Jan. 29, 2014

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

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

    An Icy Reception.


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

    The Face of Teenage Revolution.

    The Face of Teenage Revolution.

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

    Long Live the Batman!

    Long Live the Batman!

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

    A Father in the Shadows.


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

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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Nov. 13, 2013-Jan. 15, 2014

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

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

    What Makes a Hero?

    What Makes a Hero?

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

    The Hubris of Gods.

    The Hubris of Gods.

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

    GreenArrow26-2

    The Fabled Green Arrow Totem.

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

    GreenArrow27-1

    The Bloody Baptism of Green Arrow.

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

    Doubt Anything Except a Brother's Love.

    Doubt Anything Except a Brother’s Love.

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

    Batman Inc Just Got a Little Bit Cooler.

    Batman Inc Just Got a Little Bit Cooler.

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

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

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

Illustration Credits:

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

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

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

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

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

Oct. 9, 2013

This second week of October has some much anticipated titles among its numbers.  The oversized Batman #24 has been burning a hole in people’s calendars for three months now as “Zero Years” has rolled onward towards an unknown, tantalizing end.   Superman/Wonder Woman has been causing controversy since late August after artist Tony Daniel let his mouth run away with him at Fan Expo in Toronto.  And with the killer first installment of “Lights Out” in Green Lantern #24 last week Green Lantern Corps #24 gives another taste of the unthinkable plot that is heralding a new age in the Green Lantern books.  Also comes the inaugural issue of the new Vertigo series Coffin Hill. So much awesome for one week.  

    • Batman #24 is a monumental Batman piece, both in size and importance to the reimagined Batman mythos. Writer Scott Snyder undertook a revamped origin story for the Dark Knight entitled “Zero Year,” which will in essence preempt Frank Miller’s “Year One”, doing the same job but tailored to the New DCU. To cut his teeth, Bruce Wayne squares off against the Red Hood Gang. In the past the Red Hood Gang and its eponymous leader have been fairly small time dealers, mostly pulling petty B&E’s and bushleague bank robberies. In Snyder’s vision the gang takes on a more sinister nature and magnitude. Their leader Red Hood One still wears the shiny red bell jar helmet, offset further up on his head so his evil grin is visible, and the suit and red cape, as before.  All of his subordinates wear suits sans cape and nondescript red Zentai masks. Also menacing is the fact that a ridiculously large percentage of Red Hood members are regular folk blackmailed or coerced into doing Red Hood One’s bidding. Snyder definitely read or watched “Fight Club,” because Red Hood One is taking on a very Tyler Durden vibe, creating an anarchist movement that infiltrates every echelon of society. Wearing various disguises and also in his Bruce Wayne persona, “Batman” has fought a back and forth war with the Red Hoods, but with the revelation that his uncle, Philip Kane, was arming the gang from Wayne Enterprise depots the struggle enters its endgame. Philip is a slippery businessman, but in actuality his part in the gang is like most members’, coerced by the enigmatic leader. Bruce finally is able to piece together Red Hood’s ultimate plan and sets a counter-plot into motion to block its fruition. Through this plan of Bruce’s Scott Snyder ties up many things begun from the inception of his Batman origin arc.  Close to the beginning, Bruce remembers his father, Dr. Thomas Wayne, inquiring what Bruce loved about Gotham. That question, which Bruce now poses via televised interview to all Gothamites encapsulates and validates the entire concept of who and what Batman represents. After the final sequence of Batman #23 with the icon scene of the bat crashing through the window in front of the shaken Bruce, weare finally shown for the first time in “Zero Year” continuity the fully realized Batman persona. By issue’s end, the defeat of the gang is delivered, as is the ultimate fate of Red Hood One.  I had a conspiracy theory that Red Hood One wasn’t the Joker, but some other Batman villain, i.e. the Riddler, or ironically Black Mask. That proved to be false.  It’s heavily insinuated to be the Joker. However, as he did with his other major arcs, “The Court of Owls” and “Death of the Family,” Snyder obscures that concrete facts to speculation and the identity of the man who fell into the vat of chemicals and his role in the gang remains unclear. Scott Snyder’s completion of the first leg of his “Zero Year” story is nothing short of amazing and provides a SOLID foundation for the New DCU Batman for as long as that continuity stands.  In the plot itself, Philip has a giant boulder of mica schist stone that cannot be broken and is hard to shape placed in his office.  He relates that these immutable characteristics make the mica ideal to build on.  There is probably a deeper meaning to the plot somewhere in that analogy, but I didn’t catch it.  What I did interpret it as, however, was a metaphor for the strength of the story as the basis for all Batman stories to come. Greg Capullo’s art is peerless. His rendering of Snyder’s complex storylines is clear, concise, stark, and moving.  Rafael Albuquerque, regular Batman backup artist and co-creator of American Vampire with Synder, provides the art for the denouement scene of this issue that puts to bed the Red Hood arc and sets up the coming Riddler arc, entitled “Blackout.” Overall, this issue blows all other Batman stories out of the water.

      What Does Gotham Mean to You?

      What Does Gotham Mean to You?

    • Batgirl #24 opens on the second installment of the “Batgirl: Wanted” plot arc.  After “killing” her psychotic little brother, James Jr., Barbara has taken off her Batgirl uniform and decided not to wear the Bat symbol, because of her actions.  Also following this event, her father, Commissioner James Gordon puts out an all-points bulletin on Batgirl and (unbeknownst to him) his own daughter.  Babs wants nothing more than to put her nocturnal past behind her and find happiness.  She attempts to do so by hanging out more with her bohemian roommate, Alyssa, and dating a former gang member, Ricky, who she met as Batgirl.  But of course the universe won’t allow a member of the Bat-family to know any modicum of peace.  Batgirl’s former nemesis Knightfall’s menacing machinations sight both Ricky and her father in the crosshairs.  After the traumatic events of Batgirl #23 two months ago Babs has to weigh her sense of guilt against her sense of duty.  Gail Simone writes this series like it’s her own, and truly her Barbara is the only one I want to read for the foreseeable future.
    • Forever Evil: Arkham War #1 takes a closer look at the mayhem in Gotham following the fall of the Justice League and the advent of the Crime Syndicate.  The Syndicate has rallied the evilest minds on the planet to their banner and in exchange for obedience they are given privileges to do as they like.  The Gothamite villains (mostly Arkham inmates) were given free reign over Gotham with Penguin named mayor.  Penguin in turn divided Gotham into districts each under the control of a powerful Arkham inmate.  Writer Peter Tomasi laid the groundwork for this series with two Villains Month issues: Scarecrow and Bane.  Both were pretty lackluster, but what they did do was set the tenor of these two characters for the purposes of this series.  Both Scarecrow and Bane have appeared in several Bat-titles since the inception of the New 52 and been written by multiple writers including Paul Jenkins, James Tynion IV, David Finch, and Gregg Hurwitz.  While neither Scarecrow or Bane have been altered in major ways, their modus operandi are tailored to fit the desired ends for this series’ plot.  With Bane bringing a moderately sized army of highly trained Santa Priscan mercenaries to Gotham war is on the horizon and Scarecrow is serving as the Paul Revere of Gotham, readying the “freaks” for a war with the fanatical juggernaut.  In the opening strokes of his plan Blackgate Prison falls to Bane, as do the Talons incarcerated therein in cryogenic stasis.  Professor Pyg reappears for the first time since Grant Morrison wrapped up his opening run of Batman & Robin.  The horrific experiments going on in his district proves the full depth of his depravity.  With Gotham Memorial Hospital and its medical supplies in his sphere of influence, his allegiance is integral with war looming and could shift the balance. Bane is a tactical genius as well as a badass with an army of two thousand fanatically loyal foot soldiers battle hardened in one of the worst places on Earth.  However, he’s going up against the equally keen mind of the Penguin and a collection of the sickest men and women in the DC universe, and the Crime Syndicate doesn’t care who comes out on top.  On the contrary, they welcome it, as the conflict will purge the weak from their midst. Neither side can rest on their laurels and what is about to ensue is a grandmaster chess tournament in the decimated streets of Gotham.  Tomasi and artist Scot Eaton have the entire Batman pantheon at their disposal, as the cover hints, and appear to be making good use of it.  This series is shaping up to be a tangent of Forever Evil that shouldn’t be missed.
    • Green Lantern Corps #24 continues the unthinkable events of “Lights Out” into its second installment.  No one thought that Oa could be destroyed, and yet after the final moments of Green Lantern #24 that is precisely the jagged pill the entire Green Lantern Corps are forced to swallow.  Green Lantern Corps #24 picks up the pieces from that horrible moment and focuses on how the Corps of Will will face this most personal, dispiriting defeat and pick themselves up to fight for the last thing they have: each other.  Relic has proven that he is not able to be defeated by the full might of the Green Lantern Corps, having already seriously wounding hundreds.  To affect an evacuation John Stewart and a contingent of handpicked Lanterns take the fight to the ancient juggernaut, not to defeat him, but to distract him so the bulk of the Green Lantern Corps can find refuge elsewhere.  Cowriters Van Jensen and Robert Venditti plot this issue so exquisitely in the heartbreaking situations they create and decisions these Lanterns make in the “do-or-die” last moments of Oa.  One Lantern makes the ultimate sacrifice, validating their ring’s choice of their worthiness and then some.  What this issue and its fellows represent is the ending of an era and the beginning of an ENTIRELY new Green Lantern status quo.  When Geoff Johns took over the title, resurrecting it after a decade of neglect, he changed the rules of the game as it had been known for forty-odd years, creating or retrofitting new lantern corps for each hue of light.  Robert Venditti is basically doing that again with the advent of Relic and this “Lights Out” plotline.  Only time will tell if it is successful, but so far I am impressed with the gravity and pathos he has imbued thusfar.GreenLanternCorps24-1

      GreenLanternCorp24-2

      Death of a Lantern, Death of a World.

    • Nightwing #24 concludes the first arc of the series following the massive paradigm shift of “Death of the Family.”  After the Joker enacts the final coup de grace to Dick Grayson’s dream of resurrecting Haly’s Circus (the circus he and his parents performed in before their fateful accident) Dick decides to move to Chicago.  For the most part it was because he needed to distance himself from Gotham and the cold machinations of Batman, but the larger part was the revelation that the man who killed his parents, Tony Zucco, was alive and well, living in the Windy City.  When Dick blows into town he finds a city that seems relatively “clean” compared to Gotham.  Considering that we’re talking about Chicago irony abounds and sets a picture of how bad Gotham must be.  However, as the plot unfolds over the first several issues it is shown that Chi-town is still as corrupt as it’s always been with Mayor Wallace Cole protecting Zucco with a false identity and an advisory position.  With that kind of grift going on an anti-heroic persona called the Prankster makes the scene, revealing the corrupt dealings in very theatrical, dramatic ways that often times skew toward the violent.  The best example being his forcing an alderman who stole millions of dollars to bring several thousand to a specific location and throwing him into a pit with wolves.  If the alderman burns the money bill by bill he can keep the wolves at bay.  However, the bills burn at a certain rate which makes their quantity versus the time it would take the police to find him a very close call.  They get there in time to save him, but the bills had run out and the alderman is missing an arm when he’s pulled out.  Such is the Prankster.  But while he may seem like a Robin Hood styled anti-heroic outlaw revolutionary figure, this issue displays how untrue that assumption is as well as the Prankster’s REAL aim.  Nightwing is the only person who can stop the chaos erupting from Prankster’s vendetta and what’s more the person helping him is Tony Zucco!  Kyle Higgins has been writing this series since issue #1 and has stayed on the title for a very simple reason:  He can WRITE Dick Grayson like the best of them.  His Nightwing is compelling, complicated, and very personal.  He takes the reader through the plots he faces as though they were inside Dick’s head and had his entire life as their precedents for reaction.  Will Conrad provides gorgeous art that is different, but equally appropriate to his predecessor, Brett Booth’s.  With Higgins is on this title, it is not to be missed.
    • Worlds’ Finest #16 enters the series into an interim period, taking a break from the Apokaliptian menaces left in our world after Great Darkseid’s invasion of our Earth in Justice League 1-6.  The main threat in the series, Desaad, who posed as the errant industrialist Michael Holt, not only tore apart Helena and Karen’s lives, but also stole Karen’s company Starr Industries.  After the events of issue #15 Desaad has emerged victorious, but also taked to the wind, his whereabouts and activities unknown.  What is known is the detrimental effect that final encounter had on Karen Starr, aka Power Girl, depriving her of her powers.  At issue’s opening Helena is staking out arson at fashion shows and Karen is recovering her company from Desaad’s human cronies and attempting to get her powers back.  Following this paradigm shift the issue follows the two tracking a bald young woman of ambiguous heritage, covered in what look like tribal tattoos.  She is the one setting the fires and she also has the abilities to manipulate jet black constructs, either shadow based or generated from her tattoos.  Paul Levitz sets up events, but doesn’t provide too much information as to where the plot is going or its overall relevance to overarching stroylines he’s been working toward for 17 issues.  Considering his talent and the incredible job he’s done so far, Levitz is allowed to have an issue or two to just muck around.  Even in his down moments, he puts out a helluva good comic.
    • Superman/Wonder Woman #1 is an exceptional surprise.  After months of negative reactions on the internet, the issue is finally out and it’s amazing!  The whole hubbub arose from an unfortunate turn of phrase artist Tony S. Daniel dropped at Toronto Fan Expo that this book would hopefully encourage female readership by emulating the “Twilight” franchise with some romance, a little sex appeal, and action.  This seemed to offend both male and female readers with the comparison to awful storytelling and especially offended female fans with the concept that they were being pandered to.  Comment aside, the title seemed to have infinite promise so for the past several months I’ve kept an attitude of “wait and see” optimism.  I maintained that same attitude during the also “Twilight” compared redux of Lobo and was rewarded with possibly the WORST DC comic I have EVER read.  Just awful.  Superman/Wonder Woman, on the other hand, turned out to be a very thoughtful, intelligent examination of the burgeoning relationship between the Man of Steel and the Mighty Amazon.  I have to state my bias up front, though.  I wasn’t excited about the pairing of Wonder Woman with Superman initially, feeling that DC was pandering to their readers with overzealous fanboy fantasies.  Geoff Johns pulled it out eventually by highlighting that both characters are strangers in a strange land.  What this series’ writer Charles Soule does is take a deeper examination of that relationship.  Topically, the two have outsider status in common, but apart from that they are very different.  Superman, as an extension of Clark Kent, is a very reserved Zen character who exists under the radar, not drawing undue attention to himself or making a show of his innate abilities.  Wonder Woman on the other hand is the daughter of Zeus, born into a proud warrior race that exalts strength and ability.  Therein lies a diametric difference between the two superheroes.  Wonder Woman is slightly put off by his reservedness about himself, but more so about their relationship.  However, both try to gently acclimate themselves to each other’s ways, because while they are different they do love each other.  Superman and Wonder Woman are paradigms of masculinity and femininity respectively, but also American icons wearing the colors of our flag in their costumes.  In just this first issue, Soule maintains both these aspects of the characters, but puts a very refreshing dimension to these facets.  Superman is a very masculine character that exhibits hallmark traits of the male psyche, such as doing the heavy lifting or going into danger first, but he also is the more demure party in the quieter moments and passively lets a lot of things happen around him.  Wonder Woman is rendered as a very feminine character, but is also portrayed as the more assertive figure both in the active courting in the relationship as well as the more outspoken heroic figure.  They are opposites, but at the same time complement each other in most ways.  As American symbols they harken back to the ideal that America is an immigrant nation.  An interesting happenstance in the American experiment was people from very different ethnic communities coming together in mutual attraction across wide gaps of cultural differences.  Diana is very much an immigrant from a society that has strong traditions and customs.  Clark’s an interesting case, as he was born on another planet with its own unique culture, but from infancy he was raised in Kansas with only secondhand understanding of his heritage.  So Diana represents first generation immigrants, and Clark represents the split second generation juggling their host culture with that of their forbearers.  Diana’s rooting in the mindset of her proud Amazon heritage confounds her as she looks at both the subtleties of Clark’s Midwestern sensibilities and his isolationist Kryptonian ones.  It even hurts her to think he might be ashamed to be associated with her publicly, but instead of assuming the worst, she seeks to close the gap by showing him her culture and keeping an open mind about that American culture he grew up with and perhaps later his Kryptonian one.  The latter part might be something dealt with in another issue, but that remains to be seen.  In terms of characterization, this is a Wonder Woman issue.  In terms of story development, this issue dealt much more on the Superman/Clark Kent aspect, working toward fleshing out the development of the indie news blog Clark is working on with Cat Grant.  However, the issue’s gravitas for Superman fans comes with the revelation of the villain at the issue’s end.  I am surprised that “he” showed up in this series and not another of the Super-books, but the possibilities inherent in his advent only enrich the title.  Needless to say, Charles Soule’s writing is impeccable. Art-wise, Tony Daniel takes that lead and brings it home.  His Superman and Wonder Woman are gorgeous creatures, but that’s no surprise.  Daniel drew both in Justice League #13-14, and drew Superman in Action Comics #19-21.  The sum total of two consummate professionals is pure comic excellence.

      The Worlds of Superman and Wonder Woman.

      The Worlds of Superman and Wonder Woman.

  • FBP (Federal Physics Bureau) #4 resumes while FBP agents Jay Kelly and Adam Hardy are still in the bubble universe that is on the verge of collapse, endangering everyone caught inside.  That collapse is hastened by Jay’s planting of explosives in key areas within the bubble.  Jay and Adam were sent in to extract James Crest, CEO of Crest Corps, currently undergoing S.E.C. investigation.  But before he extracts his target, Adam goes for a face-to-face with his “partner.”  Jay attempted to kill him upon entry and Adam wants to know why.  Though Jay can’t give him the answers he wants, he begins the slow revelation of a conspiracy to exploit the nature of the unhinged laws of physics.  Following the conclusion of the bubbleverse incident writer Simon Oliver delves into the very real subject of the privatization of government services.  Here it is the privatization of “Physics Protection.”  The characters of Adam and his boss Cicero Deluca take on new depth in this issue, showing how they deal with the mounting pressure put on their agency a following the SNAFU of Jay’s betrayal.  Both in the science-fiction aspects and allegory to our current political temperature, FBP is a series to watch.

    The New Name if Physics Protection.

    The New Name if Physics Protection.

  • Coffin Hill #1 is either a tantalizing first issue to an amazing series or a hollow, abstruse beginning of a contrived one.  It’s hard to say, because there is a MAJOR disconnect between the present and the past with next to no logical segue.  In 2013 we meet police rookie Eve Coffin who catches a serial killer called the “Ice Fisher” who targets young women.  She goes home and is shot by a friend’s boyfriend and nearly dies.  Flashing back to 2003 we see a teenaged Eve who was the scion of a venerated New England family with a haunted reputation.  As she describes it via narration: “Old blood. Old money.  Old secrets.”  Following her past exploits we see a posh world of lavish, debauch parties steeped in old world mysticism.  We also see a very neglected childhood with WASP-ish parents that disdain her existence and whose marked dislike emboldens the bad behavior that fuels it, creating a vicious cycle of familial discord.  Escaping this, she and her friends enact a ritual from an old family spellbook Eve swipes from her parents’ study.  The results are bloody, but enigmatic.  Cut back to the present with Eve quitting the force and moving back home to Coffin Hill.  As the quality of this series’ story is up in the air, so too is the writing of Caitlin Kittredge, although her framing of dialogue and the plot she chooses to reveal are very well written, if not well done.  Artist Inaki Miranda is the most consistent variable within the comic.  Her art is sleek, sumptuous, and evocative of the haunted ambiance created by Kittredge’s script.  In retrospect this could be a phenomenal first issue.  If the plot doesn’t develop, it could be remembered as a strawman issue.  I will continue reading and find out which.

    The Life of Eve Coffin.

    The Life of Eve Coffin.

This week did not disappoint in the quality of the issues carried forward from August nor in the inherent promise of their subjects.  At its least enjoyable moments there was still the promise of payoff in the future.  That’s a good week!

 

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman #24: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Danny Miki.

Green Lantern Corps #24: Art by Bernard Chang, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo.

Superman/Wonder Woman #1: Drawn by Tony S. Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by BATT.

FBP #4: Art by Robbi Rodriguez, Colored by Rico Renzi.

Coffin Hill #1: Art by Inaki Miranda, Colored by Eva De La Cruz.

Week 87 (May 1, 2013)

I am SUPER overdue on this week of reviews, which is a shame because it was one of the best, comprised of some hallmark issues. Unfortunately, some of my paying writing jobs have gotten in the way of this enjoyable hobby blog.  I’ll stop with the long winded intros and just get the long overdue reviews.  Enjoy:

  • Action Comics #20 moves into the the second issue of a new era in Action Comics.  Cowriter Andy Diggle and cowriter/artist Tony Daniel left Superman recovering from a nanite infection that turned his hand into what looked like a living metal clawed monstrosity.  This issue has him waking up in the care of the brilliant and seductive Dr. Shay Veritas after his initial infection.  She teleported him away from the population to ensure their safety, but apparently Superman’s super immune system was able to separate the infection from his body.  However, the nanite virus, still in the shape of the clawed hand, maintains its bite.  The virus apparently was able to latch onto his DNA and sap many of his talents and abilities into its own hybrid genetic code.  Succeed or fail, this synthetic mutating virus is the opening salvo in Lex Luthor’s renewed war with Superman.  The next move in the chess game with the Man of Steel proves to be a nightmare straight out of a George Romero movie.  Following in the tradition of the $3.99 titles, writer Scott Lobdell and assistant dialoguist Frank Hannah begin a World of Krypton backup feature with the help of Philip Tan on pencils.  This feature begins with a young Jor-El discovering an ancient underwater city built by a pre-Kryptonian species.  His exploration, though groundbreaking and rewriting everything that had been known about Krypton’s natural history, doesn’t fail to annoy his fellow members of the Science Council, nor the Military Guild who guard them and who are holding an emergency vote on a key issue of great importance to the stability of Kryptonian governance.  In the wake of their disgruntled waiting, we see Lara Lor-Van (Superman’s mom and Jor-El’s future wife) maligning the starry eyed visionary and also find that she is at this moment engaged to her partner in the Military Guild, Jax-Ur.  Quite interesting for the Superman faithful, because Jax-Ur is a renowned Kryptonian criminal of great infamy in all Superman mythologies.  Ending on an explosive note, this first installment of World of Krypton accomplishes SO much!!!   The political balance of Krypton is established quite well, as are the characteristics of several important characters.  Jor-El and his future wife Lara are both obvious, playing well toward their depictions in Lobdell’s Superman #0, which we saw last September.  Also featured briefly, but certainly of prominence is Kra-Hu, the Afro-Kryptonian senior member of the Science Council who seems to be Jor-El’s mentor and father figure in the Kryptonian governmental structure.  Jax-Ur, engaged to Lara and predating his criminal destiny, will no doubt cut an interesting figure as well with Lobdell’s attention to canon and genius of innovation balancing toward a nice middle ground.  Everything about this new arc in Action Comics has me giddy as a school boy.  Keep it coming, DC!!!

    Beware the Claw!

    Beware the Claw!

  • Detective Comics #20 is in essence the endgame to writer John Layman’s open arc on this title.  With his opening issues he’d paved the way for the slow rise of Ignatius Ogilvy in the shadow of his boss, the Penguin’s grandiose bid to claim a place in the public eye of Gotham.  Using this distraction he was able to wrest the Penguin’s empire out from under his feet and establish an iron grip on Gotham’s underworld, installing himself as “Emperor Penguin.”  Well, now with Penguin in prison and his power base entrenched he steps out of the shadows and calls the Batman out.  Suicidal right?  Not entirely.  Ogilvy had this whole drama choreographed to the last movement and the Bat finds himself more than evenly matched when he meets Emperor Penguin face to face.  What Batman finds is no longer a human being, but rather a nightmare comprised of bits of all his nemeses.  Kurt Langstrom’s man-bat serum in his blood, mixed with Bane’s super-steroidal venom, and Poison Ivy’s plant elixir giving him bark-like armored skin beneath the course bat hair.  Quite frankly, with his analytical mind and enhancements, Ogilvy has the Bat outmatched.  Who will save him?  The answer will surprise you.  In the backup feature, also written by Layman, we are given a look at the childhood and rationale behind Ogilvy’s meteoric rise through the Gotham underworld.  His journey started when he was a child leaving a movie theater in a bad part of Gotham and his mother and father gunned down in front of his eyes.  Mirroring Batman’s traumatic catalyzing event, Ogilvy went the other direction from Batman, not seeking to end crime but rather to immerse himself in it and control it from the top echelon.  From Blackgate prison he narrates all of this and shows his preternatural ability to navigate circles of power and insert himself into the key positions through a Machiavellian display of cunning and physical strength.  Ogilvy came out of nowhere in the world of comics.  He has existed for less than a year and already John Layman has set him up as a Batman character of the highest caliber.  Kudos, Mr. Layman.  I had deep reservations about your competence at handling this title and you proved me infinitely wrong.  Layman is the man for Detective Comics.  Long may he write.

    The Emperor of Gotham

    The Emperor of Gotham

  • Aquaman #19 was a late addition to the roster, laid over from last month’s lineup.  Aquaman continues to struggle with the weight of the crown he once forsook for a simpler life.  Now it weighs heavier than ever as he is forced to “swim against the tide” of his usurping his younger brother Orm’s throne and his defense of the surface despite the catastrophic war between Atlantis and the United States.  To rally his troops he takes them against the submariner terrorist called the “Scavenger.”   Upon the engaging of one of the Scavenger’s submarine’s Arthur and his chosen elite discover a ghastly secret.  On land Mera is abducted by the resurrected Dead King of Atlantis, the first to sit upon the throne.  We have heard tell of him starting with the first arc, “The Trench” where the fish-men monsters are introduced, then later with the introduction of the Dead King’s scepter in the next arc “The Others”, and finally in the previous “Throne of Atlantis” crossover.  Now we see the ancient monarch for the first time and he is chilling.  Finally, this issue surprises with the reappearance of a shocking figure from her past.  Geoff Johns has been teetering this series between quality and throwaway storytelling.  The political intrigue following “Throne of Atlantis” and very personal depictions of the main characters amidst the aforementioned arc’s fallout is really engaging at this point and well worth the read.
  • Green Arrow #20 is a title I have begun to look forward to month to month.  Following Jeff Lemire’s taking up the title with issue #17 this series has gone from tragic joke to a hard-edged, thrill-a-minute roller-coaster ride.  Ollie Queen has lost it all!  His company has been forcefully ceased by a rival businessman, Lacroix, who also dons a black hood and mask, kidnaps his two employees/confidantes, murders one, and attempts to kill him using archery skills that rival Ollie’s.  To top that off a blind wiseman named Magus leads Ollie down a rabbit hole of discovery, pointing him in the direction of Lacroix’s (nom-de-guerre Komodo) secret lair with a picture of the enigmatic businessman/assassin with Ollie’s dad, Robert Queen ON THE ISLAND OLLIE WAS STRANDED ON!!!  Obviously this was before Ollie was stranded on it, but still more than coincidental and raising the question of how Lacroix, Ollie’s father’s death, and so many other things tie into a larger plan?  This issue opens with Ollie having escaped his first encounter with Komodo by the skin of his teeth and regrouping.  Komodo returns to his lair to make contact with the group he works for, the Outsiders.  This isn’t the para-Batman army we have seen in the past or anything like it.  This is a new Outsiders and their significance is crucial, tying into this series and Katana.  Ollie has it out with Komodo a second time in this issue and this second encounter not only ups the ante but showcases just how intelligent, versatile, and strong-willed Ollie truly is when lives are at stake.  Jeff Lemire is KILLING IT!!! This series is ridiculously awesome and in no small part thanks to artist Andrea Sorrentino’s stark rendering of the plot in stark light/color vs. black/shadow styling.  Just a phenomenal series so far and one not to be missed.

    The Outsiders

    The Outsiders

  • Batwing #20 begins a dubious new direction in this title’s future.  David Zavimbe was created by Grant Morrison to be a Batman for the continent of Africa.  A large task, but one that David could feasibly achieve considering his personal history as a child soldier in Africa and his experiences since growing up in a complex, corrupt political structure.  The first 20 issues (including Batwing #0) all show very vividly how intricate the balance of power leans in parts of West Africa.  New writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have retired Zavimbe and decided to replace him with Luke Fox, son of Wayne Enterprises Executive Lucius Fox.  Luke Fox whose only link to Africa is that he is African American.  To me it seems kind of racist that they would assume that if you are black you are interchangeable.  Just because your ancestors came from Africa doesn’t mean you have a preternatural knowledge of African history and the inner workings of the post-colonial political workings of dozens of nations.  Luke makes a joke about it in this issue, but despite them joking about it Palmiotti and Gray still made that decision.  Perhaps they have a goal in mind that will validate the concept, but they have a long way to prove that.  One thing Luke does have is enthusiasm and conviction.  Going to an undisclosed part of Africa, Luke faces off against a criminal organization called the the Marabunta that run money and guns to warlords and terrorist organizations throughout Africa.  In his descent into their world he battles a woman in insectoid-mech armor called “Lady Marabunta” and an anthropomorphic lion named Lord Lion-Mane.  The issue is entertaining and intriguing.  My objections remain unrebutted so far, but its only been one issue.  I will say that Palmiotti and Gray with the help of artists Eduardo Panisca and Julio Ferreira have earned another issue.
  • Swamp Thing #20 brings forth the second issue of the massive paradigm shift between Scott Snyder’s incredible inaugural run on the title and that of new series writer Charles Soule.  The issue itself is really well written and the plotline pretty rough.  Last issue, Scarecrow was trying to steal a rare flower from the Metropolis Botanical Garden when Swamp Thing stepped in to stop him.  Scarecrow unleashed his fear toxin on Swamp Thing causing the avatar of the Green to freak out and thereby the plants within the City of Tomorrow to utterly freak out by extension.  Inside his head, Swamp Thing sees Alec Holland living the life he would have led if he hadn’t been made into Swamp Thing.  He sees a life with Abby Arcane with a lovely house and children.  Everything is perfect except when he comes into his dream life, bringing the power of the Green with him.  Living out his deepest fear upon committing himself completely to the Green, he must face the real possibility that he will slowly lose his humanity and in so doing bring death and destruction upon all the people he comes into contact with at the behest of his plant-like masters.  Outside of his inner delusions his control of the Green is making monstrous vines, trees, venus fly-traps, etc, tear Metropolis apart and fulfill the very nightmare that bore them, that Swamp Thing will hurt all the people he comes into contact with.  Superman of course comes to the rescue of his adoptive city, takes out the main threats, such as the massive vines taking down a suspension bridge, then susses out the cause and intervenes to snap Swamp Thing out of his stupor.  Swamp Thing initially came to Metropolis to talk to Superman and ask him about the how to cope with his powers and the fear of those same powers robbing him of his humanity.  Superman is pretty harsh, albeit fair, and lays down some very harsh truths.  There is, however, a note of optimism at the end of his sermon that might just be what will redeem Swamp Thing.  Charles Soule, with Kano’s awesome art, really spins a beautiful Swamp Thing yarn that seems to wrap up in a two issue mini-arc.  The final page of the issue seems to be the start of an interesting new development to take us into Soule’s second, semi-connected story arc. I greatly anticipate it.

    Wisdom of Superman

    Wisdom of Superman

  • Earth 2 #12 concludes the introduction of Doctor Fate.  Khalid Ben-Hassin has fought for years the influence of Nabu and falling under the thrall of the ancient mage as well as that of his totem, the helmet of Fate.  No more.  Last issue Khalid accepted his destiny and donned Fate’s helmet becoming Doctor Fate.  Now he and Nabu’s ancient foe, Wotan, go head to head for the first time in centuries in a blaze of sorcery and hexes over the skies of Boston.  Meanwhile in China, Alan Scott (Green Lantern) and  Kendra Munoz-Saunders (Hawkgirl) investigate the death of Alan’s lover, Sam.  In Macau they find storage containers at the docks full of decaying parademon corpses neatly stacked within.  The plot thickens as the question is raised as to what they are doing there and how do they fit into Sam’s murder.  This is put on hold as Green Lantern is drawn to Boston by his ring to aid in the relief effort of the magical battle.  Writer James Robinson really is sewing up the plot of this book by moving individual storylines forward, such as Alan’s investigation of Sam’s murder and the fallout of the Apocalypse invasion years prior, while at the same time introducing exquisitely new characters like Khalid’s Doctor Fate and folding them into the plot.  By issue’s end, Flash, Green Lantern, and Fate are brought together just in time for another plot point Robinson is skillfully sewing back into the main plot: Steppenwolf.  With this issue the world has learned that Darkseid’s uncle and one of the most dangerous men in the multiverse is being harbored, as well as ruling, the independent republic of Dherain.  There is a great deal afoot at present and Robinson has given himself a very advantageous position plot-wise to move forward from.  I very much look forward to future installments of this series, especially since Mister Miracle and his wife, Big Barda, are also in the offing.  Nicola Scott’s art on this series is another aspect not to be missed, especially when given such round and incredible characters to depict.
  • Worlds’ Finest #12 begins a dark chapter in the journeys of Power Girl and Huntress.  Picking up from last issue we find that the newly returned Michael Holt is in fact Desaad, torturer to Darkseid and one of Apokalips’ most dangerous New Gods.  He attacks Helena and Karen, but when they defend themselves and return his assaults, they discover that Desaad still has an illusion over himself that keeps people seeing him as Michael Holt, upright business mogul and scientist, and the two superheroines as thugs who are attacking him for seemingly no reason.  That discovered, they are forced to beat a hasty retreat and re-assess the situation.  However, Desaad is a creature that operates on many fronts.  Starr Industries (run by the disguised Power Girl) begins to drop in its stock value and have its top researches wooed away to other companies, and one of their top research facilities explodes.  However, this is not the most shocking thing that happens in this issue.  Paul Levitz is a genius.  This series is one of his crowning achievements.  The plot segues so nicely into a bookend for the above mentioned Earth 2, following exiles from that world in ours and showing how their odyssey is tied into the events happening concurrently on their homeworld.
  • The Movement #1 was a bit of a disappointment.  I was eagerly anticipating it due to its penning by master comic writer Gail Simone, but unfortunately Simone doesn’t live up to her reputation here.  Perhaps its the premise of the piece.  Set as a “point/counterpoint” piece with the new title The Green Team, this book and its sister series are supposed to be comics representing the 99% and the 1% of America and their place in the DCU.  The product is super-trite.  Elements of social commentary can come into comics effectively when done in thought provoking ways, but this blatant attempt to force the issues seems really forced and uninspired.  I could bemoan it much more, but I will stop.  I couldn’t find anything redeeming to say about it.  A shame that it couldn’t do what it set out to do, but in my opinion it fell flat.  I will read The Green Team, but I assume it will also fall flat.
  • Phantom Stranger #8 is an apocalyptic issue insofar as it features the “death” of the Stranger (something few even thought possible) and in his death reveals what has really been happening in the past several issues.  Issues #0, 1, and 2 key us into the Stranger’s role as a betrayer and agent of transcendental neutrality.  The last six have followed the Stranger’s attempt to locate his kidnapped wife and children.  This issue gives resolution as to what did happen to them and who was behind their abduction, but even more intriguing is the revelation of how the Phantom Stranger, the most asexual, ambivalent being in the universe, could come to have a wife and kids.  Philip Stark and his family existed before the Phantom Stranger entered into any of their lives and in point of fact, his co-opting of them and Stark’s life create a poignant, humanizing moment for him.  Dan Didio and co-writer J.M. DeMatteis have created an incredible series that has taken the concept of the Phantom Stranger and not only made him relatable to readership, but actually sympathetic.  When we have seen him briefly here and there in the past decade or so, it has often times been him heralding a crisis and then making matters more difficult than necessary for the heroes involved.  In this series we have seen that representation unchanged, but we also see how he is forced to do these things and the demons and displeasures they engender in his metaphorical heart (which DOES exist).  The series has been phenomenal , but issue #8 stands as a call to arms for readership as to HOW good the series is and has the potential to be in future.  Long story short:  READ IT!
  • Legends of the Dark Knight #8 delivers two more astounding tales of the Dark Knight.  In the first story, entitled “Carved”, writer Paul Tobin and artist Tadd Moore tell the tale of a kidnapper/thief in Gotham who abducts people and objects and replaces them with exact replicas sculpted out of mahogany.  Already there is a great setup for a psychological villain, which is an interesting turn for Batman.  Most of his foes are theatrical, but this one is just a person with deep seated issues, enveloped in a very methodical psychosis.  A fascinating, extremely well written story.  The next one, “Unnatural Selection”, written by Ricardo Sanchez and drawn by Sergio Sandoval also provides a very out of the box, rarely attempted story in the Batman titles.  A series of grisly murders leads the Dark Knight to a cryptotaxodermist’s creation of a Barghest.  Cryptotaxodermy is the creation of mythic animals from the parts of deceased members of its constituent parts, i.e. making a stuffed griffin from an eagle’s head, lion’s body, snake’s tail, etc.  However, how can a stuffed, fictitious creature murder a slew of people throughout Gotham?  The answer is very intriguing and quite fascinating to wrap one’s head around.  This story in particular touched me deeply in how tragic every aspect of it is. Every aspect.  However, both stories were AMAZING!  This series is a crap shoot, sometimes delivering the cheddar and other times falling flat.  I personally would suggest this issue for someone that wants a good reason to begin a long standing love affair with the character of Batman, or simply find out the potential inherent in Batman stories outside of the stereotypes of capes and masks that make up 90% of Batman stories.

And thus wraps the first week of May’s batch of comics.

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 #20: Drawn by Tony Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by Batt

Detective Comics #20:  Art by Jason Fabok, Colored by Jeremy Cox

Green Arrow #20:  Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo

Batwing #20:  Art by Eduardo Panisca & Julio Ferreira, Colored by Jason Wright

Swamp Thing #20: Drawn by Kano, Colored by Matthew Wilson, Inked by Alvaro Lopez

Week 83 (April 3, 2013)

  • Action Comics #19 ushers in a brand new era in the title with the departure of comics legend Grant Morrison from the book and the advent of Andy Diggle on stories and Tony S. Daniel on art.  Grant Morrison is just short of a godhood in the realm of 21st century comic lore and his nineteen issue run (#0 issue included) was an incredible, psychedelic roller-coaster ride that befits his vaunted reputation.  Large shoes to fill, but I still am excited by the Diggle/Daniel team up.  Andy Diggle is an incredible writer whose Green Arrow: Year One series was tight, concise, and a very good intro to the character for newbies.  Tony S. Daniel is one of my favorite writer/artists because of his attention to visual storytelling and the round, sumptuous lines of his artwork.  The two together prove to be a symphony really utilizing the characters and visual grandeur of the Superman line to the fullness of their potential.  Superman is young and idealistic and still at a stage prior to the events of Superman #1, as becomes blatantly clear with the introduction of a character already “introduced” to us in the future in that aforementioned Superman issue.  Daniel draws him with youthful exuberance and a stoic concern when he is tested by bad men in big machines.  Lex Luthor, also a character in this arc, is quite different than the only time we have met him in the first six issue arc of Morrison’s run.  There he was a little chunky and arrogant.  Here he is lean, and has shed his cavalier attitude for an ice cold demeanor that is very wolf-like and predatory.  He is infinitely complex and his mental psyche is explored quite candidly in a very terse scene with his psychiatrist.  Diggle writes him exquisitely and Tony Daniel’s art captures all of his ominous potential in some very chilling expressions.  To put it mildly, this new Action line up is incredible.  Though Morrison has moved on, the title will continue to shine brightly as a star in the DC crown, thanks to two of the most promising creators in the medium.

    A Wife's Love

    The Psychiatrist and the Psychopath

  • Detective Comics #19 (#900) was an issue to remember and a reminder of how pissed I am at DC for renumbering their books.  If they had not gone through with the renumbering as a result of the Reboot this would have been issue #900.  They didn’t make note of it either on the cover, even for this MOMENTOUS occasion, considering no other title in comics, besides Action (WHICH GOT THE #900 ON THE COVER!) has ever reached that landmark.  That said, going into it there was a lot of pressure on them to do it right.  In Action Comics #900 writer Paul Cornell capped off what was perhaps one of the most massive Lex Luthor stories ever told and truly blew the reader away with a testimonial as to just how deep Luthor’s hatred for Superman runs.  In this 900th issue of the title that launched Batman in the late 30’s current writer John Layman had to pick a topic to write about that segued into his current run on the book while at the same time telling a story quintessentially enmeshed in the Batman mythos.  The Joker was not possible, because Scott Snyder already used him up two months ago.  The Scarecrow was a decent option, except that he’s been overused of late.  Penguin is a part of the story, but still not quite right.  Layman chose to find the answer in the name of his main character. Bat . . . Man.  Man . . . Bat.  Apparently in the Reboot Kurt Langstrom hasn’t been introduced into Batman’s scope and thus the introduction of a viral version of his serum that infects people and turns them into literal bat-men and women leads to his New 52 debut.  The story is fast paced, clean, engaging, well thought out and if one ignores the annoying contradictions arising from the links to the semi-rebooted Batman Incorporated series, which is predicated on Batman knowing about Kurt Langstrom LONG before this point, its absolutely perfect.  As with Action Comics #900 there are also other shorter pieces that tie integrally into the Batman character, paying homage to it’s impact on the world at large.  As is usually the case, Layman follows up on the main story with a backup feature that highlights a loose end brought up in the main story with Andy Clarke providing beautiful art.  Without giving too much away, it tells the story of Francine Langstrom, Kurt’s wife, and how she met and fell in love with her husband.  Following the tragic fate of her husband this feature shows the true depth of her love for him, which honestly made me mist up a little.  Coupled with the main story, these two make the issue worth $7.99 by themselves.  James Tynion IV, cowriter of Talon, with the help of Justice League Dark artist, Mikel Janin, tells the next tale which features Bane on his island haven of Santa Prisca that connects his disappearance at the end of Batman: The Dark Knight #7 to a coming appearance in Talon #7.  Though the beauty of Janin’s art seems to clash with the harshness of the subject material, it’s still a delight to look at precisely for that reason.  John Layman then finishes the issue off with two more short stories.  One explaining why Ogilvy engineered the Manbat infestation and what happened during that chaotic night, as well as introducing a twist in Penguin (Oswald Cobblepot’s) fate following last issue’s events.  Last but not least, he tells the story of a police officer recovering in Gotham Central Hospital from his transformation to a manbat and back to a person.  Most of the cops there hate Batman and hold no punches in talking trash about him.  The female police rookie from Batman #12 who had to guard Joker’s face is among the cops and she speaks out for the Caped Crusader.  After all the other cops leave in disgust, the injured cop in his hospital bed confides that Batman was the reason that he didn’t kill anyone as a manbat.  But for Batman he’d have been a murderer and for that reason he agrees to be her partner when no else would partner up with her.  Across the board this issue did Batman proud.  Quality storytelling and beautiful art, in both the stories themselves and the pinups between features.  Well worth the read for any Batman fan.

    A Wife's Love

    A Wife’s Love

  • Green Lantern #19 is a twofold issue.  On one side writer Geoff Johns is progressing the story toward Hal Jordan literally making the “leap” to becoming a Black Lantern.  As Johns hinted seven months ago, Hal is destined to be the greatest Black Lantern of all time.  Unthinkable as it may seem, Johns is taking us there and I for one cannot wait to see Hal in the black outfit, which we were cheated of seeing during Blackest Night by Barry Allen’s incredible speed.  The main plot this issue tackles is Sinestro falling under the scrutiny of Volthoom, the First Lantern.  In fact, Sinestro and his world of Korugar are precisely what Volthoom needed to fulfill his evil plans for the universe.  This is it though.  After this issue all that remains of the plot is Green Lantern #20.  Then Geoff John’s vision of Green Lantern will conclude itself with his departure from the series and a new day will dawn on the GL line of books.  I have to say that I am sad to see him leave.  This was one series that he consistently did right.  His long time collaborator, artist Doug Mahnke was absent again this issue, with Adrian Syaf and Szymon Kudranski splitting duties on artwork.  No doubt it’s to give Mahnke time to do the art on what is solicited to be a massive finale issue, but the choice of these two seems to be a logical one.  Syaf draws Sinestro quite well, endowing the fallen Green Lantern with all the arrogance and anger that befit him, and Kudranski’s eerily shadowed, monochromatic art sets a very stark tone for the Hal Jordan scenes taking place in the “Dead Zone.”  This issue is phenomenal, epitomizing what is essential about both Hal and Sinestro.
  • Green Arrow #19 is for the most part an extended duel between Green Arrow and his black clad nemesis, Komodo.  What is important about it is the psychology.  The interplay between these two archers not only informs the reader about archery in general from Ollie’s narration and the verbal repartee between the two, but also about the archers themselves.  Ollie’s deepest thoughts and drives are either told to us or insinuated through his actions and reactions to the events chronicled by writer Jeff Lemire.  Also a major twist is Komodo’s revelation as to the nature of Robert Queen’s (Green Arrow’s dad) death.  Ollie knew it was a helicopter crash that coincided with his marooning on the island, but the exact nature was unbeknownst to him until this issue.  Also of interest is Komodo and his daughter, Emiko.  Komodo, whose real name is Lacroix, looks to be Caucasian and his daughter, Emiko, from name and appearance looks to be Asian.  I only point out their racial characteristics because Komodo and his persona as a black archer seems to be much in the same vein as Merlyn the Magnificent and Emiko and her outfit when she suits up in this issue seems to be a very close (except in age) facsimile of the archer Shado from previous Green Arrow lore.  I am very curious to see if Lemire is rewriting the Green Arrow playbook or merely borrowing a few cues.  In any event, he delivers a stark, razor’s edge plotline that paints Ollie into a corner and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.  Though I admit to not being an Andrea Sorrentino fan, his artwork for this arc in Green Arrow is essential to establishing the feel that is imperative to Lemire’s vision.  The two together are like Lennon and McCartney.  If you had reservations about the character up until this point, you need to get the series from #17 and go forward from there.  Lemire and Sorrentino have resurrected the Emerald Archer back to his rightful place in comic book lore.

    The Truth Comes Out

    The Truth Comes Out

  • Earth 2 #11 ushers in a truly amazing issue of this dynamic title.  Last issue we were introduced to Wotan and given a brief glimpse into the history of the Helmet of Fate, housing the power and spiritual essence of the ancient mage, Nabu.  Here writer James Robinson takes us even further into the backstories of Nabu, Wotan, and the human, Khalid Ben-Hassin, who finds himself caught between these two mages in their titanic stuggle against one another.  The lion’s share of the issue’s narrative follows Khalid’s attempt to locate the helm he had forsaken in the past and his communing with Nabu’s spirit to locate it within the labyrinthine bowls of Fate’s Tower.  Nabu believes that Khalid is chose by fate and therefore the only man fit to bear his power, which is something Khalid has fought tooth and nail up until this very moment.  Why is that you ask? In their first encounter, after the young archaeologist’s discovery of the helmet in an unearthed Egyptian tomb, Nabu’s essence sought to supplant Khalid’s will and drove him to the brink of insanity.  Now with an inspiration to aspire to Khalid intends to brave oblivion and madness to become the hero his Earth desperately needs.  James Robinson and artist Nicola Scott knock this series out of the park with beautifully intricate and often moving plots and pictures.  What truly made this particular issue for me was a scene in the Eastern European country of Dherain where Steppenwolf dispatches his right hand, Fury (daughter of Wonder Woman), to hunt down two more exiled denizens of Apokalips.  Admittedly, this couple are my favorite Fourth Worlders.  I am on pins and needles for the next installment.

    Miracles Do Happen

    Miracles Do Happen

  • Worlds’ Finest #11 features the entrance of yet another Apokaliptian.  Huntress follows upon a lead connecting the sale of weapons powered by Apokalips technology to the money that has been siphoned from Wayne Enterprises.  That lead in North Africa leads her right back to Holt Industries, which Power Girl had been attacking like a harbinger of natural disaster last issue.  WE know that Michael Holt was transported to Earth 2, however,that precipitates the question of how he can be back on Earth 1?  Enter our mysterious Fourth Worlder, Desaad.  Paul Levitz writes this series so well, but this issue was a little dry.  Though I am intrigued by the advent of Desaad, this one took a little longer to come to the point.  Still an incredible series and one that has great promise in coming issues.
  • Swamp Thing #19 is not unlike Action Comics #19 above.  Scott Snyder’s inaugural run of this title was as seminal as Morrison’s on Action.  Both were innovative and redefined their respective series.  Charles Soule takes over Swamp Thing from Snyder and in the wake of what has been a very important, unique origin story, Soule takes Swamp Thing back to the role he held in all his previous incarnations: guardian of the Green.  This includes doing some things that are morally repugnant to him, including measures that lead to the deaths of many innocent people.  Despite being the warrior king of the Green Kingdom, Alec Holland hasn’t forgotten that he was once human and his duties do not fail to shake what remains of that humanity.  Taking a trip to the Metropolis Botanical Gardens, where he spent many hours during his graduate work to calm his soul, he runs into Scarecrow, himself on an errand from the mysterious society of supervillains hinted at in Justice League of America. Soule does an incredible job of taking this series by the horns and doing something new, yet appropriate to the continuation of the legacy he inherited.  Taking over art from Yanick Paquette and Marco Rudy is Spanish artist, Kano.  Kano provided art for Swamp Thing #0 and in my review for it, I quote myself as saying, “ I pray that he get a shot at another issue or two in future, maybe a whole arc, because his lines and style are so incredible.”  https://offthepanelcomicreview.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/week-53-sept-5-2012/ Wish granted.  He continues his exquisite art here and looks to be attached for the foreseeable future.  Like Supergirl, Superman, and Action, all of which have gone through major paradigm shifts, this series set the hook, ensuring for me at least continued readership.
  • Batwing #19 continues the era of change.  Those who have been keeping up with Batwing know that a reckoning is coming.  David Zavimbe is a good cop in a country rotting from its bowels in corruption.  He has lived under the assumption that good will and perseverance can win against evil.  Those beliefs have died with his bestfriend and mentor, Matu Ba.  Now Batwing is going to town with a tomahawk and NO ONE is sacred.  Neither friends nor enemies are safe from his wrath.  While his path up until this issue have been held retarded through moral restraint, this issue has him cutting through any impediment to justice like butter.  But in the end, its just a means for him to clean house before leaving his role as the Batman of Africa.  Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray take over with this issue to conclude David Zavimbe’s tenure as Batwing and inaugurate the his replacement.  Batman says that this new candidate was his “first choice” for Batwing.  Palmiotti and Gray are good writers, but I am questioning their choice of his replacement and what that means for Batman’s judgement.  I won’t spoil who he is, but I will say that though he is African, he’s actually African American, born and raised in Gotham.  It seems a little racist to me that they assume that a guy can represent peoples and places he has never been.  Just cause his ancestors were from Africa doesn’t mean that he can represent them.  Batman was born and raised in Gotham, Nightrunner (the Batman of France) though of North African extraction was raised in Paris, Mr. Unknown in Japan, etc.  I’m not impugning their rationale or saying they can’t pull it off, but Palmiotti and Gray have set up a pretty implausible foundation to their run and the series’ new direction.  Time will tell . . .

    Batwing Goes Out With A Bang

    Batwing Goes Out With A Bang

  • Phantom Stranger #7 continues the Stranger’s quest to find his abducted family.  On the way he meets up with the “Voice” in its form as a Scottish terrier.  While discoursing upon this religious  and philosophical the Voice leads the Phantom Stranger to the next person whom he is to betray: Jack Ryder.  A super conservative television newsman with an over inflated ego, Ryder finds his career on the rocks.  Yet in the darkest hour of Metropolis and in Superman’s absence, Ryder stays on the air to report the chaos occurring downtown, just outside the studio.  Dan Didio resurrects his version of the Challengers of the Unknown for this grand display of coalescing fear and fearlessness.  The Stranger yet again leads a human being unto their ruin and death, but the great betrayer finds himself at the spears edge of his own betrayal by ones very close to him and his past.  Dan Didio concocts a very compelling, mysterious series that draws the reader through a very diverse cross-section of the DCU.
  • Legends of the Dark Knight #7 presents a tale of Arkham Asylum rarely seen.  Inmates are seeing a ghost, as is the Dark Knight.  Following the strange occurrences, Batman is lead into a decades old murder case that ties to the staff of the Asylum and a restless “spirit.”  This series has produced some very intriguing tales surrounding the Batman, exploring the world that has developed around his actions and their consequences.  This one wasn’t the best developed so far.  The substance of this “vengeful spirit” and even the question of how she manifests is unanswered and rather lackluster.
  • Smallville: Season Eleven #12 packs quite a wallop, achieving quite a bit in one issue, and also concluding the four part “Haunted” arc.  Superman goes to-to-toe with the Black Flash in order to save Bart.  However, that is just an evasive tactic that can only go so far.  Bart invariably is the one that is destined to fight the Black Flash, which he accepts and does heroically.  Delving into the mind of her Earth 2 doppelganger, Chloe Sullivan relives the life of her other self on that other Earth and sees for the first time the Moniters who play harbinger to the “Crisis” Earth-2 Chloe foretold before her death.  Both of these two events hail dark tidings for the world of “Smallville”, but a few bright lights shine through the darkness.  Fighting the Black Flash allowed the radioactive isotope Lex put into Superman’s system as a tracking mechanism to fully dissipate, meaning that Clark can reunite with his fiancee, Lois Lane.  Lex’s dearly departed sister, Tess, has been a thorn in her brother’s side for sometime and with his resources, he is not one to allow a thorn to remain no matter how difficult it is to remove.  This issue gives Tess safe harbor in some respect from her brother’s dark machinations.  This series really holds up to its televised predecessor.

Week 79 (March 6, 2013)

This first week of March brings together a very decent batch of comics to kick off the month’s crop.  Superman #17 concludes the massive “H’el on Earth” event, Green Lantern #18 brings the “Wrath of the First Lantern” into the Realm of the Dead, Green Arrow #18 strides on towards redeeming the title, Swamp Thing and Animal Man FINALLY get their true conclusion to the “Rot World” crossover, and Before Watchmen: Rorschach also reaches its conclusion.  So much ending and so much marching on.  Here it goes:

  • Superman #17 was a little late, but delivered a blowout finale to the “H’el on Earth” crossover event.  At issue’s beginning NOTHING is going the right way for the heroes of Earth.  H’el’s craft has been fueled by the Sun’s electromagnetic field, which if not returned immediately would cause our solar system to collapse in on itself, ergo the Oracle arrival to witness the death of our world.  A high paced, thrill-a-minute issue, there is very little that can be said that doesn’t spoil the amazing events chronicled and concluded within.  What can be said is that the Justice League here is written head and shoulders above the team’s portrayal in their flagship title by Geoff Johns.  It’s almost like comparing a college thesis to a first grade science report.  Maybe now that Lobdell is on the verge of leaving Red Hood and the Outlaws he can take over Justice League and salvage it like he did Superman.  Lobdell truly shows his brilliance throughout this “H’el on Earth” event and artist Kenneth Rocafort draws it gorgeously in his incomparably style.  Literally, there is nothing that resembles is artwork in detail or in the surreal ambiance it elicits.  Truly A-grade material.   
  • Green Lantern #18 focuses almost entirely on Hal and Sinestro’s current exile in the “Dead Zone.”  There have been little snippets alluding to the fate of the two Lanterns after being sucked into the black ring at the end of the Green Lantern Annual this past August, but this issue finally reveals what the Dead Zone is, why they are there, and what its relevance to the existence of the First Lantern are.  As these last issues of the four Green Lantern titles progress, it is getting more and more apparent that the end is nigh.  The fundamental forces of the Universe are the enemies that dog our heroes as they progress toward that apocalyptic event that will be Green Lantern #20, out this May, and the end of the Green Lantern Universe as we’ve known it since 2005.  Simon Baz and Sinestro find their places in the coming showdown with Volthoom, the First Lantern, but Hal’s is perhaps the most frightening.  In the aforementioned Green Lantern Annual there was a prophesy in the Book of the Black that Hal Jordan will be the greatest Black Lantern.  This issue caps off on the precipice (literal and figurative) of his fulfilling that prediction.  Geoff Johns started this series from Rebirth like a rocket and it’s still soaring high with this phenomenal issue.  Series artist Doug Mahnke, who has been on the title since 2009 is absent this issue, replaced by Adrian Syaf, who draws the real world segments, and Szymon Kudranski, whose eerie art style aptly provides the Dead Zone portion.  Overall the issue tantalizes and informs in wonderful, captivating fashion.

    The Prophesy

    The Prophesy

  • Detective Comics #18 accomplishes two monumental things.  Firstly, and to lesser degree issue-wise, this installment of Detective Comics tells us that DC is playing for keeps with the death of Damian Wayne last week in Batman Incorporated #8.  It comprises a very small part of the plot, but the small scene of Bruce visiting the grave of his son is very powerful.  This is a man who buried his parents at a very young age, and now as an adult man scarred by that traumatic event and having dedicated his life to preventing such tragedies from happening again, he has to bury his ten year old son with whom he was just beginning to bond on a level I doubt he has since losing his parents.  Writer John Layman hints all of this beautifully in a mere two pages comprised of nine panels.  Brilliant.  The rest of the issue is dedicated to the aftermath of the Penguin’s part in the “Death of the Family” storyline.  Whisked away by the Joker, Penguin has been away from his empire and his holdings for a little too long and left them in the overly capable, but equally untrustworthy hands of his chief lieutenant, Ignatius Oglivy. Layman presented in the first issues of his run the establishment of himself as Gotham’s favorite son once again.  With that image, he keeps Batman at bay, preventing him from bringing punitive action against Penguin for his part in the Joker’s plot.  However, with his wealth and holdings withdrawn he is not able to evade Batman in the ways he had previously enjoyed.  Oglivy and Batman constitute two rivals whose indefatigability finally break the Penguin as he has never been broken before.  For those who view the Penguin as a keystone Batman villain, this first arc by John Layman tells a massive Penguin epic that promises to be one for which he will be remembered for years to come.  In the backup feature with art by guest artist Henrik Jonsson, Victor Zsasz gets his origin told for the first time, cementing his place in the New DCU canon.  Integrally tied into his origin is the Penguin, playing a part in his ruination that led him into the psychotic breakdown that lead to his obsession with chronicling his kills.  Their past and Penguin’s current state of vulnerability waxes ominous for Oswald Cobblepot in future issues of Detective.  Time will tell where and how far the Penguin will fall.

    Requiem for a Robin

    Requiem for a Robin

  • Before Watchmen: Rorschach #4 was, in my opinion, a little bit of a let down.  The series had promise as a blunt, hard edged look into an episode of Rorschach’s life that best exemplified his core essence.  Maybe that was the point and it just goes to show how pointless and nihilistic our modern society is.  Azzarello started the series out with a killer of women called the “Bard” carving poetry into the dead bodies of his victims.  On the other side of things, Rorschach goes up against a criminal kingpin called “Rawhead” owing to the massive scarring on his head from Vietnam.  In between fights with the underworld, Rorschach meets a cute waitress at his favorite all night restaurant, the Gunga Diner and they make plans to go on a date.  This waitress, Nancy, is approached by a man we know immediately to be the Bard at the end of the third issue.  Logically one would assume that there would be a connection, even a tertiary one, between Rawhead and the Bard so as to facilitate the two things happening at the same time.  Azzarello does not deliver on that and it is rather trite and arbitrary, which may be realistic, but is far from literary or cinematic, making the story fall apart at the end with little to walk away with.  Lee Bermejo doesn’t disappoint throughout all four issues and is the only consistently quality factor.
  • Swamp Thing #18 is the true conclusion to the “Rot World” event as well as Scott Snyder’s run on the title.  Scott Snyder is the one who truly got this series off the ground and imbued it with the genius that made it the success it was.  Creating with Jeff Lemire the idea of the Red to go alongside the concept of the Green which Swamp Thing has served since the 80’s, as well as taking perrenial Swamp Thing antagonist Anton Arcane and molding him and his into the avatars of a third force, the Rot, Synder has reimagined and reinvigorated what was once an incredible title into an even more complex, engaging series.  With the help of the Parliament of Rot, Swamp Thing and Animal Man  are sent through a portal through the very fabric of death itself back to before Anton Arcane finished his bid to turn our world into Rot World.  In this way, Alec Holland is returned to Abby before her uncle can kill her.  And by that same token he is able to actualize in her the potential for which she was born and that which will prevent the Rot from inheriting the Earth.  This issue was truly spectacular, with both triumphant events readers have been anticipating for almost two years and tragic events they’ve been fearing to witness.  Scott Snyder crescendoes with this final issue of his run, nailing it down and assuring the continued survival and success of the title while also adding his name to the list of visionaries who have been custodian of it, namely Len Wein and Alan Moore.  Artist Yanick Paquette also concludes his run on the series, which was another factor that led to its success.  His floral panels made in nonlinear layouts made the title free flowing and organic looking.  His depiction of Abby Arcane was both strong and sensual which taken with Snyder’s writing made her a captivating heroine.  Paquette also drew the warrior king version of Swamp Thing which quite frankly dwarfs anything that had come before it.  This run, now ended, was one that will have its legacies and be remembered as one of the best runs on this very underutilized property.

    Death Never Looked So Beautiful

    Death Never Looked So Beautiful

  • Animal Man #18 was less of a conclusion to “Rot World” than its sister issue in Swamp Thing.  Buddy Baker, the Animal Man, is sent back by the Parliament of Rot, like Alec Holland, to the moment that would precipitate the downfall of the Red.  In so doing he saves his daughter, the true avatar of the Red, but loses something ewually important to him.  Jeff Lemire is staying on the title so he does not wrap up his story with this issue, so perhaps it didn’t have that dynamite ending, but it also was the weaker of the two titles.  Also Steve Pugh’s art has never been anything to write home about.  This will probably be the last single issue of this series I will buy.
  • Earth 2 #10 returns to the realm of Nabu and the revelations of Khalid Ben-Hassin’s past concerning the Helmet of Fate, housing the power of Nabu.  Wotan has been hired to obtain this artifact for an unknown group and kidnapped Khalid as those with him at the time, Jay Garrick and his mother, to be used as hostages to assure his cooperation in procuring the Helm.  On the other side of the world (hard to say) Alan Scott mourns the death of his boyfriend, Sam Zhao, and learns that his death was not collateral damage, but actually the reason for the deadly train crash.  Writer James Robinson maintains his reputation of excellence with a very engrossing plot that is its own self contained universe and continuity.  Nicola Scott’s art continues to be gorgeous, making the characters spring from the page.  Well worth the read.
  • Worlds’ Finest #10 is very much likened to Detective Comics #18 above, as it continues its ongoing plot while at the same time taking a moment to pay tribute to the departure of Damian Wayne.  Though they met only briefly, Helena still felt like Damian was her little brother and his death pangs right alongside the deaths of her mother and father, the Catwoman and Batman of Earth 2.  But, as Batman taught her when she was still Robin, one soldiers on.  Helena breaks into Michael Holt’s laboratory after the aforementioned industrialist and ex-boyfriend of Karen Starr (Power Girl) sent a mercenary group to Karen’s island laboratory/home.  While Huntress employs stealth and planning, Power Girl unleashes a biblical list of calamities upon a handful of Holt facilities with careless abandon that imperils the lives of scores of people.  The end brings about a curve ball that may prove enlightening considering all that has transpired between the two Earths.  Paul Levitz is amazing, truly, and Kevin Maguire renders his script (solo this month) with his usual ease.

    An Older Sister's Lament

    An Older Sister’s Lament

  • Batwing #18 picks up from the tense cliffhanger from last month’s installment with the Chinese mercenary, Sky Pirate, “nuking” Batwing’s hideout and the civilian side of Batwing, Police Inspector David Zavimbe, facing off against his former childhood friend, Racheal Niamo, now the mercenary named Dawn.  This issue shows the cost taking a stand against corruption can have in an environment as corrupt as the Congo.  David Zavimbe is facing off against hell as he tries to prove that justice can’t be bought or traded for any price.  With only one more issue to go in his run on the title Fabian Nicieza is pulling out all the stops and making this a must read title on the periphery of the core Bat-books.
  • Green Arrow #18 gives us the second issue of the new and improved Green Arrow title.  Oliver Queen has been dealt a really rough hand.  His company has been seized, he’s lost his wealth, he’s been framed for the murder of his father’s friend and the corporate regent of Queen Industries, Henry Emerson, and what’s more, he’s been marked for death by a black archer known as Komodo with ties to both the island he was marooned on as well as his father’s past.  In this issue we learn the identity of Komodo as well as a little inkling of what he is after.  In the meantime, Oliver gets more hints as to his father’s past that by no means come anywhere close to answering the most pressing questions facing him.  Only the eyeless mystery man, Magus, knows what is truly happening and as is usually the case with such enigmatic figures, withholds information, telling Oliver to go to Black Mesa, Arizona to get the answers he seeks.  Another departure from the first sixteen issues, is the descent into rock solid reality.  The events within have consequences that cannot be written away nor held at bay.  In this issue especially, writer Jeff Lemire shows that he is playing for keeps with dark, horrific events precipitating a very ominous future for the Emerald Archer.  Jeff Lemire is in rare form with these first two issues and Andrea Sorrentino’s art finds a complimentary place with a title in need of its stark, shaded lines.

    Another Victim of Komodo

    Komodo Claims Another Green Arrow Ally

  • Phantom Stranger #6 continues on the the Stranger’s quest to locate his kidnapped family.  His first stop last issue was an all out brawl with the Specter.  This issue has him going to Las Vegas in search of them and getting involved in a card game with the three sons of Trigon: Belial, Ruskoff, and Suge.  The main body of the issue is like a telecast of the World Poker tournament.  The story reveals the characters of the demonic brothers as well as the Stranger himself through their playing of the game, but doesn’t advance the overall plot very far.  The ending, however, is quite intriguing and terrifying if one is a fan of the series.  Dan Didio has done a very good job of taking this nebulous, very alien character from the DC pantheon and re-imagining him in a manner that both maintains his integrity and makes him relatable to the reader at the same time.  With the Trinity War on the horizon this series promises to be a keystone title in the future of the New DCU.
  • Smallville: Season Eleven #11 continues the “Haunted” story arc with Clark and Bart attempting to find the answer to the Black Flash and how to stop the Speed Storms that are springing up in Bart’s wake, killing innocent people.  The duo go to meet Jay Garrick, the old member of the Justice Society, and the first speedster of the modern era.  His forecast for what is to come in not encouraging and all signs point to the death of Bart to allay the death toll.  But of course Clark will find a way.  On the other side of the Multiverse, we go to Earth 2 and see how Chloe Sullivan from that world is the sole survivor of so many other meteor freaks.  Also how, despite his relationship with Lois Lane, Chloe seduced Oliver Queen.  Between the two of them, they may even be able to topple the super-powered despot, Clark Kent, aka Ultraman.  Bryan Q. Miller keeps the Smallville series alive not only adding to the mythos of the show, but building upon it and answering questions posed in its early seasons, seemingly left to the wind with the cancellation after Season 10.  And yet it goes on, and brilliantly so.
  • Legends of the Dark Knight #6 presents three more tales of the Dark Knight.  The first one written by Jeff Parker and entitled “Gotham Spirit” shows Batman putting down a liquor store robbery.  Reading it one wonders why you even bothered.  There is nothing poignant or out of the ordinary about it.  Maybe that’s the point.  You can’t always have a Poison Ivy, Mister Freeze, or Joker causing trouble.  Sometimes its just procedural.  That may be the point, but it wasn’t really what someone picks up a comic to read.  The next story written and drawn by Michael Avon Oeming tells of Batman fighting a dragon in the sewers beneath Gotham.  Yes you read that correctly, a real, honest to goodness dragon, complete with scales, teeth, and leathern wings.  Only the fire is missing from this mythic beast.  However, its not quite as mythic as it seems, but rather engineered by a man for Killer Croc.  Croc wanted something that was his that he could love and would love him in return, like a man and his faithful dog, so he could salvage something real.  Even Batman can’t help but be moved by the pathetic nature of Croc’s wish.  The third and final story in this issue has the Penguin hiring a supernatural old man to take out his competition.  From his white suit to his full on albinic pallor, this man is perhaps one of the most unsettling characters to grace a Batman comic, and as the story progresses that assertion is proved ten times over.  Even Batman doesn’t fully grasp the horrors he represents.  That Batman can withstand them proves that the Dark Knight is a master of his own inner terror.  As ever, hit and miss vignettes for the mythology of Batman, but well done.

So ends the first month of March with an encouraging handful of truly excellent comics.

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 Annual #1: Art by Ethan Van Sciver, Colored by Hi-Fi

Detective Comics #18:  Art by Jason FAbok, Colored by Jeromy Cox

Swamp Thing #18: Art by Yanick Paquette, Colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Worlds’ Finest #10: Art by Kevin Maguire, Colored by Rosemary Cheetham

Green Arrow #18:  Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo

Week 75 (Feb. 6, 2013)

Starting out February right we have the conclusion to “Rot World” in Swamp Thing and Animal Man and a Valentine’s Day Special for all the lovelorn denizens of the New 52.  Also another first attempt in the rodeo of trying to wrangle Green Arrow into a decent title again.  So much going on, let’s get to it:

  • Detective Comics #17 brings to a close the story of the Merrymaker.  Since Detective Comics wasn’t roped into the “Death of the Family” event, John Layman used this two issue space to do something Joker themed and yet tangential enough that he had complete control over it.  Thus sprung the concept of the League of Smiles and its architect, the Merrymaker.  I’m a little sad that it was only two issues, as it turned out to be a really cool concept.  However, I’m not sure what else Layman could have done with it, so its length isn’t entirely inappropriate.  I do hope that in the future the Merrymaker makes a reappearance, because as a Joker offshoot he is intriguing.  However, a lot of it is the pageantry surrounding him, owing to the resemblance he bears to other characters in Batman’s rogues gallery, i.e. Hugo Strange.  In the backup feature, also written by John Layman and drawn by Andy Clarke we are shown the origin of the Merrymaker while also being made privy to his fate after the main feature concludes.  Layman’s writing is beginning to grow on me.  His authorial sense of humor is really refreshing and makes his issues on this title quite engaging to read.  Things are beginning to fall into place and I am forced to retract my earlier reservations as to his competency as a Batman writer.

    Birth of the Merrymaker

    Birth of the Merrymaker

  • Animal Man #17 presents the first half of the conclusion to “Rot World.”  Animal Man and Swamp Thing have independent of one another come to Anton Arcane’s capital of Behemit, to battle the onslaught of the Rot into our world.  The battle to end Arcane’s nightmarish reign is brutal and costs many lives, but this issue only presents half of the story.  This chapter, while important, really only constitutes a great deal of fighting and panning out the immense scale of the battle with the Rot.  Ending with the revelation of Abby Arcane and Max Baker’s fates following the flashback sequences in both Animal Man and Swamp Thing, this issue finds its conclusion in Swamp Thing #17.
  • Swamp Thing #17, along with Animal Man #17, are hailed as the “Rot World: Finale” but in fact they are not.  Or if they are, it is a lackluster finale with no gravitas or meaning.  Continuing from where Animal Man left off, this second installment of the finale has Swamp Thing and Animal Man plumbing the depths of their resolve to win the day from the cocksure, smug Anton Arcane who cannot conceive that there is any way that he may lose.  And in reality, for the duo to win they must shatter their own dreams and destroy that which they love most to free the world from the Rot.  Also of interest is the meeting of the avatars of Red and Green with the Parliament of Decay, which is far different from how one would expect them to be, given the events of the past year and a half.  This issue is intriguing, certainly, but the lack of any sort of conclusion is deceptive.  It would seem that any true ending to this saga with come with the 18th issues of both series.
  • Earth 2 #9 returns to the main cast of characters after last month’s sojourn to Dherain and the ascension of Steppenwolf to the throne.  Kendra Munoz-Saunders meets with a young middle eastern man named Khalid who is the host to Nabu and the helmet of Fate.  As yet he appears to be too frightened to wield this power and become Doctor Fate.  Returning to Jay Garrick after the fall of Grundy in issue #6, we find the speedster returning to his mother’s home in Lansing, Michigan only to be greated by a a World Army faction headed by Wesley Dodds there to capture him and bring him in.  This title is interesting because it constantly is beset with different shades of moral ambiguity.  There are characters like Jay that are just plain good, but then there are characters like Hawkgirl, Dodds (aka Sandman), and Al Pratt (aka the Atom) who are slightly more nuanced and hard to read.  And then of course there is the genocidal lunatic, Terry Sloane, who murdered tens of millions of people in the blink of an eye and yet still claims to be a hero.  Though the issues bounces around between Hawkgirl, Jay Garrick, and the World Army, the issue really seems to be setting up the entrence of Dr. Fate and the introduction of Khalid.  James Robinson continues to exhibit his prowess as a JSA writer, innovating the characters and concepts yet retaining the heart of each that has maintained them over seventy years of storytelling.  Artist Nicola Scott returns after her hiatus last month on #8.

    The Earth 2 Realm of Magic

    The Earth 2 Realm of Magic

  • Worlds’ Finest #9 picks up after Huntress’s hospitalization following an assassination order by a human trafficker she inconvenienced in her introductory miniseries about a year ago.  Karen Starr, aka Power Girl, had her taken to her private island for rest and recuperation, which young Miss Wayne is in desperate need of.  But . . . wouldn’t you know it, a paramilitary, special forces mercenary group picks that time to raid Karen’s laboratory and threaten the lives of her staff in the process.  All this while Power Girl is away on her previous errand.  So Helena has to suit up, and like her father and mother taught her vis-a-vis the flashback last issue, she pushes past the pain to do what’s right.  In this issue the flashbacks show Helena and Karen getting their costumes and Helena’s crossbow and Helena once again breaking up a white slavery ring.  The flashbacks aren’t as poignant as they have been in the past, but the main story is pretty incredible, especially considering the final panel’s revelation.  Paul Levitz is a genius and as ever George Perez’s pencils are rock solid. The pairing of their writing and art makes this series one of the best currently being put out.
  • Phantom Stranger #5 was rather apocalyptic.  Last issue the Phantom Stranger, who in his downtime exists as Philip Stark, working stiff and family man, comes back from an unwelcome conversation with John Constantine to find that his family has been kidnapped and his kids’ babysitter killed in a ritualistic, occult-looking fashion.  So of course his first thought is that its the first person he wronged in this series’ inaugural #0 issue: The Spectre, aka Det. Jim Corrigan.  The issue is basically a drawn out slugfest between two transcendental forces: Cold Destiny vs Fiery Vengeance incarnate.  Lots of stuff blows up and some serious fundamental issues are discussed.  Very few comics are as high brow and low brow at the same time.  There is some serious sacrilege going on with the Spectre claiming to be God and God turning out to be a cairn terrier.  Also the Question makes his first speaking appearance, but I am still annoyed by his immortal overhaul.  He was a great character before and thus far I am not sold.  Although this is the first time he’s appeared as an actual character, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt.  With great art and writing from Brent Anderson, Dan Didio and J.M. DeMatteis this issue was overall superb.

    Rage vs Fate

    Rage vs Fate

  • Green Arrow #17 did it!  I have disliked this series, except for the “Daughters of Lear” storyline.  This issue resurrects the dark edge of what Green Arrow should be.  I think the complete crap numbers of their past sixteen issues coupled with the unbridled success of the television adaptation Arrow has finally got them back on track.  Ollie’s lost his company, the steward that his father left in charge of Queen Industries, Emerson, begins to tell him a bombshell about his departed father when BANG he gets a black arrow through the chest.  Three pages in and Oliver is framed for murder!  You want to read it now, don’t you?  This series started with Oliver cushed out and leading a pretty carefree life of whimsy, moonlighting as a jet setting vigilante.  This issue has him lose everything except his bow and what he learned on the island.  THAT is the what Green Arrow should be, a twisted individual regressed to his most primal state after a life or death ordeal on a desert island becoming a silent hunter in an urban jungle.  Check!  Though this is just a single issue, this is the most genuine issue published since the launch of the New 52.  Jeff Lemire not only showcases the effects the island had on Ollie, he also brings the island into the narrative itself with the black archer and a mysterious group also being connected to that island.  Andrea Sorrentino was initially the artist for I, Vampire, which I disliked a great deal, his artwork which is very stark with non-gradient transitions between shadow and light, really brings a sharp edge to Lemire’s script.  Just an awesome issue.  If you were disheartened by DC’s crappy initial issues of this series or you like Arrow, buy this book.

    Enter Komodo

    Enter Komodo

  • Batwing #17 finds our hero a hunted man.  Police Inspector David Zavimbe and his alter ego Batwing have stood up to corruption in the Congo police and been marked for death.  Industrialist, Phillip Marksbury, has put a contract out on Batwing when the latter put his son, Ancil Marksbury, in prison for multiple assaults and homicides.  Answering the call is a Chinese mercenary called Sky-Pirate, but more interestingly, Rachel Niamo, aka Dawn, David’s childhood friend from the refugee camp, who he fought beside a few issues ago.  This issue has so  many twists and turns, its uncertain how it can end with David and those closest to him escaping its consequences with their lives intact.  Fabian Nicieza nails it!  And Fabrizio Fiorentino renders it beautifully with some of the most luscious art currently coming out.  I am more terrified about the future of this series than I am about the “Death of the Family” arc in Batman.  THAT’S saying something.

    Friends of the Past, Enemies of Tomorrow

    Friends of the Past, Enemies of Tomorrow

  • Legends of the Dark Knight #5 does something different then the past four, focusing on a different character than the Batman.  Slam Bradley, private detective, is on the job observing an abusive hood beating his mistress.  In the process he get framed for murder and runs afoul of Black Mask, the mafia kingpin of Gotham.  Plus the Batman thinks he did it as well and also is trying to bring him in, where the corrupt police will kill him.  So the legend here as told by the incredible writing (said sarcastically) of Joshua Hale Fialkov is that Batman is a complete idiot.  Phil Hester provides insubstantial art.  Terrible issue.  Skip it.
  • Smallville Season 11 #10, provides two major plot lines. First, Clark is made aware of the Black Flash, or the Black Racer as he’s also referred to, who has been stalking Bart Allen for sometime now.  In his wake, he has been sapping the life from other, normal people prematurely aging them and leaving them as desiccated husks.  The origins of this dark speedster are hinted to have something to do with a failed LexCorp experiment.  To help Bart, Clark and his allies at STAR Labs create two cosmic treadmills for Bart and Supes to use to lure out the Black Flash. On the other side of the narrative, Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow, and his wife, Chloe Sullivan Queen, attempt to find out the true nature of the multiversal cataclysm that lead Chloe’s Earth-2 equivalent to come to our Earth, to do so they use a device Lex Luthor used to transfer Hank Henshaw’s consciousness into the robotic body in the first arc of this series.  Chloe merges her consciousness with the waning memories of her dead counterpart.  This series really does work episodically like the television show did, presenting a complex, yet engaging superhero adventure in the manner of a seasonal program.
  • Young Romance: New 52 Valentines Day Special #1 presents six tales of love throughout the New DCU, just as the title promises.  The first story, is one of Catwoman and the Batman brought to us by Catwoman writer Ann Nocenti and guest artist Emanuela Lupacchino.  In it Catwoman pulls a heist, but afterwards feels none of the usual satisfaction, reminiscing about the first time she met Batman . . . on Valentines Day.  Her and her brother Billy were dirt poor and decided to steal tv’s and stereos from the families living in their projects.  Of course, the Batman would have choice things to say about that, and of course Catwoman would be too stubborn to giveup without a fight, but also true is that she is not so devoid of decency that she wouldn’t learn from that and become better.  Next up writer Cecil Castellucci and artist Inaki Miranda tell a tale of Aquaman’s wife, Mera, living in his father’s old lighthouse in Amnesty Bay, Maine, learning of the deep love between the ravishing daughter of a one of the previous lighthouse keepers from the 1860’s and a handsome, devoted ships captain.  Though they didn’t have a happy ending in their lifetime, Mera and Arthur through their actions and love for one another might just be able to make a happy ending for the departed lovers.  In the the “Knightfall” storyline Batgirl met a street punk named Ricky who is gimped by the sadistic villainess.  She learned that he wasn’t all bad and to help him avoid trouble while asking him for information, she planted a kiss on him.  In the Batgirl story of this issue, writer Ray Fawkes and artist Julius Gopez have Ricky sloppily jacking a car so that Batgirl would come and he could talk to her about that kiss.  The segment is a very honest, bittersweet love story, that at the same time is open ended leaving room for the possibility of a happy ending, but not making it likely.  In the story entitled “Seoul Brothers” Stormwatch writer Peter Milligan and artist Simon Bisley tell a story about Apollo and Midnighter.  I hated this story simply because it featured Midnighter.  He is just awful and his part in this story makes it awful.  The less said the better.  Apollo isn’t a bad dude and deserves much better.  Perhaps that’s what Milligan is saying, but I don’t really care in the long run, and neither Milligan nor his predecessor Paul Cornell could sell me on the characters.  This story didn’t help matters either.  Nightwing writer Kyle Higgins tells a story of his title character’s love life on the rocks, but interesting developments as he meets an African American heroine code named Ursa.  It bears (pun intended) inquiry as to whether this story will find resolution in the main title, as Higgins is writing this and may be setting something up for later.  Finally, Superman and Wonder Woman are on a date when Wonder Woman’s family matters creep their way into their romantic evening and the Amazing Amazon has to come to the rescue of her Man of Steel.  Upcoming Action Comics writer Andy Diggle pens this one, with the promise that “even more complications arise in this couple’s Young Romance in the pages of Superman #19.”  If that’s not a hint, I don’t know what is.  Overall, this was a really great, well plotted jaunt into the love lives of some of the best DC characters.
    Perhaps the Youngest and Most Interesting Romance

    Perhaps the Youngest and Most Interesting Romance

     

And so ends the first week of February.  Some issues fell flat, but there were some real gems coming out of it as well.  Overall a decent week in comics.

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

Illustration Credits:

Detective Comics #17:  Art by Andy Clarke, Colored by Blond

Earth 2 #9: Drawn by Nicola Scott, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Trevor Scott

Phantom Stranger #5: Drawn by Brent Anderson, Colored by Ulises Arreola, Inked by Philip Tan & Rob Hunter

Green Arrow #17:  Art by Andrea Sorrentino

Batwing #17: Art by Fabrizio Fiorentino, Colored by Pete Pantazis

Young Romance: New 52 Valentines Day Special #1: Cover Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Blond