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.

Comic Review: Batman: Knightfall, Book I

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

DC Comics, 634 Pages

Review:

I’ve put off reading the Batman: Knightfall saga for so long because of two reasons. It’s spread out over three massive books and each of those books is pretty pricey. However, Comixology now has the first book available for free to Unlimited subscribers and they just had a big sale on the other two books. So I was able to get this whole thing for about $8.

So now that I have this series in my possession, I can start reading all 2000-plus pages of it. Yes, it’s a real monster – big enough to rival the mass of Bane on the cover.

Over the years, I’ve acquired a few of the issues within this massive saga but it started to come out as I was going into high school and I moved to a much smaller town where I couldn’t buy comics. So I never really got to read it, even though I’ve come to know the story fairly well.

The story, mostly penned by Doug Moench and Chuck Dixon, is quite good. There are a lot of layers to this massive story, as there should be due to how much material it has between its covers. However, some things do feel a bit rushed, as there isn’t much build worked in to the major plot developments.

For instance, Batman is broken pretty quickly in this saga. And then Azrael is given the mantle of Batman and immediately, he acts like a psycho in how he fights crime. He’s a dick to Robin, he almost lets a kid die to pursue the baddie and he retrofits the Bat-suit with claws and spiky, metal shit. I think it would have enriched the story to show Azrael slowly slip into this aggressive new Batman.

Still, that doesn’t hinder the book very much, as there are so many other characters and situations to track through this volume’s 634 pages.

I was surprised to see Azrael actually defeat Bane in this book, as it is only the first third of the saga. So I don’t really know what that means going forward and I was pretty sure that Bane’s fall would be at the end of this huge saga.

This is absolutely quintessential ’90s Batman though. And that’s really what’s so great about it. Bane is the perfect villain for this era and Azrael is a very ’90s twist on heroism. I even enjoy Azrael’s cringeworthy Bat-suit because despite its awfulness and nonsensical design, it fits the era.

Additionally, the art in every issue collected in this giant piece of work is damn good. I’ve always been a big Graham Nolan fan and his work here is some of his most memorable.

I’m glad that I finally read this. It exceeded any expectations I had for it, even if I thought the narrative was choppy in parts. But I also attribute some of that to this story being a big crossover with multiple writers.

If you haven’t read Knightfall, you probably should.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other books in the Knightfall saga, as well as pretty much any Batman story from the ’90s.

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: 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.

Film Review: Batman Ninja (2018)

Release Date: March 24th, 2018 (Anaheim premiere)
Directed by: Junpei Mizusaki
Written by: Kazuki Nakashima
Based on: Batman by Bob Kane, Bill Finger
Music by: Yugo Kanno
Cast: Tony Hale (English dub), Tara Strong (English dub), Kōichi Yamadera, Wataru Takagi, Ai Kakuma, Rie Kugimiya, Hōchū Ōtsuka

DC Entertainment, Kamikaze Douga, Yamatoworks, Barnum Studio, Warner Bros., 85 Minutes

Review:

“This is madness.” – Batman

Yes… yes it is, Batman.

The only reason I checked this out is that it’s on the DC Universe app, which I now have and am trying out. Other than that, I didn’t have much interest in this.

However, some of the character designs looked cool and I thought that this might just be bonkers enough to be enjoyable. The problem is that I only made it about twenty minutes into the film before I regretted hitting the play button.

Cool and interesting character designs don’t mean much outside of a sketchbook of conceptual art. You have to apply these cool looking characters in an engaging and dynamic way and this anime fails to do just that.

This movie is a clusterfuck of biblical proportions and I’m pretty sure that the creators behind this had no idea what the hell they wanted to do apart from throwing a bunch of cool looking shit on screen just for the sake of throwing a bunch of cool looking shit on screen.

The story is all over the place, makes little sense, I can’t tell what the hell is happening through most of the film and there’s a big mecha battle because this is Japanese and it can’t exist without a big mecha battle.

This is a bunch of cool, unrelated shit thrown into a blender without little care as to whether or not it would blend well and be enjoyable, let alone remotely palatable. I had an uncle that had throat cancer and for awhile, he had to blend up every meal. His face while drinking his meals was similar to mine while trying to drink in this movie.

Batman Ninja is abhorrent and it should not have been made. It’s existence reminds me of the most famous of all of Dr. Ian Malcolm’s quotes: “Your scientists creators were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: terrible to subpar anime.

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.