Saturday, 2 June 2012

Last Post

And so it is with a heavy heart that I announce that I have to mothball this blog for the foreseeable future. The boyfriend and I are getting hitched next year, and in an effort to save money for the big day, we are giving up our comics habit. To be honest, it was easier than I thought, even though I'm pretty heartbroken at the timing of the new Gambit series as I have serious love for him :( We may become trade waiters, or we may spend our honeymoon devouring an entire years worth of back issues, who knows! Any way, all this means that I won't be posting any new reviews here, as I'll have no comics to review. I might continue with Flashback Fridays whenever I get a chance, but I can't make any promises.

If you're so inclined, you can follow me on Twitter, or read my personal blog. You can also support our Etsy store, Capes and Crafts. You'll still find me all over the web, just not here.

See you out there x

Thursday, 12 January 2012

DC Universe Online Review

DC-Universe_624 


They say that you are never cured; that you will always be a recovering gamer. And so it is with me. Once upon a time I was an insatiable consumer of RPG’s and all things Nintendo. But life gets busy and I had to kick the habit. It took the patience of a saint to put off buying The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword until I have time to play it. And I dare not even glance in the direction of Skyrim, for fear of a relapse. That being said, an ex-gamer and DC fan like me simply couldn’t say no to DC Universe Online. That’d just be rude.... read the rest at Daily Waffle

Batgirl #5 Review

The first four issues of the rebooted Batgirl were a little shaky in places. The series was visibly finding its feet, a lot like Barbara herself, and frequently threatened to veer off track. But issue five finally puts us on slightly more solid ground, and the start of a new story arc promises intrigue and mystery galore, which I'm a sucker for. The nervy feel of the first few issues is gone, though unfortunately, the supremely annoying roommate is still around (on a side note, it is an absolute crime that Babs' roommate, Alysia, still plagues us and yet Catwoman's fence Lola, a hugely interesting, likeable character, bit the dust very early on.) Also mercifully missing from this issue is Barbara's dubious relationship with her therapist. The dating scenes between the two of them really dragged down issue #2 and I'm glad that she has been able to put a great deal of the tedious angst behind her and get down to business.

As usual, Simone really excels at creating an authentic voice for Barbara, especially her inner dialogue, which is suitably youthful and intelligent, and makes for a convincing read. There is a good balance between the caped action and the out-of-costume drama, and really tight control of pace. However, it's not all perfectly rosy.

Our first introduction to green-haired Gretel
The first appearance of the new villain, Gretel, is a little underwhelming, and, in my opinion, badly framed. It's disappointing, because it began as a promising dynamic intro, but suddenly all the energy drained out of the page as we got our first full reveal. Her personality also seems a bit vague and ill-defined, and I'm not really sure what to make of her just yet. I don't think she's especially threatening either, not in the same way Mirror was in previous issues, and there is no real sense of danger, just mild inconvenience. Though I do expect this problem to be resolved, as a first issue of a new story, I wish this could have been a bit more gripping.

I have no doubt that the striking similarity between Barbara and her mother is intentional, but there were times when I wasn't sure who was who, and I had to read back over the dialogue again to make sense of it. A clearer visual difference would make for much easier reading and a delineation between Barbara and her mother, possibly one that Babs has deliberately cultivated, would be a big improvement. That being said, the art is great, if a little vague in the background department at times, and the cover is simply stunning. Adam Hughes completely captures Barbara's mix of vulnerability, strength and defiance, which comes as no surprise, and I really wish he was doing the interiors too.

Babs and Mama Gordon - but who's who?

So, while this is a noticeable improvement, there are still some niggles to work out. I'm not keen on the psychological aspects of Babs recovery being explored, because previous issues have tried to cover that, and it was tediously hamfisted. But, I do appreciate that this needs to be addressed to give her some depth, and it is much needed. While Barbara's personality is developing well, the personality of the series really isn't, and I still don't know whether to expect a fun Batgirl or a torturous angsty Batgirl, as the tone varies month to month. The next issue promises the appearance of Batman (Bruce Wayne appears towards the end of issue #5.) This comes less than a month after Nightwing guest starred, and although I know the Bat family invariably run into each other, I can't help but feel there is a lack of faith in this book, to give it two such high profile guests so quickly. It would be nice to see Batgirl function on her own, without the interference of her male counterparts, regardless of the context. But, all of this is just growing pains and I have enough faith in Simone, and Babs, to know it'll be a stellar book in no time. 8/10

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Hiatus

As the title says, I am on hiatus until after Christmas. But I will be back :)

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Teen Titans #3 Review

So here it is - the much trumpeted debut of gay teen superhero Bunker. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who was dreading Lobdell's take on a gay teen, but apart from one or two slightly broad dialogue choices, I think it's handled pretty well. It's never explicitly mentioned in this issue that he's gay, and to be honest, if I hadn't already known, I don't think I would have immediately concluded that he was. He is a far cry from being defined solely by his sexuality and I hope that that continues. As for his characterisation, he has potential to be a great member of the team, perhaps filling the void left by Beast Boy's absence. He and Red Robin work well together - the mix of Robin's seriousness and Bunker's wit makes for pacy, fun reading.

The story as a whole is similarly energetic, frequently switching perspective to focus on different members of the scattered team. While I still would like to see more of Cassie, the rest of the issue was a solidly entertaining read. The new characters are suitably intriguing, and while the N.O.W.H.E.R.E plot-line wasn't exactly gripping me or breaking new ground, the introduction of a mysterious new big bad, Detritus, was really compelling and ensures that this series has legs for a while yet. Whovians may spot a similarity to the Silence in his skill set, but that's no bad thing, in my view.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Teen Titans has always been wit and humour, and it's good to see that Lobdell preserves that with the relaunched team. As I mentioned before, Bunker is a cheerfully funny guy, and while Bart's wise-cracking and self-assured showboating in the first issue were grating, he really starts to become a likeable, sympathetic character in this issue. There's also some nice touches of self-awareness, particularly when Red Robin talks to Detritus, and perhaps also in Bart's realisation that a speedster needs traction (hence Flash's much derided new boots.)

The art is well suited to the tone of the book. Colourful and clear for the most part, there may be a few cases of the line work getting a bit busy, but it's not distracting and I'm confident that it won't descend into 90's era cross-hatching madness. The cover was a let down in my opinion, with the 'Red Robin vs Bunker' tag line being a glaring cliché and hardly a selling point - good thing I was planning to pick up this issue and wasn't dependant on being intrigued by the cover. There are also one or two flashes of interesting panel layouts which I hope will become more prominent as the series progresses. The two page spread of Kid Flash escaping from N.O.W.H.E.R.E's facility is clever and even has a child-like sense of fun in the approach.


Equally good is Detritus's hand creeping into a panel before catching Red Robin by surprise, which created a very real sense of dynamic movement.


Teen Titans definitely had a slow start, and big boots to fill, but it's shaping up to be a well-rounded team book. There is convincing motivation, natural dialogue (for the most part) and memorable characters, and just the right mix of humour and action to keep it interesting. It's definitely rising up my list of favourites. 8/10

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Wednesday Reads: Bird of Prey #3 Review

After a strong start, Birds of Prey #3 wanders into wholly predictable territory, with little charm to redeem it. The dialogue regularly took me out of the story, giving me very little opportunity to be fully gripped by it. For whatever reason, Black Canary is just not shaping up to be completely likable, and her narration is stilted and unnatural. Not only that, but it offered very little in the way of original story or plotting. Of course the team would be resistant to Poison Ivy, a notorious villain, joining their ranks, and the final revelation should come as a surprise to precisely nobody. I can't say that this book knocked my socks off, no matter how much I wanted it to, and there is even a danger of the broader mystery at hand losing its effect.

That doesn't change the fact that Starling is the stand-out star of this book, the one who undeniably saves it, and her introduction has been seamless. It is rare that I warm to a brand new character so quickly, and so completely, but I love her. After reading her for only three issues, I can confidently say that I would read her in her own series. In fact, I feel like Dinah's po-faced narration is dragging the book down a little, and the new incarnations of Ivy and Katana are still a little vague. I'm also not sure about Ivy's new look, but I can see how her costume and powers work more sensibly together. The art is nice, with the backgrounds perhaps a little lacking, but the faces are nicely defined, and each woman is distinct, though it is still nothing to get excited about.

Overall, I think the issue suffered from the inevitable third issue slump, and that the lull in the pace of the plot did it no favours. Yes, there was action a-plenty, but none of it was unexpected which ruined the effect somewhat. Setting up the new team, and their movements within, and in relation to, the new DC universe will take a little time, which is why I'm prepared to forgive it a few flaws. Hopefully issue four will deliver on the game changing climax it promises, and with all the players in place, Birds of Prey will really take off. 6.5/10

Wednesday Reads: Batman #3 Review

I can't stress strongly enough just how good a series Batman is shaping up to be. Sure, he may not be every one's hero of choice, but there is very little to find fault with in the majority of the bat-family books, and this title is the best of all. Issue three impresses right out of the gate, with a nice opening that sidesteps the traditional inner monologue led introduction that's become so prevalent these days, usually followed by a action packed hero reveal on the second or third page (check out the last two issues of the otherwise enjoyable Batgirl for an example of what I'm talking about.) This structure is becoming clearly noticeable and wholly expected, so it is great to see a little thought go into the layout and opening of the issue. As it is, the neat collisions of past and present in the opening pages work really well in a story that's as much about Gotham as it is about Batman.

I'm enjoying exploring Gotham's multi-faceted mythology (even if it does seemingly always lead back to the Wayne family, or, in failing that, one of the Arkhams.) Of course, in Justice League #1, as well as in myriad other comics through the years, Batman himself is presented as a near mythological figure, so this relationship with the legends of Gotham is perhaps inevitable. It is no less enjoyable though, to see the legendary Dark Knight up against the Court of Owls, who up until now, have been little more than the subject of a children's rhyme that Bruce had paid very little heed to. Their existence catches him off guard, and this element of an unknown, all-seeing threat is effectively maintained throughout an issue that starts off action-packed before slowing to a suitably dramatic ending. While Bruce has a seemingly extensive knowledge of superstitions, he seems to have a blind spot for nursery rhymes. It did strike me as a little contrived that the 'world's greatest detective' and a subject of superstition himself should fall victim to such an oversight, but with comic books, there is always an element of suspension of disbelief.

The art is keenly instrumental in creating the appropriate atmosphere. The regular use of innovative viewpoints - like watching through the eyes of Batman's empty cowl, or framed in owl shaped eyes - give the issue an eerie, pervading sense of being watched. It's a fiendishly clever way of projecting the paranoid tone of the book onto the reader, without appearing to try to hard. In fact, the book is full of subtle tones of unease, like the repetitive use of 'he wants me to believe' which speaks volumes about Bruce and Batman without having to resort to heavy exposition or ridiculously self-serving monologuing.



Not only is the issue packed with plot development, which keeps it moving along nicely, and sets up Gotham's status quo for future issues, it also has quite a few nice visual touches, like the Bat glider silhouetted against the moon, uncannily reminiscent of the Bat signal, or the Bat logos on the soles of Batman's boots. I appreciate details like this, which make the fictional world more completely realised and a little more resistant to scrutiny.
Bat soles!
The only niggle with the issue is some of Bruce's thought-processes. He talks us through a lot of his actions, which is fine, since most of his deductions happened off panel between issues. However, when it comes to the fact laden story, there is at times a suggestion of the strings showing on Snyder's immaculately plotted puppet show - it is easy to recognise where research was done, no matter how naturally it is slotted into the story. I begin to wonder why Batman is thinking out these little facts in such clear terms, as if telling the story himself, which of course, he is not. A minor example of the author's voice intruding on the story, which Snyder is prone to doing at times, but by no means a major flaw, since this is a classic knowledge driven mystery and the foundation for the rest of the series. Let's just hope it doesn't become a characteristic of this title.
Creeping up my list of books I look forward to most, Batman is one of the major successes of the new 52 in my view, and, to be honest, you'd be hard pressed to find much difference between pre-reboot and post-reboot Bats. A stellar team and a gripping new story make this a not-to-be-missed comic. 9.5/10