Week 21 (Jan. 25, 2012)

I think that the last week of every month might be my favorite.  I know that when I was picking my books off the rack this morning, I was more excited than usual at what I was seeing.  So here we go:

  • Justice League #5  was . . . alright.  Some parts are coming on line others are falling off the rails.  Batman and Green Lantern have moments where they are growing as characters and falling into niches, almost making me think Johns was writing them badly on purpose.  I want to believe that, as I have stated that he is a phenomenal writer on all his other ventures.  So Batman and Green Lantern: check.  These two are hitting their strides.  Wonder Woman? FAIL!!! Not a good representation of her by any definition.  She is flat as can be.  Aquaman and Cyborg are almost non-existent.  The Flash is neutral, as he does some things and has a few lines of dialogue, but really doesn’t add anything to the issue itself.  My major complaint is Darkseid.  One of the greatest characters in the history of DC, definitely it most ominous villain, and he doesn’t say a DAMN word!!!  Yes, he is a calm, collected, calculating despot who is often of few words, but the key phrase is “few words”, not “no words.”   If he is going to take over a planet, cliche as it may be, he would say who he is, where he comes from, and that everyone needs to give up before shit goes down.  He may as well be Doomsday, a mindless wrecking machine, the way he’s portrayed here.  And there is only one more issue featuring his invasion (which is absurd) so there is little room for characterization in the next one.  Why didn’t they just have him send his son, Kalibak, who is an idiot and doesn’t need to talk?  This is such a bad representation of him it makes me a little ill.  A final note on my annoyance of Darkseid in this issue, the part with the Omega Beam and Superman . . . that is NOT how the Omega Sanction WORKS!!!  It is the “death that is life”, not an “ouch that kind of stings” . . .  NO!!!
  • Aquaman #5 enters into the “Who Sunk Atlantis?” arc.   THIS is Geoff Johns doing what needs to be done.  This is a series where all the cylinders are firing and the whole works purring like a kitten.  Aquaman, unlike how he is portrayed in the aforementioned Justice League, is not a sub-aquatic douchebag, but rather a very intelligent, compassionate, oft times haunted individual with the burden of a crown on his head, but a conflict of conscience.  Johns tells the story well of Arthur being caught in the middle of the desert, and flashing back to how he got there.  Most of the relevant story points occur in these flashbacks, which had me wondering why he was in the desert in the first place.  In retrospect after reading it, I think that him being in the desert facilitated a good amount of framing for the character as well as offering the conditions for those events to occur.  Johns has me intrigued as to what he has in store. I panned his writing really badly in the Justice League #5 review, and I won’t apologize, because the issue for the most part was a piece of crap.  This issue conversely was incredibly well done, following a four issue arc that was itself a work of art.  Good work, Mr. Johns.  You have me sold on Aquaman and Green Lantern at least.

    Fish out of water . . .

  • The Flash #5  maintained and exceeded its potential this month.  The “Mob Rule” arc comes to a close and the way in which cowriters, Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, bring it to a close is indicative of the genius both possess.  Barry come on strong like a hurricane after his resolution made on the last couple of pages in the previous issue and saves the day.  However, within the resolution several problems arise.  The one revealed at the end of the issue will be a game changer for the title and strike deep to the core of who and what the Flash actually IS.  However, the issue doesn’t just wrap up the conflict with the villain and the threat to the Gem Cities, it also brings definition to the character of both the Flash and Barry Allen, showing where both fit into the world of Keystone and Central City.   This issue was tightly plotted, expertly drawn and colored, concise, yet also open in its ending, epic, but also touching.   One of the best that comics have to offer.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #5  was excellent this month, although to some it may seem very short.  Literally it takes place in one room, and to a lesser extent a few pages just  a few feet outside the room.  I think that it was important to what the arc has been working toward, because it gives Batman perspective.  So far he has fought Two-Face, the Joker, and several others who are juiced up on the steroidal fear toxin, but you can’t fight what you don’t understand.  This issue gives Batman new insight into this strange new cocktail and the aftermath of what he takes from the events of this issue is something that I look forward to reading.  Also worth noting, is the kinder more gentle presentation of Superman than we have seen elsewhere in the New 52.

    What ARE they looking at?

  • Green Lantern: New Guardian #5  was an issue that toward the end hinged on the concept of faith.  That is kind of like the series itself.  It had promise in the first few issues, but took awhile to come together.  I had faith that it could eventually reach the promise that was inherent in the premise, and this issue is where faith is rewarded, both in and outside of the narrative.  The New Guardians are still very divided and laden with internal politics and prejudices, but the threat, which in my review of issue #4 I described as ‘astronomical’, binds them together against a greater evil.  Through their assault against the threat called “The Orrery” writer Tony Bedard does a lot of great characterization.  In the case of Bleez, he merely summarized what Peter Milligan did in issue #3 of the Red Lanterns.  Munk remains a dark horse, but Bedard does do a good job redefining Fatality, as well as giving the first real depiction of Orange Lantern, Glomulus, as an individual character.  Glomulus is perpetually depicted by Larfleeze’s side at his beck and call. So much so that it seemed like he lacks any self determination.   Glomulus debunks this for us simply, yet succinctly, “Glomulus is not Larfleeze. Glomulus is Glomulus.”  What can I say?  I like the little spud.  He’s like Slimer from ‘Ghost-Busters.’  Finally, you can tell Bedard is grooming Arkillo to take over the Sinestro Corps now that Sinestro is seemingly a Green Lantern.  I am all about this series, now.  The New Guardians are beginning to live up to the previous, Hal Jordan led iteration of the team.  Reading this series is a good decision.
  • Voodoo #5  is an answer issue.  Doesn’t give all of them, but the tantalizing information it reveals legitimizes the purchase of the past four issues.  The issue’s solicitation on the front cover states “Voodoo meets her maker: Daemonites!”   Her makers being Daemonites isn’t a shocker.  What the Daemonites have been hiding from her is . . .  Another reason why I cling to this title is that her motivations are similar to that of Superboy.  Both are weapons that are made to do abhorrent things, and yet we are drawn to them, because despite being blunt instruments they react organically to their surroundings and show genuine depth and moral confliction.   The issue is fantastic, despite the loss of writer, Ron Marz.  If the splash page hadn’t tipped me off, I would have sworn Marz was still holding the pen, so that speaks very well for the new writer, Josh Williamson.  Welcome aboard, sir.

    Voodoo and the Daemonite

  • Justice League Dark #5, a perennial favorite of mine, reaches the conclusion of its inaugural arc.  This series is NUTS!  I love it!  Peter Milligan has always had a penchant for the darker, grittier subjects and this series delivers the mainstream DCU in exactly that fashion.  I’ve likened it to a Vertigo series and I come back to that comparison, yet again.  What I like about it is the ‘no holds barred’ attitude it takes with the characters and their interactions.  Decency and pretensions are thrown to the wind with these guys and the “heroes” of the DCU appearing herein do and say some pretty messed up things in order to save the world.  What I believe really flavors the series and makes it work so fundamentally with the readers is the fatalism it evokes.  Maybe the heroes will prevail, but by the end you ask yourself if they really won considering the costs . . .  Peter Milligan is amazing. I love all of his work and this series perpetuates that stellar track record.
  • Fury of Firestorm #5  drives home the idea of the Firestorms as the next stage in the evolution of human arms proliferation.  The issue shows how the Firestorms are viewed in Russia and then how they are treated in the US.  As with Cold War fiction, the Russians are straight shooters that tell it like it is, with no sugar coating.  In the US, Ronnie and Jason are pampered and saturated in sugary mendacity while they are manipulated like pawns.  Jason is wise beyond his years and as such distrustful.  How they manipulate him throughout the issue just goes to show how powerful the people pulling their strings in America are.  Even though they have greatly changed in this new series, the characters of both Ronnie and Jason are fascinating to watch as they react and adapt to the new, high octane world they have been initiated into.  That is most effectively demonstrated by the final page.  Things have changed more than any of us could have imagined.
  • Superman #5 confused me.  The plot of the issue itself made sense, but I am uncertain as to what they are trying to achieve.  I mean the issue presents a rogue Superman, but it seems like they’ve been aiming for that in Justice League and Action Comics.  Maybe this title is on the same page as Batman: The Dark Knight, but it would be nice if the character was more homogeneous and less schizophrenic.  The last panel, as ever, sheds some light on it, but assuming you take it into account, it still raises the question of how Superman is viewed and who he actually is: the boy scout of old or the headstrong renegade of today . . . ?
  • Teen Titans #5  picks up where #4 ended and what a conclusion to the first contact of Superboy and the Titans!  Holy COW!  This issue packs some punches, both literal and metaphorical, and once again I gotta hand it to writer, Scott Lobdell.  The tricky thing is taking a protagonist from one series and making him the villain in another without demonizing the character.  A lot of times its like feuding parents, the writer of one book propping his character(s) up and skewing the other character(s) as the problem, and the retaliatory effect of the other book’s author doing likewise to canonize their character and demonize the other.  See the crossover earlier this month of the fifth issues of OMAC and Frankenstein for a classic example of this.  In this, Lobdell is the parent of both parties and can adjudicate fairly.  He skews our perception of Superboy just enough to making him a proper villain until the very end when Superboy narrates the conclusion of the conflict and we see his perspective.  I’ve made no secret that I love Superboy, and when he is cast at the beginning of the issue as the villain, he reminded me of another villain I loved to hate: Sinestro.  Sinestro was/is hypnotic to watch fight, because he is very noble and intelligent in his comportment.  He will beat the shit out of the protagonist and the entire time, in a very eloquent manner, tell them why they are inferior to him mentally and physically.  Superboy does just the same and, I dunno, it works for me.  I kinda rooted for him a few times, although Superboy vs. Red Robin was a hard one to take sides on. I like Tim Drake A LOT!  Conversely, I also like this Superboy A LOT!  Across the board, this issue had great story, wonderful action, witty yet age appropriate dialogue, and killer dynamism.
  • On the topic of teenage superheroes, Legion: Secret Origins #4 came out this week as well.  I have raved over the past three issues.  This one was an interim issue.  There was a little action and there was a little exposition, but overall it was kind of whelming.  I don’t doubt that the series is going somewhere and that the ending will justify the journey, but this issue lacked anything dramatic to latch onto.  I feel like there may have been some hints as to something greater on the horizon, especially Phantom Girl’s last statement in the issue, but I am unable to comment on it, so I’ll say that I anticipate next month’s issue.
  • I bought I, Vampire #5, but yet again I have nothing really to say about it.  Not a good comic.  Wondering why I keep getting it.
  • All-Star Westerns #5 continues Jonah Hex’s adventures in Gotham, assisted as ever by Doctor Amadeus Arkham.  In the previous issue, this odd couple went into the underground tunnels of Gotham in search of kidnapped children who had been disappearing from the harbor district.  Being underground and in Gotham, there is one place they’d have to go to make an excursion to Gotham really count, right?  The cover confirms it: “Inside the BAT CAVE!”  Sure it doesn’t exist as Batman’s lair, yet.  However, like so much in this series so far, there are legends built off of, and the Bat Cave has a story to tell even before the advent of the Batman.  In the backup feature starring the “Barbary Ghost”, we are given her back story.  I’m starting to like All-Star Western with its backup story, which is very reminiscent of the anthology books of the Golden and Silver Ages.  They also are busting out some incredible characters.  Capital Q quality in this title.
  • Kirby Genesis #5, the main title in that line, is new for the first time in over two months.  Its back and it came back strong.  They chose the right moment for the overly extended break, because at issue’s end of the fourth installment all the disparate elements were coming together.  This issue picks right up with the likes of Silver Star, Captain Victory and his Galactic Rangers, the Gazran Knights, and the Galaxy Green Apprehension Squad fighting side by side against the Lightning Lady, Darius Drumm, and other primordial baddies.  It also gives us a creation myth of the Earth and several of the forces at work in this book.  I feel like if I had access to some of the older material that this series was based off of I would be jumping out of my seat in unadulterated geekish ecstasy.  Right now, I am merely squealing with geekish glee at how fantastic the story is.  This isn’t exactly the same thing, but still a tribute to the excellence of the series’s writing, art, and premise.
  • Green Hornet Annual #2  was pretty good.  For the most part it dealt with one of the prevalent issues of the day: the death of newspapers.   It was interesting as this half of Britt’s life is highlighted and the Green Hornet aspect is played down.  What’s more, Kato (the original), also takes the opportunity to mentor Britt in how to run the newspaper like his father did when he was alive.  Its interesting as Kato’s lessons had up until now been relegated to fighting and crime fighting, both of which are the highlights of the title.  However, writer Mark Rahner points out that as Britt Sr.’s valet and confidante, Kato had great insight into his managerial style as publisher of the Daily Sentinel, as well as his fighting style as the Green Hornet.  The one thing that bothered me was that the caper Britt and Mulan were busting up came to an anti-climatic end.  There was one panel of resolution, albeit a two page spread. I did like it, but they could have given it at least two more pages of  resolution, considering that we are already shelling out $4.99 for it.
  • American Vampire #23 could not have been better.  Alright, perhaps I am exaggerating, but not by much.  I am really starting to fall in love with Travis Kidd.  He’s got the ‘Rebel Without a Cause’

    Virgin cover art for "American Vampire #23"

    James Dean thing going on, but at the same time he is way smarter than James Dean.  I can’t imagine Scott Snyder writing about the original emo-hipster without modifying him a bit, and true to form Snyder delivers a very intelligent yet super cool representation of the 50’s teen scene, only with vampires.  Teens? Vampires? And it doesn’t suck (Metaphorically.  Literally there is some suckage)?  That goes to show you the true genius of Scott Snyder.  The issue also features the history of Travis and the origin of his burning hatred of vampires.  He’s a driven kid with his eye on the ball, but he does have a sense of decency.  In all fairness, I have a weakness for bobby socks too.  This issue was incredible and when you find out who’s in the Ford Fairlane . . . HOLY SHIT!!!

  • And as ever, the final book of the month is Unwritten #33.5.  I love this series and the .5 issues have been an added treat.  This one was absolutely horrifying, and all the more so because the horror is born from the reality of the subjects described.  It follows one of the most intriguing and little known characters in The Unwritten, Madame Rausch, the aged puppeteer somehow connected to the Cabal.  In this issue we see her childhood at around the age of ten in the year 1740.  The story is narrated by a soldier billeted in her parents country manner during a time of political turbulence in the Holy Roman Empire.  The soldier is a truly kind man and slowly as he lives his day to day life, the mask of what goes on behind closed doors unveils itself to his eyes.  The stern master of the Manor, Herr Toller, the seemingly indifferent wife, Caroline, and the emotionless, almost catatonic, Anna-Elizabeth.  The horrors of the little girl’s life and the sickness that turned her into the shell of a girl that she is depicted as shocks him, but more so the reader, as this is not something that has become extinct in the contemporary world we live in.  There is a supernatural horror that is almost completely ignored by the reader in comparison with the revulsion elicited by the revelation of Anna-Elizabeth’s life.  The fact that she continues on into the modern day stories tells you that there is some escape for her, but begs the question of how many children do not have the same luxury of escape that she had . . .

A really good crop of books came out this week.  After finishing them and looking back over what I have read this week, I am a little disheartened that I will have to wait four, maybe in some cases FIVE WEEKS for the next chapters.

Illustration Credits:

Aquaman #5: Drawned by Ivan Reis, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Joe Prado

Green Lantern: New Guardians #5: Drawn by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Nei Ruffino, Inked by Batt

Voodoo #5: Drawn by Sami Basri, Colored by Jessica Kholinne

American Vampire #23: Drawn by Rafael Albuquerque, Colored by Dave McCraig

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