A few weeks ago, I reviewed some great and not-so-great New 52 graphic novels from DC and this second chunk are just as much of a mixed bag.
Beginning with the long-winded but intricate Green Arrow, Vol 4: The Kill Machine it's obvious that DC are desperate to win back readers and fans by bringing in big names (in this case award-winning Jeff Lemire) to either kick a story line into touch or launch a complete re-boot, and as witnessed so far, sometimes this works and then, it kind of doesn't. Volume 4 of New 52 Green Arrow is somewhere in the middle and although it does follow on from a previous story it's a good issue to pick up for the casual reader as backstory is filled in where necessary and there's no deeply intricate old lore thrown around.
The plot starts of quite simply, with Queen's empire under attack from the mysterious archer Komodo who's hitting Oliver where it hurts; money, hideout and friends are all lost to him within the first few pages and from there it's a case of finding the truth by any means possible, at times with great risks to others as well as himself. Queen's investigations lead him back to the island where he became Arrow and thanks to his 'guide' Magus he discovers more about his father and the mythology behind the 'Clan of the Arrows'. It's the second part of the story that really cements this history with the introduction of new villain Count Vertigo and the 'Outsiders' the origin of the 'Clan'. While the storyline can drag on, the art redeems it ten-fold. The use of panel-in-panel cut-outs (usually black and white) to emphasis points of damage during fights is a good one and some of the one panels are full of depth.
If DC keep hiring the team of Lemire and Sorrentino, then Green Arrow may well achieve the same level of popularity in print form as it has on tv.
How many times do we need a Batman origin story? Well D.C. obviously thinks we need one more and have released Batman, Vol. 4: Zero Year a truly stunning tale from 'man-of-the-moment' Scott Snyder. I've adored Snyder's American Vampire saga for an age and his work here is equally as good, if not better.
Unfortunately, going any further into the story other than the fact we see the birth of the Bat and a very stubborn Bruce Wayne arguing the toss every step of the way, would ruin the surprises that are in store when you read this.
Suffice to say, if you're a Bat fan, then grab this asap.
Unfortunately, for every Batman, there's an Aquaman...I'll be honest with you, not the biggest Aquaman fan, always found him inconsequential and he added little to the Justice League setup for me. But, a galley came up for review, and as they say it was "free to get in!" Would Aquaman, Vol. 4: Death of a King make me change my mind?
Like some of the other Volume 4 editions, this is a continuing story-line, but whereas Wonder Woman and Green Arrow are coherent and utilise conversations and scene setting to fill the gaps, Death of a King is a rambling mess, often throwing in flash forwards to drive the narrative.
It's all kicking off under the sea an on top of it as The Scavenger is chasing an Atlantean weapon that'll do untold damage to the planet, Orm, (Aquaman's brother) is in a prison on dry land and suffering a serious case of the 'Emo', while down in the depths, there's a trio of warriors with divided loyalties and a pissed off former King who wants it all back. Throw in the ubiquitous and heavy-handed 'green' messages and what you get is just under 200 pages of eye rolling and "Wha?" moments. Unfortunately, there's not even any eye-catching art to take away from the mess of the story.
Now this is where the 'crazy' comes in, as the writer of Aquaman is also responsible for the fab Justice League, Vol 4: The Grid, an epic, battle strewn tale full of twists, that grabs you and very rarely, lets go.
All the usual League boxes are ticked perfectly: Batman's moody, Diana and Supes are loved-up and taking the moral high-ground while Cyborg is creating things that you know full well are going to backfire horribly. Throw in an appearance from fan fave Martian Manhunter, three new members (Atom, Firestorm and Element Girl-at first they feel superfluous, but eventually they gel perfectly) and a little Shazam and it feels like you're reading Saturday morning tv.
Whereas Aquaman felt jumbled and all over the place, The Grid is tight, fast flowing and never feels convoluted, even when throwing in ancient mythology in the form of Pandora and her well-known box of tricks. The artwork is well-defined and tight, with the Shazam section being particularly impressive, especially in the battles with Black Adam.
Overall, this was a corker that, much like Green Lantern, made me want to track down the previous issues and pre-order the next lot.
All issues were supplied as digital review copies via NetGalley and DC Comics in return for a fair review.