Monday, June 13, 2016

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 6/8

Birthright #16
Story: Joshua Williamson
Art: Andrei Bressan & Adriano Lucas

The fourth arc of Birthright begins an arc that looks like it's going to provide answers to many of the series long burning questions. Birthright is usually a strong mix of action and character, but this issue mostly takes a step back from the action and gives us a very strong dose of character. We don't get much more of the most awkward dinner ever between the sorcerer Mastema and the mother of our protagonists, Wendy, and Mikey's ex/friend.babymama, Rya, before two of the remaining other mages, Kylen and Enoch show up to discuss what to do about finding Mikey and the betrayal of their fellow, Samael. But after only a few pages of this, we're back with Mikey, his brother Brennan, his dad Aaron, and Samael, revealed to be the boy's grandfather, Aaron's father. If we got the impression from the end of the previous issue that Aaron has some issues with his dad, And now we can see how, as hard as it would be for anyone to be accused of the murder of their son, and to have their son disappear, how much this plays right into the issues Aaron has as the son of a father who abandoned him. And how furious he is that his father, who knew about the magical land of Terrenos, never came to him and his family in their hour of need, when Mikey was gone. And Samael may have good reasons, but his evasion and his simply saying that he has good reasons without explaining anything? That doesn't make him sound like the most trustworthy of guys. We also get more explanation of Brennan's burgeoning mystical abilities, and his use of them sets off what looks to be the series next major fight scene. A series with so many mysteries needs to start paying them off eventually, and as Williamson has proven in his other creator owned series, he knows when the time is ripe for some answers. Ad as good as the story is, and it's very good, the art on this issue is Andrei Bressan's best. Not only do we have great character moments in the faces of both Samael and Aaron, but Bressan gets to draw Samael's lair, a treasure trove of mystical artifacts. This is always something an artist can have fun with, but this particular treasure trove is littered with props from many classic fantasy movies. In a once over I saw all sorts of stop motion creatures from Harryhausen movies, the skull of the pirate from Goonies, Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors, the crocodile from Hook, and the Wicker Man from, well, The Wicker Man. I'm a big fan of Easter Eggs, and the two page spread that introduces Samael's treasure room is just packed with them. Birthright is an exciting, character-driven modern fantasy story, and one for fans of the stories that explore the thin line between fantasy and reality. The first three arcs are out in trade, so it would be easy for you to catch up and start grabbing the single issues as things really start speeding forward.

Detective Comics #934
Story: James Tynion IV
Art: Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, & Adriano Lucas

"DC:Rebirth" keeps moving forward, and you'll be seeing a lot of it this week. We're starting it with the new issue of Detective Comics, which returns to its original numbering. Detective has been the most inconsistent of the Batman titles since the Flashpoint changeover, a book that has ranged from some excellent arcs to some of the worst Batman comics I've read. The new dawn of the series takes aspects from various places, including Batman & Robin Eternal and the late Batwoman series, and starts creating a new Batman team title. There's a lot of mystery built into this first issue, as someone is impersonating Batman and using scientifically advanced drones to chase down other Gotham vigilantes. With this going on, Batman recruits Batwoman, who has a military background, to serve as team leader and drill sergeant for a team of young vigilantes, specifically Red Robin, Spoiler, Orphan (Cassandra Cain's new identity, and one reforming villain, Clayface, who Batwoman worked with at the end of her own series. I probably have every appearance of Batwoman, and while she has shared page time with Batman before, this issue felt like the most substantive meeting between the two. In the past, Batman has mostly given her his usual routine when a vigilante is in Gotham he hasn't trained, the, "This is my city," shtick. But here, he's reaching out to her for help, and it's the more stable Batman on the end of Scott Snyder's run we're seeing here, someone who is willing to work with people and not be the paranoid figure he has often been portrayed as in the past fifteen years or so. To really show that, he unmasks in front of Kate Kane, and we get to see her react on the best possible way, "I've been waiting for you to admit it for the last year and a half." And the utterly shocked look on Bruce's face is priceless; it's rare to see Batman surprised, and it's a nice change, We get little bits of each of the characters on the team, probably the least with Red Robin, which I'm a bit sad about as I've been waiting for Tim Drake to have a regular spot in a Bat book since the post-Flashpoint universe began, but he's got time. I like the feeling we get for Orphan, who is still haunted by the events of Batman & Robin Eternal, Spoiler, who plays up her name a lot more than it was played up in her pre-Flashpoint years as someone who spoils the plans of villains, and the scene where Batman and Batwoman find Clayface actually does a good job of making Clayface a more sympathetic figure, much more akin to his Batman: The Animated Series portrayal then the mustache twirling Basil Karlo of the comics. And we see Kate Kane still dealing with the fallout of her disagreements with her father and I assume her final break-up with Maggie Sawyer, who appeared back in Metropolis in the week's Action Comics. I hope we get to see a lot of the dangling threads from Batwoman's series played out here as the series progresses. This was an excellent debut issue, a great way to introduce new readers to these characters, and a really enjoyable issue for old time Bat fans looking to see the next generation of the Batman family back together.

Flash: Rebirth #1
Story: Joshua Williamson
Art: Carmine Di Giandomenico & Ivan Plascencia

Flash: Rebirth actually combines aspects from both of the above reviews: It's part of "DC: Rebirth" and is written by Joshua Williamson. So much of this issue is new series writer Joshua Williamson giving readers his view if Barry Allen. Barry is having a hard time of things here: he's been assigned to a murder case that oddly resembles his mother's, and he's having visions. If you read DC Universe: Rebirth, you know those visions are connected to Wally West trying to make his way back into the world, and we get to see the sequence from that one shot from Barry's point of view, and it still warms my heart. Barry is such a warm, friendly guy, and seeing him with his protege and surrogate son just brings out the best in him. And I am such a huge fan of  this Wally West, I'm just glad to see him back. The sadness that he is experiencing, knowing that most of the people he knows and loves, and the confusion that his Aunt Iris and Uncle Barry are "just friends" in this reality, is palpable. And if I wasn't pleased enough that I see Barry interacting with Wally, I get to see Barry interact with my favorite character of all time as well, Batman. I like that Williamson doesn't have Barry and Bruce interact as detectives, since that's not what Barry really is, but as scientists, which is how Barry thinks of himself. This issue is the first to really build on the reveals of the DCU: Rebirth one-shot, and begins Batman and Flash's investigation into what changed the universe and what's happened to them, analyzing the Comedian's button that Batman found in the cave. We don't get any answers, but a lot is set up for the future of the series. The wrap up of the case Barry was investigating has some very different hints, hints of Professor Zoom being back in the picture. I'm personally left to wonder if the Zoom who is imprisoned in Iron Heights, the New 52 Zoom, is still there and the yellow blur we see is the pre-52 Zoom, somehow having survived his apparent death in Flashpoint, and is now an agent of Dr. Manhattan, or simply is back to his old tricks of screwing with Barry. The art from Carmine Di Giandomenico is absolutely gorgeous, and really captures the feel of speed, and the colors by Plascencia add to it, making for a visually striking comic. With this issue, we have an excellent starting issue that gives readers a good idea of who Barry Allen is and what his world is like, who his supporting cast is, and a taste of what's to come.

Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1
Story: Greg Rucka
Art: Matthew Clark, Sean Parsons, and Jeremy Caldwell & Liam Sharp and Laura Martin

This first issue of Wonder Woman in the Rebirth era is about truth and contradictions. Greg Rucka start his new run on this series by examining the contradictions between Wonder Woman's pre-Flashpoint origin and her post-Flashpoint one, between how the world looks at her and how the world looks at other heroes. As with most of the Rebirth one-shots, this issue feels like a statement on where the character is and how the creators perceive them, so it is also lighter on the action, but is filled with a thoughtful examination of Wonder Woman as a character. Greg Rucka's previous run on the character leading up to Infinite Crisis is my favorite Wonder Woman run, so I'm thrilled to see him back, and I love how he embraces all the history of the character, how he doesn't ignore the New 52 incarnation of the character, but uses the contradictions and the current status quo to spotlight Diana's strength as a champion of truth. I love the change from the New 52 costume to the more armored version of Diana's traditional garb, and Liam Sharp's Diana is both beautiful and fierce, a force to be reckoned with, and if the big fight scene at the end of the issue between Diana and constructs in the design of Greek mythological creatures is any indication, we're in for a visual feast as Sharp gets more creatures to draw. Rucka builds a mystery at the heart of his new take on the series, questions of Olympus and what Diana has been a part of, and the hinted at brother from the end of Geoff Johns's Justice League. Rucka more than any other writer is facing down the changes made in the New 52 head on in this stellar one-shot.

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