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

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Week 81 (March 20, 2013)

This was a huge week, both in the number of comics I picked up and the quality.  First and foremost, Grant Morrison concludes his run on Action Comics with an oversized issue that promises to be one of the hallmarks of his comics career.  Batwoman enters into a new era after a seventeen issue mega story came to an EPIC end last month.  Legion of Super-Heroes has descended into unmitigated horror as of its preceding issue and moves into what promises to be the biggest story in LOSH history since writer Paul Levitz’s “Great Darkness Saga” plot from the early 80’s.  And who could forget three Bat-titles that follow in the wake of Damian Wayne’s tragic passing.  I am shaking just recounting the possibilities this week holds in store.  Let’s jump in:

  • Action Comics #18 concludes Grant Morrison’s MASSIVE opening arc of this flagship Superman title.  As with most things Morrison, I’m not entirely sure I got all of it.  It is steeped in 5th dimensional nonlinear geometry and what could vaguely be filed under the heading of quantum mechanics.  Superman is fighting Vyndktvx, and by extension Superdoom and the Anti-Superman Army.  It’s pretty technical, but insanely engaging to read.  Superman’s position seems impossible to extricate himself from, except when he realizes an inherent flaw in the logistics of Vyndktvx’s attack.  As he discerned on Mars when fending off the Multitude, the unfathomable numbers of this angelic hoard were merely a fifth dimensional projection of one being, Vyndktvx.  Likewise, by choosing to attack Superman at various points throughout his life, Vyndktvx is able to optimize the torture quotient of his assault upon the Man of Steel, but conversely traps himself in a relativistic conundrum hinging on Superman’s perception of the situation.  When Superman realizes that he’s been attacked at other points in his life he also realizes that due to the quantum physics of the 3-dimensional plane in which we exist he would have survived all the previous assaults by Vyndktvx and therefore would have gained de facto the knowledge of how to defeat the mad 5-D villain.  Grant Morrison and his dynamic duo of artists, Brad Walker and Rags Morales, really did a great job of tying together their entire run on the book and making it meaningful.  Lex Luthor made an appearance defending the Man of Steel and another antagonist from earlier in this series, Adam Blake, and his Neo-Sapien brotherhood come back to Earth and lend Superman a hand as well.  The people of Earth are promised immortality and eternal happiness if they shun Superman in his moment of greatest need, but humanity rallies behind their savior and grant him the key to victory.  The backup feature by Sholly Fisch was a little insubstantial, but in fairness his amazing backup feature in #17 was no doubt supposed to be the ending of the arc until Morrison got DC to extend his run by one issue to fully tell the grand finale as he envisioned it.  This one features kids in a Superman Museum in the 31st century featuring almost no dialogue and just seems propped up with toothpicks.  There was meaning behind it, but it still had the air of being rushed.  Despite that, this issue as well as the other eighteen issues of the series (remember there was a #0 issue in there, too) were amazing and a tribute to Grant Morrison’s genius.  A must read, whether in single issues or graphic novel format.

    Vyndktvx's 5-D Dilemma

    Vyndktvx’s 5-D Dilemma

  • Justice League #18 was a nerd spasm with the League auditioning new members and writer Geoff Johns pulling out all sorts of fan favorites along with some really obscure characters.  Zatanna, Firestorm, and Black Canary come up , but Johns also brings in Platinum of the Metal Men, Element Woman (female version of Metamorpho) which he’d messed around with in Flashpoint, Goldrush, and a female version of the Atom.  Other than exploring the need of a new member to the team and introducing the hint of a coming conflict, there wasn’t much point to this issue.  The Shazam backup feature had good art from Gary Frank, but vexing plot development: Billy Batson running away from responsibility, because he’s a punk.  If he were any other version of the character than this it could be legitimately reasoned as a kid afraid to fail, but it’s not.  It’s Geoff Johns’ bizarre attempt at rebooting an edgier Billy and his running away from conflict just comes off as him being a self interested brat.  This series just does not work for me, main feature and backup.
  • Justice League of America #2 brings about Geoff Johns’ second attempt at a team book.  The first issue was a really solid opening chapter that showed promise, albeit suffering slightly with its breakneck, abbreviated introductions to six lead characters.  This second issue continues that promise with a pretty substantial plot.  Its shorter in length, giving some of its page count to the Martian Manhunter backup feature.  There is some quality character development on Catwoman, as well as Steve Trevor.  The main villain seeking to create the “Secret Society of Super-Villains” from the end of Justice League #6 a little more than a year ago finally shows his face and seems to be a completely new character, or perhaps a drastically different take on an old one, because I do not recognize him at all.  All in all, a really enjoyable, edgy series.  I think that Geoff Johns is trying to be edgy with the two Justice League titles and that is where he fails with the main series.   When you have tertiary characters like Catwoman, Katana, Hawkman, etc, you can be edgier.  When you try that same thing with the main DCU characters, even to a degree with Batman, you just alienate them from the audience reading them.  Maybe that’s what Johns is going for, but that’s a really low bar to aim for and a really crappy status quo for readers to expect.  The Martian Manhunter backup was too edgy for me and I did not like it.  If J’onn J’onnz was to die at this point I wouldn’t care at all.  That is sad, because I always liked him.
    Kindred Spirits

    Kindred Spirits

     

  • Batwoman #18 is a new beginning for the character, but also a reaffirmation of what her life has become.  Medusa and her kidnapping of dozens of Gotham children was the plot that pervaded the first seventeen issues of the title, but with last issue that has been laid to rest.  However, in fighting this titanic battle for the innocents of her city, Batwoman had to make a devils deal with the D.E.O. and become their leashed super-agent in order to complete her mission with impunity and keep her father out of prison for his outfitting of her with Army equipment.  This latter aspect of her life was overshadowed by the pressing quest to find and subdue Medusa before the children came to harm.  With the mission accomplished she is becoming aware of the shackles she’s got herself tethered with.  As she plays her role in this issue taking down Mr. Freeze to obtain some of his freeze tech for the D.E.O. she runs afoul of Batman and confuses her father, cousin Betty (her sidekick Hawkfire), and the Batman as to what her motives are.  After defeating Medusa, Batwoman proposed to her alter-ego Kate Kane’s girlfriend, Capt. Maggie Sawyer.  This issue picks up with Maggie looking for a new place for the two of them, completely overstepping any reaction from the Gotham policewoman as to the revelation that her lover was the vigilante she had been hunting.  Probably the right decision by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, but I still would have been interested to see what the initial conversation was before her acceptance of this rather unorthodox situation.  This series continues to be amazing, although this particular episode was a little less exciting after the high octane ride the past couple of months have given us with the conclusion of the “Medusa” mega-arc.  Also Trevor McCarthy’s art pales in comparison to Williams’.  I feel they do him a disservice, as he is a good artist, by pairing his artwork next to Williams’.
  • Green Lantern: The New Guardians #18 brings Volthoom’s wrath upon Carol Ferris, Saint Walker, and Larfleeze.  To accomplish this, series artist Aaron Kuder has been replaced with three artists for the three different sequences in the narrative.  The Carol Ferris segment is drawn by Hendry Prasetyo and features Carol living a life without love.  She’s completely ignored her obligations to her father and their family company Ferris Aircraft, following her dream to become a fighter pilot.  Though this sounds ideal for her, with Volthoom’s altered timeline it is anything but.  Larfleeze’s segment is drawn by Jim Calafiore and features the paragon of greed first with his family that he has desperately wanted to find for ages and then as a Blue Lantern.  Both times, he barely gets into the altered reality before his inherent greed overpowers his senses and collapses the concept in on itself.  Saint Walker doesn’t so much live a life without hope, so much as lives a life without loss, this time around having gotten a green power ring saving his planet before his family died in the quest for the blue one.  He also is unable to follow the reality through as in his heart he knows it is not true.  Like Kyle last issue, each of the other “New Guardians” prove too powerful in their spirit for Volthoom to truly get the better of forcing Volthoom to seek out someone he knows he can manipulate: Atrocitus.  That may be a lead in to next week’s Red Lanterns issue, because Atrocitus hasn’t been a New Guardian for awhile.  This issue was really well written and really cut to the heart of these three incredible lanterns.
  • Supergirl #18 presents a major turning point for the Maiden of Steel.  She has been alienated upon waking up on a planet whose language and culture she is unfamiliar with.  Things looked up for awhile as she made a friend in Siobhan McDougal, aka Silver Banshee, but then with the introduction of H’el onto the scene she was given the hope of returning to her homeworld and being reunited with her family.  With last month’s issue of Supergirl as well as the conclusion of Superman #18 it is now an intractable fact: Supergirl can never go home again.  That is sadly pointed out in a moment where she emerges from a solar satellite where she is convalescing from green kryptonite poisoning.  After exiting the solar chamber she begins to say “I want to go home,” but stops and corrects herself, “I just want to get back to Earth.”  Her expression in this moment is truly heartrending.  In the meantime, Lex Luthor plots against her from his state-of-the-art, super-prison, via neural implant that projects his consciousness to an offsite computer.  Also a strange connection between Kara Zor-El and Karen Starr, the Kara Zor-El of Earth 2, is teased at.  This issue featured a guest writer, Frank Hannah, and he picks up and continues the series in intriguing new directions.  Coming off of a massive event like “H’el on Earth” can be dangerous, providing a jumping off point for readers of certain series if they don’t sink a hook right away.  This issue sunk a hook.  What’s to come has great promise.

    You C Never Go Home Again

    You Can Never Go Home Again

  • Legion of Super-Heroes #18 continues down the cataclysmic road that issue #17 began.  The United Planets are still reeling from the assault of Tharok against the technological advances of the 31st century and the death toll mounts.  The last issue focused on Legionnaires stranded on Rimbor and the Promethean Giants.  This one goes back to both locations and the plight upon them, but also adds Earth and the Legion’s headquarters in Metropolis to the stage.  Mon-El, Shadow Lass, Lightning Lass, Shrinking Violet, and Cosmic Boy leave Earth for Webber World, an artificial planet that is nothing but technology to try and establish the devastation there.  Brainiac 5, Dream Girl, Star Man, Chemical Kid, and Element Lad attempt to get a cruiser prepped for their own departure from Earth. Ultraboy, Glorith, and Chameleon Boy attempt to escape Rimbor using Glorith’s magic, and Phantom Girl, Invisible Kid, and Polar Boy continue to try and regroup after their crash landing on the fabled Promethean giant.  This arc has all the hallmarks of another cosmic epic on the scale of writers Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen’s 1980’s opus, “The Great Darkness Saga.”   This issue lost a little steam, but issue #17 had two advantages.  Firstly, it had the element of surprise, following a very calm “nothing is happening” issue directly into a sucker punch in the readers’ collective gut with literally all Hell breaking loose.  Secondly, it had Keith Giffen’s Kirby-esque artwork magnifying the already nuts plotline into a tour-de-force thrill ride.  Scott Kolins and Tom Derenick do a good job, but like McCarthy above in the Batwoman review, they have the misfortune of standing in the very long shadow of Giffen.  I am pumped to read further into this amazing arc which promises to be a historic one.
  • DC Universe Presents #18 is a one shot like last month’s issue that gives spotlight to Jason Todd’s fellow outlaws.  Issue #17 was a focus on Roy Harper that really laid bare the kind of person he is as well as his hidden strengths and virtues.  This month we are shown Princess Koriand’r, aka Starfire.  Born into royalty, her sister sacrificed her to slave traders to buy peace for the realm.  This issue tells about her time as a slave on a ship that is larger than the Earth.  Inside are entire civilizations that the slavers raid and sell when needs be.  This issue wasn’t large in the action department, but did present an interesting study into the mindset of the enslaved.  How sometimes those that aren’t free are so weighed down by their bondage that they do not want to be free because of the terror it inspires in their comfortable minds.  This issue was once again written by Joe Keatinge, who wrote the  Arsenal issue last month.  The art is done by newcomer Federico Dallocchio.  The writing is thought provoking, if not action packed, and the artwork is very lovely, representing the beautiful heroine well.  Not a bad issue at all.
  • Nightwing #18 hits Dick Grayson while he’s down.  Last issue had Nightwing mourning the loss of his friends and the circus he grew up in and was trying to save.  It had Dick struggling with his own sense of denial, telling those that still cared about him that he was fine when he was really anything but, festering pain and anger deep in his belly until the pressure burst.  All the while Damian, the most socially inept, insensitive member of the Bat Family, followed him to intervene when the inevitable sword dropped.  Damian stopped him from stepping over the line and told him exactly what he needed to hear to ease his battered and bruised soul.  This issue opens with Damian dead and the old wounds he’d seemingly healed torn open and wrenched deeper by the loss of this “little brother” who knew him possibly better than even Batman.  What it comes down to is that he is losing his past.  The circus he grew up in was terrorized and some of the older members like the clown, James Clark, and his former girlfriend, Raya, brutally murdered by the Joker, the circus folds, and then Damian, who had served as his Robin when he donned the cape and cowl of Batman, dies suddenly saving Gotham.  Then Batman comes to him with information that a criminal scavenger that sells crime artifacts in underground auctions has plundered Haly’s and put John Grayson’s trapeze outfit up for sale.  The Collector last showed up in Scott Snyder’s Detective Comics run, pre-Reboot, running afoul of Dick Grayson’s Batman.  Now its a rematch in his Nightwing identity.  Though he goes in angry, the outcome of the confrontation ironically heals him and proves the truth in something Damian told Dick before he died.  But of course Dick can’t be happy for long.  When deciding to finally meet with Sonia Branch (nee Zucco), daughter of gangster that killed his parents, she reveals something about her dad that once again shows how Dick’s past is continually eroding beneath him, leaving him very little closure.  Kyle Higgins is KILLING IT!  His Nightwing run is seminal.  I may have liked other runs as much as this one, but I’m not sure.  All I know is that this is a really emotionally driven, introspective, thought provoking title that continually amazes.  Juan Jose Ryp yet again provides equally stunning interior art, really drawing out the latent potential in every heartbreaking frame.  This two issue interim arc between “Death of the Family” and the next major story arc of the title has been phenomenal on every imaginable level.

    Painful Memories

    Painful Memories

  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #18 following the shocking ending of last issue vis-a-vis the booby trapped helmet that the Joker whipped together, Jason lays in a medically induced coma, facing his greatest enemies.  With the revelation a few months prior that the Joker for all intents and purposes created him by selecting him and guiding him towards the Batman, the Clown Prince of Crime is the first of Jason’s adversaries.  However, the real adversary he fights is himself.  A mob of Bat family members, past and present, as well as his former allies converge on him at once and Batman is the one who pulls him out.  This is writer Scott Lobdell’s last issue on the series and he might be taking his character from his complete alienation of his past as Robin and bringing him back into the fold, or perhaps he’s just tempering the fiery character of the failed Robin, but in either event, he presents a single heartwarming tale for the jaded anti-hero.  Despite all he has done and the pain he has put them through, Bruce and Alfred love him and do everything in their power to help him come back to life, literally and metaphorically.  Tyler Kirkham does fantastic guest art on the title, really bringing out the twisted nature of Jason’s psyche.  Well worth picking up.RHATO18
  • Vibe #2 was a half and half issue.  Half of the issue played catch up and was boring for those who have read Justice League of America #1 & 2.  Recounting all of the snippets of Cisco Ramon’s appearances in the first two issues of the overarching JLA title, it does inform those who didn’t read the aforementioned title and gave context to those that did, but still, didn’t hit just right.  The other half of it hit a cord with DC fans that know their obscure characters.  A transdimensional invader comes through to deliver a note to an emissary.  It hands it to Vibe right before an A.R.G.U.S. agent zaps him.  The note was meant for the character, Gypsy, whose father apparently is a potentate in another reality.  A far departure from her previous back story, she is exactly like Vibe.  Few know who she is so few care if they do a MASSIVE overhaul.  What is clear is that A.R.G.U.S. likes to kidnap the daughters of powerful men.  Darkseid’s daughter is their prisoner.  This unknown king’s daughter is also their prisoner.  They better pray that Gypsy’s homeworld doesn’t form an alliance with Apokalips, because they are literally playing with fire and poking some VERY big dogs with an annoyingly sharp stick.  I want to believe Geoff Johns knows what he’s doing, but he is quitting the only good book he is currently writing.  So I put my faith in cowriter, Andrew Kreisberg.
  • Wonder Woman #18 concluded a maxi-arc in the odyssey of Zola’s baby.  In Wonder Woman #1 writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang introduced us to Zola, a human woman who bore Zeus’s newest bastard.  The Amazing Amazon has gone on a long journey to protect the young woman from the various gods of Olympus and upon its birth, to recover the baby from those same, meddlesome gods.  That story finds its conclusion a year and a half later.  However, it continues the tale of Zeus’s first born child, exiled and awoken millennia later with rage and vengeance on his mind.  Those same gods who tried to strong arm and kidnap an innocent child, now have to contend with a vengeful demigod fueled by distilled hatred.  Also Azzarello has re-introduced us to the New Gods of New Genesis, represented primarily by Orion, foster son of High Father and (perhaps still unbeknownst to him) the eldest son of Darkseid.  Azzarello keeps this series afloat, sometimes peaking on the wave of awesome, and other times lulling in the trough of mediocre.  This concluding issue of that first major crisis features art by alternating artist Tony Akins and Cliff Chiang, as well as a third penciller, Goran Sudzuka.  This one was pretty good and a must read if you have been one of the faithful, reading it from the inaugural issue.
  • Sword of Sorcery #6 accomplished quite a bit.  It fully introduced us to the new lord of House Turquoise after the death of Princess Amaya of House Amethyst’s grandfather, Lord Firojha.  It also introduces another newly minted House head following another shift in power.  Most importantly to the DCU in general is yet another reason why I want to see John Constantine strung up by his toes.  He singlehandedly brings the harbinger of utter ruin upon Princess Amaya’s home, but what’s worse, he uses her to invite it in.  In fairness to Constantine, however, the doom that he has sent to Nilaa was born in the Gemworld and exiled to Earth thousands of years ago.  Still, its a pretty low thing to do, considering how Amaya pulled his bacon out of the fire in the Justice League Dark Annual.  The Stalker backup feature isn’t even worth talking about.  Just horrible.  Get this issue for the main feature and then close it up after the conclusion.
  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #14 begins with an interim chapter in Batman Beyond following the conclusion of the hellacious “10,000 Clowns” arc and the coming one called “Undercloud.”  Though its a one shot, it is monumental if one followed the animated “Batman Beyond” series.  In the series Terry McGinnis constantly had to bail on his long suffering girlfriend, Dana Tan, and play it off like he was doing errands for his boss, the aged Bruce Wayne.  After the events of “10,000 Clowns” and her brother Doug unleashing hell on earth upon Gotham in the form of 10,000 suicidal Jokerz from around the world Dana is put in a situation where everything clicks.  When Doug attempted to kill their father in the ICU, Bruce Wayne, 80+ years old and dying himself from liver failure, got out of his hospital bed and fought the twenty something maniac, allowing the Tans to get Mr. Tan to safety.  When Doug took his sister as a hostage, Batman referred to her by name.  The math is right there and Dana FINALLY figures it out and a new era in Terry’s tenure as Batman begins.  The issue is also good, because Dana was often a set piece on the show and more of a plot device than an actual character.  This issue was her issue.  It was narrated by her, gave her history with an intimate look into her traumatic upbringing with a psychotic for an older brother who despite his evil nature she still loves, and tells us what gives her peace.  Adam Beechen makes this series come alive for those of us who mourned the TV series’ cancellation.  Although, I do have one beef.  In the “Justice League Unlimited” episode entitled “Epilogue” we are told that Terry discovered that Bruce Wayne was his biological father when they did the liver transplant and found out him and Bruce were identical tissue types.  In this issue the liver came from someone else.  You messed up, Mr. Beechen, but I’ll forgive you because the rest of this issue and those preceding it were truly mind blowing.  Also, kudos to Peter Nguyen who takes over for regular Batman Beyond artist Norm Breyfogle.  The art is truly beautiful, underscoring the moving narratives within.  Unfortunately, the Superman Beyond plot is leaving me whelmed.  I thought there was going to be some moral ambiguity with the Trillians claiming Superman destroyed their world, but really they are just an overclass that resents having their property taken away.  Superman freed their slaves and now they are angry.  Boo-effing-Hoo.   On to the next.  The Justice League Beyond Unlimited  story finishes off in this third installment with a new Flash, this time a young African American woman named Danica (last name to come soon, I am sure).  This arc was over relatively quickly when compared with the previous Kobra arc that spanned almost an entire year’s worth of issues.  However, despite the brevity and the quick take down of what could have been a truly formidable foe on the level of most of the greats this issue had its poignant moments that really speak to the superhero genre, why they do what they do, and gives a comprehensive intro to the next scion of the Speed Force.  Perhaps the best moment came after Superman personally extended an invitation to Dani to join the JLB.  After accepting his gracious offer, she challenged him to a foot race, which every speedster since Barry Allen have done.  Derek Fridolfs write this one as well as providing inks for Jorge Corona’s pencils.  Truly a great end to a relatively short arc.  This issue was phenomenal overall.BatmanBeyondUnlimited14

This crop was amazing, though statistically they had more shots at it with the increased number of entries.  Several of these are must gets to comic fans in general, regardless of genre.

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 #18: Drawn by Rags Morales & Brad Walker, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked byCam Smith & Andrew Hennessy

Justice League #2:  Art by David Finch, Colored by Sonia Oback

Supergirl #18:  Drawn by Robson Rocha, Colored by dave McCaig, Inked by Oclair Albert, Julio Ferreira & Mariah Benes

Nightwing #18: Drawn by Juan Jose Ryp, Colored by Bret Smith, Inked by Roger Bonet & Juan Albarran

Red Hood and the Outlaws #18:  Art by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Arif Prianto

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

Week 77 (Feb. 20, 2013)

This was a massive week with so many incredible books coming out.  The conclusion of Batwoman’s main storyline begun September of 2011, the beginning of the last arcs of the Green Lantern titles as they have been since 2005, the introduction of two new series, and perhaps the most powerful issue of Legion of Super-Heroes we’ve seen since Paul Levitz returned to the title in 2010.  A lot of stellar storytelling, without further ado:

  • Justice League #17 concludes the “Throne of Atlantis” event in perhaps one of the most morally ambiguous, honest endings.  With Arthur’s former adviser and friend, Vulko, revealed as the architect of the war between Land and Sea, Arthur has to subdue his brother King Orm, aka Ocean Master, to usher in peace.  Of course, he succeeds, however the cost is very painful to behold.  Since the first time he appeared in Aquaman, Ocean Master has been a very fair leader.  His home was attacked and he responded harshly.  No one can deny that point.  His treatment by his brother and the Justice League, who already have been portrayed as unsympathetic bullies, is hard to watch.  This is the birth of a villain and I can’t say that I won’t be cheering Orm on in the future.  When you marginalize a person with legitimate grievances you create concrete animosities.  And the hollow victory bought by offering his brother up like a herring on a silver platter is very hollow, considering that people still do not trust Arthur.  Perhaps its super realistic, but I again find it lackluster and hard to love the protagonists.  Better luck next time, Geoff Johns.

    The Birth of a Super-Villain

    The Birth of a Super-Villain

  • Action Comics #17 delivers the first half of Grant Morrison’s big finale on his Action run.  The issue’s really a recap of all the things that define Superman as a comic book icon and as a paragon of heroism.  Starting with the Kents who shaped this young, omnipotent alien into a compassionate everyman, the issue shows how many people Superman has touched over the years and to what degree.  The fifth dimensional madman Vyndktvx offers the people of Earth eternal life and their hearts desires if they refuse to help Superman in his hour of need.  That hour is now, and even with a multiversal behemoth throwing him around like a ragdoll, and depsite his own warnings to stay back, the people come to his aid.  Also rushing to his aid is perhaps the most unlikely of people.  Morrison tells this story brilliantly, tying everything he has done together with a quick narration by Vyndktvx himself, breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to us.  Sholly Fisch tells a heartwarming backup story that will have occurred after the next concluding issue of Action Comics.  Superman goes back in time somehow to talk to his father on the night he and Ma both die.  It’s sweet, it’s heart warming, and very personal.  Superman doesn’t tell them they are going to die, and even though Pa intuits that this might be the case, he doesn’t want to know either.  The two just share one last moment of happiness together, and Clark gets the chance to, in essence, say goodbye.  The scene is very reminiscent to but much briefer than Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman #7 in which Superman gets that chance in that story’s reality.  Just a great issue heralding the end of an era to come next month in Action Comics #18.
  • Justice League of America #1 is a decent introductory issue.  When starting a group book there are two ways to go about it: assemble immediately or have the team snowball, with members joining as the issues accumulate.  In this one issue, writer Geoff Johns harkens back to a brief moment at the end of his first arc of Justice League with a scene involving two men meeting, hinting at the formation of a fraternity of supervillains.  Beginning with this interaction, the comic then goes to an overarching conversation between former League liason to A.R.G.U.S., Col. Steve Trevor, meeting with current liason Amanda Waller in the interest of creating a second team sanctioned and moderated by the American government.  A Justice League of America.  As they discuss each member, the story cuts to the recruitment of said member in whiplash cutaways that do the bare minimum to introduce that character to you.  If you haven’t read Catwoman, Green Lantern, Stormwatch, The Savage Hawkman, or the two new ongoing series Katana and Vibe, that’s just too bad.  On the outside of this conversation also is a quick, tense scene of an Oni masked hero racing through a jungle from unknow assailants, bleeding out and attempting to get a message through.  This was the aspect of the book that buoyed the plot up and compelled the reader to know more.  At issue’s end he makes it back to A.R.G.U.S. and his identity is revealed, but his message has yet to be delivered.  I liked this first issue.  I am familiar with the characters and was able to fill in the blanks, but that may not carry over to new readers.   Art provided by David Finch is liney, dark, and ominous, really setting a harsh and uncertain tone to the overall plot which engages the reader almost immediately.   I will liken this series to a baby born of a diseased mother, the metaphorical mother being Justice League.  Geoff Johns has shown in JL that he seems incapable of writing a team book without losing the characters within to pettiness and ego, rendering them unrelatable caricatures of their current solo selves.  Here the new series is exhibiting what could be the beginnings of these symptoms of the diseased parent, but not without some signs of vitality.  Time will tell as to how this series comes out.  Martian Manhunter is perhaps the most disgusting character that the reboot and, I am assuming, Johns himself has birthed into this New DCU.  J’onn J’onzz was an alien that came to Earth as a stranger in a strange land, curious and full of optimism.  His delving into human society was about finding what was good in this strange new species.  Here he is a cold, hollow figure with incomparable power that dwells on the harsh, sinister motivations in men and offers it back in kind.  Maybe Johns and his bosses are trying to be edgy, but they are failing horribly and taking down beloved characters as collateral damage.

    The Mission

    The Mission

  • Batwoman #17 is a red letter issue.  There has been a continuous plot stretched over three story arcs of missing children in Gotham having been kidnapped by Medusa and Batwoman attempting to find them and bring them home safely.  That has also been the goal of Capt. Maggie Sawyer of the Gotham City police, who also happens to be the girlfriend of Batwoman’s alter ego, Kate Kane.  This third arc has had Batwoman teamed up with Wonder Woman to stop the crazed gorgon, Medusa, from using the children as a sacrifice to lure Ceto, the Greek goddess who birthed all monsters into the world, back into reality.  With this final issue Ceto is summoned forth and Batwoman and Wonder Woman must find a way to stop her from tearing the fabric of reality to pieces.  There is so little I can say about this issue because of how remarkable it is in both story and art, brought to us by J.H. Williams III in both capacities with co-writer W. Haden Blackman’s assistance.  In both her identity as Batwoman and Kate Kane, this issue changes everything.  The missing children plot that consisted of these first seventeen issues was interesting, considering the main issues that dominated her first solo appearance, pre-Reboot.  Well with this overarching plot concluded, Williams and Blackman tease us on the last page with a return of Batwoman’s personal ghosts.  I am dying to read the next issue in March and would urge you to do the same.

    That's a Game Changer

    That’s a Game Changer

  • Green Lantern #17 ushers in the “Wrath of the First Lantern” event, which also is the last event in the runs of the current Green Lantern titles’ creative teams.  Obviously, Geoff Johns’ run on Green Lantern is the most lamented of these casualties with his having been on this title longest of any of the current series writers and also being the visionary that brought Hal Jordan back to life and reimagined the GL mythology to the complex, multifaceted marvel it currently is.  After the Green Lantern Corps Annual last month, Volthoom, the first Lantern, is released upon the universe.  The issue begins with a brief explanation of how he came to meet the Guardians and what he embodies and then proceeds billions of years later in our present to show what he plans to do.  Somehow Volthoom is possessed of infinite power including the ability to warp and manipulate time to venture into tangential universes predicated on every single decision ever made or that ever will be made.  That coupled with a sadistic desire to feed off of pain like an emotional vampire paints an even more twisted villain than the inhumanly cold Guardians.  Also in this issue, newly minted Green Lantern, Simon Baz, comes face to face with the Black Hand on his quest to find Hal Jordan and by extension stop the Guardians.  This event promises to be a stunning finale to what has been an incredible eight year run on the title and the Green Lantern line of books.

    VOLTHOOM!

    VOLTHOOM!

  • Green Lantern Corps #17 brings Volthoom into Guy Gardner’s life both literally and figuratively.  The emotional vampire attaches to the surliest of the Green Lanterns like the Ghost of Christmas Past and Christmas Might Have Been preying on the raw feeling that lie beneath Guy’s cynical attitude.  Anyone who knows how abraisive Guy can be can only imagine the horrors from his past.  We are shown them and alternate versions of them as Volthoom tortures Guy over his mistakes the circumstances of his life that held him back from where and who he wanted to be.  Peter Tomasi plays this issue like a stratevarius, plucking the heartstrings of his readers who can’t help but empathize with our sarcastic hero.
  • Green Lantern: New Guardians #17 mimicks Green Lantern Corps with Volthoom trapping Kyle Rayner in his temporal web.  Next to Hal Jordan, Kyle Rayner is my favorite Green Lantern and this issue proves why.  Kyle is someone who had horrific things happen in his past, including his girlfiend being killed and her mutilated body stuffed into his refridgerator and his father walking out him and his mom when he was very young.  Volthoom plays his sick games by altering these events to torment Kyle, but to Kyle’s credit Volthoom has to bust out his A-game, as Kyle continues to see the silver lining to most of the things he’s exposed to by the sadistic First Lantern.  In trying to torment this paragon of will power, Volthoom only proves to us how strong and amazing Kyle is and how the greatest heroism sometimes is just refusing to let life and circumstances get you down.  Tony Bedard is amazing and as stated above his run on this title is ending in May with the twentieth issue of this series.  I have to say that I saddened by his departure considering this issue and all the issues he’s written in this line that has been exemplars of storytelling.  Aaron Kuder’s run also ends with #20 and he will also be missed as he too renders the subject material with grace and eloquence second to none.

    The Unsinkable Kyle Rayner

    The Unsinkable Kyle Rayner

  • Nightwing #17 gives the epilogue to “Death of the Family” from the perspective of Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing.  As a result of him being in the lives of the people at Haly’s circus several members including their clown, James Clark, and his former girlfriend, Raya, are killed and the rest hospitalized after the Joker’s attacks.  Alfred tries to console him and he says he’s fine.  He goes to visit the survivors in the hospital and those that don’t hold a grudge try to tell him he’s not to blame and its not his fault and he says he’s fine.  He goes to the funerals and his ambiguously romantic friend Sonia Branch (nee Zucco) tells him not to blame himself and he says he is fine. However, when criminals try to pillage the remains of Haly’s Circus, he goes bat-sh** crazy.  As solicited on the cover, Damian is the only person that can bring him back from the brink.  Ironic, considering how sociopathic Damian is and what his usual modus operandi when dealing with criminals consists of.  What this issue does so well is underscoring how incredible the relationship is between these two truly is.  When Dick took over the role of Batman following Bruce’s disappearance it was his choice to take Damian on as Robin and his faith that Damian could be more than the psychopathic killer his mother, Talia Al-Ghul, fashioned him into.  As a result I think that this issue shows him looking out for his “older brother” and not letting him cross lines he will regret.  Also it shows how well he knows Nightwing.  Dick told everyone he was fine and did a good job putting up the charade, but Damian knew with complete certitude that he was not.  Damian puts up a facade of apathy that in a lot of instances isn’t a facade, but rather him just not caring.  But here despite his cavalier attitude, he cares enough to follow Dick for several days to make sure that when the pressure building up within him finally burst out, he’d be there to stop him from breaking his moral convictions.  Kyle Higgins writes it quite well and with art by Juan Jose Ryp, the issue comes off quite well.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #17 provides a thoughtful epilogue for Jason Todd after the “Death of the Family” storyline.  Jason is someone that was burned early on by the Joker and has thick skin when it comes to such things, but tender flesh beneath.  While the others may have been really messed up by what the Joker did, Jason has already been lured into a trap by the Joker with his supposedly departed mother as bait and beaten to death and blown to smithereens.  However, learning that the Joker was the architect of his becoming Robin and most of the misfortunes that led him to that horrible place doesn’t fail to register.  So going back one last time to the Manor and the Cave he talks to various members of the family and says his farewells once again out of duty.  Though its a perfunctory visit, Bruce tells him perhaps the only thing that could heal a wound like finding out the Joker engineered your traumatic childhood, “No, Jason. He didn’t make you. I never did either. You made you.”  The visit seems to end on a high note, except that the Joker is not one to let things end with his having the last laugh.  When Jason retrieves his signature red hood and puts it on there is a surprise waiting for him within.  I have NO idea what that means for future stories, but its still a chilling ending point.  Scott Lobdell is close to ending his tenure on the title and appears to be  throwing a live grenade into the works for his successor James Tynion IV to pick up.

    We Are Our Own Masters

    We Are the Masters of Our Own Destinies

  • DC Universe Presents #17 follows Red Hood and the Outlaws by spinning a yarn about Roy Harper, aka Arsenal, that captures his history, his flaws and virtues, and how he is viewed by those around him.  Arsenal has been depicted in the past as a hard edged, loose cannon whose actions often result in a self destructive spiral.  In this new DC Universe he is more buffoonish, and jocular.  Starting off with him missing a mission with teammates Red Hood and Starfire, he’s made fun of and called worthless by his “friends.”  In reality he is in Hong Kong, imprisoned by the Triad after attempting to rescue Killer Croc, a Batman villain he ran afoul of in Red Hood and the Outlaws #3 and who consequently helped him get back on his feet.  Shackled in the basement of a Triad hideout, Roy not only steals a “quarter” from one of his tormentors  but also uses it to break his shackles over the course of hours and then cleans out the  place with nothing but a tool box.  Yes he is a bit of a joke, but what he’s capable of doing when he puts his mind to the task is no joke, nor is the lengths he will go to help someone that showed him a modicum of kindness when he most needed it.  Joe Keatinge writes this incredible one-shot and Ricken provides art.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes #17 was brutal.  This issue was incredibly good on all fronts.  The writing by Paul Levitz was phenomenal, taking place on Rimbor as well as a far distant location (whose importance to the plot becomes integrally crucial) amidst explosions and complete chaos.  All of that rendered on the page gorgeously by artist Keith Giffen with his Kirby-esque pencils.  Shortly after being elected leader, Phantom Girl is dealt perhaps the worst hand imaginable as she and two other Legionnaires become marooned after a malfunction of their spacecraft crashes them into an unknown locale.  Across the universe Ultra Boy, Glorith, and Brainiac 5 witness an equally cataclysmic disaster on Rimbor after a massive planet-wide electrical malfunction.  The lead up to this issue has been in the works since the very first issue of the rebooted series almost two years ago, and the consequences will be felt forever.  This is a DARK turn in the world of the 31st century.  If you are a fan of the Legion, you will feel this issue deep in your bones.  I had to set this issue down twice to get my bearings and take a few breaths.  Levitz and Giffen hit this one out of the park. It should be noted that these two collaborated almost exclusively on Levitz’s first run on the characters in the 80’s.  Thirty years later, they’ve come a long way but haven’t taken one step backward.  I can only imagine that Levitz got Giffen on this arc for the very reason that both of them needed to be on it for sentimentality sake.  If you love the Legion read this book.  If you don’t love the Legion, please don’t.  Not to be an elitist, but if you don’t understand and love the characters, you wouldn’t appreciate the truly sorrowful events chronicled within.
  • Supergirl #17 picks up on two of the conflicts Superboy ended on last week.  Wonder Woman took on Supergirl and Superman took on H’el in the hope of giving Superboy a chance to disable the Star Chamber that is literally draining our Sun of its energy to power H’el’s device to travel back in time and prevent Krypton’s destruction.  Wonder Woman proves to be the only one capable of literally smacking some sense into Supergirl.  The latter of which still trying to convince herself that H’el’s scheme won’t be an act of mass genocide.  However, Super Girl’s super-denial is no match for Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth.  The Maiden of Steel is unable to break its hold on her body nor on her conscience.  Superman does prove as successful when dealing with H’el, but after painfully coming to terms with the truth, Kara is unable to continue her association with H’el, regardless of how much she would like to go home.  With this alliance shattered, the heroes of Earth rallied against him, and the Oracle arriving in Earth’s orbit, the stage is set for the finale of “H’el on Earth” in Superman #17.
  • Wonder Woman #17 has Wonder Woman meeting up with her old mentor, War (Ares), in the bar Hera and Zola snuck out to and journeying to the secret hiding place of Demeter where Hermes has spirited Zola and Zeus’s infant to.  On the other side of the world the First Born reveals his benefactor with the metal neck to be Cassandra and with the prophetess’s help goes to seek his weapons, hidden by his uncle Poseidon.  This issue is interesting, but I am really looking forward to the end of this plotline with the gods meddling with one another and progressing to the Amazing Amazon in contemporary settings with some of her classic stable of villains.  Brian Azzarello’s writing is good, if not drawn out, and Tony Akins’ pencils are excellent.
  • Vibe #1 is another case of “here’s to lowered expectations.”  The character was an F-list character to begin with and something of a practical joke whenever he made appearances in second string DC titles.  George Perez, legendary artist and writer, absolutely hated him as a caricature of Hispanic Americans.  However, considering that main character Cisco Ramon is from Detroit, Justice League of America writer Geoff Johns couldn’t help but put him in the line up.  On the plus side, being as under appreciated as he was left Johns and series writer Andrew Kreisberg with the freedom to revamp him however they wanted.  Now having his vibratory powers linked with boom tubes from Darkseid’s invasion of Earth, he’s become something of a dimensional expert and border cop.  Right from the start his role as a superhero is linked to the JLA title and his success tied to his freedom, unbeknownst to him.  Another obscure character cameo comes in an imprisoned woman in a cell labeled “Gypsy,” also a veteran of Justice League Detroit.  Johns and Kreisberg also set the hook at the end by hearkening back to the reference in Justice League #6 to Darkseid’s daughter, and the further shocker that she is in fact in A.R.G.U.S custody.  Bit of a spoiler, but still a good reason to get into this title.  Game well played, Johns.  I’ll buy your series for the time being . . .

    Daughter of Darkseid

    Daughter of Darkseid

  • Sword of Sorcery #5 returns Amy to Gemworld and to her mother, Lady Graciel of House Amethyst.  With her return the pair travel to the capital of House Turquoise to visit the tomb of Amy’s father, Lord Vyrian.  When they reach their destination not only do they finally uncover the identity of his betrayer, they are also assaulted by two rogue assassins of House Onyx.  More interesting is the choice of the next Lord of House Turquoise after the events of this issue.  In the Stalker backup feature, writer Marc Andreyko attempts to make the revamp of this character work, but fails.  Sorry.  Even Andrei Bressan’s awesome art can’t rescue it.
  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #13  contains both a beginning and and end.  For starters, this issue begins the second arc of Justice League Unlimited Beyond called “Flashdrive.”  The storyline stymies me a little bit as there seems to be two things going on in the plot that don’t have any connection to one another.  The main body of the story picks up on a scene from the “Batman Beyond” movie entitled “The Return of the Joker.”   In the flashback portion of the film, the Joker kidnaps Tim Drake and turns him into a child Joker with chemicals and gene therapy and Tim ends up killing him.  That is the end of what is shown in the movie, but this issue continues it on, with Batman creating a morgue for supervillains so that when they die there will be no resting place their followers and acolytes can use to gather or make into a monument.  This morgue is built on the lowest sublevel of the Batcave that only Bruce and Barbara Gordon know exists.  There is a break in and it is neither Bruce nor Barbara, raising the question of who could have known about it and how they got in considering the fail-safes put in place by Batman, the most paranoid man alive.  Cut to a female docent at the Flash Museum having speedster abilities and an attack on the re-opening Museum drawing in Mister Miracle, Big Barda, Merina, Micron, and Green Lantern Kai-Ro.  I know that eventually there will be a connection made, but right now I am totally lost.  Next comes the conclusion of “10,000 Clowns” in Batman Beyond.  This one is pretty procedural and ends in a logical sense.  Batman (Terry McGinnis) faces off against Joker King and the latter’s defeat is clearly an eventuality, but the consequences are what are relevant here.  The ending of this seems to be heavily influenced by the Christopher Nolan film “The Dark Knight”, with the question lingering as to whether Joker King won or lost, and with the assertion that he didn’t win, the further question of did anyone really win?  In the Superman Beyond feature, the Trillians have captured Superman and put on a show trial for his “crimes” against their race, which again are still pretty vague.  I don’t feel confident commenting on this storyline, so I will abstain until further on into its plotline.    Overall a really good issue that delves into the animated mythology in interesting ways that take me back to the days I watched them as a wide eyed child or adolescent.
  • Womanthology: Space #5 delivers another slew of stories at varying lengths that run the gamut of relevance to the genre of Space.  One deals with an ungainly girl in elementary school who is tall, lanky, and extremely clumsy except when she runs which is when she feels the most free.  In her school’s play she is cast as the comet and all she has to do . . . is run.  The next vignette is entitled “The Wind in her Hair” about a girl living in a dirigible  who desires freedom and a tin-man looking automaton living on the polluted ground below who wants to take the tree he has cared for his entire life up above the poisoned clouds where “she” can grow and thrive.  A chance meeting between the girl and the gardener droid gives both the hope that they need to see their dreams through to fruition.   Writer Allison Pang and artist Chrissie Zullo create a story that is both romantic and ethereal with the bronze daguerreotype look of a 1920’s German Expressionist film.  The remaining pieces, while still very good are more abstract and not as readily synopsized.  This series has proven to be innovated and very compelling.  This is the fifth of six issue, so I would suggest that if you missed these and aren’t in a place to go back and catch up, wait for the collection to come out and then read them all in their entirety.  Truly a breathtaking series.WomanthologySpace5

This really was the most consistantly excellent week of February. Those titles that I have praised highly just prove how poweful and dynamic the comic medium can be to the newcomer and faithful alike.  I pray that next month finds these same titles meet the mark set here and perhaps exceeding it once more.  One thing is for certain, this week was a good week to be a comic book fan.

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 #17:  Drawn by Ivan Reis, Colored by Rod Reis & Nathan Eyring, Inked by Joe Prado, Oclair Albert & Sean Parsons

Justice League  of America #1:  Art by David Finch, Colored by Sonia Oback & Jeromy Cox

Batwoman #17:  Art by J.H. Williams III, Colored by Dave Stewart

Green Lantern #17:  Drawn by Dan Jurgens, Colored by Alex Sinclair & Tony Avina, Inked by Phil Jimenez

Green Lantern: New Guardians #17:  Art by Aaron Kuder, Colored by Wil Quintana

Red Hood and the Outlaws #17: Art by Adrian Syaf, Robson Rocha & Ken Lashley, Colored by Blond

Vibe #1: Drawn by Pete Woods, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Sean Parsons

Womanthology: Space #5 “The Wind in Her Hair” segment: Art by Chrissie Zullo

Week 71 (Jan. 9, 2013)

This week ushers in the first true week of 2013 comics.  Featured among them are the flagstone comics of the DC line, Action Comics and Detective Comics, as well as Swamp Thing, Earth 2, Worlds’ Finest, and an annual from one of my all time favorite titles Green Lantern: New Guardians.  Let’s see what they have in store for us:

  • Action Comics #16 is a little confusing and, though the penultimate issue of Grant Morrison’s run of this title, is something of an interim issue.  To be fair, things do happen, but the majority of the issue is dedicated to the tying together of disparate threats from the fifteen previous issues into what will become the blowout finale next month.  Starting in the future with the Legion of Super-Heroes outlawed in their own time and attempting to sneak back to the “present”, the issue then cuts to a point in the Action Comics timeline after Superman has already died once during an event referenced as “Doomsday” when the skies turned red.  Conceivably this is Morrison reintegrating the iconic “Death of Superman” event into the New DCU canon, but the details are very sketchy.  As of last issue (Action Comics #15) Superman hadn’t been to Mars, which was the plot of Action Comics #14, so this issue, having Superman just coming back from Mars is a little disjointed and trippy.  The Anti-Superman Army is reintroduced with all members present and accounted for and their relationship to the “Little Man” fully revealed.  This is most apparent in the case of Lois Lane’s niece, Susie, who has absolutely no reason to hate Superman or want him dead.  Xa-Du and Krypto make their first reappearances since #13 in October, and Superdoom makes his after his multiversal introduction in Action Comics #9.  In the backup feature, the Legion once again takes center stage saving the Earth Gov president-elect from an assassination attempt by a Naltorian man claiming that if president-elect Takaneda lives the future will be forfeit.  They do not heed his warning (despite the fact that Naltorians have the known ability for accurate precognition) and after the fact, he is revealed to be Universo in disguise.  This issue was really good, setting up a great amount of material that most likely will be left in the air upon Morrison’s exit from the title in February.  That said, writers will no doubt be feeding off Morrison’s fodder in storylines for years to come.  Perhaps even decades. Next month’s issue is double sized and knowing Morrison should be a bombshell.
    Doomsday Has Come And Gone . . . SUPERDOOMSDAY Is Upon Us!

    Doomsday Has Come And Gone . . . SUPERDOOMSDAY Is Upon Us!


  • Detective Comics #16 is a twofold plot.  On one side you have Batman attempting to stem the madness in Gotham ancillary to the Joker’s return.  For whatever reason, the Joker’s madness strikes a chord with some people, evoking serious psychosis.  This was evinced in Detective Comics #4 when Batman crashed a demonstration in Gotham Park of Batman protesters picketing against his supposed “skinning” of the Joker.  There are all sorts of rival Joker groups, but Batman sets his eyes on a particular group called the “League of Smiles.”   From what we see of the League here it is a comprised of some truly twisted individuals, and even the most benign among them remain deeply disturbed.  Across the aisle, the Penguin has been requisitioned by the Joker for his larger goals and in the absence of Oswald Cobblepot, his assistant Ignatius Ogilvy, now referring to himself as Emperor Penguin, has been gobbling up territory and strengthening his base so as to bar the Penguin from regaining his vast empire after the Joker releases him.  In fact, Ogilvy uses the madness generated around the Joker’s return to hit the rival syndicates, weakening them, and blame it on the Joker.  I spoke in earlier reviews of John Layman’s run on Detective that there was no rhyme or reason as to the plots issue to issue.  Now it becomes clear that he has been building up the rise of Emperor Penguin from within the ranks of the Penguin, like a cancer or perhaps more appropriately a parasite.  This series has met its maturation point and hits its stride.
  • Swamp Thing #16 following the revelation last issue of the state of Gotham and Batman’s succumbing to the Rot, writer Scott Snyder redeems the situation by showing the contingencies Batman left in place for the coming of Swamp Thing.  Though he knew Gotham would fall, Batman also knew of one legacy he could leave Alec Holland that would give him the edge needed to stand a chance against the Rot in the coming conflict. With it, Swamp Thing makes his way to Anton Arcane’s stronghold leading to next month’s finale of “Rot World: The Green Kingdom.”  Snyder’s plot is tight and utilizes the structure of Gotham beautifully to facilitate an incredible Swamp Thing issue under the banner of “Rot World.”
  • Animal Man #16 brings this title to its penultimate chapter in “Rot World: The Red Kingdom.”  Buddy Baker and his ragtag group of defenders from the Red have linked up with Frankenstein and his undead army against the Rot, and once there is a decent fighting force behind him, they make a “Hail Mary” play to release a prisoner so dangerous Anton Arcane held him imprisoned outside of his domain in the faraway dead city, Metropolis.  Thought to be Superman, it turns out to be the new Green Lantern of our sector, Medyphyll, replacement for all the human lanterns.  Coming from a race evolved from plant-life, the Guardians gave him the ring so that he might have an edge as a being with a close connection to the Green.  Though he is weakened by the Rot’s presence, he is able to regain his footing and give the “Red Army” the final edge they need to attack Arcane in his capital, which is precisely where the issue ends as the greatest battle begins with the Rot.  On the sidelines, Animal Man’s daughter Max is tricked by William Arcane into sacrificing herself to save the lives of her mother, brother, and grandmother.  The next issue promises to be a killer issue alongside Swamp Thing #17.  
  • Earth 2 #8 is a one shot issue that takes the world of the second Earth into a very interesting direction.  As with Justice League #1, Earth 2 was invaded by the forces of Apokalips.  Though the timeline is hazy, I believe that Earth 2 was invaded first, with the Apokaliptian forces lead by Steppenwolf, and Earth 1 was invaded next by Steppenwolf’s nephew, Darkseid.  The war with Apokalips was far more devastating to the residents of Earth 2.  Five countries were completely wiped off the planet in massive fiery blast, hundreds of millions of people were incinerated in a matter of minutes, and and of course, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were murdered before the war was brought to a close.  Well after the fact, in the present of this series we are shown that the evil architect of all the carnage, genocide, and destruction, Steppenwolf, is not only alive, but stranded on Earth 2 in the nation of Dherain.  Through King Marov’s intercession Steppenwolf is protected by international treaties and allowed to thrive within the borders of Dherain.  In exchange, Marov is able to extract Apokaliptian tech to supermodernize his small nation.  However, as tension grows between Steppenwolf and Marov, Steppenwolf’s greatest weapon is revealed and promises to drop jaws.  With the end of this issue an ominous threat is revealed and then relegated to the background once again like a Sword of Damocles dangling over the overarching narrative and driving the reader mad wondering when it will fall.

    Hell Hath No Fury . . .

    Hell Hath No Fury . . .

  • Worlds’ Finest #8 follows two exiles from Earth 2 living on Earth 1, Huntress and Power Girl.  Writer Paul Levitz started this pilgrimage in a guarded way by introducing one of these exiles, Helena Wayne (aka Huntress), as Helena Bertinelli in the limited Huntress series.  In it Huntress fights traffickers of young Arabic women from North Africa to Italy and the European market led by the warlord Ibn Hassan.  In this issue, Levitz shows that no good deed goes unpunished.  After breaking up his operation and losing him hundreds of millions in revenue, his men finally catch up with Helena and put her in the hospital.  Power Girl intercedes and seemingly solves the problem of Ibn Hassan and the bounty on Huntress’s head removed, but her hospitalization gives the opportunity for her in her delirium to return to her childhood and show how her father, Batman, imbued in her an iron will and “never-say-die” attitude, and her mother, Catwoman, gave her love and strength of mind over body.  She had super-star parents who were tough on her, but loved her just as much as any parents could.  The overall plot is kind of trite, as Helena gets hurt, being only human, and Power Girl fixes everything being both rich and an invincible Kryptonian, but the underlying story facilitated by it of her past and the rich environment and parents that sculpted the woman she became is really what makes this issue so stunning.

    Catwoman And Her Kitten

    Catwoman And Her Kitten

  • Green Lantern: The New Guardians Annual #1 is a really interesting annual, sort of like the Superman Annual #1.  Though it bears the name of the series it represents, it has little to do with the overall story in the main series run.  Just as with the Superman Annual, which had more to do with Grifter and Red Hood and the Outlaws than Superman, this Annual does more to set up the series Threshold #1 than forwarding the New Guardians storyline.  Carol, Kyle, and their allies Saint Walker and Arkillo are sent on a mission by Carol Ferris’s overlords in the Star Sapphires to the Tenebrian Dominion.  The Tenebrian Dominion is the empire governed by Lady Styx, rebooted from her previous insectoid form to a black feline one, as introduced in Blue Beetle #0.  To infiltrate one of the most secure sectors of Space the New Guardians enlist the aid of Jediah Caul, the Green Lantern deep cover operative inside the Tenebrian Domain.  Unlike most Green Lanterns, Jediah is very amoral and subscribes to a dog-eat-dog, survival of the strongest philosophy.  Once he gets them in, the annual introduces the concept of “the Hunt,” a game in which enemies of the state are released with a bounty on their heads and the chase televised with their death open to any citizen of the Dominion.  Tony Bedard takes a break here, with the annual written by Threshold scribe Keith Giffen.  Art is provided by Andrei Bressen, relief artist of Green Lantern: New Guardians, and Threshold back-up artist Scott Kolins.   Though Giffen is new to the series and also considering he won’t be writing its characters for the foreseeable future, he nailed it.  The unlikely friendship and comradery between Saint Walker and Arkillo was especially well done.  Carol Ferris was also written in a very engaging, empowered way.  I enjoyed this annual and look forward to seeing the new title that it so exceptionally introduces.
  • Batwing #16 marks the title getting good again!  The previous arc, begun by Judd Winick dealt with a crazy cult leader and descended into a really crazy place.  With this issue new series writer Fabian Nicieza brings the plot back into the realm of real problems in Africa.  This time its police corruption and the the power of private individuals over national politics.  Here the son of a foreign investor who has a proclivity for sex and murder is acquitted over and over due to police buy offs.  The title character, David Zavimbe, who moonlights as a vigilante and licensed operative of Batman Incorporated, is caught in the middle considering he is also a Tinasha police inspector.  As Batwing and as an officer of the law he must find justice despite the overwhelming tides that are rushing against him and the innocent people he’s vowed to protect.  With this issue, a war is declared.  Nicieza’s writing is superb and hits a chord with the blunt realities of the “dark continent” in the post-colonial era.  Though its solicited on the cover as done by Fabrizio Fiorentino, the actual artist is Allan Jefferson, a man I had never heard of, but whose art is crisp, fresh, and very appropriate to the tone of the book.  This marks the beginning of something good.Batwing16
  • Green Arrow #16 is yet again a place holder.  Green Arrow concludes his business bringing down the underworld arms dealer and dog fighting kingpin, Harrow.  Not really any good, and I think that writer Ann Nocenti is checked out on the title, ready to move on to other projects, namely February’s Katana #1.  I am on the verge of dropping this title, but next month’s issue taken over by Jeff Lemire could turn it around like the character has several times in the past.  Green Arrow is one of the characters that has been written the worst and written the best so many times over his long history of publication.  You either do it perfectly or completely crap.  I pray that Lemire gets it, like others have gotten it, and resurrected the title like so many of the greats had done before him.  Lemire may indeed add his name to the list of Mike Grell, Dennis O’Neil, and JT Krul.  This issue, however, is forgettable.  
  • Phantom Stranger #4 takes us further down the rabbit hole that is the life of Philip Stark, aka Phantom Stranger, aka Judas Iscariot. Going clothes shopping with his wife, suddenly he finds himself whisked to the House of Mystery by John Constantine.  Phantom Stranger made an appearance in Justice League Dark #14, and this issue gives the other half of that encounter from the Stranger’s perspective.  I absolutely hate John Constantine and not in an “I love to hate him” sort of way, but rather an “if he died I would either cheer or just not care.”  Phantom Stranger is an unfettered transcendental force that is free of most Earthly constraints and not one to trifle with.  Constantine found perhaps the ONE way to not only guarantee his own safety while parlaying with him, but also the one string that he can use to make the Stranger dance like a puppet.  So that’s one headache Phantom Stranger has to deal with, but once back to the store in which he was snatched another calamity rears its ugly head, bringing the narrative back to Pandora and another universal force on par with our protagonist.  Dan Didio conceived the plot on this one, but the scripting is taken over by J.M. Dematteis, another phenomenal writer of paranormal comics.  Also, though I don’t normally comment of cover art, Jae Lee (Before Watchmen: Ozymandias) looks to be providing cover art for the next couple of issues and this particular issue’s looks stunning.  If down the road he were to take over interior art, that wouldn’t be completely inappropriate and would add a great deal.
  • Legends of the Dark Knight #4 returns to a three part anthology format, like its inaugural issue, with tales from T.J. Fixman, Andrew Dabb, and Jonathan Larsen.  Fixman’s installment, entitled “A Game To Die For”, tells of an up and coming superhero named the Praetorian who nabs the Joker and awaits Batman to pick up the Clown for return to Arkham.  In the interim the Joker, tied up and seemingly helpless, plays his masterful head games that distort Praetorian’s reality and raise some interesting questions about his past.  Suspenseful and psychologically charged, this story is very much in line with Christopher Nolan’s non-Batman films and just as complex considering its short duration.  The second installment by Andrew Dabb deals with a film crew coming to Gotham to make a movie based on that city’s storied nocturnal protector.  Of course since it takes place inside the DCU the film crew has no idea who the Dark Knight is or why he does what he does and that is at the heart of the story.  The main actor who is cast to portray Batman has reservation as he doesn’t know what motivation to take to get into his character and understand him.  Of course upon the beginning of filming things karmicly are destined to go awry, which manifests in the form of Joker and Harley Quinn crashing the party.  Asking Harley why her and the Joker are doing what they are doing to innocent people, the actor gets the reply, “Why does anyone?  Us, the capes  . . . cause its fun and we get to dress up,”  and when he asks Batman the same question he is rewarded with no answer at all.  However, the Dark Knight’s evasion is rather Zen in nature, because while there is no intelligible answer, the truth behind his motivation is everything that the film crew has endured up to that point at the arbitrary whims of two psychotics.  Finally from writer Jonathan Larsen comes a tale of Two-Face that features some very telling things about the nature of both Two-Face and Harvey Dent, two consciousnesses sharing a body.  Involving a very radical surgery, the plot of this story is too good and two complex to sum up.  However, this story does present a very twisted conundrum inherent in the nature of Harvey’s split personality.  As ever this title gives thoughtful exploration to the very complex character that is Batman.
    Sometimes No Answer Can Be The Most Telling Answer

    Sometimes No Answer Can Be The Most Telling Answer

     

  • Smallville Season 11 #9 moves into a brand new arc entitled “Haunted” which could stem from two plot points and perhaps even both.  On one side of the narrative, Lex Luthor has been using cutting edge psychotherapy techniques to dive into his subconscious and claim the memories of his sister, Tess, who’s consciousness has taken up residence in his shiny dome.  At the heart of this is her knowledge of Superman’s identity. On the other side, Superman hooks up with an old friend of his, Bart Allen, aka Impulse (Basically the Flash of this world), and the two have their infamous race across the world.  Bryan Q. Miller maintains the feel of the original TV show in this comic extension, introducing classic characters in interesting new ways.  Psimon is introduced in this issue as a failed experiment by Lex Corp.  During the race across the world, Impulse and Superman stop an art robbery at the Louvre by a band of Gorillas lead by an Alpha gorilla and a disembodied brain.  Yup, you guessed it.  Here we meet the Brain and Monsieur Mallah, which Miller takes a cue from Grant Morrison’s 1990’s Doom Patrol series by making homosexual/trans-species  lovers.  Lastly, but certainly not of least interest, is the introduction of a black, spectral speedster that is chasing Impulse.  Again, for those who follow DC with some frequency, you know who this is, rounding out what promises to be yet another interesting arc in Smallville Season 11.

Thus ends the first legitimate week of 2013 comics.  The comic year looks rife with possibilities.  And next week we get into a whole slew of “Death of the Family” titles as well as a very promising new title in Threshold.  See you back here next week.

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 #16:  Drawn by Rags Morales & Brad Walker, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Andrew Hennessy & Mark Propst

Earth 2 #8: Drawn by Yildiray Cinar, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Ryan Winn & Ruy Jose

Worlds’ Finest #8:  Art by CAFU, Colored by Rosemary Cheetham

Batwing #16: Drawn by Allan Jefferson, Colored by Pete Pantazis, Inked by Phyllis Novin, Le Beau Underwood & Juan Castro

Legends of the Dark Knight #4: Art by Giorgio Ponrelli, Colored by Antonio Fabela