Week 38 (May 23, 2012)

The last week of the month always yields a strong crop of titles, but being that this month is a five weeker, that crop may be slightly diminished.  I do look forward to several that are coming out this week and so let’s check em out:
  • Aquaman #9 was cryptic as ever.  There were quite a few revelations in this book that I am still processing.  I mentioned earlier something that Aquaman writer Geoff Johns, who also does Justice League, does wrong in the latter title is changing things that are perfect.  I also said that he should feel free to change things that few people know or care about.  This title, with Aquaman being the laughing stock of comic book dorks around the world, is in a prime position to do that.  I won’t mention what he is asserting, but I will say what he is not.  I believe that Johns has completely cut out the defining “Death of a Prince” storyline, as laid out in the 1970’s in which Black Manta murdered Aquaman’s four year old son, Arthur Jr.  It makes sense that this is the case, since this title is a near reboot of the character, though one that may still cling to some vestiges of the Brightest Day event.  Either way, I am saddened by this departure from the old canon, but accept it in the same vein as the other titles in the New DCU.  I won’t pan this arc like I have the whole of Justice League, but I am waiting for closure.  For more on the “Death of a Prince” story, please visit my review of that story’s graphic novel collection on this blog.  https://offthepanelcomicreview.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/review-aquaman-death-of-a-prince/
  • Green Lantern: The New Guardians #9 is OUTSTANDING!!!  Following the diaspora of the New Guardians over the past two issues, this one marks an event that promises to bring them back together: the Invasion of Odym.  Odym, home of the Blue Lantern Corps, is under siege by the merciless Reach, the insectoid invaders whose scarabs enslave the wearer to do the Hive’s bidding, and whose faulty scarab powers the teenaged superhero, Blue Beetle.  This issue primarily is about the Blue Lantern Corps and especially their gentle generalissimo, Saint Walker.  Not a great deal has been done with or reveal about the Blue Lanterns and writer Tony Bedard jumps in head first to fleshing out the Corps, introducing new Corpsmen, and really exploring how awesome they can be.  Saint Walker is one of my favorite Lanterns, and seeing him fulfill his potential to be one of the greatest of Lanterns fills me with nothing short of wonderment.  Elsewhere in the plot, Fatality explores the white hole through which Invictus entered our reality, begging the question of who let him in?  I know the answer, though admittedly it is a guess.  Skip over the next sentence if you don’t want to hear my guess. The Guardians of the Universe.  Though her stint in this issue is brief, I have to say that Fatality also is climbing the charts of my favorite ringslingers.  This issue is perhaps one of the purest that has come out.  Those who read my reviews with some frequency should realize that I talk about as much smack as I do praise, so when I say this issue knocks it out of the park, I hope you all believe me.

    All Will Be Well . . .

  • Batman: The Dark Knight #9  is a step outside the regular series.  It is guest-written by Judd Winick this month and marks the return of series artist and creator, David Finch.  This issue promised from solicitations and the cover to feature Tim Drake, aka Red Robin’s, duel with a Talon in Gotham City.  Nope.  He is only in one panel, which he shares with two of his brother Robins, Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne.  (In the case of Damian they are technically brothers.) This bothers me, as Tim is one of my favorite characters and I wanted to see his analytically contribution to the storied “Night of the Owls.”  That said, I didn’t dislike this issue at all.  Far from it.  This issue details the life of the Talon seen at the final confrontation of this month’s Batman #9.  He is insinuated to be the Talon of the 1980’s, predecessor of Dick Grayson, had Dick indeed become a Talon.  The way in which Judd Winick writes the story is very reminiscent and wistful, like a person’s life flashing before their eyes in a single moment before death.  That pretty much is what it is, and it suits the issue’s role and tone.  As ever, David Finch’s art is superb and lends an eerie, yet hard edge to the story.  I enjoyed it, and anyone who enjoyed Batman #9, regardless of whether you like Batman: The Dark Knight  should pick this one up.
  • Batman Incorporated #1 reigns in the fifth of the six “Second Wave” titles.  Though this isn’t a new title in the strictest sense, its release is nonetheless very exciting.  Picking up the second half of the original series, the incomparable Grant Morrison hits it out of the park, maintaining all the key elements from the first run of Batman Inc.  At times it is funny, at times it is surreal, and others off-the-wall action packed.  However, with only sporadic glimpses of the other “Batmen”, this issue kind of felt more like an issue of Morrison’s Batman & Robin run.  Since this is the first issue of the second stage of the series, I’m confident that the Batman Incorporated agents will make appearances soon.  The elements I was most excited about were an assassin named “Goatboy” (even in spite of the fact that he’s a middle aged man), the man-bat ninjas Talia created back in 2006 in Batman #655, and the “Mutants” gang from or inspired by Frank Miller’s seminal Dark Knight Returns. Though this doesn’t figure into the larger community of Bat-books, this is one of the ones to read.

    All Hail Leviathan

  • Flash #9 was yet again a deeply engrossing story in the life and redux world of the Flash.  This time round the Scarlet Speedster lands in Gorilla City shortly after the coronation of the sinister King Grodd (aka Gorilla Grodd), and yet revealed a key facet of the Speed Force and how it pertains to the super intelligent Gorillas of that fabled African city.  That is perhaps the greatest thing about writer/artists, Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, the way in which they take the canon elements of The Flash and reinvent and innovate them.  With sumptuous art depicted in interwoven panels and truly fresh storytelling, this is one of the books I dream about the other three quarters of the month.  Next issue promises the introduction of classic villain, Weather Wizard.  Read this series, if you haven’t already.

    History of the Speed Force

  • Superman #9 has gone back to whelming after the two issue advent of the Daemonite heretic, Lord Helspont.  There is a strange new flow to Superman’s main title and its been there since George Perez started us off on this journey with issue #1.  I’ve been trying to figure it out and put my finger on just what exactly it is.  Perhaps its very densely packed storyboarding, but the page are plotted very prolifically.  The story, therefore is very much in your face with asserting this new world of the “Daily Planet” and “Galaxy Broadcasting”  being part of a larger media conglomerate and Lois Lane moving from the reporter’s desk to the Producers chair of the aforementioned television network.  I haven’t yet acclimated to it, so thus far the lackluster plots are sort of not blowing my skirts up as I read these overly compact plotlines that rely heavily upon this not yet established status quo.  We’ll see.  Love writers Keith Giffen and Dan Jurgens, but thus far not my favorite Super-book.
  • Justice League Dark #9 comes back to the table different, but equally hard hitting.  Several changes have come to the title, but also a great deal has been salvaged and brought back.  Change-wise we shift paradigms from the genius of the established hand of Peter Milligan (whom Grant Morrison called the Handsomest Man in Comics) to the young turk of the eerie DC books, Jeff Lemire.  Our good friend, Shade, and our acquaintance, Mindwarp, have left with their maestro, Milligan,  and Madame Xanadu remains for the moment, albeit on the sidelines sitting this dance out.  To replace them Andrew Bennet of the I, Vampire title is doing a guest appearance and Black Orchid comes on the scene in what promises to be a more permanent role.  On the  returning side, series artist, Mikel Janin, is back and bringing with him that glorious art that epitomized the opening chapter of this title.  Lemire also has brought most of the band back together to combat a mystical threat by Felix Faust, the cryptic mystic who is making his New DCU debut.  When you find out what the “McGuffin” is at the end of the issue, those who have read the 90’s works of Neil Gaimon will be in for a treat.
  • Fury of Firestorm #9 was stellar yet again.  I really enjoy this series.  As a side note, this past Friday at the Motor City Comic Con in Novi, Michigan I got to meet co-writer and sometime artist, Ethan Van Sciver, and tell him just how much I enjoyed it.  Though tight lipped about what was in store for the Firestorms, it was clear that he enjoyed writing this series about as much as I enjoyed reading it.  Probably more, and that is saying something.  This issue costars the Justice League International and continues the introduction of the French firestorm, Firehawk, and the British, Hurricane.  From the plot, a great deal of interesting twists lie in wait for our heroes as well as us, their readers.  The JLI, as can be expected, are impressed with the presentation of these three young firestorms, as well as the importance of their role as the new nuclear weapon of the Age.  Thus, its intimated that one of them may be invited to join the JLI ranks, and with the solicitation that yet another JLI’er’s gonna bite the dust this possibility is becoming more and more possible.  Ronnie’s forced affiliation with the veteran Russian firestorm, Pozhar, is taking him down an enigmatic and very cloak and dagger path that just begs  to be read.  One thing that Mr. Van Sciver told me, unprompted, was that he and his co-writer, Joe Harris, love Cold War storytelling.  Before meeting him I called that, as my previous reviews and their time stamps will attest.  Lastly, the series is called “Fury of Firestorm” because of the creature called Fury that comes of Jason and Ronnie combining to form it.  Query: What happens when Jason and a different firestorm combine.  Without blowing the surprise, just read this issue . . .

    Feel the Wrath of the Firestorms

  • Teen Titans #9 brings to a close the “Culling.”  Like the Teen Titans Annual, Legion Lost #9, and Superboy #9  this issue wasn’t so much a Teen Titans story so much as a “Culling ” story.  Though it did feature the Titans prominently, it also functioned as a proto-Ravagers issue to whip up excitement for that series debut next week.  I am a little disappointed by the lack of closure on Harvest presented, but I suppose that means that the epic story of this very freaky villain will continue on in all its glory.  I feel that Scott Lobdell’s epic has yet to rear the entirety of all its awesomeness.   Series artist, Brett Booth, is MIA after penciling the oversize annual this month, so filling in as guest artist is Ig  Guara, of former Blue Beetle fame.  The difference in look was a little jarring, but other than that his lines suited the title and were really quite good.  With the “Culling” now officially concluded, I look forward to what lies in store for both the Teen Titans and Superboy.
  • Voodoo #9 is getting real, real fast.  The title has now entered a stage where the juxtaposition of Priscilla to Voodoo has taken a front seat, defining the current course of the series.  I lamented above, in the Superman review, the departure of Lord Helspont.  Well, one month later, he has resurfaced in Voodoo and looks to be a new fixture to the series as well.  I am very curious to see whether Voodoo will become a good guy or be the anti-heroic centerpiece of the title, as she is not really sympathetic at all presently.
  • All-Star Western #9 is technically a “Night of the Owls” tie in, but obviously disconnected as the title takes place in the 1880’s, more than a century before the advent of Batman. Finishing up the conflict with the August 7, Jonah Hex, Dr. Jeremiah Arkham, Nighthawk, and Cinnamon confront the cabal head on and track down their quarry, former Gotham Drain Commissioner, Thurston Moody.  In the meantime a Talon makes a cameo appearance all the way down in the “Big Easy.”  I am glad that this Talon made an appearance, because the Court of Owls suits this title very well and it gives the astounding series artist, Moritat, a chance to design a really sleek Talon for the Old Western style of this book.  Once back in Gotham another threat rears its head.  Even before the Bat, Gotham was a happening town.  And in the backup feature, the tale of Nighthawk and Cinnamon comes to a close that leaves the reader wanting much more.

    1880’s Talon

  • Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris #12 continues the strange tale of the “Boora Witch.”  Taking a jaunt into the wilds of Barsoom, this arc of the series fleshes out the mystical side of Mars further.  I am still trying to hash out whether the Witch is a Thern (white Martian), a First Born (black Martian), or yellow Martian.  Her skin is a weird yellowish-grey and she is also very old which makes it hard to tell.  Its interesting also what the Witch has in store for the princess of Helium.  Those plans reach far beyond that city, threatening the whole of Red Barsoom.
  • Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #3 continues the journey to self discovery of the voodoo child, Dominique Laveau.  With the Voodoo Court out to destroy her for the abomination of her birth, she must discover the truth behind how she came into this world and how she can survive with witch-hunters and werewolf assassins hot on her heels.  With notes of voodoo, jazz, and Afro-Caribbean culture this is a series that has a definite uniqueness that lures the reader onward.
  • The Unwritten #37 reins in the new conflict facing our heroes, namely the “Wound.”  After the events of issue #35 with the fall of the Cabal, and issue #36 with the unraveling of the worlds of fiction, this issue picks up with a surge of Tommy Taylor cult worship and the advent of the aforementioned wound in the realms of fiction.  Though it is fiction and not reality that is imperiled, the wound generated is causing existential damage to human consciousness.  Once again, Tommy Taylor is MIA and creators Mike Carey and Peter Gross are choosing rather to show the tertiary surroundings of the world of Unwritten  to fully develop the consequences of the first half of the series.  Madame Rausch and Richie Savoy do make appearances, as does Danny Armitage from the last .5 issue of the “War of Words” story arc.  This last addition intrigues me greatly, as I feel that Gross and Carey imbued Armitage’s first appearance in #35.5 with a great deal of promise.  This new arc is shaping up to be an interesting new dilemma, continuing the quality enjoyed in the first 35 issues.

And that concludes the fourth week of May.

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

Illustration Credits:

Green Lantern: The New Guardians #9: Drawn by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Nei Ruffino & Hi-Fi, Inked by Batt

Batman Incorporated #1: Art by Chris Burnham, Colored by Nathan Fairbairn

The Flash #9: Art by Francis Manapul, Colored by Brian Buccellato

Fury of Firestorm #9: Drawn by Yidray Cinar, Colored by Hi-Fi, Inked by Marlo Alquiza & Norm Rapmund

All-Star Western #9: Art by Moritat, Colored by Gabriel Bautista


Week 37 (May 16, 2012)

Looking at the list this week, the only things that really have me excited are the Bat-books.  Of the “Night of the Owls” books, Nightwing and Red Hood and the Outlaws are two of my favorites.  Conversely, Justice League  is close to the bottom, so this could be an interesting week.
  • Justice League #9 . . . I won’t beleaguer the point, but just give the barest of impressions.  The portrayal and conceptualization of the main characters in this title is sophomoric and fundamentally flawed. I think Johns is trying to do interesting things with them, but is failing.  Give it up an just level them out, already.  His Superman is less abrasive than in past issues, so perhaps he is making overtures, but the rest are still way off, Batman at the forefront.  On a positive note, I do like his inclusion of old school, lesser known villains like “The Key” and “Weapons Master.”  The Key was a Golden Age DC villain, who also was an early antagonist of the JLA early on in the team’s Silver Age genesis, so his inclusion was a rather inspired choice.  Are these two faithfully adapted?  I can’t rightly say and I don’t care.  They are classic, but abstruse enough that Johns has free license with them.  If there is one thing Geoff Johns needs to understand, its that you can tinker with imperfection, or knock around with almost perfect, but messing with things that don’t need fixing is not avante-garde or cute.  If fans have come over time to love and cherish something, leave it the F**K alone!   The SHAZAM! backup was trying, but still didn’t get off the ground for me.  See my previous point about leaving things be . . .
  • Green Lantern Corps #9 was a hot button issue.  With the arrest of John Stewart by the Alpha Lanterns the consequences of his actions several issues ago when he killed his fellow Lantern, Kirrt Kallak, come to bear.  Writer, Peter Tomasi’s exploration of this event is really thorough, yet open ended.  With two planets and another fellow Lantern on his list of previous kills, his reticence to admit what he did is understandable.  At the same time Guy Gardner admits that but for a serendipitous happenstance, he almost took the life of another Green Lantern once.  Its a tricky situation that is justified from one perspective, but also left in doubt as to whether it was completely necessary.  Even though Tomasi’s opinion is hinted at, he leaves it open for reader debate.  But despite all of the aforementioned debate, one thing is not in question.  The Guardians of the Universe are EVIL.  The plot and machinations they are currently laying are underhanded, amoral, and just plain chilling.  This issue really paves the way toward something sinister through the whole cadre of Green Lantern books.  A really well crafted issue.
  • Batwoman #9 remains one of the best series being released.  Kate is on the verge of breaking the case of what exactly “Medusa” is and what that organization has planned for the missing children of Gotham.  Aiding her is the former Medusa Agent, Sune, who really gains an interesting slant in this installment.  She is very cooperative, leading Kate right to the doors of Medusa, but is she too cooperative?  The multiple POV method of storytelling writers J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman employ is tantalizing, but also maddening, because of how good the stories are when totaled up.  Jacob Kane and Maggie Sawyer’s stories were a little short this month, and they are the heart of the title: Batwoman’s father and her lover (respectively).  I would have loved to see more of them this month, but there’s always next month.  Also in the “unfortunate” column is the departure mid-arc of artist Amy Reeder, of whom I am a hugefan.  I won’t say that I dislike her replacement, Trevor McCarthy, but I do like Reeder’s pencils much more.  With two more issues in this arc I must admit the bit is being champed by yours truly.

    That’s “friendly” . . .

  • Nightwing #9is entitled “The Gray Son.”  That said, this issue cuts deep to the heart of the Court of Owls, Gotham, and Dick Grayson and how all three intersect.  Though John and Mary Grayson were nomadic circus folk, the Graysons are inextricably tied to Gotham as evinced by the appearance of Dick’s great-grandfather, the Talon we have come to know as William Cobb, and most recently the events of this issue.  Though he is the villain, Cobb’s travails are the stuff of Horatio Alger, and one can’t help but sympathize with him.  The Gotham of the turn of the century wasn’t the most friendly place for the downtrodden and the current one isn’t much better.  So the question becomes who is best suited to fix Gotham, Batman or the Court?  Dick stands halfway between these two camps and his, seemingly, is the deciding vote.

    Gotham’s Gray Son

  • Catwoman #9 was almost a misnomer.  Sure the eponymous Catwoman is present, but the story centers almost entirely around the Talon dispatched to kill the Penguin.  This Talon, one Ephraim Newhouse, was retired in 1665 by the Court for his over inflated sense of honor and its detriment to his duties.  He is, however, awakened just like the overly ostentatious Talon of the 1850’s (shown in Batwing #9) to “cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”   And like another “Night of the Owls” issue (now I’m referring to Batman & Robin #9), there is a connection between the Talon and the prey.  Retired in dishonor, Newhouse’s ceremonial Talon knives were not interred with him.  Four were in a private collection pilfered in issue #8 of Catwoman by our heroine and the fifth is in the possession of . . . the Penguin.  That’s not the reason the Court signed his death warrant, but definitely a nice incentive for his expiration.  Also like Batman& Robin #9, Catwoman finds a kinship between herself and the Talon she is facing, as Robin did with his own 1770’s Talon.  To some these coincidences might seem contrived or trite, but I like the interconnection of themes and motifs.  “Night of the Owls” is really delivering on the promises it made.
  • Continuing on through that storied “Night” is Red Hood and the Outlaws #9.  I love this title, but its “Night of the Owls” tie in was a little lackluster in that particular aspect of its story.  This issue does usher in the New DCU debut of Mister Freeze, which is quite exciting, and he couldn’t have been rendered better his first time out than by the masterful pencil of series artist, Kenneth Rocafort.  As ever, Starfire and Roy Harper provide the heart and soul of the series, foiling the dark vengeance of Jason Todd, and here we see them trying to save Mister Freeze from the Court’s assassin, if only they could fight their own urge to kill him.  These two aspects worked well for me. Unlike the other “Night of the Owls” episodes, almost no time or effort is dedicated to giving us backstory on the Talon in this issue.  He is Chinese, his name is Xiao Loong, and he was a performer at Haly’s Circus, but that is revealed in passing.  Who he is and when he was initiated are not specified, which is detrimental in my book to the later characterization we see.  Of all the Talons, he is the most moral and human.  He retains a large degree of culpability and as I stated before, I want to know why?!  What in his past led him to be so different from his compatriots that he could question his purpose and assume guilt?  We’ll never know, but I won’t blame writer, Scott Lobdell.  He’s given us too many insanely amazing issues of this series, as well as Teen Titans and Superboy.  He certainly deserves a pass.

    1.21 Gigawatts?! WHAT THE HELL IS A JIGAWATT?!

  • Birds of Prey #9 was unfortunately the loser of the “Night of the Owls” thus far.  The Talon in this issue is Henry Ballard, who served the Owls in the 1840’s.  They never specify his target, which is strike one for me.  One can assume it is Poison Ivy since he attacked her first, but that could be a coincidence. The plot after that lacks any significance since you really don’t even know what the the Birds of Prey are fighting for or to protect.  Thus no consequences, which is strike two.  There are several other small annoyances that could total strike three, but I’ll leave it at those two.  Not to say that this issue didn’t also have a few virtues.  First of all, though it makes absolutely no sense to anything, this Talon hallucinates and his versions of the Birds that he perceives are quite interesting.  Katana looks like an oni-musha, Black Canary like a cross between Otto von Bismark and Mrs. Miller from McCabe and Mrs. Miller, and our friend Starling as one of Mrs. Miller’s Old West prostitutes.  Also, please sit down for this one, artist Travel Foreman, of former Animal Man fame, did a really good job providing art for this issue.  I never thought I would utter those words, but his style actually works quite well here.  Overall it was a passable book, but nowhere near good enough to be a true “Night of the Owls” tie in.
  • Blue Beetle #9 promised to be a crossover in the New Guardians plotline of the Reach (the intergalactic conquerors whose scarab the Blue Beetle wears) invading the Blue Lantern homeworld, Odym.  This doesn’t appear to be the case.  Jaime Reyes just runs into Kyle and his “friends”, Bleeze the Red Lantern and Glomulus the deputy Orange Lantern, while the aforementioned Green Lantern is getting his power battery from his apartment.  However, in the process the four “heroes” smoke out a bounty hunter sent by the Guardians of the Universe to bring back Kyle to await their justice.  While its interesting, it does very little to connect the two series, as I had expected.  It does sort of tie into the larger plot of Green Lantern: The New Guardians, further separating the New Guardians with Glomulus, Bleez, and Kyle splitting up in three different directions, each more enigmatic than the last.  Truly interesting, but not as complete of a crossover as others.
  • Supergirl #9 continues from the explosive ending of the previous installment.  The Black Banshee has come for his daughter, Siobhan, with a club full of innocents and Supergirl in the crossfire.  The strength of the story lies in the new slant on the classic Supergirl villain, Silver Banshee. Always evil in the past, here she is portrayed as an altruistic victim of bad breeding, and a true friend to the alienated girl from the stars, Supergirl.  In fact,  that being the case makes the situation all the more endearing as the Girl of Steel fights to preserve the only person who understands her on this strange new planet.  Good work, Mikes.  George Perez’s art is succeeded by the returning series artist, Mahmud Asrar.  I do love the master artist’s pencils from last issue, but Asrar’s work is equally appropriate to the title and its still nice to see him back.
  • Wonder Woman #9 was a Greek drama on multiple levels.  I think more so than any previous issue, this one is steeped heavily in its mythological roots.  After last month’s issue where Wonder Woman bartered for the release of her charge, a young woman impregnated with Zeus’ child, from Hades with the guns of Eros, the god of the Underworld then turned around and shot our heroine in the heart with them securing her love and her hand in marriage.  This issue reaps the whirlwind of all that!   The wedding is about to take place and the invitations have been sent to all the gods and demigods of Olympus.  As the invites reach their intended recipients we get a glimpse of two new gods: Ares, called War, and Aphrodite.  It may just be me, but I find it funny that War bears a striking resemblance to the series writer, Brian Azzarello.  Am I the only one who sees this?  One thing that none of us see though is Aphrodite.  Portrayed as the most beautiful woman alive, she is a naked woman whose face and more striking attributes are always blocked by something or conveniently off panel when we catch a glimpse of her (barely).  What truly defines the issue is the “wedding ring” that Hades has for Wonder Woman, what it represents to her, and what it promises for next issue.  Please stay tuned . . .

    Seriously, look up a picture of Brian Azzarello and tell me I am wrong . . .

  • Legion of Super-Heroes #9 was perhaps the most straightforward issue that write Paul Levitz has EVER done.  Not saying that is a bad thing, but its certainly strange.  One thing that he is famous for is the cross pollination of his Legion storylines.  Writer extraordinaire, Dennis O’Neil, refers to his method as the “Levitz Paradigm”, where in one issue Plot A is the main plot, with references to a smaller Plot B, and a hint of the even smaller Plot C.  Next issue, Plot A has been resolved and Plot B is the main focus, with Plot C taking a larger but still minor role, and the hint of Plot D surfacing, and so on down the line.  In this he made good on the promise from issue #1 of a Dominator invasion.  That was about it for the issue.  One could argue that “Plot C” from last issue, the resurrection of the Fatal Five, was moved up to “Plot B” status, but it still felt like it was just barely hinted at.  I like this issue a lot, however, and look forward to the next issue.  Paul Levitz is amazing and I will read anything that’s stamped with his name.
  • The Shade #8 picks up a thread from last issue regarding the demon that claimed to have fought in Paris back in 1901.  This issue goes back to that encounter in “Gay Paree”, and links it to the house of Caldecott.  The artwork in this one-shot background story is provided by Jill Thompson, who really grounds it realistically in the overarching Starman mythology.  Her lush pencils lend the opulent feel of Belle Epoque France to the issue, but it also makes it thus far, the most authentic to the 90’s series by James Robinson.  The first several issues drawn by Cully Hammer came close to mirroring Tony Harris’ work, but something about this issue’s art brought back a renewed nostalgia in me.  Overall, I love this Shade limited series.  We’re two thirds of the way through and already I am feeling oncoming loss.

    Paris, City of Beauty and Pleasure

  • Also from writer, James Robinson, is DC Universe Presents #9 featuring Vandal Savage.  Though James Robinson is one of the great geniuses of comics, this first issue of a three issue arc bears a striking similarity to “Silence of the Lambs.”  A senator’s daughter is abducted by a serial killer whose M.O. is almost identical to another killer, the immortal Vandal Savage.  Time is running out and the FBI send the only agent they have who has even a chance of getting his help in finding her to visit him in prison.  That agent is Vandal’s daughter, Kassidy Sage.  Bernard Chang, artist from the Deadman arc returns to provide interior pencils for this arc.  Its still too early to tell, but I’m betting that despite the deja vu I will like where this story goes.  I have great faith in James Robinson.
  • Saucer Country #3 is taking shape.  Paul Cornell stated in a Vertigo Newsletter that he wanted to explore the mythology of UFO’s and their unique place in American culture.  Well, he’s doing a pretty darned good job of it, miring the past three issues in mystique, yet revealing just enough to tantalize the reader down the “rabbit-hole.”  I chose that metaphoric phrase aptly, because in this issue, while under hypnosis, one of the characters relives his abduction and shields the unthinkable images of his ordeal by substituting the aliens’ visages with those of rabbits.  I think that this is the message that Cornell wants to send.  The characters and the readers are drawn down the rabbit-hole into a world that defies the rational mind.  Paul Cornell cut his teeth on “Doctor Who” and other science fiction stories, so he is within his element and this series promises to be a crown jewel of Vertigo’s monthly line-up.
  • The Shadow #2 is really taking shape.  I was initially uncertain about Garth Ennis’s vision of The Shadow, but this issue lays most of those misgivings to rest.  Lamont Cranston and his lovely lady and partner, Margo Lane, are winging their way to Hong Kong to intercept the surviving Kondo brother, agent of the Japanese Empire.  As it proceeds mayhem inevitably ensues and we enter into the familiar territory our pulp hero has always occupied.  Though it takes a darker turn than the original radio serial, the ambiance is the same. This is due largely to Ennis’s writing, but also to artist, Aaron Campbell, whose pencils defined the pulp series Green Hornet: Year One.  Of the new wave of noir titles, this one is definitely the best.

And thus ends the third of five weeks in May.  See you, same Bat time, same Bat channel . . .

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

Illustration Credits:

Batwoman #9:  Art by Trevor McCarthy, Colored by Guy Major

Nightwing #9:  Drawn by Eddy Barrows & Andres Guinaldo, Colored by Rod Reis & Peter Pantazis, Inked by Eber Ferreira, Ruy Jose & Mark Irwin

Catwoman  #9: Art by Guillem March, Colored by Tomeu Morey

Red Hood and the Outlaws #9: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Blond

Wonder Woman #9: Drawn by Tony Akins, Colored by Matthew Wilson, Inked by Dan Green

The Shade #8: Art by Jill Thompson, Colored by Trish Mulvihill

Week 36 (May 9, 2012)

Going into this week I am psyched by the “Night of the Owls” books and Green Lantern #9 featuring the elusive origin of the Indigo tribe.  Other than that I have high hopes that I’m confident will be met.
  • Green Lantern #9 changes everything.  This is the penultimate chapter of the “Secret of the Indigo Tribe” arc, and the mystery of the Tribe is finally laid bare, as is their connection to the legendary Green Lantern, Abin Sur.  Though they represent compassion, the Indigo Tribesman are actually quite sinister in nature.  On the other hand, as the series has progressed since Blackest Night, the Guardians of the Universe have been portrayed as more and more wicked themselves.  This issue brings all those issues to a head.  Apart from the Blue Lanterns, all the Lantern Corps have darker sides and what this arc is leading towards promises to be a collision of several of them.  Written and conceived so well by Geoff Johns and rendered stunningly by the incomparable Doug Mahnke, this issue soars. 

    The Secret of the Indigo Tribe Revealed

  • Batman #9 was a powerhouse.  Going into it, we all knew it would be.  The Owls have come unto Wayne Manor in droves and its up to the Dark Knight to stop them and reclaim what is his.  Gotham was his city, and the owls took that away from him.  Wayne Manor is his home and they are here to take that from him as well.  Bruce is drawing a line in the sand and that line is drawn in his sanctum sanctorum: the Batcave.  What makes Scott Snyder’s work so great and insightful is the anecdotal way in which he frames them.  Yes, this story is about Bruce kicking ass in his secret lair, but the whole plot of the issue and the arc as a whole is made parable by Bruce’s story herein of his ancestors releasing owls into the caves to cull the bat population so the Brothers Soloman and Joshua Wayne could move into the Manor.  There is an apocalyptic omen to it, but then he tells of how the bats weren’t purged from the cave and eventually regained supremacy of their home, invaded by the owls.  That’s some pretty Grade-A storycrafting.   Also, like last month, this issue featured a backup feature written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV and drawn by Snyder’s American Vampires colleague, Rafael Albuquerque.  Entitled “Fall of the House of Wayne” this backup is narrated by Alfred’s father, Jarvis, and chronicles the role of the Court of Owls in the deaths of himself and Martha and Thomas Wayne.  Another incredibly beautiful tale spun by Snyder.

    Dark Vengeance

  • Batman & Robin #9.  Ok, to set the record straight, I F&%KING LOVE Damien Wayne!!!  Peter Tomasi has yet to disappoint in a Batman & Robin story.  I hope that doesn’t jinx it.  This “Night of the Owls” tie in was a piece of art both literally and literarily.  Damian is the little soldier we love to love or love to hate, taking the bull by the horns and setting out to defend the military commander of Gotham’s Army and National Guard Reserves from a 1770’s Talon.  His precision and tactics are a credit to his upbringing and put his charges to shame.  What was really cool about this issue as well as Damian’s role in it, was the Talon himself.  He spins a yarn about his days as the Court’s assassin during the American Revolution and connects his final targets of that period to the one he is currently hunting in this issue.  The art of Lee Garbett mimics series artist Patrick Gleason quite well, and the stunning pencils of Andy Clarke set the 1770’s flashback apart with art that is very appropriate for the era it is set to depict.  Finally, Damian’s self analysis and kinship to the Talon was a very interesting moment as well.  God, I love this series.  I had great expectations for this issue and they were met and exceeded.

    And He’s Only 10 . . .

  • Batgirl #9 features yet another chapter in the “Night of the Owls” crossover in the Bat titles.  Really good and very interestingly framed.  The Talon in this book was from the 1950’s and was a mutilated young African American woman whose face and several other parts of her body were burned in a Japanese terror attack of the Pacific coast during WWII.  The issue starts with another little girl, possibly the same age as out Talon, making the bombs and expressing effervescent joy at creating weapons for her homeland.  This Talon employs the same terror techniques used on her against Gotham City.  Both Batgirl and her father, Commissioner Gordon, are up to bat to stem the violence of this “night of owls” with the deck stacked greatly to their disadvantage.  Commissioner Gordon’s role in the plot is perhaps the most interesting as he wrestles between the duties of a father and the duties of a public servant sworn to keep the peace.  This issue was incredible and the slant put on the Talon depicted here was really eye opening.  Unlike the others, this one, though still a monster, clung to a shred of humanity.  Can’t believe I have to wait seven more days for another taste of the “Night of the Owls.”  Booooooo!!! 
  • Superboy #9  and Legion Lost #9  I am going to review together, as they, like Teen Titans Annual #1 last week, really aren’t individual titles.   They are truly part of an amalgamated whole which is “The Culling.”  In Superboy #9, though it bears the “Boy of Steel’s” name, it barely portrays him at all.  It mostly depicts the Teen Titans and the lost Legionnaires.  Ditto, Legion Lost.  The plots flow together as though they were the same book, and truly they are.  This title also features the New 52 introduction of the W.I.L.Dcats character, Warblade.   Now the ‘Cats number Grifter, Voodoo, and Warblade in the New DCU, with Helspont also cruising around out there.  Harvest continues to grow as the enigmatic villain and I have to say that he intrigues me.  I can’t wait to see what his deal is in the final issue of the “Culling” event.  I hope they tell us.
  • Grifter #9 takes our friend from one phase of his journey to another.  In the first phase of the series written by Nathan Edmondson his brother dies, his girlfriend dies, his new lady friend and partner dies, and all of his ties to any semblance of continuity is cut.  Now that we have entered the next phase, and writers Rob Liefeld and Frank Tieri have taken over, Cole Cash is now thrust into a new life.  While escaping from Daemonites on skis he meets the lovely yet deadly Niko, who was solicited to be Cheshire on the DC website.  If that is the case, she is either using an alias or they have completely changed the character, whose name was Jade Nguyen in the past.  Jade isn’t the only reintro in this issue.  Deathblow, of Wildstorm fame, also makes his debut as Cheshire’s brother-in-arms against the Daemonite invasion.  Overall, it was a short issue, albeit with a great deal of exposition about the Daemonites from Cheshire and a nice little one frame cameo of the aforementioned Lord Helspont.  I don’t have too much against Liefeld, so I look forward to seeing what he does with Grifter.
  • Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E #9 was a short little yarn, but definitely interesting.  Dipping into the war with the Rot from Swamp Thing  and Animal Man, the issue follows on Buddy Baker’s trail.  Doing this makes a great deal of sense, since writer Jeff Lemire writes both Frankenstein and Animal Man,but also because Frank being a reanimated corpse segues well into the War of the Rot.  This issue establishes a very strange paradox: Frankenstein isn’t alive as evinced by his immunity to one threat posed in the issue, but he’s also not truly dead as evinced by his immunity to the manipulations of the Rot, so the question remains as to just what is he if he isn’t one or the other.

    Of Course We Know The Answer: He’s FRANKENSTEIN!!!

  • Demon Knights #9 follows last issue’s incredible ending into the next arc, “The Murder of Merlin.”  The Demon Knights finally find their way to the medieval metropolis, Alba Sarum, ruled over by the beneficent Princesses Alba and Sarum.  The dual monarchs’ wish for their city to be the new Camelot to usher in another golden age for mankind, but with the murder of Merlin this dream is jeopardized.  As ever, Madame Xanadu has a plan that involves going back to the ruins of old Camelot and from there to the heart of Avalon.  In the meantime most of the anti-heroic leads in this title hatch their own schemes.  So like the first story arc its hard to tell whether we should cheer on the Demon Knights or pray they don’t succeed.  The moral ambiguity is what really gives this series its flavor.  I can’t wait to see what Camelot and Avalon have in store for our “hereos.”
  • Nightforce #3 delves deeper into the arcane mysteries that epitomize writer Marv Wolfman’s supernatural thriller.  This seven issue miniseries follows two previous runs, of 14 and 12 issues respectively.  All deal with the seemingly vampiric Baron Winter assembling a ragtag group of unrelated individuals into a team to combat mystical forces.  This series thus far has dealt with a shadowy cabal that since at least the 1700’s have been eugenically breeding demons through generations, branded with crescent moon birthmarks, toward some unspeakable goal.  After the first two issues of establishing the new environment that this run operates in, the characters of Det. James Duffy and Zoe Davis begin to unravel the mystery surrounding the disappearances of women in the USA throughout time, and the disappearance of Zoe’s own baby, whom she didn’t even remember being pregnant with.  Also the character of Senator Greene comes into focus with his own pregnant wife entering into the equation.  From what was teased in this issue, both the Senator and his wife are going to play integral roles in the plot and perhaps not toward the same ends . . . Also exciting is the reintroduction of the original run character, Prof. Donovan Caine.  Marv Wolfman is a master of the eerie tales genre and has a very competent partner in Tom Mandrake, whose artwork truly sets the tone of the book.
  • Deathstroke #9 was a surprise.  I stopped buying it after the second issue because it just wasn’t working for me.  When Rob Liefeld took over I thought I’d give it a shot to see if anything changed.  So far, though its only one issue in, I am thinking this could be ok.  Slade Wilson is just as wily as he has ever been and Liefeld draws him well.  What truly grabbed my attention and got me excited about the future was the inclusion of yet another W.I.L.Dcat: Zealot of the Coda.  So now to amend my tally in the above Superboy/Legion Lost review, it is four ‘Cats in the New DCU.  Yet again, she seems to have been majorly tweaked, but so far I am thrilled to welcome her to the party.  Whether or not the Deathstroke title continues to be good remains to be seen, but I am going to ride it out for a bit.


  • Dejah Thoris and the White Apes of Mars #2 was perhaps the shortest most linear story I’ve ever read.  I don’t even think spoiling it is an issue considering how watered down it is.  After last issue the marooned ladies of Helium take refuge in the ruins of an old palace after their ship breaks down in the middle of nowhere.  Then White Apes attack them.  That was last issue.  This issue the white apes chase them and a couple women get killed by them.  That is really it.  They get chased.  There is no exposition or commentary.  They get chased into a room and the other women tell Dejah Thoris, the Princess of Helium, that she isn’t to blame.  I hope that next issue gets better, because absolutely nothing happened in this one.
  • Fatale #5 concludes the first story arc of the title.  Ed Brubaker’s occult noir story about hard-boiled LA detectives, down on their luck newspaper reporters, and titular femme fatales comes to a very satisfying head by issue’s end.  Hank Raines has lost a wife and child, Walter Booker lost a partner, and Joanna is driven to the winds by the literal specters from her past.  Everything we have been lead to believe about these people is thrown out and we are shown what truly lays beneath their cool facades.  I have to admit that this series surprised me.  I look forward to seeing what the second arc delivers.
  • Mystery in Space #1 was an anthology book from Vertigo in the same vein as Strange Adventures and The Unexpected.  Contained inside are nine stories about space exploration and/or alien vistas that cut deep to the heart of what it is to be human.  What it also contains is top notch writing and art by some of the best and promising talents in comics.  Duane Swierczynski, Andy Diggle, Ann Nocenti, and Steve Orlando are among the writing talents while Ramon Bachs, Michael Wm. Kaluta, and Ming Doyle provide art.  There is the tale of a society governed by machine proxies who guide the governments of mankind into “cleansing” those other humans on colonies “infected” by a contagion that creates erratic behavior . . . such as self-determination.  Three deal with matters of the heart and how they conflict with the worlds we inhabit and the societies that favor logic over emotion.  Some are just fun little yarns on alien worlds, rendered exquisitely.

And that is that.  Some good books and a few flops.  But still a good week in comics.  Especially the Bat-books.

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

Illustration Credits:

Green Lantern #9:  Drawn by Doug Mahnke, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin & Tom Nguyen

Batman #9:  Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO, Inked by Jonathan Glapion

Batman & Robin #9: Drawn by Lee Garbett, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Keith Champagne

Frankenstein #9: Drawn by Alberto Ponticelli, Colored by Jose Villarrubia, Inked by Wayne Faucher

Deathstroke #9: Drawn by Rob Liefeld, Colored by Andy Troy, Inked by Adelso Corona & Jacob Bear

Movie Review: “The Avengers”

I don’t think many comic book movies have been as anticipated as Marvel’s “The Avengers.”  Perhaps, “Superman: The Movie”, the first real  comic book film, and perhaps the recent Batman films of Christopher Nolan’s, but this one has been percolating for several years now, teased at at the end of every Marvel movie since “Iron Man” came out in 2008.   Well the wait is over and the Avengers have stepped out of the comics and their individual films into comic and cinematic history.  The Avengers have “assembled.”

Going in I was really scared.  The disastrous “Spider-Man 3” and “X-Men 3” failed because they tried to take on too much in too short of a time.  My fear going into it was that with so many things going on in the film and so many larger than life characters, “The Avengers” would fall right into that same trap.  There was also the fear leading up to it from the individual films of how much time would be wasted introducing the characters and getting them to sync up.  Captain America was an easy fix, as he was unthawed by his movie’s ending.  Iron Man wasn’t a problem as he is the most public and available person proposed.  The Hulk went to the wind at the end of the Edward Norton version and it would seem that tracking him would involve some time having to be dedicated.  The real troublesome spot came at the end of “Thor” when the young god destroyed the Bifrost Bridge to Earth, thereby cutting off access to Midgar.  All of these issues were cleared up pretty quickly and efficiently in the film.  Although, I will say that Thor’s arrival made absolutely no sense to me.  It was functional, however, so I won’t complain too much.

As a movie it was enjoyable even if you are ignorant to all the canon and inside references.   The action sequences were seamless, expertly choreographed, and realistically rendered.  The humor was nonstop and tastefully done.  The showing I went to was full of quality color commentary from my fellow movie goers.  Normally, that’s annoying, but there is something really endearing about seeing movies with people that really care about the material they are watching as much as you do.

Though it only has a two and a half hour running time, every second was utilized efficiently, packing in everything a Marvel fan and Avengers aficionado would expect: the S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarrier, “Hulk Smash”, lots of trick shots with Cap’s shield, death defying donning of Iron Man’s armor, and Thor’s hammer Mjolnir bringing the lighting and thunder.  All balanced perfectly.  And as I alluded to above, despite all of these major egos in one place, the movie balanced them well together, giving everyone their moments, not neglecting anyone.  Not even Nick Fury.  Portrayed as an aloof player of games in the other Marvel films in which he has appeared, Fury gets his hands dirty in this film, kicking some serious ass. And lucky for the character and the viewer, that ass kicking is done by the incomparable Samuel L. Jackson.

Jackson gave his approval for Marvel to use hi...

This movie could be up there in the greatest comic movies of all time.  I can certainly cite a list of comic movies longer than my arm that didn’t come close to rivaling it.  The scope of this film is definitely the largest ever attempted.  No matter how you look at it, however, it is a must see for comic fans and non-comic fans alike.   And as always with comic book movies, stay until after the credits.  There is a very tantalizing Easter Egg afterward . . .

Review: “Solders of Victory” Vols. 1 & 2

It goes without saying that Grant Morrison is one of the greatest comic book writers of all time.  Its empirically fact.  Seven Soldiers is one of the hallmarks of that meteoric career.  It also showcases his admiration of Jack Kirby’s body of work, featuring several of the master’s characters.  Admittedly, it took me many years to read this series.  My best friend has been hounding me to read it since it came out in 2005/2006.  I held off, because I knew it was going to be good and I needed to be in the right place to take it all in and appreciate it for what it was.  I think that I was right to do it this way, but also angry that I did, because I’ve missed out for those six years on something incredible.


The most striking thing about Seven Soldiers is that while people refer to it as a series, possibly owing to several jumping on the bandwagon after the fact with the collected graphic novels, it is actually not a series but rather a heading over seven 4-issue miniseries preceded and succeeded by the two proper Seven Soldiers issues.  Each series, as you can imagine, pertains to a different member of the eponymous Seven Soldiers of Victory.  Those characters are a veritable lottery of third stringers and people that a lot of comic readers from the millennial generation had never even heard of.  While I had heard of them by the time I read these graphic novel collections, that can be owed greatly to the fact that Morrison wrote about them in this series.  This is one thing that Morrison is aces at, taking old, seemingly worthless characters and turning them into goldmines of innovative, provocative storytelling.   His first gig with DC was revamping the laughable character of Animal Man into one of the bestselling books on the rack.

Frank Is Back

This time around his cast of characters include: the Shining Knight, The Guardian, Klarion the Witchboy, Zatanna, Mister Miracle, Bulleteer, and Frankenstein.  The Shining Knight, Sir Justin and his his winged steed Vanguard, were original members of the Seven Soldiers from the Silver Age version.  Though I heard of Justin before, Morrison puts a crucial twist on the character that has influences seen in comics currently coming out, i.e. Demon Knights.  Zatanna is perhaps the most mainstream of the characters, but again her inclusion makes sense considering the characters Morrison is drawn to.  Bulleteer was technically a new character remodeled off the Golden Age characters, Bulletman and Bulletgirl.  Frankenstein, though a character of classical literature, was adapted into DC’s panoply in 1973 by Len Wein for the Phantom Stranger title.  Morrison picks him up, but again warps him into a completely new and innovative version.  The remaining three, The Guardian, Klarion, and Mister Miracle, are all Jack Kirby characters that until Seven Soldiers hadn’t been utilized since the 70’s.  Klarion appeared in two issues of Kirby’s The Demon, and little was known about his background, so Morrison had a blank slate to work with.  Jim Harper, the 40’s beat cop known as the Guardian, is replaced with Jake Jordan, ex-cop turned roving reporter/avenging superhero.  In the original Mister Miracle series the title character, Scott Free, was an exiled god of New Genesis who masqueraded as a daring escape artist known as Mister Miracle.  In that same series Scott mentored an African American youth name Shilo Norman to one day replace him.  Shilo is the Mister Miracle here, but there is no mention of Scott, so it is insinuated that Morrison is taking the character in his own direction yet again.  In all seven cases, he has spun straw into gold.

Zatanna and Misty Riding Vanguard

What really makes the Seven Soldiers series interesting is that though they are the Seven Soldiers who are destined to defeat a common enemy, they have never met and we are told in the #0 issue, will never meet.  So who is this apocalyptic threat to mankind, and how can the Seven Soldiers hope to hold off Armageddon when they don’t even know who each other are or that they are part of a team? Morrison finds a way, and getting there is more than half the fun.  Each series follows the character’s individual destiny and defines them.  In the meantime, as you read each, references are made to other series tantalizing the reader as to the larger picture evoked by all seven.  Aided by an army of artists, Simone Bianchi, Frazier Irving, Ryan Sook, Freddie Williams II, Yanick Paquette, J.H. Williams III, and Doug Mahnke, Grant Morrison’s work is a masterpiece and should be read by anyone who considers themselves a comic book aficionado.

The Dark Side of Things

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

Illustration Credits:

Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer #1:  Drawn by Yanick Paquette, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Michael Bair

Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #2:  Art by Doug Mahnke, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Michael Bair

Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #3:  Drawn by Ryan Sook, Colored by Nathan Eyring, Inked by Mick Gray

Seven Soldiers of Victory #1:  Art by J.H. Williams III, Colored by Dave Stewart & J.H. Williams III

Week 35 (May 2, 2012)

May promises to be an AWESOME month for comics if you’re a DC fan, and I am a HUGE DC fan, as those of you who’ve read my previous posts already know.  So here . . . we . . . GO!!!  “Night of the Owls” begins this week in the whole line of Batbooks, as well as the “Culling” event in Teen Titans Annual #1, and four of the six Second Wave books in DC’s second line of titles also hit.  So take a deep breath, and tuck in, because this promises to be fun:

  • Action Comics #9 is one that I have been anticipating since it was announced three months ago.  President Superman. We saw him at the beginning of the final issue of Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis in the fall of 2008 before that year’s historic election, and his prescient appearance heralded the future: an African American president that stood for truth, justice, and the American way.  Well, whether or not you want to agree with it or see the parallels, President Superman in the comics stands for everything that our Superman does, but does so from the Oval Office, balancing the weight of the world on his shoulders in two very different capacities.  The struggle to balance the role of the very public office of Unites States President and the EXTREMELY public role as Superman is explored by both Morrison and backup writer Sholly Fisch in great detail.   I was very excited to read this, and it was certainly a good story.  I think it was timed for the release this week, because it, like Worlds Finest and Earth 2, is an introduction to the Multiverse and the twists that multiversal travel can connote.  Case in point, President Superman’s opponent is another Superman from a different Earth.  That doesn’t spoil anything, because you will not have seen a Superman like the one the President battles in this book.  As ever, this issue features the reality warping excellence and intelligence of Grant Morrison’s A-material.
  • Detective Comics #9 greatly intrigued me.  I was uncertain as to whether or not this would in fact tie in to the “Night of the Owls”, because for months the solicitations had advertised the plot as something else, but this was a tie in.  In Arkham, the venerable Doctor Jeremiah Arkham is going through his rounds and focuses his attention on Roman Sionis, the old crimeboss of Gotham who went by the name Black Mask.  If you know anything about Black Mask, you know the truly twisted crimes attached to his name.  After driving Catwoman’s sister insane by murdering her husband before her eyes and then forcing her to eat his extracted eyeballs, Catwoman did what anyone would do and killed him.  Well in this pseudo-rebooted Batverse, he is alive and in Arkham.  However, before the reboot the amazing writer/artist of this title, Tony Daniel, wrote a seminal run in Batman that featured a new Black Mask who brought Gotham to its knees and plunged the city into near collapse.  Beneath the Mask?  None other than Dr. Jeremiah Arkham.  This title tweaked the Black Mask history, reconciling Sionis’ being alive and the events of Dr. Arkham as Black Mask during Daniel’s story.  He didn’t mention how Arkham escaped being caught, as he was upon the finale of that Batman arc.  Maybe in the future . . .  Anyhow, as the public face of the Asylum and for the sin of “consorting with criminals” a Talon is dispatched to kill him.  This issue didn’t dwell a great deal on the Owls, but I for one don’t care.  Daniel is writing awesome Batman stories that harken to canon, but conversely innovate the concepts herein.  An awesome issue.
  • Batwing #9 is the second book of the “Night of the Owls” to hit and does so after wrapping up a stunning first arc.  In this,David Zavimbe, Africa’s Batwing, is invited to a benefit for the Batman Incorporated ambassadors, and while attending a Talon from the 1850’s is dispatched to kill Lucius Fox.  Being already in attendance, this is the Talon that Batwing intercepts.  The story focuses on this interaction, but in the mean time also characterizes our character further, really giving us an indication what his personality is outside of the Batwing persona.  His distaste for the ostentation of the Batman Inc gala really grounds him in his horrific upbringing as a boy soldier in the Congo.  Also interesting, is the opening of the issue, which takes place in 1850’s Gotham, showing the Court of Owls choosing to retire the talon we see in the latter portion of the book, because he has become too blunt of an instrument and lost the subtlety that befits an agent of the Court.  They do cryptically say that he will be preserved for a day in which he talents might become necessary again.  Well this issue IS THAT TIME!!!  Behold it in its glory.
  • Green Arrow #9 was fantastic.  That’s three for three for writer Ann Nocenti.  I went from absolutely abhorring the first six issues, to looking forward to this book.  This may negate my above statement from the Stormwatch review that some concepts are immune to quality due to a poisonous premise.  This book I feel was relegated to the trash bin with its absurd take on what was a sensational series and character pre-reboot.  All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put this piece of shit book together again.  George Perez, Dan Jurgens, and the awesome JT Krul who made the pre-reboot series soar.  But the feminine touch of Ann Nocenti seems to have awoken the sleeping prince to his full potential.  Sorry about all the fairy tale jargon, but it seemed relevant since this story arc centered around a crazy nouveau-Shakespearean King Lear story.  This concluding issue to that arc truly lives up to the genre, delving into a very tragic and poignantly romantic schism between a our protagonist and one of the daughters of the mad “King” whose filial duties conflict with her hearts desire for love and individualism.  I loved it, and if I can love an issue of this new Green Arrow series that means that it is GOOD!!!

    The Twisted Games of Sisters

  • Red Lanterns #9 continues in the apocalyptic vein of its predecessors hashing out the downfall of the Red Lantern Corps after the poisoning of their central power battery by Abyssmus.  There is a lot of things happening in this issue and I am excited by it all.  Jack Moore, aka Rankorr, continues to exhibit abilities unique to him from all the other Red Lanterns, as well as his acceptance of what has happened to him and what his fate has become.  The battle between Bleez and Atrocitus for command of the Corps “rages” on and the culprits behind Abyssmus’ resurrection and poisoning hinted at.  Peter Milligan keeps the series cranked up to 11.  Ed Benes, unfortunately, has left the book, but this issue features the work of guest artist Tomas Giorello.
  • Stormwatch #9, though written by Peter Milligan as well, was whelming.  I love the former writer, Paul Cornell, and he also couldn’t get me to like it.  I think this book might be a black hole of what is good.  The concept is just off, so no matter how many good writers and artists you throw into it, it just keeps sucking . . . (If you like the book, then I have no doubt you’ll like it.  Peter Milligan is WRITING IT!!!)  I like how he crossed it over in his first issue as writer with his Red Lantern series.  Skallox makes a  cameo and beats the crap out of Midnighter for a bit.  This made me happy.  Unfortunately it didn’t last and I am afraid for the fate of our bovine friend.  I still am uncertain.  Milligan has three more issues to wow me before I drop it yet again.
  • Animal Man #9 was one of the best yet.  It might be the departure of artist Travel Foreman and the slightly more palatable work of Steve Pugh.  What I liked most about this issue was the opening reference by our hero about a dream he had once.  The dream he referred to where he met his creator, “this skinny, intense, Scottish guy who claimed [Animal Man] was just a character he wrote about in a comic book” wasn’t a dream.  It was an issue of the 80’s series where series writer Grant Morrison wrote about Animal Man meeting him.  That ultra meta reference not only was a fun allusion, but also ties this series into the continuity of the original Vertigo tun.  There is also a major divergence in the storyline between the body of Buddy Baker that now serves the Rot and his spirit which continues to serve the Red.  The time of the Red and Green uniting against the Black is swiftly approaching.

    The Shepherd

  • Swamp Thing #9 was INSANE!!!  Such a good story.  This is the issue where the Swamp Thing and the Sethe of the Rot come to the pinnacle of their struggle with one another.  There really isn’t too much I can say about it.  The story is wonderfully complex and beautifully rendered by both Yanick Paquette and Marco Rudy.  Though I’m not going to ruin the plot, I will say that the last page links the series directly into the plot of the original Len Wein/Bernie Wrightson series.  Having read the original run I can say with gusto that I look forward to what Scott Snyder has in store for Swamp Thing in future issues.

    The New Abigail Arcane

  • Justice League International #9 was phenomenal.  I said in an earlier review that this series is the true successor to the old Justice League title, pre-Reboot. Whereas the current Justice League is insular and atrocious, this series is incredibly stark, innovative, and relevant to the times we live in.  More to the point, however, it is tied more integrally to the larger DCU, featuring a crossover this month with the Firestorm title this month, as well as picking up characters and story threads, like Batwing joining the team while he’s in the States, which the concluding issue of his title’s introductory arc brought him to, and also snatching up OMAC fresh from the last panel of his series, cancelled just last month.  This is the mission statement of any keystone series like Justice League: to connect with and relate to the larger universe and how its parts coalesce with each other.  Apart from an awkward tie in to “Night of the Owls” in their eighth issue as well as a cryptic two panels of the Martian Manhunter, Justice League has failed miserably in this regard.  It doesn’t represent the DCU as a whole, nor does it adequately depict what is great about its members.  This is yet another thing that JLI does in spades.  It characterizes its members exquisitely.  All the characters herein are extremely foibled, yet redeemable in their own unique ways.  Booster Gold, whose very premise is that he is a dick, is actually compelling in this series.  Ditto Guy Gardner.  This issue did a great job of bringing depth and clarity to the characters August General in Iron and Godiva.  Up until now Godiva has appeared quite vapid and insubstantial, but she narrates a large portion of the events here and we get to know her quite well by issue’s end.  Across the board, this title is where its at in ensemble titles.
  • Kicking off DC’s “Second Wave” of title this month is Earth 2 #1  which was AMAZING!!!  I don’t do this ever, but I reread it before taking it upon myself to write this review, because I wanted to make sure that I got it just right and did justice to the genius crystallized into this first issue of what will surely be one of DC best ongoing series.  To put it bluntly, this is what Justice League SHOULD BE!!!  In fact, the book seems like a backhand to the other series from writer, James Robinson (one of my personal idols), saying “THIS is how its DONE!”  The issue starts with the invasion of Earth by Apokaliptian forces and Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman fighting a terrifying battle to end the conflict.  Just like Justice League it deals with the forces of Apokalips and Earth 2’s greatest heroes stepping up to the plate, but unlike JL, our heroes were portrayed as strong, noble, and selfless.  Its heartrending how resonant the plot was.  James Robinson is a true master of the comics medium, and he has a lot of help from the phenomenal pencils of artist Nicola Scott.  I would say that both deserve equal credit for the success of this book.  Robinson’s script is stellar, but without the stark and haunting beauty of Scott’s art, it would still loose a great deal of its magic.  I’ve been trash talking Justice League a lot, and I don’t think I am being unreasonable.  In the past I haven’t be a huge Justice Society fan, either, so the fact that I have come to dislike with such vehemence the Justice League title, and am raving about the Justice Society book truly shows that a) there is something wrong with this the former title, and b) that Earth 2 must be insanely good.  I don’t know what else to say.  I love this title sooo much and strongly urge anyone reading this to run out and get it if you haven’t already.   Featuring a twenty-something Jay Garrick, a young and suave Alan Scott, a young and surly Al Pratt, (and I think that’s it) Earth 2 promises to be like no other Justice Society book we’ve ever seen.

    Earth 2’s Trinity

  • Second in the “Second Wave” titles  is Worlds’ Finest #1, dovetailing off of Earth 2  and telling the story of that world’s exiled Supergirl and Robin, aka Power Girl and Huntress.  This title is a fitting companion to its sister series above, as it also features consummate professionals in both the writing and art, as well as showcasing two incredible young women whose strength and determination is a treat to read about.  It is written by the incomparable Paul Levitz with dual artists George Perez and Kevin Maguire.  To those who don’t know, Paul Levitz actually created the character of Huntress, aka Helena Wayne, in the 70’s, so his writing this series featuring her as  dual headliner is extremely appropriate, even if one chose to overlook what an incredible writer he is. The teaming of Perez and Maguire is utilized in the book to segregate the past drawn by Maguire, from the present done by Perez.  George Perez is one of my top ten favorite artists.  His work is ridiculously good and coupled with Levitz’s writing, a powerhouse of creative excellence.  Kevin Maguire is no slouch either, and his art is similar to but also different enough from Perez to subtly delineate the past from the present in the readers mind.  The other thing that struck me while reading this book is how Levitz took the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Helena Bertinelli version of Huntress and intricately wove it into the story, while still sticking with the Helena Wayne identity.  Earth 2 and Worlds’ Finest are not to be missed.  Period.
  • G.I. Combat #1 continues the Second Wave of DC titles.  It was an interesting book as it, like Batman Beyond Unlimited is a pseudo-anthology book comprised of two stories under one banner.  The first being The War That Time Forgot, written by the great JT Krul and featuring art by Ariel Olivetti, and the second being The Unknown Soldier by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti (of All-Star Western fame) and art by Dan Panosian.   The War That Time Forgot was quite visually driven with little dialogue after the first several pages and focusing more on the shock value of the title’s premise: US Special Forces crashing in a blackout zone inhabited by Dinosaurs.  Blackhawk helicopters vs pterodactyls, T-Rexes and triceratops vs tanks.  Krul’s got my interest piques.  UnknownSoldier showcases a deformed soldier in bandages appearing as if from nowhere and tearing up the battlefields of Afghanistan.  In this iteration, unlike in the past, the identity of the Unknown Soldier is disclosed up front, as well as the events that created him.  I enjoyed this character in the past, and he is in good hands with Gray and Palmiotti.
  • Dial H #1 was quite trippy.  I have a limited exposure to the original materials in reprints, and how it appeared in the past was children getting ahold of the Dial and becoming different heroes, a la Captain Marvel.  This version has a twenty-something chain smoking slacker gaining use of the Dial and becoming two different heroes through the first issue.  The story itself was very reminiscent of Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrols from the 90’s.  In this respect I think that writer China Mieville did a phenomenal job segueing from novel writing to comic writing.  Boy Chimney and Captain Lachrymose are perhaps two of the most interesting characters generated by the New 52,  but if this is like any of this title’s predecessors we probably won’t see them again anytime soon.  I enjoyed this series though, quite a bit.

    Boy. He Said It

  • Teen Titans Annual #1 ushers in the first of the annual issues from DC’s New 52.  A historic comic book issue, and truly a powerhouse in storytelling.  Though it costs a whopping $4.99, it validates every penny with an in depth depiction of Harvest’s “Colony” and the nightmarish ordeal that is his “Culling.”  Brett Booth returns to the title, providing all 30-odd pages of content.  This is called the “Teen Titans Annual #1”, but really it should be The Culling Special one shot, as it does feature the Teen Titans, but also Superboy, and the Legion Lost cast of marooned Legionnaires.   All three camps are united in this book against this common enemy whose evil machinations are shown to be at the root of each of their titles’ geneses.  Truly, truly, truly, this is an event for the young of the DCU.  It features a veritable who’s-who of characters.  Artemis, whom many of us have come to know and love from her recent resurrection in the Cartoon Network TV show “Young Justice”, makes the scene, alongside others such as Beast Boy, Lilith, Terra, and a few others beside the teens in the three aforementioned titles that we’ve been cheering on for nine months now.  Writers Scott Lobdell and Tom DeFalco have the concept whipped to a frenzy with first blood spilled and the Culling officially begun.  I am heartened that each week will feature a chapter all the way up to the event’s finale and epilogue all the way through May.
  • Smallville Season 11 #1 was something I had to indulge.  I began watching the show in its third season on air in reruns on ABC Family Channel and then new on WB when that channel finally became available to me.  There was something really classic and wonderful about it that made the concept of Superman new and relatable to a teenager.  As the show went on, I will admit that it began to get really campy and farfetched, but I think that was because a TV show’s budget couldn’t depict the things that the stories attempted to depict and convey.  I did enjoy the final season and this series’ first issue does a wonderful job of returning Superman’s character to the comic medium, erasing a large portion of the campiness, but at the same retaining the spirit and character the show created.  After reading this issue I am enthused by what it promises.  The show’s former writer and comic book scribe of Batgirl fame, Brian Q. Miller, is at the helm of this new venture, ensuring the integrity of its decade long mythos is maintained and depicted faithfully.  To aid Miller in art is his penciller from his Batgirl days, Pere Perez. All in all, this was quite a satisfying bit of nostalgia.

    . . . But Who?

  • Silver Star #5 sewed up the loose ends of the opening arc and leads us into consequences facilitating the second arc to come.  Morgan Miller, aka Silver Star, is back from his multiversal exodus via “reverse entropy bomb.”  (You’ve gotta read it to believe it.)  Now, with his former North Korean antagonists in tow, he is off to find the real culprits responsible for his girlfriend, Norma’s, abduction.  The ensuing conflict resurrects old rivalries and concepts from the original Jack Kirby series and makes for Grade-A storytelling.  The rest you will just have to read for yourself if you have a mind for it.  Though the voice seems different from the master himself, the book itself feels like a Kirby book.  I heartily endorse it to any Kirby fan.
  • Spider #1 was an interesting book from Dynamite Entertainment in their pulpy, film noir line of books. I’m not certain what I think of him at present.  Jury is still out.  He is clearly in the same vein as the Batman and the Shadow in that he is a “weird creature of the night” archetype.  This book, unlike The Shadow, which Dynamite also reintroduced, takes place in the present.  Again, there are interesting elements to the story, but my unfamiliarity with the premise of the character is taking me aback.  Though he comes from the 30’s, which I would have taken as a more puritanical age, the Spider kills most of the criminals he encounters.  Its a little brusque and I am, again, uncertain what I think about it.  I’ll keep you all informed.  Other than that: grisly murders, dual identities, trust fund superhero, broken love life.  That’s the cliffsnotes.

And thus ends the beginning of what promises to be a killer month of comic books.  Dare I say this may be the best week yet?  I think I might.  So many top notch books came out, and thus far DC has “culled” its own flock, getting rid of some not so good titles and replacing them with quality series.  I hope to see you all again next week with more reviews on the best books of the day.  Thanks for reading and once again if you want to dork it out with me about them or give me feedback on what I am or am not doing well, I would welcome all three gladly.

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

Illustration Credits:

Green Arrow #9:  Art by Harvey Tolibao, Colored by Mike Atiyeah

Animal Man #9:  Art by Steve Pugh, Colored by Lovern Kindzierski

Swamp Thing  #9: Art by Marco Rudy, Colored by Val Staples

Earth 2 #1: Drawn by Nicola Scott, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Trevor Scott

Dial H #1: Art by Mateus Santolouco, Colored by Tanya & Richard Horie

Smallville Season 11 #1: Art by Pere Perez, Colored by Randy Major & Chris Beckett