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 – Batman and Robin Eternal (DC Comics)

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

Warning: Spoilers!

Me again people! I’ll be doing the review again this week as one of the weekly series I’ve been reading has come to an end. So, this will be a review of Batman and Robin Eternal #1-26, written by James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder, with a variety of writers throughout the run on scripting duties. Similarly across the 26 issue series various pencillers, inkers and colourists were on art duties. For the finale, Scot Eaton, Carlo Pagulayan and Igor Vitorino pencilled the issue; Wayne Faucher, Michael Jason Paz and Marc Deering inked it; Allen Passalaqua and Gabe Eltaeb coloured it and it was lettered by Marilyn Patrizio. I won’t be able to do each issue in detail but I can definitely let you know how the whole thing stacks up!

B&R1The story really kicks off when Dick Grayson, returned to Gotham to team up with Tim and Jason. While following up on a lead that a dirty bomb will go off at a the grand opening of The State University ‘Tower of Enlightenment’ Dick is attacked by the other party goers and the mysterious Orphan. On making his escape Dick picks up a name, Mother. On returning to the Batcave and checking the archives he locates a recording from Batman. Mother was the one villain he was never able to best, and the source of his greatest sin. We get a shot years ago, of Batman, with a gun, standing over two dead parents and a child.

And things kick off from there! We get visits from a huge cast, ones we’re familiar with like the ex – Robins, some new like Orphan and Mother, some returning like Harper Row and Midnighter, and some seen for the first time in the New 52! Cassandra Cain and Azrael!

For those of you who know what’s been going on with Bats recently you’ll rightly not be expecting him to be making much of an appearance in this, he does star through flashbacks to an era so far unexplored – Dick Grayson’s innings as Robin. Dick is the lead in this story and one of my favourite characters, I loved getting to see more detail of his backstory and getting to see how his relationship with Batman developed. As he’s the first Robin we get to see how Bats’ relationship with his sidekicks started out, his doubt, uncertainty and trust issues. We also get to see how his encounter with Mother went and why she’s his biggest sin. If you’ve been missing the Batman and Robin pairing these flashbacks alone will give you your fix, for now at least.

As you’d imagine the team begin investigating what’s going on. They meet a huge cast, including Cassandra Cain’s first stint in the New 52. She’s very different to how I remember her, a broken child soldier trying to find her way. I enjoyed this version of her, and they’ve given her a uniqueness beyond Batgirl as that role is currently filled. We also get lots more of Harper Row as Blue Bird, who I have always liked and personally would have loved to see in a full Robin role.

The art is very good throughout, although the faces in this last issue kinda bugged me. Otherwise the action scenes are fluid and detailed and the colours fantastic. Obviously the art changed over the course of the run due to the number of different artists on the book but the level of quality remained consistently high.

B&RSo, in all what does this story do well? It gives us some real depth to the Batman and Robin relationship, which is great. It calls into question Batman’s motives for raising the Robins and gives us a villain who mirrors Batman so very well, to the point where in an alternate universe I could very much see Bats being written just like Mother. Seeing Dick’s past was also great, as was developing Cassandra, Spoiler and Harper.

What the story didn’t do so well? Some of the individual issues dragged a little. I was reading this week by week and I think it’d hold up better in a single volume. The cast was very packed, maybe a little too much, especially towards the end. As well as this I felt there were some really amazing ideas, that could have fundamentally changed who certain characters were, and add a very dark streak to things that were shied away from as the story developed. I was a little disappointed not to see many big changes for some of the cast in this story. I can understand why though. Those changes to the characters probably wouldn’t have gone down well with everyone. Also, although the start was great, the middle solid, I felt the build up to the end a little lacking.

Things became a little predictable and some of the final issues became nothing more than build up/holding space while people got ready for the final battle. I think some of this would be avoided reading this in volumes though. However, a twist or two more towards the end would certainly add a point to this review for me.

Final Verdict

A very interesting addition to the current Batman run. It’s great if you want more Batman and Robin or Dick Grayson. It doesn’t shake things up quite enough for me though, which I think will lessen it’s appeal to a more neutral reader. Tynion and Snyder have done a great job with a lot of the characters they’ve been given (as you’d expect) to work with. Overall, I’d recommend this if you wanted something new to read and are up to date on the other Bat family stuff.

Final score – 8 Orphans 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 – We Are Robin! #1

Kit fills in for this week’s comic review!

“We’re not sidekicks. We’re an army! Are YOU ready?”

Seems there are a few new comics on the block this week and We Are… ROBIN! caught my eye, especially as it follows on from the outstanding Batman Endgame event. Lee Bermejo, Jorge Corona, Khary Randolph and Rob Haynes pick up Gotham where the Joker left it to give us a tale about many of those affected by Endgame.

With Bats busy working with the cops right now for reasons (read Endgame to find out why, it’s seriously worth it) and the rest of the Bat Family otherwise indisposed, crime in Gotham rages on. Especially after Endgame, so many lives were disrupted or destroyed during the event and things are very far from back to normal. So who’s going to tackle all this crime? Deal with the chaos and try to restore some kind of order? Not even the Bat can be everywhere at once.

We are Robin follows the lives of a group of teenagers whose lives have been turned upside down by the events of Endgame and Gotham generally being attacked every other Wednesday. Each of them has some sort of talent that can be put to use crime fighting. What I like about this is it seems that not one of them is amazing at everything, like most ‘human’ vigilantes (especially the Bats and Robins) are but they can all add something to the group. Together they coordinate vigilante justice around the city; using laptops, smart phones and every day tools everyone has to manage their city, each donning the colours of our favourite sidekick – Robin.

The story follows Duke Thomas, a youth who was separated from his parents thanks to the Joker’s shenanigans and hasn’t been able to stabilise his life since. He’s in and out of school and foster homes like they have revolving doors and goes out at night to look for his family. He’s also apparently a closet geek, which I always approve of. After getting into a scrap at his new school a teenage girl grabs a picture while the fight is broken up. She communicates to the ‘Nest’ (via whatsapp) that they’ve found him. Duke briefly met Batman, so Robin have been tracking him, they like his skills and want them to join their ranks.

After his next foster home doesn’t work out Duke goes out like normal, after accidentally stumbling onto what will probably be the series villain ruling a hobo commune in the sewers the Robins step in to kick some ass! A mysterious figure at the end seems to have been planning for something like this, he’s been watching their movements and appears to be ready to back up and supply the Robins with what they need. Their identity isn’t revealed… But I have a suspicion that it’ll be someone we’re already familiar with…

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Each of the Robins looks very unique; they’ve all put their own spin on the costumes to give a colourful group that’s full of character. I personally really like the angle of seeing how the fallout of a major event affects people who were just going about their lives before.

Overall I really enjoyed this comic. It’s a fresh take on the Robin idea outside of the kid adopted by the Bat. I also like the way Duke is recruited as such. It makes sense the city will eventually choose who will fight for it and not the other way around.

I’ll certainly be carrying on the series myself and want to see where it goes!

Score: 8.6 Robins out of a Nest

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.