Oct. 16, 2013

This week is a one of revelation, bringing quite a few story arcs to their satisfying conclusion and starting a few new ones.  Justice League of America reveals a major secret, Batman/Superman ends its first storyline with unique style, and Supergirl picks up after a “Who Shot J.R.” style cliffhanger dangled over two months worth of issues.  Meanwhile, Forever Evil: Rogues Revenge kicks off this month with its first issue and Batman & Robin emerges from a slew of guest stars with a five issue Two-Face “team-up.”  An awesome week to be sure, so let’s jump into it.

  • Justice League of America # 8 answers the question of what happened to the three Justice Leagues.  Since the beginning of Forever Evil the Crime Syndicate of America from Earth-3 claimed that they had killed the Justice League.  The vision of the world’s saviors defeated at the hands of a superior foe has robbed humanity of hope.  But as this issue opens Stargirl and Martian Manhunter awaken in an open field with only blue skies and green grass as far as the eyes can see.  As they move through it they realize that what they are in is a state-of-the-art prison, but how it works and to what end remains obscured.  Traversing the prison, Manhunter discovers that all League members are in fact alive and penned in very specialized cells that cater to their inherent weaknesses.  Wonder Woman, the Mighty Amazon, is forced to fight a pointless, neverending battle against humanity and her Amazonian sisters to save the lives of the two men she loves, Col. Steve Trevor and Superman.  Captain Marvel, a young boy living in the body of a titan, is placed in a city where the massive destruction he incurs in his superheroics immediately right themselves, even the slain immediately resurrecting.  For a little boy with infinite strength and a victim complex this scenario is intoxicating.  Flash, the Fastest Man Alive, is trapped in his apartment subject to the whims of his imagination, thinking he is going faster than ever when really he barely moves.  Superman, the noble Last Son of Krypton also called “the Boy Scout” by Batman, is weighed down by guilt over supposedly killing his teammates and attempts to fly fast enough to break the time barrier.  Simon Baz, Iraqi-American and fifth Green Lantern of Earth, is a man with great anger and resentment at the social injustice leveled at himself, his family, and his people.  Martian Manhunter’s mental abilities allow him to verify that each person is genuine and not delusions or elaborate hoaxes.  Writer Matt Kindt is given the honor of revealing one of the biggest secrets of Forever Evil, and tantalizes with juicy details that cut deep to the psyches of each character.  I mentioned the inherent weaknesses of the characters, but those weaknesses do not include kryptonite or the color yellow, etc.  Each of the Justice Leaguers has a weakness in their character and exploiting those weaknesses is a more sustainable restraint than their physical limitations.  So the Justice League and Justice League of America are both alive and being held in a customized super-prison.  This reveals a lot, but raises more questions.  1) Why did the CSA leave them alive when they could have killed them and ended any future interference?  2) What is the prison and how does it work?  3) Why were Stargirl and Martian Manhunter left together in the prison and how does the field play into their ideal incarceration?  Matt Kind writes a hell of a Forever Evil tie-in to usher in Justice League of America’s involvement in the greater scheme of things.  Doug Mahnke continues art duties on the title after initial series artist David Finch moved over to the main Forever Evil book.  Mahnke has a talent for rendering very serious material with the subtleties of his art.  Considering the prison’s function of playing into internal flaws, Mahnke’s art, especially in the eyes and expressions of his subjects, effectively displays their delusional states and subsequent madness. Overall, Kindt and Mahnke provide a stellar issue cutting to the heart of the Earth-1 aspect of Forever Evil.

    The Mighty Amazon.

    The Mighty Amazon.

  • Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #1 fulfills the promise of its title; the Rogues’ rebellion begins.  Brian Buccellato, cowriter of The Flash, has been writing the Rogues on and off for 28 issues.  The Rogues are compelling villains, because they have ironclad codes of honor that they rigidly adhere to.  That honor is what sets them apart from the “Evil that shall inherit the Earth.”  In this spinoff series of Forever Evil, the Rogues return to Central City after witnessing the Crime Syndicate’s rousing speech reprinted in almost every tie-in book.  What greets them is a city in ruin and mass carnage.  In the Gorilla Grodd Villains Month issue we saw the cause of the carnage.  Grodd was freed from the Speed Force and abhors the concept of gorillas and humans coexisting in peace.  When Solivar, leader of Gorilla City, tried to make amends for Grodd’s attack on the Gem Cities, Grodd comes back to finish the job he began.  Humans and gorillas are slaughtered wholesale.  However, many are left alive for other villains to finish off.  The Rogues prey upon Central City and Keystone City, but they DO NOT kill and they don’t steal from people who can’t afford it.  They also are VERY territorial and any violence leveled at their home is tantamount to a declaration of war against them.  So when they find most of the Gem Cities’ police force chained to trees they let them loose, but assert right from the start that they will work with the police, but will not cow to them.  After the events of the Rogues issue during Villains Month, Lisa Snart, aka Golden Glider and younger sister of Captain Cold, fell deeper into a coma after overexerting her astral form to free her lover, Mirror Master, from his Mirror World prison.  Cold took over leadership of the Rogues after this and her safety became the primary concern of all members henceforth.  So when they visit her bedside in the hospital and the Crime Syndicate’s lackeys come forward to enact Central City’s destruction they show their true colors and give their fellow “villains” a show.  The ending of this issue was heralded before in Forever Evil #2 with the dispatch of Deathstorm (evil Firestorm of Earth-3) and Power Ring (sort of evil Green Lantern from Earth-3) to put down their rebellion.  Brian Buccellato is ridiculously on with this first issue, proving that he understands quintessentially the logos of these anti-heroic figures of comic lore.  The Rogues aren’t bad per se, but their ignominy stems from the tenacious drive they have to achieve their goals and resist anyone or anything that would stop them.  What’s more, they fight tenaciously while still holding fast to their sacrosanct code of honor.  There is a scene after they release the police when Lt. Singh, Barry Allen’s supervising officer, levels a gun at Heat Wave and the Rogue looks him in the eye and very calmly delivers a smooth warning that immediately gets the gung-ho officer to lower his weapon.  That thin line between ceding ground and seizing it is a gossamer thread that can make or break a Rogue story and Buccellato walks it like a pro.  The art of this issue is split between two artists, Patrick Zircher and Scott Hepburn.  Both artists worked with Buccellato last month on his Flash Villain issues, Zircher lending his art to The Rogues and Hepburn to Reverse Flash.  Zircher’s art was outstanding and very emotionally charged.  Hepburn’s fell flat in my opinion when juxtaposed so closely with the evocative pencils and inks of Zircher.  I didn’t mind his art in the Reverse Flash issue, and actually kind of liked it.  However, when so closely placed to such a different style, Hepburns art comes off far less realistic and more cartoonish, and considering the somber tone of the book, that is NOT conducive to the readers immersion in the plot.  Overall though, it was a phenomenal issue and one not to be missed.

    Don't Mess With Fire Or You'll Get Burned.

    Don’t Mess With Fire Or You’ll Get Burned.

  • Green Lantern: New Guardians #24 is the middle mark of the epic “Lights Out” storyline happening throughout the Green Lantern titles.   Oa, center of the universe and ancient homeworld of the Green Lantern Corps, has been destroyed by the ancient being known as Relic, leaving the Green Lantern Corps homeless and in exile.  Former Green Lantern and current White Lantern Kyle Rayner also finds himself reeling from the loss of Oa.  However, in the wake of this tragedy the errant entities of the various lights simultaneously possess him and bend him to their will.  Kyle had previously played host to Ion, entity of Will, and Parallax, entity of Fear, and been able to assert himself with difficulty, but with five of the seven infesting him at once there is no shaking them off.  However, while his incarceration is unpleasant, it does shed light on what is going on with the entities and the universe’s reservoir of light.  Justin Jordan has been helming this title since the apocalyptic events of “Wrath of the Last Lantern” concluded Tony Bedard’s run and his issues have really put the weight of the world on poor Kyle’s shoulders.  If you are a fan of Kyle Rayner, as I am, this issue and its immediate predecessors paint a very epic picture of the artist’s role in maintaining cosmic equalibrium.  Justin Jordan picks up from Robert Venditti and Van Jensen and passes the story to Charles Soule for Red Lanterns #24 with no loss of momentum.  Truly amazing.
  • Batman & Robin #24 opens with a fly landing on a sleeping Two-Face’s bad eye, which never closes when he sleeps.  Waking up, he puts a gun to his head.  By page 2 writer Peter Tomasi has already established a haunted version of the binary bad guy.  Then the story shifts to Batman and the GCPD breaking skulls to find details on the imminent return of an infamous Gotham mobster that has been running the Irish gangs remotely from numerous safe houses around the world: Erin McKillen.  She comes into town for a very important summit with all Gotham City families to determine the future of organized crime in a city plagued with “freaks.”  McKillen is told that she is going to be the one to start the ball rolling by offing Two-Face, the man she created.  Cut to a flashback of that fateful moment years ago.  Harvey Dent wakes in his office, strapped to his desk top, his wife Gilda dead on the floor with a letter opener in her chest, and Erin McKillen wearing Gilda’s clothes.  Mocking him, she pours acid on his face to show Gotham “what a two-faced son of a bitch [he] is.”  Despite the agony he breaks some glass with his shoe and saws the ropes holding him down, freeing himself, then holds his wife one last time and kisses her with his wrecked face.  Again, the characterization and the haunted nature of Harvey Dent is beautifully portrayed by Tomasi and visually rendered by Tomasi’s long time collaborator, Patrick Gleason.  No doubt there is more here than meets the eye, but there is a compelling pathos that accompanies Harvey through his portions of this month’s issue.  Like most villains examined during Villains Month, he has his overwhelming darkness that compels him into acts of villainy, but underneath the emotional (and in this case physical) scarring there is a human being.  Following the death of Damian Wayne, Tomasi has changed the title of the series month after month to accommodate his partner du jour.  Each only last a month and he moves on to the next team up.  This issue begins a five month Batman & Two Face arc.  The two Gotham City strong men might not work together directly, but there goals are the same: taking down Erin McKillen and making her face justice in some way for the heinous acts she has committed against Gotham City.  Will it be in the judicial system or at the end of a knife?  Tomasi knows what he’s doing, so I impatiently await the answer.

    The Death of Love.

    The Death of Love.

  • Batman/Superman #4 brings to an end the series’ first arc and also illuminates the opening arcs of both Justice League and Earth 2.  This first arc brings pre-Justice League #1 Batman and Superman together and sends them to Earth-2 where they meet their older, more established selves.  One thing writer Greg Pak really highlighted well in the past three issues is just how different the Earth-1 and Earth-2 Batmen and Supermen are.  One of the things I personally hated about Superman in the initial Justice League issues was how “in your face” he was and his lack of control.  Superman should be all about restraint and moderation.  The same can be said about Geoff Johns’ Batman from those same initial Justice League books that ushered in the New DCU.  Batman always is dark and brooding, but he’s intelligent and analytical about it, not confrontational and snarky without cause.  That is precisely how Greg Pak explores these two characters.  The Earth-1 iterations of the characters as they were first depicted by the misguided pen of Johns are juxtaposed against the characters as they should be, now relegated to Earth-2.  The most poignant example of this is Earth-1 Supes (whose adoptive parents died when he was in high school) meeting Earth-2 Superman and the elderly Kents.  The Kents note that Earth-1 Superman has a foul mouth and lacks patience.  Earth-2 Batman has a field day picking apart Earth-1 Batman, as does the otherwordly Batman’s wife, Catwoman.  Last issue the Apokaliptian demon named Kaiyo told the Supermen, Batmen, and Earth-2 Wonder Woman and Catwoman that this world’s military have obtained a giant crystal shard with supernatural abilities to alter reality.  This weapon was made to combat Superman, but Kaiyo says it can be used to combat a greater threat that is imminent.  Darkseid.  The Earth-2 Superman and Batman want it destroyed.  Earth-1 Superman and Batman want to save it.  Their initial desires and the people they are ultimately dictate their respective fates and eventual dooms.  The arc was rife with dichotomies between Batman and Superman and between different versions of themselves.  Greg Pak comes into the game late, but takes what has been done shoddily in the past and makes it work toward a larger purpose.  His rendering of imperfect characters is thoughtful and highly entertaining, but raises the question of what he will do in his next arc which looks to take place in a post-Justice League #1 continuity when both Batman and Superman were written better and when, as characters, they began to respect one another.  Also worth mentioning is the breathtaking art by Jae Lee.  Lee’s rendering of characters is very ethereal in the emotionless expressions he imbues them with and a look of effortlessness in everything they do, no matter how incredible.  Considering the clash of titans this arc depicts, Lee is the quintessential choice for it.  Four issues in and this has become a must read series.

    Nice Guys DO Finish Last . . .

    Nice Guys DO Finish Last . . .

  • Batwoman #24 is a bittersweet issue marking the premature departure of writers J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman from the title.  Initially when they decided to leave they were going to write through issue #25 to end the overreaching arc they had begun.  This issue marks the actual end of their run, one issue shy of their intended end.  And what a cliffhanger they left . . .  Since the beginning of the “Weeping Woman” arc in early 2012 Batwoman, a.k.a Kate Kane, has been on the hook by the D.E.O. chief, Director Bones, and his underling Agent Cameron Chase.  Since the mid 90’s when J.H. Williams III worked on the series Chase the D.E.O. (Department of Extranormal Occurrences) has been looking for the holy grail of secrets in the superhero world: the identity of the Batman.  They have tried everything and always come up short.  Batwoman becomes their ace in the hole.  With a vulnerable member of the Bat-family in their pocket they have the means to finally blow that secret wide open.  Chase learns that Col. Jacob Kane (Batwoman’s father) armed his daughter with military equipment and later they get their hands on Kate’s twin sister, Beth, a.k.a Alice.  Williams and Blackman have been building toward this moment for twenty issues and the moment has finally come.  Bones has unleashed renegade Batman villains on Gotham as a massive diversion while Batwoman gets in close.  In the meantime Jacob, Betty a.k.a Flamebird (Kate’s cousin and sidekick) and a select team of operatives infiltrate the D.E.O. safe house where Beth is being held.  Beth is on the verge of being rescued and Batwoman sucker punches Batman, but good.  This issue ends in the perfect way to set up a MASSIVE finale to a storyline looooong in the making, only for the writers to be driven from their title.  Also distressing is the off-putting of the conclusion to December with the last minute inclusion of Batwoman to the “Blackout” event throughout the DCU.  As a Gothamite her involvement does make a modicum of sense.  November marks the regime shift of relief writer Marc Andreyko and artist Jeremy Haun.  J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman are two incredible writers and Williams a peerless artist.  The loss of both could be catastrophic to this must-read title.  In my opinion this distressing possibility is augmented by the awful job Andreyko did on the Sword of Sorcery backup feature “Stalker.”  The original story created and written by Paul Levitz in the 70’s was amazing.  Andreyko’s was version was horrendous to read and completely without point.  His ability to pick up where greater minds have left off remains highly questionable.  We’ll see what November holds for Batwoman.

    Battle of the Bats.

    Battle of the Bats.

  • Supergirl #24 is one of the October issues screaming for release after the shock ending of August’s Supergirl #23. Supergirl had found herself on a constantly morphing colony of hive-minded mechanized organisms called the I’Noxia.  These machines are benign in nature, but forced to cooperated with the Collector (Brainiac) and his creation, the Cyborg Superman.  Supergirl is dying from Kryptonite poisoning after the “H’el on Earth” crossover in the Super-books. The I’Noxians offer her haven by computerizing her intelligence in exchange for Cyborg Superman gaining custody of her body and using her Kryptonian flesh to reconstitute his missing parts, returning his former body, but also the missing memories of his identity.  She resists and he takes what he wants by force.  He gets his body and his memories back and lo and behold . . . he’s Zor-El.  Kara’s father!  Upon regaining his memories and his mind he is immediately struck with horror at what Brainiac’s programming made him do.  In September the Cyborg Superman issue of Action Comics revealed the connection between Zor-El and Brainiac and how he came to be made into the Cyborg Superman.  Zor-El is a good man, but the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.  And in this issue a father’s love takes him once again down the road to Hell.  Kara can live again.  The I’Noxians have the technology to reconstitute her, but that would require the rebirth of the Cyborg Superman.  Writer Michael Alan Nelson writes a compelling version of Zor-El, eldest son of the House of El, and dedicated scientist.  His love of his family and his people forced him to seek help in the most dangerous places if even the slightest chance of survival exists.  Ending this issue, Kara comes face to face with the cosmic entity known as the Oracle, heralding the beginning of the “Krypton Returns” storyline beginning with Action Comics Annual #2. After the lead ins to this event dropped in both Superman #0 and Supergirl #0 last September I have been waiting on pins and needles to see the resolution as to how Superman and Superboy could have been on Krypton prior to its destruction.  In a little over a month we will have the answer.

    Behold the Oracle.

    Behold the Oracle.

  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #24 brings about the final showdown in ‘Eth Alth’eban between the League of Assassins, guardians of the Well of Sins, and the Untitled, ancient embodiments of evil born from the Well. Jason has been chosen to be the leader of the League and fights to stave off the assault that could result in the end of all things. Jason proves to be an adept disciple of the Batman, exhibiting the same ingenuity and resolve against forces far beyond his measure.  Indeed, that is most likely why the League chose him as their leader.  On the other side of fight, Roy Harper also is shown in a revealing light.  Previously, Roy helped the Untitled breach the impenetrable walls of ‘Eth Alth’eban under the understanding that he would be freeing Jason from a pack of vipers (which the League of Assassins are) and saving the world.  That last part wasn’t true at all, which he realized too late.  However, in his moment of reflection on his deteriorating relationships with Jason and Starfire he manages to capture the sympathy and last throbs of human compassion in the heart of the assassin, Cheshire, who in previous DC iterations was the mother of his daughter, Lian.  James TynionIV’s writing of this series is pretty good, although admittedly he has a long way to go to measure up to his predecessor and the series’ creator, Scott Lobdell.  Lobdell created the Untitled, so Tynion’s wrapping up of the fabled cabal begs the question of what Lobdell’s original intentions were for them.  Other than that, the issue comes off very well and reintroduces a venerable figure in Batman lore to the New 52.  Julius Gopez continues his phenomenal work as artist on the series, adding weight and substance to the Tynion’s scripts though his very expressive artwork.  Every emotion is blatant in his lines immediately immersing the reader in the agony and ecstasy of the book’s cast of characters.  Definitely and enjoyable book and a series worth picking up.

    The Heart of Chesire.

    The Heart of Chesire.

  • Vibe #8 dives head first into the wellspring of Cisco Ramon’s powers.  Vibe, as he’s been called, got his powers when he was caught in the event horizon of an Apokaliptian Boom Tube during Great Darkseid’s invasion of our world.  As a result he is attuned to extradimensional vibrations and able to sense and counteract beings from other dimensions.  Up to this point his powers were uses to detect intruders and refugees from other planes and if necessary, combat them.  After being wounded and sucked out of our dimension he begins leaking that energy the Boom Tube endowed him with, hurtling him from dimension to dimension with no control.  In the background as he cascades through all existence are little easter eggs from the two year run of the New DCU, including the recent fight between Green Lantern (Alan Scott) and Bruutal on Earth-2, the Phantom Zone, President Superman from Earth-5, and the gemworld of Nilaa that we last saw in the now cancelled Sword of Sorcery title.   It is while defending Princess Amethyst from the Quartz Hordes that the enigmatic figure called Breacher finds Cisco and puts a patch on his wound that stabilizes his dimensional radiation.  He takes Vibe to his own world, Piradell, and tells of the history that lead to its subjugation by the despotic Queen Mordeth and how that ties back to the same event that gave Cisco his powers.  At the same time that Cisco was imbued with interdimensional energies the Boom Tube collapsed on his elder brother, Armando.  They always assumed that Armando died, when he actually became a creature like Cisco and upon landing on Piradell gave Mordeth the means to subjugate that world.  Now Breacher and Cisco need to save Piradell, Armando who is under the thrall of Mordeth, and Mordeth’s daughter, Gypsy.  Sterling Gates has done the seemingly impossible, making Vibe a good character.  His original iteration in the Justice League Detroit comics was a joke at best.  Now he is substantial, thoughtful, and endowed with a sense of consequence in the larger scheme of the emerging DC multiverse.  Back in the day, the Flash was the keymaster to the multiverse, having the ability to vibrate though realities from Earth to Earth.  While Flash still has that ability, Vibe is pretty much made to solely be the custodian of opening the gates off our Earth, but also keeping those that breach from remaining.  With that in mind, and with the multiverse slowly blooming in emerging DC plots, Vibe is a character to watch.

    From the Icy Plains of the Phantom Zone to the Steps of President Superman's Capitol.

    From the Icy Plains of the Phantom Zone to the Steps of President Superman’s Capitol.

  • Pandora #4 opens in the aftermath of Forever Evil #1 with Pandora, who was present when the Outsider (Earth-3 Alfred Pennyworth) opened the box that bears her name, finding herself transported to a desolate world littered with bones.  Earth-3.  The Birthplace of Evil.  The only living thing she encounters is the blind and mortally wounded J’onn J’onzz (Martian Manhunter) of that reality.  Through his rhetoric she become aware that the Crime Syndicate intend to do to our Earth what they did to this one.  When she returns to Earth-1 she hatches a plan.  First she entrusts a friend with the mission of reforging Pandora’s Box from the shattered remnants left after it opened the portal to the place of its birth, letting the CSA into our dimensional plane.  The next step is getting her OLD friend Vandal Savage to give her the means to infiltrate the Secret Society meeting in order that she can get at the man known as the Outsider.  What she intends to do with him remains up in the air, but that only ropes the reader into buying next month’s issue.  I’ve made no secret that I am not a fan of the writing style of this series’ writer, Ray Fawkes, but it can’t be denied that this issue is very well done and an integral tie-in to the overarching Forever Evil event going on throughout the DCU.  Series artist Francis Portela is always a delight with his lush artwork that has been seen in Legion of Superheroes (LONG LIVE THE LEGION!) and last month’s Killer Croc issue in the Batman & Robin title.  Whether the success of this issue is predicated on Fawke’s writing or the tent pole Forever Evil plotline remains to be seen, but until that event wraps in March this series will no doubt carry its weight in realizing the full measure of Earth-3 and absolute evil.

And there you have it.  An awesome week of comics that overall exceed the mark of this comic book geek.  Here’s hoping next week measures up the same.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Justice League of America #8:  Drawn by Doug Mahnke, Colored by Hi-Fi & Gabe Eltaeb, Inked by Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen, Keith Champagne & Marc Deering.

Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #1:  Art by Patrick Zircher, Colored by Nick Filardi.

Batman & Robin #24:  Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray.

Batman/Superman #4:  Art by Jae Lee, Colored by June Chung.

Batwoman #24:  Art by Trevor McCarthy, Colored by Guy Major.

Supergirl #24:  Drawn by Diogenes Neves, Colored by Guy Major, Inked by Marc Deering.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #24:  Drawn by Julius Gopez, Colored by Nei Ruffino & Hi-Fi, Inked by Walden Wong & Ray McCarthy.

Vibe #8:  Drawn by Andres Guinaldo, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Mark Irwin & Marc

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Week 85 (April 17, 2013)

This week is a week of great flux in the DC Universe bringing change within and without the various series.  New writers come onboard, characters lives alter invariable, and in the case of Nightwing and Teen Titans, the artists play the swinging game swapping partners to try their hands at new characters and stories.  It’s truly an exciting time to be a DC fan, as these changes push the envelope of storytelling and innovation.  So here they are:

  • Justice League #19 introduces the two new members of the Justice League:  Rhonda Pineda (the new, female Atom) and Firestorm (whose series is being cancelled with May’s #20 issue).  Stuck alone in the Watchtower, waiting for their new teammates to initiate them into the League, they find themselves in a trial-by-fire situation.  On Earth, keeping them from meeting their newly recruited rookies, Batman goes to have a chat with Superman and Wonder Woman who have taken it upon themselves to insert themselves into a tense geopolitical situation.  Batman, though cold and calculating, understands that the world is growing distrustful of the League and violating political borders, no matter what the reason, does nothing but kick hornet nests and ruffle feathers.  I have to say that Geoff Johns really doesn’t portray Superman or Wonder Woman in a good light.  Wonder Woman is shown in a very fascist light and Superman, though opposed to her views, goes along with it because his girlfriend wants him to.  Compelling characterization, truly.  The issue also features a mysterious assailant breaking into the Batcave to steal a package Batman developed to take out Superman.  Considering the events of this issue, Johns’ version of the Man of Steel kind of deserves a few knocks to the head to maybe knock some sense into him.  In the backup feature, I may be forced to eat crow.  I’ve had very few good things to say about the SHAZAM backup or its version of Billy Batson, but after Johns reveals Black Adam’s history in ancient Kahndaq he seems to give validation to what he did with Billy, giving him the understanding to deal with Black Adam from a place of mutual understanding of why he is doing the things he is with the power the Wizard gave him.  Geoff Johns may be able to pull this one out of the toilet.  I say may.  Jury is still out.

    The Corruption of Power

    The Corruption of Power

  • Green Lantern: The New Guardians #19 picks up right where Green Lantern #19 left off with the destruction of Sinestro’s homeworld, Korugar.  Of course when Kyle shows up with a white ring on his finger, Sinestro demands that he restore his planet and his people from the apocalypse the First Lantern unleashed.  Kyle remains uncertain and Sinestro resorts to violence.  While many would demonize him for this reaction it should be noted that Hal Jordan reacted similarly in the wake of his hometown, Coast City’s, destruction and as a result snapped Sinestro’s neck and murdered the Guardians and half the Green Lantern Corps.  Sinestro in comparison is behaving himself quite admirably.  Simon Baz, the newly minted GL of planet Earth comes on the scene and all three Lanterns attempt to do the impossible, taking turns with the white ring to bring back the decimated world.  Kyle tries and fails, the ring won’t even allow Sinestro to put it on, and Simon Baz tries to replicate his feat of will that brought his brother-in-law out of a coma, only to be refused by the ring.  For good or ill, the Life Force of the white energy deems that Korugar must remain destroyed.  Like the two previous GL titles this month, New Guardians #19 sets the stage for the massive Green Lantern #20 next month with the cast of players taking position.  Its going to be a blowout issue that will go down in history.  Mark my words.

    The Return of Fear

    The Return of Fear

  • Batwoman #19 is an extended period of adjustment.  After the conclusion of the Medusa mega-arc a lot has changed in the Batwoman title and as a result the characters are having to reacquaint themselves with one another and the situations that have arisen from the fallout of the first seventeen regular issues.  Maggie and Kate’s relationship has taken a dramatic turn following Kate’s revelation that she is in fact the Gotham city vigilante known as Batwoman.  After all, in the course of doing her duty as a policewoman Batwoman shot Maggie full of a concentrated Scarecrow fear toxin that continues to plague her with horrific nightmares.  It is also her job to apprehend such vigilantes.  So yeah, their engagement is rather complicated legally and emotionally.  Kate’s father, Jacob Kane, has his own crosses to bear in his dual life as the father of Batwoman  and loving husband with his wife Katherine’s discovery that her stepdaughter, Kate, and niece, Betty, moonlight as crimefighters with Jacob’s help.  Thus another strained relationship.  Jacob also lets slip that he may have a son.  However they rationalize it, the hinting is that this son is Director Bones of the D.E.O.  Considering that Bones is using Jacob as a bargaining chip to gain Batwoman’s compliance to D.E.O. operations and that he referred to Alice as “sister”, I’d say that there is some seriously oedipal stuff going on there.  And as for Cameron Chase, the hard edged D.E.O. agent begins to have a crisis of conscience and goes to her sister to find resolution to her conflicting drives.  Overall, J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman have made this title both action packed and introspectively thoughtful.  This continues to be one of the hallmark titles in DC’s current lineup.
  • DC Universe Presents #19 delivers its final presentation of the New DCU spinning out of the first four issues of Swords and Sorcery and bringing Beowulf into our present (his past) as summoned through a mystical artifact.  Preceding him is a shapeshifting beast called the “Puca” that runs amok with the intention of conquering the Age of Heroes and enslaving humanity.  Though logically it would change the timestream and corrupt events in her time, Beowulf concludes that the “sorceress” we’ve met under the relative name of “Grendel’s Mother” sent the Puca back to lure the legendary Geat from that time in order that she could conquer the Danelaw unimpeded.  Helping Beowulf find the Puca and get back to his own time is the beautiful archeaologist Dr. Gwendolyn Pierce.   This issue, though pretty straightforward and insubstantial by itself, was a pretty fun read for those that enjoy the original legend of Beowulf and the reinterpretation of it as done by this issue’s writer, Tony Bedard.  My hopes are that this concept will be revisited one day, because to me the Beowulf backup feature was superbly done and intriguing to read.  It may not have been popular, or at least not popular enough to continue in its own book, but I can dream.  The backup in Sword of Sorcery was drawn by Jesus Saiz, but this issue featured art by Javier Pina that was very soft, with lovely rounded lines, making it all the more enjoyable.  Man, I hope they continue on with this series . . .

    He's No Hero, He is BEOWULF!!!

    He’s No Hero, He is BEOWULF!!!

  • Legion of Super-Heroes #19 brings the next chapter in the off-the-rails storyline by writer Paul Levitz that re-establishes the defunct supervillain team, the “Fatal Five.”  So far, Tharok has plunged much of the United Planets into utter chaos by corrupting all technology powered by quark relays which accounts for 99.9% of it (I’m guessing on that figure, but its not far off), and in this issue Emerald Empress descends on Webber World, an artificial planet made entirely out of metal and machinery that runs ENTIRELY on quark relays.  That said, there is no way for the residents there to defend themselves against her psychotic assaults.  Cue  the entrance of Mon-El, the Legion’s Daxamite, and the Webber Worlders’ last hope.  Levitz holds nothing back in this storyline. The Fatal Five are back and they are playing for keeps.  Levitz began this arc with the death of a beloved Legionnaire and this issue finds the rest standing on infirm ground.  The sheer scope of the story is mind boggling, spanning the width of the United Planets and inflicting fear and death the likes of which we’ve not seen since Levitz’s “Great Darkness Saga” back in the early 1980’s.  Good to see that the master hasn’t lost his touch, nor his ability to spin quintessentially relevant Legion lore.  Starting this journey with him on issue #17 was his former partner from the aforementioned 1980’s opus, artist Keith Giffen.  Last issue and this one had art provided by Scott Kolins.  Kolins is a phenomenal artist, but put beside Giffen’s work it took some of the magic away.  Regardless, this is a series to read. Period.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #19 represents a paradigm shift on two levels.  Firstly, it should be noted that Scott Lobdell, writer extraordinaire who’s initiated some of the best titles in the New DCU (Teen Titans, Superman, Superboy, and this title), has moved on after a stellar run reinventing Jason Todd, Starfire, and Roy Harper, while simultaneously introducing incredible new concepts and characters like Essence, the All-Caste, the Untitled, the Thirteen Scions of Salvation, to name only a few.  The good news is that he is replaced by up-and-coming writer James Tynion IV, who’s work on the backup features in the Batman title as well as the series Talon have been incredible.  Joining him is artist Julius Gopez, whose art is as detailed as original series artist Kenneth Rocafort, but with its own unique style.  That said, the stage is set for an incredible issue as the new creative team descends into the quagmire left after the “Death of the Family” mega event felt throughout the Bat-family of books.  Jason Todd has been through a lot, and despite developing a hard exterior, weathered it pretty well.  With Lobdell’s revelation that the Joker was the architect of much of his misery, Jason is left in a very compromising situation.  Following that, he disappears and his friends, Starfire and Roy, try to find him to offer their support.  They track him to the Himalayas and while searching are set upon by two former acquaintances of Jason’s: Ducra and Essence.  Both transcendental forces, they attempt to influence the course of Roy and Koriand’r’s journey.   With his limited  knowledge gained from observing Jason’s meditation and use of Eastern rituals, Roy is able to weather his innermost demons, roused by Essence, to find the path to helping his friend.  However, after all of the pain and hardship to find their comrade, Jason throws a curve ball.  Tynion proves his understanding and mastery of comic writing here with some really poignant storytelling that doesn’t break stride from the tone and pace set by Lobdell.  Jason, Roy, and Starfire are very complex characters that are flawed beyond belief, but when written well are made all the better because of their imperfections.  Tynion writes them that way, and his partner in art renders them beautifully.  This series looks to be in good hands and I for one am breathing a sigh of relief that Red Hood and the Outlaws have found themselves in capable hands.

    The Color of Friendship

    The Color of Friendship

  • Nightwing #19 endures his own paradigm shift like Jason, his successor to the Robin title, did in the above book.  Though continuing to be written by Kyle Higgins, longtime artist Eddy Barrows has gone to Teen Titans and that series’ artist, Brett Booth, begins his run as artist on this book with this issue.  Coinciding with Booth’s jumping on point, Dick Grayson jumps ship from the tragedy that befell him in Gotham following “Death of the Family” and begins a new life in Chicago, searching for Tony Zucco.  Zucco is the supposedly deceased mobster that killed Dick’s parents, but also the father of his pseudo-girlfriend, Sonia Branch.  A complex situation to be sure, but one that Dick cannot overlook.  Though it dredges up harsh memories of the past, Nightwing has to seek out Zucco if he  ever hopes to attain closure on one of the seminal moments of his life.  The issue follows Dick settling into the Windy City and familiarizing himself with its underworld in order to get information on  Zucco.  It also introduces the “Prankster.”  Higgins imagines him almost as an anti-hero rather than the Joker-like Superman villain he was originally written as.  Here Prankster forces a corrupt millionaire to burn his money to prolong his survival when trapped in a room with wolves.  The chances of the man surviving the encounter are very decent, but he is forced to pay monetarily for the privilege.  Not supervillainous, but at the same time not heroic.  Higgins and Booth have created a very compelling first chapter for the new chapter in Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing’s life.

    Why So Serious?

    Why So Serious?

  • Supergirl #19 finds the Girl of Steel captive after a weakness overcomes her, probably due to her former kryptonite poisoning at the end of the “H’el on Earth” arc.  And as introduced last issue, Karen Starr, aka Power Girl  comes onto the scene, drawn by an unknown force to her Earth-1 self’s rescue.  In Worlds’ Finest she has gone out of her way to avoid meeting Kara, as she has no idea what it would mean meeting her alternate self.  Here she has no choice but to help “herself” and in the process writer Mike Johnson does something very interesting with the two halves of the same person.  When they meet and touch hands, instead of reality unraveling as quantum physicists project in such an unlikely event, they instead become of one mind, literally sharing their memories and thoughts.  After that instant they operate like a well oiled machine to put down a mutant freak that Lex Luthor sicced on them from his ultra-security prison, via neural implant.  Johnson does a really excellent job writing this story in a way that not only advances the title character, but the character of Power Girl from across the New DCU.  As is wont to happen with her, Power Girl’s costume is torn to shreds as she helps get the weakened Supergirl back to her sub-aquatic fortress of solitude, Sanctuary.  Within, Sanctuary ascertains her need and spins her a new costume from more durable Kryptonian fibers.  However, the costume it gives her deviates from the more PC, full body suit to the former skimpy unitard with the “convenient” hole in the chest that serves no other purpose than to display her cleavage.  Also, Mike Johnson makes ample use of this singular event of two genetically identical Karas  to play a very interesting scenario predicated from the taboo of cloning in Kyptonian culture.  Overall, a very interesting, thoughtful, action packed issue.

    Two Reflections of One Super Woman

    Two Reflections of One Super Woman

  • Vibe #3 takes Francisco Ramon further down the uncharted path his powers have placed him on.  Recruited by A.R.G.U.S and Amanda Waller for the Justice League of America, he is starstruck and wanting not only to make a difference, but find purpose following the horrific event that gave him his powers while simultaneously taking the life of his eldest brother.  From the perspective of such a kindhearted, idealistic young man like Cisco, that is completely understandable.  What he doesn’t know is that Waller put him on the JLA roster because he is theoretically the only being on the planet whose powers would allow him to neutralize the Flash’s speed abilities which come from an other dimensional force, which we know from The Flash to be the “Speed Force.”  So with that as the goal, how does one test that hypothesis?  If you want to fight an unknown creature the best way is to first try your hands against one of its young.  So Cisco is sent up against Kid Flash, aka Bart Allen, of Teen Titans fame.  Their meeting is morally mixed and hints very cryptically about the past (our future) of the younger speedster.  While Cisco begins by attacking Kid Flash, he is unable to continue on his belligerent path as Kid Flash does not behave in a way that engenders antagonism.  The events as I said before are very cryptic and morally ambiguous and begin the questioning of Vibe as to what his real purpose is and whether or not he can trust the people that are giving him orders.  I had my doubts about this book in the beginning.  Damn you, Geoff Johns, you got me!  Johns and cowriter Andrew Kreisberg started the series with the first two issues, but this third issue begins new series writer Sterling Gates’ tenure on title.  Gates is an incredible new voice in comics, so the title has gone from good hands to equally capable ones.
  • Wonder Woman #19 marks a nexus point in storytelling that promises a shift in the status quo.  The First Born has been systematically attacking those of his relatives that have been entrusted with his various implements of war.  This issue has him going up against Poseidon and fighting the god within his own leviathan belly.  Going up against his uncle, the two find themselves at an impasse and we see more of the twisted politics of the Greek gods coming into play as they make war and secret intrigues against one another.  However, for the First Born to achieve his ends he must cross paths with Zola’s infant baby, the last born of Zeus’s children.  To do that, of course he will have to go through Wonder Woman who has literally spent the entirety of this rebooted series protecting the baby from fetus to newborn.  As the title shifts to the Amazing Amazon and what she has been up to we see a major parting of ways.  Her Constantine-esque brother, Lennox, decides he is going depart the scene and in the midst of that departure, Orion runs afoul of Wonder Woman and leaves in disgust as well.  I’m not going to shed a tear on this departure, as Orion is a noble character and I feel that writer Brian Azzarello isn’t depicting him nearly as nobly as the son of Great Darkseid deserves.  Best to leave that to the more able pen of Scott Lobdell in Superman.  I will be interested to see how Wonder Woman fares against her eldest brother, the First Born, as he arrives in London in the very last panel of this issue.  Oh the anticipation . . .  She might yet regret the loss of an extra set of New God hands.  Oh well, pride cometh before the fall.
  • Sword of Sorcery #7 proves how incredible the main feature Amethyst is.  Last issue had the return of Eclipso, aka Lord Kaala, to the gemworld Nilaa.  After his return we are told that he was the result of a nightmarish blood marriage between House Diamond and House Onyx, hence his power totem, the black diamond.  With the powers of both houses gifted to him he was nearly unstoppable and almost brought ruin down upon all of Gem World.  But for Lady Chandra of House Amethyst he would have succeeded.  Now it lies with Chandra’s heirs, Lady Graciel, Mordiel, and of course Princess Amaya of the Amethyst clan to take him down once again.  They have their work cut out for them.  In the course of a single night, chronicled in this one issue, Kaala has murdered the head of House Citrine, retaken House Onyx from the noble Lady Akikra, and murdered the head of House Diamond taking its armies also under his power.  With one stroke he has regained all his strength and prestige from before his fall.  However, he still has many enemies including the fugitive Akikra who is as dangerous as a cornered dog, Prince Hadran of House Diamond, and of course the young lord and ladies of Houses Turquoise, Citrine, and Amethyst respectively.  The board is set for one hell of a showdown in Nilaa.  It will have to be, because sadly this title is being cancelled as of issue #8.  Next issue is the conclusion to all of it, and what a shame.  This was truly one of the best new series DC has put out.  It was fresh and unique from anything else that they had done, resurrecting a lesser known series and completely re-imagining it in a way that preserved the good, but innovated at the same time.  What a shame, indeed.  The backup feature Stalker on the other hand comes to its conclusion and good riddance.  As excellent as Amethyst is, Stalker is equally as terrible.  THAT is a shame, as the original series from the 70’s, only four issue unfortunately,written by the legendary Paul Levitz was incredibly good. It’s predecessor, Beowulf, which merited a special appearance in the above mentioned DC Universe Presents #19 was phenomenal.  I don’t even care to elaborate on how badly this Stalker series was dealt with.  Suffice it to say, this backup series did nothing to help the cancellation of this title.  It may have been a part of the anchor that dragged Sword of Sorcery below the water to its point of drowning.  Pity.  I will miss Amethyst  and Beowulf greatly.
    The Return of the King

    The Return of the King

     

  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #15 begins with the Superman Beyond feature.  Superman is rescued from the Trillians by the the bestial Mangals he liberated from enslavement upon his last visit to Trillia.  Whereas the Trillians view Superman as the terrorist who led to the fall of their society, the Mangals look upon him as a messianic figure.  This is made apparent when Superman sees them for the first time after all the intervening years.  When he liberated them they were small and helpless.  Now they are large and strong.  Apparently, the Trillians never let them grow to full maturity, but rather kept them young and worked them to premature death.  So once again, we the reader are shown a very divided society on Trillia between the over class and the bonded underclass.  Both sides want to eradicate the other, leaving a very morally ambiguous position for Superman.  Regardless of the heinous crimes of the Trillians as a culture, he cannot condone wholesale slaughter of all Trillians, yet at the same time he cannot stand idly by while the Trillians plan the same for their emancipated slaves.  This arc took a little while to reach maturity, but writer JT Krul has pulled this one out and made it into a very thought provoking storyline that raises questions about our own world and social systems.  Next up, in the Justice League Beyond Unlimited feature writer Derek Fridolfs begins a new arc with artist Ben Caldwell providing pencils.  In it the criminal organization known as the “Brain Trust” abducts children and places them in an elite prep school academy to brainwash them into becoming soldiers in an underground army.  The JLB sends their own agent, the “Golden Child”-like Green Lantern, Kai-Ro, in as a mole.  Once he is in the League tracks him to perhaps the most wholesome place in the entirety of  the DCU.  A place that makes Smallville look like a ghetto.  Fawcett City.  Ending in the middle of a fight, it is difficult to see where the story is going from here, but the concept of the “Brain Trust” is solid and I very much look forward to seeing where Fridolds goes in his script.  Lastly, the Batman Beyond feature fulfills a promise made over two years ago before the Reboot from the original Batman Beyond comic series.  Terry McGinnis’ best friend and confidante, Max Gibson, had attempted to infiltrate the network of cyber terrorists called “Undercloud” that were attacking Gotham’s infrastructure.  All of this without Terry’s knowledge.  Now she finds herself in the belly of the beast, integrally tied into Undercloud’s horrific plan to raze Neo Gotham and build it up from the ashes in their own image.  If she doesn’t comply, agents of Undercloud will kill those closest to her.  In the meantime, Terry is sent to a rock concert where a terrorist threat has been issued, although not by Undercloud.  Instead, its one of Batman’s old nemeses, Shreik.  Overall this issue was pretty quality in both storytelling and art.  For those that enjoyed the DC Animated Universe, this title stands as an ark to the legacy of many beloved TV shows.

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

Illustration Credits:

Justice League #19:  Drawn by Ivan Reis, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Jonathan Glapion

Green Lantern: New Guardians #19: Drawn by Andres Guinaldo, Colored by Wil Quintana, Inked by Raul Fernandez

DC Universe Presents #19:  Art by Javier Pina, Colored by Jason Wright

Red Hood and the Outlaws #19:  Art by Julius Gopez, Colored by Nei Ruffino

Supergirl #19:  Art by Mahmud Asrar, Colored by Dave McCaig

Nightwing #19: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund

Sword of Sorcery #7:  Art by Aaron Lopresti, Colored by Hi-Fi

Week 81 (March 20, 2013)

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

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

    Vyndktvx's 5-D Dilemma

    Vyndktvx’s 5-D Dilemma

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

    Kindred Spirits

     

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

    You C Never Go Home Again

    You Can Never Go Home Again

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

    Painful Memories

    Painful Memories

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

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 68 (Dec. 19, 2012)

I have been waiting a long time for this week in comics.  Green Lantern and Green Lantern: The New Guardians are without a doubt the two best titles in the Green Lantern line up, Batwoman is a top tier title, two “Death of the Family” intros in Nightwing and Red Hood and the Outlaws, and of course the introduction of Orion and the New Gods into the New DCU in Wonder Woman.  That said, let’s get to ’em:

  • Green Lantern#15 first and foremost tells us that Hal and Sinestro are in a place called “The Dead Zone” which is outside of the land of the living.  It doesn’t say that they are dead, just that they are in the Zone.  On Earth, Simon Baz, newest Green Lantern of Earth, tracks the owner of the van he stole in hopes that he can shed light on who stole the van before Simon did, setting up the explosives.  What Simon finds is much more sinister, especially when the Third Army makes an appearance in all their assimilating terror.  Also interesting is the advent of B’dg, the squirrel GL of Sector 1014, who reveals to the reader that the Green Lanterns have become aware of what the Guardians are doing with their newly minted Third Army.  Geoff Johns is amazing and has made this series so amazing for its whole seven year run.  This main title has seemed to skirt the issue of the Third Army, never directly dealing with it in lieu of introducing Simon Baz.  With the resolution of his innocence in the bombing of a Dearborn factory it would seem that his role in the DCU can become more cosmic, turning more prominently toward helping his fellow corpsmen fight the Third Army.  Though it hasn’t been said directly, it would seem to me that the Third Army is targeting the homeworlds of Green Lantern members.  Time will tell if I am correct in this assertion.

    Enter B'dg of Sector 1014

    Enter B’dg of Sector 1014

  • Green Lantern: The New Guardians #15 picks up with Kyle, his “coach” Star Sapphire, Carol Ferris, and sole Yellow Lantern, Arkillo, heading towards Okaara in the Vega systems to meet with Larfleeze, the sole Orange Lantern.  The idea is to get the master of the Orange light of Avarice to help Kyle master greed himself, thereby getting him closer to complete control over the emotional spectrum.  As with every Lantern title that is coming out under the “Third Army” banner, this issue features an attack by the Third Army that claims a very dear casualty for the readers.  Tony Bedard is slowly mounting the plot towards an incredible vista that is glorious to imagine.  And for the first time since issue #0 three months ago, Aaron Kuder provides interior art.  I am glad to see him back, as I have become a fan of his style, but putting it side to side with the previous issues done by Andrei Bressan, it really isn’t that different.  The end of the “Third Army” storyline is coming close to its resolution in January and this series looks to keep pace with that schedule.  January 30th can’t come soon enough in my humble opinion.
  • Batwoman #15 marks the return of Batwoman to Gotham with Wonder Woman in tow.  However, the issue focuses on Batwoman’s paramour, Det. Maggie Sawyer.  Since the first issue a little over a year ago Maggie has been the lead on the investigation of Medusa’s mass kidnappings of small children.  Batwoman has traversed the darkness and attacked head-on the shadowy pockets where Medusa’s minions dwell with contacts in the DEO and the masked community.  She fights the good fight unaccountable to anyone.  Maggie is bogged down with limited resources, jurisprudence, and a foe that is far beyond her experience.  She is the mouthpiece of the case, who for these sixteen months has had to look the parents in the eyes and give them comfort and confidence that their children will be brought home safely.  Though she isn’t going to the places that Batwoman is or kicking as much ass, she is the one who holds the fort down and gives hope.  This issue pays tribute to her, a bad ass cop and a woman who has been through hell.  Throughout we are made privy to her thoughts, fears, past traumas, and aspirations.  J.H. Williams III does art on the first and last page of the issue with Trevor McCarthy doing the rest of the interiors.  Since it breaks from the Batwoman/Wonder Woman perspective the transition is not inappropriate, but I will admit that McCarthy’s, which isn’t terrible, is not as engrossing as Williams’ incredible panels.  I believe next issue will not only return to Batwoman and Wonder Woman fighting Medusa, but also Williams on art duty.

    The Lanterns of Greed

    The Lanterns of Greed

  • Before Watchmen: Moloch #2 delivers the second half of the life of Moloch the Mystic.  Moloch lived a life of sin and corruption, hurting people to assuage the pain of being shunned and oppressed himself because of his physical deformities.  After years of incarceration and numerous apprehensions by one costumed adventurer or another, Moloch finds salvation in the Lord, repenting his past wrongs and attempting to make right on them.  Enter Adrian Veidt, the former mystery man Ozymandias.  He offers Moloch a job, as well as a chance to reenter society as a productive member.  The childlike exuberance that Moloch shows throughout the issue is truly heartrending, especially when you already know his ultimate fate.  Ozymandias may be a hero in title, but his methods are cold and calculating, and the ultimate scheme that makes itself manifest in Alan Moore’s original graphic novel includes giving Moloch terminal cancer to facilitate his nightmarish plan.  Topically, this issue is awful, because a good man who just wants a chance at redemption is exploited and purposefully afflicted with the most horrible of afflictions.  That’s the doom and gloom of Alan Moore for you.  However, J. Michael Straczynski, who writes this two part series, plays up the born again christian aspect of Moloch’s story so that when confronted with the reality of what Ozymandias has done to him and why, Moloch accepts that the goal is virtuous and that as a sinner his death could mean the salvation of billions.  He got a bum deal, but he accepts his role in a larger drama and gains absolution through his suffering in an almost Christ-like fashion.  Even though Ozymandias did this without his knowledge and with no thought for his volition, it comes out right and almost has a happy ending.

    Absolution Through Death

    Absolution Through Death

  • Catwoman #15 has Selina going back to work after the lackluster two issue “Death of the Family” story.  Across the board, the tie-ins have been doing what I feel to be very important things, whereas this one was not only not ominous, it just didn’t accomplish anything at all.  Oh well . . .  She pulls one heist for fun, crashing a rich teen’s party while her parents are out of town, but later takes on a job to steal an artifact from the “Black Room” of A.R.G.U.S..  That artifact being the Black Diamond, which we know from previous incarnations of the DCU to be the talisman of Eclipso.  The circumstances of this situation are far more interesting than the actual execution.  The information we get about the Black Room feels like it will be important to the impending “Trinity War” event down the road, as well as a clue into the really random headings placed on titles that fall under the “Black Diamond Probability.”  Most of the banner events get press and/or advertisement.  Thusfar the “Black Diamond Probability” has not, which makes it that much more intriguing.  We’ll see if the underground hype pays off or is just a smokescreen.
  • Nightwing #15 brings Dick Grayson into the fold of the Joker’s “Death of the Family” plot.  Since his first issue, a year and a half ago, Dick has inherited the circus he was raised in and discovered his familial tie to Gotham and the shadowy forces that have governed it for centuries.  Like Bruce, his goal as these events have progressed is to turn Gotham around and make good on the evils that have led to the great city’s decline.  In the process, he’s reestablished old relationships as well as new trusts with the members of the circus, gambling on the group’s future as a staple of Gotham City entertainment.  With the Joker coming on the scene, that trust is stretched to the breaking-point as obviously Nightwing has painted a bullseye on their chests as an exploitable weakness.  Since those members of Haly’s Circus that remain have done so, also gambling on Dick’s dream, their safety is paramount in Nightwing’s mind, adding further desperation by the former Robin to take down the Joker before his insanity imperils more of his friends.  As we’ve seen in the other books under this event’s banner, the Joker’s individualized plots against “the Family”  are minutely designed to cut deep at their intended targets.  One of the lynch pins in the Nightwing plot is a red-headed ghost from Dick’s past that adds further depth to the overall scheme.  Color me intrigued as we await issue #16.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #15 fleshes out perhaps the most interesting of the Joker’s plots under the “Death of the Family” event in his plan for Jason Todd.  Writer Scott Lobdell has quintessentially linked Jason, aka Red Hood, to the Joker in his #0 issue of this title.  Jason was for all intents and purposes a hobby the Joker took up out of boredom, putting a street punk with family issues in the path of Batman upon faking his mother’s O.D-ing on drugs, setting up a situation where this punk would be taken on as Robin, and then setting up this punk’s death to mess with the Batman.  In this issue, after staging an eerily familiar scene of Jason’s girlfriend, Isabel, O.D-ing in her apartment, the Joker abducts our red masked protagonist and places him within a maze that sloooowly reveals tokens of every stage of his journey to being Robin through his death at the Joker’s hands, not only proving that the Joker knows who he is but that he was also present every step of the way!  Lobdell really struck a nerve with his revelation of the Joker’s connection to Jason in Red Hood and the Outlaws #0, and in this issue begins to play that nerve like a Stradivarius.  I can only image that next month’s concluding issue will do nothing less.

    The Hard Truth

    The Hard Truth

  • Supergirl #15 ushers in the next chapter of the “H’el on Earth” event with H’el evicting the Man of Steel and his cloned protege, Superboy, from the Fortress of Solitude.  With Supergirl in tow he sends her into the bottled city of Kandor to retrieve an object of crucial importance to their plot to resurrect Krypton.  The story is framed with a reminiscence of one of Kara’s last days on Krypton in the company of her best friend, Tali.  With the memories of yesterday so fresh in her mind, and the sighting of her comatose friend within the Bottle City, the rationale of Supergirl falling for H’el’s psychotic plan, veiled though it may be in sugary lies.  She does so out of loneliness, out of a sense of cultural and social loss, and out of a burgeoning passion.  Though she is misguided, her journey is still really engrossing and compelling.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes #15 takes a break from the usual pace of things with a magical jaunt to the city of Barcelona.  One of writer Paul Levitz’s newest creations, Legion rookie Glorith, protege of veteran legionnaire the White Witch, is transported by an enigmatic voice in a dream through a portal to Barcelona.  When the Legionnaires later go to find her, the city is descended into chaos as denizens and scenes from throughout the city and surrounding area’s past spring up.  These include dinosaurs, cavemen, Inquisition era mobs complete with torches, and 20th century guerrillas.  Not seeming to connect with the large dilemmas the Legion has been facing, as is Levitz’s authorial style, this issue still is really engaging and quintessentially a Levitz Legion yarn.  And as it doesn’t connect with any overhanging plot from the recent past, that doesn’t mean that it won’t intertwine later into a characteristically complex storyline.  
  • DC Universe Presents: Black Lightning and Blue Devil #15 just was.  I’m only putting it up here as a place holder.  Not a good series, but maybe it will facilitate something interesting in a later appearance by one or both of these characters in another series.  Otherwise, not good.
  • Wonder Woman #15 is delving into something that I have been waiting for since the inception of the New DCU: The New Gods.  Jack Kirby’s legendary creations have always been among my favorite DC characters and concepts.  With the first arc of Geoff Johns Justice League I was horrified with the abysmal depiction of Darkseid and his hoards of Apokalips.  With Brian Azzarello’s exploration of the New Gods from New Genesis I am hopeful that the DC will have a second chance at doing right by Jack Kirby’s work.  Here Orion is sent to Earth to treat with one of the sons of Zeus, the blind vagrant Milan.  Wonder Woman and her brother, Lennox, also seek out Milan in their attempt to locate Hermes and the abducted baby of their friend, Zola.  As is characteristic of both Wonder Woman and Orion, misunderstandings are made and the two immediately resort to violence.  Though last issue did give a hint at the reason for Orion’s coming to Earth, the main points are still a mystery, but I remain hopeful that good things will come of this story arc.
  • JSA Liberty Files: The Whistling Skull #1 is a return to an Elseworld that I greatly enjoyed.  For those not in the know, Elseworlds are re-imaginings that take DC characters out of their normal surroundings and insert them into brand new contexts.  The most famous Elseworld is probably Superman: Speeding Bullets where Kal-El, last son of Krypton, is rocketed to Earth from his doomed planet where he lands in Gotham City and is found by the childless Martha and Thomas Wayne, raised under the name Bruce Wayne, witnesses their murder and later dons cape and cowl, becoming Batman, albeit with flight, super strength, super speed, and heat vision.  JSA: Speeding Bullets was a series that took the Golden Aged DC characters and re-imagined them as deep cover covert operatives of the United States Armed Services during WWII, originally written by Dan Jolley and drawn by Tony Harris.  Drawn by returning artist, Tony Harris, and written by B. Clay Moore, this series under the subtitle The Whistling Skull deals with deep cover operatives of what appear to be strictly British Intelligence, although that may not hold up to be true as the story unfolds over the forthcoming five issues.  Starting out with a five page jaunt to the Japan of 1940, Dr. Midnight, Hour Man, and Wildcat (all American) are seen with the Skull and his sidekick, Knuckles, both British.  The rest of the issue is a disjointed progression of jumping back and forth between England in the 20’s and Switzerland in the 40’s.  In Switzerland there is a mysterious, mystical malady that is killing locals in a horrific fashion, but the cause and its ties to the larger war happening in Europe is not alluded to.  To my knowledge the Whistling Skull and Knuckles are completely new characters with no basis within comic lore, and regardless of this being the case or not, are very poorly introduced in this first issue.  The premise is interesting to be sure, but as a first issue this one failed to develop a cogent premise.  However, because I enjoyed the original two series in collected graphic novel, I will ride this one out.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #5 brings the miniseries to the brink of realizing its subject, namely He-Man and the Masters of the Universe becoming reestablished.  From issue #1 five months ago, we have seen an Eternia where He-Man and the Masters have been placed under a state of amnesia and the forces of Skeletor carving out little fiefdoms of control.  Skeletor himself is locked in Castle Grayskull, attempting to wrest the fabled power it houses from the imprisoned Sorceress and even the spirit of Grayskull itself.  Adam and Teela have landed on an island controlled by Evil-Lyn and while escaping from her forces, led by Teela’s amnesiac father, Man-at-Arms, the two come across He-Man’s sword, aptly sheathed in stone.  Upon drawing it from the stone in Arthurian fashion, he not only remembers who he is, becoming He-Man once more, but also awakens all of his allies from their own forgetful somnambulism.   Next issue, the final of the six part story, promises to be a He-Man adventure like we have known in the past.

    Drawing the Sword of Power from a Stone

    Drawing the Sword of Power from a Stone

  • Sword of Sorcery #3 continues the Amethyst plot as Princess Amaya of House Amethyst continues to acclimate to her life in the Gem World of Nilaa.  Her evil aunt, Queen Mordiel, proposes a meeting with Amaya and her mother, Graciel, at neutral ground at their brother Bhoj’s country estate.  The results are predictable, but the information and characterization revealed within this parlay are truly intriguing taken together with what we already know of Gem World. The issue also takes us up to the moment in which John Constantine snatches Amaya back into our world, as seen in Justice League Dark Annual #1 with the portal stone. Writer Christie Marx and artist Aaron Lopresti really deliver an engrossing look into what would seem like a froufrou, utterly ridiculous title.  On the contrary, Amethyst is a very intricate book of feudalism and realpolitik, with almost as much intrigue but way less sex than “Game of Thrones.”   The Beowulf feature reaches its concluding installment as the enigmatic woman, identifying herself only as “Grendel’s mother,” explains to our protagonist the rationale behind his creation as a direct result of the superhuman advent, as seen in Justice League #1, and a human supremacy movement by the villain Regulus, as seen in Suicide Squad.  Tony Bedard foreshadows a great many things about what Beowulf is, yet withholds a great deal up to this issues conclusion and the ending of this chapter in the saga of Beowulf.  The feature does end with a solicitation that “Beowulf will return in 2013!” so all hope isn’t lost that answers will come.  In the meantime, the next issue of Sword of Sorcery will contain the Stalker feature written by Marc Andreyko and drawn by Andrei Bressan.  Writer and artist are both fantastic, and I am excited by the title itself, which was based off of a Paul Levitz four issue series from 1975.  I will stay on this series with great enthusiasm and I would encourage others to do the same.
  • The Unwritten #44 is an exemplary reason why this series is incredible.  The main character, Tommy Taylor, descends into the Underworld to rescue the woman he loves, Lizzy Hexam.  This endeavor mirrors a Golden Age superhero comic that a character in the series past wrote, which itself was obviously mirrors the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.  When he gets into the Underworld, his guides are the slain children of the warden of the French prison that Tommy was held in close to the series beginning.  Both children were incredibly round, complex characters, killed far before their time both literally and literarily, but creators Mike Carey and Peter Gross prove how wide reaching this series is by returning them to the narrative in a very thoughtful way.  The issue shows the workings of Hades in the world of The Unwritten, as well as sets up its most unlikely of Underworld Kings, again another resurrected character from issues past.  This book is stunning.  Read it.

    The Tinker Descends Into the Underworld

    The Tinker Descends Into the Underworld

And so ends the last real week of comics in December.  Next week has a few stray titles for the day after Christmas.

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

Illustration Credits:

Green Lantern #15:  Drawn by Doug Mahnke, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Keith Champagne, Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin, Tom Nguyen & Doug Mahnke

Green Lantern: New Guardians #15:  Art by Aaron Kuder, Colored by Wil Quintana

Before Watchmen: Moloch #2: Art by Eduardo Risso, Colored by Trish Mulvihill

Red Hood & the Outlaws #15: Drawn by Timothy Green II, Colored by Blond, Inked by Wayne Faucher

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #5: Drawn by Philip Tan & Pop Mhan, Colored by Lee Loughridge & Jim Charalampidis, Inked by Pop Mhan, Jim Charalampidis & Lebeau Underwood

The Unwritten #44: Art by Peter Gross, Colored by Chris Chuckry

Week 42 (June 20, 2012)

  • Green Lantern Corps #10 epitomized the growing schism within the ranks of Oa.  The Alpha Lanterns unilaterally passing sentence on John Stewart for his killing of corpsman, Kirrt Kallak, and the sentence is death.  Though Stewart resigns himself to his fate, the rank and file officers who know John and fought alongside him do not.  The Alpha Lanterns are an unimpeachable force of “justice”, empowered but not censored by the Guardians and the Green Lanterns find themselves disenfranchised from their own Corps.  This comes to a head with Stewart being offered up as an unintentional martyr, sparking off what promises to be a conflict that will define the destiny of the Green Lantern Corp for years to come.
  • Batwoman #10 brings us to the cusp of the “To Drown the World” arc in the penultimate issue.  Told in the fractured means, pioneered in this arc, Killer Croc comes out the main subject of discussion, as the enigmatic sorceress, Maro, fulfills his legacy dating back to his supposed Babylonian heritage, turning him into a truer form of a mythological crocodile monster.  The other characters, Jacob Kane, Maggie Sawyer, and Cameron Chase continue to evolve, but among the supporting cast of characters, Sune’s was the most interesting.  After kissing and attempting to seduce Kate last issue, her fate in this issue truly intrigued.  I can’t wait to read the concluding chapter of this arc next month.

    What a Croc!

  • Catwoman #10 was very interesting.  I think I would have enjoyed it better if I could have read it and its fellows all at once in graphic novel format.  The story is really fascinating, picking up from where it left off two months ago, prior to the “Night of the Owls” tie in issue, following Catwoman’s investigation into the disappearances of prostitutes and teen gang members throughout Gotham.  A great deal is revealed about who is doing this, why they are doing it, and also about the background of both Catwoman and her new partner in crime, Spark.  A lot is going on and there are numerous threads running through the story.  It can be tedious with the jumping around, but I feel that once we are able to pull back after the fact, these elements are going to combine to an incredible story.
  • Nightwing #10 is the first issue of the series, truly, that breaks from the “Court of Owls” plot and goes into a self determinant direction.  Picking up a subplot mentioned at the end of issue #7, Dick goes looking for the criminal who murdered two brothers using his escrima sticks.  Following this brings him right smack in the middle of a cult gang that are tied to the alpha and omega symbols.  In between, Dick also stumbles on a police conspiracy, plans an ambitious project of urban renewal, and takes the reigns once more of Haly’s Circus.  This issue will shape where Nightwing truly stands in the New DCU, post Court of the Owls.
  • Supergirl #10 follows the Girl of Steel inside the beast, after the Black Banshee consumed her in the previous issue.  Inside the villain, Kara is transported through perverted versions of her dreams, revealing much about what events shaped her as a person.  Inside she is confronted with the true nature of Black Banshee, as well as his intrinsic qualities that can serve as his weaknesses.  Looking forward to seeing what the Mikes have in store for her in the coming issues.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #10 also is fresh off of the “Night of the Owls” tie in, and breaks also from its first arc of the All Caste vs. the Untitled.  Jason and Roy are roused from their much deserved R&R by a seeming attack on Starfire.  What follows brings all three and Jason’s unfortunate date, Isabel, halfway across the galaxy to Starfire’s planet, Tamaran, to fight an enigmatic scourge aptly called “The Blight.”  Starfire’s exile from her homeworld has in the past always been an interesting story, and in the capable hands of Scott Lobdell her new backstory promises to be equally epic.  After the main story wraps up for the issue, there is a backup feature following the character Essence in her crusade against the Untitled.   Most likely after Lobdell has explored non-Untitled plots, the backup and main features will reunite to cap off the whole thing.  Until that time, however, I am just going to enjoy the incredible storytelling Lobdell has in store for us.
  • Wonder Woman #10 really highlights the character of Hades.  After the ending of last issue, when Hades required proof of Wonder Woman’s love, we see how the love of Wonder Woman juxtaposes against the vacancy of his soul.  Thus far, I have been a huge fan of Hades and I am a little sad to see the arc in the underworld ending.  However, I doubt that this will be the last we see of him.  In the meantime, I am curious to see what writer Brian Azzarello has in store for the Amazing Amazon next month.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes #10 brings the Legion into the dark waters of interplanetary diplomatic tension.  The United Planets have been attempting to maintain a strained peace with the Dominion and the kidnapping of two legionnaires leaves their fellows with few options.  With not proof, the United Planets refuse to intervene on behalf of the Legion and any act by the latter to get proof would be considered an act of war.  Within the Dominion, we see how Dream Girl and Brainiac 5 are holding up, as well as what has been done to them, the portents of which are truly terrifying.  In light of all this, it doesn’t lie in the hands of the Legion to save the day, but rather former Legionnaires and Legionnaires yet to be . . . Paul Levitz keeps the drama and intrigue cranked at 11 with no signs of decline.
  • DC Universe Presents: Savage #10 brings us within one issue of the conclusion to the Vandal Savage storyline.  Can’t say that I am completely into this story.  It still seems like there is more than a passing resemblance between this plot and Silence of the Lambs.  We’ll see how it turns out, but thus far I am not the hugest fan of what James Robinson is doing, but in fairness, he only has three issues to work with.
  • Before Watchmen: The Comedian #1 was stellar.  So far the Before Watchmen line is three for three.  Brian Azzarello tells a convincing story about sociopathic superhero and government lapdog Eddie Blake.  Opening with Blake playing touch football on Martha’s Vineyard with the Kennedy boys (JFK being president at the time).  There is a close knit relationship between the Kennedys and Blake.  Like its predecessors Minute Men and Silk Spectre, it retains a great deal of the original grit and apocalyptic ambiance of the original graphic novel.  Both Brian Azzarello and artist J.G. Jones are the perfect choices for this title about one of the starkest characters in the Watchmen universe.
  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #5 prominently features a one shot intro to a character firmly rooted in the original Batman mythos. Called “Jake” this issues’ Batman Beyond story focuses on the Wayne/Powers enforcer who killed Warren McGinnis.  That man’s name just happens to be Jacob Chill.  In the Beyond Origins segment, the origin of Warhawk.  His birth was masked in tragedy and his life follows suit.  There is a tragic beauty to it.  The Justice League Beyond Unlimited segment takes a break this month, absent from this issue, which makes me sad, as the cliffhanger from last installment was incredible after Apokalips had been ravaged by Kobra.  Hopefully next month we can get some resolution to this INCREDIBLE story development.  The Superman Beyond segment returned the aged Man of Steel to the cat and mouse antagonism of his former associations with Lex Luthor.  With Lex’s daughter now behind the scheme its the same feel but different venue.  Like the Batman Beyond show, the atmosphere remains with a fresh take.  Good job, JT Krul.
  • Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #5 for the most part did some world building rather than plot development.  Perhaps it was supposed to be plot development, but it sure didn’t feel like it to me.  It follows Dominique being tested by several Voodoo deities and analyzed by them in the cryptic fashion one expects from the divine.  There is no resolution or advancement to what any of this means.  I will say that it was entertaining and interesting to see the mythological background that gives power to the main characters in this manner.  A good issue, but I am anxious to get to the confrontation with the current Voodoo Queen.
  • The Unwritten #38 has Didge linking up with Danial Armitage to get the inside scoop on the Cult of Tommy and the related disappearances.  In Switzerland Richie powwows with Madame Rausch who tells him the nature of the wound that gives this four issue story arc its name.  The world of stories is dying, which means that humanity’s ability to interact with its own history and identity.   So far this new arc is intriguing as it breaks almost entirely from the Tom Taylor line of the story and goes outward to show what all of the things Tommy has done mean to the world at large.  We’ve gotten tastes of that throughout the series in the past, but these past two issues immerse themselves in it.  I do want to get back to Tom, but in the meantime I am really excited about the fleshing out of Armitage as a character and the promise of Didge as a potential mainstay of the series.  All around Grade A comic.

 

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

Illustration Credits:

Batwoman #10:  Art by Trevor McCarthy, Colored by Guy Major

Red Hood and the Outlaws #9: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Blond

Wonder Woman #10: Drawn by Tony Akins, Colored by Matthew Wilson, Inked by Dan Green

Before Watchmen: The Comedian #1: Art by J.G. Jones

Week 37 (May 16, 2012)

Looking at the list this week, the only things that really have me excited are the Bat-books.  Of the “Night of the Owls” books, Nightwing and Red Hood and the Outlaws are two of my favorites.  Conversely, Justice League  is close to the bottom, so this could be an interesting week.
  • Justice League #9 . . . I won’t beleaguer the point, but just give the barest of impressions.  The portrayal and conceptualization of the main characters in this title is sophomoric and fundamentally flawed. I think Johns is trying to do interesting things with them, but is failing.  Give it up an just level them out, already.  His Superman is less abrasive than in past issues, so perhaps he is making overtures, but the rest are still way off, Batman at the forefront.  On a positive note, I do like his inclusion of old school, lesser known villains like “The Key” and “Weapons Master.”  The Key was a Golden Age DC villain, who also was an early antagonist of the JLA early on in the team’s Silver Age genesis, so his inclusion was a rather inspired choice.  Are these two faithfully adapted?  I can’t rightly say and I don’t care.  They are classic, but abstruse enough that Johns has free license with them.  If there is one thing Geoff Johns needs to understand, its that you can tinker with imperfection, or knock around with almost perfect, but messing with things that don’t need fixing is not avante-garde or cute.  If fans have come over time to love and cherish something, leave it the F**K alone!   The SHAZAM! backup was trying, but still didn’t get off the ground for me.  See my previous point about leaving things be . . .
  • Green Lantern Corps #9 was a hot button issue.  With the arrest of John Stewart by the Alpha Lanterns the consequences of his actions several issues ago when he killed his fellow Lantern, Kirrt Kallak, come to bear.  Writer, Peter Tomasi’s exploration of this event is really thorough, yet open ended.  With two planets and another fellow Lantern on his list of previous kills, his reticence to admit what he did is understandable.  At the same time Guy Gardner admits that but for a serendipitous happenstance, he almost took the life of another Green Lantern once.  Its a tricky situation that is justified from one perspective, but also left in doubt as to whether it was completely necessary.  Even though Tomasi’s opinion is hinted at, he leaves it open for reader debate.  But despite all of the aforementioned debate, one thing is not in question.  The Guardians of the Universe are EVIL.  The plot and machinations they are currently laying are underhanded, amoral, and just plain chilling.  This issue really paves the way toward something sinister through the whole cadre of Green Lantern books.  A really well crafted issue.
  • Batwoman #9 remains one of the best series being released.  Kate is on the verge of breaking the case of what exactly “Medusa” is and what that organization has planned for the missing children of Gotham.  Aiding her is the former Medusa Agent, Sune, who really gains an interesting slant in this installment.  She is very cooperative, leading Kate right to the doors of Medusa, but is she too cooperative?  The multiple POV method of storytelling writers J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman employ is tantalizing, but also maddening, because of how good the stories are when totaled up.  Jacob Kane and Maggie Sawyer’s stories were a little short this month, and they are the heart of the title: Batwoman’s father and her lover (respectively).  I would have loved to see more of them this month, but there’s always next month.  Also in the “unfortunate” column is the departure mid-arc of artist Amy Reeder, of whom I am a hugefan.  I won’t say that I dislike her replacement, Trevor McCarthy, but I do like Reeder’s pencils much more.  With two more issues in this arc I must admit the bit is being champed by yours truly.

    That’s “friendly” . . .

  • Nightwing #9is entitled “The Gray Son.”  That said, this issue cuts deep to the heart of the Court of Owls, Gotham, and Dick Grayson and how all three intersect.  Though John and Mary Grayson were nomadic circus folk, the Graysons are inextricably tied to Gotham as evinced by the appearance of Dick’s great-grandfather, the Talon we have come to know as William Cobb, and most recently the events of this issue.  Though he is the villain, Cobb’s travails are the stuff of Horatio Alger, and one can’t help but sympathize with him.  The Gotham of the turn of the century wasn’t the most friendly place for the downtrodden and the current one isn’t much better.  So the question becomes who is best suited to fix Gotham, Batman or the Court?  Dick stands halfway between these two camps and his, seemingly, is the deciding vote.

    Gotham’s Gray Son

  • Catwoman #9 was almost a misnomer.  Sure the eponymous Catwoman is present, but the story centers almost entirely around the Talon dispatched to kill the Penguin.  This Talon, one Ephraim Newhouse, was retired in 1665 by the Court for his over inflated sense of honor and its detriment to his duties.  He is, however, awakened just like the overly ostentatious Talon of the 1850’s (shown in Batwing #9) to “cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”   And like another “Night of the Owls” issue (now I’m referring to Batman & Robin #9), there is a connection between the Talon and the prey.  Retired in dishonor, Newhouse’s ceremonial Talon knives were not interred with him.  Four were in a private collection pilfered in issue #8 of Catwoman by our heroine and the fifth is in the possession of . . . the Penguin.  That’s not the reason the Court signed his death warrant, but definitely a nice incentive for his expiration.  Also like Batman& Robin #9, Catwoman finds a kinship between herself and the Talon she is facing, as Robin did with his own 1770’s Talon.  To some these coincidences might seem contrived or trite, but I like the interconnection of themes and motifs.  “Night of the Owls” is really delivering on the promises it made.
  • Continuing on through that storied “Night” is Red Hood and the Outlaws #9.  I love this title, but its “Night of the Owls” tie in was a little lackluster in that particular aspect of its story.  This issue does usher in the New DCU debut of Mister Freeze, which is quite exciting, and he couldn’t have been rendered better his first time out than by the masterful pencil of series artist, Kenneth Rocafort.  As ever, Starfire and Roy Harper provide the heart and soul of the series, foiling the dark vengeance of Jason Todd, and here we see them trying to save Mister Freeze from the Court’s assassin, if only they could fight their own urge to kill him.  These two aspects worked well for me. Unlike the other “Night of the Owls” episodes, almost no time or effort is dedicated to giving us backstory on the Talon in this issue.  He is Chinese, his name is Xiao Loong, and he was a performer at Haly’s Circus, but that is revealed in passing.  Who he is and when he was initiated are not specified, which is detrimental in my book to the later characterization we see.  Of all the Talons, he is the most moral and human.  He retains a large degree of culpability and as I stated before, I want to know why?!  What in his past led him to be so different from his compatriots that he could question his purpose and assume guilt?  We’ll never know, but I won’t blame writer, Scott Lobdell.  He’s given us too many insanely amazing issues of this series, as well as Teen Titans and Superboy.  He certainly deserves a pass.

    1.21 Gigawatts?! WHAT THE HELL IS A JIGAWATT?!

  • Birds of Prey #9 was unfortunately the loser of the “Night of the Owls” thus far.  The Talon in this issue is Henry Ballard, who served the Owls in the 1840’s.  They never specify his target, which is strike one for me.  One can assume it is Poison Ivy since he attacked her first, but that could be a coincidence. The plot after that lacks any significance since you really don’t even know what the the Birds of Prey are fighting for or to protect.  Thus no consequences, which is strike two.  There are several other small annoyances that could total strike three, but I’ll leave it at those two.  Not to say that this issue didn’t also have a few virtues.  First of all, though it makes absolutely no sense to anything, this Talon hallucinates and his versions of the Birds that he perceives are quite interesting.  Katana looks like an oni-musha, Black Canary like a cross between Otto von Bismark and Mrs. Miller from McCabe and Mrs. Miller, and our friend Starling as one of Mrs. Miller’s Old West prostitutes.  Also, please sit down for this one, artist Travel Foreman, of former Animal Man fame, did a really good job providing art for this issue.  I never thought I would utter those words, but his style actually works quite well here.  Overall it was a passable book, but nowhere near good enough to be a true “Night of the Owls” tie in.
  • Blue Beetle #9 promised to be a crossover in the New Guardians plotline of the Reach (the intergalactic conquerors whose scarab the Blue Beetle wears) invading the Blue Lantern homeworld, Odym.  This doesn’t appear to be the case.  Jaime Reyes just runs into Kyle and his “friends”, Bleeze the Red Lantern and Glomulus the deputy Orange Lantern, while the aforementioned Green Lantern is getting his power battery from his apartment.  However, in the process the four “heroes” smoke out a bounty hunter sent by the Guardians of the Universe to bring back Kyle to await their justice.  While its interesting, it does very little to connect the two series, as I had expected.  It does sort of tie into the larger plot of Green Lantern: The New Guardians, further separating the New Guardians with Glomulus, Bleez, and Kyle splitting up in three different directions, each more enigmatic than the last.  Truly interesting, but not as complete of a crossover as others.
  • Supergirl #9 continues from the explosive ending of the previous installment.  The Black Banshee has come for his daughter, Siobhan, with a club full of innocents and Supergirl in the crossfire.  The strength of the story lies in the new slant on the classic Supergirl villain, Silver Banshee. Always evil in the past, here she is portrayed as an altruistic victim of bad breeding, and a true friend to the alienated girl from the stars, Supergirl.  In fact,  that being the case makes the situation all the more endearing as the Girl of Steel fights to preserve the only person who understands her on this strange new planet.  Good work, Mikes.  George Perez’s art is succeeded by the returning series artist, Mahmud Asrar.  I do love the master artist’s pencils from last issue, but Asrar’s work is equally appropriate to the title and its still nice to see him back.
  • Wonder Woman #9 was a Greek drama on multiple levels.  I think more so than any previous issue, this one is steeped heavily in its mythological roots.  After last month’s issue where Wonder Woman bartered for the release of her charge, a young woman impregnated with Zeus’ child, from Hades with the guns of Eros, the god of the Underworld then turned around and shot our heroine in the heart with them securing her love and her hand in marriage.  This issue reaps the whirlwind of all that!   The wedding is about to take place and the invitations have been sent to all the gods and demigods of Olympus.  As the invites reach their intended recipients we get a glimpse of two new gods: Ares, called War, and Aphrodite.  It may just be me, but I find it funny that War bears a striking resemblance to the series writer, Brian Azzarello.  Am I the only one who sees this?  One thing that none of us see though is Aphrodite.  Portrayed as the most beautiful woman alive, she is a naked woman whose face and more striking attributes are always blocked by something or conveniently off panel when we catch a glimpse of her (barely).  What truly defines the issue is the “wedding ring” that Hades has for Wonder Woman, what it represents to her, and what it promises for next issue.  Please stay tuned . . .

    Seriously, look up a picture of Brian Azzarello and tell me I am wrong . . .

  • Legion of Super-Heroes #9 was perhaps the most straightforward issue that write Paul Levitz has EVER done.  Not saying that is a bad thing, but its certainly strange.  One thing that he is famous for is the cross pollination of his Legion storylines.  Writer extraordinaire, Dennis O’Neil, refers to his method as the “Levitz Paradigm”, where in one issue Plot A is the main plot, with references to a smaller Plot B, and a hint of the even smaller Plot C.  Next issue, Plot A has been resolved and Plot B is the main focus, with Plot C taking a larger but still minor role, and the hint of Plot D surfacing, and so on down the line.  In this he made good on the promise from issue #1 of a Dominator invasion.  That was about it for the issue.  One could argue that “Plot C” from last issue, the resurrection of the Fatal Five, was moved up to “Plot B” status, but it still felt like it was just barely hinted at.  I like this issue a lot, however, and look forward to the next issue.  Paul Levitz is amazing and I will read anything that’s stamped with his name.
  • The Shade #8 picks up a thread from last issue regarding the demon that claimed to have fought in Paris back in 1901.  This issue goes back to that encounter in “Gay Paree”, and links it to the house of Caldecott.  The artwork in this one-shot background story is provided by Jill Thompson, who really grounds it realistically in the overarching Starman mythology.  Her lush pencils lend the opulent feel of Belle Epoque France to the issue, but it also makes it thus far, the most authentic to the 90’s series by James Robinson.  The first several issues drawn by Cully Hammer came close to mirroring Tony Harris’ work, but something about this issue’s art brought back a renewed nostalgia in me.  Overall, I love this Shade limited series.  We’re two thirds of the way through and already I am feeling oncoming loss.

    Paris, City of Beauty and Pleasure

  • Also from writer, James Robinson, is DC Universe Presents #9 featuring Vandal Savage.  Though James Robinson is one of the great geniuses of comics, this first issue of a three issue arc bears a striking similarity to “Silence of the Lambs.”  A senator’s daughter is abducted by a serial killer whose M.O. is almost identical to another killer, the immortal Vandal Savage.  Time is running out and the FBI send the only agent they have who has even a chance of getting his help in finding her to visit him in prison.  That agent is Vandal’s daughter, Kassidy Sage.  Bernard Chang, artist from the Deadman arc returns to provide interior pencils for this arc.  Its still too early to tell, but I’m betting that despite the deja vu I will like where this story goes.  I have great faith in James Robinson.
  • Saucer Country #3 is taking shape.  Paul Cornell stated in a Vertigo Newsletter that he wanted to explore the mythology of UFO’s and their unique place in American culture.  Well, he’s doing a pretty darned good job of it, miring the past three issues in mystique, yet revealing just enough to tantalize the reader down the “rabbit-hole.”  I chose that metaphoric phrase aptly, because in this issue, while under hypnosis, one of the characters relives his abduction and shields the unthinkable images of his ordeal by substituting the aliens’ visages with those of rabbits.  I think that this is the message that Cornell wants to send.  The characters and the readers are drawn down the rabbit-hole into a world that defies the rational mind.  Paul Cornell cut his teeth on “Doctor Who” and other science fiction stories, so he is within his element and this series promises to be a crown jewel of Vertigo’s monthly line-up.
  • The Shadow #2 is really taking shape.  I was initially uncertain about Garth Ennis’s vision of The Shadow, but this issue lays most of those misgivings to rest.  Lamont Cranston and his lovely lady and partner, Margo Lane, are winging their way to Hong Kong to intercept the surviving Kondo brother, agent of the Japanese Empire.  As it proceeds mayhem inevitably ensues and we enter into the familiar territory our pulp hero has always occupied.  Though it takes a darker turn than the original radio serial, the ambiance is the same. This is due largely to Ennis’s writing, but also to artist, Aaron Campbell, whose pencils defined the pulp series Green Hornet: Year One.  Of the new wave of noir titles, this one is definitely the best.

And thus ends the third of five weeks in May.  See you, same Bat time, same Bat channel . . .

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

Illustration Credits:

Batwoman #9:  Art by Trevor McCarthy, Colored by Guy Major

Nightwing #9:  Drawn by Eddy Barrows & Andres Guinaldo, Colored by Rod Reis & Peter Pantazis, Inked by Eber Ferreira, Ruy Jose & Mark Irwin

Catwoman  #9: Art by Guillem March, Colored by Tomeu Morey

Red Hood and the Outlaws #9: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Blond

Wonder Woman #9: Drawn by Tony Akins, Colored by Matthew Wilson, Inked by Dan Green

The Shade #8: Art by Jill Thompson, Colored by Trish Mulvihill