Comic Review – Super Sons Annual #1 (DC Comics)

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those reviews.

Warning: minor spoilers.

“Ruff Ruff” Krypto

I tend not to pick up comic annuals when they come out, but this week I was stuck for something to review, this week being a 5th week. Then I saw a cover with Krypto the Super Dog and Titus the Bat Hound on it. I had to go straight for it because both these characters are amazing. I would highly recommend the post-Rebirth arc of Superman, which features Krypto kicking ass. As for Titus the Bat Hound, while I’m less familiar with him the cover frames this issue as the interaction between Krypto and Titus in the way we’d usually see Batman and Superman (World’s Finest) or more recently Damien and Jonathan the Super Sons (of course, why its presented as a special for that series.

This comic was bought to us by:

  • Story and Words – Peter J. Tomasi
  • Penciller – Paul Pelletier
  • Inker – Cam Smith
  • Colourist – Hi-Fi
  • Letterers – Carlos M. Mangual and Travis Lanham

While we do get a fun sequence with Robin and Super Boy preventing a bank robbery, the main focus is their interaction and the way they bounce off each other. Both children presenting slightly exaggerated personalities of their fathers. What they haven’t had a chance to deal with yet though, is the series of dog-nappings taking place throughout Gotham City. Much as the boys need to rest Kypto is having none of it and flies off to bring in support. Not only are we treated to Titus the Bat Hound joining in, we also get treated to Bat Cow, Flexi the Plastic Bird and Streaky the Super Cat. As I’m sure you will have guessed, this isn’t the most serious of stories, but its bright, colourful and a hell of a lot of fun. Once Kypto takes over the story we’re getting by mostly on animal noises for dialogue, not that this takes away from the plot or the character interactions. It transpires that after the loss of Clay Critter (seemingly at the paws of the feline Red Lantern Dex-Starr) the Super-Pets were forced to disband and before they can solve the mystery of the stolen pets they need to rebuild broken bridges and bring the team back together.

With an issue less heavy on dialogue Pelletier, Smith and Hi-Fi had to be on their game with the art. Hi-Fi provides fun and vibrant colours, reminiscent of the sort of thing I remember from Saturday morning cartoons. The detail provided by Pelletier and Smith provides a huge amount of characterisation and expression for our non-human protagonists. Emotions are communicated as they try to resolve their differences and their roles in their team nice and clear.

 

 

The question is though, how well do the art team draw hands? While hands feature in the story they only do for a very limited number of pages with very few characters with any. I can’t fault the ones that are there, but only giving a 7.5/10 due to the limited number. Maybe an 8.5/10 if we count chimp hands. Unlike most comics though, it’s only fair to ask if the art team can draw paws for this one! (and hooves and bird feet…) They certainly can. Presenting us with a wide range of animals whatever appendages they possess are drawn well and look great both in and out of action. 10/10 for various animal appendage drawing skills.

Final Verdict

This is the sort of comic that helps brighten a week. It isn’t a serious story or anything revolutionary, but it’s fun and accessible and if you need something light hearted and you like your animal as well as super heroes it’s well worth a look.

Score: 9 Terrifying Bat Hounds out of 10

Comic Review – Nightwing: Rebirth #1 (DC Comics

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those reviews.

Warning: Minor spoilers.

“The Nightwing was the great rebuilder. The catalyst of change.” Nightwing

DC have kindly given me another one of my favourite heroes back! First I got back one in Rebirth #1 (go and read it yourself to find out who!) now, I get Nightwing: Rebirth (written by Tim Seeley, art by Yanick Paquette, colours by Nathan Fairbairn and letters from Carlos Mangual). He wasn’t really gone in the first place I suppose, only the identity wiped away while Agent Grayson took over. The Grayson series was fine, but it never quite sat right with me.

nightwing cover

Cover art by Javier Fernández & Chris Sotomayor

The comic kicks off with Dick Grayson taking care of a few last things for Spyral. He’s finished there now. The first thing that jumped out at me, before I even read a word was the vibrant colours on the page. The first image is a full page short of Dick taking on four colourfully clad enemies trying to break into a bank. In the meantime we get his internal monologue, going over the origin of the name Nightwing and how the inspiration for the identity came from Superman, not Batman, first. Of course, like many of these Rebirth stories the Nightwing has connections to change and things beginning anew. We also get to pick up the Dick and Damian relationship again, which has always been a favourite of mine. This eases us back into the character of Nightwing, not Agent 37. His relationship with Damian has been pivotal to the character since his run as Batman in one of Bruce’s absences.

Grayson says his goodbyes to the key players of Spyral before he leaves, apparently they’re going to be good guys now, and he happens to have his secret identity back. This is the first of my two criticisms of this issue. Apparently everyone had their brains scrambled and now nobody knows Dick Grayson is Nightwing anymore. A little more explanation here would be nice.

The second for me comes in the reveal of who his enemy will be. The series is seeming to pick up on the events of We Are Robin, however having stopped that series myself I felt like I was missing something here, especially in an issue supposed to be about new beginnings an old plot thread feels out of place.

One thing I did appreciate, as someone who always felt Dick was better as a hero than an agent, was Steeley’s acknowledgement that the character perhaps wasn’t the best fit for this. Midnighter outright tells Dick he’s to go back to being a superhero as being a spy didn’t suit him, Dick in turn acknowledges to himself that Midnighter is right.

nightwing interior

Art by Paquette & Fairbairn

So, going back to the art, Paquette and Fairbairn presented me with a lot more colour than I was expecting, the art is bright and matches the optimistic tones within the comic, the feel of new beginnings and things starting a fresh, with the one exception of the series villain(s), but that simply drives home the point even more. But the most important question:

Can Paquette draw hands? Paquette’s art style involves a lot of detail in the hands, the wrinkle and knuckles are heavily emphasised. They always tend to be doing something, be it throwing a punch, holding an item or moving to carry out an action and are less used for gesture and communication, a little more of that and they would have been pushing a perfect 10. Without, 8/10 for hand drawing skills!

 

 

Final Verdict

Nightwing is back. He has his independence back and I’m looking to see where things go. We’re dealing with a family villain and I’d love to see Dick go up against someone new and his rogues gallery develop. I really enjoyed the interaction with Damian as well.

Score: 8.5 Black Masks out of 10

Comic Review – Robin War #1 (DC Comics)

Kit is taking over the weekly comic book review because Adam is in the unenviable position of attempting to finish off his PhD.

Warning: minor spoilers.

“But… but…I’m Robin… I’m Robin… I’m Robin…” Not the REAL Robin

So like Adam I’m up to my neck in work (and having to house hunt out of the blue… yay…) as well this week, but that just means I need my weekly comic book escapism that much more! So, what to pick this week? Well Robin War (written by Tom King, Art by Khary Randolph) caught my eye, I’ve been a huge fan of the Bat-Family over the years. Like many people I caught the tail end of the old Adam West Batman and Robin TV show as a kid, then went through the growing pains of the Bat-Family in the 90s. Since the Nolan bat films Batman himself has come into his own, but the Bat-Family hasn’t quite had the same love. But DC are putting some real effort into that now! We Are Robin! was great, I’m loving Batman and Robin Eternal, and reviews for Robin, Son of Batman are great. Now we get plenty of Robin, without the Batman.

Robin warSince Batman’s been off duty as such in the comics, many of the current comics have focussed on how Gotham is coping without him. For some back reading the first We Are Robin! is probably pretty essential for this. Kids around Gotham have teamed up under the Robin name to kick some criminal ass, barely tolerated by the police and the ex-Robins (Jason, Tim and Dick) keeping an eye on their progress. The story opens with a member of We Are Robin! taking on a pretty standard liquor store robbery. They’ve got the situation under control, but remember when you were a teenager? Would you be able to handle difficult, high stress, high danger situations? Now imagine you and all of your friends were doing it at the same time. It’s inevitable something would go wrong eventually. Well, something goes wrong. This is a very powerful start, and gripped me. Once things settle down the art does a fantastic job of portraying this Robin’s sudden loneliness. The art in general is of the same high standard you’d expect from DC. There’s often a lot of people crammed into one panel and Randolph does a great job of squeezing in plenty of detail.

Robins around Gotham are targeted after this crime, the Robin Laws are passed and there’s a huge police crackdown on the Robins and the police maybe could be showing a little more restraint. Wait… this is America… it’s about as much restraint a you’d expect! We also get introduced to the main players in this series: We Are Robin, Red Robin, Red Hood, the Mayor, Jim Gordon’s Batman, Dick Grayson and Robin. Actual Robin that is, Damian Wayne.

And how does Damian take returning to Gotham after a hiatus to see a load of kids running around using his title? About as well as you’d expect. He’ starts to stamp his authority all over everything.

After which, the puppet master pulling the strings makes their next move. They want a war, and the first casualty is claimed. They also seem oddly happy to find out one of the team has arrived in Gotham, it looks like we’ll be seeing the comeback of one of my favourite heroes in this series.

Final Verdict

Do you like Robin? Hell, do you like Batman in general? If you do, go and read this. Especially if you’re at all familiar with Gotham in the New 52 Universe. Only some minor criticisms for this first issue: without reading We Are Robin! and knowing what’s up with Bruce Wayne right now you’d probably be a bit lost. Also, I in no way see how the events of Robin War and Batman and Robin Eternal can be considered canon at the same time. So I’ll just use the usual comic book logic and pretend they both somehow happen simultaneously.

Final Score – 9.5 Robins 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