Jan. 22, 2014

This week was a Batweek.  Even if the book wasn’t a Bat-title per se, Batman and his family of characters seemed to shine through.  This week also heralds the return of one of the most interesting, innovative series being put out: The Unwritten.  Altogether this week’s batch of comics (and make-up comic in the form of Superman/Wonder Woman #3) represent their respective titles well.

  • Batman #27 is one of the quintessential issues of this title in understanding the New 52 version of Batman.  Though he has been written by several talented writers in the rebooted continuity, Scott Snyder has been given the helm of the titular Batman title and made it the seminal series within the Batbooks group, often deferred to by the other titles in regard to canon.  This issue more than proves why so much faith is put in Snyder’s custodianship of the character.  So far Snyder’s “Zero Year” plot has taken Bruce Wayne from twenty-five year old journeyman to the opening cases of his career as Gotham City’s fabled vigilante.  Snyder’s Batman from the present had bucked tradition a little bit, but for the most part rode the company line.  This younger Bruce Wayne is much different from most versions we’ve seen thus far.  Snyder’s modern Batman as well as other versions have been terse and reserved with the character of Alfred, but “Year Zero” Batman is very cold with his manservant.  What’s more, he has a downright dislike for James Gordon that transcends his nocturnal identity and is rooted in his civilian life as Bruce Wayne.  In this issue Snyder gives both Gordon and Alfred their say, forcing Bruce to reevaluate each, but even more so, to reevaluate himself.  Snyder interprets Bruce’s war on crime as more than a personal vendetta against criminality, but also against Gotham City itself and the citizens who populate it, and finds an apt mouthpiece for this theory in the person of Alfred Pennyworth who has known Bruce his entire life.  It’s certainly a stark perspective, but one that fits the persona of Batman exceedingly well, further enriching the mystique of the character.  Commissioner Gordon’s part in the story depicts a very hopeless landscape that an honest Gotham cop walks in Pre-Batman Gotham, rectifying the misconceptions Bruce had distilled over a decade and a half of resentment.  Outside of the character driven plot points, this issue begins what appears to be the endgame of “Zero Year,” which began with the origin of the Joker and transitioned into Dr. Death’s killing spree with his horrific osteogenic serum.  Always in the background has been Edward Nygma, aka the Riddler.  Nygma had a line on the Red Hood gang, he was Bruce’s uncle’s right hand man at Wayne Enterprises, and he singlehandedly engineered the massive blackout that descended Gotham into anarchy around the advent of the tropical storm Rene.  The Riddler appears to be making his move from the shadows to the forefront of the “Zero Year” plot.  Encompassing some of the greatest storytelling in comics today, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman is a multifaceted, intelligent journey under the cowl that is destined to go down in the character’s history as one the THE enduring interpretations of the Dark Knight.Batman27-1

    Darkest Vengeance.

    Darkest Vengeance.

  • Batman & Two-Face #27 is shaping up well, giving great depth to the character of Two-Face.  Writer Peter Tomasi did a decent job illuminating inherent qualities of the binary badguy during Villains Month in his Two-Face one-shot, but in this arc of his Batman & Robin title he really mines the recesses of Harvey Dent’s past to show the moment when the former district attorney took the dive into madness.  So far we’ve seen the return of Irish mobster Erin McKillen to Gotham and the very special relationship she has with the fallen Gotham DA.  Once upon a time she put a letter opener through the heart of Harvey’s wife, Gilda, and then burned half his face off with acid.  Now considering the complex and nascently sinister nature of “Handsome” Harvey, as well as the very intimate nature of their associations, I assumed Harvey in some way did something to deserve what happened to him, such as perhaps sleeping with Erin’s identical twin, Shannon, who’s death we are told Erin blames on Harvey.  Nope.  Shannon died in prison after Harvey put her and Erin away for being scum.  He violated a few laws of ethics in doing so, but if we are going to look down on a lawyer for screwing psychopathic killers out of a few degrees of jurisprudence then reading a book about a man that dresses like a bat and brutalizes criminals without due process might not be the best choice. So did Shannon get killed on the inside by someone with a beef, thereby putting even a minute modicum of blame on Harvey?  Nope.  She drew straws with Erin as to who was going to commit suicide so the other could escape prison in the deceased’s bodybag.  So if Erin REALLY wants to take out the person responsible for her sister’s untimely death she should put the gun to her own head before seeking out Harvey.  This issue reveals more about Harvey’s past and the connection with the McKillen family and again, contrary to my expectations, Harvey comes out cleaner with every page read.  He was the personal attorney for the McKillens before his conscience and a little push by Bruce Wayne got him in the DA’s office where he made things right and muzzled two mad dogs.  This change of conscience coming when the sisters ordered a hit on Commission Gordon’s pre-teen CHILDREN!!!  Two-Face is an angry guy throughout most comics.  He is the guy that always rides the edge of straight-up loosing it and is second only to the Joker as someone you have to tip toe around when dealing with.  This arc by Tomasi is making ME angry and totally justifies Harvey Dent’s anger in my eyes.  Erin McKillen has so much innocent blood on her hands and so cavalierly is willing to murder children and innocent women like Gilda Dent and Commissioner Gordon’s wife that I DO NOT think this series would be any better if she survives the arc. If Peter Tomasi’s goal was to elicit solidarity and sympathy with Two-Face he has at least one definite success in myself.Batman&Robin27
  • Batwoman #27 is a series in major transition.  A lot of the controversy comes from the authoritative stance DC editorial has exerted on the writing of their properties, which caused a huge rift with original Batwoman writers J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, forcing the duo to leave the title.  Marc Andreyko was brought on board following their departure and the rationale behind this, for those with a conspiratorial mind,  is probably twofold.  I personally have never been impressed by his writing at all.  His Manhunter series was okay, but nothing to write home about.  His recent reintroduction of the short lived Stalker series from the 1970’s was criminally awful.  He’s got a lot to prove.  So far he’s written three issues of the series.  The jury remains out.  His “Zero Year” tie-in with the #25 issue was decent and confirmed what we already knew about Kate Kane’s desire to do good, but wasn’t very engaging or innovative.  It also preempted the resolution to the cliffhanger ending of Williams and Blackman’s final issue, which is frustrating to Batwoman‘s readers in and of itself.  Last issue Andreyko began a completely new arc with a villain called the Wolfspider, a brown costumed Spider-Man ripoff with a penchant for art thievery.  The dialogue and interaction between characters was flatter than day old beer and didn’t draw me in at all.  The action sequences were well-conceived, but perhaps only came off as such because of artist Jeremy Haun.  This issue I will say was much more engaging to read and felt like an issue of the previous run.  However, this is largely due to the fact that its story is predicated on Batwoman being drugged by Wolfspider and tripping for a large portion of the actual plot.  With that said, all Andreyko had to do was create a collage of traumatic moments from Kate’s past and fill in some word bubbles that due to the nightmarish nature of the dream don’t have to be particularly well written.  The brunt of those sequences were visual and THANKFULLY drawn by one of DC’s top tier artists: Francis Manapul.  Manapul’s art and co-writing are responsible for the incredible Flash series and in Batwoman his art makes the issue flow in much the same way J.H. Williams III’s art did in the initial issues of the series.  Upon awakening from her nightmare in the apartment of her fiancee, Det. Maggie Sawyer, she is greeted by a startling surprise.  The final panel sets the stage for an interesting 28th issue.  The lingering question outside of the plot is whether Andreyko is up to the task of writing the continuation?  Were he taking over any other title from any other writer(s) then his capabilities as a writer wouldn’t be under as much scrutiny.  But to his great misfortune he’s taking over Batwoman from two incredible creators and he may have flown too close to the sun.Batwoman27
  • Green Lantern: The New Guardians #27 reunites White Lantern Kyle Rayner with his former foe, Exeter, but this time as allies.  Exeter’s role as the “Watcher” was two-fold, standing watch over the “Anomoly” at the edge of the Universe and safeguarding his home star system.  With the defeat of Relic who emerged from the Anomoly, Exeter’s only task now is maintaining peace in his home sector.  However, in his absence Exeter’s people have turned genocidal against their peaceful fungal neighbors.  The rationale behind their unwarranted attacks and the culprit behind the elaborate ruse that precipitated them makes for an interesting plot situationally and philosophically.  Following “Lights Out” and the complete paradigm shift of the books I was beginning to grow tired of the Green Lantern group of books, which truly is a sad commentary considering how insanely I followed them for years.  I even contemplated dropping this particular series.  However, what this issue of New Guardians as well as others through the Lantern books have done is reestablish the universal scope of the Green Lantern line.  Back in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s that was what the Green Lantern books were all about.  With the return of the Green Lantern title in 2005 under Geoff Johns the scope became refined to simply the different colored Lantern Corps.  Perhaps one of the best runs in comic history, but a concept that eventually ran its course.  The re-institution of a wide panoply of allies and adversaries by Robert Venditti, Van Jensen, and Justin Jordan is a promising return to some of the greatness of the earlier series done by Len Wein and Steve Englehart. The artwork in this issue was also encouraging, because while regular series artist Brad Walker is a talented penciller, #27’s artist and chronic New Guardians relief artist Andrei Bressan provides gorgeous work that hits on several levels for me personally.  I have reconsidered my hastiness in dropping these books and I would urge those that have dropped them or thought about it to also reconsider leaving the Corps.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #27 is an issue that has been in the making since the beginning of the series two and a half years ago.  Original writer Scott Lobdell began Jason’s odyssey by having Talia al-Ghul arrange for him to be trained by Ducra, head of the All-Caste, to battle the Untitled.  The All-Caste represents the forces of light and the Untitled the forces of darkness.  Sadly, Lobdell who made this one of the best DC series right out of the starting gate left the title months before this issue, leaving it to emerging talent James Tynion IV.  Tynion is a decent writer and whether or not the course of the title had been plotted by Lobdell prior to his departure or whether Tynion spun his own path to resolving the All-Caste/Untitled war is not known.  However, the conclusion to these plotpoints was expertly drafted by Tynion and rendered spectacularly by artist Julius Gopez.  The series as a whole has worked so well owing to its predication on the complexity of the character of Jason Todd, former Robin and one of the most controversial DC characters.  Stripped of his petulant youth and brought back from the dead, Jason has become a very mysterious, haunted individual that gives Batman a run for his money.  To defeat the Untitled and survive requires the purest of souls, making him an unlikely but not impossible choice for the task.  Whether Lobdell planned out the past several issues that Tynion has written or whether Tynion rocked it out on his own, his run on the series concludes with next month’s 28th issue.  Following that Red Hood and the Outlaws yet again enters uncharted territory under the helm of Will Pfeifer and artist Rafa Sandaval.  Even if it tanks, the first 30 issues have been outstanding.  RHATO27
  • Wonder Woman #27 is a book that I find myself torn over.  Brian Azzarello is a fantastic writer.  Cliff Chiang, who drew this issue, as well as Dave Akins and Goran Sudzuka are top notch talents.  The plot is interesting and it is innovative.  And yet I find myself laboring to reconcile its rendition of the Might Amazon with those that came before it and the legacy of what Wonder Woman should embody.  It makes her the daughter of Zeus, thrusting her further into the world of ancient Greek mythology, but at the cost of her connection and immersion in the DCU.  It give license for her awesome power, but cuts off her mortality and the struggle to achieve her strength and prowess that could empower her readership.  *Ahem* —That same fact is why Batman will ALWAYS be superior to Superman– *Ahem*  Not to mention Azzarello’s questionable choice of turning the Amazons into craven, infanticidal rapists.  And anyone who messes with Jack Kirby gains a large helping of Algerian ire.  His version of classic Kirby character Orion is downright awful, not to mention High Father and the New Gods.  Hang your head in shame, Mr. Azzarello.  Ya done bad.  In this issue very little is accomplished by Azzarello, but to be fair a decent amount is set up.  Wonder Woman turns a former foe into an ally by picking a fight with Artemis, a fight she throws to butter up her half-sister, the Moon.  Dio takes Zola to the south of France and turns a bunch of horny teenagers into pigs.  And Cassandra seeks out a weak god to open the gates of Olympus for her.  In that last development, Azzarello continues to show how strange his interpretation of Greek myth is by having Cassandra lead out on a leash her Minotaur who is basically a dude in a ox-masked gimp costume.  Always classy, Azzarello.  Perhaps the saving grace of this issue, falls once again on something I appreciated last week in my return to Superman/Wonder Woman #2.  In Wonder Woman Apollo has been mercilessly torturing his eldest brother, the First Born, in order to break him and stop him from seeking that which he always sought: the thrown of Olympus.  Though the First Born has always sought it, even when Zeus was sitting upon it, Apollo sees it as his right and would do horrific things to his brother to keep it.  All fine and good.  But the braggart took too much pleasure in it and “pride cometh before the fall,” as the saying goes.  The First Born breaks out of his bonds and looks to beat the tar out of his baby brother.  Good on ya, my friend!  So pompous and overconfident is Azzarello’s Apollo that he can never get the crap kicked out of him enough times to still that wagging tongue of his.  The First Born is not like Superman who has restraint.  This time I think Apollo may have stepped in it, but good.  If Azzarello lingers on what the First Born does to Apollo and puts the Sun where he won’t shine (figuratively and metaphorically) I will sway my opinion of this series in a more favorable light.  Until then I pray this run reaches its conclusion and Wonder Woman trades hands to a more traditionalist writer.  WonderWoman27-1

    Instant Karma's Gonna Getcha.

    Instant Karma’s Gonna Getcha.

  • The Unwritten: Apocalypse #1 is the beginning of the end for the Unwritten series, but also a really conversational, well paced reintroduction to what the series is essentially about.  When last we saw Tom Taylor he was magically drawn into the world of Fable by the strongest magi of that world to defeat the megalomaniacal boogeyman,  Mr. Dark.  All attempts to stop him, even by Tom and his youthful, allegorical iteration, Tommy, are thwarted by Dark leaving Tom with one last ditch option: blow the trumpet that made all things to unmake everything.  System reboot. Start over from scratch.  Normally that kind of “if I can’t win, no one can” tactic is used by the more villainous irk, so the utilization of it by Tom was an interesting choice by series creators Mike Carey and Peter Gross, leaving the realm of possibilities wide open for their next arc.  Right off the bat Carey and Gross show the importance of words and their perception vs their reality.  As ever the course of the story is steeped in literary allusion and the scientific “mythology” of evolution, which serves as an allegory for the evolution of stories from simple concepts to increasingly complex plots.  It’s always a safe bet that Mike Carey and Peter Gross will entertain, educate, and enchant with their collaborations.  As the title denotes, this is the duo’s swansong on this series.  The Unwritten is in its “end of times” and the stories we see from here on out will determine the fate of Tom, his companions, and every incredible Carey/Gross creation since its first issue almost five years ago.
  • Superman/Wonder Woman #3 remains one of the best DC comics being published and only on its third issue.  After the conflict with her family, Superman and Wonder Woman part ways again on awkward terms.  Supes feeling awkward about his loss of control after being overloaded with power from Apollo’s ill-conceived assault on him with concentrated sunbeams and Wonder Woman struggling to understand Christmas and what to get Superman considering his love of the holiday.  These concerns are put aside with the advent of General Zod to Earth from the Phantom Zone.  Zod tears it up and is initially met by the (at that time unannounced) Justice League of America headed by Steve Trevor.  When Superman and Wonder Woman arrive there is a great amount of tension considering that Trevor is Diana’s ex, but more so because Superman demands custody of Zod considering his status as a Kryptonian.  Though they aren’t nations, this is very much like an international standoff of Cold War proportions.  The JLA was formed to counter the unchecked might of the Justice League and Superman taking charge of an even more volatile member of his race could be construed by a weary mind as the beginnings of an invasion.  However, Steve Trevor is equally verse in politics as he is in modern warfare, so he lets it go for the time being.  The issue ends with Wonder Woman unveiling her gift for the Man of Steel which is incredibly thoughtful and something that money could never buy.  Yet again, writer Charles Soule has a bombshell to drop by issue’s end.  Overall, this third installment of Superman/Wonder Woman is nothing short of enthralling, providing entertaining plots as well as intimate insight into what it’s like to be Superman and Wonder Woman.  The lattermost point is more true in this title than Wonder Woman’s own book by Brian Azzarello in which the Amazing Amazon is just an incidental character in a bizarre modern retelling of Greek mythology.  If you are a Wonder Woman fan Superman/Wonder Woman is the title you want to get.  However, Charles Soule doesn’t stop there.  He also mines the character of those around the Super-Couple as well.  In this issue Batman talks Superman down from the Moon (literally) when the latter is hiding because of his power overload.  Through the discourse Batman gives a lot of information about the intrinsic natures of both Superman and Wonder Woman, the dangers of each, the world’s possible perception of their relationship, and his own impressions of his teammates.  He tells us all this about them, but in doing so Batman also tells us a lot about himself.  There is not enough that can be said about how incredible this series is.  From a writer’s perspective Charles Soule has the concept of the title orchestrated like a symphony.  In the realm of art Tony Daniel is producing some of his best work to date.  This is a comic for anyone who likes DC characters, but may not like DC Comics at the present time.
    What Are Friends For?

    What Are Friends For?

     

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #27: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored FCO Plascencia, Inked by Danny Miki.

Batman & Two-Face #27: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray.

Batwoman #27: Art & Colored by Francis Manapul.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #27: Drawn by Julius Gopez & Noel Rodriguez, Colored Nei Ruffino, Inked by Sandu Florea, Walden Wong & Dan Green.

Wonder Woman #27: Art by Cliff Chiang, Colored by Matthew Wilson.

Superman/Wonder Woman #3: Drawn by Tony Daniel, Colored Tomeu Morey, Inked by Batt.

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Oct. 23, 2013

This week brings to a close the regular scheduled comics of October and presents some very incredible issues, not least of which being two Forever Evil tie-ins in Justice League and Justice League Dark, and the penultimate installment of the “Lights Out” plot in the Green Lantern books before next week’s Green Lantern Annual #2.  A lot of really great storytelling happening.

  • Justice League #24 is very much an Ultraman issue.  With last week’s issue of Justice League of America we were clued into the basic situation the Justice League and Justice League of America are facing in their enigmatic prison.  So Justice League takes us to the other side of the equation, cluing us into who the new kids in town are and what makes them tick.  As stated above, Ultraman takes center stage in this issue, dictating his life and the formative events that have molded him into the person that stepped through Pandora’s gate from the desiccated Earth-3 to our Earth-1.  In his universe Krypton was destroyed and just before that his parents slaughtered their way to the escape pods, killing everyone so that their son could be the sole survivor and have no competition in his conquest of that universe’s Earth.  Everything is twisted about the world of Earth-3.  The benevolent scientist Jor-El is replaced by a twisted lunatic named Jor-Il, who sends his son away with ultimatums and recordings telling little Kal-Il how worthless he is and that he has to be strong and destroy anything weak.  When he arrives on Earth he is found by the abusive drunk Jonathan Kent and his equally abrasive wife, Martha.  The infant Kal emerges from his rocket and disturbingly tells them in full sentences that they will serve as his parents, shortly after he cuts Jonathan’s hand off with his heat-vision.  Cut to the present where the last son of Krypton-3 goes to the Daily Planet of to see how the counterparts to his Earth-1 self measure up.  First on the docket: his pal Jimmy Olsen.  Considering the polar opposites that Earth-3 predicates from our world’s characters, the Jimmy Olsen of Ultraman’s reality proves to be a very depraved person.  So depraved the he is able to take advantage of Lois Lane, aka Superwoman, and still be left alive, untouched by her and her husband, Ultraman.  Cut next to the end of the issue with the inevitable entrance of Black Adam following the events of his Villains Month issue of Justice League of America. The fight between these titans is then tantalizingly put off for two weeks until Forever Evil #3.  After that solicitations put Owlman as the subject of Justice League #25, promising the debut of even more of his past.  Considering that Ultraman narrates this current issue and the Outsider (Earth-3 Alfred Pennyworth) narrated Justice League #23.4: The Secret Society, it can be assumed that Justice League #25 will be written from Thomas Wayne’s (Owlman) perspective, giving greater insight into the incongruities of Owlman’s actions throughout the Forever Evil books.  Geoff Johns really digs into the inherent psychopathy and malice that is at the heart of the CSA and Earth-3 as a world.  In the past they have always been depicted as very menacing, cavalier baddies that are bad because they are bad.  Here Johns really mines the philosophical beliefs that fuel their deeply malicious drives in ways that are both logical in a very cold way and scientific in their adherence to very strict interpretations of Darwinism.  Ivan Reis, Johns’ many times collaborator on Blackest Night, Brightest Day, and Aquaman, provides stellar artwork to bring to life the very stark, steely life of Ultraman.
  • Justice League Dark #24 kicks off the series’ under the shadow of Forever Evil and the pen of new writer J.M. Dematteis with art still by original series artist Mikel Janin.  The issue picks up as John Constantine awakens from the events of Trinity War, most notably Justice League #23 in which the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 entered into our world.  He wakes up in the House of Mystery with patchy memories of what happened upon the CSA’s advent into our reality.  When he walks through the house, attempting to get his bearings it transports him across the world, showing him various situations around the world with shadowy creatures lurking around events of negative human emotion.  Most of these events aren’t super malicious or overtly terrible, but as Constantine witnesses them he sees how evil feeds and breeds off of small sins committed absent-mindedly every day, and through this culmination of thoughtlessness and callous actions evil snowballs and coalesces into something greater, like a perpetual motion machine feeding off its own momentum.  At the tail end of this revelation he sees these sins rise up from the collected sins of humanity in the form of a giant serpentine dragon, like a blight on humanity, towering over our world.  Matteis is definitely skewing toward the biblical in his choice of imagery and it is quite apt.  The most poignant thought Constantine strings together from his observations is, “It’s so convenient to blame it all on some sneering, arrogant Satan, sitting on a fiery throne, plotting to corrupt our souls.  But if there is a Devil he’s just another projection of our own sins.”  Pretty astute, considering what a callous jerk Constantine has always been.  When the House returns him from his “vision quest” he is confronted by a version of the Justice League Dark who call him out for his own sins and selfishness.  Zatanna does reveal that he isn’t actually talking to them, nor is he awake, but rather still reeling from the fallout of what happened when he witnessed the second opening of Pandora’s Box.  She reaches into his chest and pulls out a handful of black goo, which allows him to wake up, for real this time, in the House of Mystery.  “Zatanna” is revealed to be the Nightmare Nurse, seen first and last in Phantom Stranger #8-9.  She helps Constantine come to terms with what happened and to ready himself for what is going to happen. To do this she grows a Swamp Thing to aid them since Constantine burned bridges with Alec Holland in the pages of Swamp Thing #22-23. Whereas Justice League of America seems to be about the fate of the Justice Leagues and Justice League appears to be a mouthpiece for the Crime Syndicate, Justice League Dark seems to be a philosophical look at evil itself.  Whether that holds up as Forever Evil continues, or whether there will be a major paradigm shift coming later, remains to be seen, but Matteis has taken hold of this title and made it his own.  Considering the subject material and the tone, this Justice League Dark is ideally suited to Matteis’ style.  It is very similar to his work on the 90’s Doctor Fate series and his current run on Phantom Stranger, giving him lots of room for the dark, twisted, and bizarre.  Mikel Janin remains on the title, retaining a certain degree of continuity over the three writers the series has seen.  Not always the best title, Justice League Dark finds a place among the best as Forever Evil marches onward.

    A Great Blight Upon Humanity . . .

    A Great Blight Upon Humanity . . .

  • Red Lanterns #24 returns to the planet Ysmault following Bleez’s discovery that Guy Gardner is a Green Lantern embedded with the Red Lanterns as a spy. The conversation she witnesses Guy concluding is basically Hal Jordan reneging on the deal that he and Guy made, essentially stranding him in hostile territory and throwing him to the wolves. Thus, Guy finds himself in a situation where he has had enough and washes his hands of Hal and the Green Lanterns forever. So of course Bleez’s reaction is threatening to out him to their fellow Red Lanterns and having him killed. Bleez is a very confident, strong woman and peerless among many of her brethren in blood. It’s one of the things that has captivated my imagination when reading anything that she is involved in.  So going into this she is rather cocky and lays her cards on the table.  But Guy Gardner isn’t new to this game. Guy is a sonuvabitch that doesn’t play by the rules if those rules put him at a disadvantage and ornery-as-all-get-out, he is someone that won’t be pinned to the mat. He immediately throws Bleez’s plan on its head and creates a reverse scenario that puts here in the crosshairs.  She would out him as a spy, but if he said she was a spy, considering her time with Kyle Rayner and the “New Guardians,” it would be a literal case of he-said/she-said.  So politically he has her at an impasse.  As a Lantern, Bleez was never in a position to take Atrocitus (creator and Chief Lantern of the Red Lantern Corps) down in a fight, but Guy DID two issues ago.  So muscle-wise he has the edge.  This culls Bleez’s bravado and makes her docile as a house cat. I’m not sure I am ok with that, but if it is a momentary thing that facilitates Guy’s assertion of the “throne,” I can handle it.  But Bleez CANNOT be cowed like that again. It’s a disrespect to the heart of the character. Guy follows up his defeat of Bleez by escorting her to a meeting of the Red Lanterns and telling them exactly what Bleez was going to tell them: he was sent in as a spy for the Green Lanterns and he has changed his position and wants to lead them. However, Hal chooses that awful moment to show up with the Green Lanterns. Even worse, he still thinks that he can command Guy, stoking the rage within the former Green Lantern following Hal’s betrayal of their deal. Hal tries to placate him and explain the Relic situation, but Guy is seeing red and not listening. Par for the course. When he does calm Guy, Hal explains that the Red Lanterns are the only corps that can stop Relic because their power isn’t strictly light based, but also rooted partially in blood magic which the ancient being can’t fend off with his science. So Guy and Hal broker a deal where in exchange for their help, the Reds get their own space sector where the Green Lanterns will not encroach  Kind of like the deal the Guardians made with Larfleeze. All is agreed and they move forward. Elsewhere Atrocitus and his faithful companion, Dex-Starr the cat, have contained the Red entity the Butcher, morphing Atrocitus into a being called the Atrocity Butcher, giving him horns and bull legs. He kind of looks like Satan in this form.  Carrying on from Green Lantern: New Guardians, Kyle the White Lantern comes and takes the Butcher with the other entities, robbing Atrocitus of his power. Charles Soule is seeding a very different book from the one that began two years ago under the pen of Peter Milligan. To me this is both good and bad. Without Milligan on the book, it would be bad for another writer to try to keep pace with his amazing concepts, but at the same time he set up some very interesting ideas that I would have loved to see actualized. Charles Soule, assuming he doesn’t completely clip Bleez’s “wings,” has the capacity to write an amazing series with great strength and gravitas.  Alessandro Vitti’s art is head and shoulders above the previous work on the series by Miguel Sepulveda, but doesn’t quite match up to original series artist Ed Benes or later artist Will Conrad. However, his lines do emote menace and anger which is 80% of the job.  With these two men on the job, I am optimistic about the future of this book.

    Don't Mess With Guy Gardner.

    Don’t Mess With Guy Gardner.

  • Superman #24 brings about the third and final chapter of the “Psi-War” storyline, picking up from Action Comics #24 two weeks ago.  The H.I.V.E. Queen had been attempting to enslave the world with her collection of human telepaths in preparation for the return of Brainiac.  In this endeavor she came into direct conflict with Hector Hammond, the giant headed Green Lantern villain, who also sought to rule humanity psychically. Both are sucker punched by the Psycho Pirate, a member of the enigmatic “Twenty” that Brainiac created before leaving Earth.  Psycho Pirate was one of the Queen’s prized slaves until he broke his chains and escaped her clutches.  In Action Comics #24 he showed Superman the “Swarm” and told of his intentions to release them and his need of a massive psychic power source to do it.  That source is Superman and instead of asking, he decides to take what he needs by force. His mask, called the Medusa Mask, augments his natural psychic abilities while also partitioning his mind from the intrusion of other telepaths.  It also, true to its name, has golden vipers made of psionic energy that the Psycho Pirate uses to inject a telepathic “venom” into the Man of Steel that warps his perceptions and makes him relive altered versions of hallmark moments in his life.  The trauma these events elicit within his psyche feeds the Pirate the energies he requires.  Lois Lane shows up in a blue, supercharged form and fends off the Psycho Pirate.  Afterward she, Superman, Hector Hammond, and the revived Queen strike a deal to take down the Pirate.  Though they don’t want to, if they don’t work together Metropolitans will rip each other limb from limb and the city will descend into anarchy to further facilitate Psycho Pirate’s goals.  The four work beautifully in concert, allowing Supes to rip the mask off of Psycho Pirate.  We don’t really see what happens to him after that.  The man under the mask disappears and the mask itself attempts to bond with Superman and claim him mind, but Lois again comes to his aid and guides him telepathically to fighting its thrall.  The mask is then destroyed, but at the cost of Lois’s life.  Or so it seems. She actually goes back into a coma after Superman gets her to a hospital.  However, before she succumbs to the fatigue from expending that much energy from her overtaxed mind, she picks up from Superman’s mind that he is in fact Clark Kent.  The question remains as to whether she will remember this when she wakes up or will she think it was all a dream?  Logic would dictate the latter as the most probably event.  It doesn’t make sense that DC would blow his identity two years into the game.  With the defeat of the Psycho Pirate and the weakening of both the H.I.V.E. Queen and Hector Hammond, the Psi-War is officially over. With this door closing the issue ends with Superman being pulled off planet, setting up the coming “Krypton Returns” plotline that I have been eagerly anticipating since September 2o12 with the release of Superman #0 and Supergirl #0.  Mike Johnson once again takes this one home the help of artist Eddy Burrows, whose work on Teen Titans and Nightwing invigorated both titles.

    The Greatest Story She'll Never Tell.

    The Greatest Story She’ll Never Tell.

  • Flash #24 concludes the “Reverse Flash” arc.  The Flash was one of those rare series that wasn’t affected by Villains Month.  While Flash #23 ended with the revelation that Daniel West, brother of Iris West, was the Reverse Flash, Villains Month gave him his own issue which revealed how he got his powers, what his childhood was like with an abusive father, and how the desire for a better relationship with his sister has motivated him his entire life.  The trauma of their childhood under their dad’s tyranny created a divide between them and Daniel desperately wants that closeness back.  This led him to a life of crime, trying to find the quick way to make his sister’s life easier and his own.  It only made things harder though, sending him to prison and taxing his relationship with Iris even further.  After getting out of prison he immediately found himself in the middle of the Gorilla Invasion of the Gem Cities and pulled into the Mirror World where the Rogues were giving citizens refuge . . . while also robbing them, making them pay for the privilege.  Dr. Elias’ Speed Force monorail engine, powered by
    The Wrath of Reverse Flash.

    The Wrath of Reverse Flash.

    the Speed Force energy he had siphoned off of Flash, was also in the Mirror World and exploded, fusing onto Daniel’s body and giving him his Speed Force powers.  After killing other people who were in the Speed Force and taking their energies he gets the ability to travel back far enough in time to kill his father, engineering the childhood he always wanted and “ensuring” the relationship he always wanted with his sister.  Little did he know that the younger versions of himself and sister would be present when he does the deed.  Flash goes back and reasons with Daniel that the trauma he inflicts on the kids is far worse than the continued trauma of their father’s abuses. So he once again is only making things worse for himself, not better.  Barry also enumerates that all the energy coming off himself while he moves through the Speed Force is what actually moves time forward, so the fact that Daniel is the exact opposite of Flash, this is how he is able to travel backward.  While Daniel is distracted he is able to siphon his Speed Force energiesFlash24-2 back and move both back into the present.  Iris is then able to complete the job Barry started by guilting Daniel into submission and he is returned to prison, although completely unrepentant about what he did.  Iris on the other hand tells him that despite how horrific their childhood was it made them both strong and she wouldn’t change the past for anything.  It made her the woman she is.  After concluding this catastrophic time-altering nightmare, Barry is able to make it to Patty Spivot’s parent’s 40th wedding anniversary, meets her dad, and get the last dance with her.  On that note I must once again assert my absolute love of Patty Spivot.  She is an amazing character and I am glad that Buccellato and Manapul put her and Barry together in their run on this series.  After this tender moment, Flash meets Dr. Elias (the two-faced scientist that turned the city against him, stole his Speed Force energies, and tried to kill him a few times) and basically tells him that he created the Reverse Flash, imperiled Iris, and admits that if Iris had been killed Flash would have killed him.  With the ultimatum issued to stay out of Flash’s way, the consequences are left ominously open-ended.  The issue’s conclusion functions as a denouement of the entirety of what Flash as a character IS.  Barry had a really awful childhood, coming home at a young age to find his mother murdered and his father accused of the crime, which Barry has spent the last twenty years trying to disprove forensically, and Lord knows Flash would love nothing more than to go back and prevent it from happening or even witness the crime to discover the killer’s identity and exonerate his dad, but that isn’t who he is.  Probably a nod to Flashpoint, which started this reboot and also created a nightmare world of evil superheroes.  It is an examination of his moral compass and the realization that you can’t go back.  He can only go forward, which is a pretty optimistic perspective for himself and his readers.  You can’t change your past and even if you could you shouldn’t.  If you lived through something terrible it only shows your resilience and gives you strength to take in your forward facing journey.  Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul really get this character and the world he lives in.  There is so much heart and philosophical brilliance put into the scripting and rendering of each and every panel.  Their storytelling is peerless as is their combined artistic prowess.  This is a one of THE titles to get, encapsulating everything that is GOOD in the comic medium.

    Strength Out Of Weakness.

    Strength Out Of Weakness.

  • Aquaman #24 is the penultimate chapter of the “Dead King” arc, telling a chilling tale of the first King of Atlantis.  It began when a dead king came back to life from the ice of the southern polar ice cap, with the power to control water, as most Atlanteans do, but with the added ability to freeze water, which often is a means of heralding his advent.  He tells Aquaman that he is not the king of Atlantis nor was the throne ever rightfully his, causing some distress for Aquaman, who really sits upon it by necessity, not choice.  In this issue Aquaman wakes up after having passed out from using his telepathic ability to get the aquatic leviathan named Topos (a giant crustacean cephalopod) to attack the villain called the Scavenger from bombing Atlantis with his submarine fleet, thereby saving his subjects lives.  Six months have passed and he is being cared for by Vulko, his former Atlantean adviser who initiated the war between Atlantis and the surface world.  Obviously he is greatly perturbed by this man’s presence, but Vulko takes him to the Dead King’s throne room in Antarctica and shows him the history of the dead monarch.  King Atlan founded Atlantis with utopian dreams of uniting the world, leading many zealots among his court to rise up against him for the affront to their racial superiority.  Headed up by Atlan’s younger brother Orin they attempted to kill Atlan, forcing him into exile and prompting him to forge the six artifacts of Atlantis, seen in the “Others” arc of Aquaman several months ago.  When Atlan returned he found his wife and children were murdered to solidify Orin’s rule.  So the Dead King killed Orin, killed his Queen, and then sunk the continent beneath the sea with the scepter he had forged, killing 90% of the population.  The 10% that survived became the modern Atlantean people.  There were seven nations united under the Atlantean banner who were the scions of the seven seas. Four nations were wiped out and three survived, one of which was the Trench, the fish-like people seen in the first arc of this title.  The other two most likely were the proper Atlanteans and the Xebel, who now live in exile.  That second part is an assumption from context clues.  The issue ends with Arthur realizing that he isn’t the rightful king and Atlan is.  Atlan doesn’t have descendants, and Arthur is the descendant of Orin, a regicidal, fratricidal, racist lunatic.  That’s a tough pill to swallow.  Geoff Johns is a good writer, albeit one that has kind of gone crazy with power, lording over the Reboot willy-nilly.  However, in this final arc he is doing a very decent job writing a compelling story that honors the character and the facets of his character that have buoyed him above the mockery that surrounds the concept of Aquaman with most non-comic fans and a large number of actual comic fans.  This issue is a prime example of “Johns done right.”
  • Larfleeze #4 features the opening salvos of the “Revolt of the Orange Lanterns.”  The series’ protagonist, Larfleeze, is the sole wielder of the Orange Light of Greed making him the only tangible Orange Lantern.  The illusion of there being an Orange Lantern Corps comes from his theft of the life-force of beings he desires to serve him.  They are then recreated as Orange Light constructs and dispatched to do their master’s will.  After last issue, his Corpsmen are not only free of his control, but also returned to corporal life.  With their bodies and self-determination restored they turn on Larfleeze and seek revenge for their murder and subsequent enslavement.  What this issue does that is interesting is fully introduce members of the Orange Lantern Corps and give them personalities.  Conceptually, the members of the Corps always depicted in the background were given names and back stories, but never contextually within the Green Lantern titles.  Glomulus, Larfleeze’s cute little toadie, is the only Orange Lantern besides Larfleeze himself to be depicted with any sort of personality.  In this issue we meet Clypta (a faceless twi’lek-looking woman), Wrap (a cycloptic mummy), Sound Dancer (a fanged, green-skinned swamp monster with long stringy hair obscuring her eyes), Nat-Nat (a lamprey millipede), Tammal-Tayn (a squid-faced, furry arachnid), and a centaur-like character that has as of yet not been named. The depiction of Glomulus, I feel was very off, and falls short of the incredible way he was depicted in the “Ring Thief” arc of Green Lantern: New Guardians.  Tony Bedard hit on something really wonderful, now squandered by writers J.M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen.  Larfleeze is an obstinate, ornery psychotic, but even he cannot stave off that kind of assault.  Elsewhere in the universe, Larfleeze’s once butler, Stargrave, is escorted by his new mistress, the Wanderer, to the home of her sister, Dyrge, who is just as cheerful as her name implies.  Giffen and DeMatteis write an extremely comical and quick-witted cosmic farce (though sometimes misguided) that both explores the Green Lantern universe and lampoons it.  Scott Kolins’ art enlivens the script with sharp lines and action pack panels.  This is certainly a comic to read on a rainy day when you are down in the dumps.

    Beware the Orange Lanterns' Might . . .

    Beware the Orange Lanterns’ Might . . .

  • Talon #12 returns after the Villains Month hiatus with an insane amount of plot points converging in a perfect storm of chaos for Calvin Rose and allies.  Previously, Calvin had chased exiled Court of Owls grandmaster, Sebastian Clark, to Santa Prisca where the disgraced leader tried to use Bane and his mercenary army to crush the Court.  Bane, however, is not a force that can be controlled and though he sets out for Gotham with a massive strike force of highly trained mercenaries to destroy Gotham he does so with no intention of following someone else’s script.  Back in Gotham, Calvin’s lover Casey Washington and her daughter Sarah were captured by the Court.  Sarah was taken to a facility where she would be subliminally conditioned to be a weapon and Casey given to the 19th century Talon infamously known as the “Gotham Butcher.”  Casey escaped his sadism, finding her way back to Calvin, minus an arm and an eye.  This issue follows the Butcher breaking from Court control after the loss of their trump card against Calvin.  The Butcher gained his name in the 1860’s by slaughtering hundreds of Gothamites in very bloody and public ways, forcing the Court to retire him to protect their anonymity. The modern Court awoke him with the delusion that he could be tamed with science and high-tech restraints.  Where there’s a will there’s a way and the Butcher CANNOT be silenced or leashed, unleashing a whole new level of horror on Gotham, as if Bane and his commandos weren’t enough.  Writer James Tynion reinforces the connection of this series to the initial arc of Batman, which he cowrote, that first introduced the Court of Owls.  After his premature birth, Thomas Wayne Jr. (little brother of Bruce) was supposedly taken to the Carpenter House for Boys, which had been a haunted place since the fire of 1862.  The Butcher started that fire and also set into motion the steady decline of Gotham.  Bane, Clark, the Butcher, and the corner Court.  The stakes are high going into the final issue of Tynion’s run with “lucky” issue #13.
  • Teen Titans #24 is an unseated trip through time and space.  After being flung into the time-stream by Johnny Quick in Forever Evil #2 the Teen Titans are separated and tossed to the temporal trade winds.  When writer Scott Lobdell began writing this series two years ago, he had the Mexican meta-teen Bunker (aka Miguel Jose Barragon) meet Red Robin on a freight train, saying Red Robin had told him to meet him there.  Tim Drake (Red Robin) had no recollection of that ever happening.  Thanks to Johnny Quick and the roller-coaster ride he threw the team into that conversation is actualized.  Meanwhile, Wonder Girl (aka Cassie Sandsmark) and Superboy find themselves in ancient Egypt fending off an invasion of solar intruders called the Sunturnians, last seen in Lobdell’s Superman #19.  Solstice (aka Kiran Singh) and Kid Flash (aka Bart Allen) are sent into the 25th century, Bart’s native time, to witness the events that made Bart into a heinous criminal, unbeknownst to his amnesic mind.  Raven is sent to the medieval era and set against the Demon, Etrigan.  As these moments in time unfold before their eyes, connections are made and slowly the team find one another through the vast reaches of the ages and anchor themselves until Red Robin can find a way to extricate themselves.  However, there are forces within the team that are set to tear them apart.  Scott Lobdell has been one of the keystone pillars on this title.  His out-of-the-box plotting and edgy storytelling has led to some of the most incredible, engaging Teen Titans storylines since the days of Wolfman and Perez and their New Teen Titans series in the 80’s.  Providing guest art is Angel Unzueta, mimicking well the style of regular series Eddy Barrows.  This was really a great issue that carries on the overarching plot of Forever Evil while tantalizing the reader with plot reveals that have been in the works for months, if not years, including the identity of Bart Allen and the horrific acts he perpetrated in the future.  The traitor in the midst of the Titans.  Lobdell maintains this series’ must-read status.

    The Origin of Kid Flash.

    The Origin of Kid Flash.

  • The Unwritten #54 concludes the massive Fables/Unwritten crossover in an epic manner.  Mister Dark has the war with the Fables all but won.  Truly, every single modicum of resistance the defenders of Fabletown offer turn to dust before him.  What Frau Totenkinder knew and shows the reintegrated Tom Taylor is the nature of the world in which they exist and its relation to the power of the written word.  That has been the guiding principle of the entire series and, apropos the conclusion of this crossover event, harkens back to the very first pages of The Unwritten, almost five years ago.  The issue hits its ending hard leaving a cliffhanger whose ramifications resound through an infinity of possibilities.  Nearly all the Fables are dead and those that aren’t by issue’s end are close to it.  Mister Dark is an unstoppable force.  Only the undoing of everything can stop him in his tracks.  But once reality is undone can it be redone?  Will the world be made right again or completely restarted?  Through the imagery of the horn used in the opening pages of The Unwritten in the Harry Potter-esque “Tommy Taylor” books, cowriters Mike Carey and Peter Gross prove that they have been working towards this moment and the answers to come for nigh on half a decade.  THIS is a moment in Unwritten history that is both exciting and terrifying for the series’ faithful.  And what’s worse, it is put on a three-month hiatus forestalling the resolution to those troubling questions.  We’ll just have to wait until March to figure it all out.
  • T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #3 brings to light the one of the most pressing questions of the series thus far.  Entitled “The Judgment Tower,” it has seen the international super-terrorist, the Iron Lady, seizing a top-secret T.H.U.N.D.E.R installation in Kashmir and capturing two agents.  The base was so secret the chairmen and women of The Higher United Nations didn’t even know about it until it went dark with two agents down.  When asked to explain her actions Director (Kat) Kane remains cryptic about what the facility’s purpose was and why she kept it secret from her superiors.  Interlaced within these moments are retrospectives of her time as an agent, alongside her twin sister, Kelly.  Kelly has been strongly insinuated to be the Iron Maiden and clearly this whole conflict over the cave not only springs from a power grab, but some familial connection from the past.  That assertion is confirmed in this issue with the revelation that Kane had found a giant subterranean medieval parapet of medieval design not far from T.H.U.N.D.E.R HQ.  The tower, though seemingly from the middle ages, dates back over a million years ago before the evolution of man as the dominant species on our planet.  It also emits a cosmic radiation encountered only via radio telescope from the depths of space.  So . . . who built this tower and for what purpose?  That remains to be seen.  But Kane not only found this tower twelve years prior with her sister.  She also found one in Kashmir.  That is what the facility was built to contain and study and that is why two elite agents fell into enemy hands guarding it.  Though the facility is under Iron Maiden’s control, the newest and perhaps most powerful T.H.U.N.D.E.R agent, Len Brown, aka Dynamo, is inserted into the base and several moles within her organization surface for the good of the mission.  However, the true purpose of the tower and its realization begin with the last page.  My familiarity with T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents has been painstaking, finding collections of the original series over several jumps in publishers and many decades.  Though not complete, I have read several versions of T.H.U.N.D.E.R and though this has its differences from several of the latter versions, Phil Hester’s attempt with this new series hits uncannily close to the style and feel of the original series by Wally Wood and the writer Len Brown who lent his name to the main character, Dynamo.  Fifty years later and the same characters are rendered with the same quality by Hester and his partner in art, Andrea Di Vito.  For superhero excellence outside of the Big Two, this series is the prime choice.
    The Dark Tower Rising.

    The Dark Tower Rising.

     

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 Dark #24: Art by Mikel Janin, Colored by Jeromy Cox.

Red Lanterns #24: Art by Alessandro Vitti, Colored by Gabe Eltaeb.

Superman #24: Drawn by Eddy Barrow, Colored Pete Pantazis, Inked by Eber Ferreira.

Flash #24: Art by Francis Manapul, Colored by Brian Buccellato.

Larfleeze #4: Art by Scott Kolins, Colored by Mike Atiyeh.

Teen Titans #24: Drawn by Angel Unzueta, Colored Pete Pantazis, Inked by Art Thibert.

The Unwritten #54: Art by Peter Gross, Colored by Chris Chuckry.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R  Agents #3: Art by Andrea Di Vito, Colored by Rom Fajardo.

Sept 11, 2013

Two weeks in and Villains Month is heating up.  There are some grade A characters being represented this week and expectations are high.  The much sought 3D covers can only take them so far.  Here’s hoping this week maintains the momentum built last week.

  • Action Comics #23.2: Zod begins the exploration into the mystery that is Zod.  To be fair, I believe I went into this issue with extremely high hopes.   For those readers that have read my thirteen page review of this summer’s Man of Steel film, they know that Zod is dear to my heart and only the most faithful adaptation to the integrity of the character would do.  His entre into the New 52 came in the final installment of Action Comics’s backup feature, “World of Krypton” as Jor-El and Cadet Lara Lor-Van are saved from an overzealous Colonel who would overthrow the government by the loyal commander of Krypton’s military forces, Dru-Zod.  Even though this appearance is  short there was still promise in the way it was written by Scott Lobdell and Frank Hannah.  This issue, written by Greg Pak, is a little more heavy-handed and portrays Zod as a monster forged in youth by his battle with actual monsters in the Kryptonian wilderness.  Though it’s neither stated nor inferred in the text of the issue, it is reminiscent of the Frederick Nietzsche quote: “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster.”  Throughout his rise through Krypton’s military and his befriending the Brothers El he came off a little strangely in my opinion.   In Man of Steel there was a harshness that belied a deeper nobility in the Kryptonian general and a certain efficiency.  Waste not, want not.  Unless something had to be done, Zod didn’t do it, but if it was necessary, he did it and did it right.  The Zod I imagined in the “World of Krypton” also had a nobility about him that came from utilitarian ideals and a love of Krypton.  In this version by Pak, I don’t believe he follows the same footfalls as the other two versions I mentioned.  I believe he IS as monster and lacking many of the quintessential qualities of a patriot of Krypton.  I will reserve my judgement for what looks to be his next appearance under the pen of writer Charles Soule in Superman/Wonder Woman #3.
  • Aquaman #23.1: Black Manta is a penetrating look at perhaps the greatest antagonist of Aquaman.  While he is  no longer the man who murdered Aquaman’s infant son, Arthur Curry Jr, he is still tied to Aquaman in a mutual circle of death and hatred.  It is revealed that Manta accidentally killed Arthur’s father by inducing a heart attack, and in retribution Aquaman attempted to kill him only to accidentally murder Manta’s father.  What results is a deadly spiral of two sons attempting to avenge the inadvertent killings of their fathers.  This issue is billed as being conceived of by Tony Bedard and Geoff Johns, but words by Bedard.  Considering that most of the actual interactions and dialogue in this issue are taken verbatim from Forever Evil #1 I am assuming that Bedard merely filled in the captions to give Manta’s perspective.  What is clear is that Manta’s “evil motivations” is nothing more than killing Aquaman.  After that, there is no malice left to rule the world, or continue to kill or oppress.  Just avenge his father’s death with his own hands.  Enter the Crime Syndicate who subjugate the world and proclaim, “The Justice League is dead!” and offer Aquaman’s trident as proof.  Essentially, a man whose sole motivation for continuing on was vengeance is denied that very impetus.  So if he cannot avenge his father’s murder anymore, he can replace that hatred with vengeance against those who robbed him of his chance at retribution.  Though this is Villains Month, this issue imbues Black Manta with a twisted humanity that makes him very relatable and almost noble.  Though it’s just a brief glimpse, this issue tells everything that is really necessary in the understanding of this iconic comic book character’s New 52 iteration.

    Spiral of Hatred

    Spiral of Hatred

  • Green Lantern #23.2: Mongul is an interesting issue that redefines the character while maintaining his essence.  In this issue the moon sized War World, Mongul’s vessel, appears suddenly in the territory of the Oblivoron Federation.  When the admiral of the Federation armada demands the surrender of the War World, he is beamed aboard the artificial planet and brought before Mongul.  Mongul then leads the Admiral around his “home”, displaying its defensive capabilities and the oddities that he has amassed from his travels across the cosmos.  All the while he waxes philosophic about the art of war, conquest, and ruling, while simultaneously giving glimpses at his past, demonstrating his principles through their context toward the immensely powerful being he has become.  Though the issue is almost entirely him just pontificating to his humbled “guest” it keeps the reader’s attention with the stark imagery juxtaposed against the quasi Sun-Tzu/Machievellian rhetoric.  Mongul is changed a bit in the New 52 from former tellings, but remains true to the inherent nature of his past characterizations.  This is largely because the issue was written by Mongul’s co-creator, Jim Starlin.  Admittedly, Len Wein was the writer who first wrote him and Starlin the artist, but this time around Starlin finds himself penning the character with the help of famed artist, Howard Porter.  The look and the feel of the character endures, and as the title he appears in foreshadows, the issue ends with War World closing in on a Green Lantern Corps chapter house.  It stands to reason that we will see him in the not to distant future in the pages of Green Lantern Corps.

    "We Shall Never Surrender!"

    “We Shall Never Surrender!”

  • Batman & Robin #23.2: The Court of Owls is a fantastically woven tale of the Court, of course, but more so of Gotham itself and how the Court has entwined itself irrevocably into the very fabric of the city’s infrastructure, its culture, and the people who populate it.  James Tynion IV (writer of Talon and protegé of the Court’s creator, Scott Snyder)  pens this issue brilliantly.  His writing tends to alternate between good and uninspired.  This issue REALLY captures the essence of the subject organization, driving home to those familiar with the Court why they are so immensely powerful, and does the same for those who may never have read about the Court, while also introducing them in a very conversational tone.  The issue begins in 1974 with a murder orchestrated by the Court, then cuts to the present day with Gotham tearing itself apart after the events of Forever Evil #1.  Watching all of this is a youngish, yet senior member of the Court (wearing his owl mask, of course) explaining to his daughter (masked herself and looking to be around 9 or 10 years old) why they have nothing to fear from the havoc that is tearing Gotham asunder.  The Court has weathered civil discord, plagues, riots, and the like many times before and only come back stronger.  The issue then alternates between the present and the past, showing how the Court has asserted its power time and again as the father owl tells his daughter more about the principles that bind them to Gotham’s very foundations.  These trips into the past range from 1974 all the way back to 1862, featuring the exploits of the Gotham Butcher.  Each episode drives home further the point that the Court can never be fully extinguished so long as a single stone of Gotham remains.  It also foreshadows a looming threat from the further past known as . . . the First Talon.  Considering the sinister nature of the Talons (assassins of the Court) we’ve seen so far, especially the Gotham Butcher, for the First Talon to be that frightening to members of the Court, it must be something quite horrifying.  Tynion writes it extremely well, but he gets a lot of help from artist Jorge Lucas, whose art is very gothic, with beautiful lines hashed out or blackened to give the impression of shadows and darkness in all areas and all times of day throughout Gotham.  No one is safe anywhere or anytime from the Court . . .

    Who?

    Who?

  • Batman #23.2: The Riddler was very blase.  I had high hopes for the issue, considering that Edward Nygma is playing such an integral role in Scott Snyder’s “Batman: Year Zero” storyline, however the problem lies in the delivery.  As the title page reveals, the issue’s story was conceived of by Scott Snyder and Ray Fawkes, but was written by Fawkes.  You can feel the presence of Scott Snyder’s style in the skeleton of the story, in which a recently escaped Riddler makes his way to the Wayne Enterprises Building and stages a very elaborate break-in.  His goals and the means in which he infiltrates the building is very Snyder-esque and you know that there is a lot of possibilities inherent in it.  The problem is that Ray Fawkes has a certain way of writing that isn’t always the best and unfortunately for this issue he really makes the character obnoxious and uninteresting.  The Riddler is a character that skews that way naturally and it takes a careful hand to write him in such a way that he is engaging and interesting, not pretentious and grating to the reader.  Unfortunately, Ray Fawkes hasn’t displayed any such talents in his time on Batgirl or Pandora.  The Riddler is a character I have enjoyed in the past, but not overly so, so the fact that this issue wasn’t written the best didn’t sadden me too much.  I did enjoy the art by Jeremy Haun, which was very reminiscent of Phil Noto.  An okay issue, but definitely not a “MUST get.”
  • Detective Comics #23.2: Harley Quinn was a giant contradiction and I say that in a way that is not condemning or negative.  I don’t really know whether I liked it or hated it, but I like that I don’t know.  That uncertainty underscores the essential nature of the character as depicted in this issue.  Writer Matt Kindt really hits on the contradictions of the character herself that seem irreconcilable, yet form the bedrock of who she is.  To the casual observer Harley Quinn is the ditzy blonde that epitomizes the stereotype into which she aptly seems to fall.  However, before the grease paint and the red and black costuming, she was a brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. Harleen Quintzel.  The issue shows her as a young overachiever who used her intelligence and immense drive to escape a traumatic, lower class childhood.  As a rising star in psychiatry she went to Arkham Asylum to cut her teeth on the sickest minds in the world.  After awhile of grinding her gears, she tried a revolutionary tactic of infiltrating them as a new “inmate” and studying them and treating them under the radar.  While occupying this persona and experiencing life from their perspective, everything she pushed herself to be and all the hard work and diligence fell away and she learned what it felt like to be truly free, releasing Harley from within Harleen’s confined, regimented psyche.  The rest plays out in a giant cathartic explosion of chaos and self-discovery.  This is the part of the issue I really liked.  The part I wasn’t too fond of was her actions in the present, disseminating handheld gaming devices to that masses laced with explosives that kill both adults and small children.  She also murders at least one cop, if not dozens in a pretty brutal fashion.  As stated before, I really enjoyed the look into how she split from a paradigm of order to a paragon of chaos, but her brutal actions in the present that are extremely harsh and without any rationale given in the narrative jarred me quite a bit.  I think this does cement her as a more feminized Joker-like character than she has been in the past, but I am not sure if her actions as they stand push her past the limits of her anti-heroic depiction in Suicide Squad.  I will give Matt Kindt a thumbs up for a very thought-provoking issue.
  • Justice League #23.2: Lobo was an issue that didn’t need to be written.  Worse, it didn’t even need to be thought.  The controversy surrounding this issue was something I tried not to jump into, being that DC was saying that the man we have seen since the character’s creation in the late 80’s was NOT in fact the real Lobo, but rather an imposter.  A BOLD proposition, but I chose to hear them out and not get bent out of shape until there was an actual reason.  Well, this issue presented nothing new.  Nothing interesting.  Nothing different.  To be fair, there are differences, but not good ones. Lobo, as created by Keith Giffen, was a big, muscular, space biker that was the last of his race (him having murdered his entire species) who bounty hunted across the universe for some spending money.  He did BAD, morally repugnant things, but you read him because of his penchant for over the top violence and his pseudo-swear words like “bastich” and “fragging.”  He won you over.  What writer Marguerite Bennett replaced him with is a thinner, more morose facsimile with a stupid looking pompadour.  Worst of all, she gutted his endearing vernacular for a schizophrenic, hipster style, no longer calling people “bastiches” when he does his business, but rather one who says, “Sorry. Not Sorry.”  Once or twice that might simply be tolerable, but by the fifth time you pray that the “fake” (REAL!!!) Lobo would come out of nowhere and cut the hipster bastich’s fraggin’ tongue out with something blunt.  Sorry, new Lobo.  Not sorry.  I don’t know whose fault this utter piece of tripe is, Bennett’s or DC’s execs who have been REALLY throwing out terrible ideas of late, but this experiment is a failure.  Sorry, DC.  NOT sorry!
  • The Flash #23.2: The Reverse Flash tells the tale of one of Flash’s most iconic villains reimagined for the New 52.  The Rogues represent a perennial  challenge to the Flash, but its the Reverse Flash that truly underscores the dark side of the Speed Force, the transcendental energy stream from which they both draw their power.  This issue, like so much of what co-writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have done with this title takes the character of the Reverse Flash and reworked him in innovative, intriguing ways, while at the same time staying true to the spirit of what came before.  In their run Barry Allen (the Flash) is no longer married to the character who was his wife for decades, Iris West, and indeed as the series opened they had never been in a relationship.  Barry instead is dating fellow Central City forensic investigator, Patty Spivot.  Reverse Flash also finds himself in the shuffle of things with a new take and a new persona.  Whereas once he was Eobard Thawne or Hunter Zolomon, in the New 52 he inherits a third persona: Daniel West, brother of Iris.  However, like the two aforementioned Reverse Flashes, Daniel’s abilities and goals are heavily centered on time travel.  Thawne was a criminal from the 25th century who came back in time to our “present” with the use of Barry Allen’s original costume, slightly modified.  Zolomon was a paraplegic who after being refused help via time manipulation by Barry Allen’s successor and former sidekick, Wally West, took it upon himself to attempt time travel only to end up becoming a twisted psychotic whose powers were actually time-based and did not rely on speed at all.  This Villains Month issue tells us how Daniel got his abilities, tied integrally into the Speed Force, and how his past coupled with these abilities drove him insane. I don’t know if I have ever read anything about Iris’ brother, or if Daniel is in fact the father of Wally, but the representation of Daniel in this issue is complex, compelling, and despite his mismanaged rage and many flaws, you sort of find yourself rooting for him.  Francis Manapul has been the only one to draw the Reverse Flash since his introduction to the New DCU, even when all but the last page were drawn by someone else.  This special issue was drawn by Scott Hepburn, whose style very closely mimics Manapul’s lines, and its shocking ending is truly a hallmark in the New 52’s three year history.  This is not an issue to miss.FlashReverseFlash
  • Earth 2 #15.2: Solomon Grundy is the second issue written by Matt Kindt this week and comes off a little weaker than his Harley Quinn issue, though written in a similar fashion.  The last time we saw Grundy, Earth 2 writer James Robinson had Alan Scott’s Green Lantern strand the hulking zombie on the Moon.  This issue has him shooting back to Earth like a meteorite, but with no explanation of how that comes to pass.  Once back, he begins to do as he did when we first met him a year ago when Robinson introduced him as the avatar of the Grey (Rot), reducing everything living he touches to ash.  As he cuts a wide swathe across the American southwest, Kindt cuts the narrative back to Slaughter Swamp of 1898 to introduce Solomon’s human life as a sharecropper and butcher in a the slaughterhouse that gave the swamp its name.  His life was lived and ended in a very horrifying manner, resulting in an equally horrible after-life.  The parts of the narrative that take place in the past are well done, but when they cut to the present there is a serious disconnect for the reader.  Grundy almost destroyed humanity just by being on the planet for a few hours when we first met him, so the ending of him wreaking havoc unopposed is very unsatisfying and raises more questions than it answers.  In this way it is very much like Harley’s Detective Comics issue, but in that case the disconnect between past and present was indicative of the character’s persona.  This issue didn’t have that same appropriateness and just came off sloppy.  Artist Aaron Lopresti did a fantastic job rendering the issue artistically and is the real draw of the issue with a decent, but not entirely satisfying plot.  However, Matt Kindt wrote several issues this month, so it is completely understandable that some will be better than their fellows.
  • Teen Titans #23.1: Trigon, like Mongul above, is another Villains Month issue that features the character’s creator coming back decades later and re-imagining them for DC’s rebooted multiverse. In this version a young, smaller Trigon is brought before a holy trinity of universal guardians calling themselves the “Divine,” who purge evil from the known universes using a cosmic anomaly known as the “Heart.”  True to its name, it resembles a giant black, pulsating heart that sucks the souls from those with evil festering inside them.  This tactic doesn’t work on the young demon lord, and actually brings about the Divine’s ultimate undoing.  From there, Trigon descends upon world after world subjugating universes and realities one after the other through the impregnating of women in each sphere with his progeny.  However, few of his children survive birth or their mothers commit suicide before they can be born.  All of his sons also prove to be unimpressive specimens, but one human woman who gives herself to Trigon willingly and gives birth to a daughter, Raven, who becomes the greatest of his scions.  Raven, as we know, has found her way into the ranks of the Teen Titans and her allegiance is somewhat ambiguous at this moment.  Also tying into the Teen Titans title is the introduction of the first bearer of the Silent Armour (currently worn by Wonder Girl) and the only being to ever fight Trigon to a stalemate.  Wolfman’s story fits spectacularly into the overall framework of the New DCU, specifically the work that Scott Lobdell has done in Teen Titans.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #23.2: Mr. Freeze is the Mr. Freeze issue that should have been from the start. Scott Snyder is a phenomenal writer, but his New 52 introduction of Victor Fries was totally lackluster and didn’t do justice to the character at all. Perhaps the keystone motivation of the character is his love and devotion to his wife, Nora. He was a man who was literally cold as ice in both demeanor and M.O., but underneath that frigid exterior beats a warm heart filled with love. While Snyder’s introduction to Freeze began that way in Batman Annual #1, it quickly soured as Batman reveals that the Nora in cryogenic stasis wasn’t actually Victor’s wife, but a Jane Doe with whom he grew an obsession. Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray take that imperfect start and re-establish Freeze as a man capable of feeling love, albeit a very psychotic brand of love. When the crap hits the fan with the Crime Syndicate opening the prisons and Arkham Asylum and chaos reigns all throughout Gotham Freeze intercedes in favor of an Arkham nurse that showed him kindness when she didn’t have to. His father walked out on him and his mother when he was a small child and though this sense of betrayal ruined his adolescence and ultimately killed his mother, upon finding out that his father had another family and he had a half-brother, niece, and nephew he never knew about he is excited. Many psychotics would be angry and resentful about this, but Victor’s cold demeanor belies a desire for meaningful human affection and to preserve it at all costs. This presentation of Mr. Freeze rings the most true of any so far in the New DCU. What also gives this the feeling of a true second chance for character is the art from Jason Masters, who was the same artist to first render him in the New 52 in Batman Annual #1.
  • Superman #23.2: Brainiac could be the most perfect Villains Month issue yet and I would dare say, probably the best that this month will yield.  It is literally perfect, just like the subject it depicts.  There are many variables that figure into this perfect storm of awesome: 1) Writer Tony Bedard, a proven master that knows how to write complex cosmic drama, 2) artist Pascal Alixe’s art is peerless!, the pencils and inks immersing the reader into a very comprehensive vision of the complex text, 3) both Bedard and Alixe stand on the shoulders of giants, drawing off of and adding to phenomenal Superman stories of the past two years by the likes of Grant Morrison, Rags Morales, Scott Lobdell, and Kenneth Rocafort, to name only a few.   The issue begins with the systematic subjugation of three worlds by the “Collector”, colloquially known as Brainiac.   On the third world, Noma, the planet’s most brilliant scientist, Victoria Viceroy, is captured by the Collector’s Terminauts and debriefed by her robotic aide, Pneumenoid, slaved to Brainiac’s reprogramming. Pneumenoid attempts to persuade her that what is happening to her world is not a defeat, but rather a triumph for her planet and its culture.  He then recounts a tale of the most brilliant mind on the planet of Yod-Colu who became aware of the Multitude, the 5th dimensional hoard created in Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run that ravage planets and erradicate their populations.  It is for this reason that the scientist Vril Dox begins to perform extreme experimentations in the “upgrading” of the Coluan species using his son as the guinea pig.  When his wife, Lysl Dox, becomes aware of his crimes against their child she brings him before the planet’s justices who listen to his defense as to the danger the 5th dimension poses to their world and what his experiments would achieve toward the preservation of their way of life.  His pleas fall on deaf ears and he is exiled into deep space.  However, as the chief scientific mind of Yod-Colu, Dox had designed the craft that imprisoned him and the computer systems administering his captivity, thus allowing him easy access to override its programming and aid him in his endeavors.  On the way back to Yod-Colu, he has the ship’s A.I. complete on himself the operations he had begun on his son, transforming him into a walking biocomputer.  He returns to Yod-Colu and extracts all vital information on Colu’s civilization, history, technology, and culture and shrinks a city (his very first), bottling it to preserve also a small sampling of its people.  The poignant detail that bears mentioning is that, despite his cold logic and emotionless nature, the portion of Colu Brainiac bottles contains his wife and son, sparing them from the horrific apocalypse the Multitude rain down on the rest of his world.  This process of data extraction and bottling a city becomes his modus operandi on many worlds between Yod-Colu and his eventual advent on Earth.  One such world, of course, was Krypton where he stole the capital city, Kandor, which he bottled and added to his collection.  This was one of the few worlds that Brainiac failed to destroy before he left, and serendipitously so, because the foremost Kryptonian scientist, Jor-El, achieved the one thing that even Brainiac’s vaunted 12th level intellect could not: defeating the Multitude.  Jor-El was the only being to EVER defeat them until his son, Kal-El, did just that in Morrison’s Action Comics run.  But even Jor-El was not brilliant enough to prevent the inevitability of Krypton’s destruction by other forces, which we are scheduled to witness in two short months in the “Krypton Returns” storyline throughout the Super-titles.  Since then, Brainaic has preemptively preserved doomed cultures in the Multitude’s path and sought out minds that could do what Jor-El did.  Enter Victoria Viceroy, a very similar persona to Jor-El, both in intellect and disposition.  The issue plays out in a natural cycle of tragic fatalism inherent in the disparity between automated logic and the spontaneity of free will.  The tragedy of the comic is very moving and thought-provoking making it all the more enjoyable.  If there was a choice of only one issue to get this week, Brainiac would be the logical choice, with the word “choice” betraying the illusion of there even being one.  That is what Brainiac would most likely tell you, without bias of course.SupermanBrainiac
  • FBP (Federal Bureau of Physics) #3 continues off of yet another incredible Vertigo series launched in a new wave of titles. The premise of the series is that the laws of physics have come undone and random anomalies occur that defy the very principles of normalcy that the reader takes for granted. To counter these freak occurrences a governmental agency is created, which gives this series its name. Last issue Agent Adam Hardy and his partner and mentor Jay Kelly of the Federal Bureau of Physics went into a bubble universe (a small alternate version of an area juxtaposed on top of the original) to rescue four people trapped inside, before the bubble bursts killing them and causing damage to the space/time continuum. No big deal. However, Jay decides to take this moment to pull a gun on his protege and end that relationship. But for effed up physics Jay would have succeeded. However, Adam is able to escape and effect the rescue of his assigned person, James Crest, a disgraced C.E.O. facing an indicted from the SEC. While all this is going on inside the bubble, on the outside the very eccentric appearing chief of the FBP, Cicero Deluca, meets with his own mentor in the latter’s television repair shop. The character of Cicero is pretty cryptic, giving the impression in the first two issues that he’s a very closed off, unilateral bureaucratic sort mixed with a “Beautiful Mind” autistic prodigy, so seeing him defer to another person, especially someone who isn’t vaunted as a world-class physicist and to witness his recognition  of his humble origins learning about science through television repair is quite humbling and humanizing. On the other side, his mentor, Yarab, a wizened old Semetic gentleman, poses a very interesting foil for the cold fact character found in Cicero. Bouncing ideas back and forth, you hear the textbook theoretics come out of Cicero’s mouth, countered or abetted by the scientifically back insightful ideas of Yarab wrapped in colloquial, old-world metaphors accentuating his didactics and his characterization. The issue advances the series further toward being a quintessentially Vertigo title, delving intelligently into the realities of our world explored through well-reasoned unrealities. Adam’s odyssey from the sins of his father to becoming an FBP agent to getting shot at by his oldest friend, Cicero’s discourse with Yarab into nightmarish quantum physics, to the horrifying actions of Jay in the very last panels of the issue cement it as one of those Vertigo runs you tell your friends about for years to come to show them what comics are truly capable of.FBP3

This week in comics was not to shabby and definitely produces some gems with far-reaching connotions.  This week definitely proves it’s GOOD to be a comic book nerd.

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

Illustration Credits:

Aquaman #23.1: Black Manta: Art by Claude St. Aubin, Colored by Blond

Green Lantern #23.2: Mongul: Art by Howard Porter, Colored by Hi-Fi

Batman & Robin #23.2: Court of Owls: Art by Jorge Lucas, Colored by Dave McCaig

The Flash #23.2: The Reverse Flash: Art by Scott Hepburn, Colored by Brian Buccellato

Superman #23.3: Brainiac: Art by Pascal Alixe, Colored by Hi-Fi

FBP #3: Art by Robbi Rodriguez, Colored by Rico Renzi

Week 86 (April 24, 2013)

  • Batman Inc #10 enters into its endgame.  After this issue, Grant Morrison only has three more issues before reaching what hopefully will be the meteoric conclusion of an eight year, continuous run on the character.  There is a lot of pressure, but it seems like he’s had the end in sight the whole time and doubtless has been building toward and accentuating the events leading to his final goal.  So far, Talia Al-Ghul has Gotham as well as the world in her grasp with her criminal organization and their meta-bomb ring that will encircle the world in destruction.  Batman and his allies have once again been outlawed in Gotham, but when you take away everything from someone you also remove many of their inhibitions, and considering what Batman is capable of, that is a very dangerous prospect.  Perhaps the greatest moment in the issue comes when Talia goes to visit her father, Ra’s Al-Ghul, in his Alpine prison to gloat about her genius in doing what he never could: conquering the Bat.  Truly, to the casual observer Talia is in a very advantageous position.  Ra’s is aptly playing chess as this conversation proceeds and while applauding his daughter’s plan, he cryptically hints that she has overlooked a key factor.  Though haughty and convinced of her plan’s perfection, Ra’s doesn’t reveal what he means.  The chink in her perfect plot begins to show, and with three more issues it is probable that we will watch as the crack begins to run until the plan it mars shatters entirely.  With Morrison at the helm I am a’quiver with anticipation.  One also has to acknowledge the incredible artwork of Chris Burnham that brings this series to beauteous life.

    Endgame

    Endgame

  • Red Lanterns #19 is the final stepping stone to Green Lantern #20 that promises to end the Green Lantern Universe as we know it.  Three long weeks from now we will be seeing the end of Geoff Johns’ run on the title he literally brought back from the dead eight years ago and the putting down of the last and greatest of his villains, Volthoom the First Lantern.  In this issue bridging Red Lanterns #1-18 to the conclusion of Green Lantern Atrocitus has hit perhaps the greatest existential dilemma.  His entire life thus far since the destruction of his space sector and the murder of his family has been lived with one singular purpose: vengeance.  He has lived specifically to kill those who wronged him and the hundreds of billions of innocents throughout Space Sector 666.  His rage was so great that he founded a lantern corps to spread his doctrine of revenge to the four corners of the universe.  Every step of the way he has been robbed of his ultimate aims, i.e. the death of Sinestro, who escaped and thrived as both a Green and Yellow Lantern, and Krona who fell at the hands of Hal Jordan.  When fighting Volthoom, he was given the choice to save his sector and become a tyrant, or let his sector be destroyed by Krona and the Manhunters and become that which he currently is.  Seeing his death in the first alternative at the hands of his son, as well as his murder of his beloved wife, he chooses to let his world and family be destroyed.  Afterwards, he finds nothing but self-recrimination and orders his faithful Red Lanterns to kill him for his crime of genocide by cowardice.  The Red Lanterns find themselves in a conundrum as Atrocitus is the one who saved them and gave them the power to avenge the great wrongs done to them in their previous lives.  At the same time they also swore obedience to him and he is telling them to kill him for the honor of their corps.  Something of a Catch-22.  They go through with it, but in the moment of their convergence on him to take his life, something interesting happens.  Their attacks do not kill him, but rather give him a universal awareness of their combined suffering, rejuvenating in him the need and savory of vengeance he had begun to lose touch with in the first issue.  Full circle, he is now once again the Regent of Rage and attempts to get vengeance on the one remaining enemy of his that remains to be conquered: the Guardians of the Universe.  That said, the full might of the Red Lantern Corps are headed to Oa.  Peter Milligan is a maestro, writing this series philosophically to a tee.  Joining him on art is Will Conrad, whose art is light-years above that of regular series artist Miguel Sepulveda.  The next issue will be both men’s swansong on the title following the aftermath of Green Lantern #20.  I can barely wait.
  • Flash #19 features Barry Allen in Iron Heights prison, playing a balancing act.  One one side he’s attempting to keep the Trickster’s acolytes, the Outlanders, from storming the city and the prison to release their leader.  On the other hand, he’s also trying to prove Trickster’s innocence on the murder rap he was sent up on.  If that wasn’t enough, his powers are mysteriously sucked out of him in a very unlikely crossover with the series Dial H.  Though linked to a very weak series, this mishap provides a golden opportunity for Barry Allen, not the Flash, to shine.  Somehow, Barry pulls off a miracle, but in doing so unravels some mysteries about the Speed Force and his connection to it, as well as others’.  The most intriguing of which comes at the end of the book with he entrance of the Reverse Flash.  Brian Buccellato writes this issue exquisitely with the help of Marcio Takara on art.  Francis Manapul returns as artist and cowriter on the last two pages introducing Reverse Flash.  The future of the Flash shines bright in the hands of two writer/artists who get it.  The Flash is a title to get for the foreseeable future as a result.
  • Superman #19 is literally comic book legend in the making.  The main plot follows Clark being invited to a housewarming party for Lois Lane and Jonathan Carroll.  This may seem awkward for poor old Clark, but for the fact that while he is tying up a loose end in his super-heroics as Superman his girlfriend, Diana Prince, arrives before him and literally stuns everyone there: Lois, Perry, and especially Jimmy.  Clark does eventually get to the party and when he gets there he notices discernible peculiarities in the words and actions of those present.  Superman may have super-speed, super-strength, super-vision, heat-vision, freezing breath, etc, but Clark Kent has the hyper acute intuition and attention to detail of a trained journalist.  Tying it to the same phenomenon he witnessed last issue at the midtown club where dozens of young women attempted to mindlessly plummet to their doom.  All of this ties enigmatically to Hector Hammond, kept in a comatose state at S.T.A.R. Labs, and the New God, Orion, dispatched to Earth in order to save the universe from an up and coming threat originating on Earth.  Writer Scott Lobdell GETS Superman not unlike the team of Buccellato and Manapul get the Flash.  The core story of this issue as I’ve related it is what gives the series structure, but the strength of Lobdell’s writing is the strange and fantastic events that surround the main story, accentuating the world in which Superman exists.  Case in point, Clark is late to the house warming party.  He’s late because of an invasion of radiant Roman-eque legions of beings called Sunturnians from a placed called Neo Sol.  Superman is brought before their “Solaratrix”, Allysun, and made to kneel before her.  The look of the Sunturnians, the concept behind them, and everything elicited by this short episode of the story harkens to the Silver Age spectacle in Superman comics in which the Man of Steel we know to today first began to emerge.  Grant Morrison is the maestro of resurrecting these Silver Age plot devices, but Scott Lobdell is no slouch.  His Superman rings true to the character and innovates it constantly.  Also adding to the incomparable quality is the out of the park artwork by returning series artist, Kenneth Rocafort.  Superman is a title that also is not to be missed.

    Wondering at Wonder Woman

    Wondering at Wonder Woman

  • Talon #7 picks up after writers James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder dropped a bombshell on the Talon and his readers last issue.  Almost simultaneously, Calvin Rose, in the heart of the Court of Owls’ information digital fortress, and Casey Washington, in the secret lair of Calvin and his associate Sebastian Clark, find out that Clark is in fact the deposed Grandmaster of the Court of Owls.  Under his administration of the shadowy cabal Calvin was chosen as Talon and Casey and her daughter were marked for death by him.  So in their struggle to fight the Owls and punish those responsible for the destruction of both their lives they were in fact a stone’s throw away from the chief architect of their misery the entire time!  Both characters begin the issue in nightmarish, seemingly intractable situations in the heart of danger.  The Owls’ information superfortress was designed to keep the wrong people out and therefore also to keep them in as well.  With the Owls inside aware of his presence getting out alive is nigh impossible.  Likewise, Sebastian Clark engineered his “home” to be his own fortress and upon the discovery that Casey has stumbled upon his secret, she is also seemingly trapped in a lion’s den of peril.  Right from the get-go the question of these two survivors’ ability to surmount the insurmountable is put to the test.  Can they survive?  The answer is waiting at the end of this issue and the answers could shock you.  The issue also segues a plotpoint introduced by Tynion in Detective Comics #19 (#900) into the main story.  Synder, Tynion, and artist Guillem March make this series a must read for any Batman fan, or just a fan of GOOD comics.
  • Teen Titans #19 is the start of this rebooted series transitioning from very innovative, new terrain as conceived by maestro Scott Lobdell  and entering into familiar terrain drawn from the seminal New Teen Titans series of the early to mid 80’s that made people actually care about the concept of the Teen Titans and want to read about teenaged superheroes.  Keyed into that is the entrance of two characters created for New Teen Titans and almost synonymous with them now: the demon god Trigon and his empath daughter, Raven.  As of the final page of last month’s issue Trigon has entered into our reality on his three headed horse and begun his plan to subdue our world.  The four-eyed, crimson skinned, elk horned monster retains all his ominousness that he has ever possessed, but Lobdell has added some darkness to Raven in his interpretation.  Last seen seated in a bone strewn, subterranean lair, holding what looks to be a chalice of blood and manipulating the current Titans’ actions like a puppeteer, the gentle, though still slightly manipulative Raven from New Teen Titans is replaced with a very fresh take on the character.  The longevity of this version is subjective, however, because Raven’s New 52 debut was in Phantom Stranger #1 where she was a normal teen trying desperately to evade her father and live a normal life.  She may simply be under his thrall at present.  However, both her amazingly awesome new costume and her darker portrayal make me giddy for her part in the future of this title.  Also coming into the fold from New Teen, restoring the feel of the 80’s title, is Beast Boy, a refugee from the cancelled Ravagers series.  His appearance is premature, as the final issue of Ravagers revealing the fate of him and his fellows has yet to be released.  However, much like she did with Kid Flash in the 80’s series, Raven latches onto him and manipulates his mind to get his help in the current situation unfolding.  Jury’s out on whether that includes backing the Titans or backing her “dear” old dad.  In the realm of the current roster of Titans, Trigon’s entrance foreshadows great revelation.  When looking at Cassie he cryptically mentions that she would have turned out quite different if she had been raised by her father and “if [she] only knew her true lineage.”  When looking at Kid Flash he hints again at Kid Flash’s crimes in the future that the young speedster has forgotten.  And he also reveals that the silver haired youth that has been killing people in the past two issue, is in fact the psychicly psycho Psymon.  So much awesome is happening in this issue.  The darkness of New Teen Titans was what galvanized DC into more serious, stark portrayals of its characters by virtue of the phenomenal storytelling of its younger heroes in those hallowed pages.  Scott Lobdell is doing that yet again in the new millennium with powerful storytelling and amazing art from Brett Booth, Ale Garza, and lately with the incredible Eddy Barrows.

    The Return of the old "New Teen Titans"

    The Return of the old “New Teen Titans”

  • Before Watchmen: The Comedian #6 was disappointing.  It started out amazing in the first three issues, but then in the last three totally lost any depth or sense of direction.  The narrative seemed aimless and the ambling path it took didn’t take the reader, even accidentally, anywhere interesting.  J.G. Jones’ art was really good, but Azzarello’s script fell flat.  The Comedian comes home stateside and is an embarrassment to a lot of top government people, including his old friend Robert Kennedy.  Kennedy is at the time making his bid for the presidency and is planning to hang the Comedian out to dry.  Despite that, Eddie Blake outwardly doesn’t seem to bear Bobbie any ill will.  However, when one of his agency buddies tells him that there is going to be an attempt on Bobbie’s life and when it is going to happen, Eddie either lets it happen or kills Bobbie himself.  Its really hard to say.  There is the possibility that I am missing something deeper, but I highly doubt it.  Its worth reading the first half of this series.  Skip the second, and your imagination can do a much better job of concluding it.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #19 was underwhelming across the board.  Arc artist Ethan Van Sciver, for whom I stayed on this title despite my waning interest, is absent this issue being replaced by Szymon Kudranski.  Kudranski’s art is good and fits the tone of this book, but like other artist switch-ups DC has been throwing out, it jars the reader s who’ve seen Van Sciver’s artwork up until this point, which is nowhere near similar to Kudranski’s.  In it we see a further account of the Mad Hatter’s descent into madness as an adolescent on testosterone pills and his insane plan in the present that will cost hundreds of lives.  Also returning is the followup to Bruce Wayne’s revelation to his Ukraining piano prodigy girlfriend that he is in fact the Batman.  Mad Hatter sees her at a concert she puts on and immediately falls for her psychotically.  Nothing but bad is on the horizon.  On paper the plot sounds interesting, but draw out it is a little lacking.
  • All-Star Western #19 finds Jonah panning for gold out West after his departure from Gotham last issue.  He’s looking for gold when the issue opens, but Gold finds him!  Booster Gold, time travelling superhero.  Gold hasn’t been seen in the New DCU since the conclusion of of the Justice League International Annual about a year ago.  That apocalyptic moment portended something major in the offings, most likely the hinted at Trinity War this July.  So far Gold hasn’t mentioned the how or why of his being in the Old West, but shows up here as the sheriff of a town called Red River Junction.  This town that he’s become lawman of is brutally massacred by a gang of cutthroats on Jonah Hex’s axe list.  Thus a shaky alliance is formed between the quintessential Western anti-hero and the time travelling buffoon that Hex refuses to believe comes from the far future.  Intriguing plot to say the least and one that could eventually shed some light on larger events brewing in DC’s future storylines throughout the New 52.  Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray continue to rock the title with Moritat’s art characterizing it brilliantly.
  • Arrow #6 features a trinity of excellent storytelling.  Leading the pack is a story scripted by Emilio Aldritch and drawn by Green Arrow royalty, Mike Grell.  In it Oliver intercepts a drug shipment from South America to Starling  City.  In the process he meets a young boy who is plagued in much the same way as him by the sins of a father.  The next has Oliver attending a football game with Tommy only to be caught in the middle of an insane ex-player’s suicide plot that will take out most of the fans in the stadium at halftime.  The final story showcases Det. Quinton Lance and the sacrifices he makes in his personal life to do his job to the best of his abilities.  Honestly, hard-edged as he is, he is a man of honor that is dealt a hard hand by life while simply trying to be the best cop he can be.  Three really excellent stories in the Arrow line, accentuating the inherent gems of the television show.
  • Jupiter’s Legacy #1 is a meteoric first installment to what promises to be an incredible series from creators Mark Millar and Frank Quitely.  Starting in 1932, the narrative follows a team of young explorers led by a clairvoyant, handsome gentleman by the name of Sheldon Sampson as they seek an island that has called to him in his dreams.  The story splits as the island comes into sight, cutting to 2013 when this group has obviously gotten older and, as we see, attained super powers that they have used to defend America and lead it back to prosperity after the Great Depression that led them to seek out the island in the first place.  Their children are in their early to late 20’s and are indolent, debauch party animals, lacking a cause to fight for or believe in.  On the surface one would think that they are disappointments to their parents and not worth a damn, but if one takes a closer look there are some very deep, philosophical and sociological implications beneath who these young men and women have become and why.  The scenes, dialogue, and expressions of the characters are so well choreographed as to each be infinitely telling.  A picture is worth a thousand words?  Millar’s scripting and artist Frank Quitely’s visual renderings prove this adage and the merit of comics inherently because of it.  Admittedly, Millar is a writer of great merit, but Frank Quitely’s artwork was what got me to pick this series up in the first place.  There is an otherworldly, sensual beauty to his art and he delivers that in spades with this first issue.  The promise of where these two paragons of comic writing can take us is literally infinite.

    The Old Guard

    The Old Guard

  • The Unwritten #48 opens after last issue’s revelation that Wilson Taylor is trapped in the underworld after his death at the hands of Pullman two years ago after unveiling the last Tommy Taylor book.  As the plot progresses we see that Tom is beginning to remember who he is and why he chose to come to Hades.  These emergent memories terrify him because of the importance of them.  The importance of finding a woman (we know he’s talking about Lizzy Hexam) who was very special to him and whom he is afraid to fail.  She is somewhere in the underworld, which was the reason for his going there in the first place, and we find out just where she has been.  Also of great importance is the appearance of a golden pillar in Pauly Buckner’s kingdom that is slowly expanding outward.  His servants tell him that it is a portal, but to where they do not know.  This issue has many small revelations that have resonating importance throughout the whole of The Unwritten.  I very much look forward to the next installment that has infinite promise considering the last panel of this issue.

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 #10: Art by Chris Burnham, colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Superman #19: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Blond

Teen Titans #19: Drawn by Eddy Barrows, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Eber Ferreira

Jupiter’s Legacy #1: Art by Frank Quitely, Colored by Peter Doherty

Week 78 (Feb. 27, 2013)

This week and probably from now on I am going to only review the comics I read with which I have a strong opinion.  I have been bogged down the past several weeks trying to review everything and I think that that has been a lose/lose situation, holding up my postings and also cluttering them with uninspired, uninteresting nonsense from me.  So there may be gaps in my postings where I will review a series out of the blue or skip a month or two.  If there is a series you want to see reviewed, feel free to message me at any time and I will try to include the series you are interested in.  That said, let’s get to it:   

  • Flash #17 brings the gorilla invasion of the Gem Cities to its stunning conclusion.  Going through all possible outcomes to the intervention, Flash is unable to see a way in which he can attack Grodd and win.  Grodd’s victory is almost assured no matter what is done against him.  With his grasp on the Speed Force that he has stolen and his army behind him, his position is impregnable.  There is only one factor that Flash gambles on. Barry takes Grodd into the Speed Force where that very principle adjudicates the outcome.  On the outside Grodd is King and has immense physical strength, a technologically superior army, and an augmented grasp on the Speed Force.  Within the Speed Force, however, the Force itself determines its champion and Flash is the  that champion, nearly omnipotent within.  In this way, writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato firmly establish the core truths of the Flash.  He is the Chosen One of the Speed Force.  He is one of the most brilliant tacticians in the DCU, literally living infinite tangential realities in his mind, finding the one in which the day can be saved.  But most important of all, he is the Fastest Man Alive.  The art and writing of this series are at the top echelon of comics put out today, in a marriage that all should aspire to. My only fear is the hinting of a future relationship between Barry and Iris West.  Its bound to happen, but I would rather have it come much later, rather than sooner.  I’ve always been a proponent for Patty Spivot and considering how she turned on a dime in her opinion of the Flash, rallying to Barry’s side, I think she’s earned a place with him for a decent stretch of time.  Conversely, the way Iris attempted to manipulate Barry in last issue, I think she’s earned a place in the penalty box for an equivocal time period.
  • Aquaman #17 provides an epilogue from the five part “Throne of Atlantis” crossover with Justice League.  In this respect it still had the pang of annoyance from the atrocious way that Geoff Johns writes the aforementioned team book.  After wresting the crown from his younger brother, Orm, Arthur has ascended the throne of Atlantis.  In the wake of his re-coronation those on land still blame him for the massive casualties of the attacks on Boston, Gotham, and Metropolis, and the Atlanteans don’t trust him because of his time living amongst the land dwellers and his leniency concerning their incursions upon the ocean.  While talking to Amanda Waller, he is told that Orm is facing the death penalty for his orchestration of the Boston attack, even though Aquaman turned him in under the agreement that his brother would only face imprisonment.  So in essence this issue picks up with Aquaman purchasing peace by offering up his younger brother as a scapegoat to slaughter, and is distrusted by both those he above and below the water.  So what all did he gain?  Who is Aquaman doing all of this for.  The answer is given in this issue and it validates him, in my opinion, as a character and raises this title once again above the putrescent stench of Justice League.  It also introduces the next arc of the series, hinted at in “Throne of Atlantis” and rife with possibilities.  If you don’t know who the Dead King is, you soon will.  Great issue by Geoff Johns following a mediocre crossover event

    King of the Seven Sea

    King of the Seven Sea

  • Batman Inc #8 left me at a bit of a loss.  Its a powerful issue, but one that makes the reader question what is real and what is only seemingly real.  Grant Morrison wrote a way for it to be true, but once again the master storyteller throws a curve ball at the reader, upping the ante and really making us wonder how this thing can possibly end.  Talia’s war with Batman is a war of attrition and as the dominoes fall even she is not fully prepared for the horrors she has invoked.  The kind of drama and true heartache that this issue elicits in its readers could only be cultivated over years and years of careful planning and composing, as Morrison has done since 2006.  Seven years building a beautifully intricate house of cards and now they fall in one swift stroke.  This is a Batman series that CANNOT, and MUST NOT be missed.
  • Red Lanterns #17  takes Atrocitus and the Red Lanterns into the “Wrath of the First Lantern” storyline.  In the Green Lantern chapter we are introduced to the concept of the “Great Heart”, a device that houses the emotions of the Guardians of the Universe.  Penetrating this inner sanctum, robot watchmen accost Atrocitus offering to remove all emotion from him including his unquenchable rage and the anguish over the murder of his family and race that drove him to his current state.  Also interesting is his encounter of the soul of Krona, the architect of the genocide that resulted in the destruction of Atrocitus’ sector of space and his family.  On Earth, Rankorr attempts in his own way to purge his rage and live a normal life.  It seems possible in this issue, but will time say otherwise?  Peter Milligan truly shows his authorial mastery in this series, making monsters twisted by anger into relatable protagonists.
  • Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #4 concludes this title with Dr. Manhattan altering all realities so that he will always become the entity that the intrinsic field generator forged him into.  Yet, still there is a blurriness that obscures his vision of his future, meaning that a large burst of tachyons will be emitted at a certain moment in his future.  His initial hypothesis is that this is caused by all out nuclear war at a scale that would annihilate all living things on Earth.  When he speaks to Ozymandias about this the latter tries to persuade him that this could be caused by his own self generating energy if it were used to solve the energy crisis on a global scale.  This seems logical to him.  Writer J. Michael Straczynski then flips the narrative (literally to the point where one flips the comic upside down to read it) and shows how the Smartest Man Alive tricks the omniscient Dr. Manhattan into not only allowing his genocidal plan, but fueling it.  Though his assertion of Dr. Manhattan altering ALL possible realities is laughable, J. Michael Straczynski ends the series quite well and perfectly aligns it with the spirit of the original Watchman series from the 80’s.

    The Moment

    The Moment

  • Talon #5 keeps to its high octane pace, pitting Calvin Rose against the full might of the Court of Owls.  In the past he’s hit their money, he’s hit their symbology, but in this issue his target is the repository of their information located in a fortress built by his lover, Casey Washington’s, father.  Originally he was sent to kill Casey and her daughter Sarah so that the Court could take this building and control the most secure network known to man.  Now it comes full circle as he takes it back with the help of the woman he went AWOL to protect.  The importance of this building merits more than the usual muscle and Calvin may have gotten in over his head.  Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV write this series seamlessly and Guillem March takes that story and makes it visually beautiful with his luscious art.
  • Teen Titans #17 is sort of an epilogue to “Death of the Family” but more so, it is a prologue to an event called “Light and Dark.”  Several things happen within.  First we are introduced to a doctor working with kids that have unwanted metagenes who is solicited as the new Doctor Light.  We also are shown Tim moving the Titan’s home from LexCorp Towers to a luxurious yacht.  The team begins to settle in, when Tim begins to exhibit some strange behavior.  He puts the moves on Solstice, who has been seeing Bart Allen, aka Kid Flash, but despite brief protestations she succumbs to his advances.  Next we see him, Wonder Girl comes into his room wearing one of his t-shirts and nothing else.  He then seduces her, which raises some more eyebrows.  However, the echos of his honeyed words fall into an infernal looking chamber where Trigon’s daugher Raven sits with a goblet of wine in one hand.  So it can be assumed that Raven provides the dark to the title and Dr. Light obviously the light.  Writer Scott Lobdell looks to be revitalizing two hallmark Teen Titan characters: Raven, who was once a hero, and Dr. Light, an iconic Teen Titans villain.  He’s rarely gone astray, so I wait with great anticipation for what he has in store for us in future issues.  Also worth noting is that Nightwind and Teen Titans have swapped artists with Eddy Barrows taking over art duties on this issue and Brett Booth becoming the new Nightwing writer.  So far no complaints on my end.

    The Dark Side of Tim Drake

    The Dark Side of Tim Drake

  • All-Star Western #17 brings a benchmark character of the DC Universe to 1880’s Gotham: Vandal Savage. Coming to Gotham he is almost like a vampire, walking through the streets and instantly invoking awe and terror from those he meets from lowly criminals in the slums to the Court of Owls in the highest eyries of Gotham society.  He also brings with him a plague unlike anything the modern world had seen since the days of the Black Death in Europe.  Alan Wayne’s wife, Catherine, attempts to bring food and medicine to the quarrantined parts of Gotham only to be kidnapped by the hordes of diseased.  Thus Alan dispatches Hex, Arkham, and three others to go into the cordoned off districts of Gotham to rescue her.  The stakes are high and all roads lead to the enigmatic Vandal Savage as the cause of the disease and chaos is explored.  In the backup there is a Stormwatch story from the 19th century that frankly I could care less about.  They aren’t interesting in this century and they fail to be interesting in the two prior ones.  Onto the next issue.
  • Arrow #4 delivers another three chapters in the “Arrow” mythology.  First up is a yarn scripted by Ben Sokolowski and Moira Kirkland and drawn by Eric Nguyen where Ollie takes out a name on the list who is a hitman that does underground cage fighting in his downtime.  Taking him on in the cage where most die at his hand appears to be the only option to cross his name off.  As ever, Ollie commits himself 150%.  However, when an alternative to the cage is presented, Ollie refuses to back down, raising the question in Diggle’s mind as to whether or not Ollie isn’t doing this for other reasons.  Next up is a tale told by Marc Guggenheim and drawn by the incomparable Mike Grell entitled “Huntress: Year One.”  After she bugged out of Starling City, as seen in her two issue arc on the show, Helena Bertinelli goes to Sicily, the land of her forefathers, to learn the art of vengeance from the criminal fraternity La Morte Sussurrata.  Narrated from her perspective with Guggenheim’s words and depicted with Grell’s stark artwork this story is chilling to behold and rounds out her character into an even more sinister whole than we left her at two months ago. Finally the story “Limbo” has Oliver going aboard a yacht to destroy a drug shipment come in from southeast Asia.  However on the dinghy ride out and onboard the yacht his mind is plagued by ghosts of the sinking of the Queen’s Gambitm hampering his ability to react to danger and almost getting him killed.  From this we see that his past still is a raw nerve that the slightest reminder can dredge up dark memories.  This comic series is incredible when put side to side with the television series each and every week.  Well worth the purchase if you love the television series

    The Huntress on the Prowl

    The Huntress on the Prowl

  • Unwritten #46 ends the two part storyline following Richie Savoy and Det. Didge Patterson in their investigation of zombie attacks in Australia.  Upon deeper investigation the case of the boy who is compelled to write the stories that bring these monsters into being only to have them kill those close to him isn’t unique.  Similar instances of others warping time and reality have been reported leading to an explanation of the state of the fictional world post-“Wound.”  Mike Carey and Peter Gross are creating a world that redefines how one conceives of the relationship between fact and fiction.  The idea that if something is thought, there is a factuality about it because it has been conjured into its own existence is a paradox that provokes much consideration.  As this series has gone on from its first issue to this 46th installment the concept has gotten grander, more complex, and even more amazing to contemplate.  Next issue promises a return to Tom Taylor in the Land of the Dead and resolution as to his fate.  Like anything related to this series, its worth the wait.
  • Joe Kubert Presents #5  begins with a Sgt. Rock story, written by his friend Paul Levitz (a genius in his own right) and of course drawn by himself.  This piece has a very elegiac tone that makes me wonder whether during its writing Joe Kubert didn’t already know he was dying.  He talks about its composition in the editorial section of the issue, but I still find myself wondering if that wasn’t an unspoken impetus behind the funereal feel of this story.  Joe drew and sometimes wrote Sgt. Rock, following his interest and passion for war stories and telling the tales of the unsung heroes of the past that kept us free or laid down their lives for reasons both poignant and foolish.  This story is the epitome of poignant, anti-war rhetoric, cutting to the bleeding core of what the character of Sgt. Rock embodies.  A middle aged son and teenaged grandson of a D-Day veteran go to the Normandy beach where their unnamed progenitor stormed the German lines and lost many friends.  This event mirrors a trip that Levitz took with his own son.  They talk about how among those that he fought beside was the legendary Sgt. Rock and Easy Company.  Speculation was that Rock died on last day of WWII.  Another legend states that he lived past the war and fought in other conflicts.  The truth doesn’t really matter because he fought among all of those that died that day and his legacy is buried with each and every one of them.  So too would their father/grandfather, whose ashes they spread in the G.I. cemetery among the field of white crosses and stars. In Sam Glanzman’s “U.S.S. Stevens” segment, he chronicles the start of WWII from the days just prior to the Japanese attack through the major hallmarks of the war in the Pacific.  Whereas the last four installments have been personal and anecdotal, this one, while set up and worded in an engaging manner, was more historical in a fact by fact presentation.  Following it, Joe Kubert writes a two page editorial that introduces the Sgt. Rock feature and his friendship with writer Paul Levitz. In it he also talks about his family, including his eldest son, Dave, whom he tells us is a motorcycle enthusiast that lost a leg in a really nasty crash.  His son inspired him to write the next feature about a biker with one leg that takes shelter for the night in an abandoned old house.  The house hold many ghosts from past, however, both from its past owners and from the main character’s own past as a soldier in Afghanistan.  This story feels like the old horror comics told in anthology books of the 50’s and 60’s, but with a modern setting.  A testament befitting one of the golden age maestros of comics.  Next he tells us another story of Spit as the nameless boy attempts to make his way on the whaling vessel, and after that Brian Buniak gives us a tale in Angel and the Ape of how Angel and Sam first met.  This anthology book is phenomenal and I only wish that Joe Kubert could have made it to another run.  He’s given the comic medium and comic book readers over sixty years of classic stories and beautiful artwork.  I suppose he’s earned his rest.  Slacker.

    Requiem for Sgt. Rock

    Requiem for Sgt. Rock

 

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

Illustration Credits:

Aquaman #17: Drawn by Paul Pelletier, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Sean Parsons

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #4: Art by Adam Hughes, Colored by Laura Martin

Teen Titans #17: Drawn by Eddy Barrows, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Eber Ferreira

Arrow #4: Art by Mike Grell, Colored by David Lopez & Santi Casas

Joe Kubert Presents #5: Art by Joe Kubert

Week 74 (Jan. 30, 2013)

Ending the first motnh of 2013 comics, this week packs a LONG list of incredible titles and interesting storylines.  The Batman & Robin and Green Lantern Corps annuals are overflowing with possibilities pertaining to their individual series.  Two Before Watchmen titles bring us closer to the end of that line and a brand new appreciation for the seminal work by Alan Moore.  And then “Throne of Atlantis”, “H’El on Earth”. and “Death of the Family” each take a step forward with chapters of their crossover taking us one step further into their stories.  So here we go:

  • Aquaman #16 delivers part four of the “Throne of Atlantis” crossover event, following the capture of the League and the the further invasion of Boston by the forces of Atlantis.  With the opening of the Trench several issues ago, which Arthur had sealed in the first arc of this series to contain the unstoppable fishmen horde, Aquaman must once again head back to the ancient lair of these creatures to rescue Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.  While doing this Arthur learns something invaluable that connects both to the Trench beings themselves and the the scepter of the Dead King that Black Manta stole in the “Others” story arc.  This appears to be the precursor to the event’s conclusion as the culprit of the missile attack on Atlantis is revealed and the scepter makes its reappearance in unsafe hands.  Aquaman tends to teeter between being a phenomenal series and being not as good.  This issue leans in the direction of awesome.  There is a new mythology being built and some really interesting events foreshadowed.  Geoff Johns is introducing plot points and concepts that promise to mature into storylines that could be talked about for decades.  Or they could just fizzle like some of the things he’s been doing of late.  We’ll see.

    The Once and Future King

    The Once and Future King

  • Batman Inc #7  is a tour-de-force.  The series in its second and final arc has showed how Talia Al-Ghul has arranged the most perfect and intricate plot (at least that I can remember) to take out Gotham in a slow, protracted way that is seemingly impossible to stop and agonizing for Batman to watch.  Grant Morrison started writing the Batman title a little over seven years ago in 2005 and has slowly built up his own micro-Bat universe that we now see has been nothing less than a train of dominoes that that he is now tipping over.  So much of what he has introduced is now being destroyed.  Prophesies are unraveling, and Damian is coming to realize the truth behind his mother’s plan and appears to be the best candidate to save his father, his father’s city, and all his father’s allies from the insanity of his Hecuba-esque mother.  As Peter Tomasi wrote in Batman & Robin #0, Talia raised him to be a new Alexander, to conquer and pacify the modern world.  She conditioned him to perfection at the age of eight.  It is my assumption that though her plan to destroy Gotham is flawless, it is not immune to her own handiwork, vis-a-vis Damian.  This series gives me chills and is Grant Morrison at his finest. Artist Chris Burnham brings his A-game to the artwork, drafting it beautifully.  I want to know how this all ends SO BAD, but I also don’t because when it does Morrison will be off of the Batman character, which is something that I never want to see.   The ultimate conundrum . . .

    Son of the Bat/Son of the Demon

    Son of the Bat/Son of the Demon

  • Flash #16 was a delight to read.  Last issue Barry Allen was rendered unconscious and had to be rescued from Grodd by his girlfriend, police officer Patty Spivot, and other allies.  In his delirium his mind had gone through every possible outcome of how to beat Grodd and the moment he woke up the issue ended.  This issue opens with him deciding on a plan that we are not made privy to as well as  a touching scene between Barry and Patty talking about what he has to do and the depth of their feelings for one another.  I love Patty Spivot a lot, and I have a feeling that the writer/artists of this issue do too.  In another part of the issue they portray Flash’s wife from the previous incarnation of the series, Iris West, in a less than flattering manner when it comes to her relations and manipulations of Barry.  I hope that Barry and Patty have a decent amount of time together before the possibility of a relationship with Iris is put back on the table.  After parting ways with Patty the confrontation with Grodd commences and it is one that is both poignant and thought provoking in Barry’s approach.  The issue ends before the true meaning of it is made clear, but what is shown is intriguing to say the least.  Writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato write the Flash better than anyone (I’m looking at you, too, Geoff Johns) and they depict him visually amongside the greats.
  • Red Lantern #16 is the final Green Lantern title before the culminating  Green Lantern Corps Annual.  Atrocitus digs deep and finds the humility and strength to resurrect the Manhunters, the soulless robot army of the Guardians that murdered his family and wiped out his sector of space, and use them as his instrument of revenge against their former masters, the Guardians.  On the Red Lantern homeworld of Ysmault, the Red Lantern custodian of the Central Power Battery, Ratchet, digs beneath the planet’s surface to ascertain the cause of the leeching of power from the Corps main battery.  What he finds cuts to the deepest secret of the Red Lantern Corps’ formation, as seen in Red Lantern #0.  On Earth Rankorr faces off against the street punk that murdered his grandfather.  His goal is to kill this man, concluding his initiatory vengeance that caused the ring to choose him.  With the help of Bleez, the Corps’ first lieutenant, he does so, but retains enough human compassion to temper his rage, once again raising the question of the nature of his ties to the red ring on his finger.  I love Bleez and her portrayal in this issue remains complex and fascinating to behold.  So many interesting things occur in this issue, including Atrocitus’s trip to Maltus, the first home of the Guardians, and what he finds there the Guardians hid away out of fear.  I am not certain what it is, but I have a very shrewd idea.  This issue, like those that came before it, is proof that Peter Milligan is one of the best comic writers out there.  In the latter half of this series Miguel Sepulveda has taken over the art and I hate it so much.  This issue had a guest artist, Andres Guinaldo, who to me was a breath of fresh air.  His art was very soft and rounded giving genuine feeling to the narrative and emotion to the very tough decisions that many of the characters had to make.  Red Lantern is a top tier title because of the rich material and the talented creators that mine it and hone it to perfection.

    A Lesson in Vengeance

    A Lesson in Vengeance

  • Green Lantern Corps Annual #1 ushers in the next major event in the saga of the Green Lantern Corps.  Just as the Green Lantern Annual #1 ushered in the current “Rise of the Third Army” event, this annual inaugurates the “Wrath of the First Lantern” event.  With “Rise of the Third Army” the Guardians have descended into pure evil, assassinating their own corps in order to replace them with thoughtless drones, just like the Manhunters before them.  But its not just their police force they are going to convert, but every sentient being in the universe.  A handful of Green Lanterns have found the Guardians out and rush to stop them before they can succeed in slaughtering their fellow corpsmen like lambs to the slaughter.  This annual was INSANE, bringing together all or most of the plot points from four Green Lantern titles to a single converging point.  In four books the Guardians’ evil scheme has been experienced by multiple, isolated parties.  By issue’s end, these parties are united against the Guardians, regardless of how they fair.  The fate of Mogo is also determined in this issue, and though the final verdict on how the planet Green Lantern fits into the Guardians’ heinous scheme, I remain optimistic and have to say, “Welcome back, Mogo.  You’ve been missed, Big Guy!”
  • Batman & Robin Annual #1 is another key chapter in the evolving relationship between Bruce Wayne and his son, Damian.  Bruce is a very rigid person with a methodical nature centered around an equally rigid moral code.  Damian was raised in a more amoral atmosphere, but with the same rigidity and methodicalness.  That similarity yet diametrical difference between father and son has caused a lot of friction and misunderstanding.  But to the younger Wayne’s credit, when give the choice of staying with his father and live a life counter to his upbringing or go back to live with his mother who would give him his heart’s every desire, the ten year old doesn’t even pause.  He chooses the hard path of righteousness that his father has blazed for thirty odd years.  In this annual, Damian displays an emerging duality in his nature.  On one side he has Alfred whisk his dad away on a scavenger hunt across Europe of significant moments in Wayne history that he has discovered while trying to understand his father’s connection to his past.  Going from London, to Barcelona, to Athens, Bruce learns things about his parents that even he didn’t know.  Their loss was what prompted him to go on his crusade of vengeance that has consumed his life since that fateful day in his youth.  But that same crusade is also what blinded him to so much of his parents’ story.  So Damian reconnects him to his beloved parents in perhaps the kindest gift any son could give a father.  However, with Damian there is always a catch.  This time around, the scavenger hunt is a ruse to get Bruce out of Gotham so he can put on a makeshift Batman costume and be the Batman of Gotham for a week.  Interestingly enough, his costume is a smaller version of the trench coat Batman look that writer Grant Morrison has three times shown Damian to wear in the future when Damian becomes Batman.  This annual was really a heartfelt piece that compliments everything that Tomasi has done in the series thus far, accentuating the soul of two very interesting characters.

    A Glimpse Into The Past

    A Glimpse Into The Past

  • Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #5 delivers the penultimate chapter of the saga of Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias, the smartest man alive.  He’s already decided that if the world is going to continue through the nuclear age he has to be the one to save it from human shortsightedness. How he arrives upon the nightmarish scheme we see in the original Watchmen series is depicted in this issue and quite well.  I am curious as to whether his inspiration was mentioned in the original series or if Alan Moore talked about his own inspiration, because Len Wein’s explanation was spot on.  The lead up to Adrian’s undertaking of the project and the years that went into building up the infrastructure for it (14 by my count) are chronicled in minute detail, as is the implementing of the Keene Act that banned masked crime fighters.  Len Wein is one of the best writers in this Before Watchmen line and proves it in the analytic manner he composes the story, as well as the innovative way he spins the anti-heroic character considering the many sins Ozymandias commits on his path of altruism.  Jae Lee has been one of my favorite comic artists since I first saw his work on the Marvel Inhumans series years ago.  He’s been tied up with the Dark Tower series for several years now and its a delight to see him out and stretching his wings on a DC series.  The next issue of this series is going to tie the whole thing up and I am a’quiver with anticipation for the conclusion of a very intense story of one of the most iconically antipathetic characters in comics history.
  • Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill is a one-shot Before Watchmen tale about one of the least known, gaudy characters springing forth from Alan Moore’s original 1980’s series.  In it writer Len Wein humanizes the character of Dollar Bill, telling us his name and the semi-relatable tale of the man who had everything and could achieve next to nothing.  Seemingly the opposite of what a superhero should be, William Brady has the looks, the stamina, and the charm to conquer the world, excelling in sports and graduating from Dartmouth.  However, when the real world and bad luck check his success and reduce him to an unemployable mess, fate steers him inadvertently into the world of costumed adventuring.  Watchmen was a series about “realistic” superheroes and Dollar Bill fits that mold wonderfully in what he is and how Wein portrays him.  Despite him being likened to people that I dislike in my everyday life, the inner monologue and down-to-earth perspective presented made me actually like him more than a little and mourn his passing at books end.  Being that he is a Minuteman, the original vigilante group from the 30’s and 40’s, his dying isn’t that big of a spoiler, especially if one has already read The Watchmen and knows the full sordid tale of his demise.  Steve Rude provides art and lettering on this book in a very nuanced manner that is very appropriate to the title.  I include that he is also the letterer, because the way he letters the captions with the colored, emboldened first letters for each separate box is a feature characteristic of Golden Age comics of the time that this book is meant to take place, circa 1940’s.   This touch, along with his art style makes this one shot seem very authentic and believably vintage.  If one is a Watchmen fan, this is one-shot a must read issue.
  • Superman #16 picks up with H’el reliving his initial time with Superman’s parents, Jor-El and Lara, on Krypton months before its destruction.  These flashback sequences, of which there have been a few throughout the “H’el on Earth” crossover, are intriguing, as they paint H’el as a chivalrous man of the people, while at the same time calling into question the characters of Superman’s father and mother.  H’el’s scheme to restore Krypton at the cost of our entire solar system and it tens of trillions of inhabitants is nightmarish, and yet, though they have yet to come out and said it outright, H’el insinuates that Jor-El and Lara knew of and endorsed this plan.  Can that be, and if so what does it say about Superman’s heritage? On that same topic, through conversation between the two, we are shown that Supergirl is unaware that H’el’s plan will eradicate all life in our solar system and that H’el is consciously lying to her to gain her support in completing the plan.  And complete it they do, because by issue’s end the Star Chamber they have constructed is activated and the Oracle is awakened in another part of space to come and “bear witness to the end of a world.”  Kenneth Rocafort’s art makes this issue visually stunning and Scott Lobdell clearly helms the entire “H’el on Earth” crossover from this title, as every issue of Superman has been the wellspring of vital information concerning H’el’s plot and history.  Next month’s Superman #17 is solicited to bring this whole event to a close.  I, for one, cannot wait . . .
  • Talon #4 picks up in the bowels of the Hudson Financial Building as former Talon, Calvin Rose, concludes his business of defunding the Court of Owls numerous investments through this shell financial institution.  Of course, as we saw in previous issues, the Court has unleashed an asset of theirs so horrific that he was not even given the status of Talon, nor the same considerations as the rest.  With his release, the Court tips their hand as to how desperate they are to stop Calvin and his comrade-in-arms, Sebastian Clark, from further interfering in their affairs.  Also thrown into the mix is Calvin’s former lover, Casey Washington, who leads her own underground army of fugitive members of other world cabals.  Originally Calvin severed their relationship for fear that further interactions between them would lead the Court to her and her daughter.  The end of this issue tests that assumption, as well as the mettle of both Calvin and Casey in the face of the Court’s riskiest gambit.  James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder craft the plot exquisitely and Guillem March, as with everything he does, renders it beautifully up each and every page.  This series is one of the cannot miss titles of the DC lineup.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #16 wasn’t anything special.  Batman stops a string of kidnappings and assumes they are perpetrated by the Penguin.  Upon closer inspection, mind control devices are involved meaning its the Mad Hatter.  The Mad Hatter shows up.  That’s it.  There is next to no plotline to speak of.  Perhaps Gregg Hurwitz is gearing up for something, but apart from some gratuitous violence, leaves nothing to lure readers into buying the next issue.  Gregg Hurwitz I think was brought on to take over the supposedly lackluster writing of series artist David Finch and cowriter Paul Jenkins.  Hurwitz’s writing is far less substantial than the original writing team, as evinced by his  strawman Scarecrow storyline and this empty first issue of the Mad Hatter plot.  The one saving grace of this issue was the guest art by Ethan Van Sciver.
  • Teen Titans #16 brings to a close the “Death of the Family” tie-ins of both Red Hood and the Outlaws as well as Teen Titans, since Joker kidnapped Jason Todd and Timothy Drake together.  Last week’s Red Hood and the Outlaws #16 didn’t deal with the “Death of the Family” plot head on, but rather a roundabout way through the associates of the two former Robins coming together to locate their respective teammates.  This one focuses on Tim and Jason as they face off against the Joker, culminating in that oh so familiar defeat and awakening to the Joker holding a platter that all the other affiliated series have ended on with the promise of resolution in Batman #17.  I have no idea what that portends, but this issue found its heart in two diametrically different sidekicks of the Batman coming together like brothers against a common enemy.  You can tell that there is a lingering dislike and rivalry between the two that belies a deep fraternal affection for one another.  They also gel quite well when the chips are down and lives are at stake.  Scott Lobdell and artist Brett Booth hit a homerun this issue, in my humble opinion.  Also, as a post-script, I thought it fascinating that Lobdell threw in the teaser page, that not only introduced properly (there was a passing mention in Teen Titans #13) Trigon and his intentions to invade our sphere.  Also introduced is his daughter Raven (who was introduced as a girl in Phantom Stranger #1), here seen in her demon’s garb, which I think trumps her original outfit ten times over.  An original member of the New Teen Titans, I hope that her future appearances lead to her joining the team as she had in most of the title’s previous incarnations.
    The Rise of Raven

    The Rise of Raven


  • Justice League Dark #16 flounders a little bit, in my opinion.  In the “magical world” that is anything but, we see that the aboriginal denizens of magic have been forced underground by the humans who have adopted superscience to cull and repress the magical element, eventually dominating the whole of this sphere of existence.  The last hope of the magical beings is their lost king, the Hunter, who escaped to Earth via the Books of Magic and promised to return.  Timothy Hunter is his descendant and his coming could herald the return of magic.  The story is interesting for sure, but the delivery was a little bland and lacking the panache and charm that this title began with in spades.  Jeff Lemire is a good writer, but the direction he’s taking the characters in could be better.
  • Masters of the Universe: The Origin of He-Man was less exciting and reveiling than its predecessor, The Origin of Skeletor.  With the Skeletor introduction, not only did writer Joshua Fialkov do something completely different by making Skeletor, then Keldor, the older brother of King Randor, He-Man’s father, but also wrote a very compelling story for his transition from loyal and loving older brother to insane, skull faced dictator. The narrative was compelling, innovative and took the reader by surprise.  This origin story of He-Man says NOTHING!  He-Man isn’t portrayed in any other way than he has been in the past, and apart  from Skeletor being his uncle, nothing is different.  This special not only doesn’t need to be read, but shouldn’t have been written as it gives nothing new, interesting or insightful to the proceedings.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #6 concludes the miniseries with the combined forces of the Masters of the Universe awakening from Skeletor’s amnesia spell and the final battle with Skeletor commencing.  As He-Man stories go it wasn’t terrible.  The series started off and continued to do some innovative things so I will admit I was expecting more from the conclusion, however, it did live up to expectations.  One thing that surprised me and I guess I will give credit to being edgy and innovative was that King Randor, Teela, and everyone else knew that He-Man is also Prince Adam.  Also it is revealed through passing that the amnesia spell was cast by Orko who betrayed the Masters.  THAT would be something I wish that they would have shown considering that Orko is one of the most benign characters in the He-Man mythos.  His betrayal would have been a juicy plot point that other He-Man faithful, like myself, would have really enjoyed seeing.  Either way, this new version was pretty good and it appears there will be an ongoing He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series beginning in April, featuring a return of both writer Keith Giffen and artist Pop Mhan.
  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #12 begins with Superman Beyond, written by JT Krul and drawn by Howard Porter.  Superman enlists the aid of Martian Manhunter to discern the cause of the Trillians trying to kill him.  The rationale behind their vendetta is revealed and is far different and much more benign than I had thought.  If what Superman recalls is accurate, their anger is unwarranted and only serves to depict them as a cruel race.  However, in fairness to the Trillians, their side of the story hasn’t been told yet and circumstances might be slightly different from what Superman remembers, considering it took Martian Manhunter to recover those forgotten memories.  Next on the docket is a Justice League Beyond: Origin of Micron feature.  The son of a Gotham City paramedic, Micron was exposed in utero to radiation that caused him from birth to be able to shrink and expand to different sizes.  Cursed through childhood with being different and having to move often because of it, as an adult he makes his way to Metropolis to join the Justice League Beyond.  A pretty cut and dry origin with little ambiguity or twists to it, the story still resonnated through the very personal voice with which it is told.  Finally, Adam Beechen privides the next chapter in his Batman Beyond “10,000 Clowns” storyline.  It is actually more of a small taste, not accomplishing much narratively, except giving Batman (Terry McGinnis’) inner monologue on the state of affairs that find him against the ropes at the hands of the Joker King, the thoughts that lead to his rallying, and reintroducing Max back into the storyline after her abduction several issues ago, as well as revealing the identity of her captor.  Overall, this issue was entertaining, but didn’t accomplish any great revelation in any of the three segments.  However, the coming issues promise to do so based on what this issue did present.
  • Arrow #3 begins with a tale of Ollie trying to juggle his friendship with Tommy Merlyn with his nights as Starling City’s hooded vigilante.  Its an interesting story, but not very innovative or complex.  The next cashes in on the “found footage” genre of storytelling made popular recently with the movies Cloverfield, Chronicle, Apollo 19, and others.  Three kids get a video camera and a van and attempt to get footage of the Hood in action.  Finally, the third tale fills in the past of Helena Bertinelli, aka the Huntress, and the events that drove her to the jaws of vengeance seen in the series this past November.  Though intriguing, I wouldn’t say these inhanced the enjoyment or immersion into the world of the television show as effectively as the previous two have achieved in months past.
  • All-Star Western #16 picks up with what seems to be a premise spawned from a dare.  How do you make a dude in a wheel chair a total badass?  Well, with a character like Jonah Hex, half the work is done for you. After facing off with Edward Hyde who had kidnapped and forcefed his serum to Hex’s associate Dr. Jeremiah Arkham, Jonah faced off against the genocidal lunatic and was soundly thrashed.  With Arkham institutionalized until the serum ran its course through his system, Hex was left wheelchair bound to convolesce in the good doctors mansion.  Like any predator, Hyde isn’t one to let his prey escape permanently and comes for a reckoning with Hex who even one month later is still chair ridden. Also of interest is Hex’s time time in the Arkham home. In the past, we have heard the shrill cries of Arkham’s aged mother from the upper levels of the house, but never seen her.  This issue finally gives us an up close view of the woman and her demented frame of mind, namely her taste for the literary.  This issue was quite an interesting way to draw the saga of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’s time in Gotham to a close, as well as perhaps a keystone moment in the history of the Black Diamond and its whereabouts in the present of the DCU.  The backup feature Tomahawk also reaches its concluding chapter as the eponymous native warrior leads a unified assault of the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Shawnee, and Ojibwe tribes against the remaining British forces that shelter the American commander, General Lancaster, who butchered the families of Tomahawk and his fellows.  They win the day and kill the American and British soldiers present, but the final words of Lancaster ring true through the inevitablity of history.  The time of the Native Americans on their land is drawing to a close.  The rising tide of European settlers will replace them, and we the reader know this to be historically the outcome.  The true heart of the feature is the strength of the warriors’ spirit to stand against the encroaching tides.

    Old Lady Arkham

    Old Lady Arkham

  • The Unwritten #45 shifts focus from Tom Taylor’s trevails in the previous arc to Richie Savoy and Didge Patterson in real world Australia.  Savoy has set out to establish his own story and breakaway from being a supporting character in Tom’s story.  It would appear that he has been successful in that endeavor to a degree, but is beset with the troubles that come from being the main character of a story, especially in the face of the calamity of the fictional world caused by the “Wound” sustained in the War of the Words.  However, his existentialist woes are cut short when Didge asks him to advise on a very strange murder case she is investigating involving what appear to be zombie attacks.  As with many strange occurrences in this title’s four year run, the zombies are conjured into existence through the written word.  The who is established by issue’s end by the why and logistics are yet to be seen.  Mike Carey and Peter Gross continue to amaze in this issue with some really dynamic storytelling and very compelling characters, developed slowly and carefully over years of subtly crafted storylines.
  • Joe Kubert Presents #4 rounds out the week with yet another sojourn by Kubert into the tale of “The Redeemer”, another tale of “Angel and the Ape” by Brian Buniak, and further anecdotes of Sam Glanzman about his time on the “USS Stevens.”  In “The Redeemer” Kubert goes from the year 2557 A.D. to the end of the Civil War and the Redeemer, Jim Torkan, trying to piece his life back together after his life in the South is destoryed following the surrender of Lee’s forces.  The post-war South and the frontier in the western territories were laden with great injustices and moral quagmires that could corrupt even the purest heart.  The Redeemer, true to his name, is a man whose virtue in the face of such situations dictates the redemption or fall of mankind.  But he is a man with human weaknesses, so the question remains as to whether he can remain pure of heart in a morally corrupt world.  “Angel and the Ape”  concluded their current case and comedically grants Angel greater knowledge of her partner, Sam, a crusading gorilla.  In the “USS Stevens” Sam Glanzman tells of an eccentric “asiatic” crew member on the boat called Buck, who was a practioner of Eastern philosophies like Zen Buddhism and an aficionado of quantum physics and relativity theorems   Crafting a makeshift weapon that crew members sometimes fashioned from scrap metal aboard shop called “sheath knives”, Buck attacked the captain of the boat and earned himself a transfer off ship.  The night before, supposedly someone on another boat swore they saw Buck floating in front of the Stevens where a figurehead would normally appear.  The story clearly was told for the sole purpose of rationalizing the feasibility of whether this sighting was real or fabricated, considering his former peculiarities, as well as the man on the other ship’s ignorance of Buck’s eccentricities.  The issue concludes like its predecessors with a very novel, retro feel of a bygone era of comic writing.
    Lives Lives And Lives To Come

    Lives Lives And Lives To Come

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

Ending a long, but memorable week of comics, the books that came out just reaffirm how incredible this medium is.  Next week February promises a continuance on some incredible stories told this first month of 2013.  Can’t wait to read them and share my impressions with all of you.

 

Illustration Credits:

Aquaman #16: Drawn by Paul Pelletier, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Sean Parsons

Batman Inc #7: Art by Chris Burnham, colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Red Lanterns #16: Drawn by Andres Guinaldo, Colored by Rain Beredo, Inked by BIT

Batman & Robin Annual #1: Drawn by Adrian Syaf, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Vincente Cifunetes

Teen Titans #16: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund

All-Star Western #16: Art by Moritat, Colored by Mike Atiyeh

Joe Kubert Presents #4: Art by Joe Kubert

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