Hobby Hole: Dec. 11, 2013 Comic Reviews

Batman no. 26 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo | DC | $3.99

After the somewhat surprising, but very “comic book,” cliffhanger and padded narrative of last issue, I was beginning to grow a little worried the momentum behind “Zero Year” would simply peter out as we entered its second half. Thankfully, while the plot hasn’t been streamlined as well as it could have, the excitement has most assuredly returned.

It seems, though, excitement only exists when Bruce gets the absolute living shit beat out of him. How a man can go through what he does in this issue and walk away is beyond me, but Snyder and Capullo masterfully transition from this action set to highlight more internal struggles, as well as some excellent character interactions. The sequence involving Gordon’s trenchcoat calls to mind how wonderfully Snyder has managed to bring importance to even the tiniest minutia.

This issue also unfortunately debuts the series’ new pricing strategy: 22 pages for $3.99. So, we’re now back to pre-drawing-the-line, but paying an extra buck. Batman remains in my top five each month, so it certainly continues to be worth it.

Hobby Hole score: 9.0/Fantastic
Previous issue's score: 7.4/Alright

Justice League no. 25 by Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke | DC | $3.99


I’m sure there were others out there who held out hope Owlman was secretly in love with Nightwing (I’ll refrain from calling him Dick just now), but while that wasn’t the revelation the more conservative DC gave readers for his continued focus on the sidekick, it was extremely refreshing given some actual information in what has so far been an awkwardly vague event.

It’s impossible to say this was the greatest issue, as the framing and juggling between Earth-1 and Earth-3 grew confusing (a debate earlier today on BleedingCool.com whether or not the supposed Plastic Man origin occurred on our Earth is a prime example), but the much-needed character development (odd, considering how much Owlman material has already been released compared to the other Crime Syndicate members) more than made up for that. My only worry now is that the revelations in this issue may ruin an upcoming twist in the main series.

As to the “Plastic Man” origin? Hell, that was my favorite part. Mahnke’s art alone sold that for me, and was a particular highlight of the issue, though there were several standout moments. The action was a little muddled, but relatively easy to follow and that may have only been because of the heavy use of shadows and similar color palettes.

Hobby Hole score: 8.8/Great
Previous issue’s score: 8.5/Great

Justice League 3000 no. 1 by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Howard Porter | DC | $2.99

DC’s choice to bring riskier titles to press at a $2.99 price point should be commended (if not copied), as, were it not for that price point, I wouldn’t have purchased JL3k. As a complete mystery in the solicitations, little news surrounding the series and no tangible effect on current proceedings, it could easily be considered a skip.

But, boy, am I happy I picked this up.

The book offers a refreshing take on what has been an altogether humorless Justice League universe, with all the main characters offering twists on their normal personalities fully explained within this opening issue (well, not really fully I suppose). The Batman/Superman dynamic is particularly enjoyable compared to their ongoing bromance, harkening back to the more antagonistic relationship I remember from my youth. And while there’s some overwriting in this premier, I welcomed the addition of this entirely new universe.

The art was the stickler in this issue. Despite some grand designs and dynamic layouts, some sections seemed much more hurried than others. Of point: out of their costumes, it was near-impossible to tell the difference between Batman and Superman, forcing me to rely on just the slight variations in their hair to differentiate. Wonder Woman also proved a problem, as she almost looked… beat up. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but her depiction seemed completely off and I hope it will be corrected in future issues.

Hobby Hole score: 8.0/Great

Justice League of America no. 10 by Matt Kindt, Eber Ferreira Eddy Barrows | DC | $3.99

Like Justice League, this week’s issue of Justice League of America truly shined because of the excellent character work, there with Owlman and here with Stargirl. Though she shares the spotlight with Martian Manhunter, this is the most we’ve seen her yet and the issue goes through great strides to make her more than a team mascot as she’s mostly been handled previously.

The Stargirl/Manhunter dynamic used now for three issues was growing thin, but thankfully it looks to be complete, leaving room for (hopefully) something different going forward. That said, while I loved the internal struggle bits in this issue, the action portions felt a bit ham-fisted and shoehorned in only because fights are practically a necessity in modern mainstream superhero comics.

Not to say the action wasn’t well-depicted; on the contrary, the artists delivered in fine fashion, with easy-to-follow and brutal panels as well as some well-designed splash pages. Still, it was the less bombastic flashbacks that truly shined for me, reminding me of the strength I had seen in DC’s National Comics one-shots (which, for the record, I absolutely loved and still wonder about).

Hobby Hole score: 8.5/Great
Previous issue's score: 6.8/Meh

Satellite Sam no. 5 by Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin | Image | $3.50

I’ve almost dropped this book for a few months now, but have always followed that little need to come back and continue the storyline. Thankfully, my longing for a better-organized storyline took shape this month and, interestingly, it was in the form of a blowjob.

That's an odd way to phrase that. But, seriously, my initial thought after reading this issue was: “So many blowjobs, so little time.” Yes, there are that many. Each, however, serves an important character development and is actually portrayed with some astute class. The main characters are treated properly, with heavy use of subtlety and silent exchanges, as the plot continues to churn toward what I assume can only be several violent outcomes.

Chaykin delivered some of his best work on the title yet this issue with a heavy focus on slight facial variations, particularly within the eyes. In fact, I’d say this issue was more than anything about looking and observing. And blowjobs.

Hobby Hole score: 8.6/Great
Previous issue’s score: 6.9/Meh

Three no. 3 by Kieron Gillen and Jordie Bellaire | Image | $2.99

At my local comic shop, I stared at Three’s cover for a good thirty seconds or so, it being the last of the day to potentially pull down and stick in my purchase pile. After purchasing the last two issues, as well as a few variants from NYCC that Gillen more than happily personalized, I simply wasn’t sure I wanted to continue. With a sigh, I picked it up, flipped through it quickly, and made a decision.

It was the right one.

Third time’s the charm for Three it seems (wouldn’t it be neat if every arc were three issues?), as this issue finally sees a proper balance of action, dialogue, historical drama and characterization. While there are some factoids on hand, they are subtle, and merge well with the plot’s simple through-lines: escape and revenge.

Bellaire’s art has been the highlight of the series to date, and though Gillen takes his turn to up the ante, Bellaire continues to bring the goods. I particularly enjoyed the final few pages, which are almost entirely silent in their depiction of a rather brutal slaughter. The last page also proved incredibly effective and was just the right kind of mood I’ve wanted from this book.

Hobby Hole score: 8.3/Great
Previous issue's score: 4.1/Bad

Uber no. 8 by Kieron Gillen and Caanan White | Avatar | $3.99

That was awesome.

I’ve been in love with WWII’s European campaign since only a child, so a return to that chapter of the story is most welcome after the brief Japan-centric interlude, and while we only truly reconnected with one of the main characters seen previously, I’m horribly excited about where we’ll go from here.

I use the word horribly above, and now I’m going to use a variation, because the actions depicted in this issue are absolutely horrible. The panels dedicated to Siegmund’s hostile advance alone depict some of the most nightmarish seen yet in Uber, but it was all about that last page. How long it took White to draw that single splash I’ll likely never know, but its emotional punch was heart wrenching and served to remind us readers of the war’s atrocities unlike any other bit of the series so far.

This is a series I will gladly continue to pay $3.99 for, as I can clearly see its value, whether in the cardstock covers, brilliant art or Gillen’s additional commentary at the tail end. Bloody brilliant.

Hobby Hole score: 9.4/Fantastic
Previous issue's score: 6.7/Meh