This week was a somber one, featuring three Bat-titles, each paying homage to the fallen Damian Wayne in their own ways. Batman and Batman & Robin both display the sorrow and anger of a father’s loss. In Green Lantern Corps the First Lantern tortures John Stewart with the ghosts of his haunted past and the question as to what it was all for. The Before Watchmen: Ozymandias series reached its end, heralding the dark events that comprise the original Watchmen series. An excellent crop of comics. So here we go:
- Batman #18 transitions from one personal crisis to the next. Issue #17 was the landmark, much talked about conclusion to “Death of the Family”, which in this blogger’s opinion failed to live up to its name. This issue, completely unrelated to the aforementioned uber-plot of the Joker’s, opens on a Batman who has endured the death of his son. Scott Snyder chooses to approach this tragedy from the outside, having the issue told largely from the point of view of the punk rock looking electrical genius, Harper Row, now obsessed with tracking Batman. In her Bat-watching she sees a haggard, overwrought Batman hitting the criminal element harder than usual and making many sloppy mistakes. Since she is not privy to his identity or his inner circle she has no idea about the death of Robin, nor the real life connection between Bruce Wayne and his son, Damian. Thus we get an outsider’s perspective on how far he has fallen and how much Batman inspires the people whose lives he’s touched. Harper turns out to be like an angel of mercy, reminding Batman that despite his loss, he isn’t alone and doesn’t have to suffer alone. The backup feature, drawn by Alex Maleev, has Harper going to Bruce Wayne with a plan to help Batman, all the time under the assumption that they are two separate men. Both halves of the Batman are touched by her thoughtfulness and her gesture might just begin to knit together the wound that has been festering in his soul. Scott Snyder’s Batman seems destined to go down as one of the runs on the series, like Frank Miller’s Batman, the O’Neil/Adams Batman, and most recently, the Morrison Batman. This issue’s guest artist, Andy Kubert, was also the artist who ushered in Grant Morrison’s historic run on the character that both introduced us to the character of Damian and set the stage for the heartrending death of that young lad seven years later.
- Batman & Robin #18 is a silent, somber sonata for a son. It took me a while to realize it while I was reading this issue, owing the engrossing artwork depicting heartrending images of parental loss, but there are no words. The entire comic is a pantomime of Batman going through the motions to try and work past the pain of his son’s loss. However, when someone that integral in your life is gone, their absence reverberates throughout your life in simple ways that normally aren’t noticeable. The issue’s silence is broken finally with Batman finds a note from Damian, telling him why he left the safety of the Cave, which as we now know led to his death. Damian was a very harsh character. He was often very rude, conceited, gratuitously violent, but beneath all of that there was a thoughtful, empathetic character who was lost in a world he was unprepared to live in. Since the Reboot in September 2011, this title has been basically Damian’s book. Batman played a prominent role in its plots, but really it was a showcase for Damian to shine and be humanized. Peter Tomasi did an unbelievable job making him a relatable, lovable character and Patrick Gleason drew it gorgeously. The fact that the eponymous Robin from the title has passed on places this book in a very awkward position. I am not sure where the title can go from here. There is of course the concept of a possible resurrection coming down the pike (my guess is a Lazarus Pit), but speculation is all these come down to. Another possibility would be the installation of Harper Row as a new “Girl Wonder.” There hasn’t been an official female Robin in DC canon before and this might be a golden opportunity for it. Either way, this issue’s heartbreaking to read for those that have come to love Damian and for those that want Bruce to be happy, even if only for a short time. Goodbye, Damian. May you finally feel some peace.
- Batgirl #18 like the other Bat-books this month pays its respects to the departed Robin, who despite his surly, abrasive exterior found a place in the hearts of the various “family” members. The mention in this issue fell a little flat in my opinion, but then again it doesn’t really fit into the storyline that writer Ray Fawkes has set out to tell. I don’t mean to trash talk him or beleaguer a point, but I feel that if Gail Simone were at the helm of this arc she would have addressed this truly tragic occurrence in a very thoughtful, heartfelt way, as she has with Barbara Gordon since issue one of this phenomenal series. But she’s not so we have to accept Fawkes’ blip and get on with the story of James Gordon Jr. attempting to murder those closest to him, saving Batgirl for last to truly torture the Dominoed Daredoll with her own limitations. It’s an okay plotline, but not exactly up to snuff considering Gail Simone and Scott Snyder’s masterful handling of these characters in past plot arcs. I know very little about Fawkes and his past works, but assume he might be newer to the writing scene than the aforementioned maestros, explaining his seeming nemishness in the story department. Daniel Sampere draws the issue exceptionally making it visually stunning.
- Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #6 brings to an end the saga of one of the the keystone characters of the Watchmen universe. Adrian Veidt has already planned out his master scheme and in this issue we see how he executes it. This issue, above all the others, shows how cold Ozymandias can truly be when he has his eyes on a goal. His personal assistant, Marla, with whom he was also sexually active, dies mysteriously, albeit painlessly, because her knowledge of his enterprises was too sensitive. He recruits the former villain, Moloch, into his fold and gives him a job that also will also terminate with his premature death. He gathers the preeminent scientists, science fiction writers, and artists to his secret island in the tropics to put the finishing touches on the otherworldly horror that will usher in a world the likes of which has never been know. The true impetus of the issue that spans the majority of its pages and concludes the series is the tension between the Comedian and Ozymandias. They had tussled over the course of the six issues, but as was revealed by Alan Moore in the original Watchmen series, the Comedian came across the island and what Ozymandias had planned. The most psychopathic man on the planet gets queasy upon the discovery of just what Adrian has planned, but also knows that it can’t be stopped. All that remains at issue’s end is for Adrian to murder the Comedian which catalyzes Watchmen into being. Len Wein had a very good relationship with Alan Moore, handpicking him to take over the Swamp Thing series that he himself created and wrote into a hit title. Now Wein, albeit without Moore’s consent, has taken over one of the most important subplots of Watchmen and written it with breathtaking splendor. Jae Lee is an artist that has a very gothic quality to his work. Gothic is precisely the word I am looking for, because Lee depicts his subjects with almost no emotion despite the grand events rendered around them. Adrian Veidt is cold and calculated with no emotion and looks to be like a god himself, resurrected from ancient Egypt. Overall this series was one of the best put out, rivaled only by Darwyn Cooke’s Minutemen series in this Before Watchmen line of books.
- Green Lantern Corps #18 has Volthoom descending on John Stewart and the Star Sapphire, Fatality. Most of his attention is put on John, of whom many horrors have been visited, most of his own action. His mother’s murder was out of his control, as largely was the destruction of Fatality’s homeworld, Xanshi, which both she and John had blamed him for, but the destruction of the planet Green Lantern, Mogo, as well as the killing of another fellow corpsmen, Kirrt Kallak, were very much his conscious decisions. John is a man that makes the hard decisions without hesitation, because if he doesn’t they may never get made or worse one of his friends or loved ones will have to make them, damning themselves. Volthoom of course tortures him by showing him that the universe doesn’t come crashing down if John wasn’t there to make the hard choices, killing those closest to him. Peter Tomasi writes it well, really capturing the heart of a truly conflicted character. Chriscross provides guest art on the issue that really brings out the extreme emotional distress evoked by the sadistic First Lantern.
- Superboy #18 picks up in the aftermath of “H’el on Earth.” Superboy attempts to make right some of his lesser wrongs when the villain Plasmus comes crashing into the bank vault wherein Superboy returns some of his ill gotten gains. The fight between the Boy of Steel and the giant walking nuclear reactor is monumental, bringing the attention of a telepathic DC villain, Dr. Psycho, originally a Wonder Woman nemesis. Melding psychically with Superboy, Dr. Psycho is able to dig into Superboy’s past, seeing his birth and the life he has led thus far. At the end of the issue he goes into the depth of Superboy’s mind and finds Lex Luthor waiting in the inner recesses. We’ve known that Lex was his human parent from previous incarnations of the character, but Scott Lobdell kept us wondering with his very different depiction of Kon-El. In the end the issue there is a short episode of a female alien crashing in the Amazon rain-forest, chased by other aliens and rescued by Krypto the Superdog. With the mention of the Eternal Ebon-Quad along with her black eyes, it can be surmised that she is a soldier in the service of Lady Styx, as seein the Blue Beetle and Threshold series. Interesting things are happening within this title, so much so that Scott Lobdell came back on the title, cowriting with his successor, Tom DeFalco. I, for one, very much look forward to seeing where Superboy’s writers are taking him.
- Demon Knights #18 brings the hordes of Cain to the gates of Themyscira, home of the immortal Amazons, the most powerful race on Earth. Now it stands to what remains of the Demon Knights to stand in the way of the vampirization of the only nation able to stand against Cain. Previously Jason Blood had been muted by a powerful spell, preventing him from speaking the words to summon the Demon, Etrigan. With the reemergence of Madame Xanadu his silence is lifted and Etrigan is once again released upon the world. The power struggle between Jason and Etrigan reaches a new level showing what strengths and weaknesses these two halves of the same physicality possess. Robert Venditti continues writing it in precisely the same vein as series creator, Paul Cornell. Artist Bernard Chang remains in the trenches, drawing the title exactly as he has since before the writing change over.
- Ravagers #10 has the title entering into the beginning of its endgame. The series is two issues from cancellation and writer Michael Alan Nelson is pulling out all the stops. Harvest has wanted the rogue Ravagers put down for sometime. That has been the task entrusted to Rose Wilson and Warblade. With the events of the past two issue in the wind, these two “loyal” Ravagers also find their necks on the chopping block and their assignment now put in the hands of Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke. I have to say, Deathstroke has been represented as a free agent and an anti-hero since the Reboot, but as of this issue I do not like him one bit. Thankfully, his series is also getting cancelled in May, meaning he can go back to being the villain he was created to be. In the camp of the Ravagers, things begin to look up. A lost comrade is returned, a disfigured member is “healed”, and romance brews between two members. It seems things are looking up, but with cancellation looming close on the horizon it could be a case of the brightest lights casting the darkest shadows. I pray that the cancellation leaves most of our heroes still breathing, as they have been through hell and deserve to survive.
- Threshold #3 continues to set the very intricate stage on the planet Tolerance, home of the “Hunted” reality series where dangerous criminals of the Tenebrian Dominion are set loose with a bounty on their heads for any citizen to collect if they can bring them down. Private investigator, Starr Hawkins, is added to the cast, as is Lonar, a New God created by Jack Kirby in the 70’s in his Forever People title. Being a HUGE Jack Kirby fan, the addition of any Fourth Worlder is a sure fire way of getting me hooked. Keith Giffens is going for broke with both the lineup and the stakes of this “Hunted” series. Right now it seems a bit cluttered as all the disparate factions are aligning themselves and new versions of old characters are introduced to us seemingly at every turn. Hopefully, as alliances are cast and battle lines drawn the series can focus on forward moving, unified plot lines. One of the side plots of great interest is the race for Jediah Caul’s power battery. Hawkins tells Caul he knows where it is and a mysterious lawyer appears requesting K’Rot and his smaller Zoo Crew to procure it for his client. In the “Larfleeze” back up feature, Larfleeze and his enslaved assistant continue the search for his stolen hoard. The smugglers they have contracted to help them a treasure hunter called Branx Rancor. In the middle of negotiations, Larfleeze’s rogue orange constructs attack the band. This installment wasn’t the best of the three so far and very little progress is made in the overall plot. As a whole, this issue of Threshold was good, but awaits the clarity that hopefully will come sooner rather than later.
- Saucer Country #13 was an incredible issue that cut deeper to the truth than any other in the entire thirteen issue run so far. Gov. Arcadia Alvarado is a heartbeat from the presidential election resulting in her favor. In the background a hailstorm of the powers and plots that seek to thwart her are coming to a head. The little naked couple from the Voyager space probe pull one last ditch effort to keep Prof. Kidd from killing himself by revealing a piece of evidence that will prove they are legit. Michael and the governor’s press secretary meet with the mysterious Blue Birds spokewoman, Astelle, and drop their own bombshell on the seemingly omniscient woman’s world view. The sitting president’s men attempt to turn her chief of staff, Harry, only to be curbed as well by trump cards in Arcadia’s hand. This could mean the end of the series being in sight, or it could signal a game change that will raise the stakes. Either way, writer Paul Cornell is blowing this series out of the park and really delivering a complex, thought provoking title that begs to be read month after month. With the shocker ending in this issue, #14 cannot come soon enough in my opinion.
And so ends this phenomenal week. This crop comprises itself of several must read titles. I hope you all check them out and enjoy them as I have.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman #18: Drawn by Andy Kubert, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Sandra Hope
Batman & Robin #18: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray
Before Watchman: Ozymandias #6: Art by Jae Lee, Colored by June Chung
The Ravagers #10: Drawn by Diogenes Neves, Colored by Tony Avina, Inked by Vicente Cifuentes