bret canny

Project 52: Week Two (Men of War/Green Arrow/Swamp Thing/Stormwatch/Animal Man)

You remember how DC are scrapping all their comics and launching 52 new ones, right? You remember how we’re reviewing them all? Me, Tim, and Bret? Good. Then enjoy the first dose of this week’s Project 52, including reviews of Green Arrow and Swamp Thing. Men Of War #1Written by Ivan BrandonArt by Tom DerenickReviewed by Tim Men of War is one of DC’s attempts to branch out a little beyond straight-up superheroics – in this case, to a military anthology title. That said, it’s still located within the DCU – the main story in this issue (a modern day version of Sergeant Rock) features a US Army operation that goes tits up when a mysterious superhuman attacks the same target as them. The back-up strip, titled “Navy SEALs: Human Shields”, is much more of a standard military tale, located, like the main story, in some unnamed Middle Eastern country, featuring a team of SEALs pinned down by sniper fire. Both stories are heavy with military jargon (helpfully annotated with translations) and gung-ho spirit. The Sergeant Rock story casts the main character as a scarred enlisted infantryman, still only a Corporal at the beginning of the book, who disobeys his superiors but makes brilliant tactical decisions. His mentor is an equally rebellious badass who is killed in action at the issue’s end, field-promoting our hero. Ivan Brandon creates a compelling tale of what military action in a superpowered world might look like, contrasting the power of one powered individual against the human squad, and Tom Derenick’s art is dynamic and atmospheric, with suitably craggy-faced heroes and explosive action.The back-up strip didn’t work quite as well for me. Jonathan Vankin’s writing felt overly expository, and Phil Winslade’s art, while agreeably reminiscent of British military titles like Commando, was too sparse and his faces all look the same. In addition, there was a hefty undercurrent of conservative values (know your audience, I suppose) with some unfunny homophobic “jokes” and digs at the Peace Corps, as well as a “oh course I’m not racist, some of my best friends are black!” moment that felt a little preachy. Overall, as a genre I’m unused to, I enjoyed the first story more than I thought I would, but the second spoilt the experience for me somewhat. Final Grade: C+ Green Arrow #1Written by J.T. KrulArt by Dan Jurgens & George PerezReviewed by BretOut of the 4 new comics I picked up today, Green Arrow was the one that interested me most. I’ve seen Smallville and liked what they did there with the green leather-wearing archer, Oliver Queen (even if they were trying oh so hard to make him Batman). Sadly the first issue of Green Arrow misses out on the emotional complexity and the “do what it takes to get the job done” attitude we saw from ol’ Ollie in the show. Instead, his new solo comic ends up reading more like a Saturday morning cartoon. And not a very good one at that, with a parent friendly “it’s not good to be a bad guy” moral brought up every other panel and all. I think it’s the fact that, despite passable foreground artwork, the background of the panels were often a single colour block rather than showing any hint of detail. That and the fact that heavy amounts of text were used to tell the story. This made the characters come off as simple and patronising to me. But then maybe Green Arrow has a younger audience in his line of sights. Having said that though, I did find it odd that our seemingly child friendly hero went from using concussive, blinding and freezing arrows to shooting a guy through both palms and forcing him to accidentally electrocute himself. The sudden burst of blood and violence felt very out of place in this black-and-white world of right and wrong. Overall lazy colouring, generic characters and text to explain what I should be seeing explained through art make Green Arrow misfire. Rating: D- Swamp Thing #1Written by Scott SnyderArt by Yanick PaquetteReviewed by AlexFor a comic about Swamp Thing, this issue sure is a brilliant advertisement for the New DC Universe. It opens with a sleek panoramic view – Clark Kent in Metropolis, Batman under Gotham, Aquaman in an unidentified ocean. And so, in three pages, it manages to establish a credible worldwide threat and introduce the heroes and universe better than last week’s Justice League managed in its full 40 pages. It helps that Yanick Paquette’s art is so incredibly gorgeous, of course. Superman’s a square-jawed lump of handsome, and the new costume manages to look regal. Even Aquaman looks good in this comic. And then the Swamp Thing story begins, and it’s an intriguing one. The changes to the Swamp Thing mythos – one with which I must admit only a passing familiarity – don’t feel unnecessary. It feels like a true fresh start, and the changes are woven into a compelling mystery. But that’s not all! Then there’s a brilliant horror sequence that’s probably the creepiest bit of comics I’ve encountered. But wait, there’s more! It alludes fascinatingly to “the events of last year!, just suggesting the slightest edges of a history. And there’s some fun Palahniuk-style facts about botany. And! And! AND! …There’s a lot squeezed into this comic. Snyder takes full advantage of the situation that’s been presented to him, in every facet. Even the DC universe being born again in media res is used to create a sense of mystery. And so it makes a convincing case for this entire relaunch – mystery isn’t something we’re used to in the familiar world of Superman and Batman, and without mystery, any sense of wonder can dissolve – and for the way this character – who, in the most praised comics written about him, appeared in a separate reality – fits into a world of superheroes. It’s comics at a hundred miles an hour and this review was meant to be […]

Project 52, #1: Bret Canny vs Justice League

Hey. My name is Bret. One or two of you may know me better by my online presence as “The Red Bobcat”. An awful name, I know, but one that I’ve had for so long that I could change no more than you could just decide to change who your siblings are. My font is Comic San MS, text size is 12, grasp on the English language is basic and my style with which I write things online is sloppy. So! You’ve been warned! Be prepared to read words like “gonna” instead of “going to”, “rents” instead of “parents”, “tomoz” instead of “tomorrow” and “awful thing that makes me want to scratch my eyes out” instead of “Britain’s Got Talent”. The reason I’m telling you all this: my good friend Rin Tin Tim asked me if I’d like to get involved in a thing he was doing where he would read, review and then blog about all the new DC comics that are coming out. Now I have to tell you, I am by no means a DC fan. I do read comics but I am very much a Marvel boy. So when I questioned Timbelina about the new comics that were coming out, I was surprised to hear that DC were relaunching all of their big titles from issue 1. “Resetting the DC universe”, I thought. “Hmmm, heard that one before, DC”. But what do I know? I don’t think I’ve ever actually picked up an issue of Batman before… apart from that time he beat up Predator. So, what the hell, I decided! To be fair if they’re starting everything again from scratch I’m probably DC’s perfect demographic. I’m geeky, I’m willing to spend money AND I know Jack all about all things DC but am willing to learn! Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin. I should probably warn you now: SPOILERS! The first comic I’m going to write about is DC Comic’s very own JUSTICE LEAGUE (their choice of capital letters, not mine). My plan was to read it first, then write about it straight after. However I got half a panel in (not joking) and already had so much to say that I thought I’d better blog while I’m reading it. That’s right, you’re going to read pretty much the first thoughts that cross my mind as I go. God help you. So we have a cover. It’s your average “all the heroes jumping out at slightly different angles from one point in a generic looking orange background” affair, but whatever. Do I know all these guys? Well, yes. I’m not DC fan but I don’t live under a rock. It’s hard not to notice Superman and Batman straight away. They look a little younger than I would have imagined, but then this is a reset. Plus everyone’s costumes seem a little more detailed that I would have thought. Wonder Woman’s wonder corset for instance seems to be made from a metal of some type… ouch! Also, where the hell are Superman’s red pants? All I can see is blue down there. I know pants on the outside has never been a great idea, but that is just how it is with Superman. And is that Cyborg bottom right? What’s he doing there? I thought he was just a Teen Titan? I really hope he’s there for more than diversity and wasn’t bumped up to the big boys just “because”. Anyway, lets open her up. Batman’s being chased by helicopters and we’ve jumped back in time 5 years already. That’s not a bad thing. Especially as it looks like everything was exploding 5 years ago. Happy memories. Bats is in pursuit of some Zombie/Scarecrow looking dude. So far all he’s said is “RRK”. I assume that translates to “Oh look, Batman is being shot at by those helicopters”. WAIT BAT-MAN! LOOK OUT! THAT’S NO ZOMBIE/SCARECROW! THAT’S A ROBOT/ORC! You should have known by the way he said “RRK”. Call yourself the world’s greatest detective… pfft! The page fills with green light and I can only assume it’s Green Lantern? Turn the page… HA! Fire truck to the face. Yeah that’s Green Lantern alright. OH MY GOD! ROBOT/ORC HAS WINGS?!? AND NOW SPIDER LEGS?!? Ha, DC you’re winning me over. Mostly because Green Lantern’s pointing out the same things I am. “What is that? A Transformer?” Well played, sir, well played. Well now their talking about Superman. “They say he’s an alien”. Not sure how anyone would know that because surely good ol’ Clarky boy keeps that to himself no? Next chapter. We’re in Metropolis and watching someone play American Football. But not for long as Lantern and Bats have turned up. Lantern seems to think he’s going to be able to out muscle Supes, resulting in. Lantern getting hit in the face by a multicoloured cylinder. We’ll assume that’s Superman. And then it ends! Abrupt but at least it’s promised to show us a fight between Batman and Superman next issue! There were a lot of things I liked. The fact that Green Lantern didn’t realise Batman was real for instance. Because, let’s face it, that’s how it would be in reality. I mean if you heard that there was some guy dressing up as a lobster and beating the crap out of robbers would you believe it? I also like the fact that normal people in DC’s new universe seem to hate capes rather than idolise them. Have DC taken a leaf from Marvel’s Spider-man and X-men titles? This issue would have been an A except they didn‘t explain why Lantern bothered keeping Bats with him. Lantern made fun of Bats for not having powers and Lantern even locked him up in the fight against Supes… so why take him to Metropolis at all? I understand that it’s hard to explain how a utility belt holds up against invulnerability. But as a new reader, DC failed to explain what help Batman can be in […]