November ends on a high note with another duo of Before Watchmen issues and a slew of personal favorites of mine: Batman Inc, Talon, The Flash, Teen Titans, and the newly reworked Superman title. The last week of the month is worth the wait.
- Aquaman #14 begins the “Throne of Atlantic” crossover with Justice League. What this prelude issue does is introduce quite well the character of Ocean Master, aka King Orm of Atlantis, Aquaman’s brother. I could be totally wrong here, but despite him being a villain in the past, Orm truly seems to be on the level here. Even in the scenes where no one is watching, he’s still altruistic and benevolent. Through his meeting with Arthur in this issue we see that he didn’t want to be king and begged Arthur to take the throne in his stead. Maybe its all a ruse by him and writer Geoff Johns, but I’m not so sure. Regular series artist, Ivan Reis, jumps over to Justice League for the duration of the event, with Pete Woods and Pere Perez splitting art duties on Aquaman.
- Batman Incorporated #5 takes us for (if memory serves correctly) the third time into the world of Batman 666. When Batman tells his son, Damian, that he can’t be Robin at the end of the fourth issue, he validates it with a vision he has had of the future of Gotham, should Damian remain Robin and eventually become Batman. The Joker has saturated Gotham with a neurotoxin that has rendered all its citizens irrevocably insane. The only bastion of sanity left is . . . Arkham Asylum. Where we left this world at the end of the 666th issue of Batman, a wheelchair bound Commissioner Barbara Gordon is out to get the trench coat wearing Dark Knight, who sold his soul for the invulnerability to save his father’s city. This issue has them teamed up trying to save the baby that may be the key to Gotham’s salvation. Grant Morrison’s writing of the book is stellar and he crafts a really intense ride that when looked at in retrospect is actually really brief in duration. Also the Joker seems to be such a looming presence in the narrative despite the fact he is never seen once. However, one villain is seen, whose appearance froze my blood and then got it pumping double time. This issue of the series proves to be a hallmark that will be talked about for years.
- Red Lanterns #14 was literally an emotional issue following the aftermath of the Red Lantern Corps’ first encounter with the Third Army. Being that the nightmarish sentinels of the Guardians of the Universe are largely immune to the Red Lantern’s (as well as the other Lantern corps) emotional spectrum attacks, Atrocitus decides to invoke a synthetic army long unused and discarded: the Manhunters. Also, to bolster the strength of the culled ranks, Atrocitus has Rankorr the Earth Red Lantern return home to finally kill his grandfather’s murderer to complete his inaugural path of vengeance and strengthen his power as a lantern of rage. Accompanying him is Bleez and the other Earth Lantern, Dex-star the cat. Atrocitus himself also throws himself into the crucible of darkest emotion to enact his plan to resurrect the Manhunters against the Third Army. The Manhunters were the Guardians of the Universe’s first shock troopers that laid waste his sector, killing his family and the good, kind man he used to be. Returning to his homeworld of Ryutt, the ghost of his past literally as well as metaphorically haunt him as he relives the massacre that destroyed his reality.
- Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #4 is another penetrating look at the world of Watchmen through the keen, calculating eyes of the world’s smartest man, Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias, as written by Len Wein. Picking up during the Kennedy administration it examines his relationship with the Kennedys and his part in the Cuban Missile Crisis through to the assassination of his friend, Jack. From that era on a new status quo emerges as society changes and mankind spirals closer to oblivion. Wein ends the issue with the historic meeting of “Crime Busters”, spearheaded by Captain Metropolis, to restart the Minute Men for this new, turbulent era. The mouthpiece of dissent comes from the Comedian, as we saw in the original Watchmen, but Wein posits or intuits that this is where Ozymandias first conceives of his plan to save the world. Considering what he does accomplish, I am itching to read the last two issue from Wein in this series.
- Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #4 ends the series with Laurie’s final confrontation with the “Chairman” and her realization of the potential her mother has instilled in her. The relationship between Sally Jupiter and her daughter, Laurie, has been pretty messed up, but this issue, despite bringing them back together (no spoiler here if you read the original Watchmen) truly shows how twisted and deluded the former superheroine really is. Though her heart was in the right place, her parenting style was tantamount to child abuse. What is interesting, however, is juxatposing the truly awful things her mother did with the person Laurie developed into. Despite it all, she came out a strong, confident young woman who learned that her mother did do some good in raising her. Darwyn Cooke wrote this series poignantly and Amanda Connor drew it beautifully.
- The Flash #14 had SO MUCH going on! The Gorilla invasion of the Gem Cities has commenced and King Grodd is pummeling the Scarlet Speedster with the revelation that he as well possesses Speed Force energies. Daniel West, recently released from prison, searches frantically amid the war torn streets of Central City for his sister, Iris. Patty Spivot, Barry Allen’s girlfriend, along with the enigmatic time traveler, Turbine, find the one being who has the ability to save Barry and stop the Gorillas: SOLOVAR!!! To Flash faithful, the appearance of the aforementioned simian is very exciting. Writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato really pull out the stops with this series and especially this arc. The Gorilla Invasion is pretty intense to begin with, but they make it even more so when you see in this fourteenth issue just how Grodd is waging the war. His methods are nightmarish and truly brutal. So horrible are they in fact that the club of Flash villains, the Rogues, team up with the Flash to put the kibosh on it. Grade A storytelling.
- Batman: The Dark Knight #14 was iffy. I mean David Finch’s artwork is eerie and truly sinister. Gregg Hurwitz’s story is kind of stretched thin over far more issues than it needs to be. Issue #13 was the exact same story as issue #12, and this one seems like its not really saying anything at all. Possibly the most glaring issue in my opinion is the unbelievable representation of Damian Wayne. Overall, I just feel that the first eight issue arc of this title was about the Scarecrow, having another one, especially one as unexciting as this current one is a mistake. There are plenty of other excellent possibilities to e
- Superman #14 continues the “H’el on Earth” crossover with all parties coming together. Lois Lane pays Clark a visit, trying to get him to compromise his morals to get his job back with Morgan Edge and Galaxy Broadcasting. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s when Supergirl decides to pay him a visit decked out in her Kryptonian costume. Finally accepting the veracity of Superman’s claims of Krypton’s destruction and their shared kinship, Kara brings him to see H’el to hear out his plan for the rebirth of Krypton. To Clark and the readership, each possessing a sense of humanity, its immediately obvious that H’el is a madman, and clearly one that doesn’t play fair. From issue’s end its clear that things are about to get very bad very quickly. Scott Lobdell writes perhaps the most compelling version of the Man of Steel since the Reboot started a year and a half ago and artist Kenneth Rocafort maintains the same level of excellence he has imbued into all of his projects.
- Talon #2 delivers another uncanny classic in the incredible tangent series shooting off the eleven part opening arc of Batman, “The Court of Owls.” Calvin Rose, the only living Talon to ever escape the Court with his life has teamed up with the reclusive Sebastian Clark to take down the evil cabal and give them both their lives back. This round, Clark sends Calvin to what appears to be Gotham’s answer to New York’s Waldorf-Astoria, the Orchard Hotel. Built in the late 1800’s, it stands not only as a symbol of Gotham’s opulent past, but also as one of the key roosts of the Court. The innermost chamber, known as Eden, houses the amassed treasure hoard of the Court as well as some of their most well guarded secrets. Calvin is told that the information on himself and the Washington girls, whom he was meant to have killed at the time of his flight, are stored within. What is stored within is not only more sinister than these files, but awe-inspiringly epic, accentuating the already swelling mythology of the Court of Owls. Also within is a “new” Talon with a vintage of the 1930’s, whose woeful tale fits well into the panoply of Talons we had already met during the “Night of the Owls” crossover event. Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV make this series soar and in art I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Guillem March is the series artist and his artwork is stunning. He, however, didn’t do the interiors for this issue and was instead replaced by Juan Jose Ryp, whose work I was not familiar with. Well, despite my disappoint that March was not the artist this issue, I was quickly rewarded to see how exquisitely Ryp replaced him. One of the key factors of the issue is the opulence of Eden, and that was something he rendered here in spades. Everything looks magnificent, with infinite detail. I also should give credit to colorist Tomeu Morey, whose coloring of the issue heightens the the vivacity of the panels. This series is a nothing short of a treat.
- Teen Titans #14 concludes the “Silent Armor” arc, introducing Wonder Girl’s origin as well as her power set granted by the Silent Armor. Facing down her old flame, Diesel, she has to make some very hard decisions between the first boy she ever loved and the friends she has made over the past fourteen issues worth of storytelling. That all was very well done by writer Scott Lobdell, but where the issue really gets interesting is in the two tangent storylines that emerge on the periphery. The character of Kiran Singh, aka Solstice, is one of the heartstrings of the Teen Titans. Her appearance altering affliction comes into question when a mysterious stranger offers her a chance to get her old body back, but what will he ask for in return . . . ? Also, headed by Red Robin, the long fingers of the Joker can’t be held back as his “Death of the Family” plot unfolds in all its nightmarish detail. Next issue promises to be a “Death of the Family” tie-in and elaborate on the plans the Joker has in store for Tim Drake.
- Phantom Lady & Doll Man #4 ends the miniseries following these former, but as of this series, also future Freedom Fighters. Jennifer Knight gets her revenge on Metropolis gangster, Cyrus Bender, and she and Dollman are visited by Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters. Not the best series. I doubt I will read any of the other series that spawn from this.
- Justice League Dark #14 gives the aftermath of the “Books of Magic” storyline. Tim Hunter and Zatanna are transported through the books to an unknown location. The remnants of the Justice League Dark set out to find them, but in the meantime, three members of the team: Black Orchid, Frankenstein, and Princess Amaya of Gem World go exploring in the House of Mystery only to get lost and set upon by the dangers lurking within. This alongside the revelation by Phantom Stranger that there is going to be a war among the three. You might even call it a Trinity War . . .
- Batman Beyond Unlimited #10 concludes its opening arc of Justice League Beyond Unlimited bringing to a close the plot by Kobra to awaken the Ouroboros, the serpent that would eat the world. I think the fact that it destroyed New Genesis, home of the New Gods, just goes to show the menace it represents. And when all else fails, Bruce Wayne saves the day . . . AND HE’S NOT EVEN THERE!!! The arc doesn’t end without casualties and a beloved DC character’s future self falls in the line of service. In the Batman Beyond feature the “10,000 Clowns” we see for the first time in a few issues the Joker King, Doug Tan. The psychotic older brother of Terry McGinnis’ girlfriend, Dana, cuts a very similar figure to the Heath Ledger Joker, a man that believes in absolute anarchy and the intrinsic humor in chaos. As the night of terror he has unleashed with 10,000 tweaked out clowns descending on Gotham, his plan reaches its endgame and the stakes rise. Terry is out with Catwoman Beyond, Vigilante Beyond, and a badass 60 something Dick Grayson trying to stem the terror, while Joker King comes face to face with . . . 80 year old Bruce Wayne, a man who HATES clowns! Finally the Superman Beyond feature shows Kal-El settling into his new civilian identity of Kal Clarke, Metropolis fireman. That’s about it for that one. Some aliens show up at the tail end, but their presence is very cryptic. Featuring a slew of writers and artists, this title has been and continues to be a grab bag of excellent talent and exceptional storytelling, giving a venue to some of the plots left to pasture by the abandonment of the DC animated universe. I, who grew up on these shows, welcome it with open arms.
- All-Star Western #14 has Gotham sinking into madness after the formula of Dr. Jekyll finds its way into her bustling streets. Last issue, Jonah Hex, Tallulah Black, and Dr. Jeremiah Arkham stemmed the flow with an attack on Haly’s Circus, but the culprit, Mr. Hyde remains in Gotham, albeit in confinement. In the midst of that chaos, the trio are drawn into a violent altercation in Chinatown featuring one of the characters introduced in the backup feature of issued #4-6, the Barbary Ghost. Still looking for her mother who was sold into bondage, her travels have brought her to Gotham and into the lair of the Chinese criminal cabal, the Golden Dragons, hopped up on Jekyll’s crazy juice. This issue was steeped in ambiance and the views we get of the chained Mr. Hyde are like that of a Victorian Hannibal Lector. The next issue of this series, out in January, promises to further explore his twisted brand of psychopathy. Series artist Moritat must have had a ball drawing the gruesome imagery associated with the evil Stevenson creation. They certainly are horrifying to behold. In the backup feature Tomahawk, we see not really a Western tale, but a Colonial one. Set just after the American Revolution, this title deals with the Indian Wars of the Washington administration. Drawn by Phil Winslade there is a very classical feel to the almost watercolor like panels. If you liked “Last of the Mohicans” this feature is worth the read.
- American Vampire #33 ends the “Black List” story arc as well as a major era in the American Vampire saga. The series started in 1920’s Los Angeles with young, idealistic Pearl Jones going to Hollywood to be an actress. Alongside her bestfriend and roommate, Hattie Hargrove, she makes a go of it, only to fall prey to the vampiric power elite of Hollywood who make a meal of her. Turned by the sadistic loner, Skinner Sweet, she survives the assault to be reborn as the second in a new species of vampire: Abysmus Americanus. That is how this series started. Since then there has been a World War, the building of the Hoover Dam, the reawakening of Dracula, and many other incredible events. “The Black List” ends the first half of the 20th century by circling back to the the Los Angeles coven, Skinner Sweet, and Hattie Hargrove. All three come back like ghosts of Christmas past to haunt Pearl and show her just how futile running from your past can be. I loved this issue so much as a continuance of everything that has made the series great over three years of storytelling, as well as providing a bookend to all that has happened thus far. January’s issue #34 is the last solicited for several months, spelling an uncertain future for the series. I can only imagine, considering the meteoric success of the series, that it is going into hiatus so the beleaguered Scott Snyder (who is writing four other series besides this one) can catch up and maintain the same level of quality he has displayed throughout.
- Joe Kubert Presents #2 opens with a lengthy two part storyline entitled “The Redeemer.” Beginning in the high peaks of the Himalayas, five individuals are summoned to a mountain fortress inhabited by an aged man upon a grand throne, calling himself the “Infernal One.” From this height he gives them a task to hinder the man who through several lifetimes, since the dawn of time, has been working toward the redemption of mankind. At this point the title seems like an orientalized 1930’s pulp novel or movie serial. When the five set about putting his plan into action, it becomes apparent that the title takes place in the future, as the Redeemer is a man names Jim Torkan, captain of a orbital space station in the year 2557 A.D. Though it takes on a sci-fi backdrop, rife with conventions of this genre, it still does maintain a 1930’s serial feel as well. So great is his artistic and narrative skills, writer/artist Joe Kubert pulls off both very well. The second part of this story is solicited to be in next month’s issue and I am curious to see how he ties it all up. Truly, this story by the late master meets his mission statement of putting out comics of a sort one doesn’t see on comic shelves anymore. This is from a bygone golden age of comic writing. Rounding off the issue is another darkly comedic tale of the Second World War from Sam Glanzman, and a continuance of the “Angel and the Ape” story by Brian Buniak from last issue. These two harken to a lost era in comic fiction.
- Arrow #1 is an anthology comic that features writers of the hit CW tv show writing background stories about the show and its characters. Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg, both DC writers and producers of the show, write an overview of the show’s premise with artwork by Green Arrow royalty, Mike Grell, who himself wrote and drew the character for eighty issues in the 1980’s. Arrow writer Ben Sokolowski writes a tale of Arrow’s hunting of one of the names on his list, Scott Morgan, aptly entitled “Prey”, drawn by Sergio Sandoval. This not only shows the ingenuity and drive of the Starling City Vigilante, but also the lengths to which the cabal whose names make up his list will go to maintain their power and influence. Finally, show writer Beth Schwartz writes a story with art by Jorge Jimenez about the white haired Triad woman, Chien Na Wei, better known in comics as “China White.” With little background in the comics, Schwartz tells of her rough childhood and her close connection to Triad boss, Zhishan. I absolutely LOVE the show and if you are like me and share that sentiment, this series is worth reading to supplement it and make both reading and watching experiences better.
So ends a phenomenal week of comic reading. Sadly, all but one of these titles will have to wait until January to be continued . . .
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman Inc #5: Art by Chris Burnham, colored by Nathan Fairbairn
Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #4 #1: Art by Jae Lee, Colored by June Chung
The Flash #14: Art by Francis Manapul, Colored by Brian Buccellato
Talon #2: Drawn by Juan Jose Ryp, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by Vincente Cifuentes
Joe Kubert Presents #2: Art by Joe Kubert