This first week of September marks the first week of the second year of DC’s “New 52” initiative. With that in mind, DC decided to commemorate this hallmark with a “Zero Month”, numbering all their ongoing series at #0 and telling an origin or new beginning of each. For me, this week was purely a DC week. None of the other imprints released issues of series I read, so this first week of “Zero Month” is purely DC. So here goes:
- Action Comics #0 tells a very straightforward yarn about Superman’s first days in Metropolis: his alluded to visit to the shirt press for 200 blue S-shirts, his first day at the Metropolis Daily Star, his first tangle with the Metropolis crimeboss, Glen Glenmorgan, his first sighting by Jimmy and Lois, and an examination of what really makes him or anyone super. The last part pertains to a kid that comes across his fallen cape and what the boy does with it. Though its not mind bending like a lot of his work, Grant Morrison does put a really thought provoking twist on the seemingly mundane opening shots of Superman’s early career. Also in a stunning one page panel, he and artist Ben Oliver do an homage to the Joe Shuster cover page of the 1938 Action Comics #1, that first introduced Superman to the world. This part of the main story really resonated with me as a comic book geek. And as with all Action Comics issues, Sholly Fisch provides a quick backup feature that gives a background on not only Adam Blake, but also the character Erik Drekken, of whom we got a brief glimpse in Action Comics #7. All in all, a really great first issue to usher in the Zero Month at DC.
- Detective Comics #0 features the final issue of the title to be drawn by Tony Daniel (at least in the foreseeable future) and has, for one issue only, Batman: The Dark Knight scribe Gregg Hurwitz at the helm. Chronicling Bruce Wayne’s training in the orient, Hurwitz has Bruce train with a Zen master in Tibet and learn possibly the most depressing lesson imaginable. Beyond that, there is little else to be said, except READ IT and find out. As with Action Comics above, Detective features a backup feature, and this one comes from Batman cowriter, James Tynion IV, with the help of the liney artwork of Henrik Jonsson. Alfred Pennyworth has been waiting for years, hoping against all hope that his ersatz son and ward, Bruce Wayne, will reappear after several years of speculation that he has died somewhere far away. The struggle to hold on, not only to the hope of his being alive, but also to the legacy and inheritance that he is custodian of is harrowing, as this story shows. But the faithful servant’s fidelity warms the hearts of readers and provides a really uplifting bookend to the depression of the first half of the issue.
- Green Lantern #0, contrary to my expectations, was not a disappointment. This could be for several reasons. Firstly, the new GL comes from my own backyard, Dearborn, Michigan, a hop, skip, and a jump from Flint, where I hail from. Secondly, they tie him into the larger issue of Islamaphobia and anti-Arab mentality that is hotwired in most ignorant American minds. Thirdly, its just F***ING GOOD!!! Geoff Johns is hit or miss with me. He has swung at NOTHING in so many things he’s doing right now. This issue and the character it introduces is a line drive down center. This character, though brand new, feels like a Green Lantern. Can’t wait till Green Lantern #13 in October. Awesome job, Geoff, and welcome back Doug Mahnke!
- Swamp Thing #0 rewrites Swamp Thing history, introducing Anton Arcane right off the bat as someone far older and more immediately sinister than he was in the original Wein/Wrightson run in the 1970’s. But true to Scott Snyder style, he has taken the cast of characters and reinvented them to fit into the frame of a fresh, innovative premise. Here Arcane has been a perennial foe of the avatars of life: the Swamp Thing of the Green and the Animal Man of the Red. As far back as 1895 Arcane has been on the hunt as avatar of the Rot. Whereas in the original series by Len Wein, Alec Holland was turned into Swamp Thing by sheer luck or misfortune, depending on how you want to look at it, here he was selected from birth by the Parliament of Trees to be not only the new Swamp Thing, but the warrior king avatar that had been prophesied for centuries. This is why the “accident” is initiated by Arcane, but contrary to how it came out in the original run, this accident poses problems to the fulfillment of his destiny as avatar of the Green. The issue is written well, obviously, being penned by Scott Snyder, but it is also drawn exceptionally well by artist, Kano. When I saw that someone other than the three staple artists of Swamp Thing was doing this issue I was a little pissed, but now, as has happened numerous times in the past, I have to eat crow, because his artwork is stunning. I pray that he get a shot at another issue or two in future, maybe a whole arc, because his lines and style are so incredible.
- Earth 2 #0 was very good, albeit confusing. Told from the perspective of Terry Sloane, better known to DC readers as the Golden Age Mr. Terrific, as well as staple JSA member. We saw him briefly in issue #3 meeting his Earth 1 counterpart, Michael Holt. This issue not only gives him the spotlight, but also fills in his role in the history and hierarchy of Earth 2. Sloane existed as one of Earth 2’s eight heroes during the Apokalips Invasion. He went by the name Mr. 8, the meaning of which I don’t get. Also, as his first appearance in the series suggested, he is much more sinister than in previous incarnations. When he shows his true colors in this zero issue, turning on the Trinity for what he deems “the good of the Earth” he states that to ensure victory he needs Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman to survive. They died in the first issue, and yet as he narrates this issue from the present looking back, he still thinks that his plan has succeeded. They are dead. We saw them die. So what the hell is he talking about? Good issue topically, but too cryptic for my taste.
- Speaking of Earth 2, Worlds’ Finest #0 focuses on that same world’s two junior members, Helena Wayne, aka Robin, and Kara Zor-El, aka Super Girl. We’ve seen them as Huntress and Power Girl in both Earth 2 #1 and the first four issues of this series, but now we get to see their geneses in their roles as young superheroes. Helena, the daughter of the Batman and Catwoman, growing up a strong, confident young woman, amalgam of both her parent’s characteristics, meets her first great tragedy. Kara, last daughter of a doomed homeworld, lives with her cousin on their adoptive new world which itself stands on the brink of annihilation by the incurring forces of Apokalips, and yearns to break out of his protective bubble and lend her skills toward averting another world’s destruction. Paul Levitz writes these two young women really well, showing both their overwhelming frustration and youthful exuberance. One thing that the first four issues of this series did well was show the strength and depth of their friendship, and this zero issue shows the tying of their fates together in a very touching manner.
- Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #3 brings Laurie into direct conflict with Gurustein and the mysterious “Chairman”, who bears a striking resemblance to a certain blue eyed crooner. The Comedian also makes his first significant appearance in Lauries life, whether she knows it or not, at the behest of the original Silk Spectre, Sally Jupiter. Darwyn Cooke writes a really psychedelic story that Amanda Conner draws exceptionally well. Drug overdoses, orgies, waking up naked in a hospital morgue. What else do you need from a story? With one more issue, this series is at a its fever point.
- Green Arrow #0, like the other issues written by Ann Nocenti, is a fantastic issue, but also a good origin story. Green Arrow’s marooning on the remote island and honing his bowmanship is already a well known story done to death. Nocenti eschews this tale, hinting at it towards the end, but offering something very different, focusing on a fresh episode of failure that lent itself to his later commitment to being better than he was and atoning for his many sins. It also ties in the character of Merlyn in a very prototypical stage, giving a reason for his later enmity toward the Emerald Archer. Nocenti tries to tie in a Roy Harper intro, but nothing really comes of that two page segment, so I’m not sure what was meant to be accomplished there. Also, I am not usually a fan of Freddie Williams II’s art work, but here it wasn’t so obnoxious and really suited the overall atmosphere and genre of the book. Overall, a great zero issue for a character that floundered badly when it first was released a year ago.
- Phantom Stranger #0 marks the first regular issue of Phantom Stranger since the late 80’s. Writer Dan Didio (along with Geoff Johns and several others, no doubt) have him as Judas Iscariot. They have quashed rumors of this since Free Comic Book Day this past May, but while they don’t come right out and say it in the story, it’s him. Thirty pieces of silver he has to wear around his neck, his suicide, betraying his best friend, being returned home to a desert-like landscape that bears a striking resemblance to the Levant? Its friggin’ Judas, quit being assholes and just admit it! Judged by a council of Wizards on the Rock of Eternity, he and two others are cursed for their incredible crimes against humanity with individualized penances. Phantom Stranger is cursed to walk the earth, a stranger to all, and forced to intercede in events by an enigmatic voice. By issue’s end, the horror of what his interventions will do is made clear, showing how the punishment does fit the crime. Didio is a great writer and this series has a great amount of promise. Artist Brent Anderson delivers lush artwork that has soft, hazy lines that suit the mysterious atmosphere of the book and really set the mood. With a solicitation for next issue at the end, eliciting only the name “Trigon” I am riveted for what is to come.
- Batwing #0 shows an episode in Batwing, aka David Zavimbe’s, life that has as of yet remained untold. We know that he and his little brother, Isaac, were child soldiers in the mercenary group, the Army of Dawn. We know that he was picked up by Batman as the African representative of the International organization, Batman Incorporated. Between his rescue from the AOD and his inception as Batwing, there is very little known. This issue shows the guilt fueled rage that eats at David’s soul after he enters the relief shelter for war refugees and the events that forge his resolve as an adult to take up arms once again, fighting a crusade of his choosing that eventually brings him to the attention of Batman. With this issue all the pertinent parts of David’s history are fully chronicled, giving us a comprehensive understanding of his entire history. Grant Morrison may have created the character, but I think that Batwing will forever belong to Judd Winick, who wrote him for the first time as a fully fleshed out character.
- Animal Man #0 was definitely written in tandem with Swamp Thing #0, because writer Jeff Lemire does what Scott Snyder did, beginning with Anton Arcane tracking down a previous avatar, this one an Animal Man (Avatar of the Red) and dispatching him. Whereas the Parliament of Trees put their hopes on an avatar to come, Alec Holland, the Parliament of Limbs decide to be more proactive and create a new avatar in anticipation of the next who will be born years from that moment. The avatar they create just happens to be the next scheduled avatar’s father, Buddy Baker. His inception as the new Animal Man and what that foretells is a well plotted zero issue that makes Animal Man that much more intriguing.
- Dial H #0 takes us out of the present for a jaunt back to Ancient Mesopotamia and the maiden voyage of the first dial. In the pre-bronze age civilization, the dial is as analogue as it gets, being merely a sundial like device, using the Sun’s rays as the triggering mechanism and the dial itself, a monolithic slab, having to be manual rotated to dial. The operator, Laodice, over the course of four days manipulates the dial to evoke a myriad of powers to counter an ancient beast that plagues her people. The origin of the dial is a mystery, even to Laodice, but writer China Mieville fleshes out a facet of its usage in this issue that not only doubles the question of its origins (along with its rotary successors), but also what the consequences of its usages in the modern stories are. In a series already rife with insane twists and turns, this zero issue throws a major curve ball to the overall plot.
- G.I. Combat #0 was framed in an interesting manner. The main segment, as evinced by the cover, features the Unknown Soldier. The story picks up from last issue’s ending point, but validates itself as a zero issue by having the mysterious Kamal subjecting the Unknown Soldier, a former financial trader whose family was killed in a terrorist bombing on a train in London and who turned mercenary in Afghanistan when no military would accept him, to a mind altering drug that would open his subconscious to past experiences. Despite being born in the seventies, he has vivid memories backed up by historic record of Vietnam, Korea, the American Civil War, Revolutionary War, as well as several Medieval and Greco-Roman conflicts. How is this? Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray find a way of revealing who and what the Unknown Soldier is while keeping pace with the past four issues. The War That Time Forgot segment ends the issue and also concludes itself as well, marking the end of this story, which will be succeeded by The Haunted Tank, which will be penned by Peter Tomasi and drawn by Howard Chaykin. This one, however, is in no way an origin story. Its more of an epilogue to the last installment, ending the arc with really no significance. I love JT Krul as a writer, but this story he told didn’t say or do anything. American G.I.’s going to North Korea find, instead of a belligerent Communist army, a raging horde of dinosaurs. That’s it. They find this seemingly impossible situation and almost everyone dies. I hope the Haunted Tank offers better literary fare.
- Night Force #7 concludes the miniseries featuring the third incarnation of the Night Force headed by Baron Winter, and written by creator Marv Wolfman. Zoe has been captured by the demonic progenitors and it falls to Det. Jim Duffy to save her. With this last issue out, the MVP of the series is hands down Jim Duffy. Despite all his blustering and posturing, Baron Winter really doesn’t do anything worth speaking about. His arrogance is what prompted the problems that assail the Night Force in the first place and Det. Duffy is really the one who both plans and orchestrates the events that resolve the situation. He captures the Harvester, breaks into the gestation chamber, and pulls the metaphoric trigger on the demon breeders plan. That said, Jim Duffy and Sela Greene, aka Mad Kassandra, are the two characters that really advance the plot and their clashing was a scene that made this issue and the six previous well worth the read. The conclusion is twisted, nightmarish, and bloody, which makes me give it a thumbs up to anyone with a taste for the macabre.
- Smallville Season 11 #5 accomplishes something I was waiting for in the series when it was on TV: the advent of the Batman. Done in a very unique way that is synonymous with “Smallville” in general, Batman is shown busting up an Intergang arms deal with the help of protege, Nightwing . . . who is a red haired young woman! Obviously since Nightwing has boobs, its not Dick. I won’t spoil the identity of Batman’s sidekick, but if you are as good of a detective as the Bat, you should be able to ascertain who she is under the mask. As a bonus hint to those who know me, I am always excited to see this character, regardless of the circumstances. In the continuing plot of Smallville, though, Clark continues to work toward finding a way to purge the radioactive isotope Lex implanted in him so that LexCorp satellites can monitor his movements 24/7, while at the same time dealing with the strain that puts on his relationship with fiancee, Lois Lane. It does leave him with more time to dedicate to civic vigilance and crisis aversion. But with the Dark Knight descending on Metropolis with his sights on a singular task, Superman has a lot more to worry about than armed gunmen and impending traffic accidents.
And that ends the first week of “Zero Month.” I thoroughly enjoyed all that I read. Can’t wait for the next three weeks worth of issues.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Action Comics #0: Art by Ben Oliver, Colored by Brian Reber
Detective Comics #0: Drawn by Tony Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by Richard Friend
Swamp Thing #0: Art by Kano, Colored by Matthew Wilson
Worlds’ Finest #0: Art by Kevin Maguire, Colored by Rosemary Cheetham
Animal Man #0: Art by Steve Pugh, Colored by Lovern Kindzierski
Dial H #0: Art by Riccardo Burchielli, Colored by Tanya & Richard Horie
G.I. Combat #0: Art by Staz Johnson, Colored by Rob Schwager