Saturday, September 17, 2011

DCnU REVIEWS: Justice League, Justice League International, Stormwatch, Batgirl, Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE

The DCnU launched this month (well, technically, it launched at the end of LAST month, but with only 1 book - the Justice League flagship title; the balance of the books come out THIS month), and several of them made it onto my pull list. I had also wanted to add a few more titles to my pull list (Animal Man, Detective Comics, Swamp Thing, Demon Knights, Green Lantern), but they were unfortunately sold out by the time I made it to my FLCS. I may try and pick up the ones that I missed on digital, but I REALLY prefer print versions for my comics.

Without further ado, here are my quick-take reviews on the titles that I've read thus far:

Justice League #1 by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee

DC leads off the new 52 with the release of the latest, greatest version of their premier superteam - the Justice League. Replacing Martian Manhunter in the Big 7 line up is Cyborg, a change I'm not too thrilled about, but will give it an opportunity to grow on me. While the cover features all 7 characters, we're only treated to 3 of them in the story, and really, just two, with the third joining in at the very end. Still, you can't go wrong with kicking off the title with Batman and Green lantern meeting each other for the first time. The contrasting tropes of darkness and fear on the one hand, and bright light and courage on the other make for an interesting interplay between the two heroes. Distinct voices and keen characterizations make for a rich reading experience that hopefully sets the tone for the eventual introductions of the rest of the cast. Superman's arrival on the scene at the end certainly makes an impression on our two protagonists and the reader, literally and figuratively, and leaves us with the promise of a Bats vs. Supes throwdown next issue. The story felt a smidge decompressed, but not overly so, so I'll definitely be coming back for more next month!

REVIEW: 4 out of 5

Justice League International #1 by Dan Jurgens and Aaron Lopresti

I picked up JLI due to my fond memories of Blue Beetle and Booster Gold BWA-HA-HA-ing it up, Batman one shot-ing Guy Gardner with a single punch, and the Martian Manhunter indulging his love of Oreo cookies. This is NOT that JLI. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Taking a tone more traditionally superheroic than the original JLI run, Jurgens crafts an undecompressed debut that in contrast to Justice League, introduces the reader to all of the ensemble cast in the very first issue. The characterizations are for the most part, spot on, and Jurgens does a great job of establishing interesting conflicting dynamics among the various team members that will generate no end of drama and entertainment as the title progresses - of particular note to watch will be the friction between Russia's Rocket Red and China's August General in Iron and the tension between Booster Gold and Guy Gardner. The fact that Batman is an unofficial member of the team is icing on the cake for me, and I enjoy his less grim-and-gritty mien in this outing which casts him in an interesting team role - not of the leader, but that of mentor/support. if this issue is any indication of things to come, JLI will be on my pull list for the duration.

REVIEW: 5 out of 5

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dungeons & Dragons: Living Forgotten Realms

This past Saturday was Living Forgotten Realms (LFR) play at my friendly local gaming store (FLGS).

Up until now, I've only been playing D&D Encounters, and while I have found those sessions to be a good welcome back introduction to the world of D&D, I've been looking for something with a bit more narrative meat to sink my RPG chops into. Thus, when I saw the post for LFR play up on the notice board at the FLGS, I promptly did a little research on the internet to see what LFR was all about.

Players across the country and world create Forgotten Realms characters per instructions on the D&D LFR webpage, and then bring their characters together to play LFR adventure modules at RPG convention events, FLGS open play sessions, or even home game play sessions, tracking and documenting their play and character advancement via D&D's RPGA/DCI system. The LFR adventure modules are designed for both new and veteran players to enjoy, and even within the module adjustments can be made for playing "low" or "high" - adjusting the difficulty down or up based on the experience and composition of the player group at hand to provide the most satisfying experience possible.

Now armed with a basic understanding of the goals and mechanics behind LFR, I decided to brave the LFGS on a Saturday morning and devote a few hours of play to adventure in the Forgotten Realms, one of my favorite sword-and-sorcery fantasy world settings of all time.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

REVIEWS: Captain America #2 and Daredevil #2

Captain America #2, written by Ed Brubaker and pencilled by Steve McNiven, picks up where last issue left off - with Cap and company hot on the trail of the mysterious conspiracy of villains introduced last issue. We're treated to some exposition by Nick Fury (the classic James Bond version, not the more recent Samuel L. Jackson inspired one), as he fills Agent 13 (Sharon Carter - Cap's current love interest and the niece of Cap's former love interest from WWII)  in on the origins of their current predicament. Turns out that Nazi spies and saboteurs were the de riguer plot element back in the days of WWII, not only impacting Cap's origins, but also his further adventures, incuding the one that spawned the current conspiracy plot that our star spangled hero and his pals finds themselves embroiled in.

I'll be honest - this issue feels like a fill-in or bridge issue for the story that's being told. I didn't feel like the action in the book was particularly exceptional, and found the exposition to be a little heavy handed and leaning towards the cardinal sin of tell rather than show. Still, the art by McNiven is fairly gorgeous and fits the overall story's bold tone well. I just wish that I didn't feel like this issue was just a long set-up for the next issue's fireworks. And the cliffhanger ending at the en dof this issue definitely promises fireworks, with the return of another blast from-the-past antagonist for Cap and Agent 13 to face down as they inch closer to the truth behind the conspiracy they're facing.

RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars-n-Stripes

Daredevil #2, written by Mark Waid and pencilled by Paolo Rivera, on the other hand, felt like a solid chapter in a mystery story arc similar to the one that's going on over in Captain America, but with way more show-me and much less tell-me in the narrative. Ironically, the issue guest stars none other than good ol' Captain America himself, in a hero versus hero tête-à-tête that connects the dots between hornhead's current status quo with his recent actions in the Shadowland storyline that ended the last volume of his eponymous series. For those of us that have been following DD's story for some time, it was both an appreciated nod to the fact that continuity matters, and a reinforcement of Daredevil's essential quality as lawyer by day, and outlaw by night.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dungeons & Dragons Encounters: Lost Crown of Neverwinter, Episode 2

When last we saw my heroic alter ego for this season of D&D Encounters, Quendalon the Eladrin Bladesinger, he and his companions were catching their breath after having survived an attack of spellplagued drakes and zombies in a Neverwinter market square. Just as they managed to regroup and get their bearings, what should appear flying down from the sky but a spellplagued white dragon, come to angrily avenge the death of the drakes!

Thus picks up this week's episode of the Lost Crown of Neverwinter. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

REVIEW: Mouse Guard: Fall 1152

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, by author/illustrator David Petersen, is a soft cover graphic novel collecting the first six bi-monthly issues of the Eisner-award winning Mouse Guard comic book series published by Archaia Press.

The story centers around a society of anthropomorphic mice living in a medieval England-like period and setting. Specifically, the protagonists of the story are the titular Mouse Guard - a sworn brotherhood of mice who originally served as soldiers in a war against weasels, but now fulfill a variety of other roles - scouts, pathfinders, weather watchers, bodyguards, etc - for the civilians in mouse society.