Week 33 (April 18, 2012)

Going into the third week of April I have to say that it was a mixed bag this week.  There was some absolute knockouts that really proved the breadth of comic craft, and then there were some total bombs that I am just uncomfortable having read, knowing that the lack of quality isn’t the writers’ faults entirely (even though it kind of is . . .) .   Well these are my views on what is good and what was lacking.  As ever, if you think I am way off the mark, comment on this post and let me know what I’ve overlooked.  I respect constructive dissension.

  • Justice League #8 was absolutely awful.  I’m not even angry anymore by the utter disregard for quality that the creative team of JL are flagrantly exhibiting, just sad.  I’ve moved on to the last stage of grief: acceptance. Everything about every aspect of this book is wrong.  I firmly believe that if you sat down someone who had never read a comic in their lives but had the spark of interest that could be fanned into a blaze of comic loving passion and then gave them a Justice League comic you could permanently kill the chances of them ever wanting to read another comic ever again.  This series is the rat poison of the comic world.  How Geoff Johns can write these awesome characters as such douchebags is beyond me.  I am starting to hate the characters so much and its starting to infect my enjoyment of the stories where they are actually written well.  I know he’s an executive, but Johns needs to get benched ASAP!  He’s doing good on his other series.  Let him stick to what he knows.  He clearly has no clue how to write a decent Justice League story.  Oh. and on a personal note: The inclusion of a sequence with Talons dispatched by the Court of Owls is in BAD TASTE.  Don’t sully a truly awesome thing like “Night of the Owls” by trying to pouch quality for your shitty comic.  That is bad form, Mr. Johns.  BAD FORM!   
  • Batman #8 starts up after issue #7’s startling conclusion.  After his battle in the labyrinth with the Court of Owls, Batman is a wreck.  Broken and beaten he retreats to Wayne Manor and from there Scott Snyder portrays a very troubled Batman, and troubled he should be as the Court has not yet finished with him or Gotham.  The true terror of the Court is laid bare and the “Night of the Owls” we have been hearing about is revealed to be much akin to the famous “Night of the Long Knives” in Nazi Germany.  A lot of important people are in the crosshairs and several will be dead by dawn regardless of nay intervention.  Snyder’s plot is executed to perfection and rendered beautifully by series artist Greg Capullo and by Snyder’s long time collaborator on American Vampire, Rafael Albuquerque.  This is the Batman story I’ve been waiting for my whole life, I just didn’t know it until recently.

    Alfred Puts Out "The Call"

  • Nightwing #8 follows on the heels of Batman #8, starting off “Night of the Owls” an issue early and really sets the tone for what we can expect next month in the “Night of the Owls” mega crossover.  Writer Kyle Higgins keeps the heat on Dick Grayson after the conclusion last month of the title’s first story arc.  In that issue he revealed that the Talon we have thus far seen in Batman is none other than Dick’s ancestor, William Cobb.  Higgins writes the issue dually from the perspective of Cobb, telling about his childhood and adolescence in the Gotham of 1901, and from Dick’s in the present.  The issue is a fitting companion to what Scott Snyder has set up over the past half year.  The Night of the Owls is upon us.  The call has been put out. “God help us . . .” 
  • Green Lantern Corps #8 followed three main events, but was rather hazy about them, introducing but not developing.  The first is the Alpha Lanterns assembling to discuss their mandate: the internal policing of Corpsman.  The second was the Guardians offering Guy Gardner what seems to be a very peculiar offer that I doubt is on the level.  Thirdly, John Stewart’s continued melancholy and confliction over killing his former colleague in the torture chambers of the “Keepers.”  This issue was like its predecessor, a seeming interim issue, although this one facilitates the coming issue which will be the beginning of the “Alpha War.”  I look forward to it, as this issue was good, but as I alluded, very sparse. 
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #8 was a really outstanding issue that accomplished so much.  It revealed the history behind Jason Todd and Suzie Su’s long standing quarrel as well as his past exploits culling the crime families of Hong Kong.  In the process writer Scott Lobdell defines the nature of Todd as an anti-heroic character.  He puts his neck out to save children from terrorists, but in the process does some very dark things.  Finally, it reestablishes his status as a member of the Bat family, because this issue like Batman #8 and Nightwing #8, is a “Night of the Owls” prelude.  The call goes out from Alfred, and though Starfire and Arsenal know for a fact that the disaffected ex-Robin won’t respond, Jason surprises them both and commits himself to the call.  The reason lies in a past encounter with his successor, Tim Drake, in Metropolis and leads to an inference that Mr. Freeze will be involved.  This issue has its balls-to-the-wall moments alongside some very touching ones.  Damn, I love Scott Lobdell’s storylines.

    Jason's R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find Out What It Means To Him.

  • Catwoman #8 was another prelude to “Night of the Owls.”  The story was kind of interesting, but not overly.  Apart from developing the character of Spark, I wasn’t very invested in the plot.  A heist is planned against the Penguin, and like Red Hood above, writer Judd Winick infers that Penguin will be the Owl target that Catwoman will be running interference for.  What sets this one apart from the three above Bat-titles, is that Catwoman doesn’t get the call, so  a scene involving the Court of Owls is worked in to clue the readers into the impending connection.  Artist Adriana Melo does make the issue very pretty though, despite the lackluster plotline.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes #8 was damn good!!!  It might be that I’ve read Paul Levitz’s previous runs on Legion of Super-Heroes, but the story was steeped in LHS mythology. Computo was referenced, the sister of the Invisible Kid’s consequential incurable illness as a result of that same evil computer system, and most of all the resurrection of the Fatal Five.  But on top of that, Levitz makes the stories he writes very personal.  More so than most other books, he imbues so much humanity into the motivations and interactions of the Legionnaires.  Case in point, the issue was divided into two stories drawn by two different artists.  The former most story that involved the elements listed above was drawn by veteran LHS artist Steve Lightle.  The latter half involves Cosmic Boy, who puts the weight of the Universe on his shoulders, being whisked away by four of his colleagues to Istanbul to unwind.  What makes it all the more touching is that one of those Legionnaires is Brainiac 5, who out spocks Mr. Spock in his emotionlessness.  Yildiray Cinar, who helped Levitz relaunch the Legion in the 31st century, provides the art for this last segment.  Good stuff.
  • Supergirl #8 was really good and is moving towards what I have been wanting for since issue #1.  Supergirl is becoming slowly acclimated to Earth.  She hasn’t learned the language yet, but she’s made a friend and starts wearing Earth clothes.  The issue itself is pretty well written by the Mikes (Green and Johnson) and stunningly illustrated by George Perez.  I’m a little pissed that this issue is the only one Perez is illustrating, because frankly his artwork is so appropriate to the title, and he has such a beautiful way of portraying young women like Kara and her new friend Siobhan along with the bohemian New York night scene.  In any event, it was beautiful issue in both scripting and artwork, and it introduced a classic Supergirl villain back into the DCU: Silver Banshee.
  • Wonder Woman #8 has a real beauty to it.  I have read a lot of negative feedback on this series, last issue especially, and I do believe that there is credence to the detractions, but unlike last issue which offended a great many readers, this one was very straightforward.  Diana and Hermes descend into the underworld and once again Brian Azzarello depicts a very stylized, philosophic interpretation of Hades’ realm.  Series artist Cliff Chiang helps out a great deal in that respect with beautifully drawn panels of this new Underworld.  Despite the John Woo cover, the issue isn’t as gaudy as its advertised to be and twists the plot into a devil’s bargain only to be found in Greek mythology.  Hades remains one of my favorite characters in this new series.  His motivations are so ambiguous and he is just awesome no matter which light you choose view him in.

    Shot to the Heart. Hades to Blame . . .

  • DC Universe Presents: Challengers of the Unknown #8 was something of a cop out.  I mean the story progresses and the villain is vanquished . . . sort of.  However, they don’t finish their journey, they don’t come to any understanding of the reason they were saved from death, just that their survival serves some transcendental purpose.  Didio and Ordway give us that “The End . . . For Now” crap without giving any modicum of conclusion.  That only works when you throw the reader some kind of bone.  Overall, I would be interested to read more if they deign to give us more, but I am unsatisfied with the three issue arc they gave us.  Why couldn’t this have been a five issue arc like Deadman so that they could do what was necessary  narratively?  Oh well. Ours not to ask why, just shell out three bucks once a month, right?
  • Blue Beetle #8 ended very abruptly.  It had an entertaining plotline that explored both the villain and his past, but gave no conclusion to the whole affair.  I recognize that Blue Beetle has to take part in the crossover event over the next two months with Green Lantern: The New Guardians, but it seems like they could have offered a little closure on the matter, or at least writer Tony Bedard could have held off the crossover since he is also the writer of New Guardians. Maybe the intermission in this plot will bear fruit relevant to its postponed conclusion.  Either way, I’ll give it a thumbs up.
  • Birds of Prey #8 as with the past several issues has become a chore.  The title’s not as good as it used to be pre-Reboot, as good as it could be.  I’ll still say that it has its entertainment value, but right now I am holding on for its place in the “Night of the Owls” crossover next month.  After that I am almost certainly dropping it as Travel Foreman, the artist whom I have been blaming my dislike of Animal Man on owing to his creepy, superlinear artwork, will be taking over Birds of Prey.  So next month will be a farewell to those lovely Bird of Gotham fame.
  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #3 expands its reach and adds a third segment to the roster.  This month we welcome writer JT Krul and veteran JLA artist Howard Porter’s Superman Beyond segment.  What Krul does beautifully is illustrate a godlike figure of comic lore who has lived past his natural age and seen his friends and loved one die.  Now Superman is beginning to see the world he has known die alongside them, as he himself begins to enter into obsolescence.  However, with all his battles seemingly won and in the past, JT Krul introduces an intriguing development that has been lying dormant until the events of this issue.  A truly stunning story.  Adam Beechen and Norm Breyfogle continue the “Mad Stan” storyline to its penultimate chapter in Batman Beyond, and while very short, forward three very compelling stories of the three young leads: Batman’s prevention of Mad Stan haphazardly blowing Gotham to kingdom come, Dana’s brother tying into the cabal of Jokerz flooding into Gotham on holy pilgrimage, and Max’s attempt to confess to her part in the cyber-terrorist attack on Gotham’s power grid.  Incredible storytelling that has me psyched for next months conclusion to the first of these dilemmas and the continuance of the other two.  And last, but most certainly not least, Nguyen and Fridolfs’ Justice League Beyond Unlimited packed a wallop of comic and television inspired excellence.  The Queen of Kobra is revealed as is her plan that the Kobra agents have been working towards in the past two issues.  The plot itself is stunning, but even more so because of the incredible intricacy of the references and allusions to the television shows that inspired it, as well as those from the DCU at large.  The Challengers of the Unknown, as seen last in the previous review above, are referenced and play their part in the doom of mankind, as does Lex Luthor, dead though he may be.  Iconic covers the Jack Kirby series Kamandi the Last Boy on Earth, Forever People, and OMAC are modified and presented to portray the enormity of the threat Kobra intends on not just Earth or the Universe, but seemingly the Multiverse.   This issue blew my socks off. I was expecting it to be good, but I wasn’t prepared for just how good.

    The Times They Are A-Changing . . ,

  • T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #6 concludes the series in the most fitting manner possible.  I didn’t realize that the first page of the first issue of the first volume DC put out took place after the whole run of Spencer’s was concluded.  I also like that although Wes Craig took over art for the book from Cafu, the latter artist came back to do the flashback sequences that he was responsible for in the first run.  Reading T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents has been a pleasure and I am saddened by the thought that there may never be another series after this one, and certainly not one as well crafted and well researched as Nick Spencer’s run.  However, he did leave a pinhole opening at the end of the main sequence for a continuation by someone else.  However, my money is betting that there won’t be any more adventures for the Agents of The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserve for many, many years.  So thank you to Nick Spencer and his army of artists who made this series legendary.
  • Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #2 is getting better.  I wasn’t as certain while reading the first issue and now after this second issue, I am starting to feel the beauty of the Voodoo culture as well as the rhythm of Selwyn Hinds’ script.  There is a really intriguing amalgam of modern day elements with old school Afro-Caribbean mythology that baselines the series and makes for a very Machiavellian struggle for power in the space between magic and realpolitik that apparently has been governing New Orleans for centuries.  I’m liking it a lot and I have to also give credit to Denys Cowan, whose stark, line-y artwork really adds a gothic character to the series.
  • The Shadow #1 is Dynamite Entertainment’s newest addition to their pulp noir line of books.  I have to say that I have been anticipating this book ever since it was announced, because I was a huge fan of the old radio show when I was a kid.  No I’m not that old, but I enjoyed listening to old radio shows on audio cassette (yes, I am that old) when on long car rides.  Anyhow, I love the “Shadow” and his genial alter ego, Lamont Cranston, the “wealthy man about town.”   To pen this new series Dynamite tapped Garth Ennis, renowned for his edgy storytelling.  I think he did a good job, but I am concerned that he might have made it too edgy.  This is the first issue so I may be making a leap in judgement.  Despite this sneaking suspicion the issue itself was great.  Aaron Campbell who provided artwork for Dynamite’s Green Hornet: Year One, provides equally stunning work in this series.  The basic plot takes us to the early 30’s with Japan invading China and agents of the expansionist empire turning up in New York, the Shadow’s playground.  Needless to say, the Shadow knows what evil lurks in the hearts of these men . . .

And that’s the thirty-third week of my reviews.  Hope you enjoyed as much as I did.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #8: Art by Rafael Albuquerque, Colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Red Hood and the Outlaws #8: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Blond

Wonder Woman #8: Art by Cliff Chiang, Colored by Matthew Wilson

Batman Beyond Unlimited #3: Drawn by Dustin Nguyen, Colored by Randy Major, Inked by Derek Fridolfs


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