Review: “To Alfred”: Batman: Pennyworth R.I.P.

Credit: Lee Weeks (DC Comics)

When Former Batman writer Tom King killed Alfred Pennyworth last August (Batman #77) everyone knew that the repercussions would ripple though the threads of of the Bat-Family. Now, about six months after publication, we all get to grieve. Writers Peter Tomasi and James Tynion IV team up with artists Eddy Barrows, Chris Burnham, Sumit Kumar, David Lafuente, Diogenes Neves, Marcio Takeral, and Eber Ferreira for DC’s sendoff to the butler.

The story itself opens at a public grieving event for Alfred, setting the tone for reader as one that’s going to be a roller coaster of emotions. Throughout the opening sequence, we begin to see just how fractured the “family” has become. Panel by panel, it becomes apparent that Alfred was the glue that held the family together. One might begin to wonder: “So then what now?”

Soon after, Barbara, Jason, Tim, Damian, and Dick (Ric) are meeting up in a bar rented out for them to mourn privately. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for everyone to start turning on each other. Pointing fingers and accusations are halted once Bruce enters the bar, stating “This isn’t what Alfred would have wanted.” Through and through, there seems to be a common trend of guilt for their actions not because they recognize their own faults, but when reminded what Alfred would think of it.

Throughout the story each family member recalls their fondest memories with Alfred. This is done through the progression of the resentment between everyone in the family being intercut with respective flashbacks of times Alfred was there to help them. Each story features another example of how Alfred’s empathy, sincerity, and thoughtfulness made him the architect of the bat-family. Moreover, the familial theme of this issue is never lost on the reader through both the past strength it once had and the fractured dysfunction that it’s become.

Unfortunately, each person’s tipping point seems to come soon after, as they file out one by one. As the issue nears its end, only Bruce and Dick (Ric) remain in the abandoned pub. That’s when things get gut-wrenching. Because Ric can’t remember a memory with Alfred, Bruce depicts one for us. Afterward, just as Ric is walking out, he leaves Bruce with a resonating parting thought for Bruce. “You have a lot of hard work to do to fix everything that man built for you. To honor him right.”

Overall, Batman: Pennyworth R.I. P. relies on the reader’s personal connection to either Alfred or at least one of the primary Bat-Family characters. However, there are a few glaring flaws within the issue. Primarily, each character is written as their New-52 self, contradicting previous writing showcasing a blend of their past and current forms. Also, the negation of Selina Kyle, Kate Kate, Cassandra Cain, and Duke Thomas as members of the family worthy of attending their private assembly seems inconsistent with recent writing for these characters.

Final Thoughts: Each artist helps bring to life their respective segments within the story while the writing attempts to pull the same emotional weight. However, the issue’s utilization of flashbacks is its true strength. Through each memory, it becomes more and more evident just how fractured everyone has become without Alfred to unite each other. It also poses the question: “What now?”

Rating: 7.5/10

Nightwing 80: Into the Fire

Art by Bruno Redondo (DC Comics)

It goes without saying that the Nightwing creative team is publishing one of the best comic books right now. Today’s Nightwing issue is nothing short of a shot of serotonin for Nightwing fans. Not only is this week’s supporting cast used to the best of their ability, but our titular character is once again the true example of what it means to be a hero. Once again, next to Superman, Dick Grayson is the one hero who is the most consistently the best example of how to be a hero.

Jumping straight into today’s issue, the story opens with Dick being accused of murder. Luckily, we all know he didn’t do it, and so does Barbara Gordon, his closest ally who also happens to have a law degree (so does Dick). After convincing the police officers that Dick is innocent, has an alibi, and that further questioning is a waste of time, Dick and Barbara get straight to work.

Speaking of allies, it’s about time another one of Dick’s closest allies helps out. Tim Drake, thought of by many as the best Robin, comes with a helping hand (and a new wallet for Dick). From this point on, it’s classic 90s nostalgia for everyone. Nightwing and Robin ride on top of a train, fight crime, and do some detective work. However, this shouldn’t dissuade readers from the ultimate cliffhanger, as Dick finally comes face to face with Heartless.

Tom Taylor continues to outdo himself with every new issue of Nightwing. What makes his characterization of Dick Grayson so good is he clearly has seen and heard the concerns fans have had over the last decade. They’re tired of Dick being dumbed down, being reduced to his body, and just being one dimensional. His Nightwing is nothing of the sort. Dick is every bit as intelligent, serious, sincere, and calculated as he should be as a strong leader. Similarly, Taylor continues to showcase Barbara Gordon’s intelligence and vast capabilities, resources, and (despite the current state of affairs DC has put the character in) makes her the strong warm character fans know and love. Aside from the two main characters of the series, our guest star Tim Drake is written amazingly. When Tom Taylor isn’t killing off Tim Drake in Injustice and DCeased, he writes a very compelling case for why the character is the best Robin. Tim embodies everything Robin is meant to be, and Taylor evidently recognizes his worth beyond being a tech-savvy genius. Tim has as big of a heart as Dick does. And the two aren’t just brothers for a reason. Today, fans were able to experience some of the best interactions the characters have had in the last decade.

Additionally, both Bruno Redondo and Adriano Lucas continue to spoil fans with some absolutely amazing art. Redondo flexes his artistic skill throughout the issue, displaying his various styles of art. Whether he’s showing Dick and Barbara walk thorugh his apartment from an bird’s eye view, showing Dick and Tim fight crime across a beautiful textless spread, or providing emotional depth through the slightest of facial expressions, Redondo is doing some of the best work in his career. Similarly, Adriano Lucas continues to have the colors bring a layer of vibrancy and emotion to the pages. The orange hue Lucas uses adds a fire of life to the story. Together, the pair are creating artwork that deserves to be framed in an art gallery.

Moreover, Nightwing #80 is nothing short of amazing. From the beginning, it’s been evident how many layers this story was going to have. Between Heartless, Melinda Zucco, and Blockbuster all working against Dick Grayson and Nightwing, this Nightwing run is shaping up to be one of, if not the best, the character has ever had. This issue is another example of how much love Taylor and co. have for the entire Nightwing-world (maybe he deserves his own corner in the DC Universe beyond the Batman line, DC). This issue not only meets expectations, but goes so far above and beyond it makes fans wonder when the story gets nominated for an Eisner.

Writing Review: 5/5

Art Review: 5/5

Overall Review: 10/10

Nocterra 3: Language of Light and Love or Language of Evil?

Art by Tony S. Daniel (image Comics)

From the very beginning, Nocterra has been nothing but action. It’s been a series where if you (or Val) stop to catch a breath, you’ll find yourself facing Blacktop Bill and eventually death. Part of what’s been so enjoyable about this series is is the creative team of Scott Snyder, Tony S. Daniel, and Tomeu Morey not pulling their punches. This isn’t a Batman story like they’ve worked on in the past, where a hero rises above. This is about survival. The sun isn’t coming back and neither is a sigh of relief.

The story opens as we find out why the world went dark, we also witness Val and Em decide whether or not to trust their turned parents beg them to let them inside. Throughout the issue, there is a constant debate about the concept of love, and if it even exists anymore. Maybe it does, but it doesn’t seem that way. Rather, it seems the world is so full of evil and cruelty that the only language left is one of evil.

The levels of evil and cruelty in this world are further built upon in this issue. Part of what makes this more compelling is when we realize some characters haven’t seen the sun. It’s an unexpected concept that I hadn’t thought of. The world has been dark for so long that people have been born and died without seeing the light. This also adds a layer of depth to the story, as we realize just how long the world has gone dark.

While we’re having these existential thoughts, Val and her passengers are driving for their life. Blacktop Bill is right on their tail, and he’s relentless. It doesn’t take long to realize that sacrifices have to be made if our titular character is going to get out of this alive. But will these sacrifices matter? Maybe, or maybe there’s another tragedy around the corner.

Part of what makes this series so enjoyable is because Scott Snyder isn’t holding back. The writing here is like nothing before, it’s him not holding back. This is a series where he doesn’t have to pull his punches. This is seen throughout the series as Snyder continues to keep the story fast-paced. Although there is proper world-building and depth added to the characters, there isn’t time to slow down and talk over a meal. Everything is done on the move.

Similar to Snyder, the artistic duo of Tony S. Daniel and Tomeu Morey is doing an amazing job engulfing the world in darkness. Part of what makes the story so captivating is how Daniel can draw a world covered in darkness. Because of this, Nocterra continues to be as exciting as a story since its premise. Along with Daniel, Morey can make the pencils of a dark post-apocalyptic world as vibrant as one filled with life.

Overall, Nocterra’s third issue continues to be just as exciting as the prior two. It’s a testament to how compelling storytellers Snyder, Daniel, and Morey are. As fast, paced as this story has been, it’s paid off. Nothing good is coming Val Rigg’s way, and certainly not light or love.

Writing review: 4/5

Art review: 4/5

Overall Review: 8/10

Review: Radiant Black 3

Radiant Black #3 | Image Comics
(Art by Marcelo Costa)

When the first issue of Radiant Black was released, many compared it to the hit series Invincible, however, it is not too much like that. Radiant Black is a modern story that is an example of how hard it is to find the motivation to get up and work. Without comparing and contrasting too much, Invincible is a very well-written series about developing into who one wants to be rather than what others around you expect you to be. It’s much more about being a hero first and person later. Whereas Radiant Black is the reverse, Nathan is a grown adult who wants to be a person first and a hero later. But being an adult is hard. Especially when you’re living at home desperate to finish your story. Kyle Higgins and Marcelo Costa once again publish another engaging and well-written issue that leaves readers ready for more.

Throughout the issue, Nathan struggles with these questions. Regardless of the environment, he puts himself in, he can’t seem to write his story. Nothing is good enough for him. Working at home won’t work; not with meddlesome parents who want to put in their two cents. Meanwhile, Marshall has his own questions to answer. like what should Nathan’s superhero name be? (Hint: it’s the book’s title).

Throughout the issue, Nathan’s self-doubt and anxiety are constantly at the forefront of the page. Marcelo Costa and Becca Carey make sure to emphasize this throughout facial expressions and word emphasis. One of the most attractive things in the story is how there are whole panels and pages dedicated to the actual story Nathan is writing, followed by more self-doubt and erasing of text. There isn’t much action in this issue, but it’s far from being devoid of conflict.

Kyle Higgins is writing some of the best work of his career with Radiant Black. Part of what makes the story so interesting and captivating is that it’s so easy for the reader to feel like Nathan. We aren’t all a novelist-to-be. However, the feeling of knowing what one wants to do, not having the right motivation to get down to it, being your own worst critique, and searching for inspiration are all things most people can relate to in one form or another. It’s clear this series is a personal one to the creative team, and that makes it so much easier to resonate with.

Moreover, this issue of Radiant Black is another strong step in the series that helps readers stay engaged for more than glamorous punches and lifting cars. What makes the series so captivating is the fact that when the normal day-to-day activities of Nathan are compelling, it makes for a more complete story. More than anything, it makes readers want to read Nathan’s book (and find out more about his powers in issue 4). It’s evident the that one of the main foundational themes in the series is what to do when you know what you want to be and simply don’t know how to do it? What do you do when you can’t bring yourself to put the pen to paper?

Writing review: 5/5

Art review: 5/5

Overall Review: 10/10

Writing review: 6/5

Art review: 5/5

Overall Review: 10/10

Review: Nightwing 79 is All About the Heart

Nightwing #79 Preview
Art by Bruno Redondo (DC Comics)

When the second preview for Nightwing 79 broke out, some fans were very vocal about the idea of Dick Grayson criticizing Bruce Wayne. However, when the full issue became available, it became evident to many how much of an inconsequential comment that was. Regardless of how Dick Grayson views how Bruce spends his time and resources, this story isn’t about Bruce. It’s about Dick Grayson, not his sidekick Batman(joke). When Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo finalized their work for Nightwing 79, they published an issue that properly emulates the character of Dick Grayson.

The duo of Taylor and Redondo wasted no time when creating the framework for their Nightwing story. The pair are clearly in this for the long-haul and have set up the baseline for multiple stories to come. However, today’s story isn’t about Blockbuster pulling the strings, it doesn’t delve too much into what Melinda Zucco is planning, nor does it elaborate on what Heartless is up to (or who they are). What it does instead shows what Dick plans to do with the fortune Alfred left behind for him.

Like the summary for the issue says, Dick has a lot of questions and not a lot of answers from the world. So, being the community-loving person he is who constantly pours his all into the world he lives in, Dick decides to answer one question himself. Blüdhaven is a city filled with the disenfranchised. The law doesn’t mean anything there because the justice system is broken. It’s a city that needs saving. Dick decides to start saving the city one slice at a time. After encountering a homeless father, Martin, and his son, Dick decides to buy food for the community. well providing housing for the two. A nice easter egg, as the Pizza shop Dick buys pizza from is “Marv & George’s Pizza,” a nice nod to the co-creators of Nightwing.

Throughout the issue, there is a consistent theme of the importance of one’s heart. For years, DC has pushed that Dick Grayson is the “heart of DC,” a sentiment feared and not frequently handled well by most writers. Tom Taylor is not most writers. Dick Grayson has a huge heart, but that doesn’t make him a big softie who “leads with his heart and thinks later.” Rather, it means Dick likes to put himself where the problems are instead of in a mansion above. Dick’s constant want and aim to improve the community and people in it is seen from his non-violent actions more than his life as a hero. Taylor essentially reminds readers why Dick does things like buying pizza for a whole community instead of only punching bad guys.

The issue isn’t just about Dick’s heart. It’s about Blüdhaven and the people within it. Taylor utilized different angles of perception to showcase the many ways the city is broken. Unlike Gotham, a city filled with bats, Blüdhaven doesn’t have that. Nightwing was gone for quite a while, and in that time the injustice within the city broke its people. And that Nightwing is back, there are a lot of problems for him and Oracle to tackle.

Taylor’s writing is very compelling and detailed throughout the story. His storytelling excellently details the story without having any time to idly sit by. It’s another very fluid story that combines the emotions of Dick with the empathy the reader builds for the city of Blüdhaven. Wes Abbott’s letters are also not lost to the reader. What Abbott does so well is to properly emphasize the dialogue watthour having it take up the page and detract from the scenery. Along with the writing is the amazing combination of Redondo and Lucas’s excellent art. Bruno Redondo is one of the best artists at the time. Couple him with Adriano Lucas and readers get to enjoy some absolutely stellar art. The use of vibrant colors and attestation to detail brings the story to life. Everything is colorfully emotive in all the right ways. Overall, the entire creative team once again publishes a compelling story that leaves readers ready for more.

Moreover, Nightwing 79 is a phenomenal story that brings a lot of grounding to the story. It’s a strong issue that helps give legs to the story and provides some proper groundwork for the story. The story is a strong indication of what Tom Taylor intends to do with Nightwing in the city: provide a safety net.

Writing review: 5/5

Art review: 5/5

Overall review: 10/10

Review: Nocterra #2

Amazon.com: Nocterra #2 eBook: Snyder, Scott, Daniel, Tony Salvador, Morey,  Tomeu, Daniel, Tony Salvador, Morey, Tomeu: Kindle Store

As the story of Val Riggs continues, her ability to overcome obstacles similarly continues. While stopping in the Neon Grove, Scott Snyder, Tony S. Daniel, and Tomeu bring a new layer of depth and intensity to the story.

Things are not looking good for Val. Her brother Emory is getting worse, and traveling in a semi-truck with passengers is no easy business. But maybe, just maybe, this is the dark before the light. Hopefully. But probably not.

About 245 miles later, Val reaches the Neon Grove, which gives Tony S. Daniel and Tomeu Morey the perfect opportunity to show his masterful art style. The Grove is nothing short of beautiful, to begin with, but with Daniel and Morey together, it looks even more beautiful. The colors pop so much in contrast to the darkness of the world consuming everyone and everything. Additionally, the attention to detail across the Neon Grove spread only further shows how much effort was put into the page.

As the story progresses, we come to realize it doesn’t take a sudden realization for Val to be suspicious of Augustus. She can sniff out a liar like nobody’s business, and Augustus is lying. By this point of the story, we find out Blacktop Bill not only wiped out everyone else, but he’s right around the corner waiting. Val has a choice: give up Augustus and Bailey or hit the nitro and get the heck out of town.

The focal point of the story seems to trust. Things haven’t gone well for Val so far in her life. And now the world has gone to hell. Opening herself up hasn’t come easy, much less to strangers. It seems as the story progresses, so will Val’s openness with those around her. Part of what makes this such a compelling storytelling technique is because of how the story parallels the current world situation. Aren’t we all a little less trusting lately? Crossing the street when someone coughs, eyeballing whether someone properly has their mask on, not wanting to walk too close to people in the store. Part of what makes Nocterra so compelling is how easy it is to relate with Val.

Overall, Nocterra 2 is a strong second issue in the series. The character building for Val and Augustus helps carry the story through the heavy dialogue. Additionally, the art team of Tony S. Daniel and Tomeu Morey brings the story to life and helps the characters pop from the dark world around them.

Writing review: 8/5

Art review: 4/5

Overall review: 8/10

Review: Radiant Black #2

(Art by Marcelo Costa)

A month after it’s debut, issue two of Radiant Black is finally out. Writer Kyle Higgins and artist Marcelo Costa continue to write a strong story for Nathan. While introducing the story’s antagonist, issue two also further develops Nathan and builds on his relationships.

The story opens up where the first issue ended, with Natan connected with a mysterious cosmic force, saving the day, and finally coming home. The character building starts right away as we begin to better understand the relationship between Nathan and his father. They’re not the best of buds. A father with expectations and a son who just lost his job are by nature going to clash. And clash they do, while eating breakfast.

Meanwhile, the police who Nathan encountered certainly didn’t forget him. In fact, they found out where he lives (spoiler, don’t do super hero things a block from where you live). They’re not mad for lifting them in the air, however, much like Nathan’s father, they now have expectations for him. This isn’t Metropolis or Star City, this is ‘real life’ and they know what happens when someone gets mysterious powers and saves someone; a superhero is born. And that’s what they’re seemingly there tp push Nathan towards.

Before Nathan can go save the world, he has to learn how to use his powers. After hearing about the mysterious bank robber with similar powers and a red version of his suit, Nathan decides to look for them in the Windy City. Driving people around, you hear a few stories, so it’s only natural one of the people Nathan drives remembers seeing ‘Radiant Red’. Their first encounter isn’t what Nathan expected, as he makes a new enemy, gets his butt kicked, and almost totals his car. However he does get one thing: a new purpose.

Kyle Higgins does a spectacular job with this issue. The creative freedom that comes from Image Comics provides him the flexibility to not worry about speedy pasting, editorial control, or losing his creativity. The story has been an absolute delight from the beginning. Part of what makes Radiant Black so enjoyable is how grounded and relatable it is. Along with this comes a little bit of slow pacing, but it’s clearly intentional to both develop characters and not rush the conflict. Along with Higgins pouring his passion for the media in the issue is the love and skill Marcelo Costa brings along. Costa’s definitive linework is similar enough to Ryan Ottley that the parallels between Radiant Black and Invincible continue. Costa’s vibrant colors, attention to detail, and fun style to bring mysterious alien objects to life makes this story so entertaining.

Overall, Radiant Black 2 is just as enjoyable as the introductory one, and similarly leaves fans wanting more. The creators Kyle Higgins and Marcelo Costa continue to bring their A-game for this series, gearing up for what appears to be a new classic.

Writing review: 4/5

Art review: 5/5

Overall review: 9/10

Nightwing 78: Leaping into the Light

Art by Bruno Redondo (DC Comics)

Nightwing is finally good again. For months after the announcement Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo would be taking over the title, fans have been chomping at the bits to find out more information about their first issue. Now, two previews later, and Nightwing 78 is available in stores and it’s amazing. The title “Leaping into the Light” is a worthy title for one of the most energetic, life-filled, and proper writing Nightwing has had in a decade.

The premise of this fresh start for DC’s Infinite Frontier era is that anyone can pick up this issue and be well off. The familiar for old fans is just as you’d expect it, things are exciting and ominous for newcomers, and for fans of all lengths, this is the perfect issue. The night before the issue’s release, Tom Taylor excited fans even more so. After so very nicely replying to my question as to what to expect in his run on the character, Taylor said “[Dick Grayson’s] one of the world’s greatest detectives and one of the best fighters in the DC universe. That shouldn’t be ignored just because he’s humble and a little self-deprecating.”

For Nightwing fans everywhere, this was news worth more than gold. It seems that the run will be reminding many fans what makes Nightwing so important to the DC Universe while also bringing him to a new level.

That being said, the issue itself opens with a young Dick Grayson beating up some school bullies (with the help of Barbara Gordon and her father). The importance of this isn’t lost on anyone as Dick narrates, reminding readers about his dislike for bullies. When fans were told a main factor of this story would be Dick Grayson’s heart, some raised an eyebrow. Too often has Dick been shown recently as act first-think later, but that’s far from the case here. In the words of the late Alfred Pennyworth to a young Dick Grayson, “Master Bruce may feel you should only be a hero when wearing a costume. But I’m glad Dick Grayson steps up when someone is in need. It takes a different hero to help without a mask.” And just like that, the blueprint behind the plans for Taylor’s Nightwing run has become clear. This will be a run on the character that showcases Dick’s innate will to do good, his ability to be a driving force of nature, and his intelligence.

As the story progresses, we see the familiar preview pages of Nightwing saving a three-legged puppy from some low-level criminals. It’s a very meta moment that shows all of Nightwing’s abilities at once. His acrobatic skill, hand-to-hand combat, and short temper are all on display here. Meanwhile, Blockbuster has been working in the shadows while Dick was away. This Blockbuster is different from the Rebirth version. By all accounts, he’s become as powerful in Blüdhaven as Wilson Fisk has in New York. The parallels aren’t lost through his three-piece suit, secret meetings with those in power he controls, and crushing of faces in his huge hands.

Meanwhile, Dick has received some huge news. Barbara Gordon, the executor of Alfred Pennyworth’s will, has come to deliver the reading to Dick. While Alfred was doing the dishes, stitching wounds, and being the linchpin of the Bat-Family, he was also secretly rich. And although Bruce Wayne isn’t a billionaire anymore, Dick Grayson is now. It seems Alfred left Dick just about every penny he had. Why? Well, that answer can only be found in the most heartwarming letter I dare not spoil here. As the issue closes, things seem to be looking up for Dick Grayson. So it’s just about time to introduce the other villain who’s got her sights on Dick Grayson (not Nightwing): Melinda Zucco, daughter of Tony Zucco (who killed Dick’s parents for those who might not remember).

Everything about this issue is a dream come true. Tom Taylor’s track record with writing heroes speaks for itself. Everything he touches turns to gold. His comprehension of what fans value about the character, what editorial wants to be executed, and what makes Nightwing so important all come together in his vision for the character. Along with him is Bruno Redondo, one of the best artists in the industry. His ability to bring a story to life is constantly getting better. His vivid art style, defined facial expressions, and ability to have the story flow are what make him so great. What makes this all so much more wonderful is the coloring from Adriano Lucas and Wes Abbott’s lettering. Together, this entire creative team released the most anticipated comic in months and didn’t just deliver but exceeded expectations.

Writing review: 5/5

Art review: 5/5

Overall Review: 10/10

Nocterra: The Sky has Fallen

Art by Tony S. Daniel

When Scott Snyder and Tony S. Daniel announced they’d be working on a Kickstarter together, all eyes were on the duo. Taking a step back from DC to work on a creative project, the two quickly gained enough money for Kickstarter to meet its goal. And if you blinked and missed it, the first issue is now sold out at most local comic book stores.

Everything was normal until the world went dark. When an everlasting night, referred to as the PM, engulfed the world everything fell apart. Those who couldn’t stay near any light turned into a monster like shades. Not just humans, every living organism. Ten years later and Valentina Riggs makes her living as a ferryman transporting people and goods to safety. When an offer that seems too good to be true comes up, and it might be, Val decides to take a leap of faith and get in her eighteen-wheeler on a quest that’s sure to be “full-throttle dark.”

Nocterra is a story with a few inspirations. Originally from Snyder’s childhood fear of the dark, the author was motivated “to do a book where the dark is as scary as you fear it was a kid. Where it transforms.” The story of Nocterra couldn’t have come at a more (metaphorically) opportune time, with the current COVID-19 pandemic quite similarly altering the state of the world. Perhaps what makes this story so intriguing is how much readers can relate to the same question Val seems to be asking: “Where were you the day the world changed?”. It’s the compelling storytelling of Scott Snyder that makes this horrific world come to life with all the grit and intensity one could hope for.

Although much of this first issue is world-building, it does an exceptional job at it. Throughout the issue, new elements and characters are incorporated into the world that further bring it to life. Whether it be new information, high stakes, and conflict, or the beginning of a mystery, Nocterra’s first issue doesn’t a little bit of everything. Scott Snyder is no newcomer to opening a series with an engaging thriller-mystery blend (Black Mirror, Gates of Gotham, and the Court of Owls all come to mind), so it’s no surprise how comfortable his writing appears to be. Being in his element with the creative freedom to make a post-apocalyptic series just as compelling and engaging as The Walking Dead.

Along with Snyder’s superb writing, artist Tony S. Daniel brings his A-game in this series. Maybe it’s just nice to see him draw something besides Batman, or maybe it’s his extreme skill being shown, but this might be some of the artist’s best work. Not only is Nocterra visually appealing, but every aspect of this dark world comes to life. Part of what makes Daniel’s art so appealing is the attention to the little details. What gets lost in his style of facial expressions is made up in his attention to detail that brings the story to life. This is further accomplished by Tomeu Morey’s colors. For a world engulfed in darkness, Morey makes sure that this issue is perfectly stark with life and intensity. Morey’s vibrant colors are part of what makes him one is the way colorists in modern comics, and this is seen once again in Nocterra’s first issue.

Overall, Nocterra is off to a great start with its first issue. Whether it be the world-building, early signs of character development and bridging relationships, or the looming threat, Nocterra has it all. With an all-star creative team, its final page leaves readers yearning for more.

Writing rating: 5/5

Art rating: 4/5

Overall rating: 9/10

Future State Nightwing 2: A Dynamic Finale

Art by Yasmine Putri (DC Comics)

Dick Grayson is ready to put an end to the Magistrate once and for all or die trying. Partnering with The Next Batman, the two plan to bring the dynamic duo back for one last dance against the villains of Gotham. Writer Andrew Constant partners with Nicola Scott to deliver the final issue of their two-part story in the Future State imitative.

Part of what makes this story so great is how Constant characterizes Nightwing. Recently he’s been in such a painful limbo his own ongoing was hard to read. But Andrew Constant understands why Dick Grayson thrives so well when he’s Nightwing. Throughout the story, it’s evident Dick feels he’s alone, lost everything, and has nothing to lose.

It’s through their team-up that Nightwing decides to go from wanting to be a martyr to rising above and being the hero. As the story progresses, The Next Batman seems to be the pathos of the story, reminding the reader and protagonist that Nightwing isn’t someone to be taken lightly, nor is he someone under Batman, but someone of equal importance. And of course, it wouldn’t be a heartwarming story without a few other friends showing up to remind Nightwing that there is always another day after the dark night.
It’s through this that Constant’s depiction of The Next Batman comes in as an effective storytelling device. Rather than being like his predecessor, this new Batman has the outside perspective needed for this story. Rather than having this story be another Batman overshadowing Nightwing to save the day, the two bounce off each other perfectly.
The art in the story is to be expected, It’s pretty from afar, however, Scott’s faces always seem to look rough and unfinished. Although the backgrounds of the story are pretty, and the fights appear as acrobatic as one would expect in a Nightwing book, it just doesn’t sell for me.

Overall, Future State Nightwing 2 is a compelling closing story that delivers a well-needed reminder of why Nightwing is so important. With the overall Future State event coming to a close, it was nice to see even in the future Dick Grayson is still one of the smartest, strongest, most influential characters in the DC Universe.

Writing rating: 4/5

Art Rating: 3/5

Overall Rating: 7/10

Radiant Black #1: An Invigorating Introductory Issue

Art by Michael Cho

After a long-awaited debut, Radiant Black is finally on the shelves. Taking a few cues from other series’ like Invincible and Power Rangers, Radiant Black is the beginning of a new vibrant series. As stated by Invincible creator Robert Kirkman, Radiant Black is “the perfect superhero comic for anyone missing Invincible” and he’s right. Creators Kyle Higgins and Marcelo Costa introduce their new superhero comic for Image Comics with a relatable and grounded first issue.

The story opens with our protagonist at his rock bottom. Nathan Burnett is drowning in debt, an unfinished (or barely begun) script, and is forced to move back home to live with his parents. Leaving sunny Los Angeles for the gloomy and snowy suburbs of Illinois is just the most recent moment of humiliation for Nathan. Things seem pretty depressing for Nathan, who doesn’t seem to have much going for him (a bit of that Parker Luck seems to have caught wind over in Illinois) until his friend Marshall takes him out for a few drinks.

Just as they’re about to take a cab back home, the two friends notice something strange. Floating in front of them is the cosmic radiant power, which of course Nathan feels inclined to touch. It’s a heartwarmingly predictable sequence not too different from Hal Jordan picking up the lantern, to Peter Parker being bitten by a spider, or Wally West being struck by lightning, and suddenly our main character had unlocked the delicate and unknown powers of the cosmic radiant. And just like that, a superhero is born.

The story itself starts kind of slow, but only to properly introduce readers to Nathan and invite them to better empathize with his life. However, as the story progresses, it’s evident how much of his heart and soul Kyle Higgins poured into this script. Perfectly complemented by the vibrant work of Marcelo Costa, who brings the story to life through expressive linework and animated coloring that makes the story come to life. Letter Becca Carey does a wonderful job making sure the text of the story has a fluid progression; with a strong emphasis on the character’s emotions.

When Higgins said “Radiant Black is both a love letter to the superhero stories I love as well as a statement on what I think superheroes can be for a whole new generation” it’s evident how much he meant it. Nathan is the person who’s trying his best and just doesn’t feel like they’re doing enough. The person who seems to be getting a little smackdown from life. What makes the story so invigorating is the play on the typical superhero origin Higgins provides. Nathan is a 30-year-old man rather than a high schooler with their life ahead of them. This is his life. He’s already done all the schooling and growing that most heroes go through while gaining their powers. However, it’s evident Nathan’s life is about to take an unexpected direction.

Moreover, Radiant Black #1 is a fun and exciting start to a new series. Between Higgin’s expertise writing and Costa’s art that seems to fit the series like a glove, the issue leaves readers eager for more of this new world.

Writing Rating: 5/5

Art Rating:4/5

Overall rating: 9/10

Future State: Wonder Woman #2

Art by Joëlle Jones (DC Comics)

Picking up where her inaugural issue left off, writer and artist Joëlle Jones close her introduction to Yara Flor by giving readers a well-rounded understanding of the newest Wonder Woman. Partnered with colorist Jordie Bellaire, Joëlle Jones’ two-part story through Future State is the most refreshing and well-needed story DC’s been missing. Through and through, we continue to love Yara as she overcomes the obstacles in front of her with more brazen defiance, wit, and confidence.

The issue opens with our new hero deciding rather than fighting Cerberus, the guard dog for the Underworld, she might as well play fetch with him. Getting past him and through the River Styx, we begin to see how Jones intertwines the past and present into the story. While the present sees Yara along her journey in the not so bright Underworld, the past is positively glowing as we learn how her fallen sister Portia died. These flashbacks are beautifully depicted in a sketched manner in comparison to the utterly gorgeous and defined present.

The story wastes no time introducing the lord of the dead. Hades is far from pleased at all the trouble Yara’s been causing in his domain. However, Hades’ temper is balanced by his compassionate wife Persephone. The result in their generous compromise for Yara is a race against the clock: find and return with Portia and the two Amazons can leave in peace. Sounds too good to be true? It might be.

What makes this story so beautiful is the message Jones and Bellaire set out on delivering. Future State: Wonder Woman isn’t just a story to introduce the world to the next Wonder Woman, a hero with far more charm and wit than her predecessor, but it’s a story about life, death, and acceptance. This story is a masterpiece that is further complemented by Yara herself. Rather than telling this message through a wiser character like Diana, Donna, or even Cassie, the introduction of Yara Flor makes it all the more relatable. It becomes easy to relate to Yara. She’s eager to see what’s next, ready for action, and plans on doing it with a smile on her face. Making a story about accepting what’s out of our control all the more balanced and grounded in reality. Often, we aren’t ready to face reality, we’d rather continue as things are, but none of that will lead to acceptance. This message becomes clear to both the reader and Yara by the end.

From cover to cover, Future State: Wonder Woman is a beautifully depicted story in every way possible. Looking past the storytelling for a moment, Jones and Bellaire hit a grand slam with their creativity and passion put to their respective pens. Each panel is colorfully depicted; which reminds the reader how new and eager our new Wonder Woman is. Furthermore, the slight separation between foreground and background through definition and intensity of color create an engaging story that doesn’t distract from where our focus should be.

Overall, this story seems to remind readers this is only the beginning for Yara Flor. The world is her oyster and everyone knows it.

Writing rating: 5/5

Art rating: 5/5

Overall rating: 10/10

Future State Nightwing: Refreshingly Grimdark

Future State: Nightwing #1 review | Batman News
Art by Nicola Scott (DC Comics)

In a not too distant possible future, Gotham City is in shambles. Bruce Wayne is dead (or believed to be- see Future State Dark Detective), and the militaristic Magistrate has crushed the hope out of everyone. Despite this Dick Grayson, leader of the resistance, is ready to go to war and save the future of a cyberpunk flavored Gotham City. Partnered with artist Nicola Scott, Andrew Constant makes his Nightwing debut with one of the most exhilarating stories that exemplify what Nightwing is supposed to represent.

The story opens with Nightwing allowing himself to fall into one of the Magistrate’s many traps for him. One of many staged attacks on “innocent citizens” that are aimed to bait Dick into their clutches. However, Dick Grayson isn’t an idiot. And unlike some other writers’ recent misconceptions about him, Dick Grayson does not follow his heart. He’s every bit as calculated, perceptive, and observant as Batman, if not more so. This is evident considering one doesn’t become the leader of the masked resistance without being a little ahead of the game.

Meanwhile, the Magistrate believes to have the upper hand on him. Peacekeeper-01, the apparent leader of the Magistrate’s task force, is just as aware as the reader of how capable Nightwing is. However, they seem to have “hooked” Nightwing into their plan, aiming to set an example through his death. Through this sequence, we learn more about how the Magistrate operates. Their apparent goal isn’t simply to replace the GCPD but liberate Gotham from its past.

As the story progresses, we gain a little more insight into Dick’s mindset to see how things have changed for him. Every day seems to be a battle for him. Wearing the guilt of Bruce Wayne’s “death” over his head, Dick has become worn down, tired, and distrusting of The New Batman. Dick views him as an imposter and has no interest in finding out the man behind the cowl.

The two seem to begrudgingly form an alliance as the issue closes up. Maye Dick has put his bitterness on the shelf. Or maybe he sees the bigger threat knocking at his front door.

Andrew Constant’s script is rather straightforward, but riveting nonetheless. Constant’s interpretation of Dick is unlike the happy go lucky fool DC Rebirth has pushed down our throat. He’s far more true to who he’s been for decades before the last six years. This Nightwing is far more in line with many previous writers’ understanding. His ability to read body language is utilized more intricately throughout the issue. It’s a skill of his that extends beyond just fighting. His brutality is a little more intense than expected, but not out of character. Rather, it’s refreshing to see Dick Grayson express his anger towards crime.

Nicola Scott’s art is a little rigid. Her characters’ are unable to have appealing faces while in movement. It’s clear her strength comes from when characters aren’t moving. This doesn’t help considering how acrobatic and fluid Nightwing is. Also, something that always rubs me the wrong way is how Scott sexualizes Dick Grayson. If it isn’t an oddly placed butt shot, it’s an unnecessary and uncomfortable shower scene. It isn’t that a shower scene doesn’t even make sense in a story, but the placement of it breaks the fluid storytelling. Though the idea was probably to deliver a scene where Dick lets his guard down, this scene simply doesn’t make sense unless its goal was to show his body off.

Overall, Future State Nightwing is a strong story that continuously keeps the reader engaged. For a story that sets up what seems to be Nightwing’s last stand, it does a lot to build the character and give the reader a more grounded perspective as to what’s happened to Gotham City. While keeping readers on the edge of their seats, the story closes by setting up its final issue.

Writing rating: 5/5

Art rating: 2.5/5

Overall rating: 7.5/10

Future State Wonder Woman: A Sensational Story

Future State: Wonder Woman (2021) Chapter 1 - Page 1

Yara Flor’s Wonder Woman has been one of the most anticipated stories from DC’s Future State initiative. Although DC plans to incorporate multiple Wonder Women stories in Future State, this is Yara Flor’s debut appearance. Joëlle Jones hit a grand slam when she wrote and penciled this story. With colors by Jordie Bellaire, the two created one of the most exciting stories in years from DC. The story of Yara Flor appears to be a wonderful combination of Greek mythology and Brazilian folklore that seems to set her up as a great new hero.

The story opens up with Yara Flor battling a hydra, showcasing her strength and prowess. Yara resonates with confidence, life, and joy. She isn’t that much like Diana, where Diana might show humility and pride, Yara shows excitement. The differences between the two continue as Yara’s costume pops more. Diana’s costume resembles the patriotism of what DC traditionally wanted Wonder Woman to represent. However, Yara’s costume is more unique to her. Probably the most exciting difference is her use of Bolas instead of the Lasso of truth. All of this embodies her themescyrian roots but also differentiates her from the traditional Amazonian.

As the story progresses, we discover the supporting cast to be used in this story as well as Yara’s mission. To further intermingle the Greek and Brazilian mythos, Yara’s two-parters are representative of each culture. Like any great hero, she has a Pegasus, named Jerry. In addition to her, we meet Caipora, an entity of the Tupi-Guarani mythology in Brazil, who represents the “inhabitants of the forest”. Joëlle Jones does a wonderful job incorporating these side characters while giving some background information as to their relationships with Yara.

As for her mission, Yara is on a direct path for Hades, who took one of her sisters in arms. Although this is her debut issue, Yara is not new to the hero business. She carries confidence just as evidently as she wears her armor. Some might see this as hubris, but it’s intended to showcase her humanity. By intent, Joëlle Jones intends to showcase how human Yara is. By doing so, it better depicts what kind of hero we’re being introduced to. However, considering this story has elements of many Greek heroes, one can only expect some form of tragedy and conflict in the future.

Throughout the story, a narrator guides the reader along the way. Introducing us to her background and providing light to her purpose in life. It’s an interesting twist, since text boxes are usually used for a character to think to oneself. But rather, Yara Flor thinks out loud. By writing like this, Joëlle Jones goes out of the ordinary, and it onlty add on to the story. From this, we gain a better understanding to Yara, and also an element of mystery is added. Who is the narrator? It’s an unknown character, perhaps Hades himself? Only time will tell as we learn more about the new sensational Wonder Woman.

This is Joëlle Jones best work yet. Her storytelling is more powerful than any other writer, delivering a great epic to introduce Yara Flor and the world around her. The characters have life, love, and an aura of energy that’s unlike most other DC stories. Rather than being a consuming depth of darkness, this story is exactly what DC’s been missing for years: a good story for a compelling character that draws in all kinds of readers. In addition to her writing, her art is glorious. Each panel perfectly depicts the characters and draws them in. Not to mention, the background is gorgeous. Joëlle Jones does a wonderful job incorporating the background in a unique way that only adds to the foreground and story. Not all artists are capable of doing this without there being an obvious difference in style. No, from front to back, this story consistently showcases all of what a great hero story should encapsulate.

Whether or not anyone’s read any Wonder Woman stories in the past, this is the perfect jumping title. The only comparison to be made in recent times is the introduction of Miles Morales as Spider-Man. This addition to the Wonder Women mythos is one that will hopefully continue to flourish. The Wonder Woman of Future State is an extraordinary story that goes above and beyond just being a great comic book introductory issue, but the beginning of a hero’s journey.

Review: 10/10

Review: Dark Nights Death Metal: The Last Stories of the DC Universe

Art by Dee Cunniffe and Tula Lotay (DC Comics)

Dark Nights Death Metal: The Last Stories of the DC Universe is a lovely farewell story to the DC Rebirth initiative. For a while now, it’s seemed like the rebirth concept had been fading, but with Dark Nights: Death Metal coming to a close ( and DC Future State on the rise) it’s been made clear that the overall themes from DC Rebirth are ending. All roads lead to darkness, or at least that’s the impression readers were having until the plans for DC Future State and 2021 started to be talked about. It seems like a new, more solidified age of storytelling is coming, and it all starts with the ending for Death Metal. Writers Jeff Lemire, Mark Waid, Joshua Williamson, James Tynion IV, Scott Snyder, Christopher Sebela, Mariko Tamaki, Gail Simone, Cecil Castellucci worked with artists Mirka Andolfo, Rafael Albuquerque, Francis Manapul, Meghan Hetrick, Daniel Sampere, Travis Moore, Christopher Mooneyham to wrap up every major loose end from the current DC Universe in an 80-page special.

The Titans reunite in Together in an opening story (and closing story) by Joshua Williamson, James Tynion IV, and Scott Snyder with art by Travis Moore. With the end of the world coming it seems like there’s no better time than the present for a Titans party. It’s a very nostalgic story from the point of view of Donna Troy. Titans from all generations have gathered together for one last push for justice. This is the first time in a long time that DC has acknowledged almost every iteration of the Teen Titans. More importantly, this is the first time in a long time Donna Troy led a story with such power and grace that could only be compared to a goddess. There are irreplaceable moments of pure love that the writers put into every character and it’s clear that Tynion, Williamson, and Snyder have an immense understanding of the characters. Williamson has the passion and excitement to write the Titans, something we’ve seen in Justice League lately, and also has a strong depth of knowledge for the speedsters. Tynion, as usual, showcases his ability to write young heroes, such as the Young Justice/Teen Titans members of the group. Meanwhile, Scott Snyder seemingly continues to put his love for older heroes such as Nightwing, Garth, Donna Troy, and a few special guest stars. Now, it isn’t determined who wrote which characters, but when writers such as these work together, it’s obvious where their strengths came into play. All of the beauty of this story couldn’t be done without the wonderful Travis Moore. Moore’s art is inexplicably perfect throughout every single moment of the issue. Overall, Together is one of the most wonderful stories in years for Titans fans.

Meanwhile, Jeff Lemire and Rafael Albuquerque do a wonderful job with Green Lantern in Last Nights, pairing together two unexpected allies. With the end of the world just around the corner, Hal Jordan decides to do the most in-character thing he could do, fly and think about his dad. Things get more complicated when Sinestro decides to rear his head. This time though, Hal’s in no mood to fight. I’ll be honest, Jeff Lemire did a better job selling me on Hal Jordan in one issue than Grant Morrison has in four volumes. His ability to get down to the core of the character and what he holds closest in his heart is a refreshing scene compared to what we’ve had recently. Additionally, Albuquerque does a wonderful job drawing Hal and Sinestro. The facial expression and emotions expressed through this art is a great mix of soft and descriptive. Overall, this is a strong heartwarming issue that leaves hope for the future for Green Lantern fans.

Mariko Tamaki and Daniel Sampere deliver a powerful Wonder Woman story in The Question. Death Metal has been a Wonder Woman story from the beginning, but given all the other plot points it’s been hard to add real depth to the character. However, Tamaki hits home with its call to action. Although a little too wordy in some points, the overall idea of uniting one last time and recognizing the stakes while remaining hopeful is a nice story.

The most emotional story in this issue is the Green Arrow and Black Canary story Dust of a Distant Storm. While Gail Simone does a great job with two of the most important characters she’s ever written, Meghan Hetrick’s art is a little too soft for me. The story itself is a true example of what happens when a writer loves characters so much and understands their power together. However, Hetrick’s faces are a little weird, with big eyes and overly defined lips. Nonetheless, the art conveys a loving warm tone that compliments the writing. Overall though, the story leaves more questions for the future for the happy couple and is a perfect example of what a writer means to make a love letter to characters.

As much as I’ve enjoyed Aquaman’s series lately, Christopher Sebela and Christopher Mooneyham miss the mark for me in Whale Fall. Mooneyham’s art is extraordinarily descriptive and emotive, which makes this even more frustrating. However, Sebela’s storytelling was far too wordy and a good amount of the issue could be spent trying to determine who this letter Arthur wrote is directed towards.

Unfortunately, the next story is only worse. Cecil Castellucci is arguably the worst thing to ever happen to Batgirl. Through and through, her fondness for ableism continues to show its ugly head with the continuous mistreatment of Barbara’s previous physical disability. In addition to this, she completely misinterprets the relationship between Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon. What’s even more frustrating is the nonchalant nature of her understanding of the overall relationships in the Batfamily. Although claiming the “family’s all here,” many notable characters are missing. Not to mention the blatant confusion between Tim Drake and Damian Wayne. This is an almost ironic example of how little DC cares to differentiate and represent the two characters. This story was nothing but a failure.

On a far brighter note, Mark Waid’s grand return to DC Comics was more than a grand slam, it was the holy grail. Partnered with hidden gem Frances Manpaul. Man of Tomorrow sees Superman attempt to beat his greatest enemy: the clock. There are dozens of stories that show Superman save the world, stop a crisis, or be grounded on earth, but he’s never been able to do it all. Well, now, at least for a little, he does. Mark Waid has a knack for being one of the best writers in all of comics, and that’s because he gets it. Mark Waid gets the characters he writes, he understands their core themes and motives. And with what one can only hope to be the first of many, Mark Waid writes Superman perfectly. Partnered with Manpaul, and we get one of the most powerful stories in the issue. Manpaul’s great at drawing characters and blending them with the background, and because he also colors the issue, he also adds life and warmth to the story that no other colorist could envision. Overall, this story is nothing short of perfect.

Looking at the issue as a whole, and one can see it’s a mixed bag of talent. Although certain stories drag and are a blatant misrepresentation of the characters, there are far more stories that succeed where they fail.

Rating: 6.5/10