Sunday, April 1

DC Comics – April 2012

Well, due to other changes in my monthly buying, I decided I didn't need to drop any of my DC titles from my order at this time, so several titles identified as probable drops last month got a reprieve. Hopefully they'll prove deserving....
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Action Comics #6
When Superman Learned to Fly”

Wow. A very Grant Morrison story. The adult Legion of Super-Heroes – founders only – and Superman from the future somehow save the rocket that is dying without the Kryptonite engine stolen last issue, and in so doing save the future. It turns out that the Anti-Superman Army is holed up inside Superman's head along with the K-engine, in “tesseract space.” To track them, Saturn Woman somehow uses flashes of his memories and their alterations by which we see at least a version of young Clark's first meeting with the Legionnaires.

As they are taking an unconscious, Kryptonite radiation ravaged Superman back to his proper point on the timeline, the Legionnaires ponder their reactions to that first meeting. Saturn Woman: “When I looked at his memories, I fest so ashamed. … Remember we were so disappointed in him that first time? … We'd built him up as this idol in our minds, this myth, and he was just a gawky caveman kid. … But for him... Meeting us, that was when he knew the universe was bigger than he ever hoped. … We were proof that planet Earth had a future worth fighting for. … Meeting us was the greatest day in his life.”

One observation: “Superman Learns to Fly” may be used in the metaphorical sense, because on the last page, a three-quarter page spread of young Clark and the young Legion founders soaring before a sunset, he is wearing a Legion Flight Ring. But it is of course symbolic as well, when his dreams took flight. “And thus was the mission accomplished.”

There is so much in this story that I don't understand, though. Very Grant Morrison!

Last Day”

The backup story is of Clark reminiscing about good times with his parents, who have (recently?) died, Pete Ross, and Lana Lang on his last day in Smallville. It's a nice little character piece.

In both of the stories, in Clark's memories, we get to see a different side of Jonathan Kent – a more humrous side, going along with Clark as they use his powers to teach a neighbor a lesson – or a bank that repossessed another's tractor … “Just, uh ...” – “... Don't tell ma?” Clark finishes with a grin from ear to ear. – “You got it.”

Justice League #6
Justice League, Part Six”

This is the big fight with Darkseid. Darkseid has come to Earth specifically seeking his daughter. In the battle, Aquaman and Wonder Woman each manage to put out one of Darkseid's eyes … not that that will slow him down or blind him permanently, I figure – since he's “a god” and all. Cyborg uses his control of the Mother Boxes to open a Boom Tube of all Boom Tubes, sending Darkseid and the Parademons (doesn't that sound like a heavy metal band?) away from wherever they are. And the people of the Earth praise them – most obviously astonishing Flash who'd already suggested they make themselves scarce as well.

This issue is framed by a story about a writer and his family, who are among those saved by the superhumans. He is David Graves, a throwaway name on backmatter books in previous issues, now shown as the author of the (somewhat sacrilegiously titled) “Justice League: Gods Among Men.” The implication is that he gives them that name, which is quite a bit better than Flash's off-the-cuff suggestion of “The Super Seven.”

There is furthermore a tag page, in which a couple of shady individuals in London observe that “The Justice League” are being called “super heroes.” Striking up a cigarette, one wearing a familiar-looking lapel pin that I can't place responds, “Well, then … I guess they'll call us super villains.” … “The Beginning.”

Is Darkseid's missing and unnamed daughter Pandora? I don't think I've seen that speculated anywhere.

Overall, this has been a passable introductory story arc for DC's flagship team, although it did not knock my socks off. The story has been solid, but nothing really spectacular. Jim Lee's art is never less than spectacular, but frankly I'd hoped for something a bit more momentous. But it did the job.  Incidentally, even though this comic actually came out at the very end of the month (a week after it had initially been scheduled), I pulled it forward because I was wanting to see how this story, which, after all, is like Action Comics in that it's set in the past of the current DCnU, resolved.


We finally meet as a character the mysterious purple cloaked woman who appeared in all the New 52 issues #1 as well as in Flashpoint #5 where she seemed to be the one presiding over the melding of three universes into one. She and the Phantom Stranger converse basically over the body of a man who looks like he died of fright. We find out that Pandora is seeking to imprison the Strange and free herself from her curse, and intends that the Justice League help her, “Whether they like it or not.”

Pandora seems to be the Pandora of Greek myth; See above for what I consider to be at least a possibility. One possibility that seems out the window now is that she is Glorith. In her long, rather acrimonious interaction with the Phantom Stranger – which does result in shooting! – mention is made of the Spectre, but Pandora claims to have been judged by a higher power.

Justice League International #6
The Signal Masters: Epilogue”

Several vignettes of a few pages each show the “team” in the aftermath of their first adventure. Batman gives Booster Gold a pep talk as they take down the Hall of Justice bombers. Green Lantern Guy Gardner, Red Rocket, and Ice continue the cleanup at various sites ravaged by the giants, Guy bitching all the time about Booster Gold. Ice dissents from his opinion. Neither notices when Red is mysteriously affected by some kind of beam. Godiva and August General in Iron thwart another attack on the UN, inside which Booster Gold, Fire, and Vixen unsuccessfully argue on behalf of the JLI. The deciding vote is swayed when the General arrives and appeals to the Chinese delegate. Weeks later, there is an unveiling of the UN's official team of super-heroes (sans Batman – who, remember, the UN had specifically excluded – he came anyway, and I hope will continue to do so). Then – WHOOOM – a big explosion. Their unseen enemy, looking on, proclaims “The J.L.I. is dead and buried.”

Oddly enough, I found this issue more satisfying than the arc it epilogues – even with the ending. There was excellent character development, especially with The General and Godiva.

Detective Comics #6
Kill Game”

I'm really not caring for this book. Of all the New 52, it may be my least favorite – which I would not have predicted at all. I didn't think Tony Daniel was nearly as bad a writer as his reputation before Flashpoint had it. My mind is changing. Honestly, if I weren't obsessive-compulsive about getting all Bat-titles, this would be gone from my pull list. But I do get it, and I do read it.... I'm not engaged enough in it to try to come up with a coherent summation, though.

Something about Penguin recruiting various weird villains – none of whom I recognize. I'm really tiring of the unlikely multiplication of metahumans – villain and hero – in the DC Universe. It's something I've wondered at for years, but usually just turn a blind eye too. But really, sometimes it seems like “normal” people are a minority. Anyway, in a seemingly unlikely coincidence Bruce's hitherto unknown girlfriend, his date for the opening of the new Iceberg Lounge, is sister to one, although that doesn't seem to have anything to do with her coming undercover to the opening. Anyway, she gets herself practically killed – and Batman too. At least that's the god-awful melodramatic cliffhanger ending with Batman lamenting that his feelings for her have distracted him and gotten them both killed. It's all so out of character – how many damn girlfriends does Bruce purport to have, anyway … and is he smitten with them all as he seemingly professes to be this one? This title is almost a caricature of good Batman stories.

Oh yeah, to foster cross-continuity, I guess, there's an offhand reference to the events of last month's I, Vampire as well.

Batwing #6
...I Am Happiest When At War...”

This title, on the other hand, I find to be the biggest surprise. Despite its status as a Bat-title, I didn't even have it on my pull list at the beginning – not even giving it the one issue hard copy trial I did Red Hood and the Outlaws. I did, if I recall after hearing a good bit of surprised, positive buzz about the first issue, pick up the first issue digitally once it dropped from cover price to $1.99. And I really liked it, despite its dumb name and unlikely premise. So much so, that effective with this issue – such is the time-lag from when I added it to the pull list and actually getting my first issue – I'm reading it as part of my regular monthly stack.

The basic pattern of this first story arc continues with more interspersed memories as David catches and fights Massacre in the shadow of the pyramids to save another member of the increasingly dodgy-seeming African super-team, the Kingdom. It's been one year since Batman recruited him into Batman, Incorporated. Batwing realizes that Massacre is the old warlord whom he once worked for, whom he had left for dead, but who somehow survived with a vengeance. Batman shows up, perhaps still in Africa from last issue, and they determine that a pair of Kingdom alumni are now in Gotham City – where Massacre is headed next.

Review: … I liked it better than this reviewer did, though.

Stormwatch #6
The Dark Side, Finale”

Even as it explodes around them, Jack Hawksmoor makes an unholy alliance with the alien intelligence that functions as the spirit of the city that is Stormwatch Headquarters, the Eye, pulling it back together – but not before it briefly falls out of hyperspace and becomes visible to Earth. With the Projectionist taken by Harry, they choose as new leader the Artificial Intelligence. In the discussion, we find that J'Onn J'Onzz has never actually been a member of the Justice League. The AI immediately dispatches them to intercept his search for some hitherto secret Stormwatch Security Caches which contain “some of the most powerful alien artifacts from the hidden history of the world.” Unbeknownst to them, however, their search will be interrupted by their need to save the universe first.

“The hidden history of the world” – the only Wildstorm title I've done any reading in hitherto was Planetary, in which that same concept appeared. They were “archaeologists of the unknown,” uncovering “the hidden history of the world.” “It's a strange world. Let's keep it that way.”

This is Paul Cornell's last issue, which is the main subject of the following review. Cornell was indeed a major draw for me in picking up this title in the first place, and I always greet such creator shifts with trepidation, but I'm hanging with it for now.

Superboy #6
Not So Super”

Superboy vs. Supergirl. Luckily, for once it is not a story of Supergirl hits first and asks questions later. She asks questions, so to speak, doesn't like the answer – and hits him anyway!

We take up with some overlap at the end of Teen Titans #5. Superboy is on his way to NOWHERE and Templar, seeking a reckoning, when he encounters Supergirl. Her touch teaches him Kryptonian, but when he says he is a clone, she shouts, “KON-EL!” and KWOOM. His inner'logue as he tumbles upward: “What the hell does that mean? … Is that her battle cry – or some kind of insult?!? … And what is it about me that makes every woman I meet want to kill me?” They fight a bit, but his telekinetic blast and obvious confusion calm her down a bit, long enough to explain, “<Y-you really don't know, do you? … You don't know about Krypton's disastrous experiments with cloning. … You have absolutely no idea of the terrible fate that awaits you. … You are Kon-El. An abomination. … An abomination in the House of El. … As a clone, you have no choice but to eventually become – a mindless killing machine.>” She then flies off, headed to Metropolis to ask Superman some questions. Meanwhile, Superboy continues to NOWHERE with a lot on his mind: “Everyone I've ever encountered has either lied to me or tried to kill me. … Or both! … It's a process that began even before I first stepped out of the incubation tube. … Someone masterminded my creation. … Whyi?!? … Every question I've ever asked has led to outright lies – or additional questions that are even more disturbing. … I feel like a pawn in a conspiracy so vast, so complicated that I'll never be able to grasp my role. … That ends now. … Here. … The time has finally come for me to return to N.O.W.H.E.R.E.and learn the truth!” – But NOWHERE is deserted, except for Rose, who is spoiling for a fight.

For Supergirl, this happens after the current arc in her own title – which experience obviously informs her reaction to finding that Superboy is a clone, and which has yet to resolve – and leads directly into this month's Superman. I guess we are to take it that “Kon-El” means “clone”? – which has always been the anagram in the old “Conner Kent's” Kryptonian name, but I don't think ever explicitly meant that. Whence the “El” part, and the explicit connection with “the House of El”? … or is “Kon-El” = “clone” a semantic or idiomatic meaning, with the literal meaning “Abomination in the House of El” as Supergirl terms it?

Review: – (I'm proud to say that I've long perceived the “Kon-El” = “clone” connection that reviewer Anj and Martin Gray both missed. Usually it's the other way around....)

Batman and Robin #6
The Real Me”

We continue the dual story, with Damian and Morgan “interrogating” the suspect – whom Damian did not kill because the gun was empty – while Bruce searches and mentally relives his history with Morgan. Eventually, Damian balks when Morgan proceeds with killing the suspect – by dunking him in acid – and my hope (see last month) is fulfilled when Damian activates a tracker, giving Bruce a fix on their location. Morgan does not react very well: “I thought you were on my side! But you betrayed me, just like he did! … So this was an elaborate scheme between the two of you to --” – Damian: “No. He didn't know anything about what I was trying to do – Our problems are real – I used them to help me sell you on bringing you closerand you bought it.” – Morgan: “I was setting you free. Why would you throw away all I had to offer?” – Damian: “Why? … ->tt<- … Because he's my father, you idiot.” Morgan knows Bruce can hear through the tracker link as he starts to beat Damian mercilessly ….

Batwoman #6
To Drown the World, Part One”

This issue is framed by a sequence of Batwoman going up against the scythe-wielding thug who just about killed Bette. My impression is she doesn't make the connection and this is rather part of her quest for the missing children. Between a cliffhanger where it looks like she's about to be sliced and diced too and Scythe getting a bit of a surprise on the single last page, there are several vignettes of just a couple pages each: 1) Jacob holding vigil over Bette in the ICU, reading to her from Ian Fleming's James Bond novel, You Only Live Twice; 2) Maggie Sawyer being berated by the mother of one of the lost children; 3) a glimpse of the deliberate creation of the Weeping Woman; 4) Maggie and Kate on the morning after, three weeks ago, the latter still refusing to face her past and open up; and 5) a slightly longer sequence of a team-up of Batwoman and Chase in search of Medusa, wherein we find out that the DEO has “upgraded” Kate's uniform but is keeping her on a short least that is straining.

After five issues of J. H. Williams III's beautiful art, Amy Reeder's is noticeably different and there was a bad reaction to it on the Internet. I'm okay with it, though. Unfortunately, I gather that DC's initial plan for Williams and Reeder to alternate story arcs, mainly to give the notoriously slow Williams a chance not to fall behind schedule, is not going to work. As I understand it, Reeder has left this title after the few issues that begin here, allegedly because it was demanded that she basically ape Williams' style. I don't remember the name of the announced artist for a few issues hence, but I know his style is radically different from Williams'. It will sound like the apocalypse on the Internet, I'm sure.

Batgirl #6
A House Made of Spun Glass”

Babs works out the mystery of “338” and who Gretel is, and finds a dark reflection of herself. After successfully talking Bruce Wayne down from the trance which he was “mostly” faking for the sake of witnesses, she gets some much-needed affirmation from Batman: “I have something to tell you. … You were always meant to be Batgirl, Barbara.” She works closely with Batman for the rest of this issue in bringing Gretel in, and finds him following her lead and advice. There's also a bit more on the return of her mother, as well as a confrontation with Officer McKenna – where Batman has her back.

All in all, this is an excellent issue, the best of the series so far. The story, the art, the cover – even with the blank background. It has a nice, iconic feel to it, and the stark white background makes sense when you realize that you are seeing the two against the backdrop of a snowstorm. Some doubtless will object to the composition so overtly placing Batgirl under the mantle of Batman, but frankly, as far as I'm concerned, that's her proper place as long as Barbara Gordon is fighting crime under the guise of “Batgirl.” Oracle could be separated to a degree from the Batman mythos. In my opinion, Batgirl cannot. Of course, that stands against Babs' own inner'logue, but I stand by it.

The following reviewer makes some excellent points … that don't matter a whit to me because I liked this issue so much:

Huntress #5 of 6
Crossbow at the Crossroads, Part Five”

While I can't say I really care for the cover to this issue, the opening splash page of a very accurate view of Amalfi at night framed by a silhouette of the Huntress is amazing! Even if the shadows don't match the location of the full moon. Again, I'm certain somebody – probably Levitz, even though he's the writer, not the artist, did some on-site research for this story.
page 1 
Photo of Amalfi from here

Helena penetrates the resort where her target is holed up, fights her way through to him, including a rematch with the opponent from Pompeii, and kills the main perpetrator of the sex-slavery ring. It continues to be solid, straightforward action, good story and art. Not outstanding, but enough to keep me happy.

On page 2, Helena does make reference to “daddy” for his practical advice: “[O]bjects are meant to be used....” Of course, no in-story confirmation about who “daddy” is, but we know from all the releases about the upcoming Earth Two and Worlds' Finest that it's Bruce Wayne of Earth Two. It's also apparent from much of that information that it's a more violent place, which in principle doesn't sit terribly well with me in concept (“Earth Two” carries a totally different connotation for old-timer fans like me, although with Robinson and Levitz helming the titles respectively I'm still looking forward to them), but does track with her willingness to kill demonstrated in this issue. There is an interesting inner'logue on page 5 which may tie in with some more of the pre-Worlds' Finest information here: “Most of the time even I don't remember who I really am....”

Demon Knights #6
In: The Balance”

The Battle for Little Spring takes up in full force. All the “Demon Knights” get their chances to make sacrifices in the battle against overwhelming numbers, although we don't necessarily see them on the page. One of the more notable – and making the cover – is Exoristos the Amazon vs. the attackers' triceratops battering ram. Horsewoman does break out to Alba Sarum but even as the Demon Knights learn this, the Vandal Savage-led enemies break through the gates....

What can I say? I'm still liking this title enough to keep getting it, but I can't really pin down why, beyond inertia. I like the idea of a medieval setting – that's one thing. Paul Cornell – that's another. The, at least as I see it, connection somehow with Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers – all that's enough to keep me on it for now, at least.

Legion Lost #6

Tyroc is the narrator in this transitional issue – it's written by both Fabian Nicieza and Tom DeFalco. The time-lost Legionnaires – all but Tellus who is guarding Alastor – penetrate some kind of government facility where Timber Wolf and Yera are being held, under the guard of J'Onn J'Onzz, the Martian Manhunter. After an initial fight, J'Onn helps them escape, but does take something (an “energy signature”?) from Yera for his “associates” – Stormwatch. He also informs them that time travel is one-way only. Meanwhile, Alastor eludes Tellus, vanishing without a trace.

“Time travel is one-way only.” I call bullshit. Why do writers so often forget that, even though travel back in time is probably impossible, if we can suspend our disbelief as we always do to accept that – as we have to do to accept that this series could even take place! – travel forward in time would be a snap? We can do it already. Heck, we do it already – all the time (er... pardon the pun). And to travel faster forward in time, as they would need to do to return home to the 31st century, would just take acceleration to relativistic velocity where time would pass more slowly for them. Which I would think in the DCnUniverse would be possible. Of the six (or seven? – I lose count) Legionnaires, I'd be surprised if one of them could not, given a little time and resources, whip up some kind of space drive to accomplish this. So there's no way they are “trapped” here in the past. Never have been. At worst, it's an engineering problem. But it's one that for all intents and purposes renders the logic of this series untenable.

You know, that rant probably deserves a post all its own.

Wonder Woman #6

You know, my opinion of this series is deteriorating swiftly. I was hesitant to pick it up when the announcement of the New 52 was first made last year, but I decided to jump on it since she is part of the “trinity” of DC super-heroes. I was a bit hesitant because of Brian Azzarello as well, whom I find to be very hit and miss. I don't think his forte is or ever has been super-heroes. Then the first issue came and I was surprised at how much I liked it. It was so different from anything I've ever seen in a Wonder Woman comic, and the idea of making the Greek gods and their machinations, and their problematic relationship with humanity, central to the story seemed like a very interesting way to go. The art was good as well. So I found myself enthused.

That enthusiasm has waned. I think I've already commented on the tiresome nature of the … puns? – would that be the right word? … that Azzarello uses 'way too much. Once it impinged on my attention, it grew ever more evident how ridiculous it is that multiple characters would engage in such wordplay as they do here. The designs of some of the gods are just dumb. And so far the story just is not engaging me. I know it has something to do with the apparent death (?) of Zeus, his leaving a bastard child in the womb of a pretty ordinary-looking human girl (wouldn't a god only go for the hottest chick around … well, maybe beauty is only skin deep and there's a lot more to a person than the outward appearance, but these gods seem so shallow I'd be surprised if even Zeus would think that way. In fact, he is, in myth and here, portrayed as such a horn-dog that I think going for physical beauty would be part of his nature) whom Hera has plans to destroy while Wonder Woman has sworn to protect – and furthermore the discovery that Wonder Woman herself is Zeus' daughter by Hippolyta has led to Hera destroying that whole race and turning Hippolyta to stone. The revelation of Wonder Woman's true parentage is the one thing I still kind of like. I always thought the idea of her being Pygmalion's statue was dumb. The only thing I would change in this new parentage would have been her father – should have been Ares. My comic-reading colleague is liking this series, and he says to go back and read all the issues from the beginning and it will come together, but frankly I'm so disenchanted at this point that I have no desire to do it. This is currently the title that is nearest to being dropped for sheer unenjoyability.

Sorry for the rambling rant. Here's the gist of this issue: Wonder Woman's confrontation with Boss Nass – er, Poseidon – is ultimately part of a wider scheme with new-found dear brother Lennox to screw over Hera. But Hades (the kid with the melting candelabra head) seizes Zola (Zeus's baby-momma) and drags her to hell.

Supergirl #6
The End of the Beginning”

In a flashback/memory, Kara relives a grueling combat training exercise on Krypton, then comes to still pinned to the wall in Argo City. She's been left to die as Argo falls into the blue sun which saps part of her newfound yellow-sun-energised powers. She continues hallucinating her parents – is it truly a hallucination? – manages to get loose and away and witnesses the destruction of the city from afar. Then she heads back to Earth to confront Reign the World Killer. Unfortunately, she finds more than one … yes, Reign was not just talking to herself at the beginning of the previous issue.

Note the similar design of the combat training attire to her “super-suit.” The art continues to be great in this book. I particularly laud Asrar for properly depicting a teen-age girl as a teen-age girl, not as a fantasy sex-object. Just do something about the cut of the shorts. I do wonder at the gravitational mechanics on the cover and inside that have Kara hanging from a big sword through her cape over her left shoulder, but with her shoulders even – wouldn't she really sag sideways so that her center of gravity was directly below that anchor point? And why is it so hard for her to get loose – is that cape not detachable from the rest main body of the costume? That's relatively minor, I guess … I am a bit disappointed in how often we are now presented with basically useless double-page spreads such as this issue ends with – especially when, as here, you have to turn the comic sideways to view it. At twenty pages of story, throwing away an extra page like that just seems lazy to me.

But this continues to be one of my favorite series of the New 52. I just wish we could get more answers more quickly about this “new” Supergirl's story.

Batman #6
Beneath the Glass”

This story is increasingly surreal, continuing Batman's torture/battle against the Talon beneath Gotham City. Ultimately he rallies and contrives an escape into an underground river – but he's now too weakened and seems to go under. The Court of Owls emerges to kill the failed Talon, but it's okay – they have a large supply in what look like coffins.

This story is getting harder and harder to follow. I went into it with a very high regard for Scott Snyder based on his marvelous run finishing off the previous volume of Detective Comics. I'm not liking this quite so much. I sympathise with Bruce: “I know … that I am sick … to death … of OWLS!” For the foreseeable future, however, the Court of Owls is going to be the center of the Gotham universe.

Birds of Prey #6
Clean Getaway”

The Birds have been finding and defusing Choke's unwitting agents, but are now tapped out on leads. The last one they save volunteers to help them, which ends up forcing Choke to activate a whole office-full against them. The overall plot involves mind control via electronic messages and the like to 1) access private information, accounts, and so forth, and 2) use them as “cleaners” – i.e. agents or cannon fodder. This continues to be an excellent story complemented by excellent art.

Catwoman #6
Welcome to the Hard Way”

Selina is in police custody – or rather, has been taken by the dirty Gotham cops, who let Reach work her over … which costs Reach an ear! The good cop who has been putting together evidence from a host of cases into a “picture” of Catwoman ends up letting her go. But then she ends up in a confrontation with Batman, who tries to talk her out of her self-destructive path. Selina stuns him by telling him that maybe she does indeed want to die. He lets her go – without the money. She finally shows up at a former friend's for help – another fence, who is astonished that Selina Kyle is Catwoman.

This continues to be a far more compelling story than the first issue promised. As usual, the art is generally good, but then suddenly very bad in individual spots – most notably the very last panel where Selina sits on a table basically in a fetal position, her knees tucked up under her chin … her left breast looks like it migrated to beneath her armpit! I also don't like it when artists (albeit maybe at the instruction of the writer) just depict a conversation as a series of repeated panels with no visual difference except the sequence of word balloons. Unless there is a reason to convey the idea that the participants are frozen in place, it's just lazy.

We find out that one problem doubtless facing the “good cop” is that Selina's records – including criminal – are not in the system, which is surprising and a mystery even to her. Well, not so much a mystery because she later accuses Batman of having them scrubbed, and he doesn't deny it. What is his motivation in this? She's not anywhere near being the ally that she had become in recent years pre-Flashpoint. But he does seem to care about her – and although her words, “As long as we keep having sex, I assume I'm buying some time,” are a bit of a low blow, that has to be part of it....

Nightwing #6
Good Girl Gone Bad”

Haly's Circus has made it to Austin, Texas, but then heads back to Gotham for a benefit show that is really something else entirely. In a story that is concurrent with Batman #4-5 (how do I know that? A better question is, why doesn't Dick express even a little concern when Alfred says Bruce is “still missing”? – Or is it that common that he goes missing? Probably not, since in Batman #5 we saw Nightwing very much involved in the desperate search for his missing mentor that seems to consume the Bat-family. Is that inconsistent, or what?), Dick is still worried about Saiko, while Raya and Raymond plot. Raya tells Dick of a surprise for the anniversary of the death of the Flying Graysons – the aforementioned benefit show, which is a stage for Saiko to attack, threatening to slaughter all the audience. Nightwing fights him and unmasks the villain as his presumed-dead friend Raymond – but Saiko triggers a massive explosion under the big top.

Legion of Super-Heroes #6
Dragon & Phoenix”

Sun Boy, Element Lad, and Chemical Kid restart some kind of pollution converter in the Sea of Fire, China. Dream Girl and Star Boy have a moment. Mon-El and Brainiac 5, cleaning up the mess left on Panoptes, come to suspect there may be more to the Dominator plot in Res-Vir's attack than they had thought. We get a little bit of Dominator sociology. But all those bits seem ancillary to the main tale of this issue, Dragonwing (also in China) searching for her sister, ultimately finding that she's gone bad. But the bigger problem is whoever she's working for. By the way, Chameleon Boy is working with Dragonwing, “undercover.”

One thing about Levitz's Legion. This can be seen as a typical issue, consisting of a bunch of little vignettes and plots being juggled, weaving in and out, with no clearly major beginning nor end. Kind of like life. But definitely not written for the trade!

Aquaman #6

“Arthur? … I went into town and I … met the local authorities. We should talk.” Those are the words at the end of the issue where Mera begins to tell her husband what kind of day she had while he was being rescued from the middle of the desert by the US military. And they about sum it up.

This is a great focus on Mera. A trip into town to get their new dog some food brings Mera into contact with a lecherous grocery story manager, the local police, and a crazy wife-murderer – and let us see just how powerful she really is. When said lecher can't keep his hands to himself, she breaks his arm. The cops are called in, there is escalating misunderstanding – then a call comes through that a prisoner, said crazy wife-murderer being transferred has escaped and is headed back to his home and unsuspecting daughter. Mera submits to the authorities – “Put me in the back of your car and go where you need to go, officers. … I give up.” But of course, once there, observing the standoff between the police and the man who has now taken his daughter hostage, Mera effortlessly breaks the handcuffs and almost kills him. “Why does everyone think water is our weakness? … The absence of water is not my weakness. … It's all of yours.” In a matter of seconds she has sucked the water from his body so he is feeling the effects of several days' dehydration – and is perfectly willing to carry it to the point of leaving him a dessicated husk until the daughter tearfully answers her frustrated question, “Who would mourn him? Who?” with “I would. … He's still my dad.” Mera relents, and, mystified, performs one of the New 52 “Aqua-leaps” away.

This is framed by some hints that the background for Mera introduced in Brightest Day are still there – that she was initially sent to kill Aquaman but fell in love with him and ended up being banished into our world. My only quibble is that, again, she is said to have met Arthur only four years ago! I do not like this new, compressed DCnU time-line! I gather some of the defining aspects of Aquaman's character are now gone – most notably Arthur, Jr., his death, the subsequent separation from Mera and their reconciliation. I may not have liked the stories that were told after the death of “Aquababy,” but believe that the basic ideas and characterization that resulted were something that set Aquaman apart from other heroes and should not have been discarded.

Besides the tag-scene where Aquaman and Mera meet and she starts to tell him all about it, there is another postscript in that a young girl grocery employee – being subjected to the lecher's unwelcome attentions until Mera wandered in – tracks Mera down and gives her food for the dog, along with a promise of more. I think/hope we're seeing the beginning of a supporting cast for this book.

The only thing I find mildly disappointing in this issue is the art. It seems that usual inker Prado did full art over Reis' breakdowns here. While it's therefore mostly quite similar to previous issues, there are enough differences, most noticeable in Mera's face, that I don't find this issue quite as finely illustrated as previous issues.

Review: – The reviewer makes some valid points, but I still loved this issue.

Superman #6
The Measure of a Superman”

Well, this is the last issue of George Perez's opening arc for the “relaunched” Superman, finally bringing the “bad Superman” story to an end that effects a redemption of a sort. It also provides something of an introduction of Supergirl to the people of Metropolis – still suffering under the language barrier but clearly acting as a hero for which I am very glad. I must say I like Nicola Scott's rendering of Kara's shorts-line better than Mahmoud Asrar's.

As became apparent at the end of last issue, the evil Superman was actually an impostor, a nanite-based adaptive super-computer caretaker of an alien planet long-since destroyed by the Collector – hence this story connects with the opening arc of Action Comics which took place more than five years previously. The nanite entity had hitched a ride to Earth on Superman's Kryptonian battle-armor, acquired during that story but in an issue of Action Comics that we haven't seen (bad scheduling/pacing, DC!). Even Superman's media nemesis the TV guy eats crow when Superman himself rallies, returns, and saves the day.

In an initial epilogue, Clark is in the hospital room with the blonde reporter Heather; she obviously has had hopes for a relationship with him but seems reconciled that he doesn't like her “that way.” She hopes that special someone will come for him. Portentiously, Lois is listening from outside the room with a sad expression on her face. Messing with the Clark-Lois relationship is probably the biggest misstep I think they've made in this relaunch because it's so integral to seventy-plus years of character history. It's part of The Legend. And it always will be.

There is a second epilogue, the significance of which remains to be seen – but it connects with Stormwatch and, I feel, next issue with the new creative team of Giffen and Jurgens. As to Perez's opening story, well, I both liked it and didn't. I didn't like the overall concept, but while it seemed to drag a bit in the middle it was fairly well executed most of the time. I am particularly happy that there was the sense of Superman being redeemed in the eyes of the Metropolitans. It maybe was taken a bit too far in how thoroughly that annoying TV guy changes his tune. Nothing in what happened to him invalidates his basic contention, that Superman himself attracts danger to the city. If anything, it illustrated it very personally.

Batman: The Dark Knight #6
Run Rabbit Run”

Well, it turns out that Superman accidentally goading Batman's rage counteracted the Venom, so Batman sends Superman off to do the same to Flash. Then White Rabbit reappears – well, at least she looks great! – to lead him into a confrontation with Scarecrow and Bane … who refers to having broken Batman's back at some time in the past. Therefore Knightfall or some facsimile did happen....

Zzzzzzzz. Sorry. I'm not really caring for this series. At least the White Rabbit looks great! We even get to see a great big shot of her very nice bum that's the only redeeming thing on another of the damn needless double-page spreads of this book that really ought to dispense with the pretense that there's a story here and just market itself as a David Finch art book. There's no doubt Finch is a fine artist. Did I say that the White Rabbit looks great yet?

Justice League Dark #6
In the Dark, Post Mortem: The Bloody Reunion”

Various of our “JLD” “members” have been having nightmares ever since confronting the Enchantress. They are thus led back to Madame Xanadu, who tells them that these are really visions of futures that would have and maybe still will happen if they don't work together. Just in time for her to collapse with a vision of vampires rising – leading into a crossover with I, Vampire. This story may have been a bit more straightforward. I continue to be amazed by the art – this continues to be a beautiful book, with Mikel Janin's style here perfectly suited to the dark, mystical atmosphere that should surround these somewhat offbeat “heroes.” And they're letting him do his own covers. Look at that Zatanna.

Teen Titans #6
By the Light...”

In the wake of the battle with Superboy, the police are drawing down on the battered “Teen Titans.” Skitter reappears and saves them from capture. She seems smitten with Bunker. But Kid Flash's powers are going haywire, so Red Robin leads them to seek help from Virgil Hawkins, a.k.a. Static (although he never costumes up in this issue) at New York STAR Labs – where there is also held captive a metahuman called Grymm, whom the narrative calls “[E]verything N.O.W.H.E.R.E. And the Teen Titans fear: a teenaged meta construct who cannot be trusted among the human populace.” Meanwhile, it turns out the female police detective who confronted the Titans is actually undercover from the 31st century and recognizes Bart Allen as a fugitive from the future. Virgil creates a nanotechnology-based suit for Kid Flash that will keep him “in alignment” and focus his power. Bunker and Wonder Girl defeat Grymm, who tries to make a break while they are in the facility. Grymm proclaims himself a victim of US military experiments.

Virgil designed Red Robin's wings. Interesting in that it's not something he got from Bruce. But then I don't think there's been much hint that Tim is still part of the Bat-family circle since the relaunch.

Overall, it's really hard for me to say why I'm liking this book. But I do.

Legion: Secret Origin #5 of 6

Some dark force is working to stop the formation of the Legion and destroy R. J. Brande. It takes over Mycroft of the Security Directorate and by the end of the issue maneuvers Brande into a cliffhanger ending. Along the way it also preempts the founders' initial attempt – hitherto unknown – to recruit young Superman/Clark Kent to aid against the invaders. Brainiac 5 struggles to find what went wrong with the prototype Time Bubble. Even without Superman, the Legion manages to throw the invaders back through the wormhole, due in no small part to the advent of Ultra Boy, who Phantom Girl already seems smitten with.

I don't think I'm going out on a limb to speculate that the “dark force” has to be the Time Trapper – whatever he/she/that is in the New 52.

Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes #5 of 6 (IDW)

Back and forth parallel stories, past and 22nd century present. In the past, the team ultimately discovers that they have been brought there by a powerful temporal intelligence trapped by Vandar Adg, which turns out to be Q (from Star Trek: The Next Generation, of course, not MI 6 … I have no idea why I felt compelled to point that out) … I had already already suspected that's who it was earlier in the issue just from the characterization. In the “present,” Emperor Vandal Savage/Flint hosts the group and explains that all time travellers provide him with knowledge of time lines to avoid in order to keep himself in power.

This is very much an expositional issue – but got a lot of Internet buzz all about the various time machines in the Emperor's collection depicted in a two-page spread. I've not seen annotations to these, but here are the ones I recognize (or think I recognize). Starting at lower left and moving to right, up and down as needed: the TARDIS, I don't know, the Flash's Cosmic Treadmill, I don't know, a Stargate, the craft from an original Trek episode entitled “The Alternative Factor, I don't know, I don't know, three things on pedestals that don't know but could one be something to do with the Atavachron from original Trek “All Our Yesterdays”?, (up top) I don't know, H. G. Wells' Time Machine, a Legion Time Bubble, I don't know, and I don't know. The big glowing sphere may be significant as well, but I don't know for sure. I suspect the “hot tub” and the pit of glowing quicksand under their platform may be as well, and also the vine draped pillar at left that I initially took to be a support for the platform. (I checked online and found this list of identifications in the comments to the review cited below, that looks pretty accurate. I can't believe I missed some of those – the DeLorean!)

Despite the coolness of this spread, and a host of other Easter Eggs scattered throughout this (and all) the issues), I continue to be very unimpressed with the Moys' art. And this time my random draw of alternate covers got me the most bleh of the three, the one by Mike Allred whose art I have never liked. Once again it depicts Legionnaires who are not part of the story, but so does the one I would have preferred to get, by Phil Jimenez of Jim Kirk and the Legion babes.

* * *
Digital …

DC Universe Presents #6
Challengers of the Unknown: “Renewal”

DCUP is an “anthology” title – really, more a series of miniseries in that it's not several stories in one issue but, e.g., the first five issues starred Deadman, the next ever-how many will have the Challengers, and so forth. I didn't pick up the Deadman issues. I can take or leave him as a character. Historically, same with the Challengers, but in concept the idea of a group of adventurers is very pulpy in feel, and I'm in a mood for such, and I really liked the full-page ads of the cover that appeared in the issues I was reading this month. So the ads and the convenience of digital sold me.

This incarnation of the Challengers takes us back to a new origin, based on the modern reality show motif, but with a twist in that this show is unknowingly driven by one of the characters archaeological quest. Anyway, headed to film a new season and hopefully resurrect declining ratings, they crash in the Himalayas – and survivors end up in Nanda Parbat, so there may well be a connection of some sort to the Deadman story of the first DCUP arc. I hope it's not essential to understanding the story. The same alien font that has appeared in a bunch of different contexts in the New 52 appears again. Is there meant to be some overarching connection? Overall, this issue is intriguing enough to bring me back next month. The story is solid enough, and I have a more mature appreciation for Jerry Ordway's art that makes me wonder why, thirty years ago, I considered it pretty mundane.

I, Vampire #6
The Charming Man”

Andrew, his allies, and Batman battle desperately against Mary and her newly turned vampiric minions … which actually were “sired” by another who is hanging back. Knowing that killing the sire within 72 hours will free the victims from the curse, Andrew effects that … but Tig misunderstands and believes that killing him will eliminate the vampire threat altogether because he sired Mary and all her “descendents.” So she kills him. Unfortunately, that was hundreds of years ago … and the only effect is to somehow resurrect Cain, the sire of all vampires, an event “seen” by Madame Xanadu in Justice League Dark, leading into the “Rise of the Vampires” crossovers between the titles.

Cheers! – and thanks for reading!

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