Week 40 (June 6, 2012)

Wow, this week’s review was late.  Its been a crazy week, but one that has several mainstays including four of Second Wave titles and the first of the Before Watchmen books, Minute Men #1.  So here we go.
  • Action Comics #10 was outstanding.  Grant Morrison is really weaving a compelling epic concerning the genesis of the “Man of Steel” in this New DCU.  I still don’t  look back fondly on the first issue of the series, but I will admit that it has facilitated something really beauteous in this new arc.  Unlike the balls-to-the-wall, leap-before-you-look Superman, this issue presents a very thoughtful one, whose concern for the world returns to the naive, idealist character of the past.  Unlike the other Super-titles, this one feels the most genuine.  A friend of mine proposed that what was missing from all the Superman books was Clark Kent.  Grant Morrison must have intuited that as well, because apart from portraying a very caring Superman, he really focused on a sainted Clark.  How they frame his virtue is really worth the read.
  • Detective Comics #10 returns to the main flow of the book after last month’s “Night of the Owls” jaunt to Arkham Asylum to thwart the assassination of Dr. Arkham.  Here an armored car robbery perpetrated by a slew of “Batmen” precipitates the entrance of a truly sinister villain with motives hinted at with frightening scientific theory.  We also see the aftermath of Charlotte Rivers’ grievous injuries after the heist at the Iceberg Lounge.  Though its still in the setup stage, Tony Daniel really creates an entertaining book.  In the backup feature, Two-Face goes on a journey of self-discovery and comes one step closer to figuring out the conspiracy against him.  Ed Benes provides art for the main feature, coming over from a guest-stint on Dark Knight last month, and Szymon Kudranski provides art for the backup.  Considering the dark nature of the Two-Facebackup, Kudranski’s stark pencil work really fits.  I like Ed Benes a lot, and on most other books I would love to see his art, but considering the marriage of Daniel’s artwork to his storytelling technique, I miss seeing the two together.    Still really amazing, though.

    Enter Mr. Toxin

  • Batwing #10 is a round the world jaunt of awesome.  Piracy off the coast of Nigeria, kidnapped Chinese physicists, Triads, and a certain Gotham crime boss.  From the shores of Africa, to Beijing, to Gotham, Batwing gets around in this issue, working close with Batman to root out a grave threat to World security.  Somehow the pirates, the Chinese mafia, and the American interests are working toward some larger goal . . . but what is it?  Marcus To continues his stint as series artist after the departures of Ben Oliver and Dustin Nguyen.

    Enter the Dragon

  • Swamp Thing #10 takes the saga of the “Rot” to the next level, returning Abigail Arcane to her human form as well as to her ancestral home in the Swamplands.  Following her resignation as Queen of the Rot, her uncle, Dr. Anton Arcane takes his place as monarch of the Rot.  Through his communications with the Swamp Thing we learn interesting facts about Abigail’s earliest connections to the Rot.  Taking over art duties for this new arc is the incomparable Francesco Francavilla.  Having worked with writer, Scott Snyder, on his Detective Comics run, Francavilla’s haunting, twilit artwork really brings out the eerie quality of the material that Berni Wrightson’s art brought to the original series.

    Swamp Thing & Abigail Arcane

  • Animal Man #10 achieved several things this month, including linking writer Jeff Lemire’s other project, Justice League Dark, to this book.  It also develops further the true nature of the Red and its relationship to the Green, but more importantly the Rot.  Its a good book, but its very much an interim book, awaiting further resolution.
  • Red Lanterns #10 was for the most part lackluster.  Writer Peter Milligan tied this book’s plot to that of his other project, Stormwatch, which unfortunately is floundering.  What was intriguing was how powerful Atrocitus is portrayed to be in the things Milligan allows him to accomplish which have as of yet never been done.  But, yet again, Midnighter didn’t get his ass handed to him, which bothers me greatly.  What’s more, Midnighter KO’s Dex-Starr the Cat.  Ok, being a prick is one thing.  Abusing animals, no matter if they are wearing a red power ring, is quite another.  Someone needs to cut him down to size.  I await next issue with the confrontation of the surviving Red Lanterns and the Star Sapphires.  
  • Stormwatch #1o was of no consequence.  Consider it dropped once more.  No matter how awesome the writer, the title is like black hole.  No matter how much talent is thrown at it, it just keeps sucking.
  • Justice League International #10 was as good as it’s ever been.  The enigmatic villains begin to take on moral complexity, and though they do horrible things, a certain pathos is revealed in their motivations.  Among the heroes moral complexity also is revealed, especially in the case of OMAC.  Connections are explored interpersonally between characters: Batwing and Vixen from their days in Africa, August General in Iron and OMAC due to their life altering conditions, and Guy Gardner and Tora Olafsdottir in love.  This series abounds with rich storytelling and characterization.  I still love it head and shoulders over the actual Justice League title.
  • Green Arrow #1o was a one-shot story this month, drawn by guest artist, Steve Kurth, that really explored the nature of what it means to be human.  A Robot that looks very much like a person is rescued by Green Arrow and in helping her the nature of both their existences is revealed.  Writer Ann Nocenti is what makes this series work for me.  Hopefully she will be on it for some time to come.
  • Earth-2 #2 was a controversial issue and rightly so.  Though it features Jay Garrick in his genesis as the Golden Age version of the Flash, the main thing this issue will be remembered for was its introduction of Alan Scott as a gay man.  I’ll get this out of the way up front.  I am among the detractors of writer James Robinson’s choice to make Alan Scott homosexual.  I do not object on moral grounds, as I have applauded Robinson for his outing other characters in the past, such as the second Starman, Mikaal Tomas, and the Australian character, Tasmanian Devil.  What I do object to is the logic behind the decision.  It was reached because Scott’s gay son, Obsidian, was obviously written out of continuity owing to the complete restarting of the Earth-2 pantheon of heroes.  Because Obsidian was no longer in the title, his father, who was a fully fleshed out character and happily married for years, was rewritten to be a gay man.  I believe in the diversification of characters.  That was what made the mega event 52 in 2006 so incredible, highlighting or introducing a character that represents every conceivable demographic.  However, I think that taking an established character and making the choice to change his sexuality simply because his son who was gay was removed from continuity is a very weak reason.  Other than that, the issue was very interesting.  Another Earth-2 stable character is introduced, as well as Mister Terrific from Earth-1 meeting his Earth-2 counterpart, and the meeting is far from amicable.  A great series thus far.  I am a huge fan of writer James Robinson, so despite my objections to Scott’s makeover, I will hear him out on it.

    Enter the Flash

  • Worlds’ Finest #2 again follows excellently on the heels of Earth 2, chronicling the adventures of the exiled Huntress and Powergirl.  We see exactly how Karen Starr makes her money and an interesting connection between their current foe, Hakkou, and the Apokaliptian invasion of their former Earth-2 home.  There also is raised the question of whether the Darkseid they thought they chased through the interdimensional boom-tube to this Earth is the same one who attack our Earth in the first Justice League arc.  Everything about what writer Paul Levitz is doing so far with Worlds’ Finest is fresh, innovative, and interesting.  I love it so much.  Also it doesn’t hurt to have the stunning pencils of two master artists, George Perez and Kevin Maguire.
  • Dial H #2 continues down the rabbit hole of psychedelia.  The plot is so very reminiscent of the British comics put out by Vertigo in the late 80’s/early 90’s by such young turks as Grant Morrison, Peter Milligan, and Alan Moore.   The main character, Nelson, explores more forms including Pelican Army, Double Bluff, Hole Punch, Human Virus, Shamanticore, Rancid Ninja, and Iron Snail.  The main plot is interesting and enigmatic, but even were it not, seeing the different identities explored is truly fascinating.   I know that I will continue reading it for that alone.  What does intrigue me in the plot, however, is the appearance of a superpowered woman somehow tied to the dial . . .
  • G.I. Combat #2 was a little slower this month.  The War That Time Forgot storyline was pretty short and straightforward.  There was very little exposition, yet again.  Just lots of scenes of US and North Korean forces battling dinosaurs with tanks, helicopters, and automatic weapons. The Unknown Soldier  story was short as well, but did bear the seed of an interesting plot following a plot by a terrorist group called Crimson Jihad planning a biological attack using teenaged American sleeper agents.  A good series, but not a great one yet.
  • Night Force #4 makes the hump over the halfway mark and things begin to come together in interesting ways.  The demonic forces we have been witnessing are tied to the American Revolution, explaining the beginning of the first issue’s portrayal of George Washington.  The tie of Senator Greene to the cabal is also revealed as is the further involvement of his wife.  The plot is defined well, but the character drama is truly what captivates in this issues especially with the original Night Force agent Donovan’s last moments on this Earth, as well as a look back by Det. Duffy at the moment of his father’s death.  Marv Wolfman is an amazing writer and he delivers another incredible tale of the macabre in this series.
  • Before Watch: Minute Men #1 was pure art.  Coming off of the controversial Before Watchmen banner that has been maligned by some as heresy and lauded by others as potentially the best thing to hit comics in decades, this first installment does it right on several levels.  Just like there would be no Silver Age Flash or Green Lantern or frankly any DC characters without the oft forgotten Golden Age pantheon, without the Minutemen there would be no Watchmen.  These Depression Era heroes were the pioneers that set the stage for the apocalyptic Watchmen to step up towards postponing or hastening Man’s fate.  And what better hands could the title be than those of Darwyn Cooke.  Cooke excels at retro, pre-70’s storytelling.  He captured the spirit of the Golden Age of comics in his revamp of The Spirit, his homage to the Silver Age in his opus DC: The New Frontier, and the gritty crime genre in the 60’s comic adaptations of Richard Stark’s Parker novels.  In Minutemen he takes the characters we’ve briefly glimpse in contextual references from Alan Moore’s opus magnum and fleshes them out into fully realized characters that we can understand and relate to.  If this is what DC has in store for us with the rest of their Before Watchmen titles, then nuts to the haters, and bring it on!!!

    Enter Hooded Justice

  • Smallville Season 11 #2 continues the CW television series into another post television “season” with the storyline entitled “Guardian.”  Introducing the character of Hank Henshaw, future Cyborg Superman, the groundwork is laid down for what promises to be a great series.  Lex is, as ever, complex and morally ambiguous, and the supporting cast of characters from the show return as good as ever.  The malfunction in the Russian space station from last issue is explained and another cosmic catastrophe occurs furthering the question of what dangers lie in space . . .

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

Illustration Credits:

Detective Comics #10:  Penciled by Ed Benes, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by Rob Hunter

Batwing #10:  Drawn by Marcus To, Colored by Brian Reber, Inked by Ryan Winn

Swamp Thing  #10: Art by Francesco Francavilla

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

Before Watchmen: Minute Men #1: Art by Darwyn Cooke, Colored by Phil Noto


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