It has been a LONG time since I have posted, due to some scheduling conflicts and a REALLY busy summer, but it’s good to be back talking about comics, and DC’s Villains Month is a perfect time to get back in the swing of things. So far this first week has produced some interesting specimens as well as some really out-of-the-box concepts for the hallmark villains of the DC universe. That said, less talking, more comic book reviewing:
Forever Evil #1starts off the post Trinity War mega event across the entirety of the DC Universe. The Crime Syndicate of America from Earth-3 has descended upon our world from a portal opened by Pandora’s Box. As a result the Justice League has been “killed,” though it is not depicted nor explained, and the CSA have set about creating a Secret Society to claim the world in the name of evil. It doesn’t so much seem like a Secret when they are doing it out in the open . . . From the four corners of the globe their acolytes are recruiting the evilest minds the planet can offer, from Gorilla Grodd to the Scarecrow, to create a new world order. The issues opens on Lex Luthor, newly emancipated from prison for services rendered to the government, trying to coerce Thomas Kord (possible father of Ted Kord) to relinquish his controlling majority of Kord Industries with horrific, thinly veiled threats and bribery. In mid-flight the helicopter they are riding in crashes leaving only Luthor alive. The power goes out and all hell breaks loose. The Crime Syndicate proudly proclaim, “This World is Ours.” That is when the prisons are opened and evil is truly unleashed like an open floodgate. Throughout the rest of the issue we see the twisted version of the Justice League systematically subvert the last vestiges of super-powered defenders to proclaim their own order upon the globe. With issue’s end the part that Luthor will play in the proceedings is very ambiguous. Geoff Johns does a pretty decent job writing this story, which is interesting considering his blunt, overwrought attempts at the main Justice League title over the past two years. Aiding him in art is David Finch, who helped him launch Justice League of America eight months ago. Of the two, I think that David Finch is the one that most excites me on this title. Johns had his day in the sun, but has either lost his touch or gotten too power mad in his new executive position. Either way, I am infinitely enthusiastic about this issue, as it expands the multiverse by one more world, giving birth to the Crime Syndicate: Ultraman, Superwoman, Owlman, et al. Owlman is perhaps the one that has the most interest to me, especially after the way he was portrayed in the DC animated movie Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. We shall see if this event and the New 52 does justice to the former incarnations of the Crime Syndicate and Earth-3.
Action Comics #23.1:Cyborg Supermanis written by Supergirl writer Michael Alan Nelson following the shocking revelation of the Cyborg’s identity at the end of Supergirl #23 following his capture and rending the flesh off Supergirl in order that he could regain his Kryptonian body and his lost memories of his identity. After stripping her flesh through molecular dissolution and regaining his, he is revealed to be none other than Zor-El, father of Supergirl. In this issue we see a man obsessed with perfection and obsessed with proving his intellect over that of his younger, seemingly brighter brother, Jor-El, in the face of Krypton’s destruction. Undertaken out of pride, his efforts were also undertaken in order that his entire family could survive. Using half understood Brainiac technology, he tries to save his native Argo City, only to see it collapse and his fellow Kryptonians slowly die. When Brainiac returns he bestows upon Zor-El what the man himself had attempted: to force perfection upon him. Many parts of Zor-El are completely replaced to make him more efficacious and that which is organic was rewritten genetically to resemble his “superior sibling,” hence his looking so much like Superman and not his blond, more round faced self. What remains of the issue is an exploration of what cold logic and mechanized calculations deem “perfect.” The Cyborg Superman issue encapsulates beautifully what Zor-El has become after Brainiac altered him and sets the stage for what is to come in the aftermath of his restoration in the pages of Supergirl #24.
Extreme Cosmetic Surgery
Batman #23.1: Jokeris a real treat. Under the pen of the great artist Andy Kubert, scion of the legendary Joe Kubert, we see him (to my knowledge for the first time) write an incredibly introspective look at the Joker, glimpses of his past, and what makes him tick. Opening on a traumatic childhood, we see a horrendous display of abuses heaped upon him by a violently insane aunt, including scrubbing his face and body down with bleach and coarse brush, in essence explaining his white skin and his psychopathy. Cut to the the near-present (years before he cut his face off) where the Joker raises a baby gorilla he kidnaps from the zoo to be his son. Truly touching, he gives the gorilla everything he was denied as a child including genuine love. He molds the ape into his own likeness, but not with any malice towards his “son’s” feelings. However, since there is no mention of the gorilla in the present, the reader knows it won’t last. The Joker witnesses his son’s death and from what follows the reader knows that this creature was literally the closest relationship the Clown Prince of Gotham has ever had, and indeed, the Joker begins crying. But he quickly breaks into laughter and makes grossly morbid jokes about the whole thing. Kubert shows us that the Joker is capable of emotions, but because of the incredible trauma of his youth, whenever they are too much to bear his brain reverts to a manic state of euphoric laughter to compensate. Truly amazing storytelling, befitting his father’s legacy. Kubert wrote this, but the art was done by another of my favorite artists, Andy Clarke. Clarke’s art has made the backups of Detective Comics soar and his treatment of this entire issue augments and accentuates Kubert’s plots brilliantly. This is a Villains Month issue that is not to be missed.
Batman & Robin #23.1: Two-Facewritten by Peter Tomasi and drawn by Guillem March chronicles the fate of Two-Face during the beginnings of Forever Evil. Batman is “dead” and Gotham has gone dark. For the former Gotham district attorney and current crimelord there are two paths to take: save Gotham or let her burn. A tough call that is made simpler by a coin toss. Interrupted by the Scarecrow, a third option is presented, or rather a second choice to be made. Scarecrow represents the Secret Society who wish Two-Face’s allegiance in subjugating our world. So the more pertinent question becomes: join the Society or fight the Society? Another coin toss. As Gotham cries out, Two-Face’s reactions to it, coupled with a few flashbacks to his past, really fleshout the man he has become and where his loyalties and druthers find themselves. If his psychoses were simple to understand he wouldn’t have been sent to Arkham all those times, and Tomasi really feels out that space in his story, showing the true depth of his madness. He also throws in some old friends from his pre-Reboot stint of the Batman & Robin title as well to shake things up. If you like the character of Two-Face and await what Tomasi plans for him in the formerly titled Batman & Robin series, this issue is a must read.
Detective Comics #23.1: Poison Ivy, like Two-Face above, deals with Ivy’s emergence into a Gotham a without power, law, or the Batman. As it has ever been depicted in such conditions, it is ANARCHY! It is in this that Poison Ivy is reminded of the disgusting nature of humanity. Among the insanities she witnesses is a scene of domestic abuse that she intervenes upon. In doing this she is taken back to her childhood and her own battered mother finding solace in her garden, with peace of plants. A horror would later await both in that garden, scarring young Pamela for the rest of her life and starting her path towards becoming Ivy. That path is laid out through her entry into academia and the internship at Wayne Enterprises that brought about her physical transformation into the floral female terrorist she has become. Derek Fridolfs writes this issue with the help of artist Javier Pina. Poison Ivy can be written very two dimensionally, and this story skirts that territory with a semi-intricate explanation of her motivations, but still lacks some key element of why she is as generally misanthropic as she is depicted by issue’s end.
Green Lantern #23.1: Relicintroduces us to the eponymous “Relic,” a petrified remnant from the Universe that preceded ours. Since he awoke in Green Lantern: The New Guardians #22 he has been an enigma that has cryptically stated his good intentions while attacking viciously and unprovoked the Lanterns he dubs “lightsmiths.” His goal is stated as “saving the Universe.” This issue, written by Green Lantern scribe, Robert Venditti, chronicles his life in the universe that preceded ours and how that universe functioned. The lightsmiths were wielders of the emotional spectrum, with all the same colors and emotions we have seen since Geoff Johns introduced them after the “Sinestro Corps War” in 2008. However, despite their constant warring, the universe was built upon the light they used and instead of cities, civilizations, and infrastructures being built out of physical resources, the light constructs of the smiths served that function. However, the greatest scientific mind of that universe saw that like physical resources the light came from somewhere and was not infinite. It could run out and eventually would if it was used wantonly as it had been. His warnings fall on deaf ears and it is because of this that the universe before ours ceased to be and he who was mocked as a “relic” in his universe, became a relic of his universe. Upon awakening in ours he became aware of the likenesses of our universe to his and the presence of “lightsmiths.” This time around he knew precisely the danger they posed to reality, and that arguing verbally with them was not the best course if anything was going to be done to save another universe. Hence his cryptic tone, hence his blatant belligerence, and hence the “Relic” that we have seen thus far The “Blackout” event is less than a month away and already the dimming described by him that preceded the cataclysms that claimed his universe has already been witnessed by the different Corps of Lanterns. Venditti has set the stage for a true test of the Lanterns the likes of which (even under the pen of Geoff Johns) we have never seen the likes of. Aiding him is artist Rags Morales who worked with Brad Walker, the Green Lantern: The New Guardians artist who first depicted Relic, on Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run. Truly an issue to procure if you call yourself a fan of Green Lantern.
Green Arrow #23.1: Count Vertigocould almost be another issue of Green Arrow. With the usual GA team on deck that is no insult. This series is a delight, really tapping the limits and possibilities of the character to their peak potential. However, being a Villains Month issue the dynamic creative duo focus their literary lens on Count Vertigo, by far the most iconic of Oliver Queen’s nemeses depicted since the reboot. Being in a rebooted universe, little is known about the man behind the disorienting device. This issue remedies that, telling the story of Werner Zytle, son of the late deposed Count of Vlatava. He is raised in Canada by his abusive mother who blames him for the fall of their family’s fortunes in the motherland. She later sells him to a scientific research firm, prompting his implanting with the device that grants him his power. It is here that his true power, both in spirit and body, takes hold. From here he is able to reclaim his destiny, starting with his freedom, then regaining his homeland, and finally in the reunion with his mother he reclaims his past and identity. He is very much a Mordred character, raised by a single, overbearing mother to fulfill a destiny not of his choosing and ultimately becoming a monster that consumes the mother figure and becomes a plague upon humanity. This is very much the case with Vertigo and though the issue is not structured like most of its fellows this week, it functions excellently in advancing the plot of Green Arrow and maintaining the integrity of the series, unlike many of the stand-alone stories out this month. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but then again Green Arrow is one of my favorites.
A Son’s Vengeance
Justice League #23.1: Darkseidalmost completely rewrites the entire concept of the New Gods. I am not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Since Justice League #3 I have been up in arms against Geoff Johns’ blatant disregard for Jack Kirby’s seminal creations and the perfection of his Fourth World mythology. Since then, Brian Azzarello’s work with the denizens of New Genesis have been slightly better. High Father was done a little heavy handed, but the essence was there. Scott Lobdell returns the character of Orion to a place that is well within the character’s original context and feels genuine. And then we come to this issue, written by Greg Pak. It begins by depicting Uxas and Izaya, mortals living upon the world of the (Old) Gods, scratching out meager existences. On this world the monumental gods frolicked and warred with one another in complete disregard for the lives of those tiny mortals living beneath them like insects. In this version, Izaya is married to Avia, as was so in the original Kirby books, but this time around Avia is the sister of Uxas. Izaya and Avia are devout believers and worshipers of the oblivious, elemental gods that plague them. Uxas is more pragmatic and “blasphemes” them constantly. He is cunning and engineers the ultimate death of these gods that brings about utter ruin to the planet, but also endows him with the powers of the gods he kills, forging him into Great Darkseid. Izaya is granted the powers of those stricken gods that escape Darkseid, rewarding his faith with the powers that baptize him as Izaya, the High Father. The planet is destroyed, but remade into the two planets of New Genesis and Apokalips. The final eight pages introduce a character from Pak’s Batman/Superman title, Kaiyo the Chaosbringer. This little sprite appeared at first to be a minor demon, but it seems very probable that she is in fact a New God of Apoklalips. What’s more, her exploits in the last couple of pages make it seem probable that she is the lost daughter of Darkseid that he world-hops to find, prompting his appearance in Justice League’s first arc. This issue put me off at first, because of the “heresy” of its divergence from Kirby’s Fourth World. However, in retrospect, it was a well written, intriguing concept that accentuates Pak’s previous work in the firs three issue of Batman/Superman and sets the stage for interesting future developments with the New Gods.
A So Was Born a Fourth World . . .
Earth 2 #15.1: Desaadappropriately segues to another New God of Apokalips and someone whose sadism might even rival that of Great Darkseid. Writer Paul Levitz who introduced Desaad into the New 52 in his Worlds’ Finest title chronicles the mad god’s advent to our Earth after the events of Earth-2 #1. His goal is really two-fold, filling in blanks in the story of what Desaad has been up to since coming to Earth-1 as well as how that has affected things the reader witnessed since the first issues of Worlds’ Finest, and secondly proving how sick and perverse the mind of Desaad truly is. One interesting thing that I think blew me away the most was in Desaad’s search for minds to corrupt and turn toward his dark aims, he stumbles upon an artist at a drafting table. Desaad goes to the man’s home and emerges from a Boom Tube, renowned for the thunderous cacophony it makes prompting its name, and yet the man doesn’t turn around. When Desaad looks over his shoulder, he stops short and seems apprehensive if not actually afraid, and decides to leave this man alone. One would ask, what is going on, but the savvy comic reader who knows not only something of comics in general, but more importantly the character of Desaad and the other New Gods, will notice something very key. The man at the table looks EXACTLY like a young Jack Kirby, creator of the Fourth World, of which Desaad is a denizen. The hair cut, the physique, the thick eyebrows, the posture. All so blatantly Kirby. When we see a close up of his work over his shoulder from Desaad’s perspective the rough sketches have all the hallmarks of Kirby’s illustrative style. Through meta-storytelling, Paul Levitz sets a real hook in the reader, inserting the King of Comics into a world featuring his own creations. What his existence in this world will mean for Desaad and the other New Gods is a mystery, but one that I will faithfully follow to find out the answer to.
Behold Thine Creator, Ye Mighty God!
Superman #23.1: Bizarrowas a slightly strange twist on the character, albeit a short lived one. Sholly Fisch, who cut his teeth in the big leagues on the backup features of Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run, writes this issue with the help of artist Jeff Johnson. In it we return to a seminal moment where Lex Luthor and Superman meet for the first times in the third issue of Action Comics. Largely due to experiments Luthor conducted under military purview the young Superman was hurt to the point of bleeding (something VERY difficult to achieve under most circumstances) and as a result he used Lex as a hostage to procure escape. Through this encounter Luthor gained two things: a personal animosity for the Man of Steel and a sample of his blood. Using further contracts with the U.S. Military he attempts to augment a normal human being by re-splicing Kryptonian DNA gained from the small sampling of blood into their own genome. The result of this is, of course, Bizarro. To my knowledge, Bizarro was always either a clone or a refugee from a dimension where everything is backward. Fisch makes a good sampling of Bizarro’s reversed Superman powers, i.e. Freeze vision and incendiary breath, but doesn’t quite pull off a Bizarro yarn that feels authentic. Bizarro’s rampage lacks most of the quintessential “misunderstood monster” motif that characterize almost all of his appearances in the past. This is an okay issue if the reader is just looking for Bizarro powers, but if they want Bizarro, the childlike villain speaking in opposites and conflicted in a limited understanding of the world and morality, this definitely is not the Bizarro story for them.
The Flash #23.1: Groddis similar to, but slightly different from the Action Comics: Cyborg Superman and Green Arrow: Count Vertigo issues, in that it functions as a within the main story of the Flash series to continue on into later issues. However, unlike both Cyborg Superman and Count Vertigo this doesn’t grant the reader any further insight into the past of Grodd. What it does, however, is juxtapose his thoughts and philosophical beliefs against the depiction of the aftermath of the Gorilla invasion of the Gem Cities he lead which terminated in Flash #17. Since then Solivar has taken over leadership of Gorilla City and worked painstakingly to not only make amends for the actions of the delusional despot, Grodd, but begun the process of making real steps to not only forge lasting peace between humanity and Gorillas, but have the Gorillas enter into the larger world we all share. This is not something Grodd can abide and the manner of his return from the Speed Force is revealed, as is his overall place as an essential villain in the Flash andt he larger DCU. Brian Buccellato, colorist and co-writer of the Flash, pens this issue with the help of artist Chris Batista. Batista’s art is quite different than that of the usual Flash panoply of artists, including Buccellato’s co-writer on the title, Francis Manapul. This is good in my opinion, because the Flash himself isn’t even seen in the issue and Batista’s art really depicts the Gorillas well. Definitely a thoughtful, well written, well drawn issue.
Batman: The Dark Knight #23.1: The Ventriloquistwas simply okay. I am a huge fan of Gail Simone on the Batgirl title and I attribute its success almost entirely to her writing, reserving a generous helping of credit to Barbara Gordon herself, who is one of my favorite comic book characters. Top 10, without a doubt. This origin of the Ventriloquist fell a little flat for me. Sure it’s interesting and sure Shauna is a very complex, psychotic person with a very troubled past. However, for me the Ventriloquist is Scar-Face and Dummy. There is something so “Batman” about them. I say Batman, and although Shauna and Ferdie are currently appearing in Batgirl, I still think that the mundane nature of the original Ventriloquist works more effectively with unpowered vigilantes than this new version. The original Ventriloquist, Arnold Wesker, was a non-powered guy with dissociative personality disorder, projecting his primary, dominant persona into a ventriloquist dummy done up like a 30’s era gangster named Scar-Face. The premise fell well within the realm of reality and created a complex villain mired in a psychosis rife with situational drama. Wesker and Scar-Face might disagree, but being that Scar-Face is the dominant persona, Wesker is going to be hampered in foiling the inanimate object, because his own drive is what is empowering the dummy. Later there was a beautiful, blonde woman (Peyton Riley) who took over as Scar-Face’s ventriloquist, but still follows the same paradigm. When you have a woman like Shauna who has telepathic abilities that she exploits years before she got her dummy, Ferdie, you kind of remove the intrinsic importance of the ventriloquism schtick from her psychosis. Sure she named her dummy after her deceased twin brother, and yeah she was a product of a negative environment growing up, but that in no way enhances the nuanced concept of the Ventriloquist. Basically, this issue and the iteration of the character in the New 52 reinvents the wheel, with more bells and whistles, but less functionality. I like Gail’s work, but with a heavy heart I say that this issue can be passed on with no loss for any Bat-Family fan.
Batman: Black & White #1 is a title which returns in the New 52 to presents several intriguing short stories depicted completely in monochromatic black and white panels. With the writing talents of Chip Kidd, Maris Wicks, John Arcudi, and Howard Makie, and the artistic talents of Neal Adams, Michael Cho, Sean Murphy, Joseph Quinones, and Chris Samnee, many unique perspectives are shed on the Dark Knight and his myriad interpretations. Foremost of these is Neal Adams’ piece, both written and drawn by the Batman maestro who helped create Ra’s Al Ghul and the Man-Bat. In his Batman: Zombie story, the impact of Batman as a fighter of evil is explored in great poignancy through the social issues of our day and just how effective a Dark Knight can be against the day to day evils of the 21st century. His writing is razor edged and his art is at the top of its game. Chip Kidd and Michael Cho’s Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When comes in second in my opinion, giving a Darwyn Cooke-esque, Silver Age story of Robin and what truly makes him a worthy contemporary for the Batman. What’s more, even Superman has to tip his hat to the Boy Wonder by story’s end. John Arcudi’s Driven, drawn by Sean Murphy, is an interesting tale of Batman and his relationship with his most iconic accessory: the Batmobile. The other three stories are good, but these three especially epitomize innovation in the realm of Batman.
Codename: Action #1is basically a Cold War, nerd boy fantasy mash-up. It takes place in an ambiguous period during the Cold War following a strange amalgam of characters throughout its globe trotting plot. In the background are two Golden Age comic book characters resurrected in a slightly more modern context. In America there is the costumed adventurer, the American Crusader, and in Europe there is the British aerial operative, Black Venus. American Crusader finds his vintage in 1941 as a crimefighter that gained powers from stray radiation from a device he was working with called an “atom smasher.” Black Venus was a war nurse turned aviator during WWII famous for her black bodysuit and aviator goggles, who first appeared in comics in 1945. In the foreground of the plot we see a new secret agent complete his tests of initiation, earning the designation Operative 1001. He is then teamed up with Operator 5, the fifth agent ever initiated into the “Intelligence Service,” and a living legend. Facing all four of these characters is a global diplomatic meltdown of epic proportions. The French threaten war against the Soviets if they interfere with North African assets, the Japanese threaten war if the Russians movie into their territorial waters, the Chinese threaten war if the Japanese mobilize their armed forces, and the Soviet Union threatens to launch nukes if anyone doesn’t accede to their demands. The kicker is that the Intelligence Services have intel that the Soviet General making the threats at the UN is in fact not the actual General due to a subcutaneous tracking device they implanted the real one with. So the plot thickens . . . Writer Chris Roberson kicks off this series, with no shortage of help from artist Jonathan Lau, in great style and panache, eliciting all the romance and intrigue of Cold War spy thrillers and the action of costumed superhero comics in a shaken, not stirred, suave superhero spy masterpiece.
Trillium #2begins at the strange middle of the first issue with the meeting of two diametrically different people, whose shared intrepid nature is the sole bond that connects them in what is shaping up to be a REALLY innovative series. Nika Temsmith, the intergalactic scientist from the year 3797 searching for a cure to a sentient virus, meets up with the English explorer William Pike on Earth in the year 1921, who himself is searching for purpose after losing his in the Great War. Ironically what brings them together is the Incan temple that Pike and his expedition have just discovered after centuries of abandonment. In Nika’s own time, a virus with the capacity for thought and higher reasoning is at war with the human race and reduced our population to mere hundreds of thousands spread across the galaxy in weakly sustained colonies. Seeking to find a cure she goes through a “primitive” alien race’s pyramidal temple emerging on Earth in 1921. As can be logically deduced from the time gap, the English both speak are not even close to being mutually intelligible. So the entire issue is merely them trying to communicate and ascertain who each other is and what each other desires. Slowly as events unfold they get an idea of the situation and the revelation is powerful to behold. Jeff Lemire writes and illustrates this series MASTERFULLY!
Trascendence of the Trillium Flower
And so ends the first week of Villains Month and my first week back on “Off the Panel.” Hopefully, you folks enjoyed it and will come back to enjoy future issues with me.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Action Comics #23.1: Cyborg Superman: Art by Mike Hawthorne, Colored by Daniel Brown
Green Arrow #23.1: Count Vertigo: Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo
Justice League #23.1: Darkseid: Art by Paulo Siquiera & Netho Diaz, Colored by Hi-Fi
Earth 2 #15.1: Art by Yildiray Cinar, Colored by Jason Wright
Trillium #2: Art Jeff Lemire, Colored by Jose Villarrubia
This week is a week of great flux in the DC Universe bringing change within and without the various series. New writers come onboard, characters lives alter invariable, and in the case of Nightwing and Teen Titans, the artists play the swinging game swapping partners to try their hands at new characters and stories. It’s truly an exciting time to be a DC fan, as these changes push the envelope of storytelling and innovation. So here they are:
Justice League #19introduces the two new members of the Justice League: Rhonda Pineda (the new, female Atom) and Firestorm (whose series is being cancelled with May’s #20 issue). Stuck alone in the Watchtower, waiting for their new teammates to initiate them into the League, they find themselves in a trial-by-fire situation. On Earth, keeping them from meeting their newly recruited rookies, Batman goes to have a chat with Superman and Wonder Woman who have taken it upon themselves to insert themselves into a tense geopolitical situation. Batman, though cold and calculating, understands that the world is growing distrustful of the League and violating political borders, no matter what the reason, does nothing but kick hornet nests and ruffle feathers. I have to say that Geoff Johns really doesn’t portray Superman or Wonder Woman in a good light. Wonder Woman is shown in a very fascist light and Superman, though opposed to her views, goes along with it because his girlfriend wants him to. Compelling characterization, truly. The issue also features a mysterious assailant breaking into the Batcave to steal a package Batman developed to take out Superman. Considering the events of this issue, Johns’ version of the Man of Steel kind of deserves a few knocks to the head to maybe knock some sense into him. In the backup feature, I may be forced to eat crow. I’ve had very few good things to say about the SHAZAM backup or its version of Billy Batson, but after Johns reveals Black Adam’s history in ancient Kahndaq he seems to give validation to what he did with Billy, giving him the understanding to deal with Black Adam from a place of mutual understanding of why he is doing the things he is with the power the Wizard gave him. Geoff Johns may be able to pull this one out of the toilet. I say may. Jury is still out.
The Corruption of Power
Green Lantern: The New Guardians #19picks up right where Green Lantern #19 left off with the destruction of Sinestro’s homeworld, Korugar. Of course when Kyle shows up with a white ring on his finger, Sinestro demands that he restore his planet and his people from the apocalypse the First Lantern unleashed. Kyle remains uncertain and Sinestro resorts to violence. While many would demonize him for this reaction it should be noted that Hal Jordan reacted similarly in the wake of his hometown, Coast City’s, destruction and as a result snapped Sinestro’s neck and murdered the Guardians and half the Green Lantern Corps. Sinestro in comparison is behaving himself quite admirably. Simon Baz, the newly minted GL of planet Earth comes on the scene and all three Lanterns attempt to do the impossible, taking turns with the white ring to bring back the decimated world. Kyle tries and fails, the ring won’t even allow Sinestro to put it on, and Simon Baz tries to replicate his feat of will that brought his brother-in-law out of a coma, only to be refused by the ring. For good or ill, the Life Force of the white energy deems that Korugar must remain destroyed. Like the two previous GL titles this month, New Guardians #19 sets the stage for the massive Green Lantern #20 next month with the cast of players taking position. Its going to be a blowout issue that will go down in history. Mark my words.
The Return of Fear
Batwoman #19is an extended period of adjustment. After the conclusion of the Medusa mega-arc a lot has changed in the Batwoman title and as a result the characters are having to reacquaint themselves with one another and the situations that have arisen from the fallout of the first seventeen regular issues. Maggie and Kate’s relationship has taken a dramatic turn following Kate’s revelation that she is in fact the Gotham city vigilante known as Batwoman. After all, in the course of doing her duty as a policewoman Batwoman shot Maggie full of a concentrated Scarecrow fear toxin that continues to plague her with horrific nightmares. It is also her job to apprehend such vigilantes. So yeah, their engagement is rather complicated legally and emotionally. Kate’s father, Jacob Kane, has his own crosses to bear in his dual life as the father of Batwoman and loving husband with his wife Katherine’s discovery that her stepdaughter, Kate, and niece, Betty, moonlight as crimefighters with Jacob’s help. Thus another strained relationship. Jacob also lets slip that he may have a son. However they rationalize it, the hinting is that this son is Director Bones of the D.E.O. Considering that Bones is using Jacob as a bargaining chip to gain Batwoman’s compliance to D.E.O. operations and that he referred to Alice as “sister”, I’d say that there is some seriously oedipal stuff going on there. And as for Cameron Chase, the hard edged D.E.O. agent begins to have a crisis of conscience and goes to her sister to find resolution to her conflicting drives. Overall, J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman have made this title both action packed and introspectively thoughtful. This continues to be one of the hallmark titles in DC’s current lineup.
DC Universe Presents #19delivers its final presentation of the New DCU spinning out of the first four issues of Swords and Sorcery and bringing Beowulf into our present (his past) as summoned through a mystical artifact. Preceding him is a shapeshifting beast called the “Puca” that runs amok with the intention of conquering the Age of Heroes and enslaving humanity. Though logically it would change the timestream and corrupt events in her time, Beowulf concludes that the “sorceress” we’ve met under the relative name of “Grendel’s Mother” sent the Puca back to lure the legendary Geat from that time in order that she could conquer the Danelaw unimpeded. Helping Beowulf find the Puca and get back to his own time is the beautiful archeaologist Dr. Gwendolyn Pierce. This issue, though pretty straightforward and insubstantial by itself, was a pretty fun read for those that enjoy the original legend of Beowulf and the reinterpretation of it as done by this issue’s writer, Tony Bedard. My hopes are that this concept will be revisited one day, because to me the Beowulf backup feature was superbly done and intriguing to read. It may not have been popular, or at least not popular enough to continue in its own book, but I can dream. The backup in Sword of Sorcery was drawn by Jesus Saiz, but this issue featured art by Javier Pina that was very soft, with lovely rounded lines, making it all the more enjoyable. Man, I hope they continue on with this series . . .
He’s No Hero, He is BEOWULF!!!
Legion of Super-Heroes #19brings the next chapter in the off-the-rails storyline by writer Paul Levitz that re-establishes the defunct supervillain team, the “Fatal Five.” So far, Tharok has plunged much of the United Planets into utter chaos by corrupting all technology powered by quark relays which accounts for 99.9% of it (I’m guessing on that figure, but its not far off), and in this issue Emerald Empress descends on Webber World, an artificial planet made entirely out of metal and machinery that runs ENTIRELY on quark relays. That said, there is no way for the residents there to defend themselves against her psychotic assaults. Cue the entrance of Mon-El, the Legion’s Daxamite, and the Webber Worlders’ last hope. Levitz holds nothing back in this storyline. The Fatal Five are back and they are playing for keeps. Levitz began this arc with the death of a beloved Legionnaire and this issue finds the rest standing on infirm ground. The sheer scope of the story is mind boggling, spanning the width of the United Planets and inflicting fear and death the likes of which we’ve not seen since Levitz’s “Great Darkness Saga” back in the early 1980’s. Good to see that the master hasn’t lost his touch, nor his ability to spin quintessentially relevant Legion lore. Starting this journey with him on issue #17 was his former partner from the aforementioned 1980’s opus, artist Keith Giffen. Last issue and this one had art provided by Scott Kolins. Kolins is a phenomenal artist, but put beside Giffen’s work it took some of the magic away. Regardless, this is a series to read. Period.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #19represents a paradigm shift on two levels. Firstly, it should be noted that Scott Lobdell, writer extraordinaire who’s initiated some of the best titles in the New DCU (Teen Titans, Superman, Superboy, and this title), has moved on after a stellar run reinventing Jason Todd, Starfire, and Roy Harper, while simultaneously introducing incredible new concepts and characters like Essence, the All-Caste, the Untitled, the Thirteen Scions of Salvation, to name only a few. The good news is that he is replaced by up-and-coming writer James Tynion IV, who’s work on the backup features in the Batman title as well as the series Talon have been incredible. Joining him is artist Julius Gopez, whose art is as detailed as original series artist Kenneth Rocafort, but with its own unique style. That said, the stage is set for an incredible issue as the new creative team descends into the quagmire left after the “Death of the Family” mega event felt throughout the Bat-family of books. Jason Todd has been through a lot, and despite developing a hard exterior, weathered it pretty well. With Lobdell’s revelation that the Joker was the architect of much of his misery, Jason is left in a very compromising situation. Following that, he disappears and his friends, Starfire and Roy, try to find him to offer their support. They track him to the Himalayas and while searching are set upon by two former acquaintances of Jason’s: Ducra and Essence. Both transcendental forces, they attempt to influence the course of Roy and Koriand’r’s journey. With his limited knowledge gained from observing Jason’s meditation and use of Eastern rituals, Roy is able to weather his innermost demons, roused by Essence, to find the path to helping his friend. However, after all of the pain and hardship to find their comrade, Jason throws a curve ball. Tynion proves his understanding and mastery of comic writing here with some really poignant storytelling that doesn’t break stride from the tone and pace set by Lobdell. Jason, Roy, and Starfire are very complex characters that are flawed beyond belief, but when written well are made all the better because of their imperfections. Tynion writes them that way, and his partner in art renders them beautifully. This series looks to be in good hands and I for one am breathing a sigh of relief that Red Hood and the Outlaws have found themselves in capable hands.
The Color of Friendship
Nightwing #19endures his own paradigm shift like Jason, his successor to the Robin title, did in the above book. Though continuing to be written by Kyle Higgins, longtime artist Eddy Barrows has gone to Teen Titans and that series’ artist, Brett Booth, begins his run as artist on this book with this issue. Coinciding with Booth’s jumping on point, Dick Grayson jumps ship from the tragedy that befell him in Gotham following “Death of the Family” and begins a new life in Chicago, searching for Tony Zucco. Zucco is the supposedly deceased mobster that killed Dick’s parents, but also the father of his pseudo-girlfriend, Sonia Branch. A complex situation to be sure, but one that Dick cannot overlook. Though it dredges up harsh memories of the past, Nightwing has to seek out Zucco if he ever hopes to attain closure on one of the seminal moments of his life. The issue follows Dick settling into the Windy City and familiarizing himself with its underworld in order to get information on Zucco. It also introduces the “Prankster.” Higgins imagines him almost as an anti-hero rather than the Joker-like Superman villain he was originally written as. Here Prankster forces a corrupt millionaire to burn his money to prolong his survival when trapped in a room with wolves. The chances of the man surviving the encounter are very decent, but he is forced to pay monetarily for the privilege. Not supervillainous, but at the same time not heroic. Higgins and Booth have created a very compelling first chapter for the new chapter in Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing’s life.
Why So Serious?
Supergirl #19finds the Girl of Steel captive after a weakness overcomes her, probably due to her former kryptonite poisoning at the end of the “H’el on Earth” arc. And as introduced last issue, Karen Starr, aka Power Girl comes onto the scene, drawn by an unknown force to her Earth-1 self’s rescue. In Worlds’ Finest she has gone out of her way to avoid meeting Kara, as she has no idea what it would mean meeting her alternate self. Here she has no choice but to help “herself” and in the process writer Mike Johnson does something very interesting with the two halves of the same person. When they meet and touch hands, instead of reality unraveling as quantum physicists project in such an unlikely event, they instead become of one mind, literally sharing their memories and thoughts. After that instant they operate like a well oiled machine to put down a mutant freak that Lex Luthor sicced on them from his ultra-security prison, via neural implant. Johnson does a really excellent job writing this story in a way that not only advances the title character, but the character of Power Girl from across the New DCU. As is wont to happen with her, Power Girl’s costume is torn to shreds as she helps get the weakened Supergirl back to her sub-aquatic fortress of solitude, Sanctuary. Within, Sanctuary ascertains her need and spins her a new costume from more durable Kryptonian fibers. However, the costume it gives her deviates from the more PC, full body suit to the former skimpy unitard with the “convenient” hole in the chest that serves no other purpose than to display her cleavage. Also, Mike Johnson makes ample use of this singular event of two genetically identical Karas to play a very interesting scenario predicated from the taboo of cloning in Kyptonian culture. Overall, a very interesting, thoughtful, action packed issue.
Two Reflections of One Super Woman
Vibe #3takes Francisco Ramon further down the uncharted path his powers have placed him on. Recruited by A.R.G.U.S and Amanda Waller for the Justice League of America, he is starstruck and wanting not only to make a difference, but find purpose following the horrific event that gave him his powers while simultaneously taking the life of his eldest brother. From the perspective of such a kindhearted, idealistic young man like Cisco, that is completely understandable. What he doesn’t know is that Waller put him on the JLA roster because he is theoretically the only being on the planet whose powers would allow him to neutralize the Flash’s speed abilities which come from an other dimensional force, which we know from The Flash to be the “Speed Force.” So with that as the goal, how does one test that hypothesis? If you want to fight an unknown creature the best way is to first try your hands against one of its young. So Cisco is sent up against Kid Flash, aka Bart Allen, of Teen Titans fame. Their meeting is morally mixed and hints very cryptically about the past (our future) of the younger speedster. While Cisco begins by attacking Kid Flash, he is unable to continue on his belligerent path as Kid Flash does not behave in a way that engenders antagonism. The events as I said before are very cryptic and morally ambiguous and begin the questioning of Vibe as to what his real purpose is and whether or not he can trust the people that are giving him orders. I had my doubts about this book in the beginning. Damn you, Geoff Johns, you got me! Johns and cowriter Andrew Kreisberg started the series with the first two issues, but this third issue begins new series writer Sterling Gates’ tenure on title. Gates is an incredible new voice in comics, so the title has gone from good hands to equally capable ones.
Wonder Woman #19marks a nexus point in storytelling that promises a shift in the status quo. The First Born has been systematically attacking those of his relatives that have been entrusted with his various implements of war. This issue has him going up against Poseidon and fighting the god within his own leviathan belly. Going up against his uncle, the two find themselves at an impasse and we see more of the twisted politics of the Greek gods coming into play as they make war and secret intrigues against one another. However, for the First Born to achieve his ends he must cross paths with Zola’s infant baby, the last born of Zeus’s children. To do that, of course he will have to go through Wonder Woman who has literally spent the entirety of this rebooted series protecting the baby from fetus to newborn. As the title shifts to the Amazing Amazon and what she has been up to we see a major parting of ways. Her Constantine-esque brother, Lennox, decides he is going depart the scene and in the midst of that departure, Orion runs afoul of Wonder Woman and leaves in disgust as well. I’m not going to shed a tear on this departure, as Orion is a noble character and I feel that writer Brian Azzarello isn’t depicting him nearly as nobly as the son of Great Darkseid deserves. Best to leave that to the more able pen of Scott Lobdell in Superman. I will be interested to see how Wonder Woman fares against her eldest brother, the First Born, as he arrives in London in the very last panel of this issue. Oh the anticipation . . . She might yet regret the loss of an extra set of New God hands. Oh well, pride cometh before the fall.
Sword of Sorcery #7proves how incredible the main feature Amethyst is. Last issue had the return of Eclipso, aka Lord Kaala, to the gemworld Nilaa. After his return we are told that he was the result of a nightmarish blood marriage between House Diamond and House Onyx, hence his power totem, the black diamond. With the powers of both houses gifted to him he was nearly unstoppable and almost brought ruin down upon all of Gem World. But for Lady Chandra of House Amethyst he would have succeeded. Now it lies with Chandra’s heirs, Lady Graciel, Mordiel, and of course Princess Amaya of the Amethyst clan to take him down once again. They have their work cut out for them. In the course of a single night, chronicled in this one issue, Kaala has murdered the head of House Citrine, retaken House Onyx from the noble Lady Akikra, and murdered the head of House Diamond taking its armies also under his power. With one stroke he has regained all his strength and prestige from before his fall. However, he still has many enemies including the fugitive Akikra who is as dangerous as a cornered dog, Prince Hadran of House Diamond, and of course the young lord and ladies of Houses Turquoise, Citrine, and Amethyst respectively. The board is set for one hell of a showdown in Nilaa. It will have to be, because sadly this title is being cancelled as of issue #8. Next issue is the conclusion to all of it, and what a shame. This was truly one of the best new series DC has put out. It was fresh and unique from anything else that they had done, resurrecting a lesser known series and completely re-imagining it in a way that preserved the good, but innovated at the same time. What a shame, indeed. The backup feature Stalker on the other hand comes to its conclusion and good riddance. As excellent as Amethyst is, Stalker is equally as terrible. THAT is a shame, as the original series from the 70’s, only four issue unfortunately,written by the legendary Paul Levitz was incredibly good. It’s predecessor, Beowulf, which merited a special appearance in the above mentioned DC Universe Presents #19 was phenomenal. I don’t even care to elaborate on how badly this Stalker series was dealt with. Suffice it to say, this backup series did nothing to help the cancellation of this title. It may have been a part of the anchor that dragged Sword of Sorcery below the water to its point of drowning. Pity. I will miss Amethyst and Beowulf greatly.
The Return of the King
Batman Beyond Unlimited #15 begins with the Superman Beyond feature. Superman is rescued from the Trillians by the the bestial Mangals he liberated from enslavement upon his last visit to Trillia. Whereas the Trillians view Superman as the terrorist who led to the fall of their society, the Mangals look upon him as a messianic figure. This is made apparent when Superman sees them for the first time after all the intervening years. When he liberated them they were small and helpless. Now they are large and strong. Apparently, the Trillians never let them grow to full maturity, but rather kept them young and worked them to premature death. So once again, we the reader are shown a very divided society on Trillia between the over class and the bonded underclass. Both sides want to eradicate the other, leaving a very morally ambiguous position for Superman. Regardless of the heinous crimes of the Trillians as a culture, he cannot condone wholesale slaughter of all Trillians, yet at the same time he cannot stand idly by while the Trillians plan the same for their emancipated slaves. This arc took a little while to reach maturity, but writer JT Krul has pulled this one out and made it into a very thought provoking storyline that raises questions about our own world and social systems. Next up, in the Justice League Beyond Unlimited feature writer Derek Fridolfs begins a new arc with artist Ben Caldwell providing pencils. In it the criminal organization known as the “Brain Trust” abducts children and places them in an elite prep school academy to brainwash them into becoming soldiers in an underground army. The JLB sends their own agent, the “Golden Child”-like Green Lantern, Kai-Ro, in as a mole. Once he is in the League tracks him to perhaps the most wholesome place in the entirety of the DCU. A place that makes Smallville look like a ghetto. Fawcett City. Ending in the middle of a fight, it is difficult to see where the story is going from here, but the concept of the “Brain Trust” is solid and I very much look forward to seeing where Fridolds goes in his script. Lastly, the Batman Beyond feature fulfills a promise made over two years ago before the Reboot from the original Batman Beyond comic series. Terry McGinnis’ best friend and confidante, Max Gibson, had attempted to infiltrate the network of cyber terrorists called “Undercloud” that were attacking Gotham’s infrastructure. All of this without Terry’s knowledge. Now she finds herself in the belly of the beast, integrally tied into Undercloud’s horrific plan to raze Neo Gotham and build it up from the ashes in their own image. If she doesn’t comply, agents of Undercloud will kill those closest to her. In the meantime, Terry is sent to a rock concert where a terrorist threat has been issued, although not by Undercloud. Instead, its one of Batman’s old nemeses, Shreik. Overall this issue was pretty quality in both storytelling and art. For those that enjoyed the DC Animated Universe, this title stands as an ark to the legacy of many beloved TV shows.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Justice League #19: Drawn by Ivan Reis, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Jonathan Glapion
Green Lantern: New Guardians #19: Drawn by Andres Guinaldo, Colored by Wil Quintana, Inked by Raul Fernandez
DC Universe Presents #19: Art by Javier Pina, Colored by Jason Wright
Red Hood and the Outlaws #19: Art by Julius Gopez, Colored by Nei Ruffino
Supergirl #19: Art by Mahmud Asrar, Colored by Dave McCaig
Nightwing #19: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund
Sword of Sorcery #7: Art by Aaron Lopresti, Colored by Hi-Fi
While reading this week’s batch of comics I recognized a theme of familial drama. Fathers and sons, brothers and sisters, mothers and daughters, and even mothers and sons. Several issues including Batman, Batman & Robin, Batgirl, and Superboy focus on the tightly knit bond between parent and child and how that dynamic can cause one or the other to do some very drastic, unseemly things. In the case of Batgirl, the elder Barbara Gordon is forced to choose between her kids. Strangely, she does it pretty easily. Batman goes over the deep end in Batman & Robin.Superboy finds a tale not so much about the Boy of Steel, but rather a villain we’ve seen before whose villainous acts find purpose in a very overdue origin. Needless to say, there is a deep wellspring of emotion present in this week’s issues, so without ado, here they are:
Batman #19opens on a very unlikely scenario. Bruce Wayne robbing a bank and shooting several people dead. Commissioner Gordon is on the scene and tries to rectify this very disturbing situation. However, things are not what they seem and the plot goes back six days into the past to show the road that led us to this moment. A similar event occurs with one of Bruce Wayne’s associates dying and yet walking around despite that fact. Upon further inspection Batman discovers that one of his villains has gained an incredible new ability explaining the two men acting in seemingly impossible ways. Scott Snyder’s run on this series has been really stellar, but his best work seem to fall under the two major arcs he’s penned thus far, “The Court of Owls” and “Death of the Family.” This one was good, but not as good, lacking a sense of urgency or overall consequence. In the backup feature, cowriter James Tynion IV delivers a tale of Superman and Batman delving into the supernatural. Also not the best plotline, but not terrible.
Batman & Red Robin #19pulls a gambit by revealing on its foldout cover the entry of Carrie Kelley as “Batman’s Partner.” Not to spoil it, but it’s smoke and mirrors like so many of the things DC is printing on their oversized covers. In this iteration of Batman lore, Carrie is a college student, not a spunky twelve year old, and a drama major who had been tutoring Damian in her spare time. It’s questionable whether she’ll develop into an ongoing character in the Batverse, but in any event she’s been brought back into the fold from the tripped out microcosm of “The Dark Knight Returns.” What this issue really is about and what we should pay attention to is the true depth of Batman’s loss and the desperate measures he’s been driven to. Here he abducts Frankenstein for the sole purpose of taking him apart to discern how he was reanimated. Since Frank is neither alive nor dead he is awake the whole time and through his evisceration tells Batman to stop the course he’s on as it will not be in his son’s best interest. As the title insinuates, Red Robin is called in by Alfred to try and talk some sense into Bruce. The jury is still out on whether or not that advice takes. However, this issue continues to portray hauntingly the depths of emotions within the Dark Knight and showcase the humanity encased within his austere facade. Series artist Patrick Gleason draws it incredibly well, rounding out a stellar issue.
A Father’s Love
Batgirl #19welcomes back writer Gail Simone to the title and just in time for what turns out to be a killer conclusion to the story arc involving her little brother, James Gordon Jr. James is an honest to goodness psychopath intent on hurting those closest to him. His father, Commissioner Gordon, puts an allpoints bulletin out on him, but it’s his mother and his sister, Barbara, that end up having to deal with him. Ray Fawkes was the writer on the past couple of issues, and while he did a decent job of showing James’ diseased psyche, the title languished a little when compared with Simone’s intimate, humanist stories told from Barbara’s perspective. That comes through quite vividly in this issue, adding to the trauma she has already suffered from the Joker with the further trauma of growing up with a little brother who for all intents and purposes lacks a soul. This issue concluded that dark episode, but presents a very heartbreaking consequence. In between Simone accomplished two things of some merit. First of all she revealed Batgirl’s identity to her mother, but most importantly she revealed that Barbara’s roommate Alysia is transgendered. This issue proves Gail Simone’s mastery of comic writing. It was heartfelt, personal, tragic, and also triumphant. As long as she is attached to this title, Batgirl will be a series to pick up.
A Mother’s Love/Hate
Green Lantern Corps #19is a very straightforward issue. Volthoom the First Lantern has been going around torturing members of all the corps in an attempt to amass the power he requires to enslave the universe. He’s tortured Guy Gardner. As of last issue he’s tortured John Stewart and Fatality. This issue begins his torture of the Green Lanterns located on Oa en masse, when a very familiar corpsman comes to their rescue: Mogo. The planet Green Lantern comes to his embattled comrades’ aid just as he did during the Blackest Night, pulling them to his surface where he can protect them . . . or so it seems. Once the Lanterns are on his surface they are beset by alternate versions of themselves imbued with negative energies: i.e. rage, greed, and fear. All the time, though, Mogo is with them. Mogo may not like to socialize, but is always there when the Corps is in need. Peter Tomasi again delivers a strong Green Lantern Corps story that acknowledges its members’ weaknesses, but also the strengths that are born out of them. The conclusion to this issue comes in just a few weeks in the apocalyptic Green Lantern #20. I for one cannot wait.
Superboy #19is actually a misnomer. Though it is about Superboy in an ancillary way, the issue is actually an origin story for the ubervillain Harvest. Born in the thirtieth century he is a soldier in the war that humans wage against the metahumans that have sought to enslave them. The cause of this war goes back to Superman, and for that reason Harvest goes back in time and kidnaps the infant son that Superman has with Lois Lane. That boy grows up under his guidance as a surrogate son to replace his biological child, killed in the war. In his time, Jon Kent, as he was named, was afflicted with a genetic disorder stemming from his kryptonian/human heritage. This condition rears its head again, threatening his life. Harvest cannot watch another of his children die and that is why Superboy was cloned. Him and the enigmatic N.O.W.H.E.R.E. operative, Templar, are attempts at perfecting the strange combination genome to heal his adoptive son’s life threatening condition. After reading this issue, the reader is clued into who Harvest is and his logos for doing the horrible things he has done. While one may not agree with what he is doing, you can sympathize with his pain and understand why he would undertake nightmarish schemes like the Culling. Writer Scott Lobdell returns to this series to tell this tale of his insane arch-villain. Considering the scope of Harvest’s reach into several series, this is an issue that cannot be missed.
A Father’s Love
The Ravagers #11 continues on from Superboy above insofar as it shows the travails of the Ravagers created by Harvest’s Culling events as well as showing the lengths he will go to control them or silence them. This issue is the penultimate issue of the series which is scheduled for cancellation next month with its twelfth issue. Caitlin Fairchild’s Ravagers have taken refuge with the scientist Niles Caulder, but find themselves under attack on one side from Rose Wilson and Warblade, and on the other by Rose’s dad, Deathstroke. With the end bearing down on the series and the stakes rising as they have it is very scary for those that have enjoyed this series and invested themselves in the cast of characters. A few have already perished and its dubious whether they will come back like Thunder’s sister, Lightning. I eagerly await the ending of this series to see if any of the Ravagers can make the jump to the Teen Titans or find their own way in the New DCU. Here’s hoping.
Demon Knights #19 concludes, at least for the moment, the threat of Cain against the world with his vampiric horde. Arriving at the shores of Themyscira, the Demon Knights show up in time to aid the Amazons in their battle with Cain’s forces, enlightening them on the proper protocols for dispatching the undead soldiers of the nights. Under the surface of this issue writer Robert Venditti imbues several compelling developments for the main characters. Exoristos, the exiled Amazon, returns to the home from which she was banished on pain of death. The Demon is stuck on Earth because Jason Blood refuses to leave Hell. Because Etrigan needs hellfire to replenish his energy Jason weakens his other half to show that he is stronger than anyone thinks by enduring Lucifer’s most heinous torments, just to spite the Demon. What’s most interesting is that despite his love of torturing innocents, Lucifer loses his composure when he hears what Cain is up to on Earth and forces Jason to go back with genuine fear in his demeanor. The final aspect is the Shining Knight fulfilling Merlin’s prophesy that she would fall to demonic forces. She is bitten, but knows that it somehow fits into her ultimate quest to find the Holy Grail. Queen Hippolyta (mother of Wonder Woman) knows something about its location, marking a turning point in the title to the next story arc. Robert Venditti really takes this series forward in an almost indistinguishable manner from the first phase of storytelling by original writer Paul Cornell. Bernard Chang’s artwork is fantastic and vividly portrays the medieval epic.
Threshold #4, like its previous issues, is fraught with myriad stories. The main point of this issue is Jediah Caul and K’Rot racing to regain his lost power battery. To make things more interesting, the area that it is located is scheduled to be shrunk and absorbed into Brainiac’s collective like the bottle Kryptonian city of Kandor. Keith Giffen writes Caul into a very troubling predicament, which of course compels the reader to figure out how the rogue Green Lantern and his floppy eared friend can escape the clutches of perhaps the most coldly evil entity in the universe. We’ll see. In the penultimate chapter of Giffen’s “Larfleeze” backup feature, the culprit who stole the Orange Lantern’s vast hoard is finally revealed. Giffen’s choice of thieves is quite appropriate and infinitely entertaining. Across the board, Keith Giffen and artists Phil Winslade, Tom Raney, and Scot Kolins, really are creating an effective cosmic epic for the New 52. Giffen has a talent similar to Grant Morrison to create complex plotlines that can be read and understood on multiple levels and are accessible to most on at least one. I genuinely enjoy each installment of his title.
Batman: Li’l Gotham #1was a really silly but entertaining kids series about the denizens of Gotham done by writer/artists Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs in Nguyen’s classic inkwash technique. In one, Batman’s villains gather for a meal at a fancy Italian restaurant on Halloween and Batman, who goes in for takeout, pays for everyone’s meals. In the next story the Penguin leads an army of turkeys against their oppressors at the Gotham Thanksgiving parade. Both are really simple, often comical tales of toned down versions of Batman’s most iconic characters. For something light and thoroughly enjoyable or for kids wanting a nice, nonthreatening place to begin a love affair with the world of Batman, this is the perfect title.
Saucer Country #14delivers its concluding issue. With the discovery that the “Voyager couple” are actors in a sound stage, the final threads of the conspiracy are pulled, unraveling the tapestry of lies that have been woven over the past sixty years by various groups, government agencies, and private individuals. Arcadia Alvarado wins the presidency as the first Hispanic and female president as was predicted and as a result these revelations fall at her feet. However, writer Paul Cornell doesn’t come close to weighing in on the actuality of whether or not there are aliens or wrapping up all the loose ends. Arcadia and Michael were abducted in some way, but if not by aliens then by whom and for what purpose? I am uncertain what I think upon the conclusion of this series. The loose ends could just be a necessary evil as only so much of what we know of alien mythology can legitimately be explained by conspiracy and meta-science. I choose to look at the excellent writing and the fantastically convoluted plots that twist and turn defying prediction or expectations. It was a good run in that light and I applaud Cornell for the mastery of storytelling he employed in its composition.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman & Robin #19: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray
Batgirl #19: Drawn by Daniel Sampere, Colored by Blond, Inked by Jonathan Glapion & Marc Deering
Superboy #19: Drawn by Diogenes Neves, Colored by Richard & Tanya Horie, Inked by Vincente Cifuentes
Threshold #4: Art by Tom Raney, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse
Batman Beyond Unlimted #14: Drawn by Peter Nguyen, Colored by Andrew Elder, Inked by Craig Yeung
This was a huge week, both in the number of comics I picked up and the quality. First and foremost, Grant Morrison concludes his run on Action Comics with an oversized issue that promises to be one of the hallmarks of his comics career. Batwoman enters into a new era after a seventeen issue mega story came to an EPIC end last month. Legion of Super-Heroes has descended into unmitigated horror as of its preceding issue and moves into what promises to be the biggest story in LOSH history since writer Paul Levitz’s “Great Darkness Saga” plot from the early 80’s. And who could forget three Bat-titles that follow in the wake of Damian Wayne’s tragic passing. I am shaking just recounting the possibilities this week holds in store. Let’s jump in:
Action Comics #18concludes Grant Morrison’s MASSIVE opening arc of this flagship Superman title. As with most things Morrison, I’m not entirely sure I got all of it. It is steeped in 5th dimensional nonlinear geometry and what could vaguely be filed under the heading of quantum mechanics. Superman is fighting Vyndktvx, and by extension Superdoom and the Anti-Superman Army. It’s pretty technical, but insanely engaging to read. Superman’s position seems impossible to extricate himself from, except when he realizes an inherent flaw in the logistics of Vyndktvx’s attack. As he discerned on Mars when fending off the Multitude, the unfathomable numbers of this angelic hoard were merely a fifth dimensional projection of one being, Vyndktvx. Likewise, by choosing to attack Superman at various points throughout his life, Vyndktvx is able to optimize the torture quotient of his assault upon the Man of Steel, but conversely traps himself in a relativistic conundrum hinging on Superman’s perception of the situation. When Superman realizes that he’s been attacked at other points in his life he also realizes that due to the quantum physics of the 3-dimensional plane in which we exist he would have survived all the previous assaults by Vyndktvx and therefore would have gained de facto the knowledge of how to defeat the mad 5-D villain. Grant Morrison and his dynamic duo of artists, Brad Walker and Rags Morales, really did a great job of tying together their entire run on the book and making it meaningful. Lex Luthor made an appearance defending the Man of Steel and another antagonist from earlier in this series, Adam Blake, and his Neo-Sapien brotherhood come back to Earth and lend Superman a hand as well. The people of Earth are promised immortality and eternal happiness if they shun Superman in his moment of greatest need, but humanity rallies behind their savior and grant him the key to victory. The backup feature by Sholly Fisch was a little insubstantial, but in fairness his amazing backup feature in #17 was no doubt supposed to be the ending of the arc until Morrison got DC to extend his run by one issue to fully tell the grand finale as he envisioned it. This one features kids in a Superman Museum in the 31st century featuring almost no dialogue and just seems propped up with toothpicks. There was meaning behind it, but it still had the air of being rushed. Despite that, this issue as well as the other eighteen issues of the series (remember there was a #0 issue in there, too) were amazing and a tribute to Grant Morrison’s genius. A must read, whether in single issues or graphic novel format.
Vyndktvx’s 5-D Dilemma
Justice League #18was a nerd spasm with the League auditioning new members and writer Geoff Johns pulling out all sorts of fan favorites along with some really obscure characters. Zatanna, Firestorm, and Black Canary come up , but Johns also brings in Platinum of the Metal Men, Element Woman (female version of Metamorpho) which he’d messed around with in Flashpoint, Goldrush, and a female version of the Atom. Other than exploring the need of a new member to the team and introducing the hint of a coming conflict, there wasn’t much point to this issue. The Shazam backup feature had good art from Gary Frank, but vexing plot development: Billy Batson running away from responsibility, because he’s a punk. If he were any other version of the character than this it could be legitimately reasoned as a kid afraid to fail, but it’s not. It’s Geoff Johns’ bizarre attempt at rebooting an edgier Billy and his running away from conflict just comes off as him being a self interested brat. This series just does not work for me, main feature and backup.
Justice League of America #2brings about Geoff Johns’ second attempt at a team book. The first issue was a really solid opening chapter that showed promise, albeit suffering slightly with its breakneck, abbreviated introductions to six lead characters. This second issue continues that promise with a pretty substantial plot. Its shorter in length, giving some of its page count to the Martian Manhunter backup feature. There is some quality character development on Catwoman, as well as Steve Trevor. The main villain seeking to create the “Secret Society of Super-Villains” from the end of Justice League #6 a little more than a year ago finally shows his face and seems to be a completely new character, or perhaps a drastically different take on an old one, because I do not recognize him at all. All in all, a really enjoyable, edgy series. I think that Geoff Johns is trying to be edgy with the two Justice League titles and that is where he fails with the main series. When you have tertiary characters like Catwoman, Katana, Hawkman, etc, you can be edgier. When you try that same thing with the main DCU characters, even to a degree with Batman, you just alienate them from the audience reading them. Maybe that’s what Johns is going for, but that’s a really low bar to aim for and a really crappy status quo for readers to expect. The Martian Manhunter backup was too edgy for me and I did not like it. If J’onn J’onnz was to die at this point I wouldn’t care at all. That is sad, because I always liked him.
Batwoman #18is a new beginning for the character, but also a reaffirmation of what her life has become. Medusa and her kidnapping of dozens of Gotham children was the plot that pervaded the first seventeen issues of the title, but with last issue that has been laid to rest. However, in fighting this titanic battle for the innocents of her city, Batwoman had to make a devils deal with the D.E.O. and become their leashed super-agent in order to complete her mission with impunity and keep her father out of prison for his outfitting of her with Army equipment. This latter aspect of her life was overshadowed by the pressing quest to find and subdue Medusa before the children came to harm. With the mission accomplished she is becoming aware of the shackles she’s got herself tethered with. As she plays her role in this issue taking down Mr. Freeze to obtain some of his freeze tech for the D.E.O. she runs afoul of Batman and confuses her father, cousin Betty (her sidekick Hawkfire), and the Batman as to what her motives are. After defeating Medusa, Batwoman proposed to her alter-ego Kate Kane’s girlfriend, Capt. Maggie Sawyer. This issue picks up with Maggie looking for a new place for the two of them, completely overstepping any reaction from the Gotham policewoman as to the revelation that her lover was the vigilante she had been hunting. Probably the right decision by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, but I still would have been interested to see what the initial conversation was before her acceptance of this rather unorthodox situation. This series continues to be amazing, although this particular episode was a little less exciting after the high octane ride the past couple of months have given us with the conclusion of the “Medusa” mega-arc. Also Trevor McCarthy’s art pales in comparison to Williams’. I feel they do him a disservice, as he is a good artist, by pairing his artwork next to Williams’.
Green Lantern: The New Guardians #18brings Volthoom’s wrath upon Carol Ferris, Saint Walker, and Larfleeze. To accomplish this, series artist Aaron Kuder has been replaced with three artists for the three different sequences in the narrative. The Carol Ferris segment is drawn by Hendry Prasetyo and features Carol living a life without love. She’s completely ignored her obligations to her father and their family company Ferris Aircraft, following her dream to become a fighter pilot. Though this sounds ideal for her, with Volthoom’s altered timeline it is anything but. Larfleeze’s segment is drawn by Jim Calafiore and features the paragon of greed first with his family that he has desperately wanted to find for ages and then as a Blue Lantern. Both times, he barely gets into the altered reality before his inherent greed overpowers his senses and collapses the concept in on itself. Saint Walker doesn’t so much live a life without hope, so much as lives a life without loss, this time around having gotten a green power ring saving his planet before his family died in the quest for the blue one. He also is unable to follow the reality through as in his heart he knows it is not true. Like Kyle last issue, each of the other “New Guardians” prove too powerful in their spirit for Volthoom to truly get the better of forcing Volthoom to seek out someone he knows he can manipulate: Atrocitus. That may be a lead in to next week’s Red Lanterns issue, because Atrocitus hasn’t been a New Guardian for awhile. This issue was really well written and really cut to the heart of these three incredible lanterns.
Supergirl #18presents a major turning point for the Maiden of Steel. She has been alienated upon waking up on a planet whose language and culture she is unfamiliar with. Things looked up for awhile as she made a friend in Siobhan McDougal, aka Silver Banshee, but then with the introduction of H’el onto the scene she was given the hope of returning to her homeworld and being reunited with her family. With last month’s issue of Supergirl as well as the conclusion of Superman #18 it is now an intractable fact: Supergirl can never go home again. That is sadly pointed out in a moment where she emerges from a solar satellite where she is convalescing from green kryptonite poisoning. After exiting the solar chamber she begins to say “I want to go home,” but stops and corrects herself, “I just want to get back to Earth.” Her expression in this moment is truly heartrending. In the meantime, Lex Luthor plots against her from his state-of-the-art, super-prison, via neural implant that projects his consciousness to an offsite computer. Also a strange connection between Kara Zor-El and Karen Starr, the Kara Zor-El of Earth 2, is teased at. This issue featured a guest writer, Frank Hannah, and he picks up and continues the series in intriguing new directions. Coming off of a massive event like “H’el on Earth” can be dangerous, providing a jumping off point for readers of certain series if they don’t sink a hook right away. This issue sunk a hook. What’s to come has great promise.
You Can Never Go Home Again
Legion of Super-Heroes #18 continues down the cataclysmic road that issue #17 began. The United Planets are still reeling from the assault of Tharok against the technological advances of the 31st century and the death toll mounts. The last issue focused on Legionnaires stranded on Rimbor and the Promethean Giants. This one goes back to both locations and the plight upon them, but also adds Earth and the Legion’s headquarters in Metropolis to the stage. Mon-El, Shadow Lass, Lightning Lass, Shrinking Violet, and Cosmic Boy leave Earth for Webber World, an artificial planet that is nothing but technology to try and establish the devastation there. Brainiac 5, Dream Girl, Star Man, Chemical Kid, and Element Lad attempt to get a cruiser prepped for their own departure from Earth. Ultraboy, Glorith, and Chameleon Boy attempt to escape Rimbor using Glorith’s magic, and Phantom Girl, Invisible Kid, and Polar Boy continue to try and regroup after their crash landing on the fabled Promethean giant. This arc has all the hallmarks of another cosmic epic on the scale of writers Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen’s 1980’s opus, “The Great Darkness Saga.” This issue lost a little steam, but issue #17 had two advantages. Firstly, it had the element of surprise, following a very calm “nothing is happening” issue directly into a sucker punch in the readers’ collective gut with literally all Hell breaking loose. Secondly, it had Keith Giffen’s Kirby-esque artwork magnifying the already nuts plotline into a tour-de-force thrill ride. Scott Kolins and Tom Derenick do a good job, but like McCarthy above in the Batwoman review, they have the misfortune of standing in the very long shadow of Giffen. I am pumped to read further into this amazing arc which promises to be a historic one.
DC Universe Presents #18 is a one shot like last month’s issue that gives spotlight to Jason Todd’s fellow outlaws. Issue #17 was a focus on Roy Harper that really laid bare the kind of person he is as well as his hidden strengths and virtues. This month we are shown Princess Koriand’r, aka Starfire. Born into royalty, her sister sacrificed her to slave traders to buy peace for the realm. This issue tells about her time as a slave on a ship that is larger than the Earth. Inside are entire civilizations that the slavers raid and sell when needs be. This issue wasn’t large in the action department, but did present an interesting study into the mindset of the enslaved. How sometimes those that aren’t free are so weighed down by their bondage that they do not want to be free because of the terror it inspires in their comfortable minds. This issue was once again written by Joe Keatinge, who wrote the Arsenal issue last month. The art is done by newcomer Federico Dallocchio. The writing is thought provoking, if not action packed, and the artwork is very lovely, representing the beautiful heroine well. Not a bad issue at all.
Nightwing #18hits Dick Grayson while he’s down. Last issue had Nightwing mourning the loss of his friends and the circus he grew up in and was trying to save. It had Dick struggling with his own sense of denial, telling those that still cared about him that he was fine when he was really anything but, festering pain and anger deep in his belly until the pressure burst. All the while Damian, the most socially inept, insensitive member of the Bat Family, followed him to intervene when the inevitable sword dropped. Damian stopped him from stepping over the line and told him exactly what he needed to hear to ease his battered and bruised soul. This issue opens with Damian dead and the old wounds he’d seemingly healed torn open and wrenched deeper by the loss of this “little brother” who knew him possibly better than even Batman. What it comes down to is that he is losing his past. The circus he grew up in was terrorized and some of the older members like the clown, James Clark, and his former girlfriend, Raya, brutally murdered by the Joker, the circus folds, and then Damian, who had served as his Robin when he donned the cape and cowl of Batman, dies suddenly saving Gotham. Then Batman comes to him with information that a criminal scavenger that sells crime artifacts in underground auctions has plundered Haly’s and put John Grayson’s trapeze outfit up for sale. The Collector last showed up in Scott Snyder’s Detective Comics run, pre-Reboot, running afoul of Dick Grayson’s Batman. Now its a rematch in his Nightwing identity. Though he goes in angry, the outcome of the confrontation ironically heals him and proves the truth in something Damian told Dick before he died. But of course Dick can’t be happy for long. When deciding to finally meet with Sonia Branch (nee Zucco), daughter of gangster that killed his parents, she reveals something about her dad that once again shows how Dick’s past is continually eroding beneath him, leaving him very little closure. Kyle Higgins is KILLING IT! His Nightwing run is seminal. I may have liked other runs as much as this one, but I’m not sure. All I know is that this is a really emotionally driven, introspective, thought provoking title that continually amazes. Juan Jose Ryp yet again provides equally stunning interior art, really drawing out the latent potential in every heartbreaking frame. This two issue interim arc between “Death of the Family” and the next major story arc of the title has been phenomenal on every imaginable level.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #18following the shocking ending of last issue vis-a-vis the booby trapped helmet that the Joker whipped together, Jason lays in a medically induced coma, facing his greatest enemies. With the revelation a few months prior that the Joker for all intents and purposes created him by selecting him and guiding him towards the Batman, the Clown Prince of Crime is the first of Jason’s adversaries. However, the real adversary he fights is himself. A mob of Bat family members, past and present, as well as his former allies converge on him at once and Batman is the one who pulls him out. This is writer Scott Lobdell’s last issue on the series and he might be taking his character from his complete alienation of his past as Robin and bringing him back into the fold, or perhaps he’s just tempering the fiery character of the failed Robin, but in either event, he presents a single heartwarming tale for the jaded anti-hero. Despite all he has done and the pain he has put them through, Bruce and Alfred love him and do everything in their power to help him come back to life, literally and metaphorically. Tyler Kirkham does fantastic guest art on the title, really bringing out the twisted nature of Jason’s psyche. Well worth picking up.
Vibe #2was a half and half issue. Half of the issue played catch up and was boring for those who have read Justice League of America #1 & 2. Recounting all of the snippets of Cisco Ramon’s appearances in the first two issues of the overarching JLA title, it does inform those who didn’t read the aforementioned title and gave context to those that did, but still, didn’t hit just right. The other half of it hit a cord with DC fans that know their obscure characters. A transdimensional invader comes through to deliver a note to an emissary. It hands it to Vibe right before an A.R.G.U.S. agent zaps him. The note was meant for the character, Gypsy, whose father apparently is a potentate in another reality. A far departure from her previous back story, she is exactly like Vibe. Few know who she is so few care if they do a MASSIVE overhaul. What is clear is that A.R.G.U.S. likes to kidnap the daughters of powerful men. Darkseid’s daughter is their prisoner. This unknown king’s daughter is also their prisoner. They better pray that Gypsy’s homeworld doesn’t form an alliance with Apokalips, because they are literally playing with fire and poking some VERY big dogs with an annoyingly sharp stick. I want to believe Geoff Johns knows what he’s doing, but he is quitting the only good book he is currently writing. So I put my faith in cowriter, Andrew Kreisberg.
Wonder Woman #18 concluded a maxi-arc in the odyssey of Zola’s baby. In Wonder Woman #1 writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang introduced us to Zola, a human woman who bore Zeus’s newest bastard. The Amazing Amazon has gone on a long journey to protect the young woman from the various gods of Olympus and upon its birth, to recover the baby from those same, meddlesome gods. That story finds its conclusion a year and a half later. However, it continues the tale of Zeus’s first born child, exiled and awoken millennia later with rage and vengeance on his mind. Those same gods who tried to strong arm and kidnap an innocent child, now have to contend with a vengeful demigod fueled by distilled hatred. Also Azzarello has re-introduced us to the New Gods of New Genesis, represented primarily by Orion, foster son of High Father and (perhaps still unbeknownst to him) the eldest son of Darkseid. Azzarello keeps this series afloat, sometimes peaking on the wave of awesome, and other times lulling in the trough of mediocre. This concluding issue of that first major crisis features art by alternating artist Tony Akins and Cliff Chiang, as well as a third penciller, Goran Sudzuka. This one was pretty good and a must read if you have been one of the faithful, reading it from the inaugural issue.
Sword of Sorcery #6accomplished quite a bit. It fully introduced us to the new lord of House Turquoise after the death of Princess Amaya of House Amethyst’s grandfather, Lord Firojha. It also introduces another newly minted House head following another shift in power. Most importantly to the DCU in general is yet another reason why I want to see John Constantine strung up by his toes. He singlehandedly brings the harbinger of utter ruin upon Princess Amaya’s home, but what’s worse, he uses her to invite it in. In fairness to Constantine, however, the doom that he has sent to Nilaa was born in the Gemworld and exiled to Earth thousands of years ago. Still, its a pretty low thing to do, considering how Amaya pulled his bacon out of the fire in the Justice League Dark Annual. The Stalker backup feature isn’t even worth talking about. Just horrible. Get this issue for the main feature and then close it up after the conclusion.
Batman Beyond Unlimited #14begins with an interim chapter in Batman Beyond following the conclusion of the hellacious “10,000 Clowns” arc and the coming one called “Undercloud.” Though its a one shot, it is monumental if one followed the animated “Batman Beyond” series. In the series Terry McGinnis constantly had to bail on his long suffering girlfriend, Dana Tan, and play it off like he was doing errands for his boss, the aged Bruce Wayne. After the events of “10,000 Clowns” and her brother Doug unleashing hell on earth upon Gotham in the form of 10,000 suicidal Jokerz from around the world Dana is put in a situation where everything clicks. When Doug attempted to kill their father in the ICU, Bruce Wayne, 80+ years old and dying himself from liver failure, got out of his hospital bed and fought the twenty something maniac, allowing the Tans to get Mr. Tan to safety. When Doug took his sister as a hostage, Batman referred to her by name. The math is right there and Dana FINALLY figures it out and a new era in Terry’s tenure as Batman begins. The issue is also good, because Dana was often a set piece on the show and more of a plot device than an actual character. This issue was her issue. It was narrated by her, gave her history with an intimate look into her traumatic upbringing with a psychotic for an older brother who despite his evil nature she still loves, and tells us what gives her peace. Adam Beechen makes this series come alive for those of us who mourned the TV series’ cancellation. Although, I do have one beef. In the “Justice League Unlimited” episode entitled “Epilogue” we are told that Terry discovered that Bruce Wayne was his biological father when they did the liver transplant and found out him and Bruce were identical tissue types. In this issue the liver came from someone else. You messed up, Mr. Beechen, but I’ll forgive you because the rest of this issue and those preceding it were truly mind blowing. Also, kudos to Peter Nguyen who takes over for regular Batman Beyond artist Norm Breyfogle. The art is truly beautiful, underscoring the moving narratives within. Unfortunately, the Superman Beyond plot is leaving me whelmed. I thought there was going to be some moral ambiguity with the Trillians claiming Superman destroyed their world, but really they are just an overclass that resents having their property taken away. Superman freed their slaves and now they are angry. Boo-effing-Hoo. On to the next. The Justice League Beyond Unlimited story finishes off in this third installment with a new Flash, this time a young African American woman named Danica (last name to come soon, I am sure). This arc was over relatively quickly when compared with the previous Kobra arc that spanned almost an entire year’s worth of issues. However, despite the brevity and the quick take down of what could have been a truly formidable foe on the level of most of the greats this issue had its poignant moments that really speak to the superhero genre, why they do what they do, and gives a comprehensive intro to the next scion of the Speed Force. Perhaps the best moment came after Superman personally extended an invitation to Dani to join the JLB. After accepting his gracious offer, she challenged him to a foot race, which every speedster since Barry Allen have done. Derek Fridolfs write this one as well as providing inks for Jorge Corona’s pencils. Truly a great end to a relatively short arc. This issue was phenomenal overall.
This crop was amazing, though statistically they had more shots at it with the increased number of entries. Several of these are must gets to comic fans in general, regardless of genre.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Action Comics #18: Drawn by Rags Morales & Brad Walker, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked byCam Smith & Andrew Hennessy
Justice League #2: Art by David Finch, Colored by Sonia Oback
Supergirl #18: Drawn by Robson Rocha, Colored by dave McCaig, Inked by Oclair Albert, Julio Ferreira & Mariah Benes
Nightwing #18: Drawn by Juan Jose Ryp, Colored by Bret Smith, Inked by Roger Bonet & Juan Albarran
Red Hood and the Outlaws #18: Art by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Arif Prianto
Batman Beyond Unlimted #14: Drawn by Peter Nguyen, Colored by Andrew Elder, Inked by Craig Yeung
Batman Inc #6is a doomsday clock ticking towards midnight. Since the beginning of this second arc of the title, but really from the first issue following writer Grant Morrison’s transition from Batman & Robin, there has been something extremely wrong happening in the shadows and all the disparate threats lead to a web woven by none other than Talia Al-Ghul. Since her revelation as the leader of Leviathan its become clear that Grant Morrison is writing this series as a Machiavellian tale of “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Batman has spurned her affections and lured their son away from her, so in revenge she has deduced the most ingenious plan to take everything he loves and has built away from him. What’s worse is that inherent in the plan are choices he has to make shifting responsibility onto his shoulders for what survives and what is destroyed, who lives and who dies. Nothing and no one are sacred in this conflict and at issue’s close the sword drops. Grant Morrison is a genius. Hands down, he is on the top echelon of writers who have written the Batman character. Joining him on this second arc and really making his mark is artist Chris Burnham. Burnham’s art is reminiscent of Frank Quitely, one of Morrison’s most iconic collaborators, but has its own flavor making it appropriate for this title in its similarities to Quitely, but its also for its uniqueness. When this series ends, as melodramatic as this may sound, I think I might go into mourning.
The Sophie’s Choice of the Batman Universe
Red Lanterns #15finds the Corps at its most desperate hour. Fresh off of the sabotaging of their Central Power Battery, the Guardians of the Universe have unleashed their nightmarish Third Army upon the Universe. Like everything involving the Guardians, Atrocitus won’t rest until the little blue bastards are stopped and their sins against sentient life punished. Taken in that light, he sounds not only virtuous, but almost sane. Elsewhere in the Universe, Red Lanterns are purging egregious ne’er-do-wells to power their weakened battery with righteous vengeance. Vengeance is the key to their revival. Apropos, first lieutenant Bleez escorts Rankorr, aka Jack Moore, back to Earth to kill his grandfather’s murderer, thereby completing his path of vengeance and fully realizing his potential as a Red Lantern. This mission is integral to the Corps, as Rankorr for whatever reason is the only Red Lantern with the ability to form constructs with his ring. However, when confronted with the man who has wronged him so greatly, Rankorr is also confronted with his own wrongs against others. On his home planet of Ryutt, we see that even Atrocitus is not immune from ghosts of the past, revisiting his decimated world, with the plan to use the Guardians’ own weapons against them. Peter Milligan is a genius and his writing keeps the reader keyed into the plot with its many nuances and intricacies. As good as the writing is, I am underwhelmed by Miguel Sepulveda’s artwork. It isn’t bad in and of itself, but it just is not as engrossing as Ed Benes’ artwork was during the initial issues of the title’s run.
The Flash #15was largely an interim issue, albeit one that accomplished a great many things nonspecific to the current story arc. The Gorilla invasion of the Gem Cities is in full swing and King Grodd, empowered by the Speed Force, has beaten Barry into a comatose state. In his delirium, Barry’s connection to the Speed Force has him viewing a slew of possible outcomes to the events transpiring around him, most extremely unpleasant to behold. The Rogues step up as their city descends into chaos, actually giving relief and protection to the denizens of their town. Some pretty intense things happen in the mean time as Central City and Keystone City await salvation. The most interesting in my opinion, and something I have been DYING to see, is Barry’s girlfriend Patty Spivot finding out that he is the Flash. Though she has vehemently professed to hate the Flash, when that revelation comes she doesn’t bat an eyelash, but instead rushes to her boyfriend’s aid. I love Patty and I am excited about the prospect of what this knowledge portends for future issues. As ever, writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato hit the title out of the park in both art and story, with an 11 page assist from guest artist, Marcus To.
Stand By Your Man
Superman #15 continues the “H’el on Earth” crossover event after H’el forcibly ejects Superman and Superboy from the Fortress of Solitude and barricades himself inside. As a result Superman takes Superboy to a top secret government facility specifically designed to hold Lex Luthor engineered byLex Luthor. This is undertaken under the aegis of Superman asking for Lex’s scientific expertise on how to stop H’el, but the true reason, which Lex intuits almost immediately, is much more sinister. It’s all hands on deck as the fate of Earth literally hangs in the balance. The art by Kenneth Rocafort is the thing that immediately strikes one as the pages are turned on the issue, but once one delves into the story they depict, the keen authorship of Scott Lobdell becomes equally apparent. This issue has the first real interaction between Superman and Superboy, and I have to say that the depiction of Superman, which Lobdell has executed brilliantly in the past, falters in the moments where Superman teeter-totters between seeming apathy to the polar opposite position of the overly interested father figure. Still, a really fantastic issue rendered exquisitely by both men.
Superman’s Darker Side
Batman: The Dark Knight #15ends the first arc by writer Gregg Hurwitz featuring the Scarecrow’s plot to release a super-fear-toxin on the people of Gotham. Though midstream it drew some intriguing parallels between Batman and Scarecrow’s childhoods leading up to the donning of their respective personas, overall the arc fell flat. This last issue had the Scarecrow releasing his toxin via zepplin and Batman throwing together a last ditch effort to negate it. Though Batman’s solution is intense and fairly novel, it was cobbled together far too quickly in deux-ex-machina fashion for it to have any resonance or believability. But then again we are talking about comic books here. Overall though, I felt that this new run on the series is lacking. Starting at the end of January, series creator and artist David Finch is stepping away from the series and replaced by Ethan Van Sciver. Van Sciver is an incredible artist, on par with Finch, so Hurwitz has the art down and one more chance to nail the writing.
Talon #3marks the return of a character from the #0 issue, Casey Washington, and her fate after the events depicted therein. Main character, Calvin Rose, was an assassin for the shadowy Court of Owls known as the Talon until getting the one assignment he couldn’t go through with: killing Casey Washington, a young African American mother and her daughter, Sarah. Rescuing them from the Court was the catalyst that set the drama of this series into motion. Returning to that pivotal event, Calvin re-communes with Casey after five years and we learn that the two of them had a love affair that ended when Calvin felt his presence was a danger to Casey and her daughter. Embittered, Casey meets Calvin again, this time in a much stronger position with powerful allies. Though harsh feelings exist between them, their common enemy sparks a pooling of resources for an assault on Hudson Financial, a New York based bank that handles thirteen billion dollars of Court investments. Casey and Calvin’s partner, Sebastian Clark, come up with a flawless plan to hit the bank, but as ever “the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” James Tynion and Scott Snyder are masters of storytelling and sell this series for every cent charged on the cover price. I know that I have said this at least three times in the past, but I feel that it bears reiteration. Snyder, Tynion, and March make this a must read title.
How To Save A Life
Teen Titans #15, written by Red Hood and the Outlaws scribe, Scott Lobdell, proves yet again what a master he is when dealing with the Joker, vis-a-vis the “Death of the Family” crossover event. In Red Hood and the Outlaws #15 two weeks ago, Lobdell wrote a Joker plot that was keyed directly into the character of Jason Todd and played to his person brilliantly. In this issue of Teen Titans Lobdell does it again, not only penning an ingenious (and especially deranged) plot by the Joker, but one that is keyed into Tim Drake’s personality. With Jason, the Joker knew his history and used it as a weapon against him, considering that the Joker was its engineer. Tim, however, is a young professional on the model of Bruce himself, and against him the Joker asserts himself by proving that he is in Tim’s head, knowing his thoughts and stratagems and is able to use them against him. The Teen Titans come to Gotham to track their kidnapped friend and that is precisely what the Joker was counting on . . . They are a young team, both in individual ages and the tenure of their association with each other, and their inexperience is blatantly revealed. To be fair though, the Joker is an A-list adversary who has made a fool of the Batman on many an occasion, so their embarrassment isn’t totally their fault. Artist Brett Booth returns to the title providing the stunning artwork that helped establish this new series sixteen months ago, and a very beautiful depiction of Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl. Well worth the read even if you aren’t following the overarching “Death of the Family” event.
When The Joker Gets In Your Head . . .
All-Star Western #15 continues the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde storyline. Jekyll has come to Gotham to track down a quantity of his stolen formula, but when his handler, Reginald Forsythe, is murdered and partially eaten by Hyde, events take a sinister turn. Obviously when Dr. Jekyll takes his serum he becomes the sociopathic Edward Hyde, but the question in this issue becomes who will emerge when Dr. Jeremiah Arkham is force fed the serum by Hyde? Jonah Hex attempts to intercede against Hyde in Arkham’s behalf, but proves inadequate in several respects, raising another interesting scenario: What happens when Jonah Hex, the biggest badass this side of the Rio Grande, is confined to a wheelchair for a month? And in the backup feature, Tomahawk, General Lancaster of the newly minted American Army sets a trap for Tomahawk’s men and slaughters dozens of his Native American brothers. In the fight with Lancaster, Tomahawk almost has the upper hand, until the remaining British forces in the area intervene. The reckoning appears to be reserved for next issue. We’ll see what that holds for Tomahawk and the tribes of the American northwest.
Arrow#2delivers three more glimpses into the world and history of the CW series Arrow. Whereas the inaugural issue of this series had three stories about Oliver and his quest for justice, this one gives two slots to supporting characters, further fleshing out our understanding of the series. First off comes a story scripted by Lana Cho with art by Eric Nguyen following John Diggle’s time in Afghanistan as an Army sergeant. Despite the hells he endured, through the incident depicted we see the good man he is and why Oliver would be keen to have him on his team. The second segment by Wendy Mericle and drawn by Sergio Sandaval follows Oliver’s mother, Moira Queen, and her salvaging of her husband’s yaht, the “Queen’s Gambit.” Moira is an unfortunate character caught between a rock and a hardplace and demonized because of her associations with bad people. Malcolm Merlyn is a very powerful man and the salvaging of the “Queen’s Gambit” is a key piece in a very dangerous game of chess. The final tale, scripted by by Ben Sokolowski and Lana Cho takes Oliver to Moscow to cross a name off his father’s list. Justin Whicker smuggles hopeful young ballerinas out of Russia with the promise of fame in America only to be sold into white slavery. Because this story is about Oliver and especially because it involves the ballet, Mike Grell (Green Arrow royalty, having written and drawn the title in the 80’s) provides art. The show is incredible and this series makes that viewing experience so much richer.
Mike Grell’s Peerless Rendering of the Ballet
Batman Beyond Unlimited #11contains three tales from the DC animated universe. Half the issue is composed of the Batman Beyond story “10,000 Clowns” where literally 10,000 suicidal Jokerz from across the globe make pilgrimage to Gotham to sacrifice themselves for their leader the Joker King’s insane plot. Joker King is in fact the brother of Batman’s girlfriend, Dana Tan. In this installment Joker King fights not only the current Batman, Terry McGinnis, but also the original, the 80 year old Bruce Wayne, who’s still got acid running through his veins and a serious hate-on for clowns. We also see Doug Tan’s reunion with his family after his descent into madness and a recap of how he wrangled the Jokerz and gained dominion over all the rival factions. This issue was truly worth the wait, having been built up to for more than two years now. In Superman Beyond we get a slightly less satisfactory experience only lasting a few chaotic pages with Superman facing off against the Trillians without even knowing who they are or why they want him dead. I have my theories considering that this series and its fellows in this title are the refugees of the discontinued DC animated universe. The two part series finale of “Superman: The Animated Series” had Supes under the thrall of Darkseid, conquering planets for the Lord of Apokalips. I think that Trillia was one of the planets that Superman unknowingly decimated while leading Apokalips’ armies. I could be wrong, however. Speaking of Apokalips, the last segment in this issue is a Beyond: Origin of the Apokaliptian beauty, Big Barda. Starting out with two little girls growing up in the slums, we see the origins first of Barda’s mother, Big Breeda, one of Darkseid’s elite warriors and her best friend who would become Granny Goodness. Breeda fought Darkseid’s wars and through eugenics bore future soldiers with his greatest troops. The one child who’s father she herself chose was Barda. Barda’s birth not only put the warrioress on the outs with Darkseid but also created a split between Breeda and Granny, the latter of whom raised Barda in her orphanage. The rest is history. Escaping to Earth with a handsome, young New God, Scott Free, she marries him and the two live happily for a time. However, the gap between her and Scott’s life together, as seen in the television series “Justice League Unlimited,” and where she is in “Batman Beyond” is a tragic tale that is finally revealed within. I loved this issue in its entirety more than a little. Definitely worth the read.
American Vampire #34returns to the beginning of the series while also taking us forward. The series started with Jim Book hunting down Skinner Sweet. Book died and Sweet’s been making Hell ever since, but the two people that fought alongside Book and who have taken a backseat since were Abilena Book, Jim’s young wife, and Will Bunting, the novelist following him for material for his next novel. Picking up in 1954, we see Abilena seventy years later as well as learn the fate of Will Bunting from his nephew. Through their interaction we are made aware of an immense threat that is known as the “Gray Trader.” What the Trader is and what threat it represents are left ambiguous, but from what writer Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque depict at the end, the “future” looks bleak. The two page montage of that future promises the involvement of Skinner Sweet, Pearl Jones, Travis Kidd, perhaps one of the ancient vampires from Survival of the Fittest, and Las Vegas in flames. As I predicted, this issue is at the precipice of a indeterminate gap in storytelling. Snyder and Albuquerque are doing this not just to take their time fine tuning the plot to perfection, but also so that Albuquerque can draw the majority of the second half of the series, which was unable to do in this first half. All around I have to reiterate my initial praise of this series as a messiah of the vampire genre. In a world of truly trite, abysmal vampire stories, this one comic series stands as a shining beacon, keeping the concept from drowning in Stephanie Meyers and L.J. Smith related sewage.
Joe Kubert Presents #3continues to showcase a bygone era of storytelling made fresh through veterans of the golden age of comic books. Joe himself offers up two stories and his friends Sam Glanzman and Brian Buniak continue their respective series, as begun in Joe Kubert Presents #1. Last issue, Kubert began a two part story entitled “The Redeemer” about a man who has lived countless lives over thousands of years, redeeming humanity in each, and an ancient man of evil hidden away in a fortress atop the Himalayas, known only as the Infernal One, secretly plotting against him, attempting to hasten the damnation of Man. The first half of the story involved a very complex set of events in the year 2557 A.D. that leave our hero, Jim Torkan, at a crossroads where he can either continue his redeeming of humanity (unknowingly) or fall into the Infernal Ones trap and cast aside his morals. The yarn is both futuristic in its far reaching vistas and retroactive in its storytelling style and character archetypes. Kubert truly puts forth his greatest work in this series, evincing his long work in the medium and his unfettered genius. The conclusion of this tale is both satisfying and unending. Sam Glanzman returns to his time on the U.S. Stevenson, a ship he actually served on, recounting yet another anecdotal episode on the US destroyer in WWII’s Pacific theater. It tells about the war in humorous yet starkly real terms, showing not only the war itself, but the simple and beautiful lives of the men fighting it before and after its beginning and conclusion. The transitions between are so quick and efficacious that you barely notice, as if you are drifting through their lives like in a dream. In fact it is almost exactly like a dream, because things go from being so horrible to so beautiful in the blink of an eye that there is nothing else it could be. In Joe Kubert’s second story, Spit, we return to the street urchin met in Joe Kubert Presents #1, who grows up so detested by every person he has ever met that he lacks a proper name and is colloquially know as Spit by all. Stowing away on a whaling ship, he attempts to make his way in the world only to fall under the thumb of the peg-legged ship’s cook who works him to the bone and verbally abuses him without mercy. However, unlike on land, at sea Spit finds something that alters his role in life and shines a little glimmer of hope on his existence. This segment, unlike the inked and colored “Redeemer” feature, is un-inked pencil drawings by the master artist in a style that is raw and quintessentially Joe Kubert. The gray scale, rough pencils fit the rough, historical tale exceptionally well endowing it with a dark ambiance that draws one immediately in. Finally, Brian Buniak presents the third installment of his “Angel and the Ape” feature, which has blonde bombshell private investigator, Angel, following up on a case to clear her partner, a giant ape named Sam Simeon, from a murder charge. This feature is the dessert of the issue, being nothing but pure comedic slap stick and satire. Whereas the others have poignance and certain tragedy, this one is a tonic that heals the soul and gets you back in a good mood. Buniak does the art is a very caricature-esque fashion that reeks of the 50’s and 60’s. All the submissions herein are stunningly presented and really a joy to read. If you are a comic purist, pick up these issues and experience a bygone era of comic lore.
Thus ends what should have been the last week of comics of 2012, owing to the ridiculous three title week preceding this one. I enjoyed so many of these titles and would suggest they be gotten ahold of as soon as possible. Next week we truly begin the month of January with a fresh batch of #16 titles. Looking forward to it.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman Inc #6: Art by Chris Burnham, colored by Nathan Fairbairn
The Flash #15: Drawn by Marcus To, Colored by Brian Buccellato & Ian Herring, Inked by Ryan Winn
Superman #15: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Sunny Gho
Talon #3: Art by Guillem March, Colored by Tomeu Morey
Teen Titans #15: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund
Arrow #2: Art by Mike Grell, Colored by David Lopez & Santi Casas
November ends on a high note with another duo of Before Watchmen issues and a slew of personal favorites of mine: Batman Inc, Talon, The Flash, Teen Titans, and the newly reworked Superman title. The last week of the month is worth the wait.
Aquaman #14begins the “Throne of Atlantic” crossover with Justice League. What this prelude issue does is introduce quite well the character of Ocean Master, aka King Orm of Atlantis, Aquaman’s brother. I could be totally wrong here, but despite him being a villain in the past, Orm truly seems to be on the level here. Even in the scenes where no one is watching, he’s still altruistic and benevolent. Through his meeting with Arthur in this issue we see that he didn’t want to be king and begged Arthur to take the throne in his stead. Maybe its all a ruse by him and writer Geoff Johns, but I’m not so sure. Regular series artist, Ivan Reis, jumps over to Justice League for the duration of the event, with Pete Woods and Pere Perez splitting art duties on Aquaman.
Batman Incorporated #5 takes us for (if memory serves correctly) the third time into the world of Batman 666. When Batman tells his son, Damian, that he can’t be Robin at the end of the fourth issue, he validates it with a vision he has had of the future of Gotham, should Damian remain Robin and eventually become Batman. The Joker has saturated Gotham with a neurotoxin that has rendered all its citizens irrevocably insane. The only bastion of sanity left is . . . Arkham Asylum. Where we left this world at the end of the 666th issue of Batman, a wheelchair bound Commissioner Barbara Gordon is out to get the trench coat wearing Dark Knight, who sold his soul for the invulnerability to save his father’s city. This issue has them teamed up trying to save the baby that may be the key to Gotham’s salvation. Grant Morrison’s writing of the book is stellar and he crafts a really intense ride that when looked at in retrospect is actually really brief in duration. Also the Joker seems to be such a looming presence in the narrative despite the fact he is never seen once. However, one villain is seen, whose appearance froze my blood and then got it pumping double time. This issue of the series proves to be a hallmark that will be talked about for years.
The Devil’s Advent
Red Lanterns #14 was literally an emotional issue following the aftermath of the Red Lantern Corps’ first encounter with the Third Army. Being that the nightmarish sentinels of the Guardians of the Universe are largely immune to the Red Lantern’s (as well as the other Lantern corps) emotional spectrum attacks, Atrocitus decides to invoke a synthetic army long unused and discarded: the Manhunters. Also, to bolster the strength of the culled ranks, Atrocitus has Rankorr the Earth Red Lantern return home to finally kill his grandfather’s murderer to complete his inaugural path of vengeance and strengthen his power as a lantern of rage. Accompanying him is Bleez and the other Earth Lantern, Dex-star the cat. Atrocitus himself also throws himself into the crucible of darkest emotion to enact his plan to resurrect the Manhunters against the Third Army. The Manhunters were the Guardians of the Universe’s first shock troopers that laid waste his sector, killing his family and the good, kind man he used to be. Returning to his homeworld of Ryutt, the ghost of his past literally as well as metaphorically haunt him as he relives the massacre that destroyed his reality.
Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #4 is another penetrating look at the world of Watchmen through the keen, calculating eyes of the world’s smartest man, Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias, as written by Len Wein. Picking up during the Kennedy administration it examines his relationship with the Kennedys and his part in the Cuban Missile Crisis through to the assassination of his friend, Jack. From that era on a new status quo emerges as society changes and mankind spirals closer to oblivion. Wein ends the issue with the historic meeting of “Crime Busters”, spearheaded by Captain Metropolis, to restart the Minute Men for this new, turbulent era. The mouthpiece of dissent comes from the Comedian, as we saw in the original Watchmen, but Wein posits or intuits that this is where Ozymandias first conceives of his plan to save the world. Considering what he does accomplish, I am itching to read the last two issue from Wein in this series.
A Monstrously Noble Plan Is Formed
Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #4 ends the series with Laurie’s final confrontation with the “Chairman” and her realization of the potential her mother has instilled in her. The relationship between Sally Jupiter and her daughter, Laurie, has been pretty messed up, but this issue, despite bringing them back together (no spoiler here if you read the original Watchmen) truly shows how twisted and deluded the former superheroine really is. Though her heart was in the right place, her parenting style was tantamount to child abuse. What is interesting, however, is juxatposing the truly awful things her mother did with the person Laurie developed into. Despite it all, she came out a strong, confident young woman who learned that her mother did do some good in raising her. Darwyn Cooke wrote this series poignantly and Amanda Connor drew it beautifully.
The Flash #14had SO MUCH going on! The Gorilla invasion of the Gem Cities has commenced and King Grodd is pummeling the Scarlet Speedster with the revelation that he as well possesses Speed Force energies. Daniel West, recently released from prison, searches frantically amid the war torn streets of Central City for his sister, Iris. Patty Spivot, Barry Allen’s girlfriend, along with the enigmatic time traveler, Turbine, find the one being who has the ability to save Barry and stop the Gorillas: SOLOVAR!!! To Flash faithful, the appearance of the aforementioned simian is very exciting. Writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato really pull out the stops with this series and especially this arc. The Gorilla Invasion is pretty intense to begin with, but they make it even more so when you see in this fourteenth issue just how Grodd is waging the war. His methods are nightmarish and truly brutal. So horrible are they in fact that the club of Flash villains, the Rogues, team up with the Flash to put the kibosh on it. Grade A storytelling.
Batman: The Dark Knight #14 was iffy. I mean David Finch’s artwork is eerie and truly sinister. Gregg Hurwitz’s story is kind of stretched thin over far more issues than it needs to be. Issue #13 was the exact same story as issue #12, and this one seems like its not really saying anything at all. Possibly the most glaring issue in my opinion is the unbelievable representation of Damian Wayne. Overall, I just feel that the first eight issue arc of this title was about the Scarecrow, having another one, especially one as unexciting as this current one is a mistake. There are plenty of other excellent possibilities to e
Superman #14continues the “H’el on Earth” crossover with all parties coming together. Lois Lane pays Clark a visit, trying to get him to compromise his morals to get his job back with Morgan Edge and Galaxy Broadcasting. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s when Supergirl decides to pay him a visit decked out in her Kryptonian costume. Finally accepting the veracity of Superman’s claims of Krypton’s destruction and their shared kinship, Kara brings him to see H’el to hear out his plan for the rebirth of Krypton. To Clark and the readership, each possessing a sense of humanity, its immediately obvious that H’el is a madman, and clearly one that doesn’t play fair. From issue’s end its clear that things are about to get very bad very quickly. Scott Lobdell writes perhaps the most compelling version of the Man of Steel since the Reboot started a year and a half ago and artist Kenneth Rocafort maintains the same level of excellence he has imbued into all of his projects.
Talon #2delivers another uncanny classic in the incredible tangent series shooting off the eleven part opening arc of Batman, “The Court of Owls.” Calvin Rose, the only living Talon to ever escape the Court with his life has teamed up with the reclusive Sebastian Clark to take down the evil cabal and give them both their lives back. This round, Clark sends Calvin to what appears to be Gotham’s answer to New York’s Waldorf-Astoria, the Orchard Hotel. Built in the late 1800’s, it stands not only as a symbol of Gotham’s opulent past, but also as one of the key roosts of the Court. The innermost chamber, known as Eden, houses the amassed treasure hoard of the Court as well as some of their most well guarded secrets. Calvin is told that the information on himself and the Washington girls, whom he was meant to have killed at the time of his flight, are stored within. What is stored within is not only more sinister than these files, but awe-inspiringly epic, accentuating the already swelling mythology of the Court of Owls. Also within is a “new” Talon with a vintage of the 1930’s, whose woeful tale fits well into the panoply of Talons we had already met during the “Night of the Owls” crossover event. Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV make this series soar and in art I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Guillem March is the series artist and his artwork is stunning. He, however, didn’t do the interiors for this issue and was instead replaced by Juan Jose Ryp, whose work I was not familiar with. Well, despite my disappoint that March was not the artist this issue, I was quickly rewarded to see how exquisitely Ryp replaced him. One of the key factors of the issue is the opulence of Eden, and that was something he rendered here in spades. Everything looks magnificent, with infinite detail. I also should give credit to colorist Tomeu Morey, whose coloring of the issue heightens the the vivacity of the panels. This series is a nothing short of a treat.
Teen Titans #14 concludes the “Silent Armor” arc, introducing Wonder Girl’s origin as well as her power set granted by the Silent Armor. Facing down her old flame, Diesel, she has to make some very hard decisions between the first boy she ever loved and the friends she has made over the past fourteen issues worth of storytelling. That all was very well done by writer Scott Lobdell, but where the issue really gets interesting is in the two tangent storylines that emerge on the periphery. The character of Kiran Singh, aka Solstice, is one of the heartstrings of the Teen Titans. Her appearance altering affliction comes into question when a mysterious stranger offers her a chance to get her old body back, but what will he ask for in return . . . ? Also, headed by Red Robin, the long fingers of the Joker can’t be held back as his “Death of the Family” plot unfolds in all its nightmarish detail. Next issue promises to be a “Death of the Family” tie-in and elaborate on the plans the Joker has in store for Tim Drake.
Phantom Lady & Doll Man #4ends the miniseries following these former, but as of this series, also future Freedom Fighters. Jennifer Knight gets her revenge on Metropolis gangster, Cyrus Bender, and she and Dollman are visited by Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters. Not the best series. I doubt I will read any of the other series that spawn from this.
Justice League Dark #14gives the aftermath of the “Books of Magic” storyline. Tim Hunter and Zatanna are transported through the books to an unknown location. The remnants of the Justice League Dark set out to find them, but in the meantime, three members of the team: Black Orchid, Frankenstein, and Princess Amaya of Gem World go exploring in the House of Mystery only to get lost and set upon by the dangers lurking within. This alongside the revelation by Phantom Stranger that there is going to be a war among the three. You might even call it a Trinity War . . .
Batman Beyond Unlimited #10concludes its opening arc of Justice League Beyond Unlimited bringing to a close the plot by Kobra to awaken the Ouroboros, the serpent that would eat the world. I think the fact that it destroyed New Genesis, home of the New Gods, just goes to show the menace it represents. And when all else fails, Bruce Wayne saves the day . . . AND HE’S NOT EVEN THERE!!! The arc doesn’t end without casualties and a beloved DC character’s future self falls in the line of service. In the Batman Beyond feature the “10,000 Clowns” we see for the first time in a few issues the Joker King, Doug Tan. The psychotic older brother of Terry McGinnis’ girlfriend, Dana, cuts a very similar figure to the Heath Ledger Joker, a man that believes in absolute anarchy and the intrinsic humor in chaos. As the night of terror he has unleashed with 10,000 tweaked out clowns descending on Gotham, his plan reaches its endgame and the stakes rise. Terry is out with Catwoman Beyond, Vigilante Beyond, and a badass 60 something Dick Grayson trying to stem the terror, while Joker King comes face to face with . . . 80 year old Bruce Wayne, a man who HATES clowns! Finally the Superman Beyond feature shows Kal-El settling into his new civilian identity of Kal Clarke, Metropolis fireman. That’s about it for that one. Some aliens show up at the tail end, but their presence is very cryptic. Featuring a slew of writers and artists, this title has been and continues to be a grab bag of excellent talent and exceptional storytelling, giving a venue to some of the plots left to pasture by the abandonment of the DC animated universe. I, who grew up on these shows, welcome it with open arms.
All-Star Western #14has Gotham sinking into madness after the formula of Dr. Jekyll finds its way into her bustling streets. Last issue, Jonah Hex, Tallulah Black, and Dr. Jeremiah Arkham stemmed the flow with an attack on Haly’s Circus, but the culprit, Mr. Hyde remains in Gotham, albeit in confinement. In the midst of that chaos, the trio are drawn into a violent altercation in Chinatown featuring one of the characters introduced in the backup feature of issued #4-6, the Barbary Ghost. Still looking for her mother who was sold into bondage, her travels have brought her to Gotham and into the lair of the Chinese criminal cabal, the Golden Dragons, hopped up on Jekyll’s crazy juice. This issue was steeped in ambiance and the views we get of the chained Mr. Hyde are like that of a Victorian Hannibal Lector. The next issue of this series, out in January, promises to further explore his twisted brand of psychopathy. Series artist Moritat must have had a ball drawing the gruesome imagery associated with the evil Stevenson creation. They certainly are horrifying to behold. In the backup feature Tomahawk, we see not really a Western tale, but a Colonial one. Set just after the American Revolution, this title deals with the Indian Wars of the Washington administration. Drawn by Phil Winslade there is a very classical feel to the almost watercolor like panels. If you liked “Last of the Mohicans” this feature is worth the read.
American Vampire #33 ends the “Black List” story arc as well as a major era in the American Vampire saga. The series started in 1920’s Los Angeles with young, idealistic Pearl Jones going to Hollywood to be an actress. Alongside her bestfriend and roommate, Hattie Hargrove, she makes a go of it, only to fall prey to the vampiric power elite of Hollywood who make a meal of her. Turned by the sadistic loner, Skinner Sweet, she survives the assault to be reborn as the second in a new species of vampire: Abysmus Americanus. That is how this series started. Since then there has been a World War, the building of the Hoover Dam, the reawakening of Dracula, and many other incredible events. “The Black List” ends the first half of the 20th century by circling back to the the Los Angeles coven, Skinner Sweet, and Hattie Hargrove. All three come back like ghosts of Christmas past to haunt Pearl and show her just how futile running from your past can be. I loved this issue so much as a continuance of everything that has made the series great over three years of storytelling, as well as providing a bookend to all that has happened thus far. January’s issue #34 is the last solicited for several months, spelling an uncertain future for the series. I can only imagine, considering the meteoric success of the series, that it is going into hiatus so the beleaguered Scott Snyder (who is writing four other series besides this one) can catch up and maintain the same level of quality he has displayed throughout.
Joe Kubert Presents #2opens with a lengthy two part storyline entitled “The Redeemer.” Beginning in the high peaks of the Himalayas, five individuals are summoned to a mountain fortress inhabited by an aged man upon a grand throne, calling himself the “Infernal One.” From this height he gives them a task to hinder the man who through several lifetimes, since the dawn of time, has been working toward the redemption of mankind. At this point the title seems like an orientalized 1930’s pulp novel or movie serial. When the five set about putting his plan into action, it becomes apparent that the title takes place in the future, as the Redeemer is a man names Jim Torkan, captain of a orbital space station in the year 2557 A.D. Though it takes on a sci-fi backdrop, rife with conventions of this genre, it still does maintain a 1930’s serial feel as well. So great is his artistic and narrative skills, writer/artist Joe Kubert pulls off both very well. The second part of this story is solicited to be in next month’s issue and I am curious to see how he ties it all up. Truly, this story by the late master meets his mission statement of putting out comics of a sort one doesn’t see on comic shelves anymore. This is from a bygone golden age of comic writing. Rounding off the issue is another darkly comedic tale of the Second World War from Sam Glanzman, and a continuance of the “Angel and the Ape” story by Brian Buniak from last issue. These two harken to a lost era in comic fiction.
The Infernal One
Arrow #1 is an anthology comic that features writers of the hit CW tv show writing background stories about the show and its characters. Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg, both DC writers and producers of the show, write an overview of the show’s premise with artwork by Green Arrow royalty, Mike Grell, who himself wrote and drew the character for eighty issues in the 1980’s. Arrow writer Ben Sokolowski writes a tale of Arrow’s hunting of one of the names on his list, Scott Morgan, aptly entitled “Prey”, drawn by Sergio Sandoval. This not only shows the ingenuity and drive of the Starling City Vigilante, but also the lengths to which the cabal whose names make up his list will go to maintain their power and influence. Finally, show writer Beth Schwartz writes a story with art by Jorge Jimenez about the white haired Triad woman, Chien Na Wei, better known in comics as “China White.” With little background in the comics, Schwartz tells of her rough childhood and her close connection to Triad boss, Zhishan. I absolutely LOVE the show and if you are like me and share that sentiment, this series is worth reading to supplement it and make both reading and watching experiences better.
So ends a phenomenal week of comic reading. Sadly, all but one of these titles will have to wait until January to be continued . . .
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman Inc #5: Art by Chris Burnham, colored by Nathan Fairbairn
Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #4 #1: Art by Jae Lee, Colored by June Chung
The Flash #14: Art by Francis Manapul, Colored by Brian Buccellato
Talon #2: Drawn by Juan Jose Ryp, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by Vincente Cifuentes
October ends with some oversized books and four annuals. I have to say this proves to be a Halloween full of quite a few treats, but hopefully no treats. Vertigo puts out a holiday anthology called Ghosts to commemorate the witching season, and four of my favorite comics have their annuals: Action Comics, Batgirl, Swamp Thing, and Justice League Dark. Here we go.
Aquaman #13brings to a close the “Others” arc in a rather quick fashion. I did enjoy the story, however, as it humanized Arthur, showing the bond he has formed with the members of the “Others” as well as his culpability in the death of Black Manta’s father. He even states that Manta didn’t lay a hand on his father, or cause the heart attack that killed him, but Arthur did go seeking Manta’s blood and killed his father with his own hands accidentally. What this issue also does is pave the way to the debut of Arthur’s brother, the sitting king of Atlantis, Orm, better known as Ocean Master. Dark things are brewing in the world of Aquaman and are solicited to come to a head in December with the Justice League/Aquaman crossover, “Throne of Atlantis.”
Action Comics Annual #1was an annual that I don’t think was necessary to read. Perhaps I am being harsh, but it didn’t seem to jibe with the feel of the title overall or the other Super-books. Grant Morrison’s run on the title is ending in February/March-ish, so this could be backup writer, Sholly Fisch, setting up a storyline that will succeed Morrison’s in early 2013. Following the first arc of Morrison’s run, Superman stopped a man named Ramsay from abusing his wife. In this annual, Ramsay volunteers for a project to get dosed with kryptonite radiation in an attempt to provide a countermeasure to Superman. Thus, Ramsay becomes the New 52 “Kryptonite Man.” John Henry Irons, aka Steel, makes his reappearance and cements his relationship with Superman as a comrade. In the backup feature, which is usually written by this Annual’s feature writer, Fisch, Max Landis (writer/director of the movie Chronicle) pens a pantomime story of a man who escapes from a breached S.T.A.R Labs submarine to a deserted island with exceptional powers. He is does with radiation and ends up removing his face, revealing a skull . . . that is now “atomic.” While Kryptonite Man and Atomic Skull enter the New DCU, I thought it could have been better on all fronts.
Batgirl Annual #1was pretty stellar. Showcasing the beautiful artwork of Admira Wijaya, Gail Simone brings back the Talon she introduced in the Batgirl “Night of the Owls” tie-in as well as Catwoman to shake up Barbara Gordon’s world. If that weren’t enough, a mysterious organization is strong arming vagrants from the slums to commit a rash of arsons. Featuring three very strong women with three different shades of morality, Simone somehow gets each to connect with the others in interesting ways. I truly hope that this heralds further interactions by the three together, because as I have made no secret about my love for Barbara Gordon and Selina Kyle, Simone adds depth to the female Talon of the 1950’s and even gives us her name . . . Exceptional art and writing, making for an exceptional annual.
Swamp Thing Annual #1starts out in the “here and now” of the series, in the verybleak events of “Rotworld” after Alec Holland learns of his lover, Abigail Arcane’s, death. Following this blow, the annual takes Holland back into a repressed memory of when he first met Abigail when they were young and in love. It also showed his very first meeting with her uncle, Anton Arcane. This is one of those issues that is just a pleasure to read if you enjoy the series it encapsulates. To be quite honest, this annual felt like a better origin than the zero issue last month. Becky Cloonan’s lent her art to Scott Snyder’s twelfth Batman issue a few months ago, and lends it yet again, really setting the atmosphere with her unique style, but framing several key sequences in the vein of Yanick Paquette. This was my favorite book of the week.
The Beautiful Abigail Arcane
A Love Affair Between Life & Death
Justice League Dark Annual #1concludes the “Books of Magic” storyline as well as pulls out all the stops. Nick Necro has carefully laid out his plans and now those plans are coming to fruition. To counter them, Constantine and Madame Xanadu pulls in some extra help: Timothy Hunter, Andrew Bennet, and most shockingly, Princess Amaya from the series Amethyst. The seeds for this last appearance were sown in the final pages of the zero issue of Sword of Sorcery, but I personally never saw her being drawn into the title like this. Jeff Lemire is a very gifted writer and the way he plays out the dark, mystical plot is quite unexpected. When the Books of Magic are revealed they manifest in a way that not even Constantine could fathom.
Joe Kubert Presents #1is a six issue miniseries that was initiated by legendary comic writer/artist Joe Kubert to present comics in a style that he wished were more prevalent in today’s market. In this inaugural issue he presents two tales he wrote and drew, as well as two stories written and drawn by two of his friends and colleagues, Brian Buniak and Sam Glanzman. Kubert brings to the table a Golden Age Hawkman story about the barbarity of humanity and the danger posed by our civilization if our destructive natures aren’t curbed, as well as a black and white uninked pencil segment called “Spit” about a young orphan who is literally spit on by the world, setting out as a cabin boy on a whaling ship. Both of these segments represent a style that is so quintessentially Joe Kubert, who’s art is such that its immediately recognizable, like that of Jack Kirby or John Romita Sr. Brian Buniak brings back a short feature he called “Angel and the Ape” about a knockout blonde and a gorilla who have a detective agency and solve crimes in a campy 1960’s setting. One thing that Kubert has become known for in many of his solo projects is war stories, and while he didn’t do one himself in this issue, his friend Sam Glanzman submits one about his reminiscences of service in WWII on the U.S.S. Steven, a naval destroyer. This feature cuts deeper than the rest, because you can sense the reality and the melancholic beauty that Glanzman is evoking from his haunted past. I agree with Kubert that comics like these are rarely seen anymore on the stands and harken back to a time when things were simpler in presentation, but perhaps a little more poignant too in the simplicity with which they are portrayed It is also worth noting that while Joe Kubert began this project sometime in the past year he passed away two and a half months before this first issue came out. His passing makes the point of the series even more resonant, like his one last gift to the world before leaving it was showing us a glimpse at what he loved about the medium he dedicated his entire working life to, and the promise of what that medium could be.
The Life of Spit
Masters of the Universe: Origin of Skeletorwas one of those stories that it hurt to read, but in a good way. I was a HUGE “He-Man” fan when I was four years old and looking back and revisiting the television show as an adult I can still find things that intrigue and entertain me within the somewhat cheesy 80’s cartoon. For instance, the episodes of the original series where it is revealed that He-Man’s mother, Queen Marlena, is actually a United States astronaut who flew her experimental spacecraft through a wormhole and crashed on Eternia or the episode when Teela goes in search of her real parents only to discover that the Sorceress of Castle Greyskull is in fact her mother. These plot points totally caught me off guard as an adult and made the series fresh again. This new DC series takes the premise of He-Man and re-imagines it a little bit, continuing in the tradition of creating interesting relationships and circumstances within the Eternian drama. He-Man’s greatest villain is portrayed as the older, bastard brother of his father, King Randor. Keldor, the blue skinned son of King Miro and an unknown Gar woman, loves his little brother, Prince Randor, and craves the love of his father, which he always falls a little bit short of. The issue chronicles the conflict within him between the love he had for his brother and the need to be his own person and live his own life at the cost of loyalty to his father and brother. I have never been a fan of I, Vampire, but Joshua Hale Fialkov writes a very compelling story of an anti-heroic character and Frazer Irving renders it artistically in much the same mood. This issue is why, even as a twenty-seven year old man, I am still a boy watching He-Man with an entranced smile on my face.
The Death of Keldor and Birth of Skeletor
Phantom Lady & Dollman #3was not the greatest comic. I am a fan of the writing of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, but this issue didn’t really accomplish anything. They go up against a super powered villainess named Funerella, who herself is undead and can raise and control the dead. They fight her, but nothing really comes of it or goes toward the resolution of the main plot.
Batman Beyond Unlimited #9accomplishes some very interesting storytelling. In Superman Beyond, the elderly Man of Steel emerges from his Fortress of Solitude in special armor to stop Lucinda Luthor and the computerized copy of her father, Lex’s, consciousness from destroying mankind, after they put a meteor field around earth comprised of pure kryptonite. In the process he reinvents himself with a new identity into a new civic role to reacquaint himself with the new world that has developed in his absence. In the Justice League Unlimited Beyond segment the apocalypse engineered by Kobra draws closer and the endgame begins to unfold, and Bruce’s last ditch strategy is implemented by Terry when all else falls through. Enter an OLD “friend” . . . Finally, in Batman Beyond‘s “10,000 Clowns” another chapter brings the reader further into the unmitigated chaos that the Joker King has descended upon Gotham. To combat this, Terry has all hands on deck. Vigilante, Catwoman, and two former Robins step in to help him as thousands of Joker suicide bombers attack nearly every echelon of Gotham’s infrastructure.
The New Deadwardians #8concludes the miniseries in truly grand, nuanced style. Chief Inspector George Suttle tracks down the villain, Salt, and in the final confrontation with the madman uncovers the conspiracy that led to the Restless invasion of Great Britain. Following this revelation, Suttle’s handling of the situation as well as the government’s is rather interesting, adding further layers to the already multifaceted plot. I have loved this series from issue #1. I truly hope that this miniseries spawns another, because George Suttle, his maid, Louisa, his aide, Officer Bowes, and his lover, Sapphire, are all very round and complex characters deserving of further exploration, as does the Deadwardian Age. I put out my prayers to the “gods” of comics to have mercy on their readers and give us another New Deadwardians series.
American Vampire #32builds off the surprise ending of last issue, showing Hattie Hargrove’s journey from when last we saw her, escaping from the Los Angeles coven as an experimental guinea pig and returning as their queen. There is little to say about the issue itself, but that it is PHENOMENAL!!! It is quite obvious Scott Snyder has been building toward this issue and the one to come for sometime. I don’t know what is real and what is sleight of hand, but either way this arc has been another step on the uninterrupted ascent of this series’ incredible run. Snyder’s writing is peerless and Rafael Albuquerque’s art is appropriately eerie and stark.
Vertigo Comics: Ghosts #1is a Halloween inspired special anthology that deals with the appropriate topic of Ghosts, featuring nine stories by some of the most innovative talent in comics, including some of my favorites: Amy Reeder, Phil Jimenez, Paul Pope, Gilbert Hernandez, Geoff Johns, Jeff Lemire, and apropos a previous entry, an unfinished penciled story by Joe Kubert. The stories range from a tale of a young man being haunted by the ghost of himself from a life that might have been, to the Dead Boy Detectives, to satanic chili connoisseurs, to a tale of ancient Aztecs. Like all Vertigo anthologies there were some stories that were stunning and others that fell flat. Overall, this one had some quality storytelling complimented by equally beautiful art.
Brotherly Love Beyond the Grave
And thus ends the month of October with a fifth week of very special issues. Next week we start November fresh with some stellar titles like Action Comics, Green Lantern, Swamp Thing, and Worlds’ Finest. Hope to see you back here.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Action Comics Annual #1: Art by Ryan Sook
Swamp Thing Annual #1: Art by Becky Cloonan, Colored by Tony Avina
Joe Kubert Presents #1: Art by Joe Kubert
Masters of the Universe: The Origin of Skeletor: Art by Frazer Irving
The New Deadwardians #8: Art by Guillem MarchI.N.J. Culbard, Colored by Patricia Mulvihill
Vertigo Comics: Ghosts #1: Art by Jeff Lemire, Colored by Jose Villarrubia