Week 86 (April 24, 2013)

  • Batman Inc #10 enters into its endgame.  After this issue, Grant Morrison only has three more issues before reaching what hopefully will be the meteoric conclusion of an eight year, continuous run on the character.  There is a lot of pressure, but it seems like he’s had the end in sight the whole time and doubtless has been building toward and accentuating the events leading to his final goal.  So far, Talia Al-Ghul has Gotham as well as the world in her grasp with her criminal organization and their meta-bomb ring that will encircle the world in destruction.  Batman and his allies have once again been outlawed in Gotham, but when you take away everything from someone you also remove many of their inhibitions, and considering what Batman is capable of, that is a very dangerous prospect.  Perhaps the greatest moment in the issue comes when Talia goes to visit her father, Ra’s Al-Ghul, in his Alpine prison to gloat about her genius in doing what he never could: conquering the Bat.  Truly, to the casual observer Talia is in a very advantageous position.  Ra’s is aptly playing chess as this conversation proceeds and while applauding his daughter’s plan, he cryptically hints that she has overlooked a key factor.  Though haughty and convinced of her plan’s perfection, Ra’s doesn’t reveal what he means.  The chink in her perfect plot begins to show, and with three more issues it is probable that we will watch as the crack begins to run until the plan it mars shatters entirely.  With Morrison at the helm I am a’quiver with anticipation.  One also has to acknowledge the incredible artwork of Chris Burnham that brings this series to beauteous life.

    Endgame

    Endgame

  • Red Lanterns #19 is the final stepping stone to Green Lantern #20 that promises to end the Green Lantern Universe as we know it.  Three long weeks from now we will be seeing the end of Geoff Johns’ run on the title he literally brought back from the dead eight years ago and the putting down of the last and greatest of his villains, Volthoom the First Lantern.  In this issue bridging Red Lanterns #1-18 to the conclusion of Green Lantern Atrocitus has hit perhaps the greatest existential dilemma.  His entire life thus far since the destruction of his space sector and the murder of his family has been lived with one singular purpose: vengeance.  He has lived specifically to kill those who wronged him and the hundreds of billions of innocents throughout Space Sector 666.  His rage was so great that he founded a lantern corps to spread his doctrine of revenge to the four corners of the universe.  Every step of the way he has been robbed of his ultimate aims, i.e. the death of Sinestro, who escaped and thrived as both a Green and Yellow Lantern, and Krona who fell at the hands of Hal Jordan.  When fighting Volthoom, he was given the choice to save his sector and become a tyrant, or let his sector be destroyed by Krona and the Manhunters and become that which he currently is.  Seeing his death in the first alternative at the hands of his son, as well as his murder of his beloved wife, he chooses to let his world and family be destroyed.  Afterwards, he finds nothing but self-recrimination and orders his faithful Red Lanterns to kill him for his crime of genocide by cowardice.  The Red Lanterns find themselves in a conundrum as Atrocitus is the one who saved them and gave them the power to avenge the great wrongs done to them in their previous lives.  At the same time they also swore obedience to him and he is telling them to kill him for the honor of their corps.  Something of a Catch-22.  They go through with it, but in the moment of their convergence on him to take his life, something interesting happens.  Their attacks do not kill him, but rather give him a universal awareness of their combined suffering, rejuvenating in him the need and savory of vengeance he had begun to lose touch with in the first issue.  Full circle, he is now once again the Regent of Rage and attempts to get vengeance on the one remaining enemy of his that remains to be conquered: the Guardians of the Universe.  That said, the full might of the Red Lantern Corps are headed to Oa.  Peter Milligan is a maestro, writing this series philosophically to a tee.  Joining him on art is Will Conrad, whose art is light-years above that of regular series artist Miguel Sepulveda.  The next issue will be both men’s swansong on the title following the aftermath of Green Lantern #20.  I can barely wait.
  • Flash #19 features Barry Allen in Iron Heights prison, playing a balancing act.  One one side he’s attempting to keep the Trickster’s acolytes, the Outlanders, from storming the city and the prison to release their leader.  On the other hand, he’s also trying to prove Trickster’s innocence on the murder rap he was sent up on.  If that wasn’t enough, his powers are mysteriously sucked out of him in a very unlikely crossover with the series Dial H.  Though linked to a very weak series, this mishap provides a golden opportunity for Barry Allen, not the Flash, to shine.  Somehow, Barry pulls off a miracle, but in doing so unravels some mysteries about the Speed Force and his connection to it, as well as others’.  The most intriguing of which comes at the end of the book with he entrance of the Reverse Flash.  Brian Buccellato writes this issue exquisitely with the help of Marcio Takara on art.  Francis Manapul returns as artist and cowriter on the last two pages introducing Reverse Flash.  The future of the Flash shines bright in the hands of two writer/artists who get it.  The Flash is a title to get for the foreseeable future as a result.
  • Superman #19 is literally comic book legend in the making.  The main plot follows Clark being invited to a housewarming party for Lois Lane and Jonathan Carroll.  This may seem awkward for poor old Clark, but for the fact that while he is tying up a loose end in his super-heroics as Superman his girlfriend, Diana Prince, arrives before him and literally stuns everyone there: Lois, Perry, and especially Jimmy.  Clark does eventually get to the party and when he gets there he notices discernible peculiarities in the words and actions of those present.  Superman may have super-speed, super-strength, super-vision, heat-vision, freezing breath, etc, but Clark Kent has the hyper acute intuition and attention to detail of a trained journalist.  Tying it to the same phenomenon he witnessed last issue at the midtown club where dozens of young women attempted to mindlessly plummet to their doom.  All of this ties enigmatically to Hector Hammond, kept in a comatose state at S.T.A.R. Labs, and the New God, Orion, dispatched to Earth in order to save the universe from an up and coming threat originating on Earth.  Writer Scott Lobdell GETS Superman not unlike the team of Buccellato and Manapul get the Flash.  The core story of this issue as I’ve related it is what gives the series structure, but the strength of Lobdell’s writing is the strange and fantastic events that surround the main story, accentuating the world in which Superman exists.  Case in point, Clark is late to the house warming party.  He’s late because of an invasion of radiant Roman-eque legions of beings called Sunturnians from a placed called Neo Sol.  Superman is brought before their “Solaratrix”, Allysun, and made to kneel before her.  The look of the Sunturnians, the concept behind them, and everything elicited by this short episode of the story harkens to the Silver Age spectacle in Superman comics in which the Man of Steel we know to today first began to emerge.  Grant Morrison is the maestro of resurrecting these Silver Age plot devices, but Scott Lobdell is no slouch.  His Superman rings true to the character and innovates it constantly.  Also adding to the incomparable quality is the out of the park artwork by returning series artist, Kenneth Rocafort.  Superman is a title that also is not to be missed.

    Wondering at Wonder Woman

    Wondering at Wonder Woman

  • Talon #7 picks up after writers James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder dropped a bombshell on the Talon and his readers last issue.  Almost simultaneously, Calvin Rose, in the heart of the Court of Owls’ information digital fortress, and Casey Washington, in the secret lair of Calvin and his associate Sebastian Clark, find out that Clark is in fact the deposed Grandmaster of the Court of Owls.  Under his administration of the shadowy cabal Calvin was chosen as Talon and Casey and her daughter were marked for death by him.  So in their struggle to fight the Owls and punish those responsible for the destruction of both their lives they were in fact a stone’s throw away from the chief architect of their misery the entire time!  Both characters begin the issue in nightmarish, seemingly intractable situations in the heart of danger.  The Owls’ information superfortress was designed to keep the wrong people out and therefore also to keep them in as well.  With the Owls inside aware of his presence getting out alive is nigh impossible.  Likewise, Sebastian Clark engineered his “home” to be his own fortress and upon the discovery that Casey has stumbled upon his secret, she is also seemingly trapped in a lion’s den of peril.  Right from the get-go the question of these two survivors’ ability to surmount the insurmountable is put to the test.  Can they survive?  The answer is waiting at the end of this issue and the answers could shock you.  The issue also segues a plotpoint introduced by Tynion in Detective Comics #19 (#900) into the main story.  Synder, Tynion, and artist Guillem March make this series a must read for any Batman fan, or just a fan of GOOD comics.
  • Teen Titans #19 is the start of this rebooted series transitioning from very innovative, new terrain as conceived by maestro Scott Lobdell  and entering into familiar terrain drawn from the seminal New Teen Titans series of the early to mid 80’s that made people actually care about the concept of the Teen Titans and want to read about teenaged superheroes.  Keyed into that is the entrance of two characters created for New Teen Titans and almost synonymous with them now: the demon god Trigon and his empath daughter, Raven.  As of the final page of last month’s issue Trigon has entered into our reality on his three headed horse and begun his plan to subdue our world.  The four-eyed, crimson skinned, elk horned monster retains all his ominousness that he has ever possessed, but Lobdell has added some darkness to Raven in his interpretation.  Last seen seated in a bone strewn, subterranean lair, holding what looks to be a chalice of blood and manipulating the current Titans’ actions like a puppeteer, the gentle, though still slightly manipulative Raven from New Teen Titans is replaced with a very fresh take on the character.  The longevity of this version is subjective, however, because Raven’s New 52 debut was in Phantom Stranger #1 where she was a normal teen trying desperately to evade her father and live a normal life.  She may simply be under his thrall at present.  However, both her amazingly awesome new costume and her darker portrayal make me giddy for her part in the future of this title.  Also coming into the fold from New Teen, restoring the feel of the 80’s title, is Beast Boy, a refugee from the cancelled Ravagers series.  His appearance is premature, as the final issue of Ravagers revealing the fate of him and his fellows has yet to be released.  However, much like she did with Kid Flash in the 80’s series, Raven latches onto him and manipulates his mind to get his help in the current situation unfolding.  Jury’s out on whether that includes backing the Titans or backing her “dear” old dad.  In the realm of the current roster of Titans, Trigon’s entrance foreshadows great revelation.  When looking at Cassie he cryptically mentions that she would have turned out quite different if she had been raised by her father and “if [she] only knew her true lineage.”  When looking at Kid Flash he hints again at Kid Flash’s crimes in the future that the young speedster has forgotten.  And he also reveals that the silver haired youth that has been killing people in the past two issue, is in fact the psychicly psycho Psymon.  So much awesome is happening in this issue.  The darkness of New Teen Titans was what galvanized DC into more serious, stark portrayals of its characters by virtue of the phenomenal storytelling of its younger heroes in those hallowed pages.  Scott Lobdell is doing that yet again in the new millennium with powerful storytelling and amazing art from Brett Booth, Ale Garza, and lately with the incredible Eddy Barrows.

    The Return of the old "New Teen Titans"

    The Return of the old “New Teen Titans”

  • Before Watchmen: The Comedian #6 was disappointing.  It started out amazing in the first three issues, but then in the last three totally lost any depth or sense of direction.  The narrative seemed aimless and the ambling path it took didn’t take the reader, even accidentally, anywhere interesting.  J.G. Jones’ art was really good, but Azzarello’s script fell flat.  The Comedian comes home stateside and is an embarrassment to a lot of top government people, including his old friend Robert Kennedy.  Kennedy is at the time making his bid for the presidency and is planning to hang the Comedian out to dry.  Despite that, Eddie Blake outwardly doesn’t seem to bear Bobbie any ill will.  However, when one of his agency buddies tells him that there is going to be an attempt on Bobbie’s life and when it is going to happen, Eddie either lets it happen or kills Bobbie himself.  Its really hard to say.  There is the possibility that I am missing something deeper, but I highly doubt it.  Its worth reading the first half of this series.  Skip the second, and your imagination can do a much better job of concluding it.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #19 was underwhelming across the board.  Arc artist Ethan Van Sciver, for whom I stayed on this title despite my waning interest, is absent this issue being replaced by Szymon Kudranski.  Kudranski’s art is good and fits the tone of this book, but like other artist switch-ups DC has been throwing out, it jars the reader s who’ve seen Van Sciver’s artwork up until this point, which is nowhere near similar to Kudranski’s.  In it we see a further account of the Mad Hatter’s descent into madness as an adolescent on testosterone pills and his insane plan in the present that will cost hundreds of lives.  Also returning is the followup to Bruce Wayne’s revelation to his Ukraining piano prodigy girlfriend that he is in fact the Batman.  Mad Hatter sees her at a concert she puts on and immediately falls for her psychotically.  Nothing but bad is on the horizon.  On paper the plot sounds interesting, but draw out it is a little lacking.
  • All-Star Western #19 finds Jonah panning for gold out West after his departure from Gotham last issue.  He’s looking for gold when the issue opens, but Gold finds him!  Booster Gold, time travelling superhero.  Gold hasn’t been seen in the New DCU since the conclusion of of the Justice League International Annual about a year ago.  That apocalyptic moment portended something major in the offings, most likely the hinted at Trinity War this July.  So far Gold hasn’t mentioned the how or why of his being in the Old West, but shows up here as the sheriff of a town called Red River Junction.  This town that he’s become lawman of is brutally massacred by a gang of cutthroats on Jonah Hex’s axe list.  Thus a shaky alliance is formed between the quintessential Western anti-hero and the time travelling buffoon that Hex refuses to believe comes from the far future.  Intriguing plot to say the least and one that could eventually shed some light on larger events brewing in DC’s future storylines throughout the New 52.  Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray continue to rock the title with Moritat’s art characterizing it brilliantly.
  • Arrow #6 features a trinity of excellent storytelling.  Leading the pack is a story scripted by Emilio Aldritch and drawn by Green Arrow royalty, Mike Grell.  In it Oliver intercepts a drug shipment from South America to Starling  City.  In the process he meets a young boy who is plagued in much the same way as him by the sins of a father.  The next has Oliver attending a football game with Tommy only to be caught in the middle of an insane ex-player’s suicide plot that will take out most of the fans in the stadium at halftime.  The final story showcases Det. Quinton Lance and the sacrifices he makes in his personal life to do his job to the best of his abilities.  Honestly, hard-edged as he is, he is a man of honor that is dealt a hard hand by life while simply trying to be the best cop he can be.  Three really excellent stories in the Arrow line, accentuating the inherent gems of the television show.
  • Jupiter’s Legacy #1 is a meteoric first installment to what promises to be an incredible series from creators Mark Millar and Frank Quitely.  Starting in 1932, the narrative follows a team of young explorers led by a clairvoyant, handsome gentleman by the name of Sheldon Sampson as they seek an island that has called to him in his dreams.  The story splits as the island comes into sight, cutting to 2013 when this group has obviously gotten older and, as we see, attained super powers that they have used to defend America and lead it back to prosperity after the Great Depression that led them to seek out the island in the first place.  Their children are in their early to late 20’s and are indolent, debauch party animals, lacking a cause to fight for or believe in.  On the surface one would think that they are disappointments to their parents and not worth a damn, but if one takes a closer look there are some very deep, philosophical and sociological implications beneath who these young men and women have become and why.  The scenes, dialogue, and expressions of the characters are so well choreographed as to each be infinitely telling.  A picture is worth a thousand words?  Millar’s scripting and artist Frank Quitely’s visual renderings prove this adage and the merit of comics inherently because of it.  Admittedly, Millar is a writer of great merit, but Frank Quitely’s artwork was what got me to pick this series up in the first place.  There is an otherworldly, sensual beauty to his art and he delivers that in spades with this first issue.  The promise of where these two paragons of comic writing can take us is literally infinite.

    The Old Guard

    The Old Guard

  • The Unwritten #48 opens after last issue’s revelation that Wilson Taylor is trapped in the underworld after his death at the hands of Pullman two years ago after unveiling the last Tommy Taylor book.  As the plot progresses we see that Tom is beginning to remember who he is and why he chose to come to Hades.  These emergent memories terrify him because of the importance of them.  The importance of finding a woman (we know he’s talking about Lizzy Hexam) who was very special to him and whom he is afraid to fail.  She is somewhere in the underworld, which was the reason for his going there in the first place, and we find out just where she has been.  Also of great importance is the appearance of a golden pillar in Pauly Buckner’s kingdom that is slowly expanding outward.  His servants tell him that it is a portal, but to where they do not know.  This issue has many small revelations that have resonating importance throughout the whole of The Unwritten.  I very much look forward to the next installment that has infinite promise considering the last panel of this issue.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman Inc #10: Art by Chris Burnham, colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Superman #19: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Blond

Teen Titans #19: Drawn by Eddy Barrows, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Eber Ferreira

Jupiter’s Legacy #1: Art by Frank Quitely, Colored by Peter Doherty

Advertisements

Week 78 (Feb. 27, 2013)

This week and probably from now on I am going to only review the comics I read with which I have a strong opinion.  I have been bogged down the past several weeks trying to review everything and I think that that has been a lose/lose situation, holding up my postings and also cluttering them with uninspired, uninteresting nonsense from me.  So there may be gaps in my postings where I will review a series out of the blue or skip a month or two.  If there is a series you want to see reviewed, feel free to message me at any time and I will try to include the series you are interested in.  That said, let’s get to it:   

  • Flash #17 brings the gorilla invasion of the Gem Cities to its stunning conclusion.  Going through all possible outcomes to the intervention, Flash is unable to see a way in which he can attack Grodd and win.  Grodd’s victory is almost assured no matter what is done against him.  With his grasp on the Speed Force that he has stolen and his army behind him, his position is impregnable.  There is only one factor that Flash gambles on. Barry takes Grodd into the Speed Force where that very principle adjudicates the outcome.  On the outside Grodd is King and has immense physical strength, a technologically superior army, and an augmented grasp on the Speed Force.  Within the Speed Force, however, the Force itself determines its champion and Flash is the  that champion, nearly omnipotent within.  In this way, writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato firmly establish the core truths of the Flash.  He is the Chosen One of the Speed Force.  He is one of the most brilliant tacticians in the DCU, literally living infinite tangential realities in his mind, finding the one in which the day can be saved.  But most important of all, he is the Fastest Man Alive.  The art and writing of this series are at the top echelon of comics put out today, in a marriage that all should aspire to. My only fear is the hinting of a future relationship between Barry and Iris West.  Its bound to happen, but I would rather have it come much later, rather than sooner.  I’ve always been a proponent for Patty Spivot and considering how she turned on a dime in her opinion of the Flash, rallying to Barry’s side, I think she’s earned a place with him for a decent stretch of time.  Conversely, the way Iris attempted to manipulate Barry in last issue, I think she’s earned a place in the penalty box for an equivocal time period.
  • Aquaman #17 provides an epilogue from the five part “Throne of Atlantis” crossover with Justice League.  In this respect it still had the pang of annoyance from the atrocious way that Geoff Johns writes the aforementioned team book.  After wresting the crown from his younger brother, Orm, Arthur has ascended the throne of Atlantis.  In the wake of his re-coronation those on land still blame him for the massive casualties of the attacks on Boston, Gotham, and Metropolis, and the Atlanteans don’t trust him because of his time living amongst the land dwellers and his leniency concerning their incursions upon the ocean.  While talking to Amanda Waller, he is told that Orm is facing the death penalty for his orchestration of the Boston attack, even though Aquaman turned him in under the agreement that his brother would only face imprisonment.  So in essence this issue picks up with Aquaman purchasing peace by offering up his younger brother as a scapegoat to slaughter, and is distrusted by both those he above and below the water.  So what all did he gain?  Who is Aquaman doing all of this for.  The answer is given in this issue and it validates him, in my opinion, as a character and raises this title once again above the putrescent stench of Justice League.  It also introduces the next arc of the series, hinted at in “Throne of Atlantis” and rife with possibilities.  If you don’t know who the Dead King is, you soon will.  Great issue by Geoff Johns following a mediocre crossover event

    King of the Seven Sea

    King of the Seven Sea

  • Batman Inc #8 left me at a bit of a loss.  Its a powerful issue, but one that makes the reader question what is real and what is only seemingly real.  Grant Morrison wrote a way for it to be true, but once again the master storyteller throws a curve ball at the reader, upping the ante and really making us wonder how this thing can possibly end.  Talia’s war with Batman is a war of attrition and as the dominoes fall even she is not fully prepared for the horrors she has invoked.  The kind of drama and true heartache that this issue elicits in its readers could only be cultivated over years and years of careful planning and composing, as Morrison has done since 2006.  Seven years building a beautifully intricate house of cards and now they fall in one swift stroke.  This is a Batman series that CANNOT, and MUST NOT be missed.
  • Red Lanterns #17  takes Atrocitus and the Red Lanterns into the “Wrath of the First Lantern” storyline.  In the Green Lantern chapter we are introduced to the concept of the “Great Heart”, a device that houses the emotions of the Guardians of the Universe.  Penetrating this inner sanctum, robot watchmen accost Atrocitus offering to remove all emotion from him including his unquenchable rage and the anguish over the murder of his family and race that drove him to his current state.  Also interesting is his encounter of the soul of Krona, the architect of the genocide that resulted in the destruction of Atrocitus’ sector of space and his family.  On Earth, Rankorr attempts in his own way to purge his rage and live a normal life.  It seems possible in this issue, but will time say otherwise?  Peter Milligan truly shows his authorial mastery in this series, making monsters twisted by anger into relatable protagonists.
  • Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #4 concludes this title with Dr. Manhattan altering all realities so that he will always become the entity that the intrinsic field generator forged him into.  Yet, still there is a blurriness that obscures his vision of his future, meaning that a large burst of tachyons will be emitted at a certain moment in his future.  His initial hypothesis is that this is caused by all out nuclear war at a scale that would annihilate all living things on Earth.  When he speaks to Ozymandias about this the latter tries to persuade him that this could be caused by his own self generating energy if it were used to solve the energy crisis on a global scale.  This seems logical to him.  Writer J. Michael Straczynski then flips the narrative (literally to the point where one flips the comic upside down to read it) and shows how the Smartest Man Alive tricks the omniscient Dr. Manhattan into not only allowing his genocidal plan, but fueling it.  Though his assertion of Dr. Manhattan altering ALL possible realities is laughable, J. Michael Straczynski ends the series quite well and perfectly aligns it with the spirit of the original Watchman series from the 80’s.

    The Moment

    The Moment

  • Talon #5 keeps to its high octane pace, pitting Calvin Rose against the full might of the Court of Owls.  In the past he’s hit their money, he’s hit their symbology, but in this issue his target is the repository of their information located in a fortress built by his lover, Casey Washington’s, father.  Originally he was sent to kill Casey and her daughter Sarah so that the Court could take this building and control the most secure network known to man.  Now it comes full circle as he takes it back with the help of the woman he went AWOL to protect.  The importance of this building merits more than the usual muscle and Calvin may have gotten in over his head.  Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV write this series seamlessly and Guillem March takes that story and makes it visually beautiful with his luscious art.
  • Teen Titans #17 is sort of an epilogue to “Death of the Family” but more so, it is a prologue to an event called “Light and Dark.”  Several things happen within.  First we are introduced to a doctor working with kids that have unwanted metagenes who is solicited as the new Doctor Light.  We also are shown Tim moving the Titan’s home from LexCorp Towers to a luxurious yacht.  The team begins to settle in, when Tim begins to exhibit some strange behavior.  He puts the moves on Solstice, who has been seeing Bart Allen, aka Kid Flash, but despite brief protestations she succumbs to his advances.  Next we see him, Wonder Girl comes into his room wearing one of his t-shirts and nothing else.  He then seduces her, which raises some more eyebrows.  However, the echos of his honeyed words fall into an infernal looking chamber where Trigon’s daugher Raven sits with a goblet of wine in one hand.  So it can be assumed that Raven provides the dark to the title and Dr. Light obviously the light.  Writer Scott Lobdell looks to be revitalizing two hallmark Teen Titan characters: Raven, who was once a hero, and Dr. Light, an iconic Teen Titans villain.  He’s rarely gone astray, so I wait with great anticipation for what he has in store for us in future issues.  Also worth noting is that Nightwind and Teen Titans have swapped artists with Eddy Barrows taking over art duties on this issue and Brett Booth becoming the new Nightwing writer.  So far no complaints on my end.

    The Dark Side of Tim Drake

    The Dark Side of Tim Drake

  • All-Star Western #17 brings a benchmark character of the DC Universe to 1880’s Gotham: Vandal Savage. Coming to Gotham he is almost like a vampire, walking through the streets and instantly invoking awe and terror from those he meets from lowly criminals in the slums to the Court of Owls in the highest eyries of Gotham society.  He also brings with him a plague unlike anything the modern world had seen since the days of the Black Death in Europe.  Alan Wayne’s wife, Catherine, attempts to bring food and medicine to the quarrantined parts of Gotham only to be kidnapped by the hordes of diseased.  Thus Alan dispatches Hex, Arkham, and three others to go into the cordoned off districts of Gotham to rescue her.  The stakes are high and all roads lead to the enigmatic Vandal Savage as the cause of the disease and chaos is explored.  In the backup there is a Stormwatch story from the 19th century that frankly I could care less about.  They aren’t interesting in this century and they fail to be interesting in the two prior ones.  Onto the next issue.
  • Arrow #4 delivers another three chapters in the “Arrow” mythology.  First up is a yarn scripted by Ben Sokolowski and Moira Kirkland and drawn by Eric Nguyen where Ollie takes out a name on the list who is a hitman that does underground cage fighting in his downtime.  Taking him on in the cage where most die at his hand appears to be the only option to cross his name off.  As ever, Ollie commits himself 150%.  However, when an alternative to the cage is presented, Ollie refuses to back down, raising the question in Diggle’s mind as to whether or not Ollie isn’t doing this for other reasons.  Next up is a tale told by Marc Guggenheim and drawn by the incomparable Mike Grell entitled “Huntress: Year One.”  After she bugged out of Starling City, as seen in her two issue arc on the show, Helena Bertinelli goes to Sicily, the land of her forefathers, to learn the art of vengeance from the criminal fraternity La Morte Sussurrata.  Narrated from her perspective with Guggenheim’s words and depicted with Grell’s stark artwork this story is chilling to behold and rounds out her character into an even more sinister whole than we left her at two months ago. Finally the story “Limbo” has Oliver going aboard a yacht to destroy a drug shipment come in from southeast Asia.  However on the dinghy ride out and onboard the yacht his mind is plagued by ghosts of the sinking of the Queen’s Gambitm hampering his ability to react to danger and almost getting him killed.  From this we see that his past still is a raw nerve that the slightest reminder can dredge up dark memories.  This comic series is incredible when put side to side with the television series each and every week.  Well worth the purchase if you love the television series

    The Huntress on the Prowl

    The Huntress on the Prowl

  • Unwritten #46 ends the two part storyline following Richie Savoy and Det. Didge Patterson in their investigation of zombie attacks in Australia.  Upon deeper investigation the case of the boy who is compelled to write the stories that bring these monsters into being only to have them kill those close to him isn’t unique.  Similar instances of others warping time and reality have been reported leading to an explanation of the state of the fictional world post-“Wound.”  Mike Carey and Peter Gross are creating a world that redefines how one conceives of the relationship between fact and fiction.  The idea that if something is thought, there is a factuality about it because it has been conjured into its own existence is a paradox that provokes much consideration.  As this series has gone on from its first issue to this 46th installment the concept has gotten grander, more complex, and even more amazing to contemplate.  Next issue promises a return to Tom Taylor in the Land of the Dead and resolution as to his fate.  Like anything related to this series, its worth the wait.
  • Joe Kubert Presents #5  begins with a Sgt. Rock story, written by his friend Paul Levitz (a genius in his own right) and of course drawn by himself.  This piece has a very elegiac tone that makes me wonder whether during its writing Joe Kubert didn’t already know he was dying.  He talks about its composition in the editorial section of the issue, but I still find myself wondering if that wasn’t an unspoken impetus behind the funereal feel of this story.  Joe drew and sometimes wrote Sgt. Rock, following his interest and passion for war stories and telling the tales of the unsung heroes of the past that kept us free or laid down their lives for reasons both poignant and foolish.  This story is the epitome of poignant, anti-war rhetoric, cutting to the bleeding core of what the character of Sgt. Rock embodies.  A middle aged son and teenaged grandson of a D-Day veteran go to the Normandy beach where their unnamed progenitor stormed the German lines and lost many friends.  This event mirrors a trip that Levitz took with his own son.  They talk about how among those that he fought beside was the legendary Sgt. Rock and Easy Company.  Speculation was that Rock died on last day of WWII.  Another legend states that he lived past the war and fought in other conflicts.  The truth doesn’t really matter because he fought among all of those that died that day and his legacy is buried with each and every one of them.  So too would their father/grandfather, whose ashes they spread in the G.I. cemetery among the field of white crosses and stars. In Sam Glanzman’s “U.S.S. Stevens” segment, he chronicles the start of WWII from the days just prior to the Japanese attack through the major hallmarks of the war in the Pacific.  Whereas the last four installments have been personal and anecdotal, this one, while set up and worded in an engaging manner, was more historical in a fact by fact presentation.  Following it, Joe Kubert writes a two page editorial that introduces the Sgt. Rock feature and his friendship with writer Paul Levitz. In it he also talks about his family, including his eldest son, Dave, whom he tells us is a motorcycle enthusiast that lost a leg in a really nasty crash.  His son inspired him to write the next feature about a biker with one leg that takes shelter for the night in an abandoned old house.  The house hold many ghosts from past, however, both from its past owners and from the main character’s own past as a soldier in Afghanistan.  This story feels like the old horror comics told in anthology books of the 50’s and 60’s, but with a modern setting.  A testament befitting one of the golden age maestros of comics.  Next he tells us another story of Spit as the nameless boy attempts to make his way on the whaling vessel, and after that Brian Buniak gives us a tale in Angel and the Ape of how Angel and Sam first met.  This anthology book is phenomenal and I only wish that Joe Kubert could have made it to another run.  He’s given the comic medium and comic book readers over sixty years of classic stories and beautiful artwork.  I suppose he’s earned his rest.  Slacker.

    Requiem for Sgt. Rock

    Requiem for Sgt. Rock

 

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

Illustration Credits:

Aquaman #17: Drawn by Paul Pelletier, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Sean Parsons

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #4: Art by Adam Hughes, Colored by Laura Martin

Teen Titans #17: Drawn by Eddy Barrows, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Eber Ferreira

Arrow #4: Art by Mike Grell, Colored by David Lopez & Santi Casas

Joe Kubert Presents #5: Art by Joe Kubert

Week 70 (Jan. 2, 2013)

  • Batman Inc #6 is a doomsday clock ticking towards midnight.  Since the beginning of this second arc of the title, but really from the first issue following writer Grant Morrison’s transition from Batman & Robin, there has been something extremely wrong happening in the shadows and all the disparate threats lead to a web woven by none other than Talia Al-Ghul.  Since her revelation as the leader of Leviathan its become clear that Grant Morrison is writing this series as a Machiavellian tale of “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”  Batman has spurned her affections and lured their son away from her, so in revenge she has deduced the most ingenious plan to take everything he loves and has built away from him.  What’s worse is that inherent in the plan are choices he has to make shifting responsibility onto his shoulders for what survives and what is destroyed, who lives and who dies.  Nothing and no one are sacred in this conflict and at issue’s close the sword drops.  Grant Morrison is a genius.  Hands down, he is on the top echelon of writers who have written the Batman character.  Joining him on this second arc and really making his mark is artist Chris Burnham.  Burnham’s art is reminiscent of Frank Quitely, one of Morrison’s most iconic collaborators, but has its own flavor making it appropriate for this title in its similarities to Quitely, but its also for its uniqueness.  When this series ends, as melodramatic as this may sound, I think I might go into mourning.

    BatmanInc6

    The Sophie’s Choice of the Batman Universe

  • Red Lanterns #15 finds the Corps at its most desperate hour.  Fresh off of the sabotaging of their Central Power Battery, the Guardians of the Universe have unleashed their nightmarish Third Army upon the Universe.  Like everything involving the Guardians, Atrocitus won’t rest until the little blue bastards are stopped and their sins against sentient life punished.  Taken in that light, he sounds not only virtuous, but almost sane.  Elsewhere in the Universe, Red Lanterns are purging egregious ne’er-do-wells to power their weakened battery with righteous vengeance.  Vengeance is the key to their revival.  Apropos, first lieutenant Bleez escorts Rankorr, aka Jack Moore, back to Earth to kill his grandfather’s murderer, thereby completing his path of vengeance and fully realizing his potential as a Red Lantern.  This mission is integral to the Corps, as Rankorr for whatever reason is the only Red Lantern with the ability to form constructs with his ring.  However, when confronted with the man who has wronged him so greatly, Rankorr is also confronted with his own wrongs against others.  On his home planet of Ryutt, we see that even Atrocitus is not immune from ghosts of the past, revisiting his decimated world, with the plan to use the Guardians’ own weapons against them.  Peter Milligan is a genius and his writing keeps the reader keyed into the plot with its many nuances and intricacies.  As good as the writing is, I am underwhelmed by Miguel Sepulveda’s artwork.  It isn’t bad in and of itself, but it just is not as engrossing as Ed Benes’ artwork was during the initial issues of the title’s run.
  • The Flash #15 was largely an interim issue, albeit one that accomplished a great many things nonspecific to the current story arc.  The Gorilla invasion of the Gem Cities is in full swing and King Grodd, empowered by the Speed Force, has beaten Barry into a comatose state.  In his delirium, Barry’s connection to the Speed Force has him viewing a slew of possible outcomes to the events transpiring around him, most extremely unpleasant to behold.  The Rogues step up as their city descends into chaos, actually giving relief and protection to the denizens of their town.  Some pretty intense things happen in the mean time as Central City and Keystone City await salvation.  The most interesting in my opinion, and something I have been DYING to see, is Barry’s girlfriend Patty Spivot finding out that he is the Flash.  Though she has vehemently professed to hate the Flash, when that revelation comes she doesn’t bat an eyelash, but instead rushes to her boyfriend’s aid.  I love Patty and I am excited about the prospect of what this knowledge portends for future issues.  As ever, writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato hit the title out of the park in both art and story, with an 11 page assist from guest artist, Marcus To.

    Stand By Your Man

    Stand By Your Man

  • Superman #15 continues the “H’el on Earth” crossover event after H’el forcibly ejects Superman and Superboy from the Fortress of Solitude and barricades himself inside.  As a result Superman takes Superboy to a top secret government facility specifically designed to hold Lex Luthor engineered by Lex Luthor.  This is undertaken under the aegis of Superman asking for Lex’s scientific expertise on how to stop H’el, but the true reason, which Lex intuits almost immediately, is much more sinister.  It’s all hands on deck as the fate of Earth literally hangs in the balance.  The art by Kenneth Rocafort is the thing that immediately strikes one as the pages are turned on the issue, but once one delves into the story they depict, the keen authorship of Scott Lobdell becomes equally apparent.  This issue has the first real interaction between Superman and Superboy, and I have to say that the depiction of Superman, which Lobdell has executed brilliantly in the past, falters in the moments where Superman teeter-totters between seeming apathy to the polar opposite position of the overly interested father figure.  Still, a really fantastic issue rendered exquisitely by both men.

    Superman's Darker Side

    Superman’s Darker Side

  • Batman: The Dark Knight #15 ends the first arc by writer Gregg Hurwitz featuring the Scarecrow’s plot to release a super-fear-toxin on the people of Gotham.  Though midstream it drew some intriguing parallels between Batman and Scarecrow’s childhoods leading up to the donning of their respective personas, overall the arc fell flat.  This last issue had the Scarecrow releasing his toxin via zepplin and Batman throwing together a last ditch effort to negate it.  Though Batman’s solution is intense and fairly novel, it was cobbled together far too quickly in deux-ex-machina fashion for it to have any resonance or believability.  But then again we are talking about comic books here.  Overall though, I felt that this new run on the series is lacking.  Starting at the end of January, series creator and artist David Finch is stepping away from the series and replaced by Ethan Van Sciver.  Van Sciver is an incredible artist, on par with Finch, so Hurwitz has the art down and one more chance to nail the writing.
  • Talon #3 marks the return of a character from the #0 issue, Casey Washington, and her fate after the events depicted therein.  Main character, Calvin Rose, was an assassin for the shadowy Court of Owls known as the Talon until getting the one assignment he couldn’t go through with: killing Casey Washington, a young African American mother and her daughter, Sarah.  Rescuing them from the Court was the catalyst that set the drama of this series into motion.  Returning to that pivotal event, Calvin re-communes with Casey after five years and we learn that the two of them had a love affair that ended when Calvin felt his presence was a danger to Casey and her daughter.  Embittered, Casey meets Calvin again, this time in a much stronger position with powerful allies.  Though harsh feelings exist between them, their common enemy sparks a pooling of resources for an assault on Hudson Financial, a New York based bank that handles thirteen billion dollars of Court investments.  Casey and Calvin’s partner, Sebastian Clark, come up with a flawless plan to hit the bank, but as ever “the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.”  James Tynion and Scott Snyder are masters of storytelling and sell this series for every cent charged on the cover price.  I know that I have said this at least three times in the past, but I feel that it bears reiteration.  Snyder, Tynion, and March make this a must read title.

    How To Save A Life

    How To Save A Life

  • Teen Titans #15, written by Red Hood and the Outlaws scribe, Scott Lobdell, proves yet again what a master he is when dealing with the Joker, vis-a-vis the “Death of the Family” crossover event.  In Red Hood and the Outlaws #15 two weeks ago, Lobdell wrote a Joker plot that was keyed directly into the character of Jason Todd and played to his person brilliantly.  In this issue of Teen Titans Lobdell does it again, not only penning an ingenious (and especially deranged) plot by the Joker, but one that is keyed into Tim Drake’s personality.  With Jason, the Joker knew his history and used it as a weapon against him, considering that the Joker was its engineer.  Tim, however, is a young professional on the model of Bruce himself, and against him the Joker asserts himself by proving that he is in Tim’s head, knowing his thoughts and stratagems and is able to use them against him.  The Teen Titans come to Gotham to track their kidnapped friend and that is precisely what the Joker was counting on . . . They are a young team, both in individual ages and the tenure of their association with each other, and their inexperience is blatantly revealed.  To be fair though, the Joker is an A-list adversary who has made a fool of the Batman on many an occasion, so their embarrassment isn’t totally their fault.  Artist Brett Booth returns to the title providing the stunning artwork that helped establish this new series sixteen months ago, and a very beautiful depiction of Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl.  Well worth the read even if you aren’t following the overarching “Death of the Family” event.

    When The Joker Gets In Your Head . . .

    When The Joker Gets In Your Head . . .

  • All-Star Western #15 continues the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde storyline.  Jekyll has come to Gotham to track down a quantity of his stolen formula, but when his handler, Reginald Forsythe, is murdered and partially eaten by Hyde, events take a sinister turn.  Obviously when Dr. Jekyll takes his serum he becomes the sociopathic Edward Hyde, but the question in this issue becomes who will emerge when Dr. Jeremiah Arkham is force fed the serum by Hyde?  Jonah Hex attempts to intercede against Hyde in Arkham’s behalf, but proves inadequate in several respects, raising another interesting scenario: What happens when Jonah Hex, the biggest badass this side of the Rio Grande, is confined to a wheelchair for a month?  And in the backup feature, Tomahawk, General Lancaster of the newly minted American Army sets a trap for Tomahawk’s men and slaughters dozens of his Native American brothers.  In the fight with Lancaster, Tomahawk almost has the upper hand, until the remaining British forces in the area intervene.  The reckoning appears to be reserved for next issue.  We’ll see what that holds for Tomahawk and the tribes of the American northwest.
  • Arrow #2 delivers three more glimpses into the world and history of the CW series Arrow.  Whereas the inaugural issue of this series had three stories about Oliver and his quest for justice, this one gives two slots to supporting characters, further fleshing out our understanding of the series.  First off comes a story scripted by Lana Cho with art by Eric Nguyen following John Diggle’s time in Afghanistan as an Army sergeant.   Despite the hells he endured, through the incident depicted we see the good man he is and why Oliver would be keen to have him on his team.  The second segment by Wendy Mericle and drawn by Sergio Sandaval follows Oliver’s mother, Moira Queen, and her salvaging of her husband’s yaht, the “Queen’s Gambit.”  Moira is an unfortunate character caught between a rock and a hardplace and demonized because of her associations with bad people.  Malcolm Merlyn is a very powerful man and the salvaging of the “Queen’s Gambit” is a key piece in a very dangerous game of chess.  The final tale, scripted by by Ben Sokolowski and Lana Cho takes Oliver to Moscow to cross a name off his father’s list.  Justin Whicker smuggles hopeful young ballerinas out of Russia with the promise of fame in America only to be sold into white slavery.  Because this story is about Oliver and especially because it involves the ballet, Mike Grell (Green Arrow royalty, having written and drawn the title in the 80’s) provides art.  The show is incredible and this series makes that viewing experience so much richer.

    Mike Grell's Peerless Rendering of the Ballet

    Mike Grell’s Peerless Rendering of the Ballet

  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #11 contains three tales from the DC animated universe.  Half the issue is composed of the Batman Beyond story “10,000 Clowns” where literally 10,000 suicidal Jokerz from across the globe make pilgrimage to Gotham to sacrifice themselves for their leader the Joker King’s insane plot.  Joker King is in fact the brother of Batman’s girlfriend, Dana Tan.  In this installment Joker King fights not only the current Batman, Terry McGinnis, but also the original, the 80 year old Bruce Wayne, who’s still got acid running through his veins and a serious hate-on for clowns.  We also see Doug Tan’s reunion with his family after his descent into madness and a recap of how he wrangled the Jokerz and gained dominion over all the rival factions.  This issue was truly worth the wait, having been built up to for more than two years now.  In Superman Beyond we get a slightly less satisfactory experience only lasting a few chaotic pages with Superman facing off against the Trillians without even knowing who they are or why they want him dead.  I have my theories considering that this series and its fellows in this title are the refugees of the discontinued DC animated universe.  The two part series finale of “Superman: The Animated Series” had Supes under the thrall of Darkseid, conquering planets for the Lord of Apokalips.  I think that Trillia was one of the planets that Superman unknowingly decimated while leading Apokalips’ armies.  I could be wrong, however.  Speaking of Apokalips, the last segment in this issue is a Beyond: Origin of the Apokaliptian beauty, Big Barda. Starting out with two little girls growing up in the slums, we see the origins first of Barda’s mother, Big Breeda, one of Darkseid’s elite warriors and her best friend who would become Granny Goodness.  Breeda fought Darkseid’s wars and through eugenics bore future soldiers with his greatest troops.  The one child who’s father she herself chose was Barda.  Barda’s birth not only put the warrioress on the outs with Darkseid but also created a split between Breeda and Granny, the latter of whom raised Barda in her orphanage. The rest is history.  Escaping to Earth with a handsome, young New God, Scott Free, she marries him and the two live happily for a time.  However, the gap between her and Scott’s life together, as seen in the television series “Justice League Unlimited,” and where she is in “Batman Beyond” is a tragic tale that is finally revealed within.  I loved this issue in its entirety more than a little.  Definitely worth the read.
  • American Vampire #34 returns to the beginning of the series while also taking us forward.  The series started with Jim Book hunting down Skinner Sweet.  Book died and Sweet’s been making Hell ever since, but the two people that fought alongside Book and who have taken a backseat since were Abilena Book, Jim’s young wife, and Will Bunting, the novelist following him for material for his next novel.  Picking up in 1954, we see Abilena seventy years later as well as learn the fate of Will Bunting from his nephew.  Through their interaction we are made aware of an immense threat that is known as the “Gray Trader.”  What the Trader is and what threat it represents are left ambiguous, but from what writer Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque depict at the end, the “future” looks bleak.  The two page montage of that future promises the involvement of Skinner Sweet, Pearl Jones, Travis Kidd, perhaps one of the ancient vampires from Survival of the Fittest, and Las Vegas in flames.  As I predicted, this issue is at the precipice of a indeterminate gap in storytelling.  Snyder and Albuquerque are doing this not just to take their time fine tuning the plot to perfection, but also so that Albuquerque can draw the majority of the second half of the series, which was unable to do in this first half.  All around I have to reiterate my initial praise of this series as a messiah of the vampire genre.  In a world of truly trite, abysmal vampire stories, this one comic series stands as a shining beacon, keeping the concept from drowning in Stephanie Meyers and L.J. Smith related sewage.
  • Joe Kubert Presents #3 continues to showcase a bygone era of storytelling made fresh through veterans of the golden age of comic books.  Joe himself offers up two stories and his friends Sam Glanzman and Brian Buniak continue their respective series, as begun in Joe Kubert Presents #1.  Last issue, Kubert began a two part story entitled “The Redeemer” about a man who has lived countless lives over thousands of years, redeeming humanity in each, and an ancient man of evil hidden away in a fortress atop the Himalayas, known only as the Infernal One, secretly plotting against him, attempting to hasten the damnation of Man.  The first half of the story involved a very complex set of events in the year 2557 A.D. that leave our hero, Jim Torkan, at a crossroads where he can either continue his redeeming of humanity (unknowingly) or fall into the Infernal Ones trap and cast aside his morals.  The yarn is both futuristic in its far reaching vistas and retroactive in its storytelling style and character archetypes.  Kubert truly puts forth his greatest work in this series, evincing his long work in the medium and his unfettered genius.  The conclusion of this tale is both satisfying and unending.  Sam Glanzman returns to his time on the U.S. Stevenson, a ship he actually served on, recounting yet another anecdotal episode on the US destroyer in WWII’s Pacific theater.  It tells about the war in humorous yet starkly real terms, showing not only the war itself, but the simple and beautiful lives of the men fighting it before and after its beginning and conclusion.  The transitions between are so quick and efficacious that you barely notice, as if you are drifting through their lives like in a dream.  In fact it is almost exactly like a dream, because things go from being so horrible to so beautiful in the blink of an eye that there is nothing else it could be.  In Joe Kubert’s second story, Spit, we return to the street urchin met in Joe Kubert Presents #1, who grows up so detested by every person he has ever met that he lacks a proper name and is colloquially know as Spit by all.  Stowing away on a whaling ship, he attempts to make his way in the world only to fall under the thumb of the peg-legged ship’s cook who works him to the bone and verbally abuses him without mercy.  However, unlike on land, at sea Spit finds something that alters his role in life and shines a little glimmer of hope on his existence.  This segment, unlike the inked and colored “Redeemer” feature, is un-inked pencil drawings by the master artist in a style that is raw and quintessentially Joe Kubert.  The gray scale, rough pencils fit the rough, historical tale exceptionally well endowing it with a dark ambiance that draws one immediately in.  Finally, Brian Buniak presents the third installment of his “Angel and the Ape” feature, which has blonde bombshell private investigator, Angel, following up on a case to clear her partner, a giant ape named Sam Simeon, from a murder charge.  This feature is the dessert of the issue, being nothing but pure comedic slap stick and satire.  Whereas the others have poignance and certain tragedy, this one is a tonic that heals the soul and gets you back in a good mood.  Buniak does the art is a very caricature-esque fashion that reeks of the 50’s and 60’s.  All the submissions herein are stunningly presented and really a joy to read.  If you are a comic purist, pick up these issues and experience a bygone era of comic lore.JoeKubertPresents3

Thus ends what should have been the last week of comics of 2012, owing to the ridiculous three title week preceding this one.  I enjoyed so many of these titles and would suggest they be gotten ahold of as soon as possible.  Next week we truly begin the month of January with a fresh batch of #16 titles.  Looking forward to 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 Inc #6: Art by Chris Burnham, colored by Nathan Fairbairn

The Flash #15: Drawn by Marcus To, Colored by Brian Buccellato & Ian Herring, Inked by Ryan Winn

Superman #15: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Sunny Gho

Talon #3: Art by Guillem March, Colored by Tomeu Morey

Teen Titans #15: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund

Arrow #2: Art by Mike Grell, Colored by David Lopez & Santi Casas

Joe Kubert Presents #3: Art by Joe Kubert

TV Review: Arrow

With the debut of its midseason finale, I finally feel like I can comment with some certainty on the new CW television series “Arrow.”  Based off of the DC character Green Arrow, this show delivers not only a faithful adaptation of an underutilized comic property, but just damn good television.  Watching this show, a person immediately wants to make a connection with the ten season long series “Smallville.”  And why wouldn’t they?  “Smallville” was the first time since the Adam West “Batman” television series that a comic book character became a prime-time live action hit.  However, “Arrow”, put on to assuage the hole in a nation of comic book nerds’ television lineup, exceeds the mark.  It is promising to be an even better series in the nine episodes that have aired than “Smallville” ever was in ten seasons.  And I am a huge “Smallville” fan.ARROW_24x36_Posterj

What makes the difference between this series and all the other comic book superhero television shows in the past, is that this rendition takes a realistic perspective on the genre.  It also has a much darker tone.  Where “Smallville” started with Clark Kent going to his first day of high school, cultivating in a small microcosm the seeds of his future self with measured allusions and minimalist, sustainable myth building, then ending ten years later after he’s established himself as Superman and spinning out of the realm of what a television program on a limited budget could portray, this series is able to scale back and focus on stories that can reasonable be told.  Superman is basically a god with the heart of a man.  Green Arrow is a man with the heart and mind of a hunter.  His heroics take place within the limits of science and reason, whereas his Kryptonian counterpart is a being whose very existence flouts physics and human understanding of the universe.  Also taking into account the aforementioned point of Superman’s near godhood, his morals in the show needed to be grounded in the Midwestern sensibilities imparted to him by the Kents or he would lose relatability and pathos with his audience.  Green Arrow, like Batman, being a regular man fighting forces that are on par with his own physical limitations is able to descend into greater depths of moral darkness, which ironically accomplishes relatability and pathos with him in much the same way as Superman’s restraint.  But just who is Green Arrow, you ask?0

Green Arrow is Star City (changed to Starling City for the television show) billionaire, Oliver Queen.  Queen is marooned on a desert island where he must learn basic survival skills in order to subsist until rescue.  This includes learning and mastering the use of a bow and arrow.  The basic myths of his time on the island and the circumstances surround it differ with the telling, but in this series it comes of his father’s yacht The Queen’s Gambit sinking with all hands lost but for the two of them.  In the moment just before reaching shore, Robert Queen reveals to his son that he is involved in a corporate illuminati that has been poisoning and raping Starling City, profiteering off its decay and selling out its citizens.  He gives his son a list of the members and takes his own life so that Oliver can have a chance to live with the finite resources they have left.  Five years later, Oliver is rescued from the island and returns to make good his father’s sacrifice and grant the repentant man absolution in death through his actions.  Enter the “Hood”, as he becomes known.arrowimages10

Donning a green hood and wielding a bow and arrow, he takes vigilante justice to the men and women of the list and coerces them through force to renounce their ill gotten gains, or to turn themselves in for heinous crimes against the weak and powerless of Starling City.  He becomes basically a modern day Robin Hood.  Where the darker edge comes in that separates it from Smallville is how he deals with situations that get . . . sticky.  Halfway through episode one, when he  and his best friend are kidnapped and his unconscious buddy’s life is endangered he breaks out of his restraints and fights his attackers.  Two are shot accidentally by the third, but when Ollie catches up to the third, disarms him, and forces him into submission, the feebled henchmen says, “You don’t have to do this . . .”  Ollie coldly replies, “Yes I do.  No one can know my secret.”  SNAP!  Breaking the man’s neck, Ollie shows that he is not someone that will only take the highroad on his crusade.  If the road gets muddy, he’s willing to get his hands dirty to advance down the path towards righting his father’s wrongs.Arrow-cast-cw

I have stated that Green Arrow is an underutilized property.  There are only a few representations of him that have merit.  I will cite them in chronological order, starting with the seminal Green Lantern/Green Arrow that really set him up as a streetwise left wing voice of the common man, as written by the incomparable Dennis O’Neil and drawn by the equally legendary Neal Adams.  From there Green Arrow languished for a little over a decade until taken up by writer/artist Mike Grell (one of my all time favorite comic creators) who defined the character yet again in quintessential ways, making him someone who could literally exist and stripping away ALL THE CAMP.  The character was taken up afterwards by other creators, most notably Kevin Smith, who wrote him well, but returned some of the camp including the goofy trick arrows that made the series ridiculous back in the day before O’Neil, Adams, and Grell.  I do not include his run or the later run of Judd Winick, which was decent as well, in the list of great runs.  The last great run, cut short by that damn DC Reboot, was that of JT Krul, which once again took away the camp, gave him just regular pointy arrows, and returned the character from a jovial, trash talking caricature back to a haunted soul who finds redemption in the cold role of a modern day huntsman of the concrete jungles.  “Arrow” takes the best of O’Neil, Grell, and Krul, and does what the people at DC have foolishly overlooked in their misguided attempt at rebooting the series.  It makes Oliver a man that does what he does from a genuine, bleeding wound upon his soul that compels him beyond his own selfish desires to do good because he has no choice.  Where the current comic is trite and pathetic, this show is profound and engaging.  This could be owing to the fact that the three producers of the show, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, and Greg Berlanti were all DC writers and had cut their teeth on the character at one point or another before creating this series.

Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters #1, the gritt...

Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters #1, the gritty redefinition of the Green Arrow. Cover by Mike Grell. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Outside the concept of the main character, the series succeeds because of the masterful way that DC characters, writers, and allusions are folded into the episodic narrative.  Writers Ann Nocenti, Andy Diggle, Mike Grell, Dennis O’Neil, and Neal Adams, among others, have been honored with references made to them throughout the episodes.  Classic DC characters also are popping up like mad. Oliver’s long time lover, Dinah Lance, who in the comics also masquerades as the superheroine Black Canary, appears on the show regularly as Dinah “Laurel” Lance, going by her middle name and championing a pro bono legal aide office instead of fishnets and a leather jacket.  Deadshot, Deathstroke, the Royal Flush Gang, Huntress, and China White have all made appearances as antagonists of the “Hood.”  The final touch that ties the concept up beautifully is the introduction of a black archer popping up in Starling who dwarfs Oliver’s skills with a bow.  If you are a comic faithful you will no doubt figure out who he is.  If not I don’t want to ruin the surprise.  Either way, this series’ first half has been stellar and I lament the hiatus, as this show was an integral part of my Wednesday routine.

Enter Deathstroke the Terminator

Enter Deathstroke the Terminator

Bottomline:  There is real evil in Starling City.  All the greed, corruption, human weakness, and discord that was in the Christopher Nolan version of Gotham City can be found in Arrow’s hometown.  And right from the first episode the proximity of that evil to our hooded protagonist is alarming to the viewer, and totally unknown to Oliver.  Also, in the grand tradition of the show “Lost”,  whenever Oliver deals with a particularly trying moment, we flash back to his time on the island and the horrors he experiences to see how his five year odyssey forged him into the steely figure that can surmount the seemingly insurmountable.  I think I’ve already made the point that this is a phenomenal show.  All that remains is to watch it and find out.

Week 65 (Nov. 28, 2012)

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

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

    The Devil's Advent

    The Devil’s Advent

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

    A Monstrously Noble Plan Is Formed

    A Monstrously Noble Plan Is Formed

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

    SOLOVAR!

    SOLOVAR!

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

    Enter EDEN

    Enter EDEN

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

    The Infernal One

    The Infernal One

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

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

Joe Kubert Presents #2: Art by Joe Kubert

Review: “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Vol. 1” (DC Series)

2010 saw DC pick up a series that had bounced around three other publishers since the 1960’s.  That series was, of course, T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents.  Admittedly, when this happened I had never heard about the original series and though it sounded interesting, abstained from reading it due to a dry spell in disposable income.  But when I saw that one of my favorite artists, Mike Grell, was doing backup art I got the issue and retroactively collected the previous issues.  After that, I became addicted to the series and sought out anything about it, past or present.

The concept of the original T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents series was a perfect combination of the popular genres of the day.  It featured an element of espionage involving a multinational organization with a cool acronym like the then popular TV series “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”, as well as superheroes like those in other mainstream comics, and sci-fi creatures and technology that were reminiscent of the cult classic films of the 50’s and 60’s.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents also featured one of the most unique premises, that even to this day is rather novel.  T.H.U.N.D.E.R is an acronym for The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserve, and as such The Higher United Nations employs agents to wield enhancing devices devised by by the brilliant scientist, Dr. Emil Jennings.  These devices include a power belt worn by agents codenamed “Dynamo”, a speed suit worn by agents codenamed “Lighnting”, a mind control helmet worn by agents codenamed “Menthor”, and a set of steel wings worn by agents codenamed “Raven.”  The devices give the wearer great power, but . . . the cost of use is that after a certain amount of time they will eventually kill the wielder.  That said, the choosing of agents is  very interesting. Recruitment is 100% voluntary so the candidates range from suicidal, to the crestfallen seeking atonement, to the just plain crazy.

The Grand Legacy

This new series by Nick Spencer feeds directly off the old material and presents a continuation of that series’ legacy into the new millennium with great care and fidelity.  It starts out with a brand new roster of agents, and then to illustrate the morbid premise of the series, kills off half the agents in the middle of a crucial mission of global importance.  Hence, a new team must be chosen, accept the terms of recruitment, be crash trained, and thrown into a conflict that could result in the downfall of nations . . . No pressure.  Through his artful storycrafting, Nick Spencer also fills us in on the gaps between this series and the previous series by Deluxe Comics from the 80’s.  He also flashes back to moments in the various other series and time periods with an interesting use of back up artists to segue and facilitate the flashback sequences from the present which is done for the seven issues by Cafu, two issues by Dan Panosian, and the final issue by Dan McDaid.  He uses the very stylized art of Nick Dragotta to go back to the original T.H.U.N.D.E.R team from the 60’s, Howard Chaykin to explore the life of the enigmatic colleague of Dr. Jennings, Dr. Anthony Dunn aka NoMan, George Perez to recap the history of the Dynamos, Ryan Sook to recap the SPIDER sequence, Mike Grell to do the 1980’s sequences, and ChrisCross doing the Lighting sequences.

Mike Grell's Rendering of the Iron Maiden in the 80's

This is one of those series like Green Lantern or Captain America where a writer who really understands the core of the piece invigorates it for the contemporary audience, and doesn’t just remake it so it holds up to today’s standards, but also feeds off of the older “hokier” source material and uses that as a moral foundation, but also a plot foundation, making those seemingly outmoded issues MATTER.  That is the real mark of an excellent series and a talented writer.  That is what makes modern era comics excellent.  This truly is an awesome collection and a good jumping on point for anyone that wants to start a long love affair with the world of T.H.U.N.D.E.R.

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

Illustration Credits:

T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #1: Cover by Frank Quitely & Val Staples

T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #4: Drawn by George Perez, Colored by Blond, Inked by George Perez & Scott Koblish

T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #7: Art.0 by Mike Grell, Colored by Val Staples

Review: “Aquaman: Death of a Prince”

When people make comic book jokes, the lion’s share of them are aimed at Aquaman.  Unlike Marvel’s super misanthropic,

"Death of a Prince" Cover

douchebag Atlantean, Prince Namor,  DC comic’s Arthur Curry (aka Aquaman) has always seemed to invite ridicule.  I can’t really comment much as to the overall caliber of the stories he’s appeared in over the years, because in the ten years that I have seriously read comics he’s rarely had his own title.  Recently, Geoff Johns has stepped up to the plate and put out a really stellar version of the character.  For more on that, please seek out the reviews I have put out for issues 1-5.  However, none of what Johns is currently doing would be possible without the stories that are contained in this graphic novel.

“Aquaman: Death of a Prince” contains several excellent stories from the 1970’s issues of Aquaman and his appearances in Adventure Comics, but the main story contained herein that prompts the title is the macabre issue where Aquaman’s three year old son, Arthur Jr., is murdered by his arch-nemesis.  This revelation spoils nothing as the Atlantean King is portrayed on the cover standing before his child’s grave with his wife spewing curses upon him for not protecting their son.  Despite the depressing goal, the book leads up with exceptional storytelling that defines the heart and soul of the character: who he is, what he stands for, where his priorities lie, and a solid recap of his life story.  The writers involved are allstars including the ever amazing Paul Levitz, Gerry Conway, Steve Skeates, Martin Pasko, David Michelinie, and Paul Kupperberg, and the artists are also amazing including the likes of Dick Giordano, Jim Aparo, Vince Colletta, Don Newton, and one of my all time favorite artists, Mike Grell.  There really is no way you can go wrong from the creative standpoint.

Despite the obvious focus on the eponymous death and Aquaman’s journey to and from it, the book expands far beyond Aquaman into other directions which round and expand upon the world he lives in.  Aqualad’s enigmatic origin, always puzzled over owing to his purple eyes, is finally revealed, the world that Aquaman’s queen, Mera, hails from is visited as well, and Black Manta, Aquaman’s most iconic enemy reveals his orgin.  All of this works towards making these characters more dynamic and as a result making the world Aquaman lives in less two dimensional.  With strong backup characters around him, propping him up, the title is less laughable, even were you to still feel that an undersea superhero who communicates with fish is silly.  On this last point, the writers did a very good job of making him a believable protagonist who can go toe to toe with some of the DCU’s premier baddies.

In fact, this book also does a good job showcasing his rogues gallery as well as some major villains from outside the seven seas.  Of course Black Manta makes several appearances, but we also see his wicked half-brother Prince Orm (aka Ocean Master), the Fisherman, the Scavenger, and the introduction of a new, enigmatic villain named Karshon.  Outside of the seas the book has him going up against Starro the Conqueror, the first enemy that the Justice League fought together in 1960’s Brave and the Bold #28, as well as one of the greatest DC villains, Kobra.  For those of you who don’t know Kobra, he is a cult leader of an Indian sect of Kali snake worshipers.  He is cunning on the level of Batman, and mystical on the level of Ra’s al Ghul.  Seeing Aquaman battle him was a sheer delight.  Watching him battle all of these foes was a delight.

Historically this book is a must read if you are into classic DC lore.  It sees the death of Aquaman’s only child (you know that going in, so again, no spoiler really), the origins of Mera, Aqualad and Black Manta, as well as Black Manta taking his helmet off for the first time and showing us why he bears the nome de guerre that he does.  When reading it you forget your pretentions and not for a moment is it silly.  It is most certainly a 70’s comic, but actually the way it is written and paced is perhaps at the height of graphic storytelling.  A must read for anyone claiming to be a comic book aficionado.

 

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

Illustration Credits:

Adventure Comics #452: Art by Jim Aparo, Colored by Jerry Serpe

Aquaman  #62: Cover art by Jim Aparo, Colored by Adrienne  Roy