Oct. 16, 2013

This week is a one of revelation, bringing quite a few story arcs to their satisfying conclusion and starting a few new ones.  Justice League of America reveals a major secret, Batman/Superman ends its first storyline with unique style, and Supergirl picks up after a “Who Shot J.R.” style cliffhanger dangled over two months worth of issues.  Meanwhile, Forever Evil: Rogues Revenge kicks off this month with its first issue and Batman & Robin emerges from a slew of guest stars with a five issue Two-Face “team-up.”  An awesome week to be sure, so let’s jump into it.

  • Justice League of America # 8 answers the question of what happened to the three Justice Leagues.  Since the beginning of Forever Evil the Crime Syndicate of America from Earth-3 claimed that they had killed the Justice League.  The vision of the world’s saviors defeated at the hands of a superior foe has robbed humanity of hope.  But as this issue opens Stargirl and Martian Manhunter awaken in an open field with only blue skies and green grass as far as the eyes can see.  As they move through it they realize that what they are in is a state-of-the-art prison, but how it works and to what end remains obscured.  Traversing the prison, Manhunter discovers that all League members are in fact alive and penned in very specialized cells that cater to their inherent weaknesses.  Wonder Woman, the Mighty Amazon, is forced to fight a pointless, neverending battle against humanity and her Amazonian sisters to save the lives of the two men she loves, Col. Steve Trevor and Superman.  Captain Marvel, a young boy living in the body of a titan, is placed in a city where the massive destruction he incurs in his superheroics immediately right themselves, even the slain immediately resurrecting.  For a little boy with infinite strength and a victim complex this scenario is intoxicating.  Flash, the Fastest Man Alive, is trapped in his apartment subject to the whims of his imagination, thinking he is going faster than ever when really he barely moves.  Superman, the noble Last Son of Krypton also called “the Boy Scout” by Batman, is weighed down by guilt over supposedly killing his teammates and attempts to fly fast enough to break the time barrier.  Simon Baz, Iraqi-American and fifth Green Lantern of Earth, is a man with great anger and resentment at the social injustice leveled at himself, his family, and his people.  Martian Manhunter’s mental abilities allow him to verify that each person is genuine and not delusions or elaborate hoaxes.  Writer Matt Kindt is given the honor of revealing one of the biggest secrets of Forever Evil, and tantalizes with juicy details that cut deep to the psyches of each character.  I mentioned the inherent weaknesses of the characters, but those weaknesses do not include kryptonite or the color yellow, etc.  Each of the Justice Leaguers has a weakness in their character and exploiting those weaknesses is a more sustainable restraint than their physical limitations.  So the Justice League and Justice League of America are both alive and being held in a customized super-prison.  This reveals a lot, but raises more questions.  1) Why did the CSA leave them alive when they could have killed them and ended any future interference?  2) What is the prison and how does it work?  3) Why were Stargirl and Martian Manhunter left together in the prison and how does the field play into their ideal incarceration?  Matt Kind writes a hell of a Forever Evil tie-in to usher in Justice League of America’s involvement in the greater scheme of things.  Doug Mahnke continues art duties on the title after initial series artist David Finch moved over to the main Forever Evil book.  Mahnke has a talent for rendering very serious material with the subtleties of his art.  Considering the prison’s function of playing into internal flaws, Mahnke’s art, especially in the eyes and expressions of his subjects, effectively displays their delusional states and subsequent madness. Overall, Kindt and Mahnke provide a stellar issue cutting to the heart of the Earth-1 aspect of Forever Evil.

    The Mighty Amazon.

    The Mighty Amazon.

  • Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #1 fulfills the promise of its title; the Rogues’ rebellion begins.  Brian Buccellato, cowriter of The Flash, has been writing the Rogues on and off for 28 issues.  The Rogues are compelling villains, because they have ironclad codes of honor that they rigidly adhere to.  That honor is what sets them apart from the “Evil that shall inherit the Earth.”  In this spinoff series of Forever Evil, the Rogues return to Central City after witnessing the Crime Syndicate’s rousing speech reprinted in almost every tie-in book.  What greets them is a city in ruin and mass carnage.  In the Gorilla Grodd Villains Month issue we saw the cause of the carnage.  Grodd was freed from the Speed Force and abhors the concept of gorillas and humans coexisting in peace.  When Solivar, leader of Gorilla City, tried to make amends for Grodd’s attack on the Gem Cities, Grodd comes back to finish the job he began.  Humans and gorillas are slaughtered wholesale.  However, many are left alive for other villains to finish off.  The Rogues prey upon Central City and Keystone City, but they DO NOT kill and they don’t steal from people who can’t afford it.  They also are VERY territorial and any violence leveled at their home is tantamount to a declaration of war against them.  So when they find most of the Gem Cities’ police force chained to trees they let them loose, but assert right from the start that they will work with the police, but will not cow to them.  After the events of the Rogues issue during Villains Month, Lisa Snart, aka Golden Glider and younger sister of Captain Cold, fell deeper into a coma after overexerting her astral form to free her lover, Mirror Master, from his Mirror World prison.  Cold took over leadership of the Rogues after this and her safety became the primary concern of all members henceforth.  So when they visit her bedside in the hospital and the Crime Syndicate’s lackeys come forward to enact Central City’s destruction they show their true colors and give their fellow “villains” a show.  The ending of this issue was heralded before in Forever Evil #2 with the dispatch of Deathstorm (evil Firestorm of Earth-3) and Power Ring (sort of evil Green Lantern from Earth-3) to put down their rebellion.  Brian Buccellato is ridiculously on with this first issue, proving that he understands quintessentially the logos of these anti-heroic figures of comic lore.  The Rogues aren’t bad per se, but their ignominy stems from the tenacious drive they have to achieve their goals and resist anyone or anything that would stop them.  What’s more, they fight tenaciously while still holding fast to their sacrosanct code of honor.  There is a scene after they release the police when Lt. Singh, Barry Allen’s supervising officer, levels a gun at Heat Wave and the Rogue looks him in the eye and very calmly delivers a smooth warning that immediately gets the gung-ho officer to lower his weapon.  That thin line between ceding ground and seizing it is a gossamer thread that can make or break a Rogue story and Buccellato walks it like a pro.  The art of this issue is split between two artists, Patrick Zircher and Scott Hepburn.  Both artists worked with Buccellato last month on his Flash Villain issues, Zircher lending his art to The Rogues and Hepburn to Reverse Flash.  Zircher’s art was outstanding and very emotionally charged.  Hepburn’s fell flat in my opinion when juxtaposed so closely with the evocative pencils and inks of Zircher.  I didn’t mind his art in the Reverse Flash issue, and actually kind of liked it.  However, when so closely placed to such a different style, Hepburns art comes off far less realistic and more cartoonish, and considering the somber tone of the book, that is NOT conducive to the readers immersion in the plot.  Overall though, it was a phenomenal issue and one not to be missed.

    Don't Mess With Fire Or You'll Get Burned.

    Don’t Mess With Fire Or You’ll Get Burned.

  • Green Lantern: New Guardians #24 is the middle mark of the epic “Lights Out” storyline happening throughout the Green Lantern titles.   Oa, center of the universe and ancient homeworld of the Green Lantern Corps, has been destroyed by the ancient being known as Relic, leaving the Green Lantern Corps homeless and in exile.  Former Green Lantern and current White Lantern Kyle Rayner also finds himself reeling from the loss of Oa.  However, in the wake of this tragedy the errant entities of the various lights simultaneously possess him and bend him to their will.  Kyle had previously played host to Ion, entity of Will, and Parallax, entity of Fear, and been able to assert himself with difficulty, but with five of the seven infesting him at once there is no shaking them off.  However, while his incarceration is unpleasant, it does shed light on what is going on with the entities and the universe’s reservoir of light.  Justin Jordan has been helming this title since the apocalyptic events of “Wrath of the Last Lantern” concluded Tony Bedard’s run and his issues have really put the weight of the world on poor Kyle’s shoulders.  If you are a fan of Kyle Rayner, as I am, this issue and its immediate predecessors paint a very epic picture of the artist’s role in maintaining cosmic equalibrium.  Justin Jordan picks up from Robert Venditti and Van Jensen and passes the story to Charles Soule for Red Lanterns #24 with no loss of momentum.  Truly amazing.
  • Batman & Robin #24 opens with a fly landing on a sleeping Two-Face’s bad eye, which never closes when he sleeps.  Waking up, he puts a gun to his head.  By page 2 writer Peter Tomasi has already established a haunted version of the binary bad guy.  Then the story shifts to Batman and the GCPD breaking skulls to find details on the imminent return of an infamous Gotham mobster that has been running the Irish gangs remotely from numerous safe houses around the world: Erin McKillen.  She comes into town for a very important summit with all Gotham City families to determine the future of organized crime in a city plagued with “freaks.”  McKillen is told that she is going to be the one to start the ball rolling by offing Two-Face, the man she created.  Cut to a flashback of that fateful moment years ago.  Harvey Dent wakes in his office, strapped to his desk top, his wife Gilda dead on the floor with a letter opener in her chest, and Erin McKillen wearing Gilda’s clothes.  Mocking him, she pours acid on his face to show Gotham “what a two-faced son of a bitch [he] is.”  Despite the agony he breaks some glass with his shoe and saws the ropes holding him down, freeing himself, then holds his wife one last time and kisses her with his wrecked face.  Again, the characterization and the haunted nature of Harvey Dent is beautifully portrayed by Tomasi and visually rendered by Tomasi’s long time collaborator, Patrick Gleason.  No doubt there is more here than meets the eye, but there is a compelling pathos that accompanies Harvey through his portions of this month’s issue.  Like most villains examined during Villains Month, he has his overwhelming darkness that compels him into acts of villainy, but underneath the emotional (and in this case physical) scarring there is a human being.  Following the death of Damian Wayne, Tomasi has changed the title of the series month after month to accommodate his partner du jour.  Each only last a month and he moves on to the next team up.  This issue begins a five month Batman & Two Face arc.  The two Gotham City strong men might not work together directly, but there goals are the same: taking down Erin McKillen and making her face justice in some way for the heinous acts she has committed against Gotham City.  Will it be in the judicial system or at the end of a knife?  Tomasi knows what he’s doing, so I impatiently await the answer.

    The Death of Love.

    The Death of Love.

  • Batman/Superman #4 brings to an end the series’ first arc and also illuminates the opening arcs of both Justice League and Earth 2.  This first arc brings pre-Justice League #1 Batman and Superman together and sends them to Earth-2 where they meet their older, more established selves.  One thing writer Greg Pak really highlighted well in the past three issues is just how different the Earth-1 and Earth-2 Batmen and Supermen are.  One of the things I personally hated about Superman in the initial Justice League issues was how “in your face” he was and his lack of control.  Superman should be all about restraint and moderation.  The same can be said about Geoff Johns’ Batman from those same initial Justice League books that ushered in the New DCU.  Batman always is dark and brooding, but he’s intelligent and analytical about it, not confrontational and snarky without cause.  That is precisely how Greg Pak explores these two characters.  The Earth-1 iterations of the characters as they were first depicted by the misguided pen of Johns are juxtaposed against the characters as they should be, now relegated to Earth-2.  The most poignant example of this is Earth-1 Supes (whose adoptive parents died when he was in high school) meeting Earth-2 Superman and the elderly Kents.  The Kents note that Earth-1 Superman has a foul mouth and lacks patience.  Earth-2 Batman has a field day picking apart Earth-1 Batman, as does the otherwordly Batman’s wife, Catwoman.  Last issue the Apokaliptian demon named Kaiyo told the Supermen, Batmen, and Earth-2 Wonder Woman and Catwoman that this world’s military have obtained a giant crystal shard with supernatural abilities to alter reality.  This weapon was made to combat Superman, but Kaiyo says it can be used to combat a greater threat that is imminent.  Darkseid.  The Earth-2 Superman and Batman want it destroyed.  Earth-1 Superman and Batman want to save it.  Their initial desires and the people they are ultimately dictate their respective fates and eventual dooms.  The arc was rife with dichotomies between Batman and Superman and between different versions of themselves.  Greg Pak comes into the game late, but takes what has been done shoddily in the past and makes it work toward a larger purpose.  His rendering of imperfect characters is thoughtful and highly entertaining, but raises the question of what he will do in his next arc which looks to take place in a post-Justice League #1 continuity when both Batman and Superman were written better and when, as characters, they began to respect one another.  Also worth mentioning is the breathtaking art by Jae Lee.  Lee’s rendering of characters is very ethereal in the emotionless expressions he imbues them with and a look of effortlessness in everything they do, no matter how incredible.  Considering the clash of titans this arc depicts, Lee is the quintessential choice for it.  Four issues in and this has become a must read series.

    Nice Guys DO Finish Last . . .

    Nice Guys DO Finish Last . . .

  • Batwoman #24 is a bittersweet issue marking the premature departure of writers J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman from the title.  Initially when they decided to leave they were going to write through issue #25 to end the overreaching arc they had begun.  This issue marks the actual end of their run, one issue shy of their intended end.  And what a cliffhanger they left . . .  Since the beginning of the “Weeping Woman” arc in early 2012 Batwoman, a.k.a Kate Kane, has been on the hook by the D.E.O. chief, Director Bones, and his underling Agent Cameron Chase.  Since the mid 90’s when J.H. Williams III worked on the series Chase the D.E.O. (Department of Extranormal Occurrences) has been looking for the holy grail of secrets in the superhero world: the identity of the Batman.  They have tried everything and always come up short.  Batwoman becomes their ace in the hole.  With a vulnerable member of the Bat-family in their pocket they have the means to finally blow that secret wide open.  Chase learns that Col. Jacob Kane (Batwoman’s father) armed his daughter with military equipment and later they get their hands on Kate’s twin sister, Beth, a.k.a Alice.  Williams and Blackman have been building toward this moment for twenty issues and the moment has finally come.  Bones has unleashed renegade Batman villains on Gotham as a massive diversion while Batwoman gets in close.  In the meantime Jacob, Betty a.k.a Flamebird (Kate’s cousin and sidekick) and a select team of operatives infiltrate the D.E.O. safe house where Beth is being held.  Beth is on the verge of being rescued and Batwoman sucker punches Batman, but good.  This issue ends in the perfect way to set up a MASSIVE finale to a storyline looooong in the making, only for the writers to be driven from their title.  Also distressing is the off-putting of the conclusion to December with the last minute inclusion of Batwoman to the “Blackout” event throughout the DCU.  As a Gothamite her involvement does make a modicum of sense.  November marks the regime shift of relief writer Marc Andreyko and artist Jeremy Haun.  J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman are two incredible writers and Williams a peerless artist.  The loss of both could be catastrophic to this must-read title.  In my opinion this distressing possibility is augmented by the awful job Andreyko did on the Sword of Sorcery backup feature “Stalker.”  The original story created and written by Paul Levitz in the 70’s was amazing.  Andreyko’s was version was horrendous to read and completely without point.  His ability to pick up where greater minds have left off remains highly questionable.  We’ll see what November holds for Batwoman.

    Battle of the Bats.

    Battle of the Bats.

  • Supergirl #24 is one of the October issues screaming for release after the shock ending of August’s Supergirl #23. Supergirl had found herself on a constantly morphing colony of hive-minded mechanized organisms called the I’Noxia.  These machines are benign in nature, but forced to cooperated with the Collector (Brainiac) and his creation, the Cyborg Superman.  Supergirl is dying from Kryptonite poisoning after the “H’el on Earth” crossover in the Super-books. The I’Noxians offer her haven by computerizing her intelligence in exchange for Cyborg Superman gaining custody of her body and using her Kryptonian flesh to reconstitute his missing parts, returning his former body, but also the missing memories of his identity.  She resists and he takes what he wants by force.  He gets his body and his memories back and lo and behold . . . he’s Zor-El.  Kara’s father!  Upon regaining his memories and his mind he is immediately struck with horror at what Brainiac’s programming made him do.  In September the Cyborg Superman issue of Action Comics revealed the connection between Zor-El and Brainiac and how he came to be made into the Cyborg Superman.  Zor-El is a good man, but the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.  And in this issue a father’s love takes him once again down the road to Hell.  Kara can live again.  The I’Noxians have the technology to reconstitute her, but that would require the rebirth of the Cyborg Superman.  Writer Michael Alan Nelson writes a compelling version of Zor-El, eldest son of the House of El, and dedicated scientist.  His love of his family and his people forced him to seek help in the most dangerous places if even the slightest chance of survival exists.  Ending this issue, Kara comes face to face with the cosmic entity known as the Oracle, heralding the beginning of the “Krypton Returns” storyline beginning with Action Comics Annual #2. After the lead ins to this event dropped in both Superman #0 and Supergirl #0 last September I have been waiting on pins and needles to see the resolution as to how Superman and Superboy could have been on Krypton prior to its destruction.  In a little over a month we will have the answer.

    Behold the Oracle.

    Behold the Oracle.

  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #24 brings about the final showdown in ‘Eth Alth’eban between the League of Assassins, guardians of the Well of Sins, and the Untitled, ancient embodiments of evil born from the Well. Jason has been chosen to be the leader of the League and fights to stave off the assault that could result in the end of all things. Jason proves to be an adept disciple of the Batman, exhibiting the same ingenuity and resolve against forces far beyond his measure.  Indeed, that is most likely why the League chose him as their leader.  On the other side of fight, Roy Harper also is shown in a revealing light.  Previously, Roy helped the Untitled breach the impenetrable walls of ‘Eth Alth’eban under the understanding that he would be freeing Jason from a pack of vipers (which the League of Assassins are) and saving the world.  That last part wasn’t true at all, which he realized too late.  However, in his moment of reflection on his deteriorating relationships with Jason and Starfire he manages to capture the sympathy and last throbs of human compassion in the heart of the assassin, Cheshire, who in previous DC iterations was the mother of his daughter, Lian.  James TynionIV’s writing of this series is pretty good, although admittedly he has a long way to go to measure up to his predecessor and the series’ creator, Scott Lobdell.  Lobdell created the Untitled, so Tynion’s wrapping up of the fabled cabal begs the question of what Lobdell’s original intentions were for them.  Other than that, the issue comes off very well and reintroduces a venerable figure in Batman lore to the New 52.  Julius Gopez continues his phenomenal work as artist on the series, adding weight and substance to the Tynion’s scripts though his very expressive artwork.  Every emotion is blatant in his lines immediately immersing the reader in the agony and ecstasy of the book’s cast of characters.  Definitely and enjoyable book and a series worth picking up.

    The Heart of Chesire.

    The Heart of Chesire.

  • Vibe #8 dives head first into the wellspring of Cisco Ramon’s powers.  Vibe, as he’s been called, got his powers when he was caught in the event horizon of an Apokaliptian Boom Tube during Great Darkseid’s invasion of our world.  As a result he is attuned to extradimensional vibrations and able to sense and counteract beings from other dimensions.  Up to this point his powers were uses to detect intruders and refugees from other planes and if necessary, combat them.  After being wounded and sucked out of our dimension he begins leaking that energy the Boom Tube endowed him with, hurtling him from dimension to dimension with no control.  In the background as he cascades through all existence are little easter eggs from the two year run of the New DCU, including the recent fight between Green Lantern (Alan Scott) and Bruutal on Earth-2, the Phantom Zone, President Superman from Earth-5, and the gemworld of Nilaa that we last saw in the now cancelled Sword of Sorcery title.   It is while defending Princess Amethyst from the Quartz Hordes that the enigmatic figure called Breacher finds Cisco and puts a patch on his wound that stabilizes his dimensional radiation.  He takes Vibe to his own world, Piradell, and tells of the history that lead to its subjugation by the despotic Queen Mordeth and how that ties back to the same event that gave Cisco his powers.  At the same time that Cisco was imbued with interdimensional energies the Boom Tube collapsed on his elder brother, Armando.  They always assumed that Armando died, when he actually became a creature like Cisco and upon landing on Piradell gave Mordeth the means to subjugate that world.  Now Breacher and Cisco need to save Piradell, Armando who is under the thrall of Mordeth, and Mordeth’s daughter, Gypsy.  Sterling Gates has done the seemingly impossible, making Vibe a good character.  His original iteration in the Justice League Detroit comics was a joke at best.  Now he is substantial, thoughtful, and endowed with a sense of consequence in the larger scheme of the emerging DC multiverse.  Back in the day, the Flash was the keymaster to the multiverse, having the ability to vibrate though realities from Earth to Earth.  While Flash still has that ability, Vibe is pretty much made to solely be the custodian of opening the gates off our Earth, but also keeping those that breach from remaining.  With that in mind, and with the multiverse slowly blooming in emerging DC plots, Vibe is a character to watch.

    From the Icy Plains of the Phantom Zone to the Steps of President Superman's Capitol.

    From the Icy Plains of the Phantom Zone to the Steps of President Superman’s Capitol.

  • Pandora #4 opens in the aftermath of Forever Evil #1 with Pandora, who was present when the Outsider (Earth-3 Alfred Pennyworth) opened the box that bears her name, finding herself transported to a desolate world littered with bones.  Earth-3.  The Birthplace of Evil.  The only living thing she encounters is the blind and mortally wounded J’onn J’onzz (Martian Manhunter) of that reality.  Through his rhetoric she become aware that the Crime Syndicate intend to do to our Earth what they did to this one.  When she returns to Earth-1 she hatches a plan.  First she entrusts a friend with the mission of reforging Pandora’s Box from the shattered remnants left after it opened the portal to the place of its birth, letting the CSA into our dimensional plane.  The next step is getting her OLD friend Vandal Savage to give her the means to infiltrate the Secret Society meeting in order that she can get at the man known as the Outsider.  What she intends to do with him remains up in the air, but that only ropes the reader into buying next month’s issue.  I’ve made no secret that I am not a fan of the writing style of this series’ writer, Ray Fawkes, but it can’t be denied that this issue is very well done and an integral tie-in to the overarching Forever Evil event going on throughout the DCU.  Series artist Francis Portela is always a delight with his lush artwork that has been seen in Legion of Superheroes (LONG LIVE THE LEGION!) and last month’s Killer Croc issue in the Batman & Robin title.  Whether the success of this issue is predicated on Fawke’s writing or the tent pole Forever Evil plotline remains to be seen, but until that event wraps in March this series will no doubt carry its weight in realizing the full measure of Earth-3 and absolute evil.

And there you have it.  An awesome week of comics that overall exceed the mark of this comic book geek.  Here’s hoping next week measures up the same.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Justice League of America #8:  Drawn by Doug Mahnke, Colored by Hi-Fi & Gabe Eltaeb, Inked by Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen, Keith Champagne & Marc Deering.

Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #1:  Art by Patrick Zircher, Colored by Nick Filardi.

Batman & Robin #24:  Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray.

Batman/Superman #4:  Art by Jae Lee, Colored by June Chung.

Batwoman #24:  Art by Trevor McCarthy, Colored by Guy Major.

Supergirl #24:  Drawn by Diogenes Neves, Colored by Guy Major, Inked by Marc Deering.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #24:  Drawn by Julius Gopez, Colored by Nei Ruffino & Hi-Fi, Inked by Walden Wong & Ray McCarthy.

Vibe #8:  Drawn by Andres Guinaldo, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Mark Irwin & Marc

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Sept. 4, 2013

It has been a LONG time since I have posted, due to some scheduling conflicts and a REALLY busy summer, but it’s good to be back talking about comics, and DC’s Villains Month is a perfect time to get back in the swing of things.  So far this first week has produced some interesting specimens as well as some really out-of-the-box concepts for the hallmark villains of the DC universe.  That said, less talking, more comic book reviewing:

  • Forever Evil #1 starts off the post Trinity War mega event across the entirety of the DC Universe.  The Crime Syndicate of America from Earth-3 has descended upon our world from a portal opened by Pandora’s Box.  As a result the Justice League has been “killed,” though it is not depicted nor explained, and the CSA have set about creating a Secret Society to claim the world in the name of evil. It doesn’t so much seem like a Secret when they are doing it out in the open . . .  From the four corners of the globe their acolytes are recruiting the evilest minds the planet can offer, from Gorilla Grodd to the Scarecrow, to create a new world order.  The issues opens on Lex Luthor, newly emancipated from prison for services rendered to the government, trying to coerce Thomas Kord (possible father of Ted Kord) to relinquish his controlling majority of Kord Industries with horrific, thinly veiled threats and bribery.  In mid-flight the helicopter they are riding in crashes leaving only Luthor alive.  The power goes out and all hell breaks loose.  The Crime Syndicate proudly proclaim, “This World is Ours.”  That is when the prisons are opened and  evil is truly unleashed like an open floodgate.  Throughout the rest of the issue we see the twisted version of the Justice League systematically subvert the last vestiges of super-powered defenders to proclaim their own order upon the globe.  With issue’s end the part that Luthor will play in the proceedings is very ambiguous.  Geoff Johns does a pretty decent job writing this story, which is interesting considering his blunt, overwrought attempts at the main Justice League title over the past two years. Aiding him in art is David Finch, who helped him launch Justice League of America eight months ago.  Of the two, I think that David Finch is the one that most excites me on this title.  Johns had his day in the sun, but has either lost his touch or gotten too power mad in his new executive position.  Either way, I am infinitely enthusiastic about this issue, as it expands the multiverse by one more world, giving birth to the Crime Syndicate:  Ultraman, Superwoman, Owlman, et al.  Owlman is perhaps the one that has the most interest to me, especially after the way he was portrayed in the DC animated movie Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths.  We shall see if this event and the New 52 does justice to the former incarnations of the Crime Syndicate and Earth-3.
  • Action Comics #23.1:Cyborg Superman is written by Supergirl writer Michael Alan Nelson following the shocking revelation of the Cyborg’s identity at the end of Supergirl #23 following his capture and rending the flesh off Supergirl in order that he could regain his Kryptonian body and his lost memories of his identity.  After stripping her flesh through  molecular dissolution and regaining his, he is revealed to be none other than Zor-El, father of Supergirl.  In this issue we see a man obsessed with perfection and obsessed with proving his intellect over that of his younger, seemingly brighter brother, Jor-El, in the face of Krypton’s destruction.  Undertaken out of pride, his efforts were also undertaken in order that his entire family could survive.  Using half understood Brainiac technology, he tries to save his native Argo City, only to see it collapse and his fellow Kryptonians slowly die.  When Brainiac returns he bestows upon Zor-El what the man himself had attempted: to force perfection upon him.  Many parts of Zor-El are completely replaced to make him more efficacious and that which is organic was rewritten genetically to resemble his “superior sibling,” hence his looking so much like Superman and not his blond, more round faced self.  What remains of the issue is an exploration of what cold logic and mechanized calculations deem “perfect.”  The Cyborg Superman issue encapsulates beautifully what Zor-El has become after Brainiac altered him and sets the stage for what is to come in the aftermath of his restoration in the pages of Supergirl #24.

    Extreme Cosmetic Surgery

    Extreme Cosmetic Surgery

  • Batman #23.1: Joker is a real treat.  Under the pen of the great artist Andy Kubert, scion of the legendary Joe Kubert, we see him (to my knowledge for the first time) write an incredibly introspective look at the Joker, glimpses of his past, and what makes him tick.  Opening on a traumatic childhood, we see a horrendous display of abuses heaped upon him by a violently insane aunt, including scrubbing his face and body down with bleach and coarse brush, in essence explaining his white skin and his psychopathy.  Cut to the the near-present (years before he cut his face off) where the Joker raises a baby gorilla he kidnaps from the zoo to be his son.  Truly touching, he gives the gorilla everything he was denied as a child including genuine love.  He molds the ape into his own likeness, but not with any malice towards his “son’s” feelings. However, since there is no mention of the gorilla in the present, the reader knows it won’t last.  The Joker witnesses his son’s death and from what follows the reader knows that this creature was literally the closest relationship the Clown Prince of Gotham has ever had, and indeed, the Joker begins crying.  But he quickly breaks into laughter and makes grossly morbid jokes about the whole thing.  Kubert shows us that the Joker is capable of emotions, but because of the incredible trauma of his youth, whenever they are too much to bear his brain reverts to a manic state of euphoric laughter to compensate.  Truly amazing storytelling, befitting his father’s legacy.  Kubert wrote this, but the art was done by another of my favorite artists, Andy Clarke.  Clarke’s art has made the backups of Detective Comics soar and his treatment of this entire issue augments and accentuates Kubert’s plots brilliantly.  This is a Villains Month issue that is not to be missed.
  • Batman & Robin #23.1: Two-Face written by Peter Tomasi and drawn by Guillem March chronicles the fate of Two-Face during the beginnings of Forever Evil.  Batman is “dead” and Gotham has gone dark.  For the former Gotham district attorney and current crimelord there are two paths to take: save Gotham or let her burn.  A tough call that is made simpler by a coin toss.  Interrupted by the Scarecrow, a third option is presented, or rather a second choice to be made.  Scarecrow represents the Secret Society who wish Two-Face’s allegiance in subjugating our world.  So the more pertinent question becomes: join the Society or fight the Society?  Another coin toss.  As Gotham cries out, Two-Face’s reactions to it, coupled with a few flashbacks to his past, really fleshout the man he has become and where his loyalties and druthers find themselves.  If his psychoses were simple to understand he wouldn’t have been sent to Arkham all those times, and Tomasi really feels out that space in his story, showing the true depth of his madness.  He also throws in some old friends from his pre-Reboot stint of the Batman & Robin title as well to shake things up.  If you like the character of Two-Face and await what Tomasi plans for him in the formerly titled Batman & Robin series, this issue is a must read.
  • Detective Comics #23.1: Poison Ivy, like Two-Face above, deals with Ivy’s emergence into a Gotham a without power, law, or the Batman.  As it has ever been depicted in such conditions, it is ANARCHY!  It is in this that Poison Ivy is reminded of the disgusting nature of humanity.  Among the insanities she witnesses is a scene of domestic abuse that she intervenes upon.  In doing this she is taken back to her childhood and her own battered mother finding solace in her garden, with peace of plants.  A horror would later await both in that garden, scarring young Pamela for the rest of her life and starting her path towards becoming Ivy.  That path is laid out through her entry into academia and the internship at Wayne Enterprises that brought about her physical transformation into the floral female terrorist she has become.   Derek Fridolfs writes this issue with the help of artist Javier Pina.  Poison Ivy can be written very two dimensionally, and this story skirts that territory with a semi-intricate explanation of her motivations, but still lacks some key element of why she is as generally misanthropic as she is depicted by issue’s end.
  • Green Lantern #23.1: Relic introduces us to the eponymous “Relic,” a petrified remnant from the Universe that preceded ours.  Since he awoke in Green Lantern: The New Guardians #22 he has been an enigma that has cryptically stated his good intentions while attacking viciously and unprovoked the Lanterns he dubs “lightsmiths.”  His goal is stated as “saving the Universe.”  This issue, written by Green Lantern scribe, Robert Venditti, chronicles his life in the universe that preceded ours and how that universe functioned.  The lightsmiths were wielders of the emotional spectrum, with all the same colors and emotions we have seen since Geoff Johns introduced them after the “Sinestro Corps War” in 2008.  However, despite their constant warring, the universe was built upon the light they used and instead of cities, civilizations, and infrastructures being built out of physical resources, the light constructs of the smiths served that function.  However, the greatest scientific mind of that universe saw that like physical resources the light came from somewhere and was not infinite.  It could run out and eventually would if it was used wantonly as it had been.  His warnings fall on deaf ears and it is because of this that the universe before ours ceased to be and he who was mocked as a “relic” in his universe, became a relic of his universe.  Upon awakening in ours he became aware of the likenesses of our universe to his and the presence of “lightsmiths.”  This time around he knew precisely the danger they posed to reality, and that arguing verbally with them was not the best course if anything was going to be done to save another universe.  Hence his cryptic tone, hence his blatant belligerence, and hence the “Relic” that we have seen thus far   The “Blackout” event is less than a month away and already the dimming described by him that preceded the cataclysms that claimed his universe has already been witnessed by the different Corps of Lanterns.  Venditti has set the stage for a true test of the Lanterns the likes of which (even under the pen of Geoff Johns) we have never seen the likes of.  Aiding him is artist Rags Morales who worked with Brad Walker, the Green Lantern: The New Guardians artist who first depicted Relic, on Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run.  Truly an issue to procure if you call yourself a fan of Green Lantern.
  • Green Arrow #23.1: Count Vertigo could almost be another issue of Green Arrow.  With the usual GA team on deck that is no insult.  This series is a delight, really tapping the limits and possibilities of the character to their peak potential.  However, being a Villains Month issue the dynamic creative duo focus their literary lens on Count Vertigo, by far  the most iconic of Oliver Queen’s nemeses depicted since the reboot.  Being in a rebooted universe, little is known about the man behind the disorienting device. This issue remedies that, telling the story of Werner Zytle, son of the late deposed Count of Vlatava.  He is raised in Canada by his  abusive mother who blames him for the fall of their family’s fortunes in the motherland.  She later sells him to a scientific research firm, prompting his implanting with the device that grants him his power.  It is here that his true power, both in spirit and body, takes hold.  From here he is able to reclaim his destiny, starting with his freedom, then regaining his homeland, and finally in the reunion with his mother he reclaims his past and identity.  He is very much a Mordred character, raised by  a single, overbearing mother to fulfill a destiny not of his choosing and ultimately becoming a monster that consumes the mother figure and becomes a plague upon humanity.  This is very much the case with Vertigo and though the issue is not structured like most of its fellows this week, it functions excellently in advancing the plot of Green Arrow and maintaining the integrity of the series, unlike many of the stand-alone stories out this month.  I enjoyed it thoroughly, but then again Green Arrow is one of my favorites.

    A Son's Vengeance

    A Son’s Vengeance

  • Justice League #23.1: Darkseid almost completely rewrites the entire concept of the New Gods.  I am not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.  Since Justice League #3 I have been up in arms against Geoff Johns’ blatant disregard for Jack Kirby’s seminal creations and the perfection of his Fourth World mythology.  Since then, Brian Azzarello’s work with the denizens of New Genesis have been slightly better.  High Father was done a little heavy handed, but the essence was there.  Scott Lobdell returns the character of Orion to a place that is well within the character’s original context and feels genuine.  And then we come to this issue, written by Greg Pak.  It begins by depicting Uxas and Izaya, mortals living upon the world of the (Old) Gods, scratching out meager existences.  On this world the monumental gods frolicked and warred with one another in complete disregard for the lives of those tiny mortals living beneath them like insects.  In this version, Izaya is married to Avia, as was so in the original Kirby books, but this time around Avia is the sister of Uxas.  Izaya and Avia are devout believers and worshipers of the  oblivious, elemental gods that plague them.  Uxas is more pragmatic and “blasphemes” them constantly.  He is cunning and engineers the ultimate death of these gods that brings about utter ruin to the planet, but also endows him with the powers of the gods he kills, forging him into Great Darkseid.  Izaya is granted the powers of those stricken gods that escape Darkseid, rewarding his faith with the powers that baptize him as Izaya, the High Father.  The planet is destroyed, but remade into the two planets of New Genesis and Apokalips.  The final eight pages introduce a character from Pak’s Batman/Superman title, Kaiyo the Chaosbringer.  This little sprite appeared at first to be a minor demon, but it seems very probable that she is in fact a New God of Apoklalips.  What’s more, her exploits in the last couple of pages make it seem probable that she is the lost daughter of Darkseid that he world-hops to find, prompting his appearance in Justice League’s first arc.  This issue put me off at first, because of the “heresy” of its divergence from Kirby’s Fourth World.  However, in retrospect, it was a well written, intriguing concept that accentuates Pak’s previous work in the firs three issue of Batman/Superman and sets the stage for interesting future developments with the New Gods.

    A So Was Born a Fourth World . . .

    A So Was Born a Fourth World . . .

  • Earth 2 #15.1: Desaad appropriately segues to another New God of Apokalips and someone whose sadism might even rival that of Great Darkseid.  Writer Paul Levitz who introduced Desaad into the New 52 in his Worlds’ Finest title chronicles the mad god’s advent to our Earth after the events of Earth-2 #1.  His goal is really two-fold, filling in blanks in the story of what Desaad has been up to since coming to Earth-1 as well as how that has affected things the reader witnessed since the first issues of Worlds’ Finest, and secondly proving how sick and perverse the mind of Desaad truly is.  One interesting thing that I think blew me away the most was in Desaad’s search for minds to corrupt and turn toward his dark aims, he stumbles upon an artist at a drafting table.  Desaad goes to the man’s home and emerges from a Boom Tube, renowned for the thunderous cacophony it makes prompting its name, and yet the man doesn’t turn around.  When Desaad looks over his shoulder, he stops short and seems apprehensive if not actually afraid, and decides to leave this man alone.  One would ask, what is going on, but the savvy comic reader who knows not only something of comics in general, but more importantly the character of Desaad and the other New Gods, will notice something very key.  The man at the table looks EXACTLY like a young Jack Kirby, creator of the Fourth World, of which Desaad is a denizen.  The hair cut, the physique, the thick eyebrows, the posture.  All so blatantly Kirby.  When we see a close up of his work over his shoulder from Desaad’s perspective the rough sketches have all the hallmarks of Kirby’s illustrative style.  Through meta-storytelling, Paul Levitz sets a real hook in the reader, inserting the King of Comics into a world featuring his own creations.  What his existence in this world will mean for Desaad and the other New Gods is a mystery, but one that I will faithfully follow to find out the answer to.Desaad1

    desaad2

    Behold Thine Creator, Ye Mighty God!

  • Superman #23.1: Bizarro was a slightly strange twist on the character, albeit a short lived one.  Sholly Fisch, who cut his teeth in the big leagues on the backup features of Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run, writes this issue with the help of artist Jeff Johnson.  In it we return to a seminal moment where Lex Luthor and Superman meet for the first times in the third issue of Action Comics.  Largely due to experiments Luthor conducted under military purview the young Superman was hurt to the point of bleeding (something VERY difficult to achieve under most circumstances) and as a result he used Lex as a hostage to procure escape.  Through this encounter Luthor gained two things: a personal animosity for the Man of Steel and a sample of his blood.  Using further contracts with the U.S. Military he attempts to augment a normal human being by re-splicing Kryptonian DNA gained from the small sampling of blood into their own genome.  The result of this is, of course, Bizarro.  To my knowledge, Bizarro was always either a clone or a refugee from a dimension where everything is backward.  Fisch makes a good sampling of Bizarro’s reversed Superman powers, i.e. Freeze vision and incendiary breath, but doesn’t quite pull off a Bizarro yarn that feels authentic.  Bizarro’s rampage lacks most of the quintessential “misunderstood monster” motif that characterize almost all of his appearances in the past.  This is an okay issue if the reader is just looking for Bizarro powers, but if they want Bizarro, the childlike villain speaking in opposites and conflicted in a limited understanding of the world and morality, this definitely is not the Bizarro story for them.
  • The Flash #23.1: Grodd is similar to, but slightly different from the Action Comics: Cyborg Superman and Green Arrow: Count Vertigo issues, in that it functions as a within the main story of the Flash series to continue on into later issues.  However, unlike both Cyborg Superman and Count Vertigo this doesn’t grant the reader any further insight into the past of Grodd.  What it does, however, is juxtapose his thoughts and philosophical beliefs against the depiction of the aftermath of the Gorilla invasion of the Gem Cities he lead which terminated in Flash #17.  Since then Solivar has taken over leadership of Gorilla City and worked painstakingly to not only make amends for the actions of the delusional despot, Grodd, but begun the process of making real steps to not only forge lasting peace between humanity and Gorillas, but have the Gorillas enter into the larger world we all share.  This is not something Grodd can abide and the manner of his return from the Speed Force is revealed, as is his overall place as an essential villain in the Flash andt he larger DCU.  Brian Buccellato, colorist and co-writer of the Flash, pens this issue with the help of artist Chris Batista.  Batista’s art is quite different than that of the usual Flash panoply of artists, including Buccellato’s co-writer on the title, Francis Manapul.  This is good in my opinion, because the Flash himself isn’t even seen in the issue and Batista’s art really depicts the Gorillas well.  Definitely a thoughtful, well written, well drawn issue.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #23.1: The Ventriloquist was simply okay.  I am a huge fan of Gail Simone on the Batgirl title and I attribute its success almost entirely to her writing, reserving a generous helping of credit to Barbara Gordon herself, who is one of my favorite comic book characters. Top 10, without a doubt.  This origin of the Ventriloquist fell a little flat for me.  Sure it’s interesting and sure Shauna is a very complex, psychotic person with a very troubled past. However, for me the Ventriloquist is Scar-Face and Dummy.  There is something so “Batman” about them.  I say Batman, and although Shauna and Ferdie are currently appearing in Batgirl, I still think that the mundane nature of the original Ventriloquist works more effectively with unpowered vigilantes than this new version.  The original Ventriloquist, Arnold Wesker, was a non-powered guy with dissociative personality disorder, projecting his primary, dominant persona into a ventriloquist dummy done up like a 30’s era gangster named Scar-Face.  The premise fell well within the realm of reality and created a complex villain mired in a psychosis rife with situational drama.  Wesker and Scar-Face might disagree, but being that Scar-Face is the dominant persona, Wesker is going to be hampered in foiling the inanimate object, because his own drive is what is empowering the dummy.  Later there was a beautiful, blonde woman (Peyton Riley) who took over as Scar-Face’s ventriloquist, but still follows the same paradigm.  When you have a woman like Shauna who has telepathic abilities that she exploits years before she got her dummy, Ferdie, you kind of remove the intrinsic importance of the ventriloquism schtick from her psychosis.  Sure she named her dummy after her deceased twin brother, and yeah she was a product of a negative environment growing up, but that in no way enhances the nuanced concept of the Ventriloquist.  Basically, this issue and the iteration of the character in the New 52 reinvents the wheel, with more bells and whistles, but less functionality.  I like Gail’s work, but with a heavy heart I say that this issue can be passed on with no loss for any Bat-Family fan.
  • Batman: Black & White #1 is a title which returns in the New 52 to presents several intriguing short stories depicted completely in monochromatic black and white panels.  With the writing talents of Chip Kidd, Maris Wicks, John Arcudi, and Howard Makie, and the artistic talents of Neal Adams, Michael Cho, Sean Murphy, Joseph Quinones, and Chris Samnee, many unique perspectives are shed on the Dark Knight and his myriad interpretations.  Foremost of these is Neal Adams’ piece, both written and drawn by the Batman maestro who helped create Ra’s Al Ghul and the Man-Bat.  In his Batman: Zombie story, the impact of Batman as a fighter of evil is explored in great poignancy through the social issues of our day and just how effective a Dark Knight can be against the day to day evils of the 21st century.  His writing is razor edged and his art is at the top of its game. Chip Kidd and Michael Cho’s Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When comes in second in my opinion, giving a Darwyn Cooke-esque, Silver Age story of Robin and what truly makes him a worthy contemporary for the Batman.  What’s more, even Superman has to tip his hat to the Boy Wonder by story’s end.  John Arcudi’s Driven, drawn by Sean Murphy, is an interesting tale of Batman and his relationship with his most iconic accessory:  the Batmobile.  The other three stories are good, but these three especially epitomize innovation in the realm of Batman.
  • Codename: Action #1 is basically a Cold War, nerd boy fantasy mash-up.  It takes place in an ambiguous period during the Cold War following a strange amalgam of characters throughout its globe trotting plot.  In the background are two Golden Age comic book characters resurrected in a slightly more modern context.  In America there is the costumed adventurer, the American Crusader, and in Europe there is the British aerial operative, Black Venus.  American Crusader finds his vintage in 1941 as a crimefighter that gained powers from stray radiation from a device he was working with called an “atom smasher.”  Black Venus was a war nurse turned aviator during WWII famous for her black bodysuit and aviator goggles, who first appeared in comics in 1945.  In the foreground of the plot we see a new secret agent complete his tests of initiation, earning the designation Operative 1001.  He is then teamed up with Operator 5, the fifth agent ever initiated into the “Intelligence Service,” and a living legend.  Facing all four of these characters is a global diplomatic meltdown of epic proportions.  The French threaten war against the Soviets if they interfere with North African assets, the Japanese threaten war if the Russians movie into their territorial waters, the Chinese threaten war if the Japanese mobilize their armed forces, and the Soviet Union threatens to launch nukes if anyone doesn’t accede to their demands.  The kicker is that the Intelligence Services have intel that the Soviet General making the threats at the UN is in fact not the actual General due to a subcutaneous tracking device they implanted the real one with.  So the plot thickens . . .   Writer Chris Roberson kicks off this series, with no shortage of help from artist Jonathan Lau, in great style and panache, eliciting all the romance and intrigue of Cold War spy thrillers and the action of costumed superhero comics in a shaken, not stirred, suave superhero spy masterpiece.
  • Trillium #2 begins at the strange middle of the first issue with the meeting of two diametrically different people, whose shared intrepid nature is the sole bond that connects them in what is shaping up to be a REALLY innovative series.  Nika Temsmith, the intergalactic scientist from the year 3797 searching for a cure to a sentient virus, meets up with the English explorer William Pike on Earth in the year 1921, who himself is searching for purpose after losing his in the Great War.  Ironically what brings them together is the Incan temple that Pike and his expedition have just discovered after centuries of abandonment.  In Nika’s own time, a virus with the capacity for thought and higher reasoning is at war with the human race and reduced our population to mere hundreds of  thousands spread across the galaxy in weakly sustained colonies.  Seeking to find a cure she goes through a “primitive” alien race’s pyramidal temple emerging on Earth in 1921.  As can be logically deduced from the time gap, the English both speak are not even close to being mutually intelligible.  So the entire issue is merely them trying to communicate and ascertain who each other is and what each other desires.  Slowly as events unfold they get an idea of the situation and the revelation is powerful to behold.  Jeff Lemire writes and illustrates this series MASTERFULLY!

    Trascendence of the Trillium Flower

    Trascendence of the Trillium Flower

And so ends the first week of Villains Month and my first week back on “Off the Panel.”  Hopefully, you folks enjoyed it and will come back to enjoy future issues with me.

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

Illustration Credits:

Action Comics #23.1: Cyborg Superman:  Art by Mike Hawthorne, Colored by Daniel Brown

Green Arrow #23.1: Count Vertigo: Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo

Justice League #23.1: Darkseid:  Art by Paulo Siquiera & Netho Diaz, Colored by Hi-Fi

Earth 2 #15.1:  Art by Yildiray Cinar, Colored by Jason Wright

Trillium #2: Art Jeff Lemire, Colored by Jose Villarrubia

Week 89 (May 15, 2013)

  • Batwoman #20 is yet another game changing issue in a game changing series.  Years ago Batwoman fought a madwoman in the guise of a Religion of Crime prophetess names Alice, who looked like a latex fetish version of the famous Wonderland heroine.  Spoke a lot like her, too.  After defeating her, and only moments before she fell to her “death”, Batwoman realized that Alice was in fact her long “dead” twin, Elizabeth.  Well for the second time Beth has defied death to be found in the land of the living, this time in the custody of the D.E.O., comprising yet another manacle Director Bones has chained to Kate Kane’s leg to assure compliance with the agency’s whims.  On the other side of the narrative are the family and friends of Kate.  Up until last issue they had no idea that Kate was a D.E.O. puppet, being forced into doing their bidding.  Thanks to Kate’s dad, Col. Jacob Kane, the Colonel, Kate’s cousin and one time sidekick Betty (aka Flamebird), Kate’s stepmother Katherine, and Kate’s fiancee Det. Maggie Sawyer all know what she is doing and more importantly WHY she’s been doing it.  Within the close circle of confidantes is a great deal of dissent.  Kate hasn’t spoken to her father since she learned about Beth’s still being alive.  Katherine is livid that her husband has kept the secret of her stepdaughter and step-niece’s nocturnal activities a secret, amongst other things.  Det. Maggie Sawyer is still a little on edge after finding out the woman she loves is in fact the criminal whom she is tasked by Gotham Central to bring in for vigilantism.  All of these quibbles are quelled with the revelation of the horrible situation that Kate has fallen into, for all intents and purposes being enslaved by a shadowy government agency to do their dirty work, as well as the situation facing Beth Kane and her fragile psychological state.  From the looks of it, this could be the turning point from the beginning of the series that will emancipate Kate and turn the book onto a completely new status quo.  I am hoping that it does.  Cowriters J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman have kept this series constantly evolving and its readers always on their toes.  For that reason this series has been a must read book and a delight to read month after month for twenty-two straight months (both zero issues included).
  • Batgirl #20 is another issue that changes the entire flow of its series.  With issue #19 of Batgirl the dominoed daredoll seemingly killed her brother, James Gordon Jr. With that she has lost the good grace of Gotham police commissioner and her own father, James Gordon Sr.  But apart from that she has also exacted the heavy toll of having to finally take responsibility for putting her psychotic little brother down once and for all.  If she didn’t, her mother was prepared to, and like a trooper she took the burden of killing him from her mother’s hands.  In this issue she bursts in on her psychiatrist and makes her veiled confessions, keeping the details that would reveal her masked secret, but still attempting to gain some semblence of catharsis. The issue also reintroduces a classic Batman villain, the Ventriloquist, who comes on the scene.  This time around the dummy is named Ferdie, not the gangster doll, Scarface, and the ventriloquist is a timid young woman named Shauna that has lacked the ability for self-expression.  In the past it’s always been hinted at, but never concretely proved that the ventriloquist dummy somehow was calling the shots, yet still maintaining the reality of deep psychosis in the human involved.  However, this version is dangerously close to shattering that by having the doll seem to move by itself with no strings attached in several panels.  I can’t say that I am a fan of that kind of fourth wall tipping.  However, other aspects of the emerging Batgirl mythos merging together in this issue, such as the crippled former gang member that Barbara has been flirting with and the sinister socialite/vigilante Knightfall lends a sense of long term world building under the capable hands of writer Gail Simone.  Definitely an excellent issue.

    Fourth Wall Broken

    Fourth Wall Broken

  • Nightwing #20 has our title character nestling into his new life in Chicago.  It’s not idyllic to say the least.  He is awoken from a sound sleep after a looooong night of crime fighting by the woman who’s apartment he’d been subletting (unbeknownst to her) kicking him in the chest and brandishing a baseball bat over his head.  Not the best way to wake up in the morning.  Then comes the discovery that Tony Zucco, the mobster who murdered Nightwing’s parents, is under the protection of the mayor’s office.  The Alderman who the Prankster forced to burn his amassed wealth to fend off ravenous wolves is found early the following morning alive, albeit with his arm ripped off and being eaten by said wolves.  A confrontation with the masked anti-hero or villain (hard to nail down) is inevitable and culminates in a very intriguing cliffhanger ending.  Kyle Higgins has been writing this series exquisitely since issue one and the fun doesn’t look to be close to stopping anytime soon.  Brett Booth’s artistic contributions to this series have been considerable, lending a deal of smooth, effortless lines that jibe exceptionally well with Dick Grayson’s persona as an acrobat/aerialist.  I look forward to seeing further adventures of the former Robin in the Windy City.

    It's Always Funny Until Someone Loses an Arm . . .

    It’s Always Funny Until Someone Loses an Arm . . .

  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #20 picks up after last issue where Jason Todd, after a month of horrors (told over several months of issues) goes to the Acres of All, home of the All-Caste, and has his memories voluntarily erased.  Last issue, his friends and comrades Roy Harper (Red Arrow) and Princess Koriand’r (Starfire) tracked him down to help him in his moment of need only to find him erased of all his memories and as well as the darkness they engendered inside him.  Angered by this Roy and Starfire accost the gatekeeper of the  Acres of All (also the only remaining member of the All-Caste left alive) for his part in it.  The resultant conversation takes the two “Outlaws” through a tour of the accumulated memories extracted from Jason’s mind to give a sample of just what pain and torment the gatekeeper had expunged from Jason’s mind.  What also comes about is an exploration of who Roy and Starfire are as well.  In the past Roy was in a bad spot with Green Arrow  and life in general and out of the blue, the newly minted Robin (Jason) showed up and with great optimism and kindness helped Roy through a really tough moment.  From that point on, Roy had an anchor that has connected him with Jason compelling him to help out the anti-heroic former Robin.  Starfire’s past is also laid out, albeit far less complementary.  Upon the conclusion of this issue, one thing is certain, things have changed and for good or ill, Jason is moving forward without the keystone events that have thus far shaped him into what we have come to know as the figure called the Red Hood.  In the last couple of pages, new writer James Tynion sets up the intro for what will be the Red Hood and the Outlaws first ever annual, coming out in two weeks.

    A Red Arrow and a Red Hood

    A Red Arrow and a Red Hood

  • Legion of Super-Heroes #20 marches forward towards its blowout conclusion.  Glorith, Ultraboy, and Chameleon Boy escape Rimbor for Sorcerers World only to find that planet also under siege by another member of the Fatal Five, Validus.  The three legionnaires link up with their former comrade and ruler of Sorcerers World, Black Witch, and her legionnaire lover, Blok to combat this evil.  Glorith and Black Witch are able to deal with the ravaging monster, but the cost is quite dear.  It also lands Ultraboy and Chameleon Boy in a heap of trouble.  Elsewhere on the Promethean giant we see further trevails of Legion leader, Phantom Girl, and her surviving colleagues, Invisible Kid and Polar Boy.  Though the true meaning of these events aren’t fully explained, they could mean another tragic end to a valiant hero.  Paul Levitz’s Legion is a testament to the title and its characters and a shining example of the possibilities of such a massive concept populated by round, dynamic characters.  Levitz’s is the best Legion of any run, and I will stand by that assertion.  However, DC is cancelling the series after August’s issue #23, so we are indeed looking at an endgame in the storytelling.  A total shame.
  • Supergirl #20 closed last issue on a very alarming conundrum.  Power-Girl, the Kara Zor-El of Earth-2 exiled to our reality, teams up with Supergirl, the Kara Zor-El native to our universe, and the two convalesce in the latter’s submarine sanctuary called . . . Sanctuary.  However, Sanctuary is comprised of Kryptonian A.I. and one of the key cultural heresies following the clone wars on Krypton is the existence of clones.  Well, both Kara’s are genetically identical meaning that Sanctuary intuits one of them to be be a clone.  Ironically, the one deemed to be a clone is in fact the true Kara to our reality, Supergirl.  Not to say that Power Girl isn’t as perturbed as her other self nor that she doesn’t do her utmost to rectify the situation.  This issue is basically a giant brawl between the two Maidens of Steel and the Kryptonian base they are trapped within.  The issue seems simple in this way, but in fact this conflict is quite complex, fitting within a larger drama.  Supergirl left Krypton as a teenager, unlike her cousin, Clark, who left as a baby, and as such laments a world and culture that were her life.  When she came to Earth she had  to cope with the loss of everything and everyone she knew and loved.  When H’el came on the scene she was tempted with the promise of having that life restored, only for it to come crashing down again in front of her.  Sanctuary was the last shred of Krypton that she had.  In this issue that one last piece of home turned on her and ruthlessly tried to kill her.  She is slowly losing her identity piecemeal, and a situation is developing wherein she will be forced to make a life among the humans and become a completely new woman.  I really feel pity for her, but am enthusiastic at the chance for her to become the incredible character she was pre-Reboot and develop the relationships she had in the past with other superheroes.  Michael Allan Nelson as well as his predecessors Mike Johnson and Frank Hannah have done a killer job writing her in complex, engaging ways that give her leeway to be a dumb teenager doing foolish things without demonizing her or making her any less compelling of a heroine.  Her hero’s journey has been and looks to continue to be something worth watching.

    Kryptonian Sunrise

    Kryptonian Sunrise

  • Vibe #4 begins with the armored intruder in the Ramon household introducing himself as Breacher, the first interdimensional traveller to come to Earth and be imprisoned by A.R.G.U.S.  He came to warn Earth of Darkseid’s impending invasion, but was ignored and incarcerated.  He also warned Cisco not to trust his employers as they are hiding something from him.  Breacher is unable to elaborate as he is pulled against his will to another dimesion, probably his place of origin.  In the mean time, Vibe is sent to catch the escaped inmate, codenamed Gypsy.  Like Kid Flash last issue he fights her but eventually comes to speak with her in private and learns she is not an interdimensional warmonger, as he had been briefed, but just an interdimensional wander who was imprisoned like Breacher.  Finally bucking the system, Cisco shakes his A.R.G.U.S handlers and agrees to help Gypsy get home.  In the process he runs afowl of A.R.G.U.S head Amanda Waller and opens a can of worms that could spell dire consequences of him and his future as a superhero.  Sterling Gates takes over for Geoff Johns and Andrew Kreisberg with great skill, maintaining the feel and excellence which began the series.
  • Wonder Woman #20 brings the family of Zeus closer to all-out conflict.  Artemis is dispatched to England to kill Zeus’ last born child, Zeke, and Wonder Woman yet again comes to the aid of her baby brother.  In the meantime, Lennox returns and escorts Hera and Zola in the attempt to get Zeke to safety.  However, Artemis and Apollo are not the only ones of Zeus’ children looking for the Last Born.  The First Born also knows that Zeke is the key to the throne of Olympus and looks to commune with his baby brother in the attempt to claim what he feels is his birthright.  Brian Azzarello certainly has a vision for this title and pushes onward setting a very sordid, complex gameboard upon which the Greek gods politick against one another.  Ares, or War as Azzarello likes to refer to him, comes off as a blood-soaked philosopher, and perhaps a way of Azzarello inserting himself into the title.  He does bear an uncanny resemblance to the Wonder Woman scribe.  Also revealed is the reason for Cassandra, the First Born’s attache’s, metal throat.  There is some messed up family politics behind that number.  I’ve fought with my sisters before, but I have never ripped their larynges out.  Yikes.  Azzarello with the help of artists Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins, and Goran Sudzuka have knocked this title out of the park.  I think what I like about the series thus far it that it is a completely different take on the saga of the Amazing Amazon than most fans have seen on a large scale.  It really roots her in mythic origins and divorces her from the contemporary DCU events, if only for the moment, to really give voice to the Greek drama that is her life.  Intriguing to be sure.

    Sibling Rivalry

    Sibling Rivalry

  • Sword of Sorcery #8 is finally here.  Though I hate to see this wonderful series come to a close, I am geared up for the incredible finale that has been so wonderfully built toward.  Eclipso has subdued both House Onyx and House Diamond, the two bloodlines that once gave him power.  They again fall under his sway.  It falls to the newly minted lord and ladies of House Amethyst, House Citrine and House Turquoise to stop him.  Amaya has a plan and it is a risky gambit that turns the very premise the first issue was based upon on its head.  Amaya’s ancestor, Lady Chandra, was the one who defeated the undefeatable Lord Kaala (Eclipso) when he first appeared in Nilaa. The question arises as to whether Amaya, young though she may be, can emulate her forebearer and put him down once more.  The course of this title has been circuitous and fraught with medieval political intrigue not unlike Game of Thrones.  It’s strange that this fact didn’t save it from cancellation, but the hope remains that somewhere down the road someone will resurrect it from the pivotal moment upon which it ends.  Writer Christy Marx can be proud of herself with this title and artist Aaron Lopresti presents his usual level of excellence in its depiction.  All nine issues of this series (zero issue included) are well worth reading.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batgirl #20:  Drawn by Daniel Sampere & Carlos Rodriguez, Colored by Blond, Inked by Jonathan Glapion & Vincente Cifuentes

Nightwing #19: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund

Red Hood and the Outlaws #19:  Art by Julius Gopez, Colored by Nei Ruffino

Supergirl #19:  Art by Mahmud Asrar, Colored by Dave McCaig

Wonder Woman #19: Art by Cliff Chiang & Goran Sudzuka, Colored by Matthew Wilson

Week 88 (May 8, 2013)

  • Batman #20 concludes the second installment in a two issue arc of writer Scott Snyder’s exploration of the character Clayface.  Clayface has achieved the ability to completely mimic, right down to DNA scans, the people with whom he makes physical contact.  In the case of this issue, set up by the conclusion of its predecessor, he has taken on the persona of Bruce Wayne and seeks to impugn the noted Gotham billionaire and philanthropist.  It’s a short story, considering its division over just two issues, but has all the characteristic intelligence, insight, and scientific elaboration that Scott Snyder is renown for in his works.  Here, however, the plot seems a bit hard to hold on to.  Perhaps it is because it lacks the epic scope of his previous “Court of Owls” and “Death of the Family” arcs.  Obviously Batman has run of the mill cases that are by comparison more arbitrary to these overarching events, but they do cast a long shadow on the lesser plotlines.  Snyder does, however, put in an impossible escape for Bruce to elude in this issue in order to maintain his secret and his life, as well as stop the polymorphic villain.  With June’s “Batman: Year Zero” Snyder will be starting another long term story in the Batman title that has all the promise of innovation and long term canon making.  I very much look forward to it.  In the backup feature, writer James Tynion IV concludes his two part story, “Ghost Lights” with Superman and Batman banishing a Will-o-the-Wisp that was accidentally summoned by kids meddling with magicks beyond their comprehension.  A decent story, but not one of Tynion’s best.

    Bruce Wayne and the Batman

    Bruce Wayne and the Batman

  • Batman & Red Hood #20 brings Batman another step closer to complete collapse.  Following the death of his only child, Damian, he has sunk into a psychotic meloncholy the likes of which has never been seen in the Dark Knight’s many titles.  Like last issue a former Robin steps in to fulfill the “robin” portion of “Batman & Robin.”  Here Jason Todd, the Red Hood, prepares to leave the mansion after the events of Red Hood and the Outlaws #18.  Batman stops him and requests that Jason accompany him to the Magdala Valley in Ethiopia to take down a syndicate of international assassins, some of which responded to the hit put on Damian by Talia Al-Ghul.  The mission actually looks to heal the rift between the former mentor/protegee.  However, as with Batman and the most volatile of his sidekicks, the rift can never truly be closed and the attempt threatens to deepen said rift.  Altruism isn’t Batman’s forte and being played (especially after learning the Joker’s part in his tragic existence) is the last thing that Jason is going to put up with.  Peter Tomasi writes this series exquisitely, really playing off the Bat family’s intrinsic traits and flaws to craft a very engaging, emotional drama amid one of the most tragic events within the Batbooks in recent years.  Also in the background is the continued presence of Carrie Kelley, begging the question of whether she indeed is going to take her place as the first official female Robin in the history of the Bat titles.  Every aspect of this book is amazing.  Read it.

    Old Wounds Made Fresh

    Old Wounds Made Fresh

  • Justice League of America #3 picks up following the JLA’s encounter with the robotic versions of the Justice League as built by Prof. Ivo.  These mechanical menaces push them close to their limits while at the same time making them rely on eachother for the first time as a cohesive team.  However, as the team dynamic gets ironed out certain members find their roles to be not quite what they expected.  Green Arrow, after risking his life to expose the Secret Society, is cut loose.  Courtney Whitmore, aka Stargirl, finds herself as a mere mascot and a showpiece member of the team.  Catwoman learns that as a known criminal she is on the team as bait for the Secret Society to latch onto.  Geoff Johns is trending this title in an interesting direction.  It has a darker tone and with the characters and plots he is working with it fits perfectly.  His attempt at darkening the Justice League and shaking things up in that title was initially awful and at present merely passable.  David Finch’s artwork on this title is perhaps the most engaging aspect, really setting the tone and the ambiance.  In the backup feature Matt Kindt shows the revelations granted to both Catwoman and Martian Manhunter when the latter delves into Catwoman’s mind.  He sees her past and what drives her and by virtue of that she is also granted a glimpse at his life on Mars and a quick look at who he is.   Overall, this title is one that seems to have a great amount of impact on the course of the DCU as well as some very interesting and innovative plots.

    Dissent in the Ranks

    Dissent in the Ranks

  • Superboy #20 jumps back in time two months, returning to the introduction of Superboy to the rebooted Dr. Psycho, now seemingly a young boy, teenaged at the oldest.  In Superboy #18 Psycho merely followed Superboy, marvelling at his power and seeking to feed off his telekinetic potential.  In this issue the two characters finally meet and find themselves forced into a shaky alliance of mutual benefit.  Being attacked by a purple ox-like bruiser named Dreadnaught and a green alien looking guy named Psiphon, we are informed through intimation that Dreadnaught, Psiphon, and Psycho are all part of an organization called “H.I.V.E.” and that Dr. Psycho, or Edgar, is a drone in H.I.V.E. that has escaped.  New series writer Justin Jordan takes over the title in this issue from former writers Scott Lobdell and Tom DeFalco with the help of regular series artist R.B. Silva and guest artists Kenneth Rocafort and Chriscross.  It feels like he picked up the ball mid-air, but Jordon’s work seems conistent with his two predecessors, ensuring the quality we have enjoyed thus far and looking to end in a slam dunk.  Also the “H.I.V.E.”  plot looks to spill over into the Superman title as well, which is penned by Lobdell so that is ramping up to be a must read event.
  • Ravagers #12 provides the final issue of this short lived Teen Titans-esque series.  Really it seemed like a “Teen Titans East” kind of title, but with a distinct edge.  These superpowered youths came together not out of common goals, but as a means of protection as they flee the grasp of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and its sinister overarchitect, Harvest.  This issue shows how fleeting their goals of freedom are.  Last issue Harvest dispatched Deathstroke, the world’s deadliest assassin, to hunt down the escaped Ravagers as well as the two Ravagers who tried and failed to retrieve their errant comrades, Rose Wilson (Deathstroke’s own daughter) and Warblade.  In the end, this series didn’t conclude on a happy note, but it didn’t end on a completely sad one either.  With few exceptions, the cast of characters lived to see another day and a new status quo was set up for many of them.  The fate of Terra and Beast Boy looks to be a perfect setup for a “Judas Contract” plotline, as well as Raven and Beast Boy entering into the Teen Titans title reminiscent of their original membership in the New Teen Titans title in the early 80’s.  And most of all Caitlin Fairchild’s history is revealed giving some very intriguing possibilities for her future in other ongoing series throughout the DCU.

    A Fateful Encounter

    A Fateful Encounter

  • Demon Knights #20 begins a new arc following the conclusion of the “Army of Cain” plotline.  The Demon Knights have helped the Amazons beat the vampiric hoard of the First Damned from the shores of Themyscira and now convalesce after a hard fought battle.  The most pure of them, Sir Ystin, the Shining Knight, had been bitten and now stands on the verge of being turned.  Exoristos is welcomed back by Queen Hippolyta who had exiled her years before.  The new goal of the Knights is to retrieve the Holy Grail from its hiding place and Hippolyta says she can help.  Writer Robert Vendetti resumes the startling factoid of how the Amazons procreate.  I think that it was startling enough when Brian Azzarello first introduced the concept of the Amazons as rapist murders, but the playful way they make light of it in this issue just makes it all the more disturbing.  Anyway, one of the sailors the Amazons raped and murdered in the past told of the location of the grail and it was chronicled in a log book.  Mixed feeling about this issue and this series. 
  • Threshold #5 opens on a very interesting, precarious predicament.  The Collector, whom we know as Brainiac, has descended on the main world of Lady Styx’s dominion, Tolerance, and absconded with a small portion of it.  Left in its place is a gaping wound in the otherwise sprawling urban landscape.  Styx brokered a decent deal with Brainiac and so unlike other worlds he visited, Tolerance remains intact and otherwise unmolested.  The catch is that the residents of the selected area are not to be warned of their impending abduction.  As a result, the disgraced Green Lantern Jediah Caul and space pirate Captain K’Rot find themselves trapped in one of Brainiac’s fabled bottles.  One thing that has been apparent about this series from the first issue was the scope.  Threshold spans over a wide array of characters all being hunted by citizens of the Tenebrian Dominion in a reality show based sport killing.  This issue follows closely the character of Jediah Caul, really focusing in on him as a character.  Since he first showed up in Green Lantern: The New Guardians Annual #1, Caul has been depicted as nefarious.  However, the green lantern ring he wields chose him for a reason.  This issue may not reveal that reason per se, but it does cast a very intriguing look at the former Green Lantern and how he is willing to resolve issues such as the one he has landed himself in.  His answer to this particular dilemma is not one that would immediately come to mind when imagining a typical Green Lantern’s response, but there is some method behind his madness.  Keith Giffen yet again weaves a fascinating cosmic tale in a far reaching odyssey.  And in the final installment of his Larfleeze backup feature Giffen finally reveals what happened in the first installment five issues ago as well as the way in which the departed Guardian, Sayd, perpetrated the perfect crime.  Once all the shadows have been lifted from the proceedings the plot itself is amazingly well crafted and ingeniously executed.  Giffen has a talent for complex, multifaceted storytelling and this five part story of the sole Orange Lantern showcases those talents brilliantly.  So much so that the story will move on from here into its own monthly title.  Both Giffen and Larfleeze deserve nothing less.

    A Whole New Perspective

    A Whole New Perspective

  • Smallville Season 11 #13 begins a new arc that explores heavily one of the barely tapped gems of the “Smallville” TV series: the Legion of Super-Heroes.  It also returns Booster Gold, his computerized aide and sidekick Skeets, and to a smaller degree Blue Beetle.  Clark, as of last issue, has shed the radioactive isotope Lex placed in him that effectively separated him from Lois for months.  Now he is torn from his fiancee again when Booster Gold’s stolen Legion of Superheroes ring malfunctions due to a coded distress signal transmitted through time to it.  In the 31st century Earthgov has turned against the Legion and they find themselves in a bind.  This comes as the result of a new sister planet to Earth, New Krypton, arriving in our solar system.  That world was created by Clark in the ninth season of the series as a home for the Kryptonians under the command of Zodd following the that season’s finale.  The arrival of a planet of superpowered beings puts Earthgov on its heels, turning public sentiment and policy against superpowered beings and certainly the alien members of the Legion.  Clark comes forward and attempts to adjudicate the issue.  Going in, he encounters a newer character to the actual Legion of Super-Heroes pantheon, Earth Man, Kirt Niedrigh.  Niedrigh is the a government minister in possession of a high value prisoner that Clark aims to release.  The identity of that prisoner brings about another resurrection from the show’s illustrious canon.  This issue very aptly introduces a new arc while also emboldening the past of both the comic series itself and the television show that inspired it.

 

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #20:  Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Placcencia, Inked by Jonathan Glapion & Marc DeeringDanny Miki

Batman & Robin #20: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray & Mark Irwin

Justice League of America #20: Drawn by David Finch, Colored by Sonia Oback, Inked by Richard Friend & David Finch

The Ravagers #12: Drawn by Diogenes Neves, Colored by Tony Avina, Inked by Vincente Cifuentes

Threshold #5:  Art by Tom Raney, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse

 

Week 84 (April 10, 2013)

While reading this week’s batch of comics I recognized a theme of familial drama.  Fathers and sons, brothers and sisters, mothers and daughters, and even mothers and sons.  Several issues including BatmanBatman & RobinBatgirl, and Superboy focus on the tightly knit bond between parent and child and how that dynamic can cause one or the other to do some very drastic, unseemly things.  In the case of Batgirl, the elder Barbara Gordon is forced to choose between her kids.  Strangely, she does it pretty easily.  Batman goes over the deep end in Batman & Robin.  Superboy finds a tale not so much about the Boy of Steel, but rather a villain we’ve seen before whose villainous acts find purpose in a very overdue origin.  Needless to say, there is a deep wellspring of emotion present in this week’s issues, so without ado, here they are:

  • Batman #19 opens on a very unlikely scenario. Bruce Wayne robbing a bank and shooting several people dead.  Commissioner Gordon is on the scene and tries to rectify this very disturbing situation.  However, things are not what they seem and the plot goes back six days into the past to show the road that led us to this moment.  A similar event occurs with one of Bruce Wayne’s associates dying and yet walking around despite that fact.  Upon further inspection Batman discovers that one of his villains has gained an incredible new ability explaining the two men acting in seemingly impossible ways.  Scott Snyder’s run on this series has been really stellar, but his best work seem to fall under the two major arcs he’s penned thus far, “The Court of Owls” and “Death of the Family.”  This one was good, but not as good, lacking a sense of urgency or overall consequence.  In the backup feature, cowriter James Tynion IV delivers a tale of Superman and Batman delving into the supernatural.  Also not the best plotline, but not terrible.
  • Batman & Red Robin #19 pulls a gambit by revealing on its foldout cover the entry of Carrie Kelley as “Batman’s Partner.”  Not to spoil it, but it’s smoke and mirrors like so many of the things DC is printing on their oversized covers.  In this iteration of Batman lore, Carrie is a college student, not a spunky twelve year old, and a drama major who had been tutoring Damian in her spare time.  It’s questionable whether she’ll develop into an ongoing character in the Batverse, but in any event she’s been brought back into the fold from the tripped out microcosm of “The Dark Knight Returns.”  What this issue really is about and what we should pay attention to is the true depth of Batman’s loss and the desperate measures he’s been driven to.  Here he abducts Frankenstein for the sole purpose of taking him apart to discern how he was reanimated.  Since Frank is neither alive nor dead he is awake the whole time and through his evisceration tells Batman to stop the course he’s on as it will not be in his son’s best interest.  As the title insinuates, Red Robin is called in by Alfred to try and talk some sense into Bruce.  The jury is still out on whether or not that advice takes.  However, this issue continues to portray hauntingly the depths of emotions within the Dark Knight and showcase the humanity encased within his austere facade.  Series artist  Patrick Gleason draws it incredibly well, rounding out a stellar issue.

    A Father's Love

    A Father’s Love

  • Batgirl #19 welcomes back writer Gail Simone to the title and just in time for what turns out to be a killer conclusion to the story arc involving her little brother, James Gordon Jr.  James is an honest to goodness psychopath intent on hurting those closest to him.  His father, Commissioner Gordon, puts an allpoints bulletin out on him, but it’s his mother and his sister, Barbara, that end up having to deal with him.  Ray Fawkes was the writer on the past couple of issues, and while he did a decent job of showing James’ diseased psyche, the title languished a little when compared with Simone’s intimate, humanist stories told from Barbara’s perspective.  That comes through quite vividly in this issue, adding to the trauma she has already suffered from the Joker with the further trauma of growing up with a little brother who for all intents and purposes lacks a soul.  This issue concluded that dark episode, but presents a very heartbreaking consequence.  In between Simone accomplished two things of some merit.  First of all she revealed Batgirl’s identity to her mother, but most importantly she revealed that Barbara’s roommate Alysia is transgendered.  This issue proves Gail Simone’s mastery of comic writing.  It was heartfelt, personal, tragic, and also triumphant.  As long as she is attached to this title, Batgirl will be a series to pick up.

    A Mother's Love/Hate

    A Mother’s Love/Hate

  • Green Lantern Corps #19 is a very straightforward issue.  Volthoom the First Lantern has been going around torturing members of all the corps in an attempt to amass the power he requires to enslave the universe.  He’s tortured Guy Gardner.  As of last issue he’s tortured John Stewart and Fatality.  This issue begins his torture of the Green Lanterns located on Oa en masse, when a very familiar corpsman comes to their rescue: Mogo.  The planet Green Lantern comes to his embattled comrades’ aid just as he did during the Blackest Night, pulling them to his surface where he can protect them . . . or so it seems.  Once the Lanterns are on his surface they are beset by alternate versions of themselves imbued with negative energies: i.e. rage, greed, and fear.  All the time, though, Mogo is with them.  Mogo may not like to socialize, but is always there when the Corps is in need.  Peter Tomasi again delivers a strong Green Lantern Corps story that acknowledges its members’ weaknesses, but also the strengths that are born out of them.  The conclusion to this issue comes in just a few weeks in the apocalyptic Green Lantern #20.  I for one cannot wait.
  • Superboy #19 is actually a misnomer.  Though it is about Superboy in an ancillary way, the issue is actually an origin story for the ubervillain Harvest.  Born in the thirtieth century he is a soldier in the war that humans wage against the metahumans that have sought to enslave them.  The cause of this war goes back to Superman, and for that reason Harvest goes back in time and kidnaps the infant son that Superman has with Lois Lane.  That boy grows up under his guidance as a surrogate son to replace his biological child, killed in the war.  In his time, Jon Kent, as he was named, was afflicted with a genetic disorder stemming from his kryptonian/human heritage.  This condition rears its head again, threatening his life.  Harvest cannot watch another of his children die and that is why Superboy was cloned.  Him and the enigmatic N.O.W.H.E.R.E. operative, Templar, are attempts at perfecting the strange combination genome to heal his adoptive son’s life threatening condition.  After reading this issue, the reader is clued into who Harvest is and his logos for doing the horrible things he has done.  While one may not agree with what he is doing, you can sympathize with his pain and understand why he would undertake nightmarish schemes like the Culling.  Writer Scott Lobdell returns to this series to tell this tale of his insane arch-villain.  Considering the scope of Harvest’s reach into several series, this is an issue that cannot be missed.

    A Father's Love

    A Father’s Love

  • The Ravagers #11 continues on from Superboy above insofar as it shows the travails of the Ravagers created by Harvest’s Culling events as well as showing the lengths he will go to control them or silence them.  This issue is the penultimate issue of the series which is scheduled for cancellation next month with its twelfth issue.  Caitlin Fairchild’s Ravagers have taken refuge with the scientist Niles Caulder, but find themselves under attack on one side from Rose Wilson and Warblade, and on the other by Rose’s dad, Deathstroke.  With the end bearing down on the series and the stakes rising as they have it is very scary for those that have enjoyed this series and invested themselves in the cast of characters.  A few have already perished and its dubious whether they will come back like Thunder’s sister, Lightning.  I eagerly await the ending of this series to see if any of the Ravagers can make the jump to the Teen Titans or find their own way in the New DCU.  Here’s hoping.
  • Demon Knights #19 concludes, at least for the moment, the threat of Cain against the world with his vampiric horde.  Arriving at the shores of Themyscira, the Demon Knights show up in time to aid the Amazons in their battle with Cain’s forces, enlightening them on the proper protocols for dispatching the undead soldiers of the nights.  Under the surface of this issue writer Robert Venditti imbues several compelling developments for the main characters.  Exoristos, the exiled Amazon, returns to the home from which she was banished on pain of death.  The Demon is stuck on Earth because Jason Blood refuses to leave Hell.  Because Etrigan needs hellfire to replenish his energy Jason weakens his other half to show that he is stronger than anyone thinks by enduring Lucifer’s most heinous torments, just to spite the Demon.  What’s most interesting is that despite his love of torturing innocents, Lucifer loses his composure when he hears what Cain is up to on Earth and forces Jason to go back with genuine fear in his demeanor.  The final aspect is the Shining Knight fulfilling Merlin’s prophesy that she would fall to demonic forces.  She is bitten, but knows that it somehow fits into her ultimate quest to find the Holy Grail.  Queen Hippolyta (mother of Wonder Woman) knows something about its location, marking a turning point in the title to the next story arc.  Robert Venditti really takes this series forward in an almost indistinguishable manner from the first phase of storytelling by original writer Paul Cornell.  Bernard Chang’s artwork is fantastic and vividly portrays the medieval epic.
  • Threshold #4, like its previous issues, is fraught with myriad stories.  The main point of this issue is Jediah Caul and K’Rot racing to regain his lost power battery.  To make things more interesting, the area that it is located is scheduled to be shrunk and absorbed into Brainiac’s collective like the bottle Kryptonian city of Kandor.  Keith Giffen writes Caul into a very troubling predicament, which of course compels the reader to figure out how the rogue Green Lantern and his floppy eared friend can escape the clutches of perhaps the most coldly evil entity in the universe.  We’ll see.  In the penultimate chapter of Giffen’s “Larfleeze” backup feature, the culprit who stole the Orange Lantern’s vast hoard is finally revealed.  Giffen’s choice of thieves is quite appropriate and infinitely entertaining.  Across the board, Keith Giffen  and artists Phil Winslade, Tom Raney, and Scot Kolins, really are creating an effective cosmic epic for the New 52.  Giffen has a talent similar to Grant Morrison to create complex plotlines that can be read and understood on multiple levels and are accessible to most on at least one.  I genuinely enjoy each installment of his title.Threshold4
  • Batman: Li’l Gotham #1 was a really silly but entertaining kids series about the denizens of Gotham done by  writer/artists Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs in Nguyen’s classic inkwash technique.  In one, Batman’s villains gather for a meal at a fancy Italian restaurant on Halloween and Batman, who goes in for takeout, pays for everyone’s meals.  In the next story the Penguin leads an army of turkeys against their oppressors at the Gotham Thanksgiving parade.  Both are really simple, often comical tales of toned down versions of Batman’s most iconic characters. For something light and thoroughly enjoyable or for kids wanting a nice, nonthreatening place to begin a love affair with the world of Batman, this is the perfect title.
  • Saucer Country #14 delivers its concluding issue.  With the discovery that the “Voyager couple” are actors in a sound stage, the final threads of the conspiracy are pulled, unraveling the tapestry of lies that have been woven over the past sixty years by various groups, government agencies, and private individuals.  Arcadia Alvarado wins the presidency as the first Hispanic and female president as was predicted and as a result these revelations fall at her feet.  However, writer Paul Cornell doesn’t come close to weighing in on the actuality of whether or not there are aliens or wrapping up all the loose ends.  Arcadia and Michael were abducted in some way, but if not by aliens then by whom and for what purpose?  I am uncertain what I think upon the conclusion of this series.  The loose ends could just be a necessary evil as only so much of what we know of alien mythology can legitimately be explained by conspiracy and meta-science.  I choose to look at the excellent writing and the fantastically convoluted plots that twist and turn defying prediction or expectations.  It was a good run in that light and I applaud Cornell for the mastery of storytelling he employed in its composition.

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 #19: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray

Batgirl #19:  Drawn by Daniel Sampere, Colored by Blond, Inked by Jonathan Glapion & Marc Deering

Superboy #19: Drawn by Diogenes Neves, Colored by Richard & Tanya Horie, Inked by Vincente Cifuentes

Threshold #4:  Art by Tom Raney, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse

Batman Beyond Unlimted #14: Drawn by Peter Nguyen, Colored by Andrew Elder, Inked by Craig Yeung

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

Week 76 (Feb. 13, 2013)

This week is exciting as it brings out the conclusion and aftermath of one of the most talked about storylines in recent years, “Death of the Family.”  Superboy brings us one step closer to the apocalypse of  “H’el on Earth.”  The debut issue of the series Katana comes us, reintroducing us to an old friend from the old DCU.  This week has a great amount of potential.

  • Batman #17 was a much anticipated issue bringing the titantic “Death of the Family” arc of Batman and other Bat-titles to a culminating point of mutual closure.  Hyped to be one of the biggest things to happen in Batman ever, few failed to be intrigued.  I’d read early reviews that gave it perfect ten ratings or praised it to the heavens.  I’m gonna disagree.  Not because it wasn’t awesome, but I feel like the hype was built up for something that this issue had no possibility of delivering.  What Snyder did with “The Court of Owls” was perfect.  It changed EVERYTHING, but at the same time kept the status quo.  In “Death of the Family” NOTHING changed!  It didn’t even live up to its name.  The Family isn’t dead.  The events of the issue are not going to compel any of the “family” to cut Bruce out or change their relationship.  He’s withheld things from them before and manipulated them for his own ends a million times.  Why do you think Dick became Nightwing, Jason put on the Red Hood and cut Bruce out of his life, and Tim bugged out and got his band together?  Batgirl is a free agent regardless, and Damian’s alternative is a woman who low jacked his spinalcord and cloned his replacement.  None of them are going anywhere or going to alter their relationships with him at all.  The Joker does pretend to do some horrific things to them at the beginning of the issue, but the fact that it didn’t happen made it pretty annoying as a plot twist. Now that I have gotten my dislikes out of the way, I will say that the basis of the Joker/Batman relationship was tight.  The creepy pseudo-sexual obsession with Batman, coupled with the fetishism of the different medieval roles that various players in his life fulfill was pretty interesting.  The twisted things he did to the inmates and guards of Arkham was really unsettling and disgusting, which is a surefire way of hooking your audience into a very dark, haunted setup.  When Batman whispers something in the Joker’s ear towards the middle and you see the abject horror on the Clown Prince’s face, THAT was a moment!  The Joker laughs at everything and is so effing psycho nothing can touch him.   In fact that’s what makes him a quintessential Batman nemesis.  When your shtick is making criminals terrified of you, the worst possible antagonist is one that not only isn’t afraid of you, but one who thinks its hilarious to mess with you and goes out of his way to do so in the most horrific ways possible.  Reversing that and showing this paragon of laughter feeling genuine terror is golden.  Also the anecdote about Bruce basically telling the Joker, turn around and you can know who I am and the Joker refusing to do so because it would defeat the very purpose of their “game”.  Pure genius.  THAT is a defining moment that will go down in the annals of Batman lore.  So did I like it?  I loved it.  Was it a perfect 10?  Not by a long shot.  If they had said “This is a Batman story that’ll have you talking,”  I’d’ve accepted that.  But they were writing checks that the storyline couldn’t cash.  If they’d’ve done any of the twisted things Snyder set up, I would have been mad, but I would have accepted the storyline’s validity as it had been hyped.  I don’t know whether Snyder was behind the marketing, but the powers that be mismarketed this one terribly.  “Court of Owls” they said would be good and it exceeded the mark because one didn’t know what to expect.  In this one they told you what to expect and didn’t deliver on any of it.  Period.  I liked it, however, so don’t get me wrong. I can appreciate things as long as they follow through on their intrinsic principles.

    The Secret . . .

    The Secret . . .

  • Batgirl #17 also was a little lackluster considering all that has been happening recently.  Barbara Gordon has been through hell and one could imagine that she would be messed up after having come face-to-face with the Joker, the man who paralyzed her for years and sexually assaulted her immediately afterward.   That is something that original series writer Gail Simone would have plumbed and drawn her readers into with great humanity.  This issue’s writer, Ray Fawkes, glazes over that having Barbara track down Joker thugs still out there while her brother, James Gordon Jr., continues to explore his own twisted agenda, even visiting his mother in the hospital to terrorize her after her own ordeal with the Joker.  It also features the follow up to Batgirl’s encounter with the street punk Ricky in last week’s Young Romance Valentine’s Day special.  The results of their second meeting are as disappointing as the rest of the plot, but considering the insubstantiality of its content and the fact that they took the effort to write a story introducing it in the Special might mean that it will evolve over the course of forthcoming issues.  Not the best issue.
  • Batman & Robin #17 was, as ever, really good.  Following the nightmare that the “family” went through in so named “Death of the Family” crossover event, this series doesn’t seek to deal with hollow actions as coping mechanisms, but rather shows the humanity of the players involved.  The entire issue is a collection of the nightmares that haunt Bruce Wayne, Damian Wayne, and Alfred Pennyworth, but also dreams which give them hope for the future.  Peter Tomasi is a writer that truly gets the characters he is writing on a very intimate level and portrays them as such.  Every thought, every action, every word uttered by one character to another is infinitely telling about the people he is depicting.  Patrick Gleason’s art works on both the levels of displaying the minutest emotion and displaying the most horrific events in the most straightforward, conversational manner.  Awesome series, awesome issue.  This is one Bat-book that shouldn’t be missed.

    Dark Destiny

    Dark Destiny

  • Before Watchmen: The Comedian #5 doesn’t really do much to elaborate upon the character of Eddie Blake.  We already know that he’s insane and that he did some pretty inhuman things while fighting in Vietnam.  The only real thing that this issue accomplishes is showing how Vietnam facilitated a transition between Johnson and Robert Kennedy to Richard Nixon.  This isn’t the strongest book in the Before Watchmen line.  Writer Brian Azzarello accomplished some really poignant things in the first three issues of this title, but seems to have been floating through these last two, as if trying to fill out a six issue quota.  I can only imagine that he has something incredible in store for the next issue that will close out the miniseries.  Eddie Blake was a keystone figure in the course of the original Watchmen plot and it was precisely because of how insane and harsh he was.  If these past two throw away issues facilitate a poignant ending then they will have been worth it after all.  Azzarello is a very competant writer so I retain hope.
  • Superboy #17 ticks the doomsday clock of the “H’el on Earth” event closer to apocalypse.  In the first issue of Superman almost two years ago, the Herald blew the Horn of Confluence.  It made no sense at the time and had many of us scratching our heads for months and months, but now we see that the horn was blown to bring forth the Oracle to witness the death of our world.  H’el, a seemingly omnipotent survivor of Krypton, has created a device called the Star Chamber to use our solar system including the sun as a giant battery to grant him and his ally Supergirl the power needed to travel back in time and save Krypton . . . at the expense of all life on Earth and seemingly the rest of the seven other planets.  Superman squares off against H’el, Wonder Woman throws down against Supergirl, the latter of which is enthralled to H’el and his scheme to restore their homeworld at any cost, and Superboy encounters the Herald, but the nature of their confrontation is not entirely hostile as the other two brawls very much are.  In the midst of that, the Herald makes light of the “five anomolies” which may be a reference to what the “H’el on Earth” event creator, Scott Lobdell, has alluded to with his “Thirteen Scions of Salvation.”  Its a possibility.  Superboy really is a powerhouse in this issue.  Created as a living weapon, he started out his series as a condundrum, exhibiting a great amount of introspection and curiosity about the world he is abruptly born into and a near sociopathic disregard for the human life that populates it.  In this issue, as well as those immediately preceeding it, he fights so hard against forces infinitely more powerful than himself, but exhibits uncanny resolve and disregard for his safety and his life for the preservation of our world and humanity at large.  He is finally able to call himself a hero and definitely deserves the title.  Tom DeFalco nails this issue with excellent writing and substantial help from series artist R.B. Silva.

    The Herald and the Oracle

    The Herald and the Oracle

  • Katana #1 inaugurates a new ongoing series featuring the character, Katana, aka Tatsu Yamashiro.  Wielding a katana called the “Soultaker”, and possessing the spirit of her departed husband, Tatsu travels to San Francisco’s Japan Town to seek knowledge tattooed on the skin of an untouchable girl.  In pursuit of this knowledge, she is set upon by members of the Sword Clan, enemies of her departed husband and by extension herself.  Ann Nocenti writes this series and she does a very good job of setting a very somber, succinct tone.  Yet while the tone was particularly well done, I was unimpressed by the first issue itself.  While the mythology and the main character were established quite well, the story itself remains sluggish and unclear as to why the reader should care about the events that transpire.  Simply my opinion.
  • Demon Knights #17 is basically one big rescue attempt by the remaining Demon Knights to free Jason Blood from another of their number, Vandal Savage, who tortures the human side of the Demon Etrigan while preventing him from becoming his infernal other half with a muting spell.  Two issues into his run on the series, writer Robert Venditti proves to either be a literary chameleon or a very similar writer to series creator and original writer, Paul Cornell.  Bernard Chang’s artwork also keeps the feel of the book fairly stable, maintaining the look and feel of the medieval DCU.
  • Threshold #2 futher develops what promises to be a massive title with its own  central panoply of characters as well as those passing through from the larger DCU.  In the first issue we are introduced to Ember, Stealth, Ric Starr, and former Green Lantern deep cover operative Jediah Caul.  In this issue the Blue Beetle, aka Jaime Reyes, is dropped into the Hunted event, raising hairs on several people’s necks, not least of which, Jediah Caul, because of the Reach’s aversion to Green Lanterns.  So much so that any Reach operative (Beetles) are programmed to kill a Green Lantern on sight, or rather scent.  Also making the scene are Tom T’Morra (Tomorrow), a mysterious woman named Sleen, and a re-imagined Captain Carrot, here called Capt. K’Rot, as well as fellow Zoo Crew member, Pig-Iron.  What writer Keith Giffen makes blatantly apparent throughout the whole of the narrative so far is that these characters DO NOT like each other, but are forced, despite rules and the design of the game, to cooperate for mutual gain.  This even extends to those outside of the Hunted.  K’Rot, Sleen, and Pig-Iron are thieves drawn in by a contract for Scarab tech, and allying themselves, at least temporarily, with Caul for mutual benefit.  What results from these very strange circumstances is something between a Mexican Standoff and a Battle Royale on a planetary scale.  In Giffen’s backup feature Larfleeze, the sole Orange Lantern, at the behest of his kidnapped biographer, Stargrave, goes to the Star Rovers to help him get his stolen mementos back after unknown intruder(s) absconded with them.  The Star Rovers are in fact the same smugglers that Kyle Rayner, Carol Ferris, Arkillo, and Saint Walker dealt with in the Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual that sold them out to the Lady Styx.  In this they do not seem to be any more trustworthy then before.  But when you are as crazed a hoarder as Larfleeze, desperate times call for desperate measures.  Up and down, this series is promising to be a really engaging, dynamic story with killer art and masterful storytelling.

    A Lady of Stealth

    A Lady of Stealth

  • Ravagers #9 concludes the two issue arc of Rose Wilson and Warblade attempting to save a sequestered mountain town in Colorado from a metavirus that causes those exposed to spontaneously combust in a very painful fashion.  Rose herself, though purportedly inoculated against it, begins to exhibit symptoms, spelling disaster for this very uncharacteristic rescue attempt.  However, at the end of issue #8 the runaway Ravagers led by Caitlin Fairchild arrive on the scene.  At first they attempt to fight Rose and Warblade until the aforementioned baddies’ altruism is revealed by the citizens of the town.  The issue is so-so, but the aspect that makes it relevant is the interplay between Rose and Caitlin who were once friends before parting ways on ideological differences.  Despite being a pyschopath, there remains something human in Rose Wilson and this issue zeroes in on that.
  • Ame-Comi Girls: Supergirl finishes the preliminary round of introductions in the series and gets to the heart of the matter.  On old Krypton a cataclysm is on the verge following the discovery by Jor-El and Zor-El, the preeminent scientist on the planet, that Krypton like several other worlds was created by an entity called Brainiac for the purpose of growing and harvesting cultures for her information banks.  The fate of Krypton is linked to the fate of ours with the revelation that Earth is another Brainiac world that is ripe for harvesting.  Shortly before Krypton’s destruction Jor-El and Zor-El sent their respective daughters (both named Kara) to Earth in the hope of stemming the attack on Earth and in turn putting an end to Brainiac’s reign of terror.  Kara Zor-El (Supergirl) was the oldest of the two and was supposed to arrive first to prepare her younger cousin, Kara Jor-El (Power Girl), for the assault.  Ironically, Power Girl having arrived first is now an adult and her older cousin, prepped for battle, is still a teenager.  In any event, all the players are on the board and battle lines have been drawn.  All that remains is for the battle for Earth and by extension, the cosmos, which will be in the Ame-Comi Girls ongoing series coming March 6th.
  • Saucer Country #12 erupts in a tremulous time for the main characters of the series.  Governor Arcadia Alvarado is poised to be both the first hispanic president and the first woman president, assuming she wins the election.  So far she has beat out her democratic opponent in the primaries, Sen. James Kersey, who has agreed thereafter to be her running mate.  Now she is up against the sitting President Wardlow.  Kersey lost his lead in the democratic primary because of the revelation that he was also involved in an extraterrestrial abduction.  This issue showcases his recollections that have implications not only for Alvadado’s campaign, but also Wardlow’s presidency.  In the background the enigmatic female spokeswoman for the Bluebirds reaches out to the Alvarado campaign with sketchy promises for information, and after revealing his relationship with the tiny nude couple from the Pioneer space probes, Prof. Kidd finds himself on the rocks with Gov. Alvarado and the fallout puts him in a very precarious situation.  Paul Cornell keeps the suspense tight as his alien mythological drama delves deeper into one of the most speculated topics of the modern age.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #17: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Jonathan Glapion

Batman & Robin #17: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray

Superboy #17: Drawn by R.B. Silva, Colored by Richard & Tanya Horie, Inked by Rob Lean

Threshold #2: Art by Tom Raney, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse