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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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” . . .
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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