Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre

Published: July 13th, 2012 – November 28th, 2012
Written by: Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, John Higgins, Len Wein
Art by: Amanda Conner, John Higgins, Paul Mounts
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 126 Pages

Review:

This wasn’t one of the Before Watchmen books that I was anticipating when compared to the ones featuring the characters I like more: The Comedian and Rorschach. But man, I was pleasantly surprised by this and that has a lot to do with the writing.

Silk Spectre’s story was penned by Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, John Higgins and Len Wein – a pretty solid team. But a lot of times, this many writers can create a clusterfuck. This wasn’t. It had a nice flow to it and it made Silk Spectre a richer character than she was if all you’ve ever read with her is the original Watchmen.

I also really dug Amanda Conner, John Higgins and Paul Mounts art. It fit well with the story and did the proper job of reflecting the era where this tale primarily takes place.

As much as I like Alan Moore’s original Wathcmen, this gives both Silk Spectre characters a deeper exploration and in fact, makes them more interesting. It’s also cool seeing how the Comedian is involved in a very pivotal moment in the younger Silk Spectre’s life.

This story is kind of tragic but it helps build more context to the character and her life. Granted, this wasn’t written by the character’s creator but I don’t think that it, in any way, diminishes Alan Moore’s overall vision. And this, like most of these Before Watchmen comics, seems to truly respect the source material while building off of it in a great way.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Comic Review: Batman: Knightfall, Book III

Published: 1993-1994
Written by: Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant
Art by: various

DC Comics, 645 Pages

Review:

Well, I should start this by saying that Knightfall, Book III was much better than Book II but it still wasn’t on the level of the vastly superior Book I.

Azrael is still Batman at the start of the story but Bruce Wayne comes back to claim the title and eventually outwits Azrael, exposing him as a total wackadoo. This surprisingly happens in the first third of this thick collection of issues. But I was fine with that, as Azrael’s horribly designed ’90s extreme cliche of a costume was hurting my eyes and my logical brain.

The second third of this book follows the aftermath of the massive Knightfall storyline while the last third of the book is a storyline called Prodigal.

I really liked the aftermath and Prodigal stuff, as even though Batman takes the mantle back, he then leaves and gives the reigns over to Dick Grayson, the original Robin and current Nightwing. Seeing Grayson as Batman with Tim Drake still as Robin was a neat experiment and was fun to read for fans of both of those characters.

There is a pretty large story involving Two-Face within the larger Prodigal crossover event and that was the highlight of this collection for me. But we also get good bits with Killer Croc, who hadn’t been seen since Bane broke both of his arms, and the Ventriloquist. I also enjoyed the Catwoman stuff.

Knightfall, Book III really salvages the gigantic epic after Book II kind of shit the bed. And in the end, I’m glad that I committed to reading the nearly 2000 pages of the Knightfall saga.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other books in the Knightfall saga, as well as pretty much any Batman story from the ’90s.

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Minutemen

Published: June 6th, 2012 – January 23rd, 2013
Written by: Darwyn Cooke
Art by: Darwyn Cooke, Dave Stewart
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 164 Pages

Review:

Working my way through all of the Before Watchmen stuff has finally brought me to the story about the Minutemen. I was excited about this one, beforehand, as it is the one chapter in the saga that focuses on the earliest stuff in the Watchmen timeline. Plus, I was excited to see Darwyn Cooke’s take on Alan Moore’s stupendous universe.

Overall, this was a good, solid read. Cooke’s art style, here, really encapsulated the feel of the World War II era. All the characters looked fantastic in their sort of pulpy ’40s style.

The story shows how the Minutemen came together but the most interesting part of the story is the dynamic between the team members and how they’re all pretty damaged people having to play up appearances for the public.

Cooke tackles a lot of issues within the pages of this collection without being too heavy handed about it. Frankly, it just works and works well.

I liked seeing and understanding these characters at a deeper level because as great as they all were in the original Watchmen story, they didn’t have much time to shine with the events of that book being focused on the heroes that became their heirs.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Comic Review: Doom Patrol, Vol. 3: Down Paradise Way

Published: 1990-1991
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Richard Case, Kelley Jones

Vertigo Comics, 185 Pages

Review:

While I’ve really enjoyed getting this far into Grant Morrison’s legendary run on Doom Patrol. This volume didn’t hit the mark quite the same way for me. But that could also be due to the luster and newness of this bizarre series starting to run dry.

I wouldn’t say that I’m bored with it but it’s so far out there that the stories are overly fantastical and it is hard trying to ground this in any way that gives it some sort of emotional weight. I like the characters but the proceedings are too surreal, all the time.

The first volume took me by surprise and was so unique that it was hard not to get drawn into it. The second volume brought the Justice League into the mix and it grounded the craziness somewhat, as the well-known DC Comics characters almost became the eyes and ears of the reader.

Here, it’s just Doom Patrol once again, as they are thrown into another dreamlike sequence that isn’t very easy to follow or grasp. I’ve always loved surrealist art but it exists well as its own thing and I dare anyone to try and make a narrative that can string together all the scenes Salvador Dali painted in some sort of coherent way.

Granted, art and the effectiveness of storytelling are all subjective but, at this point, I’m not sure what I’m reading and if there is even any sort of plan with Morrison’s Doom Patrol or if he’s just throwing really colorful shit on the canvas and hoping the reader somehow connects the dots for him.

I like Morrison’s imagination but this was also really early in his career and not as refined as his work would become with more experience. However, this is still a really unique experience and the fact that this exists within the larger DC universe is kind of interesting and sort of cool.

At the end of the day, no one can say that Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol wasn’t ambitious. I just don’t know if this ambition is going to pay off in any meaningful way. But again, that’s subjective and this may speak to a lot of people.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol.

Comic Review: Batman: Knightfall, Book II

Published: 1993-1994
Written by: Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant
Art by: various

DC Comics, 643 Pages

Review:

I really loved the first book in this series. However, this one was a big drop off from the events of the first.

The main reason is due to Batman not being in this book until the very end. This was the ’90s and Azrael was Batman and he was a walking ’90s cliche in the worst way possible. For a fan of what Batman is and what the spirit of his comics are, this doesn’t fit that mold.

Now I get that this “breaking of the mold” schtick was intentional, it just doesn’t make for good reading outside of a decade where violent antiheroes were the norm. I understand why people are nostalgic for this huge mega event that spanned a year or so but I didn’t read this when it was current and I’m looking at it with fresh eyes.

The fault doesn’t necessarily fall on the writers as there are things I enjoy about the writing but Azrael is such an unlikable asshole, which he’s supposed to be, that I want to see him fail and I can’t cheer for him. But being that he is the star of this saga, at this point, really bogs the overall tale down.

Plus, I hate his costume, it’s hard on the eyes, completely nonsensical and where are the other heroes in the DC universe that wouldn’t let this guy operate like a maniac. Doesn’t Tim Drake have Superman’s phone number? Robin is just sitting around waiting for Bruce to come home? Why doesn’t he talk to Gordon about it and develop a plan to bring in the Justice League?

I think that this also suffers from a complete lack of Bane, who was defeated at the end of Book I. I guess I had always assumed that Bane as a threat stretched across all three giant books in this saga.

This installment is also mostly devoid of villains that we know and care about. It’s as if new villains were brought in to establish a new generation of rogues for Azrael to face but they all mostly fall flat and weren’t really seen again or in any significant way after this lengthy epic.

In the end, Bruce Wayne comes back to Gotham and is disgusted by how his legacy has been handled by his hand picked successor. So hopefully the third book gets things back to form. But at the same time, why in the holy hell did Bruce Wayne choose Azrael to be the next Batman? His track record before this was shit.

Anyway, I’m hoping that the third and final book rights the ship.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the other books in the Knightfall saga, as well as pretty much any Batman story from the ’90s.

Comic Review: Aquaman, Vol. 4: Underworld

Published: November 20th, 2018
Written by: Dan Abnett
Art by: Stjepan Sejic

DC Comics, 156 Pages

Review:

I’ve been a fan of Dan Abnett’s run on Aquaman. But this story didn’t hit the mark for me like the first few arcs did. Strangely, a lot of people told me that this story was a real highpoint.

This just seemed like an episode of Game of Thrones, a show that I’m not much of a fan of. What I mean by that is this features a lot of talking and plotting and conspiracies about thrones and whatnot. There isn’t enough action and the antagonists just seem like throwaway generic Aqua-villains who will never be seen again, at least not in a meaningful way that gives weight to their characters.

I respect that Abnett tried to add to the mythology with his own creations and by bringing in long forgotten characters like Dolphin, as well as the rarely used former Aqualad, Tempest.

However, it gets too far away from the great work that Abnett was doing with the three volumes before this one. This series started off with a hell of a bang and this chapter in the saga pretty much lulled me to sleep.

The final issue in this arc gave us some action but by that point, I was just ready to wrap this thing up.

It’s not that this is a bad comic story or that it isn’t necessary, it just felt like an arc that could have been whittled down to one or two filler issues. It really disrupted the energetic pace of the series and while sometimes a breather is needed, if done too soon, it can bring things to a halt.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: anything from Dan Abnett’s glorious run on Aquaman, as well as the Drowned Earth crossover event.