Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Crimson Corsair

Published: July 4th, 2012 – March 13th, 2013
Written by: Len Wein
Art by: John Higgins
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 57 Pages

Review:

I actually wasn’t expecting a prequel to The Black Freighter part of the Watchmen story when I started reading the Before Watchmen series but low and behold, we were given one and it was written by the great Len Wein with art by the always solid John Higgins.

Out of all the Before Watchmen stories I have read, thus far, this one is my least favorite. That’s not to say that it isn’t good, I enjoyed it quite a bit but it resonated the least with me, even though I’m a big fan of swashbuckler stories.

I think the problem with it is that within the context of what Before Watchmen is, this doesn’t really fit. The Black Freighter was a comic book within the comic book. In the Wathcmen world, it is fiction and read within the comic’s own pages. It was also made into an animated film to be spliced into the motion picture but was cut from the final version and later released on DVD and then edited back into The Ultimate Cut of the film.

So with the other comics in this series fleshing out the backstories of the main characters, this one just seemed unnecessary. It’s still cool that it exists but the story here isn’t anywhere near as good as The Black Freighter. And this doesn’t really add anything to that tale either.

If you are a fan of dark, swashbuckling comics like The Black Freighter, then this will probably be interesting to you. But if you want to know more about the Watchmen world itself, this isn’t a necessary read.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Comic Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws, Vol. 3: Bizarro Reborn

Published: April 24th, 2018
Written by: Scott Lobdell
Art by: Joe Bennett, Tyler Kirkham, Dextor Soy

DC Comics, 188 Pages

Review:

Out of all the volumes of the Red Hood comic that focus on the trio of Red Hood, Artemis and Bizarro, this is my favorite.

Man, this story was solid as hell and it was also a pretty emotional due to how we see Bizarro die, come back to life as a super-genius and then find out that he is still going to devolve into a dumb brute again.

For long-time fans of Jason Todd, this is especially emotional, as we see him finally find a sense of family that has eluded him for so long. He’s no longer alone, he’s with people he loves but you get the sense that it’s all going to be taken away from him in the near future. Re-reading these issues now, it certainly adds more context to his more recent stories.

Scott Lobdell has done such a fantastic job with this series and even though my pull list from my local comic shop keeps shrinking, this is a series I just don’t want to give up. It’s much better than the industry standard in modern times and it is awesome that there is top tier talent working on a book that mainly features B or C level characters.

This volume actually collects three short story arcs, which see cameos from a lot of cool characters like the modern Suicide Squad, Nightwing, the modern Bat-family, Lex Luthor and others.

I’m also now a big fan of Dexter Soy’s art style. I didn’t know much about him before this series but the issues he works on just look fantastic.

Red Hood and the Outlaws is one of the best DC Comics titles of the last few years. I wish more people would read it, even if the most recent stuff is a bit different due to Jason Todd being alone, once again. But I feel as if that’s leading to him reuniting with his Outlaw family.

With DC cancelling a bunch of titles in the very near future, I really hope that this isn’t one of them.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Red Hood and the Outlaws collections post-Rebirth. Also, the recent Bat-family titles: NightwingBatgirl and also the current runs on Suicide Squad and Deathstroke.

Comic Review: Batgirl: Old Enemies

Published: January 2nd, 2019 – February 27th, 2019
Written by: Mairghread Scott
Art by: Paul Pelletier, Norm Rapmund, Jordie Bellaire

DC Comics, 79 Pages

Review:

Following up the pretty good Art of the Crime story arc, we get this three issue plot that stretches from Batgirl issues 30 to 32.

I’m really digging Mairghread Scott’s run on Batgirl for the most part. Barbara Gordon is one of my all-time favorite female heroes and she’s been tied up in stories that haven’t been very good over the last few years. Since Scott has taken over, we’ve gotten a much better Batgirl series and it also seems much truer to who Barbara Gordon is at her core.

Now this wasn’t great but it was decent filler between the last arc and whatever is coming next. It does feel like Batgirl may be in a weird state of limbo after everything terrible that happened to the Nightwing character and her relationship with him up until a few months ago but that’s not Scott’s doing and she’s at least putting her best foot forward and isn’t allowing Barbara to wallow and flounder.

What I like about this is that it is a political story in some regard but the politics don’t beat you over the head with any sort of biased message coming through in the writing. Like comics of old that dealt with political issues, this examines different points of view and allows the reader some of their own interpretation. It is good storytelling.

This was a quick, decent read but it didn’t completely resonate with me. I just wasn’t into the story as much as I was the previous arc. But it still builds off of that one and continues to evolve Barbara Gordon.

Cormorant was a fairly interesting villain but DC has so many masked assassin type characters that he just feels like one of dozens of Deathstroke and Deadshot wannabes. Still, he was a formidable foe for Batgirl in this story and everything here serves a real narrative purpose.

I’d like to see Mairghread Scott continue on with this title. She’s done a good job so far and it’s been awhile since I’ve cared about Batgirl. I just hope she gets a bit more comfortable and is developing these stories towards something bigger that we can all latch onto.

DC Comics recently announced that they are cutting back significantly on their titles. I hope that this isn’t one of them, as I see something solid coming together.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other modern Batgirl and Batman family stories.

Comic Review: Batman: Vengeance of Bane, Issue #1 – First Appearance of Bane

Published: December 31st, 1992
Written by: Chuck Dixon
Art by: Graham Nolan, Eduardo Barreto, Adrienne Roy, Glenn Fabry

DC Comics, 56 Pages

Review:

Chuck Dixon really is a master of his craft. I always loved his Batman work, as well as what he did with The Punisher and G.I. Joe. And usually first appearances aren’t very good in retrospect. However, Dixon made Bane a true heavy hitter with just this comic.

This is sort of a prologue to the events of Knightfall, which was one of the biggest and most prolific Batman story arcs of all-time. It’s mostly known for being the story where Batman had his back broken by Bane, a plot point that eventually made its way to the big screen in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises.

This story goes way back and actually introduces us to Bane as a child. It shows how he loses everything from his childhood, is raised in a prison and how he becomes the man that really controls that prison and everyone in it.

Vengrance of Bane also gets into how Bane got extremely intelligent and how he learned about Batman and got the drive to make his way to Gotham City to challenge its famous and revered protector.

Chuck Dixon tells a great, fluid and rich story in just these 56 pages. Even though Bane is clearly a villain, it’s hard not to have some sort of sympathy for him, seeing how he came to be. Now you certainly don’t side with him but this does more to flesh out this character in one story than most first appearances come close to managing.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Chuck Dixon’s work on Batman titles, especially the massive Knightfall storyline.

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Ozymandias

Published: July 4th, 2012 – March 13th, 2013
Written by: Len Wein
Art by: John Higgins, Jae Lee
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 156 Pages

Review:

I have been loving this Before Watchmen series. I previously read the Comedian and Rorschach stories, so this one is my third installment.

Out of the three I have read, this is my least favorite. But it’s still damn good and really captures the spirit of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s original Watchmen series. All the ones I’ve read thus far have also been written by top notch writers, however.

This volume really works well for the Ozymandias character. Len Wein understands him, his motivations and does a fine job of painting a vivid picture of what made Ozymandias into the man he became, a true villain but one with noble intentions willing to cross the line in order to mold the world into what he perceives as something better.

John Higgins does some of the art and his work in other Before Watchmen books has been great. The bulk of the art here is done by the great Jae Lee, though. Lee is a guy that never gets the credit and props he deserves, in my opinion, and he did such a fine job with the art here that this is one of my favorite pieces of work he’s created.

This story also sees other Watchmen characters show up, where the Comedian and Rorschach volumes mostly just focused solely on them. Here, we see Ozymandias’ first encounters with the Comedian, Dr. Manhattan and Nite Owl. We even get a very brief Rorschach cameo.

Overall, this was a really good read and it just increased my interest in the expanded Watchmen universe. Something I wasn’t too keen on when first hearing about it but have started to accept and have surprisingly enjoyed. But I give credit to the fact that DC Comics put their best people on these stories.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Book Review: ‘Watchmen and Philosophy: A Rorschach Test’ Edited by Mark D. White

There are philosophy books for just about every major pop culture franchise or major property out there. I do really like reading them though, as it gives some interesting insight and depth to characters and story. Sometimes these sort of books are filled with a lot of drivel but that doesn’t mean that they’re not entertaining in their own way.

This one seemed low on drivel and really got to the core of a lot of the characters within the Watchmen story. What makes this really interesting, is that the Watchmen universe has expanded since this book came out. We now have prequel comics, sequel comics, a movie, an upcoming television show and probably new stories with these character for years to come.

What makes this cool is that there’s a lot of good analysis in the book that can be applied to the characters when observed in these new stories and through different mediums.

I wouldn’t call this book a “must own” or anything but I’ve always enjoyed philosophy and I certainly love Watchmen.

This is just one of dozens (maybe hundreds) of books like this but it is well organized, well edited and none of it seemed like filler.

I found this to be easy to digest and an enjoyable read.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other books about philosophy and pop culture franchises, as well as the original Watchmen comic.

Comic Review: Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, Issue #134 – First Appearance of Darkseid

Published: December 2nd, 1970
Written by: Jack Kirby
Art by: Jack Kirby, Vince Colletta, Neal Adams (cover)

DC Comics, 22 Pages

Review:

Man, this was a weird ass comic book! But it was also done by Jack Kirby during his stint at DC Comic, where he did some really outside of the box stuff that led to the creation of his Fourth World universe within the larger DC Universe.

This issue of Jimmy Olsen was tied to all of that, as this is the first appearance of Darkseid, one of the greatest villains in the entire history of DC Comics.

I wanted to read this, as I’ve been reading a lot of the first appearances of some of my favorite villains. That being said, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this comic but it was pretty insane.

This issue is trippy as hell! I’m not sure if that was normal with Jimmy Olsen but I really dug it, even if it was hard to make sense of the proceedings, as I don’t have the issues around this to give it more context.

Superman even shows up in this but he was a pretty regular fixture in this title. Sadly, we don’t get to see Supes square off with Darkseid. In fact, we only get a peek at Darkside in one panel. That’s it, his big debut was just in a single panel where he was a talking head in a TV set, giving commands to one of his minions.

This is creative, kind of nuts and it flew by. I can’t say that it’s a solid comic as a standalone issue but reading it was interesting, as it was a quick, small sample of Kirby’s earliest work at DC.

For Jack Kirby fans, this is worth checking out.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: any of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World titles at DC Comics.