Comic Review: Deathstroke Vs. Batman

Published: April 4th, 2018 – September 5th, 2018
Written by: Christopher Priest
Art by: Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz, Jeremy Cox, various

DC Comics, 166 Pages

Review:

I was really looking forward to this six issue story arc that ran from Deathstroke issues 30 through 35. I have been reading Deathstroke since this current series started and have loved the writing of Christopher Priest.

Being that I really wanted to immerse myself in this story and wanted to binge it in one go, I didn’t read each issue, as they came out. Instead, I waiting till all six were in my hands and then sat down and made an evening out of it.

While I did enjoy the story, it also didn’t live up to the hype I gave it in my mind. Maybe the slow burn of the long wait was responsible for that but anytime Deathstroke and Batman share the same space, the ante has been upped for both characters.

The premise has to deal with who is the true biological father of Damian Wayne, the current Robin. This was a scheme used to pit Batman and Deathstroke against one another and I’m not going to spoil the reveal but it wasn’t as big of a deal as the setup made it to be. Also, some of the covers are a bit misleading, especially issue 33. But covers don’t really mean much as far as the actual story, they’re just a hook to lure you in.

Anyway, I loved the exploration of Deathstroke and Batman’s roles as fathers in the past. I also love how this really puts some focus on Damian Wayne and uses that to delve back into the tragedy of Tim Drake and the life of Jericho. There were a lot of cool parallels made between several characters all sharing the same theme.

Ultimately, this was still a good, solid read. I like where it takes Batman, Deathstroke and Damian.

I also really enjoyed the art but all the Priest Deathstroke stories have been top notch in both writing and art.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Deathstroke: Defiance and earlier Deathstroke stuff by Christopher Priest.

Comic Review: Green Arrow: Broken

Published: June 4th, 2014 – September 3rd, 2014
Written by: Jeff Lemire
Art by: Andrea Sorrentino

DC Comics, 123 Pages

Review:

Broken followed up the Green Arrow story The Outsiders War. It is also the last big story arc from Jeff Lemire.

While many people thought that Lemire’s run on Green Arrow was spectacular, I’ve felt pretty lukewarm towards it. I thought it started out well and was building towards something great but it just seems to move a long with a whimper.

It just continues to feel like it is trying to be more like the show Arrow, as opposed to the comic book series that has come and gone for decades. It’s almost too dark, too serious and just lacks the character and charisma of years of Green Arrow stories. This sort of falls victim to the gritty reboot trend in the worst way.

It sucks because I generally like Lemire’s writing but as his Green Arrow tenure ran on, it also ran dry. I’m not sure what people see in this, unless most people only really know this character from the more serious and dark television show.

Anyway, this closes out most of the big plot threads from Lemire’s time on the series.

The only real highlight of this is the artwork. Andrea Sorrentino has a real talent for capturing action in a unique and refreshing way. This guy should get more work on action heavy titles from the major publishers.

In the end, the Jeff Lemire run was a disappointment for me, especially after I heard people rave about it for a few years.

While it sounds like I’m being hard on this, it isn’t terrible. It’s decent, for sure, but it’s hardly as iconic as the hardcore Lemire fans claim.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: The other story arcs in the Jeff Lemire run on Green Arrow.

Talking Pulp: Why I’ve Grown to Hate Deadpool

If the title of this article is fightin’ words, then prepare for 1485 more.

I’ve come to the realization that I just don’t like Deadpool. I mean, I used to love him back when Rob Liefeld created him and he was a thorn in the New Mutants and X-Force’s side from time to time. Plus, I was twelve years-old.

But what’s not to like?

He’s pretty much a ninja or at least, he looks like the bastard lovechild of a ninja and Spider-Man. He was also snarky and a pain in the ass. He even wore a badass red outfit with badass swords and badass guns. He had lots of pouches… so many pouches.

However, as much as I enjoyed seeing him pop up in stuff, I never really liked it when he had his own solo comics.

Okay, I did like those first few miniseries that he had because he still wasn’t quite the Deadpool that we would eventually get and I actually loved the bromance between villains Black Tom Cassidy and Juggernaut. But Deadpool would go on to change and he would also go on to have a villain problem.

Let me get to how he changed first.

In 1997, Joe Kelly came along and wrote an ongoing series for Deadpool. It was here where the character’s real super power debuted: the ability to break the fourth wall. This would continue to be a trait that Deadpool would have going into the future. Without Joe Kelly, Deadpool wouldn’t be talking to you and me, the audience, during his movies. Kelly, essentially turned the “Merc with a Mouth” into Zack Morris from Saved by the Bell. It was unique and fun at first but as time rolled on, I personally found it more distracting than amusing. But I also prefer tough looking characters that kick a whole lot of ass to spend less time chatting and more time kicking a whole lot of ass.

But really, breaking the fourth wall is not a super power. And neither is talking and being a snarky jackass.

Deadpool’s actual power is pretty much just a super healing ability, which makes him Wolverine without the claws, cool skeleton and good looks. And since Wolverine speaks softly and carries a big can of whoop ass into every situation, I will always prefer Wolverine.

Wolverine is a man’s man where Deadpool is that awkward thirty-something juvenile guy that shows up at parties, makes a fuck ton of jokes and people just leave the room. And then he follows them around making more jokes, oblivious to the fact that his routine is stale and he can’t converse like a normal, well adjusted adult.

I’m not saying that he’s completely unfunny but there comes a time when you need to nut the fuck up and shut the fuck up. This is why Deadpool is amusing from time to time when he cameos in someone else’s comic but to read 30 pages of his shtick, every single month, doesn’t interest me in the slightest. Point being, he’s a character that is much better and more welcomed in smaller doses.

Now circling back to the villain problem, Deadpool just doesn’t have any that are worthwhile. This is really apparent in his movies. Sure, Juggernaut and Black Tom show up in Deadpool 2 but they aren’t a main focus and are really just afterthoughts in the film.

Deadpool typically goes after one-off scumbags. I guess that’s fine if you only read Deadpool for Deadpool but for the rest of us, we want to see him actually face off with credible threats. Comic stories of Deadpool cracking jokes, leading up to killing a random mob boss have been done to death at this point. Lack of good villains is why I’ve never been a huge fan of the Punisher in his own titles either. I prefer the Punisher when he actually goes against Jigsaw or the Kingpin, as opposed to a random Russian sex trafficker.

The times where I do love Deadpool is when he is a real fish out of water and playing against his typical situation. For instance, whenever he’s trying to court Death and drawing the ire of Thanos. Or in Venomverse when he’s one of a few dozen characters but he finds a way to be more than his one-dimensional self and stands out while adding something worthwhile to the story beyond just comedic relief. I just don’t want Wade Wilson to be to Marvel what Santino Marella was to the WWE for several years. But he’s basically Marvel’s Jerry Lewis. A lot of people liked Jerry Lewis but a lot of people also post Onion stories like their news… still.

Getting back to his humor, what is it mostly comprised of? Sex jokes and chimichangas.

A good sex joke can go a long way but when you’re writing a character that’s in comics for teens, there is only so far that you can go. And really, while this does work for a juvenile audience, the humor is still juvenile and who hasn’t heard these tired ass jokes for years already? Well, assuming you’re older than high school age.

Chimichangas are just delicious deep fried burritos. I guess it’s a funny sounding word but how many jokes can you make centered around chimichangas? Apparently, at this point, over twenty years worth strung over multiple creative mediums. You know that meme of the cartoon taco that says, “I don’t wanna taco ’bout it?” Now imagine someone holding that in your face for twenty-plus years.

Another aspect of Deadpool’s humor is pop culture references. He runs off at the mouth referencing movies, video games, bands and everything else like it’s the final battle in Ready Player One. He’s like Marvel’s equivalent to the Family Guy, which I guess a lot of people like but I don’t see the humor in just mentioning some past nerdy thing. Actually, doesn’t that make Deadpool The Big Bang Theory of the Marvel universe then?

When it comes to the comics themselves, looking beyond his humor style, the stories are typically a jumbled up clusterfuck. Everything beyond his dialogue is wacky for wacky’s sake. It’s like reading a Sunday paper comic strip that is stretched from a few panels to 30 pages worth of panels. And nothing in his stories ever seem to hold much bearing over the bigger picture. It’s like every story could just be his own delusional power fantasy where he’s the only one laughing at his jokes.

Additionally, what’s the fucking point of it all? Where is he going as a character? Is he even a character that has the elements that a character should have? What’s his life arc? It’s just a long running aimless joke. Thankfully, the films fleshed him out into something actually tangible with real human emotion but I think that Ryan Reynolds and the writers were smart enough to know that the film wouldn’t succeed as a two hour dick joke. People need to connect to something and Deadpool, in comic book form, doesn’t have anything to connect to. He probably doesn’t connect to you either unless you’re just a basic bitch that thinks Semi-Pro is a better film than The Shawshank Redemption.

Looking back to the beginning at what Deadpool was, as a character, he’s just Rob Liefeld’s attempt at parodying Deathstroke. He was also purposely given a look that is reminiscent of Spider-Man. Deadpool has never been anywhere near as interesting as either of those characters though. Seriously, read Deathstroke by Christopher Priest (the current run of the character) or go back and read Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. Deadpool has never had a story arc anywhere near the quality of Deathstroke. And I don’t even need to compare him to the incredible history of the Peter Parker version of Spider-Man.

Other things to nitpick about is that the character has a terrible origin story, the art in his books is usually mediocre, he’s an amalgamation of ’90s cliches that people have made fun of for years, all he cares about is amusing himself at anyone else’s expense, he’s a prick most of the time, he’s barely heroic, he fucks up constantly and we’re supposed to laugh about it because he’s a Mary Sue that can survive anything, he’s usually in the way when other heroes are present and he relies on his healing ability over honing his actual skills.

I used to love Deadpool. But again, I was twelve years-old. I never cared about his own solo books because I guess I never thought he had much to offer outside of quick appearances. But as time moved on, the gimmick ran tired and Deadpool became the Dane Cook of comic books.

Plus, when someone says that he’s their favorite superhero, chances are they didn’t know who the hell he was until three years ago… and they probably don’t read comic books either.

Comic Review: Dark Nights: Metal

Published: June 12th, 2018
Written by: Scott Snyder
Art by: Greg Capullo

DC Comics, 204 Pages

Review:

I didn’t read this as it came out. I also was much more frugal about how much I spent on comics at the time. I’m less frugal now, as I’m spending more time reviewing them. And to be honest, while this is $30 for the collected edition at my local comic shop, I found this on a brief Comixology sale for $5.99. So at that price, I figured I’d give it a go. If I ended up really liking it, I would’ve gone back to buy the single issues. But I didn’t really like it all that much. I’ll explain.

To start, I typically like Scott Snyder’s writing, especially in regards to anything with Batman in it. As far as Greg Capullo goes, he is one of my favorite artists of the last few decades. So seeing them reunite for this was definitely a selling point, even if what I knew about the project’s story didn’t peak my interest.

The biggest problem with Metal is the same problem with most mega events in comics, it is chock full of so many characters that the plot loses fluidity and the story seems to placate more to wedging in as many cameos as possible, as opposed to keeping the train on the rails.

This wasn’t a bad idea for a story but it should have been kept fairly simple. People just kept showing up on nearly every page, though, and it becomes distracting. New twists and turns are thrown in as often as characters and this just loses its focus. It also introduces a whole horde of villains, most of whom will just be one-offs in this story anyway. But this reads more like a sketchbook than a coherent story. What I mean by that, is that this feels like Capullo trying to fit in every cool design that he wasn’t able to wedge into Spawn throughout his run on the book in the ’90s.

Another thing I didn’t like was how wordy this was. While there are good action scenes, sometimes these characters felt like they weren’t surrounded by villains but instead, were surrounded by word balloons, trying to wedge their way into the panels and asphyxiate the characters. The word balloons were the real villains of the story. At least, that should be a twist whenever this gets a sequel.

I did like how the ending looked into the future as a way to tell you what stories would be coming out from DC Comics over the following year. But, at the same time, this was disappointing to some degree, as a main reason why I picked this up was to see the introduction of DC’s “New Age of Heroes”. I always see mentions that this is where they debuted but their appearance here is limited to one panel where we see into the future.

Anyway, this at least kept my attention over the six issues, even if they felt like twelve due to the dialogue and having so much detail to drink in. I wouldn’t say that this is a waste of time and I can see where this will be a lot of people’s cup of tea. It just wasn’t my cup of tea, really. But I also don’t regret reading it simply because I liked seeing Capullo have fun and get really creative with the art and character design.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Any other DC Comics mega event of the last decade or so.

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.

Comic Review: Deathstroke, Vol. 4: Defiance

Published: April 24th, 2018
Written by: Christopher Priest
Art by: Diogenes Neves, Carlos Pagulayan, Jason Paz, Larry Hama

DC Comics, 132 Pages

Review:

This is the biggest storyline so far in the current Deathstroke series. It sees Deathstroke try to further atone for his past sins while becoming the leader of a new group he has formed with his children and a few former Teen Titans.

Also, Deathstroke and his team wear some pretty cool looking black and white costumes.

This has been the biggest and most popular story in the most recent and ongoing Deathstroke series. So once I got to this volume, I was really excited to jump in, especially with all the plot threads leading up to it being fresh in my mind. There are several characters that this series is trying to balance but it has done a good job, so far, of keeping things moving and flowing properly.

And sure, Deathstroke is often times overshadowed by other characters in his own series but it all ties directly to him and his journey since the current series started.

The biggest problem with this chapter, however, is that it doesn’t wrap up within this volume. The Defiance team’s story carries over into what will be the next installment, which isn’t released for a few more months. I’d like to jump into it while this is all fresh but I guess I’ll have to pickup a few of the single issues I’m missing to fill the few holes in my collection.

What I like about this though, is that it feels like a throwback to Cable coming into New Mutants and eventually forming X-Force. There are some parallels to it and it makes this feel like something I would have read in the early ’90s when I was first getting into comics at a deeper level.

This is capped off by a story that sort of interjects itself into the Defiance plot and forces the series to switch gears momentarily. But that story was really cool and pits Slade Wilson against several of DC’s top villains who are trying to test if he has turned over a new leaf or if he is still “evil” at his core.

This was a good collection but it leaves you hanging.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The other Deathstroke stories since DC’s Rebirth. Also, the current runs on Nightwing and Red Hood and the Outlaws.

Comic Review: The New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract

Published: January 31st, 1984 – June 30th, 1984
Written by: George Perez, Marv Wolfman
Art by: George Perez, Romeo Tanghal

DC Comics, 192 Pages

Review:

This is one of the biggest stories in Teen Titans history. Many say that this is the biggest and best tale. I haven’t read this since around 1990 or so but I loved it back then. But does it measure up for me now, decades later, and no longer having an elementary school level brain?

Yes!

In fact, I enjoyed this now much more than I did as a kid where some of the emotional weight of the plot didn’t have as much context. I also don’t think that I was mature enough to really understand this very human tragedy and the significance of the characters’ relationships and trials.

The only down side of this collected edition was the inclusion of the Brother Blood story. I know that it is tied in to the bigger picture and is also sandwiched by Robin and Kid Flash leaving the Titans and then the actual four-part Judas Contract storyline but it just feels like filler wedged in. But it isn’t a complete waste of time as it helps to develop Terra and also adds more depth to Dick Grayson’s transformation from Robin into Nightwing.

And yes, this story is the first appearance of Nightwing, which makes it even cooler, as Nightwing is one of my all-time favorite characters, even if his earliest outfit was a bit goofy.

The biggest theme in this story is betrayal and it manifests nicely, which is due to the skill of writers George Perez and Marv Wolfman. In a lot of ways, it feels like this story was a major influence on Marvel’s New Mutants stories several years later, especially when the team started to grow into adults and started to question their place in the world.

The absolute highlight for me is Deathstroke. Here, he was still mostly referred to as the Terminator. The name sort of got phased out after the success of the unrelated Terminator film series that kicked off just after this story arc.

Deathstroke was still a complete and total villain when this tale was written. It introduces members of his family though and if you are reading the current Deathstroke comic series, a lot of these characters are relevant again and this story arc is good for adding more context to Deathstroke’s current run.

This may be a comic book about a bunch of teens but it is more adult than most of the adult heroes’ books from the same era. Honestly, I forgot about how hard of an edge the old school Teen Titans stories had.

If you are a fan of any of the characters in this book, this is definitely a must read.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: The most current run of Deathstroke, as they share a lot of the same characters and plot threads related to Deathstroke’s personal life and family.