Scott Snyder

Superman Unchained #1

Superman Unchained #1 – J. Lee, S. Snyder; DC Comics; 2013

Because we are nearing the end of the year and I have not done a comic book review in awhile, I figured it was time. Not to mention the INSANE backlog of comics stacked around the premises.  I would show you pictures, but I think it would terrify.  Anyway, I happily dove into the first issue of DC’s Superman Unchained title.  This issue starts a new series and was highly anticipated by readers.  Anything involving Superman generally makes news, however the excitement over this title comes from the creator team of Scott Snyder and Jim Lee.  I think DC jumped onto these facts and slapped a $4.99 on the cover just to see if they could do it – i.e. how much value does Snyder/Lee have in terms of buyers?

The cover is nice.  You can tell immediately that it is Jim Lee’s work.  It features the New 52-style Superman (younger and updated costume) ripping through some sort of technological debris. Superman has a gritty look as opposed to the happy, accomplished look he tends to wear.  I really wonder, though, what DC was thinking with the “Unchained” part.  Is this some cool, youthful lingo?  You know, the dialect in which we would say “this is off the chain” or “no limits.”  But the thing is, the whole concept of Superman is that he is never chained.  He’s unchained, y’all…………

frame, Superman Unchained #1, J. Lee, S. Snyder, DC Comics; 2013

I really like the artwork in this issue.  It has frames from all points-of-view and angles.  I like the coloring – very colorful and sharply defined.  I always think of Jim Lee’s work as being high-definition and highly-sharpened.  Included in this issue (and perhaps to soften the price point) is a tagged-in four-fold “poster” that actually is part of the issue.  This fold-out section is part of the storyline – just the art needed an embiggened format to be shown.  Now, did it? Sure, I guess, maybe.  I am not real fond of gimmicks like this.  I found it a bit cumbersome to unseal, unfold, read, and then re-fold.  Overall, the Superman here is drawn with shadows, while frowning in concentration, with youth and almost a slightly dark feel.

The storyline is okay.  I think that Snyder has proven himself a very capable and interesting writer with his laudable work on the Batman title.  In this issue, there are included several pages of “interview” material with Snyder and Lee and he makes some comments regarding the differences and similarities between the characters Batman and Superman.  I do think Snyder will be writing us a Supes who is a bit heavier and grittier than those 1980s Superman characterizations. Anyway, the storyline is kind of vague.  Satellites are falling to Earth – Superman is reacting to this. Clark Kent and Superman (or do we speak of them as the same?) are “investigating” the situation.  A supposed-terrorist/crime group called Ascension is hinted at – the whole time all the characters tell us “it cannot be Ascension who did this.”  Of course, Superman’s go-to is Lex Luthor (who has a few frames which perfectly depict his arrogance.  There are some threads with Lois’ father and historical events (WWII).  Overall, Snyder is setting up a big storyline for us, so it’s too early to decipher much other than there are a few interesting elements here.

I am going to give this 4 out of 5 stars – for the art, for the seemingly bold direction Snyder is driving toward, and because this feels stronger than the Action Comics and Superman titles’ starts with the New 52.  I own issues #2 – 4, so I will have to see where this goes.  Still, at $4.99 I am not entirely sure all readers will feel they got their value.

4 stars

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Batman #8

Batman 8Issue #8 of Batman was really good. I debated giving it the full five stars, but I am stingy lately and am only going to give it four.  This issue was written and drawn by the continuing team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.  Capullo’s artwork has not been wow-ing me, but it’s been good. The writing, though, is probably the element that is getting this volume of Batman all of the praise and credit.  Some issues have been great, some have been just good. I think Snyder has some good ideas and is trying to make the main character a little different than the “regular” Batman.  Snyder is trying to “extend” the boundaries of what’s been done with the character – which is no easy thing since Batman has been written by so many writers through the years.

The cover is good for a few reasons, I think.  The main reason is that it actually is relevant to the inside story.  I really don’t like issues that have covers that look pretty but are completely unrelated to the issue’s story.  It’s deceptive and misleading when issues have covers that do that.  But this cover comes directly out of the storyline.  Another reason that it is good is that it maintains that creepy castle-like tone that is running through the “Owl” storyarc that Snyder has been writing.  Just the words “night” and “bat” and “owl” demand the artwork is creepy and eerie.  And this definitely is; however I look at the background and it looks like poorly blended digital artwork or a badly made oil painting.  What are these color marks especially on the left side of the cover? I dislike it.  It looks half-done or lazy. Is it Capullo or the colorist?

The title of this issue is “Attack on Wayne Manor” and that’s basically what this story is about. If you have not read this issue – this review will contain spoilers.  Anyway, the issue begins with Bruce Wayne brooding in his manor at night.  I’ll be honest, I have always known Bruce Wayne to be a brooding individual – it’s part of his charm, let’s say. However I did feel that in this issue Snyder moved a little too close to the line of whining as opposed to brooding.  On the third page, I absolutely hate the frame wherein Alfred lights the model city up and Bruce Wayne looks like a teenager who is getting picked on.  I know that recently he underwent a lot of physical trauma, but somehow that image/reaction of Wayne annoyed me.  Is it Capullo’s art again?  Or does it just make Wayne seem skittish and melodramatic? I hate that frame.

This issue is basically a home-invasion issue. The assassins, Talons, invade Wayne Manor – and only Alfred and Bruce are there to do anything about it.  They scurry in opposite directions – although, at the end of the issue, I have to say I don’t know why Bruce bothered to go to the roof. Anyway, they meet up in the Bat Cave in the Armor Room.  Something like a castle panic room.

So, why did Bruce run to the roof in the first place?  And also, how did this many assassins invade Wayne Manor so easily. I guess it’s hard to move completely into the “New DC 52” where this is a new Bruce and a new Wayne Manor.  I am used to Wayne Manor being an impenetrable fortress, really.  Sure, the talons are good at what they do, but come on – it’s that easy to invade BATMAN’s home? Tough pill to swallow as a reader, I suppose.

When Bruce leaves the armor room in big badass armor and says: “Get the hell out of my house!” …. it kind of makes up for the opening of the issue where Bruce was “lost in his own head.”  Also, the plan that Batman and Alfred came up with – dropping the temperature – seems like a good idea and I am excited to see what happens in the next part of the story.  Throughout, this is a fairly intense issue, lots of action and creepiness to turn the pages quickly. I liked the issue a lot, but I cannot ignore the questions/problems that I mentioned above.  I have high hopes for this storyarc, though, and think that Snyder is working hard on these issues.

4 stars

Batman #1 (2011)

Batman 1

Batman #1 (2011)

The first month of the “New DC 52” is over. These are the titles that I subscribed to and read:

  • Action Comics
  • Batman
  • Batman & Robin
  • Blue Beetle
  • Detective Comics
  • Green Lantern
  • Green Lantern Corps
  • Justice League
  • Mr Terrific
  • Nightwing
  • OMAC
  • Red Lanterns
  • Superman
  • Wonder Woman

There were no “wretched” issues, thankfully.  Some issues were not as good as others, some were surprisingly good, and some were excellent.  In particular, I really liked Red Lanterns and OMAC.  Overall, the most exciting issue (that, yes, I feel did live up to the hype) was Justice League.  However, as far as the best issue (especially in terms of storyline) that came out, that I read, – I must say it was Batman #1.  It was written by Scott Snyder and pencilled by Greg Capullo.

The cover does not appeal to me very much. It’s not a terrible cover, I guess, but I think I wanted something better for the new number one issue of Batman. I wanted something absolutely outstanding.  This cover is not what I wanted to see for this title. And because I was somewhat unimpressed by the cover, I read the issue the last of all the issues I got that week.  I sure did judge it by its cover!

However, the writing is excellent. I cannot understand how Grant Morrison’s Action Comics and Tony Daniel’s Detective Comics stole the praise away from this issue.  That’s not to say that those issues were bad – they weren’t. This issue of Batman was awesome.  The issue begins with scenes from a dark and dismal Gotham City while Batman muses in dialogue boxes.  We learn that every Saturday in the newspaper, there is a small section wherein citizens are asked to complete the sentence: “Gotham is…..”   This is really fun because from the very first page, I was thinking about this in the back of my head; how would I respond to the question?  Gotham is…. dark. Gothic. Scary. Overrun. Crawling. Insipid. Ominous. Relentless. Decrepit. I loved thinking about how I would finish the phrase.

As Batman ponders the phrase, he’s also punching and kicking his way through bad guys at Arkham.  Until he gets to a room with the Joker and the unthinkable happens… they team up! Joker even says “Aw, always so serious!”  I must say that the Capullo drew the hell out of the Joker in these frames. So, at this point, I’m invested in the story – what’s going on?!  After the battle, Batman meets up with Commissioner Gordon and explains (in his evasive manner) what happened that evening.  Then we are in for a treat – a full spread bird’s-eye view of the Batcave.  I spent several minutes absorbing this shot – its really exciting and fun. I admit it, I am envious of Bruce’s cave. Anyway, surprise! Turns out Dick was actually posing as the Joker! I have no idea if I was relieved or thrilled about this. It was really cool, though, and I enjoyed being fooled. Apparently, Dick was posing as the Joker in Arkham.

Upstairs in the Manor, Bruce meets Dick, Damian, and Tim – all wearing black tie formal wear and looking like a real Bat-family.  Bruce has a party going on whereat he gives a long speech in an endeavor to get investors to join him in creating a newer, better Gotham City.  The point of his speech (and perhaps the Batman title) is that the investors should move beyond what Gotham was and is and focus on what Gotham will be. While this may seem somewhat “uninteresting” to readers who simply want action scenes, I think this section has great potential for the title.

Bruce has to duck out of the party, though, because the police have found a gruesome crime scene.  A John Doe has been killed by someone who used professional, antique throwing knives. However, the victim seemed to know he was going to die because he left a message behind:  “Bruce Wayne will die tomorrow.”  Batman scans the DNA beneath the dead guy’s nails and the last page of the issue confirms that the DNA is a match with none other than Dick Grayson – the fellow who had been helping Batman by posing as the Joker!  The last dialogue box of the issue has Batman finishing the newspaper phrase: “Because above everything, Gotham is… a mystery.

I love the balance between Batman and Bruce Wayne. I love the surprises and supporting role of Dick Grayson. I like the technology and detective skills of Batman. I like that this issue has a deep “Gotham” feel to it – like getting back to Batman’s roots in a solid, classic but also fun way.  This is amazing writing and the surprise mystery ending really makes the reader pine for the next issue.  This issue was certainly the strongest writing of the month and I am really looking forward to see how this storyline develops. I think, at the end of the day, I have to agree with Scott Snyder and Batman….. Gotham is a mysterious mystery.

Finally, one of the debates raised about many of the “new 52” issues was whether they were truly “jumping-on” points for new readers. Were these new number 1’s truly accessible or were they just repackagings?  I have to say that this number one is perfect for new readers who are expecting a great story with classic Batman content.

5 stars