The Flash: Rebirth #1 – A (Comic Book) Review

You may remember I went a little goo-goo for DC Universe: Rebirth #1.  I’m very happy to say that The Flash: Rebirth #1 is a can’t-miss connection to that seminal issue.

The first several pages establish Barry Allen’s character and background in case anyone is new to the title.  But then Wally West appears exactly as it happened in DC Universe: Rebirth #1, and it prolongs that moment, makes it even more emotionally resonant, and provides direction for both Wally and Barry.  Then, unbelievably, it goes even a step further and takes Flash into the Batcave to discuss that yellow pin Batman found.  I won’t spoiler any of the actual conversation, but this issue absolutely seems pivotal to the imminent conflict I personally cannot wait to witness.

So from a plot standpoint, this issue is extremely important to where Barry, Wally, and even the DC Universe is headed.  In that regard, I deem it required reading.

I also want to note, though, that The Flash is one of my all-time favorite heroes, and I have to say I much prefer Wally over Barry because I grew up alongside Wally West.  (Again, check out my ecstatic raving …)  However, this issue features the most likable and identifiable Barry Allen I’ve seen since the New 52’s inception.  Joshua Williamson seems to have a great handle on Barry’s persona and, let’s face it, Barry is so much better with Wally by his side.  Like Superman, Barry has always struck me as a father figure, a pure hero.  He is at his best when he is caring for those closest to him, and he needs those closest to him present in order to shine.  I absolutely believe Wally and Barry can share the Flash mantel.  They’ve done it before after Barry’s initial return … they can do it again.

I enjoyed Carmine Di Giandomenico’s art, but it definitely benefited from Ivan Plascencia’s colors.   This is a supreme case of the coloring making the art standout.  They both work together to denote forward movement, fluidity, and ultimately speed.  They are a good team for this character.

Quite honestly, I think this is my favorite Flash comic since the New 52.  It’s got heart, soul, and it seems to be filled with crucial plot points.

Wonder Woman: Guts by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang – A Book Review

Guts is the second volume of Wonder Woman’s New 52 iteration.  Now, I have to admit, I’ve never particularly been a Wonder Woman fan.  I mean, sure, as a young boy, I liked her just as much as the next young boy, but I never read her comics.  But, when DC decided to (sort of) reboot their shared universe with the New 52, and when I learned that Brian Azzarello would be taking over Wonder Woman, well, even as a thirty-five year old man with a wife and two daughters, I couldn’t resist.  Azzarello is a superb writer.  He’s multifaceted, visionary, and merciless to his characters.  Plus, in the months preceding the series’ debut, he spoke at length about how his version would focus upon the Greek Gods and have more in common with horror than super hero adventures.

He had me at Greek Gods.

I haven’t reviewed the first volume of Wonder Woman yet because, while I loved it, I frankly wanted to wait and see if the second volume would sustain my interest.  Not only did it sustain my interest, it in fact increased my interest.

With Guts, I have a lay of the land.  I’ve gotten used to Azzarello’s interpretation of the Greek Gods and his general “atmosphere” for Wonder Woman.  Now that I know what to expect in certain regards, I love the title all the more. His take on the Gods is unconventional, but that’s what makes it captivating.  He gives us just enough to make them recognizable, but changes everything else.  Make no mistake, however, this man knows his mythology.  At no time does he write a God “out of character.”  Of course, the genius is that these Gods have existed in world mythology for thousands of years, so that gives Azzarello a lot of wiggle room.

In Guts, Wonder Woman is trying to save a young woman who has been impregnated by a missing Zeus.  Hera, as usual, wants the girl dead, and is going to great lengths to make that happen.  Hermes is assisting Wonder Woman with the girl’s rescue, and before long Wonder Woman encounters Hephaestus, Demeter, Eros, Apollo, Artemis, Pandora, and Hades.  They are exactly like you’d expect and nothing like you’d expect, and that’s why I love this title.

There is a lot going on in this book, but I never felt overwhelmed or confused beyond comfort.  All literature should confuse a little, after all, for if the author makes everything crystal clear, well, that’s a little boring, isn’t it?  But like the Greek Gods, Wonder Woman is recognizable enough to satiate the fans, but she and her back story have also undergone a few tweaks that makes the character even more likable and, to be honest, respectable.

Chiang’s art is definitely a great match for Azzarello.  His Wonder Woman is attractive without being a sex object, powerful looking without losing her femininity, and is always drawn to look like the royal she is.  As a father of two small girls, I’m always searcing for female super heroes they can look up to that are not a facsimile of a male super hero or presented as a pin up model.  I got really excited when they were going to put pants on Wonder Woman because, you know, she’s basically wearing a bikini and I’d like her to put some clothes on for my daughters’ benefit.  Of course, they opted to keep the corset and bottoms.  Even with that being said, though, Chiang draws her in such a way that, again, she is beautifully rendered, but her clothes also completely cover her.  She is not drawn with ridiculous cleavage or wearing a g-string.  Admittedly, no matter how strongly she is written by Azzarello, if they did present her in such a fashion, I’d be too embarrassed to read her book.  As it stands, though, I’d have no problem with my daughters (if they were twelve or older) reading it.

I’ve read several of the New 52, and I have to say that Wonder Woman is so far the best when it comes to art, action, dialogue, characterization, plot complexity, and general coolness.  Even if you’ve never read the character, I urge you to do so.  And don’t worry, instead of your wife rolling her eyes at you for owning it, she might just pick it up and read it herself … so long as she doesn’t mind a little bit of Greek God horror.

Justice League Dark: Into The Dark by Peter Milligan and Mikel Janin – A Book Review

Justice League Dark has a fantastic premise.  I have to admit, when I heard about this book, I became giddy.  I’ve always loved DC’s magical characters, especially those with a bit of an edge.  And while I love their depictions at Vertigo, a part of me rejoiced that they were rejoining DC proper.  Furthermore, by putting “Justice League” in the title, these characters would enjoy a certain level of celebrity, allowing new readers to discover their charisma.  Interestingly enough, the team is comprised of three characters I hold very dear (Deadman, Zatanna, and Constantine) and three characters for whom I’m not all that invested (Shade, Enchantress, Madame Xanadu).  Finally, there’s a character I’ve never heard of (Mindwarp) which frankly surprised me because I’ve been reading DC off and on for the last several decades.

So as you can gather, I was fairly biased before I even opened the first volume of Justice League Dark.  I wanted to like it.  And, honestly, I did like it.

But it’s not perfect.

The premise is a bit clichéd.  The world is at risk, and only by these seven joining forces can this destruction be averted.  Of course, the Enchantress is already destroying much of the earth, and so the future cataclysm seems a little unimportant.  And as entire cities are dying, only the seven members of Justice League Dark seem to be doing anything.  This is where the book lost me.  After brief appearances by Superman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg, the rest of the world’s heroes are nowhere to be found.  I thought Milligan overreached with the wholesale destruction of cities.  Toddlers are killing caregivers, brunettes are killing blondes, nuclear power plants have decided to quit – it all became a bit much to the point of almost being silly.  I think if Milligan had kept it tighter and more focused, perhaps concentrating upon only one locale, it would have been an easier plot to accept.  And while I won’t spoil anything, the end of the book fell into the horrible trap of offering one last jolt, one last horrific challenge that seems to pop up out of nowhere and disappear nearly as quickly.  It reminded me of some really bad horror movies in that regard, and I didn’t want the book to end on such a sour note.

However, the characters alone are enough to keep me around, and they do make an interesting mix.  Would I have liked their “origin” story to have been a little more original and unique?  Yes, but it was a serviceable first volume, and while I didn’t love it, I also didn’t hate it.

The real star of the book is artist Mikel Janin.  Janin’s pencils and inks are absolutely beautiful.  He makes these characters look both regal and terrifying, and he blends the super hero genre with horror expertly.  He’s one of the few artists out there who actually knows how to draw realistic regular clothing, but he also excels at the traditional “costume.”  I see that Janin is still on Justice League Dark as of this writing, which is definitely a reason for me to keep keeping it.  In the hands of a different artist, Justice League Dark may not have been as enjoyable an experience.

If you’re into the darker side of the DC Universe and still enjoy a spot of super heroics, Justice League Dark may be the book for you.  Thought the story wasn’t initially superb, I see a lot of potential with these characters in particular and look forward to seeing what’s in store for them, especially as rendered by Mikel Janin.