Oct. 23, 2013

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

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

    A Great Blight Upon Humanity . . .

    A Great Blight Upon Humanity . . .

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

    Don't Mess With Guy Gardner.

    Don’t Mess With Guy Gardner.

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

    The Greatest Story She'll Never Tell.

    The Greatest Story She’ll Never Tell.

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

    The Wrath of Reverse Flash.

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

    Strength Out Of Weakness.

    Strength Out Of Weakness.

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

    Beware the Orange Lanterns' Might . . .

    Beware the Orange Lanterns’ Might . . .

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

    The Origin of Kid Flash.

    The Origin of Kid Flash.

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

    The Dark Tower Rising.

     

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sept. 25, 2013

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

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

    JusticeLeagueSecretSociety2

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

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

    A King's Mercy

    A King’s Mercy.

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

    Warrior Women of the House of El.

    Warrior Women of the House of El.

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

    Harsh Justice

    Harsh Justice.

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

    That Happened.

    That Happened.

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

    Evil Can Be Killed, But Kinnness Never Dies.

    Evil Can Be Killed, But Kinnness Never Dies.

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

    The Face of Freedom.

    The Face of Freedom.

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

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

    The Evil Genius of Lex Luthor

    The Evil Genius of Lex Luthor

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

    Fathers and Sons.

    Fathers and Sons.

  • The Wake #4 

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

    The Legend of Saeftinghe.

    The Legend of Saeftinghe.

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

  • T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2 

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

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 33 (April 18, 2012)

Going into the third week of April I have to say that it was a mixed bag this week.  There was some absolute knockouts that really proved the breadth of comic craft, and then there were some total bombs that I am just uncomfortable having read, knowing that the lack of quality isn’t the writers’ faults entirely (even though it kind of is . . .) .   Well these are my views on what is good and what was lacking.  As ever, if you think I am way off the mark, comment on this post and let me know what I’ve overlooked.  I respect constructive dissension.

  • Justice League #8 was absolutely awful.  I’m not even angry anymore by the utter disregard for quality that the creative team of JL are flagrantly exhibiting, just sad.  I’ve moved on to the last stage of grief: acceptance. Everything about every aspect of this book is wrong.  I firmly believe that if you sat down someone who had never read a comic in their lives but had the spark of interest that could be fanned into a blaze of comic loving passion and then gave them a Justice League comic you could permanently kill the chances of them ever wanting to read another comic ever again.  This series is the rat poison of the comic world.  How Geoff Johns can write these awesome characters as such douchebags is beyond me.  I am starting to hate the characters so much and its starting to infect my enjoyment of the stories where they are actually written well.  I know he’s an executive, but Johns needs to get benched ASAP!  He’s doing good on his other series.  Let him stick to what he knows.  He clearly has no clue how to write a decent Justice League story.  Oh. and on a personal note: The inclusion of a sequence with Talons dispatched by the Court of Owls is in BAD TASTE.  Don’t sully a truly awesome thing like “Night of the Owls” by trying to pouch quality for your shitty comic.  That is bad form, Mr. Johns.  BAD FORM!   
  • Batman #8 starts up after issue #7’s startling conclusion.  After his battle in the labyrinth with the Court of Owls, Batman is a wreck.  Broken and beaten he retreats to Wayne Manor and from there Scott Snyder portrays a very troubled Batman, and troubled he should be as the Court has not yet finished with him or Gotham.  The true terror of the Court is laid bare and the “Night of the Owls” we have been hearing about is revealed to be much akin to the famous “Night of the Long Knives” in Nazi Germany.  A lot of important people are in the crosshairs and several will be dead by dawn regardless of nay intervention.  Snyder’s plot is executed to perfection and rendered beautifully by series artist Greg Capullo and by Snyder’s long time collaborator on American Vampire, Rafael Albuquerque.  This is the Batman story I’ve been waiting for my whole life, I just didn’t know it until recently.

    Alfred Puts Out "The Call"


  • Nightwing #8 follows on the heels of Batman #8, starting off “Night of the Owls” an issue early and really sets the tone for what we can expect next month in the “Night of the Owls” mega crossover.  Writer Kyle Higgins keeps the heat on Dick Grayson after the conclusion last month of the title’s first story arc.  In that issue he revealed that the Talon we have thus far seen in Batman is none other than Dick’s ancestor, William Cobb.  Higgins writes the issue dually from the perspective of Cobb, telling about his childhood and adolescence in the Gotham of 1901, and from Dick’s in the present.  The issue is a fitting companion to what Scott Snyder has set up over the past half year.  The Night of the Owls is upon us.  The call has been put out. “God help us . . .” 
  • Green Lantern Corps #8 followed three main events, but was rather hazy about them, introducing but not developing.  The first is the Alpha Lanterns assembling to discuss their mandate: the internal policing of Corpsman.  The second was the Guardians offering Guy Gardner what seems to be a very peculiar offer that I doubt is on the level.  Thirdly, John Stewart’s continued melancholy and confliction over killing his former colleague in the torture chambers of the “Keepers.”  This issue was like its predecessor, a seeming interim issue, although this one facilitates the coming issue which will be the beginning of the “Alpha War.”  I look forward to it, as this issue was good, but as I alluded, very sparse. 
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #8 was a really outstanding issue that accomplished so much.  It revealed the history behind Jason Todd and Suzie Su’s long standing quarrel as well as his past exploits culling the crime families of Hong Kong.  In the process writer Scott Lobdell defines the nature of Todd as an anti-heroic character.  He puts his neck out to save children from terrorists, but in the process does some very dark things.  Finally, it reestablishes his status as a member of the Bat family, because this issue like Batman #8 and Nightwing #8, is a “Night of the Owls” prelude.  The call goes out from Alfred, and though Starfire and Arsenal know for a fact that the disaffected ex-Robin won’t respond, Jason surprises them both and commits himself to the call.  The reason lies in a past encounter with his successor, Tim Drake, in Metropolis and leads to an inference that Mr. Freeze will be involved.  This issue has its balls-to-the-wall moments alongside some very touching ones.  Damn, I love Scott Lobdell’s storylines.

    Jason's R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find Out What It Means To Him.

  • Catwoman #8 was another prelude to “Night of the Owls.”  The story was kind of interesting, but not overly.  Apart from developing the character of Spark, I wasn’t very invested in the plot.  A heist is planned against the Penguin, and like Red Hood above, writer Judd Winick infers that Penguin will be the Owl target that Catwoman will be running interference for.  What sets this one apart from the three above Bat-titles, is that Catwoman doesn’t get the call, so  a scene involving the Court of Owls is worked in to clue the readers into the impending connection.  Artist Adriana Melo does make the issue very pretty though, despite the lackluster plotline.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes #8 was damn good!!!  It might be that I’ve read Paul Levitz’s previous runs on Legion of Super-Heroes, but the story was steeped in LHS mythology. Computo was referenced, the sister of the Invisible Kid’s consequential incurable illness as a result of that same evil computer system, and most of all the resurrection of the Fatal Five.  But on top of that, Levitz makes the stories he writes very personal.  More so than most other books, he imbues so much humanity into the motivations and interactions of the Legionnaires.  Case in point, the issue was divided into two stories drawn by two different artists.  The former most story that involved the elements listed above was drawn by veteran LHS artist Steve Lightle.  The latter half involves Cosmic Boy, who puts the weight of the Universe on his shoulders, being whisked away by four of his colleagues to Istanbul to unwind.  What makes it all the more touching is that one of those Legionnaires is Brainiac 5, who out spocks Mr. Spock in his emotionlessness.  Yildiray Cinar, who helped Levitz relaunch the Legion in the 31st century, provides the art for this last segment.  Good stuff.
  • Supergirl #8 was really good and is moving towards what I have been wanting for since issue #1.  Supergirl is becoming slowly acclimated to Earth.  She hasn’t learned the language yet, but she’s made a friend and starts wearing Earth clothes.  The issue itself is pretty well written by the Mikes (Green and Johnson) and stunningly illustrated by George Perez.  I’m a little pissed that this issue is the only one Perez is illustrating, because frankly his artwork is so appropriate to the title, and he has such a beautiful way of portraying young women like Kara and her new friend Siobhan along with the bohemian New York night scene.  In any event, it was beautiful issue in both scripting and artwork, and it introduced a classic Supergirl villain back into the DCU: Silver Banshee.
  • Wonder Woman #8 has a real beauty to it.  I have read a lot of negative feedback on this series, last issue especially, and I do believe that there is credence to the detractions, but unlike last issue which offended a great many readers, this one was very straightforward.  Diana and Hermes descend into the underworld and once again Brian Azzarello depicts a very stylized, philosophic interpretation of Hades’ realm.  Series artist Cliff Chiang helps out a great deal in that respect with beautifully drawn panels of this new Underworld.  Despite the John Woo cover, the issue isn’t as gaudy as its advertised to be and twists the plot into a devil’s bargain only to be found in Greek mythology.  Hades remains one of my favorite characters in this new series.  His motivations are so ambiguous and he is just awesome no matter which light you choose view him in.

    Shot to the Heart. Hades to Blame . . .

  • DC Universe Presents: Challengers of the Unknown #8 was something of a cop out.  I mean the story progresses and the villain is vanquished . . . sort of.  However, they don’t finish their journey, they don’t come to any understanding of the reason they were saved from death, just that their survival serves some transcendental purpose.  Didio and Ordway give us that “The End . . . For Now” crap without giving any modicum of conclusion.  That only works when you throw the reader some kind of bone.  Overall, I would be interested to read more if they deign to give us more, but I am unsatisfied with the three issue arc they gave us.  Why couldn’t this have been a five issue arc like Deadman so that they could do what was necessary  narratively?  Oh well. Ours not to ask why, just shell out three bucks once a month, right?
  • Blue Beetle #8 ended very abruptly.  It had an entertaining plotline that explored both the villain and his past, but gave no conclusion to the whole affair.  I recognize that Blue Beetle has to take part in the crossover event over the next two months with Green Lantern: The New Guardians, but it seems like they could have offered a little closure on the matter, or at least writer Tony Bedard could have held off the crossover since he is also the writer of New Guardians. Maybe the intermission in this plot will bear fruit relevant to its postponed conclusion.  Either way, I’ll give it a thumbs up.
  • Birds of Prey #8 as with the past several issues has become a chore.  The title’s not as good as it used to be pre-Reboot, as good as it could be.  I’ll still say that it has its entertainment value, but right now I am holding on for its place in the “Night of the Owls” crossover next month.  After that I am almost certainly dropping it as Travel Foreman, the artist whom I have been blaming my dislike of Animal Man on owing to his creepy, superlinear artwork, will be taking over Birds of Prey.  So next month will be a farewell to those lovely Bird of Gotham fame.
  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #3 expands its reach and adds a third segment to the roster.  This month we welcome writer JT Krul and veteran JLA artist Howard Porter’s Superman Beyond segment.  What Krul does beautifully is illustrate a godlike figure of comic lore who has lived past his natural age and seen his friends and loved one die.  Now Superman is beginning to see the world he has known die alongside them, as he himself begins to enter into obsolescence.  However, with all his battles seemingly won and in the past, JT Krul introduces an intriguing development that has been lying dormant until the events of this issue.  A truly stunning story.  Adam Beechen and Norm Breyfogle continue the “Mad Stan” storyline to its penultimate chapter in Batman Beyond, and while very short, forward three very compelling stories of the three young leads: Batman’s prevention of Mad Stan haphazardly blowing Gotham to kingdom come, Dana’s brother tying into the cabal of Jokerz flooding into Gotham on holy pilgrimage, and Max’s attempt to confess to her part in the cyber-terrorist attack on Gotham’s power grid.  Incredible storytelling that has me psyched for next months conclusion to the first of these dilemmas and the continuance of the other two.  And last, but most certainly not least, Nguyen and Fridolfs’ Justice League Beyond Unlimited packed a wallop of comic and television inspired excellence.  The Queen of Kobra is revealed as is her plan that the Kobra agents have been working towards in the past two issues.  The plot itself is stunning, but even more so because of the incredible intricacy of the references and allusions to the television shows that inspired it, as well as those from the DCU at large.  The Challengers of the Unknown, as seen last in the previous review above, are referenced and play their part in the doom of mankind, as does Lex Luthor, dead though he may be.  Iconic covers the Jack Kirby series Kamandi the Last Boy on Earth, Forever People, and OMAC are modified and presented to portray the enormity of the threat Kobra intends on not just Earth or the Universe, but seemingly the Multiverse.   This issue blew my socks off. I was expecting it to be good, but I wasn’t prepared for just how good.

    The Times They Are A-Changing . . ,

  • T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #6 concludes the series in the most fitting manner possible.  I didn’t realize that the first page of the first issue of the first volume DC put out took place after the whole run of Spencer’s was concluded.  I also like that although Wes Craig took over art for the book from Cafu, the latter artist came back to do the flashback sequences that he was responsible for in the first run.  Reading T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents has been a pleasure and I am saddened by the thought that there may never be another series after this one, and certainly not one as well crafted and well researched as Nick Spencer’s run.  However, he did leave a pinhole opening at the end of the main sequence for a continuation by someone else.  However, my money is betting that there won’t be any more adventures for the Agents of The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserve for many, many years.  So thank you to Nick Spencer and his army of artists who made this series legendary.
  • Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #2 is getting better.  I wasn’t as certain while reading the first issue and now after this second issue, I am starting to feel the beauty of the Voodoo culture as well as the rhythm of Selwyn Hinds’ script.  There is a really intriguing amalgam of modern day elements with old school Afro-Caribbean mythology that baselines the series and makes for a very Machiavellian struggle for power in the space between magic and realpolitik that apparently has been governing New Orleans for centuries.  I’m liking it a lot and I have to also give credit to Denys Cowan, whose stark, line-y artwork really adds a gothic character to the series.
  • The Shadow #1 is Dynamite Entertainment’s newest addition to their pulp noir line of books.  I have to say that I have been anticipating this book ever since it was announced, because I was a huge fan of the old radio show when I was a kid.  No I’m not that old, but I enjoyed listening to old radio shows on audio cassette (yes, I am that old) when on long car rides.  Anyhow, I love the “Shadow” and his genial alter ego, Lamont Cranston, the “wealthy man about town.”   To pen this new series Dynamite tapped Garth Ennis, renowned for his edgy storytelling.  I think he did a good job, but I am concerned that he might have made it too edgy.  This is the first issue so I may be making a leap in judgement.  Despite this sneaking suspicion the issue itself was great.  Aaron Campbell who provided artwork for Dynamite’s Green Hornet: Year One, provides equally stunning work in this series.  The basic plot takes us to the early 30’s with Japan invading China and agents of the expansionist empire turning up in New York, the Shadow’s playground.  Needless to say, the Shadow knows what evil lurks in the hearts of these men . . .

And that’s the thirty-third week of my reviews.  Hope you enjoyed as much as I did.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #8: Art by Rafael Albuquerque, Colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Red Hood and the Outlaws #8: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Blond

Wonder Woman #8: Art by Cliff Chiang, Colored by Matthew Wilson

Batman Beyond Unlimited #3: Drawn by Dustin Nguyen, Colored by Randy Major, Inked by Derek Fridolfs

Week 29 (March 21, 2012)

  • Batman #7 was INCREDIBLE!!!  Writer Scott Snyder is swiftly rising through the ranks of my favorite writers.  This first run of Batman

    Foreshadowing?

    will surely be what cements him as a supporting pillar in the future of comics as a viable entertainment medium.  Not only does this issue explain a burning question that goes back half a year to issue #2, it also explains and validates the events of the first issue, which if anybody remembers, I panned pretty bad.  (I have shamed myself greatly.)  I feel that the revelations of this book and the personal sentiments put forth by both Bruce and Dick show a pinpoint turn in the tone from that first issue.  So much of what Snyder tells us here genuinely game changes EVERYTHING you know about Batman throughout his entire published history.  Yet, these changes seem natural and almost like they have always been there,  just like the fabled Court he now finds himself assailed by.  If you only buy one comic this week, make it Batman #7.  You’ll be glad you did.

  • Justice League #7 was TERRIBLE!!!  You may ask yourself why I even bother.  I don’t know.  I’m feeling like I’m being blackmailed with Pandora, the resolution to the Darkseid’s daughter revelation, and the new SHAZAM back up feature.  So why was it so bad?  Okay . . . There was no real threat in this one.  The premise was ridiculous.  They did some good characterization of Steve Trevor . . . sort of.  They drove home that the world thinks the Justice League are awesome, but all Geoff Johns really accomplished was making them seem like a pack of fratboys and prima donnas.  I think the real problem with the genius of Geoff Johns working on this title, and a sign of perhaps he only weakness (again this is just a theory): he is sooo good at homing in on the innate qualities and tones of his subjects and attuning the books to those qualities that when it comes to ensemble books like this where those disparate characters are thrown together, he freaks out and just turns them into caricatures of themselves.  Green Lantern basically is eleven years old in this.  He has no semblance of ever having to make any competent decisions, which at his core he has always been able to do.  Flash, one of the smartest men alive, is just moronic in this series.  Batman is Batman. On this point I am neutral.  I didn’t mind Wonder Woman as much, but also didn’t care for her much either.  Just bush league comic writing.  And the aforementioned SHAZAM backup?  Even worse!  I love Gary Frank’s artwork.  He’s awesome.  However, on the writing side Johns’ introduction of Billy Batson, who is supposed to be a ‘Little Orphan Annie’-esque forsaken child with a heart of gold was disgusting.  He completely missed the mark on this one. The point of Billy and Captain Marvel is that both represent an idealism and unshakable belief that the world is good and that good can overcome evil with determination and virtue.  Johns has opted to make him into a two-faced, sniveling little brat.  I feel bad that I even had to think this, but when I read this version of Billy, I felt he should be moved from the orphanage to an animal shelter, so euthanasia would become an option.   Taking a step back from personalizing it on just Billy, I think perhaps this backup feature should be euthanized.  Just a thought.
  • Nightwing #7 was exceptional and didn’t let down after reading its brother book, Batman.  Since issue one, we’ve seen Saiko run rampage through Dick’s life, both personal and professional.  We’ve seen his connection to Dick’s past and the twisted web he has woven in Dick’s present.  The dominoes have been set and this issue drops a bomb, literally and metaphorically.   The full truth of Saiko’s psychosis is laid bare and the the truth of his hatred of Dick explained.  At that moment, my hair stood on end and I had to suppress a giddy squeal of dorkish delight.  Like Scott Snyder, Nightwing writer Kyle Higgins gets it.  He clearly understands the character and what makes a good Dick Grayson story, finishing this arc beautifully and sticking a 10 point landing.
  • Green Lantern Corps #7 was an interim issue.  I liked it much more than the past two issues.  It advanced the stories thus far and really focused in on John Stewart.  John did a very extreme thing and this issue really shows how he’s dealing with that.  He says he’s not ashamed of what he did and  that he would do it again, and yet he has failed to admit to it and lied about what actually happened.  He explains it away, but Tomasi does a wonderful job of making even that seem questionable.  John is a guy that has destroyed planets and taken countless lives, and his reaction to events like this are very poignant, because he isn’t an amoral person.  Far from it.  Definitely a well written, thought provoking issue.
  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #2 kept the momentum going and the story evolving.  The inaugural issue last month set the hook for larger plot points in Batman Beyond as well as reintroducing those left unresolved from the pre-Reboot series.  This issue skirts all of those, introducing a new focal point for a two part arc, showing us that the larger points are going to be simmering for awhile, stringing us along for the ride.  I for one am sitting back and taking in the sights.  Writer Adam Beechen knows the TV series in and out and is reintroducing characters and premises from it along with fan favorite elements from the main Batman continuity going on currently.  The plot is rich as New York cheesecake, and as with last issue, supplemented by the wonderful artwork of 90’s Batman alum, Norm Breyfogle.  In the Justice League Beyond segment writer/artists Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs do the same as their opposite number in the first segment, bringing in all manner of cool material from the series as well as material from the larger DCU.  The issue begins on the island that in the coming months will play host to the series The War That Time Forgot, and references Mayor Luthor, as well as many others.  Following up on the reintroduction of one of my favorite villainous organizations, Kobra, this issue adds great mystique to the plot, while exploring one of the shocking developments from last issue.  The story from the dynamic duo of Nguyen and Fridolfs is equally only by their incredible art.  This is one of my favorite series, no question.  Basically my adolescence in a $4 comic book.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes #7 finished off the China expedition, in what I thought was a slightly anti-climatic fashion, but in classic Legion style revolved on several other plots circulating throughout, not least of which is the Dominators counter move to the Legionnaires’ foiling of their invasion of the United Planets.  Take it from me, the implications proposed by the Dominators have incredible potential.  Also a familiar character turned new Legionnaire makes her first appearance as a member of the team.  Master scribe, Paul Levitz, writing, Francis Portela illustrating, there is nothing else that needs to be said.
  • DC Presents: Challengers of the Unknown #7 was a decent book.  In my opinion it seems a bit rushed.  They are blowing through the plot and not really giving any gravitas to what is happening and or explaining why we should be invested in the characters.  There is a lot of potential in what they are doing.  They begin the issue with the summoning of a rival deity to the reverend Rama Kushna, ancient edifices are opening up heralding prophesies revealing themselves.  There is so much they can do and they aren’t taking the time to do it.  The previous Deadman arc took five issues and really got down to the meat of the story of Deadman.  This series is trying to do in three issues what that series did in five.  I anticipate the next month’s conclusion, but expect to be left with unanswered questions.
  • Supergirl #7 is getting there.  This story topically worked, wrapping up this second arc featuring a threat linked to the last days of Krypton, an apocalyptic proving ground, and Kara rising to the challenge.  It was a good stepping stone, but to me at least, it didn’t suck the reader in.  I do feel that its moving in the direction of getting Kara in a position to start a human life on Earth like her cousin Clark has done.
  • Catwoman #7 was slightly lackluster as well.  She stole some things, but overall it was kind of feeling like deja vu.  Selina has a new fence that is calling her on her bad behavior, which is a good start in switching things up. Det. Alvarez is starting to get more aggressive in his hunting for Catwoman.  Judd Winick is progressing the story, but this one didn’t blow my skirts up.  I will say that  until I looked at the splash page, I didn’t know that the artist had changed.  Guillem March has left, at least for this issue, and is replaced by the very similar, luscious work of Adriana Melo.  I thought March’s pencils were very unique when I first saw them.  He’s got company, because Melo is equally as evocative with her lines.  This part was a delight to look at.  Also, to whomever called this series a “chauvanistic male fantasy” when it first came out, I would advise them to check out the manties on the dude on page two.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #7was a revelation.  I have been enjoying the series since it came out and writer Scott Lobdell has taken the psychopathic ex-Robin in a very interesting direction, entangling him in a web of supernatural/metaphysical intrigue.  Apropos, this issue deals with him confronting an old acquaintance/lover from his days training with the All-Caste, who reveals the history of the war between the All-Caste and the Untitled.  This part of the plot is entrancing, but even more so because of how Scott Lobdell portrays it’s effects on Jason Todd and how he chooses to respond to the revelations.  There is a reason Jason was brought back from the dead and Lobdell makes brilliant use of it.  Kenneth Rocafort once again provides gorgeous art that accentuates the plot and draws the reader from panel to panel completely independent of the writing which itself is stunning.

    The Untitled Birth

  • Wonder Woman #7 is a continuing climb to greatness.  I really am enjoying the direction that Brian Azzarello is taking Diana.  He is reaffirming her Greek origins and the aspects of her that are excellent, while at the same time also holding on to some her lesser qualities, but having her address them rather than fall into them blindly.   On the part of the series’ mythological roots, nothing is more discordant in Greek mythology than the interactions and personal lives of the gods.  This series utilizes this facet expertly, making it a modern day soap opera of petulant, bored, and shortsighted  deities.  Diana knows this and uses it to her advantage to try and do good and help people.  However, as I stated before, she has often been portrayed as a very impulsive, sometimes quick tempered person.  In this she learns the fate of male Amazons and in her hastiness to adjudicate the issue, is shown how her rash behavior is counter-intuitive to her goals.  I like this, because it makes her character feel genuine, yet adds a culpability that many times she lacks.  This issue also features the return of series artist, Cliff Chiang.  I am happy too see his return as I love his work, but am saddened too, because Tony Akins’ art was beginning to grow on me.  It does look like Akins will be back later to do a few issues, which is welcome news.  On the whole, this series is a road map to a better, brighter Wonder Woman.
  • Blue Beetle #7 was a good first issue in the new arc which finds Jaime running away to New York to find a metahuman to advise him on his new life.  What he finds in the Big Apple is interesting, but I am reserving judgement until I read further in.   Series artist Ig Guara is replaced by Marcio Takara and his artwork is a little better in my humble opinion.  Its a good issue, but I am still geeked for the crossover with Green Lantern: New Guardians in the ninth issue, with the invasion of Odym by the Reach.
  • T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #5 reached its penultimate chapter in this new DC iteration.  This series is hard to peg and I like that.  Things I thought were going to be hugely terrible are actually rather incredible and other things I thought benign are actually very apocalyptic.  However you decide to view it, this series is playing for keeps.  There is an end in sight.  Nick Spencer has taken everything that all the original series from the 60’s onward have been about and worked towards and zeroes in on a logical, inescapable conclusion.  Just reading this issue gave me goosebumps.  If you aren’t in the T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents already I would suggest getting the first trade paperback and waiting for the second series to come out in graphic novel so you can experience the whole thing in one long, continuous stretch of epic storytelling.  I said that the story is coming to a seemingly finite ending, but there was a backup story in this issue, written by Michael Uslan, which seems very “situation normal”, making is seem almost that the series could go on.  Perhaps that’s indicative of how covert the things happening in the main series are, but it does leave me with hope that the T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents might go on even after the wrap up of next issue.  Perchance to dream.
  • Silver Star #4 was outstanding, taking a very roundabout way of fleshing out the character of Silver Star.  I have praised its brother series in the “Kirby Genesis” line, Captain Victory, for really hammering in why its eponymous hero matters.  Sterling Gates has done a phenomenal job in that series doing that in a conversational, yet succinct way.  In this issue of Silver Star writer Jai Nitz does precisely that with his equally eponymous charge.  At the end of last issue, Morgan Miller aka Silver Star, who has been made to be indestructible, is hit with a folded-entropy weapon which for all intents and purposes removes him from reality.  The only person who can save him now is Tracy Coleman, his childhood friend who exists outside of space and time.  Emerging from her protective pocket dimensional sarcophagus, she emerges on a world where nearly everyone on the planet is a superhero, and seeking out Morgan comes to certain realizations about why a world full of Silver Star-like people, but no actual Silver Star is an imperfect world, contrary to appearances.  Just a damn good issue that doubles my love of the incredible Kirby creation.

    A World Without Silver Star

  • Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #1 was one that rife with possibilities and I enjoyed it.  I think that depending on what writer Selwyn Seyfu Hinds does in upcoming issues this could be a new Air, or Unwritten.  I am excited at the possibilities.  The cliffsnoted premise is that of the supernatural forces in New Orleans, werewolves, vampires, undead, etc, being ruled over by a mid-19th century Voodoo queen named Dominique Laveau.  In the modern era her descendant has the same name and, unbeknownst to her, a link to that destiny of her forebearer.  It had a chaotic first issue, but all the pieces of an incredible series are there.  I would suggest people read it, as it could be the first step towards a series that will innovate the Vertigo imprint.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman  #7: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO, Inked by Jonathan Glapion

DC Universe Presents #7: Drawn by Jerry Ordway, Colored by Tony Avina, Inked by Ray McCarthy

Red Hood and the Outlaws #7: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Blond

Silver Star #4: Art by Johnny Desjardins, Colored by Vinicius Andrade

Review: “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Vol. 1” (DC Series)

2010 saw DC pick up a series that had bounced around three other publishers since the 1960’s.  That series was, of course, T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents.  Admittedly, when this happened I had never heard about the original series and though it sounded interesting, abstained from reading it due to a dry spell in disposable income.  But when I saw that one of my favorite artists, Mike Grell, was doing backup art I got the issue and retroactively collected the previous issues.  After that, I became addicted to the series and sought out anything about it, past or present.

The concept of the original T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents series was a perfect combination of the popular genres of the day.  It featured an element of espionage involving a multinational organization with a cool acronym like the then popular TV series “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”, as well as superheroes like those in other mainstream comics, and sci-fi creatures and technology that were reminiscent of the cult classic films of the 50’s and 60’s.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents also featured one of the most unique premises, that even to this day is rather novel.  T.H.U.N.D.E.R is an acronym for The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserve, and as such The Higher United Nations employs agents to wield enhancing devices devised by by the brilliant scientist, Dr. Emil Jennings.  These devices include a power belt worn by agents codenamed “Dynamo”, a speed suit worn by agents codenamed “Lighnting”, a mind control helmet worn by agents codenamed “Menthor”, and a set of steel wings worn by agents codenamed “Raven.”  The devices give the wearer great power, but . . . the cost of use is that after a certain amount of time they will eventually kill the wielder.  That said, the choosing of agents is  very interesting. Recruitment is 100% voluntary so the candidates range from suicidal, to the crestfallen seeking atonement, to the just plain crazy.

The Grand Legacy

This new series by Nick Spencer feeds directly off the old material and presents a continuation of that series’ legacy into the new millennium with great care and fidelity.  It starts out with a brand new roster of agents, and then to illustrate the morbid premise of the series, kills off half the agents in the middle of a crucial mission of global importance.  Hence, a new team must be chosen, accept the terms of recruitment, be crash trained, and thrown into a conflict that could result in the downfall of nations . . . No pressure.  Through his artful storycrafting, Nick Spencer also fills us in on the gaps between this series and the previous series by Deluxe Comics from the 80’s.  He also flashes back to moments in the various other series and time periods with an interesting use of back up artists to segue and facilitate the flashback sequences from the present which is done for the seven issues by Cafu, two issues by Dan Panosian, and the final issue by Dan McDaid.  He uses the very stylized art of Nick Dragotta to go back to the original T.H.U.N.D.E.R team from the 60’s, Howard Chaykin to explore the life of the enigmatic colleague of Dr. Jennings, Dr. Anthony Dunn aka NoMan, George Perez to recap the history of the Dynamos, Ryan Sook to recap the SPIDER sequence, Mike Grell to do the 1980’s sequences, and ChrisCross doing the Lighting sequences.

Mike Grell's Rendering of the Iron Maiden in the 80's

This is one of those series like Green Lantern or Captain America where a writer who really understands the core of the piece invigorates it for the contemporary audience, and doesn’t just remake it so it holds up to today’s standards, but also feeds off of the older “hokier” source material and uses that as a moral foundation, but also a plot foundation, making those seemingly outmoded issues MATTER.  That is the real mark of an excellent series and a talented writer.  That is what makes modern era comics excellent.  This truly is an awesome collection and a good jumping on point for anyone that wants to start a long love affair with the world of T.H.U.N.D.E.R.

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

Illustration Credits:

T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #1: Cover by Frank Quitely & Val Staples

T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #4: Drawn by George Perez, Colored by Blond, Inked by George Perez & Scott Koblish

T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #7: Art.0 by Mike Grell, Colored by Val Staples

Week 26 (Feb. 29, 2012)

So this marks the historic fifth Wednesday of February.  Being a fifth week there wasn’t a whole lot that came out, but there were some gems.  Totaled up I only got ten comics this week.  Some were good, some were ok, I don’t think any were atrocious, so let’s jump in.

  • Justice League #6 was a chess game.  What I mean by that is that each plot development, each reference, each panel itself is a move against its opponent, which is an amalgam of that which is canon and that which is also good.  In some respects, writer Geoff Johns moved his pieces properly and advanced his game.  In others

    HAIL DARKSEID!!!

    he moved bishops and knights to be taken by pawns to no advantage.  This is getting really cryptic, so I’ll get on with what is good and what is shit.  Let’s start with the bad and get that over with, so we can end on a positive note.  Like the “Omega Sanction” in last month’s issue and Johns, clearly demonstrating that he knows fuck-all about Jack Kirby’s Fourth World and the awesome character of Darkseid which he is attempting in a bush league manner to portray, he screws the pooch yet again and has the Gods of Apokalips using Mother Boxes!!!  This won’t make sense to those who don’t know the intricate mythology Jack Kirby wove of the Fourth World, but Darkseid is evil incarnate who seeks a principle known as the “Anti-life Equation” which removes free will, the epitome of Life, from anyone exposed to its awesome power.  Counterbalancing this principle is the transcendental force called “The Source.”  Just as he attempts to draw on the former to achieve his goals, his nemeses, the New Gods of New Genesis use Mother Boxes to draw on “The Source” to defend life.  So why the FUCK is Darkseid using Mother Boxes?!  ARE YOU A COMPLETE IDIOT, MR. JOHNS?!   The reason I am getting worked up is that the Fourth World is one of Jack “The King” Kirby’s greatest legacies, especially to DC Comics.  It is a masterpiece of modern mythcraft, and you do NOT fuck with Jack Kirby.  What is happening here is

    Hell Hath No Fury Like an Amazon's Scorn

    akin to taking a shit on a religion’s holy text.  Nerds like me will put a fatwah on your ass and string you up by your feet.  Geoff Johns is such a good writer in all his other endeavors that it is painful to watch him do such shitty work on this title.  He needs to have an intern do it and hide his name, because I think this is a discredit to his otherwise good reputation as a comic writer.  Okay,  conversely, as per my objection last issue to the impossibility of the story of Darkseid’s invasion of Earth concluding satisfactorily in a single issue . . . somehow Johns found a way that worked.  Props.  Also, within the process of winding it up, Darkseid’s goals, conquest being only a tertiary aim, are revealed and what he is ACTUALLY looking for is something that I am quite interested in seeing explored.  You got a hook in me . . . FINALLY!!!  Don’t fuck it up, Geoff.  In the realm of Justice League you are on thin fuckin’ ice with me, Bucko.   And finally, the last relevant item is an overly verbose review was the last section that brings light on something that is at the very heart of DC’s Reboot.  I won’t say what it is, as it turned my frown upside and made me wet my pants a little bit (Don’t tell anyone . . .).  The answer to a burning question of Reboot readers is hinted at and its future given voice.  If you want to know what I am talking about . . . buy the issue.  It has its moments, and unless you are a true believer, it probably won’t bother you as much as it did me.

  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #1 came out today with its inaugural issue and was phenomenal.  This book picks up where the Batman Beyond series left off, pre-reboot, and continues on with the promised “10,000 Clowns” arc, and what’s more, introduces a Justice League Beyond segment which comprises its second half.  The issue is oversized, has two separate stories in it, and features the work of four incredible comic creators, so this review also will be long like the Justice League one above, but much, MUCH more positive and enthusiastic.  Also for those who are unaware what this whole “Batman Beyond” business is, starting with “Batman the Animated Series” in the early 90’s and continuing on to “Superman the Animated Series”, “Justice League”, “Justice League Unlimited”, and “Batman Beyond”, Warner Bros. created an animated DC continuity headed by producer, Bruce Timm.  “Batman Beyond” features Batman of the future as a high school student, Terry McGinnis, mentored and backed up by an eighty year old Bruce Wayne.  Despite how horrible this series could have been, it was done to perfection meriting its continuation through comics, it’s ancestral medium.  Adam Beechen returns as Batman Beyond writer, but in the place of the Nguyen/Fridolfs art team, veteran Batman artist, Norm Breyfogle, steps in to provide the art.   Beechen’s story is classic, picking up where he left off perfectly from the past series, showing Terry juggling high school and his social life with his nocturnal work as caped crusader, and having the story juggle an influx of Jokerz (gangs of punks who idolize the Joker) from cities across the country coming to Gotham, as if on a religious pilgrimage with the mysterious entry of a major player sizing up the Batman in the background.  Breyfogle does a stunning job in this series.  He made his name largely in the 80’s doing Batman comics, including the art for the graphic novel “Birth of the Demon”, penned by Batman writer extraordinaire, Dennis O’Neil, one of my all time heroes.  Though it is light-years different from his past endeavors, Breyfogle nails this issue’s art.  Justice League Beyond is a treat as this features the iteration of the fabled DC group as it appeared in the show.  They have never had their own title before, so this is a treat, allowing them to step from the “Shadow of the Bat” and flourish on their own steam.  I mentioned that Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs stepped away from the art of Batman Beyond, and the reason is they both wrote and drew this new Justice League Beyond segment.  They too nailed it.  This segment, more so than the Batman one, mined the animated continuities beautifully.  Superman’s former allegiance to Darkseid in his animates series is referenced, as is the enslavement of the Justice League Beyond from “Batman Beyond.”  The Jokerz and the Splicers (street punks with illegal animal alterations “spliced” in their DNA) make the scene to start off the issue.  However, one of my favorite villain groups from DC, Kobra, comprise the main conflict.  I have mentioned them before in my other reviews as they are a snake worshiping cult with a global network and infinite funds for their operation.  Their introduction is the perfect way to start off what is destined to be a perfect series.
  • T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #4 continued down the insane path of no-holds-barred storytelling that has made it so incredible.  There really is no way of telling where writer Nick Spencer is going next.  The uprising of our subterranean neighbors reaches critical mass and the apocalyptic truth of the past, laid out by Spencer, has implications that extend to the first issue of the first series from the 1960’s.  When you become acquainted with the story of the Agents of The Higher United Nations Defensive Reserve, the story being laid out is EPIC!!! As with past issues, a guest artist is brought in to illustrate flashback sequences alongside the art of the present as done by Wes Craig.  This issue’s guest is Sam Keith who is so utterly wrong for the job.  I do not like his art at all.  It makes me feel like I dropped acid and took a BAD trip.  *Shiver*  But yet again the last page had me in hysterics, mouthing feebly, “Wussafah!?!” (WTF).  I love this series so much.  It hits the right notes and maintains excellence and continuity, while shaking it up in the surgically right places.
  • Legion: Secret Origin #5  is at its penultimate point.  The Legion has been brought together in its most rudimentary form and their success is at a pivotal moment in time.  Depending on the events that dangle ominously in the wings and their response, they could rise to great heights of fall into oblivion.  Writer, Paul Levitz, plots it to a fever pitch and the dominoes set up over five issues are pushed on the last panel, and how they fall is left for next month’s culminating issue.  Their destiny as contemporaries and inspirations to Clark Kent is teased at in this issue and held just beyond their reach, as is the futility of  the power systems in place within the United Planets to stop the coming storm that is on the horizon.  A pretty good place to be in anticipation for the final issue of a Legion of Super-heroes origin story.
  • The Shade #5 picks up where issue #3 left off after a revealing flashback in the fourth issue.  With Shade’s reunion with his geriatric great-grandson the answer to what all this series is about is finally answered.  All the background dealings, assassins, and 

    Birth of a Demon

    such are explain and the goals sought after put out in the open.  That said Shade goes to Spain to meet another one of his pseudo family to enlist her aid.  This one is La Sangre, a teenaged Vampire.  Hear me now, believe me later: she is not at all as atrocious a character as this image surely evokes.  This girl puts “Twilight” in its place, which is the dumpster.  She’s a fiery redhead that fights crime for the people of Barcelona with angst and attitude.  Her connection to the Shade is explained, giving both a great deal of quality characterization, and the issue culminates with her perennial villain, The Inquisitor, with whom she has traded blows over the centuries, calling her out.  What will happen?  Gotta wait till next month.  The writing is exceptional, as we have come to expect from James Robinson, not only in the five issues he’s done of this series, but over the span of his whole career.  Providing art this issue is Javier Pulido, who, wouldn’t you know it, is himself a Spaniard.  His art in this issue was reminiscent of the guest artist last month, Darwyn Cooke.  I enjoyed it thoroughly and look forward to seeing the collaboration of Robinson and Pulido over the next two issues.
  • Green Hornet #22 returns to the the character of Moonbeam, the side kick of the violent, misguided vigilante, The Scowl.  As kind of a side note in the duo’s first appearance, this time he takes a front seat role in the plot, which expounds on the corruption of the mayor’s office and other institutions.  This issue didn’t really have a lot of things happening in and of itself, but I think it facilitating the start of a larger arc where several things will.  A decent yarn that foreshadows a future for the young Moonbeam.
  • Spaceman #4 continues to perplex me.  I sense a lot happening beneath the surface.  There is the hints of characterization and real plot development, but the crazy future slums setting and pidgin English is really throwing me off.  I respect the avante-gard quality of this title’s presentation, but have to admit that it is a hindrance to my enjoyment of it.  Also the jarring disconnect between what Orson, the Spaceman, is doing on Earth and what he was doing (will be doing?) on Mars is perplexing in not a good way.  Azzarello needs to clarify that, even a little bit, or he’s going to piss off a lot of people.  Other than that, I am taking the ride with no expectations and seeing what’s at the end of the tunnel.
  • Kirby Genesis: Dragonsbane #2 was really good once again, picking right up where issue two left off, with the witch Circe turning the Aesir warriors into pigs.  How do they escape you may ask?  With the help of someone who himself has been up against the witch’s trickery. With the advent of this Greek hero, the Aesir gain another companion on their quest for the  Complicity of Dragons.  This issue continues to be HEAVILY Kirby-esque.  The character of Circe was used by the Kirby in his Eternals series in the 70’s.  Her costume is different in this series, but much of her appearance and the way she is postured are not only distinctly Kirby, but distinctly her from that aforementioned series.  Also through Norse magic a Jotun Frost Giant of Jotunheim is conjured forth, harkening back to Kirby’s original Thor comics for Marvel in the 60’s.  This series is going places and just like its sister series in the Kirby Genesis line, it has an authentic feel to the character designs and the stories themselves.

    Magics of the Norsemen

  • Steed and Mrs. Peel #2 is just as incredible as the first issue.  Grant Morrison has a definite handle on the mod British feel of the original “Avengers” television program.  John Steed remains the quintessential British gentleman in this rendering and Mrs. Peel the intelligent, sexy counterpart.  The plot itself is very poetic and cryptic, mirroring the plots they have faced in the past.  Artist, Ian Gibson, fully rounds out the feel of the book, further likening it to an episode of the old spy programme.  The humor and style is very dry and British, which is a major draw to some and a major turn off to others on this side of the pond, so this series isn’t for everyone, but I must say that I really like it.
  • And finally, Unwritten #34.5 continues its run of dual issues.  This secondary story recounts Wilson Taylor, then Will Tallis’s, experience during WWI.  Like last month’s tale of the childhood of Madame Rausch, this issue took a very morally ambiguous character and showed the horrors and injustices of his previous life before becoming involved in the “War of Words.”   Unlike last issue’s story, however, there was morbid beauty  to the narrative Will related about the lives and spirit of the British “Tommies” fighting in the Trenches.  The end of the issue is equally as beautiful and furthers the mystery of just who Wilson Taylor is . . .

Thus ends the historic month of February.   A lot of great stories came out.  Let’s hope March keeps pace.

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 #6: Drawned by Jim Lee, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Tony Avina, and Hi-Fi, Inked by Scott Williams, Sandra Hope, Batt, and Mark Irwin

The Shade #5: Art by Javier Pulido, Colored by Hillary Sycamore

Kirby Genesis: Dragonsbane #2: Art by Frtiz Casas, Colored by Salvatore Aiala

Week 20 (Jan. 18, 2012)

This was a really extraordinary week in comics.  There were a few this week that gave me chills:

  • Batman #5 was BAT SHIT CRAZY!!!  I mean that in the best way.  Snyder is taking the Bat in a very dark (or perhaps you could say very BRIGHT) direction and the comic itself is a key to the ambiance and generator of mood.  Obviously a comic containing a story

    Batman and the Court in "Batman #5" drawn by Greg Capullo

    generates a lot of things including mood and ambiance.  Please don’t take this comment in that light, and think I’m an idiot. What I mean by that statement is when you read the book itself, the way the pages are plotted and oriented gives you a sense of the insanity and delirium that the Dark Knight is experiencing while traversing the events of each page.  You yourself go a bit mad, and what’s more, there are a lot of clues to the mystery of the Court of Owls left for Batman (and us) to find, but Batman is so out of it that apart from drawing attention to them, he doesn’t really piece anything larger together from them, leaving us with this monolithic mystery and no Detective to solve it.  So we are in a position to posit what WE think the Court is and what it is up to.  In many ways, Snyder has imbued this book with infinite detail and finely tuned storycrafting.  Its not an action issue at all, and only on the periphery is it a story issue as nothing solid is really revealed. But the possibilities it gives and the anticipation it builds make up for the lack of the previous two criteria, and then some.

  • Green Lantern Corps #5 fell flat for me this week.  Some of the things involved were merely opinion differences and another was straight up fact-of-the-matter-What-the-HELL-are-you-thinking-Tomasi?   First of all, I love the storyline of the “Keepers” arc.  Its a very intriguing, well thought out plot.  I have stated before, that the concept of the Keepers is right up there with the evil Manhunter robots, the Controllers, the Darkstars, etc., all being institutions and groups with a history of antagonism with the Guardians and their Green Lantern Corps.  Beautiful storytelling, as can be expected from Tomasi.  In this issue the turning point has been reached and a counterattack is immanent.  One thing that they intend to do makes sense to me, and I will leave you to read the issue to see what that is, because its a good idea.  The next thing is Guy Gardner recruiting a biker gang of Green Lanterns.  Seems really sleazy and uninspired.  This is opinion.  The next, which I will spoil, because of the sheer idiocy of it, is that the group of Lanterns taking the fight to the Keepers raid a space shipment for guns.  Not even plasma guns or phasers or cool laser rifles, straight up 50 caliber sniper rifles, Colt 45’s and shotguns.  They have the most lethal weapon in the Universe on their hands and their first impulse is to get guns.  “Hey, we got a Sherman tank, but before we go into battle we need slingshots. LOTS of slingshots.”  I get that perhaps their rings won’t work on the  Keepers, but why do they have to resort to such mundane of weapons as gunpowder firearms when there is a whole universe of choices to pick from?!  Bad show, Tomasi.  I know you can do better than this.
  • Catwoman #5 started off up in the air (literally) and quickly descended into a quick paced action comic that does what I think any good Catwoman story should: go really wrong REALLY fast!  Selina is a glutton for punishment and I think that I would get really pissed with her constant, masochistic fuck ups, if  it wasn’t so damn entertaining to see how she gets out of them.  For those of us who own cats or have exposure to them, you’ll understand my next point.  I think what Judd Winick gets is that Catwoman literally is a woman whose behavior is that of a CAT.  Her curiosity and lack of willpower gets her into constant trouble and the fun is, as with cats, watching them extract themselves from it. If you’ve ever seen a cat jump on something clearly unstable or similar situations, its sad, but engaging to watch.  That is what makes this series great.  Every issue ends with her having that same sheepish look your cat does when they pick themselves up after trying to pouncing on a bird that is on the other side of a plate glass window.  This issue’s ending is no exception.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #5 was seamless with last month’s issue.  They fit together perfectly and continued in the same vein, revealing a great deal about the course of the series and what’s to be expected.  The Untitled made their first appearance in the form of an unexpected character and a xenophobic human entered the scene with a very peculiar attack on Starfire.  This issue shows the aftermath of both occurrences and hints at the underlying characters of each Outlaw, as well as the nature of the conflict arising with the Untitled.  I think, more than ever, I am a Roy Harper fan.  He kicked a little bit of ass in this issue and really showed his true colors.  Lobdell portrays him well as a one time shining star who fell from glory through drug abuse and bad choices, but still a really decent guy just trying to get back on his feet and amidst all his mistakes, still a person his friends can count on when the chips are down and things look grim.  I think Starfire is on the road to become a more dynamic character through her journey with these two awesome, yet messed up dudes.  And in the case of Jason Todd, the mystical back story that prompts their world tour de force is unraveling slowly and the moody Jason is starting to get depth in this new iteration.  All in all, I am really starting to get invested in the three of them and their journey.  I really feel that this issue coupled with the last two are creating something great that will have long standing implications in the future stories written about all three of them.
  • Nightwing #5 heated up the arc and took it in to a very sudden turn.  This issue has Haly’s Circus setting up shop in New Orleans and the demons of one of the circus’s star performers coming back to haunt him, literally.  The issue is relatively self contained and awesome, so there isn’t much I can say about it that wouldn’t be spoiling the truly incredible storytelling.  However, I can reveal with no guilt that the issue is worth it, if only for the BOMBSHELL that writer Kyle Higgins drops on the last page.  The rest of the issue was stand alone.  The events that close the issue out are very much in line with the main story arc and portend sinister events in store for Mr. Grayson in the near future . . .

    Wonder Woman and Poseidon in "Wonder Woman #5" drawn by Tony Akins

  • Wonder Woman #5 . . . I remember very vividly reading Wonder Woman #1 and it being lackluster, completely eschewing any characterization in lieu of masturbatory scenes of Wonder Woman violently hacking mystical creatures into their essential parts like a friggin’ Chicago slaughterhouse. I’m not going to come down on a comic for depicting sex, violence, or anything as long as it serves a purpose.  This, I felt, pretty much holding the story up instead of supplementing it.  That is just shoddy writing.  This issue and the one before it really turned that around.  Diana’s persona is beginning to shine through and I really feel that Azzarello has a good feel on the character and making her a noble, strong woman without making her into the overly misanthropic stereotype that less seasoned writers have blundered into.  I really like her and want her to succeed now, and for a long time I was afraid that she wasn’t going to come off like that in the new DC Universe.  I am thrilled.  The issue was very much a story issue with only the hints of action at the end, which means that issue #6 will probably be the action issue to balance out this month’s story issue.  I personally don’t mind, because a story issue was long overdue and the information given really rounded the book out.
  • Legion of Superheroes #5 was much like Wonder Woman.  This month’s issue took a break from the fast paced first arc and showed a day in the life of the Legionaires. Not really any action, just a story issue that lays seeds for future plot points.  Mainly it just showed how some Legionaires relax and unwind between life or death missions, as well as which are haunted or plagued by past events, and the general sense of community that exists between them.  With this issue casually showing the Legionaire’s mental or emotional states, when the next several arc happen a great deal of the ground work will already be laid, and we can harken back to this issue’s events in quick references so that the intense action can continue uninterrupted and we can enjoy.  Overall a good issue.  However, I am not personally a fan of Walt Simonson’s art.  That may be heresy, but its too angular and rough for me.  I feel like with age his art should have softened and refined itself, but then again, even Jack “The King” Kirby’s artwork kinda peaked in the 70’s and took a nose dive in the 80’s.  Overall though, it was a good issue that was fun to read and will probably be invaluable in the future of Legion of Superheroes story lines.
  • In DC Universe Presents #5 the Deadman arc comes to its metaphysical ending.  Looking back on my impressions from the previous four issues, its funny.  I had some initial impressions that I think were well reasoned in the beginning, but just didn’t pan out.  I really liked the arc and I feel its a tribute to Paul Jenkins that my impressions turned out to be false, as it just goes to show what dynamism he employed in its penning.  The main thing that fell through for me was my impression of Rama Kushna being a transcendental, Bodhisattva-like being who promotes equanimity and karmic balance.  Not quite how she is revealed in this last issue.  The conundrum that lead her to initiate this story arc by assigning Deadman this “impossible task” is very thought provoking in the simplicity of the elusive question Rama seeks and the very essence of what makes us all human.  Can gods really be jealous of humans?  This arc was great in my opinion, completely divorced from the motivations of the original series that spawned it, and presented in a very fresh and poignant manner. If you missed these first five issues, look for the Trade when it come out, most likely this summer.
  • Supergirl #5 branches off of the first conflict, but perhaps not the first arc of the story.  Supergirl has emancipated herself from the sinister forces on Earth, but goes in search of her home, Krypton.  I won’t spoil anything by stating that she obviously doesn’t find Krypton, as Krypton is destroyed.  However, what she does find, and more to the point who she finds in this issue holds integral clues to the destruction of her home world, its dark history, and the possibility of those dark secrets affecting the future of Earth in coming issues.  Writers, Michael Green and Mike Johnson (whom in future reviews I will simply refer to as “The Mikes”), really have an interesting plot point by issue’s end that hopefully will pan out and really set the series in a niche that so far it hasn’t filled.
  • Birds of Prey #5 . . . beautiful artwork, still not that great of a title, but I am holding on at least until the end of the arc so I can at least know what the hell is going on.  I figure if it still sucks by the end of the arc then it will probably continue in that vein.
  • Blue Beetle #5 threw out a few tricks that ensnared me on a series that I thought to be floundering.  The Blue Beetle concept was one that I wasn’t super familiar with and to me the series was just maintaining, on top of the fact that, for me, the art of Ig Guara, isn’t stellar.  In this issue though, they solidified certain plot points, introduced at least two new conflicts, and writer Tony Bedard drops a reference to a crossover he has planned for the Reach as antagonists in his other DC series,Green Lantern: The New Guardians.  I think I can say that this issue is safely on my pull list through this coming summer.  I look forward to what Bedard has in store.
  • T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #3 continues on the journey that #2 began, which following the shocking ending of issue #2 is a doozy.  The first half of the issue is the rescue team dispatched by T.H.U.N.D.E.R to rescue Lighting and Dynamo.  Once they reach their goal of the Subterranean kingdom the group splinters and we follow NoMAN, aka Anthony Dunn, on his journey through this underground war land.  This was interesting as his section of the story is a cascade of images that flashback to the 60’s and forward to the present and are overlaid with disconnected musings of internal monologue.  He is the only member of T.H.U.N.D.E.R who was alive during the last war with the Subterraneans and though his thoughts are hazy, since he is really talking to himself not us, they hint that he created a super weapon to end the war (probably not unlike the A-bomb in WWII) that he employed to annihilate millions of innocent Subterraneans to force a treaty out of them.  A great deal of insight is shown into the very flat seeming character of NoMAN.  This part of the story was interesting, although slightly annoying as it was really sketchy and hard to follow.  What wasn’t hard to follow was the surprise that awaited us on the last page. HOLY SHIT!!!  To those who are familiar with the story and the background of the title, this one is a real shocker . . .
  • Green Hornet #21 was another interim issue like issue #20, that was a light(er), stand alone story of Britt and to a lesser extent, Mulan.  This time it deals with a wayward friend of the new Hornet from his youth and the latter helping him out of the hole he dug himself.  Its a little bit static and cliche, but in the details, there was some really touching characterization.  I think it went a long way toward characterizing Britt and developing him as a lead character on par with his dad. Not a stellar issue, but worth a read while waiting for the next arc that will start in #22.
  • Steed and Mrs. Peel, for those who miss the reference, is a allusion to the 60’s Brit spy series called “The Avengers.”  The dapper gentleman, John Steed and his lovely (yet married) girl Friday partner, Mrs. Peel, come back together for Queen and Country in this mini series penned by the great Grant Morrison.  Reading it, I felt like I was watching the TV series again.  The feel is very genuine, and clearly Mr. Morrison was a fan in his youth.  Again, for those who are unfamiliar with the show or the tone, its a very campy British spy show of the 1960’s.  I say that with great love, as I watched it when I was a kid at my grandmother’s house, who herself was an avid Anglophile.  What I like about the series, on a side note again, is that Steed had three main ladies  who assisted him in his endeavors: Cathy Gale (played by Honor Blackman known by some of you as the infamously named Pussy Galore in the equally infamous Bond flick Goldfinger), Mrs. Emma Peel (played by the gorgeous and exotic looking Diana Rigg) and Tara King (played by the mod Linda Thorson).  The book takes place in the period when Steed has moved on to Tara King following Mrs. Peel’s retirement from the spy game to go adventuring with her scientist husband in South America.  In this series, Steed gets her to return for this case.  The interplay between the two is spot on, right down the iconic mention of Peel stirring Steed’s tea counter clockwise, which is comparable to how James Bond likes his martinis.  You all know what I mean . . .

    Alex Ross's Cover to "Kirby Genesis: Dragonsbane #1"

  • Kirby Genesis comes out with another spin off series in the epic Dragonsbane #1 Another of Jack “The King” Kirby’s experimentations, this one you can tell was hashed out while he was getting into his Norse phase that would become the legendary Marvel series Thor.  Whereas Thor takes place in Asgard with the Gods, this series takes place in Valhalla and features a mix of mortals and Gods, although all are termed the Aesir which are the Norse gods.  The series takes place in the Mythlands which once were one, but were sundered and separated by dense and deadly mists in an event called the “Time of the Great Shattering.”  These mists begin to dispel and the heroic Norse heroes long for exploration and battle outside of their peaceful realm.  A opportunity presents itself in the form of a maiden imperiled by dragons, and who better to aid her than the eponymous character, Sigurd Dragonsbane?  Sigurd in Norse myth was a mortal granted immortality by bathing in the blood of the dragon, Fafnir, of whom he slew, but like Achilles in Greek mythology neglected to bathe a patch on his back that is vulnerable to attack. He cuts a similar figure as Thor with a winged helm on his head, but wielding instead of a mighty hammer a long and imposing spear with an intricate head that only Kirby could have designed.  Its a good series that exploits Kirby’s love of all mythologies.  In fact it ends in another mythland with a familiar female Greek that Kirby also wrote about for Marvel . . .
And that is another week.  Looking forward to the final week of the month, which usually garners some of the most outstanding titles.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #5: Drawned by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO, Inked by Jonathan Glapion

Wonder Woman #5: Art by Tony Akins, Colored by Matthew Wilson

Kirby Genesis: Dragonsbane #1: Art by Fritz Casas, Colored by Salvatore Aiala