This was a rather light week on my pull list. Only a couple things came out and even fewer of merit. Obviously Batman is one of my top monthly picks right alongside Superman/Wonder Woman. Nightwing, Green Lantern Corps, and Superboy have been quality titles. Coffin Hill is hanging by the thinnest of threads, falling short of the other titles in Vertigo’s new lineup of titles. However, The Royals comes out this week, also from the Vertigo Comics imprint, presenting a very intriguing concept. Here’s how they stacked up:
- Batman #28 has writer Scott Snyder taking yet another break from the current storytelling to tell a tangent story that introduces his Batman Eternal series which hits stores in April. While the unexpected hiatus is annoying after last issue’s tense cliffhanger, the story is intriguing and whets the readers appetite for what to expect from this weekly title, out in two months. Beginning with Harper Row on the mean streets of Gotham after an imposed curfew, she is caught by the cops and taken to a very swanky night club. From here Scott Snyder introduces the atmosphere Gotham is living under. Some mystery condition has beset Gotham, viral or other, that necessitates a cure which the owner of this club has sole access to. The club’s owner and kingpin of the Gotham crime underground is another intriguing twist that maintains Snyder’s reputation as one of the emerging Batman writers of the new millennium. For me personally, there were two elements of the plot that excited me and put my frustration at not getting closure from last issue’s cliffhanger to bed. The first one comes in the form of Harper Row. Harper was introduced by Snyder early on in the rebooted Batman title and then slowly brought to the forefront. She is an incredible, alternative young woman that is intelligent, quick witted, and tough as nails. It was really looking like she was going to be the new Robin following the heartrending departure of Damian Wayne. This is not the case, and while Batman said he wouldn’t allow her into the fold, she does enter the fold in a Robin-esque role, but not under the nom-de-guerre of Batman’s Boy Wonder legacy, of which two girls were once a part. That actually works well for me, because Harper is very different from the other kid sidekicks Batman’s worked with. She is an alternative teen with dyed hair, a septum piercing, and a very distinct style. For all their differences in social class, background, and motivations, Dick, Jason, Tim, Damian, and Barbara all seemed to be different shades of conventionality. Harper is a bird of a different color, both figuratively and nominally with the heroic identity she dons in this issue. What I think really hits for me with Harper is that vast majority of young women I know that are hardcore into the Batman titles are remarkably similar to Harper, not really mirroring Barbara or any of the other female members of the Bat Family. Harper is just really cool and a perfect fit in the re-imagining of the Batman mythos. Apropos the mentioning of female members of the Bat Family and batgirls, the second element of Batman #28 that got me giddy was the introduction of Stephanie Brown, current Spoiler and “once and future” Batgirl, to the New DCU. Dustin Nguyen provides art on the book and does a great job capturing the darkly elegant underworld of the criminal elite in this issue. It’s like a blast from the past back to his days on Batman: Streets of Gotham. Overall a really great issue that has me primed for Batman Eternal.
- Superman/Wonder Woman #5 continues the title in the vein with which it began last October. Superman and Wonder Woman are very similar, but also very different. The title has been very Super-centric, having mostly dealt with Supes and his pantheon of characters, i.e. Doomsday, Cat Grant, and Zod and Faora. While there was a shirt interlude of Superman going toe-to-toe with Wonder Woman’s dickish older brother, Apollo, her world has been in the background for most of the previous four issues. In this we see her visit Themyscira to “speak” with her mother and sisters Amazons whom the gods turned to stone. She looks to them for counsel considering her attempt to reconcile the differences between her worldview and Superman’s. It’s really fascinating, because if you look at each from the other’s perspective you see diametric differences that almost cast the other in a questionable light. Wonder Woman comes from a proud race that exalt their strength and extraordinary qualities. Clark comes from a humble Midwestern upbringing that espoused moderation and humility. Seeing eye-to-eye is a struggle that they both wrestle with and Wonder Woman’s journey to do so is very honest in this issue, exposing her inner virtues as well as some not so flattering prejudices. However, while these musings go on, Superman is fending off General Zod and his recently emancipated lover, Faora, whom Zod pulled from the Phantom Zone at the end of last month’s issue. Once he is rejoined by Wonder Woman, you get a “mirror darkly” collision of two couples, one altruistic and noble and the other sinister and brutal. That is not the only difference, however, as Superman and Wonder Woman are not well suited to fighting side by side, but Zod and Faora are as one and fight like linked appendages of a single body and mind. Working as they are it becomes clear that Superman and Wonder Woman need to regroup. The writing and art on this book are superb and at the top tier of any books being put out by any comic company. Charles Soule is amazing and Tony Daniel’s artwork is some of the best being produced. This title is well worth the cover price for anyone that like Superman, Wonder Woman, or good character driven comics.
- Nightwing #28 is a beginning of the end for this title. With only two more issues before its conclusion writer Kyle Higgins is starting to wrap up the final notes of his narrative of Dick Grayson’s journey as Nightwing. Tony Zucco, his parent’s murderer, is finally in prison and Dick concludes his associations with Sonia Branch, Zucco’s daughter and ambiguous love interest to Dick. The parting is bittersweet, because while Sonia is a high power businesswoman who isn’t always straightforward, she is a good woman who has always looked out for Dick and I think genuinely cared about him. With Nightwing’s revealing to the world that Zucco was alive and part of a corrupt mayoral administration in Chicago Sonia was let go of her job as a bank executive, owing to the bad press. These developments leave Dick in a state of ennui that quickly transitions with the sudden murder of a couple that live in his building. The couple’s daughter, Jen, had stumbled across Nightwing’s paraphernalia in Dick’s room and discovered his identity. After her parent’s death she asks Dick to help and tells him she knows he’s Nightwing. He tries to pretend that she is imagining things, with disastrous results. The dynamic become almost the same as his when his parents were murdered and he tried to get Batman to help him. However, with the imminent cancellation of the title it’s not likely this relationship will reciprocate his with Bruce Wayne/Batman. Kyle Higgins has been on this title since the first issue and terminates with next month’s #29 issue. It’s a shame that he wasn’t able to make it through all 30 issues of the regular series, but unfortunately that is how the cookie crumbles. His run has been solid, character-driven, and a keen, thoughtful look into the life of Dick Grayson. His excellent writing has kept me reading the title, despite Dick being the the most “vanilla” Robin in my opinion. Higgins made me care, and for those that love Dick I can only imagine how great this series has been. It is uncertain what the future holds for Nightwing, but for two more months we’ve got him. Here’s hoping they are a good two months.
- Green Lantern Corps #28 begins an arc entitled “The Hunt for Von Daggle.” With the larger event of the Durlan crusade against the Green Lantern Corps looming large over the GL family of books, locating the person of Von Daggle becomes a key front in the supremacy of that conflict. Daggle is a Durlan that broke from the Ancient’s control and became a member of the Green Lantern Corps years prior. Now in deep cover and gone to ground after the fall of the Guardians, he is a person whose loyalty could turn the tides of war in favor of those with whom he chooses to align himself. Obviously the Durlans are not his favorite people to begin with, and though he would be welcomed back with open arms should he choose to return, why would he? Conversely, the Guardians (rot in Hell) were equally awful and exploitative, leading him to break ties with the Corps after the fall of central authority. Robert Venditti and Van Jensen have been working closely to tie the two core books of the Green Lantern line close together and the universal landscape they paint is quite troubling, in the best way possible. The Corps is facing a MESS! The Durlans have blindsided them with devastating blows. They stuck deep at the heart of the Corps’ sense of security, blowing up their central command center on their new homeworld, Mogo, and vastly, striking numerous Corps chapterhouses throughout the 3600 sectors. Even more devastating, a Durlan impersonating Hal Jordan revealed to the Universe that the rings the various Lanterns wear drain the universal reservoir of light and that the Green Lanterns will not cease to use their rings, but stop anyone else from draining that same energy they are squandering. Their plan is genius and it leaves the Green Lanterns with both feet knocked out from underneath them. These devastating blows may have been a death stroke, but for two serendipitous developments: 1) the turning of the Corps worst enemies against their Durlan benefactors in favor of the Green Lanterns, and 2) the existence of Von Daggle, who could tell them all they need to know about taking the fight to the Durlans. Jensen and Venditti have made the Green Lantern books once again a family of titles worth reading.
- Coffin Hill #5 is a series which I want to get behind. Lord knows Inaki Miranda’s art is awesome. The plot in a hypothetical way is very good. I mean if I were to make a rough synopsis of what is going on currently in the title, the backstory, and the general concept it sounds great. I think Caitlin Kittredge is just having difficulty making it come off. Eve Coffin is a hard protagonist to relate to, because Kittredge has given us little in the way of understanding her. She was an angsty teenager who was raised in affluence as part of the venerable Coffin family of Coffin Hill, apparently descended from a fable witch of “Coffin Hill.” Her and her friends cast a spell in the woods in 2003, but apart from her waking up afterward and finding her one friend naked and covered in blood and the other completely MIA, we don’t know anything about what happened. She became a cop in Boston, got shot by someone who Kittredge heavily infers has a history with Eve. Do we know that history? Not at all. Whenever there is something that could possibly shed light on who Eve Coffin is or why we should cut her slack for her annoyingly angsty demeanor, Kittredge pulls the “dog treat” away to tease us. Eve’s surviving friend, Melanie, has woken from her decade long coma, but fallen victim to a demonic possession. This is an interesting, though slow moving development. What is lacking is something for the reader to latch onto. Perhaps all these story elements are best held off until a later date, but again, if you withhold substantial bits of exposition from your readers like the proverbial dog treat they will eventually bite your hand or just lose interest and wander off. I can’t say that I can strongly recommend this title to anyone. Right now it is horrendously plotted and shoddily written.
- The Royals: Masters of War #1 launches yet another groundbreaking Vertigo miniseries. The Royals: Masters of War begins in 1940 during the height of the Blitz. Britain’s royal family live opulently behind the walls of their palace while the rest of the country endures of the horrors of the the war with Germany. However, in this world, due to divine right and purity of blood, the royal families of the world have superpowers. Writer Rob Williams creates a very intriguing alternate reality with The Royals that hones old superstition and traditionalism into compelling storycraft. In the history of his series, the French and Russian Revolutions, as well as other depositions occurred specifically because the powered Royals had forgotten their place and lorded their powers over the unpowered masses. The current king of England was born without
powers and spread the rumor that his three children were born without them as well. They were not, which sets the stage for our story during Britain’s critical moment in WWII. Royals DO NOT participate in warfare. This is a modern gentleman’s agreement that is honored, regardless of whether said royal has powers of not. King Albert is weak, his eldest son and heir to the throne, Prince Arthur, is a debauch wastrel, with a mean streak when he has imbibed. The king’s twins and youngest children, Prince Henry and Princess Rose, are raised with their heads in the clouds and only small whisperings of the conflict at large. Deciding to venture outside the walls of the Palace both witness the full horrors of the German bombing of their countrymen. For Henry it is far too much to bear and he clandestinely enters the war, downing scores of planes with his bare hands. With this GIANT breach of international etiquette the floodgates are opened for the remaining Royals to enter the fray. The artwork by Simon Coleby is very somber and robust, almost seeming like Edwardian paintings, which adds a good deal of ambiance to the title. Rob Williams’ writing is austere and candid, paying the respect to the British Crown one would expect, but the honesty of the characters that live under it. Just a fantastic beginning to a very promising new series from Vertigo.
A light week, but a very decent batch of excellent comics.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman #28: Drawn by Dustin Nguyen, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Derek Fridolfs.
Superman/Wonder Woman #5: Drawn by Tony S. Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by Sandu Florea & BATT.
Green Lantern Corps #28: Art by Bernard Chang, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo.
Royals: Masters of War #1: Art by Simon Coleby, Colored by JD Mettler.