Feb. 5, 2014

This week begins the February batch of comics and with it some of the best titles, in my humble opinion.  Green Arrow is a series that has me ravenous month to month, ready to devour the next issue at the conclusion of each brand new one.  Detective Comics is nearing the end of writer John Layman’s run. Trillium remains one of the best titles Vertigo has in their lineup.  Also out this week: Green Lantern and Red Lanterns share a physical issue this month, Batman: Black & White ends its six issue run, and last but not least Ms. Marvel #1 comes out, written by the incomparable G. Willow Wilson and introducing a promising young lady into the realm of superheroics.  It’s looking like it’s going to be an awesome week!

  • Detective Comics #28 unfolds the second chapter of the three part “Gothtopia” storyline.  Batman has realized the horrific truth behind the shiny city which Gotham has been masqueraded.  Somehow Scarecrow has engineered an airborne toxin that has the populous in a state of euphoria.  With everyone so perfectly enthralled under his chemically enhanced euphoria Batman’s rational thoughts seem like insanity, prompting his allies to capture him and put him in the only place that can treat someone in his condition: Arkham Asylum.  Working with Scarecrow are a ragtag group of Batman villains correlated only by their medical degrees: Harley Quinn (former psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quintzel), Professor Pyg (surgeon Dr. Lazlo Valentine), Mr. Freeze (medical scientist Dr. Victor Fries), and Merrymaker (fallen psychiatrist Dr. Byron Meredith).  These rogues have Batman and delight at the various draconian means with which they can “attempt to cure him.”  Luckily for Batman, Arkham Asylum’s security is something he’s made a hobby of and even more lucky, the one person who has the inherent traits to counter the toxin is also currently an inmate: Poison Ivy.  Batman’s got these two points on his side, but Scarecrow has more than just the psycho version of the television show The Doctors on his side.  John Layman is ending his run on this title with style in what is shaping up to be a very intriguing bookend arc.  Unfortunately his longtime collaborator in art, Jason Fabok, has left the title to begin his work on the upcoming weekly series Batman Eternal.  It would have been great if they could have hit the finish line together, but c’est la vie.  Next month’s issue will mark the end of a really quality run of Detective Comics and herald one of the most exciting runs to date with the advent of writer/artist duo Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, whose run on Flash cemented it as one of the top titles.  It’s an exciting time in Detective Comics and Layman is setting up a killer final issue of his run.
    The Doctors.

    The Doctors.


  • Green Arrow #28 presents another killer issue in Jeff Lemire’s “Outsiders War” arc.  Picking up with last issue’s unbelievable revelation that Robert Queen is still alive, Ollie wrestles with the implications.  Not only is his father alive, but it was his dear old dad that stranded him on the island in the first place and who, as the oni-masked mercenary, had him mercilessly tortured and personally hunted Ollie upon his escape.  Robert spins a yarn of his intentions and only having Oliver’s best interest in mind, but from all angles, not just the inhuman treatment he endured, Ollie has so many reasons to be angry at his father and Shado, which he makes no effort to hide.  Elsewhere, Fyffe and Naomi meet John Diggle in
    Father and Son.

    Father and Son.

    Seattle and are drafted by him in Ollie’s absence to help stop Richard Dragon, the Fist Clan warrior who has his sights on ruling the Emerald City.  Also of note is the return of Komodo, aka Simon Lacroix, to the main narrative.  Komodo is the pretender to the chieftainship of the Arrow Clan, selected by the Outsiders to fill the role once the true holder of the Totem Arrow, Robert Queen, has been dethroned.  This honor bestowed on him is not something that the Outsiders, namely Spear Clan chief Golgotha, let him forget.  Komodo’s entry into the Outsiders inner circle is perhaps the most ominous and captivating development within the issue.  As ever, Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino deliver a phenomenal issue of Green Arrow and an iconic statement in comic production.  As both a writer and an artist, Jeff Lemire has a keen mind for visual storytelling and an apparent affinity for the character.  Over the course of thirteen issues his writing of Oliver has been somber, honest, and thrilling, showing that while Lemire may not love Ollie (he probably does though), he respects him.  No one who’s been on the title since the Reboot has given Oliver his due, playing him as a flippant buffoon with no idea what he is doing.  Green Arrow took up the bow as a vigilante for a reason and Lemire understands that where others have not.  Helping Lemire realize his vision of Green Arrow is artist Andrea Sorrentino, whose stark realist style adds drama and immediacy to the acts portrayed.  What Sorrentino also adds is an artistic approach to multi-sensory depictions of Lemire’s scripts.  Comics are a largely visual medium.  Sound can be insinuated through awkwardly inserted effects that are often overlooked and ignored by readers and touch, taste, and smell can be described contextually by characters or the narrator.  The lattermost three are not easily conveyed, but several times since November Sorrentino has employed an interesting technique of inserting the overwhelming sound effects that characters are hearing and using those as a visual filter for what the reader sees.  In November’s Green Arrow #25 Sorrentino displayed characters reaction to a violent explosion seen in the lettering of the explosive sound effect BOOM!  Sorrentino did it again last issue with the advent of the Shield Clan to the island.  This issue he utilized this effect for two more sequences that immediately made readers aware of the cacophonous din the characters were experiencing in a way that was inescapable but also visually stimulating.  With two graphic geniuses on this title how is it possible for comic book fans to NOT be reading it?!  If you haven’t read it, rectify that error and pick up Green Arrow #17 and take the fast train to having your mind blown.

    Sorrentino Word Art.

    Sorrentino Word Art.

  • Green Lantern/Red Lanterns #28 is a special flip issue combining Green Lantern and Red Lanterns into one book.
    In the Green Lantern portion writer Robert Venditti picks up where Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 left off with the deputizing of a slew of the Corps worst enemies into a loose alliance against a common enemy: the Durlans.  Despite this swelling of manpower, Hal Jordan still has a lot on his plate after the blindsiding assault the Durlans and their Khund allies launched, the decimation of the Blue Lantern Corps, and the conscientious objectors within his ranks that refuse to use their rings owing to their draining of the Universal Reservoir of Light.  There’s little else Hal can seemingly take, but unfortunately he gets a Red Lantern surprise in the form of a raged out, red ringed Supergirl spewing corrosive blood from her mouth.  With Saint Walker, the sole Blue Lantern, out of commission there is only one person left that Hal can call on to extricate this Kryptonian Red, prompting the flipping of the issue.  Red Lanterns picks up on Earth with Guy interceding on behalf of Skallox and Zilius Zox who are being assaulted by the Shadow Thief.  Guy attempts to defuse the situation without resorting to violence in order to show his former lover, Tora Olafsdottir (Ice), that he has changed.  Shadow Thief doesn’t make it easy, but with Ice’s help the situation is defused, albeit not in a way that Guy intended.  With dashed hopes he returns to Ysmault to find Hal Jordan waiting with a contingent of Green Lanterns and tenuously restrained Supergirl.  Guy and Hal’s reception is very icy, but with the wrath of Superman (whom at this point they only assume is related to this mystery Red) impending, cooperation is given.  Elsewhere, Bleez and Rankorr have come face-to-face with the reinstated Atrocitus who has brought a new Red Lantern into the ranks.  Atrocitus, true to his intrinsic nature, bears a massive grudge against Guy Gardner and those Red Lanterns that remained with Guy.  A fight ensues, which Bleez and Rankorr are unprepared for, prompting Bleez to make a strategic retreat for reinforcements while Rankorr pulls rearguard.  This issue by both creative teams of Green Lantern and Red Lanterns is enthralling to read and highlights the interconnectivity of the Lantern titles.  It is revealed here that Hal never actually said that Guy could have Sector 2814, just that he could have A sector.  Guy just presumptuously took 2814 without clearing it with anyone.  That makes me feel a little bit better about the situation, but I do still harbor a bit of an annoyance at Charles Soule and the Green Lantern Group editors for the Ysmault in 2814 decision.  It’s illogical and seems like a lazy plot-device.  Whatever.  The issue also came out before the actual sequence in Supergirl where the ring seeks her out, which happens later in the month in Supergirl #28, so her appearance is a little jarring considering the lack of explanation behind her transformation.  Those points aside, the war with the Durlans is a very intricate, multifaceted concept, and the reemergence of Atrocitus as the head of a tangent Red Lantern group, creating a schism in the Red Lantern Corps is rife with possibilities.  Venditti and Soule are the right men for their respective titles, even if they have their little hiccups.
  • Swamp Thing #28 opens a whole new chapter for our main character.  The Parliament of Trees is no more.  To save our world from a monster unleashed by the out of touch Lords of the Green, Alec Holland destroyed the Parliament from within, making himself the soul voice of the Green. He did this for the greater good, but this action could also appear to some as him basically making himself immortal, as his power will run in perpetuity from the Green giving him life without end.  Regardless of motive, the die has been cast and good or bad he will reap the whirlwind.  Before he brought the house of cards crashing down, he did pull three former avatars from the Parliament into the material world: the Wolf, Lady Weeds, and a third, very ancient Swamp Thing from pre-Roman times.  All three reenter the world at the age in which they were inaugurated into the Green as Avatars.  Though they are now mortal and are destined to live mortal lives, they meet the challenge with eventual gratitude. However, with his return to the mortal sphere Swamp Thing must find his former charge, the elusive Capucine, and make good on his promise to protect her.  It is while undertaking this task that we are finally told the tale of Capucine’s origin in 12th century France.  Her immortal youth, vigor, and martial prowess were the result of an alchemical experiment performed on her brother, herself, and another child by monks to forge them into immortal protectors of that Order.  Through the march of time and the shift of governing powers she was released from her bond, but not the price that the magics used on her exact.  That is why she seeks Holland’s help.  Charles Soule has really taken this series by the horns and made it his own.  It follows in the spirit of excellence that Scott Snyder began when he started the series in 2011, but the plot and world have completely shifted to fit Soule’s new paradigm.  I respect this a great deal.  Writers, even great ones, that try to live completely in the shadow of their predecessors rarely succeed.  With the departure of Snyder I was afraid this series would languish from the transition.  With the selection of Soule Swamp Thing will continue both in excellence and innovation.  I look forward to seeing what comes down the road for Alec Holland.

    Swamp Thing and the Avatars.

    Swamp Thing and the Avatars.

  • Batman: Black & White #6 concludes the six issue anthology series of innovative black and white stories following Batman’s exploits on the streets of Gotham.  This time around Cliff Chiang, Olly Moss, Becky Cloonan, Adam Hughes, and Dave Johnson render six interesting tales pertaining to the Dark Knight.  Cliff Chiang’s tale follows a young Dick Grayson in his initial days as ward to Bruce Wayne and the Boy Wonder, Robin.  In both instances Dick feels he has something to prove and Chiang’s narrative brings the reader into the young headstrong perspective of almost every teenage boy.  Olly Moss writes a story of a pretty, young socialite who spends a night with Bruce Wayne, only to wake up in the morning and find him gone.  Meeting with friends who had similar experiences, this story fleshes out quite interestingly the cloaking element of Batman’s dual identity.  In all cases, the women Bruce Wayne uses to perpetuate his playboy image are often in the background, but rarely are their thoughts and emotions given voice.  He is always cordial and in no way mistreats or disrespects them, apart from keeping them in the dark and sometimes ditching them.  All of the women in this story seem mildly vexed, but never offended, as Bruce later helped to propel their careers or social standings afterward.  Becky Cloonan does a fantastic job rendering these lovely women and the lavish scenes they are treated to by Bruce.  Adam Hughes writes and draws a very intimate story about Catwoman and the inextricable hold she has on Batman.  With Selina in a hospital bed, never to walk again the doctors say, Batman is forced to take responsibility for her condition and realize just how important she is to him.  It’s a very stark tale, beginning to end, that is good, but unsettling as well.  Dave Johnson provides another stark yarn dealing with the Dark Knight in a tertiary fashion.  Following the exploits of a cheap hood who tries to impress a woman with expensive appetites the reader sees how slowly through his own nemishness and greed he is brought low time and again by the Batman.  Batman is the impartial executor of the law that can never be escaped.  This story was entitled “The Man Who Beat the Bat” and it’s in those dark final panels that we see how a two-bit criminal can beat one of the most indomitable human beings on the planet.  Overall, this series has been a must read for Batman fans presenting some deeply thought provoking stories by some of the greatest writers and artists in comics today, and set in black and white, capturing the intrinsic ominousness of the material.  Six incredible issues that do the Dark Knight proud.

    The Man Who Beat the Bat.

    The Man Who Beat the Bat.

  • Trillium #6 marks the return of the title from hiatus.  When last we saw William and Nika they had switched places following the temporal shift of the Atabithi/Incan temple that served as a conduit between their respective space/times.  Now William is living in the 38th century as a human colonist fleeing the dreaded Caul virus and Nika is an Imperial officer in the 1920’s administering British authority in South America.  Both have memories of their past lives before the rift, which leads them to believe themselves insane.  Their perseverance despite this lends credence to the strength of their belief in their cause, but also the bond they share with each other.  Writer/artist Jeff Lemire credits this as “the last love story,” and by Jiminy that looks to be what he is delivering.  His storytelling is deft and subtle, and his artwork is without comparison, adding a very unique, enthralling ambiance to the reader’s immersion into the plot.  Lemire is one of very few writers with the mind to conceive such a story, and the even rarer talent of bringing it off almost single-handed.  There are only two more issues left and the suspense mounts with the ending of this issue. 
  • Ms. Marvel #1 was an unmitigated disappointment.  It should be noted that I haven’t spent my money on a Marvel comic in years.  I’m not a fan of what they had been doing with their brand across the board several years ago and I found the vast majority of their books to be unhinged from what made the characters good originally.  Not a general rule, but true enough from my perspective to preclude me from buying their products.  Ms. Marvel #1 offered several things that appealed to me, so I was eager to pick it up.  I am a HUGE fan of writer G. Willow Wilson’s previous work, most notably her postmodern series Air, and the concept of Kamala Khan, an Islamic teenager taking over the Ms. Marvel persona from her promoted predecessor, Carol Danvers, was also a really intriguing touch.  I, for one, am always a proponent for diversity in comic leads.  I’ve been a huge fan of the Batman Inc. concept and especially original Batwing, David Zavimbe, and his trials and tribulations as the Batman of Post-Colonial Africa.   Nightrunner, the Algerian teenager that became the Batman of Paris, remains in my top ten list of underutilized characters.  And of course, Batwoman was a series that took on a lead with an alternate lifestyle and made an instant classic out of her heroic journey.  Alas, Ms. Wilson wasn’t able to accomplish anything similar with Kamala.  Or rather she didn’t by the end of the first issue.  Basically, to sum up this issue, the reader is given a thorough look at the life of the modern American teen of Near Eastern descent and Islamic faith, through Kamala and her family.  Her parents seem religiously liberal, but socially conservative.  Her older siblings by contrast are more religiously conservative, leaving Kamala to wrestle between her familial culture and the ever pervasive counterculture of being a teenager.  With difficulty she holds off the temptations of keggers and bacon double cheeseburgers, but allows herself her vices such as superhero fan-fictions.  In essence this issue’s sole drive was selling the reader that Kamala is an angsty teen, that she is Pakistani by heritage, and she is a Muslim.  If this were an indy comic or an artistic imprint like Air or Wilson’s seminal Cairo that would make for a very compelling story.  It isn’t, though.  It’s the first issue of Ms. Marvel, a superhero comic.  In the last three pages Kamala becomes Ms. Marvel, but with no rationale.  First of all she has a dream that Captain Marvel bestows the powers on her, which is kind of weird and deus ex machina, leaving the reader with no legitimate idea of how these powers are granted.  Even by comic book standards of gamma waves, radioactive spiders, getting struck by lighting, and intergalactic power rings, having a dream and waking up with powers is farfetched.  But even that underscores the second and more crucial detraction to the title.  There is no REASON for her to be Ms. Marvel.  Probably everyone has heard the adage “When the need is great, the hero shall appear.”  That is an indispensable rule of thumb when it comes to superhero comics.  Batman wouldn’t exist if Gotham City were a paradise.  Without Superman, Metropolis would be a smoking crater from the ill-deeds of any number of his villains.  No matter the superhero there is something, established in their first issue, that gives their move into super-heroics not just purpose, but necessity.  Of the caveats to be played with in writing innovative, avant-garde modern superhero titles this is NOT one of them.  At the end of this issue we have a decently rendered teenager with a colorful personality that gets superpowers.  Great.  Hope she has fun with them.  Inherent in any competent origin issue you need two key elements: 1) development of character, 2) development of conflict.  The first requirement was delivered in spades, a testament to Wilson’s talent for characterization.  However, the second was barely attempted, given the bare minimum of effort in the form of a mysterious fog developing at a kegger Kamala attended earlier in the evening and left before.  No reason or consequence comes of the fog, apart from kids beginning to get sleepy.  Of these two elements, you ALWAYS err on the side of developing conflict over character.  Conflict sets the hook and develops the suspense that draws readers back to the next issue.  Characterization is something that continuously and organically happens as the title progresses. You don’t need to know EVERYTHING about a character before you introduce actual plot.  Wilson could have cut 40% of Kamala’s story out of this issue, distilled the important things that are imperative to know in order to understand her, and given us something to juxtapose her youthful idealism against, i.e. a consumerist crime kingpin, or an evil businessperson with sinister aims.  I’m spitballing here, but this most certainly was NOT a superhero comic, nor a befitting introduction of an altogether delightful young woman into the role of a venerable superheroine legacy.  I’m disappointed because of my respect for G. Willow Wilson as a writer and I am disappointed as a reader.  I might catch up with this series again when it releases as a graphic novel, but I am not going to gamble on its future with my hard earned, already stretched money.  It looks to be several more years before Marvel gets me to buy any more of their comics.  Better luck next time, folks.

    The New Face of Marvel.

    The New Face of Marvel.

 

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

Illustration Credits:

Detective Comics #28: Drawn by Aaron Lopresti, Colored by Blond, Inked by Art Thibert.

Green Arrow #28: Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo.

Swamp Thing #28: Art by Javier Pina, Colored by Matthew Wilson.

Batman: Black & White  #6: Art by Dave Johnson.

Ms. Marvel #1: Cover Art by Sarah Pichelli & Justin Ponsor.

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Jan. 22, 2014

This week was a Batweek.  Even if the book wasn’t a Bat-title per se, Batman and his family of characters seemed to shine through.  This week also heralds the return of one of the most interesting, innovative series being put out: The Unwritten.  Altogether this week’s batch of comics (and make-up comic in the form of Superman/Wonder Woman #3) represent their respective titles well.

  • Batman #27 is one of the quintessential issues of this title in understanding the New 52 version of Batman.  Though he has been written by several talented writers in the rebooted continuity, Scott Snyder has been given the helm of the titular Batman title and made it the seminal series within the Batbooks group, often deferred to by the other titles in regard to canon.  This issue more than proves why so much faith is put in Snyder’s custodianship of the character.  So far Snyder’s “Zero Year” plot has taken Bruce Wayne from twenty-five year old journeyman to the opening cases of his career as Gotham City’s fabled vigilante.  Snyder’s Batman from the present had bucked tradition a little bit, but for the most part rode the company line.  This younger Bruce Wayne is much different from most versions we’ve seen thus far.  Snyder’s modern Batman as well as other versions have been terse and reserved with the character of Alfred, but “Year Zero” Batman is very cold with his manservant.  What’s more, he has a downright dislike for James Gordon that transcends his nocturnal identity and is rooted in his civilian life as Bruce Wayne.  In this issue Snyder gives both Gordon and Alfred their say, forcing Bruce to reevaluate each, but even more so, to reevaluate himself.  Snyder interprets Bruce’s war on crime as more than a personal vendetta against criminality, but also against Gotham City itself and the citizens who populate it, and finds an apt mouthpiece for this theory in the person of Alfred Pennyworth who has known Bruce his entire life.  It’s certainly a stark perspective, but one that fits the persona of Batman exceedingly well, further enriching the mystique of the character.  Commissioner Gordon’s part in the story depicts a very hopeless landscape that an honest Gotham cop walks in Pre-Batman Gotham, rectifying the misconceptions Bruce had distilled over a decade and a half of resentment.  Outside of the character driven plot points, this issue begins what appears to be the endgame of “Zero Year,” which began with the origin of the Joker and transitioned into Dr. Death’s killing spree with his horrific osteogenic serum.  Always in the background has been Edward Nygma, aka the Riddler.  Nygma had a line on the Red Hood gang, he was Bruce’s uncle’s right hand man at Wayne Enterprises, and he singlehandedly engineered the massive blackout that descended Gotham into anarchy around the advent of the tropical storm Rene.  The Riddler appears to be making his move from the shadows to the forefront of the “Zero Year” plot.  Encompassing some of the greatest storytelling in comics today, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman is a multifaceted, intelligent journey under the cowl that is destined to go down in the character’s history as one the THE enduring interpretations of the Dark Knight.Batman27-1

    Darkest Vengeance.

    Darkest Vengeance.

  • Batman & Two-Face #27 is shaping up well, giving great depth to the character of Two-Face.  Writer Peter Tomasi did a decent job illuminating inherent qualities of the binary badguy during Villains Month in his Two-Face one-shot, but in this arc of his Batman & Robin title he really mines the recesses of Harvey Dent’s past to show the moment when the former district attorney took the dive into madness.  So far we’ve seen the return of Irish mobster Erin McKillen to Gotham and the very special relationship she has with the fallen Gotham DA.  Once upon a time she put a letter opener through the heart of Harvey’s wife, Gilda, and then burned half his face off with acid.  Now considering the complex and nascently sinister nature of “Handsome” Harvey, as well as the very intimate nature of their associations, I assumed Harvey in some way did something to deserve what happened to him, such as perhaps sleeping with Erin’s identical twin, Shannon, who’s death we are told Erin blames on Harvey.  Nope.  Shannon died in prison after Harvey put her and Erin away for being scum.  He violated a few laws of ethics in doing so, but if we are going to look down on a lawyer for screwing psychopathic killers out of a few degrees of jurisprudence then reading a book about a man that dresses like a bat and brutalizes criminals without due process might not be the best choice. So did Shannon get killed on the inside by someone with a beef, thereby putting even a minute modicum of blame on Harvey?  Nope.  She drew straws with Erin as to who was going to commit suicide so the other could escape prison in the deceased’s bodybag.  So if Erin REALLY wants to take out the person responsible for her sister’s untimely death she should put the gun to her own head before seeking out Harvey.  This issue reveals more about Harvey’s past and the connection with the McKillen family and again, contrary to my expectations, Harvey comes out cleaner with every page read.  He was the personal attorney for the McKillens before his conscience and a little push by Bruce Wayne got him in the DA’s office where he made things right and muzzled two mad dogs.  This change of conscience coming when the sisters ordered a hit on Commission Gordon’s pre-teen CHILDREN!!!  Two-Face is an angry guy throughout most comics.  He is the guy that always rides the edge of straight-up loosing it and is second only to the Joker as someone you have to tip toe around when dealing with.  This arc by Tomasi is making ME angry and totally justifies Harvey Dent’s anger in my eyes.  Erin McKillen has so much innocent blood on her hands and so cavalierly is willing to murder children and innocent women like Gilda Dent and Commissioner Gordon’s wife that I DO NOT think this series would be any better if she survives the arc. If Peter Tomasi’s goal was to elicit solidarity and sympathy with Two-Face he has at least one definite success in myself.Batman&Robin27
  • Batwoman #27 is a series in major transition.  A lot of the controversy comes from the authoritative stance DC editorial has exerted on the writing of their properties, which caused a huge rift with original Batwoman writers J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, forcing the duo to leave the title.  Marc Andreyko was brought on board following their departure and the rationale behind this, for those with a conspiratorial mind,  is probably twofold.  I personally have never been impressed by his writing at all.  His Manhunter series was okay, but nothing to write home about.  His recent reintroduction of the short lived Stalker series from the 1970’s was criminally awful.  He’s got a lot to prove.  So far he’s written three issues of the series.  The jury remains out.  His “Zero Year” tie-in with the #25 issue was decent and confirmed what we already knew about Kate Kane’s desire to do good, but wasn’t very engaging or innovative.  It also preempted the resolution to the cliffhanger ending of Williams and Blackman’s final issue, which is frustrating to Batwoman‘s readers in and of itself.  Last issue Andreyko began a completely new arc with a villain called the Wolfspider, a brown costumed Spider-Man ripoff with a penchant for art thievery.  The dialogue and interaction between characters was flatter than day old beer and didn’t draw me in at all.  The action sequences were well-conceived, but perhaps only came off as such because of artist Jeremy Haun.  This issue I will say was much more engaging to read and felt like an issue of the previous run.  However, this is largely due to the fact that its story is predicated on Batwoman being drugged by Wolfspider and tripping for a large portion of the actual plot.  With that said, all Andreyko had to do was create a collage of traumatic moments from Kate’s past and fill in some word bubbles that due to the nightmarish nature of the dream don’t have to be particularly well written.  The brunt of those sequences were visual and THANKFULLY drawn by one of DC’s top tier artists: Francis Manapul.  Manapul’s art and co-writing are responsible for the incredible Flash series and in Batwoman his art makes the issue flow in much the same way J.H. Williams III’s art did in the initial issues of the series.  Upon awakening from her nightmare in the apartment of her fiancee, Det. Maggie Sawyer, she is greeted by a startling surprise.  The final panel sets the stage for an interesting 28th issue.  The lingering question outside of the plot is whether Andreyko is up to the task of writing the continuation?  Were he taking over any other title from any other writer(s) then his capabilities as a writer wouldn’t be under as much scrutiny.  But to his great misfortune he’s taking over Batwoman from two incredible creators and he may have flown too close to the sun.Batwoman27
  • Green Lantern: The New Guardians #27 reunites White Lantern Kyle Rayner with his former foe, Exeter, but this time as allies.  Exeter’s role as the “Watcher” was two-fold, standing watch over the “Anomoly” at the edge of the Universe and safeguarding his home star system.  With the defeat of Relic who emerged from the Anomoly, Exeter’s only task now is maintaining peace in his home sector.  However, in his absence Exeter’s people have turned genocidal against their peaceful fungal neighbors.  The rationale behind their unwarranted attacks and the culprit behind the elaborate ruse that precipitated them makes for an interesting plot situationally and philosophically.  Following “Lights Out” and the complete paradigm shift of the books I was beginning to grow tired of the Green Lantern group of books, which truly is a sad commentary considering how insanely I followed them for years.  I even contemplated dropping this particular series.  However, what this issue of New Guardians as well as others through the Lantern books have done is reestablish the universal scope of the Green Lantern line.  Back in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s that was what the Green Lantern books were all about.  With the return of the Green Lantern title in 2005 under Geoff Johns the scope became refined to simply the different colored Lantern Corps.  Perhaps one of the best runs in comic history, but a concept that eventually ran its course.  The re-institution of a wide panoply of allies and adversaries by Robert Venditti, Van Jensen, and Justin Jordan is a promising return to some of the greatness of the earlier series done by Len Wein and Steve Englehart. The artwork in this issue was also encouraging, because while regular series artist Brad Walker is a talented penciller, #27’s artist and chronic New Guardians relief artist Andrei Bressan provides gorgeous work that hits on several levels for me personally.  I have reconsidered my hastiness in dropping these books and I would urge those that have dropped them or thought about it to also reconsider leaving the Corps.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #27 is an issue that has been in the making since the beginning of the series two and a half years ago.  Original writer Scott Lobdell began Jason’s odyssey by having Talia al-Ghul arrange for him to be trained by Ducra, head of the All-Caste, to battle the Untitled.  The All-Caste represents the forces of light and the Untitled the forces of darkness.  Sadly, Lobdell who made this one of the best DC series right out of the starting gate left the title months before this issue, leaving it to emerging talent James Tynion IV.  Tynion is a decent writer and whether or not the course of the title had been plotted by Lobdell prior to his departure or whether Tynion spun his own path to resolving the All-Caste/Untitled war is not known.  However, the conclusion to these plotpoints was expertly drafted by Tynion and rendered spectacularly by artist Julius Gopez.  The series as a whole has worked so well owing to its predication on the complexity of the character of Jason Todd, former Robin and one of the most controversial DC characters.  Stripped of his petulant youth and brought back from the dead, Jason has become a very mysterious, haunted individual that gives Batman a run for his money.  To defeat the Untitled and survive requires the purest of souls, making him an unlikely but not impossible choice for the task.  Whether Lobdell planned out the past several issues that Tynion has written or whether Tynion rocked it out on his own, his run on the series concludes with next month’s 28th issue.  Following that Red Hood and the Outlaws yet again enters uncharted territory under the helm of Will Pfeifer and artist Rafa Sandaval.  Even if it tanks, the first 30 issues have been outstanding.  RHATO27
  • Wonder Woman #27 is a book that I find myself torn over.  Brian Azzarello is a fantastic writer.  Cliff Chiang, who drew this issue, as well as Dave Akins and Goran Sudzuka are top notch talents.  The plot is interesting and it is innovative.  And yet I find myself laboring to reconcile its rendition of the Might Amazon with those that came before it and the legacy of what Wonder Woman should embody.  It makes her the daughter of Zeus, thrusting her further into the world of ancient Greek mythology, but at the cost of her connection and immersion in the DCU.  It give license for her awesome power, but cuts off her mortality and the struggle to achieve her strength and prowess that could empower her readership.  *Ahem* —That same fact is why Batman will ALWAYS be superior to Superman– *Ahem*  Not to mention Azzarello’s questionable choice of turning the Amazons into craven, infanticidal rapists.  And anyone who messes with Jack Kirby gains a large helping of Algerian ire.  His version of classic Kirby character Orion is downright awful, not to mention High Father and the New Gods.  Hang your head in shame, Mr. Azzarello.  Ya done bad.  In this issue very little is accomplished by Azzarello, but to be fair a decent amount is set up.  Wonder Woman turns a former foe into an ally by picking a fight with Artemis, a fight she throws to butter up her half-sister, the Moon.  Dio takes Zola to the south of France and turns a bunch of horny teenagers into pigs.  And Cassandra seeks out a weak god to open the gates of Olympus for her.  In that last development, Azzarello continues to show how strange his interpretation of Greek myth is by having Cassandra lead out on a leash her Minotaur who is basically a dude in a ox-masked gimp costume.  Always classy, Azzarello.  Perhaps the saving grace of this issue, falls once again on something I appreciated last week in my return to Superman/Wonder Woman #2.  In Wonder Woman Apollo has been mercilessly torturing his eldest brother, the First Born, in order to break him and stop him from seeking that which he always sought: the thrown of Olympus.  Though the First Born has always sought it, even when Zeus was sitting upon it, Apollo sees it as his right and would do horrific things to his brother to keep it.  All fine and good.  But the braggart took too much pleasure in it and “pride cometh before the fall,” as the saying goes.  The First Born breaks out of his bonds and looks to beat the tar out of his baby brother.  Good on ya, my friend!  So pompous and overconfident is Azzarello’s Apollo that he can never get the crap kicked out of him enough times to still that wagging tongue of his.  The First Born is not like Superman who has restraint.  This time I think Apollo may have stepped in it, but good.  If Azzarello lingers on what the First Born does to Apollo and puts the Sun where he won’t shine (figuratively and metaphorically) I will sway my opinion of this series in a more favorable light.  Until then I pray this run reaches its conclusion and Wonder Woman trades hands to a more traditionalist writer.  WonderWoman27-1

    Instant Karma's Gonna Getcha.

    Instant Karma’s Gonna Getcha.

  • The Unwritten: Apocalypse #1 is the beginning of the end for the Unwritten series, but also a really conversational, well paced reintroduction to what the series is essentially about.  When last we saw Tom Taylor he was magically drawn into the world of Fable by the strongest magi of that world to defeat the megalomaniacal boogeyman,  Mr. Dark.  All attempts to stop him, even by Tom and his youthful, allegorical iteration, Tommy, are thwarted by Dark leaving Tom with one last ditch option: blow the trumpet that made all things to unmake everything.  System reboot. Start over from scratch.  Normally that kind of “if I can’t win, no one can” tactic is used by the more villainous irk, so the utilization of it by Tom was an interesting choice by series creators Mike Carey and Peter Gross, leaving the realm of possibilities wide open for their next arc.  Right off the bat Carey and Gross show the importance of words and their perception vs their reality.  As ever the course of the story is steeped in literary allusion and the scientific “mythology” of evolution, which serves as an allegory for the evolution of stories from simple concepts to increasingly complex plots.  It’s always a safe bet that Mike Carey and Peter Gross will entertain, educate, and enchant with their collaborations.  As the title denotes, this is the duo’s swansong on this series.  The Unwritten is in its “end of times” and the stories we see from here on out will determine the fate of Tom, his companions, and every incredible Carey/Gross creation since its first issue almost five years ago.
  • Superman/Wonder Woman #3 remains one of the best DC comics being published and only on its third issue.  After the conflict with her family, Superman and Wonder Woman part ways again on awkward terms.  Supes feeling awkward about his loss of control after being overloaded with power from Apollo’s ill-conceived assault on him with concentrated sunbeams and Wonder Woman struggling to understand Christmas and what to get Superman considering his love of the holiday.  These concerns are put aside with the advent of General Zod to Earth from the Phantom Zone.  Zod tears it up and is initially met by the (at that time unannounced) Justice League of America headed by Steve Trevor.  When Superman and Wonder Woman arrive there is a great amount of tension considering that Trevor is Diana’s ex, but more so because Superman demands custody of Zod considering his status as a Kryptonian.  Though they aren’t nations, this is very much like an international standoff of Cold War proportions.  The JLA was formed to counter the unchecked might of the Justice League and Superman taking charge of an even more volatile member of his race could be construed by a weary mind as the beginnings of an invasion.  However, Steve Trevor is equally verse in politics as he is in modern warfare, so he lets it go for the time being.  The issue ends with Wonder Woman unveiling her gift for the Man of Steel which is incredibly thoughtful and something that money could never buy.  Yet again, writer Charles Soule has a bombshell to drop by issue’s end.  Overall, this third installment of Superman/Wonder Woman is nothing short of enthralling, providing entertaining plots as well as intimate insight into what it’s like to be Superman and Wonder Woman.  The lattermost point is more true in this title than Wonder Woman’s own book by Brian Azzarello in which the Amazing Amazon is just an incidental character in a bizarre modern retelling of Greek mythology.  If you are a Wonder Woman fan Superman/Wonder Woman is the title you want to get.  However, Charles Soule doesn’t stop there.  He also mines the character of those around the Super-Couple as well.  In this issue Batman talks Superman down from the Moon (literally) when the latter is hiding because of his power overload.  Through the discourse Batman gives a lot of information about the intrinsic natures of both Superman and Wonder Woman, the dangers of each, the world’s possible perception of their relationship, and his own impressions of his teammates.  He tells us all this about them, but in doing so Batman also tells us a lot about himself.  There is not enough that can be said about how incredible this series is.  From a writer’s perspective Charles Soule has the concept of the title orchestrated like a symphony.  In the realm of art Tony Daniel is producing some of his best work to date.  This is a comic for anyone who likes DC characters, but may not like DC Comics at the present time.
    What Are Friends For?

    What Are Friends For?

     

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #27: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored FCO Plascencia, Inked by Danny Miki.

Batman & Two-Face #27: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray.

Batwoman #27: Art & Colored by Francis Manapul.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #27: Drawn by Julius Gopez & Noel Rodriguez, Colored Nei Ruffino, Inked by Sandu Florea, Walden Wong & Dan Green.

Wonder Woman #27: Art by Cliff Chiang, Colored by Matthew Wilson.

Superman/Wonder Woman #3: Drawn by Tony Daniel, Colored Tomeu Morey, Inked by Batt.

Oct. 2, 2013

Villains Month is over and October ushers in a return to the deferred storylines of August.  Right out of the starting gate there are some fantastic issues that prove the power and momentum that DC and Vertigo have built over the past several months.  Forever Evil, Action Comics, Detective Comics, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Batman: Black & White, and Trillium really bring it this month in action, intrigue, and history altering glory.

  • Forever Evil #2 continues with our Earth’s decent into chaos as the Crime Syndicate of America from Earth-3 take it for their own.  In the literal shadow of their advent, our world’s darkest minds flock to them in droves to get what bounty the CSA will grant them in return for their service–Malum Aeturnus–and those few heroes left alive rally to meet the Syndicate in battle.  The most intriguing case between these two camps is perhaps the most dangerous man from Earth-1: Lex Luthor.  Opening this issue, Lex delivers a very thought-provoking interpretation of Darwinism that sets him apart from both the opportunistic villains and “cowardly” masses that accept drastic change idly.  In this way he either proves his mettle as humanity’s savior, filling the position he begrudged Superman for occupying these past several years, or simply demonstrating his intractable individualism and anyone that tries to cast their shadow on him.  In this case, the shadow cast is both literal and metaphorical.  As ever, you want to hate him until he does something very noble, at which point you then want to love him until he come full circle to being despicable yet again.  Either way, his goals in toppling the CSA from their haughty perch and prying their hegemonic grip from humanity’s throats forces him into the role of protagonist.  His competition is getting slimmer and slimmer as Forever Evil progresses and heroes fall left and right.  Between Justice League #23 and Forever Evil #1, the Crime Syndicate dropped the entire Justice League, and seemingly the Justice League Dark and JLA, leaving Earth without their greatest heroes.  Next, in the opening movements of Forever Evil #1 the first protegé of Batman and most senior surviving hero, Nightwing, is subdued and captured by Owlman.  After that the Teen Titans, basically the junior Justice League, step up to the plate only to fall to the wayside.  I won’t spoil the surprise, but they too fall short of matching the Syndicate’s mettle, and really are defeated by only one member of the evil cabal, leaving Luthor as one of the top contenders to take down the Earth-3 invaders.  However, in the periphery other “villains” from Villains Month are stepping up, showing their innate humanity or their inability to be cowed by the whims of others.  Black Adam rises in Kahndaq and the Rogues have the Syndicate’s forces in Central City on their heels, so on at least three fronts there is hope.  However, the real threat to the Syndicate, made very clear in this issue is themselves.  As ever, Ultraman (evil Superman) has to be the biggest, baddest guy on the block and lords his perfection over the others, Owlman (evil Batman) schemes in the shadows and secretly cuckolds the Earth-3 Krpytonian by sleeping with his wife, Superwoman (evil Wonder Woman).  Johnny Quick (evil Flash) and his lover, Atomica (evil female Atom), are uncontrollable forces of destruction that do not play by anyone’s rules, least of all Ultraman.  Power Ring (soooort of evil Green Lantern) is perhaps the greatest question mark as he is a terrified weakling that so far hasn’t done anything and doesn’t want to.  In any event, the evil Justice League of Earth-3 are the greatest threat to themselves, with conflicting plans for our world, conflicting philosophies in general, and outright vendettas against each other.  With the end of this issue there are some crazy reveals that beg for the third installment and keep the reader on their toes.  First and foremost, David Finch’s art is superb and his harsh lines belie the evil nature of the subject material.  But beneath the very heavily inked lines there is a subtle, gentleness and beauty that shines through.  He was the best choice to render this script visually.  I have been very antagonistic of Geoff Johns’ writing since he began the New DCU two years ago and mismanaged title after title that he has written, such as Justice League, it’s SHAZAM! backup feature, and a few others I won’t pontificate upon.  However, this series gets back to what he does well: villains.  Sinestro, the Rogues in The Flash, Black Adam in 52.  These are all characters that were two-dimensional at best that he made into complex, compelling antiheroes.  This series features the concept of eternal darkness and absolute evil and shows by contrast the natures of the DCU’s villains.  Many pale in comparison, and like Lex, show signs of valor despite their many, usually glaring flaws.  Forever Evil is marketed as the first imprint wide event and it deserves to be.  This is a title that will live on and in some ways validate the atrociously wretched job Johns did on the first arcs of Justice League.

    They Did a Bad, Bad Thing . . .

    They Did a Bad, Bad Thing . . .

  • Action Comics #24 picks up the second part of the “Psi War” storyline after the events of Superman Annual #2 and Superman #23.  So far, it has been revealed that Brainiac left some hidden mementos when he attacked Metropolis in Action Comics #1-7.  After abducting a segment of the city and shriniking it, he altered twenty people within, who became an urban legend aptly called, “The Twenty.”  The Twenty were mentally enhanced to test the augmentation of humans to fit a very specific purpose: providing physical hosts for the digitized “souls” of Brainiac’s extinct race, the Coluans.  In the aftermath, Lois Lane is transformed by one of the Twenty into such a vessel shortly before being launched out a window and put into a coma.  From there we were introduced to the “Queen,” a nubile blond bombshell that bathes in a golden liquid, seemingly generated by the psychic drones in the H.I.V.E.  One such drone, the escaped Dr. Psycho, was first seen in Superboy.  Also from Superboy is the reinterpreted, reintroduced character, Psycho Pirate.  In the past, Psycho Pirate was a masked man whose bizarre harlequin mask gives him the ability to exploit people’s emotions.  This time around the mask he wears is an artifact called the Medusa mask, which true to the imagery its name elicits has numerous psychically generated snakes coming off of it.  The mask allows this man, also a member of the Twenty, to control not just the emotions but also enter the mind of any person on the planet he wishes.  At the end of Superman #23 it is the Psycho Pirate that rescues Superman from the Queen and the massively disproportioned Green Lantern villain, Hector Hammond.  He takes Supes into the main chamber of the H.I.V.E. to show him the collection of psionic slaves the Queen called her “Swarm.”  The Swarm was what she was going to use to enslave humanity for the second coming of Brainiac.  Psycho Pirate was one of those slaves, kept in a place of honor with several other members of the Twenty.  It is his goal to free all of them, but to break the hold the departed Queen has on them Psycho Pirate needs more power than he and the mask he wears allow him.  That is where Superman comes in.  Superman’s enhanced biology also allows his mind enhanced psionic output, even though the Man of Steel doesn’t know how to utilize it.  He’d help out the Psycho Pirate if he asked, but of course that would be too easy.  Instead Psycho Pirated lives up to his name and takes what he needs by force.  The psionic snakes from the mask bite into Superman at various points on his body like asps and inject him with venomous visions of some of Superman’s darkest fears: humanity turning fully against him, his adoptive parents the Kents despising him, and never leaving his dying homeworld of Krypton.  Through these intense visions and horrifying sights Psycho Pirate feeds off his emotions, as his former self, pre-Reboot, used to.  Though Scott Lobdell is given cover credit, it is actually Mike Johnson, who also wrote Superman #23 (“Psi War” Part 1), who did the honors on this one.  It’s hard to say whether “Psi-War” is Lobdell’s “brain child” (pun intended) or Johnson’s, considering that Johnson has written the only two official installments with no internal credits or nods to Lobdell, but Lobdell wrote the prelude in Superman Annual #2, so . . .  Either way, the writing and set up are stellar, as is the artwork depicting it, rendered by Tyler Kirkham and Jesus Merino.  Superman had a ROUGH start at the beginning of the New 52 with some atrocious storytelling, but Action Comics, Superman, Superboy, and Supergirl are all top-notch titles at present.  This issue encapsulates all of that incredible innovation perfectly.

    All the Queen's Men

    All the Queen’s Men

  • Detective Comics #24 concludes the “Wrath” storyline begun three months ago, but held up by Villains Month.  Beginning with a slimy business mogul named E.D. Caldwell attempting to buy out Wayne Enterprises, Bruce Wayne has to contend with that situation leaving Batman to deal with a hi-tech cop killer called “Wrath” who bears a likeness, albeit greatly intensified and armored, to Batman. Of course, these two antagonists in Batman’s life are one and the same and Caldwell wants to gain WayneTech weaponry to add to his arsenal in his crusade against the Gotham City Police Department.  This concept, it turns out, is actually a redux of a character first created in the 80’s by Mike Barr and resurrected in 2008 by Tony Bedard.  The character’s name was Elliot Caldwell and his parents were gunned down by Gotham cops leaving him with a burning rage for Gotham’s finest.  In this way, the mirror-darkly image of Batman called Wrath provides a polar opposite version of the Dark Knight.  Batman does have many nemeses that are opposite to him in some way, the Joker’s manic escapades being the most obvious.  However, Wrath is literally the flip version of Batman’s birth.  Young Bruce Wayne’s parents were gunned down by a criminal named Joe Chill and through the trauma that event evoked in his young mind he was set on an inescapable course to punish criminals and stamp out criminality.  Caldwell saw his parents gunned down by police at an equally young age as Bruce and as a result he grew up with a festering hatred for police and law enforcement, constantly seeking vengeance to assuage that child’s anger.  In this issue Layman makes the cops that killed Caldwell’s father corrupt and the slaying of his father unjustified.  In this way, he isn’t just a straight psychopath, but a boy with real, valid grievances that are twisted by “Unbridled Wrath,” which also happens to be the title of this issue.  Though he is subdued in this final issue of the arc, the damage incurred during his rampage is considerable and his defeat gives fodder to future villainy with his introduction at the end to another up and coming Gotham mega-villain.  John Layman and Jason Fabok knock this issue out of the park with some intense storytelling that is both powerful and resonating.
  • Green Lantern #24 begins the MASSIVE “Lights Out” storyline, not to be confused with the “Blackout” storyline coming up in Batman and throughout several DC titles.  Though the character Relic has only been in comics five months, he has already cemented himself as one of the most titanic characters in the Green Lantern mythos.  He first appeared in the tail end of June’s Green Lantern: New Guardians #21 and from there crusaded against White Lantern Kyle Rayner, Star Sapphire Carol Ferris, and the newly emancipated Templar Guardians under the auspices of “saving the universe,” though failing to elaborate on that point.  So great was his belief in his righteous cause, he went to the new homeworld of the Blue Lantern Corps, Elpis, and laid waste to it, the Blue Lantern Central Power Battery, and the Corps itself, leaving Saint Walker the last surviving Blue Lantern.  Representing Hope, the Blue Lanterns have had their faith pushed the breaking point.  First the Reach destroyed their original home on Odym, forcing an exodus to Elpis.  Now the seemingly unstoppable Relic has destroyed their new world and them.  Their hope is undiminished to the end as they give their unconscious chief Lantern, Walker, to Kyle and Carol and stay behind on their world to hold off Relic as long as they can and sacrifice their lives to maintain . . . Hope.  As stated, Relic was very terse about his motivations throughout his initial interactions in our universe.  With his appearance in Green Lantern #23.1 we get his entire history and a clearer picture of his motivations.  When living in the universe that preceded the Big Bang and the creation of our current universe Relic was a scientist whose brilliance and council helped the “lightsmiths” co-exist and govern that universe.  There was always tension between the various lights and he worked to keep the peace, but also came to realize that the light they so wantonly used was a finite resource, the depletion of which would result in a cataclysm of untold proportions.  His words went unheeded and indeed the universe collapsed in on itself and was forced to begin anew with the advent of our universe.  He somehow was protected in the anomaly from which he emerged in Green Lantern: New Guardians #21 and upon emerging realized that he would need to stop the “lightsmiths” of this universe to prevent history from repeating itself.  Being that he was shunned in his universe, he eschews the possibility of explaining his actions to the new light-wielders and merely enacts his plans.  He destroyed the Blue Lanterns.  With this issue of Green Lantern he descends on Oa and the Green Lantern Corps.  The fight proves to be just as futile as that which the Blue Lanterns provided.  The question of defeating Relic isn’t even posed, but rather asking whether the Green Lanterns can survive him.  Robert Venditti seems to be the architect of this “Lights Out” concept and considering the material that he had to follow after Geoff Johns’ blowout finale of a legendary eight year run, he is really bringing his A-game to the table.  This is perhaps the biggest thing that has EVER occurred in the Green Lantern titles, even bigger than Johns’ “Wrath of the First Lantern” storyline, which itself was unprecedented in scale.  Billy Tan’s artwork keeps pace with the monumental events chronicled within, emoting the tragic wonder and epic grandeur of all that is happening in the Green Lantern universe.  They promoted this event by saying, “Nothing will ever be the same again!  Trust us: WE MEAN IT!”  That trust is earned with the unbelievable events of the last two pages of this issue.  If you are a Green Lantern fan, READ THEM!

    An "Earth" Shattering Developement . . .

    An “Earth” Shattering Developement . . .

  • Green Arrow #24 does not disappoint.  This issue picks up after  the September hiatus with Ollie Queen on his way home from Vlatava after saving the enigmatic Shado from Count Vertigo’s dungeon.  During that month off writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino used Villains Month to give a look into the past of Green Arrow’s newest nemesis.  With Vertigo’s past now revealed, Lemire sends Ollie and company back to Seattle only for them to run back into the path of the Eastern European dictator.  After their last encounter Vertigo’s distortion device ruptured GA’s inner ear, essentially throwing off his balance and his aim, taking a hero whose main skill is archery and invalidating it.  What is left?  Even his closest friends and allies are dubious as to whether he has anything viable left that could allow him victory over Vertigo.  This issue is written as though Ollie were a real person and Lemire his biographer.  Ollie is flawed and fallible, but has deep wellsprings upon which he draws in times like his current predicament that make him worthy of his own comic title. He may be an effete rich man, but he doesn’t solve his problems with money.  At least he doesn’t anymore, after DC put a competent writer on the title going onward from issue #17.  Lemire also writes the supporting cast of characters with equal complexity.  Shado is a prime example in this issue.  Previously, she has always been depicted as a very veiled, Zen warrior embodying eastern philosophy, the feminine mystique, and complete oneness with the martial arts.  In short, she is a fox-like character that is always a step ahead of Ollie and most other characters and rarely caught off guard.  This issue continues that depiction to a point, but stresses that she is an acolyte of the Arrow clan, meaning a master of archery.  Lemire has set up a group called the Outsiders (not the previous Batman created group pre-Reboot) that are comprised of heirs to the various disciplines: arrow, sword, axe, spear, fist.  Shado is an unparalleled archer.  When she comes up against a true practitioner of the Fist (also a rebooted character from DC’s past) she is shown to lack true mastery of the other disciplines and is revealed to be human and have very real weaknesses.  It’s the humanizing aspect of his storylines as well as the mythologies that spring from them that make this series soar.  One thing also that separates this title from others is the way it adhere’s to the surrounding climate of the DCU.  Villains Month was enjoyable, but a total ratings stunt to sell more issues and get people excited about buying comics they normally wouldn’t.  The month-long PR event was jarring to most series, causing a MAJOR disruption in storytelling, but not for Green Arrow which took it and used it to seamlessly continue the title’s forward momentum.  Next month there is another imprint wide event called “Blackout” taking place around the “Batman: Year Zero” storyline in the Batman title where apparently there is a massive blackout in Gotham six years prior when Batman first dons his cowl and all the titles are going back and having “pre-hero” versions of their respective protagonists living their lives through this blackout and miraculously being in Gotham during it.  Again, jarring and implausible.  Before this issue’s end, Lemire has already set events up in such a way that you’d believe that Batman was having a “Blackout” event because of Green Arrow and not the other way around.  That’s talent!  In the realm of visuals, Andrea Sorrentino’s artwork was meant for a title like this and his Green Arrow is the only one I want to look at for the foreseeable future.

    A Battle of Two Dragons.

    A Battle of Two Dragons.

  • Batwing #24 depicts Luke Fox’s continued trials and tribulations while donning the Batwing armor.  It’s not just being Batwing that is difficult, but balancing that life with a full family life.  Bruce Wayne has a very detached life, allowing him great anonymity to fit his nocturnal lifestyle.  Luke is a part of a very loving, close-knit family and distancing himself from his family when they are in need is not an option.  Following his father, Lucius Fox’s kidnapping and his subsequent rescue, Luke finds himself torn three ways.   Batman and his allegiance to the Batname force Luke to follow-up on the assassin Lady Vic, sent by an enigmatic client to off some “bats.”  His family need him close as they recover from mechanized assassins blowing up most of their home and abducting Lucius.  His former girlfriend Zena’s father passes away and needs his support as she copes with her loss.  A veritable labyrinth, but somehow in this issue Luke navigates it.  I am beginning to forgive this title for its abrupt about-face.  I maintain that it is complete nonsense to take the Batman of Africa and bring him back to the United States, and Gotham no less, where there are literally dozens of costumed vigilantes, and 75% of them in the Bat-family.  However, writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are doing interesting things with Luke, so for the time being I will hold back my indignation and acknowledge that this is a very well written Bat-title.
  • Earth 2 #16 reaches a fever pitch.  Writer James Robinson is only onboard for a few more issues and he is pushing his story to the limits.  The war between Steppenwolf and the World Army has begun and despite the size of their force, the World Army finds themselves on the losing side.  Steppenwolf almost singlehandedly defeats the brunt of the World Army invasion force.  On the sidelines the World Army “supers” (Atom Smasher, Red Arrow, and Sandman) meet with the independent wonders (Green Lantern, Flash, and Doctor Fate) on the outskirts of Dherain.  They initially fight it out until the three “Hunger Dogs” of Apokalips (Bedlam, Beguiler, and Bruutal) step in and wipe the floor with all of them.  When this issue returns attention to them, they awaken from this beat down bruised, but alive!  The question on all of their mind, “Why were they spared when they could have easily been killed and taken out of the game?”  There is no answer expressly given, but in the meantime they get back up and attempt to evacuate civilians from the war zone after the World Army officially calls a retreat.  Green Lantern goes to take out his rage on Steppenwolf and buy his friends some time.  Steppenwolf isn’t going to be taken down, or at least not by Alan Scott.  He SOUNDLY defeats the Green Lantern raising the question of whether Scott will survive this round like he did the last or if this is the end for Earth’s Green Guardian.  However, in his gloating of this day’s victory Steppenwolf DOES meet his end and the identity of the person who takes him down and the rationale behind it is what cements this issue as a MUST READ for the month and possibly the ENTIRE series!  James Robinson is riding the clock on this one, coming to his end of his run very quickly, and he is making every second count.  As ever, Nicola Scott’s artwork contributes mightily to the impact of this issue and the series thus far, on which she has been on from issue #1 and drawn the majority of issues with only a handful of exceptions.  This series definitely needs to be read through the end of Robinson’s run and possibly further.

    Superman's "Dark-Side."

    Superman’s “Dark-Side.”

  • Swamp Thing #24 returns Alec Holland, chosen Swamp Thing, back to his investigation into the identity of the man called “The Seeder.” Since Charles Soule has taken over the title he has focused on the divide between Holland’s humanity and his duty to the Green.  These two motivations tear him in two different directions, often causing existential crises which he must navigate very carefully.  The Seeder represents the greatest threat to that, because while his endeavors are altruistic, i.e. creating verdant oases in the middle of arid desert granting people an end to hunger, Swamp Thing must shut them down and rob those people of the life-giving means that are a godsend to them.  This seems callous, but the Green is a balance and such works throw that balance off.  If the Green is exploited in such a way, causing forests to grow in a desert, elsewhere a bed of seaweed that sustains an ecosystem will die or a grove of trees in the wetlands.  It is a very hard job, but Swamp Thing is forced to execute it to maintain harmony and balance, even at the cost of human lives and great suffering.  The Seeder comes forth and we find out that he is none other than Jason Woodrue, noted botanist and in previous DC continuities a sort of male Poison Ivy, who actually was the villainess’ mentor.  Here he was given his strange powers by the Parliament of Trees in exchanged for saving the life of Alec Holland, who was murdered by Anton Arcane, as seen in Swamp Thing #0.  He was not given full power over the Green, as Alec was, but a more rudimentary ability of manipulating seeds to do what he wished, hence his name.  Swamp Thing and the Parliament come together to put an end to his hijinks, but when he fights back against both, they see how powerful Woodrue has become, even without full mastery of the Green and decide to have a tournament between Woodrue and Holland to see who should be the Avatar of the Green.  Writer Charles Soule has taken this title into a new direction that is logical, but very much unique from Snyder’s run on the title.  This issue the regular artist, Kano, is replaced by Andrei Bressan, whose art I have always loved, but which takes a very new style here.  It might be that he has a different inker or colorist, but his art in this issue does conform to the themes and overall mood of the Swamp Thing title.  There is a little bit of Bernie Wrightson in the way Swamp Thing is rendered, paying homage to his origins and rooting the series deeply in the aspects of the character that are eternal.
  • Batman: Black & White #2 provides yet another round of truly excellent Batman stories rendered in stark black and white with plots that are anything but, from the writing and artistic talents of Dan Didio, J.G. Jones, Rafael Grandpa, Rafael Albuquerque, Jeff Lemire, Alex Nino, Michael Uslan, and Dave Bullock.  In Dan Didio and J.G. Jones’ story “Manbat Out of Hell” we have the narration of a child talking about how their father made them feel safe, making the monsters that lurked in the dark go away juxtaposed over images of Batman interceding as the Man-Bat, Kirk Langstrom, breaks into a second floor window of a foster home.  Batman fights the “villainous” werebat, pulling him off the man inside in front of two horrified children.  When his subduing of the creature is met with increased horror from the children Batman realizes that they are Langstrom’s kids and the man he “saved” was an abusive attendant that preyed upon those same children.  The narration was Langstroms children talking about their hero who protects them from monsters: their dad, Man-Bat.  Didio’s story is infinitely complex and touching, showing how appearances often belie reality and true virtue and villainy.  Rafael Grandpa’s story, “Into the Circle,” tells of the Joker setting up a heist with a motley crew of small time Gotham hoods on stately Wayne Manor.  Seemingly straightforward, Grandpa throws a major curveball in the final five panels.  His artwork is what truly electrifies the story, taking an understated, subtle plot and adding intrigue and enigma that tempts the reader from panel to panel.  His art is hard to categorize, but has a simultaneous harshness and gentility within the very same lines.  Simply fantastic.  Rafael Albuquerque’s story, “A Place In Between,” takes Batman into the underworld on the ferry ride through the River Styx.  As it progresses Batman is confronted with his greatest sins as he tries to cope with the reconciliation of his intentioned goals and the actuality of his past actions.  Spoiler Alert: He isn’t dead, nor is this real, but Albuquerque gives thoughtful perspective to the reader and the Dark Knight as to the “success” of Batman’s mission and what things weigh on his conscience.  Albuquerque’s inkwash illustrations are truly gorgeous to behold as you go on the ferry ride with the Caped Crusader.  Jeff Lemire and Alex Nino’s story “Winter’s End,” is an excellent companion to the Didio/Jones story, “Manbat Out of Hell,” becasue while in the former story the reader is tricked into thinking the narration of Langstrom’s daughter is Bruce talking about his dad as his hero.  “Winter’s End” is narrated by Bruce, talking about the last winter he spent with his father before the tragic events that severed them forever.  In his recollections he talks about how safe his father made him feel, despite how scared he should have been.  The narration is put over the current day adventure of Batman into the heart of a man-made blizzard by Mr. Freeze imperiling the life of Commissioner Gordon. The actual events of the story are so-so, but the backstory of Bruce’s childhood is what really impacts the reader.  The final tale of the Batman, Michael Uslan’s “Silent Knight . . . Unholy Knight,” is rendered visually by Dave Bullock as though it were a silent film.  In it a serial killer called the Silent Knight, dressed in medieval armor and wielding a sword attacks families of three just like Bruce’s in an attempt to call out the Dark Knight.  It works.  Uslan scripts the story exactly like a silent film with mostly pantomime panels that visually tell the story with only the occasional caption panel with barebones dictation to relate what cannot be conveyed visually.  Bullock’s artistic style mimics that of Darwyn Cooke and evokes the glory of the Golden Age Batman, really nailing the necessary ambiance of the original Batman.  Taken altogether, these stories paint a broad picture of who Batman is, what he represents, and the many things he embodies to a wide range of people throughout the world and over time.
    Conning the Conmen.

    Conning the Conmen.

    BatmanBlack&White2-2

    Golden Age Batman on the Silver Screen . . .

  • Trillium #3 returns to the flip book format of the first issue (sort of) and segments the two journeys of Dr. Nika Temsmith from 38th century and William Pike from 1921. Nika is drawn back into her time and quarantined after being “rescued” from the Atabithian village where she ate the trillium flower and passed through the pyramid emerging in our world a few years after WWI.  With the sentient virus, the Caul, entered into the solar system the human refugees have sought shelter in the vastness of space and the military have tabled Nika’s negotiations with the Atabithians in favor of raiding their villages and taking the trillium crops that could provide humanity with a vaccine the Caul cannot adapt to.  This would in essence destroy the Atabithian species, as they rely upon the trillium flowers for their own existence.  To save them and to save humanity, Nika must escape captivity by her own people to prevent more than one apocalypse.  Meanwhile, in our “recent” past William is rejoined by his brother, Clayton, after Nika goes back through the pyramid to her time.  Of course Clayton does not believe William’s stories and as a result attempts to blow a hole in the sealed entranceway of the Aztec temple to prove there is nothing strange behind it.  The confluence of events brings forth an ending that defies expectations and takes the imperativeness of the plot to unimaginable levels.  Writer/artist Jeff Lemire is a genius, and his visual storytelling compliments his written work perfectly.  The use of flipped pages to demarcate past from future can be jarring at times, but creates a much more believable experience demonstrating the strangeness of the tenuous link between the two disparate time periods.  This series is what the Vertigo imprint was founded to print.  Such a series is the quintessence of what Vertigo comics have been, currently are, and (God willing) shall be until the end of human civilization. Trillium-Teaser658
  • Hinterkind #1 is yet another debut in the new wave of Vertigo titles.  This series also has a post-apocalyptic feel to it.  Human civilization as it has been known has ceased and the planet has reclaimed its surface from us, like any landlord whose tenants have abused the leased property.  The urban jungles of New York are taken over by a literal jungle growing over the streets and buildings and creating new ecosystems where wild animals reign free.  In one of the beginning scenes, human survivors hunt a Zebra in lower Manhattan.  Humanity has developed isolated colonies throughout the country that are linked only by radio.  The opening scene shows the Albany colony falling to an unknown force.  Following this the doctor of the Manhattan settlement, Asa Monday, decides to make the two month trek to Albany to ascertain what happened.  Detroit, Chicago, and Minneapolis are revealed to have gone dark, just like Albany, making the fall of each all the more suspicious and worth investigating.  His niece, Prosper Monday (the huntress that killed the Zebra at the beginning) wishes to go with him, but is denied.  Upon finding out that her best friend, Angus, has grown a rat tail inexplicably the two depart the colony anyway to see what is going on in the wide world.  What they find are even more incredible wild beasts like Ligons (lion/tiger hybrids), but what’s more, mythical beasts such as ogres and giant gothed-out fairies.  Writer Ian Edginton says that in essence he wants to tell a post-apocalyptic fairytale that makes legends realistic and show that humanity isn’t the dominant species on this planet and maybe never was supposed to be.  The series continues the tradition of upholding  the promise of comics as an intelligent artistic and narrative medium.  Edginton has me hooked for at least another issue, if not many more down the road.
The Urban Jungle.
The Urban Jungle.
  • Vertigo Presents: The Witching Hour was perhaps the greatest disappointment from Vertigo in some time. In the past when they had done topic anthology books like Ghosts, Time Warp, Strange Adventures, etc, they have gotten innovative creators to come onboard and spin poignant, entertaining short stories.  Looking back on those previous books, I can bring to mind several stories that resonated deeply and blew the mind of those reading them.  Jeff Lemire’s story about the death of Rip Hunter wasn’t something that spoke to the nature of reality, but it was deeply moving as to the nature of the human nature.  Gail Simone wrote a fantastic short story about candy that could transport people to their most perfect moment and the sweet, but finite nature of memories.  Witching Hour has almost none of the aspects present in the previous Vertigo anthology books.  Whereas before, there were well-known comic writers and artists producing stories, or indy creators bringing their A-game, this collection features stories from mostly indy writers that are topical at best and convoluted at the worst.  There isn’t even an adherence to a theme.  Ghosts featured stories about . . . ghosts.  Time Warp wasn’t strictly about time-travel but also the concept of the passing of time.  Strange Adventures dealt with space travel and human exploration in the final frontier.  Witching Hour begins with some stories about witches, but then there are stories about a mission to Mars and a woman with a parasitic spider in her brain.  What?!  Vertigo is slipping a little . . .

So ends the first week of October and the first in four weeks of resumed storylines in the regular continuities.  I will miss the fun Villains issues, but it’s also nice to have old “friends” back with the resuming of continuing plot arcs.  Can’t wait for next week’s batch which include the oversized issue of Batman #24 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.  It promises to be good.  See you then . . .

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

Illustration Credits:

Forever Evil #2: Drawn by David Finch, Colored by Sonia Oback, Inked by Richard Friend.

Action Comics #24: Art by Tyler Kirkham & Jesus Merino, Colored by Arif Prianto.

Green Lantern  #24: Drawn by Billy Tan, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Rob Hunter.

Green Arrow #24: Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo.

Earth 2 #16: Drawn by Nicola Scott, Colored by Pete Pantazis, Inked by Trevor Scott.

Batman: Black & White  #2: Art by Rafael Grandpa & Dave Bullock.

Trillium #3: Art by Jeff Lemire, Colored by Jeff Lemire & Jose Villarrubia.

Hinterkind #1: Art by Francesco Trifogli, Colored by Cris Peters.

Week 89 (May 15, 2013)

  • Batwoman #20 is yet another game changing issue in a game changing series.  Years ago Batwoman fought a madwoman in the guise of a Religion of Crime prophetess names Alice, who looked like a latex fetish version of the famous Wonderland heroine.  Spoke a lot like her, too.  After defeating her, and only moments before she fell to her “death”, Batwoman realized that Alice was in fact her long “dead” twin, Elizabeth.  Well for the second time Beth has defied death to be found in the land of the living, this time in the custody of the D.E.O., comprising yet another manacle Director Bones has chained to Kate Kane’s leg to assure compliance with the agency’s whims.  On the other side of the narrative are the family and friends of Kate.  Up until last issue they had no idea that Kate was a D.E.O. puppet, being forced into doing their bidding.  Thanks to Kate’s dad, Col. Jacob Kane, the Colonel, Kate’s cousin and one time sidekick Betty (aka Flamebird), Kate’s stepmother Katherine, and Kate’s fiancee Det. Maggie Sawyer all know what she is doing and more importantly WHY she’s been doing it.  Within the close circle of confidantes is a great deal of dissent.  Kate hasn’t spoken to her father since she learned about Beth’s still being alive.  Katherine is livid that her husband has kept the secret of her stepdaughter and step-niece’s nocturnal activities a secret, amongst other things.  Det. Maggie Sawyer is still a little on edge after finding out the woman she loves is in fact the criminal whom she is tasked by Gotham Central to bring in for vigilantism.  All of these quibbles are quelled with the revelation of the horrible situation that Kate has fallen into, for all intents and purposes being enslaved by a shadowy government agency to do their dirty work, as well as the situation facing Beth Kane and her fragile psychological state.  From the looks of it, this could be the turning point from the beginning of the series that will emancipate Kate and turn the book onto a completely new status quo.  I am hoping that it does.  Cowriters J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman have kept this series constantly evolving and its readers always on their toes.  For that reason this series has been a must read book and a delight to read month after month for twenty-two straight months (both zero issues included).
  • Batgirl #20 is another issue that changes the entire flow of its series.  With issue #19 of Batgirl the dominoed daredoll seemingly killed her brother, James Gordon Jr. With that she has lost the good grace of Gotham police commissioner and her own father, James Gordon Sr.  But apart from that she has also exacted the heavy toll of having to finally take responsibility for putting her psychotic little brother down once and for all.  If she didn’t, her mother was prepared to, and like a trooper she took the burden of killing him from her mother’s hands.  In this issue she bursts in on her psychiatrist and makes her veiled confessions, keeping the details that would reveal her masked secret, but still attempting to gain some semblence of catharsis. The issue also reintroduces a classic Batman villain, the Ventriloquist, who comes on the scene.  This time around the dummy is named Ferdie, not the gangster doll, Scarface, and the ventriloquist is a timid young woman named Shauna that has lacked the ability for self-expression.  In the past it’s always been hinted at, but never concretely proved that the ventriloquist dummy somehow was calling the shots, yet still maintaining the reality of deep psychosis in the human involved.  However, this version is dangerously close to shattering that by having the doll seem to move by itself with no strings attached in several panels.  I can’t say that I am a fan of that kind of fourth wall tipping.  However, other aspects of the emerging Batgirl mythos merging together in this issue, such as the crippled former gang member that Barbara has been flirting with and the sinister socialite/vigilante Knightfall lends a sense of long term world building under the capable hands of writer Gail Simone.  Definitely an excellent issue.

    Fourth Wall Broken

    Fourth Wall Broken

  • Nightwing #20 has our title character nestling into his new life in Chicago.  It’s not idyllic to say the least.  He is awoken from a sound sleep after a looooong night of crime fighting by the woman who’s apartment he’d been subletting (unbeknownst to her) kicking him in the chest and brandishing a baseball bat over his head.  Not the best way to wake up in the morning.  Then comes the discovery that Tony Zucco, the mobster who murdered Nightwing’s parents, is under the protection of the mayor’s office.  The Alderman who the Prankster forced to burn his amassed wealth to fend off ravenous wolves is found early the following morning alive, albeit with his arm ripped off and being eaten by said wolves.  A confrontation with the masked anti-hero or villain (hard to nail down) is inevitable and culminates in a very intriguing cliffhanger ending.  Kyle Higgins has been writing this series exquisitely since issue one and the fun doesn’t look to be close to stopping anytime soon.  Brett Booth’s artistic contributions to this series have been considerable, lending a deal of smooth, effortless lines that jibe exceptionally well with Dick Grayson’s persona as an acrobat/aerialist.  I look forward to seeing further adventures of the former Robin in the Windy City.

    It's Always Funny Until Someone Loses an Arm . . .

    It’s Always Funny Until Someone Loses an Arm . . .

  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #20 picks up after last issue where Jason Todd, after a month of horrors (told over several months of issues) goes to the Acres of All, home of the All-Caste, and has his memories voluntarily erased.  Last issue, his friends and comrades Roy Harper (Red Arrow) and Princess Koriand’r (Starfire) tracked him down to help him in his moment of need only to find him erased of all his memories and as well as the darkness they engendered inside him.  Angered by this Roy and Starfire accost the gatekeeper of the  Acres of All (also the only remaining member of the All-Caste left alive) for his part in it.  The resultant conversation takes the two “Outlaws” through a tour of the accumulated memories extracted from Jason’s mind to give a sample of just what pain and torment the gatekeeper had expunged from Jason’s mind.  What also comes about is an exploration of who Roy and Starfire are as well.  In the past Roy was in a bad spot with Green Arrow  and life in general and out of the blue, the newly minted Robin (Jason) showed up and with great optimism and kindness helped Roy through a really tough moment.  From that point on, Roy had an anchor that has connected him with Jason compelling him to help out the anti-heroic former Robin.  Starfire’s past is also laid out, albeit far less complementary.  Upon the conclusion of this issue, one thing is certain, things have changed and for good or ill, Jason is moving forward without the keystone events that have thus far shaped him into what we have come to know as the figure called the Red Hood.  In the last couple of pages, new writer James Tynion sets up the intro for what will be the Red Hood and the Outlaws first ever annual, coming out in two weeks.

    A Red Arrow and a Red Hood

    A Red Arrow and a Red Hood

  • Legion of Super-Heroes #20 marches forward towards its blowout conclusion.  Glorith, Ultraboy, and Chameleon Boy escape Rimbor for Sorcerers World only to find that planet also under siege by another member of the Fatal Five, Validus.  The three legionnaires link up with their former comrade and ruler of Sorcerers World, Black Witch, and her legionnaire lover, Blok to combat this evil.  Glorith and Black Witch are able to deal with the ravaging monster, but the cost is quite dear.  It also lands Ultraboy and Chameleon Boy in a heap of trouble.  Elsewhere on the Promethean giant we see further trevails of Legion leader, Phantom Girl, and her surviving colleagues, Invisible Kid and Polar Boy.  Though the true meaning of these events aren’t fully explained, they could mean another tragic end to a valiant hero.  Paul Levitz’s Legion is a testament to the title and its characters and a shining example of the possibilities of such a massive concept populated by round, dynamic characters.  Levitz’s is the best Legion of any run, and I will stand by that assertion.  However, DC is cancelling the series after August’s issue #23, so we are indeed looking at an endgame in the storytelling.  A total shame.
  • Supergirl #20 closed last issue on a very alarming conundrum.  Power-Girl, the Kara Zor-El of Earth-2 exiled to our reality, teams up with Supergirl, the Kara Zor-El native to our universe, and the two convalesce in the latter’s submarine sanctuary called . . . Sanctuary.  However, Sanctuary is comprised of Kryptonian A.I. and one of the key cultural heresies following the clone wars on Krypton is the existence of clones.  Well, both Kara’s are genetically identical meaning that Sanctuary intuits one of them to be be a clone.  Ironically, the one deemed to be a clone is in fact the true Kara to our reality, Supergirl.  Not to say that Power Girl isn’t as perturbed as her other self nor that she doesn’t do her utmost to rectify the situation.  This issue is basically a giant brawl between the two Maidens of Steel and the Kryptonian base they are trapped within.  The issue seems simple in this way, but in fact this conflict is quite complex, fitting within a larger drama.  Supergirl left Krypton as a teenager, unlike her cousin, Clark, who left as a baby, and as such laments a world and culture that were her life.  When she came to Earth she had  to cope with the loss of everything and everyone she knew and loved.  When H’el came on the scene she was tempted with the promise of having that life restored, only for it to come crashing down again in front of her.  Sanctuary was the last shred of Krypton that she had.  In this issue that one last piece of home turned on her and ruthlessly tried to kill her.  She is slowly losing her identity piecemeal, and a situation is developing wherein she will be forced to make a life among the humans and become a completely new woman.  I really feel pity for her, but am enthusiastic at the chance for her to become the incredible character she was pre-Reboot and develop the relationships she had in the past with other superheroes.  Michael Allan Nelson as well as his predecessors Mike Johnson and Frank Hannah have done a killer job writing her in complex, engaging ways that give her leeway to be a dumb teenager doing foolish things without demonizing her or making her any less compelling of a heroine.  Her hero’s journey has been and looks to continue to be something worth watching.

    Kryptonian Sunrise

    Kryptonian Sunrise

  • Vibe #4 begins with the armored intruder in the Ramon household introducing himself as Breacher, the first interdimensional traveller to come to Earth and be imprisoned by A.R.G.U.S.  He came to warn Earth of Darkseid’s impending invasion, but was ignored and incarcerated.  He also warned Cisco not to trust his employers as they are hiding something from him.  Breacher is unable to elaborate as he is pulled against his will to another dimesion, probably his place of origin.  In the mean time, Vibe is sent to catch the escaped inmate, codenamed Gypsy.  Like Kid Flash last issue he fights her but eventually comes to speak with her in private and learns she is not an interdimensional warmonger, as he had been briefed, but just an interdimensional wander who was imprisoned like Breacher.  Finally bucking the system, Cisco shakes his A.R.G.U.S handlers and agrees to help Gypsy get home.  In the process he runs afowl of A.R.G.U.S head Amanda Waller and opens a can of worms that could spell dire consequences of him and his future as a superhero.  Sterling Gates takes over for Geoff Johns and Andrew Kreisberg with great skill, maintaining the feel and excellence which began the series.
  • Wonder Woman #20 brings the family of Zeus closer to all-out conflict.  Artemis is dispatched to England to kill Zeus’ last born child, Zeke, and Wonder Woman yet again comes to the aid of her baby brother.  In the meantime, Lennox returns and escorts Hera and Zola in the attempt to get Zeke to safety.  However, Artemis and Apollo are not the only ones of Zeus’ children looking for the Last Born.  The First Born also knows that Zeke is the key to the throne of Olympus and looks to commune with his baby brother in the attempt to claim what he feels is his birthright.  Brian Azzarello certainly has a vision for this title and pushes onward setting a very sordid, complex gameboard upon which the Greek gods politick against one another.  Ares, or War as Azzarello likes to refer to him, comes off as a blood-soaked philosopher, and perhaps a way of Azzarello inserting himself into the title.  He does bear an uncanny resemblance to the Wonder Woman scribe.  Also revealed is the reason for Cassandra, the First Born’s attache’s, metal throat.  There is some messed up family politics behind that number.  I’ve fought with my sisters before, but I have never ripped their larynges out.  Yikes.  Azzarello with the help of artists Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins, and Goran Sudzuka have knocked this title out of the park.  I think what I like about the series thus far it that it is a completely different take on the saga of the Amazing Amazon than most fans have seen on a large scale.  It really roots her in mythic origins and divorces her from the contemporary DCU events, if only for the moment, to really give voice to the Greek drama that is her life.  Intriguing to be sure.

    Sibling Rivalry

    Sibling Rivalry

  • Sword of Sorcery #8 is finally here.  Though I hate to see this wonderful series come to a close, I am geared up for the incredible finale that has been so wonderfully built toward.  Eclipso has subdued both House Onyx and House Diamond, the two bloodlines that once gave him power.  They again fall under his sway.  It falls to the newly minted lord and ladies of House Amethyst, House Citrine and House Turquoise to stop him.  Amaya has a plan and it is a risky gambit that turns the very premise the first issue was based upon on its head.  Amaya’s ancestor, Lady Chandra, was the one who defeated the undefeatable Lord Kaala (Eclipso) when he first appeared in Nilaa. The question arises as to whether Amaya, young though she may be, can emulate her forebearer and put him down once more.  The course of this title has been circuitous and fraught with medieval political intrigue not unlike Game of Thrones.  It’s strange that this fact didn’t save it from cancellation, but the hope remains that somewhere down the road someone will resurrect it from the pivotal moment upon which it ends.  Writer Christy Marx can be proud of herself with this title and artist Aaron Lopresti presents his usual level of excellence in its depiction.  All nine issues of this series (zero issue included) are well worth reading.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batgirl #20:  Drawn by Daniel Sampere & Carlos Rodriguez, Colored by Blond, Inked by Jonathan Glapion & Vincente Cifuentes

Nightwing #19: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund

Red Hood and the Outlaws #19:  Art by Julius Gopez, Colored by Nei Ruffino

Supergirl #19:  Art by Mahmud Asrar, Colored by Dave McCaig

Wonder Woman #19: Art by Cliff Chiang & Goran Sudzuka, Colored by Matthew Wilson

Week 73 (Jan. 23, 2013)

This week is shaping up to be a juggernaut.  So many incredible titles are coming out in so many amazing events: “Death of the Family”, “Green Lantern: Rise of the Third Army”, “Before Watchmen”, “Throne of Atlantis”, and “H’el on Earth.”  Throw in Batwoman and Sword of Socery and you have a real party.  I am literally shaking with anticipation to crack the first book of this massive week.  So let’s not keep me waiting any longer:

  • Justice League #16 brings on part three of the “Throne of Atlantis” crossover.  I have had a great deal of negative feedback on most of Johns’ current endeavors, and most notably in this title.  He’s bastardized a great deal of things and I stick to my previous opinions.  However, in this issue he returns to doing what he had done  so well prior to the Reboot.  This issue is rich in allusions to other DC characters and concepts, such as Dr. Magnus and the Metal Men, Dr. T.O. Morrow and Red Tornado, Tula of Atlantis, etc., reintroducing them in conversationally appropriate ways and with interesting new contexts.  What he also does is humanize all parties involved.  Though I don’t enjoy how nemish and shortsighted he’s made seminal characters like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, perhaps there is a realism within that is necessary to the execution of this very morally complex plot.  Conversely, what Johns did seven and a half years ago with Sinestro, making him not a straight out psychopathic villain but rather a complex antihero, he does in this series with Aquaman’s brother, King Orm, aka Ocean Master.  Stakes are high and tensions are at a breaking point.  This issue marks the halfway point and despite my aversion to this series, Johns has me hook, line, and sinker.  In the SHAZAM! backup feature Johns has progressed past the ludicrous beginnings of the series and entered into a new version of the Captain Marvel mythology that is both rich and nuanced.  I really enjoyed this one, actually.  Although, Billy does revert back to his child self at the end, which could mean a return to the awful presentation of Billy Batson that Johns so unskillfully presented before.  My hope is that being in an adult’s body for even the short duration that four months of comics equates to will at least marginally mature him so we don’t have to witness his infantile crap for another slew of issues.  I have hope for this series after reading this issue, but retain the past failures of the series pragmatically within memory.

    Atlantis Rising!

    Atlantis Rising!

  • Batwoman #16 returns our protagonist to her hometown of Gotham as it descends into utter chaos with the advent of Medusa herself.  With Wonder Woman accompanying her, the duo this arc dubs the “World’s Finest” sets out to subdue Medusa’s mythological forces (complete with gargantuan Hydra) and rescue the children abducted by the mad gorgon.  Its all hands on deck.  Not only are Batwoman and Wonder Woman on the streets of Gotham, but most of the Gotham City Police Department led by Batwoman’s lover, Det. Maggie Sawyer, and DEO agent Cameron Chase and Director Bones.  In this penultimate chapter of the arc spanning storyline its all or nothing.  Batwoman has found Medusa and the missing children.  Medusa’s horrifying plot is revealed in full as she attempts to resurrect the literal “mother of all monster” into the mortal world with the sacrifice of the innocent children.  However it goes down, next issue is the end of this first overarching storyline and the end of Batwoman’s first real test as a Gotham City superhero.  J.H. Williams III does a stunning job rendering this story from an equally stunning script by W. Haden Blackman and himself.  I don’t know if I will be able to wait until February to find out the end of this conflict that has almost been two years in the making.

    The Mother of All Monsters

    The Mother of All Monsters

  • Green Lantern #16 picks up with Simon Baz after learning the truth behind the bombing he was framed for and the appearance of B’dg, Green Lantern of Sector 1014.  The stunning revelation last issue was that the Green Lantern Corps is aware of the Guardians of the Universe’s plot to destroy free will throughout the universe with their Third Army.  B’dg comes to Earth seeking Hal Jordan, the greatest of their number, to enlist his aid in stopping their masters from realizing their mad scheme.  To his dismay, the ringslinger he finds is not only a rookie, but inherited his ring from Sinestro and Hal, both of whom have disappeared.  Baz is needed regardless if the Corps is going to stand a chance against the Guardians.  Before he can leave, he has things to attend to on Earth and despite B’dg’s impatience, Baz proves himself to be a Green Lantern like no other as well as possessing an incredible amount of will, on par with all of his Earth lantern brothers.  Another awesome issue from Geoff Johns and artist Doug Mahnke.
  • Green Lantern Corps #16 unites the Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps titles in anticipation of next week’s Green Lantern Corps Annual #1.  Stripped of his ring and rank, Guy Gardner returns to Earth a broken man attempting to find a new purpose in life.  As with most things Guy does, he mismanages his actions and ends up being arrested . . . by his brother and sister.  While they are interrogating him in lock up, the Third Army attacks and takes out guards and inmates alike.  Its looking bleak for the Gardner siblings, but help is not far away in the form of Simon Baz, newest Earth Green Lantern, and B’dg, squirrel Green Lantern of Sector 1014.  With their aid a crisis is averted and Guy becomes aware of the Guardians plot and his being a casualty of it.  Elsewhere in the universe, John Stewart continues his mission with Fatality of the Star Sapphires to find the missing pieces of Mogo (the deceased planet GL) and reunite them so the slain Green Lantern can reform and become whole.  Though not much is revealed about this, the reformation of Mogo seems like it will have a great impact on events, but the fact that the Guardians willed it to happen portends ominous tidings.  I cannot wait to see what the Green Lantern Corps Annual next week has in store for us, the GL’s, and the universe in general.
  • Green Lantern: New Guardians #16 is one of those issues that you wait for for a very long time and once it arrives you swoon at its near perfection.  I have compared this second arc of the series after the “Ring Thief” arc that comprised its second year of publication as similar to “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”  Indeed, with Kyle’s transmogrified ring he has the ability to channel all seven colors of the emotional spectrum.  From previous experience in Blackest Night we know that this convocation would lead to him becoming a White Lantern.  He’s obviously mastered Green, and has preternatural talent with Blue (hope) as we saw in New Guardians #0.  With the help of Atrocitus he’s mastered Red (hate), Arkillo with Yellow (fear), and the seeming lack of help from Larfleeze he’s tapped Orange (greed).  Indigo-1’s tutoring of Indigo (compassion) was glossed over, which not only doesn’t make sense, considering its immense power, it also undermines his having to do anything past that, taking into account that Indigo Lanterns (or Tribesman, if you will) can channel any emotion they are in contact with.  That all aside, Violet (love) is the last emotion that stands between Kyle and his complete mastery of the emotional spectrum.  However, Kyle is one that has been stunted in the love department for almost his entire life, finding it hard to vocalize, so this last hurdle is the most difficult for him to surmount.  And wouldn’t you know that this would be the time that Ganthet, his former mentor and now Guardian of the Universe gone mad, would arrive with his Third Army thugs to snuff out Kyle before he can become a threat.  The stakes in this series have never been so high and Kyle will either shine brighter than he ever has or be snuffed out like a candle in the wind.  Tony Bedard is a brilliant.  Period.  Aaron Kuder adds to this masterpiece issue with peerless pencils and inks.  I am bookmarking this issue in the annuls of my mind.
  • Before Watchmen: Minutemen #6 closes out the series and does so with crushing impetus.  The saga of the Minutemen, chronicled narratively and visually by the incomparable Darwin Cooke, has been one that cuts to the heart and character of its band of players.  Most of them were glossed over in the original Watchmen series by Alan Moore, but with DC’s exploration of the Before Watchmen line, each gets their overdue turn in the limelight.  Following the murder of the Silhouette and her long crusade to stop child predators and Nite Owl’s picking up of that crusade after her death events point to Hooded Justice, the most secretive Minuteman of the bunch, as the murderer and torturer of young children.  This issue is the final account that ties up the series and answers questions that has been lingering through several Before Watchmen series.  From the Ozymandias series “What happened to Hooded Justice, and why are the Comedian and the Government so keen to keep it a secret?”  From the Nite Owl series “What is the secret that is so damning that Hollis Mason, the first Nite Owl (and main character in Minutemen), which he is so keen to keep hidden forever?”  This issue answers those questions and more in a truly terrifying and unbelievable sequence of events that will alter forever the way most readers look on the background cast of characters in Watchmen.  Darwyn Cooke’s prowess with a pencil and pen and his genius as a writer are unparalleled here and stand as an eternal monument to his place in comic book history.

    The End of an Era

    The End of an Era

  • Legion of Super-Heroes #16  returns to the Levitz-ian paradigm of storytelling with multiple stories and issues being put forward.  First on the docket, Chamelon Boy, Lightning Lass, and Shrinking Violet go to Takron-Galtos, the United Planets’ prison world, to check on the status of the Fatal Five member, Validus.  Since Legion of Super-Heroes #8 last April, the resurrection of the Legion’s most powerful group of antagonists, the Fatal Five, has been in the offing.  Bit by bit, evidence that they have been reforming in secret is being brought to light.  Validus, thought to be safely locked in a cube of inertron is one of the last pieces to the puzzle.  On the other side of the universe, at the Legion HQ, Brainiac 5 is busy trying to ascertain the cause of Glorith’s abduction last issue to Barcelona and the why and how of her causing a time rift, bringing forth denizens of that city from across its long history.  Lastly, and as an interim plot between these plo tpoints, the Legion election is drawing to a close and the Legionnaires debate amongst themselves who should lead the team as the votes are tallied to decided said leader.  This series is ironically one of the most realistic, because of the writing style of Paul Levitz, who gets that with a team of this size a lot of crazy things are going to happen simultaneously, and that with young heroes like these egos and hormones are going to stir things up.
  • Nightwing #16 brings the “Death of the Family” tie-in of this title to a close as it did in both Batgirl and Batman & Robin, with the Joker holding a platter in front of the title’s protagonist and the solicitation that a conclusion will come in Batman #17.  The twofold storyline of this title’s tie-in was really well played by writer Kyle Higgins.  Last month’s issue setup quite well an inventory of everything Dick Grayson had built up and the people whose trust he had earned.  Following the Joker’s reemergence and Dick’s realization that he had made them all targets, he did his best to cut ties and ferry everyone around him to safety.  This issue shows not only how great his failures are, but to what lengths the Joker would go to make a point and just how resourceful he can be.  One scene I think shows his attention to detail at its most nightmarish +throughout the entire line of Batbooks.  Admittedly the human tapestry in Batman #16 was gruesome, but pales in comparison to the detail and and scope of his carnival show at Haly’s.  Like Tim, Jason, and Damian, Joker really gets to the heart of what should be Dick’s main strengths and shows how they are really his greatest weaknesses. For Dick it’s his compassion and interpersonal nature.  So much of what he worked his entire life to build could very well burn down in the space of a single evening.  I have no idea what the title holds after the final page of Batman #17 and the first several pages  of Nightwing #17, but I am going to be there for both.  Good ending or bad, I sense ill tidings for Haly’s and its owner, the benighted Nightwing.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #16 crosses over with Teen Titans as the Outlaws (Starfire and Roy Harper) team up with the Titans to find their respective teammates (Jason and Tim) who were kidnapped by the Joker and brought to Gotham.  Both series are written by Scott Lobdell, who clearly is more than qualified to execute this crossover.  The issue in fact reads more like a Teen Titans issue than a Red Hood issue.  In fact, they don’t actually show Jason or Tim once in this issue.  Jason’s red hood yes, but not the man who wears it. Most of the issue is Roy and Starfire hauling the Titan’s “turkey out of the fire” as they fumble to fix the fallout from the Joker’s trap the Titans fell into, and the aforementioned teens being really angsty and resentful for it.  It is interesting seeing how the two teams gel as they are forced to work together, and some very interesting backstory of Roy’s is revealed as he begins to relate with the overly emo teens he’s having to take charge of.  On the periphery of this issue’s storyline are two seemingly unrelated references, one to Dr. Hugo Strange doing a book signing and the other to Deathstroke throwing knives at three pictures of each of the Outlaws and a brief comment on how he sometimes takes jobs simply for the fun of it.  I don’t know if this is Lobdell introducing plots to the two titles post-“Death of the Family” or what, but they are intriguing to say the least.
  • Supergirl #16 begins with the awakening of the giant crustacean looking beast that blew the Horn of Confluence in Superman #1 seventeen months ago, as well Superman #0 five months ago, and ends with the first image of the master whom the herald’s horn summons.  In between, H’el’s nightmarish plot for our solar system nearly reaches its conclusion and without Superman or Superboy (see last week’s review of Superboy #16) the Justice League is force to muddle though.  Flash’s task is to find Supergirl and get her away from H’el and out of the way of his endgame.  However, the Maiden of Steel is dead set on saving her home planet even at the expense of our solar system and every living thing residing within.  Her hopes and dreams are understandable, but her blindness to the value of human life and our right to existence is deplorable at best.  She’s a teenager who is homesick.  Its no excuse, but a reason to hold onto as she backs the wrong team.  Mike Johnson does an excellent job writing this series, especially its larger implications into a wider storyline, and Mahmud Asrar draws it decently well.

    Advent of the Oracle

    Advent of the Oracle

  • Superboy Annual #1 was a little trippy, taking place in a pocket dimension contained and generated by a device that Superman took off an evil space pirate in some far off quadrant of the universe.  The whole of the issue revolves around Superboy and his Kryptonian progenitor, Superman, blundering through different, shifting locales within, battling the denizens of this temporal prison as well as the sentient dimension itself.  The title falls under the “H’el on Earth” crossover event, but fails as an issue and an annual to do anything relevant to that goal.  If anything it hinders, rather than explores it.  So what does it accomplish?  Very little.  I think writer Tom DeFalco was aiming to further characterize the two characters in relation to one another, showing their differences and how each would cope with the other.  It did not, in my opinion, accomplish that in any significant way either.  All it did was bring out their worst characteristics of both in caricature.  I respect Tom DeFalco and the work he has done on this title since taking it over greatly.  I also have enormous respect Scott Lobdell, who wrote this series initially, and who tried to show the disjointed dynamic of these two men in the last issue of the Superman title.  He didn’t pull it off, in my opinion, either.  As Superboy #0 primed us to believe, Harvest preprogrammed Superboy to hate Superman and want to kill him.  That hasn’t happened yet, which begs the question of what that was about if they aren’t going to run with it?  This annual falls under the category of not really relevant or necessary to read.  If you fail to read it, you lose nothing in understanding the larger events going on in the series or miss out on a worthwhile yarn.  Better luck next time.
  • Catwoman #16 is a bit of a disappointment as the title goes.  I was a fan of writer Ann Nocenti’s early work on Green Arrow, but that has not translated to good writing on the rest of that series or through to this series.  The “Death of the Family” tie-in turned out to be a joke of an issue, and not a funny one the Joker would take pride in.  This two issue run beginning last issue and concluding here was laughable as well and thoroughly pointless.  Dealing with the current whereabouts of the Black Diamond, perhaps it will be the two issues that introduces Eclipso back into the DCU, but I doubt that will have any importance either.  I tried to find something good to say about this issue, but just couldn’t.  It was the opposite of what is good.
  • Blue Beetle #16 was a swan song to the seventeen issues of this series that have come out, ending in the Tenebrian Dominion and linking the continuance of fifteen year old Jaime Reyes’ (Blue Beetle) journey to the Threshold series and the “Hunted” reality show.  Jaime does his utmost to fight his way out of the grasp of the Ebon warriors of Lady Styx and get home to his family, but that isn’t in the cards . . . at least not yet.  He tries really hard.  However, when his last flicker of hope is blown out, he has his armor send a video file across the far reaches of space (It’s a comic, just go with it) to the emails of his parents and best friends telling them Jaime is going to come home someday, but in the event that he can’t, just how much each of them meant to him.  It is a beautiful moment despite the tragedy that befalls Blue Beetle as it plays out.  His words to each party involved are brief, but just right, clearly touching each person deeply.  Succumbing to his captors the issue closes, but it does so not with finality, but with infinite possibilities.  I was leery about this series when it first came out and for awhile it teetered on the edge of getting dropped.  I am so glad I saw it through to this last issue.  It was worth every step of the journey and I will continue to follow Jaime into Threshold.
  • Wonder Woman #16 brings the narrative back on track, setting the main characters’ sights (literally) on the baby of Zola and Zeus.  With the help of Wonder Woman’s brother, Milan, the group are able to see that the baby is in the arms of both Hermes and Demeter in the latter’s stronghold.  We are given further information about just why Orion has come to Earth and what his intentions are regarding the Gods of Earth.  In the Arctic, we see the First Born battling the forces of one of his unnamed uncles that were sworn to guard his burial place as well as the unmasked benefactor of the First Born who dug him out of the tundra.  The identity of this person caught me a little off guard and I look forward to future revelations regarding that character.  Finally Zola and Hera, who really hate one another and have tried to kill each other often, find a common ground and begin to thaw in their relations with one another.  This issue by Brian Azzarello really was intriguing, as well as giving evidence of greatness to come in future installments.  Cliff Chiang remains an incredible artist and renders all aspects perfectly in the tone dictated by Azzarello’s story.
    The Baby with the Starry Eyes

    The Baby with the Starry Eyes

  • DC Universe Presents: Black Lightning and Blue Devil #16, like last time,  is a placeholder, but one that ends the current story arc.  Here’s hoping the next three issues are better.
  • JSA Liberty Files: The Whistling Skull #2 was yet again confusing.  I’m going to have to do two placeholders in a row, because while this series has yet to come together in any meaningful way, I hold out hope that it will eventually when writer B. Clay Moore decides we should start to understand it.  Honestly though, this issue and its predecessor were just random events thrown into a metaphorical blender.  The only thing that links the two are references to the children disappearing and then being incinerated from the inside out.  Other than that the characters, their origins, motives, and affiliations are all a complete blank.  Holding down the fort is Tony Harris with incredible art.  Barring that and its association with the other two JSA: Liberty Files miniseries, I would say pass this one up.
  • Sword of Sorcery #4 begins with an Amethyst story taking place after she concluded her stint in Justice League Dark #14 but before she returns to her “home world”, the gem world of Nilaa.  Asking Constantine to take her quickly to Chicago for a last taste of pizza before returning to a world without Italian food from which she may never return, she stumbles across more evil magic on Earth that demands her attention.  This little yarn wasn’t that interesting or important to the main story, so we’ll chock this installment up to a less than exciting vacation and continue with the series anew next month, this time back in Nilaa where the character truly belongs, both inside and outside of the narrative. Also this month begins the Stalker backup feature written by the DC Universe Presents: Black Lightning and Blue Devil scribe, Marc Andreyko.  I didn’t care for his above storyline and I can’t say that I liked this one either.  It was okay.  Much better than the Black Lightning and Blue Devil story, but the problem was that he was re-imagining a work of genius from the past with which I had a deep affection.  Paul Levitz wrote four issues of the Stalker series with Steve Ditko on pencils, before the series was cancelled due to the comic book implosion of the late 70’s.  With the original, it was a true swords & sorcery title that had a very straightforward, dark, and twisted character.  This run by Andreyko tried too hard to make him grandiose and relatable and totally missed the mark on all counts.  It then proceeds to show him living through the ages and emerging in the here and now, which again is completely WRONG for this title.  For those who want to know more about what the original series is about, I am going to put this link to my review of the Steve Ditko Omnibus in which the four issue of the Stalker series are collected: https://offthepanelcomicreview.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/review-the-steve-ditko-omnibus-vol-1-starring-shade-the-changing-man/
  • Saucer Country #11 tells the story of Governor Alvarado returning with her ex-husband, Michael, to the farm he grew up on.  Taking a detour from aliens, this story focuses on another folklore very akin to alien sightings but far more terrestrial.  Instead of little gray men, this issue has little winged men and women.  As children, Michael and his sister, Beth, used to see fairies and go on magical adventures.  He relives some of these memories including the last great encounter before things changed and he and Beth were forced to abandon belief in what they knew in their hearts actually happened.  Upon revisiting the events with people who were around back then, Michael realizes the truth behind the trauma that conjured fairies in the mind of two young innocent children.  The harsh reality that he discovers and the way the mind coped by sugaring the event over with fairies leads the reader to wonder what that holds for the existence of aliens and their role in the larger story being told here.  Paul Cornell continues this magnum opus, spawned from a lifelong fascination with alien mythology, with great talent and insight, constantly making the reader think and always keeping any inkling of what is going on cleanly out of reach.

Thus ends an incredible week of comics.  I am giddy as the fallout of the better titles play out in my head.  I dare say this may be the best week in comics I have read this month and perhaps in a long time.  Not all the best, but collectively there was a high quotient of awesome that is rarely matched let alone surpassed.  We’ll see if next week, the final of the January, can stand the test.  While I highly doubt it, I will be there to test them.  Hope you will too.

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

Illustration Credits:

Justice League #16:  Drawn by Ivan Reis, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Joe Prado & Ivan Reis

Batwoman #16:  Art by J.H. Williams III, Colored by Dave Stewart

Green Lantern: New Guardians #16:  Art by Aaron Kuder, Colored by Wil Quintana

Before Watchmen: Minutemen #6: Art by Darwyn Cooke, Colored by Phil Noto

Supergirl #16: Art by Mahmud Asrar, Colored by Dave McCaig

Wonder Woman #16: Art by Cliff Chiang, Colored by Matthew Wilson

Week 68 (Dec. 19, 2012)

I have been waiting a long time for this week in comics.  Green Lantern and Green Lantern: The New Guardians are without a doubt the two best titles in the Green Lantern line up, Batwoman is a top tier title, two “Death of the Family” intros in Nightwing and Red Hood and the Outlaws, and of course the introduction of Orion and the New Gods into the New DCU in Wonder Woman.  That said, let’s get to ’em:

  • Green Lantern#15 first and foremost tells us that Hal and Sinestro are in a place called “The Dead Zone” which is outside of the land of the living.  It doesn’t say that they are dead, just that they are in the Zone.  On Earth, Simon Baz, newest Green Lantern of Earth, tracks the owner of the van he stole in hopes that he can shed light on who stole the van before Simon did, setting up the explosives.  What Simon finds is much more sinister, especially when the Third Army makes an appearance in all their assimilating terror.  Also interesting is the advent of B’dg, the squirrel GL of Sector 1014, who reveals to the reader that the Green Lanterns have become aware of what the Guardians are doing with their newly minted Third Army.  Geoff Johns is amazing and has made this series so amazing for its whole seven year run.  This main title has seemed to skirt the issue of the Third Army, never directly dealing with it in lieu of introducing Simon Baz.  With the resolution of his innocence in the bombing of a Dearborn factory it would seem that his role in the DCU can become more cosmic, turning more prominently toward helping his fellow corpsmen fight the Third Army.  Though it hasn’t been said directly, it would seem to me that the Third Army is targeting the homeworlds of Green Lantern members.  Time will tell if I am correct in this assertion.

    Enter B'dg of Sector 1014

    Enter B’dg of Sector 1014

  • Green Lantern: The New Guardians #15 picks up with Kyle, his “coach” Star Sapphire, Carol Ferris, and sole Yellow Lantern, Arkillo, heading towards Okaara in the Vega systems to meet with Larfleeze, the sole Orange Lantern.  The idea is to get the master of the Orange light of Avarice to help Kyle master greed himself, thereby getting him closer to complete control over the emotional spectrum.  As with every Lantern title that is coming out under the “Third Army” banner, this issue features an attack by the Third Army that claims a very dear casualty for the readers.  Tony Bedard is slowly mounting the plot towards an incredible vista that is glorious to imagine.  And for the first time since issue #0 three months ago, Aaron Kuder provides interior art.  I am glad to see him back, as I have become a fan of his style, but putting it side to side with the previous issues done by Andrei Bressan, it really isn’t that different.  The end of the “Third Army” storyline is coming close to its resolution in January and this series looks to keep pace with that schedule.  January 30th can’t come soon enough in my humble opinion.
  • Batwoman #15 marks the return of Batwoman to Gotham with Wonder Woman in tow.  However, the issue focuses on Batwoman’s paramour, Det. Maggie Sawyer.  Since the first issue a little over a year ago Maggie has been the lead on the investigation of Medusa’s mass kidnappings of small children.  Batwoman has traversed the darkness and attacked head-on the shadowy pockets where Medusa’s minions dwell with contacts in the DEO and the masked community.  She fights the good fight unaccountable to anyone.  Maggie is bogged down with limited resources, jurisprudence, and a foe that is far beyond her experience.  She is the mouthpiece of the case, who for these sixteen months has had to look the parents in the eyes and give them comfort and confidence that their children will be brought home safely.  Though she isn’t going to the places that Batwoman is or kicking as much ass, she is the one who holds the fort down and gives hope.  This issue pays tribute to her, a bad ass cop and a woman who has been through hell.  Throughout we are made privy to her thoughts, fears, past traumas, and aspirations.  J.H. Williams III does art on the first and last page of the issue with Trevor McCarthy doing the rest of the interiors.  Since it breaks from the Batwoman/Wonder Woman perspective the transition is not inappropriate, but I will admit that McCarthy’s, which isn’t terrible, is not as engrossing as Williams’ incredible panels.  I believe next issue will not only return to Batwoman and Wonder Woman fighting Medusa, but also Williams on art duty.

    The Lanterns of Greed

    The Lanterns of Greed

  • Before Watchmen: Moloch #2 delivers the second half of the life of Moloch the Mystic.  Moloch lived a life of sin and corruption, hurting people to assuage the pain of being shunned and oppressed himself because of his physical deformities.  After years of incarceration and numerous apprehensions by one costumed adventurer or another, Moloch finds salvation in the Lord, repenting his past wrongs and attempting to make right on them.  Enter Adrian Veidt, the former mystery man Ozymandias.  He offers Moloch a job, as well as a chance to reenter society as a productive member.  The childlike exuberance that Moloch shows throughout the issue is truly heartrending, especially when you already know his ultimate fate.  Ozymandias may be a hero in title, but his methods are cold and calculating, and the ultimate scheme that makes itself manifest in Alan Moore’s original graphic novel includes giving Moloch terminal cancer to facilitate his nightmarish plan.  Topically, this issue is awful, because a good man who just wants a chance at redemption is exploited and purposefully afflicted with the most horrible of afflictions.  That’s the doom and gloom of Alan Moore for you.  However, J. Michael Straczynski, who writes this two part series, plays up the born again christian aspect of Moloch’s story so that when confronted with the reality of what Ozymandias has done to him and why, Moloch accepts that the goal is virtuous and that as a sinner his death could mean the salvation of billions.  He got a bum deal, but he accepts his role in a larger drama and gains absolution through his suffering in an almost Christ-like fashion.  Even though Ozymandias did this without his knowledge and with no thought for his volition, it comes out right and almost has a happy ending.

    Absolution Through Death

    Absolution Through Death

  • Catwoman #15 has Selina going back to work after the lackluster two issue “Death of the Family” story.  Across the board, the tie-ins have been doing what I feel to be very important things, whereas this one was not only not ominous, it just didn’t accomplish anything at all.  Oh well . . .  She pulls one heist for fun, crashing a rich teen’s party while her parents are out of town, but later takes on a job to steal an artifact from the “Black Room” of A.R.G.U.S..  That artifact being the Black Diamond, which we know from previous incarnations of the DCU to be the talisman of Eclipso.  The circumstances of this situation are far more interesting than the actual execution.  The information we get about the Black Room feels like it will be important to the impending “Trinity War” event down the road, as well as a clue into the really random headings placed on titles that fall under the “Black Diamond Probability.”  Most of the banner events get press and/or advertisement.  Thusfar the “Black Diamond Probability” has not, which makes it that much more intriguing.  We’ll see if the underground hype pays off or is just a smokescreen.
  • Nightwing #15 brings Dick Grayson into the fold of the Joker’s “Death of the Family” plot.  Since his first issue, a year and a half ago, Dick has inherited the circus he was raised in and discovered his familial tie to Gotham and the shadowy forces that have governed it for centuries.  Like Bruce, his goal as these events have progressed is to turn Gotham around and make good on the evils that have led to the great city’s decline.  In the process, he’s reestablished old relationships as well as new trusts with the members of the circus, gambling on the group’s future as a staple of Gotham City entertainment.  With the Joker coming on the scene, that trust is stretched to the breaking-point as obviously Nightwing has painted a bullseye on their chests as an exploitable weakness.  Since those members of Haly’s Circus that remain have done so, also gambling on Dick’s dream, their safety is paramount in Nightwing’s mind, adding further desperation by the former Robin to take down the Joker before his insanity imperils more of his friends.  As we’ve seen in the other books under this event’s banner, the Joker’s individualized plots against “the Family”  are minutely designed to cut deep at their intended targets.  One of the lynch pins in the Nightwing plot is a red-headed ghost from Dick’s past that adds further depth to the overall scheme.  Color me intrigued as we await issue #16.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #15 fleshes out perhaps the most interesting of the Joker’s plots under the “Death of the Family” event in his plan for Jason Todd.  Writer Scott Lobdell has quintessentially linked Jason, aka Red Hood, to the Joker in his #0 issue of this title.  Jason was for all intents and purposes a hobby the Joker took up out of boredom, putting a street punk with family issues in the path of Batman upon faking his mother’s O.D-ing on drugs, setting up a situation where this punk would be taken on as Robin, and then setting up this punk’s death to mess with the Batman.  In this issue, after staging an eerily familiar scene of Jason’s girlfriend, Isabel, O.D-ing in her apartment, the Joker abducts our red masked protagonist and places him within a maze that sloooowly reveals tokens of every stage of his journey to being Robin through his death at the Joker’s hands, not only proving that the Joker knows who he is but that he was also present every step of the way!  Lobdell really struck a nerve with his revelation of the Joker’s connection to Jason in Red Hood and the Outlaws #0, and in this issue begins to play that nerve like a Stradivarius.  I can only image that next month’s concluding issue will do nothing less.

    The Hard Truth

    The Hard Truth

  • Supergirl #15 ushers in the next chapter of the “H’el on Earth” event with H’el evicting the Man of Steel and his cloned protege, Superboy, from the Fortress of Solitude.  With Supergirl in tow he sends her into the bottled city of Kandor to retrieve an object of crucial importance to their plot to resurrect Krypton.  The story is framed with a reminiscence of one of Kara’s last days on Krypton in the company of her best friend, Tali.  With the memories of yesterday so fresh in her mind, and the sighting of her comatose friend within the Bottle City, the rationale of Supergirl falling for H’el’s psychotic plan, veiled though it may be in sugary lies.  She does so out of loneliness, out of a sense of cultural and social loss, and out of a burgeoning passion.  Though she is misguided, her journey is still really engrossing and compelling.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes #15 takes a break from the usual pace of things with a magical jaunt to the city of Barcelona.  One of writer Paul Levitz’s newest creations, Legion rookie Glorith, protege of veteran legionnaire the White Witch, is transported by an enigmatic voice in a dream through a portal to Barcelona.  When the Legionnaires later go to find her, the city is descended into chaos as denizens and scenes from throughout the city and surrounding area’s past spring up.  These include dinosaurs, cavemen, Inquisition era mobs complete with torches, and 20th century guerrillas.  Not seeming to connect with the large dilemmas the Legion has been facing, as is Levitz’s authorial style, this issue still is really engaging and quintessentially a Levitz Legion yarn.  And as it doesn’t connect with any overhanging plot from the recent past, that doesn’t mean that it won’t intertwine later into a characteristically complex storyline.  
  • DC Universe Presents: Black Lightning and Blue Devil #15 just was.  I’m only putting it up here as a place holder.  Not a good series, but maybe it will facilitate something interesting in a later appearance by one or both of these characters in another series.  Otherwise, not good.
  • Wonder Woman #15 is delving into something that I have been waiting for since the inception of the New DCU: The New Gods.  Jack Kirby’s legendary creations have always been among my favorite DC characters and concepts.  With the first arc of Geoff Johns Justice League I was horrified with the abysmal depiction of Darkseid and his hoards of Apokalips.  With Brian Azzarello’s exploration of the New Gods from New Genesis I am hopeful that the DC will have a second chance at doing right by Jack Kirby’s work.  Here Orion is sent to Earth to treat with one of the sons of Zeus, the blind vagrant Milan.  Wonder Woman and her brother, Lennox, also seek out Milan in their attempt to locate Hermes and the abducted baby of their friend, Zola.  As is characteristic of both Wonder Woman and Orion, misunderstandings are made and the two immediately resort to violence.  Though last issue did give a hint at the reason for Orion’s coming to Earth, the main points are still a mystery, but I remain hopeful that good things will come of this story arc.
  • JSA Liberty Files: The Whistling Skull #1 is a return to an Elseworld that I greatly enjoyed.  For those not in the know, Elseworlds are re-imaginings that take DC characters out of their normal surroundings and insert them into brand new contexts.  The most famous Elseworld is probably Superman: Speeding Bullets where Kal-El, last son of Krypton, is rocketed to Earth from his doomed planet where he lands in Gotham City and is found by the childless Martha and Thomas Wayne, raised under the name Bruce Wayne, witnesses their murder and later dons cape and cowl, becoming Batman, albeit with flight, super strength, super speed, and heat vision.  JSA: Speeding Bullets was a series that took the Golden Aged DC characters and re-imagined them as deep cover covert operatives of the United States Armed Services during WWII, originally written by Dan Jolley and drawn by Tony Harris.  Drawn by returning artist, Tony Harris, and written by B. Clay Moore, this series under the subtitle The Whistling Skull deals with deep cover operatives of what appear to be strictly British Intelligence, although that may not hold up to be true as the story unfolds over the forthcoming five issues.  Starting out with a five page jaunt to the Japan of 1940, Dr. Midnight, Hour Man, and Wildcat (all American) are seen with the Skull and his sidekick, Knuckles, both British.  The rest of the issue is a disjointed progression of jumping back and forth between England in the 20’s and Switzerland in the 40’s.  In Switzerland there is a mysterious, mystical malady that is killing locals in a horrific fashion, but the cause and its ties to the larger war happening in Europe is not alluded to.  To my knowledge the Whistling Skull and Knuckles are completely new characters with no basis within comic lore, and regardless of this being the case or not, are very poorly introduced in this first issue.  The premise is interesting to be sure, but as a first issue this one failed to develop a cogent premise.  However, because I enjoyed the original two series in collected graphic novel, I will ride this one out.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #5 brings the miniseries to the brink of realizing its subject, namely He-Man and the Masters of the Universe becoming reestablished.  From issue #1 five months ago, we have seen an Eternia where He-Man and the Masters have been placed under a state of amnesia and the forces of Skeletor carving out little fiefdoms of control.  Skeletor himself is locked in Castle Grayskull, attempting to wrest the fabled power it houses from the imprisoned Sorceress and even the spirit of Grayskull itself.  Adam and Teela have landed on an island controlled by Evil-Lyn and while escaping from her forces, led by Teela’s amnesiac father, Man-at-Arms, the two come across He-Man’s sword, aptly sheathed in stone.  Upon drawing it from the stone in Arthurian fashion, he not only remembers who he is, becoming He-Man once more, but also awakens all of his allies from their own forgetful somnambulism.   Next issue, the final of the six part story, promises to be a He-Man adventure like we have known in the past.

    Drawing the Sword of Power from a Stone

    Drawing the Sword of Power from a Stone

  • Sword of Sorcery #3 continues the Amethyst plot as Princess Amaya of House Amethyst continues to acclimate to her life in the Gem World of Nilaa.  Her evil aunt, Queen Mordiel, proposes a meeting with Amaya and her mother, Graciel, at neutral ground at their brother Bhoj’s country estate.  The results are predictable, but the information and characterization revealed within this parlay are truly intriguing taken together with what we already know of Gem World. The issue also takes us up to the moment in which John Constantine snatches Amaya back into our world, as seen in Justice League Dark Annual #1 with the portal stone. Writer Christie Marx and artist Aaron Lopresti really deliver an engrossing look into what would seem like a froufrou, utterly ridiculous title.  On the contrary, Amethyst is a very intricate book of feudalism and realpolitik, with almost as much intrigue but way less sex than “Game of Thrones.”   The Beowulf feature reaches its concluding installment as the enigmatic woman, identifying herself only as “Grendel’s mother,” explains to our protagonist the rationale behind his creation as a direct result of the superhuman advent, as seen in Justice League #1, and a human supremacy movement by the villain Regulus, as seen in Suicide Squad.  Tony Bedard foreshadows a great many things about what Beowulf is, yet withholds a great deal up to this issues conclusion and the ending of this chapter in the saga of Beowulf.  The feature does end with a solicitation that “Beowulf will return in 2013!” so all hope isn’t lost that answers will come.  In the meantime, the next issue of Sword of Sorcery will contain the Stalker feature written by Marc Andreyko and drawn by Andrei Bressan.  Writer and artist are both fantastic, and I am excited by the title itself, which was based off of a Paul Levitz four issue series from 1975.  I will stay on this series with great enthusiasm and I would encourage others to do the same.
  • The Unwritten #44 is an exemplary reason why this series is incredible.  The main character, Tommy Taylor, descends into the Underworld to rescue the woman he loves, Lizzy Hexam.  This endeavor mirrors a Golden Age superhero comic that a character in the series past wrote, which itself was obviously mirrors the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.  When he gets into the Underworld, his guides are the slain children of the warden of the French prison that Tommy was held in close to the series beginning.  Both children were incredibly round, complex characters, killed far before their time both literally and literarily, but creators Mike Carey and Peter Gross prove how wide reaching this series is by returning them to the narrative in a very thoughtful way.  The issue shows the workings of Hades in the world of The Unwritten, as well as sets up its most unlikely of Underworld Kings, again another resurrected character from issues past.  This book is stunning.  Read it.

    The Tinker Descends Into the Underworld

    The Tinker Descends Into the Underworld

And so ends the last real week of comics in December.  Next week has a few stray titles for the day after Christmas.

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

Illustration Credits:

Green Lantern #15:  Drawn by Doug Mahnke, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Keith Champagne, Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin, Tom Nguyen & Doug Mahnke

Green Lantern: New Guardians #15:  Art by Aaron Kuder, Colored by Wil Quintana

Before Watchmen: Moloch #2: Art by Eduardo Risso, Colored by Trish Mulvihill

Red Hood & the Outlaws #15: Drawn by Timothy Green II, Colored by Blond, Inked by Wayne Faucher

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #5: Drawn by Philip Tan & Pop Mhan, Colored by Lee Loughridge & Jim Charalampidis, Inked by Pop Mhan, Jim Charalampidis & Lebeau Underwood

The Unwritten #44: Art by Peter Gross, Colored by Chris Chuckry

Week 55 (Sept. 19, 2012)

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

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

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


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

    Sisters At War

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

    The Twilight Lady Plays Her Game With Nite Owl

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

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

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

    Return of the Princess

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

    The Killing Joke

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

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

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