Jan. 29, 2014

This week rounds out the month with some classic series like Teen Titans and The Flash and adds a few Annuals to the mix.  It also marks the end of the very intriguing Damian: Son of Batman series.  Not the most perfect week of comics, but certainly a few gems to be read.

  • The Flash #27 begins the last arc of writer Brian Buccellato’s run on this title.  Beginning in the 19th century when the Gem Cities of Keystone and Central City were mining camps, we get a two page glimpse at a murder centuries.  Cut to the present when Flash is running down (pun intended) a few of his lesser foes, only to discover a hidden chamber beneath the city streets containing several long dead bodies.  They fit the M.O. of a killer put away on a life sentence, but according to forensics were killed AFTER said person, Hollis Holden, was sent to Iron Heights Prison.  As Barry looks into the facts it slowly dawns on him that this could be the case that clears his father’s name of killing Barry’s mom.  It’s a sad thing that Buccellato is leaving the Flash, because his collaboration with Francis Manapul on the title has truly invigorated this series and made it one of the “can’t miss” series of the current DC lineup.  Though Manapul is absent in art, Patrick Zircher takes over art duties and his panels bring the Flash alive in a whole new way.  I won’t say that I like the art better than Manapul’s, which is in it’s own category, but I definitely love his work and would seek it out in other titles once this title transitions. With this being Buccellato’s last hoorah on the Flash, it’s a distinct possibility that Barry might ACTUALLY solve his mother’s murder.  The question comes down to how well that answer could be given under the current circumstances and the size of Buccellato’s ego.  My opinion could swing favorably or unfavorably on this one.  Two more issues to go . . .
  • The Red Lanterns #27 begins properly the new phase in the Red Lantern mission.  After “Lights Out” Hal Jordan gave Guy Gardner and his Red Lanterns a sector of Space for their own, free of interference from the Green Lanterns.  Guy took 2814, home most notably to the planet Earth.  Writer Charles Soule says Ysmault, the Red Lantern homeworld, is in Sector 2814 and that is the rationale for its selection.  I’m not buying it.  This is one time when I have to question Soule’s logic, considering that Ysmault was used as the prison to house the survivors of the Manhunter massacre of every living thing in Sector 666, except the six Inversions imprisoned on there.  They were imprisoned to keep them out of sight and out of mind so they couldn’t tell the rest of the Universe what the Guardians let happen.  So . . . why would they put these dangerous criminals in a heavily populated sector like 2814 when they could use any of the THOUSANDS of deserted planets in 666 where nobody ever goes and where there are no Green Lanterns patrolling?  I’m pretty sure they did even say Ysmault is in 666 somewhere in one issue or another.  A very ill-conceived gambit to justify the annexing of 2814 by the Reds.  With that taken into account, Guy intends to inspect Earth and show Skallox and Zilius Zox his homeworld, as they have never seen it before.  I am fairly certain Skallox went to Earth in Red Lanterns #10 or the crossover issue of Stormwatch #10.  Soule is appearing to not have done his homework.  Rankorr and Bleez, who have been to Earth many times, are dispatched to find a newly minted Red Lantern and reign them in, only to come face-to-face with Atrocitus, who found new ring himself and initiate the new toad-like Red into the fold.  On Earth Skallox and Zox are left to their own devices, invariably finding trouble.  The main thing that Charles Soule accomplishes with this issue is the reintroduction of Tora Olafsdottir, aka Ice, into the New DCU, as well as recapping the former relationship that Guy and Tora once had.  I like the series, but I do think that of the many things that Charles Soule is currently writing this is the weakest series and the one that probably has the least of his attention.  That’s not to say that it’s bad, but it could be way better.
    An Icy Reception.

    An Icy Reception.


  • Teen Titans #27 appears to be Scott Lobdell’s attempt to make a liar out of me.  Last issue, he and artist Tyler Kirkham went about detailing the secret origin of Kid Flash, aka Bar-Tor, as a “psychotic anarchist” who led a bloody rebellion in a tyrannically oppressive future.  At least that was their aim.  What they showed was a level headed kid that did everything within his power to protect and provide for his little sister, Shira, and make a better world.  He is nothing more than what any person would be in that situation and far from the psychopath they’d depicted him as.  This issue changes that.  It also, to a small degree, changes the rationale behind his surrender to the galactic “Functionary” that oppressed the lower classes of its citizens.  In issue #26 it appeared that the near death of Shira due to his actions snapped Bar out of his revolutionary fervor, making him give himself up to authorities.  While I still believe that he loves his sister and that she is his primary reason for doing what he has done, Scott Lobdell shows that Kid Flash’s surrender was both strategic and deceptive.  Though he was granted witness protection and a new identity in the past, the Functionary show when they try Bar in this issue that they never had any intention of letting him live.  They only meant to break his rebellion by putting on a show trial with him ratting out those that believe in him and fought for him, killing their spirit, and then executing him afterward.  Bar knew this and turned the tables.  After admitting his utter guilt to the charges laid against him the ceiling is literally blown off of the courthouse and the prison guards arm the rebels and teleport them to the scene.  Bar has the Functionary bigwigs in a snare that will ensure that all the government’s heads will roll in one swing of the sword.  No one is going to survive Bar’s coup, not even the innocents present.  In his demeanor and his actions, Kid Flash does take on the crazed temper he’d be cast in leading up to these last two issues.  It’s madness, but the question is whether it is a good kind of madness.  What is happening seems very much like the French Revolution with the prison guards turning against their masters and opening the prisons in an all out breakdown of the system.  I am very curious to see how this predicament pans out and how the crazy Kid Flash from this issue reconciles with the very grounded, moral version that perhaps only I saw in the last issue.  With a character like Kid Flash it’s hard to believe he would get kamikaze’d like, that regardless of whether the title is getting cancelled in April or not.  Scott Lobdell hasn’t let me down so far and has written this series superbly throughout the two and a half year run.  Artist Tyler Kirkham is hitting it out of the park in the realm of art, really making this title a jewel in his resume.  I’m onboard this train till it’s last stop two months from now.  What a ride . . .

    The Face of Teenage Revolution.

    The Face of Teenage Revolution.

  • Talon #15 is yet another comic by Marguerite Bennett that I went into with high hopes, only to have them dashed.  The issue has NO story. Yes, there is something resembling a plot, but at the end of the issue the reader is left with two questions: 1) What did I just read? 2) Why should I care?  The plot (or what passes for one) begins with an African American Talon taking down William Cobb to become the Court of Owl’s new assassin.  It should be noted that this Talon is male, meaning that it is not Strix, who came into her second life in the 50’s. The pacing of the issue is also very jarring, following the reverse order paradigm of Christopher Nolan’s seminal film, Memento.  Slowly we work our way back through this guys life, and while the imagery is very depressing and often tragic, the rationale of why we are even hearing about this guy is not answered.  This is a one-off for Bennett, the title will transition to Tim Seeley’s hands for it’s final two issues, so again the possibility that this is setting something up is dubious.  There was even the possibility in my head that in some way this gentleman was a relative of Casey Washington, but due to the time period and the circumstances described this is just a nameless Talon we may never hear from again.  Every time I come across a title that Marguerite Bennett writes I get a twinge.  Maybe she’s good at writing her own material, but so far everything of hers I have read is her writing a one-shot issue of someone else’s property like her Batman Annual #2 last year, the TERRIBLE Lobo issue she wrote during Villains Month this September, and her lackluster Batgirl #25 in November.  She’s writing two one-shots next month and both have me worried.  Joker’s Daughter features the title character whom I do not care for one iota, so that sounds like a giant waste of money.  Lois Lane is a horse of a different color, because that has the potential to be amazing . . . assuming the writer has the talent to actually pull it off.  Lois Lane is a character that can be incredible, but can also be absolutely terrible if the writer doesn’t know what they are doing. Bennett does not instill faith.  Also the artist on Lois Lane, Emanuela Lupacchino, is an up and coming talent and I’ve enjoyed her past work a great deal, so that is another reason Bennett’s authorship is troubling.  No one wants to be the weakest link that breaks the chain, especially when that chain is Lois Lane, one of the most beloved female characters in comics and someone that fans have been screaming to have her own solo book.  Marguerite Bennett said this of her controversial Lobo issue this past September:
    You can hate me by Page Two. But if I do not have your attention by Page Four, you don’t have to read something of mine ever again.”
    Well Ms. Bennett, you have until the last page of Lois Lane #1 to sell me that you can write anything.  Then I am going to take you up on your previous offer.  
  • Damian: Son of the Batman #4 brings to a close Andy Kubert’s four issue miniseries dedicated to Damian Wayne, whom Kubert co-created with Grant Morrison.  This series has been and continues to be a very Kubert-esque journey through the life of Batman.  Joe Kubert, Andy’s father, had a very characteristic drawing style that influenced comic art for seventy years, but also a narrative style that is like no one else’s, past or present.  Andy has definitely inherited his dad’s artistic style, but he also emotes the same incredible voice as a writer.  Joe could have written this, but at the same time there is a darker edge that is all Andy.  In a lot of ways that is something of which this comic is an allegory.  Damian is taking over for his legendary father, Batman.  In the first issue, even after the death of Batman (it’s actually Dick Grayson) he is reticent to take on the mantle of the Bat, but as events unfold he is thrust into becoming Batman, but a Batman on his terms.  His father, who is still alive though quite old, chastises him for his wanton brutality which does get through to the young Wayne.  But as this issue concludes and Damian actualizes himself as the new Dark Knight he takes on the role adhering closely to his father’s legacy and being Batman in the ways that matter, but also maintaining an element of his own identity while in the role.  Now I don’t know if Joe and Andy had an idyllic relationship or a rocky one like Bruce and Damian in this series, but the parallels of Andy taking the reigns of continuing his father’s legendary name and legacy in the comics industry rings true to Damian’s struggle herein.  As stated, Joe Kubert’s art can be found in elements of more than four generations of comic artists, but his writing style is far more rare and that is what Andy stands as a torchbearer to.  Top to bottom, this was an incredible four issue miniseries and well worth reading for those that love and miss Damian Wayne.

    Long Live the Batman!

    Long Live the Batman!

  • Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 provides and extended format launch pad for the next major conflict in the Green Lantern family of books. The Durlans have been a problem over the past several months, but in this annual their threat begins to solidify.  They have publicly discredited the Green Lantern Corps in front of the Universe, they have rallied the Corps’ enemies into simultaneous attacks on the Corps’ chapter houses throughout the 3600 sectors of Space, and they have drawn blood by blowing up the Corps’ command center on Mogo.  Writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen give background into the Durlan threat by showing the horrific ruling council of the Durlan race called “the Ancients,” and gives voice to what the Ancients plan.  What’s more, the annual primarily focuses on the Corps’ many iconic villains, i.e. Kanjar-Ro, Bolphunga the Unrelenting, Darkstar, etc., and gives short one to two page glimpses into each villain’s past with a moment that sums up their individual motivations.  These are the worst of the worst who HATE the Corps, so what Venditti and Jensen do next is even more incredible.  Faced with an alliance with the Durlans who none of them trust, this ragtag group of villains pull a 180 and align themselves with the Green Lanterns to take out the Durlan threat.  It’s a tricky gambit and should make for one hell of an entertaining arc.  
  • Earth 2 Annual #2 finally reveals the origin of the enigmatic Batman of Earth 2.  Spoiler Alert, I am going to reveal the identity of Batman.  I feel enough time has passed since the issue dropped that those that want to know already know, but if someone doesn’t, skip this review.  This series started in Earth 2 #0 with the end days of the Apokalips Invasion of Earth 2 being thwarted by the Trinity (Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman) at the cost of their lives. So with Bruce Wayne dead, who is this new Batman and why is he doing what he is doing?  The breadcrumbs and clues have been stacking up.  Firstly, through his rhetoric and desire to free “dangerous” inmates of the Arkham cryostasis detention center we are shown that he could be considered a criminal and a monster.  Secondly, while doing so he is revealed to have super-strength and a bulletproof hide. Thirdly, we are told that bioscans reveal him to be human.  Finally, when he goes into the containment chambers and releases the inmates he opens the Joker’s tube only to shoot him in the head, revealing a VERY deep loyalty to Batman as a person, but not an adherence to his stringent codes against killing and using firearms.  All of these paint a tantalizing riddle of who this person could be, opening the door for either a very interesting reinvention of a classic DC character or the introduction of a brand new one.  The reveal was, I am sad to say, underwhelming.  Batman is Dr. Thomas Wayne, father of Bruce Wayne, who faked his death and apparently became a junkie and a murderer out to take down mafiosi.  Maybe in the long run this will be a decent development, but it just seemed really tired and unoriginal.  Thomas Wayne as Batman was something novel that writer Brian Azzarello proposed in Flashpoint: Batman and wrote to perfection.  In that title as well, Batman became something very dark and excessive in his crusade against crime, also adopting the use of firearms.  However, Flashpoint Batman was the architect of the Batman persona following the death of 8 year old Bruce at the gunpoint of Joe Chill and the subsequent psychotic descent of his wife, Martha, into the persona of the Joker.  In Earth 2 the use of Thomas as the new Batman just comes off as lazy from a writing standpoint.  He uses guns, he’s got five o’clock shadow, he’s willing to kill, his costume is red and grey/black with sharper edges.  There are too many similarities with not enough validating differences to make Thomas’ role in the book worthwhile.  Now that may change, but the deadbeat dad concept, while tragic, falls flat for me.  This is a shame as I have enjoyed the series, both under the helm of original writer James Robinson and the new authorship of Tom Taylor.  Whether Thomas was Robinson’s idea or Taylor’s, the brunt of responsibility falls on Tom Taylor to make it work however possible.
    A Father in the Shadows.

    A Father in the Shadows.


  • Worlds’ Finest Annual #1 provides a look into the lives of three very important young women from Earth 2.  The title Worlds’ Finest follows Helena Wayne, known as Robin on Earth 2 and Huntress on Earth 1, and Kara Zor-El, known as Supergirl on Earth 2 and Power Girl/Karen Starr on Earth 1.  This annual showcases their lives as emergent heroes on Earth 2, as well as a brief glimpse at a third young woman whom readers of the series Earth 2 will no doubt recognize: Fury.  Helena Wayne is of course the daughter of Bruce Wayne (Batman) and his wife Selena Kyle (Catwoman), and the first and so far only bearer of the mantle of Robin on Earth 2.  As on Earth 1, Kara is the cousin of Superman and in most ways is identical to her Earth 1 counterpart.  Fury is the enigma, as she is the daughter of Wonder Woman and an unrevealed father, and fights for Apokalips.  In this way, the annual focuses on the female scions of the three great superheroes: Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.  Paul Levitz is just the writer to tackle this assignment considering his creation of Huntress in the 70’s and his incredible career writing thoughtful comics about uncertain youths flung head first into incredible circumstances.  For proof of that assertion read any of his Legion of Super-Heroes books.  The episodes depicted in this annual concerning Helena and Kara paint the two girls as novices making mistakes, but those early blunders juxtapose against the past two years worth of issues to show how they became the strong, confident women we have seen in the present.  Fury is more cryptic in her portrayal by Levitz and no doubt that is because her origin and the revelation of her motivations are integrally keyed into the Earth 2 title.  In any event, Levitz brings his A-game to these stories and spins into being three events that define the characters of these two dimensionally displaced heroines.

And thus concludes the first month of comics in 2014.  Here’s hoping to many more awesome issues to fill out the coming eleven months.

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

Illustration Credits:

Red Lanterns #27: Art by Alessandro Vitti, Colored by Gabe Eltaeb.

Teen Titans #27: Drawn by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Arif Prianto, Inked by Art Thibert & Dan Green.

Damian: Son of Batman #4: Art by Andy Kubert, Colored by Brad Anderson.

Earth 2 Annual #2: Drawn by Robson Rocha, Colored by Gabe Eltaeb, Inked by Scott Hanna.

Oct. 9, 2013

This second week of October has some much anticipated titles among its numbers.  The oversized Batman #24 has been burning a hole in people’s calendars for three months now as “Zero Years” has rolled onward towards an unknown, tantalizing end.   Superman/Wonder Woman has been causing controversy since late August after artist Tony Daniel let his mouth run away with him at Fan Expo in Toronto.  And with the killer first installment of “Lights Out” in Green Lantern #24 last week Green Lantern Corps #24 gives another taste of the unthinkable plot that is heralding a new age in the Green Lantern books.  Also comes the inaugural issue of the new Vertigo series Coffin Hill. So much awesome for one week.  

    • Batman #24 is a monumental Batman piece, both in size and importance to the reimagined Batman mythos. Writer Scott Snyder undertook a revamped origin story for the Dark Knight entitled “Zero Year,” which will in essence preempt Frank Miller’s “Year One”, doing the same job but tailored to the New DCU. To cut his teeth, Bruce Wayne squares off against the Red Hood Gang. In the past the Red Hood Gang and its eponymous leader have been fairly small time dealers, mostly pulling petty B&E’s and bushleague bank robberies. In Snyder’s vision the gang takes on a more sinister nature and magnitude. Their leader Red Hood One still wears the shiny red bell jar helmet, offset further up on his head so his evil grin is visible, and the suit and red cape, as before.  All of his subordinates wear suits sans cape and nondescript red Zentai masks. Also menacing is the fact that a ridiculously large percentage of Red Hood members are regular folk blackmailed or coerced into doing Red Hood One’s bidding. Snyder definitely read or watched “Fight Club,” because Red Hood One is taking on a very Tyler Durden vibe, creating an anarchist movement that infiltrates every echelon of society. Wearing various disguises and also in his Bruce Wayne persona, “Batman” has fought a back and forth war with the Red Hoods, but with the revelation that his uncle, Philip Kane, was arming the gang from Wayne Enterprise depots the struggle enters its endgame. Philip is a slippery businessman, but in actuality his part in the gang is like most members’, coerced by the enigmatic leader. Bruce finally is able to piece together Red Hood’s ultimate plan and sets a counter-plot into motion to block its fruition. Through this plan of Bruce’s Scott Snyder ties up many things begun from the inception of his Batman origin arc.  Close to the beginning, Bruce remembers his father, Dr. Thomas Wayne, inquiring what Bruce loved about Gotham. That question, which Bruce now poses via televised interview to all Gothamites encapsulates and validates the entire concept of who and what Batman represents. After the final sequence of Batman #23 with the icon scene of the bat crashing through the window in front of the shaken Bruce, weare finally shown for the first time in “Zero Year” continuity the fully realized Batman persona. By issue’s end, the defeat of the gang is delivered, as is the ultimate fate of Red Hood One.  I had a conspiracy theory that Red Hood One wasn’t the Joker, but some other Batman villain, i.e. the Riddler, or ironically Black Mask. That proved to be false.  It’s heavily insinuated to be the Joker. However, as he did with his other major arcs, “The Court of Owls” and “Death of the Family,” Snyder obscures that concrete facts to speculation and the identity of the man who fell into the vat of chemicals and his role in the gang remains unclear. Scott Snyder’s completion of the first leg of his “Zero Year” story is nothing short of amazing and provides a SOLID foundation for the New DCU Batman for as long as that continuity stands.  In the plot itself, Philip has a giant boulder of mica schist stone that cannot be broken and is hard to shape placed in his office.  He relates that these immutable characteristics make the mica ideal to build on.  There is probably a deeper meaning to the plot somewhere in that analogy, but I didn’t catch it.  What I did interpret it as, however, was a metaphor for the strength of the story as the basis for all Batman stories to come. Greg Capullo’s art is peerless. His rendering of Snyder’s complex storylines is clear, concise, stark, and moving.  Rafael Albuquerque, regular Batman backup artist and co-creator of American Vampire with Synder, provides the art for the denouement scene of this issue that puts to bed the Red Hood arc and sets up the coming Riddler arc, entitled “Blackout.” Overall, this issue blows all other Batman stories out of the water.

      What Does Gotham Mean to You?

      What Does Gotham Mean to You?

    • Batgirl #24 opens on the second installment of the “Batgirl: Wanted” plot arc.  After “killing” her psychotic little brother, James Jr., Barbara has taken off her Batgirl uniform and decided not to wear the Bat symbol, because of her actions.  Also following this event, her father, Commissioner James Gordon puts out an all-points bulletin on Batgirl and (unbeknownst to him) his own daughter.  Babs wants nothing more than to put her nocturnal past behind her and find happiness.  She attempts to do so by hanging out more with her bohemian roommate, Alyssa, and dating a former gang member, Ricky, who she met as Batgirl.  But of course the universe won’t allow a member of the Bat-family to know any modicum of peace.  Batgirl’s former nemesis Knightfall’s menacing machinations sight both Ricky and her father in the crosshairs.  After the traumatic events of Batgirl #23 two months ago Babs has to weigh her sense of guilt against her sense of duty.  Gail Simone writes this series like it’s her own, and truly her Barbara is the only one I want to read for the foreseeable future.
    • Forever Evil: Arkham War #1 takes a closer look at the mayhem in Gotham following the fall of the Justice League and the advent of the Crime Syndicate.  The Syndicate has rallied the evilest minds on the planet to their banner and in exchange for obedience they are given privileges to do as they like.  The Gothamite villains (mostly Arkham inmates) were given free reign over Gotham with Penguin named mayor.  Penguin in turn divided Gotham into districts each under the control of a powerful Arkham inmate.  Writer Peter Tomasi laid the groundwork for this series with two Villains Month issues: Scarecrow and Bane.  Both were pretty lackluster, but what they did do was set the tenor of these two characters for the purposes of this series.  Both Scarecrow and Bane have appeared in several Bat-titles since the inception of the New 52 and been written by multiple writers including Paul Jenkins, James Tynion IV, David Finch, and Gregg Hurwitz.  While neither Scarecrow or Bane have been altered in major ways, their modus operandi are tailored to fit the desired ends for this series’ plot.  With Bane bringing a moderately sized army of highly trained Santa Priscan mercenaries to Gotham war is on the horizon and Scarecrow is serving as the Paul Revere of Gotham, readying the “freaks” for a war with the fanatical juggernaut.  In the opening strokes of his plan Blackgate Prison falls to Bane, as do the Talons incarcerated therein in cryogenic stasis.  Professor Pyg reappears for the first time since Grant Morrison wrapped up his opening run of Batman & Robin.  The horrific experiments going on in his district proves the full depth of his depravity.  With Gotham Memorial Hospital and its medical supplies in his sphere of influence, his allegiance is integral with war looming and could shift the balance. Bane is a tactical genius as well as a badass with an army of two thousand fanatically loyal foot soldiers battle hardened in one of the worst places on Earth.  However, he’s going up against the equally keen mind of the Penguin and a collection of the sickest men and women in the DC universe, and the Crime Syndicate doesn’t care who comes out on top.  On the contrary, they welcome it, as the conflict will purge the weak from their midst. Neither side can rest on their laurels and what is about to ensue is a grandmaster chess tournament in the decimated streets of Gotham.  Tomasi and artist Scot Eaton have the entire Batman pantheon at their disposal, as the cover hints, and appear to be making good use of it.  This series is shaping up to be a tangent of Forever Evil that shouldn’t be missed.
    • Green Lantern Corps #24 continues the unthinkable events of “Lights Out” into its second installment.  No one thought that Oa could be destroyed, and yet after the final moments of Green Lantern #24 that is precisely the jagged pill the entire Green Lantern Corps are forced to swallow.  Green Lantern Corps #24 picks up the pieces from that horrible moment and focuses on how the Corps of Will will face this most personal, dispiriting defeat and pick themselves up to fight for the last thing they have: each other.  Relic has proven that he is not able to be defeated by the full might of the Green Lantern Corps, having already seriously wounding hundreds.  To affect an evacuation John Stewart and a contingent of handpicked Lanterns take the fight to the ancient juggernaut, not to defeat him, but to distract him so the bulk of the Green Lantern Corps can find refuge elsewhere.  Cowriters Van Jensen and Robert Venditti plot this issue so exquisitely in the heartbreaking situations they create and decisions these Lanterns make in the “do-or-die” last moments of Oa.  One Lantern makes the ultimate sacrifice, validating their ring’s choice of their worthiness and then some.  What this issue and its fellows represent is the ending of an era and the beginning of an ENTIRELY new Green Lantern status quo.  When Geoff Johns took over the title, resurrecting it after a decade of neglect, he changed the rules of the game as it had been known for forty-odd years, creating or retrofitting new lantern corps for each hue of light.  Robert Venditti is basically doing that again with the advent of Relic and this “Lights Out” plotline.  Only time will tell if it is successful, but so far I am impressed with the gravity and pathos he has imbued thusfar.GreenLanternCorps24-1

      GreenLanternCorp24-2

      Death of a Lantern, Death of a World.

    • Nightwing #24 concludes the first arc of the series following the massive paradigm shift of “Death of the Family.”  After the Joker enacts the final coup de grace to Dick Grayson’s dream of resurrecting Haly’s Circus (the circus he and his parents performed in before their fateful accident) Dick decides to move to Chicago.  For the most part it was because he needed to distance himself from Gotham and the cold machinations of Batman, but the larger part was the revelation that the man who killed his parents, Tony Zucco, was alive and well, living in the Windy City.  When Dick blows into town he finds a city that seems relatively “clean” compared to Gotham.  Considering that we’re talking about Chicago irony abounds and sets a picture of how bad Gotham must be.  However, as the plot unfolds over the first several issues it is shown that Chi-town is still as corrupt as it’s always been with Mayor Wallace Cole protecting Zucco with a false identity and an advisory position.  With that kind of grift going on an anti-heroic persona called the Prankster makes the scene, revealing the corrupt dealings in very theatrical, dramatic ways that often times skew toward the violent.  The best example being his forcing an alderman who stole millions of dollars to bring several thousand to a specific location and throwing him into a pit with wolves.  If the alderman burns the money bill by bill he can keep the wolves at bay.  However, the bills burn at a certain rate which makes their quantity versus the time it would take the police to find him a very close call.  They get there in time to save him, but the bills had run out and the alderman is missing an arm when he’s pulled out.  Such is the Prankster.  But while he may seem like a Robin Hood styled anti-heroic outlaw revolutionary figure, this issue displays how untrue that assumption is as well as the Prankster’s REAL aim.  Nightwing is the only person who can stop the chaos erupting from Prankster’s vendetta and what’s more the person helping him is Tony Zucco!  Kyle Higgins has been writing this series since issue #1 and has stayed on the title for a very simple reason:  He can WRITE Dick Grayson like the best of them.  His Nightwing is compelling, complicated, and very personal.  He takes the reader through the plots he faces as though they were inside Dick’s head and had his entire life as their precedents for reaction.  Will Conrad provides gorgeous art that is different, but equally appropriate to his predecessor, Brett Booth’s.  With Higgins is on this title, it is not to be missed.
    • Worlds’ Finest #16 enters the series into an interim period, taking a break from the Apokaliptian menaces left in our world after Great Darkseid’s invasion of our Earth in Justice League 1-6.  The main threat in the series, Desaad, who posed as the errant industrialist Michael Holt, not only tore apart Helena and Karen’s lives, but also stole Karen’s company Starr Industries.  After the events of issue #15 Desaad has emerged victorious, but also taked to the wind, his whereabouts and activities unknown.  What is known is the detrimental effect that final encounter had on Karen Starr, aka Power Girl, depriving her of her powers.  At issue’s opening Helena is staking out arson at fashion shows and Karen is recovering her company from Desaad’s human cronies and attempting to get her powers back.  Following this paradigm shift the issue follows the two tracking a bald young woman of ambiguous heritage, covered in what look like tribal tattoos.  She is the one setting the fires and she also has the abilities to manipulate jet black constructs, either shadow based or generated from her tattoos.  Paul Levitz sets up events, but doesn’t provide too much information as to where the plot is going or its overall relevance to overarching stroylines he’s been working toward for 17 issues.  Considering his talent and the incredible job he’s done so far, Levitz is allowed to have an issue or two to just muck around.  Even in his down moments, he puts out a helluva good comic.
    • Superman/Wonder Woman #1 is an exceptional surprise.  After months of negative reactions on the internet, the issue is finally out and it’s amazing!  The whole hubbub arose from an unfortunate turn of phrase artist Tony S. Daniel dropped at Toronto Fan Expo that this book would hopefully encourage female readership by emulating the “Twilight” franchise with some romance, a little sex appeal, and action.  This seemed to offend both male and female readers with the comparison to awful storytelling and especially offended female fans with the concept that they were being pandered to.  Comment aside, the title seemed to have infinite promise so for the past several months I’ve kept an attitude of “wait and see” optimism.  I maintained that same attitude during the also “Twilight” compared redux of Lobo and was rewarded with possibly the WORST DC comic I have EVER read.  Just awful.  Superman/Wonder Woman, on the other hand, turned out to be a very thoughtful, intelligent examination of the burgeoning relationship between the Man of Steel and the Mighty Amazon.  I have to state my bias up front, though.  I wasn’t excited about the pairing of Wonder Woman with Superman initially, feeling that DC was pandering to their readers with overzealous fanboy fantasies.  Geoff Johns pulled it out eventually by highlighting that both characters are strangers in a strange land.  What this series’ writer Charles Soule does is take a deeper examination of that relationship.  Topically, the two have outsider status in common, but apart from that they are very different.  Superman, as an extension of Clark Kent, is a very reserved Zen character who exists under the radar, not drawing undue attention to himself or making a show of his innate abilities.  Wonder Woman on the other hand is the daughter of Zeus, born into a proud warrior race that exalts strength and ability.  Therein lies a diametric difference between the two superheroes.  Wonder Woman is slightly put off by his reservedness about himself, but more so about their relationship.  However, both try to gently acclimate themselves to each other’s ways, because while they are different they do love each other.  Superman and Wonder Woman are paradigms of masculinity and femininity respectively, but also American icons wearing the colors of our flag in their costumes.  In just this first issue, Soule maintains both these aspects of the characters, but puts a very refreshing dimension to these facets.  Superman is a very masculine character that exhibits hallmark traits of the male psyche, such as doing the heavy lifting or going into danger first, but he also is the more demure party in the quieter moments and passively lets a lot of things happen around him.  Wonder Woman is rendered as a very feminine character, but is also portrayed as the more assertive figure both in the active courting in the relationship as well as the more outspoken heroic figure.  They are opposites, but at the same time complement each other in most ways.  As American symbols they harken back to the ideal that America is an immigrant nation.  An interesting happenstance in the American experiment was people from very different ethnic communities coming together in mutual attraction across wide gaps of cultural differences.  Diana is very much an immigrant from a society that has strong traditions and customs.  Clark’s an interesting case, as he was born on another planet with its own unique culture, but from infancy he was raised in Kansas with only secondhand understanding of his heritage.  So Diana represents first generation immigrants, and Clark represents the split second generation juggling their host culture with that of their forbearers.  Diana’s rooting in the mindset of her proud Amazon heritage confounds her as she looks at both the subtleties of Clark’s Midwestern sensibilities and his isolationist Kryptonian ones.  It even hurts her to think he might be ashamed to be associated with her publicly, but instead of assuming the worst, she seeks to close the gap by showing him her culture and keeping an open mind about that American culture he grew up with and perhaps later his Kryptonian one.  The latter part might be something dealt with in another issue, but that remains to be seen.  In terms of characterization, this is a Wonder Woman issue.  In terms of story development, this issue dealt much more on the Superman/Clark Kent aspect, working toward fleshing out the development of the indie news blog Clark is working on with Cat Grant.  However, the issue’s gravitas for Superman fans comes with the revelation of the villain at the issue’s end.  I am surprised that “he” showed up in this series and not another of the Super-books, but the possibilities inherent in his advent only enrich the title.  Needless to say, Charles Soule’s writing is impeccable. Art-wise, Tony Daniel takes that lead and brings it home.  His Superman and Wonder Woman are gorgeous creatures, but that’s no surprise.  Daniel drew both in Justice League #13-14, and drew Superman in Action Comics #19-21.  The sum total of two consummate professionals is pure comic excellence.

      The Worlds of Superman and Wonder Woman.

      The Worlds of Superman and Wonder Woman.

  • FBP (Federal Physics Bureau) #4 resumes while FBP agents Jay Kelly and Adam Hardy are still in the bubble universe that is on the verge of collapse, endangering everyone caught inside.  That collapse is hastened by Jay’s planting of explosives in key areas within the bubble.  Jay and Adam were sent in to extract James Crest, CEO of Crest Corps, currently undergoing S.E.C. investigation.  But before he extracts his target, Adam goes for a face-to-face with his “partner.”  Jay attempted to kill him upon entry and Adam wants to know why.  Though Jay can’t give him the answers he wants, he begins the slow revelation of a conspiracy to exploit the nature of the unhinged laws of physics.  Following the conclusion of the bubbleverse incident writer Simon Oliver delves into the very real subject of the privatization of government services.  Here it is the privatization of “Physics Protection.”  The characters of Adam and his boss Cicero Deluca take on new depth in this issue, showing how they deal with the mounting pressure put on their agency a following the SNAFU of Jay’s betrayal.  Both in the science-fiction aspects and allegory to our current political temperature, FBP is a series to watch.

    The New Name if Physics Protection.

    The New Name if Physics Protection.

  • Coffin Hill #1 is either a tantalizing first issue to an amazing series or a hollow, abstruse beginning of a contrived one.  It’s hard to say, because there is a MAJOR disconnect between the present and the past with next to no logical segue.  In 2013 we meet police rookie Eve Coffin who catches a serial killer called the “Ice Fisher” who targets young women.  She goes home and is shot by a friend’s boyfriend and nearly dies.  Flashing back to 2003 we see a teenaged Eve who was the scion of a venerated New England family with a haunted reputation.  As she describes it via narration: “Old blood. Old money.  Old secrets.”  Following her past exploits we see a posh world of lavish, debauch parties steeped in old world mysticism.  We also see a very neglected childhood with WASP-ish parents that disdain her existence and whose marked dislike emboldens the bad behavior that fuels it, creating a vicious cycle of familial discord.  Escaping this, she and her friends enact a ritual from an old family spellbook Eve swipes from her parents’ study.  The results are bloody, but enigmatic.  Cut back to the present with Eve quitting the force and moving back home to Coffin Hill.  As the quality of this series’ story is up in the air, so too is the writing of Caitlin Kittredge, although her framing of dialogue and the plot she chooses to reveal are very well written, if not well done.  Artist Inaki Miranda is the most consistent variable within the comic.  Her art is sleek, sumptuous, and evocative of the haunted ambiance created by Kittredge’s script.  In retrospect this could be a phenomenal first issue.  If the plot doesn’t develop, it could be remembered as a strawman issue.  I will continue reading and find out which.

    The Life of Eve Coffin.

    The Life of Eve Coffin.

This week did not disappoint in the quality of the issues carried forward from August nor in the inherent promise of their subjects.  At its least enjoyable moments there was still the promise of payoff in the future.  That’s a good week!

 

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #24: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Danny Miki.

Green Lantern Corps #24: Art by Bernard Chang, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo.

Superman/Wonder Woman #1: Drawn by Tony S. Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by BATT.

FBP #4: Art by Robbi Rodriguez, Colored by Rico Renzi.

Coffin Hill #1: Art by Inaki Miranda, Colored by Eva De La Cruz.

Week 87 (May 1, 2013)

I am SUPER overdue on this week of reviews, which is a shame because it was one of the best, comprised of some hallmark issues. Unfortunately, some of my paying writing jobs have gotten in the way of this enjoyable hobby blog.  I’ll stop with the long winded intros and just get the long overdue reviews.  Enjoy:

  • Action Comics #20 moves into the the second issue of a new era in Action Comics.  Cowriter Andy Diggle and cowriter/artist Tony Daniel left Superman recovering from a nanite infection that turned his hand into what looked like a living metal clawed monstrosity.  This issue has him waking up in the care of the brilliant and seductive Dr. Shay Veritas after his initial infection.  She teleported him away from the population to ensure their safety, but apparently Superman’s super immune system was able to separate the infection from his body.  However, the nanite virus, still in the shape of the clawed hand, maintains its bite.  The virus apparently was able to latch onto his DNA and sap many of his talents and abilities into its own hybrid genetic code.  Succeed or fail, this synthetic mutating virus is the opening salvo in Lex Luthor’s renewed war with Superman.  The next move in the chess game with the Man of Steel proves to be a nightmare straight out of a George Romero movie.  Following in the tradition of the $3.99 titles, writer Scott Lobdell and assistant dialoguist Frank Hannah begin a World of Krypton backup feature with the help of Philip Tan on pencils.  This feature begins with a young Jor-El discovering an ancient underwater city built by a pre-Kryptonian species.  His exploration, though groundbreaking and rewriting everything that had been known about Krypton’s natural history, doesn’t fail to annoy his fellow members of the Science Council, nor the Military Guild who guard them and who are holding an emergency vote on a key issue of great importance to the stability of Kryptonian governance.  In the wake of their disgruntled waiting, we see Lara Lor-Van (Superman’s mom and Jor-El’s future wife) maligning the starry eyed visionary and also find that she is at this moment engaged to her partner in the Military Guild, Jax-Ur.  Quite interesting for the Superman faithful, because Jax-Ur is a renowned Kryptonian criminal of great infamy in all Superman mythologies.  Ending on an explosive note, this first installment of World of Krypton accomplishes SO much!!!   The political balance of Krypton is established quite well, as are the characteristics of several important characters.  Jor-El and his future wife Lara are both obvious, playing well toward their depictions in Lobdell’s Superman #0, which we saw last September.  Also featured briefly, but certainly of prominence is Kra-Hu, the Afro-Kryptonian senior member of the Science Council who seems to be Jor-El’s mentor and father figure in the Kryptonian governmental structure.  Jax-Ur, engaged to Lara and predating his criminal destiny, will no doubt cut an interesting figure as well with Lobdell’s attention to canon and genius of innovation balancing toward a nice middle ground.  Everything about this new arc in Action Comics has me giddy as a school boy.  Keep it coming, DC!!!

    Beware the Claw!

    Beware the Claw!

  • Detective Comics #20 is in essence the endgame to writer John Layman’s open arc on this title.  With his opening issues he’d paved the way for the slow rise of Ignatius Ogilvy in the shadow of his boss, the Penguin’s grandiose bid to claim a place in the public eye of Gotham.  Using this distraction he was able to wrest the Penguin’s empire out from under his feet and establish an iron grip on Gotham’s underworld, installing himself as “Emperor Penguin.”  Well, now with Penguin in prison and his power base entrenched he steps out of the shadows and calls the Batman out.  Suicidal right?  Not entirely.  Ogilvy had this whole drama choreographed to the last movement and the Bat finds himself more than evenly matched when he meets Emperor Penguin face to face.  What Batman finds is no longer a human being, but rather a nightmare comprised of bits of all his nemeses.  Kurt Langstrom’s man-bat serum in his blood, mixed with Bane’s super-steroidal venom, and Poison Ivy’s plant elixir giving him bark-like armored skin beneath the course bat hair.  Quite frankly, with his analytical mind and enhancements, Ogilvy has the Bat outmatched.  Who will save him?  The answer will surprise you.  In the backup feature, also written by Layman, we are given a look at the childhood and rationale behind Ogilvy’s meteoric rise through the Gotham underworld.  His journey started when he was a child leaving a movie theater in a bad part of Gotham and his mother and father gunned down in front of his eyes.  Mirroring Batman’s traumatic catalyzing event, Ogilvy went the other direction from Batman, not seeking to end crime but rather to immerse himself in it and control it from the top echelon.  From Blackgate prison he narrates all of this and shows his preternatural ability to navigate circles of power and insert himself into the key positions through a Machiavellian display of cunning and physical strength.  Ogilvy came out of nowhere in the world of comics.  He has existed for less than a year and already John Layman has set him up as a Batman character of the highest caliber.  Kudos, Mr. Layman.  I had deep reservations about your competence at handling this title and you proved me infinitely wrong.  Layman is the man for Detective Comics.  Long may he write.

    The Emperor of Gotham

    The Emperor of Gotham

  • Aquaman #19 was a late addition to the roster, laid over from last month’s lineup.  Aquaman continues to struggle with the weight of the crown he once forsook for a simpler life.  Now it weighs heavier than ever as he is forced to “swim against the tide” of his usurping his younger brother Orm’s throne and his defense of the surface despite the catastrophic war between Atlantis and the United States.  To rally his troops he takes them against the submariner terrorist called the “Scavenger.”   Upon the engaging of one of the Scavenger’s submarine’s Arthur and his chosen elite discover a ghastly secret.  On land Mera is abducted by the resurrected Dead King of Atlantis, the first to sit upon the throne.  We have heard tell of him starting with the first arc, “The Trench” where the fish-men monsters are introduced, then later with the introduction of the Dead King’s scepter in the next arc “The Others”, and finally in the previous “Throne of Atlantis” crossover.  Now we see the ancient monarch for the first time and he is chilling.  Finally, this issue surprises with the reappearance of a shocking figure from her past.  Geoff Johns has been teetering this series between quality and throwaway storytelling.  The political intrigue following “Throne of Atlantis” and very personal depictions of the main characters amidst the aforementioned arc’s fallout is really engaging at this point and well worth the read.
  • Green Arrow #20 is a title I have begun to look forward to month to month.  Following Jeff Lemire’s taking up the title with issue #17 this series has gone from tragic joke to a hard-edged, thrill-a-minute roller-coaster ride.  Ollie Queen has lost it all!  His company has been forcefully ceased by a rival businessman, Lacroix, who also dons a black hood and mask, kidnaps his two employees/confidantes, murders one, and attempts to kill him using archery skills that rival Ollie’s.  To top that off a blind wiseman named Magus leads Ollie down a rabbit hole of discovery, pointing him in the direction of Lacroix’s (nom-de-guerre Komodo) secret lair with a picture of the enigmatic businessman/assassin with Ollie’s dad, Robert Queen ON THE ISLAND OLLIE WAS STRANDED ON!!!  Obviously this was before Ollie was stranded on it, but still more than coincidental and raising the question of how Lacroix, Ollie’s father’s death, and so many other things tie into a larger plan?  This issue opens with Ollie having escaped his first encounter with Komodo by the skin of his teeth and regrouping.  Komodo returns to his lair to make contact with the group he works for, the Outsiders.  This isn’t the para-Batman army we have seen in the past or anything like it.  This is a new Outsiders and their significance is crucial, tying into this series and Katana.  Ollie has it out with Komodo a second time in this issue and this second encounter not only ups the ante but showcases just how intelligent, versatile, and strong-willed Ollie truly is when lives are at stake.  Jeff Lemire is KILLING IT!!! This series is ridiculously awesome and in no small part thanks to artist Andrea Sorrentino’s stark rendering of the plot in stark light/color vs. black/shadow styling.  Just a phenomenal series so far and one not to be missed.

    The Outsiders

    The Outsiders

  • Batwing #20 begins a dubious new direction in this title’s future.  David Zavimbe was created by Grant Morrison to be a Batman for the continent of Africa.  A large task, but one that David could feasibly achieve considering his personal history as a child soldier in Africa and his experiences since growing up in a complex, corrupt political structure.  The first 20 issues (including Batwing #0) all show very vividly how intricate the balance of power leans in parts of West Africa.  New writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have retired Zavimbe and decided to replace him with Luke Fox, son of Wayne Enterprises Executive Lucius Fox.  Luke Fox whose only link to Africa is that he is African American.  To me it seems kind of racist that they would assume that if you are black you are interchangeable.  Just because your ancestors came from Africa doesn’t mean you have a preternatural knowledge of African history and the inner workings of the post-colonial political workings of dozens of nations.  Luke makes a joke about it in this issue, but despite them joking about it Palmiotti and Gray still made that decision.  Perhaps they have a goal in mind that will validate the concept, but they have a long way to prove that.  One thing Luke does have is enthusiasm and conviction.  Going to an undisclosed part of Africa, Luke faces off against a criminal organization called the the Marabunta that run money and guns to warlords and terrorist organizations throughout Africa.  In his descent into their world he battles a woman in insectoid-mech armor called “Lady Marabunta” and an anthropomorphic lion named Lord Lion-Mane.  The issue is entertaining and intriguing.  My objections remain unrebutted so far, but its only been one issue.  I will say that Palmiotti and Gray with the help of artists Eduardo Panisca and Julio Ferreira have earned another issue.
  • Swamp Thing #20 brings forth the second issue of the massive paradigm shift between Scott Snyder’s incredible inaugural run on the title and that of new series writer Charles Soule.  The issue itself is really well written and the plotline pretty rough.  Last issue, Scarecrow was trying to steal a rare flower from the Metropolis Botanical Garden when Swamp Thing stepped in to stop him.  Scarecrow unleashed his fear toxin on Swamp Thing causing the avatar of the Green to freak out and thereby the plants within the City of Tomorrow to utterly freak out by extension.  Inside his head, Swamp Thing sees Alec Holland living the life he would have led if he hadn’t been made into Swamp Thing.  He sees a life with Abby Arcane with a lovely house and children.  Everything is perfect except when he comes into his dream life, bringing the power of the Green with him.  Living out his deepest fear upon committing himself completely to the Green, he must face the real possibility that he will slowly lose his humanity and in so doing bring death and destruction upon all the people he comes into contact with at the behest of his plant-like masters.  Outside of his inner delusions his control of the Green is making monstrous vines, trees, venus fly-traps, etc, tear Metropolis apart and fulfill the very nightmare that bore them, that Swamp Thing will hurt all the people he comes into contact with.  Superman of course comes to the rescue of his adoptive city, takes out the main threats, such as the massive vines taking down a suspension bridge, then susses out the cause and intervenes to snap Swamp Thing out of his stupor.  Swamp Thing initially came to Metropolis to talk to Superman and ask him about the how to cope with his powers and the fear of those same powers robbing him of his humanity.  Superman is pretty harsh, albeit fair, and lays down some very harsh truths.  There is, however, a note of optimism at the end of his sermon that might just be what will redeem Swamp Thing.  Charles Soule, with Kano’s awesome art, really spins a beautiful Swamp Thing yarn that seems to wrap up in a two issue mini-arc.  The final page of the issue seems to be the start of an interesting new development to take us into Soule’s second, semi-connected story arc. I greatly anticipate it.

    Wisdom of Superman

    Wisdom of Superman

  • Earth 2 #12 concludes the introduction of Doctor Fate.  Khalid Ben-Hassin has fought for years the influence of Nabu and falling under the thrall of the ancient mage as well as that of his totem, the helmet of Fate.  No more.  Last issue Khalid accepted his destiny and donned Fate’s helmet becoming Doctor Fate.  Now he and Nabu’s ancient foe, Wotan, go head to head for the first time in centuries in a blaze of sorcery and hexes over the skies of Boston.  Meanwhile in China, Alan Scott (Green Lantern) and  Kendra Munoz-Saunders (Hawkgirl) investigate the death of Alan’s lover, Sam.  In Macau they find storage containers at the docks full of decaying parademon corpses neatly stacked within.  The plot thickens as the question is raised as to what they are doing there and how do they fit into Sam’s murder.  This is put on hold as Green Lantern is drawn to Boston by his ring to aid in the relief effort of the magical battle.  Writer James Robinson really is sewing up the plot of this book by moving individual storylines forward, such as Alan’s investigation of Sam’s murder and the fallout of the Apocalypse invasion years prior, while at the same time introducing exquisitely new characters like Khalid’s Doctor Fate and folding them into the plot.  By issue’s end, Flash, Green Lantern, and Fate are brought together just in time for another plot point Robinson is skillfully sewing back into the main plot: Steppenwolf.  With this issue the world has learned that Darkseid’s uncle and one of the most dangerous men in the multiverse is being harbored, as well as ruling, the independent republic of Dherain.  There is a great deal afoot at present and Robinson has given himself a very advantageous position plot-wise to move forward from.  I very much look forward to future installments of this series, especially since Mister Miracle and his wife, Big Barda, are also in the offing.  Nicola Scott’s art on this series is another aspect not to be missed, especially when given such round and incredible characters to depict.
  • Worlds’ Finest #12 begins a dark chapter in the journeys of Power Girl and Huntress.  Picking up from last issue we find that the newly returned Michael Holt is in fact Desaad, torturer to Darkseid and one of Apokalips’ most dangerous New Gods.  He attacks Helena and Karen, but when they defend themselves and return his assaults, they discover that Desaad still has an illusion over himself that keeps people seeing him as Michael Holt, upright business mogul and scientist, and the two superheroines as thugs who are attacking him for seemingly no reason.  That discovered, they are forced to beat a hasty retreat and re-assess the situation.  However, Desaad is a creature that operates on many fronts.  Starr Industries (run by the disguised Power Girl) begins to drop in its stock value and have its top researches wooed away to other companies, and one of their top research facilities explodes.  However, this is not the most shocking thing that happens in this issue.  Paul Levitz is a genius.  This series is one of his crowning achievements.  The plot segues so nicely into a bookend for the above mentioned Earth 2, following exiles from that world in ours and showing how their odyssey is tied into the events happening concurrently on their homeworld.
  • The Movement #1 was a bit of a disappointment.  I was eagerly anticipating it due to its penning by master comic writer Gail Simone, but unfortunately Simone doesn’t live up to her reputation here.  Perhaps its the premise of the piece.  Set as a “point/counterpoint” piece with the new title The Green Team, this book and its sister series are supposed to be comics representing the 99% and the 1% of America and their place in the DCU.  The product is super-trite.  Elements of social commentary can come into comics effectively when done in thought provoking ways, but this blatant attempt to force the issues seems really forced and uninspired.  I could bemoan it much more, but I will stop.  I couldn’t find anything redeeming to say about it.  A shame that it couldn’t do what it set out to do, but in my opinion it fell flat.  I will read The Green Team, but I assume it will also fall flat.
  • Phantom Stranger #8 is an apocalyptic issue insofar as it features the “death” of the Stranger (something few even thought possible) and in his death reveals what has really been happening in the past several issues.  Issues #0, 1, and 2 key us into the Stranger’s role as a betrayer and agent of transcendental neutrality.  The last six have followed the Stranger’s attempt to locate his kidnapped wife and children.  This issue gives resolution as to what did happen to them and who was behind their abduction, but even more intriguing is the revelation of how the Phantom Stranger, the most asexual, ambivalent being in the universe, could come to have a wife and kids.  Philip Stark and his family existed before the Phantom Stranger entered into any of their lives and in point of fact, his co-opting of them and Stark’s life create a poignant, humanizing moment for him.  Dan Didio and co-writer J.M. DeMatteis have created an incredible series that has taken the concept of the Phantom Stranger and not only made him relatable to readership, but actually sympathetic.  When we have seen him briefly here and there in the past decade or so, it has often times been him heralding a crisis and then making matters more difficult than necessary for the heroes involved.  In this series we have seen that representation unchanged, but we also see how he is forced to do these things and the demons and displeasures they engender in his metaphorical heart (which DOES exist).  The series has been phenomenal , but issue #8 stands as a call to arms for readership as to HOW good the series is and has the potential to be in future.  Long story short:  READ IT!
  • Legends of the Dark Knight #8 delivers two more astounding tales of the Dark Knight.  In the first story, entitled “Carved”, writer Paul Tobin and artist Tadd Moore tell the tale of a kidnapper/thief in Gotham who abducts people and objects and replaces them with exact replicas sculpted out of mahogany.  Already there is a great setup for a psychological villain, which is an interesting turn for Batman.  Most of his foes are theatrical, but this one is just a person with deep seated issues, enveloped in a very methodical psychosis.  A fascinating, extremely well written story.  The next one, “Unnatural Selection”, written by Ricardo Sanchez and drawn by Sergio Sandoval also provides a very out of the box, rarely attempted story in the Batman titles.  A series of grisly murders leads the Dark Knight to a cryptotaxodermist’s creation of a Barghest.  Cryptotaxodermy is the creation of mythic animals from the parts of deceased members of its constituent parts, i.e. making a stuffed griffin from an eagle’s head, lion’s body, snake’s tail, etc.  However, how can a stuffed, fictitious creature murder a slew of people throughout Gotham?  The answer is very intriguing and quite fascinating to wrap one’s head around.  This story in particular touched me deeply in how tragic every aspect of it is. Every aspect.  However, both stories were AMAZING!  This series is a crap shoot, sometimes delivering the cheddar and other times falling flat.  I personally would suggest this issue for someone that wants a good reason to begin a long standing love affair with the character of Batman, or simply find out the potential inherent in Batman stories outside of the stereotypes of capes and masks that make up 90% of Batman stories.

And thus wraps the first week of May’s batch of comics.

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

Illustration Credits:

Action Comics #20: Drawn by Tony Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by Batt

Detective Comics #20:  Art by Jason Fabok, Colored by Jeremy Cox

Green Arrow #20:  Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo

Batwing #20:  Art by Eduardo Panisca & Julio Ferreira, Colored by Jason Wright

Swamp Thing #20: Drawn by Kano, Colored by Matthew Wilson, Inked by Alvaro Lopez

Week 83 (April 3, 2013)

  • Action Comics #19 ushers in a brand new era in the title with the departure of comics legend Grant Morrison from the book and the advent of Andy Diggle on stories and Tony S. Daniel on art.  Grant Morrison is just short of a godhood in the realm of 21st century comic lore and his nineteen issue run (#0 issue included) was an incredible, psychedelic roller-coaster ride that befits his vaunted reputation.  Large shoes to fill, but I still am excited by the Diggle/Daniel team up.  Andy Diggle is an incredible writer whose Green Arrow: Year One series was tight, concise, and a very good intro to the character for newbies.  Tony S. Daniel is one of my favorite writer/artists because of his attention to visual storytelling and the round, sumptuous lines of his artwork.  The two together prove to be a symphony really utilizing the characters and visual grandeur of the Superman line to the fullness of their potential.  Superman is young and idealistic and still at a stage prior to the events of Superman #1, as becomes blatantly clear with the introduction of a character already “introduced” to us in the future in that aforementioned Superman issue.  Daniel draws him with youthful exuberance and a stoic concern when he is tested by bad men in big machines.  Lex Luthor, also a character in this arc, is quite different than the only time we have met him in the first six issue arc of Morrison’s run.  There he was a little chunky and arrogant.  Here he is lean, and has shed his cavalier attitude for an ice cold demeanor that is very wolf-like and predatory.  He is infinitely complex and his mental psyche is explored quite candidly in a very terse scene with his psychiatrist.  Diggle writes him exquisitely and Tony Daniel’s art captures all of his ominous potential in some very chilling expressions.  To put it mildly, this new Action line up is incredible.  Though Morrison has moved on, the title will continue to shine brightly as a star in the DC crown, thanks to two of the most promising creators in the medium.

    A Wife's Love

    The Psychiatrist and the Psychopath

  • Detective Comics #19 (#900) was an issue to remember and a reminder of how pissed I am at DC for renumbering their books.  If they had not gone through with the renumbering as a result of the Reboot this would have been issue #900.  They didn’t make note of it either on the cover, even for this MOMENTOUS occasion, considering no other title in comics, besides Action (WHICH GOT THE #900 ON THE COVER!) has ever reached that landmark.  That said, going into it there was a lot of pressure on them to do it right.  In Action Comics #900 writer Paul Cornell capped off what was perhaps one of the most massive Lex Luthor stories ever told and truly blew the reader away with a testimonial as to just how deep Luthor’s hatred for Superman runs.  In this 900th issue of the title that launched Batman in the late 30’s current writer John Layman had to pick a topic to write about that segued into his current run on the book while at the same time telling a story quintessentially enmeshed in the Batman mythos.  The Joker was not possible, because Scott Snyder already used him up two months ago.  The Scarecrow was a decent option, except that he’s been overused of late.  Penguin is a part of the story, but still not quite right.  Layman chose to find the answer in the name of his main character. Bat . . . Man.  Man . . . Bat.  Apparently in the Reboot Kurt Langstrom hasn’t been introduced into Batman’s scope and thus the introduction of a viral version of his serum that infects people and turns them into literal bat-men and women leads to his New 52 debut.  The story is fast paced, clean, engaging, well thought out and if one ignores the annoying contradictions arising from the links to the semi-rebooted Batman Incorporated series, which is predicated on Batman knowing about Kurt Langstrom LONG before this point, its absolutely perfect.  As with Action Comics #900 there are also other shorter pieces that tie integrally into the Batman character, paying homage to it’s impact on the world at large.  As is usually the case, Layman follows up on the main story with a backup feature that highlights a loose end brought up in the main story with Andy Clarke providing beautiful art.  Without giving too much away, it tells the story of Francine Langstrom, Kurt’s wife, and how she met and fell in love with her husband.  Following the tragic fate of her husband this feature shows the true depth of her love for him, which honestly made me mist up a little.  Coupled with the main story, these two make the issue worth $7.99 by themselves.  James Tynion IV, cowriter of Talon, with the help of Justice League Dark artist, Mikel Janin, tells the next tale which features Bane on his island haven of Santa Prisca that connects his disappearance at the end of Batman: The Dark Knight #7 to a coming appearance in Talon #7.  Though the beauty of Janin’s art seems to clash with the harshness of the subject material, it’s still a delight to look at precisely for that reason.  John Layman then finishes the issue off with two more short stories.  One explaining why Ogilvy engineered the Manbat infestation and what happened during that chaotic night, as well as introducing a twist in Penguin (Oswald Cobblepot’s) fate following last issue’s events.  Last but not least, he tells the story of a police officer recovering in Gotham Central Hospital from his transformation to a manbat and back to a person.  Most of the cops there hate Batman and hold no punches in talking trash about him.  The female police rookie from Batman #12 who had to guard Joker’s face is among the cops and she speaks out for the Caped Crusader.  After all the other cops leave in disgust, the injured cop in his hospital bed confides that Batman was the reason that he didn’t kill anyone as a manbat.  But for Batman he’d have been a murderer and for that reason he agrees to be her partner when no else would partner up with her.  Across the board this issue did Batman proud.  Quality storytelling and beautiful art, in both the stories themselves and the pinups between features.  Well worth the read for any Batman fan.

    A Wife's Love

    A Wife’s Love

  • Green Lantern #19 is a twofold issue.  On one side writer Geoff Johns is progressing the story toward Hal Jordan literally making the “leap” to becoming a Black Lantern.  As Johns hinted seven months ago, Hal is destined to be the greatest Black Lantern of all time.  Unthinkable as it may seem, Johns is taking us there and I for one cannot wait to see Hal in the black outfit, which we were cheated of seeing during Blackest Night by Barry Allen’s incredible speed.  The main plot this issue tackles is Sinestro falling under the scrutiny of Volthoom, the First Lantern.  In fact, Sinestro and his world of Korugar are precisely what Volthoom needed to fulfill his evil plans for the universe.  This is it though.  After this issue all that remains of the plot is Green Lantern #20.  Then Geoff John’s vision of Green Lantern will conclude itself with his departure from the series and a new day will dawn on the GL line of books.  I have to say that I am sad to see him leave.  This was one series that he consistently did right.  His long time collaborator, artist Doug Mahnke was absent again this issue, with Adrian Syaf and Szymon Kudranski splitting duties on artwork.  No doubt it’s to give Mahnke time to do the art on what is solicited to be a massive finale issue, but the choice of these two seems to be a logical one.  Syaf draws Sinestro quite well, endowing the fallen Green Lantern with all the arrogance and anger that befit him, and Kudranski’s eerily shadowed, monochromatic art sets a very stark tone for the Hal Jordan scenes taking place in the “Dead Zone.”  This issue is phenomenal, epitomizing what is essential about both Hal and Sinestro.
  • Green Arrow #19 is for the most part an extended duel between Green Arrow and his black clad nemesis, Komodo.  What is important about it is the psychology.  The interplay between these two archers not only informs the reader about archery in general from Ollie’s narration and the verbal repartee between the two, but also about the archers themselves.  Ollie’s deepest thoughts and drives are either told to us or insinuated through his actions and reactions to the events chronicled by writer Jeff Lemire.  Also a major twist is Komodo’s revelation as to the nature of Robert Queen’s (Green Arrow’s dad) death.  Ollie knew it was a helicopter crash that coincided with his marooning on the island, but the exact nature was unbeknownst to him until this issue.  Also of interest is Komodo and his daughter, Emiko.  Komodo, whose real name is Lacroix, looks to be Caucasian and his daughter, Emiko, from name and appearance looks to be Asian.  I only point out their racial characteristics because Komodo and his persona as a black archer seems to be much in the same vein as Merlyn the Magnificent and Emiko and her outfit when she suits up in this issue seems to be a very close (except in age) facsimile of the archer Shado from previous Green Arrow lore.  I am very curious to see if Lemire is rewriting the Green Arrow playbook or merely borrowing a few cues.  In any event, he delivers a stark, razor’s edge plotline that paints Ollie into a corner and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.  Though I admit to not being an Andrea Sorrentino fan, his artwork for this arc in Green Arrow is essential to establishing the feel that is imperative to Lemire’s vision.  The two together are like Lennon and McCartney.  If you had reservations about the character up until this point, you need to get the series from #17 and go forward from there.  Lemire and Sorrentino have resurrected the Emerald Archer back to his rightful place in comic book lore.

    The Truth Comes Out

    The Truth Comes Out

  • Earth 2 #11 ushers in a truly amazing issue of this dynamic title.  Last issue we were introduced to Wotan and given a brief glimpse into the history of the Helmet of Fate, housing the power and spiritual essence of the ancient mage, Nabu.  Here writer James Robinson takes us even further into the backstories of Nabu, Wotan, and the human, Khalid Ben-Hassin, who finds himself caught between these two mages in their titanic stuggle against one another.  The lion’s share of the issue’s narrative follows Khalid’s attempt to locate the helm he had forsaken in the past and his communing with Nabu’s spirit to locate it within the labyrinthine bowls of Fate’s Tower.  Nabu believes that Khalid is chose by fate and therefore the only man fit to bear his power, which is something Khalid has fought tooth and nail up until this very moment.  Why is that you ask? In their first encounter, after the young archaeologist’s discovery of the helmet in an unearthed Egyptian tomb, Nabu’s essence sought to supplant Khalid’s will and drove him to the brink of insanity.  Now with an inspiration to aspire to Khalid intends to brave oblivion and madness to become the hero his Earth desperately needs.  James Robinson and artist Nicola Scott knock this series out of the park with beautifully intricate and often moving plots and pictures.  What truly made this particular issue for me was a scene in the Eastern European country of Dherain where Steppenwolf dispatches his right hand, Fury (daughter of Wonder Woman), to hunt down two more exiled denizens of Apokalips.  Admittedly, this couple are my favorite Fourth Worlders.  I am on pins and needles for the next installment.

    Miracles Do Happen

    Miracles Do Happen

  • Worlds’ Finest #11 features the entrance of yet another Apokaliptian.  Huntress follows upon a lead connecting the sale of weapons powered by Apokalips technology to the money that has been siphoned from Wayne Enterprises.  That lead in North Africa leads her right back to Holt Industries, which Power Girl had been attacking like a harbinger of natural disaster last issue.  WE know that Michael Holt was transported to Earth 2, however,that precipitates the question of how he can be back on Earth 1?  Enter our mysterious Fourth Worlder, Desaad.  Paul Levitz writes this series so well, but this issue was a little dry.  Though I am intrigued by the advent of Desaad, this one took a little longer to come to the point.  Still an incredible series and one that has great promise in coming issues.
  • Swamp Thing #19 is not unlike Action Comics #19 above.  Scott Snyder’s inaugural run of this title was as seminal as Morrison’s on Action.  Both were innovative and redefined their respective series.  Charles Soule takes over Swamp Thing from Snyder and in the wake of what has been a very important, unique origin story, Soule takes Swamp Thing back to the role he held in all his previous incarnations: guardian of the Green.  This includes doing some things that are morally repugnant to him, including measures that lead to the deaths of many innocent people.  Despite being the warrior king of the Green Kingdom, Alec Holland hasn’t forgotten that he was once human and his duties do not fail to shake what remains of that humanity.  Taking a trip to the Metropolis Botanical Gardens, where he spent many hours during his graduate work to calm his soul, he runs into Scarecrow, himself on an errand from the mysterious society of supervillains hinted at in Justice League of America. Soule does an incredible job of taking this series by the horns and doing something new, yet appropriate to the continuation of the legacy he inherited.  Taking over art from Yanick Paquette and Marco Rudy is Spanish artist, Kano.  Kano provided art for Swamp Thing #0 and in my review for it, I quote myself as saying, “ I pray that he get a shot at another issue or two in future, maybe a whole arc, because his lines and style are so incredible.”  https://offthepanelcomicreview.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/week-53-sept-5-2012/ Wish granted.  He continues his exquisite art here and looks to be attached for the foreseeable future.  Like Supergirl, Superman, and Action, all of which have gone through major paradigm shifts, this series set the hook, ensuring for me at least continued readership.
  • Batwing #19 continues the era of change.  Those who have been keeping up with Batwing know that a reckoning is coming.  David Zavimbe is a good cop in a country rotting from its bowels in corruption.  He has lived under the assumption that good will and perseverance can win against evil.  Those beliefs have died with his bestfriend and mentor, Matu Ba.  Now Batwing is going to town with a tomahawk and NO ONE is sacred.  Neither friends nor enemies are safe from his wrath.  While his path up until this issue have been held retarded through moral restraint, this issue has him cutting through any impediment to justice like butter.  But in the end, its just a means for him to clean house before leaving his role as the Batman of Africa.  Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray take over with this issue to conclude David Zavimbe’s tenure as Batwing and inaugurate the his replacement.  Batman says that this new candidate was his “first choice” for Batwing.  Palmiotti and Gray are good writers, but I am questioning their choice of his replacement and what that means for Batman’s judgement.  I won’t spoil who he is, but I will say that though he is African, he’s actually African American, born and raised in Gotham.  It seems a little racist to me that they assume that a guy can represent peoples and places he has never been.  Just cause his ancestors were from Africa doesn’t mean that he can represent them.  Batman was born and raised in Gotham, Nightrunner (the Batman of France) though of North African extraction was raised in Paris, Mr. Unknown in Japan, etc.  I’m not impugning their rationale or saying they can’t pull it off, but Palmiotti and Gray have set up a pretty implausible foundation to their run and the series’ new direction.  Time will tell . . .

    Batwing Goes Out With A Bang

    Batwing Goes Out With A Bang

  • Phantom Stranger #7 continues the Stranger’s quest to find his abducted family.  On the way he meets up with the “Voice” in its form as a Scottish terrier.  While discoursing upon this religious  and philosophical the Voice leads the Phantom Stranger to the next person whom he is to betray: Jack Ryder.  A super conservative television newsman with an over inflated ego, Ryder finds his career on the rocks.  Yet in the darkest hour of Metropolis and in Superman’s absence, Ryder stays on the air to report the chaos occurring downtown, just outside the studio.  Dan Didio resurrects his version of the Challengers of the Unknown for this grand display of coalescing fear and fearlessness.  The Stranger yet again leads a human being unto their ruin and death, but the great betrayer finds himself at the spears edge of his own betrayal by ones very close to him and his past.  Dan Didio concocts a very compelling, mysterious series that draws the reader through a very diverse cross-section of the DCU.
  • Legends of the Dark Knight #7 presents a tale of Arkham Asylum rarely seen.  Inmates are seeing a ghost, as is the Dark Knight.  Following the strange occurrences, Batman is lead into a decades old murder case that ties to the staff of the Asylum and a restless “spirit.”  This series has produced some very intriguing tales surrounding the Batman, exploring the world that has developed around his actions and their consequences.  This one wasn’t the best developed so far.  The substance of this “vengeful spirit” and even the question of how she manifests is unanswered and rather lackluster.
  • Smallville: Season Eleven #12 packs quite a wallop, achieving quite a bit in one issue, and also concluding the four part “Haunted” arc.  Superman goes to-to-toe with the Black Flash in order to save Bart.  However, that is just an evasive tactic that can only go so far.  Bart invariably is the one that is destined to fight the Black Flash, which he accepts and does heroically.  Delving into the mind of her Earth 2 doppelganger, Chloe Sullivan relives the life of her other self on that other Earth and sees for the first time the Moniters who play harbinger to the “Crisis” Earth-2 Chloe foretold before her death.  Both of these two events hail dark tidings for the world of “Smallville”, but a few bright lights shine through the darkness.  Fighting the Black Flash allowed the radioactive isotope Lex put into Superman’s system as a tracking mechanism to fully dissipate, meaning that Clark can reunite with his fiancee, Lois Lane.  Lex’s dearly departed sister, Tess, has been a thorn in her brother’s side for sometime and with his resources, he is not one to allow a thorn to remain no matter how difficult it is to remove.  This issue gives Tess safe harbor in some respect from her brother’s dark machinations.  This series really holds up to its televised predecessor.

Week 82 (March 27, 2013)

This week features some really incredible issues. Batman Inc brings us to the direct aftermath of the slaying of Robin, Damian Wayne, and what that portends for the overall Batman universe.  Joe Kubert Presents concludes its six issue run.  And so many other books of merit, there’s no point in prefacing them.  Here they are:

  • Batman Inc #9 represents a turning point in the title.  The forces of Leviathan continue to press their advantage upon the Batman Incorporated lines.  However, following the deaths of several Batman Inc agents, not least of which Batman’s son, Damian, the forces of the Batman begin to rally against the oppressive foe with renewed vigor.  If the state of affairs as of this issue’s ending had to be boiled down to one sentence it be simply be: “It is ON!”  Batman is ANGRY and his inner circle of allies are champing at the bit as well.  Talia’s plan is a well oiled machine, but her cloned son going off script and murdering his “twin” was perhaps the chink in the chain that will break her dreams of revenge on the Dark Knight and his legacy.  Though in the end, after killing their child, how much lower can she bring Batman?  With the terror she has inflicted on Gotham and the political pressure from above to acquiesce to her demands, Batman Inc is outlawed and driven back into the shadows of Gotham.  However, where do bats do their best hunting?  Grant Morrison is writing an opera and each issue is a well orchestrated movement.  Chris Burnham’s art, however, is the orchestra that brings it all to vibrant life.  He takes the beautifully poignant scripts and brings them to brutal, bone wrenching realization.  There are only a few artists whose work can pair perfectly with Morrison’s stories and Burnham is one of them.  What little is left of this meteoric run is going to be nothing short of magical.

    Don't Mess With the Batman

    Don’t Mess With the Batman

  • Red Lanterns #18 brings the Regent of Rage, Atrocitus, under the thumb of Volthoom.  This horrific monstrosity plays people’s painful emotions like a violin and what can be rawer than someone whose very existence is a result of catastrophic loss.  Atros of Ryutt not only lost his family the day the Manhunters went berserk in Space Sector 666, he lost his entire race.  What would have happened if that genocide hadn’t occurred.  As ever, Volthoom is eager to show what might have been, and as ever, it is absolutely awful.  According to him, hatred and rage would have been Atrocitus’ destiny no matter what occurred or didn’t occur that day and if the Manhunters did annihilate his people as they did, so much innocent blood would never be on his hands and his crusade could be termed righteous thereafter.  On Earth, John Moore, aka Rankorr, attempts to find happiness with a young woman he saved in the streets of his old town.  However, Bleez might have something to say about it. Series writer Peter Milligan nails this plotline with his characteristic wit, brilliance, and sadistic charm.  What becomes all too apparent as the issue reaches its conclusion is that when the red ring slips on your finger you may find temporary satisfaction through vengeance, but you will never find happiness.  Atrocitus truly is a Greek tragedy personified and this  issue proves that as he give the Red Lanterns one last order in the final panel.  This issue was ridiculously good.  The only thing I that could have been better was the art.  Sorry, Miguel Sepulveda, but your art just doesn’t fit what I feel the tone of the book requires.

    Hell Hath No Fury

    Hell Hath No Fury

  • Superman #18 comes fresh off of “H’el on Earth” with great skill and style.  In my review of last week’s Supergirl #18 I mentioned the danger inherent with coming off of a large event like this the Super-titles have, providing a jumping off point for readers unless a hook is sunk to keep them buying.  Supergirl sunk a hook and Scott Lobdell BURIED one with this issue.  Three major things occurred in this issue and each was drawn by a different artist along the lines of Green Lantern: New Guardians #18, also from last week’s releases.  Apropos New Guardians, the departing artist of that title, Aaron Kuder, provides art on the parts of the issue that usher in Orion of the New Gods into the plot.  For anyone that knows me or has read my posts with some frequency it is an understatement to say that I enjoy anything involving Jack Kirby’s Fourth World.  So far Geoff Johns has bungled magnificently the introduction of Apokalips and its leader Great Darkseid into the New 52 continuity, but Brian Azzarello’s intro of Orion hasn’t been terrible.  If I trusted anyone in DC’s current stable of creators with the Fourth World, it would be this series’ writer, Scott Lobdell.  Here he beings the pitting of noble Orion against the Man of Steel.  In the mean time, however, Superman has other more immediate worries on his mind.  Tyler Kirkham (*ahem* Also a New Guardians artist) draws a segment of the story in which the United States government summons Superman to a Congressional  hearing in which the Fortress of Solitude’s purpose is questioned and an inspection by International representatives is demanded.  In his civilian identity of Clark Kent has to deal with unemployment and Cat Grant, who quit the Daily Planet shortly after Clark and who has big plans for their collective future.  Cat Grant has always been portrayed as really callow and something of a bimbo.  She’s fairly superficial in this representation on the outside, but I applaud Lobdell for giving her some substance deep down.  I mean, she quit the Planet when Clark was forced to resign for journalistic integrity.  She didn’t have to.  She had a sweet gig as a popular trends journalist and was one of the voices of fashion and culture.  Regardless of how vapid she may be, that shows really character.  Scott Lobdell constantly astounds me at the amazing stories he’s telling at DC.  Superman continues to be one of the must read titles.

    Orion

    Orion

  • Flash #18 features a story written exclusively by series cowriter and colorist Brian Buccellato and with art by guest artist Marcio Takara in which Barry Allen and the Flash try to pick up the pieces after the conclusion of the Gorilla Invasion of the Gem Cities and Barry’s civilian identity is brought back from the “dead.”  In the wake of these events a whole new status quo has been established.  Two men caught in Speed Force, following the Flash’s tearing the fabric of space and time with his speed, gain Flash-like abilities, albeit of a lesser caliber.  Also the Trickster is framed for murder and the Flash sets out to prove one of his archenemies’ innocence.  The story is very compelling, humorous, and engaging.  I do not know how large a part series artist and cowriter Francis Manapul is, but in his absence Brian Buccellato has scripted an incredible issue.  Marcio Takara’s art is different from the usual Manapul style, but closer than usual fill in artist, Marcus To.  Altogether an incredible issue.
  • Talon #6 is hands down one of the most important issues that has come out.  This series spins off of a major plot point of the Bat-books and takes it into its own right.  Writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV brings the title to a crescendo.  When last we left Calvin Rose he was infiltrating an impregnable fortress off the coast of New York.  The prize within is the Grand Master of the Court of Owls and his most sensitive documents.  However, the Court aren’t easily assailed.  The genius of the issue lies in its complete turn around of everything we’ve come to understand about the series, but also in the way it plays into a major mystery left by the end of the “Court of Owls” plot line in Batman. Guillem March’s artwork ties it all together.  Simply genius.
  • Teen Titans #18 is the final “Requiem” issue of the Bat-books in memoriam of Damian, giving us Tim Drake’s reaction to his “little brother’s” death.  Damian managed to piss off every member of the Bat family, but Tim was the one who received the lion’s share of antagonism with the young Wayne.  In fact, though it was pre-Reboot, the first time Damian met Tim he tried and almost succeeded in killing him. Needless to say, there is no love lost between them.  But despite all that, they were very similar and Tim wanted him and all young heroes to be safe.  His speech to the ghost of Damian, product of his grief, about why he set out to create the Teen Titans for kids like him to keep them safe was truly moving.  From there Tim takes the Titans to Belle Reve prison in Louisiana for a toe-to-toe with Amanda Waller’s Suicide Squad.  The rationale is not revealed, but knowing writer Scott Lobdell, it will be crucial to something incredible over the horizon.  Lobdell is another master of spreading seeds throughout his issues that later grow into substantial plot points.  Doctor Light is seen in the shadows following a lead on the disappearance of a young Indian girl, Kiran Singh, whom we know to be Solstice, and a psychotic teen with super powers we met briefly last issue makes another cryptic appearance this issue.  The true draw to any reader of Teen Titans past or present is the surprise appearance in the last panel of a VERY big player in the DCU pantheon.  In summation, Scott Lobdell and Eddy Barrows knock it out of the park.

    A Little Brother's Plea

    A Little Brother’s Plea

  • Aquaman #18 for the most part is an exploration of the new status quo in the title.  Aquaman has supplanted his brother, Orm, as king of Atlantis, leaving his wife, Mera, stranded on land.  Despite his best efforts to do what is right for his people, he seems to be doing what is wrong for those closest to him.  He has estranged himself from his wife whose people are hereditary enemies of Atlantis.  He has sold out his brother to surface dwellers, when in all reality Orm was only acting in defense of their people using battle plans they came up with TOGETHER.  Heavy weighs the crown it would seem, but I still am uneasy in my feelings for Aquaman.  His quest to rid the surface does represent an altruistic attempt to gently normalize relations between the worlds above and below the waves, giving him some pathos with the reader.  This quest also led to the introduction the classic Aquaman villain the Scavenger as well as Tula, here a half sister to Orm, but unrelated to Arthur, as he and Orm share a mother and Tula and Orm share a father.  What this issue does do which really makes it worthwhile is the appearance of an ancient evil that promises to turn this series on its head.  Geoff Johns is hit or miss lately and this one rides the edge.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #18 has Batman continuing on the trail of Mad Hatter.  The actual pursuit clearly isn’t important to the writer, Gregg Hurwitz, as it is fairly uninspired and lackluster.  In my opinion it seems only to be a mode of facilitating an examination of the Mad Hatter’s obsessive nature and a rationale behind why he is so violently insane.  Jervis Tetch has always been rather short, just like his Lewis Carroll namesake, and while taking a testosterone booster gets an irreversible rage issue compounded with delusional obsessions.  Hurwitz is more setting up the character for future exploration rather than focusing on an engaging tale.  He also seems to be developing a trope of juxtaposing the villain de jour with Batman, showing the overlapping similarities Batman shares with his icon nemeses.  After exploring the relationship between the damaged Mad Hatter and his loving parents, Hurwitz shows the relationship between the very damaged Batman and his parents, both sets of which want their sons to be happy, but the world contrevening against those wishes.  The story itself isn’t enjoyable per se, but analyzing it does yield some interesting material.
  • Justice League Dark #18, while long and drawn out, is extremely simple.  Last issue, Dr. Peril of A.R.G.U.S. revealed that the magic world  the JLD traveled to as well as our world bleed magic through various locations and arcane persons.  The Magic World, taken over by scientists that banned all magic and enforce its suppression with super-science, is like a stopped up boiler.  Unless the magic can leech out in some manner the entire reality will be engulfed in the exploding energies built up over centuries.  This issue has Timothy Hunter’s father going to the Magic World and helping him leech those energies from the Earth and channel them into the Heavens.  After that the JLD exit the Magic World and return home.  Constantine, after he regains his ability to lie and mislead, postures a bit to make up for the fact that he was completely worthless for the past few issues (and pretty much is ALL the TIME) and officially tells Col. Steve Trevor of A.R.G.U.S. that his Justice League Dark are no longer under governmental oversight. This past arc wasn’t exactly anything that I was interested in and time will tell if I continue to read it.  The art by Mikel Janin is gorgeous and perhaps its only selling point at his juncture.  Jeff Lemire is a decent writer, but a lot of the “magic” has gone out of it with the departure of Peter Milligan and the convergence that seems to be going towards Geoff Johns’ imminent “Trinity War.” We’ll just have to see.
  • All-Star Western #18 concludes what was begun last issue with the entrance of Vandal Savage to Gotham and the outbreak of what was thought to be a cholera epidemic in the poorer sections of Gotham.  In fact it was a disease Vandal had carried with him over the past several hundred years, dormant in his system.  All of it was for Vandal to get his hands on Catherine Wayne to force Alan Wayne into forfeiting his vast holdings in Gotham to Savage.  Jonah and Jeremiah come to her aid just in time to put Savage down for the time being.  But with the immortal despot, he will rise again and continue his mad plots.  After this, Jonah collects his bounty and heads out of Gotham once again.  The question remains as to whether or not he will be able to stay away.  Though he is a man of the West and has always been characterized as such, writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray always seem to bring him back to Gotham.  This two-parter seemed to not really have a solid point to it and ends anticlimactically, but does have some poignant moments that are very interesting if not arbitrary, such as the scene where Hex and Arkham take refuge from the hordes above in a storm cellar populated by a dwarf smuggler (that is to say a smuggler who is a little person) and a grief stricken mother with a doll surrogate for her disease-killed baby.  It facilitates next to nothing to the resolution or build up of the plot, but gives exceptional characterization and ambiance to the overall narrative.  The Palmiotti/Gray/Moritat creative team on this book is rock solid, making this title a must read.  In the backup feature, Palmiotti and Gray return to the character of Dr. Terrence Thirteen, scientific detective and debunker of superstition.  Done under the auspice of “Stormwatch” this one was palatable, because it had next to nothing to do with that BS title or its history.  Thirteen goes to a community of spiritualist mediums to catch a killer who masquerades as a giant pigman.  Precise in his observations, his intellect is inversely proportioned to his social ineptitude, making him a Wild West version of Sherlock Holmes, minus the Watson.  They bring it around to the Stormwatch concept at the end, but up until that point its quite enjoyable.
  • The Unwritten #47 returns the narrative back to where we left Tom Taylor three months ago.  He had descended into the Underworld to get back the soul of his lost lover, Lizzy Hexam, and in the process lost all memory of who and what he was before his entrance into the realm of Hades.  Meeting up with the  slain children of the French prison warden in the first arc of the series, he attempts to find his way out by visiting the king.  The cliffhanger we left off on in issue #44 was the discovery that Pauly Buckner had become the king of the Underworld.  This issue fills us in on how Pauly went from facing oblivion at the beginning of the “Wound” arc (at the time in his human form) to being stuck as a rabbit again and presiding over the realm of the dead.  Pauly is the worst kind of “person” and of course he’s going to do something nasty when given the chance to sadistically toy with someone.  He commands his masked guardsman of the dead to imprison Tom in the dungeons.  In Hades, as in Hell, you are imprisoned by your crime.  With no memory Tom can’t rightly confess his crime, even were he to want to.  There is a holding area for others, victims of the Wound, who have no crimes to repent for.  On the way down one of the masked guardsman tells Tom the basics of why he in fact came down into the Underworld and bids him look upon something that he is meant to see.  Here we see a very existentialist dilemma in Tom.  After being without knowledge for a decent amount of time and then given the chance at regaining it, he is terrified.  Knowledge is a weight we carry and the hints at the return of who he was and what he did are terrifying to him.  It is one of the key facts of human existence.  Like Adam and Eve who ate the fruit, they gained vast knowledge but also inherited great evil as well.  Tom is left to determine whether he will take the road towards “something” or remain in a state of “nothing[ness].”  What lies behind the door that the guardsman bids him enter is something that all readers of the series are going to wish a great deal to read more about.  I love this series.  Mike Carey and Peter Gross are geniuses and this series shines forth that genius with luminous glory.  If you haven’t read the series so far, pick up the graphic novels, gorge yourself in their magnificence so you can get to this issue and enjoy it with all the Unwritten faithful.
  • Joe Kubert Presents #6 is the final issue created by and now in memoriam to one of the greats of the comic medium, bearing his name proudly in the title.  This issue starts off with the final chapter of the “Spit” feature, written, drawn, and colored by Kubert.  It is precisely the coloring that is so perplexing and has made me rack my brain over.  The other three episodes were all done in the grey tone black and white pencil medium that Kubert is renown for.  He briefly goes back to it for several panels as the ships cook relates the tale of how he lost his leg, but most of the story is depicted in pastel-like splendor.  I think it would have been more apt, if the point was demarcating the past from present, to have the flashback in vibrant color, but then again I am not Kubert and perhaps lack the insight he employed in his storycraft.  This last segment shows with great visual detail and narrative skill the method of hunting, killing, and rendering the whales into the oil that fueled Western civilization before the advent of petroleum.  Only Joe Kubert.  “Spit” was a seminal work of short fiction, and with no solid ending it is obvious Kubert wasn’t done with the poor lad yet.  Too bad.  He was a bright boy who sailed over the horizon and now we’ll never see where he went or who he became.  Again, too bad.  The next feature, written by Kubert and Pete Carlsson and entitled “Ruby”, takes the reader to the orient in a bygone era as bandits invade a Himalayan monastery.  Inside a young brother and sister try to evade the bandits, but instead run into a monk who gives them a great treasure. Guess what that treasure happens to be.  Holding the ruby, the boy realizes it has strange powers that grant both children the means to escape.  It is brief and engaging, having all the hallmarks of the old serial anthology books of the 50’s and 60’s and one thinks that that is the end of the story.  The final sentence of the narrattion turns it all around.  “The boy clasping his small sister’s hand will be known in time as . . . Sargon the Sorcerer.”  Sargon is one of the lesser known, but immensely powerful and infinitely mysterious magic users of the DCU and in his last days on Earth Joe Kubert gave us a brief yet authentic feeling origin for the mighty magician.  It should be noted that although the panels on this feature bear a striking resemblance to Kubert’s style, it is actually drawn by Henrik Jonsson.  Next the book turns to the “U.S.S. Stevens” feature.  As he did in the last issue, Sam Glanzman eschews personal reminiscences in lieu of a point by point history lesson on the high points of the final days of the War in the Pacific.  This description of his final segment in the feature recounting the service of his Destroyer and its crew during WWII is deceptively unfair considering how engaging and compelling it is.  Though its a history lesson, its a history lesson from the coolest teacher you ever had.  The one that knew what you wanted to hear and related from someone who was there.  A vibrant voice of a dying generation of men and women, Sam Glanzman has recorded his story in the medium that has been his life since the war ended: pen, paper, and panel.  The “Angel and the Ape” feature also, obviously, comes to its final chapter.  Writer/artist Brian Buniak continues his lighthearted, satirical farce with the tale of how Angel and Sam Simeon came to found their detective agency.  Buniak’s work is laden with witticism, obvious corny jokes, and some really veiled jokes that take a trained eye.  I have to admit that I was really proud of myself when I picked up on one specific one.  The raven haired reporter interviewing the duo’s name is Noel.  Now at the end of the issue when she goes back to the newspaper office there is a dark haired handsome male reporter with black hair and glasses.  She calls him “George.”  Thinking he looked like Superman and his name being George, I realized that while George Reeves portrayed Superman in the 50’s television show, Noel Neill portrayed Lois Lane.  You are a sharp one, Mr. Buniak.  The final feature to cap the series off was a one shot story of “Kamandi: Last Boy on Earth” cowritten by Kubert and Brandon Vietti, the latter of which also provided art.  Kamandi attempts to raise men up from their savage state after a cataclysm that left humans de-evolved and raised animal tribes to the dominant species of the planet.  The series was originally written by comics god Jack Kirby and in this issue Kubert resurrects the Demon Etrigan to contend with Kamandi’s efforts.  Again, I am at a loss for what Kubert meant to say with the story, but trust that there is some meaning.  If there isn’t, well then it was an interesting meeting of two of Jack’s greatest creations.  I hope Kirby and Kubert are both in Heaven talking about what Joe did right or very, very wrong.  In any event, Joe Kubert was a testament to what the comics medium once was, what is has become, and what it has the possibility to be as we grow with it, just like he did, starting in the industry at 17 and dying at his drawing board at 82.  One last time I will say it: Rest in Peace, Joe!  If anyone’s earned some rest, it’s you.
    Sargon the Sorcerer

    Sargon the Sorcerer


  • Time Warp #1 is yet another of Vertigo’s anthology collections based upon a theme.  Obviously with Time Warp, time and its manipulation are the basis of the collected stories.  In some cases time travel is utilized, but that isn’t the only facet of time explored.  In others memory is revealed to be the surest and perhaps only means of manipulating time.  The creative voices lending their thoughts and yarns here include Damon Lindelof (Lost), Jeff Lemire, Gail Simone, Mark Buckingham, Peter Milligan, M.K. Perker, Matt Kindt, as well as several others. I will say that these stories, or at least the ones I will write about, are so good I am going to spoil them, so if you want to read them fresh please stop here. SPOILER ALERT!!!  The first story, drawn by Jeff Lemire and written by Damon Lindelof, follows DC’s own time-master, Rip Hunter, as he gets stranded in prehistory.  There is legitimately no way for him to get back.  As the story opens he is being chased by a T-Rex and relates that in the second grade he had said getting eaten by a dinosaur would be the best way to die.  Apparently he should be careful what he wishes for.  However, through the chase three versions of himself give him clues as to what he needs to do next to stay alive, as two versions of him going back in one time sphere would corrupt time.  However, a VERY old Rip, the third to appear, lets the Rip whose progress we’ve been following use his sphere.  When asked about being left behind, old Rip simply says that in second grade he’d figured that being eaten by a dinosaur was the best way to go.  Our Rip leaves and old Rip looks up at the dinosaur and says, “I’m ready now.”  His resolve at the end to face death with calm and courage registers true, but also is poignant because he chose his death after a long journey.  It wasn’t an enemy, but a friend.  Well done, Messrs. Lindelof and Lemire.  The next story, entitled “It’s Full of Demons,” begins in 1901 with a girl and her brother playing in the mountains when a strange visitor wearing what appears to be a futuristic deep sea diver’s suit appears out of nowhere and kills the girl’s brother with a ray gun.  She tries to tell people what happened, but is deemed insane and sent in and out of insane asylums over the next fifty-five years.  What’s even stranger is that after WWI the world takes a very different course and a unifty commonwealth of nation emerges.  Eventually, the woman hangs herself when world peace is finally realized by this world confederacy.  At that moment in the last panel someone FINALLY calls her by her name, or at least her maiden name: Miss Hitler.  Her little brother “Addy” who was murdered was Adolf Hitler and his absence led to a unifying of the world in a lasting peace.   The last piece that struck me in this anthology was written by Gail Simone about a candy shop whose owner has a sweet that can make you relive the best moment of your life.  For a very ill little boy with a very serious condition the candy takes him to a skiing trip that he took with his parents before the onset of his disease.  For a man who lost his wife, he is back with her on a beautiful tropical beach.  However, a murder comes in wishing to relive the night he murdered his wife, a crime for which he was acquitted.  There is a twist ending to this one, but I won’t spoil it this time.  There are many other excellent stories in this collection, but those three stood out as the true masterworks.  It is solicited that the next anthology they are going to put out is called “The Witching Hour.”  I very much look forward to reading that one as well, considering the level of quality that Vertigo has put in their previous collections.

    Rest In Peace, RIP.

    Rest In Peace, RIP.

So ends a REALLY excellent week of comics.  The two anthology books, Joe Kubert Presents and Time Warp, kind of make me nostalgic for when such titles were more common place.  Next week we enter into a new month of comics excellent story lines.  Hope to see you there.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman Inc #9: Art by Chris Burnham, colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Red Lanterns #18: Art by Miguel Sepulveda, Colored by Rain Beredo

Superman #18: Art by Aaron Kuder, Colored by Sunny Gho

Teen Titans #18: Drawn by Eddy Barrows, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Eber Ferreira

Joe Kubert Presents #6: Art by Henrik Jonsson, Colored by Joe Panico

Time Warp #1: Art by Jeff Lemire, Colored by Jose Villarrubia

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