Comic Review: Batman Arkham – Penguin

Published: September 4th, 2018
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 241 Pages

Review:

As I’ve stated just about every time that I’ve reviewed one of these Batman Arkham “best of” collections, I love these damn things. Each one focuses on a specific villain from Batman lore and, for the most part, collect the best stories from all eras of Batman comic book history.

Now while I did enjoy most of this volume, I can’t honestly say that these are the Penguin’s greatest hits. Some of the stories here were kind of drab and just from memory I came up with about a half dozen that were better than the ones collected here.

However, I think part of the problem is that they want to cover all the eras and most of the great Penguin stories I’m thinking of are from the ’70s and ’80s.

This still does a good job at showcasing the character and giving fans a peak into how he’s evolved over the years as times change and new writers have come and gone, most of them leaving their imprint on the character.

In the end, this is worth adding to your collection if you’ve also been buying every volume. However, I wish that DC would come up with a better and beefier collection to honor the longevity and greatness of this 79 year-old character.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Other Batman Arkham collections.

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: Detective Comics, Vol. 4: Deus Ex Machina

Published: December 26th, 2017
Written by: James Tynion IV, Christopher Sebela
Art by: Carmen Carnero, Raul Fernandez, Alvaro Martinez

DC Comics, 121 Pages

Review:

I mostly enjoy James Tynion’s writing. He does a pretty good job with this series, even if it isn’t wholly my cup of tea because I’m not a fan of large Bat-Family groups. I like Batman working solo or with one or two other close allies.

But I still like Tynion’s run on Detective Comics enough to keep reading it, so there’s that.

I think I am mostly drawn in to the Clayface stuff because I actually like seeing him trying to redeem himself and work on the right side of the law.

While Clayface isn’t the focal point here, though, we do get to dive deeper into Azrael’s world. Now he’s a character I have a love/hate relationship with. But in this series, so far, I mostly like him and this chapter wasn’t any different.

This also puts some focus on Zatanna, who I was happy to see pop up, even for one volume. More importantly, this gives us some good backstory to her and Batman’s relationship, going back to their teen years when Bruce was trying to train under her father.

Overall, this was a quick, energetic read that added some new things to the plot and also served to strengthen the bond between this team of characters.

Most importantly, this brought Stephanie Brown a.k.a. the Spoiler back while also dropping hints that Tim Drake a.k.a. Red Robin was possibly still alive.

In the end, I like where this volume went and it ended in a way that makes me want to see what happens next.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other collections of James Tynion IV’s run on Detective Comics.

Comic Review: Aquaman: A Celebration of 75 Years

Published: October 25th, 2016
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 394 Pages

Review:

I love when DC Comics puts out massive compilations like this that celebrate big moments from the entire history of a character. Being that I never really read a lot of really old Aquaman stuff made this a big treat.

This goes all the way back to the earliest stories and gives us a good selection of tales from just about every era and decade since.

There are modern stories here but this focuses mostly on the old stuff. Especially first appearances (or very early appearances) of key characters from the Aquaman mythos. We see the debuts of the original Aquagirl, Aqualad, Ocean Master, Mera and some very early encounters with Oceanus and Black Manta.

We also get a lot of cameos from Aquaman’s Justice League allies from different eras. This has lots of cameos but all the stories are very Aquaman-centric, as opposed to wedging in Justice League stories where Arthur Curry isn’t the primary focus.

This is a thick, solid volume. It’s a bit pricey but I got the digital version of it really cheap during an Aquaman sale on Comixology. I think I paid less than $5, which to me, was an absolute steal.

If you want to know more about the Aquaman character’s history, this is a great starting point.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other recent DC Comics compilations celebrating milestone anniversaries.

Comic Review: Injustice vs. Masters of the Universe

Published: July 18th, 2018 – January 2nd, 2019
Written by: Tim Seeley
Art by: Freddie E. Williams II, Jeremy Colwell
Based on: Masters of the Universe by Mattel, Injustice by NetherRealm Studios

DC Comics, 153 Pages

Review:

I haven’t played the Injustice video games or read the comic books. I get the gist of it though, so being a long-time fan of Masters of the Universe, I thought that the idea of seeing He-Man and his world mix it up with the DC Comics universe was a cool idea.

However, I did have to go into this with some skepticism, as most comic book crossovers of unrelated intellectual properties usually don’t leave us with great results.

This one was pretty good though. I can’t say that it was completely compelling but the story did a good job of wedging in a lot of characters while managing multiple plot threads. This had many layers to it and all of them kept me engaged.

I think the thing that I liked most about this was the art. It just felt perfect for a Masters of the Universe story, as it reminded me of the art of the old comics they used to package with the toys. It just drummed up nostalgia on a pretty high level and it was very effective.

This lasted for six issues but I feel like it could have been better if it was a bit longer. While it works well in the space it was given, I felt like some confrontations were rushed through and some of the action suffered a bit. There were just some cool ideas here that could have been explored just a little bit more than they were but I don’t want to spoil the story details for those who want to read this.

Overall, this was pretty damn good. Tim Seeley told a fun story within two very different worlds that I love and the art was perfect for what this project was trying to convey.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Masters of the Universe crossovers and the Injustice comics, as well as regular Justice League stories.

Comic Review: Justice League Dark: The Shadow Pact

Published: November 21st, 2018 – December 12th, 2018
Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: Daniel Sampere, Juan Albarran, Brad Anderson, Adriano Lucas, various (covers)

DC Comics, 53 Pages

Review:

This story is a two issue arc in Justice League Dark issues five and six. It takes place immediately after The Witching Hour crossover event and is a small filler story leading into the next larger arc. However, this also adds a lot of context to the series and where it is headed.

If you are a fan of Detective Chimp, than this story will not disappoint. It gives his story more depth, more weight and sets up the possibility that he may disappoint his team in the future. It also deals a lot with his inner struggle and how he’s been thrust into a role he’s not confident in having.

Also, this story features Blue Devil, who I have always thought of as a pretty cool character, even if he doesn’t show up very much.

James Tynion is just on his A-game, right now. While this isn’t my favorite arc in this series, it certainly isn’t a letdown. It’s a worthwhile, quick read that fits nicely within the rest of the series and gives you a bit of a breather after the intensity of the first two stories we just read through.

Additionally, the art in all these books is stupendous and I’ve had to buy all the regular issues and the variants because I can’t say “no” to those incredible variant covers.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The Witching Hour crossover that precedes this and the original Justice League Dark series.

Comic Review: Justice League Dark, Vol. 1: In the Dark

Published: October 29th, 2013
Written by: Peter Milligan
Art by: Mikel Janin

DC Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

Since I have been really enjoying the current run of Justice League Dark, I wanted to go back and check out its roots from five years ago.

I didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as I have James Tynion’s work on the title, thus far. This volume serves to setup the larger story and form the team but it didn’t excite me quite the same way.

If I’m being honest, the team is a bit weak and only shares two members with the most recent incarnation. Those two being Zatana and John Constantine. And while Deadman is a member of this newly formed group in this series, he’s not officially in the current group.

This squad is made up of some obscure characters. I didn’t even know who Rac Shade or Madame Xanadu were until I read this. Also, Dove is here without Hawk. I’m not sure if he died or something but all this New 52 stuff messed up the continuity I was most familiar with.

The main antagonist here is the Enchantress and the story surrounds a girl that is sort of drawn to her or possessed by her. It’s hard to explain and the story did get a bit confusing as to what was going on. There were a lot of characters doing different things and the group isn’t a team here, so much as they are all working things out in their own way and find themselves crossing paths.

I did enjoy the art and the story isn’t bad, it just didn’t peak my interest in the way that would make me jump right into volume two. I already own that one and I’ll get to it but I hope it builds off of this in a good way and makes me want to stick around because the newer version of Justice League Dark has been spectacular.

On this volume alone, I’m not sold on the series. But it wasn’t a waste of time, either.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the volumes of Justice League Dark that follow this, as well as the current Justice League Dark series by James Tynion IV.