Jan. 29, 2014

This week rounds out the month with some classic series like Teen Titans and The Flash and adds a few Annuals to the mix.  It also marks the end of the very intriguing Damian: Son of Batman series.  Not the most perfect week of comics, but certainly a few gems to be read.

  • The Flash #27 begins the last arc of writer Brian Buccellato’s run on this title.  Beginning in the 19th century when the Gem Cities of Keystone and Central City were mining camps, we get a two page glimpse at a murder centuries.  Cut to the present when Flash is running down (pun intended) a few of his lesser foes, only to discover a hidden chamber beneath the city streets containing several long dead bodies.  They fit the M.O. of a killer put away on a life sentence, but according to forensics were killed AFTER said person, Hollis Holden, was sent to Iron Heights Prison.  As Barry looks into the facts it slowly dawns on him that this could be the case that clears his father’s name of killing Barry’s mom.  It’s a sad thing that Buccellato is leaving the Flash, because his collaboration with Francis Manapul on the title has truly invigorated this series and made it one of the “can’t miss” series of the current DC lineup.  Though Manapul is absent in art, Patrick Zircher takes over art duties and his panels bring the Flash alive in a whole new way.  I won’t say that I like the art better than Manapul’s, which is in it’s own category, but I definitely love his work and would seek it out in other titles once this title transitions. With this being Buccellato’s last hoorah on the Flash, it’s a distinct possibility that Barry might ACTUALLY solve his mother’s murder.  The question comes down to how well that answer could be given under the current circumstances and the size of Buccellato’s ego.  My opinion could swing favorably or unfavorably on this one.  Two more issues to go . . .
  • The Red Lanterns #27 begins properly the new phase in the Red Lantern mission.  After “Lights Out” Hal Jordan gave Guy Gardner and his Red Lanterns a sector of Space for their own, free of interference from the Green Lanterns.  Guy took 2814, home most notably to the planet Earth.  Writer Charles Soule says Ysmault, the Red Lantern homeworld, is in Sector 2814 and that is the rationale for its selection.  I’m not buying it.  This is one time when I have to question Soule’s logic, considering that Ysmault was used as the prison to house the survivors of the Manhunter massacre of every living thing in Sector 666, except the six Inversions imprisoned on there.  They were imprisoned to keep them out of sight and out of mind so they couldn’t tell the rest of the Universe what the Guardians let happen.  So . . . why would they put these dangerous criminals in a heavily populated sector like 2814 when they could use any of the THOUSANDS of deserted planets in 666 where nobody ever goes and where there are no Green Lanterns patrolling?  I’m pretty sure they did even say Ysmault is in 666 somewhere in one issue or another.  A very ill-conceived gambit to justify the annexing of 2814 by the Reds.  With that taken into account, Guy intends to inspect Earth and show Skallox and Zilius Zox his homeworld, as they have never seen it before.  I am fairly certain Skallox went to Earth in Red Lanterns #10 or the crossover issue of Stormwatch #10.  Soule is appearing to not have done his homework.  Rankorr and Bleez, who have been to Earth many times, are dispatched to find a newly minted Red Lantern and reign them in, only to come face-to-face with Atrocitus, who found new ring himself and initiate the new toad-like Red into the fold.  On Earth Skallox and Zox are left to their own devices, invariably finding trouble.  The main thing that Charles Soule accomplishes with this issue is the reintroduction of Tora Olafsdottir, aka Ice, into the New DCU, as well as recapping the former relationship that Guy and Tora once had.  I like the series, but I do think that of the many things that Charles Soule is currently writing this is the weakest series and the one that probably has the least of his attention.  That’s not to say that it’s bad, but it could be way better.
    An Icy Reception.

    An Icy Reception.


  • Teen Titans #27 appears to be Scott Lobdell’s attempt to make a liar out of me.  Last issue, he and artist Tyler Kirkham went about detailing the secret origin of Kid Flash, aka Bar-Tor, as a “psychotic anarchist” who led a bloody rebellion in a tyrannically oppressive future.  At least that was their aim.  What they showed was a level headed kid that did everything within his power to protect and provide for his little sister, Shira, and make a better world.  He is nothing more than what any person would be in that situation and far from the psychopath they’d depicted him as.  This issue changes that.  It also, to a small degree, changes the rationale behind his surrender to the galactic “Functionary” that oppressed the lower classes of its citizens.  In issue #26 it appeared that the near death of Shira due to his actions snapped Bar out of his revolutionary fervor, making him give himself up to authorities.  While I still believe that he loves his sister and that she is his primary reason for doing what he has done, Scott Lobdell shows that Kid Flash’s surrender was both strategic and deceptive.  Though he was granted witness protection and a new identity in the past, the Functionary show when they try Bar in this issue that they never had any intention of letting him live.  They only meant to break his rebellion by putting on a show trial with him ratting out those that believe in him and fought for him, killing their spirit, and then executing him afterward.  Bar knew this and turned the tables.  After admitting his utter guilt to the charges laid against him the ceiling is literally blown off of the courthouse and the prison guards arm the rebels and teleport them to the scene.  Bar has the Functionary bigwigs in a snare that will ensure that all the government’s heads will roll in one swing of the sword.  No one is going to survive Bar’s coup, not even the innocents present.  In his demeanor and his actions, Kid Flash does take on the crazed temper he’d be cast in leading up to these last two issues.  It’s madness, but the question is whether it is a good kind of madness.  What is happening seems very much like the French Revolution with the prison guards turning against their masters and opening the prisons in an all out breakdown of the system.  I am very curious to see how this predicament pans out and how the crazy Kid Flash from this issue reconciles with the very grounded, moral version that perhaps only I saw in the last issue.  With a character like Kid Flash it’s hard to believe he would get kamikaze’d like, that regardless of whether the title is getting cancelled in April or not.  Scott Lobdell hasn’t let me down so far and has written this series superbly throughout the two and a half year run.  Artist Tyler Kirkham is hitting it out of the park in the realm of art, really making this title a jewel in his resume.  I’m onboard this train till it’s last stop two months from now.  What a ride . . .

    The Face of Teenage Revolution.

    The Face of Teenage Revolution.

  • Talon #15 is yet another comic by Marguerite Bennett that I went into with high hopes, only to have them dashed.  The issue has NO story. Yes, there is something resembling a plot, but at the end of the issue the reader is left with two questions: 1) What did I just read? 2) Why should I care?  The plot (or what passes for one) begins with an African American Talon taking down William Cobb to become the Court of Owl’s new assassin.  It should be noted that this Talon is male, meaning that it is not Strix, who came into her second life in the 50’s. The pacing of the issue is also very jarring, following the reverse order paradigm of Christopher Nolan’s seminal film, Memento.  Slowly we work our way back through this guys life, and while the imagery is very depressing and often tragic, the rationale of why we are even hearing about this guy is not answered.  This is a one-off for Bennett, the title will transition to Tim Seeley’s hands for it’s final two issues, so again the possibility that this is setting something up is dubious.  There was even the possibility in my head that in some way this gentleman was a relative of Casey Washington, but due to the time period and the circumstances described this is just a nameless Talon we may never hear from again.  Every time I come across a title that Marguerite Bennett writes I get a twinge.  Maybe she’s good at writing her own material, but so far everything of hers I have read is her writing a one-shot issue of someone else’s property like her Batman Annual #2 last year, the TERRIBLE Lobo issue she wrote during Villains Month this September, and her lackluster Batgirl #25 in November.  She’s writing two one-shots next month and both have me worried.  Joker’s Daughter features the title character whom I do not care for one iota, so that sounds like a giant waste of money.  Lois Lane is a horse of a different color, because that has the potential to be amazing . . . assuming the writer has the talent to actually pull it off.  Lois Lane is a character that can be incredible, but can also be absolutely terrible if the writer doesn’t know what they are doing. Bennett does not instill faith.  Also the artist on Lois Lane, Emanuela Lupacchino, is an up and coming talent and I’ve enjoyed her past work a great deal, so that is another reason Bennett’s authorship is troubling.  No one wants to be the weakest link that breaks the chain, especially when that chain is Lois Lane, one of the most beloved female characters in comics and someone that fans have been screaming to have her own solo book.  Marguerite Bennett said this of her controversial Lobo issue this past September:
    You can hate me by Page Two. But if I do not have your attention by Page Four, you don’t have to read something of mine ever again.”
    Well Ms. Bennett, you have until the last page of Lois Lane #1 to sell me that you can write anything.  Then I am going to take you up on your previous offer.  
  • Damian: Son of the Batman #4 brings to a close Andy Kubert’s four issue miniseries dedicated to Damian Wayne, whom Kubert co-created with Grant Morrison.  This series has been and continues to be a very Kubert-esque journey through the life of Batman.  Joe Kubert, Andy’s father, had a very characteristic drawing style that influenced comic art for seventy years, but also a narrative style that is like no one else’s, past or present.  Andy has definitely inherited his dad’s artistic style, but he also emotes the same incredible voice as a writer.  Joe could have written this, but at the same time there is a darker edge that is all Andy.  In a lot of ways that is something of which this comic is an allegory.  Damian is taking over for his legendary father, Batman.  In the first issue, even after the death of Batman (it’s actually Dick Grayson) he is reticent to take on the mantle of the Bat, but as events unfold he is thrust into becoming Batman, but a Batman on his terms.  His father, who is still alive though quite old, chastises him for his wanton brutality which does get through to the young Wayne.  But as this issue concludes and Damian actualizes himself as the new Dark Knight he takes on the role adhering closely to his father’s legacy and being Batman in the ways that matter, but also maintaining an element of his own identity while in the role.  Now I don’t know if Joe and Andy had an idyllic relationship or a rocky one like Bruce and Damian in this series, but the parallels of Andy taking the reigns of continuing his father’s legendary name and legacy in the comics industry rings true to Damian’s struggle herein.  As stated, Joe Kubert’s art can be found in elements of more than four generations of comic artists, but his writing style is far more rare and that is what Andy stands as a torchbearer to.  Top to bottom, this was an incredible four issue miniseries and well worth reading for those that love and miss Damian Wayne.

    Long Live the Batman!

    Long Live the Batman!

  • Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 provides and extended format launch pad for the next major conflict in the Green Lantern family of books. The Durlans have been a problem over the past several months, but in this annual their threat begins to solidify.  They have publicly discredited the Green Lantern Corps in front of the Universe, they have rallied the Corps’ enemies into simultaneous attacks on the Corps’ chapter houses throughout the 3600 sectors of Space, and they have drawn blood by blowing up the Corps’ command center on Mogo.  Writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen give background into the Durlan threat by showing the horrific ruling council of the Durlan race called “the Ancients,” and gives voice to what the Ancients plan.  What’s more, the annual primarily focuses on the Corps’ many iconic villains, i.e. Kanjar-Ro, Bolphunga the Unrelenting, Darkstar, etc., and gives short one to two page glimpses into each villain’s past with a moment that sums up their individual motivations.  These are the worst of the worst who HATE the Corps, so what Venditti and Jensen do next is even more incredible.  Faced with an alliance with the Durlans who none of them trust, this ragtag group of villains pull a 180 and align themselves with the Green Lanterns to take out the Durlan threat.  It’s a tricky gambit and should make for one hell of an entertaining arc.  
  • Earth 2 Annual #2 finally reveals the origin of the enigmatic Batman of Earth 2.  Spoiler Alert, I am going to reveal the identity of Batman.  I feel enough time has passed since the issue dropped that those that want to know already know, but if someone doesn’t, skip this review.  This series started in Earth 2 #0 with the end days of the Apokalips Invasion of Earth 2 being thwarted by the Trinity (Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman) at the cost of their lives. So with Bruce Wayne dead, who is this new Batman and why is he doing what he is doing?  The breadcrumbs and clues have been stacking up.  Firstly, through his rhetoric and desire to free “dangerous” inmates of the Arkham cryostasis detention center we are shown that he could be considered a criminal and a monster.  Secondly, while doing so he is revealed to have super-strength and a bulletproof hide. Thirdly, we are told that bioscans reveal him to be human.  Finally, when he goes into the containment chambers and releases the inmates he opens the Joker’s tube only to shoot him in the head, revealing a VERY deep loyalty to Batman as a person, but not an adherence to his stringent codes against killing and using firearms.  All of these paint a tantalizing riddle of who this person could be, opening the door for either a very interesting reinvention of a classic DC character or the introduction of a brand new one.  The reveal was, I am sad to say, underwhelming.  Batman is Dr. Thomas Wayne, father of Bruce Wayne, who faked his death and apparently became a junkie and a murderer out to take down mafiosi.  Maybe in the long run this will be a decent development, but it just seemed really tired and unoriginal.  Thomas Wayne as Batman was something novel that writer Brian Azzarello proposed in Flashpoint: Batman and wrote to perfection.  In that title as well, Batman became something very dark and excessive in his crusade against crime, also adopting the use of firearms.  However, Flashpoint Batman was the architect of the Batman persona following the death of 8 year old Bruce at the gunpoint of Joe Chill and the subsequent psychotic descent of his wife, Martha, into the persona of the Joker.  In Earth 2 the use of Thomas as the new Batman just comes off as lazy from a writing standpoint.  He uses guns, he’s got five o’clock shadow, he’s willing to kill, his costume is red and grey/black with sharper edges.  There are too many similarities with not enough validating differences to make Thomas’ role in the book worthwhile.  Now that may change, but the deadbeat dad concept, while tragic, falls flat for me.  This is a shame as I have enjoyed the series, both under the helm of original writer James Robinson and the new authorship of Tom Taylor.  Whether Thomas was Robinson’s idea or Taylor’s, the brunt of responsibility falls on Tom Taylor to make it work however possible.
    A Father in the Shadows.

    A Father in the Shadows.


  • Worlds’ Finest Annual #1 provides a look into the lives of three very important young women from Earth 2.  The title Worlds’ Finest follows Helena Wayne, known as Robin on Earth 2 and Huntress on Earth 1, and Kara Zor-El, known as Supergirl on Earth 2 and Power Girl/Karen Starr on Earth 1.  This annual showcases their lives as emergent heroes on Earth 2, as well as a brief glimpse at a third young woman whom readers of the series Earth 2 will no doubt recognize: Fury.  Helena Wayne is of course the daughter of Bruce Wayne (Batman) and his wife Selena Kyle (Catwoman), and the first and so far only bearer of the mantle of Robin on Earth 2.  As on Earth 1, Kara is the cousin of Superman and in most ways is identical to her Earth 1 counterpart.  Fury is the enigma, as she is the daughter of Wonder Woman and an unrevealed father, and fights for Apokalips.  In this way, the annual focuses on the female scions of the three great superheroes: Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.  Paul Levitz is just the writer to tackle this assignment considering his creation of Huntress in the 70’s and his incredible career writing thoughtful comics about uncertain youths flung head first into incredible circumstances.  For proof of that assertion read any of his Legion of Super-Heroes books.  The episodes depicted in this annual concerning Helena and Kara paint the two girls as novices making mistakes, but those early blunders juxtapose against the past two years worth of issues to show how they became the strong, confident women we have seen in the present.  Fury is more cryptic in her portrayal by Levitz and no doubt that is because her origin and the revelation of her motivations are integrally keyed into the Earth 2 title.  In any event, Levitz brings his A-game to these stories and spins into being three events that define the characters of these two dimensionally displaced heroines.

And thus concludes the first month of comics in 2014.  Here’s hoping to many more awesome issues to fill out the coming eleven months.

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

Illustration Credits:

Red Lanterns #27: Art by Alessandro Vitti, Colored by Gabe Eltaeb.

Teen Titans #27: Drawn by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Arif Prianto, Inked by Art Thibert & Dan Green.

Damian: Son of Batman #4: Art by Andy Kubert, Colored by Brad Anderson.

Earth 2 Annual #2: Drawn by Robson Rocha, Colored by Gabe Eltaeb, Inked by Scott Hanna.

Nov. 13, 2013-Jan. 15, 2014

It has been a criminally long time since I have been able to sit down and interact with my comics in the form of writing this blog and externalizing my thoughts and appreciation for this incredible medium.  With this post I hope to highlight a few of the issues that I have loved in that interim and get back in the swing of reading my comics and writing about them to illuminate their content to others, but also myself.  So here goes:

  • Batman #25 tells the story of the Blackout in Gotham, but oddly enough doesn’t deal with the Riddler at all or explore the consequences of what he did.  Instead, writer Scott Snyder uses the Blackout as a way of the emergent Batman finding an environment in which his skills and innate qualities find fallow ground to root themselves.  Without the Blackout, Batman might have had to try harder to ingrain himself in the collective awareness of Gotham as a force for good and not just a crazy nutjob in a bat costume.  However, as mentioned before, the Riddler is put on the back burner after blowing the Gotham City power grid and submerging the city into chaos in the midst of an impending tropical storm designated “Rene.”  In his place, Batman sleuths a rash of bizarre . . . occurrences . . . in which victim’s bones grow uncontrollably like trees, bursting out of their bodies and leaving the carcass draped atop like a Christmas tree angel.  With some inadvertent tips from future police commissioner James Gordon, Bruce learns that the serum used was designed by a former Wayne Enterprises scientist, Karl Helfren, aka Doctor Death.  When he probes into Helfren’s past, Bruce also learns of an accomplice that will surely shock readers.  The issue is certainly shrouded in mystery, beginning with a brief two page cut to US soldiers in Nigeria finding a door in the ground hidden in the middle of an arid plain and ending with those soldiers dead and their trucks on fire.  How those scenes are rectified with  the main narrative is an intriguing question.  In the backup feature, Snyder and his protegee James Tynion IV write a tale of the Blackout told from the perspective of the average person, in this case a very young Harper Row and her little brother Cullen.  The two kids don’t have a mother and their father is a two-bit criminal and absentee parent, so it falls to them to look out for one another.  Cullen is scared, but Harper (who grows up to be a burgeoning electrical genius) makes a lamp for her brother to push back the darkness.  It’s not easy, but she’s able to overcome when the needs arise.  She tell Cullen that there are people out there that see fear and darkness and rise up to push these forces back and help those that are also scared.  It’s a brief yet poignant commentary on the superhero ideal and what breeds heroes.  Also noteworthy is Andy Clarke’s gorgeous artwork that creates a beautifully stark ambiance of Gotham life.  It goes without saying that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, with the added help of James Tynion IV and Andy Clarke, are making this book one of THE comics to pick up.

    What Makes a Hero?

    What Makes a Hero?

  • Superman/Wonder Woman #2 brings on the much anticipated continuation of last month’s meteoric first issue.  In Superman/Wonder Woman #1 writer Charles Soule delivered a very intimated and thoughtful examination of the relationship between two titanic figures of the DCU and the inherent hurdles they have to leap constantly in order to be together and understand one another.  If that was all the issue was it would have been worth the cover price, but Soule and artist Tony Daniel had far more in store for us, releasing perhaps the greatest surprise appearance of the year: Doomsday!  With Supes busy quelling a storm brought about by the monster’s advent, Wonder Woman finds herself going toe-to-toe with the abomination that in a different continuity killed her boyfriend.  Not something to be trifled with.  As this issue opens the Kryptonian horror delivers a sound beating on the unprepared Wonder Woman until it mysteriously phasing out of reality.  When Superman hears her story he immediately knows what the thing was from Diana’s descriptions and realizes that the seals on the Phantom Zone, a temporal extra-dimensional Kryptonian prison, are wearing thin meaning incursions by Doomsday and the other unsavory menaces imprisoned within might occur more frequently.  In order to prepare for the coming battle with Doomsday, should it reappear, Wonder Woman takes Superman to Mount Aetna to meet Hephaestas and commission custom armaments.  While there Supes also meets Apollo and Strife.  Apollo doesn’t make the best impression, following the very haughty modelling of Wonder Woman writer Brian Azzarello.  I know I am not alone in my dislike of Apollo, which is what makes his encounter with Superman so rewarding to readers.  Apollo is a very overconfident, arrogant ass and while he is IMMENSELY powerful, his being the sun god puts him at a unique disadvantage against the Last Son of Krypton.  One almost feels sorry for the jerk.  Almost.  With their order placed and one Olympian force fed a five fingered slice of humble pie, the stage is set for yet another mouthwatering introduction of a classic Superman character.  Soule and Daniel have this series locked down.  Soule’s writing is topnotch and shows a true love and respect for both the eponymous characters.  Superman is a humble farmboy with powers far greater than ordinary men and Wonder Woman is a proud and noble woman from a proud and noble race of myth.  Every word, every gesture, and every reaction is quintessentially appropriate to each.  Tony Daniel has been one of my favorite artist since he and Grant Morrison took on the Batman title.  As a writer I have enjoyed his work as well.  The man is a consummate professional and whether or not he has any say in the actual writing of Superman/Wonder Woman alongside Charles Soule, his ability as a writer no doubt helps him interpret the scripts to convey minutely the gravity and grandeur of the worlds this book is bringing together.  Wonder Woman and Superman come from two very elaborate time honored mythologies that Soule and Daniel are combining like true professionals.  This first run of the series is off to a commendable start.  If they can sustain it, this could overshadow the actual series of both characters.SupermanWonderWoman2-1

    The Hubris of Gods.

    The Hubris of Gods.

  • Batgirl #25 came off a little lackluster for me.  Dealing with the life of Barbara Gordon, it’s hard to figure out what the purpose of this issue was supposed to be.  It’s already established that Gotham was effed during the “Blackout” and in this tie-in Barbara is put in charge of her little brother, James Jr, while their dad’s at work.  He tells her to “mind the homestead,” but while he is gone the Gordon kids are forcefully evacuated because they are in a flood zone.  In the process young Miss Gordon sees how a disaster can turn regular people into savages.  The point of the issue is more about Gotham than Barbara, which is a little disconcerting.  Normally the Batgirl series focuses heavily on Barbara, which is a credit to series writer Gail Simone’s tenure on the title.  Simone GETS Barbara in a very quintessential way.  Marguerite Bennett penned this one, and I think as a newcomer her writing comes off a little green.  She kind of fumbled the Villains Month released introduction of the character Lobo to the New DCU, and this comic felt equally forced.  The look remains the same with series artist Fernando Pasarin providing art on the issue.  Simone comes back next month with the conclusion of her epic “Batgirl Wanted” arc, which should be worth the read.
  • Green Arrow #26 begins writer Jeff Lemire’s epic “Outsiders War” arc.  In his first arc, Lemire DRASTICALLY altered Oliver Queen’s life, taking away his company, framing him for murder, and clearing the board of a few characters from the initial issues of the rebooted series.  He also introduced the Merlyn-esque archer, Komodo, and the inklings of the larger organization Komodo belongs to called the Outsiders.  In his second arc he introduced the rarely utilized GA character, Shado, unused extensively since her creation in the 80’s by Mike Grell.  Komodo and Shado represent two halves of the life and ultimate death of Oliver’s father, Robert Queen.  With those in the rearview, we now enter into the actualization of Green Arrow’s destiny with Lemire’s third arc, entitled “Outsiders War.”  So far, Ollie has taken down Komodo (relieving the onyx archer of one eye) and on two separate occasions he’s taken down the Eastern European despot Count Vertigo.  Both of these men have strong ties to the Outsiders who themselves have very ominous plans for the Arrow Clan. Now Shado is taking him back to the island to fulfill his destiny by claiming the totem arrow that will grant enlightenment and dominion of those dedicated to archery.  Robert Queen sought the island and combed every inch of it looking for the arrow, explaining the picture that Oliver found of Robert, Komodo, and Emerson on the island in the lattermost’s office.  Shado drags him back and as the issue unfolds Lemire has Oliver slowly relive his time there.  His reticence to return can be summed up by the harsh memories he accumulated while stranded and his shame at being reminded of his past.  Ollie was a vacuous waste of space before being washed up on the island and his initial days there were spent shedding that shallowness and tapping into his intrinsic potential.GreenArrow26-1 Robert had instructed Oliver in archery, which Ollie’d never taken serious and rarely practiced.  Those lessons resurface and the birth of Green Arrow began while Oliver discovered the cost of survival.  The next step will be seen in later issues following Ollie’s capture by mercenaries in ski-masks.  Awakening from his deja-vu, Shado leads Oliver to the cave wherein lies the talisman his father had so desperately sought.  Meanwhile, the Outsiders have sent one of their own, a bear of a man called Kodiak, to stop Oliver from becoming the head of the Arrow Clan by claiming the “Green Arrow” totem.  Jeff Lemire’s hitting this one out of the park with his clear love and respect for the character of Green Arrow and his intricate weaving of a mythos that emanates from Green Arrow, but also through the Green Arrow title.  The Outsiders have figured cryptically into the background of the Katana series, where the Japanese warrior Tatsu Toro wrestles with the Sword Clan.  Whether Lemire came up with them on his own or collaborated with Katana writer Ann Nocenti (from whom he took over the horribly written and conceived Green Arrow title) what is obvious is that Lemire is the one running this ball into the endzone for what looks to be a clear touchdown.  The promise of what the Outsiders represent and the stories that will spring forth from this arc are destined to be comic book gold.  Series artist Andrea Sorrentino continues his tenure on the book adding a realism to it with his pencil and an ominousness with the very stark contrast between light and shadow.  Working together, Lemire and Sorrentino are the ideal team to make Green Arrow one of the best DC titles currently being published.

    GreenArrow26-2

    The Fabled Green Arrow Totem.

  • Green Arrow #27 continues writer Jeff Lemire’s odyssey toward Green Arrow’s actualization in the “Outsiders War.”  So far Ollie has returned to the island on which he was marooned with the enigmatic archeress Shado in tow seeking the totem arrow that bestows enlightenment upon the ascendant to the chiefdom of the Arrow Clan.  The Outsiders (semi-unified cabal of clan heads) desire Komodo to take this position in their midst and dispatch the Shield Clan’s chief, Kodiak, and his Viking warriors to prevent Ollie from his destined enlightenment.  Picking up with the dramatic ending of issue #26, Ollie and Shado have found the Arrow Chamber, but as this issue opens they find that the totem itself is nowhere to be seen.  Ollie is shocked, but Shado, true to her fox-like, Zen nature tempers Ollie’s impatience with existential questions, all boil down to why and how Oliver came to be marooned on this exact island that his father, Robert Queen, had just so happened to be seeking for so long and upon which the elder Mr. Queen was murder by Komodo?GreenArrow27-2  The exploration of these questions is interrupted by the advent of Kodiak on the island and sporadic ’Nam flashbacks Ollie has to the crucible moments of his time on the island.  Issue #26’s flashbacks showed Ollie being forced to master archery in order to feed himself while awaiting rescue from the island.  The completion of that stage of his development ends with him being captured by masked paramilitary forces on the island.  This issue shows the next and most apocalyptic stage of his transition from soft billionaire playboy to cold hunter/vigilante.  The soldiers under the command of an Oni-masked man torture Ollie for over a week until Ollie snaps and in a survivalist act breaks through from his effete past to the stark figure he has become in the present.  While dodging the Shieldlings and regrouping Shado finally steers Ollie into understanding that his destiny wasn’t mere chance, but an orchestrated effort by individuals to guide him to becoming the avatar of archery.  Once this concept sinks in, Oliver’s Oni-masked antagonist reappears and confirms everything Shado said and removes the demon mask.  With the revelation of this person’s identity the absolute truth of their claim is baldly underscored, but more so the implications of who this person is changes everything the reader has come to believe about the Green Arrow title and what its has fought for.  Jeff Lemire is a genius. Unequivocally, he has taken this failing title and made it infinitely poignant, gripping, and one of the ‘can’t miss books’ of the DC lineup.  Called “Batman with a Bow and Arrow,” GA has been a C-list character with no superpowers who has often times been overshadowed by the more super, more overtly heroic characters of the DCU.  Only a few writers have been able to lift him above the camp and ridiculousness that have haunted the character since his inception.  Jeff Lemire has earned his place in Green Arrow history.  Lemire’s collaborator Andrea Sorrentino provides incredible artwork that in no small part makes this book so engrossing and visually stunning. The two look to be on the title for some time and that is good news for comic readers and the Green Arrow pantheon of characters.

    GreenArrow27-1

    The Bloody Baptism of Green Arrow.

  • Superman Unchained #5 is a turning point in this celebratory “Super” series, revealing not only the nature of the enigmatic cabal known as “Ascension,” but also what their overall motivations, prompting their insane actions thus far.  At the conclusion of issue #4 the leader of Ascension told Lois Lane that General Sam Lane was “father” to both of them.  This turns out to not only be twisted hyperbole, but also a straight up lie no matter how you look at it.  One demerit to writer Scott Snyder.  Through the exposition provided by the Ascension leader, Jonathan Rudolph, Lois Lane and the audience are given incontrovertible evidence that this man isn’t merely misguided, HE’S NUTS!!!  The choice of fabled Ned Ludd as the “face” of their movement is apt considering that the group’s aims have been stated to be the downfall of technology with an anarchist rationale behind it.  The self-righteous rhetoric of Rudolph does nothing to rectify the collateral damage his insane venture will rain down on humanity nor does it in anyway come off as anything but uber-petulant and misguided.  Rarely nowadays are there examples of such clear cut psychopaths in leading comic titles.  Usually some sort of ethos, pathos, or logos is there to somehow give a morally ambiguous justification to the “villainy.”  The use of this kind of character is intriguing and either says something very good about Snyder’s writing or something very bad about it.  Snyder is an amazing writer that has risen meteorically to the top of the comic field in a relatively short period of time.  He is also an overtaxed talent that is writing several titles simultaneously, so it could go either way.  The rest of the title features Superman continuing his emerging relationship with the proto-‘Superman’, Wraith.  In order to continue their quest to locate and stop Ascension, Supes invites Wraith into his Fortress of Solitude.  Superman represents an impartial, unbiased, non-jingoist superheroic doctrine.  Wraith represents the exact opposite and has TOTALLY drunk the US military Kool-Aid.  Just being in the Fortress elicits a philosophical debate about alien technology and who should have custodianship of it: an impartial, responsible individual or the armed forces of one sovereign nation over the nearly two hundred others.  Superman has the moral high ground here, but Wraith cuts back with an equally poignant response involving Superman’s supposed “non-involvement” vis-à-vis his alternate persona of Clark Kent.  In this way, Superman represents what the character should embody and Wraith portrays what Supes was made to be like from the 1950’s through to most of the 70’s, towing the company line and representing “Truth, Justice, and the American way.”  Visibly absent from the first four issues is the looming figure of Lex Luthor awaiting the resolution of Superman’s battle with Ascension to pounce on the battle wearied Man of Steel.  Introduced in this issue is a flashback, drawn by backup artist Dustin Nguyen, that details Clark’s encounter with a sauced up, ignorant farmer that finds out his secret and tells him at shotgun-point that he can’t hide.  Though only seen in glimpses and lacking resolution, this flashback underscores brilliantly the constant dilemma Superman faces everyday by living among us as one of us.  Snyder has created in five issues a multifaceted series that expertly explores the character and all the aspects that have carried over from the original issues 75 years past.  Scott Snyder and artists Jim Lee and Dustin Nguyen have tapped into the pure essence of the Last Son of Krypton.
  • Teen Titans #26 finally reveals the story of Bart Allen after two and a half years of continuous storytelling.  We’ve been told in the past that he was a dangerous criminal that was reconditioned and sent back into the past where he would be cut off from the dangerous elements he incited.  Several months ago when the Titans were first thrown into the timestream Bart and his girlfriend, Kiran Singh (aka Solstice), witness his younger self attempting to commit an act of mass murder against the governmental body known as the ‘Functionary.’  Now after returning to his native time he is made to see everything he has forgotten after being taken back into custody by the Functionary.  After looking at his past I am finding it hard to look at him as anything as terrifying as he has been painted out of context.  The son of religious parents belonging to a Christian-like faith called Creationism, his parents were murdered for those beliefs.  He lets his parents die in order to save his infant sister, Shira, and get her away from the Functionary “Purifiers” that are initiating pogroms against his people.  He becomes a thief to provide for his sister and when she is imperilled he becomes a killer.  He finds sanctuary for her in a safe quarter while undertaking smuggling missions in unsafe conditions that normally killed the pilots after three runs.  Bart makes a couple of dozen until his number finally comes up, but when it does he doesn’t die, but rather attains the superpowers that connect him to the Speed Force and Barry Allen.  Then he initiates the rebellion of the Functionary oppressed that led to his capture and exile.  It wasn’t until his attacks almost killed Shira, that he abandoned the rebellion he started and turned himself in to the Functionary.  I have to say that this origin, while very compelling, failed to depict him as a criminal.  At least in my eyes.  Everything Bart did was for others.  He sacrificed everything for his sister and later for those like himself and his sister who were like rats being oppressed and constantly harried for no reason whatsoever except that their existence was inconvenient for those above them.  There was no Justice League or any apparatus to help the downtrodden so he initiated an armed resistance movement to create a better future.  As stated before there was a scene not fully fleshed out where he was going to do something alluded to being an atrocity.  If writer Scott Lobdell wanted to justifiably depict Bart as a monster he should have given more weight to that moment with more details or circled back around in this issue to that moment or one like it.  That isn’t to say that Lobdell is a bad writer.  On the contrary.  This issue made me feel for Bart and actually I am in his cheering section.  He looks at himself as a monster, just like all the others who have knowledge of who he was (or will be), but I don’t see that and I still see a hero who puts others and their interests before his own.  If I could actually talk to the character I would share with him the words of Barry Allen, the first Flash (in the New DCU): “Keep moving forward.”  Lobdell knocks it out of the park with the help of new series artist Tyler Kirkham.  Kirkham’s art is sharp, it’s vibrant, and his rendering of Bart gives fine detail to every evocative emotion the young hero feels, which once again roots the character in Kid Flash’s experience, making them feel exactly what he feels, enduring his pain as he struggles through unspeakable situations and revelling in his rare moments of triumph bore out of near constant suffering.  Thumbs up to both Lobdell and Kirkham.  This issue was worth the wait, if not shorter than such an immense story deserves.

    Doubt Anything Except a Brother's Love.

    Doubt Anything Except a Brother’s Love.

  • Talon #14 marks an end to the status quo under which the series has been proceeding since its #0 issue.  Calvin Rose was made a Talon after being groomed for the task by the Court of Owls as a young escape artist in the famed Haly’s Circus.  He quit after being sent to kill a beautiful security heiress and her young daughter.  Going on the lam with her, he developed a relationship with her, which he broke to protect her from the Court’s endless search for their missing “toy.”  While on the run, Calvin meets a man whose life was destroyed by the Court as well.  Sebastian Clark.  Clark helps Calvin hit the Court HARD, crippling much of their infrastructure.  In this guided crusade against their common enemy, Calvin meets up again with his former girlfriend, Casey Washington, and her daughter Sarah.  Soon after it comes out that Sebastian Clarke did in fact have his life destroyed by the Court, but it was because he was the disgraced head of the Court at the time of Batman’s interference and the fabled “Night of Owls.”  Danger literally lurks in all directions and Calvin is beset with daunting odds.  His immediate challenges include Sarah’s kidnapping and subsequent brainwashing by the Court, Clarke has a plan afoot to raze Gotham, and a serum has been injected into his bloodstream that melts necrotic tissue, i.e. his entire body.  To a lesser extent Batman has harried most of Calvin’s moves, because no one operates in the Bat’s backyard without his say-so.  However, despite the insurmountable obstacles Calvin is very much like the classic Jack Kirby creation, Mister Miracle.  Both are master escape artists, and like Miracle, Calvin will not be deterred by any odds, even if Batman is counted among them.  With the conclusion of this issue the Court of Owls still exist, but they are once again weakened and the more pressing threats to fair Gotham put to bed for good.  Calvin’s main objectives are accomplished, but his journey toward ending the Owls’ reign continues, albeit under new circumstances and with new allies.  Writer James Tynion has taken the concept of the Court of Owls and made good use of it with the fifteen issues of this series he has written.

    Batman Inc Just Got a Little Bit Cooler.

    Batman Inc Just Got a Little Bit Cooler.

  • Red Lanterns #26 after the big fight between Relic and the remaining Lanterns of all colors, the Reds were given authority of Sector 2814, which contains our solar system.  To demonstrate their authority they attempt to take out one of the greatest evils of our Sector in the form of a despot named Marshal Gensui.  Gensui has enslaved the secondary race of his world and used them as slave labor to build a sphere around their sun to harness its energies to use for his own ends.  Going up against the forces of the planet Kormorax the Red Lanterns, under the command of Guy Gardner are in hot water.  Marshal Gensui has made a career of culling rage, using his intimidation tactics and scientific acumen he has pacified the brutalized masses he exploits.  With those same technologies he pacifies the Red Lanterns, the angriest individuals in the universe.  With that taken into account, writer Charles Soule concludes the two issue arc with an examination of the kinds of rage that exist and how each type fits various situations in better ways.  Peter Milligan, the original Red Lanterns writer did this very well in the past, making a point of highlighting tertiary Red Lanterns who weren’t as popular and whose backstories haven’t found their way into past issues.  One Red, the ox-skulled Skallox, was a murder and a scoundrel sent up the river by his boss as a liability, another named Ratchet was an individual living in an isolationist, dystopian nightmare that craved interaction and was imprisoned and mercilessly tortured for years as a result.  Yet again Soule highlights two lesser Red Corpsman and their individual brands of rage to show the strength of each.  Zilius Zox takes a lead role in these issues, but Ratchet once again shines above the rest.  While he and his fellow Reds are in a stupefied, euphoric haze due to Gensui’s crowd control technologies Ratchet is able to throw off the stupor with his rage, despite the most powerfully ravenous Reds being unable.  What really highlights his character, and it a lot of ways finishes what Milligan began in that bygone issue, was the totality of Ratchet’s capabilities.  Ratchet wasn’t a bad guy.  He wanted friendship and comaraderie and his inability to do so was what fueled his rage.  Being a Red Lantern gave him his hearts desires so slowly his rage was subsiding, which meant that he wouldn’t be able to wield the ring, which also meant that the ring would no longer be able to keep him alive as it did all Red Lanterns whose blood is replaced with a napalm fluid of refined hate.  He was dying no matter what happened, and what he accomplishes in this issue not only expedites that end before prolonged suffering, it also made an enduring place in the hearts and minds of his fellow Corpsmen.  Soule inherited a vast legacy from Peter Milligan and has made proper use of it, penning a fantastic series.

So ends an abbreviated catchup to the weeks missed in my absence. Check back to this post periodically as I will probably take on some other issues that are of note.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #25: Art by Andy Clarke, Colored by Blond.

Superman/Wonder Woman #2: Drawn by Tony S. Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by BATT & Sandu Florea.

Green Arrow #26 & 27: Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo.

Teen Titans #26: Drawn by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Arif Prianto, Inked by Art Thibert & Dan Green.

Talon #14: Art by Emanuel Simeoni, Colored by Jeromy Cox.

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.

Week 86 (April 24, 2013)

  • Batman Inc #10 enters into its endgame.  After this issue, Grant Morrison only has three more issues before reaching what hopefully will be the meteoric conclusion of an eight year, continuous run on the character.  There is a lot of pressure, but it seems like he’s had the end in sight the whole time and doubtless has been building toward and accentuating the events leading to his final goal.  So far, Talia Al-Ghul has Gotham as well as the world in her grasp with her criminal organization and their meta-bomb ring that will encircle the world in destruction.  Batman and his allies have once again been outlawed in Gotham, but when you take away everything from someone you also remove many of their inhibitions, and considering what Batman is capable of, that is a very dangerous prospect.  Perhaps the greatest moment in the issue comes when Talia goes to visit her father, Ra’s Al-Ghul, in his Alpine prison to gloat about her genius in doing what he never could: conquering the Bat.  Truly, to the casual observer Talia is in a very advantageous position.  Ra’s is aptly playing chess as this conversation proceeds and while applauding his daughter’s plan, he cryptically hints that she has overlooked a key factor.  Though haughty and convinced of her plan’s perfection, Ra’s doesn’t reveal what he means.  The chink in her perfect plot begins to show, and with three more issues it is probable that we will watch as the crack begins to run until the plan it mars shatters entirely.  With Morrison at the helm I am a’quiver with anticipation.  One also has to acknowledge the incredible artwork of Chris Burnham that brings this series to beauteous life.

    Endgame

    Endgame

  • Red Lanterns #19 is the final stepping stone to Green Lantern #20 that promises to end the Green Lantern Universe as we know it.  Three long weeks from now we will be seeing the end of Geoff Johns’ run on the title he literally brought back from the dead eight years ago and the putting down of the last and greatest of his villains, Volthoom the First Lantern.  In this issue bridging Red Lanterns #1-18 to the conclusion of Green Lantern Atrocitus has hit perhaps the greatest existential dilemma.  His entire life thus far since the destruction of his space sector and the murder of his family has been lived with one singular purpose: vengeance.  He has lived specifically to kill those who wronged him and the hundreds of billions of innocents throughout Space Sector 666.  His rage was so great that he founded a lantern corps to spread his doctrine of revenge to the four corners of the universe.  Every step of the way he has been robbed of his ultimate aims, i.e. the death of Sinestro, who escaped and thrived as both a Green and Yellow Lantern, and Krona who fell at the hands of Hal Jordan.  When fighting Volthoom, he was given the choice to save his sector and become a tyrant, or let his sector be destroyed by Krona and the Manhunters and become that which he currently is.  Seeing his death in the first alternative at the hands of his son, as well as his murder of his beloved wife, he chooses to let his world and family be destroyed.  Afterwards, he finds nothing but self-recrimination and orders his faithful Red Lanterns to kill him for his crime of genocide by cowardice.  The Red Lanterns find themselves in a conundrum as Atrocitus is the one who saved them and gave them the power to avenge the great wrongs done to them in their previous lives.  At the same time they also swore obedience to him and he is telling them to kill him for the honor of their corps.  Something of a Catch-22.  They go through with it, but in the moment of their convergence on him to take his life, something interesting happens.  Their attacks do not kill him, but rather give him a universal awareness of their combined suffering, rejuvenating in him the need and savory of vengeance he had begun to lose touch with in the first issue.  Full circle, he is now once again the Regent of Rage and attempts to get vengeance on the one remaining enemy of his that remains to be conquered: the Guardians of the Universe.  That said, the full might of the Red Lantern Corps are headed to Oa.  Peter Milligan is a maestro, writing this series philosophically to a tee.  Joining him on art is Will Conrad, whose art is light-years above that of regular series artist Miguel Sepulveda.  The next issue will be both men’s swansong on the title following the aftermath of Green Lantern #20.  I can barely wait.
  • Flash #19 features Barry Allen in Iron Heights prison, playing a balancing act.  One one side he’s attempting to keep the Trickster’s acolytes, the Outlanders, from storming the city and the prison to release their leader.  On the other hand, he’s also trying to prove Trickster’s innocence on the murder rap he was sent up on.  If that wasn’t enough, his powers are mysteriously sucked out of him in a very unlikely crossover with the series Dial H.  Though linked to a very weak series, this mishap provides a golden opportunity for Barry Allen, not the Flash, to shine.  Somehow, Barry pulls off a miracle, but in doing so unravels some mysteries about the Speed Force and his connection to it, as well as others’.  The most intriguing of which comes at the end of the book with he entrance of the Reverse Flash.  Brian Buccellato writes this issue exquisitely with the help of Marcio Takara on art.  Francis Manapul returns as artist and cowriter on the last two pages introducing Reverse Flash.  The future of the Flash shines bright in the hands of two writer/artists who get it.  The Flash is a title to get for the foreseeable future as a result.
  • Superman #19 is literally comic book legend in the making.  The main plot follows Clark being invited to a housewarming party for Lois Lane and Jonathan Carroll.  This may seem awkward for poor old Clark, but for the fact that while he is tying up a loose end in his super-heroics as Superman his girlfriend, Diana Prince, arrives before him and literally stuns everyone there: Lois, Perry, and especially Jimmy.  Clark does eventually get to the party and when he gets there he notices discernible peculiarities in the words and actions of those present.  Superman may have super-speed, super-strength, super-vision, heat-vision, freezing breath, etc, but Clark Kent has the hyper acute intuition and attention to detail of a trained journalist.  Tying it to the same phenomenon he witnessed last issue at the midtown club where dozens of young women attempted to mindlessly plummet to their doom.  All of this ties enigmatically to Hector Hammond, kept in a comatose state at S.T.A.R. Labs, and the New God, Orion, dispatched to Earth in order to save the universe from an up and coming threat originating on Earth.  Writer Scott Lobdell GETS Superman not unlike the team of Buccellato and Manapul get the Flash.  The core story of this issue as I’ve related it is what gives the series structure, but the strength of Lobdell’s writing is the strange and fantastic events that surround the main story, accentuating the world in which Superman exists.  Case in point, Clark is late to the house warming party.  He’s late because of an invasion of radiant Roman-eque legions of beings called Sunturnians from a placed called Neo Sol.  Superman is brought before their “Solaratrix”, Allysun, and made to kneel before her.  The look of the Sunturnians, the concept behind them, and everything elicited by this short episode of the story harkens to the Silver Age spectacle in Superman comics in which the Man of Steel we know to today first began to emerge.  Grant Morrison is the maestro of resurrecting these Silver Age plot devices, but Scott Lobdell is no slouch.  His Superman rings true to the character and innovates it constantly.  Also adding to the incomparable quality is the out of the park artwork by returning series artist, Kenneth Rocafort.  Superman is a title that also is not to be missed.

    Wondering at Wonder Woman

    Wondering at Wonder Woman

  • Talon #7 picks up after writers James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder dropped a bombshell on the Talon and his readers last issue.  Almost simultaneously, Calvin Rose, in the heart of the Court of Owls’ information digital fortress, and Casey Washington, in the secret lair of Calvin and his associate Sebastian Clark, find out that Clark is in fact the deposed Grandmaster of the Court of Owls.  Under his administration of the shadowy cabal Calvin was chosen as Talon and Casey and her daughter were marked for death by him.  So in their struggle to fight the Owls and punish those responsible for the destruction of both their lives they were in fact a stone’s throw away from the chief architect of their misery the entire time!  Both characters begin the issue in nightmarish, seemingly intractable situations in the heart of danger.  The Owls’ information superfortress was designed to keep the wrong people out and therefore also to keep them in as well.  With the Owls inside aware of his presence getting out alive is nigh impossible.  Likewise, Sebastian Clark engineered his “home” to be his own fortress and upon the discovery that Casey has stumbled upon his secret, she is also seemingly trapped in a lion’s den of peril.  Right from the get-go the question of these two survivors’ ability to surmount the insurmountable is put to the test.  Can they survive?  The answer is waiting at the end of this issue and the answers could shock you.  The issue also segues a plotpoint introduced by Tynion in Detective Comics #19 (#900) into the main story.  Synder, Tynion, and artist Guillem March make this series a must read for any Batman fan, or just a fan of GOOD comics.
  • Teen Titans #19 is the start of this rebooted series transitioning from very innovative, new terrain as conceived by maestro Scott Lobdell  and entering into familiar terrain drawn from the seminal New Teen Titans series of the early to mid 80’s that made people actually care about the concept of the Teen Titans and want to read about teenaged superheroes.  Keyed into that is the entrance of two characters created for New Teen Titans and almost synonymous with them now: the demon god Trigon and his empath daughter, Raven.  As of the final page of last month’s issue Trigon has entered into our reality on his three headed horse and begun his plan to subdue our world.  The four-eyed, crimson skinned, elk horned monster retains all his ominousness that he has ever possessed, but Lobdell has added some darkness to Raven in his interpretation.  Last seen seated in a bone strewn, subterranean lair, holding what looks to be a chalice of blood and manipulating the current Titans’ actions like a puppeteer, the gentle, though still slightly manipulative Raven from New Teen Titans is replaced with a very fresh take on the character.  The longevity of this version is subjective, however, because Raven’s New 52 debut was in Phantom Stranger #1 where she was a normal teen trying desperately to evade her father and live a normal life.  She may simply be under his thrall at present.  However, both her amazingly awesome new costume and her darker portrayal make me giddy for her part in the future of this title.  Also coming into the fold from New Teen, restoring the feel of the 80’s title, is Beast Boy, a refugee from the cancelled Ravagers series.  His appearance is premature, as the final issue of Ravagers revealing the fate of him and his fellows has yet to be released.  However, much like she did with Kid Flash in the 80’s series, Raven latches onto him and manipulates his mind to get his help in the current situation unfolding.  Jury’s out on whether that includes backing the Titans or backing her “dear” old dad.  In the realm of the current roster of Titans, Trigon’s entrance foreshadows great revelation.  When looking at Cassie he cryptically mentions that she would have turned out quite different if she had been raised by her father and “if [she] only knew her true lineage.”  When looking at Kid Flash he hints again at Kid Flash’s crimes in the future that the young speedster has forgotten.  And he also reveals that the silver haired youth that has been killing people in the past two issue, is in fact the psychicly psycho Psymon.  So much awesome is happening in this issue.  The darkness of New Teen Titans was what galvanized DC into more serious, stark portrayals of its characters by virtue of the phenomenal storytelling of its younger heroes in those hallowed pages.  Scott Lobdell is doing that yet again in the new millennium with powerful storytelling and amazing art from Brett Booth, Ale Garza, and lately with the incredible Eddy Barrows.

    The Return of the old "New Teen Titans"

    The Return of the old “New Teen Titans”

  • Before Watchmen: The Comedian #6 was disappointing.  It started out amazing in the first three issues, but then in the last three totally lost any depth or sense of direction.  The narrative seemed aimless and the ambling path it took didn’t take the reader, even accidentally, anywhere interesting.  J.G. Jones’ art was really good, but Azzarello’s script fell flat.  The Comedian comes home stateside and is an embarrassment to a lot of top government people, including his old friend Robert Kennedy.  Kennedy is at the time making his bid for the presidency and is planning to hang the Comedian out to dry.  Despite that, Eddie Blake outwardly doesn’t seem to bear Bobbie any ill will.  However, when one of his agency buddies tells him that there is going to be an attempt on Bobbie’s life and when it is going to happen, Eddie either lets it happen or kills Bobbie himself.  Its really hard to say.  There is the possibility that I am missing something deeper, but I highly doubt it.  Its worth reading the first half of this series.  Skip the second, and your imagination can do a much better job of concluding it.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #19 was underwhelming across the board.  Arc artist Ethan Van Sciver, for whom I stayed on this title despite my waning interest, is absent this issue being replaced by Szymon Kudranski.  Kudranski’s art is good and fits the tone of this book, but like other artist switch-ups DC has been throwing out, it jars the reader s who’ve seen Van Sciver’s artwork up until this point, which is nowhere near similar to Kudranski’s.  In it we see a further account of the Mad Hatter’s descent into madness as an adolescent on testosterone pills and his insane plan in the present that will cost hundreds of lives.  Also returning is the followup to Bruce Wayne’s revelation to his Ukraining piano prodigy girlfriend that he is in fact the Batman.  Mad Hatter sees her at a concert she puts on and immediately falls for her psychotically.  Nothing but bad is on the horizon.  On paper the plot sounds interesting, but draw out it is a little lacking.
  • All-Star Western #19 finds Jonah panning for gold out West after his departure from Gotham last issue.  He’s looking for gold when the issue opens, but Gold finds him!  Booster Gold, time travelling superhero.  Gold hasn’t been seen in the New DCU since the conclusion of of the Justice League International Annual about a year ago.  That apocalyptic moment portended something major in the offings, most likely the hinted at Trinity War this July.  So far Gold hasn’t mentioned the how or why of his being in the Old West, but shows up here as the sheriff of a town called Red River Junction.  This town that he’s become lawman of is brutally massacred by a gang of cutthroats on Jonah Hex’s axe list.  Thus a shaky alliance is formed between the quintessential Western anti-hero and the time travelling buffoon that Hex refuses to believe comes from the far future.  Intriguing plot to say the least and one that could eventually shed some light on larger events brewing in DC’s future storylines throughout the New 52.  Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray continue to rock the title with Moritat’s art characterizing it brilliantly.
  • Arrow #6 features a trinity of excellent storytelling.  Leading the pack is a story scripted by Emilio Aldritch and drawn by Green Arrow royalty, Mike Grell.  In it Oliver intercepts a drug shipment from South America to Starling  City.  In the process he meets a young boy who is plagued in much the same way as him by the sins of a father.  The next has Oliver attending a football game with Tommy only to be caught in the middle of an insane ex-player’s suicide plot that will take out most of the fans in the stadium at halftime.  The final story showcases Det. Quinton Lance and the sacrifices he makes in his personal life to do his job to the best of his abilities.  Honestly, hard-edged as he is, he is a man of honor that is dealt a hard hand by life while simply trying to be the best cop he can be.  Three really excellent stories in the Arrow line, accentuating the inherent gems of the television show.
  • Jupiter’s Legacy #1 is a meteoric first installment to what promises to be an incredible series from creators Mark Millar and Frank Quitely.  Starting in 1932, the narrative follows a team of young explorers led by a clairvoyant, handsome gentleman by the name of Sheldon Sampson as they seek an island that has called to him in his dreams.  The story splits as the island comes into sight, cutting to 2013 when this group has obviously gotten older and, as we see, attained super powers that they have used to defend America and lead it back to prosperity after the Great Depression that led them to seek out the island in the first place.  Their children are in their early to late 20’s and are indolent, debauch party animals, lacking a cause to fight for or believe in.  On the surface one would think that they are disappointments to their parents and not worth a damn, but if one takes a closer look there are some very deep, philosophical and sociological implications beneath who these young men and women have become and why.  The scenes, dialogue, and expressions of the characters are so well choreographed as to each be infinitely telling.  A picture is worth a thousand words?  Millar’s scripting and artist Frank Quitely’s visual renderings prove this adage and the merit of comics inherently because of it.  Admittedly, Millar is a writer of great merit, but Frank Quitely’s artwork was what got me to pick this series up in the first place.  There is an otherworldly, sensual beauty to his art and he delivers that in spades with this first issue.  The promise of where these two paragons of comic writing can take us is literally infinite.

    The Old Guard

    The Old Guard

  • The Unwritten #48 opens after last issue’s revelation that Wilson Taylor is trapped in the underworld after his death at the hands of Pullman two years ago after unveiling the last Tommy Taylor book.  As the plot progresses we see that Tom is beginning to remember who he is and why he chose to come to Hades.  These emergent memories terrify him because of the importance of them.  The importance of finding a woman (we know he’s talking about Lizzy Hexam) who was very special to him and whom he is afraid to fail.  She is somewhere in the underworld, which was the reason for his going there in the first place, and we find out just where she has been.  Also of great importance is the appearance of a golden pillar in Pauly Buckner’s kingdom that is slowly expanding outward.  His servants tell him that it is a portal, but to where they do not know.  This issue has many small revelations that have resonating importance throughout the whole of The Unwritten.  I very much look forward to the next installment that has infinite promise considering the last panel of this issue.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman Inc #10: Art by Chris Burnham, colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Superman #19: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Blond

Teen Titans #19: Drawn by Eddy Barrows, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Eber Ferreira

Jupiter’s Legacy #1: Art by Frank Quitely, Colored by Peter Doherty

Week 82 (March 27, 2013)

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

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

    Don't Mess With the Batman

    Don’t Mess With the Batman

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

    Hell Hath No Fury

    Hell Hath No Fury

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

    Orion

    Orion

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

    A Little Brother's Plea

    A Little Brother’s Plea

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

    Sargon the Sorcerer


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

    Rest In Peace, RIP.

    Rest In Peace, RIP.

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 78 (Feb. 27, 2013)

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

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

    King of the Seven Sea

    King of the Seven Sea

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

    The Moment

    The Moment

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

    The Dark Side of Tim Drake

    The Dark Side of Tim Drake

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

    The Huntress on the Prowl

    The Huntress on the Prowl

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

    Requiem for Sgt. Rock

    Requiem for Sgt. Rock

 

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

Joe Kubert Presents #5: Art by Joe Kubert

Week 74 (Jan. 30, 2013)

Ending the first motnh of 2013 comics, this week packs a LONG list of incredible titles and interesting storylines.  The Batman & Robin and Green Lantern Corps annuals are overflowing with possibilities pertaining to their individual series.  Two Before Watchmen titles bring us closer to the end of that line and a brand new appreciation for the seminal work by Alan Moore.  And then “Throne of Atlantis”, “H’El on Earth”. and “Death of the Family” each take a step forward with chapters of their crossover taking us one step further into their stories.  So here we go:

  • Aquaman #16 delivers part four of the “Throne of Atlantis” crossover event, following the capture of the League and the the further invasion of Boston by the forces of Atlantis.  With the opening of the Trench several issues ago, which Arthur had sealed in the first arc of this series to contain the unstoppable fishmen horde, Aquaman must once again head back to the ancient lair of these creatures to rescue Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.  While doing this Arthur learns something invaluable that connects both to the Trench beings themselves and the the scepter of the Dead King that Black Manta stole in the “Others” story arc.  This appears to be the precursor to the event’s conclusion as the culprit of the missile attack on Atlantis is revealed and the scepter makes its reappearance in unsafe hands.  Aquaman tends to teeter between being a phenomenal series and being not as good.  This issue leans in the direction of awesome.  There is a new mythology being built and some really interesting events foreshadowed.  Geoff Johns is introducing plot points and concepts that promise to mature into storylines that could be talked about for decades.  Or they could just fizzle like some of the things he’s been doing of late.  We’ll see.

    The Once and Future King

    The Once and Future King

  • Batman Inc #7  is a tour-de-force.  The series in its second and final arc has showed how Talia Al-Ghul has arranged the most perfect and intricate plot (at least that I can remember) to take out Gotham in a slow, protracted way that is seemingly impossible to stop and agonizing for Batman to watch.  Grant Morrison started writing the Batman title a little over seven years ago in 2005 and has slowly built up his own micro-Bat universe that we now see has been nothing less than a train of dominoes that that he is now tipping over.  So much of what he has introduced is now being destroyed.  Prophesies are unraveling, and Damian is coming to realize the truth behind his mother’s plan and appears to be the best candidate to save his father, his father’s city, and all his father’s allies from the insanity of his Hecuba-esque mother.  As Peter Tomasi wrote in Batman & Robin #0, Talia raised him to be a new Alexander, to conquer and pacify the modern world.  She conditioned him to perfection at the age of eight.  It is my assumption that though her plan to destroy Gotham is flawless, it is not immune to her own handiwork, vis-a-vis Damian.  This series gives me chills and is Grant Morrison at his finest. Artist Chris Burnham brings his A-game to the artwork, drafting it beautifully.  I want to know how this all ends SO BAD, but I also don’t because when it does Morrison will be off of the Batman character, which is something that I never want to see.   The ultimate conundrum . . .

    Son of the Bat/Son of the Demon

    Son of the Bat/Son of the Demon

  • Flash #16 was a delight to read.  Last issue Barry Allen was rendered unconscious and had to be rescued from Grodd by his girlfriend, police officer Patty Spivot, and other allies.  In his delirium his mind had gone through every possible outcome of how to beat Grodd and the moment he woke up the issue ended.  This issue opens with him deciding on a plan that we are not made privy to as well as  a touching scene between Barry and Patty talking about what he has to do and the depth of their feelings for one another.  I love Patty Spivot a lot, and I have a feeling that the writer/artists of this issue do too.  In another part of the issue they portray Flash’s wife from the previous incarnation of the series, Iris West, in a less than flattering manner when it comes to her relations and manipulations of Barry.  I hope that Barry and Patty have a decent amount of time together before the possibility of a relationship with Iris is put back on the table.  After parting ways with Patty the confrontation with Grodd commences and it is one that is both poignant and thought provoking in Barry’s approach.  The issue ends before the true meaning of it is made clear, but what is shown is intriguing to say the least.  Writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato write the Flash better than anyone (I’m looking at you, too, Geoff Johns) and they depict him visually amongside the greats.
  • Red Lantern #16 is the final Green Lantern title before the culminating  Green Lantern Corps Annual.  Atrocitus digs deep and finds the humility and strength to resurrect the Manhunters, the soulless robot army of the Guardians that murdered his family and wiped out his sector of space, and use them as his instrument of revenge against their former masters, the Guardians.  On the Red Lantern homeworld of Ysmault, the Red Lantern custodian of the Central Power Battery, Ratchet, digs beneath the planet’s surface to ascertain the cause of the leeching of power from the Corps main battery.  What he finds cuts to the deepest secret of the Red Lantern Corps’ formation, as seen in Red Lantern #0.  On Earth Rankorr faces off against the street punk that murdered his grandfather.  His goal is to kill this man, concluding his initiatory vengeance that caused the ring to choose him.  With the help of Bleez, the Corps’ first lieutenant, he does so, but retains enough human compassion to temper his rage, once again raising the question of the nature of his ties to the red ring on his finger.  I love Bleez and her portrayal in this issue remains complex and fascinating to behold.  So many interesting things occur in this issue, including Atrocitus’s trip to Maltus, the first home of the Guardians, and what he finds there the Guardians hid away out of fear.  I am not certain what it is, but I have a very shrewd idea.  This issue, like those that came before it, is proof that Peter Milligan is one of the best comic writers out there.  In the latter half of this series Miguel Sepulveda has taken over the art and I hate it so much.  This issue had a guest artist, Andres Guinaldo, who to me was a breath of fresh air.  His art was very soft and rounded giving genuine feeling to the narrative and emotion to the very tough decisions that many of the characters had to make.  Red Lantern is a top tier title because of the rich material and the talented creators that mine it and hone it to perfection.

    A Lesson in Vengeance

    A Lesson in Vengeance

  • Green Lantern Corps Annual #1 ushers in the next major event in the saga of the Green Lantern Corps.  Just as the Green Lantern Annual #1 ushered in the current “Rise of the Third Army” event, this annual inaugurates the “Wrath of the First Lantern” event.  With “Rise of the Third Army” the Guardians have descended into pure evil, assassinating their own corps in order to replace them with thoughtless drones, just like the Manhunters before them.  But its not just their police force they are going to convert, but every sentient being in the universe.  A handful of Green Lanterns have found the Guardians out and rush to stop them before they can succeed in slaughtering their fellow corpsmen like lambs to the slaughter.  This annual was INSANE, bringing together all or most of the plot points from four Green Lantern titles to a single converging point.  In four books the Guardians’ evil scheme has been experienced by multiple, isolated parties.  By issue’s end, these parties are united against the Guardians, regardless of how they fair.  The fate of Mogo is also determined in this issue, and though the final verdict on how the planet Green Lantern fits into the Guardians’ heinous scheme, I remain optimistic and have to say, “Welcome back, Mogo.  You’ve been missed, Big Guy!”
  • Batman & Robin Annual #1 is another key chapter in the evolving relationship between Bruce Wayne and his son, Damian.  Bruce is a very rigid person with a methodical nature centered around an equally rigid moral code.  Damian was raised in a more amoral atmosphere, but with the same rigidity and methodicalness.  That similarity yet diametrical difference between father and son has caused a lot of friction and misunderstanding.  But to the younger Wayne’s credit, when give the choice of staying with his father and live a life counter to his upbringing or go back to live with his mother who would give him his heart’s every desire, the ten year old doesn’t even pause.  He chooses the hard path of righteousness that his father has blazed for thirty odd years.  In this annual, Damian displays an emerging duality in his nature.  On one side he has Alfred whisk his dad away on a scavenger hunt across Europe of significant moments in Wayne history that he has discovered while trying to understand his father’s connection to his past.  Going from London, to Barcelona, to Athens, Bruce learns things about his parents that even he didn’t know.  Their loss was what prompted him to go on his crusade of vengeance that has consumed his life since that fateful day in his youth.  But that same crusade is also what blinded him to so much of his parents’ story.  So Damian reconnects him to his beloved parents in perhaps the kindest gift any son could give a father.  However, with Damian there is always a catch.  This time around, the scavenger hunt is a ruse to get Bruce out of Gotham so he can put on a makeshift Batman costume and be the Batman of Gotham for a week.  Interestingly enough, his costume is a smaller version of the trench coat Batman look that writer Grant Morrison has three times shown Damian to wear in the future when Damian becomes Batman.  This annual was really a heartfelt piece that compliments everything that Tomasi has done in the series thus far, accentuating the soul of two very interesting characters.

    A Glimpse Into The Past

    A Glimpse Into The Past

  • Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #5 delivers the penultimate chapter of the saga of Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias, the smartest man alive.  He’s already decided that if the world is going to continue through the nuclear age he has to be the one to save it from human shortsightedness. How he arrives upon the nightmarish scheme we see in the original Watchmen series is depicted in this issue and quite well.  I am curious as to whether his inspiration was mentioned in the original series or if Alan Moore talked about his own inspiration, because Len Wein’s explanation was spot on.  The lead up to Adrian’s undertaking of the project and the years that went into building up the infrastructure for it (14 by my count) are chronicled in minute detail, as is the implementing of the Keene Act that banned masked crime fighters.  Len Wein is one of the best writers in this Before Watchmen line and proves it in the analytic manner he composes the story, as well as the innovative way he spins the anti-heroic character considering the many sins Ozymandias commits on his path of altruism.  Jae Lee has been one of my favorite comic artists since I first saw his work on the Marvel Inhumans series years ago.  He’s been tied up with the Dark Tower series for several years now and its a delight to see him out and stretching his wings on a DC series.  The next issue of this series is going to tie the whole thing up and I am a’quiver with anticipation for the conclusion of a very intense story of one of the most iconically antipathetic characters in comics history.
  • Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill is a one-shot Before Watchmen tale about one of the least known, gaudy characters springing forth from Alan Moore’s original 1980’s series.  In it writer Len Wein humanizes the character of Dollar Bill, telling us his name and the semi-relatable tale of the man who had everything and could achieve next to nothing.  Seemingly the opposite of what a superhero should be, William Brady has the looks, the stamina, and the charm to conquer the world, excelling in sports and graduating from Dartmouth.  However, when the real world and bad luck check his success and reduce him to an unemployable mess, fate steers him inadvertently into the world of costumed adventuring.  Watchmen was a series about “realistic” superheroes and Dollar Bill fits that mold wonderfully in what he is and how Wein portrays him.  Despite him being likened to people that I dislike in my everyday life, the inner monologue and down-to-earth perspective presented made me actually like him more than a little and mourn his passing at books end.  Being that he is a Minuteman, the original vigilante group from the 30’s and 40’s, his dying isn’t that big of a spoiler, especially if one has already read The Watchmen and knows the full sordid tale of his demise.  Steve Rude provides art and lettering on this book in a very nuanced manner that is very appropriate to the title.  I include that he is also the letterer, because the way he letters the captions with the colored, emboldened first letters for each separate box is a feature characteristic of Golden Age comics of the time that this book is meant to take place, circa 1940’s.   This touch, along with his art style makes this one shot seem very authentic and believably vintage.  If one is a Watchmen fan, this is one-shot a must read issue.
  • Superman #16 picks up with H’el reliving his initial time with Superman’s parents, Jor-El and Lara, on Krypton months before its destruction.  These flashback sequences, of which there have been a few throughout the “H’el on Earth” crossover, are intriguing, as they paint H’el as a chivalrous man of the people, while at the same time calling into question the characters of Superman’s father and mother.  H’el’s scheme to restore Krypton at the cost of our entire solar system and it tens of trillions of inhabitants is nightmarish, and yet, though they have yet to come out and said it outright, H’el insinuates that Jor-El and Lara knew of and endorsed this plan.  Can that be, and if so what does it say about Superman’s heritage? On that same topic, through conversation between the two, we are shown that Supergirl is unaware that H’el’s plan will eradicate all life in our solar system and that H’el is consciously lying to her to gain her support in completing the plan.  And complete it they do, because by issue’s end the Star Chamber they have constructed is activated and the Oracle is awakened in another part of space to come and “bear witness to the end of a world.”  Kenneth Rocafort’s art makes this issue visually stunning and Scott Lobdell clearly helms the entire “H’el on Earth” crossover from this title, as every issue of Superman has been the wellspring of vital information concerning H’el’s plot and history.  Next month’s Superman #17 is solicited to bring this whole event to a close.  I, for one, cannot wait . . .
  • Talon #4 picks up in the bowels of the Hudson Financial Building as former Talon, Calvin Rose, concludes his business of defunding the Court of Owls numerous investments through this shell financial institution.  Of course, as we saw in previous issues, the Court has unleashed an asset of theirs so horrific that he was not even given the status of Talon, nor the same considerations as the rest.  With his release, the Court tips their hand as to how desperate they are to stop Calvin and his comrade-in-arms, Sebastian Clark, from further interfering in their affairs.  Also thrown into the mix is Calvin’s former lover, Casey Washington, who leads her own underground army of fugitive members of other world cabals.  Originally Calvin severed their relationship for fear that further interactions between them would lead the Court to her and her daughter.  The end of this issue tests that assumption, as well as the mettle of both Calvin and Casey in the face of the Court’s riskiest gambit.  James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder craft the plot exquisitely and Guillem March, as with everything he does, renders it beautifully up each and every page.  This series is one of the cannot miss titles of the DC lineup.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #16 wasn’t anything special.  Batman stops a string of kidnappings and assumes they are perpetrated by the Penguin.  Upon closer inspection, mind control devices are involved meaning its the Mad Hatter.  The Mad Hatter shows up.  That’s it.  There is next to no plotline to speak of.  Perhaps Gregg Hurwitz is gearing up for something, but apart from some gratuitous violence, leaves nothing to lure readers into buying the next issue.  Gregg Hurwitz I think was brought on to take over the supposedly lackluster writing of series artist David Finch and cowriter Paul Jenkins.  Hurwitz’s writing is far less substantial than the original writing team, as evinced by his  strawman Scarecrow storyline and this empty first issue of the Mad Hatter plot.  The one saving grace of this issue was the guest art by Ethan Van Sciver.
  • Teen Titans #16 brings to a close the “Death of the Family” tie-ins of both Red Hood and the Outlaws as well as Teen Titans, since Joker kidnapped Jason Todd and Timothy Drake together.  Last week’s Red Hood and the Outlaws #16 didn’t deal with the “Death of the Family” plot head on, but rather a roundabout way through the associates of the two former Robins coming together to locate their respective teammates.  This one focuses on Tim and Jason as they face off against the Joker, culminating in that oh so familiar defeat and awakening to the Joker holding a platter that all the other affiliated series have ended on with the promise of resolution in Batman #17.  I have no idea what that portends, but this issue found its heart in two diametrically different sidekicks of the Batman coming together like brothers against a common enemy.  You can tell that there is a lingering dislike and rivalry between the two that belies a deep fraternal affection for one another.  They also gel quite well when the chips are down and lives are at stake.  Scott Lobdell and artist Brett Booth hit a homerun this issue, in my humble opinion.  Also, as a post-script, I thought it fascinating that Lobdell threw in the teaser page, that not only introduced properly (there was a passing mention in Teen Titans #13) Trigon and his intentions to invade our sphere.  Also introduced is his daughter Raven (who was introduced as a girl in Phantom Stranger #1), here seen in her demon’s garb, which I think trumps her original outfit ten times over.  An original member of the New Teen Titans, I hope that her future appearances lead to her joining the team as she had in most of the title’s previous incarnations.
    The Rise of Raven

    The Rise of Raven


  • Justice League Dark #16 flounders a little bit, in my opinion.  In the “magical world” that is anything but, we see that the aboriginal denizens of magic have been forced underground by the humans who have adopted superscience to cull and repress the magical element, eventually dominating the whole of this sphere of existence.  The last hope of the magical beings is their lost king, the Hunter, who escaped to Earth via the Books of Magic and promised to return.  Timothy Hunter is his descendant and his coming could herald the return of magic.  The story is interesting for sure, but the delivery was a little bland and lacking the panache and charm that this title began with in spades.  Jeff Lemire is a good writer, but the direction he’s taking the characters in could be better.
  • Masters of the Universe: The Origin of He-Man was less exciting and reveiling than its predecessor, The Origin of Skeletor.  With the Skeletor introduction, not only did writer Joshua Fialkov do something completely different by making Skeletor, then Keldor, the older brother of King Randor, He-Man’s father, but also wrote a very compelling story for his transition from loyal and loving older brother to insane, skull faced dictator. The narrative was compelling, innovative and took the reader by surprise.  This origin story of He-Man says NOTHING!  He-Man isn’t portrayed in any other way than he has been in the past, and apart  from Skeletor being his uncle, nothing is different.  This special not only doesn’t need to be read, but shouldn’t have been written as it gives nothing new, interesting or insightful to the proceedings.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #6 concludes the miniseries with the combined forces of the Masters of the Universe awakening from Skeletor’s amnesia spell and the final battle with Skeletor commencing.  As He-Man stories go it wasn’t terrible.  The series started off and continued to do some innovative things so I will admit I was expecting more from the conclusion, however, it did live up to expectations.  One thing that surprised me and I guess I will give credit to being edgy and innovative was that King Randor, Teela, and everyone else knew that He-Man is also Prince Adam.  Also it is revealed through passing that the amnesia spell was cast by Orko who betrayed the Masters.  THAT would be something I wish that they would have shown considering that Orko is one of the most benign characters in the He-Man mythos.  His betrayal would have been a juicy plot point that other He-Man faithful, like myself, would have really enjoyed seeing.  Either way, this new version was pretty good and it appears there will be an ongoing He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series beginning in April, featuring a return of both writer Keith Giffen and artist Pop Mhan.
  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #12 begins with Superman Beyond, written by JT Krul and drawn by Howard Porter.  Superman enlists the aid of Martian Manhunter to discern the cause of the Trillians trying to kill him.  The rationale behind their vendetta is revealed and is far different and much more benign than I had thought.  If what Superman recalls is accurate, their anger is unwarranted and only serves to depict them as a cruel race.  However, in fairness to the Trillians, their side of the story hasn’t been told yet and circumstances might be slightly different from what Superman remembers, considering it took Martian Manhunter to recover those forgotten memories.  Next on the docket is a Justice League Beyond: Origin of Micron feature.  The son of a Gotham City paramedic, Micron was exposed in utero to radiation that caused him from birth to be able to shrink and expand to different sizes.  Cursed through childhood with being different and having to move often because of it, as an adult he makes his way to Metropolis to join the Justice League Beyond.  A pretty cut and dry origin with little ambiguity or twists to it, the story still resonnated through the very personal voice with which it is told.  Finally, Adam Beechen privides the next chapter in his Batman Beyond “10,000 Clowns” storyline.  It is actually more of a small taste, not accomplishing much narratively, except giving Batman (Terry McGinnis’) inner monologue on the state of affairs that find him against the ropes at the hands of the Joker King, the thoughts that lead to his rallying, and reintroducing Max back into the storyline after her abduction several issues ago, as well as revealing the identity of her captor.  Overall, this issue was entertaining, but didn’t accomplish any great revelation in any of the three segments.  However, the coming issues promise to do so based on what this issue did present.
  • Arrow #3 begins with a tale of Ollie trying to juggle his friendship with Tommy Merlyn with his nights as Starling City’s hooded vigilante.  Its an interesting story, but not very innovative or complex.  The next cashes in on the “found footage” genre of storytelling made popular recently with the movies Cloverfield, Chronicle, Apollo 19, and others.  Three kids get a video camera and a van and attempt to get footage of the Hood in action.  Finally, the third tale fills in the past of Helena Bertinelli, aka the Huntress, and the events that drove her to the jaws of vengeance seen in the series this past November.  Though intriguing, I wouldn’t say these inhanced the enjoyment or immersion into the world of the television show as effectively as the previous two have achieved in months past.
  • All-Star Western #16 picks up with what seems to be a premise spawned from a dare.  How do you make a dude in a wheel chair a total badass?  Well, with a character like Jonah Hex, half the work is done for you. After facing off with Edward Hyde who had kidnapped and forcefed his serum to Hex’s associate Dr. Jeremiah Arkham, Jonah faced off against the genocidal lunatic and was soundly thrashed.  With Arkham institutionalized until the serum ran its course through his system, Hex was left wheelchair bound to convolesce in the good doctors mansion.  Like any predator, Hyde isn’t one to let his prey escape permanently and comes for a reckoning with Hex who even one month later is still chair ridden. Also of interest is Hex’s time time in the Arkham home. In the past, we have heard the shrill cries of Arkham’s aged mother from the upper levels of the house, but never seen her.  This issue finally gives us an up close view of the woman and her demented frame of mind, namely her taste for the literary.  This issue was quite an interesting way to draw the saga of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’s time in Gotham to a close, as well as perhaps a keystone moment in the history of the Black Diamond and its whereabouts in the present of the DCU.  The backup feature Tomahawk also reaches its concluding chapter as the eponymous native warrior leads a unified assault of the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Shawnee, and Ojibwe tribes against the remaining British forces that shelter the American commander, General Lancaster, who butchered the families of Tomahawk and his fellows.  They win the day and kill the American and British soldiers present, but the final words of Lancaster ring true through the inevitablity of history.  The time of the Native Americans on their land is drawing to a close.  The rising tide of European settlers will replace them, and we the reader know this to be historically the outcome.  The true heart of the feature is the strength of the warriors’ spirit to stand against the encroaching tides.

    Old Lady Arkham

    Old Lady Arkham

  • The Unwritten #45 shifts focus from Tom Taylor’s trevails in the previous arc to Richie Savoy and Didge Patterson in real world Australia.  Savoy has set out to establish his own story and breakaway from being a supporting character in Tom’s story.  It would appear that he has been successful in that endeavor to a degree, but is beset with the troubles that come from being the main character of a story, especially in the face of the calamity of the fictional world caused by the “Wound” sustained in the War of the Words.  However, his existentialist woes are cut short when Didge asks him to advise on a very strange murder case she is investigating involving what appear to be zombie attacks.  As with many strange occurrences in this title’s four year run, the zombies are conjured into existence through the written word.  The who is established by issue’s end by the why and logistics are yet to be seen.  Mike Carey and Peter Gross continue to amaze in this issue with some really dynamic storytelling and very compelling characters, developed slowly and carefully over years of subtly crafted storylines.
  • Joe Kubert Presents #4 rounds out the week with yet another sojourn by Kubert into the tale of “The Redeemer”, another tale of “Angel and the Ape” by Brian Buniak, and further anecdotes of Sam Glanzman about his time on the “USS Stevens.”  In “The Redeemer” Kubert goes from the year 2557 A.D. to the end of the Civil War and the Redeemer, Jim Torkan, trying to piece his life back together after his life in the South is destoryed following the surrender of Lee’s forces.  The post-war South and the frontier in the western territories were laden with great injustices and moral quagmires that could corrupt even the purest heart.  The Redeemer, true to his name, is a man whose virtue in the face of such situations dictates the redemption or fall of mankind.  But he is a man with human weaknesses, so the question remains as to whether he can remain pure of heart in a morally corrupt world.  “Angel and the Ape”  concluded their current case and comedically grants Angel greater knowledge of her partner, Sam, a crusading gorilla.  In the “USS Stevens” Sam Glanzman tells of an eccentric “asiatic” crew member on the boat called Buck, who was a practioner of Eastern philosophies like Zen Buddhism and an aficionado of quantum physics and relativity theorems   Crafting a makeshift weapon that crew members sometimes fashioned from scrap metal aboard shop called “sheath knives”, Buck attacked the captain of the boat and earned himself a transfer off ship.  The night before, supposedly someone on another boat swore they saw Buck floating in front of the Stevens where a figurehead would normally appear.  The story clearly was told for the sole purpose of rationalizing the feasibility of whether this sighting was real or fabricated, considering his former peculiarities, as well as the man on the other ship’s ignorance of Buck’s eccentricities.  The issue concludes like its predecessors with a very novel, retro feel of a bygone era of comic writing.
    Lives Lives And Lives To Come

    Lives Lives And Lives To Come

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

Ending a long, but memorable week of comics, the books that came out just reaffirm how incredible this medium is.  Next week February promises a continuance on some incredible stories told this first month of 2013.  Can’t wait to read them and share my impressions with all of you.

 

Illustration Credits:

Aquaman #16: Drawn by Paul Pelletier, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Sean Parsons

Batman Inc #7: Art by Chris Burnham, colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Red Lanterns #16: Drawn by Andres Guinaldo, Colored by Rain Beredo, Inked by BIT

Batman & Robin Annual #1: Drawn by Adrian Syaf, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Vincente Cifunetes

Teen Titans #16: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund

All-Star Western #16: Art by Moritat, Colored by Mike Atiyeh

Joe Kubert Presents #4: Art by Joe Kubert