Archive for March, 2009

Batman: R.I.P. — The Deluxe Edition

March 22, 2009 | Trades

Batman: R.I.P. — The Deluxe Edition Grant Morrison, Tony S. Daniel, Lee Garbet, Sandu Florea, Trevor Scott DC Comics $27.99/$24.99 US (Hardcover) **** ½ (out of five) Killing off major comic book characters and making people care about it is tricky business. Nearly every reader will assume that the “death” is only a temporary thing — as all things are in mainstream comics — thus diminishing the resonance of the character’s demise. Of course, Grant Morrison is always up for a challenge. The master storyteller, ably aided by artist Tony Daniel and his stirring visuals, has been slowly brewing this drama for over a year, weaving the Dark Knight through some pretty wild adventures, but always bringing him back to the same question: Who is the Black Glove? As the action boils over, Batman is forced to risk his relationship with the girl of his dreams, push his unmatched mind further to its utmost — well past the limits of sanity — and run the most vicious gauntlet of criminals of his life — including a showdown with his arch-nemesis, the Joker, to learn the truth. Morrison gets inside Batman’s head better than almost every writer who’s ever tackled the character and the result is an absolutely killer tale.

Titans Vol. 1: Old Friends

March 22, 2009 | Trades

Titans Vol. 1: Old Friends Judd Winick, Ian Churchill, Joe Benitez, Julian Lopez DC Comics $27.99/$24.99 US (Hardcover) *** (out of five) The Titans have always found strength in being more than just a team; they are family. That means they often have the same challenges as most families made up of all adults. For example: When one brother, Cyborg, wants to get the New Teen Titans back together, his siblings are as quick to shoot him down as most of twentysomethings would be to squirm out of Sunday dinner with the “fam”. Everything seems settled when Cyborg recruits a new batch of Titans to fight the good fight, or be the surrogate family, if you will. Until that family ends up blasted full of holes. Nothing like crisis to bring family back together. Writer Judd Winick and artists Ian Churchill, Joe Benitez and Julian Lopez begin a new chapter for the Titans as Nightwing, the Flash, Donna Troy, Beast Boy, Starfire, Raven and Cyborg are reunited and on the hunt for the Titan killer — a challenge that leads them back to a familiar foe and a new rival family that could spell doom for another one of their own.

Huntress: Year One

March 22, 2009 | Trades

Huntress: Year One Ivory Madison, Cliff Richards, Art Thibert, Norm Rapmund DC Comics $21.99/$17.99 US (Paperback) *** (out of five) Revenge is a dish best served in skin-tight leather. Comics newcomer Ivory Madison, along with artists Cliff Richards, Art Thibert and Norm Rapmund, take Huntress back to basics and away from the slightly cheesecakey direction she'd drifted to as a core member of the all-female crime-fighting team, Birds of Prey, in this brutal reinterpretation of the character's origin. The midriff-baring costume with the miniskirt and thigh-high boots is nowhere to be seen in favour of sleek, high-collared purple-and-black leather gear in Year One, which casts Helena Bertinelli as a strong, independent, driven woman — torn between the need to avenge the brazen murders of her whole (Mafioso) family and the yearning to be with the man she's fallen in love with, as well as the desire to empower women against their male oppressors. These conflicted feelings lead Helena to life as a masked vigilante — one that brings her on a collision course with her family's killer, the man behind it and, perhaps scariest of all, the Batman. Overall, a pretty good debut for Madison, who infuses some nice don't-take-crap-from-men messages into a nicely paced little action story.

Saga of the Swamp Thing Book 1

March 8, 2009 | Trades

Even before readers knew “who watches the Watchmen,” they knew Alan Moore was one to keep an eye on. After enjoying success across the pond since the late 1970s with series such as V For Vendetta and Marvelman, Moore burst onto the North American comics scene in late 1983, taking over the poor-selling series, Saga of the Swamp Thing, about a scientist trapped inside the body of a monstrous, green plant creature. Moore’s first issue, pencilled by Canadian Dan Day and collected alongside the subsequent seven issues in Saga of the Swamp Thing Book 1 (DC Comics, 208 pages, $27.99), tied up many of the character's loose plot threads and ended with the hero apparently shot to death. Moore’s second issue simply blew readers away. With the kind of gripping prose that modern comic readers have grown accustomed to, but which was unusually thought-provoking and eloquent for its era, Moore literally dissected his protagonist, as the Swamp Thing's body was examined by a botanist who made a shocking discovery about exactly who, or more specifically what, he is. With the status quo of the series tilted on its ear, Moore, aided by then little-known artists Stephen Bissette and John Totleben (both of whom have gone on enjoy illustrious careers of their own), took their hero to the brink of insanity, to a meeting with the devil and to the depths of hell itself as what eventually became a nearly four-year run unfolded —overlapping with Moore’s and artist Dave Gibbons’ creation of the much-lauded Watchmen, the film version of which hit theatres this weekend. While V For Vendetta, From Hell, Watchmen and others of Moore’s works have made it to the silver screen, allowing even those who’ve never read a word of his published pages to appreciate his impressive imagination, his work on Swamp Thing remains some of his best and well worth readers’ time, even if it’ll likely never be worth Hollywood’s. (This review first appeared in the Toronto Star)

All-Star Superman Vol. 2

March 8, 2009 | Trades

Superman’s greatest strength has always been his character, not his ability to move mountains. The Man of Steel is so iconic and has such a defined identity – belief in truth, justice and the American way – that when creators play to those strengths they often end up with something equally powerful. With All-Star Superman Vol. 2 (DC Comics, 160 pages, $22.99), writer Grant Morrison, penciller Frank Quitely and inker/colourist Jamie Grant have introduced a Superman more dynamic and grandiose than perhaps any before, and yet one that is also infinitely more human. Faced with the knowledge – as revealed in Volume 1 – that he is dying from solar radiation poisoning and has little time left, the hero still makes the effort to visit sick children, stop a troubled teenager from committing suicide, show compassion to the monstrous creatures of Bizarro world and even reach out to the man who “killed” him: Lex Luthor. That’s not to say this extraordinary distillation of the Man of Steel mythos doesn’t contain planet-shattering action and everything else you’d expect from such a bold title, but its true greatness doesn’t just come from good triumphing over evil, but from the creation of a Superman we should all aspire to emulate. (This review first appeared in the Toronto Star)

DC Universe Illustrated by Neal Adams Vol. 1

March 8, 2009 | Trades

Neal Adams’ art is a gas, baby. After releasing stunning recoloured, hardcover reprints of many of the seminal works of this artistic giant — Batman, Deadman and Green Lantern/Green Arrow — over the past decade, DC Comics is finally taking readers back to where it all began. DC Universe Illustrated by Neal Adams Vol. 1 (DC Comics, 194 pages, $45.99) highlights Adams’ work beginning in the late 1960s on characters like the Elongated Man and the Teen Titans (the latter of which is packed with dialogue that could’ve been ripped right out of an Austin Powers film) and continuing into the 1970s with his work on Second World War titles like Our Army at War and Star Spangled War Stories (both of which, thanks to the ultra-conservative Comics Code Authority, are the most gore- and blood-free war books you’ll ever see). While these may not be the brightest examples of Adams’ art available, it’s easy to see how his ability to break out of the stereotypical boxy format and eye for dynamic action led him to become one of the most influential comic creators of the late 20th century. (This review first appeared in the Toronto Star)

Sienkiewicz guest of honour at Toronto Comicon Fan Appreciation Event 2009

March 6, 2009 | News

Comics icon Bill Sienkiewicz (Elektra: Assassin, Stray Toasters) will be the guest of honour at the fifth annual Toronto Comicon Fan Appreciation Event scheduled for April 18-19, 2009 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The initial guest list for the event also contains some pretty interesting names. Take a look here and check out for more details. Special guests Include: Bill Sienkiewicz (Guest of Honour) Steve Epting (Captain America artist) Doug Mahnke (Final Crisis and Superman Beyond 3-D artist) Alex Maleev (Spider-Woman artist) Todd Nauck (Amazing Spider-Man artist) Joe Benitez (Titans, Soulfire artist) Chris Sprouse (Tom Strong artist) Sal Abbinanti (Atomika artist) Francis Manapul (Superman/Batman artist) Kalman Andrasofszky (NYX: No Way Home artist) Ty Templeton (Star Trek: Mission’s End writer) Valentine De Landro (X-Factor artist) Paul Rivoche (The Spirit artist) Jeff Lemire (Essex County Trilogy writer/artist) Marcio Takara (The Incredibles artist) Dave Ross (Angel: After the Fall artist) Ramon Perez (The Resistance artist) Michael Cho (Age of the Sentry artist) Jason Armstrong (Lobster Johnson artist) Sam Agro (Looney Tunes writer) Willow Dawson (No Girls Allowed artist) Ray Fawkes (Apocalipstix writer) Andy B. Agnes Garbowska Kent Burles Kurt Lehner Shane Kirshenblatt