Nov. 6, 2013

November begins and with it a whole new batch of incredible comics.  Forever Evil has been incredible, as has Action Comics, Detective Comics, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, and Trillium.  All have been primed for greatness this month.  Action, Detective, and Green Arrow are scheduled to be a part of the overarching “Blackout” event, set in Gotham when Batman was first getting started and the Riddler cut the power to most of Gotham.  This event seems jarring to the continuity of each series, so whether “Blackout” fails or succeeds remains to be seen:

  • Forever Evil #3 carries on from Justice League of America #8, answering the question of what the prison the Justice League has been trapped in is, as well as the reason why the Crime Syndicate didn’t just kill them. The prison isn’t a what, however, it’s a who. When the Crime Syndicate attacked the Justice Leagues, Deathstorm attacked Firestorm, messing with the latter’s matrix and in the process accidentally sucked the Leaguers inside the prison of the Firestorm Matrix. Following the ending of Justice League #24 Ultraman dukes it out with Black Adam and the two light it up. The fight is like a more intense version of the battles between Superman and Captain Marvel from the past. While Superman and Captain Marvel have restraint and innate decency, Ultraman and Black Adam are motivated by brutality. Ultimately, Ultraman is the more ruthless so he comes out ahead, but Black Adam does make him bleed which is very unsettling for Ultraman.  If he can bleed, then he is weak. Elsewhere, Deathstorm and Power Ring are dispatched to put the Rogues down in Central City and as a result Deathstorm unravels the recoded DNA within Captain Cold, unseating his freezing power from his genome. Mirror Master saves the Rogues and transports them out of Central City, stranding Cold in Metropolis where he hooks up with Lex Luthor and Bizarro. Not long later, Black Manta shows up with an unconscious Black Adam in tow. Five not so evil supervillains against a world gone mad. Forever Evil has cast a wide net over many different subplots and characters of different motivations and alignments. So far Geoff Johns is writing an incredible series, but as evinced in the past, he can mess up a great series in a ‘Flash.’  As of this third issue and the well orchestrated shoot offs in various series the concept is solid, well thought out, and expertly utilized with the best and worst men and women of the New DCU’s pantheon of characters. David Finch’s art remains some of the best work put out currently in comics, doing its part to make this event what it is.  Johns and Finch have earned another month of anticipation.

    The Best of the Worst.

    The Best of the Worst.

  • Superman Unchained #4 presents another epic installment in a massive series, similar in scope to Forever Evil, though admittedly relegated to the Superman mythos. In the first issue Superman ran into another super-powered being named Wraith, who was the first “superman” to fall to Earth, and used by the US government for super secret meta work including the bombing of Nagasaki in WWII. The bombing of Hiroshima did involve a functional atomic bomb. Nagasaki was orchestrated by Wraith emitting a mock nuclear blast that caused all the same effects when a second bomb wasn’t able to be fabricated. Despite being pitted against Superman, Wraith takes him under his wing and the two end up in Tokyo, where this issue finds its beginning. A terrorist group called Ascension has been plaguing the Man of Steel, crashing satellites and causing all manner of mischief under a cover of proletarian revolution and masked by holographic images of a British folk hero named Ned Ludd. Fun fact: the term “luddite” comes from his name and denotes anyone who disdains the advancement of technology. Funny, considering that these men and women use cutting edge technological marvels as their primary weapons against Superman. They are also remarkably well informed about his physiognomy, utilizing bullets that emit red solar radiation around themselves to soften Superman’s skin to allow penetration. Sounds like a stretch, but hey, it’s a comic. Supes and Wraith have a time of it, fighting Russian automotons built specifically to kill Kryptonians, but with their combined ingenuity and determination the Supermen prevail. Elsewhere, the escaped Lex Luthor has captured Jimmy Olsen and not only predicts Superman’s impending death, but acts it out with origami figures of well known DC characters. What proves his clairvoyance in this matter is that his prediction of Superman’s death has nothing to do with him and casts another character as Supes’ preordained killer. Writer Scott Snyder’s choice as to Superman’s proposed assassin is quite apt. And on the other side of the world Lois has crash landed the plane she was in off the coast of Nova Scotia, where she and the crew are saved by a former Ascension member who has a crystal that he desires delivered to Superman. He is dying and implores Lois to get it to him, as he also knows that Superman will be dead very soon. Ascension does catch up with Lois and she falls into their hands, prompting another major reveal about who they are and where they fit into the Superman mythos. This series is so quintessentially Superman, which is pretty much the point, considering that it is being written as a 75th anniversary celebration to the first comic book superhero. Scott Snyder and Jim Lee are the two creators best suited to realizing that goal.  Snyder is comics’ golden boy who takes canon and reinvents it in intelligent, thoughtful ways making them new but retaining the key notes that still resonate with the faithful readers. The core component in his stories is a love of the material and the characters that have inspired generations for three quarters of a century. Jim Lee has been a maverick comic artist since his debut in the early 90’s and his style has become a hallmark that has birthed many emerging talents that imitate his masterful lines. Snyder’s writing and Lee’s art are both at their peak in this series that has the potential to be a legendary moment in Superman lore. 
  • Action Comics #25 kicks off the “Blackout” event going on throughout the DCU this month. Odd that it wouldn’t be done in the main Batman title, but perhaps setting up the mystique is part of the allure. The setup was introduced in the final pages of Batman #24 so that could be seen as a legitimate jumping off point. In this tie-in a young Superman is also breaking out of his shell, much like his future friend and currently burgeoning crimefighter, Batman. Superman takes down some high-tech villains with ease and upon retrospect realizes that with his seemingly limitless powers he is perhaps overkill for the crimes he is fighting. With a record breaking storm bearing down on the East Coast, Clark decides to try a hand at subduing Mother Nature. In her he meets an opponent he cannot surmount, which lends an air of humility to his psyche. Writer Greg Pak tackled a young Clark Kent in Batman/Superman #1-4 and here he renders him in much the same way, patterning his representation off of the flawed beginnings of the character seen first in Justice League #1. So bad was that representation that Pak jumps the gun and has him experience that moment of humility, which if continuity serves, doesn’t take, giving way to a returned obstinance when he and Batman do meet for the first time in Justice League #1 years later. Thematically the tie-in of Action Comics to “Blackout” is really intriguing and Pak hits a line drive with it. Bruce and Clark actually have a lot in common when the events of this book unfold themselves to the reader’s eye. Both Bruce and Clark lead alienated adolescences that belied their plans for future greatness. Both had limitless potential (Clark’s being biological and Bruce’s monetary and psychological) that land them respectively in uncharted waters that are not easily navigated. Pak also includes in this issue the first introduction of Lana Lang (childhood friend and first love of Clark Kent) into the New DCU as a fleshed out character. Her path intersects with Clark’s during the Blackout in Gotham, and circles back in a cutaway backup feature that brings events into the present, the ending of which seems to set the stage for next month’s issue where Greg Pak returns to the present of the Superman continuity. Providing art on this issue in the main feature and part of the aforementioned backup is Aaron Kuder. Kuder has done fantastic work with Superman, providing art for Scott Lobdell on and off in the main Superman title, as well as writing and illustrating the Villains Month Parasite issue in Superman #23.4. With Pak, who has proven his Super-chops, the pairing of these two men on the coming arc of Action is something to anticipate impatiently.

    A Self-Aware Superman.

    A Self-Aware Superman.

  • Detective Comics #25 continues “Blackout”, beginning the story of what it meant for Gotham residents. While Bruce Wayne himself may be the keystone figure in the war for Gotham, the story of Gotham’s salvation begins before his return with the career of James Gordon.  A police lieutenant from Chicago, Gordon was straight as an arrow and tried to operate within the system to save a very broken city. Because of this he initially came down hard on the emerging vigilante known as Batman. However, as time progressed his views began to change. This issue by the incomparable writer John Layman chronicles the moment when his thoughts make the full 180 degree turn around. It all begins when Gordon is assaulted by a group of crooked cops and thrown off the New Trigate Bridge as a “suicide.” We are told that the Trigate has hosted over 2,000 suicides, and less than two dozen survivors, all sustaining MASSIVE internal injuries. Gordon walks out of the Gotham River unscathed with hell in his eyes. Layman then cuts to a recap of past events. In the wake of the Red Hood Gang’s reign of terror on his city another splinter group call the Black Mask gang rises up pulling violent raids on strategic locations and materials in prep for the coming super-storm, Rene. Gordon has the talent and the initiative to bring them down, but he’s saddled with a “screw up” partner and harried at every corner by “incompetence” by his fellow officers. He soon realizes it’s not ineptitude he’s encountering but well orchestrated choke-artistry. The system is corrupt and as a result, playing by its rules will preclude the advancement of justice. Here begins his appreciation of vigilante tactics. Good detective work leads him to Janus Cosmetics, run by a man named Roman Sionis who the Batman faithful will recognize as the criminal known as Black Mask. Going out on his own Gordon finds out that Sionis has a bevy of Gotham PD officers in his pocket as a private enforcer corps. It is while trying to uncover this ring of dirty cops with an internal affairs officer name Henshaw that he is ambushed, with Henshaw at the forefront of the beat down. Batman may be smooth in his exits, but Gordon proves to be his equal in entrances, walking into the station house after his plunge into the Gotham River as Henshaw finishes telling their fellow officers what “happened” with Gordon’s “suicide.” Gordon calls B.S., delivers as killer right cross to Henshaw, knocking him out for the count, and reveals documents stolen from Henshaw’s home detailing the names and accolades of his fellow dirty cops which he kept as an insurance policy. With this declaration the milk separates and the dirty cops show their true colors at the threat of exposure and the clean cops do likewise, including a very heroic sergeant named Bullock. The policeDetectiveComics25-1
    Separating the Wheat from the Chaff.

    Separating the Wheat from the Chaff.

    department gets a thorough cleaning and in the wake of the scandal Gordon is placed as police commissioner. Trying to conceive how he could have survived the drop from the Trigate, he comes to the conclusion that he may have had some help from someone drawn to the light shone from him flashlight. In future, he decides to use a bigger light to call his “friend.” As usual, there is a backup feature in this issue that details a man that jumps from the same bridge and before hitting the ground is drained of his blood and stripped of most of his flesh. The obvious association is Kirk Langstrom’s Man-Bat and his former wife, Francine’s She-Bat. If that is the case I cannot wait for next month’s issue.  John Layman is a writer that has done nothing but increase the prestige of the Batman mythos and make Detective Comics a title that cannot be missed. Jason Fabok’s incredible art on the main feature furthers the title’s excellence and “must-get” status. The two’s collaboration is almost at an end and the departure of both is something to be lamented, but what they have achieved will be carved into the bedrock of Batman legend forever. DetectiveComics25-3

    He's Gonna Need a Bigger Light . . .

    He’s Gonna Need a Bigger Light . . .

  • Green Arrow #25 shows what Oliver Queen was up to during the Blackout in Gotham. Around this time, when Bruce Wayne was first making his name as the Batman in a Gotham plunged into turmoil, Oliver returns home to Seattle after years on the island. When he comes back, the first person he confides in is Walter Emerson, acting C.E.O of Queen Industries and his father’s bestfriend.  Immediately, he is made aware that his mother is not in Seattle having gone to Gotham to help with relief efforts of the Blackout and the subsequent Hurricane Rene. Gotham is a dangerous city at the best of times, but turn off the power and add a natural disaster and you have a powder keg of humanity’s worst qualities. Without blinking, Oliver sets out for Gotham in his prototypical Green Arrow persona. His mother is holed up in a relief center with two bodyguards, including an African American gentleman named John Diggle. Fans of the Arrow television series rejoice! The much beloved Dig has made it into comics. The center is attacked by a Gotham nutjob wearing a mask and wielding a compressed air gun that deflects bullets and creates sonic booms that shatter glass and concrete. When this man, calling himself Killer Moth, attemptsGreenArrow25-1 to kidnap Moira Queen he is met with an arrow shot through his hand . . . by Batman with a crossbow. The two Gotham “freaks” duke it out and the rookie Batman lets Moth get the drop on him with his air-gun point blank to his cowl. Luckily Green Arrow looses an arrow that disarms him, giving Batman the chance to rally. What began as a fight between the Bat and the Moth quickly develops into a pissing contest between Batman and Green Arrow to determine who’s the hero and who’s the amateur. There are good cases for both sides. However, while all their physical blows go into turning Killer Moth’s face into schnitzel, their verbal assualts are keenly leveled at eachother. Clearly, the billionaire vigilantes are too
    Battle of the Billionaires.

    Battle of the Billionaires.

    similar for comfort and at an impasse. Moira Queen, however, chooses her hero and sticks with Green Arrow. But unlike in every other incarnation of the series (most of which result in her death before the advent of Green Arrow) she immediately recognizes her little boy despite the changes the island wrought in him. The issue’s main feature ends here, hinting at the events on the island being told in the coming “Outsiders War” storyline, beginning in December. It then transitions into a backup feature that takes place a month after the Gotham Blackout and the uniting of Oliver and Diggle as partners in Seattle vigilantism. Entitled “New Tricks” it serves as a more comprehensive introduction to Diggle and cementing him as a character almost identical to the original created for the CW television series “Arrow.” He is still a bodyguard that works for Queen Industries after having served two tours in Afghanistan. He is a soldier lost with no war to fight. He is dismissive of costumes and masks and fights in the shadows backing up Oliver, letting him garner all the credit under the nom de guerre of Green Arrow. The only discernible difference is that his wellspring of motivation doesn’t come from a slain brother, Andy, but rather a fallen cop father, killed in the line of duty to better the city of Seattle. The backup also skips ahead to a moment when the two broke their association, leading Dig to pursue his own course to saving the city. Both the main and backup features are brilliantly written by Jeff Lemire and drawn by two artists whose skill and styles quintessentially capture the core traits of the character. Andrea Sorrentino has worked with Lemire now on ten issues and brought a gritty, shadowed realism to the pages of Green Arrow that underscores Oliver Queen’s humanity and vulnerability amid that insane events that beset his every waking hour. The backup feature’s art is provided by Denys Cowan whose pencils when inked by the very heavy pen of Bill Sienkiewicz evokes the same style as one of the greatest Green Arrow writer/artists of all time: Mike Grell. Though slightly different and with his own flavor, Cowan brings a nostalgic touch to the backup adding an authenticity to Green Arrow faithfuls who’ve journeyed with Oliver Queen through several decades. Overall this “Blackout” tie-in did more to actualize its own series than to validate the Batman event it was co-opted by. One should expect nothing less from Jeff Lemire. 

    GreenArrow25-3

    A Mother’s Love.

  • Green Lantern #25 begins a brand new era in the Green Lantern universe following the massive conclusion of “Lights Out” last week in Green Lantern Annual #2. Writer Robert Venditti has firmly set a new status quo in motion and it is tenuous at best. Much like Charles Soule’s taking over of the Swamp Thing title and the necessity to make it his own after being painted into a corner by his predecessor, Scott Snyder, Venditti probably set about changing things up to allow more freedom after the departure of Geoff Johns whose massive eight year run on the title went to the limits of where he possibly could take the characters. Venditti has pulled a real gambit, making the light that the various Lanterns use a finite resource that needs to be conserved. With that in mind, Green Lantern hetman Hal Jordan unilaterally makes the decision that the Green Lantern Corps’ role in the universe should be Light policemen, busting those that would squander it by themselves using the light to prevent others from doing the same. Hypocritical to the nth degree and extremely limiting in scope. I hate to say it, but this might be the end of Green Lantern for me. I want to believe that
    Do NOT Mess With Kilawog!

    Do NOT Mess With Kilawog!

    the title can persevere, but the concept has taken too drastic of a turn and while Hal Jordan once was depicted as a guy that did what had to be done with circumspect, Venditti really is turning him into an unlikable tyrant with no sense of honor or loyalty to his friends. It started with his exploitation of Guy Gardner, whom I’ve always disliked, but sided with wholeheartedly when Hal twisted his arm into spying on the Red Lanterns then later reneged on the deal to extricate him if things got dicey. I thought it’d be a cold day in Hell when I took Guy’s side over Hal’s. Robert Venditti expedited that moment drastically. He also has put distance between Hal and his long time on-again/off-again girlfriend, Carol Ferris, which isn’t a surprise, but taking it one step further, he created a relationship between the fiery Star Sapphire and White Lantern, Kyle Rayner. I love Carol Ferris. I love Kyle Rayner. I DO NOT like the two of them together. There is no reason narratively or contextually for that to be a good idea. Maybe Venditti will find a way to make it work, but so far it seems like he’s doing things just for the sake of doing them. I hope I am wrong. I hope that he’s got a decent plan with payoffs coming soon, because I do not want to stop buying this title, but I might have to do just that. Besides the explanation of the Corps new and updated mission statement and the reassignment of the planetary Green Lantern, Mogo, as the new GL homeworld, the plot of this issue fell heavily on Hal and Kilawog going to the planet Dekann and apprehending the rogue Star Sapphire, Nol-Anj. She intrigues me and is the one tether that is currently holding my attention. Hopefully that tether is towing more substantial storytelling to come, because I’ll repeat that the tether is tenuous, just like Venditti’s current plot points. The true saving grace of the series is artist Billy Tan.  Tan’s art is fantastic and his rendering of the script visually is nothing short of stunning, including a scene of Nol-Anj sending out her Sapphire tethers to those she loves all across her world.  If Tan continues on as artist that might also compensate for Venditti’s authorial shortcomings. 

    GreenLantern25-2

    The Tethers of Heart.

  • Batman/Superman #5 ushers in the second arc of this title and finds writer Greg Pak settling into a storyline that is much more in tune with the previous Superman/Batman title, pre-Reboot.  Right off the bat (pun intended) he reintroduces the non-villainous version of the character Toyman, this one a young Japanese tech prodigy in his teens named Hiro Okamura.  As the issue opens Superman is saving a space shuttle from a meteor shower leaving Batman to deal with Metallo, now known as Metal Zero.  It takes some serious moves, but Batman beats him and slinks off into the shadows after a tete-a-tete with Superman.  Alarmingly, Metal Zero disappears in a burst of light shortly after Batman’s departure.  Enter Toyman, who has created a computer program where you can fight Superman and Batman.  LITERALLY!  It’s hazy whether he is aware that it’s real or not or that the consequences of it are, but Hiro’s excited about it and gets several elite beta testers to play it, including Jimmy Olsen.  When Batman crashes the party and extracts Hiro, Mongul shows up as well, though his connection to the plot is also really sketchy.  Further sketchy is his story.  Mongul showed up for the first time in a decently written Green Lantern issue during Villains Month with no connection to Earth whatsoever.  Here Batman states that Mongul tried to take over Earth “several years ago.”  I hate to sound nit-picky, but I feel like Pak dropped the ball on this one if he is going to introduce a character into the main DCU post-hoc with no explanation of what happened in the past or why the character is there in the first place.  He could do that in the next issue, but it just seems sloppy to introduce a character for the first time but not the “first time” contextually and not immediately clarify the circumstances of the omitted previous encounter.  Also strange was the sideways storytelling of this issue, having the reader hold the binding upward like a calendar and reading vertically.  I get that it allowed Pak to split the story to Batman and Superman’s POV with demarcated sides, but that only happened on three pages.  The rest easily could have been done drawn regularly and ended up producing a very awkward read.  Overall, this issue was really jarring to read.  A pity too, because so far Pak’s work with DC has been stellar and his first four issues of this series (five if you count the Doomsday issue during Villains Month) were incredible.  Brett Booth comes on the series this month as artist and truly is a saving grace for the issue.  His art is smooth, well rendered, and very pretty when colored by Andrew Dalhouse.   This arc could improve, but this issue wasn’t the best introduction to it by any stretch.
  • Batwing #25 is yet another “Blackout” tie-in, discussing what future Batwing, Luke Fox, was doing six years before the current timeline around the time of the Gotham City Blackout. Even in prep school Luke had a fascination with the martial arts and attended classes with a retired MMA fighter he calls Master Torres. He brings along his nerdy friend Russell in the hopes that Russell will pick up some moves, but more importantly the confidence to stave off people that pick on him. Master Torres and Luke both positively promote the concept that life isn’t fair and the only way to survive is to proactively do what you can to fix the things in your life that lie within your control. Master Torres tells Russell that he himself succumbed to anger that festered in his heart, prompting him to do unwise things. Now he teaches people to avoid these mistakes. On the train ride back to their dorm they are accosted by a gang and Luke snaps into action breaking the leader’s arm and beating the snot out of his lackeys. When they exit Russell freaks out that the gang members will find them and try to get even. Luke tells him not to worry, but also apologizes for acting without thinking. Russell tries to go back to the way things were, but the bullying at school gets worse and worse and finally in a moment when he can’t take it any longer he also loses his cool and picks a fight with someone he shouldn’t. Both Luke and Russell are shown to be susceptible to impulsive decisions that inevitably mature into awful mistakes. The gang members do find Luke and they knock him down with a car before attempting a point blank 9mm coup de grace. Batman arrives to save Luke, who holds up his end of the fighting, drawing Batman’s attention, which Luke narrates retrospectively. In his case he learns his lesson and faces his error. Russell on the otherhand, takes Mexican drugs called “Snakebite” that seem like a proto-Venom type drug. He goes on a rampage killing a classmate and attempting to blow the Gotham City levees to wipe the boarding school and everyone in it off the map. Luke finds out about it and attempts to talk his friend “down from the ledge.” Russell ends up getting blown up by accident when Luke accidentally hits the detonating switch after taking the controls from him. Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray do a decent job with this issue and are beginning to make me believe in Luke Fox as the protagonist, but have not come close to making me prefer or accept him over David Zavimbe.  Sorry guys, but David was too good of a character to be tossed aside like this.  Good work with Luke, though.  He’s an okay character and I will continue to read his stories. 
  • Phantom Stranger #13 is a character issue. There are events chronicled within, but for the most part its primary effect is granting the reader with very telling views into the nature of several complex figures in this title’s cast of characters. As last issue left off Phantom Stranger, formerly posing has happily married father of two, Philip Stark, returns to his house only for the real Philip Stark, now transformed into the hellish, transcendental entity known as the “Sin Eater,” to appear and burn it to the ground. As ever they argue over who was actually Philip Stark and who had the right to call Elena Stark and the kids their family. It ends with the Sin Eater leaving and the Phantom Stranger erasing minds to put the whole affair to rest with his departed family. Stranger still is the appearance of the angel Zauriel at Phantom Stranger’s side. Zauriel was the angel that warned him not to enter Heaven and then erased him from existence for his transgression. The Phantom Stranger is weary of his presence and his council, but the archangel proves to be compassionate, sincere, and wise in his councils. He shows the Stranger the graves that his “family” has been put to rest in and explains that Sin Eater, who in life attempted to murder his family brutally, was the one who interred them. Objectively, Zauriel also rationalizes the Sin Eater’s actions, not to forgive them, but instead put them into context, which in a twisted way were motivated by love. He then shepherds the Stranger to the house of Arthur Light, the man he attempted to bring back to Earth from Heaven, allowing the Stranger to deliver the bit of Light’s soul that he wanted his family to have. It goes into the house like stardust and enriches their dreams with peace. Then the Stranger goes to find the Question, the third and most mysterious member of the Trinity of Sin (Pandora being the other) who impaled him with the Spear of Destiny, almost killing him. He beats the crap out of the Question, but as the fight commences he realizes something very important. The Stranger has been wallowing in pain, shackled with the weight of his sins after betraying Christ as Judas Iscariot and forced to walk the earth with the necklace of silver coins around his neck. He cannot escape his past. The Question for all his Socratic mystique and feigned wisdom is clueless about the things that are most integral to a person’s identity: Who he is and what crimes led him to have his identity and history stolen from him. He envies the Question his unburdened future and obliviousness towards the painful memories of his past. The Question envies the Stranger his knowledge of who he truly is. The grass is always greener on the other side, it would seem. It is then that the Stranger learns to understand and most importantly to forgive. But that lesson is cut short when all three members of the Trinity of Sin are summoned to the Rock of Eternity, the place where as humans Judas, Pandora, and the questionable man who would become the Question were first cursed with their aimless immortalities. John Constantine, Swamp Thing, and the Nightmare Nurse have a job for them. J.M. DeMatteis writes this issue like a symphony. It is bursting with lush characterization, semi-theological philosophy, and universe shaping plotpoints. He has a reputation with some of his previous works includingthe 90’s series Justice League International and the current series Larfleeze to be something of a cutup and satirical writer with little seriousness. This issue is dead serious and beautifully reasoned in the rhetoric of each character. Fernando Blanco provides art and his style is seamless with the past work put in by Brent Anderson, Philip Tan, and Gene Ha. Overall, this title has not lost a jot of its poignancy over the 14 issues that have been published so far. It remains one of the most prescient series put out by DC.
  • Earth 2 #17 represents a changing of the guard with original series writer James Robinson leaving the title and newcomer Tom Taylor taking up storytelling with the continued help of original series artist Nicola Scott.  Robinson is such a dynamic storyteller and his work so topnotch that this impending change has been nerve-racking to contemplate.  Especially considering the shock ending of last issue with the revelation that Earth-2 Superman is enthralled to Darkseid.  As the issue opens Superman cries havoc and lets slip the dogs of war.  After “bruutally” slaying Steppenwolf under the assumed name Bruutal, he sets on the World Army crafts, slaughtering wholesale.  He is invulnerable, leaving few options to stem his rampage.  Only Doctor Fate can stop him, as Supe’s main weaknesses are kryptonite, red solar radiation, and magic.  A good plan in theory, but not in practice.  Elsewhere, General Sam Lane embeds the thoughts and memories of his departed daughter Lois into the feminized Red Tornado automaton.  In that same compound the new
    A Father Dies to Bring His Daughter Back to Life.

    A Father Dies to Bring His Daughter Back to Life.

    Batman infiltrates the bowels of the World Army’s secure lockup where the most violent criminals are kept.  They are sealed away in stasis tubes so that they can never do harm again.  Lane authorizes lethal sterilization of every inmate if a breach occurs, but Batman wants them released in hopes of saving the world with the twisted minds best equipped to take out a “superhero.”  It is insinuated that Batman was once a villain before adopting the cowl.  Bruce Wayne is dead, so the identity of his replacement is a tantalizing secret that hopefully won’t be stretched out too long.  Tom Taylor barely made a ripple in this issue.  The narrative seamlessly transitioned from Robinson’s run to his without the slightest stylistic or tonal change.  That’s ASTOUNDING considering Robinson’s immense talent.  Nicola Scott didn’t flinch in the quality of her artistic renderings either, meaning that for Earth-2 fans it is business as usual and all will be well.  I am overjoyed that I won’t have to wonder what might have been.  No doubt Robinson would have done things differently and perhaps I might wonder, but the chameleon-like continuity of Taylor’s extension makes self denial very easy, and one could simply say this is what Robinson would have done because it feels like his writing. Taylor has me onboard for his run of this series. 

    A Darker Dark Knight.

    A Darker Dark Knight.

  • Swamp Thing #25 picks up with the conclusion of Swamp Thing Annual #2.  Alec Holland, Avatar of the Green, has been challenged for that title by Jason Woodrue, known as the Seeder. Last week’s annual had Alec being prepared for this challenge by former Swamp Things who have taken their place in retirement as members of the Parliament of Trees.  Holland was given two converse philosophies to consider when preparing for the battle. The Lady Weed would have him believe that only show of strength and brutality would suffice to remain Avatar.  His immediate predecessor, an artificially created Swamp Thing that thought it was human, gave him ironically the most human answer that resonated with his core beliefs which is that he can do as he likes and let his conscience dictate his actions. Going into the fight Seeder tries all manner of tricks to beat Holland, such as poisoning everything green around them and sending Holland to the Moon where nothing can grow. But Holland continuously beats him almost effortlessly in a very Zen manner, proving his mastery and complete oneness with the Green. It is when he stands in victory over Woodrue that he falters. The Green wishes for him to murder Woodrue, as this is the only way to assert that he has the strength to be the Avatar. Following the Blue Swamp Thing’s advice, he refuses to kill Woodrue and in doing so loses the battle and is retired by the Parliament. Woodrue is made the new Avatar. Charles Soule has written the series to this point masterfully and doesn’t disappoint with this issue. In Scott Snyder’s run of the book the threat was always external and Holland’s advetures were aimed at threats from without to destroy the Green and imperil the world. Soule takes the converse approach and deals with Holland having to conquer the threats within; his own inner demons and the inherent evil within the Green. The three forces of nature introduced in the first run of Swamp Thing, the Green, Red, and Black all represent primeval forces. Green plants, red blooded animals, and the black of decay and death. Though Rot, the Black, was made into the evil force of the “Rotworld” storyline, it in and of itself was not bad, its avatar was. Death is what gives rise to life and allows the world to cycle through seasons. On that same note, plants and animals represent life, but when unchecked can be equally as damaging. There has to remain a balance and to do that all three must be kept in check. The Green is no exception and Alec fighting his masters in the Parliament proves that Soule gets the bedrock concepts of this new Swamp Thing mythos in the New DCU. His future issues promise to be nothing short of stellar.
  • Batman: Black & White #3 brings forward five really amazing stories about the Dark Knight from industry legends and rising stars of the comic book world.  Kicking it off is “Rule Number One” a story written and drawn by Lee Bermejo that is actually about Dick Grayson rather than Batman.  Batman is the lifeblood of the story, giving it consequence, but what Bermejo does is show Grayson’s inauguration into the vigilante life, on his own, with the Batman as his measuring stick.  He is dispatched to score some drugs in order to break a local narcotics operation.  The entire time he is weighed down by the rules imposed on him by Batman.  Batman isn’t just a cape, cowl, and animal motif.  He’s a code of honor and a set of principles.  A heavy burden lays on anyone who attempts to follow the steep path paved by the Batman.  Next comes a really poignant yarn written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Riccardo Burchielli entitled “An Innocent Man.”  On the night before he is scheduled to be executed a prisoner asks Batman to prove his innocence.  Batman does it despite the fact that everyone says he should let the guy fry.  Batman exonerates him despite his own misgivings and lo and behold the prisoner is the Joker and by proving his innocence he thereby helps set a precedent that bars psychotic killers like the Joker from capital punishment.  “Namtab: Babel Comes to Gotham” is written and drawn by Rian Hughes.  Its story deals with a very wacky, out-of-the-box plot where linguistics and the concrete reality of things are warped by their perceptions.  The hallmarks of the issue harken to the tail end of the Silver Age of comics, which Hughes furthers by resurrecting an intergalactic detective name Tal-Dar, last seen in Detective Comics #282 and Batman #142 from the early 60’s.  Finally, the story “Role Models” written by Paul Dini and drawn by Stéphane Roux tells the tale of young girl abducted by a psychotic named ‘Playground.’  The girl, Jennifer, is lured by the kidnapper who tells her that he knows Batgirl.  Jennifer is a huge fan of Batgirl.  When she escapes she combs the streets looking for one of the heroes that patrol Gotham.  She ends up running into Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy in the process of pulling a bank job. They try to get her to take a hike until Playground shows up at which point they come to her defense and beat him to a pulp.  Batman steps in and the question arises as to whether Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn are villains or heroes.  Cautionary tales or “Role Models.”  Overall these stories are well rendered, well conceived, and thoroughly entertaining.

    Heroes.

    Heroes.

  • Trillium #4 continues Jeff Lemire’s incredible limited series which he’s dubbed “the last romance.”  After reuniting Nika Temsmith with William Pike in the year 1921 writer Jeff Lemire throws a curve ball by tossing William’s brother, Clayton, into the year 3797 and the hands of the insane Commander Pohl.  After witnessing some very bizarre events Pohl makes the unilateral decision to destroy the temple that acts as a conduit between 20th century Earth and 38th century Atabith.  This issue has a few major revelations, but mostly dwells on situational events that establish ambiance above all else.  The major notes of the story are Nika and William attempting to figure out the strange nature of the temple and its ability to traverse both time and space, Pohl viciously interrogating Clayton, the Human colonists on Atabith forcefully harvesting the Atabithi people’s trillium fields which the latter depend upon for existence, and her destruction of the temple.  With its destruction the story seemingly concludes and I had to do a double take afterward to make sure that the series wasn’t in fact ending.  There doesn’t appear to be any logical way for the story to continue with the blocking of travel between past and future, but Jeff Lemire is a masterful storyteller and his solution promises to be one worth waiting for next month.  Lemire’s unique style of art is also something to anticipate.  It is unlike most styles seen in comics past and present and provides an incredible draw to the reader with its novelty and fresh appearance.  Trillium is a series of the highest caliber and an insurance that Vertigo Comics remains a name in comic innovation. 

    What Hath Man Wrought?

    What Hath Man Wrought?

So begins the November month of comics with great style and skill.  Let’s hope that the rest of the month measures up to this week’s excellence.

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

Illustration Credits:

Forever Evil #3: Drawn by David Finch, Colored by Sonia Oback, Inked by Richard Friend.

Action Comics #25: Art by Aaron Kuder, Colored by Arif Prianto.

Detective Comics #25: Art by Jason Fabok, Colored by Tomeu Morey.

Green Arrow #25: Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo.

Green Lantern  #25: Drawn by Billy Tan, Colored by Alex Sinclair & Tony Avina, Inked by Rob Hunter.

Earth 2 #17: Drawn by Nicola Scott, Colored by Pete Pantazis, Inked by Trevor Scott.

Batman: Black & White  #3: Art by Stéphane Roux.

Trillium #3: Art by Jeff Lemire, Colored by Jeff Lemire & Jose Villarrubia.

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Oct. 2, 2013

Villains Month is over and October ushers in a return to the deferred storylines of August.  Right out of the starting gate there are some fantastic issues that prove the power and momentum that DC and Vertigo have built over the past several months.  Forever Evil, Action Comics, Detective Comics, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Batman: Black & White, and Trillium really bring it this month in action, intrigue, and history altering glory.

  • Forever Evil #2 continues with our Earth’s decent into chaos as the Crime Syndicate of America from Earth-3 take it for their own.  In the literal shadow of their advent, our world’s darkest minds flock to them in droves to get what bounty the CSA will grant them in return for their service–Malum Aeturnus–and those few heroes left alive rally to meet the Syndicate in battle.  The most intriguing case between these two camps is perhaps the most dangerous man from Earth-1: Lex Luthor.  Opening this issue, Lex delivers a very thought-provoking interpretation of Darwinism that sets him apart from both the opportunistic villains and “cowardly” masses that accept drastic change idly.  In this way he either proves his mettle as humanity’s savior, filling the position he begrudged Superman for occupying these past several years, or simply demonstrating his intractable individualism and anyone that tries to cast their shadow on him.  In this case, the shadow cast is both literal and metaphorical.  As ever, you want to hate him until he does something very noble, at which point you then want to love him until he come full circle to being despicable yet again.  Either way, his goals in toppling the CSA from their haughty perch and prying their hegemonic grip from humanity’s throats forces him into the role of protagonist.  His competition is getting slimmer and slimmer as Forever Evil progresses and heroes fall left and right.  Between Justice League #23 and Forever Evil #1, the Crime Syndicate dropped the entire Justice League, and seemingly the Justice League Dark and JLA, leaving Earth without their greatest heroes.  Next, in the opening movements of Forever Evil #1 the first protegé of Batman and most senior surviving hero, Nightwing, is subdued and captured by Owlman.  After that the Teen Titans, basically the junior Justice League, step up to the plate only to fall to the wayside.  I won’t spoil the surprise, but they too fall short of matching the Syndicate’s mettle, and really are defeated by only one member of the evil cabal, leaving Luthor as one of the top contenders to take down the Earth-3 invaders.  However, in the periphery other “villains” from Villains Month are stepping up, showing their innate humanity or their inability to be cowed by the whims of others.  Black Adam rises in Kahndaq and the Rogues have the Syndicate’s forces in Central City on their heels, so on at least three fronts there is hope.  However, the real threat to the Syndicate, made very clear in this issue is themselves.  As ever, Ultraman (evil Superman) has to be the biggest, baddest guy on the block and lords his perfection over the others, Owlman (evil Batman) schemes in the shadows and secretly cuckolds the Earth-3 Krpytonian by sleeping with his wife, Superwoman (evil Wonder Woman).  Johnny Quick (evil Flash) and his lover, Atomica (evil female Atom), are uncontrollable forces of destruction that do not play by anyone’s rules, least of all Ultraman.  Power Ring (soooort of evil Green Lantern) is perhaps the greatest question mark as he is a terrified weakling that so far hasn’t done anything and doesn’t want to.  In any event, the evil Justice League of Earth-3 are the greatest threat to themselves, with conflicting plans for our world, conflicting philosophies in general, and outright vendettas against each other.  With the end of this issue there are some crazy reveals that beg for the third installment and keep the reader on their toes.  First and foremost, David Finch’s art is superb and his harsh lines belie the evil nature of the subject material.  But beneath the very heavily inked lines there is a subtle, gentleness and beauty that shines through.  He was the best choice to render this script visually.  I have been very antagonistic of Geoff Johns’ writing since he began the New DCU two years ago and mismanaged title after title that he has written, such as Justice League, it’s SHAZAM! backup feature, and a few others I won’t pontificate upon.  However, this series gets back to what he does well: villains.  Sinestro, the Rogues in The Flash, Black Adam in 52.  These are all characters that were two-dimensional at best that he made into complex, compelling antiheroes.  This series features the concept of eternal darkness and absolute evil and shows by contrast the natures of the DCU’s villains.  Many pale in comparison, and like Lex, show signs of valor despite their many, usually glaring flaws.  Forever Evil is marketed as the first imprint wide event and it deserves to be.  This is a title that will live on and in some ways validate the atrociously wretched job Johns did on the first arcs of Justice League.

    They Did a Bad, Bad Thing . . .

    They Did a Bad, Bad Thing . . .

  • Action Comics #24 picks up the second part of the “Psi War” storyline after the events of Superman Annual #2 and Superman #23.  So far, it has been revealed that Brainiac left some hidden mementos when he attacked Metropolis in Action Comics #1-7.  After abducting a segment of the city and shriniking it, he altered twenty people within, who became an urban legend aptly called, “The Twenty.”  The Twenty were mentally enhanced to test the augmentation of humans to fit a very specific purpose: providing physical hosts for the digitized “souls” of Brainiac’s extinct race, the Coluans.  In the aftermath, Lois Lane is transformed by one of the Twenty into such a vessel shortly before being launched out a window and put into a coma.  From there we were introduced to the “Queen,” a nubile blond bombshell that bathes in a golden liquid, seemingly generated by the psychic drones in the H.I.V.E.  One such drone, the escaped Dr. Psycho, was first seen in Superboy.  Also from Superboy is the reinterpreted, reintroduced character, Psycho Pirate.  In the past, Psycho Pirate was a masked man whose bizarre harlequin mask gives him the ability to exploit people’s emotions.  This time around the mask he wears is an artifact called the Medusa mask, which true to the imagery its name elicits has numerous psychically generated snakes coming off of it.  The mask allows this man, also a member of the Twenty, to control not just the emotions but also enter the mind of any person on the planet he wishes.  At the end of Superman #23 it is the Psycho Pirate that rescues Superman from the Queen and the massively disproportioned Green Lantern villain, Hector Hammond.  He takes Supes into the main chamber of the H.I.V.E. to show him the collection of psionic slaves the Queen called her “Swarm.”  The Swarm was what she was going to use to enslave humanity for the second coming of Brainiac.  Psycho Pirate was one of those slaves, kept in a place of honor with several other members of the Twenty.  It is his goal to free all of them, but to break the hold the departed Queen has on them Psycho Pirate needs more power than he and the mask he wears allow him.  That is where Superman comes in.  Superman’s enhanced biology also allows his mind enhanced psionic output, even though the Man of Steel doesn’t know how to utilize it.  He’d help out the Psycho Pirate if he asked, but of course that would be too easy.  Instead Psycho Pirated lives up to his name and takes what he needs by force.  The psionic snakes from the mask bite into Superman at various points on his body like asps and inject him with venomous visions of some of Superman’s darkest fears: humanity turning fully against him, his adoptive parents the Kents despising him, and never leaving his dying homeworld of Krypton.  Through these intense visions and horrifying sights Psycho Pirate feeds off his emotions, as his former self, pre-Reboot, used to.  Though Scott Lobdell is given cover credit, it is actually Mike Johnson, who also wrote Superman #23 (“Psi War” Part 1), who did the honors on this one.  It’s hard to say whether “Psi-War” is Lobdell’s “brain child” (pun intended) or Johnson’s, considering that Johnson has written the only two official installments with no internal credits or nods to Lobdell, but Lobdell wrote the prelude in Superman Annual #2, so . . .  Either way, the writing and set up are stellar, as is the artwork depicting it, rendered by Tyler Kirkham and Jesus Merino.  Superman had a ROUGH start at the beginning of the New 52 with some atrocious storytelling, but Action Comics, Superman, Superboy, and Supergirl are all top-notch titles at present.  This issue encapsulates all of that incredible innovation perfectly.

    All the Queen's Men

    All the Queen’s Men

  • Detective Comics #24 concludes the “Wrath” storyline begun three months ago, but held up by Villains Month.  Beginning with a slimy business mogul named E.D. Caldwell attempting to buy out Wayne Enterprises, Bruce Wayne has to contend with that situation leaving Batman to deal with a hi-tech cop killer called “Wrath” who bears a likeness, albeit greatly intensified and armored, to Batman. Of course, these two antagonists in Batman’s life are one and the same and Caldwell wants to gain WayneTech weaponry to add to his arsenal in his crusade against the Gotham City Police Department.  This concept, it turns out, is actually a redux of a character first created in the 80’s by Mike Barr and resurrected in 2008 by Tony Bedard.  The character’s name was Elliot Caldwell and his parents were gunned down by Gotham cops leaving him with a burning rage for Gotham’s finest.  In this way, the mirror-darkly image of Batman called Wrath provides a polar opposite version of the Dark Knight.  Batman does have many nemeses that are opposite to him in some way, the Joker’s manic escapades being the most obvious.  However, Wrath is literally the flip version of Batman’s birth.  Young Bruce Wayne’s parents were gunned down by a criminal named Joe Chill and through the trauma that event evoked in his young mind he was set on an inescapable course to punish criminals and stamp out criminality.  Caldwell saw his parents gunned down by police at an equally young age as Bruce and as a result he grew up with a festering hatred for police and law enforcement, constantly seeking vengeance to assuage that child’s anger.  In this issue Layman makes the cops that killed Caldwell’s father corrupt and the slaying of his father unjustified.  In this way, he isn’t just a straight psychopath, but a boy with real, valid grievances that are twisted by “Unbridled Wrath,” which also happens to be the title of this issue.  Though he is subdued in this final issue of the arc, the damage incurred during his rampage is considerable and his defeat gives fodder to future villainy with his introduction at the end to another up and coming Gotham mega-villain.  John Layman and Jason Fabok knock this issue out of the park with some intense storytelling that is both powerful and resonating.
  • Green Lantern #24 begins the MASSIVE “Lights Out” storyline, not to be confused with the “Blackout” storyline coming up in Batman and throughout several DC titles.  Though the character Relic has only been in comics five months, he has already cemented himself as one of the most titanic characters in the Green Lantern mythos.  He first appeared in the tail end of June’s Green Lantern: New Guardians #21 and from there crusaded against White Lantern Kyle Rayner, Star Sapphire Carol Ferris, and the newly emancipated Templar Guardians under the auspices of “saving the universe,” though failing to elaborate on that point.  So great was his belief in his righteous cause, he went to the new homeworld of the Blue Lantern Corps, Elpis, and laid waste to it, the Blue Lantern Central Power Battery, and the Corps itself, leaving Saint Walker the last surviving Blue Lantern.  Representing Hope, the Blue Lanterns have had their faith pushed the breaking point.  First the Reach destroyed their original home on Odym, forcing an exodus to Elpis.  Now the seemingly unstoppable Relic has destroyed their new world and them.  Their hope is undiminished to the end as they give their unconscious chief Lantern, Walker, to Kyle and Carol and stay behind on their world to hold off Relic as long as they can and sacrifice their lives to maintain . . . Hope.  As stated, Relic was very terse about his motivations throughout his initial interactions in our universe.  With his appearance in Green Lantern #23.1 we get his entire history and a clearer picture of his motivations.  When living in the universe that preceded the Big Bang and the creation of our current universe Relic was a scientist whose brilliance and council helped the “lightsmiths” co-exist and govern that universe.  There was always tension between the various lights and he worked to keep the peace, but also came to realize that the light they so wantonly used was a finite resource, the depletion of which would result in a cataclysm of untold proportions.  His words went unheeded and indeed the universe collapsed in on itself and was forced to begin anew with the advent of our universe.  He somehow was protected in the anomaly from which he emerged in Green Lantern: New Guardians #21 and upon emerging realized that he would need to stop the “lightsmiths” of this universe to prevent history from repeating itself.  Being that he was shunned in his universe, he eschews the possibility of explaining his actions to the new light-wielders and merely enacts his plans.  He destroyed the Blue Lanterns.  With this issue of Green Lantern he descends on Oa and the Green Lantern Corps.  The fight proves to be just as futile as that which the Blue Lanterns provided.  The question of defeating Relic isn’t even posed, but rather asking whether the Green Lanterns can survive him.  Robert Venditti seems to be the architect of this “Lights Out” concept and considering the material that he had to follow after Geoff Johns’ blowout finale of a legendary eight year run, he is really bringing his A-game to the table.  This is perhaps the biggest thing that has EVER occurred in the Green Lantern titles, even bigger than Johns’ “Wrath of the First Lantern” storyline, which itself was unprecedented in scale.  Billy Tan’s artwork keeps pace with the monumental events chronicled within, emoting the tragic wonder and epic grandeur of all that is happening in the Green Lantern universe.  They promoted this event by saying, “Nothing will ever be the same again!  Trust us: WE MEAN IT!”  That trust is earned with the unbelievable events of the last two pages of this issue.  If you are a Green Lantern fan, READ THEM!

    An "Earth" Shattering Developement . . .

    An “Earth” Shattering Developement . . .

  • Green Arrow #24 does not disappoint.  This issue picks up after  the September hiatus with Ollie Queen on his way home from Vlatava after saving the enigmatic Shado from Count Vertigo’s dungeon.  During that month off writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino used Villains Month to give a look into the past of Green Arrow’s newest nemesis.  With Vertigo’s past now revealed, Lemire sends Ollie and company back to Seattle only for them to run back into the path of the Eastern European dictator.  After their last encounter Vertigo’s distortion device ruptured GA’s inner ear, essentially throwing off his balance and his aim, taking a hero whose main skill is archery and invalidating it.  What is left?  Even his closest friends and allies are dubious as to whether he has anything viable left that could allow him victory over Vertigo.  This issue is written as though Ollie were a real person and Lemire his biographer.  Ollie is flawed and fallible, but has deep wellsprings upon which he draws in times like his current predicament that make him worthy of his own comic title. He may be an effete rich man, but he doesn’t solve his problems with money.  At least he doesn’t anymore, after DC put a competent writer on the title going onward from issue #17.  Lemire also writes the supporting cast of characters with equal complexity.  Shado is a prime example in this issue.  Previously, she has always been depicted as a very veiled, Zen warrior embodying eastern philosophy, the feminine mystique, and complete oneness with the martial arts.  In short, she is a fox-like character that is always a step ahead of Ollie and most other characters and rarely caught off guard.  This issue continues that depiction to a point, but stresses that she is an acolyte of the Arrow clan, meaning a master of archery.  Lemire has set up a group called the Outsiders (not the previous Batman created group pre-Reboot) that are comprised of heirs to the various disciplines: arrow, sword, axe, spear, fist.  Shado is an unparalleled archer.  When she comes up against a true practitioner of the Fist (also a rebooted character from DC’s past) she is shown to lack true mastery of the other disciplines and is revealed to be human and have very real weaknesses.  It’s the humanizing aspect of his storylines as well as the mythologies that spring from them that make this series soar.  One thing also that separates this title from others is the way it adhere’s to the surrounding climate of the DCU.  Villains Month was enjoyable, but a total ratings stunt to sell more issues and get people excited about buying comics they normally wouldn’t.  The month-long PR event was jarring to most series, causing a MAJOR disruption in storytelling, but not for Green Arrow which took it and used it to seamlessly continue the title’s forward momentum.  Next month there is another imprint wide event called “Blackout” taking place around the “Batman: Year Zero” storyline in the Batman title where apparently there is a massive blackout in Gotham six years prior when Batman first dons his cowl and all the titles are going back and having “pre-hero” versions of their respective protagonists living their lives through this blackout and miraculously being in Gotham during it.  Again, jarring and implausible.  Before this issue’s end, Lemire has already set events up in such a way that you’d believe that Batman was having a “Blackout” event because of Green Arrow and not the other way around.  That’s talent!  In the realm of visuals, Andrea Sorrentino’s artwork was meant for a title like this and his Green Arrow is the only one I want to look at for the foreseeable future.

    A Battle of Two Dragons.

    A Battle of Two Dragons.

  • Batwing #24 depicts Luke Fox’s continued trials and tribulations while donning the Batwing armor.  It’s not just being Batwing that is difficult, but balancing that life with a full family life.  Bruce Wayne has a very detached life, allowing him great anonymity to fit his nocturnal lifestyle.  Luke is a part of a very loving, close-knit family and distancing himself from his family when they are in need is not an option.  Following his father, Lucius Fox’s kidnapping and his subsequent rescue, Luke finds himself torn three ways.   Batman and his allegiance to the Batname force Luke to follow-up on the assassin Lady Vic, sent by an enigmatic client to off some “bats.”  His family need him close as they recover from mechanized assassins blowing up most of their home and abducting Lucius.  His former girlfriend Zena’s father passes away and needs his support as she copes with her loss.  A veritable labyrinth, but somehow in this issue Luke navigates it.  I am beginning to forgive this title for its abrupt about-face.  I maintain that it is complete nonsense to take the Batman of Africa and bring him back to the United States, and Gotham no less, where there are literally dozens of costumed vigilantes, and 75% of them in the Bat-family.  However, writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are doing interesting things with Luke, so for the time being I will hold back my indignation and acknowledge that this is a very well written Bat-title.
  • Earth 2 #16 reaches a fever pitch.  Writer James Robinson is only onboard for a few more issues and he is pushing his story to the limits.  The war between Steppenwolf and the World Army has begun and despite the size of their force, the World Army finds themselves on the losing side.  Steppenwolf almost singlehandedly defeats the brunt of the World Army invasion force.  On the sidelines the World Army “supers” (Atom Smasher, Red Arrow, and Sandman) meet with the independent wonders (Green Lantern, Flash, and Doctor Fate) on the outskirts of Dherain.  They initially fight it out until the three “Hunger Dogs” of Apokalips (Bedlam, Beguiler, and Bruutal) step in and wipe the floor with all of them.  When this issue returns attention to them, they awaken from this beat down bruised, but alive!  The question on all of their mind, “Why were they spared when they could have easily been killed and taken out of the game?”  There is no answer expressly given, but in the meantime they get back up and attempt to evacuate civilians from the war zone after the World Army officially calls a retreat.  Green Lantern goes to take out his rage on Steppenwolf and buy his friends some time.  Steppenwolf isn’t going to be taken down, or at least not by Alan Scott.  He SOUNDLY defeats the Green Lantern raising the question of whether Scott will survive this round like he did the last or if this is the end for Earth’s Green Guardian.  However, in his gloating of this day’s victory Steppenwolf DOES meet his end and the identity of the person who takes him down and the rationale behind it is what cements this issue as a MUST READ for the month and possibly the ENTIRE series!  James Robinson is riding the clock on this one, coming to his end of his run very quickly, and he is making every second count.  As ever, Nicola Scott’s artwork contributes mightily to the impact of this issue and the series thus far, on which she has been on from issue #1 and drawn the majority of issues with only a handful of exceptions.  This series definitely needs to be read through the end of Robinson’s run and possibly further.

    Superman's "Dark-Side."

    Superman’s “Dark-Side.”

  • Swamp Thing #24 returns Alec Holland, chosen Swamp Thing, back to his investigation into the identity of the man called “The Seeder.” Since Charles Soule has taken over the title he has focused on the divide between Holland’s humanity and his duty to the Green.  These two motivations tear him in two different directions, often causing existential crises which he must navigate very carefully.  The Seeder represents the greatest threat to that, because while his endeavors are altruistic, i.e. creating verdant oases in the middle of arid desert granting people an end to hunger, Swamp Thing must shut them down and rob those people of the life-giving means that are a godsend to them.  This seems callous, but the Green is a balance and such works throw that balance off.  If the Green is exploited in such a way, causing forests to grow in a desert, elsewhere a bed of seaweed that sustains an ecosystem will die or a grove of trees in the wetlands.  It is a very hard job, but Swamp Thing is forced to execute it to maintain harmony and balance, even at the cost of human lives and great suffering.  The Seeder comes forth and we find out that he is none other than Jason Woodrue, noted botanist and in previous DC continuities a sort of male Poison Ivy, who actually was the villainess’ mentor.  Here he was given his strange powers by the Parliament of Trees in exchanged for saving the life of Alec Holland, who was murdered by Anton Arcane, as seen in Swamp Thing #0.  He was not given full power over the Green, as Alec was, but a more rudimentary ability of manipulating seeds to do what he wished, hence his name.  Swamp Thing and the Parliament come together to put an end to his hijinks, but when he fights back against both, they see how powerful Woodrue has become, even without full mastery of the Green and decide to have a tournament between Woodrue and Holland to see who should be the Avatar of the Green.  Writer Charles Soule has taken this title into a new direction that is logical, but very much unique from Snyder’s run on the title.  This issue the regular artist, Kano, is replaced by Andrei Bressan, whose art I have always loved, but which takes a very new style here.  It might be that he has a different inker or colorist, but his art in this issue does conform to the themes and overall mood of the Swamp Thing title.  There is a little bit of Bernie Wrightson in the way Swamp Thing is rendered, paying homage to his origins and rooting the series deeply in the aspects of the character that are eternal.
  • Batman: Black & White #2 provides yet another round of truly excellent Batman stories rendered in stark black and white with plots that are anything but, from the writing and artistic talents of Dan Didio, J.G. Jones, Rafael Grandpa, Rafael Albuquerque, Jeff Lemire, Alex Nino, Michael Uslan, and Dave Bullock.  In Dan Didio and J.G. Jones’ story “Manbat Out of Hell” we have the narration of a child talking about how their father made them feel safe, making the monsters that lurked in the dark go away juxtaposed over images of Batman interceding as the Man-Bat, Kirk Langstrom, breaks into a second floor window of a foster home.  Batman fights the “villainous” werebat, pulling him off the man inside in front of two horrified children.  When his subduing of the creature is met with increased horror from the children Batman realizes that they are Langstrom’s kids and the man he “saved” was an abusive attendant that preyed upon those same children.  The narration was Langstroms children talking about their hero who protects them from monsters: their dad, Man-Bat.  Didio’s story is infinitely complex and touching, showing how appearances often belie reality and true virtue and villainy.  Rafael Grandpa’s story, “Into the Circle,” tells of the Joker setting up a heist with a motley crew of small time Gotham hoods on stately Wayne Manor.  Seemingly straightforward, Grandpa throws a major curveball in the final five panels.  His artwork is what truly electrifies the story, taking an understated, subtle plot and adding intrigue and enigma that tempts the reader from panel to panel.  His art is hard to categorize, but has a simultaneous harshness and gentility within the very same lines.  Simply fantastic.  Rafael Albuquerque’s story, “A Place In Between,” takes Batman into the underworld on the ferry ride through the River Styx.  As it progresses Batman is confronted with his greatest sins as he tries to cope with the reconciliation of his intentioned goals and the actuality of his past actions.  Spoiler Alert: He isn’t dead, nor is this real, but Albuquerque gives thoughtful perspective to the reader and the Dark Knight as to the “success” of Batman’s mission and what things weigh on his conscience.  Albuquerque’s inkwash illustrations are truly gorgeous to behold as you go on the ferry ride with the Caped Crusader.  Jeff Lemire and Alex Nino’s story “Winter’s End,” is an excellent companion to the Didio/Jones story, “Manbat Out of Hell,” becasue while in the former story the reader is tricked into thinking the narration of Langstrom’s daughter is Bruce talking about his dad as his hero.  “Winter’s End” is narrated by Bruce, talking about the last winter he spent with his father before the tragic events that severed them forever.  In his recollections he talks about how safe his father made him feel, despite how scared he should have been.  The narration is put over the current day adventure of Batman into the heart of a man-made blizzard by Mr. Freeze imperiling the life of Commissioner Gordon. The actual events of the story are so-so, but the backstory of Bruce’s childhood is what really impacts the reader.  The final tale of the Batman, Michael Uslan’s “Silent Knight . . . Unholy Knight,” is rendered visually by Dave Bullock as though it were a silent film.  In it a serial killer called the Silent Knight, dressed in medieval armor and wielding a sword attacks families of three just like Bruce’s in an attempt to call out the Dark Knight.  It works.  Uslan scripts the story exactly like a silent film with mostly pantomime panels that visually tell the story with only the occasional caption panel with barebones dictation to relate what cannot be conveyed visually.  Bullock’s artistic style mimics that of Darwyn Cooke and evokes the glory of the Golden Age Batman, really nailing the necessary ambiance of the original Batman.  Taken altogether, these stories paint a broad picture of who Batman is, what he represents, and the many things he embodies to a wide range of people throughout the world and over time.
    Conning the Conmen.

    Conning the Conmen.

    BatmanBlack&White2-2

    Golden Age Batman on the Silver Screen . . .

  • Trillium #3 returns to the flip book format of the first issue (sort of) and segments the two journeys of Dr. Nika Temsmith from 38th century and William Pike from 1921. Nika is drawn back into her time and quarantined after being “rescued” from the Atabithian village where she ate the trillium flower and passed through the pyramid emerging in our world a few years after WWI.  With the sentient virus, the Caul, entered into the solar system the human refugees have sought shelter in the vastness of space and the military have tabled Nika’s negotiations with the Atabithians in favor of raiding their villages and taking the trillium crops that could provide humanity with a vaccine the Caul cannot adapt to.  This would in essence destroy the Atabithian species, as they rely upon the trillium flowers for their own existence.  To save them and to save humanity, Nika must escape captivity by her own people to prevent more than one apocalypse.  Meanwhile, in our “recent” past William is rejoined by his brother, Clayton, after Nika goes back through the pyramid to her time.  Of course Clayton does not believe William’s stories and as a result attempts to blow a hole in the sealed entranceway of the Aztec temple to prove there is nothing strange behind it.  The confluence of events brings forth an ending that defies expectations and takes the imperativeness of the plot to unimaginable levels.  Writer/artist Jeff Lemire is a genius, and his visual storytelling compliments his written work perfectly.  The use of flipped pages to demarcate past from future can be jarring at times, but creates a much more believable experience demonstrating the strangeness of the tenuous link between the two disparate time periods.  This series is what the Vertigo imprint was founded to print.  Such a series is the quintessence of what Vertigo comics have been, currently are, and (God willing) shall be until the end of human civilization. Trillium-Teaser658
  • Hinterkind #1 is yet another debut in the new wave of Vertigo titles.  This series also has a post-apocalyptic feel to it.  Human civilization as it has been known has ceased and the planet has reclaimed its surface from us, like any landlord whose tenants have abused the leased property.  The urban jungles of New York are taken over by a literal jungle growing over the streets and buildings and creating new ecosystems where wild animals reign free.  In one of the beginning scenes, human survivors hunt a Zebra in lower Manhattan.  Humanity has developed isolated colonies throughout the country that are linked only by radio.  The opening scene shows the Albany colony falling to an unknown force.  Following this the doctor of the Manhattan settlement, Asa Monday, decides to make the two month trek to Albany to ascertain what happened.  Detroit, Chicago, and Minneapolis are revealed to have gone dark, just like Albany, making the fall of each all the more suspicious and worth investigating.  His niece, Prosper Monday (the huntress that killed the Zebra at the beginning) wishes to go with him, but is denied.  Upon finding out that her best friend, Angus, has grown a rat tail inexplicably the two depart the colony anyway to see what is going on in the wide world.  What they find are even more incredible wild beasts like Ligons (lion/tiger hybrids), but what’s more, mythical beasts such as ogres and giant gothed-out fairies.  Writer Ian Edginton says that in essence he wants to tell a post-apocalyptic fairytale that makes legends realistic and show that humanity isn’t the dominant species on this planet and maybe never was supposed to be.  The series continues the tradition of upholding  the promise of comics as an intelligent artistic and narrative medium.  Edginton has me hooked for at least another issue, if not many more down the road.
The Urban Jungle.
The Urban Jungle.
  • Vertigo Presents: The Witching Hour was perhaps the greatest disappointment from Vertigo in some time. In the past when they had done topic anthology books like Ghosts, Time Warp, Strange Adventures, etc, they have gotten innovative creators to come onboard and spin poignant, entertaining short stories.  Looking back on those previous books, I can bring to mind several stories that resonated deeply and blew the mind of those reading them.  Jeff Lemire’s story about the death of Rip Hunter wasn’t something that spoke to the nature of reality, but it was deeply moving as to the nature of the human nature.  Gail Simone wrote a fantastic short story about candy that could transport people to their most perfect moment and the sweet, but finite nature of memories.  Witching Hour has almost none of the aspects present in the previous Vertigo anthology books.  Whereas before, there were well-known comic writers and artists producing stories, or indy creators bringing their A-game, this collection features stories from mostly indy writers that are topical at best and convoluted at the worst.  There isn’t even an adherence to a theme.  Ghosts featured stories about . . . ghosts.  Time Warp wasn’t strictly about time-travel but also the concept of the passing of time.  Strange Adventures dealt with space travel and human exploration in the final frontier.  Witching Hour begins with some stories about witches, but then there are stories about a mission to Mars and a woman with a parasitic spider in her brain.  What?!  Vertigo is slipping a little . . .

So ends the first week of October and the first in four weeks of resumed storylines in the regular continuities.  I will miss the fun Villains issues, but it’s also nice to have old “friends” back with the resuming of continuing plot arcs.  Can’t wait for next week’s batch which include the oversized issue of Batman #24 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.  It promises to be good.  See you then . . .

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

Illustration Credits:

Forever Evil #2: Drawn by David Finch, Colored by Sonia Oback, Inked by Richard Friend.

Action Comics #24: Art by Tyler Kirkham & Jesus Merino, Colored by Arif Prianto.

Green Lantern  #24: Drawn by Billy Tan, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Rob Hunter.

Green Arrow #24: Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo.

Earth 2 #16: Drawn by Nicola Scott, Colored by Pete Pantazis, Inked by Trevor Scott.

Batman: Black & White  #2: Art by Rafael Grandpa & Dave Bullock.

Trillium #3: Art by Jeff Lemire, Colored by Jeff Lemire & Jose Villarrubia.

Hinterkind #1: Art by Francesco Trifogli, Colored by Cris Peters.

Sept 11, 2013

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

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

    Spiral of Hatred

    Spiral of Hatred

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

    "We Shall Never Surrender!"

    “We Shall Never Surrender!”

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

    Who?

    Who?

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

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 87 (May 1, 2013)

I am SUPER overdue on this week of reviews, which is a shame because it was one of the best, comprised of some hallmark issues. Unfortunately, some of my paying writing jobs have gotten in the way of this enjoyable hobby blog.  I’ll stop with the long winded intros and just get the long overdue reviews.  Enjoy:

  • Action Comics #20 moves into the the second issue of a new era in Action Comics.  Cowriter Andy Diggle and cowriter/artist Tony Daniel left Superman recovering from a nanite infection that turned his hand into what looked like a living metal clawed monstrosity.  This issue has him waking up in the care of the brilliant and seductive Dr. Shay Veritas after his initial infection.  She teleported him away from the population to ensure their safety, but apparently Superman’s super immune system was able to separate the infection from his body.  However, the nanite virus, still in the shape of the clawed hand, maintains its bite.  The virus apparently was able to latch onto his DNA and sap many of his talents and abilities into its own hybrid genetic code.  Succeed or fail, this synthetic mutating virus is the opening salvo in Lex Luthor’s renewed war with Superman.  The next move in the chess game with the Man of Steel proves to be a nightmare straight out of a George Romero movie.  Following in the tradition of the $3.99 titles, writer Scott Lobdell and assistant dialoguist Frank Hannah begin a World of Krypton backup feature with the help of Philip Tan on pencils.  This feature begins with a young Jor-El discovering an ancient underwater city built by a pre-Kryptonian species.  His exploration, though groundbreaking and rewriting everything that had been known about Krypton’s natural history, doesn’t fail to annoy his fellow members of the Science Council, nor the Military Guild who guard them and who are holding an emergency vote on a key issue of great importance to the stability of Kryptonian governance.  In the wake of their disgruntled waiting, we see Lara Lor-Van (Superman’s mom and Jor-El’s future wife) maligning the starry eyed visionary and also find that she is at this moment engaged to her partner in the Military Guild, Jax-Ur.  Quite interesting for the Superman faithful, because Jax-Ur is a renowned Kryptonian criminal of great infamy in all Superman mythologies.  Ending on an explosive note, this first installment of World of Krypton accomplishes SO much!!!   The political balance of Krypton is established quite well, as are the characteristics of several important characters.  Jor-El and his future wife Lara are both obvious, playing well toward their depictions in Lobdell’s Superman #0, which we saw last September.  Also featured briefly, but certainly of prominence is Kra-Hu, the Afro-Kryptonian senior member of the Science Council who seems to be Jor-El’s mentor and father figure in the Kryptonian governmental structure.  Jax-Ur, engaged to Lara and predating his criminal destiny, will no doubt cut an interesting figure as well with Lobdell’s attention to canon and genius of innovation balancing toward a nice middle ground.  Everything about this new arc in Action Comics has me giddy as a school boy.  Keep it coming, DC!!!

    Beware the Claw!

    Beware the Claw!

  • Detective Comics #20 is in essence the endgame to writer John Layman’s open arc on this title.  With his opening issues he’d paved the way for the slow rise of Ignatius Ogilvy in the shadow of his boss, the Penguin’s grandiose bid to claim a place in the public eye of Gotham.  Using this distraction he was able to wrest the Penguin’s empire out from under his feet and establish an iron grip on Gotham’s underworld, installing himself as “Emperor Penguin.”  Well, now with Penguin in prison and his power base entrenched he steps out of the shadows and calls the Batman out.  Suicidal right?  Not entirely.  Ogilvy had this whole drama choreographed to the last movement and the Bat finds himself more than evenly matched when he meets Emperor Penguin face to face.  What Batman finds is no longer a human being, but rather a nightmare comprised of bits of all his nemeses.  Kurt Langstrom’s man-bat serum in his blood, mixed with Bane’s super-steroidal venom, and Poison Ivy’s plant elixir giving him bark-like armored skin beneath the course bat hair.  Quite frankly, with his analytical mind and enhancements, Ogilvy has the Bat outmatched.  Who will save him?  The answer will surprise you.  In the backup feature, also written by Layman, we are given a look at the childhood and rationale behind Ogilvy’s meteoric rise through the Gotham underworld.  His journey started when he was a child leaving a movie theater in a bad part of Gotham and his mother and father gunned down in front of his eyes.  Mirroring Batman’s traumatic catalyzing event, Ogilvy went the other direction from Batman, not seeking to end crime but rather to immerse himself in it and control it from the top echelon.  From Blackgate prison he narrates all of this and shows his preternatural ability to navigate circles of power and insert himself into the key positions through a Machiavellian display of cunning and physical strength.  Ogilvy came out of nowhere in the world of comics.  He has existed for less than a year and already John Layman has set him up as a Batman character of the highest caliber.  Kudos, Mr. Layman.  I had deep reservations about your competence at handling this title and you proved me infinitely wrong.  Layman is the man for Detective Comics.  Long may he write.

    The Emperor of Gotham

    The Emperor of Gotham

  • Aquaman #19 was a late addition to the roster, laid over from last month’s lineup.  Aquaman continues to struggle with the weight of the crown he once forsook for a simpler life.  Now it weighs heavier than ever as he is forced to “swim against the tide” of his usurping his younger brother Orm’s throne and his defense of the surface despite the catastrophic war between Atlantis and the United States.  To rally his troops he takes them against the submariner terrorist called the “Scavenger.”   Upon the engaging of one of the Scavenger’s submarine’s Arthur and his chosen elite discover a ghastly secret.  On land Mera is abducted by the resurrected Dead King of Atlantis, the first to sit upon the throne.  We have heard tell of him starting with the first arc, “The Trench” where the fish-men monsters are introduced, then later with the introduction of the Dead King’s scepter in the next arc “The Others”, and finally in the previous “Throne of Atlantis” crossover.  Now we see the ancient monarch for the first time and he is chilling.  Finally, this issue surprises with the reappearance of a shocking figure from her past.  Geoff Johns has been teetering this series between quality and throwaway storytelling.  The political intrigue following “Throne of Atlantis” and very personal depictions of the main characters amidst the aforementioned arc’s fallout is really engaging at this point and well worth the read.
  • Green Arrow #20 is a title I have begun to look forward to month to month.  Following Jeff Lemire’s taking up the title with issue #17 this series has gone from tragic joke to a hard-edged, thrill-a-minute roller-coaster ride.  Ollie Queen has lost it all!  His company has been forcefully ceased by a rival businessman, Lacroix, who also dons a black hood and mask, kidnaps his two employees/confidantes, murders one, and attempts to kill him using archery skills that rival Ollie’s.  To top that off a blind wiseman named Magus leads Ollie down a rabbit hole of discovery, pointing him in the direction of Lacroix’s (nom-de-guerre Komodo) secret lair with a picture of the enigmatic businessman/assassin with Ollie’s dad, Robert Queen ON THE ISLAND OLLIE WAS STRANDED ON!!!  Obviously this was before Ollie was stranded on it, but still more than coincidental and raising the question of how Lacroix, Ollie’s father’s death, and so many other things tie into a larger plan?  This issue opens with Ollie having escaped his first encounter with Komodo by the skin of his teeth and regrouping.  Komodo returns to his lair to make contact with the group he works for, the Outsiders.  This isn’t the para-Batman army we have seen in the past or anything like it.  This is a new Outsiders and their significance is crucial, tying into this series and Katana.  Ollie has it out with Komodo a second time in this issue and this second encounter not only ups the ante but showcases just how intelligent, versatile, and strong-willed Ollie truly is when lives are at stake.  Jeff Lemire is KILLING IT!!! This series is ridiculously awesome and in no small part thanks to artist Andrea Sorrentino’s stark rendering of the plot in stark light/color vs. black/shadow styling.  Just a phenomenal series so far and one not to be missed.

    The Outsiders

    The Outsiders

  • Batwing #20 begins a dubious new direction in this title’s future.  David Zavimbe was created by Grant Morrison to be a Batman for the continent of Africa.  A large task, but one that David could feasibly achieve considering his personal history as a child soldier in Africa and his experiences since growing up in a complex, corrupt political structure.  The first 20 issues (including Batwing #0) all show very vividly how intricate the balance of power leans in parts of West Africa.  New writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have retired Zavimbe and decided to replace him with Luke Fox, son of Wayne Enterprises Executive Lucius Fox.  Luke Fox whose only link to Africa is that he is African American.  To me it seems kind of racist that they would assume that if you are black you are interchangeable.  Just because your ancestors came from Africa doesn’t mean you have a preternatural knowledge of African history and the inner workings of the post-colonial political workings of dozens of nations.  Luke makes a joke about it in this issue, but despite them joking about it Palmiotti and Gray still made that decision.  Perhaps they have a goal in mind that will validate the concept, but they have a long way to prove that.  One thing Luke does have is enthusiasm and conviction.  Going to an undisclosed part of Africa, Luke faces off against a criminal organization called the the Marabunta that run money and guns to warlords and terrorist organizations throughout Africa.  In his descent into their world he battles a woman in insectoid-mech armor called “Lady Marabunta” and an anthropomorphic lion named Lord Lion-Mane.  The issue is entertaining and intriguing.  My objections remain unrebutted so far, but its only been one issue.  I will say that Palmiotti and Gray with the help of artists Eduardo Panisca and Julio Ferreira have earned another issue.
  • Swamp Thing #20 brings forth the second issue of the massive paradigm shift between Scott Snyder’s incredible inaugural run on the title and that of new series writer Charles Soule.  The issue itself is really well written and the plotline pretty rough.  Last issue, Scarecrow was trying to steal a rare flower from the Metropolis Botanical Garden when Swamp Thing stepped in to stop him.  Scarecrow unleashed his fear toxin on Swamp Thing causing the avatar of the Green to freak out and thereby the plants within the City of Tomorrow to utterly freak out by extension.  Inside his head, Swamp Thing sees Alec Holland living the life he would have led if he hadn’t been made into Swamp Thing.  He sees a life with Abby Arcane with a lovely house and children.  Everything is perfect except when he comes into his dream life, bringing the power of the Green with him.  Living out his deepest fear upon committing himself completely to the Green, he must face the real possibility that he will slowly lose his humanity and in so doing bring death and destruction upon all the people he comes into contact with at the behest of his plant-like masters.  Outside of his inner delusions his control of the Green is making monstrous vines, trees, venus fly-traps, etc, tear Metropolis apart and fulfill the very nightmare that bore them, that Swamp Thing will hurt all the people he comes into contact with.  Superman of course comes to the rescue of his adoptive city, takes out the main threats, such as the massive vines taking down a suspension bridge, then susses out the cause and intervenes to snap Swamp Thing out of his stupor.  Swamp Thing initially came to Metropolis to talk to Superman and ask him about the how to cope with his powers and the fear of those same powers robbing him of his humanity.  Superman is pretty harsh, albeit fair, and lays down some very harsh truths.  There is, however, a note of optimism at the end of his sermon that might just be what will redeem Swamp Thing.  Charles Soule, with Kano’s awesome art, really spins a beautiful Swamp Thing yarn that seems to wrap up in a two issue mini-arc.  The final page of the issue seems to be the start of an interesting new development to take us into Soule’s second, semi-connected story arc. I greatly anticipate it.

    Wisdom of Superman

    Wisdom of Superman

  • Earth 2 #12 concludes the introduction of Doctor Fate.  Khalid Ben-Hassin has fought for years the influence of Nabu and falling under the thrall of the ancient mage as well as that of his totem, the helmet of Fate.  No more.  Last issue Khalid accepted his destiny and donned Fate’s helmet becoming Doctor Fate.  Now he and Nabu’s ancient foe, Wotan, go head to head for the first time in centuries in a blaze of sorcery and hexes over the skies of Boston.  Meanwhile in China, Alan Scott (Green Lantern) and  Kendra Munoz-Saunders (Hawkgirl) investigate the death of Alan’s lover, Sam.  In Macau they find storage containers at the docks full of decaying parademon corpses neatly stacked within.  The plot thickens as the question is raised as to what they are doing there and how do they fit into Sam’s murder.  This is put on hold as Green Lantern is drawn to Boston by his ring to aid in the relief effort of the magical battle.  Writer James Robinson really is sewing up the plot of this book by moving individual storylines forward, such as Alan’s investigation of Sam’s murder and the fallout of the Apocalypse invasion years prior, while at the same time introducing exquisitely new characters like Khalid’s Doctor Fate and folding them into the plot.  By issue’s end, Flash, Green Lantern, and Fate are brought together just in time for another plot point Robinson is skillfully sewing back into the main plot: Steppenwolf.  With this issue the world has learned that Darkseid’s uncle and one of the most dangerous men in the multiverse is being harbored, as well as ruling, the independent republic of Dherain.  There is a great deal afoot at present and Robinson has given himself a very advantageous position plot-wise to move forward from.  I very much look forward to future installments of this series, especially since Mister Miracle and his wife, Big Barda, are also in the offing.  Nicola Scott’s art on this series is another aspect not to be missed, especially when given such round and incredible characters to depict.
  • Worlds’ Finest #12 begins a dark chapter in the journeys of Power Girl and Huntress.  Picking up from last issue we find that the newly returned Michael Holt is in fact Desaad, torturer to Darkseid and one of Apokalips’ most dangerous New Gods.  He attacks Helena and Karen, but when they defend themselves and return his assaults, they discover that Desaad still has an illusion over himself that keeps people seeing him as Michael Holt, upright business mogul and scientist, and the two superheroines as thugs who are attacking him for seemingly no reason.  That discovered, they are forced to beat a hasty retreat and re-assess the situation.  However, Desaad is a creature that operates on many fronts.  Starr Industries (run by the disguised Power Girl) begins to drop in its stock value and have its top researches wooed away to other companies, and one of their top research facilities explodes.  However, this is not the most shocking thing that happens in this issue.  Paul Levitz is a genius.  This series is one of his crowning achievements.  The plot segues so nicely into a bookend for the above mentioned Earth 2, following exiles from that world in ours and showing how their odyssey is tied into the events happening concurrently on their homeworld.
  • The Movement #1 was a bit of a disappointment.  I was eagerly anticipating it due to its penning by master comic writer Gail Simone, but unfortunately Simone doesn’t live up to her reputation here.  Perhaps its the premise of the piece.  Set as a “point/counterpoint” piece with the new title The Green Team, this book and its sister series are supposed to be comics representing the 99% and the 1% of America and their place in the DCU.  The product is super-trite.  Elements of social commentary can come into comics effectively when done in thought provoking ways, but this blatant attempt to force the issues seems really forced and uninspired.  I could bemoan it much more, but I will stop.  I couldn’t find anything redeeming to say about it.  A shame that it couldn’t do what it set out to do, but in my opinion it fell flat.  I will read The Green Team, but I assume it will also fall flat.
  • Phantom Stranger #8 is an apocalyptic issue insofar as it features the “death” of the Stranger (something few even thought possible) and in his death reveals what has really been happening in the past several issues.  Issues #0, 1, and 2 key us into the Stranger’s role as a betrayer and agent of transcendental neutrality.  The last six have followed the Stranger’s attempt to locate his kidnapped wife and children.  This issue gives resolution as to what did happen to them and who was behind their abduction, but even more intriguing is the revelation of how the Phantom Stranger, the most asexual, ambivalent being in the universe, could come to have a wife and kids.  Philip Stark and his family existed before the Phantom Stranger entered into any of their lives and in point of fact, his co-opting of them and Stark’s life create a poignant, humanizing moment for him.  Dan Didio and co-writer J.M. DeMatteis have created an incredible series that has taken the concept of the Phantom Stranger and not only made him relatable to readership, but actually sympathetic.  When we have seen him briefly here and there in the past decade or so, it has often times been him heralding a crisis and then making matters more difficult than necessary for the heroes involved.  In this series we have seen that representation unchanged, but we also see how he is forced to do these things and the demons and displeasures they engender in his metaphorical heart (which DOES exist).  The series has been phenomenal , but issue #8 stands as a call to arms for readership as to HOW good the series is and has the potential to be in future.  Long story short:  READ IT!
  • Legends of the Dark Knight #8 delivers two more astounding tales of the Dark Knight.  In the first story, entitled “Carved”, writer Paul Tobin and artist Tadd Moore tell the tale of a kidnapper/thief in Gotham who abducts people and objects and replaces them with exact replicas sculpted out of mahogany.  Already there is a great setup for a psychological villain, which is an interesting turn for Batman.  Most of his foes are theatrical, but this one is just a person with deep seated issues, enveloped in a very methodical psychosis.  A fascinating, extremely well written story.  The next one, “Unnatural Selection”, written by Ricardo Sanchez and drawn by Sergio Sandoval also provides a very out of the box, rarely attempted story in the Batman titles.  A series of grisly murders leads the Dark Knight to a cryptotaxodermist’s creation of a Barghest.  Cryptotaxodermy is the creation of mythic animals from the parts of deceased members of its constituent parts, i.e. making a stuffed griffin from an eagle’s head, lion’s body, snake’s tail, etc.  However, how can a stuffed, fictitious creature murder a slew of people throughout Gotham?  The answer is very intriguing and quite fascinating to wrap one’s head around.  This story in particular touched me deeply in how tragic every aspect of it is. Every aspect.  However, both stories were AMAZING!  This series is a crap shoot, sometimes delivering the cheddar and other times falling flat.  I personally would suggest this issue for someone that wants a good reason to begin a long standing love affair with the character of Batman, or simply find out the potential inherent in Batman stories outside of the stereotypes of capes and masks that make up 90% of Batman stories.

And thus wraps the first week of May’s batch of comics.

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 #20: Drawn by Tony Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by Batt

Detective Comics #20:  Art by Jason Fabok, Colored by Jeremy Cox

Green Arrow #20:  Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo

Batwing #20:  Art by Eduardo Panisca & Julio Ferreira, Colored by Jason Wright

Swamp Thing #20: Drawn by Kano, Colored by Matthew Wilson, Inked by Alvaro Lopez

Week 86 (April 24, 2013)

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

    Endgame

    Endgame

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

    Wondering at Wonder Woman

    Wondering at Wonder Woman

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

    The Return of the old "New Teen Titans"

    The Return of the old “New Teen Titans”

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

    The Old Guard

    The Old Guard

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

Week 83 (April 3, 2013)

  • Action Comics #19 ushers in a brand new era in the title with the departure of comics legend Grant Morrison from the book and the advent of Andy Diggle on stories and Tony S. Daniel on art.  Grant Morrison is just short of a godhood in the realm of 21st century comic lore and his nineteen issue run (#0 issue included) was an incredible, psychedelic roller-coaster ride that befits his vaunted reputation.  Large shoes to fill, but I still am excited by the Diggle/Daniel team up.  Andy Diggle is an incredible writer whose Green Arrow: Year One series was tight, concise, and a very good intro to the character for newbies.  Tony S. Daniel is one of my favorite writer/artists because of his attention to visual storytelling and the round, sumptuous lines of his artwork.  The two together prove to be a symphony really utilizing the characters and visual grandeur of the Superman line to the fullness of their potential.  Superman is young and idealistic and still at a stage prior to the events of Superman #1, as becomes blatantly clear with the introduction of a character already “introduced” to us in the future in that aforementioned Superman issue.  Daniel draws him with youthful exuberance and a stoic concern when he is tested by bad men in big machines.  Lex Luthor, also a character in this arc, is quite different than the only time we have met him in the first six issue arc of Morrison’s run.  There he was a little chunky and arrogant.  Here he is lean, and has shed his cavalier attitude for an ice cold demeanor that is very wolf-like and predatory.  He is infinitely complex and his mental psyche is explored quite candidly in a very terse scene with his psychiatrist.  Diggle writes him exquisitely and Tony Daniel’s art captures all of his ominous potential in some very chilling expressions.  To put it mildly, this new Action line up is incredible.  Though Morrison has moved on, the title will continue to shine brightly as a star in the DC crown, thanks to two of the most promising creators in the medium.

    A Wife's Love

    The Psychiatrist and the Psychopath

  • Detective Comics #19 (#900) was an issue to remember and a reminder of how pissed I am at DC for renumbering their books.  If they had not gone through with the renumbering as a result of the Reboot this would have been issue #900.  They didn’t make note of it either on the cover, even for this MOMENTOUS occasion, considering no other title in comics, besides Action (WHICH GOT THE #900 ON THE COVER!) has ever reached that landmark.  That said, going into it there was a lot of pressure on them to do it right.  In Action Comics #900 writer Paul Cornell capped off what was perhaps one of the most massive Lex Luthor stories ever told and truly blew the reader away with a testimonial as to just how deep Luthor’s hatred for Superman runs.  In this 900th issue of the title that launched Batman in the late 30’s current writer John Layman had to pick a topic to write about that segued into his current run on the book while at the same time telling a story quintessentially enmeshed in the Batman mythos.  The Joker was not possible, because Scott Snyder already used him up two months ago.  The Scarecrow was a decent option, except that he’s been overused of late.  Penguin is a part of the story, but still not quite right.  Layman chose to find the answer in the name of his main character. Bat . . . Man.  Man . . . Bat.  Apparently in the Reboot Kurt Langstrom hasn’t been introduced into Batman’s scope and thus the introduction of a viral version of his serum that infects people and turns them into literal bat-men and women leads to his New 52 debut.  The story is fast paced, clean, engaging, well thought out and if one ignores the annoying contradictions arising from the links to the semi-rebooted Batman Incorporated series, which is predicated on Batman knowing about Kurt Langstrom LONG before this point, its absolutely perfect.  As with Action Comics #900 there are also other shorter pieces that tie integrally into the Batman character, paying homage to it’s impact on the world at large.  As is usually the case, Layman follows up on the main story with a backup feature that highlights a loose end brought up in the main story with Andy Clarke providing beautiful art.  Without giving too much away, it tells the story of Francine Langstrom, Kurt’s wife, and how she met and fell in love with her husband.  Following the tragic fate of her husband this feature shows the true depth of her love for him, which honestly made me mist up a little.  Coupled with the main story, these two make the issue worth $7.99 by themselves.  James Tynion IV, cowriter of Talon, with the help of Justice League Dark artist, Mikel Janin, tells the next tale which features Bane on his island haven of Santa Prisca that connects his disappearance at the end of Batman: The Dark Knight #7 to a coming appearance in Talon #7.  Though the beauty of Janin’s art seems to clash with the harshness of the subject material, it’s still a delight to look at precisely for that reason.  John Layman then finishes the issue off with two more short stories.  One explaining why Ogilvy engineered the Manbat infestation and what happened during that chaotic night, as well as introducing a twist in Penguin (Oswald Cobblepot’s) fate following last issue’s events.  Last but not least, he tells the story of a police officer recovering in Gotham Central Hospital from his transformation to a manbat and back to a person.  Most of the cops there hate Batman and hold no punches in talking trash about him.  The female police rookie from Batman #12 who had to guard Joker’s face is among the cops and she speaks out for the Caped Crusader.  After all the other cops leave in disgust, the injured cop in his hospital bed confides that Batman was the reason that he didn’t kill anyone as a manbat.  But for Batman he’d have been a murderer and for that reason he agrees to be her partner when no else would partner up with her.  Across the board this issue did Batman proud.  Quality storytelling and beautiful art, in both the stories themselves and the pinups between features.  Well worth the read for any Batman fan.

    A Wife's Love

    A Wife’s Love

  • Green Lantern #19 is a twofold issue.  On one side writer Geoff Johns is progressing the story toward Hal Jordan literally making the “leap” to becoming a Black Lantern.  As Johns hinted seven months ago, Hal is destined to be the greatest Black Lantern of all time.  Unthinkable as it may seem, Johns is taking us there and I for one cannot wait to see Hal in the black outfit, which we were cheated of seeing during Blackest Night by Barry Allen’s incredible speed.  The main plot this issue tackles is Sinestro falling under the scrutiny of Volthoom, the First Lantern.  In fact, Sinestro and his world of Korugar are precisely what Volthoom needed to fulfill his evil plans for the universe.  This is it though.  After this issue all that remains of the plot is Green Lantern #20.  Then Geoff John’s vision of Green Lantern will conclude itself with his departure from the series and a new day will dawn on the GL line of books.  I have to say that I am sad to see him leave.  This was one series that he consistently did right.  His long time collaborator, artist Doug Mahnke was absent again this issue, with Adrian Syaf and Szymon Kudranski splitting duties on artwork.  No doubt it’s to give Mahnke time to do the art on what is solicited to be a massive finale issue, but the choice of these two seems to be a logical one.  Syaf draws Sinestro quite well, endowing the fallen Green Lantern with all the arrogance and anger that befit him, and Kudranski’s eerily shadowed, monochromatic art sets a very stark tone for the Hal Jordan scenes taking place in the “Dead Zone.”  This issue is phenomenal, epitomizing what is essential about both Hal and Sinestro.
  • Green Arrow #19 is for the most part an extended duel between Green Arrow and his black clad nemesis, Komodo.  What is important about it is the psychology.  The interplay between these two archers not only informs the reader about archery in general from Ollie’s narration and the verbal repartee between the two, but also about the archers themselves.  Ollie’s deepest thoughts and drives are either told to us or insinuated through his actions and reactions to the events chronicled by writer Jeff Lemire.  Also a major twist is Komodo’s revelation as to the nature of Robert Queen’s (Green Arrow’s dad) death.  Ollie knew it was a helicopter crash that coincided with his marooning on the island, but the exact nature was unbeknownst to him until this issue.  Also of interest is Komodo and his daughter, Emiko.  Komodo, whose real name is Lacroix, looks to be Caucasian and his daughter, Emiko, from name and appearance looks to be Asian.  I only point out their racial characteristics because Komodo and his persona as a black archer seems to be much in the same vein as Merlyn the Magnificent and Emiko and her outfit when she suits up in this issue seems to be a very close (except in age) facsimile of the archer Shado from previous Green Arrow lore.  I am very curious to see if Lemire is rewriting the Green Arrow playbook or merely borrowing a few cues.  In any event, he delivers a stark, razor’s edge plotline that paints Ollie into a corner and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.  Though I admit to not being an Andrea Sorrentino fan, his artwork for this arc in Green Arrow is essential to establishing the feel that is imperative to Lemire’s vision.  The two together are like Lennon and McCartney.  If you had reservations about the character up until this point, you need to get the series from #17 and go forward from there.  Lemire and Sorrentino have resurrected the Emerald Archer back to his rightful place in comic book lore.

    The Truth Comes Out

    The Truth Comes Out

  • Earth 2 #11 ushers in a truly amazing issue of this dynamic title.  Last issue we were introduced to Wotan and given a brief glimpse into the history of the Helmet of Fate, housing the power and spiritual essence of the ancient mage, Nabu.  Here writer James Robinson takes us even further into the backstories of Nabu, Wotan, and the human, Khalid Ben-Hassin, who finds himself caught between these two mages in their titanic stuggle against one another.  The lion’s share of the issue’s narrative follows Khalid’s attempt to locate the helm he had forsaken in the past and his communing with Nabu’s spirit to locate it within the labyrinthine bowls of Fate’s Tower.  Nabu believes that Khalid is chose by fate and therefore the only man fit to bear his power, which is something Khalid has fought tooth and nail up until this very moment.  Why is that you ask? In their first encounter, after the young archaeologist’s discovery of the helmet in an unearthed Egyptian tomb, Nabu’s essence sought to supplant Khalid’s will and drove him to the brink of insanity.  Now with an inspiration to aspire to Khalid intends to brave oblivion and madness to become the hero his Earth desperately needs.  James Robinson and artist Nicola Scott knock this series out of the park with beautifully intricate and often moving plots and pictures.  What truly made this particular issue for me was a scene in the Eastern European country of Dherain where Steppenwolf dispatches his right hand, Fury (daughter of Wonder Woman), to hunt down two more exiled denizens of Apokalips.  Admittedly, this couple are my favorite Fourth Worlders.  I am on pins and needles for the next installment.

    Miracles Do Happen

    Miracles Do Happen

  • Worlds’ Finest #11 features the entrance of yet another Apokaliptian.  Huntress follows upon a lead connecting the sale of weapons powered by Apokalips technology to the money that has been siphoned from Wayne Enterprises.  That lead in North Africa leads her right back to Holt Industries, which Power Girl had been attacking like a harbinger of natural disaster last issue.  WE know that Michael Holt was transported to Earth 2, however,that precipitates the question of how he can be back on Earth 1?  Enter our mysterious Fourth Worlder, Desaad.  Paul Levitz writes this series so well, but this issue was a little dry.  Though I am intrigued by the advent of Desaad, this one took a little longer to come to the point.  Still an incredible series and one that has great promise in coming issues.
  • Swamp Thing #19 is not unlike Action Comics #19 above.  Scott Snyder’s inaugural run of this title was as seminal as Morrison’s on Action.  Both were innovative and redefined their respective series.  Charles Soule takes over Swamp Thing from Snyder and in the wake of what has been a very important, unique origin story, Soule takes Swamp Thing back to the role he held in all his previous incarnations: guardian of the Green.  This includes doing some things that are morally repugnant to him, including measures that lead to the deaths of many innocent people.  Despite being the warrior king of the Green Kingdom, Alec Holland hasn’t forgotten that he was once human and his duties do not fail to shake what remains of that humanity.  Taking a trip to the Metropolis Botanical Gardens, where he spent many hours during his graduate work to calm his soul, he runs into Scarecrow, himself on an errand from the mysterious society of supervillains hinted at in Justice League of America. Soule does an incredible job of taking this series by the horns and doing something new, yet appropriate to the continuation of the legacy he inherited.  Taking over art from Yanick Paquette and Marco Rudy is Spanish artist, Kano.  Kano provided art for Swamp Thing #0 and in my review for it, I quote myself as saying, “ I pray that he get a shot at another issue or two in future, maybe a whole arc, because his lines and style are so incredible.”  https://offthepanelcomicreview.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/week-53-sept-5-2012/ Wish granted.  He continues his exquisite art here and looks to be attached for the foreseeable future.  Like Supergirl, Superman, and Action, all of which have gone through major paradigm shifts, this series set the hook, ensuring for me at least continued readership.
  • Batwing #19 continues the era of change.  Those who have been keeping up with Batwing know that a reckoning is coming.  David Zavimbe is a good cop in a country rotting from its bowels in corruption.  He has lived under the assumption that good will and perseverance can win against evil.  Those beliefs have died with his bestfriend and mentor, Matu Ba.  Now Batwing is going to town with a tomahawk and NO ONE is sacred.  Neither friends nor enemies are safe from his wrath.  While his path up until this issue have been held retarded through moral restraint, this issue has him cutting through any impediment to justice like butter.  But in the end, its just a means for him to clean house before leaving his role as the Batman of Africa.  Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray take over with this issue to conclude David Zavimbe’s tenure as Batwing and inaugurate the his replacement.  Batman says that this new candidate was his “first choice” for Batwing.  Palmiotti and Gray are good writers, but I am questioning their choice of his replacement and what that means for Batman’s judgement.  I won’t spoil who he is, but I will say that though he is African, he’s actually African American, born and raised in Gotham.  It seems a little racist to me that they assume that a guy can represent peoples and places he has never been.  Just cause his ancestors were from Africa doesn’t mean that he can represent them.  Batman was born and raised in Gotham, Nightrunner (the Batman of France) though of North African extraction was raised in Paris, Mr. Unknown in Japan, etc.  I’m not impugning their rationale or saying they can’t pull it off, but Palmiotti and Gray have set up a pretty implausible foundation to their run and the series’ new direction.  Time will tell . . .

    Batwing Goes Out With A Bang

    Batwing Goes Out With A Bang

  • Phantom Stranger #7 continues the Stranger’s quest to find his abducted family.  On the way he meets up with the “Voice” in its form as a Scottish terrier.  While discoursing upon this religious  and philosophical the Voice leads the Phantom Stranger to the next person whom he is to betray: Jack Ryder.  A super conservative television newsman with an over inflated ego, Ryder finds his career on the rocks.  Yet in the darkest hour of Metropolis and in Superman’s absence, Ryder stays on the air to report the chaos occurring downtown, just outside the studio.  Dan Didio resurrects his version of the Challengers of the Unknown for this grand display of coalescing fear and fearlessness.  The Stranger yet again leads a human being unto their ruin and death, but the great betrayer finds himself at the spears edge of his own betrayal by ones very close to him and his past.  Dan Didio concocts a very compelling, mysterious series that draws the reader through a very diverse cross-section of the DCU.
  • Legends of the Dark Knight #7 presents a tale of Arkham Asylum rarely seen.  Inmates are seeing a ghost, as is the Dark Knight.  Following the strange occurrences, Batman is lead into a decades old murder case that ties to the staff of the Asylum and a restless “spirit.”  This series has produced some very intriguing tales surrounding the Batman, exploring the world that has developed around his actions and their consequences.  This one wasn’t the best developed so far.  The substance of this “vengeful spirit” and even the question of how she manifests is unanswered and rather lackluster.
  • Smallville: Season Eleven #12 packs quite a wallop, achieving quite a bit in one issue, and also concluding the four part “Haunted” arc.  Superman goes to-to-toe with the Black Flash in order to save Bart.  However, that is just an evasive tactic that can only go so far.  Bart invariably is the one that is destined to fight the Black Flash, which he accepts and does heroically.  Delving into the mind of her Earth 2 doppelganger, Chloe Sullivan relives the life of her other self on that other Earth and sees for the first time the Moniters who play harbinger to the “Crisis” Earth-2 Chloe foretold before her death.  Both of these two events hail dark tidings for the world of “Smallville”, but a few bright lights shine through the darkness.  Fighting the Black Flash allowed the radioactive isotope Lex put into Superman’s system as a tracking mechanism to fully dissipate, meaning that Clark can reunite with his fiancee, Lois Lane.  Lex’s dearly departed sister, Tess, has been a thorn in her brother’s side for sometime and with his resources, he is not one to allow a thorn to remain no matter how difficult it is to remove.  This issue gives Tess safe harbor in some respect from her brother’s dark machinations.  This series really holds up to its televised predecessor.

Week 82 (March 27, 2013)

This week features some really incredible issues. Batman Inc brings us to the direct aftermath of the slaying of Robin, Damian Wayne, and what that portends for the overall Batman universe.  Joe Kubert Presents concludes its six issue run.  And so many other books of merit, there’s no point in prefacing them.  Here they are:

  • Batman Inc #9 represents a turning point in the title.  The forces of Leviathan continue to press their advantage upon the Batman Incorporated lines.  However, following the deaths of several Batman Inc agents, not least of which Batman’s son, Damian, the forces of the Batman begin to rally against the oppressive foe with renewed vigor.  If the state of affairs as of this issue’s ending had to be boiled down to one sentence it be simply be: “It is ON!”  Batman is ANGRY and his inner circle of allies are champing at the bit as well.  Talia’s plan is a well oiled machine, but her cloned son going off script and murdering his “twin” was perhaps the chink in the chain that will break her dreams of revenge on the Dark Knight and his legacy.  Though in the end, after killing their child, how much lower can she bring Batman?  With the terror she has inflicted on Gotham and the political pressure from above to acquiesce to her demands, Batman Inc is outlawed and driven back into the shadows of Gotham.  However, where do bats do their best hunting?  Grant Morrison is writing an opera and each issue is a well orchestrated movement.  Chris Burnham’s art, however, is the orchestra that brings it all to vibrant life.  He takes the beautifully poignant scripts and brings them to brutal, bone wrenching realization.  There are only a few artists whose work can pair perfectly with Morrison’s stories and Burnham is one of them.  What little is left of this meteoric run is going to be nothing short of magical.

    Don't Mess With the Batman

    Don’t Mess With the Batman

  • Red Lanterns #18 brings the Regent of Rage, Atrocitus, under the thumb of Volthoom.  This horrific monstrosity plays people’s painful emotions like a violin and what can be rawer than someone whose very existence is a result of catastrophic loss.  Atros of Ryutt not only lost his family the day the Manhunters went berserk in Space Sector 666, he lost his entire race.  What would have happened if that genocide hadn’t occurred.  As ever, Volthoom is eager to show what might have been, and as ever, it is absolutely awful.  According to him, hatred and rage would have been Atrocitus’ destiny no matter what occurred or didn’t occur that day and if the Manhunters did annihilate his people as they did, so much innocent blood would never be on his hands and his crusade could be termed righteous thereafter.  On Earth, John Moore, aka Rankorr, attempts to find happiness with a young woman he saved in the streets of his old town.  However, Bleez might have something to say about it. Series writer Peter Milligan nails this plotline with his characteristic wit, brilliance, and sadistic charm.  What becomes all too apparent as the issue reaches its conclusion is that when the red ring slips on your finger you may find temporary satisfaction through vengeance, but you will never find happiness.  Atrocitus truly is a Greek tragedy personified and this  issue proves that as he give the Red Lanterns one last order in the final panel.  This issue was ridiculously good.  The only thing I that could have been better was the art.  Sorry, Miguel Sepulveda, but your art just doesn’t fit what I feel the tone of the book requires.

    Hell Hath No Fury

    Hell Hath No Fury

  • Superman #18 comes fresh off of “H’el on Earth” with great skill and style.  In my review of last week’s Supergirl #18 I mentioned the danger inherent with coming off of a large event like this the Super-titles have, providing a jumping off point for readers unless a hook is sunk to keep them buying.  Supergirl sunk a hook and Scott Lobdell BURIED one with this issue.  Three major things occurred in this issue and each was drawn by a different artist along the lines of Green Lantern: New Guardians #18, also from last week’s releases.  Apropos New Guardians, the departing artist of that title, Aaron Kuder, provides art on the parts of the issue that usher in Orion of the New Gods into the plot.  For anyone that knows me or has read my posts with some frequency it is an understatement to say that I enjoy anything involving Jack Kirby’s Fourth World.  So far Geoff Johns has bungled magnificently the introduction of Apokalips and its leader Great Darkseid into the New 52 continuity, but Brian Azzarello’s intro of Orion hasn’t been terrible.  If I trusted anyone in DC’s current stable of creators with the Fourth World, it would be this series’ writer, Scott Lobdell.  Here he beings the pitting of noble Orion against the Man of Steel.  In the mean time, however, Superman has other more immediate worries on his mind.  Tyler Kirkham (*ahem* Also a New Guardians artist) draws a segment of the story in which the United States government summons Superman to a Congressional  hearing in which the Fortress of Solitude’s purpose is questioned and an inspection by International representatives is demanded.  In his civilian identity of Clark Kent has to deal with unemployment and Cat Grant, who quit the Daily Planet shortly after Clark and who has big plans for their collective future.  Cat Grant has always been portrayed as really callow and something of a bimbo.  She’s fairly superficial in this representation on the outside, but I applaud Lobdell for giving her some substance deep down.  I mean, she quit the Planet when Clark was forced to resign for journalistic integrity.  She didn’t have to.  She had a sweet gig as a popular trends journalist and was one of the voices of fashion and culture.  Regardless of how vapid she may be, that shows really character.  Scott Lobdell constantly astounds me at the amazing stories he’s telling at DC.  Superman continues to be one of the must read titles.

    Orion

    Orion

  • Flash #18 features a story written exclusively by series cowriter and colorist Brian Buccellato and with art by guest artist Marcio Takara in which Barry Allen and the Flash try to pick up the pieces after the conclusion of the Gorilla Invasion of the Gem Cities and Barry’s civilian identity is brought back from the “dead.”  In the wake of these events a whole new status quo has been established.  Two men caught in Speed Force, following the Flash’s tearing the fabric of space and time with his speed, gain Flash-like abilities, albeit of a lesser caliber.  Also the Trickster is framed for murder and the Flash sets out to prove one of his archenemies’ innocence.  The story is very compelling, humorous, and engaging.  I do not know how large a part series artist and cowriter Francis Manapul is, but in his absence Brian Buccellato has scripted an incredible issue.  Marcio Takara’s art is different from the usual Manapul style, but closer than usual fill in artist, Marcus To.  Altogether an incredible issue.
  • Talon #6 is hands down one of the most important issues that has come out.  This series spins off of a major plot point of the Bat-books and takes it into its own right.  Writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV brings the title to a crescendo.  When last we left Calvin Rose he was infiltrating an impregnable fortress off the coast of New York.  The prize within is the Grand Master of the Court of Owls and his most sensitive documents.  However, the Court aren’t easily assailed.  The genius of the issue lies in its complete turn around of everything we’ve come to understand about the series, but also in the way it plays into a major mystery left by the end of the “Court of Owls” plot line in Batman. Guillem March’s artwork ties it all together.  Simply genius.
  • Teen Titans #18 is the final “Requiem” issue of the Bat-books in memoriam of Damian, giving us Tim Drake’s reaction to his “little brother’s” death.  Damian managed to piss off every member of the Bat family, but Tim was the one who received the lion’s share of antagonism with the young Wayne.  In fact, though it was pre-Reboot, the first time Damian met Tim he tried and almost succeeded in killing him. Needless to say, there is no love lost between them.  But despite all that, they were very similar and Tim wanted him and all young heroes to be safe.  His speech to the ghost of Damian, product of his grief, about why he set out to create the Teen Titans for kids like him to keep them safe was truly moving.  From there Tim takes the Titans to Belle Reve prison in Louisiana for a toe-to-toe with Amanda Waller’s Suicide Squad.  The rationale is not revealed, but knowing writer Scott Lobdell, it will be crucial to something incredible over the horizon.  Lobdell is another master of spreading seeds throughout his issues that later grow into substantial plot points.  Doctor Light is seen in the shadows following a lead on the disappearance of a young Indian girl, Kiran Singh, whom we know to be Solstice, and a psychotic teen with super powers we met briefly last issue makes another cryptic appearance this issue.  The true draw to any reader of Teen Titans past or present is the surprise appearance in the last panel of a VERY big player in the DCU pantheon.  In summation, Scott Lobdell and Eddy Barrows knock it out of the park.

    A Little Brother's Plea

    A Little Brother’s Plea

  • Aquaman #18 for the most part is an exploration of the new status quo in the title.  Aquaman has supplanted his brother, Orm, as king of Atlantis, leaving his wife, Mera, stranded on land.  Despite his best efforts to do what is right for his people, he seems to be doing what is wrong for those closest to him.  He has estranged himself from his wife whose people are hereditary enemies of Atlantis.  He has sold out his brother to surface dwellers, when in all reality Orm was only acting in defense of their people using battle plans they came up with TOGETHER.  Heavy weighs the crown it would seem, but I still am uneasy in my feelings for Aquaman.  His quest to rid the surface does represent an altruistic attempt to gently normalize relations between the worlds above and below the waves, giving him some pathos with the reader.  This quest also led to the introduction the classic Aquaman villain the Scavenger as well as Tula, here a half sister to Orm, but unrelated to Arthur, as he and Orm share a mother and Tula and Orm share a father.  What this issue does do which really makes it worthwhile is the appearance of an ancient evil that promises to turn this series on its head.  Geoff Johns is hit or miss lately and this one rides the edge.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #18 has Batman continuing on the trail of Mad Hatter.  The actual pursuit clearly isn’t important to the writer, Gregg Hurwitz, as it is fairly uninspired and lackluster.  In my opinion it seems only to be a mode of facilitating an examination of the Mad Hatter’s obsessive nature and a rationale behind why he is so violently insane.  Jervis Tetch has always been rather short, just like his Lewis Carroll namesake, and while taking a testosterone booster gets an irreversible rage issue compounded with delusional obsessions.  Hurwitz is more setting up the character for future exploration rather than focusing on an engaging tale.  He also seems to be developing a trope of juxtaposing the villain de jour with Batman, showing the overlapping similarities Batman shares with his icon nemeses.  After exploring the relationship between the damaged Mad Hatter and his loving parents, Hurwitz shows the relationship between the very damaged Batman and his parents, both sets of which want their sons to be happy, but the world contrevening against those wishes.  The story itself isn’t enjoyable per se, but analyzing it does yield some interesting material.
  • Justice League Dark #18, while long and drawn out, is extremely simple.  Last issue, Dr. Peril of A.R.G.U.S. revealed that the magic world  the JLD traveled to as well as our world bleed magic through various locations and arcane persons.  The Magic World, taken over by scientists that banned all magic and enforce its suppression with super-science, is like a stopped up boiler.  Unless the magic can leech out in some manner the entire reality will be engulfed in the exploding energies built up over centuries.  This issue has Timothy Hunter’s father going to the Magic World and helping him leech those energies from the Earth and channel them into the Heavens.  After that the JLD exit the Magic World and return home.  Constantine, after he regains his ability to lie and mislead, postures a bit to make up for the fact that he was completely worthless for the past few issues (and pretty much is ALL the TIME) and officially tells Col. Steve Trevor of A.R.G.U.S. that his Justice League Dark are no longer under governmental oversight. This past arc wasn’t exactly anything that I was interested in and time will tell if I continue to read it.  The art by Mikel Janin is gorgeous and perhaps its only selling point at his juncture.  Jeff Lemire is a decent writer, but a lot of the “magic” has gone out of it with the departure of Peter Milligan and the convergence that seems to be going towards Geoff Johns’ imminent “Trinity War.” We’ll just have to see.
  • All-Star Western #18 concludes what was begun last issue with the entrance of Vandal Savage to Gotham and the outbreak of what was thought to be a cholera epidemic in the poorer sections of Gotham.  In fact it was a disease Vandal had carried with him over the past several hundred years, dormant in his system.  All of it was for Vandal to get his hands on Catherine Wayne to force Alan Wayne into forfeiting his vast holdings in Gotham to Savage.  Jonah and Jeremiah come to her aid just in time to put Savage down for the time being.  But with the immortal despot, he will rise again and continue his mad plots.  After this, Jonah collects his bounty and heads out of Gotham once again.  The question remains as to whether or not he will be able to stay away.  Though he is a man of the West and has always been characterized as such, writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray always seem to bring him back to Gotham.  This two-parter seemed to not really have a solid point to it and ends anticlimactically, but does have some poignant moments that are very interesting if not arbitrary, such as the scene where Hex and Arkham take refuge from the hordes above in a storm cellar populated by a dwarf smuggler (that is to say a smuggler who is a little person) and a grief stricken mother with a doll surrogate for her disease-killed baby.  It facilitates next to nothing to the resolution or build up of the plot, but gives exceptional characterization and ambiance to the overall narrative.  The Palmiotti/Gray/Moritat creative team on this book is rock solid, making this title a must read.  In the backup feature, Palmiotti and Gray return to the character of Dr. Terrence Thirteen, scientific detective and debunker of superstition.  Done under the auspice of “Stormwatch” this one was palatable, because it had next to nothing to do with that BS title or its history.  Thirteen goes to a community of spiritualist mediums to catch a killer who masquerades as a giant pigman.  Precise in his observations, his intellect is inversely proportioned to his social ineptitude, making him a Wild West version of Sherlock Holmes, minus the Watson.  They bring it around to the Stormwatch concept at the end, but up until that point its quite enjoyable.
  • The Unwritten #47 returns the narrative back to where we left Tom Taylor three months ago.  He had descended into the Underworld to get back the soul of his lost lover, Lizzy Hexam, and in the process lost all memory of who and what he was before his entrance into the realm of Hades.  Meeting up with the  slain children of the French prison warden in the first arc of the series, he attempts to find his way out by visiting the king.  The cliffhanger we left off on in issue #44 was the discovery that Pauly Buckner had become the king of the Underworld.  This issue fills us in on how Pauly went from facing oblivion at the beginning of the “Wound” arc (at the time in his human form) to being stuck as a rabbit again and presiding over the realm of the dead.  Pauly is the worst kind of “person” and of course he’s going to do something nasty when given the chance to sadistically toy with someone.  He commands his masked guardsman of the dead to imprison Tom in the dungeons.  In Hades, as in Hell, you are imprisoned by your crime.  With no memory Tom can’t rightly confess his crime, even were he to want to.  There is a holding area for others, victims of the Wound, who have no crimes to repent for.  On the way down one of the masked guardsman tells Tom the basics of why he in fact came down into the Underworld and bids him look upon something that he is meant to see.  Here we see a very existentialist dilemma in Tom.  After being without knowledge for a decent amount of time and then given the chance at regaining it, he is terrified.  Knowledge is a weight we carry and the hints at the return of who he was and what he did are terrifying to him.  It is one of the key facts of human existence.  Like Adam and Eve who ate the fruit, they gained vast knowledge but also inherited great evil as well.  Tom is left to determine whether he will take the road towards “something” or remain in a state of “nothing[ness].”  What lies behind the door that the guardsman bids him enter is something that all readers of the series are going to wish a great deal to read more about.  I love this series.  Mike Carey and Peter Gross are geniuses and this series shines forth that genius with luminous glory.  If you haven’t read the series so far, pick up the graphic novels, gorge yourself in their magnificence so you can get to this issue and enjoy it with all the Unwritten faithful.
  • Joe Kubert Presents #6 is the final issue created by and now in memoriam to one of the greats of the comic medium, bearing his name proudly in the title.  This issue starts off with the final chapter of the “Spit” feature, written, drawn, and colored by Kubert.  It is precisely the coloring that is so perplexing and has made me rack my brain over.  The other three episodes were all done in the grey tone black and white pencil medium that Kubert is renown for.  He briefly goes back to it for several panels as the ships cook relates the tale of how he lost his leg, but most of the story is depicted in pastel-like splendor.  I think it would have been more apt, if the point was demarcating the past from present, to have the flashback in vibrant color, but then again I am not Kubert and perhaps lack the insight he employed in his storycraft.  This last segment shows with great visual detail and narrative skill the method of hunting, killing, and rendering the whales into the oil that fueled Western civilization before the advent of petroleum.  Only Joe Kubert.  “Spit” was a seminal work of short fiction, and with no solid ending it is obvious Kubert wasn’t done with the poor lad yet.  Too bad.  He was a bright boy who sailed over the horizon and now we’ll never see where he went or who he became.  Again, too bad.  The next feature, written by Kubert and Pete Carlsson and entitled “Ruby”, takes the reader to the orient in a bygone era as bandits invade a Himalayan monastery.  Inside a young brother and sister try to evade the bandits, but instead run into a monk who gives them a great treasure. Guess what that treasure happens to be.  Holding the ruby, the boy realizes it has strange powers that grant both children the means to escape.  It is brief and engaging, having all the hallmarks of the old serial anthology books of the 50’s and 60’s and one thinks that that is the end of the story.  The final sentence of the narrattion turns it all around.  “The boy clasping his small sister’s hand will be known in time as . . . Sargon the Sorcerer.”  Sargon is one of the lesser known, but immensely powerful and infinitely mysterious magic users of the DCU and in his last days on Earth Joe Kubert gave us a brief yet authentic feeling origin for the mighty magician.  It should be noted that although the panels on this feature bear a striking resemblance to Kubert’s style, it is actually drawn by Henrik Jonsson.  Next the book turns to the “U.S.S. Stevens” feature.  As he did in the last issue, Sam Glanzman eschews personal reminiscences in lieu of a point by point history lesson on the high points of the final days of the War in the Pacific.  This description of his final segment in the feature recounting the service of his Destroyer and its crew during WWII is deceptively unfair considering how engaging and compelling it is.  Though its a history lesson, its a history lesson from the coolest teacher you ever had.  The one that knew what you wanted to hear and related from someone who was there.  A vibrant voice of a dying generation of men and women, Sam Glanzman has recorded his story in the medium that has been his life since the war ended: pen, paper, and panel.  The “Angel and the Ape” feature also, obviously, comes to its final chapter.  Writer/artist Brian Buniak continues his lighthearted, satirical farce with the tale of how Angel and Sam Simeon came to found their detective agency.  Buniak’s work is laden with witticism, obvious corny jokes, and some really veiled jokes that take a trained eye.  I have to admit that I was really proud of myself when I picked up on one specific one.  The raven haired reporter interviewing the duo’s name is Noel.  Now at the end of the issue when she goes back to the newspaper office there is a dark haired handsome male reporter with black hair and glasses.  She calls him “George.”  Thinking he looked like Superman and his name being George, I realized that while George Reeves portrayed Superman in the 50’s television show, Noel Neill portrayed Lois Lane.  You are a sharp one, Mr. Buniak.  The final feature to cap the series off was a one shot story of “Kamandi: Last Boy on Earth” cowritten by Kubert and Brandon Vietti, the latter of which also provided art.  Kamandi attempts to raise men up from their savage state after a cataclysm that left humans de-evolved and raised animal tribes to the dominant species of the planet.  The series was originally written by comics god Jack Kirby and in this issue Kubert resurrects the Demon Etrigan to contend with Kamandi’s efforts.  Again, I am at a loss for what Kubert meant to say with the story, but trust that there is some meaning.  If there isn’t, well then it was an interesting meeting of two of Jack’s greatest creations.  I hope Kirby and Kubert are both in Heaven talking about what Joe did right or very, very wrong.  In any event, Joe Kubert was a testament to what the comics medium once was, what is has become, and what it has the possibility to be as we grow with it, just like he did, starting in the industry at 17 and dying at his drawing board at 82.  One last time I will say it: Rest in Peace, Joe!  If anyone’s earned some rest, it’s you.
    Sargon the Sorcerer

    Sargon the Sorcerer


  • Time Warp #1 is yet another of Vertigo’s anthology collections based upon a theme.  Obviously with Time Warp, time and its manipulation are the basis of the collected stories.  In some cases time travel is utilized, but that isn’t the only facet of time explored.  In others memory is revealed to be the surest and perhaps only means of manipulating time.  The creative voices lending their thoughts and yarns here include Damon Lindelof (Lost), Jeff Lemire, Gail Simone, Mark Buckingham, Peter Milligan, M.K. Perker, Matt Kindt, as well as several others. I will say that these stories, or at least the ones I will write about, are so good I am going to spoil them, so if you want to read them fresh please stop here. SPOILER ALERT!!!  The first story, drawn by Jeff Lemire and written by Damon Lindelof, follows DC’s own time-master, Rip Hunter, as he gets stranded in prehistory.  There is legitimately no way for him to get back.  As the story opens he is being chased by a T-Rex and relates that in the second grade he had said getting eaten by a dinosaur would be the best way to die.  Apparently he should be careful what he wishes for.  However, through the chase three versions of himself give him clues as to what he needs to do next to stay alive, as two versions of him going back in one time sphere would corrupt time.  However, a VERY old Rip, the third to appear, lets the Rip whose progress we’ve been following use his sphere.  When asked about being left behind, old Rip simply says that in second grade he’d figured that being eaten by a dinosaur was the best way to go.  Our Rip leaves and old Rip looks up at the dinosaur and says, “I’m ready now.”  His resolve at the end to face death with calm and courage registers true, but also is poignant because he chose his death after a long journey.  It wasn’t an enemy, but a friend.  Well done, Messrs. Lindelof and Lemire.  The next story, entitled “It’s Full of Demons,” begins in 1901 with a girl and her brother playing in the mountains when a strange visitor wearing what appears to be a futuristic deep sea diver’s suit appears out of nowhere and kills the girl’s brother with a ray gun.  She tries to tell people what happened, but is deemed insane and sent in and out of insane asylums over the next fifty-five years.  What’s even stranger is that after WWI the world takes a very different course and a unifty commonwealth of nation emerges.  Eventually, the woman hangs herself when world peace is finally realized by this world confederacy.  At that moment in the last panel someone FINALLY calls her by her name, or at least her maiden name: Miss Hitler.  Her little brother “Addy” who was murdered was Adolf Hitler and his absence led to a unifying of the world in a lasting peace.   The last piece that struck me in this anthology was written by Gail Simone about a candy shop whose owner has a sweet that can make you relive the best moment of your life.  For a very ill little boy with a very serious condition the candy takes him to a skiing trip that he took with his parents before the onset of his disease.  For a man who lost his wife, he is back with her on a beautiful tropical beach.  However, a murder comes in wishing to relive the night he murdered his wife, a crime for which he was acquitted.  There is a twist ending to this one, but I won’t spoil it this time.  There are many other excellent stories in this collection, but those three stood out as the true masterworks.  It is solicited that the next anthology they are going to put out is called “The Witching Hour.”  I very much look forward to reading that one as well, considering the level of quality that Vertigo has put in their previous collections.

    Rest In Peace, RIP.

    Rest In Peace, RIP.

So ends a REALLY excellent week of comics.  The two anthology books, Joe Kubert Presents and Time Warp, kind of make me nostalgic for when such titles were more common place.  Next week we enter into a new month of comics excellent story lines.  Hope to see you there.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman Inc #9: Art by Chris Burnham, colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Red Lanterns #18: Art by Miguel Sepulveda, Colored by Rain Beredo

Superman #18: Art by Aaron Kuder, Colored by Sunny Gho

Teen Titans #18: Drawn by Eddy Barrows, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Eber Ferreira

Joe Kubert Presents #6: Art by Henrik Jonsson, Colored by Joe Panico

Time Warp #1: Art by Jeff Lemire, Colored by Jose Villarrubia