Week 80 (March 13, 2013)

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.

    The Wisdom of Youth

    The Wisdom of Youth

  • 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.

    The Grief of a Father

    The Grief of a Father

  • 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.

    Behold His Work, Ye Might, And Despair

    Behold His Work, Ye Might, And Despair

  • 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.

    Young Love

    Young Love

  • 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.

Illustration Credits:

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

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Week 74 (Jan. 30, 2013)

Ending the first motnh of 2013 comics, this week packs a LONG list of incredible titles and interesting storylines.  The Batman & Robin and Green Lantern Corps annuals are overflowing with possibilities pertaining to their individual series.  Two Before Watchmen titles bring us closer to the end of that line and a brand new appreciation for the seminal work by Alan Moore.  And then “Throne of Atlantis”, “H’El on Earth”. and “Death of the Family” each take a step forward with chapters of their crossover taking us one step further into their stories.  So here we go:

  • Aquaman #16 delivers part four of the “Throne of Atlantis” crossover event, following the capture of the League and the the further invasion of Boston by the forces of Atlantis.  With the opening of the Trench several issues ago, which Arthur had sealed in the first arc of this series to contain the unstoppable fishmen horde, Aquaman must once again head back to the ancient lair of these creatures to rescue Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.  While doing this Arthur learns something invaluable that connects both to the Trench beings themselves and the the scepter of the Dead King that Black Manta stole in the “Others” story arc.  This appears to be the precursor to the event’s conclusion as the culprit of the missile attack on Atlantis is revealed and the scepter makes its reappearance in unsafe hands.  Aquaman tends to teeter between being a phenomenal series and being not as good.  This issue leans in the direction of awesome.  There is a new mythology being built and some really interesting events foreshadowed.  Geoff Johns is introducing plot points and concepts that promise to mature into storylines that could be talked about for decades.  Or they could just fizzle like some of the things he’s been doing of late.  We’ll see.

    The Once and Future King

    The Once and Future King

  • Batman Inc #7  is a tour-de-force.  The series in its second and final arc has showed how Talia Al-Ghul has arranged the most perfect and intricate plot (at least that I can remember) to take out Gotham in a slow, protracted way that is seemingly impossible to stop and agonizing for Batman to watch.  Grant Morrison started writing the Batman title a little over seven years ago in 2005 and has slowly built up his own micro-Bat universe that we now see has been nothing less than a train of dominoes that that he is now tipping over.  So much of what he has introduced is now being destroyed.  Prophesies are unraveling, and Damian is coming to realize the truth behind his mother’s plan and appears to be the best candidate to save his father, his father’s city, and all his father’s allies from the insanity of his Hecuba-esque mother.  As Peter Tomasi wrote in Batman & Robin #0, Talia raised him to be a new Alexander, to conquer and pacify the modern world.  She conditioned him to perfection at the age of eight.  It is my assumption that though her plan to destroy Gotham is flawless, it is not immune to her own handiwork, vis-a-vis Damian.  This series gives me chills and is Grant Morrison at his finest. Artist Chris Burnham brings his A-game to the artwork, drafting it beautifully.  I want to know how this all ends SO BAD, but I also don’t because when it does Morrison will be off of the Batman character, which is something that I never want to see.   The ultimate conundrum . . .

    Son of the Bat/Son of the Demon

    Son of the Bat/Son of the Demon

  • Flash #16 was a delight to read.  Last issue Barry Allen was rendered unconscious and had to be rescued from Grodd by his girlfriend, police officer Patty Spivot, and other allies.  In his delirium his mind had gone through every possible outcome of how to beat Grodd and the moment he woke up the issue ended.  This issue opens with him deciding on a plan that we are not made privy to as well as  a touching scene between Barry and Patty talking about what he has to do and the depth of their feelings for one another.  I love Patty Spivot a lot, and I have a feeling that the writer/artists of this issue do too.  In another part of the issue they portray Flash’s wife from the previous incarnation of the series, Iris West, in a less than flattering manner when it comes to her relations and manipulations of Barry.  I hope that Barry and Patty have a decent amount of time together before the possibility of a relationship with Iris is put back on the table.  After parting ways with Patty the confrontation with Grodd commences and it is one that is both poignant and thought provoking in Barry’s approach.  The issue ends before the true meaning of it is made clear, but what is shown is intriguing to say the least.  Writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato write the Flash better than anyone (I’m looking at you, too, Geoff Johns) and they depict him visually amongside the greats.
  • Red Lantern #16 is the final Green Lantern title before the culminating  Green Lantern Corps Annual.  Atrocitus digs deep and finds the humility and strength to resurrect the Manhunters, the soulless robot army of the Guardians that murdered his family and wiped out his sector of space, and use them as his instrument of revenge against their former masters, the Guardians.  On the Red Lantern homeworld of Ysmault, the Red Lantern custodian of the Central Power Battery, Ratchet, digs beneath the planet’s surface to ascertain the cause of the leeching of power from the Corps main battery.  What he finds cuts to the deepest secret of the Red Lantern Corps’ formation, as seen in Red Lantern #0.  On Earth Rankorr faces off against the street punk that murdered his grandfather.  His goal is to kill this man, concluding his initiatory vengeance that caused the ring to choose him.  With the help of Bleez, the Corps’ first lieutenant, he does so, but retains enough human compassion to temper his rage, once again raising the question of the nature of his ties to the red ring on his finger.  I love Bleez and her portrayal in this issue remains complex and fascinating to behold.  So many interesting things occur in this issue, including Atrocitus’s trip to Maltus, the first home of the Guardians, and what he finds there the Guardians hid away out of fear.  I am not certain what it is, but I have a very shrewd idea.  This issue, like those that came before it, is proof that Peter Milligan is one of the best comic writers out there.  In the latter half of this series Miguel Sepulveda has taken over the art and I hate it so much.  This issue had a guest artist, Andres Guinaldo, who to me was a breath of fresh air.  His art was very soft and rounded giving genuine feeling to the narrative and emotion to the very tough decisions that many of the characters had to make.  Red Lantern is a top tier title because of the rich material and the talented creators that mine it and hone it to perfection.

    A Lesson in Vengeance

    A Lesson in Vengeance

  • Green Lantern Corps Annual #1 ushers in the next major event in the saga of the Green Lantern Corps.  Just as the Green Lantern Annual #1 ushered in the current “Rise of the Third Army” event, this annual inaugurates the “Wrath of the First Lantern” event.  With “Rise of the Third Army” the Guardians have descended into pure evil, assassinating their own corps in order to replace them with thoughtless drones, just like the Manhunters before them.  But its not just their police force they are going to convert, but every sentient being in the universe.  A handful of Green Lanterns have found the Guardians out and rush to stop them before they can succeed in slaughtering their fellow corpsmen like lambs to the slaughter.  This annual was INSANE, bringing together all or most of the plot points from four Green Lantern titles to a single converging point.  In four books the Guardians’ evil scheme has been experienced by multiple, isolated parties.  By issue’s end, these parties are united against the Guardians, regardless of how they fair.  The fate of Mogo is also determined in this issue, and though the final verdict on how the planet Green Lantern fits into the Guardians’ heinous scheme, I remain optimistic and have to say, “Welcome back, Mogo.  You’ve been missed, Big Guy!”
  • Batman & Robin Annual #1 is another key chapter in the evolving relationship between Bruce Wayne and his son, Damian.  Bruce is a very rigid person with a methodical nature centered around an equally rigid moral code.  Damian was raised in a more amoral atmosphere, but with the same rigidity and methodicalness.  That similarity yet diametrical difference between father and son has caused a lot of friction and misunderstanding.  But to the younger Wayne’s credit, when give the choice of staying with his father and live a life counter to his upbringing or go back to live with his mother who would give him his heart’s every desire, the ten year old doesn’t even pause.  He chooses the hard path of righteousness that his father has blazed for thirty odd years.  In this annual, Damian displays an emerging duality in his nature.  On one side he has Alfred whisk his dad away on a scavenger hunt across Europe of significant moments in Wayne history that he has discovered while trying to understand his father’s connection to his past.  Going from London, to Barcelona, to Athens, Bruce learns things about his parents that even he didn’t know.  Their loss was what prompted him to go on his crusade of vengeance that has consumed his life since that fateful day in his youth.  But that same crusade is also what blinded him to so much of his parents’ story.  So Damian reconnects him to his beloved parents in perhaps the kindest gift any son could give a father.  However, with Damian there is always a catch.  This time around, the scavenger hunt is a ruse to get Bruce out of Gotham so he can put on a makeshift Batman costume and be the Batman of Gotham for a week.  Interestingly enough, his costume is a smaller version of the trench coat Batman look that writer Grant Morrison has three times shown Damian to wear in the future when Damian becomes Batman.  This annual was really a heartfelt piece that compliments everything that Tomasi has done in the series thus far, accentuating the soul of two very interesting characters.

    A Glimpse Into The Past

    A Glimpse Into The Past

  • Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #5 delivers the penultimate chapter of the saga of Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias, the smartest man alive.  He’s already decided that if the world is going to continue through the nuclear age he has to be the one to save it from human shortsightedness. How he arrives upon the nightmarish scheme we see in the original Watchmen series is depicted in this issue and quite well.  I am curious as to whether his inspiration was mentioned in the original series or if Alan Moore talked about his own inspiration, because Len Wein’s explanation was spot on.  The lead up to Adrian’s undertaking of the project and the years that went into building up the infrastructure for it (14 by my count) are chronicled in minute detail, as is the implementing of the Keene Act that banned masked crime fighters.  Len Wein is one of the best writers in this Before Watchmen line and proves it in the analytic manner he composes the story, as well as the innovative way he spins the anti-heroic character considering the many sins Ozymandias commits on his path of altruism.  Jae Lee has been one of my favorite comic artists since I first saw his work on the Marvel Inhumans series years ago.  He’s been tied up with the Dark Tower series for several years now and its a delight to see him out and stretching his wings on a DC series.  The next issue of this series is going to tie the whole thing up and I am a’quiver with anticipation for the conclusion of a very intense story of one of the most iconically antipathetic characters in comics history.
  • Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill is a one-shot Before Watchmen tale about one of the least known, gaudy characters springing forth from Alan Moore’s original 1980’s series.  In it writer Len Wein humanizes the character of Dollar Bill, telling us his name and the semi-relatable tale of the man who had everything and could achieve next to nothing.  Seemingly the opposite of what a superhero should be, William Brady has the looks, the stamina, and the charm to conquer the world, excelling in sports and graduating from Dartmouth.  However, when the real world and bad luck check his success and reduce him to an unemployable mess, fate steers him inadvertently into the world of costumed adventuring.  Watchmen was a series about “realistic” superheroes and Dollar Bill fits that mold wonderfully in what he is and how Wein portrays him.  Despite him being likened to people that I dislike in my everyday life, the inner monologue and down-to-earth perspective presented made me actually like him more than a little and mourn his passing at books end.  Being that he is a Minuteman, the original vigilante group from the 30’s and 40’s, his dying isn’t that big of a spoiler, especially if one has already read The Watchmen and knows the full sordid tale of his demise.  Steve Rude provides art and lettering on this book in a very nuanced manner that is very appropriate to the title.  I include that he is also the letterer, because the way he letters the captions with the colored, emboldened first letters for each separate box is a feature characteristic of Golden Age comics of the time that this book is meant to take place, circa 1940’s.   This touch, along with his art style makes this one shot seem very authentic and believably vintage.  If one is a Watchmen fan, this is one-shot a must read issue.
  • Superman #16 picks up with H’el reliving his initial time with Superman’s parents, Jor-El and Lara, on Krypton months before its destruction.  These flashback sequences, of which there have been a few throughout the “H’el on Earth” crossover, are intriguing, as they paint H’el as a chivalrous man of the people, while at the same time calling into question the characters of Superman’s father and mother.  H’el’s scheme to restore Krypton at the cost of our entire solar system and it tens of trillions of inhabitants is nightmarish, and yet, though they have yet to come out and said it outright, H’el insinuates that Jor-El and Lara knew of and endorsed this plan.  Can that be, and if so what does it say about Superman’s heritage? On that same topic, through conversation between the two, we are shown that Supergirl is unaware that H’el’s plan will eradicate all life in our solar system and that H’el is consciously lying to her to gain her support in completing the plan.  And complete it they do, because by issue’s end the Star Chamber they have constructed is activated and the Oracle is awakened in another part of space to come and “bear witness to the end of a world.”  Kenneth Rocafort’s art makes this issue visually stunning and Scott Lobdell clearly helms the entire “H’el on Earth” crossover from this title, as every issue of Superman has been the wellspring of vital information concerning H’el’s plot and history.  Next month’s Superman #17 is solicited to bring this whole event to a close.  I, for one, cannot wait . . .
  • Talon #4 picks up in the bowels of the Hudson Financial Building as former Talon, Calvin Rose, concludes his business of defunding the Court of Owls numerous investments through this shell financial institution.  Of course, as we saw in previous issues, the Court has unleashed an asset of theirs so horrific that he was not even given the status of Talon, nor the same considerations as the rest.  With his release, the Court tips their hand as to how desperate they are to stop Calvin and his comrade-in-arms, Sebastian Clark, from further interfering in their affairs.  Also thrown into the mix is Calvin’s former lover, Casey Washington, who leads her own underground army of fugitive members of other world cabals.  Originally Calvin severed their relationship for fear that further interactions between them would lead the Court to her and her daughter.  The end of this issue tests that assumption, as well as the mettle of both Calvin and Casey in the face of the Court’s riskiest gambit.  James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder craft the plot exquisitely and Guillem March, as with everything he does, renders it beautifully up each and every page.  This series is one of the cannot miss titles of the DC lineup.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #16 wasn’t anything special.  Batman stops a string of kidnappings and assumes they are perpetrated by the Penguin.  Upon closer inspection, mind control devices are involved meaning its the Mad Hatter.  The Mad Hatter shows up.  That’s it.  There is next to no plotline to speak of.  Perhaps Gregg Hurwitz is gearing up for something, but apart from some gratuitous violence, leaves nothing to lure readers into buying the next issue.  Gregg Hurwitz I think was brought on to take over the supposedly lackluster writing of series artist David Finch and cowriter Paul Jenkins.  Hurwitz’s writing is far less substantial than the original writing team, as evinced by his  strawman Scarecrow storyline and this empty first issue of the Mad Hatter plot.  The one saving grace of this issue was the guest art by Ethan Van Sciver.
  • Teen Titans #16 brings to a close the “Death of the Family” tie-ins of both Red Hood and the Outlaws as well as Teen Titans, since Joker kidnapped Jason Todd and Timothy Drake together.  Last week’s Red Hood and the Outlaws #16 didn’t deal with the “Death of the Family” plot head on, but rather a roundabout way through the associates of the two former Robins coming together to locate their respective teammates.  This one focuses on Tim and Jason as they face off against the Joker, culminating in that oh so familiar defeat and awakening to the Joker holding a platter that all the other affiliated series have ended on with the promise of resolution in Batman #17.  I have no idea what that portends, but this issue found its heart in two diametrically different sidekicks of the Batman coming together like brothers against a common enemy.  You can tell that there is a lingering dislike and rivalry between the two that belies a deep fraternal affection for one another.  They also gel quite well when the chips are down and lives are at stake.  Scott Lobdell and artist Brett Booth hit a homerun this issue, in my humble opinion.  Also, as a post-script, I thought it fascinating that Lobdell threw in the teaser page, that not only introduced properly (there was a passing mention in Teen Titans #13) Trigon and his intentions to invade our sphere.  Also introduced is his daughter Raven (who was introduced as a girl in Phantom Stranger #1), here seen in her demon’s garb, which I think trumps her original outfit ten times over.  An original member of the New Teen Titans, I hope that her future appearances lead to her joining the team as she had in most of the title’s previous incarnations.
    The Rise of Raven

    The Rise of Raven


  • Justice League Dark #16 flounders a little bit, in my opinion.  In the “magical world” that is anything but, we see that the aboriginal denizens of magic have been forced underground by the humans who have adopted superscience to cull and repress the magical element, eventually dominating the whole of this sphere of existence.  The last hope of the magical beings is their lost king, the Hunter, who escaped to Earth via the Books of Magic and promised to return.  Timothy Hunter is his descendant and his coming could herald the return of magic.  The story is interesting for sure, but the delivery was a little bland and lacking the panache and charm that this title began with in spades.  Jeff Lemire is a good writer, but the direction he’s taking the characters in could be better.
  • Masters of the Universe: The Origin of He-Man was less exciting and reveiling than its predecessor, The Origin of Skeletor.  With the Skeletor introduction, not only did writer Joshua Fialkov do something completely different by making Skeletor, then Keldor, the older brother of King Randor, He-Man’s father, but also wrote a very compelling story for his transition from loyal and loving older brother to insane, skull faced dictator. The narrative was compelling, innovative and took the reader by surprise.  This origin story of He-Man says NOTHING!  He-Man isn’t portrayed in any other way than he has been in the past, and apart  from Skeletor being his uncle, nothing is different.  This special not only doesn’t need to be read, but shouldn’t have been written as it gives nothing new, interesting or insightful to the proceedings.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #6 concludes the miniseries with the combined forces of the Masters of the Universe awakening from Skeletor’s amnesia spell and the final battle with Skeletor commencing.  As He-Man stories go it wasn’t terrible.  The series started off and continued to do some innovative things so I will admit I was expecting more from the conclusion, however, it did live up to expectations.  One thing that surprised me and I guess I will give credit to being edgy and innovative was that King Randor, Teela, and everyone else knew that He-Man is also Prince Adam.  Also it is revealed through passing that the amnesia spell was cast by Orko who betrayed the Masters.  THAT would be something I wish that they would have shown considering that Orko is one of the most benign characters in the He-Man mythos.  His betrayal would have been a juicy plot point that other He-Man faithful, like myself, would have really enjoyed seeing.  Either way, this new version was pretty good and it appears there will be an ongoing He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series beginning in April, featuring a return of both writer Keith Giffen and artist Pop Mhan.
  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #12 begins with Superman Beyond, written by JT Krul and drawn by Howard Porter.  Superman enlists the aid of Martian Manhunter to discern the cause of the Trillians trying to kill him.  The rationale behind their vendetta is revealed and is far different and much more benign than I had thought.  If what Superman recalls is accurate, their anger is unwarranted and only serves to depict them as a cruel race.  However, in fairness to the Trillians, their side of the story hasn’t been told yet and circumstances might be slightly different from what Superman remembers, considering it took Martian Manhunter to recover those forgotten memories.  Next on the docket is a Justice League Beyond: Origin of Micron feature.  The son of a Gotham City paramedic, Micron was exposed in utero to radiation that caused him from birth to be able to shrink and expand to different sizes.  Cursed through childhood with being different and having to move often because of it, as an adult he makes his way to Metropolis to join the Justice League Beyond.  A pretty cut and dry origin with little ambiguity or twists to it, the story still resonnated through the very personal voice with which it is told.  Finally, Adam Beechen privides the next chapter in his Batman Beyond “10,000 Clowns” storyline.  It is actually more of a small taste, not accomplishing much narratively, except giving Batman (Terry McGinnis’) inner monologue on the state of affairs that find him against the ropes at the hands of the Joker King, the thoughts that lead to his rallying, and reintroducing Max back into the storyline after her abduction several issues ago, as well as revealing the identity of her captor.  Overall, this issue was entertaining, but didn’t accomplish any great revelation in any of the three segments.  However, the coming issues promise to do so based on what this issue did present.
  • Arrow #3 begins with a tale of Ollie trying to juggle his friendship with Tommy Merlyn with his nights as Starling City’s hooded vigilante.  Its an interesting story, but not very innovative or complex.  The next cashes in on the “found footage” genre of storytelling made popular recently with the movies Cloverfield, Chronicle, Apollo 19, and others.  Three kids get a video camera and a van and attempt to get footage of the Hood in action.  Finally, the third tale fills in the past of Helena Bertinelli, aka the Huntress, and the events that drove her to the jaws of vengeance seen in the series this past November.  Though intriguing, I wouldn’t say these inhanced the enjoyment or immersion into the world of the television show as effectively as the previous two have achieved in months past.
  • All-Star Western #16 picks up with what seems to be a premise spawned from a dare.  How do you make a dude in a wheel chair a total badass?  Well, with a character like Jonah Hex, half the work is done for you. After facing off with Edward Hyde who had kidnapped and forcefed his serum to Hex’s associate Dr. Jeremiah Arkham, Jonah faced off against the genocidal lunatic and was soundly thrashed.  With Arkham institutionalized until the serum ran its course through his system, Hex was left wheelchair bound to convolesce in the good doctors mansion.  Like any predator, Hyde isn’t one to let his prey escape permanently and comes for a reckoning with Hex who even one month later is still chair ridden. Also of interest is Hex’s time time in the Arkham home. In the past, we have heard the shrill cries of Arkham’s aged mother from the upper levels of the house, but never seen her.  This issue finally gives us an up close view of the woman and her demented frame of mind, namely her taste for the literary.  This issue was quite an interesting way to draw the saga of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’s time in Gotham to a close, as well as perhaps a keystone moment in the history of the Black Diamond and its whereabouts in the present of the DCU.  The backup feature Tomahawk also reaches its concluding chapter as the eponymous native warrior leads a unified assault of the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Shawnee, and Ojibwe tribes against the remaining British forces that shelter the American commander, General Lancaster, who butchered the families of Tomahawk and his fellows.  They win the day and kill the American and British soldiers present, but the final words of Lancaster ring true through the inevitablity of history.  The time of the Native Americans on their land is drawing to a close.  The rising tide of European settlers will replace them, and we the reader know this to be historically the outcome.  The true heart of the feature is the strength of the warriors’ spirit to stand against the encroaching tides.

    Old Lady Arkham

    Old Lady Arkham

  • The Unwritten #45 shifts focus from Tom Taylor’s trevails in the previous arc to Richie Savoy and Didge Patterson in real world Australia.  Savoy has set out to establish his own story and breakaway from being a supporting character in Tom’s story.  It would appear that he has been successful in that endeavor to a degree, but is beset with the troubles that come from being the main character of a story, especially in the face of the calamity of the fictional world caused by the “Wound” sustained in the War of the Words.  However, his existentialist woes are cut short when Didge asks him to advise on a very strange murder case she is investigating involving what appear to be zombie attacks.  As with many strange occurrences in this title’s four year run, the zombies are conjured into existence through the written word.  The who is established by issue’s end by the why and logistics are yet to be seen.  Mike Carey and Peter Gross continue to amaze in this issue with some really dynamic storytelling and very compelling characters, developed slowly and carefully over years of subtly crafted storylines.
  • Joe Kubert Presents #4 rounds out the week with yet another sojourn by Kubert into the tale of “The Redeemer”, another tale of “Angel and the Ape” by Brian Buniak, and further anecdotes of Sam Glanzman about his time on the “USS Stevens.”  In “The Redeemer” Kubert goes from the year 2557 A.D. to the end of the Civil War and the Redeemer, Jim Torkan, trying to piece his life back together after his life in the South is destoryed following the surrender of Lee’s forces.  The post-war South and the frontier in the western territories were laden with great injustices and moral quagmires that could corrupt even the purest heart.  The Redeemer, true to his name, is a man whose virtue in the face of such situations dictates the redemption or fall of mankind.  But he is a man with human weaknesses, so the question remains as to whether he can remain pure of heart in a morally corrupt world.  “Angel and the Ape”  concluded their current case and comedically grants Angel greater knowledge of her partner, Sam, a crusading gorilla.  In the “USS Stevens” Sam Glanzman tells of an eccentric “asiatic” crew member on the boat called Buck, who was a practioner of Eastern philosophies like Zen Buddhism and an aficionado of quantum physics and relativity theorems   Crafting a makeshift weapon that crew members sometimes fashioned from scrap metal aboard shop called “sheath knives”, Buck attacked the captain of the boat and earned himself a transfer off ship.  The night before, supposedly someone on another boat swore they saw Buck floating in front of the Stevens where a figurehead would normally appear.  The story clearly was told for the sole purpose of rationalizing the feasibility of whether this sighting was real or fabricated, considering his former peculiarities, as well as the man on the other ship’s ignorance of Buck’s eccentricities.  The issue concludes like its predecessors with a very novel, retro feel of a bygone era of comic writing.
    Lives Lives And Lives To Come

    Lives Lives And Lives To Come

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

Ending a long, but memorable week of comics, the books that came out just reaffirm how incredible this medium is.  Next week February promises a continuance on some incredible stories told this first month of 2013.  Can’t wait to read them and share my impressions with all of you.

 

Illustration Credits:

Aquaman #16: Drawn by Paul Pelletier, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Sean Parsons

Batman Inc #7: Art by Chris Burnham, colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Red Lanterns #16: Drawn by Andres Guinaldo, Colored by Rain Beredo, Inked by BIT

Batman & Robin Annual #1: Drawn by Adrian Syaf, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Vincente Cifunetes

Teen Titans #16: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund

All-Star Western #16: Art by Moritat, Colored by Mike Atiyeh

Joe Kubert Presents #4: Art by Joe Kubert

Week 65 (Nov. 28, 2012)

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

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

    The Devil's Advent

    The Devil’s Advent

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

    A Monstrously Noble Plan Is Formed

    A Monstrously Noble Plan Is Formed

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

    SOLOVAR!

    SOLOVAR!

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

    Enter EDEN

    Enter EDEN

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

    The Infernal One

    The Infernal One

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

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

Joe Kubert Presents #2: Art by Joe Kubert

Week 56 (Sept. 26, 2012)

This week marks the end of Zero Month and the end of DC’s New 52 Origins.  I have to say that I am sad.  I thought I would be angry by the interruptions in the plotlines we’ve been reading in the regular series, but its actually been a very enjoyable month of oneshot stories.  Here they are:

  • Batman Inc #0 bridges the gap between the “Island of Jonathan Mayhew” storyline with the Club of Batmen and the decision by the then recently resurrected Bruce Wayne to form Batman Incorporated.  The Batmen of the World worked well together to combat the forces of the Black Glove that tried to kill them all, and that same dynamism is what fueled Bruce’s plan to unite them in a common goal of rooting out a global enemy.  Knight and Squire stand for Britain, El Gaucho for Argentina (and probably other parts of South America if needs be), Man-of-Bats and his son Red Raven for the American West, but others are still needed.  The slain  Dark Ranger is replaced by his aborigine sidekick, the former Scout, to stand for Australia.  The Musketeer retires as the “Batman of France”, deferring to the Franco-Algerian teenager who defends Paris under the moniker “Nightrunner”,  owing to his penchant for parkour.  The Batman of Moscow, clearly represents the Russian people as their pointy eared protector.  In Japan, Mister Unknown accepts the mantle of the Batman of Japan.  We’ve seen these characters in brief scenes or in drawn out storylines, but this issue written by Grant Morrison and co-written by series artist Chris Burnham, ties it all together in a way that takes disparate storypoints and unites them in a way that makes them relevant to the main point of this title.  Frazer Irving steps in for art duties, delivering a dark, shadowy depiction of Morrison’s script.
  • Red Lanterns #0 fills in the origin of the founding Red Lantern, Atrocitus.  We already know the generalities of his life and the events that inspired his unquenchable rage, as well as his vendetta against the Guardians of the Universe.  This issue takes those hallmark events and gives flesh to the moments in between, allowing us to go on a journey with Atros of the planet Ryutt from loving father and husband, to passionate rebel/”terrorist”, finally to Atrocitus, paragon of vengeance and hatred.  Creator Geoff Johns tied him to the “Five Inversions”, who themselves were created by Alan Moore in the 1986 Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 story “Tygers.”  Though only Qull and Roixeaume were mentioned originally by Moore, Peter Milligan takes Johns’ creation, Atrocitus, and links him to the other two, while simultaneously taking all the mythology related to the Inversions and combining it.  Twenty-six years later, and Milligan takes the bull by the horns and writes a creation myth for the Inversions.  After this apocalyptic issue, the history of the Red Lanterns, Space Sector 666, and the Five Inversions is at its fullest.
  • Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #3 brings out three of the most intriguing aspects of the journey of Ozymandias as conqueror or uniter of the world, however you want to term him.  Firstly, is his initial meeting with the Comedian.  Not to spoil the surprise for those who have yet to read the original Watchmen graphic novel, but Adrian Veidt and Eddie Blake share a very intense and meaningful exchange that defines that graphic novel and everything that it accomplishes.  Secondly, it also features his reaction to the advent of Dr. Manhattan and his initial meeting with the human supreme.  Adrian Veidt represents the pinnacle of human perfection.  He is the height of what a human being can aspire to become.  Dr. Manhattan transcends not only humanity, but also modern science.  His reaction to this initial meeting also defines the course of the graphic novel and says something about human nature.  The third point is the creation of his Antarctic hideaway, a re-creation of the ancient Egyptian palace of Ramses II.  Len Wein is the writer best suited to write the character (since Alan Moore is never going to revisit the title) and Jae Lee lends a gothic intensity to the title as well.  With the six issue run only half done, I am ravenous to see where Wein and Lee are going to take us in the other three.
  • Aquaman #0 explores the reimagined backstory of the character.  The main bullet points are all the same.  Atlana, princess of Atlantis saves lighthouse keeper, Thomas Curry, from drowning in a violent squall and falls in love with him.  Nine months later, after she disappears from his life, a blond haired baby is left on his doorstep.  That is all canon.  Geoff Johns revamps other aspects of the character’s origin to reinvigorate the franchise.  Growing up a “freak” Arthur longs for normalcy.  When that no longer is an option, owing to Dr. Stephen Shin’s outing of his Atlantean heritage, Arthur tries to escape.  In his exodus he is made aware of someone else exiled from Atlantis, a man named Vulko.  Here Johns reintroduces a classic character to the title.  Vulko not only tells Arthur who he is and where he comes from, but also what has befell Atlantis since his birth and how he can regain his birthright.  This issue is perhaps the greatest leap by Geoff Johns toward the series that was and stories that resonated with readers.  It also reintroduces a major Aquaman villain, Ocean Master.  Looking forward to the next stage in the title’s progression.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #0 was a bit of a let down.  Sure it was written exquisitely well, with plenty of allusions to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe, and Kennedy conspiracy theories, but there was no soul beneath the eloquence.  I suppose it’s important for someone of Batman’s caliber to come to terms with the notion of chaos and the meaninglessness and randomness of street crime, but it also doesn’t make for the most entertaining read.  I have defended this title under the reins of series artist and sometimes writer David Finch, Paul Jenkins, and most recently Gregg Hurwitz, but this issue is not one that I would go out of my way to recommend.  It has something valid to say, but isn’t one that would bankrupt your grasp on the current Batverse if you missed it.  Not a bad issue, just not the best.

    Some Things Are Arbitrary

  • The Flash #0 was just a straight, heart-of-the-matter piece.  There were a few instances of superheroics, but all in all, it was mostly a touching look at the traumatic youth of forensic scientist, Barry Allen, crusading for years to prove his father’s innocence in the murder of his mother, Nora Allen.   Though this traumatic episode is a new development in the character’s bio, engineered as recently as a few years ago by Geoff Johns, it really resonates with the character and writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato run with it in this issue in a way that Johns never did or never got around to.  His only attempt at it was the paltry attempt that resulted in Flashpoint.  Interesting series at times, but overall a ridiculously overdone waste of time.  This story shows the heartbreak of this event alongside the confusion, and ultimately the triumph of the human spirit amid adversity.  The death of Nora Allen robbed Barry of a father in Henry Allen, but gave him another in the form of Capt. Darryl Frye.  It explored what love can inspire people to do.  It brimmed with the promises of hope and determination.  I guess to put it mildly, this issue is the feel good issue of Zero Month.  Despite the traumas that life throws his way, Barry Allen (The Fastest Man in the World) is going to keep moving forward with strength, determination, and hope for the good things that are just over the horizon.

    Family Doesn’t Give Up On Eachother

  • Superman #0 blew me away on several levels.  Firstly, the plot was nothing short of stunning and defined the Superman universe down to its most quintessential roots: Old Krypton.  The Superman legend begins on a doomed planet with desperate scientists entrusting their last hope, their infant son, Kal-El of the great House of El, to the fates by putting him in an experimental rocket and sending him to a planet whose yellow sun will give him the fighting chance to not only survive, but also prosper.  New series writer (which is the second level of awesomeness) Scott Lobdell keeps the integrity of this iconic origin intact, while adding elements that tie it into a large initiative in the New DCU’s unfolding story.  As was intimated in last week’s Supergirl #0, a doomsday cult has taken root on Krypton with ties to a larger threat from beyond the stars.  That threat concludes itself with a strange creature emerging from nowhere on Krypton and blowing on a great horn, just as we saw happen in Superman #1 a little over a year ago.  Can the same doom befall Earth as it did Krypton?  Jor-El remains the cool analytical genius he has always been, but his wife Lara, gains new dimensions.  I can’t think of a representation where she ever had any substantial depth, but this issue represents her as not only a stunningly beautiful and elegant woman, but also a brilliant physician and something of a badass.  Once again, Scott Lobdell maintains what is good and innovates what is lacking.  Joining Lobdell on his Superman run is his artist from the first eleven issues of Red Hood and the Outlaws, Kenneth Rocafort.  I love Rocafort’s art so much and I think that he and Lobdell have a decent rapport going, so their continued collaboration here makes me confident that Superman will become the title it was meant to be.

    Super Parents

  • Firestorm #0 follows in the footsteps of Green Lantern: New Guardians #0 in that it doesn’t give a traditional origin, but rather provides a transitional story that facilitates a new era in the title as well as a jumping on point for new readers.  It also stands as a changing of the guard, written by series cowriter Joe Harris in anticipation of Dan Jurgens dual artist/authorship starting in issue #13.  After issue #12 the Firestorm matrices manufactured by Zithertech were all shutdown, effectively murdering the international Firestorms.  All that remains are the depowered duo of Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch.  Trying to settle back into normalcy, their dreams of peace and quiet are cut short when the remnants of their matrices “fire up” once again.  However, the premise of the book reverts to the “One Firestorm/Two Operators” paradigm of the original title.  Ronnie is the Firestorm with Jason riding shotgun in his head calling the shots.  I know some people are going to be excited by this reversion, but I was kind of into the idea of the multiple Firestorm idea.  It was fresh and done thoughtfully, keeping the reader on their toes.  Oh, well . . .
  • Justice League Dark #0 deals with the quintessential badboy of the title, John Constantine.  He’s such an asshole with a ridiculously overblown opinion of himself, how could he not be the subject of the origin issue? In this version, Jeff Lemire has him coming to New York as a punk novice in the arcane arts, looking to learn from the best.  In this case, it is the sorceror Nick Necro, who himself bears an uncanny resemblance to Constantine, only with darker hair.  In fact, he basically is what Constantine becomes.  He’s cocksure, alternative, and dating Zatanna.  Constantine learns from him and ultimately betrays him.  This explains a great deal about why he is the way he is, as well as the baggage that exists between him and Zatanna up until this point.  Also, the mysterious figure revealed in the twelfth issue of the series is no doubt a resurrection of Nick Necro.  This issue was intriguing as I hate Constantine so much, and yet Lemire had me feeling sorry for him and relating to his struggles for at least half the narrative.  The other half I just went on hating him.  Interesting  . . .

    The First Meeting Of John Constantine, Zatanna, and Nick Necro.

  • Teen Titans #0 completes the Bat-book origins, and I was not as excited about this one as I was hoping I would be.  Tim Drake is one of my favorite Robins.  Scott Lobdell set up an interesting and somewhat engaging backstory for him.  The major scandal that had people up in arms was his having the character go right into being Red Robin and not starting out as just “Robin.”  While I wasn’t excited by this development, it didn’t ruin the issue for me.  What did ruin it a bit for me was Tim not deducing Batman’s identity.  That was what set him apart from the other robins.  Whereas Bruce chose Dick and Jason based on their tragic circumstances, Tim found his way into the role by finding out Bruce Wayne’s secret through his own genius and detective work while in middle school.  Its what defined him as THE Robin, as someone who could replace Batman eventually.  If that doesn’t fit the mold of how the Bat-group wants to hashout the origins, fine, but don’t have Dick figure it out and not Tim!!!  Other than that, it was a good issue, but I am not a fan of Lobdell’s analysis of Tim’s origin.  Just not happy.
  • Talon #0 rounds out the “Third Wave” titles dropping this month, introducing Calvin Rose, a relatively recent Talon, who broke the mold and went AWOL from his service to the Court of Owls.  This is a title I have been anticipating ever since it was announced and writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV do not disappoint.  In all the categories necessary, this series resonates. Calvin has a traumatic childhood. Check.  Building off his past tragedies, Calvin forges a future for himself.  Check.  His consumate mastery gains him the attention of the Court of Owls. Check.  Conflicted assassin. Check.  I think his role as a master escape artist is what drew me to the character, in much the same way that I have always been drawn to Mister Miracle of New Genesis.  Since the New Gods haven’t been introduced in the New DCU I suppose the vacancy needs to be filled.  The narrative also is what draws you in, centering on a conflicted soul trying to find his purpose in life.  I could feel Scott Snyder’s influence in the story, but I could also detect what I believe to be James Tynion IV’s.  He’s done some backup work in the Bat-titles, so I have a general idea what his storytelling style is like.  Guillem March provides art, which is luscious and radiant, as ever.  Three incredible creators on a character that oozes with possibilities.  Add this one to your pull lists.  This has the potential to be history in the making.

    Calvin Rose Reclaims His Destiny . . . and other stuff, too.

  • National Comics: Rose & Thorn introduces the split-personality character into the New DCU.  In this issue she is portrayed as a teenager who recently was released from an asylum, of which she put in following her father’s murder.  Another side-note: In her previous incarnation, Pre-Reboot, she was the mother of the non-homosexual Alan Scott’s, aka Golden Age Green Lantern, children.  Don’t see them getting together assuming he’s in his mid 30’s, gay, and she is 16 and in high school.  This issue was a one-shot, but totally felt like the setup for a series.  Rose Canton is a goody-goody, who has blackouts that end with her covered in blood, tattooed, and with very naughty posts on “Facelook” social media network.  In her blacked out period she seduced the most popular boy in school,Troy Varker, and also her nerdy best friend, Melanie.  Though her other personality, Thorn, has a very darkside, she is working towards the goal of finding and punishing the people involved in their father’s death.  I do hope that this issue develops into something in the future.
  • Phantom Lady & Dollman #2 brings the four issue miniseries to the point of Dollman, aka Darrell Dane’s, introduction as the pint sized marvel.  After his rescue of Jennifer Knight from the Metropolis crime family scion, Cyrus Bender, the two retreat to the country and test out Dane’s experimental prototypes, including the Phantom suit that makes Jennifer insubstantial and the blacklight projector.  With this accomplished writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray bring the story to the present and presents the Phantom Lady with a superpowered antagonist that looks a little bit like Silver Banshee.
  • All-Star Western #0 eschews the secondary feature regularly at the end of the book and dedicates the entire extended page count to the origin of the Old Westerner badass, Jonah Hex.  The short version is that Hex had some really shitty parental figures in his life: an abusive father, an absentee mother, and a jerk of an adoptive father. With the Union Army, the Apaches, and his own father gunning for him, his past has been hectic to say the least.  The story behind his scarred face finds its origin with two of the above parties.  His story starts at his birth and continues to the present, picking up where issue #12 ended with Jonah, Dr. Arkham, and Tallulah Black meeting Reginald Forsythe to talk about a man who has stolen Dr. Jekyll’s formula, which ostensibly sets up the next arc in this series. The part of this issue that confuses me comes at the end with an unknown narrator talking about finding their mother.  I assume from the look of the prospective mother shown in the last panel that she can’t be Hex’s, who himself seems much older than she.
  • American Vampire #31 was an excellent issue that dealt in a couple of ways with the inconceivable conclusion to last month’s issue.   Pearl returns to her husband’s bedside as he awakens from his coma.  Through this tender moment, Scott Snyder clues in his readers to the past shared by Henry Preston and his vampiric wife, Pearl Jones.  The love shared between them truly warms the heart, which makes the ending of the last issue so UNFATHOMABLE!  Likewise, Pearl experiences a chill out with Skinner Sweet, her creator, after the events of their last mission together.  As the issue concludes it draws the plot closer to the arc’s ultimate conclusion.  The coven operating in Los Angeles does so from a hidden base lorded over by an enigmatic sire.  Not only does Pearl figure out the location of the base, she also learns the identity of the vampiric overlord.  Without spoiling the plot further, I’ll just reaffirm that I LOVE THIS SERIES!
  • The New Deadwardians #7 ushers in the penultimate chapter of the eight issue miniseries.  When Chief Inspector George Suttle comes face to face with the informant, Salt, and interrogates him, he is presented with and unbelievable conspiracy, featuring the most unlikely of conspirators. Armed with this apocalyptic knowledge, the Chief Inspector stands on the verge of solving not only the murder of the vampiric nobleman, Lord Highcliffe, but also the mystery behind the advent of the zombie hordes in Britain, colloquially known as the Restless.  Admittedly, I hate zombies and I hate vampiric fictions (with the exception of American Vampire above), but this series does both in just the right way to redeem their respective genres.  The resulting product comes off like an amalgam of “Walking Dead” and “Downton Abbey.”
  • Happy #1 is the first of four issues in a gritty crime story written by Grant Morrison, that bears his characteristic “Morrison twist.”  Former cop, Nicholas Sax, is on a crusade to take down the Fratelli crime family.  In the process he is shot and sent to a hospital. His former partner is in the pocket of the Fratelli’s as is the hospital Sax is taken to, meaning that he is in for a whole world of hurt.  Pretty straightforward, right?  Where’s the Morrison Twist?  The only thing keeping Nick ahead of the game and that aforementioned world of hurt is his daughter’s imaginary friend, a blue cartoony winged unicorn named Happy the Horse.  Somehow Nick can see him and their in it to win it.  Really weird, but as with most Morrison work, really intriguing.

    Pay Attention To The Talking Horse!

Thus ends September and the origin issues. Next comes October, “Death of the Family” in the Batman books, “Rot World” in Animal Man and Swamp Thing, “H’el on Earth” in the Superman books, “Rise of the Third Army” in the Green Lantern books, and a whole slew of other goodness. Can’t wait.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman: The Dark Knight #0: Pencils by Mico Suayan & Juan Jose Ryp, Inked by Vincente Cifuentes, Colored by Sonia Oback

The Flash #0: Art by Francis Manapul, Colored by Brian Buccellato

Superman #0: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Sunny Gho

Justice League Dark  #0: Drawn by Lee Garbett, Colored by Pete Pantazis, Inked by Cam Smith

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

Happy #1: Art by Darick Robertson, Colored by Richard P. Clark

Week 49 (Aug. 8, 2012)

  • Batman #12 takes a step back from the fast pace of the past eleven issues and focuses on a minor character introduced in issue #3.  Most prominently we saw her after Batman woke up in the sewers following his escape from the Owls’ Labyrinth.  One tough cookie, her name is Harper Row, and after Batman saves her and her brother’s life, she takes an interest in the Dark Knight that looks to be leading toward a larger destiny.  Writers, Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, are vague on that point, but have a wonderful track record regarding their treatment of the Batman character, so whatever it is I am sure it will be awesome.
  • Batman & Robin #12 caps off the “Terminus” arc grandly, albeit slightly anticlimatically.  Its a good issue, but pretty straightforward: Terminus attacks Gotham and the Bat family responds.  Though there wasn’t a lot to it, taken with the previous issues in the arc, it completed a very interesting story and a very intriguing plot.  The only thing that bothered me was how easily it folded up in the end, after all the buildup to how infallible Terminus’ master plan was supposes to be.  Also the final battle of Damian in his challenge to the Robins falls flat as Dick just throws in the towel preemptively.  Bad form, Grayson.

    Four Generations of Robins

  • Batgirl #12 brought together a great many story threads.  Batgirl and Batwoman meet for the first time in a Battle of the Bats.  James Gordon Jr shows up again after a couple of months hiatus.  We finally get some closure as to the identity and motivations behind Knightfall.  But most importantly things truly come to a head in a final page that is  truly appalling, considering that with the #0 issues next month, we have to wait till October to know how it all comes out.
  • Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #2 was as good if not better than the first issue.  Adrian Veidt sets out on his journey as a mystery man and with his inaugural mission to stamp out the drug ring that caused the death of his girlfriend.  In so doing, we see how his physical and mental acumen combine in a symphony of action.  It isn’t just the beauty and precision of his movements that makes the issue so engrossing, but also the thought process behind it, which writer Len Wein delivers with equal precision.  Jae Lee’s art is also stunningly suited to Wein’s scripting and the tone of the piece.  To cap this issue off and lead us onto the next issue, Adrian decides to resurrect the investigation into the disappearance of the former Minuteman, Hooded Justice.  In doing so he runs afoul of another seminal character of the Watchmen series.

    Though this has nothing to with the plot, pretty awesome virgin cover art

  • Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E #12 concludes the “Son of Satan’s Ring” arc, which marked writer Matt Kindt’s inaugural storyline on the character.  Frank gets to the bottom of the plot against S.H.A.D.E by the mole in Leviathan.  After this, Kindt throws a curve ball into the plot that not only cuts to the heart of who Frankenstein is, but also ties the title into the Rotworld event going on in both Animal Man and Swamp Thing.  Frankenstein’s previous encounter with the rotlings posed some very fundamental questions as to the nature of his being.  This new plotline beginning in October can do no less.
  • Night Force #6 marks the penultimate chapter of the miniseries and brings to light most of the the pressing questions posed throughout the previous five issues.  The identity of  Senator Greene’s omni-pregnant wife, the history of the madwoman Kassandra, the link to the American Revolution, the history of the multigenerational, eugenic demon castes.  All of these are revealed in stunning detail.  Writer Marv Wolfman has taken his previous runs of this title and team and conceived of a new and fresh crisis for them to surmount that is both unique and incredibly dire.  Most intriguingly when you consider the cyclical manner in which the heroes (or at least one of them) causes the whole affair to begin in the past as a result of trying to stop if from happening in the first place.  As ever Tom Mandrake’s art creates a phantasmagoric atmosphere that epitomizes the tone that the story elicits.
  • Superboy #12 has our as of yet unnamed hero attempting to make a life for himself away from the Titans and free of N.O.W.H.E.R.E., the shadowy organization that created him from Superman’s DNA.  In doing so he’s inadvertently fallen into the social circle of his Paris Hilton-ish land lady and her Jersey Shore-esque crew.  But behind all the partying and posturing, there is something dark going on in Dallas’ (the aforementioned heiress) life.  This comes to a head when she is accosted by thugs working for a mysterious woman named Kiva with the ability to distort reality.  True to form, Superboy leaps in to help his pseudo-friend and finds he is in over his head.  As he struggles to stop Kiva and her henchmen from hurting Dallas, Kiva discovers a secret about Superboy that is so disturbing it renders her into a catatonic state.  Of course we never find out what it is, but the mere sight of a strong figure like her falling before it makes for a killer cliffhanger.

What Horrors Lie In Superboy’s Past?

  • Ravagers #4 picks up with the Ravagers in captivity after being attacked by Brother Blood and his minions.  Sensing Blood and the plight of his former comrades Beast Boy drags Terra on a rescue mission to save them.  In the process Blood’s aim comes to light and with it the rationale behind the change in Beast Boy’ color from its original green pre-Reboot to the post-Reboot red.  What Blood seeks is to enter a place that he calls “The Red.”  And considering his powerset, Beast Boy’s change to red and being connected to the Red make so much sense.  It explains their past association, though that isn’t actually solidified.  All we are told is that Blood and Beast Boy shared a dream in which they were both in the Red.  That is why Blood seeks to open a portal to the Red.  Destiny beckons him there.  The Ravagers are freed and an epic battle ensues, causing one of the team to fall in the prevention of Brother Blood’s mad scheme.  In the process Caitlin Fairchild sees the full extent of what terrible savagery her Ravagers are capable of when their backs are against a wall and she is terrified by it. The team then goes to meet her contact, Niles Caulder, making me curious if the Doom Patrol will be resurrected in this New DCU and whether or not Beast Boy, who has no memories before N.O.W.H.E.R.E, will have been involved with them.  Next month’s zero issue is solicited as being an origin of Beast Boy and Terra, so I am dying to see what they do.
  • Grifter #12 was really good. Writer Rob Liefeld is bring it back from the brink.  His past two issues have been very lackluster and left me considering dropping the title.  There was no story at all and nothing but disjointed action sequences that had no bearing or gravitas to make me want to read more.  This one was good and returned to the heart of the character and what Cole Cash, aka Grifter, is at heart  . . . a grifter.  The grift he pulls in this issue is nothing short of epic.  I will continue to read it to see if Liefeld is one the way back up or merely struggling up for a gasp of air before sinking back down into subpar plotlines.
  • Deathstroke #12 was not the best.  It wasn’t horrible.  I can’t say much about it.  I liked seeing Zealot throughout Rob Liefeld’s tour thus far as writer and artist.  That was cool.  I am intrigued by his introduction of a female Czarnian after Deathstroke’s defeat of Lobo.  That was also something that worked in his favor.  His Deathstroke, however, felt a bit . . . off.  We’ll see where he goes from here.  This one is on the precipice of being dropped by me.

    That Was Unexpected

  • Warriors of Mars #4 has Gullivar Jones and John Carter descending into the the subterranean realm of the Thither People to rescue princess Dejah Thoris from their king.  In doing so, reunions of all sorts take place, between parted lovers, mothers and daughters, the dead and the living, etc.  It came off very touching when the rifts that divide are juxtaposed against the precious moments that defy them.  The issue seemingly comes to an end of the story, but then doesn’t.  Where a logical ending should exist, Gullivar finds himself still upon Barsoom, but a Barsoom that has oceans.  To those familiar with Edgar Rice Burroughs books, the film John Carter, or simply the comics based upon Burroughs’ stories, this fact will be monumentally shocking.
  • American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #3 marks another incredible turn in the series of series writer Scott Snyder has penned under the banner “American Vampire.”  This one, following the seminal vampire of all time, Dracula, reimagines and morphs the King of Vampires into the context of Snyder’s overarching mythology.  The most powerful of a seemingly weak race, the Carpathians, he has abilities no other vampire has ever wielded and in his past redrew the map of both the human and supernatural worlds.  He caused unfathomable havoc to humans, but as this issue reveals, he also decimated entire populations of other vampiric species, giving rise to a brotherhood of vampires, not unlike the human brotherhood, the Vassals of the Morningstar, whose members I might add, include Hobbs and Felicia Book, our protagonists.  This vampire order is comprised of lone individuals who represent the last of their species, wiped out by Dracula in centuries past.  They, like the Vassals, have a vested interest in making certain the King never arises from his deep slumber, as he cannot be killed permanently by stakes or any other means it would seem, only contained.  Out of five issues, this third issue represents the hump that completes the journey up toward understanding the dilemma and the playing field.  The last two are all down hill into the maelstrom and promise to be like nothing we’ve seen thus far in incredible world of vampires Snyder has not only redeemed from the likes of Myers, Harrison, and the CW, but also redefined.

    The Lasts

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

    Illustration Credits:

    Batman & Robin #12: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray

    Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #2: Art by Jae Lee, Colored by June Chung

    Superboy #12: Drawn by Robson Rocha & Eduardo Pansica, Colored by Tanya & Richard Horie, Inked by Greg Adams, Mariah Benes & Andy Owens.

    Deathstroke #12: Drawn by Rob Liefeld, Colored by Andy Troy, Inked by Adelso Corona

    American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #3:  Art byDustin Nguyen, Colored by John Kalisz

Week 44 (July 4, 2012)

This week new comics fall on the birth of our nation and, despite being a holiday, new books are ON THE SHELF!!! God Bless America!!! This is truly one of the things that makes our country great. Maybe not, but its still pretty sweet for those of us who are of the nerdier persuasion. So here’s to those awesome first week titles released on the 4th of July.

  • Action Comics #11 was pretty good.  I think like the first arc, its setting up something epic, but at this point its kind of vague.  I’m still not that sure about the death of Clark Kent, but again, Morrison may have things in store for us if we follow him down the path, which I intend to do.  He introduces us to a Johnny Clark, a fire fighter person Superman has no adopted, as well as Lois Lane’s niece, Susie, who figures very prominently into not only the future of this series, but also mankind.  And if that weren’t enough, Morrison also foreshadows something incredible on the horizon following in the wake of his introduction of Brainiac to the New DCU.  Brainiac is by far one of the most apocalyptic of Superman’s foes, and yet Morrison intimates in this issue that Brainiac is merely the scavenger that precedes another, greater, unspeakable threat.  Interesting stuff. By itself this was not the best issue, but once the arc complete I am confident it will be incredible.
  • Detective Comics #11 was an interesting issue in a very peculiar story arc.  I am used to Tony Daniel writing gritty stories of Batman navigating vistas and plots mined from his rich canon.  So far Daniel hasn’t done that post-reboot, but still stayed centered in a similar world of twisted psychopaths and kingpins in Gotham.  This one is a super science oriented story dealing with a plot centered  around theoretical physics that seems a little strange.  I’m not saying I don’t like it, but I remain uncertain.  I will say that I haven’t been feeling the Two-Face backup for awhile.  That’s not my favorite in art or story.  I hope that the series builds momentum, because Tony Daniel has proven in the past that he has the chops to be an amazing Batman writer.
  • Red Lanterns #11 returns to excellence this month after last month’s disappointing crossover with series writer Peter Milligan’s other series, Stormwatch.  The latter title has been dropped by me, not because Milligan is anything less than a genius, but because its is just a wasteland where good stories and art go to die.  Red Lanterns, on the other hand, is a series that continues to innovate the Green Lantern Universe as well as the DCU as a whole, giving voice to the discontent of the human soul.  Showcased on the cover is the showdown between the Vixen of Vengeance, Bleez of the the Red Lanterns, and her former associate in the New Guardians, Fatality of the Star Sapphires (formerly of the Sinestro Corps.)  This confrontation was very well done and interesting to watch unfold.  They are very similar women who are strong in their convictions, yet diverge in their response to the traumas that birthed them.  One embraces love and the other embraces hatred.  The dichotomy is very stark, yet despite that there is still a sisterhood between them.  I can’t wait to see how this portion of the story reconciles itself.  Elsewhere in the universe, is the errant Red Lantern of Earth, Rankorr aka John Moore, who is still coming to terms with his new life as a Red Lantern, and a completely new kind of Red Lantern at that.  And finally, and most importantly, the Regent of Rage, Atrocitus, tracks down his failed creation, Abysmus, in the hope of killing him and remedying the poisoned central power battery of his corps that is killing his soldiers.  So much is revealed in his issue and ties towards a larger precedent of the various corps being attacked and systematically shut down by an unknown force.  This series remains one of the best DC is putting out.

    Two of the Baddest Chicks in the Universe

  • Batwing #11 wasn’t spectacular.  He continues his journey through China in search of the reason behind the Chinese programmer’s kidnapping by African pirates.  In the wake of the assault on the corrupt Nigerian governor of the River state’s mansion, we discover that the slain politician is Batwing’s mentor, Matu’s father.  Following his estranged father’s final wishes to be buried in his homeland, Tundi, which is currently ruled by a super-powered despot named Lord Battle.  I’m not so much feeling this issue. I really like the opening arc, but this one is taking some time to settle into.
  • Justice League International #11 is a protracted fight scene that brings to a close the arc following the terrorist attack on the United Nations.  Put on show trial for supporting international imperialism the JLI’ers have to escape and defeat Breakdown, Feedback, Lightweaver, and Crosscut.  Not going to spoil it, but it was an interesting issue, albeit sort of anti-climatic.  August General in Iron is the MVP of this issue.

    Don’t Mess With August-General-In-Iron

  • Earth 2 #3 really went a long way toward world building Earth 2.  Though I still am super dubious about the rationale behind the change of Alan Scott’s sexual orientation, this issue setting up a his role in this universe’s hierarchy.  He is chosen to be an avatar of the Green energy of Earth to combat the forces of death and decay, called the Gray.  Like the war going on in Animal Man and Swamp Thing between the Green, Red, and Black or Rot, Earth 2 has its champion of all life in Green Lantern and an avatar representing the Gray to balance the forces of life and death.  The Gray’s avatar is a surprise that I am grateful to see reintroduced to the New DCU.  What’s more, the Green reveals that down the road an evil that dwarfs the Apokaliptian invasion is on the horizon.  I have no idea what that is, but writer James Robinson has me on the hook for at least the next year’s worth of issue.  See y’all back at issue #15.
  • Worlds’ Finest #3 follows the fight of Huntress and Power Girl with Hakkou at the Fukishima nuclear power plant and into the heart of Tokyo.  You can just tell that writer Paul Levitz was a Godzilla fan as a kid from his loving homages to the Japanese nuclear monster genre.  It also goes back in time as usual to highlight the initial stages of Helena and Karen’s transition to Earth 1’s way of things.   I really like this series both in its writing, and in the stunning art by George Perez and Kevin Maguire.
  • Animal Man #11 wraps up the first phase of the series.  After dying and being resurrected this issue leads to what we have all been waiting for.  Next issue we will finally see the team up of Swamp Thing and Animal Man, the avatars of Green and Red respectively, against the common enemy, the Rot, personified by Anton Arcane.  What this issue does is give Animal Man his last great test before he can face Arcane.  He is given a new body by the Red’s “royal tailors” and must fight and defeat his old body that has fallen t the Rot, in effect fighting and overcoming himself and his past in order to progress to his full potential.  Symbolically it was a good issue, but I feel like it could have read better.
  • Green Arrow #11 was slightly schizophrenic, but that may be owing to it working on what Dennis O’Neil referred to as the “Levitz Paradigm.”  I’ll get to that later.  The issue starts at a charity poker tournament that is robbed by Robin Hood-esque thieves out to reclaim wealth from the 1%.  The identity of the female member is quite ironic, taking this fact into account. The second half of the story takes Ollie to China to sell cutting edge technology to an unscrupulous businessman.  To return to my earlier statement about the “Levitz Paradigm,” Paul Levitz employs a writing style where he inserts a minor storypoint or two into an issue along side the main issue, seeding that other storypoint to grow into the next main issue that the hero(es) will face.  I am guessing that is the case here, since the Robin Hoods don’t really sync with the Chinese business interest.
  • Dial H #3 introduces an enigmatic woman named Manteau who is in possession of her own dial that grants her similarly eclectic powers.  Other than this, the series remains an enigma. That is both a weakness and a strength depending on who you are and what your tastes are.  I’ll continue reading it in the hopes of it fulfilling its potential.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #1 features Adam of Eternia, not as prince of the realm, but rather the son of a lowly woodcutter.  Despite this, he still has dreams of once having been He-Man and fighting strange people while fighting along familiar faces.  Writer James Robinson does an amazing job creating an authentic atmosphere while penning a story that is unlike anything in the cartoons.  I’m a He-Man fan from my earliest memories and what Robinson and artist Philip Tan are doing makes me hopeful for what this series promises.
  • Night Force #5 was just freaky.  There was some exposition that aided the furthering of the plot: Senator Green is further depicted to be an unwitting demonic brood-stud, one of his impregnated women stillbirths her fetus, and his wife continues to be evil as hell.   These points in and of themselves are creepy enough, by when taken alongside how they are presented, the title descends to another level

    Tres Creepy, Non?

  • Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1 continues the tradition of its predecessors with gusto.  This may be my favorite thus far, owing to the incredible writing of the legendary Len Wein and the eerie art of Jae Lee.  Starting from his birth, this issue gives a very comprehensive look at the life of Adrian Veidt, from his awkward childhood to his rise to economic and intellectual greatness.  The way in which Wein narrates the events of Veidt’s life is very cold, calculating, and intelligent and when used to describe such things as schoolyard bullying and falling in love for the first time, the effect is really engaging.  Jae Lee’s art is hypnotic when set with Wein’s plots, further luring the reader deeper into the narrative.
  • Smallville Season 11 #3 brings us back to Earth after the catastrophic explosion aboard the Guardian  platform launch.  Astronaut Hank Henshaw has sustained burns over most of his body and needless to say is in critical condition.  In the wake of this Superman confronts Lex for the first time (sort of), he has his first run in with the military, Chloe and Oliver explore an alien crash site in Kansas that may not be so alien, and the fate of Henshaw and beginnings of his role as a classic DC supervillian.
  • Captain Victory #6 looks to be the penultimate chapter of this series.  I hope this isn’t the case as it is REALLY good.  After escaping the planet Ilili, which Galactic Command had sent them and several other doomed ships to, it becomes obvious that there is a traitor somewhere in their headquarters, but who?  That will have to wait until they can suss out who the traitor is on their own ship.  I really hope that this series continues, because writer Sterling Gates has the feel of Kirby’s original series bottled in this exquisite run.  And long may it run . . .

So ends this week in review, and what a week it was.  Excellent entertainment, as befitting their release on the anniversary of our nation’s birth.

 

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

Illustration Credits:

Red Lanterns #11:  Art by Miguel Sepulveda, Colored by Rain Beredo

Justice League International #11:  Drawn by Aaron Lopresti, Colored by Hi-Fi, Inked by Matt Ryan

Green Arrow #11: Art by Harvey Tolibao, Colored by Richard & Tanya Horie

Night Force #5: Art by Tom Mandrake, Colored by Wes Hartman

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

Review: “Roots of Swamp Thing”

Swamp Thing was a character that I can remember from as early as Kindergarten.  In fact the beginning years of the 90’s marked a resurgence of his popularity with the live action TV show, animated series, and a line of action figures.  My cousins even had a few of these that we used to play with.  Despite this, I was never that into him, but like so many things, after giving him a shot I have come to realize how fantastic the Swamp Thing series is.  Scott Snyder taking over the rebooted series was the catalyst to get me interested, and his excellent writing is what has kept that interest alive, but going back and reading the original series created by writer Len Wein and artist Bernie Wrightson is what has me sold on him.  These original 70’s stories are phenomenal.

The graphic novel “Roots of Swamp Thing” collects the first thirteen issues of the series and lays down the metaphorical roots of the character.  Within lies the rebirth of Alec Holland as the Swamp Thing, the introduction of the villainous Conclave that brought about his fiery death if not his leafy resurrection, the wicked Doctor Arcane, his angelic niece Abigail Arcane, Matt Cable, as well as other story material rife for future retelling.

What Len Wein did well was setting the atmosphere of the piece.  When reading these original Swamp Thing issues, the world is portrayed as very tragic and lonesome.  Perhaps this is overly pessimistic, but considering the subject material it is most likely as accurate to the world of the 1970’s as it is to the world of the 2010’s.  Alec Holland is a lumbering monstrosity with a limited capacity to communicate and form discernible words, but a vibrant, healthy mind that is as keen as before his accident.  When he ventures out into the world he is judged by his appearance and not by his deeds.  Most that only meet him once curse and hate him, regardless of the good he does for them.  Those with whom he interacts on a more regular basis tend to take a very long time to put his altruistic actions together to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Similarly, the stories feature a cadre of horror show creatures such as a Frankenstein’s Monster-esque patchwork man, a werewolf, a space alien, and mutated earthworms.  In all of their cases they are also judged superficially and in two cases, Swamp Thing, who is himself misunderstood attacks them without provocation as he himself has been attacked.  Through these issues, Wein gives a very thorough account of humanity’s greatest flaws.  It makes one think.  Perhaps the most resonant issue is the one featuring a Swiss village comprised of clockwork men and women modeled after persons who died violently before their time.  This Utopian village is heavily suggested to have a sinister side, but upon further inspection and reading, it is exactly what it tries to be: a Utopia.  And for this paradise to exist, it has to be free of human beings.  Truly a sad thought.

Bernie Wrightson’s art is the other half of this perfect equation, as his lines and colors are shaded and macabre, bringing out the eerie atmosphere dripping from the dank stories of Wein’s Swamp Thing.  Len Wein sets the tone, but Wrightson is the one who cements it, sharing in equal parts the success of the series.  If Scott Snyder was able to bring the series back to prominence, its largely due to the quality of the source material that fuels his plots and inspired him to write about Swamp Thing in the first place.  As stated above, I was never a Swamp Thing fan, but I am an evangelical convert of the title and say now that people should seek this or any other original collection out and read about Swamp Thing’s genesis.  These issues are some of the classics of beginning of comic’s Bronze Age.

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

Illustration Credits:

Swamp Thing #3: Cover and Art by Bernie Wrightson

Swamp Thing #11: Art by Nestor Redondo