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 Batman, Batman & Robin, Batgirl, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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