This was a huge week, both in the number of comics I picked up and the quality. First and foremost, Grant Morrison concludes his run on Action Comics with an oversized issue that promises to be one of the hallmarks of his comics career. Batwoman enters into a new era after a seventeen issue mega story came to an EPIC end last month. Legion of Super-Heroes has descended into unmitigated horror as of its preceding issue and moves into what promises to be the biggest story in LOSH history since writer Paul Levitz’s “Great Darkness Saga” plot from the early 80’s. And who could forget three Bat-titles that follow in the wake of Damian Wayne’s tragic passing. I am shaking just recounting the possibilities this week holds in store. Let’s jump in:
- Action Comics #18 concludes Grant Morrison’s MASSIVE opening arc of this flagship Superman title. As with most things Morrison, I’m not entirely sure I got all of it. It is steeped in 5th dimensional nonlinear geometry and what could vaguely be filed under the heading of quantum mechanics. Superman is fighting Vyndktvx, and by extension Superdoom and the Anti-Superman Army. It’s pretty technical, but insanely engaging to read. Superman’s position seems impossible to extricate himself from, except when he realizes an inherent flaw in the logistics of Vyndktvx’s attack. As he discerned on Mars when fending off the Multitude, the unfathomable numbers of this angelic hoard were merely a fifth dimensional projection of one being, Vyndktvx. Likewise, by choosing to attack Superman at various points throughout his life, Vyndktvx is able to optimize the torture quotient of his assault upon the Man of Steel, but conversely traps himself in a relativistic conundrum hinging on Superman’s perception of the situation. When Superman realizes that he’s been attacked at other points in his life he also realizes that due to the quantum physics of the 3-dimensional plane in which we exist he would have survived all the previous assaults by Vyndktvx and therefore would have gained de facto the knowledge of how to defeat the mad 5-D villain. Grant Morrison and his dynamic duo of artists, Brad Walker and Rags Morales, really did a great job of tying together their entire run on the book and making it meaningful. Lex Luthor made an appearance defending the Man of Steel and another antagonist from earlier in this series, Adam Blake, and his Neo-Sapien brotherhood come back to Earth and lend Superman a hand as well. The people of Earth are promised immortality and eternal happiness if they shun Superman in his moment of greatest need, but humanity rallies behind their savior and grant him the key to victory. The backup feature by Sholly Fisch was a little insubstantial, but in fairness his amazing backup feature in #17 was no doubt supposed to be the ending of the arc until Morrison got DC to extend his run by one issue to fully tell the grand finale as he envisioned it. This one features kids in a Superman Museum in the 31st century featuring almost no dialogue and just seems propped up with toothpicks. There was meaning behind it, but it still had the air of being rushed. Despite that, this issue as well as the other eighteen issues of the series (remember there was a #0 issue in there, too) were amazing and a tribute to Grant Morrison’s genius. A must read, whether in single issues or graphic novel format.
- Justice League #18 was a nerd spasm with the League auditioning new members and writer Geoff Johns pulling out all sorts of fan favorites along with some really obscure characters. Zatanna, Firestorm, and Black Canary come up , but Johns also brings in Platinum of the Metal Men, Element Woman (female version of Metamorpho) which he’d messed around with in Flashpoint, Goldrush, and a female version of the Atom. Other than exploring the need of a new member to the team and introducing the hint of a coming conflict, there wasn’t much point to this issue. The Shazam backup feature had good art from Gary Frank, but vexing plot development: Billy Batson running away from responsibility, because he’s a punk. If he were any other version of the character than this it could be legitimately reasoned as a kid afraid to fail, but it’s not. It’s Geoff Johns’ bizarre attempt at rebooting an edgier Billy and his running away from conflict just comes off as him being a self interested brat. This series just does not work for me, main feature and backup.
- Justice League of America #2 brings about Geoff Johns’ second attempt at a team book. The first issue was a really solid opening chapter that showed promise, albeit suffering slightly with its breakneck, abbreviated introductions to six lead characters. This second issue continues that promise with a pretty substantial plot. Its shorter in length, giving some of its page count to the Martian Manhunter backup feature. There is some quality character development on Catwoman, as well as Steve Trevor. The main villain seeking to create the “Secret Society of Super-Villains” from the end of Justice League #6 a little more than a year ago finally shows his face and seems to be a completely new character, or perhaps a drastically different take on an old one, because I do not recognize him at all. All in all, a really enjoyable, edgy series. I think that Geoff Johns is trying to be edgy with the two Justice League titles and that is where he fails with the main series. When you have tertiary characters like Catwoman, Katana, Hawkman, etc, you can be edgier. When you try that same thing with the main DCU characters, even to a degree with Batman, you just alienate them from the audience reading them. Maybe that’s what Johns is going for, but that’s a really low bar to aim for and a really crappy status quo for readers to expect. The Martian Manhunter backup was too edgy for me and I did not like it. If J’onn J’onnz was to die at this point I wouldn’t care at all. That is sad, because I always liked him.
- Batwoman #18 is a new beginning for the character, but also a reaffirmation of what her life has become. Medusa and her kidnapping of dozens of Gotham children was the plot that pervaded the first seventeen issues of the title, but with last issue that has been laid to rest. However, in fighting this titanic battle for the innocents of her city, Batwoman had to make a devils deal with the D.E.O. and become their leashed super-agent in order to complete her mission with impunity and keep her father out of prison for his outfitting of her with Army equipment. This latter aspect of her life was overshadowed by the pressing quest to find and subdue Medusa before the children came to harm. With the mission accomplished she is becoming aware of the shackles she’s got herself tethered with. As she plays her role in this issue taking down Mr. Freeze to obtain some of his freeze tech for the D.E.O. she runs afoul of Batman and confuses her father, cousin Betty (her sidekick Hawkfire), and the Batman as to what her motives are. After defeating Medusa, Batwoman proposed to her alter-ego Kate Kane’s girlfriend, Capt. Maggie Sawyer. This issue picks up with Maggie looking for a new place for the two of them, completely overstepping any reaction from the Gotham policewoman as to the revelation that her lover was the vigilante she had been hunting. Probably the right decision by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, but I still would have been interested to see what the initial conversation was before her acceptance of this rather unorthodox situation. This series continues to be amazing, although this particular episode was a little less exciting after the high octane ride the past couple of months have given us with the conclusion of the “Medusa” mega-arc. Also Trevor McCarthy’s art pales in comparison to Williams’. I feel they do him a disservice, as he is a good artist, by pairing his artwork next to Williams’.
- Green Lantern: The New Guardians #18 brings Volthoom’s wrath upon Carol Ferris, Saint Walker, and Larfleeze. To accomplish this, series artist Aaron Kuder has been replaced with three artists for the three different sequences in the narrative. The Carol Ferris segment is drawn by Hendry Prasetyo and features Carol living a life without love. She’s completely ignored her obligations to her father and their family company Ferris Aircraft, following her dream to become a fighter pilot. Though this sounds ideal for her, with Volthoom’s altered timeline it is anything but. Larfleeze’s segment is drawn by Jim Calafiore and features the paragon of greed first with his family that he has desperately wanted to find for ages and then as a Blue Lantern. Both times, he barely gets into the altered reality before his inherent greed overpowers his senses and collapses the concept in on itself. Saint Walker doesn’t so much live a life without hope, so much as lives a life without loss, this time around having gotten a green power ring saving his planet before his family died in the quest for the blue one. He also is unable to follow the reality through as in his heart he knows it is not true. Like Kyle last issue, each of the other “New Guardians” prove too powerful in their spirit for Volthoom to truly get the better of forcing Volthoom to seek out someone he knows he can manipulate: Atrocitus. That may be a lead in to next week’s Red Lanterns issue, because Atrocitus hasn’t been a New Guardian for awhile. This issue was really well written and really cut to the heart of these three incredible lanterns.
- Supergirl #18 presents a major turning point for the Maiden of Steel. She has been alienated upon waking up on a planet whose language and culture she is unfamiliar with. Things looked up for awhile as she made a friend in Siobhan McDougal, aka Silver Banshee, but then with the introduction of H’el onto the scene she was given the hope of returning to her homeworld and being reunited with her family. With last month’s issue of Supergirl as well as the conclusion of Superman #18 it is now an intractable fact: Supergirl can never go home again. That is sadly pointed out in a moment where she emerges from a solar satellite where she is convalescing from green kryptonite poisoning. After exiting the solar chamber she begins to say “I want to go home,” but stops and corrects herself, “I just want to get back to Earth.” Her expression in this moment is truly heartrending. In the meantime, Lex Luthor plots against her from his state-of-the-art, super-prison, via neural implant that projects his consciousness to an offsite computer. Also a strange connection between Kara Zor-El and Karen Starr, the Kara Zor-El of Earth 2, is teased at. This issue featured a guest writer, Frank Hannah, and he picks up and continues the series in intriguing new directions. Coming off of a massive event like “H’el on Earth” can be dangerous, providing a jumping off point for readers of certain series if they don’t sink a hook right away. This issue sunk a hook. What’s to come has great promise.
- Legion of Super-Heroes #18 continues down the cataclysmic road that issue #17 began. The United Planets are still reeling from the assault of Tharok against the technological advances of the 31st century and the death toll mounts. The last issue focused on Legionnaires stranded on Rimbor and the Promethean Giants. This one goes back to both locations and the plight upon them, but also adds Earth and the Legion’s headquarters in Metropolis to the stage. Mon-El, Shadow Lass, Lightning Lass, Shrinking Violet, and Cosmic Boy leave Earth for Webber World, an artificial planet that is nothing but technology to try and establish the devastation there. Brainiac 5, Dream Girl, Star Man, Chemical Kid, and Element Lad attempt to get a cruiser prepped for their own departure from Earth. Ultraboy, Glorith, and Chameleon Boy attempt to escape Rimbor using Glorith’s magic, and Phantom Girl, Invisible Kid, and Polar Boy continue to try and regroup after their crash landing on the fabled Promethean giant. This arc has all the hallmarks of another cosmic epic on the scale of writers Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen’s 1980’s opus, “The Great Darkness Saga.” This issue lost a little steam, but issue #17 had two advantages. Firstly, it had the element of surprise, following a very calm “nothing is happening” issue directly into a sucker punch in the readers’ collective gut with literally all Hell breaking loose. Secondly, it had Keith Giffen’s Kirby-esque artwork magnifying the already nuts plotline into a tour-de-force thrill ride. Scott Kolins and Tom Derenick do a good job, but like McCarthy above in the Batwoman review, they have the misfortune of standing in the very long shadow of Giffen. I am pumped to read further into this amazing arc which promises to be a historic one.
- DC Universe Presents #18 is a one shot like last month’s issue that gives spotlight to Jason Todd’s fellow outlaws. Issue #17 was a focus on Roy Harper that really laid bare the kind of person he is as well as his hidden strengths and virtues. This month we are shown Princess Koriand’r, aka Starfire. Born into royalty, her sister sacrificed her to slave traders to buy peace for the realm. This issue tells about her time as a slave on a ship that is larger than the Earth. Inside are entire civilizations that the slavers raid and sell when needs be. This issue wasn’t large in the action department, but did present an interesting study into the mindset of the enslaved. How sometimes those that aren’t free are so weighed down by their bondage that they do not want to be free because of the terror it inspires in their comfortable minds. This issue was once again written by Joe Keatinge, who wrote the Arsenal issue last month. The art is done by newcomer Federico Dallocchio. The writing is thought provoking, if not action packed, and the artwork is very lovely, representing the beautiful heroine well. Not a bad issue at all.
- Nightwing #18 hits Dick Grayson while he’s down. Last issue had Nightwing mourning the loss of his friends and the circus he grew up in and was trying to save. It had Dick struggling with his own sense of denial, telling those that still cared about him that he was fine when he was really anything but, festering pain and anger deep in his belly until the pressure burst. All the while Damian, the most socially inept, insensitive member of the Bat Family, followed him to intervene when the inevitable sword dropped. Damian stopped him from stepping over the line and told him exactly what he needed to hear to ease his battered and bruised soul. This issue opens with Damian dead and the old wounds he’d seemingly healed torn open and wrenched deeper by the loss of this “little brother” who knew him possibly better than even Batman. What it comes down to is that he is losing his past. The circus he grew up in was terrorized and some of the older members like the clown, James Clark, and his former girlfriend, Raya, brutally murdered by the Joker, the circus folds, and then Damian, who had served as his Robin when he donned the cape and cowl of Batman, dies suddenly saving Gotham. Then Batman comes to him with information that a criminal scavenger that sells crime artifacts in underground auctions has plundered Haly’s and put John Grayson’s trapeze outfit up for sale. The Collector last showed up in Scott Snyder’s Detective Comics run, pre-Reboot, running afoul of Dick Grayson’s Batman. Now its a rematch in his Nightwing identity. Though he goes in angry, the outcome of the confrontation ironically heals him and proves the truth in something Damian told Dick before he died. But of course Dick can’t be happy for long. When deciding to finally meet with Sonia Branch (nee Zucco), daughter of gangster that killed his parents, she reveals something about her dad that once again shows how Dick’s past is continually eroding beneath him, leaving him very little closure. Kyle Higgins is KILLING IT! His Nightwing run is seminal. I may have liked other runs as much as this one, but I’m not sure. All I know is that this is a really emotionally driven, introspective, thought provoking title that continually amazes. Juan Jose Ryp yet again provides equally stunning interior art, really drawing out the latent potential in every heartbreaking frame. This two issue interim arc between “Death of the Family” and the next major story arc of the title has been phenomenal on every imaginable level.
- Red Hood and the Outlaws #18 following the shocking ending of last issue vis-a-vis the booby trapped helmet that the Joker whipped together, Jason lays in a medically induced coma, facing his greatest enemies. With the revelation a few months prior that the Joker for all intents and purposes created him by selecting him and guiding him towards the Batman, the Clown Prince of Crime is the first of Jason’s adversaries. However, the real adversary he fights is himself. A mob of Bat family members, past and present, as well as his former allies converge on him at once and Batman is the one who pulls him out. This is writer Scott Lobdell’s last issue on the series and he might be taking his character from his complete alienation of his past as Robin and bringing him back into the fold, or perhaps he’s just tempering the fiery character of the failed Robin, but in either event, he presents a single heartwarming tale for the jaded anti-hero. Despite all he has done and the pain he has put them through, Bruce and Alfred love him and do everything in their power to help him come back to life, literally and metaphorically. Tyler Kirkham does fantastic guest art on the title, really bringing out the twisted nature of Jason’s psyche. Well worth picking up.
- Vibe #2 was a half and half issue. Half of the issue played catch up and was boring for those who have read Justice League of America #1 & 2. Recounting all of the snippets of Cisco Ramon’s appearances in the first two issues of the overarching JLA title, it does inform those who didn’t read the aforementioned title and gave context to those that did, but still, didn’t hit just right. The other half of it hit a cord with DC fans that know their obscure characters. A transdimensional invader comes through to deliver a note to an emissary. It hands it to Vibe right before an A.R.G.U.S. agent zaps him. The note was meant for the character, Gypsy, whose father apparently is a potentate in another reality. A far departure from her previous back story, she is exactly like Vibe. Few know who she is so few care if they do a MASSIVE overhaul. What is clear is that A.R.G.U.S. likes to kidnap the daughters of powerful men. Darkseid’s daughter is their prisoner. This unknown king’s daughter is also their prisoner. They better pray that Gypsy’s homeworld doesn’t form an alliance with Apokalips, because they are literally playing with fire and poking some VERY big dogs with an annoyingly sharp stick. I want to believe Geoff Johns knows what he’s doing, but he is quitting the only good book he is currently writing. So I put my faith in cowriter, Andrew Kreisberg.
- Wonder Woman #18 concluded a maxi-arc in the odyssey of Zola’s baby. In Wonder Woman #1 writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang introduced us to Zola, a human woman who bore Zeus’s newest bastard. The Amazing Amazon has gone on a long journey to protect the young woman from the various gods of Olympus and upon its birth, to recover the baby from those same, meddlesome gods. That story finds its conclusion a year and a half later. However, it continues the tale of Zeus’s first born child, exiled and awoken millennia later with rage and vengeance on his mind. Those same gods who tried to strong arm and kidnap an innocent child, now have to contend with a vengeful demigod fueled by distilled hatred. Also Azzarello has re-introduced us to the New Gods of New Genesis, represented primarily by Orion, foster son of High Father and (perhaps still unbeknownst to him) the eldest son of Darkseid. Azzarello keeps this series afloat, sometimes peaking on the wave of awesome, and other times lulling in the trough of mediocre. This concluding issue of that first major crisis features art by alternating artist Tony Akins and Cliff Chiang, as well as a third penciller, Goran Sudzuka. This one was pretty good and a must read if you have been one of the faithful, reading it from the inaugural issue.
- Sword of Sorcery #6 accomplished quite a bit. It fully introduced us to the new lord of House Turquoise after the death of Princess Amaya of House Amethyst’s grandfather, Lord Firojha. It also introduces another newly minted House head following another shift in power. Most importantly to the DCU in general is yet another reason why I want to see John Constantine strung up by his toes. He singlehandedly brings the harbinger of utter ruin upon Princess Amaya’s home, but what’s worse, he uses her to invite it in. In fairness to Constantine, however, the doom that he has sent to Nilaa was born in the Gemworld and exiled to Earth thousands of years ago. Still, its a pretty low thing to do, considering how Amaya pulled his bacon out of the fire in the Justice League Dark Annual. The Stalker backup feature isn’t even worth talking about. Just horrible. Get this issue for the main feature and then close it up after the conclusion.
- Batman Beyond Unlimited #14 begins with an interim chapter in Batman Beyond following the conclusion of the hellacious “10,000 Clowns” arc and the coming one called “Undercloud.” Though its a one shot, it is monumental if one followed the animated “Batman Beyond” series. In the series Terry McGinnis constantly had to bail on his long suffering girlfriend, Dana Tan, and play it off like he was doing errands for his boss, the aged Bruce Wayne. After the events of “10,000 Clowns” and her brother Doug unleashing hell on earth upon Gotham in the form of 10,000 suicidal Jokerz from around the world Dana is put in a situation where everything clicks. When Doug attempted to kill their father in the ICU, Bruce Wayne, 80+ years old and dying himself from liver failure, got out of his hospital bed and fought the twenty something maniac, allowing the Tans to get Mr. Tan to safety. When Doug took his sister as a hostage, Batman referred to her by name. The math is right there and Dana FINALLY figures it out and a new era in Terry’s tenure as Batman begins. The issue is also good, because Dana was often a set piece on the show and more of a plot device than an actual character. This issue was her issue. It was narrated by her, gave her history with an intimate look into her traumatic upbringing with a psychotic for an older brother who despite his evil nature she still loves, and tells us what gives her peace. Adam Beechen makes this series come alive for those of us who mourned the TV series’ cancellation. Although, I do have one beef. In the “Justice League Unlimited” episode entitled “Epilogue” we are told that Terry discovered that Bruce Wayne was his biological father when they did the liver transplant and found out him and Bruce were identical tissue types. In this issue the liver came from someone else. You messed up, Mr. Beechen, but I’ll forgive you because the rest of this issue and those preceding it were truly mind blowing. Also, kudos to Peter Nguyen who takes over for regular Batman Beyond artist Norm Breyfogle. The art is truly beautiful, underscoring the moving narratives within. Unfortunately, the Superman Beyond plot is leaving me whelmed. I thought there was going to be some moral ambiguity with the Trillians claiming Superman destroyed their world, but really they are just an overclass that resents having their property taken away. Superman freed their slaves and now they are angry. Boo-effing-Hoo. On to the next. The Justice League Beyond Unlimited story finishes off in this third installment with a new Flash, this time a young African American woman named Danica (last name to come soon, I am sure). This arc was over relatively quickly when compared with the previous Kobra arc that spanned almost an entire year’s worth of issues. However, despite the brevity and the quick take down of what could have been a truly formidable foe on the level of most of the greats this issue had its poignant moments that really speak to the superhero genre, why they do what they do, and gives a comprehensive intro to the next scion of the Speed Force. Perhaps the best moment came after Superman personally extended an invitation to Dani to join the JLB. After accepting his gracious offer, she challenged him to a foot race, which every speedster since Barry Allen have done. Derek Fridolfs write this one as well as providing inks for Jorge Corona’s pencils. Truly a great end to a relatively short arc. This issue was phenomenal overall.
This crop was amazing, though statistically they had more shots at it with the increased number of entries. Several of these are must gets to comic fans in general, regardless of genre.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Action Comics #18: Drawn by Rags Morales & Brad Walker, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked byCam Smith & Andrew Hennessy
Justice League #2: Art by David Finch, Colored by Sonia Oback
Supergirl #18: Drawn by Robson Rocha, Colored by dave McCaig, Inked by Oclair Albert, Julio Ferreira & Mariah Benes
Nightwing #18: Drawn by Juan Jose Ryp, Colored by Bret Smith, Inked by Roger Bonet & Juan Albarran
Red Hood and the Outlaws #18: Art by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Arif Prianto
Batman Beyond Unlimted #14: Drawn by Peter Nguyen, Colored by Andrew Elder, Inked by Craig Yeung