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 #27begins 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.
Teen Titans #27appears 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.
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 #4brings 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!
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.
Worlds’ Finest Annual #1provides 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.
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.
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 . . .
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.
Superman #24brings 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.
Flash #24concludes 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 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 energiesback 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.
Aquaman #24is 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 . . .
Talon #12returns 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 #24is 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 Unwritten #54concludes 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 #3brings 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.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
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.
Two weeks in and Villains Month is heating up. There are some grade A characters being represented this week and expectations are high. The much sought 3D covers can only take them so far. Here’s hoping this week maintains the momentum built last week.
Action Comics #23.2: Zodbegins the exploration into the mystery that is Zod. To be fair, I believe I went into this issue with extremely high hopes. For those readers that have read my thirteen page review of this summer’s Man of Steel film, they know that Zod is dear to my heart and only the most faithful adaptation to the integrity of the character would do. His entre into the New 52 came in the final installment of Action Comics’s backup feature, “World of Krypton” as Jor-El and Cadet Lara Lor-Van are saved from an overzealous Colonel who would overthrow the government by the loyal commander of Krypton’s military forces, Dru-Zod. Even though this appearance is short there was still promise in the way it was written by Scott Lobdell and Frank Hannah. This issue, written by Greg Pak, is a little more heavy-handed and portrays Zod as a monster forged in youth by his battle with actual monsters in the Kryptonian wilderness. Though it’s neither stated nor inferred in the text of the issue, it is reminiscent of the Frederick Nietzsche quote: “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster.” Throughout his rise through Krypton’s military and his befriending the Brothers El he came off a little strangely in my opinion. In Man of Steel there was a harshness that belied a deeper nobility in the Kryptonian general and a certain efficiency. Waste not, want not. Unless something had to be done, Zod didn’t do it, but if it was necessary, he did it and did it right. The Zod I imagined in the “World of Krypton” also had a nobility about him that came from utilitarian ideals and a love of Krypton. In this version by Pak, I don’t believe he follows the same footfalls as the other two versions I mentioned. I believe he IS as monster and lacking many of the quintessential qualities of a patriot of Krypton. I will reserve my judgement for what looks to be his next appearance under the pen of writer Charles Soule in Superman/Wonder Woman #3.
Aquaman #23.1: Black Manta is a penetrating look at perhaps the greatest antagonist of Aquaman. While he is no longer the man who murdered Aquaman’s infant son, Arthur Curry Jr, he is still tied to Aquaman in a mutual circle of death and hatred. It is revealed that Manta accidentally killed Arthur’s father by inducing a heart attack, and in retribution Aquaman attempted to kill him only to accidentally murder Manta’s father. What results is a deadly spiral of two sons attempting to avenge the inadvertent killings of their fathers. This issue is billed as being conceived of by Tony Bedard and Geoff Johns, but words by Bedard. Considering that most of the actual interactions and dialogue in this issue are taken verbatim from Forever Evil #1 I am assuming that Bedard merely filled in the captions to give Manta’s perspective. What is clear is that Manta’s “evil motivations” is nothing more than killing Aquaman. After that, there is no malice left to rule the world, or continue to kill or oppress. Just avenge his father’s death with his own hands. Enter the Crime Syndicate who subjugate the world and proclaim, “The Justice League is dead!” and offer Aquaman’s trident as proof. Essentially, a man whose sole motivation for continuing on was vengeance is denied that very impetus. So if he cannot avenge his father’s murder anymore, he can replace that hatred with vengeance against those who robbed him of his chance at retribution. Though this is Villains Month, this issue imbues Black Manta with a twisted humanity that makes him very relatable and almost noble. Though it’s just a brief glimpse, this issue tells everything that is really necessary in the understanding of this iconic comic book character’s New 52 iteration.
Spiral of Hatred
Green Lantern #23.2: Mongul is an interesting issue that redefines the character while maintaining his essence. In this issue the moon sized War World, Mongul’s vessel, appears suddenly in the territory of the Oblivoron Federation. When the admiral of the Federation armada demands the surrender of the War World, he is beamed aboard the artificial planet and brought before Mongul. Mongul then leads the Admiral around his “home”, displaying its defensive capabilities and the oddities that he has amassed from his travels across the cosmos. All the while he waxes philosophic about the art of war, conquest, and ruling, while simultaneously giving glimpses at his past, demonstrating his principles through their context toward the immensely powerful being he has become. Though the issue is almost entirely him just pontificating to his humbled “guest” it keeps the reader’s attention with the stark imagery juxtaposed against the quasi Sun-Tzu/Machievellian rhetoric. Mongul is changed a bit in the New 52 from former tellings, but remains true to the inherent nature of his past characterizations. This is largely because the issue was written by Mongul’s co-creator, Jim Starlin. Admittedly, Len Wein was the writer who first wrote him and Starlin the artist, but this time around Starlin finds himself penning the character with the help of famed artist, Howard Porter. The look and the feel of the character endures, and as the title he appears in foreshadows, the issue ends with War World closing in on a Green Lantern Corps chapter house. It stands to reason that we will see him in the not to distant future in the pages of Green Lantern Corps.
“We Shall Never Surrender!”
Batman & Robin #23.2: The Court of Owls is a fantastically woven tale of the Court, of course, but more so of Gotham itself and how the Court has entwined itself irrevocably into the very fabric of the city’s infrastructure, its culture, and the people who populate it. James Tynion IV (writer of Talon and protegé of the Court’s creator, Scott Snyder) pens this issue brilliantly. His writing tends to alternate between good and uninspired. This issue REALLY captures the essence of the subject organization, driving home to those familiar with the Court why they are so immensely powerful, and does the same for those who may never have read about the Court, while also introducing them in a very conversational tone. The issue begins in 1974 with a murder orchestrated by the Court, then cuts to the present day with Gotham tearing itself apart after the events of Forever Evil #1. Watching all of this is a youngish, yet senior member of the Court (wearing his owl mask, of course) explaining to his daughter (masked herself and looking to be around 9 or 10 years old) why they have nothing to fear from the havoc that is tearing Gotham asunder. The Court has weathered civil discord, plagues, riots, and the like many times before and only come back stronger. The issue then alternates between the present and the past, showing how the Court has asserted its power time and again as the father owl tells his daughter more about the principles that bind them to Gotham’s very foundations. These trips into the past range from 1974 all the way back to 1862, featuring the exploits of the Gotham Butcher. Each episode drives home further the point that the Court can never be fully extinguished so long as a single stone of Gotham remains. It also foreshadows a looming threat from the further past known as . . . the First Talon. Considering the sinister nature of the Talons (assassins of the Court) we’ve seen so far, especially the Gotham Butcher, for the First Talon to be that frightening to members of the Court, it must be something quite horrifying. Tynion writes it extremely well, but he gets a lot of help from artist Jorge Lucas, whose art is very gothic, with beautiful lines hashed out or blackened to give the impression of shadows and darkness in all areas and all times of day throughout Gotham. No one is safe anywhere or anytime from the Court . . .
Batman #23.2: The Riddler was very blase. I had high hopes for the issue, considering that Edward Nygma is playing such an integral role in Scott Snyder’s “Batman: Year Zero” storyline, however the problem lies in the delivery. As the title page reveals, the issue’s story was conceived of by Scott Snyder and Ray Fawkes, but was written by Fawkes. You can feel the presence of Scott Snyder’s style in the skeleton of the story, in which a recently escaped Riddler makes his way to the Wayne Enterprises Building and stages a very elaborate break-in. His goals and the means in which he infiltrates the building is very Snyder-esque and you know that there is a lot of possibilities inherent in it. The problem is that Ray Fawkes has a certain way of writing that isn’t always the best and unfortunately for this issue he really makes the character obnoxious and uninteresting. The Riddler is a character that skews that way naturally and it takes a careful hand to write him in such a way that he is engaging and interesting, not pretentious and grating to the reader. Unfortunately, Ray Fawkes hasn’t displayed any such talents in his time on Batgirl or Pandora. The Riddler is a character I have enjoyed in the past, but not overly so, so the fact that this issue wasn’t written the best didn’t sadden me too much. I did enjoy the art by Jeremy Haun, which was very reminiscent of Phil Noto. An okay issue, but definitely not a “MUST get.”
Detective Comics #23.2: Harley Quinn was a giant contradiction and I say that in a way that is not condemning or negative. I don’t really know whether I liked it or hated it, but I like that I don’t know. That uncertainty underscores the essential nature of the character as depicted in this issue. Writer Matt Kindt really hits on the contradictions of the character herself that seem irreconcilable, yet form the bedrock of who she is. To the casual observer Harley Quinn is the ditzy blonde that epitomizes the stereotype into which she aptly seems to fall. However, before the grease paint and the red and black costuming, she was a brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. Harleen Quintzel. The issue shows her as a young overachiever who used her intelligence and immense drive to escape a traumatic, lower class childhood. As a rising star in psychiatry she went to Arkham Asylum to cut her teeth on the sickest minds in the world. After awhile of grinding her gears, she tried a revolutionary tactic of infiltrating them as a new “inmate” and studying them and treating them under the radar. While occupying this persona and experiencing life from their perspective, everything she pushed herself to be and all the hard work and diligence fell away and she learned what it felt like to be truly free, releasing Harley from within Harleen’s confined, regimented psyche. The rest plays out in a giant cathartic explosion of chaos and self-discovery. This is the part of the issue I really liked. The part I wasn’t too fond of was her actions in the present, disseminating handheld gaming devices to that masses laced with explosives that kill both adults and small children. She also murders at least one cop, if not dozens in a pretty brutal fashion. As stated before, I really enjoyed the look into how she split from a paradigm of order to a paragon of chaos, but her brutal actions in the present that are extremely harsh and without any rationale given in the narrative jarred me quite a bit. I think this does cement her as a more feminized Joker-like character than she has been in the past, but I am not sure if her actions as they stand push her past the limits of her anti-heroic depiction in Suicide Squad. I will give Matt Kindt a thumbs up for a very thought-provoking issue.
Justice League #23.2: Lobo was an issue that didn’t need to be written. Worse, it didn’t even need to be thought. The controversy surrounding this issue was something I tried not to jump into, being that DC was saying that the man we have seen since the character’s creation in the late 80’s was NOT in fact the real Lobo, but rather an imposter. A BOLD proposition, but I chose to hear them out and not get bent out of shape until there was an actual reason. Well, this issue presented nothing new. Nothing interesting. Nothing different. To be fair, there are differences, but not good ones. Lobo, as created by Keith Giffen, was a big, muscular, space biker that was the last of his race (him having murdered his entire species) who bounty hunted across the universe for some spending money. He did BAD, morally repugnant things, but you read him because of his penchant for over the top violence and his pseudo-swear words like “bastich” and “fragging.” He won you over. What writer Marguerite Bennett replaced him with is a thinner, more morose facsimile with a stupid looking pompadour. Worst of all, she gutted his endearing vernacular for a schizophrenic, hipster style, no longer calling people “bastiches” when he does his business, but rather one who says, “Sorry. Not Sorry.” Once or twice that might simply be tolerable, but by the fifth time you pray that the “fake” (REAL!!!) Lobo would come out of nowhere and cut the hipster bastich’s fraggin’ tongue out with something blunt. Sorry, new Lobo. Not sorry. I don’t know whose fault this utter piece of tripe is, Bennett’s or DC’s execs who have been REALLY throwing out terrible ideas of late, but this experiment is a failure. Sorry, DC. NOT sorry!
The Flash #23.2: The Reverse Flash tells the tale of one of Flash’s most iconic villains reimagined for the New 52. The Rogues represent a perennial challenge to the Flash, but its the Reverse Flash that truly underscores the dark side of the Speed Force, the transcendental energy stream from which they both draw their power. This issue, like so much of what co-writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have done with this title takes the character of the Reverse Flash and reworked him in innovative, intriguing ways, while at the same time staying true to the spirit of what came before. In their run Barry Allen (the Flash) is no longer married to the character who was his wife for decades, Iris West, and indeed as the series opened they had never been in a relationship. Barry instead is dating fellow Central City forensic investigator, Patty Spivot. Reverse Flash also finds himself in the shuffle of things with a new take and a new persona. Whereas once he was Eobard Thawne or Hunter Zolomon, in the New 52 he inherits a third persona: Daniel West, brother of Iris. However, like the two aforementioned Reverse Flashes, Daniel’s abilities and goals are heavily centered on time travel. Thawne was a criminal from the 25th century who came back in time to our “present” with the use of Barry Allen’s original costume, slightly modified. Zolomon was a paraplegic who after being refused help via time manipulation by Barry Allen’s successor and former sidekick, Wally West, took it upon himself to attempt time travel only to end up becoming a twisted psychotic whose powers were actually time-based and did not rely on speed at all. This Villains Month issue tells us how Daniel got his abilities, tied integrally into the Speed Force, and how his past coupled with these abilities drove him insane. I don’t know if I have ever read anything about Iris’ brother, or if Daniel is in fact the father of Wally, but the representation of Daniel in this issue is complex, compelling, and despite his mismanaged rage and many flaws, you sort of find yourself rooting for him. Francis Manapul has been the only one to draw the Reverse Flash since his introduction to the New DCU, even when all but the last page were drawn by someone else. This special issue was drawn by Scott Hepburn, whose style very closely mimics Manapul’s lines, and its shocking ending is truly a hallmark in the New 52’s three year history. This is not an issue to miss.
Earth 2 #15.2: Solomon Grundy is the second issue written by Matt Kindt this week and comes off a little weaker than his Harley Quinn issue, though written in a similar fashion. The last time we saw Grundy, Earth 2 writer James Robinson had Alan Scott’s Green Lantern strand the hulking zombie on the Moon. This issue has him shooting back to Earth like a meteorite, but with no explanation of how that comes to pass. Once back, he begins to do as he did when we first met him a year ago when Robinson introduced him as the avatar of the Grey (Rot), reducing everything living he touches to ash. As he cuts a wide swathe across the American southwest, Kindt cuts the narrative back to Slaughter Swamp of 1898 to introduce Solomon’s human life as a sharecropper and butcher in a the slaughterhouse that gave the swamp its name. His life was lived and ended in a very horrifying manner, resulting in an equally horrible after-life. The parts of the narrative that take place in the past are well done, but when they cut to the present there is a serious disconnect for the reader. Grundy almost destroyed humanity just by being on the planet for a few hours when we first met him, so the ending of him wreaking havoc unopposed is very unsatisfying and raises more questions than it answers. In this way it is very much like Harley’s Detective Comics issue, but in that case the disconnect between past and present was indicative of the character’s persona. This issue didn’t have that same appropriateness and just came off sloppy. Artist Aaron Lopresti did a fantastic job rendering the issue artistically and is the real draw of the issue with a decent, but not entirely satisfying plot. However, Matt Kindt wrote several issues this month, so it is completely understandable that some will be better than their fellows.
Teen Titans #23.1: Trigon, like Mongul above, is another Villains Month issue that features the character’s creator coming back decades later and re-imagining them for DC’s rebooted multiverse. In this version a young, smaller Trigon is brought before a holy trinity of universal guardians calling themselves the “Divine,” who purge evil from the known universes using a cosmic anomaly known as the “Heart.” True to its name, it resembles a giant black, pulsating heart that sucks the souls from those with evil festering inside them. This tactic doesn’t work on the young demon lord, and actually brings about the Divine’s ultimate undoing. From there, Trigon descends upon world after world subjugating universes and realities one after the other through the impregnating of women in each sphere with his progeny. However, few of his children survive birth or their mothers commit suicide before they can be born. All of his sons also prove to be unimpressive specimens, but one human woman who gives herself to Trigon willingly and gives birth to a daughter, Raven, who becomes the greatest of his scions. Raven, as we know, has found her way into the ranks of the Teen Titans and her allegiance is somewhat ambiguous at this moment. Also tying into the Teen Titans title is the introduction of the first bearer of the Silent Armour (currently worn by Wonder Girl) and the only being to ever fight Trigon to a stalemate. Wolfman’s story fits spectacularly into the overall framework of the New DCU, specifically the work that Scott Lobdell has done in Teen Titans.
Batman: The Dark Knight #23.2: Mr. Freezeis the Mr. Freeze issue that should have been from the start. Scott Snyder is a phenomenal writer, but his New 52 introduction of Victor Fries was totally lackluster and didn’t do justice to the character at all. Perhaps the keystone motivation of the character is his love and devotion to his wife, Nora. He was a man who was literally cold as ice in both demeanor and M.O., but underneath that frigid exterior beats a warm heart filled with love. While Snyder’s introduction to Freeze began that way in Batman Annual #1, it quickly soured as Batman reveals that the Nora in cryogenic stasis wasn’t actually Victor’s wife, but a Jane Doe with whom he grew an obsession. Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray take that imperfect start and re-establish Freeze as a man capable of feeling love, albeit a very psychotic brand of love. When the crap hits the fan with the Crime Syndicate opening the prisons and Arkham Asylum and chaos reigns all throughout Gotham Freeze intercedes in favor of an Arkham nurse that showed him kindness when she didn’t have to. His father walked out on him and his mother when he was a small child and though this sense of betrayal ruined his adolescence and ultimately killed his mother, upon finding out that his father had another family and he had a half-brother, niece, and nephew he never knew about he is excited. Many psychotics would be angry and resentful about this, but Victor’s cold demeanor belies a desire for meaningful human affection and to preserve it at all costs. This presentation of Mr. Freeze rings the most true of any so far in the New DCU. What also gives this the feeling of a true second chance for character is the art from Jason Masters, who was the same artist to first render him in the New 52 in Batman Annual #1.
Superman #23.2: Brainiac could be the most perfect Villains Month issue yet and I would dare say, probably the best that this month will yield. It is literally perfect, just like the subject it depicts. There are many variables that figure into this perfect storm of awesome: 1) Writer Tony Bedard, a proven master that knows how to write complex cosmic drama, 2) artist Pascal Alixe’s art is peerless!, the pencils and inks immersing the reader into a very comprehensive vision of the complex text, 3) both Bedard and Alixe stand on the shoulders of giants, drawing off of and adding to phenomenal Superman stories of the past two years by the likes of Grant Morrison, Rags Morales, Scott Lobdell, and Kenneth Rocafort, to name only a few. The issue begins with the systematic subjugation of three worlds by the “Collector”, colloquially known as Brainiac. On the third world, Noma, the planet’s most brilliant scientist, Victoria Viceroy, is captured by the Collector’s Terminauts and debriefed by her robotic aide, Pneumenoid, slaved to Brainiac’s reprogramming. Pneumenoid attempts to persuade her that what is happening to her world is not a defeat, but rather a triumph for her planet and its culture. He then recounts a tale of the most brilliant mind on the planet of Yod-Colu who became aware of the Multitude, the 5th dimensional hoard created in Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run that ravage planets and erradicate their populations. It is for this reason that the scientist Vril Dox begins to perform extreme experimentations in the “upgrading” of the Coluan species using his son as the guinea pig. When his wife, Lysl Dox, becomes aware of his crimes against their child she brings him before the planet’s justices who listen to his defense as to the danger the 5th dimension poses to their world and what his experiments would achieve toward the preservation of their way of life. His pleas fall on deaf ears and he is exiled into deep space. However, as the chief scientific mind of Yod-Colu, Dox had designed the craft that imprisoned him and the computer systems administering his captivity, thus allowing him easy access to override its programming and aid him in his endeavors. On the way back to Yod-Colu, he has the ship’s A.I. complete on himself the operations he had begun on his son, transforming him into a walking biocomputer. He returns to Yod-Colu and extracts all vital information on Colu’s civilization, history, technology, and culture and shrinks a city (his very first), bottling it to preserve also a small sampling of its people. The poignant detail that bears mentioning is that, despite his cold logic and emotionless nature, the portion of Colu Brainiac bottles contains his wife and son, sparing them from the horrific apocalypse the Multitude rain down on the rest of his world. This process of data extraction and bottling a city becomes his modus operandi on many worlds between Yod-Colu and his eventual advent on Earth. One such world, of course, was Krypton where he stole the capital city, Kandor, which he bottled and added to his collection. This was one of the few worlds that Brainiac failed to destroy before he left, and serendipitously so, because the foremost Kryptonian scientist, Jor-El, achieved the one thing that even Brainiac’s vaunted 12th level intellect could not: defeating the Multitude. Jor-El was the only being to EVER defeat them until his son, Kal-El, did just that in Morrison’s Action Comics run. But even Jor-El was not brilliant enough to prevent the inevitability of Krypton’s destruction by other forces, which we are scheduled to witness in two short months in the “Krypton Returns” storyline throughout the Super-titles. Since then, Brainaic has preemptively preserved doomed cultures in the Multitude’s path and sought out minds that could do what Jor-El did. Enter Victoria Viceroy, a very similar persona to Jor-El, both in intellect and disposition. The issue plays out in a natural cycle of tragic fatalism inherent in the disparity between automated logic and the spontaneity of free will. The tragedy of the comic is very moving and thought-provoking making it all the more enjoyable. If there was a choice of only one issue to get this week, Brainiac would be the logical choice, with the word “choice” betraying the illusion of there even being one. That is what Brainiac would most likely tell you, without bias of course.
FBP (Federal Bureau of Physics) #3continues off of yet another incredible Vertigo series launched in a new wave of titles. The premise of the series is that the laws of physics have come undone and random anomalies occur that defy the very principles of normalcy that the reader takes for granted. To counter these freak occurrences a governmental agency is created, which gives this series its name. Last issue Agent Adam Hardy and his partner and mentor Jay Kelly of the Federal Bureau of Physics went into a bubble universe (a small alternate version of an area juxtaposed on top of the original) to rescue four people trapped inside, before the bubble bursts killing them and causing damage to the space/time continuum. No big deal. However, Jay decides to take this moment to pull a gun on his protege and end that relationship. But for effed up physics Jay would have succeeded. However, Adam is able to escape and effect the rescue of his assigned person, James Crest, a disgraced C.E.O. facing an indicted from the SEC. While all this is going on inside the bubble, on the outside the very eccentric appearing chief of the FBP, Cicero Deluca, meets with his own mentor in the latter’s television repair shop. The character of Cicero is pretty cryptic, giving the impression in the first two issues that he’s a very closed off, unilateral bureaucratic sort mixed with a “Beautiful Mind” autistic prodigy, so seeing him defer to another person, especially someone who isn’t vaunted as a world-class physicist and to witness his recognition of his humble origins learning about science through television repair is quite humbling and humanizing. On the other side, his mentor, Yarab, a wizened old Semetic gentleman, poses a very interesting foil for the cold fact character found in Cicero. Bouncing ideas back and forth, you hear the textbook theoretics come out of Cicero’s mouth, countered or abetted by the scientifically back insightful ideas of Yarab wrapped in colloquial, old-world metaphors accentuating his didactics and his characterization. The issue advances the series further toward being a quintessentially Vertigo title, delving intelligently into the realities of our world explored through well-reasoned unrealities. Adam’s odyssey from the sins of his father to becoming an FBP agent to getting shot at by his oldest friend, Cicero’s discourse with Yarab into nightmarish quantum physics, to the horrifying actions of Jay in the very last panels of the issue cement it as one of those Vertigo runs you tell your friends about for years to come to show them what comics are truly capable of.
This week in comics was not to shabby and definitely produces some gems with far-reaching connotions. This week definitely proves it’s GOOD to be a comic book nerd.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Aquaman #23.1: Black Manta: Art by Claude St. Aubin, Colored by Blond
Green Lantern #23.2: Mongul: Art by Howard Porter, Colored by Hi-Fi
Batman & Robin #23.2: Court of Owls: Art by Jorge Lucas, Colored by Dave McCaig
The Flash #23.2: The Reverse Flash: Art by Scott Hepburn, Colored by Brian Buccellato
Superman #23.3: Brainiac: Art by Pascal Alixe, Colored by Hi-Fi
FBP #3: Art by Robbi Rodriguez, Colored by Rico Renzi
It has been a LONG time since I have posted, due to some scheduling conflicts and a REALLY busy summer, but it’s good to be back talking about comics, and DC’s Villains Month is a perfect time to get back in the swing of things. So far this first week has produced some interesting specimens as well as some really out-of-the-box concepts for the hallmark villains of the DC universe. That said, less talking, more comic book reviewing:
Forever Evil #1starts off the post Trinity War mega event across the entirety of the DC Universe. The Crime Syndicate of America from Earth-3 has descended upon our world from a portal opened by Pandora’s Box. As a result the Justice League has been “killed,” though it is not depicted nor explained, and the CSA have set about creating a Secret Society to claim the world in the name of evil. It doesn’t so much seem like a Secret when they are doing it out in the open . . . From the four corners of the globe their acolytes are recruiting the evilest minds the planet can offer, from Gorilla Grodd to the Scarecrow, to create a new world order. The issues opens on Lex Luthor, newly emancipated from prison for services rendered to the government, trying to coerce Thomas Kord (possible father of Ted Kord) to relinquish his controlling majority of Kord Industries with horrific, thinly veiled threats and bribery. In mid-flight the helicopter they are riding in crashes leaving only Luthor alive. The power goes out and all hell breaks loose. The Crime Syndicate proudly proclaim, “This World is Ours.” That is when the prisons are opened and evil is truly unleashed like an open floodgate. Throughout the rest of the issue we see the twisted version of the Justice League systematically subvert the last vestiges of super-powered defenders to proclaim their own order upon the globe. With issue’s end the part that Luthor will play in the proceedings is very ambiguous. Geoff Johns does a pretty decent job writing this story, which is interesting considering his blunt, overwrought attempts at the main Justice League title over the past two years. Aiding him in art is David Finch, who helped him launch Justice League of America eight months ago. Of the two, I think that David Finch is the one that most excites me on this title. Johns had his day in the sun, but has either lost his touch or gotten too power mad in his new executive position. Either way, I am infinitely enthusiastic about this issue, as it expands the multiverse by one more world, giving birth to the Crime Syndicate: Ultraman, Superwoman, Owlman, et al. Owlman is perhaps the one that has the most interest to me, especially after the way he was portrayed in the DC animated movie Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. We shall see if this event and the New 52 does justice to the former incarnations of the Crime Syndicate and Earth-3.
Action Comics #23.1:Cyborg Supermanis written by Supergirl writer Michael Alan Nelson following the shocking revelation of the Cyborg’s identity at the end of Supergirl #23 following his capture and rending the flesh off Supergirl in order that he could regain his Kryptonian body and his lost memories of his identity. After stripping her flesh through molecular dissolution and regaining his, he is revealed to be none other than Zor-El, father of Supergirl. In this issue we see a man obsessed with perfection and obsessed with proving his intellect over that of his younger, seemingly brighter brother, Jor-El, in the face of Krypton’s destruction. Undertaken out of pride, his efforts were also undertaken in order that his entire family could survive. Using half understood Brainiac technology, he tries to save his native Argo City, only to see it collapse and his fellow Kryptonians slowly die. When Brainiac returns he bestows upon Zor-El what the man himself had attempted: to force perfection upon him. Many parts of Zor-El are completely replaced to make him more efficacious and that which is organic was rewritten genetically to resemble his “superior sibling,” hence his looking so much like Superman and not his blond, more round faced self. What remains of the issue is an exploration of what cold logic and mechanized calculations deem “perfect.” The Cyborg Superman issue encapsulates beautifully what Zor-El has become after Brainiac altered him and sets the stage for what is to come in the aftermath of his restoration in the pages of Supergirl #24.
Extreme Cosmetic Surgery
Batman #23.1: Jokeris a real treat. Under the pen of the great artist Andy Kubert, scion of the legendary Joe Kubert, we see him (to my knowledge for the first time) write an incredibly introspective look at the Joker, glimpses of his past, and what makes him tick. Opening on a traumatic childhood, we see a horrendous display of abuses heaped upon him by a violently insane aunt, including scrubbing his face and body down with bleach and coarse brush, in essence explaining his white skin and his psychopathy. Cut to the the near-present (years before he cut his face off) where the Joker raises a baby gorilla he kidnaps from the zoo to be his son. Truly touching, he gives the gorilla everything he was denied as a child including genuine love. He molds the ape into his own likeness, but not with any malice towards his “son’s” feelings. However, since there is no mention of the gorilla in the present, the reader knows it won’t last. The Joker witnesses his son’s death and from what follows the reader knows that this creature was literally the closest relationship the Clown Prince of Gotham has ever had, and indeed, the Joker begins crying. But he quickly breaks into laughter and makes grossly morbid jokes about the whole thing. Kubert shows us that the Joker is capable of emotions, but because of the incredible trauma of his youth, whenever they are too much to bear his brain reverts to a manic state of euphoric laughter to compensate. Truly amazing storytelling, befitting his father’s legacy. Kubert wrote this, but the art was done by another of my favorite artists, Andy Clarke. Clarke’s art has made the backups of Detective Comics soar and his treatment of this entire issue augments and accentuates Kubert’s plots brilliantly. This is a Villains Month issue that is not to be missed.
Batman & Robin #23.1: Two-Facewritten by Peter Tomasi and drawn by Guillem March chronicles the fate of Two-Face during the beginnings of Forever Evil. Batman is “dead” and Gotham has gone dark. For the former Gotham district attorney and current crimelord there are two paths to take: save Gotham or let her burn. A tough call that is made simpler by a coin toss. Interrupted by the Scarecrow, a third option is presented, or rather a second choice to be made. Scarecrow represents the Secret Society who wish Two-Face’s allegiance in subjugating our world. So the more pertinent question becomes: join the Society or fight the Society? Another coin toss. As Gotham cries out, Two-Face’s reactions to it, coupled with a few flashbacks to his past, really fleshout the man he has become and where his loyalties and druthers find themselves. If his psychoses were simple to understand he wouldn’t have been sent to Arkham all those times, and Tomasi really feels out that space in his story, showing the true depth of his madness. He also throws in some old friends from his pre-Reboot stint of the Batman & Robin title as well to shake things up. If you like the character of Two-Face and await what Tomasi plans for him in the formerly titled Batman & Robin series, this issue is a must read.
Detective Comics #23.1: Poison Ivy, like Two-Face above, deals with Ivy’s emergence into a Gotham a without power, law, or the Batman. As it has ever been depicted in such conditions, it is ANARCHY! It is in this that Poison Ivy is reminded of the disgusting nature of humanity. Among the insanities she witnesses is a scene of domestic abuse that she intervenes upon. In doing this she is taken back to her childhood and her own battered mother finding solace in her garden, with peace of plants. A horror would later await both in that garden, scarring young Pamela for the rest of her life and starting her path towards becoming Ivy. That path is laid out through her entry into academia and the internship at Wayne Enterprises that brought about her physical transformation into the floral female terrorist she has become. Derek Fridolfs writes this issue with the help of artist Javier Pina. Poison Ivy can be written very two dimensionally, and this story skirts that territory with a semi-intricate explanation of her motivations, but still lacks some key element of why she is as generally misanthropic as she is depicted by issue’s end.
Green Lantern #23.1: Relicintroduces us to the eponymous “Relic,” a petrified remnant from the Universe that preceded ours. Since he awoke in Green Lantern: The New Guardians #22 he has been an enigma that has cryptically stated his good intentions while attacking viciously and unprovoked the Lanterns he dubs “lightsmiths.” His goal is stated as “saving the Universe.” This issue, written by Green Lantern scribe, Robert Venditti, chronicles his life in the universe that preceded ours and how that universe functioned. The lightsmiths were wielders of the emotional spectrum, with all the same colors and emotions we have seen since Geoff Johns introduced them after the “Sinestro Corps War” in 2008. However, despite their constant warring, the universe was built upon the light they used and instead of cities, civilizations, and infrastructures being built out of physical resources, the light constructs of the smiths served that function. However, the greatest scientific mind of that universe saw that like physical resources the light came from somewhere and was not infinite. It could run out and eventually would if it was used wantonly as it had been. His warnings fall on deaf ears and it is because of this that the universe before ours ceased to be and he who was mocked as a “relic” in his universe, became a relic of his universe. Upon awakening in ours he became aware of the likenesses of our universe to his and the presence of “lightsmiths.” This time around he knew precisely the danger they posed to reality, and that arguing verbally with them was not the best course if anything was going to be done to save another universe. Hence his cryptic tone, hence his blatant belligerence, and hence the “Relic” that we have seen thus far The “Blackout” event is less than a month away and already the dimming described by him that preceded the cataclysms that claimed his universe has already been witnessed by the different Corps of Lanterns. Venditti has set the stage for a true test of the Lanterns the likes of which (even under the pen of Geoff Johns) we have never seen the likes of. Aiding him is artist Rags Morales who worked with Brad Walker, the Green Lantern: The New Guardians artist who first depicted Relic, on Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run. Truly an issue to procure if you call yourself a fan of Green Lantern.
Green Arrow #23.1: Count Vertigocould almost be another issue of Green Arrow. With the usual GA team on deck that is no insult. This series is a delight, really tapping the limits and possibilities of the character to their peak potential. However, being a Villains Month issue the dynamic creative duo focus their literary lens on Count Vertigo, by far the most iconic of Oliver Queen’s nemeses depicted since the reboot. Being in a rebooted universe, little is known about the man behind the disorienting device. This issue remedies that, telling the story of Werner Zytle, son of the late deposed Count of Vlatava. He is raised in Canada by his abusive mother who blames him for the fall of their family’s fortunes in the motherland. She later sells him to a scientific research firm, prompting his implanting with the device that grants him his power. It is here that his true power, both in spirit and body, takes hold. From here he is able to reclaim his destiny, starting with his freedom, then regaining his homeland, and finally in the reunion with his mother he reclaims his past and identity. He is very much a Mordred character, raised by a single, overbearing mother to fulfill a destiny not of his choosing and ultimately becoming a monster that consumes the mother figure and becomes a plague upon humanity. This is very much the case with Vertigo and though the issue is not structured like most of its fellows this week, it functions excellently in advancing the plot of Green Arrow and maintaining the integrity of the series, unlike many of the stand-alone stories out this month. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but then again Green Arrow is one of my favorites.
A Son’s Vengeance
Justice League #23.1: Darkseidalmost completely rewrites the entire concept of the New Gods. I am not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Since Justice League #3 I have been up in arms against Geoff Johns’ blatant disregard for Jack Kirby’s seminal creations and the perfection of his Fourth World mythology. Since then, Brian Azzarello’s work with the denizens of New Genesis have been slightly better. High Father was done a little heavy handed, but the essence was there. Scott Lobdell returns the character of Orion to a place that is well within the character’s original context and feels genuine. And then we come to this issue, written by Greg Pak. It begins by depicting Uxas and Izaya, mortals living upon the world of the (Old) Gods, scratching out meager existences. On this world the monumental gods frolicked and warred with one another in complete disregard for the lives of those tiny mortals living beneath them like insects. In this version, Izaya is married to Avia, as was so in the original Kirby books, but this time around Avia is the sister of Uxas. Izaya and Avia are devout believers and worshipers of the oblivious, elemental gods that plague them. Uxas is more pragmatic and “blasphemes” them constantly. He is cunning and engineers the ultimate death of these gods that brings about utter ruin to the planet, but also endows him with the powers of the gods he kills, forging him into Great Darkseid. Izaya is granted the powers of those stricken gods that escape Darkseid, rewarding his faith with the powers that baptize him as Izaya, the High Father. The planet is destroyed, but remade into the two planets of New Genesis and Apokalips. The final eight pages introduce a character from Pak’s Batman/Superman title, Kaiyo the Chaosbringer. This little sprite appeared at first to be a minor demon, but it seems very probable that she is in fact a New God of Apoklalips. What’s more, her exploits in the last couple of pages make it seem probable that she is the lost daughter of Darkseid that he world-hops to find, prompting his appearance in Justice League’s first arc. This issue put me off at first, because of the “heresy” of its divergence from Kirby’s Fourth World. However, in retrospect, it was a well written, intriguing concept that accentuates Pak’s previous work in the firs three issue of Batman/Superman and sets the stage for interesting future developments with the New Gods.
A So Was Born a Fourth World . . .
Earth 2 #15.1: Desaadappropriately segues to another New God of Apokalips and someone whose sadism might even rival that of Great Darkseid. Writer Paul Levitz who introduced Desaad into the New 52 in his Worlds’ Finest title chronicles the mad god’s advent to our Earth after the events of Earth-2 #1. His goal is really two-fold, filling in blanks in the story of what Desaad has been up to since coming to Earth-1 as well as how that has affected things the reader witnessed since the first issues of Worlds’ Finest, and secondly proving how sick and perverse the mind of Desaad truly is. One interesting thing that I think blew me away the most was in Desaad’s search for minds to corrupt and turn toward his dark aims, he stumbles upon an artist at a drafting table. Desaad goes to the man’s home and emerges from a Boom Tube, renowned for the thunderous cacophony it makes prompting its name, and yet the man doesn’t turn around. When Desaad looks over his shoulder, he stops short and seems apprehensive if not actually afraid, and decides to leave this man alone. One would ask, what is going on, but the savvy comic reader who knows not only something of comics in general, but more importantly the character of Desaad and the other New Gods, will notice something very key. The man at the table looks EXACTLY like a young Jack Kirby, creator of the Fourth World, of which Desaad is a denizen. The hair cut, the physique, the thick eyebrows, the posture. All so blatantly Kirby. When we see a close up of his work over his shoulder from Desaad’s perspective the rough sketches have all the hallmarks of Kirby’s illustrative style. Through meta-storytelling, Paul Levitz sets a real hook in the reader, inserting the King of Comics into a world featuring his own creations. What his existence in this world will mean for Desaad and the other New Gods is a mystery, but one that I will faithfully follow to find out the answer to.
Behold Thine Creator, Ye Mighty God!
Superman #23.1: Bizarrowas a slightly strange twist on the character, albeit a short lived one. Sholly Fisch, who cut his teeth in the big leagues on the backup features of Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run, writes this issue with the help of artist Jeff Johnson. In it we return to a seminal moment where Lex Luthor and Superman meet for the first times in the third issue of Action Comics. Largely due to experiments Luthor conducted under military purview the young Superman was hurt to the point of bleeding (something VERY difficult to achieve under most circumstances) and as a result he used Lex as a hostage to procure escape. Through this encounter Luthor gained two things: a personal animosity for the Man of Steel and a sample of his blood. Using further contracts with the U.S. Military he attempts to augment a normal human being by re-splicing Kryptonian DNA gained from the small sampling of blood into their own genome. The result of this is, of course, Bizarro. To my knowledge, Bizarro was always either a clone or a refugee from a dimension where everything is backward. Fisch makes a good sampling of Bizarro’s reversed Superman powers, i.e. Freeze vision and incendiary breath, but doesn’t quite pull off a Bizarro yarn that feels authentic. Bizarro’s rampage lacks most of the quintessential “misunderstood monster” motif that characterize almost all of his appearances in the past. This is an okay issue if the reader is just looking for Bizarro powers, but if they want Bizarro, the childlike villain speaking in opposites and conflicted in a limited understanding of the world and morality, this definitely is not the Bizarro story for them.
The Flash #23.1: Groddis similar to, but slightly different from the Action Comics: Cyborg Superman and Green Arrow: Count Vertigo issues, in that it functions as a within the main story of the Flash series to continue on into later issues. However, unlike both Cyborg Superman and Count Vertigo this doesn’t grant the reader any further insight into the past of Grodd. What it does, however, is juxtapose his thoughts and philosophical beliefs against the depiction of the aftermath of the Gorilla invasion of the Gem Cities he lead which terminated in Flash #17. Since then Solivar has taken over leadership of Gorilla City and worked painstakingly to not only make amends for the actions of the delusional despot, Grodd, but begun the process of making real steps to not only forge lasting peace between humanity and Gorillas, but have the Gorillas enter into the larger world we all share. This is not something Grodd can abide and the manner of his return from the Speed Force is revealed, as is his overall place as an essential villain in the Flash andt he larger DCU. Brian Buccellato, colorist and co-writer of the Flash, pens this issue with the help of artist Chris Batista. Batista’s art is quite different than that of the usual Flash panoply of artists, including Buccellato’s co-writer on the title, Francis Manapul. This is good in my opinion, because the Flash himself isn’t even seen in the issue and Batista’s art really depicts the Gorillas well. Definitely a thoughtful, well written, well drawn issue.
Batman: The Dark Knight #23.1: The Ventriloquistwas simply okay. I am a huge fan of Gail Simone on the Batgirl title and I attribute its success almost entirely to her writing, reserving a generous helping of credit to Barbara Gordon herself, who is one of my favorite comic book characters. Top 10, without a doubt. This origin of the Ventriloquist fell a little flat for me. Sure it’s interesting and sure Shauna is a very complex, psychotic person with a very troubled past. However, for me the Ventriloquist is Scar-Face and Dummy. There is something so “Batman” about them. I say Batman, and although Shauna and Ferdie are currently appearing in Batgirl, I still think that the mundane nature of the original Ventriloquist works more effectively with unpowered vigilantes than this new version. The original Ventriloquist, Arnold Wesker, was a non-powered guy with dissociative personality disorder, projecting his primary, dominant persona into a ventriloquist dummy done up like a 30’s era gangster named Scar-Face. The premise fell well within the realm of reality and created a complex villain mired in a psychosis rife with situational drama. Wesker and Scar-Face might disagree, but being that Scar-Face is the dominant persona, Wesker is going to be hampered in foiling the inanimate object, because his own drive is what is empowering the dummy. Later there was a beautiful, blonde woman (Peyton Riley) who took over as Scar-Face’s ventriloquist, but still follows the same paradigm. When you have a woman like Shauna who has telepathic abilities that she exploits years before she got her dummy, Ferdie, you kind of remove the intrinsic importance of the ventriloquism schtick from her psychosis. Sure she named her dummy after her deceased twin brother, and yeah she was a product of a negative environment growing up, but that in no way enhances the nuanced concept of the Ventriloquist. Basically, this issue and the iteration of the character in the New 52 reinvents the wheel, with more bells and whistles, but less functionality. I like Gail’s work, but with a heavy heart I say that this issue can be passed on with no loss for any Bat-Family fan.
Batman: Black & White #1 is a title which returns in the New 52 to presents several intriguing short stories depicted completely in monochromatic black and white panels. With the writing talents of Chip Kidd, Maris Wicks, John Arcudi, and Howard Makie, and the artistic talents of Neal Adams, Michael Cho, Sean Murphy, Joseph Quinones, and Chris Samnee, many unique perspectives are shed on the Dark Knight and his myriad interpretations. Foremost of these is Neal Adams’ piece, both written and drawn by the Batman maestro who helped create Ra’s Al Ghul and the Man-Bat. In his Batman: Zombie story, the impact of Batman as a fighter of evil is explored in great poignancy through the social issues of our day and just how effective a Dark Knight can be against the day to day evils of the 21st century. His writing is razor edged and his art is at the top of its game. Chip Kidd and Michael Cho’s Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When comes in second in my opinion, giving a Darwyn Cooke-esque, Silver Age story of Robin and what truly makes him a worthy contemporary for the Batman. What’s more, even Superman has to tip his hat to the Boy Wonder by story’s end. John Arcudi’s Driven, drawn by Sean Murphy, is an interesting tale of Batman and his relationship with his most iconic accessory: the Batmobile. The other three stories are good, but these three especially epitomize innovation in the realm of Batman.
Codename: Action #1is basically a Cold War, nerd boy fantasy mash-up. It takes place in an ambiguous period during the Cold War following a strange amalgam of characters throughout its globe trotting plot. In the background are two Golden Age comic book characters resurrected in a slightly more modern context. In America there is the costumed adventurer, the American Crusader, and in Europe there is the British aerial operative, Black Venus. American Crusader finds his vintage in 1941 as a crimefighter that gained powers from stray radiation from a device he was working with called an “atom smasher.” Black Venus was a war nurse turned aviator during WWII famous for her black bodysuit and aviator goggles, who first appeared in comics in 1945. In the foreground of the plot we see a new secret agent complete his tests of initiation, earning the designation Operative 1001. He is then teamed up with Operator 5, the fifth agent ever initiated into the “Intelligence Service,” and a living legend. Facing all four of these characters is a global diplomatic meltdown of epic proportions. The French threaten war against the Soviets if they interfere with North African assets, the Japanese threaten war if the Russians movie into their territorial waters, the Chinese threaten war if the Japanese mobilize their armed forces, and the Soviet Union threatens to launch nukes if anyone doesn’t accede to their demands. The kicker is that the Intelligence Services have intel that the Soviet General making the threats at the UN is in fact not the actual General due to a subcutaneous tracking device they implanted the real one with. So the plot thickens . . . Writer Chris Roberson kicks off this series, with no shortage of help from artist Jonathan Lau, in great style and panache, eliciting all the romance and intrigue of Cold War spy thrillers and the action of costumed superhero comics in a shaken, not stirred, suave superhero spy masterpiece.
Trillium #2begins at the strange middle of the first issue with the meeting of two diametrically different people, whose shared intrepid nature is the sole bond that connects them in what is shaping up to be a REALLY innovative series. Nika Temsmith, the intergalactic scientist from the year 3797 searching for a cure to a sentient virus, meets up with the English explorer William Pike on Earth in the year 1921, who himself is searching for purpose after losing his in the Great War. Ironically what brings them together is the Incan temple that Pike and his expedition have just discovered after centuries of abandonment. In Nika’s own time, a virus with the capacity for thought and higher reasoning is at war with the human race and reduced our population to mere hundreds of thousands spread across the galaxy in weakly sustained colonies. Seeking to find a cure she goes through a “primitive” alien race’s pyramidal temple emerging on Earth in 1921. As can be logically deduced from the time gap, the English both speak are not even close to being mutually intelligible. So the entire issue is merely them trying to communicate and ascertain who each other is and what each other desires. Slowly as events unfold they get an idea of the situation and the revelation is powerful to behold. Jeff Lemire writes and illustrates this series MASTERFULLY!
Trascendence of the Trillium Flower
And so ends the first week of Villains Month and my first week back on “Off the Panel.” Hopefully, you folks enjoyed it and will come back to enjoy future issues with me.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Action Comics #23.1: Cyborg Superman: Art by Mike Hawthorne, Colored by Daniel Brown
Green Arrow #23.1: Count Vertigo: Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo
Justice League #23.1: Darkseid: Art by Paulo Siquiera & Netho Diaz, Colored by Hi-Fi
Earth 2 #15.1: Art by Yildiray Cinar, Colored by Jason Wright
Trillium #2: Art Jeff Lemire, Colored by Jose Villarrubia
Batman Inc #10enters 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.
Red Lanterns #19is 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 #19features 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 #19is 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
Talon #7picks 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”
Before Watchmen: The Comedian #6was 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 #19was 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 #6features 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 #1is 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 Unwritten #48opens 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.
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
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 #9represents 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
Red Lanterns #18brings 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
Superman #18comes 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.
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 #6is 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 #18is 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
Aquaman #18for 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 #18has 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 #18concludes 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 #47returns 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 #6is 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
Time Warp #1is 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.
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.
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
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 #17brings 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 #17provides 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
Batman Inc #8left 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.
Talon #5keeps 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 #17is 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
All-Star Western #17brings 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 #4delivers 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
Unwritten #46ends 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 #5begins 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
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
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