Sunday, August 14, 2011

New Comics! (HERE BE SPOILERS)

Batman:  Arkham City #4:  Didn't we already know that Hugo Strange was the villain?  I want to say we did.  Or, at least, we saw enough of his face in the last issue to guess?  At any rate, this issue moves along pretty well.  Dini is literally putting all the pieces in place (Poison Ivy in the Cenral Gardens, for example) for the game, and I'm getting increasingly excited for it.  He also throws in some nice touches, like mentioning the awesome exploding foam from the last game.  By the by, Mark Hamill's voicing of the Joker is so iconic that I can't help but hear his voice reading the Joker's lines in this issue.  Similar to the "inFAMOUS" comic, I'm not sure I would recommend this series to anyone who's not going to play the video game.  But, if you are (or you played the first one), it's a fun read.

Batman:  Gates of Gotham #4:  Meh.  I can't say I'm overly intrigued at this point to find out the true identity of the Architect.  I mean, I guess in theory it might not be either one of the Gates brothers, but it seems pretty likely that it's somehow one of them.  I liked this series better when it was basically a vehicle for Dick Grayson to play older brother to Tim, Cassandra, and Damian.  I mean, you still see that in this issue, with Dick comforting Tim after his defeat, something I'm not quite sure you'd see Bruce doing in the same way.  But, unlike the first few issues of this series, the "mystery" has more or less taken over the focus, and I can't say it's all that interesting.  Although it's tangentially related to the Wayne family, it's not enough to deliver on the series' initial promise, that somehow the heirs of the Wayne family -- Dick, Tim, Cassandra, and Damian -- were going to right some historic wrong that involved the family.  I'll reserve judgment until we see how Higgins ends it, but I have the sense that I'm going to wind up disappointed or, at least, bored.

Batman Beyond #8:  Of all the titles I collect, this one is the one most affected by the reboot.  Beechen was doing an excellent job creating the world inhabited by Terry and his supporting cast.  Despite the fact that I'm happy to see news that the title will return in some form at some point, DC definitely disrupted what Beechen was doing here by suspending it for the time being.  This sort of title -- one built on seeing familiar characters in a new light -- needs time to blossom, to build the layers of the story.  DC shut down the title just as Beechen was finding his rhythm.  This issue is particularly an odd one to complete the series, given that Terry hardly appears in it and it centers around a villain I don't recognize.  Although we might see some winners from the reboot, the disappearance of this series is definitely one of the losers.

Dungeons and Dragons #9:  If I had one small complaint about this series over the past few issues, it was that the background of the characters wasn't entirely clear.  What was Juliana doing at Al'Bihel?  Why was Varic guarding her, particularly if he's an Earth-born elf and not eladrin?  Rogers resolves almost all these issues here.  First, I have to say, before I get into the issue, that Rogers does an amazing job pulling together all the stories he's told over the last few issues.  Fell's Five getting lost through the portal because of the extra World Key gave us the Al'Bihel flashback, which sets the stage for the quest that Juliana's father, Toveliss, sends Fell's Five to complete in this arc.  It's really masterful and just gives you a sense that Rogers is in total control over the overarching story he's telling here.  Looking at the story itself, it's clear that Juliana was at Al'Bihel to collect the Guide of Gates, which Toveliss wants to use to crush his enemies.  Rogers doesn't explain how Fell's Five just happened upon Toveliss -- given that previously we learned that they could've landed anywhere at any time -- but, as Toveliss says, "there are no coincidences in the Feywild."  Along those lines, we learn that the giant who was trying to build the portal in the first arc has likely returned on his own quest for the Guide of Gates.  Again, it was a pleasure to watch this intricately woven plot -- for the whole series -- continue to develop.  Technically, the banter was as good as ever.  (More Bree!)  The only drawback to this issue was the art, which was shared by three different artists, often willy-nilly.  It occasionally disrupted the reverie that this book normally inspires.  But, it doesn't mean I'm not waiting impatiently for the next issue! 

Flashpoint #4:  Honestly, although I enjoyed this issue, I have no idea how Geoff Johns is going to wrap up this story in just one issue.  At this point, it seems clear that the fact that he doesn't have time to wrap up the story is more or less the story.  As Flash says in this issue, it's probably impossible for him to be able to undo everything Thawyne has done, since it requires knowing the exact details of so many different variables.  After all, some things have to stay different given the upcoming reboot.  At this point, then, it's just a matter of what exactly Flash and his alternate-universe Justice League are going to be able to change and how exactly they're going to achieve that.  Even that, though, seems like a tall order in one issue, given that Thwayne just makes his first appearance on the last page of this issue.  Johns is a pretty amazing writer, so I have faith in him, particularly since all the issues so far have been pretty exciting.  So, we shall see.  In terms of the book itself, it appears that the Enchantress, and not Element Woman, was the traitor, though I can't say I really care all that much.  Also, the big emotional moment -- the death of one of the Captain Thunder kids -- was lost on me given that I'm still not really familiar enough with minor DC characters to know who they are.  I'm not sure why Johns has decided to focus on these fairly minor characters, since I feel like that time could've been better spent focusing on why exactly Aquaman and Wonder Woman hate each other.  At any rate, it's time to just get the reboot started.

Superboy #10:  This issue actually isn't terrible.  (Hurrah!)  We get the history of Tannarak, the immortal wizard who's been manipulating all the Hollow Man events over the last few issues (and, apparently, millenia).  Lemire does actually really tie up some loose ends via this tour of Tannarak's history, so at least I'm not as confused as I was.  However, I'm still not entirely sure why he picked Smallville as his next pied-à-terre, unless he predicted the arrival of Superboy.  I mean, if he didn't predict it, what were he and the Tooks doing for the last 125 years?  Were they just lucky that Conner appeared and gave them a decent vessel?  (Boy, that sounds dirty.)  I think one of the reasons I enjoyed this issue so much is that, for the first time, we actually got some decent art.  It made me realize how much I really, really dislike Pier Gallo's pencils.  At any rate, I'll be glad when we move into the reboot.

X-Factor #223:  After we spent some time last issue spinning our wheels, this issue essentially sends us onto the street burning rubber.  Cerberus is the latest supernatural canine entity on Rahne's trail, and Werewolf by Night leaves her to try to stop him.  X-Factor arrives to help, after Siryn (or, Banshee, I'm not sure what we're calling her now) used her powers to "convince" Pip to locate her.  Rahne, meanwhile, goes into labor and is "helped" into a cabin by a mysterious young man.  David does a good job of injecting some excitement back into this story.  He's managed keep track of a lot of different characters, adding new ones into the story without losing focus on the existing ones.  It's always been one of his strongest skills, and he displays it to great effect here.  Morever, we get Madrox and Siryn realizing that Layla probably resurrected Guido, given his uncharacteristically aggressive behavior.  I'm guessing the post-Rahne arc is goign to be the search for Guido's soul and, really, how cool will that be? 

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