This week rounds out the month with some classic series like Teen Titans and The Flash and adds a few Annuals to the mix. It also marks the end of the very intriguing Damian: Son of Batman series. Not the most perfect week of comics, but certainly a few gems to be read.
- The Flash #27 begins the last arc of writer Brian Buccellato’s run on this title. Beginning in the 19th century when the Gem Cities of Keystone and Central City were mining camps, we get a two page glimpse at a murder centuries. Cut to the present when Flash is running down (pun intended) a few of his lesser foes, only to discover a hidden chamber beneath the city streets containing several long dead bodies. They fit the M.O. of a killer put away on a life sentence, but according to forensics were killed AFTER said person, Hollis Holden, was sent to Iron Heights Prison. As Barry looks into the facts it slowly dawns on him that this could be the case that clears his father’s name of killing Barry’s mom. It’s a sad thing that Buccellato is leaving the Flash, because his collaboration with Francis Manapul on the title has truly invigorated this series and made it one of the “can’t miss” series of the current DC lineup. Though Manapul is absent in art, Patrick Zircher takes over art duties and his panels bring the Flash alive in a whole new way. I won’t say that I like the art better than Manapul’s, which is in it’s own category, but I definitely love his work and would seek it out in other titles once this title transitions. With this being Buccellato’s last hoorah on the Flash, it’s a distinct possibility that Barry might ACTUALLY solve his mother’s murder. The question comes down to how well that answer could be given under the current circumstances and the size of Buccellato’s ego. My opinion could swing favorably or unfavorably on this one. Two more issues to go . . .
- The Red Lanterns #27 begins properly the new phase in the Red Lantern mission. After “Lights Out” Hal Jordan gave Guy Gardner and his Red Lanterns a sector of Space for their own, free of interference from the Green Lanterns. Guy took 2814, home most notably to the planet Earth. Writer Charles Soule says Ysmault, the Red Lantern homeworld, is in Sector 2814 and that is the rationale for its selection. I’m not buying it. This is one time when I have to question Soule’s logic, considering that Ysmault was used as the prison to house the survivors of the Manhunter massacre of every living thing in Sector 666, except the six Inversions imprisoned on there. They were imprisoned to keep them out of sight and out of mind so they couldn’t tell the rest of the Universe what the Guardians let happen. So . . . why would they put these dangerous criminals in a heavily populated sector like 2814 when they could use any of the THOUSANDS of deserted planets in 666 where nobody ever goes and where there are no Green Lanterns patrolling? I’m pretty sure they did even say Ysmault is in 666 somewhere in one issue or another. A very ill-conceived gambit to justify the annexing of 2814 by the Reds. With that taken into account, Guy intends to inspect Earth and show Skallox and Zilius Zox his homeworld, as they have never seen it before. I am fairly certain Skallox went to Earth in Red Lanterns #10 or the crossover issue of Stormwatch #10. Soule is appearing to not have done his homework. Rankorr and Bleez, who have been to Earth many times, are dispatched to find a newly minted Red Lantern and reign them in, only to come face-to-face with Atrocitus, who found new ring himself and initiate the new toad-like Red into the fold. On Earth Skallox and Zox are left to their own devices, invariably finding trouble. The main thing that Charles Soule accomplishes with this issue is the reintroduction of Tora Olafsdottir, aka Ice, into the New DCU, as well as recapping the former relationship that Guy and Tora once had. I like the series, but I do think that of the many things that Charles Soule is currently writing this is the weakest series and the one that probably has the least of his attention. That’s not to say that it’s bad, but it could be way better.
- Teen Titans #27 appears to be Scott Lobdell’s attempt to make a liar out of me. Last issue, he and artist Tyler Kirkham went about detailing the secret origin of Kid Flash, aka Bar-Tor, as a “psychotic anarchist” who led a bloody rebellion in a tyrannically oppressive future. At least that was their aim. What they showed was a level headed kid that did everything within his power to protect and provide for his little sister, Shira, and make a better world. He is nothing more than what any person would be in that situation and far from the psychopath they’d depicted him as. This issue changes that. It also, to a small degree, changes the rationale behind his surrender to the galactic “Functionary” that oppressed the lower classes of its citizens. In issue #26 it appeared that the near death of Shira due to his actions snapped Bar out of his revolutionary fervor, making him give himself up to authorities. While I still believe that he loves his sister and that she is his primary reason for doing what he has done, Scott Lobdell shows that Kid Flash’s surrender was both strategic and deceptive. Though he was granted witness protection and a new identity in the past, the Functionary show when they try Bar in this issue that they never had any intention of letting him live. They only meant to break his rebellion by putting on a show trial with him ratting out those that believe in him and fought for him, killing their spirit, and then executing him afterward. Bar knew this and turned the tables. After admitting his utter guilt to the charges laid against him the ceiling is literally blown off of the courthouse and the prison guards arm the rebels and teleport them to the scene. Bar has the Functionary bigwigs in a snare that will ensure that all the government’s heads will roll in one swing of the sword. No one is going to survive Bar’s coup, not even the innocents present. In his demeanor and his actions, Kid Flash does take on the crazed temper he’d be cast in leading up to these last two issues. It’s madness, but the question is whether it is a good kind of madness. What is happening seems very much like the French Revolution with the prison guards turning against their masters and opening the prisons in an all out breakdown of the system. I am very curious to see how this predicament pans out and how the crazy Kid Flash from this issue reconciles with the very grounded, moral version that perhaps only I saw in the last issue. With a character like Kid Flash it’s hard to believe he would get kamikaze’d like, that regardless of whether the title is getting cancelled in April or not. Scott Lobdell hasn’t let me down so far and has written this series superbly throughout the two and a half year run. Artist Tyler Kirkham is hitting it out of the park in the realm of art, really making this title a jewel in his resume. I’m onboard this train till it’s last stop two months from now. What a ride . . .
- Talon #15 is yet another comic by Marguerite Bennett that I went into with high hopes, only to have them dashed. The issue has NO story. Yes, there is something resembling a plot, but at the end of the issue the reader is left with two questions: 1) What did I just read? 2) Why should I care? The plot (or what passes for one) begins with an African American Talon taking down William Cobb to become the Court of Owl’s new assassin. It should be noted that this Talon is male, meaning that it is not Strix, who came into her second life in the 50’s. The pacing of the issue is also very jarring, following the reverse order paradigm of Christopher Nolan’s seminal film, Memento. Slowly we work our way back through this guys life, and while the imagery is very depressing and often tragic, the rationale of why we are even hearing about this guy is not answered. This is a one-off for Bennett, the title will transition to Tim Seeley’s hands for it’s final two issues, so again the possibility that this is setting something up is dubious. There was even the possibility in my head that in some way this gentleman was a relative of Casey Washington, but due to the time period and the circumstances described this is just a nameless Talon we may never hear from again. Every time I come across a title that Marguerite Bennett writes I get a twinge. Maybe she’s good at writing her own material, but so far everything of hers I have read is her writing a one-shot issue of someone else’s property like her Batman Annual #2 last year, the TERRIBLE Lobo issue she wrote during Villains Month this September, and her lackluster Batgirl #25 in November. She’s writing two one-shots next month and both have me worried. Joker’s Daughter features the title character whom I do not care for one iota, so that sounds like a giant waste of money. Lois Lane is a horse of a different color, because that has the potential to be amazing . . . assuming the writer has the talent to actually pull it off. Lois Lane is a character that can be incredible, but can also be absolutely terrible if the writer doesn’t know what they are doing. Bennett does not instill faith. Also the artist on Lois Lane, Emanuela Lupacchino, is an up and coming talent and I’ve enjoyed her past work a great deal, so that is another reason Bennett’s authorship is troubling. No one wants to be the weakest link that breaks the chain, especially when that chain is Lois Lane, one of the most beloved female characters in comics and someone that fans have been screaming to have her own solo book. Marguerite Bennett said this of her controversial Lobo issue this past September:
“You can hate me by Page Two. But if I do not have your attention by Page Four, you don’t have to read something of mine ever again.”
Well Ms. Bennett, you have until the last page of Lois Lane #1 to sell me that you can write anything. Then I am going to take you up on your previous offer.
- Damian: Son of the Batman #4 brings to a close Andy Kubert’s four issue miniseries dedicated to Damian Wayne, whom Kubert co-created with Grant Morrison. This series has been and continues to be a very Kubert-esque journey through the life of Batman. Joe Kubert, Andy’s father, had a very characteristic drawing style that influenced comic art for seventy years, but also a narrative style that is like no one else’s, past or present. Andy has definitely inherited his dad’s artistic style, but he also emotes the same incredible voice as a writer. Joe could have written this, but at the same time there is a darker edge that is all Andy. In a lot of ways that is something of which this comic is an allegory. Damian is taking over for his legendary father, Batman. In the first issue, even after the death of Batman (it’s actually Dick Grayson) he is reticent to take on the mantle of the Bat, but as events unfold he is thrust into becoming Batman, but a Batman on his terms. His father, who is still alive though quite old, chastises him for his wanton brutality which does get through to the young Wayne. But as this issue concludes and Damian actualizes himself as the new Dark Knight he takes on the role adhering closely to his father’s legacy and being Batman in the ways that matter, but also maintaining an element of his own identity while in the role. Now I don’t know if Joe and Andy had an idyllic relationship or a rocky one like Bruce and Damian in this series, but the parallels of Andy taking the reigns of continuing his father’s legendary name and legacy in the comics industry rings true to Damian’s struggle herein. As stated, Joe Kubert’s art can be found in elements of more than four generations of comic artists, but his writing style is far more rare and that is what Andy stands as a torchbearer to. Top to bottom, this was an incredible four issue miniseries and well worth reading for those that love and miss Damian Wayne.
- Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 provides and extended format launch pad for the next major conflict in the Green Lantern family of books. The Durlans have been a problem over the past several months, but in this annual their threat begins to solidify. They have publicly discredited the Green Lantern Corps in front of the Universe, they have rallied the Corps’ enemies into simultaneous attacks on the Corps’ chapter houses throughout the 3600 sectors of Space, and they have drawn blood by blowing up the Corps’ command center on Mogo. Writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen give background into the Durlan threat by showing the horrific ruling council of the Durlan race called “the Ancients,” and gives voice to what the Ancients plan. What’s more, the annual primarily focuses on the Corps’ many iconic villains, i.e. Kanjar-Ro, Bolphunga the Unrelenting, Darkstar, etc., and gives short one to two page glimpses into each villain’s past with a moment that sums up their individual motivations. These are the worst of the worst who HATE the Corps, so what Venditti and Jensen do next is even more incredible. Faced with an alliance with the Durlans who none of them trust, this ragtag group of villains pull a 180 and align themselves with the Green Lanterns to take out the Durlan threat. It’s a tricky gambit and should make for one hell of an entertaining arc.
- Earth 2 Annual #2 finally reveals the origin of the enigmatic Batman of Earth 2. Spoiler Alert, I am going to reveal the identity of Batman. I feel enough time has passed since the issue dropped that those that want to know already know, but if someone doesn’t, skip this review. This series started in Earth 2 #0 with the end days of the Apokalips Invasion of Earth 2 being thwarted by the Trinity (Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman) at the cost of their lives. So with Bruce Wayne dead, who is this new Batman and why is he doing what he is doing? The breadcrumbs and clues have been stacking up. Firstly, through his rhetoric and desire to free “dangerous” inmates of the Arkham cryostasis detention center we are shown that he could be considered a criminal and a monster. Secondly, while doing so he is revealed to have super-strength and a bulletproof hide. Thirdly, we are told that bioscans reveal him to be human. Finally, when he goes into the containment chambers and releases the inmates he opens the Joker’s tube only to shoot him in the head, revealing a VERY deep loyalty to Batman as a person, but not an adherence to his stringent codes against killing and using firearms. All of these paint a tantalizing riddle of who this person could be, opening the door for either a very interesting reinvention of a classic DC character or the introduction of a brand new one. The reveal was, I am sad to say, underwhelming. Batman is Dr. Thomas Wayne, father of Bruce Wayne, who faked his death and apparently became a junkie and a murderer out to take down mafiosi. Maybe in the long run this will be a decent development, but it just seemed really tired and unoriginal. Thomas Wayne as Batman was something novel that writer Brian Azzarello proposed in Flashpoint: Batman and wrote to perfection. In that title as well, Batman became something very dark and excessive in his crusade against crime, also adopting the use of firearms. However, Flashpoint Batman was the architect of the Batman persona following the death of 8 year old Bruce at the gunpoint of Joe Chill and the subsequent psychotic descent of his wife, Martha, into the persona of the Joker. In Earth 2 the use of Thomas as the new Batman just comes off as lazy from a writing standpoint. He uses guns, he’s got five o’clock shadow, he’s willing to kill, his costume is red and grey/black with sharper edges. There are too many similarities with not enough validating differences to make Thomas’ role in the book worthwhile. Now that may change, but the deadbeat dad concept, while tragic, falls flat for me. This is a shame as I have enjoyed the series, both under the helm of original writer James Robinson and the new authorship of Tom Taylor. Whether Thomas was Robinson’s idea or Taylor’s, the brunt of responsibility falls on Tom Taylor to make it work however possible.
- Worlds’ Finest Annual #1 provides a look into the lives of three very important young women from Earth 2. The title Worlds’ Finest follows Helena Wayne, known as Robin on Earth 2 and Huntress on Earth 1, and Kara Zor-El, known as Supergirl on Earth 2 and Power Girl/Karen Starr on Earth 1. This annual showcases their lives as emergent heroes on Earth 2, as well as a brief glimpse at a third young woman whom readers of the series Earth 2 will no doubt recognize: Fury. Helena Wayne is of course the daughter of Bruce Wayne (Batman) and his wife Selena Kyle (Catwoman), and the first and so far only bearer of the mantle of Robin on Earth 2. As on Earth 1, Kara is the cousin of Superman and in most ways is identical to her Earth 1 counterpart. Fury is the enigma, as she is the daughter of Wonder Woman and an unrevealed father, and fights for Apokalips. In this way, the annual focuses on the female scions of the three great superheroes: Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Paul Levitz is just the writer to tackle this assignment considering his creation of Huntress in the 70’s and his incredible career writing thoughtful comics about uncertain youths flung head first into incredible circumstances. For proof of that assertion read any of his Legion of Super-Heroes books. The episodes depicted in this annual concerning Helena and Kara paint the two girls as novices making mistakes, but those early blunders juxtapose against the past two years worth of issues to show how they became the strong, confident women we have seen in the present. Fury is more cryptic in her portrayal by Levitz and no doubt that is because her origin and the revelation of her motivations are integrally keyed into the Earth 2 title. In any event, Levitz brings his A-game to these stories and spins into being three events that define the characters of these two dimensionally displaced heroines.
And thus concludes the first month of comics in 2014. Here’s hoping to many more awesome issues to fill out the coming eleven months.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.
Red Lanterns #27: Art by Alessandro Vitti, Colored by Gabe Eltaeb.
Teen Titans #27: Drawn by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Arif Prianto, Inked by Art Thibert & Dan Green.
Damian: Son of Batman #4: Art by Andy Kubert, Colored by Brad Anderson.
Earth 2 Annual #2: Drawn by Robson Rocha, Colored by Gabe Eltaeb, Inked by Scott Hanna.