I am SUPER overdue on this week of reviews, which is a shame because it was one of the best, comprised of some hallmark issues. Unfortunately, some of my paying writing jobs have gotten in the way of this enjoyable hobby blog. I’ll stop with the long winded intros and just get the long overdue reviews. Enjoy:
Action Comics #20moves into the the second issue of a new era in Action Comics. Cowriter Andy Diggle and cowriter/artist Tony Daniel left Superman recovering from a nanite infection that turned his hand into what looked like a living metal clawed monstrosity. This issue has him waking up in the care of the brilliant and seductive Dr. Shay Veritas after his initial infection. She teleported him away from the population to ensure their safety, but apparently Superman’s super immune system was able to separate the infection from his body. However, the nanite virus, still in the shape of the clawed hand, maintains its bite. The virus apparently was able to latch onto his DNA and sap many of his talents and abilities into its own hybrid genetic code. Succeed or fail, this synthetic mutating virus is the opening salvo in Lex Luthor’s renewed war with Superman. The next move in the chess game with the Man of Steel proves to be a nightmare straight out of a George Romero movie. Following in the tradition of the $3.99 titles, writer Scott Lobdell and assistant dialoguist Frank Hannah begin a World of Krypton backup feature with the help of Philip Tan on pencils. This feature begins with a young Jor-El discovering an ancient underwater city built by a pre-Kryptonian species. His exploration, though groundbreaking and rewriting everything that had been known about Krypton’s natural history, doesn’t fail to annoy his fellow members of the Science Council, nor the Military Guild who guard them and who are holding an emergency vote on a key issue of great importance to the stability of Kryptonian governance. In the wake of their disgruntled waiting, we see Lara Lor-Van (Superman’s mom and Jor-El’s future wife) maligning the starry eyed visionary and also find that she is at this moment engaged to her partner in the Military Guild, Jax-Ur. Quite interesting for the Superman faithful, because Jax-Ur is a renowned Kryptonian criminal of great infamy in all Superman mythologies. Ending on an explosive note, this first installment of World of Krypton accomplishes SO much!!! The political balance of Krypton is established quite well, as are the characteristics of several important characters. Jor-El and his future wife Lara are both obvious, playing well toward their depictions in Lobdell’s Superman #0, which we saw last September. Also featured briefly, but certainly of prominence is Kra-Hu, the Afro-Kryptonian senior member of the Science Council who seems to be Jor-El’s mentor and father figure in the Kryptonian governmental structure. Jax-Ur, engaged to Lara and predating his criminal destiny, will no doubt cut an interesting figure as well with Lobdell’s attention to canon and genius of innovation balancing toward a nice middle ground. Everything about this new arc in Action Comics has me giddy as a school boy. Keep it coming, DC!!!
Beware the Claw!
Detective Comics #20is in essence the endgame to writer John Layman’s open arc on this title. With his opening issues he’d paved the way for the slow rise of Ignatius Ogilvy in the shadow of his boss, the Penguin’s grandiose bid to claim a place in the public eye of Gotham. Using this distraction he was able to wrest the Penguin’s empire out from under his feet and establish an iron grip on Gotham’s underworld, installing himself as “Emperor Penguin.” Well, now with Penguin in prison and his power base entrenched he steps out of the shadows and calls the Batman out. Suicidal right? Not entirely. Ogilvy had this whole drama choreographed to the last movement and the Bat finds himself more than evenly matched when he meets Emperor Penguin face to face. What Batman finds is no longer a human being, but rather a nightmare comprised of bits of all his nemeses. Kurt Langstrom’s man-bat serum in his blood, mixed with Bane’s super-steroidal venom, and Poison Ivy’s plant elixir giving him bark-like armored skin beneath the course bat hair. Quite frankly, with his analytical mind and enhancements, Ogilvy has the Bat outmatched. Who will save him? The answer will surprise you. In the backup feature, also written by Layman, we are given a look at the childhood and rationale behind Ogilvy’s meteoric rise through the Gotham underworld. His journey started when he was a child leaving a movie theater in a bad part of Gotham and his mother and father gunned down in front of his eyes. Mirroring Batman’s traumatic catalyzing event, Ogilvy went the other direction from Batman, not seeking to end crime but rather to immerse himself in it and control it from the top echelon. From Blackgate prison he narrates all of this and shows his preternatural ability to navigate circles of power and insert himself into the key positions through a Machiavellian display of cunning and physical strength. Ogilvy came out of nowhere in the world of comics. He has existed for less than a year and already John Layman has set him up as a Batman character of the highest caliber. Kudos, Mr. Layman. I had deep reservations about your competence at handling this title and you proved me infinitely wrong. Layman is the man for Detective Comics. Long may he write.
The Emperor of Gotham
Aquaman #19 was a late addition to the roster, laid over from last month’s lineup. Aquaman continues to struggle with the weight of the crown he once forsook for a simpler life. Now it weighs heavier than ever as he is forced to “swim against the tide” of his usurping his younger brother Orm’s throne and his defense of the surface despite the catastrophic war between Atlantis and the United States. To rally his troops he takes them against the submariner terrorist called the “Scavenger.” Upon the engaging of one of the Scavenger’s submarine’s Arthur and his chosen elite discover a ghastly secret. On land Mera is abducted by the resurrected Dead King of Atlantis, the first to sit upon the throne. We have heard tell of him starting with the first arc, “The Trench” where the fish-men monsters are introduced, then later with the introduction of the Dead King’s scepter in the next arc “The Others”, and finally in the previous “Throne of Atlantis” crossover. Now we see the ancient monarch for the first time and he is chilling. Finally, this issue surprises with the reappearance of a shocking figure from her past. Geoff Johns has been teetering this series between quality and throwaway storytelling. The political intrigue following “Throne of Atlantis” and very personal depictions of the main characters amidst the aforementioned arc’s fallout is really engaging at this point and well worth the read.
Green Arrow #20is a title I have begun to look forward to month to month. Following Jeff Lemire’s taking up the title with issue #17 this series has gone from tragic joke to a hard-edged, thrill-a-minute roller-coaster ride. Ollie Queen has lost it all! His company has been forcefully ceased by a rival businessman, Lacroix, who also dons a black hood and mask, kidnaps his two employees/confidantes, murders one, and attempts to kill him using archery skills that rival Ollie’s. To top that off a blind wiseman named Magus leads Ollie down a rabbit hole of discovery, pointing him in the direction of Lacroix’s (nom-de-guerre Komodo) secret lair with a picture of the enigmatic businessman/assassin with Ollie’s dad, Robert Queen ON THE ISLAND OLLIE WAS STRANDED ON!!! Obviously this was before Ollie was stranded on it, but still more than coincidental and raising the question of how Lacroix, Ollie’s father’s death, and so many other things tie into a larger plan? This issue opens with Ollie having escaped his first encounter with Komodo by the skin of his teeth and regrouping. Komodo returns to his lair to make contact with the group he works for, the Outsiders. This isn’t the para-Batman army we have seen in the past or anything like it. This is a new Outsiders and their significance is crucial, tying into this series and Katana. Ollie has it out with Komodo a second time in this issue and this second encounter not only ups the ante but showcases just how intelligent, versatile, and strong-willed Ollie truly is when lives are at stake. Jeff Lemire is KILLING IT!!! This series is ridiculously awesome and in no small part thanks to artist Andrea Sorrentino’s stark rendering of the plot in stark light/color vs. black/shadow styling. Just a phenomenal series so far and one not to be missed.
Batwing #20begins a dubious new direction in this title’s future. David Zavimbe was created by Grant Morrison to be a Batman for the continent of Africa. A large task, but one that David could feasibly achieve considering his personal history as a child soldier in Africa and his experiences since growing up in a complex, corrupt political structure. The first 20 issues (including Batwing #0) all show very vividly how intricate the balance of power leans in parts of West Africa. New writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have retired Zavimbe and decided to replace him with Luke Fox, son of Wayne Enterprises Executive Lucius Fox. Luke Fox whose only link to Africa is that he is African American. To me it seems kind of racist that they would assume that if you are black you are interchangeable. Just because your ancestors came from Africa doesn’t mean you have a preternatural knowledge of African history and the inner workings of the post-colonial political workings of dozens of nations. Luke makes a joke about it in this issue, but despite them joking about it Palmiotti and Gray still made that decision. Perhaps they have a goal in mind that will validate the concept, but they have a long way to prove that. One thing Luke does have is enthusiasm and conviction. Going to an undisclosed part of Africa, Luke faces off against a criminal organization called the the Marabunta that run money and guns to warlords and terrorist organizations throughout Africa. In his descent into their world he battles a woman in insectoid-mech armor called “Lady Marabunta” and an anthropomorphic lion named Lord Lion-Mane. The issue is entertaining and intriguing. My objections remain unrebutted so far, but its only been one issue. I will say that Palmiotti and Gray with the help of artists Eduardo Panisca and Julio Ferreira have earned another issue.
Swamp Thing #20brings forth the second issue of the massive paradigm shift between Scott Snyder’s incredible inaugural run on the title and that of new series writer Charles Soule. The issue itself is really well written and the plotline pretty rough. Last issue, Scarecrow was trying to steal a rare flower from the Metropolis Botanical Garden when Swamp Thing stepped in to stop him. Scarecrow unleashed his fear toxin on Swamp Thing causing the avatar of the Green to freak out and thereby the plants within the City of Tomorrow to utterly freak out by extension. Inside his head, Swamp Thing sees Alec Holland living the life he would have led if he hadn’t been made into Swamp Thing. He sees a life with Abby Arcane with a lovely house and children. Everything is perfect except when he comes into his dream life, bringing the power of the Green with him. Living out his deepest fear upon committing himself completely to the Green, he must face the real possibility that he will slowly lose his humanity and in so doing bring death and destruction upon all the people he comes into contact with at the behest of his plant-like masters. Outside of his inner delusions his control of the Green is making monstrous vines, trees, venus fly-traps, etc, tear Metropolis apart and fulfill the very nightmare that bore them, that Swamp Thing will hurt all the people he comes into contact with. Superman of course comes to the rescue of his adoptive city, takes out the main threats, such as the massive vines taking down a suspension bridge, then susses out the cause and intervenes to snap Swamp Thing out of his stupor. Swamp Thing initially came to Metropolis to talk to Superman and ask him about the how to cope with his powers and the fear of those same powers robbing him of his humanity. Superman is pretty harsh, albeit fair, and lays down some very harsh truths. There is, however, a note of optimism at the end of his sermon that might just be what will redeem Swamp Thing. Charles Soule, with Kano’s awesome art, really spins a beautiful Swamp Thing yarn that seems to wrap up in a two issue mini-arc. The final page of the issue seems to be the start of an interesting new development to take us into Soule’s second, semi-connected story arc. I greatly anticipate it.
Wisdom of Superman
Earth 2 #12concludes the introduction of Doctor Fate. Khalid Ben-Hassin has fought for years the influence of Nabu and falling under the thrall of the ancient mage as well as that of his totem, the helmet of Fate. No more. Last issue Khalid accepted his destiny and donned Fate’s helmet becoming Doctor Fate. Now he and Nabu’s ancient foe, Wotan, go head to head for the first time in centuries in a blaze of sorcery and hexes over the skies of Boston. Meanwhile in China, Alan Scott (Green Lantern) and Kendra Munoz-Saunders (Hawkgirl) investigate the death of Alan’s lover, Sam. In Macau they find storage containers at the docks full of decaying parademon corpses neatly stacked within. The plot thickens as the question is raised as to what they are doing there and how do they fit into Sam’s murder. This is put on hold as Green Lantern is drawn to Boston by his ring to aid in the relief effort of the magical battle. Writer James Robinson really is sewing up the plot of this book by moving individual storylines forward, such as Alan’s investigation of Sam’s murder and the fallout of the Apocalypse invasion years prior, while at the same time introducing exquisitely new characters like Khalid’s Doctor Fate and folding them into the plot. By issue’s end, Flash, Green Lantern, and Fate are brought together just in time for another plot point Robinson is skillfully sewing back into the main plot: Steppenwolf. With this issue the world has learned that Darkseid’s uncle and one of the most dangerous men in the multiverse is being harbored, as well as ruling, the independent republic of Dherain. There is a great deal afoot at present and Robinson has given himself a very advantageous position plot-wise to move forward from. I very much look forward to future installments of this series, especially since Mister Miracle and his wife, Big Barda, are also in the offing. Nicola Scott’s art on this series is another aspect not to be missed, especially when given such round and incredible characters to depict.
Worlds’ Finest #12begins a dark chapter in the journeys of Power Girl and Huntress. Picking up from last issue we find that the newly returned Michael Holt is in fact Desaad, torturer to Darkseid and one of Apokalips’ most dangerous New Gods. He attacks Helena and Karen, but when they defend themselves and return his assaults, they discover that Desaad still has an illusion over himself that keeps people seeing him as Michael Holt, upright business mogul and scientist, and the two superheroines as thugs who are attacking him for seemingly no reason. That discovered, they are forced to beat a hasty retreat and re-assess the situation. However, Desaad is a creature that operates on many fronts. Starr Industries (run by the disguised Power Girl) begins to drop in its stock value and have its top researches wooed away to other companies, and one of their top research facilities explodes. However, this is not the most shocking thing that happens in this issue. Paul Levitz is a genius. This series is one of his crowning achievements. The plot segues so nicely into a bookend for the above mentioned Earth 2, following exiles from that world in ours and showing how their odyssey is tied into the events happening concurrently on their homeworld.
The Movement #1was a bit of a disappointment. I was eagerly anticipating it due to its penning by master comic writer Gail Simone, but unfortunately Simone doesn’t live up to her reputation here. Perhaps its the premise of the piece. Set as a “point/counterpoint” piece with the new title The Green Team, this book and its sister series are supposed to be comics representing the 99% and the 1% of America and their place in the DCU. The product is super-trite. Elements of social commentary can come into comics effectively when done in thought provoking ways, but this blatant attempt to force the issues seems really forced and uninspired. I could bemoan it much more, but I will stop. I couldn’t find anything redeeming to say about it. A shame that it couldn’t do what it set out to do, but in my opinion it fell flat. I will read The Green Team, but I assume it will also fall flat.
Phantom Stranger #8is an apocalyptic issue insofar as it features the “death” of the Stranger (something few even thought possible) and in his death reveals what has really been happening in the past several issues. Issues #0, 1, and 2 key us into the Stranger’s role as a betrayer and agent of transcendental neutrality. The last six have followed the Stranger’s attempt to locate his kidnapped wife and children. This issue gives resolution as to what did happen to them and who was behind their abduction, but even more intriguing is the revelation of how the Phantom Stranger, the most asexual, ambivalent being in the universe, could come to have a wife and kids. Philip Stark and his family existed before the Phantom Stranger entered into any of their lives and in point of fact, his co-opting of them and Stark’s life create a poignant, humanizing moment for him. Dan Didio and co-writer J.M. DeMatteis have created an incredible series that has taken the concept of the Phantom Stranger and not only made him relatable to readership, but actually sympathetic. When we have seen him briefly here and there in the past decade or so, it has often times been him heralding a crisis and then making matters more difficult than necessary for the heroes involved. In this series we have seen that representation unchanged, but we also see how he is forced to do these things and the demons and displeasures they engender in his metaphorical heart (which DOES exist). The series has been phenomenal , but issue #8 stands as a call to arms for readership as to HOW good the series is and has the potential to be in future. Long story short: READ IT!
Legends of the Dark Knight #8delivers two more astounding tales of the Dark Knight. In the first story, entitled “Carved”, writer Paul Tobin and artist Tadd Moore tell the tale of a kidnapper/thief in Gotham who abducts people and objects and replaces them with exact replicas sculpted out of mahogany. Already there is a great setup for a psychological villain, which is an interesting turn for Batman. Most of his foes are theatrical, but this one is just a person with deep seated issues, enveloped in a very methodical psychosis. A fascinating, extremely well written story. The next one, “Unnatural Selection”, written by Ricardo Sanchez and drawn by Sergio Sandoval also provides a very out of the box, rarely attempted story in the Batman titles. A series of grisly murders leads the Dark Knight to a cryptotaxodermist’s creation of a Barghest. Cryptotaxodermy is the creation of mythic animals from the parts of deceased members of its constituent parts, i.e. making a stuffed griffin from an eagle’s head, lion’s body, snake’s tail, etc. However, how can a stuffed, fictitious creature murder a slew of people throughout Gotham? The answer is very intriguing and quite fascinating to wrap one’s head around. This story in particular touched me deeply in how tragic every aspect of it is. Every aspect. However, both stories were AMAZING! This series is a crap shoot, sometimes delivering the cheddar and other times falling flat. I personally would suggest this issue for someone that wants a good reason to begin a long standing love affair with the character of Batman, or simply find out the potential inherent in Batman stories outside of the stereotypes of capes and masks that make up 90% of Batman stories.
And thus wraps the first week of May’s batch of comics.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Action Comics #20: Drawn by Tony Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by Batt
Detective Comics #20: Art by Jason Fabok, Colored by Jeremy Cox
Green Arrow #20: Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo
Batwing #20: Art by Eduardo Panisca & Julio Ferreira, Colored by Jason Wright
Swamp Thing #20: Drawn by Kano, Colored by Matthew Wilson, Inked by Alvaro Lopez
This first week of March brings together a very decent batch of comics to kick off the month’s crop. Superman #17 concludes the massive “H’el on Earth” event, Green Lantern #18 brings the “Wrath of the First Lantern” into the Realm of the Dead, Green Arrow #18 strides on towards redeeming the title, Swamp Thing and Animal Man FINALLY get their true conclusion to the “Rot World” crossover, and Before Watchmen: Rorschach also reaches its conclusion. So much ending and so much marching on. Here it goes:
Superman #17 was a little late, but delivered a blowout finale to the “H’el on Earth” crossover event. At issue’s beginning NOTHING is going the right way for the heroes of Earth. H’el’s craft has been fueled by the Sun’s electromagnetic field, which if not returned immediately would cause our solar system to collapse in on itself, ergo the Oracle arrival to witness the death of our world. A high paced, thrill-a-minute issue, there is very little that can be said that doesn’t spoil the amazing events chronicled and concluded within. What can be said is that the Justice League here is written head and shoulders above the team’s portrayal in their flagship title by Geoff Johns. It’s almost like comparing a college thesis to a first grade science report. Maybe now that Lobdell is on the verge of leaving Red Hood and the Outlaws he can take over Justice League and salvage it like he did Superman. Lobdell truly shows his brilliance throughout this “H’el on Earth” event and artist Kenneth Rocafort draws it gorgeously in his incomparably style. Literally, there is nothing that resembles is artwork in detail or in the surreal ambiance it elicits. Truly A-grade material.
Green Lantern #18focuses almost entirely on Hal and Sinestro’s current exile in the “Dead Zone.” There have been little snippets alluding to the fate of the two Lanterns after being sucked into the black ring at the end of the Green Lantern Annual this past August, but this issue finally reveals what the Dead Zone is, why they are there, and what its relevance to the existence of the First Lantern are. As these last issues of the four Green Lantern titles progress, it is getting more and more apparent that the end is nigh. The fundamental forces of the Universe are the enemies that dog our heroes as they progress toward that apocalyptic event that will be Green Lantern #20, out this May, and the end of the Green Lantern Universe as we’ve known it since 2005. Simon Baz and Sinestro find their places in the coming showdown with Volthoom, the First Lantern, but Hal’s is perhaps the most frightening. In the aforementioned Green Lantern Annual there was a prophesy in the Book of the Black that Hal Jordan will be the greatest Black Lantern. This issue caps off on the precipice (literal and figurative) of his fulfilling that prediction. Geoff Johns started this series from Rebirth like a rocket and it’s still soaring high with this phenomenal issue. Series artist Doug Mahnke, who has been on the title since 2009 is absent this issue, replaced by Adrian Syaf, who draws the real world segments, and Szymon Kudranski, whose eerie art style aptly provides the Dead Zone portion. Overall the issue tantalizes and informs in wonderful, captivating fashion.
Detective Comics #18accomplishes two monumental things. Firstly, and to lesser degree issue-wise, this installment of Detective Comics tells us that DC is playing for keeps with the death of Damian Wayne last week in Batman Incorporated #8. It comprises a very small part of the plot, but the small scene of Bruce visiting the grave of his son is very powerful. This is a man who buried his parents at a very young age, and now as an adult man scarred by that traumatic event and having dedicated his life to preventing such tragedies from happening again, he has to bury his ten year old son with whom he was just beginning to bond on a level I doubt he has since losing his parents. Writer John Layman hints all of this beautifully in a mere two pages comprised of nine panels. Brilliant. The rest of the issue is dedicated to the aftermath of the Penguin’s part in the “Death of the Family” storyline. Whisked away by the Joker, Penguin has been away from his empire and his holdings for a little too long and left them in the overly capable, but equally untrustworthy hands of his chief lieutenant, Ignatius Oglivy. Layman presented in the first issues of his run the establishment of himself as Gotham’s favorite son once again. With that image, he keeps Batman at bay, preventing him from bringing punitive action against Penguin for his part in the Joker’s plot. However, with his wealth and holdings withdrawn he is not able to evade Batman in the ways he had previously enjoyed. Oglivy and Batman constitute two rivals whose indefatigability finally break the Penguin as he has never been broken before. For those who view the Penguin as a keystone Batman villain, this first arc by John Layman tells a massive Penguin epic that promises to be one for which he will be remembered for years to come. In the backup feature with art by guest artist Henrik Jonsson, Victor Zsasz gets his origin told for the first time, cementing his place in the New DCU canon. Integrally tied into his origin is the Penguin, playing a part in his ruination that led him into the psychotic breakdown that lead to his obsession with chronicling his kills. Their past and Penguin’s current state of vulnerability waxes ominous for Oswald Cobblepot in future issues of Detective. Time will tell where and how far the Penguin will fall.
Requiem for a Robin
Before Watchmen: Rorschach #4was, in my opinion, a little bit of a let down. The series had promise as a blunt, hard edged look into an episode of Rorschach’s life that best exemplified his core essence. Maybe that was the point and it just goes to show how pointless and nihilistic our modern society is. Azzarello started the series out with a killer of women called the “Bard” carving poetry into the dead bodies of his victims. On the other side of things, Rorschach goes up against a criminal kingpin called “Rawhead” owing to the massive scarring on his head from Vietnam. In between fights with the underworld, Rorschach meets a cute waitress at his favorite all night restaurant, the Gunga Diner and they make plans to go on a date. This waitress, Nancy, is approached by a man we know immediately to be the Bard at the end of the third issue. Logically one would assume that there would be a connection, even a tertiary one, between Rawhead and the Bard so as to facilitate the two things happening at the same time. Azzarello does not deliver on that and it is rather trite and arbitrary, which may be realistic, but is far from literary or cinematic, making the story fall apart at the end with little to walk away with. Lee Bermejo doesn’t disappoint throughout all four issues and is the only consistently quality factor.
Swamp Thing #18 is the true conclusion to the “Rot World” event as well as Scott Snyder’s run on the title. Scott Snyder is the one who truly got this series off the ground and imbued it with the genius that made it the success it was. Creating with Jeff Lemire the idea of the Red to go alongside the concept of the Green which Swamp Thing has served since the 80’s, as well as taking perrenial Swamp Thing antagonist Anton Arcane and molding him and his into the avatars of a third force, the Rot, Synder has reimagined and reinvigorated what was once an incredible title into an even more complex, engaging series. With the help of the Parliament of Rot, Swamp Thing and Animal Man are sent through a portal through the very fabric of death itself back to before Anton Arcane finished his bid to turn our world into Rot World. In this way, Alec Holland is returned to Abby before her uncle can kill her. And by that same token he is able to actualize in her the potential for which she was born and that which will prevent the Rot from inheriting the Earth. This issue was truly spectacular, with both triumphant events readers have been anticipating for almost two years and tragic events they’ve been fearing to witness. Scott Snyder crescendoes with this final issue of his run, nailing it down and assuring the continued survival and success of the title while also adding his name to the list of visionaries who have been custodian of it, namely Len Wein and Alan Moore. Artist Yanick Paquette also concludes his run on the series, which was another factor that led to its success. His floral panels made in nonlinear layouts made the title free flowing and organic looking. His depiction of Abby Arcane was both strong and sensual which taken with Snyder’s writing made her a captivating heroine. Paquette also drew the warrior king version of Swamp Thing which quite frankly dwarfs anything that had come before it. This run, now ended, was one that will have its legacies and be remembered as one of the best runs on this very underutilized property.
Death Never Looked So Beautiful
Animal Man #18was less of a conclusion to “Rot World” than its sister issue in Swamp Thing. Buddy Baker, the Animal Man, is sent back by the Parliament of Rot, like Alec Holland, to the moment that would precipitate the downfall of the Red. In so doing he saves his daughter, the true avatar of the Red, but loses something ewually important to him. Jeff Lemire is staying on the title so he does not wrap up his story with this issue, so perhaps it didn’t have that dynamite ending, but it also was the weaker of the two titles. Also Steve Pugh’s art has never been anything to write home about. This will probably be the last single issue of this series I will buy.
Earth 2 #10returns to the realm of Nabu and the revelations of Khalid Ben-Hassin’s past concerning the Helmet of Fate, housing the power of Nabu. Wotan has been hired to obtain this artifact for an unknown group and kidnapped Khalid as those with him at the time, Jay Garrick and his mother, to be used as hostages to assure his cooperation in procuring the Helm. On the other side of the world (hard to say) Alan Scott mourns the death of his boyfriend, Sam Zhao, and learns that his death was not collateral damage, but actually the reason for the deadly train crash. Writer James Robinson maintains his reputation of excellence with a very engrossing plot that is its own self contained universe and continuity. Nicola Scott’s art continues to be gorgeous, making the characters spring from the page. Well worth the read.
Worlds’ Finest #10is very much likened to Detective Comics #18 above, as it continues its ongoing plot while at the same time taking a moment to pay tribute to the departure of Damian Wayne. Though they met only briefly, Helena still felt like Damian was her little brother and his death pangs right alongside the deaths of her mother and father, the Catwoman and Batman of Earth 2. But, as Batman taught her when she was still Robin, one soldiers on. Helena breaks into Michael Holt’s laboratory after the aforementioned industrialist and ex-boyfriend of Karen Starr (Power Girl) sent a mercenary group to Karen’s island laboratory/home. While Huntress employs stealth and planning, Power Girl unleashes a biblical list of calamities upon a handful of Holt facilities with careless abandon that imperils the lives of scores of people. The end brings about a curve ball that may prove enlightening considering all that has transpired between the two Earths. Paul Levitz is amazing, truly, and Kevin Maguire renders his script (solo this month) with his usual ease.
An Older Sister’s Lament
Batwing #18picks up from the tense cliffhanger from last month’s installment with the Chinese mercenary, Sky Pirate, “nuking” Batwing’s hideout and the civilian side of Batwing, Police Inspector David Zavimbe, facing off against his former childhood friend, Racheal Niamo, now the mercenary named Dawn. This issue shows the cost taking a stand against corruption can have in an environment as corrupt as the Congo. David Zavimbe is facing off against hell as he tries to prove that justice can’t be bought or traded for any price. With only one more issue to go in his run on the title Fabian Nicieza is pulling out all the stops and making this a must read title on the periphery of the core Bat-books.
Green Arrow #18gives us the second issue of the new and improved Green Arrow title. Oliver Queen has been dealt a really rough hand. His company has been seized, he’s lost his wealth, he’s been framed for the murder of his father’s friend and the corporate regent of Queen Industries, Henry Emerson, and what’s more, he’s been marked for death by a black archer known as Komodo with ties to both the island he was marooned on as well as his father’s past. In this issue we learn the identity of Komodo as well as a little inkling of what he is after. In the meantime, Oliver gets more hints as to his father’s past that by no means come anywhere close to answering the most pressing questions facing him. Only the eyeless mystery man, Magus, knows what is truly happening and as is usually the case with such enigmatic figures, withholds information, telling Oliver to go to Black Mesa, Arizona to get the answers he seeks. Another departure from the first sixteen issues, is the descent into rock solid reality. The events within have consequences that cannot be written away nor held at bay. In this issue especially, writer Jeff Lemire shows that he is playing for keeps with dark, horrific events precipitating a very ominous future for the Emerald Archer. Jeff Lemire is in rare form with these first two issues and Andrea Sorrentino’s art finds a complimentary place with a title in need of its stark, shaded lines.
Komodo Claims Another Green Arrow Ally
Phantom Stranger #6continues on the the Stranger’s quest to locate his kidnapped family. His first stop last issue was an all out brawl with the Specter. This issue has him going to Las Vegas in search of them and getting involved in a card game with the three sons of Trigon: Belial, Ruskoff, and Suge. The main body of the issue is like a telecast of the World Poker tournament. The story reveals the characters of the demonic brothers as well as the Stranger himself through their playing of the game, but doesn’t advance the overall plot very far. The ending, however, is quite intriguing and terrifying if one is a fan of the series. Dan Didio has done a very good job of taking this nebulous, very alien character from the DC pantheon and re-imagining him in a manner that both maintains his integrity and makes him relatable to the reader at the same time. With the Trinity War on the horizon this series promises to be a keystone title in the future of the New DCU.
Smallville: Season Eleven #11continues the “Haunted” story arc with Clark and Bart attempting to find the answer to the Black Flash and how to stop the Speed Storms that are springing up in Bart’s wake, killing innocent people. The duo go to meet Jay Garrick, the old member of the Justice Society, and the first speedster of the modern era. His forecast for what is to come in not encouraging and all signs point to the death of Bart to allay the death toll. But of course Clark will find a way. On the other side of the Multiverse, we go to Earth 2 and see how Chloe Sullivan from that world is the sole survivor of so many other meteor freaks. Also how, despite his relationship with Lois Lane, Chloe seduced Oliver Queen. Between the two of them, they may even be able to topple the super-powered despot, Clark Kent, aka Ultraman. Bryan Q. Miller keeps the Smallville series alive not only adding to the mythos of the show, but building upon it and answering questions posed in its early seasons, seemingly left to the wind with the cancellation after Season 10. And yet it goes on, and brilliantly so.
Legends of the Dark Knight #6presents three more tales of the Dark Knight. The first one written by Jeff Parker and entitled “Gotham Spirit” shows Batman putting down a liquor store robbery. Reading it one wonders why you even bothered. There is nothing poignant or out of the ordinary about it. Maybe that’s the point. You can’t always have a Poison Ivy, Mister Freeze, or Joker causing trouble. Sometimes its just procedural. That may be the point, but it wasn’t really what someone picks up a comic to read. The next story written and drawn by Michael Avon Oeming tells of Batman fighting a dragon in the sewers beneath Gotham. Yes you read that correctly, a real, honest to goodness dragon, complete with scales, teeth, and leathern wings. Only the fire is missing from this mythic beast. However, its not quite as mythic as it seems, but rather engineered by a man for Killer Croc. Croc wanted something that was his that he could love and would love him in return, like a man and his faithful dog, so he could salvage something real. Even Batman can’t help but be moved by the pathetic nature of Croc’s wish. The third and final story in this issue has the Penguin hiring a supernatural old man to take out his competition. From his white suit to his full on albinic pallor, this man is perhaps one of the most unsettling characters to grace a Batman comic, and as the story progresses that assertion is proved ten times over. Even Batman doesn’t fully grasp the horrors he represents. That Batman can withstand them proves that the Dark Knight is a master of his own inner terror. As ever, hit and miss vignettes for the mythology of Batman, but well done.
So ends the first month of March with an encouraging handful of truly excellent comics.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Green Lantern Annual #1: Art by Ethan Van Sciver, Colored by Hi-Fi
Detective Comics #18: Art by Jason FAbok, Colored by Jeromy Cox
Swamp Thing #18: Art by Yanick Paquette, Colored by Nathan Fairbairn
Worlds’ Finest #10: Art by Kevin Maguire, Colored by Rosemary Cheetham
Green Arrow #18: Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo
This week begins December, which due to the holidays will be an abbreviated month. The fourth week of books with comprise only three titles from DC, Aquaman #15, Justice League #15, and Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #4, and I am assuming a couple indies. This week, however, starts off strong with Action Comics, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, and another twofer of Before Watchmen titles. Let’s see how they stack up . . .
Action Comics #15is two issues away from Grant Morrison’s blowout finale on his Action Comics run. The first issue of Action was not very Morrison, but each issue thereafter has been more and more Morrison. This issue took it to the limit. The “Little Man” whom we now know to be a fifth dimensional wizard name Vyndktvx has been setting a trap for Clark over the course of a little over a year’s worth of issues. Slowly all the disparate threads that have popped up throughout the title so far are beginning to weave into a cohesive plot. Susie Lane (Lois’ evolutionarily advanced niece), Nimrod the Hunter, the Metaleks, Drekken the Evolver, and the Kryptonite Men all made appearances that were short in duration and seemingly without point. This issue has Vyndktvx bringing them all together as the Anti-Superman Army and attacking Superman throughout Time. In the present Clark is feeling the attacks with strange memories of things that never were and things that have not yet been. His landlady, Mrs. Nyxly, revealed several months ago to be a fifth dimensional princess in issue #12, not only tells him how Vyndktvx is attacking throughout the time frame of his life, but more importantly, why. Ironically, it ties into Superman’s original fifth dimensional antagonist, Mr. Mxyzptlk, who Superman’s yet to meet in this rebooted universe, but who bears the Man of Steel a great deal of affection. For that reason, Vyndktvx has decided to wage a war to destroy the last son of Krypton as a final blow to the mischievous trickster we’ve read and loved. Delving deep into the mythos of Superman’s past incarnations, Morrison is forging a very solid foundation for the character in revisionist absurdism. Though Mxyzptlk came about in the 1940’s during a time when truly bizarre and absolutely ridiculous storytelling was the norm, Grant Morrison has taken that ridiculousness and distilled it into grade A material, rife with outside-the-box perspectives and mindbendingly intriguing concepts. Though the art from Rags Morales and Brad Walker is very good, this series is really a must get for the writing more than anything else. Grant Morrison is a maestro and this first run of Action Comics will not only define the New DCU for decades to come, but also stand as a jewel in the crown that is his comics career. In the backup feature written by Sholly Fisch, we get a better look at Mxyzptlk’s history in the fifth dimension, how he came into conflict with Vyndktvx, won the love of Princess Gsptlnz (Mrs. Nyxly), was imprisoned and escaped to the third dimensional Earth One with his lover, Gsptlnz, and the creation of what might be his greatest trick yet . . .
Gsptlsnz (left) and Mxyzptlk (right), as seen in Superman: The Animated Series (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Vindictive Vyndktvx . . .
Detective Comics #15was a little milquetoast in its plotline. It progressed off of the previous issue dealing with the fate of Poison Ivy, the consequential response from the enraged Clayface, and the first move of a shadowy new player into the Gotham underworld scene. Also, as per the backup feature of Batman #14 last month, Penguin is drawn into the twisted web of the Joker’s overarching scheme. The Penguin is very much a man who does what he wants and “damn anyone who gets in the way”, but the fear on his face in this issue as he prepares to do what he has been instructed by the Joker reallysets the tone for not only how immense the “Death of the Family” plot is going to be, but also how utterly terrifying the Joker has become. Really this tie-in portion is what makes the issue, the rest of the issue is statically procedural. Jason Fabok’s art is really good, but supports a plot with questionable relevance to anything substantial.
The Penguin May Be Dead, Long Live The Penguin
Before Watchmen: The Comedian #4takes place fully in Vietnam and I believe was supposed to show what Vietnam did to Eddie Blake. That’s it really. Whereas most of the Before Watchmen titles seemed to take some key element or event from Watchmen and highlight it toward the actualization of the title subject, this one didn’t seem to accomplish much or at least not in an interesting way. For the awesome run it has been so far, I think one interim issue is acceptable, but not the most interesting to read. With two issues left and considering the integral part the Comedian plays in the events of the original graphic novel, I would bet the farm that the rest of the series will blow our socks off.
Before Watchmen: The Minutemen #5represents the penultimate chapter of the series and did things in its story that literally gave me goosebumps. Completely divorced from continuity, this issue and I am assuming the final issue as well take the Minutemen into uncharted territory with their paths completely within writer/artist Darwyn Cooke’s capable hands. A very symbolic terrorist attack on a target of great importance to America brings the vigilante group back together after years of disbanding alongside two brand new allies in a demonstration of what true heroism really looks like. This main plot point really hits to the reader’s heart and validates the concept of putting on a mask and costume while following one’s moral compass. The second thing it did that chilled was something that, if I am correct in what they are hinting at, CHANGES EVERYTHING!!! If what they are insinuating at the end of the issue is actually true, this would alter so much of what Alan Moore had done in the original 1985 opus. That would be DANGEROUS! If Cooke and his editors don’t tread carefully this house of cards that they have been building with the Before Watchmen series, which most of the hardline comic fanatics called “heresy” upon its proposal, will collapse. I am optimistic, considering the phenomenal, thought provoking work that has been done so far across the board, yet the danger is still real. I eagerly await the final issue.
Swamp Thing #15shoots further into the “Rot World” crossover event, picking up with Swamp Thing and Deadman at sea, face to with William Arcane and his rot infested sea monsters. The battle with the youngest Arcane is TITANIC to be sure, but the real interest in the issue comes in the flashback to Abigail Arcane’s journey to her former Eastern European home, Blestemat. Her uncle, Anton Arcane, has very effectively been re-imagined by writer, Scott Snyder, as the avatar of Rot and over the course of several issues Abigail’s links to the Rot have been hinted at and explored to a certain degree. Face to face with her uncle, amid the unprecedented incursion of death and decay into our world, her ties are explored and the magnitude of her power beginning to show through. Anton represents an unchecked aggressor from one of the three natural orders, Red (animal life), Green (plant life), and Black (death and rotting), against the others. Abigail represents what the Rot should be: a harmonious state that ends the life of the other two in order for rebirth to occur for both Red and Green. The realization of that, however, is still left in the air for further issues. Back with Swamp Thing, he makes it to Gotham in search of the Batman only to find another iconic Gothamite standing in to aid him. Scott Snyder presents a truly excellent addition to his monolithic crossover event. Artist Yanick Paquette is once again relieved of art duties by Marco Rudy, whose art is very well suited to the title, but presents a harsher edge than the florid work of Paquette. However, considering the transition from the verdant Green Kingdom in the first two issues to the desiccated wastes of the Rot, I think that the harsher edges of Rudy will do nicely and make sense to the altering vistas.
Woman Thou Art Unleashed . . .
Animal Man #15 begins with the Gorillas of the DCU (Monsieur Mallah, Grodd, etc) attacking Animal Man, Steel, Black Orchid, and Beast Boy as they attempt to take the fight to the Rot’s Parliament. Meeting up with Frankenstein and his Patchwork Army the ragtag resistence of the Red become aware of a prisoner being held in the bowels of Metropolis that is so powerful, Anton Arcane hides him away out of sight and far away, to be forgotten. Superman disappeared shortly after the Rot’s incursion, so hope runs high that he is the one imprisoned. This prisoner’s return could give the winning edge to their last ditch strike to regain their world. And as has been the case for the past two issues of this title and its sister series, Swamp Thing, in the “Rot World” crossover, the fate of Animal Man’s daughter Maxine is reviewed during the lost year between the present and the moment the two avatars of Red and Green disappeared. William Arcane guest stars in this flashback segment, further entwining the two series. I eagerly await the resolution in the New Year of the “Rot World” event.
Earth 2 #7 presents a world exploration during the “pause for breath” following the ending of the first major threat, Solomon Grundy, and before the advent of the threat that is to come, Steppenwolf. Alan Scott was thrust into the role of global guardian moments after watching the love of his life burn to death in a train crash and the fight with Grundy and the Grey has kept his mind focused, but now that the threat is past he is forced to confront his grief. However, as a “Wonder” in a world that has been without heroes for many years, his new “fellows” won’t let him sink into himself because of the need they stand to fulfill. Hawkgirl is the mouthpiece of dissent, revealing her identity and her connection to the powers that be. Apropos, the second half of the issue deals with the Shakespearean power struggle between Commander Amar Khan of the World Army and Terry Sloan, the smartest man alive and sinister mastermind that the World Council has taken to their proverbial bosom, even after he unilaterally incinerated seven countries and killed tens of millions of people on his own authority. Khan’s got Wesley Dodds and his Sandmen in his pocket helping him play his game of political chess and as he tells Dodds, “In the game that you speak off there will be No Fair Play.” The white gloves are coming off and blood will be drawn. One man is a sociopathic, genocidal lunatic with a pearly white smile and the other is a military man with nothing to lose. Tell me this title doesn’t beg to be read.
Worlds’ Finest #7as always, follows on the tail of the Earth 2 premise, giving us a glimpse at two refugees from the other earth on our Earth 1: Helena Wayne (Huntress) and Kara Zor-El (Power Girl). As of last issue, the twenty-something daughter of Batman and Catwoman meets her Earth 1 counterpart, the preteen Damian Wayne, son of Batman and Talia Al-Ghul. Damian doesn’t take crap from anyone and neither does his “not sister.” That said, once she dishes, he has little choice but to believe her as the evidence is nearly incontrovertible. The two go somewhere frigid while tracing money siphoning from Wayne Enterprise funds only to be greeted by a monstrosity from Apokalips. When Power Girl traces another signal to the Congo she is met with child soldiers, one of whom holds an Apokaliptian energy weapon. One Apokalips connection might be a fluke, but the evidence is mounting that something sinister is in the works. Paul Levitz is the man, writing the super-heroine duo as incredibly as always, but really doing a thoughtful job folding Damian into the mix. Seeing his reaction as a sibling to an older sister who shares far too many of his lesser traits is entertaining to read, and feels genuine coming from my perspective as a flawed boy with older sisters of roughly the same age difference. George Perez and Kevin Maguire split art duties on the divergent storylines of each heroine, accentuating the characteristics of each with their masterful styles. Like its sister series Earth 2, this title is building toward a crescendo that smells like the sulfuric Fire Pits of Apokalips, and I for one am a moth to the flame when it comes to the New Gods . . .
Batwing #15is an odd duck. This is the last issue of a story arc, in this case the “Father Lost” storyline, but it is the first issue written by new writer, Fabian Nicieza. I have never seen a writer change when the arc is only one issue from completion. Nicieza wasn’t even a co-writer on the previous issues. Very strange. He does a seamless job, however, taking the plot to the end zone with a really powerful finish. Batwing falls once again under the sway of the evil cult leader right at the crux of the latter’s plan. If that weren’t enough, fellow Tinasha police officer, Kia Okura (who David Zavimbe is hinted to have feelings for), slowly becomes suspicious that he and Batwing are one. This is one of those series that doesn’t knock your socks off, but is just really comfortable and interesting to read. Fabian Nicieza is a really great Bat-title relief writer that has an innate knack for the tone of the books and can slip effortlessly into them, penning some quality issues. Fabrizio Fiorentino provides art for this issue, which is a welcome surprise. I loved his art on Final Crisis: Ink and Titans. With these two men onboard I look forward to future issues.
Phantom Stranger #3continues to show the tenuous balance that the Stranger walks between his role as the ethereal watcher of men and family man, Philip Stark. They touch again on his past as Judas Iscariot and the road he has to walk, but unlike the past where he has been made by fate to betray innocent people to atone for his betrayal of Jesus, this issue just has him dealing with spooks that go bump in the night. Dr. Terrence Thirteen, paranormal researcher and many times descendant of the original Terrence Thirteen of the 1880’s, calls upon the Stranger to help him beat a family curse of the Haunted Highwayman, killed by his eponymous forebearer, who has now come for him. If that sounds familiar its because that was a backup feature in All-Star Westerns #11-12. The intercession of the Phantom Stranger in this instance allows writer Dan Didio to spread the character’s wings and show what his powers can really do. Since he is not the best known character, even to myself, this is a very welcome issue that acquaints us a bit better with its subject. The Stranger also appeared last week in Justice League Dark #14, and the solicitation at the end of this month’s issue alludes that we will see that encounter from his viewpoint come Phantom Stranger #4. Until then, I await further glimpses into one of the most enigmatic comic book personages.
G.I. Combat #7 ends the series and its two features. In The Haunted Tank the two Stuarts, Jeb and Scott, are transported to the Antarctic where the descendant of Erwin Rommel has rebuilt the Third Reich’s war machines and is preparing to bring about a Fourth Reich with a gigantic War Wheel. The battle against this neo-nazi threat is really rushed and unsatisfying. Also, as a history buff myself, I feel that writer Peter Tomasi was discourteous to Rommel and his descendants, considering that despite being a brilliant commander for the Nazi Wehrmacht, Rommel actually was a humanitarian and against most of the hardline policies of the Nazi party, never joining it politically. In The Unknown Soldier, the titular protagonist jumping out of a window with a cyber-terrorist in hand and then going to his visit his old house. Comprising only two short scenes and nine pages of story, this also was as rushed, unsatisfying ending to the feature’s eight issue run. Across the board this issue was lackluster and a terrible way to end what was a really great title.
Smallville Season 11 #8concludes the Batman/Superman team up in Metropolis. Going head to head with Mr. Freeze and the Prankster, the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight have been through a crucible of distrust and cross purposes, only to emerge as the friends we have largely known them to be. This arc has been so interesting, towing the line of the character status quos, but breaking in ways that keep the reader on their toes. Batman’s sidekick and personal secretary in both facets of his life is Barbara Gordon, who moonlights under the nom de guerre of Nightwing. Breaking up the “good old boys club”, Barbara brings all the sass and kick ass of Dick Grayson, but with more feminine grace and a dash of sexual tension. Her interactions with Lois Lane also bear an interesting tenor, due to their own similarities: one the daughter of a four star general and the other the daughter of perhaps the most hardcore police commissioner in the history law enforcement. Next issue promises a new storyline that from its title, “Haunted,” suggests an exploration into the broken mind of Lex Luthor that has absorbed, or at least internalized, the consciousness of the little sister he murdered, Tess Mercer.
The Women Behind the Men
Legends of the Dark Knight #3presents another very thought provoking story about the Dark Knight. Batman takes down the Joker, but on route to Arkham Asylum the mad clown slips his leash, making a getaway. Shortly thereafter, Batman gets a package from him, with a miniature revolving door and a note bluntly saying “You might as well not exist.” This is a sucker punch to Batman’s ego and he begins to lose heart in his crusade. Commissioner Gordon and Alfred come up with the solution, giving him letters from regular people that have come into the GCPD over the years addressed directly to the Batman. One from the daughter of a assault victim, one from the owner of a bar that was hit by Joker henchmen wanting free booze and money, and a third from a drug addict mugger. All of whom the Batman saved, the latter most case because going back to jail turned the con’s life around. As a result of these three cases in particular, Batman is not only able to regain his confidence, but get the upper hand on the Joker. Its sort of a “Its a Wonderful Life” of the DC Universe. No man is a failure that has friends. Write Steve Niles has a penchant for writing twisted, hard edged horror stories, so this very optimistic tale of a Batman who is shown the reason why he is needed seems to come from left field.
Sometimes the Joke is On You . . .
This week’s books were a great way to start off the month of December. Here’s hoping the the other two and a half weeks keep pace.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Action Comics #15: Drawn by Rags MoralesBrad Walker, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Andrew Hennessy & Mark Propst
Detective Comics #15: Art byJason Fabok, Colored by Jeromy Cox
Before Watchmen: Moloch #1: Art by Eduardo Risso, Colored by Trish Mulvihill
Swamp Thing #15: Art by Marco Rudy, Colored by Val Staples & Lee Loughridge
Smallville Season 11 #8: Drawn by Kevin Axel Gimenez, Colored by Wendy Broome, Inked by Diana Egea
Legends of the Dark Knight #3: Art by Trevor Hairsine, Colored by Antonio Fabela
The first week of the month may be the best, because so many consistently good title come out. Flagship titles like Action Comics, Detective Comics, as well as seminal classics like Swamp Thing, Green Lantern, and Worlds’ Finest. This promises to be a fun batch of issues.
Action Comics #14 is pure Morrison. Taking place on the planet Mars, the colonial terraforming mission is attacked by the Metaleks and only Superman is in a position to save the men and women besieged there. Through this issue, Grant Morrison not only delivers a background on what the Metaleks are, what they want, and where they come from, but also begins the road to the end of his meteoric run, which portends to be MASSIVE!!! The “Multitude” which has laid waste to thousands of planets is at the root of this issue’s plot and only Superman’s father, Jor-El, had ever successfully staved off this angelic horde. Can he do the same? Almost since issue #1 a clear path has been laid and a monumental threat alluded to. As can be expected from Morrison’s mindbending, psychedelic style, the main architect of nearly all the mayhem we’ve seen thus far is a denizen of the fifth dimension . . . Stay tuned.
A Look Into the Past
Green Lantern #14 redeems the ending of the last issue a little bit. The Justice League aren’t as awful and petty as they appear in writer Geoff Johns’ other series, but still not exactly the best written in terms of dialogue and characterization. However, the plot of this issue is tight and I enjoyed it a great deal. Whatever I might say about his other projects and the motivations behind them, this series is one that has maintained and built off of the inherent excellence of the title. The same really can’t be said for some of his other titles. Simon Baz goes toe-to-toe with the Justice League and despite only having been in possession of his Green Lantern ring for a little more than a day gets the upper hand on Superman, Flash, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Not bad for a poor kids from Dearborn, Michigan. Meanwhile, across the Universe, Black Hand and the Guardians that have been locked away for eons by their megalomaniacally insane brethren begin to interact, intimating that there may be a very strange teamup in the works against the Guardians of the Universe and their nightmarish Third Army.
RISE . . .
Detective Comics #14takes a very strange turn in the second issue of writer John Layman’s tour of the book. With his first issue last month he started a conspiracy with the Penguin attempting to keep Batman preoccupied with a string of random crimes to distract the Dark Knight from his plot to assassinate Bruce Wayne. Well following on the heels of that intriguingly paradoxical plotline, Layman shoots out to left field with a seemingly unrelated plot of Poison Ivy commiting eco-crimes across Gotham and Batman trying to stop her. Its well written, no doubt about it, but also confusing as one tries to grasp onto a solid plotline or conflict. Given time hopefully one will appear. Layman has a very methodical and detail oriented voice that fits the Batman title like a well tailored suit in a film noir movie. Jason Fabok’s art is beautiful in the main feature, and while Layman and Fabok introduce a surprise husband for the leafy villainess at the end of the main story, Layman gets help from Andy Clarke with a stark and stunningly rendered backup feature that explained how these oddly paired ne’er-do-wells came to be “wed.”
Before Watchmen: Moloch #1 does . . . it . . . AGAIN! Its been awhile since there’s been a debut issue in the Before Watchmen line, but yet again the editors, and especially writer J. Michael Straczynski, have delivered in spades. To Watchmen faithful, Moloch the Mystic is known as an integral part of the graphic novel itself as well as a hallmark villain from the heyday of the group’s past in superheroics. In the original Alan Moore series from the 80’s, Moloch is primarily shown in a very pathetic light after he’d renounced his criminal ways. This book shows him once again in a very sympathetic manner from traumatic childhood through his criminal days and finally to his last release from prison after finding Jesus and rehabilitation. J. Michael Straczynski has a real knack for not only generating a very emotional involvement between the story and the reader, but also creating a very vivid environment that is authentic to the time and place it takes place. This series is only a twofer, so at issue’s end we are halfway through his story in this preceding tale of the Watchmen universe. Can’t wait for round two.
Swamp Thing #14 continues on from issue #13 and the Swamp Thing Annual following Swamp Thing’s departure from the Green Kingdom, haven of the last surviving plant and floral life on the planet after the Rot’s dominion of the Earth, in search not only of Anton Arcane who is responsible for the death of his own niece and Swamp Thing’s lover, Abigail Arcane, but also proof that Abigail is in fact dead. We saw her plane crash into the mountains as a direct result of Anton’s monstrosities, but we also see here that she did survive past that point. Her return to her homeland, Blestemat (which incidentally in Romanian means “Accursed”), is still shrouded in mystery and we are shown further images of that portion of her journey as well, prolonging our own wish to know what has befallen her. Upon Swamp Thing’s departure from the Green Kingdom, Boston Brand, aka Deadman, instructs him to turn his sights first to Gotham where it is rumored a weapon exists called the Soul Grinder (see Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #13) which could potentially defeat the Rot. With this revelation Scott Snyder is steering to a convergence between this title, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
The Girl of Rot and the Boy of Green
Animal Man #14also figures into the “Rot World” event and in the Red Kingdom Animal Man and his allies come under fire from the turned superheroes that have succumbed to the Rot. Teamed up with him are Steel, Beast Boy, and Black Orchid, the foursome set out for Anton Arcane’s castle to rescue Animal Man’s daughter, Maxine, the current avatar of the Red. In the process, like Abigail Arcane in Swamp Thing, we see a few snippets of Max’s flight from the Rot following the end year long jump in time that Swamp Thing and Animal Man experienced when they attacked the heart of the Black. An interesting tidbit is the little boy that four year old Max meets amid the desiccated wasteland of undead nightmares. We’ve seen him before and his appearance marks a truly frightening turn in the crossover event. Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder are geniuses and this event is going to set up the next several years of storytelling in these two titles.
Earth 2 #6is an interesting title because of the similarities and the differences existing between our universe (Earth 1) and the universe of Earth 2, following the different courses of the Apokalips invasions of each world. In this world, with the death of all the superheroes: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc, a World Army and World Council govern the planet. However, after several years another threat that is akin to the Animal Man and Swamp Thing plots above rears its head and superheroes are once again needed. In the aforementioned titles the Rots is referred to as the Black. On Earth 2 the Grey is a force of withering rather than decay and its avatar, Solomon Grundy, has been resurrected to quite literally kill the planet. Answering this threat are the newly minted Green Lantern (avatar of the Green which represents all live, plant and animal), Flash (who hails from Lansing, Michigan!), the enigmatic Hawkgirl, and the Atom who is a special agent of the World Army. It’ll take all of them, but most especially Green Lantern to thwart the accelerated death of the planet. This issue concludes that monumental endeavor, but unlike the ending of Justice League #1, which featured the first gathering of superheroes on our world, this gathering has a very thought provoking epilogue.
Worlds’ Finest #6was one I have been dying to read for some time. This title is akin to Earth 2, because following the events of the former title’s first issue, the Robin (Helena Wayne) and Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) of that second earth are brought to ours and must adapt into the new identities of Huntress, nee Robin, and Power Girl, nee Supergirl, to survive. As a Wayne, Helena has information about her “not father” and his financial holdings that mirror her real father’s on Earth 2, so some borrowing has occurred. Well, on this earth at this time the current wearer of the red, green, and yellow is Earth 1 Batman’s biological child . . . Damian Wayne. Damian Wayne is a psychotic and very, very territorial. His “not sister” (that fact unbeknownst to him) siphoning money off his dear old dad doesn’t sit right with him and as ever with Damian, violence ensues. I love Damian so much and seeing the two children of Batman going toe-to-toe is a pleasure. Especially considering that the writer of this battle royale is none other than Paul Levitz, one of my current favorite writers who made his name on writing teen angst since the early 80’s. And on top of that, with help from Kevin Maguire and George Perez both pulling art duties on the issue, it nothing short of a dirty pleasure. This title has been golden since issue #1 seven months ago.
Now Kids, No More Fighting . . .
Batwing #14brings David Zavimbe one step closer to discovering the truth behind the enigmatic cult leader, Father Lost. After breaking up a human sacrificial ritual that also was crashed by the equally enigmatic crimefighter, Dawn, Batwing learns her true identity, Rachel Niamo. Rachel was an orphan at the refugee camp David crashed at after his child soldier days. Following up on this lead, a conspiracy within the victims of Father Lost’s attacks leads him further down the rabbit hole, to the jackal’s layer, to mix some metaphors. Judd Winick’s run on this issue ends with this issue, strangely mid-arc, but has been stellar across the board. I look forward to seeing how new writer, Fabian Nicieza, concludes the Father Lost storyline and continues Batwing’s African crusade. Winick and Nicieza both constitute tried and true members of the Bat-books’ bullpen, so I think that the transition might brook some changes, but not affect the quality of the future issues adversely.
G.I. Combat #6splits its narrative as always, starting out with Peter Tomasi’s Haunted Tank feature. After rescuing his grandson, Scott, from Afghanistan Lt. Jeb Stuart and the Haunted Tank make for more chilly climates. The purpose of the Tank’s (haunted by Scott and Jeb’s ancestor, the Civil War general J.E.B. Stuart) return to operation is spelled out in the return of its greatest foe, along with Jeb’s: the newly minted Fourth Reich. Great writing alongside Howard Chaykin’s distinctive artwork. And in the flagstone Unknown Soldier feature the culprits behind the hacking of a nuclear power plant as well as the endgame of their plot begin to make themselves known. It also spells desperate trouble for the Unknown Soldier.
Smallville Season 11 #7progresses the budding association of the Batman and Superman as their interests cross with Intergang’s spreading to Gotham and Joe Chill’s associate with the group. Superman wants to shut them down legitimately and Batman wants to hit them hard, but more importantly get at Chill, his parents’ murderer and even the score. Obviously Superman isn’t going to be down for that, so the two met as enemies. However, after their association develops into one of mutual gain, Superman gets shot with kryptonite bullets and the only person with the skills and equipment to save the Man of Steel’s life is . . . Batman. Adding new dimensions to the dynamic of the “World’s Finest” this issue is a game changer.
Legends of the Dark Knight #2presents one solid plot line this issue, as opposed to the three part anthology that comprised the first issue. Told by writer B. Clay Moore, a slew of “Batmen” are slain by Killer Croc after seeking out the elusive lizard. These Batmen are regular people with no connection to Batman or crimefighting at all. Someone with a grudge against Croc is abducting upstanding members of Gotham society and brainwashing them into hunting him in his subterranean hunting ground. So what happens when Bruce Wayne is brainwashed into thinking he’s Batman . . . Though this isn’t as good as the previous issue, its still a really thought provoking Batman story that cuts to the heart of the character’s essence. Also the art of Ben Templesmith makes the issue seem like a giant acid trip, and when the premise is people losing touch with reality and their identities, that kind of discordant imagery really sets the mood and puts the reader deep in the plot.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Action Comics #14: Drawn by Chris Sprouse, Colored by Jordie Bellaire, Inked by Karl Story
Green Lantern #14: Drawn byDoug Mahnke, Colored by Alex Sinclair & Tony Avina, Inked by Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin, Tom Nguyen & Keith Champagne
Before Watchmen: Moloch #1: Art by Eduardo Risso, Colored by Trish Mulvihill
Swamp Thing #14: Art by Yanick Paquette, Colored by Nathan Fairbairn
Worlds’ Finest #6: Art by Kevin Maguire, Colored by Rosemary Cheetham
This first week of September marks the first week of the second year of DC’s “New 52” initiative. With that in mind, DC decided to commemorate this hallmark with a “Zero Month”, numbering all their ongoing series at #0 and telling an origin or new beginning of each. For me, this week was purely a DC week. None of the other imprints released issues of series I read, so this first week of “Zero Month” is purely DC. So here goes:
Action Comics #0 tells a very straightforward yarn about Superman’s first days in Metropolis: his alluded to visit to the shirt press for 200 blue S-shirts, his first day at the Metropolis Daily Star, his first tangle with the Metropolis crimeboss, Glen Glenmorgan, his first sighting by Jimmy and Lois, and an examination of what really makes him or anyone super. The last part pertains to a kid that comes across his fallen cape and what the boy does with it. Though its not mind bending like a lot of his work, Grant Morrison does put a really thought provoking twist on the seemingly mundane opening shots of Superman’s early career. Also in a stunning one page panel, he and artist Ben Oliver do an homage to the Joe Shuster cover page of the 1938 Action Comics #1, that first introduced Superman to the world. This part of the main story really resonated with me as a comic book geek. And as with all Action Comics issues, Sholly Fisch provides a quick backup feature that gives a background on not only Adam Blake, but also the character Erik Drekken, of whom we got a brief glimpse in Action Comics #7. All in all, a really great first issue to usher in the Zero Month at DC.
Morrison and Oliver’s Reworking of the Iconic Action Comics #1 Cover Image
Detective Comics #0features the final issue of the title to be drawn by Tony Daniel (at least in the foreseeable future) and has, for one issue only, Batman: The Dark Knight scribe Gregg Hurwitz at the helm. Chronicling Bruce Wayne’s training in the orient, Hurwitz has Bruce train with a Zen master in Tibet and learn possibly the most depressing lesson imaginable. Beyond that, there is little else to be said, except READ IT and find out. As with Action Comics above, Detective features a backup feature, and this one comes from Batman cowriter, James Tynion IV, with the help of the liney artwork of Henrik Jonsson. Alfred Pennyworth has been waiting for years, hoping against all hope that his ersatz son and ward, Bruce Wayne, will reappear after several years of speculation that he has died somewhere far away. The struggle to hold on, not only to the hope of his being alive, but also to the legacy and inheritance that he is custodian of is harrowing, as this story shows. But the faithful servant’s fidelity warms the hearts of readers and provides a really uplifting bookend to the depression of the first half of the issue.
Green Lantern #0,contrary to my expectations, was not a disappointment. This could be for several reasons. Firstly, the new GL comes from my own backyard, Dearborn, Michigan, a hop, skip, and a jump from Flint, where I hail from. Secondly, they tie him into the larger issue of Islamaphobia and anti-Arab mentality that is hotwired in most ignorant American minds. Thirdly, its just F***ING GOOD!!! Geoff Johns is hit or miss with me. He has swung at NOTHING in so many things he’s doing right now. This issue and the character it introduces is a line drive down center. This character, though brand new, feels like a Green Lantern. Can’t wait till Green Lantern #13 in October. Awesome job, Geoff, and welcome back Doug Mahnke!
Swamp Thing #0rewrites Swamp Thing history, introducing Anton Arcane right off the bat as someone far older and more immediately sinister than he was in the original Wein/Wrightson run in the 1970’s. But true to Scott Snyder style, he has taken the cast of characters and reinvented them to fit into the frame of a fresh, innovative premise. Here Arcane has been a perennial foe of the avatars of life: the Swamp Thing of the Green and the Animal Man of the Red. As far back as 1895 Arcane has been on the hunt as avatar of the Rot. Whereas in the original series by Len Wein, Alec Holland was turned into Swamp Thing by sheer luck or misfortune, depending on how you want to look at it, here he was selected from birth by the Parliament of Trees to be not only the new Swamp Thing, but the warrior king avatar that had been prophesied for centuries. This is why the “accident” is initiated by Arcane, but contrary to how it came out in the original run, this accident poses problems to the fulfillment of his destiny as avatar of the Green. The issue is written well, obviously, being penned by Scott Snyder, but it is also drawn exceptionally well by artist, Kano. When I saw that someone other than the three staple artists of Swamp Thing was doing this issue I was a little pissed, but now, as has happened numerous times in the past, I have to eat crow, because his artwork is stunning. I pray that he get a shot at another issue or two in future, maybe a whole arc, because his lines and style are so incredible.
Kano’s artwork reminiscent of Paquette and Rudy’s Panels
Earth 2 #0was very good, albeit confusing. Told from the perspective of Terry Sloane, better known to DC readers as the Golden Age Mr. Terrific, as well as staple JSA member. We saw him briefly in issue #3 meeting his Earth 1 counterpart, Michael Holt. This issue not only gives him the spotlight, but also fills in his role in the history and hierarchy of Earth 2. Sloane existed as one of Earth 2’s eight heroes during the Apokalips Invasion. He went by the name Mr. 8, the meaning of which I don’t get. Also, as his first appearance in the series suggested, he is much more sinister than in previous incarnations. When he shows his true colors in this zero issue, turning on the Trinity for what he deems “the good of the Earth” he states that to ensure victory he needs Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman to survive. They died in the first issue, and yet as he narrates this issue from the present looking back, he still thinks that his plan has succeeded. They are dead. We saw them die. So what the hell is he talking about? Good issue topically, but too cryptic for my taste.
Speaking of Earth 2, Worlds’ Finest #0focuses on that same world’s two junior members, Helena Wayne, aka Robin, and Kara Zor-El, aka Super Girl. We’ve seen them as Huntress and Power Girl in both Earth 2 #1 and the first four issues of this series, but now we get to see their geneses in their roles as young superheroes. Helena, the daughter of the Batman and Catwoman, growing up a strong, confident young woman, amalgam of both her parent’s characteristics, meets her first great tragedy. Kara, last daughter of a doomed homeworld, lives with her cousin on their adoptive new world which itself stands on the brink of annihilation by the incurring forces of Apokalips, and yearns to break out of his protective bubble and lend her skills toward averting another world’s destruction. Paul Levitz writes these two young women really well, showing both their overwhelming frustration and youthful exuberance. One thing that the first four issues of this series did well was show the strength and depth of their friendship, and this zero issue shows the tying of their fates together in a very touching manner.
Even When Your Parents Are Superheroes They Can Still Embarrass You
Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #3brings Laurie into direct conflict with Gurustein and the mysterious “Chairman”, who bears a striking resemblance to a certain blue eyed crooner. The Comedian also makes his first significant appearance in Lauries life, whether she knows it or not, at the behest of the original Silk Spectre, Sally Jupiter. Darwyn Cooke writes a really psychedelic story that Amanda Conner draws exceptionally well. Drug overdoses, orgies, waking up naked in a hospital morgue. What else do you need from a story? With one more issue, this series is at a its fever point.
Green Arrow #0,like the other issues written by Ann Nocenti, is a fantastic issue, but also a good origin story. Green Arrow’s marooning on the remote island and honing his bowmanship is already a well known story done to death. Nocenti eschews this tale, hinting at it towards the end, but offering something very different, focusing on a fresh episode of failure that lent itself to his later commitment to being better than he was and atoning for his many sins. It also ties in the character of Merlyn in a very prototypical stage, giving a reason for his later enmity toward the Emerald Archer. Nocenti tries to tie in a Roy Harper intro, but nothing really comes of that two page segment, so I’m not sure what was meant to be accomplished there. Also, I am not usually a fan of Freddie Williams II’s art work, but here it wasn’t so obnoxious and really suited the overall atmosphere and genre of the book. Overall, a great zero issue for a character that floundered badly when it first was released a year ago.
Phantom Stranger #0 marks the first regular issue of Phantom Stranger since the late 80’s. Writer Dan Didio (along with Geoff Johns and several others, no doubt) have him as Judas Iscariot. They have quashed rumors of this since Free Comic Book Day this past May, but while they don’t come right out and say it in the story, it’s him. Thirty pieces of silver he has to wear around his neck, his suicide, betraying his best friend, being returned home to a desert-like landscape that bears a striking resemblance to the Levant? Its friggin’ Judas, quit being assholes and just admit it! Judged by a council of Wizards on the Rock of Eternity, he and two others are cursed for their incredible crimes against humanity with individualized penances. Phantom Stranger is cursed to walk the earth, a stranger to all, and forced to intercede in events by an enigmatic voice. By issue’s end, the horror of what his interventions will do is made clear, showing how the punishment does fit the crime. Didio is a great writer and this series has a great amount of promise. Artist Brent Anderson delivers lush artwork that has soft, hazy lines that suit the mysterious atmosphere of the book and really set the mood. With a solicitation for next issue at the end, eliciting only the name “Trigon” I am riveted for what is to come.
Batwing #0shows an episode in Batwing, aka David Zavimbe’s, life that has as of yet remained untold. We know that he and his little brother, Isaac, were child soldiers in the mercenary group, the Army of Dawn. We know that he was picked up by Batman as the African representative of the International organization, Batman Incorporated. Between his rescue from the AOD and his inception as Batwing, there is very little known. This issue shows the guilt fueled rage that eats at David’s soul after he enters the relief shelter for war refugees and the events that forge his resolve as an adult to take up arms once again, fighting a crusade of his choosing that eventually brings him to the attention of Batman. With this issue all the pertinent parts of David’s history are fully chronicled, giving us a comprehensive understanding of his entire history. Grant Morrison may have created the character, but I think that Batwing will forever belong to Judd Winick, who wrote him for the first time as a fully fleshed out character.
Animal Man #0was definitely written in tandem with Swamp Thing #0, because writer Jeff Lemire does what Scott Snyder did, beginning with Anton Arcane tracking down a previous avatar, this one an Animal Man (Avatar of the Red) and dispatching him. Whereas the Parliament of Trees put their hopes on an avatar to come, Alec Holland, the Parliament of Limbs decide to be more proactive and create a new avatar in anticipation of the next who will be born years from that moment. The avatar they create just happens to be the next scheduled avatar’s father, Buddy Baker. His inception as the new Animal Man and what that foretells is a well plotted zero issue that makes Animal Man that much more intriguing.
Death of an Animal Man
Dial H #0takes us out of the present for a jaunt back to Ancient Mesopotamia and the maiden voyage of the first dial. In the pre-bronze age civilization, the dial is as analogue as it gets, being merely a sundial like device, using the Sun’s rays as the triggering mechanism and the dial itself, a monolithic slab, having to be manual rotated to dial. The operator, Laodice, over the course of four days manipulates the dial to evoke a myriad of powers to counter an ancient beast that plagues her people. The origin of the dial is a mystery, even to Laodice, but writer China Mieville fleshes out a facet of its usage in this issue that not only doubles the question of its origins (along with its rotary successors), but also what the consequences of its usages in the modern stories are. In a series already rife with insane twists and turns, this zero issue throws a major curve ball to the overall plot.
The First Dial
G.I. Combat #0was framed in an interesting manner. The main segment, as evinced by the cover, features the Unknown Soldier. The story picks up from last issue’s ending point, but validates itself as a zero issue by having the mysterious Kamal subjecting the Unknown Soldier, a former financial trader whose family was killed in a terrorist bombing on a train in London and who turned mercenary in Afghanistan when no military would accept him, to a mind altering drug that would open his subconscious to past experiences. Despite being born in the seventies, he has vivid memories backed up by historic record of Vietnam, Korea, the American Civil War, Revolutionary War, as well as several Medieval and Greco-Roman conflicts. How is this? Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray find a way of revealing who and what the Unknown Soldier is while keeping pace with the past four issues. The War That Time Forgot segment ends the issue and also concludes itself as well, marking the end of this story, which will be succeeded by The Haunted Tank, which will be penned by Peter Tomasi and drawn by Howard Chaykin. This one, however, is in no way an origin story. Its more of an epilogue to the last installment, ending the arc with really no significance. I love JT Krul as a writer, but this story he told didn’t say or do anything. American G.I.’s going to North Korea find, instead of a belligerent Communist army, a raging horde of dinosaurs. That’s it. They find this seemingly impossible situation and almost everyone dies. I hope the Haunted Tank offers better literary fare.
The Origin of the Unknown
Night Force #7 concludes the miniseries featuring the third incarnation of the Night Force headed by Baron Winter, and written by creator Marv Wolfman. Zoe has been captured by the demonic progenitors and it falls to Det. Jim Duffy to save her. With this last issue out, the MVP of the series is hands down Jim Duffy. Despite all his blustering and posturing, Baron Winter really doesn’t do anything worth speaking about. His arrogance is what prompted the problems that assail the Night Force in the first place and Det. Duffy is really the one who both plans and orchestrates the events that resolve the situation. He captures the Harvester, breaks into the gestation chamber, and pulls the metaphoric trigger on the demon breeders plan. That said, Jim Duffy and Sela Greene, aka Mad Kassandra, are the two characters that really advance the plot and their clashing was a scene that made this issue and the six previous well worth the read. The conclusion is twisted, nightmarish, and bloody, which makes me give it a thumbs up to anyone with a taste for the macabre.
Smallville Season 11 #5accomplishes something I was waiting for in the series when it was on TV: the advent of the Batman. Done in a very unique way that is synonymous with “Smallville” in general, Batman is shown busting up an Intergang arms deal with the help of protege, Nightwing . . . who is a red haired young woman! Obviously since Nightwing has boobs, its not Dick. I won’t spoil the identity of Batman’s sidekick, but if you are as good of a detective as the Bat, you should be able to ascertain who she is under the mask. As a bonus hint to those who know me, I am always excited to see this character, regardless of the circumstances. In the continuing plot of Smallville, though, Clark continues to work toward finding a way to purge the radioactive isotope Lex implanted in him so that LexCorp satellites can monitor his movements 24/7, while at the same time dealing with the strain that puts on his relationship with fiancee, Lois Lane. It does leave him with more time to dedicate to civic vigilance and crisis aversion. But with the Dark Knight descending on Metropolis with his sights on a singular task, Superman has a lot more to worry about than armed gunmen and impending traffic accidents.
And that ends the first week of “Zero Month.” I thoroughly enjoyed all that I read. Can’t wait for the next three weeks worth of issues.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Action Comics #0: Art by Ben Oliver, Colored by Brian Reber
Detective Comics #0: Drawn by Tony Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by Richard Friend
Swamp Thing #0: Art by Kano, Colored by Matthew Wilson
Worlds’ Finest #0: Art by Kevin Maguire, Colored by Rosemary Cheetham
Animal Man #0: Art by Steve Pugh, Colored by Lovern Kindzierski
Dial H #0: Art by Riccardo Burchielli, Colored by Tanya & Richard Horie
G.I. Combat #0: Art by Staz Johnson, Colored by Rob Schwager
The Lost week of Comics. Right after reading them I misplaced the pile and have yet to find it. If you are interested in the comics of August 1st, 2012, check back periodically and I will eventually get them up here. Sorry for the inconvenience . . .
Action Comics #12concludes the storyline involving Adam Blake and Lois’s niece, Susie. Lois Lane has sustained catastrophic damage to most of her major organs and is moments away from her inevitable death, Blake is about to take Susie away with the rest of the Neo Sapiens born on Earth, and Superman has met his match with an opponent who is thousands of years ahead of the evolutionary curve. But with the Man of Steel, you can never count him out. All of the problems above are within his reach to solve, and while he and the reader may not know exactly how, writer Grant Morrison takes both on the path towards the impossible. Also, Clark’s land lady, Mrs. Nyxly turns out to be far more than meets the eye, leading to a revelation that promises to open the way for Action Comics’ next major crisis. For now though, the stage is cleared for next month’s #0 issues that will offer an origin for the Man of Steel, courtesy of Mr. Morrison.
Detective Comics #12like Action Comics above, ends its arc with a conclusion to the “Mr. Toxic” arc, just in time for Septembers “Zero Month.” Batman has discovered the connection between Dr. Hugh Marder and Mister Toxic, along with the clones of himself that rapidly decay into radioactive waste. Now, with the lives of thousands at stake, Batman has to intercede and stop the mad scientist before his experiment causes a meltdown in the center of Gotham City. And in the process, he may just save one more life than he expected. This story marks the last regular issue of Detective that writer/artist Tony Daniel will be a part of in both roles. His Detective Comics Annual is due out at the end of the month, and he will provide pencils for Septembers #0 issue, before handing the series over to a new creative team in October. In the backup feature of this issue, James Tynion IV brings us a short story born of the INCREDIBLE events that ended this series first issue. After having his face torn off by an unknown assailant and nailed to a wall, the Joker’s smiling slab of skin is in cold storage at Gotham Central under police lock and key. Despite its seemingly harmless nature, anything belonging to the Joker can’t help but be sinister. One thing that truly defines the Joker is his big smiling face, begging the question of how just how long he will allow it to remain away from where it belongs . . .We’ll find out in October.
Red Lanterns #12opens in chaos. Things for the Red Lanterns are looking incredibly dim. The Central Power Battery of their corps that powers their rings is dying meaning those Red Lanterns still alive will have their rings fully depowered in a matter of hours or minutes. Their rings are also the only thing keeping the napalm in their veins from killing them. No power battery and its lights out for every last Lantern of Rage. Across the Universe, those that haven’t already succumbed to dead rings are on the verge and imperiled by enemies surrounding them. Bleez, Zilius Zox, and a third unnamed Red Lantern are prisoners on Zameron, homeworld of the Star Sapphires. Atrocitus himself is being savagely attacked by his failed first attempt at a Red Soldier, Abysmus. The situation across the board is bleak. However, as has been the case since his inception several months ago into the RL Corps, Jack Moore, aka Rankorr, proves to be the savior delivering the last impetus to the struggle for survival that sparks the restoration and renewal of the whole Corps. And amid the rivers of blood that are spilled the connection between the fall of the Red Lanterns and the Guardians that we all have assumed is finally confirmed. But damned if Atrocitus and his minions are going to go quietly into the night. I am very much looking forward to seeing what October holds for the Red Lanterns.
The Rage of Bleez
Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #2jumps right out of the first issue’s origin story directly into the fray. The second Nite Owl, Dan Dreiberg, is chasing a felon through an alley at night, when the perp ducks into a doorway and our hero making chase. Inside Nite Owl finds the man unconscious on the floor of what appears to be an S&M sex dungeon, with a naked woman (save for a domino mask and leather gloves) standing over the crook with a broad bloodied paddle in hand. To Watchmen faithful she is recognizable as the “Twilight Lady”, a criminal that Nite Owl was romantically involved with for a time. This issue shows their first meeting and sets up what we know to be inevitable sexually between the two. What it also does is give rise to emotional responses from both Nite Owl and Rorschach, who himself was also chasing the perp just a little behind Nite Owl. Rorschach, whose abusive mother turned tricks in their apartment during his childhood, reacts to the dominatrix madam, who at the time is standing over her bound and gagged client, with violent anger spawned from years of resentment. Nite Owl, who had spoken briefly with the Twilight Lady about her work and how she and other women like her find strength in the face of their own degradation, reacts positively in defense of her against Rorschach’s assualts, because her words remind him of his mother. Though she was the well-to-do wife of an affluent banker and not a prostitute, she was brutalized by her husband and beaten savagely often. Living this way for so long, she entrenched her spirit in a fortress of pure will to keep her integrity and her sanity intact. She taught her son to do the same, saving him as well from a hostile world and planting the seed that would later become the Nite Owl in him. Where Rorschach sees depravity and ugliness, Nite Owl sees nobility, strength, and a certain ironic purity. The “in-your-face” scene of deviant sadomasochistic sex may put some people off, but I applaud Straczynski and Kubert’s depiction of it, as it fits the story narratively and also commits the world of Before Watchmen to gritty reality with kid gloves to lessen the experience.
The Birth of the Nite
Earth 2 #4,like Red Lanterns above, opens in chaos and manifests itself in that same vein. Single issues have been dedicated to the fall of the Trinity in issue #1, Jay Garrick becoming the Flash and meeting Hawk Girl in issue #2, and Alan Scott surviving a train crash and becoming the Green Lantern in issue #3. Now all three of those threads come together along with a tertiary point of Al Pratt, first shown in issue #1 as a World Army Sergeant, becoming the Atom. When Scott got the green ring, a symbol of the Earth’s collective force, a champion of the Gray rises up to challenge him. This issue has that champion, Solomon Grundy, descending on Washington D.C. in an attempt to ferret out the “Jade Champion.” He succeeds in not only that, but also bring on the Flash and Hawkgirl from their detour in Poland, and Al Pratt’s Atom persona from his secret government installation. So with destruction and vengeance in mind, Grundy inadvertently brings together Earth’s new wave of superheroes for the first time, creating a new alliance . . . maybe, because things don’t exactly workout between the fours as most would like.
Worlds’ Finest #4concludes the Hakkou arc, with a very straightforward, Godzilla-esque battle with the radioactive monster in Tokyo harbor. I won’t elaborate on how the day is saved, but its a safe bet that it is. Writer Paul Levitz also throws in a fun, yet unrelated tale of the Helena and Kara’s first months on Earth 1, this time in Rome. George Perez and Kevin Maguire continue their dual duty on art, draws the present and past sequences respectively, both with masterful skill.
Animal Man #12ushers in the storyline that we have been waiting for for exactly one year since the first mentions of “Red” and “Green” and “Black/Rot”: the meeting and team up of Animal Man, champion of the Red, and Swamp Thing, champion and warrior king of the Green. Written by both Animal Man writer, Jeff Lemire, and Swamp Thing writer, Scott Snyder, this issue is solicited as “Rotworld: Prologue Part 1” and that is precisely what this issue is. After exchanging quick anecdotes of their respective journeys over 11 months of issues, Swamp Thing and Animal Man decide that they must venture into the heart of the Black to deal a “death punch” (pun intended) to the Rot and stop its overreaching assault on the two forces of life. The consequences of their failure to do so are heralded by both of Animal Man, Buddy Baker’s, children. As his son, Cliff, states in a catatonic sleepwalking state, “Rotworld is coming . . .” As his daughter, Maxine, sees in the black pool that serves as the gateway to the Black, the world will be enveloped in a wave of death and desolation that will sweep the world clean, killing all life, both plant and animal life (humans included in the latter part), leaving a world decayed. Thus, down the darkened rabbit hole our two heroes doth plunge . . .
Swamp Thing #12follows on the heels of Animal Man #12 presenting “Rot World: Prologue Part 2.” Written once again by both Animal Man and Swamp Thing writers, Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder, the set up for “Rot World” concludes. As of this issue’s end, Rot World has come. In the heart of the Rot our two champions are met by Anton Arcane on his home turf and the evil doctor reveals the full depth of the Rot’s plot to dominate the other forces of life. Unlike a James Bond villain, however, he reveals the full extent of his plan after events have past the point of no return. Outside of the portal to the Black, Abby Arcane and Ellen Baker fight to prevent the rotlings from severing the lifeline binding Alec and Buddy to the outer world. As the tides turn and the Rot gains supremecy, Abby can feel the swelling of power within the Black. The only way to stem its growing power would be to strike at the heart of the Parliament of Rot, the location of which none in the Red or Green know. Abby Arcane, being a child of the Rot, has a preternatural knowledge of its location and its weaknesses, meaning that to save her lover and the world, she must venture toward the wellspring of her own strengths and cripple it. This prologue leaves a lot of questions in the air, but makes one thing certain. The next several months of Swamp Thing and Animal Man will be “can’t miss” reads.
Abby, Scion of the Black
Justice League International #12convenes at the funeral of Gavril Ivanovich, the Russian superhero Rocket Red. After the literal blowup at the United Nations and the ensuing battle with the terrorists responsible, bad blood remains between the survivors. The younger brother of the terrorist Lightweaver, who cradled him in his arms as he died, receives his powers as a result and decides to attack the JLI as they attempt to honor their fallen comrade. Both blaming each other for the death of their respective loved one, it becomes hard to cheer on or demonize either party. When a resolution does finally come, the moral confusion of the battle gives way to general confusion about where to go now that the UN charter has been revoked, a member of their team have been killed, and most of the threads holding them together have been severed. But with a common goal and some need for their help still existing, they decide to press on. This twelfth issue is final regular issue, with an annual at the end of the month written by Geoff Johns and Dan Didio capping off the series. I am very curious to see how that JLI Annual handles what here doesn’t seem to be an ending.
Batwing #12concludes the “Lord Battle” arc with a little help from the aforementioned Justice League International . . . and Nightwing. Batwing’s mentor and friend, Matu Ba, while trying to bury his slain family members in their homeland of Tundi, is taken prisoner by the super-powered ruler of that nation, Lord Battle. This reason, alongside the discovery of massive oil reserves in Tundi and the Penguin selling them a nuclear weapon, leads Batwing to plan an invasion of that country with super-powered help. The defeat of Lord Battle and the connection he holds to the flourishing nation he rules is the best reason to read this issue. Writer, Judd Winick, comes up with a very novel and complex twist that connect ruler with country. I feel like this series is really growing and developing a unique identity.
Green Arrow #12finds Ollie Queen in his civilian identity facing off against Chinese businessman/industrialist,
G.I. Combat #4 is a toss up. The War That Time Forgot feature seemingly ends with no real point. US G.I.’s dispatched to an island off of North Korea find living dinosaurs and shortly thereafter are attacked by them. Most of the US forces are killed. The rest are probably going to be killed. So ends the story. There is a bearded man at the end which might mean that they will pick up the story at a later date, but if not, oh well. The Unknown Soldier secondary feature concludes the initial arc in an exciting, albeit anti-climatic manner. After raiding a secret meeting of a terrorist organization that is akin to Al-Qaeada, the Unknown Soldier slaughters hundreds while taking one of the masterminds alive. The groups plot is to sneak in sleeper agents who are teenagers of white european dissent into the US with lethal bioweapons in their systems. They are in country and have cleared all customs and checkpoints because of their nonthreatening appearances. It doesn’t seem like there is any way to stop them. They are nearly invisible and as the terrorist leader states, he himself will never talk. Using the latest in technological breakthroughs, the Unknown Soldier’s bosses find a way to get the information they need and nab the kids. A little cleanup later and writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray set the stage for next month’s Unknown Soldier zero issue origin story.
The Dreams of the Unknown
Smallville Season 11 #4 caps off the season’s initial arc of Commander Hank Henshaw, aka Cyborg Superman. When he awakens in his sensory deprived synthetic body the former astronaut goes berserk and attacks everyone present including Lex. Superman is able to talk him down, but his life remains in tatters after the fact. To add insult to injury, Superman also finds out why Lex intentionally exploded the shuttle carrying Henshaw, and the reasoning behind it leaves Superman’s personal life in tatters as well. Across the country in the cornfields of Smallville Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow, and his wife Chloe Sullivan chase down the survivor of the mysterious “spacecraft” bearing the name Queen Enterprises on its hull. The pilot is unmasked and her identity is quite shocking, as is the Crisis she heralds, which may or may not involve multiple Earths . . . Infinite Earths, perhaps.
One month and a half later and I have finally finished this damned post. Not sure if anyone is going to read it or not, but in any event I hope it is up to the standards I have exhibited in past posts. It was an excellent week of comics and deserved to be reported on much sooner than this.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Red Lantern #12: Art by Miguel Sepulveda, Colored by Rain Beredo & Santi Arcas
Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #2: Drawn by Andy Kubert, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Joe Kubert
Swamp Thing #12: Drawn by Marco Rudy, Colored by Val Staples, Inked by Andy Owens
G.I. Combat #4: Art by Dan Panosian, Colored by Rob Swager
This week new comics fall on the birth of our nation and, despite being a holiday, new books are ON THE SHELF!!! God Bless America!!! This is truly one of the things that makes our country great. Maybe not, but its still pretty sweet for those of us who are of the nerdier persuasion. So here’s to those awesome first week titles released on the 4th of July.
Action Comics #11 was pretty good. I think like the first arc, its setting up something epic, but at this point its kind of vague. I’m still not that sure about the death of Clark Kent, but again, Morrison may have things in store for us if we follow him down the path, which I intend to do. He introduces us to a Johnny Clark, a fire fighter person Superman has no adopted, as well as Lois Lane’s niece, Susie, who figures very prominently into not only the future of this series, but also mankind. And if that weren’t enough, Morrison also foreshadows something incredible on the horizon following in the wake of his introduction of Brainiac to the New DCU. Brainiac is by far one of the most apocalyptic of Superman’s foes, and yet Morrison intimates in this issue that Brainiac is merely the scavenger that precedes another, greater, unspeakable threat. Interesting stuff. By itself this was not the best issue, but once the arc complete I am confident it will be incredible.
Detective Comics#11 was an interesting issue in a very peculiar story arc. I am used to Tony Daniel writing gritty stories of Batman navigating vistas and plots mined from his rich canon. So far Daniel hasn’t done that post-reboot, but still stayed centered in a similar world of twisted psychopaths and kingpins in Gotham. This one is a super science oriented story dealing with a plot centered around theoretical physics that seems a little strange. I’m not saying I don’t like it, but I remain uncertain. I will say that I haven’t been feeling the Two-Face backup for awhile. That’s not my favorite in art or story. I hope that the series builds momentum, because Tony Daniel has proven in the past that he has the chops to be an amazing Batman writer.
Red Lanterns #11returns to excellence this month after last month’s disappointing crossover with series writer Peter Milligan’s other series, Stormwatch. The latter title has been dropped by me, not because Milligan is anything less than a genius, but because its is just a wasteland where good stories and art go to die. Red Lanterns, on the other hand, is a series that continues to innovate the Green Lantern Universe as well as the DCU as a whole, giving voice to the discontent of the human soul. Showcased on the cover is the showdown between the Vixen of Vengeance, Bleez of the the Red Lanterns, and her former associate in the New Guardians, Fatality of the Star Sapphires (formerly of the Sinestro Corps.) This confrontation was very well done and interesting to watch unfold. They are very similar women who are strong in their convictions, yet diverge in their response to the traumas that birthed them. One embraces love and the other embraces hatred. The dichotomy is very stark, yet despite that there is still a sisterhood between them. I can’t wait to see how this portion of the story reconciles itself. Elsewhere in the universe, is the errant Red Lantern of Earth, Rankorr aka John Moore, who is still coming to terms with his new life as a Red Lantern, and a completely new kind of Red Lantern at that. And finally, and most importantly, the Regent of Rage, Atrocitus, tracks down his failed creation, Abysmus, in the hope of killing him and remedying the poisoned central power battery of his corps that is killing his soldiers. So much is revealed in his issue and ties towards a larger precedent of the various corps being attacked and systematically shut down by an unknown force. This series remains one of the best DC is putting out.
Two of the Baddest Chicks in the Universe
Batwing #11 wasn’t spectacular. He continues his journey through China in search of the reason behind the Chinese programmer’s kidnapping by African pirates. In the wake of the assault on the corrupt Nigerian governor of the River state’s mansion, we discover that the slain politician is Batwing’s mentor, Matu’s father. Following his estranged father’s final wishes to be buried in his homeland, Tundi, which is currently ruled by a super-powered despot named Lord Battle. I’m not so much feeling this issue. I really like the opening arc, but this one is taking some time to settle into.
Justice League International #11 is a protracted fight scene that brings to a close the arc following the terrorist attack on the United Nations. Put on show trial for supporting international imperialism the JLI’ers have to escape and defeat Breakdown, Feedback, Lightweaver, and Crosscut. Not going to spoil it, but it was an interesting issue, albeit sort of anti-climatic. August General in Iron is the MVP of this issue.
Don’t Mess With August-General-In-Iron
Earth 2 #3 really went a long way toward world building Earth 2. Though I still am super dubious about the rationale behind the change of Alan Scott’s sexual orientation, this issue setting up a his role in this universe’s hierarchy. He is chosen to be an avatar of the Green energy of Earth to combat the forces of death and decay, called the Gray. Like the war going on in Animal Man and Swamp Thing between the Green, Red, and Black or Rot, Earth 2 has its champion of all life in Green Lantern and an avatar representing the Gray to balance the forces of life and death. The Gray’s avatar is a surprise that I am grateful to see reintroduced to the New DCU. What’s more, the Green reveals that down the road an evil that dwarfs the Apokaliptian invasion is on the horizon. I have no idea what that is, but writer James Robinson has me on the hook for at least the next year’s worth of issue. See y’all back at issue #15.
Worlds’ Finest #3 follows the fight of Huntress and Power Girl with Hakkou at the Fukishima nuclear power plant and into the heart of Tokyo. You can just tell that writer Paul Levitz was a Godzilla fan as a kid from his loving homages to the Japanese nuclear monster genre. It also goes back in time as usual to highlight the initial stages of Helena and Karen’s transition to Earth 1’s way of things. I really like this series both in its writing, and in the stunning art by George Perez and Kevin Maguire.
Animal Man #11 wraps up the first phase of the series. After dying and being resurrected this issue leads to what we have all been waiting for. Next issue we will finally see the team up of Swamp Thing and Animal Man, the avatars of Green and Red respectively, against the common enemy, the Rot, personified by Anton Arcane. What this issue does is give Animal Man his last great test before he can face Arcane. He is given a new body by the Red’s “royal tailors” and must fight and defeat his old body that has fallen t the Rot, in effect fighting and overcoming himself and his past in order to progress to his full potential. Symbolically it was a good issue, but I feel like it could have read better.
Green Arrow #11 was slightly schizophrenic, but that may be owing to it working on what Dennis O’Neil referred to as the “Levitz Paradigm.” I’ll get to that later. The issue starts at a charity poker tournament that is robbed by Robin Hood-esque thieves out to reclaim wealth from the 1%. The identity of the female member is quite ironic, taking this fact into account. The second half of the story takes Ollie to China to sell cutting edge technology to an unscrupulous businessman. To return to my earlier statement about the “Levitz Paradigm,” Paul Levitz employs a writing style where he inserts a minor storypoint or two into an issue along side the main issue, seeding that other storypoint to grow into the next main issue that the hero(es) will face. I am guessing that is the case here, since the Robin Hoods don’t really sync with the Chinese business interest.
Dial H #3 introduces an enigmatic woman named Manteau who is in possession of her own dial that grants her similarly eclectic powers. Other than this, the series remains an enigma. That is both a weakness and a strength depending on who you are and what your tastes are. I’ll continue reading it in the hopes of it fulfilling its potential.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #1 features Adam of Eternia, not as prince of the realm, but rather the son of a lowly woodcutter. Despite this, he still has dreams of once having been He-Man and fighting strange people while fighting along familiar faces. Writer James Robinson does an amazing job creating an authentic atmosphere while penning a story that is unlike anything in the cartoons. I’m a He-Man fan from my earliest memories and what Robinson and artist Philip Tan are doing makes me hopeful for what this series promises.
Night Force #5was just freaky. There was some exposition that aided the furthering of the plot: Senator Green is further depicted to be an unwitting demonic brood-stud, one of his impregnated women stillbirths her fetus, and his wife continues to be evil as hell. These points in and of themselves are creepy enough, by when taken alongside how they are presented, the title descends to another level
Tres Creepy, Non?
Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1 continues the tradition of its predecessors with gusto. This may be my favorite thus far, owing to the incredible writing of the legendary Len Wein and the eerie art of Jae Lee. Starting from his birth, this issue gives a very comprehensive look at the life of Adrian Veidt, from his awkward childhood to his rise to economic and intellectual greatness. The way in which Wein narrates the events of Veidt’s life is very cold, calculating, and intelligent and when used to describe such things as schoolyard bullying and falling in love for the first time, the effect is really engaging. Jae Lee’s art is hypnotic when set with Wein’s plots, further luring the reader deeper into the narrative.
Smallville Season 11 #3brings us back to Earth after the catastrophic explosion aboard the Guardian platform launch. Astronaut Hank Henshaw has sustained burns over most of his body and needless to say is in critical condition. In the wake of this Superman confronts Lex for the first time (sort of), he has his first run in with the military, Chloe and Oliver explore an alien crash site in Kansas that may not be so alien, and the fate of Henshaw and beginnings of his role as a classic DC supervillian.
Captain Victory #6 looks to be the penultimate chapter of this series. I hope this isn’t the case as it is REALLY good. After escaping the planet Ilili, which Galactic Command had sent them and several other doomed ships to, it becomes obvious that there is a traitor somewhere in their headquarters, but who? That will have to wait until they can suss out who the traitor is on their own ship. I really hope that this series continues, because writer Sterling Gates has the feel of Kirby’s original series bottled in this exquisite run. And long may it run . . .
So ends this week in review, and what a week it was. Excellent entertainment, as befitting their release on the anniversary of our nation’s birth.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Red Lanterns #11: Art by Miguel Sepulveda, Colored by Rain Beredo
Justice League International #11: Drawn by Aaron Lopresti, Colored by Hi-Fi, Inked by Matt Ryan
Green Arrow #11: Art by Harvey Tolibao, Colored by Richard & Tanya Horie
Night Force #5: Art by Tom Mandrake, Colored by Wes Hartman
Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1: Art by Jae lee, Colored by June Chung