Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Comic Book Reviews - April 11, 2018

While one ninja's new quest begins, one speedster's ends; and where one detective must have a meeting of the minds, a priest finds his mind may not be as clear as he once thought. Mystery and intrigue are about!

Detective Comics #978

Writer: James Tynion IV /Artist: Javier Fernandez  / Colors: John Kalisz / Letters: Sal Cipriano

This issue felt quite disjointed at times. While the tension certainly built to a great boiling point by the end, the consistent problem that has plagued Tynion's run surfaced heavily in this issue: a weak villain. Ulysses was a credible threat a few issues ago, but now he's coming off as little more than a petty fanboy rather than a true villain. The fact that he's using Brother Eye doesn't make him necessarily better because it only instills a fear I have from what I know Brother Eye to be previously capable of. Honestly, I'm just waiting for the shoe to drop and Brother Eye to go haywire, for the Colony and Gotham Knights to join forces.

I'm also realizing more and more that Tynion writes a decent Batman when compared to the others of the book, and I'm not sure if that's on purpose. Indeed, Batman is the tentpole keeping everything together, but Batwoman, Tim Drake, and Cassandra are just so much more compelling in this story, what with everything that's happened to them.

The art also took a slight dip here as well. I'm not sure if it's Fernandez's pencils and inks or if it was John Kalisz's colors. The shadows are played up well with the book but for some reason, the artists decided to give characters pupils at random times and it just made it look like they were trying to pry into my soul with their very own eyes at times.  It starts like this from the very beginning and doesn't let up. I will admit that this does work well for the book in the final moments as things come to a head, but when characters are just standing around and talking it can be a little weird.

Still, I feel like this arc is headed in a good direction now that it seems we're about to head into the final battle for everyone's soul. While Ulysses continues to be a boring villain, made even more boring with his new generic design, the stuff with Cassandra, Batwoman, and the dynamic between Bruce and Tim still greatly intrigues me. 

Gideon Falls #2

Writer: Jeff Lemire /Artist: Andrea Sorrentino / Colors: Dave Stewart / Letters: Steve Wands

Let's talk about cliffhangers for a moment. They're pretty great when used properly, and in this comic? They are used great. Lemire exits scenes at just the right time to get me intrigued to get me to see what happens next, and both this and the first issue had me holding on tight to see what would happen next; I think the cliffhanger in this issue was probably better than the first.

This issue continues to explore the characters of Norton and Father Fred but not in the psychologically weird ways that the previous issue did, but more on how they act and respond to certain situations. There are some shady elements to the world that Lemire and Sorrentino have built, like how nonchalant about the situation the Bishop is and why Norton always wears a mask, but nothing too creepy just yet.

Still, I'm not sure where I fall with this comic. I get intrigued only at some points, but at others, it's rather bland. Sorrentino's art is not supplemented all that well at times by Dave Stewart's dull colors; everything feels as if it were put through a flat filter to make nothing really stand out off the page, save for the shots of the Black Barn, which are obviously supposed to be leaping out at the audience to grab their attention.

There are some interesting stylistic choices made, like the scene where Norton returns to his apartment or the final shots with Dr. Xu, but other than that it's mediocre character drama that seems ot be hinting at weird things, but is mostly surrounded by uninteresting characters. Norton is interesting because of his predicament, not anything he's really doing or saying. Father Fred seems to be a no-nonsense guy but he's also so cautious about things.

Much like Ice Cream Man, I think I'll give this one more issue to see if I hang on. Like I said, it has a great cliffhanger, but there's nothing all that creepy about it yet to make me really want to stick around and figure out the mystery of the Black Barn. 

Ninja-K #6

Writer: Christos Gage /Artist: Juan Jose Ryp / Colors: Jordie Bellaire / Letters: Dave Lanphear

Jordie Bellaire on colors? I love this arc already! AND Juan Jose Ryp on art?

Yeah we can just chalk this up in the win column.

Oh, but it doesn't stop there, friends, as we have a story dealing with the fallout of Armor Hunters! Sure, normally I'm all about stories that are good jumping-on points for new readers, but sometimes, it's nice to continuity geeks like me to get a little back, and boy do we. Gage perfectly blends the mission of people trying to salvage Armor Hunters tech with the reveal of many factions that Ninja-D and Ninja-C had been alluding to throughout the last arc.

There's also a very good plot twist in this book that I honestly didn't see coming. It comes after a mediocre action scene, which sucks because normally Juan Jose Ryp is good at drawing fight scenes, but then it's picked up on by a great chase sequence that really gives this new threat credibility, and builds to a fantastic final line by Ninjak, one that, if you've been following the character, does show the desperation of the situation.

This book seemingly pulls from almost every facet of the Valiant Universe, from the Deadside to the Stalinverse and then its first major event, and it all works so well to create a great new threat for Ninjak, as well as set up a new character arc for him following the major one he had. This issue also isn't afraid to remind us that Colin King is a ninja first and a hero second; he will kill if he has to, or if it's easier for the sake of the mission. It makes him a bit more of a compelling character when he's around his friends.

This issue did a great job of getting me excited for the arc to come; I haven't been this excited for an arc of a Valiant comic since the final arc of the last Ninjak comic, and I hope that can deliver a little more than that one did. 

The Flash #44

Writer: Joshua Williamson / Artist: Carmine di Giandomenico / Colors: Ivan Plascencia / Letters: Steve Wands

The "Perfect Storm" arc comes to a pretty dramatic conclusion here, as worlds have begun to collide and we race ever closer to "Flash War" in May. This is a pretty satisfying conclusion to the arc, even if it does have a bit of a deus ex machina ending involved in the ultimate takedown. Still, there are enough hero moments throughout that I'll give that a pass. It seemingly addresses all the threats that the arc laid before us while giving us new ones that Wally and Barry will have to overcome.

The comic also has an interesting frame of narration as someone is reading a letter Barry somehow had the time to Iris during the storm. It's a pretty interesting insight into what Barry has been going through throughout the arc, contrasting to the raised pedestal that everyone seemingly tries to prop him up on by the end of the comic. That stuff still kind of bugs me, but, again, given where this issue ends, it seems that this is going to be used to great effect in the coming arc.

There was one very enjoyable sequence this issue had that most fans of the Flash will enjoy, and if you've been a fan of this "Rebirth" era, you'll really get a kick out of it. They also use the cover of The Flash: Rebirth #1 (the 2016 issue) in one of the panels and while it is jarring, it's also thematically resonant with what's going on in the story. It all builds to a phenomenal double-page spread that just goes to show why Carmine di Giandomenico is on this book.

I'm honestly not sure what to say about his art and Ivan Plascencia's colors that I haven't said throughout the duration of this arc. Check back on some of previous reviews if you want it a bit more in depth, but, in short, I think di Giandomenico is a perfect fit for this era of the Flash and he draws the kinetic energy that the characters each has so perfectly, and Plascencia's colors are an excellent complement to that. 

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