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Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #1

Written by J. Michael Straczynski

Art by Andy Kubert, Joe Kubert and Brad Anderson

Lettering by Nick Napolitano

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10

I wanted to be excited. I wanted to be angry. I wanted to believe in J. Michael Straczynski.

Instead, with Before Watchmen: Nite Owl... I felt nothing.

Half a straight retelling of the original and half a simplified period piece reworking of the old Tim Drake Robin origin, Before Watchmen: Nite Owl doesn't really evoke much of a reader response, other than it just exists. Even the father-son duo of Joe and Andy Kubert can't bump this surprisingly mellow book up.

The thing about Straczynski's work here is that while there's a hint of a theme here — you never get something for nothing — that message doesn't really go anywhere. Instead, we just see Dan Dreiberg become Hollis Mason's protege, and aside from one truly dark scene involving his parents, it all seems like we've seen it before. Deconstructing Dan as a comic book fan gone pro doesn't mean much in the era of , but the greater sin is this — there really isn't a set direction here in terms of tone or theme. It's not heavy, it's not light, it's not straight Moore, it's not something new. As Rorschach and the rest of the cast get shoehorned in, the book is lethally ambivalent about what it wants to be.

The Kuberts, meanwhile, work a little bit at cross-purposes here. Penciller Andy has made his bones as an action man, his figures looking dynamic even in a more languid book like . His father and inker, the legendary Joe Kubert, always brought grit to the table, but ultimately also brought a real sense of drama to his later works. But they don't seem to have much room to maneuver with Straczynski's script, so the storytelling doesn't really grab you. Aside from the fist-pumping heroics of the two Nite Owls — who look every inch a Zack Snyder superhero thanks to Andy — the claustrophobia of the original series doesn't come through, and there is nothing else to take its place.

That said, there are some hints of greatness here — when Straczynski really commits to a direction. Dan's introduction as the new Nite Owl will perk you up more than you would expect, as he leverages that Kubert power to make Dan a true badass, with his flying ship Archimedes looming dangerously over a crowd of rioters. There also a shorter sequence where Straczynski shows us how cruel Dan's life could be, as the loss of a family member gets the darkest one-liner I've seen in awhile — that's just some ugly stuff. But at least it'll make you react.

That reaction is what Before Watchmen: Nite Owl is missing, perhaps not a surprise after the blowback Straczynski received after his incomplete runs on and . The good news for him is that he won't be crucified here, not for this work. But that's the gamble you take as an artist — you risk the odds, take a leap, and see if you'll fall or fly. Unfortunately, right now, Before Watchmen: Nite Owl still has its wings clipped.


American Vampire #28

Written by Scott Snyder

Art by Rafael Albuquerque and Dave McCaig

Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher

Published by Vertigo

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

It almost feels like we've come full circle here.

In the two years we've known Pearl Jones (now Preston), her life has taken some drastic turns and now she finds herself aligning with the creature that made her to hunt down the coven of vampires that went after her husband, Henry. Things are about to get bloody.

We open up to Pearl visiting Henry in the hospital, with Cal looking over him. Scott Snyder's dialog here, especially in the intro with Pearl hunting down the vamp that drained Henry, was sharp and you can feel Pearl's lust for vengeance boil inside her. The fact that Henry and Pearl are both wanted dead by the surrounding vamps makes it difficult to hide away so Henry can recover. Cal suggests an alternative which Pearl is quite hesitant - to seek out the Vassals of the Morning Star. Of course, nothing comes for free, and Pearl is now enlisted in a war alongside her turner, the now Agent, Skinner Sweet. Although, Sweet's presence phased Pearl at first, she joins the fight and prepares to go after this new coven.

Although Pearl has been absent in recent issues, Snyder doesn't miss a beat dishing out her dialog. It's an intriguing evolution she's had and to see her be this warrior demon is always a treat to read. The notion to turn Henry is something she's promised not to do, but to see him messed up the way he is, is more than messed up. I enjoyed Travis a lot and his arc, so to come back to Pearl is a nice way to expand this world. Cal's addition to the team is welcome, but as a character I don't see him as fleshed out. The dynamic we have in store with Pearl siding with Sweet has potential to go somewhere, and I'm eager to check it out.

Rafael Albuquerque has made quite the name for himself with this title. It's good to see him back on it after a short break, but his work on is just as awesome. However, something feels off here in some of the delivery. There are two really exciting scenes, and how the panel layouts work, I feel they could have been stronger. Not saying he's lost his edge by any stretch of the imagination, but with Travis' arc and his Batman work having been just amazing, this issue comes across as not really up to par. Not bland, per se, but just when you think he's hit a stride, it's a small stumble, visually.

Now, I will say that American Vampire #28 is a terrific jumping on point. Everything is laid out for you to hop on and enjoy the macabre ride. The scene at the beginning works perfectly to hook new readers and to set the tone for what is to come in this arc. I just hope Raf can catch up to his older works.


Hypernaturals #1

Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Art by Brad Walker, Andres Guinaldo, Mark Irwin, Mariano Taibo, and

Stephen Downer

Lettering by Ed Dukeshire

Published by BOOM! Studios

Review by Aaron Duran

'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Finally, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning get to cut loose with characters of their own creation in Hypernaturals #1. As a longtime fan of their cosmic adventures with both Marvel and DC, this is a book I've waited a while to read. However, there is a big old danger with such books. Abnett and Lanning not only have to impress new readers, they also need to connect with fans that think they know what team DnA can create.

The opening scene definitely grabs the reader. It's a classic blockbuster style opening with the Hypernaturals team squaring off against a big bad. A big bad that we know will go down in one of two ways. He either falls like a chump to show off how awesome and arrogant the good guys are. Or two, he loses, but at a staggering price to the team. And while I know I sound a bit snarky, it's only because I was expecting more from Abnett and Lanning. Yes, I am one of those fans. We do get a rather large chunk of classic banter from the writing duo. But even then, I found it dense for the sake of dense. Both heroes and villain straddle the line between meaningless technobabble and that Grant Morrison “science word + religious word + slang = comic” Internet meme.

The art by Brad Walker and Andres Guinaldo plays it pretty safe. Which is a real shame, because you can see the potential within the setting for the artists to cut loose. As it stands, we receive the fairly standard hero poses and action scenes. Still, they are done quite well. Even in the denser action scenes, characters never lose themselves in the background. And speaking of backgrounds, kudos must be given for the strong attention paid to them. As very little of the dialogue or story did a solid job of establishing the setting, it fell to Walker and Guinaldo. This feels like a very real and lived in world. One where humans, aliens, and other freely hang out together and order from the same greasy food cart.

I wish the same attention to detail were payed to the coloring of the book by Stephen Downer. The palette in the title feels off, everyone and everything looks a little too dark or too light. I think there is a tendency in sci-fi themed books to really focus on softer tones to counteract the harshness of space, and in Hypernaturals this gets ramped up to a distracting degree. While the characters never bleed into the background, they do bleed into themselves. We lose a sense of their definition and nuance.

Although if I'm being honest, I'm pretty sure most people that read Hypernaturals #1 will be entertained. Because I was. I wasn't challenged. I wasn't blow away. But I was entertained, and if that's all Abnett and Lanning want to create, that's fine. Still, I was really hoping for more from them. I wanted “Can't take my eyes away” programming, what I got was “Ugh, the remote is all the way over there.”

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