Feb. 12, 2014

This was a rather light week on my pull list.  Only a couple things came out and even fewer of merit.  Obviously Batman is one of my top monthly picks right alongside Superman/Wonder Woman. Nightwing, Green Lantern Corps, and Superboy have been quality titles.  Coffin Hill is hanging by the thinnest of threads, falling short of the other titles in Vertigo’s new lineup of titles.  However, The Royals comes out this week, also from the Vertigo Comics imprint, presenting a very intriguing concept.  Here’s how they stacked up:

  • Batman #28 has writer Scott Snyder taking yet another break from the current storytelling to tell a tangent story that introduces his Batman Eternal series which hits stores in April.  While the unexpected hiatus is annoying after last issue’s tense cliffhanger, the story is intriguing and whets the readers appetite for what to expect from this weekly title, out in two months.  Beginning with Harper Row on the mean streets of Gotham after an imposed curfew, she is caught by the cops and taken to a very swanky night club.  From here Scott Snyder introduces the atmosphere Gotham is living under.  Some mystery condition has beset Gotham, viral or other, that necessitates a cure which the owner of this club has sole access to.  The club’s owner and kingpin of the Gotham crime underground is another intriguing twist that maintains Snyder’s reputation as one of the emerging Batman writers of the new millennium.  For me personally, there were two elements of the plot that excited me and put my frustration at not getting closure from last issue’s cliffhanger to bed.  The first one comes in the form of Harper Row.  Harper was introduced by Snyder early on in the rebooted Batman title and then slowly brought to the forefront.  She is an incredible, alternative young woman that is intelligent, quick witted, and tough as nails.  It was really looking like she was going to be the new Robin following the heartrending departure of Damian Wayne.  This is not the case, and while Batman said he wouldn’t allow her into the fold, she does enter the fold in a Robin-esque role, but not under the nom-de-guerre of Batman’s Boy Wonder legacy, of which two girls were once a part.  That actually works well for me, because Harper is very different from the other kid sidekicks Batman’s worked with.  She is an alternative teen with dyed hair, a septum piercing, and a very distinct style. For all their differences in social class, background, and motivations, Dick, Jason, Tim, Damian, and Barbara all seemed to be different shades of conventionality. Harper is a bird of a different color, both figuratively and nominally with the heroic identity she dons in this issue.  What I think really hits for me with Harper is that vast majority of young women I know that are hardcore into the Batman titles are remarkably similar to Harper, not really mirroring Barbara or any of the other female members of the Bat Family. Harper is just really cool and a perfect fit in the re-imagining of the Batman mythos.  Apropos the mentioning of female members of the Bat Family and batgirls, the second element of Batman #28 that got me giddy was the introduction of Stephanie Brown, current Spoiler and “once and future” Batgirl, to the New DCU.   Dustin Nguyen provides art on the book and does a great job capturing the darkly elegant underworld of the criminal elite in this issue.  It’s like a blast from the past back to his days on Batman: Streets of Gotham.  Overall a really great issue that has me primed for Batman Eternal.
    Enter Bluebird . . .

    Enter Bluebird . . .

     

  • Superman/Wonder Woman #5 continues the title in the vein with which it began last October.  Superman and Wonder Woman are very similar, but also very different.  The title has been very Super-centric, having mostly dealt with Supes and his pantheon of characters, i.e. Doomsday, Cat Grant, and Zod and Faora.  While there was a shirt interlude of Superman going toe-to-toe with Wonder Woman’s dickish older brother, Apollo, her world has been in the background for most of the previous four issues.  In this we see her visit Themyscira to “speak” with her mother and sisters Amazons whom the gods turned to stone.  She looks to them for counsel considering her attempt to reconcile the differences between her worldview and Superman’s.  It’s really fascinating, because if you look at each from the other’s perspective you see diametric differences that almost cast the other in a questionable light.  Wonder Woman comes from a proud race that exalt their strength and extraordinary qualities.  Clark comes from a humble Midwestern upbringing that espoused moderation and humility.  Seeing eye-to-eye is a struggle that they both wrestle with and Wonder Woman’s journey to do so is very honest in this issue, exposing her inner virtues as well as some not so flattering prejudices.  However, while these musings go on, Superman is fending off General Zod and his recently emancipated lover, Faora, whom Zod pulled from the Phantom Zone at the end of last month’s issue.  Once he is rejoined by Wonder Woman, you get a “mirror darkly” collision of two couples, one altruistic and noble and the other sinister and brutal.  That is not the only difference, however, as Superman and Wonder Woman are not well suited to fighting side by side, but Zod and Faora are as one and fight like linked appendages of a single body and mind.  Working as they are it becomes clear that Superman and Wonder Woman need to regroup.  The writing and art on this book are superb and at the top tier of any books being put out by any comic company.  Charles Soule is amazing and Tony Daniel’s artwork is some of the best being produced.  This title is well worth the cover price for anyone that like Superman, Wonder Woman, or good character driven comics.SupermanWonderWoman5
  • Nightwing #28 is a beginning of the end for this title.  With only two more issues before its conclusion writer Kyle Higgins is starting to wrap up the final notes of his narrative of Dick Grayson’s journey as Nightwing.  Tony Zucco, his parent’s murderer, is finally in prison and Dick concludes his associations with Sonia Branch, Zucco’s daughter and ambiguous love interest to Dick.  The parting is bittersweet, because while Sonia is a high power businesswoman who isn’t always straightforward, she is a good woman who has always looked out for Dick and I think genuinely cared about him.  With Nightwing’s revealing to the world that Zucco was alive and part of a corrupt mayoral administration in Chicago Sonia was let go of her job as a bank executive, owing to the bad press.  These developments leave Dick in a state of ennui that quickly transitions with the sudden murder of a couple that live in his building.  The couple’s daughter, Jen, had stumbled across Nightwing’s paraphernalia in Dick’s room and discovered his identity.  After her parent’s death she asks Dick to help and tells him she knows he’s Nightwing.  He tries to pretend that she is imagining things, with disastrous results.  The dynamic become almost the same as his when his parents were murdered and he tried to get Batman to help him.  However, with the imminent cancellation of the title it’s not likely this relationship will reciprocate his with Bruce Wayne/Batman.  Kyle Higgins has been on this title since the first issue and terminates with next month’s #29 issue. It’s a shame that he wasn’t able to make it through all 30 issues of the regular series, but unfortunately that is how the cookie crumbles.  His run has been solid, character-driven, and a keen, thoughtful look into the life of Dick Grayson.  His excellent writing has kept me reading the title, despite Dick being the the most “vanilla” Robin in my opinion.  Higgins made me care, and for those that love Dick I can only imagine how great this series has been.  It is uncertain what the future holds for Nightwing, but for two more months we’ve got him.  Here’s hoping they are a good two months. 
  • Green Lantern Corps #28 begins an arc entitled “The Hunt for Von Daggle.”  With the larger event of the Durlan crusade against the Green Lantern Corps looming large over the GL family of books, locating the person of Von Daggle becomes a key front in the supremacy of that  conflict.  Daggle is a Durlan that broke from the Ancient’s control and became a member of the Green Lantern Corps years prior.  Now in deep cover and gone to ground after the fall of the Guardians, he is a person whose loyalty could turn the tides of war in favor of those with whom he chooses to align himself.  Obviously the Durlans are not his favorite people to begin with, and though he would be welcomed back with open arms should he choose to return, why would he?  Conversely, the Guardians (rot in Hell) were equally awful and exploitative, leading him to break ties with the Corps after the fall of central authority.  Robert Venditti and Van Jensen have been working closely to tie the two core books of the Green Lantern line close together and the universal landscape they paint is quite troubling, in the best way possible.  The Corps is facing a MESS! The Durlans have blindsided them with devastating blows.  They stuck deep at the heart of the Corps’ sense of security, blowing up their central command center on their new homeworld, Mogo, and vastly, striking numerous Corps chapterhouses throughout the 3600 sectors.  Even more devastating, a Durlan impersonating Hal Jordan revealed to the Universe that the rings the various Lanterns wear drain the universal reservoir of  light and that the Green Lanterns will not cease to use their rings, but stop anyone else from draining that same energy they are squandering.  Their plan is genius and it leaves the Green Lanterns with both feet knocked out from underneath them.  These devastating blows may have been a death stroke, but for two serendipitous developments: 1) the turning of the Corps worst enemies against their Durlan benefactors in favor of the Green Lanterns, and 2) the existence of Von Daggle, who could tell them all they need to know about taking the fight to the Durlans.  Jensen and Venditti have made the Green Lantern books once again a family of titles worth reading.GreenLanternCorps28
  • Coffin Hill #5 is a series which I want to get behind.  Lord knows Inaki Miranda’s art is awesome.  The plot in a hypothetical way is very good.  I mean if I were to make a rough synopsis of what is going on currently in the title, the backstory, and the general concept it sounds great.  I think Caitlin Kittredge is just having difficulty making it come off.  Eve Coffin is a hard protagonist to relate to, because Kittredge has given us little in the way of understanding her.  She was an angsty teenager who was raised in affluence as part of the venerable Coffin family of Coffin Hill, apparently descended from a fable witch of “Coffin Hill.”  Her and her friends cast a spell in the woods in 2003, but apart from her waking up afterward and finding her one friend naked and covered in blood and the other completely MIA, we don’t know anything about what happened.  She became a cop in Boston, got shot by someone who Kittredge heavily infers has a history with Eve.  Do we know that history?  Not at all.  Whenever there is something that could possibly shed light on who Eve Coffin is or why we should cut her slack for her annoyingly angsty demeanor, Kittredge pulls the “dog treat” away to tease us.  Eve’s surviving friend, Melanie, has woken from her decade long coma, but fallen victim to a demonic possession.  This is an interesting, though slow moving development.  What is lacking is something for the reader to latch onto.  Perhaps all these story elements are best held off until a later date, but again, if you withhold substantial bits of exposition from your readers like the proverbial dog treat they will eventually bite your hand or just lose interest and wander off.  I can’t say that I can strongly recommend this title to anyone.  Right now it is horrendously plotted and shoddily written.
  • The Royals: Masters of War #1 launches yet another groundbreaking Vertigo miniseries.  The Royals: Masters of War begins in 1940 during the height of the Blitz.  Britain’s royal family live opulently behind the walls of their palace while the rest of the country endures of the horrors of the the war with Germany.  However, in this world, due to divine right and purity of blood, the royal families of the world have superpowers.  Writer Rob Williams creates a very intriguing alternate reality with The Royals that hones old superstition and traditionalism into compelling storycraft.  In the history of his series, the French and Russian Revolutions, as well as other depositions occurred specifically because the powered Royals had forgotten their place and lorded their powers over the unpowered masses.  The current king of England was born without
    The Old Order

    The Old Order

    powers and spread the rumor that his three children were born without them as well.  They were not, which sets the stage for our story during Britain’s critical moment in WWII.  Royals DO NOT participate in warfare.  This is a modern gentleman’s agreement that is honored, regardless of whether said royal has powers of not.  King Albert is weak, his eldest son and heir to the throne, Prince Arthur, is a debauch wastrel, with a mean streak when he has imbibed.  The king’s twins and youngest children, Prince Henry and Princess Rose, are raised with their heads in the clouds and only small whisperings of the conflict at large.  Deciding to venture outside the walls of the Palace both witness the full horrors of the German bombing of their countrymen.  For Henry it is far too much to bear and he clandestinely enters the war, downing scores of planes with his bare hands.  With this GIANT breach of international etiquette the floodgates are opened for the remaining Royals to enter the fray. The artwork by Simon Coleby is very somber and robust, almost seeming like Edwardian paintings, which adds a good deal of ambiance to the title.  Rob Williams’ writing is austere and candid, paying the respect to the British Crown one would expect, but the honesty of the characters that live under it.  Just a fantastic beginning to a very promising new series from Vertigo.

    The New Order

    The New Order


A light week, but a very decent batch of excellent comics.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #28: Drawn by Dustin Nguyen, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Derek Fridolfs.

Superman/Wonder Woman  #5: Drawn by Tony S. Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by Sandu Florea & BATT.

Green Lantern Corps #28: Art by Bernard Chang, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo.

Royals: Masters of War #1: Art by Simon Coleby, Colored by JD Mettler.

Jan. 29, 2014

This week rounds out the month with some classic series like Teen Titans and The Flash and adds a few Annuals to the mix.  It also marks the end of the very intriguing Damian: Son of Batman series.  Not the most perfect week of comics, but certainly a few gems to be read.

  • The Flash #27 begins the last arc of writer Brian Buccellato’s run on this title.  Beginning in the 19th century when the Gem Cities of Keystone and Central City were mining camps, we get a two page glimpse at a murder centuries.  Cut to the present when Flash is running down (pun intended) a few of his lesser foes, only to discover a hidden chamber beneath the city streets containing several long dead bodies.  They fit the M.O. of a killer put away on a life sentence, but according to forensics were killed AFTER said person, Hollis Holden, was sent to Iron Heights Prison.  As Barry looks into the facts it slowly dawns on him that this could be the case that clears his father’s name of killing Barry’s mom.  It’s a sad thing that Buccellato is leaving the Flash, because his collaboration with Francis Manapul on the title has truly invigorated this series and made it one of the “can’t miss” series of the current DC lineup.  Though Manapul is absent in art, Patrick Zircher takes over art duties and his panels bring the Flash alive in a whole new way.  I won’t say that I like the art better than Manapul’s, which is in it’s own category, but I definitely love his work and would seek it out in other titles once this title transitions. With this being Buccellato’s last hoorah on the Flash, it’s a distinct possibility that Barry might ACTUALLY solve his mother’s murder.  The question comes down to how well that answer could be given under the current circumstances and the size of Buccellato’s ego.  My opinion could swing favorably or unfavorably on this one.  Two more issues to go . . .
  • The Red Lanterns #27 begins properly the new phase in the Red Lantern mission.  After “Lights Out” Hal Jordan gave Guy Gardner and his Red Lanterns a sector of Space for their own, free of interference from the Green Lanterns.  Guy took 2814, home most notably to the planet Earth.  Writer Charles Soule says Ysmault, the Red Lantern homeworld, is in Sector 2814 and that is the rationale for its selection.  I’m not buying it.  This is one time when I have to question Soule’s logic, considering that Ysmault was used as the prison to house the survivors of the Manhunter massacre of every living thing in Sector 666, except the six Inversions imprisoned on there.  They were imprisoned to keep them out of sight and out of mind so they couldn’t tell the rest of the Universe what the Guardians let happen.  So . . . why would they put these dangerous criminals in a heavily populated sector like 2814 when they could use any of the THOUSANDS of deserted planets in 666 where nobody ever goes and where there are no Green Lanterns patrolling?  I’m pretty sure they did even say Ysmault is in 666 somewhere in one issue or another.  A very ill-conceived gambit to justify the annexing of 2814 by the Reds.  With that taken into account, Guy intends to inspect Earth and show Skallox and Zilius Zox his homeworld, as they have never seen it before.  I am fairly certain Skallox went to Earth in Red Lanterns #10 or the crossover issue of Stormwatch #10.  Soule is appearing to not have done his homework.  Rankorr and Bleez, who have been to Earth many times, are dispatched to find a newly minted Red Lantern and reign them in, only to come face-to-face with Atrocitus, who found new ring himself and initiate the new toad-like Red into the fold.  On Earth Skallox and Zox are left to their own devices, invariably finding trouble.  The main thing that Charles Soule accomplishes with this issue is the reintroduction of Tora Olafsdottir, aka Ice, into the New DCU, as well as recapping the former relationship that Guy and Tora once had.  I like the series, but I do think that of the many things that Charles Soule is currently writing this is the weakest series and the one that probably has the least of his attention.  That’s not to say that it’s bad, but it could be way better.
    An Icy Reception.

    An Icy Reception.


  • Teen Titans #27 appears to be Scott Lobdell’s attempt to make a liar out of me.  Last issue, he and artist Tyler Kirkham went about detailing the secret origin of Kid Flash, aka Bar-Tor, as a “psychotic anarchist” who led a bloody rebellion in a tyrannically oppressive future.  At least that was their aim.  What they showed was a level headed kid that did everything within his power to protect and provide for his little sister, Shira, and make a better world.  He is nothing more than what any person would be in that situation and far from the psychopath they’d depicted him as.  This issue changes that.  It also, to a small degree, changes the rationale behind his surrender to the galactic “Functionary” that oppressed the lower classes of its citizens.  In issue #26 it appeared that the near death of Shira due to his actions snapped Bar out of his revolutionary fervor, making him give himself up to authorities.  While I still believe that he loves his sister and that she is his primary reason for doing what he has done, Scott Lobdell shows that Kid Flash’s surrender was both strategic and deceptive.  Though he was granted witness protection and a new identity in the past, the Functionary show when they try Bar in this issue that they never had any intention of letting him live.  They only meant to break his rebellion by putting on a show trial with him ratting out those that believe in him and fought for him, killing their spirit, and then executing him afterward.  Bar knew this and turned the tables.  After admitting his utter guilt to the charges laid against him the ceiling is literally blown off of the courthouse and the prison guards arm the rebels and teleport them to the scene.  Bar has the Functionary bigwigs in a snare that will ensure that all the government’s heads will roll in one swing of the sword.  No one is going to survive Bar’s coup, not even the innocents present.  In his demeanor and his actions, Kid Flash does take on the crazed temper he’d be cast in leading up to these last two issues.  It’s madness, but the question is whether it is a good kind of madness.  What is happening seems very much like the French Revolution with the prison guards turning against their masters and opening the prisons in an all out breakdown of the system.  I am very curious to see how this predicament pans out and how the crazy Kid Flash from this issue reconciles with the very grounded, moral version that perhaps only I saw in the last issue.  With a character like Kid Flash it’s hard to believe he would get kamikaze’d like, that regardless of whether the title is getting cancelled in April or not.  Scott Lobdell hasn’t let me down so far and has written this series superbly throughout the two and a half year run.  Artist Tyler Kirkham is hitting it out of the park in the realm of art, really making this title a jewel in his resume.  I’m onboard this train till it’s last stop two months from now.  What a ride . . .

    The Face of Teenage Revolution.

    The Face of Teenage Revolution.

  • Talon #15 is yet another comic by Marguerite Bennett that I went into with high hopes, only to have them dashed.  The issue has NO story. Yes, there is something resembling a plot, but at the end of the issue the reader is left with two questions: 1) What did I just read? 2) Why should I care?  The plot (or what passes for one) begins with an African American Talon taking down William Cobb to become the Court of Owl’s new assassin.  It should be noted that this Talon is male, meaning that it is not Strix, who came into her second life in the 50’s. The pacing of the issue is also very jarring, following the reverse order paradigm of Christopher Nolan’s seminal film, Memento.  Slowly we work our way back through this guys life, and while the imagery is very depressing and often tragic, the rationale of why we are even hearing about this guy is not answered.  This is a one-off for Bennett, the title will transition to Tim Seeley’s hands for it’s final two issues, so again the possibility that this is setting something up is dubious.  There was even the possibility in my head that in some way this gentleman was a relative of Casey Washington, but due to the time period and the circumstances described this is just a nameless Talon we may never hear from again.  Every time I come across a title that Marguerite Bennett writes I get a twinge.  Maybe she’s good at writing her own material, but so far everything of hers I have read is her writing a one-shot issue of someone else’s property like her Batman Annual #2 last year, the TERRIBLE Lobo issue she wrote during Villains Month this September, and her lackluster Batgirl #25 in November.  She’s writing two one-shots next month and both have me worried.  Joker’s Daughter features the title character whom I do not care for one iota, so that sounds like a giant waste of money.  Lois Lane is a horse of a different color, because that has the potential to be amazing . . . assuming the writer has the talent to actually pull it off.  Lois Lane is a character that can be incredible, but can also be absolutely terrible if the writer doesn’t know what they are doing. Bennett does not instill faith.  Also the artist on Lois Lane, Emanuela Lupacchino, is an up and coming talent and I’ve enjoyed her past work a great deal, so that is another reason Bennett’s authorship is troubling.  No one wants to be the weakest link that breaks the chain, especially when that chain is Lois Lane, one of the most beloved female characters in comics and someone that fans have been screaming to have her own solo book.  Marguerite Bennett said this of her controversial Lobo issue this past September:
    You can hate me by Page Two. But if I do not have your attention by Page Four, you don’t have to read something of mine ever again.”
    Well Ms. Bennett, you have until the last page of Lois Lane #1 to sell me that you can write anything.  Then I am going to take you up on your previous offer.  
  • Damian: Son of the Batman #4 brings to a close Andy Kubert’s four issue miniseries dedicated to Damian Wayne, whom Kubert co-created with Grant Morrison.  This series has been and continues to be a very Kubert-esque journey through the life of Batman.  Joe Kubert, Andy’s father, had a very characteristic drawing style that influenced comic art for seventy years, but also a narrative style that is like no one else’s, past or present.  Andy has definitely inherited his dad’s artistic style, but he also emotes the same incredible voice as a writer.  Joe could have written this, but at the same time there is a darker edge that is all Andy.  In a lot of ways that is something of which this comic is an allegory.  Damian is taking over for his legendary father, Batman.  In the first issue, even after the death of Batman (it’s actually Dick Grayson) he is reticent to take on the mantle of the Bat, but as events unfold he is thrust into becoming Batman, but a Batman on his terms.  His father, who is still alive though quite old, chastises him for his wanton brutality which does get through to the young Wayne.  But as this issue concludes and Damian actualizes himself as the new Dark Knight he takes on the role adhering closely to his father’s legacy and being Batman in the ways that matter, but also maintaining an element of his own identity while in the role.  Now I don’t know if Joe and Andy had an idyllic relationship or a rocky one like Bruce and Damian in this series, but the parallels of Andy taking the reigns of continuing his father’s legendary name and legacy in the comics industry rings true to Damian’s struggle herein.  As stated, Joe Kubert’s art can be found in elements of more than four generations of comic artists, but his writing style is far more rare and that is what Andy stands as a torchbearer to.  Top to bottom, this was an incredible four issue miniseries and well worth reading for those that love and miss Damian Wayne.

    Long Live the Batman!

    Long Live the Batman!

  • Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 provides and extended format launch pad for the next major conflict in the Green Lantern family of books. The Durlans have been a problem over the past several months, but in this annual their threat begins to solidify.  They have publicly discredited the Green Lantern Corps in front of the Universe, they have rallied the Corps’ enemies into simultaneous attacks on the Corps’ chapter houses throughout the 3600 sectors of Space, and they have drawn blood by blowing up the Corps’ command center on Mogo.  Writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen give background into the Durlan threat by showing the horrific ruling council of the Durlan race called “the Ancients,” and gives voice to what the Ancients plan.  What’s more, the annual primarily focuses on the Corps’ many iconic villains, i.e. Kanjar-Ro, Bolphunga the Unrelenting, Darkstar, etc., and gives short one to two page glimpses into each villain’s past with a moment that sums up their individual motivations.  These are the worst of the worst who HATE the Corps, so what Venditti and Jensen do next is even more incredible.  Faced with an alliance with the Durlans who none of them trust, this ragtag group of villains pull a 180 and align themselves with the Green Lanterns to take out the Durlan threat.  It’s a tricky gambit and should make for one hell of an entertaining arc.  
  • Earth 2 Annual #2 finally reveals the origin of the enigmatic Batman of Earth 2.  Spoiler Alert, I am going to reveal the identity of Batman.  I feel enough time has passed since the issue dropped that those that want to know already know, but if someone doesn’t, skip this review.  This series started in Earth 2 #0 with the end days of the Apokalips Invasion of Earth 2 being thwarted by the Trinity (Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman) at the cost of their lives. So with Bruce Wayne dead, who is this new Batman and why is he doing what he is doing?  The breadcrumbs and clues have been stacking up.  Firstly, through his rhetoric and desire to free “dangerous” inmates of the Arkham cryostasis detention center we are shown that he could be considered a criminal and a monster.  Secondly, while doing so he is revealed to have super-strength and a bulletproof hide. Thirdly, we are told that bioscans reveal him to be human.  Finally, when he goes into the containment chambers and releases the inmates he opens the Joker’s tube only to shoot him in the head, revealing a VERY deep loyalty to Batman as a person, but not an adherence to his stringent codes against killing and using firearms.  All of these paint a tantalizing riddle of who this person could be, opening the door for either a very interesting reinvention of a classic DC character or the introduction of a brand new one.  The reveal was, I am sad to say, underwhelming.  Batman is Dr. Thomas Wayne, father of Bruce Wayne, who faked his death and apparently became a junkie and a murderer out to take down mafiosi.  Maybe in the long run this will be a decent development, but it just seemed really tired and unoriginal.  Thomas Wayne as Batman was something novel that writer Brian Azzarello proposed in Flashpoint: Batman and wrote to perfection.  In that title as well, Batman became something very dark and excessive in his crusade against crime, also adopting the use of firearms.  However, Flashpoint Batman was the architect of the Batman persona following the death of 8 year old Bruce at the gunpoint of Joe Chill and the subsequent psychotic descent of his wife, Martha, into the persona of the Joker.  In Earth 2 the use of Thomas as the new Batman just comes off as lazy from a writing standpoint.  He uses guns, he’s got five o’clock shadow, he’s willing to kill, his costume is red and grey/black with sharper edges.  There are too many similarities with not enough validating differences to make Thomas’ role in the book worthwhile.  Now that may change, but the deadbeat dad concept, while tragic, falls flat for me.  This is a shame as I have enjoyed the series, both under the helm of original writer James Robinson and the new authorship of Tom Taylor.  Whether Thomas was Robinson’s idea or Taylor’s, the brunt of responsibility falls on Tom Taylor to make it work however possible.
    A Father in the Shadows.

    A Father in the Shadows.


  • Worlds’ Finest Annual #1 provides a look into the lives of three very important young women from Earth 2.  The title Worlds’ Finest follows Helena Wayne, known as Robin on Earth 2 and Huntress on Earth 1, and Kara Zor-El, known as Supergirl on Earth 2 and Power Girl/Karen Starr on Earth 1.  This annual showcases their lives as emergent heroes on Earth 2, as well as a brief glimpse at a third young woman whom readers of the series Earth 2 will no doubt recognize: Fury.  Helena Wayne is of course the daughter of Bruce Wayne (Batman) and his wife Selena Kyle (Catwoman), and the first and so far only bearer of the mantle of Robin on Earth 2.  As on Earth 1, Kara is the cousin of Superman and in most ways is identical to her Earth 1 counterpart.  Fury is the enigma, as she is the daughter of Wonder Woman and an unrevealed father, and fights for Apokalips.  In this way, the annual focuses on the female scions of the three great superheroes: Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.  Paul Levitz is just the writer to tackle this assignment considering his creation of Huntress in the 70’s and his incredible career writing thoughtful comics about uncertain youths flung head first into incredible circumstances.  For proof of that assertion read any of his Legion of Super-Heroes books.  The episodes depicted in this annual concerning Helena and Kara paint the two girls as novices making mistakes, but those early blunders juxtapose against the past two years worth of issues to show how they became the strong, confident women we have seen in the present.  Fury is more cryptic in her portrayal by Levitz and no doubt that is because her origin and the revelation of her motivations are integrally keyed into the Earth 2 title.  In any event, Levitz brings his A-game to these stories and spins into being three events that define the characters of these two dimensionally displaced heroines.

And thus concludes the first month of comics in 2014.  Here’s hoping to many more awesome issues to fill out the coming eleven months.

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

Illustration Credits:

Red Lanterns #27: Art by Alessandro Vitti, Colored by Gabe Eltaeb.

Teen Titans #27: Drawn by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Arif Prianto, Inked by Art Thibert & Dan Green.

Damian: Son of Batman #4: Art by Andy Kubert, Colored by Brad Anderson.

Earth 2 Annual #2: Drawn by Robson Rocha, Colored by Gabe Eltaeb, Inked by Scott Hanna.

Oct. 9, 2013

This second week of October has some much anticipated titles among its numbers.  The oversized Batman #24 has been burning a hole in people’s calendars for three months now as “Zero Years” has rolled onward towards an unknown, tantalizing end.   Superman/Wonder Woman has been causing controversy since late August after artist Tony Daniel let his mouth run away with him at Fan Expo in Toronto.  And with the killer first installment of “Lights Out” in Green Lantern #24 last week Green Lantern Corps #24 gives another taste of the unthinkable plot that is heralding a new age in the Green Lantern books.  Also comes the inaugural issue of the new Vertigo series Coffin Hill. So much awesome for one week.  

    • Batman #24 is a monumental Batman piece, both in size and importance to the reimagined Batman mythos. Writer Scott Snyder undertook a revamped origin story for the Dark Knight entitled “Zero Year,” which will in essence preempt Frank Miller’s “Year One”, doing the same job but tailored to the New DCU. To cut his teeth, Bruce Wayne squares off against the Red Hood Gang. In the past the Red Hood Gang and its eponymous leader have been fairly small time dealers, mostly pulling petty B&E’s and bushleague bank robberies. In Snyder’s vision the gang takes on a more sinister nature and magnitude. Their leader Red Hood One still wears the shiny red bell jar helmet, offset further up on his head so his evil grin is visible, and the suit and red cape, as before.  All of his subordinates wear suits sans cape and nondescript red Zentai masks. Also menacing is the fact that a ridiculously large percentage of Red Hood members are regular folk blackmailed or coerced into doing Red Hood One’s bidding. Snyder definitely read or watched “Fight Club,” because Red Hood One is taking on a very Tyler Durden vibe, creating an anarchist movement that infiltrates every echelon of society. Wearing various disguises and also in his Bruce Wayne persona, “Batman” has fought a back and forth war with the Red Hoods, but with the revelation that his uncle, Philip Kane, was arming the gang from Wayne Enterprise depots the struggle enters its endgame. Philip is a slippery businessman, but in actuality his part in the gang is like most members’, coerced by the enigmatic leader. Bruce finally is able to piece together Red Hood’s ultimate plan and sets a counter-plot into motion to block its fruition. Through this plan of Bruce’s Scott Snyder ties up many things begun from the inception of his Batman origin arc.  Close to the beginning, Bruce remembers his father, Dr. Thomas Wayne, inquiring what Bruce loved about Gotham. That question, which Bruce now poses via televised interview to all Gothamites encapsulates and validates the entire concept of who and what Batman represents. After the final sequence of Batman #23 with the icon scene of the bat crashing through the window in front of the shaken Bruce, weare finally shown for the first time in “Zero Year” continuity the fully realized Batman persona. By issue’s end, the defeat of the gang is delivered, as is the ultimate fate of Red Hood One.  I had a conspiracy theory that Red Hood One wasn’t the Joker, but some other Batman villain, i.e. the Riddler, or ironically Black Mask. That proved to be false.  It’s heavily insinuated to be the Joker. However, as he did with his other major arcs, “The Court of Owls” and “Death of the Family,” Snyder obscures that concrete facts to speculation and the identity of the man who fell into the vat of chemicals and his role in the gang remains unclear. Scott Snyder’s completion of the first leg of his “Zero Year” story is nothing short of amazing and provides a SOLID foundation for the New DCU Batman for as long as that continuity stands.  In the plot itself, Philip has a giant boulder of mica schist stone that cannot be broken and is hard to shape placed in his office.  He relates that these immutable characteristics make the mica ideal to build on.  There is probably a deeper meaning to the plot somewhere in that analogy, but I didn’t catch it.  What I did interpret it as, however, was a metaphor for the strength of the story as the basis for all Batman stories to come. Greg Capullo’s art is peerless. His rendering of Snyder’s complex storylines is clear, concise, stark, and moving.  Rafael Albuquerque, regular Batman backup artist and co-creator of American Vampire with Synder, provides the art for the denouement scene of this issue that puts to bed the Red Hood arc and sets up the coming Riddler arc, entitled “Blackout.” Overall, this issue blows all other Batman stories out of the water.

      What Does Gotham Mean to You?

      What Does Gotham Mean to You?

    • Batgirl #24 opens on the second installment of the “Batgirl: Wanted” plot arc.  After “killing” her psychotic little brother, James Jr., Barbara has taken off her Batgirl uniform and decided not to wear the Bat symbol, because of her actions.  Also following this event, her father, Commissioner James Gordon puts out an all-points bulletin on Batgirl and (unbeknownst to him) his own daughter.  Babs wants nothing more than to put her nocturnal past behind her and find happiness.  She attempts to do so by hanging out more with her bohemian roommate, Alyssa, and dating a former gang member, Ricky, who she met as Batgirl.  But of course the universe won’t allow a member of the Bat-family to know any modicum of peace.  Batgirl’s former nemesis Knightfall’s menacing machinations sight both Ricky and her father in the crosshairs.  After the traumatic events of Batgirl #23 two months ago Babs has to weigh her sense of guilt against her sense of duty.  Gail Simone writes this series like it’s her own, and truly her Barbara is the only one I want to read for the foreseeable future.
    • Forever Evil: Arkham War #1 takes a closer look at the mayhem in Gotham following the fall of the Justice League and the advent of the Crime Syndicate.  The Syndicate has rallied the evilest minds on the planet to their banner and in exchange for obedience they are given privileges to do as they like.  The Gothamite villains (mostly Arkham inmates) were given free reign over Gotham with Penguin named mayor.  Penguin in turn divided Gotham into districts each under the control of a powerful Arkham inmate.  Writer Peter Tomasi laid the groundwork for this series with two Villains Month issues: Scarecrow and Bane.  Both were pretty lackluster, but what they did do was set the tenor of these two characters for the purposes of this series.  Both Scarecrow and Bane have appeared in several Bat-titles since the inception of the New 52 and been written by multiple writers including Paul Jenkins, James Tynion IV, David Finch, and Gregg Hurwitz.  While neither Scarecrow or Bane have been altered in major ways, their modus operandi are tailored to fit the desired ends for this series’ plot.  With Bane bringing a moderately sized army of highly trained Santa Priscan mercenaries to Gotham war is on the horizon and Scarecrow is serving as the Paul Revere of Gotham, readying the “freaks” for a war with the fanatical juggernaut.  In the opening strokes of his plan Blackgate Prison falls to Bane, as do the Talons incarcerated therein in cryogenic stasis.  Professor Pyg reappears for the first time since Grant Morrison wrapped up his opening run of Batman & Robin.  The horrific experiments going on in his district proves the full depth of his depravity.  With Gotham Memorial Hospital and its medical supplies in his sphere of influence, his allegiance is integral with war looming and could shift the balance. Bane is a tactical genius as well as a badass with an army of two thousand fanatically loyal foot soldiers battle hardened in one of the worst places on Earth.  However, he’s going up against the equally keen mind of the Penguin and a collection of the sickest men and women in the DC universe, and the Crime Syndicate doesn’t care who comes out on top.  On the contrary, they welcome it, as the conflict will purge the weak from their midst. Neither side can rest on their laurels and what is about to ensue is a grandmaster chess tournament in the decimated streets of Gotham.  Tomasi and artist Scot Eaton have the entire Batman pantheon at their disposal, as the cover hints, and appear to be making good use of it.  This series is shaping up to be a tangent of Forever Evil that shouldn’t be missed.
    • Green Lantern Corps #24 continues the unthinkable events of “Lights Out” into its second installment.  No one thought that Oa could be destroyed, and yet after the final moments of Green Lantern #24 that is precisely the jagged pill the entire Green Lantern Corps are forced to swallow.  Green Lantern Corps #24 picks up the pieces from that horrible moment and focuses on how the Corps of Will will face this most personal, dispiriting defeat and pick themselves up to fight for the last thing they have: each other.  Relic has proven that he is not able to be defeated by the full might of the Green Lantern Corps, having already seriously wounding hundreds.  To affect an evacuation John Stewart and a contingent of handpicked Lanterns take the fight to the ancient juggernaut, not to defeat him, but to distract him so the bulk of the Green Lantern Corps can find refuge elsewhere.  Cowriters Van Jensen and Robert Venditti plot this issue so exquisitely in the heartbreaking situations they create and decisions these Lanterns make in the “do-or-die” last moments of Oa.  One Lantern makes the ultimate sacrifice, validating their ring’s choice of their worthiness and then some.  What this issue and its fellows represent is the ending of an era and the beginning of an ENTIRELY new Green Lantern status quo.  When Geoff Johns took over the title, resurrecting it after a decade of neglect, he changed the rules of the game as it had been known for forty-odd years, creating or retrofitting new lantern corps for each hue of light.  Robert Venditti is basically doing that again with the advent of Relic and this “Lights Out” plotline.  Only time will tell if it is successful, but so far I am impressed with the gravity and pathos he has imbued thusfar.GreenLanternCorps24-1

      GreenLanternCorp24-2

      Death of a Lantern, Death of a World.

    • Nightwing #24 concludes the first arc of the series following the massive paradigm shift of “Death of the Family.”  After the Joker enacts the final coup de grace to Dick Grayson’s dream of resurrecting Haly’s Circus (the circus he and his parents performed in before their fateful accident) Dick decides to move to Chicago.  For the most part it was because he needed to distance himself from Gotham and the cold machinations of Batman, but the larger part was the revelation that the man who killed his parents, Tony Zucco, was alive and well, living in the Windy City.  When Dick blows into town he finds a city that seems relatively “clean” compared to Gotham.  Considering that we’re talking about Chicago irony abounds and sets a picture of how bad Gotham must be.  However, as the plot unfolds over the first several issues it is shown that Chi-town is still as corrupt as it’s always been with Mayor Wallace Cole protecting Zucco with a false identity and an advisory position.  With that kind of grift going on an anti-heroic persona called the Prankster makes the scene, revealing the corrupt dealings in very theatrical, dramatic ways that often times skew toward the violent.  The best example being his forcing an alderman who stole millions of dollars to bring several thousand to a specific location and throwing him into a pit with wolves.  If the alderman burns the money bill by bill he can keep the wolves at bay.  However, the bills burn at a certain rate which makes their quantity versus the time it would take the police to find him a very close call.  They get there in time to save him, but the bills had run out and the alderman is missing an arm when he’s pulled out.  Such is the Prankster.  But while he may seem like a Robin Hood styled anti-heroic outlaw revolutionary figure, this issue displays how untrue that assumption is as well as the Prankster’s REAL aim.  Nightwing is the only person who can stop the chaos erupting from Prankster’s vendetta and what’s more the person helping him is Tony Zucco!  Kyle Higgins has been writing this series since issue #1 and has stayed on the title for a very simple reason:  He can WRITE Dick Grayson like the best of them.  His Nightwing is compelling, complicated, and very personal.  He takes the reader through the plots he faces as though they were inside Dick’s head and had his entire life as their precedents for reaction.  Will Conrad provides gorgeous art that is different, but equally appropriate to his predecessor, Brett Booth’s.  With Higgins is on this title, it is not to be missed.
    • Worlds’ Finest #16 enters the series into an interim period, taking a break from the Apokaliptian menaces left in our world after Great Darkseid’s invasion of our Earth in Justice League 1-6.  The main threat in the series, Desaad, who posed as the errant industrialist Michael Holt, not only tore apart Helena and Karen’s lives, but also stole Karen’s company Starr Industries.  After the events of issue #15 Desaad has emerged victorious, but also taked to the wind, his whereabouts and activities unknown.  What is known is the detrimental effect that final encounter had on Karen Starr, aka Power Girl, depriving her of her powers.  At issue’s opening Helena is staking out arson at fashion shows and Karen is recovering her company from Desaad’s human cronies and attempting to get her powers back.  Following this paradigm shift the issue follows the two tracking a bald young woman of ambiguous heritage, covered in what look like tribal tattoos.  She is the one setting the fires and she also has the abilities to manipulate jet black constructs, either shadow based or generated from her tattoos.  Paul Levitz sets up events, but doesn’t provide too much information as to where the plot is going or its overall relevance to overarching stroylines he’s been working toward for 17 issues.  Considering his talent and the incredible job he’s done so far, Levitz is allowed to have an issue or two to just muck around.  Even in his down moments, he puts out a helluva good comic.
    • Superman/Wonder Woman #1 is an exceptional surprise.  After months of negative reactions on the internet, the issue is finally out and it’s amazing!  The whole hubbub arose from an unfortunate turn of phrase artist Tony S. Daniel dropped at Toronto Fan Expo that this book would hopefully encourage female readership by emulating the “Twilight” franchise with some romance, a little sex appeal, and action.  This seemed to offend both male and female readers with the comparison to awful storytelling and especially offended female fans with the concept that they were being pandered to.  Comment aside, the title seemed to have infinite promise so for the past several months I’ve kept an attitude of “wait and see” optimism.  I maintained that same attitude during the also “Twilight” compared redux of Lobo and was rewarded with possibly the WORST DC comic I have EVER read.  Just awful.  Superman/Wonder Woman, on the other hand, turned out to be a very thoughtful, intelligent examination of the burgeoning relationship between the Man of Steel and the Mighty Amazon.  I have to state my bias up front, though.  I wasn’t excited about the pairing of Wonder Woman with Superman initially, feeling that DC was pandering to their readers with overzealous fanboy fantasies.  Geoff Johns pulled it out eventually by highlighting that both characters are strangers in a strange land.  What this series’ writer Charles Soule does is take a deeper examination of that relationship.  Topically, the two have outsider status in common, but apart from that they are very different.  Superman, as an extension of Clark Kent, is a very reserved Zen character who exists under the radar, not drawing undue attention to himself or making a show of his innate abilities.  Wonder Woman on the other hand is the daughter of Zeus, born into a proud warrior race that exalts strength and ability.  Therein lies a diametric difference between the two superheroes.  Wonder Woman is slightly put off by his reservedness about himself, but more so about their relationship.  However, both try to gently acclimate themselves to each other’s ways, because while they are different they do love each other.  Superman and Wonder Woman are paradigms of masculinity and femininity respectively, but also American icons wearing the colors of our flag in their costumes.  In just this first issue, Soule maintains both these aspects of the characters, but puts a very refreshing dimension to these facets.  Superman is a very masculine character that exhibits hallmark traits of the male psyche, such as doing the heavy lifting or going into danger first, but he also is the more demure party in the quieter moments and passively lets a lot of things happen around him.  Wonder Woman is rendered as a very feminine character, but is also portrayed as the more assertive figure both in the active courting in the relationship as well as the more outspoken heroic figure.  They are opposites, but at the same time complement each other in most ways.  As American symbols they harken back to the ideal that America is an immigrant nation.  An interesting happenstance in the American experiment was people from very different ethnic communities coming together in mutual attraction across wide gaps of cultural differences.  Diana is very much an immigrant from a society that has strong traditions and customs.  Clark’s an interesting case, as he was born on another planet with its own unique culture, but from infancy he was raised in Kansas with only secondhand understanding of his heritage.  So Diana represents first generation immigrants, and Clark represents the split second generation juggling their host culture with that of their forbearers.  Diana’s rooting in the mindset of her proud Amazon heritage confounds her as she looks at both the subtleties of Clark’s Midwestern sensibilities and his isolationist Kryptonian ones.  It even hurts her to think he might be ashamed to be associated with her publicly, but instead of assuming the worst, she seeks to close the gap by showing him her culture and keeping an open mind about that American culture he grew up with and perhaps later his Kryptonian one.  The latter part might be something dealt with in another issue, but that remains to be seen.  In terms of characterization, this is a Wonder Woman issue.  In terms of story development, this issue dealt much more on the Superman/Clark Kent aspect, working toward fleshing out the development of the indie news blog Clark is working on with Cat Grant.  However, the issue’s gravitas for Superman fans comes with the revelation of the villain at the issue’s end.  I am surprised that “he” showed up in this series and not another of the Super-books, but the possibilities inherent in his advent only enrich the title.  Needless to say, Charles Soule’s writing is impeccable. Art-wise, Tony Daniel takes that lead and brings it home.  His Superman and Wonder Woman are gorgeous creatures, but that’s no surprise.  Daniel drew both in Justice League #13-14, and drew Superman in Action Comics #19-21.  The sum total of two consummate professionals is pure comic excellence.

      The Worlds of Superman and Wonder Woman.

      The Worlds of Superman and Wonder Woman.

  • FBP (Federal Physics Bureau) #4 resumes while FBP agents Jay Kelly and Adam Hardy are still in the bubble universe that is on the verge of collapse, endangering everyone caught inside.  That collapse is hastened by Jay’s planting of explosives in key areas within the bubble.  Jay and Adam were sent in to extract James Crest, CEO of Crest Corps, currently undergoing S.E.C. investigation.  But before he extracts his target, Adam goes for a face-to-face with his “partner.”  Jay attempted to kill him upon entry and Adam wants to know why.  Though Jay can’t give him the answers he wants, he begins the slow revelation of a conspiracy to exploit the nature of the unhinged laws of physics.  Following the conclusion of the bubbleverse incident writer Simon Oliver delves into the very real subject of the privatization of government services.  Here it is the privatization of “Physics Protection.”  The characters of Adam and his boss Cicero Deluca take on new depth in this issue, showing how they deal with the mounting pressure put on their agency a following the SNAFU of Jay’s betrayal.  Both in the science-fiction aspects and allegory to our current political temperature, FBP is a series to watch.

    The New Name if Physics Protection.

    The New Name if Physics Protection.

  • Coffin Hill #1 is either a tantalizing first issue to an amazing series or a hollow, abstruse beginning of a contrived one.  It’s hard to say, because there is a MAJOR disconnect between the present and the past with next to no logical segue.  In 2013 we meet police rookie Eve Coffin who catches a serial killer called the “Ice Fisher” who targets young women.  She goes home and is shot by a friend’s boyfriend and nearly dies.  Flashing back to 2003 we see a teenaged Eve who was the scion of a venerated New England family with a haunted reputation.  As she describes it via narration: “Old blood. Old money.  Old secrets.”  Following her past exploits we see a posh world of lavish, debauch parties steeped in old world mysticism.  We also see a very neglected childhood with WASP-ish parents that disdain her existence and whose marked dislike emboldens the bad behavior that fuels it, creating a vicious cycle of familial discord.  Escaping this, she and her friends enact a ritual from an old family spellbook Eve swipes from her parents’ study.  The results are bloody, but enigmatic.  Cut back to the present with Eve quitting the force and moving back home to Coffin Hill.  As the quality of this series’ story is up in the air, so too is the writing of Caitlin Kittredge, although her framing of dialogue and the plot she chooses to reveal are very well written, if not well done.  Artist Inaki Miranda is the most consistent variable within the comic.  Her art is sleek, sumptuous, and evocative of the haunted ambiance created by Kittredge’s script.  In retrospect this could be a phenomenal first issue.  If the plot doesn’t develop, it could be remembered as a strawman issue.  I will continue reading and find out which.

    The Life of Eve Coffin.

    The Life of Eve Coffin.

This week did not disappoint in the quality of the issues carried forward from August nor in the inherent promise of their subjects.  At its least enjoyable moments there was still the promise of payoff in the future.  That’s a good week!

 

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #24: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Danny Miki.

Green Lantern Corps #24: Art by Bernard Chang, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo.

Superman/Wonder Woman #1: Drawn by Tony S. Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by BATT.

FBP #4: Art by Robbi Rodriguez, Colored by Rico Renzi.

Coffin Hill #1: Art by Inaki Miranda, Colored by Eva De La Cruz.

Week 84 (April 10, 2013)

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

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

    A Father's Love

    A Father’s Love

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

    A Mother's Love/Hate

    A Mother’s Love/Hate

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

    A Father's Love

    A Father’s Love

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

Week 80 (March 13, 2013)

This week was a somber one, featuring three Bat-titles, each paying homage to the fallen Damian Wayne in their own ways.  Batman and Batman & Robin both display the sorrow and anger of a father’s loss.  In Green Lantern Corps the First Lantern tortures John Stewart with the ghosts of his haunted past and the question as to what it was all for.  The Before Watchmen: Ozymandias series reached its end, heralding the dark events that comprise the original Watchmen series.  An excellent crop of comics.  So here we go:

  • Batman #18 transitions from one personal crisis to the next.  Issue #17 was the landmark, much talked about conclusion to “Death of the Family”, which in this blogger’s opinion failed to live up to its name.  This issue, completely unrelated to the aforementioned uber-plot of the Joker’s, opens on a Batman who has endured the death of his son.  Scott Snyder chooses to approach this tragedy from the outside, having the issue told largely from the point of view of the punk rock looking electrical genius, Harper Row, now obsessed with tracking Batman.  In her Bat-watching she sees a haggard, overwrought Batman hitting the criminal element harder than usual and making many sloppy mistakes.  Since she is not privy to his identity or his inner circle she has no idea about the death of Robin, nor the real life connection between Bruce Wayne and his son, Damian.  Thus we get an outsider’s perspective on how far he has fallen and how much Batman inspires the people whose lives he’s touched.  Harper turns out to be like an angel of mercy, reminding Batman that despite his loss, he isn’t alone and doesn’t have to suffer alone.  The backup feature, drawn by Alex Maleev, has Harper going to Bruce Wayne with a plan to help Batman, all the time under the assumption that they are two separate men.  Both halves of the Batman are touched by her thoughtfulness and her gesture might just begin to knit together the wound that has been festering in his soul.  Scott Snyder’s Batman seems destined to go down as one of the runs on the series, like Frank Miller’s Batman, the O’Neil/Adams Batman, and most recently, the Morrison Batman.  This issue’s guest artist, Andy Kubert, was also the artist who ushered in Grant Morrison’s historic run on the character that both introduced us to the character of Damian and set the stage for the heartrending death of that young lad seven years later.

    The Wisdom of Youth

    The Wisdom of Youth

  • Batman & Robin #18 is a silent, somber sonata for a son.  It took me a while to realize it while I was reading this issue, owing the engrossing artwork depicting heartrending images of parental loss, but there are no words.  The entire comic is a pantomime of Batman going through the motions to try and work past the pain of his son’s loss.  However, when someone that integral in your life is gone, their absence reverberates throughout your life in simple ways that normally aren’t noticeable.  The issue’s silence is broken finally with Batman finds a note from Damian, telling him why he left the safety of the Cave, which as we now know led to his death.  Damian was a very harsh character.  He was often very rude, conceited, gratuitously violent, but beneath all of that there was a thoughtful, empathetic character who was lost in a world he was unprepared to live in.  Since the Reboot in September 2011, this title has been basically Damian’s book.  Batman played a prominent role in its plots, but really it was a showcase for Damian to shine and be humanized.  Peter Tomasi did an unbelievable job making him a relatable, lovable character and Patrick Gleason drew it gorgeously.  The fact that the eponymous Robin from the title has passed on places this book in a very awkward position.  I am not sure where the title can go from here.  There is of course the concept of a possible resurrection coming down the pike (my guess is a Lazarus Pit), but speculation is all these come down to.  Another possibility would be the installation of Harper Row as a new “Girl Wonder.”   There hasn’t been an official female Robin in DC canon before and this might be a golden opportunity for it.  Either way, this issue’s heartbreaking to read for those that have come to love Damian and for those that want Bruce to be happy, even if only for a short time.  Goodbye, Damian.  May you finally feel some peace.

    The Grief of a Father

    The Grief of a Father

  • Batgirl #18 like the other Bat-books this month pays its respects to the departed Robin, who despite his surly, abrasive exterior found a place in the hearts of the various “family” members.  The mention in this issue fell a little flat in my opinion, but then again it doesn’t really fit into the storyline that writer Ray Fawkes has set out to tell.  I don’t mean to trash talk him or beleaguer a point, but I feel that if Gail Simone were at the helm of this arc she would have addressed this truly tragic occurrence in a very thoughtful, heartfelt way, as she has with Barbara Gordon since issue one of this phenomenal series.  But she’s not so we have to accept Fawkes’ blip and get on with the story of James Gordon Jr. attempting to murder those closest to him, saving Batgirl for last to truly torture the Dominoed Daredoll with her own limitations.  It’s an okay plotline, but not exactly up to snuff considering Gail Simone and Scott Snyder’s masterful handling of these characters in past plot arcs.  I know very little about Fawkes and his past works, but assume he might be newer to the writing scene than the aforementioned maestros, explaining his seeming nemishness in the story department.  Daniel Sampere draws the issue exceptionally making it visually stunning.
  • Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #6 brings to an end the saga of one of the the keystone characters of the Watchmen universe.  Adrian Veidt has already planned out his master scheme and in this issue we see how he executes it.  This issue, above all the others, shows how cold Ozymandias can truly be when he has his eyes on a goal.  His personal assistant, Marla, with whom he was also sexually active, dies mysteriously, albeit painlessly, because her knowledge of his enterprises was too sensitive.  He recruits the former villain, Moloch, into his fold and gives him a job that also will also terminate with his premature death.  He gathers the preeminent scientists, science fiction writers, and artists to his secret island in the tropics to put the finishing touches on the otherworldly horror that will usher in a world the likes of which has never been know.  The true impetus of the issue that spans the majority of its pages and concludes the series is the tension between the Comedian and Ozymandias.  They had tussled over the course of the six issues, but as was revealed by Alan Moore in the original Watchmen series, the Comedian came across the island and what Ozymandias had planned.  The most psychopathic man on the planet gets queasy upon the discovery of just what Adrian has planned, but also knows that it can’t be stopped.  All that remains at issue’s end is for Adrian to murder the Comedian which catalyzes Watchmen into being.  Len Wein had a very good relationship with Alan Moore, handpicking him to take over the Swamp Thing series that he himself created and wrote into a hit title.  Now Wein, albeit without Moore’s consent, has taken over one of the most important subplots of Watchmen and written it with breathtaking splendor.  Jae Lee is an artist that has a very gothic quality to his work.  Gothic is precisely the word I am looking for, because Lee depicts his subjects with almost no emotion despite the grand events rendered around them.  Adrian Veidt is cold and calculated with no emotion and looks to be like a god himself, resurrected from ancient Egypt.  Overall this series was one of the best put out, rivaled only by Darwyn Cooke’s Minutemen series in this Before Watchmen line of books.

    Behold His Work, Ye Might, And Despair

    Behold His Work, Ye Might, And Despair

  • Green Lantern Corps #18 has Volthoom descending on John Stewart and the Star Sapphire, Fatality.  Most of his attention is put on John, of whom many horrors have been visited, most of his own action.  His mother’s murder was out of his control, as largely was the destruction of Fatality’s homeworld, Xanshi, which both she and John had blamed him for, but the destruction of the planet Green Lantern, Mogo, as well as the killing of another fellow corpsmen, Kirrt Kallak, were very much his conscious decisions.  John is a man that makes the hard decisions without hesitation, because if he doesn’t they may never get made or worse one of his friends or loved ones will have to make them, damning themselves.  Volthoom of course tortures him by showing him that the universe doesn’t come crashing down if John wasn’t there to make the hard choices, killing those closest to him.  Peter Tomasi writes it well, really capturing the heart of a truly conflicted character.  Chriscross provides guest art on the issue that really brings out the extreme emotional distress evoked by the sadistic First Lantern.
  • Superboy #18 picks up in the aftermath of “H’el on Earth.”  Superboy attempts to make right some of his lesser wrongs when the villain Plasmus comes crashing into the bank vault wherein Superboy returns some of his ill gotten gains.  The fight between the Boy of Steel and the giant walking nuclear reactor is monumental, bringing the attention of a telepathic DC villain, Dr. Psycho, originally a Wonder Woman nemesis.  Melding psychically with Superboy, Dr. Psycho is able to dig into Superboy’s past, seeing his birth and the life he has led thus far.  At the end of the issue he goes into the depth of Superboy’s mind and finds Lex Luthor waiting in the inner recesses.  We’ve known that Lex was his human parent from previous incarnations of the character, but Scott Lobdell kept us wondering with his very different depiction of Kon-El.  In the end the issue there is a short episode of a female alien crashing in the Amazon rain-forest, chased by other aliens and rescued by Krypto the Superdog.  With the mention of the Eternal Ebon-Quad along with her black eyes, it can be surmised that she is a soldier in the service of Lady Styx, as seein the Blue Beetle and Threshold series.  Interesting things are happening within this title, so much so that Scott Lobdell came back on the title, cowriting with his successor, Tom DeFalco.  I, for one, very much look forward to seeing where Superboy’s writers are taking him.
  • Demon Knights #18 brings the hordes of Cain to the gates of Themyscira, home of the immortal Amazons, the most powerful race on Earth.  Now it stands to what remains of the Demon Knights to stand in the way of the vampirization of the only nation able to stand against Cain.  Previously Jason Blood had been muted by a powerful spell, preventing him from speaking the words to summon the Demon, Etrigan.  With the reemergence of Madame Xanadu his silence is lifted and Etrigan is once again released upon the world.  The power struggle between Jason and Etrigan reaches a new level showing what strengths and weaknesses these two halves of the same physicality possess.  Robert Venditti continues writing it in precisely the same vein as series creator, Paul Cornell.  Artist Bernard Chang remains in the trenches, drawing the title exactly as he has since before the writing change over.
  • Ravagers #10 has the title entering into the beginning of its endgame.  The series is two issues from cancellation and writer Michael Alan Nelson is pulling out all the stops.  Harvest has wanted the rogue Ravagers put down for sometime.  That has been the task entrusted to Rose Wilson and Warblade.  With the events of the past two issue in the wind, these two “loyal” Ravagers also find their necks on the chopping block and their assignment now put in the hands of Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke.  I have to say, Deathstroke has been represented as a free agent and an anti-hero since the Reboot, but as of this issue I do not like him one bit.  Thankfully, his series is also getting cancelled in May, meaning he can go back to being the villain he was created to be.  In the camp of the Ravagers, things begin to look up.  A lost comrade is returned, a disfigured member is “healed”, and romance brews between two members.  It seems things are looking up, but with cancellation looming close on the horizon it could be a case of the brightest lights casting the darkest shadows.  I pray that the cancellation leaves most of our heroes still breathing, as they have been through hell and deserve to survive.

    Young Love

    Young Love

  • Threshold #3 continues to set the very intricate stage on the planet Tolerance, home of the “Hunted” reality series where dangerous criminals of the Tenebrian Dominion are set loose with a bounty on their heads for any citizen to collect if they can bring them down.  Private investigator, Starr Hawkins, is added to the cast, as is Lonar, a New God created by Jack Kirby in the 70’s in his Forever People title.  Being a HUGE Jack Kirby fan, the addition of any Fourth Worlder is a sure fire way of getting me hooked.  Keith Giffens is going for broke with both the lineup and the stakes of this “Hunted” series.  Right now it seems a bit cluttered as all the disparate factions are aligning themselves and new versions of old characters are introduced to us seemingly at every turn.  Hopefully, as alliances are cast and battle lines drawn the series can focus on forward moving, unified plot lines.  One of the side plots of great interest is the race for Jediah Caul’s power battery.  Hawkins tells Caul he knows where it is and a mysterious lawyer appears requesting K’Rot and his smaller Zoo Crew to procure it for his client.  In the “Larfleeze” back up feature, Larfleeze and his enslaved assistant continue the search for his stolen hoard.  The smugglers they have contracted to help them a treasure hunter called Branx Rancor.  In the middle of negotiations, Larfleeze’s rogue orange constructs attack the band.  This installment wasn’t the best of the three so far and very little progress is made in the overall plot.  As a whole, this issue of Threshold was good, but awaits the clarity that hopefully will come sooner rather than later.
  • Saucer Country #13 was an incredible issue that cut deeper to the truth than any other in the entire thirteen issue run so far.  Gov. Arcadia Alvarado is a heartbeat from the presidential election resulting in her favor.  In the background a hailstorm of the powers and plots that seek to thwart her are coming to a head.  The little naked couple from the Voyager space probe pull one last ditch effort to keep Prof. Kidd from killing himself by revealing a piece of evidence that will prove they are legit.  Michael and the governor’s press secretary meet with the mysterious Blue Birds spokewoman, Astelle, and drop their own bombshell on the seemingly omniscient woman’s world view.  The sitting president’s men attempt to turn her chief of staff, Harry, only to be curbed as well by trump cards in Arcadia’s hand.  This could mean the end of the series being in sight, or it could signal a game change that will raise the stakes.  Either way, writer Paul Cornell is blowing this series out of the park and really delivering a complex, thought provoking title that begs to be read month after month.  With the shocker ending in this issue, #14 cannot come soon enough in my opinion.

And so ends this phenomenal week.  This crop comprises itself of several must read titles.  I hope you all check them out and enjoy them as I have.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #18: Drawn by Andy Kubert, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Sandra Hope

Batman & Robin #18: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray

Before Watchman: Ozymandias #6: Art by Jae Lee, Colored by June Chung

The Ravagers #10: Drawn by Diogenes Neves, Colored by Tony Avina, Inked by Vicente Cifuentes

Week 77 (Feb. 20, 2013)

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

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

    The Birth of a Super-Villain

    The Birth of a Super-Villain

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

    The Mission

    The Mission

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

    That's a Game Changer

    That’s a Game Changer

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

    VOLTHOOM!

    VOLTHOOM!

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

    The Unsinkable Kyle Rayner

    The Unsinkable Kyle Rayner

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

    We Are Our Own Masters

    We Are the Masters of Our Own Destinies

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

    Daughter of Darkseid

    Daughter of Darkseid

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

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 73 (Jan. 23, 2013)

This week is shaping up to be a juggernaut.  So many incredible titles are coming out in so many amazing events: “Death of the Family”, “Green Lantern: Rise of the Third Army”, “Before Watchmen”, “Throne of Atlantis”, and “H’el on Earth.”  Throw in Batwoman and Sword of Socery and you have a real party.  I am literally shaking with anticipation to crack the first book of this massive week.  So let’s not keep me waiting any longer:

  • Justice League #16 brings on part three of the “Throne of Atlantis” crossover.  I have had a great deal of negative feedback on most of Johns’ current endeavors, and most notably in this title.  He’s bastardized a great deal of things and I stick to my previous opinions.  However, in this issue he returns to doing what he had done  so well prior to the Reboot.  This issue is rich in allusions to other DC characters and concepts, such as Dr. Magnus and the Metal Men, Dr. T.O. Morrow and Red Tornado, Tula of Atlantis, etc., reintroducing them in conversationally appropriate ways and with interesting new contexts.  What he also does is humanize all parties involved.  Though I don’t enjoy how nemish and shortsighted he’s made seminal characters like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, perhaps there is a realism within that is necessary to the execution of this very morally complex plot.  Conversely, what Johns did seven and a half years ago with Sinestro, making him not a straight out psychopathic villain but rather a complex antihero, he does in this series with Aquaman’s brother, King Orm, aka Ocean Master.  Stakes are high and tensions are at a breaking point.  This issue marks the halfway point and despite my aversion to this series, Johns has me hook, line, and sinker.  In the SHAZAM! backup feature Johns has progressed past the ludicrous beginnings of the series and entered into a new version of the Captain Marvel mythology that is both rich and nuanced.  I really enjoyed this one, actually.  Although, Billy does revert back to his child self at the end, which could mean a return to the awful presentation of Billy Batson that Johns so unskillfully presented before.  My hope is that being in an adult’s body for even the short duration that four months of comics equates to will at least marginally mature him so we don’t have to witness his infantile crap for another slew of issues.  I have hope for this series after reading this issue, but retain the past failures of the series pragmatically within memory.

    Atlantis Rising!

    Atlantis Rising!

  • Batwoman #16 returns our protagonist to her hometown of Gotham as it descends into utter chaos with the advent of Medusa herself.  With Wonder Woman accompanying her, the duo this arc dubs the “World’s Finest” sets out to subdue Medusa’s mythological forces (complete with gargantuan Hydra) and rescue the children abducted by the mad gorgon.  Its all hands on deck.  Not only are Batwoman and Wonder Woman on the streets of Gotham, but most of the Gotham City Police Department led by Batwoman’s lover, Det. Maggie Sawyer, and DEO agent Cameron Chase and Director Bones.  In this penultimate chapter of the arc spanning storyline its all or nothing.  Batwoman has found Medusa and the missing children.  Medusa’s horrifying plot is revealed in full as she attempts to resurrect the literal “mother of all monster” into the mortal world with the sacrifice of the innocent children.  However it goes down, next issue is the end of this first overarching storyline and the end of Batwoman’s first real test as a Gotham City superhero.  J.H. Williams III does a stunning job rendering this story from an equally stunning script by W. Haden Blackman and himself.  I don’t know if I will be able to wait until February to find out the end of this conflict that has almost been two years in the making.

    The Mother of All Monsters

    The Mother of All Monsters

  • Green Lantern #16 picks up with Simon Baz after learning the truth behind the bombing he was framed for and the appearance of B’dg, Green Lantern of Sector 1014.  The stunning revelation last issue was that the Green Lantern Corps is aware of the Guardians of the Universe’s plot to destroy free will throughout the universe with their Third Army.  B’dg comes to Earth seeking Hal Jordan, the greatest of their number, to enlist his aid in stopping their masters from realizing their mad scheme.  To his dismay, the ringslinger he finds is not only a rookie, but inherited his ring from Sinestro and Hal, both of whom have disappeared.  Baz is needed regardless if the Corps is going to stand a chance against the Guardians.  Before he can leave, he has things to attend to on Earth and despite B’dg’s impatience, Baz proves himself to be a Green Lantern like no other as well as possessing an incredible amount of will, on par with all of his Earth lantern brothers.  Another awesome issue from Geoff Johns and artist Doug Mahnke.
  • Green Lantern Corps #16 unites the Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps titles in anticipation of next week’s Green Lantern Corps Annual #1.  Stripped of his ring and rank, Guy Gardner returns to Earth a broken man attempting to find a new purpose in life.  As with most things Guy does, he mismanages his actions and ends up being arrested . . . by his brother and sister.  While they are interrogating him in lock up, the Third Army attacks and takes out guards and inmates alike.  Its looking bleak for the Gardner siblings, but help is not far away in the form of Simon Baz, newest Earth Green Lantern, and B’dg, squirrel Green Lantern of Sector 1014.  With their aid a crisis is averted and Guy becomes aware of the Guardians plot and his being a casualty of it.  Elsewhere in the universe, John Stewart continues his mission with Fatality of the Star Sapphires to find the missing pieces of Mogo (the deceased planet GL) and reunite them so the slain Green Lantern can reform and become whole.  Though not much is revealed about this, the reformation of Mogo seems like it will have a great impact on events, but the fact that the Guardians willed it to happen portends ominous tidings.  I cannot wait to see what the Green Lantern Corps Annual next week has in store for us, the GL’s, and the universe in general.
  • Green Lantern: New Guardians #16 is one of those issues that you wait for for a very long time and once it arrives you swoon at its near perfection.  I have compared this second arc of the series after the “Ring Thief” arc that comprised its second year of publication as similar to “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”  Indeed, with Kyle’s transmogrified ring he has the ability to channel all seven colors of the emotional spectrum.  From previous experience in Blackest Night we know that this convocation would lead to him becoming a White Lantern.  He’s obviously mastered Green, and has preternatural talent with Blue (hope) as we saw in New Guardians #0.  With the help of Atrocitus he’s mastered Red (hate), Arkillo with Yellow (fear), and the seeming lack of help from Larfleeze he’s tapped Orange (greed).  Indigo-1’s tutoring of Indigo (compassion) was glossed over, which not only doesn’t make sense, considering its immense power, it also undermines his having to do anything past that, taking into account that Indigo Lanterns (or Tribesman, if you will) can channel any emotion they are in contact with.  That all aside, Violet (love) is the last emotion that stands between Kyle and his complete mastery of the emotional spectrum.  However, Kyle is one that has been stunted in the love department for almost his entire life, finding it hard to vocalize, so this last hurdle is the most difficult for him to surmount.  And wouldn’t you know that this would be the time that Ganthet, his former mentor and now Guardian of the Universe gone mad, would arrive with his Third Army thugs to snuff out Kyle before he can become a threat.  The stakes in this series have never been so high and Kyle will either shine brighter than he ever has or be snuffed out like a candle in the wind.  Tony Bedard is a brilliant.  Period.  Aaron Kuder adds to this masterpiece issue with peerless pencils and inks.  I am bookmarking this issue in the annuls of my mind.
  • Before Watchmen: Minutemen #6 closes out the series and does so with crushing impetus.  The saga of the Minutemen, chronicled narratively and visually by the incomparable Darwin Cooke, has been one that cuts to the heart and character of its band of players.  Most of them were glossed over in the original Watchmen series by Alan Moore, but with DC’s exploration of the Before Watchmen line, each gets their overdue turn in the limelight.  Following the murder of the Silhouette and her long crusade to stop child predators and Nite Owl’s picking up of that crusade after her death events point to Hooded Justice, the most secretive Minuteman of the bunch, as the murderer and torturer of young children.  This issue is the final account that ties up the series and answers questions that has been lingering through several Before Watchmen series.  From the Ozymandias series “What happened to Hooded Justice, and why are the Comedian and the Government so keen to keep it a secret?”  From the Nite Owl series “What is the secret that is so damning that Hollis Mason, the first Nite Owl (and main character in Minutemen), which he is so keen to keep hidden forever?”  This issue answers those questions and more in a truly terrifying and unbelievable sequence of events that will alter forever the way most readers look on the background cast of characters in Watchmen.  Darwyn Cooke’s prowess with a pencil and pen and his genius as a writer are unparalleled here and stand as an eternal monument to his place in comic book history.

    The End of an Era

    The End of an Era

  • Legion of Super-Heroes #16  returns to the Levitz-ian paradigm of storytelling with multiple stories and issues being put forward.  First on the docket, Chamelon Boy, Lightning Lass, and Shrinking Violet go to Takron-Galtos, the United Planets’ prison world, to check on the status of the Fatal Five member, Validus.  Since Legion of Super-Heroes #8 last April, the resurrection of the Legion’s most powerful group of antagonists, the Fatal Five, has been in the offing.  Bit by bit, evidence that they have been reforming in secret is being brought to light.  Validus, thought to be safely locked in a cube of inertron is one of the last pieces to the puzzle.  On the other side of the universe, at the Legion HQ, Brainiac 5 is busy trying to ascertain the cause of Glorith’s abduction last issue to Barcelona and the why and how of her causing a time rift, bringing forth denizens of that city from across its long history.  Lastly, and as an interim plot between these plo tpoints, the Legion election is drawing to a close and the Legionnaires debate amongst themselves who should lead the team as the votes are tallied to decided said leader.  This series is ironically one of the most realistic, because of the writing style of Paul Levitz, who gets that with a team of this size a lot of crazy things are going to happen simultaneously, and that with young heroes like these egos and hormones are going to stir things up.
  • Nightwing #16 brings the “Death of the Family” tie-in of this title to a close as it did in both Batgirl and Batman & Robin, with the Joker holding a platter in front of the title’s protagonist and the solicitation that a conclusion will come in Batman #17.  The twofold storyline of this title’s tie-in was really well played by writer Kyle Higgins.  Last month’s issue setup quite well an inventory of everything Dick Grayson had built up and the people whose trust he had earned.  Following the Joker’s reemergence and Dick’s realization that he had made them all targets, he did his best to cut ties and ferry everyone around him to safety.  This issue shows not only how great his failures are, but to what lengths the Joker would go to make a point and just how resourceful he can be.  One scene I think shows his attention to detail at its most nightmarish +throughout the entire line of Batbooks.  Admittedly the human tapestry in Batman #16 was gruesome, but pales in comparison to the detail and and scope of his carnival show at Haly’s.  Like Tim, Jason, and Damian, Joker really gets to the heart of what should be Dick’s main strengths and shows how they are really his greatest weaknesses. For Dick it’s his compassion and interpersonal nature.  So much of what he worked his entire life to build could very well burn down in the space of a single evening.  I have no idea what the title holds after the final page of Batman #17 and the first several pages  of Nightwing #17, but I am going to be there for both.  Good ending or bad, I sense ill tidings for Haly’s and its owner, the benighted Nightwing.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #16 crosses over with Teen Titans as the Outlaws (Starfire and Roy Harper) team up with the Titans to find their respective teammates (Jason and Tim) who were kidnapped by the Joker and brought to Gotham.  Both series are written by Scott Lobdell, who clearly is more than qualified to execute this crossover.  The issue in fact reads more like a Teen Titans issue than a Red Hood issue.  In fact, they don’t actually show Jason or Tim once in this issue.  Jason’s red hood yes, but not the man who wears it. Most of the issue is Roy and Starfire hauling the Titan’s “turkey out of the fire” as they fumble to fix the fallout from the Joker’s trap the Titans fell into, and the aforementioned teens being really angsty and resentful for it.  It is interesting seeing how the two teams gel as they are forced to work together, and some very interesting backstory of Roy’s is revealed as he begins to relate with the overly emo teens he’s having to take charge of.  On the periphery of this issue’s storyline are two seemingly unrelated references, one to Dr. Hugo Strange doing a book signing and the other to Deathstroke throwing knives at three pictures of each of the Outlaws and a brief comment on how he sometimes takes jobs simply for the fun of it.  I don’t know if this is Lobdell introducing plots to the two titles post-“Death of the Family” or what, but they are intriguing to say the least.
  • Supergirl #16 begins with the awakening of the giant crustacean looking beast that blew the Horn of Confluence in Superman #1 seventeen months ago, as well Superman #0 five months ago, and ends with the first image of the master whom the herald’s horn summons.  In between, H’el’s nightmarish plot for our solar system nearly reaches its conclusion and without Superman or Superboy (see last week’s review of Superboy #16) the Justice League is force to muddle though.  Flash’s task is to find Supergirl and get her away from H’el and out of the way of his endgame.  However, the Maiden of Steel is dead set on saving her home planet even at the expense of our solar system and every living thing residing within.  Her hopes and dreams are understandable, but her blindness to the value of human life and our right to existence is deplorable at best.  She’s a teenager who is homesick.  Its no excuse, but a reason to hold onto as she backs the wrong team.  Mike Johnson does an excellent job writing this series, especially its larger implications into a wider storyline, and Mahmud Asrar draws it decently well.

    Advent of the Oracle

    Advent of the Oracle

  • Superboy Annual #1 was a little trippy, taking place in a pocket dimension contained and generated by a device that Superman took off an evil space pirate in some far off quadrant of the universe.  The whole of the issue revolves around Superboy and his Kryptonian progenitor, Superman, blundering through different, shifting locales within, battling the denizens of this temporal prison as well as the sentient dimension itself.  The title falls under the “H’el on Earth” crossover event, but fails as an issue and an annual to do anything relevant to that goal.  If anything it hinders, rather than explores it.  So what does it accomplish?  Very little.  I think writer Tom DeFalco was aiming to further characterize the two characters in relation to one another, showing their differences and how each would cope with the other.  It did not, in my opinion, accomplish that in any significant way either.  All it did was bring out their worst characteristics of both in caricature.  I respect Tom DeFalco and the work he has done on this title since taking it over greatly.  I also have enormous respect Scott Lobdell, who wrote this series initially, and who tried to show the disjointed dynamic of these two men in the last issue of the Superman title.  He didn’t pull it off, in my opinion, either.  As Superboy #0 primed us to believe, Harvest preprogrammed Superboy to hate Superman and want to kill him.  That hasn’t happened yet, which begs the question of what that was about if they aren’t going to run with it?  This annual falls under the category of not really relevant or necessary to read.  If you fail to read it, you lose nothing in understanding the larger events going on in the series or miss out on a worthwhile yarn.  Better luck next time.
  • Catwoman #16 is a bit of a disappointment as the title goes.  I was a fan of writer Ann Nocenti’s early work on Green Arrow, but that has not translated to good writing on the rest of that series or through to this series.  The “Death of the Family” tie-in turned out to be a joke of an issue, and not a funny one the Joker would take pride in.  This two issue run beginning last issue and concluding here was laughable as well and thoroughly pointless.  Dealing with the current whereabouts of the Black Diamond, perhaps it will be the two issues that introduces Eclipso back into the DCU, but I doubt that will have any importance either.  I tried to find something good to say about this issue, but just couldn’t.  It was the opposite of what is good.
  • Blue Beetle #16 was a swan song to the seventeen issues of this series that have come out, ending in the Tenebrian Dominion and linking the continuance of fifteen year old Jaime Reyes’ (Blue Beetle) journey to the Threshold series and the “Hunted” reality show.  Jaime does his utmost to fight his way out of the grasp of the Ebon warriors of Lady Styx and get home to his family, but that isn’t in the cards . . . at least not yet.  He tries really hard.  However, when his last flicker of hope is blown out, he has his armor send a video file across the far reaches of space (It’s a comic, just go with it) to the emails of his parents and best friends telling them Jaime is going to come home someday, but in the event that he can’t, just how much each of them meant to him.  It is a beautiful moment despite the tragedy that befalls Blue Beetle as it plays out.  His words to each party involved are brief, but just right, clearly touching each person deeply.  Succumbing to his captors the issue closes, but it does so not with finality, but with infinite possibilities.  I was leery about this series when it first came out and for awhile it teetered on the edge of getting dropped.  I am so glad I saw it through to this last issue.  It was worth every step of the journey and I will continue to follow Jaime into Threshold.
  • Wonder Woman #16 brings the narrative back on track, setting the main characters’ sights (literally) on the baby of Zola and Zeus.  With the help of Wonder Woman’s brother, Milan, the group are able to see that the baby is in the arms of both Hermes and Demeter in the latter’s stronghold.  We are given further information about just why Orion has come to Earth and what his intentions are regarding the Gods of Earth.  In the Arctic, we see the First Born battling the forces of one of his unnamed uncles that were sworn to guard his burial place as well as the unmasked benefactor of the First Born who dug him out of the tundra.  The identity of this person caught me a little off guard and I look forward to future revelations regarding that character.  Finally Zola and Hera, who really hate one another and have tried to kill each other often, find a common ground and begin to thaw in their relations with one another.  This issue by Brian Azzarello really was intriguing, as well as giving evidence of greatness to come in future installments.  Cliff Chiang remains an incredible artist and renders all aspects perfectly in the tone dictated by Azzarello’s story.
    The Baby with the Starry Eyes

    The Baby with the Starry Eyes

  • DC Universe Presents: Black Lightning and Blue Devil #16, like last time,  is a placeholder, but one that ends the current story arc.  Here’s hoping the next three issues are better.
  • JSA Liberty Files: The Whistling Skull #2 was yet again confusing.  I’m going to have to do two placeholders in a row, because while this series has yet to come together in any meaningful way, I hold out hope that it will eventually when writer B. Clay Moore decides we should start to understand it.  Honestly though, this issue and its predecessor were just random events thrown into a metaphorical blender.  The only thing that links the two are references to the children disappearing and then being incinerated from the inside out.  Other than that the characters, their origins, motives, and affiliations are all a complete blank.  Holding down the fort is Tony Harris with incredible art.  Barring that and its association with the other two JSA: Liberty Files miniseries, I would say pass this one up.
  • Sword of Sorcery #4 begins with an Amethyst story taking place after she concluded her stint in Justice League Dark #14 but before she returns to her “home world”, the gem world of Nilaa.  Asking Constantine to take her quickly to Chicago for a last taste of pizza before returning to a world without Italian food from which she may never return, she stumbles across more evil magic on Earth that demands her attention.  This little yarn wasn’t that interesting or important to the main story, so we’ll chock this installment up to a less than exciting vacation and continue with the series anew next month, this time back in Nilaa where the character truly belongs, both inside and outside of the narrative. Also this month begins the Stalker backup feature written by the DC Universe Presents: Black Lightning and Blue Devil scribe, Marc Andreyko.  I didn’t care for his above storyline and I can’t say that I liked this one either.  It was okay.  Much better than the Black Lightning and Blue Devil story, but the problem was that he was re-imagining a work of genius from the past with which I had a deep affection.  Paul Levitz wrote four issues of the Stalker series with Steve Ditko on pencils, before the series was cancelled due to the comic book implosion of the late 70’s.  With the original, it was a true swords & sorcery title that had a very straightforward, dark, and twisted character.  This run by Andreyko tried too hard to make him grandiose and relatable and totally missed the mark on all counts.  It then proceeds to show him living through the ages and emerging in the here and now, which again is completely WRONG for this title.  For those who want to know more about what the original series is about, I am going to put this link to my review of the Steve Ditko Omnibus in which the four issue of the Stalker series are collected: https://offthepanelcomicreview.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/review-the-steve-ditko-omnibus-vol-1-starring-shade-the-changing-man/
  • Saucer Country #11 tells the story of Governor Alvarado returning with her ex-husband, Michael, to the farm he grew up on.  Taking a detour from aliens, this story focuses on another folklore very akin to alien sightings but far more terrestrial.  Instead of little gray men, this issue has little winged men and women.  As children, Michael and his sister, Beth, used to see fairies and go on magical adventures.  He relives some of these memories including the last great encounter before things changed and he and Beth were forced to abandon belief in what they knew in their hearts actually happened.  Upon revisiting the events with people who were around back then, Michael realizes the truth behind the trauma that conjured fairies in the mind of two young innocent children.  The harsh reality that he discovers and the way the mind coped by sugaring the event over with fairies leads the reader to wonder what that holds for the existence of aliens and their role in the larger story being told here.  Paul Cornell continues this magnum opus, spawned from a lifelong fascination with alien mythology, with great talent and insight, constantly making the reader think and always keeping any inkling of what is going on cleanly out of reach.

Thus ends an incredible week of comics.  I am giddy as the fallout of the better titles play out in my head.  I dare say this may be the best week in comics I have read this month and perhaps in a long time.  Not all the best, but collectively there was a high quotient of awesome that is rarely matched let alone surpassed.  We’ll see if next week, the final of the January, can stand the test.  While I highly doubt it, I will be there to test them.  Hope you will too.

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 #16:  Drawn by Ivan Reis, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Joe Prado & Ivan Reis

Batwoman #16:  Art by J.H. Williams III, Colored by Dave Stewart

Green Lantern: New Guardians #16:  Art by Aaron Kuder, Colored by Wil Quintana

Before Watchmen: Minutemen #6: Art by Darwyn Cooke, Colored by Phil Noto

Supergirl #16: Art by Mahmud Asrar, Colored by Dave McCaig

Wonder Woman #16: Art by Cliff Chiang, Colored by Matthew Wilson