Talon #1Publisher: DC
Writer: Scott Snyder (plot) & James Tynion IV
Artist: Guillem March
Colourist: Tomeu Morey
Premise: Upon hearing rumours of the demise of the Court of Owls, Calvin Rose, a fugitive ex-Talon, finally returns to his native Gotham as a free man. Only to find out the Court is still creeping in the darkest corners of the city.
The 90's simply refuses to die!
I am, of course, referring to the rebellious look, those roguish manners, the cool spy gadgets and glasses, the Gambit haircut (!) and the simple fact that he's an unwanted spin-off character from a storyline just best left alone for a while.
"Hell no," says DC as they slap us in the face with their new super hot anti-hero: Calvin Rose, a.k.a. Talon!
Following the first arc on Batman, Snyder and James Tynion IV revisit the dead birds of the Court and shocks those suckers back to life. Calvin, the one Talon-in-training that got away, returns to Gotham upon hearing news that Batman kicked their asses out of town. Just to be on the safe side, he does some investigating of his own and checks out a bird nest or two. And what do you know, the Court is still around! And now they want Calvin's head! Ruh-roh!
Lucky for him, he finds unexpected help from Ultimate Alfred Pennyworth!
Wait, I mean All-Star Alfred Pennyworth.
No, I mean... eh, some old guy in a suit with a grudge against the Court.
Okay, I'm coming off too harsh. This wasn't that bad despite the incredible 90's vibe of it all. The artwork is pretty good and accurately reflects that vibe that most likely will appeal to the people interested in this. It's just that while it started out somewhat okay it later just got boring halfway in as it's all talk and talk and talk and exposition and booooooring.
For those of who wanted more of the Court, or those of you who loved Azbat (I know you guys are out there) this is definitely for you. For all you others, and those who missed out on Snyder's first arc on the new 52 Batman... ehhh... check out that trade first and then decide if you really need another hit.
Personally? Like Batman, I'm sick and tired of owls.
But we'll see how this goes.
Sword of Sorcery #1Publisher: DC
Writer: Christy Marx & Tony Bedard (back-up)
Artist: Aaron Lopresti & Jesus Saiz (back-up)
Colourist: Hi-Fi & Brian Reber (back-up)
Premise: On her 17th birthday, Amaya suddenly finds herself in a strange land of swords and sorcery (so sue me), fighting off armed assailants with her surprisingly kick-ass Amazonian mom. Also, the story of Beowulf as you've never seen before
So the main storyline of the book, Amethyst, is actually one of those old DC properties that's been rejuvenated for the new 52 initiative. As the rather self-explanatory title suggest, it's a sword and sorcery type of story with magic and other types fantasy hijinks. I'm down for some fantasy, but does this book deliver?
The main story is set in a magical land where there are different kingdoms, or 'houses,' to be more specific. Now it's pretty easy to distinguish between these different houses as they are named after gemstones and aptly designed to reflect each house's namesake. We have a house of Amethyst and a house of Diamond, for instance. Our heroine, Amaya, is the princess of the house of Amethyst. On her 17th birthday her mother opened up some gateway into another world and here we are; smack dab in the middle of a medieval battle. Apparently, Amaya's mother is the rightful ruler of the house of Amethyst, and she means to reclaim it from her sister who is the current ruler.
Sounds easy enough to follow, right? Well, this is me spelling it out for you so you know what you're throwing yourself into. In reality, I suspect most readers will, just like I did, find themselves confused over what's going on.
Imagine you rented Lord of The Rings and you're going to see it for the first time ever. You pop in the DVD, press play, and instead of the prologue, the movie starts right at the council in Rivendale where they discuss what to do with the ring. Huh? Who are these guys? What ring? Why's that guy so short? And why isn't he wearing any shoes? And so on. Coming in to Sword of Sorcery was exactly like how I imagine coming in late to LoTR would be. Amaya shortly mentions the premise in a caption, which explains her confusion over what happens but otherwise we get no backstory to this as we plunge right into the story.
Throughout the issue, I felt I was actually reading the second issue of the series. And as I eventually found out, technically I was in fact doing that. As I finally got to the back-up story and saw the "chapter two" headline, I realized that the plot must have begun in a #0 issue. Bad move, DC. #0 issues are used for prologues or stand-alone stories to attract new readers. You do NOT begin a whole new story with and expect your readers to have read it before the ACTUAL first issue even ships.
It's a shame that this horrible decision might put off readers, because at the end of it, I really enjoyed the book. What saves this part of the issue is without a doubt the combined efforts of Lopresti and Hi-Fi. Because art-wise, this issue is straight up gorgeous. No other way around it. This is the absolute best I've seen Lopresti on every level imaginable. And just as you think it couldn't get any better, suddenly Hi-Fi (is that a studio or something?) comes in with strong and rich colouring that almost literally explodes from the pages, giving Lopresti's pencils that much more depth and texture. More than an engaging storyline, the art is what made me continue reading this (though the story itself is actually pretty decent, I thought).
Next up is the back-up story: a re-imagination of the story of Beowulf. This I felt was much easier to get in to. A young squire has been sent to retrieve the mighty warrior Beowulf to help defeat the wicked monster Grendel. But the poor young squire soon finds out that the legendary Beowulf is not an honourable warrior, but rather a cold blood thirsty brute.
Straight off the bat, I was liking the story. The story of a hero who turns out to be little more than an arrogant and obnoxious asshole is good on its own. And right off from the first page you're introduced to the conflicts and you immediately get a sense of what kind of characters we are dealing with. This alone I could stick with. And then comes that little surprise twist when Beowulf faces off against the 'Iron trolls' -- maybe it's not so much of a twist if you've read the #0 issue, but it was a jaw-dropper for me. And as the story progresses, you realize that this isn't just a new take on the story of Beowulf, it's rather a retelling of sorts using familiar characters.
And as the story of Beowulf is tonally a completely different story from Amethyst, so it is reflected in the art: darker, heavier shading and inking, more somber colours. And it fits perfectly with the story told.
Initially, I set out to give this book a 3/5 rating. But this issue really grows on me the more I think about it and the more I go back and flip through it. Despite the initial confusion caused by the massive misstep of having the #0 issue act as a proper first issue. Instead, I'm giving it a 4/5.
Reading this book felt like suddenly waking up on a roller coaster ride that's already started. You have no idea how you got there or what you are doing there, and suddenly the cart sets off and takes you for a ride. You're scared, you're wondering what the hell is going on, and then the ride finally stops, and you exit the cart. And as the initial confusion wears of, and you think back about what the hell happened, you realize that those feelings of fright and slight anxiety were actually feelings of joy as you just experienced an utterly thrilling ride. Thinking back, it doesn't matter to you that you have no idea how you got there, what matters is that you had a great time.
If you are looking for a truly colourful high fantasy tale coupled with a unique and kick-ass dark fantasy re-telling of a legend, then look no further than this book. Highly recommended. Just do yourself a favour and pick up the #0 issue first.