Last week’s Justice League Dark #35 presented a very interesting tale of Zatanna meeting up with her father Zatara in an alternate-reality kind of setting, following an adventure with the rest of the supernatural Justice League that split the entire team up. It was a really fun tale, and nice to see Zatanna take the lead in the title after the recent Nightmare Nurse and Deadman-oriented arcs that did a lot to flesh out those particular characters. But the big question of course was what kind of an event had split the team up, and just how it all went down.
J. M. DeMatteis’ latest issue on the title does a lot to flesh that out in its entirety and help answer some of the questions that I found myself raising after getting through Justice League Dark #35. The Justice League Dark Annual #2 is a pretty great story that explores the character relationships between Zatanna and Constantine, which segues into an exploration of how their relationship has ended up affecting the House of Mystery itself. The writing is fairly solid on this one, though I think that it moved a bit too fast and missed out on a few emotional beats, and the same kind of goes for the artwork as well.
I’ve said before that this is a really busy year for Jim Zub, and that couldn’t have been truer last week when he rolled out Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate #1 from IDW Publishing. Given all the other tie-in work he does for Pathfinder and Samurai Jack, he’s also a busy man with some original work, the latest of which has really impressed me. Pairing up with Steve Cummings, Wayward has rocketed up to the list of my favourite monthlies, and it is easily one of the best new comics of the year as well. Japanese urban fantasy with spirits and ghosts and what not? Definitely aces.
Wayward #1 introduced us to the characters of Rori Lane and Ayane, and Wayward #2 introduced us to Shirai, while also moving the overall plot forward a little bit. Now, Wayward #3 introduces us to yet another character, Nikaido, even as the heroes all team-up to fight against a spirit-monster in a really cool action scene. And as I expected and wanted to see, the issue also introduced some of the villains of the series. Jim’s writing and Steve’s art top out once again and I have to say that this was an issue even better than the previous two, which just boggles the mind. The entire team of Wayward seems intent on pulling out all stops!
Slight lows on the reading this past week since I didn’t manage to finish either of the graphic novels I started this week, and generally didn’t read as many singles either, but I did manage to get through 35 of them, so that’s something, yeah?
For this week, I’d say that the surprise hits are Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate #1 from IDW Publishing, Catwoman #35 and Secret Origins #6 from DC Comics and Predator: Fire and Stone #1 from Dark Horse Comics. The comics that win the “disappointment of the week award” are Grimm Fairy Tales: Dark Shaman #1 from Zenescope, Arkham Manor #1 and Sensation Comics #11 both from DC Comics. Ongoings like Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #8, Aquaman #35, Tomb Raider #9 and Nancy A. Collins’ prelude Vampirella: Prelude To The Shadows #1 were all first-rate comics this week, and quite satisfactory as well.
The graphic novels I’m in the middle of at the moment are Supergirl Vol.4 by Michael Alan Nelson and Diogenes Neves, and The Flash Vol.2 by Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul.
A lot of shows have a troubled first season and don’t get their bearings until their second rodeo. That’s kind of what Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD has been all about, given that the second season season is trumping the first season left and right without a break. Last week Team Coulson got a big boost in the form of Agent Bobbi Morse, who had been working undercover at HYDRA HQ for a while now and returned to the team, alongwith none other than Agent Simmons, who was on a similar operation. One seriously kickass action hero and one seriously brainy scientist, both women, on the show now, things couldn’t be better!
In “A Fractured House“, we see some pretty major things happen, and if I’m right, then this episode is going to be a major turning point for the rest of the series. The second season is one where the character relationships have really come to the fore, and this episode typifies all of that. HYDRA goes after SHIELD in this episode by attacking a UN summit dressed as SHIELD agents and the resulting furor means that Director Coulson has some pretty big decisions to make about the future of some of his operatives, and some of his prisoners. Prisoners like former Agent Ward. Not a pretty episode.
Coming in at the tail-end of the 1980s, Predator stands as one of the best contemporary action-horror SF movies I’ve seen to date. Sure, the movie has a rather thin plot and the characters are archetypes for the most part, but come on, it had Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers trying to out-bicep each other and the whole concept of an alien tribal hunter stalking a special forces unit in the jungles of Central America. I think it is pretty great, personally, specifically the second half, which I think is fairly strong on its own. Though, must be said that most Arnie action movies are awesome. Its Arnie!
Going along with Dark Horse’s recent revival of the Alien and Predator franchises, this week saw the release of Predator: Fire and Stone #1, which is set after the events of Prometheus: Fire and Stone #4 (not yet released) and Alien vs Predator: Fire and Stone #1 (released). The timeline juggling is interesting, but the great thing is that Joshua Williamson focuses on the immediate story and gives the reader just enough about the previous stuff that it is not a crutch. This is a great survival horror story, or the start of one, and artist Christopher Mooneyham does an incredible job illustrating all of it.
A lot of the things that today we take for granted in epic fantasy wouldn’t really exist if it wasn’t for Dungeons & Dragons four decades ago. Sure, the genre has existed for much longer and J. R. R. Tolkien gave rise to many of the staples and tropes of the genre, but D&D basically revolutionized the genre, and here we are in 2014, where that one tabletop RPG has spawned countless comics, video games, novels, and ever more expansions, even a couple of movies. And this is the year for the 40th celebration of Dungeons & Dragons, so it makes sense that Wizards of the Coast would do something special for that anniversary.
And one of the many ways in which the celebration begins is by a new Dungeons & Dragons comic, Legends of Baldur’s Gate, written by popular fantasy writer Jim Zub. Jim, who also writes Dynamite’s Pathfinder and IDW’s Samurai Jack tie-in comics, among many other titles, delivers a really easy-going, cheeky and fun story in Legends of Baldur’s Gate #1, creating an interesting mystery of missing siblings and magic gone haywire. Max Dunbar’s visuals are also very impressive though a bit simplistic at times, but all things considered, this was definitely an aces issue.
In the wake of the Age of Darkness event, when the Realms were finally brought down in Grimm Fairy Tales #100, the Grimmverse has been chugging along on various legs as Zenescope introduced lots of new titles and mini-series, and even jumped forward in time to a year after the fall of the Realms to continue on its flagship Grimm Fairy Tales title. The series has progressed well in the last couple months with a new cast of characters and some returning old ones, and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it, for sure.
In the previous two issues we’ve seen some bonding between the different characters, as Sela and Shang bring in the next generation of Realm Knights, with one of them being Sela’s own daughter Skylar, and the other being Violet, Calie’s daughter from Neverland. It has been a fun outing, and now it is time for a different direction as some of the rivalries and biases start to make themselves felt. Belinda used to be an assassin for the Dark Horde, for example, but now she is a teacher at Arcane Acre, reformed and willing to lead a new life. It is a mostly good issue, with some good art, and that’s downright good for me.
Truth be told, I don’t have much of an experience with the Catwoman title, apart from a couple issues I read as part of a couple of mini-events at DC. Ann Nocenti’s much-maligned run has put me off quite a bit from checking out her run from the get go, but with some recent changes in Selina’s status quo, particularly the fact that she currently stars in Gotham as her younger self, means that I’m much more interested in Catwoman than I ever was before. I’m generally familiar with her from various animated appearances, but that’s really it. And I think it is great that as of this week Catwoman has a new creative team.
With writer Ann Nocenti moving off to the new series Klarion, Genevieve Valentine is brought in to take the reins of Catwoman and shepherd the titular character to a new phase in her life, where she is no longer Catwoman but is instead Selina Kyle Calabrese, the heir of the Calabrese mob-family, given that her father is its patriarch, Rex Calabrese. Much of this was told in some recent issues of Batman: Eternal, and Valentine takes all of that and just runs with it, delivering a really great story. And the art by Garry Brown and Lee Loughridge is just as exciting as you can expect.
After the end of the 2-parter arc in late summer that focused on Deadman’s past, last month we got to see a future vision of the Justice League Dark, a future in which The Demon has joined the team and Zatanna is fighting some of the biggest battles of her life. It was a fairly good issue, but it didn’t really satiate my desire to read more of the JLD in the present DC timeline, since the current team dynamics are really excellent and writer J. M. DeMatteis has been dong some great work on the series, focusing on particular characters every few issues, and the art has never been better either.
In this week’s Justice League Dark #35, J. M. DeMatteis presents a story where Zatanna and Constantine have cast a really powerful spell that has torn the fabric of reality and sent the entire team hurtling through the multiverse. Separated from the others, Zatanna ends up on a world unlike any she has seen with monsters unlike any other either. And she meets someone completely unexpected, setting off a great story that explores Zatanna’s past and provides some great emotional moments. Tom Derenick and Scott Hanna are the guest artists on this issue along with Chris Sotomayor and they absolutely knock things out of the park.
With three great episodes in the bag so far, CW’s The Flash is powering on to some really great things, especially since next week is going to see the debut of one of Flash’s greatest villains, Leonard Snart aka Captain Cold in all his parka glory. Fun yeah? And to go with that, the current Season Zero comics are also doing their bit to expand Barry’s villains roster. The previous issues have all been leading up to this particular one, out a few days ago, and the journey to this point has certainly been great, with a nice simplistic villain like Strong Man leading the charge on that front.
Previously we’ve seen that there’s a criminal mastermind at work within Central City, who is targeting the “enemies” of a local traveling circus, and that Barry has already gone up against some of the circus workers. Team Barry manages to suss out the identities of these new villains, leaving it to the hero to confront the big bad, and it is a great moment filled with some wonderful stuff that can only be possible in comics and not in television. The writing is mostly consistent with what we’ve seen already on this title, and the art is as great as it has ever been, so The Flash Season Zero #4 is a good installment altogether.
The Secret Origins is one where each issue contains three short stories, each about a different superhero and supervillain in the DC universe and their respective origins. I’ve been fairly interested in the series for a while now, though I haven’t really gotten into it as yet. There’s already so many titles I want to read every month that just managing any more is a super-task. But still, the concept of the series is a good one and it really does seem to give you a brief taste of different characters and titles in a single package, so why not check it out yeah? Least, that’s what my thinking was when I picked up this week’s issue.
Secret Origins #6 is the origin stories of Wonder Woman, Deadman and Sinestro, from the respective creative teams of Wonder Woman, Justice League Dark and Sinestro, with some changes. Each story deals with the earliest days of the respective characters, and each story is executed well with enough callbacks to later events in the characters’ histories or even their respective ongoing titles. There is a right crazy mix of creators here, and I can definitely recommend this one, for it is a great standalone issue given you a great brief look at three of DC’s greatest characters.
Thanks to CW’s Arrow, the character of Slade Wilson aka Deathstroke has enjoyed a great surge in popularity in recent years. Manu Bennett’s portrayal of DC’s greatest mercenary/assassin has enchanted people everywhere and when he stepped up as the big bad of the show’s second season last year, things really kicked off for him in a major way. However, the character hasn’t enjoyed as much popularity in the comics, with his most recent run ending rather unceremoniously, though not as abruptly as some of the other of DC’s New 52 books. I never read that first series, mostly because I wasn’t interested in the character so much back then.
But now things are different. Now I want to read more about Slade Wilson and the reins of the new series are given in the hands of writer Tony S. Daniel who is also the artist on the series. I’ve never really enjoyed any of Tony’s previous work for DC, mostly because there’s always something lacking in his stories or his dialogues, though his art is usually good. Deathstroke #1 however, is a departure from the former. It is quite an interesting story of a man as skilled and talented as Slade Wilson is supposed to be and Tony does a fairly decent job with him, though some of his deficiencies do show up here.