Archive for Nei Ruffino

Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #1

Posted in Blackest Night, Comics, DC, Wonder Woman with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 9th December, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #1

"Part One: The Living"

Script by Greg Rucka ǀ Pencils by Nicola Scott ǀ Inks by Prentis Rollins, Jonathan Glapion, Walden Wong & Drew Geraci ǀ Colours by Nei Ruffino ǀ Letters by Travis Lanham ǀ Cover by Greg Horn ǀ Variant Cover by Ryan Sook ǀ Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman ǀ Editor: Eddie Berganza

Blackest Night: Wonder Woman is a surprisingly good series spin-off.  Unlike the initial batch of tie-ins, Wonder Woman is in step with the status quo of Blackest Night proper.  Okay, maybe one step behind, but it doesn’t hurt that celebrated Wonder Woman writer Greg Rucka returns to the character for this three-parter.  Rucka wisely resists the urge to drag Wonder Woman through the dirt yet again over events that occurred four years ago.  Instead, he revisits the situation he himself created from her current emotional place; that is, one of remorse, but acceptance.  It demonstrates a level of respect for the work of current Wonder Woman scribe Gail Simone, in acknowledging just how far she’s brought the character during her two-year tenure.  The cover art by Greg Horn is nothing short of scintillating, and Nicola Scott proves yet again that no one can draw Wonder Woman like her.  It would be remiss of me not to mention the work of colorist Nei Ruffino, whose brilliant light sourcing adds depth of field to each panel, and lifts the book’s aesthetic above the standard issue.  In a story that centres around darkness and light, this is paramount.

Verdict: Buy it.

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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.

Green Lantern #44

Posted in Blackest Night, Comics, DC, Green Lantern with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 29th July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Martian Manhunter is back, and he's mighty pissed off about it.

Martian Manhunter is back, and he's mighty pissed about it.

“Only the Good Die Young”
Author: Geoff Johns
Artist: Doug Mahnke
Inkers: Christian Alamy & Doug Mahnke
Colorist: Randy Mayor
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover Artists: Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy & Sinc
Variant Cover Artists: Philip Tan, Jonathan Glapion & Nei Ruffino
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza

Having read more than a few interviews with Geoff Johns and the folks over at DC editorial, I was surprised to learn that unlike the highly successful Sinestro Corps War, Blackest Night would become a DC-wide event in its own book, and that Green Lantern – the book that started it all – would be relegated to second fiddle.

(Now, I have no illusions that this was ever Geoff Johns’ intention in the first place – though I do believe that the Sinestro Corps War was Johns’ successful bid for more creative licence from DC, as well as a reader recruitment drive for Green Lantern – but I do believe this was always intended to be his magnum opus.  The only difference is that this unexpected popularity among the comic book readership and almost unprecedented support from DC editorial has allowed him to evolve this into something with even bigger scope than he had previously imagined.)

Well, I’m happy to report that not only is Blackest Night more tightly conceived and consistent quality-wise than Sinestro Corps War was (if that’s even possible) thus far, Green Lantern #44, like Green Lantern #43 feels like a bonafide continuation of the Blackest Night story, albeit told in a more Green Lantern-centric manner.  I don’t know about you, but I kind of expected the events of Blackest Night to be confined to Blackest Night, and that Green Lantern would focus on the War of Light in outer space.  That this issue defied those expectations is not at all a bad thing, though I fail to see how anyone could read Blackest Night exclusively and glean even half of what the regular Green Lantern reader will.  Take my advice, newcomers: you need to be reading both.  You probably don’t even need to be told; chances are, if you’ve had a taste of Blackest Night, you’ll be hungry for more; so let me assure you right now, that you’ll get plenty more in Green Lantern #44.  It seems fairly obvious to me that Johns rolled with this editorial structure simply so he could tell more story in a shorter span of time.  Twenty-five issues of Blackest Night might be “wearing out its welcome”, but an issue of Blackest Night and Green Lantern each month for twelve months doesn’t seem as much of a stretch.

From the opening page, it’s clear that Johns and Mahnke are having heaps of fun with this story.  Johns knows these characters better than anyone, with plenty tips-of-the-hat for longtime DC fans.  Even the humble Choco cookie – Martian Manhunter’s favourite imitation Oreo snack – is imbued with rich symbolism.  It takes some serious skill to take one of the kookier elements of DC’s repertoire and turn it into something genuinely chilling.  As the cover art suggests, Martian Manhunter rises from his tomb as the first Black Lantern (well, sorta), and boy, is it cool!  Doug Mahnke was born to draw this kind of stuff.

This issue picks up where Blackest Night #1 left off, in Gotham Cemetery with Hal Jordan and the Flash.  Unfortunately, Johns dusts off the annoying little recap caption, informing us *yet again* that Hal Jordan is the Green Lantern of Sector 2814!  I thought it was assumed that Green Lantern fans would be reading this, Geoff, and everyone else would be reading Blackest Night!  You didn’t need to tell us the last few times, why do you need to tell us now?

Nerd-rage aside, it’s great to see the Martian Manhunter back, albeit in an undead capacity.  Johns is a bigger DC fan than all of us, and you can tell he’s playing with his favourite toys.  Don’t get me wrong, though, Johns remains reverent to the source material; and it soon becomes clear that the Black Lanterns are not mindless zombies; rather, they retain their original personalities.  This provides the emotional backdrop for Johns’ storytelling; dead heroes are returning, and those closest to them are forced to confront their deaths, and their worst failures, all over again.  There’s a harsh truth to everything J’onn J’onzz says, and yet it is apparent he is possessed by dark forces beyond his control.

What follows is a piece of the most interesting superhero fisticuffs I’ve seen – and one of the best Martian Manhunter stories I’ve read – in quite a while.  I’ve always thought that Martian Manhunter would make a formidable foe, and Black Lantern Manhunter doesn’t disappoint here.  It makes me wonder how he ever could have died in the first place.  It seems to me that Johns’ chief goal here is to remind us just how much we loved these characters, and just how well they can be written; enough to make us pray for a real resurrection.

Meanwhile in the Oa Citadel, Scar reveals the dark purpose of the Black Lantern Corps, with strong hints towards future events affecting the coloured Corps.  I don’t want to give too much away, but next issue should finally see John Stewart’s turn in the lead Lantern role…

Can’t wait for the next one!

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #2

Posted in Blackest Night, Comics, DC, Green Lantern with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 28th July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
"Unnecessary" has never been so entertaining.

"Unnecessary" has never been so entertaining.

Authors: Geoff Johns, Peter Tomasi & Ethan Van Sciver
Artists: Eddy Barrows, Gene Ha & Tom Mandrake
Inkers: Ruy José
Colorists: Nei Ruffino & Pete Pantazis
Cover Artists: Ed Benes, Rob Hunter & Nei Ruffino
Variant Cover Artist: Rodolfo Migliari
Letterers: Steve Wands & Sal Cipriano
Editor: Adam Schlagman

Once again, I have to disagree with this book’s detractors.  Tales of the Corps #2, like the first issue, is an entertaining read, and while its connection to Blackest Night proper may not be readily apparent, it fleshes out the players in this War of Light.  The emotional spectrum is an interesting concept in itself, and though the seeds were planted from the very beginning of Geoff Johns’ stellar Green Lantern run, it’s clear that not all avenues have been explored in the rush to get to Blackest Night.  Perhaps it was editorial pressure; perhaps it was fan demand; I don’t know – but if this book affords Johns and his cohort the opportunity to explore this War of Light in greater detail, then I’m all for it.  And if you’re a Green Lantern fan, you’ll be all for it too.

Like the first issue, the opening story is by far the strongest.  “Fly Away” tells the tale of angelic beauty, Princess Bleez, and how she comes to embrace the rage of the Red Lantern Corps.  I wasn’t being flowery when I used the word ‘angelic’ either, Bleez has wings – with feathers – and Johns uses these as a simple narrative device to tell a story of freedom yearned for and ultimately, lost.  Eddy Barrows’ pencils are breathtaking, especially in depicting Bleez and her home planet, Havania.  It just goes to show that when given a full story to work with, Barrows absolutely shines (not that that was ever in doubt in the first place).  It’s not just the beautiful vistas he excels in either; his penchant for gritty, horror-inspired visuals is also on display here.  Credit must also go to Nei Ruffino, whose colours went a long way toward evoking the beauty of Bleez and her planet homeland.  All of this beauty – Bleez’s soft, metallic skin and Havania’s crystalline waterfalls – lends the story a great deal of its power when the Sinestro Corps come to strip it all away.  It’s interesting that Bleez’s turn as a Red Lantern owes more to the Sinestro Corps than it does the Red Lanterns themselves.

The second story, also penned by Johns, centres on Carol Ferris, and how she came to be a Star Sapphire.  “Lost Love” is beautifully drawn by Top 10 artist and co-creator, Gene Ha.  As much as I love any opportunity to enjoy Ha’s artwork, I’m going to have to side with the naysayers here and say that, yes, this story is entirely unnecessary.  We have seen most of this before.  The entire story essentially takes place within the confines of Carol’s cockpit, as she converses with the violet ring.  On comes a series of violet-filtered flashbacks concerning Carol and Hal Jordan’s on-and-off love relationship.  Now that the Star Sapphires have refined their crystals into rings for recruitment purposes, acceptance of the ring is voluntary.  This doesn’t ring true to me – the situation and the conversation itself seem to be a contrivance on Johns’ part to separate this particular instance from the earlier ones – it attempts to rationalise something that isn’t at all rational, and that is Love.  The conversation between Carol and the violet ring is a thinly veiled internal monologue, and it comes off as being rather stilted in the end.

The third and final tale in this collection chronicles the journey of the all-conquering, alien floating head, known as Blume.  Peter Tomasi excels at these kinds of dark, quirky tales, and “Godhead” is no exception.  The malevolent head prowls the universe, hungry for anything of value.  Amidst these flagrant displays of greed and cruelty, Tomasi achieves rare moments of poignancy, as Blume learns the true subjectivity of value and sheer breadth of what is valuable to people.  Blume’s fate as an Orange Lantern construct is a foregone conclusion, but that doesn’t rob this story of its value.

The issue finishes with a two-page featurette from Green Lantern: Rebirth artist Ethan Van Sciver, titled “The Symbols of the Spectrum: How They Came to Be, and What They Represent”, which documents the genesis of the seven symbols we’ve seen in the War of Light.  This is great for Green Lantern fans who want an insight into the creative process that goes into the making of their favourite comic book.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too.  Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps is a great supplementary book to the core Green Lantern series and Blackest Night itself.  You don’t need to read it to understand the events of those two books, but it’s a great read nonetheless.  If it was ‘necessary’ or ‘important’, fans and critics alike would be complaining about how they have to follow yet another book to gain an appreciation of the overall story.  As it stands, though, Tales of the Corps represents the very best kind of tie-in to a comic book event – wholly unnecessary to the progression of the main story, and yet an interesting and entertaining read in its own right.

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.