Oct. 23, 2013

This week brings to a close the regular scheduled comics of October and presents some very incredible issues, not least of which being two Forever Evil tie-ins in Justice League and Justice League Dark, and the penultimate installment of the “Lights Out” plot in the Green Lantern books before next week’s Green Lantern Annual #2.  A lot of really great storytelling happening.

  • Justice League #24 is very much an Ultraman issue.  With last week’s issue of Justice League of America we were clued into the basic situation the Justice League and Justice League of America are facing in their enigmatic prison.  So Justice League takes us to the other side of the equation, cluing us into who the new kids in town are and what makes them tick.  As stated above, Ultraman takes center stage in this issue, dictating his life and the formative events that have molded him into the person that stepped through Pandora’s gate from the desiccated Earth-3 to our Earth-1.  In his universe Krypton was destroyed and just before that his parents slaughtered their way to the escape pods, killing everyone so that their son could be the sole survivor and have no competition in his conquest of that universe’s Earth.  Everything is twisted about the world of Earth-3.  The benevolent scientist Jor-El is replaced by a twisted lunatic named Jor-Il, who sends his son away with ultimatums and recordings telling little Kal-Il how worthless he is and that he has to be strong and destroy anything weak.  When he arrives on Earth he is found by the abusive drunk Jonathan Kent and his equally abrasive wife, Martha.  The infant Kal emerges from his rocket and disturbingly tells them in full sentences that they will serve as his parents, shortly after he cuts Jonathan’s hand off with his heat-vision.  Cut to the present where the last son of Krypton-3 goes to the Daily Planet of to see how the counterparts to his Earth-1 self measure up.  First on the docket: his pal Jimmy Olsen.  Considering the polar opposites that Earth-3 predicates from our world’s characters, the Jimmy Olsen of Ultraman’s reality proves to be a very depraved person.  So depraved the he is able to take advantage of Lois Lane, aka Superwoman, and still be left alive, untouched by her and her husband, Ultraman.  Cut next to the end of the issue with the inevitable entrance of Black Adam following the events of his Villains Month issue of Justice League of America. The fight between these titans is then tantalizingly put off for two weeks until Forever Evil #3.  After that solicitations put Owlman as the subject of Justice League #25, promising the debut of even more of his past.  Considering that Ultraman narrates this current issue and the Outsider (Earth-3 Alfred Pennyworth) narrated Justice League #23.4: The Secret Society, it can be assumed that Justice League #25 will be written from Thomas Wayne’s (Owlman) perspective, giving greater insight into the incongruities of Owlman’s actions throughout the Forever Evil books.  Geoff Johns really digs into the inherent psychopathy and malice that is at the heart of the CSA and Earth-3 as a world.  In the past they have always been depicted as very menacing, cavalier baddies that are bad because they are bad.  Here Johns really mines the philosophical beliefs that fuel their deeply malicious drives in ways that are both logical in a very cold way and scientific in their adherence to very strict interpretations of Darwinism.  Ivan Reis, Johns’ many times collaborator on Blackest Night, Brightest Day, and Aquaman, provides stellar artwork to bring to life the very stark, steely life of Ultraman.
  • Justice League Dark #24 kicks off the series’ under the shadow of Forever Evil and the pen of new writer J.M. Dematteis with art still by original series artist Mikel Janin.  The issue picks up as John Constantine awakens from the events of Trinity War, most notably Justice League #23 in which the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 entered into our world.  He wakes up in the House of Mystery with patchy memories of what happened upon the CSA’s advent into our reality.  When he walks through the house, attempting to get his bearings it transports him across the world, showing him various situations around the world with shadowy creatures lurking around events of negative human emotion.  Most of these events aren’t super malicious or overtly terrible, but as Constantine witnesses them he sees how evil feeds and breeds off of small sins committed absent-mindedly every day, and through this culmination of thoughtlessness and callous actions evil snowballs and coalesces into something greater, like a perpetual motion machine feeding off its own momentum.  At the tail end of this revelation he sees these sins rise up from the collected sins of humanity in the form of a giant serpentine dragon, like a blight on humanity, towering over our world.  Matteis is definitely skewing toward the biblical in his choice of imagery and it is quite apt.  The most poignant thought Constantine strings together from his observations is, “It’s so convenient to blame it all on some sneering, arrogant Satan, sitting on a fiery throne, plotting to corrupt our souls.  But if there is a Devil he’s just another projection of our own sins.”  Pretty astute, considering what a callous jerk Constantine has always been.  When the House returns him from his “vision quest” he is confronted by a version of the Justice League Dark who call him out for his own sins and selfishness.  Zatanna does reveal that he isn’t actually talking to them, nor is he awake, but rather still reeling from the fallout of what happened when he witnessed the second opening of Pandora’s Box.  She reaches into his chest and pulls out a handful of black goo, which allows him to wake up, for real this time, in the House of Mystery.  “Zatanna” is revealed to be the Nightmare Nurse, seen first and last in Phantom Stranger #8-9.  She helps Constantine come to terms with what happened and to ready himself for what is going to happen. To do this she grows a Swamp Thing to aid them since Constantine burned bridges with Alec Holland in the pages of Swamp Thing #22-23. Whereas Justice League of America seems to be about the fate of the Justice Leagues and Justice League appears to be a mouthpiece for the Crime Syndicate, Justice League Dark seems to be a philosophical look at evil itself.  Whether that holds up as Forever Evil continues, or whether there will be a major paradigm shift coming later, remains to be seen, but Matteis has taken hold of this title and made it his own.  Considering the subject material and the tone, this Justice League Dark is ideally suited to Matteis’ style.  It is very similar to his work on the 90’s Doctor Fate series and his current run on Phantom Stranger, giving him lots of room for the dark, twisted, and bizarre.  Mikel Janin remains on the title, retaining a certain degree of continuity over the three writers the series has seen.  Not always the best title, Justice League Dark finds a place among the best as Forever Evil marches onward.

    A Great Blight Upon Humanity . . .

    A Great Blight Upon Humanity . . .

  • Red Lanterns #24 returns to the planet Ysmault following Bleez’s discovery that Guy Gardner is a Green Lantern embedded with the Red Lanterns as a spy. The conversation she witnesses Guy concluding is basically Hal Jordan reneging on the deal that he and Guy made, essentially stranding him in hostile territory and throwing him to the wolves. Thus, Guy finds himself in a situation where he has had enough and washes his hands of Hal and the Green Lanterns forever. So of course Bleez’s reaction is threatening to out him to their fellow Red Lanterns and having him killed. Bleez is a very confident, strong woman and peerless among many of her brethren in blood. It’s one of the things that has captivated my imagination when reading anything that she is involved in.  So going into this she is rather cocky and lays her cards on the table.  But Guy Gardner isn’t new to this game. Guy is a sonuvabitch that doesn’t play by the rules if those rules put him at a disadvantage and ornery-as-all-get-out, he is someone that won’t be pinned to the mat. He immediately throws Bleez’s plan on its head and creates a reverse scenario that puts here in the crosshairs.  She would out him as a spy, but if he said she was a spy, considering her time with Kyle Rayner and the “New Guardians,” it would be a literal case of he-said/she-said.  So politically he has her at an impasse.  As a Lantern, Bleez was never in a position to take Atrocitus (creator and Chief Lantern of the Red Lantern Corps) down in a fight, but Guy DID two issues ago.  So muscle-wise he has the edge.  This culls Bleez’s bravado and makes her docile as a house cat. I’m not sure I am ok with that, but if it is a momentary thing that facilitates Guy’s assertion of the “throne,” I can handle it.  But Bleez CANNOT be cowed like that again. It’s a disrespect to the heart of the character. Guy follows up his defeat of Bleez by escorting her to a meeting of the Red Lanterns and telling them exactly what Bleez was going to tell them: he was sent in as a spy for the Green Lanterns and he has changed his position and wants to lead them. However, Hal chooses that awful moment to show up with the Green Lanterns. Even worse, he still thinks that he can command Guy, stoking the rage within the former Green Lantern following Hal’s betrayal of their deal. Hal tries to placate him and explain the Relic situation, but Guy is seeing red and not listening. Par for the course. When he does calm Guy, Hal explains that the Red Lanterns are the only corps that can stop Relic because their power isn’t strictly light based, but also rooted partially in blood magic which the ancient being can’t fend off with his science. So Guy and Hal broker a deal where in exchange for their help, the Reds get their own space sector where the Green Lanterns will not encroach  Kind of like the deal the Guardians made with Larfleeze. All is agreed and they move forward. Elsewhere Atrocitus and his faithful companion, Dex-Starr the cat, have contained the Red entity the Butcher, morphing Atrocitus into a being called the Atrocity Butcher, giving him horns and bull legs. He kind of looks like Satan in this form.  Carrying on from Green Lantern: New Guardians, Kyle the White Lantern comes and takes the Butcher with the other entities, robbing Atrocitus of his power. Charles Soule is seeding a very different book from the one that began two years ago under the pen of Peter Milligan. To me this is both good and bad. Without Milligan on the book, it would be bad for another writer to try to keep pace with his amazing concepts, but at the same time he set up some very interesting ideas that I would have loved to see actualized. Charles Soule, assuming he doesn’t completely clip Bleez’s “wings,” has the capacity to write an amazing series with great strength and gravitas.  Alessandro Vitti’s art is head and shoulders above the previous work on the series by Miguel Sepulveda, but doesn’t quite match up to original series artist Ed Benes or later artist Will Conrad. However, his lines do emote menace and anger which is 80% of the job.  With these two men on the job, I am optimistic about the future of this book.

    Don't Mess With Guy Gardner.

    Don’t Mess With Guy Gardner.

  • Superman #24 brings about the third and final chapter of the “Psi-War” storyline, picking up from Action Comics #24 two weeks ago.  The H.I.V.E. Queen had been attempting to enslave the world with her collection of human telepaths in preparation for the return of Brainiac.  In this endeavor she came into direct conflict with Hector Hammond, the giant headed Green Lantern villain, who also sought to rule humanity psychically. Both are sucker punched by the Psycho Pirate, a member of the enigmatic “Twenty” that Brainiac created before leaving Earth.  Psycho Pirate was one of the Queen’s prized slaves until he broke his chains and escaped her clutches.  In Action Comics #24 he showed Superman the “Swarm” and told of his intentions to release them and his need of a massive psychic power source to do it.  That source is Superman and instead of asking, he decides to take what he needs by force. His mask, called the Medusa Mask, augments his natural psychic abilities while also partitioning his mind from the intrusion of other telepaths.  It also, true to its name, has golden vipers made of psionic energy that the Psycho Pirate uses to inject a telepathic “venom” into the Man of Steel that warps his perceptions and makes him relive altered versions of hallmark moments in his life.  The trauma these events elicit within his psyche feeds the Pirate the energies he requires.  Lois Lane shows up in a blue, supercharged form and fends off the Psycho Pirate.  Afterward she, Superman, Hector Hammond, and the revived Queen strike a deal to take down the Pirate.  Though they don’t want to, if they don’t work together Metropolitans will rip each other limb from limb and the city will descend into anarchy to further facilitate Psycho Pirate’s goals.  The four work beautifully in concert, allowing Supes to rip the mask off of Psycho Pirate.  We don’t really see what happens to him after that.  The man under the mask disappears and the mask itself attempts to bond with Superman and claim him mind, but Lois again comes to his aid and guides him telepathically to fighting its thrall.  The mask is then destroyed, but at the cost of Lois’s life.  Or so it seems. She actually goes back into a coma after Superman gets her to a hospital.  However, before she succumbs to the fatigue from expending that much energy from her overtaxed mind, she picks up from Superman’s mind that he is in fact Clark Kent.  The question remains as to whether she will remember this when she wakes up or will she think it was all a dream?  Logic would dictate the latter as the most probably event.  It doesn’t make sense that DC would blow his identity two years into the game.  With the defeat of the Psycho Pirate and the weakening of both the H.I.V.E. Queen and Hector Hammond, the Psi-War is officially over. With this door closing the issue ends with Superman being pulled off planet, setting up the coming “Krypton Returns” plotline that I have been eagerly anticipating since September 2o12 with the release of Superman #0 and Supergirl #0.  Mike Johnson once again takes this one home the help of artist Eddy Burrows, whose work on Teen Titans and Nightwing invigorated both titles.

    The Greatest Story She'll Never Tell.

    The Greatest Story She’ll Never Tell.

  • Flash #24 concludes the “Reverse Flash” arc.  The Flash was one of those rare series that wasn’t affected by Villains Month.  While Flash #23 ended with the revelation that Daniel West, brother of Iris West, was the Reverse Flash, Villains Month gave him his own issue which revealed how he got his powers, what his childhood was like with an abusive father, and how the desire for a better relationship with his sister has motivated him his entire life.  The trauma of their childhood under their dad’s tyranny created a divide between them and Daniel desperately wants that closeness back.  This led him to a life of crime, trying to find the quick way to make his sister’s life easier and his own.  It only made things harder though, sending him to prison and taxing his relationship with Iris even further.  After getting out of prison he immediately found himself in the middle of the Gorilla Invasion of the Gem Cities and pulled into the Mirror World where the Rogues were giving citizens refuge . . . while also robbing them, making them pay for the privilege.  Dr. Elias’ Speed Force monorail engine, powered by
    The Wrath of Reverse Flash.

    The Wrath of Reverse Flash.

    the Speed Force energy he had siphoned off of Flash, was also in the Mirror World and exploded, fusing onto Daniel’s body and giving him his Speed Force powers.  After killing other people who were in the Speed Force and taking their energies he gets the ability to travel back far enough in time to kill his father, engineering the childhood he always wanted and “ensuring” the relationship he always wanted with his sister.  Little did he know that the younger versions of himself and sister would be present when he does the deed.  Flash goes back and reasons with Daniel that the trauma he inflicts on the kids is far worse than the continued trauma of their father’s abuses. So he once again is only making things worse for himself, not better.  Barry also enumerates that all the energy coming off himself while he moves through the Speed Force is what actually moves time forward, so the fact that Daniel is the exact opposite of Flash, this is how he is able to travel backward.  While Daniel is distracted he is able to siphon his Speed Force energiesFlash24-2 back and move both back into the present.  Iris is then able to complete the job Barry started by guilting Daniel into submission and he is returned to prison, although completely unrepentant about what he did.  Iris on the other hand tells him that despite how horrific their childhood was it made them both strong and she wouldn’t change the past for anything.  It made her the woman she is.  After concluding this catastrophic time-altering nightmare, Barry is able to make it to Patty Spivot’s parent’s 40th wedding anniversary, meets her dad, and get the last dance with her.  On that note I must once again assert my absolute love of Patty Spivot.  She is an amazing character and I am glad that Buccellato and Manapul put her and Barry together in their run on this series.  After this tender moment, Flash meets Dr. Elias (the two-faced scientist that turned the city against him, stole his Speed Force energies, and tried to kill him a few times) and basically tells him that he created the Reverse Flash, imperiled Iris, and admits that if Iris had been killed Flash would have killed him.  With the ultimatum issued to stay out of Flash’s way, the consequences are left ominously open-ended.  The issue’s conclusion functions as a denouement of the entirety of what Flash as a character IS.  Barry had a really awful childhood, coming home at a young age to find his mother murdered and his father accused of the crime, which Barry has spent the last twenty years trying to disprove forensically, and Lord knows Flash would love nothing more than to go back and prevent it from happening or even witness the crime to discover the killer’s identity and exonerate his dad, but that isn’t who he is.  Probably a nod to Flashpoint, which started this reboot and also created a nightmare world of evil superheroes.  It is an examination of his moral compass and the realization that you can’t go back.  He can only go forward, which is a pretty optimistic perspective for himself and his readers.  You can’t change your past and even if you could you shouldn’t.  If you lived through something terrible it only shows your resilience and gives you strength to take in your forward facing journey.  Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul really get this character and the world he lives in.  There is so much heart and philosophical brilliance put into the scripting and rendering of each and every panel.  Their storytelling is peerless as is their combined artistic prowess.  This is a one of THE titles to get, encapsulating everything that is GOOD in the comic medium.

    Strength Out Of Weakness.

    Strength Out Of Weakness.

  • Aquaman #24 is the penultimate chapter of the “Dead King” arc, telling a chilling tale of the first King of Atlantis.  It began when a dead king came back to life from the ice of the southern polar ice cap, with the power to control water, as most Atlanteans do, but with the added ability to freeze water, which often is a means of heralding his advent.  He tells Aquaman that he is not the king of Atlantis nor was the throne ever rightfully his, causing some distress for Aquaman, who really sits upon it by necessity, not choice.  In this issue Aquaman wakes up after having passed out from using his telepathic ability to get the aquatic leviathan named Topos (a giant crustacean cephalopod) to attack the villain called the Scavenger from bombing Atlantis with his submarine fleet, thereby saving his subjects lives.  Six months have passed and he is being cared for by Vulko, his former Atlantean adviser who initiated the war between Atlantis and the surface world.  Obviously he is greatly perturbed by this man’s presence, but Vulko takes him to the Dead King’s throne room in Antarctica and shows him the history of the dead monarch.  King Atlan founded Atlantis with utopian dreams of uniting the world, leading many zealots among his court to rise up against him for the affront to their racial superiority.  Headed up by Atlan’s younger brother Orin they attempted to kill Atlan, forcing him into exile and prompting him to forge the six artifacts of Atlantis, seen in the “Others” arc of Aquaman several months ago.  When Atlan returned he found his wife and children were murdered to solidify Orin’s rule.  So the Dead King killed Orin, killed his Queen, and then sunk the continent beneath the sea with the scepter he had forged, killing 90% of the population.  The 10% that survived became the modern Atlantean people.  There were seven nations united under the Atlantean banner who were the scions of the seven seas. Four nations were wiped out and three survived, one of which was the Trench, the fish-like people seen in the first arc of this title.  The other two most likely were the proper Atlanteans and the Xebel, who now live in exile.  That second part is an assumption from context clues.  The issue ends with Arthur realizing that he isn’t the rightful king and Atlan is.  Atlan doesn’t have descendants, and Arthur is the descendant of Orin, a regicidal, fratricidal, racist lunatic.  That’s a tough pill to swallow.  Geoff Johns is a good writer, albeit one that has kind of gone crazy with power, lording over the Reboot willy-nilly.  However, in this final arc he is doing a very decent job writing a compelling story that honors the character and the facets of his character that have buoyed him above the mockery that surrounds the concept of Aquaman with most non-comic fans and a large number of actual comic fans.  This issue is a prime example of “Johns done right.”
  • Larfleeze #4 features the opening salvos of the “Revolt of the Orange Lanterns.”  The series’ protagonist, Larfleeze, is the sole wielder of the Orange Light of Greed making him the only tangible Orange Lantern.  The illusion of there being an Orange Lantern Corps comes from his theft of the life-force of beings he desires to serve him.  They are then recreated as Orange Light constructs and dispatched to do their master’s will.  After last issue, his Corpsmen are not only free of his control, but also returned to corporal life.  With their bodies and self-determination restored they turn on Larfleeze and seek revenge for their murder and subsequent enslavement.  What this issue does that is interesting is fully introduce members of the Orange Lantern Corps and give them personalities.  Conceptually, the members of the Corps always depicted in the background were given names and back stories, but never contextually within the Green Lantern titles.  Glomulus, Larfleeze’s cute little toadie, is the only Orange Lantern besides Larfleeze himself to be depicted with any sort of personality.  In this issue we meet Clypta (a faceless twi’lek-looking woman), Wrap (a cycloptic mummy), Sound Dancer (a fanged, green-skinned swamp monster with long stringy hair obscuring her eyes), Nat-Nat (a lamprey millipede), Tammal-Tayn (a squid-faced, furry arachnid), and a centaur-like character that has as of yet not been named. The depiction of Glomulus, I feel was very off, and falls short of the incredible way he was depicted in the “Ring Thief” arc of Green Lantern: New Guardians.  Tony Bedard hit on something really wonderful, now squandered by writers J.M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen.  Larfleeze is an obstinate, ornery psychotic, but even he cannot stave off that kind of assault.  Elsewhere in the universe, Larfleeze’s once butler, Stargrave, is escorted by his new mistress, the Wanderer, to the home of her sister, Dyrge, who is just as cheerful as her name implies.  Giffen and DeMatteis write an extremely comical and quick-witted cosmic farce (though sometimes misguided) that both explores the Green Lantern universe and lampoons it.  Scott Kolins’ art enlivens the script with sharp lines and action pack panels.  This is certainly a comic to read on a rainy day when you are down in the dumps.

    Beware the Orange Lanterns' Might . . .

    Beware the Orange Lanterns’ Might . . .

  • Talon #12 returns after the Villains Month hiatus with an insane amount of plot points converging in a perfect storm of chaos for Calvin Rose and allies.  Previously, Calvin had chased exiled Court of Owls grandmaster, Sebastian Clark, to Santa Prisca where the disgraced leader tried to use Bane and his mercenary army to crush the Court.  Bane, however, is not a force that can be controlled and though he sets out for Gotham with a massive strike force of highly trained mercenaries to destroy Gotham he does so with no intention of following someone else’s script.  Back in Gotham, Calvin’s lover Casey Washington and her daughter Sarah were captured by the Court.  Sarah was taken to a facility where she would be subliminally conditioned to be a weapon and Casey given to the 19th century Talon infamously known as the “Gotham Butcher.”  Casey escaped his sadism, finding her way back to Calvin, minus an arm and an eye.  This issue follows the Butcher breaking from Court control after the loss of their trump card against Calvin.  The Butcher gained his name in the 1860’s by slaughtering hundreds of Gothamites in very bloody and public ways, forcing the Court to retire him to protect their anonymity. The modern Court awoke him with the delusion that he could be tamed with science and high-tech restraints.  Where there’s a will there’s a way and the Butcher CANNOT be silenced or leashed, unleashing a whole new level of horror on Gotham, as if Bane and his commandos weren’t enough.  Writer James Tynion reinforces the connection of this series to the initial arc of Batman, which he cowrote, that first introduced the Court of Owls.  After his premature birth, Thomas Wayne Jr. (little brother of Bruce) was supposedly taken to the Carpenter House for Boys, which had been a haunted place since the fire of 1862.  The Butcher started that fire and also set into motion the steady decline of Gotham.  Bane, Clark, the Butcher, and the corner Court.  The stakes are high going into the final issue of Tynion’s run with “lucky” issue #13.
  • Teen Titans #24 is an unseated trip through time and space.  After being flung into the time-stream by Johnny Quick in Forever Evil #2 the Teen Titans are separated and tossed to the temporal trade winds.  When writer Scott Lobdell began writing this series two years ago, he had the Mexican meta-teen Bunker (aka Miguel Jose Barragon) meet Red Robin on a freight train, saying Red Robin had told him to meet him there.  Tim Drake (Red Robin) had no recollection of that ever happening.  Thanks to Johnny Quick and the roller-coaster ride he threw the team into that conversation is actualized.  Meanwhile, Wonder Girl (aka Cassie Sandsmark) and Superboy find themselves in ancient Egypt fending off an invasion of solar intruders called the Sunturnians, last seen in Lobdell’s Superman #19.  Solstice (aka Kiran Singh) and Kid Flash (aka Bart Allen) are sent into the 25th century, Bart’s native time, to witness the events that made Bart into a heinous criminal, unbeknownst to his amnesic mind.  Raven is sent to the medieval era and set against the Demon, Etrigan.  As these moments in time unfold before their eyes, connections are made and slowly the team find one another through the vast reaches of the ages and anchor themselves until Red Robin can find a way to extricate themselves.  However, there are forces within the team that are set to tear them apart.  Scott Lobdell has been one of the keystone pillars on this title.  His out-of-the-box plotting and edgy storytelling has led to some of the most incredible, engaging Teen Titans storylines since the days of Wolfman and Perez and their New Teen Titans series in the 80’s.  Providing guest art is Angel Unzueta, mimicking well the style of regular series Eddy Barrows.  This was really a great issue that carries on the overarching plot of Forever Evil while tantalizing the reader with plot reveals that have been in the works for months, if not years, including the identity of Bart Allen and the horrific acts he perpetrated in the future.  The traitor in the midst of the Titans.  Lobdell maintains this series’ must-read status.

    The Origin of Kid Flash.

    The Origin of Kid Flash.

  • The Unwritten #54 concludes the massive Fables/Unwritten crossover in an epic manner.  Mister Dark has the war with the Fables all but won.  Truly, every single modicum of resistance the defenders of Fabletown offer turn to dust before him.  What Frau Totenkinder knew and shows the reintegrated Tom Taylor is the nature of the world in which they exist and its relation to the power of the written word.  That has been the guiding principle of the entire series and, apropos the conclusion of this crossover event, harkens back to the very first pages of The Unwritten, almost five years ago.  The issue hits its ending hard leaving a cliffhanger whose ramifications resound through an infinity of possibilities.  Nearly all the Fables are dead and those that aren’t by issue’s end are close to it.  Mister Dark is an unstoppable force.  Only the undoing of everything can stop him in his tracks.  But once reality is undone can it be redone?  Will the world be made right again or completely restarted?  Through the imagery of the horn used in the opening pages of The Unwritten in the Harry Potter-esque “Tommy Taylor” books, cowriters Mike Carey and Peter Gross prove that they have been working towards this moment and the answers to come for nigh on half a decade.  THIS is a moment in Unwritten history that is both exciting and terrifying for the series’ faithful.  And what’s worse, it is put on a three-month hiatus forestalling the resolution to those troubling questions.  We’ll just have to wait until March to figure it all out.
  • T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #3 brings to light the one of the most pressing questions of the series thus far.  Entitled “The Judgment Tower,” it has seen the international super-terrorist, the Iron Lady, seizing a top-secret T.H.U.N.D.E.R installation in Kashmir and capturing two agents.  The base was so secret the chairmen and women of The Higher United Nations didn’t even know about it until it went dark with two agents down.  When asked to explain her actions Director (Kat) Kane remains cryptic about what the facility’s purpose was and why she kept it secret from her superiors.  Interlaced within these moments are retrospectives of her time as an agent, alongside her twin sister, Kelly.  Kelly has been strongly insinuated to be the Iron Maiden and clearly this whole conflict over the cave not only springs from a power grab, but some familial connection from the past.  That assertion is confirmed in this issue with the revelation that Kane had found a giant subterranean medieval parapet of medieval design not far from T.H.U.N.D.E.R HQ.  The tower, though seemingly from the middle ages, dates back over a million years ago before the evolution of man as the dominant species on our planet.  It also emits a cosmic radiation encountered only via radio telescope from the depths of space.  So . . . who built this tower and for what purpose?  That remains to be seen.  But Kane not only found this tower twelve years prior with her sister.  She also found one in Kashmir.  That is what the facility was built to contain and study and that is why two elite agents fell into enemy hands guarding it.  Though the facility is under Iron Maiden’s control, the newest and perhaps most powerful T.H.U.N.D.E.R agent, Len Brown, aka Dynamo, is inserted into the base and several moles within her organization surface for the good of the mission.  However, the true purpose of the tower and its realization begin with the last page.  My familiarity with T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents has been painstaking, finding collections of the original series over several jumps in publishers and many decades.  Though not complete, I have read several versions of T.H.U.N.D.E.R and though this has its differences from several of the latter versions, Phil Hester’s attempt with this new series hits uncannily close to the style and feel of the original series by Wally Wood and the writer Len Brown who lent his name to the main character, Dynamo.  Fifty years later and the same characters are rendered with the same quality by Hester and his partner in art, Andrea Di Vito.  For superhero excellence outside of the Big Two, this series is the prime choice.
    The Dark Tower Rising.

    The Dark Tower Rising.

     

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 Dark #24: Art by Mikel Janin, Colored by Jeromy Cox.

Red Lanterns #24: Art by Alessandro Vitti, Colored by Gabe Eltaeb.

Superman #24: Drawn by Eddy Barrow, Colored Pete Pantazis, Inked by Eber Ferreira.

Flash #24: Art by Francis Manapul, Colored by Brian Buccellato.

Larfleeze #4: Art by Scott Kolins, Colored by Mike Atiyeh.

Teen Titans #24: Drawn by Angel Unzueta, Colored Pete Pantazis, Inked by Art Thibert.

The Unwritten #54: Art by Peter Gross, Colored by Chris Chuckry.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R  Agents #3: Art by Andrea Di Vito, Colored by Rom Fajardo.

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Week 88 (May 8, 2013)

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

    Bruce Wayne and the Batman

    Bruce Wayne and the Batman

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

    Old Wounds Made Fresh

    Old Wounds Made Fresh

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

    Dissent in the Ranks

    Dissent in the Ranks

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

    A Fateful Encounter

    A Fateful Encounter

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

    A Whole New Perspective

    A Whole New Perspective

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

 

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Week 85 (April 17, 2013)

This week is a week of great flux in the DC Universe bringing change within and without the various series.  New writers come onboard, characters lives alter invariable, and in the case of Nightwing and Teen Titans, the artists play the swinging game swapping partners to try their hands at new characters and stories.  It’s truly an exciting time to be a DC fan, as these changes push the envelope of storytelling and innovation.  So here they are:

  • Justice League #19 introduces the two new members of the Justice League:  Rhonda Pineda (the new, female Atom) and Firestorm (whose series is being cancelled with May’s #20 issue).  Stuck alone in the Watchtower, waiting for their new teammates to initiate them into the League, they find themselves in a trial-by-fire situation.  On Earth, keeping them from meeting their newly recruited rookies, Batman goes to have a chat with Superman and Wonder Woman who have taken it upon themselves to insert themselves into a tense geopolitical situation.  Batman, though cold and calculating, understands that the world is growing distrustful of the League and violating political borders, no matter what the reason, does nothing but kick hornet nests and ruffle feathers.  I have to say that Geoff Johns really doesn’t portray Superman or Wonder Woman in a good light.  Wonder Woman is shown in a very fascist light and Superman, though opposed to her views, goes along with it because his girlfriend wants him to.  Compelling characterization, truly.  The issue also features a mysterious assailant breaking into the Batcave to steal a package Batman developed to take out Superman.  Considering the events of this issue, Johns’ version of the Man of Steel kind of deserves a few knocks to the head to maybe knock some sense into him.  In the backup feature, I may be forced to eat crow.  I’ve had very few good things to say about the SHAZAM backup or its version of Billy Batson, but after Johns reveals Black Adam’s history in ancient Kahndaq he seems to give validation to what he did with Billy, giving him the understanding to deal with Black Adam from a place of mutual understanding of why he is doing the things he is with the power the Wizard gave him.  Geoff Johns may be able to pull this one out of the toilet.  I say may.  Jury is still out.

    The Corruption of Power

    The Corruption of Power

  • Green Lantern: The New Guardians #19 picks up right where Green Lantern #19 left off with the destruction of Sinestro’s homeworld, Korugar.  Of course when Kyle shows up with a white ring on his finger, Sinestro demands that he restore his planet and his people from the apocalypse the First Lantern unleashed.  Kyle remains uncertain and Sinestro resorts to violence.  While many would demonize him for this reaction it should be noted that Hal Jordan reacted similarly in the wake of his hometown, Coast City’s, destruction and as a result snapped Sinestro’s neck and murdered the Guardians and half the Green Lantern Corps.  Sinestro in comparison is behaving himself quite admirably.  Simon Baz, the newly minted GL of planet Earth comes on the scene and all three Lanterns attempt to do the impossible, taking turns with the white ring to bring back the decimated world.  Kyle tries and fails, the ring won’t even allow Sinestro to put it on, and Simon Baz tries to replicate his feat of will that brought his brother-in-law out of a coma, only to be refused by the ring.  For good or ill, the Life Force of the white energy deems that Korugar must remain destroyed.  Like the two previous GL titles this month, New Guardians #19 sets the stage for the massive Green Lantern #20 next month with the cast of players taking position.  Its going to be a blowout issue that will go down in history.  Mark my words.

    The Return of Fear

    The Return of Fear

  • Batwoman #19 is an extended period of adjustment.  After the conclusion of the Medusa mega-arc a lot has changed in the Batwoman title and as a result the characters are having to reacquaint themselves with one another and the situations that have arisen from the fallout of the first seventeen regular issues.  Maggie and Kate’s relationship has taken a dramatic turn following Kate’s revelation that she is in fact the Gotham city vigilante known as Batwoman.  After all, in the course of doing her duty as a policewoman Batwoman shot Maggie full of a concentrated Scarecrow fear toxin that continues to plague her with horrific nightmares.  It is also her job to apprehend such vigilantes.  So yeah, their engagement is rather complicated legally and emotionally.  Kate’s father, Jacob Kane, has his own crosses to bear in his dual life as the father of Batwoman  and loving husband with his wife Katherine’s discovery that her stepdaughter, Kate, and niece, Betty, moonlight as crimefighters with Jacob’s help.  Thus another strained relationship.  Jacob also lets slip that he may have a son.  However they rationalize it, the hinting is that this son is Director Bones of the D.E.O.  Considering that Bones is using Jacob as a bargaining chip to gain Batwoman’s compliance to D.E.O. operations and that he referred to Alice as “sister”, I’d say that there is some seriously oedipal stuff going on there.  And as for Cameron Chase, the hard edged D.E.O. agent begins to have a crisis of conscience and goes to her sister to find resolution to her conflicting drives.  Overall, J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman have made this title both action packed and introspectively thoughtful.  This continues to be one of the hallmark titles in DC’s current lineup.
  • DC Universe Presents #19 delivers its final presentation of the New DCU spinning out of the first four issues of Swords and Sorcery and bringing Beowulf into our present (his past) as summoned through a mystical artifact.  Preceding him is a shapeshifting beast called the “Puca” that runs amok with the intention of conquering the Age of Heroes and enslaving humanity.  Though logically it would change the timestream and corrupt events in her time, Beowulf concludes that the “sorceress” we’ve met under the relative name of “Grendel’s Mother” sent the Puca back to lure the legendary Geat from that time in order that she could conquer the Danelaw unimpeded.  Helping Beowulf find the Puca and get back to his own time is the beautiful archeaologist Dr. Gwendolyn Pierce.   This issue, though pretty straightforward and insubstantial by itself, was a pretty fun read for those that enjoy the original legend of Beowulf and the reinterpretation of it as done by this issue’s writer, Tony Bedard.  My hopes are that this concept will be revisited one day, because to me the Beowulf backup feature was superbly done and intriguing to read.  It may not have been popular, or at least not popular enough to continue in its own book, but I can dream.  The backup in Sword of Sorcery was drawn by Jesus Saiz, but this issue featured art by Javier Pina that was very soft, with lovely rounded lines, making it all the more enjoyable.  Man, I hope they continue on with this series . . .

    He's No Hero, He is BEOWULF!!!

    He’s No Hero, He is BEOWULF!!!

  • Legion of Super-Heroes #19 brings the next chapter in the off-the-rails storyline by writer Paul Levitz that re-establishes the defunct supervillain team, the “Fatal Five.”  So far, Tharok has plunged much of the United Planets into utter chaos by corrupting all technology powered by quark relays which accounts for 99.9% of it (I’m guessing on that figure, but its not far off), and in this issue Emerald Empress descends on Webber World, an artificial planet made entirely out of metal and machinery that runs ENTIRELY on quark relays.  That said, there is no way for the residents there to defend themselves against her psychotic assaults.  Cue  the entrance of Mon-El, the Legion’s Daxamite, and the Webber Worlders’ last hope.  Levitz holds nothing back in this storyline. The Fatal Five are back and they are playing for keeps.  Levitz began this arc with the death of a beloved Legionnaire and this issue finds the rest standing on infirm ground.  The sheer scope of the story is mind boggling, spanning the width of the United Planets and inflicting fear and death the likes of which we’ve not seen since Levitz’s “Great Darkness Saga” back in the early 1980’s.  Good to see that the master hasn’t lost his touch, nor his ability to spin quintessentially relevant Legion lore.  Starting this journey with him on issue #17 was his former partner from the aforementioned 1980’s opus, artist Keith Giffen.  Last issue and this one had art provided by Scott Kolins.  Kolins is a phenomenal artist, but put beside Giffen’s work it took some of the magic away.  Regardless, this is a series to read. Period.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #19 represents a paradigm shift on two levels.  Firstly, it should be noted that Scott Lobdell, writer extraordinaire who’s initiated some of the best titles in the New DCU (Teen Titans, Superman, Superboy, and this title), has moved on after a stellar run reinventing Jason Todd, Starfire, and Roy Harper, while simultaneously introducing incredible new concepts and characters like Essence, the All-Caste, the Untitled, the Thirteen Scions of Salvation, to name only a few.  The good news is that he is replaced by up-and-coming writer James Tynion IV, who’s work on the backup features in the Batman title as well as the series Talon have been incredible.  Joining him is artist Julius Gopez, whose art is as detailed as original series artist Kenneth Rocafort, but with its own unique style.  That said, the stage is set for an incredible issue as the new creative team descends into the quagmire left after the “Death of the Family” mega event felt throughout the Bat-family of books.  Jason Todd has been through a lot, and despite developing a hard exterior, weathered it pretty well.  With Lobdell’s revelation that the Joker was the architect of much of his misery, Jason is left in a very compromising situation.  Following that, he disappears and his friends, Starfire and Roy, try to find him to offer their support.  They track him to the Himalayas and while searching are set upon by two former acquaintances of Jason’s: Ducra and Essence.  Both transcendental forces, they attempt to influence the course of Roy and Koriand’r’s journey.   With his limited  knowledge gained from observing Jason’s meditation and use of Eastern rituals, Roy is able to weather his innermost demons, roused by Essence, to find the path to helping his friend.  However, after all of the pain and hardship to find their comrade, Jason throws a curve ball.  Tynion proves his understanding and mastery of comic writing here with some really poignant storytelling that doesn’t break stride from the tone and pace set by Lobdell.  Jason, Roy, and Starfire are very complex characters that are flawed beyond belief, but when written well are made all the better because of their imperfections.  Tynion writes them that way, and his partner in art renders them beautifully.  This series looks to be in good hands and I for one am breathing a sigh of relief that Red Hood and the Outlaws have found themselves in capable hands.

    The Color of Friendship

    The Color of Friendship

  • Nightwing #19 endures his own paradigm shift like Jason, his successor to the Robin title, did in the above book.  Though continuing to be written by Kyle Higgins, longtime artist Eddy Barrows has gone to Teen Titans and that series’ artist, Brett Booth, begins his run as artist on this book with this issue.  Coinciding with Booth’s jumping on point, Dick Grayson jumps ship from the tragedy that befell him in Gotham following “Death of the Family” and begins a new life in Chicago, searching for Tony Zucco.  Zucco is the supposedly deceased mobster that killed Dick’s parents, but also the father of his pseudo-girlfriend, Sonia Branch.  A complex situation to be sure, but one that Dick cannot overlook.  Though it dredges up harsh memories of the past, Nightwing has to seek out Zucco if he  ever hopes to attain closure on one of the seminal moments of his life.  The issue follows Dick settling into the Windy City and familiarizing himself with its underworld in order to get information on  Zucco.  It also introduces the “Prankster.”  Higgins imagines him almost as an anti-hero rather than the Joker-like Superman villain he was originally written as.  Here Prankster forces a corrupt millionaire to burn his money to prolong his survival when trapped in a room with wolves.  The chances of the man surviving the encounter are very decent, but he is forced to pay monetarily for the privilege.  Not supervillainous, but at the same time not heroic.  Higgins and Booth have created a very compelling first chapter for the new chapter in Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing’s life.

    Why So Serious?

    Why So Serious?

  • Supergirl #19 finds the Girl of Steel captive after a weakness overcomes her, probably due to her former kryptonite poisoning at the end of the “H’el on Earth” arc.  And as introduced last issue, Karen Starr, aka Power Girl  comes onto the scene, drawn by an unknown force to her Earth-1 self’s rescue.  In Worlds’ Finest she has gone out of her way to avoid meeting Kara, as she has no idea what it would mean meeting her alternate self.  Here she has no choice but to help “herself” and in the process writer Mike Johnson does something very interesting with the two halves of the same person.  When they meet and touch hands, instead of reality unraveling as quantum physicists project in such an unlikely event, they instead become of one mind, literally sharing their memories and thoughts.  After that instant they operate like a well oiled machine to put down a mutant freak that Lex Luthor sicced on them from his ultra-security prison, via neural implant.  Johnson does a really excellent job writing this story in a way that not only advances the title character, but the character of Power Girl from across the New DCU.  As is wont to happen with her, Power Girl’s costume is torn to shreds as she helps get the weakened Supergirl back to her sub-aquatic fortress of solitude, Sanctuary.  Within, Sanctuary ascertains her need and spins her a new costume from more durable Kryptonian fibers.  However, the costume it gives her deviates from the more PC, full body suit to the former skimpy unitard with the “convenient” hole in the chest that serves no other purpose than to display her cleavage.  Also, Mike Johnson makes ample use of this singular event of two genetically identical Karas  to play a very interesting scenario predicated from the taboo of cloning in Kyptonian culture.  Overall, a very interesting, thoughtful, action packed issue.

    Two Reflections of One Super Woman

    Two Reflections of One Super Woman

  • Vibe #3 takes Francisco Ramon further down the uncharted path his powers have placed him on.  Recruited by A.R.G.U.S and Amanda Waller for the Justice League of America, he is starstruck and wanting not only to make a difference, but find purpose following the horrific event that gave him his powers while simultaneously taking the life of his eldest brother.  From the perspective of such a kindhearted, idealistic young man like Cisco, that is completely understandable.  What he doesn’t know is that Waller put him on the JLA roster because he is theoretically the only being on the planet whose powers would allow him to neutralize the Flash’s speed abilities which come from an other dimensional force, which we know from The Flash to be the “Speed Force.”  So with that as the goal, how does one test that hypothesis?  If you want to fight an unknown creature the best way is to first try your hands against one of its young.  So Cisco is sent up against Kid Flash, aka Bart Allen, of Teen Titans fame.  Their meeting is morally mixed and hints very cryptically about the past (our future) of the younger speedster.  While Cisco begins by attacking Kid Flash, he is unable to continue on his belligerent path as Kid Flash does not behave in a way that engenders antagonism.  The events as I said before are very cryptic and morally ambiguous and begin the questioning of Vibe as to what his real purpose is and whether or not he can trust the people that are giving him orders.  I had my doubts about this book in the beginning.  Damn you, Geoff Johns, you got me!  Johns and cowriter Andrew Kreisberg started the series with the first two issues, but this third issue begins new series writer Sterling Gates’ tenure on title.  Gates is an incredible new voice in comics, so the title has gone from good hands to equally capable ones.
  • Wonder Woman #19 marks a nexus point in storytelling that promises a shift in the status quo.  The First Born has been systematically attacking those of his relatives that have been entrusted with his various implements of war.  This issue has him going up against Poseidon and fighting the god within his own leviathan belly.  Going up against his uncle, the two find themselves at an impasse and we see more of the twisted politics of the Greek gods coming into play as they make war and secret intrigues against one another.  However, for the First Born to achieve his ends he must cross paths with Zola’s infant baby, the last born of Zeus’s children.  To do that, of course he will have to go through Wonder Woman who has literally spent the entirety of this rebooted series protecting the baby from fetus to newborn.  As the title shifts to the Amazing Amazon and what she has been up to we see a major parting of ways.  Her Constantine-esque brother, Lennox, decides he is going depart the scene and in the midst of that departure, Orion runs afoul of Wonder Woman and leaves in disgust as well.  I’m not going to shed a tear on this departure, as Orion is a noble character and I feel that writer Brian Azzarello isn’t depicting him nearly as nobly as the son of Great Darkseid deserves.  Best to leave that to the more able pen of Scott Lobdell in Superman.  I will be interested to see how Wonder Woman fares against her eldest brother, the First Born, as he arrives in London in the very last panel of this issue.  Oh the anticipation . . .  She might yet regret the loss of an extra set of New God hands.  Oh well, pride cometh before the fall.
  • Sword of Sorcery #7 proves how incredible the main feature Amethyst is.  Last issue had the return of Eclipso, aka Lord Kaala, to the gemworld Nilaa.  After his return we are told that he was the result of a nightmarish blood marriage between House Diamond and House Onyx, hence his power totem, the black diamond.  With the powers of both houses gifted to him he was nearly unstoppable and almost brought ruin down upon all of Gem World.  But for Lady Chandra of House Amethyst he would have succeeded.  Now it lies with Chandra’s heirs, Lady Graciel, Mordiel, and of course Princess Amaya of the Amethyst clan to take him down once again.  They have their work cut out for them.  In the course of a single night, chronicled in this one issue, Kaala has murdered the head of House Citrine, retaken House Onyx from the noble Lady Akikra, and murdered the head of House Diamond taking its armies also under his power.  With one stroke he has regained all his strength and prestige from before his fall.  However, he still has many enemies including the fugitive Akikra who is as dangerous as a cornered dog, Prince Hadran of House Diamond, and of course the young lord and ladies of Houses Turquoise, Citrine, and Amethyst respectively.  The board is set for one hell of a showdown in Nilaa.  It will have to be, because sadly this title is being cancelled as of issue #8.  Next issue is the conclusion to all of it, and what a shame.  This was truly one of the best new series DC has put out.  It was fresh and unique from anything else that they had done, resurrecting a lesser known series and completely re-imagining it in a way that preserved the good, but innovated at the same time.  What a shame, indeed.  The backup feature Stalker on the other hand comes to its conclusion and good riddance.  As excellent as Amethyst is, Stalker is equally as terrible.  THAT is a shame, as the original series from the 70’s, only four issue unfortunately,written by the legendary Paul Levitz was incredibly good. It’s predecessor, Beowulf, which merited a special appearance in the above mentioned DC Universe Presents #19 was phenomenal.  I don’t even care to elaborate on how badly this Stalker series was dealt with.  Suffice it to say, this backup series did nothing to help the cancellation of this title.  It may have been a part of the anchor that dragged Sword of Sorcery below the water to its point of drowning.  Pity.  I will miss Amethyst  and Beowulf greatly.
    The Return of the King

    The Return of the King

     

  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #15 begins with the Superman Beyond feature.  Superman is rescued from the Trillians by the the bestial Mangals he liberated from enslavement upon his last visit to Trillia.  Whereas the Trillians view Superman as the terrorist who led to the fall of their society, the Mangals look upon him as a messianic figure.  This is made apparent when Superman sees them for the first time after all the intervening years.  When he liberated them they were small and helpless.  Now they are large and strong.  Apparently, the Trillians never let them grow to full maturity, but rather kept them young and worked them to premature death.  So once again, we the reader are shown a very divided society on Trillia between the over class and the bonded underclass.  Both sides want to eradicate the other, leaving a very morally ambiguous position for Superman.  Regardless of the heinous crimes of the Trillians as a culture, he cannot condone wholesale slaughter of all Trillians, yet at the same time he cannot stand idly by while the Trillians plan the same for their emancipated slaves.  This arc took a little while to reach maturity, but writer JT Krul has pulled this one out and made it into a very thought provoking storyline that raises questions about our own world and social systems.  Next up, in the Justice League Beyond Unlimited feature writer Derek Fridolfs begins a new arc with artist Ben Caldwell providing pencils.  In it the criminal organization known as the “Brain Trust” abducts children and places them in an elite prep school academy to brainwash them into becoming soldiers in an underground army.  The JLB sends their own agent, the “Golden Child”-like Green Lantern, Kai-Ro, in as a mole.  Once he is in the League tracks him to perhaps the most wholesome place in the entirety of  the DCU.  A place that makes Smallville look like a ghetto.  Fawcett City.  Ending in the middle of a fight, it is difficult to see where the story is going from here, but the concept of the “Brain Trust” is solid and I very much look forward to seeing where Fridolds goes in his script.  Lastly, the Batman Beyond feature fulfills a promise made over two years ago before the Reboot from the original Batman Beyond comic series.  Terry McGinnis’ best friend and confidante, Max Gibson, had attempted to infiltrate the network of cyber terrorists called “Undercloud” that were attacking Gotham’s infrastructure.  All of this without Terry’s knowledge.  Now she finds herself in the belly of the beast, integrally tied into Undercloud’s horrific plan to raze Neo Gotham and build it up from the ashes in their own image.  If she doesn’t comply, agents of Undercloud will kill those closest to her.  In the meantime, Terry is sent to a rock concert where a terrorist threat has been issued, although not by Undercloud.  Instead, its one of Batman’s old nemeses, Shreik.  Overall this issue was pretty quality in both storytelling and art.  For those that enjoyed the DC Animated Universe, this title stands as an ark to the legacy of many beloved TV shows.

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

Illustration Credits:

Justice League #19:  Drawn by Ivan Reis, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Jonathan Glapion

Green Lantern: New Guardians #19: Drawn by Andres Guinaldo, Colored by Wil Quintana, Inked by Raul Fernandez

DC Universe Presents #19:  Art by Javier Pina, Colored by Jason Wright

Red Hood and the Outlaws #19:  Art by Julius Gopez, Colored by Nei Ruffino

Supergirl #19:  Art by Mahmud Asrar, Colored by Dave McCaig

Nightwing #19: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund

Sword of Sorcery #7:  Art by Aaron Lopresti, Colored by Hi-Fi

Week 84 (April 10, 2013)

While reading this week’s batch of comics I recognized a theme of familial drama.  Fathers and sons, brothers and sisters, mothers and daughters, and even mothers and sons.  Several issues including BatmanBatman & RobinBatgirl, and Superboy focus on the tightly knit bond between parent and child and how that dynamic can cause one or the other to do some very drastic, unseemly things.  In the case of Batgirl, the elder Barbara Gordon is forced to choose between her kids.  Strangely, she does it pretty easily.  Batman goes over the deep end in Batman & Robin.  Superboy finds a tale not so much about the Boy of Steel, but rather a villain we’ve seen before whose villainous acts find purpose in a very overdue origin.  Needless to say, there is a deep wellspring of emotion present in this week’s issues, so without ado, here they are:

  • Batman #19 opens on a very unlikely scenario. Bruce Wayne robbing a bank and shooting several people dead.  Commissioner Gordon is on the scene and tries to rectify this very disturbing situation.  However, things are not what they seem and the plot goes back six days into the past to show the road that led us to this moment.  A similar event occurs with one of Bruce Wayne’s associates dying and yet walking around despite that fact.  Upon further inspection Batman discovers that one of his villains has gained an incredible new ability explaining the two men acting in seemingly impossible ways.  Scott Snyder’s run on this series has been really stellar, but his best work seem to fall under the two major arcs he’s penned thus far, “The Court of Owls” and “Death of the Family.”  This one was good, but not as good, lacking a sense of urgency or overall consequence.  In the backup feature, cowriter James Tynion IV delivers a tale of Superman and Batman delving into the supernatural.  Also not the best plotline, but not terrible.
  • Batman & Red Robin #19 pulls a gambit by revealing on its foldout cover the entry of Carrie Kelley as “Batman’s Partner.”  Not to spoil it, but it’s smoke and mirrors like so many of the things DC is printing on their oversized covers.  In this iteration of Batman lore, Carrie is a college student, not a spunky twelve year old, and a drama major who had been tutoring Damian in her spare time.  It’s questionable whether she’ll develop into an ongoing character in the Batverse, but in any event she’s been brought back into the fold from the tripped out microcosm of “The Dark Knight Returns.”  What this issue really is about and what we should pay attention to is the true depth of Batman’s loss and the desperate measures he’s been driven to.  Here he abducts Frankenstein for the sole purpose of taking him apart to discern how he was reanimated.  Since Frank is neither alive nor dead he is awake the whole time and through his evisceration tells Batman to stop the course he’s on as it will not be in his son’s best interest.  As the title insinuates, Red Robin is called in by Alfred to try and talk some sense into Bruce.  The jury is still out on whether or not that advice takes.  However, this issue continues to portray hauntingly the depths of emotions within the Dark Knight and showcase the humanity encased within his austere facade.  Series artist  Patrick Gleason draws it incredibly well, rounding out a stellar issue.

    A Father's Love

    A Father’s Love

  • Batgirl #19 welcomes back writer Gail Simone to the title and just in time for what turns out to be a killer conclusion to the story arc involving her little brother, James Gordon Jr.  James is an honest to goodness psychopath intent on hurting those closest to him.  His father, Commissioner Gordon, puts an allpoints bulletin out on him, but it’s his mother and his sister, Barbara, that end up having to deal with him.  Ray Fawkes was the writer on the past couple of issues, and while he did a decent job of showing James’ diseased psyche, the title languished a little when compared with Simone’s intimate, humanist stories told from Barbara’s perspective.  That comes through quite vividly in this issue, adding to the trauma she has already suffered from the Joker with the further trauma of growing up with a little brother who for all intents and purposes lacks a soul.  This issue concluded that dark episode, but presents a very heartbreaking consequence.  In between Simone accomplished two things of some merit.  First of all she revealed Batgirl’s identity to her mother, but most importantly she revealed that Barbara’s roommate Alysia is transgendered.  This issue proves Gail Simone’s mastery of comic writing.  It was heartfelt, personal, tragic, and also triumphant.  As long as she is attached to this title, Batgirl will be a series to pick up.

    A Mother's Love/Hate

    A Mother’s Love/Hate

  • Green Lantern Corps #19 is a very straightforward issue.  Volthoom the First Lantern has been going around torturing members of all the corps in an attempt to amass the power he requires to enslave the universe.  He’s tortured Guy Gardner.  As of last issue he’s tortured John Stewart and Fatality.  This issue begins his torture of the Green Lanterns located on Oa en masse, when a very familiar corpsman comes to their rescue: Mogo.  The planet Green Lantern comes to his embattled comrades’ aid just as he did during the Blackest Night, pulling them to his surface where he can protect them . . . or so it seems.  Once the Lanterns are on his surface they are beset by alternate versions of themselves imbued with negative energies: i.e. rage, greed, and fear.  All the time, though, Mogo is with them.  Mogo may not like to socialize, but is always there when the Corps is in need.  Peter Tomasi again delivers a strong Green Lantern Corps story that acknowledges its members’ weaknesses, but also the strengths that are born out of them.  The conclusion to this issue comes in just a few weeks in the apocalyptic Green Lantern #20.  I for one cannot wait.
  • Superboy #19 is actually a misnomer.  Though it is about Superboy in an ancillary way, the issue is actually an origin story for the ubervillain Harvest.  Born in the thirtieth century he is a soldier in the war that humans wage against the metahumans that have sought to enslave them.  The cause of this war goes back to Superman, and for that reason Harvest goes back in time and kidnaps the infant son that Superman has with Lois Lane.  That boy grows up under his guidance as a surrogate son to replace his biological child, killed in the war.  In his time, Jon Kent, as he was named, was afflicted with a genetic disorder stemming from his kryptonian/human heritage.  This condition rears its head again, threatening his life.  Harvest cannot watch another of his children die and that is why Superboy was cloned.  Him and the enigmatic N.O.W.H.E.R.E. operative, Templar, are attempts at perfecting the strange combination genome to heal his adoptive son’s life threatening condition.  After reading this issue, the reader is clued into who Harvest is and his logos for doing the horrible things he has done.  While one may not agree with what he is doing, you can sympathize with his pain and understand why he would undertake nightmarish schemes like the Culling.  Writer Scott Lobdell returns to this series to tell this tale of his insane arch-villain.  Considering the scope of Harvest’s reach into several series, this is an issue that cannot be missed.

    A Father's Love

    A Father’s Love

  • The Ravagers #11 continues on from Superboy above insofar as it shows the travails of the Ravagers created by Harvest’s Culling events as well as showing the lengths he will go to control them or silence them.  This issue is the penultimate issue of the series which is scheduled for cancellation next month with its twelfth issue.  Caitlin Fairchild’s Ravagers have taken refuge with the scientist Niles Caulder, but find themselves under attack on one side from Rose Wilson and Warblade, and on the other by Rose’s dad, Deathstroke.  With the end bearing down on the series and the stakes rising as they have it is very scary for those that have enjoyed this series and invested themselves in the cast of characters.  A few have already perished and its dubious whether they will come back like Thunder’s sister, Lightning.  I eagerly await the ending of this series to see if any of the Ravagers can make the jump to the Teen Titans or find their own way in the New DCU.  Here’s hoping.
  • Demon Knights #19 concludes, at least for the moment, the threat of Cain against the world with his vampiric horde.  Arriving at the shores of Themyscira, the Demon Knights show up in time to aid the Amazons in their battle with Cain’s forces, enlightening them on the proper protocols for dispatching the undead soldiers of the nights.  Under the surface of this issue writer Robert Venditti imbues several compelling developments for the main characters.  Exoristos, the exiled Amazon, returns to the home from which she was banished on pain of death.  The Demon is stuck on Earth because Jason Blood refuses to leave Hell.  Because Etrigan needs hellfire to replenish his energy Jason weakens his other half to show that he is stronger than anyone thinks by enduring Lucifer’s most heinous torments, just to spite the Demon.  What’s most interesting is that despite his love of torturing innocents, Lucifer loses his composure when he hears what Cain is up to on Earth and forces Jason to go back with genuine fear in his demeanor.  The final aspect is the Shining Knight fulfilling Merlin’s prophesy that she would fall to demonic forces.  She is bitten, but knows that it somehow fits into her ultimate quest to find the Holy Grail.  Queen Hippolyta (mother of Wonder Woman) knows something about its location, marking a turning point in the title to the next story arc.  Robert Venditti really takes this series forward in an almost indistinguishable manner from the first phase of storytelling by original writer Paul Cornell.  Bernard Chang’s artwork is fantastic and vividly portrays the medieval epic.
  • Threshold #4, like its previous issues, is fraught with myriad stories.  The main point of this issue is Jediah Caul and K’Rot racing to regain his lost power battery.  To make things more interesting, the area that it is located is scheduled to be shrunk and absorbed into Brainiac’s collective like the bottle Kryptonian city of Kandor.  Keith Giffen writes Caul into a very troubling predicament, which of course compels the reader to figure out how the rogue Green Lantern and his floppy eared friend can escape the clutches of perhaps the most coldly evil entity in the universe.  We’ll see.  In the penultimate chapter of Giffen’s “Larfleeze” backup feature, the culprit who stole the Orange Lantern’s vast hoard is finally revealed.  Giffen’s choice of thieves is quite appropriate and infinitely entertaining.  Across the board, Keith Giffen  and artists Phil Winslade, Tom Raney, and Scot Kolins, really are creating an effective cosmic epic for the New 52.  Giffen has a talent similar to Grant Morrison to create complex plotlines that can be read and understood on multiple levels and are accessible to most on at least one.  I genuinely enjoy each installment of his title.Threshold4
  • Batman: Li’l Gotham #1 was a really silly but entertaining kids series about the denizens of Gotham done by  writer/artists Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs in Nguyen’s classic inkwash technique.  In one, Batman’s villains gather for a meal at a fancy Italian restaurant on Halloween and Batman, who goes in for takeout, pays for everyone’s meals.  In the next story the Penguin leads an army of turkeys against their oppressors at the Gotham Thanksgiving parade.  Both are really simple, often comical tales of toned down versions of Batman’s most iconic characters. For something light and thoroughly enjoyable or for kids wanting a nice, nonthreatening place to begin a love affair with the world of Batman, this is the perfect title.
  • Saucer Country #14 delivers its concluding issue.  With the discovery that the “Voyager couple” are actors in a sound stage, the final threads of the conspiracy are pulled, unraveling the tapestry of lies that have been woven over the past sixty years by various groups, government agencies, and private individuals.  Arcadia Alvarado wins the presidency as the first Hispanic and female president as was predicted and as a result these revelations fall at her feet.  However, writer Paul Cornell doesn’t come close to weighing in on the actuality of whether or not there are aliens or wrapping up all the loose ends.  Arcadia and Michael were abducted in some way, but if not by aliens then by whom and for what purpose?  I am uncertain what I think upon the conclusion of this series.  The loose ends could just be a necessary evil as only so much of what we know of alien mythology can legitimately be explained by conspiracy and meta-science.  I choose to look at the excellent writing and the fantastically convoluted plots that twist and turn defying prediction or expectations.  It was a good run in that light and I applaud Cornell for the mastery of storytelling he employed in its composition.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman & Robin #19: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray

Batgirl #19:  Drawn by Daniel Sampere, Colored by Blond, Inked by Jonathan Glapion & Marc Deering

Superboy #19: Drawn by Diogenes Neves, Colored by Richard & Tanya Horie, Inked by Vincente Cifuentes

Threshold #4:  Art by Tom Raney, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse

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

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 80 (March 13, 2013)

This week was a somber one, featuring three Bat-titles, each paying homage to the fallen Damian Wayne in their own ways.  Batman and Batman & Robin both display the sorrow and anger of a father’s loss.  In Green Lantern Corps the First Lantern tortures John Stewart with the ghosts of his haunted past and the question as to what it was all for.  The Before Watchmen: Ozymandias series reached its end, heralding the dark events that comprise the original Watchmen series.  An excellent crop of comics.  So here we go:

  • Batman #18 transitions from one personal crisis to the next.  Issue #17 was the landmark, much talked about conclusion to “Death of the Family”, which in this blogger’s opinion failed to live up to its name.  This issue, completely unrelated to the aforementioned uber-plot of the Joker’s, opens on a Batman who has endured the death of his son.  Scott Snyder chooses to approach this tragedy from the outside, having the issue told largely from the point of view of the punk rock looking electrical genius, Harper Row, now obsessed with tracking Batman.  In her Bat-watching she sees a haggard, overwrought Batman hitting the criminal element harder than usual and making many sloppy mistakes.  Since she is not privy to his identity or his inner circle she has no idea about the death of Robin, nor the real life connection between Bruce Wayne and his son, Damian.  Thus we get an outsider’s perspective on how far he has fallen and how much Batman inspires the people whose lives he’s touched.  Harper turns out to be like an angel of mercy, reminding Batman that despite his loss, he isn’t alone and doesn’t have to suffer alone.  The backup feature, drawn by Alex Maleev, has Harper going to Bruce Wayne with a plan to help Batman, all the time under the assumption that they are two separate men.  Both halves of the Batman are touched by her thoughtfulness and her gesture might just begin to knit together the wound that has been festering in his soul.  Scott Snyder’s Batman seems destined to go down as one of the runs on the series, like Frank Miller’s Batman, the O’Neil/Adams Batman, and most recently, the Morrison Batman.  This issue’s guest artist, Andy Kubert, was also the artist who ushered in Grant Morrison’s historic run on the character that both introduced us to the character of Damian and set the stage for the heartrending death of that young lad seven years later.

    The Wisdom of Youth

    The Wisdom of Youth

  • Batman & Robin #18 is a silent, somber sonata for a son.  It took me a while to realize it while I was reading this issue, owing the engrossing artwork depicting heartrending images of parental loss, but there are no words.  The entire comic is a pantomime of Batman going through the motions to try and work past the pain of his son’s loss.  However, when someone that integral in your life is gone, their absence reverberates throughout your life in simple ways that normally aren’t noticeable.  The issue’s silence is broken finally with Batman finds a note from Damian, telling him why he left the safety of the Cave, which as we now know led to his death.  Damian was a very harsh character.  He was often very rude, conceited, gratuitously violent, but beneath all of that there was a thoughtful, empathetic character who was lost in a world he was unprepared to live in.  Since the Reboot in September 2011, this title has been basically Damian’s book.  Batman played a prominent role in its plots, but really it was a showcase for Damian to shine and be humanized.  Peter Tomasi did an unbelievable job making him a relatable, lovable character and Patrick Gleason drew it gorgeously.  The fact that the eponymous Robin from the title has passed on places this book in a very awkward position.  I am not sure where the title can go from here.  There is of course the concept of a possible resurrection coming down the pike (my guess is a Lazarus Pit), but speculation is all these come down to.  Another possibility would be the installation of Harper Row as a new “Girl Wonder.”   There hasn’t been an official female Robin in DC canon before and this might be a golden opportunity for it.  Either way, this issue’s heartbreaking to read for those that have come to love Damian and for those that want Bruce to be happy, even if only for a short time.  Goodbye, Damian.  May you finally feel some peace.

    The Grief of a Father

    The Grief of a Father

  • Batgirl #18 like the other Bat-books this month pays its respects to the departed Robin, who despite his surly, abrasive exterior found a place in the hearts of the various “family” members.  The mention in this issue fell a little flat in my opinion, but then again it doesn’t really fit into the storyline that writer Ray Fawkes has set out to tell.  I don’t mean to trash talk him or beleaguer a point, but I feel that if Gail Simone were at the helm of this arc she would have addressed this truly tragic occurrence in a very thoughtful, heartfelt way, as she has with Barbara Gordon since issue one of this phenomenal series.  But she’s not so we have to accept Fawkes’ blip and get on with the story of James Gordon Jr. attempting to murder those closest to him, saving Batgirl for last to truly torture the Dominoed Daredoll with her own limitations.  It’s an okay plotline, but not exactly up to snuff considering Gail Simone and Scott Snyder’s masterful handling of these characters in past plot arcs.  I know very little about Fawkes and his past works, but assume he might be newer to the writing scene than the aforementioned maestros, explaining his seeming nemishness in the story department.  Daniel Sampere draws the issue exceptionally making it visually stunning.
  • Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #6 brings to an end the saga of one of the the keystone characters of the Watchmen universe.  Adrian Veidt has already planned out his master scheme and in this issue we see how he executes it.  This issue, above all the others, shows how cold Ozymandias can truly be when he has his eyes on a goal.  His personal assistant, Marla, with whom he was also sexually active, dies mysteriously, albeit painlessly, because her knowledge of his enterprises was too sensitive.  He recruits the former villain, Moloch, into his fold and gives him a job that also will also terminate with his premature death.  He gathers the preeminent scientists, science fiction writers, and artists to his secret island in the tropics to put the finishing touches on the otherworldly horror that will usher in a world the likes of which has never been know.  The true impetus of the issue that spans the majority of its pages and concludes the series is the tension between the Comedian and Ozymandias.  They had tussled over the course of the six issues, but as was revealed by Alan Moore in the original Watchmen series, the Comedian came across the island and what Ozymandias had planned.  The most psychopathic man on the planet gets queasy upon the discovery of just what Adrian has planned, but also knows that it can’t be stopped.  All that remains at issue’s end is for Adrian to murder the Comedian which catalyzes Watchmen into being.  Len Wein had a very good relationship with Alan Moore, handpicking him to take over the Swamp Thing series that he himself created and wrote into a hit title.  Now Wein, albeit without Moore’s consent, has taken over one of the most important subplots of Watchmen and written it with breathtaking splendor.  Jae Lee is an artist that has a very gothic quality to his work.  Gothic is precisely the word I am looking for, because Lee depicts his subjects with almost no emotion despite the grand events rendered around them.  Adrian Veidt is cold and calculated with no emotion and looks to be like a god himself, resurrected from ancient Egypt.  Overall this series was one of the best put out, rivaled only by Darwyn Cooke’s Minutemen series in this Before Watchmen line of books.

    Behold His Work, Ye Might, And Despair

    Behold His Work, Ye Might, And Despair

  • Green Lantern Corps #18 has Volthoom descending on John Stewart and the Star Sapphire, Fatality.  Most of his attention is put on John, of whom many horrors have been visited, most of his own action.  His mother’s murder was out of his control, as largely was the destruction of Fatality’s homeworld, Xanshi, which both she and John had blamed him for, but the destruction of the planet Green Lantern, Mogo, as well as the killing of another fellow corpsmen, Kirrt Kallak, were very much his conscious decisions.  John is a man that makes the hard decisions without hesitation, because if he doesn’t they may never get made or worse one of his friends or loved ones will have to make them, damning themselves.  Volthoom of course tortures him by showing him that the universe doesn’t come crashing down if John wasn’t there to make the hard choices, killing those closest to him.  Peter Tomasi writes it well, really capturing the heart of a truly conflicted character.  Chriscross provides guest art on the issue that really brings out the extreme emotional distress evoked by the sadistic First Lantern.
  • Superboy #18 picks up in the aftermath of “H’el on Earth.”  Superboy attempts to make right some of his lesser wrongs when the villain Plasmus comes crashing into the bank vault wherein Superboy returns some of his ill gotten gains.  The fight between the Boy of Steel and the giant walking nuclear reactor is monumental, bringing the attention of a telepathic DC villain, Dr. Psycho, originally a Wonder Woman nemesis.  Melding psychically with Superboy, Dr. Psycho is able to dig into Superboy’s past, seeing his birth and the life he has led thus far.  At the end of the issue he goes into the depth of Superboy’s mind and finds Lex Luthor waiting in the inner recesses.  We’ve known that Lex was his human parent from previous incarnations of the character, but Scott Lobdell kept us wondering with his very different depiction of Kon-El.  In the end the issue there is a short episode of a female alien crashing in the Amazon rain-forest, chased by other aliens and rescued by Krypto the Superdog.  With the mention of the Eternal Ebon-Quad along with her black eyes, it can be surmised that she is a soldier in the service of Lady Styx, as seein the Blue Beetle and Threshold series.  Interesting things are happening within this title, so much so that Scott Lobdell came back on the title, cowriting with his successor, Tom DeFalco.  I, for one, very much look forward to seeing where Superboy’s writers are taking him.
  • Demon Knights #18 brings the hordes of Cain to the gates of Themyscira, home of the immortal Amazons, the most powerful race on Earth.  Now it stands to what remains of the Demon Knights to stand in the way of the vampirization of the only nation able to stand against Cain.  Previously Jason Blood had been muted by a powerful spell, preventing him from speaking the words to summon the Demon, Etrigan.  With the reemergence of Madame Xanadu his silence is lifted and Etrigan is once again released upon the world.  The power struggle between Jason and Etrigan reaches a new level showing what strengths and weaknesses these two halves of the same physicality possess.  Robert Venditti continues writing it in precisely the same vein as series creator, Paul Cornell.  Artist Bernard Chang remains in the trenches, drawing the title exactly as he has since before the writing change over.
  • Ravagers #10 has the title entering into the beginning of its endgame.  The series is two issues from cancellation and writer Michael Alan Nelson is pulling out all the stops.  Harvest has wanted the rogue Ravagers put down for sometime.  That has been the task entrusted to Rose Wilson and Warblade.  With the events of the past two issue in the wind, these two “loyal” Ravagers also find their necks on the chopping block and their assignment now put in the hands of Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke.  I have to say, Deathstroke has been represented as a free agent and an anti-hero since the Reboot, but as of this issue I do not like him one bit.  Thankfully, his series is also getting cancelled in May, meaning he can go back to being the villain he was created to be.  In the camp of the Ravagers, things begin to look up.  A lost comrade is returned, a disfigured member is “healed”, and romance brews between two members.  It seems things are looking up, but with cancellation looming close on the horizon it could be a case of the brightest lights casting the darkest shadows.  I pray that the cancellation leaves most of our heroes still breathing, as they have been through hell and deserve to survive.

    Young Love

    Young Love

  • Threshold #3 continues to set the very intricate stage on the planet Tolerance, home of the “Hunted” reality series where dangerous criminals of the Tenebrian Dominion are set loose with a bounty on their heads for any citizen to collect if they can bring them down.  Private investigator, Starr Hawkins, is added to the cast, as is Lonar, a New God created by Jack Kirby in the 70’s in his Forever People title.  Being a HUGE Jack Kirby fan, the addition of any Fourth Worlder is a sure fire way of getting me hooked.  Keith Giffens is going for broke with both the lineup and the stakes of this “Hunted” series.  Right now it seems a bit cluttered as all the disparate factions are aligning themselves and new versions of old characters are introduced to us seemingly at every turn.  Hopefully, as alliances are cast and battle lines drawn the series can focus on forward moving, unified plot lines.  One of the side plots of great interest is the race for Jediah Caul’s power battery.  Hawkins tells Caul he knows where it is and a mysterious lawyer appears requesting K’Rot and his smaller Zoo Crew to procure it for his client.  In the “Larfleeze” back up feature, Larfleeze and his enslaved assistant continue the search for his stolen hoard.  The smugglers they have contracted to help them a treasure hunter called Branx Rancor.  In the middle of negotiations, Larfleeze’s rogue orange constructs attack the band.  This installment wasn’t the best of the three so far and very little progress is made in the overall plot.  As a whole, this issue of Threshold was good, but awaits the clarity that hopefully will come sooner rather than later.
  • Saucer Country #13 was an incredible issue that cut deeper to the truth than any other in the entire thirteen issue run so far.  Gov. Arcadia Alvarado is a heartbeat from the presidential election resulting in her favor.  In the background a hailstorm of the powers and plots that seek to thwart her are coming to a head.  The little naked couple from the Voyager space probe pull one last ditch effort to keep Prof. Kidd from killing himself by revealing a piece of evidence that will prove they are legit.  Michael and the governor’s press secretary meet with the mysterious Blue Birds spokewoman, Astelle, and drop their own bombshell on the seemingly omniscient woman’s world view.  The sitting president’s men attempt to turn her chief of staff, Harry, only to be curbed as well by trump cards in Arcadia’s hand.  This could mean the end of the series being in sight, or it could signal a game change that will raise the stakes.  Either way, writer Paul Cornell is blowing this series out of the park and really delivering a complex, thought provoking title that begs to be read month after month.  With the shocker ending in this issue, #14 cannot come soon enough in my opinion.

And so ends this phenomenal week.  This crop comprises itself of several must read titles.  I hope you all check them out and enjoy them as I have.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #18: Drawn by Andy Kubert, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Sandra Hope

Batman & Robin #18: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray

Before Watchman: Ozymandias #6: Art by Jae Lee, Colored by June Chung

The Ravagers #10: Drawn by Diogenes Neves, Colored by Tony Avina, Inked by Vicente Cifuentes

Week 76 (Feb. 13, 2013)

This week is exciting as it brings out the conclusion and aftermath of one of the most talked about storylines in recent years, “Death of the Family.”  Superboy brings us one step closer to the apocalypse of  “H’el on Earth.”  The debut issue of the series Katana comes us, reintroducing us to an old friend from the old DCU.  This week has a great amount of potential.

  • Batman #17 was a much anticipated issue bringing the titantic “Death of the Family” arc of Batman and other Bat-titles to a culminating point of mutual closure.  Hyped to be one of the biggest things to happen in Batman ever, few failed to be intrigued.  I’d read early reviews that gave it perfect ten ratings or praised it to the heavens.  I’m gonna disagree.  Not because it wasn’t awesome, but I feel like the hype was built up for something that this issue had no possibility of delivering.  What Snyder did with “The Court of Owls” was perfect.  It changed EVERYTHING, but at the same time kept the status quo.  In “Death of the Family” NOTHING changed!  It didn’t even live up to its name.  The Family isn’t dead.  The events of the issue are not going to compel any of the “family” to cut Bruce out or change their relationship.  He’s withheld things from them before and manipulated them for his own ends a million times.  Why do you think Dick became Nightwing, Jason put on the Red Hood and cut Bruce out of his life, and Tim bugged out and got his band together?  Batgirl is a free agent regardless, and Damian’s alternative is a woman who low jacked his spinalcord and cloned his replacement.  None of them are going anywhere or going to alter their relationships with him at all.  The Joker does pretend to do some horrific things to them at the beginning of the issue, but the fact that it didn’t happen made it pretty annoying as a plot twist. Now that I have gotten my dislikes out of the way, I will say that the basis of the Joker/Batman relationship was tight.  The creepy pseudo-sexual obsession with Batman, coupled with the fetishism of the different medieval roles that various players in his life fulfill was pretty interesting.  The twisted things he did to the inmates and guards of Arkham was really unsettling and disgusting, which is a surefire way of hooking your audience into a very dark, haunted setup.  When Batman whispers something in the Joker’s ear towards the middle and you see the abject horror on the Clown Prince’s face, THAT was a moment!  The Joker laughs at everything and is so effing psycho nothing can touch him.   In fact that’s what makes him a quintessential Batman nemesis.  When your shtick is making criminals terrified of you, the worst possible antagonist is one that not only isn’t afraid of you, but one who thinks its hilarious to mess with you and goes out of his way to do so in the most horrific ways possible.  Reversing that and showing this paragon of laughter feeling genuine terror is golden.  Also the anecdote about Bruce basically telling the Joker, turn around and you can know who I am and the Joker refusing to do so because it would defeat the very purpose of their “game”.  Pure genius.  THAT is a defining moment that will go down in the annals of Batman lore.  So did I like it?  I loved it.  Was it a perfect 10?  Not by a long shot.  If they had said “This is a Batman story that’ll have you talking,”  I’d’ve accepted that.  But they were writing checks that the storyline couldn’t cash.  If they’d’ve done any of the twisted things Snyder set up, I would have been mad, but I would have accepted the storyline’s validity as it had been hyped.  I don’t know whether Snyder was behind the marketing, but the powers that be mismarketed this one terribly.  “Court of Owls” they said would be good and it exceeded the mark because one didn’t know what to expect.  In this one they told you what to expect and didn’t deliver on any of it.  Period.  I liked it, however, so don’t get me wrong. I can appreciate things as long as they follow through on their intrinsic principles.

    The Secret . . .

    The Secret . . .

  • Batgirl #17 also was a little lackluster considering all that has been happening recently.  Barbara Gordon has been through hell and one could imagine that she would be messed up after having come face-to-face with the Joker, the man who paralyzed her for years and sexually assaulted her immediately afterward.   That is something that original series writer Gail Simone would have plumbed and drawn her readers into with great humanity.  This issue’s writer, Ray Fawkes, glazes over that having Barbara track down Joker thugs still out there while her brother, James Gordon Jr., continues to explore his own twisted agenda, even visiting his mother in the hospital to terrorize her after her own ordeal with the Joker.  It also features the follow up to Batgirl’s encounter with the street punk Ricky in last week’s Young Romance Valentine’s Day special.  The results of their second meeting are as disappointing as the rest of the plot, but considering the insubstantiality of its content and the fact that they took the effort to write a story introducing it in the Special might mean that it will evolve over the course of forthcoming issues.  Not the best issue.
  • Batman & Robin #17 was, as ever, really good.  Following the nightmare that the “family” went through in so named “Death of the Family” crossover event, this series doesn’t seek to deal with hollow actions as coping mechanisms, but rather shows the humanity of the players involved.  The entire issue is a collection of the nightmares that haunt Bruce Wayne, Damian Wayne, and Alfred Pennyworth, but also dreams which give them hope for the future.  Peter Tomasi is a writer that truly gets the characters he is writing on a very intimate level and portrays them as such.  Every thought, every action, every word uttered by one character to another is infinitely telling about the people he is depicting.  Patrick Gleason’s art works on both the levels of displaying the minutest emotion and displaying the most horrific events in the most straightforward, conversational manner.  Awesome series, awesome issue.  This is one Bat-book that shouldn’t be missed.

    Dark Destiny

    Dark Destiny

  • Before Watchmen: The Comedian #5 doesn’t really do much to elaborate upon the character of Eddie Blake.  We already know that he’s insane and that he did some pretty inhuman things while fighting in Vietnam.  The only real thing that this issue accomplishes is showing how Vietnam facilitated a transition between Johnson and Robert Kennedy to Richard Nixon.  This isn’t the strongest book in the Before Watchmen line.  Writer Brian Azzarello accomplished some really poignant things in the first three issues of this title, but seems to have been floating through these last two, as if trying to fill out a six issue quota.  I can only imagine that he has something incredible in store for the next issue that will close out the miniseries.  Eddie Blake was a keystone figure in the course of the original Watchmen plot and it was precisely because of how insane and harsh he was.  If these past two throw away issues facilitate a poignant ending then they will have been worth it after all.  Azzarello is a very competant writer so I retain hope.
  • Superboy #17 ticks the doomsday clock of the “H’el on Earth” event closer to apocalypse.  In the first issue of Superman almost two years ago, the Herald blew the Horn of Confluence.  It made no sense at the time and had many of us scratching our heads for months and months, but now we see that the horn was blown to bring forth the Oracle to witness the death of our world.  H’el, a seemingly omnipotent survivor of Krypton, has created a device called the Star Chamber to use our solar system including the sun as a giant battery to grant him and his ally Supergirl the power needed to travel back in time and save Krypton . . . at the expense of all life on Earth and seemingly the rest of the seven other planets.  Superman squares off against H’el, Wonder Woman throws down against Supergirl, the latter of which is enthralled to H’el and his scheme to restore their homeworld at any cost, and Superboy encounters the Herald, but the nature of their confrontation is not entirely hostile as the other two brawls very much are.  In the midst of that, the Herald makes light of the “five anomolies” which may be a reference to what the “H’el on Earth” event creator, Scott Lobdell, has alluded to with his “Thirteen Scions of Salvation.”  Its a possibility.  Superboy really is a powerhouse in this issue.  Created as a living weapon, he started out his series as a condundrum, exhibiting a great amount of introspection and curiosity about the world he is abruptly born into and a near sociopathic disregard for the human life that populates it.  In this issue, as well as those immediately preceeding it, he fights so hard against forces infinitely more powerful than himself, but exhibits uncanny resolve and disregard for his safety and his life for the preservation of our world and humanity at large.  He is finally able to call himself a hero and definitely deserves the title.  Tom DeFalco nails this issue with excellent writing and substantial help from series artist R.B. Silva.

    The Herald and the Oracle

    The Herald and the Oracle

  • Katana #1 inaugurates a new ongoing series featuring the character, Katana, aka Tatsu Yamashiro.  Wielding a katana called the “Soultaker”, and possessing the spirit of her departed husband, Tatsu travels to San Francisco’s Japan Town to seek knowledge tattooed on the skin of an untouchable girl.  In pursuit of this knowledge, she is set upon by members of the Sword Clan, enemies of her departed husband and by extension herself.  Ann Nocenti writes this series and she does a very good job of setting a very somber, succinct tone.  Yet while the tone was particularly well done, I was unimpressed by the first issue itself.  While the mythology and the main character were established quite well, the story itself remains sluggish and unclear as to why the reader should care about the events that transpire.  Simply my opinion.
  • Demon Knights #17 is basically one big rescue attempt by the remaining Demon Knights to free Jason Blood from another of their number, Vandal Savage, who tortures the human side of the Demon Etrigan while preventing him from becoming his infernal other half with a muting spell.  Two issues into his run on the series, writer Robert Venditti proves to either be a literary chameleon or a very similar writer to series creator and original writer, Paul Cornell.  Bernard Chang’s artwork also keeps the feel of the book fairly stable, maintaining the look and feel of the medieval DCU.
  • Threshold #2 futher develops what promises to be a massive title with its own  central panoply of characters as well as those passing through from the larger DCU.  In the first issue we are introduced to Ember, Stealth, Ric Starr, and former Green Lantern deep cover operative Jediah Caul.  In this issue the Blue Beetle, aka Jaime Reyes, is dropped into the Hunted event, raising hairs on several people’s necks, not least of which, Jediah Caul, because of the Reach’s aversion to Green Lanterns.  So much so that any Reach operative (Beetles) are programmed to kill a Green Lantern on sight, or rather scent.  Also making the scene are Tom T’Morra (Tomorrow), a mysterious woman named Sleen, and a re-imagined Captain Carrot, here called Capt. K’Rot, as well as fellow Zoo Crew member, Pig-Iron.  What writer Keith Giffen makes blatantly apparent throughout the whole of the narrative so far is that these characters DO NOT like each other, but are forced, despite rules and the design of the game, to cooperate for mutual gain.  This even extends to those outside of the Hunted.  K’Rot, Sleen, and Pig-Iron are thieves drawn in by a contract for Scarab tech, and allying themselves, at least temporarily, with Caul for mutual benefit.  What results from these very strange circumstances is something between a Mexican Standoff and a Battle Royale on a planetary scale.  In Giffen’s backup feature Larfleeze, the sole Orange Lantern, at the behest of his kidnapped biographer, Stargrave, goes to the Star Rovers to help him get his stolen mementos back after unknown intruder(s) absconded with them.  The Star Rovers are in fact the same smugglers that Kyle Rayner, Carol Ferris, Arkillo, and Saint Walker dealt with in the Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual that sold them out to the Lady Styx.  In this they do not seem to be any more trustworthy then before.  But when you are as crazed a hoarder as Larfleeze, desperate times call for desperate measures.  Up and down, this series is promising to be a really engaging, dynamic story with killer art and masterful storytelling.

    A Lady of Stealth

    A Lady of Stealth

  • Ravagers #9 concludes the two issue arc of Rose Wilson and Warblade attempting to save a sequestered mountain town in Colorado from a metavirus that causes those exposed to spontaneously combust in a very painful fashion.  Rose herself, though purportedly inoculated against it, begins to exhibit symptoms, spelling disaster for this very uncharacteristic rescue attempt.  However, at the end of issue #8 the runaway Ravagers led by Caitlin Fairchild arrive on the scene.  At first they attempt to fight Rose and Warblade until the aforementioned baddies’ altruism is revealed by the citizens of the town.  The issue is so-so, but the aspect that makes it relevant is the interplay between Rose and Caitlin who were once friends before parting ways on ideological differences.  Despite being a pyschopath, there remains something human in Rose Wilson and this issue zeroes in on that.
  • Ame-Comi Girls: Supergirl finishes the preliminary round of introductions in the series and gets to the heart of the matter.  On old Krypton a cataclysm is on the verge following the discovery by Jor-El and Zor-El, the preeminent scientist on the planet, that Krypton like several other worlds was created by an entity called Brainiac for the purpose of growing and harvesting cultures for her information banks.  The fate of Krypton is linked to the fate of ours with the revelation that Earth is another Brainiac world that is ripe for harvesting.  Shortly before Krypton’s destruction Jor-El and Zor-El sent their respective daughters (both named Kara) to Earth in the hope of stemming the attack on Earth and in turn putting an end to Brainiac’s reign of terror.  Kara Zor-El (Supergirl) was the oldest of the two and was supposed to arrive first to prepare her younger cousin, Kara Jor-El (Power Girl), for the assault.  Ironically, Power Girl having arrived first is now an adult and her older cousin, prepped for battle, is still a teenager.  In any event, all the players are on the board and battle lines have been drawn.  All that remains is for the battle for Earth and by extension, the cosmos, which will be in the Ame-Comi Girls ongoing series coming March 6th.
  • Saucer Country #12 erupts in a tremulous time for the main characters of the series.  Governor Arcadia Alvarado is poised to be both the first hispanic president and the first woman president, assuming she wins the election.  So far she has beat out her democratic opponent in the primaries, Sen. James Kersey, who has agreed thereafter to be her running mate.  Now she is up against the sitting President Wardlow.  Kersey lost his lead in the democratic primary because of the revelation that he was also involved in an extraterrestrial abduction.  This issue showcases his recollections that have implications not only for Alvadado’s campaign, but also Wardlow’s presidency.  In the background the enigmatic female spokeswoman for the Bluebirds reaches out to the Alvarado campaign with sketchy promises for information, and after revealing his relationship with the tiny nude couple from the Pioneer space probes, Prof. Kidd finds himself on the rocks with Gov. Alvarado and the fallout puts him in a very precarious situation.  Paul Cornell keeps the suspense tight as his alien mythological drama delves deeper into one of the most speculated topics of the modern age.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #17: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Jonathan Glapion

Batman & Robin #17: Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray

Superboy #17: Drawn by R.B. Silva, Colored by Richard & Tanya Horie, Inked by Rob Lean

Threshold #2: Art by Tom Raney, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse