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

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