Jan. 29, 2014

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

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

    An Icy Reception.


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

    The Face of Teenage Revolution.

    The Face of Teenage Revolution.

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

    Long Live the Batman!

    Long Live the Batman!

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

    A Father in the Shadows.


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

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

Oct. 30, 2013

With October being a five Wednesday month, this last week promises some incredible Annuals from DC, and that is NOT lip service.  Action Comics Annual #2 has been teased at with ridiculous shock endings to Superman #0 and Supergirl #0, put out over a year ago and left to simmer in reader’s minds.  Green Lantern Annual #2 promised to changed everything we know about Green Lantern books and with the past three months of developments that is not an exaggeration.  Nightwing Annual #1 delves into the complicated history of Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon, which is always awesome.  Neil Gaiman puts out the first issue of a “lost” Sandman story.  Andy Kubert draws and writes a comic centering around Damian Wayne.  The promise of quality storytelling is at an all-time high.

  • Action Comics Annual #2 follows up on the end of “Psi-War” as the Man of Steel is pulled from the aftermath of the psychic fallout in Metropolis to an even more dire threat facing the omniverse at large.  Looking upon all realities and infinite universes, Superman sees waves of chronal energy ripping through all of existence extinguishing stars and the countless civilizations they fostered or were destined to foster.  Upon witnessing this, Superman is brought together with his cousin, Supergirl, and the boy partially cloned from his genetics, Superboy.  At this point the mysterious power that ripped the three Kryptonians from their respective missions reveals itself: The Oracle.  Last seen in the “H’el on Earth” plotline where our solar system was going to be rendered into raw energy to turn back the hands of time and save Krypton from its fate.  This meant the extinction of a race and Oracle came to witness it, but did not intervene.  He has witnessed the death of countless civilizations and watched wordlessly. But with the events of the Villains Month H’el issue we not only saw the origin of H’el, but also that his mission to go back in time before the death of Krypton succeeded.  Therein lies the problem.  With the survival of Krypton the rest of the omniverse is imperiled to the point that the Oracle, for the first time ever, intervenes and actively combats the forces that be.  He sends the two refugee Kryptonians and cloned “abomination” (Superboy) back to their homeworld to show them the true horror of H’el’s efforts.  H’el wants to save Krypton and to rule it.  Infused with seemingly infinite amounts of chronal energy that allowed him to go back time and time again after numerous failed attempts at saving Krypton, until one iteration of Jor-El (his mentor and “father”) in his infinite genius finds a way to do the impossible.  H’el’s attempts contradict the laws of temporal stasis and causality, barring his success all those times before. With Jor-El’s help the survival of Krypton shatters the very fabric of time-space and threatens all of existence.  And what’s more, the Krypton he saves becomes a shell of its former glory and a slave colony of proud Kryptonians heeled at his feet.  In this climate, one of Krypton’s worst becomes their only hope at righting the timestream and saving the omniverse.  Faora, second in command to the great General Zod finds herself the right hand of the Oracle, serving as his
    Faora.

    Faora.

    mouthpiece.  With her guidance, Supergirl is sent to Krypton’s distant past to cull his incursion during the Clone Wars.  Superman and Superboy are sent to the homes of the brothers El, Jor-El and Zor-El, a week before the death of Krypton. Jor-El and Kara (Supergirl) are key in those final moments and the next generation of El men are dispatched to ensure they fulfill their roles in the correct path that Krypton was meant to take.  This includes two very polarizing events.  Kon-El (Superboy) meets a younger Kara who immediately treats him as a friend, when in their past interactions (which in this case would be the future), she did her best to kill him for being a clone and an abomination by Kryptonian standards.  Kal-El (Superman) is transported to his father’s lab, where he is greeted by his mother, Lara Lor-Van, who immediately makes short work of beating him to pulp, thinking him an intruder.  Warmly embraced by a girl who had mindlessly sought one’s death, and mercilessly beaten down by the woman who gave the other life and selfless sent him to the stars for survival, Superboy and Superman define irony in their meeting of the women of House El.  With these events chronicled, Scott Lobdell firmly sets the hook on what promises to be a brutally ambitious crossover event of the Super-books in the month of November.  Since he introduced H’el this past year, the rogue Kryptonian has become an instantly iconic character, embodying all the negative aspects of a dying race and serving as a brilliant foil for Superman and Supergirl.  In many ways he is also a dark reflection of Superboy, who is himself apart from fellow Kryptonians in the genetic altering that birthed him.  H’el, while not a clone, we now know isn’t a natural Kryptonian, and bears the horrifying visage not because of his escape from Krpyton but rather from being born accidentally from genetic material sent into space and bombarded with cosmic energies.  Like Kon-El, his powers will always be different from those of his fellow Kryptonians and his mind a battlefield of constant rage.  Providing art on this issue is regular Superman artist and oft time Lobdell collaborator, Kenneth Rocafort, as well as Dan Jurgens, Lobdell’s predecessor in writing Superman and the artist who rendered Lobdell’s H’el issue in September during Villain’s month.  Across the board, this issue hits all the right notes and fulfills a promise made in September of 2012 with the appearance of Superman and Superboy in Superman #0 and Supergirl #0.  Lobdell looks to deliver on that promise with interest.

    Supermom Lara Lor-Van.

    Supermom Lara Lor-Van.

  • Green Lantern Annual #2 is a monumental installment in the ongoing Green Lantern mythos.  After the defeat of the First Lantern and the downfall of the Guardians of the Universe, the Green Lantern Corps faces an even greater threat in the form of a cyclopean figure known as Relic.  The sole survivor of the universe that existed before the Big Bang and the creation of our universe, Relic witnessed the death of his reality and awoke just before the death of another.  The cause of this cataclysm was the same both time: Light-wielders.  In our universe they are ringslinging Lanterns.  In Relic’s time they were staff wielding “Lightsmiths.”  Relic realized too late that the light of the emotional spectrum which Lanterns and Lightsmiths utilize was a finite resource within each universe and the gratuitous use of that light moves the doomsday clock closer to the hour of oblivion.  The Lightsmiths of the previous universe dismissed Relic’s research, so this time around he foregoes talk and viciously attacks the “lightsmiths” of our universe to save their reality, over their dead bodies if necessary.  What’s worse, the various entities of the emotional spectrum ally themselves with Relic to help realize his plan to refill the universal reservoir at the “Source.”  Writer Robert Venditti re-introduces the Source Wall into the New DCU, resurrecting the wall that Jack Kirby created in his Fourth World books which demarcates the edge of the universe, composed of the calcified remains of those that try to escape its bounds.  What follows in this issue as the surviving Lanterns of four corps come to blows with Relic for one last ditch battle truly changes everything that we had known about the Green Lantern books for the past eight years.  Keystone friendships come to an end, loyalties are tested, and deals are struck that alter the dynamics that have driven this comic for decades.  What Venditti has accomplished with this five part “Lights Out” crossover arc is truly inspired and well thought out, providing entertaining, innovative storylines, but also prescient social commentary.  Relic’s findings about impending climate and energy collapse, dismissed by the powers that be, bears a striking resemblance to global warming and the current state of fossil fuel depletion.  As our best scientists currently discover more about global warming or the mathematics about the consumption of oil and coal versus the remaining stores the shortsighted in power try to silence them so the cogs of the status quo aren’t halted.  Both sides of the issue and the rationale of each are portrayed equally and fairly by Venditti as he examines it through the lens of intergalactic whimsy.  Sean Chen provides exquisite art that brings the finale of this cosmic odyssey to a poignant close, matching the art of Billy Tan quite well.  Overall, if you are Green Lantern fan, this annual is a must read, regardless of your thoughts on the direction the Green Lantern titles are taking.

    The Power of Life.

    The Power of Life.

  • Aquaman Annual #1 resurrects the work of Geoff Johns’ from his “Others” arc, but this time under the pen of John Ostrander.  The Others were a group of gifted individuals that Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman, joined after accepting his Atlantean heritage and becoming king of Atlantis.  To each of his teammates he gifted a different relic of ancient Atlantis.  He kept the trident, but gave the others to the Others.  It is precisely this fact that gives conflict to the issue’s plotline.  The Operative, Joshua Cole, is given his fallen teammate Vostok’s helmet for safekeeping because his mobile headquarters aboard an aircraft allows the most security.  However, that doesn’t stop it from being absconded with by literal flying monkeys dispatched by an equally literal wicked witch.  Along with the the monkeys come hoards of magically altered sea life, prompting the appearance of Aquaman.  The danger of one of the powerful talismans of Atlantis falling into the wrong hands brings the surviving members of the Others together once again, with honorary members, Sky and the Operative’s grandson, Aaron.  Once they come together the trail leads them to Morgan Le Faye, last seen in the series Demon Knights.  After the fall of Camelot and the various kingdoms that followed little has been told about what happened to Morgan.  Now we get to see how she’s holding up in the present.  In Arthurian myth, Morgana was always a seductive figure that corrupted through her feminine wiles, magic, or power.  In the present era, she puts the Others to the test, finding some to be wanting.  Ostrander writes a fantastic annual that feeds off of the burgeoning mythology of not only the Aquaman series, but also Demon Knights, building upon that foundation new levels to each.  His characterization of Johns’ characters feels very authentic and cuts deep to the core of who they are.  The pencils of Netho Diaz and Geraldo Borges are similar to the pencils of Ivan Reis, original series artist, bringing further authenticity.
  • Nightwing Annual #1, written by Nightwing scribe Kyle Higgins deals with a bevy of complex issues and characters.  Concerning his native topic of Dick Grayson’s life, Nightwing is transitioning into a new phase of his life.  So much of his past has been tied to Gotham and Batman’s legacy.  With the fallout of “Death of the Family” he has been forced to break from all that he has known since he took up with Batman after the death of his parents and forge his own path.  Bruce and his acolytes have become his family in lieu of the parents he lost and the family he once had in Haly’s circus.  Higgins’ run began with him inheriting Haly’s and reestablishing that bond with his first family.  In one fell swoop, the Joker took both the circus and his ability to trust Batman away.  So literally, he is cut off from everything he has ever known and is venturing into uncharted territory.  Higgins also picks up Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, at an equally low and uncertain time in her life.  Barbara is the eldest child of legendary Gotham police commissioner James Gordon and the big sister of sociopathic serial killer, James Gordon Jr.  Recently, when her little brother found his way into her life he set about terrorizing her and their mother to the point of Barbara having no choice but to “put him down.”  The lattermost moment witnessed by her father, which put Batgirl on the top of Commissioner Gordon’s most wanted list.  Hunted by her father in her masked identity and haunted by her actions in her civilian identity, Barbara has forsaken her all-consuming life as Batgirl and tried to figure out who Barbara Gordon actually is.  In the fallout of two lives crumbling, they look to what fragments of their pasts remain for comfort.  One of the hallmark points of both characters’ geneses in masked crime-fighting was a brief teen romance.  Even before the New DCU, back when Barbara was still in the wheelchair, there was a “will they/won’t they” repartee betwixt the two bat-family members.  They’d come close only for fate to pull them apart again.  Higgins picks that up as the two twenty-something vigilantes attempt to save an imperiled actress in a similar situation to their own.  The parallels between their charge’s rocky romantic past and their own draws them closer and closer toward finally realizing what is right in front of them.  Higgins masterfully tells this story of two broken souls, while re-introducing readers to the classic Batman villain, Firefly, all the while layering plot points and metaphor through the narrative.  Helping him in art are Jason Masters, Daniel Sampere, and Vincente Cifuentes, all of whom have done time on the Bat-books and proven their chops depicting Gotham’s cast of characters.  Overall, Higgins hasn’t lost his touch one iota as a writer of Nightwing and those closest to him.

    Young Love.

    Young Love.

  • Teen Titans Annual #2 finds Red Robin, Superboy, and Wonder Girl stabilized in their madcap roller-coaster ride through time, landing twenty years in a seemingly post-apocalyptic future.  The Justice League has fallen.  Batman has fallen.  All that remains is Beast Boy, Rose Wilson, and a ragtag group of meta-teens.  Through this annual, current Teen Titans writer and former Superboy writer Scott Lobdell realizes the near future of the DC Universe.  Even after he left the Superboy title, he came back for the 19th issue, revealing the human heart of the 25th century monster named Harvest and the one thing he loved above all else: his son, Jonathan Kent . . . the first Superboy.  Jonathan comes back in this issue and clone (Kon-El)  finally meets his original (Jonathan).  From issue #1 of Superboy, the boy Supergirl would name Kon-El has been a living weapon molded to cull super-powered individuals.  Trained and honed into a blunt object, a part of him relishes the role, but another part yearns to be free and experience friendship.  The better angels in his soul are what make him Kon.  The part of him that takes pleasure in the sadism he does is the memetic legacy of Jonathan from whom he was cloned.  At the point in the future when this annual takes place, Jonathan has come out of nowhere and nearly eradicated all the meta-humans.  He and Superboy do battle with Superboy actually coming out on top, proving that sometimes originals can be improved upon.  Inheriting Jonathan’s lack of mercy he attempts to coup-de-grace the psychotic super-teen, but as seen in the Action Comics Annual, is drawn from that point in time-space by the Oracle to aid Superman and Supergirl in stopping H’el’s assault on the omniverse.  No rest for Superboy.  In the meantime, Beast Boy councils Red Robin about this future and how it can be avoided and then explains that all the information and preparations he has given them were at Red Robin’s own behest after the three Titans return from this jaunt to the future to prepare themselves to combat this impending doom.  Seems like a time paradox to me, but I suppose with comics you have to check your disbelief at the door.  At the same time Wonder Girl stumbles upon a scrambled holographic record of Red Robin talking about the death of their team and a traitor among their number.  But the most troubling development is that the dying Jonathan is saved by Beast Boy, dressed in Superboy’s costume, and sent back knowingly with the Teen Titans to the past.  A real Hail Mary, but clearly Beast Boy knows what he’s doing since a pysched out Jonathan in the past would endanger his own existence in this future were his intentions untoward.  However, that being the case, it is highly likely that Lobdell is going to have Kon killed in “Return of Krypton” considering that he’s placed a “fake” Superboy among the Titan’s number.  Scott Lobdell has been rocking every DC book he’s touched and his treatment of both this annual and the Action Comics annual has been nothing short of stellar.

    No Mercy for the Merciless.

    No Mercy for the Merciless.

  • Swamp Thing Annual #2 provides a universe hashing interlude between the gauntlet laid down by the Parliament of Trees to decide who should be Avatar of the Green and the actual fight.  Alec Holland is the chosen avatar, but the up-and-coming Seeder has the gumption to challenge that ascendancy.  Writer Charles Soule takes this annual and uses it not only as a way of showing the preparation that Alec has to fight this battle, but also to morph the Swamp Thing mythos into something that is his own.  Original writer Scott Snyder wrote Holland as a prophesied warrior king of the Green.  A messianic figure.  It worked wonders for his run, making it legendary and an epic read.  However, it also left whoever took over the series painted into a corner.  Here Holland is told that he isn’t actually that special and he was just told that by the Parliament to make him believe in himself enough to defeat Anton Arcane and his Rotworld.  Like most political arenas, avatars curry favor and disdain with various members.  When an avatar is retired they join the Parliament.  Holland is championed by a Swamp Thing that looks like a 17th century British gentleman, going by the name “Wolf.”  Wolf shows Alec the ropes and attempts to give him the lay of the political landscape.  He also arranges for him to speak with a very dangerous former Swamp Thing named the “Lady Weed.”  She was challenged for her status as Avatar and she prevailed, showing the depth of her cunning and ruthlessness.  She prevailed through stone-cold brutality and to drive home the point, she brought about the Great Potato Famine in Ireland, the country of origin to her slain rival.  A Swamp Thing must be ruthless if they are to remain the Avatar.  This blow to Alec hits hard, because his humanity has been something he has desperately attempted to hold onto, despite the inhuman thoughts that the Parliament whisper in his mind constantly.  The Wolf sends him to talk to one last person.  The Swamp Thing that the Parliament created artificially to stand in for him, thinking it WAS him.  This Swamp Thing was a cruel joke that despite not being human found humanity and that is what he imparts to Holland. His message to Alec is simple: “If you are asked to do something that will change you in a way you do not wish to be changed, that will compromise the person you believe yourself to be . . . say no.”  The messages given by Weed and the blue Swamp thing are polar opposites and seemingly disharmonious to the goals that the Wolf would have Alec achieve, since he has stock in the retention Alec as Swamp Thing, but what the Wolf has done is give Alec a choice.  He can do as the Green would have him and be the ruthless killer that Lady Weed was to retain her title or he can be the Avatar he wants to be just like the avatars seen at the beginning of this annual did once upon a time.  Charles Soule has taken this issue in hand and made it his own, following in the tradition of Snyder, but telling a story in his own tenor.  Javier Pina and regular series artist Kano provide lush art and incredible visuals to enliven the brilliant scripting of Soule.  This is very much a talking issue and very light on action, but for Swamp Thing faithfuls it is well worth the read. SwampThingAnnual#2
  • Damian: Son of Batman #1 presents an unofficial Elseworld style story about one of the most captivating and controversial characters to come to the Bat-books in the past decade: Damian Wayne.  The sociopathic son of Batman and Talia Al-Ghul, Damian cuts a very rough figure, but beneath the harsh, abrasive exterior beats a human heart that wants the same things his father did and strives toward those goal with equal vigor.  Damian first entered comics in the version we know in 2005 with Batman #647, written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Andy Kubert.  This past year, after a whirlwind tour of writing four series showcasing the characters of Batman and Damian, Grant Morrison killed off the young Wayne.  This series, Damian: Son of Batman, allows Damian’s co-creator Andy Kubert the opportunity to tell Damian’s story in his own way.  In it Batman is immediately killed at the beginning, blown up investigating a crime that seemingly was committed by the Joker.  In the aftermath, Damian is forced to pick up the pieces.  By this time he has grown into a young man, still occupying the role of Robin.  When he goes out to seek justice for his father’s slaying he finds himself alone.  His mother, Talia, and grandfather, Ra’s Al-Ghul, refuse him aid from the League of Assassins and all three of Damian’s predecessors as Robin are not even mentioned.  Ra’s even goes so far as to say that Damian has a greater duty to Batman than he does to the League, even though Ra’s and Talia genetically engineered him to be the next leader of the League, and suggests Damian take his rightful place as the next Batman to carry on his father’s legacy.  Despite his bravado and his overwrought sense of entitlement, Damian can’t even comprehend doing that and continues on as Robin.  As he had in the past and without any guiding light to stop him, his actions are calculated, precise, and brutal as he cuts a trail through villain after villain in Gotham seeking vengeance for his father.  The only voices of reason are a priest insinuated to be former police commissioner James Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth.  Andy Kubert ends the issue with a left field twist that could fundamentally alter everything this first issue led us to believe.  Kubert is a phenomenal artist and has proven so over the past several decades consistently.  The scion of comics legend, Joe Kubert (Rest in Peace), how could he not be.  However, this issue proves that not only did he inherit his father’s artistic ability, he is also gifted with his father’s narrative genius.  This series in its first installment IS Andy Kubert, revealing through pacing, plotting, style, and voice intimately the kind of person and storyteller that Kubert is.  The only things about this issue that aren’t him are the coloring done by Brad Anderson and the lettering done by Nick Napolitano.  Andy Kubert proved his mettle on the Villains Month Joker issue and now proves it again, giving his co-creation his own four issue send off.  This is certainly a series worth reading, not only for fans of Batman, but also fans of comics in general as the son of a deceased father attempts to take up his mantle and carry on his good works.  Am I referring to Damian and Bruce Wayne or Andy and Joe Kubert?  Therein lies the question.

    Heavy Weighs the Cowl.

    Heavy Weighs the Cowl.

  • Sandman: Overture #1 is the much anticipated prequel to Neil Gaiman’s first issues of Sandman, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the publication of the first issue.  The plot of this first installment is very hazy, ambling like a dream through various locations, situations, and characters.  It begins in a far off galaxy where the dominant form of life are sentient plants, with Morpheus (Dream) taking the form of a white flower upon a tall black leafed stalk.  It is in this visage that he first begins to feel somethingSandmanOverture1-1 strange in the Dreaming.  As the issue progresses, classic Sandman characters are slowly introduced to the reader for any jumpers on to the series, unfamiliar with the previous storylines.  The Corinthian makes an appearance, as does Dream’s big sister, Death, as well as his eldest sibling, the blind sage Destiny.  The issue terminates with Dream being summoned instinctually to a convocation of various versions of himself with the purpose as yet to be revealed.  Though the plot is vague, Gaiman has the style to whet his audiences appetite and entertain them despite the lack of concrete revelation.  As stated before, the plot is drawn out and nonlinear like a dream, adding to the ambiance.  Also contributing enormously to the ambiance is the peerless art of J.H. Williams III who lends his masterful talents.  When Williams and colorist Dave Stewart come together the product is magical and throw in Gaiman’s writing and you know that you are in for a show.  However, the true joy of Williams’ involvement in the book is the fallow ground Gaiman’s script grants him to spread his wings.  Through various segments of the issue his style changes, so while the beginning scenes on the plant planet are rich and vibrant, the following pages in 1915 London are dark, sketchy, and greytoned with inkwash treatments, only to later transition further into woodblocked fully monochromatic panels with the entrance of George Porcullis, and jumping ahead to the end with the four page fold out of different Morpheuses, each version of Dream is done differently some blue line prototypical, some very roughly drawn as though by a child, and some with no lines and just smeared hazy edges as though appearing from the ether.  In short this issue is one with no limitations and endless possibilities.  The pairing of two consummate geniuses on this anniversarial opus is nothing short of inspired and something for geeks around the world to rejoice about.

    Convocation of Dreams.

    Convocation of Dreams.

So ends a truly incredible batch of Annuals and special issues.  There was not one throw away book this week, with every issue put out adding something important to their imprints, titles, and subject material.  A fantastic way to end the month of October.

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 Annual #2:  Art by Kenneth Rocafort & Dan Jurgens, Colored by Tomeu Morey & Blond.

Green Lantern Annual #2:  Drawn by Sean Chen, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse & Wil Quintana, Inked by Jon Sibal & Walden Wong.

Nightwing Annual Annual #1:  Art by Jason Masters, Daniel Sampere & Vincente Cifuentes, Colored by Chris Sotomayor.

Teen Titans Annual #2:  Art by Barry Kitson, Art Thibert, Jesus Merino & Scott Hanna, Colored by Pete Pantazis.

Swamp Thing Annual #2:  Art by Kano.

Damian: Son of the Batman #1:  Art by Andy Kubert, Colored by Brad Anderson.

Sandman: Overture #1:  Art by J.H. Williams III, Colored Dave Stewart.

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

    desaad2

    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 80 (March 13, 2013)

This week was a somber one, featuring three Bat-titles, each paying homage to the fallen Damian Wayne in their own ways.  Batman and Batman & Robin both display the sorrow and anger of a father’s loss.  In Green Lantern Corps the First Lantern tortures John Stewart with the ghosts of his haunted past and the question as to what it was all for.  The Before Watchmen: Ozymandias series reached its end, heralding the dark events that comprise the original Watchmen series.  An excellent crop of comics.  So here we go:

  • Batman #18 transitions from one personal crisis to the next.  Issue #17 was the landmark, much talked about conclusion to “Death of the Family”, which in this blogger’s opinion failed to live up to its name.  This issue, completely unrelated to the aforementioned uber-plot of the Joker’s, opens on a Batman who has endured the death of his son.  Scott Snyder chooses to approach this tragedy from the outside, having the issue told largely from the point of view of the punk rock looking electrical genius, Harper Row, now obsessed with tracking Batman.  In her Bat-watching she sees a haggard, overwrought Batman hitting the criminal element harder than usual and making many sloppy mistakes.  Since she is not privy to his identity or his inner circle she has no idea about the death of Robin, nor the real life connection between Bruce Wayne and his son, Damian.  Thus we get an outsider’s perspective on how far he has fallen and how much Batman inspires the people whose lives he’s touched.  Harper turns out to be like an angel of mercy, reminding Batman that despite his loss, he isn’t alone and doesn’t have to suffer alone.  The backup feature, drawn by Alex Maleev, has Harper going to Bruce Wayne with a plan to help Batman, all the time under the assumption that they are two separate men.  Both halves of the Batman are touched by her thoughtfulness and her gesture might just begin to knit together the wound that has been festering in his soul.  Scott Snyder’s Batman seems destined to go down as one of the runs on the series, like Frank Miller’s Batman, the O’Neil/Adams Batman, and most recently, the Morrison Batman.  This issue’s guest artist, Andy Kubert, was also the artist who ushered in Grant Morrison’s historic run on the character that both introduced us to the character of Damian and set the stage for the heartrending death of that young lad seven years later.

    The Wisdom of Youth

    The Wisdom of Youth

  • Batman & Robin #18 is a silent, somber sonata for a son.  It took me a while to realize it while I was reading this issue, owing the engrossing artwork depicting heartrending images of parental loss, but there are no words.  The entire comic is a pantomime of Batman going through the motions to try and work past the pain of his son’s loss.  However, when someone that integral in your life is gone, their absence reverberates throughout your life in simple ways that normally aren’t noticeable.  The issue’s silence is broken finally with Batman finds a note from Damian, telling him why he left the safety of the Cave, which as we now know led to his death.  Damian was a very harsh character.  He was often very rude, conceited, gratuitously violent, but beneath all of that there was a thoughtful, empathetic character who was lost in a world he was unprepared to live in.  Since the Reboot in September 2011, this title has been basically Damian’s book.  Batman played a prominent role in its plots, but really it was a showcase for Damian to shine and be humanized.  Peter Tomasi did an unbelievable job making him a relatable, lovable character and Patrick Gleason drew it gorgeously.  The fact that the eponymous Robin from the title has passed on places this book in a very awkward position.  I am not sure where the title can go from here.  There is of course the concept of a possible resurrection coming down the pike (my guess is a Lazarus Pit), but speculation is all these come down to.  Another possibility would be the installation of Harper Row as a new “Girl Wonder.”   There hasn’t been an official female Robin in DC canon before and this might be a golden opportunity for it.  Either way, this issue’s heartbreaking to read for those that have come to love Damian and for those that want Bruce to be happy, even if only for a short time.  Goodbye, Damian.  May you finally feel some peace.

    The Grief of a Father

    The Grief of a Father

  • Batgirl #18 like the other Bat-books this month pays its respects to the departed Robin, who despite his surly, abrasive exterior found a place in the hearts of the various “family” members.  The mention in this issue fell a little flat in my opinion, but then again it doesn’t really fit into the storyline that writer Ray Fawkes has set out to tell.  I don’t mean to trash talk him or beleaguer a point, but I feel that if Gail Simone were at the helm of this arc she would have addressed this truly tragic occurrence in a very thoughtful, heartfelt way, as she has with Barbara Gordon since issue one of this phenomenal series.  But she’s not so we have to accept Fawkes’ blip and get on with the story of James Gordon Jr. attempting to murder those closest to him, saving Batgirl for last to truly torture the Dominoed Daredoll with her own limitations.  It’s an okay plotline, but not exactly up to snuff considering Gail Simone and Scott Snyder’s masterful handling of these characters in past plot arcs.  I know very little about Fawkes and his past works, but assume he might be newer to the writing scene than the aforementioned maestros, explaining his seeming nemishness in the story department.  Daniel Sampere draws the issue exceptionally making it visually stunning.
  • Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #6 brings to an end the saga of one of the the keystone characters of the Watchmen universe.  Adrian Veidt has already planned out his master scheme and in this issue we see how he executes it.  This issue, above all the others, shows how cold Ozymandias can truly be when he has his eyes on a goal.  His personal assistant, Marla, with whom he was also sexually active, dies mysteriously, albeit painlessly, because her knowledge of his enterprises was too sensitive.  He recruits the former villain, Moloch, into his fold and gives him a job that also will also terminate with his premature death.  He gathers the preeminent scientists, science fiction writers, and artists to his secret island in the tropics to put the finishing touches on the otherworldly horror that will usher in a world the likes of which has never been know.  The true impetus of the issue that spans the majority of its pages and concludes the series is the tension between the Comedian and Ozymandias.  They had tussled over the course of the six issues, but as was revealed by Alan Moore in the original Watchmen series, the Comedian came across the island and what Ozymandias had planned.  The most psychopathic man on the planet gets queasy upon the discovery of just what Adrian has planned, but also knows that it can’t be stopped.  All that remains at issue’s end is for Adrian to murder the Comedian which catalyzes Watchmen into being.  Len Wein had a very good relationship with Alan Moore, handpicking him to take over the Swamp Thing series that he himself created and wrote into a hit title.  Now Wein, albeit without Moore’s consent, has taken over one of the most important subplots of Watchmen and written it with breathtaking splendor.  Jae Lee is an artist that has a very gothic quality to his work.  Gothic is precisely the word I am looking for, because Lee depicts his subjects with almost no emotion despite the grand events rendered around them.  Adrian Veidt is cold and calculated with no emotion and looks to be like a god himself, resurrected from ancient Egypt.  Overall this series was one of the best put out, rivaled only by Darwyn Cooke’s Minutemen series in this Before Watchmen line of books.

    Behold His Work, Ye Might, And Despair

    Behold His Work, Ye Might, And Despair

  • Green Lantern Corps #18 has Volthoom descending on John Stewart and the Star Sapphire, Fatality.  Most of his attention is put on John, of whom many horrors have been visited, most of his own action.  His mother’s murder was out of his control, as largely was the destruction of Fatality’s homeworld, Xanshi, which both she and John had blamed him for, but the destruction of the planet Green Lantern, Mogo, as well as the killing of another fellow corpsmen, Kirrt Kallak, were very much his conscious decisions.  John is a man that makes the hard decisions without hesitation, because if he doesn’t they may never get made or worse one of his friends or loved ones will have to make them, damning themselves.  Volthoom of course tortures him by showing him that the universe doesn’t come crashing down if John wasn’t there to make the hard choices, killing those closest to him.  Peter Tomasi writes it well, really capturing the heart of a truly conflicted character.  Chriscross provides guest art on the issue that really brings out the extreme emotional distress evoked by the sadistic First Lantern.
  • Superboy #18 picks up in the aftermath of “H’el on Earth.”  Superboy attempts to make right some of his lesser wrongs when the villain Plasmus comes crashing into the bank vault wherein Superboy returns some of his ill gotten gains.  The fight between the Boy of Steel and the giant walking nuclear reactor is monumental, bringing the attention of a telepathic DC villain, Dr. Psycho, originally a Wonder Woman nemesis.  Melding psychically with Superboy, Dr. Psycho is able to dig into Superboy’s past, seeing his birth and the life he has led thus far.  At the end of the issue he goes into the depth of Superboy’s mind and finds Lex Luthor waiting in the inner recesses.  We’ve known that Lex was his human parent from previous incarnations of the character, but Scott Lobdell kept us wondering with his very different depiction of Kon-El.  In the end the issue there is a short episode of a female alien crashing in the Amazon rain-forest, chased by other aliens and rescued by Krypto the Superdog.  With the mention of the Eternal Ebon-Quad along with her black eyes, it can be surmised that she is a soldier in the service of Lady Styx, as seein the Blue Beetle and Threshold series.  Interesting things are happening within this title, so much so that Scott Lobdell came back on the title, cowriting with his successor, Tom DeFalco.  I, for one, very much look forward to seeing where Superboy’s writers are taking him.
  • Demon Knights #18 brings the hordes of Cain to the gates of Themyscira, home of the immortal Amazons, the most powerful race on Earth.  Now it stands to what remains of the Demon Knights to stand in the way of the vampirization of the only nation able to stand against Cain.  Previously Jason Blood had been muted by a powerful spell, preventing him from speaking the words to summon the Demon, Etrigan.  With the reemergence of Madame Xanadu his silence is lifted and Etrigan is once again released upon the world.  The power struggle between Jason and Etrigan reaches a new level showing what strengths and weaknesses these two halves of the same physicality possess.  Robert Venditti continues writing it in precisely the same vein as series creator, Paul Cornell.  Artist Bernard Chang remains in the trenches, drawing the title exactly as he has since before the writing change over.
  • Ravagers #10 has the title entering into the beginning of its endgame.  The series is two issues from cancellation and writer Michael Alan Nelson is pulling out all the stops.  Harvest has wanted the rogue Ravagers put down for sometime.  That has been the task entrusted to Rose Wilson and Warblade.  With the events of the past two issue in the wind, these two “loyal” Ravagers also find their necks on the chopping block and their assignment now put in the hands of Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke.  I have to say, Deathstroke has been represented as a free agent and an anti-hero since the Reboot, but as of this issue I do not like him one bit.  Thankfully, his series is also getting cancelled in May, meaning he can go back to being the villain he was created to be.  In the camp of the Ravagers, things begin to look up.  A lost comrade is returned, a disfigured member is “healed”, and romance brews between two members.  It seems things are looking up, but with cancellation looming close on the horizon it could be a case of the brightest lights casting the darkest shadows.  I pray that the cancellation leaves most of our heroes still breathing, as they have been through hell and deserve to survive.

    Young Love

    Young Love

  • Threshold #3 continues to set the very intricate stage on the planet Tolerance, home of the “Hunted” reality series where dangerous criminals of the Tenebrian Dominion are set loose with a bounty on their heads for any citizen to collect if they can bring them down.  Private investigator, Starr Hawkins, is added to the cast, as is Lonar, a New God created by Jack Kirby in the 70’s in his Forever People title.  Being a HUGE Jack Kirby fan, the addition of any Fourth Worlder is a sure fire way of getting me hooked.  Keith Giffens is going for broke with both the lineup and the stakes of this “Hunted” series.  Right now it seems a bit cluttered as all the disparate factions are aligning themselves and new versions of old characters are introduced to us seemingly at every turn.  Hopefully, as alliances are cast and battle lines drawn the series can focus on forward moving, unified plot lines.  One of the side plots of great interest is the race for Jediah Caul’s power battery.  Hawkins tells Caul he knows where it is and a mysterious lawyer appears requesting K’Rot and his smaller Zoo Crew to procure it for his client.  In the “Larfleeze” back up feature, Larfleeze and his enslaved assistant continue the search for his stolen hoard.  The smugglers they have contracted to help them a treasure hunter called Branx Rancor.  In the middle of negotiations, Larfleeze’s rogue orange constructs attack the band.  This installment wasn’t the best of the three so far and very little progress is made in the overall plot.  As a whole, this issue of Threshold was good, but awaits the clarity that hopefully will come sooner rather than later.
  • Saucer Country #13 was an incredible issue that cut deeper to the truth than any other in the entire thirteen issue run so far.  Gov. Arcadia Alvarado is a heartbeat from the presidential election resulting in her favor.  In the background a hailstorm of the powers and plots that seek to thwart her are coming to a head.  The little naked couple from the Voyager space probe pull one last ditch effort to keep Prof. Kidd from killing himself by revealing a piece of evidence that will prove they are legit.  Michael and the governor’s press secretary meet with the mysterious Blue Birds spokewoman, Astelle, and drop their own bombshell on the seemingly omniscient woman’s world view.  The sitting president’s men attempt to turn her chief of staff, Harry, only to be curbed as well by trump cards in Arcadia’s hand.  This could mean the end of the series being in sight, or it could signal a game change that will raise the stakes.  Either way, writer Paul Cornell is blowing this series out of the park and really delivering a complex, thought provoking title that begs to be read month after month.  With the shocker ending in this issue, #14 cannot come soon enough in my opinion.

And so ends this phenomenal week.  This crop comprises itself of several must read titles.  I hope you all check them out and enjoy them as I have.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #18: Drawn by Andy Kubert, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Sandra Hope

Batman & Robin #18: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray

Before Watchman: Ozymandias #6: Art by Jae Lee, Colored by June Chung

The Ravagers #10: Drawn by Diogenes Neves, Colored by Tony Avina, Inked by Vicente Cifuentes

Week 69 (Dec. 26, 2012)

This week, unfortunately being the day after Christmas, has only three books out.  Those three books have the potential to be good, two introducing the “Throne of Atlantis” and the last concluding the Nite Owl miniseries.  Let’s hope they skew toward the better than the worse”

  • Justice League #15 begins the “Throne of Atlantis” storyline, crossing over into Aquaman and running through mid February.  With a mysterious “accident” aboard a US aircraft carrier that launches Tomahawk missiles into the sea detonating them over Atlantis, a full scale war is initiated with the underwater kingdom.  Retaliation comes in the form of a full on invasion by King Orm, Aquaman’s brother.  Ocean Master, as he is also called, sends the armies of Atlantis against Gotham, Metropolis, and Gotham, one of which will be sunk beneath the sea.  Also Superman and Wonder Woman have their first date in civilian identities, which has promise before being interrupted by the aquatic invasion of the East Coast.  Most shocking of all, however, is the architect who engineered the plans for the Atlantean coastal invasion.  In the Shazam backup feature, Billy Batson continues to acclimate to his new role as Captain Marvel, seemingly finding trouble at every turn, capping off with the appearance of Black Adam.  This was a decent issue that seemed to level out in quality owing to its attachment to a more substantial title, vis-a-vis Aquaman.  This issue also marks the swinger-esque swapping of art teams, with Aquaman art squad Ivan Reis, Rod Reis, and Joe Prado jumping ship as it were and landing on Justice League.  Art’s good, writing is bearable.  Not the worst JL issue.

    A Date Interrupted

    A Date Interrupted

  • Aquaman #15 picks up from Justice League above, with the forces of Atlantis at the shorelines of the United States.  Justice League began the invasion and showed the awesome might of Ocean Master’s army, but this issue shows the damages and loss of life and juxtaposes that against the reaction of the Justice League to Atlantis’s assault.  Truly its a complex issue, and though I’m annoyed at the reactions of the individual Leaguers, I feel that perhaps that is realism writer Geoff Johns is bringing to the table.  Normally when he portrays them as he does here it’s annoying at how shortsighted and petty they are.  In this instance, their pettiness and shortsightedness are validated by the amount of death and destruction wrought by the Atlanteans.  Conversely, Aquaman knows that there is a reason for this attack and wants to reach a peaceful resolution, if possible.  However, tensions run high on both sides, and his goals aren’t appearing feasible.  I am intrigued as to where this event will go, as this represents a huge schism developing within the League.  Artist Paul Pelletier comes onto the scene taking over for Ivan Reis, who jumped to Justice League.  His art isn’t that different from Reis, but is also reminiscent of Andy Kubert, who does provides art on the next book reviewed.  That said . . .
  • Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #4 concludes the Nite Owl miniseries in the only fitting way for a Before Watchmen title: fire, blood, piles of dead bodies, and good people doing bad things.  Following the disappearance of prostitutes across New York with ties to the Twilight Lady.  Ending in the basement of an 80’s mega-church, Nite Owl, Rorschach, and the Twilight Lady must stop or at least expose a madman with a truly insane plot.  The interesting thing about this is that the plot of the truly sick Reverend is not that far off from the plot that lies at the heart of the original Watchmen graphic novel.  The method is the same, but the practicality is not at all logical in the same manner as that of Ozymandias.  Also, some in that party are completely against Rev. Taylor Dean’s plot, but go along with Ozymandias’.  I am over simplifying, I recognize, but topically this is an interesting point.   What caps off the issue, however, is the end of the relationship between Nite Owl and Twilight Lady.  We know that their relationship isn’t meant to last, but we also know that the Twilight Lady holds a very dear place in Nite Owl’s heart.  Delivering up that saucy yet sordid tale, as well as characterizing Daniel Dreiberg and further developing his unorthodox partnership to Rorschach, writer J. Michael Straczynski writes a truly seminal series in four issues.  I can’t imagine that Alan Moore (if he weren’t so damned stubborn) could really find any fault with it.  Artist Andy Kubert also delivers in spades a liney, gritty feeling depiction of the story that feels very akin to the spirit of the original opus.  So ends one of the best comic miniseries of this year and probably many to come.

    For Fans Of This Series "The End Is Nigh"

    For Fans Of This Series “The End Is Nigh”

And with that the year of 2012 comics unofficially comes to an end.  Most of the books that would have come out this week have been bumped to the first week of January, so for the actual conclusion we have to wait seven more days.  Until then, thanks for reading.

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

Illustration Credits:

Justice League #15:  Drawn by Ivan Reis, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Joe Prado

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #4: Drawn by Andy Kubert, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Bill Sienkiewicz

 

Week 55 (Sept. 19, 2012)

This might be my favorite week of Zero Month.  The titles that came out were for the most part incredible in their scope and the quality of their stories.  Green Lantern: The New Guardians reinvents itself for the next phase in its development, Red Hood & the Outlaws delivers an incredible new origin for one of the DCU best antiheroes conceived by the maestro Scott Lobdell, J. Michael Straczynski serves up the next INCREDIBLE chapter in his four part Before Watchmen: Nite Owl series, and DC Universe Presents serves up a double sized issue that gives origins on five cancelled series, three of which I still lament the passing of.  I hope you folks enjoy them as much as I did.

  • Green Lantern: The New Guardians #0 is an issue I have been waiting for since the first solicitations were released months ago.  It ushers in the second arc of the series, complete with a new panoply of Lanterns.  After the falling out of the last group upon the revelation that their gathering was a hoax by the former Guardian, Ganthet, Kyle Rayner is left to pick up the pieces.  Returning to Earth to commune with Hal Jordan about the genocidal insanity of their former bosses, the Guardians of the Universe, he instead finds Carol Ferris, herself trying to meet with Hal to ascertain things of a more personal nature. Moments after this meeting the showdown between Hal, Sinestro, and Black Hand erupts in the cemetery, as shown in last month’s Green Lantern Annual #1.  Carol then dons her Star Sapphire ring to lend a hand to Kyle and her lover, only for the two of them to arrive at approximately the time in which Hal and Sinestro disappear.  Troubling as this is to both, Hal’s disappearance takes a back seat when Kyle’s ring begins to show a very peculiar ability following his adventures tracking the ring thief.  Reading his future, Carol predicts that he will have to master the seven emotions and channel the corresponding colors of light to, fingers crossed, rescue Hal and defeat the Guardians. Considering the scope of this aim, its probable that this current arc will encompass another full year’s worth of storytelling.  The Guardians’ mad plot to destroy all sentient life in the Universe promises to be a story spanning all four books and allowing for a long journey of twists and turns. Perhaps the most interesting twist occurs at the end of the issue with the Guardians visiting their former colleagues the Zamaronians on the Star Sapphire homeworld.  Though I was expecting a larger cast in this first issue, it does create a very solid jumping off point for the the new storyline to build off of.  New to the series as well is artist Aaron Kuder, taking over for Tyler Kirkham from the first twelve issue run.  His art is really fascinating, blending the styles of Mike Choi and Chris Burnham.  So to recap the awesome: Carol Ferris is Star Sapphire again, Kyle seems to be a standalone Indigo-esque Green Lantern, Tony Bedard remains at the helm, and new series artist Aaron Kuder’s panels look amazing.  This is gonna be a great year for this title.

    Has anyone ever seen the show “Avatar: The Last Airbender?”


  • Batwoman #0 is a true origin tale for Batwoman as it provides both an origin of the character and the comic.  Batwoman got her first solo series after a guest stint on Detective Comics two years ago.  The main arc of that run ended with her realizing that the blond psychotic she’d been fighting was her twin sister whom she’d thought murdered when they were small children.  Her sister, Elizabeth, masquerading as a psyched out Alice from “Alice in Wonderland”, then falls to her seeming death.  This issue picks up at that seminal moment and has the character, Kate Kane, recap her life from earliest childhood toward this moment and the decisions that led to her becoming Batwoman.  Seemingly having an elektra complex, she is driven throughout her life to live up to and win the admiration of her father.  That journey pushes her sanity to the brink and seemingly when she achieves her desire of measuring up to what she imagines to be her father’s mark, the schism of that moment, watching her long lost sister plummet out of her life once again, breaks her emotionally from her father, Col. Jacob Kane, setting up the beginning of this title’s first issue.  So not only does writer/artist J.H. Williams III and co-writer W. Haden Blackman create an origin for the character, they also create one for series, which seemingly sound like they should be the same, but really aren’t.  Williams’ artwork varies in this issue, demarcating past from present with stark lines and pastels in the former and hazy, vibrant art in the latter.  Well worth the one month break in the action of the current Batwoman/Wonder Woman team up.

    Sisters At War

  • Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #3 follows the second Nite Owl, Dan Dreiberg, on his quest to find a slayer of prostitutes.  He does so at the behest of the very alluring masked madam, Twilight Lady, who while helping him locate the killer, slowly seduces him with her very penetrating wiles.  Through her flirtations and analysis of his character, we the reader learn a lot more about who Dan Dreiberg is than either he or us suspected. Considering how nemish he was in the original series, the interactions between Dan and the Twilight Lady, whose name is revealed to be Elizabeth Lane, is very charming, intimate, and more than a little sexy.  Nite Owl’s partner in crime-fighting, Rorschach, also has his place in this issue falling under the sway of an evangelistic minister who has a darker side to him.  J. Michael Straczynski is an ideal storyteller for these Before Watchmen books, as his stories echo the tones of the original that have resonated through the past two decades.  Andy Kubert’s art has a lot to do with the success of the visual narrative of the title, and should be noted that his late father, Joe Kubert, comic book legend, died while working on this title.  Rest in peace, Sir.

    The Twilight Lady Plays Her Game With Nite Owl

  • Justice League #0, like the first two entries this week in DC’s “Zero Month”, eschews an origin tale of the classic variety and instead gives the backup feature of the past several issues of the title, SHAZAM, the headliner position.  I have made no secret that I do not like Billy Batson in this Geoff Johns written monstrosity, and I do not like the interpretation that is coming out of it.  I think I have become comfortably numb, because as I read this story I know that I disagree with how it is being written, and though I can see what Johns was attempting to do, I do not believe that it is accomplishing the goals set.  However, my objections fall on deaf ears, so accepting that’s what it was going to be, I shut up and just went with it.  The Wizard gives Billy Batson his powers and then seemingly dies.  Not sure I agree with him just ceasing to exist right off the bat, but again, who am I to criticize?  Billy still seems like a punk and I only pray that he evolves as a character, because when it comes to flawed characters, they can be better than perfect characters, there is no denying that.  Yet when you make a character too flawed you reach a point of diminishing returns.  I hope for Johns’ sake that such a point is never reached, because his good name is beginning to tarnish in my opinion.  As stated in this review’s preamble, Justice League usually has a backup feature, and since the regular backup is the main story in this issue, Geoff Johns and artist Ethan Van Sciver tell a tale of Pandora, the fallen Wizard from the main SHAZAM story, and the merest hint of the third immortal, the Question.  Sorry, in my mind the Question is best left as a fallible mortal human being.  Nice try, Geoff.  I am still unconvinced you have a clue what you are doing with the Question.
  • DC Universe Presents #0 takes the concept of the “Zero Issue” and injects it with anabolic steroids. Contained within are not one, but five origin stories of five series that were canceled at the end of the New 52 “First Wave.”  The first item on the docket is perhaps my favorite cancelled title and most lamented, OMAC, written and drawn once again by the phenomenal team of Dan Didio on words and Keith Giffen with Jack Kirby-channeling pencils.  The segment opens with Maxwell Lord and Brother Eye chiding the otherworldly scientist, Mokkari, for his lack of results and control over his research on what he deems “The OMAC virus” that will synthesize the recipient into a “One Machine Attack Construct.”  Brother Eye and Max then have a tete-a-tete about the nature of their relationship.  As per the conversation between Batman and Brother Eye at the end of the Justice League International Annual last month, Brother Eye reveals the rational and history behind his creation from a Mother Box leftover from Darkseid’s invasion of Earth in Justice League #1-6.  The conversation ends in a stalemate that results in the eight issue OMAC series.  Its clear that writer, Dan Didio, told this story to give further gravitas to what he will do with the eponymous character and Brother Eye in the new Justice League of America series out next year.  The next segment is Mister Terrificwritten this time by James Robinson, was most likely meant to segue into his use of the character in his Earth 2 series.  I didn’t read past issue #1 of this series, so my commentary on it will be rather uninformed.  Sorry.  I do remember the probability matrix of his dead son telling him he should become Mister Terrific.  This little tale has Michael Holt putting on the T-mask and activating his T-spheres, essentially becoming Mister Terrific.  Before he goes out to embrace his superheroic destiny, however, he first enters a rift in space time and sees his future’s most likely course.  This shows him the Justice Society that James Robinson is building in his Earth 2 title, as well as the Mister Terrific of Earth 2, Terry Sloan, killing him.  He fails to remember this when he exits and returns to his original plans of superheroing in the eight issues of his now cancelled series.  There is one last trick from Terry Sloan that writer James Robinson slides in there.  Terry, you tricky devil . . .  Third up is Hawk & Dove, written by Rob Liefeld, but not drawn.  Marat Mycheals steps in to fulfill artist duties on this vignette.  The story didn’t really facilitate anything, except giving a little backstory as to how Dawn (Dove) took over for Hank’s (Hawk) brother, Don, as the avatar of peace.  It says “To be continued…” at the end, but I don’t know if that is just generically saying that someone will pick up the pieces eventually . . . probably, but there wasn’t anything really left by this tale to elaborate on.  Blackhawks, written by Tony Bedard, goes back to the Apokalips invasion as seen in Justice League’s opening arc, and shows the origin of Mother Machine during that conflict.  I dropped the title after the first issue, so I am not as sure what this portion was about, but once again the ending makes it sound like this vignette is introducing a plot somewhere down the road in the DCU’s near future.  The final tale, also by Bedard, is Deadman, which is unfortunately illustrated by Scott McDaniel.  This tale is one that was worth telling.  In the original Deadman series, Deadman is given life after death to track down his killer.  The New 52 series writer, Paul Jenkins, told me in Chicago when I met him that he wanted to take a different direction with the Deadman and do something more in line with his understanding of the character.  This issue, goes back to his first possession of a person and wouldn’t you know it, that person whose life he is supposed to help is the man who killed him.  Deadman approaches the problem in the understandably harsh way, only to see the error in his thinking.  Not only does Bedard tie up that GIANT loose end in the plot of the original five issue run, he also validates the shift in the character that Jenkins pursued in his interpretation.  So ends the GIANT DC Universe Presents #0.  I think that it was well worth the doubled pricing.
  • Nightwing #0 is the first of two “Robin” origins this week, and I chose to read it first because Dick was the first Robin, and as we read, the one who created the persona.  The origin that writers Kyle Higgins and Tom DeFalco come up with is pretty similar to the one we know and love.  Dick is part of the “Flying Graysons” trapeze act in the circus that is visiting Gotham.  A local hood, Tony Zucco, cuts the wires and Dick’s parents die in the fall.  Taken in by Bruce Wayne, Dick seeks out his parents killer and through knowledge of body language deduces that Bruce and Batman are one and the same.  That is all canon, pretty much.  Where this zero issue deviated and does something novel is the end confrontation when Dick first dons the costume and faces the assassin, Lady Shiva.  She thrashes him pretty good and comments that he should come to her when he wants to reach his full potential.  Lady Shiva is coming to Gotham next month in issue #13, and this issue sets up a backstory that will no doubt define that encounter, making it more interesting to us, the readers.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #o takes a different approach to the Robin origin and presents Jason Todd like we have never seen before.  Jason’s infamy as a DC character stems from the controversial way he died; letting the readers vote on whether he survived the explosion set by the Joker after he mercilessly beat him to a bloody pulp with a crowbar in a warehouse full of TNT.  As a Robin, he is seemingly forgettable until he died.  Scott Lobdell used that point to write a zero issue that plays on this key fact.  It is literally the cliffsnotes to the first life of Jason Todd, from his birth to his death.  We see how his parent’s met, a shadowy scene of him being conceived, his early childhood traumas, his adolescent rebellion, his meeting with Batman, and the rash decision that landed him into the hands of the Joker leading to his death.  The final scene rests on his eyes opening again after death, ushering his second life that has lead us to the present in the previous twelve issues.  Lobdell changes the story of his death from the infamous 90’s “Death in the Family” storyline, to one that is more resonant with the character he is forming.  But even after ALL of that, Lobdell tops himself, and ends the issue with a very brief recap of the WHOLE issue from the Joker’s perspective, showing just how intimately he is connected with Todd as Robin, even BEFORE the incident in the Middle East where he bludgeoned him within an inch of his life and blew him to smithereens.  All I have to say after reading this zero issue is: Gotta love Jason and gotta love Lobdell.
  • Catwoman #0 ushers in new writer Ann Nocenti’s run on the title.  Her take on the character doesn’t seem to draw off of or explain what previous writer, Judd Winick, has done with the title, which leads one to believe that Nocenti has something new in mind for the character.  Selina is depicted here as an orphan who, unlike how she has always been depicted in the past, has a brother instead of a sister.  The two grew up in an orphanage that taught the children to he high end cat-burglars to steal for the orphanage’s benefit.  She lost track of her brother and after getting a job in the mayor’s office to try and locate him, she discovers that her name is an alias given to her and that she has another one.  When she tries to probe deeper she is nearly killed to silence her and stop her from finding her true identity.  Years later, when she tries again the files are gone.  So Nocenti sets up the question of “Who is Selina Kyle, really, and why is keeping her identity a secret from her so important?”  I for one intent to read on and find out.
  • Legion of Super-heroes #0 features the whole team, but really focuses in on the character Brainiac 5.  Shortly after the founding of the Legion there is a catastrophe on Colu with ancient terror machines constructed by the original Brainiac over a thousand years ago suddenly becoming operational again.  The Coluans have always been an analytic, peaceful people (except for Brainiac) and are ill equipped to fend off these terror attacks.  The Legionnaires intercede to save the people of Colu and their greatest treasure . . .  With the help of Brainiac 5 the day is won.  However, despite his altruism, there is a dark secret that the fifth Brainiac hides that connects to his evil forebearer.  Paul Levitz writes a really engaging story that adds extra dimensions to an already multifaceted character.  Lending guest pencils to this issue is the great Scott Kolins.  His art is kind of simplistic, but there is something really evocative about the lines.
  • Supergirl #0 opens on Old Krypton and deals with the last days of that doom planet from the perspective of Zor-El and featuring prominently the his daughter, Kara aka Supergirl.  The plot itself is pretty paper thin.  The issue really has three interesting points: the creation of the shield generator that protects Argo City from Krypton’s destruction, the mysterious appearance of a character from Earth (in the present time), and the answer to who shot Zor-El.  In the holomessage Kara saw earlier in the series from her father, he is cut short by a mysterious intruder who shoots him ending the message.  It is really for the latter two reasons that this issue is worth reading.  Otherwise, it isn’t really that engaging.

    WHAT IS SUPERBOY DOING ON KRYPTON HUNDREDS OF YEARS AGO!?!
    (HE’S ONLY SIX MONTHS OLD!!!)

  • Birds of Prey #0 was as forgettable as when I dropped it several months ago.  Following the Team 7 #0 issue, Dinah Lance breaks away from the pack after whatever event disbands the group, seeking out a blackmarket sale of a specialty incendiary.  The meet goes down at the Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge and she adopts the bird moniker, Black Canary, and meets for the first time both Starling and Batgirl.  The only really interesting thing about this issue is the revelation that she didn’t actually kill her husband, Kurt.  He is actually kept in stasis by former colleague and Team 7 member, Amanda Waller.
  • Blue Beetle #0 technically takes place in the present, right after the events of Justice League International Annual #1.  However, it does have the scarab attached to Jaime Reyes, Khaji-Da, reveal his origin from creation centuries ago light-years across the Universe to attaching himself to Jaime’s back one year ago.  The interim time involved both the origin and DCU introduction of Lady Styx, perhaps the freakiest villain in the DC pantheon, and also an explanation of the rise and fall of the Mayan Empire, which Khaji-Da influenced.  Finishing up in Reach Space, this zero issue sets up the next pulse pounding chapter in Blue Beetle.  Good times.
  • Wonder Woman #0 deals with the Amazonian princess from her twelfth birthday to her thirteenth.  As a pariah, due to her supposed birth from being formed out of clay, she wants to distinguish herself from her peers.  Hearing her pleas, Ares, god of war, takes it upon himself to train her for a year until her thirteenth birthday, when she will be required to perform an impossible feat in her mother’s honor.  Wonder Woman, regardless of which incarnation, has always stood as a paragon of strength, nobility, and a warrior’s mettle.  That is precisely what Ares attempts to teach her, but the divergence at the end between what she does and what he expects of her sets the mold for what the New 52 Wonder Woman stands for.  A pretty good issue that defines the character, albeit still sticking to a very marginalized representation of the Mighty Amazon.
  • Sword of Sorcery #0 is the third installment of DC’s “Third Wave” titles.  This is a dual feature title, headlining the title Amethyst, starring a brave young woman by that same name, written by Christy Marx and drawn by recently emancipated JLI artist, Aaron Lopresti.  The secondary feature is Beowulf, written by Tony Bedard (who is awesome) and illustrated by the great Jesus Saiz.  In the main feature, Amy is a strange girl with multicolored hair who moves around like a nomad with her mother from town to town.  Her impending seventeenth birthday means that they both are finally going to return to their “home”, even though Amy has no idea what that means.  Home turns out to be in a magical kingdom of Gems, ruled by her evil aunt, Queen Mordiel, of the house of Amethyst.  I assumed that Amy’s name is Amethyst as well, but I might be wrong there.  Either way, it proved to be a stunningly beautiful opening chapter to this epic saga, written and drawn to perfection.  In the Beowulf feature, we enter into a post apocalyptic world that has reverted back to the age of Vikings.  It follows the tale of Beowulf in that the warriors of “Danelaw” go to “Geatland” under orders from King Hrothgar to fetch the fabled warrior, Beowulf, to aid that former kingdom against the scourge called Grendel.  Beowulf proves to be a military experiment or something, as he emerges from a cryostasis chamber in an abandoned military complex.  Tony Bedard is a writer of great skill and ingenuity.  Jesus Saiz draws a grim, Norse-like setting with natural ease, assuring the success and authenticity of Bedard’s script.

    Return of the Princess

  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #8 opens with the next installment of the epic storyling “10,000 Clowns.”  Gotham is besieged by Jokerz from across the globe, unified by a central leader, the Joker King.  Suicide bombings erupt throughout the city, Bruce Wayne is dying in a hospital bed of liver failure, Max has been abducted by unknown assailants, and Jake Chill, aka Vigilante Beyond, enters the scene.  This story was intense to begin with, but cranks the dial up several more notches.  Superman Beyond has the Man of Steel hidden away in the Fortress of Solitude, forced to watch as the robotic monstrosity unleashed by Lex Luthor’s daughter wreaks havoc on his city.  The MetroPD special unit commander, Walker, is driven to overload on nanotech to even be able to contend with the situation.  Superman decides to try one last gambit, in spite of the kryptonite field around Earth that threatens to kill him if he leaves the Fortress.  Finally in the Justice League Beyond Unlimited feature, “Konstriction” moves into the next stage.  The Ouroboros leaves Apokalips after a transformation into its next developmental phase and heads back home to Earth.  On both sides preparations are being made.  The Kobra Queen readies herself and her disciples for the fulfillment of the Serpent’s prophesy.  The JLBU members go to make time with their loved ones before the end comes.  Terry McGinnis (Batman) communes with Bruce Wayne to get advice from his mentor and employer.  As ever Bruce gives stoic support as well as some wily tricks from up his proverbial sleeve.

    The Killing Joke

  • The Unwritten #41 takes us back a few steps to the aftermath of the cataclysmic “War of the Words.”  You could even say that it takes the reader “back to where it all began.”  Richie Savoy carries the wounded Tom Taylor back to the Swiss mansion where he was accused of mass murder.  Inside the ghosts of everyone who had died because of him haunt the pair.  The story is mostly told through Richie’s perspective, which is fascinating considering he comes to the conclusion by issue’s end that he is among the victims of Tommy’s “story” because he is a supporting character in it, and wants to be the main character in his own story.  This issue sort of becomes the first step in that process, as he is the protagonist, considering Tom is catatonic for a majority of it.  Once again, storytellers Mike Carey and Peter Gross pull out the stops and tell a really poignant tale that breaks new ground, but also reincorporates exceptional characters from storylines past.
  • Womanthology: Space #1 was good.  There is very little I can explain about it, since it is titularly an anthology of little vignettes that showcase strong female characters, written and drawn by women.  I got this because several of my favorite female comic creators were billed to have submissions throughout the run: Mindy Doyle at the forefront of this issue’s talent.  I am a fan of the short, avant-garde stories these women spin.

So ends the third week of September.  One more to go . . .

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

Illustration Credits:

Green Lantern: New Guardians #0:  Art by Aaron Kuder, Colored by Nei Ruffino

Batwoman #0: Art by J.H. Williams III, Colored by Dave Stewart

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #3:  Drawn by Andy Kubert, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Joe Kubert & Bill Sienkiewicz

Supergirl #0: Art by Mahmud Asrar, Colored by Dave McCaig

Sword of Sorcery #0: Art by Aaron Lopresti, Colored by Hi-Fi

Batman Beyond Unlimited #8: Art by Norm Breyfogle, Colored by Andrew Elder

Week 48 (Aug. 1, 2012)

The Lost week of Comics.  Right after reading them I misplaced the pile and have yet to find it.  If you are interested in the comics of August 1st, 2012, check back periodically and I will eventually get them up here.  Sorry for the inconvenience . . .

  • Action Comics #12 concludes the storyline involving Adam Blake and Lois’s niece, Susie.  Lois Lane has sustained catastrophic damage to most of her major organs and is moments away from her inevitable death, Blake is about to take Susie away with the rest of the Neo Sapiens born on Earth, and Superman has met his match with an opponent who is thousands of years ahead of the evolutionary curve.  But with the Man of Steel, you can never count him out.  All of the problems above are within his reach to solve, and while he and the reader may not know exactly how, writer Grant Morrison takes both on the path towards the impossible.  Also, Clark’s land lady, Mrs. Nyxly turns out to be far more than meets the eye, leading to a revelation that promises to open the way for Action Comics’ next major crisis.  For now though, the stage is cleared for next month’s #0 issues that will offer an origin for the Man of Steel, courtesy of Mr. Morrison.
  • Detective Comics #12 like Action Comics above, ends its arc with a conclusion to the “Mr. Toxic” arc, just in time for Septembers “Zero Month.”  Batman has discovered the connection between Dr. Hugh Marder and Mister Toxic, along with the clones of himself that rapidly decay into radioactive waste.  Now, with the lives of thousands at stake, Batman has to intercede and stop the mad scientist before his experiment causes a meltdown in the center of Gotham City.  And in the process, he may just save one more life than he expected.  This story marks the last regular issue of Detective that writer/artist Tony Daniel will be a part of in both roles.  His Detective Comics Annual is due out at the end of the month, and he will provide pencils for Septembers #0 issue, before handing the series over to a new creative team in October.  In the backup feature of this issue, James Tynion IV brings us a short story born of the INCREDIBLE events that ended this series first issue.  After having his face torn off by an unknown assailant and nailed to a wall, the Joker’s smiling slab of skin is in cold storage at Gotham Central under police lock and key.  Despite its seemingly harmless nature, anything belonging to the Joker can’t help but be sinister.  One thing that truly defines the Joker is his big smiling face, begging the question of how just how long he will allow it to remain away from where it belongs . . .We’ll find out in October.
  • Red Lanterns #12 opens in chaos.  Things for the Red Lanterns are looking incredibly dim.  The Central Power Battery of their corps that powers their rings is dying meaning those Red Lanterns still alive will have their rings fully depowered in a matter of hours or minutes.  Their rings are also the only thing keeping the napalm in their veins from killing them.  No power battery and its lights out for every last Lantern of Rage.  Across the Universe, those that haven’t already succumbed to dead rings are on the verge and imperiled by enemies surrounding them.  Bleez, Zilius Zox, and a third unnamed Red Lantern are prisoners on Zameron, homeworld of the Star Sapphires. Atrocitus himself is being savagely attacked by his failed first attempt at a Red Soldier, Abysmus.  The situation across the board is bleak.  However, as has been the case since his inception several months ago into the RL Corps, Jack Moore, aka Rankorr, proves to be the savior delivering the last impetus to the struggle for survival that sparks the restoration and renewal of the whole Corps.  And amid the rivers of blood that are spilled the connection between the fall of the Red Lanterns and the Guardians that we all have assumed is finally confirmed.  But damned if Atrocitus and his minions are going to go quietly into the night.  I am very much looking forward to seeing what October holds for the Red Lanterns.

    The Rage of Bleez

  • Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #2 jumps right out of the first issue’s origin story directly into the fray.  The second Nite Owl, Dan Dreiberg, is chasing a felon through an alley at night, when the perp ducks into a doorway and our hero making chase.  Inside Nite Owl finds the man unconscious on the floor of what appears to be an S&M sex dungeon, with a naked woman (save for a domino mask and leather gloves) standing over the crook with a broad bloodied paddle in hand.  To Watchmen faithful she is recognizable as the “Twilight Lady”, a criminal that Nite Owl was romantically involved with for a time.  This issue shows their first meeting and sets up what we know to be inevitable sexually between the two.  What it also does is give rise to emotional responses from both Nite Owl and Rorschach, who himself was also chasing the perp just a little behind Nite Owl.  Rorschach, whose abusive mother turned tricks in their apartment during his childhood, reacts to the dominatrix madam, who at the time is standing over her bound and gagged client, with  violent anger spawned from years of resentment.  Nite Owl, who had spoken briefly with the Twilight Lady about her work and how she and other women like her find strength in the face of their own degradation, reacts positively in defense of her against Rorschach’s assualts, because her words remind him of his mother.  Though she was the well-to-do wife of an affluent banker and not a prostitute, she was brutalized by her husband and beaten savagely often.  Living this way for so long, she entrenched her spirit in a fortress of pure will to keep her integrity and her sanity intact.  She taught her son to do the same, saving him as well from a hostile world and planting the seed that would later become the Nite Owl in him.  Where Rorschach sees depravity and ugliness, Nite Owl sees nobility, strength, and a certain ironic purity.  The “in-your-face” scene of deviant sadomasochistic sex may put some people off, but I applaud Straczynski and Kubert’s depiction of it, as it fits the story narratively and also commits the world of Before Watchmen to gritty reality with kid gloves to lessen the experience.

    The Birth of the Nite

  • Earth 2 #4, like Red Lanterns above, opens in chaos and manifests itself in that same vein.  Single issues have been dedicated to the fall of the Trinity in issue #1, Jay Garrick becoming the Flash and meeting Hawk Girl in issue #2, and Alan Scott surviving a train crash and becoming the Green Lantern in issue #3.  Now all three of those threads come together along with a tertiary point of Al Pratt, first shown in issue #1 as a World Army Sergeant, becoming the Atom.  When Scott got the green ring, a symbol of the Earth’s collective force, a champion of the Gray rises up to challenge him.  This issue has that champion, Solomon Grundy, descending on Washington D.C. in an attempt to ferret out the “Jade Champion.”  He succeeds in not only that, but also bring on the Flash and Hawkgirl from their detour in Poland, and Al Pratt’s Atom persona from his secret government installation.  So with destruction and vengeance in mind, Grundy inadvertently brings together Earth’s new wave of superheroes for the first time, creating a new alliance . . . maybe, because things don’t exactly workout between the fours as most would like.
  • Worlds’ Finest #4 concludes the Hakkou arc, with a very straightforward, Godzilla-esque battle with the radioactive monster in Tokyo harbor.  I won’t elaborate on how the day is saved, but its a safe bet that it is.  Writer Paul Levitz also throws in a fun, yet unrelated tale of the Helena and Kara’s first months on Earth 1, this time in Rome.  George Perez and Kevin Maguire continue their dual duty on art, draws the present and past sequences respectively, both with masterful skill.
  • Animal Man #12 ushers in the storyline that we have been waiting for for exactly one year since the first mentions of “Red” and “Green” and “Black/Rot”:  the meeting and team up of Animal Man, champion of the Red, and Swamp Thing, champion and warrior king of the Green.  Written by both Animal Man writer, Jeff Lemire, and Swamp Thing writer, Scott Snyder, this issue is solicited as “Rotworld: Prologue Part 1” and that is precisely what this issue is.  After exchanging quick anecdotes of their respective journeys over 11 months of issues, Swamp Thing and Animal Man decide that they must venture into the heart of the Black to deal a “death punch” (pun intended) to the Rot and stop its overreaching assault on the two forces of life. The consequences of their failure to do so are heralded by both of Animal Man, Buddy Baker’s, children.  As his son, Cliff, states in a catatonic sleepwalking state, “Rotworld is coming . . .”  As his daughter, Maxine, sees in the black pool that serves as the gateway to the Black, the world will be enveloped in a wave of death and desolation that will sweep the world clean, killing all life, both plant and animal life (humans included in the latter part), leaving a world decayed.  Thus, down the darkened rabbit hole our two heroes doth plunge . . .
  • Swamp Thing #12 follows on the heels of Animal Man #12 presenting “Rot World: Prologue Part 2.”  Written once again by both Animal Man and Swamp Thing writers, Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder, the set up for “Rot World” concludes. As of this issue’s end, Rot World has come.  In the heart of the Rot our two champions are met by Anton Arcane on his home turf and the evil doctor reveals the full depth of the Rot’s plot to dominate the other forces of life.  Unlike a James Bond villain, however, he reveals the full extent of his plan after events have past the point of no return.  Outside of the portal to the Black, Abby Arcane and Ellen Baker fight to prevent the rotlings from severing the lifeline binding Alec and Buddy to the outer world.  As the tides turn and the Rot gains supremecy, Abby can feel the swelling of power within the Black.  The only way to stem its growing power would be to strike at the heart of the Parliament of Rot, the location of which none in the Red or Green know.  Abby Arcane, being a child of the Rot, has a preternatural knowledge of its location and its weaknesses, meaning that to save her lover and the world, she must venture toward the wellspring of her own strengths and cripple it.  This prologue leaves a lot of questions in the air, but makes one thing certain.  The next several months of Swamp Thing and Animal Man will be “can’t miss” reads.

    Abby, Scion of the Black

  • Justice League International #12 convenes at the funeral of Gavril Ivanovich, the Russian superhero Rocket Red.  After the literal blowup at the United Nations and the ensuing battle with the terrorists responsible, bad blood remains between the survivors.  The younger brother of the terrorist Lightweaver, who cradled him in his arms as he died, receives his powers as a result and decides to attack the JLI as they attempt to honor their fallen comrade.  Both blaming each other for the death of their respective loved one, it becomes hard to cheer on or demonize either party.  When a resolution does finally come, the moral confusion of the battle gives way to general confusion about where to go now that the UN charter has been revoked, a member of their team have been killed, and most of the threads holding them together have been severed.  But with a common goal and some need for their help still existing, they decide to press on.  This twelfth issue is final regular issue, with an annual at the end of the month written by Geoff Johns and Dan Didio capping off the series.  I am very curious to see how that JLI Annual handles what here doesn’t seem to be an ending.
  • Batwing #12 concludes the “Lord Battle” arc with a little help from the aforementioned Justice League International . . . and Nightwing. Batwing’s mentor and friend, Matu Ba, while trying to bury his slain family members in their homeland of Tundi, is taken prisoner by the super-powered ruler of that nation, Lord Battle.  This reason, alongside the discovery of massive oil reserves in Tundi and the Penguin selling them a nuclear weapon, leads Batwing to plan an invasion of that country with super-powered help.  The defeat of Lord Battle and the connection he holds to the flourishing nation he rules is the best reason to read this issue.  Writer, Judd Winick, comes up with a very novel and complex twist that connect ruler with country.  I feel like this series is really growing and developing a unique identity.
  • Green Arrow #12 finds Ollie Queen in his civilian identity facing off against Chinese businessman/industrialist,
  • G.I. Combat #4 is a toss up.  The War That Time Forgot feature seemingly ends with no real point.  US G.I.’s dispatched to an island off of North Korea find living dinosaurs and shortly thereafter are attacked by them.  Most of the US forces are killed.  The rest are probably going to be killed.  So ends the story.  There is a bearded man at the end which might mean that they will pick up the story at a later date, but if not, oh well.  The Unknown Soldier secondary feature concludes the initial arc in an exciting, albeit anti-climatic manner.  After raiding a secret meeting of a terrorist organization that is akin to Al-Qaeada, the Unknown Soldier slaughters hundreds while taking one of the masterminds alive.  The groups plot is to sneak in sleeper agents who are teenagers of white european dissent into the US with lethal bioweapons in their systems.  They are in country and have cleared all customs and checkpoints because of their nonthreatening appearances.  It doesn’t seem like there is any way to stop them. They are nearly invisible and as the terrorist leader states, he himself will never talk.  Using the latest in technological breakthroughs, the Unknown Soldier’s bosses find a way to get the information they need and nab the kids.  A little cleanup later and writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray set the stage for next month’s Unknown Soldier zero issue origin story.

    The Dreams of the Unknown

  • Smallville Season 11 #4 caps off the season’s initial arc of Commander Hank Henshaw, aka Cyborg Superman.  When he awakens in his sensory deprived synthetic body the former astronaut goes berserk and attacks everyone present including Lex.  Superman is able to talk him down, but his life remains in tatters after the fact.  To add insult to injury, Superman also finds out why Lex intentionally exploded the shuttle carrying Henshaw, and the reasoning behind it leaves Superman’s personal life in tatters as well.  Across the country in the cornfields of Smallville Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow, and his wife Chloe Sullivan chase down the survivor of the mysterious “spacecraft” bearing the name Queen Enterprises on its hull.  The pilot is unmasked and her identity is quite shocking, as is the Crisis she heralds, which may or may not involve multiple Earths . . . Infinite Earths, perhaps.   

One month and a half later and I have finally finished this damned post. Not sure if anyone is going to read it or not, but in any event I hope it is up to the standards I have exhibited in past posts.  It was an excellent week of comics and deserved to be reported on much sooner than this.

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

Illustration Credits:

Red Lantern #12: Art by Miguel Sepulveda, Colored by Rain Beredo & Santi Arcas

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #2: Drawn by Andy Kubert, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Joe Kubert

Swamp Thing #12: Drawn by Marco Rudy, Colored by Val Staples, Inked by Andy Owens

G.I. Combat #4:  Art by Dan Panosian, Colored by Rob Swager