Thursday, June 21, 2018

Batman & Robin (The New 52) # 5

By Mark Rodriguez

A face from Batman's past, Morgan, has started a one-man crusade to kill off Batman's 'franchise' as the super villain Nobody. Damian struggles to become a nonlethal Robin, and Nobody invites him to fight crime his. Which side will Robin choose?

  Issue 4 begins with ‘Mutineer’ as Bruce Wayne wanders outside Wayne Manor and found a paper saying ‘I had to leave. The lie is over.’ As Bruce runs back to his house, Alfred shows him disturbing drawings Damian has been drawing since he moved in. Bruce says he was a fool for not noticing his son’s problems sooner and runs off to get him, saying he won’t let him down again.
Meanwhile, Damian is hanging with Nobody. Morgan asks Robin if he’s ready to leave behind the ethics he learned and embrace the killer he is meant to be and take down bad guys with lethal force if necessary. Robin says yes but he has yet to see Morgan prove himself. Morgan tells him to follow him.

 At the Batcave, Bruce is suiting up as he has the Cave wired into every security camera in the city in search for Damian. Alfred reminds him that Damian was also trained to know where the cameras are and avoid them. Batman hops in the Batmobile and hits the streets.
Batman makes a recording for Damian as he searches the streets of Gotham, beating up bad guys and looking for leads. He starts with the story of Henri Ducard, an expert huntsman, the best there was at finding anybody, who eventually married a woman named Felicity Strode. They had a son, which was Morgan. However, Felicity was an assassin hired to kill Henri, but she instead fell for him. Eventually the guys that hired her to kill him found her and told her she had to kill Ducard or she’d be dead instead.
One day Morgan overheard his mother plotting to kill his father, and killed her himself. Henri attacked his son until Morgan convinced him of his wife’s betrayal. Henri took his son under his wing and they trained together as expert huntsmen. At this time, Bruce Wayne was traveling the world, training in several forms of martial arts to become Batman. He heard of Henri Ducard and went to look for him to train under him. Bruce found Morgan and after an epic fight, Henri showed up pointing a gun to him. Wayne asks to be his apprentice, and so their story together began.
  Back to the present, Nobody and Robin stake out an Embassy where the Ambassador is guilty of human trafficking. Robin asks about the guards and that he won’t hurt innocents. Nobody doesn’t care how he takes them down as long as they’re precise. He also tells Damian to lose the cape, and says he’s free from being a decoy for Wayne. Inside Nobody and Robin take down all the guards as they make their way to the Ambassador. When they find him, Nobody gives Robin a gun and tells him to prove himself by killing him.
My Opinions 
So in this issue we see Robin taken under Morgan's wing, but also see some flashbacks of how Bruce met and trained under Ducard. Now Ducard was a character in the comics, and unlike the Nolan movies, he had nothing to do with Rah's Al Ghul. They sort of fused both characters into one for that movie. We'll be seeing a few more flashbacks, and from what I understand they're mostly similar things we've seen before in previous stories that bring in Ducard training Bruce, but now Morgan's been added into the mix.
Damian goes to the dark side and without the filter of Batman and Nightwing to keep him in check. I like how Nobody flat out calls Robin's bright yellow cape as making him a decoy. It's a joke people have been saying for years, the dark Batman that hides in the shadows sends out his brightly colored Robin to draw all the gunfire. It's quite a change to see these two work together, as Morgan also wants to fight crime, but through lethal means. This issue ends with putting Damian to the test. Tune in next time to see if Robin will pull the trigger. Same Bat Time, same Bat Channel. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Street Fighter V # 1 (Free Comic Book Day 2016)

By Mark Rodriguez

I got another Street Fighter Free Comic Book Day issue from 2016 when Street Fighter 5 was new. Man, it's hard to believe it's already been 2 years and we're waiting for Cody and Sagat to join the crew. Let's check this out.

Round One- Coffee Break

Somewhere in the Middle East, Rashid is running, jumping and flipping his way through the streets as if he were Aladdin from the SNES and Genesis games. He's testing out that Scouter thing he has as he hears the voice of the device's creator over radio, I assume in the same device. The guy is nervous about Rashid being careless, and when he says he's never been rash, he lists all the times that Rashid has hurt himself doing his acrobatics in dangerous and risky places. Rashid says what he needs is a coffee break, as he snags some coffee and drops money for the server.

Once Rashid arrives and gives him the coffee, he tells him that the device works just fine and notices some sort of helmet. Fatin says it will help Alzheimer patients recover lost memories and is the only working prototype of its kind. Just then Charlie Nash busts in and declares he is here to take the prototype. Fatin can't let him get away with something so important so Nash says he will kill him. Rashid steps in and starts to fight.

Rashid manages to knock Nash back with one of his hurricane attacks. He asks what Nash is, and if he's even really alive. Charlie says he's a man that never leaves a mission incomplete and tosses several Sonic Booms that makes the roof collapse. During the commotion, he gets away with the prototype. As he escapes in a helicopter, his commander welcomes Charlie back to 'the world of the living' and congratulates him for succeeding on his first mission since his return.

Round Two Sibling Rivalry

Sean and Laura face each other in the final round of the Regional Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Tournament. As they fight out, Laura catches Sean off guard with some of her electric attacks. Sean is surprised that she's using techniques that aren't from Jiu Jitsu is not representing the family fighting style. Laura tells him that the style they learned should be used as a starting point and it's to them to improve or change things as they see fit. She says as long he sticks to their grandfather's style, she'll beat him every time. Laura flips and catches Sean in a submission hold and wins the match.

 Laura invites Sean to the victory dinner but he says he has plans. Sean watches some TV and sees that Ken has won the mixed martial arts championship by defeating Zangief. Sean gets inspired and says if he can't beat Laura by using the Matsuda Style... maybe he can beat her using Ken Master's style. He rips off his dogi sleeves to be match Ken's and does his own version of the Hurrican Kick, just like Ken does on TV.

Round Three Seat of Power

Karin Kanzuki is upset that someone as rich and refine as her has to fly coach on a plane since the tournament won't allow her to arrive her own personal jet. As she walks down the plane, she's angry to see Birdie has already taken her seat. Birdie doesn't care and Karin send him flying off his seat. Birdie angrily gets ready to fight, unimpressed by the rich schoolgirl. Karin says her family if the best of the best and defeats Birdie using her new Critical Art.

 Karin goes back to her seat and wonders if he'll be in the tournament. Her butler says he will. Karin doesn't mind saying she'll be glad to display her Kanzuki fighting style for all to see at the tournament, even to those she had already defeated. She also says that Birdie will not be bothering them anymore since he found his own seat, and we see he's been stuck flying with the cargo.

My Opinions

Pretty fun read as we get three short stories, all by different artists. The Rashid story was pretty cool and we get to see that he's a reckless fun loving guy. I'm still wondering what they're gonna do with Nash since Udon comics already did bring back Charlie from the dead as a brainwashed assassin named Shadow based on the Marvel VS games. Then I guess he vanished again and just now came back SF5 style. I wonder if they're ever gonna bring that up or kinda sweep it under the rug whenever they have Guile face Charlie.

I really liked the Sean story. Not just because of Laura, but because I like how this inspired Sean to become Ken's pupil. Karin's story was ok but the weird overly stylized art style kinda ruined it for me. Especially for Birdie. He just looks weird. I did like the extra cameos like Guile and Alex being on the plane, conveniently covered by word balloons.

 The comic also advertises a series called 'The Life and Deaths of Charlie Nash' so maybe they will bring up his stint as Shadow. That would be cool. Cammy will also get her own series along side her team Delta Red, who we don't really see all that often in games. And of course the comic also advertises the current ongoing series Street Fighter Unlimited which tries to very oddly mix Bison's plans with Gill's. Mostly because Capcom can't let go of Bison and Shadaloo, and if you choose to continue with Street Fighter 3 and beyond, you're going to have let Bison die off for good.

 Mini SF Story rant

I kinda think Capcom went too far with making Street Fighter 3 different from part 2. To this say, Street Fighter 3 is still the final game in the series, and their biggest mistake was killing Bison off for good and getting rid of most of the main cast. Either that or they should have stuck to their guns and kept Bison dead and continue the story. So Street Fighter 4 comes along and revitalizes the franchise, and yeah, I admit, the game despite being as awesome as it was... probably wouldn't have been as big if it didn't bring back the entire Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo cast, and while Seth was the end boss, Bison was still on top of things with Shadaloo.

Now we're in the world of Street Fighter 5. Still Bison (though older) and still running Shadaloo. At this point he's just become too much of an iconic character and it will be hard to have someone new take his place permanently. And honestly, unless story mode changes anything I don't think they even bothered with a true final boss that isn't just Bison again. I mean, at least SF4 tried with Seth.

So yeah... Udon is moving forward with the SF3 storyline... but since SF5 is out with new characters and all that, they can't simply ignore all that, so the Udon Street Fighters are gonna have their hands busy with both Bison and Gill, and I guess Juri and Kolin? Possibly Ed and Falke too.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Street Fighter:The New Challengers- Animated Comic Book

By Mark Rodriguez

This story picks up right after Round 1 left off, and I decided to check it out on Hulu as well. The story was kinda long so while I won't give the super exact play by play, I will cover all of the major stuff that happened.

The story mostly centers around Cammy, now working with MI6 without really remembering her past. She's on a mission with her squad on a moving train to protect someone that is targeted for assassination by Shadaloo. During the mission, Cammy runs into one of the Dolls who recognizes her saying 'you?'. The Doll named Satsuki is captured but it leaves Cammy wondering how she knew her.

Chun Li is on a mission to find Fei Long who is being targeted by Shadaloo as well. After they meet up, they find out that two other Dolls, Xiayu and Jianyu are heading the operation in Hong Kong. Chun Li and Fei Long team up with Gen and head over to their stronghold. After some fighting, the trio defeat the Dolls and break up the crime ring. Before Chun Li leaves, she pays her respects to her father alongside Gen.

Ryu and Sakura travel the world. Ryu is looking for Sagat to test his strength. As they arrive in Thailand, they run into Adon instead, who has sworn Sagat off as his master after his defeat to Ryu. After a fight, Ryu defeats Adon and he tells him that Sagat is currently in India, so Ryu and Sakura will head over there.

Cammy talks to Satsuki in private and the Doll thinks that Cammy has gone under deep cover within MI6. Cammy plays along and finds out that they're working on the Pyscho Drive and need one last component to complete it, which will render all modern weaponry useless against it. Other Dolls attack the base, stealing the final component and Satsuki escapes, saluting Cammy as she gets away in a helicopter. Cammy comes to the horrible realization that she was one of Bison's Dolls.

Ryu and Sakura arrive in India, but before they can do much they're called by Ken to visit them in the US because he'll be marrying Eliza soon and wants Ryu in the group photo. Ken and Eliza catch a boxing match in Las Vegas, and one of the fighters is Balrog. Balrog recognizes Ken in the crowd and calls up Vega after the match.

Vega seems to be running most of Shadaloo's operations after Bison's apparent demise. He scolds Xiayu and Jianyu for failing in Hong Kong and sends them to find the final component for the Pyscho Drive. Once he gets the call from Balrog, he's eager for a rematch with Ken.

After Cammy tells her teammates what she discovered from Satsuki, they call Chun Li to help out on the case. Once Chun Li arrives, she recognizes Cammy as the Killer Bee that killed her father and flips out. Chun Li attacks her violently, while Cammy is basically trying to defend herself, confused as to all that she has done in her past life.

 The rest of M16 arrive to try to break it up, and once Chun Li sees the innocence in Cammy's eyes, she backs off and apologizes. As MI6 prepare to head out to stop Shadaloo, Cammy is captured by their agents.

Ryu and Sakura arrive to join Ken and Eliza for the group photo and a party. Guile, his wife Julia and their daughter are in the same area on their own outing. Guile's marriage is on shaky ground as his obsession with avenging Charlie keeps him away from his wife. Vega and Balrog arrive to crash the party with a couple of extra thugs.

Ryu and Ken start fighting the bad guys in hand to hand combat until one of the thugs has enough and decides to whip out a gun. As he's about to shoot in the back, Sakura finally unleashes her very first Hadouken, stopping the armed thug. Ken starts fighting Vega, though he's getting sliced up a lot, and Ryu has a difficult time against Balrog. Guile, after making sure that the guests got out safely, heads back to see if he can help.

Ryu finally defeats Balrog with a Sho Ryu Ken, but Vega is pretty much ready to finish off Ken. The crazed matador sees Eliza and says he will kill her right in front of Ken so it will be the last thing he sees. Guile arrives and fights off Vega. The police arrive and Vega and Balrog get away.

Ken thanks Ryu for the help. Eliza tells her sister Julia that Guile is a good man and she would have been dead had he not stepped in to help. Sakura tells Ryu that her summer vacation is almost over so she has to head back to Japan.

Cammy wakes up in a capsule and remembers having dreams about this before. The scientist are ready to completely erase her memories and start over. Before he can press the button, he sees that his computer systems have been hacked by MI6, and they soon enter the frey alongside Chun Li. The main scientist unleashes the Dolls to attack them all, and also to make sure they protect the final component. As everyone fights the various Dolls, Cammy sees one with a mask and manages to knock if off her face. She is shocked and confused that this Doll, Decapre, looks exactly like her!

The scientist release Blanka, who was apparently created by Shadaloo and was captured all this time. The MI6 agents are caught off guard by Blanka's Ball Attacks and Electric Attacks. Cammy calls Blanka out and the savage beast is ready to attack. He suddenly recognizes her as Killer Bee and backs off, asking for her not to hurt him anymore. Cammy wonders what she could have possibly done to him to scare him that much. The place is destroyed and everyone got away, but the bad guys still managed to escape with the final component they needed.

Cammy pays her respects to Chun Li's father, apologizing for what she did, even though she was brainwashed at the time. She'll continue to fight Shadaloo to atone for her sins. Rose watches Cammy from her crystal ball and laments that even when she tried to give Cammy a new life with MI6, it seems her destiny continues to leads her straight to Bison. She then notices something in her crystal ball that horrifies her. The Shadaloo scientists have succeeded in reviving Bison.

My opinions-

As always Udon does a great job with Street Fighter, especially in the art and action department. It's a pretty bizarre mix between doing a great job of staying true to the Street Fighter backstory and showing us things we've only heard about or seen mentioned in character endings. And then they have Cammy kill Chun Li's father. I don't know, in a way I guess it's beneath Bison to do his own dirty work, but Chun Li's battle against Bison has always felt so much more personal because he personally killed her father himself.

Sending Cammy to do it instead felt kinda weird. Yeah, I know they did a similar thing with Bison having Balrog hire Cammy as a professional assassin to kill Chun Li's father in the Street Fighter V anime series, but that series was so different and far removed from the games, it got kinda a free pass. The Udon comics feel much more legit, so this kind of change was jarring to me at first. It reminds me of Fatal Fury where Geese Howard himself killed Terry and Andy's father, but the Art of Fighting games imply that he sent Mr. Karate to do it.

Either way, this was a pretty good story and I like how it heavily revolved around Cammy and her trying to make sense of her current life, while at the same time trying to remember her past life. Despite my criticisms of Cammy killing Chun Li's father, it shows the inner strength that Chun Li has to be able to let go and forgive Cammy, realizing she was not in her right mind when she did that. I liked seeing Cammy pray upon Chun Li's father's grave as well.

 The comics did a good job of showcasing more of the other Dolls, as well as more of MI6's members. I do find it funny how Ryu and Sakura go from Thailand to India, then interrupt their travel plans to meet Ken in the US... and I assume from there Ryu is heading back to India again. For a wanderer, Ryu must have hella cash or tons of flyer miles saved up.

Blanka really felt out of nowhere though. It's like Udon suddenly remembered him and was like 'well, we gotta put him in there somewhere, don't we?'. And him being some sort of Shadaloo experiment reminds me too much of the Van Damme movie... but I guess we also need some sort of way to explain how a regular human kid turned into whatever Blanka is.

It was still an entertaining watch. I do enjoy these animated movies but I don't know if Udon made more. Hulu only had this one and the first one I saw before, but that one is already gone. These Udon comics gave me more interest and curiosity in watching other animated comic movies.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Street Fighter Round 1- Animated Comic Book

By Mark Rodriguez

Yes, this is the first comic series that started it all for Udon. Based on the first 6 issues which were about the Alpha storyline, I remember owning a few of these issues back in Mexico. Therefore they were in Spanish. Anyways I ran into the animated comic over at Hulu, and while I know animated comic movies have been around for a while, this is the first time I ever actually seen one. What better one to start with than Street Fighter?

Brief Summary

Ryu has nightmares of himself being turned evil due to the power of the Dark Hado. His nightmares have his evil self defeat him. When he wakes up, he hears a scream and finds his master Gouken dead with the Ten symbol painted in his blood. Meanwhile, Charlie Nash is being attacked by Bison, and his disappearance afterwards continued to haunt Guile for the weeks to come. Guile hears that Bison is after a guy named Ryu, the one that defeated Sagat in the last Street Fighter tournament. We have a flashback of that fateful fight as Ryu succumbs to the Dark Hado momentarily which makes him hit Sagat with the infamous Sho Ryu Ken that gave him the scar.

 Ryu meets up with Ken and his fiance Eliza and he tells them the news about Gouken. As they go out to eat, the restaurant is attacked by Birdie and his men, who were working for Shadaloo. Before Ryu can step in, Guile fights Birdie and wins. One of Birdie's men escape but is taken down by Chun Li.

 Guile and Chun Li talk and soon discover that they're both after Bison and Shadaloo for similar reasons. Ryu, Ken and Eliza go to Japan. Meanwhile, Vega is sent to Japan by Bison to find Ryu for his plans. His search for Japan's # 1 leads him to Honda instead. After a short fight between Vega and Honda, the matador figures he's wasting his time and leaves. Sakura, wanting to find a good fighter to train under, overhears Vega's convo about Ryu and decides to find him too.

 Guile gets a picture of Ryu and is pissed to find out it was the same guy they came across when they fought with Birdie. He heads to Japan with Chun Li. Then they both get attacked by Charlie, still alive, brainwashed, and now calling himself Agent Shadow. After a brief fight, Guile is taken down and Shadow leaves. Before he does so, Guile gives him his dog tags and reminds him that his name is Charlie Nash. Vega follows Eliza to her hotel and attacks her. Ken manages to arrive in time and defeats him. Eliza is taken to the hospital.

Sakura's quest for a master leads him to Dan's dojo. Despite Dan Hibiki's boasting about how incredible he is, Sakura mops the floor with him. Sakura and her friend Kei take Dan to the hospital, at the same time that Guile was discharged from said hospital. There Guile and Chun Li run into Eliza, who is Guile's sister-in-law. Eliza is upset at how Guile abandoned his family to look for Charlie and mentioned how she was attacked by Shadaloo and how she knows Ryu. Guile contacts Ken and tells him what's going on and heads over to the shrine Ryu is training at.

Ryu has another nightmare about succumbing to his evil self. Ken arrives after this, but then suddenly Sagat shows up as well. After a brief fight, Sagat says he's here to warn Ryu about Shadaloo coming after him. Sagat does want a rematch, but against Ryu's regular self, not a mind controlled puppet. He says they'll meet at the next Street Fighter Tournament and leaves.

Bison decides to take care of Chun Li and Guile himself since Agent Killer Bee isn't available. She was captured by Rose who sees that her soul is dominated by Bison, and wants to help her regain her free will. Bison runs into Chun Li and Guile and defeats them easily. Shadow shows up, now remembering who he is, and fights against Bison. Even though Bison has him shot with a chopper, Bison's own improvement upon Charlie help him survive and continue the fight.

During this, Charlie tells Chun Li that he was there when Bison had her father killed. He sent the Shadaloo Dolls after him, and while his father fought them off the best he could, the numbered eventually overcame. The Doll to land the fatal blow was the Killer Bee. The fight continues and Charlie sacrifices himself to defeat Bison. Guile is sad but is glad to see his friend go out as a hero.

Ryu and Ken wait for Guile and Chun Li to arrive, but Akuma gets there first. The fight is finally on as Ryu and Ken fight for revenge, but Akuma quickly takes them down. Sakura is impressed by Ryu and says she'll fight him if it will prove she's worthy of being his pupil. Akuma smacks her down which awakens the darkness with Ryu and he manages to actually land a hit on Akuma. Akuma says he's still not ready and he has to embrace the Dark Hado. He leaves and says they will fight again at the next Street Fighter tournament.

Ryu and Ken part ways, but now Ryu has a pupil following him around, Sakura. Elsewhere, Agent Killer Bee wakes up in front of the British Intelligence building, with a note from Rose explaining she has been given a chance at a new life. Her name from now on will be Cammy.

My Opinions 

 I've never seen an animated comic book before, but this was very entertaining. Yes I know this mostly a slide slow, but they do add little things here and there like blinking eyes, reflective eyeglasses, falling leaves and whatnot to keep the interest going. Though I have to say, sometimes Udon's background scenery art looks like anime stills, you expect things to start moving. The music and sound effects are pretty cool, though sometimes the acting could have been better. Mostly Eliza and Birdie. I do miss the voices from the Street Fighter 2 Animated Movie and kinda wish those guys were used here, particularly for Bison. The art is so close to the games (given it's from Udon) that I wish they used either those voices, or the voices from the SF4 series.

The story pretty much follows Alpha. I see they squeezed in the back-up story of Ryu's classic fight against Sagat, where his sudden burst of Killing Intent made him give Sagat the deadly scar. It's very noticeable since the back-up stories usually have different artists and the art style was extremely stylized which clashes with the overall story, but storywise, it works where they put it. I never did like retconning since the Dark Hado stuff started in the Alpha series and Capcom started to throw this in the first Street Fighter game... but it does explain why Ryu (and Ken for that matter) don't leave scars on their opponents every time they used the Sho Ryu Ken.

There are a couple of fights just thrown in there here and there, but it does kinda help the narrative. Vega didn't really need to fight Honda, but it did get Sakura involved. Sakura didn't really need to fight Dan, but it did get her in the same hospital to overhear Ryu's location. I did find it kinda rushed and contrived how Eliza, Guile, Chun Li and Sakura were all at the same hospital at the same time which led them to all go to the same place regarding Ryu. There's happy coincidences, but c'mon....

Another minor complaint is Cammy, the Killer Bee. All she did was snoop around on Ryu and Ken and report to Bison.... and kill Chun Li's father, via flashback mind you... and that's it. In this actual story she didn't really do anything. Having Rose somehow subdue her and fight off Bison's influence is ok.... but show more of 'evil Cammy' in action first so that we get to care more about this transformation. Or at least show the fight between Cammy and Rose whenever she did manage to capture her.

 Finally I do want to mention Charlie's role in the story. It's very clever that they went with a hidden character in the Marvel Super Heroes VS Street Fighter game, Shadow and slipped him into the series. I just liked how they were able to cleverly slip that reference in there.

I have to admit, Guile's fight with Shadow reminded me a lot of Captain America and Winter Soldier. However, Street Fighter 5 brought back Charlie, also brainwashed and whatnot thanks to Kolin. I've seen that Udon has brought in SF5 Charlie into the mix, but I wonder if they had the characters (especially Guile) that they've already been through this song and dance before. I guess poor Charlie is always destined to be some undead brainwashed soldier that will never just recover and be Guile's friend again. At least Winter Soldier got better.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Detective (The New 52) # 7

By Mark Rodriguez

It turns out that Bruce's girlfriend throughout the Dollmaker story, Charlotte Rivers, turned out to have an evil twin sister named Jill Hudson. Jill murdered her way to Penguin's new Iceberg Casino for some sort of underhanded plot. Meanwhile Penguin is trying to recruit new up and coming villains. Last issue, Jill's partner, Snakeskin, stabbed Charlotte in the arm repeatedly. Batman came in to save her, but Snakeskin managed to trap them both in the room and eject them to the chilling ice outside of the Casino. What will happen now?

"The Snake and the Hawk" opens with Jill punching Jack's face into pulp, angry that he killed her sister. He tells her that she knew sooner or later one of them had to go and Jill yells that it was her call to make. Jill regains herself and remembers she has to be strong so they can both succeed in their plane. Jack and Jill kiss and get ready.

Batman is hanging on to a cable while holding Charlotte as a spinning propeller lays below them, ready to shred them up should they fall. He calls for Alfred to lock onto his signal and bring the Batsub post haste. Alfred smashes his way in, destroying the propeller in the process and saving Batman and Charlotte. Bats tells him to fill a life raft with lots of ice.

Jack feels the thud made when Alfred hit the Casino and sees police helicopters in the area. Jill tells him to grab his gun, which is plastic and won't set off any alarms. Due to Jill punching the hell out of his face earlier, Jack is now severely deformed and he can't use his abilities to change his face back. Jill says they can't complete the mission with Snakeskin exposed, but he takes the gun and said he'll go take the shot.

Elsewhere, Mr. Combustible felt the shock caused by Alfred. Lark arrives and will escort Penguin to his bunker since the police are arriving due to a bomb threat. Penguin asks if Charlotte had anything to do with it and Lark tells him she lost sight of her seven minutes ago. Hypnotic asks Penguin is they should also be invited to his bunker. Penguin tells them that his deal is to keep their money safe, but they can take care of themselves. Hypnotic says he doesn't trust his money with the Penguin anymore.

Alfred tells Batman that is was clever to phone in a bomb threat since the police arrived so quickly. Batman and Alfred cover Charlotte in ice and tell him he lost a lot of blood but by giving her hypothermia they slowed that down. Alfred will have the police airlift Charlotte to the E.R while Batman goes back inside to deal with Snakeskin and Jill. Alfred tells him Jill is a master of martial arts and is behind several crime sprees in Russia and China.

Batman finally figures out that Jill was the clown killer he faced at the park earlier, the one who dropped the chip with Jack's fingerprints on it, and the one that killed Nicholas Pog. He asks himself what she's doing with Snakeskin.

Jill uses a sensor in her hand to open up all of Penguin's vaults. Meanwhile everyone is being evacuated due to the bomb threat and Penguin claims he'll give everyone who was inconvenienced free admission. Penguin tells Lark, Jay and Raven that he wants the head of whoever called in the bomb threat. Just then, Snakeskin pushes his way through the crowd and aims a gun at the Penguin.

Snakeskin fires his weapon and it explodes in his face, killing him. Lark tells Penguin the man has an accomplice and she was seen near the vaults. Penguin tells her to bring the woman to him. Hypnotic tells Penguin that they are not impressed with the events of the evening and are backing out of their deal. Penguin tells them that if they break the deal, he'll break them with it.

Jill tells Batman to come out, since she knows he's hiding somewhere. Batman comes out and tells him her sister might live, no thanks to her and Snakeskin. She tells him she had it coming and they fight until he manages to grab her. He tells her he knows she is Charlotte's sister and that they're both Mayor Hady's daughters. Just then Penguin's villains grab Jill and tell Batman that she has a lot to answer for.

Batman fights the villains. Hypnotic tries to use his powers on Batman and the Dark Knight punches his glasses clean off. He tells him that radio control waves won't work on him. Batman tells the bad guys that the Penguin is tricking them into keeping their money safe for him, and they are his competition. Mr. Combustible says he does sense high explosives in the chamber they're in and Batman tells everyone to get out. Batman barely escapes as the chamber explodes.

Outside the Penguin's secret bunker, Jill calls out for the Penguin. Penguin says their plan almost worked perfectly. Jill tells him she planted the bombs so the other villains should now be dead and he gets to keep the money. Penguin says the villains managed to escape alive. Jill says with the failed assassination attempt, they'll be after her instead of him and with her cut of the money she'll be able to hide real well.

Just then Lark pulls a gun on her. Penguin tells Jill that he'll fulfill his promise to her, and make sure Mayor Hady's re-election campaign will run smoothly. Batman comes in and kicks Lark in the face, knocking her out. Jill pulls her sai, ready to attack the Penguin, but Batman shoves her out of the way of Penguin's flamethrower umbrella. The blast sends Penguin flying into a chunk of ice, also knocking him out. Batman tells Jill that she's done playing with the big boys and she tells him that he's not the police. Batman says that hasn't stopped him yet.

Later on, Jill is in prison and is asking Mr. Mosiac for help, who is still angry that she stole his car and left him stranded in the middle of the road. Mosiac tells her that he knows her father knows shes in jail and he'll help her get out. As he walks out he says he heard the mayor hired the best attorney. The attorney, Mr. Weaver enters the room and says he's her criminal defense lawyer hired by her dad. Actually, it turns out to be Snakeskin, who pulls out a knife and tells her 'The Penguin says hello'.

My opinions

Well, this was an interesting little story with a few twists here and there. Jill was working for Penguin all along, to help kill off the other criminals and also take all their money. I wouldn't trust my money with the Penguin, but these guys were described as small fry and new to Gotham, so they didn't know any better. 

I do find it funny that after all of this, Batman only faces Penguin in the very last pages... and Penguin basically knocks himself out by the recoil effect from firing off his own umbrella. I guess you can say we've seen Batman fight the Penguin a million times before, and more attention was focused on Jack and Jill, and Batman's fight with the new villains.

The new villains don't do too much that I can remember, but they do have several appearances throughout the new 53, I just don't know if they've made any appearance since then, unless someone decides to use them again. I don't know why, but when I first read this back then, I was excited to see new bad guys brought in along with the classics. I again say that Mr. Toxic is bad ass looking and I think he actually gets a story arc.

The ones that get the most attention or even names are Mr. Toxic, Mr. Combustible and Hypnotic. But... who are the other guys and what do they do? Hypnotic tries to hypnotize Batman and failed and Mr. Toxic uses lethal gas, but what about everyone else? Like who is this guy grabbing Jill? What's his name?

As for Jill, she is cold blooded and dangerous, and based on how she treats Jack, she is very abusive. There a moment where she started calling him a bottom feeder and what not and Jack told him she said she's quit talking like that. Jill is just full of rage and lacks remorse, except for possibly her sister, and it now seems her story ends here. I kinda wished Penguin and Lark did kill her themselves though, like I've seen Scarface kill so many people without Batman anywhere to save the day, but I guess we needed some sort of confrontation between Batman and the Penguin in this story I guess.

It was interesting to see that Charlotte had an evil twin sister which gave her a little more to do last issue than just be Bruce's girlfriend. It seems she will survive her fatal stabbing, but I wonder how much longer she'll stick around.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Detective (The New 52) # 6

By Mark Rodriguez

Batman is on the trail of a faceless killer, which leads him to Penguin's casino. Meanwhile, Charlotte River, Bruce's current girlfriend, sneaks into the Casino and disguises herself as the staff. This did not escape the Penguin's notice and he sends his girls after her. What will happen next?

Why does penguin look like the Joker here? It doesn't help that he's basically wearing his outfit with the yellow vest and purple pants
"Kill Game" opens on a private beachfront property known as Gotham Dunes, where a couple watches over the Iceberg Casino which they comment looks like a diamond floating in a black pool. The guy says he wants to get in there since the Penguin's been hold up in there for too long. The woman hands him the Golden VIP pass to the Casino. He asks her how she had that pass and she says never mind how she got it, which reveals that she was faceless killer from the previous issue. The woman looks exactly like Charlotte Rivers, but with an eye patch.

The woman tells him to change his face since they can't risk the real him to be spotted. He'd rather go with his real face and she socks in the jaw, telling him to change it. She explains to the reader that the guy is named Jack Houston, known as Snakeskin. He volunteered himself to test rogue medical research and had a bad reaction to it. He lawyered up and got sued them and got a big payday for his pain suffering... but he gambled it all away. He ended up running from every gambling owner and loan shark in Gotham and turned to crime. He discovered he can change his face to help disguise himself.

However, this doesn't change his fingertips and Batman found them on the poker chip he found the last issue. This leads him to a broken down building with a bathtub full of blood. He says a dead person who he recognized as Raju, one of Penguin's runners. Alfred traces his last phone calls to a weapons dealer named Nicolas Pog and a woman named Jill Hamilton. Alfred recognizes the name and Batman cuts the call.

Batman goes to the desk clerk that runs the places that houses lowlifes. He pulls a shotgun on Bats and the Dark Knight pushes the gun downwards, making the man shoot off the toes from his left foot. Batman asks for Jill Hamilton and the clerk tells him he last saw the woman with the eye patch the day before.

At the Penguin's Casino, Charlotte, still disguised as a maid, searches through someone's bags in a room hoping to find something to give her evidence, like a laptop or a smartphone. She gets chopped on the back of the head by Jill. Jill and Charlotte recognize each other.

 Charlotte and Jill are sisters, and Charlotte is trying to expose the underground weapons operation, and Jill's name came up. Jill says her sister will never turn her in or she'll ruin her privileged lifestyle.
Jill grabs a liquor bottle and smashes it, giving herself a weapon.

Elsewhere the Penguin has invited several up and coming villains to to take under his wing until they're ready to operate on their own. These bad guys include Mr.Toxic, Hypnotic and Mr. Combustible. Penguin is served a drink as he explains that they haven't been messed with on the streets yet because he's been protecting their money in the Iceberg vault. The woman that served his drink is Jill.

Elsewhere in Crime Alley, Batman is chasing down Smitty, a lowlife associate of Nicolas Pog. Batman grabs him and make him take him to Pog's storage room. There they see bomb making supplies and Bats asks where the actual bombs are. Smitty says he doesn't know but he last saw Pog talking to a woman missing an eye. He overheard Pog say he was going to meet her at the Iceberg Casino's opening. Smitty says she saw the woman bring in a trunk and it's full of Pog's body parts on ice. Pog also has a shuriken in his eye just like Boris Gorky did. Batman thinks he'll be meeting up with his date with Charlotte after all.

The Penguin opens up his Iceberg Casino and Hotel. Snakeskin loads the C4 in a room for Jill to use. At the main lounge, Bruce Wayne calls Charlotte and says he'll be on his way. Charlotte spots Jill as she's wheeling off a meal on a silver platter and she decides to keep an eye on her.

Bruce and Alfred arrive on a boat but they spot the boat left behind by Jill and Jack (oh damn, now I get it...) and it's the same stolen boat the killer used to get away previously. Alfred jokes that if common criminals are allowed to park there, he must write a letter to management. Bruce suits up as Batman and says that will keep Alfred busy for a while, and Alfred says he's already plenty busy investigating missing train passengers from another case happening in Vampire # 5. Batman also mentioned that he placed a homing chip on Charlotte's coat.

Meanwhile in the casino, Charlotte is wandering around looking for Jill, since she feels if she doesn't stop her plans, she'd be an accessory. She swiped Jill's employee card to gain access to private areas. As she enters a dark room, she gets stabbed multiple times in the shoulder.

Holy crap. Stabbed 4 times in the shoulder. Overkill.
 Batman busts in and beats the crap out of Snakeskin saying that he better not have killed Charlotte. Charlotte is bleeding out and Batman tries to save her but Snakeskin locks them both in and fill the room with cold air. The floor beneath them slide open and Batman and Charlotte fall among the ice outside. As this happens, Batman blames letting his feelings for Charlotte cloud his judgement as he thinks they're both about to die.

It almost looks like he's surfing on Charlotte if you give this a casual glance.

My Opinions

 Well, this issue was a full story, I was expecting some extra back up story. I didn't notice the Jack and Jill thing til halfway through the issue, and the fact that Jack kept calling Jill 'Chase' as a nickname also confused me with these characters. I'm pretty sure these guys are new to The New 52 and didn't exist prior.

I can only assume when Jill broke the bottle to threaten Charlotte to leave her be, she stood back and said 'yeah sure, just don't hurt me', but I would have liked to have seen it. It is a bit jarring to see Jill looking like she's about to cut her sister with a broken bottle and then cut away to Jill serving Penguin drinks. Maybe they could have skipped the bottle and just have Jill sock her out or something.

Jill is quite a character though. She is a martial arts expert, she can kill criminals by perfectly throwing a shuriken in their eye, and she has no qualms about chopping them up. Last issue she got the drop on Batman and outsmarted a criminal out of his car. It's hard to say if she really cares about Jack or is just using him. She had no problems socking him in the face when he didn't want to play along earlier. She is a cold and violent woman, and it is interesting to see Batman dealing with slightly more down to Earth criminals.

This is Batman as his core. He's not always fighting super villains, or saving the world alongside the Justice League. He's running around the darkest and filthiest parts of town, beat the crap out of drug dealers and members of organized crime. He tracks these guys by name and knows their habits. That's Batman.

Despite the covers and whatnot, Batman hasn't even seen the Penguin and is running around his casino not even looking for him. I'm sure their paths will cross. It's also kinda cool to see Penguin become a mentor of sorts for upcoming bad guys, that might or not make it in Gotham. Mr. Toxic in particular looks awesome.

I also want to mention the slightly odd mention to Batman's crossover adventure in the I, Vampire comics series, which was released as part of the New 52. I was currently buying all 4 Batman books, the Batgirl book, Catwoman book and the Justice League so I understood when one comic mentioned the events of the other, but the one regarding I, Vampire threw me off.

Also... what the hell were Lark, Jay and Raven doing during all this? I thought Penguin sent them to check up on Charlotte last time? I'm surprised they didn't cut in when Charlotte and Jill were talking to each other. I guess we'll find out next issue.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Detective (The New 52) # 5

By Mark Rodriguez

So even though Batman defeated Dollmaker, or at least stopped his plans for now, the villain has him up for auction. It just so happened that Penguin was one of the potential buyers. Batman takes this as well as you'd expect, and with Dollmaker gone, The Dark Knight now sets his sights on him.

"Wheel of Misfortune" opens with Batman watching over a crowd or Joker supporters lobbying outside of City Hall. They blame Batman for cutting Joker's face off and his sudden disappearance. This has been happening for several nights and the mayor now blames Batman for this and wants him removed.

Batman finds his target, a guy named Axel Bellany who recently hijacked a truck with hazardous chemicals. He's dealing with another criminal named Boris Gorky. Before Batman can make his move, a crazy clown tosses a throwing star into one of Gorky's eyes. He then leaps down and kills two of Gorky's men with knives. Batman jumps in to stop him but the clown sprays acid in his face which fogs up his lenses. The clown runs off with the suitcase Gorky was carrying.

Batman follows the clown into the mob of Joker supporters, who all think he's some guy in a Batman costume. They attack him chanting 'Down with the Bat!' The Dark Knight pushes himself through the crowd and see the guy got away on a boat. He finds the discarded clown mask on the ground nearby and poker chip that might be a valuable clue to find this killer. The chip is from the Iceberg Casino.

Several miles off the harbor, another criminal, Mr. Mosiac waits for the guy to come back with briefcase. The killer arrives and shows him the briefcase. Mosiac isn't sure it's what he wanted, but a gun to the face convinced him. He hands the killer a golden VIP pass to the Iceberg Casino and asks if he needs a ride. The killer drives off in Mosiac's car, leaving him stranded.

Charlotte Rivers arrives at the Iceberg Casino's opening night, but her date Bruce hasn't arrived yet. She meets up with some friends and decides to hang with them until Bruce shows up, after she freshens up first. Once alone, Charlotte dresses up like one of the cleaning maids.

The Penguin is watching via video camera and has 3 deadly ladies with him. He tells Lark to make sure Charlotte Rivers finds a new story worth dying for.

Russian Roulette

A guy by the name Eli Strange goes in to meet up with 'The Mad Russian', who Gorky told him to ask for. The guy has expensive jewelry he stole, which buys him into the game with Mad Russian and his boys. As they play, they discuss the Joker and how they think Batman killed him. Eli ends up winning the card game and is ready to take his leave with his chips, but they stop him and tell him the host always gets a chance to win it back.

One of the men slam Eli's face into the table wanting to know the truth or they will start cutting off his fingers.. Eli's wrist has some sort of contraption with extra cards, which is how he won, and the diamond choker he offered earlier was a fake. One of the guys checks his safe and sees it's now empty with a cat statue with a tag that says 'gotcha!' being left behind. Russian asks one of his boys where he found the jewels and he says in a car sitting in a glove box.

Catwoman suddenly appears and  kicks the cat statue out of the thug's hand, saying the car belonged to him. She tells them men that this is Gotham and not Moscow, and they're low on the pecking order. She claws up everyone. Eli asks how he did, and Catwoman says he did fine except for almost being killed. She tells him to leave so he won't see what else she'll do to these men, which might scar what's left of his childhood.

Hugo Strange is watching all this from surveillance cameras and is surprised to see his son still alive. He says he will raise him to the kind of man he feels he is destined to be.

My Opinions

It's been a while since I read this so I forgot this story was so short on account of the back up story. Despite what was being advertised at the time, this comic wasn't so much about Batman looking for Penguin to get revenge, but more about another case that led him to the Penguin. I honestly don't know what this mysterious clown killer has to do with the Iceberg Casino and the Penguin. Of course at the time, everyone speculated it could have been the Joker since you couldn't see his face, but it could have been too soon for him to make an appearance.

I did like the scene with the people at the protest thinking Batman was some random guy in a Batman costume hoping to troll the Joker fans at their protest.

I also have to point out that apparently Penguin's club is so epic and so exclusive that you have to kill and rob gangsters just so that some big time criminal can give you a golden VIP pass to get in.

Charlotte Rivers is still in the story and it seems she's following the path of Lois Lane and April O'Neil, going too deep to find her story and getting in trouble. I looked up that the other two girls with the Penguin and Lark and Jay and Raven. Even though it seems Lark has been in the comics before, Jay and Raven only appeared in the Batman Animated Series later seasons, specifically in the animated movie Mystery of the Batwoman. This makes their first official appearance in the DC comics proper. Um... congrats you random sometimes nameless Penguin henchmen, you!

As for the other story... well the first story had Gorky mentioned that Alex was recently robbed... I didn't think we needed to see the story of how he was robbed. I get the story was to build up hype for Hugo Strange's son (I guess), but having him work under Catwoman is completely random, especially since she's not doing anything related to him in her own comic. Guess the comic needed more star power.

I'm more curious to see what happens next issue with the Penguin and his dangerous ladies.

Batman & Robin (The New 52) # 5

By Mark Rodriguez A face from Batman's past, Morgan, has started a one-man crusade to kill off Batman's 'franchise' as the...