Batman Volume 5 Dark city review

Batman Volume 5 Dark city review
Writer Scott Snydor Artist Greg Capullo

 

Batman ZY cover
I may not use guns, but the jury is still out on Bows

Scott Snydor is a writer with big ideas and long tales. When he first started writing Batman, his first story, “Court of Owls” ran for 11 issues. His side project, “The Wake” with Sean Murphy was ten issues, split into two parts. So when it was revealed that he was rewriting Batman’s origin, it should come as no surprise that is was originally slated to be thirteen issues long. In the end it was knocked down to just twelve issues, with issue twenty eight being a promotional issue for the up coming Batman eternal series.

The question is though is it any good? The answer to that is yes it is. Volume five contains issues 25 to 33, skipping 28 and picks up after the Batman has taken down the Red Hood gang, which happened in the pervious volume. What follows is Batman trying to decipher the rantings of Ed Nygma while protecting a city he has just come home too, while a super storm is brewing. It’s full of big ideas and is a well executed story.

One of the things you need to remember when reading a Scott Syndor story is he plants seeds in his stories that bear fruit later. For example, issue 25 opens up with a military convoy in a desert, but isn’t referenced until much later on. The entire Year Zero story is filled with these moments, that made little sense if you read them individually but if you read the entire collection in one sitting, the little tit bits make much more sense.

After 75 years and countless origin stories about Batman, you may be casting a wry eye on the zero year story as unnecessary and bloated. While the world wasn’t asking for another take on Batman’s origin, it certainly interesting enough to warrant checking out if you’re a fan of Batman. The art is top notch, the writing is great as always and it’s a story that deserves to be read in one sitting. How much you’ll enjoy the story depends on how much you like Batman. If you’re the type of person who loves the Bat, you’ll find this new origin the cats pajamas. If on the other hand you find Batman boring then you want be swayed by this story. Personally, Batman, Superman and Spider-Man’s origins stories have been done to death, and while i think Zero Year was unnecessary, it still is great read.

Comics I’ve read June 17th and 25th

Comic thoughts for the 17h and 24th of June

Uncanny Avengers 5: Rick Reminder is a polarizing writer, you either like or you don’t. He writes good dialogue, but his stories often leave me confused. Uncanny Avengers 5 finishes his first arc and I’m baffled as the direction of the series. It didn’t feel like a team book, more like a bunch of friends with solo adventures. I’ll be giving it two more issues, but I might be dropping it.

Flash 41: The Flash under Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato was one of my favourite comics, so when they left the title I was rather upset. Robert Venditti and Van Jensen’s take on the character, while still entertaining isn’t the home run that it once was. This starts a new story line with the return of Professor Zoom and Barry’s father breaking out of Iron Heights to protect his son. I haven’t been enjoying the new direction as much as I’d hope, but it’s still an interesting read for non fans alike.

Deathstroke 7: Deathstroke has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. He’s as overpowered as they come and exists because all companies need to have an unstoppable badass killing machine. Issue 7 kicks off the God Killer story line, in which a down on his luck Slade accepts a risky job for some quick cash. Instead of an introspective title about Slade reflecting on his life, we have Slade carving up people like a Christmas ham. Subtle isn’t on the menu here, but then it’s an ultraviolet comic book. If you like violence over story, then check it out.

Ms Marvel 16: A secret Wars tie that is a fun read. I like the direction of it, focusing more on the street level and how people react to cosmic level events. Which I guess is the secret ability of Ms Marvel. If you want your faith restored in humanity, then check it out, as the end of the world comes and young people band together. It’s not essential reading, but you could do worse then read it.

Battleworld: Age of Ultron vs Marvel Zombies. One of the more surprising aspects of a tie is being pleasantly surprised by the book. I wasn’t expect wild west Hank Pym to appear but the fact that he has and the last few pages have at least intrigued me enough to continue buying it. Hank Pym is sentenced to go over the Shield where Zombies and Ultron units fight it out. If you’re not interested in Secret Wars or collecting tie ins then this wont win you over, but if you’re looking for a different story check it out.

Howard The Duck: Quite possibly the only comic title to come out of a sting from a movie. Howard the Duck is a cult character that is hard to recommend. On one hand, a talking duck comic that doesn’t take itself or the marvel universe seriously is great, but it’s still a talking duck comic. If you’re looking for some thing unique, check it out, but if you like your comics serious, then best avoid.

Moon Knight: A quick read, mostly all action, but if the idea of a slightly more violent version of Batman who may or may not be crazy isn’t your bag then you wont dig Moon Knight. However if you’re looking for a surreal comic with great action, then you could do worse.

Martian Manhunter: Holy Retcon Batman! Yeah I’m not sold on this bold new direction of my favourite Martian, turning him from hero to weapon. However the writing is top-notch, and so is the art. The look of pain on Manhunter’s face as called runs from him calling him a monster after he saved their lives is amazing. The Martian race is still alive and coming to Earth. Who new? Check it out if you’re looking for some thing different to read.

Secret Six. This is a book I could get behind if it came out to any recognisable schedule. There is a good mix of character and action, with Gail Simone’s twisted sense of humour. The six though don’t really come across as likeable, and the old writing trick of “yeah they’re bad, but these guys are even worse” does wear a little thin. It’s good, but fans of Gail Simone should need only apply.

Bucky barnes: Winter Soldier 9. I’ll admit I’m loving this series because it’s about as far removed from the Marvel Universe as it can be. It has a unique, if some times muddy art style and a really great sci-fi story. If you like Sci-Fi stories you could do worse than checking out Bucky Barnes, winter solder.

God Hates Astronauts 9: Another title that is difficult to recommend. Not because it’s not good, but because it’s just so weird. It has an air of weirdness to it that is refreshing, and the story never goes in the direction you think it is. That said it’s a gross, borderline offensive comic. If you’re easily offended or just plain hate “weird” stuff then give it a miss. But you like your comics weird with black humour then check it out. Just keep it out of the hands of kids.

G.I.Joe A.R.A.H. 215: After last months all silent issue, the story picks up again with Sean Collions becoming Snake Eyes, which was telegraphed two issues ago. G.I.Joe has never really been new reader friendly, stuck firmly in the old marvel writing style which is great. Larry Hama often writes in the long form, which means story lines don’t pay off until several issues down the track, which while frustrating, make for a richer story. If you are going to jump on board, this issue would be the best time to do it. Next month kicks of the long form so if you’re coming aboard the G.I.Joe train, now would be the time to do it.

Why you should read Unbeatable Squirrel girl.

 

unbeatable-squirrel-girl-1-cover-header
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl issue 1

Every once in a while, a comic comes along that you simply must recommend to everyone you meet. A few years ago, it was Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, which is still a fantastic read. This year, it’s “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl”. For those of you who don’t know, Squirrel Girl started off as a jokey, light-hearted character. In her first official comic appearance, she encounters Tony Stark in a forest, and they just happen to find Dr Doom flying over the area in an airship. As any good heroes do, Iron man goes to stop him, and Squirrel Girl tags along, and ends up saving the day when she calls all the squirrels in the area to chew the wiring in Doom’s ship, forcing him to retreat.

Which pretty much sums up her up as a character. She’s often portrayed as a joke character because she has the secondary mutation of being able to defeat A-list villains, mostly off-panel. Her first power is that she’s basically a human squirrel. It didn’t help that she was part of the Great Lake Avengers, a team that nobody likes, and are often presented as comic relief. But all that has changed with Unbeatable squirrel girl.

You see, while the character of squirrel girl is often considered lame, she is in fact a wholly unique character. She’s doesn’t have the typical body type of female super heros, which is refreshing in this day and age. The book is relatable, with S.G. going to college for the first time and having to juggle hero work and school work, making this the 10th time or so Marvel have gone back to the Peter Parker well of plot devices. And more importantly, the book is practically all ages.

USG cover 4
8 Bit face off

Now yes, to some, this is a dirty world. It’s basically saying this comic is for kids, but you miss the point. Comic books have always been directed at kids, and while the market has changed, not every book has to be about some angst ridden hero trying to do the right thing in a world that hates and fears him. S.G. brings back the days of any thing can happen comic books, were one minute, S.G is fighting whiplash in Central Park, and then stopping a bank robbery in suit of squirrel armor.

It’s what comic books should be. It’s a fun, exciting adventure for all ages, about a girl who doesn’t need to punch and kick to solve every problem she encounters and what the comic industry desperately needed. It contains the important message that we should at least try to talk about our problems, instead of just trying to either punch, kick or smash them away. Not only that but also one of the funniest books I’ve read. The issue she fights against Galactus was literally one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, and played into conceptions of the character. Issue 5 had people telling made up stories about Squirrel Girl, tongue firmly in cheek and set to various time periods. I still chuckle about the “confidential battle’ line.

It’s not for every one, but it is some thing you should check out. It’s one of the most refreshing books on the market and a treat to read. Buy it so your nieces or daughters have some thing to read when they come over. Now if they could drop the price to 2,99 it’ll be a perfect title.

Let’s talk about G.I.Joe

The future of G.I.Joe comics

If you’ve been following the comic book scene, you may have notice that Karen Traviss had been writing a G.I.Joe book, dubbed “The Fall of G.I.Joe” published by IDW publishing. That series, which was meant to go for 12, ended with issue 8. If you haven’t read it, the story itself was fairly good, full of intrigue and back-stabbing moments that make up any good politically based story. Except that it didn’t feel like a G.I.Joe story, which is important if you’re are writing a G.I.Joe book. For those of you who haven’t read it, and judging by the sales it’s quite a lot that are not, the book was set 8 years after G.I.Joe Volume 3 also by IDW, set mainly in some Eastern Europe country with the main focus on Isaac Craft, the son of a Cobra operative who goes rogue and joins the enemy. From there it becomes a game of who can get to Issac first before he brings the entire area into a war.

If you read that and asked the question “how does G.I.Joe factor into the story?”, then you’d be surprised to know that the team is an after-thought in their own book. The team consists of 4 field members, two known intelligence operatives and that’s it. Cobra, for all of their established members gets cut down to Tomax Paloi, the Baroness and Siren who is Isaac’s mother. Throw in ex G.I.Joe team leader Duke and ex S.A.S. knock about Big Ben and that’s all the comic characters who were pre-established before “The Fall of G.I.Joe” begins. Now, I don’t want it to seem like I am knocking Ms Traviss work, it was a fine tale, but it wasn’t a G.I.Joe tale.

When you’ve cut the team down to four people who don’t show up in the book for long stretches, all are very generic looking and instead focus on characters you’ve created for telling your own tale then you’ve perhaps missed the point of writing for a licensed book. Not including 1-off stories of course. My point is, when you’re a comic company and you have a franchise license, such as my beloved G.I.Joe, Transformers etc, then it’s a good idea to hire a writer who understands what makes the license special and can adapt their writing to suit the needs of the franchise, not writing your own story, no matter how well its written and then as an after-thought inserting a few known characters who don’t end up doing much. Which leads me to my next point: where does G.I.Joe go from here?

It’s debatable whether or not IDW has done a good job with the license and for the record I have enjoyed their output of various titles (some more than others). Cobra remains a high point in the series, whereas there were issues of G.I.Joe origins that were largely forgettable. The main series itself has had its fair share of ups and down, but rarely could you say it was a must read. But the question remains: where should they go from here? It’s more difficult than you think.

There are a few options out there for IDW:

1: Keep the current time line as it is. The Fall of G.I.Joe was set 8 years after Fred Van Lante’s and Paul Allor’s run, so anyone taking over the title may have to deal with Joes who are close to having a mid-life crisis. The series opened with the majority of the team disbanded, so this issue would have to be addressed. While not difficult per say, there would be a fair bit of writing gymnastics involved to get around. To be fair, with Cobra having already won and established as a major peace keeping force, there is the potential for some great stories of the Joes fighting back against the odds, and exposing Cobra for what they truly are.

2: Go with the pre-sequel route. The next series could be about everything that happens between volume 3 and volume 4 of G.I.Joe. There some limitations with this option, mainly that ending is already known to die hard readers, Cobra wins and G.I.Joe gets shut down which is hardly the uplifting story one expects from fiction.

3: The continuity. At this point, the best idea IDW could have is restarting the entire series. While it would be unpopular with the hard core base, this shouldn’t be your only focus. By restarting it you’re free to create new stories, and take existing characters and put a fresh spin on them. It worked wonders for the Ultimate Marvel line in the beginning, so why couldn’t it work for G.I.Joe.

4: Do nothing. Yes, as unpopular as it is, the best approach may be to do nothing. There’s already one G.I.Joe comic out monthly, and Transformers Vs G.I.Joe comes out whenever it does so there are two books already. The market has shown that other G.I.Joe comics haven’t sold as well, because if they had they wouldn’t have felt the need to stop and start the franchise over the way they have. In my mind, as long as I’m getting one good G.I.Joe title a month, that’s all that matters to me.

What’s clear though is that G.I.Joe is a dated title and idea kept a float by 80’s nostalgia. For the license (which includes the comics, toy line and cartoon) to be truly successful there has to be a major over haul in practices. Why was it so big in the 80s? Because you had a cartoon that advertised the comics while both advertised the toy line. For G.I.Joe to be the money-maker it once was there has to be a toy line that goes with a comic, maybe even a cartoon and the advertising to go with it. Advertise the comic via the toy line and vice versa. The comic shouldn’t be more then $2.99, because kids don’t have a lot of disposable income, and $3.99 adds up. Kids should be the focus of any toy franchise, whether we want to admit this to ourselves or not.

In the end, G.I.Joe was always a means to sell more toys to kids, and the by product was one of the best and longest running comic series to date. In this case, lighting may not strike twice, and that is okay with me. So what does the future of my beloved G.I.Joe hold? I honestly have no idea. And doesn’t that make it more interesting?

Thanks for reading.

Matt Dansie