I started this blog one year ago to coincide with the DC Reboot and as of this, the last week of August, it has been 52 weeks of the “New 52.” That is one year exactly, and what a week to commemorate the first year of the relaunch. Since it is also a fifth week, there are five (count them), FIVE! annuals that came out, and each one from a series that I have followed religiously and enjoyed throughout the twelvemonth past. So without further ado, here they are:
- Justice League #12 completes the first year of Justice League storytelling and wraps up the four part “Villain’s Journey” arc. It may be my own prejudice against this the title, but my opinion is that this arc was adequate, but on the whole uninspired. A lot of the public and the League’s analysis of things is positively ludicrous. The thought that the League should have been able to prevent the deaths of the Graves family from after effects of Apokalips ash inhalation DOES NOT MAKE SENSE!!! No one from Earth had ever heard of Apokalips, let alone its flora, fauna, and minerals, and somehow this team that wasn’t even a team at the time is supposed to know and prevent after-effects of something no one on Earth had any knowledge of? That is the kind of twisted logic villains should employ in shortsighted revenge schemes–that actually makes for good storytelling– but not the heroes or the public. This defies logic. This issue also inaugurates the romance of Superman and Wonder Woman. This concept I think is more of a fanboy fantasy than a substantial plot, in my opinion. However, Geoff Johns seems set on proving me wrong, as he does a pretty decent job of delivering a compelling argument for the pairing. We’ll see is all I will say.
- Aquaman #12 is a pretty straightforward issue. Mera is brought into the loop by the Others, Arthur fights Black Manta, and the he gets really angry. There isn’t a lot of exposition or ambiguity about it. The concluding issue of this arc, “The Others,” is two months away and I CAN totally wait. I think that sums up what the issue was like, better than an over extended explanation.
- Green Lantern Annual #1 . . . changes . . . EVERYTHING!!! That was the promise DC put up for month as this annual’s solicitation, and writer Geoff Johns keeps his word. This Annual is SICK! Distilled within is everything Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) is and has ever been. It is everything the Green Lantern Corps ever was. It is everything Geoff Johns has made it into over the course of 7+ years. That is really what struck me while reading it. About seven years ago Geoff Johns did something incredible and marked a major note in the canon of DC history with Green Lantern: Rebirth, bringing Hal back from the dead after almost a decade of being dead. In this annual, he puts in another bookmark and does so with the help of the artist who aided him in Hal’s resurrection, Ethan Van Sciver. Both’s skill of storytelling is at their respective heights with this one, telling perhaps the most apocalyptic tale in Green Lantern history. I would argue even more so than the seminal Blackest Night, because in this story the power base of good is shaken to the core and what was once pure is now tainted, and what was once sinister might now be the Universe’s only hope. One thing I will say: the Guardians are beyond the pale. There is no going back now, lines have been crossed and they will have to hope their mad scheme succeeds, because if it does not there is no longer going to be a place for them. The ending of this annual leaves a large question mark in the heroes column, but leaves a glimmer of hope. After this story, I am ravenous for more Green Lantern Family books.
- Flash Annual #1 completes the “Rogues” arc, not only by continuing the plot of Golden Glider’s coup from issue #12, but also by giving background on the Rogues before the beginning of the series. The Rogues were regular men who had implements that gave them their particular powers, i.e. flamethrowers, ice guns, mirror projectors, weather wands, etc. How they came to have those powers inborn is finally revealed and linked to a shady persona we’ve come to know decently well over the past twelve issues. Secondly, Turbine resurfaces outside the Speed Force in Central City and meeting with Patty Spivot reveals that Barry Allen is still alive. Thirdly, the new story arc is revealed, bringing back a classic Flash villain. Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato write this multi-chaptered annual incredibly well, with the help of guest artists Marcus To, Scott Kolins, Diogenes Neves, Marcio Takara, and Wes Craig.
- Superman Annual #1, like Flash Annual #1 above, accomplishes several important things. Firstly, Scott Lobdell takes over the Man of Steel’s main title. George Perez and Dan Jurgens have written the title since the reboot exactly one year ago. In that time it has been passable. Scott Lobdell has done incredible work on Superboy, Teen Titans, and Red Hood and the Outlaws. While still writing the latter two, Superman is now on his ticket and considering the extremely fresh voice he had imbued to both the Titans and Outlaws, I have very high hopes for his run on Superman. As for the annual itself, Lobdell brings together many strands from across the DCU into an intriguing nexus point. Starting on the faraway world of Daem, thousands of years ago, we see the birth of the the evil Daemonite despot, Lord Helspont, as well as a explanation for the schism in Daemonite forces that has been alluded to in Voodoo, Grifter, Stormwatch, as well as issues #7 & 8 of Superman. Bridging this into the present day, Supes fights Helspont to a standstill, getting his best efforts effortlessly fended by the fallen Daemonite prince, and is treated to an extended explanation of the sinisterly noble mission that Helspont has been waging for over three millennia. Lobdell also ties Grifter into the annual, picking up the character’s journey from where Rob Liefeld left it at the end of this month’s Grifter #12. Most intriguing, however, was the further reference to the “Thirteen.” He spells out certain aspects of what the “Thirteen” are through the mouthpieces of Helspont’s most trusted lieutenants sent out to recruit aliens on Earth to the fulfillment of the prophesy of the “Thirteen Scions of Salvation.” Apparently, it has something to do with Martian Manhunter, Starfire, Hawkman, and presumably Superman. Mentioned in Red Hood and the Outlaws #12 this past month and once again in this annual, I am very curious as to which title this plot is going to unfold in or if it will be done in a crossover between them both. A truly fantastic annual across the board.
- Justice League International Annual #1 yet again blew my mind. What it did, it did very well. Geoff Johns and Dan Didio take the reigns from writer, Dan Jurgens, giving the JLI their last adventure as a team. Didio brings the authentic OMAC feel to this annual, as OMAC is truly the pivotal character in this story. Johns works to facilitate the transition of this book into an upcoming plot that looks to be a defining one of 2013. This excites me greatly, because the story put forth here was EPIC!!! If Justice League picks up its cues next year from this annual then perhaps that piece of $h!t title might actually gain some merit. I am glad I read Justice League #12 first, because this issue took the events of that issue and turned them completely on their heads, adding an apocalyptic note to something that was otherwise touching and benign. What is coming next year in Justice League? I never thought I’d say this, but I REALLY WANT TO KNOW . . .
- Detective Comics Annual #1 concludes writer/artist, Tony Daniel’s, run on the title with an extended story dealing with the Black Mask character from where he left him in issue #9 with the “Night of the Owls” crossover. I have to say that this annual did not live up to expectations. It was a good annual in its story and pacing, but unfortunately for it, Daniel’s previous work on the character of Black Mask pre-reboot, was head, shoulders, and waist above this representation. For those who read the collection of his previous work on the character, Batman: Life After Death, now in graphic novel form, there is no comparison. While the former storyline was stark, terrifying, and realistic in its menace, this annual seemed more farfetched and cartoonish. It lacked the gravitas of its predecessor. Though Daniel tries to link the two storylines, it is very difficult to imagine there being any connection between two stories with such different tones and styles. What it does represent is a changing of the guard, with a new creative team coming on with September’s #0 issue. I think that the first several issues of Daniel’s run on Detective were exceptionally good. Dollmaker was perhaps one of the best Batman stories of recent years. I will miss Daniel’s work on the character and hope that someday he comes back to it.
- Before Watchmen: Minutemen #3 begins to cut into iconic plot points from the actual graphic novel. First of all, and possibly the most pressing, is the fate of the Comedian after he is caught raping Silk Spectre. On that same note, we also are treated to what Eddie Blake does after his expulsion from the Minutemen and how he segued into working for the government. Writer/artist Darwyn Cooke focuses, however, on the Silhouette’s crusade against child pornographers and powerful cabals. What Cooke does so very well is mimic the retro-style of golden age comics, and likewise presenting a very gilded exterior to the day to day life of the 1940’s society, while at the same time presenting the horrid, seedy underbelly that the veneer of class attempts to hide. That was really what Watchmen was about in the 1980’s. How society had been rotting for years and all the detritus had finally begun to show through. Darwyn Cooke sort of has the whole Before Watchmen line in his hands, writing the story that is the fountainhead of everything that happens consequently.
- Phantom Lady & Doll Man #1 is the first in a four issues series that reintroduces the character of Phantom Lady to the New DCU. A completely new person in the role, Jennifer Knight replaces both Sandra and Stormy Knight as the spectral super-heroine. Instead of being the daughter of a US senator, she is rewritten here as the orphaned daughter of slain journalists trying to take down the crime family that has dominated Metropolis politics for over a century. Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray start the series off pretty well, but as I am not super familiar with the character, I’m unsure how I feel about it.
- National Comics: Looker like Phantom Lady & Doll Man #1 reintroduces a niche character, Looker, into the revamped DC lineup. Emily Briggs is a supermodel turned vampire who runs a fashion empire from the literal shadows. It was interesting, but not the best comic ever written.
- Batman Beyond Unlimited #7 picks up several incredible stories by some of comics best writers and artists. Writer/artists Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs continue their story, “Konstriction”, from the Justice League Beyond segment to the final showdown on Apokalips. After decimating New Genesis, home of the New Gods, is there any way that the survivors, along with the forces of Apokalips, and the Justice League Beyond can stop the giant Ouroroboros? In a one part Beyond Origin segment written by the aforementioned Nguyen and Fridolfs, the story and history of Aquagirl is revealed. Apropos the Justice League Beyond story preceding it, the story reveals a connection between the Atlantean princess and Apokalips. Following the “Justice League” animated series and expanding upon it, the two master storytellers weave a convincing, compelling yarn that details a very plucky young woman with an iron will. Batman Beyond brought together SO MANY tantalizing elements!!! Firstly, the liver failure that we are told in “Justice League Unlimited: The Animated Series,” that Bruce Wayne undergoes, prompting the discovery that Terry is Bruce’s biological son, happens right here!!! We remeet Dana’s brother, Doug, as the king of Jokerz, and see his master plan revealed. Thirdly, we also take the next step in Max’s journey into cyber terrorism, carried over from the first Batman Beyond series. And finally in the Superman Beyond segment, Batman (Bruce in a cybernetic suit) saves Superman from Solomon Grundy’s goons after Earth becomes irradiated by a kryptonite meteor feel in geosynchronous orbit around Earth. However, will even the Dark Knight’s best efforts be enough to keep the Man of Steel safe from the machinations of the Luthors?
- Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #6 brings the title to its penultimate chapter, featuring a tale of the backstory of Black Benny, from the perspective of Baron Samedi, the Voodoo god of death whom Benny evaded even after his passing. The backstory answers a few questions, and clues us into why Benny came forward to help Dominique in the first issue, but other than that was kind of ambiguous as to its overall relevance. One thing it did accomplish, however, was the further portrayal of Baron Samedi, quite a colorful character, and his wife, Maman Brigitte. Brigitte is an interesting goddess among the Voodoo pantheon, as she is a blonde haired white woman of Irish extraction. The marriage between her and the Baron is an acrimonious one that revivals those depicted in Greek myths in both epicness and tawdriness. An interesting issue for sure. I am uncertain what to expect from the last issue, considering it is the last and so much still remains undone.
- The New Deadwardians #6 appears to me to be the beginning of the end. With six issues down in an eight issue miniseries, we’ve reached the three quarter mark and the plot has reached its height. After venturing out into the countryside to the Hinchcliffe Estate, Inspector Suttle, the vampiric Scotland Yard chief of detectives, comes to a startling hypothesis as to the true identity of the deceased “young” lord and the motive behind his murder. On his way back to London to authenticate his theory he runs across his prostitue informant, Sapphire, who he gains valuable information from, but more titillating to the reader, he also takes to bed for the first time, ending fifty years of abstinence. But, hanky-panky aside, by issues end the stakes (pun intentened) are at their height.
- Spaceman #9 ends the series. I promised I would revisit the series once it was over, because I did not understand a jot of what was going on. Now that its over, I still have NO idea what was going on. It was beautiful to be sure, but without a cogent plot to support it, there is very little to hold onto afterwards. Look at the graphic novel and enjoy the pretty pictures, but don’t expect a story that makes sense.
- American Vampire #30 brings us to the third installment in the six part “Blacklist” storyline, taking place in 1950’s McCarthy-ist California. After a coven of vampires attempted to take the life of her husband, Henry Preston, Pearl takes the fight to them, alongside the other two American Vampires, Calvin Poole and Skinner Sweet. So many insane things happened in this issue and obviously I can’t make reference to them, but this issue changes so much about two of the essential characters. This arc has been promised to be a game changer, and after this issue I am not doubting it for one second.
Thus concludes not only this week of comics, not only this month, but this year of comics. Its been a really great ride, and though I have been disappointed by several things regarding the loss of incredible storylines built up over decades of seminal writing, this first year begins something that could eventually be just as outstanding. Hopefully I will be here again next September 1st, providing my thoughts and impressions on great graphic fiction, and I hope you all are too.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Justice League #12: Drawn by Jim Lee, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Gabe Elaeb, Tony Avina, Sonia Oback & Pantazis, Inked by Scott Williams, Sandra Hope, Jonathan Glapion, Mark Irwin, Matt Banning, Rob Hunter, Joe Weems, Alex Garner & Trevor Scott
Green Lantern Annual #1: Art by Ethan Van Sciver, Colored by Hi-Fi
The Flash Annual #1: Art by Marcio Takara, Colored by Ian Herring
Superman Annual #1: Art by Pascal Alixe, Marco Rudy, Tom Raney, Elizabeth Torque & Mico Suayan, Colored by Blond
Justice League International Annual #1: Art by Jason Fabok, Colored by Jeromy Cox