Villain Month: Week 3 (DC) – Quick Reviews

BlackHand Penguin

This was the best week yet for stories, but also the 1st week where my local shop got hit by the “allocations” and was not able to provide me with 2 of the books, Justice League/Dial E and Swamp Thing/Arcane.  I ended up with 2D covers for those two, so I couldn’t give them a rating on the 3D covers.

DC also put out 14 books this week instead of the 13 from weeks 1&2, so that leaves 12 outstanding for week 4.  I enjoyed more of the books this week then in either of the previous 2 weeks.  I had 2 that I thought were 5/5 reads (Black Hand & Penguin), two 4.5’s, and four 4’s.  That gave me 8 books that were a 4 or higher, very good week indeed!

Let’s look at the individual Week 3 books:

Arcane #1 (aka Swamp Thing #23.1): 3D cover: ?/5     Story: 4.5/5
I have not been reading Swamp Thing since aabout a thrid into the “Rotworld” crossover and went into this with very low expectations.  It’s to writer Charles Soule’s credit that he grabbed me by page 3 and held on until the end of the issue.  I know there was stuff in there that I was missing the sub-text on due to my lack of completionist reading, but I didn’t care.  What I got was great.  Jesus Saiz kept me engaged with the art, even with the “horror” overtones, it had a strange beauty to it.  Check this one out and see what you think.

Black Hand #1 (aka Green Lantern #23.3): 3D cover: 4.5/5     Story: 5/5
Charles Soule, you are my Soule brother!  I am going to need to hunt down what you write and read it!  I was planning to skip Superman/Wonder Woman as a cheap “cash in” book, but with you writing?  I’m on board!  Now, to the issue at “hand”.  What Black Hand did with the vaccinated cop was worth the price of admission.  If you liked any of the Blackest Night story line (especially before it got over-exposed), check this out.  This rivaled the best stuff Geoff Johns put on paper in that series.

Cheetah #1 (aka Wonder Woman #23.1): 3D cover: 4.5/5     Story: 4/5
Nice solid story by John Ostrander mixing flashback to the origin of Cheetah in with her current story AND also setting up a future rivalry between Cheetah & Manhunter.

Clayface #1 (aka Batman: The Dark Knight #23.3): 3D cover: 3.5/5     Story: 4/5
Great story by John Layman.  I’m not sure sure when Clayface got turned into a character with a hair-trigger temper, maybe it was right here, but I like the characterization, the story worked for me.

Deathstroke #1 (aka Teen Titans #23.2): 3D cover: 4.5/5     Story: 2.5/5
Hey, there’s Wildstorm in my DC comcis!  A personal thing but this is still something that turns me off. I’m really not a fan of 90s Image comics all mixed up into my DC, having Deathblow mixed all upo into Deathstroke is not a good thing for me, but I’m sure there are others who think this is really cool.

Dial ‘E’ #1 (aka Justice League #23.3): 3D cover: ?/5     Story: 0.5/5
I’m going to be very up-front that reviewing is very subjective and this review is my subjective opinion only.  As much as I love Charles Soules’ writing because it resonates with me, I just don’t ‘get’ China Meiville’s writing.  He self describes his writing as “weird fiction”, which I think is apt.  I can see someone being totally in love with his writing, but for my own part, it is completely unreadable.  This story was not helped by 20 different artists, one per page.  This went from one incoherent thought fragment to another without anything to grab onto and make sense of.  If China is writing it, I think I’d best steer clear.

Eclipso #1 (aka Justice League Dark #23.2): 3D cover: 3.5/5     Story: 2.5/5
Nothing wrong with the story-telling ot art in this one, I’m just not a fan with the basic take on Eclipso in the New52 and this issue continues the take established in recent issues of Sword of Sorcery and Demon Knights.

H’el #1 (aka Superman #23.3): 3D cover: 2.5/5     Story: 1/5
I can appreciate that they have been attempting to create a new “epic” badguy for Superman in the New 52, but this guy does not work for me.  The time travel aspect of this particular story placing H’el in Krypton’s past with Jor-El & Zod as characters was really not to my liking.

Lex Luthor #1 (aka Action Comics #23.3): 3D cover: 3.5/5     Story: 4/5
Another great story by Charles Soule showing just what a twisted, evil guy Luthor is.  This reminds me of 1989’s Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography by James Hudnall & Eduardo Barreto, another great story illustrating Luthor’s true sociopathic nature.  The drawback in this particular issue was Raymund Bermudez’ art.  I’m not sure at what point Luthor got all scarred up on the left side of his face (I’ve not been reading the Superman comics) but Bermudez just had to be able to consistently draw the character with a scarred left profile for 4 pages and he could not manage that without making 2 continuity mistakes (page 3 panel 4 & page 4 panel 2).  While we’re at it, how does this kind of thing pass by the Editor & Assistant Editor?  Kind of a trivial detail, but one that is EXTREMELY easy to make sure does not happen.  If I notice it as a casual reader, how does the artist & editorial team who are being paid to deliver this story not?  Minor art glitch aside, great issue.

Penguin #1 (aka Batman #23.3): 3D cover: 4/5     Story: 5/5
A chilling story by Frank Tieri that illustrates what a great bad guy the Penguin can be when handled the right way.  Nobody crosses this Penguin, THIS is the kind of guy who can go toe-to-toe with Batman all these years.

Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins #1(aka Batman & Robin #23.3): 3D cover: 4/5     Story: 4/5
Nice recap of Ra’s al Ghul’s past interwoven into the current storyline.  I find it interesting that there are quite a few bad guys who will be aligned against the Secret Society, I’m going to enjoy seeing how that plays out in the pages of Forever Evil, I hope it meets up to my expectations.  It has the potential to be epic.  Epic in either success or failure.

Rogues #1 (aka Flash #23.3): 3D cover: 4/5     Story: 2/5
The title/splash page with Captain Cold carry a really big full-length mirror so we could see Mirror Master in it was hilarious (and unintentionally so, mores the pity).   I’ve read much better stories about the Rogues in the past, we got some good core ideas, but they were executed poorly.  Big character moments for Mirroit Master & Glider, but I got too much of a feel that this issue was a commercial for the upcoming Rogues Rebellion mini-series.  This issue failed to sell me on buying into that series, I’d rather have had a strong issue that stood on it’s own.  We’re also told that this issue take place before the Grodd story from last week in Flash #23.2, so why didn’t DC just put this story into #23.2 & the Grodd story into #23.3?  Things like this just make me shake my head.

Scarecrow #1 (aka Detective Comics #23.3): 3D cover: 4/5     Story: 1/5
Peter J. Tomasi reduces Scarecrow to a guest star in his own spotlight issue.  I can only imagine that some other writer might have handed in a truly terrifying character study of the Scarecrow, defining him as a truly evil and frightening character.  Unfortunately, that is not what we got here.  Scarecrow talks to Mr. Freeze, Riddler, Killer Croc, and Poison Ivy.  He does a not particularly terrifying job of frightening some random other characters.  This story failed for me on several levels, good cover, though.

Shadow Thief #1 (aka Justice League of America #23.3): 3D cover: 4/5     Story: 4.5/5
I really liked the introduction to Shadow Thief.  Tom DeFalco’s story was a perfect mixture of current time along with flashbacks that detailed her origin, motivations, and powers.  This is a great examplke of what these one shots can be used for.  Not an overt tie in to another story, but by telling me a fascinating story coupled with great art by Chad Hardin, I will now be looking out for more stories with Shadow Thief.  With her “anti-alien” mission, she could easily headline an anti-hero series like Venom or the Punisher do over at Marvel.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall – Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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