Review: BATMAN THE COURT OF OWLS Vol I by Snyder and Capullo

So as this comic book was coming out in periodical/single issue form, I heard nothing but ringing praise from all corners for Scott Snyder’s BATMAN. But I waited until the trade/hardcover was out, and I’m glad I did.

The series, finally read in one nice 6 issue chunk, is good, but not great. Certainly not the accolade ridden masterpiece the reviews would have led me to believe.

Much like Snyder’s AMERICAN VAMPIRE, Snyder is a very slow burn type of writer. Book One of AMERICAN VAMPIRE, I didn’t like and didn’t find engaging at all.

BATMAN: THE COURT OF OWLS Vol I, however, is interesting, and engaging, and in places very good. It just never really feels great or all that essential to me, but it is definitely good.

The manga tinged art of Greg Capullo, takes some getting used to as it doesn’t always work for me. His Batman is great, it’s just characters, outside the mask, particularly Bruce and the rest of the Bat family just come off looking very Speed Racerish to me. A slight style/expectation clash, that I try not to let bug me. That and having read as much Batman stories as I have, the ‘broken bat’ approach can’t help but feel familiar.

So I’m not sold on this title enough to recommend it as a buy, however overall both the writing and the art, have enough of a hook and an edge to definitely recommend this as a read. Grade: B-.

Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls (The New 52)

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WHAT I’M READING: Grading the Short Stories Nov 2011 Edition

What I’m reading:

    BLUE YODEL

– This is a short story from Scott Snyder’s VOODOO HEART collection, published in a nice hardcover by Dial Press in 2006. It’s an imaginative tale of one man’s mad chase across the country for… aww but that would be telling. Suffice it to say it’s an irreverent fable, touched with the capraesque and the odd. Perhaps a little too plodding, and the ending is a bit forgettable, but overall a good read. C+.

Voodoo Heart:Price it Here

Next are a few stories I want to mention from Joe Hill’s 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS collection. First a word about the book: The 2005 1st US Edition published by William Morrow (and one of the rare books still printed in the US), paradoxically boasts a beautiful black hardcover exterior, while a very cheap rag/pulp paper interior. There’s something quite endearing about that dichotomy. It’s a book designed for you to want to hold it and page through it. A book that has a lure and allure, still beyond the reach of a digital age. I read this book for free from the library, but it’s one I have to buy for my shelves for the reasons of its construction listed above, and the reasons of its content, listed below…

Here are the grades on the stories in 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS that I’ve read so far:

    BEST NEW HORROR

– A short story that lives up to its name, and is a strong one to open this collection with. The genre is so hard to be original in, because for the most part it relies on conventions that the reader is well aware of. The strength of Hill’s story is it plays and counts on and echoes the readers familiarity with the horror genre, to craft a tale that sucks us in, and creeps us out despite our cynicism. It’s really wonderfully written and constructed tale, that does not overstay its welcome. B+.

    20TH CENTURY GHOST

– The titular story, I couldn’t get into it. A story of a haunted movie theater, that unfortunately does nothing with that both familiar, and potentially interesting premise.

    POP ART

– Now that’s a brilliant and unusual and completely captivating way to start a story. I was hooked from sentence one. Laugh out loud brilliant and strange, absurdity of a story, that underneath may or may not tackle serious issues of neglect, abuse, childhood terrors, childhood friends, escapism, hope, survival, imagination, beauty, suicide, death of the wondrous, and growing up. It’s just subtle, imaginative, and elegant writing.

“You get an astronaut’s life whether you want it or not. Leave it all behind for a world you know nothing about. That’s just the deal.”

or

“It is my belief that, as a rule, creature’s of Happy’s ilk— I’m thinking here of canines and men both— more often run free than live caged, and it is in fact a world of mud and feces they desire, a world with no Art in it, or anyone like him, a place where there is no talk of books or God or the worlds beyond this one, a place where the only communication is the hysterical barking of starving and hate-filled dogs.”

or

“I hope if there is another world, we will not be judged too harshly for the things we did wrong here– that we will at least be forgiven for the mistakes we made out of love.”

I was reading this, silly, silly story. And somewhere through it I realized the space under my eyes was wet, and for the life of me, I could not find out how. One of the best short stories I’ve read all year. An easy A-.

20th Century Ghosts: Price it Here

My appreciation of the writings of H.Russell Wakefield has led me to other early 20th century writers of the weird, of strange fiction. Poe and Shakespeare withstanding, we have a tendency to expect something of the outdated, the stilted, the historically important but unfortunately no longer engaging from writers of yesterday. However I largely find, that great writing, is great writing, and it endures. Largely because even though times move on, what moves and drives people… largely does not. That what made the seafarers of a distant age laugh and cringe, is not all that removed, from what moves you and I.

And perhaps that is a failing of man, that the penny-dreadfuls, and Poe’s tales of madness and revenge, and Doyle’s mysteries of the macabre should resonate as well today as yesterday in the hearts and minds of men.

It shows how little we evolve, that we can still understand and thrill to… the petty failings and fears of men. The day we do evolve past the point of understanding or identifying with lines such as the following, we will have gained and lost… much.

“But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn
No Traveller returns, Puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus Conscience does make Cowards of us all,”
-Shakespeare’s Hamlet

or

“This spirit of perverseness, I say, came to my final overthrow. It was this unfathomable longing of the soul to vex itself–to offer violence to its own nature–to do wrong for the wrong’s sake only–that urged me to continue and finally to consummate the injury I had inflicted upon the unoffending brute.”
– Edgar Allan Poe, “The Black Cat”

It’s the fact that hundreds of years can separate the writing from the reading, but the passions and conflicts and soul searching is as new as the dawn.

So it is that the writing of Robert Aickman, removed from us and our world by decades of time and decades of change, still maintains the power… to enrapt. Case in point

    RAVISSANTE

my first introduction to the short stories of Aickman (and indeed the first short story of his first sole collection), surprised me with its seeming prescience, it’s ability to put on the page, observations ever current, and ever waiting to be discovered… particularly for those of us of an artistic bent. And it surprised me with its… strangeness. I would have expected its frankness and its sensuality from a writer of today, but not one so far into yesterday.

But many writers of today, would have lacked the craft and patience and subtlety to make that frankness and sensuality more than shock, lacked the ability to make it not unlike… revelations.

Not a ghost story, more an examination of the strange corners of the world where we haunt ourselves, RAVISSANTE can be found in both the collections SUB ROSA and one of Aickman’s “best of” collections, PAINTED DEVILS.

Painted Devils; Strange Stories: Price it Here

DCs RELAUNCH! 52 Books coming in September! Tips on ones to get & ones to avoid!

DC has announced its lineup of 52 new titles starting September. As stated in my previous post DC is doing a lot of things right, with this publishing revamp of their comic-book line; namely pushing digital distribution, and creating new jumping on points to coincide with that distribution.

But the major thing I see DC Publishing (owned by Time Warner)is doing wrong is ignoring the root reason they were not selling books in the first place, which is that there books were not that good.

Their esteemed major competitor, MARVEL COMICS GROUP, has the better writers, and without question the superior artists. And I see very little in this revamp that addresses that quality problem.

You can see the full list of the 52 titles to be released in September here, and for the most part they look uninteresting at best, and 90s retread crap fodder at worst.

Uninteresting writers with very dated looking artists. And often artists, untried as writers, writing major characters?!! WTF?? Nice way DC to sabotage your own facelift/revamp.

You want to do a revamp and make it count then pay the money, and get the name writers, and the hot artists. Get the best. Liefield? Really??? God bless him, but really? That’s who you choose to launch a new book geared to galvanize and attract new readers? This is not the 90s.

SAVAGE HAWKMAN, good artist, but needs a name writer to get my money. Tony Daniels? Sorry, just don’t care. STATIC SHOCK, great character, no interest in that creative team… at all. NIGHTWING, TEEN TITANS, LEGIONS LOST, JUSTICE LEAGUE, FLASH, GREEN LANTERN books, most of the BATMAN books, most of the SUPERMAN books (Grant Morrison is too hit and miss for me to trust him monthly, I wait till his stories are collected and listen to the general feedback to see if he’s the good Morrison, or the hodgepodge one), all look like the poorly written, poorly drawn tripe no one was buying before.

Now the ones I think are (or could be)exceptions to DC’s general trend of mediocrity and lack of quality are as follows:

SUPERGIRL #1
Written by MICHAEL GREEN and MIKE JOHNSON
Art and cover by MAHMUD ASRAR
On sale SEPTEMBER 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Meet Supergirl. She’s got the unpredictable behavior of a teenager, the same powers as Superman – and none of his affection for the people of Earth. So don’t piss her off!

The writers did good work on Batman/Superman, and I like the art.

VOODOO #1
Written by RON MARZ
Art and cover by SAMI BASRI
On sale SEPTEMBER 28 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
Who is Voodoo? Is she hero, villain – or both? Learn the truth about Priscilla Kitaen as she leaves a trail of violence across America. Discover the new DCU through her eyes, because the things she sees are not always what they seem

Ron Marz doesn’t do anything for me, but Sam Basri I consider one of the few great artists DC has (that Marvel hasn’t stolen away from them yet) and this book is worth getting for his art alone.

BATMAN #1
Written by SCOTT SNYDER
Art by GREG CAPULLO and JONATHAN GLAPION
Cover by GREG CAPULLO
Variant cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
On sale SEPTEMBER 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for more information.
Be here for the start of a new era for The Dark Knight from writer Scott Snyder (AMERICAN VAMPIRE, BATMAN: GATES OF GOTHAM) and artist Greg Capullo (Spawn)! A series of brutal killings hints at an ancient conspiracy, and Batman learns that Gotham City is deadlier than he knew.

Only Batman book that has me really interested, and it is because of the writer, Scott Snyder.

BATWOMAN #1
Written by J.H. WILLIAMS III and W. HADEN BLACKMAN
Art and cover by J.H. WILLIAMS III
On sale SEPTEMBER 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
At last! Batwoman’s new series begins, from the multiple award-winning creative team of J.H. Williams III and Haden Blackman!
In “Hydrology,” part 1 of 5, Batwoman faces deadly new challenges in her war against Gotham City’s underworld – and new trials in her life as Kate Kane.
Who or what is stealing children from the barrio, and for what vile purpose? Will Kate train her cousin, Bette Kane (a.k.a. Flamebird), as her new sidekick? How will she handle unsettling revelations about her father, Colonel Jacob Kane? And why is a certain government

I had mentioned Sam Basri being one of DC’s great artist, here’s the other, the brilliant JH Williams III. Now whether he can write is another story, but I’ll definitely check this one out to see.

MISTER TERRIFIC #1
Written by ERIC WALLACE
Art by ROGER ROBINSON
Cover by J.G. JONES
On sale SEPTEMBER 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The world’s third-smartest man – and one of its most eligible bachelors – uses his brains and fists against science gone mad in this new series from Eric Wallace (TITANS) and Roger Robinson!
Michael Holt is the head of a successful high-tech corporation and an institute that recruits and encourages the finest minds of the next generation to excel. As Mister Terrific he inhabits a world of amazement few others know exists, let alone can comprehend.

Premise sounds interesting, and I really like the character, but once again we have an unknown writer, and generally unknown, serviceable (but not awesome) interior artist. I’ll give it a try but have serious doubts.

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #1
Written by PETER MILLIGAN
Art by MIKEL JANIN
Cover by RYAN SOOK
On sale SEPTEMBER 28 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The witch known as The Enchantress has gone mad, unleashing forces that not even the combined powers of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Cyborg can stop. And if those heroes can’t handle the job, who will stand against this mystical madness?
Shade the Changing Man, Madame Xanadu, Deadman, Zatanna and John Constantine may be our only hope – but how can we put our trust in beings whose very presence makes ordinary people break out in a cold sweat?

– I was going to pass on this book, but the artwork by Mikel Janin looks great, my only concern is a gaudy colorist could ruin his beautiful gray-scale washes/artwork. If they were smart they would use spot coloring and leave it mostly gray-scale.

SWAMP THING #1
Written by SCOTT SNYDER
Art and cover by YANICK PAQUETTE
On sale SEPTEMBER 7 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
One of the world’s most iconic characters has returned to the heart of the DC Universe, and every step he takes will shake the foundations of the Earth!
Alec Holland has his life back…but the Green has plans for it. A monstrous evil is rising in the desert, and it’ll take a monster of another kind to defend life as we know it!

ANIMAL MAN #1
Written by JEFF LEMIRE
Art by TRAVEL FOREMAN and DAN GREEN
Cover by TRAVEL FOREMAN
On sale SEPTEMBER 7 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
Buddy Baker has gone from “super” man to family man – but is he strong enough to hold his family together when Maxine, his young daughter, starts to manifest her own dangerous powers? Find out in this dramatic new series from writer Jeff Lemire (SWEET TOOTH) and artist Travel Foreman (The Immortal Iron Fist).

FRANKENSTEIN, AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. #1
Written by JEFF LEMIRE
Art by ALBERTO PONTICELLI
Cover by J.G. JONES
On sale SEPTEMBER 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
It’s Frankenstein as you’ve never seen him before, in a dark new series from acclaimed writer Jeff Lemire (SWEET TOOTH) and artist Alberto Ponticelli (UNKNOWN SOLDIER)!
Frankenstein is part of a network of strange beings who work for an even stranger government organization: The Super Human Advanced Defense Executive! But can he protect the world from threats even more horrifying than himself? And since he’s vilified for who and what he is, will he even want to take on this mission?

—Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire, interesting premises, and decent artists, what is not to like.

DEMON KNIGHTS #1
Written by PAUL CORNELL
Art by DIOGENES NEVES and OCLAIR ALBERT
Cover by TONY S. DANIEL
On sale SEPTEMBER 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Set in the Dark Ages of the DC Universe, a barbarian horde is massing to crush civilization. It’s fallen to Madame Xanadu and Jason Blood, the man with a monster inside him, to stand in their way – though the demon Etrigan has no interest in protecting anyone or anything other than himself! It’ll take more than their own power to stop an army fueled by bloodlust and dark sorcery, and some very surprising heroes – and villains – will have no choice but to join the fray!

STORMWATCH #1
Written by PAUL CORNELL
Art and cover by MIGUEL SEPULVEDA
On sale SEPTEMBER 7 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
They are Stormwatch, a dangerous super human police force whose existence is kept secret from the world Directly following the ominous events of SUPERMAN #1, Adam One leads half the Stormwatch team to recover the [INFORMATION REDACTED] from deep in the Himalayas. Meanwhile, Jack Hawksmoor and the rest of the Stormwatch crew look to recruit two of the deadliest super humans on the planet: Midnighter and Apollo! And if they say no? Perhaps the Martian Manhunter can change their minds…

— Both of these by Paul Cornell sound interesting

ALL-STAR WESTERN #1
Written by JUSTIN GRAY and JIMMY PALMIOTTI
Art and cover by MORITAT
On sale SEPTEMBER 28 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T+
Even when Gotham City was just a one-horse town, crime was rampant – and things only get worse when bounty hunter Jonah Hex comes to town. Can Amadeus Arkham, a pioneer in criminal psychology, enlist Hex’s special brand of justice to help the Gotham Police Department track down a vicious serial killer? Find out in this new series from HEX writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, with lush artwork by Moritat (THE SPIRIT)!

-This is a great and proven creative team.

MEN OF WAR #1
Written by IVAN BRANDON
Art by TOM DERENICK
Cover by VIKTOR KALVACHEV
On sale SEPTEMBER 7 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T+
On the ground and on the front lines, a young, headstrong soldier known as Joe Rock assumes command of Easy Company – a team of ex-military men turned contractors. Will they survive the battle-scarred landscape carved by the DCU’s Super-Villains? Find out in this explosive new series from Ivan Brandon (Viking, DOC SAVAGE) and Tom Derenick (JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA)!

-Premise has me interested, and Derenick is a good artist.

SUICIDE SQUAD #1
Written by ADAM GLASS
Art by MARCO RUDY
Cover by RYAN BENJAMIN
On sale SEPTEMBER 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
They’re a team of death-row super villains recruited by the government to take on missions so dangerous – they’re sheer suicide!
Harley Quinn! Deadshot! King Shark! Defeated and imprisoned, they’re being interrogated about their mission – and about who’s pulling the strings behind this illegal operation. Who will be the first to crack under the pressure?

-Not familiar with the writer but Marco Rudy’s work an ACTION COMICS was stellar

DEATHSTROKE #1
Written by KYLE HIGGINS
Art by JOE BENNETT and ART THIBERT
Cover by SIMON BISLEY
On sale SEPTEMBER 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
“Friends die, family disappoints, but a legacy… That lives forever.”
Slade Wilson is the best mercenary in the DCU, and he’s been doing this a long time. Some might say too long. But they’ll learn: Never turn your back on Deathstroke the Terminator. He won’t quit, no matter how high the stakes. Kyle Higgins (BATMAN: GATES OF GOTHAM) and Joe Bennett (TEEN TITANS) team up to bring you the finest in mayhem and gore.


-An unknown writer, and the premise doesn’t fill me with confidence, anything that uses gore as a selling point is usually braindead, lowest common denominator tripe, but Joe Bennett (THE CREW) is a great artist, and I would like to be proven wrong on this one

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #1
Written by PAUL LEVITZ
Art by FRANCIS PORTELA
Cover by KARL KERSCHL
On sale SEPTEMBER 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The Legion of Super-Heroes has been decimated by the worst disaster in its history. Now, the students of the Legion Academy must rise to the challenge of helping the team rebuild – but a threat of almost unstoppable power is rising at the edge of Dominator space, and if the new recruits fail, the Legion Espionage Squad may be the first casualties in a war that could split worlds in half!

-solid creative team, so worth a look.

THE FURY OF FIRESTORM #1
Written by ETHAN VAN SCIVER and GAIL SIMONE
Art by YILDIRAY CINAR
Cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
On sale SEPTEMBER 28 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond. These two high school students are worlds apart – and now they’re drawn into a conspiracy of super-science that bonds them forever in a way they can’t explain or control. The dark secrets of the murderous Dog Team and its Firestorm Protocol force them to put aside their differences to confront a threat so terrifying that it may lead to a new Cold War! Welcome to a major new vision of nuclear terror from writers Ethan Van Sciver and Gail Simone with astonishing art by Yildiray Cinar!

– I’ve seen some sample art by Cinar, and Gail Simone is a good writer and should keep Ethan’s ideas from imploding. Though from this premise sounds like this is a miniseries rather than an ongoing. Worth a look.

The Following are MAYBEs:

BATWING #1
Written by JUDD WINICK
Art and cover by BEN OLIVER
On sale SEPTEMBER 7 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Africa, a land of beauty – and of great horror. A land of creation and conflict. It is in desperate need of a defender, and from the ranks of Batman Incorporated comes a soldier to carry on the legacy of The Dark Knight in the most tumultuous region on Earth. Meet Batwing, the Batman of Africa!

I’m intrigued by this one, the premise sounds like a Bat take on Unknown Soldier, but I’m not sold on the art, and that costume is horrible. This one is a wait for the trade.

BATGIRL #1
Written by GAIL SIMONE
Art by ARDIAN SYAF and VICENTE CIFUENTES
Cover by ADAM HUGHES
On sale SEPTEMBER 7 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Yes, it’s really happening!
Barbara Gordon is back as Batgirl – and she’s going to have to face the city’s most horrifying new villains as well as the dark secrets from her past. You won’t want to miss this stunning debut issue from fan-favorite BIRDS OF PREY writer Gail Simone!

Gail Simone has me interested, but not interested in the artists. I’ll wait for the trade.

CATWOMAN #1
Written by JUDD WINICK
Art and cover by GUILLEM MARCH
On sale SEPTEMBER 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
Meet Catwoman. She’s addicted to the night. Addicted to shiny objects. Addicted to Batman. Most of all, Catwoman is addicted to danger. She can’t help herself, and the truth is – she doesn’t want to. She’s good at being bad, and very bad at being good. Find out more about what makes Catwoman tick in this new series from writer Judd Winick (BATMAN: UNDER THE HOOD) and artist Guillem March (GOTHAM CITY SIRENS)!

I do like the art on this one but not interested in the character. It’s a weak maybe.

Well those are the titles I think are worth a try, and you may agree. Try them and let me know.