Superman Giant #1 (DC)

100Superman

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 4/5 – Superman Shines, but Substantially Shares Spotlight .
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

The 1st 100 page Superman sampler that DC is releasing through Walmart stores has 3 full reprinted comics and a new 12 page Superman story.  I’ll be reviewing all 4 of these comics and there will be a bit of repetition in this opening paragraph about the program.  DC has stated that it is to get new readers into DC comics, so that is how I’ll be reviewing these, not based on the story value to an existing fan.  The one exception is the “all new” 12 page story.  This is not needed for the new reader and serves mostly, in my opinion, as a DC marketing hook to get their hard core fans to go to Walmart and buy these comics so they do not “miss out” on the new material.  The comics themselves are displayed along with the collectible card games (Magic, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh) up by the registers, so are in a good spot to be noticed by kids.  That is good.  However, there do not seem to be very many copies on display, and I’m curious how many will be left to be discovered by new readers after existing DC fans have swooped in to buy copies, combined with the people who will buy them to resell on eBay.

On to the comics: the 1st story in the comic is a nicely done tale written by Jimmy Palmiotti with art by Tom Derenick and Trevor Scott.   Clark Kent is sent to do a story on tornadoes that have been ravaging the Midwest and we get to see the compassion and heroism that are hallmarks of the Man of Steel.  Existing fans may be scratching their heads since the stories about this 100 page line produced for Walmart were talking about it featuring a new Superman story by Tom King.  It’s not in this #1 issue.  Since this is the 1st of 2 parts, the earliest fans may be seeing Tom King write the Man of Steel will be in September’s #3 issue.  Will it be in that issue?  Time will tell.  For now, sit back and enjoy Palmiotti’s story that is a great introduction to Superman on the comics page for a new fan.  It was nice to see Superman leading off the issue, but Superman’s presence dropped as the issue went on.

DC leaned heavily on the New 52 for the JLA 100 page giant, but shied away from that for Superman, probably for the best, since Grant Morrison’s “jeans & t-shirt” New 52 Superman is only a memory at this point.  Lacking that, DC reached farther back and reprints Superman/Batman #1 (2003) by Jeph Loeb & Ed McGuinness as the 2nd story in this issue.  It’s a good story but the focus is on the interplay between Batman and Superman, and Batman gets more of the spotlight in this issue.  Granted he is the much more popular of the 2 heroes, but it felt like Superman was getting short shrift in his own 100 page giant.  The 3rd story was Green Lantern #1 (2005) by Geoff Johns with art by Ethan Van Sciver for the 1st 4 pages and Carlos Pacheco/Jesus Merino for pages 5-30.  Another “avoid the New 52” choice since the New 52 Green Lantern debut featured Sinestro wearing the ring.  Going back an additional 6 years to this series gave DC the change to reprint this excellent issue with a recap of Hal Jordan’s origin and  a nice introduction to the most famous Green Lantern of them all.  The 4th story was a puzzling choice, The Terrifics #1 from a few months ago.  I know DC is desperately trying to get fans to care about their “new age of heroes” but may have been better served reprinting a recent Superman comic.

If I was a new reader wanting to read about Superman and I picked this comic up and flipped through it, I’d find very little of the Man of Steel.  Hopefully new readers will like what they see enough to buy the comic, DC is reprinting some good stuff here. If DC really wanted to put in a Batman/Superman story, it should have been complemented with another standalone Superman story, or at least another story FEATURING Superman.  The overall package is nice.  Good paper and print quality, an intro page before each story and a “come back in 30 days for the next installment” teaser at the end of each.  There are ads for complementary trade paperbacks in several places throughout the issue, but NO Comic Shop Locator ad (it was in the Batman & Teen Titans issues, but not in Superman & JLA).  Ultimately, I think it is a nice package for new fans and well worth the $4.99, but the 12 page Superman story, while great, is not really enough to make this worth it to existing fans other than the most hard-core completists.

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

 

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Justice League Giant #1 (DC)

100JLA

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 4/5 – Justice League Sampler for New Readers Could Use Some More JLA.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

The 1st 100 page Justice League sampler that DC is releasing through Walmart stores has 3 full reprinted comics and a new 12 page Wonder Woman story.  I’ll be reviewing all 4 of these comics and there will be a bit of repetition in this opening paragraph about the program.  DC has stated that it is to get new readers into DC comics, so that is how I’ll be reviewing these, not based on the story value to an existing fan.  The one exception is the “all new” 12 page story.  This is not needed for the new reader and serves mostly, in my opinion, as a DC marketing hook to get their hard core fans to go to Walmart and buy these comics so they do not “miss out” on the new material.  The comics themselves are displayed along with the collectible card games (Magic, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh) up by the registers, so are in a good spot to be noticed by kids.  That is good.  However, there do not seem to be very many copies on display, and I’m curious how many will be left to be discovered by new readers after existing DC fans have swooped in to buy copies, combined with the people who will buy them to resell on eBay.

On to the comics: the 1st story in the comic is the new Wonder Woman story written by Tim Seeley with art by Rick Leonardi.  I found it kind of weird to open a JLA comic with a solo Wonder Woman story, but the Amazon Princess had a very successful movie, so the character is well-liked and well known by people and the story so maybe this will work with new readers.  The story is a WW vs. Ares tale that felt a bit preachy to me and Leonardi’s art felt a bit stiff, so it was not a huge hit with me.  It mostly served to get the comic off to a slow start.

The 2nd story reprints Justice League #1 (2011) by Geoff Johns & Jim Lee.  This is the 1st New 52 issue of Justice League and introduces the team in the current DC continuity so is a good jumping on Point for new readers.  The 3rd story is a reprint of The Flash #1 (2011) by Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul.  Another New 52 debut issue with Barry Allen who, to new readers, may be jarringly dissimilar to the Barry Allen they see on TV.  Even so, Manapul’s art is gorgeous and is a great example of comics art for newcomers and is a good way to introduce them to the comics version of the character.  4th and finally is yet another New 52 #1, this time Aquaman #1 (2011) by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis.  This is another choice where the newcomer will be pulled into the comics world, because Aquaman is not the dark and brooding Jason Momoa they saw in the Justice League movie, but one much close in appearance to the one people have seen on merchandising (T-Shirts, mugs, etc) for most of their lives.  The story by Johns is a great intro to the character and directly pokes fun at a number of the common Aquaman jokes like “talks to fish” and deftly puts them aside.  This is a perfect choice of a 1st introduction to the comics version of the character for new readers.

Overall, I thought there could have been a stronger Justice League focus in the 100 page package instead of using 3 of the 4 stories to focus on individual members.  Personally I think if the new story had featured the full JLA instead of just Wonder Woman, then the issue would have felt more balanced.  That said, the selection of reprint material was top notch.  DC picked very popular stories, well regarded by existing fans, so they should really click with new readers.  The overall package is nice.  Good paper and print quality, an intro page before each story and a “come back in 30 days for the next installment” teaser at the end of each.  There are ads for complementary trade paperbacks in several places throughout the issue, but NO Comic Shop Locator ad (it was in the Batman & Teen Titans issues, but not in Superman & JLA).  Ultimately, I think it is a nice package for new fans and well worth the $4.99, but the 12 page Wonder Woman story is not enough to make this worth it to existing fans other than the most hard-core completists.

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

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Hit-Girl #5 (Image)

HitGirl_05-1

CREDIT: Image Comics

Rating: 5/5 – Lemire & Risso Make Hit-Girl Kick Ass in Canada…
By ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

With apologies for the pun on the title of the series Hit-Girl spun off from, this comic kicks ass!  After an initial story arc with a more cartoony art style by Ricardo Lopez Ortiz that was really not  my cup of tea, I decided to give issue #5 a try when I saw Eduardo Risso (100 Bullets, Moonshine) as the artist.  His style really clicks for me with the crime and no-holds-barred violence that is a trademark of this series.

Jeff Lemire falls right into writing the profane, irreverant Hit Girl.  Walking into a bar, looking for information (in full costume) the bartender remarks “Halloween’s over, and there’s no kids allowed, sweetheart.” to receive the response, “Nice mullet, F**k Face. Gimme a root beer”.  I can appreciate that not everyone will be tickled by this kind of dialogue OR by the sequence that follows as Hit Girl has to go to some extreme measures to get the information she needs.  Those readers should steer well clear.  The ones who see that and say “Right on!  You tell him Mindy, and don’t take any shit from those low-lifes!” this is written for you.  Risso excels at the hard-boiled action. Gun-shots, stabbings, and blood splatter are all in his artistic arsenal and he’s able to use them all to the story’s advantage.

Lemire really bellies up to the bar and delivers a noir tale paired with Risso that is a world-class example of the genre.  Fans of the genre who are not turned off by language, violence, and peril, go out and grab a copy of this issue before it’s gone.  The cliff-hanger of this issue certainly has me anticipating how Mindy’s going to get out of this one, I will definitely be back for issue #6.

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

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Justice League #1 (DC)

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – Jim Cheung Delivers on His First Gig at DC!
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

DC has been telling some big stories with the Justice League since Metal. After that epic series, the Justice League faced off against another “literally” huge threat in the four issue mini-series, “No Justice” and now again with an all new Justice League number one. For this new era of Justice League, DC has also brought out some of the biggest creators in comics in writer Scott Snyder and artist Jim Cheung. It all adds up to a really fun first issue that delivers not only on scope, but in terms of continuity and nostalgia as well.

In just the first two pages, Cheung gets to draw the League from DC One Million, the Monitor, Kamandi and an all new Hall of Justice! It feels great to see the Justice League making the Hall of Justice their headquarters again, and although we don’t get to see much of the inside, Cheung’s pencils give us a tease of a place I hope we see more of. Not only do we get to see the Hall of Justice, but Snyder and Cheung also reintroduce us to some iconic ideas from DC’s past that I won’t mention so as not to spoil, but it definitely delivers on the Superfriends era!

Although I admit it feels a bit weird to see Cheung on DC’s biggest heroes after all his Marvel work, his interpretation of these characters really work, and his pencils on the villains look even better! My only issue with the art is that at times the colors feel a bit too dark, especially when compared against Laura Martin’s colors on the cover that really pop. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the visuals, but it did make me wish that Martin’s colors were throughout the issue.

Justice League #1 is the beginning of another new epic storyline. Although you may feel you need to read Metal and No Justice prior to diving in here since a few things are mentioned from those storylines, I don’t think you’ll be lost if you’re coming in fresh. DC’s biggest heroes with some of comics’ biggest creators make this a must read for all DC fans. That means go out and get it!

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

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Elephantmen 2261: The Death of Shorty #1 (comiXology)

EM 2261

CREDIT: Comixology

Rating: 5/5 – Elephantmen Lives On in Digital Comics Format!
By ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

I was really sad when Richard Starkings ended the run of Elephantmen at Image comics, it was always one of my favorite series (for a previous review of the series, look here).  Imagine my glee when I saw that he was continuing to tell stories in his Elephantmen Universe, but now as a direct-to-digital comic via “comixology Originals”.  I’m not particularly enthused about reading digital comics as a rule, but when that’s the only option and the comic is something I think I’m really going to like, then I drag myself out of my reading spot on the couch and sit in front of the computer screen.

This is going to be a 5 issue series. On comixology each issue is $2.99, and it looks as though the collection, once it is complete, will be $6.99.  Fortunately, due to their relationship (aka “being owned by) Amazon, this is also available on Amazon’s “Prime Reading” for Prime members (which I am) for free, so I was able to read this issue at no cost.

Issue #1 was a nice companion story to the existing Elephantmen comics, but I think it can be read and enjoyed on its own.  If you have read the existing comics it adds some new insight about the war and we get to see Yvette again, which I enjoyed.  And lest I forget, the art by Axel Medellin was superb, as always. Great panel-to-panel storytelling and really emotive characters whose eyes communicated what they were feeling. Not easy and certainly not something that has been mastered by every comic book artist.

I went in expecting a story purely set in the war time, but Starkings masterfully segued to current time and set this up as a first installment that read satisfyingly on its own but also left me wanting to know “what happens next?”. Everything an installment of a comic should be.  I’ll be back for part 2!  If I had to pay for this, I’d personally wait and read the $6.99 collection.  There is no “having the 1st printing” thing to massage my collector’s mentality when dealing with a digital comic.  If you are an Amazon Prime member, this is  a no brainer.  Go hit your “Prime Reading” and search for “Elephantmen 2261”.

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

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Batman: White Knight #8 (DC)

BatmanWK

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 5/5 – White Knight or Dark Knight?
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

We are now at the end of what could be one of my favorite Batman stories out there. Over time there have been many different variations and alternate universe stories around the DC Universe. In a sea of Batman titles, Batman: White Knight rises to the top. In only 8 issues readers are provided with action, drama, comedy and maybe something disturbing to help you not sleep at night.

The concept of this story is as follows: during a heated battle between the Joker and Batman in a medication factory, Batman ends up losing his cool and starts shoving random pills down The Joker’s throat. These pills seem to be the cure to The Joker’s mental disorder, and revert him back to his less insane self, “Jack Napier”. Jack goes on to legally rip apart Gotham and start a task force to bring Batman in, finding all the dirty little secrets hidden away, and proceeds to expose them…well, almost all of them.  The name drop of Jack Napier for Joker pays homage to Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie where Jack Nicholson portrayed the disturbed comical criminal. Murphy shows his true Batman fanboy background throughout the series.

Writer/artist Sean Murphy, along with colorist Matt Hollingsworth, gives us this side story of an angrier and out of control Batman. Things go like normal, Batman comes in heavy trying to keep the public safe, everything reads like a normal day in the life of Bruce Wayne, but something is different. Murphy brings rationality and some realism into the story. What most people notice is how Batman causes destruction at times while saving the day, but what happens after all this? Who answers for the destruction by this vigilante, how much does it cost the city, and how does all this weigh on Bruce’s mind? Murphy takes the approach of an analyst and spreads it across 8 delightfully tantalizing issues. Early in the story we find out how Harley Quinn has changed over the years, that she didn’t just start dressing different, she is different. The original Harleen Quinzel ended up leaving an abusive Joker, and in his loss, Joker took some “end of her rope” lookalike and just started treating her like a new Harley. Joker let it sink so far down, that even in his rational state of mind as Jack, he had no clue this had happened. The story goes on to explore Bruce’s family connection to Mr. Freeze, Bruce’s actions pay an ultimate price for his actions towards Alfred, a different spin to Jason Todd’s death is surfaced, and much more.

The main elements of the series for me were an upset impostor Harley Quinn thinking she can take the Joker’s place, Batman’s out of control antics and family issues, and Jack Napier’s push to take Gotham into the palm of his hand. Everything is on the table, and though it ended with issue 8, the final pages left me as a fan hoping things will continue one day.  From my personal perspective, everything I have ever questioned that stopped me from reading Batman comics over the years, Murphy and Hollingsworth supplied a response that turned my opinion around.  This is definitely a favorite Batman comic I can look at and appreciate, and wish it was more than a limited series.

Reviewed by: Adam Brunell
(adamb@comicspectrum.com
)
http://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics

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FCBD 2018 Avengers/Captain America #1 (Marvel)

FCBD Avengers

CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 4/5 – Marvel’s “Fresh Start” Kicks Off Here.
By ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

It’s been a while since we’ve posted any reviews and it’s 100% my fault, lots of “real life getting in the way”.  Free Comic Book Day was this past Saturday, Marvel is doing a “Fresh Start” on a lot of their books trying to regain the momentum they lost with 2017’s “Legacy” campaign that didn’t go over too well with retailers and fans, and well get a fresh start on posting reviews here at ComicSpectrum as well!

This Avengers book was one of 12 “Gold” level FCBD books this year.  The Gold books must be ordered by every retailer participating in Free Comic Book Day so chances are you would have seen any of the Gold books at any comic shop you went to that was celebrating FCBD.  There are an additional 38+ Silver level FCBD offerings that are optional for ordering so they may not have been ordered by your shop and you may not have seen them, though the two LCS’ that I visited last Saturday both ordered all the available books.

As in past years, the Marvel Gold FCBD book was split into 2 stories.  The lead off story was a look at the new Avengers run by Jason Aaron with art by Sara Pichelli (though the art on the new Avengers comic in shops has art by Ed McGuinness).  I enjoyed the setup that has Odin speaking to the Black Panther about the HUGE coming threat that will be the focus of the new Avengers comic.  I love Pichelli’s art and am a bit sad that she will not be the artist on the ongoing Avengers book since I’m not a huge McGuinness fan.  That said, artists tend to swap off most “Big Two” super-hero books every story arc, so maybe we’ll be seeing Pichelli on the Avengers book before long.

The second story focused on the “Fresh Start” for Captain America.  This is one where I was personally thinking no fresh start was needed since I have been loving what Mark Waid and Chris Samnee have been doing on Cap since they extricated the character from the depressing mess that was Secret Empire.  The constant renumbering to new #1 issues and the regular rollover of creative teams is something that is a staple of super-hero comics, so it’s not surprising.  The new Captain America #1 is written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine and current writer of Black Panther, with art by Leinil Francis Yu.  The sample story we get here seems very politically charged and has a definite message it’s trying to get across.  If you like super-hero comics that are more on the serious/”relevant” side, then this will be your cup of tea.  For my own part, I look at them for escapism so I’ll be avoiding this Cap reboot… but I’ll continue to read the material Coates does for the Atlantic.

In any given month, Marvel is usually the #1 publisher of comics sold to comic shops in North America.  They just had a HUGE box-office hit with Avengers: Infinity War, so it’s no surprise that people going into comic shops on FCBD walked away in massive numbers with a copy of this free comic.  While it’s not the same team that we see in the movies I think the setup was compelling in the Avengers story and may hook readers to want to check out “what comes next”, especially since the new Avengers #1 is already on the stands and smart comic shops may have done something to sell customers a copy of that #1 issue to go along with this free issue.  I’m not convinced that the Captain America story will be as compelling an entry point for large quantities of new readers.  It will be compelling to some, but I walked away from it sort of depressed and not feeling like I really want to dive into more.  That’s not a judgement of quality, it was very well done, just my personal feelings in coming away from the Cap story.  Ironically, previous to reading this FCBD comic I was NOT planning to read the Avengers series and I was looking forward to Cap.  This comic flipped both of those decisions and now I’m getting Avengers #1 (it’s in my “to read” pile right now), and I’ll be avoiding Cap’s fresh start.

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

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