The first week of the month may be the best, because so many consistently good title come out. Flagship titles like Action Comics, Detective Comics, as well as seminal classics like Swamp Thing, Green Lantern, and Worlds’ Finest. This promises to be a fun batch of issues.
- Action Comics #14 is pure Morrison. Taking place on the planet Mars, the colonial terraforming mission is attacked by the Metaleks and only Superman is in a position to save the men and women besieged there. Through this issue, Grant Morrison not only delivers a background on what the Metaleks are, what they want, and where they come from, but also begins the road to the end of his meteoric run, which portends to be MASSIVE!!! The “Multitude” which has laid waste to thousands of planets is at the root of this issue’s plot and only Superman’s father, Jor-El, had ever successfully staved off this angelic horde. Can he do the same? Almost since issue #1 a clear path has been laid and a monumental threat alluded to. As can be expected from Morrison’s mindbending, psychedelic style, the main architect of nearly all the mayhem we’ve seen thus far is a denizen of the fifth dimension . . . Stay tuned.
- Green Lantern #14 redeems the ending of the last issue a little bit. The Justice League aren’t as awful and petty as they appear in writer Geoff Johns’ other series, but still not exactly the best written in terms of dialogue and characterization. However, the plot of this issue is tight and I enjoyed it a great deal. Whatever I might say about his other projects and the motivations behind them, this series is one that has maintained and built off of the inherent excellence of the title. The same really can’t be said for some of his other titles. Simon Baz goes toe-to-toe with the Justice League and despite only having been in possession of his Green Lantern ring for a little more than a day gets the upper hand on Superman, Flash, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Not bad for a poor kids from Dearborn, Michigan. Meanwhile, across the Universe, Black Hand and the Guardians that have been locked away for eons by their megalomaniacally insane brethren begin to interact, intimating that there may be a very strange teamup in the works against the Guardians of the Universe and their nightmarish Third Army.
- Detective Comics #14 takes a very strange turn in the second issue of writer John Layman’s tour of the book. With his first issue last month he started a conspiracy with the Penguin attempting to keep Batman preoccupied with a string of random crimes to distract the Dark Knight from his plot to assassinate Bruce Wayne. Well following on the heels of that intriguingly paradoxical plotline, Layman shoots out to left field with a seemingly unrelated plot of Poison Ivy commiting eco-crimes across Gotham and Batman trying to stop her. Its well written, no doubt about it, but also confusing as one tries to grasp onto a solid plotline or conflict. Given time hopefully one will appear. Layman has a very methodical and detail oriented voice that fits the Batman title like a well tailored suit in a film noir movie. Jason Fabok’s art is beautiful in the main feature, and while Layman and Fabok introduce a surprise husband for the leafy villainess at the end of the main story, Layman gets help from Andy Clarke with a stark and stunningly rendered backup feature that explained how these oddly paired ne’er-do-wells came to be “wed.”
- Before Watchmen: Moloch #1 does . . . it . . . AGAIN! Its been awhile since there’s been a debut issue in the Before Watchmen line, but yet again the editors, and especially writer J. Michael Straczynski, have delivered in spades. To Watchmen faithful, Moloch the Mystic is known as an integral part of the graphic novel itself as well as a hallmark villain from the heyday of the group’s past in superheroics. In the original Alan Moore series from the 80’s, Moloch is primarily shown in a very pathetic light after he’d renounced his criminal ways. This book shows him once again in a very sympathetic manner from traumatic childhood through his criminal days and finally to his last release from prison after finding Jesus and rehabilitation. J. Michael Straczynski has a real knack for not only generating a very emotional involvement between the story and the reader, but also creating a very vivid environment that is authentic to the time and place it takes place. This series is only a twofer, so at issue’s end we are halfway through his story in this preceding tale of the Watchmen universe. Can’t wait for round two.
- Swamp Thing #14 continues on from issue #13 and the Swamp Thing Annual following Swamp Thing’s departure from the Green Kingdom, haven of the last surviving plant and floral life on the planet after the Rot’s dominion of the Earth, in search not only of Anton Arcane who is responsible for the death of his own niece and Swamp Thing’s lover, Abigail Arcane, but also proof that Abigail is in fact dead. We saw her plane crash into the mountains as a direct result of Anton’s monstrosities, but we also see here that she did survive past that point. Her return to her homeland, Blestemat (which incidentally in Romanian means “Accursed”), is still shrouded in mystery and we are shown further images of that portion of her journey as well, prolonging our own wish to know what has befallen her. Upon Swamp Thing’s departure from the Green Kingdom, Boston Brand, aka Deadman, instructs him to turn his sights first to Gotham where it is rumored a weapon exists called the Soul Grinder (see Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #13) which could potentially defeat the Rot. With this revelation Scott Snyder is steering to a convergence between this title, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
- Animal Man #14 also figures into the “Rot World” event and in the Red Kingdom Animal Man and his allies come under fire from the turned superheroes that have succumbed to the Rot. Teamed up with him are Steel, Beast Boy, and Black Orchid, the foursome set out for Anton Arcane’s castle to rescue Animal Man’s daughter, Maxine, the current avatar of the Red. In the process, like Abigail Arcane in Swamp Thing, we see a few snippets of Max’s flight from the Rot following the end year long jump in time that Swamp Thing and Animal Man experienced when they attacked the heart of the Black. An interesting tidbit is the little boy that four year old Max meets amid the desiccated wasteland of undead nightmares. We’ve seen him before and his appearance marks a truly frightening turn in the crossover event. Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder are geniuses and this event is going to set up the next several years of storytelling in these two titles.
- Earth 2 #6 is an interesting title because of the similarities and the differences existing between our universe (Earth 1) and the universe of Earth 2, following the different courses of the Apokalips invasions of each world. In this world, with the death of all the superheroes: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc, a World Army and World Council govern the planet. However, after several years another threat that is akin to the Animal Man and Swamp Thing plots above rears its head and superheroes are once again needed. In the aforementioned titles the Rots is referred to as the Black. On Earth 2 the Grey is a force of withering rather than decay and its avatar, Solomon Grundy, has been resurrected to quite literally kill the planet. Answering this threat are the newly minted Green Lantern (avatar of the Green which represents all live, plant and animal), Flash (who hails from Lansing, Michigan!), the enigmatic Hawkgirl, and the Atom who is a special agent of the World Army. It’ll take all of them, but most especially Green Lantern to thwart the accelerated death of the planet. This issue concludes that monumental endeavor, but unlike the ending of Justice League #1, which featured the first gathering of superheroes on our world, this gathering has a very thought provoking epilogue.
- Worlds’ Finest #6 was one I have been dying to read for some time. This title is akin to Earth 2, because following the events of the former title’s first issue, the Robin (Helena Wayne) and Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) of that second earth are brought to ours and must adapt into the new identities of Huntress, nee Robin, and Power Girl, nee Supergirl, to survive. As a Wayne, Helena has information about her “not father” and his financial holdings that mirror her real father’s on Earth 2, so some borrowing has occurred. Well, on this earth at this time the current wearer of the red, green, and yellow is Earth 1 Batman’s biological child . . . Damian Wayne. Damian Wayne is a psychotic and very, very territorial. His “not sister” (that fact unbeknownst to him) siphoning money off his dear old dad doesn’t sit right with him and as ever with Damian, violence ensues. I love Damian so much and seeing the two children of Batman going toe-to-toe is a pleasure. Especially considering that the writer of this battle royale is none other than Paul Levitz, one of my current favorite writers who made his name on writing teen angst since the early 80’s. And on top of that, with help from Kevin Maguire and George Perez both pulling art duties on the issue, it nothing short of a dirty pleasure. This title has been golden since issue #1 seven months ago.
- Batwing #14 brings David Zavimbe one step closer to discovering the truth behind the enigmatic cult leader, Father Lost. After breaking up a human sacrificial ritual that also was crashed by the equally enigmatic crimefighter, Dawn, Batwing learns her true identity, Rachel Niamo. Rachel was an orphan at the refugee camp David crashed at after his child soldier days. Following up on this lead, a conspiracy within the victims of Father Lost’s attacks leads him further down the rabbit hole, to the jackal’s layer, to mix some metaphors. Judd Winick’s run on this issue ends with this issue, strangely mid-arc, but has been stellar across the board. I look forward to seeing how new writer, Fabian Nicieza, concludes the Father Lost storyline and continues Batwing’s African crusade. Winick and Nicieza both constitute tried and true members of the Bat-books’ bullpen, so I think that the transition might brook some changes, but not affect the quality of the future issues adversely.
- G.I. Combat #6 splits its narrative as always, starting out with Peter Tomasi’s Haunted Tank feature. After rescuing his grandson, Scott, from Afghanistan Lt. Jeb Stuart and the Haunted Tank make for more chilly climates. The purpose of the Tank’s (haunted by Scott and Jeb’s ancestor, the Civil War general J.E.B. Stuart) return to operation is spelled out in the return of its greatest foe, along with Jeb’s: the newly minted Fourth Reich. Great writing alongside Howard Chaykin’s distinctive artwork. And in the flagstone Unknown Soldier feature the culprits behind the hacking of a nuclear power plant as well as the endgame of their plot begin to make themselves known. It also spells desperate trouble for the Unknown Soldier.
- Smallville Season 11 #7 progresses the budding association of the Batman and Superman as their interests cross with Intergang’s spreading to Gotham and Joe Chill’s associate with the group. Superman wants to shut them down legitimately and Batman wants to hit them hard, but more importantly get at Chill, his parents’ murderer and even the score. Obviously Superman isn’t going to be down for that, so the two met as enemies. However, after their association develops into one of mutual gain, Superman gets shot with kryptonite bullets and the only person with the skills and equipment to save the Man of Steel’s life is . . . Batman. Adding new dimensions to the dynamic of the “World’s Finest” this issue is a game changer.
- Legends of the Dark Knight #2 presents one solid plot line this issue, as opposed to the three part anthology that comprised the first issue. Told by writer B. Clay Moore, a slew of “Batmen” are slain by Killer Croc after seeking out the elusive lizard. These Batmen are regular people with no connection to Batman or crimefighting at all. Someone with a grudge against Croc is abducting upstanding members of Gotham society and brainwashing them into hunting him in his subterranean hunting ground. So what happens when Bruce Wayne is brainwashed into thinking he’s Batman . . . Though this isn’t as good as the previous issue, its still a really thought provoking Batman story that cuts to the heart of the character’s essence. Also the art of Ben Templesmith makes the issue seem like a giant acid trip, and when the premise is people losing touch with reality and their identities, that kind of discordant imagery really sets the mood and puts the reader deep in the plot.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Action Comics #14: Drawn by Chris Sprouse, Colored by Jordie Bellaire, Inked by Karl Story
Green Lantern #14: Drawn byDoug Mahnke, Colored by Alex Sinclair & Tony Avina, Inked by Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin, Tom Nguyen & Keith Champagne
Before Watchmen: Moloch #1: Art by Eduardo Risso, Colored by Trish Mulvihill
Swamp Thing #14: Art by Yanick Paquette, Colored by Nathan Fairbairn
Worlds’ Finest #6: Art by Kevin Maguire, Colored by Rosemary Cheetham