Apart from three issues of the epic “Death of the Family” crossover event in the Batman line of books and the inaugural issue of the Threshold series, this was a relatively light and somewhat depressing week.
- Batman #16 further evinces just how insane the Joker has become. Descending into Arkham where the Joker has set up shop, the horrible truth of his activities since reemerging become fully revealed. Delving through each stage of the Joker’s labyrinth Batman and the reader are keyed into the warped fantasy world that the Joker has constructed around his archnemesis in a really creepy, almost sexualized love affair. Every facet is symbolized by a feudal archetype, often times based on Arthurian lore. The armed inmates are Batman’s “knights”, each of his villains a different councilor (Scarecrow the physician, Riddler the strategist, Two-Face the judge, etc.) and a test of pulling an electrified chainsaw from a stone as a sign of kingship. There is a great deal to the plot, but hardly any way of speaking about it without giving some part of it away. What is apparent is writer Scott Snyder’s plumbing of the darkest recesses of his mind, as well as some serious slasher and snuff flicks to conceive of this plot, and especially this issue. Present is definitely “The Human Centipede”, bits of “Saw”, and the Italian film “Salo” which I am not proud to admit that I have seen . . . Clearly, this issue to me to a dark place I was reticent to visit.
- Batgirl #16 delivers the final issue of the “”Death of the Family” tie in until next month’s Batman #17. Barbara Gordon arrives at her “wedding” to the Joker as the mad clown has demanded in exchange for her mother’s safety. Right out of the gate, you know things aren’t kosher with the situation. Why the Joker would want to marry Batgirl is perplexing enough, added to what the catch is going to be. And as of yet, this plot of the Joker’s is the only “Death of the Family” plot that doesn’t go exactly to plan. The end goal, as far as the major tie into the larger Batman storyline at the end goes to plan, but there is a major hiccup with the appearance of Barbara’s brother, James Gordon Jr. I love Batgirl and while I don’t believe that the gruesome plans the Joker has for her will come to fruition, she will still have fresh trauma added to the lingering psychological damage he left when he shot her in the stomach, paralyzing her for a time, and the sexual assault he subjected her to subsequently. Next month’s issue can’t come soon enough. I NEED closure on this story arc.
- Batman & Robin #16 showcases a nightmarish and as yet unexplained scenario where, to get his “revenge” on Robin (Damian Wayne), the Joker puts the Boy Wonder up against a Joker juiced Batman in an all out death match. The issue follows the match between father and son, both formidable in their own right, on a back and forth momentum with the Joker on the sidelines giving color commentary. Its not largely a story issue, but the visual aspects of two titans fighting one another is more than enough to compensate. Like Batgirl above, it ends with the Joker holding a platter and the solicitation that it will all be concluded in Batman #17. Also like Batgirl, I await resolution on this with baited breath.
- Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E #16 is an enigma. The past couple issues have been “Rot World” tie-ins, with last issue revealing one of the most interesting developments to date. This issue returns to the real world as we know it with no explanation of how the last issue’s transpirings resolve themselves. That’s all fine and well. The answers may lie in the final issues of Animal Man and Swamp Thing’s delvings into “Rot World.” However, this issue returns to the real world abruptly for what apparently is the final issue of the series, treating the whole thing like business as usual. Maybe that’s the right call, but staying with the “Rot World” storyline for one more issue not only would make sense considering the lead up that writer Matt Kindt left himself, but would also be a blowout way to end the series rather than this issue, which was disjointed, rushed, and clearly thrown together with no larger plan in mind. A group of young radicals have gotten their hands on a viral generator that will release a metaphysical pathogen with the power to convert those it touches into monstrosities. The issue ends. The series ends. Nothing really is accomplished.
- Threshold #1 spins out of Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual #1, following the “Hunted” in its main feature. “The Hunted” is a televised manhunt of criminals and individuals found to be undesirable to the reign of Lady Styx in the Tenebrian Dominion. As of the conclusion to the New Guardians Annual, deep cover Green Lantern, Jediah Cull, is blown and entered into the “Hunted.” The rules state that the hunted will be give one day (relative to the planet’s solar cycle) of impunity before all citizens of the Dominion are given free reign to hunt them for a bounty correspondingly sized to their offense to Lady Styx. Caul is given his allotted time and then the fun begins. The rest of the feature shows Caul, and other “Hunted” fugitives, banding together and beginning the semblance of a resistance. Caul and a spunky young brunette named Ember band together for a time, evading capture, while across the planet a former female soldier turned hunted, code-named Stealth, meets up with a man named Ric Starr of the Space Rangers, also now a hunted, to discuss an underground movement of survivors within the Dominion who have begun measures to undermine the tracking systems used to hunt them. There is some really interesting stuff happening here and a VERY decent start to the New DCU’s first official cosmic odyssey. In the Larfleeze backup feature, we are shown a very concise representation of Larfleeze that sums up his entire being quite thoroughly as the living embodiment of pure avarice and then introduces us to a sequence of events that would be the greatest nightmare for a personage like Larfleeze. Its hard to tell which feature is better. Both are written brilliantly by the incredible Keith Giffen, with Tom Raney providing very lustrous art on The Hunted and Scott Kolins, the same who provided art for Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual, rendering Larfleeze with his angular, volatile style that so aptly fits Larfleeze’s personality. This series has great potential.
- Demon Knights #16 ushers in a second stage to the series. Series creator, Paul Cornell, finished his run on the series with issue #15, and Robert Venditti takes over bringing the series thirty years into the future. In the far eastern boundaries of Europe Cain, the first vampire, as revealed to us in the atrocious I, Vampire series, begins a reign of terror converting or slaughtering entire communities. In the West the Demon Knights are being hunted one by one and taken to Moorish Spain. Though seemingly sinister in nature, the Caliph has a need for their services to end the terror of Cain in the East as he moves his way west. Bernard Chang remains on art, keeping the feel of the book visually in tact. Venditti himself does a good job in this first book keeping the narrative close to that of his predecessor, but time will tell if he can maintain its excellence.
- Superboy #16 presents the Justice League’s effort to retake the Fortress of Solitude from H’el and his protegee, Supergirl. Batman plans the operation and each member, including Superboy, has a very specific role. Superboy gets them in, and from there H’el’s control of the Fortress is put to the test. Flash’s mission is to get Supergirl away from H’el and hopefully neutralize her until the threat to our solar system is ended. The issue takes a bizarre turn when a portable pocket dimensional prison in Superman’s arsenal goes berserk putting a definite hampering on the JL’s plan. Also ominous is the reappearance of the giant crustacean looking herald from the first issue of Superman. The end may be closer than we initially thought.
- The Ravagers #8 is sort of strange, taking place in a rural mountain community in Colorado. One of Harvest’s experiments used to live there and upon returning becomes a carrier for an infectious radioactive condition that causes its host to explode and infect others who also explode and so on down the line. Rose Wilson and Warblade go in to stem the carnage in the hopes of preventing Harvest from learning that they allowed the escapee out from under their noses. This means trying to contain the epidemic and save the lives of as many townsfolk as possible. To those who have read this series, as well as Teen Titans and Superboy, these two Ravagers being altruistic is the opposite of rational. But that isn’t the only impossible thing that occurs, as the ending of this issue quite vividly evinces. Howard Mackie, the series’ first writer, exists stage left and Michael Alan Nelson takes the helm. He does a good job of maintaining the status quo, and to be honest, until I began writing this review I hadn’t even noticed that Mackie had left. Also M.I.A is artist Ian Churchill who is replaced by Ig Guara.
- Ame-Comi Girls: Power Girl reunites writer Jimmy Palmiotti with the character that he seems to love to write. Unlike the past couple of issues, this one spins a tale independent of the proceedings of the past several issues. Power Girl is in Metropolis, literally the “City of Tomorrow”, which is a result of her using Kryptonian tech to modernize its infrastructure. Fighting xenophobic terrorists, she triumphs as an superheroic humanitarian usually does and goes to Smallville to recuperate with the Kents. While there her cousin Kara Zor-El shows up in a space ship and we are shown that apparently in this universe, Power Girl is Kara JOR-El. Upon her cousin’s arrival all hell breaks loose on an intergalactic scale (in Smallville no less) and the title finally connects with the previous three issues.
- Green Hornet: Year One Special #1 resurrects for one special issue the brilliant origin series of the original Green Hornet that concluded two years ago and was written by the incomparable Matt Wagner. This issue isn’t written by Wagner, nor is it drawn by Aaron Campbell, but the world created by those two in the original series remain alive and well in this new special. Following a spunky female newsie with an alcoholic dad, we see the exploits of the Green Hornet (supposedly a bad guy) through the eyes of an innocent child raised on the mean streets of 1930’s Chicago. Its exciting, its nuanced, it feels like an old serial. This book was a delight to read and it was interesting to figure out just who was the main character, the Hornet or the newsie, Ruby. Even though it was just one issue, it was fun revisiting this title.
This week was a little hit or miss and not as up to par as some of its predecessors. Still it had some real gems in the bunch. Next week promises to be much better with Batwoman and three Green Lantern titles hitting the racks, as well as two more “Death of the Family” tie-ins and the concluding issue of Before Watchmen: Minutemen. Can’t wait.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman #16: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Jonathan Glapion
Batgirl #16: Art by Ed Benes, Colored by Ulises Arreola
Threshold #1: Art by Scott Kolins, Colored by John Kalisz
Superboy #16: Drawn by Iban Coello & Amilcar Pinna, Colored by Richard & Tanya Horie, Inked by Rob Lean & Amilcar Pinna
Green Hornet: Year One Special #1: Art by Edu Menna, Colored by Marcelo Pinto