Week 14 (Dec. 7, 2011)

is is one of three phantom weeks this christmas season where I read the books, but was not able to write reviews at the time.  These may be patchy and I may omit books for brevity sake or just because my aging mind fails me, but here they are: the most important books of those three weeks.

  • Action Comics #4 is beginning to look and feel like a Superman comic.  The younger Superman is falling into place, we definitely see Lex Luthor in the light that we have known him, one of Superman’s most formidable villains makes the scene in a truly terrifying assault on humanity, and Steel comes into the mix in both the main story and in a back up feature that supplements the main story.  The title brings a lot of tension to the table by issue’s end and leaves it all up in the air, postponing the ending until March, which has a tantalizing effect, making us crave more.  I want to know what happens after the main story wraps and I have a feeling others do too.
  • Detective Comics #4 ends the first arc of writer/artist Tony S. Daniel’s run on the title.  Like his seminal run on its brother title, Batman, the story was tight, dark, and truly twisted.  This arc didn’t highlight one of his greatest strengths, which is mining continuity for real gems.  What it does highlight is Daniel’s true genius in both his roles as writer and artist, and the true affinity he has for the character of Batman in both the same roles.  But right there I think I am still being ungenerous.  His Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Bullock are ON as well.  After seeing the end of this arc I am genuinely awed and awaiting what the master has in store for the Dark Knight next month.
  • Red Lanterns #4 does something truly amazing.  After the restoration of Bleez in the Blood Ocean of Ysmault, Atrocitus tries it again with three other Red Lanterns: the ox skulled Skallox, the floating jellyfish-like Ratchet, and the spherical Zilius Zox.  In the former two cases a great deal is revealed about the Red Lantern duo’s past.  Milligan is a  maestro.  Not only are the issues he writes in this series entertaining and action packed, they have INCREDIBLE story and they make you feel and care about what’s going on in fundamental ways.  That’s the mechanics of it.  The issue itself was outstanding and the ending will leave you short of breath . . .

    Life and death in "Swamp Thing #4" drawn by Marco Rudy

  • Swamp Thing #4 was a story issue, but one that lays the cards on the table and tells the reader what’s really going on here.  Snyder takes all the supposition about this title and Animal Man that I made in the first two months and confirms them, but not only that, he also describes the age old struggle with the the “Rot” that the “Red” and the “Green” have fought since the dawn of life on this planet.   He also shows that the “Red” and the “Green” are intrinsically antagonistic, but like the US and Britain with the Soviet Union, uneasy alliances are formed against greater evils.  The Parliament of Trees also explains the origin of the Swamp Things and why there needs to be a Swamp Thing.  This issue make you WANT to read Swamp Thing like it’s a narcotic.  I am so invested its a borderline illness.
  • Batwing #4 takes the reader to the heart of Batwing’s origin.  I have stated before that Judd Winick has a talent for distilling the essentials of a batbook and reinterpreting them into making this book work on the most basic levels.  This issue which DC advertises “Secret Origin Revealed” does exactly that.  Bruce Wayne’s parents are gunned down in front of his eyes and he wages a one man war against crime.  Possibly the most simple, straight forward, well known, and readily understandable premises in comics history.  In this book we have David Zavimbe and his younger brother Isaac, boy soldiers in war torn Africa, made to do horrible things.  The horrors that await both, the choices they make that affect whether each other lives or dies, is very much akin to the trauma that young Bruce endured, and breeds the same ferocity in our hero, David.  Being a child soldier on the run in the African wilderness bred a lot of the ingenuity and skill Bruce got traveling across the world.  The only thing David lacked was the fortune to bankroll his persona, and luckily, Bruce Wayne found him and took care of that.  This issue is quintessential to the success of the series and with it safely out there, the title’s future is ensured, as is our enjoyment.

    Batwing faces the future and accepts his demons in Issue #4.

  • OMAC #4  is a fluid extension of the previous three.  It stays tight on the form and style of Kirby and tells a very modern, yet nostalgic tale of the classic comic series.  There is very little I can say about this issue that wouldn’t ruin it, but what I can say is that this issue defines the relationship between Kevin Kho and Brother Eye.  In the original series, there was nothing to discuss, because Buddy Blank and Brother Eye worked together like Starsky and Hutch.  In this series, Brother Eye is more cunning, deceptive, and exploiting so the cat and mouse game played between the two in this issue, coupled  with the resulting calamity go a long way toward establishing a unique status quo to separate the two series from one another.  Also the emergence of a familiar face from another rebooted title poses an interesting development in the plot that looks to be a crossover event.
  • Green Arrow #4 falls flat.  Keith Giffen of OMAC fame co-writes it with Dan Jurgens, who in turn does the layout, which are finished by the beautiful artwork of George Perez . . . I’m basically describing a dream team here.  These guys are at the height of their careers and are all legends in their own right, and you know what?  All the King’s horses and all the King’s men could not put this piece of shit title together again.  The concept of this series is a gangrenous mass that needs to be amputated.  This is NOT working.  I don’t know if anyone is buying this crap, but Ollie is not what he should be and has been in the past, and its just terrible.  I’m sure you don’t want to listen to me rant, so I will just say that I’ll give it to the end of the arc to get better and then I will cut my losses and leave this series for the vultures to pick at.
  • Penguin: Pain and Prejudice #3 continues the dual portrayal of the Penguin with the introduction of a new character to fill the void left with the passing of his mother.  The choice writer Gregg Hurwitz makes in filling this monumental void in the Penguins life solidly backs up what he has been trying to do in establishing one of the major factors contributing to the Penguin’s villainy being his appearance and the prejudices leveled against him because of it.  I’m not really a Penguin fan, but this series makes me want to be.

    Birth of a new breed in "American Vampire #21" drawn by Jordi Bernet

  • American Vampire #21 ends the “Beast Cave” story arc of the Indian Wars, and as ever was stunning.  Stylistically, it was incredible, and story-wise a great deal was rounded out.  Though the two main characters have met their end already in the series, this lost chapter retroactively adds great depth to both of them, who are still centrally important to the course of the plot.  One thing I thought was awkward though was the characterization of the Indians that are fighting the US Army.  Sure, Jim Book and Skinner Sweet are the protagonists, but Hole in the Sky and his Native American Braves are not portrayed as noble, but more like mad dogs.  Perhaps that is accurate on account of what the US forces did to them, but it felt unflattering to me.  Other than that, I like the issue a lot and I like what the arc has built up even more.  The previous issue’s introduction of the Shashone woman destined to become the first American Vampire and her species was uncanny storytelling.
  • The Unwritten #32 starts out with the imperiled Tommy laying in the middle of Antarctica.  His condition is critical and how Gross and Carey choose to have his friends revive him cuts to the heart of the series.  Perhaps the revelation was already come to by the smarter reader, but when its dropped in this issue it elicits dozens of flashbacks to the hints Gross and Carey dropped over three years.  By the end, Tommy, Lizzie, and Richie have a plan, but so does Pullman.  This issue has me wondering whether this truly is the end.

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

Illustration Credits:

Swamp Thing #4: Drawned by Marco Rudy, Colored by David Baron, Inked by Marco Rudy, Sean Parsons & Michael Lacombe

Batwing #4: Drawned by Chriscross, Colored by Brian Reber, Inked by Ryan Winn

American Vampire #21: Art by Jordi Bernet, Colored by Dave McCaig

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