This week rounds out the month with some classic series like Teen Titans and The Flash and adds a few Annuals to the mix. It also marks the end of the very intriguing Damian: Son of Batman series. Not the most perfect week of comics, but certainly a few gems to be read.
The Flash #27begins the last arc of writer Brian Buccellato’s run on this title. Beginning in the 19th century when the Gem Cities of Keystone and Central City were mining camps, we get a two page glimpse at a murder centuries. Cut to the present when Flash is running down (pun intended) a few of his lesser foes, only to discover a hidden chamber beneath the city streets containing several long dead bodies. They fit the M.O. of a killer put away on a life sentence, but according to forensics were killed AFTER said person, Hollis Holden, was sent to Iron Heights Prison. As Barry looks into the facts it slowly dawns on him that this could be the case that clears his father’s name of killing Barry’s mom. It’s a sad thing that Buccellato is leaving the Flash, because his collaboration with Francis Manapul on the title has truly invigorated this series and made it one of the “can’t miss” series of the current DC lineup. Though Manapul is absent in art, Patrick Zircher takes over art duties and his panels bring the Flash alive in a whole new way. I won’t say that I like the art better than Manapul’s, which is in it’s own category, but I definitely love his work and would seek it out in other titles once this title transitions. With this being Buccellato’s last hoorah on the Flash, it’s a distinct possibility that Barry might ACTUALLY solve his mother’s murder. The question comes down to how well that answer could be given under the current circumstances and the size of Buccellato’s ego. My opinion could swing favorably or unfavorably on this one. Two more issues to go . . .
The Red Lanterns #27 begins properly the new phase in the Red Lantern mission. After “Lights Out” Hal Jordan gave Guy Gardner and his Red Lanterns a sector of Space for their own, free of interference from the Green Lanterns. Guy took 2814, home most notably to the planet Earth. Writer Charles Soule says Ysmault, the Red Lantern homeworld, is in Sector 2814 and that is the rationale for its selection. I’m not buying it. This is one time when I have to question Soule’s logic, considering that Ysmault was used as the prison to house the survivors of the Manhunter massacre of every living thing in Sector 666, except the six Inversions imprisoned on there. They were imprisoned to keep them out of sight and out of mind so they couldn’t tell the rest of the Universe what the Guardians let happen. So . . . why would they put these dangerous criminals in a heavily populated sector like 2814 when they could use any of the THOUSANDS of deserted planets in 666 where nobody ever goes and where there are no Green Lanterns patrolling? I’m pretty sure they did even say Ysmault is in 666 somewhere in one issue or another. A very ill-conceived gambit to justify the annexing of 2814 by the Reds. With that taken into account, Guy intends to inspect Earth and show Skallox and Zilius Zox his homeworld, as they have never seen it before. I am fairly certain Skallox went to Earth in Red Lanterns #10 or the crossover issue of Stormwatch #10. Soule is appearing to not have done his homework. Rankorr and Bleez, who have been to Earth many times, are dispatched to find a newly minted Red Lantern and reign them in, only to come face-to-face with Atrocitus, who found new ring himself and initiate the new toad-like Red into the fold. On Earth Skallox and Zox are left to their own devices, invariably finding trouble. The main thing that Charles Soule accomplishes with this issue is the reintroduction of Tora Olafsdottir, aka Ice, into the New DCU, as well as recapping the former relationship that Guy and Tora once had. I like the series, but I do think that of the many things that Charles Soule is currently writing this is the weakest series and the one that probably has the least of his attention. That’s not to say that it’s bad, but it could be way better.
An Icy Reception.
Teen Titans #27appears to be Scott Lobdell’s attempt to make a liar out of me. Last issue, he and artist Tyler Kirkham went about detailing the secret origin of Kid Flash, aka Bar-Tor, as a “psychotic anarchist” who led a bloody rebellion in a tyrannically oppressive future. At least that was their aim. What they showed was a level headed kid that did everything within his power to protect and provide for his little sister, Shira, and make a better world. He is nothing more than what any person would be in that situation and far from the psychopath they’d depicted him as. This issue changes that. It also, to a small degree, changes the rationale behind his surrender to the galactic “Functionary” that oppressed the lower classes of its citizens. In issue #26 it appeared that the near death of Shira due to his actions snapped Bar out of his revolutionary fervor, making him give himself up to authorities. While I still believe that he loves his sister and that she is his primary reason for doing what he has done, Scott Lobdell shows that Kid Flash’s surrender was both strategic and deceptive. Though he was granted witness protection and a new identity in the past, the Functionary show when they try Bar in this issue that they never had any intention of letting him live. They only meant to break his rebellion by putting on a show trial with him ratting out those that believe in him and fought for him, killing their spirit, and then executing him afterward. Bar knew this and turned the tables. After admitting his utter guilt to the charges laid against him the ceiling is literally blown off of the courthouse and the prison guards arm the rebels and teleport them to the scene. Bar has the Functionary bigwigs in a snare that will ensure that all the government’s heads will roll in one swing of the sword. No one is going to survive Bar’s coup, not even the innocents present. In his demeanor and his actions, Kid Flash does take on the crazed temper he’d be cast in leading up to these last two issues. It’s madness, but the question is whether it is a good kind of madness. What is happening seems very much like the French Revolution with the prison guards turning against their masters and opening the prisons in an all out breakdown of the system. I am very curious to see how this predicament pans out and how the crazy Kid Flash from this issue reconciles with the very grounded, moral version that perhaps only I saw in the last issue. With a character like Kid Flash it’s hard to believe he would get kamikaze’d like, that regardless of whether the title is getting cancelled in April or not. Scott Lobdell hasn’t let me down so far and has written this series superbly throughout the two and a half year run. Artist Tyler Kirkham is hitting it out of the park in the realm of art, really making this title a jewel in his resume. I’m onboard this train till it’s last stop two months from now. What a ride . . .
The Face of Teenage Revolution.
Talon #15 is yet another comic by Marguerite Bennett that I went into with high hopes, only to have them dashed. The issue has NO story. Yes, there is something resembling a plot, but at the end of the issue the reader is left with two questions: 1) What did I just read? 2) Why should I care? The plot (or what passes for one) begins with an African American Talon taking down William Cobb to become the Court of Owl’s new assassin. It should be noted that this Talon is male, meaning that it is not Strix, who came into her second life in the 50’s. The pacing of the issue is also very jarring, following the reverse order paradigm of Christopher Nolan’s seminal film, Memento. Slowly we work our way back through this guys life, and while the imagery is very depressing and often tragic, the rationale of why we are even hearing about this guy is not answered. This is a one-off for Bennett, the title will transition to Tim Seeley’s hands for it’s final two issues, so again the possibility that this is setting something up is dubious. There was even the possibility in my head that in some way this gentleman was a relative of Casey Washington, but due to the time period and the circumstances described this is just a nameless Talon we may never hear from again. Every time I come across a title that Marguerite Bennett writes I get a twinge. Maybe she’s good at writing her own material, but so far everything of hers I have read is her writing a one-shot issue of someone else’s property like her Batman Annual #2 last year, the TERRIBLE Lobo issue she wrote during Villains Month this September, and her lackluster Batgirl #25 in November. She’s writing two one-shots next month and both have me worried. Joker’s Daughter features the title character whom I do not care for one iota, so that sounds like a giant waste of money. Lois Lane is a horse of a different color, because that has the potential to be amazing . . . assuming the writer has the talent to actually pull it off. Lois Lane is a character that can be incredible, but can also be absolutely terrible if the writer doesn’t know what they are doing. Bennett does not instill faith. Also the artist on Lois Lane, Emanuela Lupacchino, is an up and coming talent and I’ve enjoyed her past work a great deal, so that is another reason Bennett’s authorship is troubling. No one wants to be the weakest link that breaks the chain, especially when that chain is Lois Lane, one of the most beloved female characters in comics and someone that fans have been screaming to have her own solo book. Marguerite Bennett said this of her controversial Lobo issue this past September: “You can hate me by Page Two. But if I do not have your attention by Page Four, you don’t have to read something of mine ever again.”
Well Ms. Bennett, you have until the last page of Lois Lane #1 to sell me that you can write anything. Then I am going to take you up on your previous offer.
Damian: Son of the Batman #4brings to a close Andy Kubert’s four issue miniseries dedicated to Damian Wayne, whom Kubert co-created with Grant Morrison. This series has been and continues to be a very Kubert-esque journey through the life of Batman. Joe Kubert, Andy’s father, had a very characteristic drawing style that influenced comic art for seventy years, but also a narrative style that is like no one else’s, past or present. Andy has definitely inherited his dad’s artistic style, but he also emotes the same incredible voice as a writer. Joe could have written this, but at the same time there is a darker edge that is all Andy. In a lot of ways that is something of which this comic is an allegory. Damian is taking over for his legendary father, Batman. In the first issue, even after the death of Batman (it’s actually Dick Grayson) he is reticent to take on the mantle of the Bat, but as events unfold he is thrust into becoming Batman, but a Batman on his terms. His father, who is still alive though quite old, chastises him for his wanton brutality which does get through to the young Wayne. But as this issue concludes and Damian actualizes himself as the new Dark Knight he takes on the role adhering closely to his father’s legacy and being Batman in the ways that matter, but also maintaining an element of his own identity while in the role. Now I don’t know if Joe and Andy had an idyllic relationship or a rocky one like Bruce and Damian in this series, but the parallels of Andy taking the reigns of continuing his father’s legendary name and legacy in the comics industry rings true to Damian’s struggle herein. As stated, Joe Kubert’s art can be found in elements of more than four generations of comic artists, but his writing style is far more rare and that is what Andy stands as a torchbearer to. Top to bottom, this was an incredible four issue miniseries and well worth reading for those that love and miss Damian Wayne.
Long Live the Batman!
Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 provides and extended format launch pad for the next major conflict in the Green Lantern family of books. The Durlans have been a problem over the past several months, but in this annual their threat begins to solidify. They have publicly discredited the Green Lantern Corps in front of the Universe, they have rallied the Corps’ enemies into simultaneous attacks on the Corps’ chapter houses throughout the 3600 sectors of Space, and they have drawn blood by blowing up the Corps’ command center on Mogo. Writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen give background into the Durlan threat by showing the horrific ruling council of the Durlan race called “the Ancients,” and gives voice to what the Ancients plan. What’s more, the annual primarily focuses on the Corps’ many iconic villains, i.e. Kanjar-Ro, Bolphunga the Unrelenting, Darkstar, etc., and gives short one to two page glimpses into each villain’s past with a moment that sums up their individual motivations. These are the worst of the worst who HATE the Corps, so what Venditti and Jensen do next is even more incredible. Faced with an alliance with the Durlans who none of them trust, this ragtag group of villains pull a 180 and align themselves with the Green Lanterns to take out the Durlan threat. It’s a tricky gambit and should make for one hell of an entertaining arc.
Earth 2 Annual #2 finally reveals the origin of the enigmatic Batman of Earth 2. Spoiler Alert, I am going to reveal the identity of Batman. I feel enough time has passed since the issue dropped that those that want to know already know, but if someone doesn’t, skip this review. This series started in Earth 2 #0 with the end days of the Apokalips Invasion of Earth 2 being thwarted by the Trinity (Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman) at the cost of their lives. So with Bruce Wayne dead, who is this new Batman and why is he doing what he is doing? The breadcrumbs and clues have been stacking up. Firstly, through his rhetoric and desire to free “dangerous” inmates of the Arkham cryostasis detention center we are shown that he could be considered a criminal and a monster. Secondly, while doing so he is revealed to have super-strength and a bulletproof hide. Thirdly, we are told that bioscans reveal him to be human. Finally, when he goes into the containment chambers and releases the inmates he opens the Joker’s tube only to shoot him in the head, revealing a VERY deep loyalty to Batman as a person, but not an adherence to his stringent codes against killing and using firearms. All of these paint a tantalizing riddle of who this person could be, opening the door for either a very interesting reinvention of a classic DC character or the introduction of a brand new one. The reveal was, I am sad to say, underwhelming. Batman is Dr. Thomas Wayne, father of Bruce Wayne, who faked his death and apparently became a junkie and a murderer out to take down mafiosi. Maybe in the long run this will be a decent development, but it just seemed really tired and unoriginal. Thomas Wayne as Batman was something novel that writer Brian Azzarello proposed in Flashpoint: Batman and wrote to perfection. In that title as well, Batman became something very dark and excessive in his crusade against crime, also adopting the use of firearms. However, Flashpoint Batman was the architect of the Batman persona following the death of 8 year old Bruce at the gunpoint of Joe Chill and the subsequent psychotic descent of his wife, Martha, into the persona of the Joker. In Earth 2 the use of Thomas as the new Batman just comes off as lazy from a writing standpoint. He uses guns, he’s got five o’clock shadow, he’s willing to kill, his costume is red and grey/black with sharper edges. There are too many similarities with not enough validating differences to make Thomas’ role in the book worthwhile. Now that may change, but the deadbeat dad concept, while tragic, falls flat for me. This is a shame as I have enjoyed the series, both under the helm of original writer James Robinson and the new authorship of Tom Taylor. Whether Thomas was Robinson’s idea or Taylor’s, the brunt of responsibility falls on Tom Taylor to make it work however possible.
A Father in the Shadows.
Worlds’ Finest Annual #1provides a look into the lives of three very important young women from Earth 2. The title Worlds’ Finest follows Helena Wayne, known as Robin on Earth 2 and Huntress on Earth 1, and Kara Zor-El, known as Supergirl on Earth 2 and Power Girl/Karen Starr on Earth 1. This annual showcases their lives as emergent heroes on Earth 2, as well as a brief glimpse at a third young woman whom readers of the series Earth 2 will no doubt recognize: Fury. Helena Wayne is of course the daughter of Bruce Wayne (Batman) and his wife Selena Kyle (Catwoman), and the first and so far only bearer of the mantle of Robin on Earth 2. As on Earth 1, Kara is the cousin of Superman and in most ways is identical to her Earth 1 counterpart. Fury is the enigma, as she is the daughter of Wonder Woman and an unrevealed father, and fights for Apokalips. In this way, the annual focuses on the female scions of the three great superheroes: Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Paul Levitz is just the writer to tackle this assignment considering his creation of Huntress in the 70’s and his incredible career writing thoughtful comics about uncertain youths flung head first into incredible circumstances. For proof of that assertion read any of his Legion of Super-Heroes books. The episodes depicted in this annual concerning Helena and Kara paint the two girls as novices making mistakes, but those early blunders juxtapose against the past two years worth of issues to show how they became the strong, confident women we have seen in the present. Fury is more cryptic in her portrayal by Levitz and no doubt that is because her origin and the revelation of her motivations are integrally keyed into the Earth 2 title. In any event, Levitz brings his A-game to these stories and spins into being three events that define the characters of these two dimensionally displaced heroines.
And thus concludes the first month of comics in 2014. Here’s hoping to many more awesome issues to fill out the coming eleven months.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Red Lanterns #27: Art by Alessandro Vitti, Colored by Gabe Eltaeb.
Teen Titans #27: Drawn by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Arif Prianto, Inked by Art Thibert & Dan Green.
Damian: Son of Batman #4: Art by Andy Kubert, Colored by Brad Anderson.
Earth 2 Annual #2: Drawn by Robson Rocha, Colored by Gabe Eltaeb, Inked by Scott Hanna.
This second week of October has some much anticipated titles among its numbers. The oversized Batman #24 has been burning a hole in people’s calendars for three months now as “Zero Years” has rolled onward towards an unknown, tantalizing end. Superman/Wonder Woman has been causing controversy since late August after artist Tony Daniel let his mouth run away with him at Fan Expo in Toronto. And with the killer first installment of “Lights Out” in Green Lantern #24 last week Green Lantern Corps #24 gives another taste of the unthinkable plot that is heralding a new age in the Green Lantern books. Also comes the inaugural issue of the new Vertigo series Coffin Hill. So much awesome for one week.
Batman #24is a monumental Batman piece, both in size and importance to the reimagined Batman mythos. Writer Scott Snyder undertook a revamped origin story for the Dark Knight entitled “Zero Year,” which will in essence preempt Frank Miller’s “Year One”, doing the same job but tailored to the New DCU. To cut his teeth, Bruce Wayne squares off against the Red Hood Gang. In the past the Red Hood Gang and its eponymous leader have been fairly small time dealers, mostly pulling petty B&E’s and bushleague bank robberies. In Snyder’s vision the gang takes on a more sinister nature and magnitude. Their leader Red Hood One still wears the shiny red bell jar helmet, offset further up on his head so his evil grin is visible, and the suit and red cape, as before. All of his subordinates wear suits sans cape and nondescript red Zentai masks. Also menacing is the fact that a ridiculously large percentage of Red Hood members are regular folk blackmailed or coerced into doing Red Hood One’s bidding. Snyder definitely read or watched “Fight Club,” because Red Hood One is taking on a very Tyler Durden vibe, creating an anarchist movement that infiltrates every echelon of society. Wearing various disguises and also in his Bruce Wayne persona, “Batman” has fought a back and forth war with the Red Hoods, but with the revelation that his uncle, Philip Kane, was arming the gang from Wayne Enterprise depots the struggle enters its endgame. Philip is a slippery businessman, but in actuality his part in the gang is like most members’, coerced by the enigmatic leader. Bruce finally is able to piece together Red Hood’s ultimate plan and sets a counter-plot into motion to block its fruition. Through this plan of Bruce’s Scott Snyder ties up many things begun from the inception of his Batman origin arc. Close to the beginning, Bruce remembers his father, Dr. Thomas Wayne, inquiring what Bruce loved about Gotham. That question, which Bruce now poses via televised interview to all Gothamites encapsulates and validates the entire concept of who and what Batman represents. After the final sequence of Batman #23 with the icon scene of the bat crashing through the window in front of the shaken Bruce, weare finally shown for the first time in “Zero Year” continuity the fully realized Batman persona. By issue’s end, the defeat of the gang is delivered, as is the ultimate fate of Red Hood One. I had a conspiracy theory that Red Hood One wasn’t the Joker, but some other Batman villain, i.e. the Riddler, or ironically Black Mask. That proved to be false. It’s heavily insinuated to be the Joker. However, as he did with his other major arcs, “The Court of Owls” and “Death of the Family,” Snyder obscures that concrete facts to speculation and the identity of the man who fell into the vat of chemicals and his role in the gang remains unclear. Scott Snyder’s completion of the first leg of his “Zero Year” story is nothing short of amazing and provides a SOLID foundation for the New DCU Batman for as long as that continuity stands. In the plot itself, Philip has a giant boulder of mica schist stone that cannot be broken and is hard to shape placed in his office. He relates that these immutable characteristics make the mica ideal to build on. There is probably a deeper meaning to the plot somewhere in that analogy, but I didn’t catch it. What I did interpret it as, however, was a metaphor for the strength of the story as the basis for all Batman stories to come. Greg Capullo’s art is peerless. His rendering of Snyder’s complex storylines is clear, concise, stark, and moving. Rafael Albuquerque, regular Batman backup artist and co-creator of American Vampire with Synder, provides the art for the denouement scene of this issue that puts to bed the Red Hood arc and sets up the coming Riddler arc, entitled “Blackout.” Overall, this issue blows all other Batman stories out of the water.
What Does Gotham Mean to You?
Batgirl #24 opens on the second installment of the “Batgirl: Wanted” plot arc. After “killing” her psychotic little brother, James Jr., Barbara has taken off her Batgirl uniform and decided not to wear the Bat symbol, because of her actions. Also following this event, her father, Commissioner James Gordon puts out an all-points bulletin on Batgirl and (unbeknownst to him) his own daughter. Babs wants nothing more than to put her nocturnal past behind her and find happiness. She attempts to do so by hanging out more with her bohemian roommate, Alyssa, and dating a former gang member, Ricky, who she met as Batgirl. But of course the universe won’t allow a member of the Bat-family to know any modicum of peace. Batgirl’s former nemesis Knightfall’s menacing machinations sight both Ricky and her father in the crosshairs. After the traumatic events of Batgirl #23 two months ago Babs has to weigh her sense of guilt against her sense of duty. Gail Simone writes this series like it’s her own, and truly her Barbara is the only one I want to read for the foreseeable future.
Forever Evil: Arkham War #1takes a closer look at the mayhem in Gotham following the fall of the Justice League and the advent of the Crime Syndicate. The Syndicate has rallied the evilest minds on the planet to their banner and in exchange for obedience they are given privileges to do as they like. The Gothamite villains (mostly Arkham inmates) were given free reign over Gotham with Penguin named mayor. Penguin in turn divided Gotham into districts each under the control of a powerful Arkham inmate. Writer Peter Tomasi laid the groundwork for this series with two Villains Month issues: Scarecrow and Bane. Both were pretty lackluster, but what they did do was set the tenor of these two characters for the purposes of this series. Both Scarecrow and Bane have appeared in several Bat-titles since the inception of the New 52 and been written by multiple writers including Paul Jenkins, James Tynion IV, David Finch, and Gregg Hurwitz. While neither Scarecrow or Bane have been altered in major ways, their modus operandi are tailored to fit the desired ends for this series’ plot. With Bane bringing a moderately sized army of highly trained Santa Priscan mercenaries to Gotham war is on the horizon and Scarecrow is serving as the Paul Revere of Gotham, readying the “freaks” for a war with the fanatical juggernaut. In the opening strokes of his plan Blackgate Prison falls to Bane, as do the Talons incarcerated therein in cryogenic stasis. Professor Pyg reappears for the first time since Grant Morrison wrapped up his opening run of Batman & Robin. The horrific experiments going on in his district proves the full depth of his depravity. With Gotham Memorial Hospital and its medical supplies in his sphere of influence, his allegiance is integral with war looming and could shift the balance. Bane is a tactical genius as well as a badass with an army of two thousand fanatically loyal foot soldiers battle hardened in one of the worst places on Earth. However, he’s going up against the equally keen mind of the Penguin and a collection of the sickest men and women in the DC universe, and the Crime Syndicate doesn’t care who comes out on top. On the contrary, they welcome it, as the conflict will purge the weak from their midst. Neither side can rest on their laurels and what is about to ensue is a grandmaster chess tournament in the decimated streets of Gotham. Tomasi and artist Scot Eaton have the entire Batman pantheon at their disposal, as the cover hints, and appear to be making good use of it. This series is shaping up to be a tangent of Forever Evil that shouldn’t be missed.
Green Lantern Corps #24continues the unthinkable events of “Lights Out” into its second installment. No one thought that Oa could be destroyed, and yet after the final moments of Green Lantern #24 that is precisely the jagged pill the entire Green Lantern Corps are forced to swallow. Green Lantern Corps #24 picks up the pieces from that horrible moment and focuses on how the Corps of Will will face this most personal, dispiriting defeat and pick themselves up to fight for the last thing they have: each other. Relic has proven that he is not able to be defeated by the full might of the Green Lantern Corps, having already seriously wounding hundreds. To affect an evacuation John Stewart and a contingent of handpicked Lanterns take the fight to the ancient juggernaut, not to defeat him, but to distract him so the bulk of the Green Lantern Corps can find refuge elsewhere. Cowriters Van Jensen and Robert Venditti plot this issue so exquisitely in the heartbreaking situations they create and decisions these Lanterns make in the “do-or-die” last moments of Oa. One Lantern makes the ultimate sacrifice, validating their ring’s choice of their worthiness and then some. What this issue and its fellows represent is the ending of an era and the beginning of an ENTIRELY new Green Lantern status quo. When Geoff Johns took over the title, resurrecting it after a decade of neglect, he changed the rules of the game as it had been known for forty-odd years, creating or retrofitting new lantern corps for each hue of light. Robert Venditti is basically doing that again with the advent of Relic and this “Lights Out” plotline. Only time will tell if it is successful, but so far I am impressed with the gravity and pathos he has imbued thusfar.
Death of a Lantern, Death of a World.
Nightwing #24 concludes the first arc of the series following the massive paradigm shift of “Death of the Family.” After the Joker enacts the final coup de grace to Dick Grayson’s dream of resurrecting Haly’s Circus (the circus he and his parents performed in before their fateful accident) Dick decides to move to Chicago. For the most part it was because he needed to distance himself from Gotham and the cold machinations of Batman, but the larger part was the revelation that the man who killed his parents, Tony Zucco, was alive and well, living in the Windy City. When Dick blows into town he finds a city that seems relatively “clean” compared to Gotham. Considering that we’re talking about Chicago irony abounds and sets a picture of how bad Gotham must be. However, as the plot unfolds over the first several issues it is shown that Chi-town is still as corrupt as it’s always been with Mayor Wallace Cole protecting Zucco with a false identity and an advisory position. With that kind of grift going on an anti-heroic persona called the Prankster makes the scene, revealing the corrupt dealings in very theatrical, dramatic ways that often times skew toward the violent. The best example being his forcing an alderman who stole millions of dollars to bring several thousand to a specific location and throwing him into a pit with wolves. If the alderman burns the money bill by bill he can keep the wolves at bay. However, the bills burn at a certain rate which makes their quantity versus the time it would take the police to find him a very close call. They get there in time to save him, but the bills had run out and the alderman is missing an arm when he’s pulled out. Such is the Prankster. But while he may seem like a Robin Hood styled anti-heroic outlaw revolutionary figure, this issue displays how untrue that assumption is as well as the Prankster’s REAL aim. Nightwing is the only person who can stop the chaos erupting from Prankster’s vendetta and what’s more the person helping him is Tony Zucco! Kyle Higgins has been writing this series since issue #1 and has stayed on the title for a very simple reason: He can WRITE Dick Grayson like the best of them. His Nightwing is compelling, complicated, and very personal. He takes the reader through the plots he faces as though they were inside Dick’s head and had his entire life as their precedents for reaction. Will Conrad provides gorgeous art that is different, but equally appropriate to his predecessor, Brett Booth’s. With Higgins is on this title, it is not to be missed.
Worlds’ Finest #16enters the series into an interim period, taking a break from the Apokaliptian menaces left in our world after Great Darkseid’s invasion of our Earth in Justice League 1-6. The main threat in the series, Desaad, who posed as the errant industrialist Michael Holt, not only tore apart Helena and Karen’s lives, but also stole Karen’s company Starr Industries. After the events of issue #15 Desaad has emerged victorious, but also taked to the wind, his whereabouts and activities unknown. What is known is the detrimental effect that final encounter had on Karen Starr, aka Power Girl, depriving her of her powers. At issue’s opening Helena is staking out arson at fashion shows and Karen is recovering her company from Desaad’s human cronies and attempting to get her powers back. Following this paradigm shift the issue follows the two tracking a bald young woman of ambiguous heritage, covered in what look like tribal tattoos. She is the one setting the fires and she also has the abilities to manipulate jet black constructs, either shadow based or generated from her tattoos. Paul Levitz sets up events, but doesn’t provide too much information as to where the plot is going or its overall relevance to overarching stroylines he’s been working toward for 17 issues. Considering his talent and the incredible job he’s done so far, Levitz is allowed to have an issue or two to just muck around. Even in his down moments, he puts out a helluva good comic.
Superman/Wonder Woman #1 is an exceptional surprise. After months of negative reactions on the internet, the issue is finally out and it’s amazing! The whole hubbub arose from an unfortunate turn of phrase artist Tony S. Daniel dropped at Toronto Fan Expo that this book would hopefully encourage female readership by emulating the “Twilight” franchise with some romance, a little sex appeal, and action. This seemed to offend both male and female readers with the comparison to awful storytelling and especially offended female fans with the concept that they were being pandered to. Comment aside, the title seemed to have infinite promise so for the past several months I’ve kept an attitude of “wait and see” optimism. I maintained that same attitude during the also “Twilight” compared redux of Lobo and was rewarded with possibly the WORST DC comic I have EVER read. Just awful. Superman/Wonder Woman, on the other hand, turned out to be a very thoughtful, intelligent examination of the burgeoning relationship between the Man of Steel and the Mighty Amazon. I have to state my bias up front, though. I wasn’t excited about the pairing of Wonder Woman with Superman initially, feeling that DC was pandering to their readers with overzealous fanboy fantasies. Geoff Johns pulled it out eventually by highlighting that both characters are strangers in a strange land. What this series’ writer Charles Soule does is take a deeper examination of that relationship. Topically, the two have outsider status in common, but apart from that they are very different. Superman, as an extension of Clark Kent, is a very reserved Zen character who exists under the radar, not drawing undue attention to himself or making a show of his innate abilities. Wonder Woman on the other hand is the daughter of Zeus, born into a proud warrior race that exalts strength and ability. Therein lies a diametric difference between the two superheroes. Wonder Woman is slightly put off by his reservedness about himself, but more so about their relationship. However, both try to gently acclimate themselves to each other’s ways, because while they are different they do love each other. Superman and Wonder Woman are paradigms of masculinity and femininity respectively, but also American icons wearing the colors of our flag in their costumes. In just this first issue, Soule maintains both these aspects of the characters, but puts a very refreshing dimension to these facets. Superman is a very masculine character that exhibits hallmark traits of the male psyche, such as doing the heavy lifting or going into danger first, but he also is the more demure party in the quieter moments and passively lets a lot of things happen around him. Wonder Woman is rendered as a very feminine character, but is also portrayed as the more assertive figure both in the active courting in the relationship as well as the more outspoken heroic figure. They are opposites, but at the same time complement each other in most ways. As American symbols they harken back to the ideal that America is an immigrant nation. An interesting happenstance in the American experiment was people from very different ethnic communities coming together in mutual attraction across wide gaps of cultural differences. Diana is very much an immigrant from a society that has strong traditions and customs. Clark’s an interesting case, as he was born on another planet with its own unique culture, but from infancy he was raised in Kansas with only secondhand understanding of his heritage. So Diana represents first generation immigrants, and Clark represents the split second generation juggling their host culture with that of their forbearers. Diana’s rooting in the mindset of her proud Amazon heritage confounds her as she looks at both the subtleties of Clark’s Midwestern sensibilities and his isolationist Kryptonian ones. It even hurts her to think he might be ashamed to be associated with her publicly, but instead of assuming the worst, she seeks to close the gap by showing him her culture and keeping an open mind about that American culture he grew up with and perhaps later his Kryptonian one. The latter part might be something dealt with in another issue, but that remains to be seen. In terms of characterization, this is a Wonder Woman issue. In terms of story development, this issue dealt much more on the Superman/Clark Kent aspect, working toward fleshing out the development of the indie news blog Clark is working on with Cat Grant. However, the issue’s gravitas for Superman fans comes with the revelation of the villain at the issue’s end. I am surprised that “he” showed up in this series and not another of the Super-books, but the possibilities inherent in his advent only enrich the title. Needless to say, Charles Soule’s writing is impeccable. Art-wise, Tony Daniel takes that lead and brings it home. His Superman and Wonder Woman are gorgeous creatures, but that’s no surprise. Daniel drew both in Justice League #13-14, and drew Superman in Action Comics #19-21. The sum total of two consummate professionals is pure comic excellence.
The Worlds of Superman and Wonder Woman.
FBP (Federal Physics Bureau) #4resumes while FBP agents Jay Kelly and Adam Hardy are still in the bubble universe that is on the verge of collapse, endangering everyone caught inside. That collapse is hastened by Jay’s planting of explosives in key areas within the bubble. Jay and Adam were sent in to extract James Crest, CEO of Crest Corps, currently undergoing S.E.C. investigation. But before he extracts his target, Adam goes for a face-to-face with his “partner.” Jay attempted to kill him upon entry and Adam wants to know why. Though Jay can’t give him the answers he wants, he begins the slow revelation of a conspiracy to exploit the nature of the unhinged laws of physics. Following the conclusion of the bubbleverse incident writer Simon Oliver delves into the very real subject of the privatization of government services. Here it is the privatization of “Physics Protection.” The characters of Adam and his boss Cicero Deluca take on new depth in this issue, showing how they deal with the mounting pressure put on their agency a following the SNAFU of Jay’s betrayal. Both in the science-fiction aspects and allegory to our current political temperature, FBP is a series to watch.
The New Name if Physics Protection.
Coffin Hill #1 is either a tantalizing first issue to an amazing series or a hollow, abstruse beginning of a contrived one. It’s hard to say, because there is a MAJOR disconnect between the present and the past with next to no logical segue. In 2013 we meet police rookie Eve Coffin who catches a serial killer called the “Ice Fisher” who targets young women. She goes home and is shot by a friend’s boyfriend and nearly dies. Flashing back to 2003 we see a teenaged Eve who was the scion of a venerated New England family with a haunted reputation. As she describes it via narration: “Old blood. Old money. Old secrets.” Following her past exploits we see a posh world of lavish, debauch parties steeped in old world mysticism. We also see a very neglected childhood with WASP-ish parents that disdain her existence and whose marked dislike emboldens the bad behavior that fuels it, creating a vicious cycle of familial discord. Escaping this, she and her friends enact a ritual from an old family spellbook Eve swipes from her parents’ study. The results are bloody, but enigmatic. Cut back to the present with Eve quitting the force and moving back home to Coffin Hill. As the quality of this series’ story is up in the air, so too is the writing of Caitlin Kittredge, although her framing of dialogue and the plot she chooses to reveal are very well written, if not well done. Artist Inaki Miranda is the most consistent variable within the comic. Her art is sleek, sumptuous, and evocative of the haunted ambiance created by Kittredge’s script. In retrospect this could be a phenomenal first issue. If the plot doesn’t develop, it could be remembered as a strawman issue. I will continue reading and find out which.
The Life of Eve Coffin.
This week did not disappoint in the quality of the issues carried forward from August nor in the inherent promise of their subjects. At its least enjoyable moments there was still the promise of payoff in the future. That’s a good week!
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batman #24: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Danny Miki.
Green Lantern Corps #24: Art by Bernard Chang, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo.
Superman/Wonder Woman #1: Drawn by Tony S. Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by BATT.
FBP #4: Art by Robbi Rodriguez, Colored by Rico Renzi.
Coffin Hill #1: Art by Inaki Miranda, Colored by Eva De La Cruz.
It has been a LONG time since I have posted, due to some scheduling conflicts and a REALLY busy summer, but it’s good to be back talking about comics, and DC’s Villains Month is a perfect time to get back in the swing of things. So far this first week has produced some interesting specimens as well as some really out-of-the-box concepts for the hallmark villains of the DC universe. That said, less talking, more comic book reviewing:
Forever Evil #1starts off the post Trinity War mega event across the entirety of the DC Universe. The Crime Syndicate of America from Earth-3 has descended upon our world from a portal opened by Pandora’s Box. As a result the Justice League has been “killed,” though it is not depicted nor explained, and the CSA have set about creating a Secret Society to claim the world in the name of evil. It doesn’t so much seem like a Secret when they are doing it out in the open . . . From the four corners of the globe their acolytes are recruiting the evilest minds the planet can offer, from Gorilla Grodd to the Scarecrow, to create a new world order. The issues opens on Lex Luthor, newly emancipated from prison for services rendered to the government, trying to coerce Thomas Kord (possible father of Ted Kord) to relinquish his controlling majority of Kord Industries with horrific, thinly veiled threats and bribery. In mid-flight the helicopter they are riding in crashes leaving only Luthor alive. The power goes out and all hell breaks loose. The Crime Syndicate proudly proclaim, “This World is Ours.” That is when the prisons are opened and evil is truly unleashed like an open floodgate. Throughout the rest of the issue we see the twisted version of the Justice League systematically subvert the last vestiges of super-powered defenders to proclaim their own order upon the globe. With issue’s end the part that Luthor will play in the proceedings is very ambiguous. Geoff Johns does a pretty decent job writing this story, which is interesting considering his blunt, overwrought attempts at the main Justice League title over the past two years. Aiding him in art is David Finch, who helped him launch Justice League of America eight months ago. Of the two, I think that David Finch is the one that most excites me on this title. Johns had his day in the sun, but has either lost his touch or gotten too power mad in his new executive position. Either way, I am infinitely enthusiastic about this issue, as it expands the multiverse by one more world, giving birth to the Crime Syndicate: Ultraman, Superwoman, Owlman, et al. Owlman is perhaps the one that has the most interest to me, especially after the way he was portrayed in the DC animated movie Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. We shall see if this event and the New 52 does justice to the former incarnations of the Crime Syndicate and Earth-3.
Action Comics #23.1:Cyborg Supermanis written by Supergirl writer Michael Alan Nelson following the shocking revelation of the Cyborg’s identity at the end of Supergirl #23 following his capture and rending the flesh off Supergirl in order that he could regain his Kryptonian body and his lost memories of his identity. After stripping her flesh through molecular dissolution and regaining his, he is revealed to be none other than Zor-El, father of Supergirl. In this issue we see a man obsessed with perfection and obsessed with proving his intellect over that of his younger, seemingly brighter brother, Jor-El, in the face of Krypton’s destruction. Undertaken out of pride, his efforts were also undertaken in order that his entire family could survive. Using half understood Brainiac technology, he tries to save his native Argo City, only to see it collapse and his fellow Kryptonians slowly die. When Brainiac returns he bestows upon Zor-El what the man himself had attempted: to force perfection upon him. Many parts of Zor-El are completely replaced to make him more efficacious and that which is organic was rewritten genetically to resemble his “superior sibling,” hence his looking so much like Superman and not his blond, more round faced self. What remains of the issue is an exploration of what cold logic and mechanized calculations deem “perfect.” The Cyborg Superman issue encapsulates beautifully what Zor-El has become after Brainiac altered him and sets the stage for what is to come in the aftermath of his restoration in the pages of Supergirl #24.
Extreme Cosmetic Surgery
Batman #23.1: Jokeris a real treat. Under the pen of the great artist Andy Kubert, scion of the legendary Joe Kubert, we see him (to my knowledge for the first time) write an incredibly introspective look at the Joker, glimpses of his past, and what makes him tick. Opening on a traumatic childhood, we see a horrendous display of abuses heaped upon him by a violently insane aunt, including scrubbing his face and body down with bleach and coarse brush, in essence explaining his white skin and his psychopathy. Cut to the the near-present (years before he cut his face off) where the Joker raises a baby gorilla he kidnaps from the zoo to be his son. Truly touching, he gives the gorilla everything he was denied as a child including genuine love. He molds the ape into his own likeness, but not with any malice towards his “son’s” feelings. However, since there is no mention of the gorilla in the present, the reader knows it won’t last. The Joker witnesses his son’s death and from what follows the reader knows that this creature was literally the closest relationship the Clown Prince of Gotham has ever had, and indeed, the Joker begins crying. But he quickly breaks into laughter and makes grossly morbid jokes about the whole thing. Kubert shows us that the Joker is capable of emotions, but because of the incredible trauma of his youth, whenever they are too much to bear his brain reverts to a manic state of euphoric laughter to compensate. Truly amazing storytelling, befitting his father’s legacy. Kubert wrote this, but the art was done by another of my favorite artists, Andy Clarke. Clarke’s art has made the backups of Detective Comics soar and his treatment of this entire issue augments and accentuates Kubert’s plots brilliantly. This is a Villains Month issue that is not to be missed.
Batman & Robin #23.1: Two-Facewritten by Peter Tomasi and drawn by Guillem March chronicles the fate of Two-Face during the beginnings of Forever Evil. Batman is “dead” and Gotham has gone dark. For the former Gotham district attorney and current crimelord there are two paths to take: save Gotham or let her burn. A tough call that is made simpler by a coin toss. Interrupted by the Scarecrow, a third option is presented, or rather a second choice to be made. Scarecrow represents the Secret Society who wish Two-Face’s allegiance in subjugating our world. So the more pertinent question becomes: join the Society or fight the Society? Another coin toss. As Gotham cries out, Two-Face’s reactions to it, coupled with a few flashbacks to his past, really fleshout the man he has become and where his loyalties and druthers find themselves. If his psychoses were simple to understand he wouldn’t have been sent to Arkham all those times, and Tomasi really feels out that space in his story, showing the true depth of his madness. He also throws in some old friends from his pre-Reboot stint of the Batman & Robin title as well to shake things up. If you like the character of Two-Face and await what Tomasi plans for him in the formerly titled Batman & Robin series, this issue is a must read.
Detective Comics #23.1: Poison Ivy, like Two-Face above, deals with Ivy’s emergence into a Gotham a without power, law, or the Batman. As it has ever been depicted in such conditions, it is ANARCHY! It is in this that Poison Ivy is reminded of the disgusting nature of humanity. Among the insanities she witnesses is a scene of domestic abuse that she intervenes upon. In doing this she is taken back to her childhood and her own battered mother finding solace in her garden, with peace of plants. A horror would later await both in that garden, scarring young Pamela for the rest of her life and starting her path towards becoming Ivy. That path is laid out through her entry into academia and the internship at Wayne Enterprises that brought about her physical transformation into the floral female terrorist she has become. Derek Fridolfs writes this issue with the help of artist Javier Pina. Poison Ivy can be written very two dimensionally, and this story skirts that territory with a semi-intricate explanation of her motivations, but still lacks some key element of why she is as generally misanthropic as she is depicted by issue’s end.
Green Lantern #23.1: Relicintroduces us to the eponymous “Relic,” a petrified remnant from the Universe that preceded ours. Since he awoke in Green Lantern: The New Guardians #22 he has been an enigma that has cryptically stated his good intentions while attacking viciously and unprovoked the Lanterns he dubs “lightsmiths.” His goal is stated as “saving the Universe.” This issue, written by Green Lantern scribe, Robert Venditti, chronicles his life in the universe that preceded ours and how that universe functioned. The lightsmiths were wielders of the emotional spectrum, with all the same colors and emotions we have seen since Geoff Johns introduced them after the “Sinestro Corps War” in 2008. However, despite their constant warring, the universe was built upon the light they used and instead of cities, civilizations, and infrastructures being built out of physical resources, the light constructs of the smiths served that function. However, the greatest scientific mind of that universe saw that like physical resources the light came from somewhere and was not infinite. It could run out and eventually would if it was used wantonly as it had been. His warnings fall on deaf ears and it is because of this that the universe before ours ceased to be and he who was mocked as a “relic” in his universe, became a relic of his universe. Upon awakening in ours he became aware of the likenesses of our universe to his and the presence of “lightsmiths.” This time around he knew precisely the danger they posed to reality, and that arguing verbally with them was not the best course if anything was going to be done to save another universe. Hence his cryptic tone, hence his blatant belligerence, and hence the “Relic” that we have seen thus far The “Blackout” event is less than a month away and already the dimming described by him that preceded the cataclysms that claimed his universe has already been witnessed by the different Corps of Lanterns. Venditti has set the stage for a true test of the Lanterns the likes of which (even under the pen of Geoff Johns) we have never seen the likes of. Aiding him is artist Rags Morales who worked with Brad Walker, the Green Lantern: The New Guardians artist who first depicted Relic, on Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run. Truly an issue to procure if you call yourself a fan of Green Lantern.
Green Arrow #23.1: Count Vertigocould almost be another issue of Green Arrow. With the usual GA team on deck that is no insult. This series is a delight, really tapping the limits and possibilities of the character to their peak potential. However, being a Villains Month issue the dynamic creative duo focus their literary lens on Count Vertigo, by far the most iconic of Oliver Queen’s nemeses depicted since the reboot. Being in a rebooted universe, little is known about the man behind the disorienting device. This issue remedies that, telling the story of Werner Zytle, son of the late deposed Count of Vlatava. He is raised in Canada by his abusive mother who blames him for the fall of their family’s fortunes in the motherland. She later sells him to a scientific research firm, prompting his implanting with the device that grants him his power. It is here that his true power, both in spirit and body, takes hold. From here he is able to reclaim his destiny, starting with his freedom, then regaining his homeland, and finally in the reunion with his mother he reclaims his past and identity. He is very much a Mordred character, raised by a single, overbearing mother to fulfill a destiny not of his choosing and ultimately becoming a monster that consumes the mother figure and becomes a plague upon humanity. This is very much the case with Vertigo and though the issue is not structured like most of its fellows this week, it functions excellently in advancing the plot of Green Arrow and maintaining the integrity of the series, unlike many of the stand-alone stories out this month. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but then again Green Arrow is one of my favorites.
A Son’s Vengeance
Justice League #23.1: Darkseidalmost completely rewrites the entire concept of the New Gods. I am not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Since Justice League #3 I have been up in arms against Geoff Johns’ blatant disregard for Jack Kirby’s seminal creations and the perfection of his Fourth World mythology. Since then, Brian Azzarello’s work with the denizens of New Genesis have been slightly better. High Father was done a little heavy handed, but the essence was there. Scott Lobdell returns the character of Orion to a place that is well within the character’s original context and feels genuine. And then we come to this issue, written by Greg Pak. It begins by depicting Uxas and Izaya, mortals living upon the world of the (Old) Gods, scratching out meager existences. On this world the monumental gods frolicked and warred with one another in complete disregard for the lives of those tiny mortals living beneath them like insects. In this version, Izaya is married to Avia, as was so in the original Kirby books, but this time around Avia is the sister of Uxas. Izaya and Avia are devout believers and worshipers of the oblivious, elemental gods that plague them. Uxas is more pragmatic and “blasphemes” them constantly. He is cunning and engineers the ultimate death of these gods that brings about utter ruin to the planet, but also endows him with the powers of the gods he kills, forging him into Great Darkseid. Izaya is granted the powers of those stricken gods that escape Darkseid, rewarding his faith with the powers that baptize him as Izaya, the High Father. The planet is destroyed, but remade into the two planets of New Genesis and Apokalips. The final eight pages introduce a character from Pak’s Batman/Superman title, Kaiyo the Chaosbringer. This little sprite appeared at first to be a minor demon, but it seems very probable that she is in fact a New God of Apoklalips. What’s more, her exploits in the last couple of pages make it seem probable that she is the lost daughter of Darkseid that he world-hops to find, prompting his appearance in Justice League’s first arc. This issue put me off at first, because of the “heresy” of its divergence from Kirby’s Fourth World. However, in retrospect, it was a well written, intriguing concept that accentuates Pak’s previous work in the firs three issue of Batman/Superman and sets the stage for interesting future developments with the New Gods.
A So Was Born a Fourth World . . .
Earth 2 #15.1: Desaadappropriately segues to another New God of Apokalips and someone whose sadism might even rival that of Great Darkseid. Writer Paul Levitz who introduced Desaad into the New 52 in his Worlds’ Finest title chronicles the mad god’s advent to our Earth after the events of Earth-2 #1. His goal is really two-fold, filling in blanks in the story of what Desaad has been up to since coming to Earth-1 as well as how that has affected things the reader witnessed since the first issues of Worlds’ Finest, and secondly proving how sick and perverse the mind of Desaad truly is. One interesting thing that I think blew me away the most was in Desaad’s search for minds to corrupt and turn toward his dark aims, he stumbles upon an artist at a drafting table. Desaad goes to the man’s home and emerges from a Boom Tube, renowned for the thunderous cacophony it makes prompting its name, and yet the man doesn’t turn around. When Desaad looks over his shoulder, he stops short and seems apprehensive if not actually afraid, and decides to leave this man alone. One would ask, what is going on, but the savvy comic reader who knows not only something of comics in general, but more importantly the character of Desaad and the other New Gods, will notice something very key. The man at the table looks EXACTLY like a young Jack Kirby, creator of the Fourth World, of which Desaad is a denizen. The hair cut, the physique, the thick eyebrows, the posture. All so blatantly Kirby. When we see a close up of his work over his shoulder from Desaad’s perspective the rough sketches have all the hallmarks of Kirby’s illustrative style. Through meta-storytelling, Paul Levitz sets a real hook in the reader, inserting the King of Comics into a world featuring his own creations. What his existence in this world will mean for Desaad and the other New Gods is a mystery, but one that I will faithfully follow to find out the answer to.
Behold Thine Creator, Ye Mighty God!
Superman #23.1: Bizarrowas a slightly strange twist on the character, albeit a short lived one. Sholly Fisch, who cut his teeth in the big leagues on the backup features of Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run, writes this issue with the help of artist Jeff Johnson. In it we return to a seminal moment where Lex Luthor and Superman meet for the first times in the third issue of Action Comics. Largely due to experiments Luthor conducted under military purview the young Superman was hurt to the point of bleeding (something VERY difficult to achieve under most circumstances) and as a result he used Lex as a hostage to procure escape. Through this encounter Luthor gained two things: a personal animosity for the Man of Steel and a sample of his blood. Using further contracts with the U.S. Military he attempts to augment a normal human being by re-splicing Kryptonian DNA gained from the small sampling of blood into their own genome. The result of this is, of course, Bizarro. To my knowledge, Bizarro was always either a clone or a refugee from a dimension where everything is backward. Fisch makes a good sampling of Bizarro’s reversed Superman powers, i.e. Freeze vision and incendiary breath, but doesn’t quite pull off a Bizarro yarn that feels authentic. Bizarro’s rampage lacks most of the quintessential “misunderstood monster” motif that characterize almost all of his appearances in the past. This is an okay issue if the reader is just looking for Bizarro powers, but if they want Bizarro, the childlike villain speaking in opposites and conflicted in a limited understanding of the world and morality, this definitely is not the Bizarro story for them.
The Flash #23.1: Groddis similar to, but slightly different from the Action Comics: Cyborg Superman and Green Arrow: Count Vertigo issues, in that it functions as a within the main story of the Flash series to continue on into later issues. However, unlike both Cyborg Superman and Count Vertigo this doesn’t grant the reader any further insight into the past of Grodd. What it does, however, is juxtapose his thoughts and philosophical beliefs against the depiction of the aftermath of the Gorilla invasion of the Gem Cities he lead which terminated in Flash #17. Since then Solivar has taken over leadership of Gorilla City and worked painstakingly to not only make amends for the actions of the delusional despot, Grodd, but begun the process of making real steps to not only forge lasting peace between humanity and Gorillas, but have the Gorillas enter into the larger world we all share. This is not something Grodd can abide and the manner of his return from the Speed Force is revealed, as is his overall place as an essential villain in the Flash andt he larger DCU. Brian Buccellato, colorist and co-writer of the Flash, pens this issue with the help of artist Chris Batista. Batista’s art is quite different than that of the usual Flash panoply of artists, including Buccellato’s co-writer on the title, Francis Manapul. This is good in my opinion, because the Flash himself isn’t even seen in the issue and Batista’s art really depicts the Gorillas well. Definitely a thoughtful, well written, well drawn issue.
Batman: The Dark Knight #23.1: The Ventriloquistwas simply okay. I am a huge fan of Gail Simone on the Batgirl title and I attribute its success almost entirely to her writing, reserving a generous helping of credit to Barbara Gordon herself, who is one of my favorite comic book characters. Top 10, without a doubt. This origin of the Ventriloquist fell a little flat for me. Sure it’s interesting and sure Shauna is a very complex, psychotic person with a very troubled past. However, for me the Ventriloquist is Scar-Face and Dummy. There is something so “Batman” about them. I say Batman, and although Shauna and Ferdie are currently appearing in Batgirl, I still think that the mundane nature of the original Ventriloquist works more effectively with unpowered vigilantes than this new version. The original Ventriloquist, Arnold Wesker, was a non-powered guy with dissociative personality disorder, projecting his primary, dominant persona into a ventriloquist dummy done up like a 30’s era gangster named Scar-Face. The premise fell well within the realm of reality and created a complex villain mired in a psychosis rife with situational drama. Wesker and Scar-Face might disagree, but being that Scar-Face is the dominant persona, Wesker is going to be hampered in foiling the inanimate object, because his own drive is what is empowering the dummy. Later there was a beautiful, blonde woman (Peyton Riley) who took over as Scar-Face’s ventriloquist, but still follows the same paradigm. When you have a woman like Shauna who has telepathic abilities that she exploits years before she got her dummy, Ferdie, you kind of remove the intrinsic importance of the ventriloquism schtick from her psychosis. Sure she named her dummy after her deceased twin brother, and yeah she was a product of a negative environment growing up, but that in no way enhances the nuanced concept of the Ventriloquist. Basically, this issue and the iteration of the character in the New 52 reinvents the wheel, with more bells and whistles, but less functionality. I like Gail’s work, but with a heavy heart I say that this issue can be passed on with no loss for any Bat-Family fan.
Batman: Black & White #1 is a title which returns in the New 52 to presents several intriguing short stories depicted completely in monochromatic black and white panels. With the writing talents of Chip Kidd, Maris Wicks, John Arcudi, and Howard Makie, and the artistic talents of Neal Adams, Michael Cho, Sean Murphy, Joseph Quinones, and Chris Samnee, many unique perspectives are shed on the Dark Knight and his myriad interpretations. Foremost of these is Neal Adams’ piece, both written and drawn by the Batman maestro who helped create Ra’s Al Ghul and the Man-Bat. In his Batman: Zombie story, the impact of Batman as a fighter of evil is explored in great poignancy through the social issues of our day and just how effective a Dark Knight can be against the day to day evils of the 21st century. His writing is razor edged and his art is at the top of its game. Chip Kidd and Michael Cho’s Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When comes in second in my opinion, giving a Darwyn Cooke-esque, Silver Age story of Robin and what truly makes him a worthy contemporary for the Batman. What’s more, even Superman has to tip his hat to the Boy Wonder by story’s end. John Arcudi’s Driven, drawn by Sean Murphy, is an interesting tale of Batman and his relationship with his most iconic accessory: the Batmobile. The other three stories are good, but these three especially epitomize innovation in the realm of Batman.
Codename: Action #1is basically a Cold War, nerd boy fantasy mash-up. It takes place in an ambiguous period during the Cold War following a strange amalgam of characters throughout its globe trotting plot. In the background are two Golden Age comic book characters resurrected in a slightly more modern context. In America there is the costumed adventurer, the American Crusader, and in Europe there is the British aerial operative, Black Venus. American Crusader finds his vintage in 1941 as a crimefighter that gained powers from stray radiation from a device he was working with called an “atom smasher.” Black Venus was a war nurse turned aviator during WWII famous for her black bodysuit and aviator goggles, who first appeared in comics in 1945. In the foreground of the plot we see a new secret agent complete his tests of initiation, earning the designation Operative 1001. He is then teamed up with Operator 5, the fifth agent ever initiated into the “Intelligence Service,” and a living legend. Facing all four of these characters is a global diplomatic meltdown of epic proportions. The French threaten war against the Soviets if they interfere with North African assets, the Japanese threaten war if the Russians movie into their territorial waters, the Chinese threaten war if the Japanese mobilize their armed forces, and the Soviet Union threatens to launch nukes if anyone doesn’t accede to their demands. The kicker is that the Intelligence Services have intel that the Soviet General making the threats at the UN is in fact not the actual General due to a subcutaneous tracking device they implanted the real one with. So the plot thickens . . . Writer Chris Roberson kicks off this series, with no shortage of help from artist Jonathan Lau, in great style and panache, eliciting all the romance and intrigue of Cold War spy thrillers and the action of costumed superhero comics in a shaken, not stirred, suave superhero spy masterpiece.
Trillium #2begins at the strange middle of the first issue with the meeting of two diametrically different people, whose shared intrepid nature is the sole bond that connects them in what is shaping up to be a REALLY innovative series. Nika Temsmith, the intergalactic scientist from the year 3797 searching for a cure to a sentient virus, meets up with the English explorer William Pike on Earth in the year 1921, who himself is searching for purpose after losing his in the Great War. Ironically what brings them together is the Incan temple that Pike and his expedition have just discovered after centuries of abandonment. In Nika’s own time, a virus with the capacity for thought and higher reasoning is at war with the human race and reduced our population to mere hundreds of thousands spread across the galaxy in weakly sustained colonies. Seeking to find a cure she goes through a “primitive” alien race’s pyramidal temple emerging on Earth in 1921. As can be logically deduced from the time gap, the English both speak are not even close to being mutually intelligible. So the entire issue is merely them trying to communicate and ascertain who each other is and what each other desires. Slowly as events unfold they get an idea of the situation and the revelation is powerful to behold. Jeff Lemire writes and illustrates this series MASTERFULLY!
Trascendence of the Trillium Flower
And so ends the first week of Villains Month and my first week back on “Off the Panel.” Hopefully, you folks enjoyed it and will come back to enjoy future issues with me.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Action Comics #23.1: Cyborg Superman: Art by Mike Hawthorne, Colored by Daniel Brown
Green Arrow #23.1: Count Vertigo: Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo
Justice League #23.1: Darkseid: Art by Paulo Siquiera & Netho Diaz, Colored by Hi-Fi
Earth 2 #15.1: Art by Yildiray Cinar, Colored by Jason Wright
Trillium #2: Art Jeff Lemire, Colored by Jose Villarrubia
Batwoman #20is yet another game changing issue in a game changing series. Years ago Batwoman fought a madwoman in the guise of a Religion of Crime prophetess names Alice, who looked like a latex fetish version of the famous Wonderland heroine. Spoke a lot like her, too. After defeating her, and only moments before she fell to her “death”, Batwoman realized that Alice was in fact her long “dead” twin, Elizabeth. Well for the second time Beth has defied death to be found in the land of the living, this time in the custody of the D.E.O., comprising yet another manacle Director Bones has chained to Kate Kane’s leg to assure compliance with the agency’s whims. On the other side of the narrative are the family and friends of Kate. Up until last issue they had no idea that Kate was a D.E.O. puppet, being forced into doing their bidding. Thanks to Kate’s dad, Col. Jacob Kane, the Colonel, Kate’s cousin and one time sidekick Betty (aka Flamebird), Kate’s stepmother Katherine, and Kate’s fiancee Det. Maggie Sawyer all know what she is doing and more importantly WHY she’s been doing it. Within the close circle of confidantes is a great deal of dissent. Kate hasn’t spoken to her father since she learned about Beth’s still being alive. Katherine is livid that her husband has kept the secret of her stepdaughter and step-niece’s nocturnal activities a secret, amongst other things. Det. Maggie Sawyer is still a little on edge after finding out the woman she loves is in fact the criminal whom she is tasked by Gotham Central to bring in for vigilantism. All of these quibbles are quelled with the revelation of the horrible situation that Kate has fallen into, for all intents and purposes being enslaved by a shadowy government agency to do their dirty work, as well as the situation facing Beth Kane and her fragile psychological state. From the looks of it, this could be the turning point from the beginning of the series that will emancipate Kate and turn the book onto a completely new status quo. I am hoping that it does. Cowriters J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman have kept this series constantly evolving and its readers always on their toes. For that reason this series has been a must read book and a delight to read month after month for twenty-two straight months (both zero issues included).
Batgirl #20is another issue that changes the entire flow of its series. With issue #19 of Batgirl the dominoed daredoll seemingly killed her brother, James Gordon Jr. With that she has lost the good grace of Gotham police commissioner and her own father, James Gordon Sr. But apart from that she has also exacted the heavy toll of having to finally take responsibility for putting her psychotic little brother down once and for all. If she didn’t, her mother was prepared to, and like a trooper she took the burden of killing him from her mother’s hands. In this issue she bursts in on her psychiatrist and makes her veiled confessions, keeping the details that would reveal her masked secret, but still attempting to gain some semblence of catharsis. The issue also reintroduces a classic Batman villain, the Ventriloquist, who comes on the scene. This time around the dummy is named Ferdie, not the gangster doll, Scarface, and the ventriloquist is a timid young woman named Shauna that has lacked the ability for self-expression. In the past it’s always been hinted at, but never concretely proved that the ventriloquist dummy somehow was calling the shots, yet still maintaining the reality of deep psychosis in the human involved. However, this version is dangerously close to shattering that by having the doll seem to move by itself with no strings attached in several panels. I can’t say that I am a fan of that kind of fourth wall tipping. However, other aspects of the emerging Batgirl mythos merging together in this issue, such as the crippled former gang member that Barbara has been flirting with and the sinister socialite/vigilante Knightfall lends a sense of long term world building under the capable hands of writer Gail Simone. Definitely an excellent issue.
Fourth Wall Broken
Nightwing #20has our title character nestling into his new life in Chicago. It’s not idyllic to say the least. He is awoken from a sound sleep after a looooong night of crime fighting by the woman who’s apartment he’d been subletting (unbeknownst to her) kicking him in the chest and brandishing a baseball bat over his head. Not the best way to wake up in the morning. Then comes the discovery that Tony Zucco, the mobster who murdered Nightwing’s parents, is under the protection of the mayor’s office. The Alderman who the Prankster forced to burn his amassed wealth to fend off ravenous wolves is found early the following morning alive, albeit with his arm ripped off and being eaten by said wolves. A confrontation with the masked anti-hero or villain (hard to nail down) is inevitable and culminates in a very intriguing cliffhanger ending. Kyle Higgins has been writing this series exquisitely since issue one and the fun doesn’t look to be close to stopping anytime soon. Brett Booth’s artistic contributions to this series have been considerable, lending a deal of smooth, effortless lines that jibe exceptionally well with Dick Grayson’s persona as an acrobat/aerialist. I look forward to seeing further adventures of the former Robin in the Windy City.
It’s Always Funny Until Someone Loses an Arm . . .
Red Hood and the Outlaws #20picks up after last issue where Jason Todd, after a month of horrors (told over several months of issues) goes to the Acres of All, home of the All-Caste, and has his memories voluntarily erased. Last issue, his friends and comrades Roy Harper (Red Arrow) and Princess Koriand’r (Starfire) tracked him down to help him in his moment of need only to find him erased of all his memories and as well as the darkness they engendered inside him. Angered by this Roy and Starfire accost the gatekeeper of the Acres of All (also the only remaining member of the All-Caste left alive) for his part in it. The resultant conversation takes the two “Outlaws” through a tour of the accumulated memories extracted from Jason’s mind to give a sample of just what pain and torment the gatekeeper had expunged from Jason’s mind. What also comes about is an exploration of who Roy and Starfire are as well. In the past Roy was in a bad spot with Green Arrow and life in general and out of the blue, the newly minted Robin (Jason) showed up and with great optimism and kindness helped Roy through a really tough moment. From that point on, Roy had an anchor that has connected him with Jason compelling him to help out the anti-heroic former Robin. Starfire’s past is also laid out, albeit far less complementary. Upon the conclusion of this issue, one thing is certain, things have changed and for good or ill, Jason is moving forward without the keystone events that have thus far shaped him into what we have come to know as the figure called the Red Hood. In the last couple of pages, new writer James Tynion sets up the intro for what will be the Red Hood and the Outlaws first ever annual, coming out in two weeks.
A Red Arrow and a Red Hood
Legion of Super-Heroes #20marches forward towards its blowout conclusion. Glorith, Ultraboy, and Chameleon Boy escape Rimbor for Sorcerers World only to find that planet also under siege by another member of the Fatal Five, Validus. The three legionnaires link up with their former comrade and ruler of Sorcerers World, Black Witch, and her legionnaire lover, Blok to combat this evil. Glorith and Black Witch are able to deal with the ravaging monster, but the cost is quite dear. It also lands Ultraboy and Chameleon Boy in a heap of trouble. Elsewhere on the Promethean giant we see further trevails of Legion leader, Phantom Girl, and her surviving colleagues, Invisible Kid and Polar Boy. Though the true meaning of these events aren’t fully explained, they could mean another tragic end to a valiant hero. Paul Levitz’s Legion is a testament to the title and its characters and a shining example of the possibilities of such a massive concept populated by round, dynamic characters. Levitz’s is the best Legion of any run, and I will stand by that assertion. However, DC is cancelling the series after August’s issue #23, so we are indeed looking at an endgame in the storytelling. A total shame.
Supergirl #20closed last issue on a very alarming conundrum. Power-Girl, the Kara Zor-El of Earth-2 exiled to our reality, teams up with Supergirl, the Kara Zor-El native to our universe, and the two convalesce in the latter’s submarine sanctuary called . . . Sanctuary. However, Sanctuary is comprised of Kryptonian A.I. and one of the key cultural heresies following the clone wars on Krypton is the existence of clones. Well, both Kara’s are genetically identical meaning that Sanctuary intuits one of them to be be a clone. Ironically, the one deemed to be a clone is in fact the true Kara to our reality, Supergirl. Not to say that Power Girl isn’t as perturbed as her other self nor that she doesn’t do her utmost to rectify the situation. This issue is basically a giant brawl between the two Maidens of Steel and the Kryptonian base they are trapped within. The issue seems simple in this way, but in fact this conflict is quite complex, fitting within a larger drama. Supergirl left Krypton as a teenager, unlike her cousin, Clark, who left as a baby, and as such laments a world and culture that were her life. When she came to Earth she had to cope with the loss of everything and everyone she knew and loved. When H’el came on the scene she was tempted with the promise of having that life restored, only for it to come crashing down again in front of her. Sanctuary was the last shred of Krypton that she had. In this issue that one last piece of home turned on her and ruthlessly tried to kill her. She is slowly losing her identity piecemeal, and a situation is developing wherein she will be forced to make a life among the humans and become a completely new woman. I really feel pity for her, but am enthusiastic at the chance for her to become the incredible character she was pre-Reboot and develop the relationships she had in the past with other superheroes. Michael Allan Nelson as well as his predecessors Mike Johnson and Frank Hannah have done a killer job writing her in complex, engaging ways that give her leeway to be a dumb teenager doing foolish things without demonizing her or making her any less compelling of a heroine. Her hero’s journey has been and looks to continue to be something worth watching.
Vibe #4begins with the armored intruder in the Ramon household introducing himself as Breacher, the first interdimensional traveller to come to Earth and be imprisoned by A.R.G.U.S. He came to warn Earth of Darkseid’s impending invasion, but was ignored and incarcerated. He also warned Cisco not to trust his employers as they are hiding something from him. Breacher is unable to elaborate as he is pulled against his will to another dimesion, probably his place of origin. In the mean time, Vibe is sent to catch the escaped inmate, codenamed Gypsy. Like Kid Flash last issue he fights her but eventually comes to speak with her in private and learns she is not an interdimensional warmonger, as he had been briefed, but just an interdimensional wander who was imprisoned like Breacher. Finally bucking the system, Cisco shakes his A.R.G.U.S handlers and agrees to help Gypsy get home. In the process he runs afowl of A.R.G.U.S head Amanda Waller and opens a can of worms that could spell dire consequences of him and his future as a superhero. Sterling Gates takes over for Geoff Johns and Andrew Kreisberg with great skill, maintaining the feel and excellence which began the series.
Wonder Woman #20brings the family of Zeus closer to all-out conflict. Artemis is dispatched to England to kill Zeus’ last born child, Zeke, and Wonder Woman yet again comes to the aid of her baby brother. In the meantime, Lennox returns and escorts Hera and Zola in the attempt to get Zeke to safety. However, Artemis and Apollo are not the only ones of Zeus’ children looking for the Last Born. The First Born also knows that Zeke is the key to the throne of Olympus and looks to commune with his baby brother in the attempt to claim what he feels is his birthright. Brian Azzarello certainly has a vision for this title and pushes onward setting a very sordid, complex gameboard upon which the Greek gods politick against one another. Ares, or War as Azzarello likes to refer to him, comes off as a blood-soaked philosopher, and perhaps a way of Azzarello inserting himself into the title. He does bear an uncanny resemblance to the Wonder Woman scribe. Also revealed is the reason for Cassandra, the First Born’s attache’s, metal throat. There is some messed up family politics behind that number. I’ve fought with my sisters before, but I have never ripped their larynges out. Yikes. Azzarello with the help of artists Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins, and Goran Sudzuka have knocked this title out of the park. I think what I like about the series thus far it that it is a completely different take on the saga of the Amazing Amazon than most fans have seen on a large scale. It really roots her in mythic origins and divorces her from the contemporary DCU events, if only for the moment, to really give voice to the Greek drama that is her life. Intriguing to be sure.
Sword of Sorcery #8is finally here. Though I hate to see this wonderful series come to a close, I am geared up for the incredible finale that has been so wonderfully built toward. Eclipso has subdued both House Onyx and House Diamond, the two bloodlines that once gave him power. They again fall under his sway. It falls to the newly minted lord and ladies of House Amethyst, House Citrine and House Turquoise to stop him. Amaya has a plan and it is a risky gambit that turns the very premise the first issue was based upon on its head. Amaya’s ancestor, Lady Chandra, was the one who defeated the undefeatable Lord Kaala (Eclipso) when he first appeared in Nilaa. The question arises as to whether Amaya, young though she may be, can emulate her forebearer and put him down once more. The course of this title has been circuitous and fraught with medieval political intrigue not unlike Game of Thrones. It’s strange that this fact didn’t save it from cancellation, but the hope remains that somewhere down the road someone will resurrect it from the pivotal moment upon which it ends. Writer Christy Marx can be proud of herself with this title and artist Aaron Lopresti presents his usual level of excellence in its depiction. All nine issues of this series (zero issue included) are well worth reading.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Batgirl #20: Drawn by Daniel Sampere & Carlos Rodriguez, Colored by Blond, Inked by Jonathan Glapion & Vincente Cifuentes
Nightwing #19: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund
Red Hood and the Outlaws #19: Art by Julius Gopez, Colored by Nei Ruffino
Supergirl #19: Art by Mahmud Asrar, Colored by Dave McCaig
Wonder Woman #19: Art by Cliff Chiang & Goran Sudzuka, Colored by Matthew Wilson
I am SUPER overdue on this week of reviews, which is a shame because it was one of the best, comprised of some hallmark issues. Unfortunately, some of my paying writing jobs have gotten in the way of this enjoyable hobby blog. I’ll stop with the long winded intros and just get the long overdue reviews. Enjoy:
Action Comics #20moves into the the second issue of a new era in Action Comics. Cowriter Andy Diggle and cowriter/artist Tony Daniel left Superman recovering from a nanite infection that turned his hand into what looked like a living metal clawed monstrosity. This issue has him waking up in the care of the brilliant and seductive Dr. Shay Veritas after his initial infection. She teleported him away from the population to ensure their safety, but apparently Superman’s super immune system was able to separate the infection from his body. However, the nanite virus, still in the shape of the clawed hand, maintains its bite. The virus apparently was able to latch onto his DNA and sap many of his talents and abilities into its own hybrid genetic code. Succeed or fail, this synthetic mutating virus is the opening salvo in Lex Luthor’s renewed war with Superman. The next move in the chess game with the Man of Steel proves to be a nightmare straight out of a George Romero movie. Following in the tradition of the $3.99 titles, writer Scott Lobdell and assistant dialoguist Frank Hannah begin a World of Krypton backup feature with the help of Philip Tan on pencils. This feature begins with a young Jor-El discovering an ancient underwater city built by a pre-Kryptonian species. His exploration, though groundbreaking and rewriting everything that had been known about Krypton’s natural history, doesn’t fail to annoy his fellow members of the Science Council, nor the Military Guild who guard them and who are holding an emergency vote on a key issue of great importance to the stability of Kryptonian governance. In the wake of their disgruntled waiting, we see Lara Lor-Van (Superman’s mom and Jor-El’s future wife) maligning the starry eyed visionary and also find that she is at this moment engaged to her partner in the Military Guild, Jax-Ur. Quite interesting for the Superman faithful, because Jax-Ur is a renowned Kryptonian criminal of great infamy in all Superman mythologies. Ending on an explosive note, this first installment of World of Krypton accomplishes SO much!!! The political balance of Krypton is established quite well, as are the characteristics of several important characters. Jor-El and his future wife Lara are both obvious, playing well toward their depictions in Lobdell’s Superman #0, which we saw last September. Also featured briefly, but certainly of prominence is Kra-Hu, the Afro-Kryptonian senior member of the Science Council who seems to be Jor-El’s mentor and father figure in the Kryptonian governmental structure. Jax-Ur, engaged to Lara and predating his criminal destiny, will no doubt cut an interesting figure as well with Lobdell’s attention to canon and genius of innovation balancing toward a nice middle ground. Everything about this new arc in Action Comics has me giddy as a school boy. Keep it coming, DC!!!
Beware the Claw!
Detective Comics #20is in essence the endgame to writer John Layman’s open arc on this title. With his opening issues he’d paved the way for the slow rise of Ignatius Ogilvy in the shadow of his boss, the Penguin’s grandiose bid to claim a place in the public eye of Gotham. Using this distraction he was able to wrest the Penguin’s empire out from under his feet and establish an iron grip on Gotham’s underworld, installing himself as “Emperor Penguin.” Well, now with Penguin in prison and his power base entrenched he steps out of the shadows and calls the Batman out. Suicidal right? Not entirely. Ogilvy had this whole drama choreographed to the last movement and the Bat finds himself more than evenly matched when he meets Emperor Penguin face to face. What Batman finds is no longer a human being, but rather a nightmare comprised of bits of all his nemeses. Kurt Langstrom’s man-bat serum in his blood, mixed with Bane’s super-steroidal venom, and Poison Ivy’s plant elixir giving him bark-like armored skin beneath the course bat hair. Quite frankly, with his analytical mind and enhancements, Ogilvy has the Bat outmatched. Who will save him? The answer will surprise you. In the backup feature, also written by Layman, we are given a look at the childhood and rationale behind Ogilvy’s meteoric rise through the Gotham underworld. His journey started when he was a child leaving a movie theater in a bad part of Gotham and his mother and father gunned down in front of his eyes. Mirroring Batman’s traumatic catalyzing event, Ogilvy went the other direction from Batman, not seeking to end crime but rather to immerse himself in it and control it from the top echelon. From Blackgate prison he narrates all of this and shows his preternatural ability to navigate circles of power and insert himself into the key positions through a Machiavellian display of cunning and physical strength. Ogilvy came out of nowhere in the world of comics. He has existed for less than a year and already John Layman has set him up as a Batman character of the highest caliber. Kudos, Mr. Layman. I had deep reservations about your competence at handling this title and you proved me infinitely wrong. Layman is the man for Detective Comics. Long may he write.
The Emperor of Gotham
Aquaman #19 was a late addition to the roster, laid over from last month’s lineup. Aquaman continues to struggle with the weight of the crown he once forsook for a simpler life. Now it weighs heavier than ever as he is forced to “swim against the tide” of his usurping his younger brother Orm’s throne and his defense of the surface despite the catastrophic war between Atlantis and the United States. To rally his troops he takes them against the submariner terrorist called the “Scavenger.” Upon the engaging of one of the Scavenger’s submarine’s Arthur and his chosen elite discover a ghastly secret. On land Mera is abducted by the resurrected Dead King of Atlantis, the first to sit upon the throne. We have heard tell of him starting with the first arc, “The Trench” where the fish-men monsters are introduced, then later with the introduction of the Dead King’s scepter in the next arc “The Others”, and finally in the previous “Throne of Atlantis” crossover. Now we see the ancient monarch for the first time and he is chilling. Finally, this issue surprises with the reappearance of a shocking figure from her past. Geoff Johns has been teetering this series between quality and throwaway storytelling. The political intrigue following “Throne of Atlantis” and very personal depictions of the main characters amidst the aforementioned arc’s fallout is really engaging at this point and well worth the read.
Green Arrow #20is a title I have begun to look forward to month to month. Following Jeff Lemire’s taking up the title with issue #17 this series has gone from tragic joke to a hard-edged, thrill-a-minute roller-coaster ride. Ollie Queen has lost it all! His company has been forcefully ceased by a rival businessman, Lacroix, who also dons a black hood and mask, kidnaps his two employees/confidantes, murders one, and attempts to kill him using archery skills that rival Ollie’s. To top that off a blind wiseman named Magus leads Ollie down a rabbit hole of discovery, pointing him in the direction of Lacroix’s (nom-de-guerre Komodo) secret lair with a picture of the enigmatic businessman/assassin with Ollie’s dad, Robert Queen ON THE ISLAND OLLIE WAS STRANDED ON!!! Obviously this was before Ollie was stranded on it, but still more than coincidental and raising the question of how Lacroix, Ollie’s father’s death, and so many other things tie into a larger plan? This issue opens with Ollie having escaped his first encounter with Komodo by the skin of his teeth and regrouping. Komodo returns to his lair to make contact with the group he works for, the Outsiders. This isn’t the para-Batman army we have seen in the past or anything like it. This is a new Outsiders and their significance is crucial, tying into this series and Katana. Ollie has it out with Komodo a second time in this issue and this second encounter not only ups the ante but showcases just how intelligent, versatile, and strong-willed Ollie truly is when lives are at stake. Jeff Lemire is KILLING IT!!! This series is ridiculously awesome and in no small part thanks to artist Andrea Sorrentino’s stark rendering of the plot in stark light/color vs. black/shadow styling. Just a phenomenal series so far and one not to be missed.
Batwing #20begins a dubious new direction in this title’s future. David Zavimbe was created by Grant Morrison to be a Batman for the continent of Africa. A large task, but one that David could feasibly achieve considering his personal history as a child soldier in Africa and his experiences since growing up in a complex, corrupt political structure. The first 20 issues (including Batwing #0) all show very vividly how intricate the balance of power leans in parts of West Africa. New writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have retired Zavimbe and decided to replace him with Luke Fox, son of Wayne Enterprises Executive Lucius Fox. Luke Fox whose only link to Africa is that he is African American. To me it seems kind of racist that they would assume that if you are black you are interchangeable. Just because your ancestors came from Africa doesn’t mean you have a preternatural knowledge of African history and the inner workings of the post-colonial political workings of dozens of nations. Luke makes a joke about it in this issue, but despite them joking about it Palmiotti and Gray still made that decision. Perhaps they have a goal in mind that will validate the concept, but they have a long way to prove that. One thing Luke does have is enthusiasm and conviction. Going to an undisclosed part of Africa, Luke faces off against a criminal organization called the the Marabunta that run money and guns to warlords and terrorist organizations throughout Africa. In his descent into their world he battles a woman in insectoid-mech armor called “Lady Marabunta” and an anthropomorphic lion named Lord Lion-Mane. The issue is entertaining and intriguing. My objections remain unrebutted so far, but its only been one issue. I will say that Palmiotti and Gray with the help of artists Eduardo Panisca and Julio Ferreira have earned another issue.
Swamp Thing #20brings forth the second issue of the massive paradigm shift between Scott Snyder’s incredible inaugural run on the title and that of new series writer Charles Soule. The issue itself is really well written and the plotline pretty rough. Last issue, Scarecrow was trying to steal a rare flower from the Metropolis Botanical Garden when Swamp Thing stepped in to stop him. Scarecrow unleashed his fear toxin on Swamp Thing causing the avatar of the Green to freak out and thereby the plants within the City of Tomorrow to utterly freak out by extension. Inside his head, Swamp Thing sees Alec Holland living the life he would have led if he hadn’t been made into Swamp Thing. He sees a life with Abby Arcane with a lovely house and children. Everything is perfect except when he comes into his dream life, bringing the power of the Green with him. Living out his deepest fear upon committing himself completely to the Green, he must face the real possibility that he will slowly lose his humanity and in so doing bring death and destruction upon all the people he comes into contact with at the behest of his plant-like masters. Outside of his inner delusions his control of the Green is making monstrous vines, trees, venus fly-traps, etc, tear Metropolis apart and fulfill the very nightmare that bore them, that Swamp Thing will hurt all the people he comes into contact with. Superman of course comes to the rescue of his adoptive city, takes out the main threats, such as the massive vines taking down a suspension bridge, then susses out the cause and intervenes to snap Swamp Thing out of his stupor. Swamp Thing initially came to Metropolis to talk to Superman and ask him about the how to cope with his powers and the fear of those same powers robbing him of his humanity. Superman is pretty harsh, albeit fair, and lays down some very harsh truths. There is, however, a note of optimism at the end of his sermon that might just be what will redeem Swamp Thing. Charles Soule, with Kano’s awesome art, really spins a beautiful Swamp Thing yarn that seems to wrap up in a two issue mini-arc. The final page of the issue seems to be the start of an interesting new development to take us into Soule’s second, semi-connected story arc. I greatly anticipate it.
Wisdom of Superman
Earth 2 #12concludes the introduction of Doctor Fate. Khalid Ben-Hassin has fought for years the influence of Nabu and falling under the thrall of the ancient mage as well as that of his totem, the helmet of Fate. No more. Last issue Khalid accepted his destiny and donned Fate’s helmet becoming Doctor Fate. Now he and Nabu’s ancient foe, Wotan, go head to head for the first time in centuries in a blaze of sorcery and hexes over the skies of Boston. Meanwhile in China, Alan Scott (Green Lantern) and Kendra Munoz-Saunders (Hawkgirl) investigate the death of Alan’s lover, Sam. In Macau they find storage containers at the docks full of decaying parademon corpses neatly stacked within. The plot thickens as the question is raised as to what they are doing there and how do they fit into Sam’s murder. This is put on hold as Green Lantern is drawn to Boston by his ring to aid in the relief effort of the magical battle. Writer James Robinson really is sewing up the plot of this book by moving individual storylines forward, such as Alan’s investigation of Sam’s murder and the fallout of the Apocalypse invasion years prior, while at the same time introducing exquisitely new characters like Khalid’s Doctor Fate and folding them into the plot. By issue’s end, Flash, Green Lantern, and Fate are brought together just in time for another plot point Robinson is skillfully sewing back into the main plot: Steppenwolf. With this issue the world has learned that Darkseid’s uncle and one of the most dangerous men in the multiverse is being harbored, as well as ruling, the independent republic of Dherain. There is a great deal afoot at present and Robinson has given himself a very advantageous position plot-wise to move forward from. I very much look forward to future installments of this series, especially since Mister Miracle and his wife, Big Barda, are also in the offing. Nicola Scott’s art on this series is another aspect not to be missed, especially when given such round and incredible characters to depict.
Worlds’ Finest #12begins a dark chapter in the journeys of Power Girl and Huntress. Picking up from last issue we find that the newly returned Michael Holt is in fact Desaad, torturer to Darkseid and one of Apokalips’ most dangerous New Gods. He attacks Helena and Karen, but when they defend themselves and return his assaults, they discover that Desaad still has an illusion over himself that keeps people seeing him as Michael Holt, upright business mogul and scientist, and the two superheroines as thugs who are attacking him for seemingly no reason. That discovered, they are forced to beat a hasty retreat and re-assess the situation. However, Desaad is a creature that operates on many fronts. Starr Industries (run by the disguised Power Girl) begins to drop in its stock value and have its top researches wooed away to other companies, and one of their top research facilities explodes. However, this is not the most shocking thing that happens in this issue. Paul Levitz is a genius. This series is one of his crowning achievements. The plot segues so nicely into a bookend for the above mentioned Earth 2, following exiles from that world in ours and showing how their odyssey is tied into the events happening concurrently on their homeworld.
The Movement #1was a bit of a disappointment. I was eagerly anticipating it due to its penning by master comic writer Gail Simone, but unfortunately Simone doesn’t live up to her reputation here. Perhaps its the premise of the piece. Set as a “point/counterpoint” piece with the new title The Green Team, this book and its sister series are supposed to be comics representing the 99% and the 1% of America and their place in the DCU. The product is super-trite. Elements of social commentary can come into comics effectively when done in thought provoking ways, but this blatant attempt to force the issues seems really forced and uninspired. I could bemoan it much more, but I will stop. I couldn’t find anything redeeming to say about it. A shame that it couldn’t do what it set out to do, but in my opinion it fell flat. I will read The Green Team, but I assume it will also fall flat.
Phantom Stranger #8is an apocalyptic issue insofar as it features the “death” of the Stranger (something few even thought possible) and in his death reveals what has really been happening in the past several issues. Issues #0, 1, and 2 key us into the Stranger’s role as a betrayer and agent of transcendental neutrality. The last six have followed the Stranger’s attempt to locate his kidnapped wife and children. This issue gives resolution as to what did happen to them and who was behind their abduction, but even more intriguing is the revelation of how the Phantom Stranger, the most asexual, ambivalent being in the universe, could come to have a wife and kids. Philip Stark and his family existed before the Phantom Stranger entered into any of their lives and in point of fact, his co-opting of them and Stark’s life create a poignant, humanizing moment for him. Dan Didio and co-writer J.M. DeMatteis have created an incredible series that has taken the concept of the Phantom Stranger and not only made him relatable to readership, but actually sympathetic. When we have seen him briefly here and there in the past decade or so, it has often times been him heralding a crisis and then making matters more difficult than necessary for the heroes involved. In this series we have seen that representation unchanged, but we also see how he is forced to do these things and the demons and displeasures they engender in his metaphorical heart (which DOES exist). The series has been phenomenal , but issue #8 stands as a call to arms for readership as to HOW good the series is and has the potential to be in future. Long story short: READ IT!
Legends of the Dark Knight #8delivers two more astounding tales of the Dark Knight. In the first story, entitled “Carved”, writer Paul Tobin and artist Tadd Moore tell the tale of a kidnapper/thief in Gotham who abducts people and objects and replaces them with exact replicas sculpted out of mahogany. Already there is a great setup for a psychological villain, which is an interesting turn for Batman. Most of his foes are theatrical, but this one is just a person with deep seated issues, enveloped in a very methodical psychosis. A fascinating, extremely well written story. The next one, “Unnatural Selection”, written by Ricardo Sanchez and drawn by Sergio Sandoval also provides a very out of the box, rarely attempted story in the Batman titles. A series of grisly murders leads the Dark Knight to a cryptotaxodermist’s creation of a Barghest. Cryptotaxodermy is the creation of mythic animals from the parts of deceased members of its constituent parts, i.e. making a stuffed griffin from an eagle’s head, lion’s body, snake’s tail, etc. However, how can a stuffed, fictitious creature murder a slew of people throughout Gotham? The answer is very intriguing and quite fascinating to wrap one’s head around. This story in particular touched me deeply in how tragic every aspect of it is. Every aspect. However, both stories were AMAZING! This series is a crap shoot, sometimes delivering the cheddar and other times falling flat. I personally would suggest this issue for someone that wants a good reason to begin a long standing love affair with the character of Batman, or simply find out the potential inherent in Batman stories outside of the stereotypes of capes and masks that make up 90% of Batman stories.
And thus wraps the first week of May’s batch of comics.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Action Comics #20: Drawn by Tony Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by Batt
Detective Comics #20: Art by Jason Fabok, Colored by Jeremy Cox
Green Arrow #20: Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo
Batwing #20: Art by Eduardo Panisca & Julio Ferreira, Colored by Jason Wright
Swamp Thing #20: Drawn by Kano, Colored by Matthew Wilson, Inked by Alvaro Lopez
This week is a week of great flux in the DC Universe bringing change within and without the various series. New writers come onboard, characters lives alter invariable, and in the case of Nightwing and Teen Titans, the artists play the swinging game swapping partners to try their hands at new characters and stories. It’s truly an exciting time to be a DC fan, as these changes push the envelope of storytelling and innovation. So here they are:
Justice League #19introduces the two new members of the Justice League: Rhonda Pineda (the new, female Atom) and Firestorm (whose series is being cancelled with May’s #20 issue). Stuck alone in the Watchtower, waiting for their new teammates to initiate them into the League, they find themselves in a trial-by-fire situation. On Earth, keeping them from meeting their newly recruited rookies, Batman goes to have a chat with Superman and Wonder Woman who have taken it upon themselves to insert themselves into a tense geopolitical situation. Batman, though cold and calculating, understands that the world is growing distrustful of the League and violating political borders, no matter what the reason, does nothing but kick hornet nests and ruffle feathers. I have to say that Geoff Johns really doesn’t portray Superman or Wonder Woman in a good light. Wonder Woman is shown in a very fascist light and Superman, though opposed to her views, goes along with it because his girlfriend wants him to. Compelling characterization, truly. The issue also features a mysterious assailant breaking into the Batcave to steal a package Batman developed to take out Superman. Considering the events of this issue, Johns’ version of the Man of Steel kind of deserves a few knocks to the head to maybe knock some sense into him. In the backup feature, I may be forced to eat crow. I’ve had very few good things to say about the SHAZAM backup or its version of Billy Batson, but after Johns reveals Black Adam’s history in ancient Kahndaq he seems to give validation to what he did with Billy, giving him the understanding to deal with Black Adam from a place of mutual understanding of why he is doing the things he is with the power the Wizard gave him. Geoff Johns may be able to pull this one out of the toilet. I say may. Jury is still out.
The Corruption of Power
Green Lantern: The New Guardians #19picks up right where Green Lantern #19 left off with the destruction of Sinestro’s homeworld, Korugar. Of course when Kyle shows up with a white ring on his finger, Sinestro demands that he restore his planet and his people from the apocalypse the First Lantern unleashed. Kyle remains uncertain and Sinestro resorts to violence. While many would demonize him for this reaction it should be noted that Hal Jordan reacted similarly in the wake of his hometown, Coast City’s, destruction and as a result snapped Sinestro’s neck and murdered the Guardians and half the Green Lantern Corps. Sinestro in comparison is behaving himself quite admirably. Simon Baz, the newly minted GL of planet Earth comes on the scene and all three Lanterns attempt to do the impossible, taking turns with the white ring to bring back the decimated world. Kyle tries and fails, the ring won’t even allow Sinestro to put it on, and Simon Baz tries to replicate his feat of will that brought his brother-in-law out of a coma, only to be refused by the ring. For good or ill, the Life Force of the white energy deems that Korugar must remain destroyed. Like the two previous GL titles this month, New Guardians #19 sets the stage for the massive Green Lantern #20 next month with the cast of players taking position. Its going to be a blowout issue that will go down in history. Mark my words.
The Return of Fear
Batwoman #19is an extended period of adjustment. After the conclusion of the Medusa mega-arc a lot has changed in the Batwoman title and as a result the characters are having to reacquaint themselves with one another and the situations that have arisen from the fallout of the first seventeen regular issues. Maggie and Kate’s relationship has taken a dramatic turn following Kate’s revelation that she is in fact the Gotham city vigilante known as Batwoman. After all, in the course of doing her duty as a policewoman Batwoman shot Maggie full of a concentrated Scarecrow fear toxin that continues to plague her with horrific nightmares. It is also her job to apprehend such vigilantes. So yeah, their engagement is rather complicated legally and emotionally. Kate’s father, Jacob Kane, has his own crosses to bear in his dual life as the father of Batwoman and loving husband with his wife Katherine’s discovery that her stepdaughter, Kate, and niece, Betty, moonlight as crimefighters with Jacob’s help. Thus another strained relationship. Jacob also lets slip that he may have a son. However they rationalize it, the hinting is that this son is Director Bones of the D.E.O. Considering that Bones is using Jacob as a bargaining chip to gain Batwoman’s compliance to D.E.O. operations and that he referred to Alice as “sister”, I’d say that there is some seriously oedipal stuff going on there. And as for Cameron Chase, the hard edged D.E.O. agent begins to have a crisis of conscience and goes to her sister to find resolution to her conflicting drives. Overall, J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman have made this title both action packed and introspectively thoughtful. This continues to be one of the hallmark titles in DC’s current lineup.
DC Universe Presents #19delivers its final presentation of the New DCU spinning out of the first four issues of Swords and Sorcery and bringing Beowulf into our present (his past) as summoned through a mystical artifact. Preceding him is a shapeshifting beast called the “Puca” that runs amok with the intention of conquering the Age of Heroes and enslaving humanity. Though logically it would change the timestream and corrupt events in her time, Beowulf concludes that the “sorceress” we’ve met under the relative name of “Grendel’s Mother” sent the Puca back to lure the legendary Geat from that time in order that she could conquer the Danelaw unimpeded. Helping Beowulf find the Puca and get back to his own time is the beautiful archeaologist Dr. Gwendolyn Pierce. This issue, though pretty straightforward and insubstantial by itself, was a pretty fun read for those that enjoy the original legend of Beowulf and the reinterpretation of it as done by this issue’s writer, Tony Bedard. My hopes are that this concept will be revisited one day, because to me the Beowulf backup feature was superbly done and intriguing to read. It may not have been popular, or at least not popular enough to continue in its own book, but I can dream. The backup in Sword of Sorcery was drawn by Jesus Saiz, but this issue featured art by Javier Pina that was very soft, with lovely rounded lines, making it all the more enjoyable. Man, I hope they continue on with this series . . .
He’s No Hero, He is BEOWULF!!!
Legion of Super-Heroes #19brings the next chapter in the off-the-rails storyline by writer Paul Levitz that re-establishes the defunct supervillain team, the “Fatal Five.” So far, Tharok has plunged much of the United Planets into utter chaos by corrupting all technology powered by quark relays which accounts for 99.9% of it (I’m guessing on that figure, but its not far off), and in this issue Emerald Empress descends on Webber World, an artificial planet made entirely out of metal and machinery that runs ENTIRELY on quark relays. That said, there is no way for the residents there to defend themselves against her psychotic assaults. Cue the entrance of Mon-El, the Legion’s Daxamite, and the Webber Worlders’ last hope. Levitz holds nothing back in this storyline. The Fatal Five are back and they are playing for keeps. Levitz began this arc with the death of a beloved Legionnaire and this issue finds the rest standing on infirm ground. The sheer scope of the story is mind boggling, spanning the width of the United Planets and inflicting fear and death the likes of which we’ve not seen since Levitz’s “Great Darkness Saga” back in the early 1980’s. Good to see that the master hasn’t lost his touch, nor his ability to spin quintessentially relevant Legion lore. Starting this journey with him on issue #17 was his former partner from the aforementioned 1980’s opus, artist Keith Giffen. Last issue and this one had art provided by Scott Kolins. Kolins is a phenomenal artist, but put beside Giffen’s work it took some of the magic away. Regardless, this is a series to read. Period.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #19represents a paradigm shift on two levels. Firstly, it should be noted that Scott Lobdell, writer extraordinaire who’s initiated some of the best titles in the New DCU (Teen Titans, Superman, Superboy, and this title), has moved on after a stellar run reinventing Jason Todd, Starfire, and Roy Harper, while simultaneously introducing incredible new concepts and characters like Essence, the All-Caste, the Untitled, the Thirteen Scions of Salvation, to name only a few. The good news is that he is replaced by up-and-coming writer James Tynion IV, who’s work on the backup features in the Batman title as well as the series Talon have been incredible. Joining him is artist Julius Gopez, whose art is as detailed as original series artist Kenneth Rocafort, but with its own unique style. That said, the stage is set for an incredible issue as the new creative team descends into the quagmire left after the “Death of the Family” mega event felt throughout the Bat-family of books. Jason Todd has been through a lot, and despite developing a hard exterior, weathered it pretty well. With Lobdell’s revelation that the Joker was the architect of much of his misery, Jason is left in a very compromising situation. Following that, he disappears and his friends, Starfire and Roy, try to find him to offer their support. They track him to the Himalayas and while searching are set upon by two former acquaintances of Jason’s: Ducra and Essence. Both transcendental forces, they attempt to influence the course of Roy and Koriand’r’s journey. With his limited knowledge gained from observing Jason’s meditation and use of Eastern rituals, Roy is able to weather his innermost demons, roused by Essence, to find the path to helping his friend. However, after all of the pain and hardship to find their comrade, Jason throws a curve ball. Tynion proves his understanding and mastery of comic writing here with some really poignant storytelling that doesn’t break stride from the tone and pace set by Lobdell. Jason, Roy, and Starfire are very complex characters that are flawed beyond belief, but when written well are made all the better because of their imperfections. Tynion writes them that way, and his partner in art renders them beautifully. This series looks to be in good hands and I for one am breathing a sigh of relief that Red Hood and the Outlaws have found themselves in capable hands.
The Color of Friendship
Nightwing #19endures his own paradigm shift like Jason, his successor to the Robin title, did in the above book. Though continuing to be written by Kyle Higgins, longtime artist Eddy Barrows has gone to Teen Titans and that series’ artist, Brett Booth, begins his run as artist on this book with this issue. Coinciding with Booth’s jumping on point, Dick Grayson jumps ship from the tragedy that befell him in Gotham following “Death of the Family” and begins a new life in Chicago, searching for Tony Zucco. Zucco is the supposedly deceased mobster that killed Dick’s parents, but also the father of his pseudo-girlfriend, Sonia Branch. A complex situation to be sure, but one that Dick cannot overlook. Though it dredges up harsh memories of the past, Nightwing has to seek out Zucco if he ever hopes to attain closure on one of the seminal moments of his life. The issue follows Dick settling into the Windy City and familiarizing himself with its underworld in order to get information on Zucco. It also introduces the “Prankster.” Higgins imagines him almost as an anti-hero rather than the Joker-like Superman villain he was originally written as. Here Prankster forces a corrupt millionaire to burn his money to prolong his survival when trapped in a room with wolves. The chances of the man surviving the encounter are very decent, but he is forced to pay monetarily for the privilege. Not supervillainous, but at the same time not heroic. Higgins and Booth have created a very compelling first chapter for the new chapter in Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing’s life.
Why So Serious?
Supergirl #19finds the Girl of Steel captive after a weakness overcomes her, probably due to her former kryptonite poisoning at the end of the “H’el on Earth” arc. And as introduced last issue, Karen Starr, aka Power Girl comes onto the scene, drawn by an unknown force to her Earth-1 self’s rescue. In Worlds’ Finest she has gone out of her way to avoid meeting Kara, as she has no idea what it would mean meeting her alternate self. Here she has no choice but to help “herself” and in the process writer Mike Johnson does something very interesting with the two halves of the same person. When they meet and touch hands, instead of reality unraveling as quantum physicists project in such an unlikely event, they instead become of one mind, literally sharing their memories and thoughts. After that instant they operate like a well oiled machine to put down a mutant freak that Lex Luthor sicced on them from his ultra-security prison, via neural implant. Johnson does a really excellent job writing this story in a way that not only advances the title character, but the character of Power Girl from across the New DCU. As is wont to happen with her, Power Girl’s costume is torn to shreds as she helps get the weakened Supergirl back to her sub-aquatic fortress of solitude, Sanctuary. Within, Sanctuary ascertains her need and spins her a new costume from more durable Kryptonian fibers. However, the costume it gives her deviates from the more PC, full body suit to the former skimpy unitard with the “convenient” hole in the chest that serves no other purpose than to display her cleavage. Also, Mike Johnson makes ample use of this singular event of two genetically identical Karas to play a very interesting scenario predicated from the taboo of cloning in Kyptonian culture. Overall, a very interesting, thoughtful, action packed issue.
Two Reflections of One Super Woman
Vibe #3takes Francisco Ramon further down the uncharted path his powers have placed him on. Recruited by A.R.G.U.S and Amanda Waller for the Justice League of America, he is starstruck and wanting not only to make a difference, but find purpose following the horrific event that gave him his powers while simultaneously taking the life of his eldest brother. From the perspective of such a kindhearted, idealistic young man like Cisco, that is completely understandable. What he doesn’t know is that Waller put him on the JLA roster because he is theoretically the only being on the planet whose powers would allow him to neutralize the Flash’s speed abilities which come from an other dimensional force, which we know from The Flash to be the “Speed Force.” So with that as the goal, how does one test that hypothesis? If you want to fight an unknown creature the best way is to first try your hands against one of its young. So Cisco is sent up against Kid Flash, aka Bart Allen, of Teen Titans fame. Their meeting is morally mixed and hints very cryptically about the past (our future) of the younger speedster. While Cisco begins by attacking Kid Flash, he is unable to continue on his belligerent path as Kid Flash does not behave in a way that engenders antagonism. The events as I said before are very cryptic and morally ambiguous and begin the questioning of Vibe as to what his real purpose is and whether or not he can trust the people that are giving him orders. I had my doubts about this book in the beginning. Damn you, Geoff Johns, you got me! Johns and cowriter Andrew Kreisberg started the series with the first two issues, but this third issue begins new series writer Sterling Gates’ tenure on title. Gates is an incredible new voice in comics, so the title has gone from good hands to equally capable ones.
Wonder Woman #19marks a nexus point in storytelling that promises a shift in the status quo. The First Born has been systematically attacking those of his relatives that have been entrusted with his various implements of war. This issue has him going up against Poseidon and fighting the god within his own leviathan belly. Going up against his uncle, the two find themselves at an impasse and we see more of the twisted politics of the Greek gods coming into play as they make war and secret intrigues against one another. However, for the First Born to achieve his ends he must cross paths with Zola’s infant baby, the last born of Zeus’s children. To do that, of course he will have to go through Wonder Woman who has literally spent the entirety of this rebooted series protecting the baby from fetus to newborn. As the title shifts to the Amazing Amazon and what she has been up to we see a major parting of ways. Her Constantine-esque brother, Lennox, decides he is going depart the scene and in the midst of that departure, Orion runs afoul of Wonder Woman and leaves in disgust as well. I’m not going to shed a tear on this departure, as Orion is a noble character and I feel that writer Brian Azzarello isn’t depicting him nearly as nobly as the son of Great Darkseid deserves. Best to leave that to the more able pen of Scott Lobdell in Superman. I will be interested to see how Wonder Woman fares against her eldest brother, the First Born, as he arrives in London in the very last panel of this issue. Oh the anticipation . . . She might yet regret the loss of an extra set of New God hands. Oh well, pride cometh before the fall.
Sword of Sorcery #7proves how incredible the main feature Amethyst is. Last issue had the return of Eclipso, aka Lord Kaala, to the gemworld Nilaa. After his return we are told that he was the result of a nightmarish blood marriage between House Diamond and House Onyx, hence his power totem, the black diamond. With the powers of both houses gifted to him he was nearly unstoppable and almost brought ruin down upon all of Gem World. But for Lady Chandra of House Amethyst he would have succeeded. Now it lies with Chandra’s heirs, Lady Graciel, Mordiel, and of course Princess Amaya of the Amethyst clan to take him down once again. They have their work cut out for them. In the course of a single night, chronicled in this one issue, Kaala has murdered the head of House Citrine, retaken House Onyx from the noble Lady Akikra, and murdered the head of House Diamond taking its armies also under his power. With one stroke he has regained all his strength and prestige from before his fall. However, he still has many enemies including the fugitive Akikra who is as dangerous as a cornered dog, Prince Hadran of House Diamond, and of course the young lord and ladies of Houses Turquoise, Citrine, and Amethyst respectively. The board is set for one hell of a showdown in Nilaa. It will have to be, because sadly this title is being cancelled as of issue #8. Next issue is the conclusion to all of it, and what a shame. This was truly one of the best new series DC has put out. It was fresh and unique from anything else that they had done, resurrecting a lesser known series and completely re-imagining it in a way that preserved the good, but innovated at the same time. What a shame, indeed. The backup feature Stalker on the other hand comes to its conclusion and good riddance. As excellent as Amethyst is, Stalker is equally as terrible. THAT is a shame, as the original series from the 70’s, only four issue unfortunately,written by the legendary Paul Levitz was incredibly good. It’s predecessor, Beowulf, which merited a special appearance in the above mentioned DC Universe Presents #19 was phenomenal. I don’t even care to elaborate on how badly this Stalker series was dealt with. Suffice it to say, this backup series did nothing to help the cancellation of this title. It may have been a part of the anchor that dragged Sword of Sorcery below the water to its point of drowning. Pity. I will miss Amethyst and Beowulf greatly.
The Return of the King
Batman Beyond Unlimited #15 begins with the Superman Beyond feature. Superman is rescued from the Trillians by the the bestial Mangals he liberated from enslavement upon his last visit to Trillia. Whereas the Trillians view Superman as the terrorist who led to the fall of their society, the Mangals look upon him as a messianic figure. This is made apparent when Superman sees them for the first time after all the intervening years. When he liberated them they were small and helpless. Now they are large and strong. Apparently, the Trillians never let them grow to full maturity, but rather kept them young and worked them to premature death. So once again, we the reader are shown a very divided society on Trillia between the over class and the bonded underclass. Both sides want to eradicate the other, leaving a very morally ambiguous position for Superman. Regardless of the heinous crimes of the Trillians as a culture, he cannot condone wholesale slaughter of all Trillians, yet at the same time he cannot stand idly by while the Trillians plan the same for their emancipated slaves. This arc took a little while to reach maturity, but writer JT Krul has pulled this one out and made it into a very thought provoking storyline that raises questions about our own world and social systems. Next up, in the Justice League Beyond Unlimited feature writer Derek Fridolfs begins a new arc with artist Ben Caldwell providing pencils. In it the criminal organization known as the “Brain Trust” abducts children and places them in an elite prep school academy to brainwash them into becoming soldiers in an underground army. The JLB sends their own agent, the “Golden Child”-like Green Lantern, Kai-Ro, in as a mole. Once he is in the League tracks him to perhaps the most wholesome place in the entirety of the DCU. A place that makes Smallville look like a ghetto. Fawcett City. Ending in the middle of a fight, it is difficult to see where the story is going from here, but the concept of the “Brain Trust” is solid and I very much look forward to seeing where Fridolds goes in his script. Lastly, the Batman Beyond feature fulfills a promise made over two years ago before the Reboot from the original Batman Beyond comic series. Terry McGinnis’ best friend and confidante, Max Gibson, had attempted to infiltrate the network of cyber terrorists called “Undercloud” that were attacking Gotham’s infrastructure. All of this without Terry’s knowledge. Now she finds herself in the belly of the beast, integrally tied into Undercloud’s horrific plan to raze Neo Gotham and build it up from the ashes in their own image. If she doesn’t comply, agents of Undercloud will kill those closest to her. In the meantime, Terry is sent to a rock concert where a terrorist threat has been issued, although not by Undercloud. Instead, its one of Batman’s old nemeses, Shreik. Overall this issue was pretty quality in both storytelling and art. For those that enjoyed the DC Animated Universe, this title stands as an ark to the legacy of many beloved TV shows.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Justice League #19: Drawn by Ivan Reis, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Jonathan Glapion
Green Lantern: New Guardians #19: Drawn by Andres Guinaldo, Colored by Wil Quintana, Inked by Raul Fernandez
DC Universe Presents #19: Art by Javier Pina, Colored by Jason Wright
Red Hood and the Outlaws #19: Art by Julius Gopez, Colored by Nei Ruffino
Supergirl #19: Art by Mahmud Asrar, Colored by Dave McCaig
Nightwing #19: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund
Sword of Sorcery #7: Art by Aaron Lopresti, Colored by Hi-Fi
Action Comics #19ushers in a brand new era in the title with the departure of comics legend Grant Morrison from the book and the advent of Andy Diggle on stories and Tony S. Daniel on art. Grant Morrison is just short of a godhood in the realm of 21st century comic lore and his nineteen issue run (#0 issue included) was an incredible, psychedelic roller-coaster ride that befits his vaunted reputation. Large shoes to fill, but I still am excited by the Diggle/Daniel team up. Andy Diggle is an incredible writer whose Green Arrow: Year One series was tight, concise, and a very good intro to the character for newbies. Tony S. Daniel is one of my favorite writer/artists because of his attention to visual storytelling and the round, sumptuous lines of his artwork. The two together prove to be a symphony really utilizing the characters and visual grandeur of the Superman line to the fullness of their potential. Superman is young and idealistic and still at a stage prior to the events of Superman #1, as becomes blatantly clear with the introduction of a character already “introduced” to us in the future in that aforementioned Superman issue. Daniel draws him with youthful exuberance and a stoic concern when he is tested by bad men in big machines. Lex Luthor, also a character in this arc, is quite different than the only time we have met him in the first six issue arc of Morrison’s run. There he was a little chunky and arrogant. Here he is lean, and has shed his cavalier attitude for an ice cold demeanor that is very wolf-like and predatory. He is infinitely complex and his mental psyche is explored quite candidly in a very terse scene with his psychiatrist. Diggle writes him exquisitely and Tony Daniel’s art captures all of his ominous potential in some very chilling expressions. To put it mildly, this new Action line up is incredible. Though Morrison has moved on, the title will continue to shine brightly as a star in the DC crown, thanks to two of the most promising creators in the medium.
The Psychiatrist and the Psychopath
Detective Comics #19 (#900)was an issue to remember and a reminder of how pissed I am at DC for renumbering their books. If they had not gone through with the renumbering as a result of the Reboot this would have been issue #900. They didn’t make note of it either on the cover, even for this MOMENTOUS occasion, considering no other title in comics, besides Action (WHICH GOT THE #900 ON THE COVER!) has ever reached that landmark. That said, going into it there was a lot of pressure on them to do it right. In Action Comics #900 writer Paul Cornell capped off what was perhaps one of the most massive Lex Luthor stories ever told and truly blew the reader away with a testimonial as to just how deep Luthor’s hatred for Superman runs. In this 900th issue of the title that launched Batman in the late 30’s current writer John Layman had to pick a topic to write about that segued into his current run on the book while at the same time telling a story quintessentially enmeshed in the Batman mythos. The Joker was not possible, because Scott Snyder already used him up two months ago. The Scarecrow was a decent option, except that he’s been overused of late. Penguin is a part of the story, but still not quite right. Layman chose to find the answer in the name of his main character. Bat . . . Man. Man . . . Bat. Apparently in the Reboot Kurt Langstrom hasn’t been introduced into Batman’s scope and thus the introduction of a viral version of his serum that infects people and turns them into literal bat-men and women leads to his New 52 debut. The story is fast paced, clean, engaging, well thought out and if one ignores the annoying contradictions arising from the links to the semi-rebooted Batman Incorporated series, which is predicated on Batman knowing about Kurt Langstrom LONG before this point, its absolutely perfect. As with Action Comics #900 there are also other shorter pieces that tie integrally into the Batman character, paying homage to it’s impact on the world at large. As is usually the case, Layman follows up on the main story with a backup feature that highlights a loose end brought up in the main story with Andy Clarke providing beautiful art. Without giving too much away, it tells the story of Francine Langstrom, Kurt’s wife, and how she met and fell in love with her husband. Following the tragic fate of her husband this feature shows the true depth of her love for him, which honestly made me mist up a little. Coupled with the main story, these two make the issue worth $7.99 by themselves. James Tynion IV, cowriter of Talon, with the help of Justice League Dark artist, Mikel Janin, tells the next tale which features Bane on his island haven of Santa Prisca that connects his disappearance at the end of Batman: The Dark Knight #7 to a coming appearance in Talon #7. Though the beauty of Janin’s art seems to clash with the harshness of the subject material, it’s still a delight to look at precisely for that reason. John Layman then finishes the issue off with two more short stories. One explaining why Ogilvy engineered the Manbat infestation and what happened during that chaotic night, as well as introducing a twist in Penguin (Oswald Cobblepot’s) fate following last issue’s events. Last but not least, he tells the story of a police officer recovering in Gotham Central Hospital from his transformation to a manbat and back to a person. Most of the cops there hate Batman and hold no punches in talking trash about him. The female police rookie from Batman #12 who had to guard Joker’s face is among the cops and she speaks out for the Caped Crusader. After all the other cops leave in disgust, the injured cop in his hospital bed confides that Batman was the reason that he didn’t kill anyone as a manbat. But for Batman he’d have been a murderer and for that reason he agrees to be her partner when no else would partner up with her. Across the board this issue did Batman proud. Quality storytelling and beautiful art, in both the stories themselves and the pinups between features. Well worth the read for any Batman fan.
A Wife’s Love
Green Lantern #19is a twofold issue. On one side writer Geoff Johns is progressing the story toward Hal Jordan literally making the “leap” to becoming a Black Lantern. As Johns hinted seven months ago, Hal is destined to be the greatest Black Lantern of all time. Unthinkable as it may seem, Johns is taking us there and I for one cannot wait to see Hal in the black outfit, which we were cheated of seeing during Blackest Night by Barry Allen’s incredible speed. The main plot this issue tackles is Sinestro falling under the scrutiny of Volthoom, the First Lantern. In fact, Sinestro and his world of Korugar are precisely what Volthoom needed to fulfill his evil plans for the universe. This is it though. After this issue all that remains of the plot is Green Lantern #20. Then Geoff John’s vision of Green Lantern will conclude itself with his departure from the series and a new day will dawn on the GL line of books. I have to say that I am sad to see him leave. This was one series that he consistently did right. His long time collaborator, artist Doug Mahnke was absent again this issue, with Adrian Syaf and Szymon Kudranski splitting duties on artwork. No doubt it’s to give Mahnke time to do the art on what is solicited to be a massive finale issue, but the choice of these two seems to be a logical one. Syaf draws Sinestro quite well, endowing the fallen Green Lantern with all the arrogance and anger that befit him, and Kudranski’s eerily shadowed, monochromatic art sets a very stark tone for the Hal Jordan scenes taking place in the “Dead Zone.” This issue is phenomenal, epitomizing what is essential about both Hal and Sinestro.
Green Arrow #19is for the most part an extended duel between Green Arrow and his black clad nemesis, Komodo. What is important about it is the psychology. The interplay between these two archers not only informs the reader about archery in general from Ollie’s narration and the verbal repartee between the two, but also about the archers themselves. Ollie’s deepest thoughts and drives are either told to us or insinuated through his actions and reactions to the events chronicled by writer Jeff Lemire. Also a major twist is Komodo’s revelation as to the nature of Robert Queen’s (Green Arrow’s dad) death. Ollie knew it was a helicopter crash that coincided with his marooning on the island, but the exact nature was unbeknownst to him until this issue. Also of interest is Komodo and his daughter, Emiko. Komodo, whose real name is Lacroix, looks to be Caucasian and his daughter, Emiko, from name and appearance looks to be Asian. I only point out their racial characteristics because Komodo and his persona as a black archer seems to be much in the same vein as Merlyn the Magnificent and Emiko and her outfit when she suits up in this issue seems to be a very close (except in age) facsimile of the archer Shado from previous Green Arrow lore. I am very curious to see if Lemire is rewriting the Green Arrow playbook or merely borrowing a few cues. In any event, he delivers a stark, razor’s edge plotline that paints Ollie into a corner and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. Though I admit to not being an Andrea Sorrentino fan, his artwork for this arc in Green Arrow is essential to establishing the feel that is imperative to Lemire’s vision. The two together are like Lennon and McCartney. If you had reservations about the character up until this point, you need to get the series from #17 and go forward from there. Lemire and Sorrentino have resurrected the Emerald Archer back to his rightful place in comic book lore.
The Truth Comes Out
Earth 2 #11ushers in a truly amazing issue of this dynamic title. Last issue we were introduced to Wotan and given a brief glimpse into the history of the Helmet of Fate, housing the power and spiritual essence of the ancient mage, Nabu. Here writer James Robinson takes us even further into the backstories of Nabu, Wotan, and the human, Khalid Ben-Hassin, who finds himself caught between these two mages in their titanic stuggle against one another. The lion’s share of the issue’s narrative follows Khalid’s attempt to locate the helm he had forsaken in the past and his communing with Nabu’s spirit to locate it within the labyrinthine bowls of Fate’s Tower. Nabu believes that Khalid is chose by fate and therefore the only man fit to bear his power, which is something Khalid has fought tooth and nail up until this very moment. Why is that you ask? In their first encounter, after the young archaeologist’s discovery of the helmet in an unearthed Egyptian tomb, Nabu’s essence sought to supplant Khalid’s will and drove him to the brink of insanity. Now with an inspiration to aspire to Khalid intends to brave oblivion and madness to become the hero his Earth desperately needs. James Robinson and artist Nicola Scott knock this series out of the park with beautifully intricate and often moving plots and pictures. What truly made this particular issue for me was a scene in the Eastern European country of Dherain where Steppenwolf dispatches his right hand, Fury (daughter of Wonder Woman), to hunt down two more exiled denizens of Apokalips. Admittedly, this couple are my favorite Fourth Worlders. I am on pins and needles for the next installment.
Miracles Do Happen
Worlds’ Finest #11features the entrance of yet another Apokaliptian. Huntress follows upon a lead connecting the sale of weapons powered by Apokalips technology to the money that has been siphoned from Wayne Enterprises. That lead in North Africa leads her right back to Holt Industries, which Power Girl had been attacking like a harbinger of natural disaster last issue. WE know that Michael Holt was transported to Earth 2, however,that precipitates the question of how he can be back on Earth 1? Enter our mysterious Fourth Worlder, Desaad. Paul Levitz writes this series so well, but this issue was a little dry. Though I am intrigued by the advent of Desaad, this one took a little longer to come to the point. Still an incredible series and one that has great promise in coming issues.
Swamp Thing #19is not unlike Action Comics #19 above. Scott Snyder’s inaugural run of this title was as seminal as Morrison’s on Action. Both were innovative and redefined their respective series. Charles Soule takes over Swamp Thing from Snyder and in the wake of what has been a very important, unique origin story, Soule takes Swamp Thing back to the role he held in all his previous incarnations: guardian of the Green. This includes doing some things that are morally repugnant to him, including measures that lead to the deaths of many innocent people. Despite being the warrior king of the Green Kingdom, Alec Holland hasn’t forgotten that he was once human and his duties do not fail to shake what remains of that humanity. Taking a trip to the Metropolis Botanical Gardens, where he spent many hours during his graduate work to calm his soul, he runs into Scarecrow, himself on an errand from the mysterious society of supervillains hinted at in Justice League of America. Soule does an incredible job of taking this series by the horns and doing something new, yet appropriate to the continuation of the legacy he inherited. Taking over art from Yanick Paquette and Marco Rudy is Spanish artist, Kano. Kano provided art for Swamp Thing #0 and in my review for it, I quote myself as saying, “I pray that he get a shot at another issue or two in future, maybe a whole arc, because his lines and style are so incredible.” https://offthepanelcomicreview.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/week-53-sept-5-2012/ Wish granted. He continues his exquisite art here and looks to be attached for the foreseeable future. Like Supergirl,Superman, and Action, all of which have gone through major paradigm shifts, this series set the hook, ensuring for me at least continued readership.
Batwing #19continues the era of change. Those who have been keeping up with Batwing know that a reckoning is coming. David Zavimbe is a good cop in a country rotting from its bowels in corruption. He has lived under the assumption that good will and perseverance can win against evil. Those beliefs have died with his bestfriend and mentor, Matu Ba. Now Batwing is going to town with a tomahawk and NO ONE is sacred. Neither friends nor enemies are safe from his wrath. While his path up until this issue have been held retarded through moral restraint, this issue has him cutting through any impediment to justice like butter. But in the end, its just a means for him to clean house before leaving his role as the Batman of Africa. Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray take over with this issue to conclude David Zavimbe’s tenure as Batwing and inaugurate the his replacement. Batman says that this new candidate was his “first choice” for Batwing. Palmiotti and Gray are good writers, but I am questioning their choice of his replacement and what that means for Batman’s judgement. I won’t spoil who he is, but I will say that though he is African, he’s actually African American, born and raised in Gotham. It seems a little racist to me that they assume that a guy can represent peoples and places he has never been. Just cause his ancestors were from Africa doesn’t mean that he can represent them. Batman was born and raised in Gotham, Nightrunner (the Batman of France) though of North African extraction was raised in Paris, Mr. Unknown in Japan, etc. I’m not impugning their rationale or saying they can’t pull it off, but Palmiotti and Gray have set up a pretty implausible foundation to their run and the series’ new direction. Time will tell . . .
Batwing Goes Out With A Bang
Phantom Stranger #7continues the Stranger’s quest to find his abducted family. On the way he meets up with the “Voice” in its form as a Scottish terrier. While discoursing upon this religious and philosophical the Voice leads the Phantom Stranger to the next person whom he is to betray: Jack Ryder. A super conservative television newsman with an over inflated ego, Ryder finds his career on the rocks. Yet in the darkest hour of Metropolis and in Superman’s absence, Ryder stays on the air to report the chaos occurring downtown, just outside the studio. Dan Didio resurrects his version of the Challengers of the Unknown for this grand display of coalescing fear and fearlessness. The Stranger yet again leads a human being unto their ruin and death, but the great betrayer finds himself at the spears edge of his own betrayal by ones very close to him and his past. Dan Didio concocts a very compelling, mysterious series that draws the reader through a very diverse cross-section of the DCU.
Legends of the Dark Knight #7presents a tale of Arkham Asylum rarely seen. Inmates are seeing a ghost, as is the Dark Knight. Following the strange occurrences, Batman is lead into a decades old murder case that ties to the staff of the Asylum and a restless “spirit.” This series has produced some very intriguing tales surrounding the Batman, exploring the world that has developed around his actions and their consequences. This one wasn’t the best developed so far. The substance of this “vengeful spirit” and even the question of how she manifests is unanswered and rather lackluster.
Smallville: Season Eleven #12 packs quite a wallop, achieving quite a bit in one issue, and also concluding the four part “Haunted” arc. Superman goes to-to-toe with the Black Flash in order to save Bart. However, that is just an evasive tactic that can only go so far. Bart invariably is the one that is destined to fight the Black Flash, which he accepts and does heroically. Delving into the mind of her Earth 2 doppelganger, Chloe Sullivan relives the life of her other self on that other Earth and sees for the first time the Moniters who play harbinger to the “Crisis” Earth-2 Chloe foretold before her death. Both of these two events hail dark tidings for the world of “Smallville”, but a few bright lights shine through the darkness. Fighting the Black Flash allowed the radioactive isotope Lex put into Superman’s system as a tracking mechanism to fully dissipate, meaning that Clark can reunite with his fiancee, Lois Lane. Lex’s dearly departed sister, Tess, has been a thorn in her brother’s side for sometime and with his resources, he is not one to allow a thorn to remain no matter how difficult it is to remove. This issue gives Tess safe harbor in some respect from her brother’s dark machinations. This series really holds up to its televised predecessor.