Wednesday, June 6

DC Comics – June 2012

Various circumstances have made this probably the longest delayed monthly DC Comics sum-up I've ever done – essentially two weeks from start to finish. I've had a lot going on – travelling two different directions to the tune of almost 1500 miles, finishing up teaching an intensive three-week on-line summer course in between the two trips, and all the other little things that always seem to come up in life.

The main DC Comics news in the past month could well be that the New-52 comics coming out this September will not be numbered 13 but rather 0, and serve as combination origins and jumping-on points for new readers. I'm not quite sure what to make of that. Especially when, as solicitations for the August-release issues came out mid-month, it became clear that a whole bunch of story-lines are coming to an end that month with #12. Not all, but it seems like it's even a majority of series. That was followed close on by word that Justice League International #12 would be the final issue of that series. Could that be the first of a second group of titles that will be cancelled to make room for a “third wave”? If so, the choice is a little odd because JLI is not among the lowest-selling half-dozen or so titles after the first ax fell to make room for the “second wave” – which is only debuting during May and will be reviewed (at least the ones I get) next month. I feel almost as much on pins and needles as I did about this time last year when the mass cancellation and “relaunch” was first announced.

But seeming to overshadow all that during the last few days has been Dan DiDio's announcement in London over the weekend just past [writing this on Thursday 24 May] that an established DC character would soon “come out” in the New 52 as being homosexual. Subsequent statements [here and elsewhere] from other DC spokesmen clarified that it will be someone iconic, male, and previously unseen in the New 52. That at least would seem to head off the firestorm that would erupt should it be one of the “trinity” – Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman (although actually, she has always really been portrayed a bit more ambiguously). For the record, I would not want to see one of those long-standing cultural icons reinterpreted so fundamentally just to make what is a socio-political statement. In this I disagree with blogger Paul C., one of my (currently) two “members” of this blog, who pretty quickly promoted the idea that it should be Superman in his own blog. I think that would make as much sense as, say, reorienting Kate Kane Batwoman as heterosexual. My own morality aside, the way that latter character was conceived from the beginning and has been consistently portrayed is as a homosexual. It is essential to who she is, a character for whom I have a great affection that has nothing to do with her sexual orientation. She is quite simply written as a fully-developed, three-dimensional character. The fact that the Kate Kane Batwoman character is itself a reinterpretation of an existing character is not relevant because Kathy Kane Batwoman had not been published in decades – unlike Superman who has been published continuously and consistently as heterosexual. There are reboots, and there are total recreations. And that's my position, which I'm not interested in debating further. Oh, by the way, everything I said here goes for Aquaman, too. ;-) … UPDATE, 1 June: Confirmation has been making its rounds on the Internet that the character in question is Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, now of the upcoming Earth 2 title. I have little problem with that. It even makes a bit of sense to shift the sexuality of the retconned-out-of-existence son of this character, Obsidian, to the father who is now “youthened” along with the other characters.

On to the books released during April, received by me early in May:

Action Comics #8
Superman Meets … The Collector of Worlds”

The full issue is given over to concluding what passes very well for an origin story of the DCnU Superman. Here are my thoughts.

Give it to old Luthor, he's trying his darnedest to spin what he's done to sound like it was turning out to be a good thing! I think it's interesting that, just like she named Superman, Lois is the one who gives the Collector of Worlds the name we all knew him (it?) as – “Brainiac” – and that that name coincides with the Kryptonian equivalent of the Internet. Or should that naming be credited to Luthor? – Their exchange: Luthor, “The alien intelligence – BRAINinteractive Systems – is a collection of planetary ephemera.” – Lois, “Are you kidding? … 'Brainiac.' … Write that down, Olsen!” Meanwhile, we get to see Glenmorgan breaking down further and babbling about a Little Man that no one else can see – the same Little Man who has appeared as far back as issue #1 seeming to egg him on. Glenmorgan's assessment? – “The Little Man is the Devil.”

Interestingly, Superman's new adaptive “Kryptonian bio-armor” changes when he crashes through another alien city during his fight with a Collector-possessed Metal-0. The result is something vaguely Silver-Age Jor-El-esque.   
Some on the Internet are taking this scene to be the one linking this opening story arc of Action with the opening arc of Superman, that is, that the creatures that invested the suit came from the broken city. That may well be the case.  But the blue-and-red quickly reasserts itself.

Metal-0's emotions – those of John Corben – are infecting the Collector of Worlds. But that's obviously not the source of the Collector's mania, which sounds like a comic-book fanboy gone mad. It needs Superman to complete its mint-condiction collection of ephemera from the destroyed planet Krypton! Morrison's definitely got some metatextual commentary going here. In any case, Superman threatens the Collector's collection to force it to negotiate with him – and he grabs his own miniaturized rocket from Metropolis to use its indestructible computer to deliver a virus to override the Collector's programming! He is then able to reduce the Collector to subserviance, order the restoration of Metropolis, and all is well. Superman now has his Fortress, as seen a couple issues back.

There are several pages of epilogues laying groundwork for the future. Clark's editor at the Daily Star, George Taylor, praises his work in exposing Glenmorgan and encourages him to take the job offer at the Daily Planet. We find out that Clark's secret source “Icarus” is really Lex Luthor! – obviously part of Luthor's machinations to displace Glenmorgan. Clark does not find this out, however – but cleverly he does divert any suspicion “Icarus” might have regarding his own identity by asking Icarus, “Are you Superman?” General Lane still believes John Corben to be a hero. Does he really think Metal-0 “saved the world”? We get confirmation that Mrs. Nyxly knows Clark's secret – but that she's trustworthy. It's interesting that in Morrison's New-52 take on Superman, Jonathan and Martha are dead by this time but that he nonetheless inserts a mother-figure for him. This crisis has overnight made the previously feared Superman the Hero of Metropolis, and he is honored as such by the mayor. During the ceremony he publicly admits that he too is an alien. It's not clear exactly what the crowd's reaction is to that – but poignantly his “non-answer” to Lois' question, “Do you have a place you go to be alone?” prefaces a scene showing Clark at the gravesite of the Kents before flying off to his new Fortress. 
There is a mixture of feelings conveyed here – he feels he has found a place, among the others “like him” who are emerging about now, but the issue ends with him alone on the Fortress, speaking Kryptonian. The transition between those last scenes is one of Clark launching into space with a grin from ear to ear.  Can't say I really like that art, though – notoriously slow artist Rags Morales was joined by three other artists to get this issue out on time. I guess that's the price we pay for DC's promise that they will meet deadlines – a variety of artists as well as shifting creative teams. And finally in what's explicitly listed as a prologue we see the Little Man recruiting a hunter to take down a “bullet-proof man.” “There's no such thing as a bullet-proof man.”

Overall, I'm still quite pleased with how this has gone. Action is easily my single favorite comic coming out right now. If I had to drop back to just one comic – this would be it. Even over Legion. (Not really – I have going on fifty years of Legion comics. I'm too deeply invested in that collection. But it's close....)

Justice League International #8
Collision Course”

Taking up immediately from the cliffhanger ending of the previous issue, the addition of this unexpected new player – Batwing – causes Booster Gold's attacker to withdraw. It turns out this is all part of a greater anti-United Nations conspiracy. Meanwhile, the August General in Iron, Guy Gardner Green Lantern, and Godiva are ordered out of the hospital where they've been keeping vigil over the injured Ice because the JLI are attracting attacks – only to be attacked by OMAC. In other news, David Zavimbi Batwing knows Vixen from years before.

Detective Comics #8
Scare Tactics”

The villain of this piece is Tony Dani– er, Scarecrow. (Yes, that's how it's going to be.) He sends Batman on an errand aimed at shutting down a competitor. To be fair, a few pages in I was thinking, “This isn't so bad.” Then I hit the splash page that is done – quite gratuitously – upside-down. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. The background is upside-down. Batman is upside-down. The words are right-side-up. So it's not a printing error. … Did that porterhouse steak come out of the belt – Man! He carries everything in there! … The story turns out to be a done-in-one, but what was the point? Is this the pay-off for that backup a couple issues back that introduced Eli Strange? I'm whelmed. (Young Justice joke there.)

And oh, look, my least favorite bat-book is now more expensive. Yay. So there's another backup here in addition to the interminably full-length main story. I remain whelmed....

Two-Face in “Welcome to the Dark Side”

It's apparently the beginning of a Two-Face backup series … also by Daniel. Again, I'm not sure what the point of this story is, except that instead of killing some poor schmuck Two-Face just tortures him … because the coin came up unscarred. And torture is so much better. Anyway, Two-Face seems to think that if he can get charges against him dropped, he can go back to being District Attorney. I hope that's meant to convey how nutters Two-Face really is!

The reviewer liked this issue a bit more than I did – while pointing out quite hilariously how far off the solicitation copy was:

[I had a bit of a gap in my writing, being away from home over the Memorial Day weekend, visiting family in Houston and attending Comicpalooza on Saturday.]

Batwing #8
What I Am … Was Born From Death”

We're dropped right into the final confrontation between Batwing, alongside the Gotham Bats, with Massacre and the Steelback armor. Yes, the mastermind is the old Kingdom's scientist, but we're presented with a swerve in that Massacre turns out not to be the old warlord who had pressed David and his brother Isaac into service as child soldiers, but rather Isaac himself, whom David had long believed dead. Kone is captured, but Isaac escapes, obviously deranged. Batman talks David out of a crisis of confidence brought on by these events.

Yeah, Winick threw me off regarding who the villain was, but I am left a little unsatisfied. Although I didn't predict it, I feel like I should have – that the old “dead” brother who had so dominated much of David's reminiscences would be the villain. It's such a cliché! Ah well, it works well enough. As I've indicated before, Batwing has been the biggest surprise of the New 52 for me. I didn't expect to like it, didn't pick it up at first, but have really been enjoying it overall. Unfortunately it's not selling well overall so I'm not too sure how long it will be around.

Stormwatch #8
Supercritical, Part 2”

The extra-dimensional Gravity Miners are defeated – well, I'm sure they'll be back eventually – Midnighter and Jenny Quantum talk about boys in the midst of battle. Midnighter tries to betray her for the sake of everything. Everything works out all right even so – and Jenny psychs him in return.

I'm enjoying these when I read them, but it seems I never have that much to say about them.

Superboy #8
Training Day”

Huh–? Wha–? Did I miss something? In this Prelude to “The Culling” crossover that will encompass this title, Teen Titans, Legion Lost, and launch The Ravagers, Superboy has a knockdown dragout with Grunge, who seems to have more information on the Culling and “the Ravagers.” Caitlin steals a shuttle pod from STAR Labs while that mysterious policewoman from the future looks on, evidently having facilitated the theft because the fates of many lives and worlds depend on it. Rose and Solstice have a confrontation, which may end with Rose returning Solstice to Harvest … But Superboy is consigned to “the Colony” where a no-longer-green Beast Boy and Terra view him as an enemy. Maybe it will all make sense later. It doesn't now.

Batman and Robin #8
Born to Kill: Black Dawn”

This excellent issue brings the first story arc of Bruce Wayne and Damian as Batman and Robin to an end, dealing with the aftermath of Damian's actions last issue. Even though he witnessed his son commit murder, I think Bruce agrees – with difficulty – that he's not totally culpable given his background and what he'd just been through. They are both seriously injured. Alfred patches their bodies, but what about their souls?

There are some extensive passages that bear quotation here – the payoff of the past eight issues.... As Damain lies in bed recuperating, Bruce places a flash drive on the bedside table, containing a recording he made while he was searching for him, which leads to maybe their first real heart-to-heart: “I listened to all of it,” Damian tells him. – “And?” – “And you wanted to kill Morgan after he shot you back in London.” – “And … for what he did to you the other day. … I recorded those thoughts because I wanted you to hear that you're not alone, Damian – that you're unfortunately just as much my son as you are your mother's.” – “Meaning?” – “Meaning the apple didn't only fall far from the Ducard tree, but from the Wayne tree as well [sic] … I fight back that uncontrollable urge more than you know. … You can't face lunatics like we do on a daily basis and not have it boil up when they put innocent lives in jeopardy. … I'd be lying if I told you it never crossed my mind. … But I made a promise to myself – and on the souls of my parents – to live by certain principles.” – “But if killing them is the only way to stop them,” protests Damian, “then how – ” – “Principles don't allow for exceptions, Damian. … There's an old proverb that says, 'If you walk down a road of vengeance, then you should dig two graves, one for your enemy and one for yourself.' … You can't build a better world by killing criminals – It bankrupts your soul and society's by reinforcing the same cycle of violence.” – “I want to believe that … but I'm not sure I can.” – “You have to believe it. … You have to live it from here on out … Not for my sake, but yours.” – Damian looks miserable: “I don't want to end up like Ducard … without a moral compass … I don't want to turn into a Nobody … I want to be like you. … I've always wanted to be like you... But sometimes I don't know what I am... Or even who I am.” – Bruce looks Damian directly in his eyes: “You're my son. … All I want you to be is the best Damian Wayne you can be.” – Damian looks at him for a long moment, then replies, “And here I thought we didn't like each other.” – “We don't understand each other. … There's a difference.” – “Don't give up on me, Father.” – “I have no intention to.” – “How do I make amends?” Damian has certainly changed during the course of this series. I hope it has lasting character consequences! – “You can't,” Bruce tells him. “You will remember what happened on that boat every day.” That's his punishment.  And I think he's changed enough that it means something.

Having been “grounded” by Alfred, father and son then spend a day together doing “mundane” things – fishing, playing fetch with the dog whom Damian has named Titus. But ultimately Alfred's plea for just one night “off” seems to go unanswered as they glimpse the Bat Signal shining in the sky over Gotham and jump into action ….

Batwoman #8
To Drown the World, Part 3”

We get more annoying non-sequential narrative. In the present, Batwoman fights Killer Croc and other villains, but frankly I have no idea what's happening except that she's implementing all kinds of suit-tech activated by her own version of a “phonetic alphabet” (Aro, Belfry, ??, Dark, Echo, etc.) to take them out until the master bad guy threatens a kid. One month ago: Maro is fitted with a malevolently sentient hook. One week ago: Chase continues to use Kate's relationship with Maggie to manipulate her. Six nights ago: Batwoman swipes Sune from police custody during Maggie's prisoner transport. That new suit appears to be a magnet for bullets – or maybe Batwoman is just not dodging them now? Anyway, Kate accidentally tranqs Maggie. Two weeks ago, we get another scene of Jacob's vigil over Bette. One week ago – it says, but clearly post-six nights ago – Chase gets a well-deserved punch in the mouth from Batwoman, but they make a deal with Sune. Now: Batwoman's ace card is Sune, who enters the fray. Big bad sees it as a batrayal.

If you somehow reorder this once all the pieces are here, maybe it would make a coherent story – but reading comics should be fun, not work!

One comment about the cover … nice, but has nothing to do with the story inside. It really seems to indicate that we'll see Kate herself dealing with Bette's condition within the pages of the story. We don't.

Batgirl #8
No Darker Shadow”

I've seen this commented on multiple places, Batgirl's consideration for the thug whose lights she just punched out!   This is an issue that mainly has Barbara dealing with a ghost from her past – one of the Joker's henchmen from That Night. Initially, her way of “dealing” is to let him go?! – after calling him by name?! But it sets her thinking about her past, which apparently has That Night not playing out the way we saw it in Alan Moore's The Killing Joke. There, Jim Gordon was witness to Barbara's shooting and being left for dead. And it may well have been a spur-of-the-moment thing when Joker was coming to get Gordon. I got the impression it was in Gordon's house … but maybe “my house” as remembered by Babs is referring to that, maybe she was still living at home. Anyway, the way she remembers it now, “I was supposed to die there that night. That was his plan. … For my father to find me like that.” I.e., Gordon was not there. That's confirmed much later in the issue. Somehow this all brings to mind Babs' estranged relationship with her mother as she spies “The Christmas gift Mom brought me, that I've been a little too mean to open, even all these months later.” Has it really been that long? Needing to talk to someone, she calls her mother and soon meets with her, finding out why her mother left the family, which has to do with Babs psychopathic little brother James Jr. (Incidentally, I'm guessing Babs is no longer an adopted niece.) He threatened to kill Babs if mom didn't leave. She's now back because she got her own help, and James Jr. has now been put away (doubtless referring to the events of Scott Snyder's pre-Flashpoint run in Detective Comics). Babs runs away to process all this, but still thinks there's more to it. … Now, she decides to go for Danny, the thug she let go earlier in the issue – and thereby falls right into Grotesque's trap (oh yeah, remember him?). Grotesque is a mutant who channels electricity. But Danny turns on Grotesque, ending up fatally wounded. Batgirl unleashes on Grotesque; her inner'logue: “Oh, Grotesque. … You do not want to get me mad tonight. … I always wondered how Bruce stays so cool. … So detached. … I get it now. … It's so he doesn't become what I am right this moment.” She beats him down, then goes to Danny, essentially hearing his confession. Halfway through, Babs lapses into speaking of Gordon's daughter in the first person, seemingly without realizing it. He doesn't really react except to start referring to her as “you.” Although he'd been as coldblooded a henchman in the act itself, her courage had inspired him to call and report the shooting in time to save her life: “I don't know [why]. … You didn't cry. You didn't … you didn't beg. … I couldn't leave it alone.” And he dies. We're obviously meant to see that as a redemptive act, or was the redemptive act his saving Batgirl from Grotesque? … Ten blocks away, Alysia gets off work and is picked up by … James Jr. Uh-oh.

I liked this issue; the reviewer did not:

Demon Knights #8
In: The Ballad of Nimue and the Demon”

Madame Xanadu (born Nimue) relates her and Jason Blood's story. They have a rather troubled (and disturbing) three-way relationship with Etrigan. Of course, it turns out Etrigan's version is somewhat – amusingly – different.... Perhaps most notably this issue, we find out that there have been many Camelots through time, reconciling Grant Morrison's Camelot of his Seven Soldiers series with the Camelot we all know and love in Dark Age Britain. I think that was actually an element in Morrison's original story, come to think of it. Anyway, the cliffhanger to this issue hints that Alba Sarum may be the last of all Camelots.

It's amazing how British writers – and those versed in British profanity – can get away with so much because American audiences – and ratings boards – don't get what's being said. For instance, the notorious line in The Avengers when Loki calls Black Widow a “mewling quim”; that of course coming from the pen of Joss Whedon, who had Spike spouting all kinds of stuff on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Here, Paul Cornell drops the term, “swivers.” Let's just say the Battlestar Galactica equivalent would be “frackers”....

Legion Lost #8

Another prelude for “The Culling.” This is not shaping up very promisingly. Just some random notes: On page 1, why is Agent Centerhall so surprised “Psykill” knew what he wanted? – with a name like “Psykill”!? … “Mother Henaculus”? … So Yera has a “real [secret] mission” too? … Umm ... what is that that Yera hits the fake Gim with?! … The basic “plot” is that Harvest/NOWHERE sends a team to bring in the seven “lost” Legionnaires – Rose Wilson plus some new characters. Within the Legionnaires, there is division over what Timber Wolf did last issue, stealing from drug dealers to get them some cash. Even with my overall assessment of how “The Culling” is shaping up, I did make a note that “frankly the story is more engaging.” I was very disappointed with how Nicieza, a writer I generally like, was handling these characters. This at least seemed a little more straightforward under Tom DeFalco. And I found the art by Aaron Kuder more suitable to the characters as well. Frankly, I think the Legion – “Lost” or “real” – works much better with cleaner art than Woods was delivering.

But I'm still not terribly taken with this book.

Justice League #8
Team-Up: Green Arrow”

After an okay introductory arc, the wheels seem to be spinning off this cart. It's just going from bad to worse. Let's slog through it.

“Team-Up”? Only in Green Arrow's dreams! Actually, he wants to be a member … which leads to us finding out that in the five years since its formation, the Justice League has never had any members besides the original seven. Come again? Yeah, right.... Anyway, also in that five years Cyborg has Boom Tubed the team about three thousand times – that's over once per day. I guess it's conceivable. In those 3000 times, he's twice messed up and landed them on Apokalips instead of their destination – actually, it's about once every thousand times, so they're now overdue for another visit to Darkseid. Uh-oh. … Green Arrow wants into the team to overcome some less-than-heroic past actions of his own, and stalks the League in scenes that carom off Batman and Justice League Dark plots – events we've not yet seen, in fact. He's basically trying to prove himself. Besides Green Lantern Hal Jordan being the typical jerk he how is (at least in this book), there's some bad blood between GA and Aquaman, somehow having to do with GA's origin story on the desert island. Whatever, the JL is adamant that it doesn't allow new members. So Steve Trevor offers him another team to “giv[e] a social conscience to.”

This all causes the League to ruminate on why it doesn't allow new members. It “tried once, with the Martian Manhunter,” but it turned out badly – as in we get a double-page spread of the League all fighting J'Onn J'Onzz. Then, on the last page, J'Onn is on Mars (I presume) “listening” to them, observing, “They're not prepared.”

This sure didn't feel like twenty pages to me.... The story itself seems geared toward new readers who have no history with these characters. Not so much a problem in itself, except that I would also say, “without expecting them to be reading other titles” … were there not the blatant attempts at cross-promotion! So much doesn't gee-haw.

SHAZAM!: Welcome Home, Billy!”

At least I'm taking that as the title. We find out that Billy Batson is fifteen years old. Okay, I guess. I like him to be younger than that, but they're obviously not asking me! If they were … oh, just see my comments on last issue. Why can't DC understand Captain Marvel as well as, say, Evan Shaner and Nate Cosby here?: 
Anyway, the social worker takes Billy to his new foster parents' home, the Vasquezes. There are already five kids there – the ones from Flashpoint (here s.v. “Captain Thunder,” which, incidentally, I would like a lot better than naming the hero “Shazam” … but they're obviously not asking me). Notice Mary does not tell him her last name. Does she think she's a Bromfield?, which would explain why the Vasquezes (and the social worker) don't bat an eye bringing Billy Batson into their home. Billy manages to make a great first impression on them – not! – but does in private seem to feel a little contrition. Maybe he's not quite such the dick. Then he sees the wizard's face in a cloud outside his window.

Notice that Billy's photograph of his parents a) shows his father to look just like traditional Captain Marvel, and b) a tiger – Tawky Tawny.

Wonder Woman #8
Casting Shadows”

Armed with Eros' pistols, Wonder Woman and Hermes head into the Underworld as we are presented with a bunch of supposedly profound mumbo-jumbo about death and life. They find Zola, whose relative time has been months – i.e., she is very pregnant. Hades, who just wants a wife, strikes a deal with Wonder Woman to let Zola go in return for Eros' guns – then shoots Wonder Woman in the heart. The bullet goes right through her gauntlet and forearm first! Hades: “Messenger … inform our family. There will be a wedding. … … Can't you see she's in love?”

There is absolutely nothing here making me regret my decision to drop this title. To be fair to it, however, I'm going with a different reviewer this month, one who actually likes this series (while granting it's not the Wonder Woman he would have preferred...).

Supergirl #8
Girl in the World”

We do get a glimpse of the “pissed-off teenager” here – but she has cause. After she has just saved New York City from the Worldkillers, her thanks is to be attacked by the NYPD SWAT team. But a girl happens to be there, Siobhan Smythe, who happens to have a gift for languages, i.e. she instantly understands Kara's Kryptonian, and can instantly speak it as well – albeit with an Irish accent?! The police try to take them in despite Siobhan's pleas, whereupon Kara swoops them into the sky, to Siobhan's initial terror then delight. Siobhan gives her a crash course on Earth culture – which apparently doesn't include being able to impart English to her, unfortunately. A musician, Siobhan takes her new friend along to a music gig – where she is attacked by her deceased father the Black Banshee. Whereupon she turns into the Silver Banshee – maybe not a villain here?

As much as I admire George Perez, there are certain characters I am less enthusiastic about his drawing. Batman is one. Supergirl is another. His style just doesn't fit, in my opinion. Kind of like the great Joe Kubert rendering Superman.... Although one thing I do like is that he removes the little “notches” from beside the red triangular “panty-shields” … er, I don't think that's the right term! 
 On the other hand, a cosplayer's photo has been making its rounds on the Internet of late showing that, as Jon Wilson of The New 52 Adventures of Superman podcast asks, “Who says that the suit doesn't work?” – including that feature. (I picked a different image from the cosplayer's own gallery than the one he posts to Facebook [27 May 2012], also the source of the quotation) to better illustrate the entirety of the suit....) [Source: ]

Batman #8
Attack on Wayne Manor”

“Night of the Owls Begins!” We get a time stamp at the beginning of the action in this issue, which takes place starting at 7:01 pm. I hope they keep doing this – it will make it easier to line up the action of this first sprawling cross-over of the New 52. (Or you can just check out Andrew Asbury's reading order at his site [the source of most of my Bat-family reviews].)

With this title also expanding to the longer $3.99 format, there are basically two stories in this issue although they read almost seamlessly as one, the only real difference being the artists. In the first, we see the Talons invade Wayne Manor, culminating with Batman in armor bursting out of the Cave's armory to take them on. In the second, which takes place immediately after but shifts the focus – and starts at 7:32 pm – as Alfred reads a list he's hacked into on a microdrive retrieved from a fallen Talon's gauntlet, a list of Gotham City public figures whom we simultaneously see under attack by Talons. Alfred puts out “The Call” to the Allies of the Bat: Red Robin, Red Hood, Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, and the Birds of Prey.

A couple of notes: 1) Take it from a contact lens wearer, if Bruce has an eye inflammation he would not be wearing a contact lens! 2) Apparently this is when the Talons discover Bruce Wayne is Batman – at least the one in the Cave is surprised: “Well, well. … Seems you have a secret, Bruce. Don't you?” Of course, the villain doesn't get to pass on this discovery ... “Heh” indeed.

Birds of Prey #8
A Far Cry”

Did I miss something again? Suddenly the story's all about Black Canary's past coming for them all for her murder of her husband Kurt Lance – which Canary ends up admitting to by the issue's climax. However, even as that happens, Starling separately realizes that she is talking to … Kurt Lance (I think). And next issue is the “Night of the Owls” crossover. So what about the cliffhanger from last issue?

Nightwing #8

This issue brings up the “four families” of Gotham City circa 1910, but enumerates them as Wayne, Cobblepot, Elliot, … and Crown? Does that gee-haw with Snyder and Higgins' miniseries (pre-Flashpoint, but explicitly said to be a lead-in to story themes that would be picked up in the New 52)? Well, what I took to be the fourth family back then, the Kanes, are also mentioned here in reference to those very events. Not sure how it all fits together.

The framing story is of Dick's ancestor – William Cobb – who first joined Haly's Circus but is now one of the undead Talons, and out to kill his descendant for his “betrayal.” Although the cover banner states that this is a “Night of the Owls Prelude,” Nightwing answers Alfred's call from Batman #8 (7:40 pm) and saves the mayor, but is ambushed by his ancestor and left in a bad way, with throwing knives sticking out of his chest (probably his chest armor).

Catwoman #8
I'm good at getting people to do what I need them to do.”

Selina and Spark are working together now, stealing a set of ancient knives – which they find to be missing one. Oh mannnn....! The Penguin has the missing knife – so they determine to steal it from him. While casing and preparing that heist, they stumble into a mystery regarding hookers being stalked and abducted. The epilogue shows that their impending interaction with the Penguin is how they are going to be brought into the “Night of the Owls” story – notice that Catwoman was not an “Ally of the Bat” called by Alfred – because the Owls are targetting him....

Legion of Super-Heroes #8
1 of 5”

Well, there aren't any beauteous Borg in here, but we all know “5” has a special meaning to the Legion, right? Yeah, the Fatal Five. In the first story, drawn by 1980s classic Levitz-era artist Steve Lightle, somebody steals a computer chip containing the technology that created the cyborg Tharok in the first place. Uh-oh. A couple of notes: 1) That's an interesting costume on “elf-girl.” Or is it a costume rather than her being nude with an interesting skin color pattern? There are no black lines around the edges delineating the colors inside the issue, although there are on the cover. 2) So Invisible Kid's sister is still under medical care?

Founders' Night”

The most recent regular artist before Portela, Yilderay Cinar, returns to draw the second story, which is a character piece with the founders. It begins with Cosmic Boy spending his monitor duty time looking for the seven lost members of the Legion. I get the feeling he's the only one who hasn't given them up for dead. Then Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl “kidnap” him for some fun – which inevitably leads to them having to go into action. We also find out that electrical storms make Garth frisky? That sounds familiar; did we see something like that recently in the older founders' appearance in Action Comics? Oh, and Cos and Night Girl seem to be on better terms than I thought they were.

Aquaman #8
The Others, Chapter Two”

We get more glimpses into Arthur's past with the pre-Justice League group, the Others, focussing on an incident in Siberia where they lost Black Manta because the other Others (?) wouldn't abandon a village to an avalanche. I would say that disagreement is symbolized by the cover, but Arthur wasn't wearing his modern suit back then, nor is the Seer here. This led to Arthur splitting with the group. He now feels an unexpressed debt to them. He and Ya'wara investigate the Seer's body, coming under attack by Manta's men. Manta has tracked down another Other (?!). Meanwhile, Mera demands the story of her husband's past from Shin....

Progresses the story, but I don't have much more than that to say – other than Johns generally doesn't even put forth the pretence that his individual issues of comics are anything other than just part of a story, does he?

Superman #8
The Outsider Option”

Eight issues in, and finally we get an issue that really feels like Superman. Helspont the Daemonite shows Superman a “future” as an alien fugitive in a manner that almost seems calculated to be inviting a tart retort from Alan Moore. He tries to seduce the hero to his banner, but Superman rejects this latest temptation to dominate rather than serve humanity. So they fight until Helspont abruptly disappears.

Random thoughts: I can't tell if there's a bit of sisterly friction between Lois and Lucy or what, but Lucy immediatetly strikes me as a bit of a “mean girls” type. … “Dr. Superman” diagnoses Helspont at one point being overcome by “Cheyne-Stokes” respiratory distress – off to Wikipedia I went, finding this. It's a ruse, of course.

[Here was the second big gap in my writing, taking my mother to my brother's home two states away for my nephew's Eagle Scout ceremony.]

Batman: The Dark Knight #8
The Madness”

I don't think I've ever seen the cover artist given lead placement in the listing of creators for an issue as is done on this cover. Of course, Batman: The Dark Knight was conceived as a David Finch vehicle in the first place, and I guess DC figures the draw of his name merits top billing although other creators produced the content. I think it's a bit deceptive.

Anyway, something in Gotham City's subways are causing people to go berserk, slaughtering one another. Batman finds Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, two of the dumber members of his rogues gallery, in an abandoned section of the tunnels – also affected. The madness spreads to the surface, and the public panics. It all seems to be the doing of the Mad Hatter. Sadly, the White Rabbit is not present inside the issue, only on the cover as eye candy.

Batman has some interesting ruminations regarding Gotham City in his inner'logue, silently wondering if Hatter's gloating has some merit. The Hatter: “... I've alreado shown this city how weak and simple and easily given to its worst demons it truly is... …once you push the right buttons.” Batman: “Is he right about Gotham? … Is it the city that brings out the beast in people, or is it always there... …waiting for the right origin story to set it free? … Gotham City takes a lot from its citizens. … It will rip the better angels right off your shoulder if you aren't careful. … But it's our city... ...and we don't let it beat us.”

In the continuing wrangling between Gordon and Internal Affairs, the Commissioner is sent to a department psychologist. Nothing is really revealed here, but he refers to his ex-wife and her recent return “after I forget how long,” how his daughter was “in and then out of a wheelchair before I can even find the time to worry about it,” and “[t]hen there's my son....” Later, he is in a police helicopter overlooking as Batman takes down the Hatter and the Tweed cousins, shouting down, “You okay, Batman?” Batman's wordless observation: “I could ask the same of him. He's been through enough to make a lesser man buckle. But his face says it all... … We're okay. Most of us, anyway. … Or as close as any of us get in Gotham.”

The art by Ed Benes is close enough in style to Finch that I first didn't notice the difference. The story, a done-in-one by Joe Harris – this is obviously a filler issue – was actually the issue of this series that I've enjoyed the most as a story. I wonder who will handle the almost compulsory crossover into the “Night of the Owls” event next issue?

Justice League Dark #8
The Leaving: Part 3 of Rise of the Vampires”

Although Deadman and John Constantine's trip to Purgatory to bring Andrew Bennett back fails – he refuses to return – Madame Xanadu's appeal to the Quintessence succeeds. But not immediately. Things continue to go downhill for the dark heroes. Shade even loses control and leaves. Cain seems on the verge of triumph – then Andrew shows up. Changed his mind, I guess. Or just wanted to make a memorable entrance.

I, Vampire #8
Finale of the Rise of the Vampires: Cruel to be Kind”

Empowered by the Quintessence with the magicks that Cain had been drawing to himself, Andrew Bennett destroys the attacking vampires – then reforms them as his own minions. He destroys (?) Cain and takes his place beside Mary as the prince of the vampires, leading them … where? He also wipes away the public revelation of the vampires with a wave of his hand. He sends John and Tig to get the vampire-hunter Van Helsings … why? He tells a sceptical John Constantine of a Darkness that is coming, that he will be there to help. But til then – stay out of his way!

The issue ends with Tig and John leaving on the mission they've been given, Tig still arguing that this all proves Bennett is evil. He tells her that the Van Helsings are an “[a]ncient order of vampire hunters. … Stoker named the character after them. … They... ...are worse than the vampires.” – “Terrific. … This is the worst road trip ever.” – “Well it's about to get much, much worse.” – “At least Cain's dead, right, Prof? … Right, Prof...?” Considering the figure with the red-veiny patterns seeming to congeal out of the dust behind them, I wouldn't bet on it....

Teen Titans #8
A Dark Omen”

Carries the banner, “The Culling: Prelude.” I'm liking this crossover less and less and it hasn't even gotten here. Looks like an excuse for mindless violence. Early reviews for the new series being born in it, The Ravagers, haven't been promising either, e.g. here.

The Teen Titans vs. Omen. Solstice has encountered her before. She exposes and uses her opponents' secrets and weaknesses by warping reality. Notably, Red Robin keeps his focus although I'm not sure it does a whole lot of good. We are treated to a few hints regarding the origin of this new Wonder Girl. Omen wonders (heh!) why her capture is “one of Harvest's top priorities. … ...I would never have suspected. … You are not a metahuman – it is not your body that possesses strength or the power of flight. … [It] is the invisible armor you wear that makes you unique! … Every time you use it – you are afraid it will one day control you. And not the other way around. … The lariat – it drains your life as well. … Quite the bargain you made to save the life of a person so close to you.” Also a bit on the nature of Skitter – it is a separate being that inhabits Celine as a host body. Being separated terrifies Celine: “You idiot – do you have any idea what you've done?! … You are interfering here in things you could not possibly understand, Omen...Or should I call you Lilith?! … Render us together again – … – or life on Earth itself is doomed!” Lilith? – any connection to the old classic Teen Titans character? Referring to Wikipedia, I see that at some point when I wasn't reading Teen Titans, that Lilith indeed went by the moniker “Omen.” Hm. In a single “Meanwhile” digression, we see a skinny Amanda Waller as well as an “Agent Lance” (see Birds of Prey above). I've heard of the new “Wall,” but never seen her before now. I think she loses something more than just girth in the revamp – a loss of presence. … Ultimately, Omen has played on all their insecurities to soften them up for Harvest, who calls them his newest Ravagers ….

* * *

DC Universe Presents #8
Challengers of the Unknown in “Hiatus”

It turns out that the Forgotten Lord wants the talismans, but once he has the three they've found thus far, the power overwhelms him. We are left at the end of the issue with four survivors of the crash in issue #6, four surviving Challengers of the Unknown: June, Prof, Red, and Maverick, and a mission to find the other three talismans. The tag proclaims, “Not the End” … but I have to agree with Martin Gray that it probably is. His review pretty much sums up this little attempted revival of one of DC's oldest Silver Age strips about which I know far too little but have a bit of a recent fascination born in its obvious similarities to pulp sci-fi adventure stories like Doc Savage.

Smallville: Season 11
Guardian, Chapters 4-6”

It occurs to me that I'm cheating a little in including these with the April releases since they actually came out in May (and cheating a little more since #6 actually dropped on 1 June), but I was reading them concurrently with reading the April releases....

The rhythm appears to be to digitally publish three chapters on three consecutive Fridays, which are almost immediately collected and released in print – apparently with some kind of extras – with a week or two off before the next three chapters start appearing. DC has posted a schedule of the first twelve chapters making up the “season premiere” episode, entitled “Guardian”: .

In these three chapters, Lex continues seeing Tess although doctors tell him there's nothing wrong with him, but that doesn't keep him from unveiling the project he's been working on to offer the US and indeed the world a new space-based defense system called … Guardian. Clark interviews the commander of the inaugural flight, Hank Henshaw, while Ollie confronts Lex about some of the other implications of a space-based “defense” system. When the flight launches, disaster happens almost immediately and Superman goes into action. As Superman gets his crew to safety, Henshaw attempts to ride the ship safely back to Earth but is severely injured by escalating radiation. He does manage to tell Superman the explosion was no accident … which Lex already knows, of course.

* * *
And that's it. I've already received my May releases and am itching to start reading them!

Cheers!, and Thanks for Reading!

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