New Talent Showcase #1

New Talent Showcase #1

Every year DC puts out 1 or 2 DC Talent Showcases: a super oversized single issue comic book displaying the new and upcoming talents the DC Comics company is attempting to grow and turn into world class comic book writers and artists. It tends to run under the $9.99 typical price point that a lot of comics this size fall into, and it’s an awesome opportunity for up-and-coming talent to show the comic book world what they’re made of in ways they weren’t able to before. It’s difficult for obvious reasons to make it in this industry. It’s small and its community isn’t exactly mainstream. New figures trying to make it into the comic world only have a few options when trying to make a name and a brand for themselves: attempt to spread your name on Twitter, go independent, or struggle your way into one of the big two (DC / Marvel). It can be a tough and unforgiving road with not a ton of exposure, but this New Talents Showcase is an awesome opportunity for a lot of these newbies to show their stuff, and it’s always an exciting read in figuring out what DC has in store for the future of their creative teams.

Showcase #1 focuses on 6, 12 page stories that showcase  new artists and writers on each. The stories fall almost perfectly across the different styles and genres in the DC comic universe, and it’s apparent that each team was brilliantly assigned to a certain style and execution. These showcases are like team projects within a class. The Batman story is dark, broody and slick. Constantine’s is psychedelic and rightfully magical. Catwoman’s is sleek and sassy, Green Lantern’s (Awesomely focusing around the fan favorite Lantern John Stewart) is as sci-fi heavy as ever. Zatanna’s is graceful and fantastical, and Wonder Woman’s is powerful and unwavering. Each creative team takes the best parts of their respective characters and really runs with them, and each short comic is genuinely really good. They feel like classic return-to-roots comics, and while that doesn’t always work in an ongoing series in the modern world of comics, these stand alone comic books really do show what these teams are capable of.

I remember enjoying the Talent Showcase from last year quite a bit, but this comic book really feels like something special. All 6 stories are beautifully written and perhaps even more beautifully illustrated. You can tell there’s a ton of passion going into these, and while they’re perhaps not something as legitimate as an ongoing series issue or a massively successful indie project, these showcase comic books show a great amount of potential for these artists and writers going forward, and that’s really invigorating. Most of these people are young, and their grasp on the characters they’re writing are top notch. That alone is really reassuring for the future of DC’s comic book teams, but more than that it shows an undeniable presence of comic book talents still in love with these characters and still in love with superheroes. In the light of Image Comics’ success and the uprising of non-superhero comics over the past few years, it’s good to see these type of comics aren’t going anywhere.

(4.5 / 5)
Darth Maul #1

Darth Maul #1

   Marvel continues their 1 hero 1 villain per month run of Age of Republic with Darth Maul #1, a perfect character to contrast the spiritual and monkish nature of Qui-Gon Jinn from last week. After such a great showing from their last comic book, this anthology series has to continue to fill its own big shoes. There’s little doubt to be had though. When Marvel wants to deliver a good Star Wars comic, they’re fully capable of doing so. Maul promises to be something different all together. Where the Qui-Gon issue felt almost entirely wholesome, Maul is, by design, a character utterly consumed by the Dark Side, one fueled entirely by the rage and the hate that they seem to love so much. With Maul #1 existing as a 1-shot continuation of the 5 issue mini series from a few months back, I have pretty high expectations of this issue, but not unreachable ones.

    The first half of Maul #1 follows the Sith Apprentice as he travels disguised as a Jedi Padawan through the underbelly of Coruscant, the very Jedi Padawan he killed in his previous comic book. It’s unclear exactly what he’s doing, but it becomes quickly apparent he doesn’t really know either. Driven by bloodlust and an obsession with snuffing out the weak, he tracks down a force sensitive smuggler, pretending to work with him on a job before killing him off with ease, not leaving any witnesses or traces of his sith-killing. Palpatine isn’t quite so impressed with Maul’s sith rampaging escapades, and takes him to Malachar, a famously not-so-nice part of the galaxy Maul is all too familiar with. It’s there that this comic book takes a much darker and somber tone, and, despite being under both Marvel and Disney, shows some pretty brutal stuff. Palpatine’s lesson works, and Maul is able to focus his hatred where he otherwise could not, further becoming the more camly malicious Maul we know from the movie and the cartoons. However, it’s still clear that Maul lacks something the future Emperor is looking for, patience and utmost loyalty, and he warns his young sith apprentice, that he, not the Dark Side, is Maul’s master.

   One of the few things that I mentioned when reviewing the first of the 5 issues in the Darth Maul mini series from a few months back, was that perhaps the best thing about the comic was the obvious disconnect between Maul and Palpatine. Maul is a hunter and a killer, driven almost solely by hatred of the Jedi. Palpatine, especially during the time that the Republic ruled, was painfully methodical and manipulative. These two things don’t really work together, and Maul’s impatience gets the best of him. This dynamic is once again shown really admirably in this comic book, and the annoyance Palpatine feels for his apprentice is palpable, pun intended. Similarly to Qui-Gon, this isn’t a particularly action packed, red lightsaber swinging adventure, it’s a deep dive into who Maul is as a character and as a creature corrupted by the Dark Side, which I think is really cool. It’s always a risk to not go the eye-candy route, and so far they’re 2 for 2 on these Age of Republic comics. As much as I enjoy watching Lightsaber sparks fly, the Force is an incredibly interesting and far too unexplored topic. This is the second comic in a row that visions and the mysteriousness of the Force have been core aspects of character development, and I’m so in on that. Maul continues to lift Age of Republic up high, and while I don’t think the Qui-Gon comic is beatable, Maul is a worthy addition to a hopefully flawless anthology series.

(4.5 / 5)
Qui-Gon Jinn #1

Qui-Gon Jinn #1

   There are a countless number of reasons the Star Wars Prequel movies fell short of being good. By now most of us can list them off the top of our heads. This is a reality that Star Wars fans have faced for years now. And yet, there are sequences and characters scattered throughout all three movies that make Star Wars fans remember why they keep going back. If you wade through the truly unwatchable romance scenes and some of the borderline braindead decisions George Lucas made while writing / directing these movies, there is a certain amount of charm, adventure, and action packed excitement that makes the kid in all of us, especially those that grew up with Star Wars, giddy. There’s also a respectable storyline hidden beneath others. The political intrigue, questionable character alignments, and the unpredictability of how Lucas attempts to connect all the dots he created in the originals are all worthwhile traits of the prequel movies. Qui-Gon Jinn is a primary reason to watch Episode 1. It’s the first time George Lucas steps away from the black-and-white nature that often was Star Wars, and most other movies of the 20th century. There wasn’t just an ultimate hero (Luke) and an ultimate villain (The Emperor / Vader) anymore. Qui-Gon was a good guy that existed to question the moral fabric of the other good guys (The Jedi Order). While characters like Han Solo did fill a morally neutral void in the world, there was still a spot to be filled. Jinn presented a new side of the coin, and thus, a new side of the Star Wars movie universe. He wasn’t just a nod to fans of the EU, those that read the novels / comics and played the video games, he was the first true exploration into a world where, until him, Force users were basically wholly good, or wholly evil. That’s what made the character so incredibly likable, especially by today’s storytelling standards. This comic, part of an anthology of Star Wars comics called Age of Republic, seeks to continue that line of character development and show even more of Qui-Gon in his prime, ever controversial, always pushing the Order’s buttons a bit more than they’d like.

   Qui-Gon #1 focuses primarily on Jinn’s constant inner turmoil: What does it mean to be a Jedi in the Order, and does it conflict with being true to the nature of the Force? While the galaxy is seeped in conflict, the Jedi are used as great defenders and warriors of the Republic. Jinn sits with Yoda after returning from a mission where he’d saved a Priestess from her obvious demise. He’d chosen to run and escape with her, rather than kill her attackers. Most other jedi would have stayed to fight. Yoda in his always wise, but ever cryptic ways, understands Qui-Gon’s doubts, but cannot wholeheartedly side with Qui-Gon’s actions. Although he reaffirms that Qui-Gon’s decisions are not bad ones, he tells the perhaps even more spiritual Jedi Master that he must find understanding within himself and within the force. Qui-Gon agrees. With the force and instinct guiding him, he sets off to learn more, and strengthen his bond with the force in ways many other Jedi hadn’t done before him.

   This comic book is both visually and emotionally stunning. In an extremely action packed universe filled with lightsaber fights and ship battles, the force is a mostly unexplored aspect of the lore. Forget midichlorians, this comic book is all about the spiritual aspect of the Force, and its ever growing connection to Qui-Gon as a Force user first, and a Jedi of the Order second. There are no massive revelations in this comic book. It’s a calm, simple and peaceful story about Qui-Gon in a lifelong journey to find peace within the Force, and to do good. The two conversations between Yoda and Qui-Gon, one near the beginning of the comic, and one at the very end, are perfect representations of these characters, and an awesome showing of the potential that the Force has as a mysterious entity of this universe. There’s so much to tell and so much to show with this character, and with the EU being taken out of canon, Qui-Gon is still an almost completely untouched aspect of these new storylines, say for the movies. With a novel on its way written by the best Star Wars writer currently in the lineup, Qui-Gon Jinn #1 is a flawless tease into the potential of this character, and an amazing standalone story. It’s a quick read, and it’s well worth your time. Check it out.

(5 / 5)
Spider-Man Enter the Spider-Verse #1

Spider-Man Enter the Spider-Verse #1

   I was never that into Marvel. I grew up like most kids, pretending to be Batman and fawning over the awesomeness that was Superman. Even today, a lot of what Marvel comics has to offer just isn’t my jam. I understand it’s appeal, and will occasionally enjoy a series or two from the company, but I’m just not as invested. The Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies were a different situation though, and Spider-Man earned its special place in my heart as a young age. Spidey has been killing it in recent memory with the release of Homecoming, another success from Marvel movie studios, and the PS4 video game which quickly nabbed the spot as the best selling Playstation exclusive of all time. The company is only hoping to bolster the Spider hype even further with Into the Spiderverse, and upcoming stylish animated movie out this month. It looks really cool, and it’s getting pretty unbeatable early reviews so it’s only natural to add to the hype train by releasing a comic book tie-in to get mega fans ready for the inevitable release of the movie. It’s a bit of a shameless cash grab. Count me in.

   Spiderverse #1 follows the band of Spider-People from Earths all across the Multiverse called the Web-Warriors. This team has been around for a while now, and has a pretty significant following in the Marvel comic community. Peter Parker is in there as the ‘regular’ Spider-Man along with fan favorites like Spider-Gwen and Spider-Punk, as well as a few other Spidey powered characters that only work on teams like this. It’s a rag tag team of quippy spider heroes ready to hop across the multiverse and take down any evil-doers. You know the drill. When the team travels to a universe outside their realm of knowledge, they cross paths with a brilliant scientist named Otto Octavius, or perhaps better known as the Spider-Man supervillain: Doctor Octopus. The Web Warriors are too well versed in multiuniversal travel to jump to any conclusions. Every universe holds its own reality, and for all they know, Octavius is a respectable man here. While he seems like a man out for the betterment of the world and Spidey’s allies, something’s not quite right, and the webslingers find themselves quickly caught off guard.

   There’s an undeniable amount of charm in the way all of these very similar characters interact with each other. This team could very easily devolve into something annoying. I really enjoy Spider-Man as a character, but I think depending on the writer writing him Peter Parker treads the line of being unlikable. He’s very quippy and very sarcastic and if handled incorrectly (Amazing Spider-Man movies) the character can both annoy and irritate. On top of that you now potentially have an entire team of cocky, snarky characters all basically the same person, and yet it never feels too over the top. The characters, especially one like Spider-Gwen, are different enough that they add some diversity to the cast of heroes, and mix up the personalities a little. Obviously this comic is a little ridiculous, but its creative team is self aware enough and good enough that they keep it at a respectable level. I’m not invested in Spider-Gwen or any of these side characters. I don’t read their stories or keep up with this side of Marvel. But, as a general Spider-Man fan, I think there’s a lot of fun to be had with this comic. It also harnesses that crisp, recognizable wide-shot art style Marvel has as well, which as a main DC reader, is always refreshing to see.

(4 / 5)

The Green Lantern #1

The Green Lantern #1

   Green Lantern is perhaps the most flexible title in the DC Comicverse. Anyone with a Green Lantern Ring assumes the title, and all are a part of the universal police force: The Green Lantern Corp.. The freedom of this title has allowed creative teams at DC to play with the main title of ‘Green Lantern’. Where Batman will always fall back to Bruce Wayne and Superman will always fall back to Clark Kent, the main name of Green Lantern has in the past or present belonged to John Stewart, Guy Gardner, Jessica Cruz and most famously, Hal Jordan. Kids that grew up in the late 90’s and 00’s are probably most familiar with John Stewart, the mainstay Green Lantern of the incredible Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons that many of us, even non DC fans, remember fondly. Many would argue that Stewart hasn’t had the comic spotlight he deserves in recent years, and while I would agree, Hal Jordan has, and seemingly always will be the main crux of the name Green Lantern, and even with every new Green Lantern title that’s come out over the past 5 years or so, fate will always seem to realign the course of events, and give Hal Jordan the ever fitting title of: The Green Lantern.

   Green Lantern #1 begins as it should: larger than life. Somewhere deep in space far from Earth the Green Lantern Corp is dealing with a seemingly unformidable threat. Just another day in the job of a space cop, but there’s more to this problem than originally expected, and this small band of Lantern members find themselves quickly overwhelmed. The Guardians, leaders of the near omnipotent congress that make all major decisions regarding the entirety of the universe around them become quickly aware of this overwhelming problem and call all Green Lanterns back to their home world. Jordan is in a bit of an awkward situation though. He’s been put on hiatus by the Guardians, and even though he still has a power ring, he has no Lantern to charge it. So, he’s stuck on Earth feeling particularly rowdy and ready to get back into action. What better than a fellow Green Lantern in need and a call back to the Lantern home world to relieve some of that pent up fighting energy. Despite benching Jordan, in typical fashion, the Guardians need his help, and privately they tell Jordan of a growing threat of a traitor within the Corp.. One they’re unable to locate, but one that will surface on their own soon to challenge the strength of the Green Lanterns. Jordan is needed now more than ever to prepare for this incoming enemy.

   If there’s one thing that Grant Morrison can do well, it’s big space operas. That being said, Morrison has a track record of going a little too big and too complicated for his own good. Glance back to Final Crisis, a big DC event headlined by Grant Morrison around 10 years ago. It was absurdly bad primarily because of its obtuse story and near nonsensical timeline. It’s obvious that Morrison is a bit full of himself when it comes to his writing, and while I think he’s done some admiral works with DC, and he basically created my favorite DC character of all time: Damian Wayne, readers should be nothing but skeptical going forward with this comic book. I’m being genuine when I say I think this first issue was decent. Hal Jordan is a likable character who’s been around for a really long time, and with those two factors Morrison delivered on hard-to-fill shoes. However, if there’s ever a series that can become overblown and uninteresting in scale, it’s Green Lantern. If there’s ever a writer that can become overblown and uninteresting in scale, it’s Grant Morrison. That’s a dangerous combination. Keep your fingers crossed Green Lantern fans. I hope you get a good comic book going forward.

(3.5 / 5)

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