Week 66 (Dec. 5, 2012)

This week begins December, which due to the holidays will be an abbreviated month.  The fourth week of books with comprise only three titles from DC, Aquaman #15, Justice League #15, and Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #4, and I am assuming a couple indies.  This week, however, starts off strong with Action Comics, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, and another twofer of Before Watchmen titles.  Let’s see how they stack up . . .

  • Action Comics #15 is two issues away from Grant Morrison’s blowout finale on his Action Comics run.  The first issue of Action was not very Morrison, but each issue thereafter has been more and more Morrison.  This issue took it to the limit.  The “Little Man” whom we now know to be a fifth dimensional wizard name Vyndktvx has been setting a trap for Clark over the course of a little over a year’s worth of issues.  Slowly all the disparate threads that have popped up throughout the title so far are beginning to weave into a cohesive plot.  Susie Lane (Lois’ evolutionarily advanced niece), Nimrod the Hunter, the Metaleks, Drekken the Evolver, and the Kryptonite Men all made appearances that were short in duration and seemingly without point.  This issue has Vyndktvx bringing them all together as the Anti-Superman Army and attacking Superman throughout Time.  In the present Clark is feeling the attacks with strange memories of things that never were and things that have not yet been.  His landlady, Mrs. Nyxly, revealed several months ago to be a fifth dimensional princess in issue #12, not only tells him how Vyndktvx is attacking throughout the time frame of his life, but more importantly, why.  Ironically, it ties into Superman’s original fifth dimensional antagonist, Mr. Mxyzptlk, who Superman’s yet to meet in this rebooted universe, but who bears the Man of Steel a great deal of affection.  For that reason, Vyndktvx has decided to wage a war to destroy the last son of Krypton as a final blow to the mischievous trickster we’ve read and loved.  Delving deep into the mythos of Superman’s past incarnations, Morrison is forging a very solid foundation for the character in revisionist absurdism.  Though Mxyzptlk came about in the 1940’s during a time when truly bizarre and absolutely ridiculous storytelling was the norm, Grant Morrison has taken that ridiculousness and distilled it into grade A material, rife with outside-the-box perspectives and mindbendingly intriguing concepts. Though the art from Rags Morales and Brad Walker is very good, this series is really a must get for the writing more than anything else.  Grant Morrison is a maestro and this first run of Action Comics will not only define the New DCU for decades to come, but also stand as a jewel in the crown that is his comics career.  In the backup feature written by Sholly Fisch, we get a better look at Mxyzptlk’s history in the fifth dimension, how he came into conflict with Vyndktvx, won the love of Princess Gsptlnz (Mrs. Nyxly), was imprisoned  and escaped to the third dimensional Earth One with his lover, Gsptlnz, and the creation of what might be his greatest trick yet . . .
    Gsptlsnz (left) and Mxyzptlk (right), as seen ...

    Gsptlsnz (left) and Mxyzptlk (right), as seen in Superman: The Animated Series (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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    The Vindictive Vyndktvx . . .

  • Detective Comics #15 was a little milquetoast in its plotline.  It progressed off of the previous issue dealing with  the fate of Poison Ivy, the consequential response from the enraged Clayface, and the first move of a shadowy new player into the Gotham underworld scene.  Also, as per the backup feature of Batman #14 last month, Penguin is drawn into the twisted web of the Joker’s overarching scheme.  The Penguin is very much a man who does what he wants and “damn anyone who gets in the way”, but the fear on his face in this issue as he prepares to do what he has been instructed by the Joker really sets the tone for not only how immense the “Death of the Family” plot is going to be, but also how utterly terrifying the Joker has become.  Really this tie-in portion is what makes the issue, the rest of the issue is statically procedural.  Jason Fabok’s art is really good, but supports a plot with questionable relevance to anything substantial.

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    The Penguin May Be Dead, Long Live The Penguin

  • Before Watchmen: The Comedian #4 takes place fully in Vietnam and I believe was supposed to show what Vietnam did to Eddie Blake.  That’s it really. Whereas most of the Before Watchmen titles seemed to take some key element or event from Watchmen and highlight it toward the actualization of the title subject, this one didn’t seem to accomplish much or at least not in an interesting way.  For the awesome run it has been so far, I think one interim issue is acceptable, but not the most interesting to read.  With two issues left and considering the integral part the Comedian plays in the events of the original graphic novel, I would bet the farm that the rest of the series will blow our socks off.
  • Before Watchmen: The Minutemen #5 represents the penultimate chapter of the series and did things in its story that literally gave me goosebumps.  Completely divorced from continuity, this issue and I am assuming the final issue as well take the Minutemen into uncharted territory with their paths completely within writer/artist Darwyn Cooke’s capable hands.  A very symbolic terrorist attack on a target of great importance to America brings the vigilante group back together after years of disbanding alongside two brand new allies in a demonstration of what true heroism really looks like.  This main plot point really hits to the reader’s heart and validates the concept of putting on a mask and costume while following one’s moral compass.  The second thing it did that chilled was something that, if I am correct in what they are hinting at, CHANGES EVERYTHING!!!  If what they are insinuating at the end of the issue is actually true, this would alter so much of what Alan Moore had done in the original 1985 opus.  That would be DANGEROUS!  If Cooke and his editors don’t tread carefully this house of cards that they have been building with the Before Watchmen series, which most of the hardline comic fanatics called “heresy” upon its proposal, will collapse.  I am optimistic, considering the phenomenal, thought provoking work that has been done so far across the board, yet the danger is still real.  I eagerly await the final issue.
  • Swamp Thing #15 shoots further into the “Rot World” crossover event, picking up with Swamp Thing and Deadman at sea, face to with William Arcane and his rot infested sea monsters.  The battle with the youngest Arcane is TITANIC to be sure, but the real interest in the issue comes in the flashback to Abigail Arcane’s journey to her former Eastern European home, Blestemat.  Her uncle, Anton Arcane, has very effectively been re-imagined by writer, Scott Snyder, as the avatar of Rot and over the course of several issues Abigail’s links to the Rot have been hinted at and explored to a certain degree.  Face to face with her uncle, amid the unprecedented incursion of death and decay into our world, her ties are explored and the magnitude of her power beginning to show through.  Anton represents an unchecked aggressor from one of the three natural orders, Red (animal life), Green (plant life), and Black (death and rotting), against the others.  Abigail represents what the Rot should be: a harmonious state that ends the life of the other two in order for rebirth to occur for both Red and Green.  The realization of that, however, is still left in the air for further issues.  Back with Swamp Thing, he makes it to Gotham in search of the Batman only to find another iconic Gothamite standing in to aid him.  Scott Snyder presents a truly excellent addition to his monolithic crossover event.  Artist Yanick Paquette is once again relieved of art duties by Marco Rudy, whose art is very well suited to the title, but presents a harsher edge than the florid work of Paquette.  However, considering the transition from the verdant Green Kingdom in the first two issues to the desiccated wastes of the Rot, I think that the harsher edges of Rudy will do nicely and make sense to the altering vistas.

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    Woman Thou Art Unleashed . . .

  • Animal Man #15 begins with the Gorillas of the DCU (Monsieur Mallah, Grodd, etc) attacking Animal Man, Steel, Black Orchid, and Beast Boy as they attempt to take the fight to the Rot’s Parliament.  Meeting up with Frankenstein and his Patchwork Army the ragtag resistence of the Red become aware of a prisoner being held in the bowels of Metropolis that is so powerful, Anton Arcane hides him away out of sight and far away, to be forgotten.  Superman disappeared shortly after the Rot’s incursion, so hope runs high that he is the one imprisoned.  This prisoner’s return could give the winning edge to their last ditch strike to regain their world.  And as has been the case for the past two issues of this title and its sister series, Swamp Thing, in the “Rot World” crossover, the fate of Animal Man’s daughter Maxine is reviewed during the lost year between the present and the moment the two avatars of Red and Green disappeared.  William Arcane guest stars in this flashback segment, further entwining the two series.  I eagerly await the resolution in the New Year of the “Rot World” event.
  • Earth 2 #7 presents a world exploration during the “pause for breath” following the ending of the first major threat, Solomon Grundy, and before the advent of the threat that is to come, Steppenwolf.  Alan Scott was thrust into the role of global guardian moments after watching the love of his life burn to death in a train crash and the fight with Grundy and the Grey has kept his mind focused, but now that the threat is past he is forced to confront his grief.  However, as a “Wonder” in a world that has been without heroes for many years, his new “fellows” won’t let him sink into himself because of the need they stand to fulfill.  Hawkgirl is the mouthpiece of dissent, revealing her identity and her connection to the powers that be.   Apropos, the second half of the issue deals with the Shakespearean power struggle between Commander Amar Khan of the World Army and Terry Sloan, the smartest man alive and sinister mastermind that the World Council has taken to their proverbial bosom, even after he unilaterally incinerated seven countries and killed tens of millions of people on his own authority.  Khan’s got Wesley Dodds and his Sandmen in his pocket helping him play his game of political chess and as he tells Dodds, “In the game that you speak off there will be No Fair Play.”  The white gloves are coming off and blood will be drawn.  One man is a sociopathic, genocidal lunatic with a pearly white smile and the other is a military man with nothing to lose.  Tell me this title doesn’t beg to be read.
  • Worlds’ Finest #7 as always, follows on the tail of the Earth 2 premise, giving us a glimpse at two refugees from the other earth on our Earth 1: Helena Wayne (Huntress) and Kara Zor-El (Power Girl).  As of last issue, the twenty-something daughter of Batman and Catwoman meets her Earth 1 counterpart, the preteen Damian Wayne, son of Batman and Talia Al-Ghul.  Damian doesn’t take crap from anyone and neither does his “not sister.”  That said, once she dishes, he has little choice but to believe her as the evidence is nearly incontrovertible.  The two go somewhere frigid while tracing money siphoning from Wayne Enterprise funds only to be greeted by a monstrosity from Apokalips.  When Power Girl traces another signal to the Congo she is met with child soldiers, one of whom holds an Apokaliptian energy weapon.  One Apokalips connection might be a fluke, but the evidence is mounting that something sinister is in the works.  Paul Levitz is the man, writing the super-heroine duo as incredibly as always, but really doing a thoughtful job folding Damian into the mix.  Seeing his reaction as a sibling to an older sister who shares far too many of his lesser traits is entertaining to read, and feels genuine coming from my perspective as a flawed boy with older sisters of roughly the same age difference.  George Perez and Kevin Maguire split art duties on the divergent storylines of each heroine, accentuating the characteristics of each with their masterful styles.  Like its sister series Earth 2, this title is building toward a crescendo that smells like the sulfuric Fire Pits of Apokalips, and I for one am a moth to the flame when it comes to the New Gods . . .
  • Batwing #15 is an odd duck.  This is the last issue of a story arc, in this case the “Father Lost” storyline, but it is the first issue written by new writer, Fabian Nicieza.  I have never seen a writer change when the arc is only one issue from completion.  Nicieza wasn’t even a co-writer on the previous issues.  Very strange.  He does a seamless job, however, taking the plot to the end zone with a really powerful finish.  Batwing falls once again under the sway of the evil cult leader right at the crux of the latter’s plan.  If that weren’t enough, fellow Tinasha police officer, Kia Okura (who David Zavimbe is hinted to have feelings for), slowly becomes suspicious that he and Batwing are one.  This is one of those series that doesn’t knock your socks off, but is just really comfortable and interesting to read.  Fabian Nicieza is a really great Bat-title relief writer that has an innate knack for the tone of the books and can slip effortlessly into them, penning some quality issues.  Fabrizio Fiorentino provides art for this issue, which is a welcome surprise.  I loved his art on Final Crisis: Ink and Titans.  With these two men onboard I look forward to future issues.
  • Phantom Stranger #3 continues to show the tenuous balance that the Stranger walks between his role as the ethereal watcher of men and family man, Philip Stark.  They touch again on his past as Judas Iscariot and the road he has to walk, but unlike the past where he has been made by fate to betray innocent people to atone for his betrayal of Jesus, this issue just has him dealing with spooks that go bump in the night.  Dr. Terrence Thirteen, paranormal researcher and many times descendant of the original Terrence Thirteen of the 1880’s, calls upon the Stranger to help him beat a family curse of the Haunted Highwayman, killed by his eponymous forebearer, who has now come for him.  If that sounds familiar its because that was a backup feature in All-Star Westerns #11-12. The intercession of the Phantom Stranger in this instance allows writer Dan Didio to spread the character’s wings and show what his powers can really do.  Since he is not the best known character, even to myself, this is a very welcome issue that acquaints us a bit better with its subject.  The Stranger also appeared last week in Justice League Dark #14, and the solicitation at the end of this month’s issue alludes that we will see that encounter from his viewpoint come Phantom Stranger #4.  Until then, I await further glimpses into one of the most enigmatic comic book personages.
  • G.I. Combat #7 ends the series and its two features.  In The Haunted Tank the two Stuarts, Jeb and Scott, are transported to the Antarctic where the descendant of Erwin Rommel has rebuilt the Third Reich’s war machines and is preparing to bring about a Fourth Reich with a gigantic War Wheel.  The battle against this neo-nazi threat is really rushed and unsatisfying.  Also, as a history buff myself, I feel that writer Peter Tomasi was discourteous to Rommel and his descendants, considering that despite being a brilliant commander for the Nazi Wehrmacht, Rommel actually was a humanitarian and against most of the hardline policies of the Nazi party, never joining it politically.  In The Unknown Soldier, the titular protagonist jumping out of a window with a cyber-terrorist in hand and then going to his visit his old house.  Comprising only two short scenes and nine pages of story, this also was as rushed, unsatisfying ending to the feature’s eight issue run.  Across the board this issue was lackluster and a terrible way to end what was a really great title.
  • Smallville Season 11 #8 concludes the Batman/Superman team up in Metropolis.  Going head to head with Mr. Freeze and the Prankster, the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight have been through a crucible of distrust and cross purposes, only to emerge as the friends we have largely known them to be.  This arc has been so interesting, towing the line of the character status quos, but breaking in ways that keep the reader on their toes.  Batman’s sidekick and personal secretary in both facets of his life is Barbara Gordon, who moonlights under the nom de guerre of Nightwing.  Breaking up the “good old boys club”, Barbara brings all the sass and kick ass of Dick Grayson, but with more feminine grace and a dash of sexual tension.  Her interactions with Lois Lane also bear an interesting tenor, due to their own similarities: one the daughter of a four star general and the other the daughter of perhaps the most hardcore police commissioner in the history law enforcement.  Next issue promises a new storyline that from its title, “Haunted,”  suggests an exploration into the broken mind of Lex Luthor that has absorbed, or at least internalized, the consciousness of the little sister he murdered, Tess Mercer.

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    The Women Behind the Men

  • Legends of the Dark Knight #3 presents another very thought provoking story about the Dark Knight.  Batman takes down the Joker, but on route to Arkham Asylum the mad clown slips his leash, making a getaway.  Shortly thereafter, Batman gets a package from him, with a miniature revolving door and a note bluntly saying “You might as well not exist.”  This is a sucker punch to Batman’s ego and he begins to lose heart in his crusade.  Commissioner Gordon and Alfred come up with the solution, giving him letters from regular people that have come into the GCPD over the years addressed directly to the Batman.  One from the daughter of a assault victim, one from the owner of a bar that was hit by Joker henchmen wanting free booze and money, and a third from a drug addict mugger.  All of whom the Batman saved, the latter most case because going back to jail turned the con’s life around.  As a result of these three cases in particular, Batman is not only able to regain his confidence, but get the upper hand on the Joker.  Its sort of a “Its a Wonderful Life” of the DC Universe.  No man is a failure that has friends.  Write Steve Niles has a penchant for writing twisted, hard edged horror stories, so this very optimistic tale of a Batman who is shown the reason why he is needed seems to come from left field.
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    Sometimes the Joke is On You . . .

    This week’s books were a great way to start off the month of December.  Here’s hoping the the other two and a half weeks keep pace.

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

Illustration Credits:

Action Comics #15:  Drawn by Rags MoralesBrad Walker, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Andrew Hennessy & Mark Propst

Detective Comics #15:  Art byJason Fabok, Colored by Jeromy Cox

Before Watchmen: Moloch #1: Art by Eduardo Risso, Colored by Trish Mulvihill

Swamp Thing #15: Art by Marco Rudy, Colored by Val Staples & Lee Loughridge

Smallville Season 11 #8: Drawn by Kevin Axel Gimenez, Colored by Wendy Broome, Inked by Diana Egea

Legends of the Dark Knight #3: Art by Trevor Hairsine, Colored by Antonio Fabela

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Week 62 (Nov. 7, 2012)

The first week of the month may be the best, because so many consistently good title come out.  Flagship titles like Action Comics, Detective Comics, as well as seminal classics like Swamp Thing, Green Lantern, and Worlds’ Finest.  This promises to be a fun batch of issues.

  • Action Comics #14 is pure Morrison.  Taking place on the planet Mars, the colonial terraforming mission is attacked by the Metaleks and only Superman is in a position to save the men and women besieged there.  Through this issue, Grant Morrison not only delivers a background on what the Metaleks are, what they want, and where they come from, but also begins the road to the end of his meteoric run, which portends to be MASSIVE!!!  The “Multitude” which has laid waste to thousands of planets is at the root of this issue’s plot and only Superman’s father, Jor-El, had ever successfully staved off this angelic horde.  Can he do the same? Almost since issue #1 a clear path has been laid and a monumental threat alluded to.  As can be expected from Morrison’s mindbending, psychedelic style, the main architect of nearly all the mayhem we’ve seen thus far is a denizen of the fifth dimension . . .  Stay tuned.

    A Look Into the Past

  • Green Lantern #14 redeems the ending of the last issue a little bit.  The Justice League aren’t as awful and petty as they appear in writer Geoff Johns’ other series, but still not exactly the best written in terms of dialogue and characterization.  However, the plot of this issue is tight and I enjoyed it a great deal.  Whatever I might say about his other projects and the motivations behind them, this series is one that has maintained and built off of the inherent excellence of the title.  The same really can’t be said for some of his other titles.  Simon Baz goes toe-to-toe with the Justice League and despite only having been in possession of his Green Lantern ring for a little more than a day gets the upper hand on Superman, Flash, Batman, and Wonder Woman.  Not bad for a poor kids from Dearborn, Michigan.  Meanwhile, across the Universe, Black Hand and the Guardians that have been locked away for eons by their megalomaniacally insane brethren begin to interact, intimating that there may be a very strange teamup in the works against the Guardians of the Universe and their nightmarish Third Army.

    RISE . . .

  • Detective Comics #14 takes a very strange turn in the second issue of writer John Layman’s tour of the book.  With his first issue last month he started a conspiracy with the Penguin attempting to keep Batman preoccupied with a string of random crimes to distract the Dark Knight from his plot to assassinate Bruce Wayne.  Well following on the heels of that intriguingly paradoxical plotline, Layman shoots out to left field with a seemingly unrelated plot of Poison Ivy commiting eco-crimes across Gotham and Batman trying to stop her.  Its well written, no doubt about it, but also confusing as one tries to grasp onto a solid plotline or conflict.  Given time hopefully one will appear.  Layman has a very methodical and detail oriented voice that fits the Batman title like a well tailored suit in a film noir movie.  Jason Fabok’s art is beautiful in the main feature, and while Layman and Fabok introduce a surprise husband for the leafy villainess at the end of the main story, Layman gets help from Andy Clarke with a stark and stunningly rendered backup feature that explained how these oddly paired ne’er-do-wells came to be “wed.”
  • Before Watchmen: Moloch #1 does . . . it . . . AGAIN!  Its been awhile since there’s been a debut issue in the Before Watchmen line, but yet again the editors, and especially writer J. Michael Straczynski, have delivered in spades.  To Watchmen faithful, Moloch the Mystic is known as an integral part of the graphic novel itself as well as a hallmark villain from the heyday of the group’s past in superheroics.  In the original Alan Moore series from the 80’s, Moloch is primarily shown in a very pathetic light after he’d renounced his criminal ways.  This book shows him once again in a very sympathetic  manner from traumatic childhood through his criminal days and finally to his last release from prison after finding Jesus and rehabilitation.  J. Michael Straczynski has a real knack for not only generating a very emotional involvement between the story and the reader, but also creating a very vivid environment that is authentic to the time and place it takes place.  This series is only a twofer, so at issue’s end we are halfway through his story in this preceding tale of the Watchmen universe.  Can’t wait for round two.
  • Swamp Thing #14 continues on from issue #13 and the Swamp Thing Annual following Swamp Thing’s departure from the Green Kingdom, haven of the last surviving plant and floral life on the planet after the Rot’s dominion of the Earth, in search not only of Anton Arcane who is responsible for the death of his own niece and Swamp Thing’s lover, Abigail Arcane, but also proof that Abigail is in fact dead.  We saw her plane crash into the mountains as a direct result of Anton’s monstrosities, but we also see here that she did survive past that point.  Her return to her homeland, Blestemat (which incidentally in Romanian means “Accursed”), is still shrouded in mystery and we are shown further images of that portion of her journey as well, prolonging our own wish to know what has befallen her.  Upon Swamp Thing’s departure from the Green Kingdom, Boston Brand, aka Deadman, instructs him to turn his sights first to Gotham where it is rumored a weapon exists called the Soul Grinder (see Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #13) which could potentially defeat the Rot.  With this revelation Scott Snyder is steering to a convergence between this title, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. 

    The Girl of Rot and the Boy of Green

  • Animal Man #14 also figures into the “Rot World” event and in the Red Kingdom Animal Man and his allies come under fire from the turned superheroes that have succumbed to the Rot.  Teamed up with him are Steel, Beast Boy, and Black Orchid, the foursome set out for Anton Arcane’s castle to rescue Animal Man’s daughter, Maxine, the current avatar of the Red.  In the process, like Abigail Arcane in Swamp Thing, we see a few snippets of Max’s flight from the Rot following the end year long jump in time that Swamp Thing and Animal Man experienced when they attacked the heart of the Black.  An interesting tidbit is the little boy that four year old Max meets amid the desiccated wasteland of undead nightmares.  We’ve seen him before and his appearance marks a truly frightening turn in the crossover event.  Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder are geniuses and this event is going to set up the next several years of storytelling in these two titles.
  • Earth 2 #6  is an interesting title because of the similarities and the differences existing between our universe (Earth 1) and the universe of Earth 2, following the different courses of the Apokalips invasions of each world.  In this world, with the death of all the superheroes: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc, a World Army and World Council govern the planet.  However, after several years another threat that is akin to the Animal Man and Swamp Thing plots above rears its head and superheroes are once again needed.  In the aforementioned titles the Rots is referred to as the Black.  On Earth 2 the Grey is a force of withering rather than decay and its avatar, Solomon Grundy, has been resurrected to quite literally kill the planet.  Answering this threat are the newly minted Green Lantern (avatar of the Green which represents all live, plant and animal), Flash (who hails from Lansing, Michigan!), the enigmatic Hawkgirl, and the Atom who is a special agent of the World Army.  It’ll take all of them, but most especially Green Lantern to thwart the accelerated death of the planet.  This issue concludes that monumental endeavor, but unlike the ending of Justice League #1, which featured the first gathering of superheroes on our world, this gathering has a very thought provoking epilogue.
  • Worlds’ Finest #6 was one I have been dying to read for some time.  This title is akin to Earth 2, because following the events of the former title’s first issue, the Robin (Helena Wayne) and Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) of that second earth are brought to ours and must adapt into the new identities of Huntress, nee Robin, and Power Girl, nee Supergirl, to survive.  As a Wayne, Helena has information about her “not father” and his financial holdings that mirror her real father’s on Earth 2, so some borrowing has occurred.  Well, on this earth at this time the current wearer of the red, green, and yellow is Earth 1 Batman’s biological child . . . Damian Wayne.  Damian Wayne is a psychotic and very, very territorial.  His “not sister” (that fact unbeknownst to him) siphoning money off his dear old dad doesn’t sit right with him and as ever with Damian, violence ensues.  I love Damian so much and seeing the two children of Batman going toe-to-toe is a pleasure.  Especially considering that the writer of this battle royale is none other than Paul Levitz, one of my current favorite writers who made his name on writing teen angst since the early 80’s.  And on top of that, with help from Kevin Maguire and George Perez both pulling art duties on the issue, it nothing short of a dirty pleasure.  This title has been golden since issue #1 seven months ago.

    Now Kids, No More Fighting . . .

  • Batwing #14 brings David Zavimbe one step closer to discovering the truth behind the enigmatic cult leader, Father Lost.  After breaking up a human sacrificial ritual that also was crashed by the equally enigmatic crimefighter, Dawn, Batwing learns her true identity, Rachel Niamo.  Rachel was an orphan at the refugee camp David crashed at after his child soldier days.  Following up on this lead, a conspiracy within the victims of Father Lost’s attacks leads him further down the rabbit hole, to the jackal’s layer, to mix some metaphors.  Judd Winick’s run on this issue ends with this issue, strangely mid-arc, but has been stellar across the board.  I look forward to seeing how new writer, Fabian Nicieza, concludes the Father Lost storyline and continues Batwing’s African crusade.  Winick and Nicieza both constitute tried and true members of the Bat-books’ bullpen, so I think that the transition might brook some changes, but not affect the quality of the future issues adversely.
  • G.I. Combat #6 splits its narrative as always, starting out with Peter Tomasi’s Haunted Tank feature.  After rescuing his grandson, Scott, from Afghanistan Lt. Jeb Stuart and the Haunted Tank make for more chilly climates.  The purpose of the Tank’s (haunted by Scott and Jeb’s ancestor, the Civil War general J.E.B. Stuart) return to operation is spelled out in the return of its greatest foe, along with Jeb’s:  the newly minted Fourth Reich.  Great writing alongside Howard Chaykin’s distinctive artwork.  And in the flagstone Unknown Soldier feature the culprits behind the hacking of a nuclear power plant as well as the endgame of their plot begin to make themselves known.  It also spells desperate trouble for the Unknown Soldier.
  • Smallville Season 11 #7  progresses the budding association of the Batman and Superman as their interests cross with Intergang’s spreading to Gotham and Joe Chill’s associate with the group.  Superman wants to shut them down legitimately and Batman wants to hit them hard, but more importantly get at Chill, his parents’ murderer and even the score.  Obviously Superman isn’t going to be down for that, so the two met as enemies.  However, after their association develops into one of mutual gain, Superman gets shot with kryptonite bullets and the only person with the skills and equipment to save the Man of Steel’s life is . . . Batman.  Adding new dimensions to the dynamic of the “World’s Finest” this issue is a game changer.
  • Legends of the Dark Knight #2 presents one solid plot line this issue, as opposed to the three part anthology that comprised the first issue.  Told by writer B. Clay Moore, a slew of “Batmen” are slain by Killer Croc after seeking out the elusive lizard.  These Batmen are regular people with no connection to Batman or crimefighting at all.  Someone with a grudge against Croc is abducting upstanding members of Gotham society and brainwashing them into hunting him in his subterranean hunting ground. So what happens when Bruce Wayne is brainwashed into thinking he’s Batman . . .  Though this isn’t as good as the previous issue, its still a really thought provoking Batman story that cuts to the heart of the character’s essence.  Also the art of Ben Templesmith makes the issue seem like a giant acid trip, and when the premise is people losing touch with reality and their identities, that kind of discordant imagery really sets the mood and puts the reader deep in the plot.

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

Illustration Credits:

Action Comics #14:  Drawn by Chris Sprouse, Colored by Jordie Bellaire, Inked by Karl Story

Green Lantern #14:  Drawn byDoug Mahnke, Colored by Alex Sinclair & Tony Avina, Inked by Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin, Tom Nguyen & Keith Champagne

Before Watchmen: Moloch #1: Art by Eduardo Risso, Colored by Trish Mulvihill

Swamp Thing #14: Art by Yanick Paquette, Colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Worlds’ Finest #6: Art by Kevin Maguire, Colored by Rosemary Cheetham

Week 57 (Oct. 3, 2012)

Fresh out of September DC returns to the present in a line up of #13 issues.  As awesome as it was to go through the exceptional origins provided, its like coming home from vacation and settling back into the familiar and relevant.  So here we go.

  • Since its October, Action Comics #13 is a Halloween issue featuring the first exploration of the Phantom Zone by the Super-books.  Writer Grant Morrison shows how the denizens of this temporal area are able to walk our world in complete isolation as ghosts, cut off from most of the senses.  The real heart of the issue comes in the banishment of a rogue Kryptonian scientist, Xa-Du, to the Zone by high councillor of the Science Guild, Jor-El.  As you can imagine, Xa-Du swears vengeance on the House of El.  He nearly accomplishes it on the day of Krypton’s destruction, temporarily escaping the Zone only to be held back from the baby, Kal-El, by the family dog, Krypto, who sadly returns the criminal to the Zone at the cost of his own freedom.  Krypto is the heart of this issue.  In both the main narrative and the backup feature by Sholly Fisch the loyalty and sacrifice of Krypto is highlighted, showing that no matter what planet you live on, a dog will ALWAYS be any man’s (Super or otherwise) best friend.  Krypto is sort of a corny concept in a lot of ways, but if you put a good writer like Grant Morrison or James Robinson on him, that dog can move you to tears.  I’m not the hugest fan this issue’s artist, Travel Foreman, but he did a pretty decent job of rendering the eerie art of this Halloween issue.  I would greatly endorse this book to people the love Superman, but definitely to anyone who loves dogs.

    A Boy And His Dog

  • Green Lantern #13 was a phenomenal issue on multiple levels.  Following Green Lantern #0, Simon Baz is settling into the brand new role thrust upon him of Green Lantern.  Considering the turbulent events of his life and especially the recent trials and tribulations, this new development is quite overwhelming.  On one level he is forced to deal with being thrust into an intergalactic war against the freedom of individuality that the Guardians of the Universe are waging.  On  another he is forced to deal with his place in a war that the American people and its government is waging on its citizens of Arabic descent and the Islamic faith.  This topic in particular is what makes this new chapter in Green Lantern so intriguing.  On the first level mentioned it is sticking to the superheroic genre that the title is renowned for, yet on the second level it is returning to the hard hitting sociopolitical commentary that made Green Lantern/Green Arrow so incredible in the 60’s/70’s, and really matured DC as a company from kid stuff to poignant literature.  I applaud Geoff Johns for continuing Green Lantern excellence, while rejuvenating the point of superheroes to not only save humanity and America from supervillains, but also from ourselves.  That latter conflict is probably the bitterest struggle.  I was prepared to hate this new Green Lantern, whoever he was, but sonuvagun, I am deeply invested in not only Simon Baz, but also his sister, Sira, and his entire family.  So one hand is giving you a thumbs up, Mr. Johns.  A BIG thumbs up. The other hand is giving you a thumbs down, because true to your other work, the Justice League makes an appearance at the end.  Just as they are portrayed in their own title, they are shortsighted, elitist, sucker-punching douchebags.  I love Superman.  I love Aquaman. I love Wonder Woman.  I DO NOT like them the way Johns is currently writing them.

    A Message From His Predecessors

  • Detective Comics #13 was an introductory issue to the next regime of this title.  Writer/artist Tony Daniel is succeeded by writer John Layman and artist Jason Fabok.  Fabok’s art is phenomenal, intricate, and clean, so his contribution to the title is definitely a selling point.  Layman’s writing is very concise and well detailed, and I enjoy reading it.  However, I am uncertain where he is taking the story.  Batman is led on an elaborate goose chase around Gotham, while a hit is put out on Bruce Wayne by the Penguin.  The story has possibilities, but the endgame is kind of hazy.  Since its a first issue I won’t be too picky, but still its hard to gauge whether or not to proceed with the title from the information given.  In the backup feature we get a close up on one of the Penguin’s goons, Ogilvy, and his philosophy on how to exist as a hood in Gotham city.  The art is done by the incredible Andy Clarke and is a pleasure to look at, as well as read.  Overall, a decent first outing by the new creative team.
  • Before Watchmen: Rorschach #2  improves on the last issue in regards to its main character. Rorschach did not sound as authentic in the first issue, but he sounded and acted authentic in this one.  His clipped sentences and misanthropic statements are all present here in vibrant brevity.  In the first issue he got his ass handed to him by a gang lord known on the streets as Rawhead.  This issue shows Rorschach fighting back with the same ferocity and psychopathic disregard that Alan Moore originally endowed him with in the 80’s.  Despite the first issue introducing a killer of women with a penchant for cutting messages into their dead flesh, that guy wasn’t shown at all in this issue, which makes me wonder how he will figure in, considering that there is only two more issues in this particular series.  Still, I will commend writer Brian Azzarello on his spot on depiction of the title character this month.
  • Swamp Thing #13 begins the “Rotworld: Green Kingdom” arc in the title.  Yanick Paquette returns to the title to provide luscious art for what promises to be the most incredible story in Swamp Thing history to date.  After the events of August’s Swamp Thing/Animal Man crossover, a year has passed since Alec Holland and Buddy Baker have descended into the Rot’s domain, attempting to take the fight to them.  Failing, they return only an hour later, to find that the outside world has advanced an entire year and the world at large has been almost completely  overwhelmed by the Rot.  The last defenders of the Green are two: Poison Ivy, which makes sense, and Deadman, which is kind of  strange but totally out of the park.  With their help he is able to commune with the Parliament of Trees and ascertain what has befallen the Earth and what measures might save it.  What is most shocking, shown to us but unbeknownst to Alec, is the fate of Abby Arcane after the events of issue #12.  I am so very excited by this event going on in Swamp Thing and Animal Man.

    The Green Kingdom

  • Animal Man #13 falls in line with Swamp Thing above, initiating the “Rotworld: Red Kingdom” arc and showing Buddy Baker’s exodus into a decimated world of one year later.  As with Swamp Thing he is greeted by the last champions of the Red.  In this case, he meets three: Beast Boy, which makes sense, Black Orchid, which I am uncertain about considering her seeming connection to plants and not animals, and Steel, which indirectly makes sense because he has become living metal and immune to decay and Rot.  Like the Green, the Red has set up an oasis in the wastelands of Rot, but this one is slightly different as the Parliament of Trees still holds dominion over the Green Kingdom.  In the Red Kingdom, the Totems have sacrificed their sentience to build their haven, robbing Animal Man of the guidance that Alec Holland enjoyed in his title.  Also like Swamp Thing,we are treated to the back story of what happened to Baker’s family in that year gap.  It seems like both titles have been working off of a formula, and I hope that as the “Rotworld” story progresses the titles will interconnect, but veer off and have non-mirroring plots.  I understand the credence behind doing the things in these issues that have been done, but hope that isn’t symptomatic of how the two titles go from here on out.  Still very excited by what they are doing.

    The Red Kingdom

  • Earth 2 #5 picks up where the last issue left off with the new panoply of “Wonders” meeting for the first time in the National Mall to combat the assaults of Grundy, avatar of the Grey.  Coming off of the two “Rotworld” books above, this issue sort of fell right into place.  The Grey is simply death, not so much decay, but plain withering and lifelessness.  The Green in this title, of which Alan Scott’s Green Lantern is champion, represents all life, both plant and animal.  When Scott makes the Orpheus-like descent into the Grey to commune with its sentience he is shown a very similar relationship as the Parliament of Trees or Parliament of Limbs to their avatars in the two aforementioned books; empowerment, but not control.  Whether or not Grundy follows their dictates, the Grey are not able to stop him.  In the realm of the World Army, much more is revealed about the state of things and how the Earth governments operate after the Apokalips incursion on their world.  I feel that writer James Robinson has scored a home-run on this title.  It is incredible, it is action packed, it follows but is not weighed down by past continuity, and most of all its characters don’t come off as idealized, but rather as real people with real inhibitions, character flaws, and fears.  Nicola Scott on art completes the symphony of storytelling with lustrous artwork.
  • Worlds’ Finest #5 follows the conclusion of its first arc and provides an interim story for the time between the first arc and the one beginning next month.  George Perez illustrates the current sequence in the book, as before, but this issue has split the past sequences between Kara’s and Helena’s experiences.  The Kara sequence was drawn by Jerry Ordway and the Helena sequence by Wes Craig.  The Kara plot had her visiting the CERN Super-Collider under the Alps.  This apparatus has the potential to open a portal to Earth-2 if utilized properly.  Another invader similar to Hakkou in its incursion, but dissimilar in appearance, comes out of the portal and seeks to destroy the Collider.  Of course, Power Girl steps in and trashes the invader, but preparations to restart the experiment are put off for several months. The Helena sequence seemed to be just there for filler.  Taking place at a “Take Back the Night” demonstration in the common area of a Boston University, Harvard perhaps, Huntress  nabs a sniper who was taking shots into the crowd.   This one doesn’t seem on the surface to correlate with the future plot of the title, but there is something odd about it.  Firstly, no victims are shown as a result of the sniper’s shots, and secondly he attempts to defend his actions to Huntress, but she cuts him off every time.  In any event, this was an interesting story.  Looking forward to November’s issue featuring the meeting of the children of the Bat: the grown Helena Wayne and the sociopathic ten year old, Damian Wayne.  I know with Paul Levitz writing it that it’ll be stellar.
  • Batwing #13 finds Tinasha plagued by a cult lead by an enigmatic figure known as Father Lost.  In his wake Father Lost leaves madness and terror. Beginning with a round of human sacrifices, an African heroine named Dawn is introduced wielding two swords whose blades appear to be composed of pure electricity.  Her costume is minimalistic and but for the swords would almost not even be discernible as a costume: black pants, a field jacket, and what appears to be a red hijab.  Perhaps (and hopefully) we will have another Islamic superhero to add to the growing panoply, following Simon Baz in Green Lantern.  Though little else is revealed about her, she does have a connection to Renee, the slain woman from last month’s zero issue, which may imply a connection between her and David Zavimbe, aka Batwing.   Batwing himself deals with the fallout of Father Lost’s mad design stopping a half  crazed South African general from kamikaze-ing Tinasha with a jet fighter.  Following up, David doubles down when his fellow police officer, Kia Okuru, reveals that her own niece has been abducted.  The issue is high energy and an interesting glimpse into some of the issues plaguing Africa.  I know child soldiers are an issue in Africa today, as are tyrannical regimes sustained by emerging oil production, but I have no idea if cult worship is a major problem.  If it isn’t in real life, it certainly is an interesting calamity in the world of DC’s Africa.

    The “Dawn” Of An African Superheroine

  • Green Arrow #13  finishes the plot line of issue #12 from August.  Stranded in China with the forces of Chinese businessman, Jin Fang, breathing down his neck, Green Arrow enlists the help of Sino-superheroine, Suzie Ming, to help him not only escape, but exit the country with the controlling shares of his company Fang bought legitimately. Not the best issue, but still pretty good owing to the writing of Ann Nocenti.  Yet again, she writes an entertaining story that depicts Ollie as an Emerald Lothario.
  • G.I. Combat #5 has a new feature segment, The Haunted Tank, written by Peter Tomasi and drawn by Howard Chaykin.  In the present era, the eponymous Haunted Tank, possessed by the spirit of Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart seeks out his descendant, WWII Army Captain Jeb Stuart, in Detroit Michigan.  Now 98 years old, the two seek out both of their descendant and the current Stuart serving in Afghanistan.  Problem is, Col. Steve Trevor isn’t so happy about his property, i.e. the Tank, wheeling its way out of his Black Room.  Also happening in Detroit, the Unknown Soldier flies to the Motor City to track down a domestic terrorist organization comprised of Gulf Storm POW’s converted to hardline Islamic fundamentalism.  Without spoiling the plot too much: Shit goes down . . .

    The Next Generation In the Saga of the Haunted Tank

  • Legends of the Dark Knight #1 inaugurates an anthology book that features little vignettes by some of the comic industry’s best talent tackling the Caped Crusader in stories that capture his truly incredible nature.  Starting it off is a tale written by Damon Lindelof (of Lost fame) and drawn by Jeff Lemire featuring Batman being lured into a trap set by a very unlikely foe who knows him better than anyone else . . . In the second, Jonathan Larsen and artist J.G. Jones write a story about Batman facing off against Amazo, the android that has the powers of every single member of the Justice League.  Essentially it boils down to whether or not the Dark Knight can take out his super-powered colleagues singlehandedly.  The final yarn is told by Tom Taylor with art by Nicola Scott, involving Batman proactively preventing crimes, or at least one, from happening.  This one I thought was funny in a meta way, as the author, Tom Taylor, shares a name with a character in the INCREDIBLE Vertigo series, The Unwritten.  In this author Tom Taylor writes about a character named Mike Carey, who shares his name with the writer of the series . . . The Unwritten.  Either a real Tom Taylor is having a laugh, or Mike Carey is writing under a pseudonym.  This little joke was in the back of my mind the whole time I read this piece.  All together these three delivered a sensational anthology that makes me curious if the momentum and ingenuity will continue throughout the other issues.
  • Smallville Season 11 #6 features a protracted first meeting of the Man of Steel and Caped Crusader.  Following Batman’s incursion into his city, an influx of Gotham personalities also make appearances in this title which include Mister Freeze and Joe Chill for starters.  The interactions between Batman and Superman seem to be very “realistic”, as such a term can apply.  Bruce enters with a plethora of countermeasures in place to pin down Superman if needs be, and Clark is, as ever, willing to believe the best in everyone, and when his back is up against a wall negotiates with the unruly Gotham vigilante to deescalate the situation.  The two then fall into a quintessential “World’s Finest” relationship.  I very much look forward to seeing what Bryan Q. Miller has in store for both men in the Smallville universe.

This week had a lot of winners in my book, from established books like Action Comics and Green Lantern to new titles like Legends of the Dark Knight. Action Comics #13  is the winner of the week, with the most moving story to date in that title.

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

Illustration Credits:

Action Comics #13:  Art by Travel Foreman, Colored by Brad Anderson

Green Lantern #13:  Drawn byDoug Mahnke, Colored by Alex Sinclair & Tony Avina, Inked by Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin, Tom Nguyen, Keith Champagne & Marc Deering

Swamp Thing #13: Art by Yanick Paquette, Colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Animal Man #13: Art by Steve Pugh, Colored by Lovern Kindzierski

Batwing #13: Drawn by Marcus To, Colored by Brian Reber, Inked by Ryan Winn, Richard Zajac, Le Beau Underwood

G.I. Combat #5: Art by Howard Chaykin, Colored by Jesus Aburtov

 

Review: “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Vol. 1” (DC Series)

2010 saw DC pick up a series that had bounced around three other publishers since the 1960’s.  That series was, of course, T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents.  Admittedly, when this happened I had never heard about the original series and though it sounded interesting, abstained from reading it due to a dry spell in disposable income.  But when I saw that one of my favorite artists, Mike Grell, was doing backup art I got the issue and retroactively collected the previous issues.  After that, I became addicted to the series and sought out anything about it, past or present.

The concept of the original T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents series was a perfect combination of the popular genres of the day.  It featured an element of espionage involving a multinational organization with a cool acronym like the then popular TV series “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”, as well as superheroes like those in other mainstream comics, and sci-fi creatures and technology that were reminiscent of the cult classic films of the 50’s and 60’s.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents also featured one of the most unique premises, that even to this day is rather novel.  T.H.U.N.D.E.R is an acronym for The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserve, and as such The Higher United Nations employs agents to wield enhancing devices devised by by the brilliant scientist, Dr. Emil Jennings.  These devices include a power belt worn by agents codenamed “Dynamo”, a speed suit worn by agents codenamed “Lighnting”, a mind control helmet worn by agents codenamed “Menthor”, and a set of steel wings worn by agents codenamed “Raven.”  The devices give the wearer great power, but . . . the cost of use is that after a certain amount of time they will eventually kill the wielder.  That said, the choosing of agents is  very interesting. Recruitment is 100% voluntary so the candidates range from suicidal, to the crestfallen seeking atonement, to the just plain crazy.

The Grand Legacy

This new series by Nick Spencer feeds directly off the old material and presents a continuation of that series’ legacy into the new millennium with great care and fidelity.  It starts out with a brand new roster of agents, and then to illustrate the morbid premise of the series, kills off half the agents in the middle of a crucial mission of global importance.  Hence, a new team must be chosen, accept the terms of recruitment, be crash trained, and thrown into a conflict that could result in the downfall of nations . . . No pressure.  Through his artful storycrafting, Nick Spencer also fills us in on the gaps between this series and the previous series by Deluxe Comics from the 80’s.  He also flashes back to moments in the various other series and time periods with an interesting use of back up artists to segue and facilitate the flashback sequences from the present which is done for the seven issues by Cafu, two issues by Dan Panosian, and the final issue by Dan McDaid.  He uses the very stylized art of Nick Dragotta to go back to the original T.H.U.N.D.E.R team from the 60’s, Howard Chaykin to explore the life of the enigmatic colleague of Dr. Jennings, Dr. Anthony Dunn aka NoMan, George Perez to recap the history of the Dynamos, Ryan Sook to recap the SPIDER sequence, Mike Grell to do the 1980’s sequences, and ChrisCross doing the Lighting sequences.

Mike Grell's Rendering of the Iron Maiden in the 80's

This is one of those series like Green Lantern or Captain America where a writer who really understands the core of the piece invigorates it for the contemporary audience, and doesn’t just remake it so it holds up to today’s standards, but also feeds off of the older “hokier” source material and uses that as a moral foundation, but also a plot foundation, making those seemingly outmoded issues MATTER.  That is the real mark of an excellent series and a talented writer.  That is what makes modern era comics excellent.  This truly is an awesome collection and a good jumping on point for anyone that wants to start a long love affair with the world of T.H.U.N.D.E.R.

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

Illustration Credits:

T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #1: Cover by Frank Quitely & Val Staples

T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #4: Drawn by George Perez, Colored by Blond, Inked by George Perez & Scott Koblish

T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #7: Art.0 by Mike Grell, Colored by Val Staples

Week 19 (Jan. 11, 2012)

January Week 2.  Overall a really great week.

  • Green Lantern #5 kicked off this week for me, and as ever, it was a good place to start.  The concluding chapter of the Sinestro arc featuring Hal Jordan brings a very implausible story line to killer junction.  It caps off beautifully several things that writer Geoff Johns has been exploring throughout the five issue run of the book’s current incarnation.  First of all, Sinestro, an incredibly awesome

    Beware My Power, Green Lantern's Light!

    character that over the past seven years Johns has taken from villain to complex anti-hero, is put back into his seminal role as a Green Lantern.  After the tense climax of the last issue, this one opens up with him having to actively deal with his past sins against his people and all those he’s hurt, while he attempts to make things right.  The true beauty of what Johns is doing is the deja vu it evokes.  Johns came on the title in 2005 with Green Lantern: Rebirth which was Hal Jordan’s return, not only to the Green Lantern Corps but also to life, and having to atone for the villainous things he did while under the thrall of Parallax.  All he wanted to do was the right thing and he was fought tooth and nail by those he wanted to help and protect because of his past mistakes.  However, he was defined and eventually redeemed by his perseverance and virtue.  What Johns is doing with Sinestro is EXACTLY THE SAME! You may not have liked Sinestro in the past, but when Johns wrote him you always had to respect him for his ardor and the nobility he displayed.  In this arc he has the chance to make amends and become the Greatest Lantern once again.  Will he . . . ?

  • Batman & Robin is one of the best titles out there. This fifth issue packed so much content neatly into a very small space that it was nothing short of miraculous.  This issue is a nexus point.  In past reviews, I have said time and again that what makes this series INCREDIBLE is the father son dynamic and how both have a respect for the other, but they are having a hard time reconciling each other’s perspective.  It feels like the classic father/son (maybe comparable to mother/daughter for female readers) conflicts we all have experienced at some point in our lives, and the thing that rings truest is that both of them have been honestly trying.  Also, let us not forget the enigmatic villain NoBody, aka Morgan Ducard.  This connection to Henri Ducard and Bruce Wayne’s road to becoming Batman had all of us guessing where the story line was going and what dark secrets would be evoked out of Bruce’s shrouded past. This issue brings ALL of that to a head and does a stunning job taking the key aspects that have hooked us and combining them into one of the most fundamental issues of the human condition: Fathers and Sons. Bruce fully accepts his mistakes and failings as a father to Damian, and a large part of the issue is a narration of his feelings in the form of an apology to his son whom he may never see again in this life juxtaposed over imagery of him scouring the streets in search of Damian and beating the shit out of anyone who might have information about where he is. In that narration he reveals the history of Henri and Morgan Ducard, another tragic father/son duo who were damaged by the tenuous relationship that exists between a man of violence and his son born to violence. This issue was stellar and the last panel will bring you back, as it most certainly will bring me back next month.

    Opening sequence of "Batwoman #5" drawn by J.H. Williams III

  • Batwoman #5 was also a concluding issue and one that I’ve been anticipating since September.  She had a run on Detective Comics, but this is her first self titled book and the first arc is very much her reestablishing her identity for those of us just jumping on the wagon.  That said, the way writer/artist J.H. Williams and co-writer W. Haden Blackman choose to open it is very interesting.  The first page is three frames of Kathy Kane meditating over the case she is working on.  Each is the same image, but zoomed in further and further, eventually tightening in on her face, and in the black space between panels is the words that make up the character bio which usually can be found on every title page to clue in the reader to who the character is for late comers picking up an issue of a series in the middle of its run.  It is small and usually skipped over by those of us who know the score already.  This time the writers want us to hear it again and force us to reaffirm who she is as they visually center closer and closer on her in those opening panels, as she herself meditates closer and closer as to who she truly is and what is centrally important to her.  The issue has her face down the enigmatic villain and come face to face with her own guilt, sororital and filial, as well as make a devil’s pact in order to keep a promise.  The issue is SOOO good and really sets the mold for who the character is and what we can expect in the foreseeable future.  To quote her in the issues final line: “I will soldier on.”   Maybe its the bat costume she’s wearing, but I believe her.
  • Superboy #5 continues to amaze me every month.  I was prepared to hate the title as I hated the character around the time of Infinite Crisis and Teen Titans, and loved the last incarnation as written by Jeff Lemire.  This rebooted series does have a more angsty, hard edged version of the Boy of Steel, but where he is redeemed is in the intelligence writer Scott Lobdell brings to him.  He is angsty and sometimes petulant, but what validates it is the is deep meaning and philosophy behind his attitude and behavior.  Teens are angsty and rebel against authoritarian figures and his creators are using him as a living weapon.  If anyone has the right to be angsty, he has.  Also he makes mistakes as he struggles to understand the world that he’s only occupied as a cognizant being for less than a year, but already he is learning to make up for those mistakes and learn morality despite the twisted indoctrination he’s constantly assaulted with.  This issue features a conflict that revolves around the clash of the Id and Super-ego, and his desire for freedom, as well as the connotations of what he is being made to do.  I think I like him for the same reason I like Damian Wayne.  Both were raised to be weapons and killers, but each strives to be better and fights their inner demons trying to aspire to a higher ideal.  Each also has innate goodness that they try to bring out, often times tripping along the way, but still getting up and persevering. I like Conner again. I will read him as long as Lobdell keeps on doing what he’s begun in these first five issues.
  • Batgirl is a mostly decent title that entertains me month after month.  Admittedly I get it because I am in love with the character of Barbara Gordon.  She is a really strong character who has a great history in DC comics.  Although they drastically changed her story by having her not paralyzed anymore after the Joker shoots her in the spine (a la The Killing Joke), it seems most of her continuity is still intact like most of the Bat Universe.  Issue #5 begins a new arc that features a new villain and the return of a key figure from Barbara’s past.  Gail Simone does a very good job presenting the character psychologically.  The plots are interesting, but lack a lot of the intensity of the other bat books.  I do really like the book on a personal level.  I like seeing the Barbara side and seeing her fix her life and reestablish her footing to this new chapter in her life, post-paralysis.  Also I liked at the end of the issue when as Batgirl she narrates on her relationship to Batman and her aspirations in that regard.  A lot of that is inferred, but  I thought it was interesting to hear her say it out loud.  All in all, a really good title.
  • Grifterlike Superboy, was a shock to me and a continuing treat.  I was afraid that this series, along with Voodoo and Superboy’s creator Scott Lobdell taking on a troika of hard edged teen titles, would herald a decline of the DCU I had known and the rise of an edgier Wildstorm-esque Universe.  I was wrong.  One of the things that this series has done is entrench itself in the DCU and divorce itself from most of the Wildstorm roots it had (which on the other hand is kind of sad, asW.I.L.Dcats was a pretty decent series that defined the 90’s comic scene.)  Last issue had Grifter in Seattle invading Q-Core and going head to head with Green Arrow, attempting to smoke out Daemonite sleepers in the tech giant’s upper echelon.  This issue quite capably enforces the character of Cole Cash and starts to shed some light on the Daemonite inner workings and what they are up to.  The end certainly heralds a coming revelation that has me VERY interested in what is going down and in the works for the next batch of issues.

    Shade gets patriotic in "Shade #4" art by Darwyn Cooke

  • The Shade in its fourth issue takes us back to the DC Golden Age of the 1940’s with espionage, World Wars, and cameos of obscure superheroes of that period that James Robinson has forayed with in the past.  Its no secret that James Robinson is one of my favorite writers and idols. His writing is always fresh and unique, revitalizing old concepts and innovating new ones.  He truly seems at home with Golden Aged properties, i.e. Starman and Justice Society, and this issue drives that point home and knocks it out of the park.  Of course it doesn’t hurt having the extraordinary artist Darwyn Cooke drawing the damn thing.  Cooke is a guy who is most comfortable with Silver Age titles, so it is very interesting seeing him jump back twenty years to the Golden Age.  Un-phased, he lends a genuine feeling to this retro tale of the Shade.  The story seems to be just a whim, but by the end Robinson weaves his magic and ties it to the present as well as lending that touching quality that permeated his work on Starman.  This book is a worthy successor to the Starman books that gave birth to this carnation of him.
  • Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E #5 tells the other half of the fight between himself and OMAC from last week’s issue of the latter character’s title.  This one seemed less jarring than OMAC #5, possibly because I had fewer expectations.  I did like it because it made Frankenstein seem like less of a tool than he appeared to be in OMAC.  It also focused more on what Father Time was up to concerning Brother Eye.  This book is ok.  Not as exciting as Lemire’s previous works like The Atom and Superboy, but I do still find it to be entertaining.
  • Demon Knights #5 picks up yet again on a high note during the siege of the small village at the foot of the mountain pass leading to the mighty city, Alba Sarum.  The title is only five issues in and already a lot of things have happened and been revealed.  Also the character’s are reaching their breaking points, turning often against one another.  The worst of each character is shown, but amidst all the chaos the best in several instances shines through.  Paul Cornell writes each character, only three of his own creation, extremely well as well as rooting them firmly in the moment.  Madame Xanadu has existed in every period from Camelot to the modern age (as seen in Justice League Dark), but this book make it seem to the reader that THIS is Xanadu’s time and place and where she is meant to be.  The same can be said of her lover, Jason Blood, the Demon Etrigan, and Shining Knight.  Each issue ticks away the hours until the clock runs out and doom or salvation comes to the world of men.  Looking forward to that dark and final hour . . .
  • My Greatest Adventure #4, an interesting anthology book, features three intriguing series.  The first is Robotman written by by Matt Kindt and drawn by the amazing Scott Kolins. This story retrofits the origin of Cliff Steele as the human brain inside a robotic body, completely circumventing the Doom Patrol where the character originated in the 60’s.  Interesting and certainly well drawn, but lacking due to the brevity of each installation. Garbage Man written and drawn by Aaron Lopresti is perhaps the best of the three.  Like an urban Swamp Thing, Garbage Man is an abomination created in a super science assassination attempt to shut him up from squealing on ethical misdoings by a chemical company, and as a result he is reborn as a self generating trash being.  Though it sounds cliche and uninspired, Lopresti makes it very interesting and quite worth the read.  Finally, Tanga as written and drawn by Kevin Maguire is an interesting story of an intergalactic party girl with super powers who fights monsters on a planet she has been marooned on.  It has a very 80’s feel to it, and she comes off like a purple, elfin eared Buffy the Vampire Slayer type character.  Its an interesting, albeit campy read that entertains definitely.

    Col. Nick Fury and the Blonde Phantom drawn by Howard Chaykin

  • Avengers 1959 #5 written and drawn by Howard Chaykin ends its series with a lot of action.  Yeeees, its a Marvel book and you may ask why I’m reading it, but two things: I love Howard Chaykins art and storytelling prowess, and I love Nick Fury.  The series has been good, detailing a neo-Nazi resurgence in the late 1950’s and featuring an Avengers team of people that have NEVER BEEN AVENGERS.  Dominic Fortune and Blonde Phantom I had never heard of, Kraven the Hunter and Sabertooth have often times been villains, and Namora has usually been a tertiary Marvel character.  Seeing them work together as a team was a treat in and of itself.  The series had a great plot, however most of the exposition had happened in the four previous issues and this last issue was kind of just a giant slug-fest that wrapped up the story.  It was entertaining, but came off as just an action issue.  Good series and one I will remember for the uniqueness it brought to these classic characters.
  • And yet again we come to the series The UnwrittenI truly love this series.  This months main issue, #33, follows seamlessly off of the previous issue and demonstrates the power of belief over the world and its properties.  This may sound childish and unfeasible, and of course we know this, but the way in which the writers, Carey and Gross, frame it through the villain’s explanation of this property makes it seem to be feasible and unimpeachable as to test it on a grand scale is nigh impossible outside of the comic.  Reading this I am bracing for the end.  There is the possibility that the comic could go on after this, but while reading there are too many apocalyptic signs that signal that the title may be winding down to the final confrontation.  I pray that isn’t the case, as this title has been a constant friend for almost three years, but if it is the end, they are doing a damn good job making every moment count.
So this is probably the last week of emails, folks.  I have set up my blog and so as of next week I will most likely be just publishing them on there.  That’s probably a good thing for most of you, as I will stop contributing to the clogging of your email, and you can then make the choice whether you want to read my thoughts.  I hope you do.   Still working on the title and the formatting, but once I get those ironed out I’ll email you guys the link.  Also, if anyone has any ideas for the name, please shoot them my way.
 

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

Illustration Credits:

Green Lantern #5: Drawned by Doug Mahnke, Colored by Alex Sinclair & Tony Avina, Inked by Mark Irwin, Keith Champagne, Christian Alamy & Tom Nguyen

Batwoman #5: Art by J.H. Williams III, Colored by Dave Stewart

The Shade #4: Drawn by Darwyn Cooke, Colored by Dave Stewart, Inked by J. Bone

Avengers 1959 #5: Art by Howard Chaykin, Colored by Jesus Aburtov

Week 9 (Nov. 2, 2011)

No, Christmas didn’t come a month and a half early. Reading my DC comics this week I realized that on at least two levels its a Red and Green Week.  Red Lanterns came out as well as Green Arrow.  In the plots of Swamp Thing andAnimal Man Alec Holland as the Earth avatar Swamp Thing is servant to the Green (the collective consciousness of all plant life) and Buddy Baker Animal avatar and protector of what he has up until now called the “morphogenetic field” but now has come to learn is the Red (collective consciousness of all animal life).  That’s two, maybe there are more, but I found this interesting.

  • Action Comics is getting better.  I was invested heavily in the beginning flashback segment to Old Krypton which took a concept that had been done before, but gave it that unique Grant Morrison twist.  Cut to the “present” in Clark’s emergent Superman time frame, Morrison seems to be wrapping up his awkward intro and getting to the bones of what we all want to see.  The tying up of the apocalyptic intro to the present travails in Metropolis really gave this title an urgency that was lacking in the first two issues, and now in the third Morrison has me not regretting the $3.99 price as much as I have been in weeks past.  I really want to see what happens and hopefully Superman will fall in line and be the great character he has been and has the potential to be again.
  • Detective Comics #3 was on the level it has always been.  The Dollmaker’s history is revealed as is the twisted logic behind his actions.  Tony S. Daniel takes it to limit one more time and presents a twisted, dark tale of Gotham and the Dark Knight.  The story is far out, innovative, well drawn, and very nuanced in the interactions between Batman and Commissioner Gordon which draws readers in even closer. Good stuff.
  • Red Lanterns is RIDICULOUSLY good.  The first two issues have established Atrocitus as a warrior-philosopher who fights his battles viciously, but with great thought to the ethics and morality of his actions.  He also questions his place in the Corps he created as his mindless minions slowly spin away from his control.  This third issue finds him raising up the brutal beauty Bleez to a lieutenant-like role by giving her back her cognitive abilities and higher reasoning.  As a result of this the enraged vixen returns to the events that shattered her life, prompting the red ring to choose her.  Through her reliving of those events and her reactions in the present we see how she has grown and how she truly thinks and reasons.  Her style of vengeance also is telling as to her innate persona.  While Atrocitus has up to now been shown to be a warrior philosopher, this issue inaugurates Bleez into the series as a strong, intelligent, resourceful female counterpart to him . . . and perhaps adversary.  Atrocitus’ analysis of Bleez after her transformation is quite telling of what Milligan has in store for her, intimating that even as a mindless savage she still had the cunning to manipulate events to force Atrocitus into doing what she wanted.  Hit out of the park, 3 for 3.

    Benes's beautiful Bleez from the cover of "Red Lantern #3"

  • Batwing #3 also continues to build momentum.  We start with a look back at the past of the African nation Tinasha and the wars that tore it apart. We also are shown a darker side of our protagonist, David.  And through the conclusion of Massacre’s fight with  Batwing and interrupted assassination attempt on former superhero, Thunder Fall, we are shown a darker side of the seemingly altruistic African superhero league, the Kingdom, who ended the strife.  Mystery, drama, dark pasts, iron-willed last stands.  This series is a Bat book of a different color that reads like any other with just as much exhilaration as its American counterparts.
  • OMAC #3 needs little explanation.  It feels like if Jack Kirby were relaunching his OMAC series NOW and doing it all himself.  The story, art, and stylistics of the book itself are all to the height of Kirby-esque.  Really nothing more needs be said.  If it lasts more than 8 issues it will be what Kirby fans should have gotten in the 70’s.  MORE OMAC!!!
  • Swamp Thing #3 read beautifully thanks to the awesome Scott Snyder and equally stunning artwork by Yanick Paquette.  The story of the “Green” is unfolded more and the introduction of the “Black”, or “Rot”, is hinted at further as well as a connection to the “Red”, which hints at a connection to Animal Man perhaps.  Through the intricate storycrafting alludes to the earlier Alan Moore run which makes me want even more to pick up the hardcover collections Vertigo has released of that series.  Just stunning.  And sad to say, its excellence as well as the hinting of a crossover is the only thread keeping Animal Man on my buy list.  That says something . . .

    Interior art of "Swamp Thing #3" drawn by "Yanick Paquette

  • Justice League International is a great title for a Dan Jurgens fix.  He doesn’t do the artwork (unfortunately), but his writing gives us who read his Booster Gold series religiously something to look forward to.  Its a lighter upbeat Justice League of misfits that somehow work together despite the odds and succeed through will and charisma.  The threat looming on the horizon is well thought out and ominous in its magnitude which bode well for the title’s future.
  • Hawk & Dove #3 isn’t stellar, but accomplishes a few things: explores the relationship between Dove (Dawn Granger) and Deadman, gives Deadman a series outlet as a guest star until, DC willing, he gets his own series, a look at how Hawk and Dove operate post  Blackest Night and  Birds of Prey, and mostly just Dawn Granger in general.  I also never thought I’d say this, but I kind of like the 90’s retro-ish feel of Rob Liefeld’s artwork.  Somehow it lends itself to the title as most of the previous issues I have seen are from the 90’s. Looking at this issue where Hawk and his antagonist Condor are in the foreground and Dove and her antagonist Swan are in the background out of focus, I was struck by Liefeld’s old Image and Wildstorm issues I had seen.  Kind of nostalgic. I liked it.
  • Green Arrow #3 . . . Oh boyeeee.  Not good. The Dan Jurgens layouts and George Perez and Ray McCarthy finishes are great.  J.T. Krul co-wrote this with Jurgens which means he is distancing himself from it, and next issue he is completely off the title with Jurgens and Perez writing.  Time will tell if the problem was him, but I’m guessing the problem is the character.  Krul wrote Ollie so well and so poignantly in the past that I think he is distancing himself because the character’s past has been poisoned by DC.  Its just awful.  I’ll read the Jurgens and Perez run, because I respect both and hope that they will do right by Oliver, but I am guessing its going to be the same shit sundae.  Gross.
  • Animal Man #3 remains weird.  The artwork is surreal and creepy. Maybe that’s the point, but it distracts from Jeff Lemire’s writing. I can’t tell whether its good or not because the fucking artwork is freaking me out.  There seems to be an interesting story with the “Red”, but again I can’t concentrate.  Although with the nightmarish imagery depicted I think that any artist’s take would be grating. I dunno, but I keep reading to see the possible connection to Swamp Thing. Other than that, just not really hitting the same highs as Lemire’s previous work.
  • Avengers: 1959 is an interesting series that follows an unfamiliar Avengers team that predates the team we are all aware of, who came together in the early 60’s.  This Avengers team is is a motley crew brought together years earlier than this series’ start by Nick Fury to combat Nazis.  They include Victor Creed a.k.a Sabertooth, Kraven the Hunter, Dominic Fortune, Princess Namora,  and the Blonde Phantom.  I got it mainly because I am a huge fan of Nick Fury, but also because I am a fan of the writer/artist Howard Chaykin. It has a lot going for it and I can’t wait to see what that last two issues have in store.
  • Green Hornet is a Dynamite Entertainment series I have been reading for almost two years. Dynamite’s revival of Green Hornet as a   franchise has been great.  Matt Wagner’s amazing Green Hornet: Year One has already wrapped, but that was a phenomenal series that took place in the 30’s with the original Britt Reid and Kato, and the main series does an equally good job of presenting a modern take with Britt Jr and Kato’s daughter Mulan donning their fathers’ costumes and kicking ass.
  • Warlord of Mars finishes off a three issue arc that links the nine issue interpretation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ first Mars novel, Princess of Mar with the upcoming rendition of the second one Gods of Mars.  This issue’s interior storyline was good, but detracted a bit from the surprises of the second novel, revealing beforehand that John Carter, the main character, has a son, and the nature of the white skinned Therns.  Other than that, the series in general is pretty sweet. The writer, Arvid Nelson, who is a favorite of mine, does an incredible job adapting the books to graphic format.
  • American Vampire #20 took a break from the 20th Century to take a trip back to the Indian Wars of the 1880’s to tell a story about the American Vampire himself, Skinner Sweet, prior to his transformation in the 1890’s.  This story was amazing in that it tells about the original American Vampires, and of course I am referring to the vampiric “First Nationsmen” who branched off the Shoshone tribe in Wyoming.  Reading Scott Snyder’s stories in American Vampire feels like reading established mythology in the way he casually invokes nuance and minute details of his subject material while also stepping outside the common conceptions of his readers and introducing innovative aspects; such as vampires that can walk in daylight, but are weakened and strengthened by the phases of the moon, or vampires immune to wooden stakes, but highly vulnerable to gold, etc. And while he has established myths depicted in retrospective cutscenes, he also constantly evolves his mythology as he constantly evolves his vampires in Darwinian displays of the mixture of species and the effect of the modern stimuli on the vampires in a survival of the fittest situation that spawns new species with new abilities, strengths, and vulnerabilities.  Good stuff.

 

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

Illustration Credits:

Swamp Thing #3: Art by Yanick Paquette, Colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Red Lanterns #3: Drawned by Ed Benes, Colored by Nathan Eyring, Inked by Rob Hunter