This week features some really incredible issues. Batman Inc brings us to the direct aftermath of the slaying of Robin, Damian Wayne, and what that portends for the overall Batman universe. Joe Kubert Presents concludes its six issue run. And so many other books of merit, there’s no point in prefacing them. Here they are:
- Batman Inc #9 represents a turning point in the title. The forces of Leviathan continue to press their advantage upon the Batman Incorporated lines. However, following the deaths of several Batman Inc agents, not least of which Batman’s son, Damian, the forces of the Batman begin to rally against the oppressive foe with renewed vigor. If the state of affairs as of this issue’s ending had to be boiled down to one sentence it be simply be: “It is ON!” Batman is ANGRY and his inner circle of allies are champing at the bit as well. Talia’s plan is a well oiled machine, but her cloned son going off script and murdering his “twin” was perhaps the chink in the chain that will break her dreams of revenge on the Dark Knight and his legacy. Though in the end, after killing their child, how much lower can she bring Batman? With the terror she has inflicted on Gotham and the political pressure from above to acquiesce to her demands, Batman Inc is outlawed and driven back into the shadows of Gotham. However, where do bats do their best hunting? Grant Morrison is writing an opera and each issue is a well orchestrated movement. Chris Burnham’s art, however, is the orchestra that brings it all to vibrant life. He takes the beautifully poignant scripts and brings them to brutal, bone wrenching realization. There are only a few artists whose work can pair perfectly with Morrison’s stories and Burnham is one of them. What little is left of this meteoric run is going to be nothing short of magical.
- Red Lanterns #18 brings the Regent of Rage, Atrocitus, under the thumb of Volthoom. This horrific monstrosity plays people’s painful emotions like a violin and what can be rawer than someone whose very existence is a result of catastrophic loss. Atros of Ryutt not only lost his family the day the Manhunters went berserk in Space Sector 666, he lost his entire race. What would have happened if that genocide hadn’t occurred. As ever, Volthoom is eager to show what might have been, and as ever, it is absolutely awful. According to him, hatred and rage would have been Atrocitus’ destiny no matter what occurred or didn’t occur that day and if the Manhunters did annihilate his people as they did, so much innocent blood would never be on his hands and his crusade could be termed righteous thereafter. On Earth, John Moore, aka Rankorr, attempts to find happiness with a young woman he saved in the streets of his old town. However, Bleez might have something to say about it. Series writer Peter Milligan nails this plotline with his characteristic wit, brilliance, and sadistic charm. What becomes all too apparent as the issue reaches its conclusion is that when the red ring slips on your finger you may find temporary satisfaction through vengeance, but you will never find happiness. Atrocitus truly is a Greek tragedy personified and this issue proves that as he give the Red Lanterns one last order in the final panel. This issue was ridiculously good. The only thing I that could have been better was the art. Sorry, Miguel Sepulveda, but your art just doesn’t fit what I feel the tone of the book requires.
- Superman #18 comes fresh off of “H’el on Earth” with great skill and style. In my review of last week’s Supergirl #18 I mentioned the danger inherent with coming off of a large event like this the Super-titles have, providing a jumping off point for readers unless a hook is sunk to keep them buying. Supergirl sunk a hook and Scott Lobdell BURIED one with this issue. Three major things occurred in this issue and each was drawn by a different artist along the lines of Green Lantern: New Guardians #18, also from last week’s releases. Apropos New Guardians, the departing artist of that title, Aaron Kuder, provides art on the parts of the issue that usher in Orion of the New Gods into the plot. For anyone that knows me or has read my posts with some frequency it is an understatement to say that I enjoy anything involving Jack Kirby’s Fourth World. So far Geoff Johns has bungled magnificently the introduction of Apokalips and its leader Great Darkseid into the New 52 continuity, but Brian Azzarello’s intro of Orion hasn’t been terrible. If I trusted anyone in DC’s current stable of creators with the Fourth World, it would be this series’ writer, Scott Lobdell. Here he beings the pitting of noble Orion against the Man of Steel. In the mean time, however, Superman has other more immediate worries on his mind. Tyler Kirkham (*ahem* Also a New Guardians artist) draws a segment of the story in which the United States government summons Superman to a Congressional hearing in which the Fortress of Solitude’s purpose is questioned and an inspection by International representatives is demanded. In his civilian identity of Clark Kent has to deal with unemployment and Cat Grant, who quit the Daily Planet shortly after Clark and who has big plans for their collective future. Cat Grant has always been portrayed as really callow and something of a bimbo. She’s fairly superficial in this representation on the outside, but I applaud Lobdell for giving her some substance deep down. I mean, she quit the Planet when Clark was forced to resign for journalistic integrity. She didn’t have to. She had a sweet gig as a popular trends journalist and was one of the voices of fashion and culture. Regardless of how vapid she may be, that shows really character. Scott Lobdell constantly astounds me at the amazing stories he’s telling at DC. Superman continues to be one of the must read titles.
- Flash #18 features a story written exclusively by series cowriter and colorist Brian Buccellato and with art by guest artist Marcio Takara in which Barry Allen and the Flash try to pick up the pieces after the conclusion of the Gorilla Invasion of the Gem Cities and Barry’s civilian identity is brought back from the “dead.” In the wake of these events a whole new status quo has been established. Two men caught in Speed Force, following the Flash’s tearing the fabric of space and time with his speed, gain Flash-like abilities, albeit of a lesser caliber. Also the Trickster is framed for murder and the Flash sets out to prove one of his archenemies’ innocence. The story is very compelling, humorous, and engaging. I do not know how large a part series artist and cowriter Francis Manapul is, but in his absence Brian Buccellato has scripted an incredible issue. Marcio Takara’s art is different from the usual Manapul style, but closer than usual fill in artist, Marcus To. Altogether an incredible issue.
- Talon #6 is hands down one of the most important issues that has come out. This series spins off of a major plot point of the Bat-books and takes it into its own right. Writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV brings the title to a crescendo. When last we left Calvin Rose he was infiltrating an impregnable fortress off the coast of New York. The prize within is the Grand Master of the Court of Owls and his most sensitive documents. However, the Court aren’t easily assailed. The genius of the issue lies in its complete turn around of everything we’ve come to understand about the series, but also in the way it plays into a major mystery left by the end of the “Court of Owls” plot line in Batman. Guillem March’s artwork ties it all together. Simply genius.
- Teen Titans #18 is the final “Requiem” issue of the Bat-books in memoriam of Damian, giving us Tim Drake’s reaction to his “little brother’s” death. Damian managed to piss off every member of the Bat family, but Tim was the one who received the lion’s share of antagonism with the young Wayne. In fact, though it was pre-Reboot, the first time Damian met Tim he tried and almost succeeded in killing him. Needless to say, there is no love lost between them. But despite all that, they were very similar and Tim wanted him and all young heroes to be safe. His speech to the ghost of Damian, product of his grief, about why he set out to create the Teen Titans for kids like him to keep them safe was truly moving. From there Tim takes the Titans to Belle Reve prison in Louisiana for a toe-to-toe with Amanda Waller’s Suicide Squad. The rationale is not revealed, but knowing writer Scott Lobdell, it will be crucial to something incredible over the horizon. Lobdell is another master of spreading seeds throughout his issues that later grow into substantial plot points. Doctor Light is seen in the shadows following a lead on the disappearance of a young Indian girl, Kiran Singh, whom we know to be Solstice, and a psychotic teen with super powers we met briefly last issue makes another cryptic appearance this issue. The true draw to any reader of Teen Titans past or present is the surprise appearance in the last panel of a VERY big player in the DCU pantheon. In summation, Scott Lobdell and Eddy Barrows knock it out of the park.
- Aquaman #18 for the most part is an exploration of the new status quo in the title. Aquaman has supplanted his brother, Orm, as king of Atlantis, leaving his wife, Mera, stranded on land. Despite his best efforts to do what is right for his people, he seems to be doing what is wrong for those closest to him. He has estranged himself from his wife whose people are hereditary enemies of Atlantis. He has sold out his brother to surface dwellers, when in all reality Orm was only acting in defense of their people using battle plans they came up with TOGETHER. Heavy weighs the crown it would seem, but I still am uneasy in my feelings for Aquaman. His quest to rid the surface does represent an altruistic attempt to gently normalize relations between the worlds above and below the waves, giving him some pathos with the reader. This quest also led to the introduction the classic Aquaman villain the Scavenger as well as Tula, here a half sister to Orm, but unrelated to Arthur, as he and Orm share a mother and Tula and Orm share a father. What this issue does do which really makes it worthwhile is the appearance of an ancient evil that promises to turn this series on its head. Geoff Johns is hit or miss lately and this one rides the edge.
- Batman: The Dark Knight #18 has Batman continuing on the trail of Mad Hatter. The actual pursuit clearly isn’t important to the writer, Gregg Hurwitz, as it is fairly uninspired and lackluster. In my opinion it seems only to be a mode of facilitating an examination of the Mad Hatter’s obsessive nature and a rationale behind why he is so violently insane. Jervis Tetch has always been rather short, just like his Lewis Carroll namesake, and while taking a testosterone booster gets an irreversible rage issue compounded with delusional obsessions. Hurwitz is more setting up the character for future exploration rather than focusing on an engaging tale. He also seems to be developing a trope of juxtaposing the villain de jour with Batman, showing the overlapping similarities Batman shares with his icon nemeses. After exploring the relationship between the damaged Mad Hatter and his loving parents, Hurwitz shows the relationship between the very damaged Batman and his parents, both sets of which want their sons to be happy, but the world contrevening against those wishes. The story itself isn’t enjoyable per se, but analyzing it does yield some interesting material.
- Justice League Dark #18, while long and drawn out, is extremely simple. Last issue, Dr. Peril of A.R.G.U.S. revealed that the magic world the JLD traveled to as well as our world bleed magic through various locations and arcane persons. The Magic World, taken over by scientists that banned all magic and enforce its suppression with super-science, is like a stopped up boiler. Unless the magic can leech out in some manner the entire reality will be engulfed in the exploding energies built up over centuries. This issue has Timothy Hunter’s father going to the Magic World and helping him leech those energies from the Earth and channel them into the Heavens. After that the JLD exit the Magic World and return home. Constantine, after he regains his ability to lie and mislead, postures a bit to make up for the fact that he was completely worthless for the past few issues (and pretty much is ALL the TIME) and officially tells Col. Steve Trevor of A.R.G.U.S. that his Justice League Dark are no longer under governmental oversight. This past arc wasn’t exactly anything that I was interested in and time will tell if I continue to read it. The art by Mikel Janin is gorgeous and perhaps its only selling point at his juncture. Jeff Lemire is a decent writer, but a lot of the “magic” has gone out of it with the departure of Peter Milligan and the convergence that seems to be going towards Geoff Johns’ imminent “Trinity War.” We’ll just have to see.
- All-Star Western #18 concludes what was begun last issue with the entrance of Vandal Savage to Gotham and the outbreak of what was thought to be a cholera epidemic in the poorer sections of Gotham. In fact it was a disease Vandal had carried with him over the past several hundred years, dormant in his system. All of it was for Vandal to get his hands on Catherine Wayne to force Alan Wayne into forfeiting his vast holdings in Gotham to Savage. Jonah and Jeremiah come to her aid just in time to put Savage down for the time being. But with the immortal despot, he will rise again and continue his mad plots. After this, Jonah collects his bounty and heads out of Gotham once again. The question remains as to whether or not he will be able to stay away. Though he is a man of the West and has always been characterized as such, writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray always seem to bring him back to Gotham. This two-parter seemed to not really have a solid point to it and ends anticlimactically, but does have some poignant moments that are very interesting if not arbitrary, such as the scene where Hex and Arkham take refuge from the hordes above in a storm cellar populated by a dwarf smuggler (that is to say a smuggler who is a little person) and a grief stricken mother with a doll surrogate for her disease-killed baby. It facilitates next to nothing to the resolution or build up of the plot, but gives exceptional characterization and ambiance to the overall narrative. The Palmiotti/Gray/Moritat creative team on this book is rock solid, making this title a must read. In the backup feature, Palmiotti and Gray return to the character of Dr. Terrence Thirteen, scientific detective and debunker of superstition. Done under the auspice of “Stormwatch” this one was palatable, because it had next to nothing to do with that BS title or its history. Thirteen goes to a community of spiritualist mediums to catch a killer who masquerades as a giant pigman. Precise in his observations, his intellect is inversely proportioned to his social ineptitude, making him a Wild West version of Sherlock Holmes, minus the Watson. They bring it around to the Stormwatch concept at the end, but up until that point its quite enjoyable.
- The Unwritten #47 returns the narrative back to where we left Tom Taylor three months ago. He had descended into the Underworld to get back the soul of his lost lover, Lizzy Hexam, and in the process lost all memory of who and what he was before his entrance into the realm of Hades. Meeting up with the slain children of the French prison warden in the first arc of the series, he attempts to find his way out by visiting the king. The cliffhanger we left off on in issue #44 was the discovery that Pauly Buckner had become the king of the Underworld. This issue fills us in on how Pauly went from facing oblivion at the beginning of the “Wound” arc (at the time in his human form) to being stuck as a rabbit again and presiding over the realm of the dead. Pauly is the worst kind of “person” and of course he’s going to do something nasty when given the chance to sadistically toy with someone. He commands his masked guardsman of the dead to imprison Tom in the dungeons. In Hades, as in Hell, you are imprisoned by your crime. With no memory Tom can’t rightly confess his crime, even were he to want to. There is a holding area for others, victims of the Wound, who have no crimes to repent for. On the way down one of the masked guardsman tells Tom the basics of why he in fact came down into the Underworld and bids him look upon something that he is meant to see. Here we see a very existentialist dilemma in Tom. After being without knowledge for a decent amount of time and then given the chance at regaining it, he is terrified. Knowledge is a weight we carry and the hints at the return of who he was and what he did are terrifying to him. It is one of the key facts of human existence. Like Adam and Eve who ate the fruit, they gained vast knowledge but also inherited great evil as well. Tom is left to determine whether he will take the road towards “something” or remain in a state of “nothing[ness].” What lies behind the door that the guardsman bids him enter is something that all readers of the series are going to wish a great deal to read more about. I love this series. Mike Carey and Peter Gross are geniuses and this series shines forth that genius with luminous glory. If you haven’t read the series so far, pick up the graphic novels, gorge yourself in their magnificence so you can get to this issue and enjoy it with all the Unwritten faithful.
- Joe Kubert Presents #6 is the final issue created by and now in memoriam to one of the greats of the comic medium, bearing his name proudly in the title. This issue starts off with the final chapter of the “Spit” feature, written, drawn, and colored by Kubert. It is precisely the coloring that is so perplexing and has made me rack my brain over. The other three episodes were all done in the grey tone black and white pencil medium that Kubert is renown for. He briefly goes back to it for several panels as the ships cook relates the tale of how he lost his leg, but most of the story is depicted in pastel-like splendor. I think it would have been more apt, if the point was demarcating the past from present, to have the flashback in vibrant color, but then again I am not Kubert and perhaps lack the insight he employed in his storycraft. This last segment shows with great visual detail and narrative skill the method of hunting, killing, and rendering the whales into the oil that fueled Western civilization before the advent of petroleum. Only Joe Kubert. “Spit” was a seminal work of short fiction, and with no solid ending it is obvious Kubert wasn’t done with the poor lad yet. Too bad. He was a bright boy who sailed over the horizon and now we’ll never see where he went or who he became. Again, too bad. The next feature, written by Kubert and Pete Carlsson and entitled “Ruby”, takes the reader to the orient in a bygone era as bandits invade a Himalayan monastery. Inside a young brother and sister try to evade the bandits, but instead run into a monk who gives them a great treasure. Guess what that treasure happens to be. Holding the ruby, the boy realizes it has strange powers that grant both children the means to escape. It is brief and engaging, having all the hallmarks of the old serial anthology books of the 50’s and 60’s and one thinks that that is the end of the story. The final sentence of the narrattion turns it all around. “The boy clasping his small sister’s hand will be known in time as . . . Sargon the Sorcerer.” Sargon is one of the lesser known, but immensely powerful and infinitely mysterious magic users of the DCU and in his last days on Earth Joe Kubert gave us a brief yet authentic feeling origin for the mighty magician. It should be noted that although the panels on this feature bear a striking resemblance to Kubert’s style, it is actually drawn by Henrik Jonsson. Next the book turns to the “U.S.S. Stevens” feature. As he did in the last issue, Sam Glanzman eschews personal reminiscences in lieu of a point by point history lesson on the high points of the final days of the War in the Pacific. This description of his final segment in the feature recounting the service of his Destroyer and its crew during WWII is deceptively unfair considering how engaging and compelling it is. Though its a history lesson, its a history lesson from the coolest teacher you ever had. The one that knew what you wanted to hear and related from someone who was there. A vibrant voice of a dying generation of men and women, Sam Glanzman has recorded his story in the medium that has been his life since the war ended: pen, paper, and panel. The “Angel and the Ape” feature also, obviously, comes to its final chapter. Writer/artist Brian Buniak continues his lighthearted, satirical farce with the tale of how Angel and Sam Simeon came to found their detective agency. Buniak’s work is laden with witticism, obvious corny jokes, and some really veiled jokes that take a trained eye. I have to admit that I was really proud of myself when I picked up on one specific one. The raven haired reporter interviewing the duo’s name is Noel. Now at the end of the issue when she goes back to the newspaper office there is a dark haired handsome male reporter with black hair and glasses. She calls him “George.” Thinking he looked like Superman and his name being George, I realized that while George Reeves portrayed Superman in the 50’s television show, Noel Neill portrayed Lois Lane. You are a sharp one, Mr. Buniak. The final feature to cap the series off was a one shot story of “Kamandi: Last Boy on Earth” cowritten by Kubert and Brandon Vietti, the latter of which also provided art. Kamandi attempts to raise men up from their savage state after a cataclysm that left humans de-evolved and raised animal tribes to the dominant species of the planet. The series was originally written by comics god Jack Kirby and in this issue Kubert resurrects the Demon Etrigan to contend with Kamandi’s efforts. Again, I am at a loss for what Kubert meant to say with the story, but trust that there is some meaning. If there isn’t, well then it was an interesting meeting of two of Jack’s greatest creations. I hope Kirby and Kubert are both in Heaven talking about what Joe did right or very, very wrong. In any event, Joe Kubert was a testament to what the comics medium once was, what is has become, and what it has the possibility to be as we grow with it, just like he did, starting in the industry at 17 and dying at his drawing board at 82. One last time I will say it: Rest in Peace, Joe! If anyone’s earned some rest, it’s you.
- Time Warp #1 is yet another of Vertigo’s anthology collections based upon a theme. Obviously with Time Warp, time and its manipulation are the basis of the collected stories. In some cases time travel is utilized, but that isn’t the only facet of time explored. In others memory is revealed to be the surest and perhaps only means of manipulating time. The creative voices lending their thoughts and yarns here include Damon Lindelof (Lost), Jeff Lemire, Gail Simone, Mark Buckingham, Peter Milligan, M.K. Perker, Matt Kindt, as well as several others. I will say that these stories, or at least the ones I will write about, are so good I am going to spoil them, so if you want to read them fresh please stop here. SPOILER ALERT!!! The first story, drawn by Jeff Lemire and written by Damon Lindelof, follows DC’s own time-master, Rip Hunter, as he gets stranded in prehistory. There is legitimately no way for him to get back. As the story opens he is being chased by a T-Rex and relates that in the second grade he had said getting eaten by a dinosaur would be the best way to die. Apparently he should be careful what he wishes for. However, through the chase three versions of himself give him clues as to what he needs to do next to stay alive, as two versions of him going back in one time sphere would corrupt time. However, a VERY old Rip, the third to appear, lets the Rip whose progress we’ve been following use his sphere. When asked about being left behind, old Rip simply says that in second grade he’d figured that being eaten by a dinosaur was the best way to go. Our Rip leaves and old Rip looks up at the dinosaur and says, “I’m ready now.” His resolve at the end to face death with calm and courage registers true, but also is poignant because he chose his death after a long journey. It wasn’t an enemy, but a friend. Well done, Messrs. Lindelof and Lemire. The next story, entitled “It’s Full of Demons,” begins in 1901 with a girl and her brother playing in the mountains when a strange visitor wearing what appears to be a futuristic deep sea diver’s suit appears out of nowhere and kills the girl’s brother with a ray gun. She tries to tell people what happened, but is deemed insane and sent in and out of insane asylums over the next fifty-five years. What’s even stranger is that after WWI the world takes a very different course and a unifty commonwealth of nation emerges. Eventually, the woman hangs herself when world peace is finally realized by this world confederacy. At that moment in the last panel someone FINALLY calls her by her name, or at least her maiden name: Miss Hitler. Her little brother “Addy” who was murdered was Adolf Hitler and his absence led to a unifying of the world in a lasting peace. The last piece that struck me in this anthology was written by Gail Simone about a candy shop whose owner has a sweet that can make you relive the best moment of your life. For a very ill little boy with a very serious condition the candy takes him to a skiing trip that he took with his parents before the onset of his disease. For a man who lost his wife, he is back with her on a beautiful tropical beach. However, a murder comes in wishing to relive the night he murdered his wife, a crime for which he was acquitted. There is a twist ending to this one, but I won’t spoil it this time. There are many other excellent stories in this collection, but those three stood out as the true masterworks. It is solicited that the next anthology they are going to put out is called “The Witching Hour.” I very much look forward to reading that one as well, considering the level of quality that Vertigo has put in their previous collections.
So ends a REALLY excellent week of comics. The two anthology books, Joe Kubert Presents and Time Warp, kind of make me nostalgic for when such titles were more common place. Next week we enter into a new month of comics excellent story lines. Hope to see you there.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman Inc #9: Art by Chris Burnham, colored by Nathan Fairbairn
Red Lanterns #18: Art by Miguel Sepulveda, Colored by Rain Beredo
Superman #18: Art by Aaron Kuder, Colored by Sunny Gho
Teen Titans #18: Drawn by Eddy Barrows, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Eber Ferreira
Joe Kubert Presents #6: Art by Henrik Jonsson, Colored by Joe Panico
Time Warp #1: Art by Jeff Lemire, Colored by Jose Villarrubia