Feb. 5, 2014

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 Lanterns share 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.
    The Doctors.

    The Doctors.


  • Green Arrow #28 presents 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.

    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.

    Sorrentino Word Art.

  • Green Lantern/Red Lanterns #28 is 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.

    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.

    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 #1 was 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.

    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.

Illustration Credits:

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.

Jan. 29, 2014

This week rounds out the month with some classic series like Teen Titans and The Flash and adds a few Annuals to the mix.  It also marks the end of the very intriguing Damian: Son of Batman series.  Not the most perfect week of comics, but certainly a few gems to be read.

  • The Flash #27 begins the last arc of writer Brian Buccellato’s run on this title.  Beginning in the 19th century when the Gem Cities of Keystone and Central City were mining camps, we get a two page glimpse at a murder centuries.  Cut to the present when Flash is running down (pun intended) a few of his lesser foes, only to discover a hidden chamber beneath the city streets containing several long dead bodies.  They fit the M.O. of a killer put away on a life sentence, but according to forensics were killed AFTER said person, Hollis Holden, was sent to Iron Heights Prison.  As Barry looks into the facts it slowly dawns on him that this could be the case that clears his father’s name of killing Barry’s mom.  It’s a sad thing that Buccellato is leaving the Flash, because his collaboration with Francis Manapul on the title has truly invigorated this series and made it one of the “can’t miss” series of the current DC lineup.  Though Manapul is absent in art, Patrick Zircher takes over art duties and his panels bring the Flash alive in a whole new way.  I won’t say that I like the art better than Manapul’s, which is in it’s own category, but I definitely love his work and would seek it out in other titles once this title transitions. With this being Buccellato’s last hoorah on the Flash, it’s a distinct possibility that Barry might ACTUALLY solve his mother’s murder.  The question comes down to how well that answer could be given under the current circumstances and the size of Buccellato’s ego.  My opinion could swing favorably or unfavorably on this one.  Two more issues to go . . .
  • The Red Lanterns #27 begins properly the new phase in the Red Lantern mission.  After “Lights Out” Hal Jordan gave Guy Gardner and his Red Lanterns a sector of Space for their own, free of interference from the Green Lanterns.  Guy took 2814, home most notably to the planet Earth.  Writer Charles Soule says Ysmault, the Red Lantern homeworld, is in Sector 2814 and that is the rationale for its selection.  I’m not buying it.  This is one time when I have to question Soule’s logic, considering that Ysmault was used as the prison to house the survivors of the Manhunter massacre of every living thing in Sector 666, except the six Inversions imprisoned on there.  They were imprisoned to keep them out of sight and out of mind so they couldn’t tell the rest of the Universe what the Guardians let happen.  So . . . why would they put these dangerous criminals in a heavily populated sector like 2814 when they could use any of the THOUSANDS of deserted planets in 666 where nobody ever goes and where there are no Green Lanterns patrolling?  I’m pretty sure they did even say Ysmault is in 666 somewhere in one issue or another.  A very ill-conceived gambit to justify the annexing of 2814 by the Reds.  With that taken into account, Guy intends to inspect Earth and show Skallox and Zilius Zox his homeworld, as they have never seen it before.  I am fairly certain Skallox went to Earth in Red Lanterns #10 or the crossover issue of Stormwatch #10.  Soule is appearing to not have done his homework.  Rankorr and Bleez, who have been to Earth many times, are dispatched to find a newly minted Red Lantern and reign them in, only to come face-to-face with Atrocitus, who found new ring himself and initiate the new toad-like Red into the fold.  On Earth Skallox and Zox are left to their own devices, invariably finding trouble.  The main thing that Charles Soule accomplishes with this issue is the reintroduction of Tora Olafsdottir, aka Ice, into the New DCU, as well as recapping the former relationship that Guy and Tora once had.  I like the series, but I do think that of the many things that Charles Soule is currently writing this is the weakest series and the one that probably has the least of his attention.  That’s not to say that it’s bad, but it could be way better.
    An Icy Reception.

    An Icy Reception.


  • Teen Titans #27 appears to be Scott Lobdell’s attempt to make a liar out of me.  Last issue, he and artist Tyler Kirkham went about detailing the secret origin of Kid Flash, aka Bar-Tor, as a “psychotic anarchist” who led a bloody rebellion in a tyrannically oppressive future.  At least that was their aim.  What they showed was a level headed kid that did everything within his power to protect and provide for his little sister, Shira, and make a better world.  He is nothing more than what any person would be in that situation and far from the psychopath they’d depicted him as.  This issue changes that.  It also, to a small degree, changes the rationale behind his surrender to the galactic “Functionary” that oppressed the lower classes of its citizens.  In issue #26 it appeared that the near death of Shira due to his actions snapped Bar out of his revolutionary fervor, making him give himself up to authorities.  While I still believe that he loves his sister and that she is his primary reason for doing what he has done, Scott Lobdell shows that Kid Flash’s surrender was both strategic and deceptive.  Though he was granted witness protection and a new identity in the past, the Functionary show when they try Bar in this issue that they never had any intention of letting him live.  They only meant to break his rebellion by putting on a show trial with him ratting out those that believe in him and fought for him, killing their spirit, and then executing him afterward.  Bar knew this and turned the tables.  After admitting his utter guilt to the charges laid against him the ceiling is literally blown off of the courthouse and the prison guards arm the rebels and teleport them to the scene.  Bar has the Functionary bigwigs in a snare that will ensure that all the government’s heads will roll in one swing of the sword.  No one is going to survive Bar’s coup, not even the innocents present.  In his demeanor and his actions, Kid Flash does take on the crazed temper he’d be cast in leading up to these last two issues.  It’s madness, but the question is whether it is a good kind of madness.  What is happening seems very much like the French Revolution with the prison guards turning against their masters and opening the prisons in an all out breakdown of the system.  I am very curious to see how this predicament pans out and how the crazy Kid Flash from this issue reconciles with the very grounded, moral version that perhaps only I saw in the last issue.  With a character like Kid Flash it’s hard to believe he would get kamikaze’d like, that regardless of whether the title is getting cancelled in April or not.  Scott Lobdell hasn’t let me down so far and has written this series superbly throughout the two and a half year run.  Artist Tyler Kirkham is hitting it out of the park in the realm of art, really making this title a jewel in his resume.  I’m onboard this train till it’s last stop two months from now.  What a ride . . .

    The Face of Teenage Revolution.

    The Face of Teenage Revolution.

  • Talon #15 is yet another comic by Marguerite Bennett that I went into with high hopes, only to have them dashed.  The issue has NO story. Yes, there is something resembling a plot, but at the end of the issue the reader is left with two questions: 1) What did I just read? 2) Why should I care?  The plot (or what passes for one) begins with an African American Talon taking down William Cobb to become the Court of Owl’s new assassin.  It should be noted that this Talon is male, meaning that it is not Strix, who came into her second life in the 50’s. The pacing of the issue is also very jarring, following the reverse order paradigm of Christopher Nolan’s seminal film, Memento.  Slowly we work our way back through this guys life, and while the imagery is very depressing and often tragic, the rationale of why we are even hearing about this guy is not answered.  This is a one-off for Bennett, the title will transition to Tim Seeley’s hands for it’s final two issues, so again the possibility that this is setting something up is dubious.  There was even the possibility in my head that in some way this gentleman was a relative of Casey Washington, but due to the time period and the circumstances described this is just a nameless Talon we may never hear from again.  Every time I come across a title that Marguerite Bennett writes I get a twinge.  Maybe she’s good at writing her own material, but so far everything of hers I have read is her writing a one-shot issue of someone else’s property like her Batman Annual #2 last year, the TERRIBLE Lobo issue she wrote during Villains Month this September, and her lackluster Batgirl #25 in November.  She’s writing two one-shots next month and both have me worried.  Joker’s Daughter features the title character whom I do not care for one iota, so that sounds like a giant waste of money.  Lois Lane is a horse of a different color, because that has the potential to be amazing . . . assuming the writer has the talent to actually pull it off.  Lois Lane is a character that can be incredible, but can also be absolutely terrible if the writer doesn’t know what they are doing. Bennett does not instill faith.  Also the artist on Lois Lane, Emanuela Lupacchino, is an up and coming talent and I’ve enjoyed her past work a great deal, so that is another reason Bennett’s authorship is troubling.  No one wants to be the weakest link that breaks the chain, especially when that chain is Lois Lane, one of the most beloved female characters in comics and someone that fans have been screaming to have her own solo book.  Marguerite Bennett said this of her controversial Lobo issue this past September:
    You can hate me by Page Two. But if I do not have your attention by Page Four, you don’t have to read something of mine ever again.”
    Well Ms. Bennett, you have until the last page of Lois Lane #1 to sell me that you can write anything.  Then I am going to take you up on your previous offer.  
  • Damian: Son of the Batman #4 brings to a close Andy Kubert’s four issue miniseries dedicated to Damian Wayne, whom Kubert co-created with Grant Morrison.  This series has been and continues to be a very Kubert-esque journey through the life of Batman.  Joe Kubert, Andy’s father, had a very characteristic drawing style that influenced comic art for seventy years, but also a narrative style that is like no one else’s, past or present.  Andy has definitely inherited his dad’s artistic style, but he also emotes the same incredible voice as a writer.  Joe could have written this, but at the same time there is a darker edge that is all Andy.  In a lot of ways that is something of which this comic is an allegory.  Damian is taking over for his legendary father, Batman.  In the first issue, even after the death of Batman (it’s actually Dick Grayson) he is reticent to take on the mantle of the Bat, but as events unfold he is thrust into becoming Batman, but a Batman on his terms.  His father, who is still alive though quite old, chastises him for his wanton brutality which does get through to the young Wayne.  But as this issue concludes and Damian actualizes himself as the new Dark Knight he takes on the role adhering closely to his father’s legacy and being Batman in the ways that matter, but also maintaining an element of his own identity while in the role.  Now I don’t know if Joe and Andy had an idyllic relationship or a rocky one like Bruce and Damian in this series, but the parallels of Andy taking the reigns of continuing his father’s legendary name and legacy in the comics industry rings true to Damian’s struggle herein.  As stated, Joe Kubert’s art can be found in elements of more than four generations of comic artists, but his writing style is far more rare and that is what Andy stands as a torchbearer to.  Top to bottom, this was an incredible four issue miniseries and well worth reading for those that love and miss Damian Wayne.

    Long Live the Batman!

    Long Live the Batman!

  • Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 provides and extended format launch pad for the next major conflict in the Green Lantern family of books. The Durlans have been a problem over the past several months, but in this annual their threat begins to solidify.  They have publicly discredited the Green Lantern Corps in front of the Universe, they have rallied the Corps’ enemies into simultaneous attacks on the Corps’ chapter houses throughout the 3600 sectors of Space, and they have drawn blood by blowing up the Corps’ command center on Mogo.  Writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen give background into the Durlan threat by showing the horrific ruling council of the Durlan race called “the Ancients,” and gives voice to what the Ancients plan.  What’s more, the annual primarily focuses on the Corps’ many iconic villains, i.e. Kanjar-Ro, Bolphunga the Unrelenting, Darkstar, etc., and gives short one to two page glimpses into each villain’s past with a moment that sums up their individual motivations.  These are the worst of the worst who HATE the Corps, so what Venditti and Jensen do next is even more incredible.  Faced with an alliance with the Durlans who none of them trust, this ragtag group of villains pull a 180 and align themselves with the Green Lanterns to take out the Durlan threat.  It’s a tricky gambit and should make for one hell of an entertaining arc.  
  • Earth 2 Annual #2 finally reveals the origin of the enigmatic Batman of Earth 2.  Spoiler Alert, I am going to reveal the identity of Batman.  I feel enough time has passed since the issue dropped that those that want to know already know, but if someone doesn’t, skip this review.  This series started in Earth 2 #0 with the end days of the Apokalips Invasion of Earth 2 being thwarted by the Trinity (Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman) at the cost of their lives. So with Bruce Wayne dead, who is this new Batman and why is he doing what he is doing?  The breadcrumbs and clues have been stacking up.  Firstly, through his rhetoric and desire to free “dangerous” inmates of the Arkham cryostasis detention center we are shown that he could be considered a criminal and a monster.  Secondly, while doing so he is revealed to have super-strength and a bulletproof hide. Thirdly, we are told that bioscans reveal him to be human.  Finally, when he goes into the containment chambers and releases the inmates he opens the Joker’s tube only to shoot him in the head, revealing a VERY deep loyalty to Batman as a person, but not an adherence to his stringent codes against killing and using firearms.  All of these paint a tantalizing riddle of who this person could be, opening the door for either a very interesting reinvention of a classic DC character or the introduction of a brand new one.  The reveal was, I am sad to say, underwhelming.  Batman is Dr. Thomas Wayne, father of Bruce Wayne, who faked his death and apparently became a junkie and a murderer out to take down mafiosi.  Maybe in the long run this will be a decent development, but it just seemed really tired and unoriginal.  Thomas Wayne as Batman was something novel that writer Brian Azzarello proposed in Flashpoint: Batman and wrote to perfection.  In that title as well, Batman became something very dark and excessive in his crusade against crime, also adopting the use of firearms.  However, Flashpoint Batman was the architect of the Batman persona following the death of 8 year old Bruce at the gunpoint of Joe Chill and the subsequent psychotic descent of his wife, Martha, into the persona of the Joker.  In Earth 2 the use of Thomas as the new Batman just comes off as lazy from a writing standpoint.  He uses guns, he’s got five o’clock shadow, he’s willing to kill, his costume is red and grey/black with sharper edges.  There are too many similarities with not enough validating differences to make Thomas’ role in the book worthwhile.  Now that may change, but the deadbeat dad concept, while tragic, falls flat for me.  This is a shame as I have enjoyed the series, both under the helm of original writer James Robinson and the new authorship of Tom Taylor.  Whether Thomas was Robinson’s idea or Taylor’s, the brunt of responsibility falls on Tom Taylor to make it work however possible.
    A Father in the Shadows.

    A Father in the Shadows.


  • Worlds’ Finest Annual #1 provides a look into the lives of three very important young women from Earth 2.  The title Worlds’ Finest follows Helena Wayne, known as Robin on Earth 2 and Huntress on Earth 1, and Kara Zor-El, known as Supergirl on Earth 2 and Power Girl/Karen Starr on Earth 1.  This annual showcases their lives as emergent heroes on Earth 2, as well as a brief glimpse at a third young woman whom readers of the series Earth 2 will no doubt recognize: Fury.  Helena Wayne is of course the daughter of Bruce Wayne (Batman) and his wife Selena Kyle (Catwoman), and the first and so far only bearer of the mantle of Robin on Earth 2.  As on Earth 1, Kara is the cousin of Superman and in most ways is identical to her Earth 1 counterpart.  Fury is the enigma, as she is the daughter of Wonder Woman and an unrevealed father, and fights for Apokalips.  In this way, the annual focuses on the female scions of the three great superheroes: Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.  Paul Levitz is just the writer to tackle this assignment considering his creation of Huntress in the 70’s and his incredible career writing thoughtful comics about uncertain youths flung head first into incredible circumstances.  For proof of that assertion read any of his Legion of Super-Heroes books.  The episodes depicted in this annual concerning Helena and Kara paint the two girls as novices making mistakes, but those early blunders juxtapose against the past two years worth of issues to show how they became the strong, confident women we have seen in the present.  Fury is more cryptic in her portrayal by Levitz and no doubt that is because her origin and the revelation of her motivations are integrally keyed into the Earth 2 title.  In any event, Levitz brings his A-game to these stories and spins into being three events that define the characters of these two dimensionally displaced heroines.

And thus concludes the first month of comics in 2014.  Here’s hoping to many more awesome issues to fill out the coming eleven months.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Red Lanterns #27: Art by Alessandro Vitti, Colored by Gabe Eltaeb.

Teen Titans #27: Drawn by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Arif Prianto, Inked by Art Thibert & Dan Green.

Damian: Son of Batman #4: Art by Andy Kubert, Colored by Brad Anderson.

Earth 2 Annual #2: Drawn by Robson Rocha, Colored by Gabe Eltaeb, Inked by Scott Hanna.

Oct. 23, 2013

This week brings to a close the regular scheduled comics of October and presents some very incredible issues, not least of which being two Forever Evil tie-ins in Justice League and Justice League Dark, and the penultimate installment of the “Lights Out” plot in the Green Lantern books before next week’s Green Lantern Annual #2.  A lot of really great storytelling happening.

  • Justice League #24 is very much an Ultraman issue.  With last week’s issue of Justice League of America we were clued into the basic situation the Justice League and Justice League of America are facing in their enigmatic prison.  So Justice League takes us to the other side of the equation, cluing us into who the new kids in town are and what makes them tick.  As stated above, Ultraman takes center stage in this issue, dictating his life and the formative events that have molded him into the person that stepped through Pandora’s gate from the desiccated Earth-3 to our Earth-1.  In his universe Krypton was destroyed and just before that his parents slaughtered their way to the escape pods, killing everyone so that their son could be the sole survivor and have no competition in his conquest of that universe’s Earth.  Everything is twisted about the world of Earth-3.  The benevolent scientist Jor-El is replaced by a twisted lunatic named Jor-Il, who sends his son away with ultimatums and recordings telling little Kal-Il how worthless he is and that he has to be strong and destroy anything weak.  When he arrives on Earth he is found by the abusive drunk Jonathan Kent and his equally abrasive wife, Martha.  The infant Kal emerges from his rocket and disturbingly tells them in full sentences that they will serve as his parents, shortly after he cuts Jonathan’s hand off with his heat-vision.  Cut to the present where the last son of Krypton-3 goes to the Daily Planet of to see how the counterparts to his Earth-1 self measure up.  First on the docket: his pal Jimmy Olsen.  Considering the polar opposites that Earth-3 predicates from our world’s characters, the Jimmy Olsen of Ultraman’s reality proves to be a very depraved person.  So depraved the he is able to take advantage of Lois Lane, aka Superwoman, and still be left alive, untouched by her and her husband, Ultraman.  Cut next to the end of the issue with the inevitable entrance of Black Adam following the events of his Villains Month issue of Justice League of America. The fight between these titans is then tantalizingly put off for two weeks until Forever Evil #3.  After that solicitations put Owlman as the subject of Justice League #25, promising the debut of even more of his past.  Considering that Ultraman narrates this current issue and the Outsider (Earth-3 Alfred Pennyworth) narrated Justice League #23.4: The Secret Society, it can be assumed that Justice League #25 will be written from Thomas Wayne’s (Owlman) perspective, giving greater insight into the incongruities of Owlman’s actions throughout the Forever Evil books.  Geoff Johns really digs into the inherent psychopathy and malice that is at the heart of the CSA and Earth-3 as a world.  In the past they have always been depicted as very menacing, cavalier baddies that are bad because they are bad.  Here Johns really mines the philosophical beliefs that fuel their deeply malicious drives in ways that are both logical in a very cold way and scientific in their adherence to very strict interpretations of Darwinism.  Ivan Reis, Johns’ many times collaborator on Blackest Night, Brightest Day, and Aquaman, provides stellar artwork to bring to life the very stark, steely life of Ultraman.
  • Justice League Dark #24 kicks off the series’ under the shadow of Forever Evil and the pen of new writer J.M. Dematteis with art still by original series artist Mikel Janin.  The issue picks up as John Constantine awakens from the events of Trinity War, most notably Justice League #23 in which the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 entered into our world.  He wakes up in the House of Mystery with patchy memories of what happened upon the CSA’s advent into our reality.  When he walks through the house, attempting to get his bearings it transports him across the world, showing him various situations around the world with shadowy creatures lurking around events of negative human emotion.  Most of these events aren’t super malicious or overtly terrible, but as Constantine witnesses them he sees how evil feeds and breeds off of small sins committed absent-mindedly every day, and through this culmination of thoughtlessness and callous actions evil snowballs and coalesces into something greater, like a perpetual motion machine feeding off its own momentum.  At the tail end of this revelation he sees these sins rise up from the collected sins of humanity in the form of a giant serpentine dragon, like a blight on humanity, towering over our world.  Matteis is definitely skewing toward the biblical in his choice of imagery and it is quite apt.  The most poignant thought Constantine strings together from his observations is, “It’s so convenient to blame it all on some sneering, arrogant Satan, sitting on a fiery throne, plotting to corrupt our souls.  But if there is a Devil he’s just another projection of our own sins.”  Pretty astute, considering what a callous jerk Constantine has always been.  When the House returns him from his “vision quest” he is confronted by a version of the Justice League Dark who call him out for his own sins and selfishness.  Zatanna does reveal that he isn’t actually talking to them, nor is he awake, but rather still reeling from the fallout of what happened when he witnessed the second opening of Pandora’s Box.  She reaches into his chest and pulls out a handful of black goo, which allows him to wake up, for real this time, in the House of Mystery.  “Zatanna” is revealed to be the Nightmare Nurse, seen first and last in Phantom Stranger #8-9.  She helps Constantine come to terms with what happened and to ready himself for what is going to happen. To do this she grows a Swamp Thing to aid them since Constantine burned bridges with Alec Holland in the pages of Swamp Thing #22-23. Whereas Justice League of America seems to be about the fate of the Justice Leagues and Justice League appears to be a mouthpiece for the Crime Syndicate, Justice League Dark seems to be a philosophical look at evil itself.  Whether that holds up as Forever Evil continues, or whether there will be a major paradigm shift coming later, remains to be seen, but Matteis has taken hold of this title and made it his own.  Considering the subject material and the tone, this Justice League Dark is ideally suited to Matteis’ style.  It is very similar to his work on the 90’s Doctor Fate series and his current run on Phantom Stranger, giving him lots of room for the dark, twisted, and bizarre.  Mikel Janin remains on the title, retaining a certain degree of continuity over the three writers the series has seen.  Not always the best title, Justice League Dark finds a place among the best as Forever Evil marches onward.

    A Great Blight Upon Humanity . . .

    A Great Blight Upon Humanity . . .

  • Red Lanterns #24 returns to the planet Ysmault following Bleez’s discovery that Guy Gardner is a Green Lantern embedded with the Red Lanterns as a spy. The conversation she witnesses Guy concluding is basically Hal Jordan reneging on the deal that he and Guy made, essentially stranding him in hostile territory and throwing him to the wolves. Thus, Guy finds himself in a situation where he has had enough and washes his hands of Hal and the Green Lanterns forever. So of course Bleez’s reaction is threatening to out him to their fellow Red Lanterns and having him killed. Bleez is a very confident, strong woman and peerless among many of her brethren in blood. It’s one of the things that has captivated my imagination when reading anything that she is involved in.  So going into this she is rather cocky and lays her cards on the table.  But Guy Gardner isn’t new to this game. Guy is a sonuvabitch that doesn’t play by the rules if those rules put him at a disadvantage and ornery-as-all-get-out, he is someone that won’t be pinned to the mat. He immediately throws Bleez’s plan on its head and creates a reverse scenario that puts here in the crosshairs.  She would out him as a spy, but if he said she was a spy, considering her time with Kyle Rayner and the “New Guardians,” it would be a literal case of he-said/she-said.  So politically he has her at an impasse.  As a Lantern, Bleez was never in a position to take Atrocitus (creator and Chief Lantern of the Red Lantern Corps) down in a fight, but Guy DID two issues ago.  So muscle-wise he has the edge.  This culls Bleez’s bravado and makes her docile as a house cat. I’m not sure I am ok with that, but if it is a momentary thing that facilitates Guy’s assertion of the “throne,” I can handle it.  But Bleez CANNOT be cowed like that again. It’s a disrespect to the heart of the character. Guy follows up his defeat of Bleez by escorting her to a meeting of the Red Lanterns and telling them exactly what Bleez was going to tell them: he was sent in as a spy for the Green Lanterns and he has changed his position and wants to lead them. However, Hal chooses that awful moment to show up with the Green Lanterns. Even worse, he still thinks that he can command Guy, stoking the rage within the former Green Lantern following Hal’s betrayal of their deal. Hal tries to placate him and explain the Relic situation, but Guy is seeing red and not listening. Par for the course. When he does calm Guy, Hal explains that the Red Lanterns are the only corps that can stop Relic because their power isn’t strictly light based, but also rooted partially in blood magic which the ancient being can’t fend off with his science. So Guy and Hal broker a deal where in exchange for their help, the Reds get their own space sector where the Green Lanterns will not encroach  Kind of like the deal the Guardians made with Larfleeze. All is agreed and they move forward. Elsewhere Atrocitus and his faithful companion, Dex-Starr the cat, have contained the Red entity the Butcher, morphing Atrocitus into a being called the Atrocity Butcher, giving him horns and bull legs. He kind of looks like Satan in this form.  Carrying on from Green Lantern: New Guardians, Kyle the White Lantern comes and takes the Butcher with the other entities, robbing Atrocitus of his power. Charles Soule is seeding a very different book from the one that began two years ago under the pen of Peter Milligan. To me this is both good and bad. Without Milligan on the book, it would be bad for another writer to try to keep pace with his amazing concepts, but at the same time he set up some very interesting ideas that I would have loved to see actualized. Charles Soule, assuming he doesn’t completely clip Bleez’s “wings,” has the capacity to write an amazing series with great strength and gravitas.  Alessandro Vitti’s art is head and shoulders above the previous work on the series by Miguel Sepulveda, but doesn’t quite match up to original series artist Ed Benes or later artist Will Conrad. However, his lines do emote menace and anger which is 80% of the job.  With these two men on the job, I am optimistic about the future of this book.

    Don't Mess With Guy Gardner.

    Don’t Mess With Guy Gardner.

  • Superman #24 brings about the third and final chapter of the “Psi-War” storyline, picking up from Action Comics #24 two weeks ago.  The H.I.V.E. Queen had been attempting to enslave the world with her collection of human telepaths in preparation for the return of Brainiac.  In this endeavor she came into direct conflict with Hector Hammond, the giant headed Green Lantern villain, who also sought to rule humanity psychically. Both are sucker punched by the Psycho Pirate, a member of the enigmatic “Twenty” that Brainiac created before leaving Earth.  Psycho Pirate was one of the Queen’s prized slaves until he broke his chains and escaped her clutches.  In Action Comics #24 he showed Superman the “Swarm” and told of his intentions to release them and his need of a massive psychic power source to do it.  That source is Superman and instead of asking, he decides to take what he needs by force. His mask, called the Medusa Mask, augments his natural psychic abilities while also partitioning his mind from the intrusion of other telepaths.  It also, true to its name, has golden vipers made of psionic energy that the Psycho Pirate uses to inject a telepathic “venom” into the Man of Steel that warps his perceptions and makes him relive altered versions of hallmark moments in his life.  The trauma these events elicit within his psyche feeds the Pirate the energies he requires.  Lois Lane shows up in a blue, supercharged form and fends off the Psycho Pirate.  Afterward she, Superman, Hector Hammond, and the revived Queen strike a deal to take down the Pirate.  Though they don’t want to, if they don’t work together Metropolitans will rip each other limb from limb and the city will descend into anarchy to further facilitate Psycho Pirate’s goals.  The four work beautifully in concert, allowing Supes to rip the mask off of Psycho Pirate.  We don’t really see what happens to him after that.  The man under the mask disappears and the mask itself attempts to bond with Superman and claim him mind, but Lois again comes to his aid and guides him telepathically to fighting its thrall.  The mask is then destroyed, but at the cost of Lois’s life.  Or so it seems. She actually goes back into a coma after Superman gets her to a hospital.  However, before she succumbs to the fatigue from expending that much energy from her overtaxed mind, she picks up from Superman’s mind that he is in fact Clark Kent.  The question remains as to whether she will remember this when she wakes up or will she think it was all a dream?  Logic would dictate the latter as the most probably event.  It doesn’t make sense that DC would blow his identity two years into the game.  With the defeat of the Psycho Pirate and the weakening of both the H.I.V.E. Queen and Hector Hammond, the Psi-War is officially over. With this door closing the issue ends with Superman being pulled off planet, setting up the coming “Krypton Returns” plotline that I have been eagerly anticipating since September 2o12 with the release of Superman #0 and Supergirl #0.  Mike Johnson once again takes this one home the help of artist Eddy Burrows, whose work on Teen Titans and Nightwing invigorated both titles.

    The Greatest Story She'll Never Tell.

    The Greatest Story She’ll Never Tell.

  • Flash #24 concludes the “Reverse Flash” arc.  The Flash was one of those rare series that wasn’t affected by Villains Month.  While Flash #23 ended with the revelation that Daniel West, brother of Iris West, was the Reverse Flash, Villains Month gave him his own issue which revealed how he got his powers, what his childhood was like with an abusive father, and how the desire for a better relationship with his sister has motivated him his entire life.  The trauma of their childhood under their dad’s tyranny created a divide between them and Daniel desperately wants that closeness back.  This led him to a life of crime, trying to find the quick way to make his sister’s life easier and his own.  It only made things harder though, sending him to prison and taxing his relationship with Iris even further.  After getting out of prison he immediately found himself in the middle of the Gorilla Invasion of the Gem Cities and pulled into the Mirror World where the Rogues were giving citizens refuge . . . while also robbing them, making them pay for the privilege.  Dr. Elias’ Speed Force monorail engine, powered by
    The Wrath of Reverse Flash.

    The Wrath of Reverse Flash.

    the Speed Force energy he had siphoned off of Flash, was also in the Mirror World and exploded, fusing onto Daniel’s body and giving him his Speed Force powers.  After killing other people who were in the Speed Force and taking their energies he gets the ability to travel back far enough in time to kill his father, engineering the childhood he always wanted and “ensuring” the relationship he always wanted with his sister.  Little did he know that the younger versions of himself and sister would be present when he does the deed.  Flash goes back and reasons with Daniel that the trauma he inflicts on the kids is far worse than the continued trauma of their father’s abuses. So he once again is only making things worse for himself, not better.  Barry also enumerates that all the energy coming off himself while he moves through the Speed Force is what actually moves time forward, so the fact that Daniel is the exact opposite of Flash, this is how he is able to travel backward.  While Daniel is distracted he is able to siphon his Speed Force energiesFlash24-2 back and move both back into the present.  Iris is then able to complete the job Barry started by guilting Daniel into submission and he is returned to prison, although completely unrepentant about what he did.  Iris on the other hand tells him that despite how horrific their childhood was it made them both strong and she wouldn’t change the past for anything.  It made her the woman she is.  After concluding this catastrophic time-altering nightmare, Barry is able to make it to Patty Spivot’s parent’s 40th wedding anniversary, meets her dad, and get the last dance with her.  On that note I must once again assert my absolute love of Patty Spivot.  She is an amazing character and I am glad that Buccellato and Manapul put her and Barry together in their run on this series.  After this tender moment, Flash meets Dr. Elias (the two-faced scientist that turned the city against him, stole his Speed Force energies, and tried to kill him a few times) and basically tells him that he created the Reverse Flash, imperiled Iris, and admits that if Iris had been killed Flash would have killed him.  With the ultimatum issued to stay out of Flash’s way, the consequences are left ominously open-ended.  The issue’s conclusion functions as a denouement of the entirety of what Flash as a character IS.  Barry had a really awful childhood, coming home at a young age to find his mother murdered and his father accused of the crime, which Barry has spent the last twenty years trying to disprove forensically, and Lord knows Flash would love nothing more than to go back and prevent it from happening or even witness the crime to discover the killer’s identity and exonerate his dad, but that isn’t who he is.  Probably a nod to Flashpoint, which started this reboot and also created a nightmare world of evil superheroes.  It is an examination of his moral compass and the realization that you can’t go back.  He can only go forward, which is a pretty optimistic perspective for himself and his readers.  You can’t change your past and even if you could you shouldn’t.  If you lived through something terrible it only shows your resilience and gives you strength to take in your forward facing journey.  Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul really get this character and the world he lives in.  There is so much heart and philosophical brilliance put into the scripting and rendering of each and every panel.  Their storytelling is peerless as is their combined artistic prowess.  This is a one of THE titles to get, encapsulating everything that is GOOD in the comic medium.

    Strength Out Of Weakness.

    Strength Out Of Weakness.

  • Aquaman #24 is the penultimate chapter of the “Dead King” arc, telling a chilling tale of the first King of Atlantis.  It began when a dead king came back to life from the ice of the southern polar ice cap, with the power to control water, as most Atlanteans do, but with the added ability to freeze water, which often is a means of heralding his advent.  He tells Aquaman that he is not the king of Atlantis nor was the throne ever rightfully his, causing some distress for Aquaman, who really sits upon it by necessity, not choice.  In this issue Aquaman wakes up after having passed out from using his telepathic ability to get the aquatic leviathan named Topos (a giant crustacean cephalopod) to attack the villain called the Scavenger from bombing Atlantis with his submarine fleet, thereby saving his subjects lives.  Six months have passed and he is being cared for by Vulko, his former Atlantean adviser who initiated the war between Atlantis and the surface world.  Obviously he is greatly perturbed by this man’s presence, but Vulko takes him to the Dead King’s throne room in Antarctica and shows him the history of the dead monarch.  King Atlan founded Atlantis with utopian dreams of uniting the world, leading many zealots among his court to rise up against him for the affront to their racial superiority.  Headed up by Atlan’s younger brother Orin they attempted to kill Atlan, forcing him into exile and prompting him to forge the six artifacts of Atlantis, seen in the “Others” arc of Aquaman several months ago.  When Atlan returned he found his wife and children were murdered to solidify Orin’s rule.  So the Dead King killed Orin, killed his Queen, and then sunk the continent beneath the sea with the scepter he had forged, killing 90% of the population.  The 10% that survived became the modern Atlantean people.  There were seven nations united under the Atlantean banner who were the scions of the seven seas. Four nations were wiped out and three survived, one of which was the Trench, the fish-like people seen in the first arc of this title.  The other two most likely were the proper Atlanteans and the Xebel, who now live in exile.  That second part is an assumption from context clues.  The issue ends with Arthur realizing that he isn’t the rightful king and Atlan is.  Atlan doesn’t have descendants, and Arthur is the descendant of Orin, a regicidal, fratricidal, racist lunatic.  That’s a tough pill to swallow.  Geoff Johns is a good writer, albeit one that has kind of gone crazy with power, lording over the Reboot willy-nilly.  However, in this final arc he is doing a very decent job writing a compelling story that honors the character and the facets of his character that have buoyed him above the mockery that surrounds the concept of Aquaman with most non-comic fans and a large number of actual comic fans.  This issue is a prime example of “Johns done right.”
  • Larfleeze #4 features the opening salvos of the “Revolt of the Orange Lanterns.”  The series’ protagonist, Larfleeze, is the sole wielder of the Orange Light of Greed making him the only tangible Orange Lantern.  The illusion of there being an Orange Lantern Corps comes from his theft of the life-force of beings he desires to serve him.  They are then recreated as Orange Light constructs and dispatched to do their master’s will.  After last issue, his Corpsmen are not only free of his control, but also returned to corporal life.  With their bodies and self-determination restored they turn on Larfleeze and seek revenge for their murder and subsequent enslavement.  What this issue does that is interesting is fully introduce members of the Orange Lantern Corps and give them personalities.  Conceptually, the members of the Corps always depicted in the background were given names and back stories, but never contextually within the Green Lantern titles.  Glomulus, Larfleeze’s cute little toadie, is the only Orange Lantern besides Larfleeze himself to be depicted with any sort of personality.  In this issue we meet Clypta (a faceless twi’lek-looking woman), Wrap (a cycloptic mummy), Sound Dancer (a fanged, green-skinned swamp monster with long stringy hair obscuring her eyes), Nat-Nat (a lamprey millipede), Tammal-Tayn (a squid-faced, furry arachnid), and a centaur-like character that has as of yet not been named. The depiction of Glomulus, I feel was very off, and falls short of the incredible way he was depicted in the “Ring Thief” arc of Green Lantern: New Guardians.  Tony Bedard hit on something really wonderful, now squandered by writers J.M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen.  Larfleeze is an obstinate, ornery psychotic, but even he cannot stave off that kind of assault.  Elsewhere in the universe, Larfleeze’s once butler, Stargrave, is escorted by his new mistress, the Wanderer, to the home of her sister, Dyrge, who is just as cheerful as her name implies.  Giffen and DeMatteis write an extremely comical and quick-witted cosmic farce (though sometimes misguided) that both explores the Green Lantern universe and lampoons it.  Scott Kolins’ art enlivens the script with sharp lines and action pack panels.  This is certainly a comic to read on a rainy day when you are down in the dumps.

    Beware the Orange Lanterns' Might . . .

    Beware the Orange Lanterns’ Might . . .

  • Talon #12 returns after the Villains Month hiatus with an insane amount of plot points converging in a perfect storm of chaos for Calvin Rose and allies.  Previously, Calvin had chased exiled Court of Owls grandmaster, Sebastian Clark, to Santa Prisca where the disgraced leader tried to use Bane and his mercenary army to crush the Court.  Bane, however, is not a force that can be controlled and though he sets out for Gotham with a massive strike force of highly trained mercenaries to destroy Gotham he does so with no intention of following someone else’s script.  Back in Gotham, Calvin’s lover Casey Washington and her daughter Sarah were captured by the Court.  Sarah was taken to a facility where she would be subliminally conditioned to be a weapon and Casey given to the 19th century Talon infamously known as the “Gotham Butcher.”  Casey escaped his sadism, finding her way back to Calvin, minus an arm and an eye.  This issue follows the Butcher breaking from Court control after the loss of their trump card against Calvin.  The Butcher gained his name in the 1860’s by slaughtering hundreds of Gothamites in very bloody and public ways, forcing the Court to retire him to protect their anonymity. The modern Court awoke him with the delusion that he could be tamed with science and high-tech restraints.  Where there’s a will there’s a way and the Butcher CANNOT be silenced or leashed, unleashing a whole new level of horror on Gotham, as if Bane and his commandos weren’t enough.  Writer James Tynion reinforces the connection of this series to the initial arc of Batman, which he cowrote, that first introduced the Court of Owls.  After his premature birth, Thomas Wayne Jr. (little brother of Bruce) was supposedly taken to the Carpenter House for Boys, which had been a haunted place since the fire of 1862.  The Butcher started that fire and also set into motion the steady decline of Gotham.  Bane, Clark, the Butcher, and the corner Court.  The stakes are high going into the final issue of Tynion’s run with “lucky” issue #13.
  • Teen Titans #24 is an unseated trip through time and space.  After being flung into the time-stream by Johnny Quick in Forever Evil #2 the Teen Titans are separated and tossed to the temporal trade winds.  When writer Scott Lobdell began writing this series two years ago, he had the Mexican meta-teen Bunker (aka Miguel Jose Barragon) meet Red Robin on a freight train, saying Red Robin had told him to meet him there.  Tim Drake (Red Robin) had no recollection of that ever happening.  Thanks to Johnny Quick and the roller-coaster ride he threw the team into that conversation is actualized.  Meanwhile, Wonder Girl (aka Cassie Sandsmark) and Superboy find themselves in ancient Egypt fending off an invasion of solar intruders called the Sunturnians, last seen in Lobdell’s Superman #19.  Solstice (aka Kiran Singh) and Kid Flash (aka Bart Allen) are sent into the 25th century, Bart’s native time, to witness the events that made Bart into a heinous criminal, unbeknownst to his amnesic mind.  Raven is sent to the medieval era and set against the Demon, Etrigan.  As these moments in time unfold before their eyes, connections are made and slowly the team find one another through the vast reaches of the ages and anchor themselves until Red Robin can find a way to extricate themselves.  However, there are forces within the team that are set to tear them apart.  Scott Lobdell has been one of the keystone pillars on this title.  His out-of-the-box plotting and edgy storytelling has led to some of the most incredible, engaging Teen Titans storylines since the days of Wolfman and Perez and their New Teen Titans series in the 80’s.  Providing guest art is Angel Unzueta, mimicking well the style of regular series Eddy Barrows.  This was really a great issue that carries on the overarching plot of Forever Evil while tantalizing the reader with plot reveals that have been in the works for months, if not years, including the identity of Bart Allen and the horrific acts he perpetrated in the future.  The traitor in the midst of the Titans.  Lobdell maintains this series’ must-read status.

    The Origin of Kid Flash.

    The Origin of Kid Flash.

  • The Unwritten #54 concludes the massive Fables/Unwritten crossover in an epic manner.  Mister Dark has the war with the Fables all but won.  Truly, every single modicum of resistance the defenders of Fabletown offer turn to dust before him.  What Frau Totenkinder knew and shows the reintegrated Tom Taylor is the nature of the world in which they exist and its relation to the power of the written word.  That has been the guiding principle of the entire series and, apropos the conclusion of this crossover event, harkens back to the very first pages of The Unwritten, almost five years ago.  The issue hits its ending hard leaving a cliffhanger whose ramifications resound through an infinity of possibilities.  Nearly all the Fables are dead and those that aren’t by issue’s end are close to it.  Mister Dark is an unstoppable force.  Only the undoing of everything can stop him in his tracks.  But once reality is undone can it be redone?  Will the world be made right again or completely restarted?  Through the imagery of the horn used in the opening pages of The Unwritten in the Harry Potter-esque “Tommy Taylor” books, cowriters Mike Carey and Peter Gross prove that they have been working towards this moment and the answers to come for nigh on half a decade.  THIS is a moment in Unwritten history that is both exciting and terrifying for the series’ faithful.  And what’s worse, it is put on a three-month hiatus forestalling the resolution to those troubling questions.  We’ll just have to wait until March to figure it all out.
  • T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #3 brings to light the one of the most pressing questions of the series thus far.  Entitled “The Judgment Tower,” it has seen the international super-terrorist, the Iron Lady, seizing a top-secret T.H.U.N.D.E.R installation in Kashmir and capturing two agents.  The base was so secret the chairmen and women of The Higher United Nations didn’t even know about it until it went dark with two agents down.  When asked to explain her actions Director (Kat) Kane remains cryptic about what the facility’s purpose was and why she kept it secret from her superiors.  Interlaced within these moments are retrospectives of her time as an agent, alongside her twin sister, Kelly.  Kelly has been strongly insinuated to be the Iron Maiden and clearly this whole conflict over the cave not only springs from a power grab, but some familial connection from the past.  That assertion is confirmed in this issue with the revelation that Kane had found a giant subterranean medieval parapet of medieval design not far from T.H.U.N.D.E.R HQ.  The tower, though seemingly from the middle ages, dates back over a million years ago before the evolution of man as the dominant species on our planet.  It also emits a cosmic radiation encountered only via radio telescope from the depths of space.  So . . . who built this tower and for what purpose?  That remains to be seen.  But Kane not only found this tower twelve years prior with her sister.  She also found one in Kashmir.  That is what the facility was built to contain and study and that is why two elite agents fell into enemy hands guarding it.  Though the facility is under Iron Maiden’s control, the newest and perhaps most powerful T.H.U.N.D.E.R agent, Len Brown, aka Dynamo, is inserted into the base and several moles within her organization surface for the good of the mission.  However, the true purpose of the tower and its realization begin with the last page.  My familiarity with T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents has been painstaking, finding collections of the original series over several jumps in publishers and many decades.  Though not complete, I have read several versions of T.H.U.N.D.E.R and though this has its differences from several of the latter versions, Phil Hester’s attempt with this new series hits uncannily close to the style and feel of the original series by Wally Wood and the writer Len Brown who lent his name to the main character, Dynamo.  Fifty years later and the same characters are rendered with the same quality by Hester and his partner in art, Andrea Di Vito.  For superhero excellence outside of the Big Two, this series is the prime choice.
    The Dark Tower Rising.

    The Dark Tower Rising.

     

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Justice League Dark #24: Art by Mikel Janin, Colored by Jeromy Cox.

Red Lanterns #24: Art by Alessandro Vitti, Colored by Gabe Eltaeb.

Superman #24: Drawn by Eddy Barrow, Colored Pete Pantazis, Inked by Eber Ferreira.

Flash #24: Art by Francis Manapul, Colored by Brian Buccellato.

Larfleeze #4: Art by Scott Kolins, Colored by Mike Atiyeh.

Teen Titans #24: Drawn by Angel Unzueta, Colored Pete Pantazis, Inked by Art Thibert.

The Unwritten #54: Art by Peter Gross, Colored by Chris Chuckry.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R  Agents #3: Art by Andrea Di Vito, Colored by Rom Fajardo.