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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 . . .
- 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.
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