Evening folks…and those of you NOT at the San Diego Comic Con (wide-span coverage, all over the site). We have a few new titles to look at here in this brief Fistful, including a reintroduction to an old, streetwise favorite, and a return to a galaxy far, far away.
So without much further ado, let’s dive right in (and did you SEE that Wonder Woman trailer?!)…
As a huge fan of the original run of The Authority that ushered comic books into both the 21st Century and the “widescreen” more cinematic method of story presentation, I experienced a giddy mix of delight and disturbance when DC announced that the two Justice League Rebirth titles would be written by none other than Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch.
We’re still waiting on Uncle Warren’s debut, but fans of Hitch are coming into this situation with some idea of what to expect. He’d already illustrated several issues of the pre-52 volume of JLA over a dozen years ago; but in the last little bit here, we’ve been treated to Hitch the writer/artist in the past. We were all expecting the action to be as massive as ever, hundreds of extras’ terrified faces as the buildings and bridges all came collapsing down around them in painstaking, carpal-tunnel-inducing detail like only Hitch can do it for you– but the real treat is the writing. The interaction between the characters is spot-on, perfect little Zen exchanges between the characters highlighting their interpersonal repartee and reminding us that we don’t really show up for the slugfests and world-saving, we buy these books to see the way these legends interact with one another, the tension and release of how they bounce off one another in times of peace and crisis.
Of course, Hitch wasn’t going to be able to keep up the monthly schedule that this book demands, but Tony S. Daniel (Teen Titans, Batman) sounded like a solid go-to talent. He’s not quite A-list, but he’s got the chops to get the job done, and Hitch has already had a very impressive warm-up. So, Rebirth away!
All of that said, this one falls a little bit flat. If you just pick this one up as a new reader, or a lapsed fan of the classic Bruce Timm Justice League Unlimited cartoon, looking to see what all this Rebirth mischief is about, then it might be just the thing you need. But if you’ve got all that buildup context that I just burned the first paragraph breaking down, this issue is all spectacle and very little substance. The plot is that “all the planet’s fault lines have suddenly become active and the world’s crust is fracturing.” So, not even the Justice League may be able to save the day. As a set-up, it’s a catchy enough idea, but Hitch appears to have forgotten to pack this opening salvo full of the character moments that make an ensemble book like this sing or sink. The most interaction that happens is between the two Green Lanterns Simon & Jessica, and that’s mainly tedious bickering.
The one single character bit that stood out is when Batman asks what “he’s” doing and Cyborg knows right away that he’s referring to Superman. I said “Good Job” at that, but then the next three panels are Superman with his back to us flying away and we never see him again. Daniel, inker Sandu Florea (Batman & Robin Eternal) and Tomeu Morey (Batman: Detective Comics) show up in a big way, shouldering the unenviable task of bringing to life the script of one of the most detailed and intricate draftsman working today. And they really make it happen. That aforementioned urban devastation…the trademark Hitch mountains of rubble…they produce it to an impressive degree. 2.5/5 Tectonic Terrors.
I’m a sucker for teen dramas–especially High School dramas. Yet Archie and the Riverdale gang has never been able to scratch that itch for me. Over the past year or so there has been a bit of a revival of sorts. With powerhouse comic creators like Mark Waid, Fiona Staples & Chip Zdarsky leading the way for this Modern take on Riverdale — now they double down and give us Betty & Veronica by the one and only ADAM (all the covers!!!) HUGHES (Wonder Woman, Catwoman) Yet– this issue has no cheesecake; no fan service in sight. Just a solid lighthearted teen drama. Drama everywhere! A new Hipster Coffeeshop chain has come to town and Pop’s Diner is being pushed out! Betty rallies the gang to help raise money to save their beloved hangout! So it’s a modern take on every other teen movie made in the 1980’s that didn’t involve losing their virginity or a house party, or an alien named Mac.
But, not everybody seems to be worried about the changing landscape and they’re about to come to blows over it. The art? I don’t know whose idea it was to color hold all the line art and have no black line art show through on this book — but it doesn’t seem to work as well in practice as it might have in theory. It’s distracting and sometimes hard to look at. The b&w preview pages showed off the beauty of Adam’s work. 3/5 Bibles.
John Constantine is in my top 3-4 favorite comic characters, which puts him high on my list of favorite fictional characters ever. I’d gone through almost every iteration of the character, from Jamie Delano all the way through Grant Morrison (and am currently rereading the original Vertigo run). I’d even read Ming Doyle’s and James Tynion III’s most recent run in the DC You run (which, admittedly, felt like “John Constantween”, but was still good time passing). And while I’m growing tired of rebooting comics titles, DC’s Rebirth series has shown some consistently great work, so it’s good to see that Constantine is getting back to his blue-collar, gothic horror roots, and that his, too, is a great new reintroduction.
Writer Simon Oliver (Hellblazer Presents: Chas – The Knowledge, Gen13) brings back Constantine’s more droll, dry humor, as well as his attraction and addiction to risk taking, while still incorporating some of the lighter elements of the DC Universe (Wonder Woman and Captain Mar….errr….Shazam? When the hell did THAT change happen?….appear, as does Swamp Thing, but that’s about par for course), and an appearance from psychic rascal Mercury brought a smile to my face as well. Artist Moritat (The Spirit, All-Star Western, DC Comics: The New 52) infuses the feel (if not the exact look) of the Vertigo run, keeping with the muted colors and darker palette of the earlier stories. The addition of Wonder Woman and Captain Mar…dammit! Shazam…seemed a bit of a left turn, feeling a bit like a scene from a previous draft that got left in for some reason. It didn’t ruin the book for me–it’ll take a lot for me to not read anything featuring Constantine–but it was these few pages that held the least interest.
And this story finally sees John back in London, which sees him risking the souls of nearly every inhabitant there just with his presence (a curse put on him by Laughing Boy threatens to tear his soul from his body and throw it in Hell, which is then set on the inhabitants of London unless he once again leaves). Unlike Doyle’s run, this doesn’t delve so much into magic and hidden realms as much, which leaves this Rebirth feeling much more grounded, and much like the streetwise con-man Constantine usually plays in the Vertigo run. Constantine works best when he’s on his own, and when his ruminations stick close to those lost souls around whom he surrounds himself. Maybe reading this title while rereading Garth Ennis’ amazing run wasn’t the best timing, but it Oliver makes it real easy to feel back at home with this Hellblazer, and it’s good to have the gritty, grizzled, older Constantine back. 3.5/5 Johnnie W’s, 200 Silk Cuts, and trusty Batman toothbrushes.
Jason Aaron (Doctor Strange) writes Star Wars. Jorge Molina (Star Wars, A-Force) illustrates. Shut up and take my money!
I’ve always loved Stormtroopers. They’re just badass. Aiming issues aside, they’ve always just seemed like the perfect army: faceless. Cold. Calculating. Brutal. That was until the veil was pulled back a little with The Clone Wars and then again with Episode VII, giving a closer look at the humanity behind them- this isn’t exactly what I wanted out of my Stormtroopers; not that I was mad at the change, since some of the stories of the Expanded Universe were pretty sick as well– namely The Delta Squad of the Clone Troopers. These were highly trained and ruthlessly efficient at their job.
Aaron’s take is very similar to this, forming an elite group of Stormtroopers on the case of hunting down and exterminating the burgeoning Rebel Alliance, namely Luke Skywalker post the destruction of the first Death Star. These commandos are all unique with their own quirks, dialogue, and specialties, and they’re all crack shots; I mean these guys can shoot! Who would’ve thought a Stormtrooper could actually hit something?! In my view they function as The Empire’s Navy SEALs or a Black Ops squadron (shout-out to Moody there). Great work, and an exciting start to a story arc I will most certainly be grabbing as soon as it hits the shelves. 4/5 Blaster Riddled Rebel Scum.