper designed by Mr. Fox to be used by fire-fighters, EMTs and doctors. It makes a three dimensional map from inside the rubble of a collapsed building or destroyed village. I can’t help but think this is going to be a significant piece of equipment in the near future, perhaps in the construction of the Bat Cave.

Uncle Philip returns for the final pages and has a conversation with a rather unexpected co-conspirator. A dark and foreboding solution is proffered to Philip’s quandary, one that echoes across time and space as we see Bruce as a boy reflected in the shiny visual mapper held in his tiny hand. In the final panel he stands contemplating a gaping hole at his feet.

Zero Year is not the re-telling of Batman’s origin that some may have been expecting. It has so much more ambition than that. Scott Snyder is writing his own entry in the history of the greatest of all comic book heroes, filling in some of the gaps and bringing the Dark Knight into sharper focus. Snyder’s engrossing and meticulous dialogue brings these characters to life. His fast paced and absorbing plot is the perfect framework for the exhilarating action sequences. Zero Year is the total package, not only does it have everything a great comic book should have but it is an endearing human drama as well.

Greg Capullo continues to deliver some of the best pages on the racks today. His hyper-detailed cityscapes and exhilarating action scenes are the stuff of comic book dreams. He has been the perfect collaborator with Snyder to bring us these stunning Batman stories. Not since Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s groundbreaking pre-New 52 run on Batman and Robin have I been so thoroughly and completely impressed by a creative team on a Batman book.

The back-up story is a look at a nineteen year old rebellious Bruce in Rio de Janeiro, also by Snyder this time with the help of his Talon collaborator, James Tynion IV and art by Rafael Albuquerque. The story highlights Bruce’s firm resolve to do the right thing even though his methods may seem drastic. The writing is again top-notch, the break-neck pace and snappy dialogue rocket you through the narrative in no time flat. The art is more stylized but fits the material. The flowing lines, blending colors and blurred backgrounds give you the very definite feeling of speeding through the streets of Rio. It is a short but intriguing look into another of Bruce’s formative years.

Zero Year is off to an immaculate start. Over the next year we are to be witnesses to the birth of the Dark Knight. Some of the questions we have always had about why things are the way they are in the complex mind of Bruce Wayne will surely be answered while others are more fully explained. This book is mandatory reading not only for Batman fans but for all lovers of great writing and tremendous artwork everywhere. So even if you are only a sporadic reader of the Bat-titles I would recommend jumping on at least for the next year. I’m sure you will stick around.

Until next week, see you at the comic book store. Same Bat-time…

Webcomic Wednesday – Adventures of Superman

Ok I know. DC’s weekly digital instalment, Adventures of Superman, isn’t exactly a webcomic. But technically it’s digital first and it’s a comic so I’ll allow it. Plus it’s the 75th anniversary of the quintessential superhero, and I haven’t had a chance to give this title much love.

So here goes.  


Hello and welcome to Webcomic Digital Wednesday! Each week I take a look at a webcomic digital comic and let you know what I think about it. This week I’m taking a look at one of DC’s newest line ups of weekly digital comics, the brilliant Adventures of Supermanwhich incorporates a wide swathe of talent from across the industry.


I’ll admit I have never been a huge Superman fan until recently. With Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, the 75th anniversary of Superman, and the recent effort on DC’s part to promote the man, he’s seen a big resurgence. Adventures of Superman is the next step in this promotion, a series of one-shots crafted by industry talent, big and small, each telling a different story of the man. And it is brilliant.

There isn’t any pressure to fit in with the rest of the universe – no problems with continuity or New 52 garbage. These are just straight Superman tales, each only limited by the creators imagination, as they each try to capture a piece of his day to day life.

There is just so much heart to these stories, and they are often told in inventive and fun ways. From standard, “beat the bad guy” stories, to children pretending to play as Superman and Brainiac, each tale feels unique and so far it hasn’t stumbled. If you ever needed an excuse to get into Superman stories, look no further.

So far my favourite is the second issue, written and drawn by Jeff Lemire. But don’t take my word for it, check out the series here , or on any device with the Comixology/DC app. For a dollar a pop, it’s a steal.

Have any webcomics you want me to check out? Let me know on my twitter @Pipes815, or send me a message via our contact form.

Justice League Dark #20 – Lemire / Fawkes / Janin /Cifuentes

justice-league-dark-20The House of Mystery has been seized and Swamp Thing imprisoned – the work of the sinister Doctor Destiny. He has sent his nightmare creations to battle the Justice League Dark, who have recruited The Flash to aid them in the fight. These are the events that bring us up to issue 20 which is the second part of a three issue story arc by Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes with artwork by the very impressive team of Mikel Janin and Vicente Cifuentes.

The Flash and Frankenstein find themselves assailed by Doctor Destiny’s constructs of Frankenstein’s bride and their son. The abominations seem to be similar to the Green Lantern’s constructs in that they are the product of “hard energy”, a material The Flash is able to dispel by use of his vibrations. This is a method that will serve them well in battles to come. The two are then off to find the rest of the team beginning with Madame Xanadu, which The Flash accomplishes in scant seconds.

At this point in the story Doctor Destiny is slowly torturing Swamp Thing with fire and a prophecy that promises his ultimate demise. While elsewhere Deadman finds himself at the merciless hands of a twisted perverse troupe of circus performers before he is rescued by Frankenstein, The Flash and Madame Xanadu. The next order of business is to rescue their fearless leader, John Constantine, who is at that very moment busy fighting himself – specifically duplicates of himself made of his own blood. The team shows up and thanks again in large part to The Flash, they make rather short work of the constructs and save Constantine’s chain-smoking cantankerous hide.

Far from a happy reunion, the Justice League Dark welcomes their leader back into the fold with accusations and threats. The plucky Englishman takes it all in stride and suggests they get on with the business of finding The House of Mystery. Once again it falls to The Flash to get this done and once again he does so in a split second. He locates the house and off goes the team to retrieve it; however it is not in its original form – it is twisted and spreading like a patch of bad weeds. Constantine dispatches Frankenstein and The Flash to deal with any street level threats while he and the others go inside in search of Swamp Thing. They are met straight away by Doctor Destiny who greets Constantine as The Last Mage. This leads to a final page cliff-hanger that very deeply impacts the League as a whole but one particular member even more so. Trust me, you will want to read this issue.

There is an under-current of dissension in the ranks all through this issue as the rift between Constantine and his team mates begins to become a chasm. His arrogance and shoddy leadership seem to be pulling the team apart. Lemire and Fawkes are writing the Constantine book as well, so they have become the voice of this character who has been written by some of the best writers in comics today (Andy Diggle, Jamie Delano and Garth Ennis to name a very few). I find the use of Constantine not only in a team but as its leader to be quite contrary to his character but I am enjoying it – Lemire and Fawkes are doing a bang-up job. Constantine in the New 52 is definitely not Hellblazer of the Vertigo universe but it is a good read. I’m on board to see where this goes, whether he is replaced or remains on the team. Justice League Dark is a fun book with perhaps the most unique team dynamic anywhere in comics.

Mikel Janin is superb. He is solid and consistent. His work is flawless. I can’t wait to see what he does on this title as we move into Trinity Wars. He handles the supernatural subject matter so well, especially the scenes of Doctor Destiny.  I would be remiss if I failed to mention Jeremy Cox’s colors here. He adds such dimension to Janin’s work that some of the pages look as if you could reach into them. Overall Justice League Dark is one of the books I look forward to every month. It has been solid since the inception of the New 52 and I hope it continues to gain the readers and recognition a book of this calibre deserves. I unreservedly recommend adding it to your pull list especially now with Trinity Wars gearing up.

So until next week, see you at the comic book store.

Review: Batman #20 – Snyder / Capullo / Miki

batman-20This issue is the end of the two-part Nowhere Man story arc as well as the final story to be told in the present day in Batman, as Year Zero begins in issue 21. This is another amazingly rendered issue by Greg Capullo. His Clayface is menacing. His fantastically detailed visage is freakishly frightening as he twists his amorphous body into an oozing blob of murderous intent, actually swallowing a battered Bruce Wayne in the opening pages of this issue. He is then very unceremoniously spat into a crusher used by Wayne Enterprises R&D Department to eradicate unusable prototypes – he joins a previously deposited Lucius Fox. Fox informs him that Clayface has over-ridden the fail safe protocols and that there is no other way out. All the weapons are gutted before being disposed of, but there hidden beneath a mound of bits and pieces of discarded Wayne-Tech is a concept suit which he Bruce dons to rescue them both. In a nod to Batman Beyond, Lucius explains to Bruce that it will be twenty years before this suit will become cost effective. Bruce leaves in pursuit of Clayface.

In the guise of Bruce Wayne, Clayface is leading the Gotham Police on a high speed motorcycle chase. Batman, now wearing a sort of electrified armor, catches up to him and informs him that his blackmail scheme is over. He then attempts to use hydrogen fluoride to thwart the shape-shifting monster – to no avail. Clayface taunts Batman by morphing his fingers into grotesque puppet-like versions of The Joker, Penguin and Riddler. Batman tries solvent, coolant – anything that would have worked on the old Clayface. Nothing works so then he resorts to electricity – he charges the suit and releases every ounce of power he can generate into Clayface.

This does nothing more than tingle the hulking villain. He grabs Batman by the head, crushes the face mask of his helmet and makes contact with his skin just as Commissioner shows up with a squad of police officers. They hold their guns on Clayface and he transforms again into Bruce Wayne. Clayface now believes he has uncovered Batman’s secret identity for all to see. Since making contact with Batman’s skin should have allowed him to become whoever he is under the mask. However in the confusion, Clayface is trapped in a panic chamber that has been programed to respond to the only person Batman can be sure that Clayface cannot duplicate the DNA of – Basil Karlo. It seems that in becoming everyone he touched, Basil Karlo had lost his own genetic code thus, making himself a cipher, a perfect clay man. Batman explains that he was wearing a fiber mask of Bruce Wayne’s DNA, which is the reason he became Wayne after touching him, once again preserving his secret identity. This angers Clayface so much so that he takes on the likeness of Damien Wayne and rages against the rich like Bruce Wayne and their disregard for everything including his own son. Batman is still raw from his loss and flies into a blind rage, kicking the panic chamber containing Karlo who is still maintaining the image of Damien.

Batman is recounting the capture of Clayface to Alfred back at the Batcave. Alfred has just finished wrapping Batman’s most recent bruises, when he joins him for an evening of reminiscing about his lost son. In an extremely poignant and tender moment we see a single tear stream down Bruce’s cheek as he watches the view screen inside his visor.

This was an extremely well written arc. Scott Snyder kept the possibility of Batman’s identity being exposed just out of reach for the entire story. The suspense just added to the excitement of an already pulse-pounding plot. Snyder re-invents Clayface as a more powerful, far more formidable foe. This was a nice send off before Year Zero starts next issue, which will tie things up for the next eleven months. I could read Scott Snyder’s dialogue forever – it is so good that I find myself quoting it as one might do from a favorite film.

Let’s move from some of the best writing in comics to talk about some of the best artwork in comics today.

Greg Capullo is unbelievable at drawing horrific monsters – just look at his work on Spawn and Haunt. The amount of detail he puts into his creatures is what makes the difference. His Clayface is not just a blob but a layered mass of crust and teeth and muddy goo, something truly disgusting and awful to behold let alone to be swallowed by. I can only call to mind the words of Han Solo when he commented about a freshly opened taun-taun, “And I thought they smelled bad on the outside”. Just imagine what Bruce Wayne endured while inside Clayface. I’m sure it was an assault on all senses, and Greg Capullo brings that so sharply into focus that you can almost smell the dank musty mud. His artwork is second to none and his work on Batman is some of his best.

The back-up story written by James Tynion IV, with art by the great Alex Maleev, is also brought to completion here. It’s not an Earth shattering epic but just a nice Batman/ Superman team-up story. The two heroes battle a supernatural entity called Will O’ The Wisp. The end of the story shows us a moment of deep friendship and the effects of Batman’s loss on that friendship. Ultimately that’s really what this story is, a glimpse of a deep friendship.

Batman #20 is an all-around top-notch comic book with fabulous writing and fantastic art. If you are not currently a regular reader of Batman you might want to take the upcoming Year Zero event to jump on. You will be happy you did, trust me.

So until next week, see you at the comic book store.

Review: Aquaman #19 – Johns, Pelletier and Reis

aquaman19Some Atlantean weaponry has fallen into the hands of The Scavenger, who is operating out of a pilfered Russian nuclear submarine, and Arthur has taken it upon himself to retrieve it. He seeks the assistance of Topo, a giant octopus-like monster with intelligence equal to that of a human.  Geoff Johns has mined the silver-age to bring back this one-time Aquaman side-kick.

Meanwhile on the surface at the Belle Reve Penitentiary Orm is presented with the reality of facing multiple murder charges. He is told that unless he pleads guilty to the murders that the victims’ families are going to speak on their behalf. Orm is beyond reluctant to take this legal advice – in fact he feels the Atlanteans that were killed are being swept under the rug while only the American lives lost are worth mentioning. He dismisses the lawyer with a foreboding threat as he alludes to the fact that he has plenty of non-air breathing friends.

Murk and Tula are searching old Murk City for Swatt, an Atlantean who cannot breathe under water without the aid of a special helmet. He is not home when they arrive so they let themselves in to wait for him. It is then that they notice all of the surface objects Swatt has been hoarding. Tula is fumbling with an old camera when Swatt surprises them – the flash goes off, flooding the room with bright light. He lunges at Murk and they begin to scuffle. Tula gets behind Swatt and tries to restrain him but he has other plans. He shocks her but while dealing with her Murk is able to get a hold of him and remove his helmet. Now that he cannot breathe under water, Murk forces his head into a pool and holds it under. He releases him just short of drowning and Swatt scrambles to replace his helmet. Everyone settles down long enough for Murk to tell Swatt that he and Tula need his help in freeing King Orm. He goes on to explain that it is Swatt’s knowledge of the surface world that they have need of. Before anything can be resolved, Tula and the Drift are summoned to Arthur.

Now somewhere south of the Florida Keys, a small sailboat is tossed like a cork caught in a tumultuous storm. The doomed sailors go below deck to the safety of the lower cabin, however one of them notices a lone woman perilously adrift in the threatening waters – it is Tula. The boat begins to spin completely out of control and just when she thinks all is lost a hand reaches out to grab Tula and pull her aboard. The exiled King of Atlantis has saved her but she refuses to bow before him when asked. He tells her they are being pulled down into the triangle by his design. Down and down they go, and as the tiny sailboat is crushed, Tula swims away.

Arthur leads the soldiers of The Drift in search of The Scavenger’s fleet as they now know he has more than one submarine. Tula has finally joined up with her King and is told to take The Drift further down the coast and then circle around. He takes a complement of Drift soldiers with him and stays close to the ocean floor. It is then that he notices a strange smell in the water – fuel. Just then an explosion throws Arthur and his men like dolls, scattering them along the shoreline where a broken and damaged submarine sits lifeless like a beached whale. On board the tattered vessel Arthur and his men find two of their own, one is already dead the other has undergone some type of hackneyed surgery. He lies close to death but clinging tenaciously to life on the floor of the submarine. Arthur instructs his men to help him and bring him home.

Amid the backdrop of sunken ships and the long forgotten relics of maritime plane crashes, Princess Mera swims gracefully through the skeletal remains in search of Nereus, her estranged husband. She finds him standing regally atop the broken deck of a barnacle encrusted ship, spear in hand. He asks just one pointed question, “Where the hell have you been?”

Granted this issue was predominately set-up, the story didn’t advance all that much but Geoff Johns can sometimes go for issues on end without advancing the plot, just introducing characters. That seems to be what he has done here. The one I enjoyed the most was The New 52 debut of Topo. This is a completely new look for him. More kraken than actual octopus now, Topo is truly a sea-monster, albeit one with an extreme intellect. Beyond that we had Swatt and this whole sub-plot involving Murk and Tula’s plan to break King Orm out. With all these Kings and pretenders to the throne I can’t help but think of this as Game of Thrones underwater (without the nudity). There is lots of intrigue and even some hints at a love triangle at the very end of this issue. Ultimately this is Geoff Johns doing what he does best – writing great character driven stories full of good solid dialogue and characters you can actually care about.

Paul Pelletier’s art is dynamic on its own but Rod Reis’s colors really give this book the feeling that it is taking place under water. The muted blues and greens applied over the other colors cast an ethereal other-worldly glow over everything. This works especially well on Pelletier’s incredibly detailed graveyard of sunken ships. More than backgrounds these meticulously rendered scenes frame the action without overpowering it. I found them to be some of my favorite pages. Pelletier and Reis seem to have a great chemistry and it comes through in their work.

Overall Aquaman is fast becoming a stand out in the New 52. Geoff Johns is doing here very much the same thing he did for Green Lantern, writing great stories week after week and making the character his own. I look forward to a good long run from him on this title. If you don’t already get it, give Aquaman a look – I don’t think you will be disappointed.

So until next week, see you at the comic book store.

Review: Constantine #1 – Jeff Lemire, Ray Fawkes & Renato Guedes

Constantine-01cvrI was always a huge fan of Hellblazer, and while I eventually fell behind, Vertigo’s longest running series always had a special place on my shelf. With its end last month in issue 300, John Constantine has a new home in the universe of the New 52, standing toe-to-toe with Superman and Wonder Woman. Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes, alongside artist Renato Guedes, are behind the new series Constantine, but has his move to a new home diminished everyone’s favourite anti-hero? Thankfully he’s still the same alcohol swigging cheat he always was in this solid, but fairly standard first issue.

The plot is fairly standard fare for a first issue; it introduces John Constantine, and following a remark about how the world is filled with super-beings, throws him into a case regarding one of his friends, after which he manages to antagonize a fairly powerful sorceress. Just a normal day for our dashing hero. It’s not anything drastically new; it sets up the new world that we find Constantine in now, and also an opening story arc, but it plays it safe.

Playing it safe isn’t necessarily a bad thing – this issue reads more like a proof of concept to fans and makes clear that Lemire and Fawkes understand John Constantine. It has all the elements – his true British dialogue  betrayal, alcohol, and a con job, that makes the story feel like it wouldn’t feel out of place in the realm of Hellblazer.

Renato Guedes’ art looks great, and combined with Marcelo Maiolo’s colouring, it really stands out. While not as smooth as Constantine’s depiction in Justice League Dark thanks to some rough line work, it still manages to impress, particualrly when introduced to the demonic Sargon the Sorceress. Plus, I’m seeing some colours I’d never thought I’d see in a Constantine story, as he travels to an ice hotel in Norway –  a welcome change.

One last thing I will bring up is the nature of magic in regards to Constantine’s introduction to the New 52. Typically in Hellblazer, it was often a battle with Heaven and Hell and anything in between, being grounded within folklore and legend. But with the less religious nature of the DC Universe as a whole, it’ll be interesting if these more traditional elements came in to play some time down the line.

The new home and new creative team may have initially made some worry about a change in quality, or if it could even hold a candle to the original series. Fear not – Lemire, Fawkes and Guedes have shown in this first issue that they get John Constantine, and have set up our hero in a new and exciting world.

The old Constantine is dead; Long live Constantine.

Review: Batman & Robin #18 – Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason


So passes another Robin. Damian Wayne, slain in the pages of Batman Incorporated #8 has left a large hole in Bruce Wayne’s life. Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason’s series Batman & Robin takes the full brunt of the fallout, exploring how Batman is coping with the loss of his biological son – but this issue is different. Batman & Robin #18 has not one line of spoken dialogue, leaving most of the burden up to Gleason’s art, which thankfully delivers on an issue that is full of emotional impact as Batman spends his first night in the aftermath of losing his Robin.

This issue shows how Batman grieves the only way he knows how- by burying himself in his work. Bruce takes to the streets of Gotham with the rage and determination of a man who has lost almost everything, and he becomes particularly violent in this case. The anger that Batman shows, which was previously reserved for only his most dangerous nemesis, comes out in full form as he appears to have his most eventful night. It’s dark stuff, and it seems that this may be the one event that could push Batman over the edge, which provides an interesting set-up for how the future of Batman comics could play out.

Where this issue really shines is when the action takes a break and the family is left to think. From the opening pages where Alfred allows himself a moment of tears, before straightening up as Bruce walks into the room, through to any time Batman looks over his shoulder expecting to see his son beside him – each of these actions speak louder than any line of dialogue could. It’s a great touch leaving out any spoken words, and shows that words could not even describe the pain that the family feel.

Gleason really goes all out with his art in this issue, as he manages to capture the full emotional impact of the grief.  While some of his character work appears to look more like mannequin than human, this issue boasts some particularly stand out panels, such as what appears as the last image (for the time being at least) where we see both Batman and Robin together. It’s obvious that Gleason enjoyed drawing the Boy Wonder, and this panel is particularly impressive, as he manages to capture  the spirit of Damian Wayne’s Robin – it serves well as a one last hurrah.

Batman & Robin #18 says goodbye to Damian Wayne in a way that is wholly unique. It’s incredibly sad to see one of the more intriguing Robins in recent memory pass, especially considering his relationship with his father was finally reaching a point of normality within this title. It’s emotional and heavy, and as the final pages play out, as the impact of the event finally hits, you’ll find yourself in a similar state of mind.

Goodbye Damian Wayne. You will be missed

Score: 8.5/10