Week 41 (June 13, 2012)

The second week of the month is one of my favorites, featuring the main Green Lantern and Batman series, as well as the incredible Batman & Robin, but with added bonuses like Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre, American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares, and Captain Victory, its looking even brighter.
  • Green Lantern #10 concludes the “Secret of the Indigo Tribe” arc and brings us to the brink of the next major storyline.  The story itself was pretty quick and brief in duration, but there was a lot of characterization packed in there.  Sinestro is definitely gaining layers and growing as an individual.   Writer, Geoff Johns, imbues a great deal of progression into this character, but also give complete regression in another character prompting the next arc, foreshadowed by the last page’s events.  I love this series so much, as well as the direction that Johns is directing it.  I have been very hard on him because of his current Justice League run and I stand by those opinions.  Thus far he hasn’t shown any proficiency as JL writer, but he certainly will be remember as perhaps the greatest Green Lantern writer of all time.  Artist Doug Mahnke has been on this title for several years now and his pencils have almost become synonymous with the book.  This is one of the MUST READS of the DC lineup.
  • Batman #1o was perhaps the greatest Batman story told in years.  I’m not certain whether the fervor with which I type this comes from the freshness of its reading in my mind, but THIS issue validates and accentuation what has already been a meteoric plot in the new DC canon, making what has come before exponentially better.  I can’t say anything about what makes it so incredible.  You all will have to read the entirety of the “Court of Owls” storyline to fully comprehend its implications.  What I can remind everyone is that this comes fresh off the ending of issue #9 where Batman’s allies have put down the “Night of the Owls,”  and Batman makes the grandiose statement, “I know where they live, Alfred.  They came into my house, now I’m going to burn theirs to ground.”  Well he goes to their house, but the events one would imagine do not transpire.  What does occur is something that literally made my hair stand on end and my heartbeat quicken.  This is one of the seminal stories that many of us will look back on with wonder.  READ IT!!!!
  • Batman & Robin #10 moved into what has the promise of an iconic storyline.  The title is called Batman & Robin, but lets face it, Robin is really the star of the show.  Damian Wayne is a controversial character that is loved and hated equally by bat-readership.  Heck, a lot of us just plain love to hate him.  What makes him work as a character and fit into the role of both Robin and son of the Batman is that he is very driven.  He has to be the best and he pushes himself parsecs ahead of what any normal ten year old would.  That is what birthed his father, Bruce, as the Batman, and because of this, what he has the potential to become could be either awe-inspiring or terrifying.  That is truly what separates him from the other Robins.  Even my favorite, Tim, is at a certain detachment level from the legacy of the Bat.  Dick, Jason, and Tim have all worn the red and gold, but all have lacked the complete dedication that Damian and Bruce embody.  However, they wore the colors first, and in this first issue of the arc, after taking some guff about his performance as Robin, Damian calls out his three predecessors and informs them that he will randomly challenge them sometime in the near future at something they excel at and beat them to prove to Bruce, them, and himself that he is the best Robin.  It sounds grandiose and overly indulgent, but if you really look at it, Damian does have to do this.   Batman has made a career of fighting for justice, but he has also propagated his image on doing things he never thought possible.  So much has defined him by pushing past his limits.  Damian is his son and he has to prove himself just like his dad or he would be an impostor.  Tim is the first to lock horns with Damian in his challenges and though they come to blows, the true test is psychological.  The arc also introduces a very sinister villain in the shadows, whose legacy will be in destroying the Bat for what he did to him and his accomplices, but the true gravitas of this issue lies with the Damian side.  Can’t wait to read more.

    Damian Lays Down the Gamut

  • Batgirl #10 introduces a brand new story arc after last month’s dalliance with the “Night of the Owl” mega crossover.  Batgirl finds herself at odds with a group of vigilantes tied to a major urban renewal campaign by a woman named Charise Carnes.  Cleared of the charge of murdering her parents and brother, there is an ominous shadow cast over what little we are shown of her.  I’m curious to see what Gail Simone’s plan is for this threat that is referred to as Knightfall.  Alitha Martinez returns as series artist and renders the issue beautifully.
  • Demon Knights #10 finds our heroes sailing toward England from Alba Sarum in search of the isle of Avalon where Merlin’s wayward soul lies.  Assailed by a giant sea serpent our heroes come ashore in a plagued England, post Camelot’s fall.  Making their way northeast from Cornwall they come to Camelot and see the source of the fell omens.  Paul Cornell does a wonderful job crafting a unique world of swords and sorcery peopled by several mainstays of the DCU.
  • Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E #10 was stupendous.  Writer, Jeff Lemire, is replaced by Matt Kindt who takes Frank in search of a traitor in the S.H.A.D.E ranks in the extradimensional Fourth Cloud’s “Untropolis.”  There are strange cutaways to what we can only assume are Frank’s memories of a young woman strangled.  They don’t tie into any of the events portrayed here, but whatever they are its clear that they have great significance to Frank.  Kindt does keep the eerie strangeness of the series alive after the departure of Lemire, and much as the title of next month’s issue reveals, this new arc does resemble the novel “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” only with more giant insects, pan dimensional travel, and ancient spymasters in the bodies of tiny Asian girls.
  • Grifter #10 literally is one continuous scene.  Cash travels with the human resistance force and proves how why he is important.  A display of telekinesis and that’s pretty much it.  Little exposition, except . . . Cash has telekinesis.  Rob Liefeld’s really not doing the best job fleshing this series out thus far, but he is working on three series, so . . . I guess its okay.  At some point they need to do something interesting or it’d be a crime.  The series was was amazing for the first eight issues.  Hopefully this creative team switch doesn’t drive the title to cancellation.
  • Superboy #10 finds Superboy as Wonder Girl waking up on the beaches of an enigmatic island that, enigmatically is shaped like a question mark, right down to the little islet dotting the bottom.  The issue mostly is characterization of the two teens playing off the lingering resentments of their past interactions and the spark of lust that is growing between them.  Superboy is continually evolving from his appearance in issue #1 and this storyline really focuses on Superboy’s burgeoning humanity.  Cassie Sandsmark is a hardass.  That is practically written into her DNA.  I am anxious to read more about her, because she comes off as overly harsh in this issue, although I will concede that if I had gotten the crap kicked out of me by Superboy, I might also have lingering animosity.  The appearance of dinosaurs on the island is interesting and makes me wondering if this island has anything to do with the appearances of these same prehistoric beasts in Action Comics and G.I. Combat.  Time will tell, as Teen Titans #10 picks up where this issue left off in two weeks.

    Two Star Crossed Would-Be Lovers

  • Deathstroke #1o was better than Grifter, but still a little lackluster.  I am still riding high off the appearance last issue of Zealot and this character’s exploits in this issue did pepper it up for me, but still there was a very straightforward, unconvoluted plot.  There was just Lobo breaking things or Deathstroke breaking things.  No real subtext or hidden agendas.  Lobo is going to blow up Earth.  Not hidden, just very overt and obvious.  I like writer/artist Rob Liefeld’s art, but still hoping that the plot gets better.  He owes us that much, considering what and who are involved in this plot.
  • The Ravagers #2 is getting very good.  Last issue kind of just set things up.  In this issue there was a lot of characterization and developments in the larger plot of Harvest and the escaped metahumans from the “failed” Culling.  Thunder, Lightning, Ridge, and Caitlin Fairchild are being forced by necessity to trust one another and come to grips with who and what they are.  Also interesting are the new lieutenants of Harvest that are thrown into the limelight, such as the very creepy Shadow Walker and the Keeper.  I am fairly certain neither have appeared in any books prior to this issue, but don’t quote me.  Packed with action and mindbending plot twists, I think that this series is going to be one of the ones to look out for.  Howard Makie writes it beautifully, and former Teen Titan illustrator, Ian Churchill, adds an elegance and beauty to the cast of characters that in and of itself makes the boo worth reading.  Next issue promises to feature the returns of Titans past, Beast Boy and Terra, along with a classic Teen Titan villain, Brother Blood.  What does Blood have in store for these kids and how does it tie into Harvest’s larger schemes?  I don’t know, but I want to . . .  Until next month, the speculation will keep me busy.
  • Shade #9 is the homecoming issue of the series.  The Shade is back in London, the city of his birth and rebirth as a harbinger of shadow and mystery.  Coming back also puts him on the trail of his descendant, Dudley Caldecott, who is portrayed as a kingmaker, wrapped in a tangled web of global corporate intrigue and seemingly mystical human sacrifice.  Shade’s confrontation of his errant kinsman is very interesting when its consequences are shown in full at the end.  We are down to the last three issues and the story is getting really good.  I am overjoyed that James Robinson returned to his revamped version of the Shade and the ensemble of talent he corralled to bring it to life visually.  This time around, Frazer Irving is at the drawing desk, adding an air of mystique and latent madness to the book.  It looks like he’s been tapped for the next two issues also, so the ride down the rabbit hole has only just begun.

    Family Matters

  • Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #1 follows in the grand tradition of last week’s Minute Men #1, and why wouldn’t it?  It’s written by the aforementioned series’ writer/artist, Darwyn Cooke.  Amanda Conner takes over art duties on this one and the success of the issue is dependent on this fact as much as it is to Cooke’s writing.  The younger Silk Spectre, Laurie, is a character that is equally dependent on her beauty as her talents.  That is pretty much the basis of the character, and Amanda Conner is renowned for her lush artwork and sensuous female characters.  Taking place in the 1960’s, around the time of Vietnam, the story fits perfectly in the purview of Darwyn Cooke’s talents as well.  Sewn up within, Cooke has maintained much of Alan Moore’s social uncertainty and stark storytelling.  I would say that Darwyn Cooke, with the help of Amanda Conner, has really set the bar high for this much anticipated event.
  • Saucer Country #4 didn’t really reveal much in the way of alien mythology, like the previous three, but did advance the plotlines of who the players involved in this series are and the beginnings of how their interests run counter to one another.  Thus far, Paul Cornell has done an exceptional job setting up the base understanding of what alien abductions represent, now it would seem he is drawing together the human responses to this phenomenon.  Its apparent from issue #1 that his storycrafting comes from genuine interest and love of the topic material, and he passes that on quite well to the reader giving a fresh, unique take on what a lot of us see and immediately dismiss on History Channel specials and grocery store tabloids.  From his past products and what he has shown us of this new series, I already know this is gonna be a must read series from Vertigo.
  • Warlord of Mars #18 ends the “Gods of Mars” arc and yet again the fidelity to the original Edgar Rice Burroughs novels.  John Carter has escaped the Valley of Dor, and in doing so committed a great heresy against the Barsoomian religion.  When this issue opens, John Carter and his allies in Helium rally to invade the Valley to depose the ancient “deity” ruling over Mars’ many races, and, as ever, rescue Princess Dejah Thoris.  I like what writer, Arvid Nelson, is doing with the material.  He sticks to the source material in all the important aspects, but deviates in ways that supplement, not supplant, Burrough’s original concepts.
  • On that same note, Warriors of Mars #3 is an interesting amalgam book that combines two different series about the planet Mars from the turn of the century.  One of course is the Warlord of Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs and the other is the Lieutenant Gullivar Jones series by Edwin Lestor Arnold.  Jones is a Union naval officer from the Civil War, and John Carter is a Confederate cavalry captain.  Needless to say, they shouldn’t get along, and for the first two issues it was looking like they were going to coexist nicely. This issue introduces that tension into their relationship as well as comingles the peoples described in Warlords of Mars (White, Red, Green, Yellow, and Black Martians) and those of Lieutenant Gullivar Jones, namely the red, ape-like Thither people.  Writer, Robert Place Napton, does a great job of combining them and rationalizing it so that it makes sense to both mythologies which are quite different. Its not perfect, but it does entertain and enrich the swords and sorcery genre of Mars, which is pretty niche.
  • Captain Victory #5 continues in the grand tradition set by its predecessors, presenting the very tumultuous life of a Galactic Ranger aboard the Dreadnaught Tiger.  The Tiger has crashed on an inhospitable planet and sabotage is suspected.  Most of the systems are down, and the weapons systems blocked.  In the midst of an unstoppable onslaught, Major Klavus discovers a survivor from a previous crash on the planet whom he used to know.  The issue brims with the tragedy of war and hard decisions that hinge on the cusp of survival and utter annihilation.  This series is a perfect continuation of the 80’s Jack Kirby series.
  • American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #1 kicks off another spinoff miniseries by American Vampire writer/creator, Scott Snyder.  Lending art on this mini is the great Dustin Nguyen whose ink washed style mirrors the tone evoked by both Rafael Albuquerque and Sean Murphy.  Taking place in the 1950’s, this series returns to Europe ten years after the conclusion of the American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest miniseries.  With an attack on a London base of the Vassals of the Morningstar, the enigmatic Agent Hobbes must enlist the help of former agent, Felicia Book who has gone to ground with her son, Gus, after the events of Survival of the Fittest.  The reason?  Inside that base lies the most deadly single vampire in history, King of the Carpathians.  Yup.  Its HIM! I very much look forward to the future issues in this miniseries.

    The King of Carpathians . . .

And that concludes the second week of June.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #10:  Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray

Superboy #10:  Art by Sebastian Fiumara, Colored by Richard & Tanya Horie

The Shade  #9: Art by Frazer Irving

American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #1: Art by Dustin Nguyen, Colored by John Kalisz


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