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

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