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From the Desk of the Superclerk: Blackest Night #1 Reviewed

27

Jul

Posted by Steve

Jason aka Superclerk on the forums joins the ever-expanding team as a regular reviewer of comics for the site.  Today he brings his reactions to the kickoff of DC’s big event this year, BLACKEST NIGHT.  Spoilers do abound, so if you haven’t read the issue yet and don’t want to know who is joining the Black Lantern Corps from beyond the grave, don’t read the review yet.

And now, from the desk of the the Superclerk:

The Blackest Night has begun…

For over a year we have known of it’s coming.  There were signs ignored.  Pleading from a Guardian of the Universe falling on deaf ears.  War broke out.

blackest_night_1.jpgWith the beginning of the Sinestro Corps war we began a story that has had time to grow and mature in a way we hadn’t seen before.  The DCU was taking its time.

As the war spread we were introduced to the idea of a coming event known as The Blackest Night.  An event that would bring the end of the Green Lanterns and everything they had ever fought for.  An event that the Guardians thought was just a tale for children.  Nothing that bad could ever occur as long as they were watching the vastness of space.  They ignored the signs and pushed forward new laws governing the Green Lantern Corps that did nothing but help the so-called tale become a dark reality.

The end of one war brought the beginning of a new one… the War of Light.  Red Lanterns, Indigo Lanterns, Blue Lanterns, Orange Lanterns, and the remaining Sinestro Corps channeling the Yellow light began to take hold all over the heavens and soon it was too much for the Green Lanterns to handle.

Within the chaos the Black Lantern began it’s work and now  we see the start of a challenge that the once mighty Green Lantern Corps cannot handle on it’s own.

Blackest Night #1 begins with The Black Hand, the vessel of the Black Lanterns, digging up the grave of Bruce Wayne with his bare hands.  Pulling the skull of the hero out of the mud is the start of something bigger.  At that point thousands upon thousands of black rings are set loose upon the stars.  The call for “flesh” whispering into the dark void.

The rings begin their journey as the Earth remembers the fallen heroes of their world on the anniversary of the death of Superman.  All over the planet people gather to remember the larger than life figures that gave their lives to make sure the world continued.

In Coast City the Green Lanterns of sector 2814 light a memorial to those fallen in the destruction of the original Coast City.  With this scene we travel into the past and witness the pain and loss of the heroes loved ones since accepting the rings of power.

Next we visit others.  The Kent family visits the grave of Jonathan Kent.  His passing has left a hole in the family that cannot be filled.  The newly returned from the dead, Connor Kent, wonders why he gets to continue when Jonathan Kent does not.

At the grave of the original Firestorm Professor Stein thinks of Ronnie Raymond.  A young man who he thought of as a son as the inheritors of the Firestorm identity look on and mourn a man they didn’t have a chance to know.

More scenes pass and we get a glimpse into the memorial chamber on Titans Island.  The Flash’s Rogues take time to honor their fallen as well.  The members of a former version of the Justice League visit the final resting place of Ted Kord.  We see a mass of heroes descend on Valhalla Cemetery in Metropolis.  Statues of the fallen heroes reach to the sky as they are remembered for their deeds.

Mera, the wife of the fallen Aquaman, visits his seaside grave with Tempest in tow.  While Tempest argues that Arthur should be entombed with the other kings and heroes of Atlantis Mera tells him that this is where he wanted to be.

Finally we begin to watch as the faithful butler and surrogate father of the Dark Knight begins his trek to the unmarked grave of Bruce Wayne.  As he nears he sees that the grave has been disturbed.  Bones stick up through the mud along with the splintered remains of a simple coffin.  His disgust, anger, and fear show clearly on his face.

Meanwhile, in the Hall of Justice… we see Hal Jordan and Barry Allen examining the final resting place of some of the Leagues villains.  They are kept under lock and key to keep people from trying to take powers and abilities from the remains.

Barry is upset that so many have fallen, good and bad, while he was gone.  The guilt of not being there to stop it burdening his soul.  He asks for Hal to tell him who has passed while he was gone.  Hal shows him with a ring construct all the heroes who fell.  It’s too much for Barry.

A confrontation between Hawkman and Hawkgirl brings forth memories of the deaths of Ralph and Sue Dinby.  The Atom has requested Carter Hall, Hawkman, to come with him to visit the grave of Jean Loring, the Atom’s ex wife.  Carter is angered at the request as it was Jean who brought about the death of the Dinby’s.

Hal finishes telling Barry about all that has happened in the time he was dead and that has brought the Flash to become still and sit down from the enormity of all the loss.

As this is happening the Guardians of the Universe and keepers of the Green Light have finally accepted that the Blackest Night is upon them.  As they decide to call the Green Lantern Corps home to prepare for the coming battle one of their own turns against them.  The one known as Scar, infected by the Black, rips one of the Guardians apart and tears his heart out.  As the other Guardians try and defend themselves the planet of Oa is invaded by swarms of Black rings.  The power of the Black rings is too much for the Corps and the rings find their way into the Crypt of the Green Lantern Corps.  They choose their hosts and soon the once dead Green Lanterns of many worlds are awakened and rise.

Elsewhere in space Black rings spread out calling for the flesh needed.  We watch as bodies are chosen.  J’onn J’onzz, Katma Tui, Ronnie Raymond, Arthur Curry… names of the fallen are called out from the darkness.

As the Green Lanterns on Oa are faced with their fallen comrades we see that an old friend meets Hal and Barry.  The Martian Manhunter has risen and he calls for his friends and challenges them about their own resurrections.

We end the issue with Carter Hall and Hawkgirl arguing about love, of all things.  As she finally admits to being in love with the angry hero she is impaled from behind.  As she falls forward bleeding Carter is attacked as well.  As they look upon their attackers they are shocked to find that the friends they thought last forever, The Dinby’s, have returned.  And they attack again.

Smashing the heroes into a bloody mess they call out with hateful words and lies.  As Cater and Kendra call out to each other the newly risen agents of the Black Lantern rip open their chests and tear their hearts out.

With the two Hawks murdered, Black Hand appears.  He holds in his hand the skull of Bruce Wayne and from that skull two Black rings emerge and call out to Kendra Sanders and Caret Hall of Earth.  They call for them to rise…

Story 5/5 :

I loved this issue. Geoff Johns does a great job bringing this story to life and giving us all the info we need regarding all the characters in the story without bogging the book down.  This is tough to do especially when you are dealing with so many characters.  My hat off to him.

I’m glad they are taking their time with this event and not trying to squeeze everything into three issues.  An eight-part epic is what this story deserves.  With all the months of build up it had to be this way.

The interactions between all the groups we deal with were just right as well.  Hal and Barry in the Hall discussing the fallen was a powerful scene as we continue to see Barry change from the Flash we once knew to a man with massive guilt for not being there for his friends.

I am also digging the Black Hand.  They managed to turn a b level villain into someone to be feared.  I love all his scenes and I really dig that he is using the skull of Batman as… I guess as something like a Power Battery.  I look forward to seeing how Bruce Wayne plays into the larger picture.

blackest_night_1_variant.jpgArt 5/5:

Not only was it great start to an event I have been waiting a year to see but it was a great looking book as well.  The art by Ivan Reis and Oclair Albert fit this story perfectly.  It’s realistic enough to really sell the danger of the whole situation.  I can’t see this story being drawn by anyone else.

There are some great splash pages in this book that really sell it for me.  The first is when Hal shows Barry the heroes that have been lost.  The grimness of his face and the shock on Barry’s give the two-page spread weight as we remember the heroes along with these two men.  There were even a few people in that image I had forgotten had died.

The other image comes with the first look at the risen Green Lanterns who have now joined the ranks of the Black Lantern Corps.  It’s a massive crowd and since we know the rings without hosts were more than the GL’s could handle… we see this dark mass and know people are going to die.

We also have the reveals of the risen DCU heroes as they make themselves known.  Martian Manhunter and the Dinby’s look awesome and bring with them a vision of horror.  Not only because they look like zombies but because these were once trusted and loved friends and now they call for the flesh of the living to join their ranks.  It is a true nightmare.

And lets not forget the colors of Alex Sinclair.  He helps add a mood to the book that gives it that horror movie feel and even a bit of the cinematic.  This is a team that works well together.

COVERS:

Regular Edition: 5/5
I love simple images.  The cover is dark and filled with the image of a skull with it’s mouth hanging open and the Black rings coming forth to find their hosts.  A Black Lantern symbol burns in its eye.

This image is made all the more creepy by the fact that this skull is the remains of Bruce Wayne.

Variant Edition: 5/5

This is a really great cover to showcase the people involved with the story.  Black Hand looms above the heroes holding a Green Lantern power battery in a way that closes off the openings that usually glow bright with power.  He has snuffed this power.  His army of undead heroes rising behind him ready to attack.

All in All –
I loved this issue.  I had to say that again.  I gave this book high marks because it deserved them.  Hopefully the rest of this series and the spin off books will continue to impress.

Views From The Vortex – Retro Reviews – Dave Reviews X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE

25

Jul

Posted by Steve

Good friend of the site and occasional guest host of the podcast Dave joins the GOO team as a reviewer of all things sci-fi.   For his first outing, Dave gives his views on last year’s much maligned X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE.  What did this uber sci-fi geek/X-Phile think? Read on:

x_files_i_want_to_believe.jpgBefore I go into my review, please make note that I am an X-files fanatic.  I lived and died by that show, first on Fridays and then on Sunday nights.  Towards the end of its run, the show seemed to be running on fumes.  Some of its charm and originality were gone, which seems to happen with most shows that run past five or six seasons.  That said, I loved the show, maybe more than any before it or since, and  I wanted to love this film…instead I just liked it a lot.

I knew beforehand that the movie was a stand alone story about the FBI needing Mulder and Scully’s help with a missing person’s case that involved some psychic undertones.  Therefore, to us X-PHILES, it was going to be a “Monster of the Week” episode.  I had mixed feelings about this, but I ultimately decided it was for the better because new X-files fans could be made.  Maybe I was wrong.   I’m still not sure, but understand that I enjoyed this film very much, especially since I saw it with my father, a fellow X-phile.
What was great about this movie was the look and feel of the story.  The scenery was beautiful and the locations were brilliant for this story.  While some have used this to criticize the movie by saying it was like an episode instead of a movie.  I can agree with that, especially compared to the first film, Fight the Future.  However, it was awesome to hear Mark Snow’s X-files music again.  Not just the main theme, but all the other additions as well.  Like many fans, I enjoyed his run on Smallville, but his music for the X-files holds a specia l place in this reviewer’s heart.

I enjoyed the story, but I thought a return to the screen should have included some sort of paranormal creature(s).  I remember during the filming for the movie, it was rumored that the story would focus on Werewolves. Maybe it should have been more than a rumor…

To its credit, the story here is frightening, but not in the traditional X-files way.  A modern Frankenstein story is scary, but only a borderline paranormal story.

What the movie ultimately secceeded in  was making me miss the show.  I think there is a lot to be said for that as I have seen most X-files episodes more than three times.  It was so great to see Fox Mulder, Dana Scully, and even Walter Skinner on the screen again.

The Mulder-Scully relationship was very strong and it felt very natural.  Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny still have that chemistry that they always had in the series.  One particular scene stands out where Scully and Mulder have a stern talk about where they are in their lives.  Scully’s journey with her faith mirrors Mulder’s journey back into the “darkness” and finding his place in life once again.
Then there is the character Father Joe, played by the fantastic Billy Connelly.  This role, while grotesque, was very brilliant.  Let me explain: Father Joe was a convicted pedophile thirty-seven times over…but you still cared about the character to some degree.  Not necessarily about him, but our journey through him.  He is seeking God’s forgiveness for his unspeakable acts and through this, he believes, he has gained a psychic ability. While this is never conclusive, I was left with the feeling that maybe no one is beyond redemption…who’s to say?
The supporting cast was very X-files-esque.    Of course, Amanda Peet and Xzibit stand out on name recognition.  Neither character really make or break the story.  They are there to support Mulder and to a lesser extent Scully. X-FILE: I WANT TO BELIEVE is a nice revisiting to these characters for die hard fans.  We see character progression, mystery, and the feel of the old X-files coming over us as we watched.

In the end, I am very glad to see these characters again.  It’s like seeing old friends again.  Because of all the negativity and non publicity by Fox, I can’t help but feel a bit let down.  With the ominous date of December 22, 2012 approaching, I ask myself…is the truth really out there?  I want to believe that it is.

Scarlett Letters – Wonder Woman #32 REVIEWED

13

Jul

Posted by Steve

ScarlettLynn is back keeping us up to date on all the happenings with everybody’s favorite Amazonian princess.  I have to say, were it not for Scarlett’s reviews I wouldn’t know how good this book has been.  So thanks again go out out to ScarlettLynn for going strong on the reviews.

WONDER WOMAN #32 – Rise of the Olympian, Part Seven

If I was trying to do the super condensed, running-out-of-time version of the recap for this issue, I could probably do it in just one sentence: Wonder Woman and Genocide fight! Because that really does sum up the knock-down, drag-out, kick-ass events of this issue. But if you’ve read any of my reviews before then you’ll know I don’t really do “super condensed.” So here’s the long, rambling version that I just can’t stop myself from writing.

817813_001_super.jpgLast issue ended with Wonder Woman making a vow to find Genocide and this issue opens up with the revelation that she made good on that promise. She and Genocide are in the midst of a brutal fight through the streets of Washington, D.C. Civilians and cops are trying to stay out of the line of fire as Diana and the monster throw each other into and through various cars and buildings.

While the battle rages on the streets below, Tom and Morrow arrive in a stealth Department of Meta-Human Affairs helicopter that has been outfitted with some weapons that Morrow has managed to get his hands on. In an attempt to help out Diana, Tom launches a weapon at Genocide. This results in not a whole lot more than creating a cloud of dust that Diana has a hard time seeing through and pissing off Genocide. Things weren’t going well before the boys showed up but now the situation manages to get even worse. They’ve gotten Genocide’s attention and that is not something you want to do.

Genocide throws a city bus full of people at the helicopter. Diana has to fight her way free from the creature’s grasp so she can rescue them. It takes her a split second to make the choice in the heat of battle and she goes to save the bus load of people instead of Tom. Tom and Morrow survive the crash but now Genocide has her hands on Tom. Despite all the cuts, burns, bruises and broken bones that get dealt out during this fight, the most devastating blow comes in the form of what’s to come. Genocide uses the power of the lasso to uncover a secret and prompt Diana to answer a single question: Did she ever really love Tom? It’s an emotional kick to the balls when she answers, “No. I did not.”

Forced to hurt the man that she does care about, Diana is pissed off. The fight heats back up as Diana uses her tiara to slash at the creature and break her grip on Tom. She flies with the monster in her arms out of the atmosphere of earth; ice forming on them both as they reach space and then fire encompassing them as they fall through the atmosphere on reentry. Still trading punches they slam back into earth like a meteor, fight through subway tunnels and then back into the sky. Diana is pretty sure she’s broken something and her right eye is black-and-blue and swollen shut.

As the the warrior and the god fight it out, Tom is embracing denial. He refuses to believe for a second that it was real. All he can allow himself to believe is that Diana’s revelation was a trick. Zeus, meanwhile, is also watching the battle play out. He is showing Achilles the fight so that he’ll understand what a remarkable warrior he’s going to be following in the footsteps of. Achilles is kind of wondering why they don’t just go help her out. Zeus rambles on about Achilles taking over and never really answers that question. Someone really needs to smack Zeus upside the head at some point in this arc because he is just making all kind of dumb, crazy-ass decisions lately. (Although sadly enough, those decisions seem to be completely in character for him.)

The final stage of Genocide and Wonder Woman’s battle plays out in the sky over the ocean. Moody, black storm clouds surround them as they fight. Diana is broken, bruised, cut, burnt and scarred. But she’s not down and she is Wonder Woman, dammit. With a last burst of strength and power she grabs hold of the strands of her stolen lasso and rips the thing right out of Genocide’s body. She watches for a moment as Genocide falls into the water – broken and unable to move – and thinks about just letting the monster die alone in the dark. She’s tempted to allow it to end like that. Yet she can’t bring herself to commit murder if there’s any other way and she dives into the water to get it back. Genocide, however, has disappeared.

On the shores of Thalarion, Ares meets with an Olympian traitor, Euphemus. He confirms that he recovered the body of Ares’ future queen, Genocide, and pledges his loyalty to the War God. Ares’ commands him, as the son of Poseidon, to command every sea creature to attack. He plans to destroy Zeus and both the Olympians and the Amazons forever.

STORY: 5 out of 5

842361_mar090170d_super.jpgIt’s awesome stories like this that leave me pissed off that Warner Bros can’t seem to get a “Wonder Woman” movie made. How awesome would this fight have been on the big screen? Incredibly, massively awesome! That’s how awesome. This issue seriously felt like the big mind-blowing fight that caps off an epic superhero movie. The whole story felt like it had been building to this moment and it just totally delivered.

Yet, as bad-ass as the fight was, it wound up being Tom getting his heart broken that ended up really standing out for me. I think it’s incredible that it was the emotional punch that Diana dealt Tom that was the biggest blow delivered in this issue. From cover to cover the issue is pretty much a non-stop fight… except for that one jarring moment when Genocide calls everything to a halt and asks for Diana to tell the truth about her feelings for Tom. They’ve been foreshadowing something not-good in Tom and Diana’s future since Hippolyta appeared in a vision to him a couple issues back. I’d been crossing my fingers that everything would wind up working out for them but outside of joining Tom for a long swim in the river called “Denial”, I think I’m just going to have to accept that they’ve got a rocky future at best after this.

The whole thing was written so well. It’s complete payoff on the fight you’ve been wanting to see since Genocide first showed up and beat Wonder Woman. It’s Diana reclaiming her stolen lasso in the most fierce way possible. It’s the beat down that Genocide so richly deserved. I loved the way the fight was plotted out. It was dirty and messy and had them both evenly matched. One of the moments that I really loved was, in my mind at least, an homage to “Superman II.” When Genocide threw that bus at the helicopter there’s this moment where Wonder Woman looks on in horror and thinks “the people.” It instantly brought to mind the fight between Zod and Superman from that movie… and then instantly brought about my depressed rant about how we can never get a live-action “Wonder Woman” movie.

Seriously though… tremendous action, gut-wrenching emotion, total payoff of everything that’s been hinted at and a big set up for the final chapter in the next issue. Now if we could just get a mention as to whether or not Wonder Girl is still lying unconscious in a pile of ruble from several issues back then all my questions will be answered. (Aside from wondering what the heck is up with Crazy-Donna.)

ART: 5 out of 5

Page one and we are in the fight. Aaron Lopresti has to spend the majority of this issue drawing two characters beating the hell out of each other. Somehow he manages to never let it get dull. It’s a brutal and savage fight but he also manages to never let it just become gratuitous gore. (An especially impressive feat considering Wonder Woman stabs Genocide in the face with her fingers at one point.) Things definitely get violent but it never comes across as cheap.

There are some stunning hero shots of Wonder Woman throughout the issue. The fight scenes have a great sense of motion to them. And during the final battle, when Wonder Woman and Genocide are fighting in the air, surrounded by storm clouds, the setting creates this great moody tone. I really like the clean lines and clear art. You can see the detail of the battle and he makes it very clear so that you can follow exactly what’s going on from one panel to the next.

I love the way he can convey a character’s inner thoughts and emotions from the way he draws their faces. You don’t need a lot of exposition about what Diana is thinking and feeling when you can see a range of emotions play out across her face over the course of a couple of panels. There was also a great consistency in showing the toll that the fight was taking on Diana. From one page to the next you could see how much damage was being inflicted on her and by the end she really looked like she’d just gone ten rounds with an opponent who could have conceivably beat her. You don’t often see the heroes walking around with a swollen-shut black eye and it adds to the impact and weight of the fight she just won.

COVERS:

Main Cover: 4 out of 5

Oh, it is on! One look at this cover and you instantly hear schoolyard chants of “Fight, fight, fight!” There’s only one thing this cover makes you expect from the pages within and that is the mother of all superhero/supervillain smackdowns. And while both Wonder Woman and Genocide look ready to pummel each other, the ferocity that Diana is displaying is just off the charts. She’s almost snarling. The cover totally sets up a “this-is-going-to-be-good” reaction and that perfectly leads into what’s to come once you turn the page.

Variant Cover: 5 out of 5

The variant cover, this month, has moved away from the artistic depictions of the various images of Wonder Woman and has come back around to being about the storyline at hand. I like the previous type of variant art but I’ve got to say I like this even more. It’s still a beautiful piece of Wonder Woman art that focuses on the character. Now, however, it’s also a depiction of the warrior’s fury that she unleashes in this issue. Love the perspective in this cover. I think I’m going to have to start picking up a few of these variants.

MEMORABLE QUOTES/LINES:

Wonder Woman (to Genocide): “When we place your lifeless head on a pike, near our latrines… would you like to face east or west?”

Wonder Woman (thinking): “I heard a snap a moment ago. Not sure if its broken my collarbone, my morality, or both.”