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

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Week 78 (Feb. 27, 2013)

This week and probably from now on I am going to only review the comics I read with which I have a strong opinion.  I have been bogged down the past several weeks trying to review everything and I think that that has been a lose/lose situation, holding up my postings and also cluttering them with uninspired, uninteresting nonsense from me.  So there may be gaps in my postings where I will review a series out of the blue or skip a month or two.  If there is a series you want to see reviewed, feel free to message me at any time and I will try to include the series you are interested in.  That said, let’s get to it:   

  • Flash #17 brings the gorilla invasion of the Gem Cities to its stunning conclusion.  Going through all possible outcomes to the intervention, Flash is unable to see a way in which he can attack Grodd and win.  Grodd’s victory is almost assured no matter what is done against him.  With his grasp on the Speed Force that he has stolen and his army behind him, his position is impregnable.  There is only one factor that Flash gambles on. Barry takes Grodd into the Speed Force where that very principle adjudicates the outcome.  On the outside Grodd is King and has immense physical strength, a technologically superior army, and an augmented grasp on the Speed Force.  Within the Speed Force, however, the Force itself determines its champion and Flash is the  that champion, nearly omnipotent within.  In this way, writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato firmly establish the core truths of the Flash.  He is the Chosen One of the Speed Force.  He is one of the most brilliant tacticians in the DCU, literally living infinite tangential realities in his mind, finding the one in which the day can be saved.  But most important of all, he is the Fastest Man Alive.  The art and writing of this series are at the top echelon of comics put out today, in a marriage that all should aspire to. My only fear is the hinting of a future relationship between Barry and Iris West.  Its bound to happen, but I would rather have it come much later, rather than sooner.  I’ve always been a proponent for Patty Spivot and considering how she turned on a dime in her opinion of the Flash, rallying to Barry’s side, I think she’s earned a place with him for a decent stretch of time.  Conversely, the way Iris attempted to manipulate Barry in last issue, I think she’s earned a place in the penalty box for an equivocal time period.
  • Aquaman #17 provides an epilogue from the five part “Throne of Atlantis” crossover with Justice League.  In this respect it still had the pang of annoyance from the atrocious way that Geoff Johns writes the aforementioned team book.  After wresting the crown from his younger brother, Orm, Arthur has ascended the throne of Atlantis.  In the wake of his re-coronation those on land still blame him for the massive casualties of the attacks on Boston, Gotham, and Metropolis, and the Atlanteans don’t trust him because of his time living amongst the land dwellers and his leniency concerning their incursions upon the ocean.  While talking to Amanda Waller, he is told that Orm is facing the death penalty for his orchestration of the Boston attack, even though Aquaman turned him in under the agreement that his brother would only face imprisonment.  So in essence this issue picks up with Aquaman purchasing peace by offering up his younger brother as a scapegoat to slaughter, and is distrusted by both those he above and below the water.  So what all did he gain?  Who is Aquaman doing all of this for.  The answer is given in this issue and it validates him, in my opinion, as a character and raises this title once again above the putrescent stench of Justice League.  It also introduces the next arc of the series, hinted at in “Throne of Atlantis” and rife with possibilities.  If you don’t know who the Dead King is, you soon will.  Great issue by Geoff Johns following a mediocre crossover event

    King of the Seven Sea

    King of the Seven Sea

  • Batman Inc #8 left me at a bit of a loss.  Its a powerful issue, but one that makes the reader question what is real and what is only seemingly real.  Grant Morrison wrote a way for it to be true, but once again the master storyteller throws a curve ball at the reader, upping the ante and really making us wonder how this thing can possibly end.  Talia’s war with Batman is a war of attrition and as the dominoes fall even she is not fully prepared for the horrors she has invoked.  The kind of drama and true heartache that this issue elicits in its readers could only be cultivated over years and years of careful planning and composing, as Morrison has done since 2006.  Seven years building a beautifully intricate house of cards and now they fall in one swift stroke.  This is a Batman series that CANNOT, and MUST NOT be missed.
  • Red Lanterns #17  takes Atrocitus and the Red Lanterns into the “Wrath of the First Lantern” storyline.  In the Green Lantern chapter we are introduced to the concept of the “Great Heart”, a device that houses the emotions of the Guardians of the Universe.  Penetrating this inner sanctum, robot watchmen accost Atrocitus offering to remove all emotion from him including his unquenchable rage and the anguish over the murder of his family and race that drove him to his current state.  Also interesting is his encounter of the soul of Krona, the architect of the genocide that resulted in the destruction of Atrocitus’ sector of space and his family.  On Earth, Rankorr attempts in his own way to purge his rage and live a normal life.  It seems possible in this issue, but will time say otherwise?  Peter Milligan truly shows his authorial mastery in this series, making monsters twisted by anger into relatable protagonists.
  • Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #4 concludes this title with Dr. Manhattan altering all realities so that he will always become the entity that the intrinsic field generator forged him into.  Yet, still there is a blurriness that obscures his vision of his future, meaning that a large burst of tachyons will be emitted at a certain moment in his future.  His initial hypothesis is that this is caused by all out nuclear war at a scale that would annihilate all living things on Earth.  When he speaks to Ozymandias about this the latter tries to persuade him that this could be caused by his own self generating energy if it were used to solve the energy crisis on a global scale.  This seems logical to him.  Writer J. Michael Straczynski then flips the narrative (literally to the point where one flips the comic upside down to read it) and shows how the Smartest Man Alive tricks the omniscient Dr. Manhattan into not only allowing his genocidal plan, but fueling it.  Though his assertion of Dr. Manhattan altering ALL possible realities is laughable, J. Michael Straczynski ends the series quite well and perfectly aligns it with the spirit of the original Watchman series from the 80’s.

    The Moment

    The Moment

  • Talon #5 keeps to its high octane pace, pitting Calvin Rose against the full might of the Court of Owls.  In the past he’s hit their money, he’s hit their symbology, but in this issue his target is the repository of their information located in a fortress built by his lover, Casey Washington’s, father.  Originally he was sent to kill Casey and her daughter Sarah so that the Court could take this building and control the most secure network known to man.  Now it comes full circle as he takes it back with the help of the woman he went AWOL to protect.  The importance of this building merits more than the usual muscle and Calvin may have gotten in over his head.  Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV write this series seamlessly and Guillem March takes that story and makes it visually beautiful with his luscious art.
  • Teen Titans #17 is sort of an epilogue to “Death of the Family” but more so, it is a prologue to an event called “Light and Dark.”  Several things happen within.  First we are introduced to a doctor working with kids that have unwanted metagenes who is solicited as the new Doctor Light.  We also are shown Tim moving the Titan’s home from LexCorp Towers to a luxurious yacht.  The team begins to settle in, when Tim begins to exhibit some strange behavior.  He puts the moves on Solstice, who has been seeing Bart Allen, aka Kid Flash, but despite brief protestations she succumbs to his advances.  Next we see him, Wonder Girl comes into his room wearing one of his t-shirts and nothing else.  He then seduces her, which raises some more eyebrows.  However, the echos of his honeyed words fall into an infernal looking chamber where Trigon’s daugher Raven sits with a goblet of wine in one hand.  So it can be assumed that Raven provides the dark to the title and Dr. Light obviously the light.  Writer Scott Lobdell looks to be revitalizing two hallmark Teen Titan characters: Raven, who was once a hero, and Dr. Light, an iconic Teen Titans villain.  He’s rarely gone astray, so I wait with great anticipation for what he has in store for us in future issues.  Also worth noting is that Nightwind and Teen Titans have swapped artists with Eddy Barrows taking over art duties on this issue and Brett Booth becoming the new Nightwing writer.  So far no complaints on my end.

    The Dark Side of Tim Drake

    The Dark Side of Tim Drake

  • All-Star Western #17 brings a benchmark character of the DC Universe to 1880’s Gotham: Vandal Savage. Coming to Gotham he is almost like a vampire, walking through the streets and instantly invoking awe and terror from those he meets from lowly criminals in the slums to the Court of Owls in the highest eyries of Gotham society.  He also brings with him a plague unlike anything the modern world had seen since the days of the Black Death in Europe.  Alan Wayne’s wife, Catherine, attempts to bring food and medicine to the quarrantined parts of Gotham only to be kidnapped by the hordes of diseased.  Thus Alan dispatches Hex, Arkham, and three others to go into the cordoned off districts of Gotham to rescue her.  The stakes are high and all roads lead to the enigmatic Vandal Savage as the cause of the disease and chaos is explored.  In the backup there is a Stormwatch story from the 19th century that frankly I could care less about.  They aren’t interesting in this century and they fail to be interesting in the two prior ones.  Onto the next issue.
  • Arrow #4 delivers another three chapters in the “Arrow” mythology.  First up is a yarn scripted by Ben Sokolowski and Moira Kirkland and drawn by Eric Nguyen where Ollie takes out a name on the list who is a hitman that does underground cage fighting in his downtime.  Taking him on in the cage where most die at his hand appears to be the only option to cross his name off.  As ever, Ollie commits himself 150%.  However, when an alternative to the cage is presented, Ollie refuses to back down, raising the question in Diggle’s mind as to whether or not Ollie isn’t doing this for other reasons.  Next up is a tale told by Marc Guggenheim and drawn by the incomparable Mike Grell entitled “Huntress: Year One.”  After she bugged out of Starling City, as seen in her two issue arc on the show, Helena Bertinelli goes to Sicily, the land of her forefathers, to learn the art of vengeance from the criminal fraternity La Morte Sussurrata.  Narrated from her perspective with Guggenheim’s words and depicted with Grell’s stark artwork this story is chilling to behold and rounds out her character into an even more sinister whole than we left her at two months ago. Finally the story “Limbo” has Oliver going aboard a yacht to destroy a drug shipment come in from southeast Asia.  However on the dinghy ride out and onboard the yacht his mind is plagued by ghosts of the sinking of the Queen’s Gambitm hampering his ability to react to danger and almost getting him killed.  From this we see that his past still is a raw nerve that the slightest reminder can dredge up dark memories.  This comic series is incredible when put side to side with the television series each and every week.  Well worth the purchase if you love the television series

    The Huntress on the Prowl

    The Huntress on the Prowl

  • Unwritten #46 ends the two part storyline following Richie Savoy and Det. Didge Patterson in their investigation of zombie attacks in Australia.  Upon deeper investigation the case of the boy who is compelled to write the stories that bring these monsters into being only to have them kill those close to him isn’t unique.  Similar instances of others warping time and reality have been reported leading to an explanation of the state of the fictional world post-“Wound.”  Mike Carey and Peter Gross are creating a world that redefines how one conceives of the relationship between fact and fiction.  The idea that if something is thought, there is a factuality about it because it has been conjured into its own existence is a paradox that provokes much consideration.  As this series has gone on from its first issue to this 46th installment the concept has gotten grander, more complex, and even more amazing to contemplate.  Next issue promises a return to Tom Taylor in the Land of the Dead and resolution as to his fate.  Like anything related to this series, its worth the wait.
  • Joe Kubert Presents #5  begins with a Sgt. Rock story, written by his friend Paul Levitz (a genius in his own right) and of course drawn by himself.  This piece has a very elegiac tone that makes me wonder whether during its writing Joe Kubert didn’t already know he was dying.  He talks about its composition in the editorial section of the issue, but I still find myself wondering if that wasn’t an unspoken impetus behind the funereal feel of this story.  Joe drew and sometimes wrote Sgt. Rock, following his interest and passion for war stories and telling the tales of the unsung heroes of the past that kept us free or laid down their lives for reasons both poignant and foolish.  This story is the epitome of poignant, anti-war rhetoric, cutting to the bleeding core of what the character of Sgt. Rock embodies.  A middle aged son and teenaged grandson of a D-Day veteran go to the Normandy beach where their unnamed progenitor stormed the German lines and lost many friends.  This event mirrors a trip that Levitz took with his own son.  They talk about how among those that he fought beside was the legendary Sgt. Rock and Easy Company.  Speculation was that Rock died on last day of WWII.  Another legend states that he lived past the war and fought in other conflicts.  The truth doesn’t really matter because he fought among all of those that died that day and his legacy is buried with each and every one of them.  So too would their father/grandfather, whose ashes they spread in the G.I. cemetery among the field of white crosses and stars. In Sam Glanzman’s “U.S.S. Stevens” segment, he chronicles the start of WWII from the days just prior to the Japanese attack through the major hallmarks of the war in the Pacific.  Whereas the last four installments have been personal and anecdotal, this one, while set up and worded in an engaging manner, was more historical in a fact by fact presentation.  Following it, Joe Kubert writes a two page editorial that introduces the Sgt. Rock feature and his friendship with writer Paul Levitz. In it he also talks about his family, including his eldest son, Dave, whom he tells us is a motorcycle enthusiast that lost a leg in a really nasty crash.  His son inspired him to write the next feature about a biker with one leg that takes shelter for the night in an abandoned old house.  The house hold many ghosts from past, however, both from its past owners and from the main character’s own past as a soldier in Afghanistan.  This story feels like the old horror comics told in anthology books of the 50’s and 60’s, but with a modern setting.  A testament befitting one of the golden age maestros of comics.  Next he tells us another story of Spit as the nameless boy attempts to make his way on the whaling vessel, and after that Brian Buniak gives us a tale in Angel and the Ape of how Angel and Sam first met.  This anthology book is phenomenal and I only wish that Joe Kubert could have made it to another run.  He’s given the comic medium and comic book readers over sixty years of classic stories and beautiful artwork.  I suppose he’s earned his rest.  Slacker.

    Requiem for Sgt. Rock

    Requiem for Sgt. Rock

 

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

Illustration Credits:

Aquaman #17: Drawn by Paul Pelletier, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Sean Parsons

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #4: Art by Adam Hughes, Colored by Laura Martin

Teen Titans #17: Drawn by Eddy Barrows, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Eber Ferreira

Arrow #4: Art by Mike Grell, Colored by David Lopez & Santi Casas

Joe Kubert Presents #5: Art by Joe Kubert

Week 70 (Jan. 2, 2013)

  • Batman Inc #6 is a doomsday clock ticking towards midnight.  Since the beginning of this second arc of the title, but really from the first issue following writer Grant Morrison’s transition from Batman & Robin, there has been something extremely wrong happening in the shadows and all the disparate threats lead to a web woven by none other than Talia Al-Ghul.  Since her revelation as the leader of Leviathan its become clear that Grant Morrison is writing this series as a Machiavellian tale of “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”  Batman has spurned her affections and lured their son away from her, so in revenge she has deduced the most ingenious plan to take everything he loves and has built away from him.  What’s worse is that inherent in the plan are choices he has to make shifting responsibility onto his shoulders for what survives and what is destroyed, who lives and who dies.  Nothing and no one are sacred in this conflict and at issue’s close the sword drops.  Grant Morrison is a genius.  Hands down, he is on the top echelon of writers who have written the Batman character.  Joining him on this second arc and really making his mark is artist Chris Burnham.  Burnham’s art is reminiscent of Frank Quitely, one of Morrison’s most iconic collaborators, but has its own flavor making it appropriate for this title in its similarities to Quitely, but its also for its uniqueness.  When this series ends, as melodramatic as this may sound, I think I might go into mourning.

    BatmanInc6

    The Sophie’s Choice of the Batman Universe

  • Red Lanterns #15 finds the Corps at its most desperate hour.  Fresh off of the sabotaging of their Central Power Battery, the Guardians of the Universe have unleashed their nightmarish Third Army upon the Universe.  Like everything involving the Guardians, Atrocitus won’t rest until the little blue bastards are stopped and their sins against sentient life punished.  Taken in that light, he sounds not only virtuous, but almost sane.  Elsewhere in the Universe, Red Lanterns are purging egregious ne’er-do-wells to power their weakened battery with righteous vengeance.  Vengeance is the key to their revival.  Apropos, first lieutenant Bleez escorts Rankorr, aka Jack Moore, back to Earth to kill his grandfather’s murderer, thereby completing his path of vengeance and fully realizing his potential as a Red Lantern.  This mission is integral to the Corps, as Rankorr for whatever reason is the only Red Lantern with the ability to form constructs with his ring.  However, when confronted with the man who has wronged him so greatly, Rankorr is also confronted with his own wrongs against others.  On his home planet of Ryutt, we see that even Atrocitus is not immune from ghosts of the past, revisiting his decimated world, with the plan to use the Guardians’ own weapons against them.  Peter Milligan is a genius and his writing keeps the reader keyed into the plot with its many nuances and intricacies.  As good as the writing is, I am underwhelmed by Miguel Sepulveda’s artwork.  It isn’t bad in and of itself, but it just is not as engrossing as Ed Benes’ artwork was during the initial issues of the title’s run.
  • The Flash #15 was largely an interim issue, albeit one that accomplished a great many things nonspecific to the current story arc.  The Gorilla invasion of the Gem Cities is in full swing and King Grodd, empowered by the Speed Force, has beaten Barry into a comatose state.  In his delirium, Barry’s connection to the Speed Force has him viewing a slew of possible outcomes to the events transpiring around him, most extremely unpleasant to behold.  The Rogues step up as their city descends into chaos, actually giving relief and protection to the denizens of their town.  Some pretty intense things happen in the mean time as Central City and Keystone City await salvation.  The most interesting in my opinion, and something I have been DYING to see, is Barry’s girlfriend Patty Spivot finding out that he is the Flash.  Though she has vehemently professed to hate the Flash, when that revelation comes she doesn’t bat an eyelash, but instead rushes to her boyfriend’s aid.  I love Patty and I am excited about the prospect of what this knowledge portends for future issues.  As ever, writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato hit the title out of the park in both art and story, with an 11 page assist from guest artist, Marcus To.

    Stand By Your Man

    Stand By Your Man

  • Superman #15 continues the “H’el on Earth” crossover event after H’el forcibly ejects Superman and Superboy from the Fortress of Solitude and barricades himself inside.  As a result Superman takes Superboy to a top secret government facility specifically designed to hold Lex Luthor engineered by Lex Luthor.  This is undertaken under the aegis of Superman asking for Lex’s scientific expertise on how to stop H’el, but the true reason, which Lex intuits almost immediately, is much more sinister.  It’s all hands on deck as the fate of Earth literally hangs in the balance.  The art by Kenneth Rocafort is the thing that immediately strikes one as the pages are turned on the issue, but once one delves into the story they depict, the keen authorship of Scott Lobdell becomes equally apparent.  This issue has the first real interaction between Superman and Superboy, and I have to say that the depiction of Superman, which Lobdell has executed brilliantly in the past, falters in the moments where Superman teeter-totters between seeming apathy to the polar opposite position of the overly interested father figure.  Still, a really fantastic issue rendered exquisitely by both men.

    Superman's Darker Side

    Superman’s Darker Side

  • Batman: The Dark Knight #15 ends the first arc by writer Gregg Hurwitz featuring the Scarecrow’s plot to release a super-fear-toxin on the people of Gotham.  Though midstream it drew some intriguing parallels between Batman and Scarecrow’s childhoods leading up to the donning of their respective personas, overall the arc fell flat.  This last issue had the Scarecrow releasing his toxin via zepplin and Batman throwing together a last ditch effort to negate it.  Though Batman’s solution is intense and fairly novel, it was cobbled together far too quickly in deux-ex-machina fashion for it to have any resonance or believability.  But then again we are talking about comic books here.  Overall though, I felt that this new run on the series is lacking.  Starting at the end of January, series creator and artist David Finch is stepping away from the series and replaced by Ethan Van Sciver.  Van Sciver is an incredible artist, on par with Finch, so Hurwitz has the art down and one more chance to nail the writing.
  • Talon #3 marks the return of a character from the #0 issue, Casey Washington, and her fate after the events depicted therein.  Main character, Calvin Rose, was an assassin for the shadowy Court of Owls known as the Talon until getting the one assignment he couldn’t go through with: killing Casey Washington, a young African American mother and her daughter, Sarah.  Rescuing them from the Court was the catalyst that set the drama of this series into motion.  Returning to that pivotal event, Calvin re-communes with Casey after five years and we learn that the two of them had a love affair that ended when Calvin felt his presence was a danger to Casey and her daughter.  Embittered, Casey meets Calvin again, this time in a much stronger position with powerful allies.  Though harsh feelings exist between them, their common enemy sparks a pooling of resources for an assault on Hudson Financial, a New York based bank that handles thirteen billion dollars of Court investments.  Casey and Calvin’s partner, Sebastian Clark, come up with a flawless plan to hit the bank, but as ever “the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.”  James Tynion and Scott Snyder are masters of storytelling and sell this series for every cent charged on the cover price.  I know that I have said this at least three times in the past, but I feel that it bears reiteration.  Snyder, Tynion, and March make this a must read title.

    How To Save A Life

    How To Save A Life

  • Teen Titans #15, written by Red Hood and the Outlaws scribe, Scott Lobdell, proves yet again what a master he is when dealing with the Joker, vis-a-vis the “Death of the Family” crossover event.  In Red Hood and the Outlaws #15 two weeks ago, Lobdell wrote a Joker plot that was keyed directly into the character of Jason Todd and played to his person brilliantly.  In this issue of Teen Titans Lobdell does it again, not only penning an ingenious (and especially deranged) plot by the Joker, but one that is keyed into Tim Drake’s personality.  With Jason, the Joker knew his history and used it as a weapon against him, considering that the Joker was its engineer.  Tim, however, is a young professional on the model of Bruce himself, and against him the Joker asserts himself by proving that he is in Tim’s head, knowing his thoughts and stratagems and is able to use them against him.  The Teen Titans come to Gotham to track their kidnapped friend and that is precisely what the Joker was counting on . . . They are a young team, both in individual ages and the tenure of their association with each other, and their inexperience is blatantly revealed.  To be fair though, the Joker is an A-list adversary who has made a fool of the Batman on many an occasion, so their embarrassment isn’t totally their fault.  Artist Brett Booth returns to the title providing the stunning artwork that helped establish this new series sixteen months ago, and a very beautiful depiction of Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl.  Well worth the read even if you aren’t following the overarching “Death of the Family” event.

    When The Joker Gets In Your Head . . .

    When The Joker Gets In Your Head . . .

  • All-Star Western #15 continues the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde storyline.  Jekyll has come to Gotham to track down a quantity of his stolen formula, but when his handler, Reginald Forsythe, is murdered and partially eaten by Hyde, events take a sinister turn.  Obviously when Dr. Jekyll takes his serum he becomes the sociopathic Edward Hyde, but the question in this issue becomes who will emerge when Dr. Jeremiah Arkham is force fed the serum by Hyde?  Jonah Hex attempts to intercede against Hyde in Arkham’s behalf, but proves inadequate in several respects, raising another interesting scenario: What happens when Jonah Hex, the biggest badass this side of the Rio Grande, is confined to a wheelchair for a month?  And in the backup feature, Tomahawk, General Lancaster of the newly minted American Army sets a trap for Tomahawk’s men and slaughters dozens of his Native American brothers.  In the fight with Lancaster, Tomahawk almost has the upper hand, until the remaining British forces in the area intervene.  The reckoning appears to be reserved for next issue.  We’ll see what that holds for Tomahawk and the tribes of the American northwest.
  • Arrow #2 delivers three more glimpses into the world and history of the CW series Arrow.  Whereas the inaugural issue of this series had three stories about Oliver and his quest for justice, this one gives two slots to supporting characters, further fleshing out our understanding of the series.  First off comes a story scripted by Lana Cho with art by Eric Nguyen following John Diggle’s time in Afghanistan as an Army sergeant.   Despite the hells he endured, through the incident depicted we see the good man he is and why Oliver would be keen to have him on his team.  The second segment by Wendy Mericle and drawn by Sergio Sandaval follows Oliver’s mother, Moira Queen, and her salvaging of her husband’s yaht, the “Queen’s Gambit.”  Moira is an unfortunate character caught between a rock and a hardplace and demonized because of her associations with bad people.  Malcolm Merlyn is a very powerful man and the salvaging of the “Queen’s Gambit” is a key piece in a very dangerous game of chess.  The final tale, scripted by by Ben Sokolowski and Lana Cho takes Oliver to Moscow to cross a name off his father’s list.  Justin Whicker smuggles hopeful young ballerinas out of Russia with the promise of fame in America only to be sold into white slavery.  Because this story is about Oliver and especially because it involves the ballet, Mike Grell (Green Arrow royalty, having written and drawn the title in the 80’s) provides art.  The show is incredible and this series makes that viewing experience so much richer.

    Mike Grell's Peerless Rendering of the Ballet

    Mike Grell’s Peerless Rendering of the Ballet

  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #11 contains three tales from the DC animated universe.  Half the issue is composed of the Batman Beyond story “10,000 Clowns” where literally 10,000 suicidal Jokerz from across the globe make pilgrimage to Gotham to sacrifice themselves for their leader the Joker King’s insane plot.  Joker King is in fact the brother of Batman’s girlfriend, Dana Tan.  In this installment Joker King fights not only the current Batman, Terry McGinnis, but also the original, the 80 year old Bruce Wayne, who’s still got acid running through his veins and a serious hate-on for clowns.  We also see Doug Tan’s reunion with his family after his descent into madness and a recap of how he wrangled the Jokerz and gained dominion over all the rival factions.  This issue was truly worth the wait, having been built up to for more than two years now.  In Superman Beyond we get a slightly less satisfactory experience only lasting a few chaotic pages with Superman facing off against the Trillians without even knowing who they are or why they want him dead.  I have my theories considering that this series and its fellows in this title are the refugees of the discontinued DC animated universe.  The two part series finale of “Superman: The Animated Series” had Supes under the thrall of Darkseid, conquering planets for the Lord of Apokalips.  I think that Trillia was one of the planets that Superman unknowingly decimated while leading Apokalips’ armies.  I could be wrong, however.  Speaking of Apokalips, the last segment in this issue is a Beyond: Origin of the Apokaliptian beauty, Big Barda. Starting out with two little girls growing up in the slums, we see the origins first of Barda’s mother, Big Breeda, one of Darkseid’s elite warriors and her best friend who would become Granny Goodness.  Breeda fought Darkseid’s wars and through eugenics bore future soldiers with his greatest troops.  The one child who’s father she herself chose was Barda.  Barda’s birth not only put the warrioress on the outs with Darkseid but also created a split between Breeda and Granny, the latter of whom raised Barda in her orphanage. The rest is history.  Escaping to Earth with a handsome, young New God, Scott Free, she marries him and the two live happily for a time.  However, the gap between her and Scott’s life together, as seen in the television series “Justice League Unlimited,” and where she is in “Batman Beyond” is a tragic tale that is finally revealed within.  I loved this issue in its entirety more than a little.  Definitely worth the read.
  • American Vampire #34 returns to the beginning of the series while also taking us forward.  The series started with Jim Book hunting down Skinner Sweet.  Book died and Sweet’s been making Hell ever since, but the two people that fought alongside Book and who have taken a backseat since were Abilena Book, Jim’s young wife, and Will Bunting, the novelist following him for material for his next novel.  Picking up in 1954, we see Abilena seventy years later as well as learn the fate of Will Bunting from his nephew.  Through their interaction we are made aware of an immense threat that is known as the “Gray Trader.”  What the Trader is and what threat it represents are left ambiguous, but from what writer Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque depict at the end, the “future” looks bleak.  The two page montage of that future promises the involvement of Skinner Sweet, Pearl Jones, Travis Kidd, perhaps one of the ancient vampires from Survival of the Fittest, and Las Vegas in flames.  As I predicted, this issue is at the precipice of a indeterminate gap in storytelling.  Snyder and Albuquerque are doing this not just to take their time fine tuning the plot to perfection, but also so that Albuquerque can draw the majority of the second half of the series, which was unable to do in this first half.  All around I have to reiterate my initial praise of this series as a messiah of the vampire genre.  In a world of truly trite, abysmal vampire stories, this one comic series stands as a shining beacon, keeping the concept from drowning in Stephanie Meyers and L.J. Smith related sewage.
  • Joe Kubert Presents #3 continues to showcase a bygone era of storytelling made fresh through veterans of the golden age of comic books.  Joe himself offers up two stories and his friends Sam Glanzman and Brian Buniak continue their respective series, as begun in Joe Kubert Presents #1.  Last issue, Kubert began a two part story entitled “The Redeemer” about a man who has lived countless lives over thousands of years, redeeming humanity in each, and an ancient man of evil hidden away in a fortress atop the Himalayas, known only as the Infernal One, secretly plotting against him, attempting to hasten the damnation of Man.  The first half of the story involved a very complex set of events in the year 2557 A.D. that leave our hero, Jim Torkan, at a crossroads where he can either continue his redeeming of humanity (unknowingly) or fall into the Infernal Ones trap and cast aside his morals.  The yarn is both futuristic in its far reaching vistas and retroactive in its storytelling style and character archetypes.  Kubert truly puts forth his greatest work in this series, evincing his long work in the medium and his unfettered genius.  The conclusion of this tale is both satisfying and unending.  Sam Glanzman returns to his time on the U.S. Stevenson, a ship he actually served on, recounting yet another anecdotal episode on the US destroyer in WWII’s Pacific theater.  It tells about the war in humorous yet starkly real terms, showing not only the war itself, but the simple and beautiful lives of the men fighting it before and after its beginning and conclusion.  The transitions between are so quick and efficacious that you barely notice, as if you are drifting through their lives like in a dream.  In fact it is almost exactly like a dream, because things go from being so horrible to so beautiful in the blink of an eye that there is nothing else it could be.  In Joe Kubert’s second story, Spit, we return to the street urchin met in Joe Kubert Presents #1, who grows up so detested by every person he has ever met that he lacks a proper name and is colloquially know as Spit by all.  Stowing away on a whaling ship, he attempts to make his way in the world only to fall under the thumb of the peg-legged ship’s cook who works him to the bone and verbally abuses him without mercy.  However, unlike on land, at sea Spit finds something that alters his role in life and shines a little glimmer of hope on his existence.  This segment, unlike the inked and colored “Redeemer” feature, is un-inked pencil drawings by the master artist in a style that is raw and quintessentially Joe Kubert.  The gray scale, rough pencils fit the rough, historical tale exceptionally well endowing it with a dark ambiance that draws one immediately in.  Finally, Brian Buniak presents the third installment of his “Angel and the Ape” feature, which has blonde bombshell private investigator, Angel, following up on a case to clear her partner, a giant ape named Sam Simeon, from a murder charge.  This feature is the dessert of the issue, being nothing but pure comedic slap stick and satire.  Whereas the others have poignance and certain tragedy, this one is a tonic that heals the soul and gets you back in a good mood.  Buniak does the art is a very caricature-esque fashion that reeks of the 50’s and 60’s.  All the submissions herein are stunningly presented and really a joy to read.  If you are a comic purist, pick up these issues and experience a bygone era of comic lore.JoeKubertPresents3

Thus ends what should have been the last week of comics of 2012, owing to the ridiculous three title week preceding this one.  I enjoyed so many of these titles and would suggest they be gotten ahold of as soon as possible.  Next week we truly begin the month of January with a fresh batch of #16 titles.  Looking forward to it.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman Inc #6: Art by Chris Burnham, colored by Nathan Fairbairn

The Flash #15: Drawn by Marcus To, Colored by Brian Buccellato & Ian Herring, Inked by Ryan Winn

Superman #15: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Sunny Gho

Talon #3: Art by Guillem March, Colored by Tomeu Morey

Teen Titans #15: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund

Arrow #2: Art by Mike Grell, Colored by David Lopez & Santi Casas

Joe Kubert Presents #3: Art by Joe Kubert

Week 65 (Nov. 28, 2012)

November ends on a high note with another duo of Before Watchmen issues and a slew of personal favorites of mine: Batman Inc, Talon, The Flash, Teen Titans, and the newly reworked Superman title.  The last week of the month is worth the wait.

  • Aquaman #14 begins the “Throne of Atlantic” crossover with Justice League.  What this prelude issue does is introduce quite well the character of Ocean Master, aka King Orm of Atlantis, Aquaman’s brother.  I could be totally wrong here, but despite him being a villain in the past, Orm truly seems to be on the level here.  Even in the scenes where no one is watching, he’s still altruistic and benevolent.  Through his meeting with Arthur in this issue we see that he didn’t want to be king and begged Arthur to take the throne in his stead.  Maybe its all a ruse by him and writer Geoff Johns, but I’m not so sure.  Regular series artist, Ivan Reis, jumps over to Justice League for the duration of the event, with Pete Woods and Pere Perez splitting art duties on Aquaman.
  • Batman Incorporated #5 takes us for (if memory serves correctly) the third time into the world of Batman 666.  When Batman tells his son, Damian, that he can’t be Robin at the end of the fourth issue, he validates it with a vision he has had of the future of Gotham, should Damian remain Robin and eventually become Batman.  The Joker has saturated Gotham with a neurotoxin that has rendered all its citizens irrevocably insane.  The only bastion of sanity left is . . . Arkham Asylum.  Where we left this world at the end of the 666th issue of Batman, a wheelchair bound Commissioner Barbara Gordon is out to get the trench coat wearing Dark Knight, who sold his soul for the invulnerability to save his father’s city.  This issue has them teamed up trying to save the baby that may be the key to Gotham’s salvation.  Grant Morrison’s writing of the book is stellar and he crafts a really intense ride that when looked at in retrospect is actually really brief in duration.  Also the Joker seems to be such a looming presence in the narrative despite the fact he is never seen once.  However, one villain is seen, whose appearance froze my blood and then got it pumping double time.  This issue of the series proves to be a hallmark that will be talked about for years.

    The Devil's Advent

    The Devil’s Advent

  • Red Lanterns #14 was literally an emotional issue following the aftermath of the Red Lantern Corps’ first encounter with the Third Army.  Being that the nightmarish sentinels of the Guardians of the Universe are largely immune to the Red Lantern’s (as well as the other Lantern corps) emotional spectrum attacks, Atrocitus decides to invoke a synthetic army long unused and discarded: the Manhunters.  Also, to bolster the strength of the culled ranks, Atrocitus has Rankorr the Earth Red Lantern return home to finally kill his grandfather’s murderer to complete his inaugural path of vengeance and strengthen his power as a lantern of rage.  Accompanying him is Bleez and the other Earth Lantern, Dex-star the cat.  Atrocitus himself also throws himself into the crucible of darkest emotion to enact his plan to resurrect the Manhunters against the Third Army.  The Manhunters were the Guardians of the Universe’s first shock troopers that laid waste his sector, killing his family and the good, kind man he used to be.  Returning to his homeworld of Ryutt, the ghost of his past literally as well as metaphorically haunt him as he relives the massacre that destroyed his reality.
  • Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #4 is another penetrating look at the world of Watchmen through the keen, calculating eyes of the world’s smartest man, Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias, as written by Len Wein.  Picking up during the Kennedy administration it examines his relationship with the Kennedys and his part in the Cuban Missile Crisis through to the assassination of his friend, Jack.  From that era on a new status quo emerges as society changes and mankind spirals closer to oblivion.  Wein ends the issue with the historic meeting of “Crime Busters”, spearheaded by Captain Metropolis, to restart the Minute Men for this new, turbulent era.  The mouthpiece of dissent comes from the Comedian, as we saw in the original Watchmen, but Wein posits or intuits that this is where Ozymandias first conceives of his plan to save the world.  Considering what he does accomplish, I am itching to read the last two issue from Wein in this series.

    A Monstrously Noble Plan Is Formed

    A Monstrously Noble Plan Is Formed

  • Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #4 ends the series with Laurie’s final confrontation with the “Chairman” and her realization of the potential her mother has instilled in her.  The relationship between Sally Jupiter and her daughter, Laurie, has been pretty messed up, but this issue, despite bringing them back together (no spoiler here if you read the original Watchmen) truly shows how twisted and deluded the former superheroine really is.  Though her heart was in the right place, her parenting style was tantamount to child abuse.  What is interesting, however, is juxatposing the truly awful things her mother did with the person Laurie developed into.  Despite it all, she came out a strong, confident young woman who learned that her mother did do some good in raising her.  Darwyn Cooke wrote this series poignantly and Amanda Connor drew it beautifully.
  • The Flash #14 had SO MUCH going on!  The Gorilla invasion of the Gem Cities has commenced and King Grodd is pummeling the Scarlet Speedster with the revelation that he as well possesses Speed Force energies.  Daniel West, recently released from prison, searches frantically amid the war torn streets of Central City for his sister, Iris.  Patty Spivot, Barry Allen’s girlfriend, along with the enigmatic time traveler, Turbine, find the one being who has the ability to save Barry and stop the Gorillas: SOLOVAR!!!  To Flash faithful, the appearance of the aforementioned simian is very exciting.  Writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato really pull out the stops with this series and especially this arc.  The Gorilla Invasion is pretty intense to begin with, but they make it even more so when you see in this fourteenth issue just how Grodd is waging the war.  His methods are nightmarish and truly brutal.  So horrible are they in fact that the club of Flash villains, the Rogues, team up with the Flash to put the kibosh on it.  Grade A storytelling.

    SOLOVAR!

    SOLOVAR!

  • Batman: The Dark Knight #14 was iffy.  I mean David Finch’s artwork is eerie and truly sinister.  Gregg Hurwitz’s story is kind of stretched thin over far more issues than it needs to be.  Issue #13 was the exact same story as issue #12, and this one seems like its not really saying anything at all.  Possibly the most glaring issue in my opinion is the unbelievable representation of Damian Wayne.  Overall, I just feel that the first eight issue arc of this title was about the Scarecrow, having another one, especially one as unexciting as this current one is a mistake.  There are plenty of other excellent possibilities to e
  • Superman #14 continues the “H’el on Earth” crossover with all parties coming together.  Lois Lane pays Clark a visit, trying to get him to compromise his morals to get his job back with Morgan Edge and Galaxy Broadcasting.  And wouldn’t you know it, that’s when Supergirl decides to pay him a visit decked out in her Kryptonian costume.  Finally accepting the veracity of Superman’s claims of Krypton’s destruction and their shared kinship, Kara brings him to see H’el to hear out his plan for the rebirth of Krypton.  To Clark and the readership, each possessing a sense of humanity, its immediately obvious that H’el is a madman, and clearly one that doesn’t play fair.  From issue’s end its clear that things are about to get very bad very quickly.  Scott Lobdell writes perhaps the most compelling version of the Man of Steel since the Reboot started a year and a half ago and artist Kenneth Rocafort maintains the same level of excellence he has imbued into all of his projects.
  • Talon #2 delivers another uncanny classic in the incredible tangent series shooting off the eleven part opening arc of Batman, “The Court of Owls.”  Calvin Rose, the only living Talon to ever escape the Court with his life has teamed up with the reclusive Sebastian Clark to take down the evil cabal and give them both their lives back.  This round, Clark sends Calvin to what appears to be Gotham’s answer to New York’s Waldorf-Astoria, the Orchard Hotel.  Built in the late 1800’s, it stands not only as a symbol of Gotham’s opulent past, but also as one of the key roosts of the Court.  The innermost chamber, known as Eden, houses the amassed treasure hoard of the Court as well as some of their most well guarded secrets.  Calvin is told that the information on himself and the Washington girls, whom he was meant to have killed at the time of his flight, are stored within.  What is stored within is not only more sinister than these files, but awe-inspiringly epic, accentuating the already swelling mythology of the Court of Owls.  Also within is a “new” Talon with a vintage of the 1930’s, whose woeful tale fits well into the panoply of Talons we had already met during the “Night of the Owls” crossover event.  Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV make this series soar and in art I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.  Guillem March is the series artist and his artwork is stunning.  He, however, didn’t do the interiors for this issue and was instead replaced by Juan Jose Ryp, whose work I was not familiar with.  Well, despite my disappoint that March was not the artist this issue, I was quickly rewarded to see how exquisitely Ryp replaced him.  One of the key factors of the issue is the opulence of Eden, and that was something he rendered here in spades.  Everything looks magnificent, with infinite detail.  I also should give credit to colorist Tomeu Morey, whose coloring of the issue heightens the the vivacity of the panels.  This series is a nothing short of a treat.

    Enter EDEN

    Enter EDEN

  • Teen Titans #14 concludes the “Silent Armor” arc, introducing Wonder Girl’s origin as well as her power set granted by the Silent Armor.  Facing down her old flame, Diesel, she has to make some very hard decisions between the first boy she ever loved and the friends she has made over the past fourteen issues worth of storytelling.  That all was very well done by writer Scott Lobdell, but where the issue really gets interesting is in the two tangent storylines that emerge on the periphery.  The character of Kiran Singh, aka Solstice, is one of the heartstrings of the Teen Titans.  Her appearance altering affliction comes into question when a mysterious stranger offers her a chance to get her old body back, but what will he ask for in return . . . ?  Also, headed by Red Robin, the long fingers of the Joker can’t be held back as his “Death of the Family” plot unfolds in all its nightmarish detail.  Next issue promises to be a “Death of the Family” tie-in and elaborate on the plans the Joker has in store for Tim Drake.
  • Phantom Lady & Doll Man #4 ends the miniseries following these former, but as of this series, also future Freedom Fighters.  Jennifer Knight gets her revenge on Metropolis gangster, Cyrus Bender, and she and Dollman are visited by Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters.  Not the best series.  I doubt I will read any of the other series that spawn from this.
  • Justice League Dark #14 gives the aftermath of the “Books of  Magic” storyline.  Tim Hunter and Zatanna are transported through the books to an unknown location.  The remnants of the Justice League Dark set out to find them, but in the meantime, three members of the team: Black Orchid, Frankenstein, and Princess Amaya of Gem World go exploring in the House of Mystery only to get lost and set upon by the dangers lurking within.  This alongside the revelation by Phantom Stranger that there is going to be a war among the three.  You might even call it a Trinity War . . .
  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #10 concludes its opening arc of Justice League Beyond Unlimited bringing to a close the plot by Kobra to awaken the Ouroboros, the serpent that would eat the world.  I think the fact that it destroyed New Genesis, home of the New Gods, just goes to show the menace it represents. And when all else fails, Bruce Wayne saves the day . . . AND HE’S NOT EVEN THERE!!!  The arc doesn’t end without casualties and a beloved DC character’s future self falls in the line of service.  In the Batman Beyond feature the “10,000 Clowns”  we see for the first time in a few issues the Joker King, Doug Tan.  The psychotic older brother of Terry McGinnis’ girlfriend, Dana, cuts a very similar figure to the Heath Ledger Joker, a man that believes in absolute anarchy and the intrinsic humor in chaos.  As the night of terror he has unleashed with 10,000 tweaked out clowns descending on Gotham, his plan reaches its endgame and the stakes rise.  Terry is out with Catwoman Beyond, Vigilante Beyond, and a badass 60 something Dick Grayson trying to stem the terror, while Joker King comes face to face with . . . 80 year old Bruce Wayne,  a man who HATES clowns!  Finally the Superman Beyond feature shows Kal-El settling into his new civilian identity of Kal Clarke, Metropolis fireman.  That’s about it for that one.  Some aliens show up at the tail end, but their presence is very cryptic.  Featuring a slew of writers and artists, this title has been and continues to be a grab bag of excellent talent and exceptional storytelling, giving a venue to some of the plots left to pasture by the abandonment of the DC animated universe.  I, who grew up on these shows, welcome it with open arms.
  • All-Star Western #14 has Gotham sinking into madness after the formula of Dr. Jekyll finds its way into her bustling streets.  Last issue, Jonah Hex, Tallulah Black, and Dr. Jeremiah Arkham stemmed the flow with an attack on Haly’s Circus, but the culprit, Mr. Hyde remains in Gotham, albeit in confinement.  In the midst of that chaos, the trio are drawn into a violent altercation in Chinatown featuring one of the characters introduced in the backup feature of issued #4-6, the Barbary Ghost.  Still looking for her mother who was sold into bondage, her travels have brought her to Gotham and into the lair of the Chinese criminal cabal, the Golden Dragons, hopped up on Jekyll’s crazy juice.  This issue was steeped in ambiance and the views we get of the chained Mr. Hyde are like that of a Victorian Hannibal Lector.  The next issue of this series, out in January, promises to further explore his twisted brand of psychopathy. Series artist Moritat must have had a ball drawing the gruesome imagery associated with the evil Stevenson creation.  They certainly are horrifying to behold.  In the backup feature Tomahawk, we see not really a Western tale, but a Colonial one.  Set just after the American Revolution, this title deals with the Indian Wars of the Washington administration.  Drawn by Phil Winslade there is a very classical feel to the almost watercolor like panels.  If you liked “Last of the Mohicans” this feature is worth the read.
  • American Vampire #33 ends the “Black List” story arc as well as a major era in the American Vampire saga.  The series started in 1920’s Los Angeles with young, idealistic Pearl Jones going to Hollywood to be an actress.  Alongside her bestfriend and roommate, Hattie Hargrove, she makes a go of it, only to fall prey to the vampiric power elite of Hollywood who make a meal of her.  Turned by the sadistic loner, Skinner Sweet, she survives the assault to be reborn as the second in a new species of vampire: Abysmus Americanus.  That is how this series started.  Since then there has been a World War, the building of the Hoover Dam, the reawakening of Dracula, and many other incredible events.  “The Black List” ends the first half of the 20th century by circling back to the the Los Angeles coven, Skinner Sweet, and Hattie Hargrove.  All three come back like ghosts of Christmas past to haunt Pearl and show her just how futile running from your past can be.  I loved this issue so much as a continuance of everything that has made the series great over three years of storytelling, as well as providing a bookend to all that has happened thus far.  January’s issue #34 is the last solicited for several months, spelling an uncertain future for the series.  I can only imagine, considering the meteoric success of the series, that it is going into hiatus so the beleaguered Scott Snyder (who is writing four other series besides this one) can catch up and maintain the same level of quality he has displayed throughout.
  • Joe Kubert Presents #2 opens with a lengthy two part storyline entitled “The Redeemer.”  Beginning in the high peaks of the Himalayas, five individuals are summoned to a mountain fortress inhabited by an aged man upon a grand throne, calling himself the “Infernal One.”  From this height he gives them a task to hinder the man who through several lifetimes, since the dawn of time, has been working toward the redemption of mankind.  At this point the title seems like an orientalized 1930’s pulp novel or movie serial.  When the five set about putting his plan into action, it becomes apparent that the title takes place in the future, as the Redeemer is a man names Jim Torkan, captain of a orbital space station in the year 2557 A.D.  Though it takes on a sci-fi backdrop, rife with conventions of this genre, it still does maintain a 1930’s serial feel as well.  So great is his artistic and narrative skills, writer/artist Joe Kubert pulls off both very well.  The second part of this story is solicited to be in next month’s issue and I am curious to see how he ties it all up.  Truly, this story by the late master meets his mission statement of putting out comics of a sort one doesn’t see on comic shelves anymore.  This is from a bygone golden age of comic writing.  Rounding off the issue is another darkly comedic tale of the Second World War from Sam Glanzman, and a continuance of the “Angel and the Ape” story by Brian Buniak from last issue.  These two harken to a lost era in comic fiction.

    The Infernal One

    The Infernal One

  • Arrow #1 is an anthology comic that features writers of the hit CW tv show writing background stories about the show and its characters.  Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg, both DC writers and producers of the show, write an overview of the show’s premise with artwork by Green Arrow royalty, Mike Grell, who himself wrote and drew the character for eighty issues in the 1980’s.  Arrow writer Ben Sokolowski writes a tale of Arrow’s hunting of one of the names on his list, Scott Morgan, aptly entitled “Prey”, drawn by Sergio Sandoval.  This not only shows the ingenuity and drive of the Starling City Vigilante, but also the lengths to which the cabal whose names make up his list will go to maintain their power and influence.  Finally, show writer Beth Schwartz writes a story with art by Jorge Jimenez about the white haired Triad woman, Chien Na Wei, better known in comics as “China White.”  With little background in the comics, Schwartz tells of her rough childhood and her close connection to Triad boss, Zhishan.  I absolutely LOVE the show and if you are like me and share that sentiment, this series is worth reading to supplement it and make both reading and watching experiences better.

So ends a phenomenal week of comic reading.  Sadly, all but one of these titles will have to wait until January to be continued . . .

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman Inc #5: Art by Chris Burnham, colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #4 #1: Art by Jae Lee, Colored by June Chung

The Flash #14: Art by Francis Manapul, Colored by Brian Buccellato

Talon #2: Drawn by Juan Jose Ryp, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by Vincente Cifuentes

Joe Kubert Presents #2: Art by Joe Kubert

Week 61 (Oct. 31, 2012)

October ends with some oversized books and four annuals.  I have to say this proves to be a Halloween full of quite a few treats, but hopefully no treats.  Vertigo puts out a holiday anthology called Ghosts to commemorate the witching season, and four of my favorite comics have their annuals: Action Comics, Batgirl, Swamp Thing, and Justice League Dark.  Here we go.

  • Aquaman #13 brings to a close the “Others” arc in a rather quick fashion.  I did enjoy the story, however, as it humanized Arthur, showing the bond he has formed with the members of the “Others” as well as his culpability in the death of Black Manta’s father.  He even states that Manta didn’t lay a hand on his father, or cause the heart attack that killed him, but Arthur did go seeking Manta’s blood and killed his father with his own hands accidentally. What this issue also does is pave the way to the debut of Arthur’s brother, the sitting king of Atlantis, Orm, better known as Ocean Master.  Dark things are brewing in the world of Aquaman and are solicited to come to a head in December with the Justice League/Aquaman crossover, “Throne of Atlantis.”
  • Action Comics Annual #1 was an annual that I don’t think was necessary to read.  Perhaps I am being harsh, but it didn’t seem to jibe with the feel of the title overall or the other Super-books.  Grant Morrison’s run on the title is ending in February/March-ish, so this could be backup writer, Sholly Fisch, setting up a storyline that will succeed Morrison’s in early 2013.  Following the first arc of Morrison’s run, Superman stopped a man named Ramsay from abusing his wife.  In this annual, Ramsay volunteers for a project to get dosed with kryptonite radiation in an attempt to provide a countermeasure to Superman.  Thus, Ramsay becomes the New 52 “Kryptonite Man.”   John Henry Irons, aka Steel, makes his reappearance and cements his relationship with Superman as a comrade.  In the backup feature, which is usually written by this Annual’s feature writer, Fisch, Max Landis (writer/director of the movie Chronicle) pens a pantomime story of a man who escapes from a breached S.T.A.R Labs submarine to a deserted island with exceptional powers.  He is does with radiation and ends up removing his face, revealing a skull . . . that is now “atomic.”   While Kryptonite Man and Atomic Skull enter the New DCU, I thought it could have been better on all fronts.

    Atomic Skull

  • Batgirl Annual #1 was pretty stellar.  Showcasing the beautiful artwork of Admira Wijaya, Gail Simone brings back the Talon she introduced in the Batgirl “Night of the Owls” tie-in as well as Catwoman to shake up Barbara Gordon’s world.  If that weren’t enough, a mysterious organization is strong arming vagrants from the slums to commit a rash of arsons.  Featuring three very strong women with three different shades of morality, Simone somehow gets each to connect with the others in interesting ways.  I truly hope that this heralds further interactions by the three together, because as I have made no secret about my love for Barbara Gordon and Selina Kyle, Simone adds depth to the female Talon of the 1950’s and even gives us her name . . .  Exceptional art and writing, making for an exceptional annual.
  • Swamp Thing Annual #1 starts out in the “here and now” of the series, in the very bleak events of “Rotworld” after Alec Holland learns of his lover, Abigail Arcane’s, death.  Following this blow, the annual takes Holland back into a repressed memory of when he first met Abigail when they were young and in love.  It also showed his very first meeting with her uncle, Anton Arcane.  This is one of those issues that is just a pleasure to read if you enjoy the series it encapsulates.  To be quite honest, this annual felt like a better origin than the zero issue last month.  Becky Cloonan’s lent her art to Scott Snyder’s twelfth Batman issue a few months ago, and lends it yet again, really setting the atmosphere with her unique style, but framing several key sequences in the vein of Yanick Paquette.  This was my favorite book of the week.

    The Beautiful Abigail Arcane

    A Love Affair Between Life & Death

  • Justice League Dark Annual #1 concludes the “Books of Magic” storyline as well as pulls out all the stops.  Nick Necro has carefully laid out his plans and now those plans are coming to fruition.  To counter them, Constantine and Madame Xanadu pulls in some extra help: Timothy Hunter, Andrew Bennet, and most shockingly, Princess Amaya from the series Amethyst.  The seeds for this last appearance were sown in the final pages of the zero issue of Sword of Sorcery, but I personally never saw her being drawn into the title like this.  Jeff Lemire is a very gifted writer and the way he plays out the dark, mystical plot is quite unexpected.  When the Books of Magic are revealed they manifest in a way that not even Constantine could fathom.
  • Joe Kubert Presents #1 is a six issue miniseries that was initiated by legendary comic writer/artist Joe Kubert to present comics in a style that he wished were more prevalent in today’s market.  In this inaugural issue he presents two tales he wrote and drew, as well as two stories written and drawn by two of his friends and colleagues, Brian Buniak and Sam Glanzman.  Kubert brings to the table a Golden Age Hawkman story about the barbarity of humanity and the danger posed by our civilization if our destructive natures aren’t curbed, as well as a black and white uninked pencil segment called “Spit” about a young orphan who is literally spit on by the world, setting out as a cabin boy on a whaling ship.  Both of these segments represent a style that is so quintessentially Joe Kubert, who’s art is such that its immediately recognizable, like that of Jack Kirby or John Romita Sr.  Brian Buniak brings back a short feature he called “Angel and the Ape” about a knockout blonde and a gorilla who have a detective agency and solve crimes in a campy 1960’s setting.  One thing that Kubert has become known for in many of his solo projects is war stories, and while he didn’t do one himself in this issue, his friend Sam Glanzman submits one about his reminiscences of service in WWII on the U.S.S. Steven, a naval destroyer.  This feature cuts deeper than the rest, because you can sense the reality and the melancholic beauty that Glanzman is evoking from his haunted past.  I agree with Kubert that comics like these are rarely seen anymore on the stands and harken back to a time when things were simpler in presentation, but perhaps a little more poignant too in the simplicity with which they are portrayed   It is also worth noting that while Joe Kubert began this project sometime in the past year he passed away two and a half months before this first issue came out.  His passing makes the point of the series even more resonant, like his one last gift to the world before leaving it was showing us a glimpse at what he loved about the medium he dedicated his entire working life to, and the promise of what that medium could be.

    The Life of Spit

  • Masters of the Universe: Origin of Skeletor was one of those stories that it hurt to read, but in a good way.  I was a HUGE “He-Man” fan when I was four years old and looking back and revisiting the television show as an adult I can still find things that intrigue and entertain me within the somewhat cheesy 80’s cartoon.  For instance, the episodes of the original series where it is revealed that He-Man’s mother, Queen Marlena, is actually a United States astronaut who flew her experimental spacecraft through a wormhole and crashed on Eternia or the episode when Teela goes in search of her real parents only to discover that the Sorceress of Castle Greyskull is in fact her mother.  These plot points totally caught me off guard as an adult and made the series fresh again. This new DC series takes the premise of He-Man and re-imagines it a little bit, continuing in the tradition of creating interesting relationships and circumstances within the Eternian drama.  He-Man’s greatest villain is portrayed as the older, bastard brother of his father, King Randor.  Keldor, the blue skinned son of King Miro and an unknown Gar woman, loves his little brother, Prince Randor, and craves the love of his father, which he always falls a little bit short of.  The issue chronicles the conflict within him between the love he had for his brother and the need to be his own person and live his own life at the cost of loyalty to his father and brother.  I have never been a fan of I, Vampire, but Joshua Hale Fialkov writes a very compelling story of an anti-heroic character and Frazer Irving renders it artistically in much the same mood.  This issue is why, even as a twenty-seven year old man, I am still a boy watching He-Man with an entranced smile on my face.

    The Death of Keldor and Birth of Skeletor

  • Phantom Lady & Dollman #3 was not the greatest comic.  I am a fan of the writing of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, but this issue didn’t really accomplish anything.  They go up against a super powered villainess named Funerella, who herself is undead and can raise and control the dead. They fight her, but nothing really comes of it or goes toward the resolution of the main plot.
  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #9 accomplishes some very interesting storytelling. In Superman Beyond, the elderly Man of Steel emerges from his Fortress of Solitude in special armor to stop Lucinda Luthor and the  computerized copy of her father, Lex’s, consciousness from destroying mankind, after they put a meteor field around earth comprised of pure kryptonite.  In the process he reinvents himself with a new identity into a new civic role to reacquaint himself with the new world that has developed in his absence.  In the Justice League Unlimited Beyond segment the apocalypse engineered by Kobra draws closer and the endgame begins to unfold, and Bruce’s last ditch strategy is implemented by Terry when all else falls through.  Enter an OLD “friend” . . .  Finally, in Batman Beyond‘s “10,000 Clowns” another chapter brings the reader further into the unmitigated chaos that the Joker King has descended upon Gotham.  To combat this, Terry has all hands on deck.  Vigilante, Catwoman, and two former Robins step in to help him as thousands of Joker suicide bombers attack nearly every echelon of Gotham’s infrastructure.
  • The New Deadwardians #8 concludes the miniseries in truly grand, nuanced style.  Chief Inspector George Suttle tracks down the villain, Salt, and in the final confrontation with the madman uncovers the conspiracy that led to the Restless invasion of Great Britain.  Following this revelation, Suttle’s handling of the situation as well as the government’s is rather interesting, adding further layers to the already multifaceted plot.  I have loved this series from issue #1.  I truly hope that this miniseries spawns another, because George Suttle, his maid, Louisa, his aide, Officer Bowes, and his lover, Sapphire, are all very round and complex characters deserving of further exploration, as does the Deadwardian Age.  I put out my prayers to the “gods” of comics to have mercy on their readers and give us another New Deadwardians series.
  • American Vampire #32 builds off the surprise ending of last issue, showing Hattie Hargrove’s journey from when last we saw her, escaping from the Los Angeles coven as an experimental guinea pig and returning as their queen.  There is little to say about the issue itself, but that it is PHENOMENAL!!!  It is quite obvious Scott Snyder has been building toward this issue and the one to come for sometime.  I don’t know what is real and what is sleight of hand, but either way this arc has been another step on the uninterrupted ascent of this series’ incredible run.  Snyder’s writing is peerless and Rafael Albuquerque’s art is appropriately eerie and stark.
  • Vertigo Comics: Ghosts #1 is a Halloween inspired special anthology that deals with the appropriate topic of Ghosts, featuring nine stories by some of the most innovative talent in comics, including some of my favorites: Amy Reeder, Phil Jimenez, Paul Pope, Gilbert Hernandez, Geoff Johns, Jeff Lemire, and apropos a previous entry, an unfinished penciled story by Joe Kubert.  The stories range from a tale of a young man being haunted by the ghost of himself from a life that might have been, to the Dead Boy Detectives, to satanic chili connoisseurs, to a tale of ancient Aztecs.  Like all Vertigo anthologies there were some stories that were stunning and others that fell flat.  Overall, this one had some quality storytelling complimented by equally beautiful art.

    Brotherly Love Beyond the Grave

And thus ends the month of October with a fifth week of very special issues.  Next week we start November fresh with some stellar titles like Action Comics, Green Lantern, Swamp Thing, and Worlds’ Finest. Hope to see you back here.

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 Annual #1: Art by Ryan Sook

Swamp Thing Annual #1: Art by Becky Cloonan, Colored by Tony Avina

Joe Kubert Presents #1: Art by Joe Kubert

Masters of the Universe: The Origin of Skeletor: Art by Frazer Irving

The New Deadwardians #8: Art by Guillem MarchI.N.J. Culbard, Colored by Patricia Mulvihill

Vertigo Comics: Ghosts #1: Art by Jeff Lemire, Colored by Jose Villarrubia