Comic Review: Nightwing: The Target – One-Shot

Published: July 25th, 2001
Written by: Chuck Dixon
Art by: Scott McDaniel, Aaron Sowd, Dave Stewart

DC Comics, 48 Pages

Review:

I read this just after finishing another Nightwing one-shot by Chuck Dixon: Our Worlds at War.

This also came out just a few weeks after that other one yet it doesn’t seem tied to it at all but I guess I should read the collected editions and see how it all comes together.

Still, this was written by Chuck Dixon and it was a damn entertaining, self-contained story. Unlike Our Worlds at War, I didn’t feel like I was missing a big chunk of the story.

In this, Dick Grayson is a cop when he’s not Nightwing. He gets framed for a murder caused by the police brutality he tried to stop. The dirty cops frame him but obviously they don’t know he’s Nightwing and pretty damn resourceful. Grayson takes on a new superhero personality: The Target.

As The Target, Grayson investigates his own case in an effort to clear his name and to bring the hammer of justice down on the murderous, dirty cops.

This also features a cameo by Batman but it is a Nightwing story and Dick Grayson takes it upon himself to set the record straight and to get justice for the victims.

In the end, I enjoyed this a lot and I thought The Target persona was really cool. But I also feel like this could have been stretched out over a longer story arc. It’s short and sweet but I felt like more could’ve been explored and it might have been cool to see Dick as The Target for much longer.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Chuck Dixon era Nightwing and Batman comics.

Video Game Review: Batman: Return of the Joker (NES)

I never played this game and I guess I kind of missed out, as I probably would’ve really liked this, back in the day.

I was a fan of the first Sunsoft Batman game for the original Nintendo, as it came out and was tied to the 1989 Tim Burton movie.

I never realized that this one was a direct sequel to it and I guess that makes it exist in an alternate timeline than the cinematic universe of the same era. Granted, these games are very different than the ’89 movie in that they have a very sci-fi/cyberpunk aesthetic and deviate from the film’s story quite a bit.

So in this version of a sequel, the Joker has survived. They’ve also given him more of a comic book look, as opposed to using Jack Nicholson’s likeness. I’m assuming that was because the licensing fees to use his visage once again was too pricey and unnecessary in the grander scheme of things.

The game looks very similar to its predecessor; however, they’ve given Batman a larger sprite and stripped away the mechanics only to replace them with something worse. The weapons system may seem more advanced but it’s kind of confusing, tedious and annoying. Also, you can’t bounce off of walls and scale them like you could in the previous game.

This also adds in a few jetpack shooter stages that play more like a Gradius game than a normal Batman title. It’s kind of cool but I would’ve preferred having more standard levels with some good design. In fact, the levels in this game feel very small and are conquered too quickly.

Most of the bosses are just a big pain in the ass. Additionally, the first time you fight the Joker, he flies around in a pod like Dr. Robotnik from the Sonic games. It’s not cool and it’s pretty lame. The second time you fight the Joker, you basically fight a Joker-themed super computer. It’s also lame.

This game had some promise and I mostly enjoyed it but the improvements just ended up being disappointments. I would’ve rather just gotten a redesigned version of the first game with new levels and bosses.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the previous Sunsoft Batman game for the NES

Comic Review: Red Hood: The Lost Days

Published: June 28th, 2011
Written by: Judd Winick
Art by: Jeremy Haun, Pablo Raimondi

DC Comics, 145 Pages

Review:

I went into this with zero expectations but I’ve got to say, I was pretty enthralled with the story and it didn’t just fill-in the blanks between Jason Todd’s death and his reappearance as Red Hood but it gave so much extra context and meaning to the character.

Additionally, I loved how this tied into the Hush story arc and serves to set the stage for that epic tale while also leading into the Under the Hood plot, which saw Jason Todd come back into Batman’s life in a pretty badass way.

I wouldn’t read this story first, though. I’d save it for last because even if it is a prequel, I think it’ll read better with the knowledge obtained from the other two stories. Also, this might spoil those stories if you haven’t read them.

From  beginning to end, this was really engaging and it added new layers to Jason Todd’s redemption arc. It shows how he struggles with his new reality and how he is used and exploited in an effort to become a weapon against Batman. However, it also shows how well the character can adapt and how he doesn’t follow the paths that others have tried to lay our for him.

Additionally, the art in this was really good and it just added an extra sizzle to this already wonderful steak.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other early Red Hood stories, as well as his solo titles of the last few years.

Comic Review: Batman: The Complete Hush

Published: October 8th, 2013
Written by: Jeph Loeb
Art by: Jim Lee

DC Comics, 298 Pages

Review:

Batman: Hush is highly regarded as one of the best Batman stories of its era and honestly, it doesn’t disappoint. I hadn’t read it for over ten years but after recently watching the animated film adaptation, I wanted to give the source material a read again.

I’m happy to say that this lived up to my memories of it, as it’s just a great, well-layered story, where even if you figure out the big mystery, it doesn’t wreck the plot because there are so many surprises still woven in.

This features a lot of characters from both sides of the law but it doesn’t become bogged down by it and everyone truly serves a purpose with how they’re all tied to the main plot.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that this is good, simply because Jeph Loeb wrote it and he teamed up with the great Jim Lee, who provided some of the best and most iconic art of his career for this tale.

Hush is a solid comic book on every level. Saying too much about the plot might ruin things and this is a book that I definitely recommend. I’d rather people read it and discover its greatness for themselves.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other major Batman story arcs from the late ’90s and early-to-mid ’00s.

Comic Review: Superman: Last Son of Krypton

Published: October 8th, 2013
Written by: Geoff Johns, Richard Donner
Art by: Adam Kubert

DC Comics, 252 Pages

Review:

I wanted to read this because it was the first official comic book appearance of General Zod, the made-for-the-big-screen villain from the first two Superman movies by Richard Donner.

What makes this even cooler is that Donner worked on this story with Geoff Johns.

This collection is actually two separate stories. However, they both feature Zod with the first one being primarily about the character and his introduction into DC Comics canon. The second story primarily features Brainiac as the antagonist.

Ultimately, this was a really good read and one of my favorite Superman trade paperbacks of recent memory. Both stories were solid and they actually connect in a way that makes wedging both of them together, a more enjoyable, overall narrative.

I thought that Donner and Johns came up with a pretty satisfying story to introduce Zod and his family. I also thought that the Adam Kubert art was top notch but I’ve also always loved all the Kuberts.

If you grew up with the two Donner Superman films like I did, this should definitely peak your interest. It’s a worthwhile story that was both engaging and entertaining while also being a great homage to Donner’s Superman film work.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Superman comics featuring General Zod.

Comic Review: Super Powers by Jack Kirby

Published: 1984-1985
Written by: Jack Kirby, Joey Cavalieri, Paul Kupperberg
Art by: Jack Kirby, Mike Royer, Greg Theakston, Mike Thibodeaux

DC Comics, 268 Pages

Review:

When I was a kid and super into G.I. Joe and Transformers, my cousin Billy was super into Super Powers and Marvel’s Secret Wars action figures. In a lot of ways, those two toylines were my introduction to many of the comic book heroes and villains outside of what a six year-old would know.

Playing with Billy’s toys and playsets, I was pretty captivated by them and it is probably a major factor in what got me to read superhero comics, as opposed to just G.I. JoeTransformers and Star Wars.

I never read either of the two Super Powers miniseries, however, so I was pretty excited to pick this up. Also, since this was primarily done by the legendary Jack Kirby, I thought that reading this was long overdue and that not having read this sooner was a major crime against my own soul.

This edition collects both of the miniseries, the first being five issues and the second being six.

Overall, this is a really fun time and other than Mister Miracle, it’s my favorite stuff that Kirby has done for DC. Essentially, this is Kirby writing and drawing the Justice League. It features many of the core League members while also using some of their main villains.

I really like what Kirby did with these characters and I really would’ve liked to have seen this spin off into a Kirbyverse for DC, as his style and charm worked well with these characters. This feels very ’60sish but it works even though this is an ’80s comic.

While Frank Miller and Alan Moore would drastically alter the tone at DC, just after Kirby’s Super Powers, this is a nice contrast to what DC became synonymous with in that decade. 

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Jack Kirby’s other work at DC Comics, as well as ’80s Justice League comics.

Comic Review: Batman: War Games: Book Two

Published: 2004-2005
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 628 Pages

Review:

While this does read better than the first volume in this two part epic series, it is still kind of a mess in that it jumps all over the place and doesn’t seem to follow any sort of logical narrative path. In short, it’s hard to follow and it’s not all that exciting to begin with.

I’m not sure why some people have made a big deal about the War Games epic. Sure, most of the art is solid and I mostly like the parts written by Ed Brubaker but this is such a mixed bag as a total package that the low points and drastically different art styles just pull you right out of the story.

This is overloaded with characters, which typically isn’t a bad thing for a large Batman story. However, this reads more like a massive DC mega event in that it’s so overloaded that there isn’t anything that one can fully connect to. Even if you’re interested in a certain plot thread, sometimes you get distracted for a really long period of time before coming back to it.

This was pretty poorly organized and executed.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Batman stories of the late ’90s and early ’00s.

Comic Review: Batman: War Games: Book One

Published: 2004-2005
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 515 Pages

Review:

This is one of the giant Batman sagas I hadn’t yet read. So I was pretty stoked to pick it up but ultimately, I was left pretty disappointed, as it’s slow, dry and honestly, not that exciting.

Being that I am a fan of Stephanie Brown a.k.a. Spoiler, I did like her parts in this, as it is a major turning point for her character and because it helped to fill in some of the blanks I had with her character’s development. I really dug the hell out of her time as Batgirl before they took it away from her and gave the identity back to Barbara Gordon.

This collection doesn’t feel much like a large cohesive story. There are plot threads that stretch the duration of the book but it is mostly a few short arcs stuffed into a massive volume to collect the tales of the era.

I guess the main common thread is that this mostly focuses on combating Gotham City’s street level crime but this book sort of just sets the stage for what I assume will be a more action heavy second book.

For the most part, I liked the art but some of the stories felt like a waste of time. But I guess I’ll have to see how things play out in the second and final volume of this “saga” before being too harsh.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Batman stories of the late ’90s and early ’00s.

Comic Review: Deathstroke, Vol. 4: Family Business

Published: December 20th, 2016
Written by: James Bonny, Phil Hester, Christopher Priest
Art by: Tyler Kirkham

DC Comics, 157 Pages

Review:

This is the conclusion to the Deathstroke run that happened before DC’s Rebirth. This series started with Tony S. Daniel writing and doing the art. However, this finale was written by James Bonny, who came in at the end of the previous volume.

Even with a change in writers, this stayed consistently good throughout and it helps bring a satisfying end to the story of Slade Wilson trying to rebuild his relationship with his children Rose and Jericho.

This picks up right where the previous volume ended, as it ended on a cliffhanger.

This also features a subplot with Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins, who involve themselves in Slade’s war with Lawman, Snakebite and Victor Ruiz. With Ra’s, we are given a big plot twist, as he’s always got deception up his sleeve. Both Ra’s al Ghul and Deathstroke leave this story with their lives but it sets up a real blood feud between the two villain heavyweights.

There are also cameos by Red Hood and Batman. The Clock King shows up in the last issue collected in this volume, which is actually the first Deathstroke issue of the Rebirth era. Needless to say, this ends leading right into Christopher Priest’s lengthy run on this character.

In the end, I really liked this series a lot, even more so than Priest’s, which I found to be mostly great.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the rest of the 2014-2016 Deathstroke run, as well as the Christopher Priest era that followed.