Best Shots Comic Reviews: ROBIN RISES: ALPHA #1, MEMETIC #3

Robin Rises: Alpha #1
Credit: DC Comics
Credit: DC Comics

Robin Rises: Alpha #1
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Andy Kubert, Jonathan Glapion and Brad Anderson
Lettering by Dezi Sienty
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10

Of all the comics from all the publishers that I read this week, Robin Rises: Alpha #1 takes the cake for most unnecessary. As a whole, Peter J. Tomasi’s Apokoliptic “Robin Rises” arc was a fun reminder that you can put any character in any situation and probably end up with something fairly entertaining. It might not have had the depth of any of the arcs running in Batman or Superman recently, but it was almost the summer blockbuster equivalent - big, brash and bombastic. Tomasi brings superstar artist Andy Kubert back for the big finale but there’s no spectacle here. Instead, we get useless denouement that’s been ruined in the back of every DC book since last week.

Obviously, the goal of this arc was to bring Damian back to life. But Tomasi pretty much tied up all his loose ends in the last issue of Batman & Robin. Robin Rises: Alpha #1 attempts to be a fight comic by an artist with a stellar reputation, but it ends up feeling like an awkward cash grab. Kalibak makes his way into the Batcave (a situation that Tomasi presents with very little finesse) in order to exact his revenge on the Bat-family. But this issue rings hollow. The day has already been won. Why are we dragging this out? What threat is Kalibak really when he’s alone on Earth and not on Apokolips? I’m a big fan of simple concepts when they are coupled with fun execution. But this issue is just baffling. The first three pages are spent recapping the final scene of the last installment in the arc and then as soon as the fight starts, every character save for Batman and Damian become completely inept at facing this threat. Tomasi is so much better than this example of bad pacing and clunky dialogue.

But we kind of know why this issue exists. Unfortunately, Kubert doesn’t show the prowess that he had in Robin Rises: Omega #1 and instead gives us a book that looks much closer to the worst parts of Damian: Son of Batman. The book actually looks really good up until Damian is actually revived. As soon as the team is forced to fight Kalibak, Kubert loses any semblance of consistency, and it’s so frustrating because a perfectly good panel is marred by what’s around it. Kubert skimps on detail to provide big action but without context for what we’re seeing, it becomes a jumbled mess. Damian has powers but even those are displayed somewhat inconsistently. Kubert also has a habit of reusing the same panel layouts even though the sizes of the panels aren’t the best to at communicating the action to the reader. He’d almost be better served with a more standard grid throughout with only slight variations.

Batman & Robin fans are going to wonder why they bought this, and Kubert fans are going to wish they were treated to more good Kubert pages than bad ones. It’s kind of bad form all around. The script lacks the heart that’s marked Tomasi’s tenure as a writer on Batman & Robin. The art lacks the pizzazz of Kubert’s better work. And overall, the issue lacks the fun of what’s come before. You might be better served just skipping this one, chances are the back matter of any other DC book in the last couple of weeks already gave away the big surprise.

Memetic #3
Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Eryk Donovan and Adam Guzowski
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by Michael Moccio
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Really good literature makes you think - and make no mistake, all of Memetic can and should be considered straight up literature, no arguments made. By the end of Memetic, you’ll feel like the creative team earned the ending, you’ll feel the burning desire to understand what just happened, and you’ll probably want to throw the comic up into the air as writer James Tynion IV pulls the story together with an ending very reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut’s Sirens of Titan.

The story finally broadens out on its third day so we can see what happens to the rest of the world clearly. While Aaron is still our protagonist, he gets a limited amount of screen time in the issue. The way that the issue is written and how Tynion structures the progression of the story makes it so we don’t need any more of Aaron than that. We can see how much he’s grown in two days and Tynion capitalizes on how invested we feel in his character so that all of our hearts will most certainly wrench when Aaron is faced with his final decision. Tynion is far from overt in his storytelling - the themes of acceptance and happiness are pervasive in his works and he takes a dialectic approach where this story acts as a platform for us to think and start a conversation about what it means to live in our world. Even though Tynion starts writing much more abstractly and includes high concepts and thoughts, we’ve become so grounded in this story that, while we might not understand everything at once, everything these characters talk about enhance the story for us.

There have been a fair number of end-of-the-world stories, especially in recent years, and Tynion and artist Eryk Donovan really make it their own, especially with the visuals. Be prepared for some of the most haunting visuals of humanity you’ve ever seen. Think of the dread you feel when you see a horde of zombies and just imagine that ten times worse. Donovan is able to capture the eerie, magical horror of this end of the world scenario, which makes it feel that more real as Aaron and the rest of the characters work their way through it. By the end of the story, you’re going to wonder whether or not this could actually happen to our world because it looks and feels so real.

One of the best parts of this entire issue - and of the entire series - is when Meredith, Peter and Marcus finally meet the Maker of the Meme. Tynion’s explanation for how this entire end of the world scenario calls back to classic science fiction, particularly Sirens of Titan and he makes it work. It’s enough to make us stop questioning the plausibility of what’s going on and reinforces our suspension of disbelief from the first issue. The Maker’s entire monologue on the progression of human expression, storytelling, and communication and how it all ties back to this one meme that ends the world feels both terrifying and poignant because it made that much sense. It’ll make you question every accomplishment the human race has ever achieved and the point of living a day-to-day life when the end of the world was always the end result.

It’ll be surprising if you know exactly what to feel at this ending. Because there’s so much going on and so much to think about, it’s hard to come away with one distinct feeling about what happened other than deciding it was a good story. There’s a great interaction between Tynion and Donovan at the end as they debrief from creating this incredible story that will - hopefully - help readers debrief and decompress as well. Memetic delivered in three issues what a lot of ongoing series fail to do in its entire run: a complete story that makes you think, with diverse, three-dimensional characters and a plot that makes it easy for us to become invested in said characters. When it comes to the end of the world, I guess that’s all we can ever ask for.

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