This was a really extraordinary week in comics. There were a few this week that gave me chills:
- Batman #5 was BAT SHIT CRAZY!!! I mean that in the best way. Snyder is taking the Bat in a very dark (or perhaps you could say very BRIGHT) direction and the comic itself is a key to the ambiance and generator of mood. Obviously a comic containing a story
generates a lot of things including mood and ambiance. Please don’t take this comment in that light, and think I’m an idiot. What I mean by that statement is when you read the book itself, the way the pages are plotted and oriented gives you a sense of the insanity and delirium that the Dark Knight is experiencing while traversing the events of each page. You yourself go a bit mad, and what’s more, there are a lot of clues to the mystery of the Court of Owls left for Batman (and us) to find, but Batman is so out of it that apart from drawing attention to them, he doesn’t really piece anything larger together from them, leaving us with this monolithic mystery and no Detective to solve it. So we are in a position to posit what WE think the Court is and what it is up to. In many ways, Snyder has imbued this book with infinite detail and finely tuned storycrafting. Its not an action issue at all, and only on the periphery is it a story issue as nothing solid is really revealed. But the possibilities it gives and the anticipation it builds make up for the lack of the previous two criteria, and then some.
- Green Lantern Corps #5 fell flat for me this week. Some of the things involved were merely opinion differences and another was straight up fact-of-the-matter-What-the-HELL-are-you-thinking-Tomasi? First of all, I love the storyline of the “Keepers” arc. Its a very intriguing, well thought out plot. I have stated before, that the concept of the Keepers is right up there with the evil Manhunter robots, the Controllers, the Darkstars, etc., all being institutions and groups with a history of antagonism with the Guardians and their Green Lantern Corps. Beautiful storytelling, as can be expected from Tomasi. In this issue the turning point has been reached and a counterattack is immanent. One thing that they intend to do makes sense to me, and I will leave you to read the issue to see what that is, because its a good idea. The next thing is Guy Gardner recruiting a biker gang of Green Lanterns. Seems really sleazy and uninspired. This is opinion. The next, which I will spoil, because of the sheer idiocy of it, is that the group of Lanterns taking the fight to the Keepers raid a space shipment for guns. Not even plasma guns or phasers or cool laser rifles, straight up 50 caliber sniper rifles, Colt 45’s and shotguns. They have the most lethal weapon in the Universe on their hands and their first impulse is to get guns. “Hey, we got a Sherman tank, but before we go into battle we need slingshots. LOTS of slingshots.” I get that perhaps their rings won’t work on the Keepers, but why do they have to resort to such mundane of weapons as gunpowder firearms when there is a whole universe of choices to pick from?! Bad show, Tomasi. I know you can do better than this.
- Catwoman #5 started off up in the air (literally) and quickly descended into a quick paced action comic that does what I think any good Catwoman story should: go really wrong REALLY fast! Selina is a glutton for punishment and I think that I would get really pissed with her constant, masochistic fuck ups, if it wasn’t so damn entertaining to see how she gets out of them. For those of us who own cats or have exposure to them, you’ll understand my next point. I think what Judd Winick gets is that Catwoman literally is a woman whose behavior is that of a CAT. Her curiosity and lack of willpower gets her into constant trouble and the fun is, as with cats, watching them extract themselves from it. If you’ve ever seen a cat jump on something clearly unstable or similar situations, its sad, but engaging to watch. That is what makes this series great. Every issue ends with her having that same sheepish look your cat does when they pick themselves up after trying to pouncing on a bird that is on the other side of a plate glass window. This issue’s ending is no exception.
- Red Hood and the Outlaws #5 was seamless with last month’s issue. They fit together perfectly and continued in the same vein, revealing a great deal about the course of the series and what’s to be expected. The Untitled made their first appearance in the form of an unexpected character and a xenophobic human entered the scene with a very peculiar attack on Starfire. This issue shows the aftermath of both occurrences and hints at the underlying characters of each Outlaw, as well as the nature of the conflict arising with the Untitled. I think, more than ever, I am a Roy Harper fan. He kicked a little bit of ass in this issue and really showed his true colors. Lobdell portrays him well as a one time shining star who fell from glory through drug abuse and bad choices, but still a really decent guy just trying to get back on his feet and amidst all his mistakes, still a person his friends can count on when the chips are down and things look grim. I think Starfire is on the road to become a more dynamic character through her journey with these two awesome, yet messed up dudes. And in the case of Jason Todd, the mystical back story that prompts their world tour de force is unraveling slowly and the moody Jason is starting to get depth in this new iteration. All in all, I am really starting to get invested in the three of them and their journey. I really feel that this issue coupled with the last two are creating something great that will have long standing implications in the future stories written about all three of them.
- Nightwing #5 heated up the arc and took it in to a very sudden turn. This issue has Haly’s Circus setting up shop in New Orleans and the demons of one of the circus’s star performers coming back to haunt him, literally. The issue is relatively self contained and awesome, so there isn’t much I can say about it that wouldn’t be spoiling the truly incredible storytelling. However, I can reveal with no guilt that the issue is worth it, if only for the BOMBSHELL that writer Kyle Higgins drops on the last page. The rest of the issue was stand alone. The events that close the issue out are very much in line with the main story arc and portend sinister events in store for Mr. Grayson in the near future . . .
- Wonder Woman #5 . . . I remember very vividly reading Wonder Woman #1 and it being lackluster, completely eschewing any characterization in lieu of masturbatory scenes of Wonder Woman violently hacking mystical creatures into their essential parts like a friggin’ Chicago slaughterhouse. I’m not going to come down on a comic for depicting sex, violence, or anything as long as it serves a purpose. This, I felt, pretty much holding the story up instead of supplementing it. That is just shoddy writing. This issue and the one before it really turned that around. Diana’s persona is beginning to shine through and I really feel that Azzarello has a good feel on the character and making her a noble, strong woman without making her into the overly misanthropic stereotype that less seasoned writers have blundered into. I really like her and want her to succeed now, and for a long time I was afraid that she wasn’t going to come off like that in the new DC Universe. I am thrilled. The issue was very much a story issue with only the hints of action at the end, which means that issue #6 will probably be the action issue to balance out this month’s story issue. I personally don’t mind, because a story issue was long overdue and the information given really rounded the book out.
- Legion of Superheroes #5 was much like Wonder Woman. This month’s issue took a break from the fast paced first arc and showed a day in the life of the Legionaires. Not really any action, just a story issue that lays seeds for future plot points. Mainly it just showed how some Legionaires relax and unwind between life or death missions, as well as which are haunted or plagued by past events, and the general sense of community that exists between them. With this issue casually showing the Legionaire’s mental or emotional states, when the next several arc happen a great deal of the ground work will already be laid, and we can harken back to this issue’s events in quick references so that the intense action can continue uninterrupted and we can enjoy. Overall a good issue. However, I am not personally a fan of Walt Simonson’s art. That may be heresy, but its too angular and rough for me. I feel like with age his art should have softened and refined itself, but then again, even Jack “The King” Kirby’s artwork kinda peaked in the 70’s and took a nose dive in the 80’s. Overall though, it was a good issue that was fun to read and will probably be invaluable in the future of Legion of Superheroes story lines.
- In DC Universe Presents #5 the Deadman arc comes to its metaphysical ending. Looking back on my impressions from the previous four issues, its funny. I had some initial impressions that I think were well reasoned in the beginning, but just didn’t pan out. I really liked the arc and I feel its a tribute to Paul Jenkins that my impressions turned out to be false, as it just goes to show what dynamism he employed in its penning. The main thing that fell through for me was my impression of Rama Kushna being a transcendental, Bodhisattva-like being who promotes equanimity and karmic balance. Not quite how she is revealed in this last issue. The conundrum that lead her to initiate this story arc by assigning Deadman this “impossible task” is very thought provoking in the simplicity of the elusive question Rama seeks and the very essence of what makes us all human. Can gods really be jealous of humans? This arc was great in my opinion, completely divorced from the motivations of the original series that spawned it, and presented in a very fresh and poignant manner. If you missed these first five issues, look for the Trade when it come out, most likely this summer.
- Supergirl #5 branches off of the first conflict, but perhaps not the first arc of the story. Supergirl has emancipated herself from the sinister forces on Earth, but goes in search of her home, Krypton. I won’t spoil anything by stating that she obviously doesn’t find Krypton, as Krypton is destroyed. However, what she does find, and more to the point who she finds in this issue holds integral clues to the destruction of her home world, its dark history, and the possibility of those dark secrets affecting the future of Earth in coming issues. Writers, Michael Green and Mike Johnson (whom in future reviews I will simply refer to as “The Mikes”), really have an interesting plot point by issue’s end that hopefully will pan out and really set the series in a niche that so far it hasn’t filled.
- Birds of Prey #5 . . . beautiful artwork, still not that great of a title, but I am holding on at least until the end of the arc so I can at least know what the hell is going on. I figure if it still sucks by the end of the arc then it will probably continue in that vein.
- Blue Beetle #5 threw out a few tricks that ensnared me on a series that I thought to be floundering. The Blue Beetle concept was one that I wasn’t super familiar with and to me the series was just maintaining, on top of the fact that, for me, the art of Ig Guara, isn’t stellar. In this issue though, they solidified certain plot points, introduced at least two new conflicts, and writer Tony Bedard drops a reference to a crossover he has planned for the Reach as antagonists in his other DC series,Green Lantern: The New Guardians. I think I can say that this issue is safely on my pull list through this coming summer. I look forward to what Bedard has in store.
- T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #3 continues on the journey that #2 began, which following the shocking ending of issue #2 is a doozy. The first half of the issue is the rescue team dispatched by T.H.U.N.D.E.R to rescue Lighting and Dynamo. Once they reach their goal of the Subterranean kingdom the group splinters and we follow NoMAN, aka Anthony Dunn, on his journey through this underground war land. This was interesting as his section of the story is a cascade of images that flashback to the 60’s and forward to the present and are overlaid with disconnected musings of internal monologue. He is the only member of T.H.U.N.D.E.R who was alive during the last war with the Subterraneans and though his thoughts are hazy, since he is really talking to himself not us, they hint that he created a super weapon to end the war (probably not unlike the A-bomb in WWII) that he employed to annihilate millions of innocent Subterraneans to force a treaty out of them. A great deal of insight is shown into the very flat seeming character of NoMAN. This part of the story was interesting, although slightly annoying as it was really sketchy and hard to follow. What wasn’t hard to follow was the surprise that awaited us on the last page. HOLY SHIT!!! To those who are familiar with the story and the background of the title, this one is a real shocker . . .
- Green Hornet #21 was another interim issue like issue #20, that was a light(er), stand alone story of Britt and to a lesser extent, Mulan. This time it deals with a wayward friend of the new Hornet from his youth and the latter helping him out of the hole he dug himself. Its a little bit static and cliche, but in the details, there was some really touching characterization. I think it went a long way toward characterizing Britt and developing him as a lead character on par with his dad. Not a stellar issue, but worth a read while waiting for the next arc that will start in #22.
- Steed and Mrs. Peel, for those who miss the reference, is a allusion to the 60’s Brit spy series called “The Avengers.” The dapper gentleman, John Steed and his lovely (yet married) girl Friday partner, Mrs. Peel, come back together for Queen and Country in this mini series penned by the great Grant Morrison. Reading it, I felt like I was watching the TV series again. The feel is very genuine, and clearly Mr. Morrison was a fan in his youth. Again, for those who are unfamiliar with the show or the tone, its a very campy British spy show of the 1960’s. I say that with great love, as I watched it when I was a kid at my grandmother’s house, who herself was an avid Anglophile. What I like about the series, on a side note again, is that Steed had three main ladies who assisted him in his endeavors: Cathy Gale (played by Honor Blackman known by some of you as the infamously named Pussy Galore in the equally infamous Bond flick Goldfinger), Mrs. Emma Peel (played by the gorgeous and exotic looking Diana Rigg) and Tara King (played by the mod Linda Thorson). The book takes place in the period when Steed has moved on to Tara King following Mrs. Peel’s retirement from the spy game to go adventuring with her scientist husband in South America. In this series, Steed gets her to return for this case. The interplay between the two is spot on, right down the iconic mention of Peel stirring Steed’s tea counter clockwise, which is comparable to how James Bond likes his martinis. You all know what I mean . . .
- Kirby Genesis comes out with another spin off series in the epic Dragonsbane #1. Another of Jack “The King” Kirby’s experimentations, this one you can tell was hashed out while he was getting into his Norse phase that would become the legendary Marvel series Thor. Whereas Thor takes place in Asgard with the Gods, this series takes place in Valhalla and features a mix of mortals and Gods, although all are termed the Aesir which are the Norse gods. The series takes place in the Mythlands which once were one, but were sundered and separated by dense and deadly mists in an event called the “Time of the Great Shattering.” These mists begin to dispel and the heroic Norse heroes long for exploration and battle outside of their peaceful realm. A opportunity presents itself in the form of a maiden imperiled by dragons, and who better to aid her than the eponymous character, Sigurd Dragonsbane? Sigurd in Norse myth was a mortal granted immortality by bathing in the blood of the dragon, Fafnir, of whom he slew, but like Achilles in Greek mythology neglected to bathe a patch on his back that is vulnerable to attack. He cuts a similar figure as Thor with a winged helm on his head, but wielding instead of a mighty hammer a long and imposing spear with an intricate head that only Kirby could have designed. Its a good series that exploits Kirby’s love of all mythologies. In fact it ends in another mythland with a familiar female Greek that Kirby also wrote about for Marvel . . .
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman #5: Drawned by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO, Inked by Jonathan Glapion
Wonder Woman #5: Art by Tony Akins, Colored by Matthew Wilson
Kirby Genesis: Dragonsbane #1: Art by Fritz Casas, Colored by Salvatore Aiala