- Batman Inc #6 is a doomsday clock ticking towards midnight. Since the beginning of this second arc of the title, but really from the first issue following writer Grant Morrison’s transition from Batman & Robin, there has been something extremely wrong happening in the shadows and all the disparate threats lead to a web woven by none other than Talia Al-Ghul. Since her revelation as the leader of Leviathan its become clear that Grant Morrison is writing this series as a Machiavellian tale of “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Batman has spurned her affections and lured their son away from her, so in revenge she has deduced the most ingenious plan to take everything he loves and has built away from him. What’s worse is that inherent in the plan are choices he has to make shifting responsibility onto his shoulders for what survives and what is destroyed, who lives and who dies. Nothing and no one are sacred in this conflict and at issue’s close the sword drops. Grant Morrison is a genius. Hands down, he is on the top echelon of writers who have written the Batman character. Joining him on this second arc and really making his mark is artist Chris Burnham. Burnham’s art is reminiscent of Frank Quitely, one of Morrison’s most iconic collaborators, but has its own flavor making it appropriate for this title in its similarities to Quitely, but its also for its uniqueness. When this series ends, as melodramatic as this may sound, I think I might go into mourning.
- Red Lanterns #15 finds the Corps at its most desperate hour. Fresh off of the sabotaging of their Central Power Battery, the Guardians of the Universe have unleashed their nightmarish Third Army upon the Universe. Like everything involving the Guardians, Atrocitus won’t rest until the little blue bastards are stopped and their sins against sentient life punished. Taken in that light, he sounds not only virtuous, but almost sane. Elsewhere in the Universe, Red Lanterns are purging egregious ne’er-do-wells to power their weakened battery with righteous vengeance. Vengeance is the key to their revival. Apropos, first lieutenant Bleez escorts Rankorr, aka Jack Moore, back to Earth to kill his grandfather’s murderer, thereby completing his path of vengeance and fully realizing his potential as a Red Lantern. This mission is integral to the Corps, as Rankorr for whatever reason is the only Red Lantern with the ability to form constructs with his ring. However, when confronted with the man who has wronged him so greatly, Rankorr is also confronted with his own wrongs against others. On his home planet of Ryutt, we see that even Atrocitus is not immune from ghosts of the past, revisiting his decimated world, with the plan to use the Guardians’ own weapons against them. Peter Milligan is a genius and his writing keeps the reader keyed into the plot with its many nuances and intricacies. As good as the writing is, I am underwhelmed by Miguel Sepulveda’s artwork. It isn’t bad in and of itself, but it just is not as engrossing as Ed Benes’ artwork was during the initial issues of the title’s run.
- The Flash #15 was largely an interim issue, albeit one that accomplished a great many things nonspecific to the current story arc. The Gorilla invasion of the Gem Cities is in full swing and King Grodd, empowered by the Speed Force, has beaten Barry into a comatose state. In his delirium, Barry’s connection to the Speed Force has him viewing a slew of possible outcomes to the events transpiring around him, most extremely unpleasant to behold. The Rogues step up as their city descends into chaos, actually giving relief and protection to the denizens of their town. Some pretty intense things happen in the mean time as Central City and Keystone City await salvation. The most interesting in my opinion, and something I have been DYING to see, is Barry’s girlfriend Patty Spivot finding out that he is the Flash. Though she has vehemently professed to hate the Flash, when that revelation comes she doesn’t bat an eyelash, but instead rushes to her boyfriend’s aid. I love Patty and I am excited about the prospect of what this knowledge portends for future issues. As ever, writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato hit the title out of the park in both art and story, with an 11 page assist from guest artist, Marcus To.
- Superman #15 continues the “H’el on Earth” crossover event after H’el forcibly ejects Superman and Superboy from the Fortress of Solitude and barricades himself inside. As a result Superman takes Superboy to a top secret government facility specifically designed to hold Lex Luthor engineered by Lex Luthor. This is undertaken under the aegis of Superman asking for Lex’s scientific expertise on how to stop H’el, but the true reason, which Lex intuits almost immediately, is much more sinister. It’s all hands on deck as the fate of Earth literally hangs in the balance. The art by Kenneth Rocafort is the thing that immediately strikes one as the pages are turned on the issue, but once one delves into the story they depict, the keen authorship of Scott Lobdell becomes equally apparent. This issue has the first real interaction between Superman and Superboy, and I have to say that the depiction of Superman, which Lobdell has executed brilliantly in the past, falters in the moments where Superman teeter-totters between seeming apathy to the polar opposite position of the overly interested father figure. Still, a really fantastic issue rendered exquisitely by both men.
- Batman: The Dark Knight #15 ends the first arc by writer Gregg Hurwitz featuring the Scarecrow’s plot to release a super-fear-toxin on the people of Gotham. Though midstream it drew some intriguing parallels between Batman and Scarecrow’s childhoods leading up to the donning of their respective personas, overall the arc fell flat. This last issue had the Scarecrow releasing his toxin via zepplin and Batman throwing together a last ditch effort to negate it. Though Batman’s solution is intense and fairly novel, it was cobbled together far too quickly in deux-ex-machina fashion for it to have any resonance or believability. But then again we are talking about comic books here. Overall though, I felt that this new run on the series is lacking. Starting at the end of January, series creator and artist David Finch is stepping away from the series and replaced by Ethan Van Sciver. Van Sciver is an incredible artist, on par with Finch, so Hurwitz has the art down and one more chance to nail the writing.
- Talon #3 marks the return of a character from the #0 issue, Casey Washington, and her fate after the events depicted therein. Main character, Calvin Rose, was an assassin for the shadowy Court of Owls known as the Talon until getting the one assignment he couldn’t go through with: killing Casey Washington, a young African American mother and her daughter, Sarah. Rescuing them from the Court was the catalyst that set the drama of this series into motion. Returning to that pivotal event, Calvin re-communes with Casey after five years and we learn that the two of them had a love affair that ended when Calvin felt his presence was a danger to Casey and her daughter. Embittered, Casey meets Calvin again, this time in a much stronger position with powerful allies. Though harsh feelings exist between them, their common enemy sparks a pooling of resources for an assault on Hudson Financial, a New York based bank that handles thirteen billion dollars of Court investments. Casey and Calvin’s partner, Sebastian Clark, come up with a flawless plan to hit the bank, but as ever “the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” James Tynion and Scott Snyder are masters of storytelling and sell this series for every cent charged on the cover price. I know that I have said this at least three times in the past, but I feel that it bears reiteration. Snyder, Tynion, and March make this a must read title.
- Teen Titans #15, written by Red Hood and the Outlaws scribe, Scott Lobdell, proves yet again what a master he is when dealing with the Joker, vis-a-vis the “Death of the Family” crossover event. In Red Hood and the Outlaws #15 two weeks ago, Lobdell wrote a Joker plot that was keyed directly into the character of Jason Todd and played to his person brilliantly. In this issue of Teen Titans Lobdell does it again, not only penning an ingenious (and especially deranged) plot by the Joker, but one that is keyed into Tim Drake’s personality. With Jason, the Joker knew his history and used it as a weapon against him, considering that the Joker was its engineer. Tim, however, is a young professional on the model of Bruce himself, and against him the Joker asserts himself by proving that he is in Tim’s head, knowing his thoughts and stratagems and is able to use them against him. The Teen Titans come to Gotham to track their kidnapped friend and that is precisely what the Joker was counting on . . . They are a young team, both in individual ages and the tenure of their association with each other, and their inexperience is blatantly revealed. To be fair though, the Joker is an A-list adversary who has made a fool of the Batman on many an occasion, so their embarrassment isn’t totally their fault. Artist Brett Booth returns to the title providing the stunning artwork that helped establish this new series sixteen months ago, and a very beautiful depiction of Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl. Well worth the read even if you aren’t following the overarching “Death of the Family” event.
- All-Star Western #15 continues the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde storyline. Jekyll has come to Gotham to track down a quantity of his stolen formula, but when his handler, Reginald Forsythe, is murdered and partially eaten by Hyde, events take a sinister turn. Obviously when Dr. Jekyll takes his serum he becomes the sociopathic Edward Hyde, but the question in this issue becomes who will emerge when Dr. Jeremiah Arkham is force fed the serum by Hyde? Jonah Hex attempts to intercede against Hyde in Arkham’s behalf, but proves inadequate in several respects, raising another interesting scenario: What happens when Jonah Hex, the biggest badass this side of the Rio Grande, is confined to a wheelchair for a month? And in the backup feature, Tomahawk, General Lancaster of the newly minted American Army sets a trap for Tomahawk’s men and slaughters dozens of his Native American brothers. In the fight with Lancaster, Tomahawk almost has the upper hand, until the remaining British forces in the area intervene. The reckoning appears to be reserved for next issue. We’ll see what that holds for Tomahawk and the tribes of the American northwest.
- Arrow #2 delivers three more glimpses into the world and history of the CW series Arrow. Whereas the inaugural issue of this series had three stories about Oliver and his quest for justice, this one gives two slots to supporting characters, further fleshing out our understanding of the series. First off comes a story scripted by Lana Cho with art by Eric Nguyen following John Diggle’s time in Afghanistan as an Army sergeant. Despite the hells he endured, through the incident depicted we see the good man he is and why Oliver would be keen to have him on his team. The second segment by Wendy Mericle and drawn by Sergio Sandaval follows Oliver’s mother, Moira Queen, and her salvaging of her husband’s yaht, the “Queen’s Gambit.” Moira is an unfortunate character caught between a rock and a hardplace and demonized because of her associations with bad people. Malcolm Merlyn is a very powerful man and the salvaging of the “Queen’s Gambit” is a key piece in a very dangerous game of chess. The final tale, scripted by by Ben Sokolowski and Lana Cho takes Oliver to Moscow to cross a name off his father’s list. Justin Whicker smuggles hopeful young ballerinas out of Russia with the promise of fame in America only to be sold into white slavery. Because this story is about Oliver and especially because it involves the ballet, Mike Grell (Green Arrow royalty, having written and drawn the title in the 80’s) provides art. The show is incredible and this series makes that viewing experience so much richer.
- Batman Beyond Unlimited #11 contains three tales from the DC animated universe. Half the issue is composed of the Batman Beyond story “10,000 Clowns” where literally 10,000 suicidal Jokerz from across the globe make pilgrimage to Gotham to sacrifice themselves for their leader the Joker King’s insane plot. Joker King is in fact the brother of Batman’s girlfriend, Dana Tan. In this installment Joker King fights not only the current Batman, Terry McGinnis, but also the original, the 80 year old Bruce Wayne, who’s still got acid running through his veins and a serious hate-on for clowns. We also see Doug Tan’s reunion with his family after his descent into madness and a recap of how he wrangled the Jokerz and gained dominion over all the rival factions. This issue was truly worth the wait, having been built up to for more than two years now. In Superman Beyond we get a slightly less satisfactory experience only lasting a few chaotic pages with Superman facing off against the Trillians without even knowing who they are or why they want him dead. I have my theories considering that this series and its fellows in this title are the refugees of the discontinued DC animated universe. The two part series finale of “Superman: The Animated Series” had Supes under the thrall of Darkseid, conquering planets for the Lord of Apokalips. I think that Trillia was one of the planets that Superman unknowingly decimated while leading Apokalips’ armies. I could be wrong, however. Speaking of Apokalips, the last segment in this issue is a Beyond: Origin of the Apokaliptian beauty, Big Barda. Starting out with two little girls growing up in the slums, we see the origins first of Barda’s mother, Big Breeda, one of Darkseid’s elite warriors and her best friend who would become Granny Goodness. Breeda fought Darkseid’s wars and through eugenics bore future soldiers with his greatest troops. The one child who’s father she herself chose was Barda. Barda’s birth not only put the warrioress on the outs with Darkseid but also created a split between Breeda and Granny, the latter of whom raised Barda in her orphanage. The rest is history. Escaping to Earth with a handsome, young New God, Scott Free, she marries him and the two live happily for a time. However, the gap between her and Scott’s life together, as seen in the television series “Justice League Unlimited,” and where she is in “Batman Beyond” is a tragic tale that is finally revealed within. I loved this issue in its entirety more than a little. Definitely worth the read.
- American Vampire #34 returns to the beginning of the series while also taking us forward. The series started with Jim Book hunting down Skinner Sweet. Book died and Sweet’s been making Hell ever since, but the two people that fought alongside Book and who have taken a backseat since were Abilena Book, Jim’s young wife, and Will Bunting, the novelist following him for material for his next novel. Picking up in 1954, we see Abilena seventy years later as well as learn the fate of Will Bunting from his nephew. Through their interaction we are made aware of an immense threat that is known as the “Gray Trader.” What the Trader is and what threat it represents are left ambiguous, but from what writer Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque depict at the end, the “future” looks bleak. The two page montage of that future promises the involvement of Skinner Sweet, Pearl Jones, Travis Kidd, perhaps one of the ancient vampires from Survival of the Fittest, and Las Vegas in flames. As I predicted, this issue is at the precipice of a indeterminate gap in storytelling. Snyder and Albuquerque are doing this not just to take their time fine tuning the plot to perfection, but also so that Albuquerque can draw the majority of the second half of the series, which was unable to do in this first half. All around I have to reiterate my initial praise of this series as a messiah of the vampire genre. In a world of truly trite, abysmal vampire stories, this one comic series stands as a shining beacon, keeping the concept from drowning in Stephanie Meyers and L.J. Smith related sewage.
- Joe Kubert Presents #3 continues to showcase a bygone era of storytelling made fresh through veterans of the golden age of comic books. Joe himself offers up two stories and his friends Sam Glanzman and Brian Buniak continue their respective series, as begun in Joe Kubert Presents #1. Last issue, Kubert began a two part story entitled “The Redeemer” about a man who has lived countless lives over thousands of years, redeeming humanity in each, and an ancient man of evil hidden away in a fortress atop the Himalayas, known only as the Infernal One, secretly plotting against him, attempting to hasten the damnation of Man. The first half of the story involved a very complex set of events in the year 2557 A.D. that leave our hero, Jim Torkan, at a crossroads where he can either continue his redeeming of humanity (unknowingly) or fall into the Infernal Ones trap and cast aside his morals. The yarn is both futuristic in its far reaching vistas and retroactive in its storytelling style and character archetypes. Kubert truly puts forth his greatest work in this series, evincing his long work in the medium and his unfettered genius. The conclusion of this tale is both satisfying and unending. Sam Glanzman returns to his time on the U.S. Stevenson, a ship he actually served on, recounting yet another anecdotal episode on the US destroyer in WWII’s Pacific theater. It tells about the war in humorous yet starkly real terms, showing not only the war itself, but the simple and beautiful lives of the men fighting it before and after its beginning and conclusion. The transitions between are so quick and efficacious that you barely notice, as if you are drifting through their lives like in a dream. In fact it is almost exactly like a dream, because things go from being so horrible to so beautiful in the blink of an eye that there is nothing else it could be. In Joe Kubert’s second story, Spit, we return to the street urchin met in Joe Kubert Presents #1, who grows up so detested by every person he has ever met that he lacks a proper name and is colloquially know as Spit by all. Stowing away on a whaling ship, he attempts to make his way in the world only to fall under the thumb of the peg-legged ship’s cook who works him to the bone and verbally abuses him without mercy. However, unlike on land, at sea Spit finds something that alters his role in life and shines a little glimmer of hope on his existence. This segment, unlike the inked and colored “Redeemer” feature, is un-inked pencil drawings by the master artist in a style that is raw and quintessentially Joe Kubert. The gray scale, rough pencils fit the rough, historical tale exceptionally well endowing it with a dark ambiance that draws one immediately in. Finally, Brian Buniak presents the third installment of his “Angel and the Ape” feature, which has blonde bombshell private investigator, Angel, following up on a case to clear her partner, a giant ape named Sam Simeon, from a murder charge. This feature is the dessert of the issue, being nothing but pure comedic slap stick and satire. Whereas the others have poignance and certain tragedy, this one is a tonic that heals the soul and gets you back in a good mood. Buniak does the art is a very caricature-esque fashion that reeks of the 50’s and 60’s. All the submissions herein are stunningly presented and really a joy to read. If you are a comic purist, pick up these issues and experience a bygone era of comic lore.
Thus ends what should have been the last week of comics of 2012, owing to the ridiculous three title week preceding this one. I enjoyed so many of these titles and would suggest they be gotten ahold of as soon as possible. Next week we truly begin the month of January with a fresh batch of #16 titles. Looking forward to it.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman Inc #6: Art by Chris Burnham, colored by Nathan Fairbairn
The Flash #15: Drawn by Marcus To, Colored by Brian Buccellato & Ian Herring, Inked by Ryan Winn
Superman #15: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Sunny Gho
Talon #3: Art by Guillem March, Colored by Tomeu Morey
Teen Titans #15: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund
Arrow #2: Art by Mike Grell, Colored by David Lopez & Santi Casas
Joe Kubert Presents #3: Art by Joe Kubert