Batman Inc #10enters into its endgame. After this issue, Grant Morrison only has three more issues before reaching what hopefully will be the meteoric conclusion of an eight year, continuous run on the character. There is a lot of pressure, but it seems like he’s had the end in sight the whole time and doubtless has been building toward and accentuating the events leading to his final goal. So far, Talia Al-Ghul has Gotham as well as the world in her grasp with her criminal organization and their meta-bomb ring that will encircle the world in destruction. Batman and his allies have once again been outlawed in Gotham, but when you take away everything from someone you also remove many of their inhibitions, and considering what Batman is capable of, that is a very dangerous prospect. Perhaps the greatest moment in the issue comes when Talia goes to visit her father, Ra’s Al-Ghul, in his Alpine prison to gloat about her genius in doing what he never could: conquering the Bat. Truly, to the casual observer Talia is in a very advantageous position. Ra’s is aptly playing chess as this conversation proceeds and while applauding his daughter’s plan, he cryptically hints that she has overlooked a key factor. Though haughty and convinced of her plan’s perfection, Ra’s doesn’t reveal what he means. The chink in her perfect plot begins to show, and with three more issues it is probable that we will watch as the crack begins to run until the plan it mars shatters entirely. With Morrison at the helm I am a’quiver with anticipation. One also has to acknowledge the incredible artwork of Chris Burnham that brings this series to beauteous life.
Red Lanterns #19is the final stepping stone to Green Lantern #20 that promises to end the Green Lantern Universe as we know it. Three long weeks from now we will be seeing the end of Geoff Johns’ run on the title he literally brought back from the dead eight years ago and the putting down of the last and greatest of his villains, Volthoom the First Lantern. In this issue bridging Red Lanterns #1-18 to the conclusion of Green Lantern Atrocitus has hit perhaps the greatest existential dilemma. His entire life thus far since the destruction of his space sector and the murder of his family has been lived with one singular purpose: vengeance. He has lived specifically to kill those who wronged him and the hundreds of billions of innocents throughout Space Sector 666. His rage was so great that he founded a lantern corps to spread his doctrine of revenge to the four corners of the universe. Every step of the way he has been robbed of his ultimate aims, i.e. the death of Sinestro, who escaped and thrived as both a Green and Yellow Lantern, and Krona who fell at the hands of Hal Jordan. When fighting Volthoom, he was given the choice to save his sector and become a tyrant, or let his sector be destroyed by Krona and the Manhunters and become that which he currently is. Seeing his death in the first alternative at the hands of his son, as well as his murder of his beloved wife, he chooses to let his world and family be destroyed. Afterwards, he finds nothing but self-recrimination and orders his faithful Red Lanterns to kill him for his crime of genocide by cowardice. The Red Lanterns find themselves in a conundrum as Atrocitus is the one who saved them and gave them the power to avenge the great wrongs done to them in their previous lives. At the same time they also swore obedience to him and he is telling them to kill him for the honor of their corps. Something of a Catch-22. They go through with it, but in the moment of their convergence on him to take his life, something interesting happens. Their attacks do not kill him, but rather give him a universal awareness of their combined suffering, rejuvenating in him the need and savory of vengeance he had begun to lose touch with in the first issue. Full circle, he is now once again the Regent of Rage and attempts to get vengeance on the one remaining enemy of his that remains to be conquered: the Guardians of the Universe. That said, the full might of the Red Lantern Corps are headed to Oa. Peter Milligan is a maestro, writing this series philosophically to a tee. Joining him on art is Will Conrad, whose art is light-years above that of regular series artist Miguel Sepulveda. The next issue will be both men’s swansong on the title following the aftermath of Green Lantern #20. I can barely wait.
Flash #19features Barry Allen in Iron Heights prison, playing a balancing act. One one side he’s attempting to keep the Trickster’s acolytes, the Outlanders, from storming the city and the prison to release their leader. On the other hand, he’s also trying to prove Trickster’s innocence on the murder rap he was sent up on. If that wasn’t enough, his powers are mysteriously sucked out of him in a very unlikely crossover with the series Dial H. Though linked to a very weak series, this mishap provides a golden opportunity for Barry Allen, not the Flash, to shine. Somehow, Barry pulls off a miracle, but in doing so unravels some mysteries about the Speed Force and his connection to it, as well as others’. The most intriguing of which comes at the end of the book with he entrance of the Reverse Flash. Brian Buccellato writes this issue exquisitely with the help of Marcio Takara on art. Francis Manapul returns as artist and cowriter on the last two pages introducing Reverse Flash. The future of the Flash shines bright in the hands of two writer/artists who get it. The Flash is a title to get for the foreseeable future as a result.
Superman #19is literally comic book legend in the making. The main plot follows Clark being invited to a housewarming party for Lois Lane and Jonathan Carroll. This may seem awkward for poor old Clark, but for the fact that while he is tying up a loose end in his super-heroics as Superman his girlfriend, Diana Prince, arrives before him and literally stuns everyone there: Lois, Perry, and especially Jimmy. Clark does eventually get to the party and when he gets there he notices discernible peculiarities in the words and actions of those present. Superman may have super-speed, super-strength, super-vision, heat-vision, freezing breath, etc, but Clark Kent has the hyper acute intuition and attention to detail of a trained journalist. Tying it to the same phenomenon he witnessed last issue at the midtown club where dozens of young women attempted to mindlessly plummet to their doom. All of this ties enigmatically to Hector Hammond, kept in a comatose state at S.T.A.R. Labs, and the New God, Orion, dispatched to Earth in order to save the universe from an up and coming threat originating on Earth. Writer Scott Lobdell GETS Superman not unlike the team of Buccellato and Manapul get the Flash. The core story of this issue as I’ve related it is what gives the series structure, but the strength of Lobdell’s writing is the strange and fantastic events that surround the main story, accentuating the world in which Superman exists. Case in point, Clark is late to the house warming party. He’s late because of an invasion of radiant Roman-eque legions of beings called Sunturnians from a placed called Neo Sol. Superman is brought before their “Solaratrix”, Allysun, and made to kneel before her. The look of the Sunturnians, the concept behind them, and everything elicited by this short episode of the story harkens to the Silver Age spectacle in Superman comics in which the Man of Steel we know to today first began to emerge. Grant Morrison is the maestro of resurrecting these Silver Age plot devices, but Scott Lobdell is no slouch. His Superman rings true to the character and innovates it constantly. Also adding to the incomparable quality is the out of the park artwork by returning series artist, Kenneth Rocafort. Superman is a title that also is not to be missed.
Wondering at Wonder Woman
Talon #7picks up after writers James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder dropped a bombshell on the Talon and his readers last issue. Almost simultaneously, Calvin Rose, in the heart of the Court of Owls’ information digital fortress, and Casey Washington, in the secret lair of Calvin and his associate Sebastian Clark, find out that Clark is in fact the deposed Grandmaster of the Court of Owls. Under his administration of the shadowy cabal Calvin was chosen as Talon and Casey and her daughter were marked for death by him. So in their struggle to fight the Owls and punish those responsible for the destruction of both their lives they were in fact a stone’s throw away from the chief architect of their misery the entire time! Both characters begin the issue in nightmarish, seemingly intractable situations in the heart of danger. The Owls’ information superfortress was designed to keep the wrong people out and therefore also to keep them in as well. With the Owls inside aware of his presence getting out alive is nigh impossible. Likewise, Sebastian Clark engineered his “home” to be his own fortress and upon the discovery that Casey has stumbled upon his secret, she is also seemingly trapped in a lion’s den of peril. Right from the get-go the question of these two survivors’ ability to surmount the insurmountable is put to the test. Can they survive? The answer is waiting at the end of this issue and the answers could shock you. The issue also segues a plotpoint introduced by Tynion in Detective Comics #19 (#900) into the main story. Synder, Tynion, and artist Guillem March make this series a must read for any Batman fan, or just a fan of GOOD comics.
Teen Titans #19 is the start of this rebooted series transitioning from very innovative, new terrain as conceived by maestro Scott Lobdell and entering into familiar terrain drawn from the seminal New Teen Titans series of the early to mid 80’s that made people actually care about the concept of the Teen Titans and want to read about teenaged superheroes. Keyed into that is the entrance of two characters created for New Teen Titans and almost synonymous with them now: the demon god Trigon and his empath daughter, Raven. As of the final page of last month’s issue Trigon has entered into our reality on his three headed horse and begun his plan to subdue our world. The four-eyed, crimson skinned, elk horned monster retains all his ominousness that he has ever possessed, but Lobdell has added some darkness to Raven in his interpretation. Last seen seated in a bone strewn, subterranean lair, holding what looks to be a chalice of blood and manipulating the current Titans’ actions like a puppeteer, the gentle, though still slightly manipulative Raven from New Teen Titans is replaced with a very fresh take on the character. The longevity of this version is subjective, however, because Raven’s New 52 debut was in Phantom Stranger #1 where she was a normal teen trying desperately to evade her father and live a normal life. She may simply be under his thrall at present. However, both her amazingly awesome new costume and her darker portrayal make me giddy for her part in the future of this title. Also coming into the fold from New Teen, restoring the feel of the 80’s title, is Beast Boy, a refugee from the cancelled Ravagers series. His appearance is premature, as the final issue of Ravagers revealing the fate of him and his fellows has yet to be released. However, much like she did with Kid Flash in the 80’s series, Raven latches onto him and manipulates his mind to get his help in the current situation unfolding. Jury’s out on whether that includes backing the Titans or backing her “dear” old dad. In the realm of the current roster of Titans, Trigon’s entrance foreshadows great revelation. When looking at Cassie he cryptically mentions that she would have turned out quite different if she had been raised by her father and “if [she] only knew her true lineage.” When looking at Kid Flash he hints again at Kid Flash’s crimes in the future that the young speedster has forgotten. And he also reveals that the silver haired youth that has been killing people in the past two issue, is in fact the psychicly psycho Psymon. So much awesome is happening in this issue. The darkness of New Teen Titans was what galvanized DC into more serious, stark portrayals of its characters by virtue of the phenomenal storytelling of its younger heroes in those hallowed pages. Scott Lobdell is doing that yet again in the new millennium with powerful storytelling and amazing art from Brett Booth, Ale Garza, and lately with the incredible Eddy Barrows.
The Return of the old “New Teen Titans”
Before Watchmen: The Comedian #6was disappointing. It started out amazing in the first three issues, but then in the last three totally lost any depth or sense of direction. The narrative seemed aimless and the ambling path it took didn’t take the reader, even accidentally, anywhere interesting. J.G. Jones’ art was really good, but Azzarello’s script fell flat. The Comedian comes home stateside and is an embarrassment to a lot of top government people, including his old friend Robert Kennedy. Kennedy is at the time making his bid for the presidency and is planning to hang the Comedian out to dry. Despite that, Eddie Blake outwardly doesn’t seem to bear Bobbie any ill will. However, when one of his agency buddies tells him that there is going to be an attempt on Bobbie’s life and when it is going to happen, Eddie either lets it happen or kills Bobbie himself. Its really hard to say. There is the possibility that I am missing something deeper, but I highly doubt it. Its worth reading the first half of this series. Skip the second, and your imagination can do a much better job of concluding it.
Batman: The Dark Knight #19was underwhelming across the board. Arc artist Ethan Van Sciver, for whom I stayed on this title despite my waning interest, is absent this issue being replaced by Szymon Kudranski. Kudranski’s art is good and fits the tone of this book, but like other artist switch-ups DC has been throwing out, it jars the reader s who’ve seen Van Sciver’s artwork up until this point, which is nowhere near similar to Kudranski’s. In it we see a further account of the Mad Hatter’s descent into madness as an adolescent on testosterone pills and his insane plan in the present that will cost hundreds of lives. Also returning is the followup to Bruce Wayne’s revelation to his Ukraining piano prodigy girlfriend that he is in fact the Batman. Mad Hatter sees her at a concert she puts on and immediately falls for her psychotically. Nothing but bad is on the horizon. On paper the plot sounds interesting, but draw out it is a little lacking.
All-Star Western#19 finds Jonah panning for gold out West after his departure from Gotham last issue. He’s looking for gold when the issue opens, but Gold finds him! Booster Gold, time travelling superhero. Gold hasn’t been seen in the New DCU since the conclusion of of the Justice League International Annual about a year ago. That apocalyptic moment portended something major in the offings, most likely the hinted at Trinity War this July. So far Gold hasn’t mentioned the how or why of his being in the Old West, but shows up here as the sheriff of a town called Red River Junction. This town that he’s become lawman of is brutally massacred by a gang of cutthroats on Jonah Hex’s axe list. Thus a shaky alliance is formed between the quintessential Western anti-hero and the time travelling buffoon that Hex refuses to believe comes from the far future. Intriguing plot to say the least and one that could eventually shed some light on larger events brewing in DC’s future storylines throughout the New 52. Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray continue to rock the title with Moritat’s art characterizing it brilliantly.
Arrow #6features a trinity of excellent storytelling. Leading the pack is a story scripted by Emilio Aldritch and drawn by Green Arrow royalty, Mike Grell. In it Oliver intercepts a drug shipment from South America to Starling City. In the process he meets a young boy who is plagued in much the same way as him by the sins of a father. The next has Oliver attending a football game with Tommy only to be caught in the middle of an insane ex-player’s suicide plot that will take out most of the fans in the stadium at halftime. The final story showcases Det. Quinton Lance and the sacrifices he makes in his personal life to do his job to the best of his abilities. Honestly, hard-edged as he is, he is a man of honor that is dealt a hard hand by life while simply trying to be the best cop he can be. Three really excellent stories in the Arrow line, accentuating the inherent gems of the television show.
Jupiter’s Legacy #1is a meteoric first installment to what promises to be an incredible series from creators Mark Millar and Frank Quitely. Starting in 1932, the narrative follows a team of young explorers led by a clairvoyant, handsome gentleman by the name of Sheldon Sampson as they seek an island that has called to him in his dreams. The story splits as the island comes into sight, cutting to 2013 when this group has obviously gotten older and, as we see, attained super powers that they have used to defend America and lead it back to prosperity after the Great Depression that led them to seek out the island in the first place. Their children are in their early to late 20’s and are indolent, debauch party animals, lacking a cause to fight for or believe in. On the surface one would think that they are disappointments to their parents and not worth a damn, but if one takes a closer look there are some very deep, philosophical and sociological implications beneath who these young men and women have become and why. The scenes, dialogue, and expressions of the characters are so well choreographed as to each be infinitely telling. A picture is worth a thousand words? Millar’s scripting and artist Frank Quitely’s visual renderings prove this adage and the merit of comics inherently because of it. Admittedly, Millar is a writer of great merit, but Frank Quitely’s artwork was what got me to pick this series up in the first place. There is an otherworldly, sensual beauty to his art and he delivers that in spades with this first issue. The promise of where these two paragons of comic writing can take us is literally infinite.
The Old Guard
The Unwritten #48opens after last issue’s revelation that Wilson Taylor is trapped in the underworld after his death at the hands of Pullman two years ago after unveiling the last Tommy Taylor book. As the plot progresses we see that Tom is beginning to remember who he is and why he chose to come to Hades. These emergent memories terrify him because of the importance of them. The importance of finding a woman (we know he’s talking about Lizzy Hexam) who was very special to him and whom he is afraid to fail. She is somewhere in the underworld, which was the reason for his going there in the first place, and we find out just where she has been. Also of great importance is the appearance of a golden pillar in Pauly Buckner’s kingdom that is slowly expanding outward. His servants tell him that it is a portal, but to where they do not know. This issue has many small revelations that have resonating importance throughout the whole of The Unwritten. I very much look forward to the next installment that has infinite promise considering the last panel of this issue.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman Inc #10: Art by Chris Burnham, colored by Nathan Fairbairn
Superman #19: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Blond
Teen Titans #19: Drawn by Eddy Barrows, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Eber Ferreira
Jupiter’s Legacy #1: Art by Frank Quitely, Colored by Peter Doherty
This week features some really incredible issues. Batman Inc brings us to the direct aftermath of the slaying of Robin, Damian Wayne, and what that portends for the overall Batman universe. Joe Kubert Presents concludes its six issue run. And so many other books of merit, there’s no point in prefacing them. Here they are:
Batman Inc #9represents a turning point in the title. The forces of Leviathan continue to press their advantage upon the Batman Incorporated lines. However, following the deaths of several Batman Inc agents, not least of which Batman’s son, Damian, the forces of the Batman begin to rally against the oppressive foe with renewed vigor. If the state of affairs as of this issue’s ending had to be boiled down to one sentence it be simply be: “It is ON!” Batman is ANGRY and his inner circle of allies are champing at the bit as well. Talia’s plan is a well oiled machine, but her cloned son going off script and murdering his “twin” was perhaps the chink in the chain that will break her dreams of revenge on the Dark Knight and his legacy. Though in the end, after killing their child, how much lower can she bring Batman? With the terror she has inflicted on Gotham and the political pressure from above to acquiesce to her demands, Batman Inc is outlawed and driven back into the shadows of Gotham. However, where do bats do their best hunting? Grant Morrison is writing an opera and each issue is a well orchestrated movement. Chris Burnham’s art, however, is the orchestra that brings it all to vibrant life. He takes the beautifully poignant scripts and brings them to brutal, bone wrenching realization. There are only a few artists whose work can pair perfectly with Morrison’s stories and Burnham is one of them. What little is left of this meteoric run is going to be nothing short of magical.
Don’t Mess With the Batman
Red Lanterns #18brings the Regent of Rage, Atrocitus, under the thumb of Volthoom. This horrific monstrosity plays people’s painful emotions like a violin and what can be rawer than someone whose very existence is a result of catastrophic loss. Atros of Ryutt not only lost his family the day the Manhunters went berserk in Space Sector 666, he lost his entire race. What would have happened if that genocide hadn’t occurred. As ever, Volthoom is eager to show what might have been, and as ever, it is absolutely awful. According to him, hatred and rage would have been Atrocitus’ destiny no matter what occurred or didn’t occur that day and if the Manhunters did annihilate his people as they did, so much innocent blood would never be on his hands and his crusade could be termed righteous thereafter. On Earth, John Moore, aka Rankorr, attempts to find happiness with a young woman he saved in the streets of his old town. However, Bleez might have something to say about it. Series writer Peter Milligan nails this plotline with his characteristic wit, brilliance, and sadistic charm. What becomes all too apparent as the issue reaches its conclusion is that when the red ring slips on your finger you may find temporary satisfaction through vengeance, but you will never find happiness. Atrocitus truly is a Greek tragedy personified and this issue proves that as he give the Red Lanterns one last order in the final panel. This issue was ridiculously good. The only thing I that could have been better was the art. Sorry, Miguel Sepulveda, but your art just doesn’t fit what I feel the tone of the book requires.
Hell Hath No Fury
Superman #18comes fresh off of “H’el on Earth” with great skill and style. In my review of last week’s Supergirl #18 I mentioned the danger inherent with coming off of a large event like this the Super-titles have, providing a jumping off point for readers unless a hook is sunk to keep them buying. Supergirl sunk a hook and Scott Lobdell BURIED one with this issue. Three major things occurred in this issue and each was drawn by a different artist along the lines of Green Lantern: New Guardians #18, also from last week’s releases. Apropos New Guardians, the departing artist of that title, Aaron Kuder, provides art on the parts of the issue that usher in Orion of the New Gods into the plot. For anyone that knows me or has read my posts with some frequency it is an understatement to say that I enjoy anything involving Jack Kirby’s Fourth World. So far Geoff Johns has bungled magnificently the introduction of Apokalips and its leader Great Darkseid into the New 52 continuity, but Brian Azzarello’s intro of Orion hasn’t been terrible. If I trusted anyone in DC’s current stable of creators with the Fourth World, it would be this series’ writer, Scott Lobdell. Here he beings the pitting of noble Orion against the Man of Steel. In the mean time, however, Superman has other more immediate worries on his mind. Tyler Kirkham (*ahem* Also a New Guardians artist) draws a segment of the story in which the United States government summons Superman to a Congressional hearing in which the Fortress of Solitude’s purpose is questioned and an inspection by International representatives is demanded. In his civilian identity of Clark Kent has to deal with unemployment and Cat Grant, who quit the Daily Planet shortly after Clark and who has big plans for their collective future. Cat Grant has always been portrayed as really callow and something of a bimbo. She’s fairly superficial in this representation on the outside, but I applaud Lobdell for giving her some substance deep down. I mean, she quit the Planet when Clark was forced to resign for journalistic integrity. She didn’t have to. She had a sweet gig as a popular trends journalist and was one of the voices of fashion and culture. Regardless of how vapid she may be, that shows really character. Scott Lobdell constantly astounds me at the amazing stories he’s telling at DC. Superman continues to be one of the must read titles.
Flash #18 features a story written exclusively by series cowriter and colorist Brian Buccellato and with art by guest artist Marcio Takara in which Barry Allen and the Flash try to pick up the pieces after the conclusion of the Gorilla Invasion of the Gem Cities and Barry’s civilian identity is brought back from the “dead.” In the wake of these events a whole new status quo has been established. Two men caught in Speed Force, following the Flash’s tearing the fabric of space and time with his speed, gain Flash-like abilities, albeit of a lesser caliber. Also the Trickster is framed for murder and the Flash sets out to prove one of his archenemies’ innocence. The story is very compelling, humorous, and engaging. I do not know how large a part series artist and cowriter Francis Manapul is, but in his absence Brian Buccellato has scripted an incredible issue. Marcio Takara’s art is different from the usual Manapul style, but closer than usual fill in artist, Marcus To. Altogether an incredible issue.
Talon #6is hands down one of the most important issues that has come out. This series spins off of a major plot point of the Bat-books and takes it into its own right. Writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV brings the title to a crescendo. When last we left Calvin Rose he was infiltrating an impregnable fortress off the coast of New York. The prize within is the Grand Master of the Court of Owls and his most sensitive documents. However, the Court aren’t easily assailed. The genius of the issue lies in its complete turn around of everything we’ve come to understand about the series, but also in the way it plays into a major mystery left by the end of the “Court of Owls” plot line in Batman. Guillem March’s artwork ties it all together. Simply genius.
Teen Titans #18is the final “Requiem” issue of the Bat-books in memoriam of Damian, giving us Tim Drake’s reaction to his “little brother’s” death. Damian managed to piss off every member of the Bat family, but Tim was the one who received the lion’s share of antagonism with the young Wayne. In fact, though it was pre-Reboot, the first time Damian met Tim he tried and almost succeeded in killing him. Needless to say, there is no love lost between them. But despite all that, they were very similar and Tim wanted him and all young heroes to be safe. His speech to the ghost of Damian, product of his grief, about why he set out to create the Teen Titans for kids like him to keep them safe was truly moving. From there Tim takes the Titans to Belle Reve prison in Louisiana for a toe-to-toe with Amanda Waller’s Suicide Squad. The rationale is not revealed, but knowing writer Scott Lobdell, it will be crucial to something incredible over the horizon. Lobdell is another master of spreading seeds throughout his issues that later grow into substantial plot points. Doctor Light is seen in the shadows following a lead on the disappearance of a young Indian girl, Kiran Singh, whom we know to be Solstice, and a psychotic teen with super powers we met briefly last issue makes another cryptic appearance this issue. The true draw to any reader of Teen Titans past or present is the surprise appearance in the last panel of a VERY big player in the DCU pantheon. In summation, Scott Lobdell and Eddy Barrows knock it out of the park.
A Little Brother’s Plea
Aquaman #18for the most part is an exploration of the new status quo in the title. Aquaman has supplanted his brother, Orm, as king of Atlantis, leaving his wife, Mera, stranded on land. Despite his best efforts to do what is right for his people, he seems to be doing what is wrong for those closest to him. He has estranged himself from his wife whose people are hereditary enemies of Atlantis. He has sold out his brother to surface dwellers, when in all reality Orm was only acting in defense of their people using battle plans they came up with TOGETHER. Heavy weighs the crown it would seem, but I still am uneasy in my feelings for Aquaman. His quest to rid the surface does represent an altruistic attempt to gently normalize relations between the worlds above and below the waves, giving him some pathos with the reader. This quest also led to the introduction the classic Aquaman villain the Scavenger as well as Tula, here a half sister to Orm, but unrelated to Arthur, as he and Orm share a mother and Tula and Orm share a father. What this issue does do which really makes it worthwhile is the appearance of an ancient evil that promises to turn this series on its head. Geoff Johns is hit or miss lately and this one rides the edge.
Batman: The Dark Knight #18has Batman continuing on the trail of Mad Hatter. The actual pursuit clearly isn’t important to the writer, Gregg Hurwitz, as it is fairly uninspired and lackluster. In my opinion it seems only to be a mode of facilitating an examination of the Mad Hatter’s obsessive nature and a rationale behind why he is so violently insane. Jervis Tetch has always been rather short, just like his Lewis Carroll namesake, and while taking a testosterone booster gets an irreversible rage issue compounded with delusional obsessions. Hurwitz is more setting up the character for future exploration rather than focusing on an engaging tale. He also seems to be developing a trope of juxtaposing the villain de jour with Batman, showing the overlapping similarities Batman shares with his icon nemeses. After exploring the relationship between the damaged Mad Hatter and his loving parents, Hurwitz shows the relationship between the very damaged Batman and his parents, both sets of which want their sons to be happy, but the world contrevening against those wishes. The story itself isn’t enjoyable per se, but analyzing it does yield some interesting material.
Justice League Dark#18,while long and drawn out, is extremely simple. Last issue, Dr. Peril of A.R.G.U.S. revealed that the magic world the JLD traveled to as well as our world bleed magic through various locations and arcane persons. The Magic World, taken over by scientists that banned all magic and enforce its suppression with super-science, is like a stopped up boiler. Unless the magic can leech out in some manner the entire reality will be engulfed in the exploding energies built up over centuries. This issue has Timothy Hunter’s father going to the Magic World and helping him leech those energies from the Earth and channel them into the Heavens. After that the JLD exit the Magic World and return home. Constantine, after he regains his ability to lie and mislead, postures a bit to make up for the fact that he was completely worthless for the past few issues (and pretty much is ALL the TIME) and officially tells Col. Steve Trevor of A.R.G.U.S. that his Justice League Dark are no longer under governmental oversight. This past arc wasn’t exactly anything that I was interested in and time will tell if I continue to read it. The art by Mikel Janin is gorgeous and perhaps its only selling point at his juncture. Jeff Lemire is a decent writer, but a lot of the “magic” has gone out of it with the departure of Peter Milligan and the convergence that seems to be going towards Geoff Johns’ imminent “Trinity War.” We’ll just have to see.
All-Star Western #18concludes what was begun last issue with the entrance of Vandal Savage to Gotham and the outbreak of what was thought to be a cholera epidemic in the poorer sections of Gotham. In fact it was a disease Vandal had carried with him over the past several hundred years, dormant in his system. All of it was for Vandal to get his hands on Catherine Wayne to force Alan Wayne into forfeiting his vast holdings in Gotham to Savage. Jonah and Jeremiah come to her aid just in time to put Savage down for the time being. But with the immortal despot, he will rise again and continue his mad plots. After this, Jonah collects his bounty and heads out of Gotham once again. The question remains as to whether or not he will be able to stay away. Though he is a man of the West and has always been characterized as such, writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray always seem to bring him back to Gotham. This two-parter seemed to not really have a solid point to it and ends anticlimactically, but does have some poignant moments that are very interesting if not arbitrary, such as the scene where Hex and Arkham take refuge from the hordes above in a storm cellar populated by a dwarf smuggler (that is to say a smuggler who is a little person) and a grief stricken mother with a doll surrogate for her disease-killed baby. It facilitates next to nothing to the resolution or build up of the plot, but gives exceptional characterization and ambiance to the overall narrative. The Palmiotti/Gray/Moritat creative team on this book is rock solid, making this title a must read. In the backup feature, Palmiotti and Gray return to the character of Dr. Terrence Thirteen, scientific detective and debunker of superstition. Done under the auspice of “Stormwatch” this one was palatable, because it had next to nothing to do with that BS title or its history. Thirteen goes to a community of spiritualist mediums to catch a killer who masquerades as a giant pigman. Precise in his observations, his intellect is inversely proportioned to his social ineptitude, making him a Wild West version of Sherlock Holmes, minus the Watson. They bring it around to the Stormwatch concept at the end, but up until that point its quite enjoyable.
The Unwritten #47returns the narrative back to where we left Tom Taylor three months ago. He had descended into the Underworld to get back the soul of his lost lover, Lizzy Hexam, and in the process lost all memory of who and what he was before his entrance into the realm of Hades. Meeting up with the slain children of the French prison warden in the first arc of the series, he attempts to find his way out by visiting the king. The cliffhanger we left off on in issue #44 was the discovery that Pauly Buckner had become the king of the Underworld. This issue fills us in on how Pauly went from facing oblivion at the beginning of the “Wound” arc (at the time in his human form) to being stuck as a rabbit again and presiding over the realm of the dead. Pauly is the worst kind of “person” and of course he’s going to do something nasty when given the chance to sadistically toy with someone. He commands his masked guardsman of the dead to imprison Tom in the dungeons. In Hades, as in Hell, you are imprisoned by your crime. With no memory Tom can’t rightly confess his crime, even were he to want to. There is a holding area for others, victims of the Wound, who have no crimes to repent for. On the way down one of the masked guardsman tells Tom the basics of why he in fact came down into the Underworld and bids him look upon something that he is meant to see. Here we see a very existentialist dilemma in Tom. After being without knowledge for a decent amount of time and then given the chance at regaining it, he is terrified. Knowledge is a weight we carry and the hints at the return of who he was and what he did are terrifying to him. It is one of the key facts of human existence. Like Adam and Eve who ate the fruit, they gained vast knowledge but also inherited great evil as well. Tom is left to determine whether he will take the road towards “something” or remain in a state of “nothing[ness].” What lies behind the door that the guardsman bids him enter is something that all readers of the series are going to wish a great deal to read more about. I love this series. Mike Carey and Peter Gross are geniuses and this series shines forth that genius with luminous glory. If you haven’t read the series so far, pick up the graphic novels, gorge yourself in their magnificence so you can get to this issue and enjoy it with all the Unwritten faithful.
Joe Kubert Presents #6is the final issue created by and now in memoriam to one of the greats of the comic medium, bearing his name proudly in the title. This issue starts off with the final chapter of the “Spit” feature, written, drawn, and colored by Kubert. It is precisely the coloring that is so perplexing and has made me rack my brain over. The other three episodes were all done in the grey tone black and white pencil medium that Kubert is renown for. He briefly goes back to it for several panels as the ships cook relates the tale of how he lost his leg, but most of the story is depicted in pastel-like splendor. I think it would have been more apt, if the point was demarcating the past from present, to have the flashback in vibrant color, but then again I am not Kubert and perhaps lack the insight he employed in his storycraft. This last segment shows with great visual detail and narrative skill the method of hunting, killing, and rendering the whales into the oil that fueled Western civilization before the advent of petroleum. Only Joe Kubert. “Spit” was a seminal work of short fiction, and with no solid ending it is obvious Kubert wasn’t done with the poor lad yet. Too bad. He was a bright boy who sailed over the horizon and now we’ll never see where he went or who he became. Again, too bad. The next feature, written by Kubert and Pete Carlsson and entitled “Ruby”, takes the reader to the orient in a bygone era as bandits invade a Himalayan monastery. Inside a young brother and sister try to evade the bandits, but instead run into a monk who gives them a great treasure. Guess what that treasure happens to be. Holding the ruby, the boy realizes it has strange powers that grant both children the means to escape. It is brief and engaging, having all the hallmarks of the old serial anthology books of the 50’s and 60’s and one thinks that that is the end of the story. The final sentence of the narrattion turns it all around. “The boy clasping his small sister’s hand will be known in time as . . . Sargon the Sorcerer.” Sargon is one of the lesser known, but immensely powerful and infinitely mysterious magic users of the DCU and in his last days on Earth Joe Kubert gave us a brief yet authentic feeling origin for the mighty magician. It should be noted that although the panels on this feature bear a striking resemblance to Kubert’s style, it is actually drawn by Henrik Jonsson. Next the book turns to the “U.S.S. Stevens” feature. As he did in the last issue, Sam Glanzman eschews personal reminiscences in lieu of a point by point history lesson on the high points of the final days of the War in the Pacific. This description of his final segment in the feature recounting the service of his Destroyer and its crew during WWII is deceptively unfair considering how engaging and compelling it is. Though its a history lesson, its a history lesson from the coolest teacher you ever had. The one that knew what you wanted to hear and related from someone who was there. A vibrant voice of a dying generation of men and women, Sam Glanzman has recorded his story in the medium that has been his life since the war ended: pen, paper, and panel. The “Angel and the Ape” feature also, obviously, comes to its final chapter. Writer/artist Brian Buniak continues his lighthearted, satirical farce with the tale of how Angel and Sam Simeon came to found their detective agency. Buniak’s work is laden with witticism, obvious corny jokes, and some really veiled jokes that take a trained eye. I have to admit that I was really proud of myself when I picked up on one specific one. The raven haired reporter interviewing the duo’s name is Noel. Now at the end of the issue when she goes back to the newspaper office there is a dark haired handsome male reporter with black hair and glasses. She calls him “George.” Thinking he looked like Superman and his name being George, I realized that while George Reeves portrayed Superman in the 50’s television show, Noel Neill portrayed Lois Lane. You are a sharp one, Mr. Buniak. The final feature to cap the series off was a one shot story of “Kamandi: Last Boy on Earth” cowritten by Kubert and Brandon Vietti, the latter of which also provided art. Kamandi attempts to raise men up from their savage state after a cataclysm that left humans de-evolved and raised animal tribes to the dominant species of the planet. The series was originally written by comics god Jack Kirby and in this issue Kubert resurrects the Demon Etrigan to contend with Kamandi’s efforts. Again, I am at a loss for what Kubert meant to say with the story, but trust that there is some meaning. If there isn’t, well then it was an interesting meeting of two of Jack’s greatest creations. I hope Kirby and Kubert are both in Heaven talking about what Joe did right or very, very wrong. In any event, Joe Kubert was a testament to what the comics medium once was, what is has become, and what it has the possibility to be as we grow with it, just like he did, starting in the industry at 17 and dying at his drawing board at 82. One last time I will say it: Rest in Peace, Joe! If anyone’s earned some rest, it’s you.
Sargon the Sorcerer
Time Warp #1is yet another of Vertigo’s anthology collections based upon a theme. Obviously with Time Warp, time and its manipulation are the basis of the collected stories. In some cases time travel is utilized, but that isn’t the only facet of time explored. In others memory is revealed to be the surest and perhaps only means of manipulating time. The creative voices lending their thoughts and yarns here include Damon Lindelof (Lost), Jeff Lemire, Gail Simone, Mark Buckingham, Peter Milligan, M.K. Perker, Matt Kindt, as well as several others. I will say that these stories, or at least the ones I will write about, are so good I am going to spoil them, so if you want to read them fresh please stop here. SPOILER ALERT!!! The first story, drawn by Jeff Lemire and written by Damon Lindelof, follows DC’s own time-master, Rip Hunter, as he gets stranded in prehistory. There is legitimately no way for him to get back. As the story opens he is being chased by a T-Rex and relates that in the second grade he had said getting eaten by a dinosaur would be the best way to die. Apparently he should be careful what he wishes for. However, through the chase three versions of himself give him clues as to what he needs to do next to stay alive, as two versions of him going back in one time sphere would corrupt time. However, a VERY old Rip, the third to appear, lets the Rip whose progress we’ve been following use his sphere. When asked about being left behind, old Rip simply says that in second grade he’d figured that being eaten by a dinosaur was the best way to go. Our Rip leaves and old Rip looks up at the dinosaur and says, “I’m ready now.” His resolve at the end to face death with calm and courage registers true, but also is poignant because he chose his death after a long journey. It wasn’t an enemy, but a friend. Well done, Messrs. Lindelof and Lemire. The next story, entitled “It’s Full of Demons,” begins in 1901 with a girl and her brother playing in the mountains when a strange visitor wearing what appears to be a futuristic deep sea diver’s suit appears out of nowhere and kills the girl’s brother with a ray gun. She tries to tell people what happened, but is deemed insane and sent in and out of insane asylums over the next fifty-five years. What’s even stranger is that after WWI the world takes a very different course and a unifty commonwealth of nation emerges. Eventually, the woman hangs herself when world peace is finally realized by this world confederacy. At that moment in the last panel someone FINALLY calls her by her name, or at least her maiden name: Miss Hitler. Her little brother “Addy” who was murdered was Adolf Hitler and his absence led to a unifying of the world in a lasting peace. The last piece that struck me in this anthology was written by Gail Simone about a candy shop whose owner has a sweet that can make you relive the best moment of your life. For a very ill little boy with a very serious condition the candy takes him to a skiing trip that he took with his parents before the onset of his disease. For a man who lost his wife, he is back with her on a beautiful tropical beach. However, a murder comes in wishing to relive the night he murdered his wife, a crime for which he was acquitted. There is a twist ending to this one, but I won’t spoil it this time. There are many other excellent stories in this collection, but those three stood out as the true masterworks. It is solicited that the next anthology they are going to put out is called “The Witching Hour.” I very much look forward to reading that one as well, considering the level of quality that Vertigo has put in their previous collections.
Rest In Peace, RIP.
So ends a REALLY excellent week of comics. The two anthology books, Joe Kubert Presents and Time Warp, kind of make me nostalgic for when such titles were more common place. Next week we enter into a new month of comics excellent story lines. Hope to see you there.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman Inc #9: Art by Chris Burnham, colored by Nathan Fairbairn
Red Lanterns #18: Art by Miguel Sepulveda, Colored by Rain Beredo
Superman #18: Art by Aaron Kuder, Colored by Sunny Gho
Teen Titans #18: Drawn by Eddy Barrows, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Eber Ferreira
Joe Kubert Presents #6: Art by Henrik Jonsson, Colored by Joe Panico
Time Warp #1: Art by Jeff Lemire, Colored by Jose Villarrubia
Batman Inc #6is a doomsday clock ticking towards midnight. Since the beginning of this second arc of the title, but really from the first issue following writer Grant Morrison’s transition from Batman & Robin, there has been something extremely wrong happening in the shadows and all the disparate threats lead to a web woven by none other than Talia Al-Ghul. Since her revelation as the leader of Leviathan its become clear that Grant Morrison is writing this series as a Machiavellian tale of “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Batman has spurned her affections and lured their son away from her, so in revenge she has deduced the most ingenious plan to take everything he loves and has built away from him. What’s worse is that inherent in the plan are choices he has to make shifting responsibility onto his shoulders for what survives and what is destroyed, who lives and who dies. Nothing and no one are sacred in this conflict and at issue’s close the sword drops. Grant Morrison is a genius. Hands down, he is on the top echelon of writers who have written the Batman character. Joining him on this second arc and really making his mark is artist Chris Burnham. Burnham’s art is reminiscent of Frank Quitely, one of Morrison’s most iconic collaborators, but has its own flavor making it appropriate for this title in its similarities to Quitely, but its also for its uniqueness. When this series ends, as melodramatic as this may sound, I think I might go into mourning.
The Sophie’s Choice of the Batman Universe
Red Lanterns #15finds the Corps at its most desperate hour. Fresh off of the sabotaging of their Central Power Battery, the Guardians of the Universe have unleashed their nightmarish Third Army upon the Universe. Like everything involving the Guardians, Atrocitus won’t rest until the little blue bastards are stopped and their sins against sentient life punished. Taken in that light, he sounds not only virtuous, but almost sane. Elsewhere in the Universe, Red Lanterns are purging egregious ne’er-do-wells to power their weakened battery with righteous vengeance. Vengeance is the key to their revival. Apropos, first lieutenant Bleez escorts Rankorr, aka Jack Moore, back to Earth to kill his grandfather’s murderer, thereby completing his path of vengeance and fully realizing his potential as a Red Lantern. This mission is integral to the Corps, as Rankorr for whatever reason is the only Red Lantern with the ability to form constructs with his ring. However, when confronted with the man who has wronged him so greatly, Rankorr is also confronted with his own wrongs against others. On his home planet of Ryutt, we see that even Atrocitus is not immune from ghosts of the past, revisiting his decimated world, with the plan to use the Guardians’ own weapons against them. Peter Milligan is a genius and his writing keeps the reader keyed into the plot with its many nuances and intricacies. As good as the writing is, I am underwhelmed by Miguel Sepulveda’s artwork. It isn’t bad in and of itself, but it just is not as engrossing as Ed Benes’ artwork was during the initial issues of the title’s run.
The Flash #15was largely an interim issue, albeit one that accomplished a great many things nonspecific to the current story arc. The Gorilla invasion of the Gem Cities is in full swing and King Grodd, empowered by the Speed Force, has beaten Barry into a comatose state. In his delirium, Barry’s connection to the Speed Force has him viewing a slew of possible outcomes to the events transpiring around him, most extremely unpleasant to behold. The Rogues step up as their city descends into chaos, actually giving relief and protection to the denizens of their town. Some pretty intense things happen in the mean time as Central City and Keystone City await salvation. The most interesting in my opinion, and something I have been DYING to see, is Barry’s girlfriend Patty Spivot finding out that he is the Flash. Though she has vehemently professed to hate the Flash, when that revelation comes she doesn’t bat an eyelash, but instead rushes to her boyfriend’s aid. I love Patty and I am excited about the prospect of what this knowledge portends for future issues. As ever, writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato hit the title out of the park in both art and story, with an 11 page assist from guest artist, Marcus To.
Stand By Your Man
Superman #15 continues the “H’el on Earth” crossover event after H’el forcibly ejects Superman and Superboy from the Fortress of Solitude and barricades himself inside. As a result Superman takes Superboy to a top secret government facility specifically designed to hold Lex Luthor engineered byLex Luthor. This is undertaken under the aegis of Superman asking for Lex’s scientific expertise on how to stop H’el, but the true reason, which Lex intuits almost immediately, is much more sinister. It’s all hands on deck as the fate of Earth literally hangs in the balance. The art by Kenneth Rocafort is the thing that immediately strikes one as the pages are turned on the issue, but once one delves into the story they depict, the keen authorship of Scott Lobdell becomes equally apparent. This issue has the first real interaction between Superman and Superboy, and I have to say that the depiction of Superman, which Lobdell has executed brilliantly in the past, falters in the moments where Superman teeter-totters between seeming apathy to the polar opposite position of the overly interested father figure. Still, a really fantastic issue rendered exquisitely by both men.
Superman’s Darker Side
Batman: The Dark Knight #15ends the first arc by writer Gregg Hurwitz featuring the Scarecrow’s plot to release a super-fear-toxin on the people of Gotham. Though midstream it drew some intriguing parallels between Batman and Scarecrow’s childhoods leading up to the donning of their respective personas, overall the arc fell flat. This last issue had the Scarecrow releasing his toxin via zepplin and Batman throwing together a last ditch effort to negate it. Though Batman’s solution is intense and fairly novel, it was cobbled together far too quickly in deux-ex-machina fashion for it to have any resonance or believability. But then again we are talking about comic books here. Overall though, I felt that this new run on the series is lacking. Starting at the end of January, series creator and artist David Finch is stepping away from the series and replaced by Ethan Van Sciver. Van Sciver is an incredible artist, on par with Finch, so Hurwitz has the art down and one more chance to nail the writing.
Talon #3marks the return of a character from the #0 issue, Casey Washington, and her fate after the events depicted therein. Main character, Calvin Rose, was an assassin for the shadowy Court of Owls known as the Talon until getting the one assignment he couldn’t go through with: killing Casey Washington, a young African American mother and her daughter, Sarah. Rescuing them from the Court was the catalyst that set the drama of this series into motion. Returning to that pivotal event, Calvin re-communes with Casey after five years and we learn that the two of them had a love affair that ended when Calvin felt his presence was a danger to Casey and her daughter. Embittered, Casey meets Calvin again, this time in a much stronger position with powerful allies. Though harsh feelings exist between them, their common enemy sparks a pooling of resources for an assault on Hudson Financial, a New York based bank that handles thirteen billion dollars of Court investments. Casey and Calvin’s partner, Sebastian Clark, come up with a flawless plan to hit the bank, but as ever “the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” James Tynion and Scott Snyder are masters of storytelling and sell this series for every cent charged on the cover price. I know that I have said this at least three times in the past, but I feel that it bears reiteration. Snyder, Tynion, and March make this a must read title.
How To Save A Life
Teen Titans #15, written by Red Hood and the Outlaws scribe, Scott Lobdell, proves yet again what a master he is when dealing with the Joker, vis-a-vis the “Death of the Family” crossover event. In Red Hood and the Outlaws #15 two weeks ago, Lobdell wrote a Joker plot that was keyed directly into the character of Jason Todd and played to his person brilliantly. In this issue of Teen Titans Lobdell does it again, not only penning an ingenious (and especially deranged) plot by the Joker, but one that is keyed into Tim Drake’s personality. With Jason, the Joker knew his history and used it as a weapon against him, considering that the Joker was its engineer. Tim, however, is a young professional on the model of Bruce himself, and against him the Joker asserts himself by proving that he is in Tim’s head, knowing his thoughts and stratagems and is able to use them against him. The Teen Titans come to Gotham to track their kidnapped friend and that is precisely what the Joker was counting on . . . They are a young team, both in individual ages and the tenure of their association with each other, and their inexperience is blatantly revealed. To be fair though, the Joker is an A-list adversary who has made a fool of the Batman on many an occasion, so their embarrassment isn’t totally their fault. Artist Brett Booth returns to the title providing the stunning artwork that helped establish this new series sixteen months ago, and a very beautiful depiction of Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl. Well worth the read even if you aren’t following the overarching “Death of the Family” event.
When The Joker Gets In Your Head . . .
All-Star Western #15 continues the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde storyline. Jekyll has come to Gotham to track down a quantity of his stolen formula, but when his handler, Reginald Forsythe, is murdered and partially eaten by Hyde, events take a sinister turn. Obviously when Dr. Jekyll takes his serum he becomes the sociopathic Edward Hyde, but the question in this issue becomes who will emerge when Dr. Jeremiah Arkham is force fed the serum by Hyde? Jonah Hex attempts to intercede against Hyde in Arkham’s behalf, but proves inadequate in several respects, raising another interesting scenario: What happens when Jonah Hex, the biggest badass this side of the Rio Grande, is confined to a wheelchair for a month? And in the backup feature, Tomahawk, General Lancaster of the newly minted American Army sets a trap for Tomahawk’s men and slaughters dozens of his Native American brothers. In the fight with Lancaster, Tomahawk almost has the upper hand, until the remaining British forces in the area intervene. The reckoning appears to be reserved for next issue. We’ll see what that holds for Tomahawk and the tribes of the American northwest.
Arrow#2delivers three more glimpses into the world and history of the CW series Arrow. Whereas the inaugural issue of this series had three stories about Oliver and his quest for justice, this one gives two slots to supporting characters, further fleshing out our understanding of the series. First off comes a story scripted by Lana Cho with art by Eric Nguyen following John Diggle’s time in Afghanistan as an Army sergeant. Despite the hells he endured, through the incident depicted we see the good man he is and why Oliver would be keen to have him on his team. The second segment by Wendy Mericle and drawn by Sergio Sandaval follows Oliver’s mother, Moira Queen, and her salvaging of her husband’s yaht, the “Queen’s Gambit.” Moira is an unfortunate character caught between a rock and a hardplace and demonized because of her associations with bad people. Malcolm Merlyn is a very powerful man and the salvaging of the “Queen’s Gambit” is a key piece in a very dangerous game of chess. The final tale, scripted by by Ben Sokolowski and Lana Cho takes Oliver to Moscow to cross a name off his father’s list. Justin Whicker smuggles hopeful young ballerinas out of Russia with the promise of fame in America only to be sold into white slavery. Because this story is about Oliver and especially because it involves the ballet, Mike Grell (Green Arrow royalty, having written and drawn the title in the 80’s) provides art. The show is incredible and this series makes that viewing experience so much richer.
Mike Grell’s Peerless Rendering of the Ballet
Batman Beyond Unlimited #11contains three tales from the DC animated universe. Half the issue is composed of the Batman Beyond story “10,000 Clowns” where literally 10,000 suicidal Jokerz from across the globe make pilgrimage to Gotham to sacrifice themselves for their leader the Joker King’s insane plot. Joker King is in fact the brother of Batman’s girlfriend, Dana Tan. In this installment Joker King fights not only the current Batman, Terry McGinnis, but also the original, the 80 year old Bruce Wayne, who’s still got acid running through his veins and a serious hate-on for clowns. We also see Doug Tan’s reunion with his family after his descent into madness and a recap of how he wrangled the Jokerz and gained dominion over all the rival factions. This issue was truly worth the wait, having been built up to for more than two years now. In Superman Beyond we get a slightly less satisfactory experience only lasting a few chaotic pages with Superman facing off against the Trillians without even knowing who they are or why they want him dead. I have my theories considering that this series and its fellows in this title are the refugees of the discontinued DC animated universe. The two part series finale of “Superman: The Animated Series” had Supes under the thrall of Darkseid, conquering planets for the Lord of Apokalips. I think that Trillia was one of the planets that Superman unknowingly decimated while leading Apokalips’ armies. I could be wrong, however. Speaking of Apokalips, the last segment in this issue is a Beyond: Origin of the Apokaliptian beauty, Big Barda. Starting out with two little girls growing up in the slums, we see the origins first of Barda’s mother, Big Breeda, one of Darkseid’s elite warriors and her best friend who would become Granny Goodness. Breeda fought Darkseid’s wars and through eugenics bore future soldiers with his greatest troops. The one child who’s father she herself chose was Barda. Barda’s birth not only put the warrioress on the outs with Darkseid but also created a split between Breeda and Granny, the latter of whom raised Barda in her orphanage. The rest is history. Escaping to Earth with a handsome, young New God, Scott Free, she marries him and the two live happily for a time. However, the gap between her and Scott’s life together, as seen in the television series “Justice League Unlimited,” and where she is in “Batman Beyond” is a tragic tale that is finally revealed within. I loved this issue in its entirety more than a little. Definitely worth the read.
American Vampire #34returns to the beginning of the series while also taking us forward. The series started with Jim Book hunting down Skinner Sweet. Book died and Sweet’s been making Hell ever since, but the two people that fought alongside Book and who have taken a backseat since were Abilena Book, Jim’s young wife, and Will Bunting, the novelist following him for material for his next novel. Picking up in 1954, we see Abilena seventy years later as well as learn the fate of Will Bunting from his nephew. Through their interaction we are made aware of an immense threat that is known as the “Gray Trader.” What the Trader is and what threat it represents are left ambiguous, but from what writer Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque depict at the end, the “future” looks bleak. The two page montage of that future promises the involvement of Skinner Sweet, Pearl Jones, Travis Kidd, perhaps one of the ancient vampires from Survival of the Fittest, and Las Vegas in flames. As I predicted, this issue is at the precipice of a indeterminate gap in storytelling. Snyder and Albuquerque are doing this not just to take their time fine tuning the plot to perfection, but also so that Albuquerque can draw the majority of the second half of the series, which was unable to do in this first half. All around I have to reiterate my initial praise of this series as a messiah of the vampire genre. In a world of truly trite, abysmal vampire stories, this one comic series stands as a shining beacon, keeping the concept from drowning in Stephanie Meyers and L.J. Smith related sewage.
Joe Kubert Presents #3continues to showcase a bygone era of storytelling made fresh through veterans of the golden age of comic books. Joe himself offers up two stories and his friends Sam Glanzman and Brian Buniak continue their respective series, as begun in Joe Kubert Presents #1. Last issue, Kubert began a two part story entitled “The Redeemer” about a man who has lived countless lives over thousands of years, redeeming humanity in each, and an ancient man of evil hidden away in a fortress atop the Himalayas, known only as the Infernal One, secretly plotting against him, attempting to hasten the damnation of Man. The first half of the story involved a very complex set of events in the year 2557 A.D. that leave our hero, Jim Torkan, at a crossroads where he can either continue his redeeming of humanity (unknowingly) or fall into the Infernal Ones trap and cast aside his morals. The yarn is both futuristic in its far reaching vistas and retroactive in its storytelling style and character archetypes. Kubert truly puts forth his greatest work in this series, evincing his long work in the medium and his unfettered genius. The conclusion of this tale is both satisfying and unending. Sam Glanzman returns to his time on the U.S. Stevenson, a ship he actually served on, recounting yet another anecdotal episode on the US destroyer in WWII’s Pacific theater. It tells about the war in humorous yet starkly real terms, showing not only the war itself, but the simple and beautiful lives of the men fighting it before and after its beginning and conclusion. The transitions between are so quick and efficacious that you barely notice, as if you are drifting through their lives like in a dream. In fact it is almost exactly like a dream, because things go from being so horrible to so beautiful in the blink of an eye that there is nothing else it could be. In Joe Kubert’s second story, Spit, we return to the street urchin met in Joe Kubert Presents #1, who grows up so detested by every person he has ever met that he lacks a proper name and is colloquially know as Spit by all. Stowing away on a whaling ship, he attempts to make his way in the world only to fall under the thumb of the peg-legged ship’s cook who works him to the bone and verbally abuses him without mercy. However, unlike on land, at sea Spit finds something that alters his role in life and shines a little glimmer of hope on his existence. This segment, unlike the inked and colored “Redeemer” feature, is un-inked pencil drawings by the master artist in a style that is raw and quintessentially Joe Kubert. The gray scale, rough pencils fit the rough, historical tale exceptionally well endowing it with a dark ambiance that draws one immediately in. Finally, Brian Buniak presents the third installment of his “Angel and the Ape” feature, which has blonde bombshell private investigator, Angel, following up on a case to clear her partner, a giant ape named Sam Simeon, from a murder charge. This feature is the dessert of the issue, being nothing but pure comedic slap stick and satire. Whereas the others have poignance and certain tragedy, this one is a tonic that heals the soul and gets you back in a good mood. Buniak does the art is a very caricature-esque fashion that reeks of the 50’s and 60’s. All the submissions herein are stunningly presented and really a joy to read. If you are a comic purist, pick up these issues and experience a bygone era of comic lore.
Thus ends what should have been the last week of comics of 2012, owing to the ridiculous three title week preceding this one. I enjoyed so many of these titles and would suggest they be gotten ahold of as soon as possible. Next week we truly begin the month of January with a fresh batch of #16 titles. Looking forward to it.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman Inc #6: Art by Chris Burnham, colored by Nathan Fairbairn
The Flash #15: Drawn by Marcus To, Colored by Brian Buccellato & Ian Herring, Inked by Ryan Winn
Superman #15: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Sunny Gho
Talon #3: Art by Guillem March, Colored by Tomeu Morey
Teen Titans #15: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund
Arrow #2: Art by Mike Grell, Colored by David Lopez & Santi Casas
November ends on a high note with another duo of Before Watchmen issues and a slew of personal favorites of mine: Batman Inc, Talon, The Flash, Teen Titans, and the newly reworked Superman title. The last week of the month is worth the wait.
Aquaman #14begins the “Throne of Atlantic” crossover with Justice League. What this prelude issue does is introduce quite well the character of Ocean Master, aka King Orm of Atlantis, Aquaman’s brother. I could be totally wrong here, but despite him being a villain in the past, Orm truly seems to be on the level here. Even in the scenes where no one is watching, he’s still altruistic and benevolent. Through his meeting with Arthur in this issue we see that he didn’t want to be king and begged Arthur to take the throne in his stead. Maybe its all a ruse by him and writer Geoff Johns, but I’m not so sure. Regular series artist, Ivan Reis, jumps over to Justice League for the duration of the event, with Pete Woods and Pere Perez splitting art duties on Aquaman.
Batman Incorporated #5 takes us for (if memory serves correctly) the third time into the world of Batman 666. When Batman tells his son, Damian, that he can’t be Robin at the end of the fourth issue, he validates it with a vision he has had of the future of Gotham, should Damian remain Robin and eventually become Batman. The Joker has saturated Gotham with a neurotoxin that has rendered all its citizens irrevocably insane. The only bastion of sanity left is . . . Arkham Asylum. Where we left this world at the end of the 666th issue of Batman, a wheelchair bound Commissioner Barbara Gordon is out to get the trench coat wearing Dark Knight, who sold his soul for the invulnerability to save his father’s city. This issue has them teamed up trying to save the baby that may be the key to Gotham’s salvation. Grant Morrison’s writing of the book is stellar and he crafts a really intense ride that when looked at in retrospect is actually really brief in duration. Also the Joker seems to be such a looming presence in the narrative despite the fact he is never seen once. However, one villain is seen, whose appearance froze my blood and then got it pumping double time. This issue of the series proves to be a hallmark that will be talked about for years.
The Devil’s Advent
Red Lanterns #14 was literally an emotional issue following the aftermath of the Red Lantern Corps’ first encounter with the Third Army. Being that the nightmarish sentinels of the Guardians of the Universe are largely immune to the Red Lantern’s (as well as the other Lantern corps) emotional spectrum attacks, Atrocitus decides to invoke a synthetic army long unused and discarded: the Manhunters. Also, to bolster the strength of the culled ranks, Atrocitus has Rankorr the Earth Red Lantern return home to finally kill his grandfather’s murderer to complete his inaugural path of vengeance and strengthen his power as a lantern of rage. Accompanying him is Bleez and the other Earth Lantern, Dex-star the cat. Atrocitus himself also throws himself into the crucible of darkest emotion to enact his plan to resurrect the Manhunters against the Third Army. The Manhunters were the Guardians of the Universe’s first shock troopers that laid waste his sector, killing his family and the good, kind man he used to be. Returning to his homeworld of Ryutt, the ghost of his past literally as well as metaphorically haunt him as he relives the massacre that destroyed his reality.
Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #4 is another penetrating look at the world of Watchmen through the keen, calculating eyes of the world’s smartest man, Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias, as written by Len Wein. Picking up during the Kennedy administration it examines his relationship with the Kennedys and his part in the Cuban Missile Crisis through to the assassination of his friend, Jack. From that era on a new status quo emerges as society changes and mankind spirals closer to oblivion. Wein ends the issue with the historic meeting of “Crime Busters”, spearheaded by Captain Metropolis, to restart the Minute Men for this new, turbulent era. The mouthpiece of dissent comes from the Comedian, as we saw in the original Watchmen, but Wein posits or intuits that this is where Ozymandias first conceives of his plan to save the world. Considering what he does accomplish, I am itching to read the last two issue from Wein in this series.
A Monstrously Noble Plan Is Formed
Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #4 ends the series with Laurie’s final confrontation with the “Chairman” and her realization of the potential her mother has instilled in her. The relationship between Sally Jupiter and her daughter, Laurie, has been pretty messed up, but this issue, despite bringing them back together (no spoiler here if you read the original Watchmen) truly shows how twisted and deluded the former superheroine really is. Though her heart was in the right place, her parenting style was tantamount to child abuse. What is interesting, however, is juxatposing the truly awful things her mother did with the person Laurie developed into. Despite it all, she came out a strong, confident young woman who learned that her mother did do some good in raising her. Darwyn Cooke wrote this series poignantly and Amanda Connor drew it beautifully.
The Flash #14had SO MUCH going on! The Gorilla invasion of the Gem Cities has commenced and King Grodd is pummeling the Scarlet Speedster with the revelation that he as well possesses Speed Force energies. Daniel West, recently released from prison, searches frantically amid the war torn streets of Central City for his sister, Iris. Patty Spivot, Barry Allen’s girlfriend, along with the enigmatic time traveler, Turbine, find the one being who has the ability to save Barry and stop the Gorillas: SOLOVAR!!! To Flash faithful, the appearance of the aforementioned simian is very exciting. Writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato really pull out the stops with this series and especially this arc. The Gorilla Invasion is pretty intense to begin with, but they make it even more so when you see in this fourteenth issue just how Grodd is waging the war. His methods are nightmarish and truly brutal. So horrible are they in fact that the club of Flash villains, the Rogues, team up with the Flash to put the kibosh on it. Grade A storytelling.
Batman: The Dark Knight #14 was iffy. I mean David Finch’s artwork is eerie and truly sinister. Gregg Hurwitz’s story is kind of stretched thin over far more issues than it needs to be. Issue #13 was the exact same story as issue #12, and this one seems like its not really saying anything at all. Possibly the most glaring issue in my opinion is the unbelievable representation of Damian Wayne. Overall, I just feel that the first eight issue arc of this title was about the Scarecrow, having another one, especially one as unexciting as this current one is a mistake. There are plenty of other excellent possibilities to e
Superman #14continues the “H’el on Earth” crossover with all parties coming together. Lois Lane pays Clark a visit, trying to get him to compromise his morals to get his job back with Morgan Edge and Galaxy Broadcasting. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s when Supergirl decides to pay him a visit decked out in her Kryptonian costume. Finally accepting the veracity of Superman’s claims of Krypton’s destruction and their shared kinship, Kara brings him to see H’el to hear out his plan for the rebirth of Krypton. To Clark and the readership, each possessing a sense of humanity, its immediately obvious that H’el is a madman, and clearly one that doesn’t play fair. From issue’s end its clear that things are about to get very bad very quickly. Scott Lobdell writes perhaps the most compelling version of the Man of Steel since the Reboot started a year and a half ago and artist Kenneth Rocafort maintains the same level of excellence he has imbued into all of his projects.
Talon #2delivers another uncanny classic in the incredible tangent series shooting off the eleven part opening arc of Batman, “The Court of Owls.” Calvin Rose, the only living Talon to ever escape the Court with his life has teamed up with the reclusive Sebastian Clark to take down the evil cabal and give them both their lives back. This round, Clark sends Calvin to what appears to be Gotham’s answer to New York’s Waldorf-Astoria, the Orchard Hotel. Built in the late 1800’s, it stands not only as a symbol of Gotham’s opulent past, but also as one of the key roosts of the Court. The innermost chamber, known as Eden, houses the amassed treasure hoard of the Court as well as some of their most well guarded secrets. Calvin is told that the information on himself and the Washington girls, whom he was meant to have killed at the time of his flight, are stored within. What is stored within is not only more sinister than these files, but awe-inspiringly epic, accentuating the already swelling mythology of the Court of Owls. Also within is a “new” Talon with a vintage of the 1930’s, whose woeful tale fits well into the panoply of Talons we had already met during the “Night of the Owls” crossover event. Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV make this series soar and in art I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Guillem March is the series artist and his artwork is stunning. He, however, didn’t do the interiors for this issue and was instead replaced by Juan Jose Ryp, whose work I was not familiar with. Well, despite my disappoint that March was not the artist this issue, I was quickly rewarded to see how exquisitely Ryp replaced him. One of the key factors of the issue is the opulence of Eden, and that was something he rendered here in spades. Everything looks magnificent, with infinite detail. I also should give credit to colorist Tomeu Morey, whose coloring of the issue heightens the the vivacity of the panels. This series is a nothing short of a treat.
Teen Titans #14 concludes the “Silent Armor” arc, introducing Wonder Girl’s origin as well as her power set granted by the Silent Armor. Facing down her old flame, Diesel, she has to make some very hard decisions between the first boy she ever loved and the friends she has made over the past fourteen issues worth of storytelling. That all was very well done by writer Scott Lobdell, but where the issue really gets interesting is in the two tangent storylines that emerge on the periphery. The character of Kiran Singh, aka Solstice, is one of the heartstrings of the Teen Titans. Her appearance altering affliction comes into question when a mysterious stranger offers her a chance to get her old body back, but what will he ask for in return . . . ? Also, headed by Red Robin, the long fingers of the Joker can’t be held back as his “Death of the Family” plot unfolds in all its nightmarish detail. Next issue promises to be a “Death of the Family” tie-in and elaborate on the plans the Joker has in store for Tim Drake.
Phantom Lady & Doll Man #4ends the miniseries following these former, but as of this series, also future Freedom Fighters. Jennifer Knight gets her revenge on Metropolis gangster, Cyrus Bender, and she and Dollman are visited by Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters. Not the best series. I doubt I will read any of the other series that spawn from this.
Justice League Dark #14gives the aftermath of the “Books of Magic” storyline. Tim Hunter and Zatanna are transported through the books to an unknown location. The remnants of the Justice League Dark set out to find them, but in the meantime, three members of the team: Black Orchid, Frankenstein, and Princess Amaya of Gem World go exploring in the House of Mystery only to get lost and set upon by the dangers lurking within. This alongside the revelation by Phantom Stranger that there is going to be a war among the three. You might even call it a Trinity War . . .
Batman Beyond Unlimited #10concludes its opening arc of Justice League Beyond Unlimited bringing to a close the plot by Kobra to awaken the Ouroboros, the serpent that would eat the world. I think the fact that it destroyed New Genesis, home of the New Gods, just goes to show the menace it represents. And when all else fails, Bruce Wayne saves the day . . . AND HE’S NOT EVEN THERE!!! The arc doesn’t end without casualties and a beloved DC character’s future self falls in the line of service. In the Batman Beyond feature the “10,000 Clowns” we see for the first time in a few issues the Joker King, Doug Tan. The psychotic older brother of Terry McGinnis’ girlfriend, Dana, cuts a very similar figure to the Heath Ledger Joker, a man that believes in absolute anarchy and the intrinsic humor in chaos. As the night of terror he has unleashed with 10,000 tweaked out clowns descending on Gotham, his plan reaches its endgame and the stakes rise. Terry is out with Catwoman Beyond, Vigilante Beyond, and a badass 60 something Dick Grayson trying to stem the terror, while Joker King comes face to face with . . . 80 year old Bruce Wayne, a man who HATES clowns! Finally the Superman Beyond feature shows Kal-El settling into his new civilian identity of Kal Clarke, Metropolis fireman. That’s about it for that one. Some aliens show up at the tail end, but their presence is very cryptic. Featuring a slew of writers and artists, this title has been and continues to be a grab bag of excellent talent and exceptional storytelling, giving a venue to some of the plots left to pasture by the abandonment of the DC animated universe. I, who grew up on these shows, welcome it with open arms.
All-Star Western #14has Gotham sinking into madness after the formula of Dr. Jekyll finds its way into her bustling streets. Last issue, Jonah Hex, Tallulah Black, and Dr. Jeremiah Arkham stemmed the flow with an attack on Haly’s Circus, but the culprit, Mr. Hyde remains in Gotham, albeit in confinement. In the midst of that chaos, the trio are drawn into a violent altercation in Chinatown featuring one of the characters introduced in the backup feature of issued #4-6, the Barbary Ghost. Still looking for her mother who was sold into bondage, her travels have brought her to Gotham and into the lair of the Chinese criminal cabal, the Golden Dragons, hopped up on Jekyll’s crazy juice. This issue was steeped in ambiance and the views we get of the chained Mr. Hyde are like that of a Victorian Hannibal Lector. The next issue of this series, out in January, promises to further explore his twisted brand of psychopathy. Series artist Moritat must have had a ball drawing the gruesome imagery associated with the evil Stevenson creation. They certainly are horrifying to behold. In the backup feature Tomahawk, we see not really a Western tale, but a Colonial one. Set just after the American Revolution, this title deals with the Indian Wars of the Washington administration. Drawn by Phil Winslade there is a very classical feel to the almost watercolor like panels. If you liked “Last of the Mohicans” this feature is worth the read.
American Vampire #33 ends the “Black List” story arc as well as a major era in the American Vampire saga. The series started in 1920’s Los Angeles with young, idealistic Pearl Jones going to Hollywood to be an actress. Alongside her bestfriend and roommate, Hattie Hargrove, she makes a go of it, only to fall prey to the vampiric power elite of Hollywood who make a meal of her. Turned by the sadistic loner, Skinner Sweet, she survives the assault to be reborn as the second in a new species of vampire: Abysmus Americanus. That is how this series started. Since then there has been a World War, the building of the Hoover Dam, the reawakening of Dracula, and many other incredible events. “The Black List” ends the first half of the 20th century by circling back to the the Los Angeles coven, Skinner Sweet, and Hattie Hargrove. All three come back like ghosts of Christmas past to haunt Pearl and show her just how futile running from your past can be. I loved this issue so much as a continuance of everything that has made the series great over three years of storytelling, as well as providing a bookend to all that has happened thus far. January’s issue #34 is the last solicited for several months, spelling an uncertain future for the series. I can only imagine, considering the meteoric success of the series, that it is going into hiatus so the beleaguered Scott Snyder (who is writing four other series besides this one) can catch up and maintain the same level of quality he has displayed throughout.
Joe Kubert Presents #2opens with a lengthy two part storyline entitled “The Redeemer.” Beginning in the high peaks of the Himalayas, five individuals are summoned to a mountain fortress inhabited by an aged man upon a grand throne, calling himself the “Infernal One.” From this height he gives them a task to hinder the man who through several lifetimes, since the dawn of time, has been working toward the redemption of mankind. At this point the title seems like an orientalized 1930’s pulp novel or movie serial. When the five set about putting his plan into action, it becomes apparent that the title takes place in the future, as the Redeemer is a man names Jim Torkan, captain of a orbital space station in the year 2557 A.D. Though it takes on a sci-fi backdrop, rife with conventions of this genre, it still does maintain a 1930’s serial feel as well. So great is his artistic and narrative skills, writer/artist Joe Kubert pulls off both very well. The second part of this story is solicited to be in next month’s issue and I am curious to see how he ties it all up. Truly, this story by the late master meets his mission statement of putting out comics of a sort one doesn’t see on comic shelves anymore. This is from a bygone golden age of comic writing. Rounding off the issue is another darkly comedic tale of the Second World War from Sam Glanzman, and a continuance of the “Angel and the Ape” story by Brian Buniak from last issue. These two harken to a lost era in comic fiction.
The Infernal One
Arrow #1 is an anthology comic that features writers of the hit CW tv show writing background stories about the show and its characters. Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg, both DC writers and producers of the show, write an overview of the show’s premise with artwork by Green Arrow royalty, Mike Grell, who himself wrote and drew the character for eighty issues in the 1980’s. Arrow writer Ben Sokolowski writes a tale of Arrow’s hunting of one of the names on his list, Scott Morgan, aptly entitled “Prey”, drawn by Sergio Sandoval. This not only shows the ingenuity and drive of the Starling City Vigilante, but also the lengths to which the cabal whose names make up his list will go to maintain their power and influence. Finally, show writer Beth Schwartz writes a story with art by Jorge Jimenez about the white haired Triad woman, Chien Na Wei, better known in comics as “China White.” With little background in the comics, Schwartz tells of her rough childhood and her close connection to Triad boss, Zhishan. I absolutely LOVE the show and if you are like me and share that sentiment, this series is worth reading to supplement it and make both reading and watching experiences better.
So ends a phenomenal week of comic reading. Sadly, all but one of these titles will have to wait until January to be continued . . .
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman Inc #5: Art by Chris Burnham, colored by Nathan Fairbairn
Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #4 #1: Art by Jae Lee, Colored by June Chung
The Flash #14: Art by Francis Manapul, Colored by Brian Buccellato
Talon #2: Drawn by Juan Jose Ryp, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by Vincente Cifuentes
Batman Inc #4finally finishes off the dropped plot from issue #3, two months ago, following that issue’s postponement in light of the Aurora, Colorado massacre. Normally, it would have ended neatly before the Zero issue last month, but incidentally we had to wait for two to get closure on the seeming murder of “Matches” Malone and the solo flight of Damian, under the new nom-de-guerre Redbird. Following the two Waynes getting seemingly over their heads, Batman Incorporated swoops in, seemingly from the grave themselves. Their symmetry in the face of Leviathan’s well laid plans makes this issue and its predecessor, Batman Inc #3, a well executed feint in the chess game of giants: Bruce Wayne on one side and Talia Al-Ghul on the other. Grant Morrison’s writing is, in and of itself, a piece of art furthered by the exquisite artwork of Chris Burnham. Both masters in my opinion.
Casualties of War
Red Lanterns #13returns to a trope that set the tone of the book in the initial batch of issues last year, by showing a planet plagued with injustice and the birth of burning rage. On the planet Arhtky, warlords reign over the weak masses. Writer Peter Milligan focuses his pen on two sisters who survive the slaughter of their parents, only to fall into bondage at the hands of the warlord who ordered it. Women are merely chattel to him, as well as other men outside of the despot’s army. I’m not sure if it was British born Milligan’s intention to make a commentary on women’s rights as a hot topic issue of the American presidential election that is less than two weeks away, but it certainly can be read that way. Even if its not, his story certainly shows the power of women, in both the enslaved Arhtkian woman, Taya, as well as the the two female Red Lanterns drawn to that sector by her plight, Bleez and Skorch. Bleez has proven herself to be a multifaceted character many times over, but the newby to the scene, Skorch, is quite a powerhouse as well. Following this, the Third Army tie in that has been symptomatic of the Green Lantern family of books catches up with the Red Lantern Corps in truly terrifying fashion. Unfortunately, we have to wait another month for the full horror of their appearance. Peter Milligan writes an incredible book, but his partner in art, Miguel Sepulveda, I find to be lacking. Its just an aesthetics choice, but his art doesn’t work for me. A good issue, though, in substance.
The Fury of Skorch
Flash #13continues from August’s Flash Annual #1 with the Gorilla invasion of King Grodd’s forces. This invasion, of course, interrupted the Scarlet Speedster’s confrontation with the united assembly of Rogues under the leadership of Leonard Snart’s (Captain Cold) little sister, Lisa, aka the Golden Glider. What the Flash/Rogues conflict boils down to is who controls the Gem Cities? The operative principle in that question being that there are Gem Cities. The Gorillas just want to destroy and kill. Conflicting with the interests of both, the Flash and Rogues have absolutely no choice but to ally themselves toward mutual benefit. Uneasy fellowships like these are always fun to watch unfold, as sworn enemies tend to work really well together, accomplishing things exponentially greater than they could separately. If only they could always get along the rest of the time . . . Also, drawing off September’s Flash #0, one of Iris West’s male relations, possibly her brother, who was incarcerated in #0,is released from prison, and clearly has some part to play in the events unfolding. Co-writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato return to art duties rendering a visually stunning tour de force, as per usual.
Superman #13reunites writer, Scott Lobdell, with artist, Kenneth Rocafort. Their work on Red Hood and the Outlaws was the initial draw that hooked me on that book. They did a bang up job with their first foray into Superman lore, with Superman #0 taking place on Old Krypton following the last ditch efforts of Jor-El to ascertain his planet’s impending fate. Now they jump to the present, with Clark undergoing an existentialist dilemma in all facets of his life. Following Scott Lobdell’s Superman Annual #1 two months ago, Superman is feeling uncertain about his omnipotence after being soundly thrashed by the Daemonite, Lord Helspont. Though he exhibits near godlike powers, he is weighed down by fallibility. In his civilian identity of Clark Kent, he is made to also feel impotent in his crusade to report important facts and meaningful information as is his calling as a newspaper reporter. However, Perry White, Lois Lane, and Galaxy Broadcasting CEO, Morgan Edge, refuse to allow him to report on those meaningful things, wanting only fluff pieces and pop culture nonsemse, and as a result Clark, like Superman, is left seemingly devoid of a firm footing. All this comes to a head when a nightmarishly proportioned dragon comes into play in Metropolis, leading the Man of Steel across the world on a desperate chase of chaos. Supergirl guest stars, shedding a little light on what is going on. Lobdell brings a soul and substance to this title that has been lacking since issue #1. He stays on some of the hallmark themes that masters George Perez and Dan Jurgens set up in those first issues, but in his stories they resonate and actually show merit. I had no doubt when I heard he was taking over that this title would blossom at his touch. It has, and then some. Kenneth Rocafort’s art is top notch. It loses none of its allure and his Supergirl is the best she has been rendered since the inception of the Reboot.
Truth, Justice, and the America Way
Batman: The Dark Knight #13was subpar. I very much like this series, and writer Gregg Hurwitz tells a complex, compelling tale about the Scarecrow and the nature of his intense fascination with fear, however this issue accomplished nothing the last issue hadn’t already, nor did it build upon anything important. It told the EXACT same information as issue #12. Nothing new. If you like seeing new art by series artist, David Finch, definitely worth getting, but in the realm of plot, you can skip it and go right to issue #14.
Justice League Dark #13combines the building story line of issues 9-12 with the Constantine/Zatanna origin from September’s zero issue. The mastermind behind Felix Faust and Dr. Mist’s quest for the Books of Magic is none other than Nick Necro, Zatanna’s former beau and Constantine’s former mentor in the arcane arts. His plot for the books looks to be nothing more than petty vengeance and narcissism. Don’t think John learned that from strangers, either. Jeff Lemire writes a good JLD yarn, however, I am nostalgic for Peter Milligan’s writing. Mikel Janin continues to keep the art of the book tight, lush, and engrossing. The epic conclusion to this arc comes next Wednesday with the Justice League Dark Annual #1. Looking forward to it.
Talon #1presents the first “official” issue of the series. The introductory zero issue gives us the back story of former Talon, Calvin Rose. His traumatic childhood, his “escape” to Haly’s Circus which led him into the clutches of the Court of Owls, his descent into darkness, and his escape from that same evil. All of these are depicted in stark, beautiful detail by co-writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV and artist Guillem March. All that, including Rose’s assault by a Talon after years on the run, is in the past. THIS issue takes us into the razor’s edge of present events following Batman and his younger brother, Thomas Wayne Jr’s (Yes, I am asserting this identity) simultaneous attack on the Court, Batman from the outside and Tommy, aka Lincoln March, from the inside. With the Court crippled and vulnerable, Calvin flies back to their nest of Gotham City to see just how extensive the damage to the shadowy cabal truly is and whether or not he is really safe. What greets him is the Talon of the 1880’s, whom we have seen a handful of time in the wild Western pages of All-Star Western. But amid a less than amicable welcome home from the Court, Calvin does make a very valuable friend that gives him news that will define and drive the series onward toward vistas that ANY self-professed Batman fan who’s read the “Court of Owls” story line would twinkle at the eyes to read. This WILL be one of the must read titles of the DC line for years to come.
Talon vs Talon
Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man #13was kind of a toss up. Ronnie and Jason continue to try to lead normal lives as high school seniors, despite also being two halves of the hero Firestorm. Called away to fight a giant robot that is nonsusceptible to their transmutation skills. The motivation of the people that sent the robot out is ambiguous at this point, so its hard to gauge whether this series is going in the right direction. Writer/artist Dan Jurgens made his debut on the zero issue last month, but I am still dubious he’s taking the series in the right direction, even though that direction is the original one from the previous series.
Teen Titans #13takes the reader back in time to explain how Wonder Girl, Cassie Sandsmark, first obtained the Silent Armour, as well as how she met the boy, Diesel, who stole it from her at the end of August’s issue #12. And all the while the audience to Cassie’s reminiscence are two very handsome and very angsty teen boys, Red Robin, aka Tim Drake, and Superboy, who take every chance to trash talk Diesel out of clear jealousy over the intimate details that Cassie is way too forthcoming with. The ending of this issue comes forward with two interesting tidbits: a connection to Trigon and the return of Kurt Lance to the frontlines of the DCU as a glorified “truancy officer.” Scott Lobdell continues to write this series masterfully, and his partner in art since the first issue, Brett Booth departs the series, replaced her by Ale Garza, whose sumptuous style is very similar to Booth’s. I love all the books Lobdell writes and this series is no exception.
Red Robin and Superboy Are Not Amused
National Comics: Madame Xpresents a really different Madame Xanadu, who they are calling Madame X, probably because of how different she is. Taking place in New Orleans, this followed a realistic Law & Order type plot of a mayor getting killed in his home and a local Voodoo Queen being blamed for the killing. Madame X is a defrauded psychic and card reader. On retainer to a law firm she is brought into the investigation and wades through fake rituals and sordid political dealings. Like the Rose & Thorn one shot last month, this issue didn’t seem to have a one shot ending, but rather start off a series or story arc. Perhaps that is what we are going to see later on when the sales figures gauge interest in the National Comics brand.
All-Star Western #13picks up the story of Dr. Jekyll’s formula coming to Gotham. With a murderous clown running rampant around Gotham killing priests, the finger is pointed at Haly’s Circus which has pulled into town. As ever, Jonah Hex and associates Dr. Amadeus Arkham and Tallulah Black are hot on the trail of carnage. Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray make interesting connections towards the end to the original Robert Louis Stevenson novel they are tapping for the arc’s subject matter. Also there is a connection between Mr. Hyde and the fabled Black Diamond . . . In the backup feature they take a giant leap backward in time telling the story of a Native American warrior named Tomahawk of the Shawnee tribe. This takes place at the very end of the 1700’s during the Washington administration and the push of settlers into the Appalachian territories. It seems very reminiscent of“Last of the Mohicans” the way in which it is broached. Overall, both features in this title were superb and I am dying to read their next installments.
Warriors of Mars #5brings an end to this brief miniseries about Union naval officer, Lt. Gullivar Jones’ time on Mars and his association with John Carter, the Warlord of Mars. After helping to rescue Carter’s wife, Dejah Thoris from the Thither Men, Gullivar attempts to go home, only to jump to Mars’ future several thousand years down the pipe. Humans have come to Barsoom and like we did on the American continent, brought war to subjugate the Martians and take their planet from them. Attempting to get his bearings, Jones finds himself brought together with the leader of all Mars, Dejah Carter, granddaughter of John Carter. This issue comes to an end, that like Madame X above, isn’t really an end. I would assume that its a similar situation of this last issue testing the waters for interest in another series. I hope so, because this was an excellent, compelling story.
The Unwritten #42 begins the “Live Like Lazarus” arc, showing Didge’s descent into the realm of story where she met Lizzy Hexam. Before she is drawn back into the real world because of her dyslexia, Lizzy gives her a message to take back to her boyfriend, Tom Taylor. After the events of the “Wound” plot arc, Tom receives the message and plans to descend into the “underworld” like Orpheus to get his lover back. To help him are new friends Officer Didge Patterson and Danny Armitage, as well as the return of Richie Savoy after his indignant flight at the end of last issue. To do this they go out to the Outback and find a portal through to the storyrealm through an Aborigine myth of the whale, which connects to the Leviathan of previous arcs. As ever, creators Mike Carey and Peter Gross deliver a can’t miss issue of a seminal series.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman Inc #4: Art byChris Burnham, Colored by Nathan Fairbairn
Red Lanterns #13: Art by Miguel Sepulveda, Colored by Rain Beredo
Superman #13: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Sunny Gho
Talon #1: Art by Guillem March, Colored by Tomeu Morey
Teen Titans #13: Art byAle Garza, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse
The Unwritten #42: Art by Peter Gross, Colored by Chris Chuckry
This week marks the end of Zero Month and the end of DC’s New 52 Origins. I have to say that I am sad. I thought I would be angry by the interruptions in the plotlines we’ve been reading in the regular series, but its actually been a very enjoyable month of oneshot stories. Here they are:
Batman Inc #0 bridges the gap between the “Island of Jonathan Mayhew” storyline with the Club of Batmen and the decision by the then recently resurrected Bruce Wayne to form Batman Incorporated. The Batmen of the World worked well together to combat the forces of the Black Glove that tried to kill them all, and that same dynamism is what fueled Bruce’s plan to unite them in a common goal of rooting out a global enemy. Knight and Squire stand for Britain, El Gaucho for Argentina (and probably other parts of South America if needs be), Man-of-Bats and his son Red Raven for the American West, but others are still needed. The slain Dark Ranger is replaced by his aborigine sidekick, the former Scout, to stand for Australia. The Musketeer retires as the “Batman of France”, deferring to the Franco-Algerian teenager who defends Paris under the moniker “Nightrunner”, owing to his penchant for parkour. The Batman of Moscow, clearly represents the Russian people as their pointy eared protector. In Japan, Mister Unknown accepts the mantle of the Batman of Japan. We’ve seen these characters in brief scenes or in drawn out storylines, but this issue written by Grant Morrison and co-written by series artist Chris Burnham, ties it all together in a way that takes disparate storypoints and unites them in a way that makes them relevant to the main point of this title. Frazer Irving steps in for art duties, delivering a dark, shadowy depiction of Morrison’s script.
Red Lanterns #0fills in the origin of the founding Red Lantern, Atrocitus. We already know the generalities of his life and the events that inspired his unquenchable rage, as well as his vendetta against the Guardians of the Universe. This issue takes those hallmark events and gives flesh to the moments in between, allowing us to go on a journey with Atros of the planet Ryutt from loving father and husband, to passionate rebel/”terrorist”, finally to Atrocitus, paragon of vengeance and hatred. Creator Geoff Johns tied him to the “Five Inversions”, who themselves were created by Alan Moore in the 1986 Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 story “Tygers.” Though only Qull and Roixeaume were mentioned originally by Moore, Peter Milligan takes Johns’ creation, Atrocitus, and links him to the other two, while simultaneously taking all the mythology related to the Inversions and combining it. Twenty-six years later, and Milligan takes the bull by the horns and writes a creation myth for the Inversions. After this apocalyptic issue, the history of the Red Lanterns, Space Sector 666, and the Five Inversions is at its fullest.
Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #3brings out three of the most intriguing aspects of the journey of Ozymandias as conqueror or uniter of the world, however you want to term him. Firstly, is his initial meeting with the Comedian. Not to spoil the surprise for those who have yet to read the original Watchmen graphic novel, but Adrian Veidt and Eddie Blake share a very intense and meaningful exchange that defines that graphic novel and everything that it accomplishes. Secondly, it also features his reaction to the advent of Dr. Manhattan and his initial meeting with the human supreme. Adrian Veidt represents the pinnacle of human perfection. He is the height of what a human being can aspire to become. Dr. Manhattan transcends not only humanity, but also modern science. His reaction to this initial meeting also defines the course of the graphic novel and says something about human nature. The third point is the creation of his Antarctic hideaway, a re-creation of the ancient Egyptian palace of Ramses II. Len Wein is the writer best suited to write the character (since Alan Moore is never going to revisit the title) and Jae Lee lends a gothic intensity to the title as well. With the six issue run only half done, I am ravenous to see where Wein and Lee are going to take us in the other three.
Aquaman #0explores the reimagined backstory of the character. The main bullet points are all the same. Atlana, princess of Atlantis saves lighthouse keeper, Thomas Curry, from drowning in a violent squall and falls in love with him. Nine months later, after she disappears from his life, a blond haired baby is left on his doorstep. That is all canon. Geoff Johns revamps other aspects of the character’s origin to reinvigorate the franchise. Growing up a “freak” Arthur longs for normalcy. When that no longer is an option, owing to Dr. Stephen Shin’s outing of his Atlantean heritage, Arthur tries to escape. In his exodus he is made aware of someone else exiled from Atlantis, a man named Vulko. Here Johns reintroduces a classic character to the title. Vulko not only tells Arthur who he is and where he comes from, but also what has befell Atlantis since his birth and how he can regain his birthright. This issue is perhaps the greatest leap by Geoff Johns toward the series that was and stories that resonated with readers. It also reintroduces a major Aquaman villain, Ocean Master. Looking forward to the next stage in the title’s progression.
Batman: The Dark Knight #0was a bit of a let down. Sure it was written exquisitely well, with plenty of allusions to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe, and Kennedy conspiracy theories, but there was no soul beneath the eloquence. I suppose it’s important for someone of Batman’s caliber to come to terms with the notion of chaos and the meaninglessness and randomness of street crime, but it also doesn’t make for the most entertaining read. I have defended this title under the reins of series artist and sometimes writer David Finch, Paul Jenkins, and most recently Gregg Hurwitz, but this issue is not one that I would go out of my way to recommend. It has something valid to say, but isn’t one that would bankrupt your grasp on the current Batverse if you missed it. Not a bad issue, just not the best.
Some Things Are Arbitrary
The Flash #0was just a straight, heart-of-the-matter piece. There were a few instances of superheroics, but all in all, it was mostly a touching look at the traumatic youth of forensic scientist, Barry Allen, crusading for years to prove his father’s innocence in the murder of his mother, Nora Allen. Though this traumatic episode is a new development in the character’s bio, engineered as recently as a few years ago by Geoff Johns, it really resonates with the character and writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato run with it in this issue in a way that Johns never did or never got around to. His only attempt at it was the paltry attempt that resulted in Flashpoint. Interesting series at times, but overall a ridiculously overdone waste of time. This story shows the heartbreak of this event alongside the confusion, and ultimately the triumph of the human spirit amid adversity. The death of Nora Allen robbed Barry of a father in Henry Allen, but gave him another in the form of Capt. Darryl Frye. It explored what love can inspire people to do. It brimmed with the promises of hope and determination. I guess to put it mildly, this issue is the feel good issue of Zero Month. Despite the traumas that life throws his way, Barry Allen (The Fastest Man in the World) is going to keep moving forward with strength, determination, and hope for the good things that are just over the horizon.
Family Doesn’t Give Up On Eachother
Superman #0blew me away on several levels. Firstly, the plot was nothing short of stunning and defined the Superman universe down to its most quintessential roots: Old Krypton. The Superman legend begins on a doomed planet with desperate scientists entrusting their last hope, their infant son, Kal-El of the great House of El, to the fates by putting him in an experimental rocket and sending him to a planet whose yellow sun will give him the fighting chance to not only survive, but also prosper. New series writer (which is the second level of awesomeness) Scott Lobdell keeps the integrity of this iconic origin intact, while adding elements that tie it into a large initiative in the New DCU’s unfolding story. As was intimated in last week’s Supergirl #0, a doomsday cult has taken root on Krypton with ties to a larger threat from beyond the stars. That threat concludes itself with a strange creature emerging from nowhere on Krypton and blowing on a great horn, just as we saw happen in Superman #1 a little over a year ago. Can the same doom befall Earth as it did Krypton? Jor-El remains the cool analytical genius he has always been, but his wife Lara, gains new dimensions. I can’t think of a representation where she ever had any substantial depth, but this issue represents her as not only a stunningly beautiful and elegant woman, but also a brilliant physician and something of a badass. Once again, Scott Lobdell maintains what is good and innovates what is lacking. Joining Lobdell on his Superman run is his artist from the first eleven issues of Red Hood and the Outlaws, Kenneth Rocafort. I love Rocafort’s art so much and I think that he and Lobdell have a decent rapport going, so their continued collaboration here makes me confident that Superman will become the title it was meant to be.
Firestorm #0follows in the footsteps of Green Lantern: New Guardians #0 in that it doesn’t give a traditional origin, but rather provides a transitional story that facilitates a new era in the title as well as a jumping on point for new readers. It also stands as a changing of the guard, written by series cowriter Joe Harris in anticipation of Dan Jurgens dual artist/authorship starting in issue #13. After issue #12 the Firestorm matrices manufactured by Zithertech were all shutdown, effectively murdering the international Firestorms. All that remains are the depowered duo of Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch. Trying to settle back into normalcy, their dreams of peace and quiet are cut short when the remnants of their matrices “fire up” once again. However, the premise of the book reverts to the “One Firestorm/Two Operators” paradigm of the original title. Ronnie is the Firestorm with Jason riding shotgun in his head calling the shots. I know some people are going to be excited by this reversion, but I was kind of into the idea of the multiple Firestorm idea. It was fresh and done thoughtfully, keeping the reader on their toes. Oh, well . . .
Justice League Dark #0deals with the quintessential badboy of the title, John Constantine. He’s such an asshole with a ridiculously overblown opinion of himself, how could he not be the subject of the origin issue? In this version, Jeff Lemire has him coming to New York as a punk novice in the arcane arts, looking to learn from the best. In this case, it is the sorceror Nick Necro, who himself bears an uncanny resemblance to Constantine, only with darker hair. In fact, he basically is what Constantine becomes. He’s cocksure, alternative, and dating Zatanna. Constantine learns from him and ultimately betrays him. This explains a great deal about why he is the way he is, as well as the baggage that exists between him and Zatanna up until this point. Also, the mysterious figure revealed in the twelfth issue of the series is no doubt a resurrection of Nick Necro. This issue was intriguing as I hate Constantine so much, and yet Lemire had me feeling sorry for him and relating to his struggles for at least half the narrative. The other half I just went on hating him. Interesting . . .
The First Meeting Of John Constantine, Zatanna, and Nick Necro.
Teen Titans #0 completes the Bat-book origins, and I was not as excited about this one as I was hoping I would be. Tim Drake is one of my favorite Robins. Scott Lobdell set up an interesting and somewhat engaging backstory for him. The major scandal that had people up in arms was his having the character go right into being Red Robin and not starting out as just “Robin.” While I wasn’t excited by this development, it didn’t ruin the issue for me. What did ruin it a bit for me was Tim not deducing Batman’s identity. That was what set him apart from the other robins. Whereas Bruce chose Dick and Jason based on their tragic circumstances, Tim found his way into the role by finding out Bruce Wayne’s secret through his own genius and detective work while in middle school. Its what defined him as THE Robin, as someone who could replace Batman eventually. If that doesn’t fit the mold of how the Bat-group wants to hashout the origins, fine, but don’t have Dick figure it out and not Tim!!! Other than that, it was a good issue, but I am not a fan of Lobdell’s analysis of Tim’s origin. Just not happy.
Talon #0 rounds out the “Third Wave” titles dropping this month, introducing Calvin Rose, a relatively recent Talon, who broke the mold and went AWOL from his service to the Court of Owls. This is a title I have been anticipating ever since it was announced and writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV do not disappoint. In all the categories necessary, this series resonates. Calvin has a traumatic childhood. Check. Building off his past tragedies, Calvin forges a future for himself. Check. His consumate mastery gains him the attention of the Court of Owls. Check. Conflicted assassin. Check. I think his role as a master escape artist is what drew me to the character, in much the same way that I have always been drawn to Mister Miracle of New Genesis. Since the New Gods haven’t been introduced in the New DCU I suppose the vacancy needs to be filled. The narrative also is what draws you in, centering on a conflicted soul trying to find his purpose in life. I could feel Scott Snyder’s influence in the story, but I could also detect what I believe to be James Tynion IV’s. He’s done some backup work in the Bat-titles, so I have a general idea what his storytelling style is like. Guillem March provides art, which is luscious and radiant, as ever. Three incredible creators on a character that oozes with possibilities. Add this one to your pull lists. This has the potential to be history in the making.
Calvin Rose Reclaims His Destiny . . . and other stuff, too.
National Comics: Rose & Thornintroduces the split-personality character into the New DCU. In this issue she is portrayed as a teenager who recently was released from an asylum, of which she put in following her father’s murder. Another side-note: In her previous incarnation, Pre-Reboot, she was the mother of the non-homosexual Alan Scott’s, aka Golden Age Green Lantern, children. Don’t see them getting together assuming he’s in his mid 30’s, gay, and she is 16 and in high school. This issue was a one-shot, but totally felt like the setup for a series. Rose Canton is a goody-goody, who has blackouts that end with her covered in blood, tattooed, and with very naughty posts on “Facelook” social media network. In her blacked out period she seduced the most popular boy in school,Troy Varker, and also her nerdy best friend, Melanie. Though her other personality, Thorn, has a very darkside, she is working towards the goal of finding and punishing the people involved in their father’s death. I do hope that this issue develops into something in the future.
Phantom Lady & Dollman #2brings the four issue miniseries to the point of Dollman, aka Darrell Dane’s, introduction as the pint sized marvel. After his rescue of Jennifer Knight from the Metropolis crime family scion, Cyrus Bender, the two retreat to the country and test out Dane’s experimental prototypes, including the Phantom suit that makes Jennifer insubstantial and the blacklight projector. With this accomplished writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray bring the story to the present and presents the Phantom Lady with a superpowered antagonist that looks a little bit like Silver Banshee.
All-Star Western #0eschews the secondary feature regularly at the end of the book and dedicates the entire extended page count to the origin of the Old Westerner badass, Jonah Hex. The short version is that Hex had some really shitty parental figures in his life: an abusive father, an absentee mother, and a jerk of an adoptive father. With the Union Army, the Apaches, and his own father gunning for him, his past has been hectic to say the least. The story behind his scarred face finds its origin with two of the above parties. His story starts at his birth and continues to the present, picking up where issue #12 ended with Jonah, Dr. Arkham, and Tallulah Black meeting Reginald Forsythe to talk about a man who has stolen Dr. Jekyll’s formula, which ostensibly sets up the next arc in this series. The part of this issue that confuses me comes at the end with an unknown narrator talking about finding their mother. I assume from the look of the prospective mother shown in the last panel that she can’t be Hex’s, who himself seems much older than she.
American Vampire #31was an excellent issue that dealt in a couple of ways with the inconceivable conclusion to last month’s issue. Pearl returns to her husband’s bedside as he awakens from his coma. Through this tender moment, Scott Snyder clues in his readers to the past shared by Henry Preston and his vampiric wife, Pearl Jones. The love shared between them truly warms the heart, which makes the ending of the last issue so UNFATHOMABLE! Likewise, Pearl experiences a chill out with Skinner Sweet, her creator, after the events of their last mission together. As the issue concludes it draws the plot closer to the arc’s ultimate conclusion. The coven operating in Los Angeles does so from a hidden base lorded over by an enigmatic sire. Not only does Pearl figure out the location of the base, she also learns the identity of the vampiric overlord. Without spoiling the plot further, I’ll just reaffirm that I LOVE THIS SERIES!
The New Deadwardians #7 ushers in the penultimate chapter of the eight issue miniseries. When Chief Inspector George Suttle comes face to face with the informant, Salt, and interrogates him, he is presented with and unbelievable conspiracy, featuring the most unlikely of conspirators. Armed with this apocalyptic knowledge, the Chief Inspector stands on the verge of solving not only the murder of the vampiric nobleman, Lord Highcliffe, but also the mystery behind the advent of the zombie hordes in Britain, colloquially known as the Restless. Admittedly, I hate zombies and I hate vampiric fictions (with the exception of American Vampire above), but this series does both in just the right way to redeem their respective genres. The resulting product comes off like an amalgam of “Walking Dead” and “Downton Abbey.”
Happy #1 is the first of four issues in a gritty crime story written by Grant Morrison, that bears his characteristic “Morrison twist.” Former cop, Nicholas Sax, is on a crusade to take down the Fratelli crime family. In the process he is shot and sent to a hospital. His former partner is in the pocket of the Fratelli’s as is the hospital Sax is taken to, meaning that he is in for a whole world of hurt. Pretty straightforward, right? Where’s the Morrison Twist? The only thing keeping Nick ahead of the game and that aforementioned world of hurt is his daughter’s imaginary friend, a blue cartoony winged unicorn named Happy the Horse. Somehow Nick can see him and their in it to win it. Really weird, but as with most Morrison work, really intriguing.
Pay Attention To The Talking Horse!
Thus ends September and the origin issues. Next comes October, “Death of the Family” in the Batman books, “Rot World” in Animal Man and Swamp Thing, “H’el on Earth” in the Superman books, “Rise of the Third Army” in the Green Lantern books, and a whole slew of other goodness. Can’t wait.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman: The Dark Knight #0: Pencils by Mico Suayan & Juan Jose Ryp, Inked by Vincente Cifuentes, Colored by Sonia Oback
The Flash #0: Art by Francis Manapul, Colored by Brian Buccellato
Superman #0: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Sunny Gho
Justice League Dark #0: Drawn by Lee Garbett, Colored by Pete Pantazis, Inked by Cam Smith
Talon #o: Art by Guillem March, Colored by Tomeu Morey
Happy #1: Art by Darick Robertson, Colored by Richard P. Clark
This first week of September marks the first week of the second year of DC’s “New 52” initiative. With that in mind, DC decided to commemorate this hallmark with a “Zero Month”, numbering all their ongoing series at #0 and telling an origin or new beginning of each. For me, this week was purely a DC week. None of the other imprints released issues of series I read, so this first week of “Zero Month” is purely DC. So here goes:
Action Comics #0 tells a very straightforward yarn about Superman’s first days in Metropolis: his alluded to visit to the shirt press for 200 blue S-shirts, his first day at the Metropolis Daily Star, his first tangle with the Metropolis crimeboss, Glen Glenmorgan, his first sighting by Jimmy and Lois, and an examination of what really makes him or anyone super. The last part pertains to a kid that comes across his fallen cape and what the boy does with it. Though its not mind bending like a lot of his work, Grant Morrison does put a really thought provoking twist on the seemingly mundane opening shots of Superman’s early career. Also in a stunning one page panel, he and artist Ben Oliver do an homage to the Joe Shuster cover page of the 1938 Action Comics #1, that first introduced Superman to the world. This part of the main story really resonated with me as a comic book geek. And as with all Action Comics issues, Sholly Fisch provides a quick backup feature that gives a background on not only Adam Blake, but also the character Erik Drekken, of whom we got a brief glimpse in Action Comics #7. All in all, a really great first issue to usher in the Zero Month at DC.
Morrison and Oliver’s Reworking of the Iconic Action Comics #1 Cover Image
Detective Comics #0features the final issue of the title to be drawn by Tony Daniel (at least in the foreseeable future) and has, for one issue only, Batman: The Dark Knight scribe Gregg Hurwitz at the helm. Chronicling Bruce Wayne’s training in the orient, Hurwitz has Bruce train with a Zen master in Tibet and learn possibly the most depressing lesson imaginable. Beyond that, there is little else to be said, except READ IT and find out. As with Action Comics above, Detective features a backup feature, and this one comes from Batman cowriter, James Tynion IV, with the help of the liney artwork of Henrik Jonsson. Alfred Pennyworth has been waiting for years, hoping against all hope that his ersatz son and ward, Bruce Wayne, will reappear after several years of speculation that he has died somewhere far away. The struggle to hold on, not only to the hope of his being alive, but also to the legacy and inheritance that he is custodian of is harrowing, as this story shows. But the faithful servant’s fidelity warms the hearts of readers and provides a really uplifting bookend to the depression of the first half of the issue.
Green Lantern #0,contrary to my expectations, was not a disappointment. This could be for several reasons. Firstly, the new GL comes from my own backyard, Dearborn, Michigan, a hop, skip, and a jump from Flint, where I hail from. Secondly, they tie him into the larger issue of Islamaphobia and anti-Arab mentality that is hotwired in most ignorant American minds. Thirdly, its just F***ING GOOD!!! Geoff Johns is hit or miss with me. He has swung at NOTHING in so many things he’s doing right now. This issue and the character it introduces is a line drive down center. This character, though brand new, feels like a Green Lantern. Can’t wait till Green Lantern #13 in October. Awesome job, Geoff, and welcome back Doug Mahnke!
Swamp Thing #0rewrites Swamp Thing history, introducing Anton Arcane right off the bat as someone far older and more immediately sinister than he was in the original Wein/Wrightson run in the 1970’s. But true to Scott Snyder style, he has taken the cast of characters and reinvented them to fit into the frame of a fresh, innovative premise. Here Arcane has been a perennial foe of the avatars of life: the Swamp Thing of the Green and the Animal Man of the Red. As far back as 1895 Arcane has been on the hunt as avatar of the Rot. Whereas in the original series by Len Wein, Alec Holland was turned into Swamp Thing by sheer luck or misfortune, depending on how you want to look at it, here he was selected from birth by the Parliament of Trees to be not only the new Swamp Thing, but the warrior king avatar that had been prophesied for centuries. This is why the “accident” is initiated by Arcane, but contrary to how it came out in the original run, this accident poses problems to the fulfillment of his destiny as avatar of the Green. The issue is written well, obviously, being penned by Scott Snyder, but it is also drawn exceptionally well by artist, Kano. When I saw that someone other than the three staple artists of Swamp Thing was doing this issue I was a little pissed, but now, as has happened numerous times in the past, I have to eat crow, because his artwork is stunning. I pray that he get a shot at another issue or two in future, maybe a whole arc, because his lines and style are so incredible.
Kano’s artwork reminiscent of Paquette and Rudy’s Panels
Earth 2 #0was very good, albeit confusing. Told from the perspective of Terry Sloane, better known to DC readers as the Golden Age Mr. Terrific, as well as staple JSA member. We saw him briefly in issue #3 meeting his Earth 1 counterpart, Michael Holt. This issue not only gives him the spotlight, but also fills in his role in the history and hierarchy of Earth 2. Sloane existed as one of Earth 2’s eight heroes during the Apokalips Invasion. He went by the name Mr. 8, the meaning of which I don’t get. Also, as his first appearance in the series suggested, he is much more sinister than in previous incarnations. When he shows his true colors in this zero issue, turning on the Trinity for what he deems “the good of the Earth” he states that to ensure victory he needs Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman to survive. They died in the first issue, and yet as he narrates this issue from the present looking back, he still thinks that his plan has succeeded. They are dead. We saw them die. So what the hell is he talking about? Good issue topically, but too cryptic for my taste.
Speaking of Earth 2, Worlds’ Finest #0focuses on that same world’s two junior members, Helena Wayne, aka Robin, and Kara Zor-El, aka Super Girl. We’ve seen them as Huntress and Power Girl in both Earth 2 #1 and the first four issues of this series, but now we get to see their geneses in their roles as young superheroes. Helena, the daughter of the Batman and Catwoman, growing up a strong, confident young woman, amalgam of both her parent’s characteristics, meets her first great tragedy. Kara, last daughter of a doomed homeworld, lives with her cousin on their adoptive new world which itself stands on the brink of annihilation by the incurring forces of Apokalips, and yearns to break out of his protective bubble and lend her skills toward averting another world’s destruction. Paul Levitz writes these two young women really well, showing both their overwhelming frustration and youthful exuberance. One thing that the first four issues of this series did well was show the strength and depth of their friendship, and this zero issue shows the tying of their fates together in a very touching manner.
Even When Your Parents Are Superheroes They Can Still Embarrass You
Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #3brings Laurie into direct conflict with Gurustein and the mysterious “Chairman”, who bears a striking resemblance to a certain blue eyed crooner. The Comedian also makes his first significant appearance in Lauries life, whether she knows it or not, at the behest of the original Silk Spectre, Sally Jupiter. Darwyn Cooke writes a really psychedelic story that Amanda Conner draws exceptionally well. Drug overdoses, orgies, waking up naked in a hospital morgue. What else do you need from a story? With one more issue, this series is at a its fever point.
Green Arrow #0,like the other issues written by Ann Nocenti, is a fantastic issue, but also a good origin story. Green Arrow’s marooning on the remote island and honing his bowmanship is already a well known story done to death. Nocenti eschews this tale, hinting at it towards the end, but offering something very different, focusing on a fresh episode of failure that lent itself to his later commitment to being better than he was and atoning for his many sins. It also ties in the character of Merlyn in a very prototypical stage, giving a reason for his later enmity toward the Emerald Archer. Nocenti tries to tie in a Roy Harper intro, but nothing really comes of that two page segment, so I’m not sure what was meant to be accomplished there. Also, I am not usually a fan of Freddie Williams II’s art work, but here it wasn’t so obnoxious and really suited the overall atmosphere and genre of the book. Overall, a great zero issue for a character that floundered badly when it first was released a year ago.
Phantom Stranger #0 marks the first regular issue of Phantom Stranger since the late 80’s. Writer Dan Didio (along with Geoff Johns and several others, no doubt) have him as Judas Iscariot. They have quashed rumors of this since Free Comic Book Day this past May, but while they don’t come right out and say it in the story, it’s him. Thirty pieces of silver he has to wear around his neck, his suicide, betraying his best friend, being returned home to a desert-like landscape that bears a striking resemblance to the Levant? Its friggin’ Judas, quit being assholes and just admit it! Judged by a council of Wizards on the Rock of Eternity, he and two others are cursed for their incredible crimes against humanity with individualized penances. Phantom Stranger is cursed to walk the earth, a stranger to all, and forced to intercede in events by an enigmatic voice. By issue’s end, the horror of what his interventions will do is made clear, showing how the punishment does fit the crime. Didio is a great writer and this series has a great amount of promise. Artist Brent Anderson delivers lush artwork that has soft, hazy lines that suit the mysterious atmosphere of the book and really set the mood. With a solicitation for next issue at the end, eliciting only the name “Trigon” I am riveted for what is to come.
Batwing #0shows an episode in Batwing, aka David Zavimbe’s, life that has as of yet remained untold. We know that he and his little brother, Isaac, were child soldiers in the mercenary group, the Army of Dawn. We know that he was picked up by Batman as the African representative of the International organization, Batman Incorporated. Between his rescue from the AOD and his inception as Batwing, there is very little known. This issue shows the guilt fueled rage that eats at David’s soul after he enters the relief shelter for war refugees and the events that forge his resolve as an adult to take up arms once again, fighting a crusade of his choosing that eventually brings him to the attention of Batman. With this issue all the pertinent parts of David’s history are fully chronicled, giving us a comprehensive understanding of his entire history. Grant Morrison may have created the character, but I think that Batwing will forever belong to Judd Winick, who wrote him for the first time as a fully fleshed out character.
Animal Man #0was definitely written in tandem with Swamp Thing #0, because writer Jeff Lemire does what Scott Snyder did, beginning with Anton Arcane tracking down a previous avatar, this one an Animal Man (Avatar of the Red) and dispatching him. Whereas the Parliament of Trees put their hopes on an avatar to come, Alec Holland, the Parliament of Limbs decide to be more proactive and create a new avatar in anticipation of the next who will be born years from that moment. The avatar they create just happens to be the next scheduled avatar’s father, Buddy Baker. His inception as the new Animal Man and what that foretells is a well plotted zero issue that makes Animal Man that much more intriguing.
Death of an Animal Man
Dial H #0takes us out of the present for a jaunt back to Ancient Mesopotamia and the maiden voyage of the first dial. In the pre-bronze age civilization, the dial is as analogue as it gets, being merely a sundial like device, using the Sun’s rays as the triggering mechanism and the dial itself, a monolithic slab, having to be manual rotated to dial. The operator, Laodice, over the course of four days manipulates the dial to evoke a myriad of powers to counter an ancient beast that plagues her people. The origin of the dial is a mystery, even to Laodice, but writer China Mieville fleshes out a facet of its usage in this issue that not only doubles the question of its origins (along with its rotary successors), but also what the consequences of its usages in the modern stories are. In a series already rife with insane twists and turns, this zero issue throws a major curve ball to the overall plot.
The First Dial
G.I. Combat #0was framed in an interesting manner. The main segment, as evinced by the cover, features the Unknown Soldier. The story picks up from last issue’s ending point, but validates itself as a zero issue by having the mysterious Kamal subjecting the Unknown Soldier, a former financial trader whose family was killed in a terrorist bombing on a train in London and who turned mercenary in Afghanistan when no military would accept him, to a mind altering drug that would open his subconscious to past experiences. Despite being born in the seventies, he has vivid memories backed up by historic record of Vietnam, Korea, the American Civil War, Revolutionary War, as well as several Medieval and Greco-Roman conflicts. How is this? Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray find a way of revealing who and what the Unknown Soldier is while keeping pace with the past four issues. The War That Time Forgot segment ends the issue and also concludes itself as well, marking the end of this story, which will be succeeded by The Haunted Tank, which will be penned by Peter Tomasi and drawn by Howard Chaykin. This one, however, is in no way an origin story. Its more of an epilogue to the last installment, ending the arc with really no significance. I love JT Krul as a writer, but this story he told didn’t say or do anything. American G.I.’s going to North Korea find, instead of a belligerent Communist army, a raging horde of dinosaurs. That’s it. They find this seemingly impossible situation and almost everyone dies. I hope the Haunted Tank offers better literary fare.
The Origin of the Unknown
Night Force #7 concludes the miniseries featuring the third incarnation of the Night Force headed by Baron Winter, and written by creator Marv Wolfman. Zoe has been captured by the demonic progenitors and it falls to Det. Jim Duffy to save her. With this last issue out, the MVP of the series is hands down Jim Duffy. Despite all his blustering and posturing, Baron Winter really doesn’t do anything worth speaking about. His arrogance is what prompted the problems that assail the Night Force in the first place and Det. Duffy is really the one who both plans and orchestrates the events that resolve the situation. He captures the Harvester, breaks into the gestation chamber, and pulls the metaphoric trigger on the demon breeders plan. That said, Jim Duffy and Sela Greene, aka Mad Kassandra, are the two characters that really advance the plot and their clashing was a scene that made this issue and the six previous well worth the read. The conclusion is twisted, nightmarish, and bloody, which makes me give it a thumbs up to anyone with a taste for the macabre.
Smallville Season 11 #5accomplishes something I was waiting for in the series when it was on TV: the advent of the Batman. Done in a very unique way that is synonymous with “Smallville” in general, Batman is shown busting up an Intergang arms deal with the help of protege, Nightwing . . . who is a red haired young woman! Obviously since Nightwing has boobs, its not Dick. I won’t spoil the identity of Batman’s sidekick, but if you are as good of a detective as the Bat, you should be able to ascertain who she is under the mask. As a bonus hint to those who know me, I am always excited to see this character, regardless of the circumstances. In the continuing plot of Smallville, though, Clark continues to work toward finding a way to purge the radioactive isotope Lex implanted in him so that LexCorp satellites can monitor his movements 24/7, while at the same time dealing with the strain that puts on his relationship with fiancee, Lois Lane. It does leave him with more time to dedicate to civic vigilance and crisis aversion. But with the Dark Knight descending on Metropolis with his sights on a singular task, Superman has a lot more to worry about than armed gunmen and impending traffic accidents.
And that ends the first week of “Zero Month.” I thoroughly enjoyed all that I read. Can’t wait for the next three weeks worth of issues.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Action Comics #0: Art by Ben Oliver, Colored by Brian Reber
Detective Comics #0: Drawn by Tony Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by Richard Friend
Swamp Thing #0: Art by Kano, Colored by Matthew Wilson
Worlds’ Finest #0: Art by Kevin Maguire, Colored by Rosemary Cheetham
Animal Man #0: Art by Steve Pugh, Colored by Lovern Kindzierski
Dial H #0: Art by Riccardo Burchielli, Colored by Tanya & Richard Horie
G.I. Combat #0: Art by Staz Johnson, Colored by Rob Schwager