- Batwoman #20 is yet another game changing issue in a game changing series. Years ago Batwoman fought a madwoman in the guise of a Religion of Crime prophetess names Alice, who looked like a latex fetish version of the famous Wonderland heroine. Spoke a lot like her, too. After defeating her, and only moments before she fell to her “death”, Batwoman realized that Alice was in fact her long “dead” twin, Elizabeth. Well for the second time Beth has defied death to be found in the land of the living, this time in the custody of the D.E.O., comprising yet another manacle Director Bones has chained to Kate Kane’s leg to assure compliance with the agency’s whims. On the other side of the narrative are the family and friends of Kate. Up until last issue they had no idea that Kate was a D.E.O. puppet, being forced into doing their bidding. Thanks to Kate’s dad, Col. Jacob Kane, the Colonel, Kate’s cousin and one time sidekick Betty (aka Flamebird), Kate’s stepmother Katherine, and Kate’s fiancee Det. Maggie Sawyer all know what she is doing and more importantly WHY she’s been doing it. Within the close circle of confidantes is a great deal of dissent. Kate hasn’t spoken to her father since she learned about Beth’s still being alive. Katherine is livid that her husband has kept the secret of her stepdaughter and step-niece’s nocturnal activities a secret, amongst other things. Det. Maggie Sawyer is still a little on edge after finding out the woman she loves is in fact the criminal whom she is tasked by Gotham Central to bring in for vigilantism. All of these quibbles are quelled with the revelation of the horrible situation that Kate has fallen into, for all intents and purposes being enslaved by a shadowy government agency to do their dirty work, as well as the situation facing Beth Kane and her fragile psychological state. From the looks of it, this could be the turning point from the beginning of the series that will emancipate Kate and turn the book onto a completely new status quo. I am hoping that it does. Cowriters J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman have kept this series constantly evolving and its readers always on their toes. For that reason this series has been a must read book and a delight to read month after month for twenty-two straight months (both zero issues included).
- Batgirl #20 is another issue that changes the entire flow of its series. With issue #19 of Batgirl the dominoed daredoll seemingly killed her brother, James Gordon Jr. With that she has lost the good grace of Gotham police commissioner and her own father, James Gordon Sr. But apart from that she has also exacted the heavy toll of having to finally take responsibility for putting her psychotic little brother down once and for all. If she didn’t, her mother was prepared to, and like a trooper she took the burden of killing him from her mother’s hands. In this issue she bursts in on her psychiatrist and makes her veiled confessions, keeping the details that would reveal her masked secret, but still attempting to gain some semblence of catharsis. The issue also reintroduces a classic Batman villain, the Ventriloquist, who comes on the scene. This time around the dummy is named Ferdie, not the gangster doll, Scarface, and the ventriloquist is a timid young woman named Shauna that has lacked the ability for self-expression. In the past it’s always been hinted at, but never concretely proved that the ventriloquist dummy somehow was calling the shots, yet still maintaining the reality of deep psychosis in the human involved. However, this version is dangerously close to shattering that by having the doll seem to move by itself with no strings attached in several panels. I can’t say that I am a fan of that kind of fourth wall tipping. However, other aspects of the emerging Batgirl mythos merging together in this issue, such as the crippled former gang member that Barbara has been flirting with and the sinister socialite/vigilante Knightfall lends a sense of long term world building under the capable hands of writer Gail Simone. Definitely an excellent issue.
- Nightwing #20 has our title character nestling into his new life in Chicago. It’s not idyllic to say the least. He is awoken from a sound sleep after a looooong night of crime fighting by the woman who’s apartment he’d been subletting (unbeknownst to her) kicking him in the chest and brandishing a baseball bat over his head. Not the best way to wake up in the morning. Then comes the discovery that Tony Zucco, the mobster who murdered Nightwing’s parents, is under the protection of the mayor’s office. The Alderman who the Prankster forced to burn his amassed wealth to fend off ravenous wolves is found early the following morning alive, albeit with his arm ripped off and being eaten by said wolves. A confrontation with the masked anti-hero or villain (hard to nail down) is inevitable and culminates in a very intriguing cliffhanger ending. Kyle Higgins has been writing this series exquisitely since issue one and the fun doesn’t look to be close to stopping anytime soon. Brett Booth’s artistic contributions to this series have been considerable, lending a deal of smooth, effortless lines that jibe exceptionally well with Dick Grayson’s persona as an acrobat/aerialist. I look forward to seeing further adventures of the former Robin in the Windy City.
- Red Hood and the Outlaws #20 picks up after last issue where Jason Todd, after a month of horrors (told over several months of issues) goes to the Acres of All, home of the All-Caste, and has his memories voluntarily erased. Last issue, his friends and comrades Roy Harper (Red Arrow) and Princess Koriand’r (Starfire) tracked him down to help him in his moment of need only to find him erased of all his memories and as well as the darkness they engendered inside him. Angered by this Roy and Starfire accost the gatekeeper of the Acres of All (also the only remaining member of the All-Caste left alive) for his part in it. The resultant conversation takes the two “Outlaws” through a tour of the accumulated memories extracted from Jason’s mind to give a sample of just what pain and torment the gatekeeper had expunged from Jason’s mind. What also comes about is an exploration of who Roy and Starfire are as well. In the past Roy was in a bad spot with Green Arrow and life in general and out of the blue, the newly minted Robin (Jason) showed up and with great optimism and kindness helped Roy through a really tough moment. From that point on, Roy had an anchor that has connected him with Jason compelling him to help out the anti-heroic former Robin. Starfire’s past is also laid out, albeit far less complementary. Upon the conclusion of this issue, one thing is certain, things have changed and for good or ill, Jason is moving forward without the keystone events that have thus far shaped him into what we have come to know as the figure called the Red Hood. In the last couple of pages, new writer James Tynion sets up the intro for what will be the Red Hood and the Outlaws first ever annual, coming out in two weeks.
- Legion of Super-Heroes #20 marches forward towards its blowout conclusion. Glorith, Ultraboy, and Chameleon Boy escape Rimbor for Sorcerers World only to find that planet also under siege by another member of the Fatal Five, Validus. The three legionnaires link up with their former comrade and ruler of Sorcerers World, Black Witch, and her legionnaire lover, Blok to combat this evil. Glorith and Black Witch are able to deal with the ravaging monster, but the cost is quite dear. It also lands Ultraboy and Chameleon Boy in a heap of trouble. Elsewhere on the Promethean giant we see further trevails of Legion leader, Phantom Girl, and her surviving colleagues, Invisible Kid and Polar Boy. Though the true meaning of these events aren’t fully explained, they could mean another tragic end to a valiant hero. Paul Levitz’s Legion is a testament to the title and its characters and a shining example of the possibilities of such a massive concept populated by round, dynamic characters. Levitz’s is the best Legion of any run, and I will stand by that assertion. However, DC is cancelling the series after August’s issue #23, so we are indeed looking at an endgame in the storytelling. A total shame.
- Supergirl #20 closed last issue on a very alarming conundrum. Power-Girl, the Kara Zor-El of Earth-2 exiled to our reality, teams up with Supergirl, the Kara Zor-El native to our universe, and the two convalesce in the latter’s submarine sanctuary called . . . Sanctuary. However, Sanctuary is comprised of Kryptonian A.I. and one of the key cultural heresies following the clone wars on Krypton is the existence of clones. Well, both Kara’s are genetically identical meaning that Sanctuary intuits one of them to be be a clone. Ironically, the one deemed to be a clone is in fact the true Kara to our reality, Supergirl. Not to say that Power Girl isn’t as perturbed as her other self nor that she doesn’t do her utmost to rectify the situation. This issue is basically a giant brawl between the two Maidens of Steel and the Kryptonian base they are trapped within. The issue seems simple in this way, but in fact this conflict is quite complex, fitting within a larger drama. Supergirl left Krypton as a teenager, unlike her cousin, Clark, who left as a baby, and as such laments a world and culture that were her life. When she came to Earth she had to cope with the loss of everything and everyone she knew and loved. When H’el came on the scene she was tempted with the promise of having that life restored, only for it to come crashing down again in front of her. Sanctuary was the last shred of Krypton that she had. In this issue that one last piece of home turned on her and ruthlessly tried to kill her. She is slowly losing her identity piecemeal, and a situation is developing wherein she will be forced to make a life among the humans and become a completely new woman. I really feel pity for her, but am enthusiastic at the chance for her to become the incredible character she was pre-Reboot and develop the relationships she had in the past with other superheroes. Michael Allan Nelson as well as his predecessors Mike Johnson and Frank Hannah have done a killer job writing her in complex, engaging ways that give her leeway to be a dumb teenager doing foolish things without demonizing her or making her any less compelling of a heroine. Her hero’s journey has been and looks to continue to be something worth watching.
- Vibe #4 begins with the armored intruder in the Ramon household introducing himself as Breacher, the first interdimensional traveller to come to Earth and be imprisoned by A.R.G.U.S. He came to warn Earth of Darkseid’s impending invasion, but was ignored and incarcerated. He also warned Cisco not to trust his employers as they are hiding something from him. Breacher is unable to elaborate as he is pulled against his will to another dimesion, probably his place of origin. In the mean time, Vibe is sent to catch the escaped inmate, codenamed Gypsy. Like Kid Flash last issue he fights her but eventually comes to speak with her in private and learns she is not an interdimensional warmonger, as he had been briefed, but just an interdimensional wander who was imprisoned like Breacher. Finally bucking the system, Cisco shakes his A.R.G.U.S handlers and agrees to help Gypsy get home. In the process he runs afowl of A.R.G.U.S head Amanda Waller and opens a can of worms that could spell dire consequences of him and his future as a superhero. Sterling Gates takes over for Geoff Johns and Andrew Kreisberg with great skill, maintaining the feel and excellence which began the series.
- Wonder Woman #20 brings the family of Zeus closer to all-out conflict. Artemis is dispatched to England to kill Zeus’ last born child, Zeke, and Wonder Woman yet again comes to the aid of her baby brother. In the meantime, Lennox returns and escorts Hera and Zola in the attempt to get Zeke to safety. However, Artemis and Apollo are not the only ones of Zeus’ children looking for the Last Born. The First Born also knows that Zeke is the key to the throne of Olympus and looks to commune with his baby brother in the attempt to claim what he feels is his birthright. Brian Azzarello certainly has a vision for this title and pushes onward setting a very sordid, complex gameboard upon which the Greek gods politick against one another. Ares, or War as Azzarello likes to refer to him, comes off as a blood-soaked philosopher, and perhaps a way of Azzarello inserting himself into the title. He does bear an uncanny resemblance to the Wonder Woman scribe. Also revealed is the reason for Cassandra, the First Born’s attache’s, metal throat. There is some messed up family politics behind that number. I’ve fought with my sisters before, but I have never ripped their larynges out. Yikes. Azzarello with the help of artists Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins, and Goran Sudzuka have knocked this title out of the park. I think what I like about the series thus far it that it is a completely different take on the saga of the Amazing Amazon than most fans have seen on a large scale. It really roots her in mythic origins and divorces her from the contemporary DCU events, if only for the moment, to really give voice to the Greek drama that is her life. Intriguing to be sure.
- Sword of Sorcery #8 is finally here. Though I hate to see this wonderful series come to a close, I am geared up for the incredible finale that has been so wonderfully built toward. Eclipso has subdued both House Onyx and House Diamond, the two bloodlines that once gave him power. They again fall under his sway. It falls to the newly minted lord and ladies of House Amethyst, House Citrine and House Turquoise to stop him. Amaya has a plan and it is a risky gambit that turns the very premise the first issue was based upon on its head. Amaya’s ancestor, Lady Chandra, was the one who defeated the undefeatable Lord Kaala (Eclipso) when he first appeared in Nilaa. The question arises as to whether Amaya, young though she may be, can emulate her forebearer and put him down once more. The course of this title has been circuitous and fraught with medieval political intrigue not unlike Game of Thrones. It’s strange that this fact didn’t save it from cancellation, but the hope remains that somewhere down the road someone will resurrect it from the pivotal moment upon which it ends. Writer Christy Marx can be proud of herself with this title and artist Aaron Lopresti presents his usual level of excellence in its depiction. All nine issues of this series (zero issue included) are well worth reading.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batgirl #20: Drawn by Daniel Sampere & Carlos Rodriguez, Colored by Blond, Inked by Jonathan Glapion & Vincente Cifuentes
Nightwing #19: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund
Red Hood and the Outlaws #19: Art by Julius Gopez, Colored by Nei Ruffino
Supergirl #19: Art by Mahmud Asrar, Colored by Dave McCaig
Wonder Woman #19: Art by Cliff Chiang & Goran Sudzuka, Colored by Matthew Wilson