Friday, May 22, 2015

Wonder Woman #40

War-Torn Chapter 5

Writer: Meredith Finch
Penciller: David Finch
Inker: Jonathan Glapion
Colorist: Aspen MLT's Peter Steigerwald
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover: Finch, Glapion & Sonia Oback
Assistant Editor: David Piña
Group Editor: Matt Idelson
Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston.
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
By special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family.

The cover is fairly well-done. It's a bit symbolic, showing Wonder Woman slowly being consumed by what I suppose is the main villain of this story arc. But the Flash has only been in a few issues of Wonder Woman, so I really don't know what's going on.

Our story begins with lots of drama with the Amazons that doesn't concern the Flash at all. So I'm going to skip ahead to the part where Wonder Woman meets up with the Justice League. Apparently, most of the members of the team have continued to help Wonder Woman try to solve the problem of the vanishing villages, except for the Flash who has only showed up here at the end.

Turns out a race of insectoid people have been responsible for the vanishing villages, and Cyborg was able to locate their main nest. He, Flash, Batman, Superman, Aquaman and Wonder Woman have all gathered to stop this once and for all, and Flash is especially eager to prevent the world from being overrun by more "bug boys." As the Justice League heads into the cave, passing tons of giant bugs, Flash asks Superman, "What did you say these guys ate again?" Superman says, "You don't want to know," and Flash answers with, "I was afraid you were going to say something like that."

Soon, the team reaches the queen, who we saw on the cover. Wonder Woman confront the queen about claiming the lives of thousands of people, but the queen says she and her people were just doing that which is in their nature. The queen then shifts the blame to Wonder Woman, saying that her race of insectoid people were awaken when Wonder Woman threw her former villain, the First Born, into the heart of the earth.

And then we see more drama going on with the Amazons and Donna Troy. At the end of the issue, there's a note saying the epic conclusion will come in Wonder Woman Annual #1, but I highly suspect that issue will not be printed under the New 52 label, and will therefore fall out of the jurisdiction of this blog. So, for all intents and purposes, this is the final issue of Wonder Woman I'll be covering.

The Good:

This was a pretty solid comic book. The art was good, and the story was interesting enough. I do like the idea of having Wonder Woman face consequences for burying some ultimate evil in the earth. If I were a regular reader of the series, I'd probably quite enjoy this issue.

The Bad:

Well, Flash really didn't do too much here, and I am a bit bummed out that he only showed up at the beginning and the end of this storyline. But he wasn't relegated to the background here. Flash made his presence felt, injecting a bit of comedy without going over the top, and, most importantly, helping fill in new readers like me by asking questions. So, in a way, it was good for the Flash to be absent for the bulk of this story.

Final score: 5 out of 10

Next time, we'll take a quick look at a passive Flash appearance in Earth 2: World's End #18.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Superman/Wonder Woman #13

Battlefield of Love

Writer Peter J. Tomasi
Penciller Doug Mahnke
Inkers Jaime Mendoza and Don Ho (pgs. 14-15)
Colorist Tomeu Morey
Letterer Carlos M. Mangual
Cover Mahnke & Morey
Assistant Editor Jeremy Bent
Group Editor Eddie Berganza
Superman crated by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
By special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family.
Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston

This cover, I believe, is a good example of the difference an inker can make. Mahnke apparently inked this himself, and I think it looks terrible. Superman's face is supposed to be in shadows, but it just looks like his eye got melted away. Luckily, the inside pages don't look quite as bad.

Our story begins with a flashback to the Darkseid invasion five years ago — specifically the moment Superman first met Wonder Woman and commented on her strength.

We then get an extension of that original conversation. Superman suggests they build a wall to protect the bystanders from the parademons, but Wonder Woman believes their time is better spent on killing the beasts. They argue a bit about their tactics, and Superman becomes frustrated when it appears Wonder Woman isn't concerned about protecting the innocent.

The story then skips ahead to today, where Superman and Wonder Woman try to go out on a date, but get sidetracked by two villains named Major Disaster and Atomic Skull. The Flash isn't involved at all, so I'll end my review here.

The Good:

It was nice to see a flashback that didn't contradict what previously happened. This was just a quick extension of a conversation that felt like it easily could have taken place during the fight. I wish more people at DC would be careful like this when adding details to flashbacks.

The Bad:

Little to no Flash. Trying to find Flash in this issue was like a game of Where's Waldo. I'm not saying he needed to be a big part of this issue, but it would have been nice to have seen him doing something interesting in the flashback.

Final score: 4 out of 10

Next time, we'll return to Wonder Woman's mystery of the disappearing villages in Wonder Woman #40.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Wonder Woman #36


Writer: Meredith Firth
Penciller: David Finch
Inker: Richard Friend
Colorist: Sonia Oback
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Cover: Finch, Friend, & Oback
Assistant Editor: David Piña
Group Editor: Matt Idelson
Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston

This issue of Wonder Woman marks the start of a new creative team. Whereas the previous team seemed to keep Wonder Woman mostly isolated from the rest of the DC Universe, this team demonstrated a desire to include the Justice League right off the bat. The cover is a perfectly solid cover by David Finch, who is a perfectly solid artist, which really helps the book out as a whole.

There's a lot of backstory stuff going on with the Amazons that doesn't involve the Flash, so I'll just hit on the points that do matter. When several villages are seemingly wiped off the face of the Earth by natural causes, Cyborg summons the entire Justice League to the new Watchtower. Flash has installed some plug-ins to help get rid of the Lex Luthor smell in the satellite.

Cyborg shows them the devastation in Thailand and Ecuador, and Flash suggests it could have been caused by sinkholes. But Batman shoots that theory down, saying sinkholes don't close up like that overnight. The only reading Cyborg is able to gather is a high amount of vegetation, so Wonder Woman tracks down Swamp Thing in Thailand and ruthlessly attacks him.

Aquaman soon arrives to help calm Wonder Woman down, and Swamp Thing angrily explains he had nothing to do with the villages and is just concerned by their disappearance as the Justice League is. As Aquaman and Wonder Woman fly off in a jet, he confronts her about her rash attitude. She admits she feels like she's being pulled in a million different directions with all the trouble the Amazons are facing and Superman's recent battle with Doomsday. Diana says with all her responsibilities, no matter what she does, she'll always be letting someone down. So Aquaman tells her to make sure she doesn't let herself down.

The Good:

This was a perfectly fine start for a new creative team. It introduced a new mystery for Wonder Woman to solve, involved some nice guest stars through the Justice League, and including a surprise fight with Swamp Thing. The art was nice and clean, but not particularly spectacular. I'm sure I'd have different feelings if I were a Wonder Woman fan, but as a general DC comics fan, I thought this issue was fairly decent.

The Bad:

There wasn't a whole lot of Flash here, but it was nice to see he wasn't forgotten. His sinkhole suggestion wasn't particularly bright — I'd expect more from a scientist — but at least he offered up a suggestion, something none of the other Leaguers did. And Flash's joke about Luthor was rather lame, but it did help me figure out where to put this issue in my timeline. This is after Luthor gave the Justice League his satellite, but before they officially made him a member of the team.

Final score: 5 out of 10

Next time, we'll continue with the Wonder Woman theme with a passive Flash appearance in Superman/Wonder Woman #13.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Grayson #6

The Brains of the Operation

Writer / Tim Seeley
Plot by Time Seeley & Tom King
Artist / Mikel Janín
Colorist / Jeromy Cox
Letterer / Carlos M. Mangual
Cover / Mikel Janín
Assistant Editor / Matt Humphries
Editor / Mark Doyle

I love this cover. It's fantastic and fitting for what the series should be. Ironically, covers this beautiful and unique are almost too good for the story inside. I am so close to liking this book, but there are just a handful of things keeping me back. Anyway, in case you were wondering, that's Dick Grayson fighting Midnighter, the former member of StormWatch who can predict any move his enemy might make. But he doesn't matter to the Flash, so we won't talk about him.

In fact, none of this story has to do with the Flash. Today's mission sends Dick out to China to retrieve some sort of modified brain. There's some really weird stuff going on with killer whales on robotic spider legs, and ultimately Dick is kidnapped by Midnighter. His partner reports their failure to the director of Spyral, and it's in his office where we catch a quick glimpse of the Flash on his monitors.

We also see that Spyral is currently working on deducing Martian Manhunter's identity, but are stumped for the time being. Anyway, Dick goes on to defeat Midnighter, which only opens the door for more wacky adventures, all of which don't involve the Flash, so I'll leave the series of Grayson forever.

The Good:

Like I said earlier, I am really, really close to liking this book. But I just can't get into it. I think it didn't set itself up well enough for me in the first issue, and it kept getting wackier than I expected or wanted it to. I also find it odd that even though I skipped from issue #2 to #6, I didn't feel like I missed anything. I'm not sure if that's a strength or a weakness for an ongoing.

The Bad:

Little to no Flash. Once again, we're teased with the fact that Spyral is collecting data on the most powerful superheroes in the world. But for what? And will anything ever come from it? Sadly, we'll never find out on this blog, because this is the final Flash appearance within a Grayson issue under the New 52 banner.

Final score: 4 out of 10

Next time, let's take a quick diversion to Wonder Woman #36. I know I'm jumping around a bit, but I do have a reason. There are quite a few issues that seem to happen before Lex Luthor officially joins the Justice League, so we'll be a bit sporadic for a bit.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Grayson #2

Gut Feelings

Writer / Tim Seeley
Plot by Tim Seeley & Tom King
Artists / Mikel Janín & Guillermo Ortego & Juan Castro
Colorist / Jeromy Cox
Letterer / Carlos M. Mangual
Cover / Mikel Janín
Assistant Editor / Matt Humphreys
Editor / Mark Doyle
Batman created by Bob Kane

The cover of this issue is so much better than issue #1, it's not even funny. Not only does this have the epic look and feel of a noir movie poster, but it actually shows us what the inside art is going to look like. DC should have trusted Janín from the get-go, instead of using that ugly pink thing to launch the series.

Well, just as with the last issue, this issue only gives us a quick glimpse of the Flash on a computer screen at the very end. So I'll just touch on the highlights here. We get to see more of Dick talking to Batman, who tells him about his fake funeral. And Dick says he hopes to quickly take down Spyral so he can return to his old life.

As Agent 37, Dick is sent out on his next mission, this time to England. Once again, he's after an odd, mechanical body part — a stomach that has given this lady super speed but also made her a cannibal. Once again Dick completes the mission rather sloppily, and we return to Spyral headquarters, where we see an update on their wall of superheroes.

So this super crazy secret organization has correctly identified the Flash as Barry Allen, although they are only 87 percent certain of it. Apparently they used Central City Police blood records to determine this match.

The Good:

I did like this this issue more than the first one. The conversations with Batman were really helpful, especially in establishing that Dick Grayson is officially dead to the world. But I still would have liked more explanation as to why, exactly, does Dick have to infiltrate Spyral. Also, the series still seems to be struggling with trying to decide how much of a superhero book it really wants to be.

The Bad:

Little to no Flash. The prospect of someone like Spyral discovering the Flash's identity is very exciting. But what are they going to do with it? So far, nothing has come from this shocking revelation, and I doubt anything will. Just another seed to be sown and never reaped.

Final score: 4 out of 10

Next time, we'll wrap up this passive appearance diversion with Grayson #6.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Grayson #1

Writer / Tim Seeley
Plot / Tim Seeley & Tom King
Artist / Mikel Janin
Colorist / Jeromy Cox
Letterer / Carlos M. Mangual
Cover / Andrew Robinson
Assistant Editor / Matt Humphreys
Editors / Kickin' Kate Kubert & Merciless Mark Doyle

Mikel Janin is one of my favorite artists, so I was a bit disappointed to see he didn't draw this cover. I guess Andrew Robinson did an OK job ... it's just very ... pink. And I'm not sure what kind of a message they're trying to send with that. Is this supposed to be a serious, or a light-hearted title? Because in the New 52, you're usually one or the other with no in-between. Aside from that dilemma, I am surprisingly unfazed by seeing Dick Grayson holding a gun. Maybe I should be shocked, outraged or excited, but I'm completely indifferent. I guess I've never really cared about him that much — he's always been Nightwing to me and off doing his own thing.

Our story begins with a one-page recap of Dick Grayson's life. From being an acrobat with the Flying Graysons, he became Batman's first sidekick, Robin, then his own hero, Nightwing. But after his identity was exposed during Forever Evil, Batman asked Dick to infiltrate the secret organization known as Spyral.

So we pick up with Dick on one of his first missions as a Spyral agent out in Russia. Absolutely none of this has to do with the Flash, so I'll skip it, only saying that Janin's art is nice and clean and the action isn't too bad. My favorite part was when Dick had to hypnotize a Russian into believing he's his friend. (All Spyral agents are equipped with hypnotic devices to accomplish their missions and conceal their identities.) The hypnotic illusion this guy has is real fun, as it includes the ever-friendly Russian teddy bear, the Cheburashka.

Anyway, Dick accomplishes his mission, just a little messier than Spyral intended. After a quick debriefing at Spyral headquarters, he sends a quick message to Mr. Malone (Batman's most notable alias, Matches Malone) and basically reports he hasn't learned anything yet. We then see that Spyral is working on determining the secret identities of the most notable superheroes in the world. They've already deduced Batman's identity within 89 percent accuracy and Cyborg's at a 90 percent match. Up next on their list is none other than the Flash.

The Good:

Not a whole lot to say here. Janin's art is nice, but not nice enough for me to recommend this book on that alone. Mostly, though, I wonder why this book even exists. It's one of those non-superhero books with superheroes in it, which is a contradiction and never seems to do very well for DC. If they wanted to get serious about doing a James Bond-type spy book, then why'd they choose someone as high-profile and celebrated as Dick Grayson, the first major sidekick in comics history? It just feels very out of place.

The Bad:

Little to no Flash. He showed up on a computer screen, which is the exact definition of a passive appearance on this blog. Now, if this computer image were to actually lead to something, say a story where this Spyral organization went after Barry Allen, then this comic would be worth it. But I have a sneaking suspicion that will never happen.

Why is Dick a spy? This issue does not offer up any kind of explanation as to why Dick Grayson has given up being Nightwing to infiltrate this mysterious, yet seemingly all-powerful group. I guess Tim Seeley is working under the impression that readers of this series have already read whichever Batman title it was that set this up. But I didn't read that, and I would have at least liked an editor's note telling me which issue explains this sudden and drastic change to a character who's now been around for about 75 years.

Final score: 3 out of 10

Next time, we continue with Grayson #2.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Superman/Wonder Woman Annual #1

[Last Sun] Chapter 3 "The Promise"

Story Charles Soule
Pencils Ed Benes, Tony Daniel, Pascal Alixe, Cliff Richards, and Jack Herbert
Inks Jaime Mendoza, Matt Banning, Vicente Cifuentes, Pascal Alixe, and Cliff Richards
Colors Jeromy Cox
Letter Carlos M. Mangual, Dezi Sienty and Taylor Esposito
Cover Tony Daniel and Tomeu Morey
Assistant Editor Anthony Marques
Group Editor Eddie Berganza
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. By special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family.
Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston.
Doomsday created by Dan Jurgens, Brett Breeding, Jerry Ordway, Louise Simonsson and Roger Stern.

I'm usually pretty satisfied with Tony Daniel's art, but this cover does nothing for me. Why, exactly, is Wonder Woman glowing? And what's going on with Superman/Doomsday's jaw? His mouth shouldn't be able to open that wide, right? I think this could have and should have been a much better cover.

So, unlike H'el on Earth, which pretty much kept the Justice League involved the whole time, Superman: Doomed only featured the League in very small doses at the beginning and again toward the end. So what happens when you skip about 10 issues in a huge story like this? You get pretty confused pretty quick. I'll do my best here. In any case, I can reasonably assume I don't know much more than the Flash does.

The issue begins with another image of the Daily Planet homepage and a story written by Lois Lane. Curiously, Lois focuses on how dangerous Superman has become since turning into Doomsday, and she even says Earth's best chance for survival lies in the hands of Brainiac, who is apparently invading the planet. I've surmised that Lois is being controlled by Brainiac at the moment, but why would Perry White allow such a thing to be published?

Our story begins near Mars, where Cyborg Superman battles Superdoom (the transformed Superman), as the Brainiac invasion fleet approaches Earth. Superdoom easily rips off Cyborg Superman's arm, but he just laughs, saying all he was doing was stalling for Brainiac. When Superdoom hears this, he immediately takes off toward Earth.

Meanwhile, 22,236 miles above the earth, in geosynchronous orbit, the Justice League meet in what I assume to be Lex Luthor's satellite he gave the team, although this issue calls it the Justice League Emergency Bunker. Flash, Wonder Woman and Cyborg are in person, while Batman confers via hologram. Flash notes that Brainiac has sent a lot of ships, and Cyborg learns they're all full of robots. He tries to communicate with them, but is hit by surge of electrical feedback and is essentially shut down.

As Flash tends to Cyborg, Wonder Woman receives a call from Steel and Lana Lang. For some reason, these two are in a spaceship 238,900 miles from Earth. Lana has used her electrical engineering skills to discover a pattern in Brainiac's attack. And that pattern tells her Brainiac is trying to turn off the entire planet at once. Steel says they just have to destroy 36 percent of the fleet to prevent this, a figure that Batman agrees with. The Justice League then has a brief discussion about Superman. Apparently someone flooded the atmosphere with kryptonite, which weakens Superman's resistance to the Doomsday virus. Batman is worried about Superdoom returning to Earth, but Wonder Woman has faith in her boyfriend.

Inside Superman's mind, his good self is represented by Clark Kent and his bad side is essentially Doomsday wearing his Superman suit. Clark says he's fast enough to dive down to Earth, fight Brainiac's forces, then leave the kryptonite atmosphere before it effects him too much. The Doomsday side of him is very much in favor of this plan, believing that he'll be able to take control before Clark can leave Earth again.

So Superdoom puts his plan to the test in Cambodia, where Hawkman and Simon Baz are getting their butts kicked by Brainiac's robots. Superdoom easily destroys the machines, and almost attacks Hawkman, but he pulls out at the last second.

Wonder Woman wages war in Greenland, while Batman works on ridding the atmosphere of kryptonite from the Fortress of Solitude. Swamp Thing fights in Louisiana, the Red Lanterns in Hong Kong, Aquaman in the Atlantic Ocean, the Teen Titans in Ecuador, and in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia, the Flash is working with Green Arrow.

These two have had virtually nothing to do with each other in the New 52, but they have become best friends on the CW, so I guess it's good to see them share a panel here. Anyway, despite the heroes' best efforts, Cyborg reports they aren't destroying the robots fast enough. Meanwhile, in lunar orbit, on the dark side, Cyborg Superman is constructing a large gateway. Steel notices this and prepares to directly battle Cyborg Superman.

In Romania, Superdoom has easily destroyed a bunch more robots, but now is preparing to destroy a nearby town. Clark fights the monster in his head, but can't prevail against the kryptonite. Soon, Wonder Woman arrives to prevent Superdoom from taking innocent lives. However, even Wonder Woman can't stop her monster boyfriend. She removes her wristbands and begins to glow blue, which is what must be happening on the cover, but I have no idea what it means. Is she going into god mode? Well, whatever it is, it doesn't work, and she eventually feels she has no other choice but to cut off Superdoom's head. But just before she does so, Batman completes his plan off panel (an editor's note directs us to Action Comics Annual #3) and all the kryptonite is cleared from the atmosphere. The Clark side triumphs over the Doomsday side, and Wonder Woman spares her lover.

Cyborg then observes that the heroes are finally gaining an edge, as we see Brainiac's forces falling to Shazam and Captain Cold standing alongside the Weather Wizard and ... a miscolored Mirror Master? It looks like he was drawn as Mirror Master, but colored as the pre-52 Heatwave, which, of course, is nonsensical since Heatwave has never worn that white-and-orange outfit in the New 52 and is currently presumed dead.

Anyway, Steel predictably fails against Cyborg Superman, but he is able to escape with Lana. However, Cyborg Superman happily explains that the whole invasion was merely a diversion for his and Brainiac's true plans. And somehow, Steel is able to figure out that Brainiac's forces began to self-destruct after 36 percent of their numbers were destroyed. He says this to Lana while they are still very much in space, floating around with their spaceship destroyed, protected only by his organic steel. So yeah, then Cyborg Superman summons a gigantic monster large enough to easily swallow Earth whole.

The Good:

Hmm ... I was previously rewarding Superman: Doomed for being an epic story, but I don't think I can say that anymore. Much like H'el on Earth, this Superman crossover began with a bang, and ended with a whimper. Maybe I would be feeling differently had I read those 10 issues I skipped over, but I kind of doubt it. What started out as a Doomsday story has become a Brainiac story, and not a very good one by the looks of it. I am, however, glad that the Flash did more in this issue than stand silently in the background.

The Bad:

Stupid science. Everything Steel and Lana Lang said and did in this issue was completely stupid. I hated the whole electrical engineer bit and especially that 36 percent number they kept throwing around. And I have a serious problem with a couple of characters floating around in space, explaining things they shouldn't be able to explain. I can handle this liquid, organic steel providing enough protection to survive in space, but to be able to carry on lengthy conversations? Too much for me. And I'm only complaining this much about these two because they were such a large part of the story.

Weak story. I think this one got away from Charles Soule. There's so much going on here — possessed Superman, global invasion, major villains returning, and, especially for this title, a fight between Wonder Woman and Superman. So why wasn't this issue better? Perhaps Soule bit off more than he could chew. By wasting so much time with Steel and Lana, he wasn't able to give Brainiac's invasion much more than a montage. And the heart of this issue — a Superman III-esque internal struggle coinciding with an external Wonder Woman fight — was severely undermined by essentially being resolved off panel. So much hinged on Batman clearing the atmosphere of kryptonite, and all we got of that was an editor's note. And of course, we were treated to the cliche of having our main villain, Cyborg Superman, gleefully announce that every defeat he suffered was all part of his larger plan. (This was the same problem that plagued the Young Justice show.) I was so frustrated at the end of this issue, I almost wanted that giant monster to swallow Earth and be done with it.

Final score: 3 out of 10

Next time, we'll take a quick detour into some passive Flash appearances in the Grayson series, staring with issue #1.