Week 88 (May 8, 2013)

  • Batman #20 concludes the second installment in a two issue arc of writer Scott Snyder’s exploration of the character Clayface.  Clayface has achieved the ability to completely mimic, right down to DNA scans, the people with whom he makes physical contact.  In the case of this issue, set up by the conclusion of its predecessor, he has taken on the persona of Bruce Wayne and seeks to impugn the noted Gotham billionaire and philanthropist.  It’s a short story, considering its division over just two issues, but has all the characteristic intelligence, insight, and scientific elaboration that Scott Snyder is renown for in his works.  Here, however, the plot seems a bit hard to hold on to.  Perhaps it is because it lacks the epic scope of his previous “Court of Owls” and “Death of the Family” arcs.  Obviously Batman has run of the mill cases that are by comparison more arbitrary to these overarching events, but they do cast a long shadow on the lesser plotlines.  Snyder does, however, put in an impossible escape for Bruce to elude in this issue in order to maintain his secret and his life, as well as stop the polymorphic villain.  With June’s “Batman: Year Zero” Snyder will be starting another long term story in the Batman title that has all the promise of innovation and long term canon making.  I very much look forward to it.  In the backup feature, writer James Tynion IV concludes his two part story, “Ghost Lights” with Superman and Batman banishing a Will-o-the-Wisp that was accidentally summoned by kids meddling with magicks beyond their comprehension.  A decent story, but not one of Tynion’s best.

    Bruce Wayne and the Batman

    Bruce Wayne and the Batman

  • Batman & Red Hood #20 brings Batman another step closer to complete collapse.  Following the death of his only child, Damian, he has sunk into a psychotic meloncholy the likes of which has never been seen in the Dark Knight’s many titles.  Like last issue a former Robin steps in to fulfill the “robin” portion of “Batman & Robin.”  Here Jason Todd, the Red Hood, prepares to leave the mansion after the events of Red Hood and the Outlaws #18.  Batman stops him and requests that Jason accompany him to the Magdala Valley in Ethiopia to take down a syndicate of international assassins, some of which responded to the hit put on Damian by Talia Al-Ghul.  The mission actually looks to heal the rift between the former mentor/protegee.  However, as with Batman and the most volatile of his sidekicks, the rift can never truly be closed and the attempt threatens to deepen said rift.  Altruism isn’t Batman’s forte and being played (especially after learning the Joker’s part in his tragic existence) is the last thing that Jason is going to put up with.  Peter Tomasi writes this series exquisitely, really playing off the Bat family’s intrinsic traits and flaws to craft a very engaging, emotional drama amid one of the most tragic events within the Batbooks in recent years.  Also in the background is the continued presence of Carrie Kelley, begging the question of whether she indeed is going to take her place as the first official female Robin in the history of the Bat titles.  Every aspect of this book is amazing.  Read it.

    Old Wounds Made Fresh

    Old Wounds Made Fresh

  • Justice League of America #3 picks up following the JLA’s encounter with the robotic versions of the Justice League as built by Prof. Ivo.  These mechanical menaces push them close to their limits while at the same time making them rely on eachother for the first time as a cohesive team.  However, as the team dynamic gets ironed out certain members find their roles to be not quite what they expected.  Green Arrow, after risking his life to expose the Secret Society, is cut loose.  Courtney Whitmore, aka Stargirl, finds herself as a mere mascot and a showpiece member of the team.  Catwoman learns that as a known criminal she is on the team as bait for the Secret Society to latch onto.  Geoff Johns is trending this title in an interesting direction.  It has a darker tone and with the characters and plots he is working with it fits perfectly.  His attempt at darkening the Justice League and shaking things up in that title was initially awful and at present merely passable.  David Finch’s artwork on this title is perhaps the most engaging aspect, really setting the tone and the ambiance.  In the backup feature Matt Kindt shows the revelations granted to both Catwoman and Martian Manhunter when the latter delves into Catwoman’s mind.  He sees her past and what drives her and by virtue of that she is also granted a glimpse at his life on Mars and a quick look at who he is.   Overall, this title is one that seems to have a great amount of impact on the course of the DCU as well as some very interesting and innovative plots.

    Dissent in the Ranks

    Dissent in the Ranks

  • Superboy #20 jumps back in time two months, returning to the introduction of Superboy to the rebooted Dr. Psycho, now seemingly a young boy, teenaged at the oldest.  In Superboy #18 Psycho merely followed Superboy, marvelling at his power and seeking to feed off his telekinetic potential.  In this issue the two characters finally meet and find themselves forced into a shaky alliance of mutual benefit.  Being attacked by a purple ox-like bruiser named Dreadnaught and a green alien looking guy named Psiphon, we are informed through intimation that Dreadnaught, Psiphon, and Psycho are all part of an organization called “H.I.V.E.” and that Dr. Psycho, or Edgar, is a drone in H.I.V.E. that has escaped.  New series writer Justin Jordan takes over the title in this issue from former writers Scott Lobdell and Tom DeFalco with the help of regular series artist R.B. Silva and guest artists Kenneth Rocafort and Chriscross.  It feels like he picked up the ball mid-air, but Jordon’s work seems conistent with his two predecessors, ensuring the quality we have enjoyed thus far and looking to end in a slam dunk.  Also the “H.I.V.E.”  plot looks to spill over into the Superman title as well, which is penned by Lobdell so that is ramping up to be a must read event.
  • Ravagers #12 provides the final issue of this short lived Teen Titans-esque series.  Really it seemed like a “Teen Titans East” kind of title, but with a distinct edge.  These superpowered youths came together not out of common goals, but as a means of protection as they flee the grasp of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and its sinister overarchitect, Harvest.  This issue shows how fleeting their goals of freedom are.  Last issue Harvest dispatched Deathstroke, the world’s deadliest assassin, to hunt down the escaped Ravagers as well as the two Ravagers who tried and failed to retrieve their errant comrades, Rose Wilson (Deathstroke’s own daughter) and Warblade.  In the end, this series didn’t conclude on a happy note, but it didn’t end on a completely sad one either.  With few exceptions, the cast of characters lived to see another day and a new status quo was set up for many of them.  The fate of Terra and Beast Boy looks to be a perfect setup for a “Judas Contract” plotline, as well as Raven and Beast Boy entering into the Teen Titans title reminiscent of their original membership in the New Teen Titans title in the early 80’s.  And most of all Caitlin Fairchild’s history is revealed giving some very intriguing possibilities for her future in other ongoing series throughout the DCU.

    A Fateful Encounter

    A Fateful Encounter

  • Demon Knights #20 begins a new arc following the conclusion of the “Army of Cain” plotline.  The Demon Knights have helped the Amazons beat the vampiric hoard of the First Damned from the shores of Themyscira and now convalesce after a hard fought battle.  The most pure of them, Sir Ystin, the Shining Knight, had been bitten and now stands on the verge of being turned.  Exoristos is welcomed back by Queen Hippolyta who had exiled her years before.  The new goal of the Knights is to retrieve the Holy Grail from its hiding place and Hippolyta says she can help.  Writer Robert Vendetti resumes the startling factoid of how the Amazons procreate.  I think that it was startling enough when Brian Azzarello first introduced the concept of the Amazons as rapist murders, but the playful way they make light of it in this issue just makes it all the more disturbing.  Anyway, one of the sailors the Amazons raped and murdered in the past told of the location of the grail and it was chronicled in a log book.  Mixed feeling about this issue and this series. 
  • Threshold #5 opens on a very interesting, precarious predicament.  The Collector, whom we know as Brainiac, has descended on the main world of Lady Styx’s dominion, Tolerance, and absconded with a small portion of it.  Left in its place is a gaping wound in the otherwise sprawling urban landscape.  Styx brokered a decent deal with Brainiac and so unlike other worlds he visited, Tolerance remains intact and otherwise unmolested.  The catch is that the residents of the selected area are not to be warned of their impending abduction.  As a result, the disgraced Green Lantern Jediah Caul and space pirate Captain K’Rot find themselves trapped in one of Brainiac’s fabled bottles.  One thing that has been apparent about this series from the first issue was the scope.  Threshold spans over a wide array of characters all being hunted by citizens of the Tenebrian Dominion in a reality show based sport killing.  This issue follows closely the character of Jediah Caul, really focusing in on him as a character.  Since he first showed up in Green Lantern: The New Guardians Annual #1, Caul has been depicted as nefarious.  However, the green lantern ring he wields chose him for a reason.  This issue may not reveal that reason per se, but it does cast a very intriguing look at the former Green Lantern and how he is willing to resolve issues such as the one he has landed himself in.  His answer to this particular dilemma is not one that would immediately come to mind when imagining a typical Green Lantern’s response, but there is some method behind his madness.  Keith Giffen yet again weaves a fascinating cosmic tale in a far reaching odyssey.  And in the final installment of his Larfleeze backup feature Giffen finally reveals what happened in the first installment five issues ago as well as the way in which the departed Guardian, Sayd, perpetrated the perfect crime.  Once all the shadows have been lifted from the proceedings the plot itself is amazingly well crafted and ingeniously executed.  Giffen has a talent for complex, multifaceted storytelling and this five part story of the sole Orange Lantern showcases those talents brilliantly.  So much so that the story will move on from here into its own monthly title.  Both Giffen and Larfleeze deserve nothing less.

    A Whole New Perspective

    A Whole New Perspective

  • Smallville Season 11 #13 begins a new arc that explores heavily one of the barely tapped gems of the “Smallville” TV series: the Legion of Super-Heroes.  It also returns Booster Gold, his computerized aide and sidekick Skeets, and to a smaller degree Blue Beetle.  Clark, as of last issue, has shed the radioactive isotope Lex placed in him that effectively separated him from Lois for months.  Now he is torn from his fiancee again when Booster Gold’s stolen Legion of Superheroes ring malfunctions due to a coded distress signal transmitted through time to it.  In the 31st century Earthgov has turned against the Legion and they find themselves in a bind.  This comes as the result of a new sister planet to Earth, New Krypton, arriving in our solar system.  That world was created by Clark in the ninth season of the series as a home for the Kryptonians under the command of Zodd following the that season’s finale.  The arrival of a planet of superpowered beings puts Earthgov on its heels, turning public sentiment and policy against superpowered beings and certainly the alien members of the Legion.  Clark comes forward and attempts to adjudicate the issue.  Going in, he encounters a newer character to the actual Legion of Super-Heroes pantheon, Earth Man, Kirt Niedrigh.  Niedrigh is the a government minister in possession of a high value prisoner that Clark aims to release.  The identity of that prisoner brings about another resurrection from the show’s illustrious canon.  This issue very aptly introduces a new arc while also emboldening the past of both the comic series itself and the television show that inspired it.

 

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #20:  Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Placcencia, Inked by Jonathan Glapion & Marc DeeringDanny Miki

Batman & Robin #20: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray & Mark Irwin

Justice League of America #20: Drawn by David Finch, Colored by Sonia Oback, Inked by Richard Friend & David Finch

The Ravagers #12: Drawn by Diogenes Neves, Colored by Tony Avina, Inked by Vincente Cifuentes

Threshold #5:  Art by Tom Raney, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse

 

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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 72 (Jan. 16, 2013)

Apart from three issues of the epic “Death of the Family” crossover event in the Batman line of books and the inaugural issue of the Threshold series, this was a relatively light and somewhat depressing week.

  • Batman #16  further evinces just how insane the Joker has become.  Descending into Arkham where the Joker has set up shop, the horrible truth of his activities since reemerging become fully revealed.  Delving through each stage of the Joker’s labyrinth Batman and the reader are keyed into the warped fantasy world that the Joker has constructed around his archnemesis in a really creepy, almost sexualized love affair.  Every facet is symbolized by a feudal archetype, often times based on Arthurian lore.  The armed inmates are Batman’s “knights”, each of his villains a different councilor (Scarecrow the physician, Riddler the strategist, Two-Face the judge, etc.) and a test of pulling an electrified chainsaw from a stone as a sign of kingship.  There is a great deal to the plot, but hardly any way of speaking about it without giving some part of it away.  What is apparent is writer Scott Snyder’s plumbing of the darkest recesses of his mind, as well as some serious slasher and snuff flicks to conceive of this plot, and especially this issue.  Present is definitely “The Human Centipede”, bits of “Saw”, and the Italian film “Salo” which I am not proud to admit that I have seen . . .  Clearly, this issue to me to a dark place I was reticent to visit. 

    The Royal Court of Batman

    The Royal Court of Batman

  • Batgirl #16 delivers the final issue of the “”Death of the Family” tie in until next month’s Batman #17. Barbara Gordon arrives at her “wedding” to the Joker as the mad clown has demanded in exchange for her mother’s safety.  Right out of the gate, you know things aren’t kosher with the situation.  Why the Joker would want to marry Batgirl is perplexing enough, added to what the catch is going to be.  And as of yet, this plot of the Joker’s is the only “Death of the Family” plot that doesn’t go exactly to plan.  The end goal, as far as the major tie into the larger Batman storyline at the end goes to plan, but there is a major hiccup with the appearance of Barbara’s brother, James Gordon Jr.  I love Batgirl and while I don’t believe that the gruesome plans the Joker has for her will come to fruition, she will still have fresh trauma added to the lingering psychological damage he left when he shot her in the stomach, paralyzing her for a time, and the sexual assault he subjected her to subsequently.  Next month’s issue can’t come soon enough.  I NEED closure on this story arc.

    The Wedding of Batgirl

    The Wedding of Batgirl

  •  Batman & Robin #16 showcases a nightmarish and as yet unexplained scenario where, to get his “revenge” on Robin (Damian Wayne), the Joker puts the Boy Wonder up against a Joker juiced Batman in an all out death match.  The issue follows the match between father and son, both formidable in their own right, on a back and forth momentum with the Joker on the sidelines giving color commentary.  Its not largely a story issue, but the visual aspects of two titans fighting one another is more than enough to compensate.  Like Batgirl above, it ends with the Joker holding a platter and the solicitation that it will all be concluded in Batman #17.  Also like Batgirl, I await resolution on this with baited breath.
  • Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E #16 is an enigma.  The past couple issues have been “Rot World” tie-ins, with last issue revealing one of the most interesting developments to date.  This issue returns to the real world as we know it with no explanation of how the last issue’s transpirings resolve themselves.  That’s all fine and well.  The answers may lie in the final issues of Animal Man and Swamp Thing’s delvings into “Rot World.”  However, this issue returns to the real world abruptly for what apparently is the final issue of the series, treating the whole thing like business as usual.  Maybe that’s the right call, but staying with the “Rot World” storyline for one more issue not only would make sense considering the lead up that writer Matt Kindt left himself, but would also be a blowout way to end the series rather than this issue, which was disjointed, rushed, and clearly thrown together with no larger plan in mind.  A group of young radicals have gotten their hands on a viral generator that will release a metaphysical pathogen with the power to convert those it touches into monstrosities.  The issue ends.  The series ends.  Nothing really is accomplished.
  • Threshold #1 spins out of Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual #1, following the “Hunted” in its main feature.  “The Hunted” is a televised manhunt of criminals and individuals found to be undesirable to the reign of Lady Styx in the Tenebrian Dominion.  As of the conclusion to the New Guardians Annual, deep cover Green Lantern, Jediah Cull, is blown and entered into the “Hunted.”   The rules state that the hunted will be give one day (relative to the planet’s solar cycle) of impunity before all citizens of the Dominion are given free reign to hunt them for a bounty correspondingly sized to their offense to Lady Styx.  Caul is given his allotted time and then the fun begins.  The rest of the feature shows Caul, and other “Hunted” fugitives, banding together and beginning the semblance of a resistance.  Caul and a spunky young brunette named Ember band together for a time, evading capture, while across the planet a former female soldier turned hunted, code-named Stealth, meets up with a man named Ric Starr of the Space Rangers, also now a hunted, to discuss an underground movement of survivors within the Dominion who have begun measures to undermine the tracking systems used to hunt them.  There is some really interesting stuff happening here and a VERY decent start to the New DCU’s first official cosmic odyssey. In the Larfleeze backup feature, we are shown a very concise representation of Larfleeze that sums up his entire being quite thoroughly as the living embodiment of pure avarice and then introduces us to a sequence of events that would be the greatest nightmare for a personage like Larfleeze.  Its hard to tell which feature is better.  Both are written brilliantly by the incredible Keith Giffen, with Tom Raney providing very lustrous art on The Hunted and Scott Kolins, the same who provided art for Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual, rendering Larfleeze with his angular, volatile style that so aptly fits Larfleeze’s personality.  This series has great potential.

    LARFLEEZE!!!

    LARFLEEZE!!!

  • Demon Knights #16 ushers in a second stage to the series.  Series creator, Paul Cornell, finished his run on the series with issue #15, and Robert Venditti takes over bringing the series thirty years into the future.  In the far eastern boundaries of Europe Cain, the first vampire, as revealed to us in the atrocious I, Vampire series, begins a reign of terror converting or slaughtering entire communities.  In the West the Demon Knights are being hunted one by one and taken to Moorish Spain.  Though seemingly sinister in nature, the Caliph has a need for their services to end the terror of Cain in the East as he moves his way west.  Bernard Chang remains on art, keeping the feel of the book visually in tact.  Venditti himself does a good job in this first book keeping the narrative close to that of his predecessor, but time will tell if he can maintain its excellence.
  • Superboy #16 presents the Justice League’s effort to retake the Fortress of Solitude from H’el and his protegee, Supergirl.  Batman plans the operation and each member, including Superboy, has a very specific role.  Superboy gets them in, and from there H’el’s control of the Fortress is put to the test.  Flash’s mission is to get Supergirl away from H’el and hopefully neutralize her until the threat to our solar system is ended.  The issue takes a bizarre turn when a portable pocket dimensional prison in Superman’s arsenal goes berserk putting a definite hampering on the JL’s plan.  Also ominous is the reappearance of the giant crustacean looking herald from the first issue of Superman.  The end may be closer than we initially thought.

    The Herald Awakens

    The Herald Awakens

  • The Ravagers #8 is sort of strange, taking place in a rural mountain community in Colorado.  One of Harvest’s experiments used to live there and upon returning becomes a carrier for an infectious radioactive condition that causes its host to explode and infect others who also explode and so on down the line.  Rose Wilson and Warblade go in to stem the carnage in the hopes of preventing Harvest from learning that they allowed the escapee out from under their noses.  This means trying to contain the epidemic and save the lives of as many townsfolk as possible.  To those who have read this series, as well as Teen Titans and Superboy, these two Ravagers being altruistic is the opposite of rational.  But that isn’t the only impossible thing that occurs, as the ending of this issue quite vividly evinces.  Howard Mackie, the series’ first writer, exists stage left and Michael Alan Nelson takes the helm.  He does a good job of maintaining the status quo, and to be honest, until I began writing this review I hadn’t even noticed that Mackie had left.  Also M.I.A is artist Ian Churchill who is replaced by Ig Guara.
  • Ame-Comi Girls: Power Girl reunites writer Jimmy Palmiotti with the character that he seems to love to write.  Unlike the past couple of issues, this one spins a tale independent of the proceedings of the past several issues.  Power Girl is in Metropolis, literally the “City of Tomorrow”, which is a result of her using Kryptonian tech to modernize its infrastructure.  Fighting xenophobic terrorists, she triumphs as an superheroic humanitarian usually does and goes to Smallville to recuperate with the Kents.  While there her cousin Kara Zor-El shows up in a space ship and we are shown that apparently in this universe, Power Girl is Kara JOR-El.  Upon her cousin’s arrival all hell breaks loose on an intergalactic scale (in Smallville no less) and the title finally connects with the previous three issues.
  • Green Hornet: Year One Special #1 resurrects for one special issue the brilliant origin series of the original Green Hornet that concluded two years ago and was written by the incomparable Matt Wagner.  This issue isn’t written by Wagner, nor is it drawn by Aaron Campbell, but the world created by those two in the original series remain alive and well in this new special.  Following a spunky female newsie with an alcoholic dad, we see the exploits of the Green Hornet (supposedly a bad guy) through the eyes of an innocent child raised on the mean streets of 1930’s Chicago.  Its exciting, its nuanced, it feels like an old serial.  This book was a delight to read and it was interesting to figure out just who was the main character, the Hornet or the newsie, Ruby.  Even though it was just one issue, it was fun revisiting this title.

    Green Girl

    Green Girl

This week was a little hit or miss and not as up to par as some of its predecessors.  Still it had some real gems in the bunch.  Next week promises to be much better with Batwoman and three Green Lantern titles hitting the racks, as well as two more “Death of the Family” tie-ins and the concluding issue of Before Watchmen: Minutemen.  Can’t wait.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #16: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Jonathan Glapion

Batgirl #16: Art by Ed Benes, Colored by Ulises Arreola

Threshold #1: Art by Scott Kolins, Colored by John Kalisz

Superboy #16: Drawn by Iban Coello & Amilcar Pinna, Colored by Richard & Tanya Horie, Inked by Rob Lean & Amilcar Pinna

Green Hornet: Year One Special #1: Art by Edu Menna, Colored by Marcelo Pinto

 

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 63 (Nov. 14, 2012)

The second week of November yields three entries in the “Death of the Family” event in the Batman titles.  I am very excited to see what that portends for the besieged Batman and his nocturnal allies.

  • Batman #14 is SICK!  I think that writer Scott Snyder’s going for the prize.  Maybe its because I was feeling under the weather when I read it, but I had to set it down a few times and catch my breath.  I dare say that this might be the darkest Joker I have seen in print.  Even darker than Alan Moore’s Killing Joke perhaps, and that is saying something.  The Joker has a very elaborate web of intrigue set for the Dark Knight and for once he seems to have thought further ahead than Batman himself.  Also, when you reach the end and see what secrets he has unearthed . . . WOW!  Things are about to get really dark for the Dark Knight.  All the power lies with the Joker in this masterful arc penned by Snyder and the outcome is as murky for the reader as it is for Batman himself.  I am anxious to read on as the massive crossover unfolds, but I am reticent, too, because as stated before IT’S DARK!!!

    Harley's Lament

    Harley’s Lament

  • Following up on the heels of Batman comes Batgirl #14, featuring Barbara Gordon’s foray into the twisted schemes of the Joker.  Mirroring the events of the Killing Joke, the issue opens with Barbara talking to her mother on the phone when three armed men wearing clown masks enter the latter’s home and abduct her.  Drawing off the trauma that befell her when the Joker paralyzed her all those years ago, Barbara has to conquer her inner demons and rise to the occasion if she is going to save her mother.  However, the Joker isn’t the the only person with a pony in this race.  Another psychopath with extremely close ties to Barbara’s past intervenes in this plot, though their motivations remain unclear.  Ed Benes draws the the title exquisitely and Gail Simone writes it with a truly twisted touch.  Penning a Joker story of this caliber is a tall order, but Simone steps up to the plate and delivers.  The Killing Joke has become iconic ad she has artfully worked those storied events into her series seamlessly, really utilizing the psychological toll the shooting took on Barbara to create compelling storylines that keep her readers enthralled.  This issue is at the fever pitch of that trend.
  • Batman & Robin #14 follows Damian Wayne, Robin, as he infiltrates the cult, the Saturn Club, by allowing himself to be captured.  Peter Tomasi is pretty much turning this title into an unofficial Robin series and that is alright by me.  Damian is a complex character, blending altruism, narcissism, unbridled malice, Zen, intelligence, and childish petulance into a truly intriguing whole.  I love his character.  What Tomasi also captures brilliantly is the many ways that Bruce and Damian are exactly the same and how that causes friction between father and son.  I guess as an only son I understand the tensions between fathers and sons.  But while Tomasi shows how these headstrong Waynes butt heads, he also shows how much they both love each other and the strong bond that holds them together.

    ,Batman & Robin, Father & Son

    Batman & Robin, Father & Son

  • Green Lantern Corps #14, also written by Peter Tomasi, continues in the “Rise of the Third Army” crossover event throughout the Green Lantern family of books.  The Guardians of the Universe sent Guy Gardner, Green Lantern 2814.2, to escort a peace summit delegation from a war torn sector of space while simultaneously releasing a dangerous criminal from the science cells for the sole purpose of murdering Guy’s family on Earth.  Guy hears of his family’s danger, though not the Guardian’s involvement, and quickly goes to their rescue only to run into the Third Army.  Guy Gardner is the least likable Green Lantern by general consensus, but Peter Tomasi shows in this issue especially how he can have hidden depths that most of us hadn’t taken notice of.  In the background the Star Sapphire, Fatality, seeks out John Stewart, Green Lantern 2814.3, for a purpose that no doubt corresponds to the Zamaronians newly minted alliance with the Guardians, while on Oa, Green Lanterns Kilowog and Salaak begin to find evidence of the Guardian’s malicious deeds.  This title is really heating up and adding fuel to “Rise of the Third Army.”

    FATALITY!

    FATALITY!

  • Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #14 as a “Rot World” tie in deals with Frank and Velcoro combing the globe for the pieces of the Soul Grinder that Victor Frankenstein hid in the bellies of three beasts called the Collosi.  For the most part this issue was a straightforward story issue.  Our two protagonists seek out and engage the Collosi and little is revealed.  I am a fan of Velcoro and this issue highlighted his character very well.  Matt Kindt is a fantastic writer that has kept my attention on this book when I was considering dropping it.  His talent for the science-fiction/horror macabre is unrivaled by any of his contemporaries.   Alberto Ponticelli has been the series artist since issue #1 and his work has added a continuity throughout its run, as well as the eerie atmosphere that has contributed to the title’s excellence.
  • Grifter #14 follows on the tail of the previous issue with Grifter messing up Midnighter (ABOUT TIME!) and teleporting out of the Eye of the Storm, the Stormwatch HQ.  Midnighter (pompous jerk that he is) follows.  However, the Eye of the Storm’s teleporters are messed up after what Grifter pulled and so the pair are erratically shot from one location to the next, adding even more drama to their cut throat quarrel.  Not the best issue, especially since Grifer didn’t beat Midnighter as soundly for a second time.  I am waiting for this series to get back on track of him dealing with Daemonites, as opposed to ridiculous idiots like the Stormwatch crew.
  • Deathstroke #14 has Deathstroke fighting Thanagarians and learning how to use his Nth metal armor.  That’s pretty much it.  Rob Liefeld wrote Grifter and Deathstroke and both were lackluster in plot.  I like things he’s written in the past, but he’s not really doing a good job at present.
  • Demon Knights #14 is taking the title to a fever point.  The title started with the Demon Knights coming together in the tiny hamlet aptly named Little Spring to hold off the Hordes of the Questing Queen from reaching the metropolis of Alba Sarum.  After defeating these hordes at great cost, the Knights went to Alba Sarum and attempted to get back Merlin’s soul from Avalon to revive the legendary mage from his death, which strangely had something to do with the Daemonites . . . On their way they went to the cursed ruins of what used to be Camelot and fought beside the resurrected Arthur against Morgan Le Faye.  This ended with the Demon Etrigan luring the Knights into Hell.  This issue has their escape from Hell and their final destination of Avalon realized.  However, it also reintroduces the Horde and its evil Queen, as well as the legions of Hell into the mix.  So after EVERYTHING that has lead to this issue, next month’s installment proves to be a battle royale amongst some of the worst that this medieval world has to offer: hellspawn, barbarian hordes, the guardians of paradise, and the Demon Knights.  Paul Cornell is a maestro and I cannot await his last issue on the title that will cap off everything he has climaxed toward.
  • Phantom Stranger #2 was a bit all over the place.  Beginning at Philip Stark’s (The Phantom Stranger) children’s soccer game, Pandora appears and makes known her intentions of reopening the box that got her into trouble in the first place.  Added to that is blowback from the Stranger’s dealings with Trigon last issue, as well as the introduction of Dr. Thirteen, the Haunted Highwayman, and Det. Jim Corrigan.  The lattermost into intrigues as it hints at the Specter making his debut quite soon.  Dan Didio is an amazing writer and he really captures the eerie, mist shrouded world that the Stranger occupies, and certainly aided by the art of Brent Anderson which is itself very sketchy and shadowed.  I don’t usually throw a shout out to colorists, but Ulises Arreola’s pastel palate also captures the feel that makes this book so good.  I am adding this series to my “must get” list.

    Pandora's Box

    Pandora’s Box

  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #4 picks up after Adam and Teela are shipwrecked by Merman.  Landing on a seemingly deserted island, they are captured by the forced of Evil-Lyn and subjected to her sadistic whims.  Shockingly, her chief warrior is none other than Man-at-Arms, Teela’s father, and though all parties are subjected to an amnesia imposed by Skeletor, Teela somehow recalls that he is her father and so does Man-at-Arms, sort of.   Despite this aspect, the best part of the issue was Skeletor’s conversations with a skull that I can only imagine is the spirit of Castle Grayskull, which the evil lord is afraid to leave.  This conversation is telling in many ways, and reveals a lot of the past of this series through context clues.  I am enjoying the series, though curious how it will conclude in just two issues.
  • Ame-Comi Girls: Batgirl returns to the world set up in the Ame-Comi: Wonder Woman issue.  In this Batgirl and Robin are Barbara Gordon and her cousin, Carrie, who I just realized as I am writing this is an homage to the Dark Knight Returns’ Robin.  She’s not a red head and  a little bit more glamorous, but I am almost sure that that is what writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray were going for.  The plot is kind of crazy as the two are brought into conflict with the quartet of villainesses, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, and Duela Dent, but the rationale is kind of hazy.  It does reveal a strange element behind the bad girls, which I am positing to be a feminized version of Brainiac.  Steel is also introduced, but as can be expected, its Natasha Irons instead of her uncle John, that bears this moniker.  I liked it, but I think that there is a lot more needed, and thankfully that should come in the next installment about Duela Dent.
  • Suicide Squad #14 is a series I have not read regularly, so I am not as up on it.  However, I will present the pertinent facts and what I have gleaned to be true.  It seems like Harley and Deadshot had a thing going and Deadshot begins this issue deceased in a pine box.  At his funeral the Joker comes back and reinserts himself into Harley’s life.   The relationship is a lot more frightening than it has been in the past, and this issue frames the events of Batman #13-14, quite well as well as setting up a finale for the duo with next issue.  Harley Quinn is becoming a much more interesting, well rounded character and I intend to go back and catch up to this point, because I was thoroughly entertained throughout the whole thing.
  • Superboy #14 takes place apparently after a the three issue arc of Legion Lost, the events of which I am also little hazy on, but the end result being an even greater rift developing between Superboy and Lure.  An already alienated young man is further alienated with only one person to turn to, fellow Teen Titan, Bunker.  While attempting to have some down time with his sole friend, H’el, the enigmatic Kryptonian, makes his first actual appearance.  His interactions with H’el, like Supergirl’s when the two met for the first time, continue to reveal the intrinsic nature and stigma of clones in Kryptonian society.  The ending is slightly cryptic, but no doubt will reveal themselves next week in Supergirl #14 next week.
  • The Ravagers #14 is a really important issue that cuts to the metaphorical heart of the characters comprising the title team.  The Ravagers are the result of the nightmarish entity, Harvest, kidnapping kids from across the globe and making them fight and kill one another to become his warrior elite, the Ravagers.  In the process most have undergone procedures to activate their metagenes, giving them superpowers, but also transforming them into “monsters.”   Physically and psychologically the consensus among the survivors is that they are monsters.  After the Culling event and the mass exodus of Harvest’s victims from the Colony, they’ve had to continue to fight for survival.  This issue has them for the first time gaining some modicum of normalcy, as well as a sense of their own lost humanity.  From this point forward, the tone of the book seems to be on the verge of changing as these kids find themselves and a purpose from all the bad things that happened to them in the past.  This is really becoming a great series.
  • Saucer Country #14 continues to reveal realistic explanations for the various phenomena surrounding UFO mythology.  Men in Black are one of the most prevalent.  In this issue the MIB are explained with the same frankness and thorough detail that Paul Cornell has endowed throughout the series.  While he does give a pragmatic look on the topic, there is still the undertone and the indisputable impression that aliens do exist.  Can’t wait to see what happens next.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #14: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Jonathan Glapion

Batman & Robin #14: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray

Green Lantern Corps #14: Drawn by Fernando Pasarin, Colored by Gaeb Eltaeb, Inked by Scott Hanna

Phantom Stranger #1: Drawn by Brent Anderson, Colored by Ulises Arreola, Inked by Philip Tan