This Week’s Winners

Star Wars: Blood Ties #1. Aussie writer Tom Taylor (The Authority) is working his way through as many Star Wars characters as possible, with the last few months spent on his The Will of Darth Vader one-shot and second Invasion mini-series. Now he takes on the Fetts, and thankfully gives the father/son pair the air of menace that was missing from the second prequel film. With the debut of a new series called Blood Ties which will, “explore the familial links between some of Star War’s most famous, and infamous, characters,” Jango and son Boba are  a good place to start.

It opens with some unusual bonding involving Jango sending his clone/son to retrieve a tooth as big as himself from a hulking monster to teach Boba to fear nothing, before the pair are recruited by Count Dooku for a secret mission, which involves a twist at this issue’s conclusion. The relationship between the pair wasn’t explored as it could’ve been in Episode II, but Taylor and artist Chris Scalf redeem the bounty hunters here. Jango has a fierce reputation, as a rookie traffic controller learns the hard way.

Scalf’s work is something you might expect to see in the pages of  a lush Radical book. He nails the looks of the Jango, Boba and Dooku actors from the prequel films with a painterly look more common in the fantasy genre, but one that works splendidly in these pages.

The Darkness: Four Horsemen is written by David Hine (Detective Comics) with art by Jeff Wamester and is a past-set tale about Mob hitman Jackie Estacado. One of Top Cow’s best characters, Jackie received supernatural powers on his 21st birthday, giving him control over impish demons from another dimension, as well as tendrils and a mean costume/suit of armour. Here he’s recruited by an elderly head of a mob family to seek revenge on 4 bikers that killed his brothers 35 years ago. Now they’re back and causing epic chaos in a small town.  The four toughs haven’t aged and now seem to embody the four horsemen of the apocalypse. It’s a dark, bloody story, so don’t be fooled by the slightly exaggerated artwork.

Superman: Secret Origin #6. Finally this last issue has arrived. Geoff Johns and Gary Frank make for a formidable duo and their love of the Man of Steel’s history is written and drawn on every page. With Supes himself looking just like Christopher Reeve and a firm grasp of storytelling with a hint of nostalgia that never overpowers the tale’s structure (something Superman Returns never managed), it’s a treat to read. Superman didn’t really need yet another origin recap/retcon/whatever, but my jaded cynicism has been swept away with each issue of this great series. A battle with Metallo (in which Superman cleverly melts a drain cover over his kryptonite heart), the revelation to Lois and co. that he’s an alien and not human and the pitch perfect characterisation of the jealous Lex Luthor all help this issue fall in the winner category. Nice touches like pigeons flying off the freshly spinning Daily Planet globe and the fact that Metropolis’ citizens don’t look where they’re going because their eyes are skyward looking for the Man of Steel reveal Johns’ creativity as a writer.

Brightest Day Pics

Blackest Night #8 came out this week, concluding Geoff Johns’ grand scheme involving a bunch of Green (and other coloured) Lanterns and a multitude of risen corpses. The next part in the epic is the much more hopeful Brightest Day which kicks off with the #0 ish on April 14 and is then followed by fortnightly issues in May and June. Below is the gatefold from Blackest Night #8 from artist Ivan Reis, showing the newly ressurected heroes, as well as two house ads for the new series.

Smallville Season 9 Pic

Thanks to the Superman Homepage for the heads up on this: a new promo picture for Smallville Season 9’s Absolute Justice TV film, written by comics scribe Geoff Johns. It stars members of the JSA, including Dr. Fate, Stargirl and Hawkman as pictured and airs next month in America.

This Week’s Winners

Blackest Night is the best DC event since, well, ever. Infinite Crisis was too convoluted to be enjoyable but Geoff Johns excels at the kind of straight forward storytelling approach that is an unfortunate rarity in comics today. Even the few mini-series tying in to Blackest Night, such as those involving Superman and Batman are enjoyable. It is with the former that James Robinson is doing some great work. Far greater than his Cry For Justice mini-series, Blackest Night: Superman #2 (of 3) is by Robinson and artist Eddy Barrows. It begins with a few pleasant scenes in Smallville, and you just know that’s not going to last long. Soon, Superman and Superboy team up to fight another risen from the dead character – the Superman of Earth 2, Kal-L. The black power rings that reanimate and corrupt dead heroes, villains and supporting characters from DC’s storied past is a great way to get around the whole “revolving door deaths” of superhero stories, and it works well here, with a menace that has been seen in every Blackest Night tie-in. Psycho Pirate inflicts his emotions on Smallville’s helpless citizens, while the three “Supers” battle above. Then a teary Supergirl shows up and is hopeful yet horrified to see her recently killed father standing before her as a grinning skeleton. It ends with the also risen Lois Lane of Earth 2 hunting Martha Kent through a cornfield and ends on a page that is funnier than it’s supposed to be, with the elderly Martha doing her best action hero portrayal.

Robinson and Barrows work well together. Barrows in particular makes the most of the darkness in the tale and makes everyone look frightening. Well, everyone except Martha Kent. He also shows superb control of page design in the many fighting/chasing scenes, adding to the desperation for survival.

The New Avengers #57 is another pitch perfect Brian Michael Bendis tale. He’s essentially Marvel’s version of Geoff Johns – a popular writer who respects the past but is creating the future. With The New Avengers he doesn’t let himself get too talky, but gets straight to the nuts and bolts of superhero shenanigans. The handy intro page in each issue is a worthy addition, as the cast of characters grows every month, but Bendis makes it work. He gives each character their own voice (Spidey’s wit, Luke Cage’s toughness, Norman Osborn’s arrogance). There’s more spandex wearers fighting each other in the streets than Civil War but with Stuart Immonen’s grand and fluid pencils on display it all looks so elegant and dramatic. The New Avengers are powerless, as are their enemies Osborn’s Dark Avengers, all thanks to some renegade baddies with a high-tech gizmo that takes powers away. Everyone is desperate for victory and Osborn makes a deal to ensure he gets his, as does Luke Cage. Every time I read this series, I wish JLA could be this good.

Secret Origin #1 CvrSuperman: Secret Origin #1 is the premiere ish of a new 6 part series re-telling Superman’s origin. What, again, I hear you ask. Yes, that’s what I thought to. I mean, Mark Waid’s Birthright did the same thing not that long ago, and John Byrne’s Man of Steel did it before that. However, a lot has changed in the DCU since Byrne’s bold 1986 series that reintroduced Superman after Crisis on Infinite Earths that changed everything in its wake. Geoff Johns proves me wrong in the first few pages. Where the 12 issue Birthright got it wrong was that it took too long to get to the juicy parts. Johns knows that we are all very familiar with Superman’s origin after 80 years, so he hits the ground running. This debut ish begins with young Clark Kent discovering that he’s different when he accidentally breaks his friend Pete Ross’ arm, and expels heat from his pupils after his first kiss with Lana Lang. Then his parents give him the talk and show him the rocket he arrived in. Clark’s upset when he sees it and activates a holographic message by his Kryptonian parents. Johns continues to wear his love affair with the Silver Age on his sleeve, and keeps most of what readers of Superman comics from the 1950s and 60s would be aware of, but also puts a contemporary spin on it. There’s nods to Braniac and Doomsday, and even Smallville, with Clark meeting Lex as a child, and his rescue of Lana from a tornado. Jor-El and Lara look like their versions from Johns’ recent Last Son storyline and artist Gary Frank is proving himslef to be the premiere Superman artist these days. The last page in which Clark puts on the Superboy costume for the first time truly reveals Frank’s grasp of pre-teen awkwardness and was a pleasant surprise. It appears as though Johns is going to rocket through this origin tale in only 6 issues and I’m glad.

Secret Origin #1 p1

Secret Origin #1 p2

Secret Origin #1 p3

Secret Origin #1 p4

The Flash: Rebirth #1

The Flash: Rebirth #1Like most readers, I felt disappointed after reading this issue. Sure, superheroes come back from the dead all the time, but Barry Allen, who for a generation of readers wasthe Flash, was dead for a long time. He gave his life to save the world, or worlds, from the Anti-Monitor in 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. Virtually unseen since then, Barry’s mantle was taken over by his nephew Wally West. In my mind, Wally isthe Flash, and then when Bart Allen showed up as Impulse, and later Kid Flash, that was enough to fulfill my speedster requirements. So why bring Barry back? Good question.

 

And it’s one that goes unanswered here. Writer Geoff Johns and artist Ethan Van Sciver are a great dynamic duo, and they brought Hal Jordan back to the land of the living in Green Lantern: Rebirth 5 years ago. That was a phenomenal, meaningful, action-packed series, and as much as I grew up enjoying Kyle Rayner as GL,it was great to see Hal return. That’s not the feeling I get here. There’s enough of a framework constructed for future issues to build upon, but I can’t really say I’m entirely interested. I’ll keep paying attention though, only because Johns is an expert story builder, and Van Sciver’s art is impressive here, as always, with it’s fluidity and extreme motion. At last year’s Comic-Con I sat in on the panel where Van Sciver explained his enthusiasm for this series and his interpretations of the Speed Force. I look forward to seeing that more than anything else in this series. 

This is an issue not for newbies, with it’s abundant guest stars (primarily the JSA) and the complicated relationships Barry has with other speedsters (exactly how did Bart get resurrected, and why his anger at Barry’s return?). I can only hope this series will become more focused in the future, and I am somewhat intrigued to see how the DCU adjusts to this latest development.

Not much happens here though. Basically Barry talks with Hal at the Flash Museum, and various other spandex wearers talk about Barry, filling in a few details about him along the way for perplexed readers. I was happy to see the return of Savitar, a villain I haven’t seen in years, and the surprises that the Speed Force holds are intriguing. THough the revelation about Barry’s father-not so much. The ads for this series have claimed that Barry is back and it’s the worst thing that could’ve happened to him. How that plays out will be mildly intriguing, but I guess after the spoils of GL: Rebirth, I was expecting more. This is a slow build rather than a shot out of the gate, but Johns can usually be trusted. I hope he knows what he’s doing.

Get To Know Your DC Characters

Now that Final Crisis has wrapped, DC Comics’ next epic is Blackest Night which centres on the ever growing universe of characters, and alien races, and different coloured power rings, that writer Geoff Johns has been creating over the last few years. Green Lantern ain’t the only powerful hue in the DC Universe these days. Lately, DC has been running brief back-up tales in some of their select titles this month, with tie-ins to Blackest Night. These handy short stories also give summarised origins of certain characters. For a full list of these Origins & Omens titles, see below, or go here to see them all for yourself.

Origins & Omens

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