The Flash #21 (DC)

Flash21

Rating: 5/5 – The Button Part 2: DC Nostalgia Gets Me Every Time…
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

Shawn reviewed Batman #21 last week, part one of “The Button” and gave it a 5/5.  For me, that issue was a 4/5, because I thought it relied too heavily on a storytelling gimmick and was sparse on the amount of story progression delivered in the issue.  Part two of the 4 part “The Button” is out this week in The Flash #21 and I enjoyed it much more than part one.  Which just goes to show that different stories are going to hit different people in different ways (‘different’ cubed!)

Joshua Williamson’s story in Flash #21 hit me in my DC sweet spot.  I got the Multiverse, Johnny Thunder yelling ‘Cei-U’ at a lightning storm, the cosmic treadmill, and so much more that I won’t list because I don’t want to spoil the issue.  This story pulled me right back to the DC Rebirth Special from a year ago that kicked off the entire Rebirth era and which I feel none of the subsequent DC books have lived up to…until now.  Where I felt Batman #21 was sparse on story, this issue felt jam-packed.  There’s a lot happening that put a smile of remembrance on the face of this old-timey DC Fan (in this case taking old-timey to mean pre-New52).  It sure seems like a lot longer than the 5 years it has been since DC stood its entire line-up on its ear.  This issue, along with the re-emergence of the DC Multiverse as a result of last year’s Convergence storyline, has me hoping that I’ll start seeing some books set back in what to me is the “real” DC Universe (I know…it’s all fictional, but as fans we imprint on certain things).

Howard Porter does a great job on the art, packing tons of detail onto almost every page, whether it’s a scene in the Batcave, the Justice League Watchtower, or ghostly images of times and realities that once existed and may exist again in the memories of some of my favorite characters.  I’ve read this issue 3 times so far and I’m still finding new things drawn into panels that I didn’t notice on previous readings.

“The Button” is shaping up to be an epic storyline that could delight some fans and enrage others (like pretty much any comic story that changes the status quo).  Personally I hope it shakes things up, but with the DC Multiverse back in play, DC can really have its cake and eat it too.  Making a change does not necessarily have to invalidate any other stories that have been told.  I’ll be quite happy if I get “my DCU” back in some books while the New 52 continuity that other fans may love and still exist right beside it.  Of course, multiple parallel Earths is the confusing stuff that they tried to clean up with the original Crisis back in 1985, but it never confused me, even reading those stories of Earth-1, Earth-2, Earth-S, Earth-X, and more as a kid.  If you haven’t tried DC in years, keep an eye out for “The Button”.  While I cannot predict where it’s going to go next, after the cliffhanger at the end of Flash #21, I’m really looking forward to finding out where that next step will take us next week.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics for Fans who Love Comics

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World Reader #1 (Aftershock)

CREDIT: Aftershock

Rating: 4/5 – Becoming a Reader of World Reader.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Aftershock continues to create series in a wide range of genres and subject matter and World Reader is no exception to that rule. World Reader is an entry in the science fiction genre, specifically around space, alien life, and even the supernatural in a first issue that delivered on making me care about the main character, as well as the “worlds” she explores. World Reader is written by Jeff Loveness who is currently writing Marvel’s Nova series, with art by Juan Doe who is no stranger to Aftershock with his work on the dark and gritty American Monster. In addition, Rachel Deering handles the colors which definitely give this book a look all its own with a deep and dark pallet full of reds, greens, and purples.

This book stood out for me because of the art and colors. It’s a “trippy” looking book as main character Sarah and her team visit worlds that have died. Loveless does a nice job in the opening few pages of explaining all we need to know about Sarah with limited dialogue. I guess Sarah can best be described as a medium, as she attempts to communicate with each world’s dead population in order to find out what happened to them. On most of the worlds she’s been to the dead don’t talk back, but the dead on the world in this first issue do and it’s not what she was expecting. Loveless nails the pacing on this issue by giving us all we need to know, introducing us to a “villain” and then setting the stage for the rest of this series.

World Reader does exactly what a first issue should. Although Juan Doe’s art may not appeal to everyone, it’s definitely art that is worthy of attention. In the back of the book there’s a behind the scenes section that details the process from script to final page. While I normally don’t read the scripts, seeing how Doe’s pages go from interpreting the script all the way to Deering’s lettering and colors was an interesting experience and I’d love to actually see more of this. I’ll be back for more of World Reader, and you should give it a try too!

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Batman #21 (DC)

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 5/5 – What’s Up With Rorschach’s Button?
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Batman number twenty-one is the first part of the highly anticipated storyline “The Button” that expands upon the Watchmen being integrated into the DC Universe that was first introduced a year ago back in the DC Rebirth special. Since that issue came out, fans have waited to see just how Rorschach’s button came to be lodged within the Batcave. Although we don’t get those answers just yet, this was still a highly entertaining issue with exceptional art by Jason Fabok.

This book is composed of mostly nine page grids that is reminiscent of Watchmen’s classic and now iconic layout. Except for the opening and closing few pages, that layout is used throughout this book which allows plenty of wonderful panels for Fabok to choreograph a fight scene between Reverse Flash and Batman. It’s a brutal fight that has it’s share of blood and violence with colors by Brad Anderson that pop, especially when you the violence against Reverse Flash’s bright yellow costume. There’s at least three really memorable panels and/or pages including a beautiful two-page splash where Batman and Reverse Flash take up almost the entire spread as they come to blows.

It is worth mentioning that while I love the lenticular cover, it does feel a little thin. The lenticular covers that DC put out a few years back had a slightly heavier card stock cover which felt a bit better and allowed the movement of the image to be a bit smoother since there was no give. This is a nitpick, but it’s not very often that we get covers like these anymore so I wanted to point it out, bu the thinner cover stock didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story inside.

After Fabok’s most recent Justice League run, he’s probably my favorite artist working in comics today. Throw in a bit more questions and complexities into the DC Universe by writer Tom King, and this issue pretty much hits all my sweet spots. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the story as I’d hate to spoil any of its great moments, but I enjoyed the story almost as much as the art and like I mentioned above, while we don’t get all the answers, this is only the first part of a much larger story waiting to be told. This storyline will continue on in next week’s Flash number twenty-six and I’m sure throughout the rest of this year.  Do yourself a favor and buy this issue. There’s really a whole lot to like!

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Weapon X #1 (Marvel)

CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 3/5 – Wolverine and Sabretooth Together Just Feels Wrong.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Although Wolverine has been dead for a while now, Old Man Logan has filled those shoes nicely, appearing all over the Marvel Universe, starring in his own title, and now in this spinoff titled, Weapon X. On the credits page, we’re told this team will consist of Old Man Logan, Domino, Sabretooth, Lady Deathstrike, and Warpath. It’s definitely a team that’s reminiscent of the teams found in Marvel’s previous X-Force books, which was a darker and arguably more violent version of the main X-Men team. While I feel this team has potential (excluding Sabretooth which I’ll explain in a bit), this first issue failed to get me excited for what’s ahead.

Weapon X has a long history in the Marvel Universe of creating both notorious killers and heroes, with Wolverine being the most famous. This issue opens up with a scene that nods its head to the famous Origin cover with Logan squatting by the side of a river.  He eventually comes into contact with two killers who have similar features to those of Wolverine’s, including adamantium covered claws. After the fight doesn’t go well, Logan needs assistance in striking back and searches out Sabretooth for help. It’s here where the story loses me. I know after the AXIS storyline Sabretooth was “inverted”, but the fact that Wolverine would still go to him considering their long and violent history seemed out of character to me.

The art by Greg Land is solid, although I know he has his share of critics. The colors by Frank D’Armata really shine though as this is a bright book compared to what we’ve seen in the previous X-Force books and even the short lived Weapon X series from the early 2000s. The opening sequence in particular stands out with it’s picturesque setting and bright sun. As a side note, I love the team profile integrated into the upper right side of the title on the cover . It’s reminiscent of Marvel’s characters in the upper left corner price box from years ago.

In previous reviews I’ve also talked about Marvel’s consistent plot point to turn its most popular villains into heroes; Venom, Magneto, and Dr. Doom just to name a few.  To me it always lessens the character’s appeal. Sabretooth being good just feels wrong. Pak’s writing is fine despite this most likely being the first part of what seems to be a “recruiting the team” type story, it just wasn’t all that exciting and some of the quieter moments of the book, like Wolverine researching at a library, seemed out of place. I usually love Pak’s writing so I’m confident this series will be strong even if this first issue missed the mark for me. I’ll definitely be around for the rest of this first storyline at the very least.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Titans #10 (DC)

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 4/5 – Bumblebee is Back in the Comics with Rebirth.
By ComicSpectrum senior Reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Last year I reviewed the second issue of Titans and really enjoyed the use of Abra Kadabra and writer Dan Abnett’s take on the long time DC team.  Although I enjoyed the action scenes, it was Brett Booth’s art that didn’t connect with me. Now that we’re ten issues into this series, my appreciation for Booth’s art has changed for the better and I find myself enjoying this series now for both the art and writing, in addition, of course, to the characters. Issue ten wraps up the story line ‘Made in Manhattan’ that reintroduces Bumblebee to DC’s “Rebirth” Universe.

If you’re not familiar with Bumblebee, I can’t blame you. She’s a character that has been sparingly used, first appearing in costume in Teen Titans number forty-eight from the late 1970s although her true first appearance as character Karen Beecher was three issues before as the girlfriend of Mal Duncan. Where Bumblebee found greater popularity is outside of comics in her appearances in the Teen Titans cartoon, in addition to some other brief appearances in Young Justice and various other DC animated series. It’s good to see DC attempting to bring this character back to the forefront in the comic books as a member of the Titans.

This tenth issue has the team going up against the Fearsome Five who have stolen Mal’s and other people’s unwanted powers under the guise of a corporation called Meta Solutions. Since this is the concluding chapter, there’s plenty of action and Booth’s pencils are energetic and packed full of characters. Booth has a handle on the characters and while their costumes still left a lot to be desired (Arsenal’s “extreme” 90s look, for example) Booth is able to give each character time to shine and Bumblebee looks great.

Dan Abnett wraps up the current story in a satisfying way while at the same time leaving some plot points open for the future, including an upcoming four part event titled “The Lazarus Contract” that will crossover with Teen Titans and Deathstroke. I understand a reader may have hesitation with diving into an event that includes books outside of the ones they may be reading, but I suspect readers of Titans are also buying Teen Titans so the additional investment is not that much. Titans continues to be a fun and action packed series that combines solid writing and art and I’ll definitely be reading the upcoming event!

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Rose #1 (Image)

CREDIT: Image

Rating: 4/5 – Familiar Themes with Interesting Characters and Gorgeous Art.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Rose is squarely set in the genre of fantasy. Reading this first issue will, numerous times throughout, bring you back to many of the themes you’ve seen in fantasy plenty of times before. Magic and magic users have slowly been wiped out from this world, villages have been ransacked in search of rebels, and there’s the threat of an evil queen. Despite containing all these familiar components, I quite enjoyed this first issue written by Meredith Finch with art by Ig Guara. While familiar. It was an entertaining read with beautiful art from beginning to end.

I haven’t read too much from Meredith Finch.  While I didn’t really enjoy her run on Wonder Woman, by the end of this debut issue of Rose I’ve turned around and I’m looking forward to reading more. Finch introduces us to Rose and the world she lives in at a rather quick pace. After a three page and very broad synopsis of the world, we get to know not only Rose, but the main villain of the story as well. Finch does a great job of including quite a bit of story in this first issue that at times does feel rushed, but is definitely the right choice to get readers hooked. While I found Rose to be an interesting character, it’s the Queen who captured my attention even more and I’m intrigued by her origins.  Finch gives us just enough of the Queen’s back story to build curiosity, while artist Ig Guara gives her a menacing look. Guara’s pencils stole the show for me in this first issue, and the colors by Triona Farrell are the perfect compliment to the art. Guara’s pencils are clean, but have a wispy feel to them. The colors are bright and never stay on one tone or color all too long. Sadly, it’s the cover that contain this book’s weakest art, which is unfortunate as what’s inside is so much prettier than what you first see.

Despite having plenty of familiar notes that I’ve seen in fantasy before, Finch’s writing and Guara’s art were very enjoyable.  Creator-owned seems to be what I like from Finch more than her work on characters owned by other companies.  I’m glad I gave Rose a chance and I’ll definitely be back for the second issue.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Darkness Visible #3 (IDW)

DV3

CREDIT: IDW Publishing

Rating: 4/5 – A World with ‘Demons’ Inhabiting Willing Human Hosts.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

Darkness Visible from IDW Publishing seems like a ‘flying under the radar title’, I don’t hear very much talk about it, but it’s a solid read and the 3rd issue of the series is the best yet, providing critical backstory about how the world of ‘today’ with demons riding around inside human hosts came to be.  We discover that the roots trace back to World War II in this flashback issue.

The world writers Mike Carey and Arvind Ethan David have set up is one where the Shaitan, an extra-dimensional race that may or may not be the ‘demons’ associated with many religious depictions of the ‘bad place’ in their afterlife, want a foothold in our dimension.  The only catch is that they need to have a willing human host that they ‘possess’.  The demons are immortal and they grant that immortality on their human hosts.  Unfortunately for the hosts, the demons are the more dominant partner in the bargain, reducing the human consciousness to a secondary role of being the ‘rider’ with the Shaitan in control.  Issue 3 takes the reader back to WW II where the demon queen, inhabiting Lady Caroline Vivian since 1853, make a deal with Winston Churchill to provide hosts for Shaitan who will in turn help Britain win the war against Nazi Germany.  The details of the bargain and the results as the next few years pass are the crux of this issue’s story, so I won’t spoil them here.

The art in this issue, by Livio Ramondelli, has a different feel from that of Brendan Cahill who did the 1st 2 issues, but that feel approriate given the flashback nature of this issue and will help set this apart from the rest of the story when it is ultimately collected in a single volume.  Cahill has more traditional comic book ink lines defining the figures in a sharper fashion.  Ramondelli, also handling his own colors, has a softer and somewhat diffused look in his final art that lends a nice atmosphere to the story.  Ramondelli’s art is solid, but I had a bit of an issue with the faces of the human characters, this is an area where he will likely improve over time as he does more work with human characters (he’s done a lot of work on Transformers comics) .  While I mention it as a critical review point for the art, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the issue, his storytelling is otherwise solid

If you’re a fan of alternate history stories with a fantastical element mixed in to provide the divergence point, Darkness Visible should be right up your alley.  I was suitably impressed with issue #3 and I believe it can be read as a standalone story, or as a precursor to buying the 1st 2 issues to see the story that has been set up in the present day, following that with issues 4 and beyond.  I enjoyed the 1st 2 issues but #3 kicked it up a notch by providing this excellent exploration of the backstory that resulted in the world we were dropped into in issue #1.  This isn’t a comic that will jump off the rack at most readers, but it’s well worth tracking down or asking your local shop to order for you if you like these kinds of stories.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics for Fans who Love Comics

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