This week rounds out the month with some classic series like Teen Titans and The Flash and adds a few Annuals to the mix. It also marks the end of the very intriguing Damian: Son of Batman series. Not the most perfect week of comics, but certainly a few gems to be read.
The Flash #27begins the last arc of writer Brian Buccellato’s run on this title. Beginning in the 19th century when the Gem Cities of Keystone and Central City were mining camps, we get a two page glimpse at a murder centuries. Cut to the present when Flash is running down (pun intended) a few of his lesser foes, only to discover a hidden chamber beneath the city streets containing several long dead bodies. They fit the M.O. of a killer put away on a life sentence, but according to forensics were killed AFTER said person, Hollis Holden, was sent to Iron Heights Prison. As Barry looks into the facts it slowly dawns on him that this could be the case that clears his father’s name of killing Barry’s mom. It’s a sad thing that Buccellato is leaving the Flash, because his collaboration with Francis Manapul on the title has truly invigorated this series and made it one of the “can’t miss” series of the current DC lineup. Though Manapul is absent in art, Patrick Zircher takes over art duties and his panels bring the Flash alive in a whole new way. I won’t say that I like the art better than Manapul’s, which is in it’s own category, but I definitely love his work and would seek it out in other titles once this title transitions. With this being Buccellato’s last hoorah on the Flash, it’s a distinct possibility that Barry might ACTUALLY solve his mother’s murder. The question comes down to how well that answer could be given under the current circumstances and the size of Buccellato’s ego. My opinion could swing favorably or unfavorably on this one. Two more issues to go . . .
The Red Lanterns #27 begins properly the new phase in the Red Lantern mission. After “Lights Out” Hal Jordan gave Guy Gardner and his Red Lanterns a sector of Space for their own, free of interference from the Green Lanterns. Guy took 2814, home most notably to the planet Earth. Writer Charles Soule says Ysmault, the Red Lantern homeworld, is in Sector 2814 and that is the rationale for its selection. I’m not buying it. This is one time when I have to question Soule’s logic, considering that Ysmault was used as the prison to house the survivors of the Manhunter massacre of every living thing in Sector 666, except the six Inversions imprisoned on there. They were imprisoned to keep them out of sight and out of mind so they couldn’t tell the rest of the Universe what the Guardians let happen. So . . . why would they put these dangerous criminals in a heavily populated sector like 2814 when they could use any of the THOUSANDS of deserted planets in 666 where nobody ever goes and where there are no Green Lanterns patrolling? I’m pretty sure they did even say Ysmault is in 666 somewhere in one issue or another. A very ill-conceived gambit to justify the annexing of 2814 by the Reds. With that taken into account, Guy intends to inspect Earth and show Skallox and Zilius Zox his homeworld, as they have never seen it before. I am fairly certain Skallox went to Earth in Red Lanterns #10 or the crossover issue of Stormwatch #10. Soule is appearing to not have done his homework. Rankorr and Bleez, who have been to Earth many times, are dispatched to find a newly minted Red Lantern and reign them in, only to come face-to-face with Atrocitus, who found new ring himself and initiate the new toad-like Red into the fold. On Earth Skallox and Zox are left to their own devices, invariably finding trouble. The main thing that Charles Soule accomplishes with this issue is the reintroduction of Tora Olafsdottir, aka Ice, into the New DCU, as well as recapping the former relationship that Guy and Tora once had. I like the series, but I do think that of the many things that Charles Soule is currently writing this is the weakest series and the one that probably has the least of his attention. That’s not to say that it’s bad, but it could be way better.
An Icy Reception.
Teen Titans #27appears to be Scott Lobdell’s attempt to make a liar out of me. Last issue, he and artist Tyler Kirkham went about detailing the secret origin of Kid Flash, aka Bar-Tor, as a “psychotic anarchist” who led a bloody rebellion in a tyrannically oppressive future. At least that was their aim. What they showed was a level headed kid that did everything within his power to protect and provide for his little sister, Shira, and make a better world. He is nothing more than what any person would be in that situation and far from the psychopath they’d depicted him as. This issue changes that. It also, to a small degree, changes the rationale behind his surrender to the galactic “Functionary” that oppressed the lower classes of its citizens. In issue #26 it appeared that the near death of Shira due to his actions snapped Bar out of his revolutionary fervor, making him give himself up to authorities. While I still believe that he loves his sister and that she is his primary reason for doing what he has done, Scott Lobdell shows that Kid Flash’s surrender was both strategic and deceptive. Though he was granted witness protection and a new identity in the past, the Functionary show when they try Bar in this issue that they never had any intention of letting him live. They only meant to break his rebellion by putting on a show trial with him ratting out those that believe in him and fought for him, killing their spirit, and then executing him afterward. Bar knew this and turned the tables. After admitting his utter guilt to the charges laid against him the ceiling is literally blown off of the courthouse and the prison guards arm the rebels and teleport them to the scene. Bar has the Functionary bigwigs in a snare that will ensure that all the government’s heads will roll in one swing of the sword. No one is going to survive Bar’s coup, not even the innocents present. In his demeanor and his actions, Kid Flash does take on the crazed temper he’d be cast in leading up to these last two issues. It’s madness, but the question is whether it is a good kind of madness. What is happening seems very much like the French Revolution with the prison guards turning against their masters and opening the prisons in an all out breakdown of the system. I am very curious to see how this predicament pans out and how the crazy Kid Flash from this issue reconciles with the very grounded, moral version that perhaps only I saw in the last issue. With a character like Kid Flash it’s hard to believe he would get kamikaze’d like, that regardless of whether the title is getting cancelled in April or not. Scott Lobdell hasn’t let me down so far and has written this series superbly throughout the two and a half year run. Artist Tyler Kirkham is hitting it out of the park in the realm of art, really making this title a jewel in his resume. I’m onboard this train till it’s last stop two months from now. What a ride . . .
The Face of Teenage Revolution.
Talon #15 is yet another comic by Marguerite Bennett that I went into with high hopes, only to have them dashed. The issue has NO story. Yes, there is something resembling a plot, but at the end of the issue the reader is left with two questions: 1) What did I just read? 2) Why should I care? The plot (or what passes for one) begins with an African American Talon taking down William Cobb to become the Court of Owl’s new assassin. It should be noted that this Talon is male, meaning that it is not Strix, who came into her second life in the 50’s. The pacing of the issue is also very jarring, following the reverse order paradigm of Christopher Nolan’s seminal film, Memento. Slowly we work our way back through this guys life, and while the imagery is very depressing and often tragic, the rationale of why we are even hearing about this guy is not answered. This is a one-off for Bennett, the title will transition to Tim Seeley’s hands for it’s final two issues, so again the possibility that this is setting something up is dubious. There was even the possibility in my head that in some way this gentleman was a relative of Casey Washington, but due to the time period and the circumstances described this is just a nameless Talon we may never hear from again. Every time I come across a title that Marguerite Bennett writes I get a twinge. Maybe she’s good at writing her own material, but so far everything of hers I have read is her writing a one-shot issue of someone else’s property like her Batman Annual #2 last year, the TERRIBLE Lobo issue she wrote during Villains Month this September, and her lackluster Batgirl #25 in November. She’s writing two one-shots next month and both have me worried. Joker’s Daughter features the title character whom I do not care for one iota, so that sounds like a giant waste of money. Lois Lane is a horse of a different color, because that has the potential to be amazing . . . assuming the writer has the talent to actually pull it off. Lois Lane is a character that can be incredible, but can also be absolutely terrible if the writer doesn’t know what they are doing. Bennett does not instill faith. Also the artist on Lois Lane, Emanuela Lupacchino, is an up and coming talent and I’ve enjoyed her past work a great deal, so that is another reason Bennett’s authorship is troubling. No one wants to be the weakest link that breaks the chain, especially when that chain is Lois Lane, one of the most beloved female characters in comics and someone that fans have been screaming to have her own solo book. Marguerite Bennett said this of her controversial Lobo issue this past September: “You can hate me by Page Two. But if I do not have your attention by Page Four, you don’t have to read something of mine ever again.”
Well Ms. Bennett, you have until the last page of Lois Lane #1 to sell me that you can write anything. Then I am going to take you up on your previous offer.
Damian: Son of the Batman #4brings to a close Andy Kubert’s four issue miniseries dedicated to Damian Wayne, whom Kubert co-created with Grant Morrison. This series has been and continues to be a very Kubert-esque journey through the life of Batman. Joe Kubert, Andy’s father, had a very characteristic drawing style that influenced comic art for seventy years, but also a narrative style that is like no one else’s, past or present. Andy has definitely inherited his dad’s artistic style, but he also emotes the same incredible voice as a writer. Joe could have written this, but at the same time there is a darker edge that is all Andy. In a lot of ways that is something of which this comic is an allegory. Damian is taking over for his legendary father, Batman. In the first issue, even after the death of Batman (it’s actually Dick Grayson) he is reticent to take on the mantle of the Bat, but as events unfold he is thrust into becoming Batman, but a Batman on his terms. His father, who is still alive though quite old, chastises him for his wanton brutality which does get through to the young Wayne. But as this issue concludes and Damian actualizes himself as the new Dark Knight he takes on the role adhering closely to his father’s legacy and being Batman in the ways that matter, but also maintaining an element of his own identity while in the role. Now I don’t know if Joe and Andy had an idyllic relationship or a rocky one like Bruce and Damian in this series, but the parallels of Andy taking the reigns of continuing his father’s legendary name and legacy in the comics industry rings true to Damian’s struggle herein. As stated, Joe Kubert’s art can be found in elements of more than four generations of comic artists, but his writing style is far more rare and that is what Andy stands as a torchbearer to. Top to bottom, this was an incredible four issue miniseries and well worth reading for those that love and miss Damian Wayne.
Long Live the Batman!
Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 provides and extended format launch pad for the next major conflict in the Green Lantern family of books. The Durlans have been a problem over the past several months, but in this annual their threat begins to solidify. They have publicly discredited the Green Lantern Corps in front of the Universe, they have rallied the Corps’ enemies into simultaneous attacks on the Corps’ chapter houses throughout the 3600 sectors of Space, and they have drawn blood by blowing up the Corps’ command center on Mogo. Writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen give background into the Durlan threat by showing the horrific ruling council of the Durlan race called “the Ancients,” and gives voice to what the Ancients plan. What’s more, the annual primarily focuses on the Corps’ many iconic villains, i.e. Kanjar-Ro, Bolphunga the Unrelenting, Darkstar, etc., and gives short one to two page glimpses into each villain’s past with a moment that sums up their individual motivations. These are the worst of the worst who HATE the Corps, so what Venditti and Jensen do next is even more incredible. Faced with an alliance with the Durlans who none of them trust, this ragtag group of villains pull a 180 and align themselves with the Green Lanterns to take out the Durlan threat. It’s a tricky gambit and should make for one hell of an entertaining arc.
Earth 2 Annual #2 finally reveals the origin of the enigmatic Batman of Earth 2. Spoiler Alert, I am going to reveal the identity of Batman. I feel enough time has passed since the issue dropped that those that want to know already know, but if someone doesn’t, skip this review. This series started in Earth 2 #0 with the end days of the Apokalips Invasion of Earth 2 being thwarted by the Trinity (Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman) at the cost of their lives. So with Bruce Wayne dead, who is this new Batman and why is he doing what he is doing? The breadcrumbs and clues have been stacking up. Firstly, through his rhetoric and desire to free “dangerous” inmates of the Arkham cryostasis detention center we are shown that he could be considered a criminal and a monster. Secondly, while doing so he is revealed to have super-strength and a bulletproof hide. Thirdly, we are told that bioscans reveal him to be human. Finally, when he goes into the containment chambers and releases the inmates he opens the Joker’s tube only to shoot him in the head, revealing a VERY deep loyalty to Batman as a person, but not an adherence to his stringent codes against killing and using firearms. All of these paint a tantalizing riddle of who this person could be, opening the door for either a very interesting reinvention of a classic DC character or the introduction of a brand new one. The reveal was, I am sad to say, underwhelming. Batman is Dr. Thomas Wayne, father of Bruce Wayne, who faked his death and apparently became a junkie and a murderer out to take down mafiosi. Maybe in the long run this will be a decent development, but it just seemed really tired and unoriginal. Thomas Wayne as Batman was something novel that writer Brian Azzarello proposed in Flashpoint: Batman and wrote to perfection. In that title as well, Batman became something very dark and excessive in his crusade against crime, also adopting the use of firearms. However, Flashpoint Batman was the architect of the Batman persona following the death of 8 year old Bruce at the gunpoint of Joe Chill and the subsequent psychotic descent of his wife, Martha, into the persona of the Joker. In Earth 2 the use of Thomas as the new Batman just comes off as lazy from a writing standpoint. He uses guns, he’s got five o’clock shadow, he’s willing to kill, his costume is red and grey/black with sharper edges. There are too many similarities with not enough validating differences to make Thomas’ role in the book worthwhile. Now that may change, but the deadbeat dad concept, while tragic, falls flat for me. This is a shame as I have enjoyed the series, both under the helm of original writer James Robinson and the new authorship of Tom Taylor. Whether Thomas was Robinson’s idea or Taylor’s, the brunt of responsibility falls on Tom Taylor to make it work however possible.
A Father in the Shadows.
Worlds’ Finest Annual #1provides a look into the lives of three very important young women from Earth 2. The title Worlds’ Finest follows Helena Wayne, known as Robin on Earth 2 and Huntress on Earth 1, and Kara Zor-El, known as Supergirl on Earth 2 and Power Girl/Karen Starr on Earth 1. This annual showcases their lives as emergent heroes on Earth 2, as well as a brief glimpse at a third young woman whom readers of the series Earth 2 will no doubt recognize: Fury. Helena Wayne is of course the daughter of Bruce Wayne (Batman) and his wife Selena Kyle (Catwoman), and the first and so far only bearer of the mantle of Robin on Earth 2. As on Earth 1, Kara is the cousin of Superman and in most ways is identical to her Earth 1 counterpart. Fury is the enigma, as she is the daughter of Wonder Woman and an unrevealed father, and fights for Apokalips. In this way, the annual focuses on the female scions of the three great superheroes: Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Paul Levitz is just the writer to tackle this assignment considering his creation of Huntress in the 70’s and his incredible career writing thoughtful comics about uncertain youths flung head first into incredible circumstances. For proof of that assertion read any of his Legion of Super-Heroes books. The episodes depicted in this annual concerning Helena and Kara paint the two girls as novices making mistakes, but those early blunders juxtapose against the past two years worth of issues to show how they became the strong, confident women we have seen in the present. Fury is more cryptic in her portrayal by Levitz and no doubt that is because her origin and the revelation of her motivations are integrally keyed into the Earth 2 title. In any event, Levitz brings his A-game to these stories and spins into being three events that define the characters of these two dimensionally displaced heroines.
And thus concludes the first month of comics in 2014. Here’s hoping to many more awesome issues to fill out the coming eleven months.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Red Lanterns #27: Art by Alessandro Vitti, Colored by Gabe Eltaeb.
Teen Titans #27: Drawn by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Arif Prianto, Inked by Art Thibert & Dan Green.
Damian: Son of Batman #4: Art by Andy Kubert, Colored by Brad Anderson.
Earth 2 Annual #2: Drawn by Robson Rocha, Colored by Gabe Eltaeb, Inked by Scott Hanna.
It has been a criminally long time since I have been able to sit down and interact with my comics in the form of writing this blog and externalizing my thoughts and appreciation for this incredible medium. With this post I hope to highlight a few of the issues that I have loved in that interim and get back in the swing of reading my comics and writing about them to illuminate their content to others, but also myself. So here goes:
Batman #25 tells the story of the Blackout in Gotham, but oddly enough doesn’t deal with the Riddler at all or explore the consequences of what he did. Instead, writer Scott Snyder uses the Blackout as a way of the emergent Batman finding an environment in which his skills and innate qualities find fallow ground to root themselves. Without the Blackout, Batman might have had to try harder to ingrain himself in the collective awareness of Gotham as a force for good and not just a crazy nutjob in a bat costume. However, as mentioned before, the Riddler is put on the back burner after blowing the Gotham City power grid and submerging the city into chaos in the midst of an impending tropical storm designated “Rene.” In his place, Batman sleuths a rash of bizarre . . . occurrences . . . in which victim’s bones grow uncontrollably like trees, bursting out of their bodies and leaving the carcass draped atop like a Christmas tree angel. With some inadvertent tips from future police commissioner James Gordon, Bruce learns that the serum used was designed by a former Wayne Enterprises scientist, Karl Helfren, aka Doctor Death. When he probes into Helfren’s past, Bruce also learns of an accomplice that will surely shock readers. The issue is certainly shrouded in mystery, beginning with a brief two page cut to US soldiers in Nigeria finding a door in the ground hidden in the middle of an arid plain and ending with those soldiers dead and their trucks on fire. How those scenes are rectified with the main narrative is an intriguing question. In the backup feature, Snyder and his protegee James Tynion IV write a tale of the Blackout told from the perspective of the average person, in this case a very young Harper Row and her little brother Cullen. The two kids don’t have a mother and their father is a two-bit criminal and absentee parent, so it falls to them to look out for one another. Cullen is scared, but Harper (who grows up to be a burgeoning electrical genius) makes a lamp for her brother to push back the darkness. It’s not easy, but she’s able to overcome when the needs arise. She tell Cullen that there are people out there that see fear and darkness and rise up to push these forces back and help those that are also scared. It’s a brief yet poignant commentary on the superhero ideal and what breeds heroes. Also noteworthy is Andy Clarke’s gorgeous artwork that creates a beautifully stark ambiance of Gotham life. It goes without saying that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, with the added help of James Tynion IV and Andy Clarke, are making this book one of THE comics to pick up.
What Makes a Hero?
Superman/Wonder Woman #2 brings on the much anticipated continuation of last month’s meteoric first issue. In Superman/Wonder Woman #1 writer Charles Soule delivered a very intimated and thoughtful examination of the relationship between two titanic figures of the DCU and the inherent hurdles they have to leap constantly in order to be together and understand one another. If that was all the issue was it would have been worth the cover price, but Soule and artist Tony Daniel had far more in store for us, releasing perhaps the greatest surprise appearance of the year: Doomsday! With Supes busy quelling a storm brought about by the monster’s advent, Wonder Woman finds herself going toe-to-toe with the abomination that in a different continuity killed her boyfriend. Not something to be trifled with. As this issue opens the Kryptonian horror delivers a sound beating on the unprepared Wonder Woman until it mysteriously phasing out of reality. When Superman hears her story he immediately knows what the thing was from Diana’s descriptions and realizes that the seals on the Phantom Zone, a temporal extra-dimensional Kryptonian prison, are wearing thin meaning incursions by Doomsday and the other unsavory menaces imprisoned within might occur more frequently. In order to prepare for the coming battle with Doomsday, should it reappear, Wonder Woman takes Superman to Mount Aetna to meet Hephaestas and commission custom armaments. While there Supes also meets Apollo and Strife. Apollo doesn’t make the best impression, following the very haughty modelling of Wonder Woman writer Brian Azzarello. I know I am not alone in my dislike of Apollo, which is what makes his encounter with Superman so rewarding to readers. Apollo is a very overconfident, arrogant ass and while he is IMMENSELY powerful, his being the sun god puts him at a unique disadvantage against the Last Son of Krypton. One almost feels sorry for the jerk. Almost. With their order placed and one Olympian force fed a five fingered slice of humble pie, the stage is set for yet another mouthwatering introduction of a classic Superman character. Soule and Daniel have this series locked down. Soule’s writing is topnotch and shows a true love and respect for both the eponymous characters. Superman is a humble farmboy with powers far greater than ordinary men and Wonder Woman is a proud and noble woman from a proud and noble race of myth. Every word, every gesture, and every reaction is quintessentially appropriate to each. Tony Daniel has been one of my favorite artist since he and Grant Morrison took on the Batman title. As a writer I have enjoyed his work as well. The man is a consummate professional and whether or not he has any say in the actual writing of Superman/Wonder Woman alongside Charles Soule, his ability as a writer no doubt helps him interpret the scripts to convey minutely the gravity and grandeur of the worlds this book is bringing together. Wonder Woman and Superman come from two very elaborate time honored mythologies that Soule and Daniel are combining like true professionals. This first run of the series is off to a commendable start. If they can sustain it, this could overshadow the actual series of both characters.
The Hubris of Gods.
Batgirl #25 came off a little lackluster for me. Dealing with the life of Barbara Gordon, it’s hard to figure out what the purpose of this issue was supposed to be. It’s already established that Gotham was effed during the “Blackout” and in this tie-in Barbara is put in charge of her little brother, James Jr, while their dad’s at work. He tells her to “mind the homestead,” but while he is gone the Gordon kids are forcefully evacuated because they are in a flood zone. In the process young Miss Gordon sees how a disaster can turn regular people into savages. The point of the issue is more about Gotham than Barbara, which is a little disconcerting. Normally the Batgirl series focuses heavily on Barbara, which is a credit to series writer Gail Simone’s tenure on the title. Simone GETS Barbara in a very quintessential way. Marguerite Bennett penned this one, and I think as a newcomer her writing comes off a little green. She kind of fumbled the Villains Month released introduction of the character Lobo to the New DCU, and this comic felt equally forced. The look remains the same with series artist Fernando Pasarin providing art on the issue. Simone comes back next month with the conclusion of her epic “Batgirl Wanted” arc, which should be worth the read.
Green Arrow #26 begins writer Jeff Lemire’s epic “Outsiders War” arc. In his first arc, Lemire DRASTICALLY altered Oliver Queen’s life, taking away his company, framing him for murder, and clearing the board of a few characters from the initial issues of the rebooted series. He also introduced the Merlyn-esque archer, Komodo, and the inklings of the larger organization Komodo belongs to called the Outsiders. In his second arc he introduced the rarely utilized GA character, Shado, unused extensively since her creation in the 80’s by Mike Grell. Komodo and Shado represent two halves of the life and ultimate death of Oliver’s father, Robert Queen. With those in the rearview, we now enter into the actualization of Green Arrow’s destiny with Lemire’s third arc, entitled “Outsiders War.” So far, Ollie has taken down Komodo (relieving the onyx archer of one eye) and on two separate occasions he’s taken down the Eastern European despot Count Vertigo. Both of these men have strong ties to the Outsiders who themselves have very ominous plans for the Arrow Clan. Now Shado is taking him back to the island to fulfill his destiny by claiming the totem arrow that will grant enlightenment and dominion of those dedicated to archery. Robert Queen sought the island and combed every inch of it looking for the arrow, explaining the picture that Oliver found of Robert, Komodo, and Emerson on the island in the lattermost’s office. Shado drags him back and as the issue unfolds Lemire has Oliver slowly relive his time there. His reticence to return can be summed up by the harsh memories he accumulated while stranded and his shame at being reminded of his past. Ollie was a vacuous waste of space before being washed up on the island and his initial days there were spent shedding that shallowness and tapping into his intrinsic potential. Robert had instructed Oliver in archery, which Ollie’d never taken serious and rarely practiced. Those lessons resurface and the birth of Green Arrow began while Oliver discovered the cost of survival. The next step will be seen in later issues following Ollie’s capture by mercenaries in ski-masks. Awakening from his deja-vu, Shado leads Oliver to the cave wherein lies the talisman his father had so desperately sought. Meanwhile, the Outsiders have sent one of their own, a bear of a man called Kodiak, to stop Oliver from becoming the head of the Arrow Clan by claiming the “Green Arrow” totem. Jeff Lemire’s hitting this one out of the park with his clear love and respect for the character of Green Arrow and his intricate weaving of a mythos that emanates from Green Arrow, but also through the Green Arrow title. The Outsiders have figured cryptically into the background of the Katana series, where the Japanese warrior Tatsu Toro wrestles with the Sword Clan. Whether Lemire came up with them on his own or collaborated with Katana writer Ann Nocenti (from whom he took over the horribly written and conceived Green Arrow title) what is obvious is that Lemire is the one running this ball into the endzone for what looks to be a clear touchdown. The promise of what the Outsiders represent and the stories that will spring forth from this arc are destined to be comic book gold. Series artist Andrea Sorrentino continues his tenure on the book adding a realism to it with his pencil and an ominousness with the very stark contrast between light and shadow. Working together, Lemire and Sorrentino are the ideal team to make Green Arrow one of the best DC titles currently being published.
The Fabled Green Arrow Totem.
Green Arrow #27 continues writer Jeff Lemire’s odyssey toward Green Arrow’s actualization in the “Outsiders War.” So far Ollie has returned to the island on which he was marooned with the enigmatic archeress Shado in tow seeking the totem arrow that bestows enlightenment upon the ascendant to the chiefdom of the Arrow Clan. The Outsiders (semi-unified cabal of clan heads) desire Komodo to take this position in their midst and dispatch the Shield Clan’s chief, Kodiak, and his Viking warriors to prevent Ollie from his destined enlightenment. Picking up with the dramatic ending of issue #26, Ollie and Shado have found the Arrow Chamber, but as this issue opens they find that the totem itself is nowhere to be seen. Ollie is shocked, but Shado, true to her fox-like, Zen nature tempers Ollie’s impatience with existential questions, all boil down to why and how Oliver came to be marooned on this exact island that his father, Robert Queen, had just so happened to be seeking for so long and upon which the elder Mr. Queen was murder by Komodo? The exploration of these questions is interrupted by the advent of Kodiak on the island and sporadic ’Nam flashbacks Ollie has to the crucible moments of his time on the island. Issue #26’s flashbacks showed Ollie being forced to master archery in order to feed himself while awaiting rescue from the island. The completion of that stage of his development ends with him being captured by masked paramilitary forces on the island. This issue shows the next and most apocalyptic stage of his transition from soft billionaire playboy to cold hunter/vigilante. The soldiers under the command of an Oni-masked man torture Ollie for over a week until Ollie snaps and in a survivalist act breaks through from his effete past to the stark figure he has become in the present. While dodging the Shieldlings and regrouping Shado finally steers Ollie into understanding that his destiny wasn’t mere chance, but an orchestrated effort by individuals to guide him to becoming the avatar of archery. Once this concept sinks in, Oliver’s Oni-masked antagonist reappears and confirms everything Shado said and removes the demon mask. With the revelation of this person’s identity the absolute truth of their claim is baldly underscored, but more so the implications of who this person is changes everything the reader has come to believe about the Green Arrow title and what its has fought for. Jeff Lemire is a genius. Unequivocally, he has taken this failing title and made it infinitely poignant, gripping, and one of the ‘can’t miss books’ of the DC lineup. Called “Batman with a Bow and Arrow,” GA has been a C-list character with no superpowers who has often times been overshadowed by the more super, more overtly heroic characters of the DCU. Only a few writers have been able to lift him above the camp and ridiculousness that have haunted the character since his inception. Jeff Lemire has earned his place in Green Arrow history. Lemire’s collaborator Andrea Sorrentino provides incredible artwork that in no small part makes this book so engrossing and visually stunning. The two look to be on the title for some time and that is good news for comic readers and the Green Arrow pantheon of characters.
The Bloody Baptism of Green Arrow.
Superman Unchained #5 is a turning point in this celebratory “Super” series, revealing not only the nature of the enigmatic cabal known as “Ascension,” but also what their overall motivations, prompting their insane actions thus far. At the conclusion of issue #4 the leader of Ascension told Lois Lane that General Sam Lane was “father” to both of them. This turns out to not only be twisted hyperbole, but also a straight up lie no matter how you look at it. One demerit to writer Scott Snyder. Through the exposition provided by the Ascension leader, Jonathan Rudolph, Lois Lane and the audience are given incontrovertible evidence that this man isn’t merely misguided, HE’S NUTS!!! The choice of fabled Ned Ludd as the “face” of their movement is apt considering that the group’s aims have been stated to be the downfall of technology with an anarchist rationale behind it. The self-righteous rhetoric of Rudolph does nothing to rectify the collateral damage his insane venture will rain down on humanity nor does it in anyway come off as anything but uber-petulant and misguided. Rarely nowadays are there examples of such clear cut psychopaths in leading comic titles. Usually some sort of ethos, pathos, or logos is there to somehow give a morally ambiguous justification to the “villainy.” The use of this kind of character is intriguing and either says something very good about Snyder’s writing or something very bad about it. Snyder is an amazing writer that has risen meteorically to the top of the comic field in a relatively short period of time. He is also an overtaxed talent that is writing several titles simultaneously, so it could go either way. The rest of the title features Superman continuing his emerging relationship with the proto-‘Superman’, Wraith. In order to continue their quest to locate and stop Ascension, Supes invites Wraith into his Fortress of Solitude. Superman represents an impartial, unbiased, non-jingoist superheroic doctrine. Wraith represents the exact opposite and has TOTALLY drunk the US military Kool-Aid. Just being in the Fortress elicits a philosophical debate about alien technology and who should have custodianship of it: an impartial, responsible individual or the armed forces of one sovereign nation over the nearly two hundred others. Superman has the moral high ground here, but Wraith cuts back with an equally poignant response involving Superman’s supposed “non-involvement” vis-à-vis his alternate persona of Clark Kent. In this way, Superman represents what the character should embody and Wraith portrays what Supes was made to be like from the 1950’s through to most of the 70’s, towing the company line and representing “Truth, Justice, and the American way.” Visibly absent from the first four issues is the looming figure of Lex Luthor awaiting the resolution of Superman’s battle with Ascension to pounce on the battle wearied Man of Steel. Introduced in this issue is a flashback, drawn by backup artist Dustin Nguyen, that details Clark’s encounter with a sauced up, ignorant farmer that finds out his secret and tells him at shotgun-point that he can’t hide. Though only seen in glimpses and lacking resolution, this flashback underscores brilliantly the constant dilemma Superman faces everyday by living among us as one of us. Snyder has created in five issues a multifaceted series that expertly explores the character and all the aspects that have carried over from the original issues 75 years past. Scott Snyder and artists Jim Lee and Dustin Nguyen have tapped into the pure essence of the Last Son of Krypton.
Teen Titans #26 finally reveals the story of Bart Allen after two and a half years of continuous storytelling. We’ve been told in the past that he was a dangerous criminal that was reconditioned and sent back into the past where he would be cut off from the dangerous elements he incited. Several months ago when the Titans were first thrown into the timestream Bart and his girlfriend, Kiran Singh (aka Solstice), witness his younger self attempting to commit an act of mass murder against the governmental body known as the ‘Functionary.’ Now after returning to his native time he is made to see everything he has forgotten after being taken back into custody by the Functionary. After looking at his past I am finding it hard to look at him as anything as terrifying as he has been painted out of context. The son of religious parents belonging to a Christian-like faith called Creationism, his parents were murdered for those beliefs. He lets his parents die in order to save his infant sister, Shira, and get her away from the Functionary “Purifiers” that are initiating pogroms against his people. He becomes a thief to provide for his sister and when she is imperilled he becomes a killer. He finds sanctuary for her in a safe quarter while undertaking smuggling missions in unsafe conditions that normally killed the pilots after three runs. Bart makes a couple of dozen until his number finally comes up, but when it does he doesn’t die, but rather attains the superpowers that connect him to the Speed Force and Barry Allen. Then he initiates the rebellion of the Functionary oppressed that led to his capture and exile. It wasn’t until his attacks almost killed Shira, that he abandoned the rebellion he started and turned himself in to the Functionary. I have to say that this origin, while very compelling, failed to depict him as a criminal. At least in my eyes. Everything Bart did was for others. He sacrificed everything for his sister and later for those like himself and his sister who were like rats being oppressed and constantly harried for no reason whatsoever except that their existence was inconvenient for those above them. There was no Justice League or any apparatus to help the downtrodden so he initiated an armed resistance movement to create a better future. As stated before there was a scene not fully fleshed out where he was going to do something alluded to being an atrocity. If writer Scott Lobdell wanted to justifiably depict Bart as a monster he should have given more weight to that moment with more details or circled back around in this issue to that moment or one like it. That isn’t to say that Lobdell is a bad writer. On the contrary. This issue made me feel for Bart and actually I am in his cheering section. He looks at himself as a monster, just like all the others who have knowledge of who he was (or will be), but I don’t see that and I still see a hero who puts others and their interests before his own. If I could actually talk to the character I would share with him the words of Barry Allen, the first Flash (in the New DCU): “Keep moving forward.” Lobdell knocks it out of the park with the help of new series artist Tyler Kirkham. Kirkham’s art is sharp, it’s vibrant, and his rendering of Bart gives fine detail to every evocative emotion the young hero feels, which once again roots the character in Kid Flash’s experience, making them feel exactly what he feels, enduring his pain as he struggles through unspeakable situations and revelling in his rare moments of triumph bore out of near constant suffering. Thumbs up to both Lobdell and Kirkham. This issue was worth the wait, if not shorter than such an immense story deserves.
Doubt Anything Except a Brother’s Love.
Talon #14 marks an end to the status quo under which the series has been proceeding since its #0 issue. Calvin Rose was made a Talon after being groomed for the task by the Court of Owls as a young escape artist in the famed Haly’s Circus. He quit after being sent to kill a beautiful security heiress and her young daughter. Going on the lam with her, he developed a relationship with her, which he broke to protect her from the Court’s endless search for their missing “toy.” While on the run, Calvin meets a man whose life was destroyed by the Court as well. Sebastian Clark. Clark helps Calvin hit the Court HARD, crippling much of their infrastructure. In this guided crusade against their common enemy, Calvin meets up again with his former girlfriend, Casey Washington, and her daughter Sarah. Soon after it comes out that Sebastian Clarke did in fact have his life destroyed by the Court, but it was because he was the disgraced head of the Court at the time of Batman’s interference and the fabled “Night of Owls.” Danger literally lurks in all directions and Calvin is beset with daunting odds. His immediate challenges include Sarah’s kidnapping and subsequent brainwashing by the Court, Clarke has a plan afoot to raze Gotham, and a serum has been injected into his bloodstream that melts necrotic tissue, i.e. his entire body. To a lesser extent Batman has harried most of Calvin’s moves, because no one operates in the Bat’s backyard without his say-so. However, despite the insurmountable obstacles Calvin is very much like the classic Jack Kirby creation, Mister Miracle. Both are master escape artists, and like Miracle, Calvin will not be deterred by any odds, even if Batman is counted among them. With the conclusion of this issue the Court of Owls still exist, but they are once again weakened and the more pressing threats to fair Gotham put to bed for good. Calvin’s main objectives are accomplished, but his journey toward ending the Owls’ reign continues, albeit under new circumstances and with new allies. Writer James Tynion has taken the concept of the Court of Owls and made good use of it with the fifteen issues of this series he has written.
Batman Inc Just Got a Little Bit Cooler.
Red Lanterns #26 after the big fight between Relic and the remaining Lanterns of all colors, the Reds were given authority of Sector 2814, which contains our solar system. To demonstrate their authority they attempt to take out one of the greatest evils of our Sector in the form of a despot named Marshal Gensui. Gensui has enslaved the secondary race of his world and used them as slave labor to build a sphere around their sun to harness its energies to use for his own ends. Going up against the forces of the planet Kormorax the Red Lanterns, under the command of Guy Gardner are in hot water. Marshal Gensui has made a career of culling rage, using his intimidation tactics and scientific acumen he has pacified the brutalized masses he exploits. With those same technologies he pacifies the Red Lanterns, the angriest individuals in the universe. With that taken into account, writer Charles Soule concludes the two issue arc with an examination of the kinds of rage that exist and how each type fits various situations in better ways. Peter Milligan, the original Red Lanterns writer did this very well in the past, making a point of highlighting tertiary Red Lanterns who weren’t as popular and whose backstories haven’t found their way into past issues. One Red, the ox-skulled Skallox, was a murder and a scoundrel sent up the river by his boss as a liability, another named Ratchet was an individual living in an isolationist, dystopian nightmare that craved interaction and was imprisoned and mercilessly tortured for years as a result. Yet again Soule highlights two lesser Red Corpsman and their individual brands of rage to show the strength of each. Zilius Zox takes a lead role in these issues, but Ratchet once again shines above the rest. While he and his fellow Reds are in a stupefied, euphoric haze due to Gensui’s crowd control technologies Ratchet is able to throw off the stupor with his rage, despite the most powerfully ravenous Reds being unable. What really highlights his character, and it a lot of ways finishes what Milligan began in that bygone issue, was the totality of Ratchet’s capabilities. Ratchet wasn’t a bad guy. He wanted friendship and comaraderie and his inability to do so was what fueled his rage. Being a Red Lantern gave him his hearts desires so slowly his rage was subsiding, which meant that he wouldn’t be able to wield the ring, which also meant that the ring would no longer be able to keep him alive as it did all Red Lanterns whose blood is replaced with a napalm fluid of refined hate. He was dying no matter what happened, and what he accomplishes in this issue not only expedites that end before prolonged suffering, it also made an enduring place in the hearts and minds of his fellow Corpsmen. Soule inherited a vast legacy from Peter Milligan and has made proper use of it, penning a fantastic series.
So ends an abbreviated catchup to the weeks missed in my absence. Check back to this post periodically as I will probably take on some other issues that are of note.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman #25: Art by Andy Clarke, Colored by Blond.
Superman/Wonder Woman #2: Drawn by Tony S. Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by BATT & Sandu Florea.
Green Arrow #26 & 27: Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo.
Teen Titans #26: Drawn by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Arif Prianto, Inked by Art Thibert & Dan Green.
Talon #14: Art by Emanuel Simeoni, Colored by Jeromy Cox.
Two weeks in and Villains Month is heating up. There are some grade A characters being represented this week and expectations are high. The much sought 3D covers can only take them so far. Here’s hoping this week maintains the momentum built last week.
Action Comics #23.2: Zodbegins the exploration into the mystery that is Zod. To be fair, I believe I went into this issue with extremely high hopes. For those readers that have read my thirteen page review of this summer’s Man of Steel film, they know that Zod is dear to my heart and only the most faithful adaptation to the integrity of the character would do. His entre into the New 52 came in the final installment of Action Comics’s backup feature, “World of Krypton” as Jor-El and Cadet Lara Lor-Van are saved from an overzealous Colonel who would overthrow the government by the loyal commander of Krypton’s military forces, Dru-Zod. Even though this appearance is short there was still promise in the way it was written by Scott Lobdell and Frank Hannah. This issue, written by Greg Pak, is a little more heavy-handed and portrays Zod as a monster forged in youth by his battle with actual monsters in the Kryptonian wilderness. Though it’s neither stated nor inferred in the text of the issue, it is reminiscent of the Frederick Nietzsche quote: “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster.” Throughout his rise through Krypton’s military and his befriending the Brothers El he came off a little strangely in my opinion. In Man of Steel there was a harshness that belied a deeper nobility in the Kryptonian general and a certain efficiency. Waste not, want not. Unless something had to be done, Zod didn’t do it, but if it was necessary, he did it and did it right. The Zod I imagined in the “World of Krypton” also had a nobility about him that came from utilitarian ideals and a love of Krypton. In this version by Pak, I don’t believe he follows the same footfalls as the other two versions I mentioned. I believe he IS as monster and lacking many of the quintessential qualities of a patriot of Krypton. I will reserve my judgement for what looks to be his next appearance under the pen of writer Charles Soule in Superman/Wonder Woman #3.
Aquaman #23.1: Black Manta is a penetrating look at perhaps the greatest antagonist of Aquaman. While he is no longer the man who murdered Aquaman’s infant son, Arthur Curry Jr, he is still tied to Aquaman in a mutual circle of death and hatred. It is revealed that Manta accidentally killed Arthur’s father by inducing a heart attack, and in retribution Aquaman attempted to kill him only to accidentally murder Manta’s father. What results is a deadly spiral of two sons attempting to avenge the inadvertent killings of their fathers. This issue is billed as being conceived of by Tony Bedard and Geoff Johns, but words by Bedard. Considering that most of the actual interactions and dialogue in this issue are taken verbatim from Forever Evil #1 I am assuming that Bedard merely filled in the captions to give Manta’s perspective. What is clear is that Manta’s “evil motivations” is nothing more than killing Aquaman. After that, there is no malice left to rule the world, or continue to kill or oppress. Just avenge his father’s death with his own hands. Enter the Crime Syndicate who subjugate the world and proclaim, “The Justice League is dead!” and offer Aquaman’s trident as proof. Essentially, a man whose sole motivation for continuing on was vengeance is denied that very impetus. So if he cannot avenge his father’s murder anymore, he can replace that hatred with vengeance against those who robbed him of his chance at retribution. Though this is Villains Month, this issue imbues Black Manta with a twisted humanity that makes him very relatable and almost noble. Though it’s just a brief glimpse, this issue tells everything that is really necessary in the understanding of this iconic comic book character’s New 52 iteration.
Spiral of Hatred
Green Lantern #23.2: Mongul is an interesting issue that redefines the character while maintaining his essence. In this issue the moon sized War World, Mongul’s vessel, appears suddenly in the territory of the Oblivoron Federation. When the admiral of the Federation armada demands the surrender of the War World, he is beamed aboard the artificial planet and brought before Mongul. Mongul then leads the Admiral around his “home”, displaying its defensive capabilities and the oddities that he has amassed from his travels across the cosmos. All the while he waxes philosophic about the art of war, conquest, and ruling, while simultaneously giving glimpses at his past, demonstrating his principles through their context toward the immensely powerful being he has become. Though the issue is almost entirely him just pontificating to his humbled “guest” it keeps the reader’s attention with the stark imagery juxtaposed against the quasi Sun-Tzu/Machievellian rhetoric. Mongul is changed a bit in the New 52 from former tellings, but remains true to the inherent nature of his past characterizations. This is largely because the issue was written by Mongul’s co-creator, Jim Starlin. Admittedly, Len Wein was the writer who first wrote him and Starlin the artist, but this time around Starlin finds himself penning the character with the help of famed artist, Howard Porter. The look and the feel of the character endures, and as the title he appears in foreshadows, the issue ends with War World closing in on a Green Lantern Corps chapter house. It stands to reason that we will see him in the not to distant future in the pages of Green Lantern Corps.
“We Shall Never Surrender!”
Batman & Robin #23.2: The Court of Owls is a fantastically woven tale of the Court, of course, but more so of Gotham itself and how the Court has entwined itself irrevocably into the very fabric of the city’s infrastructure, its culture, and the people who populate it. James Tynion IV (writer of Talon and protegé of the Court’s creator, Scott Snyder) pens this issue brilliantly. His writing tends to alternate between good and uninspired. This issue REALLY captures the essence of the subject organization, driving home to those familiar with the Court why they are so immensely powerful, and does the same for those who may never have read about the Court, while also introducing them in a very conversational tone. The issue begins in 1974 with a murder orchestrated by the Court, then cuts to the present day with Gotham tearing itself apart after the events of Forever Evil #1. Watching all of this is a youngish, yet senior member of the Court (wearing his owl mask, of course) explaining to his daughter (masked herself and looking to be around 9 or 10 years old) why they have nothing to fear from the havoc that is tearing Gotham asunder. The Court has weathered civil discord, plagues, riots, and the like many times before and only come back stronger. The issue then alternates between the present and the past, showing how the Court has asserted its power time and again as the father owl tells his daughter more about the principles that bind them to Gotham’s very foundations. These trips into the past range from 1974 all the way back to 1862, featuring the exploits of the Gotham Butcher. Each episode drives home further the point that the Court can never be fully extinguished so long as a single stone of Gotham remains. It also foreshadows a looming threat from the further past known as . . . the First Talon. Considering the sinister nature of the Talons (assassins of the Court) we’ve seen so far, especially the Gotham Butcher, for the First Talon to be that frightening to members of the Court, it must be something quite horrifying. Tynion writes it extremely well, but he gets a lot of help from artist Jorge Lucas, whose art is very gothic, with beautiful lines hashed out or blackened to give the impression of shadows and darkness in all areas and all times of day throughout Gotham. No one is safe anywhere or anytime from the Court . . .
Batman #23.2: The Riddler was very blase. I had high hopes for the issue, considering that Edward Nygma is playing such an integral role in Scott Snyder’s “Batman: Year Zero” storyline, however the problem lies in the delivery. As the title page reveals, the issue’s story was conceived of by Scott Snyder and Ray Fawkes, but was written by Fawkes. You can feel the presence of Scott Snyder’s style in the skeleton of the story, in which a recently escaped Riddler makes his way to the Wayne Enterprises Building and stages a very elaborate break-in. His goals and the means in which he infiltrates the building is very Snyder-esque and you know that there is a lot of possibilities inherent in it. The problem is that Ray Fawkes has a certain way of writing that isn’t always the best and unfortunately for this issue he really makes the character obnoxious and uninteresting. The Riddler is a character that skews that way naturally and it takes a careful hand to write him in such a way that he is engaging and interesting, not pretentious and grating to the reader. Unfortunately, Ray Fawkes hasn’t displayed any such talents in his time on Batgirl or Pandora. The Riddler is a character I have enjoyed in the past, but not overly so, so the fact that this issue wasn’t written the best didn’t sadden me too much. I did enjoy the art by Jeremy Haun, which was very reminiscent of Phil Noto. An okay issue, but definitely not a “MUST get.”
Detective Comics #23.2: Harley Quinn was a giant contradiction and I say that in a way that is not condemning or negative. I don’t really know whether I liked it or hated it, but I like that I don’t know. That uncertainty underscores the essential nature of the character as depicted in this issue. Writer Matt Kindt really hits on the contradictions of the character herself that seem irreconcilable, yet form the bedrock of who she is. To the casual observer Harley Quinn is the ditzy blonde that epitomizes the stereotype into which she aptly seems to fall. However, before the grease paint and the red and black costuming, she was a brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. Harleen Quintzel. The issue shows her as a young overachiever who used her intelligence and immense drive to escape a traumatic, lower class childhood. As a rising star in psychiatry she went to Arkham Asylum to cut her teeth on the sickest minds in the world. After awhile of grinding her gears, she tried a revolutionary tactic of infiltrating them as a new “inmate” and studying them and treating them under the radar. While occupying this persona and experiencing life from their perspective, everything she pushed herself to be and all the hard work and diligence fell away and she learned what it felt like to be truly free, releasing Harley from within Harleen’s confined, regimented psyche. The rest plays out in a giant cathartic explosion of chaos and self-discovery. This is the part of the issue I really liked. The part I wasn’t too fond of was her actions in the present, disseminating handheld gaming devices to that masses laced with explosives that kill both adults and small children. She also murders at least one cop, if not dozens in a pretty brutal fashion. As stated before, I really enjoyed the look into how she split from a paradigm of order to a paragon of chaos, but her brutal actions in the present that are extremely harsh and without any rationale given in the narrative jarred me quite a bit. I think this does cement her as a more feminized Joker-like character than she has been in the past, but I am not sure if her actions as they stand push her past the limits of her anti-heroic depiction in Suicide Squad. I will give Matt Kindt a thumbs up for a very thought-provoking issue.
Justice League #23.2: Lobo was an issue that didn’t need to be written. Worse, it didn’t even need to be thought. The controversy surrounding this issue was something I tried not to jump into, being that DC was saying that the man we have seen since the character’s creation in the late 80’s was NOT in fact the real Lobo, but rather an imposter. A BOLD proposition, but I chose to hear them out and not get bent out of shape until there was an actual reason. Well, this issue presented nothing new. Nothing interesting. Nothing different. To be fair, there are differences, but not good ones. Lobo, as created by Keith Giffen, was a big, muscular, space biker that was the last of his race (him having murdered his entire species) who bounty hunted across the universe for some spending money. He did BAD, morally repugnant things, but you read him because of his penchant for over the top violence and his pseudo-swear words like “bastich” and “fragging.” He won you over. What writer Marguerite Bennett replaced him with is a thinner, more morose facsimile with a stupid looking pompadour. Worst of all, she gutted his endearing vernacular for a schizophrenic, hipster style, no longer calling people “bastiches” when he does his business, but rather one who says, “Sorry. Not Sorry.” Once or twice that might simply be tolerable, but by the fifth time you pray that the “fake” (REAL!!!) Lobo would come out of nowhere and cut the hipster bastich’s fraggin’ tongue out with something blunt. Sorry, new Lobo. Not sorry. I don’t know whose fault this utter piece of tripe is, Bennett’s or DC’s execs who have been REALLY throwing out terrible ideas of late, but this experiment is a failure. Sorry, DC. NOT sorry!
The Flash #23.2: The Reverse Flash tells the tale of one of Flash’s most iconic villains reimagined for the New 52. The Rogues represent a perennial challenge to the Flash, but its the Reverse Flash that truly underscores the dark side of the Speed Force, the transcendental energy stream from which they both draw their power. This issue, like so much of what co-writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have done with this title takes the character of the Reverse Flash and reworked him in innovative, intriguing ways, while at the same time staying true to the spirit of what came before. In their run Barry Allen (the Flash) is no longer married to the character who was his wife for decades, Iris West, and indeed as the series opened they had never been in a relationship. Barry instead is dating fellow Central City forensic investigator, Patty Spivot. Reverse Flash also finds himself in the shuffle of things with a new take and a new persona. Whereas once he was Eobard Thawne or Hunter Zolomon, in the New 52 he inherits a third persona: Daniel West, brother of Iris. However, like the two aforementioned Reverse Flashes, Daniel’s abilities and goals are heavily centered on time travel. Thawne was a criminal from the 25th century who came back in time to our “present” with the use of Barry Allen’s original costume, slightly modified. Zolomon was a paraplegic who after being refused help via time manipulation by Barry Allen’s successor and former sidekick, Wally West, took it upon himself to attempt time travel only to end up becoming a twisted psychotic whose powers were actually time-based and did not rely on speed at all. This Villains Month issue tells us how Daniel got his abilities, tied integrally into the Speed Force, and how his past coupled with these abilities drove him insane. I don’t know if I have ever read anything about Iris’ brother, or if Daniel is in fact the father of Wally, but the representation of Daniel in this issue is complex, compelling, and despite his mismanaged rage and many flaws, you sort of find yourself rooting for him. Francis Manapul has been the only one to draw the Reverse Flash since his introduction to the New DCU, even when all but the last page were drawn by someone else. This special issue was drawn by Scott Hepburn, whose style very closely mimics Manapul’s lines, and its shocking ending is truly a hallmark in the New 52’s three year history. This is not an issue to miss.
Earth 2 #15.2: Solomon Grundy is the second issue written by Matt Kindt this week and comes off a little weaker than his Harley Quinn issue, though written in a similar fashion. The last time we saw Grundy, Earth 2 writer James Robinson had Alan Scott’s Green Lantern strand the hulking zombie on the Moon. This issue has him shooting back to Earth like a meteorite, but with no explanation of how that comes to pass. Once back, he begins to do as he did when we first met him a year ago when Robinson introduced him as the avatar of the Grey (Rot), reducing everything living he touches to ash. As he cuts a wide swathe across the American southwest, Kindt cuts the narrative back to Slaughter Swamp of 1898 to introduce Solomon’s human life as a sharecropper and butcher in a the slaughterhouse that gave the swamp its name. His life was lived and ended in a very horrifying manner, resulting in an equally horrible after-life. The parts of the narrative that take place in the past are well done, but when they cut to the present there is a serious disconnect for the reader. Grundy almost destroyed humanity just by being on the planet for a few hours when we first met him, so the ending of him wreaking havoc unopposed is very unsatisfying and raises more questions than it answers. In this way it is very much like Harley’s Detective Comics issue, but in that case the disconnect between past and present was indicative of the character’s persona. This issue didn’t have that same appropriateness and just came off sloppy. Artist Aaron Lopresti did a fantastic job rendering the issue artistically and is the real draw of the issue with a decent, but not entirely satisfying plot. However, Matt Kindt wrote several issues this month, so it is completely understandable that some will be better than their fellows.
Teen Titans #23.1: Trigon, like Mongul above, is another Villains Month issue that features the character’s creator coming back decades later and re-imagining them for DC’s rebooted multiverse. In this version a young, smaller Trigon is brought before a holy trinity of universal guardians calling themselves the “Divine,” who purge evil from the known universes using a cosmic anomaly known as the “Heart.” True to its name, it resembles a giant black, pulsating heart that sucks the souls from those with evil festering inside them. This tactic doesn’t work on the young demon lord, and actually brings about the Divine’s ultimate undoing. From there, Trigon descends upon world after world subjugating universes and realities one after the other through the impregnating of women in each sphere with his progeny. However, few of his children survive birth or their mothers commit suicide before they can be born. All of his sons also prove to be unimpressive specimens, but one human woman who gives herself to Trigon willingly and gives birth to a daughter, Raven, who becomes the greatest of his scions. Raven, as we know, has found her way into the ranks of the Teen Titans and her allegiance is somewhat ambiguous at this moment. Also tying into the Teen Titans title is the introduction of the first bearer of the Silent Armour (currently worn by Wonder Girl) and the only being to ever fight Trigon to a stalemate. Wolfman’s story fits spectacularly into the overall framework of the New DCU, specifically the work that Scott Lobdell has done in Teen Titans.
Batman: The Dark Knight #23.2: Mr. Freezeis the Mr. Freeze issue that should have been from the start. Scott Snyder is a phenomenal writer, but his New 52 introduction of Victor Fries was totally lackluster and didn’t do justice to the character at all. Perhaps the keystone motivation of the character is his love and devotion to his wife, Nora. He was a man who was literally cold as ice in both demeanor and M.O., but underneath that frigid exterior beats a warm heart filled with love. While Snyder’s introduction to Freeze began that way in Batman Annual #1, it quickly soured as Batman reveals that the Nora in cryogenic stasis wasn’t actually Victor’s wife, but a Jane Doe with whom he grew an obsession. Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray take that imperfect start and re-establish Freeze as a man capable of feeling love, albeit a very psychotic brand of love. When the crap hits the fan with the Crime Syndicate opening the prisons and Arkham Asylum and chaos reigns all throughout Gotham Freeze intercedes in favor of an Arkham nurse that showed him kindness when she didn’t have to. His father walked out on him and his mother when he was a small child and though this sense of betrayal ruined his adolescence and ultimately killed his mother, upon finding out that his father had another family and he had a half-brother, niece, and nephew he never knew about he is excited. Many psychotics would be angry and resentful about this, but Victor’s cold demeanor belies a desire for meaningful human affection and to preserve it at all costs. This presentation of Mr. Freeze rings the most true of any so far in the New DCU. What also gives this the feeling of a true second chance for character is the art from Jason Masters, who was the same artist to first render him in the New 52 in Batman Annual #1.
Superman #23.2: Brainiac could be the most perfect Villains Month issue yet and I would dare say, probably the best that this month will yield. It is literally perfect, just like the subject it depicts. There are many variables that figure into this perfect storm of awesome: 1) Writer Tony Bedard, a proven master that knows how to write complex cosmic drama, 2) artist Pascal Alixe’s art is peerless!, the pencils and inks immersing the reader into a very comprehensive vision of the complex text, 3) both Bedard and Alixe stand on the shoulders of giants, drawing off of and adding to phenomenal Superman stories of the past two years by the likes of Grant Morrison, Rags Morales, Scott Lobdell, and Kenneth Rocafort, to name only a few. The issue begins with the systematic subjugation of three worlds by the “Collector”, colloquially known as Brainiac. On the third world, Noma, the planet’s most brilliant scientist, Victoria Viceroy, is captured by the Collector’s Terminauts and debriefed by her robotic aide, Pneumenoid, slaved to Brainiac’s reprogramming. Pneumenoid attempts to persuade her that what is happening to her world is not a defeat, but rather a triumph for her planet and its culture. He then recounts a tale of the most brilliant mind on the planet of Yod-Colu who became aware of the Multitude, the 5th dimensional hoard created in Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run that ravage planets and erradicate their populations. It is for this reason that the scientist Vril Dox begins to perform extreme experimentations in the “upgrading” of the Coluan species using his son as the guinea pig. When his wife, Lysl Dox, becomes aware of his crimes against their child she brings him before the planet’s justices who listen to his defense as to the danger the 5th dimension poses to their world and what his experiments would achieve toward the preservation of their way of life. His pleas fall on deaf ears and he is exiled into deep space. However, as the chief scientific mind of Yod-Colu, Dox had designed the craft that imprisoned him and the computer systems administering his captivity, thus allowing him easy access to override its programming and aid him in his endeavors. On the way back to Yod-Colu, he has the ship’s A.I. complete on himself the operations he had begun on his son, transforming him into a walking biocomputer. He returns to Yod-Colu and extracts all vital information on Colu’s civilization, history, technology, and culture and shrinks a city (his very first), bottling it to preserve also a small sampling of its people. The poignant detail that bears mentioning is that, despite his cold logic and emotionless nature, the portion of Colu Brainiac bottles contains his wife and son, sparing them from the horrific apocalypse the Multitude rain down on the rest of his world. This process of data extraction and bottling a city becomes his modus operandi on many worlds between Yod-Colu and his eventual advent on Earth. One such world, of course, was Krypton where he stole the capital city, Kandor, which he bottled and added to his collection. This was one of the few worlds that Brainiac failed to destroy before he left, and serendipitously so, because the foremost Kryptonian scientist, Jor-El, achieved the one thing that even Brainiac’s vaunted 12th level intellect could not: defeating the Multitude. Jor-El was the only being to EVER defeat them until his son, Kal-El, did just that in Morrison’s Action Comics run. But even Jor-El was not brilliant enough to prevent the inevitability of Krypton’s destruction by other forces, which we are scheduled to witness in two short months in the “Krypton Returns” storyline throughout the Super-titles. Since then, Brainaic has preemptively preserved doomed cultures in the Multitude’s path and sought out minds that could do what Jor-El did. Enter Victoria Viceroy, a very similar persona to Jor-El, both in intellect and disposition. The issue plays out in a natural cycle of tragic fatalism inherent in the disparity between automated logic and the spontaneity of free will. The tragedy of the comic is very moving and thought-provoking making it all the more enjoyable. If there was a choice of only one issue to get this week, Brainiac would be the logical choice, with the word “choice” betraying the illusion of there even being one. That is what Brainiac would most likely tell you, without bias of course.
FBP (Federal Bureau of Physics) #3continues off of yet another incredible Vertigo series launched in a new wave of titles. The premise of the series is that the laws of physics have come undone and random anomalies occur that defy the very principles of normalcy that the reader takes for granted. To counter these freak occurrences a governmental agency is created, which gives this series its name. Last issue Agent Adam Hardy and his partner and mentor Jay Kelly of the Federal Bureau of Physics went into a bubble universe (a small alternate version of an area juxtaposed on top of the original) to rescue four people trapped inside, before the bubble bursts killing them and causing damage to the space/time continuum. No big deal. However, Jay decides to take this moment to pull a gun on his protege and end that relationship. But for effed up physics Jay would have succeeded. However, Adam is able to escape and effect the rescue of his assigned person, James Crest, a disgraced C.E.O. facing an indicted from the SEC. While all this is going on inside the bubble, on the outside the very eccentric appearing chief of the FBP, Cicero Deluca, meets with his own mentor in the latter’s television repair shop. The character of Cicero is pretty cryptic, giving the impression in the first two issues that he’s a very closed off, unilateral bureaucratic sort mixed with a “Beautiful Mind” autistic prodigy, so seeing him defer to another person, especially someone who isn’t vaunted as a world-class physicist and to witness his recognition of his humble origins learning about science through television repair is quite humbling and humanizing. On the other side, his mentor, Yarab, a wizened old Semetic gentleman, poses a very interesting foil for the cold fact character found in Cicero. Bouncing ideas back and forth, you hear the textbook theoretics come out of Cicero’s mouth, countered or abetted by the scientifically back insightful ideas of Yarab wrapped in colloquial, old-world metaphors accentuating his didactics and his characterization. The issue advances the series further toward being a quintessentially Vertigo title, delving intelligently into the realities of our world explored through well-reasoned unrealities. Adam’s odyssey from the sins of his father to becoming an FBP agent to getting shot at by his oldest friend, Cicero’s discourse with Yarab into nightmarish quantum physics, to the horrifying actions of Jay in the very last panels of the issue cement it as one of those Vertigo runs you tell your friends about for years to come to show them what comics are truly capable of.
This week in comics was not to shabby and definitely produces some gems with far-reaching connotions. This week definitely proves it’s GOOD to be a comic book nerd.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Aquaman #23.1: Black Manta: Art by Claude St. Aubin, Colored by Blond
Green Lantern #23.2: Mongul: Art by Howard Porter, Colored by Hi-Fi
Batman & Robin #23.2: Court of Owls: Art by Jorge Lucas, Colored by Dave McCaig
The Flash #23.2: The Reverse Flash: Art by Scott Hepburn, Colored by Brian Buccellato
Superman #23.3: Brainiac: Art by Pascal Alixe, Colored by Hi-Fi
FBP #3: Art by Robbi Rodriguez, Colored by Rico Renzi