Sunday, October 7

DC Comics – Oct 2012

Reviews, commentary, and general reactions to the DC Comics that were released during August that I received at the beginning of September. Spoilers abound! [ Link to previous month. ]

Well guess what I'm not looking forward to getting this weekend or for another week... (I'm starting to compose this post on Friday night, 28 September.) My September comics! *Choke!* Actually, it's my own choice. A few weeks ago, the online/mail-order subscription service I belong to requested that their customers receiving their books on a monthly basis voluntarily choose another week besides the very end of the month to receive their shipment, to spread their labor out more equitably through the month. After a bit of thought I decided to go with the first week, e.g., receiving my shipment after the first Wednesday rather than after the last Wednesday of each month. It was a reasonable request and I was … happy … to go along with it. But, I joked with a couple of co-workers also using that service who ultimately made the same choice, this is going to be a loooong week!

Just a couple of observations on the news front. You may have seen my post of a couple weeks ago summing up my thoughts on “The DCnU 52: One Year Later.” Well, some of the “curiouser” aspects of the way it's played itself out may well be explained by an admission by someone from DC at the Baltimore Comic Con earlier this month that the writers were instructed to write the New 52 titles as if they were writing “fan fiction.” It shows.

Second, the future creator status for Aquaman is a bit confusing. First, as I said last month, word came that Geoff Johns is bringing up another Justice League book, of America. Then word came that artists Ivan Reis and Joe Prado are taking over the main Justice League book from Jim Lee. I don't think anyone ever figured Lee was on it for the long haul, and they are excellent choices to take over (what should be, but Johns needs to step up his game) the flagship title for DC. So Aquaman was left without his current writer or artist team. Except then word came that Johns is not leaving. And, if I recall correctly, there has been dispute that Reis and Prado are leaving, at least immediately. The first story arc in Justice League is to be a crossover with Aquaman, so conceivably they could be drawing all the parts of that story regardless of where they appear. Who knows?

By the way, I notice that the Grand Comics Database is calling the new DC logo (as introduced a few months ago and shown above) the “DC (peel).” The previous “DC (swirl)” was kind of cool as a name. “Peel” makes me think of a banana.

Anyway, on to the comics:

Earth 2 #4
A Confluence of Wonders”

This issue introduces Al Pratt – well, actually we saw him in the first issue right before the spash page opening of this issue – who now has the power to grow to immense size like the pre-Flashpoint Atom Smasher – who was Golden Age Al Pratt's son, if I recall correctly. Evidently Al and Kendra – Hawkgirl – have a history, and it's not amicable. He's an agent of the World Army, and she's not, and she swears she's “not going back...! / Not alive, anyway!” But we see that only at the end of the issue. Getting to that point, the Grundy Rot has devastated Washington DC. Pratt drops in to the attack, where he encounters Hawkgirl, Jay Garrick Flash, and Alan Scott, already there and engaging Grundy. Along the way we find out such things as that Jay, to whom all this is so new, did not even know such things as that his body produces a protective aura at speed that protects any passenger he pulls along with himself.

Fortis et vigilare, the motto of the World Army (I presume), means “Strength and vigilance,” I think. I'm not sure it's quite grammatically kosher in that form, but I'm so rusty on my Latin I could be wrong.

I really like the sense that we're here at the beginning, that Robinson is working with a more or less clean slate. The effect is a better “reboot” than the New 52. I miss the old World War II veteran Justice Society, but this is quite enjoyable on its own terms – better than most anything else DC's putting out these days.

What I didn't like was that we now have a two-month cliffhanger! … like most everything else this month, since next month is “zero-month.”

Worlds' Finest #4
Rebirth, Conclusion”

Kara continues fighting Hakkou in Tokyo Bay as Helena commandeers a Japanese ship to rescue sailors from ships that Hakkou is destroying. She later formulates a plan that basically overloads Hakkho with a nuclear warhead from a US ship – and the the US Navy then tries to arrest her but Kara whisks her away. On the last page they reflect on lingering mysteries: Kara – who by this point has another torn boob window (maybe she'll just give in and make it a design element?), “We never resolved if Hakkou was from Apokolips...” – Helena: “Paranoid.” – “... or why he destroyed my Quantum Tunneler...” – “Maybe he worked for Holt?” – “... or why his radiation could hurt me...” – “ ...or why the plant radiation didn't affect me more...” – “...or who gets top billing...” – “Seriously, Karen?”

In addition, we learn that Helena speaks Japanese.

In the past, 45 months ago in Rome, Helena and Karen are accosted by some unlucky street thugs, which inspires Helena to start developing her Huntress identity. We also see her cyber-stalking the Bat-family, in which Batman and Catwoman are of course “not-my-dad … definitely not Mom...” … “I miss my life.”

We'll get a glimpse at that Earth 2 life in the next issue.

Still loving this series. It edges out Earth 2, and maybe even Action Comics, as my current favorite.

Batman, Incorporated #3
The Hanged Man”

This issue was delayed a month ostensibly because of the events in Colorado. I'm not certain exactly why....

As his underworld alter ego Matches Malone (which is thus explicitly brought over into the New 52), Batman zeroes in on Leviathan, which has continued to grow and progressively take over Gotham City. But he is ultimately betrayed and we last see him being suffocated by a plastic bag pulled over his head.... Meanwhile, Robin has been grounded because he is presumed dead – but of course Damien assumes a new kickass identity as Redbird and hits the streets – after hitting Alfred over the head. Hey, at least he apologises as he heads out into the night.

That last has fueled speculation that Damien Wayne is about to take on the new identity permanently, with Harper Row (introduced in Batman #12, infra) on deck to be the new Robin. I don't think so.

A common misconception is implicitly played off of here: “As for Bulldog, this vicious man-monster maintains Hitler was a 'leftist.'” I've previously addressed what I consider to be the erroneous consideration of fascism/Nazism/Hitler as “right-wing” movements. Since it's actually just part of a longer post, it's easiest just to copy over what I wrote then:

For what it's worth (and a colleague of mine who does specialize in modern history rather than my own ancient/medieval period deeply disagrees with me here), accepting the common usage of “left-” and “right-wing” as “liberal” and “conservative,” I consider such movements [as fascism and Nazism] to be more malignant outgrowths of the “left-wing” of the political spectrum than the “right-.” (Perhaps I'm overly sensitive. I'm pretty conservative, and I'm not infrequently flogged with the label of “fascist” by my liberal colleagues. Generally, it's done good-naturedly, but it does get annoying at times and does, I believe, betray how some terms lose most if not all of their true meaning in common antagonistic discourse.) A succinct summation of the connections between “left-wing” ideology and Nazism as well as other pernicious movements can be seen in the customer review of Erik von Kuhnelt-Leddihn's Leftism Revisited: From De Sade and Marx to Hitler and Pol Pot entitled “Demagogues can choose the class, the race or any other flag,” dated 17 September 1999. I believe I was present at the exchange between “A Customer” and Professor von Kuhnelt-Leddihn in 1998 mentioned therein – I'm pretty sure it followed a presentation by the good professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. The timing is about right; I'm fairly certain I know the writing style of that unnamed reviewer; and I do remember the subject being addressed at that time, when it left a deep impression on me.

Action Comics #12
"Return of the Forgotten Superman”

Captain Comet, Adam Blake, the Neo Sapiens mutant from Kansas, is the result of Kal-El's spaceship crashing nearby even as he was being born. His advanced abilities manifested themselves early, and he was ultimately taken up by the “long-hairs” – “the Oort-kind” – who “scour the super-cosmos in search of Neo Sapiens like me. Like Susie.” “Oort-kind”? – as in the Oort Cloud? – Well, it's a cool name. Anyway, Blake explains that he is now taking Lois' niece Susie Thompkins because other Neo Sapiens “bad men” will be coming after her. This all comes out during his conflict with Superman while Lois lays dying. Superman ultimately defeats Blake by emptying his mind of doubt and laying into him with pure rage, then saves Lois' life by instantly learning the sum total of human medical knowledge and operating on her at super speed. This is the scene that the Last of the Famous International Fanboys gushed over. It is quite cool. It symbolizes what can make Grant Morrison's writing – his Superman specifically – so compelling. It's so unabashedly mind-bending, pulling in the best of Silver Age greatness/goofiness and making it work. This is the real SUPERmanand I'm loving it. I'm going to miss him after issue #16....

Anyway, that's not the end of the issue, which has an extra-long story rather than a lead and a back-up. To onlookers, it appears that Superman's new secret identity, fireman Johnny Clark, died – vaporised – in the fight. Following up from last issue, however, Batman appears with sufficient evidence (which Superman reads directly off a Bat-flashdrive) that the world needs Clark Kent too. Whereupon Mrs. Nyxly reveals herself as Nyxlygsptlnz, a 5th-Dimensional relative or associate of Mr. Mxyzptlk (“my dear sweet Mxyzptlk”) and hints at some back-story that has the Little Man obviously as one she calls “the Envious One [who] escaped from his chains in the multicornered dungeons of Zrfff” and “killed the king-thing Brpxz – and now he's here – he's always been here – / And oh, how he hates you.” Is the Envious One the same as “Lord Vyndktvx” whose “jaws … have closed around [Clark]”? In any case, Nyxly (looking like something Picasso would have painted by now) gives up one of her “three wishes” – implicitly to turn back time so that Clark Kent never was “killed.” So how much of what we just saw in the past couple of issues happened? I imagine most of it.

As an aside: “Mxyzptlk” I've always taken to be pronounced “Mix-yez-pitel-ik” after that given in an old letter column when I was a kid (which I remember finding enlightening because up until that time I had mentally pronounced it “Mix-pickle”). I would suggest the following pronunciations for the others: “Nix-ligg-spittle-niz” for Mrs. Nyxly's full name; “Zerf” for their homeworld/dimension?; “Bur-pix-iz” for the “king-thing”; and Lord “Vin-dic-tiv-ix” who is obviously vindictive.... If anybody's interested....

The issue ends with aforesaid Little Man appearing in a sleeping Susie Thompkins' room....

Along the way we also a treated to some funny but telling commentary by the police on the escalating cost of already, four to five years ago, escalating conflicts involving super humans. Great stuff.

Justice League International #12
Final Honors”

Last issue. The team – less Mari and Tora – are at a Russian cemetery paying their respect to fallen comrade Rocket Red when they are attacked by the brother of the slain terrorist Lightweaver. Exhibiting the same powers, he kicks their butts in revenge until Batman overcomes him and they manage to reason with him – pointing out that he's simply perpetuating the cycle of violence that had really claimed his brother. Rocket Red was killed by Lightweaver's terrorist act which put them on the hunt.

Booster Gold contemplates disbanding the team, but the others balk, declaring they must honor Rocket Red's memory because he believed in the team. And Batman assures them they will have a headquarters and financing – but he's leaving, and so is Batwing. We are then directed to the Justice League International Annual #1, see infra.

All in all, this series goes out fairly well. For whatever reason it never really clicked, but this was in my estimation one of the better issues. The best ones were the character issues.

Detective Comics #12
The Killer Inside”

Hmpf. I actually followed this conclusion as dumb as it was – a run-of-the-mill story of a mad scientist with a genetic disease using unethical experimentation to seek a cure for himself regardless of the risk to others, being transformed into a monstrous villain. In the end, Batman seems to cure him. He hopes he doesn't live to regret it. Bleh.

The Tell-Tale Face”

Not Two-Face, thank God – the face flayed from the living skull of the Joker way back in issue #1. It's actually not bad – a darkly funny little story about Bullock hazing a rookie assigned to graveyard shift guard duty over the Joker-face, which ends ominously as a prequel to the much-heralded return of the Joker in Batman #13. Oh, look, it's not by Tony Daniel! The writer was James Tynion IV.

I'm still hoping for an improvement in this title during the second year of the New 52. It's easily been the worst of the Bat-family of titles, and the worst New 52 title, over the first year. Part of the problem – and this is only part of the problem – is that there is nothing to distinguish this title from any other Batman title. That's something DC really needs to work on – restoring the differing characteristics of different titles in the same franchise (if it's really necessary to have four Batman titles at all). The principle is fairly straightforward: Batman focussing on the super hero. Detective Comics focussing on the detective. Batman and Robin focussing on the relationship with Robin, particularly worth exploring now that Robin is Bruce's own son. Batman: The Dark Knight … um, I've got nothing, which makes me wonder what the purpose of that book is except to garner more sales. I really liked the old Batman: Gotham Knights titles of the early-mid 2000s, as a place where various story-driven interactions of the Bat-family as a whole could take place, and see no reason that couldn't come back, perhaps with a different title, although “Gotham Knights” seems so perfect. Four titles, four weeks per month, one title per week is plenty of Bruce-titles. The various ancillary Bat-titles – Nightwing, Batgirl, etc. – are okay too but maybe not quite so many.... Currently about a quarter of DC's monthly output is in this one area. Bat-dude's busy!

Of course, all we know for sure is that Tony Daniel is off this book. No need to belabor how happy that makes me. Again, I bear him no ill will. I even liked most of his pre-Flashpoint stuff. But his New 52 work on Detective was just not working for me.

Batwing #12
I Am One With This Land”

Actually, the JLI takes a detour on the way to its Annual. Batman in Gotham City coordinates a strike team of Batwing, Nightwing, and the JLI into Tundi to intercept Lord Battle's nuke. His plan is to use it to eliminate the nearest competitive oil producing nation to give Tundi a regional monopoly. The fight doesn't go well until an injured Matu manages to contact them and convey to them Lord Battle's weakness – to be separated from his land. But it turns out that it is a symbiotic relationship – the land and its people need him, as well. Lord Battle literally grovels, begs to be returned to the land for the people's sake, agreeing to imprisonment in Tundi to maintain the land and people, but to allow the people to rule themselves. Unfortunately, we see at the end that his defeat has simply opened the way for a rival … and I think I can already see how this is ultimately going to go: Lord Battle will have to be restored to defend all Africa against this new guy. I even see the seeds of a difficult and controversial redemption story here … which will be difficult for Matu since Lord Battle murdered his family. Predictable, yes, but could also play out as a compelling story. Unfortunately, as I mentioned last month, Judd Winick won't be telling it. I'm unaware who might.

Stormwatch #12
Nefertiti's Bust”

The team is finding and collecting Busts of Nefertiti that have appeared all over the world but are of alien origin – even as Martian Manhunter is overcoming and mind-wiping them one by one. He comes to the attention of the Shadow Lords, but makes a deal with them whereby he leaves Stormwatch. Along the way we find that the fourth Shadow Lord is long missing, that the Engineer was facilitating J'Onn's actions all along before she too was mind-wiped. In the epilogue we find that Tanner is plotting to replace the fourth Shadow Lord and control Stormwatch. Oh, we also find that Midnighter's ugly chin spike has a purpose (and it's not BDSM).

I still find myself on the fence with this book. I like it just enough not to drop it, but I'm really believing it would read much better in trade form. A number of series do. I am formulating some comments along those lines for an upcoming post that had me reading – no kidding – the first ten issues of Azzarello's Wonder Woman back-to-back, with results that surprised me given the distaste I had developed for that title, and even the reason I was putting myself through that onerous task! I'm not sure how soon I'll get to that post, however. It's going to take a good bit of scanning to prepare.

Superboy #12
Night Games”

Superboy's hot landlady is after him, taking him out on the town, but although he'd believed her to be “normal,” it turns out she's in some kind of debt to some kind of demonic woman who comes demanding payment, and who turns out to be able to turn Superboy's powers against him until he realizes that he can defeat her by giving in. I'm not sure why that has such a devastating effect on her, however. Along the way, we meet others whom I get the impression may be the seeds of a new supporting cast – something this book sorely needs – and learn along with Superboy that he is vulnerable to alcohol. His inner'logue: “I should be able to take these two muscle-heads – /// – even if they are demons! // The alcohol may still be slowing my reflexes. /// So I dig down deep with my T.K. – // – and spit it out, before it's digested. // I've never used my powers on myself like that. // And it's gross. // So let's hope I never need to again.” Just say no. There's an epilogue about that mysterious police officer of whatever from the future that is somehow linked to both him and Kid Flash.

Batman #12
Ghost in the Machine”

This issue is a flashback/done-in-one. Batman's aid to a couple of kids, brother and sister, against anti-homosexual violence wins him the aid of the sister, Harper Row, who is an electrician prodigy. He rejects her help obviously because it puts her in danger, but it's clear she has other ideas. Internet theories abound that she'll end up another Robin, but I don't see it. Another Oracle? Or another Harold? Only after I asked that question of myself did one of my comic-reading colleagues and I discuss this and find we have the same thought – although he was not familiar with Harold.

Batman and Robin #12
Terminus: Last Gasp”

Terminus' mass attack is only a feint, timed for him to die as Batman realizes the real plan is for a missile from Kane County to explode over Gotham City releasing a deadly toxin. He miscalculated, fortunately, and Batman has time to divert the missile under the bay, and Terminus dies knowing he failed. Batman's flight is eerily similar to that at the end of The Dark Knight Rises. The past Robins join the fight as well, all working together. At the end, Dick gives Damien an escrima stick and tells him he's not fighting him. Overall, it seemed an abrupt end to the story, especially the Robin vs. Robins plot.

Batgirl #12
Every Time I Fall”

After the requisite brief fight that serves as a mutual introduction for our two heroines, Batgirl and Batwoman, they end up working together against Knightfall Cherise and her Disgraced … until Batgirl gets caught with her guard down and a knife in the back. (Two months is going to be a long time to bleed out.) Along the way we also learn that Cherise is allied with James Jr. from their days in Arkham – he protected her there, and now she lets him have carte blanche for his “proclivities.” Also, Jim Gordon is tipped off by a guard in Arkham that James Jr. is no longer in custody... Apparently he hasn't been since the events of Detective Comics #1.

Green Lantern #12
The Revenge of Black Hand, Part 2”

Hal and Sinestro vs. Black Hand – eventually they sacrifice all their rings' energy to destroy the only other color power battery that is available to them to overwhelm all the Black Lanterns Black Hand has attacking them. Meanwhile, Black Hand is horrified by the Book of the Black telling him that Hal Jordan is not his enemy, but will rather become the greatest Black Lantern of all. Which Black Hand rejects. We also get more exposition by the Guardians regarding the upcoming Third Army story....

Reading issues #1-7 in the volume 1 hardcover collection really read well. These past couple of individual issues – not so much. I'm reconsidering my decision to jump back on this as a monthly. I'd rather read the occasional collection and be wowed by it than read the issues and half the time (or more) feel like I'm only reading a few pages of a single chapter in a book … which is what it's like. I'm coming to the conclusion that Geoff Johns is not very good most of the time as an individual issue writer.

Demon Knights #12
In: The Avalon Trap”

That sums up where this issue begins – the Demon Knights are trapped, captured by Morgaine, their bodies meant to be drained of life to strengthen the body of Merlin, which she means to take for herself. Is the identification of Madame Xanadu with Nimue new? I confess I don't know that much about the character. Anyway, Arthur sacrifices himself to defeat Morgaine, but this destroys the Tower. Odd, because I've been there, and it was still standing at Easter 2008.... And Morgaine's desecrations have destroyed the way to Avalon. Whereupon the Demon reveals himself as the real enemy of his companions. Turning against them, he drags them all to Hell. Not nice!

Legion Lost #12
A Prophecy of Death”

Alastor is jumping from Lost Legionnaire body to Lost Legionnaire body, able to access their minds and their secrets as well as their powers – Dawnstar then Tellus – as the latter he attacks the Meta Commandos holding Tyroc and Yera. He possesses her, the injured but recovering Timber Wolf and Gates when they arrive, then Wildfire. But the Legionnaires were also studying Alastor from inside his mind, and know he needs an organic mind. This was ultimately their plan. When he tries to posses Wildfire, the energy being hijacks him to the sun. At one point along the way, the Meta American is possessed by Alastor and from his common mental experience with the Legionnaires he thereby gains the insight to trust the Legionnaires. The major in command of the unit still tries to arrest them, but they are teleported away by Gates, who taunts the major: “You want to make an arrest – / – you'll have to follow us to Kyrgyzstan.” – “Kyrgyzstan?!” she gapes as they disappear. – “Kyrgyzstan-?” Timber Wolf echoes as they appear somewhere else. – Gates: “Always liked the sound of it. / Might even visit someday.”

Of course, Alastor's actions will have consequences for the “team” – he outs the fact that they are all pawns, but that Yera and Tellus are both in on it to some degree … and they all have secrets.

Justice League #12
Rescue from Within”

The first few pages manage a quasi recap, then in the Valley of Souls we rejoin the Justice League being assaulted by false visions of loved ones sapping their confidence. Graves is attacking to transform them to like him and destroy the Valley of Souls and unite the dead and the living – and him with his family. The reappearance of the beat-up but living Steve Trevor reveals the false nature of the visions, giving the JL the mental fortitude to throw them off. They defeat Graves and demonic beings impersonate all including Graves' family. Afterward, in a series of epilogues, Wonder Woman fires Trevor as the JL liaison for his own good, the League does a good bit of soul searching and realizes that there's some truth in Graves' accusations regarding their cold distance from humanity, Green Lantern throws himself under the bus as scapegoat, Superman and Wonder Woman commiserate on their mutual loneliness and (in what became the media furor surrounding this issue) find solace in each other's arms, and Amanda Waller commissions the newly imprisoned Graves to write a new book … The Villain's Journey.

After which there are several pages of previews/teasers for the future, culminating in, for 2013, “The Justice League cannot be trusted … // … So a new League must rise to stop the greatest war of our era. // And it will take more than the world's greatest super heroes to save us! /// It will take the world's most dangerous!” And there is a big double-page spread of the new Justice League of America coming next year.
* * *
Okay, here we are several days – and a bout with some kind of stomach malady that laid me low and threw me considerably behind both in my teaching and in my blogging – later. So much for getting this post up while it was still September!

DC Universe Presents: #12
Kid Flash: When Dinosaurs Walked the Earth (That Would Be Today)”

OK – this is the Fabian Nicieza whom I know and love as a DC writer – so who was that imposter writing the first half-dozen or so issues of Legion Lost? This is a great little issue … Sure I would rather it not be simply an interstitial chapter between two issues of Teen Titans – which it is, story-wise – but it is a non-stop romp with one of the funniest characters in the New 52 (at least as he's presented here). And it does begin with a good recap “for those very few who don't follow my adventures religiously,” telling how we got to the instant this story begins, culminating in some metacommentary on continuity that I noticed already in my post on the “DCnU 52: One Year Later,” that “Continuity doesn't really matter! Clarity is overrated! Let the fun begin!

Basically we are presented with Kid Flash versus three “dinoteens” from Mystery Island, the latter in a love triangle: One “dinoboy” is a “dinosupremacist,” the other ultimately helps Kid Flash, and the “dinogirl” is loved by both – but she loves “dinosupremacist” although she vows to rein him in … sort of. The story is chock full of great inner'logue from Bart, and frankly I enjoyed this issue – a story in itself without a beginning or an end – more than most other single issues of the New 52 thus far. Don't go away again, Fabian!

Supergirl #12

Man, that is one adaptable Kryptonian super-suit the Man of Steel's got himself now. It provides a neck-brace when needed – at least that's what page one looks like. And if you add that to his atrophied arm on p. 3 …. I just can't extend the ridicule.... I generally like Asrar's art, but here we have in rapid succession a couple of FAILs. (I notice from Anj's review cited below that Asrar had help on the art this issue, so I'll blame them.)

Other than that, this is another good issue from one of my consistent favorites in the New 52, from the second real meeting between the new-found Kryptonian cousins in Superman's new (?) Arctic Fortress of Solitude contemplating Kandor, which contains the shrunken, preserved remnants of their native civilization, through revelations of more mysteries regarding Kara's arrival on Earth, to her hotheaded second break with Kal (no fists are thrown this time) and plunge to the depths of the ocean seeking another part of her space pod. There she fights mutated sea creatures and makes new discoveries regarding her powers – followed by the discovery of a talking Kryptonian fortress housing her first Earthly foe Simon Tycho!

I usually rank Supergirl below Action Comics but some months, as this, it's really hard to say just which I enjoy reading more!

Batwoman #12
World's Finest – I: Blood Tides”

All right! – Batwoman meets Supergir-- huh? – a “World's Finest” team-up where they are not reps of the Super- and Bat-families. Does that seem right to you?

What we have here is the first part of a new story with Wonder Woman – although our two heroines never come together until the very last page. It begins with Batwoman and Abbott versus Bloody Mary in a mirrored funhouse. The quest for the missing kids – now nine months lost (so here at least, time in the New 52 is progressing at something approaching real-time). All leads point toward Medusa, whatever or whoever that is here (if it's been specified, I've forgotten – but frankly that whole second story arc is a black hole as far as me having any idea what happened or was revealed). The long fruitless search is taking its toll on Maggie Sawyer, who ends up throwing Kate out of her life until she can come clean with her regarding her obvious secrets. Batwoman convinces Director Bones and the DEO to let her take lead in pulling in the “expert” – Wonder Woman – for their search for Medusa. We see that Bette is recuperating under the care of Jacob and his wife, but is impatient to get back into the game as he promised her she could. I vaguely remember that being the promise by which he got through to her comatose, dying self and pulled her back from the brink of death. In the end, Wonder Woman is resting on a beach after a bloody battle with a demon when Batwoman approaches her.

J. H. Williams III is back on art, and it is great – reined in a bit, maybe, at least easier to follow than I'm used to for this book – if only because THANK GOD the story itself is told linearly! He seems to incorporate different styles for the two heroines … we don't see enough of their meeting at the end to get a sense of how he's going to blend them for the team-up.

Birds of Prey #12
Heartbreak and Vine”

The long and short of it is that the dissonance between the Birds' pledge to Ivy and her increasingly reckless disregard for her side of the bargain – no killing – lead the Birds to rebel. Batgirl makes a desperate run to enlist Batman's help in negating the biological toxin Ivy has infected them with while the others hold off Ivy until Katana looses her sword on her, seemingly killing her and condemning the world to death by the biotoxin thereby released.

The art is noticeably cruder this issue. And in addition to the pretty obvious rending of Poison Ivy from the team, the bonds between other members, especially Black Canary and Starling, seem to be breaking, perhaps due to the inordinate stress they are under.

Catwoman #12
It's nice to have someone I can RELY on.”

As Selina hurriedly investigates the scene of Detective Alvarez' abduction, Gwen tries to talk to her but gets hung up on. Selina tracks Dollhouse to her lair, learns her lineage – daughter of Dollmaker from the first arc in Detective Comics post-Flashpoint (I'm trying really hard not to hold that against this story!), who was the son of Toyman – how does that chronology work? – as they fight. Batman shows up and saves the day. But Dollhouse hets away. Catwoman reflects on the life of a hero … and Gwen kills Spark. Selina's duplicitous “ally” was what she was trying to warn her about at the beginning of the issue. Gwen was tipped off to Spark's treachery by the Penguin, who makes it perfectly clear that he's established a debt that he will one day come collecting on....

This was a really good issue, sadly I think the last of Judd Winick's run. I've not heard good things about next month's Zero Issue by new writer Ann Nocenti, but I'll try to reserve judgment. I do have one question, however. Pages 3 and 4: Spark, still playing both sides, does Catwoman's bidding and calls in Batman. He does so by: 1) shattering the Bat Signal atop GCPD headquarters, then 2) painting a crude “Cat Signal” on the same projector. – Huh??

Nightwing #12
Inside Out”

Paragon baits a trap for Nightwing by killing members of his own group the Republic of Tomorrow. The GCPD including Detective Nie get caught in the crossfire of the big fight between Nightwing and Predator. Nightwing ultimately wins, of course, and learns of Paragon's obsession with destroying what he considers the “idols” of vigilante justice by becoming such an idol. After the battle, Nie lets Nightwing get away. Obviously this establishes a GCPD contact for this particular character much as McKenna has been established for Batgirl, Alvarez for Catwoman, the two that come immediately to mind.

Also, Dick decides to put his money where his mouth is, going all in to his Amusement Mile renovation project by putting up his own trust fund to convince the bank to underwrite the project. And he has a bit of a reconciliation with Sonia – the daughter of the man who ordered the deaths of his parents – that ends with a peck on his cheek and the promise of an “interesting” relationship to come....

Legion of Super-Heroes #12

The Legionnaires on the Dominator Homeworld confront the first fruit of the Dominator gene splicing and cloning project – a Dominator/Daxamite hybrid. Mon-El and Ultra Boy make one last appeal to the United Planets, then basically say “Up yours!” and head off to rescue their friends, arriving just in time. All escape with the main lingering question being Why did Comet Queen betray the group?

You know, I think this is another of those books that would read so much better in several-issue chunks, i.e., in collected form. But for the fact that I have an unbroken run of issues from 1967 to present, I would seriously consider it. That is off the table for me, however. If, as in the early 1990s, it is the only title I buy, I'll still be buying LSH monthly.

Aquaman #12
The Others, Chapter Six”

“[Arthur's] not acting like himself,” say Mera and Ya'wara as one, early in this issue. That's my feeling, too. As much as I'm liking it overall – and revelling in the fact that Aquaman is outselling most other books on the stands these days (ranking #19 overall, with only thirteen DC and five Marvel titles doing better!) – I'm also feeling a growing unease with the way he's being portrayed. Case in point: Arthur's cold-blooded murder of one of Black Manta's men with on apparent attempt to save Shin without in some other manner. One of the problems I should have identified with the New 52 is a seriously warped idea of how a “hero” acts. As reported above, it's my current understanding that Geoff Johns is not leaving this book. I honestly can't say that's a good thing if we're going to continue with this enraged, murderous Aquaman.

Anyway, Mera and the Others team up and barge into the middle of the Aquaman versus Black Manta conflict – words are thrown along with more lethal attacks – ultimately Black Manta's parting shot is blocked by Vostock, killing him and giving Aquaman another reason to swear vengeance, that he's going to kill Manta. “BLACK MANTA DIES NOW” – er, two months from NOW – he thunders on the last page. (And probably not then, either....)

This continues to be a beautiful book, the direction of the writing notwithstanding. There's an eerie familiarity about the cover … see issue #2.

Superman #12

Dan Jurgens, writer number two in just twelve issues on what should be one of DC's flagship titles, plays out his time in this final issue. Lucy Lane shows up at Clark's apartment, a bit pissed that Clark stood her up again – but meets Clark's houseguest, Jimmy, for what that's worth. Could be a lot, eventually, if things play out as in one version of the legend where Lucy Lane was Jimmy Olsen's girl friend. Meanwhile, in Russia, Superman rallies and battles the alien, defeating it and establishing communication. He discovers that it is here on Earth unwillingly, having been abducted from another dimension by the Russians to become a weapon – their answer to the Americans' Superman. He's just trying to go home. Superman nonetheless takes the hard line that the alien must pay for his crimes nevertheless, until he hears the Russians nuking the complex. The alien manages to escape through a portal to his home dimension, while Superman manages to fly out ahead of the blast wave. But the encounter has given him some stuff to think about regarding being alone in this world. He makes a conscious decision to get a life, starting with making good on his bungee-jumping date as an apology to Lucy. You know, it may be heresy to say it, but Lucy Lane could develop into an acceptable surrogate for the classic Lois-Clark romance if they play it right.

And that's the end of the Jurgens run. Frankly, I liked it better than that by Perez, but given the constraints he was working under that's understandable. Next up, however, comes Scott Lobdell and Keith Giffen. I have my concerns. Lobdell's work on Superboy and Teen Titans has been spotty (and seemingly getting spottier); Giffen can be really good, or really bad, and sometimes he thinks he's being really clever when I think he's being just aggressively disrespectful to characters I love.

Batman: The Dark Knight #12
Mirror Mirror”

Batman is held captive by the Scarecrow, and we are subjected to a parallel narrative of the two characters' lives and battles with their fears. Neither sees the other's fears, but the reader does. Ho. Hum. How many times do we need stories whose theme is that Batman is tormented by fears and demons but overcomes them?

Justice League Dark #12
War for the Books of Magic”

Faust and Mist vanish through a portal as the others attack. Zatanna's tracking spell points to either Slaughter Swamp or Peru. Have her eyes always been two different colors or is this just a trick of the light here? Anyway, Zatanna takes half the team to Peru, with John Constantine taking the others to Slaughter Swamp. In Peru, they meet the mysterious figure behind all that's happening. In London, Madame Xanadu continues talking with Timothy Hunter, who is adamant that he has indeed cast all magic out of his life. Constantine tells Black Orchid some background on himself and Zatanna, including his role in the death of Zatara. Zatanna and Deadman in Peru are confronted by Blackbriar Thorn while Constantine and Black Orchid are confronted by Black Boris in the Swamp. The mystery man behind it all is revealed to be the returned Zatara, who defeats and kills Doctor Occult for control of the House of Secrets.

It's all rendered in the beautiful art of Mikel Janin, about which I could continue to gush all day long.

Teen Titans #12
Armored Up and Out”

Superboy and Red Robin battle the armor-possessed Wonder Girl in a remote location, the cabin of a “family friend” of Red Robins' (a thrown mailbox has the name “Pennyworth” on it), while Bunker, Kid Flash, and Solstice recuperate in a seedy hotel. Ultimately they subdue her by cooperating to get Superboy's tactile telekinesis between Cassie and her armor and literally peel it off and out of her body. Looks quite painful. They barely have time to catch a breath before Cassie's ex-boy friend Diesel shows up, sporting a silver version of her armor, and wanting hers. He blames her for supposedly telling him she loved him before abandoning him, and seems to gather the essense of Cassie's armor and flies, leaving her to tell Red Robin and Superboy that she must get the armor back – or the world dies!

You know what? I really wish they'd get around to telling us exactly what the relationship between “Wonder Girl” and “Wonder Woman” is. If none, why is she called Wonder Girl?

When Dinosaurs Walked the Earth, Epilogue”

… and this would be the epilogue to the Kid Flash issue of DC Universe Presents above. I'm not sure how the chronology between this and the front stories of TT #11-12 go. Anyway, Kid Flash and his dino-ally Teryx are rounding up evolved lizards and birds in the sewers of New York City, while somewhere ahead dino-supremacist Steg continues to evolve more such creatures into a growing army to “reclaim” the Earth for dino-kind. Doesn't look to me like dino-girl-caught-in-the-middle Dac is really doing that much to rein him in. There is obviously more to come in this story....

Justice League International Annual #1

Number one and only for this run. This has been one drawn out series ending. It is indeed a strange issue that seems not really to follow from the regular series run. It's by Geoff Johns and Dan Didio, and is as much a set-up for future Justice League plot(s) as anything. It also serves as a coda for the other cancelled series OMAC and Blue Beetle. I wish we could have had the latter aboard here longer – I presume BB has been cancelled, but frankly it's not on my radar and a quick Internet search does not confirm that.

Booster Gold is still trying to build his “fake Justice League,” pulling a scam on the team and even others he's duped into believing this is an authorized division of the JL. OMAC turns out to be a plant to gain access to the computers for some reason, and is being manipulated by a new programmer. Therewith ensues a big battle that Booster Gold does finally win by using his own suit's “antivirus program” Skeets (is that what his little floating robotic sidekick has been reduced to? – I don't remember him being referred to previously at all in the New 52) to “de-OMACtivate” OMAC. There are casualties among his “team mates” along the way. Then, at the moment of “victory,” another Booster Gold in a bit more armorized costume (sporting an ARGUS patch) appears, apparently the time cop version who has come back to prevent Superman and Wonder Woman from hooking up. But a screen reveals that he miscalculated – he's too late – the smooching is in progress – and both Booster Golds fade from existence.

In an epilogue, Batman is with Dr. Stone, Cyborg's estranged dad, who has OMAC's comatose human host under care at STAR Labs. He is taunted by his own creation, Brother EYE....

The future Booster Gold does reveal that while this incarnation of the Justice League International is a failure, their role will end up being filled by the Global Guardians which will include August General in Iron and Lady Godiva.

Okay. I knew the Superman-Wonder Woman kiss was controversial, but universe-changing?....

Superman Annual #1
Protector of the People”

This is not a bad beginning to the new creative team – or at lease one-half of the new writing team, Scott Lobdell, because Fabian Nicieza is also credited, which means it's hard to know how much Lobdell there is here and how different Lobdell plus Keith Giffen might be.

Overall, it's another Annual-as-set-up issue (Anj in the review cited below theorizes how this issue came to be, and why it's so different from what was solicited), centering on the Daemonites, the Wildstorm-import Big Bads for the DCnU that frankly haven't impressed me much. We get a good bit of background on Helspont, and what I think we're supposed to take as the Daemonites' constant presence in the DCnU as his agents attempt to recruit various resident aliens (a term that has a totally different meaning in the DCnU as opposed to the real world!). It's also revealed that the metagene that has suddenly blossomed forth into the explosion of super beings in the last five years, DCnU-time, was engineered by the Daemonites.

Detective Comics Annual #1
The Abyss”

So I gather the Black Mask has some kind of supernatural power. Has that been the case before? Anyway, Roman Sionis has been on the loose from Arkham ever since the Night of the Owls. He confronts the Mad Hatter over the issue of which one of them is the mind-controller of Gotham City – with Batman caught in the middle. Ultimately Black Mask is back in Arkham, but the Black Mask is missing. And this is the last Tony Daniel issue of Detective Comics. I hope. Please let it be so.

Green Lantern Annual #1
Rise of the Third Army: Prologue”

See? – and I bet for the next six months each issue will be simply entitled “Rise of the Third Army: Chapter One,” “... Two,” “... Three,” etc. That's how Geoff Johns writes now. Not for a satisfying single issue. They're often kick-ass collections, but I feel Green Lantern very quickly slipping back off my pull list....

Hal and Sinestro are dead. Sure. The First Lantern is on the loose. But I think I'm probably going to have to wait for the collection. Yeah, I have the next several issues pre-ordered, but I'm really wondering if I'm going to put myself through trying to read them month-to-month. And I'm probably about to stop pre-ordering any more.

To know more about this issue, you will have to read the cited review. He loved it.


Smallville Season 11 #16-18
Detective, Parts 4-6”

In Superman and Batman's battle in Stryker Prison, Superman quickly figures out Batman's identity, but also learns just what is Batman's interest in the connection between Bruno Manheim and Joe Chill. Green Arrow is also fighting against Nightwing, but Superman puts a stop to that, lets Batman go, and takes Manheim for some high altitude interrogation. He learns that Chill is in the Federal witness protection system. Meanwhile, Chloe is investigating some mysterious emails that Ollie's been getting. As Superman and Batman go after Joe Chill together, Superman acts as a moderating influence on Batman. They find Chill a decrepit old man, slightly regretful of his past, but frankly not even remembering killing Batman's parents among the many murders he's guilty of. Ollie confronts Lex, from whom the mysterious emails had been coming … except we find out that it's actually Tess hijacking Lex's body in the middle of the night. The cliffhanger ending to this triad of chapters has Superman and Batman there with Chill when the gangster is attacked by his most recent associate … and Mr. Freeze.

Throughout, Batman calls Nightwing “Miss Gordon,” but she sure acts a whole lot more like Bryan Q. Miller's Stephanie Brown Batgirl. I expressed my opinion on that “bat and switch” last month; no need to repeat myself. I do want to repeat myself on how excellent Jamal Igle's art is here.

The Ravagers #4

Brother Blood is trying to open a door into “the Red Place.” Gar and Terra interrupt his blood sacrifice of the others, there's a big fight, and it turns out that Brother Blood considers Gar to be “the key.” Despite Caitlyn Fairchild's entreaties, the Ravagers revert for a time to their Colony mentality, but in the end Lightning sacrifices herself to thwart Brother Blood's plan. Caitlyn is still appalled at the turn of events as the battered group finally arrives at the safe house that was her goal – that of Niles Caulder (of old Doom Patrol fame, but here younger and ambulatory) … and Superboy turns up immediately, wanting to “catch up.” … Who is Brother Blood's “master”? Who is it that Gar reminds him of? Is the answer to both of those questions Trigon? – another Titans villain I never had any real use for.... This title is teetering on the edge of being dropped altogether, and probably would have been by now were it not for the Superboy and Teen Titans connections.

Phantom Lady#1 (of 4)
Chasing Shadows”

Phantom Lady is an interesting character. Originating very early at Quality Comics, in Police Comics #1 (Aug 1941), the same issue that saw the debut of Jack Cole's Plastic Man, she had several good years, off and on, in the Golden Age. Sandra Knight, the debutante daughter of Senator Knight, she fought crime by means of a “black light projector” and a costume that started out skimpy and got skimpier. The Quality characters eventually ended up licensed by and later owned by DC Comics – except that apparently their Golden Age appearances are now in public domain and available on a wonderful web site I discovered a while back, the Digital Comic Museum where they are available for free download. I've been on a bit of a Phantom Lady kick of late, and have in mind to start a series of posts about her Golden Age appearances. So I'll leave any more background for that, other than referring you to the Wikipedia article that gives a fairly good overview of her history through the years.

Here Phantom Lady is not Sandra but Jennifer Knight, and not the daughter of a living senator but rather a dead Daily Planet crime reporter, who as a child watched her parents burned alive by his underworld enemies and is now as a young adult seeking vengeance on the boss of the Metropolis gangs. By the end of this first issue, she has been taken captive and is about to be tortured to death, and her boy friend Dane (Whitman? – if they gave his last name I missed it) has been shrunk to a stature of about six inches tall (she thinks she got him killed). – Another Quality character was Doll Man, real name Dane Whitman, and the cover and inside both append “and Doll Man” to the title, but apparently the official name of this comic is simply Phantom Lady. Which is fine with me. I ain't readin' it for “Doll Man”!

As is apparent above, this is a very different Phantom Lady from her preceding incarnations. I wish they were going with a more classic take. For on thing, this one follows the Batman “child orphaned by crime seeking vengeance” trope too closely. But on its own terms, this is not a bad issue. Besides the writers, Palmiotti and Gray, always dependable for a good story, and in the past few years several times associated with the Quality characters as published by DC as the “Freedom Fighters,” I wanted to see what Cat Skaggs, the artist for the Smallville Season 11 covers, could do on interior art. Turns out she's a fine interior artist as well.

I, Vampire #12

If this wasn't the best, then for me it was at least the most enjoyable issue of this series so far … and oddly enough the best issue of Stormwatch as well! That team, of course, came into the fray at the end of last issue, and after quite a bit of confusion, ultimately allies itself with Andrew, who finally hits on the idea of drawing all mystical energy to himself. That cures all the vampires and zombie vampire vampire hunters – including Mary, who's suddenly human, albeit still naked, which is pretty much confirmed here (so naked vamps don't have nipples?), as well as Tig, who'd just gotten zombified and hence set to trying to kill Andrew with renewed vigor (so what else is new?). Well, all but Andrew himself, who is still a vampire … and immediately chomps down on Tig! Along the way we find out more about Stormwatch than I think we've learned in that series itself! Joshua Hale Fialkov needs a shot at that book – he's got the characters and banter down cold. And Andrea Sorrentino's art continues to be stunning.
(I just like this panel ... a moment of calm in the midst of the storm.)

Superman Family Adventures #4

Can you possibly go wrong with giant monkeys? What could be better? Why, a giant monkey (properly an ape, yes, I know...) with Red Kryptonite vision, of course! Hijinks ensue until Titano burps the piece of Red Kryptonite he swallowed back up and everything returns to what passes for normal in this charming, offbeat version of the DCnU. Great stuff as usual.

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'Til next month, thanks for reading! Cheers!

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