Archive for Alex Sinclair

Blackest Night: Batman #1

Posted in Batman, Blackest Night, Comics, DC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 20th August, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Gotham comes to life.

Gotham comes to life.

“Who Burns Who: Part One”
Author: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Adrian Syaf
Inkers: John Dell & Vicente Cifuentes
Colorist: Nei Ruffino
Letterer: John J. Hill
Cover Artists: Andy Kubert & Alex Sinclair
Alternate Cover Artist: Bill Sienkiewicz
Editors: Adam Schlagman & Eddie Berganza

I’ve never heard of Adrian Syaf before, but damn he draws a fine Batman and a fine horror story.  Blackest Night: Batman is positively dripping with atmosphere.  This first issue opens with Batman and Robin at Gotham Cemetery, bearing witness to the upheaval caused firstly by Black Hand’s exhumation of Bruce Wayne, and secondly by Hal and Barry’s recent tussle with the resurrected Martian Manhunter.

Bruce’s skull is missing, and his parents unearthed, leading to a very emotional exchange between Dick (Batman) and Damian (Robin).  “It’s different when it’s one of your own,” Dick remarks.  Bruce was a father figure to both of them, so it’s a difficult moment for both as well.  Damian comments on the added weirdness of his situation: “I’m sure a lotta kids get to greet their grandparents this way.”  Peter Tomasi’s script is pitch perfect, hitting all the right emotional notes.

Deadman also features quite prominently, and rightly so.  As the name suggests, he’s already dead, placing him in the unique situation of having to wrestle with his own corpse.  But it’s his previous life as a circus performer (Boston Brand) which makes him the perfect partner to Dick Grayson.  His own murder mirrors that of Dick’s parents, and I can only imagine that they will need to pit their acrobatic skills against the Black Lantern Flying Graysons next issue.

But it’s not Deadman’s acrobatics that impress in this issue, rather his internal monologues.  Tomasi’s captions are short and suspenseful.  We catch many glimpses into the horrors that shaped our heroes’ lives, and the violent deaths that now stir the living dead of Gotham Cemetery.  This book is full of small moments made big by their emotional resonance and fan appeal.  Long-time Batman fans will find much to get excited about; there’s little doubt that the entire Bat-family will be put through the ringer by this story’s end.

Gotham’s seen a lot of death in its time, and I for one can’t think of a better venue for the dead to rise.  It’s as if all the planets in the DC Universe have aligned: Deadman’s seen a resurgence in popularity with appearances in both Wednesday Comics and the Blackest Night series proper; and Tomasi’s scripts have once again been lifted to their rightful place with some appropriately eerie visuals.  If you’ve ever wondered where the Tomasi who wrote Black Adam went, look no further than Blackest Night: Batman.

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Blackest Night #2

Posted in Blackest Night, Comics, DC, Green Lantern with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 15th August, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Aquaman: Undead in the Water.

Aquaman: Undead in the Water.

Author: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis
Inkers: Oclair Albert with Julio Ferreira
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover Artists: Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert, and Alex Sinclair
Alternative Cover Artist: Mauro Cascioli

Blackest Night #2 opens cinematically with wide-shot panels – beautifully detailed by Ivan Reis, but not cluttered – and maintains that cinematic feel with the able assistance of his art team.  They achieve this, I believe, by treating each panel as a camera lens.  Inkers Oclair Albert and Julio Ferreira carve out each scene with subtle shade and deep shadow, while colorist Alex Sinclair provides a light source and sticks to it, by God!  Reis’ panel composition holds up to much scrutiny, as if each scene is mapped verbatim in his mind, and every item is there precisely because it needs to be.  Effective use of these three elements – depth of field, light sourcing and composition – drew my eyes to the focal point of each panel.  This level of care and attention is the kind of thing we’ve come to expect from a big-budget Hollywood film, not a comic book.  Blackest Night raises the bar for the comic book event in every conceivable way.  This is high-production, high-stakes superhero drama at its best.

The first person we see is Ray Palmer – The Atom – looking very small.  Standing next to a paperclip, in fact.  He misses his late wife Jean, and he needs someone to talk to.  Hawkman finally picks up the phone, but he’s not quite himself.  He still sounds like himself, though, and that’s what makes these Black Lanterns so chilling.  They’re more like ghosts than zombies, and they have unfinished business to attend to.

Geoff Johns has wisely chosen to convey the epic scope of his tale  through more minor characters; the bards and minstrels of the DC Universe, if you will.  The darkness over Gotham City is viewed through the eyes of Barbara Gordon and her father, Commissioner Gordon.  The oft-discussed return of Aquaman is experienced through those closest to him, Mera and Aqualad.  They are our emotional anchors to the events unfolding, and despite our foreknowledge of some of the more shocking returns, Blackest Night proves it’s nothing at all to do with what you know, but who you know.  I have an emotional investment in these characters, and knowing that they’re about to confront their loved ones with their failure and rip their hearts out only augments the tragedy.  Their grisly guise as Black Lanterns allows us to see our late heroes at their most formidable, commit unspeakable acts, and that is the greatest tragedy of Blackest Night.

This second issue reveals much about the nature of the Black Lanterns, but many questions still linger as even the supernatural element of the DCU struggles to come to grips with the phenomenon.  Geoff Johns uses his ensemble cast empathically to put his readers in each scene.  Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) and Barry Allen (The Flash) form the emotional core of this story, and it’s great to see this team in action again.  There’s undeniably chemistry between the two (quite literally at one point), and despite the dark circumstances of their reunion, they light up every panel.  Whoever deigned to separate (and kill off) this dynamic duo all those years ago must have been stark raving mad.  Or perhaps they never saw the potential for comic magic that Johns did.

Whatever the case, I see the potential for plenty more comic magic from Johns et al in future.  You’d be stark raving mad to miss Blackest Night.

Blackest Night #1

Posted in Blackest Night, Comics, DC, Green Lantern with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 20th July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Black is the new Green.

Black is the new Green.

Author: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis
Inker: Oclair Albert
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover Artists: Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert & Alex Sinclair
Alternate Cover Artists: Ethan Van Sciver & Hi-Fi

If you had of told Dan DiDio four years ago that Green Lantern, under Geoff Johns’ guidance, would not only stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Batman and Superman in stature and following, but would also spawn the biggest comic book event of 2009, he probably would have slapped you twice and thrown you to the Crises.  Well, that was then, and this is now, and let me tell you, I was more than excited to be opening the first issue of Blackest Night proper.  In fact, I can’t remember ever being this excited for a comic book event in all my years of reading comics (which I’ll admit, is not very long at all compared to some).  Well, it turns out that all that anticipation is paying off in spades, and that Blackest Night is every bit the bee’s knees it promised to be.

Naturally, Blackest Night #1 picks up where Blackest Night #0 left off, in Gotham Cemetery.  It’s a dark and stormy night, and Black Hand ushers in the Age of Dark and Stormy Nights with a decidedly sick and twisted invocation.  The first thing I noticed about this issue was, damn, it’s great to have Ivan Reis back on a Green Lantern book.  Then of course I noticed the striking visuals, the epic presentation, et cetera, but honestly, there’s so much going on here that I really don’t know where to start.

This book is a great jumping-on point for newcomers, but they’ll also find a lot to digest here; while long-term Green Lantern and DC Comics readers have plenty of Easter eggs to scour through.  Sure, there’s a fair bit of background that the DC faithful will already know, but Johns is clearly highlighting which parts to pay attention to (and believe me, there’s a lot to pay attention to) and fleshing them out to augment the emotional impact of future events.  It’s actually surprising to see which untended plot threads he does highlight – without giving too much away – fans of Keith Giffen’s Justice League will no doubt be intrigued by the developments they see here.  It’s pretty clear by the end of this issue that Blackest Night represents his life’s work, drawing on every major DC storyline he’s had a hand in, from JSA to Hawkman to Infinite Crisis to 52 and everything in between right up to Flash: Rebirth.  Perhaps contrary to his original plans (though not by much), Blackest Night encompasses the entire DC Universe (or is it ‘Multiverse’?).  That is to say that its scope is far greater than just the Green Lantern universe – which is already massive thanks to Johns – and centres upon his two no-doubt-favourite heroes, Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) and Barry Allen (The Flash), as our anchors to this epic tale.

The core of this super-sized issue takes place appropriately on the anniversary of Superman’s death; once a national day of mourning, now a day used to honour fallen superheroes.  Geoff Johns has stated in interviews that this issue mentions all the major players in this storyline, and I believe it – many names are checked by the mourners, which may as well be a roll call for the Black Lantern Corps – some are expected, though many may surprise you.  In point of fact, the first Black Lanterns to reveal themselves surprised the hell out of me, and their first dark deeds shocked me all the more, due in no small part to Ivan Reis’ grisly depiction.

It’s getting very dark in the DC Universe, and I, for one, am loving it.

Green Lantern #43

Posted in Blackest Night, Comics, DC, Green Lantern with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 19th July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Dark and brilliant.

Dark and brilliant.

“Blackest Night Prologue: Tale of the Black Lantern”
Author: Geoff Johns
Artist: Doug Mahnke
Inker: Christian Alamy
Colorist: Randy Mayor
Cover Artists: Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy & Alex Sinclair
Variant Cover Artists: Eddy Barrows & Nei Ruffino
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza

Green Lantern #43 is a great many things.  It’s an end to the too-many-cooks-spoil-the-broth approach of the last few issues, it’s a Blackest Night #-1 if we are to subscribe to negative numbering, and it’s a Black Hand: Secret Origins of sorts.  That is to say that Green Lantern #43 is consistent in both art and narrative; the events take place before those we saw in Blackest Night #0; and the story revisits events we saw in the Secret Origins storyline, this time to explore the origin of one who will surely be Green Lantern’s most compelling villain, William Hand.

It would be all too easy to dismiss some of these scenes as simple re-treads of stories faithful Green Lantern readers have read at least twice by now, but Johns has put yet another interesting spin on past events, unpacking for us something that was probably there all along.  I am of course referring to Sinestro and Hal Jordan’s first confrontation with now-Red-Lantern Atrocitus.  I have to admit, as much as I tried to tuck this little tidbit away for future reference, I had all but forgotten William Hand’s presence at this pivotal scene.  That’s kind of the point, though: everyone‘s forgotten about William Hand, and he [Geoff Johns] is making it his business to remind us just who he is, and how foolish we were to ignore him in the first place.  It’s incredibly interesting just how much each of these major players have evolved since then.  Sinestro, no longer a Green Lantern – former Sinestro Corps leader at that – is now the most-wanted war criminal in the universe.  Atrocitus, one of the sole survivors of the massacre of Sector 666, then-prophet of the Blackest Night, is now leader of the Red Lanterns.  Hal Jordan – let’s just say he’s seen a lot of changes over the last two decades.  And William Hand, once a disturbed boy with a disconnected childhood, is now the resurrected Black Hand and avatar of the Black Lanterns.  That all of this is coming full circle is further testament to Geoff Johns as writer and Master Chess Player.

“Tale of the Black Lantern” shows us William Hand’s journey from son of a coroner to undead supervillain is not an excuse, rather an explanation of how he came to be this way.  As you’d expect, the tale is very dark in the telling, both literally and visually.  Mahnke, as he has proven in the pages of Final Crisis (another book he rescued from artistic inconsistency), is consistently good at horror-inspired visuals.  His pencils are simultaneously gritty and clean, which is to say there are *a lot of* lines, but each one seems purposeful and deliberate in its placement.  While I can’t help but wonder whether Eddy Barrows could have accomplished similar feats, I know deep down in my heart of hearts that it couldn’t have been this confident.

The only real criticism I can level at this book is that it isn’t really about Green Lantern – in fact, he only ever appears in the aforementioned scene – it probably should have flown under the Blackest Night banner proper.  That’s all null and void in the face of one inescapable fact: this story is critical, both to future events in Green Lantern and Blackest Night.  Besides, I’ve long since given up questioning Geoff Johns’ storytelling choices – he’s proven time and time again that he’s at least three steps ahead of us all.

Only one thing remains to be gleaned from all of this: if you’re a comic book fan, you need to be reading Green Lantern and you need to be reading Blackest Night.

Batman and Robin #1

Posted in Batman, Batman and Robin, Comics, DC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 5th June, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Together again for the first time.

Together again for the first time.

“Batman Reborn – Part One: Domino Effect”
Author: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover Artists: Frank Quitely and J.G. Jones

For all intents and purposes, Batman and Robin #1 is the real All-Star Batman and the Boy Wonder. Anyone who’s read Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman (and Frank Miller’s woeful All-Star Batman) will know what I mean. This Dynamic Duo returns for this new limited series Batman and Robin, with an all-new Batman and Robin.

It’s at this point that I should issue a general spoiler warning for those who haven’t read and intend to read Battle for the Cowl. It’ll be impossible for me discuss future issues, or indeed any future Batman titles, without first disclosing the outcome of that battle. Henceforth, I will no longer tread around the identities of the new Batman and Robin.

Here it is: Dick Grayson is the new Batman, and Damian Wayne (al Ghul) is the new Robin. Tim Drake’s new role has not yet been addressed, but I assume he will be headlining the new Red Robin series. Now, onto the story!

Grant Morrison’s back with his trademark verve and kineticism. The style of this series is very much a throwback to the Adam West TV series and that good ol’ Silver Age magic, albeit with a mature, modern twist (as Morrison is in the habit of doing). The book opens with Batman and Robin bearing down on Mr. Toad and his band of miscreants in a flying Batmobile. No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you, that just happened. Now, the difference between what you’re probably imagining, and what ended up on the printed page, is that Morrison actually makes it work (as Morrison is in the habit of doing).

Frank Quitely’s flying Batmobile is beautifully retro, as are Alex Sinclair’s colours. Quitely’s pencilwork is crisp and clean, though his ruddy inks belie a fondness of wrinkles, for better or worse. I think it makes for expressive character work, though others may beg to differ. If you’ve seen his work before, you’ll know what to expect, and he certainly doesn’t disappoint in my view. His incorporation of the onomaetopoeia into the actual artwork (water splashing forms the letters ‘SPLSH’, for instance) is quite clever, and not something that I’ve seen before. The sparseness of Morrison’s script has really allowed Quitely’s art to breathe, and it’s clear the team are comfortable in each other’s company here.

Bat-Shark Repellent is well-known for its Morrison worship, and for the sake of journalistic integrity, I make a point of highlighting this fact on every occasion. But allow me to highlight this as well: there’s a reason for it. One being that he always gives the most satisfying pseudo-scientific explanations! He gives one for the flying Batmobile, and it fits perfectly within comic book sensibilities and the Batman mythos.

The other reason, in this case, is just how well he makes all the elements mesh together. The new Batman and Robin suit the colourful tone of this book in a way that Bruce Wayne never could – there was always a heaviness and a seriousness to the post-80s Bruce that doesn’t lend itself to these kind of stories. Dick Grayson is Batman, but he was also the first Robin, and it’s clear here that that personality hasn’t been swallowed whole by the Bat-symbol. He still pays his dues to his Father and Teacher, and he wears the cape and cowl with a certain pride and trepidation, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously either. Which is a good thing when you have a handful like Damian al Ghul for a sidekick! Robin’s witty retorts and sense of entitlement are a hilarious counterpoint to a more patient and casual Batman – and why not? This Batman’s been Robin before; he just shoots back an even wittier reply and smiles knowingly.

Morrison is quick to establish this character dynamic, and also to distinguish this duo from previous incarnations. Then again, when was the last time you saw Batman and Robin really work together? I thought so. Watching them interrogate Mr. Toad is particularly entertaining.

This issue sees a villain known as Pyg and his Circus of Strange announce themselves as disturbing additions to Batman’s rogues gallery. Pyg is as deliciously creepy as any of Arkham’s inmates, while his henchmen are ‘themed’ villains in the vein of Batman’s more obsessive foes. His torture methods are the frightening antithesis of the Dynamic Duo’s interrogation. I mean it, he’ll give you the chills. The Circus of Strange is another well-meshed concept given Dick Grayson’s circus background.

If none of this makes sense to you, fear not! This is by far the most accessible Batman story I have read in a long time, possibly ever. The storytelling is simple, the dialogue is sparse, and yet it’s packed with plenty of brilliant concepts and comic action. I can think of no better time or place to jump in than here and now.