This might be my favorite week of Zero Month. The titles that came out were for the most part incredible in their scope and the quality of their stories. Green Lantern: The New Guardians reinvents itself for the next phase in its development, Red Hood & the Outlaws delivers an incredible new origin for one of the DCU best antiheroes conceived by the maestro Scott Lobdell, J. Michael Straczynski serves up the next INCREDIBLE chapter in his four part Before Watchmen: Nite Owl series, and DC Universe Presents serves up a double sized issue that gives origins on five cancelled series, three of which I still lament the passing of. I hope you folks enjoy them as much as I did.
- Green Lantern: The New Guardians #0 is an issue I have been waiting for since the first solicitations were released months ago. It ushers in the second arc of the series, complete with a new panoply of Lanterns. After the falling out of the last group upon the revelation that their gathering was a hoax by the former Guardian, Ganthet, Kyle Rayner is left to pick up the pieces. Returning to Earth to commune with Hal Jordan about the genocidal insanity of their former bosses, the Guardians of the Universe, he instead finds Carol Ferris, herself trying to meet with Hal to ascertain things of a more personal nature. Moments after this meeting the showdown between Hal, Sinestro, and Black Hand erupts in the cemetery, as shown in last month’s Green Lantern Annual #1. Carol then dons her Star Sapphire ring to lend a hand to Kyle and her lover, only for the two of them to arrive at approximately the time in which Hal and Sinestro disappear. Troubling as this is to both, Hal’s disappearance takes a back seat when Kyle’s ring begins to show a very peculiar ability following his adventures tracking the ring thief. Reading his future, Carol predicts that he will have to master the seven emotions and channel the corresponding colors of light to, fingers crossed, rescue Hal and defeat the Guardians. Considering the scope of this aim, its probable that this current arc will encompass another full year’s worth of storytelling. The Guardians’ mad plot to destroy all sentient life in the Universe promises to be a story spanning all four books and allowing for a long journey of twists and turns. Perhaps the most interesting twist occurs at the end of the issue with the Guardians visiting their former colleagues the Zamaronians on the Star Sapphire homeworld. Though I was expecting a larger cast in this first issue, it does create a very solid jumping off point for the the new storyline to build off of. New to the series as well is artist Aaron Kuder, taking over for Tyler Kirkham from the first twelve issue run. His art is really fascinating, blending the styles of Mike Choi and Chris Burnham. So to recap the awesome: Carol Ferris is Star Sapphire again, Kyle seems to be a standalone Indigo-esque Green Lantern, Tony Bedard remains at the helm, and new series artist Aaron Kuder’s panels look amazing. This is gonna be a great year for this title.
- Batwoman #0 is a true origin tale for Batwoman as it provides both an origin of the character and the comic. Batwoman got her first solo series after a guest stint on Detective Comics two years ago. The main arc of that run ended with her realizing that the blond psychotic she’d been fighting was her twin sister whom she’d thought murdered when they were small children. Her sister, Elizabeth, masquerading as a psyched out Alice from “Alice in Wonderland”, then falls to her seeming death. This issue picks up at that seminal moment and has the character, Kate Kane, recap her life from earliest childhood toward this moment and the decisions that led to her becoming Batwoman. Seemingly having an elektra complex, she is driven throughout her life to live up to and win the admiration of her father. That journey pushes her sanity to the brink and seemingly when she achieves her desire of measuring up to what she imagines to be her father’s mark, the schism of that moment, watching her long lost sister plummet out of her life once again, breaks her emotionally from her father, Col. Jacob Kane, setting up the beginning of this title’s first issue. So not only does writer/artist J.H. Williams III and co-writer W. Haden Blackman create an origin for the character, they also create one for series, which seemingly sound like they should be the same, but really aren’t. Williams’ artwork varies in this issue, demarcating past from present with stark lines and pastels in the former and hazy, vibrant art in the latter. Well worth the one month break in the action of the current Batwoman/Wonder Woman team up.
- Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #3 follows the second Nite Owl, Dan Dreiberg, on his quest to find a slayer of prostitutes. He does so at the behest of the very alluring masked madam, Twilight Lady, who while helping him locate the killer, slowly seduces him with her very penetrating wiles. Through her flirtations and analysis of his character, we the reader learn a lot more about who Dan Dreiberg is than either he or us suspected. Considering how nemish he was in the original series, the interactions between Dan and the Twilight Lady, whose name is revealed to be Elizabeth Lane, is very charming, intimate, and more than a little sexy. Nite Owl’s partner in crime-fighting, Rorschach, also has his place in this issue falling under the sway of an evangelistic minister who has a darker side to him. J. Michael Straczynski is an ideal storyteller for these Before Watchmen books, as his stories echo the tones of the original that have resonated through the past two decades. Andy Kubert’s art has a lot to do with the success of the visual narrative of the title, and should be noted that his late father, Joe Kubert, comic book legend, died while working on this title. Rest in peace, Sir.
- Justice League #0, like the first two entries this week in DC’s “Zero Month”, eschews an origin tale of the classic variety and instead gives the backup feature of the past several issues of the title, SHAZAM, the headliner position. I have made no secret that I do not like Billy Batson in this Geoff Johns written monstrosity, and I do not like the interpretation that is coming out of it. I think I have become comfortably numb, because as I read this story I know that I disagree with how it is being written, and though I can see what Johns was attempting to do, I do not believe that it is accomplishing the goals set. However, my objections fall on deaf ears, so accepting that’s what it was going to be, I shut up and just went with it. The Wizard gives Billy Batson his powers and then seemingly dies. Not sure I agree with him just ceasing to exist right off the bat, but again, who am I to criticize? Billy still seems like a punk and I only pray that he evolves as a character, because when it comes to flawed characters, they can be better than perfect characters, there is no denying that. Yet when you make a character too flawed you reach a point of diminishing returns. I hope for Johns’ sake that such a point is never reached, because his good name is beginning to tarnish in my opinion. As stated in this review’s preamble, Justice League usually has a backup feature, and since the regular backup is the main story in this issue, Geoff Johns and artist Ethan Van Sciver tell a tale of Pandora, the fallen Wizard from the main SHAZAM story, and the merest hint of the third immortal, the Question. Sorry, in my mind the Question is best left as a fallible mortal human being. Nice try, Geoff. I am still unconvinced you have a clue what you are doing with the Question.
- DC Universe Presents #0 takes the concept of the “Zero Issue” and injects it with anabolic steroids. Contained within are not one, but five origin stories of five series that were canceled at the end of the New 52 “First Wave.” The first item on the docket is perhaps my favorite cancelled title and most lamented, OMAC, written and drawn once again by the phenomenal team of Dan Didio on words and Keith Giffen with Jack Kirby-channeling pencils. The segment opens with Maxwell Lord and Brother Eye chiding the otherworldly scientist, Mokkari, for his lack of results and control over his research on what he deems “The OMAC virus” that will synthesize the recipient into a “One Machine Attack Construct.” Brother Eye and Max then have a tete-a-tete about the nature of their relationship. As per the conversation between Batman and Brother Eye at the end of the Justice League International Annual last month, Brother Eye reveals the rational and history behind his creation from a Mother Box leftover from Darkseid’s invasion of Earth in Justice League #1-6. The conversation ends in a stalemate that results in the eight issue OMAC series. Its clear that writer, Dan Didio, told this story to give further gravitas to what he will do with the eponymous character and Brother Eye in the new Justice League of America series out next year. The next segment is Mister Terrific, written this time by James Robinson, was most likely meant to segue into his use of the character in his Earth 2 series. I didn’t read past issue #1 of this series, so my commentary on it will be rather uninformed. Sorry. I do remember the probability matrix of his dead son telling him he should become Mister Terrific. This little tale has Michael Holt putting on the T-mask and activating his T-spheres, essentially becoming Mister Terrific. Before he goes out to embrace his superheroic destiny, however, he first enters a rift in space time and sees his future’s most likely course. This shows him the Justice Society that James Robinson is building in his Earth 2 title, as well as the Mister Terrific of Earth 2, Terry Sloan, killing him. He fails to remember this when he exits and returns to his original plans of superheroing in the eight issues of his now cancelled series. There is one last trick from Terry Sloan that writer James Robinson slides in there. Terry, you tricky devil . . . Third up is Hawk & Dove, written by Rob Liefeld, but not drawn. Marat Mycheals steps in to fulfill artist duties on this vignette. The story didn’t really facilitate anything, except giving a little backstory as to how Dawn (Dove) took over for Hank’s (Hawk) brother, Don, as the avatar of peace. It says “To be continued…” at the end, but I don’t know if that is just generically saying that someone will pick up the pieces eventually . . . probably, but there wasn’t anything really left by this tale to elaborate on. Blackhawks, written by Tony Bedard, goes back to the Apokalips invasion as seen in Justice League’s opening arc, and shows the origin of Mother Machine during that conflict. I dropped the title after the first issue, so I am not as sure what this portion was about, but once again the ending makes it sound like this vignette is introducing a plot somewhere down the road in the DCU’s near future. The final tale, also by Bedard, is Deadman, which is unfortunately illustrated by Scott McDaniel. This tale is one that was worth telling. In the original Deadman series, Deadman is given life after death to track down his killer. The New 52 series writer, Paul Jenkins, told me in Chicago when I met him that he wanted to take a different direction with the Deadman and do something more in line with his understanding of the character. This issue, goes back to his first possession of a person and wouldn’t you know it, that person whose life he is supposed to help is the man who killed him. Deadman approaches the problem in the understandably harsh way, only to see the error in his thinking. Not only does Bedard tie up that GIANT loose end in the plot of the original five issue run, he also validates the shift in the character that Jenkins pursued in his interpretation. So ends the GIANT DC Universe Presents #0. I think that it was well worth the doubled pricing.
- Nightwing #0 is the first of two “Robin” origins this week, and I chose to read it first because Dick was the first Robin, and as we read, the one who created the persona. The origin that writers Kyle Higgins and Tom DeFalco come up with is pretty similar to the one we know and love. Dick is part of the “Flying Graysons” trapeze act in the circus that is visiting Gotham. A local hood, Tony Zucco, cuts the wires and Dick’s parents die in the fall. Taken in by Bruce Wayne, Dick seeks out his parents killer and through knowledge of body language deduces that Bruce and Batman are one and the same. That is all canon, pretty much. Where this zero issue deviated and does something novel is the end confrontation when Dick first dons the costume and faces the assassin, Lady Shiva. She thrashes him pretty good and comments that he should come to her when he wants to reach his full potential. Lady Shiva is coming to Gotham next month in issue #13, and this issue sets up a backstory that will no doubt define that encounter, making it more interesting to us, the readers.
- Red Hood and the Outlaws #o takes a different approach to the Robin origin and presents Jason Todd like we have never seen before. Jason’s infamy as a DC character stems from the controversial way he died; letting the readers vote on whether he survived the explosion set by the Joker after he mercilessly beat him to a bloody pulp with a crowbar in a warehouse full of TNT. As a Robin, he is seemingly forgettable until he died. Scott Lobdell used that point to write a zero issue that plays on this key fact. It is literally the cliffsnotes to the first life of Jason Todd, from his birth to his death. We see how his parent’s met, a shadowy scene of him being conceived, his early childhood traumas, his adolescent rebellion, his meeting with Batman, and the rash decision that landed him into the hands of the Joker leading to his death. The final scene rests on his eyes opening again after death, ushering his second life that has lead us to the present in the previous twelve issues. Lobdell changes the story of his death from the infamous 90’s “Death in the Family” storyline, to one that is more resonant with the character he is forming. But even after ALL of that, Lobdell tops himself, and ends the issue with a very brief recap of the WHOLE issue from the Joker’s perspective, showing just how intimately he is connected with Todd as Robin, even BEFORE the incident in the Middle East where he bludgeoned him within an inch of his life and blew him to smithereens. All I have to say after reading this zero issue is: Gotta love Jason and gotta love Lobdell.
- Catwoman #0 ushers in new writer Ann Nocenti’s run on the title. Her take on the character doesn’t seem to draw off of or explain what previous writer, Judd Winick, has done with the title, which leads one to believe that Nocenti has something new in mind for the character. Selina is depicted here as an orphan who, unlike how she has always been depicted in the past, has a brother instead of a sister. The two grew up in an orphanage that taught the children to he high end cat-burglars to steal for the orphanage’s benefit. She lost track of her brother and after getting a job in the mayor’s office to try and locate him, she discovers that her name is an alias given to her and that she has another one. When she tries to probe deeper she is nearly killed to silence her and stop her from finding her true identity. Years later, when she tries again the files are gone. So Nocenti sets up the question of “Who is Selina Kyle, really, and why is keeping her identity a secret from her so important?” I for one intent to read on and find out.
- Legion of Super-heroes #0 features the whole team, but really focuses in on the character Brainiac 5. Shortly after the founding of the Legion there is a catastrophe on Colu with ancient terror machines constructed by the original Brainiac over a thousand years ago suddenly becoming operational again. The Coluans have always been an analytic, peaceful people (except for Brainiac) and are ill equipped to fend off these terror attacks. The Legionnaires intercede to save the people of Colu and their greatest treasure . . . With the help of Brainiac 5 the day is won. However, despite his altruism, there is a dark secret that the fifth Brainiac hides that connects to his evil forebearer. Paul Levitz writes a really engaging story that adds extra dimensions to an already multifaceted character. Lending guest pencils to this issue is the great Scott Kolins. His art is kind of simplistic, but there is something really evocative about the lines.
- Supergirl #0 opens on Old Krypton and deals with the last days of that doom planet from the perspective of Zor-El and featuring prominently the his daughter, Kara aka Supergirl. The plot itself is pretty paper thin. The issue really has three interesting points: the creation of the shield generator that protects Argo City from Krypton’s destruction, the mysterious appearance of a character from Earth (in the present time), and the answer to who shot Zor-El. In the holomessage Kara saw earlier in the series from her father, he is cut short by a mysterious intruder who shoots him ending the message. It is really for the latter two reasons that this issue is worth reading. Otherwise, it isn’t really that engaging.
- Birds of Prey #0 was as forgettable as when I dropped it several months ago. Following the Team 7 #0 issue, Dinah Lance breaks away from the pack after whatever event disbands the group, seeking out a blackmarket sale of a specialty incendiary. The meet goes down at the Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge and she adopts the bird moniker, Black Canary, and meets for the first time both Starling and Batgirl. The only really interesting thing about this issue is the revelation that she didn’t actually kill her husband, Kurt. He is actually kept in stasis by former colleague and Team 7 member, Amanda Waller.
- Blue Beetle #0 technically takes place in the present, right after the events of Justice League International Annual #1. However, it does have the scarab attached to Jaime Reyes, Khaji-Da, reveal his origin from creation centuries ago light-years across the Universe to attaching himself to Jaime’s back one year ago. The interim time involved both the origin and DCU introduction of Lady Styx, perhaps the freakiest villain in the DC pantheon, and also an explanation of the rise and fall of the Mayan Empire, which Khaji-Da influenced. Finishing up in Reach Space, this zero issue sets up the next pulse pounding chapter in Blue Beetle. Good times.
- Wonder Woman #0 deals with the Amazonian princess from her twelfth birthday to her thirteenth. As a pariah, due to her supposed birth from being formed out of clay, she wants to distinguish herself from her peers. Hearing her pleas, Ares, god of war, takes it upon himself to train her for a year until her thirteenth birthday, when she will be required to perform an impossible feat in her mother’s honor. Wonder Woman, regardless of which incarnation, has always stood as a paragon of strength, nobility, and a warrior’s mettle. That is precisely what Ares attempts to teach her, but the divergence at the end between what she does and what he expects of her sets the mold for what the New 52 Wonder Woman stands for. A pretty good issue that defines the character, albeit still sticking to a very marginalized representation of the Mighty Amazon.
- Sword of Sorcery #0 is the third installment of DC’s “Third Wave” titles. This is a dual feature title, headlining the title Amethyst, starring a brave young woman by that same name, written by Christy Marx and drawn by recently emancipated JLI artist, Aaron Lopresti. The secondary feature is Beowulf, written by Tony Bedard (who is awesome) and illustrated by the great Jesus Saiz. In the main feature, Amy is a strange girl with multicolored hair who moves around like a nomad with her mother from town to town. Her impending seventeenth birthday means that they both are finally going to return to their “home”, even though Amy has no idea what that means. Home turns out to be in a magical kingdom of Gems, ruled by her evil aunt, Queen Mordiel, of the house of Amethyst. I assumed that Amy’s name is Amethyst as well, but I might be wrong there. Either way, it proved to be a stunningly beautiful opening chapter to this epic saga, written and drawn to perfection. In the Beowulf feature, we enter into a post apocalyptic world that has reverted back to the age of Vikings. It follows the tale of Beowulf in that the warriors of “Danelaw” go to “Geatland” under orders from King Hrothgar to fetch the fabled warrior, Beowulf, to aid that former kingdom against the scourge called Grendel. Beowulf proves to be a military experiment or something, as he emerges from a cryostasis chamber in an abandoned military complex. Tony Bedard is a writer of great skill and ingenuity. Jesus Saiz draws a grim, Norse-like setting with natural ease, assuring the success and authenticity of Bedard’s script.
- Batman Beyond Unlimited #8 opens with the next installment of the epic storyling “10,000 Clowns.” Gotham is besieged by Jokerz from across the globe, unified by a central leader, the Joker King. Suicide bombings erupt throughout the city, Bruce Wayne is dying in a hospital bed of liver failure, Max has been abducted by unknown assailants, and Jake Chill, aka Vigilante Beyond, enters the scene. This story was intense to begin with, but cranks the dial up several more notches. Superman Beyond has the Man of Steel hidden away in the Fortress of Solitude, forced to watch as the robotic monstrosity unleashed by Lex Luthor’s daughter wreaks havoc on his city. The MetroPD special unit commander, Walker, is driven to overload on nanotech to even be able to contend with the situation. Superman decides to try one last gambit, in spite of the kryptonite field around Earth that threatens to kill him if he leaves the Fortress. Finally in the Justice League Beyond Unlimited feature, “Konstriction” moves into the next stage. The Ouroboros leaves Apokalips after a transformation into its next developmental phase and heads back home to Earth. On both sides preparations are being made. The Kobra Queen readies herself and her disciples for the fulfillment of the Serpent’s prophesy. The JLBU members go to make time with their loved ones before the end comes. Terry McGinnis (Batman) communes with Bruce Wayne to get advice from his mentor and employer. As ever Bruce gives stoic support as well as some wily tricks from up his proverbial sleeve.
- The Unwritten #41 takes us back a few steps to the aftermath of the cataclysmic “War of the Words.” You could even say that it takes the reader “back to where it all began.” Richie Savoy carries the wounded Tom Taylor back to the Swiss mansion where he was accused of mass murder. Inside the ghosts of everyone who had died because of him haunt the pair. The story is mostly told through Richie’s perspective, which is fascinating considering he comes to the conclusion by issue’s end that he is among the victims of Tommy’s “story” because he is a supporting character in it, and wants to be the main character in his own story. This issue sort of becomes the first step in that process, as he is the protagonist, considering Tom is catatonic for a majority of it. Once again, storytellers Mike Carey and Peter Gross pull out the stops and tell a really poignant tale that breaks new ground, but also reincorporates exceptional characters from storylines past.
- Womanthology: Space #1 was good. There is very little I can explain about it, since it is titularly an anthology of little vignettes that showcase strong female characters, written and drawn by women. I got this because several of my favorite female comic creators were billed to have submissions throughout the run: Mindy Doyle at the forefront of this issue’s talent. I am a fan of the short, avant-garde stories these women spin.
So ends the third week of September. One more to go . . .
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Green Lantern: New Guardians #0: Art by Aaron Kuder, Colored by Nei Ruffino
Batwoman #0: Art by J.H. Williams III, Colored by Dave Stewart
Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #3: Drawn by Andy Kubert, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Joe Kubert & Bill Sienkiewicz
Supergirl #0: Art by Mahmud Asrar, Colored by Dave McCaig
Sword of Sorcery #0: Art by Aaron Lopresti, Colored by Hi-Fi
Batman Beyond Unlimited #8: Art by Norm Breyfogle, Colored by Andrew Elder