Sept. 25, 2013

With this last week of September comes the last installments of Villains Month.  Personally, I am really excited about the Sinestro, Doomsday, Man-Bat, and Parasite issues, and intrigued by several others out this week.  So far Villains Month hasn’t been a disappointment.  There have been some truly amazing stories told and I look forward to seeing what this week adds to the phenomenal work already done.

  • Justice League #23.4: The Secret Society acts as the bridge between Forever Evil and the rest of Villains Month. Mired in secrets, writer Geoff Johns is clearly setting up reveals for the final or penultimate chapters of his Forever Evil series and stringing readers along for the ride. There is a very engrossing narrative in this issue, with the meat of revelation coming from what is said outside of the story juxtaposed against little things mentioned in dialogue. The issue opens with Alfred Pennyworth of Earth-3, the Outsider, telling the reader that he and Owlman each have a secret. Going forward we see how a Wayne family of four, consisting of Martha and Thomas Wayne and their two sons running for their lives through an alleyway. They are stopped at gunpoint and told to empty out their pockets and their purse . . . in the name of the law.  Since this is Earth-3, of course the benevolent Wayne family would be degenerate criminals. What happens next is masked from sight, and the narrative jumps to the “present” with a fully realized Owlman, who has subjugated Gotham entirely under his absolute control, racing across rooftops, in pursuit of the Joker and searching for his errant side-kick, Talon. The Talon is in fact still Dick Grayson and his parents were still murdered. Alfred mentions offhandedly that Owlman should never have told Dick the truth, which insinuates that Owlman killed them to make Dick into something else.  Alfred also says that Dick was the closest thing Owlman had to a brother, something that even Bruce couldn’t provide him.  It was said before both in Justice League #23 and Forever Evil #1, but Owlman is NOT the Bruce Wayne of Earth-3.  He’s the Batman archetype that fills that role, but Bruce was killed with his parents at the beginning, or so it would seem.  Owlman is Thomas Wayne, and taking into account the mention by Alfred of Bruce not being the brother he needed, the revelation that Alfred killed both Thomas’s parents, and the shot at the beginning of four Waynes running for their lives, it can be deduced that Thomas is Thomas Wayne Jr.  The double intrigue for me comes with the earlier introduction of a Thomas Wayne Jr in Scott Snyder’s inaugural arc of Batman entitled the “Court of Owls” in which Bruce’s supposed brother becomes a near Owlman facsimile in our reality. I wonder which came first, Snyder’s Thomas Jr or Johns’, because as far as I can recall, Owlman of Earth-3 has always been Bruce Wayne in past CSA stories.  Either way, Dick is an integral piece in this puzzle for many reasons and it’s that bond that is so crucial in Owlman’s undoing. The Joker, being an antagonist of Owlman and a denizen of Earth-3, is conversely a force for good. He is a force of chaos that stands to topple absolute power unilaterally wielded in Gotham by Owlman. He is also a man that despite his madness is touched by human suffering and fights to free his city of it. But in a world with absolute evil omnipresent, a hero like the Joker is a very stark hero indeed, as evinced by the five “gifts” the Joker gives to Owlman. Not long after their ultimate encounter the skies turn red and Owlman is informed by Ultraman that something is attacking their world. Another jump in time brings the reader to the moment which began the New DCU starting with the events of Justice League #1. The Outsider and Atomica enter our world by unknown means with the rest of the Crime Syndicate of America left on Earth-3. It was this glimpse that we saw at the end of Justice League #6 a year and a half ago when the Outsider began recruiting for the Secret Society. What this issue did that was the most interesting was qualifying the capture of Nightwing by the CSA and what it really means in the long term. I have developed mixed feelings about Geoff Johns’ writing of late, but he’s legitimately got me excited about Forever Evil. Don’t screw it up, Geoff.JusticeLeagueSecretSociety1

    JusticeLeagueSecretSociety2

    The Joker. This is What a Hero Looks Like on Earth-3.

  • Action Comics #23.4: Metallo is the second Superman themed Villains Month issue that Sholly Fisch, Action Comics backup writer during Grant Morrison’s run, attempts. Like Bizarro in the first batch of villains, this one played to Morrison gold, but fell a little flat.  John Corben has always been a psychotic, but this issue did nothing to elaborate on that or do anything interesting. Corben was in a coma after the events of Action Comics #8, and this issue picks up on General Sam Lane’s attempts to wake him up with as many government and military resources as he can muster. Corben continues his sociopathic tendencies, eliciting nothing interesting to readers, but rather making us question why the HELL Sam Lane has so much faith in such a giant loser. But even Sam Lane’s patience is pressed as the issue unfolds.  After reading this, I don’t feel enlightened or entertained, which seems like a wasted effort.
  • Aquaman #23.2: Ocean Master was somewhat unpleasant to read, but that isn’t to say that it wasn’t extremely good. On the contrary, it was a very honest, stark look at the character of the deposed king of Atlantis and Aquaman’s little brother, Orm. Growing up beneath the sea and never experiencing the upper world, coupled with the tragic events of his ill-informed, disastrous invasion of the United States, he has a very misanthropic attitude towards humanity and this issue showcases that quite vividly. But like any person sat down to look at a passionate figure that stands up against the evils that their own way of life perpetuates, it is both intriguing and hard to see him HATE humans so much and so stubbornly. “We aren’t all like that,” you might say, but unfortunately enough people are to warrant his hatred and this issue portrays that very well. However, his inability to see outside of his hate does remain a serious issue that taints his credibility as a mouthpiece for his cause. In these Villains Month issues I find myself asking throughout several, “Is this person really that bad or do they still have something left inside them that makes them not evil?”  Again, I maintained from the start that Orm was a noble man that ruled justly, because of his honor and moral stength. Throughout this issue and considering what happened to him after the Atlantean War he is tested to the breaking point, but whether he breaks or weathers the storm is something that will have to be discovered by reading this issue. A moment in this issue appropriate to this topic is the encounter he has with a guard who recognizes his bitter succeptibility to dehydration and goes out of his way to make sure Orm is given water to prevent discomfort and the later meeting with him following the opening of Belle Reve when that same guard is badly hurt. It is in that encounter along with the issue’s last panel after he rebukes a terrified mother’s entreaties to saved her eight year old son from being murdered by escaped Belle Reve convicts that Orm’s character is TRULY revealed to readers. Once again Tony Bedard steps in and writes Geoff Johns’ Aquaman stories for him, as he did with the Black Manta issue. You can feel Geoff Johns’ influence in the plot, but the writing has all of Bedard’s subtlety and skill. Geraldo Borges provides pencils on this special issue and proves to be an apt choice, mimicking the beautiful style of Ivan Reis, who began this title with Johns solidifying the feel of it. Overall, I love the character of Orm (Ocean Master) and I am impressed with how Bedard and Johns have treated him in it. Definitely something worth reading.

    A King's Mercy

    A King’s Mercy.

  • Green Lantern :23.4: Sinestro is another issue, like Ocean Master above, that aptly captures the essence of greatness and the cost of that destiny.  Sinestro is perhaps one of the most complex characters that has emerged in modern comics.  On one side he was the greatest Lantern that ever lived (unless you are of the Hal Jordan camp), epitomizing great strength of mind, body, and will, but conversely he is also a man who is very haughty, callus, and harsh.  Writer Matt Kindt takes up the history of Sinestro from the perspective of Lyssa Drak, former Yellow Lantern and archivist of the Book of Sinestro (the Yellow Lantern’s official history and ledger). Though far from objective, she was imprisoned by Sinestro when he became a Green Lantern again, so she has reason to dislike him as much as she does to revere him.  Through her eyes we see Sinestro before he received his ring and the path he took once he embraced his new role as intergalactic watchman. That path is circuitous to be sure and fraught with both misdeed and virtue. From the moment he gets the ring he makes tough decisions that he judges are for the greater good, and truly despite small evils his people and those of his sector of space are better for it . . . for a time. But as he continues to sacrifice and work toward the betterment of his planet Korugar he moves down a dark path that begins to separate him from his “humanity.” Kindt shows his marriage to Arin Sur, the sister of his best friend in the Green Lantern Corps, Abin Sur (predecessor of Hal Jordan), and how even his deep seemingly unending love for Arin could not match his devotion to “protecting” his people through tyrannical means. I am not sure if Kindt is a student of history, but his writing of this issue really rings true in its parallels to the rise of many dictators in our own planet’s history. But despite his despotic overtones, Lyssa makes a very compelling point. Throughout the many troubles that have befallen them during his lifetime, Sinestro was always there when he was needed. Despite the destruction of his homeworld by the First Lantern, the survivors of Korugar will need him in coming days. The question remains if he will return to guide them when they need him the most?
  • Batman/Superman #3.1: Doomsday was a very complex story and one I am not quite sure I understood entirely. Luckily, I know that this issue is functioning as a precursor for a Doomsday arc in the Batman/Superman title, which is likewise being done by this issue’s creative team, writer Greg Pak and artist Brett Booth.  Both bring out their A-game and further the mythological development of Old Krypton.  Opening on a Kryptonian holiday called “Remembrance Day” the Brothers El seem to be of at peace with the observation, but their wives are quite the opposite.  Alura Zor-El is more of the mind to remember the carnage it embodies.  Lara Jor-El, who was at the forefront of the incident the holiday commemorates, is also cynical of its true purpose, choosing to call it “Doomsday.”  As she begins to recount her tale the time frame is uncertain, but can’t be more than five or six years prior considering the physical depictions of the characters past and “present.” Lara rushes home in full Kryptonian armor  bearing the crest of her husband’s family proudly on her chest, and gets Jor-El to safety before going after a monstrous beast that is tearing the capital to pieces.  We know from the sight of it that this is the beast called “Doomsday.” It is strong. It is unstoppable. It is without conscience, thought, or motivation besides wanton death and destruction. There truly is no defeating the beast and it bears down on Lara after a long fight she and many other heroes of Krypton make against it.  She is going to die, before salvation comes in the form of Col. Dru-Zod and his chosen elites. The actual ending of this story is cut off as the very young Kara Zor-El, future Supergirl, is awoken and cries out in terror, prompting her father, Zor-El, to go in and talk to her. When he tries to explain what happened to the monster and later to General Zod, sugar coating it, she demands to know the truth and not just kid stories. For whatever reason Zor-El tells her a story of the “Last Knight of the House of El” and his battle with this beast on another world.  It is told like a fairy tale and the details exaggerated, but what writer Greg Pak really does is reassert the “Death of Superman” story from 1992 in battle with Doomsday. Though it still is a kid story and has a “happy ending” Kara accepts it and acknowledges that she will someday be a knight like in the story. What follows is where my uncertainty enters. After her father leaves, the “ghost” of General Zod comes out of Kara’s closet and begins speaking with her about the truth of the Doomsday attack. From his rhetoric there is an ambiguity of whether Zod knows anything about where the beast came from, if he is responsible for its creation and unleashing, is not responsible but just thankful for it, or whether he IS the beast, as well. His ghost takes the shape of Doomsday several times making it seem like the latter most possibility is the case, but his words seem to vacillate back and forth. What is certain is his intention for Krypton is to make it strong through trauma and keep his people’s spirits sharp through hardships that will ensure their vigilance. Though she’s only a child, Kara stands up to one of the greatest boogeymen of Kryptonian history like a champ.  This issue sets up a great many things to be clarified in future comics, but it also reinforces a great many things we have seen of Krypton’s past just before its destruction.  Lara is shown to be the valiant soldier and her husband Jor-El to be the visionary scientist and dreamer. Zor-El is characterized as a selfless, loving father.  Kara is a tough-as-nails daughter of El that doesn’t give an inch, even as a tiny girl, literally facing down the monster that lives in her closet. Great issue on all fronts.BatmanSupermanDoomsday1

    Warrior Women of the House of El.

    Warrior Women of the House of El.

  • Detective Comics #23.4: Man-Bat brings to a point one of the starkest side stories in the Bat titles since the Reboot, that of Kirk Langstrom and his atavistic bat serum.  It turns him into a giant bat man capable of flight, superhuman feats of strength, and other bat related abilities.  John Layman introduced Langstrom and his wife, Francine, into the New DCU in the landmark 900th issue of Detective Comics.  In that issue he also revealed the lengths Francine would go to stay close to her man, even dosing herself with the bat serum.  Touching at first, her motivations prove to be less than affectionate.  She was hired to get close to him and steal his formula.  Modifying it a bit, she became stronger than him and also became addicted to it.  Cut to the opening of this issue and Francine flying into a park and abducting a small child from a jungle gym for feasting.  Thankfully, a more controlled Man-Bat enters the fray and emancipates the child.  Kirk is able to defeat his ex-wife and save the day, and in light of the disappearance of Batman and the descent of Gotham into chaos he decides that with his serum he can be the Bat Man that his city needs.   To paraphrase the rest of the plot, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.  The desire to be a hero doesn’t necessarily yield one, especially when a de-evolutionary serum is thrown into the mix.  Frank Tieri writes this issue with Scott Eaton on pencils, and overall the product feels like an extended backup feature from Detective, which is definitely a compliment.  Man-Bat has been crafted into a very compelling character striding the line between hero and villain with great alacrity.

    Harsh Justice

    Harsh Justice.

  • Superman #23.4: Parasite was REALLY good.  I’m not the biggest Parasite fan, but this issue had me hooked.  I’ve been looking forward to both Aaron Kuder’s story and art.  The art is solid, obviously, but Kuder also has a way with words.  When describing Suicide Slums, in which the main character, Joshua Michael Allen lives, Kuder compares it to “If Gotham and Detroit had a love child, this would be it.”  Allen is a dirtbag bike messenger that just coasts through life leaching off others until he gets assaulted by a giant plasma monster.  Afterward, his leg is broken and his livelihood taken from him.  When S.T.A.R Labs calls to examine him he is inadvertently transformed into a shriveled purple monster with serious periodontal issues and an insatiable hunger.  Soon he realizes that the only way to feed the hunger is to suck the life force out of the people he comes in contact with . . . killing them.  This barely sates his ravenous appetite until the Parasite comes into contact with Superman and is SUPERcharged with the power dripping off the Man of Steel’s enhanced Kryptonian biology.  When Supes hits Parasite with his heat-vision the blast that would level buildings and kill most living things actually makes the burgeoning supervillain balloon and take on many of Superman’s abilities.  Being a smart cookie and owing to Allen’s noob status as a villain Superman eventually figures out how to contain him and he is sent to Belle Reve.  However, he leaves Parasite with a taste of Kryptonian power and like a man-eating shark, Parasite’ll feed on other things to survive, but seek out his desired prey just for the taste.  That prey is Superman.  With the opening of prisons in Forever Evil #1 Parasite is once again released upon the outside world and free to feed.  Aaron Kuder performed a miracle with this issue, basically ramrodding a complete origin story into a twenty page comic, and what’s more he makes it both succinct and entertaining, not at all rushed or half-cocked.  There are no questions left about what happened to Parasite or what his motivations are.  Seasoned comic book writers have tried and failed this month to do what Kuder did here, and to my knowledge this is his first time writing.  Well done all around, Mr. Kuder.  You’ve made me a believer and a fan of Parasite.

    That Happened.

    That Happened.

  • Batman #23.4: Bane was yet another issue that falls under the category “a means to an end.”  All this issue did was set up Bane’s connection to the coming series Forever Evil: Arkham War.  Bane is going to Gotham with his army of mercenaries from Santa Prisca to take vengeance on the Court of Owls and presumably on Batman, even though the word is out that Batman and the Justice League are dead.  It is never broached as to whether Bane is aware of the rumors or not, so I choose to assume that he doesn’t know or he would have mentioned it.  Breaking Batman is one of the things he holds onto to make himself feel adequate.  Should he know that someone else killed Batman I think he would have gone into a berserker rage and made sure to put them on his list.  Peter Tomasi is a fantastic writer, but in this issue he really didn’t do anything new or provocative.  Let’s chock this up to” too much on his plate” and move on.
  • Batman & Robin #23.4: Killer Croc was a very pleasant surprise. I am not overly aware of writer Tim Seeley’s former work, but I am a fan of artist Francis Portela so I gave it a shot. It opens with a Gotham City SWAT team moving through the sewers in full tactical gear. Their aim is not mentioned. However, from a culvert at their feet Croc’s eyes are visible to us, but not to his . . . guests’. Needless to say, Croc waits for a good moment and gives many of them the last surprise of their lives. A few do escape, wounded, and stumble upon vagrants living in the sewers.  Asking for help, they are brutally assaulted by the homeless masses who are acolytes of Croc.  While all this brutality goes on in the issue, Seeley injects several flashbacks to Croc’s youth as a kid with a nasty skin condition that gives him crocodiles skin, making him an outcast with children his own age and with his aunt who takes care of him. Growing up he is still treated like a freak and his gentle soul exploited by bad people.  As the narrative continues in the present the two surviving SWAT cops try to make it out, only for one to find a dead one armed police detective strung up blocking their exit. This is the turning point of the issue.  Croc didn’t kill this man, the SWAT cops did!  They were a dirty unit and the one armed cop, Det. O’Hoolihan wouldn’t play ball with their racketeering so they shot him and tossed his body into Gotham Harbor.  But later they got a note telling them to come to sewer at the harbor with money in exchange for evidence against them.  Obviously, it wasn’t O’Hoolihan who sent the message. Obviously it was Croc, setting a trap and savoring the kill of each and every man and woman in that unit, often times in front of one another so the survivors could dread their turn after seeing the bloody mess he made of their fellows. Their terror is palpable and not just a little bit satisfying to the reader. So Croc finally, after mangling the final cop, puts him out of his misery as the latter screams to know “what it was all about?” The assumption, considering Croc’s criminal record and hatred of the law, is that he just jumped at the opportunity to kill some cops and have some fun.  But after all the flashbacks to Croc’s alienating history based solely on his bestial appearance and his narration of human being being themselves cruel animals that fall under the most primitive drives, there is one last flashback to Croc’s childhood with his abusive aunt.  Sitting on a stoop getting berated by local kids, a one armed cop walking his beat brings Croc some ice cream and tells him that he is not only not a freak, but that he has the potential to be something great if he believes in himself. When there is such a scarcity of people in the world that show genuine kindness and mercy, the loss of such people over petty things like grift money and corruption is a jagged pill to swallow, and Croc, realizing that life isn’t fair, made it a little bit more so by staging his little hunt in the sewers and turning the hunters into mewling game. After the killing and the bloodletting cease, he has his people in the sewer take down O’Hoolihan’s body, make a funeral pyre and give him a Viking funeral into the harbor.  All the while, as a eulogy to a good man, Croc tells the outcast people of Gotham under his protection the same lessons that the departed policeman told him. People will tell you that you are nothing and spit on you, but you can prove them wrong and show them what true strength looks like. I’m not the biggest fan of Killer Croc, but Seeley’s story about the man turned into a beast by society’s shunning, but maintaining a strict sense of honor and loyalty to virtue really resonated and Portela’s artwork was an integral part in conveying the ferocious anger and consequent sadness of the title character throughout the harsh moments of his life. This issue was an unexpected gem.Batman&RobinKillerCroc1

    Evil Can Be Killed, But Kinnness Never Dies.

    Evil Can Be Killed, But Kinnness Never Dies.

  • Batman: The Dark Knight #23.4: Joker’s Daughter was unnecessary. The concept of Duela Dent has been intriguing in the past, but writer Ann Nocenti kind of went off the reservation on this one. Duela is a messed up girl that had an idyllic childhood and yet still grew up twisted. So far it still retains promise. But then she runs away and tries to live in a subterranean community of former Arkham inmates and vagrants  They don’t listen to her until she finds the Joker’s face floating in the water, from when he jumped into the underground river in Batman #17. She of course puts it on and magically people start listening. I think what bothered me most was the pretense that she stands for something when really the subtext is that she stands for nothing. The Joker doesn’t stand for anything, and in the event that he has a pet project his actions, insane though they may be, work towards actualizing the desired end. Her actions and historical contexts fall far from reconciling one another. Annoyance aside, there is nothing substantial to take away from the issue.  A real pity . . .
  • Justice League of America #7.4: Black Adam was a pleasant surprise as well, when it shouldn’t have been relegated to being a surprise in the first place.  Black Adam is a fantastic character and has fantastic potential.  With Geoff Johns’ incredible foul up of his SHAZAM! backup feature in Justice League the concept of Black Adam also falls under suspicion. However, like all the other issues conceived of by Geoff Johns and written by someone else, this issue comes off beautifully. Sterling Gates does the honors on this one and Edgar Salazar provides pencils. We had been told of Black Adam’s past in his North African nation of Kahndaq in the pages of Justice League #19, wherein four thousand years ago an invading force under the rulership of a man named Ibac the First took control of his country and murdered his people by the thousands.  Teth Adam whose sworn duty it was to defend his people did so and turned Ibac and his men to stone as a reminder to those that would oppress the people of Kahndaq. Though the statues remain, Kahndaq has sunken into chaos not unlike the Egypt and Syria of our reality. And like those countries there is a schism of action by those being oppressed. The characters of Amon and Adrianna are reintroduced into the New DCU to illustrate this schism. These two characters were once Osiris and Isis in past incarnations of the Black Adam story when they said the name of the Wizard, but this time are just normal middle eastern siblings trying to make the world right through non-powered means. Adrianna is a non-violent protester that used social media to broadcast the struggle to world audiences. Amon has gotten involved in a militant movement called the “Sons of Adam,” who still view Black Adam as their nation’s savior. Black Adam was reduced to dust in his confrontation with Captain Marvel in the pages of Justice League, but as seen in Justice League #22 that same superhero deposited the collected ashes in the Kahndaqi desert out of respect. The Sons of Adam intend to read a passage from a lost scroll of the Egyptian Book of the Dead to resurrect him so that he can aid their people. The military crash the ritual and Adrianna who was tipped off follows to warn her brother. Amon is shot before he can finish the incantation, which Adrianna does for him, bringing forth Teth Adam from the land of the dead. Adam makes short work of the army and goes to the dictator of Kahndaq to do as he did millennia ago. Amon seemingly dies and the pacifistic Adrianna takes up a fallen AK-47, while casting off her beliefs in non-violence. Black Adam cuts a very different figure from his shoddy representation in Justice League’s back up stories. The pettiness is gone. Upon being awoken and his followers prostrating themselves before him he chides them to never kneel to anyone. When he faces the current day despot ruling Kahndaq (who chose to take the name Ibac for its connotations) Black Adam crushes him with the stone throne of that first tyrant. Not long after that Black Adam sees the Crime Syndicate’s announcement to the people of Earth-1, “This World Is Ours.” His reply? A very angry exclamation of, “This world belongs to NO ONE.” Black Adam is a very violent man, but he is a fair man. He can be very harsh, but he is a proponent of freedom and individualism. Geoff Johns really blew it when he first wrote him into the New DCU. I would love to know who actually came up with the depiction here, because while I want to believe that Johns is still capable of writing compelling characters like this, he has a VERY bad track record over the last two years. Either way, this issue was very informative and definitely an important issue for the overall storyline of Forever Evil.JLA-BlackAdam1

    The Face of Freedom.

    The Face of Freedom.

  • Wonder Woman #23.2: First Born is one of those rare issues this month that basically could be an issue of the regular series. The Count Vertigo issue was the only other example that comes to mind. Both First Born and Count Vertigo are written by their regular series writer, Brian Azzarello in the case of First Born, and drawn by regular series artists. The only thing that separates them from regular issues is the absence of their titular heroes. Wonder Woman doesn’t appear in a single frame. There is a prophesy illustration with a skeleton that might be her’s, but that hardly counts considering the lack of costume or armaments to prove it’s actually her. What it does is depict Apollo gaining custody of his eldest brother, the First Born’s unconscious body, and having his trio of modern day urban oracles channeling the forgotten god’s history. We’ve heard the story piecemeal over the past year since the awakening of the First Born, but this issue strings those pieces together and gives us a visual narrative of it as it unfolds.  Zeus has a son by his lawful wife, Hera, but a witch foresees that this child would one day rule Olympus alone, so Zeus had him killed to protect his throne. The baby didn’t die, but rather was raised by animals and became a terror of mankind. When he finally grew to manhood and had built an empire and an army at his back he assaulted Olympus to take what was his. Zeus soundly defeated him, took his weapons and armor and consigned him to the bowels of the Earth to be forgotten. When he awoke the prophesies began anew. Zeus proclaimed that if he ceased to be or left Olympus the throne would be open for the First Born to take, if he could manage it. There also was a prophesy that there would be a great war and great fire before the throne was decided. In the final image one man is standing, one man is burning, and a woman is watching. The woman is thought to be Wonder Woman, and the men are Apollo and the First Born, but the identity of the man standing and the one burning is not certain. Brian Azzarello has a very singular vision of this title that has stretch over two full years. This issue cuts to the very heart of both the main character of Wonder Woman and the mythological relevance of her place in the DCU. What also is exciting is that this issue feature the VERY first depiction of Zeus himself. He has been talked about endlessly, and his desertion of the throne of Olympus has caused no end of strife, but we have never seen him. Here we see a figure that is very much like Hera when we first beheld her. In the beginning she was totally nude, but for a cloak of bright green peacock feathers. In this issue, Zeus is a vibrant, muscular, bearded man wearing a cloak of feathers (they seem to be either eagle feathers or swan feathers) and nothing else. The depiction seems apt, considering Ancient Greek depictions of masculinity vis-a-vis naked soldiers and athletes. Overall, very well done and intriguing storytelling.
  • Adventures of Superman #5 

    provides two tales of the Man of Steel by writers Nathan Edmondson and Kyle Killen, and artists Yildiray Cinar and Pia Guerra.  In Edmondson and Cinar’s tale, “Infant in Arms”, an alien ship crashes to earth outside of Jackson, Missouri.  The military try to blow it up before its occupant can exit, but Superman steps in and reveals that like himself, the extraterrestrial ark holds an infant that looks exactly like a human baby but for her purple skin.  A dying sentry within the ship informs Superman that she is Princess Aria, but is able to say no more before death takes him.  Soon militants from her world come to kill her.  Superman not only must keep her safe, but also take care of her and her many infantile needs.  The story has no real ending, but gives endless possibilities for one.  Killen’s story depicts one of the most tragic realities of Superman’s life and something that most people are reticent to admit: Superman is not infallible.  Two boys who idolize Superman sit in a parked car on railroad tracks. The driver, Mike, is convinced that Superman will save them and they will be able to meet him.  His companion Henry is not so sure.  It is not said outright that they are brothers, but the implication at the end infers it greatly.  The issue proceeds with Lex Luthor perpetuating flashy crime after flashy crime and Superman stops them each in turn, but in doing so he fails to stop the train and Mike is killed in his car, waiting.  When Luthor is asked in prison by a guard whether losing to Superman gets boring, Luthor demonstrates that he isn’t actually losing, and betrays the genius of his strategy.  Luthor never would engage in an endeavor that he would fail at outright.  In the short term he does lose and is imprisoned for short periods of time, but in the long run, by distracting Superman with his elaborate crimes he prevents the Man of Steel from saving people and those left behind are filled with resentment.  True to his vision, Henry ends the issue by going through Mike’s room, ripping down all his Superman paraphernalia and burning them outside his home.  “In that way you can think of me as Johnny Appleseed spreading a healthy disdain fro Superman’s nonsense.”  The scary thing is that Luthor is correct.  People don’t want to believe that Superman can fail, and when he was depicted in a manner of not being able to save everyone in this summer’s Man of Steel movie, people went NUTS over it!  Superman isn’t Supergod, he’s SuperMAN.  Outside the comic and inside, people seem to be unable to accept his limitations and that very weakness in humanity is a commodity that Luthor capitalizes on like any ruthless business man.  The Adventures of Superman title is really amazing in the very poignant tales it weaves of Superman and this issue epitomizes that promise.

    The Evil Genius of Lex Luthor

    The Evil Genius of Lex Luthor

  • Jupiter’s Legacy #3 takes a very sharp turn.  After gaining superpowers in the 1930’s by visiting a mysterious island that adventurer Sheldon Sampson sought out after seeing it in a dream, he and his companions became the guardians of America through the decades.  The title centers around these aged paragons of heroics and justice faltering in the 21st century as their children become drunken reprobates and partiers and the country yet again stands on the brink of financial ruin as it was in the 30’s when they got their powers.  The question that pervaded the first two issues is what they should do about it.  The Utopian (Sheldon Sampson) believes that it is not their job to enforce policy or intervene in politics, only watch and support the elected officials and let them do whatever they feel is right.  His brother Walter, who is both a genius and a telepath, believes that they need to intervene and aid the elected officials and make sure the corrupt ones don’t sour the barrel.  There are legitimate points on either side, but in the first two issues writer Mark Millar tends to depict Walter as a voice of reason and fairness.  He doesn’t draw the line on liberal or conservative or democrat or republican, only what things need to be done to fix the current economic downfall.  Contrarily, Sheldon is portrayed as a starry eyed idealist that defines laissez faire and reacts harshly to anyone that would burst that bubble or question his mandates.  He is also a very harsh father that takes a hardline of his son and daughter’s behaviors and openly calls them disappointments.  This issue flips that concept on its head.  Sheldon’s daughter Chloe was revealed to be pregnant last issue and the father of her child was the son of one of the Utopian’s former villains.  This man, Hutch, works primarily as a high end drug dealer.  The issue begins with Hutch meeting the Utopian and being told rather civilly that he won’t be allowed to have a part in Chloe or her baby’s lives.  However, elsewhere plots are brewing and they quickly develop as Sheldon is lured into a trap set by his own allies who K.O. him after he is pummeled by a meteor they hurdled at Earth which he intercepts.  Others including Walter go to his home and murder his wife, Grace, and attempt to murder Chloe and her unborn child, but for the intervention of Hutch, who warps his lover, child, and himself across the world numerous times until they are untraceable.  In the meantime a legion of super-powered “friends” beat the fallen Utopian to a pulp until his son Brandon arrives to deliver the final deathblow to his father.  While doing so, there is of course the inevitable “I didn’t fail you, you failed me” speech, and to an extent everything Brandon said has merit, but not to the extent that his actions invoke.  The death of his mother and the attempted murder of his pregnant sister are abhorrent and they cast a very bad light on the figure of Walter who seemingly was a pillar of reason before.  Many things can be said of Mark Millar’s writing, but regardless of what faults there are, one guiding truth is that his plots are very socially aware and deliver very moving point/counterpoint arguments within.  One man is a monster in one issue only to be made into a martyr in the next and one man cast as a saint turned into an inhuman monster.  Children are misled and turned against their parents.  Youths falter through self doubt and confusion in the quest for significance.  Jupiter’s Legacy is a very compelling series in only three issues that begs to be read for both Millar’s very stark, complex drama and the gorgeous illustrations by fellow Scotsman, Frank Quitely.  Even for those who do not like Millar this is a series that should be given a chance free of prejudice.

    Fathers and Sons.

    Fathers and Sons.

  • The Wake #4 

    continues Scott Snyder’s ingenious limited series delving into the science of the supernatural.  His work on the seminal American Vampire series not only catapulted him into comics superstardom it provided a refreshing breath of fresh air to the vampire genre made stagnant and putrescent by hacks like Stephanie Meyer and other teen romance writers.  Uniting with artist Sean Murphy, who aided Snyder on his American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest limited series, the two tackle another underutilized cyptozoological wonder: mermaids, or to be more fair, mer-folk. Mer people have existed in one form or another in many mythologies throughout the world regardless of culture.  This issue contains a fascinating myth of a fabled Dutch city and its run in with a mermaid.  While this series is only four issues into a ten issue run Snyder is still holding many cards close to his chest.  However, the story so far is that marine biologist Lee Archer is brought into a super secret deep sea drilling station by a government agency with a ragtag group of scientist and criminals to examine and contain a fishman caught near the rig.  This is the factual basis of merfolk lore and like the vampires of Snyder’s other series, endowed with many scientifically explained features while simultaneously shrouded in numerous mysteries.  Snyder makes them seem perfectly plausible, but also incredibly wondrous like many creatures one would find near the ocean floor that actually exist.  The merman is not as weak as they anticipate and it frees itself and calls its fellows down on the station.  The remnants of the expedition are overrun and attempt an escape.  This issue has them finding temporary sanctuary in the emptied but pressurized pipeline leading from the drill to the station.  But the mer people are on either side and there is no escape.  However, the aforementioned fable of the Dutch city of Saeftinghe gives Lee an idea that could just save them.  The idea stems from a very real experiment the Navy has been conducting over the past several years outside of the comic that has maimed many marine mammals, most notably whales and dolphins.  Snyder doesn’t justify its usage and through Lee actually makes a compelling case for its cessation.  However, when dealing with evil marine men that are ravenous killing machines certain exceptions can be made.  It’s only four issues in but the story and art make it a package deal of entertainment for the intellect and the soul.

    The Legend of Saeftinghe.

    The Legend of Saeftinghe.

  • The Unwritten #53 brings forth the fourth installment of a five issue Unwritten/Fables crossover. An evil ebon cloaked entity calling himself Mr. Dark has descended upon the land of Fables, taking lives, possessions, land, and even families. Snow White is made into a darker version of herself and made his consort, her husband the Big Bad Wolf is chained in a dungeon, and Snow White and Big B’s children adopted as Dark’s. Boy Blue and Rose Red are murdered. The Fables live in the Enchanted Grove, constantly living in fear.  To remedy this the magic users of Fabletown summon Tommy Taylor and his friends Sue Sparrow and Peter Price to intercede. Since they fall outside the stories that comprise Fabletown, they are an unknown variable that could throw Mr. Dark off his game. Last issue, both Lizzie Hexam and Pullman were drawn from the ether and told Dark exactly who Tommy is and what he is. They also revealed that there are other worlds and other stories outside that are open for conquest. The stakes are high and everyone settles their affairs before the final battle with Dark. Prince Ambrose (The Frog Prince) has the Enchanted Grove cut down for Gepetto to sculpt into an army of animated wooden soldiers. Once cut down the Grove can never be regrown. As the battle commences more Fables loose their lives setting the stage for the apocalyptic finale that will determine the future of two series. No pressure. The Unwritten has been a jaw dropping comic since its first issue. Coupled with the iconic Fables this title establishes its place in comic history.

  • T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2 

    begins the next incarnation of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents under the IDW imprint. The DC iteration that wrapped up two years ago was phenomenal. Two issues in and this new series appears to uphold that tradition. The DC series written by Nick Spencer was a swansong to all that had been before. The original runs beginning in the 60’s and marching forward through the 80’s and 90’s are all honored and Spencer’s Agents inherit their T.H.U.N.D.E.R. devices and code-names from the original bearers, essentially using them to end the cycle of violence that begat them and become the final Agents of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Those survivors from the beginning of T.H.U.N.D.E.R either bow out or are put down. The starkest moment comes in the last issue of the first half of Spencer’s run when the daughter of the original Dynamo, Len Brown, and the Iron Maiden has her mother murdered by a woman the ironclad villainess had grossly disfigured in a terrorist attack. All loose ends were sewn up. This series, conversely, begins at the beginning as The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves try to find agents to wield the devices created by the world renowned genius, Prof. Jennings, who mysteriously vanished before explaining them.  Last issue they selected Len Brown to wield the Thunder Belt to become the agent code-named Dynamo. Inserted via airlift into Kashmir, Dynamo and the agent code-named NoMAN attempt to invade the Iron Maiden’s cave lair. Randomly injected into the narrative is a hazy memory of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Director Kane’s childhood of daring-do with her red headed sister, Kelly. Seemingly irrelevant, its significance come through later in the issue. Meanwhile, Dynamo meets two T.H.U.N.D.E.R. moles within Iron Maiden’s ranks, and eventually the lady herself. As it was in the first issue of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents from 1965 Iron Maiden captures Dynamo. Both issues of the series end enticingly on high drama cliffhangers. Writer Phil Hester really does have a knack for writing this complex super-hero/espionage/sci-fi title. I highly suggest picking up both the first and second issues of this series and get in on the ground floor.

So ends the week and Villains Month.  Next week we get back to the ongoing storylines put on hold from August.  Though it’ll be nice to get back to normal, it’ll also be sad seeing these characters and their compelling albeit villainous deeds relegated to uncertainty.  It was a good month.

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 #23.4: The Secret Society: Art by Szymon Kudranski, Colored by John Kalisz.

Aquaman #23.2: Oceran Master: Drawn by Geraldo Borges, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Ruy Jose.

Batman/Superman #3.1: Doomsday: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund.

Detectice Comics #23.4: Man-Bat: Drawn by Scot Eaton, Colored by Jeromy Cox, Inked by Jaime Mendoza.

Superman #23.4: Parasite: Art by Aaron Kuder, Colored by Tomeu Morey.

Batman & Robin #23.4: Killer Croc: Art by Francis Portela, Colored by Tomeu Morey.

Justice League of America #7.4: Black Adam: Drawn by Edgar Salazar, Colored by Gabe Eltaeb, Inked by Jay Leisten.

Adventures of Superman #5: Art by Pia Guerra, Colored by Matthew Wilson.

Jupiter’s Legacy #3: Art by Frank Quitely, Colored by Peter Doherty

The Wake #4: Art by Sean Murphy, Colored by Matt Hollingsworth

Advertisements

Sept. 4, 2013

It has been a LONG time since I have posted, due to some scheduling conflicts and a REALLY busy summer, but it’s good to be back talking about comics, and DC’s Villains Month is a perfect time to get back in the swing of things.  So far this first week has produced some interesting specimens as well as some really out-of-the-box concepts for the hallmark villains of the DC universe.  That said, less talking, more comic book reviewing:

  • Forever Evil #1 starts off the post Trinity War mega event across the entirety of the DC Universe.  The Crime Syndicate of America from Earth-3 has descended upon our world from a portal opened by Pandora’s Box.  As a result the Justice League has been “killed,” though it is not depicted nor explained, and the CSA have set about creating a Secret Society to claim the world in the name of evil. It doesn’t so much seem like a Secret when they are doing it out in the open . . .  From the four corners of the globe their acolytes are recruiting the evilest minds the planet can offer, from Gorilla Grodd to the Scarecrow, to create a new world order.  The issues opens on Lex Luthor, newly emancipated from prison for services rendered to the government, trying to coerce Thomas Kord (possible father of Ted Kord) to relinquish his controlling majority of Kord Industries with horrific, thinly veiled threats and bribery.  In mid-flight the helicopter they are riding in crashes leaving only Luthor alive.  The power goes out and all hell breaks loose.  The Crime Syndicate proudly proclaim, “This World is Ours.”  That is when the prisons are opened and  evil is truly unleashed like an open floodgate.  Throughout the rest of the issue we see the twisted version of the Justice League systematically subvert the last vestiges of super-powered defenders to proclaim their own order upon the globe.  With issue’s end the part that Luthor will play in the proceedings is very ambiguous.  Geoff Johns does a pretty decent job writing this story, which is interesting considering his blunt, overwrought attempts at the main Justice League title over the past two years. Aiding him in art is David Finch, who helped him launch Justice League of America eight months ago.  Of the two, I think that David Finch is the one that most excites me on this title.  Johns had his day in the sun, but has either lost his touch or gotten too power mad in his new executive position.  Either way, I am infinitely enthusiastic about this issue, as it expands the multiverse by one more world, giving birth to the Crime Syndicate:  Ultraman, Superwoman, Owlman, et al.  Owlman is perhaps the one that has the most interest to me, especially after the way he was portrayed in the DC animated movie Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths.  We shall see if this event and the New 52 does justice to the former incarnations of the Crime Syndicate and Earth-3.
  • Action Comics #23.1:Cyborg Superman is written by Supergirl writer Michael Alan Nelson following the shocking revelation of the Cyborg’s identity at the end of Supergirl #23 following his capture and rending the flesh off Supergirl in order that he could regain his Kryptonian body and his lost memories of his identity.  After stripping her flesh through  molecular dissolution and regaining his, he is revealed to be none other than Zor-El, father of Supergirl.  In this issue we see a man obsessed with perfection and obsessed with proving his intellect over that of his younger, seemingly brighter brother, Jor-El, in the face of Krypton’s destruction.  Undertaken out of pride, his efforts were also undertaken in order that his entire family could survive.  Using half understood Brainiac technology, he tries to save his native Argo City, only to see it collapse and his fellow Kryptonians slowly die.  When Brainiac returns he bestows upon Zor-El what the man himself had attempted: to force perfection upon him.  Many parts of Zor-El are completely replaced to make him more efficacious and that which is organic was rewritten genetically to resemble his “superior sibling,” hence his looking so much like Superman and not his blond, more round faced self.  What remains of the issue is an exploration of what cold logic and mechanized calculations deem “perfect.”  The Cyborg Superman issue encapsulates beautifully what Zor-El has become after Brainiac altered him and sets the stage for what is to come in the aftermath of his restoration in the pages of Supergirl #24.

    Extreme Cosmetic Surgery

    Extreme Cosmetic Surgery

  • Batman #23.1: Joker is a real treat.  Under the pen of the great artist Andy Kubert, scion of the legendary Joe Kubert, we see him (to my knowledge for the first time) write an incredibly introspective look at the Joker, glimpses of his past, and what makes him tick.  Opening on a traumatic childhood, we see a horrendous display of abuses heaped upon him by a violently insane aunt, including scrubbing his face and body down with bleach and coarse brush, in essence explaining his white skin and his psychopathy.  Cut to the the near-present (years before he cut his face off) where the Joker raises a baby gorilla he kidnaps from the zoo to be his son.  Truly touching, he gives the gorilla everything he was denied as a child including genuine love.  He molds the ape into his own likeness, but not with any malice towards his “son’s” feelings. However, since there is no mention of the gorilla in the present, the reader knows it won’t last.  The Joker witnesses his son’s death and from what follows the reader knows that this creature was literally the closest relationship the Clown Prince of Gotham has ever had, and indeed, the Joker begins crying.  But he quickly breaks into laughter and makes grossly morbid jokes about the whole thing.  Kubert shows us that the Joker is capable of emotions, but because of the incredible trauma of his youth, whenever they are too much to bear his brain reverts to a manic state of euphoric laughter to compensate.  Truly amazing storytelling, befitting his father’s legacy.  Kubert wrote this, but the art was done by another of my favorite artists, Andy Clarke.  Clarke’s art has made the backups of Detective Comics soar and his treatment of this entire issue augments and accentuates Kubert’s plots brilliantly.  This is a Villains Month issue that is not to be missed.
  • Batman & Robin #23.1: Two-Face written by Peter Tomasi and drawn by Guillem March chronicles the fate of Two-Face during the beginnings of Forever Evil.  Batman is “dead” and Gotham has gone dark.  For the former Gotham district attorney and current crimelord there are two paths to take: save Gotham or let her burn.  A tough call that is made simpler by a coin toss.  Interrupted by the Scarecrow, a third option is presented, or rather a second choice to be made.  Scarecrow represents the Secret Society who wish Two-Face’s allegiance in subjugating our world.  So the more pertinent question becomes: join the Society or fight the Society?  Another coin toss.  As Gotham cries out, Two-Face’s reactions to it, coupled with a few flashbacks to his past, really fleshout the man he has become and where his loyalties and druthers find themselves.  If his psychoses were simple to understand he wouldn’t have been sent to Arkham all those times, and Tomasi really feels out that space in his story, showing the true depth of his madness.  He also throws in some old friends from his pre-Reboot stint of the Batman & Robin title as well to shake things up.  If you like the character of Two-Face and await what Tomasi plans for him in the formerly titled Batman & Robin series, this issue is a must read.
  • Detective Comics #23.1: Poison Ivy, like Two-Face above, deals with Ivy’s emergence into a Gotham a without power, law, or the Batman.  As it has ever been depicted in such conditions, it is ANARCHY!  It is in this that Poison Ivy is reminded of the disgusting nature of humanity.  Among the insanities she witnesses is a scene of domestic abuse that she intervenes upon.  In doing this she is taken back to her childhood and her own battered mother finding solace in her garden, with peace of plants.  A horror would later await both in that garden, scarring young Pamela for the rest of her life and starting her path towards becoming Ivy.  That path is laid out through her entry into academia and the internship at Wayne Enterprises that brought about her physical transformation into the floral female terrorist she has become.   Derek Fridolfs writes this issue with the help of artist Javier Pina.  Poison Ivy can be written very two dimensionally, and this story skirts that territory with a semi-intricate explanation of her motivations, but still lacks some key element of why she is as generally misanthropic as she is depicted by issue’s end.
  • Green Lantern #23.1: Relic introduces us to the eponymous “Relic,” a petrified remnant from the Universe that preceded ours.  Since he awoke in Green Lantern: The New Guardians #22 he has been an enigma that has cryptically stated his good intentions while attacking viciously and unprovoked the Lanterns he dubs “lightsmiths.”  His goal is stated as “saving the Universe.”  This issue, written by Green Lantern scribe, Robert Venditti, chronicles his life in the universe that preceded ours and how that universe functioned.  The lightsmiths were wielders of the emotional spectrum, with all the same colors and emotions we have seen since Geoff Johns introduced them after the “Sinestro Corps War” in 2008.  However, despite their constant warring, the universe was built upon the light they used and instead of cities, civilizations, and infrastructures being built out of physical resources, the light constructs of the smiths served that function.  However, the greatest scientific mind of that universe saw that like physical resources the light came from somewhere and was not infinite.  It could run out and eventually would if it was used wantonly as it had been.  His warnings fall on deaf ears and it is because of this that the universe before ours ceased to be and he who was mocked as a “relic” in his universe, became a relic of his universe.  Upon awakening in ours he became aware of the likenesses of our universe to his and the presence of “lightsmiths.”  This time around he knew precisely the danger they posed to reality, and that arguing verbally with them was not the best course if anything was going to be done to save another universe.  Hence his cryptic tone, hence his blatant belligerence, and hence the “Relic” that we have seen thus far   The “Blackout” event is less than a month away and already the dimming described by him that preceded the cataclysms that claimed his universe has already been witnessed by the different Corps of Lanterns.  Venditti has set the stage for a true test of the Lanterns the likes of which (even under the pen of Geoff Johns) we have never seen the likes of.  Aiding him is artist Rags Morales who worked with Brad Walker, the Green Lantern: The New Guardians artist who first depicted Relic, on Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run.  Truly an issue to procure if you call yourself a fan of Green Lantern.
  • Green Arrow #23.1: Count Vertigo could almost be another issue of Green Arrow.  With the usual GA team on deck that is no insult.  This series is a delight, really tapping the limits and possibilities of the character to their peak potential.  However, being a Villains Month issue the dynamic creative duo focus their literary lens on Count Vertigo, by far  the most iconic of Oliver Queen’s nemeses depicted since the reboot.  Being in a rebooted universe, little is known about the man behind the disorienting device. This issue remedies that, telling the story of Werner Zytle, son of the late deposed Count of Vlatava.  He is raised in Canada by his  abusive mother who blames him for the fall of their family’s fortunes in the motherland.  She later sells him to a scientific research firm, prompting his implanting with the device that grants him his power.  It is here that his true power, both in spirit and body, takes hold.  From here he is able to reclaim his destiny, starting with his freedom, then regaining his homeland, and finally in the reunion with his mother he reclaims his past and identity.  He is very much a Mordred character, raised by  a single, overbearing mother to fulfill a destiny not of his choosing and ultimately becoming a monster that consumes the mother figure and becomes a plague upon humanity.  This is very much the case with Vertigo and though the issue is not structured like most of its fellows this week, it functions excellently in advancing the plot of Green Arrow and maintaining the integrity of the series, unlike many of the stand-alone stories out this month.  I enjoyed it thoroughly, but then again Green Arrow is one of my favorites.

    A Son's Vengeance

    A Son’s Vengeance

  • Justice League #23.1: Darkseid almost completely rewrites the entire concept of the New Gods.  I am not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.  Since Justice League #3 I have been up in arms against Geoff Johns’ blatant disregard for Jack Kirby’s seminal creations and the perfection of his Fourth World mythology.  Since then, Brian Azzarello’s work with the denizens of New Genesis have been slightly better.  High Father was done a little heavy handed, but the essence was there.  Scott Lobdell returns the character of Orion to a place that is well within the character’s original context and feels genuine.  And then we come to this issue, written by Greg Pak.  It begins by depicting Uxas and Izaya, mortals living upon the world of the (Old) Gods, scratching out meager existences.  On this world the monumental gods frolicked and warred with one another in complete disregard for the lives of those tiny mortals living beneath them like insects.  In this version, Izaya is married to Avia, as was so in the original Kirby books, but this time around Avia is the sister of Uxas.  Izaya and Avia are devout believers and worshipers of the  oblivious, elemental gods that plague them.  Uxas is more pragmatic and “blasphemes” them constantly.  He is cunning and engineers the ultimate death of these gods that brings about utter ruin to the planet, but also endows him with the powers of the gods he kills, forging him into Great Darkseid.  Izaya is granted the powers of those stricken gods that escape Darkseid, rewarding his faith with the powers that baptize him as Izaya, the High Father.  The planet is destroyed, but remade into the two planets of New Genesis and Apokalips.  The final eight pages introduce a character from Pak’s Batman/Superman title, Kaiyo the Chaosbringer.  This little sprite appeared at first to be a minor demon, but it seems very probable that she is in fact a New God of Apoklalips.  What’s more, her exploits in the last couple of pages make it seem probable that she is the lost daughter of Darkseid that he world-hops to find, prompting his appearance in Justice League’s first arc.  This issue put me off at first, because of the “heresy” of its divergence from Kirby’s Fourth World.  However, in retrospect, it was a well written, intriguing concept that accentuates Pak’s previous work in the firs three issue of Batman/Superman and sets the stage for interesting future developments with the New Gods.

    A So Was Born a Fourth World . . .

    A So Was Born a Fourth World . . .

  • Earth 2 #15.1: Desaad appropriately segues to another New God of Apokalips and someone whose sadism might even rival that of Great Darkseid.  Writer Paul Levitz who introduced Desaad into the New 52 in his Worlds’ Finest title chronicles the mad god’s advent to our Earth after the events of Earth-2 #1.  His goal is really two-fold, filling in blanks in the story of what Desaad has been up to since coming to Earth-1 as well as how that has affected things the reader witnessed since the first issues of Worlds’ Finest, and secondly proving how sick and perverse the mind of Desaad truly is.  One interesting thing that I think blew me away the most was in Desaad’s search for minds to corrupt and turn toward his dark aims, he stumbles upon an artist at a drafting table.  Desaad goes to the man’s home and emerges from a Boom Tube, renowned for the thunderous cacophony it makes prompting its name, and yet the man doesn’t turn around.  When Desaad looks over his shoulder, he stops short and seems apprehensive if not actually afraid, and decides to leave this man alone.  One would ask, what is going on, but the savvy comic reader who knows not only something of comics in general, but more importantly the character of Desaad and the other New Gods, will notice something very key.  The man at the table looks EXACTLY like a young Jack Kirby, creator of the Fourth World, of which Desaad is a denizen.  The hair cut, the physique, the thick eyebrows, the posture.  All so blatantly Kirby.  When we see a close up of his work over his shoulder from Desaad’s perspective the rough sketches have all the hallmarks of Kirby’s illustrative style.  Through meta-storytelling, Paul Levitz sets a real hook in the reader, inserting the King of Comics into a world featuring his own creations.  What his existence in this world will mean for Desaad and the other New Gods is a mystery, but one that I will faithfully follow to find out the answer to.Desaad1

    desaad2

    Behold Thine Creator, Ye Mighty God!

  • Superman #23.1: Bizarro was a slightly strange twist on the character, albeit a short lived one.  Sholly Fisch, who cut his teeth in the big leagues on the backup features of Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run, writes this issue with the help of artist Jeff Johnson.  In it we return to a seminal moment where Lex Luthor and Superman meet for the first times in the third issue of Action Comics.  Largely due to experiments Luthor conducted under military purview the young Superman was hurt to the point of bleeding (something VERY difficult to achieve under most circumstances) and as a result he used Lex as a hostage to procure escape.  Through this encounter Luthor gained two things: a personal animosity for the Man of Steel and a sample of his blood.  Using further contracts with the U.S. Military he attempts to augment a normal human being by re-splicing Kryptonian DNA gained from the small sampling of blood into their own genome.  The result of this is, of course, Bizarro.  To my knowledge, Bizarro was always either a clone or a refugee from a dimension where everything is backward.  Fisch makes a good sampling of Bizarro’s reversed Superman powers, i.e. Freeze vision and incendiary breath, but doesn’t quite pull off a Bizarro yarn that feels authentic.  Bizarro’s rampage lacks most of the quintessential “misunderstood monster” motif that characterize almost all of his appearances in the past.  This is an okay issue if the reader is just looking for Bizarro powers, but if they want Bizarro, the childlike villain speaking in opposites and conflicted in a limited understanding of the world and morality, this definitely is not the Bizarro story for them.
  • The Flash #23.1: Grodd is similar to, but slightly different from the Action Comics: Cyborg Superman and Green Arrow: Count Vertigo issues, in that it functions as a within the main story of the Flash series to continue on into later issues.  However, unlike both Cyborg Superman and Count Vertigo this doesn’t grant the reader any further insight into the past of Grodd.  What it does, however, is juxtapose his thoughts and philosophical beliefs against the depiction of the aftermath of the Gorilla invasion of the Gem Cities he lead which terminated in Flash #17.  Since then Solivar has taken over leadership of Gorilla City and worked painstakingly to not only make amends for the actions of the delusional despot, Grodd, but begun the process of making real steps to not only forge lasting peace between humanity and Gorillas, but have the Gorillas enter into the larger world we all share.  This is not something Grodd can abide and the manner of his return from the Speed Force is revealed, as is his overall place as an essential villain in the Flash andt he larger DCU.  Brian Buccellato, colorist and co-writer of the Flash, pens this issue with the help of artist Chris Batista.  Batista’s art is quite different than that of the usual Flash panoply of artists, including Buccellato’s co-writer on the title, Francis Manapul.  This is good in my opinion, because the Flash himself isn’t even seen in the issue and Batista’s art really depicts the Gorillas well.  Definitely a thoughtful, well written, well drawn issue.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #23.1: The Ventriloquist was simply okay.  I am a huge fan of Gail Simone on the Batgirl title and I attribute its success almost entirely to her writing, reserving a generous helping of credit to Barbara Gordon herself, who is one of my favorite comic book characters. Top 10, without a doubt.  This origin of the Ventriloquist fell a little flat for me.  Sure it’s interesting and sure Shauna is a very complex, psychotic person with a very troubled past. However, for me the Ventriloquist is Scar-Face and Dummy.  There is something so “Batman” about them.  I say Batman, and although Shauna and Ferdie are currently appearing in Batgirl, I still think that the mundane nature of the original Ventriloquist works more effectively with unpowered vigilantes than this new version.  The original Ventriloquist, Arnold Wesker, was a non-powered guy with dissociative personality disorder, projecting his primary, dominant persona into a ventriloquist dummy done up like a 30’s era gangster named Scar-Face.  The premise fell well within the realm of reality and created a complex villain mired in a psychosis rife with situational drama.  Wesker and Scar-Face might disagree, but being that Scar-Face is the dominant persona, Wesker is going to be hampered in foiling the inanimate object, because his own drive is what is empowering the dummy.  Later there was a beautiful, blonde woman (Peyton Riley) who took over as Scar-Face’s ventriloquist, but still follows the same paradigm.  When you have a woman like Shauna who has telepathic abilities that she exploits years before she got her dummy, Ferdie, you kind of remove the intrinsic importance of the ventriloquism schtick from her psychosis.  Sure she named her dummy after her deceased twin brother, and yeah she was a product of a negative environment growing up, but that in no way enhances the nuanced concept of the Ventriloquist.  Basically, this issue and the iteration of the character in the New 52 reinvents the wheel, with more bells and whistles, but less functionality.  I like Gail’s work, but with a heavy heart I say that this issue can be passed on with no loss for any Bat-Family fan.
  • Batman: Black & White #1 is a title which returns in the New 52 to presents several intriguing short stories depicted completely in monochromatic black and white panels.  With the writing talents of Chip Kidd, Maris Wicks, John Arcudi, and Howard Makie, and the artistic talents of Neal Adams, Michael Cho, Sean Murphy, Joseph Quinones, and Chris Samnee, many unique perspectives are shed on the Dark Knight and his myriad interpretations.  Foremost of these is Neal Adams’ piece, both written and drawn by the Batman maestro who helped create Ra’s Al Ghul and the Man-Bat.  In his Batman: Zombie story, the impact of Batman as a fighter of evil is explored in great poignancy through the social issues of our day and just how effective a Dark Knight can be against the day to day evils of the 21st century.  His writing is razor edged and his art is at the top of its game. Chip Kidd and Michael Cho’s Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When comes in second in my opinion, giving a Darwyn Cooke-esque, Silver Age story of Robin and what truly makes him a worthy contemporary for the Batman.  What’s more, even Superman has to tip his hat to the Boy Wonder by story’s end.  John Arcudi’s Driven, drawn by Sean Murphy, is an interesting tale of Batman and his relationship with his most iconic accessory:  the Batmobile.  The other three stories are good, but these three especially epitomize innovation in the realm of Batman.
  • Codename: Action #1 is basically a Cold War, nerd boy fantasy mash-up.  It takes place in an ambiguous period during the Cold War following a strange amalgam of characters throughout its globe trotting plot.  In the background are two Golden Age comic book characters resurrected in a slightly more modern context.  In America there is the costumed adventurer, the American Crusader, and in Europe there is the British aerial operative, Black Venus.  American Crusader finds his vintage in 1941 as a crimefighter that gained powers from stray radiation from a device he was working with called an “atom smasher.”  Black Venus was a war nurse turned aviator during WWII famous for her black bodysuit and aviator goggles, who first appeared in comics in 1945.  In the foreground of the plot we see a new secret agent complete his tests of initiation, earning the designation Operative 1001.  He is then teamed up with Operator 5, the fifth agent ever initiated into the “Intelligence Service,” and a living legend.  Facing all four of these characters is a global diplomatic meltdown of epic proportions.  The French threaten war against the Soviets if they interfere with North African assets, the Japanese threaten war if the Russians movie into their territorial waters, the Chinese threaten war if the Japanese mobilize their armed forces, and the Soviet Union threatens to launch nukes if anyone doesn’t accede to their demands.  The kicker is that the Intelligence Services have intel that the Soviet General making the threats at the UN is in fact not the actual General due to a subcutaneous tracking device they implanted the real one with.  So the plot thickens . . .   Writer Chris Roberson kicks off this series, with no shortage of help from artist Jonathan Lau, in great style and panache, eliciting all the romance and intrigue of Cold War spy thrillers and the action of costumed superhero comics in a shaken, not stirred, suave superhero spy masterpiece.
  • Trillium #2 begins at the strange middle of the first issue with the meeting of two diametrically different people, whose shared intrepid nature is the sole bond that connects them in what is shaping up to be a REALLY innovative series.  Nika Temsmith, the intergalactic scientist from the year 3797 searching for a cure to a sentient virus, meets up with the English explorer William Pike on Earth in the year 1921, who himself is searching for purpose after losing his in the Great War.  Ironically what brings them together is the Incan temple that Pike and his expedition have just discovered after centuries of abandonment.  In Nika’s own time, a virus with the capacity for thought and higher reasoning is at war with the human race and reduced our population to mere hundreds of  thousands spread across the galaxy in weakly sustained colonies.  Seeking to find a cure she goes through a “primitive” alien race’s pyramidal temple emerging on Earth in 1921.  As can be logically deduced from the time gap, the English both speak are not even close to being mutually intelligible.  So the entire issue is merely them trying to communicate and ascertain who each other is and what each other desires.  Slowly as events unfold they get an idea of the situation and the revelation is powerful to behold.  Jeff Lemire writes and illustrates this series MASTERFULLY!

    Trascendence of the Trillium Flower

    Trascendence of the Trillium Flower

And so ends the first week of Villains Month and my first week back on “Off the Panel.”  Hopefully, you folks enjoyed it and will come back to enjoy future issues with me.

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

Illustration Credits:

Action Comics #23.1: Cyborg Superman:  Art by Mike Hawthorne, Colored by Daniel Brown

Green Arrow #23.1: Count Vertigo: Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo

Justice League #23.1: Darkseid:  Art by Paulo Siquiera & Netho Diaz, Colored by Hi-Fi

Earth 2 #15.1:  Art by Yildiray Cinar, Colored by Jason Wright

Trillium #2: Art Jeff Lemire, Colored by Jose Villarrubia

Week 81 (March 20, 2013)

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

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

    Vyndktvx's 5-D Dilemma

    Vyndktvx’s 5-D Dilemma

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

    Kindred Spirits

     

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

    You C Never Go Home Again

    You Can Never Go Home Again

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

    Painful Memories

    Painful Memories

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

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 77 (Feb. 20, 2013)

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

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

    The Birth of a Super-Villain

    The Birth of a Super-Villain

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

    The Mission

    The Mission

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

    That's a Game Changer

    That’s a Game Changer

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

    VOLTHOOM!

    VOLTHOOM!

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

    The Unsinkable Kyle Rayner

    The Unsinkable Kyle Rayner

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

    We Are Our Own Masters

    We Are the Masters of Our Own Destinies

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

    Daughter of Darkseid

    Daughter of Darkseid

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

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 61 (Oct. 31, 2012)

October ends with some oversized books and four annuals.  I have to say this proves to be a Halloween full of quite a few treats, but hopefully no treats.  Vertigo puts out a holiday anthology called Ghosts to commemorate the witching season, and four of my favorite comics have their annuals: Action Comics, Batgirl, Swamp Thing, and Justice League Dark.  Here we go.

  • Aquaman #13 brings to a close the “Others” arc in a rather quick fashion.  I did enjoy the story, however, as it humanized Arthur, showing the bond he has formed with the members of the “Others” as well as his culpability in the death of Black Manta’s father.  He even states that Manta didn’t lay a hand on his father, or cause the heart attack that killed him, but Arthur did go seeking Manta’s blood and killed his father with his own hands accidentally. What this issue also does is pave the way to the debut of Arthur’s brother, the sitting king of Atlantis, Orm, better known as Ocean Master.  Dark things are brewing in the world of Aquaman and are solicited to come to a head in December with the Justice League/Aquaman crossover, “Throne of Atlantis.”
  • Action Comics Annual #1 was an annual that I don’t think was necessary to read.  Perhaps I am being harsh, but it didn’t seem to jibe with the feel of the title overall or the other Super-books.  Grant Morrison’s run on the title is ending in February/March-ish, so this could be backup writer, Sholly Fisch, setting up a storyline that will succeed Morrison’s in early 2013.  Following the first arc of Morrison’s run, Superman stopped a man named Ramsay from abusing his wife.  In this annual, Ramsay volunteers for a project to get dosed with kryptonite radiation in an attempt to provide a countermeasure to Superman.  Thus, Ramsay becomes the New 52 “Kryptonite Man.”   John Henry Irons, aka Steel, makes his reappearance and cements his relationship with Superman as a comrade.  In the backup feature, which is usually written by this Annual’s feature writer, Fisch, Max Landis (writer/director of the movie Chronicle) pens a pantomime story of a man who escapes from a breached S.T.A.R Labs submarine to a deserted island with exceptional powers.  He is does with radiation and ends up removing his face, revealing a skull . . . that is now “atomic.”   While Kryptonite Man and Atomic Skull enter the New DCU, I thought it could have been better on all fronts.

    Atomic Skull

  • Batgirl Annual #1 was pretty stellar.  Showcasing the beautiful artwork of Admira Wijaya, Gail Simone brings back the Talon she introduced in the Batgirl “Night of the Owls” tie-in as well as Catwoman to shake up Barbara Gordon’s world.  If that weren’t enough, a mysterious organization is strong arming vagrants from the slums to commit a rash of arsons.  Featuring three very strong women with three different shades of morality, Simone somehow gets each to connect with the others in interesting ways.  I truly hope that this heralds further interactions by the three together, because as I have made no secret about my love for Barbara Gordon and Selina Kyle, Simone adds depth to the female Talon of the 1950’s and even gives us her name . . .  Exceptional art and writing, making for an exceptional annual.
  • Swamp Thing Annual #1 starts out in the “here and now” of the series, in the very bleak events of “Rotworld” after Alec Holland learns of his lover, Abigail Arcane’s, death.  Following this blow, the annual takes Holland back into a repressed memory of when he first met Abigail when they were young and in love.  It also showed his very first meeting with her uncle, Anton Arcane.  This is one of those issues that is just a pleasure to read if you enjoy the series it encapsulates.  To be quite honest, this annual felt like a better origin than the zero issue last month.  Becky Cloonan’s lent her art to Scott Snyder’s twelfth Batman issue a few months ago, and lends it yet again, really setting the atmosphere with her unique style, but framing several key sequences in the vein of Yanick Paquette.  This was my favorite book of the week.

    The Beautiful Abigail Arcane

    A Love Affair Between Life & Death

  • Justice League Dark Annual #1 concludes the “Books of Magic” storyline as well as pulls out all the stops.  Nick Necro has carefully laid out his plans and now those plans are coming to fruition.  To counter them, Constantine and Madame Xanadu pulls in some extra help: Timothy Hunter, Andrew Bennet, and most shockingly, Princess Amaya from the series Amethyst.  The seeds for this last appearance were sown in the final pages of the zero issue of Sword of Sorcery, but I personally never saw her being drawn into the title like this.  Jeff Lemire is a very gifted writer and the way he plays out the dark, mystical plot is quite unexpected.  When the Books of Magic are revealed they manifest in a way that not even Constantine could fathom.
  • Joe Kubert Presents #1 is a six issue miniseries that was initiated by legendary comic writer/artist Joe Kubert to present comics in a style that he wished were more prevalent in today’s market.  In this inaugural issue he presents two tales he wrote and drew, as well as two stories written and drawn by two of his friends and colleagues, Brian Buniak and Sam Glanzman.  Kubert brings to the table a Golden Age Hawkman story about the barbarity of humanity and the danger posed by our civilization if our destructive natures aren’t curbed, as well as a black and white uninked pencil segment called “Spit” about a young orphan who is literally spit on by the world, setting out as a cabin boy on a whaling ship.  Both of these segments represent a style that is so quintessentially Joe Kubert, who’s art is such that its immediately recognizable, like that of Jack Kirby or John Romita Sr.  Brian Buniak brings back a short feature he called “Angel and the Ape” about a knockout blonde and a gorilla who have a detective agency and solve crimes in a campy 1960’s setting.  One thing that Kubert has become known for in many of his solo projects is war stories, and while he didn’t do one himself in this issue, his friend Sam Glanzman submits one about his reminiscences of service in WWII on the U.S.S. Steven, a naval destroyer.  This feature cuts deeper than the rest, because you can sense the reality and the melancholic beauty that Glanzman is evoking from his haunted past.  I agree with Kubert that comics like these are rarely seen anymore on the stands and harken back to a time when things were simpler in presentation, but perhaps a little more poignant too in the simplicity with which they are portrayed   It is also worth noting that while Joe Kubert began this project sometime in the past year he passed away two and a half months before this first issue came out.  His passing makes the point of the series even more resonant, like his one last gift to the world before leaving it was showing us a glimpse at what he loved about the medium he dedicated his entire working life to, and the promise of what that medium could be.

    The Life of Spit

  • Masters of the Universe: Origin of Skeletor was one of those stories that it hurt to read, but in a good way.  I was a HUGE “He-Man” fan when I was four years old and looking back and revisiting the television show as an adult I can still find things that intrigue and entertain me within the somewhat cheesy 80’s cartoon.  For instance, the episodes of the original series where it is revealed that He-Man’s mother, Queen Marlena, is actually a United States astronaut who flew her experimental spacecraft through a wormhole and crashed on Eternia or the episode when Teela goes in search of her real parents only to discover that the Sorceress of Castle Greyskull is in fact her mother.  These plot points totally caught me off guard as an adult and made the series fresh again. This new DC series takes the premise of He-Man and re-imagines it a little bit, continuing in the tradition of creating interesting relationships and circumstances within the Eternian drama.  He-Man’s greatest villain is portrayed as the older, bastard brother of his father, King Randor.  Keldor, the blue skinned son of King Miro and an unknown Gar woman, loves his little brother, Prince Randor, and craves the love of his father, which he always falls a little bit short of.  The issue chronicles the conflict within him between the love he had for his brother and the need to be his own person and live his own life at the cost of loyalty to his father and brother.  I have never been a fan of I, Vampire, but Joshua Hale Fialkov writes a very compelling story of an anti-heroic character and Frazer Irving renders it artistically in much the same mood.  This issue is why, even as a twenty-seven year old man, I am still a boy watching He-Man with an entranced smile on my face.

    The Death of Keldor and Birth of Skeletor

  • Phantom Lady & Dollman #3 was not the greatest comic.  I am a fan of the writing of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, but this issue didn’t really accomplish anything.  They go up against a super powered villainess named Funerella, who herself is undead and can raise and control the dead. They fight her, but nothing really comes of it or goes toward the resolution of the main plot.
  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #9 accomplishes some very interesting storytelling. In Superman Beyond, the elderly Man of Steel emerges from his Fortress of Solitude in special armor to stop Lucinda Luthor and the  computerized copy of her father, Lex’s, consciousness from destroying mankind, after they put a meteor field around earth comprised of pure kryptonite.  In the process he reinvents himself with a new identity into a new civic role to reacquaint himself with the new world that has developed in his absence.  In the Justice League Unlimited Beyond segment the apocalypse engineered by Kobra draws closer and the endgame begins to unfold, and Bruce’s last ditch strategy is implemented by Terry when all else falls through.  Enter an OLD “friend” . . .  Finally, in Batman Beyond‘s “10,000 Clowns” another chapter brings the reader further into the unmitigated chaos that the Joker King has descended upon Gotham.  To combat this, Terry has all hands on deck.  Vigilante, Catwoman, and two former Robins step in to help him as thousands of Joker suicide bombers attack nearly every echelon of Gotham’s infrastructure.
  • The New Deadwardians #8 concludes the miniseries in truly grand, nuanced style.  Chief Inspector George Suttle tracks down the villain, Salt, and in the final confrontation with the madman uncovers the conspiracy that led to the Restless invasion of Great Britain.  Following this revelation, Suttle’s handling of the situation as well as the government’s is rather interesting, adding further layers to the already multifaceted plot.  I have loved this series from issue #1.  I truly hope that this miniseries spawns another, because George Suttle, his maid, Louisa, his aide, Officer Bowes, and his lover, Sapphire, are all very round and complex characters deserving of further exploration, as does the Deadwardian Age.  I put out my prayers to the “gods” of comics to have mercy on their readers and give us another New Deadwardians series.
  • American Vampire #32 builds off the surprise ending of last issue, showing Hattie Hargrove’s journey from when last we saw her, escaping from the Los Angeles coven as an experimental guinea pig and returning as their queen.  There is little to say about the issue itself, but that it is PHENOMENAL!!!  It is quite obvious Scott Snyder has been building toward this issue and the one to come for sometime.  I don’t know what is real and what is sleight of hand, but either way this arc has been another step on the uninterrupted ascent of this series’ incredible run.  Snyder’s writing is peerless and Rafael Albuquerque’s art is appropriately eerie and stark.
  • Vertigo Comics: Ghosts #1 is a Halloween inspired special anthology that deals with the appropriate topic of Ghosts, featuring nine stories by some of the most innovative talent in comics, including some of my favorites: Amy Reeder, Phil Jimenez, Paul Pope, Gilbert Hernandez, Geoff Johns, Jeff Lemire, and apropos a previous entry, an unfinished penciled story by Joe Kubert.  The stories range from a tale of a young man being haunted by the ghost of himself from a life that might have been, to the Dead Boy Detectives, to satanic chili connoisseurs, to a tale of ancient Aztecs.  Like all Vertigo anthologies there were some stories that were stunning and others that fell flat.  Overall, this one had some quality storytelling complimented by equally beautiful art.

    Brotherly Love Beyond the Grave

And thus ends the month of October with a fifth week of very special issues.  Next week we start November fresh with some stellar titles like Action Comics, Green Lantern, Swamp Thing, and Worlds’ Finest. Hope to see you back here.

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 Annual #1: Art by Ryan Sook

Swamp Thing Annual #1: Art by Becky Cloonan, Colored by Tony Avina

Joe Kubert Presents #1: Art by Joe Kubert

Masters of the Universe: The Origin of Skeletor: Art by Frazer Irving

The New Deadwardians #8: Art by Guillem MarchI.N.J. Culbard, Colored by Patricia Mulvihill

Vertigo Comics: Ghosts #1: Art by Jeff Lemire, Colored by Jose Villarrubia

Week 53 (Sept. 5, 2012)

This first week of September marks the first week of the second year of DC’s “New 52” initiative.  With that in mind, DC decided to commemorate this hallmark with a “Zero Month”, numbering all their ongoing series at #0 and telling an origin or new beginning of each.  For me, this week was purely a DC week.  None of the other imprints released issues of series I read, so this first week of “Zero Month” is purely DC.  So here goes:

  • Action Comics #0 tells a very straightforward yarn about Superman’s first days in Metropolis: his alluded to visit to the shirt press for 200 blue S-shirts, his first day at the Metropolis Daily Star, his first tangle with the Metropolis crimeboss, Glen Glenmorgan, his first sighting by Jimmy and Lois, and an examination of what really makes him or anyone super.  The last part pertains to a kid that comes across his fallen cape and what the boy does with it.  Though its not mind bending like a lot of his work, Grant Morrison does put a really thought provoking twist on the seemingly mundane opening shots of Superman’s early career.  Also in a stunning one page panel, he and artist Ben Oliver do an homage to the Joe Shuster cover page of the 1938 Action Comics #1, that first introduced Superman to the world.  This part of the main story really resonated with me as a comic book geek.  And as with all Action Comics issues, Sholly Fisch provides a quick backup feature that gives a background on not only Adam Blake, but also the character Erik Drekken, of whom we got a brief glimpse in Action Comics #7. All in all, a really great first issue to usher in the Zero Month at DC.

    Morrison and Oliver’s Reworking of the Iconic Action Comics #1 Cover Image


  • Detective Comics #0 features the final issue of the title to be drawn by Tony Daniel (at least in the foreseeable future) and has, for one issue only, Batman: The Dark Knight scribe Gregg Hurwitz at the helm.  Chronicling Bruce Wayne’s training in the orient, Hurwitz has Bruce train with a Zen master in Tibet and learn possibly the most depressing lesson imaginable.  Beyond that, there is little else to be said, except READ IT and find out.  As with Action Comics above, Detective features a backup feature, and this one comes from Batman cowriter, James Tynion IV, with the help of the liney artwork of Henrik Jonsson.  Alfred Pennyworth has been waiting for years, hoping against all hope that his ersatz son and ward, Bruce Wayne, will reappear after several years of speculation that he has died somewhere far away.  The struggle to hold on, not only to the hope of his being alive, but also to the legacy and inheritance that he is custodian of is harrowing, as this story shows.  But the faithful servant’s fidelity warms the hearts of readers and provides a really uplifting bookend to the depression of the first half of the issue.

    Lesson Learned

  • Green Lantern #0, contrary to my expectations, was not a disappointment.  This could be for several reasons.  Firstly, the new GL comes from my own backyard, Dearborn, Michigan, a hop, skip, and a jump from Flint, where I hail from.  Secondly, they tie him into the larger issue of Islamaphobia and anti-Arab mentality that is hotwired in most ignorant American minds.  Thirdly, its just F***ING GOOD!!!  Geoff Johns is hit or miss with me.  He has swung at NOTHING in so many things he’s doing right now.  This issue and the character it introduces is a line drive down center.  This character, though brand new, feels like a Green Lantern.  Can’t wait till Green Lantern #13 in October.  Awesome job, Geoff, and welcome back Doug Mahnke!
  • Swamp Thing #0 rewrites Swamp Thing history, introducing Anton Arcane right off the bat as someone far older and more immediately sinister than he was in the original Wein/Wrightson run in the 1970’s.  But true to Scott Snyder style, he has taken the cast of characters and reinvented them to fit into the frame of a fresh, innovative premise.  Here Arcane has been a perennial foe of the avatars of life: the Swamp Thing of the Green and the  Animal Man of the Red.  As far back as 1895 Arcane has been on the hunt as avatar of the Rot. Whereas in the original series by Len Wein, Alec Holland was turned into Swamp Thing by sheer luck or misfortune, depending on how you want to look at it, here he was selected from birth by the Parliament of Trees to be not only the new Swamp Thing, but the warrior king avatar that had been prophesied for centuries.  This is why the “accident” is initiated by Arcane, but contrary to how it came out in the original run, this accident poses problems to the fulfillment of his destiny as avatar of the Green.   The issue is written well, obviously, being penned by Scott Snyder, but it is also drawn exceptionally well by artist, Kano.  When I saw that someone other than the three staple artists of Swamp Thing was doing this issue I was a little pissed, but now, as has happened numerous times in the past, I have to eat crow, because his artwork is stunning.  I pray that he get a shot at another issue or two in future, maybe a whole arc, because his lines and style are so incredible.

    Kano’s artwork reminiscent of Paquette and Rudy’s Panels


  • Earth 2 #0 was very good, albeit confusing.  Told from the perspective of Terry Sloane, better known to DC readers as the Golden Age Mr. Terrific, as well as staple JSA member.  We saw him briefly in issue #3 meeting his Earth 1 counterpart, Michael Holt.  This issue not only gives him the spotlight, but also fills in his role in the history and hierarchy of Earth 2.  Sloane existed as one of Earth 2’s eight heroes during the Apokalips Invasion.  He went by the name Mr. 8, the meaning of which I don’t get.  Also, as his first appearance in the series suggested, he is much more sinister than in previous incarnations.  When he shows his true colors in this zero issue, turning on the Trinity for what he deems “the good of the Earth” he states that to ensure victory he needs Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman to survive.  They died in the first issue, and yet as he narrates this issue from the present looking back, he still thinks that his plan has succeeded.  They are dead.  We saw them die.  So what the hell is he talking about?  Good issue topically, but too cryptic for my taste.
  • Speaking of Earth 2, Worlds’ Finest #0 focuses on that same world’s two junior members, Helena Wayne, aka Robin, and Kara Zor-El, aka Super Girl.  We’ve seen them as Huntress and Power Girl in both Earth 2 #1 and the first four issues of this series, but now we get to see their geneses in their roles as young superheroes.  Helena, the daughter of the Batman and Catwoman, growing up a strong, confident young woman, amalgam of both her parent’s characteristics, meets her first great tragedy.  Kara, last daughter of a doomed homeworld, lives with her cousin on their adoptive new world which itself stands on the brink of annihilation by the incurring forces of Apokalips, and yearns to break out of his protective bubble and lend her skills toward averting another world’s destruction.  Paul Levitz writes these two young women really well, showing both their overwhelming frustration and youthful exuberance.  One thing that the first four issues of this series did well was show the strength and depth of their friendship, and this zero issue shows the tying of their fates together in a very touching manner.

    Even When Your Parents Are Superheroes They Can Still Embarrass You

  • Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #3 brings Laurie into direct conflict with Gurustein and the mysterious “Chairman”, who bears a striking resemblance to a certain blue eyed crooner.  The Comedian also makes his first significant appearance in Lauries life, whether she knows it or not, at the behest of the original Silk Spectre, Sally Jupiter. Darwyn Cooke writes a really psychedelic story that Amanda Conner draws exceptionally well.  Drug overdoses, orgies, waking up naked in a hospital morgue. What else do you need from a story?  With one more issue, this series is at a its fever point.
  • Green Arrow #0, like the other issues written by Ann Nocenti, is a fantastic issue, but also a good origin story.  Green Arrow’s marooning on the remote island and honing his bowmanship is already a well known story done to death.  Nocenti eschews this tale, hinting at it towards the end, but offering something very different, focusing on a fresh episode of failure that lent itself to his later commitment to being better than he was and atoning for his many sins.  It also ties in the character of Merlyn in a very prototypical stage, giving a reason for his later enmity toward the Emerald Archer.  Nocenti tries to tie in a Roy Harper intro, but nothing really comes of that two page segment, so I’m not sure what was meant to be accomplished there.  Also, I am not usually a fan of Freddie Williams II’s art work, but here it wasn’t so obnoxious and really suited the overall atmosphere and genre of the book. Overall, a great zero issue for a character that floundered badly when it first was released a year ago.
  • Phantom Stranger #0  marks the first regular issue of Phantom Stranger since the late 80’s.  Writer Dan Didio (along with Geoff Johns and several others, no doubt) have him as Judas Iscariot.  They have quashed rumors of this since Free Comic Book Day this past May, but while they don’t come right out and say it in the story, it’s him.  Thirty pieces of silver he has to wear around his neck, his suicide, betraying his best friend, being returned home to a desert-like landscape that bears a striking resemblance to the Levant?  Its friggin’ Judas, quit being assholes and just admit it!  Judged by a council of Wizards on the Rock of Eternity, he and two others are cursed for their incredible crimes against humanity with individualized penances.  Phantom Stranger is cursed to walk the earth, a stranger to all, and forced to intercede in events by an enigmatic voice.  By issue’s end, the horror of what his interventions will do is made clear, showing how the punishment does fit the crime.  Didio is a great writer and this series has a great amount of promise. Artist Brent Anderson delivers lush artwork that has soft, hazy lines that suit the mysterious atmosphere of the book and really set the mood.  With a solicitation for next issue at the end, eliciting only the name “Trigon” I am riveted for what is to come.
  • Batwing #0 shows an episode in Batwing, aka David Zavimbe’s, life that has as of yet remained untold.  We know that he and his little brother, Isaac, were child soldiers in the mercenary group, the Army of Dawn.  We know that he was picked up by Batman as the African representative of the International organization, Batman Incorporated.  Between his rescue from the AOD and his inception as Batwing, there is very little known.  This issue shows the guilt fueled rage that eats at David’s soul after he enters the relief shelter for war refugees and the events that forge his resolve as an adult to take up arms once again, fighting a crusade of his choosing that eventually brings him to the attention of Batman.  With this issue all the pertinent parts of David’s history are fully chronicled, giving us a comprehensive understanding of his entire history.  Grant Morrison may have created the character, but I think that Batwing will forever belong to Judd Winick, who wrote him for the first time as a fully fleshed out character.
  • Animal Man #0 was definitely written in tandem with Swamp Thing #0, because writer Jeff Lemire does what Scott Snyder did, beginning with Anton Arcane tracking down a previous avatar,  this one an Animal Man (Avatar of the Red) and dispatching him.  Whereas the Parliament of Trees put their hopes on an avatar to come, Alec Holland, the Parliament of Limbs decide to be more proactive and create a new avatar in anticipation of the next who will be born years from that moment.  The avatar they create just happens to be the next scheduled avatar’s father, Buddy Baker.  His inception as the new Animal Man and what that foretells is a well plotted zero issue that makes Animal Man that much more intriguing.

    Death of an Animal Man

  • Dial H #0 takes us out of the present for a jaunt back to Ancient Mesopotamia and the maiden voyage of the first dial.  In the pre-bronze age civilization, the dial is as analogue as it gets, being merely a sundial like device, using the Sun’s rays as the triggering mechanism and the dial itself, a monolithic slab, having to be manual rotated to dial.  The operator, Laodice, over the course of four days manipulates the dial to evoke a myriad of powers to counter an ancient beast that plagues her people.  The origin of the dial is a mystery, even to Laodice, but writer China Mieville fleshes out a facet of its usage in this issue that not only doubles the question of its origins (along with its rotary successors), but also what the consequences of its usages in the modern stories are.  In a series already rife with insane twists and turns, this zero issue throws a major curve ball to the overall plot.

    The First Dial

  • G.I. Combat #0 was framed in an interesting manner.  The main segment, as evinced by the cover, features the Unknown Soldier.  The story picks up from last issue’s ending point, but validates itself as a zero issue by having the mysterious Kamal subjecting the Unknown Soldier, a former financial trader whose family was killed in a terrorist bombing on a train in London and who turned mercenary in Afghanistan when no military would accept him, to a mind altering drug that would open his subconscious to past experiences.  Despite being born in the seventies, he has vivid memories backed up by historic record of Vietnam, Korea, the American Civil War, Revolutionary War, as well as several Medieval and Greco-Roman conflicts.  How is this?  Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray find a way of revealing who and what the Unknown Soldier is while keeping pace with the past four issues.  The War That Time Forgot segment ends the issue and also concludes itself as well, marking the end of this story, which will be succeeded by The Haunted Tank, which will be penned by Peter Tomasi and drawn by Howard Chaykin.  This one, however, is in no way an origin story.  Its more of an epilogue to the last installment, ending the arc with really no significance.  I love JT Krul as a writer, but this story he told didn’t say or do anything.  American G.I.’s going to North Korea find, instead of a belligerent Communist army, a raging horde of dinosaurs.  That’s it.  They find this seemingly impossible situation and almost everyone dies.  I hope the Haunted Tank offers better literary fare.

The Origin of the Unknown

  • Night Force #7 concludes the miniseries featuring the third incarnation of the Night Force headed by Baron Winter, and written by creator Marv Wolfman.  Zoe has been captured by the demonic progenitors and it falls to Det. Jim Duffy to save her.  With this last issue out, the MVP of the series is hands down Jim Duffy.  Despite all his blustering and posturing, Baron Winter really doesn’t do anything worth speaking about.  His arrogance is what prompted the problems that assail the Night Force in the first place and Det. Duffy is really the one who both plans and orchestrates the events that resolve the situation.  He captures the Harvester, breaks into the gestation chamber, and pulls the metaphoric trigger on the demon breeders plan.  That said, Jim Duffy and Sela Greene, aka Mad Kassandra, are the two characters that really advance the plot and their clashing was a scene that made this issue and the six previous well worth the read.  The conclusion is twisted, nightmarish, and bloody, which makes me give it a thumbs up to anyone with a taste for the macabre.
  • Smallville Season 11 #5  accomplishes something I was waiting for in the series when it was on TV: the advent of the Batman.  Done in a very unique way that is synonymous with “Smallville” in general, Batman is shown busting up an Intergang arms deal with the help of protege, Nightwing . . . who is a red haired young woman!  Obviously since Nightwing has boobs, its not Dick.  I won’t spoil the identity of Batman’s sidekick, but if you are as good of a detective as the Bat, you should be able to ascertain who she is under the mask.  As a bonus hint to those who know me, I am always excited to see this character, regardless of the circumstances.  In the continuing plot of Smallville, though, Clark continues to work toward finding a way to purge the radioactive isotope Lex implanted in him so that LexCorp satellites can monitor his movements 24/7, while at the same time dealing with the strain that puts on his relationship with fiancee, Lois Lane.  It does leave him with more time to dedicate to civic vigilance and crisis aversion.  But with the Dark Knight descending on Metropolis with his sights on a singular task, Superman has a lot more to worry about than armed gunmen and impending traffic accidents.

And that ends the first week of “Zero Month.”  I thoroughly enjoyed all that I read.  Can’t wait for the next three weeks worth of issues.

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 #0:  Art by Ben Oliver, Colored by Brian Reber

Detective Comics #0:  Drawn by Tony Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by Richard Friend

Swamp Thing #0: Art by Kano, Colored by Matthew Wilson

Worlds’ Finest #0: Art by Kevin Maguire, Colored by Rosemary Cheetham

Animal Man #0: Art by Steve Pugh, Colored by Lovern Kindzierski

Dial H #0: Art by Riccardo Burchielli, Colored by Tanya & Richard Horie

G.I. Combat #0: Art by Staz Johnson, Colored by Rob Schwager