Sunday, November 11

DC Comics – Nov 2012

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

Before I get started, there are several news-worthy DC-related items that I want to take notice of … One is a major decision in the “Superman Lawsuit” that has been in seemingly endless litigation: . A couple of days later, I posted to the Last of the Famous International Fanboys' Facebook page the following comments, in response to his pointing out commentary by creator John Byrne on the latter's Byrne Robotics Forum:

I can't say I'm terribly knowledgeable on these matters in a legal sense, either, but I do have an opinion and it's in the minority. Although John Byrne, as usual, expresses himself in quite the over-the-top fashion, I agree with him. Basically it boils down to the fact that, wise business decision at the time or not, Siegel and Shuster sold their creation to National Comics. And the fact that they didn't get but a vanishingly small, minuscule fraction of a fraction of what it would ultimately be worth, at the time there was no way to know that Superman would be any different than any myriad other experiments with characters and strips that were being dreamed up at the time. No way for them to know it; no way for National to know it. And to expect that, given its wholly unexpected and explosive success, National should turn around and say, "Uh, guys, we didn't pay you nearly enough," or that they OR THEIR HEIRS are entitled to anything more than the initial sum. Siegel and Shuster were creating things right and left, and were happy to get the sale -- most other things they created have been forgotten because they ultimately went nowhere, and didn't gain them even that much. In Superman's case, it was National that undertook the real job (and risk to their investment) of developing it into the industry that it became. Having said all of which, their lack of a legal claim, as I see it, does not preclude a moral debt owed by all in the industry and who love the genre. That, too, however, I see as ultimately having been discharged by National/DC/WB (however belatedly) in both the cases of Siegel and Shuster. As far as their heirs go, come on. The people fighting for some kind of stake in Superman themselves had absolutely nothing to do with its creation, not even being born yet. For me, that's a non-starter. Now, especially the legal side of it is far more complicated than just the initial sale, with later legal disputes and challenges and agreements being reached along the way with multiple instances of good and bad faith being demonstrated in the two sides' dealings with each other. But it seems to me that seventy-plus years on, long after the deaths of Siegel and Shuster themselves, it's time for the matter to be ended.

Also Superman-related, it was announced that Scott Snyder and Jim Lee would be adding a third title featuring Superman at some time in the future. Even the title has not to my knowledge been announced, but rumor has it as Man of Steel and that it will appear in the immediate publicity run-up to the release of the Zac Snyder (no known relation) movie next summer. I would go on to guess that there will be a Free Comic Book Day zero-issue kicking it off. Which probably guarantees that won't happen. Oh, well, Anj at The Supergirl Comic Box Commentary blog has a good entry regarding comments that have been made about this forthcoming title:

Around the end of last month (27 September), there appeared a cool comprehensive chronology based on what was revealed about the overall history of the New 52 DcnUniverse, especially incorporating what was revealed in the then-just-completed (and the subject of this current “monthly roundup”) zero-issues, entitled “Read Between the Lines: History of the DC Universe 3.0.” (I'm not sure about the significance of the “3.0.” Presumably there were two prior iterations, but I never saw them.) It makes for fascinating reading, especially for somebody like me who is not – contrary to what my wife thinks – reading everything published by DC these days.

Earlier in October was the debut of the newest live-action adaptation of a DC property to hit television – CW's Arrow. The less I say about it the better. I didn't even get through the first episode. From what I'm seeing on blogs and Facebook, I'm in the minority, but this show did not do anything for me. The moment that totally drove me out was when the “hero” murders two thugs – who admittedly had just prior been trying to kill him – with the stated motivation being that “No one can know my secret!” No thanks. Killing in self-defense, or to protect someone else's life, even occasionally in vengeance, okay. Killing a subdued opponent simply to protect “my secret,” nope.

In contrast, an excellent adaptation of a character who has lamentably been treated with appalling shabbiness by DC management has begun appearing on Youtube. An amateur (obviously so) but lovingly produced (just as obviously so) portrayal of the lamentably discarded Stephanie Brown Batgirl, cleverly entitled Spoiled. You can check out the first episode here:
And if these “news” segments get any longer I'll need to rethink including them as part of my monthly roundup. The comic commentary is long enough as it is!

Let's get to that...

The November-dated issues were, as I allude to above, DC's New 52 “zero-month,” between the twelfth and thirteenth issues, a year into the DCnU. Most of the issues did what arguably should have been done at the beginning, established some kind of back-story for one or more characters in their New 52 continuity. They were of varying quality but mostly interesting. The issues were fronted with some cool covers consisting of what DC is trying to establish as the new iconic look for the main characters with a background consisting of washed-out grey-scale of one of the pages from inside the issue.

As usual, both of the “second wave” “Earth 2”-related titles come out the first week of the month, which means that I can read two of my current favorite books right at the top of my stack:

Earth 2 #0
A Hero's Tale”

Terry Sloan, in this version of Earth 2 “Mr. 8” rather than “Mr. Terrific,” is the narrator of this tale set back during the Apokolips War. He comes to the determination that the countries taken by Apokolips cannot be redeemed but rather must be cut out like a cancer. This, of course, brings him into conflict with his hitherto allies among the few super beings who led Earth's resistance against the invading dark gods, specifically what in this world are called “The Ternion” of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. He also reveals that he has penetrated the veil of the future to see alternate versions of the world to come. He knows that the Ternion will ultimately win the war for Earth, but their victory will weaken the world when it stands against a far greater evil than Steppenwulf, who seems to have been Darkseid's main agent in the Earth 2 invasion.

Overall, this issue raises far more questions than it answers, but I have faith that all this is part of James Robinson's master plan and I'm eager to see how it unfolds. I'll only bring out one question here: Who is the seventh hero? In setting the context for his betrayal, Sloan enumerates the heroes as “The 'Three' … or 'Ternion' as they were also known after Wonder Woman used the term at a press conference once...” – Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman – “Robin, her mother Catwoman, Supergirl …” – that makes six – “...oh, and two others. // One who I'll refrain from mentioning now (for reasons that all who know this world and this war will understand)... /// ...and me. // 'Mr. 8' – the eighth and final wonder.” So that's the explanation of his own code name – which appears on his chest-plate as “0 8.” I look forward to gaining the knowledge of “this world and this war” that will enlighten me as to who or what the “unmentioned” one is....

The issue ends, as every one of these do this month, with a “Who's Who in the New 52” page. This one is about Earth 2 in general, and basically serves as a “What has gone before” blurb. My only quibble with these pages, most of which are about specific characters, is the “First Appearance” notation simply citing the New 52 versions. There should be, as in other “Who's Who” pages and publications in the past, a “First Historical Appearance” notation as well, perhaps in smaller type, but there. Come on DC – stop dissing your own magnificent 75-plus-year history! It's one of your strengths!

Worlds' Finest #0

The core of this issue is the worst day of Helena Wayne's young life – to then, early in the Apokolips War when her mother Catwoman is killed. But on the same day, she meets Kara, who has hitherto been kept in secret training as Superman's secret weapon. There is some mystery surrounding Kara's trip to Earth in this world just as there is in the main DCnU. But the issue actually begins with Helena's first night out as Robin – accompanied by her mother, and to her father's helpless chagrin. We also learn that Lois was assassinated by Darkseid earlier in the war as a blow against Superman, but at this time the true nature of Darkseid is not understood – only that he is unlike any previous threat and can even hurt Kryptonians, as evidenced by scars visible on Superman's upper back.

Kevin Maguire handles all the art chores in this issue, which is of course all a flashback in a sense. And it is once again yummy. I can't believe he flew below my radar for so long!

Action Comics #0
The Boy Who Stole Superman's Cape”

This is a tale of Clark's first few days in Metropolis, telling us more about his relationship with Jimmy Olsen and the beginning of his crusade against Glenmorgan. We see his first feats and Lois naming him, meet Mrs Nyxly for the first time, and quite a bit more. “The Boy Who Stole Superman's Cape” takes it off what he has to believe is a dead body, then discovers its wondrous properties when, wearing it, he intervenes to protect a friend being abused by a drunken father. That abuse implicitly ends when Clark, tracking down his “stolen” cape, puts the fear of God into the father. One question – what exactly did the cape do to the drunk's knife? It almost looks like it dissolved it, which can't be right.
And it seems to impart super-strength to the boy immediately afterward. Anyway, it's all depicted via some great Ben Oliver art which is, granted, a little static but properly majestic. 

I am missing Grant Morrison already, and he's not even gone!

Origin of the Species”

The backup, again by Sholly Fisch, tells of an obsessed young scientist seeking to research young Adam Blake in Kansas, where he witnesses Blake's departure with aliens and learns of a threat that will be coming to Earth – from which he gains a new obsession, to jump start human evolution to prepare us for that threat. The scientist's name is Eric Drekken – who is mentioned in an earlier issue (or perhaps in Superman) as an earlier foe of Superman's with the ability to evolve and devolve himself at will. It's another solid offering by Fisch, whom I really wish had gotten the chance to follow Morrison as lead writer for Action.

The Phantom Stranger #0
A Stranger Among Us”

So the New 52 origin of the Phantom Stranger has been nailed down to a variant of one of the tantalizing possibilities that were always part of the lore, that he is the Wandering Jew. Here he is literally Judas Iscariot. And I have a bit of a problem with that. Not what others are saying, exactly – that removing the mystery takes something away from the character. And it's not exactly that I'm against tying a modern fictional story into the Passion Narrative as told in the Gospels. It's that the way DC has done it here, in a universe that ties into all other kinds of legendary and mythological stories such as Greek mythology (Pandora) and Arthur's Camelot (the Demon Knights and I'm sure a bit more), seems in my mind to lower the Biblical story that is central to the Faith of all Christians to the same level as those other legends and myths. C. S. Lewis (or was it J. R. R. Tolkien?) did call the Gospel a “True Myth,” but that does not make all other myths true. It is the Truth, and what they have done here makes me a bit uncomfortable. Obviously not all readers will get what I'm saying here, but it's how I feel. Honestly, my reaction actually surprises me a bit, since I do believe, what I wrote immediately above notwithstanding, that most or even all “other myths” and legends do contain varying degrees of Truth as perceived by peoples who instinctively longed for it but did not have the benefit of God's Revelation.

Anyway, as a consequence of his Betrayal, the nature of which is never quite made explicit but is nonetheless unsubtly obvious, he is judged and punished to walk the Earth as a Stranger by a Council of seven wizards. Ages later, he is finally called to act, to help Detective Jim Corrigan whose girl friend (wife?) is missing, presumably kidnapped and maybe dead, by criminals out for revenge. Unfortunately the result is the creation of the Spectre, who thus has a real grudge against the Stranger which I'm sure will be followed up somehow in the future. However, although I did preorder the first couple of issues, I decided to drop back to digital on this title and may not follow it at all.

Detective Comics #0
The Final Lesson”

In a story that did absolutely nothing for me, Bruce is in the Himalayas, where he learns lessons in controlling his emotions, not being controlled by them – or rather that if he allows himself to care for someone, he will be weaker. And it's not a lesson I like seeing and being perpetuated in this character. We've seen 'way to much of that through the years.

The Long Wait”

is Alfred's through years of Bruce Wayne's absence from Gotham, holding onto his faith that Bruce is not dead and would yet return, resisting efforts by the Kanes to reclaim Martha's fortune – a faith that is eventually rewarded by Bruce's return in the nick of time, before the law can pronounce him legally dead. And Bruce announces that he has plans....

Frankly, neither one of these stories is particularly notable, but at least the second gives us at least a further glimpse into the corruption among the great families of Gotham City, including Bruce's cousins the Kanes, whom I don't think we've previously seen. Could they be slated to be added to the mix in future stories?

Batwing #0
They Will Pay For What They've Given Birth To”

Here we're treated to a quick overview of David's life after winning his freedom from child soldiery, obsessed with making up for the sins he committed during that time. We see his early relationship with Matu Ba. He is first a vigilante, then a member of Tinasha's police, and is finally approached by Batman about a year ago to join his Batman, Incorporated initiative. I could repeat myself about how this title offers a uniquely interesting viewpoint of part of the world virtually uncovered by any other comic, showing Africa's unique problems such as AIDS and child soldiers … which I just did, didn't I...? I wonder how long this title will last with the departure of Judd Winick?

Green Lantern #0
The New Normal”

Intro Simon Baz, Lebanese-American Detroit automobile thief who is unlucky enough to steal a van with an active bomb in it! To save lives, knowing full well what it will look like, he drives it into a closed plant that he was recently let go from, managing to jump out before it blows up. While undergoing “enhanced interrogation,” he is unexpectedly busted out of custody by the Green Lantern ring recently belonging to Sinestro …? – or was it Hal's? … Whatever, there are hints that this is some time after Hal quit the Justice League in that title #12, and it's been a mystery where he vanished to – maybe this is Johns' belatedly making room for the events of the Green Lantern series thus far relative to the story in Justice League #7-12? We see a hint of one of the First Lantern clones, and on the last page it is clear that Hal and Sinestro are not really dead (you mean you thought they were?) but rather in some mysterious place of darkness....

Even though it will take me a couple of months to catch up with where I stopped pre-ordering, nothing here really makes me reconsider that decision. Green Lantern really reads better in collected format.

Stormwatch #0
Crash Course”

Adam-One, a.k.a. Merlin, appears to Jenny Q and shows her visions of earlier century babies, from the 11th c. to the present, linking Stormwatch with Demon Knights, witnessing the first assaults of the Daemonites, and so forth, all with the purpose of steeling her for the time he knows is coming when the members of Stormwatch will turn on each other and it will depend on her to save the group. We see such things as the 14th-c. attack by dolphins on mankind, early attacks by the Neanderthals, and that the precipitating factor in the coming crisis is the new phenomenon of super heroes.

Team 7 #0
Mission Zero: The Majestic Seven”

Years ago, at the dawn of the super hero age, the mysterious government program “Majestic” created “Team 7,” a group recruited by one John Lynch, with its members being brought in by his agents Dinah Drake (tagged with “infiltration”; later to be known as Black Canary) and Kurt Lance (tagged “tracking and operations”; later to be Dinah's husband, even later believed to have been murdered by her – see previous issues of Birds of Prey). In this issue we meet: Slade Wilson, tagged “tactical genius”; Alex Fairchild, “weapons expert”; James Bronson, “utility player” (?); Summer Ramos, “pilot; probable crazy person”; Cole Cash, “special forces, [with the] ability to learn about the underworld more or less instantly wherever he goes”; Amanda Waller, “N.S.A. Analyst currently on loan to the army”; and Dean Higgins, “military intelligence, strategy.”

I've seen a lot of my regular review sites that didn't like this issue; my colleague who picked it up isn't continuing with it. But according to the linked review round-up site, there were positive reviews out there. Most importantly to me, I liked it, and I plan on continuing with it, at least for a time.

Superboy #0

This issue has two basic narratives. One deals with Krypton's clone rebellion led by Kon “the Abomination,” and is told by Harvest. It's complemented with a retelling of the events of issue #1 about Superboy's “birth,” but now with the added layer of Harvest's role in his origin. Among the revelations are how Krypton turned away from space travel due to the secret agitation of a doomsday cult and Harvest's role in destabilizing Superboy's developing personality in the weeks after his “birth,” which undercut any tendency or effort he might have toward becoming a hero.

But my main question is, what is Supergirl doing in the scene on Krypton, long in the past, during the “clone war,” on p. 3? As we'll see, such odd appearances will occur in other #0 issues, and my guess is it all has something to do with the upcoming “H'El” cross-over.

Batman #0
Bright New Yesterday”

Six years ago, before he assumes the fighting identity of “Batman,” Bruce's infiltration of the Red Hood Gang goes wrong and almost gets him killed. But that's just preamble, I think, to upcoming stories. We also find that he and Alfred are living in a Brownstone only feet away from the site of his parents' murders, and that Bruce explicitly considers Bruce to be his mask. He is in the middle of testing the new weapon he is developming, a prototype of what will become the “batarang,” when he is almost caught by Gordon, who introduces himself and expresses suspicions about the corporate activities of Philip Kane in the Wayne corporation as well as concerns about a new vigilante who has been active in this area of Gotham. It's pretty clear that he suspects Bruce of having some connection.


Five years ago, Batman has been active in Gotham long enough to have gained Commissioner Gordon's trust – enough so that Gordon has installed the “batsignal” atop police headquarters. In the company of his daughter, Barbara – who questions whether such a device implies that her father cannot do his job – Gordon turns on the signal for the first time – and it is seen by three young boys across Gotham – Tim Drake, Dick Grayson, and Jason Todd. I could go on and on about how stupid the six-year time-frame is, how these three ought not be all of an age, but what's the point?

Batgirl #0
A Fire in the Heavens”

Four years ago, college freshman Barbara Gordon, with her younger brother James Jr. in tow, is doing research in the Gotham City police headquarters for her criminology class. Her unstated motive is especially to look for information on Batman. The headquarters comes under attack by come kind of cultists, and eventually Barbara takes a prop costume of Batman and ends up fighting the leader to save a downed policeman. This is witnessed by the real Batman, who praises her. Then we see a quick preview of the next year or so – her career as Batgirl, her retirement (as a result of an unspecified incident where she “messed up. // Story for another time.”) – culminating with that awful night when the Joker appeared at her door.

I really don't care so much for the lack of a traditional cowl on the costume they are retconning to her prior career as Batgirl.

Batman and Robin #0
Someday Never Comes”

This is the tale of Damian Wayne, from “birth” through years of training by his mother Talia al Ghul, which includes a yearly birthday ritual of combat between mother and son, with the promise that when he can defeat her she will reward him by taking him to meet his father. He finally accomplishes this, and meets Batman.

It's been 'way too long since I read the original Grant Morrison version of that meeting.

Demon Knights #0
In: The Prologue”

We are presented with the origins of both Jason Blood and Etrigan, told in parallel, which show a certain similarity even before Merlin (the narrator of the tale) binds them together – it is symbolized by their parallel cries near the beginning of their respective sequences: Both are rebelling against their Masters – “He underestimates me! Everyone does!” The sequences take place respectively in the Camelot of King Arthur and Merlin, and Nimue and Morgaine, and in the Hell of Lucifer and the various ranks of demons, rhyming, prose, and lyric. Etrigan's rebellion against Lucifer ends abruptly with the rhyming demon being cast out of Hell. Now, I have no idea what's up with Camelot being attacked by a UFO – unless it hearks back to Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers, which I continue to find certain echoes of here, beyond just the appearance of his reimagining of the Shining Knight – but that serves as the occasion for Merlin to bind the human Jason of Norwich with the Demon Etrigan. Forced by their predicament to come to an uneasy agreement, “Over the centuries after I united them, they did get to know each other. Too well. // Etrigan finally advanced in Hell and came to … appreciate … what Jason loved. // His wrath seemed … temptered. // And Jason was saved, by the heroism of every day defending others from an evil inside him that was no longer a possibility, but a reality. // Perhaps he started to somewhat accept his situation. // Etrigan never did. // And we have not yet seen all the horrors that, therefore, came to pass.”

Legion Lost #0
The Predator and the Prey”

We get a radically new origin for Timber Wolf, which effectively boils down to a tale of revenge for his parents' deaths. Borrrrrriiiiiinnnnnnngggggggg. Was there really that much wrong with his old origin?

It's recently been announced that this title is ending with issue #16. I can't say I'm going to miss it, per se. I've never cared for the premise nor the execution. I am sad for the implicit blow its cancellation is to the Legion franchise, however.

Sword of Sorcery #0
Amethyst in “The Catalyst: Homecoming”

It's Amy Winston's 17th birthday. A lifetime of training and wandering with her mother ends with their return to Nilaa, apparentlly an alternate reality. Her mother tells her of her heritage, the Amethyst Bloodline and its power, and how Nilaa is ruled by her mother's sister who wants it all. Which she can't have while any other bearer of the Bloodline still lives. Uh oh. This is a new take on the 1980s series, that drew a bit of controversy when released because of the threatened gang rape of one of Amy's classmates that she thwarts – not that the victim proves very grateful.

Beowulf, “Chapter I: The Perfect Soldier”

This reimagined Geatish warrior is a killing machine left to guard a bunker in a feudal post apocalyptic world. Wiglaf is part of a party sent to find him, the only survivor of the group when Beowulf bursts out and slaughters the others. Wiglaf thinks quickly and manages to dissociate himself from his companions, making the appeal to Beowulf to come back to his General's base to slay Grendel.

Why? – Why reimagine a foundational classic of English literature as post apocalyptic?

If I weren't somewhat taken with the Amethyst story based on this one introductory chapter, I'd pass on this title altogether. As it is, although I preordered the first couple of issues I figure I'm going to relegate this to a digital purchase in the future.

Justice League #0

Don't you just love the originality that Geoff Johns shows in naming the various parts or chapters of ongoing stories?

The Wizard decides that Billy Batson's “embers of good” are enough to warrant bestowing the power of Shazam on him. And Billy immediately starts acting exactly like I feared this abysmally atrocious perversion of the hero formerly known as Captain Marvel would, using his new powers to continue his and Freddy Freeman's attack on the Bryers. He also does save a woman from a mugger, then accepts money from her in return. Which makes Billy and Freddy realize that they can use Billy's new powers to make money.

And if they have money, Billy can buy them beer.

Oh, this just gets worse and worse.


Pandora has her box again, as seen in the Free Comic Book Day giveaway, I think – but she cannot open it to put evil back in its place. Whereupon the Wizard, who sacrificed himself to bestow the power of Shazam on Billy Bratson uses the last of his strength to appear to her and apologize for the Council's wrongs against her. But he only hints at who might open the box for her. Assuming that's even a good idea. I bet it isn't. I mean, the Wizard tells her it's impossible to put evil back … but that there is even greater power within. Yeah, that can't be good.

I'm assuming that the one-page epilogue that actually contains the title applies to the entire backup story – another incredibly annoying practice that I despise, reserving the title of the story for the bottom of the last page, a device that is greatly overused. Anyway, the one-page epilogue does no more than establish that the Question lives in Hub City and has saved the kidnapped daughter of the mayor, leaving the kidnapper trussed up for the police to find. Oh, and that he seems to be channeling Rorschach or the portrayal of the Question from the Justice League Unlimited cartoon series, spouting nonsensical but no doubt very profound drivel: “Poverty. Wealth. Make-up. Dirt. The man with the hat and the girl with the guns. It's all connected. It's all a web. They hold the answers. / Don't they?”

There are definitely times when, flagship title of the DCnU or not, I wonder why I'm getting this. It is so disappointing.

Supergirl #0
The End of the Beginning”

We learn how Zor-El – estranged from his brother Jor-El because of forbidden scientific work in the past that had something to do with the Worldkillers – sends his daughter Kara into space to save her from the destruction of Krypton. Against the will of her mother Alura, hence Alura shoots Zor-El, solving that mystery dangled before the reader some issues back. We also learn how Zor-El surreptitiously erected the dome around Argo (but he has no faith in that desperate attempt to protect the city, hence consigning his daughter to space).

Alura was spurred to dash into Zor-El's lab almost in time to prevent the launch of Kara by the appearance of Superboy – who here interacts with her, telling her she still has time “... to say goodbye to Kara!” He's wearing the TRON/NOWHERE suit, whatever the significance of that might be. What members of the Superman family are doing appearing in Krypton's past is intriguing enough and a good hook for the future. I'm sure it's going to have something to do with the upcoming “H'El” cross-over.

Batwoman #0

Kate Kane has an inner reconciliation with her estranged father, which basically takes the form of her recording a message recalling her life-story, with specific reference to Jacob. Much of it we've seen already, most notably in the pre-Flashpoint Detective Comics run of “Batwoman” stories, but here we find out that part of her training was two years spent with members of Jacob's military unit. One theme that emerges by the end her Kate's life-long search for herself, which turns out not to be Kate Kane at all but rather Batwoman, a realization she comes to when she considers that she has been betrayed by her father not letting her know from the beginning that her sister was really not dead.

I've never been entirely clear on that, however. Did Jacob know for sure that Beth was still alive?

One interesting note here is her reference to a failed relationship with “Rene” – is that a typo for the female form of the name as sported by Renee Montoya? Or is the use of the male form significant?

Anyway, it's all told by means of typically fantastic (although sometimes hard to follow story-wise) art.

Nightwing #0
Perpetual Motion”

Gotham City. // A few years ago.” That's how all of these references to the past of the DCnU should read, all the way back to the beginning in Justice League #0 last year. Why attempt to tie the time-line down to a specific date? When it's going to cause 'way more problems than it “solves.” What problem does it really “solve,” anyway?

That ludicrous five-year time-line is just one of a bunch of things about the New 52 that I'm finding increasingly irritating as time goes by. Leave it be.

Anyway, here we get the new origin of Dick Grayson, that is really pretty good. It includes the basics, but tweaked in ways that enhance it's believability. For instance, for some time after the murder of his parents, Dick lives in an orphanage funded by the Wayne fortune, rather than being immediately entrusted to a single, eccentric billionaire who has no familial relationship to him whatsoever. From there, Dick embarks on a personal vigilante quest to find Zucco. It's on one of his surreptitious forays that he first encounters Batman. A new ability is introduced for Dick here, that of “reading” people virtually at a glance, perceiving their little habits and personality quirks that not only enhances his fighting ability, but also allows him to see through Batman's mask immediately to recognize Bruce Wayne. Knowing that he'll never dissuade the young man from his obsession (if anyone would understand it, it's Bruce Wayne!) Batman consents to training him on the sly, which is carried out under cover of a part-time job at Wayne Manor. Then, monitoring Batman on a mission, witnessing through the magic of telemetry his mentor being overpowered by the assassin Lady Shiva, Dick springs to the rescue in armor that he has “been working on … for weeks, piecing it together from spare Bat suits.” Right. At least his legs and arms are covered, and there's no pixie boots. That is a change from tradition that had to come! Anyway, he saves Batman – or rather impresses Shiva enough that she lets them go and fades into the night, bidding him, “[w]hen you decide you want more, little Robin, find me. Lady Shiva will show you how much more you can be.” A seed for a future story? And the idea of “Robin” being his mother's pet name for him is retained, about the only possible way a crime fighter might take that name.

A few years ago.” Based on this story alone, it's uncertain how long ago these events took place. And that's how it should be.

A good issue. I wonder how much of the plot is really due to Tom DeFalco, and how much it's due to Kyle Higgins, who then contributed the dialogue. And what if any contribution did Scott Snyder make as the current “master scribe” of the Batman universe? (Sorry, Grant Morrison. Your run's been great, but you're just finishing up the wave of the past. Snyder's vision is the wave of the future. This year, at least.)

Birds of Prey #0
First Flight”

Some time after the end of her association with Team 7 (does it still exist in some form?) – and the alleged demise of Kurt Lance, Dinah Lance is seeking redemption in her own eyes at least as a crime fighter. Specifically, it's “One year ago.” Ggggaaaaa!!!! Anyway, she's undercover in the Iceberg Lounge trying to discover what it is that the Penguin is sellingl. She meets Starling – actually working for Penguin (it's implied that both of them got their avian code names from Penguin, or at least Dinah thought hers up on the spot to “fit in”) – as well as Batgirl for the first time when the latter bursts in also trying to thwart the sale. When they manage to capture the buyer and Starling realizes it's a “mutation bomb,” she helps them. And so appears to be born the “Birds of Prey.”

Okay. 1) So I guess Dinah was never in the Justice League. 2) She refers to knowing first-hand the effects of a “mutation bomb.” She doesn't seem to have any powers in Team 7 #0. Is that how she got the Canary Cry, through induced mutation? That's how I'm taking it. 3) Ummmm.... “One year ago”? And Batgirl is active, not a paraplegic? How does that work?

Doesn't Black Canary look like a real doll on the cover?  I mean, like they transplanted a Barbie-doll head onto a real woman's body?  – Well, as “real as any comic-book woman's body might look these days....

Catwoman #0
Zip Me Up”

Well, first off I am so glad they sent Guillem March back to the drawing board for a new, slightly less impossible, cover pose! (It fleetingly crossed my mind to submit that original to Fanboy Wife as a proposed new move in her “Superhero Yoga” repertoire, but I figured I'd feel the slap through the Internet, and maybe get a visit from Fanboy himself.)

As to the comic itself, with a new writer comes a new origin, or perhaps just finally telling the New 52 origin. Ann Nocenti introduces a mystery surrounding Selina Kyle's past that even she didn't know. She grew up an orphan, in a corrupt orphanage who's headmistress sent the kids out to steal. She tried to become a grifter (not the super hero), was busted by a mark, then was caught burgling, beaten, and thrown in an alley, where she was approached by a mysterious man regarding the Mayor's “Second Chance” program for wayward young people. She was given a job, proved her ability in office work (huh?) but then an illicit computer search of her own files triggered some kind of alert. The same mysterious man reappeared to dissuade her from ever trying to learn about Selina Kyle. When she protested, he threw her off the balcony. Maybe his name was Max Schreck. Improbably, she survived the multi-storey fall by striking an awning, and cats gather around her. Some time later, she makes her first “cat suit” from that awning. Months later, she breaks back into the office, only to find all the computers there wiped of any trace of her existence.

It's presented as a nonsequential story, but I found it fairly easy to follow. Nothing like Batwoman #6-11! The reviews overall were quite bad, but I enjoyed it well enough. I do wish they hadn't gone with the Batman Returns origin I allude to above. As fine as Michelle Pfeiffer looked, I detested just about everything else about the movie, including the origin story. It's stupid. And yet, I kind of liked this issue. Go figure.

Legion of Super-Heroes #0
Brainiac's Original Sin”

The young Legionnaires travel to Colu to help deal with robotic weapons that were unleashed when the vault securing the original Brainiac's artifacts mysteriously opens. They eventually prevail, with the help of Brainiac 5, with whom they were already acquainted since this happens after the events of the Legion: Secret Origin mini-series. As a result of this most recent interaction, Brainiac 5 joins the Legion. But, as they leave his home planet for the trip to Earth, Brainiac's inner'logue reveals his secret – that it was he himself who opened the vault. If his later history tracks more or less with the Brainiac 5 we're all familiar with from the past forty or fifty years, he doesn't really learn much of a lesson, and continues to let his curiosity and scientific hubris get the better of him.

A few tidbits from this issue as well: We see the whole Tharok, who will of course end up half-roboticized, with the strong implication that his later robot half is made up of Brainiac technologyl We also learn of the low reproductive rate of Coluans, which makes every child precious and to be protected at all costs.

This issue carried the advent of Scott Kolins as artist. I had my doubts as to whether his style would mesh with the Legion, whom I think work best with a smooth, sleek, clean artistic style, but frankly the result is pretty good. Hopefully he won't revert to the more sketchy style I tend to associate with him.

Talon #0
The Long Run”

This is another of DC's “third wave” titles in the New 52, perhaps the first title in the New 52 that is somewhat original in that it's not a revamp or a revival of a some previous property, but rather a new character spinning out of the “Court of Owls” story-line that has been on-going in the Batman titles. I'm still undecided whether I'm with this for the long(ish) haul. I'm pretty sure I'm pre-ordered for the first couple of issues, but after that I may well just go digital and/or trades. We'll see.

An abused boy escapes from his father and is taken in by Haly's Circus, which we now know is sort of a “farm” for the Court of Owls. He becomes a masterful escape artist, but realizes that the real plan is to make him into a monster. He ultimately refuses a kill order and flees, living a life on the run.

In execution, this does seem promising – it's co-plotted by Scott Snyder along with his frequent collaborator James Tynion IV, who scripts the story. Maybe I'll switch back to print if the first couple of issues play out well. I will say that I'm somewhat put off by the dumb-looking costume on the cover, which looks like he's been “necklaced” with an owl-effigy tire – except that it also looks like his neck and head are growing out of his upper chest.

Aquaman #0

After the death of his father, and hounded by paparazzi who want to know more about him, thanks to Dr. Shin, Arthur abandons the air-breathing world and searches the ocean for Atlantis, seeking his mother. He ultimately discovers the existence of another Atlantean living on the surface, Vulko, who turns out to be the exiled minister of the kings of Atlantis. Vulko tells him of his heritage, but also how his mother, forced to abandon her surface-lover and son to protect them, was forced to marry upon her return to Atlantis and what seems to have been the title of Queen and little more than that, at least in the way of power. She later bore another son, Orm, who eventually probably killed her to take the throne for himself. Vulko then takes him to Atlantis, where the issue finishes off with a magnificent but sideways (another increasingly common practice that I don't care for) two-page splash (every time I write that for this title I feel like I'm trying to be clever – I'm not) page of the great underwater city.
There's no evidence of the dome which to me will always be part of Aquaman's Atlantis. And yes, that's the title at the bottom of the last page. Grrrr.

So we've got a totally new origin for Orm, fated to be the Ocean Master. Isn't this at least the third? It's an example of how this “return to the roots” – one of the things they said was guiding this New 52 reboot/-launch thing, right – really isn't. Why not use the classic elements and show how they can be made cool rather than trying to “improve” them? Or is that beyond the capability of the new Geoff Johns? He did it so well in his early career....

As always, gorgeous art. I will miss Ivan Reis if indeed he leaves this title.

Superman #0
Every End Has a Beginning”

The story is narrated by Kal-El himself, even though he was newly in utero during the events he relates. Except that we find out at the very end that the grown-up Superman, in a black costume, was on Krypton as well....

Jor-El confirms the coming destruction of Krypton, which precipitates the Doomsday cult murdering his fellow scientists and attacking Jor-El and Lara themselves, to prevent any measures being taken to avert it or assure that any Kryptonians survive. Which gives Lara the chance to prove she is as much a soldier as a scientist. She kicks ass. Apparently not the first time, because Jor says he's glad she didn't kill the attacker because “[t]he last thing I need right now is to break you out of the Phantom Zone. / Again.”

As usual this month, we find out a couple of things. Apparently the destruction of Krypton was part of something much larger, which one of the Doomsday cultists calls “the Cosmicide.” And a Kryptonian insult for a woman, contextually similar to “bitch,” is “scratch.”

In an enigmatic epilogue, some alien finds that Krypton is being destroyed and sends word to “The Oracle” ….

Kenneth Rocafort's not one of my favorite artists, but it works okay and I'm cautiously hopeful that yet another creative team in the New 52 Superman may finally get it right.

I think that might be the only #0 cover that does not feature one or some of the title characters.  That's Jor-El.

Batman, Incorporated #0
Brand Building”

This issue is basically flashbacks of Batman going around and recruiting the various “Batmen” of the world into his new Batman, Incorporated, initiative. It plays off of pieces of Grant Morrison's six- or seven-year run of Batman stories, essentially becoming a potted version of that epic. There are lots of good character bits, but not a whole lot new And there's not a whole lot else to say, other than after several years I'm still not sure whether I like or loath Frazer Irving's art for this type of story. It works for certain types of story, such as the first thing I ever associated him with, the Seven Soldiers mini-series Klarion.

Batman: The Dark Knight #0
Chill in the Air”

Young Bruce's long search for the killer of his parents ultimately comes to naught. Yes, he finds Joe Chill, but he also finds that it was not an assassination or a hit as some versions of the story in the past have had it, but rather just a random alcoholic needing money for his next bottle. Specifically, he wanted a pearl necklace. (Oh, man, that doesn't come out quite right, does it? [WARNING: EXPLICIT MATERIAL]) Anyway, seeing what pathetic straits the drunk is in, Bruce does not kill him. He goes away, letting him live, free to kill again. What the – ?!

In itself, other than that glaring lapse, this issue isn't bad, but all this constant rebooting makes canon meaningless. I mean, how is your reader like me who has read through forty-plus years of constantly shifting story, to know off the top of my head, as essential background for understanding future stories, what did and didn't happen? Was there no role played by Lew Moxon? Evidently not. Except there was, then there wasn't, then there was, then there wasn't, and so forth. That's my biggest problem with modern writers and the DCnU 52 in general – where once writers could expand upon and maintain the relevance of past stories, now they seem each one of them to believe they can only improve upon them by radically changing them. Rarely is it ever an improvement, in my opinion. And it throws everything into constant question.

Justice League Dark #0
Young Bastards”

The beginning of the relationship between Constantine and Zatanna, both students of Nick Nekro, the greatest mage of the age … until he goes mad with his obsession over the Books of Magic, immersing himself deeper and deeper in the search, pulling away from his students while Constantine and Zatanna (hitherto his own lover) grow ever closer. Eventually Nekro betrays them, intending to murder them, but they turn the tables and Nekro himself ends up dead. Right.

I read somewhere a few days ago that Jeff Lemire will be leaving this title. Pity. After a confusing beginning with Peter Milligan, Lemire's story has rocked.

Teen Titans #0
Red Robin”

And here we get the new origin of Tim Drake/Red Robin. Really, it seems, of both, because apparently “Drake” is not Tim's original name. It was given to him when his parents are forced to go into protective custody, what seems to be essentially witness protection, and he himself became Batman's newest (at the time) partner. He was always an overachiever, who set himself the task of discovering Batman's true identity and filling the recently vacated role of Robin, after the death (I presume, but I don't necessarily know that that's the case) of Jason Todd. Batman tries to dissuade him, but that just pushes him to such an extreme that his bad judgment (stealing from the Penguin) necessitates new identities for himself and his family. And that's who Batman will now accept as a partner? Again, this ain't an improvement. And Alfred seems to act very much out of character just for the sake of moving the pieces around on the game board as well. I mean, Jason tod being recently dead (I presume), he encourages Bruce to take another protege? Anyway, as has been bouncing around the Internet for weeks now, Tim was never actually a Robin, but rather takes the identity of “Red” Robin to honor but not supersede Jason Todd's legacy. Little did he know Todd would reappear as a prick. That's my commentary, not the issue's.


Smallville: Season 11 #19-21
Detective, Parts 7-9”

While Lois interviews Schott regarding Loomis, Superman and Batman become protectors against Loomis the Prankster, and Mr Freeze. The Prankster fires guided missile bullets at Batman and Chill. Batman manages to save the life of the man who killed his parents, but is then freeze-blasted. Superman himself is hit by “meteor-rock,” Kryptonite, bullets. The villains flee in the time that it takes Batman to melt his way out of being frozen solid, but not before leaving Joe Chill … er … chilled … and shattered. Then Batman finds Superman down, a bit green. His lead-armored S-shield stopped several of the volley of Kryptonite bullets from going into his heart, but three did penetrate his abdomen, and he is succumbing to Kryptonite poisoning. Nightwing remotely sends the Tumbler in to extract them from the building, which by now is surrounded by the authorities who have been refusing entrance to all, including Lois. When the Tumbler bursts out and through the police lines, Lois grabs a police cycle and a first aid kit and gives chase. As Batman desperately tries to lose the authorities, Superman comes to enough to tell him his own name, Clark, and how to contact the Watchtower, who put Batman through to Lois. With Nightwing and Green Arrow's help, Batman manages to lose his pursuit and perform the bullet extractions on the fly, recalibrating his suit to emit yellow sun radiation, which saves Superman. In their own lair, Freeze and the Prankster are nonetheless tracking the heroes by tracers in the bullets themselves.

This is the best Superman book being published. That's all there is to say. I'm not quite so fond of Chris Cross's art, but it's solid.

I, Vampire #0
Break My Body”

The background revealed here is how the young nobleman Andrew Bennett, in the midst of preparing to run away with his low-born lover Mary, is attacked and ultimately turned by the vampire Cain – but only after Cain as “played with his food” a bit. Nevertheless, because Bennett is “pure of heart,” this act consigns Cain to hell. Bennett, horrified at what he has become, bids Mary farewell by means of a letter, so there is still background yet to be fully revealed – how he finally turned her and created his own arch-nemesis.

Phantom Lady #2 (of 4)
To Live and Die in Metropolis”

Bender trusses Jennifer up, torments her for a while, but leaves her to brood over her fate – which gives Dane the chance to rescue her. They get away to a cabin hidden well away from Metropolis, and he outfits her with other technology that he has been working on – a black light generator that seems to tap into something like the Shade's shadows, as well as a suit that allows her to slip into a phantom-like state, inspiring her own code name. The name she hangs on her now-diminutive lover is not nearly so flattering. Dane is dead set against “Doll Man,” but we know it's going to stick. Anyway, sparring to develop some degree of fighting ability, they discover that someone inside her black light has all good, positive thoughts almost sucked out of them, imposing a paralysing depressing, as well as that his reduced size has inversely increased his strength so that he can leap relatively far and hit with disproportionate force. He also sports a doll-sized rocket suit. Returning to Metropolis after a period of time, they attack Bender and his men – but those have in the meantime brought in freelance protection – “Funerella,” whose name immediately puts me in mind of “Vampirella.”

Picking Phantom Lady up, including as I mentioned doing quite a bit of research and reading on her origins at Quality Comics, put me in mind to download and read the earlier DCnU revival of her fellow Quality Comics and Freedom Fighters character …

The Ray #1-4 (Feb-May 2012)

Like Phantom Lady, this was written by the team which seems to have had custody of the old Freedom Fighters characters at DC for the past few years, Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti. And their story was cleanly rendered by Jamal Igle, whom I really liked on the pre-Flashpoint Supergirl title with Sterling Gates.

Here we have a reimagining on the same order as Phantom Lady, extending even to the name of the main character. At least this time Gray and Palmiotti avoided having Lucien Gates motivated by grief and revenge for lost parents. His own quite flaky and offbeat parents are very much alive. Lucien himself is a very likeable character, with a quickly introduced supporting cast already in place. I'm not going to attempt to summarize the actual plot, just will say that I really enjoyed this short series and will be digitally picking up the next Quality/Freedom Fighters refugee, The Human Bomb, when it comes out. The only thing I didn't like here was a seemingly gratuitous anti-gun quip at the end – but with a little reflection consider it quite believable that a second-generation California hippie-surfer-dude such as we have here would indeed have such an attitude – so they get a pass.

Superman Family Adventures #5

The fun continues. Kids' comic this may be, but it never fails to amuse me. Otis becomes the Parasite! Lex becomes a Daily Planet intern!

And that's it. Thanks for stopping by! – Cheers!

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