Feb. 12, 2014

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.
    Enter Bluebird . . .

    Enter Bluebird . . .

     

  • 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.SupermanWonderWoman5
  • 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.GreenLanternCorps28
  • 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
    The Old Order

    The Old Order

    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.

    The New Order

    The New Order


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.

Illustration Credits:

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.

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Week 84 (April 10, 2013)

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

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

    A Father's Love

    A Father’s Love

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

    A Mother's Love/Hate

    A Mother’s Love/Hate

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

    A Father's Love

    A Father’s Love

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

Week 77 (Feb. 20, 2013)

This was a massive week with so many incredible books coming out.  The conclusion of Batwoman’s main storyline begun September of 2011, the beginning of the last arcs of the Green Lantern titles as they have been since 2005, the introduction of two new series, and perhaps the most powerful issue of Legion of Super-Heroes we’ve seen since Paul Levitz returned to the title in 2010.  A lot of stellar storytelling, without further ado:

  • Justice League #17 concludes the “Throne of Atlantis” event in perhaps one of the most morally ambiguous, honest endings.  With Arthur’s former adviser and friend, Vulko, revealed as the architect of the war between Land and Sea, Arthur has to subdue his brother King Orm, aka Ocean Master, to usher in peace.  Of course, he succeeds, however the cost is very painful to behold.  Since the first time he appeared in Aquaman, Ocean Master has been a very fair leader.  His home was attacked and he responded harshly.  No one can deny that point.  His treatment by his brother and the Justice League, who already have been portrayed as unsympathetic bullies, is hard to watch.  This is the birth of a villain and I can’t say that I won’t be cheering Orm on in the future.  When you marginalize a person with legitimate grievances you create concrete animosities.  And the hollow victory bought by offering his brother up like a herring on a silver platter is very hollow, considering that people still do not trust Arthur.  Perhaps its super realistic, but I again find it lackluster and hard to love the protagonists.  Better luck next time, Geoff Johns.

    The Birth of a Super-Villain

    The Birth of a Super-Villain

  • Action Comics #17 delivers the first half of Grant Morrison’s big finale on his Action run.  The issue’s really a recap of all the things that define Superman as a comic book icon and as a paragon of heroism.  Starting with the Kents who shaped this young, omnipotent alien into a compassionate everyman, the issue shows how many people Superman has touched over the years and to what degree.  The fifth dimensional madman Vyndktvx offers the people of Earth eternal life and their hearts desires if they refuse to help Superman in his hour of need.  That hour is now, and even with a multiversal behemoth throwing him around like a ragdoll, and depsite his own warnings to stay back, the people come to his aid.  Also rushing to his aid is perhaps the most unlikely of people.  Morrison tells this story brilliantly, tying everything he has done together with a quick narration by Vyndktvx himself, breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to us.  Sholly Fisch tells a heartwarming backup story that will have occurred after the next concluding issue of Action Comics.  Superman goes back in time somehow to talk to his father on the night he and Ma both die.  It’s sweet, it’s heart warming, and very personal.  Superman doesn’t tell them they are going to die, and even though Pa intuits that this might be the case, he doesn’t want to know either.  The two just share one last moment of happiness together, and Clark gets the chance to, in essence, say goodbye.  The scene is very reminiscent to but much briefer than Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman #7 in which Superman gets that chance in that story’s reality.  Just a great issue heralding the end of an era to come next month in Action Comics #18.
  • Justice League of America #1 is a decent introductory issue.  When starting a group book there are two ways to go about it: assemble immediately or have the team snowball, with members joining as the issues accumulate.  In this one issue, writer Geoff Johns harkens back to a brief moment at the end of his first arc of Justice League with a scene involving two men meeting, hinting at the formation of a fraternity of supervillains.  Beginning with this interaction, the comic then goes to an overarching conversation between former League liason to A.R.G.U.S., Col. Steve Trevor, meeting with current liason Amanda Waller in the interest of creating a second team sanctioned and moderated by the American government.  A Justice League of America.  As they discuss each member, the story cuts to the recruitment of said member in whiplash cutaways that do the bare minimum to introduce that character to you.  If you haven’t read Catwoman, Green Lantern, Stormwatch, The Savage Hawkman, or the two new ongoing series Katana and Vibe, that’s just too bad.  On the outside of this conversation also is a quick, tense scene of an Oni masked hero racing through a jungle from unknow assailants, bleeding out and attempting to get a message through.  This was the aspect of the book that buoyed the plot up and compelled the reader to know more.  At issue’s end he makes it back to A.R.G.U.S. and his identity is revealed, but his message has yet to be delivered.  I liked this first issue.  I am familiar with the characters and was able to fill in the blanks, but that may not carry over to new readers.   Art provided by David Finch is liney, dark, and ominous, really setting a harsh and uncertain tone to the overall plot which engages the reader almost immediately.   I will liken this series to a baby born of a diseased mother, the metaphorical mother being Justice League.  Geoff Johns has shown in JL that he seems incapable of writing a team book without losing the characters within to pettiness and ego, rendering them unrelatable caricatures of their current solo selves.  Here the new series is exhibiting what could be the beginnings of these symptoms of the diseased parent, but not without some signs of vitality.  Time will tell as to how this series comes out.  Martian Manhunter is perhaps the most disgusting character that the reboot and, I am assuming, Johns himself has birthed into this New DCU.  J’onn J’onzz was an alien that came to Earth as a stranger in a strange land, curious and full of optimism.  His delving into human society was about finding what was good in this strange new species.  Here he is a cold, hollow figure with incomparable power that dwells on the harsh, sinister motivations in men and offers it back in kind.  Maybe Johns and his bosses are trying to be edgy, but they are failing horribly and taking down beloved characters as collateral damage.

    The Mission

    The Mission

  • Batwoman #17 is a red letter issue.  There has been a continuous plot stretched over three story arcs of missing children in Gotham having been kidnapped by Medusa and Batwoman attempting to find them and bring them home safely.  That has also been the goal of Capt. Maggie Sawyer of the Gotham City police, who also happens to be the girlfriend of Batwoman’s alter ego, Kate Kane.  This third arc has had Batwoman teamed up with Wonder Woman to stop the crazed gorgon, Medusa, from using the children as a sacrifice to lure Ceto, the Greek goddess who birthed all monsters into the world, back into reality.  With this final issue Ceto is summoned forth and Batwoman and Wonder Woman must find a way to stop her from tearing the fabric of reality to pieces.  There is so little I can say about this issue because of how remarkable it is in both story and art, brought to us by J.H. Williams III in both capacities with co-writer W. Haden Blackman’s assistance.  In both her identity as Batwoman and Kate Kane, this issue changes everything.  The missing children plot that consisted of these first seventeen issues was interesting, considering the main issues that dominated her first solo appearance, pre-Reboot.  Well with this overarching plot concluded, Williams and Blackman tease us on the last page with a return of Batwoman’s personal ghosts.  I am dying to read the next issue in March and would urge you to do the same.

    That's a Game Changer

    That’s a Game Changer

  • Green Lantern #17 ushers in the “Wrath of the First Lantern” event, which also is the last event in the runs of the current Green Lantern titles’ creative teams.  Obviously, Geoff Johns’ run on Green Lantern is the most lamented of these casualties with his having been on this title longest of any of the current series writers and also being the visionary that brought Hal Jordan back to life and reimagined the GL mythology to the complex, multifaceted marvel it currently is.  After the Green Lantern Corps Annual last month, Volthoom, the first Lantern, is released upon the universe.  The issue begins with a brief explanation of how he came to meet the Guardians and what he embodies and then proceeds billions of years later in our present to show what he plans to do.  Somehow Volthoom is possessed of infinite power including the ability to warp and manipulate time to venture into tangential universes predicated on every single decision ever made or that ever will be made.  That coupled with a sadistic desire to feed off of pain like an emotional vampire paints an even more twisted villain than the inhumanly cold Guardians.  Also in this issue, newly minted Green Lantern, Simon Baz, comes face to face with the Black Hand on his quest to find Hal Jordan and by extension stop the Guardians.  This event promises to be a stunning finale to what has been an incredible eight year run on the title and the Green Lantern line of books.

    VOLTHOOM!

    VOLTHOOM!

  • Green Lantern Corps #17 brings Volthoom into Guy Gardner’s life both literally and figuratively.  The emotional vampire attaches to the surliest of the Green Lanterns like the Ghost of Christmas Past and Christmas Might Have Been preying on the raw feeling that lie beneath Guy’s cynical attitude.  Anyone who knows how abraisive Guy can be can only imagine the horrors from his past.  We are shown them and alternate versions of them as Volthoom tortures Guy over his mistakes the circumstances of his life that held him back from where and who he wanted to be.  Peter Tomasi plays this issue like a stratevarius, plucking the heartstrings of his readers who can’t help but empathize with our sarcastic hero.
  • Green Lantern: New Guardians #17 mimicks Green Lantern Corps with Volthoom trapping Kyle Rayner in his temporal web.  Next to Hal Jordan, Kyle Rayner is my favorite Green Lantern and this issue proves why.  Kyle is someone who had horrific things happen in his past, including his girlfiend being killed and her mutilated body stuffed into his refridgerator and his father walking out him and his mom when he was very young.  Volthoom plays his sick games by altering these events to torment Kyle, but to Kyle’s credit Volthoom has to bust out his A-game, as Kyle continues to see the silver lining to most of the things he’s exposed to by the sadistic First Lantern.  In trying to torment this paragon of will power, Volthoom only proves to us how strong and amazing Kyle is and how the greatest heroism sometimes is just refusing to let life and circumstances get you down.  Tony Bedard is amazing and as stated above his run on this title is ending in May with the twentieth issue of this series.  I have to say that I saddened by his departure considering this issue and all the issues he’s written in this line that has been exemplars of storytelling.  Aaron Kuder’s run also ends with #20 and he will also be missed as he too renders the subject material with grace and eloquence second to none.

    The Unsinkable Kyle Rayner

    The Unsinkable Kyle Rayner

  • Nightwing #17 gives the epilogue to “Death of the Family” from the perspective of Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing.  As a result of him being in the lives of the people at Haly’s circus several members including their clown, James Clark, and his former girlfriend, Raya, are killed and the rest hospitalized after the Joker’s attacks.  Alfred tries to console him and he says he’s fine.  He goes to visit the survivors in the hospital and those that don’t hold a grudge try to tell him he’s not to blame and its not his fault and he says he’s fine.  He goes to the funerals and his ambiguously romantic friend Sonia Branch (nee Zucco) tells him not to blame himself and he says he is fine. However, when criminals try to pillage the remains of Haly’s Circus, he goes bat-sh** crazy.  As solicited on the cover, Damian is the only person that can bring him back from the brink.  Ironic, considering how sociopathic Damian is and what his usual modus operandi when dealing with criminals consists of.  What this issue does so well is underscoring how incredible the relationship is between these two truly is.  When Dick took over the role of Batman following Bruce’s disappearance it was his choice to take Damian on as Robin and his faith that Damian could be more than the psychopathic killer his mother, Talia Al-Ghul, fashioned him into.  As a result I think that this issue shows him looking out for his “older brother” and not letting him cross lines he will regret.  Also it shows how well he knows Nightwing.  Dick told everyone he was fine and did a good job putting up the charade, but Damian knew with complete certitude that he was not.  Damian puts up a facade of apathy that in a lot of instances isn’t a facade, but rather him just not caring.  But here despite his cavalier attitude, he cares enough to follow Dick for several days to make sure that when the pressure building up within him finally burst out, he’d be there to stop him from breaking his moral convictions.  Kyle Higgins writes it quite well and with art by Juan Jose Ryp, the issue comes off quite well.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #17 provides a thoughtful epilogue for Jason Todd after the “Death of the Family” storyline.  Jason is someone that was burned early on by the Joker and has thick skin when it comes to such things, but tender flesh beneath.  While the others may have been really messed up by what the Joker did, Jason has already been lured into a trap by the Joker with his supposedly departed mother as bait and beaten to death and blown to smithereens.  However, learning that the Joker was the architect of his becoming Robin and most of the misfortunes that led him to that horrible place doesn’t fail to register.  So going back one last time to the Manor and the Cave he talks to various members of the family and says his farewells once again out of duty.  Though its a perfunctory visit, Bruce tells him perhaps the only thing that could heal a wound like finding out the Joker engineered your traumatic childhood, “No, Jason. He didn’t make you. I never did either. You made you.”  The visit seems to end on a high note, except that the Joker is not one to let things end with his having the last laugh.  When Jason retrieves his signature red hood and puts it on there is a surprise waiting for him within.  I have NO idea what that means for future stories, but its still a chilling ending point.  Scott Lobdell is close to ending his tenure on the title and appears to be  throwing a live grenade into the works for his successor James Tynion IV to pick up.

    We Are Our Own Masters

    We Are the Masters of Our Own Destinies

  • DC Universe Presents #17 follows Red Hood and the Outlaws by spinning a yarn about Roy Harper, aka Arsenal, that captures his history, his flaws and virtues, and how he is viewed by those around him.  Arsenal has been depicted in the past as a hard edged, loose cannon whose actions often result in a self destructive spiral.  In this new DC Universe he is more buffoonish, and jocular.  Starting off with him missing a mission with teammates Red Hood and Starfire, he’s made fun of and called worthless by his “friends.”  In reality he is in Hong Kong, imprisoned by the Triad after attempting to rescue Killer Croc, a Batman villain he ran afoul of in Red Hood and the Outlaws #3 and who consequently helped him get back on his feet.  Shackled in the basement of a Triad hideout, Roy not only steals a “quarter” from one of his tormentors  but also uses it to break his shackles over the course of hours and then cleans out the  place with nothing but a tool box.  Yes he is a bit of a joke, but what he’s capable of doing when he puts his mind to the task is no joke, nor is the lengths he will go to help someone that showed him a modicum of kindness when he most needed it.  Joe Keatinge writes this incredible one-shot and Ricken provides art.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes #17 was brutal.  This issue was incredibly good on all fronts.  The writing by Paul Levitz was phenomenal, taking place on Rimbor as well as a far distant location (whose importance to the plot becomes integrally crucial) amidst explosions and complete chaos.  All of that rendered on the page gorgeously by artist Keith Giffen with his Kirby-esque pencils.  Shortly after being elected leader, Phantom Girl is dealt perhaps the worst hand imaginable as she and two other Legionnaires become marooned after a malfunction of their spacecraft crashes them into an unknown locale.  Across the universe Ultra Boy, Glorith, and Brainiac 5 witness an equally cataclysmic disaster on Rimbor after a massive planet-wide electrical malfunction.  The lead up to this issue has been in the works since the very first issue of the rebooted series almost two years ago, and the consequences will be felt forever.  This is a DARK turn in the world of the 31st century.  If you are a fan of the Legion, you will feel this issue deep in your bones.  I had to set this issue down twice to get my bearings and take a few breaths.  Levitz and Giffen hit this one out of the park. It should be noted that these two collaborated almost exclusively on Levitz’s first run on the characters in the 80’s.  Thirty years later, they’ve come a long way but haven’t taken one step backward.  I can only imagine that Levitz got Giffen on this arc for the very reason that both of them needed to be on it for sentimentality sake.  If you love the Legion read this book.  If you don’t love the Legion, please don’t.  Not to be an elitist, but if you don’t understand and love the characters, you wouldn’t appreciate the truly sorrowful events chronicled within.
  • Supergirl #17 picks up on two of the conflicts Superboy ended on last week.  Wonder Woman took on Supergirl and Superman took on H’el in the hope of giving Superboy a chance to disable the Star Chamber that is literally draining our Sun of its energy to power H’el’s device to travel back in time and prevent Krypton’s destruction.  Wonder Woman proves to be the only one capable of literally smacking some sense into Supergirl.  The latter of which still trying to convince herself that H’el’s scheme won’t be an act of mass genocide.  However, Super Girl’s super-denial is no match for Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth.  The Maiden of Steel is unable to break its hold on her body nor on her conscience.  Superman does prove as successful when dealing with H’el, but after painfully coming to terms with the truth, Kara is unable to continue her association with H’el, regardless of how much she would like to go home.  With this alliance shattered, the heroes of Earth rallied against him, and the Oracle arriving in Earth’s orbit, the stage is set for the finale of “H’el on Earth” in Superman #17.
  • Wonder Woman #17 has Wonder Woman meeting up with her old mentor, War (Ares), in the bar Hera and Zola snuck out to and journeying to the secret hiding place of Demeter where Hermes has spirited Zola and Zeus’s infant to.  On the other side of the world the First Born reveals his benefactor with the metal neck to be Cassandra and with the prophetess’s help goes to seek his weapons, hidden by his uncle Poseidon.  This issue is interesting, but I am really looking forward to the end of this plotline with the gods meddling with one another and progressing to the Amazing Amazon in contemporary settings with some of her classic stable of villains.  Brian Azzarello’s writing is good, if not drawn out, and Tony Akins’ pencils are excellent.
  • Vibe #1 is another case of “here’s to lowered expectations.”  The character was an F-list character to begin with and something of a practical joke whenever he made appearances in second string DC titles.  George Perez, legendary artist and writer, absolutely hated him as a caricature of Hispanic Americans.  However, considering that main character Cisco Ramon is from Detroit, Justice League of America writer Geoff Johns couldn’t help but put him in the line up.  On the plus side, being as under appreciated as he was left Johns and series writer Andrew Kreisberg with the freedom to revamp him however they wanted.  Now having his vibratory powers linked with boom tubes from Darkseid’s invasion of Earth, he’s become something of a dimensional expert and border cop.  Right from the start his role as a superhero is linked to the JLA title and his success tied to his freedom, unbeknownst to him.  Another obscure character cameo comes in an imprisoned woman in a cell labeled “Gypsy,” also a veteran of Justice League Detroit.  Johns and Kreisberg also set the hook at the end by hearkening back to the reference in Justice League #6 to Darkseid’s daughter, and the further shocker that she is in fact in A.R.G.U.S custody.  Bit of a spoiler, but still a good reason to get into this title.  Game well played, Johns.  I’ll buy your series for the time being . . .

    Daughter of Darkseid

    Daughter of Darkseid

  • Sword of Sorcery #5 returns Amy to Gemworld and to her mother, Lady Graciel of House Amethyst.  With her return the pair travel to the capital of House Turquoise to visit the tomb of Amy’s father, Lord Vyrian.  When they reach their destination not only do they finally uncover the identity of his betrayer, they are also assaulted by two rogue assassins of House Onyx.  More interesting is the choice of the next Lord of House Turquoise after the events of this issue.  In the Stalker backup feature, writer Marc Andreyko attempts to make the revamp of this character work, but fails.  Sorry.  Even Andrei Bressan’s awesome art can’t rescue it.
  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #13  contains both a beginning and and end.  For starters, this issue begins the second arc of Justice League Unlimited Beyond called “Flashdrive.”  The storyline stymies me a little bit as there seems to be two things going on in the plot that don’t have any connection to one another.  The main body of the story picks up on a scene from the “Batman Beyond” movie entitled “The Return of the Joker.”   In the flashback portion of the film, the Joker kidnaps Tim Drake and turns him into a child Joker with chemicals and gene therapy and Tim ends up killing him.  That is the end of what is shown in the movie, but this issue continues it on, with Batman creating a morgue for supervillains so that when they die there will be no resting place their followers and acolytes can use to gather or make into a monument.  This morgue is built on the lowest sublevel of the Batcave that only Bruce and Barbara Gordon know exists.  There is a break in and it is neither Bruce nor Barbara, raising the question of who could have known about it and how they got in considering the fail-safes put in place by Batman, the most paranoid man alive.  Cut to a female docent at the Flash Museum having speedster abilities and an attack on the re-opening Museum drawing in Mister Miracle, Big Barda, Merina, Micron, and Green Lantern Kai-Ro.  I know that eventually there will be a connection made, but right now I am totally lost.  Next comes the conclusion of “10,000 Clowns” in Batman Beyond.  This one is pretty procedural and ends in a logical sense.  Batman (Terry McGinnis) faces off against Joker King and the latter’s defeat is clearly an eventuality, but the consequences are what are relevant here.  The ending of this seems to be heavily influenced by the Christopher Nolan film “The Dark Knight”, with the question lingering as to whether Joker King won or lost, and with the assertion that he didn’t win, the further question of did anyone really win?  In the Superman Beyond feature, the Trillians have captured Superman and put on a show trial for his “crimes” against their race, which again are still pretty vague.  I don’t feel confident commenting on this storyline, so I will abstain until further on into its plotline.    Overall a really good issue that delves into the animated mythology in interesting ways that take me back to the days I watched them as a wide eyed child or adolescent.
  • Womanthology: Space #5 delivers another slew of stories at varying lengths that run the gamut of relevance to the genre of Space.  One deals with an ungainly girl in elementary school who is tall, lanky, and extremely clumsy except when she runs which is when she feels the most free.  In her school’s play she is cast as the comet and all she has to do . . . is run.  The next vignette is entitled “The Wind in her Hair” about a girl living in a dirigible  who desires freedom and a tin-man looking automaton living on the polluted ground below who wants to take the tree he has cared for his entire life up above the poisoned clouds where “she” can grow and thrive.  A chance meeting between the girl and the gardener droid gives both the hope that they need to see their dreams through to fruition.   Writer Allison Pang and artist Chrissie Zullo create a story that is both romantic and ethereal with the bronze daguerreotype look of a 1920’s German Expressionist film.  The remaining pieces, while still very good are more abstract and not as readily synopsized.  This series has proven to be innovated and very compelling.  This is the fifth of six issue, so I would suggest that if you missed these and aren’t in a place to go back and catch up, wait for the collection to come out and then read them all in their entirety.  Truly a breathtaking series.WomanthologySpace5

This really was the most consistantly excellent week of February. Those titles that I have praised highly just prove how poweful and dynamic the comic medium can be to the newcomer and faithful alike.  I pray that next month finds these same titles meet the mark set here and perhaps exceeding it once more.  One thing is for certain, this week was a good week to be a comic book fan.

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

Illustration Credits:

Justice League #17:  Drawn by Ivan Reis, Colored by Rod Reis & Nathan Eyring, Inked by Joe Prado, Oclair Albert & Sean Parsons

Justice League  of America #1:  Art by David Finch, Colored by Sonia Oback & Jeromy Cox

Batwoman #17:  Art by J.H. Williams III, Colored by Dave Stewart

Green Lantern #17:  Drawn by Dan Jurgens, Colored by Alex Sinclair & Tony Avina, Inked by Phil Jimenez

Green Lantern: New Guardians #17:  Art by Aaron Kuder, Colored by Wil Quintana

Red Hood and the Outlaws #17: Art by Adrian Syaf, Robson Rocha & Ken Lashley, Colored by Blond

Vibe #1: Drawn by Pete Woods, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Sean Parsons

Womanthology: Space #5 “The Wind in Her Hair” segment: Art by Chrissie Zullo

Week 70 (Jan. 2, 2013)

  • Batman Inc #6 is 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.

    BatmanInc6

    The Sophie’s Choice of the Batman Universe

  • Red Lanterns #15 finds 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 #15 was 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

    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 by Lex 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

    Superman’s Darker Side

  • Batman: The Dark Knight #15 ends 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 #3 marks 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

    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 . . .

    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 #2 delivers 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

    Mike Grell’s Peerless Rendering of the Ballet

  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #11 contains 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 #34 returns 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 #3 continues 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.JoeKubertPresents3

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.

Illustration Credits:

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

Joe Kubert Presents #3: Art by Joe Kubert

Week 65 (Nov. 28, 2012)

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 #14 begins 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

    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

    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 #14 had 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.

    SOLOVAR!

    SOLOVAR!

  • 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 #14 continues 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 #2 delivers 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.

    Enter EDEN

    Enter EDEN

  • 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 #4 ends 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 #14 gives 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 #10 concludes 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 #14 has 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 #2 opens 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

    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.

Illustration Credits:

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

Joe Kubert Presents #2: Art by Joe Kubert

Week 61 (Oct. 31, 2012)

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

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

    Atomic Skull

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

    The Beautiful Abigail Arcane

    A Love Affair Between Life & Death

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

    The Life of Spit

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

    The Death of Keldor and Birth of Skeletor

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

    Brotherly Love Beyond the Grave

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

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

Illustration Credits:

Action Comics Annual #1: Art by Ryan Sook

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

Joe Kubert Presents #1: Art by Joe Kubert

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

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

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

Week 59 (Oct. 17, 2012)

  • Justice League #13 was as trite as it has always been.  Maybe there is an interesting story happening in the background, but all I could focus on was how unrelateable the characters are.  I very much dislike Wonder Woman in this series.  I am not a fan of Superman either.  They are flawed characters, I understand, but there is a point where you have to give them some amount of credence as characters.  The romance between Wonder Woman and Superman made sense topically when it was introduced at the tail end of the last issue, but seems really forced now that we see it in the light of day, two months later.  Its been advertised as the status quo, which is alarming, considering how bad it is.  The whole thing was hard to read, which is a shame because Tony Daniel is providing art, and I love his artwork a great deal.  The back story of Barbara Minerva, aka The Cheetah, is the topic of this and next month’s issues, and writer Geoff Johns takes it in what might be an interesting direction, but for the abysmal characterization of his cast that overshadows whatever is happening plot-wise. The backup this month breaks away from “SHAZAM” (Thank God) and replaces it with a story following Steve Trevor and Green Arrow forming a pact that is solicited as the beginning of Justice League of America.  I begrudgingly will buy a copy come January.  Not out of any merit given to its beginnings (FAR FROM IT), but just so I can say I gave it a fair shot.
  • Green Lantern: New Guardians #13 was good, however a little lackluster by itself.  I’ve learned to  be forgiving with the way writer Tony Bedard structures his arcs, as the first arc had its sketchy first issues that blossomed into an incredible storyline down the road.  This one has that promise and the issue gets to the heart of the matter, yet I feel it could have been done better.  Starting off with the red light of Rage, Atrocitus tries to get Kyle to feel rage over the death of his girlfriend, Alex, who died when he first became Green Lantern because he was Green Lantern.  He doesn’t feel rage over this though, so why the flashbacks were necessary I’ve yet to figure out.  Context I suppose. I feel that there is a lot going on underneath it all that I’m unaware of, which will probably be revealed later.  In any event, it was a well plotted story, and one that strangely wasn’t drawn by series artist Aaron Kuder.  Instead Andrei Bressan and Amilcar Pinna split the artist duties on this one.  Two issues in and the series artist is already playing hooky?  Hmmmmm . . .

    Kyle, Thou Art Unleashed . . .

  • Batwoman #13 is nothing short of stunning.   As ever, J.H. Williams III and cowriter W. Haden Blackman present an intensely personal, yet action packed story headlining Batwoman and Wonder Woman.  Following the same trail she has been since issue #1 a little over a year ago, Batwoman is seeking “Medusa”, responsible for the abduction of dozens of Gotham’s children.  After learning that Medusa isn’t an organization, but rather a person, most likely the snake haired gorgon herself, Batwoman seeks out Wonder Woman for aid.  This issue picks up on their team up and all around the story is incredibly well done.  Batwoman is as chill and confident as her male counterpart, but despite that fact her inner monologue is that of a wonderstruck child.  Similarly, Wonder Woman, unfamiliar with Batwoman, is enthralled by her steely demeanor and her ingenuity.  Delving into Greek mythology, I think this arc does a much better job than the current Wonder Woman series.  No offense, to Brian Azzarello.  Williams and Blackman are just that good.  Also Williams’ artwork is RIDICULOUS!  His pages are set up with nonlinear panels and artistic layouts.  I want to read #14 right now!

    J.H. Williams III’s Sprawling Labyrinth

  • Before Watchmen: Minutemen #4 is an issue about horror.  Though you could argue that the entire Minutemen title has been since its about the gilded lie that was the Golden Age of the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s.  However, this issue highlights and centers in on the horrors that each and every one of the Minutemen had to face.  The Silhouette was always a character who plunged into the darkness in defense of the innocent, namely children.  She had no illusions, possibly because of her sexual orientation, and especially considering the horrors she endured at the beginnings of Nazism in her native Austria.  Her sapphic nature was also the cause of a horror for all of her teammates, following her ghastly murder beside her longtime lover, Gretchen.  Horrors beget horrors, as those closest to her react to the injustice that they partially caused.  Even the Comedian, half a world away in the Pacific Theater rings in with his own horrors and twisted attempts at justice.  In every brushstroke and every letter put to paper, writer/artist Darwyn Cooke proves himself a maestro.  This series cuts deep to the soul, eliciting such macabre beauty and tender sorrow for anyone who possesses a human heart capable of feelings.  It just needs to be read to be believed.  Pure artistry.

    Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Scorned

  • Catwoman #13 is a prelude to “Death of the Family” in a very horrifyingly minimalistic way. After returning home from a heist, Catwoman is assailed by small mementos of her departed friend, Lola, which should have been destroyed in the firebombing of the latter’s apartment.  Just out of sight each time is a figure shrouded in shadow with a discernibly large smile.  Getting the impression that she is being watched, we, the readers, KNOW she is.  Further, she is engaged under the auspices of a routine robbery in a life or death game of chess. Literally. Marking the first issue of Catwoman in the present, writer Ann Nocenti knocks it out of the park.  Can’t wait to see where she takes the series, after how she bailed out the sinking ship that was Green Arrow.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #13 concludes the “Blight” arc, as well as Starfire’s return to her home planet, Tamaran, whose citizens had long ago forsaken her.  We see further her evolving reconciliation with her older sister, Komand’r, aka  Blackfire.  Also we see how she has won not only the loyalty of Jason and Roy, who follow her to another planet steeped in all out war, but also the loyalty of dozens of other “men and women” from several other worlds, including a Dominator named DePalo.  Dominators are almost exclusively an amoral, evil race.  That she would welcome one into her innermost circle and call him friend really speaks to the depth of her character.  I would also like to commend writer Scott Lobdell for writing a complex, yet endearing Dominator.  The issue marks what appears to be a giant  blow to what has been the status quo in a sector of space for generations.  Scott Lobdell is an incredible writer and gets a lot of help from Timothy Green II in the visual half of the narrative.  After this issue, Lobdell is bringing his new charge, Superman, into the fold of this series with a crossover that must coincide with his mention of the “Thirteen” in this series and his Superman Annual #1. And if that wasn’t enough, the last full page panel ties in the return of the Joker to the path of Jason Todd.

    OH NO!!!!

  • Legion of Super-Heroes #13 returns the title to the multistory paradigm that Levitz pioneered in this title thirty years ago.  In a mining asteroid chain, Cosmic Boy, Element Lad, and Chemical Kid track down the pirates that raid the mines, only to find trouble in the form of three very powerful denizens of Cosmic Boy’s homeworld, Braal, among the brigands.  Back on Earth, Brainiac 5 works on the conundrum of how and why Comet Queen turned on the team when the Legionnaires attempted to rescue him and Dream Girl from the Dominion homeworld.  And for a brief moment Levitz returns to the topic form several months ago of the Master Circuit that could recreate the villain Tharok of the Fatal Five.  It looks like for the next two issues at least, Scott Kolins will be on art duty.  His style has very rough edges and adds an urgency to the scripting.  Coupled with Levitz’s writing, the two halves come together in a very compelling whole.
  • Nightwing #13 ushers in the two issue arc of Lady Shiva’s advent to Gotham City, written by guest writer, Tom DeFalco.  She came to town before in Nightwing #0 last month when Dick first put on the Robin costume.  Now is their first rematch since that seminal confrontation.  In the meantime, Dick is still attempting to invigorate Gotham in his own way by renovating Amusement Alley with a permanent place for his circus and other carnival attractions to take root, sort of like Coney Island in New York.  And alongside him in an ambiguous role as financier is Sonia Branch (nee Zucco) who hardlines as a savvy businesswoman most of the time and a flirtatious femme fatale at other times.  Interesting.  With Sonia on one side and Lady Shiva on the other, Dick is going to have his hands FULL!
  • DC Universe Presents: Black Lightning and Blue Devil #13 introduces the characters Jefferson Pierce, aka Black Lightning, and Dan Cassidy, aka Blue Devil to the New DCU.  Pierce is a high school history teacher and Cassidy a movie stunt man.  Both moonlight as crimefighters, one with electrical abilities and the other with a magical suit that give them their powers, but as of yet aren’t explained.  Taking place in LA they fight against the kingpin of crime, Tobias Whale.  Marc Andreyko write this five issue arc with Robson Rocha on art.  Its an interesting first issue, but the jury is out on whether or not its substantial.
  • Blue Beetle #13 was really good. Writer Tony Bedard makes it good.  I am lukewarm on the premise and the character, and yet once again, I find myself genuinely wanting to see what happens next.  The Zero issue last month picked up with the character’s fate following Justice League International Annual #1 when OMAC sent him halfway across the known universe.  He was given a brief look at the past of his scarab, Khaji-Da, and its melding with a human host, Sky Witness, a Mayan chieftain, before eventually connecting with the present and his being in Reach Space, the Scarab’s backyard.  In the aftermath of this Jaime and his scarab, Khaji-Da, come across a resurrected, crazed Sky Witness and another scarab-elite, Khaji-Kai, who is willing to trade Jaime’s freedom for the secret to overcoming his scarab’s control.  With a connection to the events of Green Lantern: New Guardians #9-10, Bedard is pushing the limits of what it means to be a Blue Beetle and the capacities of the sentient mind to overcome enslavement.  That also ties into what he is contributing to in the “Rise of the Third Army” event in the Green Lantern books.  Good stuff.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #3 was interesting, but I am still not certain about where they are going with it, but I’ll hold out judgement until the end of the six issue run.
  • Supergirl #13 reunites Supergirl with the businessman who first imprisoned and experimented on her, Simon Tycho.  After he was nearly killed by the explosion of his space station, he is reconstructed on a cytoplasmic “exoskeleton”  and become as strong as Kara.  Finding his way to her own seeming “Fortress of Solitude” called Sanctuary, Tycho has found the sunstone memory devices that Kara’s father, Zor-El, had sent from Krypton with his daughter.  Using his new body’s nervous system he has not only uncovered the entire record of Kryptonian science, history, and culture, but the language itself.  That said, he was then able to learn their language and now able to actually speak and communicate with Kara.  He also reveals to her the stunning fact we learned at the end of last month’s Zero issue: her own mother, Alura, shot her father, Zor-El, who was attempting to send her to Earth to be safe.  From this story comes what I have always wanted from this title and begins the end of what put me off a bit by the first year of storytelling:  Kara Zor-El is becoming acclimated to Earth.  Kara as an outsider is not interesting.  Seeing her get comfortable on Earth, setting up meaningful friendships and relationships with the superheroes of our planet as well as regular people, and having a life like a regular person is imperative to her being the incredible character she was in the past.  Mike Johnson writes this one solo, but brings in Sami Basri on art which I am excited about.  Basri’s art on the title Voodoo was what made that series incredible and what drew me in.  His work on Supergirl is no different.
  • Wonder Woman #13 brings us back into the main narrative two months after the conclusion of issue #12, that had QUITE the surprise ending.  The main point of which was Hermes, the messenger god, whom had been one of Wonder Woman’s closest friends and confidantes in the protection of Zola from Hera, abducting Zola’s baby after birth and taking him to Demeter for who knows what purpose.  Hera was reduced to a mere mortal.  That picks up with Diana’s attempt to find Hermes, however, to do that she must find someone to fill the role Hermes had once fulfilled, vis-a-vis instantaneous transportation.  There is a demigod named Siracca, the wind, who has this ability but wishes to avoid Wonder Woman.  It is she whom Diana will have to win over if she wants to have any chance of keeping her promise to Zola and reunited mother and child.  What worries me the most started at the end of issue #12 and may or may not have continued on page one of this issue.  Orion of the New Gods definitely clawed his way out of the ice somewhere on Earth on the last page of Wonder Woman #12.  Wonder Woman #13 opens with a savage looking gentleman also emerging from ice in Antarctica and biting a man’s face off.  Writer Brian Azzarello better not have f***ed with the New Gods like Geoff Johns did in his opening arc of Justice League. That is all I am saying.  Also, welcome back to cycling series artist, Tony Akins, who takes his shift on the title after a tour by Cliff Chiang.
  • Sword of Sorcery #1 rounds out the background of Gem World in the Amethyst.  I thought that the house Amethyst was the ruling dynasty of the whole thing, but apparently there are other kingdoms, one of which is Citrine, and awenother is House Diamond.  As can be imagined, House Diamond is a major player.  The politics also unfolds as to how the houses interact and balance power.  Also, while I thought in the Zero Issue that the main character’s name is Amaya, not Amethyst.  Darn.  In the backup feature, Beowulf, the titular hero in a Norse style post-apocalyptic future makes his way to Danelaw at the behest of King Hrothgar to defeat Grendel.  Its interesting seeing how writer Tony Bedard adapts the Old English saga into a fresh context.  I look forward to seeing how both segments pan out next month in the title’s second (technically third) issue.

    The Kingdom of Diamond

  • American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #5 ends this incredible miniseries in Scott Snyder’s American Vampire-verse.  Dracula is being steamed towards his Black Sea palace where, should he mount his “second throne”, he will have complete control of every vampire on the planet.  Head Agent of the Vassals of the Morningstar Linden Hobbes and former agent, Felicia Book, have made an alliance with the “Firsts”, vampires whom represent the last of their individual species after Dracula annihilated their brethren.  It all comes down to this final confrontation to prevent a Vampiric Holocaust.  The result changes the whole tenor of the series and what we have come to expect from writer Scott Snyder.  Insane!

    Another American Vampire is Born

  • Saucer Country #8 takes the Alvarez campaign on the road and with each stop on the campaign trail Prof. Kidd and various members of the staff are going to suss out some connection to the abduction of the Governor and her ex-husband, Michael.  In the process more details emerge about the government’s connection and how the different groups that have emerged thus far relate to one another.  Over the past couple of issues the back stories of these groups, most recently the Bluebirds, have come to light, and now the world of Saucer Country is shrinking and these parties are being drawn closer to intersection.  Paul Cornell said that he began conceptualizing this series from his love of UFO mythology and his passion for the topic truly shines through in his exploration of it within.

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

Illustration Credits:

Green Lantern: New Guardians #13:  Art by Andrei Bressan & Amilcar Pinna, Colored by Nei Ruffino & Pete Pantazis

Batwoman #13: Art by J.H. Williams III, Colored by Dave Stewart

Before Watchmen: Minutemen #4:  Art by Darwyn Cooke, Colored by Phil Noto

Red Hood & the Outlaws #13: Art by Timothy Green II, Colored by Blond

Sword of Sorcery #1: Art by Aaron Lopresti, Colored by Hi-Fi

American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #5: Art by Dustin Nguyen, Colored by John Kalisz