Tuesday, November 23, 2010

a few reviews up in here: Zatanna #7 and Streets of Gotham #17

Streets of Gotham #17
Written by Paul Dini, Fabian Nicieza
Art by Dustin Nguyen, Derek Fridolfs, Szymon Kudranski, John Kalisz, and Nick Filardi
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics

"Selina. It's me."

Those three words tell the whole story.

I guess it's no surprise now that Bruce Wayne is back as Batman (or one of them at least) and trying to re-emerge himself in the daily aspects of being Batman. While I enjoyed Batman, Inc, Paul Dini's Batman is the one I favor the most of the past five years or so. He's collected, intelligent, cool, and always makes time for his favorite feline fatale. He just comes across as more human, than the almost quasi-deity I've seen him elsewhere.

The issue is split in half with Bruce having his moment with Selina and Tommy Elliot, aka Hush, on the loose. While Batman (Bruce) is on the case on who is causing people to sleepwalk via tiny insects. The villain, the Bedbug, is seen briefly, but I'm sure will be back. Elliot, who is still being mistaken for Bruce Wayne, gets taken hostage and his kidnapper retells a story about Bruce's father and Leslie Thompkins. There's quite the flashback on a failed assassination where we see an amazing Alfred scene that invokes his days in RAF. Of course, Elliot's kidnappers are dealt with pretty easily and he actually offers them a position to align themselves with him. Bruce has only been back a few days and already the cards are stacking up against him.

The Ragman story, who I always considered DC's answer to Ghost Rider, isn't all that bad. Fabian Nicieza is one of my all-time favorite comic writers because his style adapts to the situation, especially with this haunting dialogue. There's an interesting use of colors here that give it an anime-like look to it. It might turn some people off, but I think it works for the story.

It's no secret that I love the combination of Dini, Nguyen and Fridolfs. They are what made Detective Comics so incredibly good two years ago with the Heart of Hush arc (which I gave my Silver Medal to at our end of the year awards). It just always seems like when this team is good, they are the epitome of what I want in a Batman story. I have to admit, I've been slacking in picking this book up like I should since I've been overwhelmed by Bat-mania v.2.0. It's good to see Bruce back.


Zatanna #7
Written by Adam Beechen
Art by Chad Hardin, Wayne Faucher, and John Kalisz
Lettering by Pat Brosseau
Cover by Jesus Saliz
Published by DC Comics

"Hollywood. Where the curtain never comes down."

My love for the character aside, I think Zatanna is one of the best ongoing that DC has to offer these days. The simplest reason for that is that it is self-contained. In the world of the market adapting a trade-ready format, this book is pretty easy to pick up, have a coherent idea of what is going on, and enjoy Zee fighting mystical forces. Ta da!

Now, Paul Dini is DC's, and probably the world's, biggest fan of Zatanna. It's no secret he married a stage magician, and just loves writing her, so I'm always a bit skeptical when there is somebody else's name in the writer credits. Though to Adam Beechen's credit, I've seen his name pop up around a lot more these days, even on a Mystery, Inc episode recently. The scenario is Zatanna is attending magical museum opening where a lot of artifacts from mystics from the DCU will be showcased. Of course, some of the artifacts take a life of their own and Zee is face to face (sort of) with an old rival of her father's. A quick fight with magical fisticuffs and problem resolved, with a little assistance from the spirits of the former bearers of the artifacts, including Zee's father, John Zatara.

The thing that is most notably different from the first few issues of the series is the art team. Stephane Roux and Karl Story made one hell of a team. Roux's sultry version of Zee is one I most harken back to, that and Adam Hughes'. So, not to belittle Chad Hardin here, but something about it hasn't clicked with me. This issue is far better than his previous ones. You can tell his improvements in panel construction and just how Zee moves. She has that grace she was lacking before. I love Faucher's inks. I think him and Hardwin make for a good comic team, but there is still room for improvement. It's not boring by any means. Just the bar was set a bit too high, I suppose. That happens from time to time.

If you're not already picking up Zatanna, I have to ask why not. It's fun storytelling that doesn't require purchasing eight tie-ins and whatnot. While I prefer Dini to Beechen's style, it's still worth a read through if not outright buy.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Artifacts #3 review

Artifacts #3
Written by Ron Marz
Art by Michael Broussard, Facundo Percio, Stjepan Sejic, Paolo Pantalena, Sheldon Mitchell, Nelson Blake II, Sal Regla, Rick Basaldua, Joe Weems, Sunny Gho, and IFS
Lettering by Troy Peteri
Published by Top Cow

"There is a war coming. Between those who embrace the future and those who resist it. My master will win that conflict." -- Aphrodite

Thou shall not covet Ian Nottingham's sword.

Ladies and gentlemen, it probably isn't much of a spoiler to know that Ian Nottingham is back (he's on the cover) and kicking ass with his best feet forward and doesn't have time to take names. Well, frankly, he just doesn't care. The prison guards knows he's dangerous, we as readers know he's dangerous, but it's still good to have a scene as we do in the first few pages as a simple reminder at how lethal this man really is.

Last issue, Sara, Gleason, Dani, Jackie and Tom Judge get ambushed by a small horde of demons. It's not a huge part of the story, but makes them realize that somebody/thing is after them and it's over before you know it. It's a good scene to show readers what these characters as a whole and as a unit can accomplish. I love Broussard and company's attention to detail from the Darkness' armor and darklings, to Sara's armor and facial features. While we get more of an idea of the major players and Artifacts, as told by Tom Judge, this isn't really the heroes' story. No. This issue belongs to Aphrodite IV.

If there is one thing we've learned from the Top Cow Universe is that this cybernetic she-devil is beyond a force to be reckoned with. While she's low-key on the action here, her cunning ways are in full force as she makes a trek around the world to gather a resistance to Sara's alliance. Familiar faces abound, as lines are drawn in the sand. A war is indeed coming and you would have to cut the tension with diamond-edged chainsaw. The thing here is that twists are still coming. Three issues in, and some of the Artifacts are already changing hands in a sort of mystical, murderous, musical chairs sort of way.

Ron Marz has crafted an engaging series thus far. There are many players coming and going, but you get a sense of who they are and what purpose they serve to the overall story. For the more forgetful fan, or somebody who is not as enriched in Top Cow lore, there is an index of some of the characters that were highlighted in the issue. Just something to make the experience more accessible, and in turn, enjoyable. After last issue, I felt it was more set up, but in the process lost a bit of steam. Then again, with a strong first issue as Artifacts did, it came across as lighter in comparison. I feel as thought we've regained some of that lost momentum and back on track with this third issue.

Michael Broussard is aided by a complementary team that still keep the feel of his style, but there are parts here and there that you know were all Broussard and when they weren't. It's not a distraction by any means, and still held up a solid pace to the story.

Thirteen issues might seem a lot to tell a story, but with the pacing and plot developments, it's the story that Top Cow has been needing and is long overdue.