Saturday, August 31, 2013

DC Universe Presents #19

"Living History"

Tony Bedard – Writer
Javier Pina – Artist
Jason Wright – Colorist
Taylor Esposito – Letterer
Anthony Marques – Assistant Editor
Mike Cotton – Editor
Eddie Berganza – Group Editor

The cover is by Merino and Blond, and it is quite possibly the most misleading WTF cover of the whole gimmick. Yes, Beowulf is featured in this issue, but he does not fight or slaughter the Justice League like it's implied here. He doesn't even meet them. And the Flash, featured so prominently here, certainly does not get stabbed by a sword, since he doesn't even appear in the issue! By the way, the solicited cover showed that sword going all the way through Flash. For some reason, that image was deemed too violent, so now it almost looks like the sword happens to be resting behind Flash. All in all, this cover is just a complete mess. Sure, it might be drawn well, but that becomes irrelevant when so many problems are present.

The story begins with Gwendolyn Pierce, a professor of archaeometry at Columbia University, trying to figure out how old an artifact from the Bronze Age is. Traditional carbon dating suggests the golden sphere is negative 300 years old. So Gwen subjects it to a spectrometer, which causes the orb to glow, and from it emerges a white monster thing, that shape shifts to look like Gwen. The shapeshifter takes off, and the large, bare-chested hero Beowulf also emerges from the artifact. He pursues the beast with his huge sword, but quickly finds he's not in a castle, but actually a museum.

Turns out Beowulf and the shapeshifter are actually from the future, which happens to be exactly like medieval times, but with advanced technology instead of magic. Beowulf was battling the shapeshifter, when they were both tricked and sent back into the past.

The shapeshifter sees the Justice League exhibit, and mistakingly believes that people worship the heroes. So it changes into Superman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Batman, trying to become the ruler of this new time and age. Luckily, Beowulf is able to smell evil, so he quickly found the monster and chopped its head off.

Beowulf and Gwendolyn are surrounded by police officers, but they somehow manage to elude them and return to the museum. Gwendolyn is very quickly able to reverse the effects she caused on the sphere to open up a new portal to send Beowulf back his time. And then, for no reason whatsoever, she follows him to the dystopian, medieval future.

The Good:

Well, I suppose the idea of Beowulf is interesting, and there is a market out there for these kind of stories. I don't think that putting him in the future does any service to the character, though. It almost seems like having your cake and eating it, too — swords, castles, dragons and sci-fi technology! I'm also not a fan of DC resorting to public domain characters. Beowulf was based on a poem from the 8th century. With DC's rich history, couldn't they find (or create) someone original?

The Bad:

No Flash. He is front and center on the cover — dying right before our eyes! — and inside the issue, he only sneaks on to a couple of banners. The shapeshifter couldn't even bother to transform into the Flash. There were a lot of Flash fans (like me) whose jaws dropped when they saw this cover, only to be sorely disappointed, cheated even, by the inside pages. Why can't DC be confident enough in its own actual material to not resort to such gimmicks? I know that the Justice League helps sell books, but if you're going to include the JL, actually include them! Don't do this.

Bad storytelling. So I do feel a little sympathy for Tony Bedard. He only had 20 pages to try to build a whole world and introduce a classic, but updated character to the New 52. However, that doesn't excuse him for setting up situations he can't resolve. Beowulf kills the monster in a very public area, and he is quickly surrounded by tons of police officers. Our mammoth hero gets an unreadable expression on his face — is he grinning, scowling, meditating? — and then on the very next page, we see him riding away on one of the cop's horses. The only help we get as readers is a small caption that reads "3 minutes later..." I seriously thought I was missing a page. But I guess I wasn't, and I'm supposed to fill in those missing three minutes myself. Somehow, Beowulf distracted or slaughtered (I'm guessing slaughtered, he seems like a pretty violent guy) the policemen, and stole the horse, and made it back to the museum before anybody noticed. And he must have created a big diversion, because nobody was following them, as suggested by Gwendolyn's line that "It won't be long before they find the horse outside the museum." Seriously, what the heck just happened?

And thus ends the ill-fated DC Universe Presents. I believed in the concept behind this series, but it was sorely mishandled in all areas, including the name of the book. And now, with this abysmal issue, the series is gone. Hopefully it'll come back in a better form, with a simpler name like Showcase. And hopefully, DC will learn that readers don't like being lied to.

Final score: 2 out of 10

Next time: Good question. I started this blog one year after the New 52 began, so I had plenty of back issues to go through and organize in chronological order. It was also easier when Flash was only appearing in his title and Justice League. But now, I've essentially caught up, and it's become a lot trickier. Right now, I have four main story lines that I need to place into some kind of order. First, there's the Flash's three-issue guest appearance in the Justice League Dark Horror City story. Then there's the seven issues Flash appeared in for the Trinity War, which recently concluded. And, of course, we could never overlook the Reverse-Flash story line, which is still ongoing. And the fourth story I've made separate is The Flash Annual #2, which feels like it ought to take place before Reverse-Flash. Flash is already living with Patty, but there doesn't seem to be any pressing need to find the Speed Force Killer. I'm not sure if Trinity War should happen before or after Reverse-Flash, but I guess I have to go with whichever ended first. So, for now the plan is Justice League Dark Horror City, then Flash Annual #2, then Trinity War, then Reverse-Flash. Unless I change my mind.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Flash #19

"The Stuff of Heroes"

Brian Buccellato Writer pages 1-18; Co-Writer pages 19-20; Colorist
Marcio Takara Artist pages 1-18
Francis Manapul Co-Writer and Artist pages 19-20
Carlos M. Mangual Letterer
Harvey Richards Associate Editor
Wil Moss Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor

So this is the Flash's WTF cover. As usual, it holds up to the Manapul-Buccellato standard of excellence. The colors are beautiful, the action is gripping, and the Reverse-Flash looks pretty scary. Unfortunately, the scene depicted here doesn't really happen, and it only applies to the final two pages of this issue. From what I understand, Manapul and Buccellato had to adjust the story to meet up with DC's demand for a WTF cover. The final product turned out fine, I just hate it when creators have to tweak their work for some sales-grabbing gimmick.

Another unfortunate thing (for me, anyway) is that with this issue, Comixology stopped providing the variant covers. So that means I didn't get to enjoy the beautiful black-and-white version on my iPad, or the MAD variant by Sam Viviano. I don't know why Comixology stopped giving me the variant covers — something they had always done previously — and it really bums me out. And as far as I can tell, there's no option to pay extra to get the variants. They now only exist in print.

So anyway, we start our story in the home of Floyd Gomez and Marissa Rennie in Keystone City. Albert comes rushing over to tell Gomez about the Outlanders attacking Iron Heights. But Albert only finds Marissa, who is watching the news on a new 60-inch TV. Marissa worries that Gomez may have gone over there by himself, so she decides to go there with Albert, who really hopes the Flash is already there. And the Flash is there ... kind of.

The Outlanders have now fully infiltrated the prison, and a de-powered Barry Allen is trying to make sure they don't get their hands on any of the Rogues' old weapons. The Outlanders send one team, led by Costella, to free the Trickster, while another team heads for the armory for Trickster's gear. This team is holding a guard hostage, so Barry tries to save him with Weather Wizard's old wand. At first, he can only make fog, then some rain. Finally, he manages a big gust of wind that knocks them all out.

Meanwhile, Albert and Marissa arrive at the island, via her father's boat, which Albert has "turbocharged." Upon seeing the destruction caused by the Outlanders' assault, Marissa decides to stay with the boat while Albert enters the prison alone.

After Barry knocked out one team, the Outlanders send another group to investigate. Barry is prepared for them, and tosses one of Trickster's stun bombs into the elevator before they have a chance to get out. Albert then overhears Trickster and Costella talking about releasing all the prisoners, so he decides to use his powers to short-circuit a control panel to keep the doors locked. Unfortunately, his plan backfires, and a bunch of the doors are opened. Barry hears Albert call for help while being chased by a group of inmates, so he takes them out with one of Captain Boomerang's electric boomerangs.

Barry then finds Albert in the cafeteria with the Trickster and a bunch of Outlanders. Trickster is very confused to see the "Al" the bartender, and Costella threatens to shoot Barry if he doesn't surrender the bags of weapons he's been carrying around. Albert tries to save him by pointing a gun out of the way, but once again his powers backfire, and he creates a super huge gun for the Outlanders. Barry begs the man not to fire that gun, and Trickster again demands to know what Barry's doing in the prison. Barry explains that he used to be a cop, and he's actually trying to prove Trickster's innocence, and then everybody begins to debate the legal/political aspects of this breakout.

But they're all interrupted by a loud rumbling and an explosion in the cafeteria's wall. The vibrations felt familiar to Barry, and he asks Albert to turbocharge Captain Cold's old gun. Just as the vibrations begin a second time, Barry fires the giant ice gun and freezes everybody in the room, including Marissa, who apparently lied about not having powers. Then, with everybody frozen and unable to see, Barry gets his super speed and costume back.

As the cops clean things up and take away the Outlanders and Marissa, Flash explains to Albert that Marissa robbed the diamond store and killed the guard by vibrating the wall at a frequency that caused the molecules to explode. And just now, Marissa was trying to use her powers to collapse the prison on top of Trickster before he could prove his innocence. Albert feels he's had enough of being a superhero, but he does suggest the Flash start working with Barry. Albert also wonders where Gomez is, while Flash begins to wonder why the Speed Force gave powers to everybody except Iris.

Somewhere above Earth, on the Justice League Watchtower, the Flash starts using its advanced computers to try to figure out what took his powers. Although the computers are quite possibly the most advanced on Earth, they are still too slow for Flash. Cyborg comes in to tell him he's destroyed all the Rogues' old weapons, and Flash finally finds the clue he was looking for. Apparently Batman was keeping track of the Dial H people, and from the data available to the Flash, it looks like they won't be taking his powers again. But just to be safe, Cyborg promises to monitor the situation.

(There's an editor's note right here, telling me to pick up Dial H #12 for the rest of this story. But that issue doesn't even say the Flash's name once, or address the fact that Nelson briefly stole his powers. Just a final fart in this sham of a crossover.)

Flash and Cyborg then have a nice little heart-to-heart, where Flash admits how difficult it was to be in a tough situation without his powers. Cyborg says that he's a hero with or without his super speed, and Flash says this experience has given him a greater appreciation for guys like Batman and Green Arrow. Cyborg says, "So you're saying there is an upside to being a bulletproof robot 24/7." And Flash calls him out for telling a rare joke.

We then cut to a grisly scene of Albert's dead body on the hood of a taxi. We then go back in time and see him fly up through the air and back to the Reverse-Flash, who says that he really is the good guy, and he doesn't like killing, but sometimes you have to do a little wrong to make things right. And if he needs to, he can always put things in reverse.

The Good:

The story. There was a lot going on here, but it still was a fun, fast-paced adventure. I do have to say the prison scene seemed to end a tad on the abrupt side, and I think it would have gone a little better had they not been compelled to add two pages of the Reverse-Flash at the end. However, everything worked out quite well — especially since those two pages with Reverse-Flash were amazing! In this mostly-Buccellato issue, we had plenty of humor with Barry struggling with the weapons, Albert struggling with his powers, and Trickster defusing a tense situation with, "No, really ... why are you here?!" He never seemed mad, just genuinely confused, which was great. And then, of course, there was the great reveal of Marissa being behind the robbery in issue 18. I heard a lot of theories of who that robber was, ranging everywhere from Reverse-Flash to Abracadabra, but I never heard anybody guess it was Marissa. Now we can go back and see the clues that were there, but for me, personally, I have to applaud Buccellato for surprising me with that mystery.

Barry Allen. It's always a dangerous proposition to write a Flash story without the Flash in it, but Buccellato pulled it off. Normal human Barry Allen proved to be a competent action hero, especially with the Rogues' still pretty cool and powerful weapons at his disposal. I also find it ironic that Buccellato included some boomerangs here, because he recently said that Captain Boomerang was his least-favorite Rogue. So I guess that means we won't be seeing good ol' Digger in The Flash any time soon, but having these boomerangs was a nice nod to the character. Ultimately, this issue gives me hope that a future story with just Barry Allen (tied in to the Zero Year story line) will still be entertaining and exciting.

Flash and Cyborg moment. In the early Justice League issues, Flash was one of the most supportive and friendly members of the team toward Cyborg. I always felt they deserved to spend some time together, and here they finally did. And I am so, so glad that this Flash acted nothing like the snarky jerk we saw in Justice League #18. Here, we saw a compassionate, yet still fun Flash, which is the kind of Flash I like the best.

The Bad:

The last time we went to Iron Heights Prison, we saw Tar Pit, Folded Man and Girder. In this issue, nothing but normal inmates. I'm not saying their omission brought this book down, but I do feel like it was a missed opportunity. Just like how I expect to always see Two-Face and Scarecrow whenever Batman visits Arkham Asylum, I would like to see some of the Flash's more notable villains whenever we visit Iron Heights. But at the end of the day, it's no big deal.

Final score: 8 out of 10

Next time: I'll take another quick diversion to review a passive Flash appearance in DC Universe Presents #19.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dial H #11


Writer: China Miéville
Pencils: Alberto Ponticelli
Inks: Dan Green
Colors: Richard and Tanya Horie
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Associate Editor: Gregory Lockard
Editor: Will Dennis
Special thanks to Karen Berger

I'm assuming this cover is by Brian Bolland (that looks like his signature on it, anyway), and I have to admit that I kind of like it. It is pretty funny to see a big fat guy squished into the Flash suit. Although we knew it was coming, it still works as a WTF cover — and in this case, the F stands for Flash.

So I don't know anything about Dial H, except for what I've read here and in issue #12. From what I can surmise, our main heroes are a big fat guy named Nelson and an old lady named Roxie. They have a couple of magical rotary phone dials that can turn them into bizarre, imaginary heroes and sidekicks. And the sidekicks apparently always have to obey the heroes.

It seems that in the previous issue, Roxie and Nelson decided to sleep together while she was a hero and he was her sidekick. They wake up the next morning back to normal, and Nelson begins freaking out. He feels like he was used and taken advantage of, so he spins the dial, hoping to become a hero that could quickly get him out of there. And he turns into the Flash.

Nelson has a hard time controlling his new-found speed, and he begins to panic some more, but Roxie is able to help him eventually slow down. She then explains that the dial usually calls in imaginary heroes, but this is a rare case where it has taken the powers of a real hero. Nelson starts to get some of the Flash's memories, and he heads toward Iron Heights to fight the Outlanders, and it looks like he races right past Barry Allen.

But instead of battling the Outlanders, Nelson chooses to search all of Central City for the Flash, but can't find him. After checking a few more cities, he comes back to chew out Roxie for not telling him he could steal powers from an actual hero.

While all this is happening, a weird guy in a blue suit named Centipede summons an inter-dimensional being known as Fixer. They start chasing Nelson and Roxie, trying to get the dial. Nelson uses the Flash's speed to run all the way to Australia, but then his powers wear off and Fixer and Centipede catch up to them anyway.

The Good:

It was pretty fun to see somebody struggle to get a hold of Flash's powers. One funny moment was when he went to get Roxie a cup of coffee, then decided to get her three more cups to see which one's the best. This issue also helped show how scary it could be to have super speed. Unfortunately, these were only mildly interesting tidbits in an otherwise poor comic book.

The Bad:

Disturbing story. We start the story on the morning after a potential rape. Uh, no thank you. I did not sign up for this. I only came in here because I'm a Flash fan and I want to find out why he lost his powers. But here I am, presented with a rather disturbing story and disturbing art. I didn't need to see half-naked, fat, ugly and old people getting out of bed. Everything about that was just wrong. And then the side story didn't help at all, either. So this Centipede guy kills a bunch of people and melts his father? What the heck is going on here?

What was the point? Obviously, DC felt that bringing in an A-lister like the Flash would help boost sales for Dial H. But the creators of Dial H didn't do anything to help out the Flash fans like me, who started reading this series at issue #11. There should have been clear explanations to who all these people are, what their motivations are, and how their powers work. Instead, we're thrown right into the thick of things, and even after multiple readings, I still have no idea what's going on. But what makes me even angrier, is the fact that this Nelson guy didn't use the Flash's powers to do anything significant. He bought a bunch of coffee, name-dropped the Outlanders and Trickster, then ran away to Australia. If this is one of the only times the dial gives him powers of a real hero, then it should be a significant event, and he should have used these powers to accomplish something monumental. I expected him to go help out Barry Allen, but all we got was a quick glance of a guy who I think is supposed to be Barry, but I'm not sure. And if Nelson isn't going to help Barry fight the Outlanders, then he should at least use his newly-acquired super speed to fight this Centipede guy — not just run away from him in vain. Ugh. What a waste of an issue.

Final score: 3 out of 10

Next time: The Flash #19

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Flash #18

"The Heroes' Journey"

Brian Buccellato Script and Color
Marcio Takara Artist
Carlos M. Mangual Letters
Chris Conroy Associate Editor
Matt Idelson Group Editor

Sadly, this is the first Flash issue that Francis Manapul didn't help write. Luckily for us, though, he did still draw the cover, and Buccellato provided the beautiful colors. I think it's a pretty light and fun cover. I can picture a classic comedic scene of Trickster being chased through the town, causing messes all over the place. You know, with smashed wedding cakes, knocked-over fruit stands, and two guys carefully carrying a large sheet of glass across the street and nervously have to dodge the Trickster. That's what comes to mind with this cover, and I think it's great to relax a little after Gorilla Warfare. And as the case always is with Manapul covers, the black-and-white version is just as gorgeous as the colored one.

Our story begins with a bang in the diamond district of Keystone City. A lone security guard was killed in the blast, while a mysterious figure broke in to steal the store's precious stones. We're then reunited with our hero, the Flash, who is busy helping rebuild the Gem Cities after Gorilla Grodd's invasion.

When the Flash is done for the day, he returns home to Patty Spivot. After he was "brought back from the dead," Barry Allen decided to move in with his girlfriend, and is loving the change so far. But Barry can only stay for dinner, as he needs to head to his night job at the Keystone Saloon. The police department and union are still working through all the red tape to get Barry his old job back after being officially dead for a couple of months. Luckily, the grumpy ole bartender was kind enough to re-hire Barry, and Barry takes advantage of the bar's seedy reputation by keeping tabs on the criminals that frequent it. And today's lucky guest is Axel Walker, aka the Trickster.

Trickster openly talks about his days as a member of the Rogues, and he shows off his new robotic arm his new friends, the Outlanders, made for him after Grodd ripped his right arm off. But then a couple of police officers enter the bar with a warrant for Axel's arrest on charges of robbery and murder. Axel denies being a killer, and Barry believes him, knowing the Rogues have a strict no-kill rule.

Before Trickster can be loaded in a police car, he escapes by popping off his robotic hand to slide out of the handcuffs, and flies away with his jet-propelled sneakers. Barry asks to take a bathroom break, but first he has to serve more drinks. Luckily, Trickster doesn't get too far before he runs into the Gem Cities' newest heroes — Sprint and Turbo Charger, part of the team Speed Force. These two are actually Gomez and Albert, who got sucked into the Speed Force with Iris West during the Flash's fight with Captain Cold several months ago. They've now emerged with superpowers — Gomez with super strength, and Albert with the ability to create and enhance any machinery he touches.

Albert and Gomez catch up to the Trickster on their flying scooter, and Gomez smashes him onto the top of a moving semi. But Trickster uses one of his bombs to knock him off and into oncoming traffic. The Flash arrives in the nick of time of save Gomez, then heads off to help Albert, who has gotten tangled in Trickster's net and is about to fall on top of an outdoor birthday party. Flash pulls all the people out of the way and stacks up a bunch of tables to cushion Albert's landing. Gomez catches up to Albert, and he instantly repairs his flying scooter, excited to help Flash take down Trickster, but they soon see Flash has already beaten them to the punch. He's tied up Trickster with the birthday banner and removed his flying shoes. And Flash isn't too happy with these new "heroes."

Flash buys the guys whippuccinos and takes them to a park to meet up with the others who were sucked into the Speed Force, Iris and Gomez's girlfriend, Marissa. Flash lectures them about trying to take on a Rogue themselves, and Albert asks him to be their team leader. But Flash says he's already committed to the Justice League and is in no position to be a mentor. Marissa also chews out Gomez, and he accuses her of being jealous of his powers. Apparently neither Marissa nor Iris received powers from the Speed Force. In any case, Flash admonishes them all to not use their powers for the time being, and Albert agrees, but Gomez leaves in a huff. The meeting is then ended when Iris gets an alert on her phone about the Outlanders demanding Trickster's freedom.

Flash decides the best way to solve this problem is by proving Trickster's innocence, so as Barry Allen, he tags along with Patty Spivot into the crime lab. Forrest is happy to see him, but Director Singh has to kick him out, since he doesn't work there anymore. But Barry has more than enough time to sneak away with the crime scene report that was used to warrant Trickster's arrest. Flash combs over all the information, and even visits the scene of the crime, discovering that the the blast that killed the guard did not leave any incendiary traces — much unlike Trickster's regular bombs. So unless Trickster changed his bombs, someone else committed the crime.

Flash visits Trickster's cell, and the former Rogue denies changing his formula. He also refuses to call off the Outlanders, referring to them as his family. Flash heads to the armory to inspect the bombs himself, when the Outlanders suddenly arrive on the island and declare war against Iron Heights. Flash prepares to run through the wall to put an end to the fighting, but he suddenly loses his powers and costume.

The Good:

The story. I was a little worried about Brian Buccellato writing this alone — not having read any of his other solo works. But after reading this (and Black Bat), I can tell you that Buccellato knows how to put together a pretty good comic book story. He brings a sense of realism that is necessary to occasionally ground this hero, especially since we just got done fighting a talking gorilla. I liked the little things, like the acknowledgement that the Gem Cities need a lot of cleanup and repair after the gorilla invasion. And having Barry move in with Patty was a legitimate surprise. At first, I really wanted a scene with the two of them talking about him being a hero and all that, but I think I like this way better. We know they've resolved whatever issues they had, and now their love for each other is stronger than ever. This isn't good new for Iris, though, but what can you do?

The Trickster. We really haven't seen much of Trickster in the New 52. He made some vague deal with Mob Rule, then he showed up to save Captain Cold, and then he got his arm ripped off. Now he finally gets an issue to himself, and can show off some of his trick gadgets. I think he's a really enjoyable character, and a sympathetic one, too. At his core, he's really just a kid looking for a place to belong. I look forward to reading more of this character.

Albert and Gomez. I really liked these two and their unbridled giddiness about being first-time superheroes chasing an actual Rogue, with the Flash himself helping out. They did everything all wrong, called each other by their real names, and probably would have completely messed up had Flash not been there, but they were still fun all the same. These guys, and the Trickster, helped show that Buccellato is also pretty good at writing humor. But he never let the humor get out of control, demonstrating a perfect balance between the serious mystery and action, and the light-hearted fun that is so essential to the Flash. Also, I kind of like the idea of a Speed Force team led by the Flash. Unfortunately, that was not meant to be ...

The Bad:

Just a few nitpicks. First, I wasn't happy with the Flash stealing the crime scene report and running around with its papers flying all over the place. Flash wouldn't be that irresponsible. The police need that report. I'd have preferred to see him sneak it out, read it, then sneak it back in before anybody noticed it was missing. But I suppose the flying papers look was an artistic decision by Marcio Takara, which brings me to my next point, the art. I'm not really a Takara fan. His style really took me out of the story at first, but after re-reading the issue a couple of times, I began to appreciate it a little more. He seems to really pick and choose which panels and characters he wants you to focus on, leaving many minor details with a look that's very sketchy and almost unfinished. I will say, however, I'm glad that he didn't try to be a clone of Francis Manapul, as that could have turned out disastrously. Ultimately, though, Takara's art served the story well and didn't detract from it in any major way. It also helped to have Buccellato on the colors.

I also had a problem with the cliffhanger ending leading into a crossover with Dial H. I'll get more into the success and failures of this crossover in the next issues I review, but for now, I'll say this reeks of an editorial gimmick to artificially boost the sales of the struggling Dial H. I wouldn't have any problem with Flash having crossovers with Green Lantern or any member of the Justice League. But this is the first crossover from the main Flash title in the New 52, and it's with Dial H? Huh? But then again, this came at a time when the Flash was being used in a lot of other books that I've yet to review (like Justice League Dark and DC Universe Presents), but all these extraneous appearances happened while he was being completely ignored in Justice League. Oh well. It is what it is. I'm not a fan of the prospect of this crossover, but I don't think it's fair to hold that against this issue. Having said that, I do have to admit that this is my least favorite Flash issue of the New 52 so far (mostly because of the art). Not that this is bad by any means — it's just that all the other Flash issues have a slight edge. They're all amazing, and this Manapul-Buccellato run is incredible. Hopefully it'll never end.

Final score: 7 out of 10

Next time: Dial H #11

Friday, August 23, 2013

Justice League of America's Vibe #3

"Trial by (Flash) Fire"

Sterling Gates Writer
Pete Woods and Fabiano Neves Pencillers
Sean Parsons and Fabiano Neves Inkers
Brad Anderson Colorist
Carlos M. Mangual Letterer
Kate Stewart Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor

So Geoff Johns and Andrew Kreisberg only lasted two issues. I'm not surprised that Johns left so soon — he's got a lot on his plate — but Kreisberg? I haven't been able to find any reason why he didn't just take over the title after Johns left. I heard someone say he was really busy with Arrow, but if that was the case, then why did DC even bring him on this title in the first place? Remember, Sterling Gates was (quietly) announced as the new writer before Vibe #1 even came out. Vibe is nowhere near popular enough to withstand this kind of creative inconsistency. He really needs a big name as the writer or the artist to get people to pay attention, and by issue #3, he had neither. I wouldn't be surprised if this book is canceled as soon as Trinity War ends.

The extra-wide cover is by Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund and Andrew Dalhouse. This was part of DC's April gimmick of WTF (What the Fifty-Two) covers. As we'll slowly see in this blog, the Flash was the victim of this gimmick quite a bit ... er, I mean, the Flash was lucky to be featured on so many WTF covers! These covers, with a "big surprise" folded underneath, didn't always work. Sometimes, the surprise had nothing to do with the inside issue, and other times, writers were forced to hastily adjust their stories to match the WTF cover (like The Flash, especially). And in this case, sometimes the surprise wasn't surprising at all. I think Kid Flash looks really good here (even better than Vibe), but we knew he was coming after the last issue. So there's really no reason to try to hide it. Also, I really feel bad that Pete Woods still isn't trusted to do the cover of his own book. Of course, he again couldn't handle all the pencil work on his own, so maybe it's good that DC didn't add to his workload.

So our story picks back up in Detroit, Michigan, where Vibe is trying to be a responsible superhero by going out on patrol. He climbs to the top of a tall building, but his older brother, Dante, reminds him that he has no way to quickly get down to the street to stop any crimes he might see. Amanda Waller is listening in on their conversation, and she reminds us again that Vibe's main purpose is to take down the Flash (just in case we haven't read the previous issues).

ARGUS then sends a helicopter to take Vibe to New York. They tell him he needs to track down Kid Flash, who they say is a thief, an arsonist, and likely an inter-dimensional breacher. They find Kid Flash in the subway tunnels, and Vibe uses his powers to momentarily disrupt Kid Flash's speed. Vibe chases him down and gets separated from the ARGUS agents. Kid Flash grabs Vibe, and an interesting thing happens when they touch. There's a big electrical feedback that knocks out all electronics nearby, and at ARGUS headquarters in Detroit for some reason. But more importantly, Vibe got to see a brief glimpse of Kid Flash's past, which was in the future. It looks like Kid Flash was flying some fighter jets, involved in some riots, was a masked vigilante of some sorts, and was put on some kind of trial.

Vibe is surprised to learn that Kid Flash is not only a human, but a good guy. He and Kid Flash then find a mysterious hole in the ground that bears Kid Flash's logo. Kid Flash admits that he knows nothing of his past, and was hoping to find some clues here. Vibe decides to help him by touching him again, but Kid Flash flips out this time. He thinks Vibe is working for the bad guys, so he beats him up and takes off.

We then see that the power outage Vibe caused has allowed Gypsy to escape from The Circus. And the issue ends with a mysterious stranger appearing in Vibe's home and delivering a cryptic message.

The Good:

Well, it was pretty fun to see Kid Flash. I've always been interested in Bart Allen — I liked him on the Young Justice cartoon, and I've read some old Impulse issues that were real fun — but I've never read any Teen Titans of the New 52. That might be because I don't like Kid Flash's new uniform, and I think Red Robin is a stupid name, and I want Stargirl and a green Beast Boy, and basically the Teen Titans I know and love. This new version has never appealed to me, so I've been completely in the dark about Kid Flash's origin. Unfortunately, this issue was not allowed to really tell us anything, which is understandable. I also noticed a minor problem here: Amanda Waller referred to Kid Flash tapping into the Speed Force a couple of times, but that would be contradicted by the Flash in a later issue. But I'll forgive this, under the assumption that Waller doesn't fully understand the Speed Force, and just kind of made an assumption.

The Bad:

No Flash. We only saw a picture of him, and we truthfully didn't need it. If you're reading Vibe #3, there is a 99.99% chance that you already know what the Flash looks like, so you don't need to see a picture of him when he's casually brought up in conversation. However, that one little picture gave me an excuse to read this issue with Vibe meeting Kid Flash, and it wasn't too bad, honestly. Unfortunately, once Kid Flash left the book, he took my interest with him. I don't care about this Gypsy girl, and I was thoroughly unimpressed with the sudden appearance of this yellow and silver visitor.

And so we sadly come to the end of my time with Vibe. I really like the concept of the character, and I thought he had a strong debut issue. I like his youthful naïveté, his family dynamics, and the fact that he  was a minority that didn't shove it in my face by speaking a lot of Spanish or something like that. (Note:  I have nothing against minorities in comics, I just hate it when it feels like the creators are screaming "Diversity!" at me. Vibe never did this, which made him refreshing.) And of course, my biggest reason for following Vibe was his potential to one day fight the Flash. But with this issue, it seems like that matchup won't happen for a long time, and in the meantime, I can't suffer through this inconsistent writing and art anymore. As far as I know, the Flash (or any images of him) haven't shown up in any other issues of Vibe. I could be wrong, and if I am, please let me know, and I will gladly review those issues. But for now, it looks like I won't be reading Vibe anymore.

Final score: 4 out of 10

Next time: Remember when I used to review The Flash? Seems like it's been forever. So why don't we give Flash #18 a try?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Justice League of America's Vibe #2

"Why Me?"

Geoff Johns and Andrew Kreisberg Writers
Pete Woods and Andres Guinaldo Pencils
Sean Parsons, Pete Woods and Bit Inkers
Hi-Fi Colors
Carlos M. Mangual Letters
Kate Stewart Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor

The cover is by David Finch and Sonia Oback. I have two major problems with this cover: 1) Finch and Oback did not work on a single page inside this comic, and 2) Vibe does not fight a single parademon or see Darkseid in this issue. That happened last issue, but not here. These two problems are too big for me to begin to appreciate the overall quality of this cover. Sadly, this cover signals the harsh drop this title is going to take after having a pretty strong debut.

Our story picks up in Detroit, Michigan, where a new alien has shown up, or as ARGUS calls it, an inter-dimensional breacher. The alien attempts to communicate with a few people, but no one can understand it.

Meanwhile, Dante is being a good big brother by making fun of Cisco's codename Vibe and his ridiculous outfit. He also repeatedly warns his little brother that he's going to get killed on one of his missions. We're given a quick glimpse into Cisco's bedroom, and see that he has a poster of the Flash hanging on his wall.

Vibe's first adventure in his new outfit is to stop a mugger, but it turned out just to be a little boy stealing some candy. Vibe's pretty embarrassed by this, but Dante cheers him up. Later, ARGUS brings in Vibe to track down the new alien. It appears to be friendly, and gives Vibe a scroll. ARGUS agents kill the alien and tell Vibe the scroll was a declaration of war, but it really was just a letter for a girl named Gypsy, who is being held by Amanda Waller in a place called The Circus.

The next day, Vibe gets to go to the headquarters of the Justice League of America in Washington, D.C. He appears at a press conference with Stargirl, Katanna, Martian Manhunter and Hawkman. Steve Trevor worries about how the boy will fit in with the team, but Waller is eager to put him through a test run to see how he reacts to the Speed Force. Of course, Vibe's not ready for the Flash, yet, but Waller thinks he can handle Kid Flash.

The Good:

Honestly, I've got nothing. I still think Vibe has a lot of great potential, and I loved seeing Cisco's family dynamic, but this issue disappointed me too much to see much good in it. There were lots of good ideas here, just the execution was poor.

The Bad:

Too many inconsistencies. This is what happens when you have two writer and two artists. The first big problem was Vibe stopping the shoplifting kid. This was already shown in Justice League of America #1, and they decided to expand on that scene a little bit, which is fine, as long as you don't change what's already happened. Here, the kid looked completely different, and was taking off with five candy bars, instead of the one that was previously shown. Plus, the dialogue in this issue said the boy only took one candy bar, so why was he drawn with five? A little thing, I know, but these little things add up. Another big problem with this issue was the timing. We start at night with the alien arriving, then switch to day with Vibe showing Dante his new suit. He then hears the shopkeeper calling for help, and since that scene was already shown to take place at night, it suddenly becomes night. Immediately after that, ARGUS reminds him he has to meet the JLA tomorrow. But then tomorrow comes, and Cisco is with his family during the day, and fighting the alien at night. And then, a caption says 24 hours later, and we see Vibe in Washington, D.C. So that tomorrow ended up being two or three days later? I don't mean to say that these problems completely ruined the issue for me, but they are illustrative of how disjointed it felt in the writing and the art. Some scenes looked great, some ... not so much. And why was Kid Flash drawn ambiguously to look like the Flash at the end? There's a big caption right there screaming Kid Flash!

Little to no Flash. We do actually see two images of the Flash here, the poster and a picture that Amanda Waller is holding for some reason. I guess they were worried that readers wouldn't know what the Flash looked like. I don't think anyone needed that. I did like to see that Cisco is a fan of the Flash, which would be a very interesting dynamic if these two ever had to fight. But ultimately, Flash fans can skip this issue and not miss anything. If you read Vibe #1 and JLA #1, you'll have a good enough idea of who Vibe is and what his relationship to Flash is.

Final score: 3 out of 10

Next: Kid Flash

Monday, August 19, 2013

Justice League of America #1

"World's Most Dangerous Chapter One"

Writer Geoff Johns
Artist David Finch
Colorist Sonia Oback with Jeromy Cox
Letterer Rob Leigh
Associate Editor Katie Kubert
Senior Editor Brian Cunningham

The cover is by David Finch, re-creating the iconic Iwo Jima image. But the big news with this issue (that DC would not shut up about) was that they had a different version of this cover for every state flag. I wasn't going to buy into the hype, but when I saw my home state flag of Utah, I couldn't resist. (I'm living in Idaho now, so I wasn't expecting my local comic book shop to have Utah.) So that was that. DC pulled another gimmick, advertised the heck out of it, and it worked. Guess I can't blame them.

The story actually begins right where Justice League #6 ended five years ago. A couple of mysterious people are meeting in London, discussing the rise of superheroes, and they believe they'll be called super-villains now. We only learn one new thing from this interaction: one of these men was Professor Ivo, who used to work with Cyborg's dad at STAR labs.

We then jump ahead to today, where a masked man is being chased through the forest by three figures who look an awful lot like Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman.

But we don't stay in the forest long, as we quickly jump to Amanda Waller's office, where she is having an argument with Steve Trevor. She's putting together the Justice League of America, which he feels is unnecessary, but she explains that they need a team to take down the Justice League in case anything bad happens. Trevor reluctantly agrees to lead the team after he learns that Booster Gold vanished upon seeing Superman and Wonder Woman kiss.

Waller's first recruit is Hawkman, who claims to be a police officer from the planet Thanagar hunting aliens fugitives. Up next is Katana, an assassin that rivals Deathstroke and apparently believes her sword is her dead husband. With the next recruit, Vibe, Trevor realizes that Waller is more interested in powers than people. Perhaps the only member of this team with a positive public perception is Stargirl, who wields the super-powered cosmic staff. Rounding out the team is Martian Manhunter, the new Green Lantern Simon Baz, and Green Arrow. Trevor admits this team could work, but says it's incomplete, so he recruits Catwoman.

Trevor and Waller then put together a chart illustrating who could take out who in case worst comes to worst. Martian Manhunter would fight Superman, Catwoman for Batman, Katana for Wonder Woman, Simon Baz for Hal Jordan, Vibe for Flash, Stargirl for Cyborg, and Hawkman for Aquaman.

The issue ends with the injured masked man from the beginning returning to ARGUS headquarters. We find out he was actually Green Arrow in disguise, investigating the Secret Society. They then try to make us believe that Green Arrow could have died, but we all know he won't (he has his own title, after all).

The Verdict:

There is nothing good or bad about this issue. It's just ... there. In Justice League, Geoff Johns had six issues to slowly and organically put the team together and introduce each character one at a time. But here, he decided or was forced to clump the whole team together in one issue. And the most efficient way to do that was to literally have two people sit down at a desk and discuss each member of the team. And that's all this issue was — two people sitting around and talking. The quick little "action" scenes they threw in didn't help that much. It also doesn't help that I don't much care for any of these characters, nor do I see any of them actually taking down their Justice League counterparts. However, I did find it interesting that Vibe was set to fight the Flash, which I think could theoretically be feasible, although extremely unlikely. But this is the reason that I am reviewing and recommending the first three issues of Vibe. If this kid is supposed to take down my favorite hero, then I want to know who he is. So actually, Justice League of America #1 did succeed in inspiring me to read more comics, just not any more JLA comics.

Final score: 5 out of 10

Next time: Justice League of America's Vibe #2

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Justice League of America's Vibe #1

"Not-So-Secret Origin"

Geoff Johns and Andrew Kreisberg Writers
Pete Woods Pencils
Sean Parsons Inks
Brad Anderson Colors
Carlos M. Mangual Letters
Katie Kubert Associate Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor

The cover is by David Finch, which I feel is really unfortunate because he did not draw the inside art. I really hate when DC does this, especially on the first issue of a series. The cover art needs to reflect the inside art. Plain and simple. Anyway, this cover isn't bad, but the black-and-white version is a little weird, mainly because of the representation of Vibe's powers looks a lot better in color.

Before this issue, I knew virtually nothing about Vibe. I think all I ever saw of the character was a really cheesy DC Nation short where Vibe beat a robot in a break dancing contest. Not a great first impression of the character. But I did hear good things about this issue, and when I saw an image of the Flash, I knew I had to pick it up.

I do have to complain about the official title of this comic book, though. It's too long and clunky, and I'd imagine that many people have had difficulty finding this book because they were looking in the V section instead of the J section. From what I understand, Vibe's numbers are quite abysmal lately, and I'd have to put at least some of the blame on DC's insistence to call it Justice League of America's Vibe.

The story begins five years ago in Detroit, Michigan. Three brothers are walking down the street, and we learn that the oldest, Armando, has received a football scholarship to a school in California. His younger brothers, Dante and Francisco (or Cisco for short) are really sad to see him leave. Suddenly, a boom tube opens right on top of Cisco and this happens:

Armando was able to save Cisco, but he was killed by a parademon. Five years later, Armando is honored in a President's Day TV special recounting the events of Darkseid's invasion.

Cisco is now working at an electronics store, trying to save up money for college. Dante, however, is unemployed and out of school. Cisco is eventually contacted by ARGUS, and they explain to him that his internal vibrational frequency is no longer in sync with the rest of the world. They help him learn how to use these powers to track down inter-dimensional threats, like a parademon that's been hiding in Detroit for the past five years. ARGUS tells Cisco this is the parademon that killed his brother, so he uses his powers to kill it. Later, Cisco is given an outfit, the code name Vibe, and told he will be a founding member of the Justice League of America.

The Good:

Fresh origin story. Having no previous knowledge of the character, this issue really made me interested in Vibe and want to read more of him. Yes, it may have been a little cliche with his noble older brother hoping to use his scholarship to help his family, but they didn't play this point out so much that it became annoying. And I really liked how Vibe's origin was directly connected to the Darkseid invasion. That was such an important moment, everything connected to it instantly gains more weight and strengthens the overall DC continuity. The only problem with this story is, at this point, I'm not sure if I'm liking Geoff Johns' contributions more or Andrew Kreisberg's. Johns only stayed on for a couple issues, so I guess we'll find out soon enough.

The Bad:

No Flash. He just showed up on a TV monitor, which hardly counts as an appearance, active or passive. Later on, I think it'll make more sense why I'm reviewing this issue (and I'm still hoping there'll be a great payoff with Vibe and Flash down the line). But for Flash fans looking for a fun Flash adventure, I'd say you can skip this issue and not miss too much.

Final score: 5 out of 10

Next time: Justice League of America #1

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Justice League #18

"The Grid"

Geoff Johns Writer
Jesus Saiz Artist
Jeromy Cox Colorist
Nick J. Napolitano Letterer
Kate Stewart Assistant Editor
Katie Kubert Associate Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor

At this point in Justice League, Ivan Reis had replaced Jim Lee as the main artist. He sat this issue out, but he did do the cover with Joe Prado and Rod Reis. I think it's nice to see Cyborg get some attention (this is his only book, after all), but what exactly is he doing? Concentrating real hard? Like how he defeated Darkseid? Lame. And of course, the Flash is nowhere to be found on the cover, even though we do get several heroes who do not appear in this issue, like Hawkman, Shazam and Green Arrow.

The variant cover is by Kenneth Rocafort and Blond, and it is a nice, colorful cover that actually has some action and shows us what's going on inside. And the Flash is here — although his face is covered. I seriously think that Rocafort messed up Flash's face, grew frustrated, and just decided to cover it. How else can you explain that odd artistic choice?

Since we've been away from Justice League for a while, here's a quick reminder of what's been happening the past few months. Flash last teamed up with the whole League to help take down Cheetah. Then Flash was preoccupied with his own Rogues and Gorilla Grodd, while the League had to battle the armies of Atlantis, which required Cyborg to recruit a few extra superheroes. Flash then helped Superman battle H'el, and now all that is finally over, so the entire Justice League can meet together again. And their main topic of discussion today is League expansion.

Our story begins with Cyborg contacting several heroes across America — Firestorm in Pittsburgh, Black Canary in Baltimore, and Zatanna in San Francisco. We then cut to the League on the Watchtower, where Flash is cracking jokes.

Batman explains that he and Cyborg initially began discussing expanding the League when Cyborg started having trouble paying attention. Flash says he can relate, and he jokes that it seems like Batman is always talking in slow motion. But Cyborg says his problem is due to him being connected to every electronic on Earth and having a constant stream of information bombarding his brain. This connectivity has helped him, though, especially when he needed to find more superheroes to battle the Atlanteans. Flash apologizes for missing that fight, and he implies that Grodd's gorilla army was stronger than the army of Atlantis. Aquaman then excuses himself to call Atlantis about an important mission, and Flash jokes about Atlantis having phones.

Superman then gets the conversation back on track by asking which heroes should join the team. Flash says that people can always look innocent or guilty on paper, but you don't really know until you look in their eyes, so they should invite a few heroes up to the satellite to meet them face-to-face. When Batman questions this plan, Flash simply says, "It'll be fun."

Soon the Watchtower is filled with the heroes we saw earlier, plus Black Lightning, Blue Devil, Element Woman, Goldrush, Nightwing, Platinum and Vixen. Zatanna, Black Lightning, Blue Devil and Nightwing all quickly turn down the League's offer. Goldrush demonstrates her strength by picking up the Flash's chair, and she begins to flirt with him. This creeps Flash out, and he literally hides behind Superman and asks that "Golddigger" not be on the team, even after Wonder Woman praised her heroism.

Suddenly, the robot Platinum goes out of control and begins attacking everybody. Goldrush is knocked out, but Flash does help her. Element Woman succeeds in keeping Platinum at bay, and Firestorm eliminates the threat by turning the robot's platinum into water. And a female Atom suddenly appears to catch Platinum's fragile "brain" or responsometer.

When all the fighting is done and sorted out, the Justice League decides to offer full-time status to Atom, Element Woman and Firestorm. But then Cyborg realizes that during the chaos of the fight, somebody hacked into their computers and stole the League's data from its entire five-year history.

The backup story is Shazam! Chapter 10, and Billy decides he doesn't want to be a hero anymore and tries to find the wizard to give him his powers back.

The Good:

Well ... it feels good to be back in Justice League, especially since Flash hasn't been here since issue #14. And I liked the League realizing it's time to expand their membership, despite whatever happened with Martian Manhunter so long ago. I can't say, though, that I find any of these new characters interesting, nor did I feel any threat with the computers being hacked. Basically this was a placeholder issue to prepare for Trinity War and introduce us to a feel expendable characters that could easily be killed, injured or turn evil in the bigger event.

The Bad:

Flash is back ... or is he? Is this even Barry Allen? Or is it Wally West or Bart Allen? Because this Flash sure doesn't act like the Barry we know and love from The Flash. Almost everything he says in this issue is a joke. In the past Justice League issues, the Flash and Green Lantern made a good comedy team with Barry playing the straight man. But now that Hal's gone, Geoff Johns had to put all his comedy on the Flash, and it really didn't work, not to mention being completely out of character. You could argue that maybe Barry was missing Hal and trying really hard to lighten the mood, especially considering the super-serious stuff going on in his own life, with Grodd and Patty and him not having a job, etc. But it would've been great to have somebody call him out for being too jokey, and he could have mentioned Hal, reminding us all that Green Lantern really should be there, but isn't. But I guess a line like that would have cut short Johns' "hilarious" scene with Goldrush.

But seriously, has Johns even read the New 52 Flash? One of Barry Allen's greatest beliefs in life is that people lie, but the evidence tells the truth. He won't even believe his own father, choosing instead to try to find evidence to confirm the truth. But here, Flash suggested the exact opposite — telling Cyborg that he can't trust official records and documents. It should have been Wonder Woman or Superman suggesting they need to meet these heroes in person. Flash should have been probing Cyborg to dig up as much information as possible on all of them.

I know I'm harping on this a lot, but Johns' misrepresentation of the Flash really hurts this issue and the Flash's own book, as well. Isn't the main point of the Justice League to inspire readers to look up these heroes in other books? Who'd want to read more Flash after reading this issue? He's insulting, trying too hard to be funny, and does not do anything heroic. So as a Flash fan, I cannot recommend this issue, which is a huge shame because Flash was a founding member of the Justice League.

Final score: 3 out of 10

Next time: Well, that was a depressing return to the active Flash appearances. I think it's time to do a few more passive appearances, starting with Justice League of America's Vibe #1.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Animal Man #17

"Rotworld: War of the Rot Part One"

Writers Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder
Artist Steve Pugh (pages 1-4, 10-11, 14-20)
Penciller Timothy Green II (pages 5-9, 12-13)
Inker Joseph Silver (pages 5-9, 12-12)
Colorist Lovern Kindzierski
Letterer Jared K. Fletcher
Assistant Editor Kate Stewart
Editor Joey Cavalieri
Group Editor Matt Idelson

The cover is by Steve Pugh with Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn. Honestly, I think this is one of the weaker covers of this storyline, which is really sad, since this is the beginning of the finale. I'm just not a fan of Animal Man's body physically transforming into animals (isn't that what Beast Boy's for?) and I'm especially not a fan of the grotesque rotlings.

Our story picks up with Animal Man, Steel, Black Orchid, Beast Boy, Frankenstein and the Green Lantern Medphyll attacking the castle of Anton Arcane in Rotworld. They are battling Arcane's gatekeepers — zombie versions of Wonder Woman, Cyborg and the Flash.

The undead Flash is not even half as fast as he used to be, but he's still fast enough to mow down Frankenstein's army with ease. Animal Man has a hard time finding fast animals to mimic, so he relies on the speed of cockroaches and ants. He's eventually able to catch the zombie Flash and smash his head in a rock.

With the Flash out of the picture, I'm just going to skim over the rest of the details, although they really are quite interesting — especially if you've been reading the whole storyline. Anyway, what follows is just a long series of fights and cameos of major characters from the DC Universe. On the other side of the castle, Swamp Thing is able to kill the zombie Superman by exposing him to the sun (now that he's dead, sunlight has the opposite effect on him). Steel takes out Cyborg by attaching some wires to him and taking over his robotic body. And Frankenstein kills Wonder Woman after Medphyll dies and gives him the Green Lantern ring.

Animal Man teams up with Swamp Thing, but before they can fight Arcane, they have to get past his last and greatest weapons — Rot versions of Abby (Swamp Thing's girlfriend) and Maxine (Animal Man's daughter).

The Good:

Exciting climax. There was a lot of fighting here, and it was really fun. I especially liked how the Flash had the honor of being taken out by the title character of the book. As a Flash fan, I would have liked to have seen him put up a bit more of a fight, but I can't complain. Last issue, he got to kill Constantine, and this issue also needed to give good moments to Swamp Thing and Frankenstein. But all in all, this was another great comic book written by two of the best comic book writers out there.

The Bad:

Unnerving art. It's a shame this artwork had to be so over-the-top grotesque. I might have really loved this comic book, otherwise. I'm sorry, but I honestly didn't need to see Wonder Woman get cut in half like that. But I guess there are people out there who want that, and now they know where they can find it. Another slight problem I had with this issue was Timothy Green II's art. I loved it when he did the pre-Rotworld pages, as his much-lighter style contrasted with Steve Pugh's to great effect. But here, Green had to draw fight scenes in Rotworld, and it really took me out of the story. I almost thought we were getting another flashback or something. Oh well. I'm now done with Animal Man, and it seems highly unlikely for the Flash to show up on his pages again any time soon.

Final score: 5 out of 10

Next time: I think it's high-time for us to get back to some active appearances for the Flash. So, let's go way back and remember what the Scarlet Speedster has been doing in the "real" world. While he was battling Grodd, the Justice League was busy with the Throne of Atlantis stuff. As soon as that ended, H'el on Earth happened, and Flash was actually there to lend a hand (and get into a fight with Supergirl). Now it's time for the Justice League to regroup and decide where they're going next in Justice League #18.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Animal Man #16

"Rotworld: The Red Kingdom Part Four"

Writer Jeff Lemire
Artist Steve Pugh (pages 1-4, 8-14, 18-20)
Penciller Timothy Green II (pages 5-7, 15-17)
Inker Joseph Silver (pages 5-7, 15-17)
Colorist Lovern Kindzierski
Letterer Jared K. Fletcher
Assistant Editor Kate Stewart
Editor Joey Cavalieri

The cover is by Pugh and Kindzierski, and I like the surprise factor of it. When we see a Green Lantern, we assume it'll be somebody like Hal Jordan. But instead, we got this guy:

Medphyll is a plant-based Green Lantern the Guardians of the Universe sent to battle the Rot, since he was the only member of the Corps that was immune to the Rot. The Guardians then sealed off the planet so the Rot wouldn't spread to other planets. Medphyll, however, was captured by an evil wizard named Blackbriar Thorn, who kept the Green Lantern in captivity for several months until he was rescued by Animal Man, John Constantine, Beast Boy, Black Orchid and Steel.

The heroes defeated the wizard, rescued the Green Lantern, and then teamed up with Frankenstein and his army to storm Arcane's stronghold. But as they got closer, they were attacked by Arcane's strongest zombie warriors — the Justice League — including the undead Flash, who took out a large portion of Frankenstein's army and killed John Constantine.

In the side story drawn by Timothy Green II, we learn that Animal Man's daughter, Maxine, willingly turned herself over to the Rot to save her family.

The Good:

The story. Jeff Lemire is a master, what can I say? I might not particularly enjoy this style and genre, but this comic book is a lot better than most of everything else. In this issue, I really liked the inclusion of the Green Lantern to show that Rotworld is potentially an intergalactic threat and not just a global threat. I also liked how Lemire saved the best characters (the Justice League) for last. These are the toughest of the tough, and as such, should be protecting the leader of this evil empire of decay. And I am happy that the Flash is shown to be incredibly powerful here, even in his zombie state.

The Bad:

Gory art. I didn't need to see Flash's hand stick through Constantine's chest. There's a million different ways he could have killed him. But actually, I guess I should be glad it wasn't worse, which it easily could have been. But as I've said before, and I'll say at least once more, this style is unsettling for me, and the only reason I'm putting up with it is to see what an evil Flash looks like.

Final score: 5 out of 10

Next time: Animal Man #17

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Animal Man #13

"Rotworld: The Red Kingdom Part One"

Writer Jeff Lemire
Artist Steve Pugh
Penciller Timothy Green II (pages 8, 9, 14, 15, 19, 20)
Inker Joseph Silver (pages 8, 9, 14, 15, 19, 20)
Colorist Lovern Kindzierski
Letterer Jared K. Fletcher
Assistant Editor Kate Stewart
Editor Joey Cavalieri

The cover is by Steve Pugh and Lovern Kindzierski, and it's not too bad. It shows exactly what happens inside — Animal Man fighting a zombie Hawkman — and it helps to have the same artist do the cover and the inside pages. I still don't, nor will I ever like the grotesque zombie characters, but I know that's exactly what they're going for, so I can't fault them on that.

This issue handles the multiple artists perfectly. Steve Pugh drew all the pages that take place in Rotworld, while Timothy Green II handled the pages involving a subplot of the normal world during Animal Man's absence. It is kind of interesting to see what happened that led up to Rotworld, but that subplot doesn't involve the Flash, so I won't go into it too much.

When we last left Animal Man, he journeyed with Swamp Thing into the Rot to try to eliminate the treat to all life once and for all. Turns out, this was a trap, and while the two heroes were away, the Rot was let loose on the world and took it over. Even though Animal Man thought he was only gone for a couple of hours, he was actually away for almost a year. When he finally gets back to what should be Earth, all he sees is decay and destruction. He's quickly attacked by a zombie Hawkman, but is saved by Steel, Black Orchid and Beast Boy.

The heroes decide to take Animal Man back to the last sanctuary of survivors — the Red Kingdom. On their way, Steel explains that the Rot spread quickly like a disease and turned everybody into zombies. Only those with connections to the Red or Green were immune. Steel survived by transferring his consciousness into a robot body, but most of the other heroes were infested. Even the Flash couldn't escape the Rot.

At the living city of the Red, Animal Man meets several interesting people, including John Constantine, who tells him that his daughter, Maxine, was too young to defeat the Rot, despite being the avatar of the Red.

The Good:

The story. This is truly an interesting and well-written story. Jeff Lemire knows what he's doing, and even though I'm not a fan of this genre, I can appreciate this as a work of art. The tension is great, the horror is real, and the stakes rarely get bigger than this. It's kind of fun, in a way, to have the the secondary heroes have to save the world after the A-listers Justice League failed. Altogether, it's a quite intriguing concept.

The Bad:

Grotesque art. This art is well done, it just disturbs me. I don't need to see Hawkman's head sliced in half with his tongue flailing around wildly. I know that holding back on this violence would have weakened the story, but that still doesn't make me a fan of it. Unfortunately, it seems with every Animal Man issue I review, I'm going to be complaining about its graphic nature.

Again the Flash only got one panel, but I really liked it. It really showed how dire the situation is, and I could feel Flash's terror and desperation in that one shot. He's the fastest man alive, but even he can't outrun the Rot. So I'm not going to hold his brief appearance against this issue.

Final score: 5 out of 10

Next time: The adventure of Rotworld continues in Animal Man, Swamp Thing and even Frankenstein, but Flash won't make another appearance until Animal Man #16.