I have been waiting a long time for this week in comics. Green Lantern and Green Lantern: The New Guardians are without a doubt the two best titles in the Green Lantern line up, Batwoman is a top tier title, two “Death of the Family” intros in Nightwing and Red Hood and the Outlaws, and of course the introduction of Orion and the New Gods into the New DCU in Wonder Woman. That said, let’s get to ’em:
- Green Lantern#15 first and foremost tells us that Hal and Sinestro are in a place called “The Dead Zone” which is outside of the land of the living. It doesn’t say that they are dead, just that they are in the Zone. On Earth, Simon Baz, newest Green Lantern of Earth, tracks the owner of the van he stole in hopes that he can shed light on who stole the van before Simon did, setting up the explosives. What Simon finds is much more sinister, especially when the Third Army makes an appearance in all their assimilating terror. Also interesting is the advent of B’dg, the squirrel GL of Sector 1014, who reveals to the reader that the Green Lanterns have become aware of what the Guardians are doing with their newly minted Third Army. Geoff Johns is amazing and has made this series so amazing for its whole seven year run. This main title has seemed to skirt the issue of the Third Army, never directly dealing with it in lieu of introducing Simon Baz. With the resolution of his innocence in the bombing of a Dearborn factory it would seem that his role in the DCU can become more cosmic, turning more prominently toward helping his fellow corpsmen fight the Third Army. Though it hasn’t been said directly, it would seem to me that the Third Army is targeting the homeworlds of Green Lantern members. Time will tell if I am correct in this assertion.
- Green Lantern: The New Guardians #15 picks up with Kyle, his “coach” Star Sapphire, Carol Ferris, and sole Yellow Lantern, Arkillo, heading towards Okaara in the Vega systems to meet with Larfleeze, the sole Orange Lantern. The idea is to get the master of the Orange light of Avarice to help Kyle master greed himself, thereby getting him closer to complete control over the emotional spectrum. As with every Lantern title that is coming out under the “Third Army” banner, this issue features an attack by the Third Army that claims a very dear casualty for the readers. Tony Bedard is slowly mounting the plot towards an incredible vista that is glorious to imagine. And for the first time since issue #0 three months ago, Aaron Kuder provides interior art. I am glad to see him back, as I have become a fan of his style, but putting it side to side with the previous issues done by Andrei Bressan, it really isn’t that different. The end of the “Third Army” storyline is coming close to its resolution in January and this series looks to keep pace with that schedule. January 30th can’t come soon enough in my humble opinion.
- Batwoman #15 marks the return of Batwoman to Gotham with Wonder Woman in tow. However, the issue focuses on Batwoman’s paramour, Det. Maggie Sawyer. Since the first issue a little over a year ago Maggie has been the lead on the investigation of Medusa’s mass kidnappings of small children. Batwoman has traversed the darkness and attacked head-on the shadowy pockets where Medusa’s minions dwell with contacts in the DEO and the masked community. She fights the good fight unaccountable to anyone. Maggie is bogged down with limited resources, jurisprudence, and a foe that is far beyond her experience. She is the mouthpiece of the case, who for these sixteen months has had to look the parents in the eyes and give them comfort and confidence that their children will be brought home safely. Though she isn’t going to the places that Batwoman is or kicking as much ass, she is the one who holds the fort down and gives hope. This issue pays tribute to her, a bad ass cop and a woman who has been through hell. Throughout we are made privy to her thoughts, fears, past traumas, and aspirations. J.H. Williams III does art on the first and last page of the issue with Trevor McCarthy doing the rest of the interiors. Since it breaks from the Batwoman/Wonder Woman perspective the transition is not inappropriate, but I will admit that McCarthy’s, which isn’t terrible, is not as engrossing as Williams’ incredible panels. I believe next issue will not only return to Batwoman and Wonder Woman fighting Medusa, but also Williams on art duty.
- Before Watchmen: Moloch #2 delivers the second half of the life of Moloch the Mystic. Moloch lived a life of sin and corruption, hurting people to assuage the pain of being shunned and oppressed himself because of his physical deformities. After years of incarceration and numerous apprehensions by one costumed adventurer or another, Moloch finds salvation in the Lord, repenting his past wrongs and attempting to make right on them. Enter Adrian Veidt, the former mystery man Ozymandias. He offers Moloch a job, as well as a chance to reenter society as a productive member. The childlike exuberance that Moloch shows throughout the issue is truly heartrending, especially when you already know his ultimate fate. Ozymandias may be a hero in title, but his methods are cold and calculating, and the ultimate scheme that makes itself manifest in Alan Moore’s original graphic novel includes giving Moloch terminal cancer to facilitate his nightmarish plan. Topically, this issue is awful, because a good man who just wants a chance at redemption is exploited and purposefully afflicted with the most horrible of afflictions. That’s the doom and gloom of Alan Moore for you. However, J. Michael Straczynski, who writes this two part series, plays up the born again christian aspect of Moloch’s story so that when confronted with the reality of what Ozymandias has done to him and why, Moloch accepts that the goal is virtuous and that as a sinner his death could mean the salvation of billions. He got a bum deal, but he accepts his role in a larger drama and gains absolution through his suffering in an almost Christ-like fashion. Even though Ozymandias did this without his knowledge and with no thought for his volition, it comes out right and almost has a happy ending.
- Catwoman #15 has Selina going back to work after the lackluster two issue “Death of the Family” story. Across the board, the tie-ins have been doing what I feel to be very important things, whereas this one was not only not ominous, it just didn’t accomplish anything at all. Oh well . . . She pulls one heist for fun, crashing a rich teen’s party while her parents are out of town, but later takes on a job to steal an artifact from the “Black Room” of A.R.G.U.S.. That artifact being the Black Diamond, which we know from previous incarnations of the DCU to be the talisman of Eclipso. The circumstances of this situation are far more interesting than the actual execution. The information we get about the Black Room feels like it will be important to the impending “Trinity War” event down the road, as well as a clue into the really random headings placed on titles that fall under the “Black Diamond Probability.” Most of the banner events get press and/or advertisement. Thusfar the “Black Diamond Probability” has not, which makes it that much more intriguing. We’ll see if the underground hype pays off or is just a smokescreen.
- Nightwing #15 brings Dick Grayson into the fold of the Joker’s “Death of the Family” plot. Since his first issue, a year and a half ago, Dick has inherited the circus he was raised in and discovered his familial tie to Gotham and the shadowy forces that have governed it for centuries. Like Bruce, his goal as these events have progressed is to turn Gotham around and make good on the evils that have led to the great city’s decline. In the process, he’s reestablished old relationships as well as new trusts with the members of the circus, gambling on the group’s future as a staple of Gotham City entertainment. With the Joker coming on the scene, that trust is stretched to the breaking-point as obviously Nightwing has painted a bullseye on their chests as an exploitable weakness. Since those members of Haly’s Circus that remain have done so, also gambling on Dick’s dream, their safety is paramount in Nightwing’s mind, adding further desperation by the former Robin to take down the Joker before his insanity imperils more of his friends. As we’ve seen in the other books under this event’s banner, the Joker’s individualized plots against “the Family” are minutely designed to cut deep at their intended targets. One of the lynch pins in the Nightwing plot is a red-headed ghost from Dick’s past that adds further depth to the overall scheme. Color me intrigued as we await issue #16.
- Red Hood and the Outlaws #15 fleshes out perhaps the most interesting of the Joker’s plots under the “Death of the Family” event in his plan for Jason Todd. Writer Scott Lobdell has quintessentially linked Jason, aka Red Hood, to the Joker in his #0 issue of this title. Jason was for all intents and purposes a hobby the Joker took up out of boredom, putting a street punk with family issues in the path of Batman upon faking his mother’s O.D-ing on drugs, setting up a situation where this punk would be taken on as Robin, and then setting up this punk’s death to mess with the Batman. In this issue, after staging an eerily familiar scene of Jason’s girlfriend, Isabel, O.D-ing in her apartment, the Joker abducts our red masked protagonist and places him within a maze that sloooowly reveals tokens of every stage of his journey to being Robin through his death at the Joker’s hands, not only proving that the Joker knows who he is but that he was also present every step of the way! Lobdell really struck a nerve with his revelation of the Joker’s connection to Jason in Red Hood and the Outlaws #0, and in this issue begins to play that nerve like a Stradivarius. I can only image that next month’s concluding issue will do nothing less.
- Supergirl #15 ushers in the next chapter of the “H’el on Earth” event with H’el evicting the Man of Steel and his cloned protege, Superboy, from the Fortress of Solitude. With Supergirl in tow he sends her into the bottled city of Kandor to retrieve an object of crucial importance to their plot to resurrect Krypton. The story is framed with a reminiscence of one of Kara’s last days on Krypton in the company of her best friend, Tali. With the memories of yesterday so fresh in her mind, and the sighting of her comatose friend within the Bottle City, the rationale of Supergirl falling for H’el’s psychotic plan, veiled though it may be in sugary lies. She does so out of loneliness, out of a sense of cultural and social loss, and out of a burgeoning passion. Though she is misguided, her journey is still really engrossing and compelling.
- Legion of Super-Heroes #15 takes a break from the usual pace of things with a magical jaunt to the city of Barcelona. One of writer Paul Levitz’s newest creations, Legion rookie Glorith, protege of veteran legionnaire the White Witch, is transported by an enigmatic voice in a dream through a portal to Barcelona. When the Legionnaires later go to find her, the city is descended into chaos as denizens and scenes from throughout the city and surrounding area’s past spring up. These include dinosaurs, cavemen, Inquisition era mobs complete with torches, and 20th century guerrillas. Not seeming to connect with the large dilemmas the Legion has been facing, as is Levitz’s authorial style, this issue still is really engaging and quintessentially a Levitz Legion yarn. And as it doesn’t connect with any overhanging plot from the recent past, that doesn’t mean that it won’t intertwine later into a characteristically complex storyline.
- DC Universe Presents: Black Lightning and Blue Devil #15 just was. I’m only putting it up here as a place holder. Not a good series, but maybe it will facilitate something interesting in a later appearance by one or both of these characters in another series. Otherwise, not good.
- Wonder Woman #15 is delving into something that I have been waiting for since the inception of the New DCU: The New Gods. Jack Kirby’s legendary creations have always been among my favorite DC characters and concepts. With the first arc of Geoff Johns Justice League I was horrified with the abysmal depiction of Darkseid and his hoards of Apokalips. With Brian Azzarello’s exploration of the New Gods from New Genesis I am hopeful that the DC will have a second chance at doing right by Jack Kirby’s work. Here Orion is sent to Earth to treat with one of the sons of Zeus, the blind vagrant Milan. Wonder Woman and her brother, Lennox, also seek out Milan in their attempt to locate Hermes and the abducted baby of their friend, Zola. As is characteristic of both Wonder Woman and Orion, misunderstandings are made and the two immediately resort to violence. Though last issue did give a hint at the reason for Orion’s coming to Earth, the main points are still a mystery, but I remain hopeful that good things will come of this story arc.
- JSA Liberty Files: The Whistling Skull #1 is a return to an Elseworld that I greatly enjoyed. For those not in the know, Elseworlds are re-imaginings that take DC characters out of their normal surroundings and insert them into brand new contexts. The most famous Elseworld is probably Superman: Speeding Bullets where Kal-El, last son of Krypton, is rocketed to Earth from his doomed planet where he lands in Gotham City and is found by the childless Martha and Thomas Wayne, raised under the name Bruce Wayne, witnesses their murder and later dons cape and cowl, becoming Batman, albeit with flight, super strength, super speed, and heat vision. JSA: Speeding Bullets was a series that took the Golden Aged DC characters and re-imagined them as deep cover covert operatives of the United States Armed Services during WWII, originally written by Dan Jolley and drawn by Tony Harris. Drawn by returning artist, Tony Harris, and written by B. Clay Moore, this series under the subtitle The Whistling Skull deals with deep cover operatives of what appear to be strictly British Intelligence, although that may not hold up to be true as the story unfolds over the forthcoming five issues. Starting out with a five page jaunt to the Japan of 1940, Dr. Midnight, Hour Man, and Wildcat (all American) are seen with the Skull and his sidekick, Knuckles, both British. The rest of the issue is a disjointed progression of jumping back and forth between England in the 20’s and Switzerland in the 40’s. In Switzerland there is a mysterious, mystical malady that is killing locals in a horrific fashion, but the cause and its ties to the larger war happening in Europe is not alluded to. To my knowledge the Whistling Skull and Knuckles are completely new characters with no basis within comic lore, and regardless of this being the case or not, are very poorly introduced in this first issue. The premise is interesting to be sure, but as a first issue this one failed to develop a cogent premise. However, because I enjoyed the original two series in collected graphic novel, I will ride this one out.
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #5 brings the miniseries to the brink of realizing its subject, namely He-Man and the Masters of the Universe becoming reestablished. From issue #1 five months ago, we have seen an Eternia where He-Man and the Masters have been placed under a state of amnesia and the forces of Skeletor carving out little fiefdoms of control. Skeletor himself is locked in Castle Grayskull, attempting to wrest the fabled power it houses from the imprisoned Sorceress and even the spirit of Grayskull itself. Adam and Teela have landed on an island controlled by Evil-Lyn and while escaping from her forces, led by Teela’s amnesiac father, Man-at-Arms, the two come across He-Man’s sword, aptly sheathed in stone. Upon drawing it from the stone in Arthurian fashion, he not only remembers who he is, becoming He-Man once more, but also awakens all of his allies from their own forgetful somnambulism. Next issue, the final of the six part story, promises to be a He-Man adventure like we have known in the past.
- Sword of Sorcery #3 continues the Amethyst plot as Princess Amaya of House Amethyst continues to acclimate to her life in the Gem World of Nilaa. Her evil aunt, Queen Mordiel, proposes a meeting with Amaya and her mother, Graciel, at neutral ground at their brother Bhoj’s country estate. The results are predictable, but the information and characterization revealed within this parlay are truly intriguing taken together with what we already know of Gem World. The issue also takes us up to the moment in which John Constantine snatches Amaya back into our world, as seen in Justice League Dark Annual #1 with the portal stone. Writer Christie Marx and artist Aaron Lopresti really deliver an engrossing look into what would seem like a froufrou, utterly ridiculous title. On the contrary, Amethyst is a very intricate book of feudalism and realpolitik, with almost as much intrigue but way less sex than “Game of Thrones.” The Beowulf feature reaches its concluding installment as the enigmatic woman, identifying herself only as “Grendel’s mother,” explains to our protagonist the rationale behind his creation as a direct result of the superhuman advent, as seen in Justice League #1, and a human supremacy movement by the villain Regulus, as seen in Suicide Squad. Tony Bedard foreshadows a great many things about what Beowulf is, yet withholds a great deal up to this issues conclusion and the ending of this chapter in the saga of Beowulf. The feature does end with a solicitation that “Beowulf will return in 2013!” so all hope isn’t lost that answers will come. In the meantime, the next issue of Sword of Sorcery will contain the Stalker feature written by Marc Andreyko and drawn by Andrei Bressan. Writer and artist are both fantastic, and I am excited by the title itself, which was based off of a Paul Levitz four issue series from 1975. I will stay on this series with great enthusiasm and I would encourage others to do the same.
- The Unwritten #44 is an exemplary reason why this series is incredible. The main character, Tommy Taylor, descends into the Underworld to rescue the woman he loves, Lizzy Hexam. This endeavor mirrors a Golden Age superhero comic that a character in the series past wrote, which itself was obviously mirrors the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. When he gets into the Underworld, his guides are the slain children of the warden of the French prison that Tommy was held in close to the series beginning. Both children were incredibly round, complex characters, killed far before their time both literally and literarily, but creators Mike Carey and Peter Gross prove how wide reaching this series is by returning them to the narrative in a very thoughtful way. The issue shows the workings of Hades in the world of The Unwritten, as well as sets up its most unlikely of Underworld Kings, again another resurrected character from issues past. This book is stunning. Read it.
And so ends the last real week of comics in December. Next week has a few stray titles for the day after Christmas.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Green Lantern #15: Drawn by Doug Mahnke, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Keith Champagne, Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin, Tom Nguyen & Doug Mahnke
Green Lantern: New Guardians #15: Art by Aaron Kuder, Colored by Wil Quintana
Before Watchmen: Moloch #2: Art by Eduardo Risso, Colored by Trish Mulvihill
Red Hood & the Outlaws #15: Drawn by Timothy Green II, Colored by Blond, Inked by Wayne Faucher
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #5: Drawn by Philip Tan & Pop Mhan, Colored by Lee Loughridge & Jim Charalampidis, Inked by Pop Mhan, Jim Charalampidis & Lebeau Underwood
The Unwritten #44: Art by Peter Gross, Colored by Chris Chuckry