Where is Jake Ellis?

Where is Jake Ellis?Where is Jake Ellis? by Nathan Edmondson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

(Received from Netgalley for review.)

Disappointing, after the first volume. This one felt far less polished, and the characters seemed somewhat dumbed down. Jon in particular makes incredibly foolish mistakes early on. Yes, I know that Jake was always the brains of the operation, but he does something that’s so jaw-droppingly absurd that it took me out of the story. Because, under these circumstances, why would you ever approach an American embassy for help? What happens is exactly what you would expect to happen, and it’s so frustrating that Jon never even considers that option, especially because he’s endangering others.

It’s more than that single narrative misstep, though. I’d loved the first Jake Ellis book because it ran smoothly on ever level, and this one just sort of stumbles around on all the same levels. Which is quite disappointing, because I was excited about this book. The one new and interesting thing that this volume does offer is the blind operative on the other side of the fence from Jake and Jon. I would have liked to see more of this character, but obviously there wasn’t quite enough room for that here.

This isn’t the follow up that I’d been hoping for. It isn’t terrible, just terribly disappointing. Then again, maybe I wouldn’t feel quite so let down if I hadn’t been waiting so long for it to show up.

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Batgirl, vol. 2: Family Business

Batgirl, Vol. 2: Family BusinessBatgirl, Vol. 2: Family Business by Cameron Stewart
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

(Received from Netgalley for review.)

At this point, I’ve more than given this new version of Batgirl a fair shot, and I feel fully justified in saying that I just don’t like it at all. To me, this character simply doesn’t feel like the Babs I know and love. She’s an entirely different person trying to fill shoes she isn’t ready for. I don’t know, maybe I would like the character more if she were totally original, instead of an original character masquerading as a familiar one.

And maybe I’d be more ready to like this new Babs if she had a good storyline. But that’s a major miss. The closest thing to a big villain this books is a Cheetah rip off, a rich girl who likes tigers and… Yeah, that’s about it. But probably the worst of it all are Dick Grayson’s guest star appearances. Why, yes, Dick is indeed supposed to be dead, and is supposed to be deep under cover. That’s why his first appearance is a hopelessly cliched “hiding around every corner!” gimmick, but it doesn’t explain why he decides to blow his cover by approaching Babs at her friend’s wedding. I couldn’t believe that he’d risk his position so easily, and I still can’t. It wasn’t even in service of a good story, it’s just a half-hearted attempt to put distance between Babs and Dicks. You know what would have done that even better? Dick not blowing his cover.

I can see that a lot of people are really loving this book, but for me it’s such a big no. I miss the old Babs.

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Martian Manhunter, vol. 1: The Epiphany

Martian Manhunter Vol. 1: The EpiphanyMartian Manhunter Vol. 1: The Epiphany by Rob Williams
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

(Received from Netgalley for review.)

For everything that’s good in this book, there’s at least one thing that’s boring or overly convoluted or poorly written, which is quite a shame.

Good: J’onn at the beginning of the book, Mr. Biscuits, J’onn’s choice to try to protect his adopted world.

Not good: A story that’s fragmented between too many characters, weak characterization, characters making decisions that make no sense in the context of the story, and a plot that’s more convoluted than complex.

On balance, there wasn’t enough good to outweigh the dull, which is unfortunate. I’m not a big fan of J’onn, but I’ve always liked him when I saw him.

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Constantine: The Hellblazer, vol. 1: Going Down

Constantine: The Hellblazer Vol. 1: Going DownConstantine: The Hellblazer Vol. 1: Going Down by Ming Doyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Received from Netgalley for review.)

This is DC’s second try at making Constantine a part of the mainstream DCU, and it’s far and away more successful than the first attempt. Yes, it’s still a PG-13 version of the character, but he doesn’t feel particularly censored. Truth be told, by making Constantine’s bisexuality a matter of fact part of his character instead of something that’s occasionally alluded to but mostly ignored, he might be, on balance, less censored than ever. He’s still a bastard, though, because would we even recognize a Constantine who wasn’t?

The story, too, is way better. It actually feels like a proper Constantine story, instead of a box he was stuffed into because the writer wasn’t sure how to deal with him. As it turns out, you can write a Hellblazer story that’s rated PG-13 without taking out much of what is essentially him. Is it missing some bite? Oh, sure, and die-hard fans of Ennis’s take on the character, for example, will likely be less than thrilled. But I’m no Ennis die-hard. And if nothing else, the character of Georgiana Snow, the anti-Constantine, is a gift.

The art, though is… Well, it’s art, and it isn’t terrible, but neither is it terribly good. I got used to it, but I never liked it. On the other hand, it definitely gives the book a distinctive look, and that’s not the worst thing in the world.

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Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Three Vol. 2

Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Three Vol. 2Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Three Vol. 2 by Brian Buccellatio
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Received from Netgalley for review.)

I’ve loved Injustice under Tom Taylor, so I was both excited to get approved for this new volume and a little apprehensive. How would Buccellatio do in his first few issues? These are pretty big shoes to fill, in my opinion. And, as it turned out, he did a pretty good job. He starts fairly strong, by resolving a plot thread that Taylor left dangling in a truly unexpected way. The middle does get a little bogged down, and slows the pace considerably, but he makes up for it with a strong ending. This whole year of Injustice has been very heavy on mysticism. I’m not sure if that’s entirely out of the way now, but I think it will definitely be less in the foreground than it has been. Constantine was really the story of year three, and he exits the book at the end in a way that feels absolutely right for the character.

There are two bonus short stories at the end, set earlier in the series. One fleshes out Constantine’s plan and explains where Dr. Occult has been. The other answers the question of what happened with the Teen Titans, who have been largely absent from the action to this point. It is nice to have the world fleshed out a bit more, and I wouldn’t have wanted to read the Dr. Occult story any earlier than it was presented in this book. The Teen Titans one, though, is from the very beginning of the Injustice story, and I would have been much happier reading it or something like it sooner. It kind of feels like an afterthought tacked on at the end, even though it is a decent story.

I think Buccallatio could do a good job on this series, and I’m more than willing to give him a few more books to see what I think. Injustice is still one of my favorite ongoing titles in DC’s roster.

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Prez, vol. 1: Corndog in Chief

Prez, Vol. 1: Corndog in ChiefPrez, Vol. 1: Corndog in Chief by Mark Russell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Received from Netgalley for review.)

This was actually a really pleasant surprise. I requested this book basically on a whim, because it was so different from the majority of DC’s offerings, and because I was curious to see what Russell would do with a mostly forgotten character. I can’t say that I had any expectations, but if I had, this book would have easily surpassed them.

I’m not familiar with the original version of Prez, only with the one that guested in an issue of Sandman, so I don’t really have a basis of comparison. That’s ok, because this Prez absolutely stands on its own merits. The premise: in a day-after-tomorrow future America, teenagers can become president and anyone can vote on social media. This doesn’t directly lead to viral video “star” Beth Ross getting elected, but it certainly helps. Rank corruption is what actually hands her the win, and it’s incredibly satisfying to watch play out. This is bitter, often biting political satire, and it will definitely strike a chord with a lot of readers.

But political satire on its own isn’t enough to make a full story. What really pushed this one over the top for me was the character of Beth herself. She’s instantly, incredibly likable. It’s heartening to watch her tackle the job of president, and it’s satisfying that she doesn’t win on every front all the time. There’s also a host of minor characters on the outskirts of the story who have interesting lives of their own. I really, really hope that there’s more issues coming, because I feel like there’s so much more that could be done with this book, and I feel like Russell has plenty of ideas left.

And I have to say how much I love Caldwell’s art. It suits the book, and there’s a lot of life and variety in his characters. Sure, I’ve seen better, but somehow this art is just right for this book, and isn’t that what really matters?

After a long series of disappointments from DC, it was so, so nice to finally get a really good book from them. This is something that they should be proud of, and I hope they are. No, it isn’t a modern masterpiece, but it’s a damn good book that’s entirely unlike the vast majority of what they’re offering. Well done.

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Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint Featuring Wonder Woman by Dan Abnett

Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint Featuring Wonder WomanFlashpoint: The World of Flashpoint Featuring Wonder Woman by Dan Abnett
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The futility of this book is beyond belief. I came into this with the bare bones of the story, having already seen the movie and I have to say – the movie is infinitely better.

The first four or five stories all focus on how the war in the Flashpoint world came about, then there’s a totally random one about Lois Lane and the resistance and even more random one about a white skull villain called the Outsider.
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