Week 87 (May 1, 2013)

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

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

    Beware the Claw!

    Beware the Claw!

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

    The Emperor of Gotham

    The Emperor of Gotham

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

    The Outsiders

    The Outsiders

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

    Wisdom of Superman

    Wisdom of Superman

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

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

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Week 83 (April 3, 2013)

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

    A Wife's Love

    The Psychiatrist and the Psychopath

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

    A Wife's Love

    A Wife’s Love

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

    The Truth Comes Out

    The Truth Comes Out

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

    Miracles Do Happen

    Miracles Do Happen

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

    Batwing Goes Out With A Bang

    Batwing Goes Out With A Bang

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

Week 79 (March 6, 2013)

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 #18 focuses 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.

    The Prophesy

    The Prophesy

  • Detective Comics #18 accomplishes 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

    Requiem for a Robin

  • Before Watchmen: Rorschach #4 was, 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

    Death Never Looked So Beautiful

  • Animal Man #18 was 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 #10 returns 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 #10 is 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

    An Older Sister’s Lament

  • Batwing #18 picks 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 #18 gives 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.

    Another Victim of Komodo

    Komodo Claims Another Green Arrow Ally

  • Phantom Stranger #6 continues 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 #11 continues 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 #6 presents 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.

Illustration Credits:

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

Week 71 (Jan. 9, 2013)

This week ushers in the first true week of 2013 comics.  Featured among them are the flagstone comics of the DC line, Action Comics and Detective Comics, as well as Swamp Thing, Earth 2, Worlds’ Finest, and an annual from one of my all time favorite titles Green Lantern: New Guardians.  Let’s see what they have in store for us:

  • Action Comics #16 is a little confusing and, though the penultimate issue of Grant Morrison’s run of this title, is something of an interim issue.  To be fair, things do happen, but the majority of the issue is dedicated to the tying together of disparate threats from the fifteen previous issues into what will become the blowout finale next month.  Starting in the future with the Legion of Super-Heroes outlawed in their own time and attempting to sneak back to the “present”, the issue then cuts to a point in the Action Comics timeline after Superman has already died once during an event referenced as “Doomsday” when the skies turned red.  Conceivably this is Morrison reintegrating the iconic “Death of Superman” event into the New DCU canon, but the details are very sketchy.  As of last issue (Action Comics #15) Superman hadn’t been to Mars, which was the plot of Action Comics #14, so this issue, having Superman just coming back from Mars is a little disjointed and trippy.  The Anti-Superman Army is reintroduced with all members present and accounted for and their relationship to the “Little Man” fully revealed.  This is most apparent in the case of Lois Lane’s niece, Susie, who has absolutely no reason to hate Superman or want him dead.  Xa-Du and Krypto make their first reappearances since #13 in October, and Superdoom makes his after his multiversal introduction in Action Comics #9.  In the backup feature, the Legion once again takes center stage saving the Earth Gov president-elect from an assassination attempt by a Naltorian man claiming that if president-elect Takaneda lives the future will be forfeit.  They do not heed his warning (despite the fact that Naltorians have the known ability for accurate precognition) and after the fact, he is revealed to be Universo in disguise.  This issue was really good, setting up a great amount of material that most likely will be left in the air upon Morrison’s exit from the title in February.  That said, writers will no doubt be feeding off Morrison’s fodder in storylines for years to come.  Perhaps even decades. Next month’s issue is double sized and knowing Morrison should be a bombshell.
    Doomsday Has Come And Gone . . . SUPERDOOMSDAY Is Upon Us!

    Doomsday Has Come And Gone . . . SUPERDOOMSDAY Is Upon Us!


  • Detective Comics #16 is a twofold plot.  On one side you have Batman attempting to stem the madness in Gotham ancillary to the Joker’s return.  For whatever reason, the Joker’s madness strikes a chord with some people, evoking serious psychosis.  This was evinced in Detective Comics #4 when Batman crashed a demonstration in Gotham Park of Batman protesters picketing against his supposed “skinning” of the Joker.  There are all sorts of rival Joker groups, but Batman sets his eyes on a particular group called the “League of Smiles.”   From what we see of the League here it is a comprised of some truly twisted individuals, and even the most benign among them remain deeply disturbed.  Across the aisle, the Penguin has been requisitioned by the Joker for his larger goals and in the absence of Oswald Cobblepot, his assistant Ignatius Ogilvy, now referring to himself as Emperor Penguin, has been gobbling up territory and strengthening his base so as to bar the Penguin from regaining his vast empire after the Joker releases him.  In fact, Ogilvy uses the madness generated around the Joker’s return to hit the rival syndicates, weakening them, and blame it on the Joker.  I spoke in earlier reviews of John Layman’s run on Detective that there was no rhyme or reason as to the plots issue to issue.  Now it becomes clear that he has been building up the rise of Emperor Penguin from within the ranks of the Penguin, like a cancer or perhaps more appropriately a parasite.  This series has met its maturation point and hits its stride.
  • Swamp Thing #16 following the revelation last issue of the state of Gotham and Batman’s succumbing to the Rot, writer Scott Snyder redeems the situation by showing the contingencies Batman left in place for the coming of Swamp Thing.  Though he knew Gotham would fall, Batman also knew of one legacy he could leave Alec Holland that would give him the edge needed to stand a chance against the Rot in the coming conflict. With it, Swamp Thing makes his way to Anton Arcane’s stronghold leading to next month’s finale of “Rot World: The Green Kingdom.”  Snyder’s plot is tight and utilizes the structure of Gotham beautifully to facilitate an incredible Swamp Thing issue under the banner of “Rot World.”
  • Animal Man #16 brings this title to its penultimate chapter in “Rot World: The Red Kingdom.”  Buddy Baker and his ragtag group of defenders from the Red have linked up with Frankenstein and his undead army against the Rot, and once there is a decent fighting force behind him, they make a “Hail Mary” play to release a prisoner so dangerous Anton Arcane held him imprisoned outside of his domain in the faraway dead city, Metropolis.  Thought to be Superman, it turns out to be the new Green Lantern of our sector, Medyphyll, replacement for all the human lanterns.  Coming from a race evolved from plant-life, the Guardians gave him the ring so that he might have an edge as a being with a close connection to the Green.  Though he is weakened by the Rot’s presence, he is able to regain his footing and give the “Red Army” the final edge they need to attack Arcane in his capital, which is precisely where the issue ends as the greatest battle begins with the Rot.  On the sidelines, Animal Man’s daughter Max is tricked by William Arcane into sacrificing herself to save the lives of her mother, brother, and grandmother.  The next issue promises to be a killer issue alongside Swamp Thing #17.  
  • Earth 2 #8 is a one shot issue that takes the world of the second Earth into a very interesting direction.  As with Justice League #1, Earth 2 was invaded by the forces of Apokalips.  Though the timeline is hazy, I believe that Earth 2 was invaded first, with the Apokaliptian forces lead by Steppenwolf, and Earth 1 was invaded next by Steppenwolf’s nephew, Darkseid.  The war with Apokalips was far more devastating to the residents of Earth 2.  Five countries were completely wiped off the planet in massive fiery blast, hundreds of millions of people were incinerated in a matter of minutes, and and of course, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were murdered before the war was brought to a close.  Well after the fact, in the present of this series we are shown that the evil architect of all the carnage, genocide, and destruction, Steppenwolf, is not only alive, but stranded on Earth 2 in the nation of Dherain.  Through King Marov’s intercession Steppenwolf is protected by international treaties and allowed to thrive within the borders of Dherain.  In exchange, Marov is able to extract Apokaliptian tech to supermodernize his small nation.  However, as tension grows between Steppenwolf and Marov, Steppenwolf’s greatest weapon is revealed and promises to drop jaws.  With the end of this issue an ominous threat is revealed and then relegated to the background once again like a Sword of Damocles dangling over the overarching narrative and driving the reader mad wondering when it will fall.

    Hell Hath No Fury . . .

    Hell Hath No Fury . . .

  • Worlds’ Finest #8 follows two exiles from Earth 2 living on Earth 1, Huntress and Power Girl.  Writer Paul Levitz started this pilgrimage in a guarded way by introducing one of these exiles, Helena Wayne (aka Huntress), as Helena Bertinelli in the limited Huntress series.  In it Huntress fights traffickers of young Arabic women from North Africa to Italy and the European market led by the warlord Ibn Hassan.  In this issue, Levitz shows that no good deed goes unpunished.  After breaking up his operation and losing him hundreds of millions in revenue, his men finally catch up with Helena and put her in the hospital.  Power Girl intercedes and seemingly solves the problem of Ibn Hassan and the bounty on Huntress’s head removed, but her hospitalization gives the opportunity for her in her delirium to return to her childhood and show how her father, Batman, imbued in her an iron will and “never-say-die” attitude, and her mother, Catwoman, gave her love and strength of mind over body.  She had super-star parents who were tough on her, but loved her just as much as any parents could.  The overall plot is kind of trite, as Helena gets hurt, being only human, and Power Girl fixes everything being both rich and an invincible Kryptonian, but the underlying story facilitated by it of her past and the rich environment and parents that sculpted the woman she became is really what makes this issue so stunning.

    Catwoman And Her Kitten

    Catwoman And Her Kitten

  • Green Lantern: The New Guardians Annual #1 is a really interesting annual, sort of like the Superman Annual #1.  Though it bears the name of the series it represents, it has little to do with the overall story in the main series run.  Just as with the Superman Annual, which had more to do with Grifter and Red Hood and the Outlaws than Superman, this Annual does more to set up the series Threshold #1 than forwarding the New Guardians storyline.  Carol, Kyle, and their allies Saint Walker and Arkillo are sent on a mission by Carol Ferris’s overlords in the Star Sapphires to the Tenebrian Dominion.  The Tenebrian Dominion is the empire governed by Lady Styx, rebooted from her previous insectoid form to a black feline one, as introduced in Blue Beetle #0.  To infiltrate one of the most secure sectors of Space the New Guardians enlist the aid of Jediah Caul, the Green Lantern deep cover operative inside the Tenebrian Domain.  Unlike most Green Lanterns, Jediah is very amoral and subscribes to a dog-eat-dog, survival of the strongest philosophy.  Once he gets them in, the annual introduces the concept of “the Hunt,” a game in which enemies of the state are released with a bounty on their heads and the chase televised with their death open to any citizen of the Dominion.  Tony Bedard takes a break here, with the annual written by Threshold scribe Keith Giffen.  Art is provided by Andrei Bressen, relief artist of Green Lantern: New Guardians, and Threshold back-up artist Scott Kolins.   Though Giffen is new to the series and also considering he won’t be writing its characters for the foreseeable future, he nailed it.  The unlikely friendship and comradery between Saint Walker and Arkillo was especially well done.  Carol Ferris was also written in a very engaging, empowered way.  I enjoyed this annual and look forward to seeing the new title that it so exceptionally introduces.
  • Batwing #16 marks the title getting good again!  The previous arc, begun by Judd Winick dealt with a crazy cult leader and descended into a really crazy place.  With this issue new series writer Fabian Nicieza brings the plot back into the realm of real problems in Africa.  This time its police corruption and the the power of private individuals over national politics.  Here the son of a foreign investor who has a proclivity for sex and murder is acquitted over and over due to police buy offs.  The title character, David Zavimbe, who moonlights as a vigilante and licensed operative of Batman Incorporated, is caught in the middle considering he is also a Tinasha police inspector.  As Batwing and as an officer of the law he must find justice despite the overwhelming tides that are rushing against him and the innocent people he’s vowed to protect.  With this issue, a war is declared.  Nicieza’s writing is superb and hits a chord with the blunt realities of the “dark continent” in the post-colonial era.  Though its solicited on the cover as done by Fabrizio Fiorentino, the actual artist is Allan Jefferson, a man I had never heard of, but whose art is crisp, fresh, and very appropriate to the tone of the book.  This marks the beginning of something good.Batwing16
  • Green Arrow #16 is yet again a place holder.  Green Arrow concludes his business bringing down the underworld arms dealer and dog fighting kingpin, Harrow.  Not really any good, and I think that writer Ann Nocenti is checked out on the title, ready to move on to other projects, namely February’s Katana #1.  I am on the verge of dropping this title, but next month’s issue taken over by Jeff Lemire could turn it around like the character has several times in the past.  Green Arrow is one of the characters that has been written the worst and written the best so many times over his long history of publication.  You either do it perfectly or completely crap.  I pray that Lemire gets it, like others have gotten it, and resurrected the title like so many of the greats had done before him.  Lemire may indeed add his name to the list of Mike Grell, Dennis O’Neil, and JT Krul.  This issue, however, is forgettable.  
  • Phantom Stranger #4 takes us further down the rabbit hole that is the life of Philip Stark, aka Phantom Stranger, aka Judas Iscariot. Going clothes shopping with his wife, suddenly he finds himself whisked to the House of Mystery by John Constantine.  Phantom Stranger made an appearance in Justice League Dark #14, and this issue gives the other half of that encounter from the Stranger’s perspective.  I absolutely hate John Constantine and not in an “I love to hate him” sort of way, but rather an “if he died I would either cheer or just not care.”  Phantom Stranger is an unfettered transcendental force that is free of most Earthly constraints and not one to trifle with.  Constantine found perhaps the ONE way to not only guarantee his own safety while parlaying with him, but also the one string that he can use to make the Stranger dance like a puppet.  So that’s one headache Phantom Stranger has to deal with, but once back to the store in which he was snatched another calamity rears its ugly head, bringing the narrative back to Pandora and another universal force on par with our protagonist.  Dan Didio conceived the plot on this one, but the scripting is taken over by J.M. Dematteis, another phenomenal writer of paranormal comics.  Also, though I don’t normally comment of cover art, Jae Lee (Before Watchmen: Ozymandias) looks to be providing cover art for the next couple of issues and this particular issue’s looks stunning.  If down the road he were to take over interior art, that wouldn’t be completely inappropriate and would add a great deal.
  • Legends of the Dark Knight #4 returns to a three part anthology format, like its inaugural issue, with tales from T.J. Fixman, Andrew Dabb, and Jonathan Larsen.  Fixman’s installment, entitled “A Game To Die For”, tells of an up and coming superhero named the Praetorian who nabs the Joker and awaits Batman to pick up the Clown for return to Arkham.  In the interim the Joker, tied up and seemingly helpless, plays his masterful head games that distort Praetorian’s reality and raise some interesting questions about his past.  Suspenseful and psychologically charged, this story is very much in line with Christopher Nolan’s non-Batman films and just as complex considering its short duration.  The second installment by Andrew Dabb deals with a film crew coming to Gotham to make a movie based on that city’s storied nocturnal protector.  Of course since it takes place inside the DCU the film crew has no idea who the Dark Knight is or why he does what he does and that is at the heart of the story.  The main actor who is cast to portray Batman has reservation as he doesn’t know what motivation to take to get into his character and understand him.  Of course upon the beginning of filming things karmicly are destined to go awry, which manifests in the form of Joker and Harley Quinn crashing the party.  Asking Harley why her and the Joker are doing what they are doing to innocent people, the actor gets the reply, “Why does anyone?  Us, the capes  . . . cause its fun and we get to dress up,”  and when he asks Batman the same question he is rewarded with no answer at all.  However, the Dark Knight’s evasion is rather Zen in nature, because while there is no intelligible answer, the truth behind his motivation is everything that the film crew has endured up to that point at the arbitrary whims of two psychotics.  Finally from writer Jonathan Larsen comes a tale of Two-Face that features some very telling things about the nature of both Two-Face and Harvey Dent, two consciousnesses sharing a body.  Involving a very radical surgery, the plot of this story is too good and two complex to sum up.  However, this story does present a very twisted conundrum inherent in the nature of Harvey’s split personality.  As ever this title gives thoughtful exploration to the very complex character that is Batman.
    Sometimes No Answer Can Be The Most Telling Answer

    Sometimes No Answer Can Be The Most Telling Answer

     

  • Smallville Season 11 #9 moves into a brand new arc entitled “Haunted” which could stem from two plot points and perhaps even both.  On one side of the narrative, Lex Luthor has been using cutting edge psychotherapy techniques to dive into his subconscious and claim the memories of his sister, Tess, who’s consciousness has taken up residence in his shiny dome.  At the heart of this is her knowledge of Superman’s identity. On the other side, Superman hooks up with an old friend of his, Bart Allen, aka Impulse (Basically the Flash of this world), and the two have their infamous race across the world.  Bryan Q. Miller maintains the feel of the original TV show in this comic extension, introducing classic characters in interesting new ways.  Psimon is introduced in this issue as a failed experiment by Lex Corp.  During the race across the world, Impulse and Superman stop an art robbery at the Louvre by a band of Gorillas lead by an Alpha gorilla and a disembodied brain.  Yup, you guessed it.  Here we meet the Brain and Monsieur Mallah, which Miller takes a cue from Grant Morrison’s 1990’s Doom Patrol series by making homosexual/trans-species  lovers.  Lastly, but certainly not of least interest, is the introduction of a black, spectral speedster that is chasing Impulse.  Again, for those who follow DC with some frequency, you know who this is, rounding out what promises to be yet another interesting arc in Smallville Season 11.

Thus ends the first legitimate week of 2013 comics.  The comic year looks rife with possibilities.  And next week we get into a whole slew of “Death of the Family” titles as well as a very promising new title in Threshold.  See you back here next week.

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

Illustration Credits:

Action Comics #16:  Drawn by Rags Morales & Brad Walker, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Andrew Hennessy & Mark Propst

Earth 2 #8: Drawn by Yildiray Cinar, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Ryan Winn & Ruy Jose

Worlds’ Finest #8:  Art by CAFU, Colored by Rosemary Cheetham

Batwing #16: Drawn by Allan Jefferson, Colored by Pete Pantazis, Inked by Phyllis Novin, Le Beau Underwood & Juan Castro

Legends of the Dark Knight #4: Art by Giorgio Ponrelli, Colored by Antonio Fabela

Week 66 (Dec. 5, 2012)

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

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

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

    ActionComics15

    The Vindictive Vyndktvx . . .

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

    DetectiveComics15

    The Penguin May Be Dead, Long Live The Penguin

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

    SwampThing15

    Woman Thou Art Unleashed . . .

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

    Smallville8

    The Women Behind the Men

  • Legends of the Dark Knight #3 presents another very thought provoking story about the Dark Knight.  Batman takes down the Joker, but on route to Arkham Asylum the mad clown slips his leash, making a getaway.  Shortly thereafter, Batman gets a package from him, with a miniature revolving door and a note bluntly saying “You might as well not exist.”  This is a sucker punch to Batman’s ego and he begins to lose heart in his crusade.  Commissioner Gordon and Alfred come up with the solution, giving him letters from regular people that have come into the GCPD over the years addressed directly to the Batman.  One from the daughter of a assault victim, one from the owner of a bar that was hit by Joker henchmen wanting free booze and money, and a third from a drug addict mugger.  All of whom the Batman saved, the latter most case because going back to jail turned the con’s life around.  As a result of these three cases in particular, Batman is not only able to regain his confidence, but get the upper hand on the Joker.  Its sort of a “Its a Wonderful Life” of the DC Universe.  No man is a failure that has friends.  Write Steve Niles has a penchant for writing twisted, hard edged horror stories, so this very optimistic tale of a Batman who is shown the reason why he is needed seems to come from left field.
    LegendsofDarkKnight3

    Sometimes the Joke is On You . . .

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 62 (Nov. 7, 2012)

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

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

    A Look Into the Past

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

    RISE . . .

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

    The Girl of Rot and the Boy of Green

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

    Now Kids, No More Fighting . . .

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

Week 57 (Oct. 3, 2012)

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

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

    A Boy And His Dog

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

    A Message From His Predecessors

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

    The Green Kingdom

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

    The Red Kingdom

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

    The “Dawn” Of An African Superheroine

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

    The Next Generation In the Saga of the Haunted Tank

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

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

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