This week begins the February batch of comics and with it some of the best titles, in my humble opinion. Green Arrow is a series that has me ravenous month to month, ready to devour the next issue at the conclusion of each brand new one. Detective Comics is nearing the end of writer John Layman’s run. Trillium remains one of the best titles Vertigo has in their lineup. Also out this week: Green Lantern and Red Lanternsshare a physical issue this month, Batman: Black & White ends its six issue run, and last but not least Ms. Marvel #1 comes out, written by the incomparable G. Willow Wilson and introducing a promising young lady into the realm of superheroics. It’s looking like it’s going to be an awesome week!
Detective Comics #28 unfolds the second chapter of the three part “Gothtopia” storyline. Batman has realized the horrific truth behind the shiny city which Gotham has been masqueraded. Somehow Scarecrow has engineered an airborne toxin that has the populous in a state of euphoria. With everyone so perfectly enthralled under his chemically enhanced euphoria Batman’s rational thoughts seem like insanity, prompting his allies to capture him and put him in the only place that can treat someone in his condition: Arkham Asylum. Working with Scarecrow are a ragtag group of Batman villains correlated only by their medical degrees: Harley Quinn (former psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quintzel), Professor Pyg (surgeon Dr. Lazlo Valentine), Mr. Freeze (medical scientist Dr. Victor Fries), and Merrymaker (fallen psychiatrist Dr. Byron Meredith). These rogues have Batman and delight at the various draconian means with which they can “attempt to cure him.” Luckily for Batman, Arkham Asylum’s security is something he’s made a hobby of and even more lucky, the one person who has the inherent traits to counter the toxin is also currently an inmate: Poison Ivy. Batman’s got these two points on his side, but Scarecrow has more than just the psycho version of the television show The Doctors on his side. John Layman is ending his run on this title with style in what is shaping up to be a very intriguing bookend arc. Unfortunately his longtime collaborator in art, Jason Fabok, has left the title to begin his work on the upcoming weekly series Batman Eternal. It would have been great if they could have hit the finish line together, but c’est la vie. Next month’s issue will mark the end of a really quality run of Detective Comics and herald one of the most exciting runs to date with the advent of writer/artist duo Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, whose run on Flash cemented it as one of the top titles. It’s an exciting time in Detective Comics and Layman is setting up a killer final issue of his run.
Green Arrow #28presents another killer issue in Jeff Lemire’s “Outsiders War” arc. Picking up with last issue’s unbelievable revelation that Robert Queen is still alive, Ollie wrestles with the implications. Not only is his father alive, but it was his dear old dad that stranded him on the island in the first place and who, as the oni-masked mercenary, had him mercilessly tortured and personally hunted Ollie upon his escape. Robert spins a yarn of his intentions and only having Oliver’s best interest in mind, but from all angles, not just the inhuman treatment he endured, Ollie has so many reasons to be angry at his father and Shado, which he makes no effort to hide. Elsewhere, Fyffe and Naomi meet John Diggle in
Father and Son.
Seattle and are drafted by him in Ollie’s absence to help stop Richard Dragon, the Fist Clan warrior who has his sights on ruling the Emerald City. Also of note is the return of Komodo, aka Simon Lacroix, to the main narrative. Komodo is the pretender to the chieftainship of the Arrow Clan, selected by the Outsiders to fill the role once the true holder of the Totem Arrow, Robert Queen, has been dethroned. This honor bestowed on him is not something that the Outsiders, namely Spear Clan chief Golgotha, let him forget. Komodo’s entry into the Outsiders inner circle is perhaps the most ominous and captivating development within the issue. As ever, Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino deliver a phenomenal issue of Green Arrow and an iconic statement in comic production. As both a writer and an artist, Jeff Lemire has a keen mind for visual storytelling and an apparent affinity for the character. Over the course of thirteen issues his writing of Oliver has been somber, honest, and thrilling, showing that while Lemire may not love Ollie (he probably does though), he respects him. No one who’s been on the title since the Reboot has given Oliver his due, playing him as a flippant buffoon with no idea what he is doing. Green Arrow took up the bow as a vigilante for a reason and Lemire understands that where others have not. Helping Lemire realize his vision of Green Arrow is artist Andrea Sorrentino, whose stark realist style adds drama and immediacy to the acts portrayed. What Sorrentino also adds is an artistic approach to multi-sensory depictions of Lemire’s scripts. Comics are a largely visual medium. Sound can be insinuated through awkwardly inserted effects that are often overlooked and ignored by readers and touch, taste, and smell can be described contextually by characters or the narrator. The lattermost three are not easily conveyed, but several times since November Sorrentino has employed an interesting technique of inserting the overwhelming sound effects that characters are hearing and using those as a visual filter for what the reader sees. In November’s Green Arrow #25 Sorrentino displayed characters reaction to a violent explosion seen in the lettering of the explosive sound effect BOOM! Sorrentino did it again last issue with the advent of the Shield Clan to the island. This issue he utilized this effect for two more sequences that immediately made readers aware of the cacophonous din the characters were experiencing in a way that was inescapable but also visually stimulating. With two graphic geniuses on this title how is it possible for comic book fans to NOT be reading it?! If you haven’t read it, rectify that error and pick up Green Arrow #17 and take the fast train to having your mind blown.
Sorrentino Word Art.
Green Lantern/Red Lanterns #28is a special flip issue combining Green Lantern and Red Lanterns into one book. In the Green Lantern portion writer Robert Venditti picks up where Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 left off with the deputizing of a slew of the Corps worst enemies into a loose alliance against a common enemy: the Durlans. Despite this swelling of manpower, Hal Jordan still has a lot on his plate after the blindsiding assault the Durlans and their Khund allies launched, the decimation of the Blue Lantern Corps, and the conscientious objectors within his ranks that refuse to use their rings owing to their draining of the Universal Reservoir of Light. There’s little else Hal can seemingly take, but unfortunately he gets a Red Lantern surprise in the form of a raged out, red ringed Supergirl spewing corrosive blood from her mouth. With Saint Walker, the sole Blue Lantern, out of commission there is only one person left that Hal can call on to extricate this Kryptonian Red, prompting the flipping of the issue. Red Lanterns picks up on Earth with Guy interceding on behalf of Skallox and Zilius Zox who are being assaulted by the Shadow Thief. Guy attempts to defuse the situation without resorting to violence in order to show his former lover, Tora Olafsdottir (Ice), that he has changed. Shadow Thief doesn’t make it easy, but with Ice’s help the situation is defused, albeit not in a way that Guy intended. With dashed hopes he returns to Ysmault to find Hal Jordan waiting with a contingent of Green Lanterns and tenuously restrained Supergirl. Guy and Hal’s reception is very icy, but with the wrath of Superman (whom at this point they only assume is related to this mystery Red) impending, cooperation is given. Elsewhere, Bleez and Rankorr have come face-to-face with the reinstated Atrocitus who has brought a new Red Lantern into the ranks. Atrocitus, true to his intrinsic nature, bears a massive grudge against Guy Gardner and those Red Lanterns that remained with Guy. A fight ensues, which Bleez and Rankorr are unprepared for, prompting Bleez to make a strategic retreat for reinforcements while Rankorr pulls rearguard. This issue by both creative teams of Green Lantern and Red Lanterns is enthralling to read and highlights the interconnectivity of the Lantern titles. It is revealed here that Hal never actually said that Guy could have Sector 2814, just that he could have A sector. Guy just presumptuously took 2814 without clearing it with anyone. That makes me feel a little bit better about the situation, but I do still harbor a bit of an annoyance at Charles Soule and the Green Lantern Group editors for the Ysmault in 2814 decision. It’s illogical and seems like a lazy plot-device. Whatever. The issue also came out before the actual sequence in Supergirl where the ring seeks her out, which happens later in the month in Supergirl #28, so her appearance is a little jarring considering the lack of explanation behind her transformation. Those points aside, the war with the Durlans is a very intricate, multifaceted concept, and the reemergence of Atrocitus as the head of a tangent Red Lantern group, creating a schism in the Red Lantern Corps is rife with possibilities. Venditti and Soule are the right men for their respective titles, even if they have their little hiccups.
Swamp Thing #28 opens a whole new chapter for our main character. The Parliament of Trees is no more. To save our world from a monster unleashed by the out of touch Lords of the Green, Alec Holland destroyed the Parliament from within, making himself the soul voice of the Green. He did this for the greater good, but this action could also appear to some as him basically making himself immortal, as his power will run in perpetuity from the Green giving him life without end. Regardless of motive, the die has been cast and good or bad he will reap the whirlwind. Before he brought the house of cards crashing down, he did pull three former avatars from the Parliament into the material world: the Wolf, Lady Weeds, and a third, very ancient Swamp Thing from pre-Roman times. All three reenter the world at the age in which they were inaugurated into the Green as Avatars. Though they are now mortal and are destined to live mortal lives, they meet the challenge with eventual gratitude. However, with his return to the mortal sphere Swamp Thing must find his former charge, the elusive Capucine, and make good on his promise to protect her. It is while undertaking this task that we are finally told the tale of Capucine’s origin in 12th century France. Her immortal youth, vigor, and martial prowess were the result of an alchemical experiment performed on her brother, herself, and another child by monks to forge them into immortal protectors of that Order. Through the march of time and the shift of governing powers she was released from her bond, but not the price that the magics used on her exact. That is why she seeks Holland’s help. Charles Soule has really taken this series by the horns and made it his own. It follows in the spirit of excellence that Scott Snyder began when he started the series in 2011, but the plot and world have completely shifted to fit Soule’s new paradigm. I respect this a great deal. Writers, even great ones, that try to live completely in the shadow of their predecessors rarely succeed. With the departure of Snyder I was afraid this series would languish from the transition. With the selection of Soule Swamp Thing will continue both in excellence and innovation. I look forward to seeing what comes down the road for Alec Holland.
Swamp Thing and the Avatars.
Batman: Black & White #6 concludes the six issue anthology series of innovative black and white stories following Batman’s exploits on the streets of Gotham. This time around Cliff Chiang, Olly Moss, Becky Cloonan, Adam Hughes, and Dave Johnson render six interesting tales pertaining to the Dark Knight. Cliff Chiang’s tale follows a young Dick Grayson in his initial days as ward to Bruce Wayne and the Boy Wonder, Robin. In both instances Dick feels he has something to prove and Chiang’s narrative brings the reader into the young headstrong perspective of almost every teenage boy. Olly Moss writes a story of a pretty, young socialite who spends a night with Bruce Wayne, only to wake up in the morning and find him gone. Meeting with friends who had similar experiences, this story fleshes out quite interestingly the cloaking element of Batman’s dual identity. In all cases, the women Bruce Wayne uses to perpetuate his playboy image are often in the background, but rarely are their thoughts and emotions given voice. He is always cordial and in no way mistreats or disrespects them, apart from keeping them in the dark and sometimes ditching them. All of the women in this story seem mildly vexed, but never offended, as Bruce later helped to propel their careers or social standings afterward. Becky Cloonan does a fantastic job rendering these lovely women and the lavish scenes they are treated to by Bruce. Adam Hughes writes and draws a very intimate story about Catwoman and the inextricable hold she has on Batman. With Selina in a hospital bed, never to walk again the doctors say, Batman is forced to take responsibility for her condition and realize just how important she is to him. It’s a very stark tale, beginning to end, that is good, but unsettling as well. Dave Johnson provides another stark yarn dealing with the Dark Knight in a tertiary fashion. Following the exploits of a cheap hood who tries to impress a woman with expensive appetites the reader sees how slowly through his own nemishness and greed he is brought low time and again by the Batman. Batman is the impartial executor of the law that can never be escaped. This story was entitled “The Man Who Beat the Bat” and it’s in those dark final panels that we see how a two-bit criminal can beat one of the most indomitable human beings on the planet. Overall, this series has been a must read for Batman fans presenting some deeply thought provoking stories by some of the greatest writers and artists in comics today, and set in black and white, capturing the intrinsic ominousness of the material. Six incredible issues that do the Dark Knight proud.
The Man Who Beat the Bat.
Trillium #6 marks the return of the title from hiatus. When last we saw William and Nika they had switched places following the temporal shift of the Atabithi/Incan temple that served as a conduit between their respective space/times. Now William is living in the 38th century as a human colonist fleeing the dreaded Caul virus and Nika is an Imperial officer in the 1920’s administering British authority in South America. Both have memories of their past lives before the rift, which leads them to believe themselves insane. Their perseverance despite this lends credence to the strength of their belief in their cause, but also the bond they share with each other. Writer/artist Jeff Lemire credits this as “the last love story,” and by Jiminy that looks to be what he is delivering. His storytelling is deft and subtle, and his artwork is without comparison, adding a very unique, enthralling ambiance to the reader’s immersion into the plot. Lemire is one of very few writers with the mind to conceive such a story, and the even rarer talent of bringing it off almost single-handed. There are only two more issues left and the suspense mounts with the ending of this issue.
Ms. Marvel #1was an unmitigated disappointment. It should be noted that I haven’t spent my money on a Marvel comic in years. I’m not a fan of what they had been doing with their brand across the board several years ago and I found the vast majority of their books to be unhinged from what made the characters good originally. Not a general rule, but true enough from my perspective to preclude me from buying their products. Ms. Marvel #1 offered several things that appealed to me, so I was eager to pick it up. I am a HUGE fan of writer G. Willow Wilson’s previous work, most notably her postmodern series Air, and the concept of Kamala Khan, an Islamic teenager taking over the Ms. Marvel persona from her promoted predecessor, Carol Danvers, was also a really intriguing touch. I, for one, am always a proponent for diversity in comic leads. I’ve been a huge fan of the Batman Inc. concept and especially original Batwing, David Zavimbe, and his trials and tribulations as the Batman of Post-Colonial Africa. Nightrunner, the Algerian teenager that became the Batman of Paris, remains in my top ten list of underutilized characters. And of course, Batwoman was a series that took on a lead with an alternate lifestyle and made an instant classic out of her heroic journey. Alas, Ms. Wilson wasn’t able to accomplish anything similar with Kamala. Or rather she didn’t by the end of the first issue. Basically, to sum up this issue, the reader is given a thorough look at the life of the modern American teen of Near Eastern descent and Islamic faith, through Kamala and her family. Her parents seem religiously liberal, but socially conservative. Her older siblings by contrast are more religiously conservative, leaving Kamala to wrestle between her familial culture and the ever pervasive counterculture of being a teenager. With difficulty she holds off the temptations of keggers and bacon double cheeseburgers, but allows herself her vices such as superhero fan-fictions. In essence this issue’s sole drive was selling the reader that Kamala is an angsty teen, that she is Pakistani by heritage, and she is a Muslim. If this were an indy comic or an artistic imprint like Air or Wilson’s seminal Cairo that would make for a very compelling story. It isn’t, though. It’s the first issue of Ms. Marvel, a superhero comic. In the last three pages Kamala becomes Ms. Marvel, but with no rationale. First of all she has a dream that Captain Marvel bestows the powers on her, which is kind of weird and deus ex machina, leaving the reader with no legitimate idea of how these powers are granted. Even by comic book standards of gamma waves, radioactive spiders, getting struck by lighting, and intergalactic power rings, having a dream and waking up with powers is farfetched. But even that underscores the second and more crucial detraction to the title. There is no REASON for her to be Ms. Marvel. Probably everyone has heard the adage “When the need is great, the hero shall appear.” That is an indispensable rule of thumb when it comes to superhero comics. Batman wouldn’t exist if Gotham City were a paradise. Without Superman, Metropolis would be a smoking crater from the ill-deeds of any number of his villains. No matter the superhero there is something, established in their first issue, that gives their move into super-heroics not just purpose, but necessity. Of the caveats to be played with in writing innovative, avant-garde modern superhero titles this is NOT one of them. At the end of this issue we have a decently rendered teenager with a colorful personality that gets superpowers. Great. Hope she has fun with them. Inherent in any competent origin issue you need two key elements: 1) development of character, 2) development of conflict. The first requirement was delivered in spades, a testament to Wilson’s talent for characterization. However, the second was barely attempted, given the bare minimum of effort in the form of a mysterious fog developing at a kegger Kamala attended earlier in the evening and left before. No reason or consequence comes of the fog, apart from kids beginning to get sleepy. Of these two elements, you ALWAYS err on the side of developing conflict over character. Conflict sets the hook and develops the suspense that draws readers back to the next issue. Characterization is something that continuously and organically happens as the title progresses. You don’t need to know EVERYTHING about a character before you introduce actual plot. Wilson could have cut 40% of Kamala’s story out of this issue, distilled the important things that are imperative to know in order to understand her, and given us something to juxtapose her youthful idealism against, i.e. a consumerist crime kingpin, or an evil businessperson with sinister aims. I’m spitballing here, but this most certainly was NOT a superhero comic, nor a befitting introduction of an altogether delightful young woman into the role of a venerable superheroine legacy. I’m disappointed because of my respect for G. Willow Wilson as a writer and I am disappointed as a reader. I might catch up with this series again when it releases as a graphic novel, but I am not going to gamble on its future with my hard earned, already stretched money. It looks to be several more years before Marvel gets me to buy any more of their comics. Better luck next time, folks.
The New Face of Marvel.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Detective Comics #28: Drawn by Aaron Lopresti, Colored by Blond, Inked by Art Thibert.
Green Arrow #28: Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo.
Swamp Thing #28: Art by Javier Pina, Colored by Matthew Wilson.
Batman: Black & White #6: Art by Dave Johnson.
Ms. Marvel #1: Cover Art by Sarah Pichelli & Justin Ponsor.
This week and probably from now on I am going to only review the comics I read with which I have a strong opinion. I have been bogged down the past several weeks trying to review everything and I think that that has been a lose/lose situation, holding up my postings and also cluttering them with uninspired, uninteresting nonsense from me. So there may be gaps in my postings where I will review a series out of the blue or skip a month or two. If there is a series you want to see reviewed, feel free to message me at any time and I will try to include the series you are interested in. That said, let’s get to it:
Flash #17brings the gorilla invasion of the Gem Cities to its stunning conclusion. Going through all possible outcomes to the intervention, Flash is unable to see a way in which he can attack Grodd and win. Grodd’s victory is almost assured no matter what is done against him. With his grasp on the Speed Force that he has stolen and his army behind him, his position is impregnable. There is only one factor that Flash gambles on. Barry takes Grodd into the Speed Force where that very principle adjudicates the outcome. On the outside Grodd is King and has immense physical strength, a technologically superior army, and an augmented grasp on the Speed Force. Within the Speed Force, however, the Force itself determines its champion and Flash is the that champion, nearly omnipotent within. In this way, writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato firmly establish the core truths of the Flash. He is the Chosen One of the Speed Force. He is one of the most brilliant tacticians in the DCU, literally living infinite tangential realities in his mind, finding the one in which the day can be saved. But most important of all, he is the Fastest Man Alive. The art and writing of this series are at the top echelon of comics put out today, in a marriage that all should aspire to. My only fear is the hinting of a future relationship between Barry and Iris West. Its bound to happen, but I would rather have it come much later, rather than sooner. I’ve always been a proponent for Patty Spivot and considering how she turned on a dime in her opinion of the Flash, rallying to Barry’s side, I think she’s earned a place with him for a decent stretch of time. Conversely, the way Iris attempted to manipulate Barry in last issue, I think she’s earned a place in the penalty box for an equivocal time period.
Aquaman #17provides an epilogue from the five part “Throne of Atlantis” crossover with Justice League. In this respect it still had the pang of annoyance from the atrocious way that Geoff Johns writes the aforementioned team book. After wresting the crown from his younger brother, Orm, Arthur has ascended the throne of Atlantis. In the wake of his re-coronation those on land still blame him for the massive casualties of the attacks on Boston, Gotham, and Metropolis, and the Atlanteans don’t trust him because of his time living amongst the land dwellers and his leniency concerning their incursions upon the ocean. While talking to Amanda Waller, he is told that Orm is facing the death penalty for his orchestration of the Boston attack, even though Aquaman turned him in under the agreement that his brother would only face imprisonment. So in essence this issue picks up with Aquaman purchasing peace by offering up his younger brother as a scapegoat to slaughter, and is distrusted by both those he above and below the water. So what all did he gain? Who is Aquaman doing all of this for. The answer is given in this issue and it validates him, in my opinion, as a character and raises this title once again above the putrescent stench of Justice League. It also introduces the next arc of the series, hinted at in “Throne of Atlantis” and rife with possibilities. If you don’t know who the Dead King is, you soon will. Great issue by Geoff Johns following a mediocre crossover event
King of the Seven Sea
Batman Inc #8left me at a bit of a loss. Its a powerful issue, but one that makes the reader question what is real and what is only seemingly real. Grant Morrison wrote a way for it to be true, but once again the master storyteller throws a curve ball at the reader, upping the ante and really making us wonder how this thing can possibly end. Talia’s war with Batman is a war of attrition and as the dominoes fall even she is not fully prepared for the horrors she has invoked. The kind of drama and true heartache that this issue elicits in its readers could only be cultivated over years and years of careful planning and composing, as Morrison has done since 2006. Seven years building a beautifully intricate house of cards and now they fall in one swift stroke. This is a Batman series that CANNOT, and MUST NOT be missed.
Red Lanterns #17 takes Atrocitus and the Red Lanterns into the “Wrath of the First Lantern” storyline. In the Green Lantern chapter we are introduced to the concept of the “Great Heart”, a device that houses the emotions of the Guardians of the Universe. Penetrating this inner sanctum, robot watchmen accost Atrocitus offering to remove all emotion from him including his unquenchable rage and the anguish over the murder of his family and race that drove him to his current state. Also interesting is his encounter of the soul of Krona, the architect of the genocide that resulted in the destruction of Atrocitus’ sector of space and his family. On Earth, Rankorr attempts in his own way to purge his rage and live a normal life. It seems possible in this issue, but will time say otherwise? Peter Milligan truly shows his authorial mastery in this series, making monsters twisted by anger into relatable protagonists.
Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #4 concludes this title with Dr. Manhattan altering all realities so that he will always become the entity that the intrinsic field generator forged him into. Yet, still there is a blurriness that obscures his vision of his future, meaning that a large burst of tachyons will be emitted at a certain moment in his future. His initial hypothesis is that this is caused by all out nuclear war at a scale that would annihilate all living things on Earth. When he speaks to Ozymandias about this the latter tries to persuade him that this could be caused by his own self generating energy if it were used to solve the energy crisis on a global scale. This seems logical to him. Writer J. Michael Straczynski then flips the narrative (literally to the point where one flips the comic upside down to read it) and shows how the Smartest Man Alive tricks the omniscient Dr. Manhattan into not only allowing his genocidal plan, but fueling it. Though his assertion of Dr. Manhattan altering ALL possible realities is laughable, J. Michael Straczynski ends the series quite well and perfectly aligns it with the spirit of the original Watchman series from the 80’s.
Talon #5keeps to its high octane pace, pitting Calvin Rose against the full might of the Court of Owls. In the past he’s hit their money, he’s hit their symbology, but in this issue his target is the repository of their information located in a fortress built by his lover, Casey Washington’s, father. Originally he was sent to kill Casey and her daughter Sarah so that the Court could take this building and control the most secure network known to man. Now it comes full circle as he takes it back with the help of the woman he went AWOL to protect. The importance of this building merits more than the usual muscle and Calvin may have gotten in over his head. Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV write this series seamlessly and Guillem March takes that story and makes it visually beautiful with his luscious art.
Teen Titans #17is sort of an epilogue to “Death of the Family” but more so, it is a prologue to an event called “Light and Dark.” Several things happen within. First we are introduced to a doctor working with kids that have unwanted metagenes who is solicited as the new Doctor Light. We also are shown Tim moving the Titan’s home from LexCorp Towers to a luxurious yacht. The team begins to settle in, when Tim begins to exhibit some strange behavior. He puts the moves on Solstice, who has been seeing Bart Allen, aka Kid Flash, but despite brief protestations she succumbs to his advances. Next we see him, Wonder Girl comes into his room wearing one of his t-shirts and nothing else. He then seduces her, which raises some more eyebrows. However, the echos of his honeyed words fall into an infernal looking chamber where Trigon’s daugher Raven sits with a goblet of wine in one hand. So it can be assumed that Raven provides the dark to the title and Dr. Light obviously the light. Writer Scott Lobdell looks to be revitalizing two hallmark Teen Titan characters: Raven, who was once a hero, and Dr. Light, an iconic Teen Titans villain. He’s rarely gone astray, so I wait with great anticipation for what he has in store for us in future issues. Also worth noting is that Nightwind and Teen Titans have swapped artists with Eddy Barrows taking over art duties on this issue and Brett Booth becoming the new Nightwing writer. So far no complaints on my end.
The Dark Side of Tim Drake
All-Star Western #17brings a benchmark character of the DC Universe to 1880’s Gotham: Vandal Savage. Coming to Gotham he is almost like a vampire, walking through the streets and instantly invoking awe and terror from those he meets from lowly criminals in the slums to the Court of Owls in the highest eyries of Gotham society. He also brings with him a plague unlike anything the modern world had seen since the days of the Black Death in Europe. Alan Wayne’s wife, Catherine, attempts to bring food and medicine to the quarrantined parts of Gotham only to be kidnapped by the hordes of diseased. Thus Alan dispatches Hex, Arkham, and three others to go into the cordoned off districts of Gotham to rescue her. The stakes are high and all roads lead to the enigmatic Vandal Savage as the cause of the disease and chaos is explored. In the backup there is a Stormwatch story from the 19th century that frankly I could care less about. They aren’t interesting in this century and they fail to be interesting in the two prior ones. Onto the next issue.
Arrow #4delivers another three chapters in the “Arrow” mythology. First up is a yarn scripted by Ben Sokolowski and Moira Kirkland and drawn by Eric Nguyen where Ollie takes out a name on the list who is a hitman that does underground cage fighting in his downtime. Taking him on in the cage where most die at his hand appears to be the only option to cross his name off. As ever, Ollie commits himself 150%. However, when an alternative to the cage is presented, Ollie refuses to back down, raising the question in Diggle’s mind as to whether or not Ollie isn’t doing this for other reasons. Next up is a tale told by Marc Guggenheim and drawn by the incomparable Mike Grell entitled “Huntress: Year One.” After she bugged out of Starling City, as seen in her two issue arc on the show, Helena Bertinelli goes to Sicily, the land of her forefathers, to learn the art of vengeance from the criminal fraternity La Morte Sussurrata. Narrated from her perspective with Guggenheim’s words and depicted with Grell’s stark artwork this story is chilling to behold and rounds out her character into an even more sinister whole than we left her at two months ago. Finally the story “Limbo” has Oliver going aboard a yacht to destroy a drug shipment come in from southeast Asia. However on the dinghy ride out and onboard the yacht his mind is plagued by ghosts of the sinking of the Queen’s Gambitm hampering his ability to react to danger and almost getting him killed. From this we see that his past still is a raw nerve that the slightest reminder can dredge up dark memories. This comic series is incredible when put side to side with the television series each and every week. Well worth the purchase if you love the television series
The Huntress on the Prowl
Unwritten #46ends the two part storyline following Richie Savoy and Det. Didge Patterson in their investigation of zombie attacks in Australia. Upon deeper investigation the case of the boy who is compelled to write the stories that bring these monsters into being only to have them kill those close to him isn’t unique. Similar instances of others warping time and reality have been reported leading to an explanation of the state of the fictional world post-“Wound.” Mike Carey and Peter Gross are creating a world that redefines how one conceives of the relationship between fact and fiction. The idea that if something is thought, there is a factuality about it because it has been conjured into its own existence is a paradox that provokes much consideration. As this series has gone on from its first issue to this 46th installment the concept has gotten grander, more complex, and even more amazing to contemplate. Next issue promises a return to Tom Taylor in the Land of the Dead and resolution as to his fate. Like anything related to this series, its worth the wait.
Joe Kubert Presents #5begins with a Sgt. Rock story, written by his friend Paul Levitz (a genius in his own right) and of course drawn by himself. This piece has a very elegiac tone that makes me wonder whether during its writing Joe Kubert didn’t already know he was dying. He talks about its composition in the editorial section of the issue, but I still find myself wondering if that wasn’t an unspoken impetus behind the funereal feel of this story. Joe drew and sometimes wrote Sgt. Rock, following his interest and passion for war stories and telling the tales of the unsung heroes of the past that kept us free or laid down their lives for reasons both poignant and foolish. This story is the epitome of poignant, anti-war rhetoric, cutting to the bleeding core of what the character of Sgt. Rock embodies. A middle aged son and teenaged grandson of a D-Day veteran go to the Normandy beach where their unnamed progenitor stormed the German lines and lost many friends. This event mirrors a trip that Levitz took with his own son. They talk about how among those that he fought beside was the legendary Sgt. Rock and Easy Company. Speculation was that Rock died on last day of WWII. Another legend states that he lived past the war and fought in other conflicts. The truth doesn’t really matter because he fought among all of those that died that day and his legacy is buried with each and every one of them. So too would their father/grandfather, whose ashes they spread in the G.I. cemetery among the field of white crosses and stars. In Sam Glanzman’s “U.S.S. Stevens” segment, he chronicles the start of WWII from the days just prior to the Japanese attack through the major hallmarks of the war in the Pacific. Whereas the last four installments have been personal and anecdotal, this one, while set up and worded in an engaging manner, was more historical in a fact by fact presentation. Following it, Joe Kubert writes a two page editorial that introduces the Sgt. Rock feature and his friendship with writer Paul Levitz. In it he also talks about his family, including his eldest son, Dave, whom he tells us is a motorcycle enthusiast that lost a leg in a really nasty crash. His son inspired him to write the next feature about a biker with one leg that takes shelter for the night in an abandoned old house. The house hold many ghosts from past, however, both from its past owners and from the main character’s own past as a soldier in Afghanistan. This story feels like the old horror comics told in anthology books of the 50’s and 60’s, but with a modern setting. A testament befitting one of the golden age maestros of comics. Next he tells us another story of Spit as the nameless boy attempts to make his way on the whaling vessel, and after that Brian Buniak gives us a tale in Angel and the Ape of how Angel and Sam first met. This anthology book is phenomenal and I only wish that Joe Kubert could have made it to another run. He’s given the comic medium and comic book readers over sixty years of classic stories and beautiful artwork. I suppose he’s earned his rest. Slacker.
Requiem for Sgt. Rock
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Aquaman #17: Drawn by Paul Pelletier, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Sean Parsons
Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #4: Art by Adam Hughes, Colored by Laura Martin
Teen Titans #17: Drawn by Eddy Barrows, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Eber Ferreira
Arrow #4: Art by Mike Grell, Colored by David Lopez & Santi Casas
This week is truly a “Bat Week.” With the Batman title leading the way in the “Death of the Family” event, it swiftly got backup in the form of Batgirl #15, Batman & Robin #15, and Suicide Squad #15. All incredible books in their own right. Also, as I am wont to point out different milestones and astrological phenomenon, I will point out that in the middle of reading Batgirl #15 the clock struck 12:12:12 pm on 12/12/12. This won’t happen for another century so I want to make note of this history event. So noted, here is the rest of the week:
Batman #15is unrelenting in the clarity and starkness of writer Scott Snyder’s vision of a truly twisted, nightmarish Joker. From the beginning of his time writing the character several years ago (which technically was Dick Grayson’s Batman then) he has imagined stories that cut to the quick of each subject he undertakes. His work on the Bruce Wayne Batman began with the “Court of Owls”, a brand new concept, but one that went straight to the quintessence of who and what Bruce Wayne and Batman are. Almost eighty years of character boiled, distilled, and brought to a simmer, leaving us to read one of the purest Batman depictions ever written. This issue in Snyder’s second arc jumps from the Bat to his most iconic nemesis: the Joker. Over the decades the Joker has taken on many guises and iterations, but the intimacy between him and his pointy eared playmate has remained a constant. This issue especially digs into canon and molds a horrifying thought of just HOW intimate that fascination was and what that kind of psychotic obsession can descend into when someone who thrives on a static idea only to watch it change over time. “Death of the Family” is the Joker attempting to kill off the Robins, Batgirl, and associated with Batman, to take things back to how they used to be. To remove any crutches Batman leans on that the Joker perceives to be making him weak and atrophied in his role as Dark Knight. The backup feature of this title, coauthored by Snyder and James Tynion IV, has the Joker springing the Riddler for that exact purpose; to hone Batman’s intellect so he can once again become the ultimate version of himself that the Joker is enthralled by. To quote the Clown Prince of Crime in this issue, “Its time you got back in your king’s service. You’re the master of arms in this city, Eddie [Riddler]. You make Batman smarter. Better. More dangerous.” Without a doubt, all of the horrible things the Joker is doing are spawned from love. The question remains as to the nature of that love. Is it fraternal, erotic, or an all-encompassing ecstasy? Regardless, it is terrifying to behold and the next two issues should be apocalyptic.
Oh He Got In, Alright . . .
Batgirl #15picks up at a very chilling moment in the current travails of the “Dominoed Daredoll.” Being sent into the lair of the Joker by her brother, the former who abducted their mother, Batgirl is greeted by the strangest possible situation when confronting the mad clown. Down on one knee, he proposes marriage to her with the severed ring finger (diamond ring still attached) of her mother, with the owner of said ring and finger tied to a chair seated atop a five pound nail bomb. What’s a caped crusaderette to do in such a situation? Once again writer Gail Simone writes a really complex tale that resonates with the character’s inner most psyche. Barbara Gordon started this series sixteen issues ago as a broken woman; broken mentally and freshly rehabilitated after three years of being in a wheelchair, physically broken. Throughout the past sixteen months she has had to struggle to maintain her edge while holding back the horrific memories of the Joker standing over her bleeding, broken body after shooting her in the stomach and the violations he subjected her to immediately afterward. Now not only does she have to come face-to-face with the architect of her nightmares, but endure further ones as he manipulates her with the threat of her mother’s life. Conversely, Simone also teases us with visions of the Joker several years prior (while his face was still attached naturally to the rest of him), describing to his terrified psychiatrist what his plans are for the woman he intends to marry. This conversation alludes to the present events, but remains incomplete, tantalizing the reader with the question of where the twist is going to come into his plans for Batgirl. With the Joker nothing is simple, so whatever it may be, it is guaranteed to be warped. Daniel Sampere takes over art, for this issue at least, and does an equally grand job as former artist Ed Benes depicting the smoothing action as well as the beautiful heroine herself. One of the things that makes Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl so entrancing is the fluidity, grace, and acrobatics that she employs when fighting crime. It takes a special kind of artist to translate these visually and Sampere does the job.
Every Crime Fighter Has Their Limits
Batman & Robin #15, after the two part storyline following Robin’s infiltration and assault upon the cabalistic Saturn Club, finds the Boy Wonder once again relegated to Cave duty, essentially grounded, while the rest of the “Family” are out scouring the city for the Joker and the abducted Alfred Pennyworth. Those who know Damian Wayne also know that he doesn’t do “grounded.” Vowing to be the one to find Alfred, he attempts to trace the Joker from the scene of the crime. Finding his way to the zoo, Robin falls into a trap and comes face to face (to face) with the Joker. Like the above Batgirl issue, this meeting is steeped in former drama. The last time they met, during Grant Morrison’s iteration of this title pre-Reboot, Damian attempted to ace the Joker with a crowbar. Their previous interaction was intense, there’s no doubt about it, but there was very little back and forth. Tied up and with no pressing agenda, Damian is forced to listen to the Joker talk and disseminate his grand plan and ideology surrounding the “Death of the Family” plot. Steeped in ornithological and chiropteran analogy, the Joker very convincingly makes a case for why the Bat shouldn’t associate with a Robin, both in zoology and crime fighting. This stage of the Joker’s plan is concluding with next month’s #16 issue and I am curious how the final image of this month’s installment is going to facilitate its successor. Peter Tomasi is a brilliant writer and executes his part of the larger Joker storyline with razor sharp precision.
Suicide Squad #15did some tertiary things with Amanda Waller and the Top, as well as the release of Captain Boomerang from the Squad, and a surprise ending featuring another member, but I don’t really care for that and most non-Suicide Squadfans probably don’t either. The REALdrive of the issue is the “Death of the Family” tie-in, featuring the reunion of Harley Quinn and her pudd’n, Mr. J (The Joker). This event is hardly how Harley would have imagined it, going over the line of moderately abusive behavior on the part of the Joker into full on psychopathic assault. Harley is without a doubt the reason 90% of people read this title and she is extremely lovable. Her one annoying trait is her masochistic penchant to go back to the Joker despite his chronic mistreatment of her. She holds her ground against him in this issue and I personally loved her so much more for it. I would say that facing off against her former lover, this issue is a self-actualization for her that could be the start of a new, far more interesting Quinn. Apropos that point, the Joker also reveals a great deal about why he cut his face off and why Harley is a failure and a fraud in her proposed similitude to his legacy. However, as I also stated, she proves herself to be ironclad in her resolve. This issue worked so well as both a Batman tie-in and as a character issue.
Green Lantern Corps #15accomplishes three things within the larger framework of the “Rise of the Third Army” crossover event. With the Guardians of the Universe going over the edge and initiating the replacement of the Green Lantern Corps with a soulless army whose only goal is to wipe out free will and sentient life throughout the cosmos, casualties begin to fall. Setting a moral and ethical trap for Guy Gardner, the Guardians are able to expel him in disgrace from the Corps, where in this issue he languishes in a quest for meaning on Earth sans ring. Meanwhile, John Stewart runs an errand in deep space in an attempt to aid in the reconstitution of Mogo, the planet Green Lantern that he was responsible for killing during the Green Lantern War. Fatality, princess and sole survivor of Xanshi (the last planet John Stewart destroyed before Mogo) as well as sister of the Star Sapphires, comes to his aid because of the intrinsic nature of Mogo’s reconstitution. Mogo’s parts WANT to come back together, but are hindered by outside interference. As a Lantern of Love, Fatality is drawn to unite the intrinsically female aspects of Mogo with the males, the attraction of which fuels his reconstitution. The team-up of Fatality and Stewart is interesting on the level of John Stewart reliving his former geocidal sins and making amends with the help of its last surviving victim, as well as the mystery of how and why Mogo is being restrained. Finally, and in my opinion most poignantly is Salaak. Salaak is renowned as the Guardians’ lap dog Lantern and a cold adherent to the laws of the Corps. He has been a pariah and distrusted by his fellow Green Lanterns for exactly that reason, but as of last issue has come to realize the scheming nature of his masters. They become aware of his interference and as a reward for all his years of service and loyalty, begin the process of “disposing of him.” The mere thought sickens me to my core. He was my least favorite Lantern for all the above reasons, but his loyalty to the Corps over the blue bastards makes his sacrifice that much more moving. I don’t know if you are dead or just imprisoned, Salaak, but if it’s the former rest in peace, sir.
Before Watchmen: Rorschach #3delivers yet another stark portrayal of New York in the 70’s as well as Alan Moore’s anti-hero, Rorschach, aka Walter Kovacs. After brutally retiring on of underworld kingpin, Rawhead’s, pimps, Rorschach forces the man himself to go out and collect his earnings from his “night workers” thereby drawing him into the open. During the day, returning as he always does to the Gunga-Diner, Walter awkwardly asks the understatedly lovely waitress, Nancy, on a dinner date, which she agrees to despite teasing by her coworkers. Rorschach’s moonlighting hinders his punctuality with said date and the consequences, hinted at in the first issue, look to be dire. Brian Azzarello writes this title in the grittiest way possible and it is rendered exquisitely by Lee Bermejo, an artist Azzarello has a long standing association with. The final piece of interest comes when Rorschach (as Rorschach) hails a cab and a very interesting “Taxi Driver” picks him up and makes characteristic small talk. It may not be Travis Bickle, but it’s Travis Bickle. Bermejo makes you see it in the dead-on De Niro visage and Azzarello captures his essence in his thoughts and speech. Considering the parallels between Walter Kovacs and Bickle, the insertion (informal though it may be) is very thought provoking.
Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan#3 brings us to the cusp of the character’s quantum reality conundrum. Predicated off the concept of Schrodinger’s Cat, which states that a cat within a box is both alive and dead until the box is opened, Dr. Manhattan is made to experience the numerous possibilities of his existence, most of which exist outside of the certainty that he had been locked in the Intrinsic Field Chamber in 1959, turning him into Dr. Manhattan. J. Michael Straczynski has taken this concept and written it with great thought and insight. His resolution to the problem of infinite realities spun out of infinite decisions which billions of humans have made since the dawn of our species in this issue feels really false in my opinion. Dr. Manhattan attempts and we are led to believe succeeds in manipulating all the events so that in every reality he IS trapped in the Chamber, ensuring he always becomes Dr. Manhattan. The concept that he could do the infinite, even with his abilities seems preposterous and Straczynski doesn’t do a good enough job rationalizing it in my opinion. However, Staczynski does tell a very intimate tale about his parents’ escape from Europe of WWII that once again draws off the Schrodinger’s Cat theory in a brilliant way, literally putting Jon Osterman (the human Dr. Manhattan) in the box, both alive and dead. I love the art by Adam Hughes, and the story is well written, though not as effectively justified in its logic.
Simultaneously Dead and Alive
Demon Knights#15 brings to a close the tenure of series creator, Paul Cornell, in epic style. On the magical isle of Avalon the unquenchable horde of the Questing Queen and Lucifer’s legions of hellspawn descend to assert dominion over the sacred realm. Avalon fights back with the summoning of the Knights of the Round Table alongside their once and future king, Arthur, as well as the revived Merlin. The battle was choreographed and scripted carefully by Merlin and all comes out as the mage had foreseen. That said, Merlin himself goes through a transformation that portends the future of the DC as we have read in Stormwatch. I personally hate Stormwatch, so the connection between a series I have loved with one I have hated so passionately is slightly disconcerting. Still, Cornell did a good job on this issue and I would suggest people read it. Following this issue, it would appear that a splintering of the group is at hand, but not forever. Madame Xanadu foretells that they will reunite, and as we know from solicitations, the series will return next month with a brand new writer, Robert Vendetti. Vandal Savage and Al Jabir go back to Alba Sarum to claim very different rewards, Xanadu and Jason Blood go away together to distance themselves from Merlin’s meddling, Shining Knight reenters Arthur’s service and asks Exoristos to be her companion, and the the horsewoman chides them all for defying fate. The Cornell run of this series has been amazing and if anything, this issue may stand as a bookend for a glorious era of storytelling within the title.
Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E #15has Frank retrieving the last piece of the soul grinder and witnessing the death of a technologically advanced, mechanized society of female automotons that created paradise and sacrificed their lives and hopes to stop the Rot. Glavanized by this Frank fights his creator, Victor Frankenstein, and assembles the device. With the help of Victor’s machine, Frank is not only able to defeat his creator, but also reincarnate his friends into bodies that are impervious to attacks from the Rot. Among them is the one closest to his heart at present: Dr. Nina Mazursky. She also is reborn into a patchwork body, though one that still resembles her former Creature from the Black Lagoon one, and it s revealed that even afterward she is pregnant with Frank’s child. I won’t lie. I like the character of Frankenstein as well as Nina and the thought of their having a child warms the cockles of my heart.
Grifter #15was a lot like the series has been for a while: aimless wandering. Cole Cash, aka Grifer, is transported by the vengeful AI of Stormwatch’s orbital base, Eye of the Storm, into the headquarters of the Suicide Squad, headed by his former Team 7 colleague, Amanda Waller. Going through that last sentence and making a tally, there are four major topics within that I do NOT care a fig about. There is only the slightest hint of interest in flashbacks to a cult Waller infiltrated six years prior that were preaching about the imminent threat of Daemonite invasion. Through this Waller met William Warick, a man tied integrally to Cash right up until his abduction and alterations into his present power set. This points the series in the right direction of getting back to dealing with Daemonites, but too far away from the mark in my opinion.
Superboy#15 continues the “H’el On Earth” crossover in the Super-books, with Superman taking the dying Superboy to the Fortress of Solitude and running tests to not only try and heal him, but also figure out just what in the heck he is. As Supergirl and H’el have stated, he is a clone, but not JUST a Kryptonian clone. Though we knew that from the start, Superman finds out something we didn’t. Superboy’s DNA contains three strands instead of two, with one human strand and one Kryptonian, but also a third unidentified strand. His current ills stem from a breaking down of his genetics, forcing his body to tear apart at the seams. Trying to find a way to save the poor boy, Superman attempts to use his own family shield which creates his Superman armor only to realize when the shield responds to him with an unaltered House of El crest, that Superboy is his clone. Partially. Thus do Superboy and his ersatz progeny, Superboy, aka Kon-El, first meet. The meeting is short as the aforementioned ne’er-do-well, H’el, makes yet another appearance and kicks the crap out of them . . . AGAIN! Tom DeFalco writes a solid addition to the crossover event that has me stoked yet again to figure out Kon-El’s parentage. We know that Superman is his K-daddy, and its heavily insinuated from past iterations and common sense that Luthor is his human donor, but the introduction of a third genetic progenitor raises the stakes and the desire for resolution.
The Ravagers #15 resumes the fight between Caitlin Fairchild’s Ravagers and Harvest’s over the young metahuman, Lisa, who poses prophetic pre-cognitive abilities. This fight over her stands on a temporal nexus of possible futures that could wax apocalyptic or otherwise. Sharing her nightmarish visions with Caitlin, she shows what would happen to her Ravagers if she is unable to save them and they fall once more under Harvest’s sway. The governments of the world fall and death and destruction cover the planet. That said, Caitlin cannot fail. One thing with prophesy is that foreknowledge can sometimes hasten the inevitable rather than avert it. As Caitlin makes a concerted effort to stop the horrific vision from being realized, something telling happens with one of her charges. This series is on the path to a VERY dark place, much like the New Teen Titans series of the 1980’s. I for one am thrilled to see where this ride takes the Ravagers and us, their voyueristic readers.
The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men . . .
Ame-Comi Girls: Duela Dent tells the story of the daughter of a criminal named Gamblin’ Jack “The Joker” Dent, who follows in her father’s footsteps after he is gunned down by the Gotham City police. It explains how she got her jocular M.O., her scars, and how and why she got involved with an “alien” life form like Brainiac, who herself makes a debut in this issue. Also making a debut is the female Flash, Jesse Chambers. With the advent of Brianiac, the story becomes all too familiar. Brainiac is going to strip Earth of knowledge and destroy it, meaning Batgirl, Robin, and their all female compatriots are gonna have to step up to the plate to stop it from happening. The solicitation for next month’s issue informs that Power Girl will be its subject. Since she has not been introduced or alluded to, I have no idea what to make of it, but am nevertheless intrigued.
Saucer Country #10is a giant conundrum. So much happens in this issue that draws off the minutest of previous events. For instance, the marginalized UFO abductee, Mrs. Bates, returns to the narrative with a very interesting effect on the televised debate between Gov. Arcadia Alvarado and Sen. Kersey. Arcadia’s ex-husband, Michael, believes himself to be a sleeper agent, a la The Manchurian Candidate, who has already killed several people associated with his former wife’s campaign. Also, in light of the strange events that have been creeping up in the lives of the Governor and those close to her, Prof. Kidd, her UFO academic advisor tells her about the strange naked couple that he sees in seeming hallucinations. This series is so hard to peg. It rationalizes so many aspects of UFO mythology making it all seem ground within rational, mundane explanation, but then throws curve balls with new information that lies far outside of the norm. Writer Paul Cornell hits a homerun with the series in my book.
And so ends an incredible batch of reads. Next week sadly is the last real week of comics in December with a meager batch of issues coming out the day after Christmas. Hope to see you then . . .
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman #15: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Jonathan Glapion
Batgirl #15: Drawn by Daniel Sampere, Colored by Ulises Arreola John Kalisz, Inked by Vicente Cifuentes
Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #3: Art by Adam Hughes, Colored by Laura Martin
The Ravagers #7: Art by Eduardo Pasarin, Daniel HDR & Geraldo Borges, Colored by Tony Avina
This is a red letter week for the Bat-Books. With Batman #13 the Joker makes his first appearance since the first week of the reboot over a year ago and as is to be expected, he makes an ENTRANCE! His presences is felt in all three Bat titles, and his inexorable place assured.
Batman #13starts this week off. How could it not? This book has been hyped to the nth power for month’s now, as well as picking up on one of the first jaw droppers of the DC reboot, presented straight out of the gate their first week: the cut off face of the Joker. Well the Clown Prince of Crime returns to take back what is his. That is the monumental event this book represents. The Joker is BACK!!! His attacks are calculated, they are severe, and they are unpredictable. The fact that Scott Snyder is writing this book is self-evident. The plot unfolds with great mystique and forethought. The Joker’s attacks and actions come out of left field, but are rooted deeply in his past and his identity. When he accomplishes each stage in his plan, Batman puts it together and fills us in as to the relevance. Snyder has a penchant like the other greats of the industry to mine continuity for the gems that resonate with fans and then fabricate further material to compliment and enrich the original plot points further. Already he’s setting up an epic joke from the master trickster, and as the last page of this issue alludes, its going to be a really killer. The backup feature, co-written by Snyder and protege, James Tynion IV, and drawn by guest artist, Jock, is a mere five pages, but explains one of the key events in the issue, as well as sets the tenor of the relationship between the Joker and another integral character.
From the Mouth of Babes . . . Things Have Changed
Green Lantern Corps #13draws off of the zero issue and has the old foe of Guy’s from his proto-Green Lantern career, Xar, brought back into the spotlight for an integral part in the disintegration of the Corps. In fact, to put it in the briefest of terms, this issue is the elaborate orchestration of the Guardians of the Universe to set the Green Lantern Corps on the course to its own unraveling. Guy, the egotistical douchebag, falls for the plot hook-line-and-sinker, but what intrigues is what we can only guess to be a trap set for John. Still reeling from his murdering a fellow Corpsman, he is given the chance to aid in the resurrection of the Green Lantern he kill before the last one. It seems like that could be a legitimate possibility, except for the obviousness from the reader’s perspective that its a trap. That I am dying to get resolution on. Either way, as the Guardian’s plot unfolds, it becomes more and more clear that there is no going back for the Guardians. They have to die if the Green Lanterns and sentient life are to survive in this universe . . .
Batman & Robin #13continues to develop the delicate relationship between a father and son who are very stoic, intense, and reserved in their expressions. The two take a very ordinary father/son excursion into the Earth’s orbit to inspect a Wayne-tech satellite that Batman uses for surveillance purposes. You know, just the usually stuff. Their conversation is rather terse, but in the process they talk about some very sensitive topics. Did Bruce ever love Damian’s mom? Does Damian even love his mom? Does Bruce trust his son? And what’s more, Damian shows genuine emotional growth, though still wears a thick shell. A supernatural threat erupts more than halfway through the issue, but the main draw of the book is the glance at Damian’s progress as a son, an emerging hero, and as a feeling, moral human being. I love Damian. I love this book. Peter Tomasi is a genius.
Batman & Son
Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #2continues with the exploration of of the quantum uncertainty principle exemplified by Schroedinger’s Cat. While in the reality we have accepted as established, Dr. Jon Osterman became Doctor Manhattan when he was accidentally locked in the intrinsic field chamber, the first issue of this four part miniseries sets up an alternate scenario where he doesn’t. Once this dual reality concept is introduced, writer J. Michael Straczynski continues in that vein, initiating further dualities based on the smallest personal choices. If Jon chooses to dance first with his bride at their wedding then time unfolds normally as it has in our world, Kennedy getting shot and the Cold War ending thirty years later. If he chooses to dance with her last the presidential assassin is caught, Kennedy lives, Nixon becomes president after him, Watergate doesn’t happen, and nuclear apocalypse ensues. The general idea that the shockingly bewildered Dr. Manhattan arrives upon is that time is broken. J.M. Straczynski is a genius and his formatting the story on the basics of quantum physics theorum is nothing short of stunning. Also aiding in the series’ success is the beautiful artwork of Adam Hughes.
The Butterfly Effect
Batgirl #13brings to conclusion the “Knightfall” storyline with the follow up to the incredible cliffhanger ending of August’s #12. For the past several issues writer Gail Simone has made me hate Charise Carnes, but in this issue she manages to make me sympathize with her. The truth about her family’s gruesome murder is revealed in gory detail, not justifying but explaining her insane plot for Gotham and its criminals. On the side of the aisle, Simone depicts the ironclad resolve of Batgirl brilliantly. As we left her on the last page of issue #12, she had been stabbed in the abdomen and was bleeding out. In spite of that, her sheer will to stop Knightfall’s villainous plot is staggering. It’s what sets her apart. What also sets her apart from Knightfall is the mercy she is willing to offer the criminals she apprehends. That same mercy saves her life. Following up on her victory comes a maelstrom of past horrors resurrected. The three previous arcs, masterminded by three separate psychopaths, are coming back to haunt her as a mysterious cabal arranges the release of all three. But . . . worst of all, is the retelling of a “Killing Joke” . . .
Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before . . .
Grifter #13 does a lot of things. Firstly, it introduces the team up of Grifter and Voodoo. I approve. He also crosses paths again with the crew from Stormwatch. I hate Stormwatch sooooo much, but on the other hand, writer Rob Liefeld does something that so many writers should have done so many times over: Midnighter gets pwned! He is such a piece of crap and Grifter really lays into him, wiping that smirk off his face. Thank you, Mr. Liefeld. I may not have enjoyed some of the things you’ve done in this series, but you made my month.
Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E #13brings Frankenstein into the events of the “Rotworld” crossover happening in Swamp Thing and Animal Man. As we have seen previously, Frankenstein is somehow immune to the Rot and not able to be subdued or swayed by them. This taken into effect, he is drafted by the Red to be their agent and to go to Metropolis for a very dangerous mission that may hold sway over the course of the war. At the heart of it is the drafting of his creator, Victor Frankenstein, to the Rot, and the device used to by him to create Frankenstein. This device, the Soul Grinder, is said to be the one weapon that can defeat the Rot.
Superboy #13finds the Boy of Steel forming an uneasy alliance with NYPD detective, Jocelyn Lure, as well as going head to head with the people that employed the psychic villain, Kiva, in issue #12. Once again in this battle for survival, Superboy feels his control over himself waning and a primal anger taking root, subverting his self control. Both he and Lure, realize that for the greater good of everyone, he has to get answers from the only person who might have them: Caitlin Fairchild . . .
Following up on the above title, The Ravagers #5finds Superboy catching up with Caitlin and her teenage charges as they arrive at the secret facility of Niles Calder. All the teens, SB included, then find that what Niles has in store for them is eerily similar to what was expected of them at the Colony. Though we can assume that Caitlin and Niles have the kids’ best interest at heart, the Ravagers’ reaction to their propositions is completely understandable. There is a great deal of character development across the board. Niles Caulder is a completely new persona, as he makes his New DCU debut, this time not in a wheelchair and thirty years younger. The Ravagers all continue to weigh in with their reactions to the hellacious events thrown at them. Superboy and Caitlin Fairchild, I think, develop the most. Writer Howard Mackie really takes Superboy back to the existentialist roots he first had in Superboy #1.
Phantom Stranger #1 continues on the road of developing what was and promise to be a very different comic book character. DC seemed to be an imprint that excelled with characters such as the Stranger. The Specter also follows in that same vein, as a character with immense power but powerless to wield it the way his heart dictates. Dan Didio takes on the character presenting a man made to do terrible, sometimes even reprehensible, things and not have him demonized in our eyes. This issue has him meeting the character of Raven (of New Teen Titans fame) becoming aware of her powers and struggling to control them. As the Zero issue hinted, her demonic father Trigon makes an appearance and the result is not good for Rachel, aka Raven. I am excited by the potential for the horrible events of this issue to spin out into a future story line of this or another series. Dan Didio keeps to the tenor established in the Zero issue, but drops a GIANT bomb on the last page that will resonate for years to come.
WHAT THE F***!?!
Demon Knights #13 resumes the “Avalon” arc where the Demon Knights are attempting to regain Merlin’s soul from Avalon and return him to Alba Sarum. The problem lies in the treachery of the Demon Etrigan, dragging all of his comrades to Hell in the hopes of achieving an as of yet unrevealed scheme for power. What makes this issue interesting his how Hell crafts individualized torments for each of the Knights, some more effective than others. Vandal Savage actually seems more amused by his than perturbed. Sir Ystin is forced with the dilemma of revealing her gender, which is agonizing to her. This aspect of the plot, as well as the realpolitiking of Lucifer and Etrigan are what drive the issue on, making it a worthwhile read. I am very curious to see what Etrigan has in store, as well as how Jason Blood, who himself is also oblivious to his other half’s schemes, will react to it. Also the Black Diamond is introduced . . .
Deathstroke #13 did a few interesting things, but overall was not memorable. Rob Liefeld continues writing it, with the help of former Voodoo writer, Joshua Williamson, and Eduardo Pansica on pencils. Liefeld is solidifying a relationship (sexual, if not romantic) between Slade Wilson and Zealot, as well as a continuing conspiracy by his son, Jericho, to kill him. I love Jericho so I am staying on the title for that, as well as seeing how Zealot is fleshed out in this new DCU. Both seem very different and ironically polarized. Jericho usually was pretty even keeled and kind, but here is depicted more harshly. Zealot was always very abrasive and hardheaded, yet here is a very complex, intriguing woman. I’ll buy a few more issues before I make any harsh decisions.
Team 7 #1 was forgettable. So far there is nothing about this title that interests me. Like Justice League has been a team book featuring representations of everyone’s favorite DC superheroes as superpowered douchebags, this title seems to be four of everyone’s favorite nonpowered heroes and three other guys as just plan douchebags. This title is going to get dropped. The Black Diamond also is alluded to.
Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #7 concludes the series. The plot was rather confusing, jumping ahead six years to Dominique as the Queen of the Voodoo Court and her being slain. Its hard to gauge the impact or meaning of things with that much of a gap. I mean there were two orphans that Dominique felt she had to save, and then bypass her even finding them, cutting to them being adults. How are we supposed to know the significance of their existance in the story. I’m sure that there is a very important reason they are there in writer Selwyn Seyfu Hinds’ head, but it’d really be great if he could share it with his readers. There was an interesting wrap up to the story, but that wrap up is impotent without a little lead up to it. I hated this last issue, when I really should have loved it. Up until the time-warp Hinds gave us in this issue, it was a phenomenal series.
Ame-Comi Girls: Wonder Womanis the first issue of one-shots in a series based upon anime versions of DC’s female pantheon. Starting it off, of course, is the first DC superheroine, Wonder Woman. It would have been wrong if they had not included her. Her story is pretty straightforward and follows the origin we all quintessentially know. Born the daughter of Amazon Queen Hippolyta, Diana butts heads with her mother and tradition and is sent to the world of men as an ambassador of Themyscira. That is the basics. In this, as with all anime she is skimped out in a very slutty costume. Considering the prideful and feminist rooting of the character, writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, have fun with it by posing Diana’s objections, saying “Is this punishment not embarrassing enough that I must also advertise myself as a whore to the nation of men?” I will admit that I have always like the singlet costume over the various more politically correct iterations involving pants and the like, but her costume in this one is overkill. Its ridiculous. However, I think that that is the point and a jab at the source material of anime in general. I was entertained by the over the top storytelling and the anime-esque art by conventional comic artists Amanda Conner and Tony Akins. I look forward to seeing Batgirl in November’s installment.
A BOLD New Look
Thus concludes Week 2 of October. So incredible. Can’t wait for next Wednesday.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman #13: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Jonathan Glapion
Batman & Robin #13: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray
Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #2: Art by Adam Hughes, Colored by Laura Martin
Batgirl #13: Art by Ed Benes, Colored by Ulises Arreola
Phantom Stranger #1: Drawn by Brent Anderson, Colored by Ulises Arreola, Inked by Philip Tan
Ame-Comi Girls: Wonder Woman: Art by Amanda Conner, Colored by Paul Mounts
This is a week I have been looking forward to for awhile. Green Lantern: The New Guardians has been powering towards this year long finale and I am anxious to read it. Batman Incorporated was regrettably bumped back a month due to the shooting in Colorado, but finally hits stands. The Golden Glider, aka Lisa Snart, makes her first appearance in The Flash. And The Unwritten has been at the top of my pull list since it first came out over three years ago.
Green Lantern: The New Guardians #12completes not only a full years worth of storytelling, but also the very first story arc which I believe has been referred to as “The Ring Thief.” Self contained, this twelve month span of issues presents a beginning and an end wrapped up very neatly. If one wanted to stop here, writer Tony Bedard provides a perfect jumping off point for reader, but also a perfect jumping on point next month for a new stage of storytelling with a brand new team. Wrapping up the threat of Invictus against the Vega System and the Universe and the mysterious motives of the “Ring Thief”, Bedard presents two very complex figures. Both the fallen Angel of Vega and the fallen Guardian of Oa have good intentions that cross boundaries of morality and pervert their noble aims. Both are put down, but the result leaves a bittersweet taste in one’s mouth as to whether or not the Universe is better or worse for their defeat. This series started off shaky last September, but finished high on the leaderboard in my opinion. Can’t wait for next arc with the return of two of my favorite Lanterns: Carol Ferris and Atrocitus.
The Last Flight of the New Guardians
The month delayed Batman Incorporated #3finally came out this week, for those who couldn’t get a bootleg around the time of the original release date. Isssue #1 introduced the reentry of Leviathan as the central threat under the banner of Talia Al-Ghul. Issue #2 reintroduced the origin and journey of Talia to the foreground as the mastermind behind Leviathan and the reasons for the organization’s creation. This issue brings us back to Batman and Robin fighting Leviathan and how the enigmatic cabal is spreading like a cancer throughout the infrastructure of Gotham, and probably the whole country. Donning the seemingly retired persona of “Matches” Malone, Batman attempts to infiltrate the beast from its belly. Grant Morrison writes a tight script and artist Chris Burnham draws it exquisitely, with as style reminiscent of Frank Quitely, but with a flavor all its own.
A Tangled Web
Flash #12brings months of Flash issues to a head. Writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Brian Buccellato have been slowly introducing the Rogues in one off issues that reintroduce and in some cases reinvent the characters to the DCU. With Heatwave’s, appearance last month the final two make their’s in this twelfth installment. Captain Cold’s little sister, Lisa Snart, aka Golden Glider, comes into the picture, ousting her brother as leader of the Rogues and institutes a daring plan to bring the Gem Cities to their knees, with a lot of help from a final Rogue who has kept a low profile thus far. In the life of our protagonist, Flash confronts his fair-weather friend, Dr. Elias, about his betrayal and finds the good doctor to be an egotistical user who took advantage of the Flash to further his own research. Elias then becomes the lynch pin between the Rogues, the Flash, Captain Cold, and The Pied Piper. A lot of things happening and all setting up the Flash Annual due next week . . .
Batman: The Dark Knight #12was a pretty intense, thought provoking issue. Falling into the clutches of the Scarecrow, Batman is subjected to various regimes of fear toxin. Through his descent into the trauma of his childhood, we see that Bruce Wayne and Jonathan Crane are actually very similar in several respects. Also the the greatest fear of Batman’s is revealed and it is quite shocking, but appropriate. Gregg Hurwitz is writing a great Batbook that is both hard hitting and introspective. David Finch’s artwork continues to define the book and lend it a feel that is truly gothic.
Fury of Firestorm #12reaches the fever point for both Pozhar and Director Zither. With the international tension between Firestorms mounting, the truth behind the emergence of these superbeings unfolds. Pozhar, the Russian Firestorm, pioneered the technology with Professor Stein. Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond gained their powers from Stein’s Matrix. The Firestorms of the other nations received their Firestorm Matrices from Zithertech, which makes all the difference. The fallout (perhaps literal as well as figurative) redefines the title in time for the new regime of Dan Jurgens as writer/artist. Ashra Khan hasn’t shown yet. Hope that doesn’t vanish with the previous creative team. I like Dan Jurgens’ work as a whole, but sometimes he can drop the ball. I feel like he could do this title great justice, considering the subject material.
Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #1inaugurates another out-of-the-park hit from J. Michael Straczynski in the Before Watchmen line. With a plot whose flow is dictated by the principles of quantum physics, mainly that of what I believe is referred to as “Schrödinger’s cat”, stating that anything conceivable is possible until proven otherwise. In this, the young Jon Osterman receives a present from his parents, and looking back on it as the godlike Doctor Manhattan, he states that until he opened that box, its contents could literally have been anything. A kitten, a teddy bear, a baseball mitt and ball, etc. And in numerous realities it did contain those things. He goes over his entire life and the exact moments that are unchangeable that lead to his metamorphosis into his current state. However, when he witnesses a reality in which he does not find himself locked in the Intrinsic Fields vault, he then is confronted with the possibility that not everything is quantifiable and chaos does exist in a seemingly fixed set of rules. There is obviously much more to the story, but the way in which the plot is scientifically mapped and charted by the author and its protagonist is what truly makes is a fascinating read.
Superman #12brings a close to the first year of the title and also Dan Jurgens’ role as writer/artist. I love Jurgens and his work, but this issue and the story arc it concludes was not good. We see that the predator monster, who unmasked does actually look dissimilar and more like a reptile than the movie predator, was actually just an unwitting victim, ripped from his home dimension and who is just trying to get back to where he belongs. While fighting his Russian captors to escape captivity, some of them are killed, and because of this Superman tries to bar his exit from Earth, because “this creature needs to pay for his crimes.” WHAT?! Knowing full well that the creature doesn’t want to stay here and was forcefully removed to Earth, are we really supposed to believe that Superman would take that line, especially considering his track record of wanton destruction? No!!! Mister Jurgens, this doesn’t make sense. Better luck on Fury of Firestorm in two months. Starting in September with issue #0, Superman will fall under the skillful pen of Scott Lobdell. I for one, can’t wait.
Justice League Dark #12continues the “Books of Magic” storyline’s descent deeper into the twisted realm of deception. Felix Faust and Dr. Mist turn out to be merely pawns in a faceless enemy’s highly sophisticated plot. While we do not know who this man is, we know he is powerful, we know that he has an old tie to John Constantine, and while Constantine is master of the House of Mystery, this other gentleman is become lord of the House of Secrets. Also, we get to see the true secret about the rift between former lovers Zatanna and Constantine, and oh man is it a doozy.
Teen Titans #12reveals further details about the connection between Cassie Sandsmark and the source of her power, the Silent Armor. The Armor is an evil device, linked to an Armageddon force that thus far Cassie has been able to suppress. However, the enigmatic young man from her past, Diesel, introduced last issue, holds the key to unlocking both her destructive potential and the secret of the armor. In two months we will see how this all plays out. In the backup story by Fabian Nicieza, Teryx, with the help of Kid Flash, hunts down Steg in an attempt to stop his dino-supremacist actions. There isn’t really an ending to this segment making me wonder if it will be a future plot line or a recurring backup.
Voodoo #12marks the end of that series’ main run. There will be a #0 issue next month, but as of the end of this issue, both Voodoo and Priscilla are going to be relegated to the pages of other series, such as Grifter and possibly Superman. When I read the first issue of this series a year ago, I had so many theories and questions as to the destiny of the anti-heroic title character, but this issue didn’t get anywhere close to resolving either. I hope that Grifter utilizes the character better, and both develops her and answers those questions.
All-Star Western #12wraps up the storyline of the reorganized Religion of Crime . . . for now. Jonah Hex and Tallulah Black (along with Dr. Amadeus Arkham) escape from the group’s steampunk deathtrap and take it to the self-appointed Lords of Crime with bare fists and .44 caliber bullets. The results of their labors seem definite, but as is an accepted truth about Gotham City, no evil ever dies. In the meantime, writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray introduce us to the next conflict in the series’ future . . . Dr. Jekyll and his strange associate. In the backup feature, Palmiotti and Gray conclude their “Dr. Thirteen” arc in classic Sherlock Holmes style, with science masqueraded as superstition.
Tallulah Black and Lorna Kyle Duke It Out In Old Gotham
Kirby Genesis: Dragonsbane #3brings the group of mythic heroes closer to the Conspiracy of Dragons imprisoning the Persian princess, Tahmina. In the process, they pick up another comrade-in-arms, the She-Demon. Though she seems generic, it is hinted that she comes from a Romanian inspired mythland. With the last of their fellowship together, the heroes end the issue by setting foot into the Persian mythland and on the verge rescuing Tahmina. Next issue will conclude the series and I have to admit I am intrigued.
The Unwritten #40marks the return of Tom Taylor to the main narrative. As has been foreshadowed in previous issues, Tom is coming to Australia on a world tour of revelation that we can assume is in response to the eponymous “Wound” this arc details following Pullman’s attack on the Leviathan several months ago. It also marks the meeting of Tom with the characters who we have come to see as central these past three months: Daniel Armitage, Det. Didge Patterson, and most importantly, Reverend Lucas Filby of the Church of Tommy cult. When meeting each of these three, Tommy is made aware of something important to his journey forwarding. In fact, Didge’s revelation, born of her disintegration by Pullman’s wooden hand, leads Tom and the title toward the next major arc.
The Unwrittten Made Light
Thus concludes a phenomenal week in comics. See you next week.
Green Lantern: The New Guardians #12: Drawn by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Nei Ruffino & Wes Hartman, Inked by BATT
Batman Inc #3: Art by Chris Burnham, Colored by Nathan Fairbairn
Green Lantern: The New Guardians #11: Drawn by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Nei Ruffino, Inked by BATT
Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #1: Art by Adam Hughes, Colored by Laura Martin
All-Star Western #12: Art by Moritat, Colored by Mike Atiyeh
The Unwritten #40: Art by Peter Gross, Colored by Chris Chuckry