- Aquaman #4 caps off its first story arc with great style. Geoff Johns takes us to the arc’s eponymous “Trench” and shows the terrifying world that the fish creatures hail from. By issue’s end Johns’ Aquaman is fully rounded and we are shown what to expect in the foreseeable future. The conclusion does this perhaps better than the three previous issues combined, as he is shown to go against his moral code when the chips are down and a tough choice has to be made. In that moment you see him not just as a superhero, but also a king, adjudicator of life and death. He’s a character with conscience, yet guards his people with a heavy hand when needs dictate. By issue’s end the words of a small boy echo the sentiment of the reader: “Aqua-Man! You’re my favorite super-hero!”
- Flash #4 was a story issue that for the most part answered questions. This was greatly to my taste, though to the more action minded it may have been less than adequate. The relationship between Manuel Lago and “Mob Rule” is revealed, the history of Barry and Manuel is clarified, and the fate of Barry after taking a bullet to the head is resolved. I liked this issue, because it brought the hazy conflict to crystal clarity and now sets the stage for the end of this first major conflict. This issue is a turning point, a crucible from which a hero is forged. The first three issues were a getting comfortable period for the Flash, a time when a scientist explores his new found abilities in great detail. But after the death defying end to issue #3 and barely escaping a bullet ending that cunning intellect, the Flash reevaluates his place in the world and makes himself and us a promise: “Its my job to protect the Gem Cities. No matter what the price I have to pay. I won’t stop running. I’m the Flash . . . This is what I do.” He won’t stop running, and I for one won’t stop reading him.
- Batman: The Dark Knight #4 is still doing what I want it to do. It has every aspect I look for in a Batman story: killer artwork, darker than black story line, enigmatic villain operating from the shadows, and connotations to the larger DCU. The Flash showed up last month and Wonder Woman this month. David Finch with the help of Paul Jenkins paints a vivid picture of not just Batman and his rogues gallery, but Gotham itself and the politics that govern her. The status of Gordon as Commissioner of Police is just as tenuous as the conflict between Batman and whomever is pedaling modified fear toxin that makes you bleed out from your eyes. Seeing the various villains hopped up on the steroidal cocktail, duking it out with the Batman, while the Dark Knight himself tries to figure it all out keeps the reader guessing along with him. I like it.
- Green Lantern: The New Guardians #4 has been lacking in past months. This month I feel that the title has centralized and the chaos of the initial conflict is on to the next stage, and hopefully that stage shapes up to be what we all want and the title promised to be. The real culprit of ring thievery is revealed and is shown to be, in the truest sense of the word, ASTRONOMICAL in scale. The first three issues had a dog-eat-dog struggle between the New Guardians with nothing accomplished. Now that the peril facing them, their respective Corps, and the Universe in general, is common knowledge I hope and believe that the story will live up to its mandate.
- Justice League Dark #4 continues its descent down the schizophrenic rabbit-hole. As the story arc has evolved one of the things that really sinks the hook into you, holding you tight to the narrative is the ambiguity as to who the true villain is, as well as the real power brokers of the magical underbelly of this new DCU. This issue turns most of what we have already read on its head. There is culpability expressed by those we have seen previously as fiendish, and assailability to those that have thus far been presented as unassailable. As ever it plays out like a dream that hovers on the edge of coherence, which to me make it that much more intriguing rather than confusing. Like the dreams we wake up from and desperately try to hold on to the details, often in vain. Also the surrealist depiction of mainstream DC characters like Deadman, Dove, Madame Xanadu, and Zatanna adds an allure. You see all of them one way in the bulk of DC books, but in this you see a much darker, stranger portrayal, which is oddly more human and thereby more relatable.
- Superman#4 was Superman. Not my favorite book, but certainly not the worst. The character of Superman is starting to level out. I think the ridiculousness of what DC wanted to do with him is starting to catch up with them and they are returning to their senses and the book is likewise falling back into the status quo. Overall, the new world he inhabits with Galaxy International owning the Daily Planet, Lois Lane being a television producer, and the Kents being both dead is still novel and threatening to me who fears change, however, it does present a few intriguing points. Despite the utter heresy of the notion, I am interested about a possible relationship between Clark and another reporter on the Galaxy payroll that writer George Perez keeps hinting at. I never thought I’d say that, but I am. The overall conflict of elemental “aliens” that are attacking Metropolis is interesting, but prosaic. It feels like something that has been done many times before. In this light, I would say that Superman is being shaken up in the ways that don’t matter and unshaken in the ways that do.
- My exposure to the character of Firestorm is limited and only rudimentary, but I have enjoyed The Fury of Firestorm. I like the fact that they have taken the character and blown it up to create a whole world around the premise of the title. Its not just the bearer of the Firestorm Matrix against the world, there is now a whole world around the Matrix. The multiple Matrices are likened to a new arms race to replace nuclear weapons with nuclear men. To the governments involved, the control of these weapons dehumanizes the nuclear men back to weapons who incidentally have the ability of thought. They are no longer viewed as people. The connotations are brilliantly explored, so despite any cliches in the telling or annoying reinterpretations of the characters, the world depicted keeps your interest.
- Legion: Secret Origin #3 is moving away from the genesis stage of others commenting on the burgeoning group into the group themselves as characters stepping into the spotlight. For the first time the Legionnaires are the main characters in this title which is about them. Contrary to how that may sound, I think the two issue gestation period of others introducing them was necessary to the title to get us to understand the need for them and the world whose ills necessitate their existence. Now that that has been seen to, the training wheels can come off and they can ride under their own power into what promises to be a really quality story of an undervalued team (reader-wise), written by perhaps the most proficient Legion of Super-Heroes writer ever.
- I, Vampire is comparable to Justice League Dark in terms of the narrative being very dream-like. However, whereas Justice League Dark felt like a dream born of deep REM seething with rich material mined from the subconscious, this series is like that dream where you get up and go to the bathroom or get a banana from the kitchen, and upon waking you wonder whether it actually happened or was just a dream, which then leads to the question: Do I even care? There is a war between vampires. The main character is an old vampire who wants to keep his kind in the shadows, and the leader of the vampiric hordes is his ex-girlfriend and one of his “turnings” who wants vampires to inherit the Earth. That is legitimately all we know, not a summary. True you don’t want to blow the whole story at once, but exposition should happen on some level. I’m holding out for some great revelation that hopefully will live up to the promise of the title, but so far its a paper plot.
- Voodoo #4 was exceptional once again. Issue #3 added some real interesting curves (figurative) to her already curvaceous (literal) character and this issue does just the same (respectively). The government agents pursuing her do some digging into the paper history of Miss Priscilla Kitaen, and as in Highlander there is a history of her that ends in a fire when she was four years old. Query: Is she in fact that four year old grown up, or someone who took a dead or displaced child’s place? This complication is done beautifully and skillfully, as the other information casually dropped in the past and throughout this issue lead to a plethora of possibilities. I have about five or six theories that could be true based on the evidence presented. My guess, I am probably completely wrong across the board, but I can’t wait to see just how wrong I am. I look forward to it. This issue was great on the storycraft aspects I described, but equally, if not more enjoyable, because the the way it is drawn by artist Sami Basri. His artwork is very sumptuous and fits very well with the character. Voodoo is a very dangerous, cunning, predatory woman whose raw sexuality is almost feline as she hunts for whatever it is that she is after. And again, I can only speculate as to what that is, but this time I can wait, because it means I get more time to watch her do what she do.
- Teen Titans #4 began the fulfillment of what they’ve been teasing since issue one: advent Superboy. The series started with the mysterious N.O.W.H.E.R.E hunting down and in some cases actually catching the members that would become the Teen Titans. Now the shadowy cabal is cutting out all the stops, sending in their chief weapon, the bio-engineered Superboy. Its a delight to read every month and has the teen angsty feel of a CW show like “One Tree Hill” or something, but with an actual plot that’s going somewhere. Tim, Bart, Conner (I think he’s taken that name already), and Cassie are written incredibly well and the new cast of Miguel (Bunker), Kiran (Solstice), and Celine (Skitter) are equally as compelling. This issue continues into Superboy #5 and I am curious to see it from Superboy’s perspective, as he’s not a bad guy, just confused.
- All-Star Western #4 maintains its standard of quality jumping from the Jack the Ripper-esque escapades of the fledgling Religion of Crime acolytes in Gotham to kidnappers abducting poor children to further a vast, nefarious plot. The triumvirate of Palmiotti, Gray, and Moritat are churning out the same quality of work, and the issue is backed up with an interesting character, The Barbary Pirate, who I believe is brand new, debuting here. Phil Winslade illustrates her tale, penned by Palmiotti and Gray. She is a Chinese immigrant with what appear to be powers of light. This secondary feature was very short so the details are sketchy, but there was a promising beginning of the struggle of Asian immigrants coming to the West, not only from the Whites, but also their own who came before.
- Captain Victory #2 of Kirby Genesis fame has its second issue out, and its very good. The first issue was the perfect introductory issue. It introduced the character and world in which the title takes place quick, efficient, and seemingly casual ease. The evil empire that form the main antagonist to the Galactic Rangers whom Captain Victory serves were introduced, his personal conflict as the Emperor of that evil empire’s grandson is revealed, and the great power wielded by the Rangers is demonstrated in the release of the World Killer in response to the Empire’s greatest weapon, the Black Mass Shadows that enslave and alter those infected. Issue #2 opens with the aftermath of Captain Victory’s release of the World Killer and the sowing of dissent into the ranks of his men on the Dreadnaut Tiger. Again it feels like a Kirby comic written by the King himself, which is what this whole initiative is about.
- Warlord of Mars is in the second issue of the arc comprising Edgar Rice Burrough’s second Barsoom novel The Gods of Mars. There is little to say about this except that Arvid Nelson is a maestro at interpreting these novels faithfully to the comic medium. They are drawn exceptionally well by series artist Edgar Salazar, and maintain every emotion elicited by the original novels. If you haven’t read what I have written about them in the past, see if you can, because I don’t want to sound like a broken record. But just a damn good series that has inspired three spin offs which I have also read and enjoyed.
- American Vampire #22 leaves the old West of the Indian Wars, as well as the battlefields of World War II, and enters into the Rebel Without a Cause 50’s of the American southwest in an arc called “Death Race.” I went in expecting one thing and found something completely different, and as with Scott Snyder in general, different is always better. The hep cat feel of the story centralizes the reader in the era making it that much more believable and engrossing. After that Snyder’s vivid plots take you the rest of the way toward a balls-to-the-wall ride, not unlike the drag race that the issue opens on. READ IT, for the love of all that is holy. This is one of those series that is destined to be as immortal as the denizens it chronicles.
- The Unwritten brings out the second of its “.5” issues which chronicle back story relevant to the plot of the main series. Unlike the last issue which had three interlocking stories from across time and landscapes, this one is centered in ancient Ur in the legend of Gilgamesh. Its purpose this time around is to reveal the nature of the Leviathan as well as more history of Pullman. Other than that I don’t want to say too much. What I can say is, after finishing it I started jonesin’ for the next issue of Unwritten like a heroin addict. This series is TOO DAMN GOOD!!! The way in which they manipulated the story of Gilgamesh was so artful and subtle that I didn’t realize the differences until it was almost done, at which point their changes came to light. As with American Vampire this series will be by its side if not leading its fellow down the path to immortality.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Aquaman #4: Drawned by Ivan Reis, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Joe Prado & Eber Ferreira
Green Lantern: The New Guardians #4: Drawn by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Nei Ruffino, Inked by Batt
Justice League Dark #4: Art by Mikel Janin, Colored by Ulises Arreola
Teen Titans #4: Drawned by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund
The Unwritten #32.5: Drawn by Peter Gross & Dean Ormston, Colored by Fiona Stevenson