Oct. 30, 2013

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

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

    Faora.

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

    Supermom Lara Lor-Van.

    Supermom Lara Lor-Van.

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

    The Power of Life.

    The Power of Life.

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

    Young Love.

    Young Love.

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

    No Mercy for the Merciless.

    No Mercy for the Merciless.

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

    Heavy Weighs the Cowl.

    Heavy Weighs the Cowl.

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

    Convocation of Dreams.

    Convocation of Dreams.

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

Swamp Thing Annual #2:  Art by Kano.

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

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

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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 84 (April 10, 2013)

While reading this week’s batch of comics I recognized a theme of familial drama.  Fathers and sons, brothers and sisters, mothers and daughters, and even mothers and sons.  Several issues including BatmanBatman & RobinBatgirl, and Superboy focus on the tightly knit bond between parent and child and how that dynamic can cause one or the other to do some very drastic, unseemly things.  In the case of Batgirl, the elder Barbara Gordon is forced to choose between her kids.  Strangely, she does it pretty easily.  Batman goes over the deep end in Batman & Robin.  Superboy finds a tale not so much about the Boy of Steel, but rather a villain we’ve seen before whose villainous acts find purpose in a very overdue origin.  Needless to say, there is a deep wellspring of emotion present in this week’s issues, so without ado, here they are:

  • Batman #19 opens on a very unlikely scenario. Bruce Wayne robbing a bank and shooting several people dead.  Commissioner Gordon is on the scene and tries to rectify this very disturbing situation.  However, things are not what they seem and the plot goes back six days into the past to show the road that led us to this moment.  A similar event occurs with one of Bruce Wayne’s associates dying and yet walking around despite that fact.  Upon further inspection Batman discovers that one of his villains has gained an incredible new ability explaining the two men acting in seemingly impossible ways.  Scott Snyder’s run on this series has been really stellar, but his best work seem to fall under the two major arcs he’s penned thus far, “The Court of Owls” and “Death of the Family.”  This one was good, but not as good, lacking a sense of urgency or overall consequence.  In the backup feature, cowriter James Tynion IV delivers a tale of Superman and Batman delving into the supernatural.  Also not the best plotline, but not terrible.
  • Batman & Red Robin #19 pulls a gambit by revealing on its foldout cover the entry of Carrie Kelley as “Batman’s Partner.”  Not to spoil it, but it’s smoke and mirrors like so many of the things DC is printing on their oversized covers.  In this iteration of Batman lore, Carrie is a college student, not a spunky twelve year old, and a drama major who had been tutoring Damian in her spare time.  It’s questionable whether she’ll develop into an ongoing character in the Batverse, but in any event she’s been brought back into the fold from the tripped out microcosm of “The Dark Knight Returns.”  What this issue really is about and what we should pay attention to is the true depth of Batman’s loss and the desperate measures he’s been driven to.  Here he abducts Frankenstein for the sole purpose of taking him apart to discern how he was reanimated.  Since Frank is neither alive nor dead he is awake the whole time and through his evisceration tells Batman to stop the course he’s on as it will not be in his son’s best interest.  As the title insinuates, Red Robin is called in by Alfred to try and talk some sense into Bruce.  The jury is still out on whether or not that advice takes.  However, this issue continues to portray hauntingly the depths of emotions within the Dark Knight and showcase the humanity encased within his austere facade.  Series artist  Patrick Gleason draws it incredibly well, rounding out a stellar issue.

    A Father's Love

    A Father’s Love

  • Batgirl #19 welcomes back writer Gail Simone to the title and just in time for what turns out to be a killer conclusion to the story arc involving her little brother, James Gordon Jr.  James is an honest to goodness psychopath intent on hurting those closest to him.  His father, Commissioner Gordon, puts an allpoints bulletin out on him, but it’s his mother and his sister, Barbara, that end up having to deal with him.  Ray Fawkes was the writer on the past couple of issues, and while he did a decent job of showing James’ diseased psyche, the title languished a little when compared with Simone’s intimate, humanist stories told from Barbara’s perspective.  That comes through quite vividly in this issue, adding to the trauma she has already suffered from the Joker with the further trauma of growing up with a little brother who for all intents and purposes lacks a soul.  This issue concluded that dark episode, but presents a very heartbreaking consequence.  In between Simone accomplished two things of some merit.  First of all she revealed Batgirl’s identity to her mother, but most importantly she revealed that Barbara’s roommate Alysia is transgendered.  This issue proves Gail Simone’s mastery of comic writing.  It was heartfelt, personal, tragic, and also triumphant.  As long as she is attached to this title, Batgirl will be a series to pick up.

    A Mother's Love/Hate

    A Mother’s Love/Hate

  • Green Lantern Corps #19 is a very straightforward issue.  Volthoom the First Lantern has been going around torturing members of all the corps in an attempt to amass the power he requires to enslave the universe.  He’s tortured Guy Gardner.  As of last issue he’s tortured John Stewart and Fatality.  This issue begins his torture of the Green Lanterns located on Oa en masse, when a very familiar corpsman comes to their rescue: Mogo.  The planet Green Lantern comes to his embattled comrades’ aid just as he did during the Blackest Night, pulling them to his surface where he can protect them . . . or so it seems.  Once the Lanterns are on his surface they are beset by alternate versions of themselves imbued with negative energies: i.e. rage, greed, and fear.  All the time, though, Mogo is with them.  Mogo may not like to socialize, but is always there when the Corps is in need.  Peter Tomasi again delivers a strong Green Lantern Corps story that acknowledges its members’ weaknesses, but also the strengths that are born out of them.  The conclusion to this issue comes in just a few weeks in the apocalyptic Green Lantern #20.  I for one cannot wait.
  • Superboy #19 is actually a misnomer.  Though it is about Superboy in an ancillary way, the issue is actually an origin story for the ubervillain Harvest.  Born in the thirtieth century he is a soldier in the war that humans wage against the metahumans that have sought to enslave them.  The cause of this war goes back to Superman, and for that reason Harvest goes back in time and kidnaps the infant son that Superman has with Lois Lane.  That boy grows up under his guidance as a surrogate son to replace his biological child, killed in the war.  In his time, Jon Kent, as he was named, was afflicted with a genetic disorder stemming from his kryptonian/human heritage.  This condition rears its head again, threatening his life.  Harvest cannot watch another of his children die and that is why Superboy was cloned.  Him and the enigmatic N.O.W.H.E.R.E. operative, Templar, are attempts at perfecting the strange combination genome to heal his adoptive son’s life threatening condition.  After reading this issue, the reader is clued into who Harvest is and his logos for doing the horrible things he has done.  While one may not agree with what he is doing, you can sympathize with his pain and understand why he would undertake nightmarish schemes like the Culling.  Writer Scott Lobdell returns to this series to tell this tale of his insane arch-villain.  Considering the scope of Harvest’s reach into several series, this is an issue that cannot be missed.

    A Father's Love

    A Father’s Love

  • The Ravagers #11 continues on from Superboy above insofar as it shows the travails of the Ravagers created by Harvest’s Culling events as well as showing the lengths he will go to control them or silence them.  This issue is the penultimate issue of the series which is scheduled for cancellation next month with its twelfth issue.  Caitlin Fairchild’s Ravagers have taken refuge with the scientist Niles Caulder, but find themselves under attack on one side from Rose Wilson and Warblade, and on the other by Rose’s dad, Deathstroke.  With the end bearing down on the series and the stakes rising as they have it is very scary for those that have enjoyed this series and invested themselves in the cast of characters.  A few have already perished and its dubious whether they will come back like Thunder’s sister, Lightning.  I eagerly await the ending of this series to see if any of the Ravagers can make the jump to the Teen Titans or find their own way in the New DCU.  Here’s hoping.
  • Demon Knights #19 concludes, at least for the moment, the threat of Cain against the world with his vampiric horde.  Arriving at the shores of Themyscira, the Demon Knights show up in time to aid the Amazons in their battle with Cain’s forces, enlightening them on the proper protocols for dispatching the undead soldiers of the nights.  Under the surface of this issue writer Robert Venditti imbues several compelling developments for the main characters.  Exoristos, the exiled Amazon, returns to the home from which she was banished on pain of death.  The Demon is stuck on Earth because Jason Blood refuses to leave Hell.  Because Etrigan needs hellfire to replenish his energy Jason weakens his other half to show that he is stronger than anyone thinks by enduring Lucifer’s most heinous torments, just to spite the Demon.  What’s most interesting is that despite his love of torturing innocents, Lucifer loses his composure when he hears what Cain is up to on Earth and forces Jason to go back with genuine fear in his demeanor.  The final aspect is the Shining Knight fulfilling Merlin’s prophesy that she would fall to demonic forces.  She is bitten, but knows that it somehow fits into her ultimate quest to find the Holy Grail.  Queen Hippolyta (mother of Wonder Woman) knows something about its location, marking a turning point in the title to the next story arc.  Robert Venditti really takes this series forward in an almost indistinguishable manner from the first phase of storytelling by original writer Paul Cornell.  Bernard Chang’s artwork is fantastic and vividly portrays the medieval epic.
  • Threshold #4, like its previous issues, is fraught with myriad stories.  The main point of this issue is Jediah Caul and K’Rot racing to regain his lost power battery.  To make things more interesting, the area that it is located is scheduled to be shrunk and absorbed into Brainiac’s collective like the bottle Kryptonian city of Kandor.  Keith Giffen writes Caul into a very troubling predicament, which of course compels the reader to figure out how the rogue Green Lantern and his floppy eared friend can escape the clutches of perhaps the most coldly evil entity in the universe.  We’ll see.  In the penultimate chapter of Giffen’s “Larfleeze” backup feature, the culprit who stole the Orange Lantern’s vast hoard is finally revealed.  Giffen’s choice of thieves is quite appropriate and infinitely entertaining.  Across the board, Keith Giffen  and artists Phil Winslade, Tom Raney, and Scot Kolins, really are creating an effective cosmic epic for the New 52.  Giffen has a talent similar to Grant Morrison to create complex plotlines that can be read and understood on multiple levels and are accessible to most on at least one.  I genuinely enjoy each installment of his title.Threshold4
  • Batman: Li’l Gotham #1 was a really silly but entertaining kids series about the denizens of Gotham done by  writer/artists Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs in Nguyen’s classic inkwash technique.  In one, Batman’s villains gather for a meal at a fancy Italian restaurant on Halloween and Batman, who goes in for takeout, pays for everyone’s meals.  In the next story the Penguin leads an army of turkeys against their oppressors at the Gotham Thanksgiving parade.  Both are really simple, often comical tales of toned down versions of Batman’s most iconic characters. For something light and thoroughly enjoyable or for kids wanting a nice, nonthreatening place to begin a love affair with the world of Batman, this is the perfect title.
  • Saucer Country #14 delivers its concluding issue.  With the discovery that the “Voyager couple” are actors in a sound stage, the final threads of the conspiracy are pulled, unraveling the tapestry of lies that have been woven over the past sixty years by various groups, government agencies, and private individuals.  Arcadia Alvarado wins the presidency as the first Hispanic and female president as was predicted and as a result these revelations fall at her feet.  However, writer Paul Cornell doesn’t come close to weighing in on the actuality of whether or not there are aliens or wrapping up all the loose ends.  Arcadia and Michael were abducted in some way, but if not by aliens then by whom and for what purpose?  I am uncertain what I think upon the conclusion of this series.  The loose ends could just be a necessary evil as only so much of what we know of alien mythology can legitimately be explained by conspiracy and meta-science.  I choose to look at the excellent writing and the fantastically convoluted plots that twist and turn defying prediction or expectations.  It was a good run in that light and I applaud Cornell for the mastery of storytelling he employed in its composition.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman & Robin #19: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray

Batgirl #19:  Drawn by Daniel Sampere, Colored by Blond, Inked by Jonathan Glapion & Marc Deering

Superboy #19: Drawn by Diogenes Neves, Colored by Richard & Tanya Horie, Inked by Vincente Cifuentes

Threshold #4:  Art by Tom Raney, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse

Batman Beyond Unlimted #14: Drawn by Peter Nguyen, Colored by Andrew Elder, Inked by Craig Yeung

Week 80 (March 13, 2013)

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

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

    The Wisdom of Youth

    The Wisdom of Youth

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

    The Grief of a Father

    The Grief of a Father

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

    Behold His Work, Ye Might, And Despair

    Behold His Work, Ye Might, And Despair

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

    Young Love

    Young Love

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

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

Week 76 (Feb. 13, 2013)

This week is exciting as it brings out the conclusion and aftermath of one of the most talked about storylines in recent years, “Death of the Family.”  Superboy brings us one step closer to the apocalypse of  “H’el on Earth.”  The debut issue of the series Katana comes us, reintroducing us to an old friend from the old DCU.  This week has a great amount of potential.

  • Batman #17 was a much anticipated issue bringing the titantic “Death of the Family” arc of Batman and other Bat-titles to a culminating point of mutual closure.  Hyped to be one of the biggest things to happen in Batman ever, few failed to be intrigued.  I’d read early reviews that gave it perfect ten ratings or praised it to the heavens.  I’m gonna disagree.  Not because it wasn’t awesome, but I feel like the hype was built up for something that this issue had no possibility of delivering.  What Snyder did with “The Court of Owls” was perfect.  It changed EVERYTHING, but at the same time kept the status quo.  In “Death of the Family” NOTHING changed!  It didn’t even live up to its name.  The Family isn’t dead.  The events of the issue are not going to compel any of the “family” to cut Bruce out or change their relationship.  He’s withheld things from them before and manipulated them for his own ends a million times.  Why do you think Dick became Nightwing, Jason put on the Red Hood and cut Bruce out of his life, and Tim bugged out and got his band together?  Batgirl is a free agent regardless, and Damian’s alternative is a woman who low jacked his spinalcord and cloned his replacement.  None of them are going anywhere or going to alter their relationships with him at all.  The Joker does pretend to do some horrific things to them at the beginning of the issue, but the fact that it didn’t happen made it pretty annoying as a plot twist. Now that I have gotten my dislikes out of the way, I will say that the basis of the Joker/Batman relationship was tight.  The creepy pseudo-sexual obsession with Batman, coupled with the fetishism of the different medieval roles that various players in his life fulfill was pretty interesting.  The twisted things he did to the inmates and guards of Arkham was really unsettling and disgusting, which is a surefire way of hooking your audience into a very dark, haunted setup.  When Batman whispers something in the Joker’s ear towards the middle and you see the abject horror on the Clown Prince’s face, THAT was a moment!  The Joker laughs at everything and is so effing psycho nothing can touch him.   In fact that’s what makes him a quintessential Batman nemesis.  When your shtick is making criminals terrified of you, the worst possible antagonist is one that not only isn’t afraid of you, but one who thinks its hilarious to mess with you and goes out of his way to do so in the most horrific ways possible.  Reversing that and showing this paragon of laughter feeling genuine terror is golden.  Also the anecdote about Bruce basically telling the Joker, turn around and you can know who I am and the Joker refusing to do so because it would defeat the very purpose of their “game”.  Pure genius.  THAT is a defining moment that will go down in the annals of Batman lore.  So did I like it?  I loved it.  Was it a perfect 10?  Not by a long shot.  If they had said “This is a Batman story that’ll have you talking,”  I’d’ve accepted that.  But they were writing checks that the storyline couldn’t cash.  If they’d’ve done any of the twisted things Snyder set up, I would have been mad, but I would have accepted the storyline’s validity as it had been hyped.  I don’t know whether Snyder was behind the marketing, but the powers that be mismarketed this one terribly.  “Court of Owls” they said would be good and it exceeded the mark because one didn’t know what to expect.  In this one they told you what to expect and didn’t deliver on any of it.  Period.  I liked it, however, so don’t get me wrong. I can appreciate things as long as they follow through on their intrinsic principles.

    The Secret . . .

    The Secret . . .

  • Batgirl #17 also was a little lackluster considering all that has been happening recently.  Barbara Gordon has been through hell and one could imagine that she would be messed up after having come face-to-face with the Joker, the man who paralyzed her for years and sexually assaulted her immediately afterward.   That is something that original series writer Gail Simone would have plumbed and drawn her readers into with great humanity.  This issue’s writer, Ray Fawkes, glazes over that having Barbara track down Joker thugs still out there while her brother, James Gordon Jr., continues to explore his own twisted agenda, even visiting his mother in the hospital to terrorize her after her own ordeal with the Joker.  It also features the follow up to Batgirl’s encounter with the street punk Ricky in last week’s Young Romance Valentine’s Day special.  The results of their second meeting are as disappointing as the rest of the plot, but considering the insubstantiality of its content and the fact that they took the effort to write a story introducing it in the Special might mean that it will evolve over the course of forthcoming issues.  Not the best issue.
  • Batman & Robin #17 was, as ever, really good.  Following the nightmare that the “family” went through in so named “Death of the Family” crossover event, this series doesn’t seek to deal with hollow actions as coping mechanisms, but rather shows the humanity of the players involved.  The entire issue is a collection of the nightmares that haunt Bruce Wayne, Damian Wayne, and Alfred Pennyworth, but also dreams which give them hope for the future.  Peter Tomasi is a writer that truly gets the characters he is writing on a very intimate level and portrays them as such.  Every thought, every action, every word uttered by one character to another is infinitely telling about the people he is depicting.  Patrick Gleason’s art works on both the levels of displaying the minutest emotion and displaying the most horrific events in the most straightforward, conversational manner.  Awesome series, awesome issue.  This is one Bat-book that shouldn’t be missed.

    Dark Destiny

    Dark Destiny

  • Before Watchmen: The Comedian #5 doesn’t really do much to elaborate upon the character of Eddie Blake.  We already know that he’s insane and that he did some pretty inhuman things while fighting in Vietnam.  The only real thing that this issue accomplishes is showing how Vietnam facilitated a transition between Johnson and Robert Kennedy to Richard Nixon.  This isn’t the strongest book in the Before Watchmen line.  Writer Brian Azzarello accomplished some really poignant things in the first three issues of this title, but seems to have been floating through these last two, as if trying to fill out a six issue quota.  I can only imagine that he has something incredible in store for the next issue that will close out the miniseries.  Eddie Blake was a keystone figure in the course of the original Watchmen plot and it was precisely because of how insane and harsh he was.  If these past two throw away issues facilitate a poignant ending then they will have been worth it after all.  Azzarello is a very competant writer so I retain hope.
  • Superboy #17 ticks the doomsday clock of the “H’el on Earth” event closer to apocalypse.  In the first issue of Superman almost two years ago, the Herald blew the Horn of Confluence.  It made no sense at the time and had many of us scratching our heads for months and months, but now we see that the horn was blown to bring forth the Oracle to witness the death of our world.  H’el, a seemingly omnipotent survivor of Krypton, has created a device called the Star Chamber to use our solar system including the sun as a giant battery to grant him and his ally Supergirl the power needed to travel back in time and save Krypton . . . at the expense of all life on Earth and seemingly the rest of the seven other planets.  Superman squares off against H’el, Wonder Woman throws down against Supergirl, the latter of which is enthralled to H’el and his scheme to restore their homeworld at any cost, and Superboy encounters the Herald, but the nature of their confrontation is not entirely hostile as the other two brawls very much are.  In the midst of that, the Herald makes light of the “five anomolies” which may be a reference to what the “H’el on Earth” event creator, Scott Lobdell, has alluded to with his “Thirteen Scions of Salvation.”  Its a possibility.  Superboy really is a powerhouse in this issue.  Created as a living weapon, he started out his series as a condundrum, exhibiting a great amount of introspection and curiosity about the world he is abruptly born into and a near sociopathic disregard for the human life that populates it.  In this issue, as well as those immediately preceeding it, he fights so hard against forces infinitely more powerful than himself, but exhibits uncanny resolve and disregard for his safety and his life for the preservation of our world and humanity at large.  He is finally able to call himself a hero and definitely deserves the title.  Tom DeFalco nails this issue with excellent writing and substantial help from series artist R.B. Silva.

    The Herald and the Oracle

    The Herald and the Oracle

  • Katana #1 inaugurates a new ongoing series featuring the character, Katana, aka Tatsu Yamashiro.  Wielding a katana called the “Soultaker”, and possessing the spirit of her departed husband, Tatsu travels to San Francisco’s Japan Town to seek knowledge tattooed on the skin of an untouchable girl.  In pursuit of this knowledge, she is set upon by members of the Sword Clan, enemies of her departed husband and by extension herself.  Ann Nocenti writes this series and she does a very good job of setting a very somber, succinct tone.  Yet while the tone was particularly well done, I was unimpressed by the first issue itself.  While the mythology and the main character were established quite well, the story itself remains sluggish and unclear as to why the reader should care about the events that transpire.  Simply my opinion.
  • Demon Knights #17 is basically one big rescue attempt by the remaining Demon Knights to free Jason Blood from another of their number, Vandal Savage, who tortures the human side of the Demon Etrigan while preventing him from becoming his infernal other half with a muting spell.  Two issues into his run on the series, writer Robert Venditti proves to either be a literary chameleon or a very similar writer to series creator and original writer, Paul Cornell.  Bernard Chang’s artwork also keeps the feel of the book fairly stable, maintaining the look and feel of the medieval DCU.
  • Threshold #2 futher develops what promises to be a massive title with its own  central panoply of characters as well as those passing through from the larger DCU.  In the first issue we are introduced to Ember, Stealth, Ric Starr, and former Green Lantern deep cover operative Jediah Caul.  In this issue the Blue Beetle, aka Jaime Reyes, is dropped into the Hunted event, raising hairs on several people’s necks, not least of which, Jediah Caul, because of the Reach’s aversion to Green Lanterns.  So much so that any Reach operative (Beetles) are programmed to kill a Green Lantern on sight, or rather scent.  Also making the scene are Tom T’Morra (Tomorrow), a mysterious woman named Sleen, and a re-imagined Captain Carrot, here called Capt. K’Rot, as well as fellow Zoo Crew member, Pig-Iron.  What writer Keith Giffen makes blatantly apparent throughout the whole of the narrative so far is that these characters DO NOT like each other, but are forced, despite rules and the design of the game, to cooperate for mutual gain.  This even extends to those outside of the Hunted.  K’Rot, Sleen, and Pig-Iron are thieves drawn in by a contract for Scarab tech, and allying themselves, at least temporarily, with Caul for mutual benefit.  What results from these very strange circumstances is something between a Mexican Standoff and a Battle Royale on a planetary scale.  In Giffen’s backup feature Larfleeze, the sole Orange Lantern, at the behest of his kidnapped biographer, Stargrave, goes to the Star Rovers to help him get his stolen mementos back after unknown intruder(s) absconded with them.  The Star Rovers are in fact the same smugglers that Kyle Rayner, Carol Ferris, Arkillo, and Saint Walker dealt with in the Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual that sold them out to the Lady Styx.  In this they do not seem to be any more trustworthy then before.  But when you are as crazed a hoarder as Larfleeze, desperate times call for desperate measures.  Up and down, this series is promising to be a really engaging, dynamic story with killer art and masterful storytelling.

    A Lady of Stealth

    A Lady of Stealth

  • Ravagers #9 concludes the two issue arc of Rose Wilson and Warblade attempting to save a sequestered mountain town in Colorado from a metavirus that causes those exposed to spontaneously combust in a very painful fashion.  Rose herself, though purportedly inoculated against it, begins to exhibit symptoms, spelling disaster for this very uncharacteristic rescue attempt.  However, at the end of issue #8 the runaway Ravagers led by Caitlin Fairchild arrive on the scene.  At first they attempt to fight Rose and Warblade until the aforementioned baddies’ altruism is revealed by the citizens of the town.  The issue is so-so, but the aspect that makes it relevant is the interplay between Rose and Caitlin who were once friends before parting ways on ideological differences.  Despite being a pyschopath, there remains something human in Rose Wilson and this issue zeroes in on that.
  • Ame-Comi Girls: Supergirl finishes the preliminary round of introductions in the series and gets to the heart of the matter.  On old Krypton a cataclysm is on the verge following the discovery by Jor-El and Zor-El, the preeminent scientist on the planet, that Krypton like several other worlds was created by an entity called Brainiac for the purpose of growing and harvesting cultures for her information banks.  The fate of Krypton is linked to the fate of ours with the revelation that Earth is another Brainiac world that is ripe for harvesting.  Shortly before Krypton’s destruction Jor-El and Zor-El sent their respective daughters (both named Kara) to Earth in the hope of stemming the attack on Earth and in turn putting an end to Brainiac’s reign of terror.  Kara Zor-El (Supergirl) was the oldest of the two and was supposed to arrive first to prepare her younger cousin, Kara Jor-El (Power Girl), for the assault.  Ironically, Power Girl having arrived first is now an adult and her older cousin, prepped for battle, is still a teenager.  In any event, all the players are on the board and battle lines have been drawn.  All that remains is for the battle for Earth and by extension, the cosmos, which will be in the Ame-Comi Girls ongoing series coming March 6th.
  • Saucer Country #12 erupts in a tremulous time for the main characters of the series.  Governor Arcadia Alvarado is poised to be both the first hispanic president and the first woman president, assuming she wins the election.  So far she has beat out her democratic opponent in the primaries, Sen. James Kersey, who has agreed thereafter to be her running mate.  Now she is up against the sitting President Wardlow.  Kersey lost his lead in the democratic primary because of the revelation that he was also involved in an extraterrestrial abduction.  This issue showcases his recollections that have implications not only for Alvadado’s campaign, but also Wardlow’s presidency.  In the background the enigmatic female spokeswoman for the Bluebirds reaches out to the Alvarado campaign with sketchy promises for information, and after revealing his relationship with the tiny nude couple from the Pioneer space probes, Prof. Kidd finds himself on the rocks with Gov. Alvarado and the fallout puts him in a very precarious situation.  Paul Cornell keeps the suspense tight as his alien mythological drama delves deeper into one of the most speculated topics of the modern age.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #17: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Jonathan Glapion

Batman & Robin #17: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray

Superboy #17: Drawn by R.B. Silva, Colored by Richard & Tanya Horie, Inked by Rob Lean

Threshold #2: Art by Tom Raney, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse

Week 67 (Dec. 12, 2012)

This week is truly a “Bat Week.”  With the Batman title leading the way in the “Death of the Family” event, it swiftly got backup in the form of Batgirl #15, Batman & Robin #15, and Suicide Squad #15.  All incredible books in their own right.  Also, as I am wont to point out different milestones and astrological phenomenon, I will point out that in the middle of reading Batgirl #15 the clock struck 12:12:12 pm on 12/12/12.  This won’t happen for another century so I want to make note of this history event.  So noted, here is the rest of the week:

  • Batman #15 is unrelenting in the clarity and starkness of writer Scott Snyder’s vision of a truly twisted, nightmarish Joker.  From the beginning of his time writing the character several years ago (which technically was Dick Grayson’s Batman then) he has imagined stories that cut to the quick of each subject he undertakes.  His work on the Bruce Wayne Batman began with the “Court of Owls”, a brand new concept, but one that went straight to the quintessence of who and what Bruce Wayne and Batman are.  Almost eighty years of character boiled, distilled, and brought to a simmer, leaving us to read one of the purest Batman depictions ever written.  This issue in Snyder’s second arc jumps from the Bat to his most iconic nemesis: the Joker.  Over the decades the Joker has taken on many guises and iterations, but the intimacy between him and his pointy eared playmate has remained a constant.  This issue especially digs into canon and molds a horrifying thought of just HOW intimate that fascination was and what that kind of psychotic obsession can descend into when someone who thrives on a static idea only to watch it change over time.  “Death of the Family” is the Joker attempting to kill off the Robins, Batgirl, and associated with Batman, to take things back to how they used to be.  To remove any crutches Batman leans on that the Joker perceives to be making him weak and atrophied in his role as Dark Knight.  The backup feature of this title, coauthored by Snyder and James Tynion IV, has the Joker springing the Riddler for that exact purpose; to hone Batman’s intellect so he can once again become the ultimate version of himself that the Joker is enthralled by.  To quote the Clown Prince of Crime in this issue, “Its time you got back in your king’s service.  You’re the master of arms in this city, Eddie [Riddler].  You make Batman smarter. Better. More dangerous.”   Without a doubt, all of the horrible things the Joker is doing are spawned from love.  The question remains as to the nature of that love.  Is it fraternal, erotic, or an all-encompassing ecstasy? Regardless, it is terrifying to behold and the next two issues should be apocalyptic.

    Oh He Got In, Alright . . .

    Oh He Got In, Alright . . .

  • Batgirl #15 picks up at a very chilling moment in the current travails of the “Dominoed Daredoll.”  Being sent into the lair of the Joker by her brother, the former who abducted their mother, Batgirl is greeted by the strangest possible situation when confronting the mad clown.  Down on one knee, he proposes marriage to her with the severed ring finger (diamond ring still attached) of her mother, with the owner of said ring and finger tied to a chair seated atop a five pound nail bomb.  What’s a caped crusaderette to do in such a situation?  Once again writer Gail Simone writes a really complex tale that resonates with the character’s inner most psyche.  Barbara Gordon started this series sixteen issues ago as a broken woman; broken mentally and freshly rehabilitated after three years of being in a wheelchair, physically broken.  Throughout the past sixteen months she has had to struggle to maintain her edge while holding back the horrific memories of the Joker standing over her bleeding, broken body after shooting her in the stomach and the violations he subjected her to immediately afterward.  Now not only does she have to come face-to-face with the architect of her nightmares, but endure further ones as he manipulates her with the threat of her mother’s life.  Conversely, Simone also teases us with visions of the Joker several years prior (while his face was still attached naturally to the rest of him), describing to his terrified psychiatrist what his plans are for the woman he intends to marry.  This conversation alludes to the present events, but remains incomplete, tantalizing the reader with the question of where the twist is going to come into his plans for Batgirl.  With the Joker nothing is simple, so whatever it may be, it is guaranteed to be warped.  Daniel Sampere takes over art, for this issue at least, and does an equally grand job as former artist Ed Benes depicting the smoothing action as well as the beautiful heroine herself.  One of the things that makes Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl so entrancing is the fluidity, grace, and acrobatics that she employs when fighting crime.  It takes a special kind of artist to translate these visually and Sampere does the job.

    Every Crime Fighter Has Their Limits

    Every Crime Fighter Has Their Limits

  • Batman & Robin #15, after the two part storyline following Robin’s infiltration and assault upon the cabalistic Saturn Club, finds the Boy Wonder once again relegated to Cave duty, essentially grounded, while the rest of the “Family”  are out scouring the city for the Joker and the abducted Alfred Pennyworth.  Those who know Damian Wayne also know that he doesn’t do “grounded.”  Vowing to be the one to find Alfred, he attempts to trace the Joker from the scene of the crime.  Finding his way to the zoo, Robin falls into a trap and comes face to face (to face) with the Joker.  Like the above Batgirl issue, this meeting is steeped in former drama.  The last time they met, during Grant Morrison’s iteration of this title pre-Reboot, Damian attempted to ace the Joker with a crowbar.  Their previous interaction was intense, there’s no doubt about it, but there was very little back and forth.  Tied up and with no pressing agenda, Damian is forced to listen to the Joker talk and disseminate his grand plan and ideology surrounding the “Death of the Family” plot.  Steeped in ornithological and chiropteran analogy, the Joker very convincingly makes a case for why the Bat shouldn’t associate with a Robin, both in zoology and crime fighting.   This stage of the Joker’s plan is concluding with next month’s #16 issue and I am curious how the final image of this month’s installment is going to facilitate its successor.  Peter Tomasi is a brilliant writer and executes his part of the larger Joker storyline with razor sharp precision.
  • Suicide Squad #15 did some tertiary things with Amanda Waller and the Top, as well as the release of Captain Boomerang from the Squad, and a surprise ending featuring another member, but I don’t really care for that and most non-Suicide Squad fans probably don’t either.  The REAL drive of the issue is the “Death of the Family” tie-in, featuring the reunion of Harley Quinn and her pudd’n, Mr. J (The Joker).  This event is hardly how Harley would have imagined it, going over the line of moderately abusive behavior on the part of the Joker into full on psychopathic assault.  Harley is without a doubt the reason 90% of people read this title and she is extremely lovable.  Her one annoying trait is her masochistic penchant to go back to the Joker despite his chronic mistreatment of her.  She holds her ground against him in this issue and I personally loved her so much more for it.  I would say that facing off against her former lover, this issue is a self-actualization for her that could be the start of a new, far more interesting Quinn.  Apropos that point, the Joker also reveals a great deal about why he cut his face off and why Harley is a failure and a fraud in her proposed similitude to his legacy.  However, as I also stated, she proves herself to be ironclad in her resolve.  This issue worked so well as both a Batman tie-in and as a character issue.
  • Green Lantern Corps #15 accomplishes three things within the larger framework of the “Rise of the Third Army” crossover event.  With the Guardians of the Universe going over the edge and initiating the replacement of the Green Lantern Corps with a soulless army whose only goal is to wipe out free will and sentient life throughout the cosmos, casualties begin to fall.  Setting a moral and ethical trap for Guy Gardner, the Guardians are able to expel him in disgrace from the Corps, where in this issue he languishes in a quest for meaning on Earth sans ring.  Meanwhile, John Stewart runs an errand in deep space in an attempt to aid in the reconstitution of Mogo, the planet Green Lantern that he was responsible for killing during the Green Lantern War.  Fatality, princess and  sole survivor of Xanshi (the last planet John Stewart destroyed before Mogo) as well as sister of the Star Sapphires, comes to his aid because of the intrinsic nature of Mogo’s reconstitution. Mogo’s parts WANT to come back together, but are hindered by outside interference.  As a Lantern of Love, Fatality is drawn to unite the intrinsically female aspects of Mogo with the males, the attraction of which fuels his reconstitution.  The team-up of Fatality and Stewart is interesting on the level of John Stewart reliving his former geocidal sins and making amends with the help of its last surviving victim, as well as the mystery of how and why Mogo is being restrained.  Finally, and in my opinion most poignantly is Salaak.  Salaak is renowned as the Guardians’ lap dog Lantern and a cold adherent to the laws of the Corps.  He has been a pariah and distrusted by his fellow Green Lanterns for exactly that reason, but as of last issue has come to realize the scheming nature of his masters.  They become aware of his interference and as a reward for all his years of service and loyalty, begin the process of “disposing of him.”  The mere thought sickens me to my core.  He was my least favorite Lantern for all the above reasons, but his loyalty to the Corps over the blue bastards makes his sacrifice that much more moving.  I don’t know if you are dead or just imprisoned, Salaak, but if it’s the former rest in peace, sir.
  • Before Watchmen: Rorschach #3 delivers yet another stark portrayal of New York in the 70’s as well as Alan Moore’s anti-hero, Rorschach, aka Walter Kovacs.  After brutally retiring on of underworld kingpin, Rawhead’s, pimps, Rorschach forces the man himself to go out and collect his earnings from his “night workers” thereby drawing him into the open.  During the day, returning as he always does to the Gunga-Diner, Walter awkwardly asks the understatedly lovely waitress, Nancy, on a dinner date, which she agrees to despite teasing by her coworkers.  Rorschach’s moonlighting hinders his punctuality with said date and the consequences, hinted at in the first issue, look to be dire.  Brian Azzarello writes this title in the grittiest way possible and it is rendered exquisitely by Lee Bermejo, an artist Azzarello has a long standing association with.  The final piece of interest comes when Rorschach (as Rorschach) hails a cab and a very interesting “Taxi Driver” picks him up and makes characteristic small talk.  It may not be Travis Bickle, but it’s Travis Bickle.  Bermejo makes you see it in the dead-on De Niro visage and Azzarello captures his essence in his thoughts and speech.  Considering the parallels between Walter Kovacs and Bickle, the insertion (informal though it may be) is very thought provoking.
  • Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #3 brings us to the cusp of the character’s quantum reality conundrum.  Predicated off the concept of Schrodinger’s Cat, which states that a cat within a box is both alive and dead until the box is opened, Dr. Manhattan is made to experience the numerous possibilities of his existence, most of which exist outside of the certainty that he had been locked in the Intrinsic Field Chamber in 1959, turning him into Dr. Manhattan.  J. Michael Straczynski has taken this concept and written it with great thought and insight.  His resolution to the problem of infinite realities spun out of infinite decisions which billions of humans have made since the dawn of our species in this issue feels really false in my opinion.  Dr. Manhattan attempts and we are led to believe succeeds in manipulating all the events so that in every reality he IS trapped in the Chamber, ensuring he always becomes Dr. Manhattan.  The concept that he could do the infinite, even with his abilities seems preposterous and Straczynski doesn’t do a good enough job rationalizing it in my opinion.  However, Staczynski does tell a very intimate tale about his parents’ escape from Europe of WWII that once again draws off the Schrodinger’s Cat theory in a brilliant way, literally putting Jon Osterman (the human Dr. Manhattan) in the box, both alive and dead.  I love the art by Adam Hughes, and the story is well written, though not as effectively justified in its logic.

    Simultaneously Dead and Alive

    Simultaneously Dead and Alive

  • Demon Knights #15 brings to a close the tenure of series creator, Paul Cornell, in epic style.  On the magical isle of Avalon the unquenchable horde of the Questing Queen and Lucifer’s legions of hellspawn descend to assert dominion over the sacred realm.  Avalon fights back with the summoning of the Knights of the Round Table alongside their once and future king, Arthur, as well as the revived Merlin.  The battle was choreographed and scripted carefully by Merlin and all comes out as the mage had foreseen.  That said, Merlin himself goes through a transformation that portends the future of the DC as we have read in Stormwatch.  I personally hate Stormwatch, so the connection between a series I have loved with one I have hated so passionately is slightly disconcerting.  Still, Cornell did a good job on this issue and I would suggest people read it.  Following this issue, it would appear that a splintering of the group is at hand, but not forever.  Madame Xanadu foretells that they will reunite, and as we know from solicitations, the series will return next month with a brand new writer, Robert Vendetti.  Vandal Savage and Al Jabir go back to Alba Sarum to claim very different rewards, Xanadu and Jason Blood go away together to distance themselves from Merlin’s meddling, Shining Knight reenters Arthur’s service and asks Exoristos to be her companion, and the the horsewoman chides them all for defying fate.  The Cornell run of this series has been amazing and if anything, this issue may stand as a bookend for a glorious era of storytelling within the title.
  • Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E #15 has Frank retrieving the last piece of the soul grinder and witnessing the death of a technologically advanced, mechanized society of female automotons that created paradise and sacrificed their lives and hopes to stop the Rot.  Glavanized by this Frank fights his creator, Victor Frankenstein, and assembles the device.  With the help of Victor’s machine, Frank is not only able to defeat his creator, but also reincarnate his friends into bodies that are impervious to attacks from the Rot.  Among them is the one closest to his heart at present: Dr. Nina Mazursky.  She also is reborn into a patchwork body, though one that still resembles her former Creature from the Black Lagoon one, and it s revealed that even afterward she is pregnant with Frank’s child.  I won’t lie.  I like the character of Frankenstein as well as Nina and the thought of their having a child warms the cockles of my heart.
  • Grifter #15 was a lot like the series has been for a while: aimless wandering.  Cole Cash, aka Grifer, is transported by the vengeful AI of Stormwatch’s orbital base, Eye of the Storm, into the headquarters of the Suicide Squad, headed by his former Team 7 colleague, Amanda Waller.  Going through that last sentence and making a tally, there are four major topics within that I do NOT care a fig about.  There is only the slightest hint of interest in flashbacks to a cult Waller infiltrated six years prior that were preaching about the imminent threat of Daemonite invasion.  Through this Waller met William Warick, a man tied integrally to Cash right up until his abduction and alterations into his present power set.  This points the series in the right direction of getting back to dealing with Daemonites, but too far away from the mark in my opinion.
  • Superboy #15 continues the “H’el On Earth” crossover in the Super-books, with Superman taking the dying Superboy to the Fortress of Solitude and running tests to not only try and heal him, but also figure out just what in the heck he is.  As Supergirl and H’el have stated, he is a clone, but not JUST a Kryptonian clone.  Though we knew that from the start, Superman finds out something we didn’t.  Superboy’s DNA contains three strands instead of two, with one human strand and one Kryptonian, but also a third unidentified strand.  His current ills stem from a breaking down of his genetics, forcing his body to tear apart at the seams.  Trying to find a way to save the poor boy, Superman attempts to use his own family shield which creates his Superman armor  only to realize when the shield responds to him with an unaltered House of El crest, that Superboy is his clone.  Partially.  Thus do Superboy and his ersatz progeny, Superboy, aka Kon-El, first meet.  The meeting is short as the aforementioned ne’er-do-well, H’el, makes yet another appearance and kicks the crap out of them . . . AGAIN!  Tom DeFalco writes a solid addition to the crossover event that has me stoked yet again to figure out Kon-El’s parentage.  We know that Superman is his K-daddy, and its heavily insinuated from past iterations and common sense that Luthor is his human donor, but the introduction of a third genetic progenitor raises the stakes and the desire for resolution.
  • The Ravagers #15 resumes the fight between Caitlin Fairchild’s Ravagers and Harvest’s over the young metahuman, Lisa, who poses prophetic pre-cognitive abilities.  This fight over her stands on a temporal nexus of possible futures that could wax apocalyptic or otherwise.  Sharing her nightmarish visions with Caitlin, she shows what would happen to her Ravagers if she is unable to save them and they fall once more under Harvest’s sway.  The governments of the world fall and death and destruction cover the planet.  That said, Caitlin cannot fail.  One thing with prophesy is that foreknowledge can sometimes hasten the inevitable rather than avert it.  As Caitlin makes a concerted effort to stop the horrific vision from being realized, something telling happens with one of her charges.  This series is on the path to a VERY dark place, much like the New Teen Titans series of the 1980’s.  I for one am thrilled to see where this ride takes the Ravagers and us, their voyueristic readers.

    The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men . . .

    The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men . . .

  • Ame-Comi Girls: Duela Dent tells the story of the daughter of a criminal named Gamblin’ Jack “The Joker” Dent, who follows in her father’s footsteps after he is gunned down by the Gotham City police.  It explains how she got her jocular M.O., her scars, and how and why she got involved with an “alien” life form like Brainiac, who herself makes a debut in this issue.  Also making a debut is the female Flash, Jesse Chambers.  With the advent of Brianiac, the story becomes all too familiar.  Brainiac is going to strip Earth of knowledge and destroy it, meaning Batgirl, Robin, and their all female compatriots are gonna have to step up to the plate to stop it from happening.  The solicitation for next month’s issue informs that Power Girl will be its subject.  Since she has not been introduced or alluded to, I have no idea what to make of it, but am nevertheless intrigued.
  • Saucer Country #10is a giant conundrum.  So much happens in this issue that draws off the minutest of previous events.  For instance, the marginalized UFO abductee, Mrs. Bates, returns to the narrative with a very interesting effect on the televised debate between Gov. Arcadia Alvarado and Sen. Kersey.  Arcadia’s ex-husband, Michael, believes himself to be a sleeper agent, a la The Manchurian Candidate, who has already killed several people associated with his former wife’s campaign.  Also, in light of the strange events that have been creeping up in the lives of the Governor and those close to her, Prof. Kidd, her UFO academic advisor tells her about the strange naked couple that he sees in seeming hallucinations.  This series is so hard to peg.  It rationalizes so many aspects of UFO mythology making it all seem ground within rational, mundane explanation, but then throws curve balls with new information that lies far outside of the norm.  Writer Paul Cornell hits a homerun with the series in my book.

And so ends an incredible batch of reads.  Next week sadly is the last real week of comics in December with a meager batch of issues coming out the day after Christmas.  Hope to see you then . . .

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #15: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Jonathan Glapion

Batgirl #15: Drawn by Daniel Sampere, Colored by Ulises Arreola John Kalisz, Inked by Vicente Cifuentes

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #3: Art by Adam Hughes, Colored by Laura Martin

The Ravagers #7: Art by Eduardo Pasarin, Daniel HDR & Geraldo Borges, Colored by Tony Avina

Week 61 (Oct. 31, 2012)

October ends with some oversized books and four annuals.  I have to say this proves to be a Halloween full of quite a few treats, but hopefully no treats.  Vertigo puts out a holiday anthology called Ghosts to commemorate the witching season, and four of my favorite comics have their annuals: Action Comics, Batgirl, Swamp Thing, and Justice League Dark.  Here we go.

  • Aquaman #13 brings to a close the “Others” arc in a rather quick fashion.  I did enjoy the story, however, as it humanized Arthur, showing the bond he has formed with the members of the “Others” as well as his culpability in the death of Black Manta’s father.  He even states that Manta didn’t lay a hand on his father, or cause the heart attack that killed him, but Arthur did go seeking Manta’s blood and killed his father with his own hands accidentally. What this issue also does is pave the way to the debut of Arthur’s brother, the sitting king of Atlantis, Orm, better known as Ocean Master.  Dark things are brewing in the world of Aquaman and are solicited to come to a head in December with the Justice League/Aquaman crossover, “Throne of Atlantis.”
  • Action Comics Annual #1 was an annual that I don’t think was necessary to read.  Perhaps I am being harsh, but it didn’t seem to jibe with the feel of the title overall or the other Super-books.  Grant Morrison’s run on the title is ending in February/March-ish, so this could be backup writer, Sholly Fisch, setting up a storyline that will succeed Morrison’s in early 2013.  Following the first arc of Morrison’s run, Superman stopped a man named Ramsay from abusing his wife.  In this annual, Ramsay volunteers for a project to get dosed with kryptonite radiation in an attempt to provide a countermeasure to Superman.  Thus, Ramsay becomes the New 52 “Kryptonite Man.”   John Henry Irons, aka Steel, makes his reappearance and cements his relationship with Superman as a comrade.  In the backup feature, which is usually written by this Annual’s feature writer, Fisch, Max Landis (writer/director of the movie Chronicle) pens a pantomime story of a man who escapes from a breached S.T.A.R Labs submarine to a deserted island with exceptional powers.  He is does with radiation and ends up removing his face, revealing a skull . . . that is now “atomic.”   While Kryptonite Man and Atomic Skull enter the New DCU, I thought it could have been better on all fronts.

    Atomic Skull

  • Batgirl Annual #1 was pretty stellar.  Showcasing the beautiful artwork of Admira Wijaya, Gail Simone brings back the Talon she introduced in the Batgirl “Night of the Owls” tie-in as well as Catwoman to shake up Barbara Gordon’s world.  If that weren’t enough, a mysterious organization is strong arming vagrants from the slums to commit a rash of arsons.  Featuring three very strong women with three different shades of morality, Simone somehow gets each to connect with the others in interesting ways.  I truly hope that this heralds further interactions by the three together, because as I have made no secret about my love for Barbara Gordon and Selina Kyle, Simone adds depth to the female Talon of the 1950’s and even gives us her name . . .  Exceptional art and writing, making for an exceptional annual.
  • Swamp Thing Annual #1 starts out in the “here and now” of the series, in the very bleak events of “Rotworld” after Alec Holland learns of his lover, Abigail Arcane’s, death.  Following this blow, the annual takes Holland back into a repressed memory of when he first met Abigail when they were young and in love.  It also showed his very first meeting with her uncle, Anton Arcane.  This is one of those issues that is just a pleasure to read if you enjoy the series it encapsulates.  To be quite honest, this annual felt like a better origin than the zero issue last month.  Becky Cloonan’s lent her art to Scott Snyder’s twelfth Batman issue a few months ago, and lends it yet again, really setting the atmosphere with her unique style, but framing several key sequences in the vein of Yanick Paquette.  This was my favorite book of the week.

    The Beautiful Abigail Arcane

    A Love Affair Between Life & Death

  • Justice League Dark Annual #1 concludes the “Books of Magic” storyline as well as pulls out all the stops.  Nick Necro has carefully laid out his plans and now those plans are coming to fruition.  To counter them, Constantine and Madame Xanadu pulls in some extra help: Timothy Hunter, Andrew Bennet, and most shockingly, Princess Amaya from the series Amethyst.  The seeds for this last appearance were sown in the final pages of the zero issue of Sword of Sorcery, but I personally never saw her being drawn into the title like this.  Jeff Lemire is a very gifted writer and the way he plays out the dark, mystical plot is quite unexpected.  When the Books of Magic are revealed they manifest in a way that not even Constantine could fathom.
  • Joe Kubert Presents #1 is a six issue miniseries that was initiated by legendary comic writer/artist Joe Kubert to present comics in a style that he wished were more prevalent in today’s market.  In this inaugural issue he presents two tales he wrote and drew, as well as two stories written and drawn by two of his friends and colleagues, Brian Buniak and Sam Glanzman.  Kubert brings to the table a Golden Age Hawkman story about the barbarity of humanity and the danger posed by our civilization if our destructive natures aren’t curbed, as well as a black and white uninked pencil segment called “Spit” about a young orphan who is literally spit on by the world, setting out as a cabin boy on a whaling ship.  Both of these segments represent a style that is so quintessentially Joe Kubert, who’s art is such that its immediately recognizable, like that of Jack Kirby or John Romita Sr.  Brian Buniak brings back a short feature he called “Angel and the Ape” about a knockout blonde and a gorilla who have a detective agency and solve crimes in a campy 1960’s setting.  One thing that Kubert has become known for in many of his solo projects is war stories, and while he didn’t do one himself in this issue, his friend Sam Glanzman submits one about his reminiscences of service in WWII on the U.S.S. Steven, a naval destroyer.  This feature cuts deeper than the rest, because you can sense the reality and the melancholic beauty that Glanzman is evoking from his haunted past.  I agree with Kubert that comics like these are rarely seen anymore on the stands and harken back to a time when things were simpler in presentation, but perhaps a little more poignant too in the simplicity with which they are portrayed   It is also worth noting that while Joe Kubert began this project sometime in the past year he passed away two and a half months before this first issue came out.  His passing makes the point of the series even more resonant, like his one last gift to the world before leaving it was showing us a glimpse at what he loved about the medium he dedicated his entire working life to, and the promise of what that medium could be.

    The Life of Spit

  • Masters of the Universe: Origin of Skeletor was one of those stories that it hurt to read, but in a good way.  I was a HUGE “He-Man” fan when I was four years old and looking back and revisiting the television show as an adult I can still find things that intrigue and entertain me within the somewhat cheesy 80’s cartoon.  For instance, the episodes of the original series where it is revealed that He-Man’s mother, Queen Marlena, is actually a United States astronaut who flew her experimental spacecraft through a wormhole and crashed on Eternia or the episode when Teela goes in search of her real parents only to discover that the Sorceress of Castle Greyskull is in fact her mother.  These plot points totally caught me off guard as an adult and made the series fresh again. This new DC series takes the premise of He-Man and re-imagines it a little bit, continuing in the tradition of creating interesting relationships and circumstances within the Eternian drama.  He-Man’s greatest villain is portrayed as the older, bastard brother of his father, King Randor.  Keldor, the blue skinned son of King Miro and an unknown Gar woman, loves his little brother, Prince Randor, and craves the love of his father, which he always falls a little bit short of.  The issue chronicles the conflict within him between the love he had for his brother and the need to be his own person and live his own life at the cost of loyalty to his father and brother.  I have never been a fan of I, Vampire, but Joshua Hale Fialkov writes a very compelling story of an anti-heroic character and Frazer Irving renders it artistically in much the same mood.  This issue is why, even as a twenty-seven year old man, I am still a boy watching He-Man with an entranced smile on my face.

    The Death of Keldor and Birth of Skeletor

  • Phantom Lady & Dollman #3 was not the greatest comic.  I am a fan of the writing of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, but this issue didn’t really accomplish anything.  They go up against a super powered villainess named Funerella, who herself is undead and can raise and control the dead. They fight her, but nothing really comes of it or goes toward the resolution of the main plot.
  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #9 accomplishes some very interesting storytelling. In Superman Beyond, the elderly Man of Steel emerges from his Fortress of Solitude in special armor to stop Lucinda Luthor and the  computerized copy of her father, Lex’s, consciousness from destroying mankind, after they put a meteor field around earth comprised of pure kryptonite.  In the process he reinvents himself with a new identity into a new civic role to reacquaint himself with the new world that has developed in his absence.  In the Justice League Unlimited Beyond segment the apocalypse engineered by Kobra draws closer and the endgame begins to unfold, and Bruce’s last ditch strategy is implemented by Terry when all else falls through.  Enter an OLD “friend” . . .  Finally, in Batman Beyond‘s “10,000 Clowns” another chapter brings the reader further into the unmitigated chaos that the Joker King has descended upon Gotham.  To combat this, Terry has all hands on deck.  Vigilante, Catwoman, and two former Robins step in to help him as thousands of Joker suicide bombers attack nearly every echelon of Gotham’s infrastructure.
  • The New Deadwardians #8 concludes the miniseries in truly grand, nuanced style.  Chief Inspector George Suttle tracks down the villain, Salt, and in the final confrontation with the madman uncovers the conspiracy that led to the Restless invasion of Great Britain.  Following this revelation, Suttle’s handling of the situation as well as the government’s is rather interesting, adding further layers to the already multifaceted plot.  I have loved this series from issue #1.  I truly hope that this miniseries spawns another, because George Suttle, his maid, Louisa, his aide, Officer Bowes, and his lover, Sapphire, are all very round and complex characters deserving of further exploration, as does the Deadwardian Age.  I put out my prayers to the “gods” of comics to have mercy on their readers and give us another New Deadwardians series.
  • American Vampire #32 builds off the surprise ending of last issue, showing Hattie Hargrove’s journey from when last we saw her, escaping from the Los Angeles coven as an experimental guinea pig and returning as their queen.  There is little to say about the issue itself, but that it is PHENOMENAL!!!  It is quite obvious Scott Snyder has been building toward this issue and the one to come for sometime.  I don’t know what is real and what is sleight of hand, but either way this arc has been another step on the uninterrupted ascent of this series’ incredible run.  Snyder’s writing is peerless and Rafael Albuquerque’s art is appropriately eerie and stark.
  • Vertigo Comics: Ghosts #1 is a Halloween inspired special anthology that deals with the appropriate topic of Ghosts, featuring nine stories by some of the most innovative talent in comics, including some of my favorites: Amy Reeder, Phil Jimenez, Paul Pope, Gilbert Hernandez, Geoff Johns, Jeff Lemire, and apropos a previous entry, an unfinished penciled story by Joe Kubert.  The stories range from a tale of a young man being haunted by the ghost of himself from a life that might have been, to the Dead Boy Detectives, to satanic chili connoisseurs, to a tale of ancient Aztecs.  Like all Vertigo anthologies there were some stories that were stunning and others that fell flat.  Overall, this one had some quality storytelling complimented by equally beautiful art.

    Brotherly Love Beyond the Grave

And thus ends the month of October with a fifth week of very special issues.  Next week we start November fresh with some stellar titles like Action Comics, Green Lantern, Swamp Thing, and Worlds’ Finest. Hope to see you back here.

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

Illustration Credits:

Action Comics Annual #1: Art by Ryan Sook

Swamp Thing Annual #1: Art by Becky Cloonan, Colored by Tony Avina

Joe Kubert Presents #1: Art by Joe Kubert

Masters of the Universe: The Origin of Skeletor: Art by Frazer Irving

The New Deadwardians #8: Art by Guillem MarchI.N.J. Culbard, Colored by Patricia Mulvihill

Vertigo Comics: Ghosts #1: Art by Jeff Lemire, Colored by Jose Villarrubia