Jan. 22, 2014

This week was a Batweek.  Even if the book wasn’t a Bat-title per se, Batman and his family of characters seemed to shine through.  This week also heralds the return of one of the most interesting, innovative series being put out: The Unwritten.  Altogether this week’s batch of comics (and make-up comic in the form of Superman/Wonder Woman #3) represent their respective titles well.

  • Batman #27 is one of the quintessential issues of this title in understanding the New 52 version of Batman.  Though he has been written by several talented writers in the rebooted continuity, Scott Snyder has been given the helm of the titular Batman title and made it the seminal series within the Batbooks group, often deferred to by the other titles in regard to canon.  This issue more than proves why so much faith is put in Snyder’s custodianship of the character.  So far Snyder’s “Zero Year” plot has taken Bruce Wayne from twenty-five year old journeyman to the opening cases of his career as Gotham City’s fabled vigilante.  Snyder’s Batman from the present had bucked tradition a little bit, but for the most part rode the company line.  This younger Bruce Wayne is much different from most versions we’ve seen thus far.  Snyder’s modern Batman as well as other versions have been terse and reserved with the character of Alfred, but “Year Zero” Batman is very cold with his manservant.  What’s more, he has a downright dislike for James Gordon that transcends his nocturnal identity and is rooted in his civilian life as Bruce Wayne.  In this issue Snyder gives both Gordon and Alfred their say, forcing Bruce to reevaluate each, but even more so, to reevaluate himself.  Snyder interprets Bruce’s war on crime as more than a personal vendetta against criminality, but also against Gotham City itself and the citizens who populate it, and finds an apt mouthpiece for this theory in the person of Alfred Pennyworth who has known Bruce his entire life.  It’s certainly a stark perspective, but one that fits the persona of Batman exceedingly well, further enriching the mystique of the character.  Commissioner Gordon’s part in the story depicts a very hopeless landscape that an honest Gotham cop walks in Pre-Batman Gotham, rectifying the misconceptions Bruce had distilled over a decade and a half of resentment.  Outside of the character driven plot points, this issue begins what appears to be the endgame of “Zero Year,” which began with the origin of the Joker and transitioned into Dr. Death’s killing spree with his horrific osteogenic serum.  Always in the background has been Edward Nygma, aka the Riddler.  Nygma had a line on the Red Hood gang, he was Bruce’s uncle’s right hand man at Wayne Enterprises, and he singlehandedly engineered the massive blackout that descended Gotham into anarchy around the advent of the tropical storm Rene.  The Riddler appears to be making his move from the shadows to the forefront of the “Zero Year” plot.  Encompassing some of the greatest storytelling in comics today, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman is a multifaceted, intelligent journey under the cowl that is destined to go down in the character’s history as one the THE enduring interpretations of the Dark Knight.Batman27-1

    Darkest Vengeance.

    Darkest Vengeance.

  • Batman & Two-Face #27 is shaping up well, giving great depth to the character of Two-Face.  Writer Peter Tomasi did a decent job illuminating inherent qualities of the binary badguy during Villains Month in his Two-Face one-shot, but in this arc of his Batman & Robin title he really mines the recesses of Harvey Dent’s past to show the moment when the former district attorney took the dive into madness.  So far we’ve seen the return of Irish mobster Erin McKillen to Gotham and the very special relationship she has with the fallen Gotham DA.  Once upon a time she put a letter opener through the heart of Harvey’s wife, Gilda, and then burned half his face off with acid.  Now considering the complex and nascently sinister nature of “Handsome” Harvey, as well as the very intimate nature of their associations, I assumed Harvey in some way did something to deserve what happened to him, such as perhaps sleeping with Erin’s identical twin, Shannon, who’s death we are told Erin blames on Harvey.  Nope.  Shannon died in prison after Harvey put her and Erin away for being scum.  He violated a few laws of ethics in doing so, but if we are going to look down on a lawyer for screwing psychopathic killers out of a few degrees of jurisprudence then reading a book about a man that dresses like a bat and brutalizes criminals without due process might not be the best choice. So did Shannon get killed on the inside by someone with a beef, thereby putting even a minute modicum of blame on Harvey?  Nope.  She drew straws with Erin as to who was going to commit suicide so the other could escape prison in the deceased’s bodybag.  So if Erin REALLY wants to take out the person responsible for her sister’s untimely death she should put the gun to her own head before seeking out Harvey.  This issue reveals more about Harvey’s past and the connection with the McKillen family and again, contrary to my expectations, Harvey comes out cleaner with every page read.  He was the personal attorney for the McKillens before his conscience and a little push by Bruce Wayne got him in the DA’s office where he made things right and muzzled two mad dogs.  This change of conscience coming when the sisters ordered a hit on Commission Gordon’s pre-teen CHILDREN!!!  Two-Face is an angry guy throughout most comics.  He is the guy that always rides the edge of straight-up loosing it and is second only to the Joker as someone you have to tip toe around when dealing with.  This arc by Tomasi is making ME angry and totally justifies Harvey Dent’s anger in my eyes.  Erin McKillen has so much innocent blood on her hands and so cavalierly is willing to murder children and innocent women like Gilda Dent and Commissioner Gordon’s wife that I DO NOT think this series would be any better if she survives the arc. If Peter Tomasi’s goal was to elicit solidarity and sympathy with Two-Face he has at least one definite success in myself.Batman&Robin27
  • Batwoman #27 is a series in major transition.  A lot of the controversy comes from the authoritative stance DC editorial has exerted on the writing of their properties, which caused a huge rift with original Batwoman writers J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, forcing the duo to leave the title.  Marc Andreyko was brought on board following their departure and the rationale behind this, for those with a conspiratorial mind,  is probably twofold.  I personally have never been impressed by his writing at all.  His Manhunter series was okay, but nothing to write home about.  His recent reintroduction of the short lived Stalker series from the 1970’s was criminally awful.  He’s got a lot to prove.  So far he’s written three issues of the series.  The jury remains out.  His “Zero Year” tie-in with the #25 issue was decent and confirmed what we already knew about Kate Kane’s desire to do good, but wasn’t very engaging or innovative.  It also preempted the resolution to the cliffhanger ending of Williams and Blackman’s final issue, which is frustrating to Batwoman‘s readers in and of itself.  Last issue Andreyko began a completely new arc with a villain called the Wolfspider, a brown costumed Spider-Man ripoff with a penchant for art thievery.  The dialogue and interaction between characters was flatter than day old beer and didn’t draw me in at all.  The action sequences were well-conceived, but perhaps only came off as such because of artist Jeremy Haun.  This issue I will say was much more engaging to read and felt like an issue of the previous run.  However, this is largely due to the fact that its story is predicated on Batwoman being drugged by Wolfspider and tripping for a large portion of the actual plot.  With that said, all Andreyko had to do was create a collage of traumatic moments from Kate’s past and fill in some word bubbles that due to the nightmarish nature of the dream don’t have to be particularly well written.  The brunt of those sequences were visual and THANKFULLY drawn by one of DC’s top tier artists: Francis Manapul.  Manapul’s art and co-writing are responsible for the incredible Flash series and in Batwoman his art makes the issue flow in much the same way J.H. Williams III’s art did in the initial issues of the series.  Upon awakening from her nightmare in the apartment of her fiancee, Det. Maggie Sawyer, she is greeted by a startling surprise.  The final panel sets the stage for an interesting 28th issue.  The lingering question outside of the plot is whether Andreyko is up to the task of writing the continuation?  Were he taking over any other title from any other writer(s) then his capabilities as a writer wouldn’t be under as much scrutiny.  But to his great misfortune he’s taking over Batwoman from two incredible creators and he may have flown too close to the sun.Batwoman27
  • Green Lantern: The New Guardians #27 reunites White Lantern Kyle Rayner with his former foe, Exeter, but this time as allies.  Exeter’s role as the “Watcher” was two-fold, standing watch over the “Anomoly” at the edge of the Universe and safeguarding his home star system.  With the defeat of Relic who emerged from the Anomoly, Exeter’s only task now is maintaining peace in his home sector.  However, in his absence Exeter’s people have turned genocidal against their peaceful fungal neighbors.  The rationale behind their unwarranted attacks and the culprit behind the elaborate ruse that precipitated them makes for an interesting plot situationally and philosophically.  Following “Lights Out” and the complete paradigm shift of the books I was beginning to grow tired of the Green Lantern group of books, which truly is a sad commentary considering how insanely I followed them for years.  I even contemplated dropping this particular series.  However, what this issue of New Guardians as well as others through the Lantern books have done is reestablish the universal scope of the Green Lantern line.  Back in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s that was what the Green Lantern books were all about.  With the return of the Green Lantern title in 2005 under Geoff Johns the scope became refined to simply the different colored Lantern Corps.  Perhaps one of the best runs in comic history, but a concept that eventually ran its course.  The re-institution of a wide panoply of allies and adversaries by Robert Venditti, Van Jensen, and Justin Jordan is a promising return to some of the greatness of the earlier series done by Len Wein and Steve Englehart. The artwork in this issue was also encouraging, because while regular series artist Brad Walker is a talented penciller, #27’s artist and chronic New Guardians relief artist Andrei Bressan provides gorgeous work that hits on several levels for me personally.  I have reconsidered my hastiness in dropping these books and I would urge those that have dropped them or thought about it to also reconsider leaving the Corps.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #27 is an issue that has been in the making since the beginning of the series two and a half years ago.  Original writer Scott Lobdell began Jason’s odyssey by having Talia al-Ghul arrange for him to be trained by Ducra, head of the All-Caste, to battle the Untitled.  The All-Caste represents the forces of light and the Untitled the forces of darkness.  Sadly, Lobdell who made this one of the best DC series right out of the starting gate left the title months before this issue, leaving it to emerging talent James Tynion IV.  Tynion is a decent writer and whether or not the course of the title had been plotted by Lobdell prior to his departure or whether Tynion spun his own path to resolving the All-Caste/Untitled war is not known.  However, the conclusion to these plotpoints was expertly drafted by Tynion and rendered spectacularly by artist Julius Gopez.  The series as a whole has worked so well owing to its predication on the complexity of the character of Jason Todd, former Robin and one of the most controversial DC characters.  Stripped of his petulant youth and brought back from the dead, Jason has become a very mysterious, haunted individual that gives Batman a run for his money.  To defeat the Untitled and survive requires the purest of souls, making him an unlikely but not impossible choice for the task.  Whether Lobdell planned out the past several issues that Tynion has written or whether Tynion rocked it out on his own, his run on the series concludes with next month’s 28th issue.  Following that Red Hood and the Outlaws yet again enters uncharted territory under the helm of Will Pfeifer and artist Rafa Sandaval.  Even if it tanks, the first 30 issues have been outstanding.  RHATO27
  • Wonder Woman #27 is a book that I find myself torn over.  Brian Azzarello is a fantastic writer.  Cliff Chiang, who drew this issue, as well as Dave Akins and Goran Sudzuka are top notch talents.  The plot is interesting and it is innovative.  And yet I find myself laboring to reconcile its rendition of the Might Amazon with those that came before it and the legacy of what Wonder Woman should embody.  It makes her the daughter of Zeus, thrusting her further into the world of ancient Greek mythology, but at the cost of her connection and immersion in the DCU.  It give license for her awesome power, but cuts off her mortality and the struggle to achieve her strength and prowess that could empower her readership.  *Ahem* —That same fact is why Batman will ALWAYS be superior to Superman– *Ahem*  Not to mention Azzarello’s questionable choice of turning the Amazons into craven, infanticidal rapists.  And anyone who messes with Jack Kirby gains a large helping of Algerian ire.  His version of classic Kirby character Orion is downright awful, not to mention High Father and the New Gods.  Hang your head in shame, Mr. Azzarello.  Ya done bad.  In this issue very little is accomplished by Azzarello, but to be fair a decent amount is set up.  Wonder Woman turns a former foe into an ally by picking a fight with Artemis, a fight she throws to butter up her half-sister, the Moon.  Dio takes Zola to the south of France and turns a bunch of horny teenagers into pigs.  And Cassandra seeks out a weak god to open the gates of Olympus for her.  In that last development, Azzarello continues to show how strange his interpretation of Greek myth is by having Cassandra lead out on a leash her Minotaur who is basically a dude in a ox-masked gimp costume.  Always classy, Azzarello.  Perhaps the saving grace of this issue, falls once again on something I appreciated last week in my return to Superman/Wonder Woman #2.  In Wonder Woman Apollo has been mercilessly torturing his eldest brother, the First Born, in order to break him and stop him from seeking that which he always sought: the thrown of Olympus.  Though the First Born has always sought it, even when Zeus was sitting upon it, Apollo sees it as his right and would do horrific things to his brother to keep it.  All fine and good.  But the braggart took too much pleasure in it and “pride cometh before the fall,” as the saying goes.  The First Born breaks out of his bonds and looks to beat the tar out of his baby brother.  Good on ya, my friend!  So pompous and overconfident is Azzarello’s Apollo that he can never get the crap kicked out of him enough times to still that wagging tongue of his.  The First Born is not like Superman who has restraint.  This time I think Apollo may have stepped in it, but good.  If Azzarello lingers on what the First Born does to Apollo and puts the Sun where he won’t shine (figuratively and metaphorically) I will sway my opinion of this series in a more favorable light.  Until then I pray this run reaches its conclusion and Wonder Woman trades hands to a more traditionalist writer.  WonderWoman27-1

    Instant Karma's Gonna Getcha.

    Instant Karma’s Gonna Getcha.

  • The Unwritten: Apocalypse #1 is the beginning of the end for the Unwritten series, but also a really conversational, well paced reintroduction to what the series is essentially about.  When last we saw Tom Taylor he was magically drawn into the world of Fable by the strongest magi of that world to defeat the megalomaniacal boogeyman,  Mr. Dark.  All attempts to stop him, even by Tom and his youthful, allegorical iteration, Tommy, are thwarted by Dark leaving Tom with one last ditch option: blow the trumpet that made all things to unmake everything.  System reboot. Start over from scratch.  Normally that kind of “if I can’t win, no one can” tactic is used by the more villainous irk, so the utilization of it by Tom was an interesting choice by series creators Mike Carey and Peter Gross, leaving the realm of possibilities wide open for their next arc.  Right off the bat Carey and Gross show the importance of words and their perception vs their reality.  As ever the course of the story is steeped in literary allusion and the scientific “mythology” of evolution, which serves as an allegory for the evolution of stories from simple concepts to increasingly complex plots.  It’s always a safe bet that Mike Carey and Peter Gross will entertain, educate, and enchant with their collaborations.  As the title denotes, this is the duo’s swansong on this series.  The Unwritten is in its “end of times” and the stories we see from here on out will determine the fate of Tom, his companions, and every incredible Carey/Gross creation since its first issue almost five years ago.
  • Superman/Wonder Woman #3 remains one of the best DC comics being published and only on its third issue.  After the conflict with her family, Superman and Wonder Woman part ways again on awkward terms.  Supes feeling awkward about his loss of control after being overloaded with power from Apollo’s ill-conceived assault on him with concentrated sunbeams and Wonder Woman struggling to understand Christmas and what to get Superman considering his love of the holiday.  These concerns are put aside with the advent of General Zod to Earth from the Phantom Zone.  Zod tears it up and is initially met by the (at that time unannounced) Justice League of America headed by Steve Trevor.  When Superman and Wonder Woman arrive there is a great amount of tension considering that Trevor is Diana’s ex, but more so because Superman demands custody of Zod considering his status as a Kryptonian.  Though they aren’t nations, this is very much like an international standoff of Cold War proportions.  The JLA was formed to counter the unchecked might of the Justice League and Superman taking charge of an even more volatile member of his race could be construed by a weary mind as the beginnings of an invasion.  However, Steve Trevor is equally verse in politics as he is in modern warfare, so he lets it go for the time being.  The issue ends with Wonder Woman unveiling her gift for the Man of Steel which is incredibly thoughtful and something that money could never buy.  Yet again, writer Charles Soule has a bombshell to drop by issue’s end.  Overall, this third installment of Superman/Wonder Woman is nothing short of enthralling, providing entertaining plots as well as intimate insight into what it’s like to be Superman and Wonder Woman.  The lattermost point is more true in this title than Wonder Woman’s own book by Brian Azzarello in which the Amazing Amazon is just an incidental character in a bizarre modern retelling of Greek mythology.  If you are a Wonder Woman fan Superman/Wonder Woman is the title you want to get.  However, Charles Soule doesn’t stop there.  He also mines the character of those around the Super-Couple as well.  In this issue Batman talks Superman down from the Moon (literally) when the latter is hiding because of his power overload.  Through the discourse Batman gives a lot of information about the intrinsic natures of both Superman and Wonder Woman, the dangers of each, the world’s possible perception of their relationship, and his own impressions of his teammates.  He tells us all this about them, but in doing so Batman also tells us a lot about himself.  There is not enough that can be said about how incredible this series is.  From a writer’s perspective Charles Soule has the concept of the title orchestrated like a symphony.  In the realm of art Tony Daniel is producing some of his best work to date.  This is a comic for anyone who likes DC characters, but may not like DC Comics at the present time.
    What Are Friends For?

    What Are Friends For?

     

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #27: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored FCO Plascencia, Inked by Danny Miki.

Batman & Two-Face #27: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray.

Batwoman #27: Art & Colored by Francis Manapul.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #27: Drawn by Julius Gopez & Noel Rodriguez, Colored Nei Ruffino, Inked by Sandu Florea, Walden Wong & Dan Green.

Wonder Woman #27: Art by Cliff Chiang, Colored by Matthew Wilson.

Superman/Wonder Woman #3: Drawn by Tony Daniel, Colored Tomeu Morey, Inked by Batt.

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Nov. 13, 2013-Jan. 15, 2014

It has been a criminally long time since I have been able to sit down and interact with my comics in the form of writing this blog and externalizing my thoughts and appreciation for this incredible medium.  With this post I hope to highlight a few of the issues that I have loved in that interim and get back in the swing of reading my comics and writing about them to illuminate their content to others, but also myself.  So here goes:

  • Batman #25 tells the story of the Blackout in Gotham, but oddly enough doesn’t deal with the Riddler at all or explore the consequences of what he did.  Instead, writer Scott Snyder uses the Blackout as a way of the emergent Batman finding an environment in which his skills and innate qualities find fallow ground to root themselves.  Without the Blackout, Batman might have had to try harder to ingrain himself in the collective awareness of Gotham as a force for good and not just a crazy nutjob in a bat costume.  However, as mentioned before, the Riddler is put on the back burner after blowing the Gotham City power grid and submerging the city into chaos in the midst of an impending tropical storm designated “Rene.”  In his place, Batman sleuths a rash of bizarre . . . occurrences . . . in which victim’s bones grow uncontrollably like trees, bursting out of their bodies and leaving the carcass draped atop like a Christmas tree angel.  With some inadvertent tips from future police commissioner James Gordon, Bruce learns that the serum used was designed by a former Wayne Enterprises scientist, Karl Helfren, aka Doctor Death.  When he probes into Helfren’s past, Bruce also learns of an accomplice that will surely shock readers.  The issue is certainly shrouded in mystery, beginning with a brief two page cut to US soldiers in Nigeria finding a door in the ground hidden in the middle of an arid plain and ending with those soldiers dead and their trucks on fire.  How those scenes are rectified with  the main narrative is an intriguing question.  In the backup feature, Snyder and his protegee James Tynion IV write a tale of the Blackout told from the perspective of the average person, in this case a very young Harper Row and her little brother Cullen.  The two kids don’t have a mother and their father is a two-bit criminal and absentee parent, so it falls to them to look out for one another.  Cullen is scared, but Harper (who grows up to be a burgeoning electrical genius) makes a lamp for her brother to push back the darkness.  It’s not easy, but she’s able to overcome when the needs arise.  She tell Cullen that there are people out there that see fear and darkness and rise up to push these forces back and help those that are also scared.  It’s a brief yet poignant commentary on the superhero ideal and what breeds heroes.  Also noteworthy is Andy Clarke’s gorgeous artwork that creates a beautifully stark ambiance of Gotham life.  It goes without saying that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, with the added help of James Tynion IV and Andy Clarke, are making this book one of THE comics to pick up.

    What Makes a Hero?

    What Makes a Hero?

  • Superman/Wonder Woman #2 brings on the much anticipated continuation of last month’s meteoric first issue.  In Superman/Wonder Woman #1 writer Charles Soule delivered a very intimated and thoughtful examination of the relationship between two titanic figures of the DCU and the inherent hurdles they have to leap constantly in order to be together and understand one another.  If that was all the issue was it would have been worth the cover price, but Soule and artist Tony Daniel had far more in store for us, releasing perhaps the greatest surprise appearance of the year: Doomsday!  With Supes busy quelling a storm brought about by the monster’s advent, Wonder Woman finds herself going toe-to-toe with the abomination that in a different continuity killed her boyfriend.  Not something to be trifled with.  As this issue opens the Kryptonian horror delivers a sound beating on the unprepared Wonder Woman until it mysteriously phasing out of reality.  When Superman hears her story he immediately knows what the thing was from Diana’s descriptions and realizes that the seals on the Phantom Zone, a temporal extra-dimensional Kryptonian prison, are wearing thin meaning incursions by Doomsday and the other unsavory menaces imprisoned within might occur more frequently.  In order to prepare for the coming battle with Doomsday, should it reappear, Wonder Woman takes Superman to Mount Aetna to meet Hephaestas and commission custom armaments.  While there Supes also meets Apollo and Strife.  Apollo doesn’t make the best impression, following the very haughty modelling of Wonder Woman writer Brian Azzarello.  I know I am not alone in my dislike of Apollo, which is what makes his encounter with Superman so rewarding to readers.  Apollo is a very overconfident, arrogant ass and while he is IMMENSELY powerful, his being the sun god puts him at a unique disadvantage against the Last Son of Krypton.  One almost feels sorry for the jerk.  Almost.  With their order placed and one Olympian force fed a five fingered slice of humble pie, the stage is set for yet another mouthwatering introduction of a classic Superman character.  Soule and Daniel have this series locked down.  Soule’s writing is topnotch and shows a true love and respect for both the eponymous characters.  Superman is a humble farmboy with powers far greater than ordinary men and Wonder Woman is a proud and noble woman from a proud and noble race of myth.  Every word, every gesture, and every reaction is quintessentially appropriate to each.  Tony Daniel has been one of my favorite artist since he and Grant Morrison took on the Batman title.  As a writer I have enjoyed his work as well.  The man is a consummate professional and whether or not he has any say in the actual writing of Superman/Wonder Woman alongside Charles Soule, his ability as a writer no doubt helps him interpret the scripts to convey minutely the gravity and grandeur of the worlds this book is bringing together.  Wonder Woman and Superman come from two very elaborate time honored mythologies that Soule and Daniel are combining like true professionals.  This first run of the series is off to a commendable start.  If they can sustain it, this could overshadow the actual series of both characters.SupermanWonderWoman2-1

    The Hubris of Gods.

    The Hubris of Gods.

  • Batgirl #25 came off a little lackluster for me.  Dealing with the life of Barbara Gordon, it’s hard to figure out what the purpose of this issue was supposed to be.  It’s already established that Gotham was effed during the “Blackout” and in this tie-in Barbara is put in charge of her little brother, James Jr, while their dad’s at work.  He tells her to “mind the homestead,” but while he is gone the Gordon kids are forcefully evacuated because they are in a flood zone.  In the process young Miss Gordon sees how a disaster can turn regular people into savages.  The point of the issue is more about Gotham than Barbara, which is a little disconcerting.  Normally the Batgirl series focuses heavily on Barbara, which is a credit to series writer Gail Simone’s tenure on the title.  Simone GETS Barbara in a very quintessential way.  Marguerite Bennett penned this one, and I think as a newcomer her writing comes off a little green.  She kind of fumbled the Villains Month released introduction of the character Lobo to the New DCU, and this comic felt equally forced.  The look remains the same with series artist Fernando Pasarin providing art on the issue.  Simone comes back next month with the conclusion of her epic “Batgirl Wanted” arc, which should be worth the read.
  • Green Arrow #26 begins writer Jeff Lemire’s epic “Outsiders War” arc.  In his first arc, Lemire DRASTICALLY altered Oliver Queen’s life, taking away his company, framing him for murder, and clearing the board of a few characters from the initial issues of the rebooted series.  He also introduced the Merlyn-esque archer, Komodo, and the inklings of the larger organization Komodo belongs to called the Outsiders.  In his second arc he introduced the rarely utilized GA character, Shado, unused extensively since her creation in the 80’s by Mike Grell.  Komodo and Shado represent two halves of the life and ultimate death of Oliver’s father, Robert Queen.  With those in the rearview, we now enter into the actualization of Green Arrow’s destiny with Lemire’s third arc, entitled “Outsiders War.”  So far, Ollie has taken down Komodo (relieving the onyx archer of one eye) and on two separate occasions he’s taken down the Eastern European despot Count Vertigo.  Both of these men have strong ties to the Outsiders who themselves have very ominous plans for the Arrow Clan. Now Shado is taking him back to the island to fulfill his destiny by claiming the totem arrow that will grant enlightenment and dominion of those dedicated to archery.  Robert Queen sought the island and combed every inch of it looking for the arrow, explaining the picture that Oliver found of Robert, Komodo, and Emerson on the island in the lattermost’s office.  Shado drags him back and as the issue unfolds Lemire has Oliver slowly relive his time there.  His reticence to return can be summed up by the harsh memories he accumulated while stranded and his shame at being reminded of his past.  Ollie was a vacuous waste of space before being washed up on the island and his initial days there were spent shedding that shallowness and tapping into his intrinsic potential.GreenArrow26-1 Robert had instructed Oliver in archery, which Ollie’d never taken serious and rarely practiced.  Those lessons resurface and the birth of Green Arrow began while Oliver discovered the cost of survival.  The next step will be seen in later issues following Ollie’s capture by mercenaries in ski-masks.  Awakening from his deja-vu, Shado leads Oliver to the cave wherein lies the talisman his father had so desperately sought.  Meanwhile, the Outsiders have sent one of their own, a bear of a man called Kodiak, to stop Oliver from becoming the head of the Arrow Clan by claiming the “Green Arrow” totem.  Jeff Lemire’s hitting this one out of the park with his clear love and respect for the character of Green Arrow and his intricate weaving of a mythos that emanates from Green Arrow, but also through the Green Arrow title.  The Outsiders have figured cryptically into the background of the Katana series, where the Japanese warrior Tatsu Toro wrestles with the Sword Clan.  Whether Lemire came up with them on his own or collaborated with Katana writer Ann Nocenti (from whom he took over the horribly written and conceived Green Arrow title) what is obvious is that Lemire is the one running this ball into the endzone for what looks to be a clear touchdown.  The promise of what the Outsiders represent and the stories that will spring forth from this arc are destined to be comic book gold.  Series artist Andrea Sorrentino continues his tenure on the book adding a realism to it with his pencil and an ominousness with the very stark contrast between light and shadow.  Working together, Lemire and Sorrentino are the ideal team to make Green Arrow one of the best DC titles currently being published.

    GreenArrow26-2

    The Fabled Green Arrow Totem.

  • Green Arrow #27 continues writer Jeff Lemire’s odyssey toward Green Arrow’s actualization in the “Outsiders War.”  So far Ollie has returned to the island on which he was marooned with the enigmatic archeress Shado in tow seeking the totem arrow that bestows enlightenment upon the ascendant to the chiefdom of the Arrow Clan.  The Outsiders (semi-unified cabal of clan heads) desire Komodo to take this position in their midst and dispatch the Shield Clan’s chief, Kodiak, and his Viking warriors to prevent Ollie from his destined enlightenment.  Picking up with the dramatic ending of issue #26, Ollie and Shado have found the Arrow Chamber, but as this issue opens they find that the totem itself is nowhere to be seen.  Ollie is shocked, but Shado, true to her fox-like, Zen nature tempers Ollie’s impatience with existential questions, all boil down to why and how Oliver came to be marooned on this exact island that his father, Robert Queen, had just so happened to be seeking for so long and upon which the elder Mr. Queen was murder by Komodo?GreenArrow27-2  The exploration of these questions is interrupted by the advent of Kodiak on the island and sporadic ’Nam flashbacks Ollie has to the crucible moments of his time on the island.  Issue #26’s flashbacks showed Ollie being forced to master archery in order to feed himself while awaiting rescue from the island.  The completion of that stage of his development ends with him being captured by masked paramilitary forces on the island.  This issue shows the next and most apocalyptic stage of his transition from soft billionaire playboy to cold hunter/vigilante.  The soldiers under the command of an Oni-masked man torture Ollie for over a week until Ollie snaps and in a survivalist act breaks through from his effete past to the stark figure he has become in the present.  While dodging the Shieldlings and regrouping Shado finally steers Ollie into understanding that his destiny wasn’t mere chance, but an orchestrated effort by individuals to guide him to becoming the avatar of archery.  Once this concept sinks in, Oliver’s Oni-masked antagonist reappears and confirms everything Shado said and removes the demon mask.  With the revelation of this person’s identity the absolute truth of their claim is baldly underscored, but more so the implications of who this person is changes everything the reader has come to believe about the Green Arrow title and what its has fought for.  Jeff Lemire is a genius. Unequivocally, he has taken this failing title and made it infinitely poignant, gripping, and one of the ‘can’t miss books’ of the DC lineup.  Called “Batman with a Bow and Arrow,” GA has been a C-list character with no superpowers who has often times been overshadowed by the more super, more overtly heroic characters of the DCU.  Only a few writers have been able to lift him above the camp and ridiculousness that have haunted the character since his inception.  Jeff Lemire has earned his place in Green Arrow history.  Lemire’s collaborator Andrea Sorrentino provides incredible artwork that in no small part makes this book so engrossing and visually stunning. The two look to be on the title for some time and that is good news for comic readers and the Green Arrow pantheon of characters.

    GreenArrow27-1

    The Bloody Baptism of Green Arrow.

  • Superman Unchained #5 is a turning point in this celebratory “Super” series, revealing not only the nature of the enigmatic cabal known as “Ascension,” but also what their overall motivations, prompting their insane actions thus far.  At the conclusion of issue #4 the leader of Ascension told Lois Lane that General Sam Lane was “father” to both of them.  This turns out to not only be twisted hyperbole, but also a straight up lie no matter how you look at it.  One demerit to writer Scott Snyder.  Through the exposition provided by the Ascension leader, Jonathan Rudolph, Lois Lane and the audience are given incontrovertible evidence that this man isn’t merely misguided, HE’S NUTS!!!  The choice of fabled Ned Ludd as the “face” of their movement is apt considering that the group’s aims have been stated to be the downfall of technology with an anarchist rationale behind it.  The self-righteous rhetoric of Rudolph does nothing to rectify the collateral damage his insane venture will rain down on humanity nor does it in anyway come off as anything but uber-petulant and misguided.  Rarely nowadays are there examples of such clear cut psychopaths in leading comic titles.  Usually some sort of ethos, pathos, or logos is there to somehow give a morally ambiguous justification to the “villainy.”  The use of this kind of character is intriguing and either says something very good about Snyder’s writing or something very bad about it.  Snyder is an amazing writer that has risen meteorically to the top of the comic field in a relatively short period of time.  He is also an overtaxed talent that is writing several titles simultaneously, so it could go either way.  The rest of the title features Superman continuing his emerging relationship with the proto-‘Superman’, Wraith.  In order to continue their quest to locate and stop Ascension, Supes invites Wraith into his Fortress of Solitude.  Superman represents an impartial, unbiased, non-jingoist superheroic doctrine.  Wraith represents the exact opposite and has TOTALLY drunk the US military Kool-Aid.  Just being in the Fortress elicits a philosophical debate about alien technology and who should have custodianship of it: an impartial, responsible individual or the armed forces of one sovereign nation over the nearly two hundred others.  Superman has the moral high ground here, but Wraith cuts back with an equally poignant response involving Superman’s supposed “non-involvement” vis-à-vis his alternate persona of Clark Kent.  In this way, Superman represents what the character should embody and Wraith portrays what Supes was made to be like from the 1950’s through to most of the 70’s, towing the company line and representing “Truth, Justice, and the American way.”  Visibly absent from the first four issues is the looming figure of Lex Luthor awaiting the resolution of Superman’s battle with Ascension to pounce on the battle wearied Man of Steel.  Introduced in this issue is a flashback, drawn by backup artist Dustin Nguyen, that details Clark’s encounter with a sauced up, ignorant farmer that finds out his secret and tells him at shotgun-point that he can’t hide.  Though only seen in glimpses and lacking resolution, this flashback underscores brilliantly the constant dilemma Superman faces everyday by living among us as one of us.  Snyder has created in five issues a multifaceted series that expertly explores the character and all the aspects that have carried over from the original issues 75 years past.  Scott Snyder and artists Jim Lee and Dustin Nguyen have tapped into the pure essence of the Last Son of Krypton.
  • Teen Titans #26 finally reveals the story of Bart Allen after two and a half years of continuous storytelling.  We’ve been told in the past that he was a dangerous criminal that was reconditioned and sent back into the past where he would be cut off from the dangerous elements he incited.  Several months ago when the Titans were first thrown into the timestream Bart and his girlfriend, Kiran Singh (aka Solstice), witness his younger self attempting to commit an act of mass murder against the governmental body known as the ‘Functionary.’  Now after returning to his native time he is made to see everything he has forgotten after being taken back into custody by the Functionary.  After looking at his past I am finding it hard to look at him as anything as terrifying as he has been painted out of context.  The son of religious parents belonging to a Christian-like faith called Creationism, his parents were murdered for those beliefs.  He lets his parents die in order to save his infant sister, Shira, and get her away from the Functionary “Purifiers” that are initiating pogroms against his people.  He becomes a thief to provide for his sister and when she is imperilled he becomes a killer.  He finds sanctuary for her in a safe quarter while undertaking smuggling missions in unsafe conditions that normally killed the pilots after three runs.  Bart makes a couple of dozen until his number finally comes up, but when it does he doesn’t die, but rather attains the superpowers that connect him to the Speed Force and Barry Allen.  Then he initiates the rebellion of the Functionary oppressed that led to his capture and exile.  It wasn’t until his attacks almost killed Shira, that he abandoned the rebellion he started and turned himself in to the Functionary.  I have to say that this origin, while very compelling, failed to depict him as a criminal.  At least in my eyes.  Everything Bart did was for others.  He sacrificed everything for his sister and later for those like himself and his sister who were like rats being oppressed and constantly harried for no reason whatsoever except that their existence was inconvenient for those above them.  There was no Justice League or any apparatus to help the downtrodden so he initiated an armed resistance movement to create a better future.  As stated before there was a scene not fully fleshed out where he was going to do something alluded to being an atrocity.  If writer Scott Lobdell wanted to justifiably depict Bart as a monster he should have given more weight to that moment with more details or circled back around in this issue to that moment or one like it.  That isn’t to say that Lobdell is a bad writer.  On the contrary.  This issue made me feel for Bart and actually I am in his cheering section.  He looks at himself as a monster, just like all the others who have knowledge of who he was (or will be), but I don’t see that and I still see a hero who puts others and their interests before his own.  If I could actually talk to the character I would share with him the words of Barry Allen, the first Flash (in the New DCU): “Keep moving forward.”  Lobdell knocks it out of the park with the help of new series artist Tyler Kirkham.  Kirkham’s art is sharp, it’s vibrant, and his rendering of Bart gives fine detail to every evocative emotion the young hero feels, which once again roots the character in Kid Flash’s experience, making them feel exactly what he feels, enduring his pain as he struggles through unspeakable situations and revelling in his rare moments of triumph bore out of near constant suffering.  Thumbs up to both Lobdell and Kirkham.  This issue was worth the wait, if not shorter than such an immense story deserves.

    Doubt Anything Except a Brother's Love.

    Doubt Anything Except a Brother’s Love.

  • Talon #14 marks an end to the status quo under which the series has been proceeding since its #0 issue.  Calvin Rose was made a Talon after being groomed for the task by the Court of Owls as a young escape artist in the famed Haly’s Circus.  He quit after being sent to kill a beautiful security heiress and her young daughter.  Going on the lam with her, he developed a relationship with her, which he broke to protect her from the Court’s endless search for their missing “toy.”  While on the run, Calvin meets a man whose life was destroyed by the Court as well.  Sebastian Clark.  Clark helps Calvin hit the Court HARD, crippling much of their infrastructure.  In this guided crusade against their common enemy, Calvin meets up again with his former girlfriend, Casey Washington, and her daughter Sarah.  Soon after it comes out that Sebastian Clarke did in fact have his life destroyed by the Court, but it was because he was the disgraced head of the Court at the time of Batman’s interference and the fabled “Night of Owls.”  Danger literally lurks in all directions and Calvin is beset with daunting odds.  His immediate challenges include Sarah’s kidnapping and subsequent brainwashing by the Court, Clarke has a plan afoot to raze Gotham, and a serum has been injected into his bloodstream that melts necrotic tissue, i.e. his entire body.  To a lesser extent Batman has harried most of Calvin’s moves, because no one operates in the Bat’s backyard without his say-so.  However, despite the insurmountable obstacles Calvin is very much like the classic Jack Kirby creation, Mister Miracle.  Both are master escape artists, and like Miracle, Calvin will not be deterred by any odds, even if Batman is counted among them.  With the conclusion of this issue the Court of Owls still exist, but they are once again weakened and the more pressing threats to fair Gotham put to bed for good.  Calvin’s main objectives are accomplished, but his journey toward ending the Owls’ reign continues, albeit under new circumstances and with new allies.  Writer James Tynion has taken the concept of the Court of Owls and made good use of it with the fifteen issues of this series he has written.

    Batman Inc Just Got a Little Bit Cooler.

    Batman Inc Just Got a Little Bit Cooler.

  • Red Lanterns #26 after the big fight between Relic and the remaining Lanterns of all colors, the Reds were given authority of Sector 2814, which contains our solar system.  To demonstrate their authority they attempt to take out one of the greatest evils of our Sector in the form of a despot named Marshal Gensui.  Gensui has enslaved the secondary race of his world and used them as slave labor to build a sphere around their sun to harness its energies to use for his own ends.  Going up against the forces of the planet Kormorax the Red Lanterns, under the command of Guy Gardner are in hot water.  Marshal Gensui has made a career of culling rage, using his intimidation tactics and scientific acumen he has pacified the brutalized masses he exploits.  With those same technologies he pacifies the Red Lanterns, the angriest individuals in the universe.  With that taken into account, writer Charles Soule concludes the two issue arc with an examination of the kinds of rage that exist and how each type fits various situations in better ways.  Peter Milligan, the original Red Lanterns writer did this very well in the past, making a point of highlighting tertiary Red Lanterns who weren’t as popular and whose backstories haven’t found their way into past issues.  One Red, the ox-skulled Skallox, was a murder and a scoundrel sent up the river by his boss as a liability, another named Ratchet was an individual living in an isolationist, dystopian nightmare that craved interaction and was imprisoned and mercilessly tortured for years as a result.  Yet again Soule highlights two lesser Red Corpsman and their individual brands of rage to show the strength of each.  Zilius Zox takes a lead role in these issues, but Ratchet once again shines above the rest.  While he and his fellow Reds are in a stupefied, euphoric haze due to Gensui’s crowd control technologies Ratchet is able to throw off the stupor with his rage, despite the most powerfully ravenous Reds being unable.  What really highlights his character, and it a lot of ways finishes what Milligan began in that bygone issue, was the totality of Ratchet’s capabilities.  Ratchet wasn’t a bad guy.  He wanted friendship and comaraderie and his inability to do so was what fueled his rage.  Being a Red Lantern gave him his hearts desires so slowly his rage was subsiding, which meant that he wouldn’t be able to wield the ring, which also meant that the ring would no longer be able to keep him alive as it did all Red Lanterns whose blood is replaced with a napalm fluid of refined hate.  He was dying no matter what happened, and what he accomplishes in this issue not only expedites that end before prolonged suffering, it also made an enduring place in the hearts and minds of his fellow Corpsmen.  Soule inherited a vast legacy from Peter Milligan and has made proper use of it, penning a fantastic series.

So ends an abbreviated catchup to the weeks missed in my absence. Check back to this post periodically as I will probably take on some other issues that are of note.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #25: Art by Andy Clarke, Colored by Blond.

Superman/Wonder Woman #2: Drawn by Tony S. Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by BATT & Sandu Florea.

Green Arrow #26 & 27: Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo.

Teen Titans #26: Drawn by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Arif Prianto, Inked by Art Thibert & Dan Green.

Talon #14: Art by Emanuel Simeoni, Colored by Jeromy Cox.

Oct. 16, 2013

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

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

    The Mighty Amazon.

    The Mighty Amazon.

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

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

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

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

    The Death of Love.

    The Death of Love.

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

    Nice Guys DO Finish Last . . .

    Nice Guys DO Finish Last . . .

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

    Battle of the Bats.

    Battle of the Bats.

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

    Behold the Oracle.

    Behold the Oracle.

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

    The Heart of Chesire.

    The Heart of Chesire.

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

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

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

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct. 9, 2013

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 #24 is 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?

      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 #1 takes 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 #24 continues 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.GreenLanternCorps24-1

      GreenLanternCorp24-2

      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 #16 enters 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.

      The Worlds of Superman and Wonder Woman.

  • FBP (Federal Physics Bureau) #4 resumes 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.

    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.

    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.

Illustration Credits:

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.

Sept. 25, 2013

With this last week of September comes the last installments of Villains Month.  Personally, I am really excited about the Sinestro, Doomsday, Man-Bat, and Parasite issues, and intrigued by several others out this week.  So far Villains Month hasn’t been a disappointment.  There have been some truly amazing stories told and I look forward to seeing what this week adds to the phenomenal work already done.

  • Justice League #23.4: The Secret Society acts as the bridge between Forever Evil and the rest of Villains Month. Mired in secrets, writer Geoff Johns is clearly setting up reveals for the final or penultimate chapters of his Forever Evil series and stringing readers along for the ride. There is a very engrossing narrative in this issue, with the meat of revelation coming from what is said outside of the story juxtaposed against little things mentioned in dialogue. The issue opens with Alfred Pennyworth of Earth-3, the Outsider, telling the reader that he and Owlman each have a secret. Going forward we see how a Wayne family of four, consisting of Martha and Thomas Wayne and their two sons running for their lives through an alleyway. They are stopped at gunpoint and told to empty out their pockets and their purse . . . in the name of the law.  Since this is Earth-3, of course the benevolent Wayne family would be degenerate criminals. What happens next is masked from sight, and the narrative jumps to the “present” with a fully realized Owlman, who has subjugated Gotham entirely under his absolute control, racing across rooftops, in pursuit of the Joker and searching for his errant side-kick, Talon. The Talon is in fact still Dick Grayson and his parents were still murdered. Alfred mentions offhandedly that Owlman should never have told Dick the truth, which insinuates that Owlman killed them to make Dick into something else.  Alfred also says that Dick was the closest thing Owlman had to a brother, something that even Bruce couldn’t provide him.  It was said before both in Justice League #23 and Forever Evil #1, but Owlman is NOT the Bruce Wayne of Earth-3.  He’s the Batman archetype that fills that role, but Bruce was killed with his parents at the beginning, or so it would seem.  Owlman is Thomas Wayne, and taking into account the mention by Alfred of Bruce not being the brother he needed, the revelation that Alfred killed both Thomas’s parents, and the shot at the beginning of four Waynes running for their lives, it can be deduced that Thomas is Thomas Wayne Jr.  The double intrigue for me comes with the earlier introduction of a Thomas Wayne Jr in Scott Snyder’s inaugural arc of Batman entitled the “Court of Owls” in which Bruce’s supposed brother becomes a near Owlman facsimile in our reality. I wonder which came first, Snyder’s Thomas Jr or Johns’, because as far as I can recall, Owlman of Earth-3 has always been Bruce Wayne in past CSA stories.  Either way, Dick is an integral piece in this puzzle for many reasons and it’s that bond that is so crucial in Owlman’s undoing. The Joker, being an antagonist of Owlman and a denizen of Earth-3, is conversely a force for good. He is a force of chaos that stands to topple absolute power unilaterally wielded in Gotham by Owlman. He is also a man that despite his madness is touched by human suffering and fights to free his city of it. But in a world with absolute evil omnipresent, a hero like the Joker is a very stark hero indeed, as evinced by the five “gifts” the Joker gives to Owlman. Not long after their ultimate encounter the skies turn red and Owlman is informed by Ultraman that something is attacking their world. Another jump in time brings the reader to the moment which began the New DCU starting with the events of Justice League #1. The Outsider and Atomica enter our world by unknown means with the rest of the Crime Syndicate of America left on Earth-3. It was this glimpse that we saw at the end of Justice League #6 a year and a half ago when the Outsider began recruiting for the Secret Society. What this issue did that was the most interesting was qualifying the capture of Nightwing by the CSA and what it really means in the long term. I have developed mixed feelings about Geoff Johns’ writing of late, but he’s legitimately got me excited about Forever Evil. Don’t screw it up, Geoff.JusticeLeagueSecretSociety1

    JusticeLeagueSecretSociety2

    The Joker. This is What a Hero Looks Like on Earth-3.

  • Action Comics #23.4: Metallo is the second Superman themed Villains Month issue that Sholly Fisch, Action Comics backup writer during Grant Morrison’s run, attempts. Like Bizarro in the first batch of villains, this one played to Morrison gold, but fell a little flat.  John Corben has always been a psychotic, but this issue did nothing to elaborate on that or do anything interesting. Corben was in a coma after the events of Action Comics #8, and this issue picks up on General Sam Lane’s attempts to wake him up with as many government and military resources as he can muster. Corben continues his sociopathic tendencies, eliciting nothing interesting to readers, but rather making us question why the HELL Sam Lane has so much faith in such a giant loser. But even Sam Lane’s patience is pressed as the issue unfolds.  After reading this, I don’t feel enlightened or entertained, which seems like a wasted effort.
  • Aquaman #23.2: Ocean Master was somewhat unpleasant to read, but that isn’t to say that it wasn’t extremely good. On the contrary, it was a very honest, stark look at the character of the deposed king of Atlantis and Aquaman’s little brother, Orm. Growing up beneath the sea and never experiencing the upper world, coupled with the tragic events of his ill-informed, disastrous invasion of the United States, he has a very misanthropic attitude towards humanity and this issue showcases that quite vividly. But like any person sat down to look at a passionate figure that stands up against the evils that their own way of life perpetuates, it is both intriguing and hard to see him HATE humans so much and so stubbornly. “We aren’t all like that,” you might say, but unfortunately enough people are to warrant his hatred and this issue portrays that very well. However, his inability to see outside of his hate does remain a serious issue that taints his credibility as a mouthpiece for his cause. In these Villains Month issues I find myself asking throughout several, “Is this person really that bad or do they still have something left inside them that makes them not evil?”  Again, I maintained from the start that Orm was a noble man that ruled justly, because of his honor and moral stength. Throughout this issue and considering what happened to him after the Atlantean War he is tested to the breaking point, but whether he breaks or weathers the storm is something that will have to be discovered by reading this issue. A moment in this issue appropriate to this topic is the encounter he has with a guard who recognizes his bitter succeptibility to dehydration and goes out of his way to make sure Orm is given water to prevent discomfort and the later meeting with him following the opening of Belle Reve when that same guard is badly hurt. It is in that encounter along with the issue’s last panel after he rebukes a terrified mother’s entreaties to saved her eight year old son from being murdered by escaped Belle Reve convicts that Orm’s character is TRULY revealed to readers. Once again Tony Bedard steps in and writes Geoff Johns’ Aquaman stories for him, as he did with the Black Manta issue. You can feel Geoff Johns’ influence in the plot, but the writing has all of Bedard’s subtlety and skill. Geraldo Borges provides pencils on this special issue and proves to be an apt choice, mimicking the beautiful style of Ivan Reis, who began this title with Johns solidifying the feel of it. Overall, I love the character of Orm (Ocean Master) and I am impressed with how Bedard and Johns have treated him in it. Definitely something worth reading.

    A King's Mercy

    A King’s Mercy.

  • Green Lantern :23.4: Sinestro is another issue, like Ocean Master above, that aptly captures the essence of greatness and the cost of that destiny.  Sinestro is perhaps one of the most complex characters that has emerged in modern comics.  On one side he was the greatest Lantern that ever lived (unless you are of the Hal Jordan camp), epitomizing great strength of mind, body, and will, but conversely he is also a man who is very haughty, callus, and harsh.  Writer Matt Kindt takes up the history of Sinestro from the perspective of Lyssa Drak, former Yellow Lantern and archivist of the Book of Sinestro (the Yellow Lantern’s official history and ledger). Though far from objective, she was imprisoned by Sinestro when he became a Green Lantern again, so she has reason to dislike him as much as she does to revere him.  Through her eyes we see Sinestro before he received his ring and the path he took once he embraced his new role as intergalactic watchman. That path is circuitous to be sure and fraught with both misdeed and virtue. From the moment he gets the ring he makes tough decisions that he judges are for the greater good, and truly despite small evils his people and those of his sector of space are better for it . . . for a time. But as he continues to sacrifice and work toward the betterment of his planet Korugar he moves down a dark path that begins to separate him from his “humanity.” Kindt shows his marriage to Arin Sur, the sister of his best friend in the Green Lantern Corps, Abin Sur (predecessor of Hal Jordan), and how even his deep seemingly unending love for Arin could not match his devotion to “protecting” his people through tyrannical means. I am not sure if Kindt is a student of history, but his writing of this issue really rings true in its parallels to the rise of many dictators in our own planet’s history. But despite his despotic overtones, Lyssa makes a very compelling point. Throughout the many troubles that have befallen them during his lifetime, Sinestro was always there when he was needed. Despite the destruction of his homeworld by the First Lantern, the survivors of Korugar will need him in coming days. The question remains if he will return to guide them when they need him the most?
  • Batman/Superman #3.1: Doomsday was a very complex story and one I am not quite sure I understood entirely. Luckily, I know that this issue is functioning as a precursor for a Doomsday arc in the Batman/Superman title, which is likewise being done by this issue’s creative team, writer Greg Pak and artist Brett Booth.  Both bring out their A-game and further the mythological development of Old Krypton.  Opening on a Kryptonian holiday called “Remembrance Day” the Brothers El seem to be of at peace with the observation, but their wives are quite the opposite.  Alura Zor-El is more of the mind to remember the carnage it embodies.  Lara Jor-El, who was at the forefront of the incident the holiday commemorates, is also cynical of its true purpose, choosing to call it “Doomsday.”  As she begins to recount her tale the time frame is uncertain, but can’t be more than five or six years prior considering the physical depictions of the characters past and “present.” Lara rushes home in full Kryptonian armor  bearing the crest of her husband’s family proudly on her chest, and gets Jor-El to safety before going after a monstrous beast that is tearing the capital to pieces.  We know from the sight of it that this is the beast called “Doomsday.” It is strong. It is unstoppable. It is without conscience, thought, or motivation besides wanton death and destruction. There truly is no defeating the beast and it bears down on Lara after a long fight she and many other heroes of Krypton make against it.  She is going to die, before salvation comes in the form of Col. Dru-Zod and his chosen elites. The actual ending of this story is cut off as the very young Kara Zor-El, future Supergirl, is awoken and cries out in terror, prompting her father, Zor-El, to go in and talk to her. When he tries to explain what happened to the monster and later to General Zod, sugar coating it, she demands to know the truth and not just kid stories. For whatever reason Zor-El tells her a story of the “Last Knight of the House of El” and his battle with this beast on another world.  It is told like a fairy tale and the details exaggerated, but what writer Greg Pak really does is reassert the “Death of Superman” story from 1992 in battle with Doomsday. Though it still is a kid story and has a “happy ending” Kara accepts it and acknowledges that she will someday be a knight like in the story. What follows is where my uncertainty enters. After her father leaves, the “ghost” of General Zod comes out of Kara’s closet and begins speaking with her about the truth of the Doomsday attack. From his rhetoric there is an ambiguity of whether Zod knows anything about where the beast came from, if he is responsible for its creation and unleashing, is not responsible but just thankful for it, or whether he IS the beast, as well. His ghost takes the shape of Doomsday several times making it seem like the latter most possibility is the case, but his words seem to vacillate back and forth. What is certain is his intention for Krypton is to make it strong through trauma and keep his people’s spirits sharp through hardships that will ensure their vigilance. Though she’s only a child, Kara stands up to one of the greatest boogeymen of Kryptonian history like a champ.  This issue sets up a great many things to be clarified in future comics, but it also reinforces a great many things we have seen of Krypton’s past just before its destruction.  Lara is shown to be the valiant soldier and her husband Jor-El to be the visionary scientist and dreamer. Zor-El is characterized as a selfless, loving father.  Kara is a tough-as-nails daughter of El that doesn’t give an inch, even as a tiny girl, literally facing down the monster that lives in her closet. Great issue on all fronts.BatmanSupermanDoomsday1

    Warrior Women of the House of El.

    Warrior Women of the House of El.

  • Detective Comics #23.4: Man-Bat brings to a point one of the starkest side stories in the Bat titles since the Reboot, that of Kirk Langstrom and his atavistic bat serum.  It turns him into a giant bat man capable of flight, superhuman feats of strength, and other bat related abilities.  John Layman introduced Langstrom and his wife, Francine, into the New DCU in the landmark 900th issue of Detective Comics.  In that issue he also revealed the lengths Francine would go to stay close to her man, even dosing herself with the bat serum.  Touching at first, her motivations prove to be less than affectionate.  She was hired to get close to him and steal his formula.  Modifying it a bit, she became stronger than him and also became addicted to it.  Cut to the opening of this issue and Francine flying into a park and abducting a small child from a jungle gym for feasting.  Thankfully, a more controlled Man-Bat enters the fray and emancipates the child.  Kirk is able to defeat his ex-wife and save the day, and in light of the disappearance of Batman and the descent of Gotham into chaos he decides that with his serum he can be the Bat Man that his city needs.   To paraphrase the rest of the plot, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.  The desire to be a hero doesn’t necessarily yield one, especially when a de-evolutionary serum is thrown into the mix.  Frank Tieri writes this issue with Scott Eaton on pencils, and overall the product feels like an extended backup feature from Detective, which is definitely a compliment.  Man-Bat has been crafted into a very compelling character striding the line between hero and villain with great alacrity.

    Harsh Justice

    Harsh Justice.

  • Superman #23.4: Parasite was REALLY good.  I’m not the biggest Parasite fan, but this issue had me hooked.  I’ve been looking forward to both Aaron Kuder’s story and art.  The art is solid, obviously, but Kuder also has a way with words.  When describing Suicide Slums, in which the main character, Joshua Michael Allen lives, Kuder compares it to “If Gotham and Detroit had a love child, this would be it.”  Allen is a dirtbag bike messenger that just coasts through life leaching off others until he gets assaulted by a giant plasma monster.  Afterward, his leg is broken and his livelihood taken from him.  When S.T.A.R Labs calls to examine him he is inadvertently transformed into a shriveled purple monster with serious periodontal issues and an insatiable hunger.  Soon he realizes that the only way to feed the hunger is to suck the life force out of the people he comes in contact with . . . killing them.  This barely sates his ravenous appetite until the Parasite comes into contact with Superman and is SUPERcharged with the power dripping off the Man of Steel’s enhanced Kryptonian biology.  When Supes hits Parasite with his heat-vision the blast that would level buildings and kill most living things actually makes the burgeoning supervillain balloon and take on many of Superman’s abilities.  Being a smart cookie and owing to Allen’s noob status as a villain Superman eventually figures out how to contain him and he is sent to Belle Reve.  However, he leaves Parasite with a taste of Kryptonian power and like a man-eating shark, Parasite’ll feed on other things to survive, but seek out his desired prey just for the taste.  That prey is Superman.  With the opening of prisons in Forever Evil #1 Parasite is once again released upon the outside world and free to feed.  Aaron Kuder performed a miracle with this issue, basically ramrodding a complete origin story into a twenty page comic, and what’s more he makes it both succinct and entertaining, not at all rushed or half-cocked.  There are no questions left about what happened to Parasite or what his motivations are.  Seasoned comic book writers have tried and failed this month to do what Kuder did here, and to my knowledge this is his first time writing.  Well done all around, Mr. Kuder.  You’ve made me a believer and a fan of Parasite.

    That Happened.

    That Happened.

  • Batman #23.4: Bane was yet another issue that falls under the category “a means to an end.”  All this issue did was set up Bane’s connection to the coming series Forever Evil: Arkham War.  Bane is going to Gotham with his army of mercenaries from Santa Prisca to take vengeance on the Court of Owls and presumably on Batman, even though the word is out that Batman and the Justice League are dead.  It is never broached as to whether Bane is aware of the rumors or not, so I choose to assume that he doesn’t know or he would have mentioned it.  Breaking Batman is one of the things he holds onto to make himself feel adequate.  Should he know that someone else killed Batman I think he would have gone into a berserker rage and made sure to put them on his list.  Peter Tomasi is a fantastic writer, but in this issue he really didn’t do anything new or provocative.  Let’s chock this up to” too much on his plate” and move on.
  • Batman & Robin #23.4: Killer Croc was a very pleasant surprise. I am not overly aware of writer Tim Seeley’s former work, but I am a fan of artist Francis Portela so I gave it a shot. It opens with a Gotham City SWAT team moving through the sewers in full tactical gear. Their aim is not mentioned. However, from a culvert at their feet Croc’s eyes are visible to us, but not to his . . . guests’. Needless to say, Croc waits for a good moment and gives many of them the last surprise of their lives. A few do escape, wounded, and stumble upon vagrants living in the sewers.  Asking for help, they are brutally assaulted by the homeless masses who are acolytes of Croc.  While all this brutality goes on in the issue, Seeley injects several flashbacks to Croc’s youth as a kid with a nasty skin condition that gives him crocodiles skin, making him an outcast with children his own age and with his aunt who takes care of him. Growing up he is still treated like a freak and his gentle soul exploited by bad people.  As the narrative continues in the present the two surviving SWAT cops try to make it out, only for one to find a dead one armed police detective strung up blocking their exit. This is the turning point of the issue.  Croc didn’t kill this man, the SWAT cops did!  They were a dirty unit and the one armed cop, Det. O’Hoolihan wouldn’t play ball with their racketeering so they shot him and tossed his body into Gotham Harbor.  But later they got a note telling them to come to sewer at the harbor with money in exchange for evidence against them.  Obviously, it wasn’t O’Hoolihan who sent the message. Obviously it was Croc, setting a trap and savoring the kill of each and every man and woman in that unit, often times in front of one another so the survivors could dread their turn after seeing the bloody mess he made of their fellows. Their terror is palpable and not just a little bit satisfying to the reader. So Croc finally, after mangling the final cop, puts him out of his misery as the latter screams to know “what it was all about?” The assumption, considering Croc’s criminal record and hatred of the law, is that he just jumped at the opportunity to kill some cops and have some fun.  But after all the flashbacks to Croc’s alienating history based solely on his bestial appearance and his narration of human being being themselves cruel animals that fall under the most primitive drives, there is one last flashback to Croc’s childhood with his abusive aunt.  Sitting on a stoop getting berated by local kids, a one armed cop walking his beat brings Croc some ice cream and tells him that he is not only not a freak, but that he has the potential to be something great if he believes in himself. When there is such a scarcity of people in the world that show genuine kindness and mercy, the loss of such people over petty things like grift money and corruption is a jagged pill to swallow, and Croc, realizing that life isn’t fair, made it a little bit more so by staging his little hunt in the sewers and turning the hunters into mewling game. After the killing and the bloodletting cease, he has his people in the sewer take down O’Hoolihan’s body, make a funeral pyre and give him a Viking funeral into the harbor.  All the while, as a eulogy to a good man, Croc tells the outcast people of Gotham under his protection the same lessons that the departed policeman told him. People will tell you that you are nothing and spit on you, but you can prove them wrong and show them what true strength looks like. I’m not the biggest fan of Killer Croc, but Seeley’s story about the man turned into a beast by society’s shunning, but maintaining a strict sense of honor and loyalty to virtue really resonated and Portela’s artwork was an integral part in conveying the ferocious anger and consequent sadness of the title character throughout the harsh moments of his life. This issue was an unexpected gem.Batman&RobinKillerCroc1

    Evil Can Be Killed, But Kinnness Never Dies.

    Evil Can Be Killed, But Kinnness Never Dies.

  • Batman: The Dark Knight #23.4: Joker’s Daughter was unnecessary. The concept of Duela Dent has been intriguing in the past, but writer Ann Nocenti kind of went off the reservation on this one. Duela is a messed up girl that had an idyllic childhood and yet still grew up twisted. So far it still retains promise. But then she runs away and tries to live in a subterranean community of former Arkham inmates and vagrants  They don’t listen to her until she finds the Joker’s face floating in the water, from when he jumped into the underground river in Batman #17. She of course puts it on and magically people start listening. I think what bothered me most was the pretense that she stands for something when really the subtext is that she stands for nothing. The Joker doesn’t stand for anything, and in the event that he has a pet project his actions, insane though they may be, work towards actualizing the desired end. Her actions and historical contexts fall far from reconciling one another. Annoyance aside, there is nothing substantial to take away from the issue.  A real pity . . .
  • Justice League of America #7.4: Black Adam was a pleasant surprise as well, when it shouldn’t have been relegated to being a surprise in the first place.  Black Adam is a fantastic character and has fantastic potential.  With Geoff Johns’ incredible foul up of his SHAZAM! backup feature in Justice League the concept of Black Adam also falls under suspicion. However, like all the other issues conceived of by Geoff Johns and written by someone else, this issue comes off beautifully. Sterling Gates does the honors on this one and Edgar Salazar provides pencils. We had been told of Black Adam’s past in his North African nation of Kahndaq in the pages of Justice League #19, wherein four thousand years ago an invading force under the rulership of a man named Ibac the First took control of his country and murdered his people by the thousands.  Teth Adam whose sworn duty it was to defend his people did so and turned Ibac and his men to stone as a reminder to those that would oppress the people of Kahndaq. Though the statues remain, Kahndaq has sunken into chaos not unlike the Egypt and Syria of our reality. And like those countries there is a schism of action by those being oppressed. The characters of Amon and Adrianna are reintroduced into the New DCU to illustrate this schism. These two characters were once Osiris and Isis in past incarnations of the Black Adam story when they said the name of the Wizard, but this time are just normal middle eastern siblings trying to make the world right through non-powered means. Adrianna is a non-violent protester that used social media to broadcast the struggle to world audiences. Amon has gotten involved in a militant movement called the “Sons of Adam,” who still view Black Adam as their nation’s savior. Black Adam was reduced to dust in his confrontation with Captain Marvel in the pages of Justice League, but as seen in Justice League #22 that same superhero deposited the collected ashes in the Kahndaqi desert out of respect. The Sons of Adam intend to read a passage from a lost scroll of the Egyptian Book of the Dead to resurrect him so that he can aid their people. The military crash the ritual and Adrianna who was tipped off follows to warn her brother. Amon is shot before he can finish the incantation, which Adrianna does for him, bringing forth Teth Adam from the land of the dead. Adam makes short work of the army and goes to the dictator of Kahndaq to do as he did millennia ago. Amon seemingly dies and the pacifistic Adrianna takes up a fallen AK-47, while casting off her beliefs in non-violence. Black Adam cuts a very different figure from his shoddy representation in Justice League’s back up stories. The pettiness is gone. Upon being awoken and his followers prostrating themselves before him he chides them to never kneel to anyone. When he faces the current day despot ruling Kahndaq (who chose to take the name Ibac for its connotations) Black Adam crushes him with the stone throne of that first tyrant. Not long after that Black Adam sees the Crime Syndicate’s announcement to the people of Earth-1, “This World Is Ours.” His reply? A very angry exclamation of, “This world belongs to NO ONE.” Black Adam is a very violent man, but he is a fair man. He can be very harsh, but he is a proponent of freedom and individualism. Geoff Johns really blew it when he first wrote him into the New DCU. I would love to know who actually came up with the depiction here, because while I want to believe that Johns is still capable of writing compelling characters like this, he has a VERY bad track record over the last two years. Either way, this issue was very informative and definitely an important issue for the overall storyline of Forever Evil.JLA-BlackAdam1

    The Face of Freedom.

    The Face of Freedom.

  • Wonder Woman #23.2: First Born is one of those rare issues this month that basically could be an issue of the regular series. The Count Vertigo issue was the only other example that comes to mind. Both First Born and Count Vertigo are written by their regular series writer, Brian Azzarello in the case of First Born, and drawn by regular series artists. The only thing that separates them from regular issues is the absence of their titular heroes. Wonder Woman doesn’t appear in a single frame. There is a prophesy illustration with a skeleton that might be her’s, but that hardly counts considering the lack of costume or armaments to prove it’s actually her. What it does is depict Apollo gaining custody of his eldest brother, the First Born’s unconscious body, and having his trio of modern day urban oracles channeling the forgotten god’s history. We’ve heard the story piecemeal over the past year since the awakening of the First Born, but this issue strings those pieces together and gives us a visual narrative of it as it unfolds.  Zeus has a son by his lawful wife, Hera, but a witch foresees that this child would one day rule Olympus alone, so Zeus had him killed to protect his throne. The baby didn’t die, but rather was raised by animals and became a terror of mankind. When he finally grew to manhood and had built an empire and an army at his back he assaulted Olympus to take what was his. Zeus soundly defeated him, took his weapons and armor and consigned him to the bowels of the Earth to be forgotten. When he awoke the prophesies began anew. Zeus proclaimed that if he ceased to be or left Olympus the throne would be open for the First Born to take, if he could manage it. There also was a prophesy that there would be a great war and great fire before the throne was decided. In the final image one man is standing, one man is burning, and a woman is watching. The woman is thought to be Wonder Woman, and the men are Apollo and the First Born, but the identity of the man standing and the one burning is not certain. Brian Azzarello has a very singular vision of this title that has stretch over two full years. This issue cuts to the very heart of both the main character of Wonder Woman and the mythological relevance of her place in the DCU. What also is exciting is that this issue feature the VERY first depiction of Zeus himself. He has been talked about endlessly, and his desertion of the throne of Olympus has caused no end of strife, but we have never seen him. Here we see a figure that is very much like Hera when we first beheld her. In the beginning she was totally nude, but for a cloak of bright green peacock feathers. In this issue, Zeus is a vibrant, muscular, bearded man wearing a cloak of feathers (they seem to be either eagle feathers or swan feathers) and nothing else. The depiction seems apt, considering Ancient Greek depictions of masculinity vis-a-vis naked soldiers and athletes. Overall, very well done and intriguing storytelling.
  • Adventures of Superman #5 

    provides two tales of the Man of Steel by writers Nathan Edmondson and Kyle Killen, and artists Yildiray Cinar and Pia Guerra.  In Edmondson and Cinar’s tale, “Infant in Arms”, an alien ship crashes to earth outside of Jackson, Missouri.  The military try to blow it up before its occupant can exit, but Superman steps in and reveals that like himself, the extraterrestrial ark holds an infant that looks exactly like a human baby but for her purple skin.  A dying sentry within the ship informs Superman that she is Princess Aria, but is able to say no more before death takes him.  Soon militants from her world come to kill her.  Superman not only must keep her safe, but also take care of her and her many infantile needs.  The story has no real ending, but gives endless possibilities for one.  Killen’s story depicts one of the most tragic realities of Superman’s life and something that most people are reticent to admit: Superman is not infallible.  Two boys who idolize Superman sit in a parked car on railroad tracks. The driver, Mike, is convinced that Superman will save them and they will be able to meet him.  His companion Henry is not so sure.  It is not said outright that they are brothers, but the implication at the end infers it greatly.  The issue proceeds with Lex Luthor perpetuating flashy crime after flashy crime and Superman stops them each in turn, but in doing so he fails to stop the train and Mike is killed in his car, waiting.  When Luthor is asked in prison by a guard whether losing to Superman gets boring, Luthor demonstrates that he isn’t actually losing, and betrays the genius of his strategy.  Luthor never would engage in an endeavor that he would fail at outright.  In the short term he does lose and is imprisoned for short periods of time, but in the long run, by distracting Superman with his elaborate crimes he prevents the Man of Steel from saving people and those left behind are filled with resentment.  True to his vision, Henry ends the issue by going through Mike’s room, ripping down all his Superman paraphernalia and burning them outside his home.  “In that way you can think of me as Johnny Appleseed spreading a healthy disdain fro Superman’s nonsense.”  The scary thing is that Luthor is correct.  People don’t want to believe that Superman can fail, and when he was depicted in a manner of not being able to save everyone in this summer’s Man of Steel movie, people went NUTS over it!  Superman isn’t Supergod, he’s SuperMAN.  Outside the comic and inside, people seem to be unable to accept his limitations and that very weakness in humanity is a commodity that Luthor capitalizes on like any ruthless business man.  The Adventures of Superman title is really amazing in the very poignant tales it weaves of Superman and this issue epitomizes that promise.

    The Evil Genius of Lex Luthor

    The Evil Genius of Lex Luthor

  • Jupiter’s Legacy #3 takes a very sharp turn.  After gaining superpowers in the 1930’s by visiting a mysterious island that adventurer Sheldon Sampson sought out after seeing it in a dream, he and his companions became the guardians of America through the decades.  The title centers around these aged paragons of heroics and justice faltering in the 21st century as their children become drunken reprobates and partiers and the country yet again stands on the brink of financial ruin as it was in the 30’s when they got their powers.  The question that pervaded the first two issues is what they should do about it.  The Utopian (Sheldon Sampson) believes that it is not their job to enforce policy or intervene in politics, only watch and support the elected officials and let them do whatever they feel is right.  His brother Walter, who is both a genius and a telepath, believes that they need to intervene and aid the elected officials and make sure the corrupt ones don’t sour the barrel.  There are legitimate points on either side, but in the first two issues writer Mark Millar tends to depict Walter as a voice of reason and fairness.  He doesn’t draw the line on liberal or conservative or democrat or republican, only what things need to be done to fix the current economic downfall.  Contrarily, Sheldon is portrayed as a starry eyed idealist that defines laissez faire and reacts harshly to anyone that would burst that bubble or question his mandates.  He is also a very harsh father that takes a hardline of his son and daughter’s behaviors and openly calls them disappointments.  This issue flips that concept on its head.  Sheldon’s daughter Chloe was revealed to be pregnant last issue and the father of her child was the son of one of the Utopian’s former villains.  This man, Hutch, works primarily as a high end drug dealer.  The issue begins with Hutch meeting the Utopian and being told rather civilly that he won’t be allowed to have a part in Chloe or her baby’s lives.  However, elsewhere plots are brewing and they quickly develop as Sheldon is lured into a trap set by his own allies who K.O. him after he is pummeled by a meteor they hurdled at Earth which he intercepts.  Others including Walter go to his home and murder his wife, Grace, and attempt to murder Chloe and her unborn child, but for the intervention of Hutch, who warps his lover, child, and himself across the world numerous times until they are untraceable.  In the meantime a legion of super-powered “friends” beat the fallen Utopian to a pulp until his son Brandon arrives to deliver the final deathblow to his father.  While doing so, there is of course the inevitable “I didn’t fail you, you failed me” speech, and to an extent everything Brandon said has merit, but not to the extent that his actions invoke.  The death of his mother and the attempted murder of his pregnant sister are abhorrent and they cast a very bad light on the figure of Walter who seemingly was a pillar of reason before.  Many things can be said of Mark Millar’s writing, but regardless of what faults there are, one guiding truth is that his plots are very socially aware and deliver very moving point/counterpoint arguments within.  One man is a monster in one issue only to be made into a martyr in the next and one man cast as a saint turned into an inhuman monster.  Children are misled and turned against their parents.  Youths falter through self doubt and confusion in the quest for significance.  Jupiter’s Legacy is a very compelling series in only three issues that begs to be read for both Millar’s very stark, complex drama and the gorgeous illustrations by fellow Scotsman, Frank Quitely.  Even for those who do not like Millar this is a series that should be given a chance free of prejudice.

    Fathers and Sons.

    Fathers and Sons.

  • The Wake #4 

    continues Scott Snyder’s ingenious limited series delving into the science of the supernatural.  His work on the seminal American Vampire series not only catapulted him into comics superstardom it provided a refreshing breath of fresh air to the vampire genre made stagnant and putrescent by hacks like Stephanie Meyer and other teen romance writers.  Uniting with artist Sean Murphy, who aided Snyder on his American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest limited series, the two tackle another underutilized cyptozoological wonder: mermaids, or to be more fair, mer-folk. Mer people have existed in one form or another in many mythologies throughout the world regardless of culture.  This issue contains a fascinating myth of a fabled Dutch city and its run in with a mermaid.  While this series is only four issues into a ten issue run Snyder is still holding many cards close to his chest.  However, the story so far is that marine biologist Lee Archer is brought into a super secret deep sea drilling station by a government agency with a ragtag group of scientist and criminals to examine and contain a fishman caught near the rig.  This is the factual basis of merfolk lore and like the vampires of Snyder’s other series, endowed with many scientifically explained features while simultaneously shrouded in numerous mysteries.  Snyder makes them seem perfectly plausible, but also incredibly wondrous like many creatures one would find near the ocean floor that actually exist.  The merman is not as weak as they anticipate and it frees itself and calls its fellows down on the station.  The remnants of the expedition are overrun and attempt an escape.  This issue has them finding temporary sanctuary in the emptied but pressurized pipeline leading from the drill to the station.  But the mer people are on either side and there is no escape.  However, the aforementioned fable of the Dutch city of Saeftinghe gives Lee an idea that could just save them.  The idea stems from a very real experiment the Navy has been conducting over the past several years outside of the comic that has maimed many marine mammals, most notably whales and dolphins.  Snyder doesn’t justify its usage and through Lee actually makes a compelling case for its cessation.  However, when dealing with evil marine men that are ravenous killing machines certain exceptions can be made.  It’s only four issues in but the story and art make it a package deal of entertainment for the intellect and the soul.

    The Legend of Saeftinghe.

    The Legend of Saeftinghe.

  • The Unwritten #53 brings forth the fourth installment of a five issue Unwritten/Fables crossover. An evil ebon cloaked entity calling himself Mr. Dark has descended upon the land of Fables, taking lives, possessions, land, and even families. Snow White is made into a darker version of herself and made his consort, her husband the Big Bad Wolf is chained in a dungeon, and Snow White and Big B’s children adopted as Dark’s. Boy Blue and Rose Red are murdered. The Fables live in the Enchanted Grove, constantly living in fear.  To remedy this the magic users of Fabletown summon Tommy Taylor and his friends Sue Sparrow and Peter Price to intercede. Since they fall outside the stories that comprise Fabletown, they are an unknown variable that could throw Mr. Dark off his game. Last issue, both Lizzie Hexam and Pullman were drawn from the ether and told Dark exactly who Tommy is and what he is. They also revealed that there are other worlds and other stories outside that are open for conquest. The stakes are high and everyone settles their affairs before the final battle with Dark. Prince Ambrose (The Frog Prince) has the Enchanted Grove cut down for Gepetto to sculpt into an army of animated wooden soldiers. Once cut down the Grove can never be regrown. As the battle commences more Fables loose their lives setting the stage for the apocalyptic finale that will determine the future of two series. No pressure. The Unwritten has been a jaw dropping comic since its first issue. Coupled with the iconic Fables this title establishes its place in comic history.

  • T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2 

    begins the next incarnation of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents under the IDW imprint. The DC iteration that wrapped up two years ago was phenomenal. Two issues in and this new series appears to uphold that tradition. The DC series written by Nick Spencer was a swansong to all that had been before. The original runs beginning in the 60’s and marching forward through the 80’s and 90’s are all honored and Spencer’s Agents inherit their T.H.U.N.D.E.R. devices and code-names from the original bearers, essentially using them to end the cycle of violence that begat them and become the final Agents of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Those survivors from the beginning of T.H.U.N.D.E.R either bow out or are put down. The starkest moment comes in the last issue of the first half of Spencer’s run when the daughter of the original Dynamo, Len Brown, and the Iron Maiden has her mother murdered by a woman the ironclad villainess had grossly disfigured in a terrorist attack. All loose ends were sewn up. This series, conversely, begins at the beginning as The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves try to find agents to wield the devices created by the world renowned genius, Prof. Jennings, who mysteriously vanished before explaining them.  Last issue they selected Len Brown to wield the Thunder Belt to become the agent code-named Dynamo. Inserted via airlift into Kashmir, Dynamo and the agent code-named NoMAN attempt to invade the Iron Maiden’s cave lair. Randomly injected into the narrative is a hazy memory of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Director Kane’s childhood of daring-do with her red headed sister, Kelly. Seemingly irrelevant, its significance come through later in the issue. Meanwhile, Dynamo meets two T.H.U.N.D.E.R. moles within Iron Maiden’s ranks, and eventually the lady herself. As it was in the first issue of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents from 1965 Iron Maiden captures Dynamo. Both issues of the series end enticingly on high drama cliffhangers. Writer Phil Hester really does have a knack for writing this complex super-hero/espionage/sci-fi title. I highly suggest picking up both the first and second issues of this series and get in on the ground floor.

So ends the week and Villains Month.  Next week we get back to the ongoing storylines put on hold from August.  Though it’ll be nice to get back to normal, it’ll also be sad seeing these characters and their compelling albeit villainous deeds relegated to uncertainty.  It was a good month.

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

Illustration Credits:

Justice League #23.4: The Secret Society: Art by Szymon Kudranski, Colored by John Kalisz.

Aquaman #23.2: Oceran Master: Drawn by Geraldo Borges, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Ruy Jose.

Batman/Superman #3.1: Doomsday: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund.

Detectice Comics #23.4: Man-Bat: Drawn by Scot Eaton, Colored by Jeromy Cox, Inked by Jaime Mendoza.

Superman #23.4: Parasite: Art by Aaron Kuder, Colored by Tomeu Morey.

Batman & Robin #23.4: Killer Croc: Art by Francis Portela, Colored by Tomeu Morey.

Justice League of America #7.4: Black Adam: Drawn by Edgar Salazar, Colored by Gabe Eltaeb, Inked by Jay Leisten.

Adventures of Superman #5: Art by Pia Guerra, Colored by Matthew Wilson.

Jupiter’s Legacy #3: Art by Frank Quitely, Colored by Peter Doherty

The Wake #4: Art by Sean Murphy, Colored by Matt Hollingsworth

Sept. 4, 2013

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

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

    Extreme Cosmetic Surgery

    Extreme Cosmetic Surgery

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

    A Son's Vengeance

    A Son’s Vengeance

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

    A So Was Born a Fourth World . . .

    A So Was Born a Fourth World . . .

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

    desaad2

    Behold Thine Creator, Ye Mighty God!

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

    Trascendence of the Trillium Flower

    Trascendence of the Trillium Flower

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

Week 88 (May 8, 2013)

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

    Bruce Wayne and the Batman

    Bruce Wayne and the Batman

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

    Old Wounds Made Fresh

    Old Wounds Made Fresh

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

    Dissent in the Ranks

    Dissent in the Ranks

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

    A Fateful Encounter

    A Fateful Encounter

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

    A Whole New Perspective

    A Whole New Perspective

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

 

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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