Posts Tagged ‘Brad Anderson’

Justice League Dark #4 Review: The Witching Hour Comes to Nanda Parbat!

October 17, 2018

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Well, I think we all saw that ending coming. It’s been telegraphed since the crossover began two weeks ago. That turn was on the way. And the fun thing is, I was looking forward to it! Superhero comics can be formulaic, to say the least. When done poorly, you can see the whole story stretching out in front of you from the get-go and then drop four bucks a month to watch your predictions come true. But good writers play with the formula, and that’s where things get fun. The cliffhanger of this issue was always coming. It had to! And we all knew it. So while this ending isn’t that much of a shock, there’s still some tension because dang, what comes next? The gang is in a serious predicament here. That thing we knew (and they knew, to some extent) was coming has happened, but NONE of us have any idea how they’re going to deal with it now, the team least of all. It’s an unsurprising cliffhanger that leaves me very eager for the next issue, and that is quite an impressive feat. We’ll dig into it all momentarily, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I have nimbly danced around a major spoiler thus far, but will do so no longer!

Look away if you haven’t read this comic yet!

Also, go pick it up! It’s good!

With that taken care of, we can stop beating around the bush in terms of details. Circe helped Wonder Woman channel the power of Hecate in an attempt to defeat the goddess of witchcraft’s evil plans but, surprise surprise, the goddess of witchcraft is super powerful and now Wonder Woman is under her control. This is exactly what Zatanna was worried about last week, and rightly so it turns out. But this was also their only play. Magic is on the fritz, and this was a chance to channel some major power and maybe stop Hecate. “Maybe” being the key word here.

I’m really enjoying James Tynion IV’s depiction of Zatanna in this crossover. She’s a great character that never gets the attention she deserves, and she’s really taking the spotlight here in a fun way. I loved how she disagreed with Wonder Woman’s plan in the last issue, and how Tynion took care to show that yeah, they were both absolutely right. It was a very dangerous plan, and it was also the only plan they had. And now, with Diana controlled by Hecate, we’re getting to see Zatanna step up as a leader. I haven’t read the first few issues of Justice League Dark, but my understanding was that Wonder Woman was in charge of the team. Now Zatanna’s got the reins, and that should make for a fun time. She seems to have a close connection with everyone and they all defer to her already, which is another dynamic I quite like. Having the other characters respect Zatanna so much is yet again a good move by Tynion. She deserves to be treated as such.

But she’s in a tight spot now. Hecate is tearing through everything, including Nanda Parbat. I always like to dig into the mystical side of the DC universe, and Nanda Parbat is its quintessence. I mean, it’s a secret, magical city in the mountains of Tibet where time moves differently and the dead aren’t quite dead. It’s the hub of weird magic fun. Also, I love that it’s this super secret, mysterious place and yet pretty much every superhero has been there at one point or another. That’s just classic comic booking.

However, not even Rama Kushna, the goddess who makes Nanda Parbat her home, can stand against Hecate. While Hecate tears the place apart via Manitou Dawn, she simultaneously possesses Black Orchid half a world away and starts a new campaign against the Parliament of Trees, a key component of the Swamp Thing mythos who monitor and guard all plant life on Earth. This crossover is BIG, and I am into it. We’ll pick up with the Parliament of Trees next week in Wonder Woman #57 as Hecate continues her destructive tour across the planet, but for now we’ve got Nanda Parbat in ruins. Not for the first time, but still. It’s a big deal. Plus, far more significantly, Wonder Woman wasn’t able to stop it with her additional powers, and now she is under Hecate’s thrall. Things could not be going worse.

The issue is nicely drawn by Alvaro Martinez Bueno and Raul Fernandez. They’ve worked with Tynion before on his excellent Detective Comics run, and the familiarity shows here.  Everything flows smoothly, and you can tell that the art team is playing to their strengths. They also manage to achieve something that the previous artists didn’t quite reach, and that’s making Hecate look interesting and menacing. Hecate’s appearances in the past two issues were serviceable but underwhelming, though, as I said then, this is understandable. It’s hard to design an iconic villain look. But Martinez Bueno and Fernandez have built nicely on these earlier attempts, and while the overall look for Hecate is still a bit clunky, there’s a simplicity here that was lacking before and, even better, an ominous, threatening quality. If Emanuela Lupacchino’s art last week was lovely where it should be lovely, Martinez Bueno and Fernandez’s work here is creepy where it should be creepy. Brad Anderson’s colours go well with the linework as well. Big destructive scenes like this can get brown and muddled sometimes, but he does a nice job mixing up the colours and creating distinctive palettes for each setting.

So yeah, the worst has happened. The team’s lost Wonder Woman and Hecate is besting them at every turn. And the best part is, I’ve got no idea how they’re going to get out of this one! We’ve got two more issues of “The Witching Hour” to go, and there is no obvious solution in sight. It should make for a fun read next week as the crossover continues.

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Wonder Woman Annual #1 Review OR It’s Not Actually That Bad. I Know, I’m Surprised Too!

June 3, 2015

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Well, this was a surprise. I did not have high expectations for today’s Wonder Woman Annual #1, the book that wrapped up Meredith and David Finch’s first arc on Wonder Woman. I’ve been extremely unimpressed with their work thus far, and constantly frustrated with the series and their lack of understanding of who Wonder Woman is and why she is awesome.   And so I was not at all looking forward to this annual, but guess what? It’s not bad. It’s not good, but it’s easily the best issue the Finches have produced thus far. Granted, that’s not saying a lot, but with the Finches sticking around for a second arc, it’s encouraging that their first ended with something almost decent instead of uniformly terrible. Let’s dig into the specifics, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to spoil not just this issue, but an ENTIRE arc of Wonder Woman!

Look away if you do not want to spoiled!

First off, before I say nice things about the story, I should point out that this issue does not wrap up the arc well at all. The ongoing plot involving underground creatures that’s been a part of the plotline from the beginning gets neatly wrapped up in the first few pages and has no bearing whatsoever on anything else that happens in the book. As a whole, this storyline added nothing to the book except for shoehorning in the Justice League so Wonder Woman could complain to various individual members about how overwhelmed she was. It was entirely unnecessary, and could lift right out without affecting anything in the primary storyline on Paradise Island. I think that this structural problem highlights Meredith Finch’s inexperience. To be fair, she’s never written a multi-issue arc of anything before, and it shows. You’d think that editorial might have steered her into something a little more relevant and less completely expendable here.

Aside from poorly capping the arc, this issue wasn’t bad. I was particularly impressed with the fight between Diana and Donna, for a lot of reasons. First, it was well choreographed. I know I’ve been hard on Finch in several of my reviews, but this was a readable, easy to follow, generally entertaining fight scene. There wasn’t much in the way of T & A or brokeback poses, just two warriors beating the hell out of each other. I think it’s the best sequence that Finch has done on the book to date. Even the double page spreads and splash pages work fairly well within the context of the fight.

I’d also like to highlight a cool choice that colorist Brad Anderson makes. We’re so used to seeing heroine with red or pink lips, a sort of permanent lipstick that never goes way. In many panels of the story, Anderson doesn’t do this. The lips are often just a slightly darker colour than the skin tone, and sometimes the same colour as the skin tone. It’s a small thing, but a cool decision that I really liked.

The writing for the big fight scene is hit and miss. Everything’s a little on the nose and sort of cornily bombastic in ways that don’t quite fit the characters, but Meredith Finch does a fine job with the fight’s conclusion. Throughout the fight, Diana and Donna debated what it truly means to be an Amazon, and the battle ends with Donna tied up in the golden lasso and these panels:

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That’s not bad at all. It’s good, even. It’s a nice distillation of what it means to be an Amazon, a reinforcement of the obligation these women have toward each other, but also the love that should be at the core of their society. It felt like Finch misunderstood what it means to be an Amazon and who Wonder Woman is and what she stands for in her first issues, and this scene is the first time I thought that she might actually get it.

There’s a second story in the issue, drawn by Goran Sudzuka, that tells the backstory of Derinoe, the crone Amazon who teamed with Hecate to create Donna Troy, and it fleshes out the characters motivations fairly well. Derinoe was in love with Hippolyta, who had just become queen after the murder of her mother, but Derione was aged into an old woman when she saved Hippolyta from an attack by the witch Hecate. She grew bitter being the only old woman on an island of beautiful immortals, as well as seeing Hippolyta move on with other suitors, but there was also an element of seeing Hippolyta repeat the same mistakes that led to her mother’s death, Hippolyta’s ascension to queen, and Derinoe’s subsequent ill-fated fight with Hecate. It all was decently told, and improves the one dimensional, unexplained characterization we’ve had of Derinoe thus far. I think that the story would actually have worked better as a runner throughout the arc rather than as an information dump at the end, maybe in place of the pointless underground creature storyline. Slowly revealing Derinoe’s motivation would have made for a more compelling read than learning it all at once after everything else was wrapped up. Nonetheless, I was glad for the backstory.

The story also seems to be a revamping of the Amazons origin story. Usually, Hercules betrays Hippolyta to steal her magic girdle and imprisons the Amazons, and then the gods help them escape and the Amazons start a new life far away from the world of men. Here, after the Spartans betray and murder Hippolyta’s mother and incite a war, Hippolyta marches to Sparta, Derinoe saves her life but is aged for it, and Hippolyta retreats to Paradise Island and forbids men from ever stepping on the island again. So it seems that Hercules and the classic origin may not be part of the Amazon’s history in this new universe, and that this misadventure with the Spartans and Hecate may be why the Amazons concealed themselves from the rest of the world. I don’t love the change, but it’s also better than pretty much every other horrific change to the history of the Amazons that we’ve seen since the New 52 debuted.

Also, the story mentions that the Amazons have enjoyed unnaturally long life for centuries, and that there is a cost for this. That may be some foreshadowing for what’s to come in Wonder Woman, and it seems like a potentially interesting avenue to explore.

Ultimately, while this wasn’t a great issue, it was far and away the best issue of the Finches’ tenure and it had several good moments. It wrapped up the arc as a whole in too neat and succinct a fashion, but it showed growth for both the writer and artist, which is a welcome sign seeing as they’re both back for another arc starting in a couple of weeks. While I’m not exactly looking forward to this new storyline, I’m not actively dreading it anymore, so that’s a definite plus. Their run started at horrible and now it’s all the way up to not bad, so hopefully that positive trajectory will continue with DCYou.

Check Out These Wonder Woman Covers From DC’s Joker Variant Line For June 2015

March 13, 2015

DC Comics sure loves its monthly variant themes. From steam punk to movie posters to “Hey, let’s just let Darwyn Cooke do a bunch”, their variant cover themes have been a generally fun promotion. There are some stinkers in the mix, sure, but a lot of them have been quite nice, especially on Wonder Woman comics. Frankly, given the rough patch Wonder Woman’s been in as of late, there have been a lot of months where I’ve enjoyed the variant cover more than the actual book.

DC’s newest variant line, set for June, is based on the Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime will appear alongside many of DC’s heroes, including Wonder Woman. Let’s take a look, starting with Wonder Woman #41 by Brian Bolland:

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The use of black is kind of clever here. I like that. It doesn’t do much for me, generally, though. I’d much rather see the inevitable end of this scene, where Wonder Woman punches out the Joker. Also, her hair is super flat. Did she just come in from a rain storm or something?

Next up is Superman/Wonder Woman #18 by Cliff Chiang:

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I’m always a sucker for a Cliff Chiang Wonder Woman, but this is just fantastic all around. The children’s book vibe is clever, and the art captures everyone perfectly. Plus of course the Joker would love Wonder Woman! Who wouldn’t. This is super cute and fun, and I look forward to picking it up.

Wonder Woman is also on the cover for Justice League #41 by David Finch, Jonathan Glapion, and Brad Anderson. Oh great, more David Finch. Just what Wonder Woman needs:

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It’s the Justice League with Joker smiles. A little obvious. I mean, compared to what Bolland and Chiang came up with, this is pretty unimaginative.

Finally, Wonder Woman’s on the cover for Justice League of America #1 by Howard Porter and Hi-Fi:

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Again, a little unimaginative with the giant Joker and such. You’ve got to think outside of the box a bit, gang. Do something fun with it.

All of these covers will be available in June, but maybe make sure you to talk to your retailer before they come out so that they can set aside a copy for you if there’s any you really like. Variants can go quickly. You don’t want the joke to be on you!


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