Best Shots Comic Reviews: SAGA #18, UNCANNY AVENGERS #16, Much More

Credit: Image Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Uncanny Avengers #16
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Steve McNiven, John Dell, Jay Leisten and Clayton Cowles
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

This is the Avengers book you've been waiting for.

They're Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Their backs are against the wall, as they face down universe-shattering foes. But do these superheroes turn tail and leave?

Hell no. Rick Remender has beaten up his team enough - the Apocalypse Twins have taken their best shot. Now it's the Uncanny Avengers' turn.

In many ways, this feels both like the same series we've been reading for months, yet also a completely different book. This is largely because of the shift in Remender's focus, as the mutant population of Uncanny Avengers is absent this month. Instead, it's Captain America and Thor taking on the Apocalypse Twins, all by their lonesome - and let me tell you, this is about as badass as these heroes have been since Joss Whedon's ultra-successful Avengers movie. In fact, it might even be moreso - while it was certainly incredible to watch Cap and Thor square off against an army of invading aliens, there's bigger stakes here. These are A-list heroes, and they prove it, fighting off primordial enemies with the very power of time at their fingertips. But even time itself can fall beneath tactical genius, an Uru hammer and sheer determination.

For the most part, Uncanny Avengers #16 is a fight comic - and it's a damn good one. Remender's choreography is simple but extremely effective, as you can tell he's established some very subtle setups even going back several issues. (Thor, for example, gets some interesting wrinkles folded into his powers - he's not creating lightning, but funneling it through Mjolnir's portals - indeed, we saw several issues ago that one miscalculation can bring the destructive power of a supernova.) It's fan-service, but it's undeniably fun fan-service, as even a scarred and battered Captain America can bring an all-powerful Apocalypse Twin "right where I wanted you." Thor gets some great lines here, too, particularly the way he condescendingly refers to Uriel as a "little bird" as he pummels him.

This is also Steve McNiven's best artwork in quite some time. It reminds me a lot of Howard Porter back in JLA glory days - his characters are clean and iconic, but his scenes get busier and larger-than-life as he rains down debris, projectiles and otherworldly energies. Just the way that McNiven introduces his characters looks stellar - there's a great sequence where Thor bursts into a space station and catches Captain America's wayward shield, glaring resolutely at his foes before using his shield to free a shackled Cap. (And the way that Thor takes down Uriel is easily the highlight of the book, as Remender shows how to define true power on even a superheroic scale.)

What's great about Uncanny Avengers especially is the feeling that this isn't over yet. Considering we've seen Kang building an army - and now that we've seen Immortus on the scene, as well - there's a sense that the worst is yet to come for the Uncanny Avengers. And to be honest, I can't wait. We've seen these heroes struggle, slip, and fall - and that makes us cheer even harder when they get back up. With Remender and McNiven both bringing their A-game, Uncanny Avengers #16 is a total knockout.

Credit: DC Comics

Worlds’ Finest Annual #1
Written by Paul Levitz
Art by Diogenes Neves, Marc Deerining and Jason Wright
Lettering by Dezi Sienty
Published by DC Comics
Review by Michael Moccio
‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10

Another prelude to “First Contact,” another missed opportunity.

Paul Levitz continues to flesh out the background to this coming story, as he tells another tale that ultimately serves only to set-up future conflict without engaging readers in the present. Although this issue does a great job in characterizing the differences between our Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman from Earth 2’s, it does little else to make this read worth the reader’s time and attention. Each “chapter,” although having good intent, falls short at telling a meaningful and impactful story.

The first chapter, "Independence," was the best of the three, recounting one of the first missions Batman and Robin did together after Catwoman’s death. Levitz capitalized on the dynamic between Batman and Robin to great effect in this part: it was interesting for the reader to see the effect Catwoman had on both their lives. Each of them had dialogue and internal monologue with cat euphemisms, reminding the reader that, although Catwoman has died at this point, she’s still very much a part of their lives and their still reeling from that loss. This makes the first part endearing, but it still wasn’t anything special.

Regardless, at times that internal dialogue sounds cheesy and unrealistic—and this is across the board. For example, Helena telling herself to stick some hi-dose asprin into her belt or “give in to a Kevlar cowl” does nothing to reveal her character or push the story forward, making that dialogue unnecessary and distracting. Levitz attempts to be too modern in the story, having characters say, “OMG” and “No shock, Sherlock”—this directly references popular teenage sayings, and—although both Helena and Kara are teenagers—the dialogue just sounds ridiculous when reading that in context.

When the story shifts to Kara in the second chapter, "Rebellion," the reader still hasn’t been fully drawn into the story. The beginning to this chapter was a better start, but it failed to deliver a powerful story. Levitz has fallen into the trap of characterizing both Helena and Kara as stereotypical teenagers, rather than fleshing them out into dynamic characters. The entire chapter is focused on Kara disobeying Superman’s orders—hence the title “Rebellion”—but it’s for her to go out and party.

While this is realistic for a teenager to do, it really isn’t conducive to telling an interesting story. Levitz spends too much time on the “budding” romance between Kara and the diplomat’s son Ken without making it seem real: it feels like any other teenage movie, making the interactions feel superficial and weak. When the chapter ends, with Kara holding Ken — reminiscent of Batman holding Jason Todd — screaming a dramatic “No,” the reader can’t help but roll their eyes at the melodramatics. Levitz simply didn’t do enough to make us care about these characters.

The major flaw with Worlds’ Finest Annual #1 is the underutilization of Earth 2’s Wonder Woman. The issue itself, is misleading to the reader, as well. The solicitation reads, “Supergirl and Robin team up to face their world’s Wonder Woman,” except… they don’t and neither was that the main focus of the issue. They “team up to face” Wonder Woman’s daughter, not the Amazon herself.

Putting that aside, Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman were the strongest and most interesting characters in the issue, making the scenes with them more powerful than the majority of the story. The dialogue between Batman and Superman was great: it was a healthy mixture of ominous and awesome. Because we know the ultimate fate of the three heroes, Batman and Superman’s cryptic conversation evokes sympathy from the reader, simply because we know they’re right. Wonder Woman, meanwhile, shines in her limited spotlight. Ending the conflict quickly and taking control of the situation, she reminds readers that she’s one of the strongest forces in the DC Universe no matter what world she’s in.

While the art isn’t anything special, the main strength of the visuals come from the breakdown of the action. There’s a consistent flow to the narrative, and Diogenes Neves did a great job to ensure there are no jarring pauses, especially between the fights. It’s easy for movement to appear static during high-intense scenes, and when any Wonder Woman character is involved, we know that action will follow! It also helps that Neves isn’t scared to draw these characters in the middle of actions—while drawing Helena jumping over a criminal isn’t easy, it helps make the action more exciting and real for the reader.

Jason Wright does well establishing a fundamental difference in Helena and Kara in color — Chapter One had a variety of blues, purples and shows, while Chapter Two had more vibrant colors with the lights and explosions, reflecting the personality differences between the two. In Chapter Three, Wright does a great job incorporating both at different points, mirroring that the two are working together. It’s that kind of resonance between the story and artwork that really make a difference.

Overall, these two preludes to “First Contact” do too much to set-up the future that they neglect to ensure their own quality. Let’s hope that Levitz has crafted a riveting story in “First Contact” that’s worth the less-than stellar build up.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Superior Spider-Man #26
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Humberto Ramos, Javier Rodriguez, Marcos Martin, Victor Olazaba, David Lopez and Edgar Delgado
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10

I have a problem with preludes. I don’t think I’ve ever read a satisfying prelude comic. The word prelude comes from the Latin for “before play.” It’s evolved to mean “an action or event serving as an introduction to something more important,” and while Superior Spider-Man definitely fits the bill in that regard, it’s severely lacking the hallmarks that have made this run entertaining. Dan Slott’s comics are filled with callbacks to previous storylines and continuity; that’s part of what makes them so fun. But we’ve seen the Goblin War bubbling under the surface for a year now. Another introduction seems crass.

Peter Parker has been making his presence known a bit more lately in Superior Spider-Man. He declares “I am Peter Parker! I am Spider-Man,” reestablishing his identity in the midst of his barren memories and setting up (yet again) what has really always been his eternal struggle. (Arguably, more so than the push and pull of power and responsibility.) It seems that Peter is determined to will himself back into existence. While many derided Slott for having Doc Ock take over Peter’s body, it’s clear now that this does what “One More Day” had trouble doing: distilling Spider-Man to his core. The Peter Parker that comes out of Superior Spider-Man will be different but remarkably the same. The detritus of years of continuity and other writers’ missteps is washed away as Slott takes Peter back to square one. Coupled with Marcos Martin’s brilliant (almost retro-styled) art, this is a fitting new beginning for the character as he’s about to join All-New Marvel Now.

Those three pages are really good. It’s the rest of the issue that buckles under the weight of the very work Slott (with some assists from Christos Gage) has been doing over the past year. In creating a story that works on multiple levels, with many moving parts and mechanisms, Slott gotten to the point where the reveals don’t hit hard enough, the action seems stale and a scene is rehashed from earlier in the series and it ends with the same outcome. The stakes of the Goblin War are kind of inconsequential. The real story is Peter Parker’s return and we know that no matter the outcome of the Goblin War, we’re going to see that. The characters who are main players in this arc were not the focus for most of Superior. Carlie Cooper and Phil Urich felt all but written out of the series. Sure, Peter will have deal with the outcome. But that’s in another book.

The scene between Spider-Ock and the Avengers is almost exactly like the one from the first time they brought him in for a medical evaluation early in the series, except this time Iron Man is there. And Wolverine makes a comment about psychics. Was this just to quell everyone who criticized the scene the first time around and put the Avengers back on the hunt for Spider-Man? I understand the reasoning, but I don’t agree that it was necessary.

Artistically, this book all over the place. Three different artists for three distinct scenes that are immediately unrelated to each other makes sense in theory but doesn’t work as well in practice. Humberto Ramos handles all of the actual Goblin-on-Goblin fighting. He’s always had a penchant for action because his characters and layouts give the page so much energy. But the coloring is really dark here and there’s so much exposition through dialogue that the action doesn’t really come through.

The sketchiness of Ramos’ lines comes across as sloppiness especially when wedged in between pages from David Lopez and Marcos Martin. Rodriguez’s work on the Avengers scenes is pretty much just par for the course. He’s not great a drawing Captain America but he gives us a couple of interesting looks in regard to page design. (The page where the team takes out an AIM squad is a definite highlight.) Still, he stops the energy of the Goblin War dead in its tracks, making the book a bit of a rollercoaster to read. Marcos Martin shines through because the rest of the book is so busy and he’s given the best bit to draw. Iconic scenes make up a large part of what he’s drawing but in doing so, I think, he’s drawn a new one. This is where the story changes. This is where Peter Parker’s last stand begins.

This prelude treads water. It fills the slot in the publishing schedule without telling us anything that could really be conceived as a big surprise. You could likely skip this issue and still keep up with Issue #27 because some of these facts will need to be retold to certain characters. Slott is an ambitious writer, there’s no doubt about that but I think he’s been juggling to many balls at once. I would have preferred finding out some of the details explained here through more deliberate moments in previous issues. Bogged down with too many artists, this is one of the few issues of Superior Spider-Man that’s worth skipping.

Credit: Image Comics

Saga #18
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Fiona Staples
Lettering by Fonografiks
Published by Image Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Just when you thought it was safe to put down Saga... Brian K. Vaughan doesn't just bring you to the edge of your seat, but knocks you clean off it.

That's not an easy thing for me to write. If anything, I read this issue of Saga with some trepidation, almost with a handicap - how many different ways can you say a critically acclaimed book is good, you know? But BKV and company up the ante with the conclusion of this arc, as Marko and Alana go head-to-head with the most dangerous of enemies. No, I'm not talking about the Landfall Coalition, who is looking to snuff out these unlikely lovers.

I'm talking about Marko's ex-girlfriend.

People can accused Vaughan of being slow with his set-ups, but I'll say this for him - he makes them pay off. Now that there's been a whole lot of talking, this issue is primarily action, as Marko and Alana frantically try to protect their newborn baby, Hazel, from their pursuers. Even if you haven't been reading this series, Vaughan has a sappy streak that's truly endearing... and that means friend and foe alike. Despite burning buildings and lethal razor whips, there's a whole lotta love in Saga -- our star-spanning couple make romantic, insane snap judgments in order to protect each other, while even the "villain" of the piece, the bounty hunter Gwendolyn, is pursuing both revenge against her ex-fiance as well as salvation for her new love, the critically wounded mercenary known as The Will. As a result, you empathize with these characters with every line, which makes each new twist and turn that much more compelling. "I used to be angry, insecure, selfish," Marko says. "But then I met her." That's all you need to know.

The other great thing about this issue is that Vaughan doesn't just follow these characters' storylines through, but he also plays off the internal mythology of the series. Prince Robot IV, shell-shocked into a walking coma, has a clever callback to all those weird pornographic images that keep flickering upon his TV head. Meanwhile, the series' fan-favorite mascot, Lying Cat, winds up getting hoist by her own ultra-straight-laced petard, in one of the issue's smarter twists. Indeed, combine that with a lengthy but heartfelt epilogue, and this winds up feeling both like an immensely satisfying conclusion as well as an effective palate cleanser.

The artwork, by Fiona Staples, remains in rare form. Her colorwork in particular lends a tense energy to the book, particularly as Marko and Alana's hiding place is being consumed in sketchy, impressionistic flames. Yet Staples doesn't allow the environments to taint the actual characters, all of whom would be identifiable just be the color pallettes she uses, if nothing else - the teal Lying Cat, the pink ghost Izabel, Marko's strong blue jacket, Gwendolyn's blue and white ensemble. But Staples' details as an artist are also wonderful to look at. For example, Lying Cat gets nailed in the eye, and she holds those scars through the rest of the book. Meanwhile, you can see the sheer pain on Gwendolyn's face as she confronts Marko again, or the serene grin on Marko's face as he sees his wife and daughter.

Believe me - I didn't want to do this. I asked myself, "Does Saga really deserve another accolade, when it has so many other places so eager, so desperate to trip over themselves to praise this book?" But begrudgingly, in spite of myself, I got hooked all over again. Saga #18 brings the goods - indeed, it's so damn good it makes me mad. This is the kind of issue that justifies the series as a whole, and provides a perfect launchpad to the dangerous, unorthodox, and oh-so-sweet upbringing of baby Hazel. Like the song says, what the world needs now is love, sweet love - and books like Saga are just that magical, because underneath the violence and the tension, it adds just a little bit of love to its readers' lives.

Credit: Dark Horse

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #1
Written by Zack Whedon
Art by Georges Jeanty and Laura Wilson
Lettering by Michael Heisler
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Review by Aaron Duran
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

There is a quote attributed to Stan Lee that claims “any comic is someone's first comic,” meaning that regardless of how well you know a character or story, for someone else, they are coming in fresh and new. Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #1 faces that very dilemma. For almost ten years, Firefly fans have waited for stories that continue on after the events of the film Serenity, and for those diehard fans, not a beat is skipped. But for the average fan, the book is a little tricky to jump right into. Which of course is the very root of this issue and something we'll have to touch on later.

Zack Whedon writes a story that has the difficult task of bringing whomever remains of the crew back together after the film, while catching the reader up to speed on galactic politics. The books opening doesn't have the strongest of hooks. Regardless of ones thoughts on the show Firefly, it always had a tight and exciting teaser to reel the audience into the episode. Leaves on the Wind #1 simply opens with a rather long and heavily expository talking head scene. Were the show or movie known for it's commentary on media and 24-hour news cycle culture, the opening pages may have worked better. As it stands, it's simply seen for what it really is. Three long pages of exposition bringing everyone up to speed. Only it doesn't. Zack Whedon has a lot of ground to cover here and I understand that. However, taking ten pages before we even see the Serenity, let alone Mal Reynolds and the rest of the crew feels like a mistake of pacing.

Although I know he is one of Dark Horse Comics go to artists, I'm not sure Georges Jeanty is the strongest fit for this series. With a book like Serenity, actor likeness is always a factor that has to be accounted for. On that matter, I'm afraid Jeanty is all over the place. His designs on most of the male characters work okay, when wider panels are employed. Sadly, when we really need facial details to sell an emotional moment, his characters simply fall flat. With everyone having similar features and, for lack of a better term, cute quality that just doesn't gel with the writing. His female designs fair even worse, with none of them truly matching the images we expect of the actors. While I understand every artist puts their unique take on a person, they should at least remind the reader of the person they see on the page.

Still, Jeanty does have a strong eye for action and panel design. The few action scenes (and even simple flying in space moments) have a real sense of energy and motion to them. There also isn't a single wasted bit of panel real estate in this comic. Jeanty fills every panel with visuals that helps to sell the idea of this being a living and evolving universe. It's a nice chance of pace and one I wish more books would do. There are some odd coloring choices by Laura Martin that don't help the pencil work. Much of this book looks (and reads) like a title lifted directly from the screen. Martin's colors reflect that of someone trying to capture the feel of a movie and it simply doesn't work without the dynamic motion. Interestingly, her colors do strengthen both the story and Jeanty's art when we're on the Serenity. With little color to work with beyond browns and grays, Martin really highlights the few elements of primary colors and provides life to the ship and crew.

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #1 is by no means a bad book, but nor does it soar. If anything, the issue reads like a weak television pilot, but with just enough meat on the bones to land it a season. Going back to that Stan Lee quote however is a tough trick. Would this work as someone's first comic? Of course, but only if they already identify themselves as a card carrying Browncoats, with a deep understanding of the 'Verse. If Dark Horse Comics merely wanted to snag the Firefly loyal, than this book will be a welcome return to characters you love. If you're looking for some fun science fiction in your comics, without much prior knowledge of this setting, then I'm afraid this just isn't going to be the book for you.

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Furious #1
Written by Bryan JL Glass
Art by Victor Santos
Lettering by Nate Piekos
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Mice Templar creator Bryan JL Glass dips his toes into superhero deconstruction in Furious with middling results. On one hand, the superhero as celebrity metaphor is an apt one for our times. Exploring how the extreme pressures of either lifestyle can have an effect on a person’s mental health and the physical manifestations of that stress has the potential to be interesting. But the first issue hinges on a twist that might be too clever for its own good, serving more to muddy a reader’s understanding than enthrall.

The Beacon is a pretty standard superhero. She flies. She has super strength. But one particularly violent outburst has branded her with a new superhero name: “Furious.” Along with that name has come the distrust from the media and the general public. Glass gets to put the Beacon in some interesting situations here. Even doing her regular rounds, the Beacon is stopped from doing her job. If a superhero can’t be trusted by the people they are trying to help, can they be effective? But Glass reveals that being a superhero isn’t just about helping people for the Beacon. It’s anger management. It’s stress management. It’s an escape from the grind of normal life. And of course, therein lies the twist: what constitutes normal life for her? Finding that out provides a stronger basis for the series moving forward and ultimately gives an otherwise unspectacular superhero comic, a great hook.

While Glass has big ideas in the works, his collaborator Victor Santos is not a great fit. They’ve worked together before on Glass’ Mice Templar but Santos’ superhero work comes off like an off-model Michael Avon Oeming. His panel-to-panel storytelling is uneven and his characters lack consistency. Part of the reason that Glass’ twist works is because of Santos’ lack of consistent character renderings. While he might be a fit for the animal-populated pages of Mice Templar, his work on Furious looks sloppy. The style itself isn’t the problem but Santos’ execution leaves a lot to be desired. Still, if Santos can pull it together and turn in something closer in tone to Oeming’s early work on Powers is might add some clarity to the storytelling and make Glass’ writing more effective.

Furious has some hurdles to overcome to break into the upper echelon of indie superhero books but they aren’t insurmountable. There’s a good foundation under some unfortunate art direction. The superhero as celebrity metaphor isn’t new but it taken on a different kind of context as time has gone on. The 24-hour news cycle and the rapid growth of social media have changed the ways we think about our cultural icons. Glass is attempting to distill that are hopefully he can with stronger work from Santos.

Credit: comiXology Submit

Fade Out: Painless Suicide
Written by Beto Skubs
Art by Rafael de Latorre and Marcelo Maiolo
Lettering by Marcelo Maiolo and Anderson Cabral
Published by Comixology Submit
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Fade Out: Painless Suicide is the first published comics work of TV and film writer Beto Skubs. Coming in at under 60 pages, Skubs’ tale is paced for a single sitting read and while suicide is no laughing matter, the writer gives his story humorous overtones. With a competent artist on board in Rafael de Latorre, Skubs delivers a solid effort for a first outing and proves that the Comixology Submit program might be something worth paying attention to.

Skubs’ story revolves around Kurt, a teenager who has decided that he wants to end his life. Unfortunately, he hates the taste of guns. right off the bat, we see where Skubs’ sense of humor lies and he sets up our protagonist. Kurt is kind of whiny, kind of privileged and kind of bored. As quickly as he tells us all the reasons that he wants to kill himself, he tells us all the reasons that he can’t. As Skubs opens up on Kurt’s life, we begin to see that he doesn’t really have it all that bad which unfortunately doesn’t make him much of a sympathetic character. His longings for suicide feel selfish. Pacing-wise, this one comes across like the hour-long pilot of a teen drama but the murder mystery angle serves only to redeem Kurt and it never develops fully. Without enough space to develop, the big plot twist and Kurt’s redemption are separated by mere pages making both of them seem kind of cheap and ill thought-out.

Rafael de Latorre’s art is compelling, though. There’s a lightness to his line work coupled with Marcelo Maiolo’s bright colors that recalls a simplified version of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato’s work on The Flash. Skubs’ script doesn’t give de Latorre a whole lot to draw so Fade Out kind of lives and dies with the facial expressions of its characters. Thankfully, de Latorre is adept at delivering a range of emotions. His character designs are appealing as well, sitting somewhere between realism and an animated TV show like Young Justice. Despite some of Skubs’ issues with pacing, de Latorre really holds the book together by giving it a clear, clean and consistent aesthetic that can appeal to a broad range of readers.

Fade Out is a great first effort from both Skubs and de Latorre. The plot and the artwork aren’t particularly ambitious but they prove that both creators can at least get the job done and that’s really the first step. Skubs’ problems with pacing in this one should be easy to work out in a book with a more defined length and a tighter concept. De Latorre is an artist that many more people should take notice of and hopefully will in 2014. (Even just a quick look at his deviantart profile proves that he’d be a better fit on Superman and Nightwing than either of those books’ regular artists.) Comixology Submit might be the new comics talent pipeline in the wake of other avenues drying up. We’ll see who takes notice first.

Credit: DC Comics

Earth 2 Annual #2
Written by Tom Taylor
Art by Robson Rocha, Scott Hanna and Brad Anderson
Lettering by Dezi Sienty
Published by DC Comics
Review by Michael Moccio
'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10

With Earth 2 Annual #1, Tom Taylor has finally revealed the identity of this new Batman to be none other than Thomas Wayne. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Thomas in this role - after all, Flashpoint was in 2011 - but this is the first time we’ve seen Thomas and Bruce alive at the same time with Batman still in the picture. Taylor takes his own stab at reimagining Batman’s origins within the context of Earth 2, but ultimately falls short in having the story work.

Although Taylor’s intent is interesting in theory, his execution of the plot leaves too many questions for it to be believable. Judging from the narrative alone, it's too far-fetched that Thomas would survive being shot in Crime Alley without Bruce knowing. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where the paramedics wouldn’t let them know that Thomas was still alive on the way to the hospital; it’s hard to imagine Bruce wouldn’t have been at his father’s side at the hospital with Alfred during surgery. Readers can fill in the blanks themselves, creating a rationale for how that might work, but they shouldn’t have to. Taylor, as the author, is responsible for making this change in Batman’s past be both believable and concrete — he does neither.

But beyond that, Taylor also hampers the legacy of Bruce Wayne, currently a saintly figure in Earth 2. It's not just about taking away the randomness associated with the Waynes’ deaths - even though one could argue that senseless violence is a key component to not just Bruce Wayne, but the idea of Batman as a result. But by altering Thomas’ past and having Francavilla hire Joe Chill - a sub-plot that also suffers from the shallow characterization of Thomas and his dubious associates - he takes away some major dramatic opportunities without addressing how Batman still continues on the path of Batman. From the reader’s perspective - we’re just not sure that’s possible.

In addition to problems regarding the reader's suspension of disbelief, Taylor's story also suffers from a shallow narrative, with the best example being Thomas’ addiction to this new drug Miraclo. Instead of expanding on the specific side-effects of the drug on this not-quite Hourman, Taylor has Bruce comment that Thomas is “an addict, first opium, then revenge, and this drug.” Taylor makes a tenuous connection between the opium and Miraclo, letting that connection describe how terrible Miraclo is for Thomas. Had Taylor let the reader know the full consequences of using Miraclo, we would’ve been able to determine if Bruce was overreacting or not.

There were, however, some enjoyable aspects to the issue. As usual, the art in Earth 2 is fantastic. Robson Rocha's take on Batman’s costume continues to be a favorite, as it's sleeker and more refined than his Earth 1 counterpart. You can see the dejection in Bruce’s eyes as he says, “Everything I’ve dedicated my life to is a lie,” lets the reader know that this is indeed the case. It’s a testament to the artists for being able to convey that emotion through visuals. There's also some bright spots for Taylor's writing, as at one point he leads the reader to believe that the identity of the new Batman could be Jarvis Pennyworth, Aflred's father. However, between the Twitter leak of Thomas's identity a couple months back, and the fact that Taylor specifically lets Thomas have a moment in the opening sequence, it was easy to assume his true identity would be Thomas Wayne.

This marks the weakest issue so far in Earth 2. Taylor’s idea, in theory, is a great start to making a fantastic tale that deviates from normal continuity, but still holds the essential qualities it takes for Batman to be Batman. It’s disappointing to see the execution fall flat, making readers wish the overall issue was as impressive as the end, when Thomas put on the cowl once more saying, “It was only after Bruce died that I realized what I could do for him… Honor him.” If only the narrative could honor the potential of Taylor's premise.

Similar content
Twitter activity