Oct. 30, 2013

With October being a five Wednesday month, this last week promises some incredible Annuals from DC, and that is NOT lip service.  Action Comics Annual #2 has been teased at with ridiculous shock endings to Superman #0 and Supergirl #0, put out over a year ago and left to simmer in reader’s minds.  Green Lantern Annual #2 promised to changed everything we know about Green Lantern books and with the past three months of developments that is not an exaggeration.  Nightwing Annual #1 delves into the complicated history of Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon, which is always awesome.  Neil Gaiman puts out the first issue of a “lost” Sandman story.  Andy Kubert draws and writes a comic centering around Damian Wayne.  The promise of quality storytelling is at an all-time high.

  • Action Comics Annual #2 follows up on the end of “Psi-War” as the Man of Steel is pulled from the aftermath of the psychic fallout in Metropolis to an even more dire threat facing the omniverse at large.  Looking upon all realities and infinite universes, Superman sees waves of chronal energy ripping through all of existence extinguishing stars and the countless civilizations they fostered or were destined to foster.  Upon witnessing this, Superman is brought together with his cousin, Supergirl, and the boy partially cloned from his genetics, Superboy.  At this point the mysterious power that ripped the three Kryptonians from their respective missions reveals itself: The Oracle.  Last seen in the “H’el on Earth” plotline where our solar system was going to be rendered into raw energy to turn back the hands of time and save Krypton from its fate.  This meant the extinction of a race and Oracle came to witness it, but did not intervene.  He has witnessed the death of countless civilizations and watched wordlessly. But with the events of the Villains Month H’el issue we not only saw the origin of H’el, but also that his mission to go back in time before the death of Krypton succeeded.  Therein lies the problem.  With the survival of Krypton the rest of the omniverse is imperiled to the point that the Oracle, for the first time ever, intervenes and actively combats the forces that be.  He sends the two refugee Kryptonians and cloned “abomination” (Superboy) back to their homeworld to show them the true horror of H’el’s efforts.  H’el wants to save Krypton and to rule it.  Infused with seemingly infinite amounts of chronal energy that allowed him to go back time and time again after numerous failed attempts at saving Krypton, until one iteration of Jor-El (his mentor and “father”) in his infinite genius finds a way to do the impossible.  H’el’s attempts contradict the laws of temporal stasis and causality, barring his success all those times before. With Jor-El’s help the survival of Krypton shatters the very fabric of time-space and threatens all of existence.  And what’s more, the Krypton he saves becomes a shell of its former glory and a slave colony of proud Kryptonians heeled at his feet.  In this climate, one of Krypton’s worst becomes their only hope at righting the timestream and saving the omniverse.  Faora, second in command to the great General Zod finds herself the right hand of the Oracle, serving as his
    Faora.

    Faora.

    mouthpiece.  With her guidance, Supergirl is sent to Krypton’s distant past to cull his incursion during the Clone Wars.  Superman and Superboy are sent to the homes of the brothers El, Jor-El and Zor-El, a week before the death of Krypton. Jor-El and Kara (Supergirl) are key in those final moments and the next generation of El men are dispatched to ensure they fulfill their roles in the correct path that Krypton was meant to take.  This includes two very polarizing events.  Kon-El (Superboy) meets a younger Kara who immediately treats him as a friend, when in their past interactions (which in this case would be the future), she did her best to kill him for being a clone and an abomination by Kryptonian standards.  Kal-El (Superman) is transported to his father’s lab, where he is greeted by his mother, Lara Lor-Van, who immediately makes short work of beating him to pulp, thinking him an intruder.  Warmly embraced by a girl who had mindlessly sought one’s death, and mercilessly beaten down by the woman who gave the other life and selfless sent him to the stars for survival, Superboy and Superman define irony in their meeting of the women of House El.  With these events chronicled, Scott Lobdell firmly sets the hook on what promises to be a brutally ambitious crossover event of the Super-books in the month of November.  Since he introduced H’el this past year, the rogue Kryptonian has become an instantly iconic character, embodying all the negative aspects of a dying race and serving as a brilliant foil for Superman and Supergirl.  In many ways he is also a dark reflection of Superboy, who is himself apart from fellow Kryptonians in the genetic altering that birthed him.  H’el, while not a clone, we now know isn’t a natural Kryptonian, and bears the horrifying visage not because of his escape from Krpyton but rather from being born accidentally from genetic material sent into space and bombarded with cosmic energies.  Like Kon-El, his powers will always be different from those of his fellow Kryptonians and his mind a battlefield of constant rage.  Providing art on this issue is regular Superman artist and oft time Lobdell collaborator, Kenneth Rocafort, as well as Dan Jurgens, Lobdell’s predecessor in writing Superman and the artist who rendered Lobdell’s H’el issue in September during Villain’s month.  Across the board, this issue hits all the right notes and fulfills a promise made in September of 2012 with the appearance of Superman and Superboy in Superman #0 and Supergirl #0.  Lobdell looks to deliver on that promise with interest.

    Supermom Lara Lor-Van.

    Supermom Lara Lor-Van.

  • Green Lantern Annual #2 is a monumental installment in the ongoing Green Lantern mythos.  After the defeat of the First Lantern and the downfall of the Guardians of the Universe, the Green Lantern Corps faces an even greater threat in the form of a cyclopean figure known as Relic.  The sole survivor of the universe that existed before the Big Bang and the creation of our universe, Relic witnessed the death of his reality and awoke just before the death of another.  The cause of this cataclysm was the same both time: Light-wielders.  In our universe they are ringslinging Lanterns.  In Relic’s time they were staff wielding “Lightsmiths.”  Relic realized too late that the light of the emotional spectrum which Lanterns and Lightsmiths utilize was a finite resource within each universe and the gratuitous use of that light moves the doomsday clock closer to the hour of oblivion.  The Lightsmiths of the previous universe dismissed Relic’s research, so this time around he foregoes talk and viciously attacks the “lightsmiths” of our universe to save their reality, over their dead bodies if necessary.  What’s worse, the various entities of the emotional spectrum ally themselves with Relic to help realize his plan to refill the universal reservoir at the “Source.”  Writer Robert Venditti re-introduces the Source Wall into the New DCU, resurrecting the wall that Jack Kirby created in his Fourth World books which demarcates the edge of the universe, composed of the calcified remains of those that try to escape its bounds.  What follows in this issue as the surviving Lanterns of four corps come to blows with Relic for one last ditch battle truly changes everything that we had known about the Green Lantern books for the past eight years.  Keystone friendships come to an end, loyalties are tested, and deals are struck that alter the dynamics that have driven this comic for decades.  What Venditti has accomplished with this five part “Lights Out” crossover arc is truly inspired and well thought out, providing entertaining, innovative storylines, but also prescient social commentary.  Relic’s findings about impending climate and energy collapse, dismissed by the powers that be, bears a striking resemblance to global warming and the current state of fossil fuel depletion.  As our best scientists currently discover more about global warming or the mathematics about the consumption of oil and coal versus the remaining stores the shortsighted in power try to silence them so the cogs of the status quo aren’t halted.  Both sides of the issue and the rationale of each are portrayed equally and fairly by Venditti as he examines it through the lens of intergalactic whimsy.  Sean Chen provides exquisite art that brings the finale of this cosmic odyssey to a poignant close, matching the art of Billy Tan quite well.  Overall, if you are Green Lantern fan, this annual is a must read, regardless of your thoughts on the direction the Green Lantern titles are taking.

    The Power of Life.

    The Power of Life.

  • Aquaman Annual #1 resurrects the work of Geoff Johns’ from his “Others” arc, but this time under the pen of John Ostrander.  The Others were a group of gifted individuals that Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman, joined after accepting his Atlantean heritage and becoming king of Atlantis.  To each of his teammates he gifted a different relic of ancient Atlantis.  He kept the trident, but gave the others to the Others.  It is precisely this fact that gives conflict to the issue’s plotline.  The Operative, Joshua Cole, is given his fallen teammate Vostok’s helmet for safekeeping because his mobile headquarters aboard an aircraft allows the most security.  However, that doesn’t stop it from being absconded with by literal flying monkeys dispatched by an equally literal wicked witch.  Along with the the monkeys come hoards of magically altered sea life, prompting the appearance of Aquaman.  The danger of one of the powerful talismans of Atlantis falling into the wrong hands brings the surviving members of the Others together once again, with honorary members, Sky and the Operative’s grandson, Aaron.  Once they come together the trail leads them to Morgan Le Faye, last seen in the series Demon Knights.  After the fall of Camelot and the various kingdoms that followed little has been told about what happened to Morgan.  Now we get to see how she’s holding up in the present.  In Arthurian myth, Morgana was always a seductive figure that corrupted through her feminine wiles, magic, or power.  In the present era, she puts the Others to the test, finding some to be wanting.  Ostrander writes a fantastic annual that feeds off of the burgeoning mythology of not only the Aquaman series, but also Demon Knights, building upon that foundation new levels to each.  His characterization of Johns’ characters feels very authentic and cuts deep to the core of who they are.  The pencils of Netho Diaz and Geraldo Borges are similar to the pencils of Ivan Reis, original series artist, bringing further authenticity.
  • Nightwing Annual #1, written by Nightwing scribe Kyle Higgins deals with a bevy of complex issues and characters.  Concerning his native topic of Dick Grayson’s life, Nightwing is transitioning into a new phase of his life.  So much of his past has been tied to Gotham and Batman’s legacy.  With the fallout of “Death of the Family” he has been forced to break from all that he has known since he took up with Batman after the death of his parents and forge his own path.  Bruce and his acolytes have become his family in lieu of the parents he lost and the family he once had in Haly’s circus.  Higgins’ run began with him inheriting Haly’s and reestablishing that bond with his first family.  In one fell swoop, the Joker took both the circus and his ability to trust Batman away.  So literally, he is cut off from everything he has ever known and is venturing into uncharted territory.  Higgins also picks up Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, at an equally low and uncertain time in her life.  Barbara is the eldest child of legendary Gotham police commissioner James Gordon and the big sister of sociopathic serial killer, James Gordon Jr.  Recently, when her little brother found his way into her life he set about terrorizing her and their mother to the point of Barbara having no choice but to “put him down.”  The lattermost moment witnessed by her father, which put Batgirl on the top of Commissioner Gordon’s most wanted list.  Hunted by her father in her masked identity and haunted by her actions in her civilian identity, Barbara has forsaken her all-consuming life as Batgirl and tried to figure out who Barbara Gordon actually is.  In the fallout of two lives crumbling, they look to what fragments of their pasts remain for comfort.  One of the hallmark points of both characters’ geneses in masked crime-fighting was a brief teen romance.  Even before the New DCU, back when Barbara was still in the wheelchair, there was a “will they/won’t they” repartee betwixt the two bat-family members.  They’d come close only for fate to pull them apart again.  Higgins picks that up as the two twenty-something vigilantes attempt to save an imperiled actress in a similar situation to their own.  The parallels between their charge’s rocky romantic past and their own draws them closer and closer toward finally realizing what is right in front of them.  Higgins masterfully tells this story of two broken souls, while re-introducing readers to the classic Batman villain, Firefly, all the while layering plot points and metaphor through the narrative.  Helping him in art are Jason Masters, Daniel Sampere, and Vincente Cifuentes, all of whom have done time on the Bat-books and proven their chops depicting Gotham’s cast of characters.  Overall, Higgins hasn’t lost his touch one iota as a writer of Nightwing and those closest to him.

    Young Love.

    Young Love.

  • Teen Titans Annual #2 finds Red Robin, Superboy, and Wonder Girl stabilized in their madcap roller-coaster ride through time, landing twenty years in a seemingly post-apocalyptic future.  The Justice League has fallen.  Batman has fallen.  All that remains is Beast Boy, Rose Wilson, and a ragtag group of meta-teens.  Through this annual, current Teen Titans writer and former Superboy writer Scott Lobdell realizes the near future of the DC Universe.  Even after he left the Superboy title, he came back for the 19th issue, revealing the human heart of the 25th century monster named Harvest and the one thing he loved above all else: his son, Jonathan Kent . . . the first Superboy.  Jonathan comes back in this issue and clone (Kon-El)  finally meets his original (Jonathan).  From issue #1 of Superboy, the boy Supergirl would name Kon-El has been a living weapon molded to cull super-powered individuals.  Trained and honed into a blunt object, a part of him relishes the role, but another part yearns to be free and experience friendship.  The better angels in his soul are what make him Kon.  The part of him that takes pleasure in the sadism he does is the memetic legacy of Jonathan from whom he was cloned.  At the point in the future when this annual takes place, Jonathan has come out of nowhere and nearly eradicated all the meta-humans.  He and Superboy do battle with Superboy actually coming out on top, proving that sometimes originals can be improved upon.  Inheriting Jonathan’s lack of mercy he attempts to coup-de-grace the psychotic super-teen, but as seen in the Action Comics Annual, is drawn from that point in time-space by the Oracle to aid Superman and Supergirl in stopping H’el’s assault on the omniverse.  No rest for Superboy.  In the meantime, Beast Boy councils Red Robin about this future and how it can be avoided and then explains that all the information and preparations he has given them were at Red Robin’s own behest after the three Titans return from this jaunt to the future to prepare themselves to combat this impending doom.  Seems like a time paradox to me, but I suppose with comics you have to check your disbelief at the door.  At the same time Wonder Girl stumbles upon a scrambled holographic record of Red Robin talking about the death of their team and a traitor among their number.  But the most troubling development is that the dying Jonathan is saved by Beast Boy, dressed in Superboy’s costume, and sent back knowingly with the Teen Titans to the past.  A real Hail Mary, but clearly Beast Boy knows what he’s doing since a pysched out Jonathan in the past would endanger his own existence in this future were his intentions untoward.  However, that being the case, it is highly likely that Lobdell is going to have Kon killed in “Return of Krypton” considering that he’s placed a “fake” Superboy among the Titan’s number.  Scott Lobdell has been rocking every DC book he’s touched and his treatment of both this annual and the Action Comics annual has been nothing short of stellar.

    No Mercy for the Merciless.

    No Mercy for the Merciless.

  • Swamp Thing Annual #2 provides a universe hashing interlude between the gauntlet laid down by the Parliament of Trees to decide who should be Avatar of the Green and the actual fight.  Alec Holland is the chosen avatar, but the up-and-coming Seeder has the gumption to challenge that ascendancy.  Writer Charles Soule takes this annual and uses it not only as a way of showing the preparation that Alec has to fight this battle, but also to morph the Swamp Thing mythos into something that is his own.  Original writer Scott Snyder wrote Holland as a prophesied warrior king of the Green.  A messianic figure.  It worked wonders for his run, making it legendary and an epic read.  However, it also left whoever took over the series painted into a corner.  Here Holland is told that he isn’t actually that special and he was just told that by the Parliament to make him believe in himself enough to defeat Anton Arcane and his Rotworld.  Like most political arenas, avatars curry favor and disdain with various members.  When an avatar is retired they join the Parliament.  Holland is championed by a Swamp Thing that looks like a 17th century British gentleman, going by the name “Wolf.”  Wolf shows Alec the ropes and attempts to give him the lay of the political landscape.  He also arranges for him to speak with a very dangerous former Swamp Thing named the “Lady Weed.”  She was challenged for her status as Avatar and she prevailed, showing the depth of her cunning and ruthlessness.  She prevailed through stone-cold brutality and to drive home the point, she brought about the Great Potato Famine in Ireland, the country of origin to her slain rival.  A Swamp Thing must be ruthless if they are to remain the Avatar.  This blow to Alec hits hard, because his humanity has been something he has desperately attempted to hold onto, despite the inhuman thoughts that the Parliament whisper in his mind constantly.  The Wolf sends him to talk to one last person.  The Swamp Thing that the Parliament created artificially to stand in for him, thinking it WAS him.  This Swamp Thing was a cruel joke that despite not being human found humanity and that is what he imparts to Holland. His message to Alec is simple: “If you are asked to do something that will change you in a way you do not wish to be changed, that will compromise the person you believe yourself to be . . . say no.”  The messages given by Weed and the blue Swamp thing are polar opposites and seemingly disharmonious to the goals that the Wolf would have Alec achieve, since he has stock in the retention Alec as Swamp Thing, but what the Wolf has done is give Alec a choice.  He can do as the Green would have him and be the ruthless killer that Lady Weed was to retain her title or he can be the Avatar he wants to be just like the avatars seen at the beginning of this annual did once upon a time.  Charles Soule has taken this issue in hand and made it his own, following in the tradition of Snyder, but telling a story in his own tenor.  Javier Pina and regular series artist Kano provide lush art and incredible visuals to enliven the brilliant scripting of Soule.  This is very much a talking issue and very light on action, but for Swamp Thing faithfuls it is well worth the read. SwampThingAnnual#2
  • Damian: Son of Batman #1 presents an unofficial Elseworld style story about one of the most captivating and controversial characters to come to the Bat-books in the past decade: Damian Wayne.  The sociopathic son of Batman and Talia Al-Ghul, Damian cuts a very rough figure, but beneath the harsh, abrasive exterior beats a human heart that wants the same things his father did and strives toward those goal with equal vigor.  Damian first entered comics in the version we know in 2005 with Batman #647, written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Andy Kubert.  This past year, after a whirlwind tour of writing four series showcasing the characters of Batman and Damian, Grant Morrison killed off the young Wayne.  This series, Damian: Son of Batman, allows Damian’s co-creator Andy Kubert the opportunity to tell Damian’s story in his own way.  In it Batman is immediately killed at the beginning, blown up investigating a crime that seemingly was committed by the Joker.  In the aftermath, Damian is forced to pick up the pieces.  By this time he has grown into a young man, still occupying the role of Robin.  When he goes out to seek justice for his father’s slaying he finds himself alone.  His mother, Talia, and grandfather, Ra’s Al-Ghul, refuse him aid from the League of Assassins and all three of Damian’s predecessors as Robin are not even mentioned.  Ra’s even goes so far as to say that Damian has a greater duty to Batman than he does to the League, even though Ra’s and Talia genetically engineered him to be the next leader of the League, and suggests Damian take his rightful place as the next Batman to carry on his father’s legacy.  Despite his bravado and his overwrought sense of entitlement, Damian can’t even comprehend doing that and continues on as Robin.  As he had in the past and without any guiding light to stop him, his actions are calculated, precise, and brutal as he cuts a trail through villain after villain in Gotham seeking vengeance for his father.  The only voices of reason are a priest insinuated to be former police commissioner James Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth.  Andy Kubert ends the issue with a left field twist that could fundamentally alter everything this first issue led us to believe.  Kubert is a phenomenal artist and has proven so over the past several decades consistently.  The scion of comics legend, Joe Kubert (Rest in Peace), how could he not be.  However, this issue proves that not only did he inherit his father’s artistic ability, he is also gifted with his father’s narrative genius.  This series in its first installment IS Andy Kubert, revealing through pacing, plotting, style, and voice intimately the kind of person and storyteller that Kubert is.  The only things about this issue that aren’t him are the coloring done by Brad Anderson and the lettering done by Nick Napolitano.  Andy Kubert proved his mettle on the Villains Month Joker issue and now proves it again, giving his co-creation his own four issue send off.  This is certainly a series worth reading, not only for fans of Batman, but also fans of comics in general as the son of a deceased father attempts to take up his mantle and carry on his good works.  Am I referring to Damian and Bruce Wayne or Andy and Joe Kubert?  Therein lies the question.

    Heavy Weighs the Cowl.

    Heavy Weighs the Cowl.

  • Sandman: Overture #1 is the much anticipated prequel to Neil Gaiman’s first issues of Sandman, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the publication of the first issue.  The plot of this first installment is very hazy, ambling like a dream through various locations, situations, and characters.  It begins in a far off galaxy where the dominant form of life are sentient plants, with Morpheus (Dream) taking the form of a white flower upon a tall black leafed stalk.  It is in this visage that he first begins to feel somethingSandmanOverture1-1 strange in the Dreaming.  As the issue progresses, classic Sandman characters are slowly introduced to the reader for any jumpers on to the series, unfamiliar with the previous storylines.  The Corinthian makes an appearance, as does Dream’s big sister, Death, as well as his eldest sibling, the blind sage Destiny.  The issue terminates with Dream being summoned instinctually to a convocation of various versions of himself with the purpose as yet to be revealed.  Though the plot is vague, Gaiman has the style to whet his audiences appetite and entertain them despite the lack of concrete revelation.  As stated before, the plot is drawn out and nonlinear like a dream, adding to the ambiance.  Also contributing enormously to the ambiance is the peerless art of J.H. Williams III who lends his masterful talents.  When Williams and colorist Dave Stewart come together the product is magical and throw in Gaiman’s writing and you know that you are in for a show.  However, the true joy of Williams’ involvement in the book is the fallow ground Gaiman’s script grants him to spread his wings.  Through various segments of the issue his style changes, so while the beginning scenes on the plant planet are rich and vibrant, the following pages in 1915 London are dark, sketchy, and greytoned with inkwash treatments, only to later transition further into woodblocked fully monochromatic panels with the entrance of George Porcullis, and jumping ahead to the end with the four page fold out of different Morpheuses, each version of Dream is done differently some blue line prototypical, some very roughly drawn as though by a child, and some with no lines and just smeared hazy edges as though appearing from the ether.  In short this issue is one with no limitations and endless possibilities.  The pairing of two consummate geniuses on this anniversarial opus is nothing short of inspired and something for geeks around the world to rejoice about.

    Convocation of Dreams.

    Convocation of Dreams.

So ends a truly incredible batch of Annuals and special issues.  There was not one throw away book this week, with every issue put out adding something important to their imprints, titles, and subject material.  A fantastic way to end the month of October.

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 #2:  Art by Kenneth Rocafort & Dan Jurgens, Colored by Tomeu Morey & Blond.

Green Lantern Annual #2:  Drawn by Sean Chen, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse & Wil Quintana, Inked by Jon Sibal & Walden Wong.

Nightwing Annual Annual #1:  Art by Jason Masters, Daniel Sampere & Vincente Cifuentes, Colored by Chris Sotomayor.

Teen Titans Annual #2:  Art by Barry Kitson, Art Thibert, Jesus Merino & Scott Hanna, Colored by Pete Pantazis.

Swamp Thing Annual #2:  Art by Kano.

Damian: Son of the Batman #1:  Art by Andy Kubert, Colored by Brad Anderson.

Sandman: Overture #1:  Art by J.H. Williams III, Colored Dave Stewart.

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Week 88 (May 8, 2013)

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

    Bruce Wayne and the Batman

    Bruce Wayne and the Batman

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

    Old Wounds Made Fresh

    Old Wounds Made Fresh

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

    Dissent in the Ranks

    Dissent in the Ranks

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

    A Fateful Encounter

    A Fateful Encounter

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

    A Whole New Perspective

    A Whole New Perspective

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

 

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Week 84 (April 10, 2013)

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

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

    A Father's Love

    A Father’s Love

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

    A Mother's Love/Hate

    A Mother’s Love/Hate

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

    A Father's Love

    A Father’s Love

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

Week 76 (Feb. 13, 2013)

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

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

    The Secret . . .

    The Secret . . .

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

    Dark Destiny

    Dark Destiny

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

    The Herald and the Oracle

    The Herald and the Oracle

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

    A Lady of Stealth

    A Lady of Stealth

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

Week 73 (Jan. 23, 2013)

This week is shaping up to be a juggernaut.  So many incredible titles are coming out in so many amazing events: “Death of the Family”, “Green Lantern: Rise of the Third Army”, “Before Watchmen”, “Throne of Atlantis”, and “H’el on Earth.”  Throw in Batwoman and Sword of Socery and you have a real party.  I am literally shaking with anticipation to crack the first book of this massive week.  So let’s not keep me waiting any longer:

  • Justice League #16 brings on part three of the “Throne of Atlantis” crossover.  I have had a great deal of negative feedback on most of Johns’ current endeavors, and most notably in this title.  He’s bastardized a great deal of things and I stick to my previous opinions.  However, in this issue he returns to doing what he had done  so well prior to the Reboot.  This issue is rich in allusions to other DC characters and concepts, such as Dr. Magnus and the Metal Men, Dr. T.O. Morrow and Red Tornado, Tula of Atlantis, etc., reintroducing them in conversationally appropriate ways and with interesting new contexts.  What he also does is humanize all parties involved.  Though I don’t enjoy how nemish and shortsighted he’s made seminal characters like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, perhaps there is a realism within that is necessary to the execution of this very morally complex plot.  Conversely, what Johns did seven and a half years ago with Sinestro, making him not a straight out psychopathic villain but rather a complex antihero, he does in this series with Aquaman’s brother, King Orm, aka Ocean Master.  Stakes are high and tensions are at a breaking point.  This issue marks the halfway point and despite my aversion to this series, Johns has me hook, line, and sinker.  In the SHAZAM! backup feature Johns has progressed past the ludicrous beginnings of the series and entered into a new version of the Captain Marvel mythology that is both rich and nuanced.  I really enjoyed this one, actually.  Although, Billy does revert back to his child self at the end, which could mean a return to the awful presentation of Billy Batson that Johns so unskillfully presented before.  My hope is that being in an adult’s body for even the short duration that four months of comics equates to will at least marginally mature him so we don’t have to witness his infantile crap for another slew of issues.  I have hope for this series after reading this issue, but retain the past failures of the series pragmatically within memory.

    Atlantis Rising!

    Atlantis Rising!

  • Batwoman #16 returns our protagonist to her hometown of Gotham as it descends into utter chaos with the advent of Medusa herself.  With Wonder Woman accompanying her, the duo this arc dubs the “World’s Finest” sets out to subdue Medusa’s mythological forces (complete with gargantuan Hydra) and rescue the children abducted by the mad gorgon.  Its all hands on deck.  Not only are Batwoman and Wonder Woman on the streets of Gotham, but most of the Gotham City Police Department led by Batwoman’s lover, Det. Maggie Sawyer, and DEO agent Cameron Chase and Director Bones.  In this penultimate chapter of the arc spanning storyline its all or nothing.  Batwoman has found Medusa and the missing children.  Medusa’s horrifying plot is revealed in full as she attempts to resurrect the literal “mother of all monster” into the mortal world with the sacrifice of the innocent children.  However it goes down, next issue is the end of this first overarching storyline and the end of Batwoman’s first real test as a Gotham City superhero.  J.H. Williams III does a stunning job rendering this story from an equally stunning script by W. Haden Blackman and himself.  I don’t know if I will be able to wait until February to find out the end of this conflict that has almost been two years in the making.

    The Mother of All Monsters

    The Mother of All Monsters

  • Green Lantern #16 picks up with Simon Baz after learning the truth behind the bombing he was framed for and the appearance of B’dg, Green Lantern of Sector 1014.  The stunning revelation last issue was that the Green Lantern Corps is aware of the Guardians of the Universe’s plot to destroy free will throughout the universe with their Third Army.  B’dg comes to Earth seeking Hal Jordan, the greatest of their number, to enlist his aid in stopping their masters from realizing their mad scheme.  To his dismay, the ringslinger he finds is not only a rookie, but inherited his ring from Sinestro and Hal, both of whom have disappeared.  Baz is needed regardless if the Corps is going to stand a chance against the Guardians.  Before he can leave, he has things to attend to on Earth and despite B’dg’s impatience, Baz proves himself to be a Green Lantern like no other as well as possessing an incredible amount of will, on par with all of his Earth lantern brothers.  Another awesome issue from Geoff Johns and artist Doug Mahnke.
  • Green Lantern Corps #16 unites the Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps titles in anticipation of next week’s Green Lantern Corps Annual #1.  Stripped of his ring and rank, Guy Gardner returns to Earth a broken man attempting to find a new purpose in life.  As with most things Guy does, he mismanages his actions and ends up being arrested . . . by his brother and sister.  While they are interrogating him in lock up, the Third Army attacks and takes out guards and inmates alike.  Its looking bleak for the Gardner siblings, but help is not far away in the form of Simon Baz, newest Earth Green Lantern, and B’dg, squirrel Green Lantern of Sector 1014.  With their aid a crisis is averted and Guy becomes aware of the Guardians plot and his being a casualty of it.  Elsewhere in the universe, John Stewart continues his mission with Fatality of the Star Sapphires to find the missing pieces of Mogo (the deceased planet GL) and reunite them so the slain Green Lantern can reform and become whole.  Though not much is revealed about this, the reformation of Mogo seems like it will have a great impact on events, but the fact that the Guardians willed it to happen portends ominous tidings.  I cannot wait to see what the Green Lantern Corps Annual next week has in store for us, the GL’s, and the universe in general.
  • Green Lantern: New Guardians #16 is one of those issues that you wait for for a very long time and once it arrives you swoon at its near perfection.  I have compared this second arc of the series after the “Ring Thief” arc that comprised its second year of publication as similar to “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”  Indeed, with Kyle’s transmogrified ring he has the ability to channel all seven colors of the emotional spectrum.  From previous experience in Blackest Night we know that this convocation would lead to him becoming a White Lantern.  He’s obviously mastered Green, and has preternatural talent with Blue (hope) as we saw in New Guardians #0.  With the help of Atrocitus he’s mastered Red (hate), Arkillo with Yellow (fear), and the seeming lack of help from Larfleeze he’s tapped Orange (greed).  Indigo-1’s tutoring of Indigo (compassion) was glossed over, which not only doesn’t make sense, considering its immense power, it also undermines his having to do anything past that, taking into account that Indigo Lanterns (or Tribesman, if you will) can channel any emotion they are in contact with.  That all aside, Violet (love) is the last emotion that stands between Kyle and his complete mastery of the emotional spectrum.  However, Kyle is one that has been stunted in the love department for almost his entire life, finding it hard to vocalize, so this last hurdle is the most difficult for him to surmount.  And wouldn’t you know that this would be the time that Ganthet, his former mentor and now Guardian of the Universe gone mad, would arrive with his Third Army thugs to snuff out Kyle before he can become a threat.  The stakes in this series have never been so high and Kyle will either shine brighter than he ever has or be snuffed out like a candle in the wind.  Tony Bedard is a brilliant.  Period.  Aaron Kuder adds to this masterpiece issue with peerless pencils and inks.  I am bookmarking this issue in the annuls of my mind.
  • Before Watchmen: Minutemen #6 closes out the series and does so with crushing impetus.  The saga of the Minutemen, chronicled narratively and visually by the incomparable Darwin Cooke, has been one that cuts to the heart and character of its band of players.  Most of them were glossed over in the original Watchmen series by Alan Moore, but with DC’s exploration of the Before Watchmen line, each gets their overdue turn in the limelight.  Following the murder of the Silhouette and her long crusade to stop child predators and Nite Owl’s picking up of that crusade after her death events point to Hooded Justice, the most secretive Minuteman of the bunch, as the murderer and torturer of young children.  This issue is the final account that ties up the series and answers questions that has been lingering through several Before Watchmen series.  From the Ozymandias series “What happened to Hooded Justice, and why are the Comedian and the Government so keen to keep it a secret?”  From the Nite Owl series “What is the secret that is so damning that Hollis Mason, the first Nite Owl (and main character in Minutemen), which he is so keen to keep hidden forever?”  This issue answers those questions and more in a truly terrifying and unbelievable sequence of events that will alter forever the way most readers look on the background cast of characters in Watchmen.  Darwyn Cooke’s prowess with a pencil and pen and his genius as a writer are unparalleled here and stand as an eternal monument to his place in comic book history.

    The End of an Era

    The End of an Era

  • Legion of Super-Heroes #16  returns to the Levitz-ian paradigm of storytelling with multiple stories and issues being put forward.  First on the docket, Chamelon Boy, Lightning Lass, and Shrinking Violet go to Takron-Galtos, the United Planets’ prison world, to check on the status of the Fatal Five member, Validus.  Since Legion of Super-Heroes #8 last April, the resurrection of the Legion’s most powerful group of antagonists, the Fatal Five, has been in the offing.  Bit by bit, evidence that they have been reforming in secret is being brought to light.  Validus, thought to be safely locked in a cube of inertron is one of the last pieces to the puzzle.  On the other side of the universe, at the Legion HQ, Brainiac 5 is busy trying to ascertain the cause of Glorith’s abduction last issue to Barcelona and the why and how of her causing a time rift, bringing forth denizens of that city from across its long history.  Lastly, and as an interim plot between these plo tpoints, the Legion election is drawing to a close and the Legionnaires debate amongst themselves who should lead the team as the votes are tallied to decided said leader.  This series is ironically one of the most realistic, because of the writing style of Paul Levitz, who gets that with a team of this size a lot of crazy things are going to happen simultaneously, and that with young heroes like these egos and hormones are going to stir things up.
  • Nightwing #16 brings the “Death of the Family” tie-in of this title to a close as it did in both Batgirl and Batman & Robin, with the Joker holding a platter in front of the title’s protagonist and the solicitation that a conclusion will come in Batman #17.  The twofold storyline of this title’s tie-in was really well played by writer Kyle Higgins.  Last month’s issue setup quite well an inventory of everything Dick Grayson had built up and the people whose trust he had earned.  Following the Joker’s reemergence and Dick’s realization that he had made them all targets, he did his best to cut ties and ferry everyone around him to safety.  This issue shows not only how great his failures are, but to what lengths the Joker would go to make a point and just how resourceful he can be.  One scene I think shows his attention to detail at its most nightmarish +throughout the entire line of Batbooks.  Admittedly the human tapestry in Batman #16 was gruesome, but pales in comparison to the detail and and scope of his carnival show at Haly’s.  Like Tim, Jason, and Damian, Joker really gets to the heart of what should be Dick’s main strengths and shows how they are really his greatest weaknesses. For Dick it’s his compassion and interpersonal nature.  So much of what he worked his entire life to build could very well burn down in the space of a single evening.  I have no idea what the title holds after the final page of Batman #17 and the first several pages  of Nightwing #17, but I am going to be there for both.  Good ending or bad, I sense ill tidings for Haly’s and its owner, the benighted Nightwing.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #16 crosses over with Teen Titans as the Outlaws (Starfire and Roy Harper) team up with the Titans to find their respective teammates (Jason and Tim) who were kidnapped by the Joker and brought to Gotham.  Both series are written by Scott Lobdell, who clearly is more than qualified to execute this crossover.  The issue in fact reads more like a Teen Titans issue than a Red Hood issue.  In fact, they don’t actually show Jason or Tim once in this issue.  Jason’s red hood yes, but not the man who wears it. Most of the issue is Roy and Starfire hauling the Titan’s “turkey out of the fire” as they fumble to fix the fallout from the Joker’s trap the Titans fell into, and the aforementioned teens being really angsty and resentful for it.  It is interesting seeing how the two teams gel as they are forced to work together, and some very interesting backstory of Roy’s is revealed as he begins to relate with the overly emo teens he’s having to take charge of.  On the periphery of this issue’s storyline are two seemingly unrelated references, one to Dr. Hugo Strange doing a book signing and the other to Deathstroke throwing knives at three pictures of each of the Outlaws and a brief comment on how he sometimes takes jobs simply for the fun of it.  I don’t know if this is Lobdell introducing plots to the two titles post-“Death of the Family” or what, but they are intriguing to say the least.
  • Supergirl #16 begins with the awakening of the giant crustacean looking beast that blew the Horn of Confluence in Superman #1 seventeen months ago, as well Superman #0 five months ago, and ends with the first image of the master whom the herald’s horn summons.  In between, H’el’s nightmarish plot for our solar system nearly reaches its conclusion and without Superman or Superboy (see last week’s review of Superboy #16) the Justice League is force to muddle though.  Flash’s task is to find Supergirl and get her away from H’el and out of the way of his endgame.  However, the Maiden of Steel is dead set on saving her home planet even at the expense of our solar system and every living thing residing within.  Her hopes and dreams are understandable, but her blindness to the value of human life and our right to existence is deplorable at best.  She’s a teenager who is homesick.  Its no excuse, but a reason to hold onto as she backs the wrong team.  Mike Johnson does an excellent job writing this series, especially its larger implications into a wider storyline, and Mahmud Asrar draws it decently well.

    Advent of the Oracle

    Advent of the Oracle

  • Superboy Annual #1 was a little trippy, taking place in a pocket dimension contained and generated by a device that Superman took off an evil space pirate in some far off quadrant of the universe.  The whole of the issue revolves around Superboy and his Kryptonian progenitor, Superman, blundering through different, shifting locales within, battling the denizens of this temporal prison as well as the sentient dimension itself.  The title falls under the “H’el on Earth” crossover event, but fails as an issue and an annual to do anything relevant to that goal.  If anything it hinders, rather than explores it.  So what does it accomplish?  Very little.  I think writer Tom DeFalco was aiming to further characterize the two characters in relation to one another, showing their differences and how each would cope with the other.  It did not, in my opinion, accomplish that in any significant way either.  All it did was bring out their worst characteristics of both in caricature.  I respect Tom DeFalco and the work he has done on this title since taking it over greatly.  I also have enormous respect Scott Lobdell, who wrote this series initially, and who tried to show the disjointed dynamic of these two men in the last issue of the Superman title.  He didn’t pull it off, in my opinion, either.  As Superboy #0 primed us to believe, Harvest preprogrammed Superboy to hate Superman and want to kill him.  That hasn’t happened yet, which begs the question of what that was about if they aren’t going to run with it?  This annual falls under the category of not really relevant or necessary to read.  If you fail to read it, you lose nothing in understanding the larger events going on in the series or miss out on a worthwhile yarn.  Better luck next time.
  • Catwoman #16 is a bit of a disappointment as the title goes.  I was a fan of writer Ann Nocenti’s early work on Green Arrow, but that has not translated to good writing on the rest of that series or through to this series.  The “Death of the Family” tie-in turned out to be a joke of an issue, and not a funny one the Joker would take pride in.  This two issue run beginning last issue and concluding here was laughable as well and thoroughly pointless.  Dealing with the current whereabouts of the Black Diamond, perhaps it will be the two issues that introduces Eclipso back into the DCU, but I doubt that will have any importance either.  I tried to find something good to say about this issue, but just couldn’t.  It was the opposite of what is good.
  • Blue Beetle #16 was a swan song to the seventeen issues of this series that have come out, ending in the Tenebrian Dominion and linking the continuance of fifteen year old Jaime Reyes’ (Blue Beetle) journey to the Threshold series and the “Hunted” reality show.  Jaime does his utmost to fight his way out of the grasp of the Ebon warriors of Lady Styx and get home to his family, but that isn’t in the cards . . . at least not yet.  He tries really hard.  However, when his last flicker of hope is blown out, he has his armor send a video file across the far reaches of space (It’s a comic, just go with it) to the emails of his parents and best friends telling them Jaime is going to come home someday, but in the event that he can’t, just how much each of them meant to him.  It is a beautiful moment despite the tragedy that befalls Blue Beetle as it plays out.  His words to each party involved are brief, but just right, clearly touching each person deeply.  Succumbing to his captors the issue closes, but it does so not with finality, but with infinite possibilities.  I was leery about this series when it first came out and for awhile it teetered on the edge of getting dropped.  I am so glad I saw it through to this last issue.  It was worth every step of the journey and I will continue to follow Jaime into Threshold.
  • Wonder Woman #16 brings the narrative back on track, setting the main characters’ sights (literally) on the baby of Zola and Zeus.  With the help of Wonder Woman’s brother, Milan, the group are able to see that the baby is in the arms of both Hermes and Demeter in the latter’s stronghold.  We are given further information about just why Orion has come to Earth and what his intentions are regarding the Gods of Earth.  In the Arctic, we see the First Born battling the forces of one of his unnamed uncles that were sworn to guard his burial place as well as the unmasked benefactor of the First Born who dug him out of the tundra.  The identity of this person caught me a little off guard and I look forward to future revelations regarding that character.  Finally Zola and Hera, who really hate one another and have tried to kill each other often, find a common ground and begin to thaw in their relations with one another.  This issue by Brian Azzarello really was intriguing, as well as giving evidence of greatness to come in future installments.  Cliff Chiang remains an incredible artist and renders all aspects perfectly in the tone dictated by Azzarello’s story.
    The Baby with the Starry Eyes

    The Baby with the Starry Eyes

  • DC Universe Presents: Black Lightning and Blue Devil #16, like last time,  is a placeholder, but one that ends the current story arc.  Here’s hoping the next three issues are better.
  • JSA Liberty Files: The Whistling Skull #2 was yet again confusing.  I’m going to have to do two placeholders in a row, because while this series has yet to come together in any meaningful way, I hold out hope that it will eventually when writer B. Clay Moore decides we should start to understand it.  Honestly though, this issue and its predecessor were just random events thrown into a metaphorical blender.  The only thing that links the two are references to the children disappearing and then being incinerated from the inside out.  Other than that the characters, their origins, motives, and affiliations are all a complete blank.  Holding down the fort is Tony Harris with incredible art.  Barring that and its association with the other two JSA: Liberty Files miniseries, I would say pass this one up.
  • Sword of Sorcery #4 begins with an Amethyst story taking place after she concluded her stint in Justice League Dark #14 but before she returns to her “home world”, the gem world of Nilaa.  Asking Constantine to take her quickly to Chicago for a last taste of pizza before returning to a world without Italian food from which she may never return, she stumbles across more evil magic on Earth that demands her attention.  This little yarn wasn’t that interesting or important to the main story, so we’ll chock this installment up to a less than exciting vacation and continue with the series anew next month, this time back in Nilaa where the character truly belongs, both inside and outside of the narrative. Also this month begins the Stalker backup feature written by the DC Universe Presents: Black Lightning and Blue Devil scribe, Marc Andreyko.  I didn’t care for his above storyline and I can’t say that I liked this one either.  It was okay.  Much better than the Black Lightning and Blue Devil story, but the problem was that he was re-imagining a work of genius from the past with which I had a deep affection.  Paul Levitz wrote four issues of the Stalker series with Steve Ditko on pencils, before the series was cancelled due to the comic book implosion of the late 70’s.  With the original, it was a true swords & sorcery title that had a very straightforward, dark, and twisted character.  This run by Andreyko tried too hard to make him grandiose and relatable and totally missed the mark on all counts.  It then proceeds to show him living through the ages and emerging in the here and now, which again is completely WRONG for this title.  For those who want to know more about what the original series is about, I am going to put this link to my review of the Steve Ditko Omnibus in which the four issue of the Stalker series are collected: https://offthepanelcomicreview.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/review-the-steve-ditko-omnibus-vol-1-starring-shade-the-changing-man/
  • Saucer Country #11 tells the story of Governor Alvarado returning with her ex-husband, Michael, to the farm he grew up on.  Taking a detour from aliens, this story focuses on another folklore very akin to alien sightings but far more terrestrial.  Instead of little gray men, this issue has little winged men and women.  As children, Michael and his sister, Beth, used to see fairies and go on magical adventures.  He relives some of these memories including the last great encounter before things changed and he and Beth were forced to abandon belief in what they knew in their hearts actually happened.  Upon revisiting the events with people who were around back then, Michael realizes the truth behind the trauma that conjured fairies in the mind of two young innocent children.  The harsh reality that he discovers and the way the mind coped by sugaring the event over with fairies leads the reader to wonder what that holds for the existence of aliens and their role in the larger story being told here.  Paul Cornell continues this magnum opus, spawned from a lifelong fascination with alien mythology, with great talent and insight, constantly making the reader think and always keeping any inkling of what is going on cleanly out of reach.

Thus ends an incredible week of comics.  I am giddy as the fallout of the better titles play out in my head.  I dare say this may be the best week in comics I have read this month and perhaps in a long time.  Not all the best, but collectively there was a high quotient of awesome that is rarely matched let alone surpassed.  We’ll see if next week, the final of the January, can stand the test.  While I highly doubt it, I will be there to test them.  Hope you will too.

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 #16:  Drawn by Ivan Reis, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Joe Prado & Ivan Reis

Batwoman #16:  Art by J.H. Williams III, Colored by Dave Stewart

Green Lantern: New Guardians #16:  Art by Aaron Kuder, Colored by Wil Quintana

Before Watchmen: Minutemen #6: Art by Darwyn Cooke, Colored by Phil Noto

Supergirl #16: Art by Mahmud Asrar, Colored by Dave McCaig

Wonder Woman #16: Art by Cliff Chiang, Colored by Matthew Wilson

Week 72 (Jan. 16, 2013)

Apart from three issues of the epic “Death of the Family” crossover event in the Batman line of books and the inaugural issue of the Threshold series, this was a relatively light and somewhat depressing week.

  • Batman #16  further evinces just how insane the Joker has become.  Descending into Arkham where the Joker has set up shop, the horrible truth of his activities since reemerging become fully revealed.  Delving through each stage of the Joker’s labyrinth Batman and the reader are keyed into the warped fantasy world that the Joker has constructed around his archnemesis in a really creepy, almost sexualized love affair.  Every facet is symbolized by a feudal archetype, often times based on Arthurian lore.  The armed inmates are Batman’s “knights”, each of his villains a different councilor (Scarecrow the physician, Riddler the strategist, Two-Face the judge, etc.) and a test of pulling an electrified chainsaw from a stone as a sign of kingship.  There is a great deal to the plot, but hardly any way of speaking about it without giving some part of it away.  What is apparent is writer Scott Snyder’s plumbing of the darkest recesses of his mind, as well as some serious slasher and snuff flicks to conceive of this plot, and especially this issue.  Present is definitely “The Human Centipede”, bits of “Saw”, and the Italian film “Salo” which I am not proud to admit that I have seen . . .  Clearly, this issue to me to a dark place I was reticent to visit. 

    The Royal Court of Batman

    The Royal Court of Batman

  • Batgirl #16 delivers the final issue of the “”Death of the Family” tie in until next month’s Batman #17. Barbara Gordon arrives at her “wedding” to the Joker as the mad clown has demanded in exchange for her mother’s safety.  Right out of the gate, you know things aren’t kosher with the situation.  Why the Joker would want to marry Batgirl is perplexing enough, added to what the catch is going to be.  And as of yet, this plot of the Joker’s is the only “Death of the Family” plot that doesn’t go exactly to plan.  The end goal, as far as the major tie into the larger Batman storyline at the end goes to plan, but there is a major hiccup with the appearance of Barbara’s brother, James Gordon Jr.  I love Batgirl and while I don’t believe that the gruesome plans the Joker has for her will come to fruition, she will still have fresh trauma added to the lingering psychological damage he left when he shot her in the stomach, paralyzing her for a time, and the sexual assault he subjected her to subsequently.  Next month’s issue can’t come soon enough.  I NEED closure on this story arc.

    The Wedding of Batgirl

    The Wedding of Batgirl

  •  Batman & Robin #16 showcases a nightmarish and as yet unexplained scenario where, to get his “revenge” on Robin (Damian Wayne), the Joker puts the Boy Wonder up against a Joker juiced Batman in an all out death match.  The issue follows the match between father and son, both formidable in their own right, on a back and forth momentum with the Joker on the sidelines giving color commentary.  Its not largely a story issue, but the visual aspects of two titans fighting one another is more than enough to compensate.  Like Batgirl above, it ends with the Joker holding a platter and the solicitation that it will all be concluded in Batman #17.  Also like Batgirl, I await resolution on this with baited breath.
  • Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E #16 is an enigma.  The past couple issues have been “Rot World” tie-ins, with last issue revealing one of the most interesting developments to date.  This issue returns to the real world as we know it with no explanation of how the last issue’s transpirings resolve themselves.  That’s all fine and well.  The answers may lie in the final issues of Animal Man and Swamp Thing’s delvings into “Rot World.”  However, this issue returns to the real world abruptly for what apparently is the final issue of the series, treating the whole thing like business as usual.  Maybe that’s the right call, but staying with the “Rot World” storyline for one more issue not only would make sense considering the lead up that writer Matt Kindt left himself, but would also be a blowout way to end the series rather than this issue, which was disjointed, rushed, and clearly thrown together with no larger plan in mind.  A group of young radicals have gotten their hands on a viral generator that will release a metaphysical pathogen with the power to convert those it touches into monstrosities.  The issue ends.  The series ends.  Nothing really is accomplished.
  • Threshold #1 spins out of Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual #1, following the “Hunted” in its main feature.  “The Hunted” is a televised manhunt of criminals and individuals found to be undesirable to the reign of Lady Styx in the Tenebrian Dominion.  As of the conclusion to the New Guardians Annual, deep cover Green Lantern, Jediah Cull, is blown and entered into the “Hunted.”   The rules state that the hunted will be give one day (relative to the planet’s solar cycle) of impunity before all citizens of the Dominion are given free reign to hunt them for a bounty correspondingly sized to their offense to Lady Styx.  Caul is given his allotted time and then the fun begins.  The rest of the feature shows Caul, and other “Hunted” fugitives, banding together and beginning the semblance of a resistance.  Caul and a spunky young brunette named Ember band together for a time, evading capture, while across the planet a former female soldier turned hunted, code-named Stealth, meets up with a man named Ric Starr of the Space Rangers, also now a hunted, to discuss an underground movement of survivors within the Dominion who have begun measures to undermine the tracking systems used to hunt them.  There is some really interesting stuff happening here and a VERY decent start to the New DCU’s first official cosmic odyssey. In the Larfleeze backup feature, we are shown a very concise representation of Larfleeze that sums up his entire being quite thoroughly as the living embodiment of pure avarice and then introduces us to a sequence of events that would be the greatest nightmare for a personage like Larfleeze.  Its hard to tell which feature is better.  Both are written brilliantly by the incredible Keith Giffen, with Tom Raney providing very lustrous art on The Hunted and Scott Kolins, the same who provided art for Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual, rendering Larfleeze with his angular, volatile style that so aptly fits Larfleeze’s personality.  This series has great potential.

    LARFLEEZE!!!

    LARFLEEZE!!!

  • Demon Knights #16 ushers in a second stage to the series.  Series creator, Paul Cornell, finished his run on the series with issue #15, and Robert Venditti takes over bringing the series thirty years into the future.  In the far eastern boundaries of Europe Cain, the first vampire, as revealed to us in the atrocious I, Vampire series, begins a reign of terror converting or slaughtering entire communities.  In the West the Demon Knights are being hunted one by one and taken to Moorish Spain.  Though seemingly sinister in nature, the Caliph has a need for their services to end the terror of Cain in the East as he moves his way west.  Bernard Chang remains on art, keeping the feel of the book visually in tact.  Venditti himself does a good job in this first book keeping the narrative close to that of his predecessor, but time will tell if he can maintain its excellence.
  • Superboy #16 presents the Justice League’s effort to retake the Fortress of Solitude from H’el and his protegee, Supergirl.  Batman plans the operation and each member, including Superboy, has a very specific role.  Superboy gets them in, and from there H’el’s control of the Fortress is put to the test.  Flash’s mission is to get Supergirl away from H’el and hopefully neutralize her until the threat to our solar system is ended.  The issue takes a bizarre turn when a portable pocket dimensional prison in Superman’s arsenal goes berserk putting a definite hampering on the JL’s plan.  Also ominous is the reappearance of the giant crustacean looking herald from the first issue of Superman.  The end may be closer than we initially thought.

    The Herald Awakens

    The Herald Awakens

  • The Ravagers #8 is sort of strange, taking place in a rural mountain community in Colorado.  One of Harvest’s experiments used to live there and upon returning becomes a carrier for an infectious radioactive condition that causes its host to explode and infect others who also explode and so on down the line.  Rose Wilson and Warblade go in to stem the carnage in the hopes of preventing Harvest from learning that they allowed the escapee out from under their noses.  This means trying to contain the epidemic and save the lives of as many townsfolk as possible.  To those who have read this series, as well as Teen Titans and Superboy, these two Ravagers being altruistic is the opposite of rational.  But that isn’t the only impossible thing that occurs, as the ending of this issue quite vividly evinces.  Howard Mackie, the series’ first writer, exists stage left and Michael Alan Nelson takes the helm.  He does a good job of maintaining the status quo, and to be honest, until I began writing this review I hadn’t even noticed that Mackie had left.  Also M.I.A is artist Ian Churchill who is replaced by Ig Guara.
  • Ame-Comi Girls: Power Girl reunites writer Jimmy Palmiotti with the character that he seems to love to write.  Unlike the past couple of issues, this one spins a tale independent of the proceedings of the past several issues.  Power Girl is in Metropolis, literally the “City of Tomorrow”, which is a result of her using Kryptonian tech to modernize its infrastructure.  Fighting xenophobic terrorists, she triumphs as an superheroic humanitarian usually does and goes to Smallville to recuperate with the Kents.  While there her cousin Kara Zor-El shows up in a space ship and we are shown that apparently in this universe, Power Girl is Kara JOR-El.  Upon her cousin’s arrival all hell breaks loose on an intergalactic scale (in Smallville no less) and the title finally connects with the previous three issues.
  • Green Hornet: Year One Special #1 resurrects for one special issue the brilliant origin series of the original Green Hornet that concluded two years ago and was written by the incomparable Matt Wagner.  This issue isn’t written by Wagner, nor is it drawn by Aaron Campbell, but the world created by those two in the original series remain alive and well in this new special.  Following a spunky female newsie with an alcoholic dad, we see the exploits of the Green Hornet (supposedly a bad guy) through the eyes of an innocent child raised on the mean streets of 1930’s Chicago.  Its exciting, its nuanced, it feels like an old serial.  This book was a delight to read and it was interesting to figure out just who was the main character, the Hornet or the newsie, Ruby.  Even though it was just one issue, it was fun revisiting this title.

    Green Girl

    Green Girl

This week was a little hit or miss and not as up to par as some of its predecessors.  Still it had some real gems in the bunch.  Next week promises to be much better with Batwoman and three Green Lantern titles hitting the racks, as well as two more “Death of the Family” tie-ins and the concluding issue of Before Watchmen: Minutemen.  Can’t wait.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #16: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Jonathan Glapion

Batgirl #16: Art by Ed Benes, Colored by Ulises Arreola

Threshold #1: Art by Scott Kolins, Colored by John Kalisz

Superboy #16: Drawn by Iban Coello & Amilcar Pinna, Colored by Richard & Tanya Horie, Inked by Rob Lean & Amilcar Pinna

Green Hornet: Year One Special #1: Art by Edu Menna, Colored by Marcelo Pinto

 

Week 67 (Dec. 12, 2012)

This week is truly a “Bat Week.”  With the Batman title leading the way in the “Death of the Family” event, it swiftly got backup in the form of Batgirl #15, Batman & Robin #15, and Suicide Squad #15.  All incredible books in their own right.  Also, as I am wont to point out different milestones and astrological phenomenon, I will point out that in the middle of reading Batgirl #15 the clock struck 12:12:12 pm on 12/12/12.  This won’t happen for another century so I want to make note of this history event.  So noted, here is the rest of the week:

  • Batman #15 is unrelenting in the clarity and starkness of writer Scott Snyder’s vision of a truly twisted, nightmarish Joker.  From the beginning of his time writing the character several years ago (which technically was Dick Grayson’s Batman then) he has imagined stories that cut to the quick of each subject he undertakes.  His work on the Bruce Wayne Batman began with the “Court of Owls”, a brand new concept, but one that went straight to the quintessence of who and what Bruce Wayne and Batman are.  Almost eighty years of character boiled, distilled, and brought to a simmer, leaving us to read one of the purest Batman depictions ever written.  This issue in Snyder’s second arc jumps from the Bat to his most iconic nemesis: the Joker.  Over the decades the Joker has taken on many guises and iterations, but the intimacy between him and his pointy eared playmate has remained a constant.  This issue especially digs into canon and molds a horrifying thought of just HOW intimate that fascination was and what that kind of psychotic obsession can descend into when someone who thrives on a static idea only to watch it change over time.  “Death of the Family” is the Joker attempting to kill off the Robins, Batgirl, and associated with Batman, to take things back to how they used to be.  To remove any crutches Batman leans on that the Joker perceives to be making him weak and atrophied in his role as Dark Knight.  The backup feature of this title, coauthored by Snyder and James Tynion IV, has the Joker springing the Riddler for that exact purpose; to hone Batman’s intellect so he can once again become the ultimate version of himself that the Joker is enthralled by.  To quote the Clown Prince of Crime in this issue, “Its time you got back in your king’s service.  You’re the master of arms in this city, Eddie [Riddler].  You make Batman smarter. Better. More dangerous.”   Without a doubt, all of the horrible things the Joker is doing are spawned from love.  The question remains as to the nature of that love.  Is it fraternal, erotic, or an all-encompassing ecstasy? Regardless, it is terrifying to behold and the next two issues should be apocalyptic.

    Oh He Got In, Alright . . .

    Oh He Got In, Alright . . .

  • Batgirl #15 picks up at a very chilling moment in the current travails of the “Dominoed Daredoll.”  Being sent into the lair of the Joker by her brother, the former who abducted their mother, Batgirl is greeted by the strangest possible situation when confronting the mad clown.  Down on one knee, he proposes marriage to her with the severed ring finger (diamond ring still attached) of her mother, with the owner of said ring and finger tied to a chair seated atop a five pound nail bomb.  What’s a caped crusaderette to do in such a situation?  Once again writer Gail Simone writes a really complex tale that resonates with the character’s inner most psyche.  Barbara Gordon started this series sixteen issues ago as a broken woman; broken mentally and freshly rehabilitated after three years of being in a wheelchair, physically broken.  Throughout the past sixteen months she has had to struggle to maintain her edge while holding back the horrific memories of the Joker standing over her bleeding, broken body after shooting her in the stomach and the violations he subjected her to immediately afterward.  Now not only does she have to come face-to-face with the architect of her nightmares, but endure further ones as he manipulates her with the threat of her mother’s life.  Conversely, Simone also teases us with visions of the Joker several years prior (while his face was still attached naturally to the rest of him), describing to his terrified psychiatrist what his plans are for the woman he intends to marry.  This conversation alludes to the present events, but remains incomplete, tantalizing the reader with the question of where the twist is going to come into his plans for Batgirl.  With the Joker nothing is simple, so whatever it may be, it is guaranteed to be warped.  Daniel Sampere takes over art, for this issue at least, and does an equally grand job as former artist Ed Benes depicting the smoothing action as well as the beautiful heroine herself.  One of the things that makes Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl so entrancing is the fluidity, grace, and acrobatics that she employs when fighting crime.  It takes a special kind of artist to translate these visually and Sampere does the job.

    Every Crime Fighter Has Their Limits

    Every Crime Fighter Has Their Limits

  • Batman & Robin #15, after the two part storyline following Robin’s infiltration and assault upon the cabalistic Saturn Club, finds the Boy Wonder once again relegated to Cave duty, essentially grounded, while the rest of the “Family”  are out scouring the city for the Joker and the abducted Alfred Pennyworth.  Those who know Damian Wayne also know that he doesn’t do “grounded.”  Vowing to be the one to find Alfred, he attempts to trace the Joker from the scene of the crime.  Finding his way to the zoo, Robin falls into a trap and comes face to face (to face) with the Joker.  Like the above Batgirl issue, this meeting is steeped in former drama.  The last time they met, during Grant Morrison’s iteration of this title pre-Reboot, Damian attempted to ace the Joker with a crowbar.  Their previous interaction was intense, there’s no doubt about it, but there was very little back and forth.  Tied up and with no pressing agenda, Damian is forced to listen to the Joker talk and disseminate his grand plan and ideology surrounding the “Death of the Family” plot.  Steeped in ornithological and chiropteran analogy, the Joker very convincingly makes a case for why the Bat shouldn’t associate with a Robin, both in zoology and crime fighting.   This stage of the Joker’s plan is concluding with next month’s #16 issue and I am curious how the final image of this month’s installment is going to facilitate its successor.  Peter Tomasi is a brilliant writer and executes his part of the larger Joker storyline with razor sharp precision.
  • Suicide Squad #15 did some tertiary things with Amanda Waller and the Top, as well as the release of Captain Boomerang from the Squad, and a surprise ending featuring another member, but I don’t really care for that and most non-Suicide Squad fans probably don’t either.  The REAL drive of the issue is the “Death of the Family” tie-in, featuring the reunion of Harley Quinn and her pudd’n, Mr. J (The Joker).  This event is hardly how Harley would have imagined it, going over the line of moderately abusive behavior on the part of the Joker into full on psychopathic assault.  Harley is without a doubt the reason 90% of people read this title and she is extremely lovable.  Her one annoying trait is her masochistic penchant to go back to the Joker despite his chronic mistreatment of her.  She holds her ground against him in this issue and I personally loved her so much more for it.  I would say that facing off against her former lover, this issue is a self-actualization for her that could be the start of a new, far more interesting Quinn.  Apropos that point, the Joker also reveals a great deal about why he cut his face off and why Harley is a failure and a fraud in her proposed similitude to his legacy.  However, as I also stated, she proves herself to be ironclad in her resolve.  This issue worked so well as both a Batman tie-in and as a character issue.
  • Green Lantern Corps #15 accomplishes three things within the larger framework of the “Rise of the Third Army” crossover event.  With the Guardians of the Universe going over the edge and initiating the replacement of the Green Lantern Corps with a soulless army whose only goal is to wipe out free will and sentient life throughout the cosmos, casualties begin to fall.  Setting a moral and ethical trap for Guy Gardner, the Guardians are able to expel him in disgrace from the Corps, where in this issue he languishes in a quest for meaning on Earth sans ring.  Meanwhile, John Stewart runs an errand in deep space in an attempt to aid in the reconstitution of Mogo, the planet Green Lantern that he was responsible for killing during the Green Lantern War.  Fatality, princess and  sole survivor of Xanshi (the last planet John Stewart destroyed before Mogo) as well as sister of the Star Sapphires, comes to his aid because of the intrinsic nature of Mogo’s reconstitution. Mogo’s parts WANT to come back together, but are hindered by outside interference.  As a Lantern of Love, Fatality is drawn to unite the intrinsically female aspects of Mogo with the males, the attraction of which fuels his reconstitution.  The team-up of Fatality and Stewart is interesting on the level of John Stewart reliving his former geocidal sins and making amends with the help of its last surviving victim, as well as the mystery of how and why Mogo is being restrained.  Finally, and in my opinion most poignantly is Salaak.  Salaak is renowned as the Guardians’ lap dog Lantern and a cold adherent to the laws of the Corps.  He has been a pariah and distrusted by his fellow Green Lanterns for exactly that reason, but as of last issue has come to realize the scheming nature of his masters.  They become aware of his interference and as a reward for all his years of service and loyalty, begin the process of “disposing of him.”  The mere thought sickens me to my core.  He was my least favorite Lantern for all the above reasons, but his loyalty to the Corps over the blue bastards makes his sacrifice that much more moving.  I don’t know if you are dead or just imprisoned, Salaak, but if it’s the former rest in peace, sir.
  • Before Watchmen: Rorschach #3 delivers yet another stark portrayal of New York in the 70’s as well as Alan Moore’s anti-hero, Rorschach, aka Walter Kovacs.  After brutally retiring on of underworld kingpin, Rawhead’s, pimps, Rorschach forces the man himself to go out and collect his earnings from his “night workers” thereby drawing him into the open.  During the day, returning as he always does to the Gunga-Diner, Walter awkwardly asks the understatedly lovely waitress, Nancy, on a dinner date, which she agrees to despite teasing by her coworkers.  Rorschach’s moonlighting hinders his punctuality with said date and the consequences, hinted at in the first issue, look to be dire.  Brian Azzarello writes this title in the grittiest way possible and it is rendered exquisitely by Lee Bermejo, an artist Azzarello has a long standing association with.  The final piece of interest comes when Rorschach (as Rorschach) hails a cab and a very interesting “Taxi Driver” picks him up and makes characteristic small talk.  It may not be Travis Bickle, but it’s Travis Bickle.  Bermejo makes you see it in the dead-on De Niro visage and Azzarello captures his essence in his thoughts and speech.  Considering the parallels between Walter Kovacs and Bickle, the insertion (informal though it may be) is very thought provoking.
  • Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #3 brings us to the cusp of the character’s quantum reality conundrum.  Predicated off the concept of Schrodinger’s Cat, which states that a cat within a box is both alive and dead until the box is opened, Dr. Manhattan is made to experience the numerous possibilities of his existence, most of which exist outside of the certainty that he had been locked in the Intrinsic Field Chamber in 1959, turning him into Dr. Manhattan.  J. Michael Straczynski has taken this concept and written it with great thought and insight.  His resolution to the problem of infinite realities spun out of infinite decisions which billions of humans have made since the dawn of our species in this issue feels really false in my opinion.  Dr. Manhattan attempts and we are led to believe succeeds in manipulating all the events so that in every reality he IS trapped in the Chamber, ensuring he always becomes Dr. Manhattan.  The concept that he could do the infinite, even with his abilities seems preposterous and Straczynski doesn’t do a good enough job rationalizing it in my opinion.  However, Staczynski does tell a very intimate tale about his parents’ escape from Europe of WWII that once again draws off the Schrodinger’s Cat theory in a brilliant way, literally putting Jon Osterman (the human Dr. Manhattan) in the box, both alive and dead.  I love the art by Adam Hughes, and the story is well written, though not as effectively justified in its logic.

    Simultaneously Dead and Alive

    Simultaneously Dead and Alive

  • Demon Knights #15 brings to a close the tenure of series creator, Paul Cornell, in epic style.  On the magical isle of Avalon the unquenchable horde of the Questing Queen and Lucifer’s legions of hellspawn descend to assert dominion over the sacred realm.  Avalon fights back with the summoning of the Knights of the Round Table alongside their once and future king, Arthur, as well as the revived Merlin.  The battle was choreographed and scripted carefully by Merlin and all comes out as the mage had foreseen.  That said, Merlin himself goes through a transformation that portends the future of the DC as we have read in Stormwatch.  I personally hate Stormwatch, so the connection between a series I have loved with one I have hated so passionately is slightly disconcerting.  Still, Cornell did a good job on this issue and I would suggest people read it.  Following this issue, it would appear that a splintering of the group is at hand, but not forever.  Madame Xanadu foretells that they will reunite, and as we know from solicitations, the series will return next month with a brand new writer, Robert Vendetti.  Vandal Savage and Al Jabir go back to Alba Sarum to claim very different rewards, Xanadu and Jason Blood go away together to distance themselves from Merlin’s meddling, Shining Knight reenters Arthur’s service and asks Exoristos to be her companion, and the the horsewoman chides them all for defying fate.  The Cornell run of this series has been amazing and if anything, this issue may stand as a bookend for a glorious era of storytelling within the title.
  • Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E #15 has Frank retrieving the last piece of the soul grinder and witnessing the death of a technologically advanced, mechanized society of female automotons that created paradise and sacrificed their lives and hopes to stop the Rot.  Glavanized by this Frank fights his creator, Victor Frankenstein, and assembles the device.  With the help of Victor’s machine, Frank is not only able to defeat his creator, but also reincarnate his friends into bodies that are impervious to attacks from the Rot.  Among them is the one closest to his heart at present: Dr. Nina Mazursky.  She also is reborn into a patchwork body, though one that still resembles her former Creature from the Black Lagoon one, and it s revealed that even afterward she is pregnant with Frank’s child.  I won’t lie.  I like the character of Frankenstein as well as Nina and the thought of their having a child warms the cockles of my heart.
  • Grifter #15 was a lot like the series has been for a while: aimless wandering.  Cole Cash, aka Grifer, is transported by the vengeful AI of Stormwatch’s orbital base, Eye of the Storm, into the headquarters of the Suicide Squad, headed by his former Team 7 colleague, Amanda Waller.  Going through that last sentence and making a tally, there are four major topics within that I do NOT care a fig about.  There is only the slightest hint of interest in flashbacks to a cult Waller infiltrated six years prior that were preaching about the imminent threat of Daemonite invasion.  Through this Waller met William Warick, a man tied integrally to Cash right up until his abduction and alterations into his present power set.  This points the series in the right direction of getting back to dealing with Daemonites, but too far away from the mark in my opinion.
  • Superboy #15 continues the “H’el On Earth” crossover in the Super-books, with Superman taking the dying Superboy to the Fortress of Solitude and running tests to not only try and heal him, but also figure out just what in the heck he is.  As Supergirl and H’el have stated, he is a clone, but not JUST a Kryptonian clone.  Though we knew that from the start, Superman finds out something we didn’t.  Superboy’s DNA contains three strands instead of two, with one human strand and one Kryptonian, but also a third unidentified strand.  His current ills stem from a breaking down of his genetics, forcing his body to tear apart at the seams.  Trying to find a way to save the poor boy, Superman attempts to use his own family shield which creates his Superman armor  only to realize when the shield responds to him with an unaltered House of El crest, that Superboy is his clone.  Partially.  Thus do Superboy and his ersatz progeny, Superboy, aka Kon-El, first meet.  The meeting is short as the aforementioned ne’er-do-well, H’el, makes yet another appearance and kicks the crap out of them . . . AGAIN!  Tom DeFalco writes a solid addition to the crossover event that has me stoked yet again to figure out Kon-El’s parentage.  We know that Superman is his K-daddy, and its heavily insinuated from past iterations and common sense that Luthor is his human donor, but the introduction of a third genetic progenitor raises the stakes and the desire for resolution.
  • The Ravagers #15 resumes the fight between Caitlin Fairchild’s Ravagers and Harvest’s over the young metahuman, Lisa, who poses prophetic pre-cognitive abilities.  This fight over her stands on a temporal nexus of possible futures that could wax apocalyptic or otherwise.  Sharing her nightmarish visions with Caitlin, she shows what would happen to her Ravagers if she is unable to save them and they fall once more under Harvest’s sway.  The governments of the world fall and death and destruction cover the planet.  That said, Caitlin cannot fail.  One thing with prophesy is that foreknowledge can sometimes hasten the inevitable rather than avert it.  As Caitlin makes a concerted effort to stop the horrific vision from being realized, something telling happens with one of her charges.  This series is on the path to a VERY dark place, much like the New Teen Titans series of the 1980’s.  I for one am thrilled to see where this ride takes the Ravagers and us, their voyueristic readers.

    The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men . . .

    The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men . . .

  • Ame-Comi Girls: Duela Dent tells the story of the daughter of a criminal named Gamblin’ Jack “The Joker” Dent, who follows in her father’s footsteps after he is gunned down by the Gotham City police.  It explains how she got her jocular M.O., her scars, and how and why she got involved with an “alien” life form like Brainiac, who herself makes a debut in this issue.  Also making a debut is the female Flash, Jesse Chambers.  With the advent of Brianiac, the story becomes all too familiar.  Brainiac is going to strip Earth of knowledge and destroy it, meaning Batgirl, Robin, and their all female compatriots are gonna have to step up to the plate to stop it from happening.  The solicitation for next month’s issue informs that Power Girl will be its subject.  Since she has not been introduced or alluded to, I have no idea what to make of it, but am nevertheless intrigued.
  • Saucer Country #10is a giant conundrum.  So much happens in this issue that draws off the minutest of previous events.  For instance, the marginalized UFO abductee, Mrs. Bates, returns to the narrative with a very interesting effect on the televised debate between Gov. Arcadia Alvarado and Sen. Kersey.  Arcadia’s ex-husband, Michael, believes himself to be a sleeper agent, a la The Manchurian Candidate, who has already killed several people associated with his former wife’s campaign.  Also, in light of the strange events that have been creeping up in the lives of the Governor and those close to her, Prof. Kidd, her UFO academic advisor tells her about the strange naked couple that he sees in seeming hallucinations.  This series is so hard to peg.  It rationalizes so many aspects of UFO mythology making it all seem ground within rational, mundane explanation, but then throws curve balls with new information that lies far outside of the norm.  Writer Paul Cornell hits a homerun with the series in my book.

And so ends an incredible batch of reads.  Next week sadly is the last real week of comics in December with a meager batch of issues coming out the day after Christmas.  Hope to see you then . . .

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #15: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Jonathan Glapion

Batgirl #15: Drawn by Daniel Sampere, Colored by Ulises Arreola John Kalisz, Inked by Vicente Cifuentes

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #3: Art by Adam Hughes, Colored by Laura Martin

The Ravagers #7: Art by Eduardo Pasarin, Daniel HDR & Geraldo Borges, Colored by Tony Avina