THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS / FANTASTIC FOUR / DAUGHTERS of the DRAGON / SHAZAM! / SELF-MADE [Reviews]: Merry X-Men!
The Batman Who Laughs #1 by Scott Snyder (Dark Nights: Metal) and Jock (Wytches) is a ton of different genres all wrapped into one. We start with another flashback on young Bruce growing up before his parents passed, a bat pedal to the metal high octane chase scene reminiscent of Christopher Nolan and then horror themed suspenseful third act. Snyder and Jock masterfully craft a telling story with intimate repercussions. Much different than Snyder’s much bigger Metal; but the longtime Batman scribe is always at the top of his craft when the repercussions are high but the story has on a tighter focus. Jock’s artwork is reminiscent of a cinematic eye, with the rapid pacing of a Fast & Furious sequel. The Batman Who Laughs #1 is a stellar first issue and has me excited for the rest of the mini series. 4/5 Laughing Robins agree.
Well True Believers, it looks like it’s finally happening for realsies this time — Blue-Eyed Ben Grimm is marrying his blind beloved, Alicia Masters. With promises that alien abductors or imposters (I’m looking at you, Skrulls) are nowhere to be found and super villains are super taken care of, the FF can make preparations for another addition to their Fantastic Family in what would be a wedding for the ages. And, like every wedding I’ve ever been to, some things work flawlessly, some things do not. With out further ado, let’s skip the formalities and get down to business.
The issue is broken up into three separate stories with three separate teams working on the final product. To make a comparison, it’s like when the Simpsons do a Valentine’s Day episode based on the Treehouse of Horror format. Individual stories that tie into a larger narrative, yet not necessarily the cream of the crop, if you take my meaning. Essentially, the general concept comes across as “meh”, yet the dialogue is Fantastic. Between the awkwardness of Johnny Storm running into several ex-girlfriends before a bachelorette or the Ever-Loving Thing proving he has the biggest heart in all of Earth 616, the characterizations are spot on. No matter how little the screen time, every character has an opportunity to express their core values – what makes them uniquely who they are. Likewise, the artistry accentuates insight by careful framing and a dynamic sense of motion – with the lone exception of the Cathy-like Puppet Master recap.
By and large, the issue was merely okay. However, the sum of the parts far surpasses that of the whole, making this an entry that is enjoyable if not memorable. One parting point of criticism is the lack of one Mr. Reed Richards. As someone vying to portray him on the silver screen (this is not a joke, I’m actively campaigning to be the next Mr. Fantastic), his presence was missed. Nevertheless, the plethora of Easter eggs and fun nods made up for his absence. 3/5 Bibles.
Hate it when an ending ruins it. Let’s start with the art. Eduardo Ferigato‘s linework is good. Nothing you’ll text your friends to look into because of how great it is, but you won’t roast it like offerings from our strap lord and pouches savior, Rob Liefeld. But Matt Groom‘s story is what I was really enjoying. You follow a hardened warrior that joins up with what is best described as arrogant Prince Nathan Fillion and his silent mage pal after an invading force wipes out her home army. Soon afterwards, these “rewinds” start happening that make you think it’s Prince Fillion’s thoughts on what could go down depending on different actions… But then it keeps happening over, and over, and over again. Until it’s revealed that it’s basically a VR game that’s being tested and you’re left with a feeling of “f*+=ing really?” The rewinds I mentioned were basically checkpoints. Meh. 2/5 Closed Betas.
Daughters of the Dragon #1 revives the charismatic duo of Misty Knight and Colleen Wing, first seen in Marvel Team Up #64, the Marvel superheroine partners were created by Chris Claremont and Marshall Rogers in 1977. Their 2018 iteration comes courtesy of writer Jed MacKay (Edge of Spider-Geddon) and Travel Forman (The Immortal Iron Fist). Wing remains a bad ass samurai now with the chi powers of the Iron Fist while her bestie Knight now works for the FBI.
In this issue, the two battle a decrepit assassin and Japanese puppets for the souls of youthful travelers. There are road trips, the wonders of sisterhood, warrior spirit, and heroes tripping balls. The dialogue is fun, the characters are interesting, the backdrop is funky, and the story has that 70’s Kung Fu pulp flavor without being stale. Nightwing investigations may be no more, but Misty and Colleen still are one of the best things about the Heroes for Hire corner of the Marvel Universe. 4/5 Bibles.
I approached the first issue of this series starring He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-Captain-Marvel with a bit of trepidation, as I’m a bit of a traditionalist where The Big Red Cheese is concerned. I’m okay with making him a bit cartoonish, as Giffen/DeMatteis did thirty years when he was a member of their Justice League and earned that last nickname, but my tonal sweet spot is where Jeff Smith landed with his THE MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL mini-series eleven years back. More of a retro Darwyn-Cooke aesthetic. I was a bit shocked early on in The New 52 when Geoff Johns, famous for embracing the more heroic aspects of legacy and wonder in the DC Universe, got together with Gary Frank for a series of grim back-ups rebooting the character in which orphan Billy Batson was a streetwise, embittered, jerky little kid who seemed actually to be kind of a garbage person. I didn’t hang with that, but apparently it was all about the journey because the Billy Batson found here is more in line with his traditional plucky upbeat archetype. And it’s not like I was going to take a pass on Johns reuniting with his brilliant JSA collaborator Dale Eaglesham anyway. So, how’s the issue?
It’s a light, fun romp that does a fine job establishing the status quo, no matter your level of familiarity with the character. We meet our cast, Billy’s foster family, and the kids stop a robbery at a museum while on a field trip. Eaglesham and colorist Mike Atiyeh provide A-list sequentials throughout, always putting clear storytelling front and center but then zooming out for splashes just when the rhythm dictates, like when Billy first transforms or late in the issue when the kids make a discovery at the Rock of Eternity. That shot, in particular, does solid work emphasizing the more young-reader-friendly tone Johns seems to be aiming for, a gang of kids who just happen to have powers out in the world having adventures and solving mysteries.
Overall, an enjoyable issue. My two gripes: the first time the script references the deal with DC not being able to use the character’s original Captain Marvel name because they negotiated it away to Marvel, it landed for me and I laughed out loud at the meta-reference. But then Johns goes right back to a permutation of that same bit five pages later, which was a bit forced. Also, and this is more disappointment than gripe, I was looking forward to a THIS YEAR IN SHAZAM . . . page at the end like Johns always used to do on all of his first issues and were such effective sneak-peeks, and that did not show up. I did enjoy the solo Mary back-up, particularly the manga-style full art provided by Mayo “Sen” Naito. Hopefully, these will continue. This first issue didn’t quite punch me in the face or crackle down lightning from the sky but was a solid beginning. 3/5 Transformative Magic Words.
Marvel decided to give us 25 single page stories for Christmas, none of which connect in any way, except one. Jubilee is our main heroine for the holidays. Our writers, Chris Sims and Chad Bowers, take our heroine and her baby boy on an unplanned trip to her favorite place, the mall. This isn’t your ordinary mall, though, it’s empty except for the deadly robots and traps set for her. It’s fast paced and action packed, but super cute to watch Jubilee avoid death while trying to keep her son smiling like nothing is wrong. Besides Jubilee’s deadly mall experience, there was only one other story that really stood out because it never gets an ending. Jean Grae, our writer, has Deadpool and Jean Grey are suddenly thrust into being a couple in an unfamiliar house, with no idea how either of them got there. We find out how, but I’m hoping this is going to be a full story in a later issue to wrap it up (pun intended). With so many writes and artists, it is very hard to talk about just one. Overall, this was an enjoyable read full of very heartwarming holiday cheer. 3.5/5 Fa La Las.