Week 60 (Oct. 24, 2012)

  • Batman Inc #4 finally finishes off the dropped plot from issue #3, two months ago, following that issue’s postponement in light of the Aurora, Colorado massacre.  Normally, it would have ended neatly before the Zero issue last month, but incidentally we had to wait for two to get closure on the seeming murder of “Matches” Malone and the solo flight of Damian, under the new nom-de-guerre Redbird.  Following the two Waynes getting seemingly over their heads, Batman Incorporated swoops in, seemingly from the grave themselves.  Their symmetry in the face of Leviathan’s well laid plans makes this issue and its predecessor, Batman Inc #3, a well executed feint in the chess game of giants: Bruce Wayne on one side and Talia Al-Ghul on the other.  Grant Morrison’s writing is, in and of itself, a piece of art furthered by the exquisite artwork of Chris Burnham.  Both masters in my opinion. 

    Casualties of War

  • Red Lanterns #13 returns to a trope that set the tone of the book in the initial batch of issues last year, by showing a planet plagued with injustice and the birth of burning rage.  On the planet Arhtky, warlords reign over the weak masses.  Writer Peter Milligan focuses his pen on two sisters who survive the slaughter of their parents, only to fall into bondage at the hands of the warlord who ordered it.  Women are merely chattel to him, as well as other men outside of the despot’s army.  I’m not sure if it was British born Milligan’s intention to make a commentary on women’s rights as a hot topic issue of the American presidential election that is less than two weeks away, but it certainly can be read that way.  Even if its not, his story certainly shows the power of women, in both the enslaved Arhtkian woman, Taya, as well as the the two female Red Lanterns drawn to that sector by her plight, Bleez and Skorch.  Bleez has proven herself to be a multifaceted character many times over, but the newby to the scene, Skorch, is quite a powerhouse as well.  Following this, the Third Army tie in that has been symptomatic of the Green Lantern family of books catches up with the Red Lantern Corps in truly terrifying fashion.  Unfortunately, we have to wait another month for the full horror of their appearance.  Peter Milligan writes an incredible book, but his partner in art, Miguel Sepulveda, I find to be lacking.  Its just an aesthetics choice, but his art doesn’t work for me.  A good issue, though, in substance.

    The Fury of Skorch

  • Flash #13 continues from August’s Flash Annual #1 with the Gorilla invasion of King Grodd’s forces.  This invasion, of course, interrupted the Scarlet Speedster’s confrontation with the united assembly of Rogues under the leadership of Leonard Snart’s (Captain Cold) little sister, Lisa, aka the Golden Glider.  What the Flash/Rogues conflict boils down to is who controls the Gem Cities?  The operative principle in that question being that there are Gem Cities.  The Gorillas just want to destroy and kill.  Conflicting with the interests of both, the Flash and Rogues have absolutely no choice but to ally themselves toward mutual benefit.  Uneasy fellowships like these are always fun to watch unfold, as sworn enemies tend to work really well together, accomplishing things exponentially greater than they could separately.  If only they could always get along the rest of the time . . .  Also, drawing off September’s Flash #0, one of Iris West’s male relations, possibly her brother, who was incarcerated in #0, is released from prison, and clearly has some part to play in the events unfolding.  Co-writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato return to art duties rendering a visually stunning tour de force, as per usual.
  • Superman #13 reunites writer, Scott Lobdell, with artist, Kenneth Rocafort.  Their work on Red Hood and the Outlaws was the initial draw that hooked me on that book.  They did a bang up job with their first foray into Superman lore, with Superman #0 taking place on Old Krypton following the last ditch efforts of Jor-El to ascertain his planet’s impending fate.  Now they jump to the present, with Clark undergoing an existentialist dilemma in all facets of his life.  Following Scott Lobdell’s Superman Annual #1 two months ago, Superman is feeling uncertain about his omnipotence after being soundly thrashed by the Daemonite, Lord Helspont.  Though he exhibits near godlike powers, he is weighed down by fallibility.  In his civilian identity of Clark Kent, he is made to also feel impotent in his crusade to report important facts and meaningful information as is his calling as a newspaper reporter.  However, Perry White, Lois Lane, and Galaxy Broadcasting CEO, Morgan Edge, refuse to allow him to report on those meaningful things, wanting only fluff pieces and pop culture nonsemse, and as a result Clark, like Superman, is left seemingly devoid of a firm footing.  All this comes to a head when a nightmarishly proportioned dragon comes into play in Metropolis, leading the Man of Steel across the world on a desperate chase of chaos.  Supergirl guest stars, shedding a little light on what is going on.  Lobdell brings a soul and substance to this title that has been lacking since issue #1.  He stays on some of the hallmark themes that masters George Perez and Dan Jurgens set up in those first issues, but in his stories they resonate and actually show merit.  I had no doubt when I heard he was taking over that this title would blossom at his touch.  It has, and then some.  Kenneth Rocafort’s art is top notch.  It loses none of its allure and his Supergirl is the best she has been rendered since the inception of the Reboot.

    Truth, Justice, and the America Way

  • Batman: The Dark Knight #13 was subpar.  I very much like this series, and writer Gregg Hurwitz tells a complex, compelling tale about the Scarecrow and the nature of his intense fascination with fear, however this issue accomplished nothing the last issue hadn’t already, nor did it build upon anything important.  It told the EXACT same information as issue #12.  Nothing new.  If you like seeing new art by series artist, David Finch, definitely worth getting, but in the realm of plot, you can skip it and go right to issue #14.
  • Justice League Dark #13 combines the building story line of issues 9-12 with the Constantine/Zatanna origin from September’s zero issue.  The mastermind behind Felix Faust and Dr. Mist’s quest for the Books of Magic is none other than Nick Necro, Zatanna’s former beau and Constantine’s former mentor in the arcane arts.  His plot for the books looks to be nothing more than petty vengeance and narcissism.  Don’t think John learned that from strangers, either.  Jeff Lemire writes a good JLD yarn, however, I am nostalgic for Peter Milligan’s writing.  Mikel Janin continues to keep the art of the book tight, lush, and engrossing.  The epic conclusion to this arc comes next Wednesday with the Justice League Dark Annual #1. Looking forward to it.
  • Talon #1 presents the first “official” issue of the series.  The introductory zero issue gives us the back story of former Talon, Calvin Rose.  His traumatic childhood, his “escape” to Haly’s Circus which led him into the clutches of the Court of Owls, his descent into darkness, and his escape from that same evil.   All of these are depicted in stark, beautiful detail by co-writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV and artist Guillem March.  All that, including Rose’s assault by a Talon after years on the run, is in the past.  THIS issue takes us into the razor’s edge of present events following Batman and his younger brother, Thomas Wayne Jr’s (Yes, I am asserting this identity) simultaneous attack on the Court, Batman from the outside and Tommy, aka Lincoln March, from the inside.  With the Court crippled and vulnerable, Calvin flies back to their nest of Gotham City to see just how extensive the damage to the shadowy cabal truly is and whether or not he is really safe.  What greets him is the Talon of the 1880’s, whom we have seen a handful of time in the wild Western pages of All-Star Western.  But amid a less than amicable welcome home from the Court, Calvin does make a very valuable friend that gives him news that will define and drive the series onward toward vistas that ANY self-professed Batman fan who’s read the “Court of Owls” story line would twinkle at the eyes to read.  This WILL be one of the must read titles of the DC line for years to come.

    Talon vs Talon

  • Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man #13 was kind of a toss up.  Ronnie and Jason continue to try to lead normal lives as high school seniors, despite also being two halves of the hero Firestorm.  Called away to fight a giant robot that is nonsusceptible to their transmutation skills.  The motivation of the people that sent the robot out is ambiguous at this point, so its hard to gauge whether this series is going in the right direction.  Writer/artist Dan Jurgens made his debut on the zero issue last month, but I am still dubious he’s taking the series in the right direction, even though that direction is the original one from the previous series.
  • Teen Titans #13 takes the reader back in time to explain how Wonder Girl, Cassie Sandsmark, first obtained the Silent Armour, as well as how she met the boy, Diesel, who stole it from her at the end of August’s issue #12.  And all the while the audience to Cassie’s reminiscence are two very handsome and very angsty teen boys, Red Robin, aka Tim Drake, and Superboy, who take every chance to trash talk Diesel out of clear jealousy over the intimate details that Cassie is way too forthcoming with.  The ending of this issue comes forward with two interesting tidbits: a connection to Trigon and the return of Kurt Lance to the frontlines of the DCU as a glorified “truancy officer.”  Scott Lobdell continues to write this series masterfully, and his partner in art since the first issue, Brett Booth departs the series, replaced her by Ale Garza, whose sumptuous style is very similar to Booth’s.  I love all the books Lobdell writes and this series is no exception.
  • Red Robin and Superboy Are Not Amused

  • National Comics: Madame X presents a really different Madame Xanadu, who they are calling Madame X, probably because of how different she is.  Taking place in New Orleans, this followed a realistic Law & Order type plot of a mayor getting killed in his home and a local Voodoo Queen being blamed for the killing.  Madame X is a defrauded psychic and card reader.  On retainer to a law firm she is brought into the investigation and wades through fake rituals and sordid political dealings.  Like the Rose & Thorn one shot last month, this issue didn’t seem to have a one shot ending, but rather start off a series or story arc.  Perhaps that is what we are going to see later on when the sales figures gauge interest in the National Comics brand.
  • All-Star Western #13 picks up the story of Dr. Jekyll’s formula coming to Gotham.  With a murderous clown running rampant around Gotham killing priests, the finger is pointed at Haly’s Circus which has pulled into town. As ever, Jonah Hex and associates Dr. Amadeus Arkham and Tallulah Black are hot on the trail of carnage.  Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray make interesting connections towards the end to the original Robert Louis Stevenson novel they are tapping for the arc’s subject matter.  Also there is a connection between Mr. Hyde and the fabled Black Diamond . . .  In the backup feature they take a giant leap backward in time telling the story of a Native American warrior named Tomahawk of the Shawnee tribe.  This takes place at the very end of the 1700’s during the Washington administration and the push of settlers into the Appalachian territories.  It seems very reminiscent of “Last of the Mohicans” the way in which it is broached.  Overall, both features in this title were superb and I am dying to read their next installments.
  • Warriors of Mars #5 brings an end to this brief miniseries about Union naval officer, Lt. Gullivar Jones’ time on Mars and his association with John Carter, the Warlord of Mars.  After helping to rescue Carter’s wife, Dejah Thoris from the Thither Men, Gullivar attempts to go home, only to jump to Mars’ future several thousand years down the pipe.  Humans have come to Barsoom and like we did on the American continent, brought war to subjugate the Martians and take their planet from them.  Attempting to get his bearings, Jones finds himself brought together with the leader of all Mars, Dejah Carter, granddaughter of John Carter.  This issue comes to an end, that like Madame X above, isn’t really an end.  I would assume that its a similar situation of this last issue testing the waters for interest in another series.  I hope so, because this was an excellent, compelling story.
  • The Unwritten #42 begins the “Live Like Lazarus” arc, showing Didge’s descent into the realm of story where she met Lizzy Hexam.  Before she is drawn back into the real world because of her dyslexia, Lizzy gives her a message to take back to her boyfriend, Tom Taylor.  After the events of the “Wound” plot arc, Tom receives the message and plans to descend into the “underworld” like Orpheus to get his lover back.  To help him are new friends Officer Didge Patterson and Danny Armitage, as well as the return of Richie Savoy after his indignant flight at the end of last issue.  To do this they go out to the Outback and find a portal through to the storyrealm through an Aborigine myth of the whale, which connects to the Leviathan of previous arcs.  As ever, creators Mike Carey and Peter Gross deliver a can’t miss issue of a seminal series.

    The Message

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman Inc #4: Art byChris Burnham, Colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Red Lanterns #13: Art by Miguel Sepulveda, Colored by Rain Beredo

Superman #13: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Sunny Gho

Talon #1: Art by Guillem March, Colored by Tomeu Morey

Teen Titans #13: Art byAle Garza, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse

The Unwritten #42: Art by Peter Gross, Colored by Chris Chuckry

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Week 59 (Oct. 17, 2012)

  • Justice League #13 was as trite as it has always been.  Maybe there is an interesting story happening in the background, but all I could focus on was how unrelateable the characters are.  I very much dislike Wonder Woman in this series.  I am not a fan of Superman either.  They are flawed characters, I understand, but there is a point where you have to give them some amount of credence as characters.  The romance between Wonder Woman and Superman made sense topically when it was introduced at the tail end of the last issue, but seems really forced now that we see it in the light of day, two months later.  Its been advertised as the status quo, which is alarming, considering how bad it is.  The whole thing was hard to read, which is a shame because Tony Daniel is providing art, and I love his artwork a great deal.  The back story of Barbara Minerva, aka The Cheetah, is the topic of this and next month’s issues, and writer Geoff Johns takes it in what might be an interesting direction, but for the abysmal characterization of his cast that overshadows whatever is happening plot-wise. The backup this month breaks away from “SHAZAM” (Thank God) and replaces it with a story following Steve Trevor and Green Arrow forming a pact that is solicited as the beginning of Justice League of America.  I begrudgingly will buy a copy come January.  Not out of any merit given to its beginnings (FAR FROM IT), but just so I can say I gave it a fair shot.
  • Green Lantern: New Guardians #13 was good, however a little lackluster by itself.  I’ve learned to  be forgiving with the way writer Tony Bedard structures his arcs, as the first arc had its sketchy first issues that blossomed into an incredible storyline down the road.  This one has that promise and the issue gets to the heart of the matter, yet I feel it could have been done better.  Starting off with the red light of Rage, Atrocitus tries to get Kyle to feel rage over the death of his girlfriend, Alex, who died when he first became Green Lantern because he was Green Lantern.  He doesn’t feel rage over this though, so why the flashbacks were necessary I’ve yet to figure out.  Context I suppose. I feel that there is a lot going on underneath it all that I’m unaware of, which will probably be revealed later.  In any event, it was a well plotted story, and one that strangely wasn’t drawn by series artist Aaron Kuder.  Instead Andrei Bressan and Amilcar Pinna split the artist duties on this one.  Two issues in and the series artist is already playing hooky?  Hmmmmm . . .

    Kyle, Thou Art Unleashed . . .

  • Batwoman #13 is nothing short of stunning.   As ever, J.H. Williams III and cowriter W. Haden Blackman present an intensely personal, yet action packed story headlining Batwoman and Wonder Woman.  Following the same trail she has been since issue #1 a little over a year ago, Batwoman is seeking “Medusa”, responsible for the abduction of dozens of Gotham’s children.  After learning that Medusa isn’t an organization, but rather a person, most likely the snake haired gorgon herself, Batwoman seeks out Wonder Woman for aid.  This issue picks up on their team up and all around the story is incredibly well done.  Batwoman is as chill and confident as her male counterpart, but despite that fact her inner monologue is that of a wonderstruck child.  Similarly, Wonder Woman, unfamiliar with Batwoman, is enthralled by her steely demeanor and her ingenuity.  Delving into Greek mythology, I think this arc does a much better job than the current Wonder Woman series.  No offense, to Brian Azzarello.  Williams and Blackman are just that good.  Also Williams’ artwork is RIDICULOUS!  His pages are set up with nonlinear panels and artistic layouts.  I want to read #14 right now!

    J.H. Williams III’s Sprawling Labyrinth

  • Before Watchmen: Minutemen #4 is an issue about horror.  Though you could argue that the entire Minutemen title has been since its about the gilded lie that was the Golden Age of the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s.  However, this issue highlights and centers in on the horrors that each and every one of the Minutemen had to face.  The Silhouette was always a character who plunged into the darkness in defense of the innocent, namely children.  She had no illusions, possibly because of her sexual orientation, and especially considering the horrors she endured at the beginnings of Nazism in her native Austria.  Her sapphic nature was also the cause of a horror for all of her teammates, following her ghastly murder beside her longtime lover, Gretchen.  Horrors beget horrors, as those closest to her react to the injustice that they partially caused.  Even the Comedian, half a world away in the Pacific Theater rings in with his own horrors and twisted attempts at justice.  In every brushstroke and every letter put to paper, writer/artist Darwyn Cooke proves himself a maestro.  This series cuts deep to the soul, eliciting such macabre beauty and tender sorrow for anyone who possesses a human heart capable of feelings.  It just needs to be read to be believed.  Pure artistry.

    Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Scorned

  • Catwoman #13 is a prelude to “Death of the Family” in a very horrifyingly minimalistic way. After returning home from a heist, Catwoman is assailed by small mementos of her departed friend, Lola, which should have been destroyed in the firebombing of the latter’s apartment.  Just out of sight each time is a figure shrouded in shadow with a discernibly large smile.  Getting the impression that she is being watched, we, the readers, KNOW she is.  Further, she is engaged under the auspices of a routine robbery in a life or death game of chess. Literally. Marking the first issue of Catwoman in the present, writer Ann Nocenti knocks it out of the park.  Can’t wait to see where she takes the series, after how she bailed out the sinking ship that was Green Arrow.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #13 concludes the “Blight” arc, as well as Starfire’s return to her home planet, Tamaran, whose citizens had long ago forsaken her.  We see further her evolving reconciliation with her older sister, Komand’r, aka  Blackfire.  Also we see how she has won not only the loyalty of Jason and Roy, who follow her to another planet steeped in all out war, but also the loyalty of dozens of other “men and women” from several other worlds, including a Dominator named DePalo.  Dominators are almost exclusively an amoral, evil race.  That she would welcome one into her innermost circle and call him friend really speaks to the depth of her character.  I would also like to commend writer Scott Lobdell for writing a complex, yet endearing Dominator.  The issue marks what appears to be a giant  blow to what has been the status quo in a sector of space for generations.  Scott Lobdell is an incredible writer and gets a lot of help from Timothy Green II in the visual half of the narrative.  After this issue, Lobdell is bringing his new charge, Superman, into the fold of this series with a crossover that must coincide with his mention of the “Thirteen” in this series and his Superman Annual #1. And if that wasn’t enough, the last full page panel ties in the return of the Joker to the path of Jason Todd.

    OH NO!!!!

  • Legion of Super-Heroes #13 returns the title to the multistory paradigm that Levitz pioneered in this title thirty years ago.  In a mining asteroid chain, Cosmic Boy, Element Lad, and Chemical Kid track down the pirates that raid the mines, only to find trouble in the form of three very powerful denizens of Cosmic Boy’s homeworld, Braal, among the brigands.  Back on Earth, Brainiac 5 works on the conundrum of how and why Comet Queen turned on the team when the Legionnaires attempted to rescue him and Dream Girl from the Dominion homeworld.  And for a brief moment Levitz returns to the topic form several months ago of the Master Circuit that could recreate the villain Tharok of the Fatal Five.  It looks like for the next two issues at least, Scott Kolins will be on art duty.  His style has very rough edges and adds an urgency to the scripting.  Coupled with Levitz’s writing, the two halves come together in a very compelling whole.
  • Nightwing #13 ushers in the two issue arc of Lady Shiva’s advent to Gotham City, written by guest writer, Tom DeFalco.  She came to town before in Nightwing #0 last month when Dick first put on the Robin costume.  Now is their first rematch since that seminal confrontation.  In the meantime, Dick is still attempting to invigorate Gotham in his own way by renovating Amusement Alley with a permanent place for his circus and other carnival attractions to take root, sort of like Coney Island in New York.  And alongside him in an ambiguous role as financier is Sonia Branch (nee Zucco) who hardlines as a savvy businesswoman most of the time and a flirtatious femme fatale at other times.  Interesting.  With Sonia on one side and Lady Shiva on the other, Dick is going to have his hands FULL!
  • DC Universe Presents: Black Lightning and Blue Devil #13 introduces the characters Jefferson Pierce, aka Black Lightning, and Dan Cassidy, aka Blue Devil to the New DCU.  Pierce is a high school history teacher and Cassidy a movie stunt man.  Both moonlight as crimefighters, one with electrical abilities and the other with a magical suit that give them their powers, but as of yet aren’t explained.  Taking place in LA they fight against the kingpin of crime, Tobias Whale.  Marc Andreyko write this five issue arc with Robson Rocha on art.  Its an interesting first issue, but the jury is out on whether or not its substantial.
  • Blue Beetle #13 was really good. Writer Tony Bedard makes it good.  I am lukewarm on the premise and the character, and yet once again, I find myself genuinely wanting to see what happens next.  The Zero issue last month picked up with the character’s fate following Justice League International Annual #1 when OMAC sent him halfway across the known universe.  He was given a brief look at the past of his scarab, Khaji-Da, and its melding with a human host, Sky Witness, a Mayan chieftain, before eventually connecting with the present and his being in Reach Space, the Scarab’s backyard.  In the aftermath of this Jaime and his scarab, Khaji-Da, come across a resurrected, crazed Sky Witness and another scarab-elite, Khaji-Kai, who is willing to trade Jaime’s freedom for the secret to overcoming his scarab’s control.  With a connection to the events of Green Lantern: New Guardians #9-10, Bedard is pushing the limits of what it means to be a Blue Beetle and the capacities of the sentient mind to overcome enslavement.  That also ties into what he is contributing to in the “Rise of the Third Army” event in the Green Lantern books.  Good stuff.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #3 was interesting, but I am still not certain about where they are going with it, but I’ll hold out judgement until the end of the six issue run.
  • Supergirl #13 reunites Supergirl with the businessman who first imprisoned and experimented on her, Simon Tycho.  After he was nearly killed by the explosion of his space station, he is reconstructed on a cytoplasmic “exoskeleton”  and become as strong as Kara.  Finding his way to her own seeming “Fortress of Solitude” called Sanctuary, Tycho has found the sunstone memory devices that Kara’s father, Zor-El, had sent from Krypton with his daughter.  Using his new body’s nervous system he has not only uncovered the entire record of Kryptonian science, history, and culture, but the language itself.  That said, he was then able to learn their language and now able to actually speak and communicate with Kara.  He also reveals to her the stunning fact we learned at the end of last month’s Zero issue: her own mother, Alura, shot her father, Zor-El, who was attempting to send her to Earth to be safe.  From this story comes what I have always wanted from this title and begins the end of what put me off a bit by the first year of storytelling:  Kara Zor-El is becoming acclimated to Earth.  Kara as an outsider is not interesting.  Seeing her get comfortable on Earth, setting up meaningful friendships and relationships with the superheroes of our planet as well as regular people, and having a life like a regular person is imperative to her being the incredible character she was in the past.  Mike Johnson writes this one solo, but brings in Sami Basri on art which I am excited about.  Basri’s art on the title Voodoo was what made that series incredible and what drew me in.  His work on Supergirl is no different.
  • Wonder Woman #13 brings us back into the main narrative two months after the conclusion of issue #12, that had QUITE the surprise ending.  The main point of which was Hermes, the messenger god, whom had been one of Wonder Woman’s closest friends and confidantes in the protection of Zola from Hera, abducting Zola’s baby after birth and taking him to Demeter for who knows what purpose.  Hera was reduced to a mere mortal.  That picks up with Diana’s attempt to find Hermes, however, to do that she must find someone to fill the role Hermes had once fulfilled, vis-a-vis instantaneous transportation.  There is a demigod named Siracca, the wind, who has this ability but wishes to avoid Wonder Woman.  It is she whom Diana will have to win over if she wants to have any chance of keeping her promise to Zola and reunited mother and child.  What worries me the most started at the end of issue #12 and may or may not have continued on page one of this issue.  Orion of the New Gods definitely clawed his way out of the ice somewhere on Earth on the last page of Wonder Woman #12.  Wonder Woman #13 opens with a savage looking gentleman also emerging from ice in Antarctica and biting a man’s face off.  Writer Brian Azzarello better not have f***ed with the New Gods like Geoff Johns did in his opening arc of Justice League. That is all I am saying.  Also, welcome back to cycling series artist, Tony Akins, who takes his shift on the title after a tour by Cliff Chiang.
  • Sword of Sorcery #1 rounds out the background of Gem World in the Amethyst.  I thought that the house Amethyst was the ruling dynasty of the whole thing, but apparently there are other kingdoms, one of which is Citrine, and awenother is House Diamond.  As can be imagined, House Diamond is a major player.  The politics also unfolds as to how the houses interact and balance power.  Also, while I thought in the Zero Issue that the main character’s name is Amaya, not Amethyst.  Darn.  In the backup feature, Beowulf, the titular hero in a Norse style post-apocalyptic future makes his way to Danelaw at the behest of King Hrothgar to defeat Grendel.  Its interesting seeing how writer Tony Bedard adapts the Old English saga into a fresh context.  I look forward to seeing how both segments pan out next month in the title’s second (technically third) issue.

    The Kingdom of Diamond

  • American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #5 ends this incredible miniseries in Scott Snyder’s American Vampire-verse.  Dracula is being steamed towards his Black Sea palace where, should he mount his “second throne”, he will have complete control of every vampire on the planet.  Head Agent of the Vassals of the Morningstar Linden Hobbes and former agent, Felicia Book, have made an alliance with the “Firsts”, vampires whom represent the last of their individual species after Dracula annihilated their brethren.  It all comes down to this final confrontation to prevent a Vampiric Holocaust.  The result changes the whole tenor of the series and what we have come to expect from writer Scott Snyder.  Insane!

    Another American Vampire is Born

  • Saucer Country #8 takes the Alvarez campaign on the road and with each stop on the campaign trail Prof. Kidd and various members of the staff are going to suss out some connection to the abduction of the Governor and her ex-husband, Michael.  In the process more details emerge about the government’s connection and how the different groups that have emerged thus far relate to one another.  Over the past couple of issues the back stories of these groups, most recently the Bluebirds, have come to light, and now the world of Saucer Country is shrinking and these parties are being drawn closer to intersection.  Paul Cornell said that he began conceptualizing this series from his love of UFO mythology and his passion for the topic truly shines through in his exploration of it within.

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

Illustration Credits:

Green Lantern: New Guardians #13:  Art by Andrei Bressan & Amilcar Pinna, Colored by Nei Ruffino & Pete Pantazis

Batwoman #13: Art by J.H. Williams III, Colored by Dave Stewart

Before Watchmen: Minutemen #4:  Art by Darwyn Cooke, Colored by Phil Noto

Red Hood & the Outlaws #13: Art by Timothy Green II, Colored by Blond

Sword of Sorcery #1: Art by Aaron Lopresti, Colored by Hi-Fi

American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #5: Art by Dustin Nguyen, Colored by John Kalisz

Week 58 (Oct. 10, 2012)

This is a red letter week for the Bat-Books.  With Batman #13 the Joker makes his first appearance since the first week of the reboot over a year ago and as is to be expected, he makes an ENTRANCE!  His presences is felt in all three Bat titles, and his inexorable place assured.

  • Batman #13 starts this week off.  How could it not?  This book has been hyped to the nth power for month’s now, as well as picking up on one of the first jaw droppers of the DC reboot, presented straight out of the gate their first week: the cut off face of the Joker.  Well the Clown Prince of Crime returns to take back what is his.  That is the monumental event this book represents. The Joker is BACK!!!  His attacks are calculated, they are severe, and they are unpredictable.  The fact that Scott Snyder is writing this book is self-evident.  The plot unfolds with great mystique and forethought.  The Joker’s attacks and actions come out of left field, but are rooted deeply in his past and his identity.  When he accomplishes each stage in his plan, Batman puts it together and fills us in as to the relevance.  Snyder has a penchant like the other greats of the industry to mine continuity for the gems that resonate with fans and then fabricate further material to compliment and enrich the original plot points further.  Already he’s setting up an epic joke from the master trickster, and as the last page of this issue alludes, its going to be a really killer.  The backup feature, co-written by Snyder and protege, James Tynion IV, and drawn by guest artist, Jock, is a mere five pages, but explains one of the key events in the issue, as well as sets the tenor of the relationship between the Joker and another integral character.

    From the Mouth of Babes . . . Things Have Changed

  • Green Lantern Corps #13 draws off of the zero issue and has the old foe of Guy’s from his proto-Green Lantern career, Xar, brought back into the spotlight for an integral part in the disintegration of the Corps.  In fact, to put it in the briefest of terms, this issue is the elaborate orchestration of the Guardians of the Universe to set the Green Lantern Corps on the course to its own unraveling.  Guy, the egotistical douchebag, falls for the plot hook-line-and-sinker, but what intrigues is what we can only guess to be a trap set for John.  Still reeling from his murdering a fellow Corpsman, he is given the chance to aid in the resurrection of the Green Lantern he kill before the last one.  It seems like that could be a legitimate possibility, except for the obviousness from the reader’s perspective that its a trap.  That I am dying to get resolution on.  Either way, as the Guardian’s plot unfolds, it becomes more and more clear that there is no going back for the Guardians.  They have to die if the Green Lanterns and sentient life are to survive in this universe . . .
  • Batman & Robin #13 continues to develop the delicate relationship between a father and son who are very stoic, intense, and reserved in their expressions.  The two take a very ordinary father/son excursion into the Earth’s orbit to inspect a Wayne-tech satellite that Batman uses for surveillance purposes.  You know, just the usually stuff.  Their conversation is rather terse, but in the process they talk about some very sensitive topics.  Did Bruce ever love Damian’s mom?  Does Damian even love his mom?  Does Bruce trust his son?   And what’s more, Damian shows genuine emotional growth, though still wears a thick shell.  A supernatural threat erupts more than halfway through the issue, but the main draw of the book is the glance at Damian’s progress as a son, an emerging hero, and as a feeling, moral human being.  I love Damian.  I love this book.  Peter Tomasi is a genius.

    Batman & Son

  • Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #2 continues with the exploration of of the quantum uncertainty principle exemplified by Schroedinger’s Cat.  While in the reality we have accepted as established, Dr. Jon Osterman became Doctor Manhattan when he was accidentally locked in the intrinsic field chamber, the first issue of this four part miniseries sets up an alternate scenario where he doesn’t.  Once this dual reality concept is introduced, writer J. Michael Straczynski continues in that vein, initiating further dualities based on the smallest personal choices.  If Jon chooses to dance first with his bride at their wedding then time unfolds normally as it has in our world, Kennedy getting shot and the Cold War ending thirty years later.  If he chooses to dance with her last the presidential assassin is caught, Kennedy lives, Nixon becomes president after him, Watergate doesn’t happen, and nuclear apocalypse ensues.  The general idea that the shockingly bewildered Dr. Manhattan arrives upon is that time is broken.  J.M. Straczynski is a genius and his formatting the story on the basics of quantum physics theorum is nothing short of stunning.  Also aiding in the series’ success is the beautiful artwork of Adam Hughes.

    The Butterfly Effect

  • Batgirl #13 brings to conclusion the “Knightfall” storyline with the follow up to the incredible cliffhanger ending of August’s #12.  For the past several issues writer Gail Simone has made me hate Charise Carnes, but in this issue she manages to make me sympathize with her.  The truth about her family’s gruesome murder is revealed in gory detail, not justifying but explaining her insane plot for Gotham and its criminals.  On the side of the aisle, Simone depicts the ironclad resolve of Batgirl brilliantly.  As we left her on the last page of issue #12, she had been stabbed in the abdomen and was bleeding out.  In spite of that, her sheer will to stop Knightfall’s villainous plot is staggering.  It’s what sets her apart.   What also sets her apart from Knightfall is the mercy she is willing to offer the criminals she apprehends.  That same mercy saves her life.  Following up on her victory comes a maelstrom of past horrors resurrected.  The three previous arcs, masterminded by three separate psychopaths, are coming back to haunt her as a mysterious cabal arranges the release of all three.  But . . . worst of all, is the retelling of a “Killing Joke” . . .

    Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before . . .

  • Grifter #13 does a lot of things.  Firstly, it introduces the team up of Grifter and Voodoo.  I approve.  He also crosses paths again with the crew from Stormwatch.  I hate Stormwatch sooooo much, but on the other hand, writer Rob Liefeld does something that so many writers should have done so many times over: Midnighter gets pwned!  He is such a piece of crap and Grifter really lays into him, wiping that smirk off his face.  Thank you, Mr. Liefeld.  I may not have enjoyed some of the things you’ve done in this series, but you made my month.
  • Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E #13 brings Frankenstein into the events of the “Rotworld” crossover happening in Swamp Thing and Animal Man.  As we have seen previously, Frankenstein is somehow immune to the Rot and not able to be subdued or swayed by them.  This taken into effect, he is drafted by the Red to be their agent and to go to Metropolis for a very dangerous mission that may hold sway over the course of the war.  At the heart of it is the drafting of his creator, Victor Frankenstein, to the Rot, and the device used to by him to create Frankenstein.  This device, the Soul Grinder, is said to be the one weapon that can defeat the Rot.
  • Superboy #13 finds the Boy of Steel forming an uneasy alliance with NYPD detective, Jocelyn Lure, as well as going head to head with the people that employed the psychic villain, Kiva, in issue #12. Once again in this battle for survival, Superboy feels his control over himself waning and a primal anger taking root, subverting his self control.  Both he and Lure, realize that for the greater good of everyone, he has to get answers from the only person who might have them: Caitlin Fairchild . . .
  • Following up on the above title, The Ravagers #5 finds Superboy catching up with Caitlin and her teenage charges as they arrive at the secret facility of Niles Calder.  All the teens, SB included, then find that what Niles has in store for them is eerily similar to what was expected of them at the Colony.  Though we can assume that Caitlin and Niles have the kids’ best interest at heart, the Ravagers’ reaction to their propositions is completely understandable.  There is a great deal of character development across the board.  Niles Caulder is a completely new persona, as he makes his New DCU debut, this time not in a wheelchair and thirty years younger.  The Ravagers all continue to weigh in with their reactions to the hellacious events thrown at them.  Superboy and Caitlin Fairchild, I think, develop the most.  Writer Howard Mackie really takes Superboy back to the existentialist roots he first had in Superboy #1.  
  • Phantom Stranger #1 continues on the road of developing what was and promise to be a very different comic book character.  DC seemed to be an imprint that excelled with characters such as the Stranger.  The Specter also follows in that same vein, as a character with immense power but powerless to wield it the way his heart dictates.  Dan Didio takes on the character presenting a man made to do terrible, sometimes even reprehensible, things and not have him demonized in our eyes.  This issue has him meeting the character of Raven (of New Teen Titans fame) becoming aware of her powers and struggling to control them.  As the Zero issue hinted, her demonic father Trigon makes an appearance and the result is not good for Rachel, aka Raven.  I am excited by the potential for the horrible events of this issue to spin out into a future story line of this or another series.  Dan Didio keeps to the tenor established in the Zero issue, but drops a GIANT bomb on the last page that will resonate for years to come.

    WHAT THE F***!?!

  • Demon Knights #13 resumes the “Avalon” arc where the Demon Knights are attempting to regain Merlin’s soul from Avalon and return him to Alba Sarum.  The problem lies in the treachery of the Demon Etrigan, dragging all of his comrades to Hell in the hopes of achieving an as of yet unrevealed scheme for power.  What makes this issue interesting his how Hell crafts individualized torments for each of the Knights, some more effective than others.  Vandal Savage actually seems more amused by his than perturbed.  Sir Ystin is forced with the dilemma of revealing her gender, which is agonizing to her.  This aspect of the plot, as well as the realpolitiking of Lucifer and Etrigan are what drive the issue on, making it a worthwhile read.  I am very curious to see what Etrigan has in store, as well as how Jason Blood, who himself is also oblivious to his other half’s schemes, will react to it.  Also the Black Diamond is introduced . . .
  • Deathstroke #13 did a few interesting things, but overall was not memorable.  Rob Liefeld continues writing it, with the help of former Voodoo writer, Joshua Williamson, and Eduardo Pansica on pencils.  Liefeld is solidifying a relationship (sexual, if not romantic) between Slade Wilson and Zealot, as well as a continuing conspiracy by his son, Jericho, to kill him.  I love Jericho so I am staying on the title for that, as well as seeing how Zealot is fleshed out in this new DCU.  Both seem very different and ironically polarized.  Jericho usually was pretty even keeled and kind, but here is depicted more harshly.  Zealot was always very abrasive and hardheaded, yet here is a very complex, intriguing woman.  I’ll buy a few more issues before I make any harsh decisions.
  • Team 7 #1 was forgettable.  So far there is nothing about this title that interests me.  Like Justice League has been a team book featuring representations of everyone’s favorite DC superheroes as superpowered douchebags, this title seems to be four of everyone’s favorite nonpowered heroes and three other guys as just plan douchebags.  This title is going to get dropped.  The Black Diamond also is alluded to.
  • Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #7  concludes the series.  The plot was rather confusing, jumping ahead six years to Dominique as the Queen of the Voodoo Court and her being slain.  Its hard to gauge the impact or meaning of things with that much of a gap.  I mean there were two orphans that Dominique felt she had to save, and then bypass her even finding them, cutting to them being adults.  How are we supposed to know the significance of their existance in the story.  I’m sure that there is a very important reason they are there in writer Selwyn Seyfu Hinds’ head, but it’d really be great if he could share it with his readers.  There was an interesting wrap up to the story, but that wrap up is impotent without a little lead up to it.  I hated this last issue, when I really should have loved it.  Up until the time-warp Hinds gave us in this issue, it was a phenomenal series.
  • Ame-Comi Girls: Wonder Woman is the first issue of one-shots in a series based upon anime versions of DC’s female pantheon.  Starting it off, of course, is the first DC superheroine, Wonder Woman.  It would have been wrong if they had not included her.  Her story is pretty straightforward and follows the origin we all quintessentially know.  Born the daughter of Amazon Queen Hippolyta, Diana butts heads with her mother and tradition and is sent to the world of men as an ambassador of Themyscira. That is the basics.  In this, as with all anime she is skimped out in a very slutty costume.  Considering the prideful and feminist rooting of the character, writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, have fun with it by posing Diana’s objections,  saying “Is this punishment not embarrassing enough that I must also advertise myself as a whore to the nation of men?”  I will admit that I have always like the singlet costume over the various more politically correct iterations involving pants and the like, but her costume in this one is overkill. Its ridiculous.  However, I think that that is the point and a jab at the source material of anime in general.  I was entertained by the over the top storytelling and the anime-esque art by conventional comic artists Amanda Conner and Tony Akins.  I look forward to seeing Batgirl in November’s installment.

    A BOLD New Look

Thus concludes Week 2 of October.  So incredible.  Can’t wait for next Wednesday.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #13: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Jonathan Glapion

Batman & Robin #13: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #2: Art by Adam Hughes, Colored by Laura Martin

Batgirl #13: Art by Ed Benes, Colored by Ulises Arreola

Phantom Stranger #1: Drawn by Brent Anderson, Colored by Ulises Arreola, Inked by Philip Tan

Ame-Comi Girls: Wonder Woman:  Art by Amanda Conner, Colored by Paul Mounts

Week 57 (Oct. 3, 2012)

Fresh out of September DC returns to the present in a line up of #13 issues.  As awesome as it was to go through the exceptional origins provided, its like coming home from vacation and settling back into the familiar and relevant.  So here we go.

  • Since its October, Action Comics #13 is a Halloween issue featuring the first exploration of the Phantom Zone by the Super-books.  Writer Grant Morrison shows how the denizens of this temporal area are able to walk our world in complete isolation as ghosts, cut off from most of the senses.  The real heart of the issue comes in the banishment of a rogue Kryptonian scientist, Xa-Du, to the Zone by high councillor of the Science Guild, Jor-El.  As you can imagine, Xa-Du swears vengeance on the House of El.  He nearly accomplishes it on the day of Krypton’s destruction, temporarily escaping the Zone only to be held back from the baby, Kal-El, by the family dog, Krypto, who sadly returns the criminal to the Zone at the cost of his own freedom.  Krypto is the heart of this issue.  In both the main narrative and the backup feature by Sholly Fisch the loyalty and sacrifice of Krypto is highlighted, showing that no matter what planet you live on, a dog will ALWAYS be any man’s (Super or otherwise) best friend.  Krypto is sort of a corny concept in a lot of ways, but if you put a good writer like Grant Morrison or James Robinson on him, that dog can move you to tears.  I’m not the hugest fan this issue’s artist, Travel Foreman, but he did a pretty decent job of rendering the eerie art of this Halloween issue.  I would greatly endorse this book to people the love Superman, but definitely to anyone who loves dogs.

    A Boy And His Dog

  • Green Lantern #13 was a phenomenal issue on multiple levels.  Following Green Lantern #0, Simon Baz is settling into the brand new role thrust upon him of Green Lantern.  Considering the turbulent events of his life and especially the recent trials and tribulations, this new development is quite overwhelming.  On one level he is forced to deal with being thrust into an intergalactic war against the freedom of individuality that the Guardians of the Universe are waging.  On  another he is forced to deal with his place in a war that the American people and its government is waging on its citizens of Arabic descent and the Islamic faith.  This topic in particular is what makes this new chapter in Green Lantern so intriguing.  On the first level mentioned it is sticking to the superheroic genre that the title is renowned for, yet on the second level it is returning to the hard hitting sociopolitical commentary that made Green Lantern/Green Arrow so incredible in the 60’s/70’s, and really matured DC as a company from kid stuff to poignant literature.  I applaud Geoff Johns for continuing Green Lantern excellence, while rejuvenating the point of superheroes to not only save humanity and America from supervillains, but also from ourselves.  That latter conflict is probably the bitterest struggle.  I was prepared to hate this new Green Lantern, whoever he was, but sonuvagun, I am deeply invested in not only Simon Baz, but also his sister, Sira, and his entire family.  So one hand is giving you a thumbs up, Mr. Johns.  A BIG thumbs up. The other hand is giving you a thumbs down, because true to your other work, the Justice League makes an appearance at the end.  Just as they are portrayed in their own title, they are shortsighted, elitist, sucker-punching douchebags.  I love Superman.  I love Aquaman. I love Wonder Woman.  I DO NOT like them the way Johns is currently writing them.

    A Message From His Predecessors

  • Detective Comics #13 was an introductory issue to the next regime of this title.  Writer/artist Tony Daniel is succeeded by writer John Layman and artist Jason Fabok.  Fabok’s art is phenomenal, intricate, and clean, so his contribution to the title is definitely a selling point.  Layman’s writing is very concise and well detailed, and I enjoy reading it.  However, I am uncertain where he is taking the story.  Batman is led on an elaborate goose chase around Gotham, while a hit is put out on Bruce Wayne by the Penguin.  The story has possibilities, but the endgame is kind of hazy.  Since its a first issue I won’t be too picky, but still its hard to gauge whether or not to proceed with the title from the information given.  In the backup feature we get a close up on one of the Penguin’s goons, Ogilvy, and his philosophy on how to exist as a hood in Gotham city.  The art is done by the incredible Andy Clarke and is a pleasure to look at, as well as read.  Overall, a decent first outing by the new creative team.
  • Before Watchmen: Rorschach #2  improves on the last issue in regards to its main character. Rorschach did not sound as authentic in the first issue, but he sounded and acted authentic in this one.  His clipped sentences and misanthropic statements are all present here in vibrant brevity.  In the first issue he got his ass handed to him by a gang lord known on the streets as Rawhead.  This issue shows Rorschach fighting back with the same ferocity and psychopathic disregard that Alan Moore originally endowed him with in the 80’s.  Despite the first issue introducing a killer of women with a penchant for cutting messages into their dead flesh, that guy wasn’t shown at all in this issue, which makes me wonder how he will figure in, considering that there is only two more issues in this particular series.  Still, I will commend writer Brian Azzarello on his spot on depiction of the title character this month.
  • Swamp Thing #13 begins the “Rotworld: Green Kingdom” arc in the title.  Yanick Paquette returns to the title to provide luscious art for what promises to be the most incredible story in Swamp Thing history to date.  After the events of August’s Swamp Thing/Animal Man crossover, a year has passed since Alec Holland and Buddy Baker have descended into the Rot’s domain, attempting to take the fight to them.  Failing, they return only an hour later, to find that the outside world has advanced an entire year and the world at large has been almost completely  overwhelmed by the Rot.  The last defenders of the Green are two: Poison Ivy, which makes sense, and Deadman, which is kind of  strange but totally out of the park.  With their help he is able to commune with the Parliament of Trees and ascertain what has befallen the Earth and what measures might save it.  What is most shocking, shown to us but unbeknownst to Alec, is the fate of Abby Arcane after the events of issue #12.  I am so very excited by this event going on in Swamp Thing and Animal Man.

    The Green Kingdom

  • Animal Man #13 falls in line with Swamp Thing above, initiating the “Rotworld: Red Kingdom” arc and showing Buddy Baker’s exodus into a decimated world of one year later.  As with Swamp Thing he is greeted by the last champions of the Red.  In this case, he meets three: Beast Boy, which makes sense, Black Orchid, which I am uncertain about considering her seeming connection to plants and not animals, and Steel, which indirectly makes sense because he has become living metal and immune to decay and Rot.  Like the Green, the Red has set up an oasis in the wastelands of Rot, but this one is slightly different as the Parliament of Trees still holds dominion over the Green Kingdom.  In the Red Kingdom, the Totems have sacrificed their sentience to build their haven, robbing Animal Man of the guidance that Alec Holland enjoyed in his title.  Also like Swamp Thing,we are treated to the back story of what happened to Baker’s family in that year gap.  It seems like both titles have been working off of a formula, and I hope that as the “Rotworld” story progresses the titles will interconnect, but veer off and have non-mirroring plots.  I understand the credence behind doing the things in these issues that have been done, but hope that isn’t symptomatic of how the two titles go from here on out.  Still very excited by what they are doing.

    The Red Kingdom

  • Earth 2 #5 picks up where the last issue left off with the new panoply of “Wonders” meeting for the first time in the National Mall to combat the assaults of Grundy, avatar of the Grey.  Coming off of the two “Rotworld” books above, this issue sort of fell right into place.  The Grey is simply death, not so much decay, but plain withering and lifelessness.  The Green in this title, of which Alan Scott’s Green Lantern is champion, represents all life, both plant and animal.  When Scott makes the Orpheus-like descent into the Grey to commune with its sentience he is shown a very similar relationship as the Parliament of Trees or Parliament of Limbs to their avatars in the two aforementioned books; empowerment, but not control.  Whether or not Grundy follows their dictates, the Grey are not able to stop him.  In the realm of the World Army, much more is revealed about the state of things and how the Earth governments operate after the Apokalips incursion on their world.  I feel that writer James Robinson has scored a home-run on this title.  It is incredible, it is action packed, it follows but is not weighed down by past continuity, and most of all its characters don’t come off as idealized, but rather as real people with real inhibitions, character flaws, and fears.  Nicola Scott on art completes the symphony of storytelling with lustrous artwork.
  • Worlds’ Finest #5 follows the conclusion of its first arc and provides an interim story for the time between the first arc and the one beginning next month.  George Perez illustrates the current sequence in the book, as before, but this issue has split the past sequences between Kara’s and Helena’s experiences.  The Kara sequence was drawn by Jerry Ordway and the Helena sequence by Wes Craig.  The Kara plot had her visiting the CERN Super-Collider under the Alps.  This apparatus has the potential to open a portal to Earth-2 if utilized properly.  Another invader similar to Hakkou in its incursion, but dissimilar in appearance, comes out of the portal and seeks to destroy the Collider.  Of course, Power Girl steps in and trashes the invader, but preparations to restart the experiment are put off for several months. The Helena sequence seemed to be just there for filler.  Taking place at a “Take Back the Night” demonstration in the common area of a Boston University, Harvard perhaps, Huntress  nabs a sniper who was taking shots into the crowd.   This one doesn’t seem on the surface to correlate with the future plot of the title, but there is something odd about it.  Firstly, no victims are shown as a result of the sniper’s shots, and secondly he attempts to defend his actions to Huntress, but she cuts him off every time.  In any event, this was an interesting story.  Looking forward to November’s issue featuring the meeting of the children of the Bat: the grown Helena Wayne and the sociopathic ten year old, Damian Wayne.  I know with Paul Levitz writing it that it’ll be stellar.
  • Batwing #13 finds Tinasha plagued by a cult lead by an enigmatic figure known as Father Lost.  In his wake Father Lost leaves madness and terror. Beginning with a round of human sacrifices, an African heroine named Dawn is introduced wielding two swords whose blades appear to be composed of pure electricity.  Her costume is minimalistic and but for the swords would almost not even be discernible as a costume: black pants, a field jacket, and what appears to be a red hijab.  Perhaps (and hopefully) we will have another Islamic superhero to add to the growing panoply, following Simon Baz in Green Lantern.  Though little else is revealed about her, she does have a connection to Renee, the slain woman from last month’s zero issue, which may imply a connection between her and David Zavimbe, aka Batwing.   Batwing himself deals with the fallout of Father Lost’s mad design stopping a half  crazed South African general from kamikaze-ing Tinasha with a jet fighter.  Following up, David doubles down when his fellow police officer, Kia Okuru, reveals that her own niece has been abducted.  The issue is high energy and an interesting glimpse into some of the issues plaguing Africa.  I know child soldiers are an issue in Africa today, as are tyrannical regimes sustained by emerging oil production, but I have no idea if cult worship is a major problem.  If it isn’t in real life, it certainly is an interesting calamity in the world of DC’s Africa.

    The “Dawn” Of An African Superheroine

  • Green Arrow #13  finishes the plot line of issue #12 from August.  Stranded in China with the forces of Chinese businessman, Jin Fang, breathing down his neck, Green Arrow enlists the help of Sino-superheroine, Suzie Ming, to help him not only escape, but exit the country with the controlling shares of his company Fang bought legitimately. Not the best issue, but still pretty good owing to the writing of Ann Nocenti.  Yet again, she writes an entertaining story that depicts Ollie as an Emerald Lothario.
  • G.I. Combat #5 has a new feature segment, The Haunted Tank, written by Peter Tomasi and drawn by Howard Chaykin.  In the present era, the eponymous Haunted Tank, possessed by the spirit of Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart seeks out his descendant, WWII Army Captain Jeb Stuart, in Detroit Michigan.  Now 98 years old, the two seek out both of their descendant and the current Stuart serving in Afghanistan.  Problem is, Col. Steve Trevor isn’t so happy about his property, i.e. the Tank, wheeling its way out of his Black Room.  Also happening in Detroit, the Unknown Soldier flies to the Motor City to track down a domestic terrorist organization comprised of Gulf Storm POW’s converted to hardline Islamic fundamentalism.  Without spoiling the plot too much: Shit goes down . . .

    The Next Generation In the Saga of the Haunted Tank

  • Legends of the Dark Knight #1 inaugurates an anthology book that features little vignettes by some of the comic industry’s best talent tackling the Caped Crusader in stories that capture his truly incredible nature.  Starting it off is a tale written by Damon Lindelof (of Lost fame) and drawn by Jeff Lemire featuring Batman being lured into a trap set by a very unlikely foe who knows him better than anyone else . . . In the second, Jonathan Larsen and artist J.G. Jones write a story about Batman facing off against Amazo, the android that has the powers of every single member of the Justice League.  Essentially it boils down to whether or not the Dark Knight can take out his super-powered colleagues singlehandedly.  The final yarn is told by Tom Taylor with art by Nicola Scott, involving Batman proactively preventing crimes, or at least one, from happening.  This one I thought was funny in a meta way, as the author, Tom Taylor, shares a name with a character in the INCREDIBLE Vertigo series, The Unwritten.  In this author Tom Taylor writes about a character named Mike Carey, who shares his name with the writer of the series . . . The Unwritten.  Either a real Tom Taylor is having a laugh, or Mike Carey is writing under a pseudonym.  This little joke was in the back of my mind the whole time I read this piece.  All together these three delivered a sensational anthology that makes me curious if the momentum and ingenuity will continue throughout the other issues.
  • Smallville Season 11 #6 features a protracted first meeting of the Man of Steel and Caped Crusader.  Following Batman’s incursion into his city, an influx of Gotham personalities also make appearances in this title which include Mister Freeze and Joe Chill for starters.  The interactions between Batman and Superman seem to be very “realistic”, as such a term can apply.  Bruce enters with a plethora of countermeasures in place to pin down Superman if needs be, and Clark is, as ever, willing to believe the best in everyone, and when his back is up against a wall negotiates with the unruly Gotham vigilante to deescalate the situation.  The two then fall into a quintessential “World’s Finest” relationship.  I very much look forward to seeing what Bryan Q. Miller has in store for both men in the Smallville universe.

This week had a lot of winners in my book, from established books like Action Comics and Green Lantern to new titles like Legends of the Dark Knight. Action Comics #13  is the winner of the week, with the most moving story to date in that title.

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

Illustration Credits:

Action Comics #13:  Art by Travel Foreman, Colored by Brad Anderson

Green Lantern #13:  Drawn byDoug Mahnke, Colored by Alex Sinclair & Tony Avina, Inked by Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin, Tom Nguyen, Keith Champagne & Marc Deering

Swamp Thing #13: Art by Yanick Paquette, Colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Animal Man #13: Art by Steve Pugh, Colored by Lovern Kindzierski

Batwing #13: Drawn by Marcus To, Colored by Brian Reber, Inked by Ryan Winn, Richard Zajac, Le Beau Underwood

G.I. Combat #5: Art by Howard Chaykin, Colored by Jesus Aburtov

 

Week 56 (Sept. 26, 2012)

This week marks the end of Zero Month and the end of DC’s New 52 Origins.  I have to say that I am sad.  I thought I would be angry by the interruptions in the plotlines we’ve been reading in the regular series, but its actually been a very enjoyable month of oneshot stories.  Here they are:

  • Batman Inc #0 bridges the gap between the “Island of Jonathan Mayhew” storyline with the Club of Batmen and the decision by the then recently resurrected Bruce Wayne to form Batman Incorporated.  The Batmen of the World worked well together to combat the forces of the Black Glove that tried to kill them all, and that same dynamism is what fueled Bruce’s plan to unite them in a common goal of rooting out a global enemy.  Knight and Squire stand for Britain, El Gaucho for Argentina (and probably other parts of South America if needs be), Man-of-Bats and his son Red Raven for the American West, but others are still needed.  The slain  Dark Ranger is replaced by his aborigine sidekick, the former Scout, to stand for Australia.  The Musketeer retires as the “Batman of France”, deferring to the Franco-Algerian teenager who defends Paris under the moniker “Nightrunner”,  owing to his penchant for parkour.  The Batman of Moscow, clearly represents the Russian people as their pointy eared protector.  In Japan, Mister Unknown accepts the mantle of the Batman of Japan.  We’ve seen these characters in brief scenes or in drawn out storylines, but this issue written by Grant Morrison and co-written by series artist Chris Burnham, ties it all together in a way that takes disparate storypoints and unites them in a way that makes them relevant to the main point of this title.  Frazer Irving steps in for art duties, delivering a dark, shadowy depiction of Morrison’s script.
  • Red Lanterns #0 fills in the origin of the founding Red Lantern, Atrocitus.  We already know the generalities of his life and the events that inspired his unquenchable rage, as well as his vendetta against the Guardians of the Universe.  This issue takes those hallmark events and gives flesh to the moments in between, allowing us to go on a journey with Atros of the planet Ryutt from loving father and husband, to passionate rebel/”terrorist”, finally to Atrocitus, paragon of vengeance and hatred.  Creator Geoff Johns tied him to the “Five Inversions”, who themselves were created by Alan Moore in the 1986 Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 story “Tygers.”  Though only Qull and Roixeaume were mentioned originally by Moore, Peter Milligan takes Johns’ creation, Atrocitus, and links him to the other two, while simultaneously taking all the mythology related to the Inversions and combining it.  Twenty-six years later, and Milligan takes the bull by the horns and writes a creation myth for the Inversions.  After this apocalyptic issue, the history of the Red Lanterns, Space Sector 666, and the Five Inversions is at its fullest.
  • Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #3 brings out three of the most intriguing aspects of the journey of Ozymandias as conqueror or uniter of the world, however you want to term him.  Firstly, is his initial meeting with the Comedian.  Not to spoil the surprise for those who have yet to read the original Watchmen graphic novel, but Adrian Veidt and Eddie Blake share a very intense and meaningful exchange that defines that graphic novel and everything that it accomplishes.  Secondly, it also features his reaction to the advent of Dr. Manhattan and his initial meeting with the human supreme.  Adrian Veidt represents the pinnacle of human perfection.  He is the height of what a human being can aspire to become.  Dr. Manhattan transcends not only humanity, but also modern science.  His reaction to this initial meeting also defines the course of the graphic novel and says something about human nature.  The third point is the creation of his Antarctic hideaway, a re-creation of the ancient Egyptian palace of Ramses II.  Len Wein is the writer best suited to write the character (since Alan Moore is never going to revisit the title) and Jae Lee lends a gothic intensity to the title as well.  With the six issue run only half done, I am ravenous to see where Wein and Lee are going to take us in the other three.
  • Aquaman #0 explores the reimagined backstory of the character.  The main bullet points are all the same.  Atlana, princess of Atlantis saves lighthouse keeper, Thomas Curry, from drowning in a violent squall and falls in love with him.  Nine months later, after she disappears from his life, a blond haired baby is left on his doorstep.  That is all canon.  Geoff Johns revamps other aspects of the character’s origin to reinvigorate the franchise.  Growing up a “freak” Arthur longs for normalcy.  When that no longer is an option, owing to Dr. Stephen Shin’s outing of his Atlantean heritage, Arthur tries to escape.  In his exodus he is made aware of someone else exiled from Atlantis, a man named Vulko.  Here Johns reintroduces a classic character to the title.  Vulko not only tells Arthur who he is and where he comes from, but also what has befell Atlantis since his birth and how he can regain his birthright.  This issue is perhaps the greatest leap by Geoff Johns toward the series that was and stories that resonated with readers.  It also reintroduces a major Aquaman villain, Ocean Master.  Looking forward to the next stage in the title’s progression.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #0 was a bit of a let down.  Sure it was written exquisitely well, with plenty of allusions to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe, and Kennedy conspiracy theories, but there was no soul beneath the eloquence.  I suppose it’s important for someone of Batman’s caliber to come to terms with the notion of chaos and the meaninglessness and randomness of street crime, but it also doesn’t make for the most entertaining read.  I have defended this title under the reins of series artist and sometimes writer David Finch, Paul Jenkins, and most recently Gregg Hurwitz, but this issue is not one that I would go out of my way to recommend.  It has something valid to say, but isn’t one that would bankrupt your grasp on the current Batverse if you missed it.  Not a bad issue, just not the best.

    Some Things Are Arbitrary

  • The Flash #0 was just a straight, heart-of-the-matter piece.  There were a few instances of superheroics, but all in all, it was mostly a touching look at the traumatic youth of forensic scientist, Barry Allen, crusading for years to prove his father’s innocence in the murder of his mother, Nora Allen.   Though this traumatic episode is a new development in the character’s bio, engineered as recently as a few years ago by Geoff Johns, it really resonates with the character and writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato run with it in this issue in a way that Johns never did or never got around to.  His only attempt at it was the paltry attempt that resulted in Flashpoint.  Interesting series at times, but overall a ridiculously overdone waste of time.  This story shows the heartbreak of this event alongside the confusion, and ultimately the triumph of the human spirit amid adversity.  The death of Nora Allen robbed Barry of a father in Henry Allen, but gave him another in the form of Capt. Darryl Frye.  It explored what love can inspire people to do.  It brimmed with the promises of hope and determination.  I guess to put it mildly, this issue is the feel good issue of Zero Month.  Despite the traumas that life throws his way, Barry Allen (The Fastest Man in the World) is going to keep moving forward with strength, determination, and hope for the good things that are just over the horizon.

    Family Doesn’t Give Up On Eachother

  • Superman #0 blew me away on several levels.  Firstly, the plot was nothing short of stunning and defined the Superman universe down to its most quintessential roots: Old Krypton.  The Superman legend begins on a doomed planet with desperate scientists entrusting their last hope, their infant son, Kal-El of the great House of El, to the fates by putting him in an experimental rocket and sending him to a planet whose yellow sun will give him the fighting chance to not only survive, but also prosper.  New series writer (which is the second level of awesomeness) Scott Lobdell keeps the integrity of this iconic origin intact, while adding elements that tie it into a large initiative in the New DCU’s unfolding story.  As was intimated in last week’s Supergirl #0, a doomsday cult has taken root on Krypton with ties to a larger threat from beyond the stars.  That threat concludes itself with a strange creature emerging from nowhere on Krypton and blowing on a great horn, just as we saw happen in Superman #1 a little over a year ago.  Can the same doom befall Earth as it did Krypton?  Jor-El remains the cool analytical genius he has always been, but his wife Lara, gains new dimensions.  I can’t think of a representation where she ever had any substantial depth, but this issue represents her as not only a stunningly beautiful and elegant woman, but also a brilliant physician and something of a badass.  Once again, Scott Lobdell maintains what is good and innovates what is lacking.  Joining Lobdell on his Superman run is his artist from the first eleven issues of Red Hood and the Outlaws, Kenneth Rocafort.  I love Rocafort’s art so much and I think that he and Lobdell have a decent rapport going, so their continued collaboration here makes me confident that Superman will become the title it was meant to be.

    Super Parents

  • Firestorm #0 follows in the footsteps of Green Lantern: New Guardians #0 in that it doesn’t give a traditional origin, but rather provides a transitional story that facilitates a new era in the title as well as a jumping on point for new readers.  It also stands as a changing of the guard, written by series cowriter Joe Harris in anticipation of Dan Jurgens dual artist/authorship starting in issue #13.  After issue #12 the Firestorm matrices manufactured by Zithertech were all shutdown, effectively murdering the international Firestorms.  All that remains are the depowered duo of Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch.  Trying to settle back into normalcy, their dreams of peace and quiet are cut short when the remnants of their matrices “fire up” once again.  However, the premise of the book reverts to the “One Firestorm/Two Operators” paradigm of the original title.  Ronnie is the Firestorm with Jason riding shotgun in his head calling the shots.  I know some people are going to be excited by this reversion, but I was kind of into the idea of the multiple Firestorm idea.  It was fresh and done thoughtfully, keeping the reader on their toes.  Oh, well . . .
  • Justice League Dark #0 deals with the quintessential badboy of the title, John Constantine.  He’s such an asshole with a ridiculously overblown opinion of himself, how could he not be the subject of the origin issue? In this version, Jeff Lemire has him coming to New York as a punk novice in the arcane arts, looking to learn from the best.  In this case, it is the sorceror Nick Necro, who himself bears an uncanny resemblance to Constantine, only with darker hair.  In fact, he basically is what Constantine becomes.  He’s cocksure, alternative, and dating Zatanna.  Constantine learns from him and ultimately betrays him.  This explains a great deal about why he is the way he is, as well as the baggage that exists between him and Zatanna up until this point.  Also, the mysterious figure revealed in the twelfth issue of the series is no doubt a resurrection of Nick Necro.  This issue was intriguing as I hate Constantine so much, and yet Lemire had me feeling sorry for him and relating to his struggles for at least half the narrative.  The other half I just went on hating him.  Interesting  . . .

    The First Meeting Of John Constantine, Zatanna, and Nick Necro.

  • Teen Titans #0 completes the Bat-book origins, and I was not as excited about this one as I was hoping I would be.  Tim Drake is one of my favorite Robins.  Scott Lobdell set up an interesting and somewhat engaging backstory for him.  The major scandal that had people up in arms was his having the character go right into being Red Robin and not starting out as just “Robin.”  While I wasn’t excited by this development, it didn’t ruin the issue for me.  What did ruin it a bit for me was Tim not deducing Batman’s identity.  That was what set him apart from the other robins.  Whereas Bruce chose Dick and Jason based on their tragic circumstances, Tim found his way into the role by finding out Bruce Wayne’s secret through his own genius and detective work while in middle school.  Its what defined him as THE Robin, as someone who could replace Batman eventually.  If that doesn’t fit the mold of how the Bat-group wants to hashout the origins, fine, but don’t have Dick figure it out and not Tim!!!  Other than that, it was a good issue, but I am not a fan of Lobdell’s analysis of Tim’s origin.  Just not happy.
  • Talon #0 rounds out the “Third Wave” titles dropping this month, introducing Calvin Rose, a relatively recent Talon, who broke the mold and went AWOL from his service to the Court of Owls.  This is a title I have been anticipating ever since it was announced and writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV do not disappoint.  In all the categories necessary, this series resonates. Calvin has a traumatic childhood. Check.  Building off his past tragedies, Calvin forges a future for himself.  Check.  His consumate mastery gains him the attention of the Court of Owls. Check.  Conflicted assassin. Check.  I think his role as a master escape artist is what drew me to the character, in much the same way that I have always been drawn to Mister Miracle of New Genesis.  Since the New Gods haven’t been introduced in the New DCU I suppose the vacancy needs to be filled.  The narrative also is what draws you in, centering on a conflicted soul trying to find his purpose in life.  I could feel Scott Snyder’s influence in the story, but I could also detect what I believe to be James Tynion IV’s.  He’s done some backup work in the Bat-titles, so I have a general idea what his storytelling style is like.  Guillem March provides art, which is luscious and radiant, as ever.  Three incredible creators on a character that oozes with possibilities.  Add this one to your pull lists.  This has the potential to be history in the making.

    Calvin Rose Reclaims His Destiny . . . and other stuff, too.

  • National Comics: Rose & Thorn introduces the split-personality character into the New DCU.  In this issue she is portrayed as a teenager who recently was released from an asylum, of which she put in following her father’s murder.  Another side-note: In her previous incarnation, Pre-Reboot, she was the mother of the non-homosexual Alan Scott’s, aka Golden Age Green Lantern, children.  Don’t see them getting together assuming he’s in his mid 30’s, gay, and she is 16 and in high school.  This issue was a one-shot, but totally felt like the setup for a series.  Rose Canton is a goody-goody, who has blackouts that end with her covered in blood, tattooed, and with very naughty posts on “Facelook” social media network.  In her blacked out period she seduced the most popular boy in school,Troy Varker, and also her nerdy best friend, Melanie.  Though her other personality, Thorn, has a very darkside, she is working towards the goal of finding and punishing the people involved in their father’s death.  I do hope that this issue develops into something in the future.
  • Phantom Lady & Dollman #2 brings the four issue miniseries to the point of Dollman, aka Darrell Dane’s, introduction as the pint sized marvel.  After his rescue of Jennifer Knight from the Metropolis crime family scion, Cyrus Bender, the two retreat to the country and test out Dane’s experimental prototypes, including the Phantom suit that makes Jennifer insubstantial and the blacklight projector.  With this accomplished writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray bring the story to the present and presents the Phantom Lady with a superpowered antagonist that looks a little bit like Silver Banshee.
  • All-Star Western #0 eschews the secondary feature regularly at the end of the book and dedicates the entire extended page count to the origin of the Old Westerner badass, Jonah Hex.  The short version is that Hex had some really shitty parental figures in his life: an abusive father, an absentee mother, and a jerk of an adoptive father. With the Union Army, the Apaches, and his own father gunning for him, his past has been hectic to say the least.  The story behind his scarred face finds its origin with two of the above parties.  His story starts at his birth and continues to the present, picking up where issue #12 ended with Jonah, Dr. Arkham, and Tallulah Black meeting Reginald Forsythe to talk about a man who has stolen Dr. Jekyll’s formula, which ostensibly sets up the next arc in this series. The part of this issue that confuses me comes at the end with an unknown narrator talking about finding their mother.  I assume from the look of the prospective mother shown in the last panel that she can’t be Hex’s, who himself seems much older than she.
  • American Vampire #31 was an excellent issue that dealt in a couple of ways with the inconceivable conclusion to last month’s issue.   Pearl returns to her husband’s bedside as he awakens from his coma.  Through this tender moment, Scott Snyder clues in his readers to the past shared by Henry Preston and his vampiric wife, Pearl Jones.  The love shared between them truly warms the heart, which makes the ending of the last issue so UNFATHOMABLE!  Likewise, Pearl experiences a chill out with Skinner Sweet, her creator, after the events of their last mission together.  As the issue concludes it draws the plot closer to the arc’s ultimate conclusion.  The coven operating in Los Angeles does so from a hidden base lorded over by an enigmatic sire.  Not only does Pearl figure out the location of the base, she also learns the identity of the vampiric overlord.  Without spoiling the plot further, I’ll just reaffirm that I LOVE THIS SERIES!
  • The New Deadwardians #7 ushers in the penultimate chapter of the eight issue miniseries.  When Chief Inspector George Suttle comes face to face with the informant, Salt, and interrogates him, he is presented with and unbelievable conspiracy, featuring the most unlikely of conspirators. Armed with this apocalyptic knowledge, the Chief Inspector stands on the verge of solving not only the murder of the vampiric nobleman, Lord Highcliffe, but also the mystery behind the advent of the zombie hordes in Britain, colloquially known as the Restless.  Admittedly, I hate zombies and I hate vampiric fictions (with the exception of American Vampire above), but this series does both in just the right way to redeem their respective genres.  The resulting product comes off like an amalgam of “Walking Dead” and “Downton Abbey.”
  • Happy #1 is the first of four issues in a gritty crime story written by Grant Morrison, that bears his characteristic “Morrison twist.”  Former cop, Nicholas Sax, is on a crusade to take down the Fratelli crime family.  In the process he is shot and sent to a hospital. His former partner is in the pocket of the Fratelli’s as is the hospital Sax is taken to, meaning that he is in for a whole world of hurt.  Pretty straightforward, right?  Where’s the Morrison Twist?  The only thing keeping Nick ahead of the game and that aforementioned world of hurt is his daughter’s imaginary friend, a blue cartoony winged unicorn named Happy the Horse.  Somehow Nick can see him and their in it to win it.  Really weird, but as with most Morrison work, really intriguing.

    Pay Attention To The Talking Horse!

Thus ends September and the origin issues. Next comes October, “Death of the Family” in the Batman books, “Rot World” in Animal Man and Swamp Thing, “H’el on Earth” in the Superman books, “Rise of the Third Army” in the Green Lantern books, and a whole slew of other goodness. Can’t wait.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman: The Dark Knight #0: Pencils by Mico Suayan & Juan Jose Ryp, Inked by Vincente Cifuentes, Colored by Sonia Oback

The Flash #0: Art by Francis Manapul, Colored by Brian Buccellato

Superman #0: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Sunny Gho

Justice League Dark  #0: Drawn by Lee Garbett, Colored by Pete Pantazis, Inked by Cam Smith

Talon #o: Art by Guillem March, Colored by Tomeu Morey

Happy #1: Art by Darick Robertson, Colored by Richard P. Clark