This week is a week of great flux in the DC Universe bringing change within and without the various series. New writers come onboard, characters lives alter invariable, and in the case of Nightwing and Teen Titans, the artists play the swinging game swapping partners to try their hands at new characters and stories. It’s truly an exciting time to be a DC fan, as these changes push the envelope of storytelling and innovation. So here they are:
- Justice League #19 introduces the two new members of the Justice League: Rhonda Pineda (the new, female Atom) and Firestorm (whose series is being cancelled with May’s #20 issue). Stuck alone in the Watchtower, waiting for their new teammates to initiate them into the League, they find themselves in a trial-by-fire situation. On Earth, keeping them from meeting their newly recruited rookies, Batman goes to have a chat with Superman and Wonder Woman who have taken it upon themselves to insert themselves into a tense geopolitical situation. Batman, though cold and calculating, understands that the world is growing distrustful of the League and violating political borders, no matter what the reason, does nothing but kick hornet nests and ruffle feathers. I have to say that Geoff Johns really doesn’t portray Superman or Wonder Woman in a good light. Wonder Woman is shown in a very fascist light and Superman, though opposed to her views, goes along with it because his girlfriend wants him to. Compelling characterization, truly. The issue also features a mysterious assailant breaking into the Batcave to steal a package Batman developed to take out Superman. Considering the events of this issue, Johns’ version of the Man of Steel kind of deserves a few knocks to the head to maybe knock some sense into him. In the backup feature, I may be forced to eat crow. I’ve had very few good things to say about the SHAZAM backup or its version of Billy Batson, but after Johns reveals Black Adam’s history in ancient Kahndaq he seems to give validation to what he did with Billy, giving him the understanding to deal with Black Adam from a place of mutual understanding of why he is doing the things he is with the power the Wizard gave him. Geoff Johns may be able to pull this one out of the toilet. I say may. Jury is still out.
- Green Lantern: The New Guardians #19 picks up right where Green Lantern #19 left off with the destruction of Sinestro’s homeworld, Korugar. Of course when Kyle shows up with a white ring on his finger, Sinestro demands that he restore his planet and his people from the apocalypse the First Lantern unleashed. Kyle remains uncertain and Sinestro resorts to violence. While many would demonize him for this reaction it should be noted that Hal Jordan reacted similarly in the wake of his hometown, Coast City’s, destruction and as a result snapped Sinestro’s neck and murdered the Guardians and half the Green Lantern Corps. Sinestro in comparison is behaving himself quite admirably. Simon Baz, the newly minted GL of planet Earth comes on the scene and all three Lanterns attempt to do the impossible, taking turns with the white ring to bring back the decimated world. Kyle tries and fails, the ring won’t even allow Sinestro to put it on, and Simon Baz tries to replicate his feat of will that brought his brother-in-law out of a coma, only to be refused by the ring. For good or ill, the Life Force of the white energy deems that Korugar must remain destroyed. Like the two previous GL titles this month, New Guardians #19 sets the stage for the massive Green Lantern #20 next month with the cast of players taking position. Its going to be a blowout issue that will go down in history. Mark my words.
- Batwoman #19 is an extended period of adjustment. After the conclusion of the Medusa mega-arc a lot has changed in the Batwoman title and as a result the characters are having to reacquaint themselves with one another and the situations that have arisen from the fallout of the first seventeen regular issues. Maggie and Kate’s relationship has taken a dramatic turn following Kate’s revelation that she is in fact the Gotham city vigilante known as Batwoman. After all, in the course of doing her duty as a policewoman Batwoman shot Maggie full of a concentrated Scarecrow fear toxin that continues to plague her with horrific nightmares. It is also her job to apprehend such vigilantes. So yeah, their engagement is rather complicated legally and emotionally. Kate’s father, Jacob Kane, has his own crosses to bear in his dual life as the father of Batwoman and loving husband with his wife Katherine’s discovery that her stepdaughter, Kate, and niece, Betty, moonlight as crimefighters with Jacob’s help. Thus another strained relationship. Jacob also lets slip that he may have a son. However they rationalize it, the hinting is that this son is Director Bones of the D.E.O. Considering that Bones is using Jacob as a bargaining chip to gain Batwoman’s compliance to D.E.O. operations and that he referred to Alice as “sister”, I’d say that there is some seriously oedipal stuff going on there. And as for Cameron Chase, the hard edged D.E.O. agent begins to have a crisis of conscience and goes to her sister to find resolution to her conflicting drives. Overall, J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman have made this title both action packed and introspectively thoughtful. This continues to be one of the hallmark titles in DC’s current lineup.
- DC Universe Presents #19 delivers its final presentation of the New DCU spinning out of the first four issues of Swords and Sorcery and bringing Beowulf into our present (his past) as summoned through a mystical artifact. Preceding him is a shapeshifting beast called the “Puca” that runs amok with the intention of conquering the Age of Heroes and enslaving humanity. Though logically it would change the timestream and corrupt events in her time, Beowulf concludes that the “sorceress” we’ve met under the relative name of “Grendel’s Mother” sent the Puca back to lure the legendary Geat from that time in order that she could conquer the Danelaw unimpeded. Helping Beowulf find the Puca and get back to his own time is the beautiful archeaologist Dr. Gwendolyn Pierce. This issue, though pretty straightforward and insubstantial by itself, was a pretty fun read for those that enjoy the original legend of Beowulf and the reinterpretation of it as done by this issue’s writer, Tony Bedard. My hopes are that this concept will be revisited one day, because to me the Beowulf backup feature was superbly done and intriguing to read. It may not have been popular, or at least not popular enough to continue in its own book, but I can dream. The backup in Sword of Sorcery was drawn by Jesus Saiz, but this issue featured art by Javier Pina that was very soft, with lovely rounded lines, making it all the more enjoyable. Man, I hope they continue on with this series . . .
- Legion of Super-Heroes #19 brings the next chapter in the off-the-rails storyline by writer Paul Levitz that re-establishes the defunct supervillain team, the “Fatal Five.” So far, Tharok has plunged much of the United Planets into utter chaos by corrupting all technology powered by quark relays which accounts for 99.9% of it (I’m guessing on that figure, but its not far off), and in this issue Emerald Empress descends on Webber World, an artificial planet made entirely out of metal and machinery that runs ENTIRELY on quark relays. That said, there is no way for the residents there to defend themselves against her psychotic assaults. Cue the entrance of Mon-El, the Legion’s Daxamite, and the Webber Worlders’ last hope. Levitz holds nothing back in this storyline. The Fatal Five are back and they are playing for keeps. Levitz began this arc with the death of a beloved Legionnaire and this issue finds the rest standing on infirm ground. The sheer scope of the story is mind boggling, spanning the width of the United Planets and inflicting fear and death the likes of which we’ve not seen since Levitz’s “Great Darkness Saga” back in the early 1980’s. Good to see that the master hasn’t lost his touch, nor his ability to spin quintessentially relevant Legion lore. Starting this journey with him on issue #17 was his former partner from the aforementioned 1980’s opus, artist Keith Giffen. Last issue and this one had art provided by Scott Kolins. Kolins is a phenomenal artist, but put beside Giffen’s work it took some of the magic away. Regardless, this is a series to read. Period.
- Red Hood and the Outlaws #19 represents a paradigm shift on two levels. Firstly, it should be noted that Scott Lobdell, writer extraordinaire who’s initiated some of the best titles in the New DCU (Teen Titans, Superman, Superboy, and this title), has moved on after a stellar run reinventing Jason Todd, Starfire, and Roy Harper, while simultaneously introducing incredible new concepts and characters like Essence, the All-Caste, the Untitled, the Thirteen Scions of Salvation, to name only a few. The good news is that he is replaced by up-and-coming writer James Tynion IV, who’s work on the backup features in the Batman title as well as the series Talon have been incredible. Joining him is artist Julius Gopez, whose art is as detailed as original series artist Kenneth Rocafort, but with its own unique style. That said, the stage is set for an incredible issue as the new creative team descends into the quagmire left after the “Death of the Family” mega event felt throughout the Bat-family of books. Jason Todd has been through a lot, and despite developing a hard exterior, weathered it pretty well. With Lobdell’s revelation that the Joker was the architect of much of his misery, Jason is left in a very compromising situation. Following that, he disappears and his friends, Starfire and Roy, try to find him to offer their support. They track him to the Himalayas and while searching are set upon by two former acquaintances of Jason’s: Ducra and Essence. Both transcendental forces, they attempt to influence the course of Roy and Koriand’r’s journey. With his limited knowledge gained from observing Jason’s meditation and use of Eastern rituals, Roy is able to weather his innermost demons, roused by Essence, to find the path to helping his friend. However, after all of the pain and hardship to find their comrade, Jason throws a curve ball. Tynion proves his understanding and mastery of comic writing here with some really poignant storytelling that doesn’t break stride from the tone and pace set by Lobdell. Jason, Roy, and Starfire are very complex characters that are flawed beyond belief, but when written well are made all the better because of their imperfections. Tynion writes them that way, and his partner in art renders them beautifully. This series looks to be in good hands and I for one am breathing a sigh of relief that Red Hood and the Outlaws have found themselves in capable hands.
- Nightwing #19 endures his own paradigm shift like Jason, his successor to the Robin title, did in the above book. Though continuing to be written by Kyle Higgins, longtime artist Eddy Barrows has gone to Teen Titans and that series’ artist, Brett Booth, begins his run as artist on this book with this issue. Coinciding with Booth’s jumping on point, Dick Grayson jumps ship from the tragedy that befell him in Gotham following “Death of the Family” and begins a new life in Chicago, searching for Tony Zucco. Zucco is the supposedly deceased mobster that killed Dick’s parents, but also the father of his pseudo-girlfriend, Sonia Branch. A complex situation to be sure, but one that Dick cannot overlook. Though it dredges up harsh memories of the past, Nightwing has to seek out Zucco if he ever hopes to attain closure on one of the seminal moments of his life. The issue follows Dick settling into the Windy City and familiarizing himself with its underworld in order to get information on Zucco. It also introduces the “Prankster.” Higgins imagines him almost as an anti-hero rather than the Joker-like Superman villain he was originally written as. Here Prankster forces a corrupt millionaire to burn his money to prolong his survival when trapped in a room with wolves. The chances of the man surviving the encounter are very decent, but he is forced to pay monetarily for the privilege. Not supervillainous, but at the same time not heroic. Higgins and Booth have created a very compelling first chapter for the new chapter in Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing’s life.
- Supergirl #19 finds the Girl of Steel captive after a weakness overcomes her, probably due to her former kryptonite poisoning at the end of the “H’el on Earth” arc. And as introduced last issue, Karen Starr, aka Power Girl comes onto the scene, drawn by an unknown force to her Earth-1 self’s rescue. In Worlds’ Finest she has gone out of her way to avoid meeting Kara, as she has no idea what it would mean meeting her alternate self. Here she has no choice but to help “herself” and in the process writer Mike Johnson does something very interesting with the two halves of the same person. When they meet and touch hands, instead of reality unraveling as quantum physicists project in such an unlikely event, they instead become of one mind, literally sharing their memories and thoughts. After that instant they operate like a well oiled machine to put down a mutant freak that Lex Luthor sicced on them from his ultra-security prison, via neural implant. Johnson does a really excellent job writing this story in a way that not only advances the title character, but the character of Power Girl from across the New DCU. As is wont to happen with her, Power Girl’s costume is torn to shreds as she helps get the weakened Supergirl back to her sub-aquatic fortress of solitude, Sanctuary. Within, Sanctuary ascertains her need and spins her a new costume from more durable Kryptonian fibers. However, the costume it gives her deviates from the more PC, full body suit to the former skimpy unitard with the “convenient” hole in the chest that serves no other purpose than to display her cleavage. Also, Mike Johnson makes ample use of this singular event of two genetically identical Karas to play a very interesting scenario predicated from the taboo of cloning in Kyptonian culture. Overall, a very interesting, thoughtful, action packed issue.
- Vibe #3 takes Francisco Ramon further down the uncharted path his powers have placed him on. Recruited by A.R.G.U.S and Amanda Waller for the Justice League of America, he is starstruck and wanting not only to make a difference, but find purpose following the horrific event that gave him his powers while simultaneously taking the life of his eldest brother. From the perspective of such a kindhearted, idealistic young man like Cisco, that is completely understandable. What he doesn’t know is that Waller put him on the JLA roster because he is theoretically the only being on the planet whose powers would allow him to neutralize the Flash’s speed abilities which come from an other dimensional force, which we know from The Flash to be the “Speed Force.” So with that as the goal, how does one test that hypothesis? If you want to fight an unknown creature the best way is to first try your hands against one of its young. So Cisco is sent up against Kid Flash, aka Bart Allen, of Teen Titans fame. Their meeting is morally mixed and hints very cryptically about the past (our future) of the younger speedster. While Cisco begins by attacking Kid Flash, he is unable to continue on his belligerent path as Kid Flash does not behave in a way that engenders antagonism. The events as I said before are very cryptic and morally ambiguous and begin the questioning of Vibe as to what his real purpose is and whether or not he can trust the people that are giving him orders. I had my doubts about this book in the beginning. Damn you, Geoff Johns, you got me! Johns and cowriter Andrew Kreisberg started the series with the first two issues, but this third issue begins new series writer Sterling Gates’ tenure on title. Gates is an incredible new voice in comics, so the title has gone from good hands to equally capable ones.
- Wonder Woman #19 marks a nexus point in storytelling that promises a shift in the status quo. The First Born has been systematically attacking those of his relatives that have been entrusted with his various implements of war. This issue has him going up against Poseidon and fighting the god within his own leviathan belly. Going up against his uncle, the two find themselves at an impasse and we see more of the twisted politics of the Greek gods coming into play as they make war and secret intrigues against one another. However, for the First Born to achieve his ends he must cross paths with Zola’s infant baby, the last born of Zeus’s children. To do that, of course he will have to go through Wonder Woman who has literally spent the entirety of this rebooted series protecting the baby from fetus to newborn. As the title shifts to the Amazing Amazon and what she has been up to we see a major parting of ways. Her Constantine-esque brother, Lennox, decides he is going depart the scene and in the midst of that departure, Orion runs afoul of Wonder Woman and leaves in disgust as well. I’m not going to shed a tear on this departure, as Orion is a noble character and I feel that writer Brian Azzarello isn’t depicting him nearly as nobly as the son of Great Darkseid deserves. Best to leave that to the more able pen of Scott Lobdell in Superman. I will be interested to see how Wonder Woman fares against her eldest brother, the First Born, as he arrives in London in the very last panel of this issue. Oh the anticipation . . . She might yet regret the loss of an extra set of New God hands. Oh well, pride cometh before the fall.
- Sword of Sorcery #7 proves how incredible the main feature Amethyst is. Last issue had the return of Eclipso, aka Lord Kaala, to the gemworld Nilaa. After his return we are told that he was the result of a nightmarish blood marriage between House Diamond and House Onyx, hence his power totem, the black diamond. With the powers of both houses gifted to him he was nearly unstoppable and almost brought ruin down upon all of Gem World. But for Lady Chandra of House Amethyst he would have succeeded. Now it lies with Chandra’s heirs, Lady Graciel, Mordiel, and of course Princess Amaya of the Amethyst clan to take him down once again. They have their work cut out for them. In the course of a single night, chronicled in this one issue, Kaala has murdered the head of House Citrine, retaken House Onyx from the noble Lady Akikra, and murdered the head of House Diamond taking its armies also under his power. With one stroke he has regained all his strength and prestige from before his fall. However, he still has many enemies including the fugitive Akikra who is as dangerous as a cornered dog, Prince Hadran of House Diamond, and of course the young lord and ladies of Houses Turquoise, Citrine, and Amethyst respectively. The board is set for one hell of a showdown in Nilaa. It will have to be, because sadly this title is being cancelled as of issue #8. Next issue is the conclusion to all of it, and what a shame. This was truly one of the best new series DC has put out. It was fresh and unique from anything else that they had done, resurrecting a lesser known series and completely re-imagining it in a way that preserved the good, but innovated at the same time. What a shame, indeed. The backup feature Stalker on the other hand comes to its conclusion and good riddance. As excellent as Amethyst is, Stalker is equally as terrible. THAT is a shame, as the original series from the 70’s, only four issue unfortunately,written by the legendary Paul Levitz was incredibly good. It’s predecessor, Beowulf, which merited a special appearance in the above mentioned DC Universe Presents #19 was phenomenal. I don’t even care to elaborate on how badly this Stalker series was dealt with. Suffice it to say, this backup series did nothing to help the cancellation of this title. It may have been a part of the anchor that dragged Sword of Sorcery below the water to its point of drowning. Pity. I will miss Amethyst and Beowulf greatly.
- Batman Beyond Unlimited #15 begins with the Superman Beyond feature. Superman is rescued from the Trillians by the the bestial Mangals he liberated from enslavement upon his last visit to Trillia. Whereas the Trillians view Superman as the terrorist who led to the fall of their society, the Mangals look upon him as a messianic figure. This is made apparent when Superman sees them for the first time after all the intervening years. When he liberated them they were small and helpless. Now they are large and strong. Apparently, the Trillians never let them grow to full maturity, but rather kept them young and worked them to premature death. So once again, we the reader are shown a very divided society on Trillia between the over class and the bonded underclass. Both sides want to eradicate the other, leaving a very morally ambiguous position for Superman. Regardless of the heinous crimes of the Trillians as a culture, he cannot condone wholesale slaughter of all Trillians, yet at the same time he cannot stand idly by while the Trillians plan the same for their emancipated slaves. This arc took a little while to reach maturity, but writer JT Krul has pulled this one out and made it into a very thought provoking storyline that raises questions about our own world and social systems. Next up, in the Justice League Beyond Unlimited feature writer Derek Fridolfs begins a new arc with artist Ben Caldwell providing pencils. In it the criminal organization known as the “Brain Trust” abducts children and places them in an elite prep school academy to brainwash them into becoming soldiers in an underground army. The JLB sends their own agent, the “Golden Child”-like Green Lantern, Kai-Ro, in as a mole. Once he is in the League tracks him to perhaps the most wholesome place in the entirety of the DCU. A place that makes Smallville look like a ghetto. Fawcett City. Ending in the middle of a fight, it is difficult to see where the story is going from here, but the concept of the “Brain Trust” is solid and I very much look forward to seeing where Fridolds goes in his script. Lastly, the Batman Beyond feature fulfills a promise made over two years ago before the Reboot from the original Batman Beyond comic series. Terry McGinnis’ best friend and confidante, Max Gibson, had attempted to infiltrate the network of cyber terrorists called “Undercloud” that were attacking Gotham’s infrastructure. All of this without Terry’s knowledge. Now she finds herself in the belly of the beast, integrally tied into Undercloud’s horrific plan to raze Neo Gotham and build it up from the ashes in their own image. If she doesn’t comply, agents of Undercloud will kill those closest to her. In the meantime, Terry is sent to a rock concert where a terrorist threat has been issued, although not by Undercloud. Instead, its one of Batman’s old nemeses, Shreik. Overall this issue was pretty quality in both storytelling and art. For those that enjoyed the DC Animated Universe, this title stands as an ark to the legacy of many beloved TV shows.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Justice League #19: Drawn by Ivan Reis, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Jonathan Glapion
Green Lantern: New Guardians #19: Drawn by Andres Guinaldo, Colored by Wil Quintana, Inked by Raul Fernandez
DC Universe Presents #19: Art by Javier Pina, Colored by Jason Wright
Red Hood and the Outlaws #19: Art by Julius Gopez, Colored by Nei Ruffino
Supergirl #19: Art by Mahmud Asrar, Colored by Dave McCaig
Nightwing #19: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund
Sword of Sorcery #7: Art by Aaron Lopresti, Colored by Hi-Fi