Review: Zero Vol. 4: Who By Fire

Zero, Vol. 4: Who By FireZero, Vol. 4: Who By Fire by Ales Kot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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NNNNNOOOOOO!!!!! What a dumb as shit way to wrap this one up. What the fuck just happened. Who the hell are Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Joan Vollmer for Christ’s sake? Where is all the ass-kicking?!?!?!? Why did I even waste my god-damn time with this? I KNEW this shit was gonna happen. Ales Kot musta been peakin’ on 12 hits of blotter acid when he puked this crap onto his keyboard. I didn’t expect Edward to ride off into the sunset with the girl, but really?!?!?!?

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Several deep breathes later….Fuck it, I’m missing something. Come’on Google. We’ll start with who the hell Allen Ginsberg is…

For those of you that have not already read any of my reviews, I’m not a particularly smart guy (having spent much of my parent’s money and college loans on learning how to build a better water bong, desperately trying to contract VD, and pouring endless hours into becoming a world class hackey-sack player). I’m not into “literature”. Most times I’m a “what you see is what you get” mother-fucker, not a thoughtful philosopher. I usually, not always, but usually, like my comics to just be popcorn entertainment. Well written mind you, just a little easier to follow. Soooo, about an hour of internet research and 2 re-reads later, I found that I had developed a much different opinion of this book. Ales Kot REALLY challenged me with the final installment of Zero. He forced me to re-evaluate what my expectations were for this series and maybe the way I appraise other books in the future. Right, I know, pretty deep for a blue collar dip-shit, but it’s true.

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I’m going out on a limb and guessing the average comic book reader (a category which I typically fit into) is gonna fuckin’ hate this book and the way Kot chooses to end this series. Not because their “dumb”, uneducated, or that it’s poorly written, it’s because Ales isn’t spoon feeding you shit and he requires you to consider just what he is hoping to communicate with Zero. I would imagine that the message is going to be different for anyone that reads it. On some level, I think it’s supposed to be like that. Believe me, if you thought that this series was a little confusing in the first 3 volumes, this book is really going to frustrate. Zero completely breaks from the already muddy reality that Ales created in the earlier books and spirals off into what initially presents itself as an even more distorted and trippy experience. Some of the more recognizable themes about violence and father-son relationships were a little easier to pick up on. Who all these people Ales introduces are, how their lives and work relate to the story, and why Ales chose this sometimes disjointed way of telling Edward’s tale took a little more work. For me, it was worth it only because I felt that I had actually learned something about what I expect from the stories I read, the way I perceive things (in books and otherwise), and had a connection with the author that I rarely have reading books. Now I’m sounding like a weirdo.

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Anyway, the art also took a bit of effort to appreciate. Some, as in past issues, appealed to me a bit more than others. I really liked that Kot chose to allow all of these different artists to contribute to the story at the end and it wasn’t an idea I was initially sold on. Typically, I like consistency in a story in terms of the artist. I’ve left a few titles simply because there was a change in who was drawing them. I ultimately appreciated many the different styles all of these artists supplied and there was some really nice work in this book. That said, this book was still my least favorite in terms of the artwork when compared to all of the other volumes. Still some nice stuff though. And the coloring of Jordie Bellaire has been beautiful throughout the entire series. Bravo!

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This is only a recommend to those that are looking to dig a little deeper than the average Marvel or DC monthly. Actually, a lot fuckin’ deeper. While I found something totally new with this series and definitely enjoyed it, read it at your own risk. It’s certainly NOT for everybody.

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Review: Arkham Manor, Vol. 1 by Gerry Duggan, Shawn Crystal (Illustrations)

Arkham Manor, Vol. 1Arkham Manor, Vol. 1 by Gerry Duggan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

 

 

Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-Na, Batman!

So, part of me thought this was pretty cool, and part of me felt meh about the whole weird Arkham-Is-Wayne-Manor thing.
For those of you who don’t know, this debacle is due to the goings-on that happened at the end of the second volume of Batman Eternal.
{Spoilery shit happened}
And now Wayne Manor belongs to the city of Gotham.
Aaaaaand…they’ve turned it into the new Arkham Asylum.

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Also the art. The crouching, slinking, leaping, cartoony Batman was somewhat jarring. But, then again, somewhat cool!
I can’t decide.

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This is a straight-up Batman plays detective story, and I liked that it was pretty much self-contained.
Krazy Killers, Killing Krazies!
Go, scruffy-faced Batman! Go!

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Yeah, so as the title implies, everything happens at Arkham/Wayne Manor. Bruce is now living in a townhouse with Alfred, and driving back and forth to the Batcave.
That’s got to be one hell of a depressing commute, you know?

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As soon as the inmates move in, the bodies start piling up. And it’s up to Batman to stop the killer from striking again!

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Because…
Well, let’s be honest, the cops could probably care less if some wacko is offing dangerous criminals, right? I mean, I certainly wouldn’t if I were them. No hard feelings, Bullock. I woulda made the same call, buddy.

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Anyway. Dead inmates!
Batman goes undercover as a newly incarcerated fellow by the name of Jack Shaw. Shaw is…basically Bruce in a mustache. Kinda like Matches Malone. He attends group meetings, uncovers secrets, and attempts to ferret out the bad guy.

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Of course, at some point, he has to drop his Shaw disguise, in order to move about more freely. His new disguise?
Shaw in a white uniform!
Clever bastard. No wonder he’s The Batman!

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Whatever. His lame disguises aside, this wasn’t a bad Batman mystery. And since it is a spin-off of the Batman Eternal storyline, those of you following the Batverse carefully may want to pick this up.
If nothing else, someone makes a reappearance towards the end of this, and I’m kinda interested to see where he pops up next.

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Alrighty, I feel the need to pick on a few of these panels of artwork. They’re not bad, per say, but they made me giggle.

That mouth! Daaamn!
Does anyone else think those are some pretty jacked up teeth for a rich playboy? They’re all different lengths, and some of those fangs aren’t even canines. Plus, that one front tooth is veering dangerously close to Tom Cruise territory…
Mesmerizing! The more I stare, the more I can’t stop staring!

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BAM! POW! TAPPY, TAP, TAP!
That’s some oddly jacked up footwork you’ve got going there, pal.
Just sayin’.

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Awww. Wook at his widdle fists!
Those arms couldn’t be drawn more awkwardly if the artist did it on purpose. Am I the only one who thinks they look weird as fuck? Is he getting ready to break into the Chicken Dance? And his delicate ankle tapering off into that huge-ass foot? LMAO!

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Ok, ok. I’m done.
*takes one last look at those teeth…dies laughing*

Anyway, I didn’t think it was horrible, but it probably wasn’t needed, either. It seems like there are a ton of Batman titles right now, and this one (while definitely readable) will probably fall into obscurity pretty quickly.

I received a digital copy from NetGalley & the publisher.

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Black Science, vol. 3: Vanishing Point

Black Science, Vol. 3: Vanishing PointBlack Science, Vol. 3: Vanishing Point by Rick Remender
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

(Received from Netgalley for review)

I’m afraid I have to throw in the towel on this series. The first volume was fantastic. It was sharp and fun, and while it wasn’t always terribly creative and original, it was still done well. Volume two was a bit of a disappointment. It just felt so cliche, and the characters who fascinated me in volume one were dull by volume two. I read volume three hoping that it would be more like volume one. No such luck.

The actual story just bored me. Plague world, yawn. Magical cure, of course. And the characters have gone from dull to annoying. I swear, there was more nuance to each of them in the first volume, and here they read like third hand caricatures of their original appearances. I really don’t understand how Remender could so completely fritter away such an incredible start so quickly. It’s really incredibly disappointing, because I really did love volume one, and I badly wanted this book to get better. Not so much.

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Review: The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Vol. 1: Getting the Band Back Together

The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Vol. 1: Getting the Band Back TogetherThe Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Vol. 1: Getting the Band Back Together by Nick Spencer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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A D-List character buddy read with my Shallow Comic Reading pals!
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Getting the Band Back Together was pretty damn good when all was said and done. Somewhere between 3 and 4 stars for me. Comic book humor is a hard sell for this guy as I typically prefer my comedy classless and of the “blue” variety, but this PG-13 routine worked pretty well overall.

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Long story short, a bunch of D-list villains (Boomerang, Shocker (Heh), Beetle, Overdrive, and Speed Demon) come together in a desperate attempt to get their hands on some quick cash, earn little respect, and repeatedly dick each other over along the way. It took a couple of issues before I really started to pick up what Nick Spenser was putting down. My reaction was a lot like Anne’s. Lots of little moments that had me chuckling throughout. Didn’t piss myself laughing, but was consistently amused. The interactions between the all characters (especially the main cast) were great and the ridiculousness was just enough without overdoing it. Not easy to do. Some comparisons to the current Hawkeye run are pretty accurate as far as style and presentation.

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That said, I don’t think Nick could have pulled this off without Steve Lieber’s contributions. His artwork was equally responsible for my little fits of the giggles throughout and he pretty much nailed the style and tone needed to make this book work. Lieber spared Spenser from having to spell stuff out with creativity and certainly deserves an even share of the credit for the success of this book.

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If you’re digging Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye and aren’t opposed to a little levity mixed into your comic book fix, give this one a shot. I’m in for the next volume.

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Review: Earth 2, Vol. 5: The Kryptonian by Tom Taylor

Earth 2, Vol. 5: The KryptonianEarth 2, Vol. 5: The Kryptonian by Tom Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

 

 

Other than the weird-ass issue at the end with Mr. Terrific in the future, I really enjoyed volume 5!

Spoilers Ahead, you Crybabies!
Like, for real, I’m spoiling everything.
Unless you’ve already read this turn back now.

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In the last volume we met Val-Zod, a Kryptonian who had been hidden away by the government, after his spaceship landed on Earth.

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He an agoraphobic pacifist, originally raised by Superman’s parents on Krypton, after his parents were killed by the government for trying to warn people the planet’s doom (or something like that). He was much older than Clark when he was shot into space, and had a strong bond with Supes parent’s, who taught him to believe violence was never the answer.

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But that doesn’t seem to be very helpful in the current situation!
Batman, who we learned in the previous volume was really Thomas Wayne, is especially enraged over Val’s refusal to fight.

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Jimmy Olsen (techopath with photographic memory) & Lois Lane (revived as the new Red Tornado) have both befriended Val, and are working with him to try to figure out a way to use his abilities, without compromising his principles. Because he may the only one on the planet strong enough to defeat Darkseid’s newest minion…Superman!

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Meanwhile, Hawkgirl & Green Lantern (brought back to life by the Earth’s energies) execute a daring rescue mission to save Flash from Beguiler (lackey of Darkseid, with the power of a god).

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Without backup, even Green Lantern can’t hold her off when she comes for Garrick. And neither Alan or Kendra trusted the World Army enough to tell them about their plan to save Flash.
But who needs an army when you’ve got Aquawoman?!

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Oh, hell yeah! Best part of the whole book! My liver-spotted hand made a fist, and I pumped it in the air when she popped outta the water like a banshee!
Suck it, Aquafamily haters!
*does awkward shimmy, throws back out, hobbles off stage*

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OK, ok. Back to the story.
When Red Tornado & this dark version of Superman finally meet up, she tries to talk some sense into Clark, and it works. Sort of.

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Lois is desperately trying to figure out what the hell happened, or if this thing is even actually her husband.
After a trip to Smallville backfires spectacularly, Val is left with no choice but to face him head on.

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Except..STILL A PACIFIST!
Again, not entirely helpful. right?
Well, it seems if you stand still and let someone beat themselves against you till they crumble to dust, it doesn’t count as violence.
Huh.
Whatever works!

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Nice little reference to Bizaro Superman in this, by the way.
I was impressed with this entire storyline, and I’m excited to see what happens next. There is a next, right?
Someone please tell me there’s more!
Because I’m obviously too lazy to Google the answer to that…

Even if you didn’t care for this one when it first came out, I’d still say these last few volumes are cool enough to warrant you giving it another shot.

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Review: Superman – Action Comics, Vol. 5: What Lies Beneath by Greg Pak

Superman – Action Comics, Vol. 5: What Lies BeneathSuperman – Action Comics, Vol. 5: What Lies Beneath by Greg Pak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yes! This title continues to get better & better!
Pak did an excellent job with this volume, and wrote a story that really showcased Superman’s strengths as a character.

Ok, first you have Clark’s Secret Origins issue. Now, I’d already read it in the Secret Origins vol. 1 collection, but I thought it was a good fit for this volume.
It’s a touching story about Clark/Kal told through the overlapping voices of the two women who loved him most.
His biological mother, Lara, who sent him away to save him:

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And his adopted mother, Martha, who raised him to embrace his humanity:

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It’s sappy, but it works as a short story.
I have to say, I believe one of the biggest mistakes the New 52 made was killing off Martha Kent. The mother/son dynamic between those two shouldn’t be wasted. Besides, I think it helps keep a character as powerful as Superman grounded & humanized when you see him going home and helping his mom out with chores.

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Zero Year also makes its way into this volume, but it’s not set in Gotham, so I’m not sure what the point was. I guess it’s just there to let us know what Clark was up to while Bruce was off fighting the Riddler…and learning to be The Batman?
Eh. Whatever.
It didn’t suck. It shows a cocky, t-shirt wearing Superman trying to beat back the forces of nature, and finding out that sometimes a softer touch is needed.

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On to the main event!
Lana Lang is quickly turning into one of my favorites, and stories like this one are the reason why.

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These two share a deep trust, that comes from years of friendship, and it really make their interactions on the panel pop. Not to mention, they used to date when they were younger, so there’s still a tiny part of each of them that still wants to impress the other. It makes for an interesting dynamic, and one that you don’t see done well very often.

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Ok, the main story takes place before the events of Doomed. I wish I’d read this one first, because it explains who the blue monster kid was, and where he came from!

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It also explains who the hell Ghost Soldier is, and why Clark would (maybe) trust him.

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Without giving away the plot, I just want to say that THIS Superman needs to be the role model for all the future incarnations.

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I’m an immensely powerful being, and FUCK YOU if you think you can make me do something that goes against my morals!

Thank you, Pak! Thank you! Superman should kick ass and take names, but he should not act like a bully or psychopath. This volume is a perfect blend of that. Clark has a great moral compass, and he has the mojo to back up his decisions. Excellent job on nailing his personality in this one.

Definitely Recommended For Superfans!

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Advance Review: Tortured Life by Dan Watters and Neil Gibson

Tortured LifeTortured Life by Dan Watters

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

SIIIIGH.
I should have known from that completely unimaginative title how boring this was going to be. But the premise sounded so interesting and the cover was so cool…

The protagonist, whom I fondly call Gene (short for Generic Hero) because I can’t remember his unremarkable name, is an ordinary man with a not so ordinary ability. Our buddy Gene can see how people are going to die, but not in trippy visions or Morse code messages. He unfortunately has to see everything like Schrodinger’s cat : alive and dead at the same time.

I see what you did there, writers. That opening sequence with the cat. Thought I wouldn’t get the reference, did you? Or maybe you did?

Naturally this leads to some super-duper depression on Gene’s part and in movie montage style he loses his job, girlfriend, confidence and gains a waistline. Actually, the whole time while I was reading TL, I was thinking it was basically a film in graphic novel form.

Anyway, on Gene’s third suicide attempt (or second, I forget), he is interrupted by the ghost of Random Blonde Girl and from there everything goes downhill as Gene finds out why he is the way he is while trying to dodge a maniac grim reaper known as the…wait for it…Bloodyman.

The synopsis promises eldritch horror, some brave new worlds and what not, but honestly, I was kinda out of it most of the time. The plot is extremely predictable and the graphics are neither here nor there. I admit there was one moment where I went green and nearly threw my laptop across the room. What was it, you ask? I don’t really want to say, but it involves using a corpse like a puppet…where the strings are its tendons.

Yeah, no.

I did not enjoy the garbled explanation at the end either. There are things that mess with your mind, and then there are things that just shake it about like dice in a tin. The ending is exactly what you would expect it to be. So, all in all, it doesn’t live up to the cover and I don’t particularly recommend it.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for the ARC!

Review: Sin City, Vol. 1: The Hard Goodbye

Sin City, Vol. 1: The Hard Goodbye (Sin City, #1)Sin City, Vol. 1: The Hard Goodbye by Frank Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Miller’s “The Hard Goodbye” is a noir masterpiece that would’ve given the great Jim Thompson a legendary hard-on. This was so obviously a labor of love for Frank. He was really at the peak of his career when he put pen to paper with this one. The descriptions and dialogue were hard-edged and to straight to the razor-sharp point, just like good noir should be. And because of it, this book might not be for the easily offended. Frank doesn’t pussy around with what he wants to say and words like “faggot” and “retarded” manage to find their way into the finished product. For me, words don’t offend, so I liked it when Frank cuts loose. I live and work in an environment where insensitivity reigns, the thin-skinned cringe, and these types of tactless remarks tend to bead off. Miller, much like myself, could give a rat’s ass about political correctness.

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Frank’s portrayal of women could also be off putting for some. Strippers, hookers, and topless parole officers pretty much sum up the kinds of ladies that populate Basin City. A school boy’s fantasy that I’m ok with. The men of Sin City aren’t any better. They’re violent, corrupt, greedy, and always lead with their dick. Actually, that’s pretty much accurate everywhere. AND I LOVED EVERY GODDAMNED MINUTE OF IT.

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Miller’s protagonist, Marv, is so fuckin’ great. Tough, simple-minded, loyal to a fault, and as dangerous as they come. What you see is what you get. I like that he’s got a sense of decency. A brutal killer that’ll shoot you in the nuts or carve you up with a hacksaw, but still loves his mom and doesn’t hit dames. Miller’s own description of Marv as Conan in a trench coat pretty much hits the bullseye.

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The artwork is magnificent. It’s almost unbelievable what Frank was able to produce with just a pen and some black ink. And it just got better and better as it went. Some of the best black and white comic art ever produced. And Miller did it ALL. Artwork, inking, and lettering. Fuckin’ mind-blowing. I especially liked the rain effect. Sick.

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So many fantastic moments, I was surprised it took Hollywood so long to put it on film. If you enjoy the book, check the movie out. Mickey Rourke kills as Marv. Frank peaked early with this book because most of what follows in the Sin City series falls a little short of the bench mark set by this one. I don’t think any of it was bad by any means, just that none of the later volumes were able to grab me by the short and curlies and command my full attention like meeting Marv for the first time. Loved him so much I named my dog after him. RECOMMENDED. Unless you’re a pansy. Right Marv?

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Review: Batman: Arkham Knight Vol. 1 by Peter J. Tomasi

Batman: Arkham Knight Vol. 1Batman: Arkham Knight Vol. 1 by Peter J. Tomasi

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

 

 

Ugh. I just feel drained after reading this. It’s not the worst thing ever, and parts of it are almost passable. Also, considering it’s a video game spin-off? Ehhhh. It definitely could have been even lamer than it was. But not by much.
Still, it was a snooze-fest.

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Here are a few examples of some of the GREAT lines…

Batman: I’ll sleep when I’m dead, Alfred.
Joker: There are no cheat codes and no extra life. It’s game over.
Killer Croc: I’ll find Batman and feast on his bones! But first…dinner!

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Not to mention the GREAT cameo appearances…

Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, and (newcomer!) Tweedle Die. *cough*
The Abramovici Twins! sigh
And Kid Shark! The fuck?! Kid Shark Seriously?!

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Ok, I don’t play these games (or any games), but I understand the basic plot. And I’m pretty sure, after watching my kids get all shrivelly and allergic to the sun over the years, that I understand how these games work.
Batman + Villains + Arkham = Hours with a Controller
From what I gather, these are pretty fun if you’re a gamer. At the very least, it looks incredibly cool.

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Why DC feels the need to put out these dorky companion comics is just beyond my comprehension. If someone (who has never read a comic) wants to get into Batman because they’ve played the game, then this is the last title you want them to dive into.

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Right now, Batman titles are rocking DC’s world. There is quite literally no need for this shit.
No offense to Tomasi. I’m sure he did the best he could. Not really.

Skip!
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a digital copy.

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Release Day Review: Teen Titans Vol. 1: Blinded by the Light

Teen Titans, Vol. 1Teen Titans, Vol. 1 by Will Pfeifer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Um.
Well, ok…it’s not bad.

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The majority of the storyline revolves around S.T.A.R. Labs, and all of the hi-jinks they seem to be responsible for causing. Intentional and (seemingly) unintentional. Not that the Titans know that.

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Killer A.I., terrorists, mad scientists, etc., all comes back to one guy…Manchester Black.

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I don’t know if you can tell, but the dude doesn’t actually wear a shirt. He just has the Union Jack tattooed onto his chest.
Get it! Manchester! Hyuck, hyuck!
Anyhoo, he’s a bad guy, he works for S.T.A.R. Labs, and he sets a rather elaborate plan in motion to get the Teens to work with him.
Whether it works or not is still up for grabs…

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There are a couple of side stories, as well.
Including, but not limited to, the introduction of their (maybe?) new teammate, Power Girl.
No. Not the one with big boobies.

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He mother worked for (and was friends with) the original Power Girl, and was killed because of that connection. Apparently, PG bestowed some of her superpowers on this kid before she took off for her own Earth. I remember reading about her mother’s death, but I haven’t kept up with Power Girl, so I had no idea she was gone.
Learned something new today…

The other stories were less important, but I’m gonna tell you about ’em anyway.
Raven has this obsessed fan that looks like she’s a bit wacky. She’s a singer who has started writing all her songs about Raven, and is trying to figure out a way to get her spells into the lyrics. Something? I don’t know, because the plot sort of dwindled away.
Then there’s Cassie’s mom, who shows up out of the blue. Not sure what her purpose is, other than to represent nagging parents worldwide.
Cassie also has a large group of girls who dress up like her, and then go around fighting crime. When they can take a break from following Wonder Girl around town, at least. Again, kinda lame, not sure what that one is all about.
Bunker seems to be getting a tad violent. Or maybe just proactive? Whatever, he likes punching bad guys. A lot.

I don’t really know. Ugh. I feel really uninspired to write anything one way or the other about this title. It wasn’t a chore to read, but it wasn’t special, either. However, since this is just volume 1, there’s a good chance it could improve over time.
I did think the art was pretty nice to look at!

If you’re a huge fan of the Teen Titans, check this one out and let me know what you think.

Got this one from Netgalley & DC. Thank you!

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