Week 6 (Oct. 12, 2011)

October’s second week is underway and I’m gonna do something different and talk about all the comics I get, not just the DC titles.

  • Green Lantern #2 was a decent read this week, picking up from the surprising last panel of the “first” issue of the “new” series.”  Whereas last issue had a lot of storytelling and characterization, defining the drastic change in fortune of the two greatest Green Lanterns, this issue was more of an interim issue, not really doing anything super exciting, but merely defining the relationship between the aforementioned Lanterns to a point of mutual gain.  Obviously it is good, and obviously I will continue reading it, but I would be lying if I didn’t say it felt short and slightly insubstantial.  Yet, I would be remiss if I didn’t comment also that the way in which Sinestro is portrayed in this issue and defined by his reactions to the issue’s conflicts are very well done, if not very brief.  Its written well, but my main complaint is the brevity of the narrative.
  • Batman & Robin #2 delivered again in most respects.  It was a humanizing story of father and son ontop of the eponymous story of Batman and Robin.  Last issue featured Batman trying desperately to get his son to understand the logos, pathos, and ethos of his journey as Batman. This issue shows both characters trying to reach that point in their own guarded way, focusing on the effort, but also portraying the strain in their characters as they, at least for now, fall short.  But the fact that they are both trying makes the book very compelling, following in the footsteps of other literary works that follow the Freudian struggle that exists between fathers and sons.  And with a mom like Talia al Ghul, it is EXTREMELY Freudian.  The issue also demonstrates beautifully writer Peter Tomasi’s love and fidelity for and to the Batman mythos.  With little references to “Englehart Drive”  as an homage to the 70’s Batman writer, the reintroduction (if only through whispers) of Batman mentor, Henri Ducard, as well as the seeming introduction of Ace the Bat-hound. Just a damn good issue that balances genuine storytelling with shadowy mystique and action.
  • Batwoman #2 was amazing this week, as it was the month before.  I can’t substantiate if it was better than the first issue as I didn’t reread it, but it left my heart a-flutter, so if it was less good than the first, the difference is negligible. Kate Kane is written so unbelievably well, and is rounded off beautifully in J.H. Williams III’s run on Detective (as artist) and these two issues of her main title (as co-writer and artist).  She is a strong, committed, and outgoingly sapphic woman who is very much a lesbian Batman, right down to her flippant playgirl facade that she uses to mask her hard as nails vigilante core.  I also like the character of Maggie Sawyer and am overjoyed to be reading her in such a substantial role.  This also feels like a Batman/Commissioner relationship, except with the twist of it being like Bruce Wayne cockteasing Gordon in this example. Weird  image, I know, but I am oversimplifying something that is actually really great storytelling.  As an artist he also works some very stunning visuals into the story, starting with a fight sequence of Batwoman and her protege/cousin, Bette, beating on some thugs and having x-ray squares over the areas of impact so we can see what these ladies are leaving their assailants to nurse.  It accentuates and gives weight to the events of the comic, adding another level of reality and consequence.  This is but one fine example of what Williams brings to the table in this series.  And finally what I dig, is Williams returning to the character he drew in the 90’s, Cameron Chase, as the “never say die” DEO Agent that has a vendetta for pointy eared Gotham vigilantes. This is in my Top 10 comics no question.
  • Batgirl #2 followed seamlessly from last month.  Gail Simone definitely has an affinity for the character and writes a very quaint, yet intricate story that follows Barbara redonning the cape and cowl.  The overall story is ok.  The feeling she puts into writing about Barbara/Batgirl is really where the heart of the series lies.  I don’t really know what else to say about it.  Its not the greatest series I’ve read, but by far its not the worse.  Like the Birds of Prey series she worked on previous, I think as it goes on it will pick up speed.  That is just an educated guess, but it is also a fervent hope, as I love Barbara Gordon as a character so much.
  • Demon Knights #2 picks up at the fever point the last issue left off on.  Madame Xanadu, Etrigan, and the five mysterious characters  kick some ass and through the action display veiled hints as to their identities.  There seems to be an Amazon, an Arabian adventurer on the model of Sinbad the Sailor, a lady knight from Camelot, Vandal Savage, and a female brigand.  This issue, like a couple of the others that came out this week, seemed a little short but like the others I hold out hope for the series.  The ending of this issue laid a pretty decent hook for the next issue as well.  All in all, I think this was one of the better books that came out this week.
  • Superboy #2 took a dark turn from the last issue.  He still has the same reflective attitude, but after killing the scientists in the first issue, we are shown in this one his reaction to it after he comes out of his catatonia and he actually enjoys it.  He shows humanity but also the edge of being grown and crafted into a weapon.  I enjoyed the duality of this and the question of whether Superboy would react in a heroic fashion or a more sinister one as events unfolded.  What accentuates this point is the way in which Scott Lobdell juxtaposes Superboy’s inner most thoughts against the events of the issue.  The story has Superboy being used as a sharp instrument by the enigmatic N.O.W.H.E.R.E organization as a slave, but the narration of our protagonist come from a mind yearning to be free.  Seeing these two plot points find resolution is what has me invested in the series for the rest of Lobdell’s run.
  • I am a huge fan of James Robinson and especially his iconic Starman run.  That said, the new Shade series was pretty damn awesome.  Though the Shade has existed as a villain since the Golden Age, Robinson’s take was the first one that really made him worth paying attention to. Robinson turned him into a Dickensian anti-hero, with a checkered past who slowly (and ironically) finds his way to the side of the angels, though he’d be the last to admit it.  This feels like the Starman of the 90’s minus the titular Starman.  What we are left with is Robinson’s stunning panoply of characters set forth once again, after sporadic visitations in his recent Justice League run and Justice League: Cry for Justice mini series.  This first issue delivered on Shade’s withdrawn, almost effete attitude amid the amazing events he is witness to.  Looking forward to the next eleven issues.
  • After speculating in the last issue, its been made clear in Grifter #2 that yes, those aliens ARE the Daemonites.  What remains to be seen is how Voodoo relates to this series, if at all, considering that Grifter and Voodoo are the only two W.I.L.Dcats to be integrated in the “New 52.”  The man on the run motif is well done in the case of this series, which is evinced by the fact that I HATE this motif 90% of the time.  Cole Cash is in good hands, and as such is going to be put through the ringer if the advance solicitations are correct in their positing of future conflicts.  December’s cover has him squaring off against Green Arrow, which should make for some interesting reading in the interim.
  • Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E #2 was a good read that kept on par with last month.  Not stellar, but it featured a great representation of the S.H.A.D.E Creature Commando Squad that writer Jeff Lemire wrote so well in the Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creature Commandos mini series.  One of the best parts of the issue was hearing Dr. Nina Mizursky talk about her back story and what events prompted her to create the Creature Commandos and turn herself into the aquarian Creature from the Black Lagoon-esque “monster.”  In the Flashpoint mini not only was she not the scientist that did it, she wasn’t even created but rather was born as the aquatic creature she is.  The reasons behind these two drastically different takes on the group by the same writer are intriguing to posit.  Either way, the art and the story are pretty good and have as of yet kept me buying the series.
  • My Greatest Adventure #1 picks up (two thirds of the way) where the mini series Weird Worlds left off.  Writer/artist Aaron Lopresti returns with the continuation of his Garbage Man story line and writer/artist Kevin Maguire picks up his Tanga story where it left off.  Kevin Van Hook’s Lobo story finished off in the final issue of Weird Worlds and is replaced in this issue by writer, Matt Kindt’s Robotman story which is rendered beautifully by the artwork of the great Scott Kolins.  This anthology book has three very different stories that each are endowed with their own unique character and feel.  Robotman was an interesting story, picking up the damaged character of Cliff Steel from the perrenial Doom Patrol series and having him on his own, as owner of a private investigation firm. Cliff Steel was a race car driver whose body was decimated in a massive car wreck and his undamaged brain (the only salvageable piece of him) put into a robotic body. He has always struggled against alienation and this segment does a wonderful job reestablishing that “deus ex machina” conflict within his psyche. Garbage Man is Lopresti’s creation of a lawyer who is disposed of by one of his client companies, a criminally abusive laboratory, and through their “disposal” of him, he is accidentally transformed into a Swamp Thing-esque creature made of refuse and garbage. When his body or part of it is destroyed he can regenerate it with any dead material around him. He sets out for Gotham City, where he is from to salvage whatever parts of his life he can.  This first story in My Greatest Adventure finds him reaching that goal, leaving us to wonder what can actually be salvaged. Tanga is the story of an air headed, bimbo party girl alien who ambles across the universe just trying to have fun and avoid responsibility.  Weird Worlds found her being stranded on a planet and having responsibility thrust on her as the populous look to her to become their savior.  My Greatest Adventure opens with her trying to shirk that responsibility and have the original savior figure take back this unwanted burden.   Admittedly the weaker of the three stories, it still has some over the top humorous moments that can illicit a chuckle.  All in all, a decent anthology book that I will get as the three series collected within all have great heart and genuineness radiating forth.
  • Resurrection Man #2 wasn’t very good.  Its got mystery and its got conflict between Heaven and Hell with demons, angels, and tarted out skank assassins trying to get their hands on our enigmatic protagonist, but the proceedings in between were pretty slow.  I am perhaps being uncharitable, but in my opinion there wasn’t much going on here.  This will most likely be the last issue I get and I may revisit the graphic novel in a year and see if I missed something.  The premise had promise, but the follow through was left a bit fallow.
  • Vertigo did a second anthology this week called The Unexpected.  This follows the anthology Strange Adventures a few weeks ago.  From Strange Adventures Vertigo is spinning out a nine issue mini-series called Spaceman written by Brian Azzarello and drawn by Eduardo Risso.  This anthology reads like a “Twilight Zone” marathon and featured several interesting stories, ranging from a tale by G. Willow Wilson (writer of one of my favorite Vertigo series, Air) telling the story of humans behaving like animals toward one another and the dogs of a small town rising up and assuming the dominant role of civilization and casting humans down to the lot of beasts, a Mexican ghost story set in the borderlands of Texas, a story of cavemen in modern times defining humanity, among others. It concludes with a tale written by Selwyn Seyu Hinds and drawn by the renowned Denys Cowan called Voodoo Child set in Ol’ New Orleans following the magical, occult underworld of werewolves, gods, witches, and a Voodoo Queen in the 1860’s.  This story, like Space Man is spinning out into a forthcoming mini series.  This one had a great deal of ambiance set up both by the writing of Hinds and the masterful pencil of Cowan.  Vertigo hasn’t lead me wrong and so Space Man andVoodoo Child will get bought when they come out.

    Rafael Grampa's cover of "Unexpected"

  • Warlord of Mars: Fall of Barsoom is Dynamite Entertainment’s prequel to Arvid Nelson’s stunning comic adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Warlord of Mars series.  In the first of the three main books, which Nelson just finished chronicling in the main series Earthman and former Confederate Army captain, John Carter, is transported to Mars and fights a war against the several factions of Martian society and unites several.  In the end he must reactivate a derelict atmosphere plant so that all of Mars (called Barsoom) doesn’t suffocate from lack of oxygen.  Warlord of Mars: Fall of Barsoom is set thousands of years prior when the dominant Red Martians were just being spawned as mixed race outcastes of the then dominant White, Orange, and Black Martians,  the infamous Green men of Thark conquer the then White city of Thark and take its name as their own, and the  atmosphere plant is first being built to combat the first air shortage.  The story is intricate and obviously well researched, utilizing detailed minutia from the turn of the century Rice novels to posit the “ancient” history of the desiccated Red Planet.  Issue #3, which I have just read follows the White General Van Tun of Thark after the fall of his city to the barbarous Green Men,  the Jed of the Green Men Dir Nov who has emerged victorious as conqueror of Thark and father of the new Thark tribe (which are destined to be the great allies of John Carter), and the white scientist Tak Nan Lee who works tirelessly to finish his work on the atmosphere plant while trying to protect a mysterious (and sexy) Red woman while trying not to be killed by her.  Awesome series so far.
  • The mini series American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest came to its finale this week with issue#5.  This is one that follows in the footsteps of giants and is too big to sum up, but to try, this mini series follows two characters from the main series of American Vampire: Cashel McCogan and Felicia Book.  Two damaged characters whose lives were destroyed by vampires, yet who have blood ties to vampires, they fight as agent of an age old brotherhood called “The Vassals of the Morningstar” to combat the vampiric plague.  Concurrent to this series the main title delves into WWII, namely the War in the Pacific having the husband of the main character going to Japan with a contingent of Commandos who work for the Vassals.  In Survival of the Fittest it is still WWII, but Cash and Felicia go to Occupied Romania to find a scientist captured by the Nazis who purportedly has a cure for vampirism.  Such a weapon is invaluable to the Vassals and they are sent in undercover.  There are many revelations that come forth, and I must say that in both American Vampire and Survival of the Fittest the most interesting parts are how the Japanese and the Germans have integrated vampires into their ranks.  Also what is cool is that there are species of Vampires.  Some are anthropomorphic, others are lycanthropic, some are weakened by sunlight, some killed by it, some are weakened by the new moon, others are vulnerable to stakes, others are immune to stakes but vulnerable to gold.  The series take vampires (HORRIBLY OVERUSED AND TRITE!!!) and redeems them and makes them interesting again.  Scott Snyder should be canonized for his reclaiming of Vampiric fiction.  The issue itself was beautiful, heartbreaking, and triumphant.  I won’t lie.  I about cried when I read the last five pages of this issue. It was so tragic, yet so poignant and beautiful at the same time.  If you haven’t already, READ American Vampire!

    Virgin artwork of Sean Murphy's cover of "American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #5"

  • Finally came The Unwritten #30.  I normally pick my most anticipated book every week for the first I read and taper the rest off accordingly, but when The Unwritten comes out it is always the last I read and I like to read it late at night, as it is like a somnambulant dream.  Another cyclopean title that is IMPOSSIBLE to pin down, I will attempt to sum up.  A man named Wilson Taylor wrote a Harry Potter-esque book about a boy wizard named Tommy Taylor.  Not unlike A.A. Milne, writer of Winnie the Pooh, who based those stories on his son Christopher Robin’s stuff animals and wrote his child into them, Wilson’s son is the basis of Tommy Taylor.  Wilson goes missing for years and his son is an ersatz celebrity because of the fictional version of him that his father wrote.  Well it becomes made public that unbeknownst to anyone, least of all Tommy, Tommy Taylor was never actually, literally, physically born . . . He was written  into existence. Throughout the story the power of the written word to create is explored, as Tommy meets Frankenstein in the Swiss villa in which he was conceived and written by Mary Shelley.  He goes into the novel Moby Dick for a three or four issue jag and even is eaten by the whale and within its stomach meets Sinbad, Baron Munchhausen, Pinnochio and Giappetto, as well as Jonah of Old Testament fame . . . You get the picture, all people eaten by whales in novels, stories, tales, and texts.  At one point Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda shows up and tell Tommy how those who control words and information control the world.  Goebbels took a book about a Jew that raised up his people as a noble race and tore it apart making it into a film that depicted the infamy of the Jews, thereby poisoning peoples minds and altering reality.  Anyway, that’s merely a taste of what the series is about.  The actual issue finishes up a four issue story arc that actually finds itself in the 1930’s with the advent of comics and how comics were one of the most dangerous developments to the control of the enigmatic cabal that governs the world through the written word.  It also details a new chapter in the past sins of the seemingly callous and ambivalent Wilson Taylor.  I loved it as I have for the almost three years I’ve faithfully been collecting it.  If you haven’t already, read The Unwritten!

That is the end of this weeks books.  It was a pretty good week. I did whittle off a few titles such as Deathstroke, Mister Terrific, and another one that escapes my mind.  It is pretty obvious that Resurrection Man  will be joining their ranks next month, but the rest have been a pretty decent crop.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Batman & Robin #2: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray

The Unexpected: Cover Art by Rafael Grampa

American Vampire:Survival of the Fittest #5: Art by Sean Murphy, Colored by Dave Stewart


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