Comic Review: Green Arrow by Kevin Smith

Published: July 26th, 2016
Written by: Kevin Smith
Art by: Phil Hester, Ande Parks

DC Comics, 367 Pages

Review:

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this as much as I remembered liking it back when it was new. However, it was pretty good and I found it to be much better than my opinion of Kevin Smith’s Daredevil run, which people seem to hold in higher regard.

This story starts with Green Arrow being alive after he had died years earlier. The thing is, he doesn’t know he died and in his mind, no time has passed and the world he finds himself in is now strange and foreign. In fact, at first, he is a bit crazy and looks like a barbaric hobo playing Robin Hood.

As the story progresses, we learn that he’s being cared for by a nice old guy. We also learn about what happened to Oliver Queen and the DC universe in his absence. If you hadn’t read the Green Arrow stories where his son took over for awhile, this does a good job of filling in that void. We also see Oliver discover the truth about himself and his best friend Hal Jordan, a Green Lantern who ended up falling to the darkside pretty hard.

Towards the end of this lengthy collection of issues, we learn the sinister secrets of the nice old man who has taken Oliver in and we also get to see a young girl step up to the plate in an effort to become Green Arrow’s new sidekick, a female version of Speedy.

I wasn’t a massive fan of the art in this run, though. It’s not bad but I don’t feel like it was up to the quality of what was common at the time. Coming out of the ’90s, mainstream comic book art was evolving pretty quickly but this looks more like an early-to-mid ’90s book. I feel like they really could’ve paired Kevin Smith up with one of the top artists and turned this into a massive hit.

The art doesn’t wreck the story but I think this would’ve had more oomph had it looked more realistic and less cartoony.

In the end, I feel like this was a much better effort by Smith than his Daredevil run and maybe that’s because he learned from his missteps on that one or he simply had more mileage by the time he picked up his pen for DC.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the ongoing Green Arrow stories that followed Smith’s run, as well as his work on Daredevil for Marvel.

Comic Review: Nightwing, Vol. 2: Rough Justice

Published: June 16th, 2015
Written by: Chuck Dixon
Art by: Scott McDaniel

DC Comics, 292 Pages

Review:

This volume in Chuck Dixon’s lengthy Nightwing run kicks off right where the previous one left off and builds off of those stories.

We also get to see appearances from more well-known villains in this chapter but a lot of them are just glorified cameos. However, the stories involving Scarecrow and Man Bat were really damn enjoyable.

Beyond that, I like how this also features other villains that are developed more for Nightwing and the city he protects, Blüdhaven.

We get more of Blockbuster, who essentially serves as Blüdhaven’s Wilson Fisk-type crime lord. We also get more of female villain Lady Vic, as well as some others thrown into the mix.

I also didn’t mind the romantic subplot that Dixon developed for this story between Nightwing and his new building’s female superintendent. Add in his sometimes romantic partner Barbara Gordon and you don’t really know how things will play out.

Ultimately, this is a story about Nightwing breaking out on his own and trying to be his own version of a street level vigilante. This is the culmination of the lessons he’s learned from Batman and it shows how he’s applying all of that to making his own life in a different city that also deserves a hero.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other ’90s Nightwing and Batman comics.

Comic Review: Deathstroke: The Terminator, Vol. 3: Nuclear Winter

Published: October 17th, 2017
Written by: Marv Wolfman
Art by: Steve Erwin, Will Blyberg, Art Nichols

DC Comics, 257 Pages

Review:

I was really high up on this series after reading the first two volumes. Sadly, this one was a big step down and I’m hoping it was just a minor hiccup, as I continue to read on beyond this one.

I think the big issue with this was that Marv Wolfman felt the need to crossover Deathstroke with the Teen Titans, as the anti-hero has had a deep connection with those characters since he debuted in their comic a decade before this.

However, in this era, the Teen Titans title had gotten really weird and the team was full of a bunch of D-team noobs undeserving of their spots, at least in my opinion.

That being said, this collection of issues was a clusterfuck and that mainly has to do with this just collecting the Deathstroke issues within a larger crossover story. Additionally, this tacks on a completely unrelated story at the end, which was just chapters taken from the Showcase anthology series.

Overall, this just felt like a bunch of random ass shit thrown into one beefy, double-sized trade paperback because they needed to dump it all somewhere.

Hopefully, volume four doesn’t do this and it gets back to kicking proper ass.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the other volumes in the original Deathstroke: The Terminator series from 1991 to 1996.

Comic Review: Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying

Published: 1989
Written by: Marv Wolfman, George Perez
Art by: Jim Aparo, Tom Grummett

DC Comics, 116 Pages

Review:

This story arc came out not too long after A Death In the Family and it serves as a sort of resolution to it, as it shows how Batman has been much harsher in the streets and how the possibility of a new Robin starts to help him overcome his grief after losing the second Robin, Jason Todd.

While this isn’t the first appearance of Tim Drake, that happened in the previous arc – Year 3, this is where he enters the lives of Bruce Wayne, Alfred Pennyworth and Dick Grayson.

This story also crossed over with The New Teen Titans and involved some of those characters as a minor supporting cast for Dick Grayson/Nightwing’s part in the story.

We also see Batman, Nightwing and Tim Drake unofficially playing Robin try to take down Two-Face, a villain with major ties to the deceased Jason Todd. We even get to see a brief appearance of The Joker, the person who murdered Jason, and how he’s involved with this story’s plot.

The action and the crime solving in this aren’t anything great but they serve as a good framework to tell the more important story here, which is pulling Batman out of the darkness and allowing him to love those around him once again. It also serves to establish who Tim Drake is and why he might be better suited for the Robin role than Jason Todd was.

The writing was solid and I also loved the art by Jim Aparo, who will always be one of my favorite Batman artists because he was one of the top guys drawing these books when I first started buying them regularly.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Batman: A Death In the Family and Batman: Year 3.

Comic Review: Crisis On Infinite Earths

Published: 1985-1986
Written by: Marv Wolfman
Art by: George Perez

DC Comics, 359 Pages

Review:

Crisis On Infinite Earths is one of DC Comics’ sacred cows. Yet, I’ve never had much urge to read it because my experience reading massive DC Comics crossovers has never been that great.

But now I have read it because I felt like it was long overdue and because this is a storyline that is referenced a lot, still to this day, thirty-five years later.

The first problem with this story might be apparent by the number of tags at the top of this post. It’s overloaded with so many characters that it is mostly a convoluted clusterfuck of biblical proportions.

In fact, this post may be the record holder for the number of tags I had to add to it. And frankly, that’s not all the characters, just the ones I know because two-thirds of the characters here are generic one-offs or so minute to the DC universe that they aren’t worth noting.

Now I know that some people love the splash pages from this series, as they showcase dozens (if not over a hundred) different characters all in one giant image. If I’m being honest, I’ve always disliked them and they are why I never really wanted to read this. Most of the action is minimal and many of these scenes are just characters standing around. They lack the energy that a splash page needs and look more like they belong in a Where’s Waldo? book. And I don’t say that to come off as a dick because I almost always love George Perez’s art. This just seems like DC management telling Perez to squeeze in as many characters as artistically possible. It’s hard on the eyes and it’s shit.

Another big problem with this twelve issue story arc is that every moment feels larger than life. Well, when everything is so big and grandiose, that becomes normal and status quo. You can’t possibly go bigger and with everything being so big from start to finish, none of it is memorable. It’s just a busy, stressful read without allowing the reader to catch their breath and reflect on what’s happened. It’s kind of like a Michael Bay movie. Throw so much intense shit at the audience, don’t let them stop and think and they’ll just move from point A to point B to point C and so on, forgetting everything that happened two points prior.

This event was made in an effort to sort of reset the DC universe. Honestly, all it does is make a giant fucking mess of things and splatters the mess all over everything it touches.

The plot doesn’t make sense, I’m not sure what exactly changed and with so many universes crashing together into one, it’s not properly organized and then re-established in any sort of way that a reader can follow. If this was supposed to be a jumping on point for readers in 1986, I don’t know how they made sense out of any of it and then knew which characters to follow.

The main reason for the previous sentence is that this is so overloaded with people that you don’t get to really know any of them. There is no character development and this is written in a way that it assumes the reader knows all about every character in the story. For a seasoned comic book reader like myself, who has been reading comics for three and a half decades, I was lost and didn’t know who half of the low tier characters were.

Crisis On Infinite Earths should have been written as a Justice League story with some inclusion of the Fawcett Comics characters and the Golden Age DC heroes. All the third tier and lower characters could have made cameos but even then, they don’t really need to.

I really hoped that this was going to pleasantly surprise me but it hurt my head.

It was too much, too big and too long.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: mid-’80s DC Comics titles, as well as all the other massive DC crossover events.

Comic Review: Titans: The Lazarus Contract

Published: November 14th, 2017
Written by: Christopher Priest, Benjamin Percy, Dan Abnett
Art by: Brett Booth, Larry Hama, Phil Hester, Carlo Pagulayan, Paul Pelletier, Khoi Pham, Norm Rapmund

DC Comics, 132 Pages

Review:

I’ve read the entirety of Christopher Priest’s fifty-issue run on Deathstroke, which just finished, actually. So I did read his two issues that were part of this larger crossover arc but I missed the Titans and Teen Titans parts, as I wasn’t pulling those titles at my local comic shop. So this is the first time I’ve read this story in its entirety, which I should’ve done earlier as it would’ve added more context to the Deathstroke series, as a whole.

This is sort of a spiritual sequel to the famous The Judas Contract storyline from the Teen Titans comics in the ’80s while also connecting to the events of Deathstroke’s first appearance in The New Teen Titans issue 2 from 1980.

Here, Deathstroke wants to go back in time to save his son Ravager a.k.a. Grant Wilson. He blames the Titans for the death due to their involvement in the event, even though they’re not really responsible. So after learning about the Speed Force and its ability to send speedsters through time, he harvests that power from Kid Flash after winning over his trust.

That being said, we get a speedster Deathstroke, which is just really f’n cool!

Anyway, the story starts off with a bang and it brings in both the Teen Titans and adult Titans teams to deal with the threat. While it focuses mainly on a close knit group of main characters, all the others do get involved but mostly stay in the background, only adding their two cents when its needed to advance the plot or give a larger perspective.

However, even though the management of characters is well handled initially, this does become more of a convoluted mess as it gets towards the end. It just feels like there is too much going on and despite this having a lot of characters, it starts out feeling like a smaller, personal story.

Overall, this is still pretty good and all three writers (Christopher Priest, Dan Abnett and Benjamin Percy) did a good job working together.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the old Teen Titans story The Judas Contract, as well as Deathstroke/Teen Titans: The Terminus Agenda.

Comic Review: Batman Arkham – Joker’s Daughter

Published: December 26th, 2017
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 219 Pages

Review:

Out of all the Batman Arkham collections, this was the one I was least enthused about reading and I was kind of confused as to why Joker’s Daughter even got a greatest hits trade paperback when there were other more deserving Bat-villains worthy of a collection first. Hell, this came out before the Penguin one!

Anyway, she’s never been a major villain and I wouldn’t even rank her as a C-list character. She had an interesting run in the ’70s, disappeared, then reappeared more recently because… well, I don’t know. She’s just not that interesting.

While I feel like she could be made interesting, she just hasn’t been given anything worthwhile to do since her ’70s run where she had the schtick of playing the daughter of all the main Bat-villains. She’s also not actually the Joker’s daughter, she’s Duela Dent, the daughter of Two-Face.

This collection features just about every story with the character, as there aren’t that many to begin with. The only thing from memory that this was missing was her appearances in the Red Hood/Arsenal series.

It was kind of cool, however, seeing her earliest stories because it was very much a product of its time. None of this was great or all that good but if you have a thing for really obscure characters, it’s worth checking out, I guess. But there are so many other volumes in this collection that really make this one seem unnecessary.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Batman Arkham collections.

Comic Review: Red Hood/Arsenal, Vol. 2: Dancing with the Devil’s Daughter

Published: October 18th, 2016
Written by: Scott Lobdell
Art by: Joe Bennett, Javier Fernandez, Dexter Soy

DC Comics, 170 Pages

Review:

While the first volume in this short lived series didn’t blow my socks off, I am a fan of Scott Lobdell’s Red Hood stories. That being said, this one was a step up over the collection before it and this does set up Lobdell’s superb Red Hood and the Outlaws series.

The focus of the plot is the redemption of Duela Dent a.k.a. the Joker’s Daughter. Red Hood and Arsenal both have different opinions on whether or not Duela can change. This leads to the two best friends going their separate ways by the end of the arc.

I thought that this volume did a better job of showing Red Hood and Arsenal’s friendship, what it means to both men and how they are probably better off on their own due to their differences and their life trajectories.

Although this series is broken out into two volumes, it’s probably best to read them together, as the larger story is what’s most important and the volumes are rather short.

The art was pretty damn good. Lobdell has had nothing but solid artists on all of his Red Hood stuff.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Red Hood and the Outlaws.

Comic Review: Red Hood/Arsenal, Vol. 1: Open for Business

Published: April 5th, 2016
Written by: Scott Lobdell
Art by: Denis Medri, Paolo Pantalena

DC Comics, 141 Pages

Review:

I was a fan of Scott Lobdell’s work on Red Hood and the Outlaws, so I figured I’d go backwards and read his short-lived Red Hood/Arsenal series that takes place just before the formation of Red Hood’s Outlaws team with Artemis and Bizarro.

Also, with the recent death of Arsenal and Red Hood having to deal with it and process it, I wanted to get more context to their friendship.

This was a good read, a pretty energetic story and it does do a lot to show you how special Red Hood and Arsenal’s relationship is. It also channels back to events that effected them before this story. And maybe I’ll have to go back further and read those too.

However, this wasn’t as good as the Red Hood and the Outlaws stuff that followed. While both are written by Lobdell, the more recent (and still ongoing) series has just a bit more depth to it.

This collection is the first of only two in this series and while this one serves to set things up, upon finishing it, it doesn’t feel like there is much to look forward to, as the series seems to present itself as something with more longevity than just one more arc. And maybe that longevity was intended to be the Outlaws series but I know that I’ll probably want more of Red Hood and Arsenal than just this small sample size. Especially, now knowing what Arsenal’s fate will be down the road.

If you like Red Hood stories though, this is probably worth your time. It’s hard to judge it though, as there is one more volume after it and maybe I should have just read both as one body of work.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Red Hood and the Outlaws.