Sunday, 24 October 2010

Play It Again: The Heavy Metal Edition

Here's a quick list of 25 heavy metal anthems that no metalhead should be without. They're all worth a listen, and they're not necessarily my favourite songs by each artist, but they work well as a playlist, preferably played in the order provided.

25. I Wanna Rock - Twisted Sister
from the album "Stay Hungry"

24. My Curse - Killswitch Engage
from the album "As Daylight Dies"

23. Thunder Kiss '65 - White Zombie
from the album "La Sexorcisto: Devil Music, vol. 1"

22. Pull Me Under - Dream Theater
from the album "Images and Words"

21. Back in Black - AC/DC
from the album "Back in Black"

20. Chop Suey! - System of a Down
from the album "Toxicity"

19. Before I Forget - Slipknot
from the album "Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses)"

18. Am I Evil - Diamond Head
from the album "Lightning to the Nations"

17. Panama - Van Halen
from the album "1984"

16. Stillborn - Black Label Society
from the album "The Blessed Hellride"

15. Poison - Alice Cooper
from the album "Trash"

14. I Am The Law - Anthrax
from the album "Among the Living"

13. Du Hast - Rammstein
from the album "Sehnsucht"

12. Roots Bloody Roots - Sepultura
from the album "Roots"

11. Holy Wars...The Punishment Due - Megadeth
from the album "Rust in Peace"

10. Ace of Spades - Motorhead
from the album "Ace of Spades"

9. Halo - Machine Head
from the album "The Blackening"

8. Cowboys from Hell - Pantera
from the album "Cowboys from Hell"

7. Crazy Train - Ozzy Osbourne
from the album "Blizzard of Ozz"

6. Raining Blood - Slayer
from the album "Reign in Blood"

5. Holy Diver - Dio
from the album "Holy Diver"

4. One - Metallica
from the album "...And Justice for All"

3. Breaking the Law - Judas Priest
from the album "British Steel"

2. Hallowed Be Thy Name - Iron Maiden
from the album "The Number of the Beast"

1. Paranoid - Black Sabbath
from the album "Paranoid"

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The Pull-List - 21/10/2010

The Essential Comic

Batman and Robin #15

By Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving

It will be a sad thing when Grant Morrison leaves this book with the next issue because, with the exception of the second arc, this has been a ridiculously perfect Batman series. Not that Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason won’t do a good job, it’s just it won’t be the same, with Morrison off writing Batman Incorporated instead. The one hope right now is that the next creative team can keep this a consistently brilliant comic book about the best odd couple the medium has produced in decades. 

Morrison has been crafting the ultimate Batman story for quite some time now; stretching all the way back to the introduction of Damien Wayne in Batman #655, and now the perfect ending seems to be finally within our grasp. Damien has gone full-circle; he’s no longer the irritating plot device he was when Morrison first started writing the book, he’s become a true hero, and understands the value of what he’s doing and who he is. Without Damien this book doesn’t even begin to work. The character is far beyond important to the Batman mythology now, and his relationship with Dick Grayson’s Batman is nothing short of flawless. 

That said, the first chunk of the issue features Damien trading remarks with a character that is, on the surface at least, far more compelling than Dick Grayson. The opening scenes with Damien and the Joker talking about how Damien plans to hunt him down once this reluctant team-up is over are absolutely astonishing, and show just how well Morrison can write the Joker. 

It’s also nice to see some wrap-up to the Dr. Hurt storyline, which was hinted at being near its conclusion when it appeared in the penultimate issue of The Return of Bruce Wayne last week. As long as Professor Pyg sticks around, this can be the end of Dr. Hurt’s arc as far as the character’s relevance is concerned; Pyg was always the more frightening villain anyway. 

Now, onto the artwork; Frazer Irving is, reportedly, the reason this issue, and the preceding two, were so abysmally late. But when his work is this fantastic, you can forgive the six-week wait since the last issue. His style is perfect for a Batman book, and his design for the Joker, in particular, are perfect in keeping with what has come before, while adding a layer of threat and sadism that only comes from Morrison’s version of the character. His choreography is also second only to Frank Quitely; the fight sequence between Damien and an army of brainwashed Gothamites was stunning to behold, and harkened back to the second issue of the series, featuring a similar fight sequence drawn by Quitely. 

There’s not much else to say about this book, but it’s obvious it would be the best thing released this week, especially when you glance at the last page, and see the return of a famous character; finally, beautifully, perfectly.

Rating: 10/10

And the Rest

Brightest Day #12

By Geoff Johns, Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Scott Clark, Ivan Reis and Joe Prado

Brightest Day has been stamped down upon by the majority of the comic book reading populace for being “not as good as Justice League: Generation Lost.” This is true, in many respects, but while the latter concentrates on its isolated storyline, regardless of how good it is, the former is developing the key storylines that will shape the DC Universe for the next few years. 

That said some of the storylines within Brightest Day have been unbelievably boring. Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi are two of the best writers working at DC right now, but there are some characters even they can’t make interesting. Still, it’s been a good month or two since we’ve seen anything to do with Hawkman and Hawkgirl, though, and while it’s almost guaranteed that they’ll be back soon enough, the book has benefitted from their almost complete absence. 

This issue focuses on the developing Martian Manhunter, Firestorm and Deadman stories; when the book began, Deadman was easily the most enjoyable arc, with the nicest art, and while there’s only one page of it in this issue, it’s still the best part of the book. The Martian Manhunter story, meanwhile, has grown in strength, and the last few issues have increased the tension surrounding the other Green Martian to the point where this instalment felt perfectly natural and the fact it filled up roughly two-thirds of the book was a blessing more than a curse. The weakest of these three stories still remains the Firestorm arc, though, and while it is the least enjoyable, the recent Black Lantern story developments within it make it just as fun to read as the rest of the book. 

The artwork is often talked about in these weekly books as being unattractive and poor. 52 didn’t have the best art team, but the story was fantastic, and the art fit the characters. Countdown had some nice art, but the story was pitifully bad. Trinity had a weak story, and some of the worst art of Mark Bagley’s career. Wednesday Comics was perfect. Justice League: Generation Lost has been almost consistently great. This book has its ups and downs. The Ivan Reis page is certainly the best, while the Patrick Gleason art only whets the appetite for his upcoming Batman and Robin run with Tomasi. The rest of the art by Scott Clark and Joe Prado, meanwhile, doesn’t really feel that great, but suits each story. 

For a fortnightly series, Brightest Day has managed to keep an even pace, and engages more often than not. The cliffhanger of this issue is so obvious that it’s actually shocking to see it, to the point where it actually feels perfect. But, hopefully, we’ll get more issues like this and less involving the characters that don’t warrant our care and attention.

Rating: 8/10

Bruce Wayne: The Road Home: Catwoman (One-Shot)

By Derek Fridolfs and Peter Nguyen

And so we come to the next issue of the rollercoaster ride that is Bruce Wayne: The Road Home. This week, the number of one-shots focusing on the topic of the Insider and his illusive and somewhat pointless quest were sliced in half; only two issues, the first focusing on Catwoman. 

Catwoman has been something of an elusive character for quite a while now; Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke had a fantastic run on her solo book in the early part of the last decade, and then she fell in love with Batman. Properly, this time; there was actual unmasking on the part of the Caped Crusader and there was some genuine affection shared between them. Then, she had her heart stolen by Hush, Batman saved her, professed his love to her, and then died in another storyline, and that thread was very hurriedly wrapped up to avoid any complaints about lingering plot. 

This issue, penned by Derek Fridolfs, seems to be set in and around the world of Gotham City Sirens, the series Selina Kyle and her feline alter-ego currently inhabit. And it also manages to develop some of the recent Vicki Vale plot thread from Red Robin and the previous issues of this one-shot/mini-series. There’s also a great flashback to the era of Bruce Wayne as Batman, as he encounters Catwoman in the middle of a heist. These scenes show us nothing we haven’t seen before, but it’s great to see Bruce as Batman again, in a situation we know we’d find him in before long. The biggest plus: the Insider only shows up for a handful of pages at the end. Long enough for Catwoman to work out who he is (have you folks at home worked it out yet? It’s a doozy). 

The art chores in this issue are handled by Peter Nguyen, who has a really solid style. He’s not the greatest artist working today, by any stretch, but he gets the job done. Particularly in the aforementioned flashbacks, the characters of Batman and Catwoman seem to come alive with vibrant energy, while the scenes set in the present suffice, but lack any real solid integrity. 

The final page of the issue seems to tie everything back to the Gotham City Sirens world, almost completely removing us from the story that’s actually been told within. The implication that the Batman-Catwoman relationship will be dealt with in the near future, though, is a welcome one, and bolsters this issue above its otherwise standard entertainment level. 

To be continued in "Bruce Wayne: The Road Home: Commissioner Gordon"

Rating: 7/10

Bruce Wayne: The Road Home: Commissioner Gordon (One-Shot)

By Adam Beechen and Szymon Kudranski

Commissioner James Gordon is one of the best characters in comic books. He has been since his inception, and is the victim of numerous writers who just can’t seem to work out how to write him properly. In fact, the majority of the Gotham Police Department suffers this fate, unless they’re being scripted by Ed Brubaker or Greg Rucka. But, the fact that Gordon, the patriarch of that whole world, and one of the central pillars in the Batman universe, suffers more often than not, it’s somewhat a breath of fresh air to read this book. 

The sixth Bruce Wayne: The Road Home one-shot surrounds an attack on Police Headquarters as Commissioner Gordon and a rookie named Patel attempt to escape from the besieged building, all the while protecting the target of the attack, one Vicki Vale. As part of this particular arc that’s been threaded throughout the mini-series, this issue works perfectly; it shows that the villains are becoming aware of Vale’s quest to unmask all the superheroes, and it throws in some familiar faces, primarily the Penguin, for a brief cameo. 

The Commissioner Gordon angle of the story, which is, obviously, the focus of the issue, harkens back to the style of Gotham Central and almost conjures up even more desire for that fantastic book to return in some form. It also manages to successfully tease the Gordon back-up which is set for Detective Comics in the near future; if it’s anything as good as what Adam Beechen has penned here, it’ll be fantastic. That’s not to say this is a perfect story; it’s unbelievably simple, the major twist is obvious from the start, and the moments with Barbara Gordon and the Insider leave much to be desired. 

Szymon Kudranski manages to apply an Alex Maleev style to the art in the book, making the whole issue feel constantly grimy and harsh, but almost never in an ugly way. There are some unpleasant moments where characters faces change and some of these unfortunate errors occur on the same page, but for someone who’s clearly an up-and-comer, it’s promising stuff. 

The end of the issue teases that we’re going to finally receive some closure to this story in the next two issues, which is good, as so far, the only threads that have kept the book going are the Vicki Vale side-plot and the Insider arc, which in itself, is repetitive and boring. This, however, is an example of how decent one of these issues can be; just imagine if the whole series had been like this. 

To be continued in “Bruce Wayne: The Road Home: Oracle”

Rating: 8/10

DC Universe Legacies #6 (of 10)

By Len Wein, Scott Kolins, Jerry Ordway and Keith Giffen

As a comic fan, reading a book like DC Universe Legacies can be one of two things. One: it can be a showcase of memorable moments from the plethora of iconic moments in the history of the DC canon; and, two: it can be a wholly disappointing experience, retreading events that are already burnt into our memories, and skipping over events we wish the publisher would tell us more about. 

This issue of DC Universe Legacies fits somewhere in the middle; picking up from the previous issue’s Crisis on Infinite Earths introduction, we are propelled through the aftermath of that event and its impact on our street level point of view character, Paul. The issue briefly includes the events of the fantastic Legends mini-series from the post-Crisis era, and settles on one of the defining moments of the modern age of comic books. But it feels very slack; no matter how hard the creative team tries, the character of Paul doesn’t have as much impact as Marvels’ equivalent, Phil Sheldon. The last few issues of this series, in particular, have felt very trudging and far from the intense feel of the first issues. 

Len Wein is far from a slacker when it comes to writing a compelling story, and so far he’s managed to maintain some of his charisma and genuine charm throughout the narrative. The back-up story about the Legion of Superheroes, however, is mortally wounded; it feels like the same sequence that has cropped up numerous times in the last two years, and while there is a slight twist, it isn’t enough to redeem that mini-story. 

The artwork in both stories is fairly decent, however; the bookend scene drawn by Scott Kolins is easily the least appealing of all three sets of artwork. It’s sad to consider that a few years ago, Kolins was one of the best artists in the business; now, his work feels flat and muddy. Jerry Ordway’s art chores on the bulk of the book are delightful to behold, but feel like a slight step-down in quality following the George Perez issue from last month, and even though Perez returns to ink this issue, Ordway is still fighting something of a losing battle. The back-up art by Keith Giffen shows that the man still has some flair when it comes to illustration over plotting; his characters are delightfully cartoony, but his Clark Kent is positively ugly, to put it kindly. 

There are only four issues left of this mini/maxi series, and while the last few have been something of a let-down, the ending of this issue does suggest that there is brilliance looming in the near future. Hopefully, as we enter into the early 1990s of DC canon, the series will return to the brilliance of the initial issues.

Rating: 7/10

Kick-Ass 2 #1

By Mark Millar and John Romita Jr

No matter how much people try to deny it, Kick-Ass was one of the best comic book mini-series produced in the last five years. It didn’t have much depth, sure, but it was an engaging, entertaining and all around fun piece of comic booking. Essentially, what Mark Millar and John Romita Jr managed in the first series was to take the superhero genre and twist it into the most outrageous comic book movie of all time. And then, there actually was a movie. 

So, with that in mind, this week we find ourselves with the first issue of Kick-Ass 2, or as Millar calls it, “Balls to the Wall.” And right away things seem to just grind to a halt. This shouldn’t be a surprise to fans of the comic and the movie, the first few issues were relatively slow affairs, so this fits in with the start of a new story, but the Kick-Ass brand has become so synonymous with over the top violence it was slightly disappointing to read this issue. 

The focus in this continuation of Millar’s story is on Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl, as the latter trains the former; it’s the odd couple approach that made the last few issues of the first series so much fun, and the dialogue between the two is pitch-perfect. Kick-Ass is a celebrity in the world now, and he needs to develop his skills to maintain his status as the premiere superhero. It’s a nice bit of character work, and that is something Millar has been hit-or-miss with recently. 

John Romita Jr’s artwork remains absolutely stellar. The man has done well for himself considering he’s the son of one of the greatest artists of all time, and this issue is a showcase of just how much of an icon he has become on his own. His style is bulky, but brilliant, a perfect mesh for this kind of action romp. If there’s any complaint to be had, it’s that the colours feels very sludgy and at times, make the artwork feel less engaging, but this is only a minor flaw. 

Kick-Ass 2 has set itself up to be just as fun as its predecessor, while at this point the story feels slightly thin, it’s sure to pick up and become one of the best series of the next two/three years, regardless of the numerous delays it will surely suffer.

Rating: 9/10

Power Girl #17

By Judd Winick and Sami Basri

Somehow the departure of Amanda Conner, Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti has not crucified Power Girl as a series. In fact, Judd Winick and Sami Basri’s continuation of the series has been almost better than the previous run, but for a lot of different reasons. By tying Power Girl back into continuity rather than letting her exist within her own little bubble, Winick and Basri have made the character and her world feel fresh, engaging and relevant. And this issue, they’ve taken it to a whole new level. 

There are a few simple rules to make a comic book absolutely incredible. The first is to include Batman in a supporting role. Not a starring role, mind you; a supporting one. Let him interact with characters he wouldn’t normally, and see how it pans out. It’s a good thing, therefore, that Judd Winick is one of the best Batman writers of the last decade; he understands what makes the Caped Crusader tick, and writes him perfectly. So, how do you make this issue more of a challenge? You use the Dick Grayson Batman, because the Bruce Wayne Batman is still dead, or gallivanting around in a ridiculous robot-like costume, stalking his friends. 

The interactions between Kara and Dick are absolutely wonderful, and the first half of the book is probably one of the best examples of how much fun Dick Grayson’s Batman can be. Winick writes him as an adventurer, who takes his work seriously, but is also there to have fun; when he needs to get serious, though, he gets incredibly serious incredibly fast, and that’s exactly how Dick should be as Batman. It’s not only Batman that Winick writes well, though; the character interactions between Kara and Nicco are fun and entertaining and remind you that Winick is a very funny guy. 

Sami Basri’s art, meanwhile, is some of the best work being published right now. It’s incredibly stylistic, but it feels powerful and draws your eye to the page through its alluring combination of expression, detail and composition. If they’re aren’t big things in Basri’s near future, then DC is making a serious mistake. 

The story leads into the opening of the previous issue, with Power Girl fighting a mysterious assailant, and this cliffhanger is the weakest part of an otherwise perfect issue. The ending just feels like it’s been done a million times before, probably because it has, and doesn’t have as much of an impact as you probably think it should.

Rating: 10/10

Friday, 22 October 2010

The Conversation - A Review

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Writer: Francis Ford Coppola

Year: 1974
Genre: Drama/Mystery/Thriller
Run Time: 113 minutes
Certificate: 12 for moderate violence and horror

Cast: Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Cindy Williams, Frederic Forrest, Harrison Ford

The Review:

Francis Ford Coppola is a man who understands how to make intense and engaging films. Highlights from his career include: The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Godfather Part III (regardless of whether you think it’s good or not, it’s still an achievement), Apocalypse Now and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The Conversation is one of his forgotten gems, overshadowed by the second instalment in the Godfather Trilogy, which beat it to victory in awards season.
That’s the clearest example you can get of just how talented Coppola is. He directed and released two films in the same year, which both became contenders for the most prestigious awards in Hollywood. The man is a cinematic genius, and it’s such a shame that the second Godfather film overshadows it so totally.
The Conversation tells the story of Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), a professional eavesdropper, whose business day revolves around listening in on other people’s conversations and then splicing together multiple recordings to create the best sound possible, before trading it in for cash with whichever sleazy client he’s become attached to this week. The film follows one such job, and the titular conversation is one that starts Harry on the track to questioning his place in the world and the morality of his business.
The script by Coppola is, quite simply, the best screenplay the man has penned; it’s a tour de force of emotion and power that claws the audience back every time they find themselves growing slack in terms of interest. The character of Harry is wonderfully portrayed as a man who finds little joy in life outside of his career; his apartment is bare, lacking any possessions bar a saxophone and collection of jazz records. He doesn’t have friends, at least not ones who he doesn’t associate with on a professional level, and he’s extremely paranoid, because he understands the simplicity and control that comes from listening in on conversations.
Hackman brings the script to life throughout, turning in one of his most underappreciated performances. His Harry Caul is an enigmatic figure; the only joy he gleans in the entire film is from showing how good he is at what he does. It’s the supporting cast that accompanies Hackman throughout the proceedings that lend even more integrity to the picture. John Cazale as Harry’s co-worker, Stan, is fantastically realised as the bumbling, but loyal sidekick; he doesn’t mean to be so incompetent, but Cazale has a way of making he feel as such. Despite this the character shines with a certain degree of charm throughout. An appearance by a young Harrison Ford as something of an antagonist is a wonderful role to behold, particularly when you consider that his biggest roles have been as heroes over the years.
For a film that had to contend with the monumental epic that was The Godfather Part II, The Conversation feels like a much more personal, powerful piece of filmmaking. In contrast to the more successful film, it is a smaller, more isolated part of cinema canon, but it stands tall as one of the greatest bits of character study and paranoia examination ever filmed.
Rating: 10/10

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Pull-List - 14/10/2010

The Essential Comic

Jonah Hex #60

By Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and Brian Stelfreeze

Jonah Hex is a constant. The series never loses its original flair, nor its stubborn nature and callous sensibilities. It’s a surprising title, to say the least. Every issue follows almost exactly the same pattern; Hex arrives, there’s an issue to overcome, he does, he kills some people, he leaves. It’s almost perfectly simple. 

This issue has Hex confronted by a gang over alleged cheating during a card game; as ever, violence ensues. The West as portrayed in the world of Jonah Hex is a harsh place, and this feels like a spiritual successor to all the great Western tales; from “The Searchers” to “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” and so on. 

Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray continually pen adventures where Jonah Hex is placed into scenarios from which no regular man could escape. But, being that he’s our hero, it’s just a matter of waiting to see how he escapes and who he decides to kill first. It’s even more engaging when you consider the ending of this issue, which, like a handful in the past, establishes a new potential nemesis for Jonah to face-off against some time in the future. 

The book itself has managed to garner the attention of numerous artists over its five year run, and this issue is no exception. The art by Brian Stelfreeze is absolutely stunning; it’s almost cartoony, but it feels gritty and harsh. The scene in the rain, in particular is one of the best drawn segments of a comic book I’ve seen in a long time. 

Jonah Hex has been one of the most consistent books of the last decade, and it’s great to see its high level of quality continue onwards for the foreseeable future. It is, quite honestly, a damn fine book.

Rating: 10/10

And the Rest

Amazing Spider-Man #645

By Mark Waid, Paul Azaceta and Matthew Southworth

This latest arc of Amazing Spider-Man has been an unbelievable treat in comparison to the previous abomination by Joe Quesada. As the culmination of the various Brand New Day story threads, some established almost 100 issues ago, this is the final act in the greatest era Spider-Man has experienced, at least in my lifetime. 

For the last few issues we’ve been slowly building up momentum towards the epic battle between Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus that is, so obviously, on its way. And yet, Mark Waid has managed to craft a tale that takes us in a completely different direction to the one we envisioned at the start of the arc. 

It’s a clever device to bring in all of Spider-Man’s heavy-hitting villains and play them off against the wallcrawler; it feels much the same as the Sinister Six concept, only this time there are far more villains, and the stakes feel much higher. 

The art by Paul Azaceta and Matthew Southworth is absolutely gorgeous; much improved from Azaceta’s previous issues on the book. The style is a mixture of gritty colours and wonderfully rendered character models. You can tell who everyone is, and it’s nice to see characters like the Looter receiving a modern day makeover that still looks almost identical to the original Steve Ditko design. 

The next issue is the final instalment of this arc, and hopefully it maintains the incredibly high standard of creativity displayed so far. It’s ending on a high note will do nothing more than reinforce the suggestion that Mark Waid is still one of the best craftsmen in comics.

Rating: 10/10

Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Black Cat #4 (of 4)

By Jen Van Meter and Javier Pulido

Initially this book’s appeal was solely based on the combination of Greg Rucka’s wife and Javier Pulido art. But, as the series has progressed Jen Van Meter’s writing style has displayed itself in an almost perfect manner; she is talented, certainly, and perhaps even as good as her husband in terms of character building. And this conclusion to her Black Cat mini-series is the capper to an all-around perfect story. 

By making the Black Cat’s thieving lifestyle more of a business enterprise than a hobby, Van Meter has added a new layer to the character of Felicia Hardy. Her crew, who assist her throughout the mini-series, are some of the best new creations within the Marvel Universe for a while; adding quirky humour and much needed aid to the heroine. 

The fact that this whole mini-series has tied in to the Grim Hunt event from Amazing Spider-Man is also something to be applauded. For people who don’t even have a passing interest in that arc, this mini-series is still an essential purchase; it completely sidesteps the original narrative and builds itself up to the point of perfection without needing to rely even slightly on the core Spider-Man title. 

Javier Pulido’s artwork is, as ever, absolutely stunning throughout this issue; in fact, this series has showcased some of his best work – a cartoony style that manages to remain fresh and exciting. It is absolutely stunning to behold. 

Now that this series has wrapped up, the desire for more Black Cat stories has become suddenly overwhelming. We can only hope that Marvel has the sense to bring Van Meter back to pen another mini-series, or perhaps even an ongoing, preferably with Pulido handling the art chores.

Rating: 10/10

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #5 (of 6)

By Grant Morrison, Ryan Sook and Pere Perez

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne has been a fun ride, so far, but it also feels like a failed experiment. The sporadic release schedule has, in many ways, hurt the story; particularly, the ability of Grant Morrison to build a compelling narrative through the fractured state of Bruce Wayne’s time-travelling mind-set. 

This penultimate issue takes us into far more familiar territory than its predecessors, tying into Morrison’s current arc on Batman and Robin, as well as linking us into the murder of Bruce’s parents. It feels cathartic for us to be taken back to the start of everything in order to build towards a more satisfying conclusion. 

The cover tells it in the best way possible: This month, Bruce Wayne is a private detective; a gumshoe or, at the very least, someone who thinks they’re a private eye. The story is focused around the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne and ties in the ongoing Doctor Hurt thread that goes back all the way to R.I.P. It’s clear from this issue, as with almost every other Batman comic he pens at the moment, that Morrison has always had an incredibly intricate plan for the Dark Knight, and here is the confirmation many Batman fans so dearly craved. 

The artwork by Ryan Sook is a perfect fit for the world of Batman, painting a gritty and realistic canvas of Gotham City. The transition in the second half of the book from Sook to Pere Perez also feels natural, to the point where it’s hard to notice the shift unless you know the distinctive styles intimately. 

The next issue will confirm for many people whether or not the experiment of a time travelling Batman worked or not, but the plethora of poor scheduling choices on the part of DC may hurt the impact of that final segment of an otherwise brave and meticulously executed story.

Rating: 10/10

Bruce Wayne: The Road Home: Batman and Robin (One-Shot)

By Fabian Nicieza and Cliff Richards

There’s something wrong at DC Comics. To promote the Return of Bruce Wayne mini-series and lead into the upcoming Batman Incorporated storyline, they’ve churned out a series of one-shots, solely based around significant figures in the Bat-Family. Set after the end of the Return of Bruce Wayne series, these one-shots have featured a figure called the Insider who just so happens to be...well, if you’ve not worked it out after this paragraph there’s little help for you. 

This issue deals with Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne, or Batman and Robin, as they deal with some goons, as well as the mysterious (cough) Insider. The interactions between the pair feel wonderfully fluid and are almost as powerful as when Grant Morrison pens the pair, but there’s something missing from this one-shot. It just doesn’t feel relevant, or important. 

Fabian Nicieza has handed in a decent script; it works on the foundation of a typical Batman and Robin adventure, but there’s no real depth to anyone. It’s almost as though this series of one-shots doesn’t even matter. There’s some nice character development with Vicki Vale, taken directly from the pages of Nicieza’s own Red Robin series, but otherwise, nothing truly of note here. 

Cliff Richards handles the art with a certain degree of flair. He is, by no means, the best artist in the world, but his visuals have a distinct and energetic style. There are times, however, where the art feels muddy and confusing, and this hampers things far too much to be excusable. 

The issue’s ending leads directly into the Red Robin one-shot, also penned by Nicieza, and so the appeal of just picking up a couple of these one-shots is blown apart by the distinct through-line demanding that you obtain them all. How truly disappointing! 

Rating: 6/10

Bruce Wayne: The Road Home: Red Robin (One-Shot)

By Fabian Nicieza and Ramon Bachs

Now that’s how you do a one-shot that can also be included as part of a mini-series. Firstly, you hire the guy who writes Red Robin, the character the issue is about, and the guy who used to draw it. That way, it can be effectively slotted into the Red Robin canon, as a whole. That being said, this issue was still far from perfect. 

Bruce Wayne: The Road Home: Red Robin #1 presents us with the concept that Tim Drake and the mysterious Insider (have you worked out who he is yet?) are working together to take down Red Robin’s old enemies, the Council of Spiders. It’s partly a test of their threat level, but also a test, on the part of the Insider, of Tim’s skills as Red Robin. 

The story manages to engage throughout, carrying on the majority of the threads from the previous one-shot, as well as the regular Red Robin ongoing. If nothing else, Fabian Nicieza understands Tim Drake, and as a result of that, we get one of the best Boy Wonder characterisations in the last decade. Tim is impulsive and brash, but also calculating and manipulative; the perfect successor to Batman, in many ways more so than Dick Grayson. 

Ramon Bachs art, meanwhile, causes a whirlwind of desire on the part of a Red Robin fan; his departure from the series and subsequent replacement with Marcus To may not be such a bad thing, but seeing him draw the supporting characters again does conjure up a sense of longing. 

The final pages of the one-shot tease one of the other upcoming instalments in the series, but as that’s still a few weeks away, it’s best to take it on face value alone at present. 

Rating: 8/10

Bruce Wayne: The Road Home: Outsiders (One-Shot)

By Mike W. Barr and Javier Saltares


Where to begin? 

The third issue in DC’s phenomenally bad mini-series/one-shot mash-up focuses on the Outsiders, a group of characters that have rarely been interesting, normally managing to be either boring or just plain annoying. Not only this, but if this is considered to be part of a mini-series, then it really holds no place in the narrative at all. It’s a non-entity. 

The Insider encounters the Outsiders and one of them works out who he is, because it’s obvious. 

That is literally all the plot this issue contains, and then, at the end, it’s implied that the Insider knew there was no point going to visit the Outsiders. That, in itself, is infuriating. 

Mike W. Barr has made an effort to try and make this one-shot accessible to readers who may not have read anything about the characters prior to this issue, and it does an okay job of conveying who they all are, but by that point you won’t care. They are absolutely boring characters, who really don’t need to be around anymore. 

The artwork by Javier Saltares, meanwhile, is absolutely hideous. The character models on Vicki Vale and the Insider feel off, and many of the Outsiders seem to morph as the book progresses. There are even a handful of panels where the art seems to be in a completely different style. It is lazy, sloppy and far from enjoyable. 

As a part of the mini-series/event/one-shot arc this issue falls short of delivering even on the lowest of levels. It’s just not a good comic book. 

Rating: 3/10

Bruce Wayne: The Road Home: Batgirl (One-Shot)

By Bryan Q. Miller and Pere Perez

The ups-and-downs of this micro-event are becoming even clearer as we enter the fourth issue of the run, focusing on Batgirl. Now, Batgirl, along with Red Robin, have been the two most consistent Bat-Books outside of Morrison’s grip, so hopes were high that this would be marginally more enjoyable than the rest of the Road Home issues. 

And it is. 

This is the best issue of the event so far. It’s essentially an issue of the Batgirl series, which so far, hasn’t had a dull moment, and it’s been worked into this monstrous event. Batgirl investigates a robbery, encounters the Insider, they fight, he reveals his identity to her, and there are some emotional scenes. 

So, now that she knows the Insider is (blank) everything throughout the ongoing series starts to make a bit more sense. And, seriously, have you not worked out that the Insider is (blank) yet? 

Bryan Q. Miller is one of the best writers DC has at the moment, and this issue is a pure example of that. The character of Stephenie Brown has gone through so many changes and rough patches over the years that she needed someone to really take the time to pick her apart and analyse her as a character. Miller’s done that, and as a result, in this issue we get a deeper look at her personality and her issues with father figures and authority, particularly when engaging with the Insider. 

Pere Perez maintains a high standard of art in this issue, on par with the regular series. The characters look right, the action is fluid and exciting and the quieter moments are perfectly realised. It’s almost a certainty that this creative team has defined the Batgirl character. 

That’s all for this mini-event for the week, but it has been semi-consistent in that, half of it’s been great and half of it’s been rubbish. Here’s hoping that the next issues will be the former, rather than the latter. 

Rating: 10/10

Justice League: Generation Lost #11

By Judd Winick and Aaron Lopresti

It’s unnerving to me that a series that has, since the first issue, been a spectacular rollercoaster of action, humour and entertainment, can fall so far so quickly. The latest issue of Justice League: Generation Lost, however, manages just that. It’s a bland, unexciting fight issue, featuring the Metal Men and the mini-team of Fire, Ice and Rocket Red. 

There are some fun interactions to be had from Rocket Red and the girls, and the Metal Men are, in some ways, interesting characters, but this issue lacks substance completely. The previous issues have always carried a certain level of integrity, even when the drama was dispersed in exchange for some over the top action; here, there is none of that. It feels stiff. 

Judd Winick has penned a magnificent story, so far, and this issue is hopefully the only blemish on that otherwise perfect run. 

The artwork by Aaron Lopresti, meanwhile, is fairly decent. The characters look distinctive enough, and the fight scenes are well choreographed, but there feels like something’s missing throughout. That something feels important, too. 

All in all, it’s nothing too much to worry about; the series is almost guaranteed to return to standards in an issue or two, and with a one-hundred percent brilliance record, the creative team have earned the right to one bad issue.

Rating: 5/10

New Avengers #5

By Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen

There’s something about Marvel’s magical characters that just doesn’t sit right in the world of Mutants and Spider-Men. Brian Michal Bendis doesn’t seem to have this view, though, as he keeps diving back into the world of mysticism with this arc, effectively a sequel to his more recent Sorcerer Supreme arc from the first volume of New Avengers. 

This issue had a lot of exposition to give us, and as a result, it’s probably the weakest issue of the first arc to date. That said, it’s still head-and-shoulders above the other Avengers books being published, as we get the line-up we’ve grown accustomed to dealing with the problems we’ve seen them encounter previously. 

The way Bendis writes Wolverine and Iron Fist in this issue is commendable, particularly when you consider how often people complained about his Wolverine characterisation a few years ago. This Wolverine is a mad, mad psychopath; but, he’s here to save the world, too, and as a result, he takes centre stage as the book progresses. 

Stuart Immonen has been one of the top tier artists at Marvel for some time now, and this book is a showcase of his best artwork to date. The full-page splashes are gorgeous, the attention to detail is staggering and the portrayal of the characters within the art is fantastic. 

New Avengers stands head-and-shoulders above all the other Avengers titles being published at present, and while this is easily the weakest issue of the run so far, it still overshadows the majority of Bendis’ current work at Marvel.

Rating: 9/10