Jan. 22, 2014

This week was a Batweek.  Even if the book wasn’t a Bat-title per se, Batman and his family of characters seemed to shine through.  This week also heralds the return of one of the most interesting, innovative series being put out: The Unwritten.  Altogether this week’s batch of comics (and make-up comic in the form of Superman/Wonder Woman #3) represent their respective titles well.

  • Batman #27 is one of the quintessential issues of this title in understanding the New 52 version of Batman.  Though he has been written by several talented writers in the rebooted continuity, Scott Snyder has been given the helm of the titular Batman title and made it the seminal series within the Batbooks group, often deferred to by the other titles in regard to canon.  This issue more than proves why so much faith is put in Snyder’s custodianship of the character.  So far Snyder’s “Zero Year” plot has taken Bruce Wayne from twenty-five year old journeyman to the opening cases of his career as Gotham City’s fabled vigilante.  Snyder’s Batman from the present had bucked tradition a little bit, but for the most part rode the company line.  This younger Bruce Wayne is much different from most versions we’ve seen thus far.  Snyder’s modern Batman as well as other versions have been terse and reserved with the character of Alfred, but “Year Zero” Batman is very cold with his manservant.  What’s more, he has a downright dislike for James Gordon that transcends his nocturnal identity and is rooted in his civilian life as Bruce Wayne.  In this issue Snyder gives both Gordon and Alfred their say, forcing Bruce to reevaluate each, but even more so, to reevaluate himself.  Snyder interprets Bruce’s war on crime as more than a personal vendetta against criminality, but also against Gotham City itself and the citizens who populate it, and finds an apt mouthpiece for this theory in the person of Alfred Pennyworth who has known Bruce his entire life.  It’s certainly a stark perspective, but one that fits the persona of Batman exceedingly well, further enriching the mystique of the character.  Commissioner Gordon’s part in the story depicts a very hopeless landscape that an honest Gotham cop walks in Pre-Batman Gotham, rectifying the misconceptions Bruce had distilled over a decade and a half of resentment.  Outside of the character driven plot points, this issue begins what appears to be the endgame of “Zero Year,” which began with the origin of the Joker and transitioned into Dr. Death’s killing spree with his horrific osteogenic serum.  Always in the background has been Edward Nygma, aka the Riddler.  Nygma had a line on the Red Hood gang, he was Bruce’s uncle’s right hand man at Wayne Enterprises, and he singlehandedly engineered the massive blackout that descended Gotham into anarchy around the advent of the tropical storm Rene.  The Riddler appears to be making his move from the shadows to the forefront of the “Zero Year” plot.  Encompassing some of the greatest storytelling in comics today, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman is a multifaceted, intelligent journey under the cowl that is destined to go down in the character’s history as one the THE enduring interpretations of the Dark Knight.Batman27-1

    Darkest Vengeance.

    Darkest Vengeance.

  • Batman & Two-Face #27 is shaping up well, giving great depth to the character of Two-Face.  Writer Peter Tomasi did a decent job illuminating inherent qualities of the binary badguy during Villains Month in his Two-Face one-shot, but in this arc of his Batman & Robin title he really mines the recesses of Harvey Dent’s past to show the moment when the former district attorney took the dive into madness.  So far we’ve seen the return of Irish mobster Erin McKillen to Gotham and the very special relationship she has with the fallen Gotham DA.  Once upon a time she put a letter opener through the heart of Harvey’s wife, Gilda, and then burned half his face off with acid.  Now considering the complex and nascently sinister nature of “Handsome” Harvey, as well as the very intimate nature of their associations, I assumed Harvey in some way did something to deserve what happened to him, such as perhaps sleeping with Erin’s identical twin, Shannon, who’s death we are told Erin blames on Harvey.  Nope.  Shannon died in prison after Harvey put her and Erin away for being scum.  He violated a few laws of ethics in doing so, but if we are going to look down on a lawyer for screwing psychopathic killers out of a few degrees of jurisprudence then reading a book about a man that dresses like a bat and brutalizes criminals without due process might not be the best choice. So did Shannon get killed on the inside by someone with a beef, thereby putting even a minute modicum of blame on Harvey?  Nope.  She drew straws with Erin as to who was going to commit suicide so the other could escape prison in the deceased’s bodybag.  So if Erin REALLY wants to take out the person responsible for her sister’s untimely death she should put the gun to her own head before seeking out Harvey.  This issue reveals more about Harvey’s past and the connection with the McKillen family and again, contrary to my expectations, Harvey comes out cleaner with every page read.  He was the personal attorney for the McKillens before his conscience and a little push by Bruce Wayne got him in the DA’s office where he made things right and muzzled two mad dogs.  This change of conscience coming when the sisters ordered a hit on Commission Gordon’s pre-teen CHILDREN!!!  Two-Face is an angry guy throughout most comics.  He is the guy that always rides the edge of straight-up loosing it and is second only to the Joker as someone you have to tip toe around when dealing with.  This arc by Tomasi is making ME angry and totally justifies Harvey Dent’s anger in my eyes.  Erin McKillen has so much innocent blood on her hands and so cavalierly is willing to murder children and innocent women like Gilda Dent and Commissioner Gordon’s wife that I DO NOT think this series would be any better if she survives the arc. If Peter Tomasi’s goal was to elicit solidarity and sympathy with Two-Face he has at least one definite success in myself.Batman&Robin27
  • Batwoman #27 is a series in major transition.  A lot of the controversy comes from the authoritative stance DC editorial has exerted on the writing of their properties, which caused a huge rift with original Batwoman writers J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, forcing the duo to leave the title.  Marc Andreyko was brought on board following their departure and the rationale behind this, for those with a conspiratorial mind,  is probably twofold.  I personally have never been impressed by his writing at all.  His Manhunter series was okay, but nothing to write home about.  His recent reintroduction of the short lived Stalker series from the 1970’s was criminally awful.  He’s got a lot to prove.  So far he’s written three issues of the series.  The jury remains out.  His “Zero Year” tie-in with the #25 issue was decent and confirmed what we already knew about Kate Kane’s desire to do good, but wasn’t very engaging or innovative.  It also preempted the resolution to the cliffhanger ending of Williams and Blackman’s final issue, which is frustrating to Batwoman‘s readers in and of itself.  Last issue Andreyko began a completely new arc with a villain called the Wolfspider, a brown costumed Spider-Man ripoff with a penchant for art thievery.  The dialogue and interaction between characters was flatter than day old beer and didn’t draw me in at all.  The action sequences were well-conceived, but perhaps only came off as such because of artist Jeremy Haun.  This issue I will say was much more engaging to read and felt like an issue of the previous run.  However, this is largely due to the fact that its story is predicated on Batwoman being drugged by Wolfspider and tripping for a large portion of the actual plot.  With that said, all Andreyko had to do was create a collage of traumatic moments from Kate’s past and fill in some word bubbles that due to the nightmarish nature of the dream don’t have to be particularly well written.  The brunt of those sequences were visual and THANKFULLY drawn by one of DC’s top tier artists: Francis Manapul.  Manapul’s art and co-writing are responsible for the incredible Flash series and in Batwoman his art makes the issue flow in much the same way J.H. Williams III’s art did in the initial issues of the series.  Upon awakening from her nightmare in the apartment of her fiancee, Det. Maggie Sawyer, she is greeted by a startling surprise.  The final panel sets the stage for an interesting 28th issue.  The lingering question outside of the plot is whether Andreyko is up to the task of writing the continuation?  Were he taking over any other title from any other writer(s) then his capabilities as a writer wouldn’t be under as much scrutiny.  But to his great misfortune he’s taking over Batwoman from two incredible creators and he may have flown too close to the sun.Batwoman27
  • Green Lantern: The New Guardians #27 reunites White Lantern Kyle Rayner with his former foe, Exeter, but this time as allies.  Exeter’s role as the “Watcher” was two-fold, standing watch over the “Anomoly” at the edge of the Universe and safeguarding his home star system.  With the defeat of Relic who emerged from the Anomoly, Exeter’s only task now is maintaining peace in his home sector.  However, in his absence Exeter’s people have turned genocidal against their peaceful fungal neighbors.  The rationale behind their unwarranted attacks and the culprit behind the elaborate ruse that precipitated them makes for an interesting plot situationally and philosophically.  Following “Lights Out” and the complete paradigm shift of the books I was beginning to grow tired of the Green Lantern group of books, which truly is a sad commentary considering how insanely I followed them for years.  I even contemplated dropping this particular series.  However, what this issue of New Guardians as well as others through the Lantern books have done is reestablish the universal scope of the Green Lantern line.  Back in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s that was what the Green Lantern books were all about.  With the return of the Green Lantern title in 2005 under Geoff Johns the scope became refined to simply the different colored Lantern Corps.  Perhaps one of the best runs in comic history, but a concept that eventually ran its course.  The re-institution of a wide panoply of allies and adversaries by Robert Venditti, Van Jensen, and Justin Jordan is a promising return to some of the greatness of the earlier series done by Len Wein and Steve Englehart. The artwork in this issue was also encouraging, because while regular series artist Brad Walker is a talented penciller, #27’s artist and chronic New Guardians relief artist Andrei Bressan provides gorgeous work that hits on several levels for me personally.  I have reconsidered my hastiness in dropping these books and I would urge those that have dropped them or thought about it to also reconsider leaving the Corps.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #27 is an issue that has been in the making since the beginning of the series two and a half years ago.  Original writer Scott Lobdell began Jason’s odyssey by having Talia al-Ghul arrange for him to be trained by Ducra, head of the All-Caste, to battle the Untitled.  The All-Caste represents the forces of light and the Untitled the forces of darkness.  Sadly, Lobdell who made this one of the best DC series right out of the starting gate left the title months before this issue, leaving it to emerging talent James Tynion IV.  Tynion is a decent writer and whether or not the course of the title had been plotted by Lobdell prior to his departure or whether Tynion spun his own path to resolving the All-Caste/Untitled war is not known.  However, the conclusion to these plotpoints was expertly drafted by Tynion and rendered spectacularly by artist Julius Gopez.  The series as a whole has worked so well owing to its predication on the complexity of the character of Jason Todd, former Robin and one of the most controversial DC characters.  Stripped of his petulant youth and brought back from the dead, Jason has become a very mysterious, haunted individual that gives Batman a run for his money.  To defeat the Untitled and survive requires the purest of souls, making him an unlikely but not impossible choice for the task.  Whether Lobdell planned out the past several issues that Tynion has written or whether Tynion rocked it out on his own, his run on the series concludes with next month’s 28th issue.  Following that Red Hood and the Outlaws yet again enters uncharted territory under the helm of Will Pfeifer and artist Rafa Sandaval.  Even if it tanks, the first 30 issues have been outstanding.  RHATO27
  • Wonder Woman #27 is a book that I find myself torn over.  Brian Azzarello is a fantastic writer.  Cliff Chiang, who drew this issue, as well as Dave Akins and Goran Sudzuka are top notch talents.  The plot is interesting and it is innovative.  And yet I find myself laboring to reconcile its rendition of the Might Amazon with those that came before it and the legacy of what Wonder Woman should embody.  It makes her the daughter of Zeus, thrusting her further into the world of ancient Greek mythology, but at the cost of her connection and immersion in the DCU.  It give license for her awesome power, but cuts off her mortality and the struggle to achieve her strength and prowess that could empower her readership.  *Ahem* —That same fact is why Batman will ALWAYS be superior to Superman– *Ahem*  Not to mention Azzarello’s questionable choice of turning the Amazons into craven, infanticidal rapists.  And anyone who messes with Jack Kirby gains a large helping of Algerian ire.  His version of classic Kirby character Orion is downright awful, not to mention High Father and the New Gods.  Hang your head in shame, Mr. Azzarello.  Ya done bad.  In this issue very little is accomplished by Azzarello, but to be fair a decent amount is set up.  Wonder Woman turns a former foe into an ally by picking a fight with Artemis, a fight she throws to butter up her half-sister, the Moon.  Dio takes Zola to the south of France and turns a bunch of horny teenagers into pigs.  And Cassandra seeks out a weak god to open the gates of Olympus for her.  In that last development, Azzarello continues to show how strange his interpretation of Greek myth is by having Cassandra lead out on a leash her Minotaur who is basically a dude in a ox-masked gimp costume.  Always classy, Azzarello.  Perhaps the saving grace of this issue, falls once again on something I appreciated last week in my return to Superman/Wonder Woman #2.  In Wonder Woman Apollo has been mercilessly torturing his eldest brother, the First Born, in order to break him and stop him from seeking that which he always sought: the thrown of Olympus.  Though the First Born has always sought it, even when Zeus was sitting upon it, Apollo sees it as his right and would do horrific things to his brother to keep it.  All fine and good.  But the braggart took too much pleasure in it and “pride cometh before the fall,” as the saying goes.  The First Born breaks out of his bonds and looks to beat the tar out of his baby brother.  Good on ya, my friend!  So pompous and overconfident is Azzarello’s Apollo that he can never get the crap kicked out of him enough times to still that wagging tongue of his.  The First Born is not like Superman who has restraint.  This time I think Apollo may have stepped in it, but good.  If Azzarello lingers on what the First Born does to Apollo and puts the Sun where he won’t shine (figuratively and metaphorically) I will sway my opinion of this series in a more favorable light.  Until then I pray this run reaches its conclusion and Wonder Woman trades hands to a more traditionalist writer.  WonderWoman27-1

    Instant Karma's Gonna Getcha.

    Instant Karma’s Gonna Getcha.

  • The Unwritten: Apocalypse #1 is the beginning of the end for the Unwritten series, but also a really conversational, well paced reintroduction to what the series is essentially about.  When last we saw Tom Taylor he was magically drawn into the world of Fable by the strongest magi of that world to defeat the megalomaniacal boogeyman,  Mr. Dark.  All attempts to stop him, even by Tom and his youthful, allegorical iteration, Tommy, are thwarted by Dark leaving Tom with one last ditch option: blow the trumpet that made all things to unmake everything.  System reboot. Start over from scratch.  Normally that kind of “if I can’t win, no one can” tactic is used by the more villainous irk, so the utilization of it by Tom was an interesting choice by series creators Mike Carey and Peter Gross, leaving the realm of possibilities wide open for their next arc.  Right off the bat Carey and Gross show the importance of words and their perception vs their reality.  As ever the course of the story is steeped in literary allusion and the scientific “mythology” of evolution, which serves as an allegory for the evolution of stories from simple concepts to increasingly complex plots.  It’s always a safe bet that Mike Carey and Peter Gross will entertain, educate, and enchant with their collaborations.  As the title denotes, this is the duo’s swansong on this series.  The Unwritten is in its “end of times” and the stories we see from here on out will determine the fate of Tom, his companions, and every incredible Carey/Gross creation since its first issue almost five years ago.
  • Superman/Wonder Woman #3 remains one of the best DC comics being published and only on its third issue.  After the conflict with her family, Superman and Wonder Woman part ways again on awkward terms.  Supes feeling awkward about his loss of control after being overloaded with power from Apollo’s ill-conceived assault on him with concentrated sunbeams and Wonder Woman struggling to understand Christmas and what to get Superman considering his love of the holiday.  These concerns are put aside with the advent of General Zod to Earth from the Phantom Zone.  Zod tears it up and is initially met by the (at that time unannounced) Justice League of America headed by Steve Trevor.  When Superman and Wonder Woman arrive there is a great amount of tension considering that Trevor is Diana’s ex, but more so because Superman demands custody of Zod considering his status as a Kryptonian.  Though they aren’t nations, this is very much like an international standoff of Cold War proportions.  The JLA was formed to counter the unchecked might of the Justice League and Superman taking charge of an even more volatile member of his race could be construed by a weary mind as the beginnings of an invasion.  However, Steve Trevor is equally verse in politics as he is in modern warfare, so he lets it go for the time being.  The issue ends with Wonder Woman unveiling her gift for the Man of Steel which is incredibly thoughtful and something that money could never buy.  Yet again, writer Charles Soule has a bombshell to drop by issue’s end.  Overall, this third installment of Superman/Wonder Woman is nothing short of enthralling, providing entertaining plots as well as intimate insight into what it’s like to be Superman and Wonder Woman.  The lattermost point is more true in this title than Wonder Woman’s own book by Brian Azzarello in which the Amazing Amazon is just an incidental character in a bizarre modern retelling of Greek mythology.  If you are a Wonder Woman fan Superman/Wonder Woman is the title you want to get.  However, Charles Soule doesn’t stop there.  He also mines the character of those around the Super-Couple as well.  In this issue Batman talks Superman down from the Moon (literally) when the latter is hiding because of his power overload.  Through the discourse Batman gives a lot of information about the intrinsic natures of both Superman and Wonder Woman, the dangers of each, the world’s possible perception of their relationship, and his own impressions of his teammates.  He tells us all this about them, but in doing so Batman also tells us a lot about himself.  There is not enough that can be said about how incredible this series is.  From a writer’s perspective Charles Soule has the concept of the title orchestrated like a symphony.  In the realm of art Tony Daniel is producing some of his best work to date.  This is a comic for anyone who likes DC characters, but may not like DC Comics at the present time.
    What Are Friends For?

    What Are Friends For?

     

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #27: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored FCO Plascencia, Inked by Danny Miki.

Batman & Two-Face #27: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray.

Batwoman #27: Art & Colored by Francis Manapul.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #27: Drawn by Julius Gopez & Noel Rodriguez, Colored Nei Ruffino, Inked by Sandu Florea, Walden Wong & Dan Green.

Wonder Woman #27: Art by Cliff Chiang, Colored by Matthew Wilson.

Superman/Wonder Woman #3: Drawn by Tony Daniel, Colored Tomeu Morey, Inked by Batt.

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Oct. 16, 2013

This week is a one of revelation, bringing quite a few story arcs to their satisfying conclusion and starting a few new ones.  Justice League of America reveals a major secret, Batman/Superman ends its first storyline with unique style, and Supergirl picks up after a “Who Shot J.R.” style cliffhanger dangled over two months worth of issues.  Meanwhile, Forever Evil: Rogues Revenge kicks off this month with its first issue and Batman & Robin emerges from a slew of guest stars with a five issue Two-Face “team-up.”  An awesome week to be sure, so let’s jump into it.

  • Justice League of America # 8 answers the question of what happened to the three Justice Leagues.  Since the beginning of Forever Evil the Crime Syndicate of America from Earth-3 claimed that they had killed the Justice League.  The vision of the world’s saviors defeated at the hands of a superior foe has robbed humanity of hope.  But as this issue opens Stargirl and Martian Manhunter awaken in an open field with only blue skies and green grass as far as the eyes can see.  As they move through it they realize that what they are in is a state-of-the-art prison, but how it works and to what end remains obscured.  Traversing the prison, Manhunter discovers that all League members are in fact alive and penned in very specialized cells that cater to their inherent weaknesses.  Wonder Woman, the Mighty Amazon, is forced to fight a pointless, neverending battle against humanity and her Amazonian sisters to save the lives of the two men she loves, Col. Steve Trevor and Superman.  Captain Marvel, a young boy living in the body of a titan, is placed in a city where the massive destruction he incurs in his superheroics immediately right themselves, even the slain immediately resurrecting.  For a little boy with infinite strength and a victim complex this scenario is intoxicating.  Flash, the Fastest Man Alive, is trapped in his apartment subject to the whims of his imagination, thinking he is going faster than ever when really he barely moves.  Superman, the noble Last Son of Krypton also called “the Boy Scout” by Batman, is weighed down by guilt over supposedly killing his teammates and attempts to fly fast enough to break the time barrier.  Simon Baz, Iraqi-American and fifth Green Lantern of Earth, is a man with great anger and resentment at the social injustice leveled at himself, his family, and his people.  Martian Manhunter’s mental abilities allow him to verify that each person is genuine and not delusions or elaborate hoaxes.  Writer Matt Kindt is given the honor of revealing one of the biggest secrets of Forever Evil, and tantalizes with juicy details that cut deep to the psyches of each character.  I mentioned the inherent weaknesses of the characters, but those weaknesses do not include kryptonite or the color yellow, etc.  Each of the Justice Leaguers has a weakness in their character and exploiting those weaknesses is a more sustainable restraint than their physical limitations.  So the Justice League and Justice League of America are both alive and being held in a customized super-prison.  This reveals a lot, but raises more questions.  1) Why did the CSA leave them alive when they could have killed them and ended any future interference?  2) What is the prison and how does it work?  3) Why were Stargirl and Martian Manhunter left together in the prison and how does the field play into their ideal incarceration?  Matt Kind writes a hell of a Forever Evil tie-in to usher in Justice League of America’s involvement in the greater scheme of things.  Doug Mahnke continues art duties on the title after initial series artist David Finch moved over to the main Forever Evil book.  Mahnke has a talent for rendering very serious material with the subtleties of his art.  Considering the prison’s function of playing into internal flaws, Mahnke’s art, especially in the eyes and expressions of his subjects, effectively displays their delusional states and subsequent madness. Overall, Kindt and Mahnke provide a stellar issue cutting to the heart of the Earth-1 aspect of Forever Evil.

    The Mighty Amazon.

    The Mighty Amazon.

  • Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #1 fulfills the promise of its title; the Rogues’ rebellion begins.  Brian Buccellato, cowriter of The Flash, has been writing the Rogues on and off for 28 issues.  The Rogues are compelling villains, because they have ironclad codes of honor that they rigidly adhere to.  That honor is what sets them apart from the “Evil that shall inherit the Earth.”  In this spinoff series of Forever Evil, the Rogues return to Central City after witnessing the Crime Syndicate’s rousing speech reprinted in almost every tie-in book.  What greets them is a city in ruin and mass carnage.  In the Gorilla Grodd Villains Month issue we saw the cause of the carnage.  Grodd was freed from the Speed Force and abhors the concept of gorillas and humans coexisting in peace.  When Solivar, leader of Gorilla City, tried to make amends for Grodd’s attack on the Gem Cities, Grodd comes back to finish the job he began.  Humans and gorillas are slaughtered wholesale.  However, many are left alive for other villains to finish off.  The Rogues prey upon Central City and Keystone City, but they DO NOT kill and they don’t steal from people who can’t afford it.  They also are VERY territorial and any violence leveled at their home is tantamount to a declaration of war against them.  So when they find most of the Gem Cities’ police force chained to trees they let them loose, but assert right from the start that they will work with the police, but will not cow to them.  After the events of the Rogues issue during Villains Month, Lisa Snart, aka Golden Glider and younger sister of Captain Cold, fell deeper into a coma after overexerting her astral form to free her lover, Mirror Master, from his Mirror World prison.  Cold took over leadership of the Rogues after this and her safety became the primary concern of all members henceforth.  So when they visit her bedside in the hospital and the Crime Syndicate’s lackeys come forward to enact Central City’s destruction they show their true colors and give their fellow “villains” a show.  The ending of this issue was heralded before in Forever Evil #2 with the dispatch of Deathstorm (evil Firestorm of Earth-3) and Power Ring (sort of evil Green Lantern from Earth-3) to put down their rebellion.  Brian Buccellato is ridiculously on with this first issue, proving that he understands quintessentially the logos of these anti-heroic figures of comic lore.  The Rogues aren’t bad per se, but their ignominy stems from the tenacious drive they have to achieve their goals and resist anyone or anything that would stop them.  What’s more, they fight tenaciously while still holding fast to their sacrosanct code of honor.  There is a scene after they release the police when Lt. Singh, Barry Allen’s supervising officer, levels a gun at Heat Wave and the Rogue looks him in the eye and very calmly delivers a smooth warning that immediately gets the gung-ho officer to lower his weapon.  That thin line between ceding ground and seizing it is a gossamer thread that can make or break a Rogue story and Buccellato walks it like a pro.  The art of this issue is split between two artists, Patrick Zircher and Scott Hepburn.  Both artists worked with Buccellato last month on his Flash Villain issues, Zircher lending his art to The Rogues and Hepburn to Reverse Flash.  Zircher’s art was outstanding and very emotionally charged.  Hepburn’s fell flat in my opinion when juxtaposed so closely with the evocative pencils and inks of Zircher.  I didn’t mind his art in the Reverse Flash issue, and actually kind of liked it.  However, when so closely placed to such a different style, Hepburns art comes off far less realistic and more cartoonish, and considering the somber tone of the book, that is NOT conducive to the readers immersion in the plot.  Overall though, it was a phenomenal issue and one not to be missed.

    Don't Mess With Fire Or You'll Get Burned.

    Don’t Mess With Fire Or You’ll Get Burned.

  • Green Lantern: New Guardians #24 is the middle mark of the epic “Lights Out” storyline happening throughout the Green Lantern titles.   Oa, center of the universe and ancient homeworld of the Green Lantern Corps, has been destroyed by the ancient being known as Relic, leaving the Green Lantern Corps homeless and in exile.  Former Green Lantern and current White Lantern Kyle Rayner also finds himself reeling from the loss of Oa.  However, in the wake of this tragedy the errant entities of the various lights simultaneously possess him and bend him to their will.  Kyle had previously played host to Ion, entity of Will, and Parallax, entity of Fear, and been able to assert himself with difficulty, but with five of the seven infesting him at once there is no shaking them off.  However, while his incarceration is unpleasant, it does shed light on what is going on with the entities and the universe’s reservoir of light.  Justin Jordan has been helming this title since the apocalyptic events of “Wrath of the Last Lantern” concluded Tony Bedard’s run and his issues have really put the weight of the world on poor Kyle’s shoulders.  If you are a fan of Kyle Rayner, as I am, this issue and its immediate predecessors paint a very epic picture of the artist’s role in maintaining cosmic equalibrium.  Justin Jordan picks up from Robert Venditti and Van Jensen and passes the story to Charles Soule for Red Lanterns #24 with no loss of momentum.  Truly amazing.
  • Batman & Robin #24 opens with a fly landing on a sleeping Two-Face’s bad eye, which never closes when he sleeps.  Waking up, he puts a gun to his head.  By page 2 writer Peter Tomasi has already established a haunted version of the binary bad guy.  Then the story shifts to Batman and the GCPD breaking skulls to find details on the imminent return of an infamous Gotham mobster that has been running the Irish gangs remotely from numerous safe houses around the world: Erin McKillen.  She comes into town for a very important summit with all Gotham City families to determine the future of organized crime in a city plagued with “freaks.”  McKillen is told that she is going to be the one to start the ball rolling by offing Two-Face, the man she created.  Cut to a flashback of that fateful moment years ago.  Harvey Dent wakes in his office, strapped to his desk top, his wife Gilda dead on the floor with a letter opener in her chest, and Erin McKillen wearing Gilda’s clothes.  Mocking him, she pours acid on his face to show Gotham “what a two-faced son of a bitch [he] is.”  Despite the agony he breaks some glass with his shoe and saws the ropes holding him down, freeing himself, then holds his wife one last time and kisses her with his wrecked face.  Again, the characterization and the haunted nature of Harvey Dent is beautifully portrayed by Tomasi and visually rendered by Tomasi’s long time collaborator, Patrick Gleason.  No doubt there is more here than meets the eye, but there is a compelling pathos that accompanies Harvey through his portions of this month’s issue.  Like most villains examined during Villains Month, he has his overwhelming darkness that compels him into acts of villainy, but underneath the emotional (and in this case physical) scarring there is a human being.  Following the death of Damian Wayne, Tomasi has changed the title of the series month after month to accommodate his partner du jour.  Each only last a month and he moves on to the next team up.  This issue begins a five month Batman & Two Face arc.  The two Gotham City strong men might not work together directly, but there goals are the same: taking down Erin McKillen and making her face justice in some way for the heinous acts she has committed against Gotham City.  Will it be in the judicial system or at the end of a knife?  Tomasi knows what he’s doing, so I impatiently await the answer.

    The Death of Love.

    The Death of Love.

  • Batman/Superman #4 brings to an end the series’ first arc and also illuminates the opening arcs of both Justice League and Earth 2.  This first arc brings pre-Justice League #1 Batman and Superman together and sends them to Earth-2 where they meet their older, more established selves.  One thing writer Greg Pak really highlighted well in the past three issues is just how different the Earth-1 and Earth-2 Batmen and Supermen are.  One of the things I personally hated about Superman in the initial Justice League issues was how “in your face” he was and his lack of control.  Superman should be all about restraint and moderation.  The same can be said about Geoff Johns’ Batman from those same initial Justice League books that ushered in the New DCU.  Batman always is dark and brooding, but he’s intelligent and analytical about it, not confrontational and snarky without cause.  That is precisely how Greg Pak explores these two characters.  The Earth-1 iterations of the characters as they were first depicted by the misguided pen of Johns are juxtaposed against the characters as they should be, now relegated to Earth-2.  The most poignant example of this is Earth-1 Supes (whose adoptive parents died when he was in high school) meeting Earth-2 Superman and the elderly Kents.  The Kents note that Earth-1 Superman has a foul mouth and lacks patience.  Earth-2 Batman has a field day picking apart Earth-1 Batman, as does the otherwordly Batman’s wife, Catwoman.  Last issue the Apokaliptian demon named Kaiyo told the Supermen, Batmen, and Earth-2 Wonder Woman and Catwoman that this world’s military have obtained a giant crystal shard with supernatural abilities to alter reality.  This weapon was made to combat Superman, but Kaiyo says it can be used to combat a greater threat that is imminent.  Darkseid.  The Earth-2 Superman and Batman want it destroyed.  Earth-1 Superman and Batman want to save it.  Their initial desires and the people they are ultimately dictate their respective fates and eventual dooms.  The arc was rife with dichotomies between Batman and Superman and between different versions of themselves.  Greg Pak comes into the game late, but takes what has been done shoddily in the past and makes it work toward a larger purpose.  His rendering of imperfect characters is thoughtful and highly entertaining, but raises the question of what he will do in his next arc which looks to take place in a post-Justice League #1 continuity when both Batman and Superman were written better and when, as characters, they began to respect one another.  Also worth mentioning is the breathtaking art by Jae Lee.  Lee’s rendering of characters is very ethereal in the emotionless expressions he imbues them with and a look of effortlessness in everything they do, no matter how incredible.  Considering the clash of titans this arc depicts, Lee is the quintessential choice for it.  Four issues in and this has become a must read series.

    Nice Guys DO Finish Last . . .

    Nice Guys DO Finish Last . . .

  • Batwoman #24 is a bittersweet issue marking the premature departure of writers J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman from the title.  Initially when they decided to leave they were going to write through issue #25 to end the overreaching arc they had begun.  This issue marks the actual end of their run, one issue shy of their intended end.  And what a cliffhanger they left . . .  Since the beginning of the “Weeping Woman” arc in early 2012 Batwoman, a.k.a Kate Kane, has been on the hook by the D.E.O. chief, Director Bones, and his underling Agent Cameron Chase.  Since the mid 90’s when J.H. Williams III worked on the series Chase the D.E.O. (Department of Extranormal Occurrences) has been looking for the holy grail of secrets in the superhero world: the identity of the Batman.  They have tried everything and always come up short.  Batwoman becomes their ace in the hole.  With a vulnerable member of the Bat-family in their pocket they have the means to finally blow that secret wide open.  Chase learns that Col. Jacob Kane (Batwoman’s father) armed his daughter with military equipment and later they get their hands on Kate’s twin sister, Beth, a.k.a Alice.  Williams and Blackman have been building toward this moment for twenty issues and the moment has finally come.  Bones has unleashed renegade Batman villains on Gotham as a massive diversion while Batwoman gets in close.  In the meantime Jacob, Betty a.k.a Flamebird (Kate’s cousin and sidekick) and a select team of operatives infiltrate the D.E.O. safe house where Beth is being held.  Beth is on the verge of being rescued and Batwoman sucker punches Batman, but good.  This issue ends in the perfect way to set up a MASSIVE finale to a storyline looooong in the making, only for the writers to be driven from their title.  Also distressing is the off-putting of the conclusion to December with the last minute inclusion of Batwoman to the “Blackout” event throughout the DCU.  As a Gothamite her involvement does make a modicum of sense.  November marks the regime shift of relief writer Marc Andreyko and artist Jeremy Haun.  J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman are two incredible writers and Williams a peerless artist.  The loss of both could be catastrophic to this must-read title.  In my opinion this distressing possibility is augmented by the awful job Andreyko did on the Sword of Sorcery backup feature “Stalker.”  The original story created and written by Paul Levitz in the 70’s was amazing.  Andreyko’s was version was horrendous to read and completely without point.  His ability to pick up where greater minds have left off remains highly questionable.  We’ll see what November holds for Batwoman.

    Battle of the Bats.

    Battle of the Bats.

  • Supergirl #24 is one of the October issues screaming for release after the shock ending of August’s Supergirl #23. Supergirl had found herself on a constantly morphing colony of hive-minded mechanized organisms called the I’Noxia.  These machines are benign in nature, but forced to cooperated with the Collector (Brainiac) and his creation, the Cyborg Superman.  Supergirl is dying from Kryptonite poisoning after the “H’el on Earth” crossover in the Super-books. The I’Noxians offer her haven by computerizing her intelligence in exchange for Cyborg Superman gaining custody of her body and using her Kryptonian flesh to reconstitute his missing parts, returning his former body, but also the missing memories of his identity.  She resists and he takes what he wants by force.  He gets his body and his memories back and lo and behold . . . he’s Zor-El.  Kara’s father!  Upon regaining his memories and his mind he is immediately struck with horror at what Brainiac’s programming made him do.  In September the Cyborg Superman issue of Action Comics revealed the connection between Zor-El and Brainiac and how he came to be made into the Cyborg Superman.  Zor-El is a good man, but the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.  And in this issue a father’s love takes him once again down the road to Hell.  Kara can live again.  The I’Noxians have the technology to reconstitute her, but that would require the rebirth of the Cyborg Superman.  Writer Michael Alan Nelson writes a compelling version of Zor-El, eldest son of the House of El, and dedicated scientist.  His love of his family and his people forced him to seek help in the most dangerous places if even the slightest chance of survival exists.  Ending this issue, Kara comes face to face with the cosmic entity known as the Oracle, heralding the beginning of the “Krypton Returns” storyline beginning with Action Comics Annual #2. After the lead ins to this event dropped in both Superman #0 and Supergirl #0 last September I have been waiting on pins and needles to see the resolution as to how Superman and Superboy could have been on Krypton prior to its destruction.  In a little over a month we will have the answer.

    Behold the Oracle.

    Behold the Oracle.

  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #24 brings about the final showdown in ‘Eth Alth’eban between the League of Assassins, guardians of the Well of Sins, and the Untitled, ancient embodiments of evil born from the Well. Jason has been chosen to be the leader of the League and fights to stave off the assault that could result in the end of all things. Jason proves to be an adept disciple of the Batman, exhibiting the same ingenuity and resolve against forces far beyond his measure.  Indeed, that is most likely why the League chose him as their leader.  On the other side of fight, Roy Harper also is shown in a revealing light.  Previously, Roy helped the Untitled breach the impenetrable walls of ‘Eth Alth’eban under the understanding that he would be freeing Jason from a pack of vipers (which the League of Assassins are) and saving the world.  That last part wasn’t true at all, which he realized too late.  However, in his moment of reflection on his deteriorating relationships with Jason and Starfire he manages to capture the sympathy and last throbs of human compassion in the heart of the assassin, Cheshire, who in previous DC iterations was the mother of his daughter, Lian.  James TynionIV’s writing of this series is pretty good, although admittedly he has a long way to go to measure up to his predecessor and the series’ creator, Scott Lobdell.  Lobdell created the Untitled, so Tynion’s wrapping up of the fabled cabal begs the question of what Lobdell’s original intentions were for them.  Other than that, the issue comes off very well and reintroduces a venerable figure in Batman lore to the New 52.  Julius Gopez continues his phenomenal work as artist on the series, adding weight and substance to the Tynion’s scripts though his very expressive artwork.  Every emotion is blatant in his lines immediately immersing the reader in the agony and ecstasy of the book’s cast of characters.  Definitely and enjoyable book and a series worth picking up.

    The Heart of Chesire.

    The Heart of Chesire.

  • Vibe #8 dives head first into the wellspring of Cisco Ramon’s powers.  Vibe, as he’s been called, got his powers when he was caught in the event horizon of an Apokaliptian Boom Tube during Great Darkseid’s invasion of our world.  As a result he is attuned to extradimensional vibrations and able to sense and counteract beings from other dimensions.  Up to this point his powers were uses to detect intruders and refugees from other planes and if necessary, combat them.  After being wounded and sucked out of our dimension he begins leaking that energy the Boom Tube endowed him with, hurtling him from dimension to dimension with no control.  In the background as he cascades through all existence are little easter eggs from the two year run of the New DCU, including the recent fight between Green Lantern (Alan Scott) and Bruutal on Earth-2, the Phantom Zone, President Superman from Earth-5, and the gemworld of Nilaa that we last saw in the now cancelled Sword of Sorcery title.   It is while defending Princess Amethyst from the Quartz Hordes that the enigmatic figure called Breacher finds Cisco and puts a patch on his wound that stabilizes his dimensional radiation.  He takes Vibe to his own world, Piradell, and tells of the history that lead to its subjugation by the despotic Queen Mordeth and how that ties back to the same event that gave Cisco his powers.  At the same time that Cisco was imbued with interdimensional energies the Boom Tube collapsed on his elder brother, Armando.  They always assumed that Armando died, when he actually became a creature like Cisco and upon landing on Piradell gave Mordeth the means to subjugate that world.  Now Breacher and Cisco need to save Piradell, Armando who is under the thrall of Mordeth, and Mordeth’s daughter, Gypsy.  Sterling Gates has done the seemingly impossible, making Vibe a good character.  His original iteration in the Justice League Detroit comics was a joke at best.  Now he is substantial, thoughtful, and endowed with a sense of consequence in the larger scheme of the emerging DC multiverse.  Back in the day, the Flash was the keymaster to the multiverse, having the ability to vibrate though realities from Earth to Earth.  While Flash still has that ability, Vibe is pretty much made to solely be the custodian of opening the gates off our Earth, but also keeping those that breach from remaining.  With that in mind, and with the multiverse slowly blooming in emerging DC plots, Vibe is a character to watch.

    From the Icy Plains of the Phantom Zone to the Steps of President Superman's Capitol.

    From the Icy Plains of the Phantom Zone to the Steps of President Superman’s Capitol.

  • Pandora #4 opens in the aftermath of Forever Evil #1 with Pandora, who was present when the Outsider (Earth-3 Alfred Pennyworth) opened the box that bears her name, finding herself transported to a desolate world littered with bones.  Earth-3.  The Birthplace of Evil.  The only living thing she encounters is the blind and mortally wounded J’onn J’onzz (Martian Manhunter) of that reality.  Through his rhetoric she become aware that the Crime Syndicate intend to do to our Earth what they did to this one.  When she returns to Earth-1 she hatches a plan.  First she entrusts a friend with the mission of reforging Pandora’s Box from the shattered remnants left after it opened the portal to the place of its birth, letting the CSA into our dimensional plane.  The next step is getting her OLD friend Vandal Savage to give her the means to infiltrate the Secret Society meeting in order that she can get at the man known as the Outsider.  What she intends to do with him remains up in the air, but that only ropes the reader into buying next month’s issue.  I’ve made no secret that I am not a fan of the writing style of this series’ writer, Ray Fawkes, but it can’t be denied that this issue is very well done and an integral tie-in to the overarching Forever Evil event going on throughout the DCU.  Series artist Francis Portela is always a delight with his lush artwork that has been seen in Legion of Superheroes (LONG LIVE THE LEGION!) and last month’s Killer Croc issue in the Batman & Robin title.  Whether the success of this issue is predicated on Fawke’s writing or the tent pole Forever Evil plotline remains to be seen, but until that event wraps in March this series will no doubt carry its weight in realizing the full measure of Earth-3 and absolute evil.

And there you have it.  An awesome week of comics that overall exceed the mark of this comic book geek.  Here’s hoping next week measures up the same.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Justice League of America #8:  Drawn by Doug Mahnke, Colored by Hi-Fi & Gabe Eltaeb, Inked by Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen, Keith Champagne & Marc Deering.

Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #1:  Art by Patrick Zircher, Colored by Nick Filardi.

Batman & Robin #24:  Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray.

Batman/Superman #4:  Art by Jae Lee, Colored by June Chung.

Batwoman #24:  Art by Trevor McCarthy, Colored by Guy Major.

Supergirl #24:  Drawn by Diogenes Neves, Colored by Guy Major, Inked by Marc Deering.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #24:  Drawn by Julius Gopez, Colored by Nei Ruffino & Hi-Fi, Inked by Walden Wong & Ray McCarthy.

Vibe #8:  Drawn by Andres Guinaldo, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Mark Irwin & Marc

Week 88 (May 8, 2013)

  • Batman #20 concludes the second installment in a two issue arc of writer Scott Snyder’s exploration of the character Clayface.  Clayface has achieved the ability to completely mimic, right down to DNA scans, the people with whom he makes physical contact.  In the case of this issue, set up by the conclusion of its predecessor, he has taken on the persona of Bruce Wayne and seeks to impugn the noted Gotham billionaire and philanthropist.  It’s a short story, considering its division over just two issues, but has all the characteristic intelligence, insight, and scientific elaboration that Scott Snyder is renown for in his works.  Here, however, the plot seems a bit hard to hold on to.  Perhaps it is because it lacks the epic scope of his previous “Court of Owls” and “Death of the Family” arcs.  Obviously Batman has run of the mill cases that are by comparison more arbitrary to these overarching events, but they do cast a long shadow on the lesser plotlines.  Snyder does, however, put in an impossible escape for Bruce to elude in this issue in order to maintain his secret and his life, as well as stop the polymorphic villain.  With June’s “Batman: Year Zero” Snyder will be starting another long term story in the Batman title that has all the promise of innovation and long term canon making.  I very much look forward to it.  In the backup feature, writer James Tynion IV concludes his two part story, “Ghost Lights” with Superman and Batman banishing a Will-o-the-Wisp that was accidentally summoned by kids meddling with magicks beyond their comprehension.  A decent story, but not one of Tynion’s best.

    Bruce Wayne and the Batman

    Bruce Wayne and the Batman

  • Batman & Red Hood #20 brings Batman another step closer to complete collapse.  Following the death of his only child, Damian, he has sunk into a psychotic meloncholy the likes of which has never been seen in the Dark Knight’s many titles.  Like last issue a former Robin steps in to fulfill the “robin” portion of “Batman & Robin.”  Here Jason Todd, the Red Hood, prepares to leave the mansion after the events of Red Hood and the Outlaws #18.  Batman stops him and requests that Jason accompany him to the Magdala Valley in Ethiopia to take down a syndicate of international assassins, some of which responded to the hit put on Damian by Talia Al-Ghul.  The mission actually looks to heal the rift between the former mentor/protegee.  However, as with Batman and the most volatile of his sidekicks, the rift can never truly be closed and the attempt threatens to deepen said rift.  Altruism isn’t Batman’s forte and being played (especially after learning the Joker’s part in his tragic existence) is the last thing that Jason is going to put up with.  Peter Tomasi writes this series exquisitely, really playing off the Bat family’s intrinsic traits and flaws to craft a very engaging, emotional drama amid one of the most tragic events within the Batbooks in recent years.  Also in the background is the continued presence of Carrie Kelley, begging the question of whether she indeed is going to take her place as the first official female Robin in the history of the Bat titles.  Every aspect of this book is amazing.  Read it.

    Old Wounds Made Fresh

    Old Wounds Made Fresh

  • Justice League of America #3 picks up following the JLA’s encounter with the robotic versions of the Justice League as built by Prof. Ivo.  These mechanical menaces push them close to their limits while at the same time making them rely on eachother for the first time as a cohesive team.  However, as the team dynamic gets ironed out certain members find their roles to be not quite what they expected.  Green Arrow, after risking his life to expose the Secret Society, is cut loose.  Courtney Whitmore, aka Stargirl, finds herself as a mere mascot and a showpiece member of the team.  Catwoman learns that as a known criminal she is on the team as bait for the Secret Society to latch onto.  Geoff Johns is trending this title in an interesting direction.  It has a darker tone and with the characters and plots he is working with it fits perfectly.  His attempt at darkening the Justice League and shaking things up in that title was initially awful and at present merely passable.  David Finch’s artwork on this title is perhaps the most engaging aspect, really setting the tone and the ambiance.  In the backup feature Matt Kindt shows the revelations granted to both Catwoman and Martian Manhunter when the latter delves into Catwoman’s mind.  He sees her past and what drives her and by virtue of that she is also granted a glimpse at his life on Mars and a quick look at who he is.   Overall, this title is one that seems to have a great amount of impact on the course of the DCU as well as some very interesting and innovative plots.

    Dissent in the Ranks

    Dissent in the Ranks

  • Superboy #20 jumps back in time two months, returning to the introduction of Superboy to the rebooted Dr. Psycho, now seemingly a young boy, teenaged at the oldest.  In Superboy #18 Psycho merely followed Superboy, marvelling at his power and seeking to feed off his telekinetic potential.  In this issue the two characters finally meet and find themselves forced into a shaky alliance of mutual benefit.  Being attacked by a purple ox-like bruiser named Dreadnaught and a green alien looking guy named Psiphon, we are informed through intimation that Dreadnaught, Psiphon, and Psycho are all part of an organization called “H.I.V.E.” and that Dr. Psycho, or Edgar, is a drone in H.I.V.E. that has escaped.  New series writer Justin Jordan takes over the title in this issue from former writers Scott Lobdell and Tom DeFalco with the help of regular series artist R.B. Silva and guest artists Kenneth Rocafort and Chriscross.  It feels like he picked up the ball mid-air, but Jordon’s work seems conistent with his two predecessors, ensuring the quality we have enjoyed thus far and looking to end in a slam dunk.  Also the “H.I.V.E.”  plot looks to spill over into the Superman title as well, which is penned by Lobdell so that is ramping up to be a must read event.
  • Ravagers #12 provides the final issue of this short lived Teen Titans-esque series.  Really it seemed like a “Teen Titans East” kind of title, but with a distinct edge.  These superpowered youths came together not out of common goals, but as a means of protection as they flee the grasp of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and its sinister overarchitect, Harvest.  This issue shows how fleeting their goals of freedom are.  Last issue Harvest dispatched Deathstroke, the world’s deadliest assassin, to hunt down the escaped Ravagers as well as the two Ravagers who tried and failed to retrieve their errant comrades, Rose Wilson (Deathstroke’s own daughter) and Warblade.  In the end, this series didn’t conclude on a happy note, but it didn’t end on a completely sad one either.  With few exceptions, the cast of characters lived to see another day and a new status quo was set up for many of them.  The fate of Terra and Beast Boy looks to be a perfect setup for a “Judas Contract” plotline, as well as Raven and Beast Boy entering into the Teen Titans title reminiscent of their original membership in the New Teen Titans title in the early 80’s.  And most of all Caitlin Fairchild’s history is revealed giving some very intriguing possibilities for her future in other ongoing series throughout the DCU.

    A Fateful Encounter

    A Fateful Encounter

  • Demon Knights #20 begins a new arc following the conclusion of the “Army of Cain” plotline.  The Demon Knights have helped the Amazons beat the vampiric hoard of the First Damned from the shores of Themyscira and now convalesce after a hard fought battle.  The most pure of them, Sir Ystin, the Shining Knight, had been bitten and now stands on the verge of being turned.  Exoristos is welcomed back by Queen Hippolyta who had exiled her years before.  The new goal of the Knights is to retrieve the Holy Grail from its hiding place and Hippolyta says she can help.  Writer Robert Vendetti resumes the startling factoid of how the Amazons procreate.  I think that it was startling enough when Brian Azzarello first introduced the concept of the Amazons as rapist murders, but the playful way they make light of it in this issue just makes it all the more disturbing.  Anyway, one of the sailors the Amazons raped and murdered in the past told of the location of the grail and it was chronicled in a log book.  Mixed feeling about this issue and this series. 
  • Threshold #5 opens on a very interesting, precarious predicament.  The Collector, whom we know as Brainiac, has descended on the main world of Lady Styx’s dominion, Tolerance, and absconded with a small portion of it.  Left in its place is a gaping wound in the otherwise sprawling urban landscape.  Styx brokered a decent deal with Brainiac and so unlike other worlds he visited, Tolerance remains intact and otherwise unmolested.  The catch is that the residents of the selected area are not to be warned of their impending abduction.  As a result, the disgraced Green Lantern Jediah Caul and space pirate Captain K’Rot find themselves trapped in one of Brainiac’s fabled bottles.  One thing that has been apparent about this series from the first issue was the scope.  Threshold spans over a wide array of characters all being hunted by citizens of the Tenebrian Dominion in a reality show based sport killing.  This issue follows closely the character of Jediah Caul, really focusing in on him as a character.  Since he first showed up in Green Lantern: The New Guardians Annual #1, Caul has been depicted as nefarious.  However, the green lantern ring he wields chose him for a reason.  This issue may not reveal that reason per se, but it does cast a very intriguing look at the former Green Lantern and how he is willing to resolve issues such as the one he has landed himself in.  His answer to this particular dilemma is not one that would immediately come to mind when imagining a typical Green Lantern’s response, but there is some method behind his madness.  Keith Giffen yet again weaves a fascinating cosmic tale in a far reaching odyssey.  And in the final installment of his Larfleeze backup feature Giffen finally reveals what happened in the first installment five issues ago as well as the way in which the departed Guardian, Sayd, perpetrated the perfect crime.  Once all the shadows have been lifted from the proceedings the plot itself is amazingly well crafted and ingeniously executed.  Giffen has a talent for complex, multifaceted storytelling and this five part story of the sole Orange Lantern showcases those talents brilliantly.  So much so that the story will move on from here into its own monthly title.  Both Giffen and Larfleeze deserve nothing less.

    A Whole New Perspective

    A Whole New Perspective

  • Smallville Season 11 #13 begins a new arc that explores heavily one of the barely tapped gems of the “Smallville” TV series: the Legion of Super-Heroes.  It also returns Booster Gold, his computerized aide and sidekick Skeets, and to a smaller degree Blue Beetle.  Clark, as of last issue, has shed the radioactive isotope Lex placed in him that effectively separated him from Lois for months.  Now he is torn from his fiancee again when Booster Gold’s stolen Legion of Superheroes ring malfunctions due to a coded distress signal transmitted through time to it.  In the 31st century Earthgov has turned against the Legion and they find themselves in a bind.  This comes as the result of a new sister planet to Earth, New Krypton, arriving in our solar system.  That world was created by Clark in the ninth season of the series as a home for the Kryptonians under the command of Zodd following the that season’s finale.  The arrival of a planet of superpowered beings puts Earthgov on its heels, turning public sentiment and policy against superpowered beings and certainly the alien members of the Legion.  Clark comes forward and attempts to adjudicate the issue.  Going in, he encounters a newer character to the actual Legion of Super-Heroes pantheon, Earth Man, Kirt Niedrigh.  Niedrigh is the a government minister in possession of a high value prisoner that Clark aims to release.  The identity of that prisoner brings about another resurrection from the show’s illustrious canon.  This issue very aptly introduces a new arc while also emboldening the past of both the comic series itself and the television show that inspired 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 #20:  Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Placcencia, Inked by Jonathan Glapion & Marc DeeringDanny Miki

Batman & Robin #20: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray & Mark Irwin

Justice League of America #20: Drawn by David Finch, Colored by Sonia Oback, Inked by Richard Friend & David Finch

The Ravagers #12: Drawn by Diogenes Neves, Colored by Tony Avina, Inked by Vincente Cifuentes

Threshold #5:  Art by Tom Raney, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse

 

Week 58 (Oct. 10, 2012)

This is a red letter week for the Bat-Books.  With Batman #13 the Joker makes his first appearance since the first week of the reboot over a year ago and as is to be expected, he makes an ENTRANCE!  His presences is felt in all three Bat titles, and his inexorable place assured.

  • Batman #13 starts this week off.  How could it not?  This book has been hyped to the nth power for month’s now, as well as picking up on one of the first jaw droppers of the DC reboot, presented straight out of the gate their first week: the cut off face of the Joker.  Well the Clown Prince of Crime returns to take back what is his.  That is the monumental event this book represents. The Joker is BACK!!!  His attacks are calculated, they are severe, and they are unpredictable.  The fact that Scott Snyder is writing this book is self-evident.  The plot unfolds with great mystique and forethought.  The Joker’s attacks and actions come out of left field, but are rooted deeply in his past and his identity.  When he accomplishes each stage in his plan, Batman puts it together and fills us in as to the relevance.  Snyder has a penchant like the other greats of the industry to mine continuity for the gems that resonate with fans and then fabricate further material to compliment and enrich the original plot points further.  Already he’s setting up an epic joke from the master trickster, and as the last page of this issue alludes, its going to be a really killer.  The backup feature, co-written by Snyder and protege, James Tynion IV, and drawn by guest artist, Jock, is a mere five pages, but explains one of the key events in the issue, as well as sets the tenor of the relationship between the Joker and another integral character.

    From the Mouth of Babes . . . Things Have Changed

  • Green Lantern Corps #13 draws off of the zero issue and has the old foe of Guy’s from his proto-Green Lantern career, Xar, brought back into the spotlight for an integral part in the disintegration of the Corps.  In fact, to put it in the briefest of terms, this issue is the elaborate orchestration of the Guardians of the Universe to set the Green Lantern Corps on the course to its own unraveling.  Guy, the egotistical douchebag, falls for the plot hook-line-and-sinker, but what intrigues is what we can only guess to be a trap set for John.  Still reeling from his murdering a fellow Corpsman, he is given the chance to aid in the resurrection of the Green Lantern he kill before the last one.  It seems like that could be a legitimate possibility, except for the obviousness from the reader’s perspective that its a trap.  That I am dying to get resolution on.  Either way, as the Guardian’s plot unfolds, it becomes more and more clear that there is no going back for the Guardians.  They have to die if the Green Lanterns and sentient life are to survive in this universe . . .
  • Batman & Robin #13 continues to develop the delicate relationship between a father and son who are very stoic, intense, and reserved in their expressions.  The two take a very ordinary father/son excursion into the Earth’s orbit to inspect a Wayne-tech satellite that Batman uses for surveillance purposes.  You know, just the usually stuff.  Their conversation is rather terse, but in the process they talk about some very sensitive topics.  Did Bruce ever love Damian’s mom?  Does Damian even love his mom?  Does Bruce trust his son?   And what’s more, Damian shows genuine emotional growth, though still wears a thick shell.  A supernatural threat erupts more than halfway through the issue, but the main draw of the book is the glance at Damian’s progress as a son, an emerging hero, and as a feeling, moral human being.  I love Damian.  I love this book.  Peter Tomasi is a genius.

    Batman & Son

  • Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #2 continues with the exploration of of the quantum uncertainty principle exemplified by Schroedinger’s Cat.  While in the reality we have accepted as established, Dr. Jon Osterman became Doctor Manhattan when he was accidentally locked in the intrinsic field chamber, the first issue of this four part miniseries sets up an alternate scenario where he doesn’t.  Once this dual reality concept is introduced, writer J. Michael Straczynski continues in that vein, initiating further dualities based on the smallest personal choices.  If Jon chooses to dance first with his bride at their wedding then time unfolds normally as it has in our world, Kennedy getting shot and the Cold War ending thirty years later.  If he chooses to dance with her last the presidential assassin is caught, Kennedy lives, Nixon becomes president after him, Watergate doesn’t happen, and nuclear apocalypse ensues.  The general idea that the shockingly bewildered Dr. Manhattan arrives upon is that time is broken.  J.M. Straczynski is a genius and his formatting the story on the basics of quantum physics theorum is nothing short of stunning.  Also aiding in the series’ success is the beautiful artwork of Adam Hughes.

    The Butterfly Effect

  • Batgirl #13 brings to conclusion the “Knightfall” storyline with the follow up to the incredible cliffhanger ending of August’s #12.  For the past several issues writer Gail Simone has made me hate Charise Carnes, but in this issue she manages to make me sympathize with her.  The truth about her family’s gruesome murder is revealed in gory detail, not justifying but explaining her insane plot for Gotham and its criminals.  On the side of the aisle, Simone depicts the ironclad resolve of Batgirl brilliantly.  As we left her on the last page of issue #12, she had been stabbed in the abdomen and was bleeding out.  In spite of that, her sheer will to stop Knightfall’s villainous plot is staggering.  It’s what sets her apart.   What also sets her apart from Knightfall is the mercy she is willing to offer the criminals she apprehends.  That same mercy saves her life.  Following up on her victory comes a maelstrom of past horrors resurrected.  The three previous arcs, masterminded by three separate psychopaths, are coming back to haunt her as a mysterious cabal arranges the release of all three.  But . . . worst of all, is the retelling of a “Killing Joke” . . .

    Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before . . .

  • Grifter #13 does a lot of things.  Firstly, it introduces the team up of Grifter and Voodoo.  I approve.  He also crosses paths again with the crew from Stormwatch.  I hate Stormwatch sooooo much, but on the other hand, writer Rob Liefeld does something that so many writers should have done so many times over: Midnighter gets pwned!  He is such a piece of crap and Grifter really lays into him, wiping that smirk off his face.  Thank you, Mr. Liefeld.  I may not have enjoyed some of the things you’ve done in this series, but you made my month.
  • Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E #13 brings Frankenstein into the events of the “Rotworld” crossover happening in Swamp Thing and Animal Man.  As we have seen previously, Frankenstein is somehow immune to the Rot and not able to be subdued or swayed by them.  This taken into effect, he is drafted by the Red to be their agent and to go to Metropolis for a very dangerous mission that may hold sway over the course of the war.  At the heart of it is the drafting of his creator, Victor Frankenstein, to the Rot, and the device used to by him to create Frankenstein.  This device, the Soul Grinder, is said to be the one weapon that can defeat the Rot.
  • Superboy #13 finds the Boy of Steel forming an uneasy alliance with NYPD detective, Jocelyn Lure, as well as going head to head with the people that employed the psychic villain, Kiva, in issue #12. Once again in this battle for survival, Superboy feels his control over himself waning and a primal anger taking root, subverting his self control.  Both he and Lure, realize that for the greater good of everyone, he has to get answers from the only person who might have them: Caitlin Fairchild . . .
  • Following up on the above title, The Ravagers #5 finds Superboy catching up with Caitlin and her teenage charges as they arrive at the secret facility of Niles Calder.  All the teens, SB included, then find that what Niles has in store for them is eerily similar to what was expected of them at the Colony.  Though we can assume that Caitlin and Niles have the kids’ best interest at heart, the Ravagers’ reaction to their propositions is completely understandable.  There is a great deal of character development across the board.  Niles Caulder is a completely new persona, as he makes his New DCU debut, this time not in a wheelchair and thirty years younger.  The Ravagers all continue to weigh in with their reactions to the hellacious events thrown at them.  Superboy and Caitlin Fairchild, I think, develop the most.  Writer Howard Mackie really takes Superboy back to the existentialist roots he first had in Superboy #1.  
  • Phantom Stranger #1 continues on the road of developing what was and promise to be a very different comic book character.  DC seemed to be an imprint that excelled with characters such as the Stranger.  The Specter also follows in that same vein, as a character with immense power but powerless to wield it the way his heart dictates.  Dan Didio takes on the character presenting a man made to do terrible, sometimes even reprehensible, things and not have him demonized in our eyes.  This issue has him meeting the character of Raven (of New Teen Titans fame) becoming aware of her powers and struggling to control them.  As the Zero issue hinted, her demonic father Trigon makes an appearance and the result is not good for Rachel, aka Raven.  I am excited by the potential for the horrible events of this issue to spin out into a future story line of this or another series.  Dan Didio keeps to the tenor established in the Zero issue, but drops a GIANT bomb on the last page that will resonate for years to come.

    WHAT THE F***!?!

  • Demon Knights #13 resumes the “Avalon” arc where the Demon Knights are attempting to regain Merlin’s soul from Avalon and return him to Alba Sarum.  The problem lies in the treachery of the Demon Etrigan, dragging all of his comrades to Hell in the hopes of achieving an as of yet unrevealed scheme for power.  What makes this issue interesting his how Hell crafts individualized torments for each of the Knights, some more effective than others.  Vandal Savage actually seems more amused by his than perturbed.  Sir Ystin is forced with the dilemma of revealing her gender, which is agonizing to her.  This aspect of the plot, as well as the realpolitiking of Lucifer and Etrigan are what drive the issue on, making it a worthwhile read.  I am very curious to see what Etrigan has in store, as well as how Jason Blood, who himself is also oblivious to his other half’s schemes, will react to it.  Also the Black Diamond is introduced . . .
  • Deathstroke #13 did a few interesting things, but overall was not memorable.  Rob Liefeld continues writing it, with the help of former Voodoo writer, Joshua Williamson, and Eduardo Pansica on pencils.  Liefeld is solidifying a relationship (sexual, if not romantic) between Slade Wilson and Zealot, as well as a continuing conspiracy by his son, Jericho, to kill him.  I love Jericho so I am staying on the title for that, as well as seeing how Zealot is fleshed out in this new DCU.  Both seem very different and ironically polarized.  Jericho usually was pretty even keeled and kind, but here is depicted more harshly.  Zealot was always very abrasive and hardheaded, yet here is a very complex, intriguing woman.  I’ll buy a few more issues before I make any harsh decisions.
  • Team 7 #1 was forgettable.  So far there is nothing about this title that interests me.  Like Justice League has been a team book featuring representations of everyone’s favorite DC superheroes as superpowered douchebags, this title seems to be four of everyone’s favorite nonpowered heroes and three other guys as just plan douchebags.  This title is going to get dropped.  The Black Diamond also is alluded to.
  • Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #7  concludes the series.  The plot was rather confusing, jumping ahead six years to Dominique as the Queen of the Voodoo Court and her being slain.  Its hard to gauge the impact or meaning of things with that much of a gap.  I mean there were two orphans that Dominique felt she had to save, and then bypass her even finding them, cutting to them being adults.  How are we supposed to know the significance of their existance in the story.  I’m sure that there is a very important reason they are there in writer Selwyn Seyfu Hinds’ head, but it’d really be great if he could share it with his readers.  There was an interesting wrap up to the story, but that wrap up is impotent without a little lead up to it.  I hated this last issue, when I really should have loved it.  Up until the time-warp Hinds gave us in this issue, it was a phenomenal series.
  • Ame-Comi Girls: Wonder Woman is the first issue of one-shots in a series based upon anime versions of DC’s female pantheon.  Starting it off, of course, is the first DC superheroine, Wonder Woman.  It would have been wrong if they had not included her.  Her story is pretty straightforward and follows the origin we all quintessentially know.  Born the daughter of Amazon Queen Hippolyta, Diana butts heads with her mother and tradition and is sent to the world of men as an ambassador of Themyscira. That is the basics.  In this, as with all anime she is skimped out in a very slutty costume.  Considering the prideful and feminist rooting of the character, writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, have fun with it by posing Diana’s objections,  saying “Is this punishment not embarrassing enough that I must also advertise myself as a whore to the nation of men?”  I will admit that I have always like the singlet costume over the various more politically correct iterations involving pants and the like, but her costume in this one is overkill. Its ridiculous.  However, I think that that is the point and a jab at the source material of anime in general.  I was entertained by the over the top storytelling and the anime-esque art by conventional comic artists Amanda Conner and Tony Akins.  I look forward to seeing Batgirl in November’s installment.

    A BOLD New Look

Thus concludes Week 2 of October.  So incredible.  Can’t wait for next Wednesday.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #13: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Jonathan Glapion

Batman & Robin #13: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #2: Art by Adam Hughes, Colored by Laura Martin

Batgirl #13: Art by Ed Benes, Colored by Ulises Arreola

Phantom Stranger #1: Drawn by Brent Anderson, Colored by Ulises Arreola, Inked by Philip Tan

Ame-Comi Girls: Wonder Woman:  Art by Amanda Conner, Colored by Paul Mounts

Week 54 (Sept. 12, 2012)

Week two of September means week two of DC’s Zero Month and the release of some excellent titles and their corresponding origins.  Its a good week to be a Batman fan as Batman, Batman & Robin, and Batgirl come out this week, alongside the inaugural issue of Team 7, and the final issue of The Shade.  Here’s how they all stacked up:

  • Batman #0 was a flashback to Bruce Wayne’s first forays into vigilante justice.  Taking place after the events of Detective Comics #0, he has amassed all the skills he’ll need, but now is trying to amass the tools and the techniques to become the effective symbol he is destined to be.  Foiling a bank robbery by his most iconic villain under a different persona and hiding his crusade from the inquisitive Lt. James Gordon, Bruce does all this without donning cape and cowl.  What is intriguing about this issue is that it is a zero issue, but sets up a storyline the the ending solicitation bills for 2013.   I am very curious as to whether that ties into the ending of the “Death of the Family” storyline or the one that is to follow it.  Either way, Scott Snyder has created an origin story rife with possibilities.  In the backup, James Tynion IV writes a tale that picks up one year after the events of the main feature.  By now the Batman has become entrenched in Gotham lore, winning over Commissioner Gordon and, as we will see, four other persons who will become entangled in his dark legacy.  First off, we see a young super genius named Tim Drake in his prep school’s principal’s office about to be expelled, then a young hood going by the name Jason (Todd that is) in the midst of a bungled robbery, thirdly a young acrobat that is part of the star attraction of Haly’s Circus, The Flying Graysons.  The final youngster stands by her dad, the Commissioner, as he flips the switch for the first time on an iconic searchlight pointed at the skies of Gotham.  All four kids look up at the Bat Signal at the same time, never knowing that it was heralding their future.  A powerful story, made more so by Andy Clarke’s stark artwork.

    Four Robins’ Future Shines Bright

  • Green Lantern Corps #0 developed the character of Guy Gardner very well in this his origin tale.  I hate Guy Gardner.  I am not a fan.  However, I will amend that when Peter Tomasi writes Guy, somehow he gets me to empathize with the lughead.  This issue is no exception.  Born into an Irish cop family that goes back generations, he is the black sheep that disgraced his family name, and as a result is alienated from his father who, stereotypically is portrayed as a drunkard retiree.  Topically, Guy is very abrasive and totally fits the part of the screw up.  However, like any character that has survived in comics as long as Guy, there is something redeemable underneath.  In his case, tenacity and an intrinsic sense of what is right.  Tomasi delivers that in this issue, in both the powered and unpowered portions of Guy’s life.
  • Batman & Robin #0 follows on the tail of both of the previous entries this week, delivering an excellent origin from the Bat Family as well as a stellar book from Green Lantern Corps writer, Peter Tomasi.  Like Guy Gardner, having Tomasi on this issue is important, as it gives the origin of Damian Wayne (Robin) from birth to his introduction to comics in Batman #655. Damian is a sociopathic ten year old, so he is a very difficult character to write engagingly.  Grant Morrison wrote him initially in the grace and style that is quintessentially Morrison, and others that have taken him on in smaller doses have had varying success.  Tomasi is by far the most adept since Morrison.  At issue’s beginning Damian is quite literally baptized in blood by his mother, Talia Al-Ghul.  From then onward he is molded by her to become a new Alexander, to one day conquer the world.  He is indulged and given his heart’s every desire, except for one thing: the identity of his father.  That is the goal that drives him throughout his entire cognizant youth, mastering every discipline his mother subjects him to in the hope that the day will come when she will tell him who his father is.  Though he is spoiled and over-entitled, there is a drive within him that makes him akin to his father, Bruce Wayne, and despite the lavishness, his mother does create an abusive environment in the manner in which she raises him, giving him also a traumatic childhood, like Bruce.  I love Damian.  I always have and I am sure that I always will.  This issue is a blessing to Damian fans, because it not only presents a well written origin, but one that feels true.

    Five Year Old Damian Dons His Father’s Mantle

  • Batgirl #0 presents a third look into the origin of an integral member of the Bat Family: Batgirl.  I love Barbara Gordon.  I was part of the cheering section when they gave her back the helm of Batgirl at the time of the Reboot.  Gail Simone has a really good track record writing her and for this issue Ed Benes provides guest artwork.  Though he has taken a lot of flack for his overly idealized depiction of some female characters, I think his Barbara is done tastefully and beautifully.  Simone paints Miss Gordon as a loving daughter, raised by her single father, Commissioner James Gordon, idolizing him and using him as a model of strength and honor.  Her White Knight.  When she gets college aged, another man, this one Darker, enters her life and from him she learns a new kind of strength and independence.  Facing a nightmarish situation, she takes what her father has taught her, puts it to use, and then finds herself drawn into the world of her other idol, Batman.  From issue #1 of this series, I said that what Simone did extremely well was presenting the psychology of Barbara so the reader could feel what it was like to be her.  This issue does that exceptionally well, showing how her thoughts matured, evolved, and shifted through different phases of her life, ending with one of the most nightmarish, iconic images associated with her past.

    Ed Benes’ Killing Joke

  • Before Watchmen: The Comedian #3 begins the formation of what readers of the original series will recognize as the Comedian.  Coming out of the war in Vietnam for a vacation State-side, Eddie is beginning to see the changing of the times from the seemingly placid 50’s to the turbulent 60’s.  He is a man of intensity, but deep down has a side that longs to feel human.  With these two forces pulling at his soul, and amidst the race riots in Los Angeles and the anti-war protests, he snaps and realizes a fundamental thing about the world and life in general: its all a big joke.  The joke is what makes him so terrifying in the original comics and what made his actions so visceral.  He can do horrible things, because he sees the morbid humor in them.  Brian Azzarello really gets the character and with each issue brings us closer and closer toward the vision of Alan Moore’s original anti-hero.
  • Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E #0 presents the origin of Frankenstein as we would expect: with a modified version of the Mary Shelley novel.  Created by Dr. Victor Frankenstein in a manner seemingly connected to the modus operandi of Anton Arcane, Frankenstein is pieced together from bits of cadavers with perversions of science and brought to life through nightmarish meta-science.  From there he goes on a journey across the world, hunted by his creator, learning about what it is to be human and what morals exist inside his troubled soul.  It follows the general plot of the book skeletally, while being elaborated upon and changed drastically to fit what the character has become in the comics of the past ten years.  Matt Kindt does a decent job cobbling together a cogent backstory that fits the literary origin and maintains the comic sensibilities simultaneously.
  • Team 7 #0 felt very much like what most zero issues are like outside of what DC has been doing.  Zero issues in the past have been little teasers to spark interest in the title, but not really give anything substantial.  That is very much the case with this one.  Way too much set up and very little pay off.  Even though five out of ten characters on the team have been in other titles, writer Justin Jordan still bogs down the plot introducing them.  That’s fine, but when done in one issue with ten separate characters involved, it can be really top heavy.  The basic premise is that with a literal explosion of superpowered beings in the course of two years, the world government scramble to set up countermeasures against the threat they could pose.  That is the basis for Team 7.  Included in the mix are Amanda Waller (of Suicide Squad), Slade Wilson (Deathstroke of Deathstroke), Dinah and Kurt Lance (Black Canary and her ex-husband from Birds of Prey), Cole Cash (Grifter of Grifter), Alex Fairchild (Father of Caitlin Fairchild of Superboy and The Ravagers), and then three other people.  I think that after this issue, the true strength of the series will manifest.  It will either work or lack excuses for why it doesn’t.
  • Spinning our of Team 7, Grifter #0 was really confusing, although perhaps by design.  Coming of the previous title, Grifter opens up with Cole going on an infiltration mission with his brother, Max, and his boss, John Lynch.  After having read Team 7 I found it strange that Lynch was running ops with his agents considering his standoffish presentation, and also that Max was involved, considering he wasn’t on the original roster.  This was cleared up pretty quickly as it was revealed to be a simulation run by the Daemonites to hone Cole into a weapon they could employ against Lord Helspont.  Rescued from their conditioning machines by a mysterious man called Warick, Cole’s destiny starts to seem preordained.  Issue #1 last year made his capture and escape from the Daemonites seem completely random, but this issue makes it seem orchestrated.  I wonder if this has anything to do with what original writer Nathan Edmondson intended for the character, or whether Rob Liefeld is taking it in his own direction.  Either way, it was interesting, but not the best issue by any stretch.
  • Deathstroke #0 carries on this pattern, pertaining yet again to a member of Team 7, and like Grifter, written by Rob Liefeld, who also provides art as well.  This one I would consider a success.  Deathstroke, aka Slade Wilson, is one of the DCU’s most incredible, versatile villains and has a rich history stemming almost entirely from the seminal New Teen Titans series from the 80’s.  Liefeld wisely sticks very close to this origin, deviating only slightly to shoehorn in this Team 7 nonsense, which I’m sure he was forced to do by the powers that be.  Despite the ludicrousness of his being involved with that team, all the pertinent events are there.  Meeting and being mentored by Capt. Adeline Kane in boot camp, falling in love with her, marrying, and having two sons by her, becoming a government super-soldier, rescuing his comrade and future manservant Evergreen when he is taken prisoner by a foreign power, and ultimately becoming a premiere mercenary/assassin.  Its all there.  His wife and their youngest faking their death, and his eldest son, Grant, becoming an assassin and falling in the line of duty also are depicted, continuing his decline into villainy.  But what made me so excited was the revelation at the end, that once again finds its roots in New Teen Titans, involving a plot to put down Deathstroke for good by his estranged wife and their youngest son, Joseph.  Joseph Wilson, aka Jericho, is perhaps one of my all time favorite superheroes under the age of twenty.

    Jericho and Adeline Wilson

  • Demon Knights #0  comes after several origin stories that this title has served up already and still finds a yarn worth wringing out.  Though it is rife with meaty characters to expand upon, the choice of origins is right in the title: Demon Knights.  Etrigan, the Demon, bound by the sorcerer Merlin to forever dwell in the flesh of English knight, Jason Blood, provides a two-fold origin.  Though we saw the binding in this series and in the original Jack Kirby Demon series, the rationale had gone untold.  Paul Cornell takes a stab at it, giving an explanation that is intriguing in the ironically altruistic motive employed by Merlin, as well as the pairing itself.  Jason is a lowly knight that goes unnoticed and unmerited by the Court and Etrigan is a demon in Hell that is largely abused and undervalued.  Both have it up to here (I’m motioning pretty high with my hand)  and decide to assert their worth.  Etrigan by singlehandedly slaying entire battalions of demon warriors to gain the loyalty of legions.  Blood attempts to use Merlin’s spells and lays hands on Arthur when they go awry.  They are paired as we know, but despite not liking one another there is an accord between them because of that kindred spirit that exists between them.  I have loved the Demon for a long time as the anti-heroic medieval paradigm of chaotic valor.  This issue makes me love him even more.
  • Superboy #0 is ice cold awesome. Six months ago in Superboy #6Superboy met up with Supergirl and she called him Kon-El, which she told him (or maybe alluded) meant “abomination.”  This issue opens with exactly what that means.  On Krypton they had what Star Wars nerds would call “Clone Wars.”  The clones bred cheaply and inefficiently  for menial tasks , rose up and wrecked havoc, doing things that eventually led (long after their downfall) to the cataclysm that befell Krypton.  The clone that did this had a name: Kon.  Kon tamed the mindless hordes of clones and molded them into a fighting force that almost brought an entire civilization to its knees.  It was for this reason Harvest initiated Superboy’s birth and as the issue progresses writer Tom DeFalco has the main events from the first several issues replayed with Harvest and his lackey, Omen’s, commentary overlaid.  There are allusions too that are left up in the air, such as the traitor in Kon’s ranks that betrayed him and crushed his uprising, and also the subliminal programming Harvest has subjected Kon-El to, training him and conditioning him against the Man of Steel and what remains of Krypton’s legacy.  I am VERY interested to see how both those plot-points manifests itself in future storytelling.

    KON!!!!

  • Ravagers #0 was really enjoyable, considering that Beast Boy and Terra are two of my favorite Teen Titans of old.  Though they are not Titans currently, writer Howard Mackie retains a lot of what made them awesome in the past.  I neglected to do a review of the fourth issue of Ravagers, which in many ways pave the way for this zero issue.  I wrote one retroactively and if interested, here is the link: https://offthepanelcomicreview.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/week-49-aug-8-2012/  Following in the wake of Superboy #0, Ravagers opens in N.O.W.H.E.R.E. with Harvest overseeing the processing of the abducted young men and women his organization is assimilating into the “Ravager Program.”  The first on the block is Gar Logan, who we watch become Beast Boy, as his metagene is activated. During his transformation, Harvest’s technician, Non, registers the connection to the Red that has manifested in Beast Boy.  No mention of Brother Blood is made, which depresses me a bit, since that intimate connection between the two was really intriguing in the past two issues.  Next up is Tara Markov, aka Terra.  Here she already has her geokinetic powers and maintains her tough girl attitude from her original incarnation in New Teen Titans.  Beast Boy on the other hand, has been in a state of traumatized uncertainty since his first appearance up through his and Terra’s escape from N.O.W.H.E.R.E., so he has yet to gain his iconic jocularity.  There initial interaction is one of Terra acting in Gar’s defense against some of the more senior kids in the Colony.  She, however, remains hostile toward him, true to her loner nature.  When she yet again acts in his defense later on and nearly dies, Beast Boy unlocks his own primal furor and rushes to her aid.  Together they slaughter scores of their fellow teens, ensuring their place in Harvest’s Ravagers.  I like both characters and I like the thought of them together.  In New Teen Titans that was pared short before it could happen, and in the television show the betrayal was one that cut Beast Boy deep to the quick and defined his humanity greatly.  This origin issue defined the nature of the bond between them beautifully, and also alluded to the existence of the Doom Patrol, as Gar references a memory fragment of Niles and Rita, who are most likely Niles Caulder and Rita Farr.  Interesting . . .

    Terra and Beast Boy

  • He-Man and the Masters ofthe Universe #2 didn’t seem to accomplish too much in and of itself.  The mindwiped Adam is on a journey to try and discover the meaning behind his dreams of another life.  On this trek he is captured by the forces of Kronis (Trap-Jaw).  In his captivity he comes in contact with a young woman, Teela, who emancipates him after Adam is forced to fight his captors for his freedom.  She also has no memory of anything that happened before, when Adam was prince of Eternia and she was one of the eponymous Masters of the Universe.  This could be one of those series where you have to climb up a few arduous steps before it gets better, but up through this issue I am still whelmed.
  • The Shade #12 is the final issue in the year long odyssey writer James Robinson has taken us on in the life of the Shade, a character he resurrected and redefined in the mid 90’s.  That journey was rooted deep in his past, as we have seen for the past eleven months, and created a mindblowing present for him.  That journey ended with issue #11, and though it is marked #12, this issue is at its heart a zero issue.  Taking place in and around the England of 1838, we see the Shade in his human life as Richard Swift, Victorian merchant and loving father and husband.  In Robinson’s 1990’s series Starman, featuring the Shade as a villain and sometime anti-hero, we are shown vague images of his former life and are given the broad strokes of what turned him into the dark creature we’ve read about.  This issue provides the finer bits of the story, bringing in his arch-rival, Simon Culp, and leading in a very round about way to the culmination of events that would baptize  him in shadow, forever transforming him into a creature of darkness. Looking back on it all, the Shade recognizes what he did and why he did it, but uses those missteps taken when first he became the Shade to guide him as he reinvents his life in a new time and place.  James Robinson has a flair for the dramatic and the literary, which is why his presentation of this issue as a Victorian flavored log works so well.  Though it was only twelve issues, this series was like going home, bringing back the heart and excellence of Starman, cancelled now for eleven years.
  • American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #4 dwells on Hobbes, Felicia, her son Gus, and the secret vampire organization called “The Firsts” escaping their stronghold when an army of Carpathians descends upon it.  The Firsts represent the last members of vampiric species nearly wiped out by the king of the Carpathian breed, Dracula, while he was still active.  The leader, Benedict, believes that the Carpathian attack was a ploy by Hobbes to trick the Firsts into complacency with his plan to attack Dracula’s coffin.  Hobbes attempts to prove that Dracula is making his play against them to solidify his position now that he has been awakened.  This issue did two things very well: exploring the history of the very enigmatic character of Linden Hobbes, and how he became involved with the Vassals of the Mornings Star, and introducing a plot that is the closest thing to a vampiric doomsday scenario, dependent upon Dracula reaching a device built by his followers called the “second throne.”  Once again, Scott Snyder has taken his concept of American Vampire and cranked it up to 11.  The miniseries ends next month with the fifth issue and I am on pins and needles.
  • Saucer Country #7 follows its previous issue in a very similar fashion.  As I reviewed one month ago, issue #6 was Prof. Kidd detailing the history of the Alien phenomenon and what the human mind constructed the occurrences into.  It read very much like a History Channel special, giving empirical information such as dates, people, places, and scientific fact that spawned the theories we have read or heard about. In a previous issue we were introduced to the Bluebirds, a secret society that studies and attempts to mimic UFO flight technology and engineering.  This issue is narrated by one of these people and does exactly what issue #6 did.  It takes the real life encounters with the unexplained and shows how that influenced different aspects of the government, research, and historic events.  A true part of the story was the use of the term “Foo Fighters” to describe UFO’s before they were associated with extraterrestrials.  The path from their first mention in WWII through the decades to the eventual use of flying wing technology and gyroscopic flight, takes the reader on a journey that sets up another key facet of this series’ very complex premise.
  • Warlord of Mars #21 begins the five part story arc that encompasses the third book in Edgar Rice Burroughs original Barsoom Trilogy, that also bears the title of this comic: “The Warlord of Mars.”  In it, after John Carter has liberated the black “First Borns”, and all of Mars for that matter, from the ancient despotic goddess, Issus, his wife, Princess Dejah Thoris becomes trapped in a time locked chamber in the  Temple of Issus with Thuvia of Ptarth, a Red noblewoman, and Princess Phaidor of the Therns.  While he awaits the end of the year for her emancipation he overhears a plot by the rogue First Born, Thurid, and Hekkador of the Therns, Matai Shang, to break into the chamber by secret means to free Shang’s daughter, Phaidor, and abduct Dejah Thoris.  John Carter works to stop this, but is unable, setting up the plot for the next four issues.  This was an excellent novel and so far writer Arvid Nelson has set the comic adaptations up spectacularly.  I doubt this will be an exception to the rule.

And so ends Week 2 of Zero Month.  I have to say that I was blown away by some of these titles.  The DC Reboot has left some holes in the various titles, but slowly this month’s issues are patching them up.  Can’t wait till next week.  See ya then . . .

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #0: Art by Andy Clarke, Colored by FCO Plascencia

Batman & Robin #0: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray

Batgirl #0: Art by Ed Benes, Colored by Ulises Arreola

Deathstroke #0: Drawn by Rob Liefeld, Colored by Juan Fernandez & Ross Hughes, Inked by Adelso Corona, Cory Hamscher & Art Thibert

Superboy #0: Drawn by R.B. Silva, Colored by Tanya & Richard Horie & Hi-Fi, Inked by Rob Lean

The Ravagers #0:  Art by Ian Churchill & Norm Rapmund, Colored by Hi-Fi