Weekly Comic-Book Roundup #1

As a writer, I am always looking towards other creative fields for inspiration. Growing up and well into adulthood now, one of my biggest sources of creative inspiration has been comic books. Whether it was all powerful heroes like Superman or everyday vigilantes like Batman, I’ve loved reading the stories of DC Comics, Marvel and more. The incredible world building, mythology and character development are part of the inspiration for me as a writer when I look to build my own fictional universes. For me and many others out there, comic books serve as the modern day version of Greek mythology, not to mention the other various mythologies of our world.

With that in mind, I want to try and start a new weekly series where I review the comics I read in that given week. Not all of these will be brand new releases. However I think comic books can stand the test of time, and I want to keep that storytelling power alive by sharing with you all what I read in the world of comics. So with that in mind, here is the first comic book roundup.

Thor, Volume 1: The Goddess of Thunder (Thor (2014) #1)

Written by Jason Aaron

Illustrated by: Jorge Molina, Russell Dauterman 

Synopsis

Who is the Goddess of Thunder?

The secrets of Original Sin have laid low one of Marvel’s greatest heroes. The God of Thunder is unworthy, and Mjolnir lies on the moon, unable to be lifted! But when Frost Giants invade Earth, a new hand will grasp the hammer–and a mysterious woman will take up the mantle of the mighty Thor! Her identity is secret to even Odin, but she may be Earth’s only hope against the Frost Giants. Get ready for a Thor like you’ve never seen before as this all-new heroine takes Midgard by storm! Plus: The Odinson clearly doesn’t like that someone else is holding his hammer–it’s Thor vs. Thor! And Odin, desperate to see Mjolnir returned, will call on some very dangerous, very unexpected allies. It’s a bold new chapter in the storied history of Thor! 

CollectingThor 1-5

Verdict

As a longtime fan of Thor, I have to say that I personally was loving this new twist on the mythology. Already playing off the classic Norse mythology of Asgard, Odin and Thor himself, this new story showcases the god of thunder in a whole new light, as his power is bestowed onto a new hero, the goddess of thunder herself Thor. Playing with the mystery of this woman’s true identity, it allowed the Thor we know to take a hard look at himself and decide whether he was a hero without the hammer or not. Meanwhile, the narrative played well with the modern day social problems many women face. Told they can’t do the same job as a man and aren’t as powerful, the new Thor shows that she is just as worthy of Mjolnir and the power of Thor as the original Odinson, and more so than any other man in the universe. A hero in her own right, the artwork captures her raw power and the almost fantasy-like quality of classic mythology we’ve seen for ages in art. This is a must read story of female empowerment, heroism and adversity against all odds. 

Rating: 10/10

Convergence (Convergence 0-8)

Written by: Jeff King

Illustrated by: Carlo Pagulayan 

Synopsis

This is it! The entire DC Universe from the dawn of time through the New 52 stars in CONVERGENCE, an unprecedented event that brings together your favorite characters from every era and series—and none of them will ever be the same.

The evil alien intelligence known as Brainiac has stolen 50 doomed cities from throughout time and space and brought them to a place beyond the Multiverse—a sentient planet of his own design, a world with the power of a god. As heroes and villains from dozens of worlds battle each other for their very existence, it’s up to a ragtag band of warriors from a slain Earth to put an end to this threat that bends the Multiverse to its will. Reality itself hangs in the balance…

Existence comes to end and a beginning with writers JEFF KING (USA’s White Collar), SCOTT LOBDELL (SUPERMAN: DOOMED) and DAN JURGENS (BATMAN BEYOND), and artists CARLO PAGULAYAN (Incredible Hulk), STEPHEN SEGOVIA (GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS), ANDY KUBERT (DAMIAN: SON OF BATMAN) and ETHAN VAN SCIVER (GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH). Collects CONVERGENCE #0-8.

Verdict

A fantastic delve into the concept of the multiverse, DC Comics unleashed a whirlwind story of sentient planets, monstrous AI villains who sought to control, and a madman who’s quest for power nearly leads to the destruction of the multiverse. Meant to end the New 52 branding (not necessarily the stories themselves), this crossover event featured the heroes of Earth 2 as they sought allies across the other captured realities of Brainiac in hopes of returning home. The blend of stories and universes was well thought out and gave fans an opportunity to follow a group of heroes not always featured prominently such as Jay Garrick’s The Flash or the Flashpoint Batman. Now one critique I would have is if fans are unfamiliar with the New 52’S Earth 2 heroes or storyline, or the multiverse as a whole, it might be a bit confusing to follow the overall plot. Not as much time was spent exploring the character’s backstories (especially due to the sheer volume of various incarnations of characters), but overall the story still shined and laid the groundwork for the coming of the Rebirth storyline in the years to come.

Rating: 8/10

Batman, Vol. 1: I Am Gotham

(Batman (2016) #1)

Written by Tom King and Illustrated by David Finch

The Synopsis

Part of the most critically acclaimed, best-selling, all-new line of volume one graphic novels, DC Universe Rebirth!

He is Gotham City’s hero, its Dark Knight, its greatest protector. He is Batman. And he is not alone.

There are two new heroes in town-a pair of masked metahumans with the powers of Superman and a devotion to preserving all that is good about this twisted city. Calling themselves Gotham and Gotham Girl, they’ve saved Batman’s life, fought by his side and learned from his example.

But what happens if Gotham’s new guardians go bad? What if they blame the Dark Knight for the darkness that threatens to drown their city?

When sinister forces are unleashed that can warp the minds of men and make heroes into monsters, the time will come for Batman and his allies to decide once and for all: Is Gotham a force for good…or an engine of evil?

From the blockbuster DC Universe Rebirth event comes BATMAN VOL. 1: I AM GOTHAM-the beginning of an all-new saga in the life of the Dark Knight from superstars Tom King (GRAYSON) and David Finch (WONDER WOMAN), featuring an all-star cast of creators such as Scott Snyder (BATMAN: THE COURT OF OWLS), Ivan Reis (JUSTICE LEAGUE) and Mikel Janín (JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK)! This great starting-point graphic novel collects BATMAN: REBIRTH #1 and BATMAN #1-6. 

The Verdict

Writer Tom King and illustrator/artist David Finch expertly bring the gritty world of Gotham to life in this first volume of Batman’s Rebirth story. Exploring the influence and inspiration that the legend of the Batman has on the citizens of Gotham, (whether it’s a young boy and girl inspired to become heroes or low-level criminals spurned into becoming deadly villains), this volume does a marvelous job of showcasing Batman’s hope for a Gotham that is always protected, even if he were no longer there. It also does a great job of showing how the most noble and heroic person is susceptible to negative influences, and could easily fall to the dark side, so to speak. It’s a haunting and poetic story of good versus evil, and the dangers that come from stepping into the role of a city’s hero. 

Rating: 10/10

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Superhero Ethics: 10 Comic Book Heroes; 10 Ways to Save The World; Which One Do We Need Most Now? By Travis Smith | REVIEW

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Superheroes are one of the biggest money grabbers of the twenty-first century. Fans around the world love flocking to the world’s of Marvel, DC and other comic book publishers who make the most popular comic books, films, television programs and more. Yet there has been one question that has always been on fans minds since the comic book industry began: who is the best of all the heroes? While this has always been a matter of popularity, but author Travis Smith has done something truly spectacular by focusing not on their popularity, but the ethics of each character and comparing it to our society today and what we truly need in a hero. That’s what makes Superhero Ethics: 10 Comic Book Heroes; 10 Ways to Save The World; Which One Do We Need Most Now? such an incredible read. Here’s the synopsis:

Whether in comic books or on movie screens, superhero stories are where many people first encounter questions about how they should conduct their lives.

Although these outlandish figures—in their capes, masks, and tights, with their unbelievable origins and preternatural powers—are often dismissed as juvenile amusements, they really are profound metaphors for different approaches to shaping one’s character and facing the challenges of life.

But, given the choice, which superhero should we follow today? Who is most worthy of our admiration? Whose goals are most noble? Whose ethics should we strive to emulate?

To decide, Travis Smith takes ten top superheroes and pits them one against another, chapter by chapter. The hero who better exemplifies how we ought to live advances to the final round. By the end of the book, a single superhero emerges victorious and is crowned most exemplary for our times.

How, then, shall we live?

How can we overcome our beastly nature and preserve our humanity? (The Hulk vs. Wolverine)

How far can we rely on our willpower and imagination to improve the human condition? (Iron Man vs. Green Lantern)

What limits must we observe when protecting our neighborhood from crime and corruption? (Batman vs. Spider-Man)

Will the pursuit of an active life or a contemplative life bring us true fulfillment? (Captain America vs. Mr. Fantastic)

Should we put our faith in proven tradition or in modern progress to achieve a harmonious society? (Thor vs. Superman)

Using superheroes to bring into focus these timeless themes of the human condition, Smith takes us on an adventure as fantastic as any you’ll find on a splash page or the silver screen—an intellectual adventure filled with surprising insights, unexpected twists and turns, and a daring climax you’ll be thinking about long after it’s over. 

This is truly one of the most unique books I’ve read this year. The deep analysis of each of these well known heroes and the complexities of each character’s heroic actions and their motivations is something that’s always fascinated me. Yet never before has someone so articulately brought these issues to the forefront of the comic book industry and given audiences a deeper connection to these heroes as Travis Smith has done.

The book allows audiences to really analyze the motivations these characters have for taking on the mantle of hero, and whether or not their actions are completely selfless or not. It also compares these heroes and their ethics to our current political climate and gives historical context to these hero’s actions as well. It’s a really interesting and wonderfully different perspective that allows a wider audience as well as die hard comic book fans an opportunity to really understand the heroes they love in a whole new way.

Overall I loved this book. It was entertaining yet educational all at once, delving into political, intellectual, philosophical and of course ethical questions no one usually bothers to ask about the superhero community. Yet the author does a superb job of bringing these issues to light and giving us a chance to look deep within ourselves and determine which hero represents our best, brightest and most ethical hero in the twenty-first century. If you haven’t yet be sure to pick up your copy of Superhero Ethics by Travis Smith today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author:

Smith_Travis

Travis Smith is the author of Superhero Ethics (Templeton Press). He received his PhD from Harvard University and is associate professor of political science at Concordia University. He has been collecting comic books since he bought Uncanny X-Men #207 with his allowance in 1986. His writing has appeared in the Weekly Standard and Convivium Magazine. For more information, please visit https://www.templetonpress.org/books/superhero-ethics

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FOX’s Gotham Pilot Preview

One of falls most anticipated new shows has definitely got to be FOX’s Gotham. Having recently been given a special screening of the show’s highly anticipated pilot, we were delighted to see the great story that unfolded and showcased the direction the show would take fans. Exploring the formative years before Batman started saving lives in Gotham, the show follows new police detective James Gordon, played by the incredibly talented Ben Mackenzie, and his journey into exploring the dark underbelly of the corrupt city of Gotham. After the tragic murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne, Gordon and his partner, Harvey Bullock, played by Donal Logue, begin traversing the crime ridden city, uncovering clues to the killer’s identity and turning over stones that may be better left unturned. Organized mobsters, corrupt police and city officials, and a city where the corrupt thrive and the innocent submit or die, Gotham is a gritty crime drama that is a mixture of old school noir and true to form comic book storytelling. The drama also does a fantastic job of introducing some of Gotham’s most notorious villains and vigilantes before they became said villains and vigilantes. Gotham premieres Monday, September 22nd, 2014 on FOX!