This was a massive week with so many incredible books coming out. The conclusion of Batwoman’s main storyline begun September of 2011, the beginning of the last arcs of the Green Lantern titles as they have been since 2005, the introduction of two new series, and perhaps the most powerful issue of Legion of Super-Heroes we’ve seen since Paul Levitz returned to the title in 2010. A lot of stellar storytelling, without further ado:
- Justice League #17 concludes the “Throne of Atlantis” event in perhaps one of the most morally ambiguous, honest endings. With Arthur’s former adviser and friend, Vulko, revealed as the architect of the war between Land and Sea, Arthur has to subdue his brother King Orm, aka Ocean Master, to usher in peace. Of course, he succeeds, however the cost is very painful to behold. Since the first time he appeared in Aquaman, Ocean Master has been a very fair leader. His home was attacked and he responded harshly. No one can deny that point. His treatment by his brother and the Justice League, who already have been portrayed as unsympathetic bullies, is hard to watch. This is the birth of a villain and I can’t say that I won’t be cheering Orm on in the future. When you marginalize a person with legitimate grievances you create concrete animosities. And the hollow victory bought by offering his brother up like a herring on a silver platter is very hollow, considering that people still do not trust Arthur. Perhaps its super realistic, but I again find it lackluster and hard to love the protagonists. Better luck next time, Geoff Johns.
- Action Comics #17 delivers the first half of Grant Morrison’s big finale on his Action run. The issue’s really a recap of all the things that define Superman as a comic book icon and as a paragon of heroism. Starting with the Kents who shaped this young, omnipotent alien into a compassionate everyman, the issue shows how many people Superman has touched over the years and to what degree. The fifth dimensional madman Vyndktvx offers the people of Earth eternal life and their hearts desires if they refuse to help Superman in his hour of need. That hour is now, and even with a multiversal behemoth throwing him around like a ragdoll, and depsite his own warnings to stay back, the people come to his aid. Also rushing to his aid is perhaps the most unlikely of people. Morrison tells this story brilliantly, tying everything he has done together with a quick narration by Vyndktvx himself, breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to us. Sholly Fisch tells a heartwarming backup story that will have occurred after the next concluding issue of Action Comics. Superman goes back in time somehow to talk to his father on the night he and Ma both die. It’s sweet, it’s heart warming, and very personal. Superman doesn’t tell them they are going to die, and even though Pa intuits that this might be the case, he doesn’t want to know either. The two just share one last moment of happiness together, and Clark gets the chance to, in essence, say goodbye. The scene is very reminiscent to but much briefer than Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman #7 in which Superman gets that chance in that story’s reality. Just a great issue heralding the end of an era to come next month in Action Comics #18.
- Justice League of America #1 is a decent introductory issue. When starting a group book there are two ways to go about it: assemble immediately or have the team snowball, with members joining as the issues accumulate. In this one issue, writer Geoff Johns harkens back to a brief moment at the end of his first arc of Justice League with a scene involving two men meeting, hinting at the formation of a fraternity of supervillains. Beginning with this interaction, the comic then goes to an overarching conversation between former League liason to A.R.G.U.S., Col. Steve Trevor, meeting with current liason Amanda Waller in the interest of creating a second team sanctioned and moderated by the American government. A Justice League of America. As they discuss each member, the story cuts to the recruitment of said member in whiplash cutaways that do the bare minimum to introduce that character to you. If you haven’t read Catwoman, Green Lantern, Stormwatch, The Savage Hawkman, or the two new ongoing series Katana and Vibe, that’s just too bad. On the outside of this conversation also is a quick, tense scene of an Oni masked hero racing through a jungle from unknow assailants, bleeding out and attempting to get a message through. This was the aspect of the book that buoyed the plot up and compelled the reader to know more. At issue’s end he makes it back to A.R.G.U.S. and his identity is revealed, but his message has yet to be delivered. I liked this first issue. I am familiar with the characters and was able to fill in the blanks, but that may not carry over to new readers. Art provided by David Finch is liney, dark, and ominous, really setting a harsh and uncertain tone to the overall plot which engages the reader almost immediately. I will liken this series to a baby born of a diseased mother, the metaphorical mother being Justice League. Geoff Johns has shown in JL that he seems incapable of writing a team book without losing the characters within to pettiness and ego, rendering them unrelatable caricatures of their current solo selves. Here the new series is exhibiting what could be the beginnings of these symptoms of the diseased parent, but not without some signs of vitality. Time will tell as to how this series comes out. Martian Manhunter is perhaps the most disgusting character that the reboot and, I am assuming, Johns himself has birthed into this New DCU. J’onn J’onzz was an alien that came to Earth as a stranger in a strange land, curious and full of optimism. His delving into human society was about finding what was good in this strange new species. Here he is a cold, hollow figure with incomparable power that dwells on the harsh, sinister motivations in men and offers it back in kind. Maybe Johns and his bosses are trying to be edgy, but they are failing horribly and taking down beloved characters as collateral damage.
- Batwoman #17 is a red letter issue. There has been a continuous plot stretched over three story arcs of missing children in Gotham having been kidnapped by Medusa and Batwoman attempting to find them and bring them home safely. That has also been the goal of Capt. Maggie Sawyer of the Gotham City police, who also happens to be the girlfriend of Batwoman’s alter ego, Kate Kane. This third arc has had Batwoman teamed up with Wonder Woman to stop the crazed gorgon, Medusa, from using the children as a sacrifice to lure Ceto, the Greek goddess who birthed all monsters into the world, back into reality. With this final issue Ceto is summoned forth and Batwoman and Wonder Woman must find a way to stop her from tearing the fabric of reality to pieces. There is so little I can say about this issue because of how remarkable it is in both story and art, brought to us by J.H. Williams III in both capacities with co-writer W. Haden Blackman’s assistance. In both her identity as Batwoman and Kate Kane, this issue changes everything. The missing children plot that consisted of these first seventeen issues was interesting, considering the main issues that dominated her first solo appearance, pre-Reboot. Well with this overarching plot concluded, Williams and Blackman tease us on the last page with a return of Batwoman’s personal ghosts. I am dying to read the next issue in March and would urge you to do the same.
- Green Lantern #17 ushers in the “Wrath of the First Lantern” event, which also is the last event in the runs of the current Green Lantern titles’ creative teams. Obviously, Geoff Johns’ run on Green Lantern is the most lamented of these casualties with his having been on this title longest of any of the current series writers and also being the visionary that brought Hal Jordan back to life and reimagined the GL mythology to the complex, multifaceted marvel it currently is. After the Green Lantern Corps Annual last month, Volthoom, the first Lantern, is released upon the universe. The issue begins with a brief explanation of how he came to meet the Guardians and what he embodies and then proceeds billions of years later in our present to show what he plans to do. Somehow Volthoom is possessed of infinite power including the ability to warp and manipulate time to venture into tangential universes predicated on every single decision ever made or that ever will be made. That coupled with a sadistic desire to feed off of pain like an emotional vampire paints an even more twisted villain than the inhumanly cold Guardians. Also in this issue, newly minted Green Lantern, Simon Baz, comes face to face with the Black Hand on his quest to find Hal Jordan and by extension stop the Guardians. This event promises to be a stunning finale to what has been an incredible eight year run on the title and the Green Lantern line of books.
- Green Lantern Corps #17 brings Volthoom into Guy Gardner’s life both literally and figuratively. The emotional vampire attaches to the surliest of the Green Lanterns like the Ghost of Christmas Past and Christmas Might Have Been preying on the raw feeling that lie beneath Guy’s cynical attitude. Anyone who knows how abraisive Guy can be can only imagine the horrors from his past. We are shown them and alternate versions of them as Volthoom tortures Guy over his mistakes the circumstances of his life that held him back from where and who he wanted to be. Peter Tomasi plays this issue like a stratevarius, plucking the heartstrings of his readers who can’t help but empathize with our sarcastic hero.
- Green Lantern: New Guardians #17 mimicks Green Lantern Corps with Volthoom trapping Kyle Rayner in his temporal web. Next to Hal Jordan, Kyle Rayner is my favorite Green Lantern and this issue proves why. Kyle is someone who had horrific things happen in his past, including his girlfiend being killed and her mutilated body stuffed into his refridgerator and his father walking out him and his mom when he was very young. Volthoom plays his sick games by altering these events to torment Kyle, but to Kyle’s credit Volthoom has to bust out his A-game, as Kyle continues to see the silver lining to most of the things he’s exposed to by the sadistic First Lantern. In trying to torment this paragon of will power, Volthoom only proves to us how strong and amazing Kyle is and how the greatest heroism sometimes is just refusing to let life and circumstances get you down. Tony Bedard is amazing and as stated above his run on this title is ending in May with the twentieth issue of this series. I have to say that I saddened by his departure considering this issue and all the issues he’s written in this line that has been exemplars of storytelling. Aaron Kuder’s run also ends with #20 and he will also be missed as he too renders the subject material with grace and eloquence second to none.
- Nightwing #17 gives the epilogue to “Death of the Family” from the perspective of Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing. As a result of him being in the lives of the people at Haly’s circus several members including their clown, James Clark, and his former girlfriend, Raya, are killed and the rest hospitalized after the Joker’s attacks. Alfred tries to console him and he says he’s fine. He goes to visit the survivors in the hospital and those that don’t hold a grudge try to tell him he’s not to blame and its not his fault and he says he’s fine. He goes to the funerals and his ambiguously romantic friend Sonia Branch (nee Zucco) tells him not to blame himself and he says he is fine. However, when criminals try to pillage the remains of Haly’s Circus, he goes bat-sh** crazy. As solicited on the cover, Damian is the only person that can bring him back from the brink. Ironic, considering how sociopathic Damian is and what his usual modus operandi when dealing with criminals consists of. What this issue does so well is underscoring how incredible the relationship is between these two truly is. When Dick took over the role of Batman following Bruce’s disappearance it was his choice to take Damian on as Robin and his faith that Damian could be more than the psychopathic killer his mother, Talia Al-Ghul, fashioned him into. As a result I think that this issue shows him looking out for his “older brother” and not letting him cross lines he will regret. Also it shows how well he knows Nightwing. Dick told everyone he was fine and did a good job putting up the charade, but Damian knew with complete certitude that he was not. Damian puts up a facade of apathy that in a lot of instances isn’t a facade, but rather him just not caring. But here despite his cavalier attitude, he cares enough to follow Dick for several days to make sure that when the pressure building up within him finally burst out, he’d be there to stop him from breaking his moral convictions. Kyle Higgins writes it quite well and with art by Juan Jose Ryp, the issue comes off quite well.
- Red Hood and the Outlaws #17 provides a thoughtful epilogue for Jason Todd after the “Death of the Family” storyline. Jason is someone that was burned early on by the Joker and has thick skin when it comes to such things, but tender flesh beneath. While the others may have been really messed up by what the Joker did, Jason has already been lured into a trap by the Joker with his supposedly departed mother as bait and beaten to death and blown to smithereens. However, learning that the Joker was the architect of his becoming Robin and most of the misfortunes that led him to that horrible place doesn’t fail to register. So going back one last time to the Manor and the Cave he talks to various members of the family and says his farewells once again out of duty. Though its a perfunctory visit, Bruce tells him perhaps the only thing that could heal a wound like finding out the Joker engineered your traumatic childhood, “No, Jason. He didn’t make you. I never did either. You made you.” The visit seems to end on a high note, except that the Joker is not one to let things end with his having the last laugh. When Jason retrieves his signature red hood and puts it on there is a surprise waiting for him within. I have NO idea what that means for future stories, but its still a chilling ending point. Scott Lobdell is close to ending his tenure on the title and appears to be throwing a live grenade into the works for his successor James Tynion IV to pick up.
- DC Universe Presents #17 follows Red Hood and the Outlaws by spinning a yarn about Roy Harper, aka Arsenal, that captures his history, his flaws and virtues, and how he is viewed by those around him. Arsenal has been depicted in the past as a hard edged, loose cannon whose actions often result in a self destructive spiral. In this new DC Universe he is more buffoonish, and jocular. Starting off with him missing a mission with teammates Red Hood and Starfire, he’s made fun of and called worthless by his “friends.” In reality he is in Hong Kong, imprisoned by the Triad after attempting to rescue Killer Croc, a Batman villain he ran afoul of in Red Hood and the Outlaws #3 and who consequently helped him get back on his feet. Shackled in the basement of a Triad hideout, Roy not only steals a “quarter” from one of his tormentors but also uses it to break his shackles over the course of hours and then cleans out the place with nothing but a tool box. Yes he is a bit of a joke, but what he’s capable of doing when he puts his mind to the task is no joke, nor is the lengths he will go to help someone that showed him a modicum of kindness when he most needed it. Joe Keatinge writes this incredible one-shot and Ricken provides art.
- Legion of Super-Heroes #17 was brutal. This issue was incredibly good on all fronts. The writing by Paul Levitz was phenomenal, taking place on Rimbor as well as a far distant location (whose importance to the plot becomes integrally crucial) amidst explosions and complete chaos. All of that rendered on the page gorgeously by artist Keith Giffen with his Kirby-esque pencils. Shortly after being elected leader, Phantom Girl is dealt perhaps the worst hand imaginable as she and two other Legionnaires become marooned after a malfunction of their spacecraft crashes them into an unknown locale. Across the universe Ultra Boy, Glorith, and Brainiac 5 witness an equally cataclysmic disaster on Rimbor after a massive planet-wide electrical malfunction. The lead up to this issue has been in the works since the very first issue of the rebooted series almost two years ago, and the consequences will be felt forever. This is a DARK turn in the world of the 31st century. If you are a fan of the Legion, you will feel this issue deep in your bones. I had to set this issue down twice to get my bearings and take a few breaths. Levitz and Giffen hit this one out of the park. It should be noted that these two collaborated almost exclusively on Levitz’s first run on the characters in the 80’s. Thirty years later, they’ve come a long way but haven’t taken one step backward. I can only imagine that Levitz got Giffen on this arc for the very reason that both of them needed to be on it for sentimentality sake. If you love the Legion read this book. If you don’t love the Legion, please don’t. Not to be an elitist, but if you don’t understand and love the characters, you wouldn’t appreciate the truly sorrowful events chronicled within.
- Supergirl #17 picks up on two of the conflicts Superboy ended on last week. Wonder Woman took on Supergirl and Superman took on H’el in the hope of giving Superboy a chance to disable the Star Chamber that is literally draining our Sun of its energy to power H’el’s device to travel back in time and prevent Krypton’s destruction. Wonder Woman proves to be the only one capable of literally smacking some sense into Supergirl. The latter of which still trying to convince herself that H’el’s scheme won’t be an act of mass genocide. However, Super Girl’s super-denial is no match for Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth. The Maiden of Steel is unable to break its hold on her body nor on her conscience. Superman does prove as successful when dealing with H’el, but after painfully coming to terms with the truth, Kara is unable to continue her association with H’el, regardless of how much she would like to go home. With this alliance shattered, the heroes of Earth rallied against him, and the Oracle arriving in Earth’s orbit, the stage is set for the finale of “H’el on Earth” in Superman #17.
- Wonder Woman #17 has Wonder Woman meeting up with her old mentor, War (Ares), in the bar Hera and Zola snuck out to and journeying to the secret hiding place of Demeter where Hermes has spirited Zola and Zeus’s infant to. On the other side of the world the First Born reveals his benefactor with the metal neck to be Cassandra and with the prophetess’s help goes to seek his weapons, hidden by his uncle Poseidon. This issue is interesting, but I am really looking forward to the end of this plotline with the gods meddling with one another and progressing to the Amazing Amazon in contemporary settings with some of her classic stable of villains. Brian Azzarello’s writing is good, if not drawn out, and Tony Akins’ pencils are excellent.
- Vibe #1 is another case of “here’s to lowered expectations.” The character was an F-list character to begin with and something of a practical joke whenever he made appearances in second string DC titles. George Perez, legendary artist and writer, absolutely hated him as a caricature of Hispanic Americans. However, considering that main character Cisco Ramon is from Detroit, Justice League of America writer Geoff Johns couldn’t help but put him in the line up. On the plus side, being as under appreciated as he was left Johns and series writer Andrew Kreisberg with the freedom to revamp him however they wanted. Now having his vibratory powers linked with boom tubes from Darkseid’s invasion of Earth, he’s become something of a dimensional expert and border cop. Right from the start his role as a superhero is linked to the JLA title and his success tied to his freedom, unbeknownst to him. Another obscure character cameo comes in an imprisoned woman in a cell labeled “Gypsy,” also a veteran of Justice League Detroit. Johns and Kreisberg also set the hook at the end by hearkening back to the reference in Justice League #6 to Darkseid’s daughter, and the further shocker that she is in fact in A.R.G.U.S custody. Bit of a spoiler, but still a good reason to get into this title. Game well played, Johns. I’ll buy your series for the time being . . .
- Sword of Sorcery #5 returns Amy to Gemworld and to her mother, Lady Graciel of House Amethyst. With her return the pair travel to the capital of House Turquoise to visit the tomb of Amy’s father, Lord Vyrian. When they reach their destination not only do they finally uncover the identity of his betrayer, they are also assaulted by two rogue assassins of House Onyx. More interesting is the choice of the next Lord of House Turquoise after the events of this issue. In the Stalker backup feature, writer Marc Andreyko attempts to make the revamp of this character work, but fails. Sorry. Even Andrei Bressan’s awesome art can’t rescue it.
- Batman Beyond Unlimited #13 contains both a beginning and and end. For starters, this issue begins the second arc of Justice League Unlimited Beyond called “Flashdrive.” The storyline stymies me a little bit as there seems to be two things going on in the plot that don’t have any connection to one another. The main body of the story picks up on a scene from the “Batman Beyond” movie entitled “The Return of the Joker.” In the flashback portion of the film, the Joker kidnaps Tim Drake and turns him into a child Joker with chemicals and gene therapy and Tim ends up killing him. That is the end of what is shown in the movie, but this issue continues it on, with Batman creating a morgue for supervillains so that when they die there will be no resting place their followers and acolytes can use to gather or make into a monument. This morgue is built on the lowest sublevel of the Batcave that only Bruce and Barbara Gordon know exists. There is a break in and it is neither Bruce nor Barbara, raising the question of who could have known about it and how they got in considering the fail-safes put in place by Batman, the most paranoid man alive. Cut to a female docent at the Flash Museum having speedster abilities and an attack on the re-opening Museum drawing in Mister Miracle, Big Barda, Merina, Micron, and Green Lantern Kai-Ro. I know that eventually there will be a connection made, but right now I am totally lost. Next comes the conclusion of “10,000 Clowns” in Batman Beyond. This one is pretty procedural and ends in a logical sense. Batman (Terry McGinnis) faces off against Joker King and the latter’s defeat is clearly an eventuality, but the consequences are what are relevant here. The ending of this seems to be heavily influenced by the Christopher Nolan film “The Dark Knight”, with the question lingering as to whether Joker King won or lost, and with the assertion that he didn’t win, the further question of did anyone really win? In the Superman Beyond feature, the Trillians have captured Superman and put on a show trial for his “crimes” against their race, which again are still pretty vague. I don’t feel confident commenting on this storyline, so I will abstain until further on into its plotline. Overall a really good issue that delves into the animated mythology in interesting ways that take me back to the days I watched them as a wide eyed child or adolescent.
- Womanthology: Space #5 delivers another slew of stories at varying lengths that run the gamut of relevance to the genre of Space. One deals with an ungainly girl in elementary school who is tall, lanky, and extremely clumsy except when she runs which is when she feels the most free. In her school’s play she is cast as the comet and all she has to do . . . is run. The next vignette is entitled “The Wind in her Hair” about a girl living in a dirigible who desires freedom and a tin-man looking automaton living on the polluted ground below who wants to take the tree he has cared for his entire life up above the poisoned clouds where “she” can grow and thrive. A chance meeting between the girl and the gardener droid gives both the hope that they need to see their dreams through to fruition. Writer Allison Pang and artist Chrissie Zullo create a story that is both romantic and ethereal with the bronze daguerreotype look of a 1920’s German Expressionist film. The remaining pieces, while still very good are more abstract and not as readily synopsized. This series has proven to be innovated and very compelling. This is the fifth of six issue, so I would suggest that if you missed these and aren’t in a place to go back and catch up, wait for the collection to come out and then read them all in their entirety. Truly a breathtaking series.
This really was the most consistantly excellent week of February. Those titles that I have praised highly just prove how poweful and dynamic the comic medium can be to the newcomer and faithful alike. I pray that next month finds these same titles meet the mark set here and perhaps exceeding it once more. One thing is for certain, this week was a good week to be a comic book fan.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Justice League #17: Drawn by Ivan Reis, Colored by Rod Reis & Nathan Eyring, Inked by Joe Prado, Oclair Albert & Sean Parsons
Justice League of America #1: Art by David Finch, Colored by Sonia Oback & Jeromy Cox
Batwoman #17: Art by J.H. Williams III, Colored by Dave Stewart
Green Lantern #17: Drawn by Dan Jurgens, Colored by Alex Sinclair & Tony Avina, Inked by Phil Jimenez
Green Lantern: New Guardians #17: Art by Aaron Kuder, Colored by Wil Quintana
Red Hood and the Outlaws #17: Art by Adrian Syaf, Robson Rocha & Ken Lashley, Colored by Blond
Vibe #1: Drawn by Pete Woods, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Sean Parsons
Womanthology: Space #5 “The Wind in Her Hair” segment: Art by Chrissie Zullo