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Tag Archive: JT Krul


BSG Six photo cover  NewBSGSix01-Cov-Frison

Number Six, the humanoid Cylon played by Tricia Helfer in the Battlestar Galactica reboot, in her now iconic red dress is probably the most memorable of the characters in the Syfy Channel series, and certainly the most unusual.  Her manipulation of Gaius Baltar set the course of events for the entire world where humans set out on a last-ditch quest to find the legendary planet Earth.

Now one of our favorite borgs, Six is getting her own monthly comic book series from Dynamite Comics.  Former Green Arrow scribe J.T. Krul will serve as series writer, with art by Igor Vitorino.  Battlestar Galactica: Six will take a look at the origins of this next generations of Cylons, and how a robotic being can become more human.

NewBSGSix01-Cov-Bolson

After the break, check out this preview of Battlestar Galactica: Six, Issue #1, courtesy of Dynamite Comics:

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Oliver and Rochev

Summer Glau, star of Firefly and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and guest actress on Alphas, Chuck, The Cape, Dollhouse, The Big Bang Theory, The 4400 and Angel, adds another genre TV series to her already extensive catalog of roles.  Glau will be portraying Arrow antagonist Isabel Rochev in a recurring role on the second season of the CW’s Arrow opposite Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen.

Green Arrow readers will recognize Rochev from the 2010 Green Arrow #1 (Volume 4), created by J.T. Krul and Diogenes Neves.  Rochev, who the CW revealed will be the Vice President of Acquisitions for Stellmoor International, a company looking to take over Queen Consolidated, was a minor but interesting character from the recent past in the Green Arrow universe.  In the comic book series, Rochev worked in the diamond mines of Siberia in her youth.  When she met Oliver Queen’s father Robert visiting her village, he inspired her on to bigger and better things.  Eventually she came to take over Queen Industries.  She saw herself as Robert’s true love and had a goal of eliminating Oliver.  She managed to get her hands on Moira Queen’s wedding ring, and wore it along with a strange mask.

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Green Arrow 17 cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Today DC Comics switches gears with its New 52 Green Arrow title, with writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino re-starting the series in a new storyline called “The Kill Machine.”  Lemire is best known for taking the obscure DC Comics character Animal Man and turning his story into one of DC Comics’ best reviewed series.  Italian artist Andrea Sorrentino is best known for his haunting run on the New 52’s I, Vampire, and his great covers for a short X-Files comic book series, with a style he seems to be carrying forward in Green Arrow Issue #17, released at comic stores everywhere today.

With Issue #17 Lemire seems to be taking some tips from the Berlanti/ Guggenheim/ Kreisberg playbook. Their highly successful Arrow TV series on the CW Network follows Oliver Queen as he deals with the events he faced on the mysterious island where his yacht Queen’s Gambit marooned him, and where he honed his physical skill as archer and fell into his current psychological state.  The TV Oliver Queen is echoed in Lemire’s lead character although differences show through–Lemire’s Oliver seems a bit younger and impulsive whereas the TV Oliver relies on his charisma and is more measured in his actions.  But you can’t say more about that by way of comparisons with only one issue to go on.  Fans of the Arrow TV series should keep an eye out for a familiar villain element in this first issue.

Sorrentino X-Files cover A

An example of some of the excellent past cover art of Italian artist Andrea Sorrentino.

“The Kill Machine” finds Oliver responding to the loss of Queen Industries by the trustee managing the company since his father’s death–his father’s best friend.  Lemire is overtly giving his Oliver a clean slate, destroying the world Oliver knows and removing any relationships that might reveal Oliver as anything but a lone wolf.  In this way it will be interesting to see how much of Mike Grell’s original stories of the urban archer shine through.  Grell’s Oliver, through dozens of issues of amazing stories beginning in the late 1980s, was the last time the character was completely redefined.  Can Lemire reinvigorate Green Arrow and still keep true to the character’s long history?  He has developed several issues beginning with Issue #17 so we will learn the answer as we keep up each month with the series this year.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

We reported earlier about the replacement of certain New 52 DC Comics titles that were launched last fall.  Men of War was one of those titles on the cancellation list.  If nothing else, low readership begs the question of whether war titles have a shot in the current state of the world.

Since the 1970s war titles seem to have had a rough time staying alive.  I am not sure how much of it relates to the topic of war as opposed to the spark of great storytelling grabbing and keeping readers.  Back in the 1980s I read Marvel Comics’ The ‘Nam series during Michael Golden’s stint as artist.  The ‘Nam was a success by any measure, surviving for seven years.  The stories were gritty and well done–they dealt with the daily trials of the foot soldier–and they survived almost miraculously despite dealing with no issues about drugs, and had no profanity because of the Comics Code.  They barely discussed the politics of the day, too.  But despite that, good stories caused readers to keep reading.

I also think readers will read anything good, regardless of genre category, and most regular comic book readers won’t shy away from any genre regardless of the subject, here “war comics”.  That said, I read Men of War and it didn’t work for me.  I think Issue #1 just featured too much action, too much sergeants yelling and the stereotypical movie “gung ho” vibe, and not enough character building.  Basically we saw a descendant of the classic Sergeant Rock of decades past himself become sergeant in today’s world.  It actually reminded me of the 1960s black and white TV series Combat!  an ongoing series of the daily trials of men at war.  The Sergeant Rock story was followed by a Navy Seals story, including an ending featuring a baddie who shockingly uses a woman as a shield.  The stuff of real-life war and the evening news.  If you like reality in comics then you may have liked that series.  If you see comics as escapism, well, this was perhaps not the best place to find it.

So last week saw the launch of G.I. Combat, as part of the New 52 Second Wave, which included both an ongoing G.I. Combat story and a second story reviving the unknowable super-soldier, the Unknown Soldier, a character derived in part from from the tomb of the same name in Washington, DC.  The character the Unknown Soldier has been around in various series for years at DC Comics, and he sees a short resurgence from time to time.

The first issue of G.I. Combat works for three reasons.

First, JT Krul and Ariel Olivetti sort of cheat here, because they added bacon.  I’ll explain.  If you ever watch competitive food shows like Top Chef or The Next Food Network Star, you often see judges jokingly tell contestants they cheated because they added bacon to a dish that may not have otherwise succeeded.  Here, the bacon is dinosaurs.  That’s right–if you can’t make your war comic succeed, throw in dinosaurs.  After all, who doesn’t like dinosaurs?  Frank Cho has been gearing up to release his own topic on the very same subject, Guns & Dinos, and his Shanna series also had military group taking on dinosaurs.  It’s hard to miss when you mix these together.

The alternate/incentive cover to Issue 1.

But to be fair, the second reason is the book works on its own merits.  JT Krul’s story is good, and Ariel Olivetti’s painterly style is just superb.  The story, “The War That Time Forgot” begins with a secret corps soldier on a live video chat with his wife.  The immediate focus on the personal creates a character that hooks the reader in quickly.  Scenes of the soldiers on an expected routine mission that ends up with pterodactyls surprisingly works, too.  Argentine artist Olivetti may be the next artist to keep an eye on.  You can see both some Adam Hughes and Mauro Cascioli in his work.  In fact, Olivetti has referred to fellow Argentine Cascioli, one of our favorites artists here at borg.com, as an influence on his style.

Some of Ariel Olivetti’s art from GI Combat.

The second story, “The Unknown Soldier” is also well written and well drawn.  I’m a little biased, however, as Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, the writers on the second story, are also my favorite current comic book writing team, telling the adventures of Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham in DC’s All-Star Western.  Dan Panosian’s panels are classic Charlton Comics war images–the story just looks like a classic war series.

But my third reason to like the book comes from the Unknown Soldier story.  Gray and Palmiotti’s hero is the type of timeless war hero that you would see played in the movies by John Wayne or Arnold Schwartzenegger.  A phoenix of sorts, this soldier is strong and he is a survivor, something everyone wants in a soldier story.

Since there are apparently no real rules to building a successful new war comic, maybe expanding readers’ preconception as to what a war comic is will be the ticket to a successful ongoing series.

By C.J. Bunce

With the Before Watchmen series announced last month “coming soon to a comic book store near you,” now there is more reason than ever to catch up on the current exploits of one of the characters that inspired Doctor Manhattan himself, Captain Atom.  Of all the 52 of DC Comics New 52 series, Captain Atom is one of the titles I am still reading after 6 months, up there with All Star Western, Batgirl, Batwoman, Justice League Dark, and Wonder Woman.  Yes, I like it better than all the Batman titles I tried on for size and the much praised Animal Man.  Captain Atom has probably gotten lost a bit in the shuffle between umpteen Bat-titles and all the Justice League headliner superheroes.  So if you are someone whose pull list hasn’t dabbled yet into the rest of the DC universe, this is the first book you should grab to get caught up.

The trade paperback to be published later this year will compile the first six issues, written by J.T. Krul with art by Freddie Williams II, plus it will include additional materials.  Spoilers ahead!

In Issue #1 we meet the New 52 Captain Atom in a story along the lines of those found in some other New 52 titles–we fear that which we do not understand–as Captain Atom is attacked by those he wishes to protect.  Captain Atom can absorb energy in great amounts but to protect the eastern seaboard he must harness the energy of both a volcano and a nuclear reaction.  Uncertain of his abilities, neither he nor his supporters know what can happen.  As to comic book intrigue factor, Captain Atom’s abilities offer a “Wonder Twins” meets MacGyver brand of problem solving–and decisions that could result in his own destruction.

Of course with unprecedented devastation, including natural and man-made disasters, society does what it does best, cast blame, and Captain Atom becomes a target in Issue #2.  We learn his back story–that of a Captain, Nathaniel Adam, a volunteer in an experiment gone wrong–and that his new “condition” was inadvertently created by a Stephen Hawking-level genius named Dr. Megala.  Where some New 52 titles offer no origin story or bombard you with back story, Captain Atom gives readers just what they need to push the story forward.  If you liked the superhero-themed TV series Alphas, you will see Captain Atom exhibiting a “seeing” ability much like Gary, the autistic character on the show (for me the best character on Alphas).  One of Freddie Williams’ best images to-date is in this issue, an incredible multi-layered splash page of Captain Atom reaching between two worlds, into this new realm of being, laid out over the shadow of the mere mortals mocking him.

Captain Atom struggles with similar, but different, conflicts as Superman in Issue #3–you have all the power but not all the time to fix everything and a superhero must make choices.  Honing in on a boy with cancer, Captain Atom moves from volcano blast to Fantastic Voyage–battling an equally large war but on a microscopic scale and moves on to try to literally take on everyone’s problems.  In his first team-up, with Barry Allen’s Flash, possibilities of JLA partnerships are opened up for future issues.  Behind the scenes there lurks a grotesque abomination in the streets that surfaces in the background of each issue.  Unlike the grotesque art in the pages of Animal Man (where I just couldn’t continue moving forward with the series because it looks so…ugly… and I can hardly wait to read how Jeff Lemire takes on Justice League Dark), here the grotesque is more stylized and nuanced–less off-putting for the average reader.

In Issue #4 the inevitable surfaces as the “Captain” in Captain Atom takes front stage and we see that Atom must face similar pressures as Steve Austin in Phil Hester and Kevin Smith’s Bionic Man series–the influence of the military industrial complex surfaces with questions harkening back to 1930s science and the ethics of mass destruction.  Captain Atom is a classic superhero in every sense, only he has more than the one-note power you find with other superheroes, such as the Flash with merely fantastic speed. Atom here could take on the Earth’s mightiest mortal, Captain Marvel, because of the enormity of his power, and yet he suffers a social fate similar to Rogue from the X-Men, he can change matter, he can absorb energy, he can be everywhere.  But can he fix everything?

With the end of Issue #4 and the beginning of Issue #5, Atom becomes scarier and the reader joins the naysayers on the question of whether Atom should continue on unimpeded when he’s unable to control his power.  In Issue #6 Atom faces himself and his biggest threat, and a double-page spread shows the mirror reflection of Atom and his enemy.  Both villains who were initially typical baddies: a pain in the ass general and would-be Jack McGee/Ross archetype (from Marvel’s Hulk) and a monster of sorts, are written to be somewhat sympathetic in the end.

J.T. Krul writes a complete story in the pages of Issues #1-6 with the creativity seen in his Fathom and earlier Green Arrow work that eclipses his work on the current Green Arrow series that he also has been writing (I chalk that up to a Green Arrow character at a stage in its history where there is not much exciting that can be done by anyone).  There is plenty of character development in these first six issues.  The climax of this first Captain Atom story involves another team-up, a surprising one at that–that forecasts and unleashes endless possibilities for future issues.  And we are left with a great cliffhanger to boot.

Williams’ illustrations are refreshingly unique in the New 52.  He varies his styles and drawing and painting techniques in way I have not seen anywhere else.  He doesn’t just draw panels like he is getting directions from a script and plodding ahead.  The pages are nicely balanced, employing what reminds me for lack of a better phrase as “special effects”–bubbling imagery of  dematerializing hands, edges that are almost undefinable for Captain Atom himself to give the feel of heat and energy, panel borders that converge in a way similar to what J.H. Williams is doing on his Batwoman series.  And kudos to Jose Villarrubia for his coloring, which really draws out Williams creative effects and highlights Captain Atom in particular.

One last thing–although it is neither targeted to young readers nor a mature title, Captain Atom could be recommended for every age.  Compared to other New 52 titles, you won’t find here pole dancers (Voodoo), human skin removed and used as a mask (Detective Comics), rivers of blood (Animal Man), or T&A overload (Red Hood and the Outlaws).

I am looking forward to the continuation of this series with Freddie Williams as series artist and J.T. Krul as writer.  Their contributions combine for a solid series and these first six issues, with one complete story from beginning to end, will make a good read for those who pick up the trade paperback when it becomes available.

DC Comics announced that it will be issuing a softcover trade paperback edition of the first six issues of the New 52 storyline, titled Green Arrow: The Midas Touch.  Since the new CW television series that is currently filming the pilot episode appears that the new Green Arrow may more closely follow the current storyline of Ollie balancing street fighting derring-do with running a major corporation, this is a good time to get caught up on what Oliver Queen has been up to for the past six months.  And this storyline includes its own bit of cyborg villany.

In Chapter 1, “Living a Life of Privilege,” we find Oliver Queen juggling his duties as CEO of Q-Core, apparently a subsidiary of Queen Industries, with his Green Arrow mantle as he busts an odd bunch of thieves in Paris.  He does this by taking a conference call via wireless earbud and also using Q-Core technical resources via techno-savvy assistant Naomi and ex-M.I.T. techno-gadget maker Jax.  Queen is attempting to use the Q-Core division to allow him to continue his crime-fighting life, and Naomi and Jax act as Oracle was utilized by the Birds of Prey.  This chapter echoes Green Arrow’s origins as Batman knockoff and mirrors Bruce Wayne’s past antics a lot–his attempts at using Wayne Enterprises to build him wonderful toys to use in his crime-fighting while dodging his corporate responsibilities at Wayne’s corporate offices.  The action is more “Superfriends” than other incarnations of Green Arrow–his one man march to take out a band of thieves ona  boat with no back-up, for example, is more reckless and unreal than we’ve seen past versions of the character.

In Chapter 2, “Going Viral,” a group of wanna-be twenty-something villains tap into social media and the latest retail technologies to try to “get noticed.”  Oliver and Jax’s relationship seems to match James Bond and Q, as Jax supplies more gadgetry for Queen’s missions.  The wanna-be criminals are in Seattle and have set a trap for Ollie–planning to get Green Arrow streaming live over the Internet in a death match.

This is where the story picks up in Chapter 3, “Green Arrow’s Last Stand,” the leader of the gang, named Rush, takes on Green Arrow mano a mano.  And of course this ends up not as Green Arrow’s last stand but another thwarted attempt at taking Green Arrow out of the picture.  Oliver smartly realizes the kind of headstrong fighting that he made it through in Chapter 1 may have finally caught up with him, and credit goes to writer JT Krul for not letting the early path for Oliver get too far off-track.  CEO of parent company Queen Industries “Emerson” busts Oliver’s chops for not paying attention to the business despite Queen giving a public “Jerry Maguire” speech.  Emerson either has some secret vendetta, or really just doesn’t like Queen’s apparent lack of devotion to the company that Oliver’s father founded.  One oddity is that the end of Chapter 2 foretold a visit from Black Canary in Chapter 3 that never comes to fruition.

In Chapter 4, “The Things We Do for Love and Hate,” we meet female assassin Blood Rose, who is an agent for some boss named Midas.  The bulk of the issue is a face-off between Oliver and the new villain, Blood Rose succeeding with her guns and quick moves and Ollie with his trick arrows.  This is mirrored in Chapter 5, “The Midas Touch,” when a walking “toxic dump” that is devoted to Blood Rose takes the fight directly to Oliver Queen.  Again, the issue is primarily a fight to the death, and only this time there is a winner and a loser.  Blood Rose shows up, but again, Ollie and his wireless crime-fighting back-up team of Naomi and Jax, and we readers, have been left with no answers and little clues to go on.  It is worth mentioning that JT Krul left writing duties on the Green Arrow series with Issue #3 (Chapter 3 of the new TPB) and Keith Giffen took over for the rest of the issues/chapters.

Which brings us to the final chapter of this first Green Arrow storyline in the new DCU.  Titled “Lovers & Other Dangers,” we learn what is behind the titles about love in Chapters 4 and 6.  It begins with Blood Rose shooting Oliver is the head–a surface wound only, but enough to knock him out.  The rest of the story takes us into a strange mix of beauty and the beast with a dose of borg elements.

As a complete story in 144 pages, Green Arrow: The Midas Touch is not a stand-out story.  It seems to suffer from a lack of focus that only comes together in the last three parts, and even then, leaves us uncertain as to Green Arrow’s new place in the DCU.  The only thing keeping it together as one complete work is Dan Jurgens’ art, and this would not be considered his best work.  With so many great titles making their mark in the New 52, the decison makers at DC Comics will have to carve out a niche for this character soon to avoid losing readers.  With compilations for other titles not yet announced, there are certainly other titles more worthy of a trade paperback edition.  Green Arrow: The Midas Touch will likely be a purchase only for the Green Arrow completist.

The trade edition will be published in May and is available for pre-order at online online retailers.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Review by C.J. Bunce

(with spoilers!)

A slick hardcover version of the 2011 restarted series, Green Arrow, has been published, collecting Issues #1-7.  This is not to be confused with the New 52 reboot starting in the Fall of 2011.  Called Green Arrow: Into the Woods, it is a “Brightest Day” sequence storyline that conjures some good bits of Oliver Queen’s past, and includes some of the best cover art and interior art of any recent Green Arrow series.  The story was written by J.T. Krul, with art by illustrators Diogenes Neves and Mike Mayhew.  Some of the best covers ever done featuring Green Arrow are found in this collection, all painted by the great cover artist Mauro Cascioli.

In part 1 (originally Issue #1), Ollie has truly reverted to his roots, inspired by his hero Robin Hood.  After the destruction of Star City and Ollie killing Prometheus in Justice League: Cry for Justice, Ollie is living in the mysterious forest that has sprouted in the aftermath of Star City’s destruction. This is the classic Green Arrow of Mike Grell’s influence.  His former company, Queen Enterprises is taken over by a mysterious woman referred to only as the Queen.  And Hal Jordan aka Green Lantern shows up to find Ollie.

In part 2 (originally Issue #2) we learn more about the secret identity of the Queen.  Hal loses his power in the woods, and he and Ollie must defeat some goons sent by the Queen to destroy Ollie.  The entire issue consists of battle scenes, but we do learn that the creation of the forest is somehow related to the powerful White Lantern.  Krul also introduces a new character, a medieval looking fellow, who has no dialogue, but appears from nowhere.  This part ends in a bizarre cliffhanger, with seemingly the death of Ollie for the umpteenth time, via an arrow shot through his forehead.

But there are five more parts to get through, right?  So no dead Ollie.  Part 3 (originally Issue #3) is a strange, ethereal story, and we cannot be sure what is happening.  A medieval dressed fellow claims to be the one and only Galahad, knight of the Round Table.  Only viewing this meeting as a dream sequence makes sense, yet it appears the story is moving forward with this odd new partner to Oliver.  This is never fully explained in this entire volume.  The forest comes alive with the White Lantern’s light, but not before several flashbacks for Ollie, where we meet his father and mother, and Ollie revisits the mistakes of his past.  Is this something real or imagined, for Oliver Queen?  Impossible to tell.

In part 4 (originally Issue #4) Ollie encounters the Martian Manhunter, J’onn J’onnz, originally thought dead, but re-created out of the White Lantern’s power.  Like Green Lantern, the Manhunter’s power is also zapped by the power of the woods.  And Mary, a woman he saved from modern day bandits in the woods, manages to keep Ollie busy, as she, too, sees herself as a leader destined to protect the citizens that remain in the aftermath of Star City.

As Ollie begins to believe a murderer of several high ranking citizens could be Mary, he goes to confront her but instead discovers a strange villainess in part 5 (Issue #5).  Named Nix, she murders an innocent to escape from Ollie.  For those that can keep up with the events of Into the Woods, it is at this point that the story falters.  The woods come alive, and (too) quick decision-making by Ollie and Galahad is required to fend off a band of demon-like creatures, summoned by the Black Lantern.  Again, we cannot be sure whether this is a reality for Ollie, or whether he is still part of some dream.  The low-point of the book is here, where Ollie must face off against an image of his father, which ends up not as his father at all.  But you get the odd feeling he is Luke visiting the forbidden tree to confront Vader in Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back.

All of the attacks on Ollie, and on Hal and J’onn in the woods, were caused by the Queen, and so, in part 6 (Issue #6) Oliver attacks Queen Industries to take on the Queen, where he also confronts her minion, the assassin he met earlier in the story.  The Queen reveals herself as a character from the family’s distant past.  Confused, Oliver (not us) manages to return to the forest.  Before that, this part becomes a story of a bitter past for Ollie’s parents, ultimately lacking some necessary emotion and the point of it all… never really comes together.

Although this isn‘t the worst of Green Arrow stories, it is missing something.  Oliver is alone, and yet you wonder if we needed a seven issue story arc to illustrate that aloneness.  The character Galahad comes with no explanation.  Why Galahad?  We see pieces of a story and as readers we try to make them fit together, but I’m not sure it is all meant to be coherent.

Out of the chaos comes the high point of Into the Woods.  And that is Mike Mayhew’s art in part 7 (Issue #7).  It may be that this is one of the best renderings of Green Arrow in years.  I have shared emails with Mike in the past, and he explained that he was influenced by Mike Grell in this issue.  The look of Oliver was based on a friend of Mayhew, who looks a bit like actor Cary Elwes.  I have seen the original pencil work of Issue #7, and the issue is an example of ink work that mutes the power of the underlying spectacular art.  Even so, the visuals in this issue surpass the rest of the book, and for this reason Green Arrow fans who missed the original Issue #7 will be wise to check out Into the Woods.  As for the story in part 7, it amounts to a vision of Oliver meeting his mother in the woods, and a too-sappy effort at Oliver being forced to revisit his past and forgive himself.  If you’re expecting an ending, there is none offered here, as the story is continued and concluded in a to-be released second volume called Green Arrow: Salvation.  Look for some good images of alternate covers at the end of the book.

Despite the meandering story, there are bits of good to be found here.  But the less-than stellar story is pretty much made up for by the impressive look of the book.  Diogenes’s work is well done, if not the best Green Arrow in the history of the character it at least shows a familiar Green Arrow readers can enjoy.  However, Mike Mayhew’s work in the last chapter, plus some great covers by Mauro Cascioli, are a pretty stunning collection of images.  If the cover is not the best of the Mike Grell inspired Green Arrow covers on record, it comes pretty close.  Strangely enough, neither Mayhew nor Cascioli get any cover credit for their work on this book.

Green Arrow: Into the Woods lists for $22.99, but can be found cheaper online.

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s no secret that Green Arrow is my favorite DCU character.  As re-envisioned in the early 1970s by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams, he became less of a Batman knockoff and more of a completely separate and identifiable voice.  Even early on with O’Neil and Adams, Green Arrow and Green Lantern were a mirror image of Batman and Superman.  Superman tending to be the holier than thou determiner of right and wrong, and Batman more subversive, critical of the powers that be, cutting through everything to solve real problems, in a practical way.  Green Arrow was influential, even in his first meeting with Hal in Green Lantern 76.  Over the years Green Lantern, watcher and guardian of Earth, became more like Green Arrow, critical of the status quo.  Green Lantern/Hal Jordan learned from Green Arrow/Oliver Queen as their relationship grew.  But lately, especially with the recent Green Lantern movie, it’s getting harder to tell Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen apart, with Hal becoming more critical and brooding.

The DC Comics New 52 Green Arrow #1 came out two weeks ago.  I read issue #1 quickly.  Then I put it aside because I hate when reviewers, instead of reviewing what is in front of them, review what they wish was in front of them.  Hence the delay.  So I re-read it.  And I still find it baffling.

I also read the one-shot issue Flashpoint: Green Arrow Industries, which seemed to be a lead in to the new Green ArrowGreen Arrow Industries has Oliver Queen as the head of some military industrial complex.  He is Tony Stark from Marvel Comics’s Iron Man, and nothing else.  Other than in the first Iron Man movie, I have never cared for Tony Stark.  He is arrogant.  He lives a life of privilege.  Oliver Queen is not that guy–his back story is that he was a millionaire that lost all of his money.  He is not the owner of Halliburton or of Stark Industries or of Wayne Tech.

Queen learned what is important is watching out for the little guy.  The Flashpoint: Green Arrow Industries one-shot may be the most unexplainable, out of left field one-shots I have read.  Right up there with the bizarre Green Arrow: One Million book from a few years back, but at least that book had some context.  As expected, the New 52 continues with Green Arrow as this new leader of what is called Queen Industries.

The new Green Arrow is gadget happy.  Oliver Queen has never needed to rely on gadgets to be a superhero.  Like Batman, Green Arrow has no super powers.  He uses his brain.  He solves mysteries.  Gadgets?  That’s for Bruce Wayne.  We like Bruce Wayne and his toys.  Again, that’s not Oliver Queen, except for one thing:  trick arrows.  That said, the best Green Arrow stories leave out the trick arrows.  They are an amusing gimmick that even Oliver Queen jokes about when using them.  Oliver Queen doesn’t need a trick arrow with bluetooth technology that can be shot onto a boat and allow someone far away to control the boat via satellite.  A nice idea for someone else?  Maybe.  Put that story in the next Batman arc.  And Green Arrow also doesn’t need a Geordi LaForge-like visor.  Green Arrow just wears a mask for disguise.  He doesn’t need X-ray vision.

Neither is Oliver Queen James Bond.  We love James Bond.  But the two guys just are not much alike.  Part of the problem may be that even JT Krul has acknowledged Queen’s new “globe-trotting, James Bond, high adventures.”  Writers and artists who are not familiar with Green Arrow’s decades of character study and growth might think they are the same.  And I think the guys rebooting Green Arrow wish they were writing Tony Stark for Marvel Comics.

Recent issues of Green Arrow have shown Green Arrow as a hunter.  That makes more sense.  Oliver Queen was inspired by Robin Hood, specifically the classic film The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Errol Flynn.  Oliver Queen can survive in a forest, like Robin Hood in Sherwood.  And all he needs are arrows and a bow.  Nothing else.  No iPads or iPhones (called not-so-creatively qPads and qPhones in this issue).  No Oracle-type helper constantly feeding him the latest tech data.  Queen also knows how to adapt his carefully honed skills to the life of the urban cliff dweller.

Recent storylines had Green Arrow losing control because the baddies hurt his friend Roy Harper, formerly his sidekick Speedy, and killed one of Harper’s kids.  Oliver Queen murders the evil Prometheus in revenge, and the Justice League gets on his case for not properly bringing Prometheus to justice.  Like Batman over the years, Green Arrow issued some vigilante justice.  That storyline was interesting and going someplace.  The new Green Arrow is preachy and sounds like the old Silver Age Hal Jordan or Superman.

The new Green Arrow has no similarities to the O’Neil/Adams creation.  It has no similarity to 100 issues of the Green Arrow as further refined by Mike Grell.  It has no familiarity to the faithful ongoing adventures re-envisioned by Kevin Smith, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Brad Meltzer, Judd Winick, or even the artist Jock.  Fans of Green Arrow as interpreted by Cliff Chiang and Mauro Cascioli will not recognize the new Green Arrow.

So what is the audience for the new Green Arrow?  I think I figured it out: (1) Readers who do not like Oliver Queen, or (2) readers who really liked his son Connor Hawke as Green Arrow.  Or readers who like a stubbly looking hero like Wolverine.

After Queen supposedly died (in the last 30+ issues of the first ongoing Green Arrow series that started with the Green Arrow: Longbow Hunters mini-series), Hawke took over as Green Arrow, sometimes referred to as Green Arrow II.  Hawke was purportedly written for a newer audience.  I would understand the new Green Arrow series if only they referred to the new Green Arrow as Connor Hawke.  The similarities are all there:  Hawke has no Van Dyke beard or goatee like Queen had.  Hawke had this more vinyl/leather looking suit, like the Green Arrow on Smallville wore, and like the new Green Arrow is wearing.  Hawke had this ongoing grudge against one thing or the other.  If this is where DC’s editors want to go, why not take Hawke along for the ride and give fans of Green Arrow our goateed hunter and partner to Dinah Lance and pal to Hal Jordan back?

Here is the new Green Arrow:

…and here is the more similarly drawn Connor Hawke:

If you take on a beloved character that has a 70+ year back story, you should be passionate about that character.  DC Comics announced this month that JT Krul is no longer writing Green Arrow with issue #4.  Good choice, JT.  JT Krul has written solid Green Arrow stories before.  His non-Green Arrow stories are also awesome, including his work on the new Captain Atom.  So what happened?  Was Green Arrow just an unfortunate casuality of mismatched post-its on the wall of the DC editors when re-assigning characters in the new DCU?  Does anyone love this new Green Arrow?  Will replacement writer Keith Giffen be given any latitude to fix the direction of the new Ollie?  We can only hope.  My guess is Krul was just hamstrung by new decisions of the editorial team.  So far I have enjoyed the rest of the New 52 for the most part.  “You can’t please everyone on everything” probably applies here.

Even if this series was not about Green Arrow–about some other new character with this plot–I think storylines that have used the reality TV storyline, as Green Arrow #1 does, televising anything and everything, are just tired.  The Running Man did it and The Hunger Games did it again.  Enough already.

And not to throw too many darts at the new Green Arrow series, but what’s with these new villain names: Dynamix?  Doppelganger?  Supercharge?  About the only thing right about the new Oliver Queen is he is back in Seattle where he belongs.

Had DC changed Batman or Superman as they did Green Arrow, they would have lost a ton of readers.  You can’t remove Batman’s cowl and his detective work or Superman’s cape and kryptonite and still call them Batman and Superman.  Same goes for Green Arrow’s goatee and the essential elements of his character.   You strip away the basics and it’s no longer the same guy.

Review by C.J. Bunce

The short-lived but fan favorite TV series Heroes launched a concept that really hadn’t been tried before in this way:  starting each episode not at the beginning of the story, but well into the story, and often at the best part–that point where the guy is hanging over the edge of the cliff, right where the cheerleader falls off the building, or right where the samurai gets the sword in his gut.  You feel a little bit of a slingshot at the back of your head at first, then you grab the rope, the boat pulls tight and before you know it you are skiing along with the characters at full throttle into the unknown.  Captain Atom #1 is a comic for readers who like wall to wall action, and it avoids any introductory phase–placing us right where the story gets good.  There are no gimmicks here that you might find in other books, just a good read that makes you hate having to wait a whole month for the next issue.

If you’re not a regular DC Comics reader, you may not think you know Captain Atom but you probably just haven’t put it all together yet.  He’s so familiar and you can’t quite place why you know him, even though he is not another current Justice League headliner (although he has served in the Justice League and led Justice League Europe in the past).  If you’re like me, you read his comic back in the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths 1980s, or you saw him in the more recent Superman/Batman.  But more likely you recognize him as Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen, either the comic or the movie, because what comic reader hasn’t seen one of those?  Alan Moore originally designed his atomic man as Captain Atom, but DC decided not to let him use the newly absorbed Charlton Comics pantheon of characters in Watchmen at the last minute.   As stunning and surreal as Dr. Manhattan was portrayed in the Watchmen movie, he really comes to life in the new DC 52 Captain Atom #1.  And he’s not aloof like Dr. Manhattan–speaking to us through his thoughts we get to like this guy and feel for his circumstances quickly.  Dr. Manhattan is in the background in this shot from the Watchmen movie:

Like our heroes in the first issue of the new Justice League, superheroes are finding themselves as targets more than heroes.  Captain Atom finds himself defending himself against an attack, only to learn his powers are more expansive than he knew.  He begins to melt metal and it seems congeal and drip off the page.  Captain Atom surprises himself.  Like Han Solo said “sometimes I even amaze myself.”  Although I have liked most of what I have seen so far from the new DCU, this is the first ‘zine where the story doesn’t let up from the first panel through the last panel.

It can’t be easy drawing the visual expression of seemingly unlimited power as pure energy.  Freddie Williams II is at the top of his game here.  JT Krul has taken what he did with the edgy Soulfire and Fathom series coupled with his hero work on Green Arrow and has paced out a story with non-stop action, a smart hero, and intelligent writing.  We are pulled through the story via Captain Atom’s own thoughts and watch him try to control what is probably uncontrollable.   Williams renderings of Captain Atom as distinct from the rest of the art, and coupled with Jose Villarrubia’s creative use of color–red and blues are used to stunning effect–this book made me want to track down some 3D glasses to see if this could be viewed in actual 3D (I looked and couldn’t find the pair that came with the Chuck Season 2 DVD set).

For new readers you get enough back story to see what is going on.  Krul slips in background information just when you want it and sets up the action for coming issues.  Williams’s style seems inspired by the eye-popping visuals of Michael Golden, Howard Chaykin and Alex Nino–and this makes sense as a character who absorbs energy has got to ooze energy across the page.

I also like characters who are seemingly stronger and more powerful than the often one-note Superman.  Like Captain Marvel, Captain Atom is a character that makes you glad to know there is someone else out there who can carry the weight of the DCU world.  Like Firestorm, an old favorite hero with similar powers, this guy is not just a human in a supersuit.

Eagerly waiting for Issue #2!

   

It is always great to catch up with my friend Freddie Williams II, whether it is at a midwest con or in San Diego.  DW and I were lucky to meet up again with Freddie and his wife Kiki at Comic-Con in San Diego last month.  Freddie is probably best known as the series artist for DC Comics’ Robin, as well as more recently the Flash series, but he’s also served as artist on Aquaman and Seven Soldiers, among other titles, and he is currently the artist on the new Captain Atom series premiering next month.  And I mentioned in a prior post that Freddie literally wrote the book on digital comic illustration, The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics.  We’re happy to welcome Freddie to borg.com.

It was great to see you again doing sketches for fans at Comic-Con this year.  How was life in Artists Alley?  How did this year’s event compare to past years for you?

Freddie:  Artists Alley and the convention itself are super busy, I love seeing friends from years past and meeting new folks but those 5 days go by so fast. The first couple years I had a bit more time to breathe and walk around but now I am doing signings and commissions non stop, but I love it!

What was the best part of Comic-Con for you this year?  Did you make it to any panels or offsite parties?  Any favorite fan moments from this year?

I was on The New 52 Panel for the DC Reboot but I had no time to walk around and take in any sights.  No offsite parties (too much work to do) though I did dinner with my Editor and a few other DC folks one night and got to add Batman to The Palm restaurant in the Gaslamp District another night, that was pretty awesome!

   

Every year longtime Comic-Con attendees comment that Comic-Con has changed with the addition of mega-panels for Hollywood movie franchises, production studios, video game companies, etc., implying a lesser focus on the “comic” in Comic-Con. Being in the industry as a comic book artist, what is your take?

Freddie: At times it does feel excessive, but folks don’t have to go to those panels & areas if they don’t want to. There are still comic related areas to hit, though they do tend to be shrinking every year. I was very happy to see deviantART add the Jumbo tron screens over Artists Alley this year, those rocked!

Any peers in the comic book world you were able to meet up with again, or meet for the first time?

Freddie: Had dinner with Rachel Gluckstern, JT Krul, Nicola & Craig Scott during the con and a few days after the con we met up for lunch with Francis Manapul, Agnes Garbowska, & Joel Gomez, then before we left for the Chicago con we met up again with Joel Gomez and his wife Beth Sotelo. It is always a blast to get to hang out and visit with these folks when we’re out for the Comic-Con.

I want to throw in a big congratulations for being selected as the artist for the new Captain Atom series coming from DC Comics in September. We can’t wait to see the first issue. This year’s Comic-Con had a huge focus on the DC Comics 52 #1 re-launch. What can you share with us about your work on this new project?

Freddie: I am trying some new stuff artistically with Captain Atom and JT and I get to go a bit off the beaten path with the character, so it’s been exciting so far. So doing not only super hero stuff but also esoteric & sci-fi story lines as well.

Here is Freddie’s AWESOME original art for the coming Captain Atom Issue #1, page 12:

Any advice for next year for fans or professionals coming to Comic-Con for the first time?

Freddie: Hmm, that’s a hard one, let’s see–pack light, always walk the outside halls if you want to get anywhere (from one end of the hall to another–it seemed faster to me than walking inside), be prepared to wait in long lines. And come to Artists Alley where the cool folks hang out!

Hey-that’s what Elizabeth C. Bunce and I did!  Here we are having a great time on Comic-Con Friday with Freddie and his wife Kiki in Artists Alley:

Thanks for chatting with us today, Freddie!  Follow Freddie as a featured illustrator at DC Comics website, at his own website www.FreddieArt.com, and on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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