Sept. 4, 2013

It has been a LONG time since I have posted, due to some scheduling conflicts and a REALLY busy summer, but it’s good to be back talking about comics, and DC’s Villains Month is a perfect time to get back in the swing of things.  So far this first week has produced some interesting specimens as well as some really out-of-the-box concepts for the hallmark villains of the DC universe.  That said, less talking, more comic book reviewing:

  • Forever Evil #1 starts off the post Trinity War mega event across the entirety of the DC Universe.  The Crime Syndicate of America from Earth-3 has descended upon our world from a portal opened by Pandora’s Box.  As a result the Justice League has been “killed,” though it is not depicted nor explained, and the CSA have set about creating a Secret Society to claim the world in the name of evil. It doesn’t so much seem like a Secret when they are doing it out in the open . . .  From the four corners of the globe their acolytes are recruiting the evilest minds the planet can offer, from Gorilla Grodd to the Scarecrow, to create a new world order.  The issues opens on Lex Luthor, newly emancipated from prison for services rendered to the government, trying to coerce Thomas Kord (possible father of Ted Kord) to relinquish his controlling majority of Kord Industries with horrific, thinly veiled threats and bribery.  In mid-flight the helicopter they are riding in crashes leaving only Luthor alive.  The power goes out and all hell breaks loose.  The Crime Syndicate proudly proclaim, “This World is Ours.”  That is when the prisons are opened and  evil is truly unleashed like an open floodgate.  Throughout the rest of the issue we see the twisted version of the Justice League systematically subvert the last vestiges of super-powered defenders to proclaim their own order upon the globe.  With issue’s end the part that Luthor will play in the proceedings is very ambiguous.  Geoff Johns does a pretty decent job writing this story, which is interesting considering his blunt, overwrought attempts at the main Justice League title over the past two years. Aiding him in art is David Finch, who helped him launch Justice League of America eight months ago.  Of the two, I think that David Finch is the one that most excites me on this title.  Johns had his day in the sun, but has either lost his touch or gotten too power mad in his new executive position.  Either way, I am infinitely enthusiastic about this issue, as it expands the multiverse by one more world, giving birth to the Crime Syndicate:  Ultraman, Superwoman, Owlman, et al.  Owlman is perhaps the one that has the most interest to me, especially after the way he was portrayed in the DC animated movie Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths.  We shall see if this event and the New 52 does justice to the former incarnations of the Crime Syndicate and Earth-3.
  • Action Comics #23.1:Cyborg Superman is written by Supergirl writer Michael Alan Nelson following the shocking revelation of the Cyborg’s identity at the end of Supergirl #23 following his capture and rending the flesh off Supergirl in order that he could regain his Kryptonian body and his lost memories of his identity.  After stripping her flesh through  molecular dissolution and regaining his, he is revealed to be none other than Zor-El, father of Supergirl.  In this issue we see a man obsessed with perfection and obsessed with proving his intellect over that of his younger, seemingly brighter brother, Jor-El, in the face of Krypton’s destruction.  Undertaken out of pride, his efforts were also undertaken in order that his entire family could survive.  Using half understood Brainiac technology, he tries to save his native Argo City, only to see it collapse and his fellow Kryptonians slowly die.  When Brainiac returns he bestows upon Zor-El what the man himself had attempted: to force perfection upon him.  Many parts of Zor-El are completely replaced to make him more efficacious and that which is organic was rewritten genetically to resemble his “superior sibling,” hence his looking so much like Superman and not his blond, more round faced self.  What remains of the issue is an exploration of what cold logic and mechanized calculations deem “perfect.”  The Cyborg Superman issue encapsulates beautifully what Zor-El has become after Brainiac altered him and sets the stage for what is to come in the aftermath of his restoration in the pages of Supergirl #24.

    Extreme Cosmetic Surgery

    Extreme Cosmetic Surgery

  • Batman #23.1: Joker is a real treat.  Under the pen of the great artist Andy Kubert, scion of the legendary Joe Kubert, we see him (to my knowledge for the first time) write an incredibly introspective look at the Joker, glimpses of his past, and what makes him tick.  Opening on a traumatic childhood, we see a horrendous display of abuses heaped upon him by a violently insane aunt, including scrubbing his face and body down with bleach and coarse brush, in essence explaining his white skin and his psychopathy.  Cut to the the near-present (years before he cut his face off) where the Joker raises a baby gorilla he kidnaps from the zoo to be his son.  Truly touching, he gives the gorilla everything he was denied as a child including genuine love.  He molds the ape into his own likeness, but not with any malice towards his “son’s” feelings. However, since there is no mention of the gorilla in the present, the reader knows it won’t last.  The Joker witnesses his son’s death and from what follows the reader knows that this creature was literally the closest relationship the Clown Prince of Gotham has ever had, and indeed, the Joker begins crying.  But he quickly breaks into laughter and makes grossly morbid jokes about the whole thing.  Kubert shows us that the Joker is capable of emotions, but because of the incredible trauma of his youth, whenever they are too much to bear his brain reverts to a manic state of euphoric laughter to compensate.  Truly amazing storytelling, befitting his father’s legacy.  Kubert wrote this, but the art was done by another of my favorite artists, Andy Clarke.  Clarke’s art has made the backups of Detective Comics soar and his treatment of this entire issue augments and accentuates Kubert’s plots brilliantly.  This is a Villains Month issue that is not to be missed.
  • Batman & Robin #23.1: Two-Face written by Peter Tomasi and drawn by Guillem March chronicles the fate of Two-Face during the beginnings of Forever Evil.  Batman is “dead” and Gotham has gone dark.  For the former Gotham district attorney and current crimelord there are two paths to take: save Gotham or let her burn.  A tough call that is made simpler by a coin toss.  Interrupted by the Scarecrow, a third option is presented, or rather a second choice to be made.  Scarecrow represents the Secret Society who wish Two-Face’s allegiance in subjugating our world.  So the more pertinent question becomes: join the Society or fight the Society?  Another coin toss.  As Gotham cries out, Two-Face’s reactions to it, coupled with a few flashbacks to his past, really fleshout the man he has become and where his loyalties and druthers find themselves.  If his psychoses were simple to understand he wouldn’t have been sent to Arkham all those times, and Tomasi really feels out that space in his story, showing the true depth of his madness.  He also throws in some old friends from his pre-Reboot stint of the Batman & Robin title as well to shake things up.  If you like the character of Two-Face and await what Tomasi plans for him in the formerly titled Batman & Robin series, this issue is a must read.
  • Detective Comics #23.1: Poison Ivy, like Two-Face above, deals with Ivy’s emergence into a Gotham a without power, law, or the Batman.  As it has ever been depicted in such conditions, it is ANARCHY!  It is in this that Poison Ivy is reminded of the disgusting nature of humanity.  Among the insanities she witnesses is a scene of domestic abuse that she intervenes upon.  In doing this she is taken back to her childhood and her own battered mother finding solace in her garden, with peace of plants.  A horror would later await both in that garden, scarring young Pamela for the rest of her life and starting her path towards becoming Ivy.  That path is laid out through her entry into academia and the internship at Wayne Enterprises that brought about her physical transformation into the floral female terrorist she has become.   Derek Fridolfs writes this issue with the help of artist Javier Pina.  Poison Ivy can be written very two dimensionally, and this story skirts that territory with a semi-intricate explanation of her motivations, but still lacks some key element of why she is as generally misanthropic as she is depicted by issue’s end.
  • Green Lantern #23.1: Relic introduces us to the eponymous “Relic,” a petrified remnant from the Universe that preceded ours.  Since he awoke in Green Lantern: The New Guardians #22 he has been an enigma that has cryptically stated his good intentions while attacking viciously and unprovoked the Lanterns he dubs “lightsmiths.”  His goal is stated as “saving the Universe.”  This issue, written by Green Lantern scribe, Robert Venditti, chronicles his life in the universe that preceded ours and how that universe functioned.  The lightsmiths were wielders of the emotional spectrum, with all the same colors and emotions we have seen since Geoff Johns introduced them after the “Sinestro Corps War” in 2008.  However, despite their constant warring, the universe was built upon the light they used and instead of cities, civilizations, and infrastructures being built out of physical resources, the light constructs of the smiths served that function.  However, the greatest scientific mind of that universe saw that like physical resources the light came from somewhere and was not infinite.  It could run out and eventually would if it was used wantonly as it had been.  His warnings fall on deaf ears and it is because of this that the universe before ours ceased to be and he who was mocked as a “relic” in his universe, became a relic of his universe.  Upon awakening in ours he became aware of the likenesses of our universe to his and the presence of “lightsmiths.”  This time around he knew precisely the danger they posed to reality, and that arguing verbally with them was not the best course if anything was going to be done to save another universe.  Hence his cryptic tone, hence his blatant belligerence, and hence the “Relic” that we have seen thus far   The “Blackout” event is less than a month away and already the dimming described by him that preceded the cataclysms that claimed his universe has already been witnessed by the different Corps of Lanterns.  Venditti has set the stage for a true test of the Lanterns the likes of which (even under the pen of Geoff Johns) we have never seen the likes of.  Aiding him is artist Rags Morales who worked with Brad Walker, the Green Lantern: The New Guardians artist who first depicted Relic, on Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run.  Truly an issue to procure if you call yourself a fan of Green Lantern.
  • Green Arrow #23.1: Count Vertigo could almost be another issue of Green Arrow.  With the usual GA team on deck that is no insult.  This series is a delight, really tapping the limits and possibilities of the character to their peak potential.  However, being a Villains Month issue the dynamic creative duo focus their literary lens on Count Vertigo, by far  the most iconic of Oliver Queen’s nemeses depicted since the reboot.  Being in a rebooted universe, little is known about the man behind the disorienting device. This issue remedies that, telling the story of Werner Zytle, son of the late deposed Count of Vlatava.  He is raised in Canada by his  abusive mother who blames him for the fall of their family’s fortunes in the motherland.  She later sells him to a scientific research firm, prompting his implanting with the device that grants him his power.  It is here that his true power, both in spirit and body, takes hold.  From here he is able to reclaim his destiny, starting with his freedom, then regaining his homeland, and finally in the reunion with his mother he reclaims his past and identity.  He is very much a Mordred character, raised by  a single, overbearing mother to fulfill a destiny not of his choosing and ultimately becoming a monster that consumes the mother figure and becomes a plague upon humanity.  This is very much the case with Vertigo and though the issue is not structured like most of its fellows this week, it functions excellently in advancing the plot of Green Arrow and maintaining the integrity of the series, unlike many of the stand-alone stories out this month.  I enjoyed it thoroughly, but then again Green Arrow is one of my favorites.

    A Son's Vengeance

    A Son’s Vengeance

  • Justice League #23.1: Darkseid almost completely rewrites the entire concept of the New Gods.  I am not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.  Since Justice League #3 I have been up in arms against Geoff Johns’ blatant disregard for Jack Kirby’s seminal creations and the perfection of his Fourth World mythology.  Since then, Brian Azzarello’s work with the denizens of New Genesis have been slightly better.  High Father was done a little heavy handed, but the essence was there.  Scott Lobdell returns the character of Orion to a place that is well within the character’s original context and feels genuine.  And then we come to this issue, written by Greg Pak.  It begins by depicting Uxas and Izaya, mortals living upon the world of the (Old) Gods, scratching out meager existences.  On this world the monumental gods frolicked and warred with one another in complete disregard for the lives of those tiny mortals living beneath them like insects.  In this version, Izaya is married to Avia, as was so in the original Kirby books, but this time around Avia is the sister of Uxas.  Izaya and Avia are devout believers and worshipers of the  oblivious, elemental gods that plague them.  Uxas is more pragmatic and “blasphemes” them constantly.  He is cunning and engineers the ultimate death of these gods that brings about utter ruin to the planet, but also endows him with the powers of the gods he kills, forging him into Great Darkseid.  Izaya is granted the powers of those stricken gods that escape Darkseid, rewarding his faith with the powers that baptize him as Izaya, the High Father.  The planet is destroyed, but remade into the two planets of New Genesis and Apokalips.  The final eight pages introduce a character from Pak’s Batman/Superman title, Kaiyo the Chaosbringer.  This little sprite appeared at first to be a minor demon, but it seems very probable that she is in fact a New God of Apoklalips.  What’s more, her exploits in the last couple of pages make it seem probable that she is the lost daughter of Darkseid that he world-hops to find, prompting his appearance in Justice League’s first arc.  This issue put me off at first, because of the “heresy” of its divergence from Kirby’s Fourth World.  However, in retrospect, it was a well written, intriguing concept that accentuates Pak’s previous work in the firs three issue of Batman/Superman and sets the stage for interesting future developments with the New Gods.

    A So Was Born a Fourth World . . .

    A So Was Born a Fourth World . . .

  • Earth 2 #15.1: Desaad appropriately segues to another New God of Apokalips and someone whose sadism might even rival that of Great Darkseid.  Writer Paul Levitz who introduced Desaad into the New 52 in his Worlds’ Finest title chronicles the mad god’s advent to our Earth after the events of Earth-2 #1.  His goal is really two-fold, filling in blanks in the story of what Desaad has been up to since coming to Earth-1 as well as how that has affected things the reader witnessed since the first issues of Worlds’ Finest, and secondly proving how sick and perverse the mind of Desaad truly is.  One interesting thing that I think blew me away the most was in Desaad’s search for minds to corrupt and turn toward his dark aims, he stumbles upon an artist at a drafting table.  Desaad goes to the man’s home and emerges from a Boom Tube, renowned for the thunderous cacophony it makes prompting its name, and yet the man doesn’t turn around.  When Desaad looks over his shoulder, he stops short and seems apprehensive if not actually afraid, and decides to leave this man alone.  One would ask, what is going on, but the savvy comic reader who knows not only something of comics in general, but more importantly the character of Desaad and the other New Gods, will notice something very key.  The man at the table looks EXACTLY like a young Jack Kirby, creator of the Fourth World, of which Desaad is a denizen.  The hair cut, the physique, the thick eyebrows, the posture.  All so blatantly Kirby.  When we see a close up of his work over his shoulder from Desaad’s perspective the rough sketches have all the hallmarks of Kirby’s illustrative style.  Through meta-storytelling, Paul Levitz sets a real hook in the reader, inserting the King of Comics into a world featuring his own creations.  What his existence in this world will mean for Desaad and the other New Gods is a mystery, but one that I will faithfully follow to find out the answer to.Desaad1

    desaad2

    Behold Thine Creator, Ye Mighty God!

  • Superman #23.1: Bizarro was a slightly strange twist on the character, albeit a short lived one.  Sholly Fisch, who cut his teeth in the big leagues on the backup features of Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run, writes this issue with the help of artist Jeff Johnson.  In it we return to a seminal moment where Lex Luthor and Superman meet for the first times in the third issue of Action Comics.  Largely due to experiments Luthor conducted under military purview the young Superman was hurt to the point of bleeding (something VERY difficult to achieve under most circumstances) and as a result he used Lex as a hostage to procure escape.  Through this encounter Luthor gained two things: a personal animosity for the Man of Steel and a sample of his blood.  Using further contracts with the U.S. Military he attempts to augment a normal human being by re-splicing Kryptonian DNA gained from the small sampling of blood into their own genome.  The result of this is, of course, Bizarro.  To my knowledge, Bizarro was always either a clone or a refugee from a dimension where everything is backward.  Fisch makes a good sampling of Bizarro’s reversed Superman powers, i.e. Freeze vision and incendiary breath, but doesn’t quite pull off a Bizarro yarn that feels authentic.  Bizarro’s rampage lacks most of the quintessential “misunderstood monster” motif that characterize almost all of his appearances in the past.  This is an okay issue if the reader is just looking for Bizarro powers, but if they want Bizarro, the childlike villain speaking in opposites and conflicted in a limited understanding of the world and morality, this definitely is not the Bizarro story for them.
  • The Flash #23.1: Grodd is similar to, but slightly different from the Action Comics: Cyborg Superman and Green Arrow: Count Vertigo issues, in that it functions as a within the main story of the Flash series to continue on into later issues.  However, unlike both Cyborg Superman and Count Vertigo this doesn’t grant the reader any further insight into the past of Grodd.  What it does, however, is juxtapose his thoughts and philosophical beliefs against the depiction of the aftermath of the Gorilla invasion of the Gem Cities he lead which terminated in Flash #17.  Since then Solivar has taken over leadership of Gorilla City and worked painstakingly to not only make amends for the actions of the delusional despot, Grodd, but begun the process of making real steps to not only forge lasting peace between humanity and Gorillas, but have the Gorillas enter into the larger world we all share.  This is not something Grodd can abide and the manner of his return from the Speed Force is revealed, as is his overall place as an essential villain in the Flash andt he larger DCU.  Brian Buccellato, colorist and co-writer of the Flash, pens this issue with the help of artist Chris Batista.  Batista’s art is quite different than that of the usual Flash panoply of artists, including Buccellato’s co-writer on the title, Francis Manapul.  This is good in my opinion, because the Flash himself isn’t even seen in the issue and Batista’s art really depicts the Gorillas well.  Definitely a thoughtful, well written, well drawn issue.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #23.1: The Ventriloquist was simply okay.  I am a huge fan of Gail Simone on the Batgirl title and I attribute its success almost entirely to her writing, reserving a generous helping of credit to Barbara Gordon herself, who is one of my favorite comic book characters. Top 10, without a doubt.  This origin of the Ventriloquist fell a little flat for me.  Sure it’s interesting and sure Shauna is a very complex, psychotic person with a very troubled past. However, for me the Ventriloquist is Scar-Face and Dummy.  There is something so “Batman” about them.  I say Batman, and although Shauna and Ferdie are currently appearing in Batgirl, I still think that the mundane nature of the original Ventriloquist works more effectively with unpowered vigilantes than this new version.  The original Ventriloquist, Arnold Wesker, was a non-powered guy with dissociative personality disorder, projecting his primary, dominant persona into a ventriloquist dummy done up like a 30’s era gangster named Scar-Face.  The premise fell well within the realm of reality and created a complex villain mired in a psychosis rife with situational drama.  Wesker and Scar-Face might disagree, but being that Scar-Face is the dominant persona, Wesker is going to be hampered in foiling the inanimate object, because his own drive is what is empowering the dummy.  Later there was a beautiful, blonde woman (Peyton Riley) who took over as Scar-Face’s ventriloquist, but still follows the same paradigm.  When you have a woman like Shauna who has telepathic abilities that she exploits years before she got her dummy, Ferdie, you kind of remove the intrinsic importance of the ventriloquism schtick from her psychosis.  Sure she named her dummy after her deceased twin brother, and yeah she was a product of a negative environment growing up, but that in no way enhances the nuanced concept of the Ventriloquist.  Basically, this issue and the iteration of the character in the New 52 reinvents the wheel, with more bells and whistles, but less functionality.  I like Gail’s work, but with a heavy heart I say that this issue can be passed on with no loss for any Bat-Family fan.
  • Batman: Black & White #1 is a title which returns in the New 52 to presents several intriguing short stories depicted completely in monochromatic black and white panels.  With the writing talents of Chip Kidd, Maris Wicks, John Arcudi, and Howard Makie, and the artistic talents of Neal Adams, Michael Cho, Sean Murphy, Joseph Quinones, and Chris Samnee, many unique perspectives are shed on the Dark Knight and his myriad interpretations.  Foremost of these is Neal Adams’ piece, both written and drawn by the Batman maestro who helped create Ra’s Al Ghul and the Man-Bat.  In his Batman: Zombie story, the impact of Batman as a fighter of evil is explored in great poignancy through the social issues of our day and just how effective a Dark Knight can be against the day to day evils of the 21st century.  His writing is razor edged and his art is at the top of its game. Chip Kidd and Michael Cho’s Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When comes in second in my opinion, giving a Darwyn Cooke-esque, Silver Age story of Robin and what truly makes him a worthy contemporary for the Batman.  What’s more, even Superman has to tip his hat to the Boy Wonder by story’s end.  John Arcudi’s Driven, drawn by Sean Murphy, is an interesting tale of Batman and his relationship with his most iconic accessory:  the Batmobile.  The other three stories are good, but these three especially epitomize innovation in the realm of Batman.
  • Codename: Action #1 is basically a Cold War, nerd boy fantasy mash-up.  It takes place in an ambiguous period during the Cold War following a strange amalgam of characters throughout its globe trotting plot.  In the background are two Golden Age comic book characters resurrected in a slightly more modern context.  In America there is the costumed adventurer, the American Crusader, and in Europe there is the British aerial operative, Black Venus.  American Crusader finds his vintage in 1941 as a crimefighter that gained powers from stray radiation from a device he was working with called an “atom smasher.”  Black Venus was a war nurse turned aviator during WWII famous for her black bodysuit and aviator goggles, who first appeared in comics in 1945.  In the foreground of the plot we see a new secret agent complete his tests of initiation, earning the designation Operative 1001.  He is then teamed up with Operator 5, the fifth agent ever initiated into the “Intelligence Service,” and a living legend.  Facing all four of these characters is a global diplomatic meltdown of epic proportions.  The French threaten war against the Soviets if they interfere with North African assets, the Japanese threaten war if the Russians movie into their territorial waters, the Chinese threaten war if the Japanese mobilize their armed forces, and the Soviet Union threatens to launch nukes if anyone doesn’t accede to their demands.  The kicker is that the Intelligence Services have intel that the Soviet General making the threats at the UN is in fact not the actual General due to a subcutaneous tracking device they implanted the real one with.  So the plot thickens . . .   Writer Chris Roberson kicks off this series, with no shortage of help from artist Jonathan Lau, in great style and panache, eliciting all the romance and intrigue of Cold War spy thrillers and the action of costumed superhero comics in a shaken, not stirred, suave superhero spy masterpiece.
  • Trillium #2 begins at the strange middle of the first issue with the meeting of two diametrically different people, whose shared intrepid nature is the sole bond that connects them in what is shaping up to be a REALLY innovative series.  Nika Temsmith, the intergalactic scientist from the year 3797 searching for a cure to a sentient virus, meets up with the English explorer William Pike on Earth in the year 1921, who himself is searching for purpose after losing his in the Great War.  Ironically what brings them together is the Incan temple that Pike and his expedition have just discovered after centuries of abandonment.  In Nika’s own time, a virus with the capacity for thought and higher reasoning is at war with the human race and reduced our population to mere hundreds of  thousands spread across the galaxy in weakly sustained colonies.  Seeking to find a cure she goes through a “primitive” alien race’s pyramidal temple emerging on Earth in 1921.  As can be logically deduced from the time gap, the English both speak are not even close to being mutually intelligible.  So the entire issue is merely them trying to communicate and ascertain who each other is and what each other desires.  Slowly as events unfold they get an idea of the situation and the revelation is powerful to behold.  Jeff Lemire writes and illustrates this series MASTERFULLY!

    Trascendence of the Trillium Flower

    Trascendence of the Trillium Flower

And so ends the first week of Villains Month and my first week back on “Off the Panel.”  Hopefully, you folks enjoyed it and will come back to enjoy future issues with me.

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

Illustration Credits:

Action Comics #23.1: Cyborg Superman:  Art by Mike Hawthorne, Colored by Daniel Brown

Green Arrow #23.1: Count Vertigo: Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo

Justice League #23.1: Darkseid:  Art by Paulo Siquiera & Netho Diaz, Colored by Hi-Fi

Earth 2 #15.1:  Art by Yildiray Cinar, Colored by Jason Wright

Trillium #2: Art Jeff Lemire, Colored by Jose Villarrubia

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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

Week 71 (Jan. 9, 2013)

This week ushers in the first true week of 2013 comics.  Featured among them are the flagstone comics of the DC line, Action Comics and Detective Comics, as well as Swamp Thing, Earth 2, Worlds’ Finest, and an annual from one of my all time favorite titles Green Lantern: New Guardians.  Let’s see what they have in store for us:

  • Action Comics #16 is a little confusing and, though the penultimate issue of Grant Morrison’s run of this title, is something of an interim issue.  To be fair, things do happen, but the majority of the issue is dedicated to the tying together of disparate threats from the fifteen previous issues into what will become the blowout finale next month.  Starting in the future with the Legion of Super-Heroes outlawed in their own time and attempting to sneak back to the “present”, the issue then cuts to a point in the Action Comics timeline after Superman has already died once during an event referenced as “Doomsday” when the skies turned red.  Conceivably this is Morrison reintegrating the iconic “Death of Superman” event into the New DCU canon, but the details are very sketchy.  As of last issue (Action Comics #15) Superman hadn’t been to Mars, which was the plot of Action Comics #14, so this issue, having Superman just coming back from Mars is a little disjointed and trippy.  The Anti-Superman Army is reintroduced with all members present and accounted for and their relationship to the “Little Man” fully revealed.  This is most apparent in the case of Lois Lane’s niece, Susie, who has absolutely no reason to hate Superman or want him dead.  Xa-Du and Krypto make their first reappearances since #13 in October, and Superdoom makes his after his multiversal introduction in Action Comics #9.  In the backup feature, the Legion once again takes center stage saving the Earth Gov president-elect from an assassination attempt by a Naltorian man claiming that if president-elect Takaneda lives the future will be forfeit.  They do not heed his warning (despite the fact that Naltorians have the known ability for accurate precognition) and after the fact, he is revealed to be Universo in disguise.  This issue was really good, setting up a great amount of material that most likely will be left in the air upon Morrison’s exit from the title in February.  That said, writers will no doubt be feeding off Morrison’s fodder in storylines for years to come.  Perhaps even decades. Next month’s issue is double sized and knowing Morrison should be a bombshell.
    Doomsday Has Come And Gone . . . SUPERDOOMSDAY Is Upon Us!

    Doomsday Has Come And Gone . . . SUPERDOOMSDAY Is Upon Us!


  • Detective Comics #16 is a twofold plot.  On one side you have Batman attempting to stem the madness in Gotham ancillary to the Joker’s return.  For whatever reason, the Joker’s madness strikes a chord with some people, evoking serious psychosis.  This was evinced in Detective Comics #4 when Batman crashed a demonstration in Gotham Park of Batman protesters picketing against his supposed “skinning” of the Joker.  There are all sorts of rival Joker groups, but Batman sets his eyes on a particular group called the “League of Smiles.”   From what we see of the League here it is a comprised of some truly twisted individuals, and even the most benign among them remain deeply disturbed.  Across the aisle, the Penguin has been requisitioned by the Joker for his larger goals and in the absence of Oswald Cobblepot, his assistant Ignatius Ogilvy, now referring to himself as Emperor Penguin, has been gobbling up territory and strengthening his base so as to bar the Penguin from regaining his vast empire after the Joker releases him.  In fact, Ogilvy uses the madness generated around the Joker’s return to hit the rival syndicates, weakening them, and blame it on the Joker.  I spoke in earlier reviews of John Layman’s run on Detective that there was no rhyme or reason as to the plots issue to issue.  Now it becomes clear that he has been building up the rise of Emperor Penguin from within the ranks of the Penguin, like a cancer or perhaps more appropriately a parasite.  This series has met its maturation point and hits its stride.
  • Swamp Thing #16 following the revelation last issue of the state of Gotham and Batman’s succumbing to the Rot, writer Scott Snyder redeems the situation by showing the contingencies Batman left in place for the coming of Swamp Thing.  Though he knew Gotham would fall, Batman also knew of one legacy he could leave Alec Holland that would give him the edge needed to stand a chance against the Rot in the coming conflict. With it, Swamp Thing makes his way to Anton Arcane’s stronghold leading to next month’s finale of “Rot World: The Green Kingdom.”  Snyder’s plot is tight and utilizes the structure of Gotham beautifully to facilitate an incredible Swamp Thing issue under the banner of “Rot World.”
  • Animal Man #16 brings this title to its penultimate chapter in “Rot World: The Red Kingdom.”  Buddy Baker and his ragtag group of defenders from the Red have linked up with Frankenstein and his undead army against the Rot, and once there is a decent fighting force behind him, they make a “Hail Mary” play to release a prisoner so dangerous Anton Arcane held him imprisoned outside of his domain in the faraway dead city, Metropolis.  Thought to be Superman, it turns out to be the new Green Lantern of our sector, Medyphyll, replacement for all the human lanterns.  Coming from a race evolved from plant-life, the Guardians gave him the ring so that he might have an edge as a being with a close connection to the Green.  Though he is weakened by the Rot’s presence, he is able to regain his footing and give the “Red Army” the final edge they need to attack Arcane in his capital, which is precisely where the issue ends as the greatest battle begins with the Rot.  On the sidelines, Animal Man’s daughter Max is tricked by William Arcane into sacrificing herself to save the lives of her mother, brother, and grandmother.  The next issue promises to be a killer issue alongside Swamp Thing #17.  
  • Earth 2 #8 is a one shot issue that takes the world of the second Earth into a very interesting direction.  As with Justice League #1, Earth 2 was invaded by the forces of Apokalips.  Though the timeline is hazy, I believe that Earth 2 was invaded first, with the Apokaliptian forces lead by Steppenwolf, and Earth 1 was invaded next by Steppenwolf’s nephew, Darkseid.  The war with Apokalips was far more devastating to the residents of Earth 2.  Five countries were completely wiped off the planet in massive fiery blast, hundreds of millions of people were incinerated in a matter of minutes, and and of course, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were murdered before the war was brought to a close.  Well after the fact, in the present of this series we are shown that the evil architect of all the carnage, genocide, and destruction, Steppenwolf, is not only alive, but stranded on Earth 2 in the nation of Dherain.  Through King Marov’s intercession Steppenwolf is protected by international treaties and allowed to thrive within the borders of Dherain.  In exchange, Marov is able to extract Apokaliptian tech to supermodernize his small nation.  However, as tension grows between Steppenwolf and Marov, Steppenwolf’s greatest weapon is revealed and promises to drop jaws.  With the end of this issue an ominous threat is revealed and then relegated to the background once again like a Sword of Damocles dangling over the overarching narrative and driving the reader mad wondering when it will fall.

    Hell Hath No Fury . . .

    Hell Hath No Fury . . .

  • Worlds’ Finest #8 follows two exiles from Earth 2 living on Earth 1, Huntress and Power Girl.  Writer Paul Levitz started this pilgrimage in a guarded way by introducing one of these exiles, Helena Wayne (aka Huntress), as Helena Bertinelli in the limited Huntress series.  In it Huntress fights traffickers of young Arabic women from North Africa to Italy and the European market led by the warlord Ibn Hassan.  In this issue, Levitz shows that no good deed goes unpunished.  After breaking up his operation and losing him hundreds of millions in revenue, his men finally catch up with Helena and put her in the hospital.  Power Girl intercedes and seemingly solves the problem of Ibn Hassan and the bounty on Huntress’s head removed, but her hospitalization gives the opportunity for her in her delirium to return to her childhood and show how her father, Batman, imbued in her an iron will and “never-say-die” attitude, and her mother, Catwoman, gave her love and strength of mind over body.  She had super-star parents who were tough on her, but loved her just as much as any parents could.  The overall plot is kind of trite, as Helena gets hurt, being only human, and Power Girl fixes everything being both rich and an invincible Kryptonian, but the underlying story facilitated by it of her past and the rich environment and parents that sculpted the woman she became is really what makes this issue so stunning.

    Catwoman And Her Kitten

    Catwoman And Her Kitten

  • Green Lantern: The New Guardians Annual #1 is a really interesting annual, sort of like the Superman Annual #1.  Though it bears the name of the series it represents, it has little to do with the overall story in the main series run.  Just as with the Superman Annual, which had more to do with Grifter and Red Hood and the Outlaws than Superman, this Annual does more to set up the series Threshold #1 than forwarding the New Guardians storyline.  Carol, Kyle, and their allies Saint Walker and Arkillo are sent on a mission by Carol Ferris’s overlords in the Star Sapphires to the Tenebrian Dominion.  The Tenebrian Dominion is the empire governed by Lady Styx, rebooted from her previous insectoid form to a black feline one, as introduced in Blue Beetle #0.  To infiltrate one of the most secure sectors of Space the New Guardians enlist the aid of Jediah Caul, the Green Lantern deep cover operative inside the Tenebrian Domain.  Unlike most Green Lanterns, Jediah is very amoral and subscribes to a dog-eat-dog, survival of the strongest philosophy.  Once he gets them in, the annual introduces the concept of “the Hunt,” a game in which enemies of the state are released with a bounty on their heads and the chase televised with their death open to any citizen of the Dominion.  Tony Bedard takes a break here, with the annual written by Threshold scribe Keith Giffen.  Art is provided by Andrei Bressen, relief artist of Green Lantern: New Guardians, and Threshold back-up artist Scott Kolins.   Though Giffen is new to the series and also considering he won’t be writing its characters for the foreseeable future, he nailed it.  The unlikely friendship and comradery between Saint Walker and Arkillo was especially well done.  Carol Ferris was also written in a very engaging, empowered way.  I enjoyed this annual and look forward to seeing the new title that it so exceptionally introduces.
  • Batwing #16 marks the title getting good again!  The previous arc, begun by Judd Winick dealt with a crazy cult leader and descended into a really crazy place.  With this issue new series writer Fabian Nicieza brings the plot back into the realm of real problems in Africa.  This time its police corruption and the the power of private individuals over national politics.  Here the son of a foreign investor who has a proclivity for sex and murder is acquitted over and over due to police buy offs.  The title character, David Zavimbe, who moonlights as a vigilante and licensed operative of Batman Incorporated, is caught in the middle considering he is also a Tinasha police inspector.  As Batwing and as an officer of the law he must find justice despite the overwhelming tides that are rushing against him and the innocent people he’s vowed to protect.  With this issue, a war is declared.  Nicieza’s writing is superb and hits a chord with the blunt realities of the “dark continent” in the post-colonial era.  Though its solicited on the cover as done by Fabrizio Fiorentino, the actual artist is Allan Jefferson, a man I had never heard of, but whose art is crisp, fresh, and very appropriate to the tone of the book.  This marks the beginning of something good.Batwing16
  • Green Arrow #16 is yet again a place holder.  Green Arrow concludes his business bringing down the underworld arms dealer and dog fighting kingpin, Harrow.  Not really any good, and I think that writer Ann Nocenti is checked out on the title, ready to move on to other projects, namely February’s Katana #1.  I am on the verge of dropping this title, but next month’s issue taken over by Jeff Lemire could turn it around like the character has several times in the past.  Green Arrow is one of the characters that has been written the worst and written the best so many times over his long history of publication.  You either do it perfectly or completely crap.  I pray that Lemire gets it, like others have gotten it, and resurrected the title like so many of the greats had done before him.  Lemire may indeed add his name to the list of Mike Grell, Dennis O’Neil, and JT Krul.  This issue, however, is forgettable.  
  • Phantom Stranger #4 takes us further down the rabbit hole that is the life of Philip Stark, aka Phantom Stranger, aka Judas Iscariot. Going clothes shopping with his wife, suddenly he finds himself whisked to the House of Mystery by John Constantine.  Phantom Stranger made an appearance in Justice League Dark #14, and this issue gives the other half of that encounter from the Stranger’s perspective.  I absolutely hate John Constantine and not in an “I love to hate him” sort of way, but rather an “if he died I would either cheer or just not care.”  Phantom Stranger is an unfettered transcendental force that is free of most Earthly constraints and not one to trifle with.  Constantine found perhaps the ONE way to not only guarantee his own safety while parlaying with him, but also the one string that he can use to make the Stranger dance like a puppet.  So that’s one headache Phantom Stranger has to deal with, but once back to the store in which he was snatched another calamity rears its ugly head, bringing the narrative back to Pandora and another universal force on par with our protagonist.  Dan Didio conceived the plot on this one, but the scripting is taken over by J.M. Dematteis, another phenomenal writer of paranormal comics.  Also, though I don’t normally comment of cover art, Jae Lee (Before Watchmen: Ozymandias) looks to be providing cover art for the next couple of issues and this particular issue’s looks stunning.  If down the road he were to take over interior art, that wouldn’t be completely inappropriate and would add a great deal.
  • Legends of the Dark Knight #4 returns to a three part anthology format, like its inaugural issue, with tales from T.J. Fixman, Andrew Dabb, and Jonathan Larsen.  Fixman’s installment, entitled “A Game To Die For”, tells of an up and coming superhero named the Praetorian who nabs the Joker and awaits Batman to pick up the Clown for return to Arkham.  In the interim the Joker, tied up and seemingly helpless, plays his masterful head games that distort Praetorian’s reality and raise some interesting questions about his past.  Suspenseful and psychologically charged, this story is very much in line with Christopher Nolan’s non-Batman films and just as complex considering its short duration.  The second installment by Andrew Dabb deals with a film crew coming to Gotham to make a movie based on that city’s storied nocturnal protector.  Of course since it takes place inside the DCU the film crew has no idea who the Dark Knight is or why he does what he does and that is at the heart of the story.  The main actor who is cast to portray Batman has reservation as he doesn’t know what motivation to take to get into his character and understand him.  Of course upon the beginning of filming things karmicly are destined to go awry, which manifests in the form of Joker and Harley Quinn crashing the party.  Asking Harley why her and the Joker are doing what they are doing to innocent people, the actor gets the reply, “Why does anyone?  Us, the capes  . . . cause its fun and we get to dress up,”  and when he asks Batman the same question he is rewarded with no answer at all.  However, the Dark Knight’s evasion is rather Zen in nature, because while there is no intelligible answer, the truth behind his motivation is everything that the film crew has endured up to that point at the arbitrary whims of two psychotics.  Finally from writer Jonathan Larsen comes a tale of Two-Face that features some very telling things about the nature of both Two-Face and Harvey Dent, two consciousnesses sharing a body.  Involving a very radical surgery, the plot of this story is too good and two complex to sum up.  However, this story does present a very twisted conundrum inherent in the nature of Harvey’s split personality.  As ever this title gives thoughtful exploration to the very complex character that is Batman.
    Sometimes No Answer Can Be The Most Telling Answer

    Sometimes No Answer Can Be The Most Telling Answer

     

  • Smallville Season 11 #9 moves into a brand new arc entitled “Haunted” which could stem from two plot points and perhaps even both.  On one side of the narrative, Lex Luthor has been using cutting edge psychotherapy techniques to dive into his subconscious and claim the memories of his sister, Tess, who’s consciousness has taken up residence in his shiny dome.  At the heart of this is her knowledge of Superman’s identity. On the other side, Superman hooks up with an old friend of his, Bart Allen, aka Impulse (Basically the Flash of this world), and the two have their infamous race across the world.  Bryan Q. Miller maintains the feel of the original TV show in this comic extension, introducing classic characters in interesting new ways.  Psimon is introduced in this issue as a failed experiment by Lex Corp.  During the race across the world, Impulse and Superman stop an art robbery at the Louvre by a band of Gorillas lead by an Alpha gorilla and a disembodied brain.  Yup, you guessed it.  Here we meet the Brain and Monsieur Mallah, which Miller takes a cue from Grant Morrison’s 1990’s Doom Patrol series by making homosexual/trans-species  lovers.  Lastly, but certainly not of least interest, is the introduction of a black, spectral speedster that is chasing Impulse.  Again, for those who follow DC with some frequency, you know who this is, rounding out what promises to be yet another interesting arc in Smallville Season 11.

Thus ends the first legitimate week of 2013 comics.  The comic year looks rife with possibilities.  And next week we get into a whole slew of “Death of the Family” titles as well as a very promising new title in Threshold.  See you back here next week.

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 #16:  Drawn by Rags Morales & Brad Walker, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Andrew Hennessy & Mark Propst

Earth 2 #8: Drawn by Yildiray Cinar, Colored by Alex Sinclair, Inked by Ryan Winn & Ruy Jose

Worlds’ Finest #8:  Art by CAFU, Colored by Rosemary Cheetham

Batwing #16: Drawn by Allan Jefferson, Colored by Pete Pantazis, Inked by Phyllis Novin, Le Beau Underwood & Juan Castro

Legends of the Dark Knight #4: Art by Giorgio Ponrelli, Colored by Antonio Fabela

Week 66 (Dec. 5, 2012)

This week begins December, which due to the holidays will be an abbreviated month.  The fourth week of books with comprise only three titles from DC, Aquaman #15, Justice League #15, and Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #4, and I am assuming a couple indies.  This week, however, starts off strong with Action Comics, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, and another twofer of Before Watchmen titles.  Let’s see how they stack up . . .

  • Action Comics #15 is two issues away from Grant Morrison’s blowout finale on his Action Comics run.  The first issue of Action was not very Morrison, but each issue thereafter has been more and more Morrison.  This issue took it to the limit.  The “Little Man” whom we now know to be a fifth dimensional wizard name Vyndktvx has been setting a trap for Clark over the course of a little over a year’s worth of issues.  Slowly all the disparate threads that have popped up throughout the title so far are beginning to weave into a cohesive plot.  Susie Lane (Lois’ evolutionarily advanced niece), Nimrod the Hunter, the Metaleks, Drekken the Evolver, and the Kryptonite Men all made appearances that were short in duration and seemingly without point.  This issue has Vyndktvx bringing them all together as the Anti-Superman Army and attacking Superman throughout Time.  In the present Clark is feeling the attacks with strange memories of things that never were and things that have not yet been.  His landlady, Mrs. Nyxly, revealed several months ago to be a fifth dimensional princess in issue #12, not only tells him how Vyndktvx is attacking throughout the time frame of his life, but more importantly, why.  Ironically, it ties into Superman’s original fifth dimensional antagonist, Mr. Mxyzptlk, who Superman’s yet to meet in this rebooted universe, but who bears the Man of Steel a great deal of affection.  For that reason, Vyndktvx has decided to wage a war to destroy the last son of Krypton as a final blow to the mischievous trickster we’ve read and loved.  Delving deep into the mythos of Superman’s past incarnations, Morrison is forging a very solid foundation for the character in revisionist absurdism.  Though Mxyzptlk came about in the 1940’s during a time when truly bizarre and absolutely ridiculous storytelling was the norm, Grant Morrison has taken that ridiculousness and distilled it into grade A material, rife with outside-the-box perspectives and mindbendingly intriguing concepts. Though the art from Rags Morales and Brad Walker is very good, this series is really a must get for the writing more than anything else.  Grant Morrison is a maestro and this first run of Action Comics will not only define the New DCU for decades to come, but also stand as a jewel in the crown that is his comics career.  In the backup feature written by Sholly Fisch, we get a better look at Mxyzptlk’s history in the fifth dimension, how he came into conflict with Vyndktvx, won the love of Princess Gsptlnz (Mrs. Nyxly), was imprisoned  and escaped to the third dimensional Earth One with his lover, Gsptlnz, and the creation of what might be his greatest trick yet . . .
    Gsptlsnz (left) and Mxyzptlk (right), as seen ...

    Gsptlsnz (left) and Mxyzptlk (right), as seen in Superman: The Animated Series (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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    The Vindictive Vyndktvx . . .

  • Detective Comics #15 was a little milquetoast in its plotline.  It progressed off of the previous issue dealing with  the fate of Poison Ivy, the consequential response from the enraged Clayface, and the first move of a shadowy new player into the Gotham underworld scene.  Also, as per the backup feature of Batman #14 last month, Penguin is drawn into the twisted web of the Joker’s overarching scheme.  The Penguin is very much a man who does what he wants and “damn anyone who gets in the way”, but the fear on his face in this issue as he prepares to do what he has been instructed by the Joker really sets the tone for not only how immense the “Death of the Family” plot is going to be, but also how utterly terrifying the Joker has become.  Really this tie-in portion is what makes the issue, the rest of the issue is statically procedural.  Jason Fabok’s art is really good, but supports a plot with questionable relevance to anything substantial.

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    The Penguin May Be Dead, Long Live The Penguin

  • Before Watchmen: The Comedian #4 takes place fully in Vietnam and I believe was supposed to show what Vietnam did to Eddie Blake.  That’s it really. Whereas most of the Before Watchmen titles seemed to take some key element or event from Watchmen and highlight it toward the actualization of the title subject, this one didn’t seem to accomplish much or at least not in an interesting way.  For the awesome run it has been so far, I think one interim issue is acceptable, but not the most interesting to read.  With two issues left and considering the integral part the Comedian plays in the events of the original graphic novel, I would bet the farm that the rest of the series will blow our socks off.
  • Before Watchmen: The Minutemen #5 represents the penultimate chapter of the series and did things in its story that literally gave me goosebumps.  Completely divorced from continuity, this issue and I am assuming the final issue as well take the Minutemen into uncharted territory with their paths completely within writer/artist Darwyn Cooke’s capable hands.  A very symbolic terrorist attack on a target of great importance to America brings the vigilante group back together after years of disbanding alongside two brand new allies in a demonstration of what true heroism really looks like.  This main plot point really hits to the reader’s heart and validates the concept of putting on a mask and costume while following one’s moral compass.  The second thing it did that chilled was something that, if I am correct in what they are hinting at, CHANGES EVERYTHING!!!  If what they are insinuating at the end of the issue is actually true, this would alter so much of what Alan Moore had done in the original 1985 opus.  That would be DANGEROUS!  If Cooke and his editors don’t tread carefully this house of cards that they have been building with the Before Watchmen series, which most of the hardline comic fanatics called “heresy” upon its proposal, will collapse.  I am optimistic, considering the phenomenal, thought provoking work that has been done so far across the board, yet the danger is still real.  I eagerly await the final issue.
  • Swamp Thing #15 shoots further into the “Rot World” crossover event, picking up with Swamp Thing and Deadman at sea, face to with William Arcane and his rot infested sea monsters.  The battle with the youngest Arcane is TITANIC to be sure, but the real interest in the issue comes in the flashback to Abigail Arcane’s journey to her former Eastern European home, Blestemat.  Her uncle, Anton Arcane, has very effectively been re-imagined by writer, Scott Snyder, as the avatar of Rot and over the course of several issues Abigail’s links to the Rot have been hinted at and explored to a certain degree.  Face to face with her uncle, amid the unprecedented incursion of death and decay into our world, her ties are explored and the magnitude of her power beginning to show through.  Anton represents an unchecked aggressor from one of the three natural orders, Red (animal life), Green (plant life), and Black (death and rotting), against the others.  Abigail represents what the Rot should be: a harmonious state that ends the life of the other two in order for rebirth to occur for both Red and Green.  The realization of that, however, is still left in the air for further issues.  Back with Swamp Thing, he makes it to Gotham in search of the Batman only to find another iconic Gothamite standing in to aid him.  Scott Snyder presents a truly excellent addition to his monolithic crossover event.  Artist Yanick Paquette is once again relieved of art duties by Marco Rudy, whose art is very well suited to the title, but presents a harsher edge than the florid work of Paquette.  However, considering the transition from the verdant Green Kingdom in the first two issues to the desiccated wastes of the Rot, I think that the harsher edges of Rudy will do nicely and make sense to the altering vistas.

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    Woman Thou Art Unleashed . . .

  • Animal Man #15 begins with the Gorillas of the DCU (Monsieur Mallah, Grodd, etc) attacking Animal Man, Steel, Black Orchid, and Beast Boy as they attempt to take the fight to the Rot’s Parliament.  Meeting up with Frankenstein and his Patchwork Army the ragtag resistence of the Red become aware of a prisoner being held in the bowels of Metropolis that is so powerful, Anton Arcane hides him away out of sight and far away, to be forgotten.  Superman disappeared shortly after the Rot’s incursion, so hope runs high that he is the one imprisoned.  This prisoner’s return could give the winning edge to their last ditch strike to regain their world.  And as has been the case for the past two issues of this title and its sister series, Swamp Thing, in the “Rot World” crossover, the fate of Animal Man’s daughter Maxine is reviewed during the lost year between the present and the moment the two avatars of Red and Green disappeared.  William Arcane guest stars in this flashback segment, further entwining the two series.  I eagerly await the resolution in the New Year of the “Rot World” event.
  • Earth 2 #7 presents a world exploration during the “pause for breath” following the ending of the first major threat, Solomon Grundy, and before the advent of the threat that is to come, Steppenwolf.  Alan Scott was thrust into the role of global guardian moments after watching the love of his life burn to death in a train crash and the fight with Grundy and the Grey has kept his mind focused, but now that the threat is past he is forced to confront his grief.  However, as a “Wonder” in a world that has been without heroes for many years, his new “fellows” won’t let him sink into himself because of the need they stand to fulfill.  Hawkgirl is the mouthpiece of dissent, revealing her identity and her connection to the powers that be.   Apropos, the second half of the issue deals with the Shakespearean power struggle between Commander Amar Khan of the World Army and Terry Sloan, the smartest man alive and sinister mastermind that the World Council has taken to their proverbial bosom, even after he unilaterally incinerated seven countries and killed tens of millions of people on his own authority.  Khan’s got Wesley Dodds and his Sandmen in his pocket helping him play his game of political chess and as he tells Dodds, “In the game that you speak off there will be No Fair Play.”  The white gloves are coming off and blood will be drawn.  One man is a sociopathic, genocidal lunatic with a pearly white smile and the other is a military man with nothing to lose.  Tell me this title doesn’t beg to be read.
  • Worlds’ Finest #7 as always, follows on the tail of the Earth 2 premise, giving us a glimpse at two refugees from the other earth on our Earth 1: Helena Wayne (Huntress) and Kara Zor-El (Power Girl).  As of last issue, the twenty-something daughter of Batman and Catwoman meets her Earth 1 counterpart, the preteen Damian Wayne, son of Batman and Talia Al-Ghul.  Damian doesn’t take crap from anyone and neither does his “not sister.”  That said, once she dishes, he has little choice but to believe her as the evidence is nearly incontrovertible.  The two go somewhere frigid while tracing money siphoning from Wayne Enterprise funds only to be greeted by a monstrosity from Apokalips.  When Power Girl traces another signal to the Congo she is met with child soldiers, one of whom holds an Apokaliptian energy weapon.  One Apokalips connection might be a fluke, but the evidence is mounting that something sinister is in the works.  Paul Levitz is the man, writing the super-heroine duo as incredibly as always, but really doing a thoughtful job folding Damian into the mix.  Seeing his reaction as a sibling to an older sister who shares far too many of his lesser traits is entertaining to read, and feels genuine coming from my perspective as a flawed boy with older sisters of roughly the same age difference.  George Perez and Kevin Maguire split art duties on the divergent storylines of each heroine, accentuating the characteristics of each with their masterful styles.  Like its sister series Earth 2, this title is building toward a crescendo that smells like the sulfuric Fire Pits of Apokalips, and I for one am a moth to the flame when it comes to the New Gods . . .
  • Batwing #15 is an odd duck.  This is the last issue of a story arc, in this case the “Father Lost” storyline, but it is the first issue written by new writer, Fabian Nicieza.  I have never seen a writer change when the arc is only one issue from completion.  Nicieza wasn’t even a co-writer on the previous issues.  Very strange.  He does a seamless job, however, taking the plot to the end zone with a really powerful finish.  Batwing falls once again under the sway of the evil cult leader right at the crux of the latter’s plan.  If that weren’t enough, fellow Tinasha police officer, Kia Okura (who David Zavimbe is hinted to have feelings for), slowly becomes suspicious that he and Batwing are one.  This is one of those series that doesn’t knock your socks off, but is just really comfortable and interesting to read.  Fabian Nicieza is a really great Bat-title relief writer that has an innate knack for the tone of the books and can slip effortlessly into them, penning some quality issues.  Fabrizio Fiorentino provides art for this issue, which is a welcome surprise.  I loved his art on Final Crisis: Ink and Titans.  With these two men onboard I look forward to future issues.
  • Phantom Stranger #3 continues to show the tenuous balance that the Stranger walks between his role as the ethereal watcher of men and family man, Philip Stark.  They touch again on his past as Judas Iscariot and the road he has to walk, but unlike the past where he has been made by fate to betray innocent people to atone for his betrayal of Jesus, this issue just has him dealing with spooks that go bump in the night.  Dr. Terrence Thirteen, paranormal researcher and many times descendant of the original Terrence Thirteen of the 1880’s, calls upon the Stranger to help him beat a family curse of the Haunted Highwayman, killed by his eponymous forebearer, who has now come for him.  If that sounds familiar its because that was a backup feature in All-Star Westerns #11-12. The intercession of the Phantom Stranger in this instance allows writer Dan Didio to spread the character’s wings and show what his powers can really do.  Since he is not the best known character, even to myself, this is a very welcome issue that acquaints us a bit better with its subject.  The Stranger also appeared last week in Justice League Dark #14, and the solicitation at the end of this month’s issue alludes that we will see that encounter from his viewpoint come Phantom Stranger #4.  Until then, I await further glimpses into one of the most enigmatic comic book personages.
  • G.I. Combat #7 ends the series and its two features.  In The Haunted Tank the two Stuarts, Jeb and Scott, are transported to the Antarctic where the descendant of Erwin Rommel has rebuilt the Third Reich’s war machines and is preparing to bring about a Fourth Reich with a gigantic War Wheel.  The battle against this neo-nazi threat is really rushed and unsatisfying.  Also, as a history buff myself, I feel that writer Peter Tomasi was discourteous to Rommel and his descendants, considering that despite being a brilliant commander for the Nazi Wehrmacht, Rommel actually was a humanitarian and against most of the hardline policies of the Nazi party, never joining it politically.  In The Unknown Soldier, the titular protagonist jumping out of a window with a cyber-terrorist in hand and then going to his visit his old house.  Comprising only two short scenes and nine pages of story, this also was as rushed, unsatisfying ending to the feature’s eight issue run.  Across the board this issue was lackluster and a terrible way to end what was a really great title.
  • Smallville Season 11 #8 concludes the Batman/Superman team up in Metropolis.  Going head to head with Mr. Freeze and the Prankster, the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight have been through a crucible of distrust and cross purposes, only to emerge as the friends we have largely known them to be.  This arc has been so interesting, towing the line of the character status quos, but breaking in ways that keep the reader on their toes.  Batman’s sidekick and personal secretary in both facets of his life is Barbara Gordon, who moonlights under the nom de guerre of Nightwing.  Breaking up the “good old boys club”, Barbara brings all the sass and kick ass of Dick Grayson, but with more feminine grace and a dash of sexual tension.  Her interactions with Lois Lane also bear an interesting tenor, due to their own similarities: one the daughter of a four star general and the other the daughter of perhaps the most hardcore police commissioner in the history law enforcement.  Next issue promises a new storyline that from its title, “Haunted,”  suggests an exploration into the broken mind of Lex Luthor that has absorbed, or at least internalized, the consciousness of the little sister he murdered, Tess Mercer.

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    The Women Behind the Men

  • Legends of the Dark Knight #3 presents another very thought provoking story about the Dark Knight.  Batman takes down the Joker, but on route to Arkham Asylum the mad clown slips his leash, making a getaway.  Shortly thereafter, Batman gets a package from him, with a miniature revolving door and a note bluntly saying “You might as well not exist.”  This is a sucker punch to Batman’s ego and he begins to lose heart in his crusade.  Commissioner Gordon and Alfred come up with the solution, giving him letters from regular people that have come into the GCPD over the years addressed directly to the Batman.  One from the daughter of a assault victim, one from the owner of a bar that was hit by Joker henchmen wanting free booze and money, and a third from a drug addict mugger.  All of whom the Batman saved, the latter most case because going back to jail turned the con’s life around.  As a result of these three cases in particular, Batman is not only able to regain his confidence, but get the upper hand on the Joker.  Its sort of a “Its a Wonderful Life” of the DC Universe.  No man is a failure that has friends.  Write Steve Niles has a penchant for writing twisted, hard edged horror stories, so this very optimistic tale of a Batman who is shown the reason why he is needed seems to come from left field.
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    Sometimes the Joke is On You . . .

    This week’s books were a great way to start off the month of December.  Here’s hoping the the other two and a half weeks keep pace.

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 #15:  Drawn by Rags MoralesBrad Walker, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Andrew Hennessy & Mark Propst

Detective Comics #15:  Art byJason Fabok, Colored by Jeromy Cox

Before Watchmen: Moloch #1: Art by Eduardo Risso, Colored by Trish Mulvihill

Swamp Thing #15: Art by Marco Rudy, Colored by Val Staples & Lee Loughridge

Smallville Season 11 #8: Drawn by Kevin Axel Gimenez, Colored by Wendy Broome, Inked by Diana Egea

Legends of the Dark Knight #3: Art by Trevor Hairsine, Colored by Antonio Fabela

Week 56 (Sept. 26, 2012)

This week marks the end of Zero Month and the end of DC’s New 52 Origins.  I have to say that I am sad.  I thought I would be angry by the interruptions in the plotlines we’ve been reading in the regular series, but its actually been a very enjoyable month of oneshot stories.  Here they are:

  • Batman Inc #0 bridges the gap between the “Island of Jonathan Mayhew” storyline with the Club of Batmen and the decision by the then recently resurrected Bruce Wayne to form Batman Incorporated.  The Batmen of the World worked well together to combat the forces of the Black Glove that tried to kill them all, and that same dynamism is what fueled Bruce’s plan to unite them in a common goal of rooting out a global enemy.  Knight and Squire stand for Britain, El Gaucho for Argentina (and probably other parts of South America if needs be), Man-of-Bats and his son Red Raven for the American West, but others are still needed.  The slain  Dark Ranger is replaced by his aborigine sidekick, the former Scout, to stand for Australia.  The Musketeer retires as the “Batman of France”, deferring to the Franco-Algerian teenager who defends Paris under the moniker “Nightrunner”,  owing to his penchant for parkour.  The Batman of Moscow, clearly represents the Russian people as their pointy eared protector.  In Japan, Mister Unknown accepts the mantle of the Batman of Japan.  We’ve seen these characters in brief scenes or in drawn out storylines, but this issue written by Grant Morrison and co-written by series artist Chris Burnham, ties it all together in a way that takes disparate storypoints and unites them in a way that makes them relevant to the main point of this title.  Frazer Irving steps in for art duties, delivering a dark, shadowy depiction of Morrison’s script.
  • Red Lanterns #0 fills in the origin of the founding Red Lantern, Atrocitus.  We already know the generalities of his life and the events that inspired his unquenchable rage, as well as his vendetta against the Guardians of the Universe.  This issue takes those hallmark events and gives flesh to the moments in between, allowing us to go on a journey with Atros of the planet Ryutt from loving father and husband, to passionate rebel/”terrorist”, finally to Atrocitus, paragon of vengeance and hatred.  Creator Geoff Johns tied him to the “Five Inversions”, who themselves were created by Alan Moore in the 1986 Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 story “Tygers.”  Though only Qull and Roixeaume were mentioned originally by Moore, Peter Milligan takes Johns’ creation, Atrocitus, and links him to the other two, while simultaneously taking all the mythology related to the Inversions and combining it.  Twenty-six years later, and Milligan takes the bull by the horns and writes a creation myth for the Inversions.  After this apocalyptic issue, the history of the Red Lanterns, Space Sector 666, and the Five Inversions is at its fullest.
  • Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #3 brings out three of the most intriguing aspects of the journey of Ozymandias as conqueror or uniter of the world, however you want to term him.  Firstly, is his initial meeting with the Comedian.  Not to spoil the surprise for those who have yet to read the original Watchmen graphic novel, but Adrian Veidt and Eddie Blake share a very intense and meaningful exchange that defines that graphic novel and everything that it accomplishes.  Secondly, it also features his reaction to the advent of Dr. Manhattan and his initial meeting with the human supreme.  Adrian Veidt represents the pinnacle of human perfection.  He is the height of what a human being can aspire to become.  Dr. Manhattan transcends not only humanity, but also modern science.  His reaction to this initial meeting also defines the course of the graphic novel and says something about human nature.  The third point is the creation of his Antarctic hideaway, a re-creation of the ancient Egyptian palace of Ramses II.  Len Wein is the writer best suited to write the character (since Alan Moore is never going to revisit the title) and Jae Lee lends a gothic intensity to the title as well.  With the six issue run only half done, I am ravenous to see where Wein and Lee are going to take us in the other three.
  • Aquaman #0 explores the reimagined backstory of the character.  The main bullet points are all the same.  Atlana, princess of Atlantis saves lighthouse keeper, Thomas Curry, from drowning in a violent squall and falls in love with him.  Nine months later, after she disappears from his life, a blond haired baby is left on his doorstep.  That is all canon.  Geoff Johns revamps other aspects of the character’s origin to reinvigorate the franchise.  Growing up a “freak” Arthur longs for normalcy.  When that no longer is an option, owing to Dr. Stephen Shin’s outing of his Atlantean heritage, Arthur tries to escape.  In his exodus he is made aware of someone else exiled from Atlantis, a man named Vulko.  Here Johns reintroduces a classic character to the title.  Vulko not only tells Arthur who he is and where he comes from, but also what has befell Atlantis since his birth and how he can regain his birthright.  This issue is perhaps the greatest leap by Geoff Johns toward the series that was and stories that resonated with readers.  It also reintroduces a major Aquaman villain, Ocean Master.  Looking forward to the next stage in the title’s progression.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #0 was a bit of a let down.  Sure it was written exquisitely well, with plenty of allusions to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe, and Kennedy conspiracy theories, but there was no soul beneath the eloquence.  I suppose it’s important for someone of Batman’s caliber to come to terms with the notion of chaos and the meaninglessness and randomness of street crime, but it also doesn’t make for the most entertaining read.  I have defended this title under the reins of series artist and sometimes writer David Finch, Paul Jenkins, and most recently Gregg Hurwitz, but this issue is not one that I would go out of my way to recommend.  It has something valid to say, but isn’t one that would bankrupt your grasp on the current Batverse if you missed it.  Not a bad issue, just not the best.

    Some Things Are Arbitrary

  • The Flash #0 was just a straight, heart-of-the-matter piece.  There were a few instances of superheroics, but all in all, it was mostly a touching look at the traumatic youth of forensic scientist, Barry Allen, crusading for years to prove his father’s innocence in the murder of his mother, Nora Allen.   Though this traumatic episode is a new development in the character’s bio, engineered as recently as a few years ago by Geoff Johns, it really resonates with the character and writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato run with it in this issue in a way that Johns never did or never got around to.  His only attempt at it was the paltry attempt that resulted in Flashpoint.  Interesting series at times, but overall a ridiculously overdone waste of time.  This story shows the heartbreak of this event alongside the confusion, and ultimately the triumph of the human spirit amid adversity.  The death of Nora Allen robbed Barry of a father in Henry Allen, but gave him another in the form of Capt. Darryl Frye.  It explored what love can inspire people to do.  It brimmed with the promises of hope and determination.  I guess to put it mildly, this issue is the feel good issue of Zero Month.  Despite the traumas that life throws his way, Barry Allen (The Fastest Man in the World) is going to keep moving forward with strength, determination, and hope for the good things that are just over the horizon.

    Family Doesn’t Give Up On Eachother

  • Superman #0 blew me away on several levels.  Firstly, the plot was nothing short of stunning and defined the Superman universe down to its most quintessential roots: Old Krypton.  The Superman legend begins on a doomed planet with desperate scientists entrusting their last hope, their infant son, Kal-El of the great House of El, to the fates by putting him in an experimental rocket and sending him to a planet whose yellow sun will give him the fighting chance to not only survive, but also prosper.  New series writer (which is the second level of awesomeness) Scott Lobdell keeps the integrity of this iconic origin intact, while adding elements that tie it into a large initiative in the New DCU’s unfolding story.  As was intimated in last week’s Supergirl #0, a doomsday cult has taken root on Krypton with ties to a larger threat from beyond the stars.  That threat concludes itself with a strange creature emerging from nowhere on Krypton and blowing on a great horn, just as we saw happen in Superman #1 a little over a year ago.  Can the same doom befall Earth as it did Krypton?  Jor-El remains the cool analytical genius he has always been, but his wife Lara, gains new dimensions.  I can’t think of a representation where she ever had any substantial depth, but this issue represents her as not only a stunningly beautiful and elegant woman, but also a brilliant physician and something of a badass.  Once again, Scott Lobdell maintains what is good and innovates what is lacking.  Joining Lobdell on his Superman run is his artist from the first eleven issues of Red Hood and the Outlaws, Kenneth Rocafort.  I love Rocafort’s art so much and I think that he and Lobdell have a decent rapport going, so their continued collaboration here makes me confident that Superman will become the title it was meant to be.

    Super Parents

  • Firestorm #0 follows in the footsteps of Green Lantern: New Guardians #0 in that it doesn’t give a traditional origin, but rather provides a transitional story that facilitates a new era in the title as well as a jumping on point for new readers.  It also stands as a changing of the guard, written by series cowriter Joe Harris in anticipation of Dan Jurgens dual artist/authorship starting in issue #13.  After issue #12 the Firestorm matrices manufactured by Zithertech were all shutdown, effectively murdering the international Firestorms.  All that remains are the depowered duo of Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch.  Trying to settle back into normalcy, their dreams of peace and quiet are cut short when the remnants of their matrices “fire up” once again.  However, the premise of the book reverts to the “One Firestorm/Two Operators” paradigm of the original title.  Ronnie is the Firestorm with Jason riding shotgun in his head calling the shots.  I know some people are going to be excited by this reversion, but I was kind of into the idea of the multiple Firestorm idea.  It was fresh and done thoughtfully, keeping the reader on their toes.  Oh, well . . .
  • Justice League Dark #0 deals with the quintessential badboy of the title, John Constantine.  He’s such an asshole with a ridiculously overblown opinion of himself, how could he not be the subject of the origin issue? In this version, Jeff Lemire has him coming to New York as a punk novice in the arcane arts, looking to learn from the best.  In this case, it is the sorceror Nick Necro, who himself bears an uncanny resemblance to Constantine, only with darker hair.  In fact, he basically is what Constantine becomes.  He’s cocksure, alternative, and dating Zatanna.  Constantine learns from him and ultimately betrays him.  This explains a great deal about why he is the way he is, as well as the baggage that exists between him and Zatanna up until this point.  Also, the mysterious figure revealed in the twelfth issue of the series is no doubt a resurrection of Nick Necro.  This issue was intriguing as I hate Constantine so much, and yet Lemire had me feeling sorry for him and relating to his struggles for at least half the narrative.  The other half I just went on hating him.  Interesting  . . .

    The First Meeting Of John Constantine, Zatanna, and Nick Necro.

  • Teen Titans #0 completes the Bat-book origins, and I was not as excited about this one as I was hoping I would be.  Tim Drake is one of my favorite Robins.  Scott Lobdell set up an interesting and somewhat engaging backstory for him.  The major scandal that had people up in arms was his having the character go right into being Red Robin and not starting out as just “Robin.”  While I wasn’t excited by this development, it didn’t ruin the issue for me.  What did ruin it a bit for me was Tim not deducing Batman’s identity.  That was what set him apart from the other robins.  Whereas Bruce chose Dick and Jason based on their tragic circumstances, Tim found his way into the role by finding out Bruce Wayne’s secret through his own genius and detective work while in middle school.  Its what defined him as THE Robin, as someone who could replace Batman eventually.  If that doesn’t fit the mold of how the Bat-group wants to hashout the origins, fine, but don’t have Dick figure it out and not Tim!!!  Other than that, it was a good issue, but I am not a fan of Lobdell’s analysis of Tim’s origin.  Just not happy.
  • Talon #0 rounds out the “Third Wave” titles dropping this month, introducing Calvin Rose, a relatively recent Talon, who broke the mold and went AWOL from his service to the Court of Owls.  This is a title I have been anticipating ever since it was announced and writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV do not disappoint.  In all the categories necessary, this series resonates. Calvin has a traumatic childhood. Check.  Building off his past tragedies, Calvin forges a future for himself.  Check.  His consumate mastery gains him the attention of the Court of Owls. Check.  Conflicted assassin. Check.  I think his role as a master escape artist is what drew me to the character, in much the same way that I have always been drawn to Mister Miracle of New Genesis.  Since the New Gods haven’t been introduced in the New DCU I suppose the vacancy needs to be filled.  The narrative also is what draws you in, centering on a conflicted soul trying to find his purpose in life.  I could feel Scott Snyder’s influence in the story, but I could also detect what I believe to be James Tynion IV’s.  He’s done some backup work in the Bat-titles, so I have a general idea what his storytelling style is like.  Guillem March provides art, which is luscious and radiant, as ever.  Three incredible creators on a character that oozes with possibilities.  Add this one to your pull lists.  This has the potential to be history in the making.

    Calvin Rose Reclaims His Destiny . . . and other stuff, too.

  • National Comics: Rose & Thorn introduces the split-personality character into the New DCU.  In this issue she is portrayed as a teenager who recently was released from an asylum, of which she put in following her father’s murder.  Another side-note: In her previous incarnation, Pre-Reboot, she was the mother of the non-homosexual Alan Scott’s, aka Golden Age Green Lantern, children.  Don’t see them getting together assuming he’s in his mid 30’s, gay, and she is 16 and in high school.  This issue was a one-shot, but totally felt like the setup for a series.  Rose Canton is a goody-goody, who has blackouts that end with her covered in blood, tattooed, and with very naughty posts on “Facelook” social media network.  In her blacked out period she seduced the most popular boy in school,Troy Varker, and also her nerdy best friend, Melanie.  Though her other personality, Thorn, has a very darkside, she is working towards the goal of finding and punishing the people involved in their father’s death.  I do hope that this issue develops into something in the future.
  • Phantom Lady & Dollman #2 brings the four issue miniseries to the point of Dollman, aka Darrell Dane’s, introduction as the pint sized marvel.  After his rescue of Jennifer Knight from the Metropolis crime family scion, Cyrus Bender, the two retreat to the country and test out Dane’s experimental prototypes, including the Phantom suit that makes Jennifer insubstantial and the blacklight projector.  With this accomplished writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray bring the story to the present and presents the Phantom Lady with a superpowered antagonist that looks a little bit like Silver Banshee.
  • All-Star Western #0 eschews the secondary feature regularly at the end of the book and dedicates the entire extended page count to the origin of the Old Westerner badass, Jonah Hex.  The short version is that Hex had some really shitty parental figures in his life: an abusive father, an absentee mother, and a jerk of an adoptive father. With the Union Army, the Apaches, and his own father gunning for him, his past has been hectic to say the least.  The story behind his scarred face finds its origin with two of the above parties.  His story starts at his birth and continues to the present, picking up where issue #12 ended with Jonah, Dr. Arkham, and Tallulah Black meeting Reginald Forsythe to talk about a man who has stolen Dr. Jekyll’s formula, which ostensibly sets up the next arc in this series. The part of this issue that confuses me comes at the end with an unknown narrator talking about finding their mother.  I assume from the look of the prospective mother shown in the last panel that she can’t be Hex’s, who himself seems much older than she.
  • American Vampire #31 was an excellent issue that dealt in a couple of ways with the inconceivable conclusion to last month’s issue.   Pearl returns to her husband’s bedside as he awakens from his coma.  Through this tender moment, Scott Snyder clues in his readers to the past shared by Henry Preston and his vampiric wife, Pearl Jones.  The love shared between them truly warms the heart, which makes the ending of the last issue so UNFATHOMABLE!  Likewise, Pearl experiences a chill out with Skinner Sweet, her creator, after the events of their last mission together.  As the issue concludes it draws the plot closer to the arc’s ultimate conclusion.  The coven operating in Los Angeles does so from a hidden base lorded over by an enigmatic sire.  Not only does Pearl figure out the location of the base, she also learns the identity of the vampiric overlord.  Without spoiling the plot further, I’ll just reaffirm that I LOVE THIS SERIES!
  • The New Deadwardians #7 ushers in the penultimate chapter of the eight issue miniseries.  When Chief Inspector George Suttle comes face to face with the informant, Salt, and interrogates him, he is presented with and unbelievable conspiracy, featuring the most unlikely of conspirators. Armed with this apocalyptic knowledge, the Chief Inspector stands on the verge of solving not only the murder of the vampiric nobleman, Lord Highcliffe, but also the mystery behind the advent of the zombie hordes in Britain, colloquially known as the Restless.  Admittedly, I hate zombies and I hate vampiric fictions (with the exception of American Vampire above), but this series does both in just the right way to redeem their respective genres.  The resulting product comes off like an amalgam of “Walking Dead” and “Downton Abbey.”
  • Happy #1 is the first of four issues in a gritty crime story written by Grant Morrison, that bears his characteristic “Morrison twist.”  Former cop, Nicholas Sax, is on a crusade to take down the Fratelli crime family.  In the process he is shot and sent to a hospital. His former partner is in the pocket of the Fratelli’s as is the hospital Sax is taken to, meaning that he is in for a whole world of hurt.  Pretty straightforward, right?  Where’s the Morrison Twist?  The only thing keeping Nick ahead of the game and that aforementioned world of hurt is his daughter’s imaginary friend, a blue cartoony winged unicorn named Happy the Horse.  Somehow Nick can see him and their in it to win it.  Really weird, but as with most Morrison work, really intriguing.

    Pay Attention To The Talking Horse!

Thus ends September and the origin issues. Next comes October, “Death of the Family” in the Batman books, “Rot World” in Animal Man and Swamp Thing, “H’el on Earth” in the Superman books, “Rise of the Third Army” in the Green Lantern books, and a whole slew of other goodness. Can’t wait.

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

Illustration Credits:

Batman: The Dark Knight #0: Pencils by Mico Suayan & Juan Jose Ryp, Inked by Vincente Cifuentes, Colored by Sonia Oback

The Flash #0: Art by Francis Manapul, Colored by Brian Buccellato

Superman #0: Art by Kenneth Rocafort, Colored by Sunny Gho

Justice League Dark  #0: Drawn by Lee Garbett, Colored by Pete Pantazis, Inked by Cam Smith

Talon #o: Art by Guillem March, Colored by Tomeu Morey

Happy #1: Art by Darick Robertson, Colored by Richard P. Clark

Week 51 (August 22, 2012)

This is a week I have been looking forward to for awhile.  Green Lantern: The New Guardians has been powering towards this year long finale and I am anxious to read it.  Batman Incorporated was regrettably bumped back a month due to the shooting in Colorado, but finally hits stands.  The Golden Glider, aka Lisa Snart, makes her first appearance in The Flash.  And The Unwritten has been at the top of my pull list since it first came out over three years ago.

  • Green Lantern: The New Guardians #12 completes not only a full years worth of storytelling, but also the very first story arc which I believe has been referred to as “The Ring Thief.”  Self contained, this twelve month span of issues presents a beginning and an end wrapped up very neatly.  If one wanted to stop here, writer Tony Bedard provides a perfect jumping off point for reader, but also a perfect jumping on point next month for a new stage of storytelling with a brand new team.  Wrapping up the threat of Invictus against the Vega System and the Universe and the mysterious motives of the “Ring Thief”, Bedard presents two very complex figures.  Both the fallen Angel of Vega and the fallen Guardian of Oa have good intentions that cross boundaries of morality and pervert their noble aims.  Both are put down, but the result leaves a bittersweet taste in one’s mouth as to whether or not the Universe is better or worse for their defeat.  This series started off shaky last September, but finished high on the leaderboard in my opinion.  Can’t wait for next arc with the return of two of my favorite Lanterns: Carol Ferris and Atrocitus.

    The Last Flight of the New Guardians

  • The month delayed Batman Incorporated #3 finally came out this week, for those who couldn’t get a bootleg around the time of the original release date.  Isssue #1 introduced the reentry of Leviathan as the central threat under the banner of Talia Al-Ghul.  Issue #2 reintroduced the origin and journey of Talia to the foreground as the mastermind behind Leviathan and the reasons for the organization’s creation.  This issue brings us back to Batman and Robin fighting Leviathan and how the enigmatic cabal is spreading like a cancer throughout the infrastructure of Gotham, and probably the whole country.  Donning the seemingly retired persona of “Matches” Malone, Batman attempts to infiltrate the beast from its belly.  Grant Morrison writes a tight script and artist Chris Burnham draws it exquisitely, with as style reminiscent of Frank Quitely, but with a flavor all its own.

    A Tangled Web

  • Flash #12 brings months of Flash issues to a head.  Writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Brian Buccellato  have been slowly introducing the Rogues in one off issues that reintroduce and in some cases reinvent the characters to the DCU.  With Heatwave’s, appearance last month the final two make their’s in this twelfth installment.  Captain Cold’s little sister, Lisa Snart, aka Golden Glider, comes into the picture, ousting her brother as leader of the Rogues and institutes a daring plan to bring the Gem Cities to their knees, with a lot of help from a final Rogue who has kept a low profile thus far.  In the life of our protagonist, Flash confronts his fair-weather friend, Dr. Elias, about his betrayal and finds the good doctor to be an egotistical user who took advantage of the Flash to further his own research.  Elias then becomes the lynch pin between the Rogues, the Flash, Captain Cold, and The Pied Piper.  A lot of things happening and all setting up the Flash Annual due next week . . .
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #12 was a pretty intense, thought provoking issue.  Falling into the clutches of the Scarecrow, Batman is subjected to various regimes of fear toxin.  Through his descent into the trauma of his childhood, we see that Bruce Wayne and Jonathan Crane are actually very similar in several respects.  Also the the greatest fear of Batman’s is revealed and it is quite shocking, but appropriate.  Gregg Hurwitz is writing a great Batbook that is both hard hitting and introspective.  David Finch’s artwork continues to define the book and lend it a feel that is truly gothic.
  • Fury of Firestorm #12 reaches the fever point for both Pozhar and Director Zither.  With the international tension between Firestorms mounting, the truth behind the emergence of these superbeings unfolds.  Pozhar, the Russian Firestorm, pioneered the technology with Professor Stein.  Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond gained their powers from Stein’s Matrix.  The Firestorms of the other nations received their Firestorm Matrices from Zithertech, which makes all the difference.  The fallout (perhaps literal as well as figurative) redefines the title in time for the new regime of Dan Jurgens as writer/artist.  Ashra Khan hasn’t shown yet.  Hope that doesn’t vanish with the previous creative team.   I like Dan Jurgens’ work as a whole, but sometimes he can drop the ball.  I feel like he could do this title great justice, considering the subject material.
  • Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #1 inaugurates another out-of-the-park hit from J. Michael Straczynski in the Before Watchmen line.  With a plot whose flow is dictated by the principles of quantum physics, mainly that of what I believe is referred to as “Schrödinger’s cat”, stating that anything conceivable is possible until proven otherwise.  In this, the young Jon Osterman receives a present from his parents, and looking back on it as the godlike Doctor Manhattan, he states that until he opened that box, its contents could literally have been anything. A kitten, a teddy bear, a baseball mitt and ball, etc.  And in numerous realities it did contain those things.  He goes over his entire life and the exact moments that are unchangeable that lead to his metamorphosis into his current state.  However, when he witnesses a reality in which he does not find himself locked in the Intrinsic Fields vault, he then is confronted with the possibility that not everything is quantifiable and chaos does exist in a seemingly fixed set of rules.  There is obviously much more to the story, but the way in which the plot is scientifically mapped and charted by the author and its protagonist is what truly makes is a fascinating read.
Quantum Possibilities
  • Superman #12 brings a close to the first year of the title and also Dan Jurgens’ role as writer/artist.  I love Jurgens and his work, but this issue and the story arc it concludes was not good.  We see that the predator monster, who unmasked does actually look dissimilar and more like a reptile than the movie predator, was actually just an unwitting victim, ripped from his home dimension and who is just trying to get back to where he belongs.  While fighting his Russian captors to escape captivity, some of them are killed, and because of this Superman tries to bar his exit from Earth, because “this creature needs to pay for his crimes.”  WHAT?!  Knowing full well that the creature doesn’t want to stay here and was forcefully removed to Earth, are we really supposed to believe that Superman would take that line, especially considering his track record of wanton destruction?  No!!!  Mister Jurgens, this doesn’t make sense.  Better luck on Fury of Firestorm in two months.  Starting in September with issue #0, Superman will fall under the skillful pen of Scott Lobdell.  I for one, can’t wait.
  • Justice League Dark #12 continues the “Books of Magic” storyline’s descent deeper into the twisted realm of deception.  Felix Faust and Dr. Mist turn out to be merely pawns in a faceless enemy’s highly sophisticated plot.  While we do not know who this man is, we know he is powerful, we know that he has an old tie to John Constantine, and while Constantine is master of the House of Mystery, this other gentleman is become lord of the House of Secrets.  Also, we get to see the true secret about the rift between former lovers Zatanna and Constantine, and oh man is it a doozy.
  • Teen Titans #12 reveals further details about the connection between Cassie Sandsmark and the source of her power, the Silent Armor.  The Armor is an evil device, linked to an Armageddon force that thus far Cassie has been able to suppress.   However, the enigmatic young man from her past, Diesel, introduced last issue, holds the key to unlocking both her destructive potential and the secret of the armor.  In two months we will see how this all plays out.  In the backup story by Fabian Nicieza, Teryx, with the help of Kid Flash, hunts down Steg in an attempt to stop his dino-supremacist actions.  There isn’t really an ending to this segment making me wonder if it will be a future plot line or a recurring backup.
  • Voodoo #12 marks the end of that series’ main run.  There will be a #0 issue next month, but as of the end of this issue, both Voodoo and Priscilla are going to be relegated to the pages of other series, such as Grifter and possibly Superman.  When I read the first issue of this series a year ago, I had so many theories and questions as to the destiny of the anti-heroic title character, but this issue didn’t get anywhere close to resolving either.  I hope that Grifter utilizes the character  better, and both develops her and answers those questions.
  • All-Star Western #12 wraps up the storyline of the reorganized Religion of Crime . . . for now.  Jonah Hex and Tallulah Black (along with Dr. Amadeus Arkham) escape from the group’s steampunk deathtrap and take it to the self-appointed Lords of Crime with bare fists and .44 caliber bullets.  The results of their labors seem definite, but as is an accepted truth about Gotham City, no evil ever dies.  In the meantime, writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray introduce us to the next conflict in the series’ future . . . Dr. Jekyll and his strange associate.  In the backup feature, Palmiotti and Gray conclude their “Dr. Thirteen” arc in classic Sherlock Holmes style, with science masqueraded as superstition.

    Tallulah Black and Lorna Kyle Duke It Out In Old Gotham

  • Kirby Genesis: Dragonsbane #3 brings the group of mythic heroes closer to the Conspiracy of Dragons imprisoning the Persian princess, Tahmina.  In the process, they pick up another comrade-in-arms, the She-Demon.  Though she seems generic, it is hinted that she comes from a Romanian inspired mythland.  With the last of their fellowship together, the heroes end the issue by setting foot into the Persian mythland and on the verge rescuing Tahmina.  Next issue will conclude the series and I have to admit I am intrigued.
  • The Unwritten #40 marks the return of Tom Taylor to the main narrative.  As has been foreshadowed in previous issues, Tom is coming to Australia on a world tour of revelation that we can assume is in response to the eponymous “Wound” this arc details following Pullman’s attack on the Leviathan several months ago.  It also marks the meeting of Tom with the characters who we have come to see as central these past three months: Daniel Armitage, Det. Didge Patterson, and most importantly, Reverend Lucas Filby of the Church of Tommy cult.  When meeting each of these three, Tommy is made aware of something important to his journey forwarding.  In fact, Didge’s revelation, born of her disintegration by Pullman’s wooden hand, leads Tom and the title toward the next major arc.

    The Unwrittten Made Light

Thus concludes a phenomenal week in comics. See you next week.

Green Lantern: The New Guardians #12: Drawn by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Nei Ruffino & Wes Hartman, Inked by BATT

Batman Inc #3: Art by Chris Burnham, Colored by Nathan Fairbairn

Green Lantern: The New Guardians #11: Drawn by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Nei Ruffino, Inked by BATT

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #1: Art by Adam Hughes, Colored by Laura Martin

All-Star Western #12: Art by Moritat, Colored by Mike Atiyeh

The Unwritten #40: Art by Peter Gross, Colored by Chris Chuckry

Week 47 (July 25, 2012)

  • Green Lantern #11 is seemingly the beginning of the end.  Black Hand has re-died and become a Black Lantern once again.  Hal and Sinestro have left Nok and inexorably are drawn to the evil he exudes.  After this issue there is one regular issue and the Green Lantern Annual before a new Green Lantern is chosen.  Whether this means Hal is going to die or not is equally up in the air.  Though it seems that way, considering that the cover of that annual features a design reminiscent of the famous “Death of Superman” issue from the 90’s, I have a feeling that its all a gambit and both Hal and Sinestro are going to dodge the bullet and simply play dead.  But then again, Geoff Johns is getting a pretty big head, and may feel that “what Johns giveth, he taketh away.”  Since he brought Hal back from the dead, he may feel that its within his right to kill him again.  We’ll see.

    Shadows of Green Lantern Future . . .

  • Taking a cue from Grant Morrison’s Action Comics, Flash #11 has the Scarlet Speedster killing off his civilian identity, Barry Allen, and creating a new life under a pseudonym in a rough part of town.  Taking a job at a bar frequented by the Rogues, he has a better scope of how and where his villains’ attacks will come.  As with its predecessors, this issue features the introduction of a new Rogue.  This month Heatwave makes his New DC debut and his newest iteration is pretty intense.  Whereas in the past he was a tough guy with flamethrowers, he is now a scarred monstrosity that generates flame at will from his body, just as the new Captain Cold can generate ice and freezing effects from his hands.  Once again Marcus To is providing art, which though good, is still no substitute for the art of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato.
  • Aquaman #11 has the Atlantian king reuniting with the last of the surviving members of the “Others” whom he fought alongside in his past.  Black Manta had been tracking them all down and killing them for the artifacts of old Atlantis that they possessed which could give him power.  What power?  The power to find another artifact that even Aquaman didn’t know existed.  The importance of this lost artifact directly pertains to a question that many have asked for centuries.  This is an issue that will define the series and the character for sometime, me thinks.
  • Green Lantern: The New Guardians #11 may be the winner of the week.  This issue showcases the genocidal beginnings of Invictus’ evil plans, the confrontation of the New Guardians against Larfleeze, and the revelation of the true “Ring Thief” whose mischief ushered in this who plotline almost a full year ago.  The New Guardians have grown so much in the past year and as characters, blossomed into some of the best characters in the New DCU.  That is my opinion anyhow.  Through solicitations it is obvious that this first year is merely an opening salvo, and the ride of these seven warriors is almost up.  Some of them will endure to the next year, but several will not see the start of the next phase.  If this issue and next month’s is to be their swansong, then sing on Tony Bedard.  I’ve enjoyed what you’ve done with these lanterns and will continue to read the book for what you have in store next.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #11 was beautiful, but not a lot happened.  The Scarecrow continues his insane escapades, abducting children and dosing them with his fear toxin for as of yet an undisclosed reason.  There is a slight clue in a background story of Crane’s childhood, but again the exposition is rather vague.  What does strike the reader is David Finch’s incredible artwork.  Gotta love it.  Whatever you say about the plots, which when he ws writing weren’t that bad, his art is top notch.  I will say, however, that when he was writing he plots were framed a lot more interestingly.  That is my opinion and I humbly submit it as such.
  • Fury of Firestorm #11 brings the series close to the close of its first arc and its first year.  Jason Rusch and Firehawk go to Russia and learn some disturbing things about Pozhar, the Russian Firestorm.  In Pakistan, Ronnie sees the sinister nature of the master Firestorm for himself as Pozhar’s Cold War, Darwinian experimentations advance to the detriment of many around him.  Ashra Khan has yet to show, but somehow I am wondering if Pozhar isn’t Ashra.  It would certainly explain a great deal.  The Joe Harris/Ethan Van Sciver written series is ending after September’s #0 issue, with Dan Jurgens coming onboard both as artist and writer on issue #13 in October.
  • Teen Titans #11 brings us to an arc showcasing that explores the character of Wonder Girl, aka Cassandra Sandsmark.  Her powers come from mystic armor that she absconded with that has bonded itself to her person.  This issue show just how closely bonded.  Starting with a full page shot of her locked in  bathroom with spikes pushing their way out of her flesh, we see that there is something very draconian going on with it.  Cut to later when she herself goes over the edge when fighting an adversary that has invaded the group’s New York hideaway.  Also introduced is an enigmatic figure integrally tied to Wonder Girl’s past and the armor she wears.  Once again, writer Scott Lobdell and artist Brett Booth hit it out of the park and write a engrossing comic that pushes its characters to their limits of their potential.

    What It Means To Wear The Armor

  • Superman #11 was . . .  something.  In the land of Clark Kent he goes on a double date with Lois and her boyfriend, Jonathan Carroll, with Lois’ little sister, Lucy, as his date. Sort of.  It advances innocent trouble and drama in his civilian life, but in his superhero life, things get a little weird when he goes to Russia after the contents of a submarine he saved breaks loose. Trying to get their own extraterrestrial superman like America’s, the Russians found . . . a Predator.  I am serious.  Writer/artist Dan Jurgens has Superman fighting a predator, complete with two pronged punching dagger, dreadlocks, metal mask with glowing eyes and crazy tribal things.  Seriously, read the issue and see what I am talking about.  Where Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Glover failed, Supes . . . might also fail.

    That’s . . . That’s a Predator . . .

  • All-Star Western #11 brings the two Gotham cabals, the Court of Owls and the Religion of Crime, to direct confrontation.  It had to happen at some point. And as ever, caught in the middle is Jonah Hex, Dr. Jeremiah Arkham, and now Tallulah Black.  The Court of Owls is pretty straightforward.  They are, as ever, affluent men and women living in opulence wearing owl masks.  They are like that in our time, they were like that in the 1880’s.  The Religion of Crime, however, is quite a different matter, because they do not hide their identities.  With that in mind, the five Lords of Crime are perhaps the best part of the issue as they themselves are very disparate characters embodying the various disciplines of villainy.  In the backup feature we are introduced to Dr. Terrence Thirteen.  The Thirteens have shown up in modern times, but to my knowledge this is the first incarnation that existed in the 19th century.  A man of science, he cuts a very similar figure to Sherlock Holmes looking pragmatically at the supernatural occurances of the Old West to not only solve crimes, but debunk superstition, the latter of which being his primary motive.  Once again an incredible issue from three masters: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Moritat.  Guest artist, Scott Kolins does a good job too on the backup.

    The Lords of Crime

  • National Comics: Eternity is a oneshot comic by Jeff Lemire and drawn by Cully Hammer that introduces readers to the character of Kid Eternity in this New DCU era.  This appears to be the first of several oneshots designated National Comics, the original name of DC back in the 1930’s.  In this incarnation, Kid Eternity is no longer killed in a U-Boat attack, but rather a gangland drive by shooting.  He does return to the power set of recalling the dead to the realm of the living in ghost form for the purpose of justice.  This issue is interesting to read as it is both a return to a classic character’s origin, but also a redux.
  • The New Deadwardians #5 takes us to the English countryside to see how the gentry live in this England plagued by the Restless hordes (zombies).  The basic setup of English culture and politics of the day are permeated by this issue.  Young women are apparently not allowed to take “the cure” (vampirism) until they are married, and only if their husband allows, which is a hot button issue in the Women’s Sufferage movement.  Also English fox hunts and pheasant shoots have been replaced by hunting the random Restless for sport.  And all the while the keynote issue of the series, the murder of a Youth (vampire) without the use of the three methods leads police inspector George Suttle further into this strange subculture.  I hate zombies, but I love this series.  Downton Abbey meets Walking Dead.
  • American Vampire #29 is just awesome.  Going into the second chapter of the “Black List” arc, Scott Snyder sends Agents Pearl Jones and Skinner Sweet of the Vassals of the Morningstar against a secret coven of vampires that have nested in Hollywood during the infamous McCarthy trials of the early 50’s.  Full of action and intrigue there is little I can reveal about the plot that wouldn’t ruin it.  I will say that many assertions are made about the characters and what dark fates lie in store for each.  Also, Skinner’s survival after being shot by Pearl in WWII with a golden bullet is disclosed for the first time.

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 #11: Drawn by Doug Mahnke, Colored by Tony Avina & Alex Sinclair, Inked by Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Tom Nguyen, Mark Irwin & Doug Mahnke

Aquaman #11: Drawn by Ivan Reis, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Joe Prado, Jonathan Glapion & Andy Lanning

Green Lantern: The New Guardians #11: Drawn by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Nei Ruffino, Inked by BATT

Teen Titans #11: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund

Superman #11: Drawn by Dan Jurgens, Colored by Hi-Fi & The Hories, Inked by Jesus Merino, Vincente Cifuntes & Rob Hunter

All-Star Western #11: Art by Moritat, Colored by Mike Atiyeh