Batman: Tales of the Man-Bat

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This here was a library borrow on impulse. It’s a brand new release and I like Batman’s villains more than I like him so I thought this Man-Bat trade would be a good one. This just unfortunately did not live up to what I expected and was just a bad collection. For those who don’t know: Man-Bat is Kirk Langstrom, a scientist who injected himself with some bat DNA to cure his hearing but it had the side effect of turning him into a bat monster.

It begins in Showcase ’94 #11 but this is more of a prequel to the next three issues with the same creative team so I’ll talk about them together. The Showcase story is very short and light on plot; some guys hunt down Man-Bat out in a jungle and then he escapes back into Gotham to find Francine. At this point the character is more monster than man so all he can say is his wife’s name. The next series is Man-Bat Vol 2. #1-3 which continues in Gotham where a string of murders are committed by a flying man. Of course Man-Bat is the suspect but he’s just trying to find Francine. It’s only a three issue story and there’s not a lot happening but this still felt like a long read. This can be contributed by the completely terrible art. I don’t know what the artist was doing but everything just looks wet, like every character is going to melt away. For no reason at all in the final fight with this boring mystery villain, Francine’s clothes get ripped away for cheap fanservice but it doesn’t even look good because of the terrible art style. There’s only one good thing I can say about this part of the comic and that’s the Killer Croc moment. It’s a short scene but it shows a different side of that character where he actually cares for Man-Bat because “freaks stick together.”

After all of that we get into Man-Bat vol 3. #1-5 which is a lot better in the art department, but has its own problems in the writing and story. This story begins as well with a string of mystery killings straight out of a 90s horror movie (Teenagers messing around, nosey cops.) Here Kirk Langstrom is actually seen outside of being Man-Bat for most of this. He starts to have blackouts and when his own family is seemingly murdered he believes he was the cause. Batman, who hangs out in the Batcave completely out of costume for some reason, takes him in to try and help him. Then the story gets very confusing as after we’re introduced to our first two villains another one joins the story. There’s too much going on there and then we get to the climactic fight where Batman fights Man-Bat until they reach the true villain behind this. He has them both beaten and then in an ending that makes zero sense to me, lead powers up Man-Bat to take the guy down. Lead is mentioned to have been something Kirk used to try and keep Man-Bat away in the very last issue so it comes across as just pulled out of nowhere and I still don’t know the logic behind lead being a power up. So the art by Mike Huddleston is actually very good in this section and the horror elements at the start may have been cliché but it was interesting at least. This just doesn’t save the rest of the book however.

Writers: Chuck Dixon and Bruce Jones

Artists: Flint Henry and Mike Huddleston

Rating: Rubbish

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All-Star Western #29

So I was walking around the local Wal-Mart and near the checkout I saw this comic just laying out in the open. I assume it was in one of those bagged “3 for $5” comic bags and was ripped out of it. I was intrigued by the Darwyn Cooke cover and decided I’d give it a read. Single issue stories like this aren’t usually reviewed here on this site but this comic turned out to be a standalone story so I thought I’d give my thoughts on it. For context, I’ve never read an issue of this series and my only exposure to Jonah Hex is from Booster Gold #3.

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This comic is mostly a set up to get Jonah Hex and his girlfriend, Gina, sitting around a campfire so he can tell her a story from his past. After Gina is shot by Apaches, her and Jonah go and rest by a fire. She can’t sleep so Jonah tells her a Jonah Hex story. He tells her about the time he went after a man named McCabe who was hunting down and killing native Americans.

There’s not a lot to talk about without spoiling the events but this is a fun comic. Hex’s story is interesting and there’s a few good twists even in this short amount of time. It’s a good sign that Palmiotti and Gray can write a story this late into a series and have it still be accessible to new readers. Cliff Richards’s art here is very good. The action scenes are very dynamic and it just has a Western vibe. There’s good shadows and some interesting visuals during a hallucination sequence. Jonah is a cool character and he plays well off of Gina. They have a good banter back and forth and they make a cute couple.

I don’t know how good the rest of this series is but this was a fun little story and it was a fun way to spend five minutes in a store.

Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray

Artist: Cliff Richards

Rating: Full Price

All-Star Western #29 P2

 

New Super-Man Vol. 1: Made In China

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New Super-Man is a comic series released in 2016 that is currently ongoing and will be renamed soon so I thought it was a good time to jump into the series and see how it is.

Our series begins by introducing us to our protagonist, Kong Kenan, a Shangai teenager who is currently bullying some kid named Luo Lixin. The two are attacked by Blue Condor, a supervillain from a group called the Freedom Fighters. Kenan throws a can at Condor and that scares him off. Kenan is quickly scouted out by a secret organization called the Ministry of Self-Reliance who imbue him with energy from the dead New 52 Superman. This gives Kenan the power of Superman for a brief moment until Wonder-Woman and Bat-Man of China arrive and take him down. Kenan’s powers are shorted out now and it’s bad timing as the Freedom Fighters of China start attacking people to try and take down the Ministry.

Coming into a new series like this there’s a lot that has to be done to build up interest in the reader. Fortunately, New Super-Man does this very well. There’s a lot going on in the background of this series as a lot of characters and groups are introduced. It handles this well by not continuously hinting at stuff but by just letting the story play out. Next volume we learn the histories of both Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman but here they’re just fun characters and that’s what we see first. We get a similar idea with Kenan as we see who he is and how he acts before we learn why. At first Kenan isn’t very likeable as he bullies this kid and Bat-Man for being overweight and is just rude mostly. Soon though he relaxes on these as he becomes friends with Bat-Man and Lixin.

Any good aspect of this series is the nice world building aspect of it. This story is set in China so it’s a lot more visually interesting than usual just because of the setting. All the new heroes and villains have nice visual designs. The Folding Paper Man stands out among the villains for having a weird power and using it in clever ways. The art overall is very good as there’s quite a bit of action and it’s all dynamic and bright. There’s a lot of interesting plot twists and there’s just something about the story that feels familiar in a good way. I highly recommend New Super-Man and I can’t wait to continue reading the series.

Writer: Gene Luen Yang

Artist: Viktor Bogdanovic

Rating: Vintage

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Superman Vol. 1: What Price Tomorrow? (The New 52)

Now that I’ve covered the critically acclaimed New 52 Batman’s first arc it’s time to check out the opposite, Superman. (Some spoilers ahead for the villain origins)

The story takes place five years after Superman first made himself known to the public. Superman is seen as a hero by some and a villain by others, mainly the government, because he took the law into his own hands to arrest a corrupt businessman when he first started. The Daily Planet is bought out by some rival and upgraded into a multimedia building with Lois in charge of television and digital and Clark is still in print. The real important and almost interesting thing is Superman fighting against some aliens that speak only one word, Krypton.

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Wow at first read I didn’t really have a big opinion on this comic but on reflection this was so awful. I don’t even know where to start with this one. There is not one character I cared about in all of this; not Clark, not Lois, and none of the Daily Planet characters. There’s no one at all to humanize Superman, no one who he talks to or someone that matters to him. His parents are dead, Lois basically doesn’t care about him and Jimmy barely talks to him. There is so much dialogue of the other characters just talking about the business or talking about Superman that gets so repetitive and unnecessary.  In general it’s too wordy where everything in the first fight scene has captions for some reason when I can clearly follow it with just the art.

The villains are three generic villains, who aren’t even visually interesting and their origins are so ridiculous I can’t understand it. This is supposedly because George Pérez was told he had to make the story tie into Grant Morrison’s Action Comics which took place 5 years ago in story. During that story Superman acquired his Kryptonian armor and on that armor there was a symbiotic nanobyte from a planet Brainiac had collected. For some reason, five years later the robot adapted Superman’s powers into itself. Then there are three of the robots and they mind link into Superman’s brain, who was at the new Daily Planet, and then make a clone of him that kills some villains around the city. The real Superman is for some reason in the atmosphere and we never find out how he got there. The clone fights Supergirl until Superman arrives and kills it. It’s such a mess I can’t even understand any of it.

The art is the only good quality in all of this, I can’t think of another thing.

Writer: George Pérez

Artist: Jesús Merino

Rating: Rubbish

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Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls (The New 52)

Ay Vintage Bullet is back.

After the mysterious death of a John Doe, Batman heads into an investigation where the prime suspects are the Court of Owls, a legend among Gotham about a society that has been running the town for centuries. Batman brushes it off as just a story and his reasons for ignoring such a lead is revealed throughout the book. We also learn a lot about the origins of Gotham, the Wayne Tower, and Bruce’s own family.

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Here’s a really big book I haven’t been able to talk about yet. As a casual fan of the Bat franchise I was never inclined to pick of any of Scott Snyder’s solo series, despite the rave reviews. But now I have read the first volume I can deliver probably the exact opinion that most people have, it’s pretty good.

Snyder writes all the characters very naturally where Bruce, Dick, and Alfred all read like they should. There’s a few new characters but they don’t really have personality except for Lincoln March, who’s a lot like Bruce though. The Talon doesn’t say much but he doesn’t need to, he’s a mostly silent assassin. Old Rogues make an appearance only in the first couple pages of the story but they look and act like they usually do. There’s a cool cameo by Pyg too in the group shot.

One of the key strengths of course in any comic is the art and Manapul’s is amazing. It’s simple but effective in the earlier issues and then goes full on insane in the later issues. Issue five is my favorite of the seven issues included in this collection simply for so many reasons. Seeing Batman at such a low point is amazing and the way he goes through the labyrinth while descending into madness makes for a visually interesting issue. The comic itself actually starts to turn it’s way upside down until the climax.

My complaints are minor and any big problem I’d have is related to this story arc only being half over with the “City of Owls” being covered in the next volume. One scene that felt out of character was in the final issue where, no spoilers, someone gets punched for no real reason except it looked cool. All and all it’s pretty good on it’s own but the next volume will make this story much more complete.

Writer: Scott Snyder

Artist: Francis Manapul

Rating: Full Price

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Suicide Squad Vol.1 – Kicked In the Teeth

The Suicide Squad, or Task Force X, is a government sponsored team of imprisoned super villains who have been assigned tasks with the incentive of a reduced sentence. The team is managed by Amanda Waller and the team members are always changing, but are usually C- to D- list characters who are expendable. The New 52 incarnation is the fourth published, but the first in the New 52 continuity.

Suicide Squad was one of the books I heard the most about when first getting into comics during the New 52. Jumping into this one I wasn’t expecting much so once I finally got around to reading it I was surprised how much I enjoyed this. The plot is full of interesting twists and cliffhangers and the characters are pretty good. There’s the obviously expendable one’s like Voltaic, Lime, and Light and there are the big name characters like Harley and Deadshot. However, I found myself more interested in the more obscure or new characters like El Diablo, King Shark, Black Spider, and Yo-Yo.

The first issue introduces most of the Squad and later issues keep adding more members. Deadshot is the team’s field leader so a lot of the focus is on him. I’m not a fan of his new design, he looks more Redneck than Spanish to me. He’s characterized as the angry, witty, does the job by the book mercenary. Harley acts like the Joker most of the time, but with just more random humor. I’m not really a fan of her either, so her new origin and costume design don’t bother me that much. The rest of the team are just more interesting, funny, and there is some level of tension with them because they can actually die.

There are two main arcs in this volume: a search for a baby who can cure this zombie outbreak and a Harley Quinn focused arc where she escapes to find Joker. The first plot has a lot going on and moves at a fast pace, but also manages to characterize the Squad pretty well. There are some cameos from characters like Captain Boomerang and Mad Dog and it’s cool to see them. The second arc keeps the theme going of good plot twists and keeps the humor and action going. The Harley focus is alright, I don’t really care about the story but I understand why they do it, she’s the most popular character.

If I have any real complaints it would be some art inconsistencies in Harley’s costume where her cape disappears sometimes at random. I understand because it’s a cluttered costume, but it doesn’t excuse it. I also don’t like Amanda Waller in this book. She just threatens to blow up the Squad all the time and makes their missions harder by not telling them things they need to know.

Other then those two things I quite enjoyed this comic. There’s also a good shot at Marvel and the Avengers by Yo-Yo. Besides Harley’s cape the art is actually real good.

Writer: Adam Glass

Artist: Federico Dallocchio

Rating: Full Price

 

Brightest Day

After the Blackest Night was prevented, twelve superheroes and villains were revived by the power of the white rings. These chosen people have been brought back and given a task by the life entity so they can have their life returned fully. Brightest Day follows seven of the heroes: Deadman, Aquaman, Hawk, Firestorm, Hawkgirl, Hawkman,and Martian Manhunter. This story is told by jumping between five different adventures that the characters are on and they merge together near the end.

Deadman’s plot could be considered the main story because it gets the main focus. After the revivals, all the white rings dissipated except for Deadman’s. This gives him a connection to the life entity, who tells him to find a new champion of the light. During his journey he works with Hawk and Dove and experiences life again after being dead for so long. This is an enjoyable story and it’s really unpredictable so I was always hooked on it. The character dynamic between Hawk, Deadman, and Dove is good too because of their opposing personalities.

The Aquaman story involves Aquaman’s powers starting to revive dead sea animals. Before he can deal with that he is attacked by underwater soldiers from his wife Mera’s homeland. Secrets come out about Mera’s origin and an unknown teenager begins to develop water related powers. All of this ties into the return of Aquaman’s nemesis, Black Manta. This story is quite like a soap opera where ridiculous twists about family and killing pop up. I still enjoy it for what it is and Aquaman is still such a cool character and the fight scenes in his story are really good.

Firestorm’s story involves Jason and Ronnie trying to get along after Ronnie kinda murdered Jason’s girlfriend while he was a Black Lantern. They find out their Firestorm Matrix is corrupted by something dark and that by fighting each other they might explode. This is an alright story, but the two leads aren’t that interesting and it’s mainly their villain who carries the plot.

The Hawk’s story is about them fighting Hath-Set, a priest who is hunting down their previous lives’s bones to create a gate to Hawkworld. This story starts out on the slow side but really picks up towards the end when the true villain is revealed and an unexpected team up happens. The love related dialogue in the beginning hurts it kinda but it all leads to something.

The final story is about the Martian Manhunter and how he is trying to restore life to Mars. He also must face another martian, who is a woman martian who wants to restore their race. There’s also the sudden appearance of a giant star shaped forest in the middle of Star City that somehow connects J’onn to the Earth. This story is very interesting and puts J’onn into situations that make him look like a vulnerable, relatable character who isn’t too strong. He doesn’t just fight his way out of all issues, he uses his mind and this makes the story a smart one.

All across the board the art is fantastic in each issue of the book and the way the stories come together is cool to see, even if after the first one concludes you start to expect the next three stories’ endings. All in all it’s another really good event, where strong plots and characters make a little bit of a scattered format actually work.

Writer: Geoff Johns & Peter Tomasi

Artist: Patrick Gleason & Ivan Reis

Rating: Full Price