Comic Review – Dark Days: The Forge #1 (DC Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

This week I checked out the ludicrously titled Dark Days: The Forge, the one-shot prelude to the upcoming equally ludicrously titled Dark Nights: Metal series from DC Comics. It has been oddly under-marketed it seems, and I was only made aware that it was coming and that it was being released this week because I follow Scott Snyder on Twitter. Dark Days: The Forge was written by Snyder and James Tynion IV, with the art by Jim Lee, Andy Kubert, John Romita, Jr., Scott Williams, Klaus Janson, Danny Miki, Alex Sinclair, Jeremiah Skipper, and Steve Wands.

Cover by Lee, DC Comics

Dark Days jumps between three main narratives. First is Carter Hall, or Hawkman, almost as a journal entry as he recaps his life (or lives) and his curse, the Nth metal that grants him rebirth and how he is tied to his love Shiera and the villainous Hath-Set. But there he also has impossible memories shimmering in the background, memories that look like a dystopic future in the grip of one he would call an ally.

The other two narratives, taking place in the current day, tie in a little more closely (for now). Batman rescues a scientist from a Wayne blacksite as a volcano erupts. He has been investigating metals, and something is wrong with the metal of the Earth. Batman’s investigation seems to not only go beneath the Earth’s crust, but to the surface of the Moon (well, a Batcave on the Moon), to another universe, and to a secret vault in the Fortress of Solitude as well. Meanwhile, the Guardians send Green Lantern Hal Jordan back to Earth, to investigate the Batcave itself. There, with current Bat-sidekick Duke Thomas, he finds a secret Batcave within the Batcave, indicating that Batman has been investigating something for a long time with a secret team, without letting the Justice League or the Bat-family know about it. Whether he can be trusted remains to be seen, but Hal doesn’t seem to be the only one troubled by all of this.

Dark Days: The Forge is a very strong opening to Metal, and with Scott Snyder re-teaming with his Batman collaborator Greg Capullo (oddly absent on this issue) for it, it is sure to be a blockbuster event. Snyder and Tynion IV have both written Batman in one form or another for a while now, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that they have a firm handle on his character and dialogue. Its nice to see a similar care and approach taken to some of the other cast members here, including those seen less often such as Mister Terrific and Mister Miracle. At its core, this series appears to be shaping up as a Batman-centric Justice League event, rather than just a Batman story. And that is important, as there is a worry and a tendency to remove some of the appeal of Batman by making him almost godlike, or making his origins stretch back to the dawn of time (looking at you Morrison). I hope this series doesn’t dip too far towards that, but for this issue it doesn’t rear its head too much. The ongoing mystery of the metals takes cues and threads from throughout Snyder’s run on Batman in such an impressive fashion too, that I can’t help but be drawn in by what it all might mean.

Interior art by Romita Jr, Lee & Kubert

Considering the talent from the art team, the only real negative point I can make is that with Kubert, Lee and Romita Jr all putting in an appreciable number of pages into the book, the art does come off as inconsistent from a stylistic perspective. It is however, consistently very good. Hawkman’s memories by Kubert retain a classic feeling with clear, bold line work, while the lunar character interactions and the volcano escape from Romita Jr feel a little more loose, and the epic scale visions and dark cave scenes show off what makes Lee’s style so iconic for superhero work.

Dark Days: The Forge is a very strong prelude to an event that I know very little about, but the creative team behind it guarantees I’ll be checking it out. This taste has only made me all the more excited about it, especially with the return of Snyder and Capullo for the first time since the end of their run on Batman. Check it out at your LCS or digitally now!

Score: 8 METALS out of 10

 

Comic Review – Robin Rises: Alpha

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

Slightly more spoilers than usual!

This week, despite it being Christmas eve, I managed to get down to an unfamiliar comic book shop to pick up my usual dose of superhero-filled goodness. I decided to do a quick review of Robin Rises:  Alpha, the conclusion to the Robin Rises storyline from DC comics. A few months ago I reviewed the initial one-shot Omega that kicked this all off, so felt it prudent to do the same for this closing one-shot too. Once again Batman and Robin scribe Peter J. Tomasi handled writing duties, and Andy Kubert returned for pencils, sharing inks with Jonathon Glapion, with colours from Brad Anderson and letters by Dezi Sienty.

Alpha picks up where last week’s issue of Batman and Robin left off, following on from Bruce’s insane quest to retrieve the body of his son Damian and restore him to life, taking him in his fantastic Hellbat suit to the firepits of Apokolips (with Cyborg, several members of the Bat-family and Titus the dog tagging along for support) and culminating in a huge throw down with Darkseid himself. The last few pages of that issue are repeated here, largely from Alfred’s perspective in the cave as he calmly and suavely arms himself in preparation for everyone’s return via boom tube. Through comic book magic, Damian is brought back to life. Just in time too, because Darkseid’s son Kalibak follows them to Earth in a rage, determined to kill everyone for this embarrassment. The family, with the Hellbat out of commission, try to fight him off with what look like the guns from Ghostbusters. All looks lost, but out of nowhere Damian smashes Kalibak’s teeth in and proceeds to fight him off using the batmobile as a club. Somehow through his resurrection he has developed super powers, and no one is more surprised than him. With some help from Damian, Titus and Batcow, Bruce manages to force Kalibak back through the boom tube before Cyborg closes it. The issue leaves the dynamic duo reunited, with lingering questions about how Damian’s new powers will affect their partnership.

I know that was fairly spoiler heavy, but DC themselves have been spoiling everything coming in this series for months now. We knew Damian was going to be revived, and we knew he was coming back with super powers. Even though the solicits have been saying ‘someone’ would be taking up the Robin mantle, DC have made it very clear it would be Damian Wayne. I’m not really sure why, and I know the company is capable of keeping things under wraps. The Batman title and the current ‘Endgame’ storyline has been kept fairly secret so far, and I can’t help but feel that a similar approach to the Robin Rises arc would have added to the suspense and drama of Bruce’s mad mission.

That all being said, I have really enjoyed the whole series and this concluding one-shot is no exception. The heart of the reunion between father and son is incredibly well done, as are some touching moments between Damian, Alfred and Titus (Titus may genuinely be my favourite character in the DC universe). This issue is largely an action heavy comic, but the dialogue is sharp and the closing moments between Bruce, Damian and Alfred in front of the empty grave are superb. My only complaint about any of the story in Alpha is that there is no immediate repercussions to the use of the Hellbat. In the previous issue, after reviving and embracing his son, Batman passes out due to the immense strain the suit has put on his body. After the scene is repeated here, he is out for a few pages at the most, before coming to and looking absolutely fine. I’ll assume the reason he is fine is because he is Batman, and I’ll accept that, but I think I would have liked to see more of a visible strain. A very small complaint though, because other than that the story was a very strong conclusion. The art was great too, especially fantastic in the action scenes. The inks changed halfway through, but didn’t really affect the read negatively at all, and the colour work from Anderson brought the fight to life. There were a few particularly impressive double page splashes, but the best has to be Damian colliding with Kalibak’s face and smashing some of his teeth out.

Overall, this was a great end to an arc I have really enjoyed. I will certainly be following up on the adventures of Batman and Robin in the wake of this new status quo shake up. Pick this up at your local comic book shop  or digital comics platform, and I hope you all have an above-average holiday season!

8.5 Crumpled Batarangs out of 10

Comic Review – Robin Rises: Omega

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Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of his favourite one, with potential minor spoilers.

Definite spoilers if you haven’t read the Requiem story started back in Batman Incorporated #8

This week I picked up the Robin Rises: Omega one-shot from DC Comics, written by Peter J. Tomasi with pencils from Andy Kubert, inks from  Jonathan Glapion, colours from Brad Anderson and letters from Nick J. Napolitano. This one-shot kicks off the Robin Rises storyline that has been brewing in Batman and Robin (also written by Tomasi) for over a year now.

 

Final spoiler warning

 

Right, so as you probably know the most recent Robin, Damian Wayne, was killed in the pages of Batman Incorporated early last year. He fought and was stabbed by ‘The Heretic’, a solider of Talia al Ghul (his mother) who would turn out to be some form of overgrown baby/clone of himself. It was very much Grant Morrison killing the character that he had put so much effort into developing, which I guess is his right to do. Following on from that, Batman and Robin became Batman and…, with guest characters filling in for the Dark Knight’s lack of a partner as he basically went through the stages of loss after the death of his son. This being a superhero world, and ‘the revolving-door-of-death’ making a permanent grave a laughable concept, obviously Damian would return somehow. It was only a matter of time. Refreshingly, DC haven’t bothered to shy away from this fact (though the promotion behind the death itself left a lot to be desired. I had it spoiled for me in an advert in the pages of a Green Lantern issue, after going to great lengths to avoid it in the news) and the Batman and… title has been Bruce Wayne, mad with grief and incredibly stubborn, trying to find a way to bring his son back from the dead. Which always ends well.

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That is where Robin Rises: Omega picks up from. The assumption being that by the end of this story arc, either Damian will be alive again or some other new Robin will have taken his place. The issue starts with a very brief and effective recap of everything you really need to know about to how we got where we are, which happens to be Batman (and Titus, one of my favourite DC characters!), Frankenstein and Ra’s al Ghul, on the same side for now and accompanied by his League of Assassins, facing off against a small army of parademons and soldiers from Apokolips led by Glorious Godfrey. After a good old fashioned brawl, Godfrey and his men take off through a boom-tube (extra-dimensional teleportation) with Damian’s sarcophagus. Batman decides he must follow them to Apokolips, to recover Damian’s body and to use their technology to bring him back to life. The story will then continue in Batman and Robin #33 next week.

This is more a kick off to the main story, but what is here is really well written. I like Tomasi’s work, and he has a great grasp on these characters. The bulk of the storytelling in the issue comes from the 7 page recap though, which I think is done clearly enough to make this a very easy jumping on point for anyone not reading the title and thinking about giving it a go (though for people that are up to date, the price bump up to $4.99/£3.50 for an extra sized comic* that includes 7 pages of stuff they already know may be a bit of a slap in the face). Written as inner monologue from Bruce, he reflects on the circumstances that led to Damian’s birth and the upbringing that created him, their time together until his death and admits that he did things he wasn’t proud of to try and get him back. The bulk of the rest of the issue is all Batman being a badass, people threatening each other and fighting. I particularly enjoyed how desperate he seems, and now more than ever appears totally prepared to die fighting rather than give up. Kubert does a really nice job illustrating key moments from the last several years of Batman history, and some excellent big superhero action on a tundra landscape, brought to life by the rest of the art team with the flashy colours looking great on the white background. Also this happens and it looks awesome:

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Since the start of the New 52 back in late 2011, Batman and Robin was a title that I have picked up in trade paperbacks rather than monthly. That isn’t to say it isn’t worth picking up, it absolutely is, and I have really enjoyed the volumes I have read. I was just trying to limit my comics budget and was already getting my Batman fix from the main Batman title (though I was also reading Detective Comics from the relaunch, and dropped it after only a couple of issues because it was totally forgettable and a waste of money). I started back up with it during the ‘Requiem’ storyline, and issue #18 (the first issue after Damian’s death in Batman Incorporated #9) was my favourite comic of 2013. Track that issue down because it really is one of the most powerful things I think I have ever read. But money got tight again so I dropped it to wait for collections.

That being said, I think I am going to jump back on it from this point. The series is definitely worth it, so I’ll make room in my budget. I’m interested in seeing how it all plays out, and if you are a DC fan not reading the main series I recommend jumping on this one-shot and carrying on with the story afterwards. If you are new to DC (and anything I have said made any sense), this should be a good story anyway but in the wider context may not mean a great deal to you. Regardless, as always you can pick it up at your local comic book shop or through the medium of the internet and apps.

Score: 8 Boom Tubes out of 10

 

* I’m also not sure why the paper stock was different than what DC usually puts out.