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

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Week 82 (March 27, 2013)

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

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

    Don't Mess With the Batman

    Don’t Mess With the Batman

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

    Hell Hath No Fury

    Hell Hath No Fury

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

    Orion

    Orion

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

    A Little Brother's Plea

    A Little Brother’s Plea

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

    Sargon the Sorcerer


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

    Rest In Peace, RIP.

    Rest In Peace, RIP.

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 81 (March 20, 2013)

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

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

    Vyndktvx's 5-D Dilemma

    Vyndktvx’s 5-D Dilemma

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

    Kindred Spirits

     

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

    You C Never Go Home Again

    You Can Never Go Home Again

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

    Painful Memories

    Painful Memories

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

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 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 79 (March 6, 2013)

This first week of March brings together a very decent batch of comics to kick off the month’s crop.  Superman #17 concludes the massive “H’el on Earth” event, Green Lantern #18 brings the “Wrath of the First Lantern” into the Realm of the Dead, Green Arrow #18 strides on towards redeeming the title, Swamp Thing and Animal Man FINALLY get their true conclusion to the “Rot World” crossover, and Before Watchmen: Rorschach also reaches its conclusion.  So much ending and so much marching on.  Here it goes:

  • Superman #17 was a little late, but delivered a blowout finale to the “H’el on Earth” crossover event.  At issue’s beginning NOTHING is going the right way for the heroes of Earth.  H’el’s craft has been fueled by the Sun’s electromagnetic field, which if not returned immediately would cause our solar system to collapse in on itself, ergo the Oracle arrival to witness the death of our world.  A high paced, thrill-a-minute issue, there is very little that can be said that doesn’t spoil the amazing events chronicled and concluded within.  What can be said is that the Justice League here is written head and shoulders above the team’s portrayal in their flagship title by Geoff Johns.  It’s almost like comparing a college thesis to a first grade science report.  Maybe now that Lobdell is on the verge of leaving Red Hood and the Outlaws he can take over Justice League and salvage it like he did Superman.  Lobdell truly shows his brilliance throughout this “H’el on Earth” event and artist Kenneth Rocafort draws it gorgeously in his incomparably style.  Literally, there is nothing that resembles is artwork in detail or in the surreal ambiance it elicits.  Truly A-grade material.   
  • Green Lantern #18 focuses almost entirely on Hal and Sinestro’s current exile in the “Dead Zone.”  There have been little snippets alluding to the fate of the two Lanterns after being sucked into the black ring at the end of the Green Lantern Annual this past August, but this issue finally reveals what the Dead Zone is, why they are there, and what its relevance to the existence of the First Lantern are.  As these last issues of the four Green Lantern titles progress, it is getting more and more apparent that the end is nigh.  The fundamental forces of the Universe are the enemies that dog our heroes as they progress toward that apocalyptic event that will be Green Lantern #20, out this May, and the end of the Green Lantern Universe as we’ve known it since 2005.  Simon Baz and Sinestro find their places in the coming showdown with Volthoom, the First Lantern, but Hal’s is perhaps the most frightening.  In the aforementioned Green Lantern Annual there was a prophesy in the Book of the Black that Hal Jordan will be the greatest Black Lantern.  This issue caps off on the precipice (literal and figurative) of his fulfilling that prediction.  Geoff Johns started this series from Rebirth like a rocket and it’s still soaring high with this phenomenal issue.  Series artist Doug Mahnke, who has been on the title since 2009 is absent this issue, replaced by Adrian Syaf, who draws the real world segments, and Szymon Kudranski, whose eerie art style aptly provides the Dead Zone portion.  Overall the issue tantalizes and informs in wonderful, captivating fashion.

    The Prophesy

    The Prophesy

  • Detective Comics #18 accomplishes two monumental things.  Firstly, and to lesser degree issue-wise, this installment of Detective Comics tells us that DC is playing for keeps with the death of Damian Wayne last week in Batman Incorporated #8.  It comprises a very small part of the plot, but the small scene of Bruce visiting the grave of his son is very powerful.  This is a man who buried his parents at a very young age, and now as an adult man scarred by that traumatic event and having dedicated his life to preventing such tragedies from happening again, he has to bury his ten year old son with whom he was just beginning to bond on a level I doubt he has since losing his parents.  Writer John Layman hints all of this beautifully in a mere two pages comprised of nine panels.  Brilliant.  The rest of the issue is dedicated to the aftermath of the Penguin’s part in the “Death of the Family” storyline.  Whisked away by the Joker, Penguin has been away from his empire and his holdings for a little too long and left them in the overly capable, but equally untrustworthy hands of his chief lieutenant, Ignatius Oglivy. Layman presented in the first issues of his run the establishment of himself as Gotham’s favorite son once again.  With that image, he keeps Batman at bay, preventing him from bringing punitive action against Penguin for his part in the Joker’s plot.  However, with his wealth and holdings withdrawn he is not able to evade Batman in the ways he had previously enjoyed.  Oglivy and Batman constitute two rivals whose indefatigability finally break the Penguin as he has never been broken before.  For those who view the Penguin as a keystone Batman villain, this first arc by John Layman tells a massive Penguin epic that promises to be one for which he will be remembered for years to come.  In the backup feature with art by guest artist Henrik Jonsson, Victor Zsasz gets his origin told for the first time, cementing his place in the New DCU canon.  Integrally tied into his origin is the Penguin, playing a part in his ruination that led him into the psychotic breakdown that lead to his obsession with chronicling his kills.  Their past and Penguin’s current state of vulnerability waxes ominous for Oswald Cobblepot in future issues of Detective.  Time will tell where and how far the Penguin will fall.

    Requiem for a Robin

    Requiem for a Robin

  • Before Watchmen: Rorschach #4 was, in my opinion, a little bit of a let down.  The series had promise as a blunt, hard edged look into an episode of Rorschach’s life that best exemplified his core essence.  Maybe that was the point and it just goes to show how pointless and nihilistic our modern society is.  Azzarello started the series out with a killer of women called the “Bard” carving poetry into the dead bodies of his victims.  On the other side of things, Rorschach goes up against a criminal kingpin called “Rawhead” owing to the massive scarring on his head from Vietnam.  In between fights with the underworld, Rorschach meets a cute waitress at his favorite all night restaurant, the Gunga Diner and they make plans to go on a date.  This waitress, Nancy, is approached by a man we know immediately to be the Bard at the end of the third issue.  Logically one would assume that there would be a connection, even a tertiary one, between Rawhead and the Bard so as to facilitate the two things happening at the same time.  Azzarello does not deliver on that and it is rather trite and arbitrary, which may be realistic, but is far from literary or cinematic, making the story fall apart at the end with little to walk away with.  Lee Bermejo doesn’t disappoint throughout all four issues and is the only consistently quality factor.
  • Swamp Thing #18 is the true conclusion to the “Rot World” event as well as Scott Snyder’s run on the title.  Scott Snyder is the one who truly got this series off the ground and imbued it with the genius that made it the success it was.  Creating with Jeff Lemire the idea of the Red to go alongside the concept of the Green which Swamp Thing has served since the 80’s, as well as taking perrenial Swamp Thing antagonist Anton Arcane and molding him and his into the avatars of a third force, the Rot, Synder has reimagined and reinvigorated what was once an incredible title into an even more complex, engaging series.  With the help of the Parliament of Rot, Swamp Thing and Animal Man  are sent through a portal through the very fabric of death itself back to before Anton Arcane finished his bid to turn our world into Rot World.  In this way, Alec Holland is returned to Abby before her uncle can kill her.  And by that same token he is able to actualize in her the potential for which she was born and that which will prevent the Rot from inheriting the Earth.  This issue was truly spectacular, with both triumphant events readers have been anticipating for almost two years and tragic events they’ve been fearing to witness.  Scott Snyder crescendoes with this final issue of his run, nailing it down and assuring the continued survival and success of the title while also adding his name to the list of visionaries who have been custodian of it, namely Len Wein and Alan Moore.  Artist Yanick Paquette also concludes his run on the series, which was another factor that led to its success.  His floral panels made in nonlinear layouts made the title free flowing and organic looking.  His depiction of Abby Arcane was both strong and sensual which taken with Snyder’s writing made her a captivating heroine.  Paquette also drew the warrior king version of Swamp Thing which quite frankly dwarfs anything that had come before it.  This run, now ended, was one that will have its legacies and be remembered as one of the best runs on this very underutilized property.

    Death Never Looked So Beautiful

    Death Never Looked So Beautiful

  • Animal Man #18 was less of a conclusion to “Rot World” than its sister issue in Swamp Thing.  Buddy Baker, the Animal Man, is sent back by the Parliament of Rot, like Alec Holland, to the moment that would precipitate the downfall of the Red.  In so doing he saves his daughter, the true avatar of the Red, but loses something ewually important to him.  Jeff Lemire is staying on the title so he does not wrap up his story with this issue, so perhaps it didn’t have that dynamite ending, but it also was the weaker of the two titles.  Also Steve Pugh’s art has never been anything to write home about.  This will probably be the last single issue of this series I will buy.
  • Earth 2 #10 returns to the realm of Nabu and the revelations of Khalid Ben-Hassin’s past concerning the Helmet of Fate, housing the power of Nabu.  Wotan has been hired to obtain this artifact for an unknown group and kidnapped Khalid as those with him at the time, Jay Garrick and his mother, to be used as hostages to assure his cooperation in procuring the Helm.  On the other side of the world (hard to say) Alan Scott mourns the death of his boyfriend, Sam Zhao, and learns that his death was not collateral damage, but actually the reason for the deadly train crash.  Writer James Robinson maintains his reputation of excellence with a very engrossing plot that is its own self contained universe and continuity.  Nicola Scott’s art continues to be gorgeous, making the characters spring from the page.  Well worth the read.
  • Worlds’ Finest #10 is very much likened to Detective Comics #18 above, as it continues its ongoing plot while at the same time taking a moment to pay tribute to the departure of Damian Wayne.  Though they met only briefly, Helena still felt like Damian was her little brother and his death pangs right alongside the deaths of her mother and father, the Catwoman and Batman of Earth 2.  But, as Batman taught her when she was still Robin, one soldiers on.  Helena breaks into Michael Holt’s laboratory after the aforementioned industrialist and ex-boyfriend of Karen Starr (Power Girl) sent a mercenary group to Karen’s island laboratory/home.  While Huntress employs stealth and planning, Power Girl unleashes a biblical list of calamities upon a handful of Holt facilities with careless abandon that imperils the lives of scores of people.  The end brings about a curve ball that may prove enlightening considering all that has transpired between the two Earths.  Paul Levitz is amazing, truly, and Kevin Maguire renders his script (solo this month) with his usual ease.

    An Older Sister's Lament

    An Older Sister’s Lament

  • Batwing #18 picks up from the tense cliffhanger from last month’s installment with the Chinese mercenary, Sky Pirate, “nuking” Batwing’s hideout and the civilian side of Batwing, Police Inspector David Zavimbe, facing off against his former childhood friend, Racheal Niamo, now the mercenary named Dawn.  This issue shows the cost taking a stand against corruption can have in an environment as corrupt as the Congo.  David Zavimbe is facing off against hell as he tries to prove that justice can’t be bought or traded for any price.  With only one more issue to go in his run on the title Fabian Nicieza is pulling out all the stops and making this a must read title on the periphery of the core Bat-books.
  • Green Arrow #18 gives us the second issue of the new and improved Green Arrow title.  Oliver Queen has been dealt a really rough hand.  His company has been seized, he’s lost his wealth, he’s been framed for the murder of his father’s friend and the corporate regent of Queen Industries, Henry Emerson, and what’s more, he’s been marked for death by a black archer known as Komodo with ties to both the island he was marooned on as well as his father’s past.  In this issue we learn the identity of Komodo as well as a little inkling of what he is after.  In the meantime, Oliver gets more hints as to his father’s past that by no means come anywhere close to answering the most pressing questions facing him.  Only the eyeless mystery man, Magus, knows what is truly happening and as is usually the case with such enigmatic figures, withholds information, telling Oliver to go to Black Mesa, Arizona to get the answers he seeks.  Another departure from the first sixteen issues, is the descent into rock solid reality.  The events within have consequences that cannot be written away nor held at bay.  In this issue especially, writer Jeff Lemire shows that he is playing for keeps with dark, horrific events precipitating a very ominous future for the Emerald Archer.  Jeff Lemire is in rare form with these first two issues and Andrea Sorrentino’s art finds a complimentary place with a title in need of its stark, shaded lines.

    Another Victim of Komodo

    Komodo Claims Another Green Arrow Ally

  • Phantom Stranger #6 continues on the the Stranger’s quest to locate his kidnapped family.  His first stop last issue was an all out brawl with the Specter.  This issue has him going to Las Vegas in search of them and getting involved in a card game with the three sons of Trigon: Belial, Ruskoff, and Suge.  The main body of the issue is like a telecast of the World Poker tournament.  The story reveals the characters of the demonic brothers as well as the Stranger himself through their playing of the game, but doesn’t advance the overall plot very far.  The ending, however, is quite intriguing and terrifying if one is a fan of the series.  Dan Didio has done a very good job of taking this nebulous, very alien character from the DC pantheon and re-imagining him in a manner that both maintains his integrity and makes him relatable to the reader at the same time.  With the Trinity War on the horizon this series promises to be a keystone title in the future of the New DCU.
  • Smallville: Season Eleven #11 continues the “Haunted” story arc with Clark and Bart attempting to find the answer to the Black Flash and how to stop the Speed Storms that are springing up in Bart’s wake, killing innocent people.  The duo go to meet Jay Garrick, the old member of the Justice Society, and the first speedster of the modern era.  His forecast for what is to come in not encouraging and all signs point to the death of Bart to allay the death toll.  But of course Clark will find a way.  On the other side of the Multiverse, we go to Earth 2 and see how Chloe Sullivan from that world is the sole survivor of so many other meteor freaks.  Also how, despite his relationship with Lois Lane, Chloe seduced Oliver Queen.  Between the two of them, they may even be able to topple the super-powered despot, Clark Kent, aka Ultraman.  Bryan Q. Miller keeps the Smallville series alive not only adding to the mythos of the show, but building upon it and answering questions posed in its early seasons, seemingly left to the wind with the cancellation after Season 10.  And yet it goes on, and brilliantly so.
  • Legends of the Dark Knight #6 presents three more tales of the Dark Knight.  The first one written by Jeff Parker and entitled “Gotham Spirit” shows Batman putting down a liquor store robbery.  Reading it one wonders why you even bothered.  There is nothing poignant or out of the ordinary about it.  Maybe that’s the point.  You can’t always have a Poison Ivy, Mister Freeze, or Joker causing trouble.  Sometimes its just procedural.  That may be the point, but it wasn’t really what someone picks up a comic to read.  The next story written and drawn by Michael Avon Oeming tells of Batman fighting a dragon in the sewers beneath Gotham.  Yes you read that correctly, a real, honest to goodness dragon, complete with scales, teeth, and leathern wings.  Only the fire is missing from this mythic beast.  However, its not quite as mythic as it seems, but rather engineered by a man for Killer Croc.  Croc wanted something that was his that he could love and would love him in return, like a man and his faithful dog, so he could salvage something real.  Even Batman can’t help but be moved by the pathetic nature of Croc’s wish.  The third and final story in this issue has the Penguin hiring a supernatural old man to take out his competition.  From his white suit to his full on albinic pallor, this man is perhaps one of the most unsettling characters to grace a Batman comic, and as the story progresses that assertion is proved ten times over.  Even Batman doesn’t fully grasp the horrors he represents.  That Batman can withstand them proves that the Dark Knight is a master of his own inner terror.  As ever, hit and miss vignettes for the mythology of Batman, but well done.

So ends the first month of March with an encouraging handful of truly excellent comics.

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

Illustration Credits:

Green Lantern Annual #1: Art by Ethan Van Sciver, Colored by Hi-Fi

Detective Comics #18:  Art by Jason FAbok, Colored by Jeromy Cox

Swamp Thing #18: Art by Yanick Paquette, Colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Worlds’ Finest #10: Art by Kevin Maguire, Colored by Rosemary Cheetham

Green Arrow #18:  Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo

Week 78 (Feb. 27, 2013)

This week and probably from now on I am going to only review the comics I read with which I have a strong opinion.  I have been bogged down the past several weeks trying to review everything and I think that that has been a lose/lose situation, holding up my postings and also cluttering them with uninspired, uninteresting nonsense from me.  So there may be gaps in my postings where I will review a series out of the blue or skip a month or two.  If there is a series you want to see reviewed, feel free to message me at any time and I will try to include the series you are interested in.  That said, let’s get to it:   

  • Flash #17 brings the gorilla invasion of the Gem Cities to its stunning conclusion.  Going through all possible outcomes to the intervention, Flash is unable to see a way in which he can attack Grodd and win.  Grodd’s victory is almost assured no matter what is done against him.  With his grasp on the Speed Force that he has stolen and his army behind him, his position is impregnable.  There is only one factor that Flash gambles on. Barry takes Grodd into the Speed Force where that very principle adjudicates the outcome.  On the outside Grodd is King and has immense physical strength, a technologically superior army, and an augmented grasp on the Speed Force.  Within the Speed Force, however, the Force itself determines its champion and Flash is the  that champion, nearly omnipotent within.  In this way, writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato firmly establish the core truths of the Flash.  He is the Chosen One of the Speed Force.  He is one of the most brilliant tacticians in the DCU, literally living infinite tangential realities in his mind, finding the one in which the day can be saved.  But most important of all, he is the Fastest Man Alive.  The art and writing of this series are at the top echelon of comics put out today, in a marriage that all should aspire to. My only fear is the hinting of a future relationship between Barry and Iris West.  Its bound to happen, but I would rather have it come much later, rather than sooner.  I’ve always been a proponent for Patty Spivot and considering how she turned on a dime in her opinion of the Flash, rallying to Barry’s side, I think she’s earned a place with him for a decent stretch of time.  Conversely, the way Iris attempted to manipulate Barry in last issue, I think she’s earned a place in the penalty box for an equivocal time period.
  • Aquaman #17 provides an epilogue from the five part “Throne of Atlantis” crossover with Justice League.  In this respect it still had the pang of annoyance from the atrocious way that Geoff Johns writes the aforementioned team book.  After wresting the crown from his younger brother, Orm, Arthur has ascended the throne of Atlantis.  In the wake of his re-coronation those on land still blame him for the massive casualties of the attacks on Boston, Gotham, and Metropolis, and the Atlanteans don’t trust him because of his time living amongst the land dwellers and his leniency concerning their incursions upon the ocean.  While talking to Amanda Waller, he is told that Orm is facing the death penalty for his orchestration of the Boston attack, even though Aquaman turned him in under the agreement that his brother would only face imprisonment.  So in essence this issue picks up with Aquaman purchasing peace by offering up his younger brother as a scapegoat to slaughter, and is distrusted by both those he above and below the water.  So what all did he gain?  Who is Aquaman doing all of this for.  The answer is given in this issue and it validates him, in my opinion, as a character and raises this title once again above the putrescent stench of Justice League.  It also introduces the next arc of the series, hinted at in “Throne of Atlantis” and rife with possibilities.  If you don’t know who the Dead King is, you soon will.  Great issue by Geoff Johns following a mediocre crossover event

    King of the Seven Sea

    King of the Seven Sea

  • Batman Inc #8 left me at a bit of a loss.  Its a powerful issue, but one that makes the reader question what is real and what is only seemingly real.  Grant Morrison wrote a way for it to be true, but once again the master storyteller throws a curve ball at the reader, upping the ante and really making us wonder how this thing can possibly end.  Talia’s war with Batman is a war of attrition and as the dominoes fall even she is not fully prepared for the horrors she has invoked.  The kind of drama and true heartache that this issue elicits in its readers could only be cultivated over years and years of careful planning and composing, as Morrison has done since 2006.  Seven years building a beautifully intricate house of cards and now they fall in one swift stroke.  This is a Batman series that CANNOT, and MUST NOT be missed.
  • Red Lanterns #17  takes Atrocitus and the Red Lanterns into the “Wrath of the First Lantern” storyline.  In the Green Lantern chapter we are introduced to the concept of the “Great Heart”, a device that houses the emotions of the Guardians of the Universe.  Penetrating this inner sanctum, robot watchmen accost Atrocitus offering to remove all emotion from him including his unquenchable rage and the anguish over the murder of his family and race that drove him to his current state.  Also interesting is his encounter of the soul of Krona, the architect of the genocide that resulted in the destruction of Atrocitus’ sector of space and his family.  On Earth, Rankorr attempts in his own way to purge his rage and live a normal life.  It seems possible in this issue, but will time say otherwise?  Peter Milligan truly shows his authorial mastery in this series, making monsters twisted by anger into relatable protagonists.
  • Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #4 concludes this title with Dr. Manhattan altering all realities so that he will always become the entity that the intrinsic field generator forged him into.  Yet, still there is a blurriness that obscures his vision of his future, meaning that a large burst of tachyons will be emitted at a certain moment in his future.  His initial hypothesis is that this is caused by all out nuclear war at a scale that would annihilate all living things on Earth.  When he speaks to Ozymandias about this the latter tries to persuade him that this could be caused by his own self generating energy if it were used to solve the energy crisis on a global scale.  This seems logical to him.  Writer J. Michael Straczynski then flips the narrative (literally to the point where one flips the comic upside down to read it) and shows how the Smartest Man Alive tricks the omniscient Dr. Manhattan into not only allowing his genocidal plan, but fueling it.  Though his assertion of Dr. Manhattan altering ALL possible realities is laughable, J. Michael Straczynski ends the series quite well and perfectly aligns it with the spirit of the original Watchman series from the 80’s.

    The Moment

    The Moment

  • Talon #5 keeps to its high octane pace, pitting Calvin Rose against the full might of the Court of Owls.  In the past he’s hit their money, he’s hit their symbology, but in this issue his target is the repository of their information located in a fortress built by his lover, Casey Washington’s, father.  Originally he was sent to kill Casey and her daughter Sarah so that the Court could take this building and control the most secure network known to man.  Now it comes full circle as he takes it back with the help of the woman he went AWOL to protect.  The importance of this building merits more than the usual muscle and Calvin may have gotten in over his head.  Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV write this series seamlessly and Guillem March takes that story and makes it visually beautiful with his luscious art.
  • Teen Titans #17 is sort of an epilogue to “Death of the Family” but more so, it is a prologue to an event called “Light and Dark.”  Several things happen within.  First we are introduced to a doctor working with kids that have unwanted metagenes who is solicited as the new Doctor Light.  We also are shown Tim moving the Titan’s home from LexCorp Towers to a luxurious yacht.  The team begins to settle in, when Tim begins to exhibit some strange behavior.  He puts the moves on Solstice, who has been seeing Bart Allen, aka Kid Flash, but despite brief protestations she succumbs to his advances.  Next we see him, Wonder Girl comes into his room wearing one of his t-shirts and nothing else.  He then seduces her, which raises some more eyebrows.  However, the echos of his honeyed words fall into an infernal looking chamber where Trigon’s daugher Raven sits with a goblet of wine in one hand.  So it can be assumed that Raven provides the dark to the title and Dr. Light obviously the light.  Writer Scott Lobdell looks to be revitalizing two hallmark Teen Titan characters: Raven, who was once a hero, and Dr. Light, an iconic Teen Titans villain.  He’s rarely gone astray, so I wait with great anticipation for what he has in store for us in future issues.  Also worth noting is that Nightwind and Teen Titans have swapped artists with Eddy Barrows taking over art duties on this issue and Brett Booth becoming the new Nightwing writer.  So far no complaints on my end.

    The Dark Side of Tim Drake

    The Dark Side of Tim Drake

  • All-Star Western #17 brings a benchmark character of the DC Universe to 1880’s Gotham: Vandal Savage. Coming to Gotham he is almost like a vampire, walking through the streets and instantly invoking awe and terror from those he meets from lowly criminals in the slums to the Court of Owls in the highest eyries of Gotham society.  He also brings with him a plague unlike anything the modern world had seen since the days of the Black Death in Europe.  Alan Wayne’s wife, Catherine, attempts to bring food and medicine to the quarrantined parts of Gotham only to be kidnapped by the hordes of diseased.  Thus Alan dispatches Hex, Arkham, and three others to go into the cordoned off districts of Gotham to rescue her.  The stakes are high and all roads lead to the enigmatic Vandal Savage as the cause of the disease and chaos is explored.  In the backup there is a Stormwatch story from the 19th century that frankly I could care less about.  They aren’t interesting in this century and they fail to be interesting in the two prior ones.  Onto the next issue.
  • Arrow #4 delivers another three chapters in the “Arrow” mythology.  First up is a yarn scripted by Ben Sokolowski and Moira Kirkland and drawn by Eric Nguyen where Ollie takes out a name on the list who is a hitman that does underground cage fighting in his downtime.  Taking him on in the cage where most die at his hand appears to be the only option to cross his name off.  As ever, Ollie commits himself 150%.  However, when an alternative to the cage is presented, Ollie refuses to back down, raising the question in Diggle’s mind as to whether or not Ollie isn’t doing this for other reasons.  Next up is a tale told by Marc Guggenheim and drawn by the incomparable Mike Grell entitled “Huntress: Year One.”  After she bugged out of Starling City, as seen in her two issue arc on the show, Helena Bertinelli goes to Sicily, the land of her forefathers, to learn the art of vengeance from the criminal fraternity La Morte Sussurrata.  Narrated from her perspective with Guggenheim’s words and depicted with Grell’s stark artwork this story is chilling to behold and rounds out her character into an even more sinister whole than we left her at two months ago. Finally the story “Limbo” has Oliver going aboard a yacht to destroy a drug shipment come in from southeast Asia.  However on the dinghy ride out and onboard the yacht his mind is plagued by ghosts of the sinking of the Queen’s Gambitm hampering his ability to react to danger and almost getting him killed.  From this we see that his past still is a raw nerve that the slightest reminder can dredge up dark memories.  This comic series is incredible when put side to side with the television series each and every week.  Well worth the purchase if you love the television series

    The Huntress on the Prowl

    The Huntress on the Prowl

  • Unwritten #46 ends the two part storyline following Richie Savoy and Det. Didge Patterson in their investigation of zombie attacks in Australia.  Upon deeper investigation the case of the boy who is compelled to write the stories that bring these monsters into being only to have them kill those close to him isn’t unique.  Similar instances of others warping time and reality have been reported leading to an explanation of the state of the fictional world post-“Wound.”  Mike Carey and Peter Gross are creating a world that redefines how one conceives of the relationship between fact and fiction.  The idea that if something is thought, there is a factuality about it because it has been conjured into its own existence is a paradox that provokes much consideration.  As this series has gone on from its first issue to this 46th installment the concept has gotten grander, more complex, and even more amazing to contemplate.  Next issue promises a return to Tom Taylor in the Land of the Dead and resolution as to his fate.  Like anything related to this series, its worth the wait.
  • Joe Kubert Presents #5  begins with a Sgt. Rock story, written by his friend Paul Levitz (a genius in his own right) and of course drawn by himself.  This piece has a very elegiac tone that makes me wonder whether during its writing Joe Kubert didn’t already know he was dying.  He talks about its composition in the editorial section of the issue, but I still find myself wondering if that wasn’t an unspoken impetus behind the funereal feel of this story.  Joe drew and sometimes wrote Sgt. Rock, following his interest and passion for war stories and telling the tales of the unsung heroes of the past that kept us free or laid down their lives for reasons both poignant and foolish.  This story is the epitome of poignant, anti-war rhetoric, cutting to the bleeding core of what the character of Sgt. Rock embodies.  A middle aged son and teenaged grandson of a D-Day veteran go to the Normandy beach where their unnamed progenitor stormed the German lines and lost many friends.  This event mirrors a trip that Levitz took with his own son.  They talk about how among those that he fought beside was the legendary Sgt. Rock and Easy Company.  Speculation was that Rock died on last day of WWII.  Another legend states that he lived past the war and fought in other conflicts.  The truth doesn’t really matter because he fought among all of those that died that day and his legacy is buried with each and every one of them.  So too would their father/grandfather, whose ashes they spread in the G.I. cemetery among the field of white crosses and stars. In Sam Glanzman’s “U.S.S. Stevens” segment, he chronicles the start of WWII from the days just prior to the Japanese attack through the major hallmarks of the war in the Pacific.  Whereas the last four installments have been personal and anecdotal, this one, while set up and worded in an engaging manner, was more historical in a fact by fact presentation.  Following it, Joe Kubert writes a two page editorial that introduces the Sgt. Rock feature and his friendship with writer Paul Levitz. In it he also talks about his family, including his eldest son, Dave, whom he tells us is a motorcycle enthusiast that lost a leg in a really nasty crash.  His son inspired him to write the next feature about a biker with one leg that takes shelter for the night in an abandoned old house.  The house hold many ghosts from past, however, both from its past owners and from the main character’s own past as a soldier in Afghanistan.  This story feels like the old horror comics told in anthology books of the 50’s and 60’s, but with a modern setting.  A testament befitting one of the golden age maestros of comics.  Next he tells us another story of Spit as the nameless boy attempts to make his way on the whaling vessel, and after that Brian Buniak gives us a tale in Angel and the Ape of how Angel and Sam first met.  This anthology book is phenomenal and I only wish that Joe Kubert could have made it to another run.  He’s given the comic medium and comic book readers over sixty years of classic stories and beautiful artwork.  I suppose he’s earned his rest.  Slacker.

    Requiem for Sgt. Rock

    Requiem for Sgt. Rock

 

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

Illustration Credits:

Aquaman #17: Drawn by Paul Pelletier, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Sean Parsons

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #4: Art by Adam Hughes, Colored by Laura Martin

Teen Titans #17: Drawn by Eddy Barrows, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Eber Ferreira

Arrow #4: Art by Mike Grell, Colored by David Lopez & Santi Casas

Joe Kubert Presents #5: Art by Joe Kubert

Week 77 (Feb. 20, 2013)

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

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

    The Birth of a Super-Villain

    The Birth of a Super-Villain

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

    The Mission

    The Mission

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

    That's a Game Changer

    That’s a Game Changer

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

    VOLTHOOM!

    VOLTHOOM!

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

    The Unsinkable Kyle Rayner

    The Unsinkable Kyle Rayner

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

    We Are Our Own Masters

    We Are the Masters of Our Own Destinies

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

    Daughter of Darkseid

    Daughter of Darkseid

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

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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