This week is shaping up to be a juggernaut. So many incredible titles are coming out in so many amazing events: “Death of the Family”, “Green Lantern: Rise of the Third Army”, “Before Watchmen”, “Throne of Atlantis”, and “H’el on Earth.” Throw in Batwoman and Sword of Socery and you have a real party. I am literally shaking with anticipation to crack the first book of this massive week. So let’s not keep me waiting any longer:
- Justice League #16 brings on part three of the “Throne of Atlantis” crossover. I have had a great deal of negative feedback on most of Johns’ current endeavors, and most notably in this title. He’s bastardized a great deal of things and I stick to my previous opinions. However, in this issue he returns to doing what he had done so well prior to the Reboot. This issue is rich in allusions to other DC characters and concepts, such as Dr. Magnus and the Metal Men, Dr. T.O. Morrow and Red Tornado, Tula of Atlantis, etc., reintroducing them in conversationally appropriate ways and with interesting new contexts. What he also does is humanize all parties involved. Though I don’t enjoy how nemish and shortsighted he’s made seminal characters like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, perhaps there is a realism within that is necessary to the execution of this very morally complex plot. Conversely, what Johns did seven and a half years ago with Sinestro, making him not a straight out psychopathic villain but rather a complex antihero, he does in this series with Aquaman’s brother, King Orm, aka Ocean Master. Stakes are high and tensions are at a breaking point. This issue marks the halfway point and despite my aversion to this series, Johns has me hook, line, and sinker. In the SHAZAM! backup feature Johns has progressed past the ludicrous beginnings of the series and entered into a new version of the Captain Marvel mythology that is both rich and nuanced. I really enjoyed this one, actually. Although, Billy does revert back to his child self at the end, which could mean a return to the awful presentation of Billy Batson that Johns so unskillfully presented before. My hope is that being in an adult’s body for even the short duration that four months of comics equates to will at least marginally mature him so we don’t have to witness his infantile crap for another slew of issues. I have hope for this series after reading this issue, but retain the past failures of the series pragmatically within memory.
- Batwoman #16 returns our protagonist to her hometown of Gotham as it descends into utter chaos with the advent of Medusa herself. With Wonder Woman accompanying her, the duo this arc dubs the “World’s Finest” sets out to subdue Medusa’s mythological forces (complete with gargantuan Hydra) and rescue the children abducted by the mad gorgon. Its all hands on deck. Not only are Batwoman and Wonder Woman on the streets of Gotham, but most of the Gotham City Police Department led by Batwoman’s lover, Det. Maggie Sawyer, and DEO agent Cameron Chase and Director Bones. In this penultimate chapter of the arc spanning storyline its all or nothing. Batwoman has found Medusa and the missing children. Medusa’s horrifying plot is revealed in full as she attempts to resurrect the literal “mother of all monster” into the mortal world with the sacrifice of the innocent children. However it goes down, next issue is the end of this first overarching storyline and the end of Batwoman’s first real test as a Gotham City superhero. J.H. Williams III does a stunning job rendering this story from an equally stunning script by W. Haden Blackman and himself. I don’t know if I will be able to wait until February to find out the end of this conflict that has almost been two years in the making.
- Green Lantern #16 picks up with Simon Baz after learning the truth behind the bombing he was framed for and the appearance of B’dg, Green Lantern of Sector 1014. The stunning revelation last issue was that the Green Lantern Corps is aware of the Guardians of the Universe’s plot to destroy free will throughout the universe with their Third Army. B’dg comes to Earth seeking Hal Jordan, the greatest of their number, to enlist his aid in stopping their masters from realizing their mad scheme. To his dismay, the ringslinger he finds is not only a rookie, but inherited his ring from Sinestro and Hal, both of whom have disappeared. Baz is needed regardless if the Corps is going to stand a chance against the Guardians. Before he can leave, he has things to attend to on Earth and despite B’dg’s impatience, Baz proves himself to be a Green Lantern like no other as well as possessing an incredible amount of will, on par with all of his Earth lantern brothers. Another awesome issue from Geoff Johns and artist Doug Mahnke.
- Green Lantern Corps #16 unites the Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps titles in anticipation of next week’s Green Lantern Corps Annual #1. Stripped of his ring and rank, Guy Gardner returns to Earth a broken man attempting to find a new purpose in life. As with most things Guy does, he mismanages his actions and ends up being arrested . . . by his brother and sister. While they are interrogating him in lock up, the Third Army attacks and takes out guards and inmates alike. Its looking bleak for the Gardner siblings, but help is not far away in the form of Simon Baz, newest Earth Green Lantern, and B’dg, squirrel Green Lantern of Sector 1014. With their aid a crisis is averted and Guy becomes aware of the Guardians plot and his being a casualty of it. Elsewhere in the universe, John Stewart continues his mission with Fatality of the Star Sapphires to find the missing pieces of Mogo (the deceased planet GL) and reunite them so the slain Green Lantern can reform and become whole. Though not much is revealed about this, the reformation of Mogo seems like it will have a great impact on events, but the fact that the Guardians willed it to happen portends ominous tidings. I cannot wait to see what the Green Lantern Corps Annual next week has in store for us, the GL’s, and the universe in general.
- Green Lantern: New Guardians #16 is one of those issues that you wait for for a very long time and once it arrives you swoon at its near perfection. I have compared this second arc of the series after the “Ring Thief” arc that comprised its second year of publication as similar to “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” Indeed, with Kyle’s transmogrified ring he has the ability to channel all seven colors of the emotional spectrum. From previous experience in Blackest Night we know that this convocation would lead to him becoming a White Lantern. He’s obviously mastered Green, and has preternatural talent with Blue (hope) as we saw in New Guardians #0. With the help of Atrocitus he’s mastered Red (hate), Arkillo with Yellow (fear), and the seeming lack of help from Larfleeze he’s tapped Orange (greed). Indigo-1’s tutoring of Indigo (compassion) was glossed over, which not only doesn’t make sense, considering its immense power, it also undermines his having to do anything past that, taking into account that Indigo Lanterns (or Tribesman, if you will) can channel any emotion they are in contact with. That all aside, Violet (love) is the last emotion that stands between Kyle and his complete mastery of the emotional spectrum. However, Kyle is one that has been stunted in the love department for almost his entire life, finding it hard to vocalize, so this last hurdle is the most difficult for him to surmount. And wouldn’t you know that this would be the time that Ganthet, his former mentor and now Guardian of the Universe gone mad, would arrive with his Third Army thugs to snuff out Kyle before he can become a threat. The stakes in this series have never been so high and Kyle will either shine brighter than he ever has or be snuffed out like a candle in the wind. Tony Bedard is a brilliant. Period. Aaron Kuder adds to this masterpiece issue with peerless pencils and inks. I am bookmarking this issue in the annuls of my mind.
- Before Watchmen: Minutemen #6 closes out the series and does so with crushing impetus. The saga of the Minutemen, chronicled narratively and visually by the incomparable Darwin Cooke, has been one that cuts to the heart and character of its band of players. Most of them were glossed over in the original Watchmen series by Alan Moore, but with DC’s exploration of the Before Watchmen line, each gets their overdue turn in the limelight. Following the murder of the Silhouette and her long crusade to stop child predators and Nite Owl’s picking up of that crusade after her death events point to Hooded Justice, the most secretive Minuteman of the bunch, as the murderer and torturer of young children. This issue is the final account that ties up the series and answers questions that has been lingering through several Before Watchmen series. From the Ozymandias series “What happened to Hooded Justice, and why are the Comedian and the Government so keen to keep it a secret?” From the Nite Owl series “What is the secret that is so damning that Hollis Mason, the first Nite Owl (and main character in Minutemen), which he is so keen to keep hidden forever?” This issue answers those questions and more in a truly terrifying and unbelievable sequence of events that will alter forever the way most readers look on the background cast of characters in Watchmen. Darwyn Cooke’s prowess with a pencil and pen and his genius as a writer are unparalleled here and stand as an eternal monument to his place in comic book history.
- Legion of Super-Heroes #16 returns to the Levitz-ian paradigm of storytelling with multiple stories and issues being put forward. First on the docket, Chamelon Boy, Lightning Lass, and Shrinking Violet go to Takron-Galtos, the United Planets’ prison world, to check on the status of the Fatal Five member, Validus. Since Legion of Super-Heroes #8 last April, the resurrection of the Legion’s most powerful group of antagonists, the Fatal Five, has been in the offing. Bit by bit, evidence that they have been reforming in secret is being brought to light. Validus, thought to be safely locked in a cube of inertron is one of the last pieces to the puzzle. On the other side of the universe, at the Legion HQ, Brainiac 5 is busy trying to ascertain the cause of Glorith’s abduction last issue to Barcelona and the why and how of her causing a time rift, bringing forth denizens of that city from across its long history. Lastly, and as an interim plot between these plo tpoints, the Legion election is drawing to a close and the Legionnaires debate amongst themselves who should lead the team as the votes are tallied to decided said leader. This series is ironically one of the most realistic, because of the writing style of Paul Levitz, who gets that with a team of this size a lot of crazy things are going to happen simultaneously, and that with young heroes like these egos and hormones are going to stir things up.
- Nightwing #16 brings the “Death of the Family” tie-in of this title to a close as it did in both Batgirl and Batman & Robin, with the Joker holding a platter in front of the title’s protagonist and the solicitation that a conclusion will come in Batman #17. The twofold storyline of this title’s tie-in was really well played by writer Kyle Higgins. Last month’s issue setup quite well an inventory of everything Dick Grayson had built up and the people whose trust he had earned. Following the Joker’s reemergence and Dick’s realization that he had made them all targets, he did his best to cut ties and ferry everyone around him to safety. This issue shows not only how great his failures are, but to what lengths the Joker would go to make a point and just how resourceful he can be. One scene I think shows his attention to detail at its most nightmarish +throughout the entire line of Batbooks. Admittedly the human tapestry in Batman #16 was gruesome, but pales in comparison to the detail and and scope of his carnival show at Haly’s. Like Tim, Jason, and Damian, Joker really gets to the heart of what should be Dick’s main strengths and shows how they are really his greatest weaknesses. For Dick it’s his compassion and interpersonal nature. So much of what he worked his entire life to build could very well burn down in the space of a single evening. I have no idea what the title holds after the final page of Batman #17 and the first several pages of Nightwing #17, but I am going to be there for both. Good ending or bad, I sense ill tidings for Haly’s and its owner, the benighted Nightwing.
- Red Hood and the Outlaws #16 crosses over with Teen Titans as the Outlaws (Starfire and Roy Harper) team up with the Titans to find their respective teammates (Jason and Tim) who were kidnapped by the Joker and brought to Gotham. Both series are written by Scott Lobdell, who clearly is more than qualified to execute this crossover. The issue in fact reads more like a Teen Titans issue than a Red Hood issue. In fact, they don’t actually show Jason or Tim once in this issue. Jason’s red hood yes, but not the man who wears it. Most of the issue is Roy and Starfire hauling the Titan’s “turkey out of the fire” as they fumble to fix the fallout from the Joker’s trap the Titans fell into, and the aforementioned teens being really angsty and resentful for it. It is interesting seeing how the two teams gel as they are forced to work together, and some very interesting backstory of Roy’s is revealed as he begins to relate with the overly emo teens he’s having to take charge of. On the periphery of this issue’s storyline are two seemingly unrelated references, one to Dr. Hugo Strange doing a book signing and the other to Deathstroke throwing knives at three pictures of each of the Outlaws and a brief comment on how he sometimes takes jobs simply for the fun of it. I don’t know if this is Lobdell introducing plots to the two titles post-“Death of the Family” or what, but they are intriguing to say the least.
- Supergirl #16 begins with the awakening of the giant crustacean looking beast that blew the Horn of Confluence in Superman #1 seventeen months ago, as well Superman #0 five months ago, and ends with the first image of the master whom the herald’s horn summons. In between, H’el’s nightmarish plot for our solar system nearly reaches its conclusion and without Superman or Superboy (see last week’s review of Superboy #16) the Justice League is force to muddle though. Flash’s task is to find Supergirl and get her away from H’el and out of the way of his endgame. However, the Maiden of Steel is dead set on saving her home planet even at the expense of our solar system and every living thing residing within. Her hopes and dreams are understandable, but her blindness to the value of human life and our right to existence is deplorable at best. She’s a teenager who is homesick. Its no excuse, but a reason to hold onto as she backs the wrong team. Mike Johnson does an excellent job writing this series, especially its larger implications into a wider storyline, and Mahmud Asrar draws it decently well.
- Superboy Annual #1 was a little trippy, taking place in a pocket dimension contained and generated by a device that Superman took off an evil space pirate in some far off quadrant of the universe. The whole of the issue revolves around Superboy and his Kryptonian progenitor, Superman, blundering through different, shifting locales within, battling the denizens of this temporal prison as well as the sentient dimension itself. The title falls under the “H’el on Earth” crossover event, but fails as an issue and an annual to do anything relevant to that goal. If anything it hinders, rather than explores it. So what does it accomplish? Very little. I think writer Tom DeFalco was aiming to further characterize the two characters in relation to one another, showing their differences and how each would cope with the other. It did not, in my opinion, accomplish that in any significant way either. All it did was bring out their worst characteristics of both in caricature. I respect Tom DeFalco and the work he has done on this title since taking it over greatly. I also have enormous respect Scott Lobdell, who wrote this series initially, and who tried to show the disjointed dynamic of these two men in the last issue of the Superman title. He didn’t pull it off, in my opinion, either. As Superboy #0 primed us to believe, Harvest preprogrammed Superboy to hate Superman and want to kill him. That hasn’t happened yet, which begs the question of what that was about if they aren’t going to run with it? This annual falls under the category of not really relevant or necessary to read. If you fail to read it, you lose nothing in understanding the larger events going on in the series or miss out on a worthwhile yarn. Better luck next time.
- Catwoman #16 is a bit of a disappointment as the title goes. I was a fan of writer Ann Nocenti’s early work on Green Arrow, but that has not translated to good writing on the rest of that series or through to this series. The “Death of the Family” tie-in turned out to be a joke of an issue, and not a funny one the Joker would take pride in. This two issue run beginning last issue and concluding here was laughable as well and thoroughly pointless. Dealing with the current whereabouts of the Black Diamond, perhaps it will be the two issues that introduces Eclipso back into the DCU, but I doubt that will have any importance either. I tried to find something good to say about this issue, but just couldn’t. It was the opposite of what is good.
- Blue Beetle #16 was a swan song to the seventeen issues of this series that have come out, ending in the Tenebrian Dominion and linking the continuance of fifteen year old Jaime Reyes’ (Blue Beetle) journey to the Threshold series and the “Hunted” reality show. Jaime does his utmost to fight his way out of the grasp of the Ebon warriors of Lady Styx and get home to his family, but that isn’t in the cards . . . at least not yet. He tries really hard. However, when his last flicker of hope is blown out, he has his armor send a video file across the far reaches of space (It’s a comic, just go with it) to the emails of his parents and best friends telling them Jaime is going to come home someday, but in the event that he can’t, just how much each of them meant to him. It is a beautiful moment despite the tragedy that befalls Blue Beetle as it plays out. His words to each party involved are brief, but just right, clearly touching each person deeply. Succumbing to his captors the issue closes, but it does so not with finality, but with infinite possibilities. I was leery about this series when it first came out and for awhile it teetered on the edge of getting dropped. I am so glad I saw it through to this last issue. It was worth every step of the journey and I will continue to follow Jaime into Threshold.
- Wonder Woman #16 brings the narrative back on track, setting the main characters’ sights (literally) on the baby of Zola and Zeus. With the help of Wonder Woman’s brother, Milan, the group are able to see that the baby is in the arms of both Hermes and Demeter in the latter’s stronghold. We are given further information about just why Orion has come to Earth and what his intentions are regarding the Gods of Earth. In the Arctic, we see the First Born battling the forces of one of his unnamed uncles that were sworn to guard his burial place as well as the unmasked benefactor of the First Born who dug him out of the tundra. The identity of this person caught me a little off guard and I look forward to future revelations regarding that character. Finally Zola and Hera, who really hate one another and have tried to kill each other often, find a common ground and begin to thaw in their relations with one another. This issue by Brian Azzarello really was intriguing, as well as giving evidence of greatness to come in future installments. Cliff Chiang remains an incredible artist and renders all aspects perfectly in the tone dictated by Azzarello’s story.
- DC Universe Presents: Black Lightning and Blue Devil #16, like last time, is a placeholder, but one that ends the current story arc. Here’s hoping the next three issues are better.
- JSA Liberty Files: The Whistling Skull #2 was yet again confusing. I’m going to have to do two placeholders in a row, because while this series has yet to come together in any meaningful way, I hold out hope that it will eventually when writer B. Clay Moore decides we should start to understand it. Honestly though, this issue and its predecessor were just random events thrown into a metaphorical blender. The only thing that links the two are references to the children disappearing and then being incinerated from the inside out. Other than that the characters, their origins, motives, and affiliations are all a complete blank. Holding down the fort is Tony Harris with incredible art. Barring that and its association with the other two JSA: Liberty Files miniseries, I would say pass this one up.
- Sword of Sorcery #4 begins with an Amethyst story taking place after she concluded her stint in Justice League Dark #14 but before she returns to her “home world”, the gem world of Nilaa. Asking Constantine to take her quickly to Chicago for a last taste of pizza before returning to a world without Italian food from which she may never return, she stumbles across more evil magic on Earth that demands her attention. This little yarn wasn’t that interesting or important to the main story, so we’ll chock this installment up to a less than exciting vacation and continue with the series anew next month, this time back in Nilaa where the character truly belongs, both inside and outside of the narrative. Also this month begins the Stalker backup feature written by the DC Universe Presents: Black Lightning and Blue Devil scribe, Marc Andreyko. I didn’t care for his above storyline and I can’t say that I liked this one either. It was okay. Much better than the Black Lightning and Blue Devil story, but the problem was that he was re-imagining a work of genius from the past with which I had a deep affection. Paul Levitz wrote four issues of the Stalker series with Steve Ditko on pencils, before the series was cancelled due to the comic book implosion of the late 70’s. With the original, it was a true swords & sorcery title that had a very straightforward, dark, and twisted character. This run by Andreyko tried too hard to make him grandiose and relatable and totally missed the mark on all counts. It then proceeds to show him living through the ages and emerging in the here and now, which again is completely WRONG for this title. For those who want to know more about what the original series is about, I am going to put this link to my review of the Steve Ditko Omnibus in which the four issue of the Stalker series are collected: https://offthepanelcomicreview.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/review-the-steve-ditko-omnibus-vol-1-starring-shade-the-changing-man/
- Saucer Country #11 tells the story of Governor Alvarado returning with her ex-husband, Michael, to the farm he grew up on. Taking a detour from aliens, this story focuses on another folklore very akin to alien sightings but far more terrestrial. Instead of little gray men, this issue has little winged men and women. As children, Michael and his sister, Beth, used to see fairies and go on magical adventures. He relives some of these memories including the last great encounter before things changed and he and Beth were forced to abandon belief in what they knew in their hearts actually happened. Upon revisiting the events with people who were around back then, Michael realizes the truth behind the trauma that conjured fairies in the mind of two young innocent children. The harsh reality that he discovers and the way the mind coped by sugaring the event over with fairies leads the reader to wonder what that holds for the existence of aliens and their role in the larger story being told here. Paul Cornell continues this magnum opus, spawned from a lifelong fascination with alien mythology, with great talent and insight, constantly making the reader think and always keeping any inkling of what is going on cleanly out of reach.
Thus ends an incredible week of comics. I am giddy as the fallout of the better titles play out in my head. I dare say this may be the best week in comics I have read this month and perhaps in a long time. Not all the best, but collectively there was a high quotient of awesome that is rarely matched let alone surpassed. We’ll see if next week, the final of the January, can stand the test. While I highly doubt it, I will be there to test them. Hope you will too.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Justice League #16: Drawn by Ivan Reis, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Joe Prado & Ivan Reis
Batwoman #16: Art by J.H. Williams III, Colored by Dave Stewart
Green Lantern: New Guardians #16: Art by Aaron Kuder, Colored by Wil Quintana
Before Watchmen: Minutemen #6: Art by Darwyn Cooke, Colored by Phil Noto
Supergirl #16: Art by Mahmud Asrar, Colored by Dave McCaig
Wonder Woman #16: Art by Cliff Chiang, Colored by Matthew Wilson