Comic Review: Infinite Crisis

Published: 2005-2006
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Phil Jimenez

DC Comics, 241 Pages

Review:

I hated Crisis On Infinite Earths but I had hoped that this more modern version of it would’ve been more to my liking. I guess it is better but not by much because it falls victim to the same bullshit.

It’s overloaded with characters to the point that it’s difficult to follow and it just becomes a mega clusterfuck, trying to be larger than life while wedging a fuck ton of characters into double splash pages.

DC likes doing these big events that try to “reset” the multiverse and all they do is become overly complicated messes that ignore their own established rules because new writers don’t have time to read the old stuff or pay attention to it. In Geoff Johns’ defense, the event this is a spiritual sequel to was a convoluted shitstorm, so I don’t blame him for paying it no real mind.

If I’m going to try and look at the positives, there is really only one: the art by Phil Jimenez. It’s spectacular and it is lively and even if I don’t enjoy the story, it’s hard not to get caught up in the absolute beauty of Jimenez’s work. It’s stunning and even on those overcrowded splash pages, he fills the space magnificently and dynamically.

Apart from that, there’s not much to say. This isn’t as messy as its predecessor but it is still an over-sized shit meatball.

Rating: 5/10 – because of the art more than anything else.
Pairs well with: other massive DC Comics events that are overloaded with characters.

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: Vigilante by Marv Wolfman, Vol. 1

Published: 1983-1984 (original single issues run)
Written by: Marv Wolfman
Art by: Keith Polland, George Perez, various

DC Comics, 318 Pages

Review:

I remember seeing copies of the Vigilante on shelves and in long boxes back in the day when I used to spend every dollar of my allowance on comics. I never knew much about the character other than he always had comics with striking covers. At the time, I think I just assumed he was one of a million Punisher or Deathstroke ripoffs and never really gave him a shot. But now that I am an adult with some disposable income, I wanted to see what was beyond the great covers that always adorned this comic book series.

Seeing that Marv Wolfman created the character and wrote this series was a big selling point, as this came out when Wolfman was writing some of his best work. I’m primarily talking about his run on The New Teen Titans, which is also where Vigilante debuted – in the second annual, to be exact.

This collection starts with that first appearance and then collects the first 11 issues of the Vigilante comic.

I guess the thing that’s most cool about Vigilante is that while the hero is a gun carrying vigilante out for justice in an effort to correct a flawed system, his backstory certainly isn’t cookie cutter. While he loses his family in a similar way to Frank Castle a.k.a. The Punisher, it’s almost as if he is a cross between Castle and Harvey Dent. Although, he luckily avoids getting half of his face melted off with acid.

The Vigilante is Adrian Chase, an attorney that has tried to stop the mob for years but constantly sees a corrupt legal system fail, again and again. The murder of his family is the final straw. But his origin, once you get to that issue, is really weird and even has some mystical elements to it.

The Vigilante is probably the best good guy out of all the other characters that embody the “vigilante” trope. While he breaks the law, trying to uphold the law, he is often times at odds with himself and second guessing his tactics. After the first 11 issues of his series, he’s still not settled on what way is the right way or if he’s even doing what’s best for society.

There are a lot of layers and Marv Wolfman gave us a really dynamic series here. Frankly, this is vastly underappreciated and sadly, mostly forgotten.

Adrian Chase got new life in modern times as a character on the TV show Arrow but that incarnation was called Prometheus and he was a straight up villain out to make Green Arrow suffer.

If you like these type of characters, this will most assuredly be a refreshing read for you. It is not a retread of dozens of similar characters. It’s a unique take on the genre and it’s much more intelligent than most of the titles you can compare it to.

Plus, the art is strikingly beautiful and the Vigilante has a really cool costume that’s one part retro and two parts badass.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Marv Wolfman’s run on The New Teen Titans, as well as ’80s stories featuring Deathstroke.

Comic Review: The New Teen Titans, Issue #2 – First Appearance of Deathstroke

Published: November 30th, 1980
Written by: Marv Wolfman
Art by: George Perez, Romeo Tanghal, Adrienne Roy

DC Comics, 26 Pages

Review:

If you’ve been reading Talking Pulp for awhile, it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Deathstroke. That being said, I have never read his first appearance. The main reason is because this single issue is pretty expensive nowadays, as Deathstroke has gone on to get more and more popular over the years. Especially, after appearing in live action form in the Arrow TV series as well as the recent Justice League movie.

I read this digitally. This single issue is still on my bucket list for comics I want to own before I die but I really wanted to read this simply because it was the first time the world got to see Deathstroke, the Terminator.

On a side note, it also features Grant Wilson’s first time out as Ravager. He is the son of Deathstroke, which isn’t much of a spoiler, as this story is almost 40 years old.

Anyway, this adds a lot of background context to the events of the more famous New Teen Titans story arc, The Judas Contract. We understand more about Deathstroke’s motivations because of this first appearance.

Like The Judas Contract, this story was written by Marv Wolfman and the art was done by George Perez. They were one of the best tandems in comics history and it’s pretty apparent that they were writing this story with the long game in mind.

Perez designed Deathstroke in the same year that he designed Taskmaster for Marvel in Avengers issues 195 and 196. I mentioned in my review about that story arc that the two characters have very strong design similarities. Also, both are at the top of my list as favorite characters under the banner of their publishers.

This was a really exciting read for me. I have a strong bias towards Deathstroke but Wolfman wrote some of the best team superhero comics ever. Perez’s art is fluid and mesmerizing. The two together are pure dynamite.

This issue also reminds me of a time when single issue comics could tell a self contained story with limited space but cover a lot of ground.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Teen Titans stories from the Marv Wolfman and George Perez era.

TV Review: Titans (2018- )

Also known as: Teen Titans (informal title)
Original Run: October 3rd, 2018 (New York Comic Con) – current
Created by: Akiva Goldsmith, Geoff Johns, Greg Berlanti
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: characters from DC Comics
Music by: Clint Mansell, Kevin Kiner
Cast: Brenton Thwaites, Anna Diop, Teagan Croft, Ryan Potter

Weed Road Pictures, Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television, 11 Episodes (so far), 40-50 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I finally got DC Universe, as it became available on the Amazon FireStick after months of dealys. So that being said, I have now checked out Titans, the streaming service’s first big attempt at original content.

While this wasn’t a total waste of time and shows some promise, it was still a pretty drab attempt at getting me excited for spending $7.99 per month on yet another video-on-demand service.

The biggest issue for me is that the characters don’t really act like the characters in the comics. Dick Grayson a.k.a. Robin a.k.a. Nightwing just straight up murders people the first time we see him confront some thugs. Then everyone else in the show kills or maims people pretty quickly and it’s fairly easy to see what we have here, which is another live action DC Comics property giving itself fully over to their gritty, edgy boy formula that only worked for Christopher Nolan, ten years ago, and Zack Snyder once with Watchmen, also ten years ago.

Also, Gotham does a good job of being gritty but it takes tremendous creative liberties and took awhile to really find its footing.

So Titans could definitely improve, as Gotham did. In fact, there are signs of better things within this first season. However, there isn’t much here to make me care about the main characters. Dick and Rachel, who will become Raven, are emo to the point of cringe but at least Starfire is interesting and Gar, who will become Beast Boy, is charismatic and could potentially be the best thing on the show.

The real problem with Titans is that the best episodes are the ones where the title characters aren’t the focal point. My two favorite chapters out of the eleven here are the one that’s all about introducing Doom Patrol and the one that serves as the origin story for Hawk & Dove. So what does it say when I’m more interested in secondary characters with minor screen time or characters who are getting their own spinoff?

I’m actually excited about Doom Patrol based off of what I saw here. And if I’m being honest, I’m not all that interested in a second season of Titans, even though I will watch it in hopes that things improve.

The season also suffers from not telling a good, self contained story. We get the season’s cliffhanger ending in the second to last episode and then the final episode, which should have been a resolution to the ten episodes before it, is nothing but a hallucination that ends leaving us exactly in the same spot that the previous penultimate episode did. It’s an absolutely terrible conclusion to a mostly mediocre season.

On the positive side, at least this moves more briskly than the Netflix Marvel shows and even though it has its filler episodes, they at least have action and progress the story in some way.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the upcoming live action DC Universe shows, as well as the DC Comics shows on the CW and Fox’s Gotham.

Comic Review: The Flash: Rebirth

Published: October 8th, 2013
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Ethan Van Sciver

DC Comics, 158 Pages

Review:

I love Geoff Johns work at DC Comics and I have always loved his collaborations with artist Ethan Van Sciver. Their work on Green Lantern got me back into comics during a time when I had sort of faded away from the medium due to no longer being as engaged by it.

Green Lantern: Rebirth was one of my favorite comic book stories of all-time. It made me love Hal Jordan and I was pulled in by Johns’ writing and Van Sciver’s wonderful art. Since I also liked Johns’ Flash stuff, I figured that The Flash: Rebirth would be something that I would also love. But sadly, it just didn’t do it for me.

The biggest problem that I have with Flash stories is the damn Speed Force. Also, in recent years, the Flash pocket of the larger DC universe is overloaded with too many characters with the same lame set of powers. There are so many damn speedsters that it’s really f’n redundant.

In an era where people are screaming for diversity, even though it has existed in comics for decades, maybe there should be a call for diversity in powers in the Flash titles. I mean, if you’re going to cram a dozen heroes and villains into a plot, why are they all similar? And why is that exciting? And to be frank, this is why I lost interest in The Flash TV show, which I loved when it started.

Anyway, the art in this is damn good but Van Sciver hits the right note stylistically speaking when it comes to how this era of DC felt. He was a premiere architect in DC’s visual style from 2007-2014 or so. This book lives up to the standard one should expect from his work but apart from that, there wasn’t much here for me to enjoy.

The premiere villain is the Reverse Flash, another f’n speedster. And really, this is all about the weird, mystical Speed Force that is capable of anything a writer needs it to do. I don’t know, Speed Force heavy stories bore me to tears and they’re hard to keep up with because it’s all pseudo-science mumbo jumbo made up on a whim to explain random ass shit. I prefer stories where one Flash takes on one of his many awesome rogues that aren’t speedsters.

This is probably really good if reading about a dozen speedsters and Speed Force stuff is your thing. For me, it numbed my brain and made it hard to get through.

And fuck… this had so many damn cameos. I felt like it partially existed just to wedge in as many characters as possible.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: The Geoff Johns era of The Flash, as well as his era of Green Lantern.

Comic Review: Deathstroke: Defiance – Conclusion

Published: December 6th, 2017 – January 31st, 2018
Written by: Christopher Priest
Art by: Diogenes Neves, Sean Parsons, Jason Paz, John Trevor Scott, Jeromy Cox, Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz, Ryan Sook (cover)

DC Comics, 102 Pages

Review:

The first part of Defiance is collected in Deathstroke, Vol. 4 but the final three chapters (issues 26, 27 and the first annual) aren’t yet collected and I wanted to finish the story so I could review it without waiting months and forgetting the details of what came before it.

This was a story arc with a lot of promise and it directly calls back to the great Teen Titans classic story The Judas Contract. Unfortunately, this doesn’t live up to the old school tale, even if it exists as its long awaited sequel.

I feel like this long arc was a missed opportunity to try something new with Deathstroke and to sort of make a Teen Titans team with a harder edge. In a lot of ways it mirrors how Cable came into the New Mutants and turned them into the much more adult X-Force. It’s kind of funny, considering that the Cable/New Mutants/X-Force plot was heavily influenced by The Judas Contract.

I did enjoy this but there was a lot of build up to this tale and it fell flat in the end. This leads into the short Chinatown story, which also didn’t cut the mustard for me, and then the Deathstroke Vs. Batman arc after that.

I’ve invested a lot of time (and money) into this series but now the build up to the Defiance team’s formation was just discarded and for what?

I know that some of the plot points here will circle back to be addressed later but the way things go here, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will happen in the Deathstroke title, it could just branch back out into the Teen Titans books or maybe a new Power Girl series, if one is on DC’s docket.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Deathstroke: Defiance and Deathstroke Vs. Batman.

TV Review: Young Justice (2010- )

Also known as: Young Justice: Invasion (Season 2), Young Justice: Outsiders (Season 3)
Release Date: November 26th, 2010 – current
Created by: Brandon Vietti, Greg Weisman
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: characters from DC Comics
Music by: Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion, Lolita Ritmanis
Cast: Stephanie Lemelin, Jesse McCartney, Danica McKellar, Nolan North, Khary Payton, Jason Spisak, Kelly Hu

DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation, 46 Episodes (so far), 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

I didn’t watch Young Justice while it was on. I only got into it once it was on Netflix and even then, it was clicked on mainly out of boredom. I wasn’t aware that it was a somewhat beloved show by many.

I was glad I discovered it on my own without a bunch of hype built around it. I was surprised with the quality and how adult the themes of the show were.

The animation is damn good, the story arcs are fantastic and the characters are all cool and likable.

The show follows the sidekicks of DC Comics’ most famous heroes and puts them together on a team where they are sort of a junior squad to the Justice League. It is sort of like Teen Titans but not as adolescent feeling, which is probably why it wasn’t a new Teen Titans show.

The first season is solid but the second season is excellent. The beginning of season two is slow and interest started to wane but after about four episodes, I was hooked. The season two story arc is one of the best sagas ever told in a DC animated series.

Young Justice is a quick watch. The episodes fly by at 22 minutes. There are also only twenty or so episodes per season.

The DC cinematic universe could learn a lot from the tone and style of this show. I hope that once they get into making the Aquaman film, they take their cue from how the Atlanteans are handled on this show.

Sadly, the show was cancelled after the second season but there are rumors that it could find new life on Netflix. I think that’s a stretch, being that they are in bed with Marvel, but you never know.

Update:

After fan support the show was resurrected and there will be more episodes in the future, even though there’s been a big gap in time by this point.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Recent Teen Titans animated features, as well as other DC Comics animated films.