Singles Going Steady 7/15/2015: Flying (Not Very) High with Dick GraysonA comic review article by: Eva Ceja, Justin Giampaoli, Jackie Henley, Christine Manzione, Norrin Powell, Jamil Scalese
Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin's weekly single issue review roundup.
[NOTE: The review score above is the average score for all reviews in this column. Each comic also has its own score below]
(Tim Seeley / Mikel Janin; DC Comics)
Since hearing it was coming soon to a comic book store near me, I've been anticipating DC's latest Dick Grayson solo comic. I picked up two copies of the title, both blank covers; one to get an artist's sketch at an upcoming Comic Con, and another for me to draw my own cover on it. However, after reading the book, I'm forced to say that at best this first issue is mediocre. I wish I had better news. Sadly, I don't.
Don't get me wrong. The issue doesn't completely suck. Still, it wasn't the strong opening I would've expected from a Bat-family or Robin/Nightwing/Dick Grayson book. On a positive note, the art is decent. It kind of resembles Greg Land art (if Greg Land was less cookie-cutter) mixed with the movement style of Scott McDaniel. The story's opening, however, reminds me far too much of the James Bond movie Skyfall, if Bond hadn't been shot by friendly fire and fallen off the train.
This issue follows Dick, who has orders to acquire a Russian man named Ninel Dubov. Apparently, Ninel has some type of Meta power, seemingly radioactive or heat based. Eventually, Dick acquires his target by pretending to be a friend, while using some Sypral device that allows its wielder to plant suggestion or even control another's mind.
In their departure from the train, Dick is pursued by the Midnighter (for some unknown reason), and the two wind up in a brief tussle. But the Midnighter is literally removed from the picture by Ninel and his Meta power. Through it all, Dick maintains contact with Batman, who's given the designation Mr. Malone, a.k.a. Matches Malone, while Dick refers to himself as Birdwatcher. Dick also gets up close and personal with The New 52's version of Helena Bertinelli, who is now black…I kinda like that.
In the end, we meet the head of Spyral, a man with no distinguishable face -- that reminds me far too much of The Question -- and find out one of Spyral's primary goals is to uncover the secret identities of the DCU's heroes.
I hope the next few issues of Grayson focus on expanding the story, becoming more unique and less routine. I hope the characters become more complex and less predictable. As a standalone issue in an ongoing series, this would be acceptable. As a first issue, it leaves me wanting. Here's hoping Grayson gets better.
- Norrin Powell
New Suicide Squad #1
(Sean Ryan / Jeremy Roberts / Blond; DC)
Part of an ongoing rollout to retool classic properties that didn't quite catch on during the initial New 52 launch, Suicide Squad attempts to entertain without changing the status quo too much.
I didn't read the previous volume, but I did stumble across John Ostrander and Luke McDonnell's legendary run in a bargain bin last year. That was truly some of the best comics I've ever read, and it got me interested in what is the essentially the godfather of supervillain comics. This current incarnation by Sean Ryan and Jeremy Roberts has a roster of fantastic characters, and Joker's Daughter, and a base premise that satisfies audience's shady sides.
Ryan was an editor on the infinitely wonderful Secret Six by Simone/Scott so I expect a certain understanding of how these bad guy team-ups work, and that's there for the most part. What isn't there is any sort of novel spin on the nearly thirty-year-old concept. The freshest element is Victor Sage (a pseudonym of The Question), head dude in charge of Task Force X after Amanda Waller's demotion. Sage wants to go bigger and badder with the roster and recruits Deathstroke and Joker's Daughter using incentive instead of punishment. He claims those additions were chosen to spurn on Deadshot and Harley Quinn, characters with similar gimmicks. I'm not sure that makes sense but we'll ignore it for now. We'll also ignore how fifth and final member Black Manta is part of the team despite escaping at the end of Forever Evil.
The art is very much in the mold of what I would think of as DC's house style. That's not really a compliment or insult. Jeremy Roberts helms the comic well and all of the diverse villains get their due. It's a clean look for a dirty book full of cartoonish violence and brutal slayings. Ryan's script is always on the move and there are moments where it's tough to understand how the action is flowing panel to panel but nothing unforgivable.
This is a remarkably average start but there's enough there that a good story could bloom in the next issue. We'll see.
- Jamil Scalese
(Marc Andreyko / Dave Acosta; Dynamite Comics)
Marc Andreyko (Batwoman) reboots this Vampire Comic book tale of Chastity. Set in the 1980s, Chastity Marks and her family yearn for her to be an Olympic Gold medalist. However, her dreams (and mainly her mother’s) are shattered when she lands incorrectly and her ACL is shattered. She turns to reading vampire novels and becomes obsessed! (Sounds like every tween girl in this era…) Upon attending a book signing for her new favorite Vampire novel, she meets the author who offers her a ride home, which is more unrealistic than the vampire turn she makes seconds later. The mysterious underworld of Vampires is now Chas’ reality.
My thoughts on the reboot? I think is sucked, literally. The original Chastity had depth and courage, one your Priestess can relate to — not only because I actually went to RADA — since I was that girl who ran away from home when I was 17 and obsessed with Anne Rice. It’s a shame that Andreyko changed the story to be more “fitting for our tweenie vampire age”, yet still in no way is this comic comparable to the beauty of Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire series. Kudos to Dave Acosta (The Fallen) for the beautiful visuals, but I just can’t get past Chastity‘s otherwise lack of…bite.
- Eva Ceja
(Antony Johnston / Christopher Mitten; Oni Press)
There’s a dark sense of foreboding in Chris Mitten’s art this week that perfectly captures how Antony Johnston is working this leg of the script. Johnston has pulled off a tricky thing in this final arc of Wasteland, essentially giving us two apocalyptic ideas for the price of admission.
In the flashback scenes, we have the impending global climate change crisis of the future clanging up against this discovery of Adam, which leads to genetic engineering gone awry. There’s plenty of moral complexity to chew on, and some very cool moments, such as the origin of the Sand-Eaters if you piece the clues together. It’s not terribly hard work required of the audience, but I appreciate Johnston’s willingness to not directly provide all the answers and explain everything away like we’re 5 year olds, despite taking some heat for this approach on his newer works like Umbral and The Fuse. It gives readers a sense of discovery that would be lacking with easy exposition.
Both story threads, the man-made natural crisis, and the man-made human experimentation, are different shades of “playing God” (either through omission and neglect in the case of climate change, or through overt acts on the DNA tinkering side) and the consequences of each action. This stands as a huge issue, in an arc essentially of origins, this issue is all about them, from the Sand-Eaters to Michael, Mary, Abigail, and Thomas.
It’s a selfish move, but I want to give Johnston some static for not making Michael’s #7 designation #13 instead! I’ve loved this book from the start, but I love this issue more than most in recent memory. Honestly, it’s a shitty time to jump onto this book with only 4 issues remaining, so do yourself a favor and grab that first trade!
- Justin Giampaoli
Spider-Man 2099 #1
(Will Sliney / Peter David; Marvel Comics)
Spider-Man 2099 takes a futuristic spin on the web-slinging hero, replete with time-travel references — this guy, Miguel O’Hara’, even looks like Marty McFly — and a hologram assistant, Lyla, akin to the like’s of Master Chief’s Cortana. Miguel’s DNA was rewritten after an experiment gone awry, making him Spider-Man in the year 2099. Based on future circumstances concerning the lives of his father and grandfather, he jumps into the early 2000s, the starting period for the family business, Alchemax.
The action sequences are entertaining, with a time-traveling adjustor chasing Miguel for most of the book, bent on destroying 2099′s Spidey before something dire happens due to his existence. Liz Allan, an office-mate who is set up as a potential female protagonist/love interest, kind of reminds me of an angry Celine Dion, but should play an interesting foil to Spidey, as she makes it her mission to find out his identity (and the adjuster telling us she is crucial to Miguel’s future development). Will (Superior Spider-Man) Sliney‘s new costume is also interesting, with the spider logo favoring a skeletal appearance that is two-tone and super-graphical– a definite departure from the traditional design. For what my two cents are worth, Peter (X-Factor) David‘s plot is well set-up in this first issue, with the potential for some interesting locales and events to take place thanks to the added element of time-travel (please get on a dinosaur). Miguel is cheeky, and comes off a bit too Peter Parker-ish; not necessarily a bad thing when you’re a fan of Parker, but it’s a new character and it would be refreshing to see a slight variation in personality. I just want to see Doc Brown somewhere now.
- Christine Manzione
Star Trek #35
(Mike Johnson / Tony Shasteen; IDW)
I've paid little attention to Star Trek comics over the past couple years but when it was revealed that the infamous Q, the all-powerful trickster, would be the focus of an "event" storyline, my interest swelled. It grew even more when I discovered that this wasn't just Q in concept, it was Q in visage also, as the likeness of the great John de Lancie would be used alongside Zachary Quinto, Chris Pine and the others from the J.J. Abrams movie universe.
Surprises continued as the opener to this comic peeks in on our old friend Jean-Luc Picard, ambassador to Vulcan, who receives a visit from a scheming Q. Yes, this is the Picard from the original universe, and he predictably lambasts Q for middling the affairs of a parallel universe. Of course the omniscient being ignores the protests of his "friend" and exits to save the JJ-Verse from an unrevealed threat.
That's the beauty of Star Trek, they keep pulling me back in. I've fallen in and out of love with this fictional universe since I was a preteen; there's just something about its inherent structure that breeds great stories. "The Q Gambit" does what Trek does best: pushes the familiar into inconceivable directions.
Watching the JJ-Verse versions of the Enterprise crew interact with the classic Q works as well as you could imagine -- brash, still inexperienced Kirk won't accept Q's claims and Spock finds the concept of a grand manipulator "intriguing". A lot of this issue works to set up the big ideas so the movie cast doesn't get much time to breathe, but there's enough groundwork to see this becoming a pretty special story.
Penned by Mike Johnson, the head writer of the IDW's Star Trek line, with input from Star Trek: Into Darkness director Roberto Orci, the script is quite good, setting up an excellent premise in short time. Tony Shasteen actualizes it well through clean linework and lustrous color choices. While I assume it's an editorial request to make the characters look as close to their actor counterparts as possible the way it's drawn is a little unsettling at times. This issue is filled with headshots, and they're so accurate it's creepy.
For those nostalgic for the Enterprise of yesteryear, but still not bitter enough to hate the JJ-Verse on principle, this one will please you.
- Jamil Scalese
Star Wars #19
(Brian Wood / Carlos D’Anda / Gabe Eltaeb; Dark Horse Comics)
This issue has everything I’ve liked about Brian Wood’s run on this title. It reunites the original creative team, with Carlos D’Anda on art and Gabe Eltaeb on colors. There have been some terrific artists during the run, Ryan Kelly especially, but for my money nobody has captured the gleam of the Empire and the grit of the Rebel Alliance in the way that Carlos D’Anda has. There’s an energy to his lines that’s in keeping with the source material, and Eltaeb has solidified that aesthetic with lens flares and menacing hues.
Not only is the creative team reunited, but for the final couple of issues, we return to the Fab Four – Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie, as they dodge a Bounty Hunter Assassin Droid with a particularly bad rep, IG-88. As if that weren’t cool enough, Wood brings in deep cover Intelligence Agent Seren Song, and I instantly LOVE this girl. I love her look, I love her attitude, and I love her ship. I love her action figure that doesn’t exist. I love her animated series that doesn’t exist. I love the mini-series about her that Wood will probably not go on to write at Marvel.
It’s all a testament to the possibilities of the Star Wars Universe, still being mined nearly 40 years later, from the mind of a kid who just wanted to escape California’s Central Valley, the dreary ass place I too grew up - literally one town over from George Lucas - I too cruised the streets of McHenry Avenue, depicted in all its perfect repetitive ennui in American Graffiti, where every night was the same microcosm of existential despair, an escape ultimately reflected in the fantastical Joseph Campbell escapism that is Star Wars. This run is the last great Dark Horse contribution to the Star Wars property, and I’m already sad to see it go.
- Justin Giampaoli
Justice League United #3
(Jeff Lemire / Mike McKone / Guillermo Ortega / Cam Smith; DC Comics)
We're only three issues in (four if you count issue #0) and Justice League United is knocking it outta the park with every issue. Jeff Lemire proves he's not only an extremely talented writer but also a versatile one. His writing style in this book in comparison to Green Arrow is night and day. But both books give us fantastic stories that are among DC's best right now.
Justice League United #3 continues the story of this mishmash of completely dissimilar characters coming together, cementing their bonds, and really making it work.
The big bad so far has been an alien named Byth, whose goal is to control a genetically engineered child he's created, who will grow into a deadly threat to the galaxy. Our Justice League has finally come to Byth's front door and instead of simply attacking and trying to beat him into submission, they separate into two groups. Hawkman, Green Arrow, Adam Strange and Animal Man are sent to deal with a sabotaged Zeta Core that will destroy the city if not stabilized. While Martian Manhunter, Supergirl and Stargirl fly off to deal with Byth.
When the trio finally locates Byth and his genetically engineered young victim, only Supergirl attacks. Manhunter and Stargirl turn their focus toward the child, and Manhunter enters the child's mind using his telepathic abilities. The small child understands rudimentary feelings and thought patterns, but hasn't learned language yet. He is made to understand that the bad man (Byth) wants to use and hurt him. Manhunter asks the child if he will let him help him. The child responds by grabbing Martian Manhunter and embracing him tightly.
We then cut back to Hawkman, Arrow, Adam Strange, and Animal Man, who have separated the Zeta Core from its seating, and now must get it away from the city. In a purely selfless act, Hawkman, stating he is the only one with no ties that need him, sacrifices himself, flying the core into the sky as fast and far as he can fly. Our issue ends with Supergirl holding Hawkman's charred dead body.
WHAT A CLIFFHANGER!!!! Now, most of us believe Hawkman is still alive. The New 52 has given him an almost Wolverine-type healing factor, due to the Nth Metal within him. Still, it was an outstanding ending! Next issue will likely let us know his true fate for sure. Can't wait for it!
- Norrin Powell
Death Vigil #1
(Stjepan Šejić; Top Cow)
Enjoyment level: UGHH. Unlike the Death Vigil comic that prolongs its life, I was hoping for this to be over sooner. The story and artwork (despite some beautiful pages inside) has a strange clusterfuck of elements that mash like Underworld-meets-Vikings-meets-The Walking Dead-meets-Jurassic Park, with some pirate play involving a talking bird on a shoulder. It was as confusing to read as getting a raging boner during a graphic horror scene of an episode of Happy Friends, and being a chick all at the same time.
There’s definitely some girl-power stuff being tried, which is great, but Stjepan Šejić‘s story has a little too much crammed into one volume to deeply connect, keep up, identify, or really get attached. Hopefully the story will slow down so they can flush out the rest. And hopefully our editor never makes me review this comic again.
- Jackie Henley
(Justin Jordan / Felipe Sobreiro / Kyle Strahm; Image Comics)
It’s sort of an aside, but this week is a perfect representation of my current buying habits. We have a long-standing series up top in Wasteland that I’ve stuck with since day one, since before the creator-owned thing became as hip as it is now, from creators who I wasn’t familiar with at the time, creators who I’ve since followed to all of their other work. We have a rare company owned property in the next slot in Star Wars, a book that gets a pull out of fierce creator loyalty to my favorite writer, and then in this last slot we have another creator-owned work, a new one from a guy who has banked some credibility with me over the years largely because of the Luther Strode Trilogy. It’s also interesting that these three books are all from different publishers (not Marvel and DC!), Oni Press, Dark Horse, and Image Comics.
THAT SAID, I enjoyed this book! Kyle Strahm’s visuals are instantly disturbing, capturing the sort of genre-melding grindhouse violence that catapulted Justin Jordan’s career in the aforementioned Luther Strode. Jordan’s world-build is instantly convincing, positioning some Walking Dead-style post-apocalyptic survival ethos without bothering to explain too much about how it actually came to be. We’re just dropped in en media res.
With the sort of ronin theme underlying things, it’s hard not to make the obvious comparison to Lone Wolf & Cub, then just throw in a dash of Saga, since events are narrated from the POV of the infant baby in retrospect. It’s one of the (few) things I love about Saga, so it was a welcome hook to see that play out as No meets Hope. I’m on board for this ongoing series.
- Justin Giampaoli