AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
2.5 out of 5
Batman And The Outsiders: The Snare
(Art by Carlos Rodriguez, Julian Lopez, Ryan Benjamin, Bit and Saleem Crawford)
Book 2. Metamorpho, stuck in space, discovers the construction of a mysterious artifact and the Outsiders have to launch a rescue mission by stealing a rocket from the Chinese government. The plan goes awry, leaving several of the team captive at the hands of hostile Chinese forces.
My biggest problem with this book isn't really the fault of the book itself, per se, but it's worth noting for potential readers. This book does not stand alone as a complete graphic novel story; picking up where Book 1 left off and then ending on a cliffhanger. Because it's so inherently tied-in to the stories before and after it, I found it hard to enjoy, having picked this one up on its own.
I definitely liked the Outsiders as a team, however, made up of second-string DC heroes like Katana, Geo-Force and the down-on-his-luck Green Arrow. These character are classic underdogs in that they're not up to the level of the main JLA and therefore have to work harder to succeed, as well as there being genuine potential for them to fail, fatally.
Aside from where it falls in the series, this book does have two other major flaws. The first is simply that Batman has very little to do here and it's eminently clear that he's only there so the real-world marketing can slap him in the title and on the cover to drive sales. The other flaw is that the book doesn't really explore the narrative potential of these superheroes being illegally on Chinese soil. There could've been some real milage in the fact that all of Earth's most powerful heroes live in the US and are part of the Justice League of America. That genuinely would cause some concern among foreign governments (I guess I'll have to leave it to Alan Moore and 'Watchmen' to explore those ideas).
3 out of 5
Batman: The Chalice
(Art by John Van Fleet)
When Bruce Wayne is bequeathed an ancient artifact he soon finds himself facing off against a host of enemies who covet its mythical power, including Penguin, Catwoman and Ra's al Ghul.
This is a graphic novel which I liked less and less as it went on. The core concept is an intriguing one, with Batman coming into possession of the Holy Grail giving the story a nice mythic quality. I was also enjoying John Van Fleet's dark and moody fully-painted artwork to begin with too, having previously liked the covers he did for the YA Star Wars series 'Last of the Jedi' (by Jude Watson).
Unfortunately these elements soured for me as the book went on. The longer the premise of Batman having the Holy Grail sits with you, the more you realise not only how out of place that feels but also how monumental an event it should be. However, it's treated surprisingly casually and shrugged off as a curiosity by the end of the book. Dixon was clearly going for an Indiana Jones vibe (like where the lost Ark just gets packed off in a warehouse) but actually it clashes badly with the Batman tone and franchise as a whole.
The artwork similarly became less appealing as the book went on. Sure there are some great images on offer, but Van Fleet's work feels fairly static and the few times he actually tries to impart some dynamism into the artwork it actually just becomes confusing and messy.
2 out of 5
Star Wars: General Grievous
(Art by Rick Leonardi and Mark Pennington)
This story takes place two years after 'Attack Of Clones' (and therefore a year before 'Revenge Of The Sith'), when the Clone Wars are at their peak. It involves a group of rogue Jedi and vengeful miners who decide to hunt down the brutal Separatist warlord of the title.
What I liked about this book was the fact that, unlike so much of the Clone Wars stuff, it doesn't feel the need to include Obi-Wan, Anakin, Quinlan Vos or Aayla Secura. This helps to further the concept that the Clone Wars contain countless interesting stories, rather than just those focusing around the more famous Jedi.
Another massive benefit is that the General Grievous presented here is the powerful, ruthless killer of the original Clone Wars cartoon, rather than the incompetent, cowardly weakling presented in Episode III and the CGI TV series.
To match Dixon's impressive writing of the General, Rick Leonardi presents some truly outstanding images of Grievous in action. This isn't an earth-shatteringly good Star Wars book, but it's definitely worth checking out.
4 out of 5
Superman/Aliens 2: God War
(Art by Jon Bogdanove and Kevin Nowlan)
I'll be blunt; this book is rubbish. The story involves Darkseid unleashing the Aliens against his enemies, the New Gods, and Superman's efforts to save the day.
The New Gods and their planet are awful, their abnormally heroic looks and garish costumes making Superman look almost drab. Darkseid's plot could well have made for an interesting story if it weren't for the fact that, in the end, he destroys the Aliens himself, making the entire story pointless.
The Aliens franchise has been severely degraded by this nonsense and Superman too (and I've never really liked him anyway!).
1 out of 5