Skyman Vol. 1: The Right Stuff

For the first time on Vintage Bullet we’ll be doing a review of a Dark Horse comic.

In this story the original Skyman is seen on television assaulting a black guy in a bar and then calling Obama the “N Word.” The government decides it’s time to replace him with another member of the Skyman training program but they’re all white so they kidnap our main hero, Eric Reid, who was crippled in a jet plane fight. The Skyman suit gives him powers such as superstrength, flight, and the ability to walk again. Reid does what he’s told by his superior, General Abernathy, while being hassled by another army guy named Sharp who hates him for letting his squad die in that jet fight.

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First I have to mention how since this volume is only 4 issues it breezes by quick. It took about half an hour to read and the pacing is really fast. There’s constant leaps in time from the first time he puts on the suit to a 40th time he went out to fight Arabs. Which makes it odd in a later scene where he’s still shouting out loud how awesome it is to be flying, even though it’s the climax. The biggest example is after giving a speech about how he’s better than Sharp because he cares about who lives or dies and then immediately on the next page when Midnight asks if they should check if the villain is alright he says “Screw him” and walks off.

This leads to my biggest problem with the story, a lack of stakes and investment. A lot of that comes from the lack of an interesting cast. Reid bounces around from the gruff hero with a sad backstory to a snarky teenager who just got their powers. Sharp is angry because he got passed over as Skyman and hates Reid because those people that died. He gives Reid a shower beating and it’s an even fight so they just stop in an awkward scene. Captain Midnight is here for a crossover and he’s pretty cool as a Captain America stand-in.

I’m gonna mention my favorite aspect of the whole book is the art. The landscapes are so detailed and the sense of flying you get during those scenes is amazing. I will say this is a pretty run of the mill story but the art brings it back up so much. It’s solid throughout the whole book and nowhere does it falter. Hats off to Manuel Garcia for bringing an alright story into a visual splendor.

Writer: Joshua Hale Fialkov

Artist: Manuel Garcia

Rating: Borrow from a Mate

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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

 

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman V Superman stars Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, and Jason Momoa. After Superman’s (Cavill) fight with Zod in Man of Steel, Batman (Affleck) makes it his mission to take him down and make him pay for the death and destruction he caused. As these two icons of comics prepare for their battle the world has it’s own battle over their statuses as heroes or villains.

I have made a video on the subject of Batman V Superman. In it I described my thoughts and opinions on the movie before my own viewing. To summarize my points I’d say I wasn’t interested at first, but managed to turn myself around after seeing the final trailer and knowing more about the director, Zack Snyder. I admitted in the video that the plot could turn out to be thin, but in reality the movie has just enough plot to keep me interested.

BVS does a great job of establishing the characters of it’s own universe, separate from the previous ones, while still following the familiar beats that make these characters who they are. Superman does what we expect of him: he saves those in need, he doesn’t want to be seen as a god, despite his power he is still a human being, and that he loves Lois Lane(Adams). Batman is a more angry, vengeful Batman who brands criminals and actually kills some of them. I wasn’t annoyed by his killing, just surprised at the number of bodies he wracked up. I can understand why they changed him, they needed more tension in the fight. The stakes are high in their fight, as someone will die no matter who wins.

Speaking of the fight, it’s one of the highlights of the film. Batman has an interesting assortment of weapons and Superman’s pure strength make a great fight. The hits are brutal and the visuals and sound design escalate it to new heights for a superhero fight. While the fight does end in a little anti-climatic way, it did have a powerful impact once I put it all together. Every fight in the movie is amazing, from the Arkham style fight to the final fight which has great cinematography and editing. There’s a great Batmobile chase scene that looks directly from Arkham Knight.

The villain, Lex Luthor, was one of my favorite parts of the movie. His actions are some of the most evil things I’ve seen a villain do in a superhero movie. He has almost complete control over both main characters and I can feel that everything from the beginning to the end of the movie were all part of his plan. While he’s on screen Jesse Eisenberg is just unpredictable and with his twitching and stuttering it feels like he can explode at any moment. My one con for him is that he does go on too much with his religious metaphors.

The side characters that are here were pretty good to me. Jeremy Irons is a good Alfred and keeps his trademark snarkiness. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is great, especially in the later portions of the movie. Laurence Fishburne as Perry White keeps up his good performance from Man of Steel. Diane Lane as Martha Kent while only in for a short time, gives more life to her character. Amy Adams as Lois Lane is still one of the lesser points of the movie but she has good chemistry with Cavill and Swanwick (Lennix).

Now for a couple cons I had. The movie is a little slow in the beginning as it sets up the world currently. The terrorist and Senate meetings were a little boring, but Holly Hunter as Senator Finch is a good character and the pay off to both plot lines is worth the build up. Henry Cavill was still a little wooden in certain scenes, but he’s good in most scenes and his actions are more indicative to his character than his words.

Now, here’s what must be said of the movie. It certainly does meet the intentions that the movie set out to do. It introduces our characters, creates a reasonable enough reason for them to fight each other, has an exciting fight between them, and it sets up the future of the universe. The movie feels like it’s a grand scale and makes the events feel like big and important. Overall it’s a great movie that could be tightened up in a few places and I hope that the director’s cut can make this an even better movie.

Rating: 91% – 10 piece chicken bucket

Superman #1

The marathon is over and with it the first anniversary of Vintage Bullet. It’s been a wild ride with many ups and downs. I’d like to thank everyone who got me here. Special thanks to Harrison over at Juicy Reviews for the plug and the idea. With all that over with, what better way to end this marathon than with the first big superhero, Superman.

Superman #1 tells multiple stories about Superman as he does things like preventing a lynching, stopping an execution, fighting in a war, and joining a football team. When he’s not being Superman we get some pages of Clark Kent, Superman’s secret identity who works at the Daily Star. We also get a 2 page origin story for Superman.

Superman #1 is a book that confuses me in many ways. In terms of an actual story with a plot and characters it is terrible. Superman goes to multiple locations under the cover of reporter Clark Kent, but he is also sent to cover a domestic disturbance. Clark himself is boring, his only characteristic is the false cowardice he shows to cover his identity. Lois Lane is in this and she shows the strong she still is today. No other characters like Jimmy Olsen or any of Superman’s big villains appear.

However, things all begin to change when Superman appears. The character of Superman in this book is drastically different than how he is portrayed now. In this story he can not fly, he doesn’t have his super hearing, x-ray or heat vision, or his super breath. His main powers are his speed, jumping, super strength  and his invulnerability. He uses these powers mostly to intimidate and threaten people when he isn’t beating them up. His personality is more like Batman’s than Superman’s.

A perfect example of his bad behavior would be the football story. In order to break up a thug filled football racket, he decides to take the place of a member of the team they are playing next. One of the players, Burke, happens to look similar to Superman so he decides to take his place on the team. He goes to Burke’s house, drugs him so he’s asleep, and then goes to the game. I’m not gonna spoil the rest but he manages to also get Burke kicked from the team. And objectively the art is terrible. Superman’s cape and symbol sometimes disappear completely and most characters have Captain Marvel squinty eyes.

But despite all of this it has the charm of the Golden Age. Seeing Superman destroy airplanes and end a war makes me understand the character’s appeal back in those days. This book also contains the famous scene from Action Comics #1 where Superman lifts the car. I also like how the book balances multiple different types of stories without being so jumbled. I can’t be too harsh on a book like this, it’s just the time period.

Writer: Jerry Siegel

Artist: Joe Shuster

Rating: Borrow from a Mate

 

 

 

JSA #1

The marathon is winding down with JSA #1. I’d like to think of myself as a JSA fan. I haven’t read any of their comics but when I see characters from the series I want to read it. With this #1 I hope that this is a good jumping on point.

The issue begins with Kid Eternity, a hero with the power to bring historical figures to help him fight, being chased and eventually killed in a sewer. We then see a dream where the Sandman turns into sand and then dies in real life. At his funeral, Wildcat and Starman talk in a scene meant to introduce the JSA members. At the funeral more death and a fight breaks out. We end on a cliffhanger where another character, who says he is well known but I’ve never heard of him,  arrives.

As a #1 issue I quite enjoyed this one. They mention a lot of things that have happened previously to the characters without sounding very expository. There are a lot of characters and they all get a moment to shine in the fight scene. One odd thing is Wildcat’s dad, who would be very old based on Wildcat’s age, but they don’t mention him having some anti-age power.  He’s the supervisor for Johnny Thunder, another old guy, and Star-Spangled Kid or Stargirl as she is known now. Star is the stereotypical teenager in this and I’ve seen her written better in other books. Art is some high quality stuff and the artist or writer put in a reference to the Red Bee of all people. Overall it’s a fun read.

Writer: David Goyer & James Robinson

Artist: Stephen Sadowski

Rating: Full Price