Comic Review: Green Arrow by Kevin Smith

Published: July 26th, 2016
Written by: Kevin Smith
Art by: Phil Hester, Ande Parks

DC Comics, 367 Pages

Review:

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this as much as I remembered liking it back when it was new. However, it was pretty good and I found it to be much better than my opinion of Kevin Smith’s Daredevil run, which people seem to hold in higher regard.

This story starts with Green Arrow being alive after he had died years earlier. The thing is, he doesn’t know he died and in his mind, no time has passed and the world he finds himself in is now strange and foreign. In fact, at first, he is a bit crazy and looks like a barbaric hobo playing Robin Hood.

As the story progresses, we learn that he’s being cared for by a nice old guy. We also learn about what happened to Oliver Queen and the DC universe in his absence. If you hadn’t read the Green Arrow stories where his son took over for awhile, this does a good job of filling in that void. We also see Oliver discover the truth about himself and his best friend Hal Jordan, a Green Lantern who ended up falling to the darkside pretty hard.

Towards the end of this lengthy collection of issues, we learn the sinister secrets of the nice old man who has taken Oliver in and we also get to see a young girl step up to the plate in an effort to become Green Arrow’s new sidekick, a female version of Speedy.

I wasn’t a massive fan of the art in this run, though. It’s not bad but I don’t feel like it was up to the quality of what was common at the time. Coming out of the ’90s, mainstream comic book art was evolving pretty quickly but this looks more like an early-to-mid ’90s book. I feel like they really could’ve paired Kevin Smith up with one of the top artists and turned this into a massive hit.

The art doesn’t wreck the story but I think this would’ve had more oomph had it looked more realistic and less cartoony.

In the end, I feel like this was a much better effort by Smith than his Daredevil run and maybe that’s because he learned from his missteps on that one or he simply had more mileage by the time he picked up his pen for DC.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the ongoing Green Arrow stories that followed Smith’s run, as well as his work on Daredevil for Marvel.

Comic Review: Nightwing, Vol. 2: Rough Justice

Published: June 16th, 2015
Written by: Chuck Dixon
Art by: Scott McDaniel

DC Comics, 292 Pages

Review:

This volume in Chuck Dixon’s lengthy Nightwing run kicks off right where the previous one left off and builds off of those stories.

We also get to see appearances from more well-known villains in this chapter but a lot of them are just glorified cameos. However, the stories involving Scarecrow and Man Bat were really damn enjoyable.

Beyond that, I like how this also features other villains that are developed more for Nightwing and the city he protects, Blüdhaven.

We get more of Blockbuster, who essentially serves as Blüdhaven’s Wilson Fisk-type crime lord. We also get more of female villain Lady Vic, as well as some others thrown into the mix.

I also didn’t mind the romantic subplot that Dixon developed for this story between Nightwing and his new building’s female superintendent. Add in his sometimes romantic partner Barbara Gordon and you don’t really know how things will play out.

Ultimately, this is a story about Nightwing breaking out on his own and trying to be his own version of a street level vigilante. This is the culmination of the lessons he’s learned from Batman and it shows how he’s applying all of that to making his own life in a different city that also deserves a hero.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other ’90s Nightwing and Batman comics.

Comic Review: Nightwing, Vol. 1: Blüdhaven

Published: December 9th, 2014
Written by: Dennis O’Neil, Chuck Dixon
Art by: Greg Land, Scott McDaniel

DC Comics, 286 Pages

Review:

As big of a fan of Nightwing, as I am, I had never read his earliest solo comics. I wanted to right that injustice and I probably should’ve done it a long time ago, as the stories, here, are written by two greats: Dennis O’Neil and Chuck Dixon.

This collection of issues starts with the original Nightwing miniseries. In that story, we see our hero travel to a foreign land to topple a sadistic dictator that may have had a hand in his parents’ deaths. This story was damn good and I liked how gritty and hard it was. Dennis O’Neil kind of gave the series a similar tone to the ’90s Deathstroke comics, which I’m a huge fan of.

Beyond that, we get the first few story arcs in the regular Nightwing series. In this stretch of issues, we get the work of Chuck Dixon, who was coming off of writing some of the best Batman stories of the era. And with that, he knew a lot about the Dick Grayson character and Batman, which he utilized really well in establishing Nightwing’s motivations and while exploring his relationship with his mentor as well as Tim Drake, his mentor’s new sidekick a.k.a. the third Robin.

In the Dixon stories, we learn about Black Mask and Blockbuster’s criminal dealings in Nightwing’s new home, Blüdhaven. We also get a major fight between Nightwing and Blockbuster, which serves to really setup this series going forward.

This isn’t just a collection of solid stories, it also boasts some incredible art. This book looks very ’90s but it looks like the best of the ’90s and isn’t overloaded with over-the-top cheese like some of the comics from the first half of the decade.

This was just a hell of a fun and cool comic. It definitely has me hyped to read the volumes that follow.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’90s Nightwing and Batman comics.

Comic Review: Deathstroke: The Terminator, Vol. 2: Sympathy For the Devil

Published: December 29th, 2015
Written by: Marv Wolfman, Dan Jurgens
Art by: Steve Erwin, Dan Jurgens, George Perez

DC Comics, 190 Pages

Review:

I loved the first volume of this series but crazily enough, I found this one to be even a wee bit better, as the story of Deathstroke takes shape and becomes more fleshed out, allowing him to evolve beyond just a simple anti-hero that looks cool and shows up once in awhile in other characters’ books.

This also spends some time on developing Pat Trayce, another version of the Vigilante character. While I wasn’t totally sold on her, I really grew to like her in this volume and I hope her run as a character and a major part of this series isn’t short-lived. I know that she’s pretty much been nonexistent since this series in the early ’90s but I don’t know her fate and don’t want it spoiled. I just hope she isn’t killed off before she really comes into her own.

This volume collects a few stories but the one I liked most had to deal with Deathstroke accidentally hurting Lois Lane’s sister, which brought out Superman and opened up the story to show us the personal relationship that Deathstroke had with Lois’ father, an ally during his time at war.

We also see Deathstroke face off against some of the Justice League while Nightwing also gets involved towards the end of this volume.

This volume really solidified Wintergreen as one of my favorite minor DC characters. He’s essentially Deathstroke’s Alfred and while I’ve always seen him that way, this collection of issues really made me appreciate him and the two men’s relationship a lot more than I already did.

All in all, this was superb. Now on to volume three!

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other volumes in the original Deathstroke: The Terminator series from 1991 to 1996.

Comic Review: Infinite Crisis

Published: 2005-2006
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Phil Jimenez

DC Comics, 241 Pages

Review:

I hated Crisis On Infinite Earths but I had hoped that this more modern version of it would’ve been more to my liking. I guess it is better but not by much because it falls victim to the same bullshit.

It’s overloaded with characters to the point that it’s difficult to follow and it just becomes a mega clusterfuck, trying to be larger than life while wedging a fuck ton of characters into double splash pages.

DC likes doing these big events that try to “reset” the multiverse and all they do is become overly complicated messes that ignore their own established rules because new writers don’t have time to read the old stuff or pay attention to it. In Geoff Johns’ defense, the event this is a spiritual sequel to was a convoluted shitstorm, so I don’t blame him for paying it no real mind.

If I’m going to try and look at the positives, there is really only one: the art by Phil Jimenez. It’s spectacular and it is lively and even if I don’t enjoy the story, it’s hard not to get caught up in the absolute beauty of Jimenez’s work. It’s stunning and even on those overcrowded splash pages, he fills the space magnificently and dynamically.

Apart from that, there’s not much to say. This isn’t as messy as its predecessor but it is still an over-sized shit meatball.

Rating: 5/10 – because of the art more than anything else.
Pairs well with: other massive DC Comics events that are overloaded with characters.

Comic Review: Crisis On Infinite Earths

Published: 1985-1986
Written by: Marv Wolfman
Art by: George Perez

DC Comics, 359 Pages

Review:

Crisis On Infinite Earths is one of DC Comics’ sacred cows. Yet, I’ve never had much urge to read it because my experience reading massive DC Comics crossovers has never been that great.

But now I have read it because I felt like it was long overdue and because this is a storyline that is referenced a lot, still to this day, thirty-five years later.

The first problem with this story might be apparent by the number of tags at the top of this post. It’s overloaded with so many characters that it is mostly a convoluted clusterfuck of biblical proportions.

In fact, this post may be the record holder for the number of tags I had to add to it. And frankly, that’s not all the characters, just the ones I know because two-thirds of the characters here are generic one-offs or so minute to the DC universe that they aren’t worth noting.

Now I know that some people love the splash pages from this series, as they showcase dozens (if not over a hundred) different characters all in one giant image. If I’m being honest, I’ve always disliked them and they are why I never really wanted to read this. Most of the action is minimal and many of these scenes are just characters standing around. They lack the energy that a splash page needs and look more like they belong in a Where’s Waldo? book. And I don’t say that to come off as a dick because I almost always love George Perez’s art. This just seems like DC management telling Perez to squeeze in as many characters as artistically possible. It’s hard on the eyes and it’s shit.

Another big problem with this twelve issue story arc is that every moment feels larger than life. Well, when everything is so big and grandiose, that becomes normal and status quo. You can’t possibly go bigger and with everything being so big from start to finish, none of it is memorable. It’s just a busy, stressful read without allowing the reader to catch their breath and reflect on what’s happened. It’s kind of like a Michael Bay movie. Throw so much intense shit at the audience, don’t let them stop and think and they’ll just move from point A to point B to point C and so on, forgetting everything that happened two points prior.

This event was made in an effort to sort of reset the DC universe. Honestly, all it does is make a giant fucking mess of things and splatters the mess all over everything it touches.

The plot doesn’t make sense, I’m not sure what exactly changed and with so many universes crashing together into one, it’s not properly organized and then re-established in any sort of way that a reader can follow. If this was supposed to be a jumping on point for readers in 1986, I don’t know how they made sense out of any of it and then knew which characters to follow.

The main reason for the previous sentence is that this is so overloaded with people that you don’t get to really know any of them. There is no character development and this is written in a way that it assumes the reader knows all about every character in the story. For a seasoned comic book reader like myself, who has been reading comics for three and a half decades, I was lost and didn’t know who half of the low tier characters were.

Crisis On Infinite Earths should have been written as a Justice League story with some inclusion of the Fawcett Comics characters and the Golden Age DC heroes. All the third tier and lower characters could have made cameos but even then, they don’t really need to.

I really hoped that this was going to pleasantly surprise me but it hurt my head.

It was too much, too big and too long.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: mid-’80s DC Comics titles, as well as all the other massive DC crossover events.

Comic Review: Doomsday Clock

Published: November 22nd, 2017 – December 18th, 2019
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Gary Frank, Brad Anderson
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 456 Pages

Review:

Well, Doomsday Clock has finally ended! This twelve issue series wasn’t supposed to stretch out for over two years but it did. I’m glad that I didn’t start reading it until it was over, as I would’ve forgotten all the details due to the delays and the dozens of other comics I would’ve read between each issue.

Now that it’s all out, I finally read it: binging through it in two days.

I guess my first thoughts on it are that it is underwhelming and that it doesn’t justify its need to exist.

I had always been against new Watchmen stories without the involvement of Alan Moore. My mind changed, however, when I read some of the Before Watchmen stories from a couple years ago.

They made me see Watchmen the same way I see other comic book properties and that’s as a sort of modern mythology that is told and retold by countless others, each bringing something new and unique to the table. Superman and Batman have had countless writers and many of them have evolved and grown the character in great ways beyond their original concept. Granted, some writers have gravely failed too.

Generally, I like Geoff Johns’ work, so I wan’t against the idea of him tackling the Watchmen property.

Ultimately, though, this took too long to come out, especially with how sloppily put together it feels.

This is one of those stories where it feels like a lot happened but also like nothing happened.

It tries to merge the Watchmen universe with the DC universe but it doesn’t work. But I’m also over the crossover trope of using inter-dimensional portals or a superbeing that basically acts as a super-dimensional portal. That being said, I don’t know how else to bring these universes together but that also makes me ask why they had to try it in the first place?

Watchmen is very much its own thing, as is DC. Hell, Marvel is also its own thing in that same regard and whenever they tried to crossover Marvel and DC, which happened multiple times, it always felt forced, clunky and weird.

The only real highlight of this was seeing how certain characters from different universes would interact with one another but honestly, none of it was as cool as I felt it should have been and it all felt pretty pointless and made me realize how bad the Rebirth era of DC Comics has been – well, for the most part, as I liked some titles in the last few years.

In the end, this doesn’t feel any different than one of any of the dozen indie publisher crossovers that pit Green Lanterns against Ghostbusters, Ninja Turtles, Transformers, Star Trek crews or the apes from Planet of the Apes. While those crazy crossovers are neat to a point, they’ve been done to death in recent years. And despite this being better written and having better art than the other franchise mashups, it feels like DC Comics were really late to the party and didn’t even realize that it was over.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Watchmen and the Before Watchmen stuff, as well as just about everything under the DC Rebirth banner.

Comic Review: Titans: The Lazarus Contract

Published: November 14th, 2017
Written by: Christopher Priest, Benjamin Percy, Dan Abnett
Art by: Brett Booth, Larry Hama, Phil Hester, Carlo Pagulayan, Paul Pelletier, Khoi Pham, Norm Rapmund

DC Comics, 132 Pages

Review:

I’ve read the entirety of Christopher Priest’s fifty-issue run on Deathstroke, which just finished, actually. So I did read his two issues that were part of this larger crossover arc but I missed the Titans and Teen Titans parts, as I wasn’t pulling those titles at my local comic shop. So this is the first time I’ve read this story in its entirety, which I should’ve done earlier as it would’ve added more context to the Deathstroke series, as a whole.

This is sort of a spiritual sequel to the famous The Judas Contract storyline from the Teen Titans comics in the ’80s while also connecting to the events of Deathstroke’s first appearance in The New Teen Titans issue 2 from 1980.

Here, Deathstroke wants to go back in time to save his son Ravager a.k.a. Grant Wilson. He blames the Titans for the death due to their involvement in the event, even though they’re not really responsible. So after learning about the Speed Force and its ability to send speedsters through time, he harvests that power from Kid Flash after winning over his trust.

That being said, we get a speedster Deathstroke, which is just really f’n cool!

Anyway, the story starts off with a bang and it brings in both the Teen Titans and adult Titans teams to deal with the threat. While it focuses mainly on a close knit group of main characters, all the others do get involved but mostly stay in the background, only adding their two cents when its needed to advance the plot or give a larger perspective.

However, even though the management of characters is well handled initially, this does become more of a convoluted mess as it gets towards the end. It just feels like there is too much going on and despite this having a lot of characters, it starts out feeling like a smaller, personal story.

Overall, this is still pretty good and all three writers (Christopher Priest, Dan Abnett and Benjamin Percy) did a good job working together.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the old Teen Titans story The Judas Contract, as well as Deathstroke/Teen Titans: The Terminus Agenda.

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: 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.