The second week of November yields three entries in the “Death of the Family” event in the Batman titles. I am very excited to see what that portends for the besieged Batman and his nocturnal allies.
- Batman #14 is SICK! I think that writer Scott Snyder’s going for the prize. Maybe its because I was feeling under the weather when I read it, but I had to set it down a few times and catch my breath. I dare say that this might be the darkest Joker I have seen in print. Even darker than Alan Moore’s Killing Joke perhaps, and that is saying something. The Joker has a very elaborate web of intrigue set for the Dark Knight and for once he seems to have thought further ahead than Batman himself. Also, when you reach the end and see what secrets he has unearthed . . . WOW! Things are about to get really dark for the Dark Knight. All the power lies with the Joker in this masterful arc penned by Snyder and the outcome is as murky for the reader as it is for Batman himself. I am anxious to read on as the massive crossover unfolds, but I am reticent, too, because as stated before IT’S DARK!!!
- Following up on the heels of Batman comes Batgirl #14, featuring Barbara Gordon’s foray into the twisted schemes of the Joker. Mirroring the events of the Killing Joke, the issue opens with Barbara talking to her mother on the phone when three armed men wearing clown masks enter the latter’s home and abduct her. Drawing off the trauma that befell her when the Joker paralyzed her all those years ago, Barbara has to conquer her inner demons and rise to the occasion if she is going to save her mother. However, the Joker isn’t the the only person with a pony in this race. Another psychopath with extremely close ties to Barbara’s past intervenes in this plot, though their motivations remain unclear. Ed Benes draws the the title exquisitely and Gail Simone writes it with a truly twisted touch. Penning a Joker story of this caliber is a tall order, but Simone steps up to the plate and delivers. The Killing Joke has become iconic ad she has artfully worked those storied events into her series seamlessly, really utilizing the psychological toll the shooting took on Barbara to create compelling storylines that keep her readers enthralled. This issue is at the fever pitch of that trend.
- Batman & Robin #14 follows Damian Wayne, Robin, as he infiltrates the cult, the Saturn Club, by allowing himself to be captured. Peter Tomasi is pretty much turning this title into an unofficial Robin series and that is alright by me. Damian is a complex character, blending altruism, narcissism, unbridled malice, Zen, intelligence, and childish petulance into a truly intriguing whole. I love his character. What Tomasi also captures brilliantly is the many ways that Bruce and Damian are exactly the same and how that causes friction between father and son. I guess as an only son I understand the tensions between fathers and sons. But while Tomasi shows how these headstrong Waynes butt heads, he also shows how much they both love each other and the strong bond that holds them together.
- Green Lantern Corps #14, also written by Peter Tomasi, continues in the “Rise of the Third Army” crossover event throughout the Green Lantern family of books. The Guardians of the Universe sent Guy Gardner, Green Lantern 2814.2, to escort a peace summit delegation from a war torn sector of space while simultaneously releasing a dangerous criminal from the science cells for the sole purpose of murdering Guy’s family on Earth. Guy hears of his family’s danger, though not the Guardian’s involvement, and quickly goes to their rescue only to run into the Third Army. Guy Gardner is the least likable Green Lantern by general consensus, but Peter Tomasi shows in this issue especially how he can have hidden depths that most of us hadn’t taken notice of. In the background the Star Sapphire, Fatality, seeks out John Stewart, Green Lantern 2814.3, for a purpose that no doubt corresponds to the Zamaronians newly minted alliance with the Guardians, while on Oa, Green Lanterns Kilowog and Salaak begin to find evidence of the Guardian’s malicious deeds. This title is really heating up and adding fuel to “Rise of the Third Army.”
- Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #14 as a “Rot World” tie in deals with Frank and Velcoro combing the globe for the pieces of the Soul Grinder that Victor Frankenstein hid in the bellies of three beasts called the Collosi. For the most part this issue was a straightforward story issue. Our two protagonists seek out and engage the Collosi and little is revealed. I am a fan of Velcoro and this issue highlighted his character very well. Matt Kindt is a fantastic writer that has kept my attention on this book when I was considering dropping it. His talent for the science-fiction/horror macabre is unrivaled by any of his contemporaries. Alberto Ponticelli has been the series artist since issue #1 and his work has added a continuity throughout its run, as well as the eerie atmosphere that has contributed to the title’s excellence.
- Grifter #14 follows on the tail of the previous issue with Grifter messing up Midnighter (ABOUT TIME!) and teleporting out of the Eye of the Storm, the Stormwatch HQ. Midnighter (pompous jerk that he is) follows. However, the Eye of the Storm’s teleporters are messed up after what Grifter pulled and so the pair are erratically shot from one location to the next, adding even more drama to their cut throat quarrel. Not the best issue, especially since Grifer didn’t beat Midnighter as soundly for a second time. I am waiting for this series to get back on track of him dealing with Daemonites, as opposed to ridiculous idiots like the Stormwatch crew.
- Deathstroke #14 has Deathstroke fighting Thanagarians and learning how to use his Nth metal armor. That’s pretty much it. Rob Liefeld wrote Grifter and Deathstroke and both were lackluster in plot. I like things he’s written in the past, but he’s not really doing a good job at present.
- Demon Knights #14 is taking the title to a fever point. The title started with the Demon Knights coming together in the tiny hamlet aptly named Little Spring to hold off the Hordes of the Questing Queen from reaching the metropolis of Alba Sarum. After defeating these hordes at great cost, the Knights went to Alba Sarum and attempted to get back Merlin’s soul from Avalon to revive the legendary mage from his death, which strangely had something to do with the Daemonites . . . On their way they went to the cursed ruins of what used to be Camelot and fought beside the resurrected Arthur against Morgan Le Faye. This ended with the Demon Etrigan luring the Knights into Hell. This issue has their escape from Hell and their final destination of Avalon realized. However, it also reintroduces the Horde and its evil Queen, as well as the legions of Hell into the mix. So after EVERYTHING that has lead to this issue, next month’s installment proves to be a battle royale amongst some of the worst that this medieval world has to offer: hellspawn, barbarian hordes, the guardians of paradise, and the Demon Knights. Paul Cornell is a maestro and I cannot await his last issue on the title that will cap off everything he has climaxed toward.
- Phantom Stranger #2 was a bit all over the place. Beginning at Philip Stark’s (The Phantom Stranger) children’s soccer game, Pandora appears and makes known her intentions of reopening the box that got her into trouble in the first place. Added to that is blowback from the Stranger’s dealings with Trigon last issue, as well as the introduction of Dr. Thirteen, the Haunted Highwayman, and Det. Jim Corrigan. The lattermost into intrigues as it hints at the Specter making his debut quite soon. Dan Didio is an amazing writer and he really captures the eerie, mist shrouded world that the Stranger occupies, and certainly aided by the art of Brent Anderson which is itself very sketchy and shadowed. I don’t usually throw a shout out to colorists, but Ulises Arreola’s pastel palate also captures the feel that makes this book so good. I am adding this series to my “must get” list.
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #4 picks up after Adam and Teela are shipwrecked by Merman. Landing on a seemingly deserted island, they are captured by the forced of Evil-Lyn and subjected to her sadistic whims. Shockingly, her chief warrior is none other than Man-at-Arms, Teela’s father, and though all parties are subjected to an amnesia imposed by Skeletor, Teela somehow recalls that he is her father and so does Man-at-Arms, sort of. Despite this aspect, the best part of the issue was Skeletor’s conversations with a skull that I can only imagine is the spirit of Castle Grayskull, which the evil lord is afraid to leave. This conversation is telling in many ways, and reveals a lot of the past of this series through context clues. I am enjoying the series, though curious how it will conclude in just two issues.
- Ame-Comi Girls: Batgirl returns to the world set up in the Ame-Comi: Wonder Woman issue. In this Batgirl and Robin are Barbara Gordon and her cousin, Carrie, who I just realized as I am writing this is an homage to the Dark Knight Returns’ Robin. She’s not a red head and a little bit more glamorous, but I am almost sure that that is what writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray were going for. The plot is kind of crazy as the two are brought into conflict with the quartet of villainesses, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, and Duela Dent, but the rationale is kind of hazy. It does reveal a strange element behind the bad girls, which I am positing to be a feminized version of Brainiac. Steel is also introduced, but as can be expected, its Natasha Irons instead of her uncle John, that bears this moniker. I liked it, but I think that there is a lot more needed, and thankfully that should come in the next installment about Duela Dent.
- Suicide Squad #14 is a series I have not read regularly, so I am not as up on it. However, I will present the pertinent facts and what I have gleaned to be true. It seems like Harley and Deadshot had a thing going and Deadshot begins this issue deceased in a pine box. At his funeral the Joker comes back and reinserts himself into Harley’s life. The relationship is a lot more frightening than it has been in the past, and this issue frames the events of Batman #13-14, quite well as well as setting up a finale for the duo with next issue. Harley Quinn is becoming a much more interesting, well rounded character and I intend to go back and catch up to this point, because I was thoroughly entertained throughout the whole thing.
- Superboy #14 takes place apparently after a the three issue arc of Legion Lost, the events of which I am also little hazy on, but the end result being an even greater rift developing between Superboy and Lure. An already alienated young man is further alienated with only one person to turn to, fellow Teen Titan, Bunker. While attempting to have some down time with his sole friend, H’el, the enigmatic Kryptonian, makes his first actual appearance. His interactions with H’el, like Supergirl’s when the two met for the first time, continue to reveal the intrinsic nature and stigma of clones in Kryptonian society. The ending is slightly cryptic, but no doubt will reveal themselves next week in Supergirl #14 next week.
- The Ravagers #14 is a really important issue that cuts to the metaphorical heart of the characters comprising the title team. The Ravagers are the result of the nightmarish entity, Harvest, kidnapping kids from across the globe and making them fight and kill one another to become his warrior elite, the Ravagers. In the process most have undergone procedures to activate their metagenes, giving them superpowers, but also transforming them into “monsters.” Physically and psychologically the consensus among the survivors is that they are monsters. After the Culling event and the mass exodus of Harvest’s victims from the Colony, they’ve had to continue to fight for survival. This issue has them for the first time gaining some modicum of normalcy, as well as a sense of their own lost humanity. From this point forward, the tone of the book seems to be on the verge of changing as these kids find themselves and a purpose from all the bad things that happened to them in the past. This is really becoming a great series.
- Saucer Country #14 continues to reveal realistic explanations for the various phenomena surrounding UFO mythology. Men in Black are one of the most prevalent. In this issue the MIB are explained with the same frankness and thorough detail that Paul Cornell has endowed throughout the series. While he does give a pragmatic look on the topic, there is still the undertone and the indisputable impression that aliens do exist. Can’t wait to see what happens next.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman #14: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Jonathan Glapion
Batman & Robin #14: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray
Green Lantern Corps #14: Drawn by Fernando Pasarin, Colored by Gaeb Eltaeb, Inked by Scott Hanna
Phantom Stranger #1: Drawn by Brent Anderson, Colored by Ulises Arreola, Inked by Philip Tan