Alex Lynch Reviews: AQUAMAN #23.1, BATMAN: BLACK & WHITE #1 & More [Part 1]
In the first batch of this week's comic book reviews, we take a look at Aquaman #23.1 - Black Manta, Batman: Black And White #1, Action Comics #23.2 - Zod and much more, but we also discuss some SPOILERS ahead!
Aquaman 23.1 – Black Manta
I’ll publicly shame myself right now and say I haven’t read New 52 Aquaman, but I’m very knowledgeable in his mythology and I’m familiar with the Black Manta character, so you won’t have stupid short reviews like “I don’t know about this book but it’s cool” like last week. Anyway, I really genuinely enjoyed this book mainly because it actually directly tied into Forever Evil. I don’t know whether or not that’s because Geoff Johns plotted it but more books that show the events of Forever Evil from the villain’s perspective is what I wanted to see in most of the books this month. This book features Amanda Waller trying to recruit Black Manta to “Task Force X/Suicide Squad” but he ultimately declines saying all he wants is for Aquaman to be dead, but when the Crime Syndicate destroy Belle Revee, Black Manta makes a very interesting escape and visits the Crime Syndicate’s meeting (as seen in Forever Evil #1) only to learn that Aquaman is, indeed, dead. Here we see several scenes from Forever Evil play out but in different perspective, which I actually enjoyed and made it feel like it was actually part of the event and the DC universe. Nevertheless, this story explored Black Manta’s anger and hatred and where it would go after Aquaman was dead since he made it clear that was his primary goal, to avenge his father. A final scene that includes Ultraman moving the moon in front of the sun actually explored the science of the tides changing and it brings us to a real, moving scene with Black Manta that I’m not going to spoil, but Claude St. Aubin’s artwork made it so beautiful to see, and within a moment, Black Manta’s hatred is redirected. If you’ve read the solicitations, I’m sure you could figure out who he currently hates. Black Manta is a great villain and this book is the definition of “tie-in”, so be sure to pick it up as soon as you can.
Batman: Black And White #1
Wow, where do I begin with this? DC is bringing together some of the most amazingly talented writers and artists in the comics industry to write some amazing short stories about the Caped Crusader. Whether it’s campy Batman or serious Batman, this book rolls the dice of Batman’s illustrious history. The first story features some chibi-reminisce Michael Cho, whose line work is absolutely fantastic and he really shades in all the right places. It was an absolute joy to look at and I knew I was in for a treat at the very first page. In the story, Batman goes missing after fighting The Joker and Robin looks for him as long as possible and doesn’t give up, he even enlists the aid of Superman. It’s a really cute and campy tale that feels like it was ripped from Batman ’66, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Chip McKidd has amazingly charming storytelling skills and the final panel left a big grin on my face. Superman’s introduction altogether was incredibly pleasant, and even though he has minimal lines of dialogue, he has that wonderful 50s cartoon personality that used to be synonymous with Superman. McKidd crafts a really good tale in this book that is worth the cover price alone, but you get much more than you bargain for in the following stories…
Speaking of the following stories, the next part of this anthology is called ‘Batman: Zombie’ by Neal Adams. While his artwork is distinct and detailed and has a crazy design for a zombie Batman, this story just doesn’t work for me. It felt all over the place and almost unclear at times with plenty of dialogue stuffed in. I believe, in the beginning, the book is supposed to somewhat be a metaphor for Batman being a regular street hero and not a hardened costumed vigilante, but at the end it just turns into a not-so subtle message about our justice system that ends up being a dream. I’m sorry; I just don’t think this story worked for Batman at all but instead should’ve been told with a different character choice or involve a reason for Bruce to be dreaming about this sort of thing. I also refuse to believe that Bruce would instantly jump at the chance to spring out possible criminals, but hey, the story had fantastic art so that’s a huge plus.
Our next story is about Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy called Justice Is Served and it really brings us back to the Batman: The Animated Series era. The art is absolutely gorgeous, so huge credit towards Joe Quinones. All the facial expressions and detail is spot on and fit the fantastic story by Maris Wicks, who totally understands these characters. In this story, we have classic Harley Quinn and her hyenas, a version of the character I’ve been missing in the New 52. This story is great. It features a burger chain in Gotham getting poisoned and turning everyone into plants and obviously, the blame goes on Poison Ivy who swears she didn’t do it. So Batman starts investigating and learns that Ivy isn’t the culprit so Ivy helps to develop an antidote and goes after the real culprit, a fellow scientist of Ivy’s back in her early days. Hilarity then ensues. I absolutely loved this story and this version of Batman is the reason I got into the character many years ago.
The next story called ‘Driven’ by John Arcudi and Sean Murphy explores more of the human, playboy and male side of Bruce Wayne which I really enjoyed seeing. In it, he’s repairing his “badly damaged” batmobile, even going as far as taking out the engine and making modifications. Alfred questions why he goes through such extremes and Bruce keeps replying with new ideas to upgrade his bad boy, as we see flashbacks from an epic chase scene between Roxy Rocket (who needs more recognition, in my opinion) and Batman through the streets of Gotham. Sean Murphy’s pencils are absolutely fantastic here and his two-page spread of the Batcave is absolutely fantastic. Eventually, the reveal of what happened to the batmobile will make you grin and realize that even though he’s a tragic character, Bruce can still play with his toys.
The final story is by Howard Mackie and features art by Daredevil’s Chris Samnee. It features Batman struggling between business and crime-fighting as a subplot but also showcases his detective skills as gangsters are being picked off and they all have a something that connects them. IT eventually leads to the reveal of a villain that I had said I missed in last week’s reviews. Overall, this is a fantastic story and Chris Samnee’s non-colored art is absolutely fantastic for a Batman comic and I wish he’d commit to one full-time.
Batman 23.2 – The Riddler
In this book Scott Snyder/Ray Fawkes plotted book with gorgeous art by Jeremy Haun, The Riddler is free thanks to the Crime Syndicate killing the Justice League, so what does he do first? He doesn’t have Batman to go after and certainly the rest of the Bat-family are busy, so instead he looks to an old vendetta. We begin the book with an interesting flashback of The Riddler in Arkham Asylum playing Solitaire but his cards get taken away by a guard. The narration has riddles that have almost no relevance to the scene, but they do to the comic. The next few pages show a riot going on at Wanye Enterprises which The Riddler easily enters by hacking their system and using a personalized ID card, which honestly, I found sort-of silly because no one recognized him until he put on the mask and hat and was seen on a camera later on. What I did enjoy and was probably the best part of the book was the chase to catch The Riddler, who progressively revealed the answers to the riddles he was earlier narrating. The story is very personal to The Riddler and includes some fantastic line work and panel transitions. Colorist John Raunch only helps to bring to live some of the great action sequences, especially panels that have no dialogue or narration and you have to get a sense of what The Riddler is doing. I don’t want to say too much about this book because I’d rather keep it a surprise for all of you like it was for me, but this a very good, personal one-shot for the Riddler that definitely helps set up who he is.
Earth 2 15.2 – Solomon Grundy
Now excuse me if I sound a bit ignorant here, but last week I stated I never read Earth-2 so I have no idea what’s going on over there in that universe and the previous book didn’t help me jump on. Regardless, I actually enjoyed this book about Solomon Grundy because it doesn’t quite completely change who he is and it’s actually coherent to new readers. In this book, we have a meteor crashing to Earth with Solomon Grundy climbing out and just tearing havoc. His power allows him to touch something and suck the life out of it which is extremely devastating. However, there’s also a second story that parallels the present of Solomon Grundy tearing havoc. It features a farmer named Solomon who is taking care of a baby. However, when things go wrong and the woman (who he seems to love) commits suicide, Solomon snaps. I think the farm story is what kept me interested and reading the book, but the monster in the present destroying everything seemed to me more like a setup of what’s to come in the pages of Earth-2. If you’re a fan, this seems like a book you’ll need but if you aren’t, don’t bother spending the 2.99$.
Action Comics 23.2 – Zod
Greg Pak really took Zod to another level for me with this book. I never knew his origins nor did I care to look into them, because quite frankly, Zod is one of those people who you’d think wouldn’t have a complex or unique origin. He’s Kryptonian and he’s a war general, you’d assume. Well, Pak gave us an insight not only into his childhood, but also his relationships to some other famous Kryptonians such as Jor and Zor-El, and even explained how Faora became his right-hand. I love this book because it showed that Zod used to care, he used to have feelings and he used to be a loveable little boy with an amazing pet, but his father deemed these wild Kryptonian creatures to be too dangerous. But furthermore, these Kryptonian creatures, hell, every page in the book, are absolutely BEAUTIFUL thanks to pencils by Ken Lashley complimented by the amazing colors of Pete Pantazis. Anyway, after we take a peek into Zod’s childhood, something goes horribly wrong with one of the monsters which end up hunting Zod’s parents. Eventually, Zod is the only one to live and is found by Jor-El and a search team many years later. We follow Zod quickly into adulthood where he’s training in simulations and attends a party at the House Of El, where we quickly get some great dialogue between him, Jor and Zor-El. I’ve been saying to myself that a Krypton ongoing would be spectacular, but then I was alerted that there was a backup in Action Comics since May, so I may check that out. Eventually, a species known as the Char attack Zod and his army, which he quickly assembled featuring Faora and Non, and went on his way to attack the Char’s homeworld. I feel that the pages from here to when Zod is condemned to the Phantom Zone is sort-of a rushed sequence, even within the art itself when it’s hard to figure out what is going on, however, the book quickly finds it’s pace again within the panels and beautiful artwork. Overall, I really enjoyed this story about General Zod and his childhood. It’s a fantastic voyage into one of Superman’s now-famous enemies and I can’t wait for him to show up in Superman/Wonder Woman, which I’m highly anticipating.
STAY TUNED FOR MORE REVIEWS INCLUDING HARLEY QUINN, TRIGON, BRAINIAC AND MORE!
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