January Week 2. Overall a really great week.
- Green Lantern #5 kicked off this week for me, and as ever, it was a good place to start. The concluding chapter of the Sinestro arc featuring Hal Jordan brings a very implausible story line to killer junction. It caps off beautifully several things that writer Geoff Johns has been exploring throughout the five issue run of the book’s current incarnation. First of all, Sinestro, an incredibly awesome
character that over the past seven years Johns has taken from villain to complex anti-hero, is put back into his seminal role as a Green Lantern. After the tense climax of the last issue, this one opens up with him having to actively deal with his past sins against his people and all those he’s hurt, while he attempts to make things right. The true beauty of what Johns is doing is the deja vu it evokes. Johns came on the title in 2005 with Green Lantern: Rebirth which was Hal Jordan’s return, not only to the Green Lantern Corps but also to life, and having to atone for the villainous things he did while under the thrall of Parallax. All he wanted to do was the right thing and he was fought tooth and nail by those he wanted to help and protect because of his past mistakes. However, he was defined and eventually redeemed by his perseverance and virtue. What Johns is doing with Sinestro is EXACTLY THE SAME! You may not have liked Sinestro in the past, but when Johns wrote him you always had to respect him for his ardor and the nobility he displayed. In this arc he has the chance to make amends and become the Greatest Lantern once again. Will he . . . ?
- Batman & Robin is one of the best titles out there. This fifth issue packed so much content neatly into a very small space that it was nothing short of miraculous. This issue is a nexus point. In past reviews, I have said time and again that what makes this series INCREDIBLE is the father son dynamic and how both have a respect for the other, but they are having a hard time reconciling each other’s perspective. It feels like the classic father/son (maybe comparable to mother/daughter for female readers) conflicts we all have experienced at some point in our lives, and the thing that rings truest is that both of them have been honestly trying. Also, let us not forget the enigmatic villain NoBody, aka Morgan Ducard. This connection to Henri Ducard and Bruce Wayne’s road to becoming Batman had all of us guessing where the story line was going and what dark secrets would be evoked out of Bruce’s shrouded past. This issue brings ALL of that to a head and does a stunning job taking the key aspects that have hooked us and combining them into one of the most fundamental issues of the human condition: Fathers and Sons. Bruce fully accepts his mistakes and failings as a father to Damian, and a large part of the issue is a narration of his feelings in the form of an apology to his son whom he may never see again in this life juxtaposed over imagery of him scouring the streets in search of Damian and beating the shit out of anyone who might have information about where he is. In that narration he reveals the history of Henri and Morgan Ducard, another tragic father/son duo who were damaged by the tenuous relationship that exists between a man of violence and his son born to violence. This issue was stellar and the last panel will bring you back, as it most certainly will bring me back next month.
- Batwoman #5 was also a concluding issue and one that I’ve been anticipating since September. She had a run on Detective Comics, but this is her first self titled book and the first arc is very much her reestablishing her identity for those of us just jumping on the wagon. That said, the way writer/artist J.H. Williams and co-writer W. Haden Blackman choose to open it is very interesting. The first page is three frames of Kathy Kane meditating over the case she is working on. Each is the same image, but zoomed in further and further, eventually tightening in on her face, and in the black space between panels is the words that make up the character bio which usually can be found on every title page to clue in the reader to who the character is for late comers picking up an issue of a series in the middle of its run. It is small and usually skipped over by those of us who know the score already. This time the writers want us to hear it again and force us to reaffirm who she is as they visually center closer and closer on her in those opening panels, as she herself meditates closer and closer as to who she truly is and what is centrally important to her. The issue has her face down the enigmatic villain and come face to face with her own guilt, sororital and filial, as well as make a devil’s pact in order to keep a promise. The issue is SOOO good and really sets the mold for who the character is and what we can expect in the foreseeable future. To quote her in the issues final line: “I will soldier on.” Maybe its the bat costume she’s wearing, but I believe her.
- Superboy #5 continues to amaze me every month. I was prepared to hate the title as I hated the character around the time of Infinite Crisis and Teen Titans, and loved the last incarnation as written by Jeff Lemire. This rebooted series does have a more angsty, hard edged version of the Boy of Steel, but where he is redeemed is in the intelligence writer Scott Lobdell brings to him. He is angsty and sometimes petulant, but what validates it is the is deep meaning and philosophy behind his attitude and behavior. Teens are angsty and rebel against authoritarian figures and his creators are using him as a living weapon. If anyone has the right to be angsty, he has. Also he makes mistakes as he struggles to understand the world that he’s only occupied as a cognizant being for less than a year, but already he is learning to make up for those mistakes and learn morality despite the twisted indoctrination he’s constantly assaulted with. This issue features a conflict that revolves around the clash of the Id and Super-ego, and his desire for freedom, as well as the connotations of what he is being made to do. I think I like him for the same reason I like Damian Wayne. Both were raised to be weapons and killers, but each strives to be better and fights their inner demons trying to aspire to a higher ideal. Each also has innate goodness that they try to bring out, often times tripping along the way, but still getting up and persevering. I like Conner again. I will read him as long as Lobdell keeps on doing what he’s begun in these first five issues.
- Batgirl is a mostly decent title that entertains me month after month. Admittedly I get it because I am in love with the character of Barbara Gordon. She is a really strong character who has a great history in DC comics. Although they drastically changed her story by having her not paralyzed anymore after the Joker shoots her in the spine (a la The Killing Joke), it seems most of her continuity is still intact like most of the Bat Universe. Issue #5 begins a new arc that features a new villain and the return of a key figure from Barbara’s past. Gail Simone does a very good job presenting the character psychologically. The plots are interesting, but lack a lot of the intensity of the other bat books. I do really like the book on a personal level. I like seeing the Barbara side and seeing her fix her life and reestablish her footing to this new chapter in her life, post-paralysis. Also I liked at the end of the issue when as Batgirl she narrates on her relationship to Batman and her aspirations in that regard. A lot of that is inferred, but I thought it was interesting to hear her say it out loud. All in all, a really good title.
- Grifter, like Superboy, was a shock to me and a continuing treat. I was afraid that this series, along with Voodoo and Superboy’s creator Scott Lobdell taking on a troika of hard edged teen titles, would herald a decline of the DCU I had known and the rise of an edgier Wildstorm-esque Universe. I was wrong. One of the things that this series has done is entrench itself in the DCU and divorce itself from most of the Wildstorm roots it had (which on the other hand is kind of sad, asW.I.L.Dcats was a pretty decent series that defined the 90’s comic scene.) Last issue had Grifter in Seattle invading Q-Core and going head to head with Green Arrow, attempting to smoke out Daemonite sleepers in the tech giant’s upper echelon. This issue quite capably enforces the character of Cole Cash and starts to shed some light on the Daemonite inner workings and what they are up to. The end certainly heralds a coming revelation that has me VERY interested in what is going down and in the works for the next batch of issues.
- The Shade in its fourth issue takes us back to the DC Golden Age of the 1940’s with espionage, World Wars, and cameos of obscure superheroes of that period that James Robinson has forayed with in the past. Its no secret that James Robinson is one of my favorite writers and idols. His writing is always fresh and unique, revitalizing old concepts and innovating new ones. He truly seems at home with Golden Aged properties, i.e. Starman and Justice Society, and this issue drives that point home and knocks it out of the park. Of course it doesn’t hurt having the extraordinary artist Darwyn Cooke drawing the damn thing. Cooke is a guy who is most comfortable with Silver Age titles, so it is very interesting seeing him jump back twenty years to the Golden Age. Un-phased, he lends a genuine feeling to this retro tale of the Shade. The story seems to be just a whim, but by the end Robinson weaves his magic and ties it to the present as well as lending that touching quality that permeated his work on Starman. This book is a worthy successor to the Starman books that gave birth to this carnation of him.
- Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E #5 tells the other half of the fight between himself and OMAC from last week’s issue of the latter character’s title. This one seemed less jarring than OMAC #5, possibly because I had fewer expectations. I did like it because it made Frankenstein seem like less of a tool than he appeared to be in OMAC. It also focused more on what Father Time was up to concerning Brother Eye. This book is ok. Not as exciting as Lemire’s previous works like The Atom and Superboy, but I do still find it to be entertaining.
- Demon Knights #5 picks up yet again on a high note during the siege of the small village at the foot of the mountain pass leading to the mighty city, Alba Sarum. The title is only five issues in and already a lot of things have happened and been revealed. Also the character’s are reaching their breaking points, turning often against one another. The worst of each character is shown, but amidst all the chaos the best in several instances shines through. Paul Cornell writes each character, only three of his own creation, extremely well as well as rooting them firmly in the moment. Madame Xanadu has existed in every period from Camelot to the modern age (as seen in Justice League Dark), but this book make it seem to the reader that THIS is Xanadu’s time and place and where she is meant to be. The same can be said of her lover, Jason Blood, the Demon Etrigan, and Shining Knight. Each issue ticks away the hours until the clock runs out and doom or salvation comes to the world of men. Looking forward to that dark and final hour . . .
- My Greatest Adventure #4, an interesting anthology book, features three intriguing series. The first is Robotman written by by Matt Kindt and drawn by the amazing Scott Kolins. This story retrofits the origin of Cliff Steele as the human brain inside a robotic body, completely circumventing the Doom Patrol where the character originated in the 60’s. Interesting and certainly well drawn, but lacking due to the brevity of each installation. Garbage Man written and drawn by Aaron Lopresti is perhaps the best of the three. Like an urban Swamp Thing, Garbage Man is an abomination created in a super science assassination attempt to shut him up from squealing on ethical misdoings by a chemical company, and as a result he is reborn as a self generating trash being. Though it sounds cliche and uninspired, Lopresti makes it very interesting and quite worth the read. Finally, Tanga as written and drawn by Kevin Maguire is an interesting story of an intergalactic party girl with super powers who fights monsters on a planet she has been marooned on. It has a very 80’s feel to it, and she comes off like a purple, elfin eared Buffy the Vampire Slayer type character. Its an interesting, albeit campy read that entertains definitely.
- Avengers 1959 #5 written and drawn by Howard Chaykin ends its series with a lot of action. Yeeees, its a Marvel book and you may ask why I’m reading it, but two things: I love Howard Chaykins art and storytelling prowess, and I love Nick Fury. The series has been good, detailing a neo-Nazi resurgence in the late 1950’s and featuring an Avengers team of people that have NEVER BEEN AVENGERS. Dominic Fortune and Blonde Phantom I had never heard of, Kraven the Hunter and Sabertooth have often times been villains, and Namora has usually been a tertiary Marvel character. Seeing them work together as a team was a treat in and of itself. The series had a great plot, however most of the exposition had happened in the four previous issues and this last issue was kind of just a giant slug-fest that wrapped up the story. It was entertaining, but came off as just an action issue. Good series and one I will remember for the uniqueness it brought to these classic characters.
- And yet again we come to the series The Unwritten. I truly love this series. This months main issue, #33, follows seamlessly off of the previous issue and demonstrates the power of belief over the world and its properties. This may sound childish and unfeasible, and of course we know this, but the way in which the writers, Carey and Gross, frame it through the villain’s explanation of this property makes it seem to be feasible and unimpeachable as to test it on a grand scale is nigh impossible outside of the comic. Reading this I am bracing for the end. There is the possibility that the comic could go on after this, but while reading there are too many apocalyptic signs that signal that the title may be winding down to the final confrontation. I pray that isn’t the case, as this title has been a constant friend for almost three years, but if it is the end, they are doing a damn good job making every moment count.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Green Lantern #5: Drawned by Doug Mahnke, Colored by Alex Sinclair & Tony Avina, Inked by Mark Irwin, Keith Champagne, Christian Alamy & Tom Nguyen
Batwoman #5: Art by J.H. Williams III, Colored by Dave Stewart
The Shade #4: Drawn by Darwyn Cooke, Colored by Dave Stewart, Inked by J. Bone
Avengers 1959 #5: Art by Howard Chaykin, Colored by Jesus Aburtov