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Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 3/11/2009: Battle for the Cowl, Action Comics, and more!

Written by: The CinCitizens

ImageWeek after week, every Wednesday, there is a sudden influx of content in the comic book world. It's CC2K's job to sift through the garbage to find the gold. Every week we'll be bringing you reviews on the widest range of books possible. This week: Action Comics, Battle for the Cowl, Ex Machina, Witchblade and more!

Action Comics #875 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Greg Rucka
Pencils – Eddy Barrows
Inks – Ruy Jose & Julio Ferreira
Colors – Rod Reis
Letters – Rob Leigh
Cover – Andrew Robinson
I was not excited for the fallout of "New Krypton". Superman leaving Earth, and in turn leaving his flagship books, Superman and Action Comics. I'll be honest, I was worried. Then I found out Greg Rucka was taking over Action from a leaving Geoff Johns. That was enough. It would at least get me to buy the first issue of the new story, and it was successful. Action Comics #875 is highly enjoyable. Although it's strange to see "World Without Superman" written on the top part of the cover (it's bringing me back to 1993), what was inside was nonetheless a well written Superman story sans Kal-El. 
More surprising than my enjoyment of the story (it is, after all, Rucka), was my satisfaction with the art. Gary Frank has some rather impossible shoes to fill. Eddy Barrows, whose work I'm not overly familiar with aside from a few issues of 52 and All New Atom, provided some great visual contributions to Rucka's work, and continues the trend of the movie influenced Fortress, as well as some impressive new designs for Nightwing and Flamebird. The only issue that jumped out at me with the art was from the inkers. I don't know what Jose and Ferreira's collaboration was like on this issue, but it's painfully obvious that this book had two different inkers. Some pages are heavily inked with many lines of detail, while others are more simplistic. In all, it's not something that distracts from the issue as a whole, but I do think it could be misconstrued to represent Barrows' work as uneven.
As for Rucka, he doesn't miss a beat jumping from the theologic complexity of the recent Final Crisis: Revelations to the science fiction laced world of Superman and the story that is "New Krypton". The identities of the previously mysterious Nightwing and Flamebird are revealed, and it's certainly not who you (or at least, I) expected. I commend Rucka on this notion of an early reveal; some writers could have found a way to stretch that mystery into a multiple issue story arc, and Rucka proves here that there is no need. He also takes the time to provide some good character moments for Ursa, who since her return way back at the beginning of Johns' run on Action, hasn't really gotten any screen time, other than to fight. With this series now having a focus on the happenings of Earth in relation to New Krypton, as well as World of New Krypton itself, here's hoping we'll get to see more of Zod, Ursa, and Non. 
I was pleased to open this book and find that it was all coming full circle with the story that Geoff Johns and Richard Donner started way back in 2006, it makes all of the stories in the past few years seem incredibly relevant. Even if they were already good stories, having them continue to influence the future is what the foundation of superhero comics is all about.
4.0 out of 5.

ImageBattle for the Cowl #1 Review by Joey Esposito

Writer/Artist – Tony Daniel
Inks – Sandu Florea
Colors – Ian Hannin
Letters – Jared K. Fletcher
"Batman RIP" is over. Batman is dead. And by dead, we mean he's having adventures with Anthro the First Boy. Or something. Whatever it is, you know it's freaking awesome. But back in current times, the Batman family is being turned upside down. "RIP" artist Tony Daniel takes the reigns of both writing and penciling duties and sets out to tell a tale of taking over the mantle of Batman, and just what the Caped Crusader means to Gotham City. Battle for the Cowl is a three issue mini-series, each issue a bit oversized and marked up a dollar to $3.99. Did this issue deliver on the hype that was worth canceling three series (Robin, Nightwing, Birds of Prey), putting two on hiatus (Batman, Detective Comics), and announcing a slew of new titles – some minis and some on-goings (Oracle: The Cure, Azrael: Death's Dark KnightStreets of Gotham, Batman & Robin, Gotham City Sirens, and even more)?
The answer is an unfortunate no.
Sure, I enjoyed the issue, I truly did. I also appreciate the fact that this overall story is contained to the Bat-books. However, there are too many nagging problems with this issue, the number one being fairly abundant on cliches. While I am certainly not taking anything away from Daniel; the book is certainly well versed as far as dialogue, pacing, and narration goes. But there are setups and McGuffins that just feel painfully obvious to the reader. One scene in particular involves Robin attempting to deduce who this new Batman impersonator is. As he's listing the clues, which are beating him over the head, all I can think of is how the reason Bruce picked him for being a Robin in the first place are because of his elite detective skills, and how Bruce would be rolling in his grave if he saw Tony Daniel's Robin in action. Now, I'm well aware that Daniel spent plenty of time with Grant Morrison, and is more likely than not only continuing a tale that was set in motion by the "Batman RIP" writer. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if I ended up being completely wrong in my assumptions about Daniel's reliance of cliches. 
Unfortunately, that does not excuse him from other questionable character choices. The one that immediately comes to mind is something that Oracle does to a relatively innocent bystander that's taken for a joyride in the Batmobile. The moment does hold comedic value; at least for a moment until you realize what the outcome of Oracle's actions were a few panels later. And then there's the matter of the surprise return of someone that has no explanation for his resurrection, unless I missed something in some other book somewhere. The death of this particular character had serious repercussions on my all time favorite DC character, so I'm curious as to  how she'll feel about that, though I'm nearly positive it won't be represented in this book. 
The biggest positive about this issue is Daniel's art – it shines just as much here as it did when he was drawing for Grant Morrison. Every panel is dynamic, and the layouts adjust to the tone of the scene flawlessly. One can see that Daniel is in no need to make himself shine or show off – he knows when to scale back and let the writing do the work. On the same coin, he knows when to deliver an effective splash page that makes your balls drop. 
The premise of this series is still enticing, I just hope that Daniel doesn't drop the relatively large ball passed to him into the pool of mediocrity. 
3.0 out of 5.

ImageEx Machina Special #4
Writer – Brian K. Vaughan
Artist – John Paul Leon
Colors – JD Mettler
Letters – Jared K. Fletcher
Cover – Tony Harris
Oh, Ex Machina, how I missed thee. Ex Machina Special #4 marks the first issue of the book to arrive in months. Though it's not the main series, as past Specials have shown us, the events in this issue will be reflected in the main series. Special #4 shows Mitchell Hundred on a quest to bring clean and cheap renewable energy to New York City, while being hounded by a particular newspaper editor who meets an untimely demise, that might be connected to Mitchell's past. What follows is an exceptional stand alone tale of Mayor Hundred, the Great Machine, and the dissolution (yes, even further) of the fourth wall. 
Vaughan's greatest strength on this series, even more than in Y: The Last Man, has been his ability to parallel his characters with the real world; perhaps due to Ex Machina's not so alternate reality. In any case, here we see Vaughan intertwining the current hot topic of renewable energy and post-consumer products to the comics industry and the mediums collector fan base. Sure, it's ironic that Vaughan's last page proclamation of "Print is dead" is loaded with irony, seeing as how his profession is a comic book writer. This irony only adds to the story's lasting impression.
Although series' artist Tony Harris' work is, issue after issue, spectacular, I've got to say that having John Paul Leon on this book is a welcome change of pace. Leon's art very much instills me with the same feeling I get when I see Michael Lark's work on Daredevil, and to be perfectly honest almost makes me feel like I'm looking at these familiar characters from a whole new angle. I love the fact that Leon's work is a bit more compressed, leaving more space open for fuller conversations on one page than is usually possible with Harris' oversized panels. Again, I love Harris' work. It's just nice to see a story written playing up a different artist's strengths.
I was weary going into this issue that I'd have to pull some back issues out of my long boxes to re-familiarize myself with the current status quo of the Ex Machina universe, since it's been so long since we've seen an issue on the stands. With this Special, I'm reminded that no matter how long I have to wait, Ex Machina has me hook, line, and sinker until the very end. 
5.0 out of 5.

ImageTitans # 11 Review by Kevin Hunter


Writer – Sean McKeever

Pencils – Howard Porter

Color – Edgar Delgado

Inks – Wayne Faucher

Letters – Pat Brosseau


I’ve been a fan of the Titans since they were teens and Donna Troy wore a ponytail. I even followed these Justice League juniors during the Marv Wolfman/George Perez years in the 1980’s and 1990’s when they introduced the current lineup that includes, Raven, Starfire, Cyborg, Jericho and Changeling  – or Beast Boy – take your pick.

Since the 1980’s Titans reunited last year I have liked each issue and Titans #11, "A World Without"is no exception. This issue continues the story from last month where Nightwing says goodbye, leaving the remaining Titans without its long time team leader. They also have to find a missing Jericho, who fought both the Titans and Justice League to a standstill before disappearing. Butt there is plenty more the story in Titans "A World Without"The team must now deal with what to do without a real leader among other things. With Nightwing gone, each member now has to pick of the pieces and deal with the future as well as a very haunting past.

For instance, Starfire has to come to terms that not only is Dick Grayson gone from her professional life, but her personal life as well. As many of you know, the two have had an on again, off again, on again, off again affair for more than 20 years.

Donna Troy may be the obvious choice to take over as leader of the Titans. She’s one of the original members and is probably the most responsible. Plus, I’ve always considered her to be second in charge anyway. But in "A World Without", she’s not sure about the direction of the team and whether or not they even need a team leader.

I loved everything about this issue. The story, the art and the plotline were all great. We see a very personable side of each character as they deal with the past and the future. It makes want to know even more about what the team is going through personally, and have you wondering just where in the world is Jericho and just how powerful has he become, and how can he be stopped. What you also get in "A World Without" is a glimpse of things to come in the crossovers Teen Titans #69 and the Teen Titans Annual. It will start to really come together in Titans #12 next month in a story titled "Deathtrap Part 1."

And who says you can’t do a good Titans story without Dick Grayson?

5.0 out of 5

ImageTrinity #41 Review By Kevin Hunter

Writer – Kurt Brusiek

Art – Mark Bagley

Inks – Art Thibert

Colors – Pete Pantazis

Letters – Pat Brosseau


Book #41 in the 52-issue Trinity series continues with yet another cataclysmic DC end-of-the-universe-as-we-know-it story with "Our Rightful Realm".

There are plenty of guest stars here. I guess the more you have, the more interesting the story may seem. There’s Hal Jordan, Black Lightning and other members of the Justice League (there’s even a Plastic Man sighting). Members of the Titans, Justice Society and the Metal Men also lend a hand. And if that’s not enough for you, uber villains Lex Luthor and The Joker also check in this issue. And there’s a Justice League International reference. Remember them? If you do, like me, you’ve been reading comic books way too long.

But wait! There’s more! Just when you thought the stars couldn’t get any bigger? There’s an all too brief appearance by Barry Allen, who is expected to make his triumphant return to the DC Universe in April. But hasn’t there been a Barry Allen sighting in just about every DC book lately?

Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are somewhere in exile and the Black Trinity continues its war with, well, everybody! Everything’s changing and no one has a clue on how to solve this latest crisis with Krona calling all the shots. And just how much more can we take of Krona arguing with himself? Unfortunately, we’ll just have to wait and see just how different everything will be once the big three return.

I like most of DC’s end-of-the-universe books. I also enjoy books with plenty of guest stars. The more the merrier. Some can even save a book, but that may not be the case here. I think I’m starting to get fed up with stories such as this. Come on. Enough is enough!

On the other hand, I love the artwork in this book by Mark Bagley and the cover by Shane Davis and John Dell. The cameos from the DC Universe characters is fine too, (but what? No Ray Palmer?) but sadly that’s all I like about this issue.


I’m trying really, really hard to stay with this series (even though I am backed up in a few issues), because it does feature the big three – Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Who can say no to that?

I’m starting to wish I had. But I’m a trooper. I’m going to see this thing until the very end!

Ugh, only 11 more issues to go!

2.5 out of 5



ImageWitchblade #125 Review by Gary M. Kenny

Writer – Ron Marz      

Artist – Stjepan Sejic   

Cover – Chris Bachalo, Stjepan Sejic

Top Cow’s last super event, First Born, radically changed their comic universe. The balance (that) the Witchblade made in the ongoing battle between Heaven and Hell had become compromised. Initially, NYPD Detective Sara Pezzini gave up the Witchblade to a dancer named Dani Baptiste, after she was impregnated by the evil being known as the Darkness. Sara mentored Dani and the two became close friends. As Dani wielded the Witchblade, Sara and her unborn child were in constant danger. Dani stuck by and became one of Sara’s close protectors. During the pregnancy, Sara was on the brink of death; in order to save her friends life she split her Witchblade amulet in two. One side handed to (the original host) Sara, and the other to (the newcomer) Dani, creating two Witchblade bearers.

For the past year, Dani had become Sara’s apprentice. They have coexisted peacefully but according to Top Cow “that’s all about to end.” Witchblade issue #125 begins a six-issue epic entitled "War of the Witchblades"Top Cow promises that at the end of this arc, only one person shall be the bearer of the Witchblade.

This issue struck me as the equivalent to really good boxing match. Before the fight, sides are shown, both fighters are given back stories, and it is up to the viewer to figure out: who’s the better of the two? Also, WB #125’s story sort of flows similarly to a boxing fight. It begins with Sara, how her life is going, her love life, and her relationship with her sister. Artist Stjepan Sejic (brilliantly draws each issue) lightly show’s Sara’s rage and power by characterizing her Witchblade with a red and bronze glow. Dani is portrayed as having a little bit of an ego, a questioned sexuality, and her thoughts and good intentions are shown to be from the heart. Her Witchblade has a blue and silver glow that hints of purity, innocence, and good nature. Is this a sign of light verses dark? Sara and Dani use the Witchblade with such different methods and mentalities; this promised fight could be immense.

Ron Marz has been writing Witchblade since 2007. He’s creating some quality story lines with this series. Now, I have really enjoyed his Green Lantern one-shots and his experience with DC’s emerald rings have really shined through in the Witchblade universe, especially the last few issues. The Witchblade can only have so many powers, yet both Dani and Sara seem to use them in opposite ways. It is really interesting. If I was to ask: how many versions of the Flash have there been and can anyone really tell the difference? I bet most cannot, even I, a big Flash fan can get confused at times. Nevertheless, in Witchblade, both bearers are so drastically different making each encounter spark something new and unique within the series. Sure, one girl’s a blonde while the other is a brunette, but the way Marz writes his characters and how their dialogue convey their experience, their mind state, and their morals, both Dani and Sara could be drawn as stick figures and I would be able to tell the difference. Top Cow is lucky to have this guy on board one of their flagship titles.

I feel this issue is very close to an issue #1 of a mini-series. It gave this reader just enough to entice, promised plenty of action, and will redefine the series. It’s only part one of six. It’s only going to get better.

4.0 out of 5.