- Batman #20 concludes the second installment in a two issue arc of writer Scott Snyder’s exploration of the character Clayface. Clayface has achieved the ability to completely mimic, right down to DNA scans, the people with whom he makes physical contact. In the case of this issue, set up by the conclusion of its predecessor, he has taken on the persona of Bruce Wayne and seeks to impugn the noted Gotham billionaire and philanthropist. It’s a short story, considering its division over just two issues, but has all the characteristic intelligence, insight, and scientific elaboration that Scott Snyder is renown for in his works. Here, however, the plot seems a bit hard to hold on to. Perhaps it is because it lacks the epic scope of his previous “Court of Owls” and “Death of the Family” arcs. Obviously Batman has run of the mill cases that are by comparison more arbitrary to these overarching events, but they do cast a long shadow on the lesser plotlines. Snyder does, however, put in an impossible escape for Bruce to elude in this issue in order to maintain his secret and his life, as well as stop the polymorphic villain. With June’s “Batman: Year Zero” Snyder will be starting another long term story in the Batman title that has all the promise of innovation and long term canon making. I very much look forward to it. In the backup feature, writer James Tynion IV concludes his two part story, “Ghost Lights” with Superman and Batman banishing a Will-o-the-Wisp that was accidentally summoned by kids meddling with magicks beyond their comprehension. A decent story, but not one of Tynion’s best.
- Batman & Red Hood #20 brings Batman another step closer to complete collapse. Following the death of his only child, Damian, he has sunk into a psychotic meloncholy the likes of which has never been seen in the Dark Knight’s many titles. Like last issue a former Robin steps in to fulfill the “robin” portion of “Batman & Robin.” Here Jason Todd, the Red Hood, prepares to leave the mansion after the events of Red Hood and the Outlaws #18. Batman stops him and requests that Jason accompany him to the Magdala Valley in Ethiopia to take down a syndicate of international assassins, some of which responded to the hit put on Damian by Talia Al-Ghul. The mission actually looks to heal the rift between the former mentor/protegee. However, as with Batman and the most volatile of his sidekicks, the rift can never truly be closed and the attempt threatens to deepen said rift. Altruism isn’t Batman’s forte and being played (especially after learning the Joker’s part in his tragic existence) is the last thing that Jason is going to put up with. Peter Tomasi writes this series exquisitely, really playing off the Bat family’s intrinsic traits and flaws to craft a very engaging, emotional drama amid one of the most tragic events within the Batbooks in recent years. Also in the background is the continued presence of Carrie Kelley, begging the question of whether she indeed is going to take her place as the first official female Robin in the history of the Bat titles. Every aspect of this book is amazing. Read it.
- Justice League of America #3 picks up following the JLA’s encounter with the robotic versions of the Justice League as built by Prof. Ivo. These mechanical menaces push them close to their limits while at the same time making them rely on eachother for the first time as a cohesive team. However, as the team dynamic gets ironed out certain members find their roles to be not quite what they expected. Green Arrow, after risking his life to expose the Secret Society, is cut loose. Courtney Whitmore, aka Stargirl, finds herself as a mere mascot and a showpiece member of the team. Catwoman learns that as a known criminal she is on the team as bait for the Secret Society to latch onto. Geoff Johns is trending this title in an interesting direction. It has a darker tone and with the characters and plots he is working with it fits perfectly. His attempt at darkening the Justice League and shaking things up in that title was initially awful and at present merely passable. David Finch’s artwork on this title is perhaps the most engaging aspect, really setting the tone and the ambiance. In the backup feature Matt Kindt shows the revelations granted to both Catwoman and Martian Manhunter when the latter delves into Catwoman’s mind. He sees her past and what drives her and by virtue of that she is also granted a glimpse at his life on Mars and a quick look at who he is. Overall, this title is one that seems to have a great amount of impact on the course of the DCU as well as some very interesting and innovative plots.
- Superboy #20 jumps back in time two months, returning to the introduction of Superboy to the rebooted Dr. Psycho, now seemingly a young boy, teenaged at the oldest. In Superboy #18 Psycho merely followed Superboy, marvelling at his power and seeking to feed off his telekinetic potential. In this issue the two characters finally meet and find themselves forced into a shaky alliance of mutual benefit. Being attacked by a purple ox-like bruiser named Dreadnaught and a green alien looking guy named Psiphon, we are informed through intimation that Dreadnaught, Psiphon, and Psycho are all part of an organization called “H.I.V.E.” and that Dr. Psycho, or Edgar, is a drone in H.I.V.E. that has escaped. New series writer Justin Jordan takes over the title in this issue from former writers Scott Lobdell and Tom DeFalco with the help of regular series artist R.B. Silva and guest artists Kenneth Rocafort and Chriscross. It feels like he picked up the ball mid-air, but Jordon’s work seems conistent with his two predecessors, ensuring the quality we have enjoyed thus far and looking to end in a slam dunk. Also the “H.I.V.E.” plot looks to spill over into the Superman title as well, which is penned by Lobdell so that is ramping up to be a must read event.
- Ravagers #12 provides the final issue of this short lived Teen Titans-esque series. Really it seemed like a “Teen Titans East” kind of title, but with a distinct edge. These superpowered youths came together not out of common goals, but as a means of protection as they flee the grasp of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and its sinister overarchitect, Harvest. This issue shows how fleeting their goals of freedom are. Last issue Harvest dispatched Deathstroke, the world’s deadliest assassin, to hunt down the escaped Ravagers as well as the two Ravagers who tried and failed to retrieve their errant comrades, Rose Wilson (Deathstroke’s own daughter) and Warblade. In the end, this series didn’t conclude on a happy note, but it didn’t end on a completely sad one either. With few exceptions, the cast of characters lived to see another day and a new status quo was set up for many of them. The fate of Terra and Beast Boy looks to be a perfect setup for a “Judas Contract” plotline, as well as Raven and Beast Boy entering into the Teen Titans title reminiscent of their original membership in the New Teen Titans title in the early 80’s. And most of all Caitlin Fairchild’s history is revealed giving some very intriguing possibilities for her future in other ongoing series throughout the DCU.
- Demon Knights #20 begins a new arc following the conclusion of the “Army of Cain” plotline. The Demon Knights have helped the Amazons beat the vampiric hoard of the First Damned from the shores of Themyscira and now convalesce after a hard fought battle. The most pure of them, Sir Ystin, the Shining Knight, had been bitten and now stands on the verge of being turned. Exoristos is welcomed back by Queen Hippolyta who had exiled her years before. The new goal of the Knights is to retrieve the Holy Grail from its hiding place and Hippolyta says she can help. Writer Robert Vendetti resumes the startling factoid of how the Amazons procreate. I think that it was startling enough when Brian Azzarello first introduced the concept of the Amazons as rapist murders, but the playful way they make light of it in this issue just makes it all the more disturbing. Anyway, one of the sailors the Amazons raped and murdered in the past told of the location of the grail and it was chronicled in a log book. Mixed feeling about this issue and this series.
- Threshold #5 opens on a very interesting, precarious predicament. The Collector, whom we know as Brainiac, has descended on the main world of Lady Styx’s dominion, Tolerance, and absconded with a small portion of it. Left in its place is a gaping wound in the otherwise sprawling urban landscape. Styx brokered a decent deal with Brainiac and so unlike other worlds he visited, Tolerance remains intact and otherwise unmolested. The catch is that the residents of the selected area are not to be warned of their impending abduction. As a result, the disgraced Green Lantern Jediah Caul and space pirate Captain K’Rot find themselves trapped in one of Brainiac’s fabled bottles. One thing that has been apparent about this series from the first issue was the scope. Threshold spans over a wide array of characters all being hunted by citizens of the Tenebrian Dominion in a reality show based sport killing. This issue follows closely the character of Jediah Caul, really focusing in on him as a character. Since he first showed up in Green Lantern: The New Guardians Annual #1, Caul has been depicted as nefarious. However, the green lantern ring he wields chose him for a reason. This issue may not reveal that reason per se, but it does cast a very intriguing look at the former Green Lantern and how he is willing to resolve issues such as the one he has landed himself in. His answer to this particular dilemma is not one that would immediately come to mind when imagining a typical Green Lantern’s response, but there is some method behind his madness. Keith Giffen yet again weaves a fascinating cosmic tale in a far reaching odyssey. And in the final installment of his Larfleeze backup feature Giffen finally reveals what happened in the first installment five issues ago as well as the way in which the departed Guardian, Sayd, perpetrated the perfect crime. Once all the shadows have been lifted from the proceedings the plot itself is amazingly well crafted and ingeniously executed. Giffen has a talent for complex, multifaceted storytelling and this five part story of the sole Orange Lantern showcases those talents brilliantly. So much so that the story will move on from here into its own monthly title. Both Giffen and Larfleeze deserve nothing less.
- Smallville Season 11 #13 begins a new arc that explores heavily one of the barely tapped gems of the “Smallville” TV series: the Legion of Super-Heroes. It also returns Booster Gold, his computerized aide and sidekick Skeets, and to a smaller degree Blue Beetle. Clark, as of last issue, has shed the radioactive isotope Lex placed in him that effectively separated him from Lois for months. Now he is torn from his fiancee again when Booster Gold’s stolen Legion of Superheroes ring malfunctions due to a coded distress signal transmitted through time to it. In the 31st century Earthgov has turned against the Legion and they find themselves in a bind. This comes as the result of a new sister planet to Earth, New Krypton, arriving in our solar system. That world was created by Clark in the ninth season of the series as a home for the Kryptonians under the command of Zodd following the that season’s finale. The arrival of a planet of superpowered beings puts Earthgov on its heels, turning public sentiment and policy against superpowered beings and certainly the alien members of the Legion. Clark comes forward and attempts to adjudicate the issue. Going in, he encounters a newer character to the actual Legion of Super-Heroes pantheon, Earth Man, Kirt Niedrigh. Niedrigh is the a government minister in possession of a high value prisoner that Clark aims to release. The identity of that prisoner brings about another resurrection from the show’s illustrious canon. This issue very aptly introduces a new arc while also emboldening the past of both the comic series itself and the television show that inspired it.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman #20: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Placcencia, Inked by Jonathan Glapion & Marc DeeringDanny Miki
Batman & Robin #20: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray & Mark Irwin
Justice League of America #20: Drawn by David Finch, Colored by Sonia Oback, Inked by Richard Friend & David Finch
The Ravagers #12: Drawn by Diogenes Neves, Colored by Tony Avina, Inked by Vincente Cifuentes
Threshold #5: Art by Tom Raney, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse