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

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