Future State Nightwing 2: A Dynamic Finale

Art by Yasmine Putri (DC Comics)

Dick Grayson is ready to put an end to the Magistrate once and for all or die trying. Partnering with The Next Batman, the two plan to bring the dynamic duo back for one last dance against the villains of Gotham. Writer Andrew Constant partners with Nicola Scott to deliver the final issue of their two-part story in the Future State imitative.

Part of what makes this story so great is how Constant characterizes Nightwing. Recently he’s been in such a painful limbo his own ongoing was hard to read. But Andrew Constant understands why Dick Grayson thrives so well when he’s Nightwing. Throughout the story, it’s evident Dick feels he’s alone, lost everything, and has nothing to lose.

It’s through their team-up that Nightwing decides to go from wanting to be a martyr to rising above and being the hero. As the story progresses, The Next Batman seems to be the pathos of the story, reminding the reader and protagonist that Nightwing isn’t someone to be taken lightly, nor is he someone under Batman, but someone of equal importance. And of course, it wouldn’t be a heartwarming story without a few other friends showing up to remind Nightwing that there is always another day after the dark night.
It’s through this that Constant’s depiction of The Next Batman comes in as an effective storytelling device. Rather than being like his predecessor, this new Batman has the outside perspective needed for this story. Rather than having this story be another Batman overshadowing Nightwing to save the day, the two bounce off each other perfectly.
The art in the story is to be expected, It’s pretty from afar, however, Scott’s faces always seem to look rough and unfinished. Although the backgrounds of the story are pretty, and the fights appear as acrobatic as one would expect in a Nightwing book, it just doesn’t sell for me.

Overall, Future State Nightwing 2 is a compelling closing story that delivers a well-needed reminder of why Nightwing is so important. With the overall Future State event coming to a close, it was nice to see even in the future Dick Grayson is still one of the smartest, strongest, most influential characters in the DC Universe.

Writing rating: 4/5

Art Rating: 3/5

Overall Rating: 7/10

Radiant Black #1: An Invigorating Introductory Issue

Art by Michael Cho

After a long-awaited debut, Radiant Black is finally on the shelves. Taking a few cues from other series’ like Invincible and Power Rangers, Radiant Black is the beginning of a new vibrant series. As stated by Invincible creator Robert Kirkman, Radiant Black is “the perfect superhero comic for anyone missing Invincible” and he’s right. Creators Kyle Higgins and Marcelo Costa introduce their new superhero comic for Image Comics with a relatable and grounded first issue.

The story opens with our protagonist at his rock bottom. Nathan Burnett is drowning in debt, an unfinished (or barely begun) script, and is forced to move back home to live with his parents. Leaving sunny Los Angeles for the gloomy and snowy suburbs of Illinois is just the most recent moment of humiliation for Nathan. Things seem pretty depressing for Nathan, who doesn’t seem to have much going for him (a bit of that Parker Luck seems to have caught wind over in Illinois) until his friend Marshall takes him out for a few drinks.

Just as they’re about to take a cab back home, the two friends notice something strange. Floating in front of them is the cosmic radiant power, which of course Nathan feels inclined to touch. It’s a heartwarmingly predictable sequence not too different from Hal Jordan picking up the lantern, to Peter Parker being bitten by a spider, or Wally West being struck by lightning, and suddenly our main character had unlocked the delicate and unknown powers of the cosmic radiant. And just like that, a superhero is born.

The story itself starts kind of slow, but only to properly introduce readers to Nathan and invite them to better empathize with his life. However, as the story progresses, it’s evident how much of his heart and soul Kyle Higgins poured into this script. Perfectly complemented by the vibrant work of Marcelo Costa, who brings the story to life through expressive linework and animated coloring that makes the story come to life. Letter Becca Carey does a wonderful job making sure the text of the story has a fluid progression; with a strong emphasis on the character’s emotions.

When Higgins said “Radiant Black is both a love letter to the superhero stories I love as well as a statement on what I think superheroes can be for a whole new generation” it’s evident how much he meant it. Nathan is the person who’s trying his best and just doesn’t feel like they’re doing enough. The person who seems to be getting a little smackdown from life. What makes the story so invigorating is the play on the typical superhero origin Higgins provides. Nathan is a 30-year-old man rather than a high schooler with their life ahead of them. This is his life. He’s already done all the schooling and growing that most heroes go through while gaining their powers. However, it’s evident Nathan’s life is about to take an unexpected direction.

Moreover, Radiant Black #1 is a fun and exciting start to a new series. Between Higgin’s expertise writing and Costa’s art that seems to fit the series like a glove, the issue leaves readers eager for more of this new world.

Writing Rating: 5/5

Art Rating:4/5

Overall rating: 9/10

Future State: Wonder Woman #2

Art by Joëlle Jones (DC Comics)

Picking up where her inaugural issue left off, writer and artist Joëlle Jones close her introduction to Yara Flor by giving readers a well-rounded understanding of the newest Wonder Woman. Partnered with colorist Jordie Bellaire, Joëlle Jones’ two-part story through Future State is the most refreshing and well-needed story DC’s been missing. Through and through, we continue to love Yara as she overcomes the obstacles in front of her with more brazen defiance, wit, and confidence.

The issue opens with our new hero deciding rather than fighting Cerberus, the guard dog for the Underworld, she might as well play fetch with him. Getting past him and through the River Styx, we begin to see how Jones intertwines the past and present into the story. While the present sees Yara along her journey in the not so bright Underworld, the past is positively glowing as we learn how her fallen sister Portia died. These flashbacks are beautifully depicted in a sketched manner in comparison to the utterly gorgeous and defined present.

The story wastes no time introducing the lord of the dead. Hades is far from pleased at all the trouble Yara’s been causing in his domain. However, Hades’ temper is balanced by his compassionate wife Persephone. The result in their generous compromise for Yara is a race against the clock: find and return with Portia and the two Amazons can leave in peace. Sounds too good to be true? It might be.

What makes this story so beautiful is the message Jones and Bellaire set out on delivering. Future State: Wonder Woman isn’t just a story to introduce the world to the next Wonder Woman, a hero with far more charm and wit than her predecessor, but it’s a story about life, death, and acceptance. This story is a masterpiece that is further complemented by Yara herself. Rather than telling this message through a wiser character like Diana, Donna, or even Cassie, the introduction of Yara Flor makes it all the more relatable. It becomes easy to relate to Yara. She’s eager to see what’s next, ready for action, and plans on doing it with a smile on her face. Making a story about accepting what’s out of our control all the more balanced and grounded in reality. Often, we aren’t ready to face reality, we’d rather continue as things are, but none of that will lead to acceptance. This message becomes clear to both the reader and Yara by the end.

From cover to cover, Future State: Wonder Woman is a beautifully depicted story in every way possible. Looking past the storytelling for a moment, Jones and Bellaire hit a grand slam with their creativity and passion put to their respective pens. Each panel is colorfully depicted; which reminds the reader how new and eager our new Wonder Woman is. Furthermore, the slight separation between foreground and background through definition and intensity of color create an engaging story that doesn’t distract from where our focus should be.

Overall, this story seems to remind readers this is only the beginning for Yara Flor. The world is her oyster and everyone knows it.

Writing rating: 5/5

Art rating: 5/5

Overall rating: 10/10

Future State Nightwing: Refreshingly Grimdark

Future State: Nightwing #1 review | Batman News
Art by Nicola Scott (DC Comics)

In a not too distant possible future, Gotham City is in shambles. Bruce Wayne is dead (or believed to be- see Future State Dark Detective), and the militaristic Magistrate has crushed the hope out of everyone. Despite this Dick Grayson, leader of the resistance, is ready to go to war and save the future of a cyberpunk flavored Gotham City. Partnered with artist Nicola Scott, Andrew Constant makes his Nightwing debut with one of the most exhilarating stories that exemplify what Nightwing is supposed to represent.

The story opens with Nightwing allowing himself to fall into one of the Magistrate’s many traps for him. One of many staged attacks on “innocent citizens” that are aimed to bait Dick into their clutches. However, Dick Grayson isn’t an idiot. And unlike some other writers’ recent misconceptions about him, Dick Grayson does not follow his heart. He’s every bit as calculated, perceptive, and observant as Batman, if not more so. This is evident considering one doesn’t become the leader of the masked resistance without being a little ahead of the game.

Meanwhile, the Magistrate believes to have the upper hand on him. Peacekeeper-01, the apparent leader of the Magistrate’s task force, is just as aware as the reader of how capable Nightwing is. However, they seem to have “hooked” Nightwing into their plan, aiming to set an example through his death. Through this sequence, we learn more about how the Magistrate operates. Their apparent goal isn’t simply to replace the GCPD but liberate Gotham from its past.

As the story progresses, we gain a little more insight into Dick’s mindset to see how things have changed for him. Every day seems to be a battle for him. Wearing the guilt of Bruce Wayne’s “death” over his head, Dick has become worn down, tired, and distrusting of The New Batman. Dick views him as an imposter and has no interest in finding out the man behind the cowl.

The two seem to begrudgingly form an alliance as the issue closes up. Maye Dick has put his bitterness on the shelf. Or maybe he sees the bigger threat knocking at his front door.

Andrew Constant’s script is rather straightforward, but riveting nonetheless. Constant’s interpretation of Dick is unlike the happy go lucky fool DC Rebirth has pushed down our throat. He’s far more true to who he’s been for decades before the last six years. This Nightwing is far more in line with many previous writers’ understanding. His ability to read body language is utilized more intricately throughout the issue. It’s a skill of his that extends beyond just fighting. His brutality is a little more intense than expected, but not out of character. Rather, it’s refreshing to see Dick Grayson express his anger towards crime.

Nicola Scott’s art is a little rigid. Her characters’ are unable to have appealing faces while in movement. It’s clear her strength comes from when characters aren’t moving. This doesn’t help considering how acrobatic and fluid Nightwing is. Also, something that always rubs me the wrong way is how Scott sexualizes Dick Grayson. If it isn’t an oddly placed butt shot, it’s an unnecessary and uncomfortable shower scene. It isn’t that a shower scene doesn’t even make sense in a story, but the placement of it breaks the fluid storytelling. Though the idea was probably to deliver a scene where Dick lets his guard down, this scene simply doesn’t make sense unless its goal was to show his body off.

Overall, Future State Nightwing is a strong story that continuously keeps the reader engaged. For a story that sets up what seems to be Nightwing’s last stand, it does a lot to build the character and give the reader a more grounded perspective as to what’s happened to Gotham City. While keeping readers on the edge of their seats, the story closes by setting up its final issue.

Writing rating: 5/5

Art rating: 2.5/5

Overall rating: 7.5/10

Future State Wonder Woman: A Sensational Story

Future State: Wonder Woman (2021) Chapter 1 - Page 1

Yara Flor’s Wonder Woman has been one of the most anticipated stories from DC’s Future State initiative. Although DC plans to incorporate multiple Wonder Women stories in Future State, this is Yara Flor’s debut appearance. Joëlle Jones hit a grand slam when she wrote and penciled this story. With colors by Jordie Bellaire, the two created one of the most exciting stories in years from DC. The story of Yara Flor appears to be a wonderful combination of Greek mythology and Brazilian folklore that seems to set her up as a great new hero.

The story opens up with Yara Flor battling a hydra, showcasing her strength and prowess. Yara resonates with confidence, life, and joy. She isn’t that much like Diana, where Diana might show humility and pride, Yara shows excitement. The differences between the two continue as Yara’s costume pops more. Diana’s costume resembles the patriotism of what DC traditionally wanted Wonder Woman to represent. However, Yara’s costume is more unique to her. Probably the most exciting difference is her use of Bolas instead of the Lasso of truth. All of this embodies her themescyrian roots but also differentiates her from the traditional Amazonian.

As the story progresses, we discover the supporting cast to be used in this story as well as Yara’s mission. To further intermingle the Greek and Brazilian mythos, Yara’s two-parters are representative of each culture. Like any great hero, she has a Pegasus, named Jerry. In addition to her, we meet Caipora, an entity of the Tupi-Guarani mythology in Brazil, who represents the “inhabitants of the forest”. Joëlle Jones does a wonderful job incorporating these side characters while giving some background information as to their relationships with Yara.

As for her mission, Yara is on a direct path for Hades, who took one of her sisters in arms. Although this is her debut issue, Yara is not new to the hero business. She carries confidence just as evidently as she wears her armor. Some might see this as hubris, but it’s intended to showcase her humanity. By intent, Joëlle Jones intends to showcase how human Yara is. By doing so, it better depicts what kind of hero we’re being introduced to. However, considering this story has elements of many Greek heroes, one can only expect some form of tragedy and conflict in the future.

Throughout the story, a narrator guides the reader along the way. Introducing us to her background and providing light to her purpose in life. It’s an interesting twist, since text boxes are usually used for a character to think to oneself. But rather, Yara Flor thinks out loud. By writing like this, Joëlle Jones goes out of the ordinary, and it onlty add on to the story. From this, we gain a better understanding to Yara, and also an element of mystery is added. Who is the narrator? It’s an unknown character, perhaps Hades himself? Only time will tell as we learn more about the new sensational Wonder Woman.

This is Joëlle Jones best work yet. Her storytelling is more powerful than any other writer, delivering a great epic to introduce Yara Flor and the world around her. The characters have life, love, and an aura of energy that’s unlike most other DC stories. Rather than being a consuming depth of darkness, this story is exactly what DC’s been missing for years: a good story for a compelling character that draws in all kinds of readers. In addition to her writing, her art is glorious. Each panel perfectly depicts the characters and draws them in. Not to mention, the background is gorgeous. Joëlle Jones does a wonderful job incorporating the background in a unique way that only adds to the foreground and story. Not all artists are capable of doing this without there being an obvious difference in style. No, from front to back, this story consistently showcases all of what a great hero story should encapsulate.

Whether or not anyone’s read any Wonder Woman stories in the past, this is the perfect jumping title. The only comparison to be made in recent times is the introduction of Miles Morales as Spider-Man. This addition to the Wonder Women mythos is one that will hopefully continue to flourish. The Wonder Woman of Future State is an extraordinary story that goes above and beyond just being a great comic book introductory issue, but the beginning of a hero’s journey.

Review: 10/10

Review: Dark Nights Death Metal: The Last Stories of the DC Universe

Art by Dee Cunniffe and Tula Lotay (DC Comics)

Dark Nights Death Metal: The Last Stories of the DC Universe is a lovely farewell story to the DC Rebirth initiative. For a while now, it’s seemed like the rebirth concept had been fading, but with Dark Nights: Death Metal coming to a close ( and DC Future State on the rise) it’s been made clear that the overall themes from DC Rebirth are ending. All roads lead to darkness, or at least that’s the impression readers were having until the plans for DC Future State and 2021 started to be talked about. It seems like a new, more solidified age of storytelling is coming, and it all starts with the ending for Death Metal. Writers Jeff Lemire, Mark Waid, Joshua Williamson, James Tynion IV, Scott Snyder, Christopher Sebela, Mariko Tamaki, Gail Simone, Cecil Castellucci worked with artists Mirka Andolfo, Rafael Albuquerque, Francis Manapul, Meghan Hetrick, Daniel Sampere, Travis Moore, Christopher Mooneyham to wrap up every major loose end from the current DC Universe in an 80-page special.

The Titans reunite in Together in an opening story (and closing story) by Joshua Williamson, James Tynion IV, and Scott Snyder with art by Travis Moore. With the end of the world coming it seems like there’s no better time than the present for a Titans party. It’s a very nostalgic story from the point of view of Donna Troy. Titans from all generations have gathered together for one last push for justice. This is the first time in a long time that DC has acknowledged almost every iteration of the Teen Titans. More importantly, this is the first time in a long time Donna Troy led a story with such power and grace that could only be compared to a goddess. There are irreplaceable moments of pure love that the writers put into every character and it’s clear that Tynion, Williamson, and Snyder have an immense understanding of the characters. Williamson has the passion and excitement to write the Titans, something we’ve seen in Justice League lately, and also has a strong depth of knowledge for the speedsters. Tynion, as usual, showcases his ability to write young heroes, such as the Young Justice/Teen Titans members of the group. Meanwhile, Scott Snyder seemingly continues to put his love for older heroes such as Nightwing, Garth, Donna Troy, and a few special guest stars. Now, it isn’t determined who wrote which characters, but when writers such as these work together, it’s obvious where their strengths came into play. All of the beauty of this story couldn’t be done without the wonderful Travis Moore. Moore’s art is inexplicably perfect throughout every single moment of the issue. Overall, Together is one of the most wonderful stories in years for Titans fans.

Meanwhile, Jeff Lemire and Rafael Albuquerque do a wonderful job with Green Lantern in Last Nights, pairing together two unexpected allies. With the end of the world just around the corner, Hal Jordan decides to do the most in-character thing he could do, fly and think about his dad. Things get more complicated when Sinestro decides to rear his head. This time though, Hal’s in no mood to fight. I’ll be honest, Jeff Lemire did a better job selling me on Hal Jordan in one issue than Grant Morrison has in four volumes. His ability to get down to the core of the character and what he holds closest in his heart is a refreshing scene compared to what we’ve had recently. Additionally, Albuquerque does a wonderful job drawing Hal and Sinestro. The facial expression and emotions expressed through this art is a great mix of soft and descriptive. Overall, this is a strong heartwarming issue that leaves hope for the future for Green Lantern fans.

Mariko Tamaki and Daniel Sampere deliver a powerful Wonder Woman story in The Question. Death Metal has been a Wonder Woman story from the beginning, but given all the other plot points it’s been hard to add real depth to the character. However, Tamaki hits home with its call to action. Although a little too wordy in some points, the overall idea of uniting one last time and recognizing the stakes while remaining hopeful is a nice story.

The most emotional story in this issue is the Green Arrow and Black Canary story Dust of a Distant Storm. While Gail Simone does a great job with two of the most important characters she’s ever written, Meghan Hetrick’s art is a little too soft for me. The story itself is a true example of what happens when a writer loves characters so much and understands their power together. However, Hetrick’s faces are a little weird, with big eyes and overly defined lips. Nonetheless, the art conveys a loving warm tone that compliments the writing. Overall though, the story leaves more questions for the future for the happy couple and is a perfect example of what a writer means to make a love letter to characters.

As much as I’ve enjoyed Aquaman’s series lately, Christopher Sebela and Christopher Mooneyham miss the mark for me in Whale Fall. Mooneyham’s art is extraordinarily descriptive and emotive, which makes this even more frustrating. However, Sebela’s storytelling was far too wordy and a good amount of the issue could be spent trying to determine who this letter Arthur wrote is directed towards.

Unfortunately, the next story is only worse. Cecil Castellucci is arguably the worst thing to ever happen to Batgirl. Through and through, her fondness for ableism continues to show its ugly head with the continuous mistreatment of Barbara’s previous physical disability. In addition to this, she completely misinterprets the relationship between Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon. What’s even more frustrating is the nonchalant nature of her understanding of the overall relationships in the Batfamily. Although claiming the “family’s all here,” many notable characters are missing. Not to mention the blatant confusion between Tim Drake and Damian Wayne. This is an almost ironic example of how little DC cares to differentiate and represent the two characters. This story was nothing but a failure.

On a far brighter note, Mark Waid’s grand return to DC Comics was more than a grand slam, it was the holy grail. Partnered with hidden gem Frances Manpaul. Man of Tomorrow sees Superman attempt to beat his greatest enemy: the clock. There are dozens of stories that show Superman save the world, stop a crisis, or be grounded on earth, but he’s never been able to do it all. Well, now, at least for a little, he does. Mark Waid has a knack for being one of the best writers in all of comics, and that’s because he gets it. Mark Waid gets the characters he writes, he understands their core themes and motives. And with what one can only hope to be the first of many, Mark Waid writes Superman perfectly. Partnered with Manpaul, and we get one of the most powerful stories in the issue. Manpaul’s great at drawing characters and blending them with the background, and because he also colors the issue, he also adds life and warmth to the story that no other colorist could envision. Overall, this story is nothing short of perfect.

Looking at the issue as a whole, and one can see it’s a mixed bag of talent. Although certain stories drag and are a blatant misrepresentation of the characters, there are far more stories that succeed where they fail.

Rating: 6.5/10

Review: Nightwing 76

Cover Art by Alejandro Sánchez (DC Comics)

Nightwing 76 is the final nail in the coffin for Ric Grayson (thankfully) and is a safe penultimate issue before all DC titles go on a two-month hiatus due to both Endless Winter and Future State. Writer Dan Jurgens works with artist Ronan Cliquet and colorist Nick Filardi to close this chapter in Dick Grayson’s life. This is an overall safe issue for Jurgens, in which he can do what he does best: show what defines a hero concerning the character he’s writing but is also one where his hands were clearly tied on certain aspects. Meanwhile, Cliquet can shine a little more without sharing artist duties and has full reins of the interiors.

The issue opens with a bit of a flashback to what happened to Dick, which although repetitive, leads into the present day most fluidly. While the readers are probably tired of hearing what’s happened to Dick, Dick is far more tired of it. And when Dick Grayson gets angry, oh wow does he get angry. The best part about this is when he’s angry, it isn’t blind rage. No, no, no, Dick turns his anger into a calculated attack that will always result in a beat down. When the KGBeast shot Dick, he could’ve killed him. If the bullet was only a millimeter off, dead. Now, he holds a gun to Dick’s girlfriend’s head. Yeah, I’d be mad too.

The fight between Dick and the KGBeast is one of the best fights for Nightwing. Jurgens is a phenomenal writer who can encapsulate all that makes Dick different from Batman and still be one of the most important heroes. Nightwing is a hero who embodies leadership, skill and calculated strength. He’s both inspiring and terrifying. Unlike how other writers portray Dick, as some quippy idiot who acts off of his heart, Jurgens sees Dick for who he is. Being Nightwing is who he is, it’s not a “job” it’s, to quote the issue itself, “A mission, [his] calling.”

An important note to take is Dick is just as terrifying as Batman to criminals, but he goes above and beyond. Like Alfred said in Detective Comics, he’s a hero forged in the light. Nightwing is the embodiment of what Batman should be, but never will be. However, as the issue progresses, we see that as much as he tries to be different than Bruce, he still was trained and raised by him. It’s only natural he picks up certain habits and mindsets of Bruce’s. Mindsets such as breaking free from the abyss of solidarity don’t work for anyone like them.

Up until this point, Nightwing 76 felt like the most Nightwing-like issue in a long time. Jurgens used every page to define and showcase Dick’s greatest strengths and importance. The issue almost felt like an apology from Jurgens, as if to say “ didn’t do this to him. see his importance.  I can write to him the way he should be.” Which is true. Nightwing 76 encapsulated Dick’s leadership, quick thinking, skill, finesse, and emotions perfectly. For about 18 pages.

This is where Jurgens’ strengths are put on hold for what seems to be an editorial decision. It goes without saying there is a rule at DC that unrealistically prohibits Bat-Characters from experiencing long-term happiness. It’s a taboo that seems to be a consistent theme at DC, whether it be Bruce and Selina in Batman, Jason, and Artemis in Red Hood, or Dick and Bea. The last month has been breakup after breakup for the Bat-Family. It’ll be interesting to see if this is a direct result of Future State pausing the titles, and presumably new creative teams being introduced, or if this is just another example of the norm for DC.

Outside of the writing, Ronan Cliquet’s art was perfect for this issue. Although the way he draw’s faces can be a little sharp sometimes, his art is extraordinarily expressive. Nick Filardi adds to the emotions of this book with his detailed colors. Filardi compliments Cliquet’s art and adds another layer of depth and emotion to the issue. Together, these two deliver a passionate issue that has grit, heartbreak, and intensity.

Overall, Nightwing 76 is a strong issue that showcases what Jurgens does best by reminding readers what makes Nightwing so powerful. This message is furthered by an artistic pair that can connect with readers and connect with them on a strong emotional level. Its weakness comes through DC’s overall line of thinking and simplistic mindset about relationships.

Rating: 7/10

Batman 102: Enter The Ghost-Maker

Cover art by (Jorge Jimenez & Tomeu Morey (DC Comics)

After losing his city to bane, his fortune being ripped from him, and going to war with Joker, Gotham City looks different to Batman now. Maybe Gotham doesn’t want the Batman anymore, the mayoral candidate sure doesn’t (as seen in Detective Comics). People like the Clownhunter, the Grinners, and Punchline are evidence that Batman’s war on crime isn’t as effective as it once was. And the readers aren’t the only ones noticing: so is The Ghost-Maker. Batman #102 is the introduction to a new age in Gotham, with a vast creative team of writer James Tynion IV, artists Carlo Pagulayan and Carlos D’anda, inker Danny Miki, colorist by David Baron, and letters by Clayton Cowles.

The story opens with The Ghost-Maker not so politely asking a GCPD officer where Clownhunter is, declaring that he is “Better than Batman and [he’s] here to prove it.” The first takeaway here is how phenomenal his design is. It’s like Assassins Creed and Destiny came together to make Batman’s life a living hell. Meanwhile, Batman has other problems on his hand, like the Grinners, hired gunmen who have been exposed to various forms of Joker toxins and float from boss to boss ready to cause some trouble. What’s refreshing about this scene isn’t only the return of a street-level Batman but his utilization of allies such as Oracle helps him enter the new age in Gotham. One thing to note here is that Barbara Gordon is acting as Oracle, not Batgirl. It’s a nice touch that many fans have been hoping to see, considering her time as Oracle is arguably her best time. Tynion’s love for this era of Batman shines brightest here as he writes an extremely strong, highly intelligent, and resonating interpretation of Barbara. She’s more than a girl in the chair, she’s one of the smartest people on the planet and one of the most fearless considering how often she’ll argue and push Bruce.

As nice as this is, it’s short-lived. Once Batman realizes The Ghost-Maker has entered the fray everything becomes personal again. Most of the following pages introduce us to the Ghost-Maker and reveal how far back his rivalry with Bruce Wayne goes (hint, it’s far back). Some other things we learn from this issue are Harley Quinn is getting an apartment and Clownhunter has found his next target, with art by Carlos D’Anda. This intermission between the Ghost-Maker and Batman’s long dramatic relationship is a nice grounding to remind readers of the other moving parts in Gotham right now. Usually, there might be more resources to help Bruce be more involved, but things have never looked more different.

Frankly, this is one of Tynion’s strongest issues yet that prepares us for the next saga, Ghost Stories, and also helps set up a new norm in Gotham. Artists Carlo Pagulayan and Carlos D’anda do a nice job with their respective pages. Pagulayan’s facial expressions and body language are as vivid and wonderful as always, giving the characters and story life and definition. Meanwhile, D’anda’s fun and silly art perfectly give the issue of humanity and warmth to both Gotham and the characters. D’anda’s art strives when close-up and providing fun and descriptive facial expressions.

Overall, Ghost Stories looks to be one of the most interesting and grounded Batman stories in recent history. Its strengths come in Tynion’s passion for the characters, the artists’ detailed work, and the rest of their team preparing to remind fans how Batman handles change in the face of adversity. Still riding off the success of Joker War, James Tynion IV seems to be preparing fans for an exciting new layer to the Batman mythos while constructing an all new and different Gotham City for the foreseeable future.

Rating: 8/10

Daredevil 23: The Calm Before the Storm

Art by Marco Checchetto (Marvel Comics)

Now that we’re entering the midway point in the Truth / Dare arc for Chip Zdarsky’s Daredevil, it seems like all the pieces are in motion. The buildup for this arc has been long, and Matthew Murdock certainly has had a lot happen since he accidentally committed murder and confessed to it. Luckily for the Man Without Fear, his friends have got his back. Unfortunately for him, writer Chip Zdarsky might not. Issue 23 of Daredevil is beautiful, both literary wise and artistically. The team of Zdarsky and Marco Checchetto has been one of the most underrated duos at both Marvel and DC.

The issue follows on the last issue’s major revelation: the return of Kirsten McDuffie. After getting a call from Foggy, Kirsten decides to help him and Matt prepare for the trial of Daredevil. It’s clear Foggy had good intentions, but Matt is none too pleased to see his ex-girlfriend. For those who don’t remember, Matt and Kirsten seemingly lived happily ever after until Charles Soule had the Purple Children erase their time together from Kirsten’s memory (Daredevil volume 5, issue #20). Still ridden with the guilt of never telling her the truth about why they broke up, seeing her back and ready to be a team player adds another layer of guilt to a guilt-ridden catholic like Matt. However, to fans, Kirsten’s return is nothing but good news. One of the most influential characters in his life, her return might hopefully bring back a time in Matt’s life when he wasn’t always self-loathing.

While letting off some steam, Matt runs into his other ex-girlfriend: Elektra Natchios. What makes this moment so compelling is that Zdarsky sees the multiple dimensions Elektra has. Some might write her off as a temptation to give in to his desires, she’s so clearly much more than that. Zdarsky writes Elektra as someone who might toe the line but simultaneously works for the greater good. Some comparisons could be made between her and Talia al Ghul or Lady Shiva. That’s where her value also comes in, She’s not restricted to the same social norms and morals Matt is which also gives her the ability to have the information needed. Moreover, the power of this scene comes from their dynamic and the impact she has on the story.

This directly leads into a menacing meeting between Wilson Fisk, Daredevil, and a crawly web-head. This interaction is a gleaming example of why Spider-Man and Daredevil are some of New York’s best heroes and have one of the best relationships. Although the two might no longer remember each other’s identities, their reliance is undeniably important to each other. Both characters are riddled with guilt, self-destructive behaviors, and an unrelenting sense of responsibility to the city.

The reminder to Fisk that even if Daredevil’s gone, New York will still have a protector, and there’s still gonna be a bullseye on his head. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays into the Amazing Spider-Man title, where Fisk is set to appear in January to cause trouble. While this prepares to wrap up the issue quite nicely, it wouldn’t be fun if there wasn’t another bomb dropped on Matt. See, if Matt’s supposed to defend Daredevil in court, how’s he going to be in two places at once?

This is all in addition to the stellar writing by Chip Zdarsky, the art by Marco Checchetto is once again out of this world. It’s been said time and time again, but Checchetto’s art on Daredevil has always been nothing short of a grand slam. The definition he gives characters while also providing fine-tuned detail to both the foreground and background can bring the story to another level. It can only be defined as perfection. The facial expressions he gives the characters are another fine addition that brings the art to life. On top of this, the coloring of the story is nothing short of a perfect combination of realistic and comic-book life that makes the story even more compelling. With a series like Daredevil, it’s always important to convey emotions both that Matt’s experiencing as well as the environment around him. With art like Checchetto’s, that will always be a need not just met but exceeded.

Overall, Daredevil 23 stands out as one of the best issues in the series. Part of what makes this issue so phenomenal is even though he’s been in similar situations, the stakes have never been higher for Matt. And on top of that, it’s just about time for Matt to face the music for what he’s done. He might be able to live with himself moving forward, but that won’t mean he’ll be putting on the mask again anytime soon if he goes to jail. Yet, as scary as the future looks for Matt Murdock, he knows he has a path.

Rating: 10/10

Nightwing 75: He’s Back!

Art by Travis Moore (DC Comics0

After two long years of grueling limbo, Dick Grayson is back as Nightwing! Writer Dan Jurgens and artists Travis Moore and Ronan Cliquet create what should be considered a love letter to Dick Grayson fans. Until now, we haven’t seen Dan Jurgens write Nightwing. The closest we’ve come is his work in Batman Beyond, another title where Jurgens has been flexing his bat-muscles. And although we’ve already seen Travis Moore draw Dick as Nightwing, it’s sure been a while. From start to finish, it’s clear these two didn’t want to disappoint.

Throughout the issue, there’s a constant theme of identity, and what it means to remember one’s after feeling lost. After feeling lost for so long and not having a place in his book, it seems like things are looking up for Dick. There’s a strong sense of conflict in his mind that resonates with readers. He might have his memories back, but what does that mean? Do we disregard the last two years? Dick doesn’t want to. A lot has changed since he last put on the domino mask.

From the first page, it’s clear Jurgens wants to use Dick’s support system of loved ones as Dick tries to find his purpose. Friends like Donna Troy and Garth make cameos, as well as Bat-Family members such as Barbara Gordon, Bruce Wayne, and Alfred. In many ways, most of these characters seem to voice the thoughts of fans. Why shouldn’t things go back to normal? The Titans need him and being Nightwing is who he is; he’s his truest self when him. So why shouldn’t he jump back into the life?

It’s very interesting how Jurgens utilizes Donna and Garth in the first few pages to ask questions on everyone’s mind, to push the agenda that people need Nightwing and that his friends miss him. Aren’t those the stories we want? More of Dick running into battle with the Titans by his side to save the day? Similarly, Barbara and Bruce are written to push the idea that people need Nightwing. It’s true, his importance isn’t lost to anyone, in comics or out of them. Nightwing is arguably one of the biggest heroes DC has. It’s only natural he come back to the world; to us.

The problem that these characters keep running into is that Dick was and is happy. This is something he voices to a very important father figure in his life. Although his Titan friends may have somewhat understood this, it was clear that Bruce and Barbara didn’t. Although these are characters loved by fans, they’re human. As frustrating as it is, it makes sense that they want Dick to come back to the superhero life. But as human as they are, so is Dick. And he was happy. He has a life, a job, and a wonderful girlfriend. At the end of the day, it’s because of Alfred Dick decides it’s time to come back. Through the issue, Dick realizes that self-imposed isolation is unnecessary and isn’t a requirement for being a hero. You could have someone in your life, be happy, and still be a hero. This idea isn’t a new one for fans, as it echoes Alfred’s words in Detective Comics 1000, where he describes Dick as a better man than Bruce, “a hero forged in the light” who will find things like friendship, romance, and happiness easier to find then Bruce ever could.

In the back of all this, there’s still the rising threat of the KGBeast wanting to finish the job he never did. Now that the word’s out Nightwing never died way back in Batman 55, his reputation is ruined. What better way to fix one’s reputation than by solving some unfinished business? Dick better watch out, because he’s not the only one the KGBeast has his eyes on anymore.

Nightwing 75 has a lot of strong points that make it one of the best issues of Nightwing fans have had in years. Part of this is because of the artistic team of Travis Moore and Ronan Cliquet. The two make every page come to life with definition and life. This is only further complimented by colorist Nick Filardi, who makes the characters feel warm and detailed. Jurgens does his part as a writer to make one of the most awaited issues of Nightwing fans have been yearning for. However, despite all this, there are a few problems to address. The first being how Dick decides to become Nightwing again is very different than it was in Batman 100. It’s evident Dan Jurgens and James Tynion IV haven’t been on the same page, otherwise, this would have aligned with it better. Additionally, the other problem this issue faces is the sexualization of Dick himself. It feels like it wouldn’t be a Nightwing story without an ass joke from someone. This is a tiring trope that needs to be put to bed. Dick Grayson is a victim of sexual assault, and the continuous ass slaps, ogling, and jokes are unnecessary and leave a bad taste in the mouth for any reader. One can only hope they stop soon.

Overall, Nightwing 75 is a strong story about identity that is long overdue. Its artistic team hits a grand slam from cover to cover with the beautiful work inside. Outside of creepy sexualization and poor creative communication, this is a good issue.

Rating: 7.5/10

Joshua Williamson Races Towards the Finish Line in Speed Metal

Art by Howard Porter and Hi

After a wonderful run on The Flash, Joshua Williamson closes his tenure on not just on Barry Allen in the Flash, but on Wally West as well. Since the beginning of Rebirth, there has always been some conflict between Barry Allen and Wally West. Memories, leadership, values, they’ve all been on the line. Partnered with artist Eddy Barrows, inks from Eber Ferreira, and colors from Adriano Lucas, Joshua Williamson creates a masterful story that puts to bed all the conflict between the two Flashes in a race against The Batman Who Laughs.

Picking up from Dark Nights: Death Metal 3, The Batman Who Laughs is desperate to get the Mobius Chair from Wally. Luckily, help arrived in the form of some friendly faces: Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, and Wallace West. Together, the four speedsters try to outrun death itself. Unfortunately, even together (and with the help of a familiar equation), running won’t solve this problem, not when that’s as far as the plan goes. It doesn’t take too long for Barry and Wally to butt heads again over the best course of action.

Luckily, after a quick timeout, we come to two conclusions: Flashes don’t fight, and moving forward isn’t always the answer to our problems. See, the premise of the story is a race against death, but it was never said which direction our speedsters were headed. One thing Joshua Williamson understands about the Flash is just because they can run really fast doesn’t mean they run away from their problems. A notion Wally West certainly shares. What separates him and Barry is that while Barry would prefer to move forward and let the fight come to him, Wally has no problem running into the danger to face conflict on head-on.

What makes this issue truly a love letter to Wally West is how much Williamson understands the importance of separating him from Barry. Ever since Barry Allen returned from the dead, Wally West has been in his shadow. He’s been pushed to the side, stripped of his family, and put on a shelf to be forgotten. Tragically, one of the most important characters in DC history has to endure so much suffering, both on and off the page. All of this is flipped on its head in this wonderful issue. He isn’t in Barry’s shadow, or anyone’s. They all run together.

Wally West is about family, its who he is, and was something Mark Waid knew when he wrote his series as Flash. He formed a “Flash Family” a while back, and it’s what was a key difference between him and Barry for years. But Joshua Williamson changed this during his tenure on Flash. Barry formed a family too. And now that all water is under the bridge, isn’t it time to make one big Flash Family? Without getting into specifics, it seems that more than three flashes came to help Wally today.

Now, the story alone isn’t what made this issue a love letter to Flash fans. It can’t be stated enough how wonderful Eddy Barrows art is. He perfectly combines the attention to detail a Flash book needs with life and beauty that makes it all come together. It’s almost a nostalgic form of art that’s reminiscent of some Pre-New 52 art. On the thread of life in the story, Eber Ferreira also brings the story to life by making everyone look just as beautiful. There’s something that Ferreira does that ensures as detailed as characters are, they don’t become so defined that the foreground and background become unimaginably contrasted. Additionally, both of their detailed art styles can pop even more so through the colors by Adriano Lucas. This issue really was a super team of talent that makes this issue nothing short of perfect.

Rating: 10/10

Death Metal 3: Setting the Stage

Art by Greg Capullo ( DC Comics)

After a disturbing and heartbreaking night at DC Comics, Death Metal 3 sheds some light on DC fans in these dark times. Dark Nights Death Metal is set to be the biggest event in recent DC history and this week’s issue opens with Batman (who is riding a new bat-cycle of sorts), Wonder Woman, and Harley Quinn riding the world’s largest hyena. Writer Scott Snyder, artist Greg Capullo, inks by Jonathan Glapion, colorist FCO Plascencia, and letters by Tom Napolitano combine to make one of the most badass forms of getting the band back together. In prior issues, Dark Nights Death Metal has been about many things but all with the underlying tone of reunion. However, there is much more to this issue, and the series, than a reunion. Hope has been an underlying tone since the first page, and that comes to the front lines today.

Each issue of Death Metal has had a goal of sorts. The first issue was about freeing Wally, the next about convincing Batman to join the battle, and today’s was about saving Superman. Well, Superman and one unsuspecting hero. Sadly, saving Clark proves to be more difficult than expected. Scott Snyder has created a few new forms of kryptonite to weaken Clark to the anti-life equation. As the issue progresses we discover there are a few more secrets Bruce and Clark are keeping from Diana and the readers. Whatever Scott’s planning, he’s playing the long game with this.

Something Scott Snyder has made himself no stranger to is classic wacky DC names and concepts. And what’s made this event so successful is for every crazy idea he has, they all come to life when Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, and FCO Plascencia gorgeously depict every single one of them. In turn, this issue becomes one of the most engrossing stories yet.

In addition to introducing Death Metal Clark, today’s issue also introduced the Robin King. Without getting into specifics about him and his malicious tool belt, the robin king is Burt Ward’s rendition of the character dipped in Frank Miller levels of darkness. The robin king doesn’t just introduce himself to readers, but several heroes, and he’s bearing a message. This new character is every bit as evil, conniving, and terrifying as The Batman Who Laughs; and this is perfectly planned by Snyder. His ability to write the character and so many other dark multiverse characters is what makes him the perfect writer for this event. Scott Snyder has a talent that most writers don’t have: the strength to wrap up all of the absurdity, clarity, and (sadly I’m out of ity’s) beauty ( guess I had one more in me after all) in a single issue.

What makes this all so important is that it seems like all the buildup is done and the only thing left is war. And there is a war coming to our favorite heroes. The Batmanhattan Who Laughs is coming, and everyone better be ready because his first stop will be Wally West, or Wallhattan as I like to call him.

Overall, Dark Nights Death Metal issue 3 seems to have set the stage for the impending chaos to come. The pieces are set and everything is in motion. All we are left to wonder is if all roads still lead to darkness.

Rating: 9/10

Review: Batman 93, Designed to Fail

Art by Tony Salvador Daniel and Tomeu Morey (DC Comics)

James Tynion IV’s first arc on Batman comes to a close all I can do is sigh in relief. The Designer was a new and exciting villain who held so much promise but became nothing more than a way to bide time until Joker’s upcoming war with Batman. Additionally, artists Guillem March and Javier Fernandez make this issue nearly impossible to read. Moreover, this issue was nothing more than a letdown even by already low standards. 

The issue is split up into three stories, Batman’s, Harley’s, and Selina’s. A majority of Batman’s story is he and the designer sword fighting while monologuing in an effort to catch readers up in case they’re still confused. Although the idea of a classic sword fight sounds exciting in theory, Guillem March’s art style makes every facial expression look like a stretched corpse against a wrinkly body. And since this is the issue right before Joker-War, it has to have a clown in it. As the designer’s story comes to an end in the most depressing way, one can only hope for better for future stories, right?

While Batman’s going toe-to-toe with the Designer, Harley Quinn continues her duel with Punchline. Punchline’s goal is to wipe Harley off the board as soon as possible. Whatever’s supposed to happen in Joker-War, Harley clearly isn’t wanted in it. Guillem March seems to draw women differently from the way he draws men Rather than give them a stretched-out appearance, every facial expression is either someone narrowing their eyes or widening them. All things considered; this is his best work in the series. 

The final story to be told in this contrived issue is Catwoman’s. Overall, the premise of Selina stealing from the rich is classic Catwoman, there’s a little hitch in this issue. This hitch might be my biggest problem with the issue, and with Tynion’s direction as a whole. It’s been hinted that Selina was once planning on stealing from Bruce Wayne, there’s a revelation that goes against everything Bruce Wayne stands for. Without getting into it, the revelation relates to how Bruce Wayne spends his money and how it’s stored. It’s the most uncharacteristic discovery that makes him honestly no different than Lex Luthor except for how he spends his money. Additionally, although I’m not typically a fan of Javier Fernandez’s style of penciling, he really brings his A-game in this issue and deserves recognition for that. His facial expressions provide emotion and depth that gives the story a sense of fear and seriousness. Meanwhile, his backgrounds are stunning, and although detailed, don’t detract from the foreground.

Overall, Batman 93 was nothing short of a letdown that seems to be putting Tynion on track to be the most average Batman writer in years.

Rating: 2/10

Review: Death Metal #1 Rocks it out of the Park

When Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo confirmed that there would be a Metal sequel, fans rejoiced. The original event was a smashing hit, and it left an unmistakably important impact on DC continuity. However, one issue in and it seems to have already set the stage for a crisis level event at the very least. Unlike its predecessor that focused on Batman, Death Metal focuses on Wonder Woman. Although Batman is an important character in the story, Diana Prince will be the hero to save the DC Universe.

Following the events of Snyder’s final Justice League arc “Justice-Doom War,” Doom has won. Most heroes of the multiverse have either been imprisoned or gone into hiding. The Batman Who Laughs had specific tasks for select Leaguers and none of it is good. Aquaman, Harley Quinn, Wonder Woman, and Mister Miracle have become leaders of new territories. Evil has won.

From the beginning, Snyder promised this series would be just as insane as its predecessor. The issue opens by introducing readers to Sergeant Franklin John Rock giving a speech that appears to be the opening act for the story. Although the main focus will be Diana, readers should expect some more of Sergeant Rock saying “Oorah” from time to time.

Without getting too specific, the main focus of the issue is the new prisoner Diana is meant to guard in Tartarus. The prisoner’s voice sparks something in her, pulling her mind towards hope. Towards justice. Obviously, with this spark comes consequence. Justice already lost. Things won’t be easy for Diana and this mysterious prisoner. Luckily, there are other forces at play. Some, like Batman, haven’t given up and others who’s allegiance may be questionable. But, Diana isn’t like Batman or Superman. She’s a warrior. And every warrior has their weapon of choice. In the past, Diana has had many different weapons and tools, a sword, shield, and lasso being her go-to. However, modern problems require modern solutions.

From cover to cover, artist Greg Capullo’s A game brings its A game. His creativity with character design is out of this world. Everyone has a new design for the dark times ahead. The detail for every character, main and background, is unparalleled. The environment around them screams darkness. It’s truly hell on earth and it’s awesome. Between each chapter is a placeholder page hinting at the next part of the story. They’re absolutely beautiful pages that are all colored in a blueish-gray splash. The colors by FCO Plascencia are absolutely gorgeous. Every character pops and has a depth to them separating them from the background. Additionally, the inking by Jonathan Glapion provides a new definition. Overall, the artwork in this story is nothing short of spectacular.

Death Metal may only be one issue in but it’s clear that this story is going to be one of the most important additions to the multiverse. There’s been dozens of cosmic threats and upsets in the last ten years, but, as Batman says within the pages of the issue this is “One last fight. Everyone. Together.”

Rating: 10/10