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Grumpy Old Fan | This and that about ‘Aquaman and The Others’

I hope Jurgens names the trident Mr. Pokey

I hope Jurgens names the trident “Mr. Pokey”

DC Comics’ current publishing pattern seems to center around growing various franchises, like Batman, Superman, Green Lantern and the Justice League. Aquaman is one of the publisher’s more familiar faces, he’s rooted pretty deeply in the superhero line, and he’s even had a good bit of multimedia exposure. However, when the April solicitations came out at the end of January, I wasn’t sure the world had been clamoring for another Aquaman title.

After reading the first issue of Aquaman and the Others — written by Dan Jurgens, penciled by Lan Medina, inked by Allen Martinez and colored by Matt Milla — I’m still not entirely convinced. AATO #1 is a solid first issue, dealing largely in traditional superhero matters, but its last-minute attempt to tie into the larger DC Universe comes from out of left field, and threatens to hijack the main narrative. Otherwise, it’s a fine reintroduction which gives newcomers a good glimpse at characters who are still pretty obscure.  Still, those good fundamentals will have to overcome the why-should-I-care factor.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Form, function and ‘Forever Evil’

Buy this comic or we'll shoot this tycoon

Buy this comic or we’ll shoot this tycoon

Readers of superhero comics have long debated the merits of “decompression” and “waiting for the trade.” You can either read a serialized story as it comes out, or you can wait until it’s collected. With two issues to go, it looks like Forever Evil wants it both ways. It is structured for the Wednesday crowd but written for the trade; and so far, the result is a grim, vignette-driven affair. Writer Geoff Johns and artists David Finch and Ivan Reis (and their various collaborators) have set up an apocalyptic scenario and teased a handful of elements pointing toward its resolution; but they haven’t otherwise done much, issue to issue, to move the story closer to that resolution. Indeed, the deeper I get into Forever Evil, the more I suspect that it — like its prologue, “Trinity War” — may be only the latest chapter in an ever-expanding saga.

By itself that would be unsatisfying enough. However, Forever Evil was supposed to show off DC’s shared universe (New 52 edition). To be fair, its Justice League crossover issues have presented New 52 versions of Plastic Man, the Doom Patrol and the Metal Men, and alluded to past battles with old-school villains like Ultivac and the Construct. Still, except for the Metal Men, none seems directly related to FE’s eventual outcome; and each seems intended instead as an Easter egg or the seed of a future series. Indeed, while the “Blight” crossover has shown what happened to the magic-based superheroes, FE itself hasn’t delved too far into the whereabouts of DC-Earth’s non-Leaguer super-folk. For those of us wanting each issue to go somewhere new, or at least somewhere different, month in and month out Forever Evil has felt fairly repetitive. Moreover, in sidelining the Justice League itself, it’s removed a potentially productive narrative thread.

Inasmuch as these choices relate to the changing comics marketplace, Forever Evil could be one of the last big events structured this way, or it could be the shape of things to come.

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Comics A.M. | WonderCon wants ‘to get back to the Bay Area’

WonderCon Anaheim

WonderCon Anaheim

Conventions | Although convention organizers rolled out an altered name — WonderCon Anaheim — and logo when they confirmed two weeks ago that the event will return to Anaheim, California, again next year, they insist they haven’t close the door on San Francisco. “We still want to get back to the Bay Area. [...] We are in touch with [the Moscone Center organizers] fairly regularly and we have an open dialogue,” says David Glanzer, director of marketing and public relations. “They haven’t given up on us, either.” The convention was uprooted from the Moscone Center in 2012 first because of remodeling and now because of scheduling conflicts. WonderCon Anaheim will be held April 18-20. [Publishers Weekly]

Digital comics | I spoke with Archie Comics Co-CEO Jon Goldwater and iVerse Media CEO Michael Murphey about the new “all-you-can-eat” digital service, Archie Unlimited. [Good E-Reader]

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A Month of Wednesdays | A lot of DC, plus PictureBox & Vertical

batwomanBatwoman Vol. 3: World’s Finest (DC Comics): It’s difficult to talk about this comic without also discussing the announced departure of its creative team which, like several others that have worked on DC’s New 52, left amid quite public complaints of editorial interference.

As an auteur-driven book starring a relatively new character that’s barely been drawn by anyone other than artist and co-writer J.H. Williams III, the whole affair strikes me as strange, as Williams seems to be at least as big a factor in the book’s continued existence as the word “Bat” in its title. And it’s stranger still he and co-writer W. Haden Blackman are only now reaching the breaking point, as from a reader’s perspective, DC appeared to have pretty much left them alone to do their own thing; like Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated and the Geoff Johns-written portions of Green Lantern, this book seems set in its own universe and is sort of impossible to integrate into the New 52 if one thinks about it for too long (with “too long” being “about 45 seconds”).

Regularly cited as one of the best of DC’s current crop of comics, Batwoman is definitely the company’s best-looking, and most intricately, even baroquely designed and illustrated. As for the word half  of the story equation, I found Batwoman — and this volume in particular — to be extremely strange, even weird, more than I found it to be good.

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Grumpy Old Fan | ‘Trinity War’ is testing the old ways

Pandora holds that evil skull like my daughter holds her stuffed bunnies

Pandora holds that evil skull like my daughter holds her stuffed bunnies

The first part of “Trinity War” (in last week’s Justice League #22) relied rather significantly on the changes the New 52 relaunch facilitated: Superman, Wonder Woman, and Billy Batson/Shazam (hereinafter “Billy/Shazam,” or maybe just “Captain Marvel”) each acted in ways incompatible with long relationships.

In the old days, Superman and Wonder Woman would have been close friends, Superman and Captain Marvel would have had a unique (almost mentor-protegé) relationship, and Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel would at least have had some Greek mythology in common. However, the main conflicts of “TW” Part 1 depended on Wonder Woman being more of a warrior than an ambassador, Superman trusting her hostility, and Billy/Shazam not knowing either of them that well. As such, it appeared to exemplify the freedom a relaunch confers, specifically to ignore the restrictions of previous developments to put these characters quickly on opposing sides.

In other words, one might reasonably have seen Part 1 as a) realizing the New 52 allowed for a particular Shocking Event and b) working backward to create the conditions that would lead to said Event. “Because we can do this, how do we do it?”

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‘JLA’ skulks and schemes; ‘Vibe’ hums happily

The new JLA, by David Finch

The new JLA, by David Finch

The big new Justice League of America #1 is kind of a mess. It asks a lot of its readers without delivering much right away.

This is something of a mixed result where JLA writer Geoff Johns is concerned. He tends to start well, at least for me. I liked his first issues of Blackest Night and Flashpoint, the introductory volume of Batman Earth One, and his recent work on Green Lantern Simon Baz and the just-concluded “Throne of Atlantis” storyline. However, JLA #1 (drawn by David Finch) either takes a fairly counterintuitive approach to its own premise, or is playing some sort of long game which isn’t readily apparent, and (again) doesn’t quite flow from the book’s Justice League lead-in. More successful is (Justice League of America’s) Vibe #1 (written by Johns and Andrew Kreisberg, pencilled by Pete Woods, and inked by Sean Parsons), which grounds its hero so solidly in League lore it almost overshadows its fellow spinoff.

SPOILERS FOLLOW for JLA #1, Vibe #1, and the conclusion of “Throne of Atlantis” in Justice League #17.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Justice League brings its A-game to ‘Throne’

Billy Tucci's variant cover for Justice League #15

Geoff Johns always starts strong, and “Throne of Atlantis” is no exception. The only two New 52 books DC Comics put out this week were the first two parts of this crossover, in the 15th issues of Justice League and Aquaman. That suggests something significant, so they dare not disappoint.

Ivan Reis and Joe Prado take over JL’s art with this issue, while Paul Pelletier and Art Thibert (with an inking assist from Karl Kesel) start on Aquaman. I’ve liked Pelletier’s work for years, but his characters aren’t as lean as Reis’s, and I wondered how well the styles would mesh. In fact, here they mesh pretty well, since Pelletier and company seem to have adapted to blend more seamlessly with Reis and Prado. Giving a big assist is colorist Rod Reis, who handles both books with the same basic blue-green palette.

I mention the art upfront because these two issues combine to establish “Throne of Atlantis” as a big crossover, both in terms of its implications and its threat level. While the plot so far is pretty straightforward, Johns and company hang on it a few impressive set-pieces, and a couple of nice bits of characterization. It’s the kind of high-stakes story I expect from the Justice League, and I hope it bodes well for the book’s future.

So without further ado, SPOILERS FOLLOW:

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Grumpy Old Fan | DC’s December is getting closer all the time

Not the face!

Here in Memphis this week, September finally turned the corner into fall. High temperatures are mostly in the 70s, the air is getting crisper, and the sky is turning a paler blue. Unlike July or August, when October and November seem far in the future, a nice September makes December that much easier to imagine.

In September you start to settle into the routine which will take you through the winter — and that’s apparently true as well for the New 52 superhero books. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

MOVERS AND SHAKERS

Ivan Reis and Joe Prado head to Justice League with December’s Issue 15, and I for one am happy. Although I like Jim Lee fine, I think Reis is better-suited to big, multiple-character action. It’s hard for me to explain the distinction, so consider this: How would “Sinestro Corps” or Blackest Night have looked if Lee had drawn them?  Reis manages crowds quite well, and Justice League should be crowded.

Also, while I’ve been rather down on Justice League of late, the expanded roster (teased over a year ago) and the Atlantis-centered storyline make me optimistic that the book is … well, doing what I’d like it to do, which is being a showcase for, and gateway to, the larger superhero universe. So, well done, solicitation!

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What Are You Reading? with Curt Pires and Ramon Villalobos

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today our special guests are the creative team behind the upcoming self-distributed indie comic LP, Curt Pires and Ramon Villalobos. You can read more about the comic in the interview Tim O’Shea did with Curt earlier this week.

And to see what they’ve been reading lately, click below.

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What Are You Reading? with D.J. Kirkbride and Adam Knave

Saga #4

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today our special guests are D.J. Kirkbride and Adam Knave, writers of Amelia Cole and the Unknown World, which was released last week by Monkeybrain Comics.

To see what Adam, D.J. and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …

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What Are You Reading?

Saga #1

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what the Robot 6 crew have been checking out recently. To see for yourself, click below …

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Three makes it a trend, right?: The new JLA is A-OK with using lethal force

Justice League #3

“Should Batman kill the Joker?” is a perennial favorite among superhero fan conversation topics, always leading to a variety of different answers. A Golden Age appearance aside, Batman’s bosses at DC Comics have always answered the question the same way, however: Hell no.

Part of the reason for that is practical. You don’t kill off a popular, money-making character (well, you can now and then if it will make more money, but then you have to bring the character back to life somehow). Part of it is smart franchise management. If Batman kills off his enemies, then he runs out of guys to fight awfully quickly. There’s a reason Spider-Man has such a big and colorful rogue’s gallery to fill movies, cartoon and toy lines with, while The Punisher  doesn’t. But a big part of it has to do with Batman’s characterization. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to not kill a mass-murderer you find yourself in deadly combat with on a bi-monthly basis, and sure, it makes even less sense to go out of your way to save the life of said mass-murderer as Batman regularly does for The Joker and his other foes, but then, dressing up as a bat to fight crime doesn’t make much sense either—Batman’s weird, and that’s what makes him so appealing. Of course his moral code is weird too.

The red, un-crossable line Batman has drawn between beating someone within an inch of their life and actually killing them is one shared by most superheroes. The hero pushed to the limit finally getting the villain at their mercy at the climax and forced to decide whether or not to end the villain’s life of evil once and for all is a staple of super-comics.

And it hasn’t changed all that much in the years since, say, “The Trial of The Flash.” Particularly in the DC Universe (The Marvel heroes embraced killing foes en masse during 2008′s Secret Invasion, in which they went to war with the alien Skrulls).

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Trailer emerges for DC’s Resurrection Man #1

Another day, another trailer from David Macho promoting one of DC Comics’ relaunch titles. This time it’s Resurrection Man #1, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Fernando Dagnino, which marks the return of Mitch Shelly, the character created in 1997 by none other than Abnett, Lanning and Jackson Guice.

It’s the return of Mitch Shelly – and he’s still dead.

Resurrection Man can’t stay dead for long, though – and with each rebirth comes new and unexpected powers. But his many returns have not gone unnoticed, and forces are gathering to learn what’s so special about him – and to see which of them will finally stop Resurrection Man dead.

Resurrection Man #1, which sports a cover by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, debuts Sept. 14.

DC reveals The Flash #1 variants by Francis Manapul and Ivan Reis

From "The Flash" #1 variant by Ivan Reis and Tim Townsend

DC Comics continues the promotional onslaught for its line-wide relaunch this morning by unveiling the variant covers for The Flash #1 – one by series artist and co-writer Francis Manapul, and the other by Ivan Reis and Tim Townsend.

The Flash #1, which pits Barry Allen against an all-new foe who can be everywhere at once, debuts Sept. 28.

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Ivan Reis draws the Justice League for New York Comic Con poster

Jim Lee’s Justice League proved very popular at the San Diego Comic-Con; they appeared on the show’s official shirt, and many people lined up for a good hour to get one. Now DC’s premier team makes an appearance on the official poster for this October’s New York Comic Con — this time drawn by Ivan Reis. The show takes place Oct. 13-16.

Via Convention Scene


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