Nov. 13, 2013-Jan. 15, 2014

It has been a criminally long time since I have been able to sit down and interact with my comics in the form of writing this blog and externalizing my thoughts and appreciation for this incredible medium.  With this post I hope to highlight a few of the issues that I have loved in that interim and get back in the swing of reading my comics and writing about them to illuminate their content to others, but also myself.  So here goes:

  • Batman #25 tells the story of the Blackout in Gotham, but oddly enough doesn’t deal with the Riddler at all or explore the consequences of what he did.  Instead, writer Scott Snyder uses the Blackout as a way of the emergent Batman finding an environment in which his skills and innate qualities find fallow ground to root themselves.  Without the Blackout, Batman might have had to try harder to ingrain himself in the collective awareness of Gotham as a force for good and not just a crazy nutjob in a bat costume.  However, as mentioned before, the Riddler is put on the back burner after blowing the Gotham City power grid and submerging the city into chaos in the midst of an impending tropical storm designated “Rene.”  In his place, Batman sleuths a rash of bizarre . . . occurrences . . . in which victim’s bones grow uncontrollably like trees, bursting out of their bodies and leaving the carcass draped atop like a Christmas tree angel.  With some inadvertent tips from future police commissioner James Gordon, Bruce learns that the serum used was designed by a former Wayne Enterprises scientist, Karl Helfren, aka Doctor Death.  When he probes into Helfren’s past, Bruce also learns of an accomplice that will surely shock readers.  The issue is certainly shrouded in mystery, beginning with a brief two page cut to US soldiers in Nigeria finding a door in the ground hidden in the middle of an arid plain and ending with those soldiers dead and their trucks on fire.  How those scenes are rectified with  the main narrative is an intriguing question.  In the backup feature, Snyder and his protegee James Tynion IV write a tale of the Blackout told from the perspective of the average person, in this case a very young Harper Row and her little brother Cullen.  The two kids don’t have a mother and their father is a two-bit criminal and absentee parent, so it falls to them to look out for one another.  Cullen is scared, but Harper (who grows up to be a burgeoning electrical genius) makes a lamp for her brother to push back the darkness.  It’s not easy, but she’s able to overcome when the needs arise.  She tell Cullen that there are people out there that see fear and darkness and rise up to push these forces back and help those that are also scared.  It’s a brief yet poignant commentary on the superhero ideal and what breeds heroes.  Also noteworthy is Andy Clarke’s gorgeous artwork that creates a beautifully stark ambiance of Gotham life.  It goes without saying that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, with the added help of James Tynion IV and Andy Clarke, are making this book one of THE comics to pick up.

    What Makes a Hero?

    What Makes a Hero?

  • Superman/Wonder Woman #2 brings on the much anticipated continuation of last month’s meteoric first issue.  In Superman/Wonder Woman #1 writer Charles Soule delivered a very intimated and thoughtful examination of the relationship between two titanic figures of the DCU and the inherent hurdles they have to leap constantly in order to be together and understand one another.  If that was all the issue was it would have been worth the cover price, but Soule and artist Tony Daniel had far more in store for us, releasing perhaps the greatest surprise appearance of the year: Doomsday!  With Supes busy quelling a storm brought about by the monster’s advent, Wonder Woman finds herself going toe-to-toe with the abomination that in a different continuity killed her boyfriend.  Not something to be trifled with.  As this issue opens the Kryptonian horror delivers a sound beating on the unprepared Wonder Woman until it mysteriously phasing out of reality.  When Superman hears her story he immediately knows what the thing was from Diana’s descriptions and realizes that the seals on the Phantom Zone, a temporal extra-dimensional Kryptonian prison, are wearing thin meaning incursions by Doomsday and the other unsavory menaces imprisoned within might occur more frequently.  In order to prepare for the coming battle with Doomsday, should it reappear, Wonder Woman takes Superman to Mount Aetna to meet Hephaestas and commission custom armaments.  While there Supes also meets Apollo and Strife.  Apollo doesn’t make the best impression, following the very haughty modelling of Wonder Woman writer Brian Azzarello.  I know I am not alone in my dislike of Apollo, which is what makes his encounter with Superman so rewarding to readers.  Apollo is a very overconfident, arrogant ass and while he is IMMENSELY powerful, his being the sun god puts him at a unique disadvantage against the Last Son of Krypton.  One almost feels sorry for the jerk.  Almost.  With their order placed and one Olympian force fed a five fingered slice of humble pie, the stage is set for yet another mouthwatering introduction of a classic Superman character.  Soule and Daniel have this series locked down.  Soule’s writing is topnotch and shows a true love and respect for both the eponymous characters.  Superman is a humble farmboy with powers far greater than ordinary men and Wonder Woman is a proud and noble woman from a proud and noble race of myth.  Every word, every gesture, and every reaction is quintessentially appropriate to each.  Tony Daniel has been one of my favorite artist since he and Grant Morrison took on the Batman title.  As a writer I have enjoyed his work as well.  The man is a consummate professional and whether or not he has any say in the actual writing of Superman/Wonder Woman alongside Charles Soule, his ability as a writer no doubt helps him interpret the scripts to convey minutely the gravity and grandeur of the worlds this book is bringing together.  Wonder Woman and Superman come from two very elaborate time honored mythologies that Soule and Daniel are combining like true professionals.  This first run of the series is off to a commendable start.  If they can sustain it, this could overshadow the actual series of both characters.SupermanWonderWoman2-1

    The Hubris of Gods.

    The Hubris of Gods.

  • Batgirl #25 came off a little lackluster for me.  Dealing with the life of Barbara Gordon, it’s hard to figure out what the purpose of this issue was supposed to be.  It’s already established that Gotham was effed during the “Blackout” and in this tie-in Barbara is put in charge of her little brother, James Jr, while their dad’s at work.  He tells her to “mind the homestead,” but while he is gone the Gordon kids are forcefully evacuated because they are in a flood zone.  In the process young Miss Gordon sees how a disaster can turn regular people into savages.  The point of the issue is more about Gotham than Barbara, which is a little disconcerting.  Normally the Batgirl series focuses heavily on Barbara, which is a credit to series writer Gail Simone’s tenure on the title.  Simone GETS Barbara in a very quintessential way.  Marguerite Bennett penned this one, and I think as a newcomer her writing comes off a little green.  She kind of fumbled the Villains Month released introduction of the character Lobo to the New DCU, and this comic felt equally forced.  The look remains the same with series artist Fernando Pasarin providing art on the issue.  Simone comes back next month with the conclusion of her epic “Batgirl Wanted” arc, which should be worth the read.
  • Green Arrow #26 begins writer Jeff Lemire’s epic “Outsiders War” arc.  In his first arc, Lemire DRASTICALLY altered Oliver Queen’s life, taking away his company, framing him for murder, and clearing the board of a few characters from the initial issues of the rebooted series.  He also introduced the Merlyn-esque archer, Komodo, and the inklings of the larger organization Komodo belongs to called the Outsiders.  In his second arc he introduced the rarely utilized GA character, Shado, unused extensively since her creation in the 80’s by Mike Grell.  Komodo and Shado represent two halves of the life and ultimate death of Oliver’s father, Robert Queen.  With those in the rearview, we now enter into the actualization of Green Arrow’s destiny with Lemire’s third arc, entitled “Outsiders War.”  So far, Ollie has taken down Komodo (relieving the onyx archer of one eye) and on two separate occasions he’s taken down the Eastern European despot Count Vertigo.  Both of these men have strong ties to the Outsiders who themselves have very ominous plans for the Arrow Clan. Now Shado is taking him back to the island to fulfill his destiny by claiming the totem arrow that will grant enlightenment and dominion of those dedicated to archery.  Robert Queen sought the island and combed every inch of it looking for the arrow, explaining the picture that Oliver found of Robert, Komodo, and Emerson on the island in the lattermost’s office.  Shado drags him back and as the issue unfolds Lemire has Oliver slowly relive his time there.  His reticence to return can be summed up by the harsh memories he accumulated while stranded and his shame at being reminded of his past.  Ollie was a vacuous waste of space before being washed up on the island and his initial days there were spent shedding that shallowness and tapping into his intrinsic potential.GreenArrow26-1 Robert had instructed Oliver in archery, which Ollie’d never taken serious and rarely practiced.  Those lessons resurface and the birth of Green Arrow began while Oliver discovered the cost of survival.  The next step will be seen in later issues following Ollie’s capture by mercenaries in ski-masks.  Awakening from his deja-vu, Shado leads Oliver to the cave wherein lies the talisman his father had so desperately sought.  Meanwhile, the Outsiders have sent one of their own, a bear of a man called Kodiak, to stop Oliver from becoming the head of the Arrow Clan by claiming the “Green Arrow” totem.  Jeff Lemire’s hitting this one out of the park with his clear love and respect for the character of Green Arrow and his intricate weaving of a mythos that emanates from Green Arrow, but also through the Green Arrow title.  The Outsiders have figured cryptically into the background of the Katana series, where the Japanese warrior Tatsu Toro wrestles with the Sword Clan.  Whether Lemire came up with them on his own or collaborated with Katana writer Ann Nocenti (from whom he took over the horribly written and conceived Green Arrow title) what is obvious is that Lemire is the one running this ball into the endzone for what looks to be a clear touchdown.  The promise of what the Outsiders represent and the stories that will spring forth from this arc are destined to be comic book gold.  Series artist Andrea Sorrentino continues his tenure on the book adding a realism to it with his pencil and an ominousness with the very stark contrast between light and shadow.  Working together, Lemire and Sorrentino are the ideal team to make Green Arrow one of the best DC titles currently being published.


    The Fabled Green Arrow Totem.

  • Green Arrow #27 continues writer Jeff Lemire’s odyssey toward Green Arrow’s actualization in the “Outsiders War.”  So far Ollie has returned to the island on which he was marooned with the enigmatic archeress Shado in tow seeking the totem arrow that bestows enlightenment upon the ascendant to the chiefdom of the Arrow Clan.  The Outsiders (semi-unified cabal of clan heads) desire Komodo to take this position in their midst and dispatch the Shield Clan’s chief, Kodiak, and his Viking warriors to prevent Ollie from his destined enlightenment.  Picking up with the dramatic ending of issue #26, Ollie and Shado have found the Arrow Chamber, but as this issue opens they find that the totem itself is nowhere to be seen.  Ollie is shocked, but Shado, true to her fox-like, Zen nature tempers Ollie’s impatience with existential questions, all boil down to why and how Oliver came to be marooned on this exact island that his father, Robert Queen, had just so happened to be seeking for so long and upon which the elder Mr. Queen was murder by Komodo?GreenArrow27-2  The exploration of these questions is interrupted by the advent of Kodiak on the island and sporadic ’Nam flashbacks Ollie has to the crucible moments of his time on the island.  Issue #26’s flashbacks showed Ollie being forced to master archery in order to feed himself while awaiting rescue from the island.  The completion of that stage of his development ends with him being captured by masked paramilitary forces on the island.  This issue shows the next and most apocalyptic stage of his transition from soft billionaire playboy to cold hunter/vigilante.  The soldiers under the command of an Oni-masked man torture Ollie for over a week until Ollie snaps and in a survivalist act breaks through from his effete past to the stark figure he has become in the present.  While dodging the Shieldlings and regrouping Shado finally steers Ollie into understanding that his destiny wasn’t mere chance, but an orchestrated effort by individuals to guide him to becoming the avatar of archery.  Once this concept sinks in, Oliver’s Oni-masked antagonist reappears and confirms everything Shado said and removes the demon mask.  With the revelation of this person’s identity the absolute truth of their claim is baldly underscored, but more so the implications of who this person is changes everything the reader has come to believe about the Green Arrow title and what its has fought for.  Jeff Lemire is a genius. Unequivocally, he has taken this failing title and made it infinitely poignant, gripping, and one of the ‘can’t miss books’ of the DC lineup.  Called “Batman with a Bow and Arrow,” GA has been a C-list character with no superpowers who has often times been overshadowed by the more super, more overtly heroic characters of the DCU.  Only a few writers have been able to lift him above the camp and ridiculousness that have haunted the character since his inception.  Jeff Lemire has earned his place in Green Arrow history.  Lemire’s collaborator Andrea Sorrentino provides incredible artwork that in no small part makes this book so engrossing and visually stunning. The two look to be on the title for some time and that is good news for comic readers and the Green Arrow pantheon of characters.


    The Bloody Baptism of Green Arrow.

  • Superman Unchained #5 is a turning point in this celebratory “Super” series, revealing not only the nature of the enigmatic cabal known as “Ascension,” but also what their overall motivations, prompting their insane actions thus far.  At the conclusion of issue #4 the leader of Ascension told Lois Lane that General Sam Lane was “father” to both of them.  This turns out to not only be twisted hyperbole, but also a straight up lie no matter how you look at it.  One demerit to writer Scott Snyder.  Through the exposition provided by the Ascension leader, Jonathan Rudolph, Lois Lane and the audience are given incontrovertible evidence that this man isn’t merely misguided, HE’S NUTS!!!  The choice of fabled Ned Ludd as the “face” of their movement is apt considering that the group’s aims have been stated to be the downfall of technology with an anarchist rationale behind it.  The self-righteous rhetoric of Rudolph does nothing to rectify the collateral damage his insane venture will rain down on humanity nor does it in anyway come off as anything but uber-petulant and misguided.  Rarely nowadays are there examples of such clear cut psychopaths in leading comic titles.  Usually some sort of ethos, pathos, or logos is there to somehow give a morally ambiguous justification to the “villainy.”  The use of this kind of character is intriguing and either says something very good about Snyder’s writing or something very bad about it.  Snyder is an amazing writer that has risen meteorically to the top of the comic field in a relatively short period of time.  He is also an overtaxed talent that is writing several titles simultaneously, so it could go either way.  The rest of the title features Superman continuing his emerging relationship with the proto-‘Superman’, Wraith.  In order to continue their quest to locate and stop Ascension, Supes invites Wraith into his Fortress of Solitude.  Superman represents an impartial, unbiased, non-jingoist superheroic doctrine.  Wraith represents the exact opposite and has TOTALLY drunk the US military Kool-Aid.  Just being in the Fortress elicits a philosophical debate about alien technology and who should have custodianship of it: an impartial, responsible individual or the armed forces of one sovereign nation over the nearly two hundred others.  Superman has the moral high ground here, but Wraith cuts back with an equally poignant response involving Superman’s supposed “non-involvement” vis-à-vis his alternate persona of Clark Kent.  In this way, Superman represents what the character should embody and Wraith portrays what Supes was made to be like from the 1950’s through to most of the 70’s, towing the company line and representing “Truth, Justice, and the American way.”  Visibly absent from the first four issues is the looming figure of Lex Luthor awaiting the resolution of Superman’s battle with Ascension to pounce on the battle wearied Man of Steel.  Introduced in this issue is a flashback, drawn by backup artist Dustin Nguyen, that details Clark’s encounter with a sauced up, ignorant farmer that finds out his secret and tells him at shotgun-point that he can’t hide.  Though only seen in glimpses and lacking resolution, this flashback underscores brilliantly the constant dilemma Superman faces everyday by living among us as one of us.  Snyder has created in five issues a multifaceted series that expertly explores the character and all the aspects that have carried over from the original issues 75 years past.  Scott Snyder and artists Jim Lee and Dustin Nguyen have tapped into the pure essence of the Last Son of Krypton.
  • Teen Titans #26 finally reveals the story of Bart Allen after two and a half years of continuous storytelling.  We’ve been told in the past that he was a dangerous criminal that was reconditioned and sent back into the past where he would be cut off from the dangerous elements he incited.  Several months ago when the Titans were first thrown into the timestream Bart and his girlfriend, Kiran Singh (aka Solstice), witness his younger self attempting to commit an act of mass murder against the governmental body known as the ‘Functionary.’  Now after returning to his native time he is made to see everything he has forgotten after being taken back into custody by the Functionary.  After looking at his past I am finding it hard to look at him as anything as terrifying as he has been painted out of context.  The son of religious parents belonging to a Christian-like faith called Creationism, his parents were murdered for those beliefs.  He lets his parents die in order to save his infant sister, Shira, and get her away from the Functionary “Purifiers” that are initiating pogroms against his people.  He becomes a thief to provide for his sister and when she is imperilled he becomes a killer.  He finds sanctuary for her in a safe quarter while undertaking smuggling missions in unsafe conditions that normally killed the pilots after three runs.  Bart makes a couple of dozen until his number finally comes up, but when it does he doesn’t die, but rather attains the superpowers that connect him to the Speed Force and Barry Allen.  Then he initiates the rebellion of the Functionary oppressed that led to his capture and exile.  It wasn’t until his attacks almost killed Shira, that he abandoned the rebellion he started and turned himself in to the Functionary.  I have to say that this origin, while very compelling, failed to depict him as a criminal.  At least in my eyes.  Everything Bart did was for others.  He sacrificed everything for his sister and later for those like himself and his sister who were like rats being oppressed and constantly harried for no reason whatsoever except that their existence was inconvenient for those above them.  There was no Justice League or any apparatus to help the downtrodden so he initiated an armed resistance movement to create a better future.  As stated before there was a scene not fully fleshed out where he was going to do something alluded to being an atrocity.  If writer Scott Lobdell wanted to justifiably depict Bart as a monster he should have given more weight to that moment with more details or circled back around in this issue to that moment or one like it.  That isn’t to say that Lobdell is a bad writer.  On the contrary.  This issue made me feel for Bart and actually I am in his cheering section.  He looks at himself as a monster, just like all the others who have knowledge of who he was (or will be), but I don’t see that and I still see a hero who puts others and their interests before his own.  If I could actually talk to the character I would share with him the words of Barry Allen, the first Flash (in the New DCU): “Keep moving forward.”  Lobdell knocks it out of the park with the help of new series artist Tyler Kirkham.  Kirkham’s art is sharp, it’s vibrant, and his rendering of Bart gives fine detail to every evocative emotion the young hero feels, which once again roots the character in Kid Flash’s experience, making them feel exactly what he feels, enduring his pain as he struggles through unspeakable situations and revelling in his rare moments of triumph bore out of near constant suffering.  Thumbs up to both Lobdell and Kirkham.  This issue was worth the wait, if not shorter than such an immense story deserves.

    Doubt Anything Except a Brother's Love.

    Doubt Anything Except a Brother’s Love.

  • Talon #14 marks an end to the status quo under which the series has been proceeding since its #0 issue.  Calvin Rose was made a Talon after being groomed for the task by the Court of Owls as a young escape artist in the famed Haly’s Circus.  He quit after being sent to kill a beautiful security heiress and her young daughter.  Going on the lam with her, he developed a relationship with her, which he broke to protect her from the Court’s endless search for their missing “toy.”  While on the run, Calvin meets a man whose life was destroyed by the Court as well.  Sebastian Clark.  Clark helps Calvin hit the Court HARD, crippling much of their infrastructure.  In this guided crusade against their common enemy, Calvin meets up again with his former girlfriend, Casey Washington, and her daughter Sarah.  Soon after it comes out that Sebastian Clarke did in fact have his life destroyed by the Court, but it was because he was the disgraced head of the Court at the time of Batman’s interference and the fabled “Night of Owls.”  Danger literally lurks in all directions and Calvin is beset with daunting odds.  His immediate challenges include Sarah’s kidnapping and subsequent brainwashing by the Court, Clarke has a plan afoot to raze Gotham, and a serum has been injected into his bloodstream that melts necrotic tissue, i.e. his entire body.  To a lesser extent Batman has harried most of Calvin’s moves, because no one operates in the Bat’s backyard without his say-so.  However, despite the insurmountable obstacles Calvin is very much like the classic Jack Kirby creation, Mister Miracle.  Both are master escape artists, and like Miracle, Calvin will not be deterred by any odds, even if Batman is counted among them.  With the conclusion of this issue the Court of Owls still exist, but they are once again weakened and the more pressing threats to fair Gotham put to bed for good.  Calvin’s main objectives are accomplished, but his journey toward ending the Owls’ reign continues, albeit under new circumstances and with new allies.  Writer James Tynion has taken the concept of the Court of Owls and made good use of it with the fifteen issues of this series he has written.

    Batman Inc Just Got a Little Bit Cooler.

    Batman Inc Just Got a Little Bit Cooler.

  • Red Lanterns #26 after the big fight between Relic and the remaining Lanterns of all colors, the Reds were given authority of Sector 2814, which contains our solar system.  To demonstrate their authority they attempt to take out one of the greatest evils of our Sector in the form of a despot named Marshal Gensui.  Gensui has enslaved the secondary race of his world and used them as slave labor to build a sphere around their sun to harness its energies to use for his own ends.  Going up against the forces of the planet Kormorax the Red Lanterns, under the command of Guy Gardner are in hot water.  Marshal Gensui has made a career of culling rage, using his intimidation tactics and scientific acumen he has pacified the brutalized masses he exploits.  With those same technologies he pacifies the Red Lanterns, the angriest individuals in the universe.  With that taken into account, writer Charles Soule concludes the two issue arc with an examination of the kinds of rage that exist and how each type fits various situations in better ways.  Peter Milligan, the original Red Lanterns writer did this very well in the past, making a point of highlighting tertiary Red Lanterns who weren’t as popular and whose backstories haven’t found their way into past issues.  One Red, the ox-skulled Skallox, was a murder and a scoundrel sent up the river by his boss as a liability, another named Ratchet was an individual living in an isolationist, dystopian nightmare that craved interaction and was imprisoned and mercilessly tortured for years as a result.  Yet again Soule highlights two lesser Red Corpsman and their individual brands of rage to show the strength of each.  Zilius Zox takes a lead role in these issues, but Ratchet once again shines above the rest.  While he and his fellow Reds are in a stupefied, euphoric haze due to Gensui’s crowd control technologies Ratchet is able to throw off the stupor with his rage, despite the most powerfully ravenous Reds being unable.  What really highlights his character, and it a lot of ways finishes what Milligan began in that bygone issue, was the totality of Ratchet’s capabilities.  Ratchet wasn’t a bad guy.  He wanted friendship and comaraderie and his inability to do so was what fueled his rage.  Being a Red Lantern gave him his hearts desires so slowly his rage was subsiding, which meant that he wouldn’t be able to wield the ring, which also meant that the ring would no longer be able to keep him alive as it did all Red Lanterns whose blood is replaced with a napalm fluid of refined hate.  He was dying no matter what happened, and what he accomplishes in this issue not only expedites that end before prolonged suffering, it also made an enduring place in the hearts and minds of his fellow Corpsmen.  Soule inherited a vast legacy from Peter Milligan and has made proper use of it, penning a fantastic series.

So ends an abbreviated catchup to the weeks missed in my absence. Check back to this post periodically as I will probably take on some other issues that are of note.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #25: Art by Andy Clarke, Colored by Blond.

Superman/Wonder Woman #2: Drawn by Tony S. Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by BATT & Sandu Florea.

Green Arrow #26 & 27: Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo.

Teen Titans #26: Drawn by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Arif Prianto, Inked by Art Thibert & Dan Green.

Talon #14: Art by Emanuel Simeoni, Colored by Jeromy Cox.


Sept. 4, 2013

It has been a LONG time since I have posted, due to some scheduling conflicts and a REALLY busy summer, but it’s good to be back talking about comics, and DC’s Villains Month is a perfect time to get back in the swing of things.  So far this first week has produced some interesting specimens as well as some really out-of-the-box concepts for the hallmark villains of the DC universe.  That said, less talking, more comic book reviewing:

  • Forever Evil #1 starts off the post Trinity War mega event across the entirety of the DC Universe.  The Crime Syndicate of America from Earth-3 has descended upon our world from a portal opened by Pandora’s Box.  As a result the Justice League has been “killed,” though it is not depicted nor explained, and the CSA have set about creating a Secret Society to claim the world in the name of evil. It doesn’t so much seem like a Secret when they are doing it out in the open . . .  From the four corners of the globe their acolytes are recruiting the evilest minds the planet can offer, from Gorilla Grodd to the Scarecrow, to create a new world order.  The issues opens on Lex Luthor, newly emancipated from prison for services rendered to the government, trying to coerce Thomas Kord (possible father of Ted Kord) to relinquish his controlling majority of Kord Industries with horrific, thinly veiled threats and bribery.  In mid-flight the helicopter they are riding in crashes leaving only Luthor alive.  The power goes out and all hell breaks loose.  The Crime Syndicate proudly proclaim, “This World is Ours.”  That is when the prisons are opened and  evil is truly unleashed like an open floodgate.  Throughout the rest of the issue we see the twisted version of the Justice League systematically subvert the last vestiges of super-powered defenders to proclaim their own order upon the globe.  With issue’s end the part that Luthor will play in the proceedings is very ambiguous.  Geoff Johns does a pretty decent job writing this story, which is interesting considering his blunt, overwrought attempts at the main Justice League title over the past two years. Aiding him in art is David Finch, who helped him launch Justice League of America eight months ago.  Of the two, I think that David Finch is the one that most excites me on this title.  Johns had his day in the sun, but has either lost his touch or gotten too power mad in his new executive position.  Either way, I am infinitely enthusiastic about this issue, as it expands the multiverse by one more world, giving birth to the Crime Syndicate:  Ultraman, Superwoman, Owlman, et al.  Owlman is perhaps the one that has the most interest to me, especially after the way he was portrayed in the DC animated movie Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths.  We shall see if this event and the New 52 does justice to the former incarnations of the Crime Syndicate and Earth-3.
  • Action Comics #23.1:Cyborg Superman is written by Supergirl writer Michael Alan Nelson following the shocking revelation of the Cyborg’s identity at the end of Supergirl #23 following his capture and rending the flesh off Supergirl in order that he could regain his Kryptonian body and his lost memories of his identity.  After stripping her flesh through  molecular dissolution and regaining his, he is revealed to be none other than Zor-El, father of Supergirl.  In this issue we see a man obsessed with perfection and obsessed with proving his intellect over that of his younger, seemingly brighter brother, Jor-El, in the face of Krypton’s destruction.  Undertaken out of pride, his efforts were also undertaken in order that his entire family could survive.  Using half understood Brainiac technology, he tries to save his native Argo City, only to see it collapse and his fellow Kryptonians slowly die.  When Brainiac returns he bestows upon Zor-El what the man himself had attempted: to force perfection upon him.  Many parts of Zor-El are completely replaced to make him more efficacious and that which is organic was rewritten genetically to resemble his “superior sibling,” hence his looking so much like Superman and not his blond, more round faced self.  What remains of the issue is an exploration of what cold logic and mechanized calculations deem “perfect.”  The Cyborg Superman issue encapsulates beautifully what Zor-El has become after Brainiac altered him and sets the stage for what is to come in the aftermath of his restoration in the pages of Supergirl #24.

    Extreme Cosmetic Surgery

    Extreme Cosmetic Surgery

  • Batman #23.1: Joker is a real treat.  Under the pen of the great artist Andy Kubert, scion of the legendary Joe Kubert, we see him (to my knowledge for the first time) write an incredibly introspective look at the Joker, glimpses of his past, and what makes him tick.  Opening on a traumatic childhood, we see a horrendous display of abuses heaped upon him by a violently insane aunt, including scrubbing his face and body down with bleach and coarse brush, in essence explaining his white skin and his psychopathy.  Cut to the the near-present (years before he cut his face off) where the Joker raises a baby gorilla he kidnaps from the zoo to be his son.  Truly touching, he gives the gorilla everything he was denied as a child including genuine love.  He molds the ape into his own likeness, but not with any malice towards his “son’s” feelings. However, since there is no mention of the gorilla in the present, the reader knows it won’t last.  The Joker witnesses his son’s death and from what follows the reader knows that this creature was literally the closest relationship the Clown Prince of Gotham has ever had, and indeed, the Joker begins crying.  But he quickly breaks into laughter and makes grossly morbid jokes about the whole thing.  Kubert shows us that the Joker is capable of emotions, but because of the incredible trauma of his youth, whenever they are too much to bear his brain reverts to a manic state of euphoric laughter to compensate.  Truly amazing storytelling, befitting his father’s legacy.  Kubert wrote this, but the art was done by another of my favorite artists, Andy Clarke.  Clarke’s art has made the backups of Detective Comics soar and his treatment of this entire issue augments and accentuates Kubert’s plots brilliantly.  This is a Villains Month issue that is not to be missed.
  • Batman & Robin #23.1: Two-Face written by Peter Tomasi and drawn by Guillem March chronicles the fate of Two-Face during the beginnings of Forever Evil.  Batman is “dead” and Gotham has gone dark.  For the former Gotham district attorney and current crimelord there are two paths to take: save Gotham or let her burn.  A tough call that is made simpler by a coin toss.  Interrupted by the Scarecrow, a third option is presented, or rather a second choice to be made.  Scarecrow represents the Secret Society who wish Two-Face’s allegiance in subjugating our world.  So the more pertinent question becomes: join the Society or fight the Society?  Another coin toss.  As Gotham cries out, Two-Face’s reactions to it, coupled with a few flashbacks to his past, really fleshout the man he has become and where his loyalties and druthers find themselves.  If his psychoses were simple to understand he wouldn’t have been sent to Arkham all those times, and Tomasi really feels out that space in his story, showing the true depth of his madness.  He also throws in some old friends from his pre-Reboot stint of the Batman & Robin title as well to shake things up.  If you like the character of Two-Face and await what Tomasi plans for him in the formerly titled Batman & Robin series, this issue is a must read.
  • Detective Comics #23.1: Poison Ivy, like Two-Face above, deals with Ivy’s emergence into a Gotham a without power, law, or the Batman.  As it has ever been depicted in such conditions, it is ANARCHY!  It is in this that Poison Ivy is reminded of the disgusting nature of humanity.  Among the insanities she witnesses is a scene of domestic abuse that she intervenes upon.  In doing this she is taken back to her childhood and her own battered mother finding solace in her garden, with peace of plants.  A horror would later await both in that garden, scarring young Pamela for the rest of her life and starting her path towards becoming Ivy.  That path is laid out through her entry into academia and the internship at Wayne Enterprises that brought about her physical transformation into the floral female terrorist she has become.   Derek Fridolfs writes this issue with the help of artist Javier Pina.  Poison Ivy can be written very two dimensionally, and this story skirts that territory with a semi-intricate explanation of her motivations, but still lacks some key element of why she is as generally misanthropic as she is depicted by issue’s end.
  • Green Lantern #23.1: Relic introduces us to the eponymous “Relic,” a petrified remnant from the Universe that preceded ours.  Since he awoke in Green Lantern: The New Guardians #22 he has been an enigma that has cryptically stated his good intentions while attacking viciously and unprovoked the Lanterns he dubs “lightsmiths.”  His goal is stated as “saving the Universe.”  This issue, written by Green Lantern scribe, Robert Venditti, chronicles his life in the universe that preceded ours and how that universe functioned.  The lightsmiths were wielders of the emotional spectrum, with all the same colors and emotions we have seen since Geoff Johns introduced them after the “Sinestro Corps War” in 2008.  However, despite their constant warring, the universe was built upon the light they used and instead of cities, civilizations, and infrastructures being built out of physical resources, the light constructs of the smiths served that function.  However, the greatest scientific mind of that universe saw that like physical resources the light came from somewhere and was not infinite.  It could run out and eventually would if it was used wantonly as it had been.  His warnings fall on deaf ears and it is because of this that the universe before ours ceased to be and he who was mocked as a “relic” in his universe, became a relic of his universe.  Upon awakening in ours he became aware of the likenesses of our universe to his and the presence of “lightsmiths.”  This time around he knew precisely the danger they posed to reality, and that arguing verbally with them was not the best course if anything was going to be done to save another universe.  Hence his cryptic tone, hence his blatant belligerence, and hence the “Relic” that we have seen thus far   The “Blackout” event is less than a month away and already the dimming described by him that preceded the cataclysms that claimed his universe has already been witnessed by the different Corps of Lanterns.  Venditti has set the stage for a true test of the Lanterns the likes of which (even under the pen of Geoff Johns) we have never seen the likes of.  Aiding him is artist Rags Morales who worked with Brad Walker, the Green Lantern: The New Guardians artist who first depicted Relic, on Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run.  Truly an issue to procure if you call yourself a fan of Green Lantern.
  • Green Arrow #23.1: Count Vertigo could almost be another issue of Green Arrow.  With the usual GA team on deck that is no insult.  This series is a delight, really tapping the limits and possibilities of the character to their peak potential.  However, being a Villains Month issue the dynamic creative duo focus their literary lens on Count Vertigo, by far  the most iconic of Oliver Queen’s nemeses depicted since the reboot.  Being in a rebooted universe, little is known about the man behind the disorienting device. This issue remedies that, telling the story of Werner Zytle, son of the late deposed Count of Vlatava.  He is raised in Canada by his  abusive mother who blames him for the fall of their family’s fortunes in the motherland.  She later sells him to a scientific research firm, prompting his implanting with the device that grants him his power.  It is here that his true power, both in spirit and body, takes hold.  From here he is able to reclaim his destiny, starting with his freedom, then regaining his homeland, and finally in the reunion with his mother he reclaims his past and identity.  He is very much a Mordred character, raised by  a single, overbearing mother to fulfill a destiny not of his choosing and ultimately becoming a monster that consumes the mother figure and becomes a plague upon humanity.  This is very much the case with Vertigo and though the issue is not structured like most of its fellows this week, it functions excellently in advancing the plot of Green Arrow and maintaining the integrity of the series, unlike many of the stand-alone stories out this month.  I enjoyed it thoroughly, but then again Green Arrow is one of my favorites.

    A Son's Vengeance

    A Son’s Vengeance

  • Justice League #23.1: Darkseid almost completely rewrites the entire concept of the New Gods.  I am not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.  Since Justice League #3 I have been up in arms against Geoff Johns’ blatant disregard for Jack Kirby’s seminal creations and the perfection of his Fourth World mythology.  Since then, Brian Azzarello’s work with the denizens of New Genesis have been slightly better.  High Father was done a little heavy handed, but the essence was there.  Scott Lobdell returns the character of Orion to a place that is well within the character’s original context and feels genuine.  And then we come to this issue, written by Greg Pak.  It begins by depicting Uxas and Izaya, mortals living upon the world of the (Old) Gods, scratching out meager existences.  On this world the monumental gods frolicked and warred with one another in complete disregard for the lives of those tiny mortals living beneath them like insects.  In this version, Izaya is married to Avia, as was so in the original Kirby books, but this time around Avia is the sister of Uxas.  Izaya and Avia are devout believers and worshipers of the  oblivious, elemental gods that plague them.  Uxas is more pragmatic and “blasphemes” them constantly.  He is cunning and engineers the ultimate death of these gods that brings about utter ruin to the planet, but also endows him with the powers of the gods he kills, forging him into Great Darkseid.  Izaya is granted the powers of those stricken gods that escape Darkseid, rewarding his faith with the powers that baptize him as Izaya, the High Father.  The planet is destroyed, but remade into the two planets of New Genesis and Apokalips.  The final eight pages introduce a character from Pak’s Batman/Superman title, Kaiyo the Chaosbringer.  This little sprite appeared at first to be a minor demon, but it seems very probable that she is in fact a New God of Apoklalips.  What’s more, her exploits in the last couple of pages make it seem probable that she is the lost daughter of Darkseid that he world-hops to find, prompting his appearance in Justice League’s first arc.  This issue put me off at first, because of the “heresy” of its divergence from Kirby’s Fourth World.  However, in retrospect, it was a well written, intriguing concept that accentuates Pak’s previous work in the firs three issue of Batman/Superman and sets the stage for interesting future developments with the New Gods.

    A So Was Born a Fourth World . . .

    A So Was Born a Fourth World . . .

  • Earth 2 #15.1: Desaad appropriately segues to another New God of Apokalips and someone whose sadism might even rival that of Great Darkseid.  Writer Paul Levitz who introduced Desaad into the New 52 in his Worlds’ Finest title chronicles the mad god’s advent to our Earth after the events of Earth-2 #1.  His goal is really two-fold, filling in blanks in the story of what Desaad has been up to since coming to Earth-1 as well as how that has affected things the reader witnessed since the first issues of Worlds’ Finest, and secondly proving how sick and perverse the mind of Desaad truly is.  One interesting thing that I think blew me away the most was in Desaad’s search for minds to corrupt and turn toward his dark aims, he stumbles upon an artist at a drafting table.  Desaad goes to the man’s home and emerges from a Boom Tube, renowned for the thunderous cacophony it makes prompting its name, and yet the man doesn’t turn around.  When Desaad looks over his shoulder, he stops short and seems apprehensive if not actually afraid, and decides to leave this man alone.  One would ask, what is going on, but the savvy comic reader who knows not only something of comics in general, but more importantly the character of Desaad and the other New Gods, will notice something very key.  The man at the table looks EXACTLY like a young Jack Kirby, creator of the Fourth World, of which Desaad is a denizen.  The hair cut, the physique, the thick eyebrows, the posture.  All so blatantly Kirby.  When we see a close up of his work over his shoulder from Desaad’s perspective the rough sketches have all the hallmarks of Kirby’s illustrative style.  Through meta-storytelling, Paul Levitz sets a real hook in the reader, inserting the King of Comics into a world featuring his own creations.  What his existence in this world will mean for Desaad and the other New Gods is a mystery, but one that I will faithfully follow to find out the answer to.Desaad1


    Behold Thine Creator, Ye Mighty God!

  • Superman #23.1: Bizarro was a slightly strange twist on the character, albeit a short lived one.  Sholly Fisch, who cut his teeth in the big leagues on the backup features of Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run, writes this issue with the help of artist Jeff Johnson.  In it we return to a seminal moment where Lex Luthor and Superman meet for the first times in the third issue of Action Comics.  Largely due to experiments Luthor conducted under military purview the young Superman was hurt to the point of bleeding (something VERY difficult to achieve under most circumstances) and as a result he used Lex as a hostage to procure escape.  Through this encounter Luthor gained two things: a personal animosity for the Man of Steel and a sample of his blood.  Using further contracts with the U.S. Military he attempts to augment a normal human being by re-splicing Kryptonian DNA gained from the small sampling of blood into their own genome.  The result of this is, of course, Bizarro.  To my knowledge, Bizarro was always either a clone or a refugee from a dimension where everything is backward.  Fisch makes a good sampling of Bizarro’s reversed Superman powers, i.e. Freeze vision and incendiary breath, but doesn’t quite pull off a Bizarro yarn that feels authentic.  Bizarro’s rampage lacks most of the quintessential “misunderstood monster” motif that characterize almost all of his appearances in the past.  This is an okay issue if the reader is just looking for Bizarro powers, but if they want Bizarro, the childlike villain speaking in opposites and conflicted in a limited understanding of the world and morality, this definitely is not the Bizarro story for them.
  • The Flash #23.1: Grodd is similar to, but slightly different from the Action Comics: Cyborg Superman and Green Arrow: Count Vertigo issues, in that it functions as a within the main story of the Flash series to continue on into later issues.  However, unlike both Cyborg Superman and Count Vertigo this doesn’t grant the reader any further insight into the past of Grodd.  What it does, however, is juxtapose his thoughts and philosophical beliefs against the depiction of the aftermath of the Gorilla invasion of the Gem Cities he lead which terminated in Flash #17.  Since then Solivar has taken over leadership of Gorilla City and worked painstakingly to not only make amends for the actions of the delusional despot, Grodd, but begun the process of making real steps to not only forge lasting peace between humanity and Gorillas, but have the Gorillas enter into the larger world we all share.  This is not something Grodd can abide and the manner of his return from the Speed Force is revealed, as is his overall place as an essential villain in the Flash andt he larger DCU.  Brian Buccellato, colorist and co-writer of the Flash, pens this issue with the help of artist Chris Batista.  Batista’s art is quite different than that of the usual Flash panoply of artists, including Buccellato’s co-writer on the title, Francis Manapul.  This is good in my opinion, because the Flash himself isn’t even seen in the issue and Batista’s art really depicts the Gorillas well.  Definitely a thoughtful, well written, well drawn issue.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #23.1: The Ventriloquist was simply okay.  I am a huge fan of Gail Simone on the Batgirl title and I attribute its success almost entirely to her writing, reserving a generous helping of credit to Barbara Gordon herself, who is one of my favorite comic book characters. Top 10, without a doubt.  This origin of the Ventriloquist fell a little flat for me.  Sure it’s interesting and sure Shauna is a very complex, psychotic person with a very troubled past. However, for me the Ventriloquist is Scar-Face and Dummy.  There is something so “Batman” about them.  I say Batman, and although Shauna and Ferdie are currently appearing in Batgirl, I still think that the mundane nature of the original Ventriloquist works more effectively with unpowered vigilantes than this new version.  The original Ventriloquist, Arnold Wesker, was a non-powered guy with dissociative personality disorder, projecting his primary, dominant persona into a ventriloquist dummy done up like a 30’s era gangster named Scar-Face.  The premise fell well within the realm of reality and created a complex villain mired in a psychosis rife with situational drama.  Wesker and Scar-Face might disagree, but being that Scar-Face is the dominant persona, Wesker is going to be hampered in foiling the inanimate object, because his own drive is what is empowering the dummy.  Later there was a beautiful, blonde woman (Peyton Riley) who took over as Scar-Face’s ventriloquist, but still follows the same paradigm.  When you have a woman like Shauna who has telepathic abilities that she exploits years before she got her dummy, Ferdie, you kind of remove the intrinsic importance of the ventriloquism schtick from her psychosis.  Sure she named her dummy after her deceased twin brother, and yeah she was a product of a negative environment growing up, but that in no way enhances the nuanced concept of the Ventriloquist.  Basically, this issue and the iteration of the character in the New 52 reinvents the wheel, with more bells and whistles, but less functionality.  I like Gail’s work, but with a heavy heart I say that this issue can be passed on with no loss for any Bat-Family fan.
  • Batman: Black & White #1 is a title which returns in the New 52 to presents several intriguing short stories depicted completely in monochromatic black and white panels.  With the writing talents of Chip Kidd, Maris Wicks, John Arcudi, and Howard Makie, and the artistic talents of Neal Adams, Michael Cho, Sean Murphy, Joseph Quinones, and Chris Samnee, many unique perspectives are shed on the Dark Knight and his myriad interpretations.  Foremost of these is Neal Adams’ piece, both written and drawn by the Batman maestro who helped create Ra’s Al Ghul and the Man-Bat.  In his Batman: Zombie story, the impact of Batman as a fighter of evil is explored in great poignancy through the social issues of our day and just how effective a Dark Knight can be against the day to day evils of the 21st century.  His writing is razor edged and his art is at the top of its game. Chip Kidd and Michael Cho’s Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When comes in second in my opinion, giving a Darwyn Cooke-esque, Silver Age story of Robin and what truly makes him a worthy contemporary for the Batman.  What’s more, even Superman has to tip his hat to the Boy Wonder by story’s end.  John Arcudi’s Driven, drawn by Sean Murphy, is an interesting tale of Batman and his relationship with his most iconic accessory:  the Batmobile.  The other three stories are good, but these three especially epitomize innovation in the realm of Batman.
  • Codename: Action #1 is basically a Cold War, nerd boy fantasy mash-up.  It takes place in an ambiguous period during the Cold War following a strange amalgam of characters throughout its globe trotting plot.  In the background are two Golden Age comic book characters resurrected in a slightly more modern context.  In America there is the costumed adventurer, the American Crusader, and in Europe there is the British aerial operative, Black Venus.  American Crusader finds his vintage in 1941 as a crimefighter that gained powers from stray radiation from a device he was working with called an “atom smasher.”  Black Venus was a war nurse turned aviator during WWII famous for her black bodysuit and aviator goggles, who first appeared in comics in 1945.  In the foreground of the plot we see a new secret agent complete his tests of initiation, earning the designation Operative 1001.  He is then teamed up with Operator 5, the fifth agent ever initiated into the “Intelligence Service,” and a living legend.  Facing all four of these characters is a global diplomatic meltdown of epic proportions.  The French threaten war against the Soviets if they interfere with North African assets, the Japanese threaten war if the Russians movie into their territorial waters, the Chinese threaten war if the Japanese mobilize their armed forces, and the Soviet Union threatens to launch nukes if anyone doesn’t accede to their demands.  The kicker is that the Intelligence Services have intel that the Soviet General making the threats at the UN is in fact not the actual General due to a subcutaneous tracking device they implanted the real one with.  So the plot thickens . . .   Writer Chris Roberson kicks off this series, with no shortage of help from artist Jonathan Lau, in great style and panache, eliciting all the romance and intrigue of Cold War spy thrillers and the action of costumed superhero comics in a shaken, not stirred, suave superhero spy masterpiece.
  • Trillium #2 begins at the strange middle of the first issue with the meeting of two diametrically different people, whose shared intrepid nature is the sole bond that connects them in what is shaping up to be a REALLY innovative series.  Nika Temsmith, the intergalactic scientist from the year 3797 searching for a cure to a sentient virus, meets up with the English explorer William Pike on Earth in the year 1921, who himself is searching for purpose after losing his in the Great War.  Ironically what brings them together is the Incan temple that Pike and his expedition have just discovered after centuries of abandonment.  In Nika’s own time, a virus with the capacity for thought and higher reasoning is at war with the human race and reduced our population to mere hundreds of  thousands spread across the galaxy in weakly sustained colonies.  Seeking to find a cure she goes through a “primitive” alien race’s pyramidal temple emerging on Earth in 1921.  As can be logically deduced from the time gap, the English both speak are not even close to being mutually intelligible.  So the entire issue is merely them trying to communicate and ascertain who each other is and what each other desires.  Slowly as events unfold they get an idea of the situation and the revelation is powerful to behold.  Jeff Lemire writes and illustrates this series MASTERFULLY!

    Trascendence of the Trillium Flower

    Trascendence of the Trillium Flower

And so ends the first week of Villains Month and my first week back on “Off the Panel.”  Hopefully, you folks enjoyed it and will come back to enjoy future issues with me.

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

Illustration Credits:

Action Comics #23.1: Cyborg Superman:  Art by Mike Hawthorne, Colored by Daniel Brown

Green Arrow #23.1: Count Vertigo: Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo

Justice League #23.1: Darkseid:  Art by Paulo Siquiera & Netho Diaz, Colored by Hi-Fi

Earth 2 #15.1:  Art by Yildiray Cinar, Colored by Jason Wright

Trillium #2: Art Jeff Lemire, Colored by Jose Villarrubia

Week 83 (April 3, 2013)

  • Action Comics #19 ushers in a brand new era in the title with the departure of comics legend Grant Morrison from the book and the advent of Andy Diggle on stories and Tony S. Daniel on art.  Grant Morrison is just short of a godhood in the realm of 21st century comic lore and his nineteen issue run (#0 issue included) was an incredible, psychedelic roller-coaster ride that befits his vaunted reputation.  Large shoes to fill, but I still am excited by the Diggle/Daniel team up.  Andy Diggle is an incredible writer whose Green Arrow: Year One series was tight, concise, and a very good intro to the character for newbies.  Tony S. Daniel is one of my favorite writer/artists because of his attention to visual storytelling and the round, sumptuous lines of his artwork.  The two together prove to be a symphony really utilizing the characters and visual grandeur of the Superman line to the fullness of their potential.  Superman is young and idealistic and still at a stage prior to the events of Superman #1, as becomes blatantly clear with the introduction of a character already “introduced” to us in the future in that aforementioned Superman issue.  Daniel draws him with youthful exuberance and a stoic concern when he is tested by bad men in big machines.  Lex Luthor, also a character in this arc, is quite different than the only time we have met him in the first six issue arc of Morrison’s run.  There he was a little chunky and arrogant.  Here he is lean, and has shed his cavalier attitude for an ice cold demeanor that is very wolf-like and predatory.  He is infinitely complex and his mental psyche is explored quite candidly in a very terse scene with his psychiatrist.  Diggle writes him exquisitely and Tony Daniel’s art captures all of his ominous potential in some very chilling expressions.  To put it mildly, this new Action line up is incredible.  Though Morrison has moved on, the title will continue to shine brightly as a star in the DC crown, thanks to two of the most promising creators in the medium.

    A Wife's Love

    The Psychiatrist and the Psychopath

  • Detective Comics #19 (#900) was an issue to remember and a reminder of how pissed I am at DC for renumbering their books.  If they had not gone through with the renumbering as a result of the Reboot this would have been issue #900.  They didn’t make note of it either on the cover, even for this MOMENTOUS occasion, considering no other title in comics, besides Action (WHICH GOT THE #900 ON THE COVER!) has ever reached that landmark.  That said, going into it there was a lot of pressure on them to do it right.  In Action Comics #900 writer Paul Cornell capped off what was perhaps one of the most massive Lex Luthor stories ever told and truly blew the reader away with a testimonial as to just how deep Luthor’s hatred for Superman runs.  In this 900th issue of the title that launched Batman in the late 30’s current writer John Layman had to pick a topic to write about that segued into his current run on the book while at the same time telling a story quintessentially enmeshed in the Batman mythos.  The Joker was not possible, because Scott Snyder already used him up two months ago.  The Scarecrow was a decent option, except that he’s been overused of late.  Penguin is a part of the story, but still not quite right.  Layman chose to find the answer in the name of his main character. Bat . . . Man.  Man . . . Bat.  Apparently in the Reboot Kurt Langstrom hasn’t been introduced into Batman’s scope and thus the introduction of a viral version of his serum that infects people and turns them into literal bat-men and women leads to his New 52 debut.  The story is fast paced, clean, engaging, well thought out and if one ignores the annoying contradictions arising from the links to the semi-rebooted Batman Incorporated series, which is predicated on Batman knowing about Kurt Langstrom LONG before this point, its absolutely perfect.  As with Action Comics #900 there are also other shorter pieces that tie integrally into the Batman character, paying homage to it’s impact on the world at large.  As is usually the case, Layman follows up on the main story with a backup feature that highlights a loose end brought up in the main story with Andy Clarke providing beautiful art.  Without giving too much away, it tells the story of Francine Langstrom, Kurt’s wife, and how she met and fell in love with her husband.  Following the tragic fate of her husband this feature shows the true depth of her love for him, which honestly made me mist up a little.  Coupled with the main story, these two make the issue worth $7.99 by themselves.  James Tynion IV, cowriter of Talon, with the help of Justice League Dark artist, Mikel Janin, tells the next tale which features Bane on his island haven of Santa Prisca that connects his disappearance at the end of Batman: The Dark Knight #7 to a coming appearance in Talon #7.  Though the beauty of Janin’s art seems to clash with the harshness of the subject material, it’s still a delight to look at precisely for that reason.  John Layman then finishes the issue off with two more short stories.  One explaining why Ogilvy engineered the Manbat infestation and what happened during that chaotic night, as well as introducing a twist in Penguin (Oswald Cobblepot’s) fate following last issue’s events.  Last but not least, he tells the story of a police officer recovering in Gotham Central Hospital from his transformation to a manbat and back to a person.  Most of the cops there hate Batman and hold no punches in talking trash about him.  The female police rookie from Batman #12 who had to guard Joker’s face is among the cops and she speaks out for the Caped Crusader.  After all the other cops leave in disgust, the injured cop in his hospital bed confides that Batman was the reason that he didn’t kill anyone as a manbat.  But for Batman he’d have been a murderer and for that reason he agrees to be her partner when no else would partner up with her.  Across the board this issue did Batman proud.  Quality storytelling and beautiful art, in both the stories themselves and the pinups between features.  Well worth the read for any Batman fan.

    A Wife's Love

    A Wife’s Love

  • Green Lantern #19 is a twofold issue.  On one side writer Geoff Johns is progressing the story toward Hal Jordan literally making the “leap” to becoming a Black Lantern.  As Johns hinted seven months ago, Hal is destined to be the greatest Black Lantern of all time.  Unthinkable as it may seem, Johns is taking us there and I for one cannot wait to see Hal in the black outfit, which we were cheated of seeing during Blackest Night by Barry Allen’s incredible speed.  The main plot this issue tackles is Sinestro falling under the scrutiny of Volthoom, the First Lantern.  In fact, Sinestro and his world of Korugar are precisely what Volthoom needed to fulfill his evil plans for the universe.  This is it though.  After this issue all that remains of the plot is Green Lantern #20.  Then Geoff John’s vision of Green Lantern will conclude itself with his departure from the series and a new day will dawn on the GL line of books.  I have to say that I am sad to see him leave.  This was one series that he consistently did right.  His long time collaborator, artist Doug Mahnke was absent again this issue, with Adrian Syaf and Szymon Kudranski splitting duties on artwork.  No doubt it’s to give Mahnke time to do the art on what is solicited to be a massive finale issue, but the choice of these two seems to be a logical one.  Syaf draws Sinestro quite well, endowing the fallen Green Lantern with all the arrogance and anger that befit him, and Kudranski’s eerily shadowed, monochromatic art sets a very stark tone for the Hal Jordan scenes taking place in the “Dead Zone.”  This issue is phenomenal, epitomizing what is essential about both Hal and Sinestro.
  • Green Arrow #19 is for the most part an extended duel between Green Arrow and his black clad nemesis, Komodo.  What is important about it is the psychology.  The interplay between these two archers not only informs the reader about archery in general from Ollie’s narration and the verbal repartee between the two, but also about the archers themselves.  Ollie’s deepest thoughts and drives are either told to us or insinuated through his actions and reactions to the events chronicled by writer Jeff Lemire.  Also a major twist is Komodo’s revelation as to the nature of Robert Queen’s (Green Arrow’s dad) death.  Ollie knew it was a helicopter crash that coincided with his marooning on the island, but the exact nature was unbeknownst to him until this issue.  Also of interest is Komodo and his daughter, Emiko.  Komodo, whose real name is Lacroix, looks to be Caucasian and his daughter, Emiko, from name and appearance looks to be Asian.  I only point out their racial characteristics because Komodo and his persona as a black archer seems to be much in the same vein as Merlyn the Magnificent and Emiko and her outfit when she suits up in this issue seems to be a very close (except in age) facsimile of the archer Shado from previous Green Arrow lore.  I am very curious to see if Lemire is rewriting the Green Arrow playbook or merely borrowing a few cues.  In any event, he delivers a stark, razor’s edge plotline that paints Ollie into a corner and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.  Though I admit to not being an Andrea Sorrentino fan, his artwork for this arc in Green Arrow is essential to establishing the feel that is imperative to Lemire’s vision.  The two together are like Lennon and McCartney.  If you had reservations about the character up until this point, you need to get the series from #17 and go forward from there.  Lemire and Sorrentino have resurrected the Emerald Archer back to his rightful place in comic book lore.

    The Truth Comes Out

    The Truth Comes Out

  • Earth 2 #11 ushers in a truly amazing issue of this dynamic title.  Last issue we were introduced to Wotan and given a brief glimpse into the history of the Helmet of Fate, housing the power and spiritual essence of the ancient mage, Nabu.  Here writer James Robinson takes us even further into the backstories of Nabu, Wotan, and the human, Khalid Ben-Hassin, who finds himself caught between these two mages in their titanic stuggle against one another.  The lion’s share of the issue’s narrative follows Khalid’s attempt to locate the helm he had forsaken in the past and his communing with Nabu’s spirit to locate it within the labyrinthine bowls of Fate’s Tower.  Nabu believes that Khalid is chose by fate and therefore the only man fit to bear his power, which is something Khalid has fought tooth and nail up until this very moment.  Why is that you ask? In their first encounter, after the young archaeologist’s discovery of the helmet in an unearthed Egyptian tomb, Nabu’s essence sought to supplant Khalid’s will and drove him to the brink of insanity.  Now with an inspiration to aspire to Khalid intends to brave oblivion and madness to become the hero his Earth desperately needs.  James Robinson and artist Nicola Scott knock this series out of the park with beautifully intricate and often moving plots and pictures.  What truly made this particular issue for me was a scene in the Eastern European country of Dherain where Steppenwolf dispatches his right hand, Fury (daughter of Wonder Woman), to hunt down two more exiled denizens of Apokalips.  Admittedly, this couple are my favorite Fourth Worlders.  I am on pins and needles for the next installment.

    Miracles Do Happen

    Miracles Do Happen

  • Worlds’ Finest #11 features the entrance of yet another Apokaliptian.  Huntress follows upon a lead connecting the sale of weapons powered by Apokalips technology to the money that has been siphoned from Wayne Enterprises.  That lead in North Africa leads her right back to Holt Industries, which Power Girl had been attacking like a harbinger of natural disaster last issue.  WE know that Michael Holt was transported to Earth 2, however,that precipitates the question of how he can be back on Earth 1?  Enter our mysterious Fourth Worlder, Desaad.  Paul Levitz writes this series so well, but this issue was a little dry.  Though I am intrigued by the advent of Desaad, this one took a little longer to come to the point.  Still an incredible series and one that has great promise in coming issues.
  • Swamp Thing #19 is not unlike Action Comics #19 above.  Scott Snyder’s inaugural run of this title was as seminal as Morrison’s on Action.  Both were innovative and redefined their respective series.  Charles Soule takes over Swamp Thing from Snyder and in the wake of what has been a very important, unique origin story, Soule takes Swamp Thing back to the role he held in all his previous incarnations: guardian of the Green.  This includes doing some things that are morally repugnant to him, including measures that lead to the deaths of many innocent people.  Despite being the warrior king of the Green Kingdom, Alec Holland hasn’t forgotten that he was once human and his duties do not fail to shake what remains of that humanity.  Taking a trip to the Metropolis Botanical Gardens, where he spent many hours during his graduate work to calm his soul, he runs into Scarecrow, himself on an errand from the mysterious society of supervillains hinted at in Justice League of America. Soule does an incredible job of taking this series by the horns and doing something new, yet appropriate to the continuation of the legacy he inherited.  Taking over art from Yanick Paquette and Marco Rudy is Spanish artist, Kano.  Kano provided art for Swamp Thing #0 and in my review for it, I quote myself as saying, “ I pray that he get a shot at another issue or two in future, maybe a whole arc, because his lines and style are so incredible.” Wish granted.  He continues his exquisite art here and looks to be attached for the foreseeable future.  Like Supergirl, Superman, and Action, all of which have gone through major paradigm shifts, this series set the hook, ensuring for me at least continued readership.
  • Batwing #19 continues the era of change.  Those who have been keeping up with Batwing know that a reckoning is coming.  David Zavimbe is a good cop in a country rotting from its bowels in corruption.  He has lived under the assumption that good will and perseverance can win against evil.  Those beliefs have died with his bestfriend and mentor, Matu Ba.  Now Batwing is going to town with a tomahawk and NO ONE is sacred.  Neither friends nor enemies are safe from his wrath.  While his path up until this issue have been held retarded through moral restraint, this issue has him cutting through any impediment to justice like butter.  But in the end, its just a means for him to clean house before leaving his role as the Batman of Africa.  Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray take over with this issue to conclude David Zavimbe’s tenure as Batwing and inaugurate the his replacement.  Batman says that this new candidate was his “first choice” for Batwing.  Palmiotti and Gray are good writers, but I am questioning their choice of his replacement and what that means for Batman’s judgement.  I won’t spoil who he is, but I will say that though he is African, he’s actually African American, born and raised in Gotham.  It seems a little racist to me that they assume that a guy can represent peoples and places he has never been.  Just cause his ancestors were from Africa doesn’t mean that he can represent them.  Batman was born and raised in Gotham, Nightrunner (the Batman of France) though of North African extraction was raised in Paris, Mr. Unknown in Japan, etc.  I’m not impugning their rationale or saying they can’t pull it off, but Palmiotti and Gray have set up a pretty implausible foundation to their run and the series’ new direction.  Time will tell . . .

    Batwing Goes Out With A Bang

    Batwing Goes Out With A Bang

  • Phantom Stranger #7 continues the Stranger’s quest to find his abducted family.  On the way he meets up with the “Voice” in its form as a Scottish terrier.  While discoursing upon this religious  and philosophical the Voice leads the Phantom Stranger to the next person whom he is to betray: Jack Ryder.  A super conservative television newsman with an over inflated ego, Ryder finds his career on the rocks.  Yet in the darkest hour of Metropolis and in Superman’s absence, Ryder stays on the air to report the chaos occurring downtown, just outside the studio.  Dan Didio resurrects his version of the Challengers of the Unknown for this grand display of coalescing fear and fearlessness.  The Stranger yet again leads a human being unto their ruin and death, but the great betrayer finds himself at the spears edge of his own betrayal by ones very close to him and his past.  Dan Didio concocts a very compelling, mysterious series that draws the reader through a very diverse cross-section of the DCU.
  • Legends of the Dark Knight #7 presents a tale of Arkham Asylum rarely seen.  Inmates are seeing a ghost, as is the Dark Knight.  Following the strange occurrences, Batman is lead into a decades old murder case that ties to the staff of the Asylum and a restless “spirit.”  This series has produced some very intriguing tales surrounding the Batman, exploring the world that has developed around his actions and their consequences.  This one wasn’t the best developed so far.  The substance of this “vengeful spirit” and even the question of how she manifests is unanswered and rather lackluster.
  • Smallville: Season Eleven #12 packs quite a wallop, achieving quite a bit in one issue, and also concluding the four part “Haunted” arc.  Superman goes to-to-toe with the Black Flash in order to save Bart.  However, that is just an evasive tactic that can only go so far.  Bart invariably is the one that is destined to fight the Black Flash, which he accepts and does heroically.  Delving into the mind of her Earth 2 doppelganger, Chloe Sullivan relives the life of her other self on that other Earth and sees for the first time the Moniters who play harbinger to the “Crisis” Earth-2 Chloe foretold before her death.  Both of these two events hail dark tidings for the world of “Smallville”, but a few bright lights shine through the darkness.  Fighting the Black Flash allowed the radioactive isotope Lex put into Superman’s system as a tracking mechanism to fully dissipate, meaning that Clark can reunite with his fiancee, Lois Lane.  Lex’s dearly departed sister, Tess, has been a thorn in her brother’s side for sometime and with his resources, he is not one to allow a thorn to remain no matter how difficult it is to remove.  This issue gives Tess safe harbor in some respect from her brother’s dark machinations.  This series really holds up to its televised predecessor.

Week 75 (Feb. 6, 2013)

Starting out February right we have the conclusion to “Rot World” in Swamp Thing and Animal Man and a Valentine’s Day Special for all the lovelorn denizens of the New 52.  Also another first attempt in the rodeo of trying to wrangle Green Arrow into a decent title again.  So much going on, let’s get to it:

  • Detective Comics #17 brings to a close the story of the Merrymaker.  Since Detective Comics wasn’t roped into the “Death of the Family” event, John Layman used this two issue space to do something Joker themed and yet tangential enough that he had complete control over it.  Thus sprung the concept of the League of Smiles and its architect, the Merrymaker.  I’m a little sad that it was only two issues, as it turned out to be a really cool concept.  However, I’m not sure what else Layman could have done with it, so its length isn’t entirely inappropriate.  I do hope that in the future the Merrymaker makes a reappearance, because as a Joker offshoot he is intriguing.  However, a lot of it is the pageantry surrounding him, owing to the resemblance he bears to other characters in Batman’s rogues gallery, i.e. Hugo Strange.  In the backup feature, also written by John Layman and drawn by Andy Clarke we are shown the origin of the Merrymaker while also being made privy to his fate after the main feature concludes.  Layman’s writing is beginning to grow on me.  His authorial sense of humor is really refreshing and makes his issues on this title quite engaging to read.  Things are beginning to fall into place and I am forced to retract my earlier reservations as to his competency as a Batman writer.

    Birth of the Merrymaker

    Birth of the Merrymaker

  • Animal Man #17 presents the first half of the conclusion to “Rot World.”  Animal Man and Swamp Thing have independent of one another come to Anton Arcane’s capital of Behemit, to battle the onslaught of the Rot into our world.  The battle to end Arcane’s nightmarish reign is brutal and costs many lives, but this issue only presents half of the story.  This chapter, while important, really only constitutes a great deal of fighting and panning out the immense scale of the battle with the Rot.  Ending with the revelation of Abby Arcane and Max Baker’s fates following the flashback sequences in both Animal Man and Swamp Thing, this issue finds its conclusion in Swamp Thing #17.
  • Swamp Thing #17, along with Animal Man #17, are hailed as the “Rot World: Finale” but in fact they are not.  Or if they are, it is a lackluster finale with no gravitas or meaning.  Continuing from where Animal Man left off, this second installment of the finale has Swamp Thing and Animal Man plumbing the depths of their resolve to win the day from the cocksure, smug Anton Arcane who cannot conceive that there is any way that he may lose.  And in reality, for the duo to win they must shatter their own dreams and destroy that which they love most to free the world from the Rot.  Also of interest is the meeting of the avatars of Red and Green with the Parliament of Decay, which is far different from how one would expect them to be, given the events of the past year and a half.  This issue is intriguing, certainly, but the lack of any sort of conclusion is deceptive.  It would seem that any true ending to this saga with come with the 18th issues of both series.
  • Earth 2 #9 returns to the main cast of characters after last month’s sojourn to Dherain and the ascension of Steppenwolf to the throne.  Kendra Munoz-Saunders meets with a young middle eastern man named Khalid who is the host to Nabu and the helmet of Fate.  As yet he appears to be too frightened to wield this power and become Doctor Fate.  Returning to Jay Garrick after the fall of Grundy in issue #6, we find the speedster returning to his mother’s home in Lansing, Michigan only to be greated by a a World Army faction headed by Wesley Dodds there to capture him and bring him in.  This title is interesting because it constantly is beset with different shades of moral ambiguity.  There are characters like Jay that are just plain good, but then there are characters like Hawkgirl, Dodds (aka Sandman), and Al Pratt (aka the Atom) who are slightly more nuanced and hard to read.  And then of course there is the genocidal lunatic, Terry Sloane, who murdered tens of millions of people in the blink of an eye and yet still claims to be a hero.  Though the issues bounces around between Hawkgirl, Jay Garrick, and the World Army, the issue really seems to be setting up the entrence of Dr. Fate and the introduction of Khalid.  James Robinson continues to exhibit his prowess as a JSA writer, innovating the characters and concepts yet retaining the heart of each that has maintained them over seventy years of storytelling.  Artist Nicola Scott returns after her hiatus last month on #8.

    The Earth 2 Realm of Magic

    The Earth 2 Realm of Magic

  • Worlds’ Finest #9 picks up after Huntress’s hospitalization following an assassination order by a human trafficker she inconvenienced in her introductory miniseries about a year ago.  Karen Starr, aka Power Girl, had her taken to her private island for rest and recuperation, which young Miss Wayne is in desperate need of.  But . . . wouldn’t you know it, a paramilitary, special forces mercenary group picks that time to raid Karen’s laboratory and threaten the lives of her staff in the process.  All this while Power Girl is away on her previous errand.  So Helena has to suit up, and like her father and mother taught her vis-a-vis the flashback last issue, she pushes past the pain to do what’s right.  In this issue the flashbacks show Helena and Karen getting their costumes and Helena’s crossbow and Helena once again breaking up a white slavery ring.  The flashbacks aren’t as poignant as they have been in the past, but the main story is pretty incredible, especially considering the final panel’s revelation.  Paul Levitz is a genius and as ever George Perez’s pencils are rock solid. The pairing of their writing and art makes this series one of the best currently being put out.
  • Phantom Stranger #5 was rather apocalyptic.  Last issue the Phantom Stranger, who in his downtime exists as Philip Stark, working stiff and family man, comes back from an unwelcome conversation with John Constantine to find that his family has been kidnapped and his kids’ babysitter killed in a ritualistic, occult-looking fashion.  So of course his first thought is that its the first person he wronged in this series’ inaugural #0 issue: The Spectre, aka Det. Jim Corrigan.  The issue is basically a drawn out slugfest between two transcendental forces: Cold Destiny vs Fiery Vengeance incarnate.  Lots of stuff blows up and some serious fundamental issues are discussed.  Very few comics are as high brow and low brow at the same time.  There is some serious sacrilege going on with the Spectre claiming to be God and God turning out to be a cairn terrier.  Also the Question makes his first speaking appearance, but I am still annoyed by his immortal overhaul.  He was a great character before and thus far I am not sold.  Although this is the first time he’s appeared as an actual character, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt.  With great art and writing from Brent Anderson, Dan Didio and J.M. DeMatteis this issue was overall superb.

    Rage vs Fate

    Rage vs Fate

  • Green Arrow #17 did it!  I have disliked this series, except for the “Daughters of Lear” storyline.  This issue resurrects the dark edge of what Green Arrow should be.  I think the complete crap numbers of their past sixteen issues coupled with the unbridled success of the television adaptation Arrow has finally got them back on track.  Ollie’s lost his company, the steward that his father left in charge of Queen Industries, Emerson, begins to tell him a bombshell about his departed father when BANG he gets a black arrow through the chest.  Three pages in and Oliver is framed for murder!  You want to read it now, don’t you?  This series started with Oliver cushed out and leading a pretty carefree life of whimsy, moonlighting as a jet setting vigilante.  This issue has him lose everything except his bow and what he learned on the island.  THAT is the what Green Arrow should be, a twisted individual regressed to his most primal state after a life or death ordeal on a desert island becoming a silent hunter in an urban jungle.  Check!  Though this is just a single issue, this is the most genuine issue published since the launch of the New 52.  Jeff Lemire not only showcases the effects the island had on Ollie, he also brings the island into the narrative itself with the black archer and a mysterious group also being connected to that island.  Andrea Sorrentino was initially the artist for I, Vampire, which I disliked a great deal, his artwork which is very stark with non-gradient transitions between shadow and light, really brings a sharp edge to Lemire’s script.  Just an awesome issue.  If you were disheartened by DC’s crappy initial issues of this series or you like Arrow, buy this book.

    Enter Komodo

    Enter Komodo

  • Batwing #17 finds our hero a hunted man.  Police Inspector David Zavimbe and his alter ego Batwing have stood up to corruption in the Congo police and been marked for death.  Industrialist, Phillip Marksbury, has put a contract out on Batwing when the latter put his son, Ancil Marksbury, in prison for multiple assaults and homicides.  Answering the call is a Chinese mercenary called Sky-Pirate, but more interestingly, Rachel Niamo, aka Dawn, David’s childhood friend from the refugee camp, who he fought beside a few issues ago.  This issue has so  many twists and turns, its uncertain how it can end with David and those closest to him escaping its consequences with their lives intact.  Fabian Nicieza nails it!  And Fabrizio Fiorentino renders it beautifully with some of the most luscious art currently coming out.  I am more terrified about the future of this series than I am about the “Death of the Family” arc in Batman.  THAT’S saying something.

    Friends of the Past, Enemies of Tomorrow

    Friends of the Past, Enemies of Tomorrow

  • Legends of the Dark Knight #5 does something different then the past four, focusing on a different character than the Batman.  Slam Bradley, private detective, is on the job observing an abusive hood beating his mistress.  In the process he get framed for murder and runs afoul of Black Mask, the mafia kingpin of Gotham.  Plus the Batman thinks he did it as well and also is trying to bring him in, where the corrupt police will kill him.  So the legend here as told by the incredible writing (said sarcastically) of Joshua Hale Fialkov is that Batman is a complete idiot.  Phil Hester provides insubstantial art.  Terrible issue.  Skip it.
  • Smallville Season 11 #10, provides two major plot lines. First, Clark is made aware of the Black Flash, or the Black Racer as he’s also referred to, who has been stalking Bart Allen for sometime now.  In his wake, he has been sapping the life from other, normal people prematurely aging them and leaving them as desiccated husks.  The origins of this dark speedster are hinted to have something to do with a failed LexCorp experiment.  To help Bart, Clark and his allies at STAR Labs create two cosmic treadmills for Bart and Supes to use to lure out the Black Flash. On the other side of the narrative, Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow, and his wife, Chloe Sullivan Queen, attempt to find out the true nature of the multiversal cataclysm that lead Chloe’s Earth-2 equivalent to come to our Earth, to do so they use a device Lex Luthor used to transfer Hank Henshaw’s consciousness into the robotic body in the first arc of this series.  Chloe merges her consciousness with the waning memories of her dead counterpart.  This series really does work episodically like the television show did, presenting a complex, yet engaging superhero adventure in the manner of a seasonal program.
  • Young Romance: New 52 Valentines Day Special #1 presents six tales of love throughout the New DCU, just as the title promises.  The first story, is one of Catwoman and the Batman brought to us by Catwoman writer Ann Nocenti and guest artist Emanuela Lupacchino.  In it Catwoman pulls a heist, but afterwards feels none of the usual satisfaction, reminiscing about the first time she met Batman . . . on Valentines Day.  Her and her brother Billy were dirt poor and decided to steal tv’s and stereos from the families living in their projects.  Of course, the Batman would have choice things to say about that, and of course Catwoman would be too stubborn to giveup without a fight, but also true is that she is not so devoid of decency that she wouldn’t learn from that and become better.  Next up writer Cecil Castellucci and artist Inaki Miranda tell a tale of Aquaman’s wife, Mera, living in his father’s old lighthouse in Amnesty Bay, Maine, learning of the deep love between the ravishing daughter of a one of the previous lighthouse keepers from the 1860’s and a handsome, devoted ships captain.  Though they didn’t have a happy ending in their lifetime, Mera and Arthur through their actions and love for one another might just be able to make a happy ending for the departed lovers.  In the the “Knightfall” storyline Batgirl met a street punk named Ricky who is gimped by the sadistic villainess.  She learned that he wasn’t all bad and to help him avoid trouble while asking him for information, she planted a kiss on him.  In the Batgirl story of this issue, writer Ray Fawkes and artist Julius Gopez have Ricky sloppily jacking a car so that Batgirl would come and he could talk to her about that kiss.  The segment is a very honest, bittersweet love story, that at the same time is open ended leaving room for the possibility of a happy ending, but not making it likely.  In the story entitled “Seoul Brothers” Stormwatch writer Peter Milligan and artist Simon Bisley tell a story about Apollo and Midnighter.  I hated this story simply because it featured Midnighter.  He is just awful and his part in this story makes it awful.  The less said the better.  Apollo isn’t a bad dude and deserves much better.  Perhaps that’s what Milligan is saying, but I don’t really care in the long run, and neither Milligan nor his predecessor Paul Cornell could sell me on the characters.  This story didn’t help matters either.  Nightwing writer Kyle Higgins tells a story of his title character’s love life on the rocks, but interesting developments as he meets an African American heroine code named Ursa.  It bears (pun intended) inquiry as to whether this story will find resolution in the main title, as Higgins is writing this and may be setting something up for later.  Finally, Superman and Wonder Woman are on a date when Wonder Woman’s family matters creep their way into their romantic evening and the Amazing Amazon has to come to the rescue of her Man of Steel.  Upcoming Action Comics writer Andy Diggle pens this one, with the promise that “even more complications arise in this couple’s Young Romance in the pages of Superman #19.”  If that’s not a hint, I don’t know what is.  Overall, this was a really great, well plotted jaunt into the love lives of some of the best DC characters.
    Perhaps the Youngest and Most Interesting Romance

    Perhaps the Youngest and Most Interesting Romance


And so ends the first week of February.  Some issues fell flat, but there were some real gems coming out of it as well.  Overall a decent week in comics.

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 #17:  Art by Andy Clarke, Colored by Blond

Earth 2 #9: Drawn by Nicola Scott, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Trevor Scott

Phantom Stranger #5: Drawn by Brent Anderson, Colored by Ulises Arreola, Inked by Philip Tan & Rob Hunter

Green Arrow #17:  Art by Andrea Sorrentino

Batwing #17: Art by Fabrizio Fiorentino, Colored by Pete Pantazis

Young Romance: New 52 Valentines Day Special #1: Cover Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Blond

Week 66 (Dec. 5, 2012)

This week begins December, which due to the holidays will be an abbreviated month.  The fourth week of books with comprise only three titles from DC, Aquaman #15, Justice League #15, and Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #4, and I am assuming a couple indies.  This week, however, starts off strong with Action Comics, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, and another twofer of Before Watchmen titles.  Let’s see how they stack up . . .

  • Action Comics #15 is two issues away from Grant Morrison’s blowout finale on his Action Comics run.  The first issue of Action was not very Morrison, but each issue thereafter has been more and more Morrison.  This issue took it to the limit.  The “Little Man” whom we now know to be a fifth dimensional wizard name Vyndktvx has been setting a trap for Clark over the course of a little over a year’s worth of issues.  Slowly all the disparate threads that have popped up throughout the title so far are beginning to weave into a cohesive plot.  Susie Lane (Lois’ evolutionarily advanced niece), Nimrod the Hunter, the Metaleks, Drekken the Evolver, and the Kryptonite Men all made appearances that were short in duration and seemingly without point.  This issue has Vyndktvx bringing them all together as the Anti-Superman Army and attacking Superman throughout Time.  In the present Clark is feeling the attacks with strange memories of things that never were and things that have not yet been.  His landlady, Mrs. Nyxly, revealed several months ago to be a fifth dimensional princess in issue #12, not only tells him how Vyndktvx is attacking throughout the time frame of his life, but more importantly, why.  Ironically, it ties into Superman’s original fifth dimensional antagonist, Mr. Mxyzptlk, who Superman’s yet to meet in this rebooted universe, but who bears the Man of Steel a great deal of affection.  For that reason, Vyndktvx has decided to wage a war to destroy the last son of Krypton as a final blow to the mischievous trickster we’ve read and loved.  Delving deep into the mythos of Superman’s past incarnations, Morrison is forging a very solid foundation for the character in revisionist absurdism.  Though Mxyzptlk came about in the 1940’s during a time when truly bizarre and absolutely ridiculous storytelling was the norm, Grant Morrison has taken that ridiculousness and distilled it into grade A material, rife with outside-the-box perspectives and mindbendingly intriguing concepts. Though the art from Rags Morales and Brad Walker is very good, this series is really a must get for the writing more than anything else.  Grant Morrison is a maestro and this first run of Action Comics will not only define the New DCU for decades to come, but also stand as a jewel in the crown that is his comics career.  In the backup feature written by Sholly Fisch, we get a better look at Mxyzptlk’s history in the fifth dimension, how he came into conflict with Vyndktvx, won the love of Princess Gsptlnz (Mrs. Nyxly), was imprisoned  and escaped to the third dimensional Earth One with his lover, Gsptlnz, and the creation of what might be his greatest trick yet . . .
    Gsptlsnz (left) and Mxyzptlk (right), as seen ...

    Gsptlsnz (left) and Mxyzptlk (right), as seen in Superman: The Animated Series (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


    The Vindictive Vyndktvx . . .

  • Detective Comics #15 was a little milquetoast in its plotline.  It progressed off of the previous issue dealing with  the fate of Poison Ivy, the consequential response from the enraged Clayface, and the first move of a shadowy new player into the Gotham underworld scene.  Also, as per the backup feature of Batman #14 last month, Penguin is drawn into the twisted web of the Joker’s overarching scheme.  The Penguin is very much a man who does what he wants and “damn anyone who gets in the way”, but the fear on his face in this issue as he prepares to do what he has been instructed by the Joker really sets the tone for not only how immense the “Death of the Family” plot is going to be, but also how utterly terrifying the Joker has become.  Really this tie-in portion is what makes the issue, the rest of the issue is statically procedural.  Jason Fabok’s art is really good, but supports a plot with questionable relevance to anything substantial.


    The Penguin May Be Dead, Long Live The Penguin

  • Before Watchmen: The Comedian #4 takes place fully in Vietnam and I believe was supposed to show what Vietnam did to Eddie Blake.  That’s it really. Whereas most of the Before Watchmen titles seemed to take some key element or event from Watchmen and highlight it toward the actualization of the title subject, this one didn’t seem to accomplish much or at least not in an interesting way.  For the awesome run it has been so far, I think one interim issue is acceptable, but not the most interesting to read.  With two issues left and considering the integral part the Comedian plays in the events of the original graphic novel, I would bet the farm that the rest of the series will blow our socks off.
  • Before Watchmen: The Minutemen #5 represents the penultimate chapter of the series and did things in its story that literally gave me goosebumps.  Completely divorced from continuity, this issue and I am assuming the final issue as well take the Minutemen into uncharted territory with their paths completely within writer/artist Darwyn Cooke’s capable hands.  A very symbolic terrorist attack on a target of great importance to America brings the vigilante group back together after years of disbanding alongside two brand new allies in a demonstration of what true heroism really looks like.  This main plot point really hits to the reader’s heart and validates the concept of putting on a mask and costume while following one’s moral compass.  The second thing it did that chilled was something that, if I am correct in what they are hinting at, CHANGES EVERYTHING!!!  If what they are insinuating at the end of the issue is actually true, this would alter so much of what Alan Moore had done in the original 1985 opus.  That would be DANGEROUS!  If Cooke and his editors don’t tread carefully this house of cards that they have been building with the Before Watchmen series, which most of the hardline comic fanatics called “heresy” upon its proposal, will collapse.  I am optimistic, considering the phenomenal, thought provoking work that has been done so far across the board, yet the danger is still real.  I eagerly await the final issue.
  • Swamp Thing #15 shoots further into the “Rot World” crossover event, picking up with Swamp Thing and Deadman at sea, face to with William Arcane and his rot infested sea monsters.  The battle with the youngest Arcane is TITANIC to be sure, but the real interest in the issue comes in the flashback to Abigail Arcane’s journey to her former Eastern European home, Blestemat.  Her uncle, Anton Arcane, has very effectively been re-imagined by writer, Scott Snyder, as the avatar of Rot and over the course of several issues Abigail’s links to the Rot have been hinted at and explored to a certain degree.  Face to face with her uncle, amid the unprecedented incursion of death and decay into our world, her ties are explored and the magnitude of her power beginning to show through.  Anton represents an unchecked aggressor from one of the three natural orders, Red (animal life), Green (plant life), and Black (death and rotting), against the others.  Abigail represents what the Rot should be: a harmonious state that ends the life of the other two in order for rebirth to occur for both Red and Green.  The realization of that, however, is still left in the air for further issues.  Back with Swamp Thing, he makes it to Gotham in search of the Batman only to find another iconic Gothamite standing in to aid him.  Scott Snyder presents a truly excellent addition to his monolithic crossover event.  Artist Yanick Paquette is once again relieved of art duties by Marco Rudy, whose art is very well suited to the title, but presents a harsher edge than the florid work of Paquette.  However, considering the transition from the verdant Green Kingdom in the first two issues to the desiccated wastes of the Rot, I think that the harsher edges of Rudy will do nicely and make sense to the altering vistas.


    Woman Thou Art Unleashed . . .

  • Animal Man #15 begins with the Gorillas of the DCU (Monsieur Mallah, Grodd, etc) attacking Animal Man, Steel, Black Orchid, and Beast Boy as they attempt to take the fight to the Rot’s Parliament.  Meeting up with Frankenstein and his Patchwork Army the ragtag resistence of the Red become aware of a prisoner being held in the bowels of Metropolis that is so powerful, Anton Arcane hides him away out of sight and far away, to be forgotten.  Superman disappeared shortly after the Rot’s incursion, so hope runs high that he is the one imprisoned.  This prisoner’s return could give the winning edge to their last ditch strike to regain their world.  And as has been the case for the past two issues of this title and its sister series, Swamp Thing, in the “Rot World” crossover, the fate of Animal Man’s daughter Maxine is reviewed during the lost year between the present and the moment the two avatars of Red and Green disappeared.  William Arcane guest stars in this flashback segment, further entwining the two series.  I eagerly await the resolution in the New Year of the “Rot World” event.
  • Earth 2 #7 presents a world exploration during the “pause for breath” following the ending of the first major threat, Solomon Grundy, and before the advent of the threat that is to come, Steppenwolf.  Alan Scott was thrust into the role of global guardian moments after watching the love of his life burn to death in a train crash and the fight with Grundy and the Grey has kept his mind focused, but now that the threat is past he is forced to confront his grief.  However, as a “Wonder” in a world that has been without heroes for many years, his new “fellows” won’t let him sink into himself because of the need they stand to fulfill.  Hawkgirl is the mouthpiece of dissent, revealing her identity and her connection to the powers that be.   Apropos, the second half of the issue deals with the Shakespearean power struggle between Commander Amar Khan of the World Army and Terry Sloan, the smartest man alive and sinister mastermind that the World Council has taken to their proverbial bosom, even after he unilaterally incinerated seven countries and killed tens of millions of people on his own authority.  Khan’s got Wesley Dodds and his Sandmen in his pocket helping him play his game of political chess and as he tells Dodds, “In the game that you speak off there will be No Fair Play.”  The white gloves are coming off and blood will be drawn.  One man is a sociopathic, genocidal lunatic with a pearly white smile and the other is a military man with nothing to lose.  Tell me this title doesn’t beg to be read.
  • Worlds’ Finest #7 as always, follows on the tail of the Earth 2 premise, giving us a glimpse at two refugees from the other earth on our Earth 1: Helena Wayne (Huntress) and Kara Zor-El (Power Girl).  As of last issue, the twenty-something daughter of Batman and Catwoman meets her Earth 1 counterpart, the preteen Damian Wayne, son of Batman and Talia Al-Ghul.  Damian doesn’t take crap from anyone and neither does his “not sister.”  That said, once she dishes, he has little choice but to believe her as the evidence is nearly incontrovertible.  The two go somewhere frigid while tracing money siphoning from Wayne Enterprise funds only to be greeted by a monstrosity from Apokalips.  When Power Girl traces another signal to the Congo she is met with child soldiers, one of whom holds an Apokaliptian energy weapon.  One Apokalips connection might be a fluke, but the evidence is mounting that something sinister is in the works.  Paul Levitz is the man, writing the super-heroine duo as incredibly as always, but really doing a thoughtful job folding Damian into the mix.  Seeing his reaction as a sibling to an older sister who shares far too many of his lesser traits is entertaining to read, and feels genuine coming from my perspective as a flawed boy with older sisters of roughly the same age difference.  George Perez and Kevin Maguire split art duties on the divergent storylines of each heroine, accentuating the characteristics of each with their masterful styles.  Like its sister series Earth 2, this title is building toward a crescendo that smells like the sulfuric Fire Pits of Apokalips, and I for one am a moth to the flame when it comes to the New Gods . . .
  • Batwing #15 is an odd duck.  This is the last issue of a story arc, in this case the “Father Lost” storyline, but it is the first issue written by new writer, Fabian Nicieza.  I have never seen a writer change when the arc is only one issue from completion.  Nicieza wasn’t even a co-writer on the previous issues.  Very strange.  He does a seamless job, however, taking the plot to the end zone with a really powerful finish.  Batwing falls once again under the sway of the evil cult leader right at the crux of the latter’s plan.  If that weren’t enough, fellow Tinasha police officer, Kia Okura (who David Zavimbe is hinted to have feelings for), slowly becomes suspicious that he and Batwing are one.  This is one of those series that doesn’t knock your socks off, but is just really comfortable and interesting to read.  Fabian Nicieza is a really great Bat-title relief writer that has an innate knack for the tone of the books and can slip effortlessly into them, penning some quality issues.  Fabrizio Fiorentino provides art for this issue, which is a welcome surprise.  I loved his art on Final Crisis: Ink and Titans.  With these two men onboard I look forward to future issues.
  • Phantom Stranger #3 continues to show the tenuous balance that the Stranger walks between his role as the ethereal watcher of men and family man, Philip Stark.  They touch again on his past as Judas Iscariot and the road he has to walk, but unlike the past where he has been made by fate to betray innocent people to atone for his betrayal of Jesus, this issue just has him dealing with spooks that go bump in the night.  Dr. Terrence Thirteen, paranormal researcher and many times descendant of the original Terrence Thirteen of the 1880’s, calls upon the Stranger to help him beat a family curse of the Haunted Highwayman, killed by his eponymous forebearer, who has now come for him.  If that sounds familiar its because that was a backup feature in All-Star Westerns #11-12. The intercession of the Phantom Stranger in this instance allows writer Dan Didio to spread the character’s wings and show what his powers can really do.  Since he is not the best known character, even to myself, this is a very welcome issue that acquaints us a bit better with its subject.  The Stranger also appeared last week in Justice League Dark #14, and the solicitation at the end of this month’s issue alludes that we will see that encounter from his viewpoint come Phantom Stranger #4.  Until then, I await further glimpses into one of the most enigmatic comic book personages.
  • G.I. Combat #7 ends the series and its two features.  In The Haunted Tank the two Stuarts, Jeb and Scott, are transported to the Antarctic where the descendant of Erwin Rommel has rebuilt the Third Reich’s war machines and is preparing to bring about a Fourth Reich with a gigantic War Wheel.  The battle against this neo-nazi threat is really rushed and unsatisfying.  Also, as a history buff myself, I feel that writer Peter Tomasi was discourteous to Rommel and his descendants, considering that despite being a brilliant commander for the Nazi Wehrmacht, Rommel actually was a humanitarian and against most of the hardline policies of the Nazi party, never joining it politically.  In The Unknown Soldier, the titular protagonist jumping out of a window with a cyber-terrorist in hand and then going to his visit his old house.  Comprising only two short scenes and nine pages of story, this also was as rushed, unsatisfying ending to the feature’s eight issue run.  Across the board this issue was lackluster and a terrible way to end what was a really great title.
  • Smallville Season 11 #8 concludes the Batman/Superman team up in Metropolis.  Going head to head with Mr. Freeze and the Prankster, the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight have been through a crucible of distrust and cross purposes, only to emerge as the friends we have largely known them to be.  This arc has been so interesting, towing the line of the character status quos, but breaking in ways that keep the reader on their toes.  Batman’s sidekick and personal secretary in both facets of his life is Barbara Gordon, who moonlights under the nom de guerre of Nightwing.  Breaking up the “good old boys club”, Barbara brings all the sass and kick ass of Dick Grayson, but with more feminine grace and a dash of sexual tension.  Her interactions with Lois Lane also bear an interesting tenor, due to their own similarities: one the daughter of a four star general and the other the daughter of perhaps the most hardcore police commissioner in the history law enforcement.  Next issue promises a new storyline that from its title, “Haunted,”  suggests an exploration into the broken mind of Lex Luthor that has absorbed, or at least internalized, the consciousness of the little sister he murdered, Tess Mercer.


    The Women Behind the Men

  • Legends of the Dark Knight #3 presents another very thought provoking story about the Dark Knight.  Batman takes down the Joker, but on route to Arkham Asylum the mad clown slips his leash, making a getaway.  Shortly thereafter, Batman gets a package from him, with a miniature revolving door and a note bluntly saying “You might as well not exist.”  This is a sucker punch to Batman’s ego and he begins to lose heart in his crusade.  Commissioner Gordon and Alfred come up with the solution, giving him letters from regular people that have come into the GCPD over the years addressed directly to the Batman.  One from the daughter of a assault victim, one from the owner of a bar that was hit by Joker henchmen wanting free booze and money, and a third from a drug addict mugger.  All of whom the Batman saved, the latter most case because going back to jail turned the con’s life around.  As a result of these three cases in particular, Batman is not only able to regain his confidence, but get the upper hand on the Joker.  Its sort of a “Its a Wonderful Life” of the DC Universe.  No man is a failure that has friends.  Write Steve Niles has a penchant for writing twisted, hard edged horror stories, so this very optimistic tale of a Batman who is shown the reason why he is needed seems to come from left field.

    Sometimes the Joke is On You . . .

    This week’s books were a great way to start off the month of December.  Here’s hoping the the other two and a half weeks keep pace.

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

Illustration Credits:

Action Comics #15:  Drawn by Rags MoralesBrad Walker, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Andrew Hennessy & Mark Propst

Detective Comics #15:  Art byJason Fabok, Colored by Jeromy Cox

Before Watchmen: Moloch #1: Art by Eduardo Risso, Colored by Trish Mulvihill

Swamp Thing #15: Art by Marco Rudy, Colored by Val Staples & Lee Loughridge

Smallville Season 11 #8: Drawn by Kevin Axel Gimenez, Colored by Wendy Broome, Inked by Diana Egea

Legends of the Dark Knight #3: Art by Trevor Hairsine, Colored by Antonio Fabela

Week 62 (Nov. 7, 2012)

The first week of the month may be the best, because so many consistently good title come out.  Flagship titles like Action Comics, Detective Comics, as well as seminal classics like Swamp Thing, Green Lantern, and Worlds’ Finest.  This promises to be a fun batch of issues.

  • Action Comics #14 is pure Morrison.  Taking place on the planet Mars, the colonial terraforming mission is attacked by the Metaleks and only Superman is in a position to save the men and women besieged there.  Through this issue, Grant Morrison not only delivers a background on what the Metaleks are, what they want, and where they come from, but also begins the road to the end of his meteoric run, which portends to be MASSIVE!!!  The “Multitude” which has laid waste to thousands of planets is at the root of this issue’s plot and only Superman’s father, Jor-El, had ever successfully staved off this angelic horde.  Can he do the same? Almost since issue #1 a clear path has been laid and a monumental threat alluded to.  As can be expected from Morrison’s mindbending, psychedelic style, the main architect of nearly all the mayhem we’ve seen thus far is a denizen of the fifth dimension . . .  Stay tuned.

    A Look Into the Past

  • Green Lantern #14 redeems the ending of the last issue a little bit.  The Justice League aren’t as awful and petty as they appear in writer Geoff Johns’ other series, but still not exactly the best written in terms of dialogue and characterization.  However, the plot of this issue is tight and I enjoyed it a great deal.  Whatever I might say about his other projects and the motivations behind them, this series is one that has maintained and built off of the inherent excellence of the title.  The same really can’t be said for some of his other titles.  Simon Baz goes toe-to-toe with the Justice League and despite only having been in possession of his Green Lantern ring for a little more than a day gets the upper hand on Superman, Flash, Batman, and Wonder Woman.  Not bad for a poor kids from Dearborn, Michigan.  Meanwhile, across the Universe, Black Hand and the Guardians that have been locked away for eons by their megalomaniacally insane brethren begin to interact, intimating that there may be a very strange teamup in the works against the Guardians of the Universe and their nightmarish Third Army.

    RISE . . .

  • Detective Comics #14 takes a very strange turn in the second issue of writer John Layman’s tour of the book.  With his first issue last month he started a conspiracy with the Penguin attempting to keep Batman preoccupied with a string of random crimes to distract the Dark Knight from his plot to assassinate Bruce Wayne.  Well following on the heels of that intriguingly paradoxical plotline, Layman shoots out to left field with a seemingly unrelated plot of Poison Ivy commiting eco-crimes across Gotham and Batman trying to stop her.  Its well written, no doubt about it, but also confusing as one tries to grasp onto a solid plotline or conflict.  Given time hopefully one will appear.  Layman has a very methodical and detail oriented voice that fits the Batman title like a well tailored suit in a film noir movie.  Jason Fabok’s art is beautiful in the main feature, and while Layman and Fabok introduce a surprise husband for the leafy villainess at the end of the main story, Layman gets help from Andy Clarke with a stark and stunningly rendered backup feature that explained how these oddly paired ne’er-do-wells came to be “wed.”
  • Before Watchmen: Moloch #1 does . . . it . . . AGAIN!  Its been awhile since there’s been a debut issue in the Before Watchmen line, but yet again the editors, and especially writer J. Michael Straczynski, have delivered in spades.  To Watchmen faithful, Moloch the Mystic is known as an integral part of the graphic novel itself as well as a hallmark villain from the heyday of the group’s past in superheroics.  In the original Alan Moore series from the 80’s, Moloch is primarily shown in a very pathetic light after he’d renounced his criminal ways.  This book shows him once again in a very sympathetic  manner from traumatic childhood through his criminal days and finally to his last release from prison after finding Jesus and rehabilitation.  J. Michael Straczynski has a real knack for not only generating a very emotional involvement between the story and the reader, but also creating a very vivid environment that is authentic to the time and place it takes place.  This series is only a twofer, so at issue’s end we are halfway through his story in this preceding tale of the Watchmen universe.  Can’t wait for round two.
  • Swamp Thing #14 continues on from issue #13 and the Swamp Thing Annual following Swamp Thing’s departure from the Green Kingdom, haven of the last surviving plant and floral life on the planet after the Rot’s dominion of the Earth, in search not only of Anton Arcane who is responsible for the death of his own niece and Swamp Thing’s lover, Abigail Arcane, but also proof that Abigail is in fact dead.  We saw her plane crash into the mountains as a direct result of Anton’s monstrosities, but we also see here that she did survive past that point.  Her return to her homeland, Blestemat (which incidentally in Romanian means “Accursed”), is still shrouded in mystery and we are shown further images of that portion of her journey as well, prolonging our own wish to know what has befallen her.  Upon Swamp Thing’s departure from the Green Kingdom, Boston Brand, aka Deadman, instructs him to turn his sights first to Gotham where it is rumored a weapon exists called the Soul Grinder (see Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #13) which could potentially defeat the Rot.  With this revelation Scott Snyder is steering to a convergence between this title, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. 

    The Girl of Rot and the Boy of Green

  • Animal Man #14 also figures into the “Rot World” event and in the Red Kingdom Animal Man and his allies come under fire from the turned superheroes that have succumbed to the Rot.  Teamed up with him are Steel, Beast Boy, and Black Orchid, the foursome set out for Anton Arcane’s castle to rescue Animal Man’s daughter, Maxine, the current avatar of the Red.  In the process, like Abigail Arcane in Swamp Thing, we see a few snippets of Max’s flight from the Rot following the end year long jump in time that Swamp Thing and Animal Man experienced when they attacked the heart of the Black.  An interesting tidbit is the little boy that four year old Max meets amid the desiccated wasteland of undead nightmares.  We’ve seen him before and his appearance marks a truly frightening turn in the crossover event.  Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder are geniuses and this event is going to set up the next several years of storytelling in these two titles.
  • Earth 2 #6  is an interesting title because of the similarities and the differences existing between our universe (Earth 1) and the universe of Earth 2, following the different courses of the Apokalips invasions of each world.  In this world, with the death of all the superheroes: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc, a World Army and World Council govern the planet.  However, after several years another threat that is akin to the Animal Man and Swamp Thing plots above rears its head and superheroes are once again needed.  In the aforementioned titles the Rots is referred to as the Black.  On Earth 2 the Grey is a force of withering rather than decay and its avatar, Solomon Grundy, has been resurrected to quite literally kill the planet.  Answering this threat are the newly minted Green Lantern (avatar of the Green which represents all live, plant and animal), Flash (who hails from Lansing, Michigan!), the enigmatic Hawkgirl, and the Atom who is a special agent of the World Army.  It’ll take all of them, but most especially Green Lantern to thwart the accelerated death of the planet.  This issue concludes that monumental endeavor, but unlike the ending of Justice League #1, which featured the first gathering of superheroes on our world, this gathering has a very thought provoking epilogue.
  • Worlds’ Finest #6 was one I have been dying to read for some time.  This title is akin to Earth 2, because following the events of the former title’s first issue, the Robin (Helena Wayne) and Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) of that second earth are brought to ours and must adapt into the new identities of Huntress, nee Robin, and Power Girl, nee Supergirl, to survive.  As a Wayne, Helena has information about her “not father” and his financial holdings that mirror her real father’s on Earth 2, so some borrowing has occurred.  Well, on this earth at this time the current wearer of the red, green, and yellow is Earth 1 Batman’s biological child . . . Damian Wayne.  Damian Wayne is a psychotic and very, very territorial.  His “not sister” (that fact unbeknownst to him) siphoning money off his dear old dad doesn’t sit right with him and as ever with Damian, violence ensues.  I love Damian so much and seeing the two children of Batman going toe-to-toe is a pleasure.  Especially considering that the writer of this battle royale is none other than Paul Levitz, one of my current favorite writers who made his name on writing teen angst since the early 80’s.  And on top of that, with help from Kevin Maguire and George Perez both pulling art duties on the issue, it nothing short of a dirty pleasure.  This title has been golden since issue #1 seven months ago.

    Now Kids, No More Fighting . . .

  • Batwing #14 brings David Zavimbe one step closer to discovering the truth behind the enigmatic cult leader, Father Lost.  After breaking up a human sacrificial ritual that also was crashed by the equally enigmatic crimefighter, Dawn, Batwing learns her true identity, Rachel Niamo.  Rachel was an orphan at the refugee camp David crashed at after his child soldier days.  Following up on this lead, a conspiracy within the victims of Father Lost’s attacks leads him further down the rabbit hole, to the jackal’s layer, to mix some metaphors.  Judd Winick’s run on this issue ends with this issue, strangely mid-arc, but has been stellar across the board.  I look forward to seeing how new writer, Fabian Nicieza, concludes the Father Lost storyline and continues Batwing’s African crusade.  Winick and Nicieza both constitute tried and true members of the Bat-books’ bullpen, so I think that the transition might brook some changes, but not affect the quality of the future issues adversely.
  • G.I. Combat #6 splits its narrative as always, starting out with Peter Tomasi’s Haunted Tank feature.  After rescuing his grandson, Scott, from Afghanistan Lt. Jeb Stuart and the Haunted Tank make for more chilly climates.  The purpose of the Tank’s (haunted by Scott and Jeb’s ancestor, the Civil War general J.E.B. Stuart) return to operation is spelled out in the return of its greatest foe, along with Jeb’s:  the newly minted Fourth Reich.  Great writing alongside Howard Chaykin’s distinctive artwork.  And in the flagstone Unknown Soldier feature the culprits behind the hacking of a nuclear power plant as well as the endgame of their plot begin to make themselves known.  It also spells desperate trouble for the Unknown Soldier.
  • Smallville Season 11 #7  progresses the budding association of the Batman and Superman as their interests cross with Intergang’s spreading to Gotham and Joe Chill’s associate with the group.  Superman wants to shut them down legitimately and Batman wants to hit them hard, but more importantly get at Chill, his parents’ murderer and even the score.  Obviously Superman isn’t going to be down for that, so the two met as enemies.  However, after their association develops into one of mutual gain, Superman gets shot with kryptonite bullets and the only person with the skills and equipment to save the Man of Steel’s life is . . . Batman.  Adding new dimensions to the dynamic of the “World’s Finest” this issue is a game changer.
  • Legends of the Dark Knight #2 presents one solid plot line this issue, as opposed to the three part anthology that comprised the first issue.  Told by writer B. Clay Moore, a slew of “Batmen” are slain by Killer Croc after seeking out the elusive lizard.  These Batmen are regular people with no connection to Batman or crimefighting at all.  Someone with a grudge against Croc is abducting upstanding members of Gotham society and brainwashing them into hunting him in his subterranean hunting ground. So what happens when Bruce Wayne is brainwashed into thinking he’s Batman . . .  Though this isn’t as good as the previous issue, its still a really thought provoking Batman story that cuts to the heart of the character’s essence.  Also the art of Ben Templesmith makes the issue seem like a giant acid trip, and when the premise is people losing touch with reality and their identities, that kind of discordant imagery really sets the mood and puts the reader deep in the plot.

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

Illustration Credits:

Action Comics #14:  Drawn by Chris Sprouse, Colored by Jordie Bellaire, Inked by Karl Story

Green Lantern #14:  Drawn byDoug Mahnke, Colored by Alex Sinclair & Tony Avina, Inked by Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin, Tom Nguyen & Keith Champagne

Before Watchmen: Moloch #1: Art by Eduardo Risso, Colored by Trish Mulvihill

Swamp Thing #14: Art by Yanick Paquette, Colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Worlds’ Finest #6: Art by Kevin Maguire, Colored by Rosemary Cheetham

Week 54 (Sept. 12, 2012)

Week two of September means week two of DC’s Zero Month and the release of some excellent titles and their corresponding origins.  Its a good week to be a Batman fan as Batman, Batman & Robin, and Batgirl come out this week, alongside the inaugural issue of Team 7, and the final issue of The Shade.  Here’s how they all stacked up:

  • Batman #0 was a flashback to Bruce Wayne’s first forays into vigilante justice.  Taking place after the events of Detective Comics #0, he has amassed all the skills he’ll need, but now is trying to amass the tools and the techniques to become the effective symbol he is destined to be.  Foiling a bank robbery by his most iconic villain under a different persona and hiding his crusade from the inquisitive Lt. James Gordon, Bruce does all this without donning cape and cowl.  What is intriguing about this issue is that it is a zero issue, but sets up a storyline the the ending solicitation bills for 2013.   I am very curious as to whether that ties into the ending of the “Death of the Family” storyline or the one that is to follow it.  Either way, Scott Snyder has created an origin story rife with possibilities.  In the backup, James Tynion IV writes a tale that picks up one year after the events of the main feature.  By now the Batman has become entrenched in Gotham lore, winning over Commissioner Gordon and, as we will see, four other persons who will become entangled in his dark legacy.  First off, we see a young super genius named Tim Drake in his prep school’s principal’s office about to be expelled, then a young hood going by the name Jason (Todd that is) in the midst of a bungled robbery, thirdly a young acrobat that is part of the star attraction of Haly’s Circus, The Flying Graysons.  The final youngster stands by her dad, the Commissioner, as he flips the switch for the first time on an iconic searchlight pointed at the skies of Gotham.  All four kids look up at the Bat Signal at the same time, never knowing that it was heralding their future.  A powerful story, made more so by Andy Clarke’s stark artwork.

    Four Robins’ Future Shines Bright

  • Green Lantern Corps #0 developed the character of Guy Gardner very well in this his origin tale.  I hate Guy Gardner.  I am not a fan.  However, I will amend that when Peter Tomasi writes Guy, somehow he gets me to empathize with the lughead.  This issue is no exception.  Born into an Irish cop family that goes back generations, he is the black sheep that disgraced his family name, and as a result is alienated from his father who, stereotypically is portrayed as a drunkard retiree.  Topically, Guy is very abrasive and totally fits the part of the screw up.  However, like any character that has survived in comics as long as Guy, there is something redeemable underneath.  In his case, tenacity and an intrinsic sense of what is right.  Tomasi delivers that in this issue, in both the powered and unpowered portions of Guy’s life.
  • Batman & Robin #0 follows on the tail of both of the previous entries this week, delivering an excellent origin from the Bat Family as well as a stellar book from Green Lantern Corps writer, Peter Tomasi.  Like Guy Gardner, having Tomasi on this issue is important, as it gives the origin of Damian Wayne (Robin) from birth to his introduction to comics in Batman #655. Damian is a sociopathic ten year old, so he is a very difficult character to write engagingly.  Grant Morrison wrote him initially in the grace and style that is quintessentially Morrison, and others that have taken him on in smaller doses have had varying success.  Tomasi is by far the most adept since Morrison.  At issue’s beginning Damian is quite literally baptized in blood by his mother, Talia Al-Ghul.  From then onward he is molded by her to become a new Alexander, to one day conquer the world.  He is indulged and given his heart’s every desire, except for one thing: the identity of his father.  That is the goal that drives him throughout his entire cognizant youth, mastering every discipline his mother subjects him to in the hope that the day will come when she will tell him who his father is.  Though he is spoiled and over-entitled, there is a drive within him that makes him akin to his father, Bruce Wayne, and despite the lavishness, his mother does create an abusive environment in the manner in which she raises him, giving him also a traumatic childhood, like Bruce.  I love Damian.  I always have and I am sure that I always will.  This issue is a blessing to Damian fans, because it not only presents a well written origin, but one that feels true.

    Five Year Old Damian Dons His Father’s Mantle

  • Batgirl #0 presents a third look into the origin of an integral member of the Bat Family: Batgirl.  I love Barbara Gordon.  I was part of the cheering section when they gave her back the helm of Batgirl at the time of the Reboot.  Gail Simone has a really good track record writing her and for this issue Ed Benes provides guest artwork.  Though he has taken a lot of flack for his overly idealized depiction of some female characters, I think his Barbara is done tastefully and beautifully.  Simone paints Miss Gordon as a loving daughter, raised by her single father, Commissioner James Gordon, idolizing him and using him as a model of strength and honor.  Her White Knight.  When she gets college aged, another man, this one Darker, enters her life and from him she learns a new kind of strength and independence.  Facing a nightmarish situation, she takes what her father has taught her, puts it to use, and then finds herself drawn into the world of her other idol, Batman.  From issue #1 of this series, I said that what Simone did extremely well was presenting the psychology of Barbara so the reader could feel what it was like to be her.  This issue does that exceptionally well, showing how her thoughts matured, evolved, and shifted through different phases of her life, ending with one of the most nightmarish, iconic images associated with her past.

    Ed Benes’ Killing Joke

  • Before Watchmen: The Comedian #3 begins the formation of what readers of the original series will recognize as the Comedian.  Coming out of the war in Vietnam for a vacation State-side, Eddie is beginning to see the changing of the times from the seemingly placid 50’s to the turbulent 60’s.  He is a man of intensity, but deep down has a side that longs to feel human.  With these two forces pulling at his soul, and amidst the race riots in Los Angeles and the anti-war protests, he snaps and realizes a fundamental thing about the world and life in general: its all a big joke.  The joke is what makes him so terrifying in the original comics and what made his actions so visceral.  He can do horrible things, because he sees the morbid humor in them.  Brian Azzarello really gets the character and with each issue brings us closer and closer toward the vision of Alan Moore’s original anti-hero.
  • Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E #0 presents the origin of Frankenstein as we would expect: with a modified version of the Mary Shelley novel.  Created by Dr. Victor Frankenstein in a manner seemingly connected to the modus operandi of Anton Arcane, Frankenstein is pieced together from bits of cadavers with perversions of science and brought to life through nightmarish meta-science.  From there he goes on a journey across the world, hunted by his creator, learning about what it is to be human and what morals exist inside his troubled soul.  It follows the general plot of the book skeletally, while being elaborated upon and changed drastically to fit what the character has become in the comics of the past ten years.  Matt Kindt does a decent job cobbling together a cogent backstory that fits the literary origin and maintains the comic sensibilities simultaneously.
  • Team 7 #0 felt very much like what most zero issues are like outside of what DC has been doing.  Zero issues in the past have been little teasers to spark interest in the title, but not really give anything substantial.  That is very much the case with this one.  Way too much set up and very little pay off.  Even though five out of ten characters on the team have been in other titles, writer Justin Jordan still bogs down the plot introducing them.  That’s fine, but when done in one issue with ten separate characters involved, it can be really top heavy.  The basic premise is that with a literal explosion of superpowered beings in the course of two years, the world government scramble to set up countermeasures against the threat they could pose.  That is the basis for Team 7.  Included in the mix are Amanda Waller (of Suicide Squad), Slade Wilson (Deathstroke of Deathstroke), Dinah and Kurt Lance (Black Canary and her ex-husband from Birds of Prey), Cole Cash (Grifter of Grifter), Alex Fairchild (Father of Caitlin Fairchild of Superboy and The Ravagers), and then three other people.  I think that after this issue, the true strength of the series will manifest.  It will either work or lack excuses for why it doesn’t.
  • Spinning our of Team 7, Grifter #0 was really confusing, although perhaps by design.  Coming of the previous title, Grifter opens up with Cole going on an infiltration mission with his brother, Max, and his boss, John Lynch.  After having read Team 7 I found it strange that Lynch was running ops with his agents considering his standoffish presentation, and also that Max was involved, considering he wasn’t on the original roster.  This was cleared up pretty quickly as it was revealed to be a simulation run by the Daemonites to hone Cole into a weapon they could employ against Lord Helspont.  Rescued from their conditioning machines by a mysterious man called Warick, Cole’s destiny starts to seem preordained.  Issue #1 last year made his capture and escape from the Daemonites seem completely random, but this issue makes it seem orchestrated.  I wonder if this has anything to do with what original writer Nathan Edmondson intended for the character, or whether Rob Liefeld is taking it in his own direction.  Either way, it was interesting, but not the best issue by any stretch.
  • Deathstroke #0 carries on this pattern, pertaining yet again to a member of Team 7, and like Grifter, written by Rob Liefeld, who also provides art as well.  This one I would consider a success.  Deathstroke, aka Slade Wilson, is one of the DCU’s most incredible, versatile villains and has a rich history stemming almost entirely from the seminal New Teen Titans series from the 80’s.  Liefeld wisely sticks very close to this origin, deviating only slightly to shoehorn in this Team 7 nonsense, which I’m sure he was forced to do by the powers that be.  Despite the ludicrousness of his being involved with that team, all the pertinent events are there.  Meeting and being mentored by Capt. Adeline Kane in boot camp, falling in love with her, marrying, and having two sons by her, becoming a government super-soldier, rescuing his comrade and future manservant Evergreen when he is taken prisoner by a foreign power, and ultimately becoming a premiere mercenary/assassin.  Its all there.  His wife and their youngest faking their death, and his eldest son, Grant, becoming an assassin and falling in the line of duty also are depicted, continuing his decline into villainy.  But what made me so excited was the revelation at the end, that once again finds its roots in New Teen Titans, involving a plot to put down Deathstroke for good by his estranged wife and their youngest son, Joseph.  Joseph Wilson, aka Jericho, is perhaps one of my all time favorite superheroes under the age of twenty.

    Jericho and Adeline Wilson

  • Demon Knights #0  comes after several origin stories that this title has served up already and still finds a yarn worth wringing out.  Though it is rife with meaty characters to expand upon, the choice of origins is right in the title: Demon Knights.  Etrigan, the Demon, bound by the sorcerer Merlin to forever dwell in the flesh of English knight, Jason Blood, provides a two-fold origin.  Though we saw the binding in this series and in the original Jack Kirby Demon series, the rationale had gone untold.  Paul Cornell takes a stab at it, giving an explanation that is intriguing in the ironically altruistic motive employed by Merlin, as well as the pairing itself.  Jason is a lowly knight that goes unnoticed and unmerited by the Court and Etrigan is a demon in Hell that is largely abused and undervalued.  Both have it up to here (I’m motioning pretty high with my hand)  and decide to assert their worth.  Etrigan by singlehandedly slaying entire battalions of demon warriors to gain the loyalty of legions.  Blood attempts to use Merlin’s spells and lays hands on Arthur when they go awry.  They are paired as we know, but despite not liking one another there is an accord between them because of that kindred spirit that exists between them.  I have loved the Demon for a long time as the anti-heroic medieval paradigm of chaotic valor.  This issue makes me love him even more.
  • Superboy #0 is ice cold awesome. Six months ago in Superboy #6Superboy met up with Supergirl and she called him Kon-El, which she told him (or maybe alluded) meant “abomination.”  This issue opens with exactly what that means.  On Krypton they had what Star Wars nerds would call “Clone Wars.”  The clones bred cheaply and inefficiently  for menial tasks , rose up and wrecked havoc, doing things that eventually led (long after their downfall) to the cataclysm that befell Krypton.  The clone that did this had a name: Kon.  Kon tamed the mindless hordes of clones and molded them into a fighting force that almost brought an entire civilization to its knees.  It was for this reason Harvest initiated Superboy’s birth and as the issue progresses writer Tom DeFalco has the main events from the first several issues replayed with Harvest and his lackey, Omen’s, commentary overlaid.  There are allusions too that are left up in the air, such as the traitor in Kon’s ranks that betrayed him and crushed his uprising, and also the subliminal programming Harvest has subjected Kon-El to, training him and conditioning him against the Man of Steel and what remains of Krypton’s legacy.  I am VERY interested to see how both those plot-points manifests itself in future storytelling.


  • Ravagers #0 was really enjoyable, considering that Beast Boy and Terra are two of my favorite Teen Titans of old.  Though they are not Titans currently, writer Howard Mackie retains a lot of what made them awesome in the past.  I neglected to do a review of the fourth issue of Ravagers, which in many ways pave the way for this zero issue.  I wrote one retroactively and if interested, here is the link:  Following in the wake of Superboy #0, Ravagers opens in N.O.W.H.E.R.E. with Harvest overseeing the processing of the abducted young men and women his organization is assimilating into the “Ravager Program.”  The first on the block is Gar Logan, who we watch become Beast Boy, as his metagene is activated. During his transformation, Harvest’s technician, Non, registers the connection to the Red that has manifested in Beast Boy.  No mention of Brother Blood is made, which depresses me a bit, since that intimate connection between the two was really intriguing in the past two issues.  Next up is Tara Markov, aka Terra.  Here she already has her geokinetic powers and maintains her tough girl attitude from her original incarnation in New Teen Titans.  Beast Boy on the other hand, has been in a state of traumatized uncertainty since his first appearance up through his and Terra’s escape from N.O.W.H.E.R.E., so he has yet to gain his iconic jocularity.  There initial interaction is one of Terra acting in Gar’s defense against some of the more senior kids in the Colony.  She, however, remains hostile toward him, true to her loner nature.  When she yet again acts in his defense later on and nearly dies, Beast Boy unlocks his own primal furor and rushes to her aid.  Together they slaughter scores of their fellow teens, ensuring their place in Harvest’s Ravagers.  I like both characters and I like the thought of them together.  In New Teen Titans that was pared short before it could happen, and in the television show the betrayal was one that cut Beast Boy deep to the quick and defined his humanity greatly.  This origin issue defined the nature of the bond between them beautifully, and also alluded to the existence of the Doom Patrol, as Gar references a memory fragment of Niles and Rita, who are most likely Niles Caulder and Rita Farr.  Interesting . . .

    Terra and Beast Boy

  • He-Man and the Masters ofthe Universe #2 didn’t seem to accomplish too much in and of itself.  The mindwiped Adam is on a journey to try and discover the meaning behind his dreams of another life.  On this trek he is captured by the forces of Kronis (Trap-Jaw).  In his captivity he comes in contact with a young woman, Teela, who emancipates him after Adam is forced to fight his captors for his freedom.  She also has no memory of anything that happened before, when Adam was prince of Eternia and she was one of the eponymous Masters of the Universe.  This could be one of those series where you have to climb up a few arduous steps before it gets better, but up through this issue I am still whelmed.
  • The Shade #12 is the final issue in the year long odyssey writer James Robinson has taken us on in the life of the Shade, a character he resurrected and redefined in the mid 90’s.  That journey was rooted deep in his past, as we have seen for the past eleven months, and created a mindblowing present for him.  That journey ended with issue #11, and though it is marked #12, this issue is at its heart a zero issue.  Taking place in and around the England of 1838, we see the Shade in his human life as Richard Swift, Victorian merchant and loving father and husband.  In Robinson’s 1990’s series Starman, featuring the Shade as a villain and sometime anti-hero, we are shown vague images of his former life and are given the broad strokes of what turned him into the dark creature we’ve read about.  This issue provides the finer bits of the story, bringing in his arch-rival, Simon Culp, and leading in a very round about way to the culmination of events that would baptize  him in shadow, forever transforming him into a creature of darkness. Looking back on it all, the Shade recognizes what he did and why he did it, but uses those missteps taken when first he became the Shade to guide him as he reinvents his life in a new time and place.  James Robinson has a flair for the dramatic and the literary, which is why his presentation of this issue as a Victorian flavored log works so well.  Though it was only twelve issues, this series was like going home, bringing back the heart and excellence of Starman, cancelled now for eleven years.
  • American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #4 dwells on Hobbes, Felicia, her son Gus, and the secret vampire organization called “The Firsts” escaping their stronghold when an army of Carpathians descends upon it.  The Firsts represent the last members of vampiric species nearly wiped out by the king of the Carpathian breed, Dracula, while he was still active.  The leader, Benedict, believes that the Carpathian attack was a ploy by Hobbes to trick the Firsts into complacency with his plan to attack Dracula’s coffin.  Hobbes attempts to prove that Dracula is making his play against them to solidify his position now that he has been awakened.  This issue did two things very well: exploring the history of the very enigmatic character of Linden Hobbes, and how he became involved with the Vassals of the Mornings Star, and introducing a plot that is the closest thing to a vampiric doomsday scenario, dependent upon Dracula reaching a device built by his followers called the “second throne.”  Once again, Scott Snyder has taken his concept of American Vampire and cranked it up to 11.  The miniseries ends next month with the fifth issue and I am on pins and needles.
  • Saucer Country #7 follows its previous issue in a very similar fashion.  As I reviewed one month ago, issue #6 was Prof. Kidd detailing the history of the Alien phenomenon and what the human mind constructed the occurrences into.  It read very much like a History Channel special, giving empirical information such as dates, people, places, and scientific fact that spawned the theories we have read or heard about. In a previous issue we were introduced to the Bluebirds, a secret society that studies and attempts to mimic UFO flight technology and engineering.  This issue is narrated by one of these people and does exactly what issue #6 did.  It takes the real life encounters with the unexplained and shows how that influenced different aspects of the government, research, and historic events.  A true part of the story was the use of the term “Foo Fighters” to describe UFO’s before they were associated with extraterrestrials.  The path from their first mention in WWII through the decades to the eventual use of flying wing technology and gyroscopic flight, takes the reader on a journey that sets up another key facet of this series’ very complex premise.
  • Warlord of Mars #21 begins the five part story arc that encompasses the third book in Edgar Rice Burroughs original Barsoom Trilogy, that also bears the title of this comic: “The Warlord of Mars.”  In it, after John Carter has liberated the black “First Borns”, and all of Mars for that matter, from the ancient despotic goddess, Issus, his wife, Princess Dejah Thoris becomes trapped in a time locked chamber in the  Temple of Issus with Thuvia of Ptarth, a Red noblewoman, and Princess Phaidor of the Therns.  While he awaits the end of the year for her emancipation he overhears a plot by the rogue First Born, Thurid, and Hekkador of the Therns, Matai Shang, to break into the chamber by secret means to free Shang’s daughter, Phaidor, and abduct Dejah Thoris.  John Carter works to stop this, but is unable, setting up the plot for the next four issues.  This was an excellent novel and so far writer Arvid Nelson has set the comic adaptations up spectacularly.  I doubt this will be an exception to the rule.

And so ends Week 2 of Zero Month.  I have to say that I was blown away by some of these titles.  The DC Reboot has left some holes in the various titles, but slowly this month’s issues are patching them up.  Can’t wait till next week.  See ya then . . .

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #0: Art by Andy Clarke, Colored by FCO Plascencia

Batman & Robin #0: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray

Batgirl #0: Art by Ed Benes, Colored by Ulises Arreola

Deathstroke #0: Drawn by Rob Liefeld, Colored by Juan Fernandez & Ross Hughes, Inked by Adelso Corona, Cory Hamscher & Art Thibert

Superboy #0: Drawn by R.B. Silva, Colored by Tanya & Richard Horie & Hi-Fi, Inked by Rob Lean

The Ravagers #0:  Art by Ian Churchill & Norm Rapmund, Colored by Hi-Fi