This was a rather light week on my pull list. Only a couple things came out and even fewer of merit. Obviously Batman is one of my top monthly picks right alongside Superman/Wonder Woman.Nightwing, Green Lantern Corps, and Superboy have been quality titles. Coffin Hill is hanging by the thinnest of threads, falling short of the other titles in Vertigo’s new lineup of titles. However, The Royals comes out this week, also from the Vertigo Comics imprint, presenting a very intriguing concept. Here’s how they stacked up:
Batman #28has writer Scott Snyder taking yet another break from the current storytelling to tell a tangent story that introduces his Batman Eternal series which hits stores in April. While the unexpected hiatus is annoying after last issue’s tense cliffhanger, the story is intriguing and whets the readers appetite for what to expect from this weekly title, out in two months. Beginning with Harper Row on the mean streets of Gotham after an imposed curfew, she is caught by the cops and taken to a very swanky night club. From here Scott Snyder introduces the atmosphere Gotham is living under. Some mystery condition has beset Gotham, viral or other, that necessitates a cure which the owner of this club has sole access to. The club’s owner and kingpin of the Gotham crime underground is another intriguing twist that maintains Snyder’s reputation as one of the emerging Batman writers of the new millennium. For me personally, there were two elements of the plot that excited me and put my frustration at not getting closure from last issue’s cliffhanger to bed. The first one comes in the form of Harper Row. Harper was introduced by Snyder early on in the rebooted Batman title and then slowly brought to the forefront. She is an incredible, alternative young woman that is intelligent, quick witted, and tough as nails. It was really looking like she was going to be the new Robin following the heartrending departure of Damian Wayne. This is not the case, and while Batman said he wouldn’t allow her into the fold, she does enter the fold in a Robin-esque role, but not under the nom-de-guerre of Batman’s Boy Wonder legacy, of which two girls were once a part. That actually works well for me, because Harper is very different from the other kid sidekicks Batman’s worked with. She is an alternative teen with dyed hair, a septum piercing, and a very distinct style. For all their differences in social class, background, and motivations, Dick, Jason, Tim, Damian, and Barbara all seemed to be different shades of conventionality. Harper is a bird of a different color, both figuratively and nominally with the heroic identity she dons in this issue. What I think really hits for me with Harper is that vast majority of young women I know that are hardcore into the Batman titles are remarkably similar to Harper, not really mirroring Barbara or any of the other female members of the Bat Family. Harper is just really cool and a perfect fit in the re-imagining of the Batman mythos. Apropos the mentioning of female members of the Bat Family and batgirls, the second element of Batman #28 that got me giddy was the introduction of Stephanie Brown, current Spoiler and “once and future” Batgirl, to the New DCU. Dustin Nguyen provides art on the book and does a great job capturing the darkly elegant underworld of the criminal elite in this issue. It’s like a blast from the past back to his days on Batman: Streets of Gotham. Overall a really great issue that has me primed for Batman Eternal.
Enter Bluebird . . .
Superman/Wonder Woman #5 continues the title in the vein with which it began last October. Superman and Wonder Woman are very similar, but also very different. The title has been very Super-centric, having mostly dealt with Supes and his pantheon of characters, i.e. Doomsday, Cat Grant, and Zod and Faora. While there was a shirt interlude of Superman going toe-to-toe with Wonder Woman’s dickish older brother, Apollo, her world has been in the background for most of the previous four issues. In this we see her visit Themyscira to “speak” with her mother and sisters Amazons whom the gods turned to stone. She looks to them for counsel considering her attempt to reconcile the differences between her worldview and Superman’s. It’s really fascinating, because if you look at each from the other’s perspective you see diametric differences that almost cast the other in a questionable light. Wonder Woman comes from a proud race that exalt their strength and extraordinary qualities. Clark comes from a humble Midwestern upbringing that espoused moderation and humility. Seeing eye-to-eye is a struggle that they both wrestle with and Wonder Woman’s journey to do so is very honest in this issue, exposing her inner virtues as well as some not so flattering prejudices. However, while these musings go on, Superman is fending off General Zod and his recently emancipated lover, Faora, whom Zod pulled from the Phantom Zone at the end of last month’s issue. Once he is rejoined by Wonder Woman, you get a “mirror darkly” collision of two couples, one altruistic and noble and the other sinister and brutal. That is not the only difference, however, as Superman and Wonder Woman are not well suited to fighting side by side, but Zod and Faora are as one and fight like linked appendages of a single body and mind. Working as they are it becomes clear that Superman and Wonder Woman need to regroup. The writing and art on this book are superb and at the top tier of any books being put out by any comic company. Charles Soule is amazing and Tony Daniel’s artwork is some of the best being produced. This title is well worth the cover price for anyone that like Superman, Wonder Woman, or good character driven comics.
Nightwing #28 is a beginning of the end for this title. With only two more issues before its conclusion writer Kyle Higgins is starting to wrap up the final notes of his narrative of Dick Grayson’s journey as Nightwing. Tony Zucco, his parent’s murderer, is finally in prison and Dick concludes his associations with Sonia Branch, Zucco’s daughter and ambiguous love interest to Dick. The parting is bittersweet, because while Sonia is a high power businesswoman who isn’t always straightforward, she is a good woman who has always looked out for Dick and I think genuinely cared about him. With Nightwing’s revealing to the world that Zucco was alive and part of a corrupt mayoral administration in Chicago Sonia was let go of her job as a bank executive, owing to the bad press. These developments leave Dick in a state of ennui that quickly transitions with the sudden murder of a couple that live in his building. The couple’s daughter, Jen, had stumbled across Nightwing’s paraphernalia in Dick’s room and discovered his identity. After her parent’s death she asks Dick to help and tells him she knows he’s Nightwing. He tries to pretend that she is imagining things, with disastrous results. The dynamic become almost the same as his when his parents were murdered and he tried to get Batman to help him. However, with the imminent cancellation of the title it’s not likely this relationship will reciprocate his with Bruce Wayne/Batman. Kyle Higgins has been on this title since the first issue and terminates with next month’s #29 issue. It’s a shame that he wasn’t able to make it through all 30 issues of the regular series, but unfortunately that is how the cookie crumbles. His run has been solid, character-driven, and a keen, thoughtful look into the life of Dick Grayson. His excellent writing has kept me reading the title, despite Dick being the the most “vanilla” Robin in my opinion. Higgins made me care, and for those that love Dick I can only imagine how great this series has been. It is uncertain what the future holds for Nightwing, but for two more months we’ve got him. Here’s hoping they are a good two months.
Green Lantern Corps #28 begins an arc entitled “The Hunt for Von Daggle.” With the larger event of the Durlan crusade against the Green Lantern Corps looming large over the GL family of books, locating the person of Von Daggle becomes a key front in the supremacy of that conflict. Daggle is a Durlan that broke from the Ancient’s control and became a member of the Green Lantern Corps years prior. Now in deep cover and gone to ground after the fall of the Guardians, he is a person whose loyalty could turn the tides of war in favor of those with whom he chooses to align himself. Obviously the Durlans are not his favorite people to begin with, and though he would be welcomed back with open arms should he choose to return, why would he? Conversely, the Guardians (rot in Hell) were equally awful and exploitative, leading him to break ties with the Corps after the fall of central authority. Robert Venditti and Van Jensen have been working closely to tie the two core books of the Green Lantern line close together and the universal landscape they paint is quite troubling, in the best way possible. The Corps is facing a MESS! The Durlans have blindsided them with devastating blows. They stuck deep at the heart of the Corps’ sense of security, blowing up their central command center on their new homeworld, Mogo, and vastly, striking numerous Corps chapterhouses throughout the 3600 sectors. Even more devastating, a Durlan impersonating Hal Jordan revealed to the Universe that the rings the various Lanterns wear drain the universal reservoir of light and that the Green Lanterns will not cease to use their rings, but stop anyone else from draining that same energy they are squandering. Their plan is genius and it leaves the Green Lanterns with both feet knocked out from underneath them. These devastating blows may have been a death stroke, but for two serendipitous developments: 1) the turning of the Corps worst enemies against their Durlan benefactors in favor of the Green Lanterns, and 2) the existence of Von Daggle, who could tell them all they need to know about taking the fight to the Durlans. Jensen and Venditti have made the Green Lantern books once again a family of titles worth reading.
Coffin Hill #5is a series which I want to get behind. Lord knows Inaki Miranda’s art is awesome. The plot in a hypothetical way is very good. I mean if I were to make a rough synopsis of what is going on currently in the title, the backstory, and the general concept it sounds great. I think Caitlin Kittredge is just having difficulty making it come off. Eve Coffin is a hard protagonist to relate to, because Kittredge has given us little in the way of understanding her. She was an angsty teenager who was raised in affluence as part of the venerable Coffin family of Coffin Hill, apparently descended from a fable witch of “Coffin Hill.” Her and her friends cast a spell in the woods in 2003, but apart from her waking up afterward and finding her one friend naked and covered in blood and the other completely MIA, we don’t know anything about what happened. She became a cop in Boston, got shot by someone who Kittredge heavily infers has a history with Eve. Do we know that history? Not at all. Whenever there is something that could possibly shed light on who Eve Coffin is or why we should cut her slack for her annoyingly angsty demeanor, Kittredge pulls the “dog treat” away to tease us. Eve’s surviving friend, Melanie, has woken from her decade long coma, but fallen victim to a demonic possession. This is an interesting, though slow moving development. What is lacking is something for the reader to latch onto. Perhaps all these story elements are best held off until a later date, but again, if you withhold substantial bits of exposition from your readers like the proverbial dog treat they will eventually bite your hand or just lose interest and wander off. I can’t say that I can strongly recommend this title to anyone. Right now it is horrendously plotted and shoddily written.
The Royals: Masters of War #1 launches yet another groundbreaking Vertigo miniseries. The Royals: Masters of War begins in 1940 during the height of the Blitz. Britain’s royal family live opulently behind the walls of their palace while the rest of the country endures of the horrors of the the war with Germany. However, in this world, due to divine right and purity of blood, the royal families of the world have superpowers. Writer Rob Williams creates a very intriguing alternate reality with The Royals that hones old superstition and traditionalism into compelling storycraft. In the history of his series, the French and Russian Revolutions, as well as other depositions occurred specifically because the powered Royals had forgotten their place and lorded their powers over the unpowered masses. The current king of England was born without
The Old Order
powers and spread the rumor that his three children were born without them as well. They were not, which sets the stage for our story during Britain’s critical moment in WWII. Royals DO NOT participate in warfare. This is a modern gentleman’s agreement that is honored, regardless of whether said royal has powers of not. King Albert is weak, his eldest son and heir to the throne, Prince Arthur, is a debauch wastrel, with a mean streak when he has imbibed. The king’s twins and youngest children, Prince Henry and Princess Rose, are raised with their heads in the clouds and only small whisperings of the conflict at large. Deciding to venture outside the walls of the Palace both witness the full horrors of the German bombing of their countrymen. For Henry it is far too much to bear and he clandestinely enters the war, downing scores of planes with his bare hands. With this GIANT breach of international etiquette the floodgates are opened for the remaining Royals to enter the fray. The artwork by Simon Coleby is very somber and robust, almost seeming like Edwardian paintings, which adds a good deal of ambiance to the title. Rob Williams’ writing is austere and candid, paying the respect to the British Crown one would expect, but the honesty of the characters that live under it. Just a fantastic beginning to a very promising new series from Vertigo.
The New Order
A light week, but a very decent batch of excellent comics.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman #28: Drawn by Dustin Nguyen, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Derek Fridolfs.
Superman/Wonder Woman #5: Drawn by Tony S. Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by Sandu Florea & BATT.
Green Lantern Corps #28: Art by Bernard Chang, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo.
Royals: Masters of War #1: Art by Simon Coleby, Colored by JD Mettler.
This second week of October has some much anticipated titles among its numbers. The oversized Batman #24 has been burning a hole in people’s calendars for three months now as “Zero Years” has rolled onward towards an unknown, tantalizing end. Superman/Wonder Woman has been causing controversy since late August after artist Tony Daniel let his mouth run away with him at Fan Expo in Toronto. And with the killer first installment of “Lights Out” in Green Lantern #24 last week Green Lantern Corps #24 gives another taste of the unthinkable plot that is heralding a new age in the Green Lantern books. Also comes the inaugural issue of the new Vertigo series Coffin Hill. So much awesome for one week.
Batman #24is a monumental Batman piece, both in size and importance to the reimagined Batman mythos. Writer Scott Snyder undertook a revamped origin story for the Dark Knight entitled “Zero Year,” which will in essence preempt Frank Miller’s “Year One”, doing the same job but tailored to the New DCU. To cut his teeth, Bruce Wayne squares off against the Red Hood Gang. In the past the Red Hood Gang and its eponymous leader have been fairly small time dealers, mostly pulling petty B&E’s and bushleague bank robberies. In Snyder’s vision the gang takes on a more sinister nature and magnitude. Their leader Red Hood One still wears the shiny red bell jar helmet, offset further up on his head so his evil grin is visible, and the suit and red cape, as before. All of his subordinates wear suits sans cape and nondescript red Zentai masks. Also menacing is the fact that a ridiculously large percentage of Red Hood members are regular folk blackmailed or coerced into doing Red Hood One’s bidding. Snyder definitely read or watched “Fight Club,” because Red Hood One is taking on a very Tyler Durden vibe, creating an anarchist movement that infiltrates every echelon of society. Wearing various disguises and also in his Bruce Wayne persona, “Batman” has fought a back and forth war with the Red Hoods, but with the revelation that his uncle, Philip Kane, was arming the gang from Wayne Enterprise depots the struggle enters its endgame. Philip is a slippery businessman, but in actuality his part in the gang is like most members’, coerced by the enigmatic leader. Bruce finally is able to piece together Red Hood’s ultimate plan and sets a counter-plot into motion to block its fruition. Through this plan of Bruce’s Scott Snyder ties up many things begun from the inception of his Batman origin arc. Close to the beginning, Bruce remembers his father, Dr. Thomas Wayne, inquiring what Bruce loved about Gotham. That question, which Bruce now poses via televised interview to all Gothamites encapsulates and validates the entire concept of who and what Batman represents. After the final sequence of Batman #23 with the icon scene of the bat crashing through the window in front of the shaken Bruce, weare finally shown for the first time in “Zero Year” continuity the fully realized Batman persona. By issue’s end, the defeat of the gang is delivered, as is the ultimate fate of Red Hood One. I had a conspiracy theory that Red Hood One wasn’t the Joker, but some other Batman villain, i.e. the Riddler, or ironically Black Mask. That proved to be false. It’s heavily insinuated to be the Joker. However, as he did with his other major arcs, “The Court of Owls” and “Death of the Family,” Snyder obscures that concrete facts to speculation and the identity of the man who fell into the vat of chemicals and his role in the gang remains unclear. Scott Snyder’s completion of the first leg of his “Zero Year” story is nothing short of amazing and provides a SOLID foundation for the New DCU Batman for as long as that continuity stands. In the plot itself, Philip has a giant boulder of mica schist stone that cannot be broken and is hard to shape placed in his office. He relates that these immutable characteristics make the mica ideal to build on. There is probably a deeper meaning to the plot somewhere in that analogy, but I didn’t catch it. What I did interpret it as, however, was a metaphor for the strength of the story as the basis for all Batman stories to come. Greg Capullo’s art is peerless. His rendering of Snyder’s complex storylines is clear, concise, stark, and moving. Rafael Albuquerque, regular Batman backup artist and co-creator of American Vampire with Synder, provides the art for the denouement scene of this issue that puts to bed the Red Hood arc and sets up the coming Riddler arc, entitled “Blackout.” Overall, this issue blows all other Batman stories out of the water.
What Does Gotham Mean to You?
Batgirl #24 opens on the second installment of the “Batgirl: Wanted” plot arc. After “killing” her psychotic little brother, James Jr., Barbara has taken off her Batgirl uniform and decided not to wear the Bat symbol, because of her actions. Also following this event, her father, Commissioner James Gordon puts out an all-points bulletin on Batgirl and (unbeknownst to him) his own daughter. Babs wants nothing more than to put her nocturnal past behind her and find happiness. She attempts to do so by hanging out more with her bohemian roommate, Alyssa, and dating a former gang member, Ricky, who she met as Batgirl. But of course the universe won’t allow a member of the Bat-family to know any modicum of peace. Batgirl’s former nemesis Knightfall’s menacing machinations sight both Ricky and her father in the crosshairs. After the traumatic events of Batgirl #23 two months ago Babs has to weigh her sense of guilt against her sense of duty. Gail Simone writes this series like it’s her own, and truly her Barbara is the only one I want to read for the foreseeable future.
Forever Evil: Arkham War #1takes a closer look at the mayhem in Gotham following the fall of the Justice League and the advent of the Crime Syndicate. The Syndicate has rallied the evilest minds on the planet to their banner and in exchange for obedience they are given privileges to do as they like. The Gothamite villains (mostly Arkham inmates) were given free reign over Gotham with Penguin named mayor. Penguin in turn divided Gotham into districts each under the control of a powerful Arkham inmate. Writer Peter Tomasi laid the groundwork for this series with two Villains Month issues: Scarecrow and Bane. Both were pretty lackluster, but what they did do was set the tenor of these two characters for the purposes of this series. Both Scarecrow and Bane have appeared in several Bat-titles since the inception of the New 52 and been written by multiple writers including Paul Jenkins, James Tynion IV, David Finch, and Gregg Hurwitz. While neither Scarecrow or Bane have been altered in major ways, their modus operandi are tailored to fit the desired ends for this series’ plot. With Bane bringing a moderately sized army of highly trained Santa Priscan mercenaries to Gotham war is on the horizon and Scarecrow is serving as the Paul Revere of Gotham, readying the “freaks” for a war with the fanatical juggernaut. In the opening strokes of his plan Blackgate Prison falls to Bane, as do the Talons incarcerated therein in cryogenic stasis. Professor Pyg reappears for the first time since Grant Morrison wrapped up his opening run of Batman & Robin. The horrific experiments going on in his district proves the full depth of his depravity. With Gotham Memorial Hospital and its medical supplies in his sphere of influence, his allegiance is integral with war looming and could shift the balance. Bane is a tactical genius as well as a badass with an army of two thousand fanatically loyal foot soldiers battle hardened in one of the worst places on Earth. However, he’s going up against the equally keen mind of the Penguin and a collection of the sickest men and women in the DC universe, and the Crime Syndicate doesn’t care who comes out on top. On the contrary, they welcome it, as the conflict will purge the weak from their midst. Neither side can rest on their laurels and what is about to ensue is a grandmaster chess tournament in the decimated streets of Gotham. Tomasi and artist Scot Eaton have the entire Batman pantheon at their disposal, as the cover hints, and appear to be making good use of it. This series is shaping up to be a tangent of Forever Evil that shouldn’t be missed.
Green Lantern Corps #24continues the unthinkable events of “Lights Out” into its second installment. No one thought that Oa could be destroyed, and yet after the final moments of Green Lantern #24 that is precisely the jagged pill the entire Green Lantern Corps are forced to swallow. Green Lantern Corps #24 picks up the pieces from that horrible moment and focuses on how the Corps of Will will face this most personal, dispiriting defeat and pick themselves up to fight for the last thing they have: each other. Relic has proven that he is not able to be defeated by the full might of the Green Lantern Corps, having already seriously wounding hundreds. To affect an evacuation John Stewart and a contingent of handpicked Lanterns take the fight to the ancient juggernaut, not to defeat him, but to distract him so the bulk of the Green Lantern Corps can find refuge elsewhere. Cowriters Van Jensen and Robert Venditti plot this issue so exquisitely in the heartbreaking situations they create and decisions these Lanterns make in the “do-or-die” last moments of Oa. One Lantern makes the ultimate sacrifice, validating their ring’s choice of their worthiness and then some. What this issue and its fellows represent is the ending of an era and the beginning of an ENTIRELY new Green Lantern status quo. When Geoff Johns took over the title, resurrecting it after a decade of neglect, he changed the rules of the game as it had been known for forty-odd years, creating or retrofitting new lantern corps for each hue of light. Robert Venditti is basically doing that again with the advent of Relic and this “Lights Out” plotline. Only time will tell if it is successful, but so far I am impressed with the gravity and pathos he has imbued thusfar.
Death of a Lantern, Death of a World.
Nightwing #24 concludes the first arc of the series following the massive paradigm shift of “Death of the Family.” After the Joker enacts the final coup de grace to Dick Grayson’s dream of resurrecting Haly’s Circus (the circus he and his parents performed in before their fateful accident) Dick decides to move to Chicago. For the most part it was because he needed to distance himself from Gotham and the cold machinations of Batman, but the larger part was the revelation that the man who killed his parents, Tony Zucco, was alive and well, living in the Windy City. When Dick blows into town he finds a city that seems relatively “clean” compared to Gotham. Considering that we’re talking about Chicago irony abounds and sets a picture of how bad Gotham must be. However, as the plot unfolds over the first several issues it is shown that Chi-town is still as corrupt as it’s always been with Mayor Wallace Cole protecting Zucco with a false identity and an advisory position. With that kind of grift going on an anti-heroic persona called the Prankster makes the scene, revealing the corrupt dealings in very theatrical, dramatic ways that often times skew toward the violent. The best example being his forcing an alderman who stole millions of dollars to bring several thousand to a specific location and throwing him into a pit with wolves. If the alderman burns the money bill by bill he can keep the wolves at bay. However, the bills burn at a certain rate which makes their quantity versus the time it would take the police to find him a very close call. They get there in time to save him, but the bills had run out and the alderman is missing an arm when he’s pulled out. Such is the Prankster. But while he may seem like a Robin Hood styled anti-heroic outlaw revolutionary figure, this issue displays how untrue that assumption is as well as the Prankster’s REAL aim. Nightwing is the only person who can stop the chaos erupting from Prankster’s vendetta and what’s more the person helping him is Tony Zucco! Kyle Higgins has been writing this series since issue #1 and has stayed on the title for a very simple reason: He can WRITE Dick Grayson like the best of them. His Nightwing is compelling, complicated, and very personal. He takes the reader through the plots he faces as though they were inside Dick’s head and had his entire life as their precedents for reaction. Will Conrad provides gorgeous art that is different, but equally appropriate to his predecessor, Brett Booth’s. With Higgins is on this title, it is not to be missed.
Worlds’ Finest #16enters the series into an interim period, taking a break from the Apokaliptian menaces left in our world after Great Darkseid’s invasion of our Earth in Justice League 1-6. The main threat in the series, Desaad, who posed as the errant industrialist Michael Holt, not only tore apart Helena and Karen’s lives, but also stole Karen’s company Starr Industries. After the events of issue #15 Desaad has emerged victorious, but also taked to the wind, his whereabouts and activities unknown. What is known is the detrimental effect that final encounter had on Karen Starr, aka Power Girl, depriving her of her powers. At issue’s opening Helena is staking out arson at fashion shows and Karen is recovering her company from Desaad’s human cronies and attempting to get her powers back. Following this paradigm shift the issue follows the two tracking a bald young woman of ambiguous heritage, covered in what look like tribal tattoos. She is the one setting the fires and she also has the abilities to manipulate jet black constructs, either shadow based or generated from her tattoos. Paul Levitz sets up events, but doesn’t provide too much information as to where the plot is going or its overall relevance to overarching stroylines he’s been working toward for 17 issues. Considering his talent and the incredible job he’s done so far, Levitz is allowed to have an issue or two to just muck around. Even in his down moments, he puts out a helluva good comic.
Superman/Wonder Woman #1 is an exceptional surprise. After months of negative reactions on the internet, the issue is finally out and it’s amazing! The whole hubbub arose from an unfortunate turn of phrase artist Tony S. Daniel dropped at Toronto Fan Expo that this book would hopefully encourage female readership by emulating the “Twilight” franchise with some romance, a little sex appeal, and action. This seemed to offend both male and female readers with the comparison to awful storytelling and especially offended female fans with the concept that they were being pandered to. Comment aside, the title seemed to have infinite promise so for the past several months I’ve kept an attitude of “wait and see” optimism. I maintained that same attitude during the also “Twilight” compared redux of Lobo and was rewarded with possibly the WORST DC comic I have EVER read. Just awful. Superman/Wonder Woman, on the other hand, turned out to be a very thoughtful, intelligent examination of the burgeoning relationship between the Man of Steel and the Mighty Amazon. I have to state my bias up front, though. I wasn’t excited about the pairing of Wonder Woman with Superman initially, feeling that DC was pandering to their readers with overzealous fanboy fantasies. Geoff Johns pulled it out eventually by highlighting that both characters are strangers in a strange land. What this series’ writer Charles Soule does is take a deeper examination of that relationship. Topically, the two have outsider status in common, but apart from that they are very different. Superman, as an extension of Clark Kent, is a very reserved Zen character who exists under the radar, not drawing undue attention to himself or making a show of his innate abilities. Wonder Woman on the other hand is the daughter of Zeus, born into a proud warrior race that exalts strength and ability. Therein lies a diametric difference between the two superheroes. Wonder Woman is slightly put off by his reservedness about himself, but more so about their relationship. However, both try to gently acclimate themselves to each other’s ways, because while they are different they do love each other. Superman and Wonder Woman are paradigms of masculinity and femininity respectively, but also American icons wearing the colors of our flag in their costumes. In just this first issue, Soule maintains both these aspects of the characters, but puts a very refreshing dimension to these facets. Superman is a very masculine character that exhibits hallmark traits of the male psyche, such as doing the heavy lifting or going into danger first, but he also is the more demure party in the quieter moments and passively lets a lot of things happen around him. Wonder Woman is rendered as a very feminine character, but is also portrayed as the more assertive figure both in the active courting in the relationship as well as the more outspoken heroic figure. They are opposites, but at the same time complement each other in most ways. As American symbols they harken back to the ideal that America is an immigrant nation. An interesting happenstance in the American experiment was people from very different ethnic communities coming together in mutual attraction across wide gaps of cultural differences. Diana is very much an immigrant from a society that has strong traditions and customs. Clark’s an interesting case, as he was born on another planet with its own unique culture, but from infancy he was raised in Kansas with only secondhand understanding of his heritage. So Diana represents first generation immigrants, and Clark represents the split second generation juggling their host culture with that of their forbearers. Diana’s rooting in the mindset of her proud Amazon heritage confounds her as she looks at both the subtleties of Clark’s Midwestern sensibilities and his isolationist Kryptonian ones. It even hurts her to think he might be ashamed to be associated with her publicly, but instead of assuming the worst, she seeks to close the gap by showing him her culture and keeping an open mind about that American culture he grew up with and perhaps later his Kryptonian one. The latter part might be something dealt with in another issue, but that remains to be seen. In terms of characterization, this is a Wonder Woman issue. In terms of story development, this issue dealt much more on the Superman/Clark Kent aspect, working toward fleshing out the development of the indie news blog Clark is working on with Cat Grant. However, the issue’s gravitas for Superman fans comes with the revelation of the villain at the issue’s end. I am surprised that “he” showed up in this series and not another of the Super-books, but the possibilities inherent in his advent only enrich the title. Needless to say, Charles Soule’s writing is impeccable. Art-wise, Tony Daniel takes that lead and brings it home. His Superman and Wonder Woman are gorgeous creatures, but that’s no surprise. Daniel drew both in Justice League #13-14, and drew Superman in Action Comics #19-21. The sum total of two consummate professionals is pure comic excellence.
The Worlds of Superman and Wonder Woman.
FBP (Federal Physics Bureau) #4resumes while FBP agents Jay Kelly and Adam Hardy are still in the bubble universe that is on the verge of collapse, endangering everyone caught inside. That collapse is hastened by Jay’s planting of explosives in key areas within the bubble. Jay and Adam were sent in to extract James Crest, CEO of Crest Corps, currently undergoing S.E.C. investigation. But before he extracts his target, Adam goes for a face-to-face with his “partner.” Jay attempted to kill him upon entry and Adam wants to know why. Though Jay can’t give him the answers he wants, he begins the slow revelation of a conspiracy to exploit the nature of the unhinged laws of physics. Following the conclusion of the bubbleverse incident writer Simon Oliver delves into the very real subject of the privatization of government services. Here it is the privatization of “Physics Protection.” The characters of Adam and his boss Cicero Deluca take on new depth in this issue, showing how they deal with the mounting pressure put on their agency a following the SNAFU of Jay’s betrayal. Both in the science-fiction aspects and allegory to our current political temperature, FBP is a series to watch.
The New Name if Physics Protection.
Coffin Hill #1 is either a tantalizing first issue to an amazing series or a hollow, abstruse beginning of a contrived one. It’s hard to say, because there is a MAJOR disconnect between the present and the past with next to no logical segue. In 2013 we meet police rookie Eve Coffin who catches a serial killer called the “Ice Fisher” who targets young women. She goes home and is shot by a friend’s boyfriend and nearly dies. Flashing back to 2003 we see a teenaged Eve who was the scion of a venerated New England family with a haunted reputation. As she describes it via narration: “Old blood. Old money. Old secrets.” Following her past exploits we see a posh world of lavish, debauch parties steeped in old world mysticism. We also see a very neglected childhood with WASP-ish parents that disdain her existence and whose marked dislike emboldens the bad behavior that fuels it, creating a vicious cycle of familial discord. Escaping this, she and her friends enact a ritual from an old family spellbook Eve swipes from her parents’ study. The results are bloody, but enigmatic. Cut back to the present with Eve quitting the force and moving back home to Coffin Hill. As the quality of this series’ story is up in the air, so too is the writing of Caitlin Kittredge, although her framing of dialogue and the plot she chooses to reveal are very well written, if not well done. Artist Inaki Miranda is the most consistent variable within the comic. Her art is sleek, sumptuous, and evocative of the haunted ambiance created by Kittredge’s script. In retrospect this could be a phenomenal first issue. If the plot doesn’t develop, it could be remembered as a strawman issue. I will continue reading and find out which.
The Life of Eve Coffin.
This week did not disappoint in the quality of the issues carried forward from August nor in the inherent promise of their subjects. At its least enjoyable moments there was still the promise of payoff in the future. That’s a good week!
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman #24: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Danny Miki.
Green Lantern Corps #24: Art by Bernard Chang, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo.
Superman/Wonder Woman #1: Drawn by Tony S. Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by BATT.
FBP #4: Art by Robbi Rodriguez, Colored by Rico Renzi.
Coffin Hill #1: Art by Inaki Miranda, Colored by Eva De La Cruz.
While reading this week’s batch of comics I recognized a theme of familial drama. Fathers and sons, brothers and sisters, mothers and daughters, and even mothers and sons. Several issues including Batman, Batman & Robin, Batgirl, and Superboy focus on the tightly knit bond between parent and child and how that dynamic can cause one or the other to do some very drastic, unseemly things. In the case of Batgirl, the elder Barbara Gordon is forced to choose between her kids. Strangely, she does it pretty easily. Batman goes over the deep end in Batman & Robin.Superboy finds a tale not so much about the Boy of Steel, but rather a villain we’ve seen before whose villainous acts find purpose in a very overdue origin. Needless to say, there is a deep wellspring of emotion present in this week’s issues, so without ado, here they are:
Batman #19opens on a very unlikely scenario. Bruce Wayne robbing a bank and shooting several people dead. Commissioner Gordon is on the scene and tries to rectify this very disturbing situation. However, things are not what they seem and the plot goes back six days into the past to show the road that led us to this moment. A similar event occurs with one of Bruce Wayne’s associates dying and yet walking around despite that fact. Upon further inspection Batman discovers that one of his villains has gained an incredible new ability explaining the two men acting in seemingly impossible ways. Scott Snyder’s run on this series has been really stellar, but his best work seem to fall under the two major arcs he’s penned thus far, “The Court of Owls” and “Death of the Family.” This one was good, but not as good, lacking a sense of urgency or overall consequence. In the backup feature, cowriter James Tynion IV delivers a tale of Superman and Batman delving into the supernatural. Also not the best plotline, but not terrible.
Batman & Red Robin #19pulls a gambit by revealing on its foldout cover the entry of Carrie Kelley as “Batman’s Partner.” Not to spoil it, but it’s smoke and mirrors like so many of the things DC is printing on their oversized covers. In this iteration of Batman lore, Carrie is a college student, not a spunky twelve year old, and a drama major who had been tutoring Damian in her spare time. It’s questionable whether she’ll develop into an ongoing character in the Batverse, but in any event she’s been brought back into the fold from the tripped out microcosm of “The Dark Knight Returns.” What this issue really is about and what we should pay attention to is the true depth of Batman’s loss and the desperate measures he’s been driven to. Here he abducts Frankenstein for the sole purpose of taking him apart to discern how he was reanimated. Since Frank is neither alive nor dead he is awake the whole time and through his evisceration tells Batman to stop the course he’s on as it will not be in his son’s best interest. As the title insinuates, Red Robin is called in by Alfred to try and talk some sense into Bruce. The jury is still out on whether or not that advice takes. However, this issue continues to portray hauntingly the depths of emotions within the Dark Knight and showcase the humanity encased within his austere facade. Series artist Patrick Gleason draws it incredibly well, rounding out a stellar issue.
A Father’s Love
Batgirl #19welcomes back writer Gail Simone to the title and just in time for what turns out to be a killer conclusion to the story arc involving her little brother, James Gordon Jr. James is an honest to goodness psychopath intent on hurting those closest to him. His father, Commissioner Gordon, puts an allpoints bulletin out on him, but it’s his mother and his sister, Barbara, that end up having to deal with him. Ray Fawkes was the writer on the past couple of issues, and while he did a decent job of showing James’ diseased psyche, the title languished a little when compared with Simone’s intimate, humanist stories told from Barbara’s perspective. That comes through quite vividly in this issue, adding to the trauma she has already suffered from the Joker with the further trauma of growing up with a little brother who for all intents and purposes lacks a soul. This issue concluded that dark episode, but presents a very heartbreaking consequence. In between Simone accomplished two things of some merit. First of all she revealed Batgirl’s identity to her mother, but most importantly she revealed that Barbara’s roommate Alysia is transgendered. This issue proves Gail Simone’s mastery of comic writing. It was heartfelt, personal, tragic, and also triumphant. As long as she is attached to this title, Batgirl will be a series to pick up.
A Mother’s Love/Hate
Green Lantern Corps #19is a very straightforward issue. Volthoom the First Lantern has been going around torturing members of all the corps in an attempt to amass the power he requires to enslave the universe. He’s tortured Guy Gardner. As of last issue he’s tortured John Stewart and Fatality. This issue begins his torture of the Green Lanterns located on Oa en masse, when a very familiar corpsman comes to their rescue: Mogo. The planet Green Lantern comes to his embattled comrades’ aid just as he did during the Blackest Night, pulling them to his surface where he can protect them . . . or so it seems. Once the Lanterns are on his surface they are beset by alternate versions of themselves imbued with negative energies: i.e. rage, greed, and fear. All the time, though, Mogo is with them. Mogo may not like to socialize, but is always there when the Corps is in need. Peter Tomasi again delivers a strong Green Lantern Corps story that acknowledges its members’ weaknesses, but also the strengths that are born out of them. The conclusion to this issue comes in just a few weeks in the apocalyptic Green Lantern #20. I for one cannot wait.
Superboy #19is actually a misnomer. Though it is about Superboy in an ancillary way, the issue is actually an origin story for the ubervillain Harvest. Born in the thirtieth century he is a soldier in the war that humans wage against the metahumans that have sought to enslave them. The cause of this war goes back to Superman, and for that reason Harvest goes back in time and kidnaps the infant son that Superman has with Lois Lane. That boy grows up under his guidance as a surrogate son to replace his biological child, killed in the war. In his time, Jon Kent, as he was named, was afflicted with a genetic disorder stemming from his kryptonian/human heritage. This condition rears its head again, threatening his life. Harvest cannot watch another of his children die and that is why Superboy was cloned. Him and the enigmatic N.O.W.H.E.R.E. operative, Templar, are attempts at perfecting the strange combination genome to heal his adoptive son’s life threatening condition. After reading this issue, the reader is clued into who Harvest is and his logos for doing the horrible things he has done. While one may not agree with what he is doing, you can sympathize with his pain and understand why he would undertake nightmarish schemes like the Culling. Writer Scott Lobdell returns to this series to tell this tale of his insane arch-villain. Considering the scope of Harvest’s reach into several series, this is an issue that cannot be missed.
A Father’s Love
The Ravagers #11 continues on from Superboy above insofar as it shows the travails of the Ravagers created by Harvest’s Culling events as well as showing the lengths he will go to control them or silence them. This issue is the penultimate issue of the series which is scheduled for cancellation next month with its twelfth issue. Caitlin Fairchild’s Ravagers have taken refuge with the scientist Niles Caulder, but find themselves under attack on one side from Rose Wilson and Warblade, and on the other by Rose’s dad, Deathstroke. With the end bearing down on the series and the stakes rising as they have it is very scary for those that have enjoyed this series and invested themselves in the cast of characters. A few have already perished and its dubious whether they will come back like Thunder’s sister, Lightning. I eagerly await the ending of this series to see if any of the Ravagers can make the jump to the Teen Titans or find their own way in the New DCU. Here’s hoping.
Demon Knights #19 concludes, at least for the moment, the threat of Cain against the world with his vampiric horde. Arriving at the shores of Themyscira, the Demon Knights show up in time to aid the Amazons in their battle with Cain’s forces, enlightening them on the proper protocols for dispatching the undead soldiers of the nights. Under the surface of this issue writer Robert Venditti imbues several compelling developments for the main characters. Exoristos, the exiled Amazon, returns to the home from which she was banished on pain of death. The Demon is stuck on Earth because Jason Blood refuses to leave Hell. Because Etrigan needs hellfire to replenish his energy Jason weakens his other half to show that he is stronger than anyone thinks by enduring Lucifer’s most heinous torments, just to spite the Demon. What’s most interesting is that despite his love of torturing innocents, Lucifer loses his composure when he hears what Cain is up to on Earth and forces Jason to go back with genuine fear in his demeanor. The final aspect is the Shining Knight fulfilling Merlin’s prophesy that she would fall to demonic forces. She is bitten, but knows that it somehow fits into her ultimate quest to find the Holy Grail. Queen Hippolyta (mother of Wonder Woman) knows something about its location, marking a turning point in the title to the next story arc. Robert Venditti really takes this series forward in an almost indistinguishable manner from the first phase of storytelling by original writer Paul Cornell. Bernard Chang’s artwork is fantastic and vividly portrays the medieval epic.
Threshold #4, like its previous issues, is fraught with myriad stories. The main point of this issue is Jediah Caul and K’Rot racing to regain his lost power battery. To make things more interesting, the area that it is located is scheduled to be shrunk and absorbed into Brainiac’s collective like the bottle Kryptonian city of Kandor. Keith Giffen writes Caul into a very troubling predicament, which of course compels the reader to figure out how the rogue Green Lantern and his floppy eared friend can escape the clutches of perhaps the most coldly evil entity in the universe. We’ll see. In the penultimate chapter of Giffen’s “Larfleeze” backup feature, the culprit who stole the Orange Lantern’s vast hoard is finally revealed. Giffen’s choice of thieves is quite appropriate and infinitely entertaining. Across the board, Keith Giffen and artists Phil Winslade, Tom Raney, and Scot Kolins, really are creating an effective cosmic epic for the New 52. Giffen has a talent similar to Grant Morrison to create complex plotlines that can be read and understood on multiple levels and are accessible to most on at least one. I genuinely enjoy each installment of his title.
Batman: Li’l Gotham #1was a really silly but entertaining kids series about the denizens of Gotham done by writer/artists Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs in Nguyen’s classic inkwash technique. In one, Batman’s villains gather for a meal at a fancy Italian restaurant on Halloween and Batman, who goes in for takeout, pays for everyone’s meals. In the next story the Penguin leads an army of turkeys against their oppressors at the Gotham Thanksgiving parade. Both are really simple, often comical tales of toned down versions of Batman’s most iconic characters. For something light and thoroughly enjoyable or for kids wanting a nice, nonthreatening place to begin a love affair with the world of Batman, this is the perfect title.
Saucer Country #14delivers its concluding issue. With the discovery that the “Voyager couple” are actors in a sound stage, the final threads of the conspiracy are pulled, unraveling the tapestry of lies that have been woven over the past sixty years by various groups, government agencies, and private individuals. Arcadia Alvarado wins the presidency as the first Hispanic and female president as was predicted and as a result these revelations fall at her feet. However, writer Paul Cornell doesn’t come close to weighing in on the actuality of whether or not there are aliens or wrapping up all the loose ends. Arcadia and Michael were abducted in some way, but if not by aliens then by whom and for what purpose? I am uncertain what I think upon the conclusion of this series. The loose ends could just be a necessary evil as only so much of what we know of alien mythology can legitimately be explained by conspiracy and meta-science. I choose to look at the excellent writing and the fantastically convoluted plots that twist and turn defying prediction or expectations. It was a good run in that light and I applaud Cornell for the mastery of storytelling he employed in its composition.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman & Robin #19: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray
Batgirl #19: Drawn by Daniel Sampere, Colored by Blond, Inked by Jonathan Glapion & Marc Deering
Superboy #19: Drawn by Diogenes Neves, Colored by Richard & Tanya Horie, Inked by Vincente Cifuentes
Threshold #4: Art by Tom Raney, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse
Batman Beyond Unlimted #14: Drawn by Peter Nguyen, Colored by Andrew Elder, Inked by Craig Yeung
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 #18transitions 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 theruns 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
Batman & Robin #18is 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
Batgirl #18like 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 #6brings 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
Green Lantern Corps #18has 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 #18picks 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 #18brings 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 #10has 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.
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 #13was 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.
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
This week is exciting as it brings out the conclusion and aftermath of one of the most talked about storylines in recent years, “Death of the Family.” Superboy brings us one step closer to the apocalypse of “H’el on Earth.” The debut issue of the series Katana comes us, reintroducing us to an old friend from the old DCU. This week has a great amount of potential.
Batman #17was a much anticipated issue bringing the titantic “Death of the Family” arc of Batman and other Bat-titles to a culminating point of mutual closure. Hyped to be one of the biggest things to happen in Batman ever, few failed to be intrigued. I’d read early reviews that gave it perfect ten ratings or praised it to the heavens. I’m gonna disagree. Not because it wasn’t awesome, but I feel like the hype was built up for something that this issue had no possibility of delivering. What Snyder did with “The Court of Owls” was perfect. It changed EVERYTHING, but at the same time kept the status quo. In “Death of the Family” NOTHING changed! It didn’t even live up to its name. The Family isn’t dead. The events of the issue are not going to compel any of the “family” to cut Bruce out or change their relationship. He’s withheld things from them before and manipulated them for his own ends a million times. Why do you think Dick became Nightwing, Jason put on the Red Hood and cut Bruce out of his life, and Tim bugged out and got his band together? Batgirl is a free agent regardless, and Damian’s alternative is a woman who low jacked his spinalcord and cloned his replacement. None of them are going anywhere or going to alter their relationships with him at all. The Joker does pretend to do some horrific things to them at the beginning of the issue, but the fact that it didn’t happen made it pretty annoying as a plot twist. Now that I have gotten my dislikes out of the way, I will say that the basis of the Joker/Batman relationship was tight. The creepy pseudo-sexual obsession with Batman, coupled with the fetishism of the different medieval roles that various players in his life fulfill was pretty interesting. The twisted things he did to the inmates and guards of Arkham was really unsettling and disgusting, which is a surefire way of hooking your audience into a very dark, haunted setup. When Batman whispers something in the Joker’s ear towards the middle and you see the abject horror on the Clown Prince’s face, THAT was a moment! The Joker laughs at everything and is so effing psycho nothing can touch him. In fact that’s what makes him a quintessential Batman nemesis. When your shtick is making criminals terrified of you, the worst possible antagonist is one that not only isn’t afraid of you, but one who thinks its hilarious to mess with you and goes out of his way to do so in the most horrific ways possible. Reversing that and showing this paragon of laughter feeling genuine terror is golden. Also the anecdote about Bruce basically telling the Joker, turn around and you can know who I am and the Joker refusing to do so because it would defeat the very purpose of their “game”. Pure genius. THAT is a defining moment that will go down in the annals of Batman lore. So did I like it? I loved it. Was it a perfect 10? Not by a long shot. If they had said “This is a Batman story that’ll have you talking,” I’d’ve accepted that. But they were writing checks that the storyline couldn’t cash. If they’d’ve done any of the twisted things Snyder set up, I would have been mad, but I would have accepted the storyline’s validity as it had been hyped. I don’t know whether Snyder was behind the marketing, but the powers that be mismarketed this one terribly. “Court of Owls” they said would be good and it exceeded the mark because one didn’t know what to expect. In this one they told you what to expect and didn’t deliver on any of it. Period. I liked it, however, so don’t get me wrong. I can appreciate things as long as they follow through on their intrinsic principles.
The Secret . . .
Batgirl #17also was a little lackluster considering all that has been happening recently. Barbara Gordon has been through hell and one could imagine that she would be messed up after having come face-to-face with the Joker, the man who paralyzed her for years and sexually assaulted her immediately afterward. That is something that original series writer Gail Simone would have plumbed and drawn her readers into with great humanity. This issue’s writer, Ray Fawkes, glazes over that having Barbara track down Joker thugs still out there while her brother, James Gordon Jr., continues to explore his own twisted agenda, even visiting his mother in the hospital to terrorize her after her own ordeal with the Joker. It also features the follow up to Batgirl’s encounter with the street punk Ricky in last week’s Young Romance Valentine’s Day special. The results of their second meeting are as disappointing as the rest of the plot, but considering the insubstantiality of its content and the fact that they took the effort to write a story introducing it in the Special might mean that it will evolve over the course of forthcoming issues. Not the best issue.
Batman & Robin #17was, as ever, really good. Following the nightmare that the “family” went through in so named “Death of the Family” crossover event, this series doesn’t seek to deal with hollow actions as coping mechanisms, but rather shows the humanity of the players involved. The entire issue is a collection of the nightmares that haunt Bruce Wayne, Damian Wayne, and Alfred Pennyworth, but also dreams which give them hope for the future. Peter Tomasi is a writer that truly gets the characters he is writing on a very intimate level and portrays them as such. Every thought, every action, every word uttered by one character to another is infinitely telling about the people he is depicting. Patrick Gleason’s art works on both the levels of displaying the minutest emotion and displaying the most horrific events in the most straightforward, conversational manner. Awesome series, awesome issue. This is one Bat-book that shouldn’t be missed.
Before Watchmen: The Comedian #5doesn’t really do much to elaborate upon the character of Eddie Blake. We already know that he’s insane and that he did some pretty inhuman things while fighting in Vietnam. The only real thing that this issue accomplishes is showing how Vietnam facilitated a transition between Johnson and Robert Kennedy to Richard Nixon. This isn’t the strongest book in the Before Watchmen line. Writer Brian Azzarello accomplished some really poignant things in the first three issues of this title, but seems to have been floating through these last two, as if trying to fill out a six issue quota. I can only imagine that he has something incredible in store for the next issue that will close out the miniseries. Eddie Blake was a keystone figure in the course of the original Watchmen plot and it was precisely because of how insane and harsh he was. If these past two throw away issues facilitate a poignant ending then they will have been worth it after all. Azzarello is a very competant writer so I retain hope.
Superboy #17ticks the doomsday clock of the “H’el on Earth” event closer to apocalypse. In the first issue of Superman almost two years ago, the Herald blew the Horn of Confluence. It made no sense at the time and had many of us scratching our heads for months and months, but now we see that the horn was blown to bring forth the Oracle to witness the death of our world. H’el, a seemingly omnipotent survivor of Krypton, has created a device called the Star Chamber to use our solar system including the sun as a giant battery to grant him and his ally Supergirl the power needed to travel back in time and save Krypton . . . at the expense of all life on Earth and seemingly the rest of the seven other planets. Superman squares off against H’el, Wonder Woman throws down against Supergirl, the latter of which is enthralled to H’el and his scheme to restore their homeworld at any cost, and Superboy encounters the Herald, but the nature of their confrontation is not entirely hostile as the other two brawls very much are. In the midst of that, the Herald makes light of the “five anomolies” which may be a reference to what the “H’el on Earth” event creator, Scott Lobdell, has alluded to with his “Thirteen Scions of Salvation.” Its a possibility. Superboy really is a powerhouse in this issue. Created as a living weapon, he started out his series as a condundrum, exhibiting a great amount of introspection and curiosity about the world he is abruptly born into and a near sociopathic disregard for the human life that populates it. In this issue, as well as those immediately preceeding it, he fights so hard against forces infinitely more powerful than himself, but exhibits uncanny resolve and disregard for his safety and his life for the preservation of our world and humanity at large. He is finally able to call himself a hero and definitely deserves the title. Tom DeFalco nails this issue with excellent writing and substantial help from series artist R.B. Silva.
The Herald and the Oracle
Katana #1inaugurates a new ongoing series featuring the character, Katana, aka Tatsu Yamashiro. Wielding a katana called the “Soultaker”, and possessing the spirit of her departed husband, Tatsu travels to San Francisco’s Japan Town to seek knowledge tattooed on the skin of an untouchable girl. In pursuit of this knowledge, she is set upon by members of the Sword Clan, enemies of her departed husband and by extension herself. Ann Nocenti writes this series and she does a very good job of setting a very somber, succinct tone. Yet while the tone was particularly well done, I was unimpressed by the first issue itself. While the mythology and the main character were established quite well, the story itself remains sluggish and unclear as to why the reader should care about the events that transpire. Simply my opinion.
Demon Knights #17 is basically one big rescue attempt by the remaining Demon Knights to free Jason Blood from another of their number, Vandal Savage, who tortures the human side of the Demon Etrigan while preventing him from becoming his infernal other half with a muting spell. Two issues into his run on the series, writer Robert Venditti proves to either be a literary chameleon or a very similar writer to series creator and original writer, Paul Cornell. Bernard Chang’s artwork also keeps the feel of the book fairly stable, maintaining the look and feel of the medieval DCU.
Threshold #2futher develops what promises to be a massive title with its own central panoply of characters as well as those passing through from the larger DCU. In the first issue we are introduced to Ember, Stealth, Ric Starr, and former Green Lantern deep cover operative Jediah Caul. In this issue the Blue Beetle, aka Jaime Reyes, is dropped into the Hunted event, raising hairs on several people’s necks, not least of which, Jediah Caul, because of the Reach’s aversion to Green Lanterns. So much so that any Reach operative (Beetles) are programmed to kill a Green Lantern on sight, or rather scent. Also making the scene are Tom T’Morra (Tomorrow), a mysterious woman named Sleen, and a re-imagined Captain Carrot, here called Capt. K’Rot, as well as fellow Zoo Crew member, Pig-Iron. What writer Keith Giffen makes blatantly apparent throughout the whole of the narrative so far is that these characters DO NOT like each other, but are forced, despite rules and the design of the game, to cooperate for mutual gain. This even extends to those outside of the Hunted. K’Rot, Sleen, and Pig-Iron are thieves drawn in by a contract for Scarab tech, and allying themselves, at least temporarily, with Caul for mutual benefit. What results from these very strange circumstances is something between a Mexican Standoff and a Battle Royale on a planetary scale. In Giffen’s backup feature Larfleeze, the sole Orange Lantern, at the behest of his kidnapped biographer, Stargrave, goes to the Star Rovers to help him get his stolen mementos back after unknown intruder(s) absconded with them. The Star Rovers are in fact the same smugglers that Kyle Rayner, Carol Ferris, Arkillo, and Saint Walker dealt with in the Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual that sold them out to the Lady Styx. In this they do not seem to be any more trustworthy then before. But when you are as crazed a hoarder as Larfleeze, desperate times call for desperate measures. Up and down, this series is promising to be a really engaging, dynamic story with killer art and masterful storytelling.
A Lady of Stealth
Ravagers #9concludes the two issue arc of Rose Wilson and Warblade attempting to save a sequestered mountain town in Colorado from a metavirus that causes those exposed to spontaneously combust in a very painful fashion. Rose herself, though purportedly inoculated against it, begins to exhibit symptoms, spelling disaster for this very uncharacteristic rescue attempt. However, at the end of issue #8 the runaway Ravagers led by Caitlin Fairchild arrive on the scene. At first they attempt to fight Rose and Warblade until the aforementioned baddies’ altruism is revealed by the citizens of the town. The issue is so-so, but the aspect that makes it relevant is the interplay between Rose and Caitlin who were once friends before parting ways on ideological differences. Despite being a pyschopath, there remains something human in Rose Wilson and this issue zeroes in on that.
Ame-Comi Girls: Supergirlfinishes the preliminary round of introductions in the series and gets to the heart of the matter. On old Krypton a cataclysm is on the verge following the discovery by Jor-El and Zor-El, the preeminent scientist on the planet, that Krypton like several other worlds was created by an entity called Brainiac for the purpose of growing and harvesting cultures for her information banks. The fate of Krypton is linked to the fate of ours with the revelation that Earth is another Brainiac world that is ripe for harvesting. Shortly before Krypton’s destruction Jor-El and Zor-El sent their respective daughters (both named Kara) to Earth in the hope of stemming the attack on Earth and in turn putting an end to Brainiac’s reign of terror. Kara Zor-El (Supergirl) was the oldest of the two and was supposed to arrive first to prepare her younger cousin, Kara Jor-El (Power Girl), for the assault. Ironically, Power Girl having arrived first is now an adult and her older cousin, prepped for battle, is still a teenager. In any event, all the players are on the board and battle lines have been drawn. All that remains is for the battle for Earth and by extension, the cosmos, which will be in the Ame-Comi Girls ongoing series coming March 6th.
Saucer Country #12erupts in a tremulous time for the main characters of the series. Governor Arcadia Alvarado is poised to be both the first hispanic president and the first woman president, assuming she wins the election. So far she has beat out her democratic opponent in the primaries, Sen. James Kersey, who has agreed thereafter to be her running mate. Now she is up against the sitting President Wardlow. Kersey lost his lead in the democratic primary because of the revelation that he was also involved in an extraterrestrial abduction. This issue showcases his recollections that have implications not only for Alvadado’s campaign, but also Wardlow’s presidency. In the background the enigmatic female spokeswoman for the Bluebirds reaches out to the Alvarado campaign with sketchy promises for information, and after revealing his relationship with the tiny nude couple from the Pioneer space probes, Prof. Kidd finds himself on the rocks with Gov. Alvarado and the fallout puts him in a very precarious situation. Paul Cornell keeps the suspense tight as his alien mythological drama delves deeper into one of the most speculated topics of the modern age.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman #17: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Jonathan Glapion
Batman & Robin #17: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray
Superboy #17: Drawn by R.B. Silva, Colored by Richard & Tanya Horie, Inked by Rob Lean
Threshold #2: Art by Tom Raney, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse
Apart from three issues of the epic “Death of the Family” crossover event in the Batman line of books and the inaugural issue of the Threshold series, this was a relatively light and somewhat depressing week.
Batman#16 further evinces just how insane the Joker has become. Descending into Arkham where the Joker has set up shop, the horrible truth of his activities since reemerging become fully revealed. Delving through each stage of the Joker’s labyrinth Batman and the reader are keyed into the warped fantasy world that the Joker has constructed around his archnemesis in a really creepy, almost sexualized love affair. Every facet is symbolized by a feudal archetype, often times based on Arthurian lore. The armed inmates are Batman’s “knights”, each of his villains a different councilor (Scarecrow the physician, Riddler the strategist, Two-Face the judge, etc.) and a test of pulling an electrified chainsaw from a stone as a sign of kingship. There is a great deal to the plot, but hardly any way of speaking about it without giving some part of it away. What is apparent is writer Scott Snyder’s plumbing of the darkest recesses of his mind, as well as some serious slasher and snuff flicks to conceive of this plot, and especially this issue. Present is definitely “The Human Centipede”, bits of “Saw”, and the Italian film “Salo” which I am not proud to admit that I have seen . . . Clearly, this issue to me to a dark place I was reticent to visit.
The Royal Court of Batman
Batgirl #16 delivers the final issue of the “”Death of the Family” tie in until next month’s Batman #17. Barbara Gordon arrives at her “wedding” to the Joker as the mad clown has demanded in exchange for her mother’s safety. Right out of the gate, you know things aren’t kosher with the situation. Why the Joker would want to marry Batgirl is perplexing enough, added to what the catch is going to be. And as of yet, this plot of the Joker’s is the only “Death of the Family” plot that doesn’t go exactly to plan. The end goal, as far as the major tie into the larger Batman storyline at the end goes to plan, but there is a major hiccup with the appearance of Barbara’s brother, James Gordon Jr. I love Batgirl and while I don’t believe that the gruesome plans the Joker has for her will come to fruition, she will still have fresh trauma added to the lingering psychological damage he left when he shot her in the stomach, paralyzing her for a time, and the sexual assault he subjected her to subsequently. Next month’s issue can’t come soon enough. I NEED closure on this story arc.
The Wedding of Batgirl
Batman & Robin #16showcases a nightmarish and as yet unexplained scenario where, to get his “revenge” on Robin (Damian Wayne), the Joker puts the Boy Wonder up against a Joker juiced Batman in an all out death match. The issue follows the match between father and son, both formidable in their own right, on a back and forth momentum with the Joker on the sidelines giving color commentary. Its not largely a story issue, but the visual aspects of two titans fighting one another is more than enough to compensate. Like Batgirl above, it ends with the Joker holding a platter and the solicitation that it will all be concluded in Batman #17. Also like Batgirl, I await resolution on this with baited breath.
Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E #16is an enigma. The past couple issues have been “Rot World” tie-ins, with last issue revealing one of the most interesting developments to date. This issue returns to the real world as we know it with no explanation of how the last issue’s transpirings resolve themselves. That’s all fine and well. The answers may lie in the final issues of Animal Man and Swamp Thing’s delvings into “Rot World.” However, this issue returns to the real world abruptly for what apparently is the final issue of the series, treating the whole thing like business as usual. Maybe that’s the right call, but staying with the “Rot World” storyline for one more issue not only would make sense considering the lead up that writer Matt Kindt left himself, but would also be a blowout way to end the series rather than this issue, which was disjointed, rushed, and clearly thrown together with no larger plan in mind. A group of young radicals have gotten their hands on a viral generator that will release a metaphysical pathogen with the power to convert those it touches into monstrosities. The issue ends. The series ends. Nothing really is accomplished.
Threshold #1spins out of Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual #1, following the “Hunted” in its main feature. “The Hunted” is a televised manhunt of criminals and individuals found to be undesirable to the reign of Lady Styx in the Tenebrian Dominion. As of the conclusion to the New Guardians Annual, deep cover Green Lantern, Jediah Cull, is blown and entered into the “Hunted.” The rules state that the hunted will be give one day (relative to the planet’s solar cycle) of impunity before all citizens of the Dominion are given free reign to hunt them for a bounty correspondingly sized to their offense to Lady Styx. Caul is given his allotted time and then the fun begins. The rest of the feature shows Caul, and other “Hunted” fugitives, banding together and beginning the semblance of a resistance. Caul and a spunky young brunette named Ember band together for a time, evading capture, while across the planet a former female soldier turned hunted, code-named Stealth, meets up with a man named Ric Starr of the Space Rangers, also now a hunted, to discuss an underground movement of survivors within the Dominion who have begun measures to undermine the tracking systems used to hunt them. There is some really interesting stuff happening here and a VERY decent start to the New DCU’s first official cosmic odyssey. In the Larfleeze backup feature, we are shown a very concise representation of Larfleeze that sums up his entire being quite thoroughly as the living embodiment of pure avarice and then introduces us to a sequence of events that would be the greatest nightmare for a personage like Larfleeze. Its hard to tell which feature is better. Both are written brilliantly by the incredible Keith Giffen, with Tom Raney providing very lustrous art on The Hunted and Scott Kolins, the same who provided art for Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual, rendering Larfleeze with his angular, volatile style that so aptly fits Larfleeze’s personality. This series has great potential.
Demon Knights #16ushers in a second stage to the series. Series creator, Paul Cornell, finished his run on the series with issue #15, and Robert Venditti takes over bringing the series thirty years into the future. In the far eastern boundaries of Europe Cain, the first vampire, as revealed to us in the atrocious I, Vampire series, begins a reign of terror converting or slaughtering entire communities. In the West the Demon Knights are being hunted one by one and taken to Moorish Spain. Though seemingly sinister in nature, the Caliph has a need for their services to end the terror of Cain in the East as he moves his way west. Bernard Chang remains on art, keeping the feel of the book visually in tact. Venditti himself does a good job in this first book keeping the narrative close to that of his predecessor, but time will tell if he can maintain its excellence.
Superboy #16presents the Justice League’s effort to retake the Fortress of Solitude from H’el and his protegee, Supergirl. Batman plans the operation and each member, including Superboy, has a very specific role. Superboy gets them in, and from there H’el’s control of the Fortress is put to the test. Flash’s mission is to get Supergirl away from H’el and hopefully neutralize her until the threat to our solar system is ended. The issue takes a bizarre turn when a portable pocket dimensional prison in Superman’s arsenal goes berserk putting a definite hampering on the JL’s plan. Also ominous is the reappearance of the giant crustacean looking herald from the first issue of Superman. The end may be closer than we initially thought.
The Herald Awakens
The Ravagers #8is sort of strange, taking place in a rural mountain community in Colorado. One of Harvest’s experiments used to live there and upon returning becomes a carrier for an infectious radioactive condition that causes its host to explode and infect others who also explode and so on down the line. Rose Wilson and Warblade go in to stem the carnage in the hopes of preventing Harvest from learning that they allowed the escapee out from under their noses. This means trying to contain the epidemic and save the lives of as many townsfolk as possible. To those who have read this series, as well as Teen Titans and Superboy, these two Ravagers being altruistic is the opposite of rational. But that isn’t the only impossible thing that occurs, as the ending of this issue quite vividly evinces. Howard Mackie, the series’ first writer, exists stage left and Michael Alan Nelson takes the helm. He does a good job of maintaining the status quo, and to be honest, until I began writing this review I hadn’t even noticed that Mackie had left. Also M.I.A is artist Ian Churchill who is replaced by Ig Guara.
Ame-Comi Girls: Power Girlreunites writer Jimmy Palmiotti with the character that he seems to love to write. Unlike the past couple of issues, this one spins a tale independent of the proceedings of the past several issues. Power Girl is in Metropolis, literally the “City of Tomorrow”, which is a result of her using Kryptonian tech to modernize its infrastructure. Fighting xenophobic terrorists, she triumphs as an superheroic humanitarian usually does and goes to Smallville to recuperate with the Kents. While there her cousin Kara Zor-El shows up in a space ship and we are shown that apparently in this universe, Power Girl is Kara JOR-El. Upon her cousin’s arrival all hell breaks loose on an intergalactic scale (in Smallville no less) and the title finally connects with the previous three issues.
Green Hornet: Year One Special #1resurrects for one special issue the brilliant origin series of the original Green Hornet that concluded two years ago and was written by the incomparable Matt Wagner. This issue isn’t written by Wagner, nor is it drawn by Aaron Campbell, but the world created by those two in the original series remain alive and well in this new special. Following a spunky female newsie with an alcoholic dad, we see the exploits of the Green Hornet (supposedly a bad guy) through the eyes of an innocent child raised on the mean streets of 1930’s Chicago. Its exciting, its nuanced, it feels like an old serial. This book was a delight to read and it was interesting to figure out just who was the main character, the Hornet or the newsie, Ruby. Even though it was just one issue, it was fun revisiting this title.
This week was a little hit or miss and not as up to par as some of its predecessors. Still it had some real gems in the bunch. Next week promises to be much better with Batwoman and three Green Lantern titles hitting the racks, as well as two more “Death of the Family” tie-ins and the concluding issue of Before Watchmen: Minutemen. Can’t wait.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman #16: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Jonathan Glapion
Batgirl #16: Art by Ed Benes, Colored by Ulises Arreola
Threshold #1: Art by Scott Kolins, Colored by John Kalisz
Superboy #16: Drawn by Iban Coello & Amilcar Pinna, Colored by Richard & Tanya Horie, Inked by Rob Lean & Amilcar Pinna
Green Hornet: Year One Special #1: Art by Edu Menna, Colored by Marcelo Pinto
This week is truly a “Bat Week.” With the Batman title leading the way in the “Death of the Family” event, it swiftly got backup in the form of Batgirl #15, Batman & Robin #15, and Suicide Squad #15. All incredible books in their own right. Also, as I am wont to point out different milestones and astrological phenomenon, I will point out that in the middle of reading Batgirl #15 the clock struck 12:12:12 pm on 12/12/12. This won’t happen for another century so I want to make note of this history event. So noted, here is the rest of the week:
Batman #15is unrelenting in the clarity and starkness of writer Scott Snyder’s vision of a truly twisted, nightmarish Joker. From the beginning of his time writing the character several years ago (which technically was Dick Grayson’s Batman then) he has imagined stories that cut to the quick of each subject he undertakes. His work on the Bruce Wayne Batman began with the “Court of Owls”, a brand new concept, but one that went straight to the quintessence of who and what Bruce Wayne and Batman are. Almost eighty years of character boiled, distilled, and brought to a simmer, leaving us to read one of the purest Batman depictions ever written. This issue in Snyder’s second arc jumps from the Bat to his most iconic nemesis: the Joker. Over the decades the Joker has taken on many guises and iterations, but the intimacy between him and his pointy eared playmate has remained a constant. This issue especially digs into canon and molds a horrifying thought of just HOW intimate that fascination was and what that kind of psychotic obsession can descend into when someone who thrives on a static idea only to watch it change over time. “Death of the Family” is the Joker attempting to kill off the Robins, Batgirl, and associated with Batman, to take things back to how they used to be. To remove any crutches Batman leans on that the Joker perceives to be making him weak and atrophied in his role as Dark Knight. The backup feature of this title, coauthored by Snyder and James Tynion IV, has the Joker springing the Riddler for that exact purpose; to hone Batman’s intellect so he can once again become the ultimate version of himself that the Joker is enthralled by. To quote the Clown Prince of Crime in this issue, “Its time you got back in your king’s service. You’re the master of arms in this city, Eddie [Riddler]. You make Batman smarter. Better. More dangerous.” Without a doubt, all of the horrible things the Joker is doing are spawned from love. The question remains as to the nature of that love. Is it fraternal, erotic, or an all-encompassing ecstasy? Regardless, it is terrifying to behold and the next two issues should be apocalyptic.
Oh He Got In, Alright . . .
Batgirl #15picks up at a very chilling moment in the current travails of the “Dominoed Daredoll.” Being sent into the lair of the Joker by her brother, the former who abducted their mother, Batgirl is greeted by the strangest possible situation when confronting the mad clown. Down on one knee, he proposes marriage to her with the severed ring finger (diamond ring still attached) of her mother, with the owner of said ring and finger tied to a chair seated atop a five pound nail bomb. What’s a caped crusaderette to do in such a situation? Once again writer Gail Simone writes a really complex tale that resonates with the character’s inner most psyche. Barbara Gordon started this series sixteen issues ago as a broken woman; broken mentally and freshly rehabilitated after three years of being in a wheelchair, physically broken. Throughout the past sixteen months she has had to struggle to maintain her edge while holding back the horrific memories of the Joker standing over her bleeding, broken body after shooting her in the stomach and the violations he subjected her to immediately afterward. Now not only does she have to come face-to-face with the architect of her nightmares, but endure further ones as he manipulates her with the threat of her mother’s life. Conversely, Simone also teases us with visions of the Joker several years prior (while his face was still attached naturally to the rest of him), describing to his terrified psychiatrist what his plans are for the woman he intends to marry. This conversation alludes to the present events, but remains incomplete, tantalizing the reader with the question of where the twist is going to come into his plans for Batgirl. With the Joker nothing is simple, so whatever it may be, it is guaranteed to be warped. Daniel Sampere takes over art, for this issue at least, and does an equally grand job as former artist Ed Benes depicting the smoothing action as well as the beautiful heroine herself. One of the things that makes Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl so entrancing is the fluidity, grace, and acrobatics that she employs when fighting crime. It takes a special kind of artist to translate these visually and Sampere does the job.
Every Crime Fighter Has Their Limits
Batman & Robin #15, after the two part storyline following Robin’s infiltration and assault upon the cabalistic Saturn Club, finds the Boy Wonder once again relegated to Cave duty, essentially grounded, while the rest of the “Family” are out scouring the city for the Joker and the abducted Alfred Pennyworth. Those who know Damian Wayne also know that he doesn’t do “grounded.” Vowing to be the one to find Alfred, he attempts to trace the Joker from the scene of the crime. Finding his way to the zoo, Robin falls into a trap and comes face to face (to face) with the Joker. Like the above Batgirl issue, this meeting is steeped in former drama. The last time they met, during Grant Morrison’s iteration of this title pre-Reboot, Damian attempted to ace the Joker with a crowbar. Their previous interaction was intense, there’s no doubt about it, but there was very little back and forth. Tied up and with no pressing agenda, Damian is forced to listen to the Joker talk and disseminate his grand plan and ideology surrounding the “Death of the Family” plot. Steeped in ornithological and chiropteran analogy, the Joker very convincingly makes a case for why the Bat shouldn’t associate with a Robin, both in zoology and crime fighting. This stage of the Joker’s plan is concluding with next month’s #16 issue and I am curious how the final image of this month’s installment is going to facilitate its successor. Peter Tomasi is a brilliant writer and executes his part of the larger Joker storyline with razor sharp precision.
Suicide Squad #15did some tertiary things with Amanda Waller and the Top, as well as the release of Captain Boomerang from the Squad, and a surprise ending featuring another member, but I don’t really care for that and most non-Suicide Squadfans probably don’t either. The REALdrive of the issue is the “Death of the Family” tie-in, featuring the reunion of Harley Quinn and her pudd’n, Mr. J (The Joker). This event is hardly how Harley would have imagined it, going over the line of moderately abusive behavior on the part of the Joker into full on psychopathic assault. Harley is without a doubt the reason 90% of people read this title and she is extremely lovable. Her one annoying trait is her masochistic penchant to go back to the Joker despite his chronic mistreatment of her. She holds her ground against him in this issue and I personally loved her so much more for it. I would say that facing off against her former lover, this issue is a self-actualization for her that could be the start of a new, far more interesting Quinn. Apropos that point, the Joker also reveals a great deal about why he cut his face off and why Harley is a failure and a fraud in her proposed similitude to his legacy. However, as I also stated, she proves herself to be ironclad in her resolve. This issue worked so well as both a Batman tie-in and as a character issue.
Green Lantern Corps #15accomplishes three things within the larger framework of the “Rise of the Third Army” crossover event. With the Guardians of the Universe going over the edge and initiating the replacement of the Green Lantern Corps with a soulless army whose only goal is to wipe out free will and sentient life throughout the cosmos, casualties begin to fall. Setting a moral and ethical trap for Guy Gardner, the Guardians are able to expel him in disgrace from the Corps, where in this issue he languishes in a quest for meaning on Earth sans ring. Meanwhile, John Stewart runs an errand in deep space in an attempt to aid in the reconstitution of Mogo, the planet Green Lantern that he was responsible for killing during the Green Lantern War. Fatality, princess and sole survivor of Xanshi (the last planet John Stewart destroyed before Mogo) as well as sister of the Star Sapphires, comes to his aid because of the intrinsic nature of Mogo’s reconstitution. Mogo’s parts WANT to come back together, but are hindered by outside interference. As a Lantern of Love, Fatality is drawn to unite the intrinsically female aspects of Mogo with the males, the attraction of which fuels his reconstitution. The team-up of Fatality and Stewart is interesting on the level of John Stewart reliving his former geocidal sins and making amends with the help of its last surviving victim, as well as the mystery of how and why Mogo is being restrained. Finally, and in my opinion most poignantly is Salaak. Salaak is renowned as the Guardians’ lap dog Lantern and a cold adherent to the laws of the Corps. He has been a pariah and distrusted by his fellow Green Lanterns for exactly that reason, but as of last issue has come to realize the scheming nature of his masters. They become aware of his interference and as a reward for all his years of service and loyalty, begin the process of “disposing of him.” The mere thought sickens me to my core. He was my least favorite Lantern for all the above reasons, but his loyalty to the Corps over the blue bastards makes his sacrifice that much more moving. I don’t know if you are dead or just imprisoned, Salaak, but if it’s the former rest in peace, sir.
Before Watchmen: Rorschach #3delivers yet another stark portrayal of New York in the 70’s as well as Alan Moore’s anti-hero, Rorschach, aka Walter Kovacs. After brutally retiring on of underworld kingpin, Rawhead’s, pimps, Rorschach forces the man himself to go out and collect his earnings from his “night workers” thereby drawing him into the open. During the day, returning as he always does to the Gunga-Diner, Walter awkwardly asks the understatedly lovely waitress, Nancy, on a dinner date, which she agrees to despite teasing by her coworkers. Rorschach’s moonlighting hinders his punctuality with said date and the consequences, hinted at in the first issue, look to be dire. Brian Azzarello writes this title in the grittiest way possible and it is rendered exquisitely by Lee Bermejo, an artist Azzarello has a long standing association with. The final piece of interest comes when Rorschach (as Rorschach) hails a cab and a very interesting “Taxi Driver” picks him up and makes characteristic small talk. It may not be Travis Bickle, but it’s Travis Bickle. Bermejo makes you see it in the dead-on De Niro visage and Azzarello captures his essence in his thoughts and speech. Considering the parallels between Walter Kovacs and Bickle, the insertion (informal though it may be) is very thought provoking.
Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan#3 brings us to the cusp of the character’s quantum reality conundrum. Predicated off the concept of Schrodinger’s Cat, which states that a cat within a box is both alive and dead until the box is opened, Dr. Manhattan is made to experience the numerous possibilities of his existence, most of which exist outside of the certainty that he had been locked in the Intrinsic Field Chamber in 1959, turning him into Dr. Manhattan. J. Michael Straczynski has taken this concept and written it with great thought and insight. His resolution to the problem of infinite realities spun out of infinite decisions which billions of humans have made since the dawn of our species in this issue feels really false in my opinion. Dr. Manhattan attempts and we are led to believe succeeds in manipulating all the events so that in every reality he IS trapped in the Chamber, ensuring he always becomes Dr. Manhattan. The concept that he could do the infinite, even with his abilities seems preposterous and Straczynski doesn’t do a good enough job rationalizing it in my opinion. However, Staczynski does tell a very intimate tale about his parents’ escape from Europe of WWII that once again draws off the Schrodinger’s Cat theory in a brilliant way, literally putting Jon Osterman (the human Dr. Manhattan) in the box, both alive and dead. I love the art by Adam Hughes, and the story is well written, though not as effectively justified in its logic.
Simultaneously Dead and Alive
Demon Knights#15 brings to a close the tenure of series creator, Paul Cornell, in epic style. On the magical isle of Avalon the unquenchable horde of the Questing Queen and Lucifer’s legions of hellspawn descend to assert dominion over the sacred realm. Avalon fights back with the summoning of the Knights of the Round Table alongside their once and future king, Arthur, as well as the revived Merlin. The battle was choreographed and scripted carefully by Merlin and all comes out as the mage had foreseen. That said, Merlin himself goes through a transformation that portends the future of the DC as we have read in Stormwatch. I personally hate Stormwatch, so the connection between a series I have loved with one I have hated so passionately is slightly disconcerting. Still, Cornell did a good job on this issue and I would suggest people read it. Following this issue, it would appear that a splintering of the group is at hand, but not forever. Madame Xanadu foretells that they will reunite, and as we know from solicitations, the series will return next month with a brand new writer, Robert Vendetti. Vandal Savage and Al Jabir go back to Alba Sarum to claim very different rewards, Xanadu and Jason Blood go away together to distance themselves from Merlin’s meddling, Shining Knight reenters Arthur’s service and asks Exoristos to be her companion, and the the horsewoman chides them all for defying fate. The Cornell run of this series has been amazing and if anything, this issue may stand as a bookend for a glorious era of storytelling within the title.
Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E #15has Frank retrieving the last piece of the soul grinder and witnessing the death of a technologically advanced, mechanized society of female automotons that created paradise and sacrificed their lives and hopes to stop the Rot. Glavanized by this Frank fights his creator, Victor Frankenstein, and assembles the device. With the help of Victor’s machine, Frank is not only able to defeat his creator, but also reincarnate his friends into bodies that are impervious to attacks from the Rot. Among them is the one closest to his heart at present: Dr. Nina Mazursky. She also is reborn into a patchwork body, though one that still resembles her former Creature from the Black Lagoon one, and it s revealed that even afterward she is pregnant with Frank’s child. I won’t lie. I like the character of Frankenstein as well as Nina and the thought of their having a child warms the cockles of my heart.
Grifter #15was a lot like the series has been for a while: aimless wandering. Cole Cash, aka Grifer, is transported by the vengeful AI of Stormwatch’s orbital base, Eye of the Storm, into the headquarters of the Suicide Squad, headed by his former Team 7 colleague, Amanda Waller. Going through that last sentence and making a tally, there are four major topics within that I do NOT care a fig about. There is only the slightest hint of interest in flashbacks to a cult Waller infiltrated six years prior that were preaching about the imminent threat of Daemonite invasion. Through this Waller met William Warick, a man tied integrally to Cash right up until his abduction and alterations into his present power set. This points the series in the right direction of getting back to dealing with Daemonites, but too far away from the mark in my opinion.
Superboy#15 continues the “H’el On Earth” crossover in the Super-books, with Superman taking the dying Superboy to the Fortress of Solitude and running tests to not only try and heal him, but also figure out just what in the heck he is. As Supergirl and H’el have stated, he is a clone, but not JUST a Kryptonian clone. Though we knew that from the start, Superman finds out something we didn’t. Superboy’s DNA contains three strands instead of two, with one human strand and one Kryptonian, but also a third unidentified strand. His current ills stem from a breaking down of his genetics, forcing his body to tear apart at the seams. Trying to find a way to save the poor boy, Superman attempts to use his own family shield which creates his Superman armor only to realize when the shield responds to him with an unaltered House of El crest, that Superboy is his clone. Partially. Thus do Superboy and his ersatz progeny, Superboy, aka Kon-El, first meet. The meeting is short as the aforementioned ne’er-do-well, H’el, makes yet another appearance and kicks the crap out of them . . . AGAIN! Tom DeFalco writes a solid addition to the crossover event that has me stoked yet again to figure out Kon-El’s parentage. We know that Superman is his K-daddy, and its heavily insinuated from past iterations and common sense that Luthor is his human donor, but the introduction of a third genetic progenitor raises the stakes and the desire for resolution.
The Ravagers #15 resumes the fight between Caitlin Fairchild’s Ravagers and Harvest’s over the young metahuman, Lisa, who poses prophetic pre-cognitive abilities. This fight over her stands on a temporal nexus of possible futures that could wax apocalyptic or otherwise. Sharing her nightmarish visions with Caitlin, she shows what would happen to her Ravagers if she is unable to save them and they fall once more under Harvest’s sway. The governments of the world fall and death and destruction cover the planet. That said, Caitlin cannot fail. One thing with prophesy is that foreknowledge can sometimes hasten the inevitable rather than avert it. As Caitlin makes a concerted effort to stop the horrific vision from being realized, something telling happens with one of her charges. This series is on the path to a VERY dark place, much like the New Teen Titans series of the 1980’s. I for one am thrilled to see where this ride takes the Ravagers and us, their voyueristic readers.
The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men . . .
Ame-Comi Girls: Duela Dent tells the story of the daughter of a criminal named Gamblin’ Jack “The Joker” Dent, who follows in her father’s footsteps after he is gunned down by the Gotham City police. It explains how she got her jocular M.O., her scars, and how and why she got involved with an “alien” life form like Brainiac, who herself makes a debut in this issue. Also making a debut is the female Flash, Jesse Chambers. With the advent of Brianiac, the story becomes all too familiar. Brainiac is going to strip Earth of knowledge and destroy it, meaning Batgirl, Robin, and their all female compatriots are gonna have to step up to the plate to stop it from happening. The solicitation for next month’s issue informs that Power Girl will be its subject. Since she has not been introduced or alluded to, I have no idea what to make of it, but am nevertheless intrigued.
Saucer Country #10is a giant conundrum. So much happens in this issue that draws off the minutest of previous events. For instance, the marginalized UFO abductee, Mrs. Bates, returns to the narrative with a very interesting effect on the televised debate between Gov. Arcadia Alvarado and Sen. Kersey. Arcadia’s ex-husband, Michael, believes himself to be a sleeper agent, a la The Manchurian Candidate, who has already killed several people associated with his former wife’s campaign. Also, in light of the strange events that have been creeping up in the lives of the Governor and those close to her, Prof. Kidd, her UFO academic advisor tells her about the strange naked couple that he sees in seeming hallucinations. This series is so hard to peg. It rationalizes so many aspects of UFO mythology making it all seem ground within rational, mundane explanation, but then throws curve balls with new information that lies far outside of the norm. Writer Paul Cornell hits a homerun with the series in my book.
And so ends an incredible batch of reads. Next week sadly is the last real week of comics in December with a meager batch of issues coming out the day after Christmas. Hope to see you then . . .
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman #15: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Jonathan Glapion
Batgirl #15: Drawn by Daniel Sampere, Colored by Ulises Arreola John Kalisz, Inked by Vicente Cifuentes
Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #3: Art by Adam Hughes, Colored by Laura Martin
The Ravagers #7: Art by Eduardo Pasarin, Daniel HDR & Geraldo Borges, Colored by Tony Avina