Review: “To Alfred”: Batman: Pennyworth R.I.P.

Credit: Lee Weeks (DC Comics)

When Former Batman writer Tom King killed Alfred Pennyworth last August (Batman #77) everyone knew that the repercussions would ripple though the threads of of the Bat-Family. Now, about six months after publication, we all get to grieve. Writers Peter Tomasi and James Tynion IV team up with artists Eddy Barrows, Chris Burnham, Sumit Kumar, David Lafuente, Diogenes Neves, Marcio Takeral, and Eber Ferreira for DC’s sendoff to the butler.

The story itself opens at a public grieving event for Alfred, setting the tone for reader as one that’s going to be a roller coaster of emotions. Throughout the opening sequence, we begin to see just how fractured the “family” has become. Panel by panel, it becomes apparent that Alfred was the glue that held the family together. One might begin to wonder: “So then what now?”

Soon after, Barbara, Jason, Tim, Damian, and Dick (Ric) are meeting up in a bar rented out for them to mourn privately. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for everyone to start turning on each other. Pointing fingers and accusations are halted once Bruce enters the bar, stating “This isn’t what Alfred would have wanted.” Through and through, there seems to be a common trend of guilt for their actions not because they recognize their own faults, but when reminded what Alfred would think of it.

Throughout the story each family member recalls their fondest memories with Alfred. This is done through the progression of the resentment between everyone in the family being intercut with respective flashbacks of times Alfred was there to help them. Each story features another example of how Alfred’s empathy, sincerity, and thoughtfulness made him the architect of the bat-family. Moreover, the familial theme of this issue is never lost on the reader through both the past strength it once had and the fractured dysfunction that it’s become.

Unfortunately, each person’s tipping point seems to come soon after, as they file out one by one. As the issue nears its end, only Bruce and Dick (Ric) remain in the abandoned pub. That’s when things get gut-wrenching. Because Ric can’t remember a memory with Alfred, Bruce depicts one for us. Afterward, just as Ric is walking out, he leaves Bruce with a resonating parting thought for Bruce. “You have a lot of hard work to do to fix everything that man built for you. To honor him right.”

Overall, Batman: Pennyworth R.I. P. relies on the reader’s personal connection to either Alfred or at least one of the primary Bat-Family characters. However, there are a few glaring flaws within the issue. Primarily, each character is written as their New-52 self, contradicting previous writing showcasing a blend of their past and current forms. Also, the negation of Selina Kyle, Kate Kate, Cassandra Cain, and Duke Thomas as members of the family worthy of attending their private assembly seems inconsistent with recent writing for these characters.

Final Thoughts: Each artist helps bring to life their respective segments within the story while the writing attempts to pull the same emotional weight. However, the issue’s utilization of flashbacks is its true strength. Through each memory, it becomes more and more evident just how fractured everyone has become without Alfred to unite each other. It also poses the question: “What now?”

Rating: 7.5/10

Tim Drake: Robin #1: Welcome to the Marina

Cover Art Credit: Ricardo Lopez Ortiz (DC Comics)

Tim Drake has been long overdue for an ongoing series. When writer Meghan Fitzmartin (who wrote Robin Eternal, Tim Drake’s stories in Batman: Urban Legends, and Dark Crisis: Young Justice) was announced to be the writer of the ongoing series, it was a shock to nobody. However, when artist Riley Rossmo was announced as the artist instead of Belén Ortega, I had to do some research into their art. I’ve never read any previous work with Rossmo’s pencils, so I was curious about what to expect. And I have to say, my expectations were more than exceeded. Together, the two crafted an independent detective story featuring one of the world’s greatest detectives.

The story focuses heavily on world-building for Tim, who has moved to the marina in Gotham. This is all after the events of Batman #125, as noticed by the scar on Tim’s neck. Fitzmartin wastes no time introducing us to who seems to be a new cast of characters as well as reintroducing a character We Are Robin fans may be happy to see. This is not a Batman story by any means, which is very refreshing. Tim has recently been stereotyped as only being the “tech guy,” so seeing his detective skills at work is refreshing.

Throughout the story, dialogue is heavy, but in rotation with internal dialogue. It’s nice to see Tim not only work through a case but also think through his emotions and strategies. Too often has Nightwing been considered the character with his heart on his sleeve ( a description that I strongly disagree with), and this time we see a lot more of Tim’s heart than usual. However, this is seen through his stress management, appreciation of those around him, and love for Bernard. The emphasis on Tim’s relationship with Bernard is clearly going to be one of the strongest backbones of the series, and rightly so, as their relationship continues to develop, we can see how positively it’s impacted, Tim. It’s nice to see a character who’s been shuffled around and confused in comics (both literally and within stories) finally find his footing again in a healthy and happy way. Overall, Fitzmartih strongly executes an emotional mystery.

As I briefly mentioned earlier, Rossmo’s art was a standout in the issue. Although some facial reactions and emotions are displayed differently than typical art is constructed, Rossmo’s attention to detail can’t go unmentioned. Whether it’s showing an analysis of Tim in a very Sherlock Holmes fashion, or the depth of the marina, everything has emotion. Gotham is known for not being the safest city, but the pocket Tim is living in is very noir and shadowy, something that is properly emphasized by the art. Colorist Lee Loughridge helps out here too, by emphasizing the life in the characters and the abstract mystery of the environment around them. The artistic team helps make the story more compelling through their emotive style.

Overall, Tim Drake: Robin #1 is a strong first issue in the series that reeks readers in (see what I did there? Fish pun) through compelling storytelling for a new mystery that Tim Drake will have to solve without being in the shadow of the bat. The issue also sprinkles in a few hints of future changes for those with a sharp eye. Although nothing groundbreaking happens in the issue, it’s enough to keep the internet and the importance of Tim Drake as a stand-alone character in his first series in over a decade.

Writing Review: 3.5/5
Art Review: 3.5/5
Overall Review: 7/10

Batman/Superman: World’s Finest # 7

Art by Dan Mora (DC Comics)

The most recent issue of Batman / Superman: World’s Finest was a great reminder of why this series has been so consistently enjoyable. With the first arc wrapped up, it seems like the new one will be about legacy (which seems to be a trend). But more interestingly, it’s about the found-family archetype. Reuniting after a month off, Mark Waid and Dan Mora craft another colorful story that shows why the title is so much bigger than just Batman and Superman. This first issue is primarily a story about family.

In an origin story all too familiar to the World’s Finest, Superman’s new sidekick is introduced to readers in such a way that it’s hard not to feel sorry for him while also preparing for something horrible to happen. After all, Superman isn’t exactly known for having a sidekick at this time (Kara is more of an equal, and Conner and Jon haven’t been introduced yet), making this arc all the more interesting. As the story goes on, one starts to wonder, what fate awaits “Wonder Boy” to cut him out of the equation in the future. David is scared, hurting, and filled with questions. Luckily the people around him are up to the task.

Throughout the issue, there is this overarching theme of legacy that makes the story so heartfelt. Whether it’s Bruce and his relationship with Dick, Dick having a friendly relationship with Clark, or Clark and Dick connecting to Wonder Boy., there is a sense of family that ties everyone together. After all, what’s more, impactful than Batman, Superman, and Robin reaching out and extending themselves to someone who’s hurting and in need of hope? This charm reassures both David and the reader that things are going to be okay, even when the future is uncertain. It’s these moments that carry the story along. It’s refreshing to have a issue filled with Batman and Superman helping someone rather than fighting them.

Dan Mora makes the story more compelling with his dynamic art style. Mora has always been known for making his art very emotive and detailed, and he’s earned that reputation. His art is perfect for this series as it recaptures the bright tones of silver-age comics with the modernity found in newer comics’ sharpness and definition. Partnered with Tamra Bonvillain, the two make every panel come to life. Every character’s emotion is not only seen through their facial expressions but felt through their body language in relation to their environment. Together, this is a dynamic duo of their own who are crafting some of the most breathtaking art.

Moreover, Batman / Superman World’s Finest #7 is another strong issue that helps set up the new arc for the series. However, what brings the reader in isn’t the suspense and wonder of who this new character may be, rather, it’s the depth of the relationships shared between the main characters that come off the page. It’s an issue that shows the importance of family and the different ways it can be found and made. This is further emphasized through another strong issue for the artistic team that brings the emotions to life. Overall, this is a great first issue for the next arc that finds its footing not through suspense but from the intentionality of the legacy of Batman and Superman so meaningful.

Writing Review: 5/5

Art Review: 5/5

Overall Review: 10/10

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Jacket Image The Great Wave by Katsushika Hokusai and Jacket Design by John Gail

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is the first book review I’ve done, so I’m going to write it differently than other reviews. This is one of the eight books I’ve read this summer but one of the most memorable I’ve been emotionally connected to in years, if not a decade Gabrielle Zevin masterfully writes a story about pain, love, and video games. The story takes place essentially over almost three decades, and the chapters seamlessly connects from the last. Although it can be a bit intense and graphic at times, this is balanced with tenderness that can only be achieved through genuine care from the author. Moreover, this story is one of the most interconnected stories I’ve read, as every part of the story is there for a reason rather than to fill the page.

The story is centered around three main characters: Sam. Sadie, and Marx. Sam and Sadie have known each other since they were young and met in the hospital. Marx and Sam meet in their first year of college as each other’s roommate. As the glue that brings them all together. That being said, Sam faces the immediate distinction as the book’s main character. However, no one has more importance than the other in the series. Together, the three share their love for video games and decide to become one of the greatest companies in the industry. Why? Because in video games things can be different then here. It’s a thought that many people eventually think, that a game is easier, less painful, more fun, an escape, or more controlled, than the world we wake up to. Through their individual pain and shared experiences, the trio become the talk of legends to the point I had to Google if one of their games actually existed.

It could be because I’ve been looking for a book like this for years, but I believe the story is a perfect example of a book to read later in school. Having the ability to look in the rear view mirror can leave one to think of, and finding a great escape through a book about people making video games and falling in love was too good an opportunity to pass up. Throughout the book, Zevin writes a perfect voice for everyone. It’s hard for one to choose a favorite character (but it may be easy to choose the least favorite), because of how well Zevin writes the trio. Not only does each one’s thoughts leap off the page, but so does their emotions. Not many authors can do this, but Zevin does. Every little detail matters, and yet speed-reading feels both welcome but a opportunity to further enjoy the journey.

Family and friends are important in this book. It’s a nice reminder to me that there are others in the world who are so connected to their families for reasons beyond “well they’re my friend/family”. The love between characters is shown through actions and words time and time again. It’s easy to connect to these moments or find some comfort in them too.

The ending of the book is something I won’t get too much into, as it could easily be a spoiler. All I could think to share is that I wish for one more page. Not a chapter (that’s rather greedy), but a page. Although the story wraps up rather well, I’m a perfectionist and like when something is definite. However, the story ends on a note some will certainly love, and few will hate. It’s the type of ending that leaves the reader wanting more, but only because nobody wants the world of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, an Tomorrow to end.

From start to finish, I enjoyed this book and felt my heart grow fonder and fonder as I read on. I was able to visualize the characters voices and their world more clearly. And most importantly, I think I learned a few new things from this book. I absolutely recommend it to those comfortable reading it.

Trigger Warnings: Depression, anxiety, substance abuse, S.A., guns, violence, homophobia, death (self-inflicted and in an act of violence), racism, misogyny.

Action Comics: Warworld Rising

Art by Mikel Janín (DC Comics)

After a brief stint during the line-wide event Future State, Phillip Kennedy Johnson returned to the Man of Steel covering both Action Comics and Superman. This was before Clark Kent’s son Jon Kent became the Superman of Earth (sporting the title Superman: Son of Kal-El by Tom Taylor) while Clark Kent makes a dramatic change. That’s where Warworld Rising comes in. Sharing creative duties with legendary artist Daniel Sampere and colorist Adriano Lucas, Johnson writes arguably the best Clark Kent in modern comics. Throughout the volume, Johnson and Sampere tell one of the most compelling modern Superman stories for Clark. With Jon also Superman, and Clark’s powers having some unexpected changes, what does the Man of Steel do when Mongul prepares to threaten what Clark values most: the freedom of others?

The story follows three separate plotlines that all tie together. The first is Superman and his family dealing with the fallout of an enslaved Kryptonian falling into their arms. It’s a compelling theme of free will and what it means to save someone from oppression. Johnson writes a very heartfelt story here that brings Lois Lane to the forefront of the SuperFamily and reminds readers why true power comes from within. The story uses a wider scope of the Superman-Family beyond Clark, Lois, and Jon. Through this, the story is able to be more emotionally compelling by showing each character’s reactions to the the new Kryptonian.

The second plot is a global political thriller regarding Atlantis and The United States fighting over an alien power source. Bringing Atlantis into the story is a great introduction for non-Aquaman readers to get acquainted with the world down under and also showcases the dynamic Arthur and Clark share. They may have mutual respect, but the story reminds readers that Superman’s loyalty lies with freedom, not any country or nation. This story is is left open-ended, which will hopefully be continued in the neat future.

The third story is what connects all of the plots: Warworld. There’s a new champion of Warworld, and he’s far more meticulous than those before him. Throughout the story we see Clark grapple with the possibility of slavery going on somewhere where he, and others, could & should be intervening. However, does this mean he leaves Earth? And if so, with who?

The entire story in Warworld Rising is one of the best Superman stories in the last few decades. Johnson has taken the title of the best modern Superman writer for many people, and it’s for a good reason. Johnson writes one of the most engaging stories that make it impossible to put the book down for no reason other than to slow down and enjoy the story without rushing. This story is the perfect jumping point for new Superman readers and requires no prior knowledge. Joining Johnson is Daniel Sampere, who is arguably one of the best living artists in the industry, The dynamic and soft style of art Sampere has is so welcoming and detailed that it perfectly encapsulates who Superman is. Sampere has a knack for detail and makes sure every part of the panels he draws is brilliant and full of life.

Overall, Action Comics: Warworld Rising is nothing short of perfect. The story is a perfect embodiment of the moral dilemmas Superman faces while juggling personal problems and being the face of freedom. From beginning to end, the story makes Clark Kent one of the most relatable characters while simultaneously continuing the trend of Superman being a role model to readers everywhere. By the time the book is over, it’s near impossible to not want to know what happens next.

Writing Rating: 5/5

Art Rating: 5/5

Overall Rating: 10/10

Nightwing: Fear State

Art by Bruno Redondo (DC Comics)

After a reenergizing first volume of Nightwing that uplifted the spirits of many Nightwing fans, the second volume struggled to keep the momentum. An unexpected crossover into Gotham City made the series seem a little repetitive. Too often has Dick Grayson been included in a Batman event at the expense of his storyline. Three months later the series finally picked back up…with an annual that similarly did not connect to the main story. Although the side story felt quite festive, the entirety of this volume felt quite stale. However, there are some positives. Writers Tom Taylor and Tini Howard along with guest artists Robbi Rodriguez, Cian Tormey, Daniel HDR, and Christian Duce manage to make the best of a contrived situation.

The majority of the issue is a tie-in story to the Batman event “Fear State” in which a privatized militaristic force has taken control of Gotham while making public enemy number one anyone who wears a mask. Although it seems most practical for the Titan’s fearless leader to stay far away from Gotham, it seems someone has hacked into Oracle’s computers, signaling an S.O.S. that tricks Nightwing into coming to Gotham. It takes a team consisting of Robin and three Batgirls (including Barbara, who seems to miraculously have made her spinal implant able to endure long-term combat situations despite the intention being limiting her crime-fighting to as Oracle) to do what Batman can’t and save Gotham.

Overall, the story is rather weak with some redeemable moments. Although Taylor tries his best to have the understanding that Nightwing does not need to be in Gotham, the tie-ins are too clustered with fluffy character interactions to have genuine development. That said, Taylor does write Tim, Steph, and Cassandra well. Tim is more than a one-dimensional computer genius, Steph seems more prepared and skilled, and Cass is the perfect mix of intimidating and warm. Rodriguez does his best to parallel Redondo’s art in his style, and some of the art is truly wonderful. However, his work can appear jagged at times and be jarring on close-up panels. By the time the story ends, the joy comes from knowing the event will no longer impact the overarching Nightwing series.

Following the tie-in is an issue focusing on the brotherly bond between Dick and Jason. Taylor seems to have done more research than previous writers because he seems to be the first in a while to remember Dick and Jason got along fine in the Post-Crisis DC Universe before Jason’s death. This is brought over in a nice modern way that blends with modern Jason’s stereotype as an angrier and distrusting character. Artistically, Tormey and HDR balance each other perfectly between past and present in the story through their respective art styles. Each finds ways to bring the story to life through the shadows of Gotham. It’s a nice addition to see Nightwing’s first suit be remembered, too. Overall, the issue is a proper example of a filler issue that the Fear State tie-in event could have learned from. The story has a compelling premise that is brought to a conclusion while adding a more detailed layer to the brotherhood the first two Robins share.

The final story is a holiday story originally published in Batman: Urban Legends #10 with the creative team of Tini Howard and Christian Duce. The premise is simple: The Batfamily is waiting on Nightwing for their holiday dinner, but crime doesn’t sleep and neither do scarecrow goons. The story is a rough adaptation of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Dick is a little bitter about how gloomy the world seems, and has the Batgirls of past and present visit him via hallucination. Howard attempts to reflect on the past of Nightwing’s life but over-dramatizes it a little. However, Duce is a perfect artist for an eerie Christmas Eve story. Everything is brought to life through light and vibrance just as much as the shadows seem to lurk in the corners of the pages. Overall, it’s a fine short story that’s intended to have a message about making new traditions.

Overall, Nightwing: Fear State is a lackluster volume that fails to live up to its predecessor. Although various creative teams find their groove in Nightwing that attempt to make the book more dynamic, it falls short. The book contains a forced crossover event and two short stories unrelated to Dick Grayson trying to leap into the light and save his city; which leaves a gaping hole in what the purpose was with this collection of stories. Hopefully, the next collection can continue the story of Dick trying to save Blüdhaven.

Writing Rating: 2.5/5

Artist Rating: 3/5

Overall Rating: 5.5/10

Nightwing Volume 1: Leaping Into The Light

Art by Bruno Redondo (DC Comics)

When Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo signed up to lead the creative ship for Nightwing after over a year of unrelenting frustration from an ongoing amnesia story that was already time to end, fans rejoiced. Much like the new era for DC Comics, this was the beginning of a new frontier for Dick Grayson. Chief editor Jessica Chen helped foster a powerhouse creative team for this with writer Tom Taylor, artists Bruno Redondo. Rick Leonardi, and Neil Edwards, inkers Bruno Redondo, Andy Lanning, and Scott Hanna, colorist Adriano Lucas, letterer Wes Abbott. Nightwing Volume 1, Leaping Into the Light is a refreshing read for long-time and new readers alike.

Throughout the story, Tom Taylor wants to remind fans of two things. The first is that Nightwing is going to be put to the same level as heroes like Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman. The second message from Taylor is that this series is being built from the creative love of the character and mythos. Despite Taylor having the habit of writing the acrobat’s death in stories such as Injustice and DCeased, he has no plans to do anything like that here. While Taylor might put Dick Grayson through a few trials and tribulations, this is the first time in a while fans can rest easy from any harm coming to the character.

From cover to cover, the art is nothing short of spectacular. Bruno Redondo. Rick Leonardi, Neil Edwards, Andy Lanning, Slott Hanna, and Adriano Lucas ensured that every panel is full of vibrance and life. The main artist Bruno Redondo has risen to all-star status in the comic industry. His attention to detail and ability to bring a vibrant energy to each panel he produces is part of what makes this story so amazing. Adriano Lucas is the right colorist for this series; perfectly blending the shadows and background of the story with the bright and energetic foreground.

The story itself has some familiar elements and faces that make it easy to follow for newcomers and enjoyable for long-time readers. We are soon greeted with Barbara Gordon re-entering Dick’s life both as Oracle helping him through crime-fighting and as one of the most important people in his life. Fans of how DC structured the Bat-Family in the 1990s will be pleased to see Tim Drake’s prevalence in the story. Long-time Nightwing villain Blockbuster is back in a very big way. Similarly, we are greeted by new friends and foes, such as a three-legged dog Dick adopts, the newly elected mayor, and the mysterious villain Heartless.

The overall theme of the story is about helping others in the best possible way. Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne have sort of flipped in the last year, with the former now the billionaire. The late Alfred Pennyworth left his entire secret fortune to Dick, with the complete faith he will use it wisely. Dick decides to do just that in a very Nightwing way. Nightwing is a character often written as one who thinks with his heart first; however, Tom Taylor reminds fans of the character’s intelligence and versatility. By the end of the book, readers will understand why it’s time for Dick Grayson to save the city along with Nightwing.

The story has many enjoyable moments and a few frustrations. While it’s nice to see how many people care for Dick Grayson, it’s also nice to know he can take care of himself. Although there are many elements in play here to build both the story and the main character, they all blend. Each issue seems to pick up right where the other left off which makes it a very fluid story. Taylor often alternates with story progression and small fan-service moments to keep the pacing moving forward. It’s a strategy that makes for an overall great story.

The hardcover itself is amazing. under the sleeve is one of the most wonderful works of art to be made into a cover. The story is perfectly transferred from single issues into hardcover form, with great concept art at the end of the book.

Overall, Nightwing Volume 1, Leaping Into the Light is a wonderful comprehensive read that aims to elevate the character to new heights while also grounding him in his analytical mind and care for others. The entire team behind the story wants readers to know this is a new-yet-familiar beginning for the character. By the end of the first volume, it is apparent that Taylor, Redondo, Lucas, and everyone involved is creating one of the most memorable tenures for Nightwing through its reception and success.

Writing Rating: 4.5

Artist Rating: 5/5

Overall Rating: 9.5/10

Nightwing 80: Into the Fire

Art by Bruno Redondo (DC Comics)

It goes without saying that the Nightwing creative team is publishing one of the best comic books right now. Today’s Nightwing issue is nothing short of a shot of serotonin for Nightwing fans. Not only is this week’s supporting cast used to the best of their ability, but our titular character is once again the true example of what it means to be a hero. Once again, next to Superman, Dick Grayson is the one hero who is the most consistently the best example of how to be a hero.

Jumping straight into today’s issue, the story opens with Dick being accused of murder. Luckily, we all know he didn’t do it, and so does Barbara Gordon, his closest ally who also happens to have a law degree (so does Dick). After convincing the police officers that Dick is innocent, has an alibi, and that further questioning is a waste of time, Dick and Barbara get straight to work.

Speaking of allies, it’s about time another one of Dick’s closest allies helps out. Tim Drake, thought of by many as the best Robin, comes with a helping hand (and a new wallet for Dick). From this point on, it’s classic 90s nostalgia for everyone. Nightwing and Robin ride on top of a train, fight crime, and do some detective work. However, this shouldn’t dissuade readers from the ultimate cliffhanger, as Dick finally comes face to face with Heartless.

Tom Taylor continues to outdo himself with every new issue of Nightwing. What makes his characterization of Dick Grayson so good is he clearly has seen and heard the concerns fans have had over the last decade. They’re tired of Dick being dumbed down, being reduced to his body, and just being one dimensional. His Nightwing is nothing of the sort. Dick is every bit as intelligent, serious, sincere, and calculated as he should be as a strong leader. Similarly, Taylor continues to showcase Barbara Gordon’s intelligence and vast capabilities, resources, and (despite the current state of affairs DC has put the character in) makes her the strong warm character fans know and love. Aside from the two main characters of the series, our guest star Tim Drake is written amazingly. When Tom Taylor isn’t killing off Tim Drake in Injustice and DCeased, he writes a very compelling case for why the character is the best Robin. Tim embodies everything Robin is meant to be, and Taylor evidently recognizes his worth beyond being a tech-savvy genius. Tim has as big of a heart as Dick does. And the two aren’t just brothers for a reason. Today, fans were able to experience some of the best interactions the characters have had in the last decade.

Additionally, both Bruno Redondo and Adriano Lucas continue to spoil fans with some absolutely amazing art. Redondo flexes his artistic skill throughout the issue, displaying his various styles of art. Whether he’s showing Dick and Barbara walk thorugh his apartment from an bird’s eye view, showing Dick and Tim fight crime across a beautiful textless spread, or providing emotional depth through the slightest of facial expressions, Redondo is doing some of the best work in his career. Similarly, Adriano Lucas continues to have the colors bring a layer of vibrancy and emotion to the pages. The orange hue Lucas uses adds a fire of life to the story. Together, the pair are creating artwork that deserves to be framed in an art gallery.

Moreover, Nightwing #80 is nothing short of amazing. From the beginning, it’s been evident how many layers this story was going to have. Between Heartless, Melinda Zucco, and Blockbuster all working against Dick Grayson and Nightwing, this Nightwing run is shaping up to be one of, if not the best, the character has ever had. This issue is another example of how much love Taylor and co. have for the entire Nightwing-world (maybe he deserves his own corner in the DC Universe beyond the Batman line, DC). This issue not only meets expectations, but goes so far above and beyond it makes fans wonder when the story gets nominated for an Eisner.

Writing Review: 5/5

Art Review: 5/5

Overall Review: 10/10

Nocterra 3: Language of Light and Love or Language of Evil?

Art by Tony S. Daniel (image Comics)

From the very beginning, Nocterra has been nothing but action. It’s been a series where if you (or Val) stop to catch a breath, you’ll find yourself facing Blacktop Bill and eventually death. Part of what’s been so enjoyable about this series is is the creative team of Scott Snyder, Tony S. Daniel, and Tomeu Morey not pulling their punches. This isn’t a Batman story like they’ve worked on in the past, where a hero rises above. This is about survival. The sun isn’t coming back and neither is a sigh of relief.

The story opens as we find out why the world went dark, we also witness Val and Em decide whether or not to trust their turned parents beg them to let them inside. Throughout the issue, there is a constant debate about the concept of love, and if it even exists anymore. Maybe it does, but it doesn’t seem that way. Rather, it seems the world is so full of evil and cruelty that the only language left is one of evil.

The levels of evil and cruelty in this world are further built upon in this issue. Part of what makes this more compelling is when we realize some characters haven’t seen the sun. It’s an unexpected concept that I hadn’t thought of. The world has been dark for so long that people have been born and died without seeing the light. This also adds a layer of depth to the story, as we realize just how long the world has gone dark.

While we’re having these existential thoughts, Val and her passengers are driving for their life. Blacktop Bill is right on their tail, and he’s relentless. It doesn’t take long to realize that sacrifices have to be made if our titular character is going to get out of this alive. But will these sacrifices matter? Maybe, or maybe there’s another tragedy around the corner.

Part of what makes this series so enjoyable is because Scott Snyder isn’t holding back. The writing here is like nothing before, it’s him not holding back. This is a series where he doesn’t have to pull his punches. This is seen throughout the series as Snyder continues to keep the story fast-paced. Although there is proper world-building and depth added to the characters, there isn’t time to slow down and talk over a meal. Everything is done on the move.

Similar to Snyder, the artistic duo of Tony S. Daniel and Tomeu Morey is doing an amazing job engulfing the world in darkness. Part of what makes the story so captivating is how Daniel can draw a world covered in darkness. Because of this, Nocterra continues to be as exciting as a story since its premise. Along with Daniel, Morey can make the pencils of a dark post-apocalyptic world as vibrant as one filled with life.

Overall, Nocterra’s third issue continues to be just as exciting as the prior two. It’s a testament to how compelling storytellers Snyder, Daniel, and Morey are. As fast, paced as this story has been, it’s paid off. Nothing good is coming Val Rigg’s way, and certainly not light or love.

Writing review: 4/5

Art review: 4/5

Overall Review: 8/10

Review: Radiant Black 3

Radiant Black #3 | Image Comics
(Art by Marcelo Costa)

When the first issue of Radiant Black was released, many compared it to the hit series Invincible, however, it is not too much like that. Radiant Black is a modern story that is an example of how hard it is to find the motivation to get up and work. Without comparing and contrasting too much, Invincible is a very well-written series about developing into who one wants to be rather than what others around you expect you to be. It’s much more about being a hero first and person later. Whereas Radiant Black is the reverse, Nathan is a grown adult who wants to be a person first and a hero later. But being an adult is hard. Especially when you’re living at home desperate to finish your story. Kyle Higgins and Marcelo Costa once again publish another engaging and well-written issue that leaves readers ready for more.

Throughout the issue, Nathan struggles with these questions. Regardless of the environment, he puts himself in, he can’t seem to write his story. Nothing is good enough for him. Working at home won’t work; not with meddlesome parents who want to put in their two cents. Meanwhile, Marshall has his own questions to answer. like what should Nathan’s superhero name be? (Hint: it’s the book’s title).

Throughout the issue, Nathan’s self-doubt and anxiety are constantly at the forefront of the page. Marcelo Costa and Becca Carey make sure to emphasize this throughout facial expressions and word emphasis. One of the most attractive things in the story is how there are whole panels and pages dedicated to the actual story Nathan is writing, followed by more self-doubt and erasing of text. There isn’t much action in this issue, but it’s far from being devoid of conflict.

Kyle Higgins is writing some of the best work of his career with Radiant Black. Part of what makes the story so interesting and captivating is that it’s so easy for the reader to feel like Nathan. We aren’t all a novelist-to-be. However, the feeling of knowing what one wants to do, not having the right motivation to get down to it, being your own worst critique, and searching for inspiration are all things most people can relate to in one form or another. It’s clear this series is a personal one to the creative team, and that makes it so much easier to resonate with.

Moreover, this issue of Radiant Black is another strong step in the series that helps readers stay engaged for more than glamorous punches and lifting cars. What makes the series so captivating is the fact that when the normal day-to-day activities of Nathan are compelling, it makes for a more complete story. More than anything, it makes readers want to read Nathan’s book (and find out more about his powers in issue 4). It’s evident the that one of the main foundational themes in the series is what to do when you know what you want to be and simply don’t know how to do it? What do you do when you can’t bring yourself to put the pen to paper?

Writing review: 5/5

Art review: 5/5

Overall Review: 10/10

Writing review: 6/5

Art review: 5/5

Overall Review: 10/10

Review: Nightwing 79 is All About the Heart

Nightwing #79 Preview
Art by Bruno Redondo (DC Comics)

When the second preview for Nightwing 79 broke out, some fans were very vocal about the idea of Dick Grayson criticizing Bruce Wayne. However, when the full issue became available, it became evident to many how much of an inconsequential comment that was. Regardless of how Dick Grayson views how Bruce spends his time and resources, this story isn’t about Bruce. It’s about Dick Grayson, not his sidekick Batman(joke). When Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo finalized their work for Nightwing 79, they published an issue that properly emulates the character of Dick Grayson.

The duo of Taylor and Redondo wasted no time when creating the framework for their Nightwing story. The pair are clearly in this for the long-haul and have set up the baseline for multiple stories to come. However, today’s story isn’t about Blockbuster pulling the strings, it doesn’t delve too much into what Melinda Zucco is planning, nor does it elaborate on what Heartless is up to (or who they are). What it does instead shows what Dick plans to do with the fortune Alfred left behind for him.

Like the summary for the issue says, Dick has a lot of questions and not a lot of answers from the world. So, being the community-loving person he is who constantly pours his all into the world he lives in, Dick decides to answer one question himself. Blüdhaven is a city filled with the disenfranchised. The law doesn’t mean anything there because the justice system is broken. It’s a city that needs saving. Dick decides to start saving the city one slice at a time. After encountering a homeless father, Martin, and his son, Dick decides to buy food for the community. well providing housing for the two. A nice easter egg, as the Pizza shop Dick buys pizza from is “Marv & George’s Pizza,” a nice nod to the co-creators of Nightwing.

Throughout the issue, there is a consistent theme of the importance of one’s heart. For years, DC has pushed that Dick Grayson is the “heart of DC,” a sentiment feared and not frequently handled well by most writers. Tom Taylor is not most writers. Dick Grayson has a huge heart, but that doesn’t make him a big softie who “leads with his heart and thinks later.” Rather, it means Dick likes to put himself where the problems are instead of in a mansion above. Dick’s constant want and aim to improve the community and people in it is seen from his non-violent actions more than his life as a hero. Taylor essentially reminds readers why Dick does things like buying pizza for a whole community instead of only punching bad guys.

The issue isn’t just about Dick’s heart. It’s about Blüdhaven and the people within it. Taylor utilized different angles of perception to showcase the many ways the city is broken. Unlike Gotham, a city filled with bats, Blüdhaven doesn’t have that. Nightwing was gone for quite a while, and in that time the injustice within the city broke its people. And that Nightwing is back, there are a lot of problems for him and Oracle to tackle.

Taylor’s writing is very compelling and detailed throughout the story. His storytelling excellently details the story without having any time to idly sit by. It’s another very fluid story that combines the emotions of Dick with the empathy the reader builds for the city of Blüdhaven. Wes Abbott’s letters are also not lost to the reader. What Abbott does so well is to properly emphasize the dialogue watthour having it take up the page and detract from the scenery. Along with the writing is the amazing combination of Redondo and Lucas’s excellent art. Bruno Redondo is one of the best artists at the time. Couple him with Adriano Lucas and readers get to enjoy some absolutely stellar art. The use of vibrant colors and attestation to detail brings the story to life. Everything is colorfully emotive in all the right ways. Overall, the entire creative team once again publishes a compelling story that leaves readers ready for more.

Moreover, Nightwing 79 is a phenomenal story that brings a lot of grounding to the story. It’s a strong issue that helps give legs to the story and provides some proper groundwork for the story. The story is a strong indication of what Tom Taylor intends to do with Nightwing in the city: provide a safety net.

Writing review: 5/5

Art review: 5/5

Overall review: 10/10

Review: Nocterra #2

Amazon.com: Nocterra #2 eBook: Snyder, Scott, Daniel, Tony Salvador, Morey,  Tomeu, Daniel, Tony Salvador, Morey, Tomeu: Kindle Store

As the story of Val Riggs continues, her ability to overcome obstacles similarly continues. While stopping in the Neon Grove, Scott Snyder, Tony S. Daniel, and Tomeu bring a new layer of depth and intensity to the story.

Things are not looking good for Val. Her brother Emory is getting worse, and traveling in a semi-truck with passengers is no easy business. But maybe, just maybe, this is the dark before the light. Hopefully. But probably not.

About 245 miles later, Val reaches the Neon Grove, which gives Tony S. Daniel and Tomeu Morey the perfect opportunity to show his masterful art style. The Grove is nothing short of beautiful, to begin with, but with Daniel and Morey together, it looks even more beautiful. The colors pop so much in contrast to the darkness of the world consuming everyone and everything. Additionally, the attention to detail across the Neon Grove spread only further shows how much effort was put into the page.

As the story progresses, we come to realize it doesn’t take a sudden realization for Val to be suspicious of Augustus. She can sniff out a liar like nobody’s business, and Augustus is lying. By this point of the story, we find out Blacktop Bill not only wiped out everyone else, but he’s right around the corner waiting. Val has a choice: give up Augustus and Bailey or hit the nitro and get the heck out of town.

The focal point of the story seems to trust. Things haven’t gone well for Val so far in her life. And now the world has gone to hell. Opening herself up hasn’t come easy, much less to strangers. It seems as the story progresses, so will Val’s openness with those around her. Part of what makes this such a compelling storytelling technique is because of how the story parallels the current world situation. Aren’t we all a little less trusting lately? Crossing the street when someone coughs, eyeballing whether someone properly has their mask on, not wanting to walk too close to people in the store. Part of what makes Nocterra so compelling is how easy it is to relate with Val.

Overall, Nocterra 2 is a strong second issue in the series. The character building for Val and Augustus helps carry the story through the heavy dialogue. Additionally, the art team of Tony S. Daniel and Tomeu Morey brings the story to life and helps the characters pop from the dark world around them.

Writing review: 8/5

Art review: 4/5

Overall review: 8/10

Review: Radiant Black #2

(Art by Marcelo Costa)

A month after it’s debut, issue two of Radiant Black is finally out. Writer Kyle Higgins and artist Marcelo Costa continue to write a strong story for Nathan. While introducing the story’s antagonist, issue two also further develops Nathan and builds on his relationships.

The story opens up where the first issue ended, with Natan connected with a mysterious cosmic force, saving the day, and finally coming home. The character building starts right away as we begin to better understand the relationship between Nathan and his father. They’re not the best of buds. A father with expectations and a son who just lost his job are by nature going to clash. And clash they do, while eating breakfast.

Meanwhile, the police who Nathan encountered certainly didn’t forget him. In fact, they found out where he lives (spoiler, don’t do super hero things a block from where you live). They’re not mad for lifting them in the air, however, much like Nathan’s father, they now have expectations for him. This isn’t Metropolis or Star City, this is ‘real life’ and they know what happens when someone gets mysterious powers and saves someone; a superhero is born. And that’s what they’re seemingly there tp push Nathan towards.

Before Nathan can go save the world, he has to learn how to use his powers. After hearing about the mysterious bank robber with similar powers and a red version of his suit, Nathan decides to look for them in the Windy City. Driving people around, you hear a few stories, so it’s only natural one of the people Nathan drives remembers seeing ‘Radiant Red’. Their first encounter isn’t what Nathan expected, as he makes a new enemy, gets his butt kicked, and almost totals his car. However he does get one thing: a new purpose.

Kyle Higgins does a spectacular job with this issue. The creative freedom that comes from Image Comics provides him the flexibility to not worry about speedy pasting, editorial control, or losing his creativity. The story has been an absolute delight from the beginning. Part of what makes Radiant Black so enjoyable is how grounded and relatable it is. Along with this comes a little bit of slow pacing, but it’s clearly intentional to both develop characters and not rush the conflict. Along with Higgins pouring his passion for the media in the issue is the love and skill Marcelo Costa brings along. Costa’s definitive linework is similar enough to Ryan Ottley that the parallels between Radiant Black and Invincible continue. Costa’s vibrant colors, attention to detail, and fun style to bring mysterious alien objects to life makes this story so entertaining.

Overall, Radiant Black 2 is just as enjoyable as the introductory one, and similarly leaves fans wanting more. The creators Kyle Higgins and Marcelo Costa continue to bring their A-game for this series, gearing up for what appears to be a new classic.

Writing review: 4/5

Art review: 5/5

Overall review: 9/10

Nightwing 78: Leaping into the Light

Art by Bruno Redondo (DC Comics)

Nightwing is finally good again. For months after the announcement Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo would be taking over the title, fans have been chomping at the bits to find out more information about their first issue. Now, two previews later, and Nightwing 78 is available in stores and it’s amazing. The title “Leaping into the Light” is a worthy title for one of the most energetic, life-filled, and proper writing Nightwing has had in a decade.

The premise of this fresh start for DC’s Infinite Frontier era is that anyone can pick up this issue and be well off. The familiar for old fans is just as you’d expect it, things are exciting and ominous for newcomers, and for fans of all lengths, this is the perfect issue. The night before the issue’s release, Tom Taylor excited fans even more so. After so very nicely replying to my question as to what to expect in his run on the character, Taylor said “[Dick Grayson’s] one of the world’s greatest detectives and one of the best fighters in the DC universe. That shouldn’t be ignored just because he’s humble and a little self-deprecating.”

For Nightwing fans everywhere, this was news worth more than gold. It seems that the run will be reminding many fans what makes Nightwing so important to the DC Universe while also bringing him to a new level.

That being said, the issue itself opens with a young Dick Grayson beating up some school bullies (with the help of Barbara Gordon and her father). The importance of this isn’t lost on anyone as Dick narrates, reminding readers about his dislike for bullies. When fans were told a main factor of this story would be Dick Grayson’s heart, some raised an eyebrow. Too often has Dick been shown recently as act first-think later, but that’s far from the case here. In the words of the late Alfred Pennyworth to a young Dick Grayson, “Master Bruce may feel you should only be a hero when wearing a costume. But I’m glad Dick Grayson steps up when someone is in need. It takes a different hero to help without a mask.” And just like that, the blueprint behind the plans for Taylor’s Nightwing run has become clear. This will be a run on the character that showcases Dick’s innate will to do good, his ability to be a driving force of nature, and his intelligence.

As the story progresses, we see the familiar preview pages of Nightwing saving a three-legged puppy from some low-level criminals. It’s a very meta moment that shows all of Nightwing’s abilities at once. His acrobatic skill, hand-to-hand combat, and short temper are all on display here. Meanwhile, Blockbuster has been working in the shadows while Dick was away. This Blockbuster is different from the Rebirth version. By all accounts, he’s become as powerful in Blüdhaven as Wilson Fisk has in New York. The parallels aren’t lost through his three-piece suit, secret meetings with those in power he controls, and crushing of faces in his huge hands.

Meanwhile, Dick has received some huge news. Barbara Gordon, the executor of Alfred Pennyworth’s will, has come to deliver the reading to Dick. While Alfred was doing the dishes, stitching wounds, and being the linchpin of the Bat-Family, he was also secretly rich. And although Bruce Wayne isn’t a billionaire anymore, Dick Grayson is now. It seems Alfred left Dick just about every penny he had. Why? Well, that answer can only be found in the most heartwarming letter I dare not spoil here. As the issue closes, things seem to be looking up for Dick Grayson. So it’s just about time to introduce the other villain who’s got her sights on Dick Grayson (not Nightwing): Melinda Zucco, daughter of Tony Zucco (who killed Dick’s parents for those who might not remember).

Everything about this issue is a dream come true. Tom Taylor’s track record with writing heroes speaks for itself. Everything he touches turns to gold. His comprehension of what fans value about the character, what editorial wants to be executed, and what makes Nightwing so important all come together in his vision for the character. Along with him is Bruno Redondo, one of the best artists in the industry. His ability to bring a story to life is constantly getting better. His vivid art style, defined facial expressions, and ability to have the story flow are what make him so great. What makes this all so much more wonderful is the coloring from Adriano Lucas and Wes Abbott’s lettering. Together, this entire creative team released the most anticipated comic in months and didn’t just deliver but exceeded expectations.

Writing review: 5/5

Art review: 5/5

Overall Review: 10/10

Nocterra: The Sky has Fallen

Art by Tony S. Daniel

When Scott Snyder and Tony S. Daniel announced they’d be working on a Kickstarter together, all eyes were on the duo. Taking a step back from DC to work on a creative project, the two quickly gained enough money for Kickstarter to meet its goal. And if you blinked and missed it, the first issue is now sold out at most local comic book stores.

Everything was normal until the world went dark. When an everlasting night, referred to as the PM, engulfed the world everything fell apart. Those who couldn’t stay near any light turned into a monster like shades. Not just humans, every living organism. Ten years later and Valentina Riggs makes her living as a ferryman transporting people and goods to safety. When an offer that seems too good to be true comes up, and it might be, Val decides to take a leap of faith and get in her eighteen-wheeler on a quest that’s sure to be “full-throttle dark.”

Nocterra is a story with a few inspirations. Originally from Snyder’s childhood fear of the dark, the author was motivated “to do a book where the dark is as scary as you fear it was a kid. Where it transforms.” The story of Nocterra couldn’t have come at a more (metaphorically) opportune time, with the current COVID-19 pandemic quite similarly altering the state of the world. Perhaps what makes this story so intriguing is how much readers can relate to the same question Val seems to be asking: “Where were you the day the world changed?”. It’s the compelling storytelling of Scott Snyder that makes this horrific world come to life with all the grit and intensity one could hope for.

Although much of this first issue is world-building, it does an exceptional job at it. Throughout the issue, new elements and characters are incorporated into the world that further bring it to life. Whether it be new information, high stakes, and conflict, or the beginning of a mystery, Nocterra’s first issue doesn’t a little bit of everything. Scott Snyder is no newcomer to opening a series with an engaging thriller-mystery blend (Black Mirror, Gates of Gotham, and the Court of Owls all come to mind), so it’s no surprise how comfortable his writing appears to be. Being in his element with the creative freedom to make a post-apocalyptic series just as compelling and engaging as The Walking Dead.

Along with Snyder’s superb writing, artist Tony S. Daniel brings his A-game in this series. Maybe it’s just nice to see him draw something besides Batman, or maybe it’s his extreme skill being shown, but this might be some of the artist’s best work. Not only is Nocterra visually appealing, but every aspect of this dark world comes to life. Part of what makes Daniel’s art so appealing is the attention to the little details. What gets lost in his style of facial expressions is made up in his attention to detail that brings the story to life. This is further accomplished by Tomeu Morey’s colors. For a world engulfed in darkness, Morey makes sure that this issue is perfectly stark with life and intensity. Morey’s vibrant colors are part of what makes him one is the way colorists in modern comics, and this is seen once again in Nocterra’s first issue.

Overall, Nocterra is off to a great start with its first issue. Whether it be the world-building, early signs of character development and bridging relationships, or the looming threat, Nocterra has it all. With an all-star creative team, its final page leaves readers yearning for more.

Writing rating: 5/5

Art rating: 4/5

Overall rating: 9/10