Showing posts with label comic books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label comic books. Show all posts

The Legacy of Luther Strode #3 review

The Legacy of Luther Strode #2 was pretty much one ginormous, over-the-top, and awesome fight scene as Luther, Petra, and Delilah continued their search for Cain. Issue #3 can be described the exact same way, but that doesn't matter all that much because the handling of the characters is solid, and the hectic fighting is jaw-dropping. Seriously, comic book fights don't get much better than this, people.
Time and time again, I've praised Justin Jordan's ability to write dialogue that simply feels natural. The things these characters are saying feels organic and relatable; it doesn't come off like forced displays of emotion or blatantly stating exposition just so the reader knows what's up. There's several instances in this comic where Petra's blunt reactions were basically a reflection of my own; it's great having someone who's also blown away by just how stunning and ridiculous these battles can get. Someone who's constantly spewing insults and cursing with every other word could be obnoxious or the character could get old fast, yet Jordan continues to make me adore Petra. Her response when she realizes which weapons she could have brought? Or her witnessing Shooter's incredible accuracy with guns? Priceless stuff.

While writing the script, there's no doubt Jordan has this comic's amazing choreography playing out very clearly in his head. Luckily for him, artist Tradd Moore and colorist Felipe Sobreiro do an absolutely brilliant job bringing all of the insane and fast-paced mayhem - as well as convincing facial expressions - to life. Jordan makes sure this book has a fun and well-paced script, and Moore and Sobreiro make sure these pages are pure bliss for our eyes. Moore's animated and exaggerated character work feels perfect for Luther Strode's crazy world, and the handling of the motion and impact is phenomenal.
In the last issue, the creative team unleashed a fight with a powerhouse that was loaded with staggering hits. Now, it's all about technique, skill, and agility. In the wrong hands, this fight could have been far too complicated to properly follow. In Moore's hands, everything feels fluid and that he allows us to fully appreciate just how swift and elaborate some of these actions can be - even something like two characters leaping up a stairwell can be easily followed and enjoyed. Throw in Sobreiro's attention-grabbing colors and the end result is pages that'll keep you staring and, eventually, going back just to look at 'em all over again. This art team nails the expressions and they do a satisfying job establishing environments, but once the punches and bullets begin to fly, they produce some truly remarkable panels that are full of energy.

Like I said above, the story here is very, very similar to the previous issue. The group is looking for Shooter, a man who can potentially reveal how to find Cain. While Luther Strode tries to go non-lethal, Petra still has no problem going for fatal shots, and Delilah's pretty much there to assist both characters. Like Petra pointed out in the first issue of this volume, her facing people with these abilities is just no fair, so having Delilah by her side makes things more interesting - not just because she can save Petra from the impressive targets, but also because their personalities are so very different. That said, there are noticeable differences this time around. First and foremost, they've encountered someone similar to Strode. Usually, people like this are out for blood and not exactly the kindest people around. Okay, technically both of those descriptions do apply to Shooter, but what makes him different is that he's an anti-hero - he's using his talents to kill scum, not decent people. Additionally, Delilah still remains a mystery to us (for the most part, that is), but she's starting to show just a little more humanity - it's slow and steady development for the character.
The backup - which is written by Tradd Moore, and has art by Stephen Green and Sobreiro - continues to be a solid, character-driven tale. So much of the worldbuilding has been done through Luther's perspective, so it's refreshing to see how two other people were brought into this bloody and twisted story. It's definitely a nice little dose of fan service for those who have followed along since the first volume, too. (If you're reading Legacy but you haven't read the others, what gives? Go read them!) Green's expressions do the creepy kids justice, and while Sobreiro still has vivid displays of red, purple, orange, and several other colors, you can tell his work is more restrained to better fit Green's style - a style which is drastically different from Moore's energetic panels. Green's work creates a much more haunting and darker atmosphere, and Sobreiro's noticeably different handling of the colors most definitely complements the experience. The story may feel very different than Luther's adventure (and understandably so, of course), but Moore's script makes it still feel like a fitting addition to Luther's vicious world.
The main story technically doesn't move forward all that much, but that's easy to ignore because everything else is just so entertaining. The character insight remains strong, the visuals are thrilling, and the creative approach to all of the chaotic action absolutely makes up for the lack of story progression. I've read this issue 3 times now and I loved it each time - the layouts and dialogue are just that enjoyable. The Legacy of Luther Strode is full of exciting action and personality - what's not to love? This is apparently the last volume with Luther Strode, but I'm pretty sure no one would object to a Shooter spin-off. Let's see more of that dude, please.

Comic book reviews: 8/26/15

Old Man Logan #4
Brian Michel Bendis, Andrea Sorrentino, and Marcelo Maiolo's fourth chapter of Old Man Logan pretty much provides more of the same: It still looks amazing, it's still pretty fun, and it's still a brief glimpse of one part of Battleword before throwing us (quite literally) into another part of Marvel's new planet.

Bendis' script has plenty of amusing action scenes and there's a surprisingly lighthearted cameo (which offers a nice balance to the horror vibe), but right now, it feels like this book is following a formula, and that leaves me feeling like the only real surprise is which part of Battleworld will appear on the final page. I'm sure Bendis will make me eat my words at some point, but right now, the book's following a noticeable pattern, and that's a little disappointing. It's definitely an entertaining journey, but the fast-paced nature of this story doesn't give us a lot to chew on. Instead, it's Sorrentino and Maiolo's absolutely stunning layouts that leaves the strongest impression, and those visuals have me coming back for more. (Okay, my love for Mark Millar and Steve McNiven's Old Man Logan doesn't hurt.) I mean, the vivid way these two handle the waves of zombies and Logan's struggle to survive? Or the immersive way they handle an intense scene towards the end? My eyes thank you, Sorrentino and Maiolo.

This book may not be pulling any surprises or delivering especially compelling material at the moment, but it consistently looks phenomenal and it's still good fun.

Ninjak #6
As someone who spends a silly amount of time discussing comic book battles with other fans, one comment seems to pop up a lot about Ninjak: "He needs his technology and gear, otherwise he's not all that great." Firstly, no. Secondly, Ninjak #6 kind of feels like Matt Kindt's response to that false statement. While the flashback (in the primary story) may not add much to the experience, Ninjak's search for - and fight with - La Barbe is well-paced and legitimately interesting. I do miss the previous artist's work (Clay Mann), but Raul Allen, Patricia Martin, and Borja Pindado's drastically different style - one which has a more animated atmosphere and large displays of one tone that tends to to attract your attention (e.g. the bright trees in Paris; the shades of blue in the forest) - produces some truly awesome action sequences. This allow us to better appreciate Ninjak's fluid motions, and the creative handling of these scenes makes it far more memorable, too. Things like watching Ninjak flip through an onomatopoeia or drones sweeping an area is surprisingly enjoyable.

This may be a jumping-on spot, but the backup story (by Kindt, Stephen Segovia, and Ulises Arreola) is really geared towards readers who have been following Valiant's (oh-so-awesome) reboot. For those missing Mann's work, you'll be happy to know the visuals here draw some pretty strong parallels to his pages. It's obviously drastically different than the pages from Ninjak vs. La Barbe, but given the fact it takes place in a totally different time, the difference really shouldn't be jarring for anyone. All in all, it's a satisfying story that's just intriguing enough to make you wonder what'll happen next and fills in just a wee bit of history with another character closely linked to Ninjak. Like I said, longtime readers will get a little more out of this one.

Ninjak #6 is one part clever spy mission, one part ninja awesomeness, and a sprinkle of origin story. If that sounds like a good time to you - and it should - do the obvious thing and give this series a shot.

Spread #9
"Think of the children!" Justin Jordan certainly has with Spread's latest story arc. In a post-apocalyptic world - one that presumably hasn't been around for that long - what would it be like for kids who are unlucky enough to grow up in this violent and horrifying place? Would they lose their humanity, or would there still be signs of it, even when they're in the cruelest conditions? We've seen how bigger societies thrive - or at least attempt to - but now Jordan, as well as  Kyle Strahm and Felipe Sobreiro, are showing us what some people are doing to in order to hold onto their lives for as long as they possibly can.

While I've grown to love No, having him out of commission was a good move. Not only does this give Jack - a seriously lovable character - more time to shine, it also gives the comic more time to flesh out the new characters who have entered the picture. One of Jordan's strengths as a writer is his ability to craft dialogue that comes off feeling natural, so that makes these new characters feel more alive instead of just random complications that are introduced just to give our leads more grief. This is a story that throws us into a post-apocalyptic scenario that's loaded with horror elements, yet what keeps me coming back are the characters. Sure, I like the premise a lot (John Carpenter's The Thing is my favorite horror film), but what has me hooked is seeing how these people - whether they're silent and collected or have totally lost it - react to this insane world and the many challenges it throws at 'em. It would have been cool if one of the new kids used a vicious looking boomerang, but maybe Jordan thought that would be too blunt of a Mad Max: The Road Warrior reference. Not that I'm complaining - there is a blatant Predator reference, after all. Bonus points for that.

As for the art, it's all in the eyes. How does the saying go? The eyes are the window to the soul, right? I'm not going to stop writing so I can google it, but I'm pretty sure that's it. In this story, Strahm allows the eyes to speak volumes. Immediately, you can tell whether someone's curious, sad, or out for blood. Hell, he even pulls it off with a bear. Through expression alone, we can see the animal go from prey to predator very, very quickly. Strahm and Sobreiro's work continues to be a perfect fit for Jordan's harsh and twisted story, and the handling of the eyes really makes these fictional beings more humanizing. The use of bold red shades will always capture your sight, too.

Roche Limit: Clandestiny #4
Michael Moreci, Kyle Charles, and Matt Battaglia's Roche Limit: Clandestiny kind of feels like a more elaborate and way more satisfying version of Prometheus (i.e. traveling to an alien world for a mission that isn't quite what it seems to be and the crew encounters more and more mysteries) - and I say that as someone who has a mostly positive opinion of Ridley Scott's movie, too! Now that we've reached chapter four - the penultimate issue - we're starting to get more answers to the several mysteries going on. Thankfully, these answers further boost my interest in this story, and it helps that it's written in a way that doesn't feel like blatant exposition. There's quite a few elements being juggled in this adventure (A.I., exploring an alien world, invasions, the human psyche), yet none of them feel overshadowed or glossed over and, somehow, this issue is also loaded with cheerworthy action. (Cole is the best, by the way.) One ridiculously over-the-top attack - one which started as a blatant parallel to Prometheus, and then went in a hilariously awesome direction - won't be forgotten any time soon. It's also really interesting seeing how these characters acted in chapter one versus how they are when they know what the odds really are... or at least what they think the odds are. And the icing on the delicious sci-fi cake? Energetic visuals that are overflowing with appropriately strong colors. This volume has delivered some excellent displays of emotion and alien landscapes, but this time around, it's the hectic action that really wows.

Overall, Roche Limit: Clandestiny is thought-provoking sci-fi which also happens to be full of action and some legitimately funny banter. It'll capture your interest, keep you guessing, and excite you with some crazy, gorgeous action. Seriously, what's not to love? Fans of Prometheus/Aliens (the first chapter has a moment that just screams "Ellen Ripley")/sci-fi in general, check it out.


A few notes:
  • I've decided not to provide scores for these quick reviews. Really, they're pretty short. I believe in your ability to read them and understand how I feel about a comic without seeing a number or letter grade.
  • If a publisher wants to use a quote, you of course have my permission to do so. Please credit as "Comic Book Babbling Blog".
  • If you're interested in having a comic reviewed, please feel free to contact me at [email protected] Or you can reach out via Twitter: @greggkatzman.
  • I didn't have time to review Rumble #6, but please, do yourself a favor and give that Image Comics series a chance. I'm not even a fantasy fan and I absolutely love it. It's fun, funny, and full of creativity. Plus, it has a giant sword called Thunderchop, so there's that.
  • One final - and very important - note: Be a good person, okay? Just give it a shot. Anyway, thanks for reading!

Batman/TMNT crossover comic announced: 5 must-haves

First, IDW Publishing made the child in me feel all kinds of nostalgic with Erik Burnham and Dan Schoening's very entertaining Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters limited series. Now, the publisher has joined forces with DC to create a crossover that makes me want to throw the planet's entire supply of confetti in the air: Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Not only were these my two favorite franchises back when I was a kid, but now I'm approaching the age of thirty (this August!) and, thanks to some excellent comics, video games, TV shows, and movies, I still adore these two franchises.
CBR landed the exclusive announcement, announcing the series will have six issues and the creative team is James Tynion IV and Freddie E. Williams IIHere's the official synopsis:
"In the ongoing power struggle between the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, General Krang, and the Foot Clan, allegiances have shifted and the battle lines have been drawn. Krang concocts a plan to rid himself of both the Turtles and Shredder by transporting them to another dimension, where they land in the dark and dangerous streets of Gotham City. It isn't long before they encounter Gotham's most famous resident, Batman. The Caped Crusader may be their only hope of overcoming their enemies and getting back home. But not before they encounter a whole cast of Gotham's most infamous rogues."
If you can't tell by now, this news has me seriously thrilled. So far, this is easily the biggest surprise to come out of San Diego Comic-Con 2015 and it is without question the one that has me the most excited. The two released images - one above and one below - look awesome, and as terrific as seeing this team-up may be, it's going to take more than these heroes sharing the page to turn this into a memorable adventure. Only time will tell how the story is handled, but for now, here are five things I'd love to see in the limited series.

Character-driven, not plot-driven
When you have characters visiting another dimension, there's of course going to be a pretty big plot going on. How'd General Krang manage to pull this off? How will the Ninja Turtles (and presumably Shredder) get back to their own world? These are two huge questions which deserve a whole lot of attention, but at the end of the day, everyone is purchasing this story for the characters, not how the crossover happened and how it'll be resolved. The bigger picture will likely take more predictable (but probably fun) beats, but the character moments is where this limited series will have a chance to really impress. Batman's dynamic with the Ninja Turtles has so much potential! Mikey could joke about Bruce's serious demeanor or possibly even admire him; Raphael may get jealous or frustrated; Donatello could relish the chance to work with someone so brilliant; Leonardo may grow to respect Bruce's tactical mind and drive. In the end, they'll of course all bond and respect one another, but the conversations and the situations they'll produce are sure to be legitimately interesting.

Meanwhile, Shredder has a whole new city to conquer. Who will he get to follow him? Who may he view as a threat? Sweet mother of all that's holy, could we see a Shredder and Bane alliance?! I can't help but feel like Joker will pop up and, if he does, I sincerely hope he doesn't make a fool out of Shredder. The Clown Prince of Crime has had plenty of time to shine. This limited series not only has a chance to put the Ninja Turtles' personality on display as the interact with the Dark Knight, but it also has the chance to step up Oroku Saki's formidability and see whether or not he can provide Batman a legitimate challenge in the hero's own city.


Don't hold off the big meeting until the first issue's cliffhanger
There obviously needs to be buildup as the story and characters are all established, but we're all here to see the heroes interact. Saving that big meeting for the cliffhanger of the first issue? Not a cool move. I understand they'll do what they can to make the overall plot satisfying, but it would be hugely appreciated if they can effectively present all of the details and then have this meeting occur before the issue ends. Also, an intro page can be used to give the basics about all of the characters to save space and reduce exposition.

Interactions with other heroes in Gotham
The solicitation reveals we'll see more of Gotham's villains (which is so exciting), but what about Bruce Wayne's allies? A well-written Alfred interacting with these teenage mutants could be brilliant and delightfully lighthearted. Or what about Damian tossing some rude comments their way? Mikey and Raphael's reactions could be pure gold. The journey can give us a lot of insight into the Ninja Turtles and Batman, but these extra characters have the potential to make things all kinds of fun. If Shredder's forming an army and getting a chance to mingle with Batman's famous rogues gallery, then witnessing the Ninja Turtles interacting with Alfred, Damian, Nightwing, and others could be a real joy - especially if they all join forces for a massive battle in the end. That would be an overwhelming amount of fan service, wouldn't it?

Batman vs. Shredder
If Batman and Shredder are in the same city, Batman and Shredder need - yes, need - to have a jaw-dropping melee battle. We know Shredder and Splinter are the best fighters in their universe, but how do they hold up against the Dark Knight - one of DC's most gifted fighters? I'd place my money on Batman winning - even if hand-to-hand is a stalemate, he has several gadgets that are game changers - but still, this is a chance to show that Oroku Saki's skill is great enough to take on the Caped Crusader. Then, that means Master Splinter can as well. As someone who spends far too much time discussing "who would win in a fight?" - because I'm an adult like that - this is an important opportunity to show us how the IDW combatants stack up to DC characters.
There's no need to pander
By now everyone knows the Ninja Turtles love pizza and have dated (yet still awesome) catchphrases. There's no need to pull Batman into those things and make him look a little silly by suddenly learning to appreciate pizza (note: Batman's favorite topping is justice) or getting him to unenthusiastically say "cowabunga" when the villain is defeated. There's natural ways to acknowledge these things without making it feel forced. For example, Michelangelo could make a joke about how the pizza in Gotham is terrible. Could the things I'm complaining about be used and work? Totally, but I'd prefer to see the crossover avoid the obvious.

Bonus: Stealth!
Master Splinter has taught the Ninja Turtles to rely on stealth. Batman? Yeah, he's kind of the master of stealth. It would be amazingly cool if there's at least one solid scene of Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles using stealth to infiltrate an enemy stronghold and they're able to take out a number of goons without even being spotted.


Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will go on sale this November. Yes, I will absolutely review it!

Deathstroke: Please stop making him a jobber

*Contains Son of Batman spoilers and minor Batman: Arkham Knight spoilers*

Slade Wilson, a.k.a. Deathstroke the Terminator, is one of DC's most formidable mercenaries. He may not be able to melt his targets with a blast of heat vision or shatter mountains with his fists, but the combination of his extensive training, enhanced physicals, and gifted mind has turned him into one of the publisher's most lethal and imposing characters around. He's humiliated a wide range of heroes and villains - he was even able to temporarily elude Superman and he's given Batman all kinds of trouble - yet for some reason beyond me, a number of his appearances outside of comics have been downright embarrassing. Slade may just be a fictional character, but if a video game, TV show, or movie is going to use him, the guy deserves some respect.
Deathstroke #1 variant cover by the amazingly talented Andrea Sorrentino. (Read his Green Arrow run!)
I usually enjoy DC's animated movies a whole lot - they have way more hits than misses - but I was especially excited for 2014's Son of Batman. Not only did it have Damian Wayne, Batman's awesome son, as a main character, but it also had Deathstroke stepping in to serve as the big bad. Immediately my mind raced with all of the possibilities. Slade - a brilliant tactician and skilled fighter - could force these two to bond and work together to take him down. Something like that would have created a seriously badass fight and a natural way to have Bruce and Damian overcome their differences as they use teamwork to defeat the villain. Suddenly, they're forced to trust and rely on each other if they want to survive the encounter. But that isn't even close to what happened.

Not only was Deathstroke's role lacking any kind of solid inspiration - he felt more like Bane because he thought the League of Assassins was rightfully his to lead - but his fight against the Dark Knight was shockingly swift. So short, in fact, that it made me exclaim, "What?! That's it?" Batman just effortlessly drops the dude with a quick combo. As if that wasn't degrading enough, Damian then has a one-on-one fight with Slade and walks away as the victor. I'm not saying Damian should never be able to win that one, but if he's going to take the victory, it would rely on his wit, resources, and tactics - not hand-to-hand technique. His agenda wasn't an organic one and the most dangerous mercenary was reduced to someone Batman can beat without breaking a sweat and even Robin can eventually best him in a direct fight. The character design was pretty cool, but everything else about Deathstroke in Son of Batman was seriously lacking.
Likely would have been a better movie if Ra's was the big bad.
Most recently, Slade made a surprise appearance in Batman: Arkham Knight. Once you complete the main story, Slade takes control of the Arkham Knight's army. When it's first teased that a mercenary is now controlling the bad guys, I got all kinds of happy on the inside. I was confident it was Slade and once it was revealed that it is him, I was thrilled. How could I not be? The guy had an excellent appearance in Batman: Arkham Origins. Sure, he was one of the earlier boss battles, but he was easily the most difficult fight and the game seemed to have a pretty good handle on the character. Unfortunately, Arkham Knight seemed to lose sight of who Slade is and the character in this game doesn't seem like him at all. First and foremost, his personality and dialogue makes him come off as a bratty child who's puffing his chest and making idle threats instead of being someone who's calculating and legitimately threatening. He's constantly bragging about how good he is and how Batman needs to stop relying on using "toys." But guess what? You don't fight Slade in a crazy hand-to-hand boss battle this time around. Instead, he has a tank of his own.

It's a shame a potentially awesome boss fight is used as another excuse to get in the Batmobile, and what happens next adds insult to injury. The way he's taken out once the tank is destroyed is beyond degrading. How terrific would it be if the tank fight was followed by an encounter which relied on stealth, countering, and using a variety of gear? Pretty terrific, yeah?  Instead, Slade leaps at Batman, gets tackled, and then gets knocked out with one punch. Slade claims he was caught off-guard, but that's pretty tough to believe seeing as he's the one who lunged at Batman's vehicle. Well, at least Guy Gardner and Slade Wilson now have something in common: getting flooded by the Dark Knight after a single punch.
Occupation: part-time jobber.
Slade's appearances in Injustice: Gods Among Us - he's the first obstacle Batman takes down and the cinematic prior to it has Bruce taking an easy edge - and the third season of Arrow - a brief cameo which even the actor, Manu Bennett, wasn't happy about left a lot to be desired as well. If Slade does appear in the DC Cinematic Universe - and rumors are claiming he will - let's hope he's a memorable and layered mercenary instead of someone who just offers a cool action sequence and then is cast aside. I'm not saying Deathstroke needs to be this seemingly unstoppable force whenever he appears, but if he is going to serve as an antagonist, he shouldn't be someone who's taken out through just basic melee combat. If used, he should challenge a hero's intellect and skill in a big way. He should push their physical limits while also forcing them to be more tactical and creative. A good villain has the chance to show us just how far a hero can push themselves to overcome evil - that's exactly what Deathstroke should bring about when he's the primary villain.

A lot of appearances have handled the character properly (countless comics, Young Justice, Arrow Season 2), but I hope him being a total jobber in recent appearances isn't a sign of what his future will be like whenever he pops up outside of comics. Deathstroke shouldn't be included in something just because he's a fan-favorite - he should be included because he has what it takes to truly test the hero's abilities and his personality can create interesting dynamics. If TV shows, movies, and video games really want to use an assassin who will get walked all over and offer a forgettable conflict, I hear Brutale is looking for work.

Batman: Arkham Knight review

"You have failed this city," said no one ever to Batman because he's Batman.
"Be the Batman." Rocksteady Studios' marketing campaign for its third - and allegedly final - Batman game recognizes just how much people loved being the Dark Knight in the other Arkham games. From the jaw-droppingly badass combat to the sheer awe experienced while gliding around an immersive Gotham City, the developer knows fans love stepping in the Caped Crusader's dark boots. Rocksteady also knows fans have incredibly high expectations for their latest project since the previous installments raised the bar for comic book video games. Thankfully, Batman: Arkham Knight is epic, appropriately moving, and full of fun.

The game's story really leaves an impression when it's focusing on delving deep into Batman's mind. Sure, this has been the focus countless times before and we all know the basics about who the Dark Knight is and what made him undergo such a drastic change, but that doesn't stop Rocksteady Studios from giving us brilliant and creative insight into the iconic hero. For example, when we're reminded of the death of Batman's parents yet again (for the gazillionth time), the scene swiftly goes in a different direction instead of trying to find new ways to make it emotionally powerful. The ending of Arkham City should be a big deal and thankfully it isn't ignored or just glossed over. The adventure's easily at its strongest when it focuses on Batman's psyche and how that event has not only impacted him, but also how others view him. Luckily for us, focusing on Batman's mentality is pretty frequent and there's some unforgettable sequences as the main story gets closer and closer to its end. 
Spoiler alert: unfortunately, the Arkham Knight isn't Condiment King.
While I am impressed by the amount of love Scarecrow receives - I sincerely thought he'd be a secondary villain who's cast aside halfway through - the whole mystery surrounding the Arkham Knight is telegraphed pretty heavily. When Batman does finally discover who's behind the mask, it isn't nearly as compelling as it could have been and there isn't any major follow-up. There was a lot of potential there and once the reveal is made, it feels like one of the weaker points of the story. I wouldn't say it's bad, but it just isn't nearly as gripping or moving as it could have been. Also, for such a narrative-driven franchise, it is disappointing the final ending is so sudden and leaves so many questions. The desire to make gamers speculate is perfectly fine (I have 3 theories), but for that to be the final end (presumably) is a bummer. Perhaps that'll be fleshed out in the DLC, but having to pay extra money to fully appreciate an ending seems like a greedy decision. That said, considering the handling of Batman and a few other points (which I won't spoil, obviously), there's much more to this story than the identity of the Arkham Knight. All in all, I believe the story's strengths outweigh the material that's just okay.

Overall, the voice acting is solid. Hearing Kevin Conroy as the Dark Knight and Tara Strong as Harley Quinn is going to make any Batman fan feel all kinds of happy on the inside. There's plenty of dialogue that's pure fan service, too. Some of it is a little heavy-handed, but I'll admit it still made me smile. Despite having some bratty dialogue, Troy Baker's performance as the Arkham Knight does an effective job making you understand the characters blend of hatred, sadness, and confidence. John Noble's perfect as Scarecrow, delivering lines that match the villain's eerie appearance and his dark mission. Aside from a few of Poison Ivy's lines (and can someone please get her a new outfit?), it felt like a fair amount of characters have their chance to steal some of the spotlight and some have the opportunity to effectively land powerful material - a few bits of dialogue with Jim Gordon (Jonathan Banks) and Tim Drake (Matthew Mercer) immediately comes to mind. I have no shame in admitting I was shocked and emotionally moved at least twice during the journey as well. I'd love to elaborate about the few parts that left me stunned, but since it's an enormous spoiler, I'll just have to bite my tongue. 

The following is a little spoilery (discusses a character who hasn't appeared in trailers), so skip this paragraph if you don't want any spoilers! Seriously, scroll down. Okay, I'll assume they're gone. So, for everyone else, I just want to say Mark Hamill's performance as the Joker manages to still be completely chilling and captivating. As someone who thought the franchise gave him a too much attention, I'm really impressed by the way the Clown Prince of Crime is handled in this one. I of course won't say how he plays a role, but it's a great way to enhance our emotional connection to Batman and it provides a little more twisted and clever humor. Speaking of humor, I absolutely love the conversations random criminals have as you explore the city. There's some seriously funny dialogue in there, especially after completing the main story.
Dual team takedowns aren't common but they're worth the wait.
Whether it's through secondary missions or the main story, there's a whole lot of characters from Batman's mythos in here. From characters who lack depth yet provide entertaining challenges (Firefly, the pyromaniac who loves to be repetitive about burning the city) to Man-Bat's tragic tale, it truly feels like a crowded and fleshed-out city. Catwoman, who's limited to being Riddler's hostage for a very long period of time, even jokes that she's there just to serve as Bruce's motivation. While not all of the characters are incorporated well (Poison Ivy's story makes sense, but it's a bit too out there for my taste), the opportunity to play as some of them or interact with others in the city is still satisfying. To top it off, there's even a fan-favorite brought in once the conflict with Scarecrow and Arkham Knight is completed! At the time of writing this, I haven't fought the villain yet and his dialogue does sometimes feel out of character (they don't seem as confident and intimidating as they should be), but I hear when you do face them, it's with the Batmobile. If true, that's a real shame because there's already so much vehicle combat and this individual has the chance to offer a difficult boss battle that requires a variety of melee attacks, gadgets, and stealth. Yes, the vehicle fight could be fun - there's one boss battle with the Batmobile that had me feeling an overwhelming sense of urgency and it was a nice change of pace - but using this villain for a tank vs. tank scenario seems like a complete waste of the character's talents.
To no one's surprise, controlling Batman in combat and stealth segments is such a rush. His melee abilities remain badass, fluid, and easy to use. Now there's something called "Fear Takedown" and using it honestly never gets old. They want you to feel like you're Batman and this is the perfect addition to making you feel like you're a gifted, imposing, and swift vigilante. Gadgets remain a joy to utilize in combat and they come in handy since enemies now have medics - characters capable of reviving downed enemies and even giving the recovered foes electric charges. Just like in the previous games, few things in the adventure are more satisfying than stalking criminals and having them walk right into your traps. Thanks to a few cameos, there's also the addition of dual team takedowns. When fighting alongside Catwoman, Nightwing, Robin, or even the Batmobile, Batman can join forces with his ally (or vehicle) to dish out an attack that'll immediately incapacitate the fiend - there's even one boss fight which relies on this. 

While there are several boss battles to enjoy and you can tell when you're nearing the end because the game will throw larger and larger hordes of enemies at you, I'm glad the final run of the main mission decides to focus purely on story and character instead of a potentially repetitive boss battle. There's plenty of combat to find and there's plenty more when the story with Scarecrow and Arkham Knight reaches its end, so the decision to deliver an imaginative way to sell the story is hugely appreciated. It really is a great way to really capitalize on all of the buildup.
Now just $50,000 per month. 0% APR for up to 5 days, too!
Seeing as the Batmobile is the franchise's big new feature, the vehicle obviously plays a pretty substantial role. As expected, speeding through the elaborate city is exciting and surprisingly enough, it's used to make some puzzles even more interesting. The combat mechanics are solid and they do give the game more variety, but when the regular melee combat, predator scenarios, and detective elements are all so good, I can't help but feel like they went a little overboard with the amount of times you need to fight waves of tank drones. As entertaining as obliterating overwhelming amounts of enemy vehicles may be, using Batman to glide below the cloudy skies or stalk henchmen is way more thrilling.

The visuals are stunning. They did a tremendous job creating a fitting atmosphere for Gotham and I've yet to get tired of staring at all that the city has to offer as I perch on a rooftop or race to my next objective. There's just so much variety sprinkled throughout the city and the framerate never took a noticeable drop (while using a PS4). It really is impressive just how much attention went into crafting this place and filling it with easter eggs. There are so many times I found myself simply rotating the camera around Batman so I could admire the view. 

The score plays an equally big part in pulling you into this fictional city. It's downright epic at times - sometimes even overshadowing what's going on - and there's one track that felt beautiful and tragic at the same time. I believe the first time it plays is when Batman's doing something especially heroic and putting himself in a fatal situation. Even though you know he's not going to die that early in the game (totally not a spoiler), it still manages to give the scene so much more weight.

Since I pre-ordered my copy for the Playstation 4, I had immediate access to the Harley Quinn, Red Hood, and Scarecrow missions. Harley Quinn's is the most elaborate mission and it includes exploring, predator sequences, melee fighting, and a boss battle. I didn't keep track of the time, but it was likely 10-15 minutes long at most. Playing as Quinn is pretty fun, especially since she has the ability to go into a frenzy which increases her speed and allows her to knock people out with one swift and oh-so-harsh combo. She may be lighthearted, but her extra vision mode reminds you just how frightening and unpredictable she can be. I imagine fans of a certain Robin won't be too pleased with the mission's outcome, though! 

As for Red Hood, the former Robin has 3 challenges: a direct brawl, a predator scenario, and a boss battle (Black Mask). The ability to use his twin pistols is a blast - totally unintentional pun - and his snarky responses are amusing, so this Jason Todd fan (I just lost some of you, didn't I?) is very pleased. Just like with Quinn, his content only took about 10-15 minutes, but their fighting styles are noticeably different. 

The Scarecrow missions are just 3 races followed by boss battles (while you're still in the Batmobile). Each race takes roughly a few minutes (assuming you aren't a total disaster at driving) and the boss sequence is just a few more. While the scenery and challenges a giant Scarecrow throws your way are cool, nothing is really done to make each race feel different than the other one. The only noticeable variation is the track. Aside from that, it's the same obstacles and the fight against the giant Scarecrow never undergoes significant changes. Unless you really love driving, it's unfortunately repetitive and doesn't seem to be as creative as it could have been. 
I believe I can Batman. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
It's a shame there isn't much replay value with the DLC - why can't I use Harley Quinn or Red Hood in other challenges? - but if you really love these characters and can afford it, then it's worth experiencing. Based on this, I can only assume Batgirl's upcoming story mission will also be 10-15 minutes long. Considering her role in the game, I'm very motivated to see her beat up a ton of bad guys. Here's hoping the extra content in the season pass justifies the whopping $40 price tag. I'm hoping it includes more combat and predator challenges, because as far as I can tell, there's only 4 of each (and they have pre-assigned characters!) yet there's at least 12 Batmobile challenges. Not cool.

Look, I'll be complete honest here: I've got a bit of Bat bias going on. Not only is he one of my favorite DC heroes, but I really, really enjoyed Rocksteady's Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. If you didn't spend a bunch of hours having a good time with those games or don't care all that much for the Dark Knight's world, then this one obviously just isn't for you - the fan service will be lost on you and feeling unstoppable in a Batmobile isn't going to suddenly win you over. However, if you even kind of consider yourself a Batman fan and like the previous games - even just a little bit - then I absolutely recommend playing Arkham Knight. It's a must-buy if you loved the previous games and a rental for casual fans. Sure, a key story element didn't blow me away and that feels like a missed opportunity, but this game is one hell of a ride. Whether you want to think that's a terrible Batmobile pun is entirely up to you.

For the "too long; didn't read" crowd:
+Fighting and exploring as Batman.
+A ton of focus on Batman's psyche.
+The graphics and the way Gotham is brought to life.
+Lots of fan service.
+Voice acting.
+Scarecrow's role.
+Plenty of content.
+Epic score.
+/- Batmobile's fun but plays too big of a role.
-Arkham Knight's story.
-Only 4 combat and 4 predator challenges. Characters pre-assigned, too.
-Final ending leaves way too many questions.
4.5/5


Robin: Son of Batman #1 review

Robin: Son of Batman #1
DC's the New 52 had several memorable story arcs. Stuff like Geoff Johns' time with Aquaman and Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino's Green Arrow run immediately come to mind. A number of titles earned a huge amount of praise and understandably so, but one that I believe was underrated is Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason's Batman and Robin. Sure, the quality jumped around a bit in the middle, but the opening story, Born to Kill, is amazing, and there are several other highlights, like Damian attempting to prove he's the best Robin or even Batman's ridiculously dangerous mission to resurrect his son. Now the title is moving forward without Tomasi and Batman. Gleason is taking over writing and the rest of the visual team (inker Mick Gray and colorist John Kalisz) are sticking around. This is obviously great news for anyone who enjoyed the previous run because it'll welcome them back with familiar visuals and even if the story takes some missteps, at least we know our eyes are going to receive some lively artwork.

This first issue proves Gleason can handle writing and providing pencils. The story isn't off to the most original start around - it certainly jumps around a bit - but what's important here is the handling of Damian Wayne. Many of us like the character because of his personality and for the most part, Gleason has a good handle on it. A few moments made me smirk and Damian's blunt desire to call everything upsetting him "stupid" was amusing and felt in character for the little dude. This first issue clearly focuses on showing Damian's confident and won't back down from anything or anyone, but behind that arrogance, there's a lot of emotional weight and he's finally going to deal with the twisted things he's done. Now, he's already proven he can be a great hero, but given the events in Batman and Robin and how closely connected he is to his grandfather and mother's work, it's understandable his past would once again feel like a huge weight on his shoulders. Speaking of huge, part of me is left wondering why Damian's Man-Bat, Goliath, looks different than the others. I guess we can just chalk that up to his love for eating and possibly even some of the al Ghuls' experimenting? It's not like the DC universe has weirder things than a muscular and red Man-Bat, after all.

As a reader of the previous run, I'm beyond thrilled to see plot points from Born to Kill are moving forward. There's an amusing play on words ("there appears to be nobody on board") and the villain's opening draws parallels to the previous story. There's a lot of potential here, but this is mostly setup - it's just enough to leave me wanting more. Then again, Born to Kill is also one of my favorite Damian stories, so I'm obviously a little biased here. Aside from that, we pretty much have to wait and see how the rest will be handled. It really is a pretty standard teaser/beginning that happens to be loaded with fan service for longtime readers. Here's hoping the "return" of Nobody will be every bit as emotional and exciting as it should be. There's another arc in here, but once again, it's basically one big teaser. This issue really is all about giving the reader a proper look into Damian's head - who he is and why he must do something about his past - and loosely setting up the bigger picture. To me, the most important element is making sure this feels like Damian, my favorite Robin, and luckily, it does. I love how the opening builds up this mythos with a new villain and then Damian just walks all over the guy with no problem whatsoever. The first splash page managed to put a huge smile on my face - it was great seeing Robin back in the spotlight and acting how he should.

Whether it's bright moments that are filled with fantasy elements or darker displays of horror, Gleason, Gray, and Kalisz deliver visuals that are animated, full of appropriate shades, and do a more than thorough job telling the story with their angles and use of expressions. My only criticism is things get a little too hectic when Goliath leaps into action, but the splash page which follows it is excellent; I love the contrast of the bold Man-Bat and the sky.

Question: What's up with the title jumping from Batman and Robin's $2.99 price tag to $3.99? It's odd the series removes DC's most popular hero (he's out of the picture for now, at least) and raises the price, too. I'm obviously willing to pay the extra dollar for this series, but I figured the price increase is worth bringing up.

Fans of Batman and Robin and/or Damian Wayne will want to pick this up. Thanks to consistently energetic visuals and a clear understanding of who Damian is, Robin: Son of Batman is off to a solid start. It has just enough action, personality, and intrigue to hook you. Now it's just a matter of seeing whether these plot threads will turn into something compelling and thrilling. Thankfully, this Damian Wayne fan is feeling pretty optimistic.

3.5/5

Old Man Logan #2 review

Old Man Logan #2

By now it should come as no surprise that any comic with visuals by artist Andrea Sorrentino and colorist Marcelo Maiolo is going to amaze your eyes. So, you can bet the duo once again delivers some gorgeous and stunning work in the second issue of writer Brian Michael Bendis' Old Man Logan. The page layouts and angles in the panels capture each moment brilliantly, making these feel delightfully cinematic and the pages breathe so much life into the various heroes and villains. Whether it's a lush jungle or a vivid bolt of lightning, these two make all of the characters, locations, and effects look terrific. Seeing their take on some of my favorite alternate universe characters is a real treat and the visual ride never fails to impress, but it's the last page that'll really drop your jaw.

The first issue was paced well and it did a nice job catching up new readers while also offering something original, but this second chapter feels a little too fast-paced. Before we really have time to appreciate all that's going on or let it sink in just how emotional this must be for Logan, we're quickly thrown into more and more chaos, and a bit of the buildup felt like unnecessary exposition since much of it is covered in the recap. I also have some small criticisms/questions about the wall (how is climbing it impossible with so many powered people?) and why AoA Sabretooth is now evil (I guess I missed/forgot about him becoming a villain?), but those are minor and don't change the score. Despite that, Bendis' script is still thoroughly entertaining and one or two lines gave me a good laugh. The idea of seeing Old Man Logan interact with other alternate Marvel heroes and villains is promising and has plenty of potential, but I hope the book never loses sight of making sure it remains character-driven and keeps us emotionally connected to this older, grumpier version of Wolverine. Millar and McNiven's Old Man Logan isn't just great because of the interesting alternate universe it creates; it's also great because of Wolverine's emotionally compelling journey

So far, Bendis is doing a pretty good job making sure we continue to get a nice amount of insight into Logan and there hasn't been a dull moment yet; I just hope things slow down a wee bit so we can get a better handle on the bigger picture as well. Whether the story gets better, stays the same, or takes a downward spiral, at least we know the artwork is going to continue to be awesome. Thankfully for us, it looks like Old Man Logan's second adventure is in good hands.

4/5

Captain America: Civil War - The Best Crossbones Battles

Captain America: The Winter Soldier marked the debut of Brock Rumlow, a.k.a. Crossbones, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Actor Frank Grillo said the sequel was an origin story for his evil character, and recent photos taken from the set of the third Captain America movie, Captain America: Civil War, show the dude is back with a brand new look and he's ready to punch Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, square in the face. The villain's new design puts an emphasis on armor and gives him gauntlets, a decision that makes perfect sense since the MCU's Captain America is a physical beast and it would be tough for any regular human to challenge him without sporting some extra gear. Still, the 616 version of Crossbones, a.k.a. the one existing in the regular Marvel Universe (well, pre-Secret Wars), is just a human who happened to train quite a lot and has an especially high level of pain tolerance. All you really need to know about his back story is that he's a total scumbag who eventually began to follow Red Skull and he even taught people how to fight at Taskmaster's school.

At one point Crossbones inhaled some Terrigan Mist and that temporarily gave him the ability to fire deadly blasts from his face, but aside from that short peroid of time, he's simply a deadly human who happens to be quite tough and very, very good at fighting. It really is a shame he and Punisher never had a big conflict. They did encounter in Punisher's recent run, but Brock was just a small part of a much, much bigger story. Anyway, you're here to see some of Crossbones' best fights, so let's get to it!

vs. Bullseye in Captain America #377
Who would win in a fight between Red Skull's right-hand man and Kingpin's top assassin? Both are badass villains with a love for shooting, punching, and stabbing things, but what happens when the two clash? The Daredevil villain is more accurate, but he has quite an ego. Crossbones is the more brutal one, but he's not as inventive with projectiles. Well, the two finally met in Captain America #377 and it didn't go too well for Bullseye.

Thanks to overestimating his own abilities and underestimating Crossbones' capabilities (Lester figured Brock was slow and unintelligent), the Cap fiend was able to close the gap between the two and put a serious hurting on the accurate assassin. Crossbones' own arrogance plays a bit of a role as well, because when he does get his hands around Lester's throat, Crossbones states it would be easy for him to end things right there. But instead of eliminating Bullseye swiftly, he wants to make his target suffer a slow and painful demise. You know, because he's kind like that. This delay gives Bullseye the chance he needs to spit a fake tooth in Brock's eye, stab him in the bicep, and the make a run for it.

Maybe a second encounter between the two would be more balanced, but thanks to Bullseye's arrogance, Crossbones was able to temporarily humiliate the Man Without Fear's lethal and incredibly dangerous villain.

vs. Captain America (Bucky) in Captain America #36
First and foremost, you need to understand there's some important context here. This match begins with Brock shooting Bucky in the back (he's wearing bulletproof armor, but it still hurts), so the fight starts with Brock having an unfair advantage. From there, we see Bucky give it everything he's got in the harsh melee fight, but unlike their previous encounters, Brock is able to take the hits and send some very painful ones back at the good guy.

In the end, Crossbones winds up throwing the new Captain America out of a window, but thanks to Black Widow and her flying car, Bucky doesn't fall to his death. He actually ends up shoots Crossbones in the chest several times when the enemy takes a look out the widow to see what happened. Crossbones of course lives to see another day, but that defeat has got to hurt his ego.

Even though Brock has given Steve Rogers rough fights, he's had some pretty unlucky encounters against Bucky. From hitting his head against a hard corner to getting knocked out with one hell of a blow, Bucky appears to be Crossbones' kryptonite. This is the one time it wasn't a pretty embarrassing display for him.

vs. Daredevil in Captain America #376
In Captain America's Streets of Poison story, Matt Murdock, a.k.a. Daredevil, is having a really terrible time. Firstly, his radar sense isn't even at 100%, so that alone is throwing off his game. Secondly, he's beaten up by a pissed off Captain America. Thirdly, he's forced to fight Crossbones shortly after getting wrecked by Steve -so that means he isn't in top form - and to make matters even worse, Daredevil leaps into action to save his archenemy, Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. Kingpin, from Crossbones.

Wilson Fisk is able to casually stroll away from the scene, but the encounter doesn't go well for the agile hero. It isn't long before Murdock finds himself on the floor and in even more pain. Luckily for him, he's able to escape the situation as Brock attempts to see if he can find Fisk. Brock has no such luck and returns to the room only to find out that Daredevil has fled the scene, too. Crossbones may have not killed either of the people he wanted to, but he certainly gets an A for effort.

vs. Prison facility guards in Captain America #600
Even a terribly despicable man can fall in love and have that passion totally overwhelm his heart. While Crossbones is being held in a H.A.M.M.E.R. facility, the inamtes are allowed to watch television. It just so happens to be the anniversary of the "death" of Captain America, and Brock laughs at just how little the media knows about what truly happened on that day. One especially patriotic guard doesn't take Brock's laughter over the loss of Cap very lightly and proceeds to taser the villain in the back. The guard then threatens to put the bad guy in an infirmary bed "near his girlfriend." Telling Brock that the women he loves is being held in the same facility he's in? Probably not the best idea.

Many of us would do anything for love, and for Brock, that means obliterate every single guard in his way until he finds his lover, Sin, in the infirmary. From snapping necks to simply plowing through enemies, the mercenary is eventually able to find the woman he loves. The two share a kiss before they're both taken out with gas. How romantic, right?

vs. Wolverine in Fear Itself: The Fearless #7
Let's get one thing out of the way: Yes, Brock's violent encounter with Wolverine is downplaying the X-Man's pain tolerance. Logan's known for being able to take a staggering amount of punishment, so having him temporarily out of commission after suffering several shots to the stomach is selling him short. That said, as a Crossbones fan, this is an awesome albeit brief display of Crossbones' own impressive level of pain tolerance and his refusal to throw in the towel, even if he's facing a major uphill struggle.

Wolverine does have the Captain America villain outclassed in terms of skill and physicals. It's a match Crossbones is going to lose unless he has some major prep time on his side, but this short and bloody encounter is memorable because, even after having his stomach sliced open, Crossbones was still able to trash talk and keep attacking. He may only be a human in a world full of super-powered beings, but he has the drive, determination, and skill to give a fair amount of them some trouble or even take them down. Wolverine isn't someone Crossbones is going to drop, but this shows he isn't going to make a run for it, either. Rogers previously referred to Brock as "as rough a customer as any I've ever tangled with!" This showing certainly proves the fiend's no pushover.

vs. Deadpool in Deadpool #25
Brock's big encounter with Wade Wilson, a.k.a. Deadpool, is every bit as savage and hilarious as you'd want it to be. When there was a price on Wade's head, Crossbones attempted to collect the huge sum of money. Unfortunately for the villain, he didn't succeed and the anti-hero left him standard for a little while. While the two are able to have a heart-to-heart in a bar right before fists begin to fly, Crossbones says he just isn't able to forgive Wade for what happened. After the two enjoy a drink, the ridiculously fun slugfest begin!

Wade's heart isn't really in it at first, but as the fight progresses, the two begin to really lash out. Some silly elements are thrown into the mix - this is a Deadpool story, after all - but after a ferocious fight, Wade's able to take the edge and he begins to pummel Captain America's nemesis. Crossbones is turned into a bloody mess, but it's without question an entertaining fight that gives both combatants plenty of love. As for why Brock is in his undies, well, I won't spoil that for you.


vs. Captain America in Captain America #363-364
Last and definitely not least, this is the very first fight between Captain America and Crossbones. The super-soldier's able to restrain Brock after a pretty amusing skirmish, but Crossbones isn't just a villain who relies on direct fights for a victory. The guy had several traps set up - in fact, the battle begins with Cap stepping on a bear trap - and thanks to his tactical mind and dirty tactics, Crossbones is able to escape as Captain America is left to deal with a pressure sensitive explosive trap.

It's not the most intense encounter around, but it sure is a memorable one and it showed us that Crossbones isn't just another generic mercenary who can only throw a decent punch or spam some projectiles. He's not as skilled or as physically powerful as Cap, but his heartless approach to combat makes up for that and allows him to give the Avenger a challenge. Additionally, Brock's vocabulary may not make him seem all that intelligent, but he sure is a cunning foe and that's on display in this classic brawl.


Honorable Mentions:
vs. Captain America (Sam Wilson) in All-New Captain America #2
vs. Young heroes in Fear Itself: Youth in Revolt #2
vs. Werewolves in Captain America and Crossbones #1
vs. Gambit in Gambit #18
vs. Captain America in Thunderbolts #150

Oh, and how could this article be complete without the most brutal, earthshaking blow Crossbones has ever dealt to Captain America? Behold! Crossbones vs. Captain America's foot! Let's hope they have this exact choreography and dialogue in Captain America: Civil War!
Go get 'em, Cappo!

Roche Limit: Clandestiny #1

Seeing as I haven't read the first Roche Limit series, I can't comment on whether any themes have carried over into this sequel or say how this debut issue holds up to the previous run. However, what I can say is the first issue of Roche Limit: Clandestiny is some damn good sci-fi. Not only is this first issue totally out there, fully embracing much of the potential a science fiction universe has to offer, but it's also surprisingly human.
Written by Michael Moreci and with visuals by Kyle Charles (art), Matthew Battaglia (colors), Sarah deLaine (flora/fauna), Tim Daniels (design), and Ryan Ferrier (letters), this first issue throws you into the middle of a pretty intense dialogue. It doesn't hit you with a ton of exposition; it just pulls you right into a mysterious moment and has you wondering what the hell just went down. Everything just hit the fan for two characters and their conversation will have your mind racing. What really just happened? What was the point of this mission? Where are they? She's going to kill what?! Before you know it, we're given a splash page that immediately made me think, "Could this protagonist be the next Ellen Ripley?" I sure hope so.

You can tell Moreci is pulling some elements from quite a few iconic sci-fi franchises, but for me, what helps this standout is how the lead character, Sasha, is being presented. She's not just some one-dimensional and strong lead character. You can tell there's an interesting backstory here and I'm left honestly wanting to see what it is. She's courageous and intelligent, yet you can also see she's somewhat broken -- a quality which is revealed in a pretty clever and emotional way, too.  My connection to the rest of the cast isn't nearly as strong and I can't shake the feeling that at least one or two of them are there just to serve as fodder, but I'd rather not race to conclusions about how they'll be handled just yet. I may not recall all of their names or even be able to immediately tell them apart, but so far, their dialogue feels natural and it leaves me feeling optimistic they're not just there to spew exposition and they're instead there to feel, you know, human.
When it comes to the bigger picture, this first issue sets up quite a few plot points. Honestly, I couldn't even tell what the overall theme was going to be because there's totally different plot threads popping up as we progress through the story. However, once we reach the end, it seems far more clear. It's tough to discuss this part without spoiling it, but let's just say 2015 seems to be a big year for this subject. Last week, I saw two movies posing similar questions. Despite that, this story element doesn't leave me feeling like it's something familiar or unoriginal. The newspaper article in the very end gives us some much-needed information and has me feeling like this story has a ton of promise. Without it, I'd be left feeling very in the dark about the cliffhanger. So, I believe the article was a nice way to give us readers some important information without harming the issue's pacing or making some characters randomly fill in the gaps.

This almost feels like Prometheus in the way it's setting up one big mystery after another. From horror elements to interesting questions, you can tell each one has potential. Now, I know Prometheus is a polarizing movie, but, based on this issue, this feels like it's going to give us a proper amount of insight into each of the elements that were just established. It would be hugely disappointing if that wasn't the case, but given how organically this first issue puts everything in place and teases them, I'm left feeling confident each of these subplots will receive a good amount of attention. Only time will tell, though!

Aside from a few small criticisms (e.g. sometimes eyes appear too far apart; rarely the environments seemed to lack depth), Roche Limit: Clandestiny #1's visuals are a nice mix of humanizing displays of emotion and gorgeous shades of purple and blue. Whether it's a fast-paced crash landing or just a simple conversation, the use of angles always kept me feeling immersed in the story. I may have some small, personal criticisms with some of the anatomy, but these visuals rarely pulled me out of the moment and I was left properly understanding and appreciating a vast majority of what was occurring. I especially enjoyed the occasional close-up shot of the eyes for the more dramatic moments.
Sure, I'm left with a whole bunch of questions, but what good story would reveal everything in the first chapter? A solid sci-fi tale needs to engage your eyes and your imagination. Roche Limit: Clandestiny #1? Yeah, it definitely does that. If you're craving some smart sci-fi, you have no good reason not to check this out. It's just $2.99 and new reader-friendly, people! Man, now I'm left wanting to pick up the first volume's trade. I guess that'll help kill some time before the next issue is released, right?

4.5/5

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #45 review

*Yes, this review has SPOILERS! Do yourself a favor and make sure you've read #44 and #45 before reading this.*

So, that happened. Unless you read the solicitation first or the internet spoiled you, odds are Donatello's vicious defeat at the hands of Bebop and Rocksteady was quite a jaw-dropper. The whole time that fight was going down, I kept thinking of different ways my favorite Ninja Turtle would make it out of the situation just fine. "Maybe Alopex and Nobody will show up at the last second. Maybe there's another device in the lab that'll save him. Maybe..." But no, nothing happened to save the mutant from the evil duo's brutality and I was left wondering just one thing: is Donatello really dead or is he barely alive? This latest issue wastes no time answering that question as we quite literally see that Donatello hasn't "walked towards the light" just yet.
Let's talk about the developments with Donatello since, you know, they're kind of a big deal. What Tom Waltz, Kevin Eastman, and Bobby Curnow are doing makes perfect sense. Even if you thought Donnie was dead, there's about a 0% chance you sincerely thought it would be permanent. Instead of dragging his fate on and on, they immediately present a way to keep Donatello "alive" that doesn't technically bring "him" back. This option also feels very fitting for this universe -- a place which is rich in technology and fantasy. It's also a solid way to keep Fugitoid in the loop; I was concerned he'd vanish for awhile after the conclusion with General Krang. It's a shame leaks blatantly spoiled this issue's cliffhanger for me (seriously, please remember to use proper spoiler etiquette, people), but that's not something I can hold against the issue.

To me, placing Donatello's consciousness into Metalhead doesn't lessen the impact of what happened. It showed that, despite their dim-witted nature and goofy personalities, Bebop and Rocksteady aren't a duo anyone should take lightly and they clearly have no problem crossing the line and being incredibly cruel. They're oblivious to their own strength, and that makes them ridiculously dangerous. It doesn't change how much it impacts Donnie's loved ones, either. You'd be mistaken to believe putting his personality into Metalhead suddenly makes everything okay. We all know he'll eventually get back into his mutated body, but for now, this is going to create an interesting dynamic. Will they treat him differently? Will this change his personality? Will he want revenge? Or will this push him to hide once he does get back in his body -- you know, in an effort to keep himself safe? Given what we saw in Turtles in Time, that would make sense. Or would Donatello know that taking that path means the death of his brothers? I'm really hoping that future version of him isn't forgotten as the story moves forward.

As we see in this issue, Bebop and Rocksteady's violent actions aren't going to be glossed over. (I so can't wait for Raph to go after them.) As expected, Raphael is beyond pissed off and he's lashing out. This brought about a surprising response from Mikey -- it's nice to see his more serious moments from time to time, isn't it? -- and it's making Leonardo feel guilty over the decisions they've made. We all know Donatello will eventually be okay, but for now, this development is loaded with potential and its already taking the series in a more compelling and interesting direction, especially with his mutant brothers. Now, that's not to say it wasn't interesting or compelling to begin with; it's been consistently great! But something this traumatic should have a huge impact on everyone and it's looking like it absolutely will.
The stuff going on around Donatello's weakened body is solid, but I especially love what they're doing with the purple-masked turtle's spirit. As everyone else worries or works to save him, we see Donatello in another, well, dimension. As his spirit encounters his mother, and his father races to prevent him from accepting his end, Charles Paul Wilson III's pencils are the perfect addition to this sequence. Obviously, they're drastically different than artist Mateus Santolouco's work (he handles the rest of the issue), but given the fact it's a completely different setting and tone, it feels so right. With a soothing handling of the colors and location and an especially strong and skilled emphasis on compassionate expressions, these visuals really pull you into the scene and deliver a totally appropriate amount of emotion.

While a good portion of the issue is dedicated to Donnie follow-up and it's way more emotional, Casey Jones is given one simple task in this issue: give the readers some awesome action. Thanks to artist Mateus Santolouco's insanely energetic visuals, Ronda Pattison's consistently talented and eye-catching coloring, and some really badass and fast-paced choreography, Jones' brief role is a blast. It ends on a note that feels a little unclear (there's no way Hun was unaware of that brawl after the gunshot, so was it just a diversion?), but hopefully that'll be explained in the next issue. After April's parents bonded with the vigilante, I can't help but feel like they're in serious danger and we could soon witness a real death.
As if the spotlight on "dying Donnie" and Casey Jones wasn't enough, the villains also receive just a wee bit of love. We get a very brief update with the Foot (Karai, Bebop & Rocksteady, etc) and it's just enough of a teaser for what's to come, but the really good teaser comes from the new alliance that is forming between Baxter Stockman and Shredder. It's terrific this isn't your typical "evil boss and not happy yet still subservient scientist" dynamic. Stockman is done taking orders and he's taken steps to make sure he isn't taken advantage of or walked all over. His plan will probably fail miserably sooner or later, but it's great they're taking a different approach to the alliance and it makes the scientist seem way more formidable. There's a mutual "respect" here and I definitely want to see how this will continue to play out.

It really is impressive just how much story this team can pack into each and every issue. Not only do we get a satisfying follow-up to Donatello's situation -- one which takes advantage of this universe's mystical and sci-fi elements -- but you can also feel the tension building everywhere else. By the time you're done with this issue, you can tell at least three different plot points are ready to explode. Equally impressive is Santolouco and Pattison's consistently stellar visuals. Those two continue to bring a crazy amount of energy to these pages and Charles Paul Wilson III's handling of Donatello's scenes created the perfect atmosphere while also delivering powerful expressions. It's tempting to say something cheesy here -- something like "I love being a turtle('s fan)" -- but I'd much rather be blunt: IDW's TMNT is a damn good series. This publisher is giving us an unforgettable incarnation of the franchise and I can't wait to see what they'll dish out next. If you consider yourself a TMNT fan, you need to be following this series. If not, you're missing out on some truly great stuff.

Bloodshot Reborn #1 review

When you think of Bloodshot, what immediately comes to mind? Over-the-top violence? Pale skin with red eyes and a red circle on the chest? Even more vicious violence? Jeff Lemire tells you what he thinks about Bloodshot right in the opening (while also providing some exposition for new readers) and then spends the rest of the issue completely redefining the character. So yeah, you can bet the title of this series is pretty literal.
If you were brainwashed by a shady organization and used as their hitman for God knows how many years, how would you feel if you were finally free from their control and that life of violence? And what if your final mission ended with a tragedy? Would you bury those feelings deep down inside of you as you embrace your freedom and see what it's like to finally live like an ordinary person? Or would the weight of your previous actions crush you? After all, it's unclear just how many lives you've taken. With Bloodshot, Jeff Lemire makes it clear we're dealing with a guy who is being eaten alive by his past and understandably so. The character isn't sight-seeing or frolicking in a field, he's laying low and simply surviving as his former life slowly tears away at him. This is Bloodshot like you've never seen him before (well, post-reboot; no idea about in the past) and it's a really gripping and emotionally powerful approach to the character. You go in expecting bloodshed, bullets and brutal madness as Bloodshot embarks on his next mission, and instead we get a comic that's 99.9% character-driven -- one that can be appreciated by new and pre-existing fans. There's a tiny amount of commentary in here about violence and gun control, but the primary focus is making us feel for this damaged guy.

Bloodshot's in a rough place and it is a dark book, yet it isn't overly depressing. Lemire finds a way to make Bloodshot's low point both entertaining and insightful. You'll get more out of it if you've been following the character over the past few years, but the handling of the character study is so well executed that I'm sure new readers will still establish an emotional connection to the dude and finish the comic with a strong desire to read even more.
Lemire's script pulls you right into Bloodshot's world, and artist Mico Suayan and colorist David Baron do a beyond excellent job making sure everything looks great. When you're dealing with Bloodshot, you don't want bright and energetic visuals. These two perfectly understand the tone Lemire's going for and the end result are some gritty pages that are full of great, expressive character work and a commendable amount of attention is given to each and every location. (Minor gripe: I noticed the video game had the same moment in multiple panels, so I'll just assume the kid paused it?) Early on, there's one page that allows Baron to steal the spotlight as the layout calls for attention-grabbing shades of red. It's easily the most striking page in the comic. And don't worry, the opening gives you all of the twisted violence you'd want from a Bloodshot story before taking a more compelling and emotional turn. Oh, and comic readers know Lemire is also an artist and he provides a little bit of character work in this one. I know you're probably thinking Lemire's style is drastically different than Suayan's, but trust me, they make it work.

Bloodshot Reborn is taking a smart and entertaining approach to the character that you think you know so well. Lemire's opening chapter makes sure it quickly catches up new readers and then delves deep into who this Valiant character really is and why he's not as one-dimensional as some may think. There's only a loose teaser about the bigger picture, but that's not exactly a bad thing when there's such a terrific focus on humanizing this killing machine. Throw in Suayan and Baron's amazing pages and yeah, this is a comic that earns your $3.99 and then some. When you go into this, you're only getting a small sample of the Bloodshot you've come to know. If you want savage mayhem, there's plenty of Bloodshot collections you can pick up and enjoy. But if you're looking for something different with the character, this one's definitely for you. It looks like Valiant has yet another awesome series for us and I can't say I'm even remotely surprised. The publisher's doing a great job focusing on quality over quantity.

Bloodshot Reborn #1 goes on sale April 15.