We Are Robin #1 (DC)

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CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 3/5 – Another New Robin, or Same Old Robins?
by ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas

There’s plenty of new titles coming out from DC. What was once called the New 52 is now, according to Dan DiDido in his editorial message at the back of this week’s DC titles, the New DCU. DiDido explains that their goal is to “widen the net of tone and style so that no one look defines who we are” while also keeping the core continuity intact. Just how that all works with the changes that the end of Convergence brought along is anyone’s guess, but there have been some creative and unique titles coming out of DC that feel different than what came before. Case in point, ‘We are Robin’.

Written by Lee Bermejo with art by Jorge Corona, We are Robin is not the most typical of Batman books. It’s using themes and ideas from the Batman family of titles, but heads in a direction that shows potential and opportunity to stand on it’s own. Bermejo who’s most known for his art, takes on just the writing for this series that introduces us to a team of Robins in the wake of Batman’s Endgame storyline. With the original Batman missing from Gotham City, there’s a group of Robins that have stepped up to protect the city. Although we get just a glimpse of this new team, the story focuses mostly on Duke Thomas and how he comes to meet the new all-Robin team. For the most part Duke is an enjoyable character, although a Robin born out of tragedy and tough times is something we’ve seen plenty of times before. Robinson is giving Duke his own voice that I’m hoping will become more fleshed out as the series progresses, but so far he won’t make you root for him which may be a problem in subsequent issues.

As far as the art goes, Jorge Corona is a nice fit. He uses a very hard edge to his line and from the first page you’ll notice similarities to that of Mike Henderson from Nailbiter, although not as refined. There’s a lot of energy to Corona’s pencils, but I wish he spent a little more time on the backgrounds to signify that it’s Gotham City, rather than any other major metropolis. There’s also a two page epilogue at the end that hints at a larger overall story, but it could have easily been thrown into the main storyline without having to have a separate artist in Khary Randolph pencil the two final pages.

We Are Robin did enough to bring me back, but I wasn’t blown away by this first issue. We’ve seen a lot of Robins or Robin-like characters in the past twenty years, so how this Robin sets himself apart will be a wait and see. Given time, Duke Thomas can be a character to watch, but he’ll need an origin and a back story that differentiates himself from those that came before, and he just needs to be more endearing. I’ll be back to see if Bermejo and Corona can pull it off and I trust Bermejo to do so, I just hope it’s sooner rather than later.

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

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Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies #1 (Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 3.5/5 – Most Enjoyable When it’s at its Most Simple.
by ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

When you get a book that’s titled Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies, you kind of expect it to be a fun and exciting read that puts you right between the action of two all-powerful and relentless forces. For about two quarters of this first issue it’s definitely that, it’s a showcase of Zombies and Ultrons behind Battleworld’s wall that grabbed my attention and lived up to the expectations I had for it. Unfortunately, the book takes a turn towards a more serious tone in the final act, slowing down the book’s momentum and ultimately my enjoyment of it.

Artist Steve Pugh provides the pencils for the opening act that’s strongest in both art and story. Tigra has been exiled behind the wall and is running for her life. As she’s close to death, she’s never felt more alive and you see it in her face and the way she moves. Pugh uses multiple angles and depth to show Tigra running through the forest while being hunted by a group of zombies that include Sabretooth, Boomerang, Mole Man and more. What’s so impressive with the art is that Pugh uses a style that’s so similar to original Marvel Zombies artist Sean Phillips.

Pugh’s pencils are dark with a heavy use of blacks that give the zombies the scary look they need, and allows the reds in Ultron’s eyes to cast an eerie glow. Ron Garney’s pencils are used for the flashback tale that shows in just a few pages how Ultron came to power. Garney uses a couple full page splashes, pencilling tons of characters in the midst of chaos and destruction. Then it’s back to Pugh’s pencils for the final act that takes place in 1872, and it’s here that writer James Robinson began to lose me.

Robinson’s abrupt switch towards the end feels almost like a different book entirely. If I hadn’t read the 1872 Secret Wars title, I’m not sure I would have known that was the time period/world I was reading about. There are no caption boxes to hint at the transition, and seeing Hank Pym in this time period after seeing him in the flashback sequence adds a layer of confusion to a book that read so well in the beginning because of it’s simplicity. The concept of this series is strong and I’ll be coming back for more because of it, but hopefully we go back to where this issue started and back to the fun of watching robots versus zombies.

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

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Green Lantern: Lost Army #1 (DC)

Lost Army

Rating: 4.5/5 – The GL Corps is Back and As Good As Ever.
by Comic Spectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

I drifted away from the GL family of books soon after Geoff Johns left.  I tried the Robert Venditti run but it just wasn’t doing anything for me.  I’ve picked up the odd book here and there hoping to get one that captured my attention, because the Lanterns have been my favorite of DC heroes since I was a kid.  Nothing clicked with me until I flipped through Lost Army #1 on the stand at my LCS this week.  This looked good!  Read a few pages in the shop and yep, definitely worth a try.  I’m glad I bought the issue and brought it home!

In general, I think a #1 issue should be the beginning of a story, not joining a storyline in progress.  While that usually bugs me, Cullen Bunn handled the storytelling in such a fashion that it did not.  Score 1 for Bunn.  I’ve got Lanterns I know; John Stewart, Kilowog, Arisia, and one of the best intro panels for Guy Garner I’ve ever read.  Lanterns I don’t know (Xrill-Vrek and Two-Six) but I get to know them as the story progresses.  And what is Krona doing here?  I don’t know!  But I look forward to learning more, as do the Lanterns.  I really enjoyed the flashback pages for John Stewart and hope in future issues we get this kind of treatment for the other main characters.

The art, by Jesus Saiz, was superb.  Clean lines, excellent body language, emotive faces, and an all-around nice job of giving a decent amount of “on panel” time to the various members of the large cast and not just drawing a lot of characters as minimally featured background blobs like some artists do in team books.

Cullen Bunn and Jesus Saiz have earned this book a slot on my pull list, which for people who have been following my reading habits should be seen as quite an accomplishment for a DC super-hero book lately.  This had everything I was looking for in a GL book, except maybe Hal Jordan, but frankly with the other Lanterns featured here I didn’t really miss him at all.  That is a testament to Bunn’s writing.  This is my GL book for now, I look forward to seeing how the story plays out over the coming months!

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Martian Manhunter #1 (DC)

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CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 3.5/5 – Grabbed My Interest and Left Me With a Lot of Questions.
by ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas

It’s great to see Martian Manhunter back with a series of his own again. The long time DC hero has had numerous series in the past, but none of them lasting all that long. In the late 1990s he had a series that spanned the course of 30+ issues, but the series after that lasted just eight issues. Martian Manhunter has always been best as a supporting character, but there’s quite a bit of depth to the founding member of the Justice League that can make for a compelling and long lasting series.

Eddy Barrows’ art in this first issue is fantastic. Because of the story, Barrows gets to draw some creepy moments that give this book a horror-like feel to it. Not only that, but his character designs that include the strange and curious “Mr. Biscuits” are memorable and imposing. My complaint with the art would be in the colors. Colorist Gabe Eltaeb uses a darker tone on most of the book that really works well in the closing scene, but gives the daylight and indoor scenes a washed out look. I also have to complain about that logo. It looks militaristic and the “M” in both Martian and Manhunter give the single letter a separated feel. A nitpick I know, but I love a good logo, and this one just isn’t fitting of an alien from Mars.

Story wise, Rob Williams is giving us just enough to grab our interest, but there’s plenty of questions yet to be answered. Who is Mr. Biscuits, who is the Catwoman-like thief in the middle of the story, and who is the woman J’onn reaches out to for help towards the end. I felt a bit lost by not reading the preview story in last month’s Convergence crossovers, but not so lost that I couldn’t follow along. The story is clear and flows smoothly, there’s just a lot of story still to be told.

Again, I’m glad that the Martian Manhunter is back in his own series, A hero with the strength of Superman, and an alternate identity as a detective can provide the right writer with a wealth of potential. Rob Williams touches briefly on some of these aspects of J’onn’s life, but there’s room to dive deeper. Although the first issue of Martian Manhunter has its moments, it remains to be seen whether or not this series will last.  I’m hoping it does!

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

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Prez #1 (DC)

Prez1

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – Q: What if Mainstream DC Published an Indie Comic?
by Comic Spectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

A: I think it would look a lot like Prez #1!

Prez didn’t feel at all like a DCU comic to me, and that, in my opinion, is a very good thing.  Writer Mark Russell “brought the different” to this vision of an America that has gone down the path we’re currently on to a somewhat ridiculous extreme (I certainly hope we don’t get there).  This is comedy rooted in today’s reality taken to some logical, if somewhat dishearteningly ridiculous, extremes. Voting happens over Twitter.  There is a bill to feed the poor via ‘Taco Drones’.  Presidential candidates go on humiliating podcasts to pander for votes (well, this is probably going to happen…Obama was on a podcast out of some guy’s garage just last week so the seeds have been sown).  And trending YouTube sensations can be run for office without them even declaring their candidacy!

Ben Caldwell and Mark Morales do a great job on the art.  Lots of little jokes and details populate the backgrounds of panels and the faces of the characters are wonderfully emotive. Their style captures the humor of the book perfectly, tonally a lot like Rob Guillory on Chew.   This is a great team and I’m looking forward to seeing them run with this concept in its own little pocket universe kept safely away from the mainstream DCU.  The last thing I need to see is a guest appearance by a super-hero, that would ruin this book for me.

Prez #1 is a breath of fresh air for me in the DC line-up.  This is a blessing and it could turn out to be a curse since DC’s past forays into non-super-hero books have generally not sold very well.  Here’s hoping the fans lured in by the #DCYou campaign will be more amenable to something that’s not the standard super-hero fare.  Since it is a 12 issue limited seres (even though there’s no indication of that on the cover) it should be able to tell its complete story arc, which is a good thing.  I hope it sells well enough that it will cause DC to do more “non mainstream” projects like this in future.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Squadron Sinister #1 (Marvel)

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CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 4/5 – A Squadron that’s Definitely Sinister!
by ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

With a cover that harkens back to the older Justice League covers featuring different Justice League team head shots running along each side, Squadron Sinister has the two versions of the Squadron Supreme framing the center action shot. The cover image highlights what’s in store for this opening issue of yet another Secret Wars tie-in. It’s the Squadron Sinister that first appeared in Avengers number eighty-five that are the stars of this issue, and they are definitely back to their “sinister” ways. This isn’t the somewhat heroic team we’ve read about in the more recent incarnations and appearances, or even the wonderful Gruenwald interpretation from the 1980s. The Squadron Sinister are an evil version of the Justice League, and writer Marc Guggenheim gives us numerous examples of why in this first issue.

Guggenheim wastes little time getting to the action as we’re immediately thrown into a battle between Squadron Sinister and the Squadron team that J. Michael Straczynski and Gary Frank made popular in their reboot of the characters back in the early 2000s. It’s a brutal fight that’s both very one-sided, and shows just how dangerous the Sinister team can be. From there we see how this team is living within the larger Battleworld, and how they’re continuing to expand their Utopia. Guggenheim throws a bunch of nods to the character’s varied pasts, and the additional appearance of an “Iron Thor” ties it right into the larger Secret Wars event.

For the most part, artist Carlos Pacheco’s pencils are solid. He uses plenty of different panel layouts throughout this first issue and embraces the old character designs including the somewhat awkward looking Nighthawk costume, which comes off looking great. Although Pacheco’s close up panels show the detail, when he draws a shot that pulls the camera out, they look rushed and plain and unfortunately there’s a lot of them. As an overall package though, the art works. Pacheco draws plenty of Easter Eggs, like a giant dollar bill hanging in Nighthawk’s cave, that are fun to see and pay homage to the Squadron team and their obvious influence, the Justice League.

Secret Wars continues to release engaging and compelling tie-ins that are using characters from throughout Marvel’s rich history. Although Hyperion has played an important role in Hickman’s Avengers over the past couple years, the rest of the Squadron Supreme team have been missing in action for quite some time. I’m glad to see them back in all their evil glory, and it remains to be seen just what type of impact this all-powerful team will have on the larger Battleworld.

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

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Justice League of America #1 (DC)

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CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – Hitch Proves he can Draw and Write!
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

In Justice League of America number one, we get almost fifty pages of exciting and of course detailed Bryan Hitch art that showcases DC’s big seven. Although one could argue that Martian Manhunter is missing from the team, it’s no surprise that Cyborg makes the cut in his place. Coming out of the New 52, Justice League of America is the second title starring DC’s most popular characters and stands alongside Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok’s current Justice League book in terms of art and, surprisingly, story. In addition to drawing all forty-eight pages, Bryan Hitch tells a dense story that’s wonderfully paced and balances the large roster of characters.

The last big story that Hitch drew was Image’s ‘America’s Got Powers’. Although the art in that series was action packed using wide angled panels and plenty of splash pages, the connection to those newly introduced characters was missing for me. Here, Hitch is back working on an iconic team that puts Superman in the starring role. Although at first the book is heavy on Superman, it actually turns out to be a smart choice that allows the reader to ease in to the story and not jump around to character after character. Superman is invited to a mysterious event by an organization that shares it’s name with an important team from DC’s past, and it’s here he that he finds a young scientists is pulling recently killed Supermen from all across different times and dimensions into our reality, attempting to find out why they’re dying, and what’s causing an extinction level event to ripple across the universe.

Seeing multiple dead Supermen is a powerful image that grabbed my attention early on, and from that moment I was hooked. Hitch then starts to introduce the remaining Justice League team members as they fight one of Superman’s more underrated villains, the Parasite. This is where Hitch lets loose with his art as it takes the whole team to attempt to bring him down. Hitch is able to make each team member stand out, with his Flash standing out amongst the rest due in large part to the gorgeous colors by Alex Sinclair and Jeremy Cox. Green Lantern’s light is both bright and subtle when it needs to be, while Flash’s red costume stands out against the purple tones of the Parasite and Hitch gives Flash a great sense of speed without having to rely on a heavy use of speed lines. This book is beautiful to look at and it’s exciting that we’re about to see a whole lot more.

With a Justice League book that has Hitch supplying the pencils you know you’re in for a visual treat, but what I wasn’t expecting was to enjoy his writing as much as I did. Although he’s given the extra room in this oversized first issue, Hitch is able to balance the cast of characters while telling a story that has Superman in the starring role. Justice League of America should have stories that look and feel big, and so far Hitch is proving that he’s able to accomplish both of these things.

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

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