Comic Review: Wonder Woman/Justice League Dark: The Witching Hour

Published: October 3rd, 2018 – October 31st, 2018
Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: various

DC Comics, 145 Pages

Review:

This picks up right after the recent Justice League Dark arc The Last Days of Magic.

This was a big crossover event that was stretched over five issues: Wonder Woman/Justice League Dark – The Witching Hour #1, Wonder Woman #56, Justice League Dark #4, Wonder Woman #57 and Justice League Dark/Wonder Woman – The Witching Hour #1. The way it was organized was a clusterfuck but it was worth hunting down all five issues, all of which came out over the course of October.

In a way, this felt like Wonder Woman starring in her version of the X-Men‘s famous Dark Phoenix story arc.

The reason I say that, is that Wonder Woman has essentially been possessed by this powerful force that takes control of her body and makes her evil and incredibly powerful. However, this doesn’t quite commit to the bit like Dark Phoenix did, as she doesn’t really cause that much damage overall and she also sort of wills herself good again with the help of her friends and allies.

The force in this is Hecate, an ancient witch that actually came into contact with Wonder Woman when she was still a child. So, essentially, this Hecate thing has been in her this whole time. This seems incredibly ambitious and somewhat suspect but I have really enjoyed James Tynion’s writing, so I went with it. Plus, DC’s continuity is incredibly confusing at this point.

The biggest highlight of the previous Justice League Dark story was the cast of characters coming together to fight magical evil. While those characters are here and even more are added, this put more emphasis on Wonder Woman’s journey and lacked the great camaraderie I enjoyed before this. I hope that comes back in the next story arc. The Detective Chimp and Man Bat stuff was great in The Last Days of Magic.

In the end, this wasn’t as iconic as the Dark Phoenix tale but it didn’t need to be. However, the build up made this feel like it was going to be a darker, bigger event than it turned out to be. It really didn’t have any effect on anything in the larger DC Comics universe.

This could have been a good mega event, as it had a much better premise than the current one: Heroes In Crisis.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the current Justice League Dark series.

Comic Review: Justice League Dark: The Last Days of Magic

Published: July 25th, 2018 – September 26th, 2018
Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez, Brad Anderson

DC Comics, 79 Pages

Review:

Man, this series is a lot of fun and this short, three issue arc was a great kicoff to this new version of the Justice League Dark team.

This squad consists of new leader Wonder Woman, as well as John Constantine, Zatanna, Swamp Thing, Man Bat and Detective Chimp. Doctor Fate is also involved but there is a twist to his involvement. By the end of this arc, I’m not sure if he’s going to be a member of this team or not.

These first three issues of Justice League Dark serve to set up a crossover event called The Witching Hour, which just started. It’s a crossover between the regular Wonder Woman comic and Justice League Dark and sees Princess Diana gain some pretty powerful magical abilities that she’s never had before.

I love how dark and how fun this series is. I bought it because I liked the team and every member in it. Granted, I think Man Bat comes off as dumber than he should be, I mean, he’s a brilliant f’n scientist. But I love all these characters and it seems like a really cool and fresh angle for Wonder Woman. I like seeing her tap into the magical parts of her existence. I also like the stuff that was added to her backstory here.

I really dig the new villain that comes out in the third and final issue of the story. He’s creepy as hell but just freaky and badass enough to make things really interesting. Plus, his power level, as far as one can tell from this story, is pretty damn incredible. But this also leads to Wonder Woman evolving into something beyond her own power level. Is this leading to a Dark Phoenix sort of saga for Wonder Woman? It very well could but I don’t want to ruin this for those who want to read it.

James Tynion IV has written a damn fine and damn fun comic book story. I hope that this maintains its great momentum going forward, as it’s one of my favorite comic books being put out by DC, right now.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: The Witching Hour crossover that follows and the original Justice League Dark series.

Video Game Review: Batman: Arkham Knight (PlayStation 4)

*I played the PlayStation 4 version. The game is also available on Xbox One and Windows.

Playing this was long overdue.

This is one of my favorite video game series of the last ten years and it is the best video game series to star a comic book hero. Also, it stars the coolest hero.

Out of all the Arkham games this is probably the best one overall. I think I liked Arkham City a bit more but this one had so much content and new elements added to it that it really takes the cake from a narrative and technical standpoint.

I guess the biggest addition to this chapter in the series is that it is the first game where you can drive the Batmobile. And you don’t just get to drive it, you get to do battle with it. There are a lot of parts in the game where you have to go into vehicular combat and there are different styles, as well. There are side missions that play out like straight up car chases and then there are other missions where you go into “battle mode” and you are essentially a tank in a firefight with other tanks and aerial drones. It’s actually pretty incredible stuff and this element never got old.

The only Batmobile stuff I didn’t like was the racetrack sequences, which are worked into the Riddler side missions. I don’t play Batman games to race cars, I play them to save Gotham City from scum and villainy. They also work the Batmobile into the equation where you have to solve some of the Riddler’s puzzles. I love the Riddler, I just liked his side missions the least because of these bits.

I liked the new Arkham Knight character, even though it became fairly obvious who he was and that he wasn’t actually a new character but just a new twist on a known character. I also like that changes to his character were instrumental in Deathstroke coming into the game. But sadly, you don’t get to exchange fisticuffs with him. But that leads me to one other minor problem with the game.

There are no real boss battles. Well, there are big boss battle feeling moments like when you take on the Arkham Knight’s tank or when you reach the big crescendo in the Mr. Freeze side missions but you never actually fight any of the major villains with your fists except for Killer Croc.

Still, I do like how the big battles go down in the game. I just wish that I got to have more intimate physical encounters.

And man, there are a ton of villains. And even though the Joker is dead, he is very much a big presence in the game but I don’t want to reveal how, as that will spoil the story. But Mark Hamill, as the Joker, probably has as much dialogue in the game as Batman.

I liked that Scarecrow was the biggest villain in the game, as he’s a character that gets shafted in favor of the better known villains in Batman lore. Plus, the version of Scarecrow used in this game series is my favorite version of the character to date.

Ultimately, this is the best game in the series overall and thus, I’d say it is the best superhero video game that I have ever played. It brings the story full circle and is a nice conclusion to Rocksteady’s Batman franchise.

But really, I hope that this isn’t the actual end. I’d love to see a Nightwing, Red Hood or Batgirl game spun off from this series.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: The three previous Batman: Arkham games.

Comic Review: Batman Arkham – Man-Bat

Published: January 31st, 2017
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 296 Pages

Review:

Having read several of these Batman Arkham collections, I have been inspired to read and collect them all. I love historical anthologies that feature stories about a single character, spanning decades from creation to the most modern incarnation. Like all the other books in this series, this one featuring Man-Bat starts off with a bang. But then things went off the rails for me.

It has been a really long time since I’ve read them, but the earliest appearances of Man-Bat were incredible and those issues of Detective Comics where he first appears are some of the best Batman stories of the early ’70s.

Following that stuff, this book features the first two issues of the ’70s Man-Bat comic, which I have never read. Yes, Man-Bat had his own starring title, albeit short-lived.

We then get into the ’80s where we see a more modernized version of the character’s origin. But as is the problem with some of these collections, we see more variant origin stories than we do just cool tales featuring the character outside of rehashing their beginnings.

As we get into the ’90s stuff, we are treated to the good writing of Chuck Dixon, whose IDW G.I. Joe stuff I loved in the late ’00s and early ’10s. While his tales are engaging the blatantly ’90s art style is incredibly hard to look at and really ruins those stories. They are a visual mess and unpleasant to look at. The pencils and ink are done to the extreme with thick lines and too much detail. It’s like Man-Bat needs a billion creases all over his body and to be covered in nonsensical shadows that defy any real lighting source. And everything just looks overly grotesque to the comic’s supreme detriment.

When we get into the stories from this millennium, we are treated to another rehash of Man-Bat’s origin.

For the most part, I liked this collection because the high points are damn good. As the book rolls on, however, you’re taken on strange, ugly rides. Maybe there just isn’t enough Man-Bat material to make a collection work.

The first third of this collection is great. It’s just a lot less engaging by the time you reach the late ’80s stuff and onward. The final story, which was made very recently, was a step up from the ’90s stuff but it didn’t serve much of a purpose.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Batman Arkham collections.

Comic Review: Batman: The War of Jokes and Riddles

Published: December 19th, 2017
Written by: Tom King
Art by: Mikel Janin

DC Comics, 200 Pages

Review:

I haven’t been too keen on modern comics from the big publishers: Marvel and DC. I’m not wholly opposed to reading them, as there are a few titles I still like. However, modern writers seem to be trying to reinvent and alter things too much. Then there is the whole SJW movement in comics that are forcing change in a bizarre and unnecessary way, as oppose to creating new characters that can stand on their own.

The Batman Rebirth stuff doesn’t seem to be full of SJW meddling but it does make some drastic moves and alters the narrative in ways that don’t feel organic.

My biggest issue with this story, is that the Riddler, one of the main characters, is pretty much a murderous, blood thirsty psycho that carves question marks into his flesh and plays more of a mob boss with a penchant for green suits than the classic villain we all know and love. Also, he has sideburns, looks attractive and wears his dress shirts wide open like some sort of douchebag.

The Joker seems pretty much normal, even if he is drier and more bland than what one is used to. But his story starts with him not finding anything funny anymore. Sort of like the kid that takes his ball and goes home because the bigger kid keeps tackling him to the ground. The Joker has no energy here but I guess that’s the point of the story and how it plays out. Still, in no situation whatsoever, can my mind even imagine this sort of version of the character.

Then there is the relationship between Batman and Catwoman, which sees Batman turning a blind eye to Catwoman’s crimes as long as she grinds on his junk once in a while. Besides, she’s not a “sick” criminal. Regardless, Batman’s code seems to be thrown out the window as long as he gets to play “hide the churro” every few dozen pages or so.

And speaking of Batman’s code, he tries to kill the Riddler in cold blood, unprovoked in the moment, with a machete to the face. No, seriously. This is something that happens in this tale.

The problem with this story arc is maybe the same problem I have with modern comics. The writers and the creators either don’t have respect for the source material and want to put their own spin on things or they just don’t understand or know the source material. I’ve been reading Batman comics for over thirty years and this is the most un-Batman story I have ever come across.

The writer doesn’t understand these characters, tries to throw way too many into the story and then doesn’t even weave a good or engaging enough plot to give this any sort of point. The entire plot revolves around the Joker feeling gloom. The big reveal at the end shows that this was all an elaborate ploy by the Riddler to solve the biggest riddle of all: why won’t the Joker laugh.

I’ll tell you why the Joker won’t laugh. It’s because he’s lived for nearly eight decades and never has he been in a story as dull and as dumb as this one.

I really wanted to like this because it has been a long time since I’ve cared about Batman. Yes, I still read older stuff on a regular basis but the series has just been lost to me ever since the end of the Grant Morrison era.

On the positive side of things, the art is pretty damn good. I don’t like some of the new character designs but the book still looks nice.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Probably other Batman stuff in the Rebirth line but I doubt I’ll read anything else from this era.