Tuesday, January 31

DC Comics – Feb 2012



Before diving into the comics themselves, one bit of big news from the last couple of weeks was the announcement, just a few years after the “DC Swirl” shown above superseded the thirty-some-odd-years old “DCBullet” as the brand logo, that there would be yet another new symbol. See here and sundry other places. Once again it seemed the Internet was breaking in half. Frankly, I prefer the swirl, but the new … peel? … has its own simple elegance. Whatever. I'll use my pic for these monthly commentaries whatever is on the books I'm reading, so there will be a couple more months of the swirl.

Now for more stream-of-consciousness Random Ramblings about the February-dated comics I get from DC....
* * *
Justice League International #4
The Signal Masters, part 4”

This issue is info-dump time! Guy Gardner can't overcome Peraxxus, who has overcome and transported all the other JLI members to his ship, where he proceeds to tell them all his plans. Basically, he's a planetary strip miner using ancient constructs called “Signalmen” to destroy worlds and harvest minerals of value. See? – Galactus-lite. The JLI rallies but still can't defeat him, and the process begins.

I hate to say this, but this title suddenly got a bit tedious. Overall, it gives me very much a “so what?” vibe, which is not alleviated by Booster Gold repeating his same joke from near the end of last issue about his attackers grabbing him where a man don't want to be grabbed, nor his melodramatic wail, “This can't be happening! If we go down, who's left to save the Earth?” Well, it seems the “real” Justice League isn't doing much of anything right about now – their book is still in the “five years ago” origin story – at least as a team. Where are they? Why hasn't Bats called in the Big Guns? I like the characters and am staying with this title for now, but....


Action Comics #4
Superman and the Men of Steel”

The higher price-point of this comic with this issue gives us two stories … sort of. Where the previous three issues have given us a standard twentyish-page lead with “DVD extras” to fill out the length, this one gives us a backup story expanding on a scene from the lead story and taking it off on a narrative tangent away from Superman himself. It's actually a cool execution.

The lead story brings the attack by the Collector of Worlds on all fronts, mainly in the form of robots and reminiscent of (and doubtless inspired by or a homage to) the many earlier “mechanical men” stories in the comics and newspaper strips as well as the episode in the Fleisher cartoons. Lex Luthor proves pretty epic in his cowardice. We get battles between the Steel Soldier John Corben calling himself “Metal Zero” (Metal-0 = Metallo – that's pretty clever as an updating) and Superman, with Lois trying to talk Corben down, and John Henry Irons debuting in his own Steel fighting armor to join the fray. Then Metropolis shrinks – and the way things transpire Lois is trapped inside. Which brings General Lane to swallow his pride and ask for Superman's help.

The backup follows Steel's own battle with Metal Zero, who disappears in time for Irons to come back into the main narrative on the last couple of pages. It's basically a slug fest with Irons' inner'logue telling his personal history, but we get to hear him proclaim, “I'm not just any man. … I'm a steel-driving man!

Yep, if there was any doubt, none now – the Collector is Brainiac although he's not been called that and indeed the name was used here previously for the Kryptonian super computer à la the Animated Series. I'm still pretty sure there's going to be revealed a merging/connection.

I think it's interesting that Clark has different colored tee-shirts with the “S”-shield iron-on (?) affixed. It emphasises that there is no “uniform” as yet. So far I don't think we have any explanation for why he's sporting the cape though. Well, or the shield, but I'm sure both are coming. In any case, I'm still loving this series, and am looking forward to seeing what happens next. There will be a delay, though – the next two issues form an interlude revealing more about Clark's background and origin. “Next: Interlude: Rocket Song.”


Detective Comics #4
The Main Event”

Well, we get the end of the Dollmaker debut arc of the new Detective Comics. The villain escapes but will be back of course. At the end, the Joker-face is still in police headquarters and there's hints that there may be the beginnings of some kind of cult surrounding it.

Overall, my assessment is that this was a bleh issue in a bleh storyline. Tony Daniel really disappointed this time. The reviewer below liked it more than I did, but is still happy this arc is over.

I don't have anything more to say than that. Oh – see below at Batman: Dark Knight #4 for explicit refutation of any theory that this story took place in the past.


Huntress #3
Crossbow at the Crossroads, Part Three”

Helena's adventures in Italy continue. The weapons-and-sex-slave-trafficking ring she's investigating is tied into last year's “Arab Spring” movements across the Middle East as well as a Khaddafi clone's efforts to buy European powers' support for his son to inherit his position upon his retirement. Much of the book has Helena taking on the smugglers among beautifully and I think very accurately rendered ruins of Pompeii. Notice is even taken of the problem that has developed in recent years of stray feral dogs among the ruins.

Again, not a whole lot to say but that this was quite an enjoyable little read. Of even more interest to me than this particular issue is, however, theannouncement made a couple of weeks back as part of the DCnU “SecondWave,” that Paul Levitz will soon be writing a new Worlds' Finest (note the placement of the apostrophe), starring Huntress and Power Girl, “stranded on our world from a parallel reality, … struggl[ing] to find their way back to Earth 2.” A companion of sorts to James Robinson's Justice Society book rechristened Earth 2. Is that the Huntress we're seeing here? Which again brings up the question – exactly who is the new Helena? Bertinelli or Wayne? The barely discernable documents in the first issue seemed to indicate the Huntress of this series is Helena Bertinelli. Of course, Paul Levitz had a hand in creating the original version of the Huntress back in the 1970s as an Earth 2 character, the daughter of the original Batman. Some speculation I've seen online is that Bertinelli here is just an alias. I'm hoping that my first speculation 'way back when the present series was announced with Levitz as writer that this would be the first appearance of a New 52 Earth 2 character turns out to be the case. We'll just have to wait and see, of course.


Stormwatch #4
The Dark Side, Part Four”

Apollo crashes back to earth near Midnighter and the alien attacker from the moon that's absorbed the rest of the Stormwatch team into itself. Midnighter arranges a blast of concentrated sunlight to repower Apollo and rescues the team. Jack Hawksmoor manages to make contact with the ancient city buried under Colorado – Alba Umbra (which is Latin for White Shadow, by the way) – which resurfaces. The team uses science from it to alchemically transform the attacker into glass. All this happens without the leadership of Adam 1 – then they find themselves literally jerked back to the headquarters satellite in hyperspace where a member of the Stormwatch Shadow Cabinet proclaims Adam 1 a failed leader – who must die.

I'm guessing he won't. Somewhere I saw reference to how closely Cornell's two books, Stormwatch and Demon Knights, are connected. Among the points mentioned – whether as a fact or just wild speculation I don't know – was that Adam 1 here is Merlin there, looking younger of course because Merlin famously lives backward through time, looking forward to the past and remembering the future. Which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but who's to argue with T. H. White?


Superboy #4
Wise Men Need Not Apply”

Meaning less to me than other readers I'm sure is the confirmation of the longstanding internet consensus that “Red” is none other than Caitlin Fairchild, one of thirteen – Gen 13 … I have no familiarity whatsoever with these characters other than passing knowledge that there was once such a comic. Oh well. Do like I did and find out a little more here, although I'm not sure how much of the information there is relevant here. Anyway, she's She-Hulked up (without the green) and giving Superboy a pretty thorough beatdown until he telekinetically throws half the room at her and she ends up draped senseless atop him. Whereupon a different NOWHERE operative appears and takes a different tack with Superboy, explaining his origin (although I question how thorough he is being with what he reveals) and giving him his freedom. Superboy departs and the middle act of the issue is filled with his mystified ruminations before he ultimately comes upon the super-powered “Natural Born Killers” from the beginning of the previous issue. Their confrontation convinces him to come back into NOWHERE and help bring in other teens who should not be allowed to run wild with super-powers. “I have to thank you two,” Superboy declares. “All this power I have? It was starting to go to my head. … I was starting to think because I was made better, that I am better. … But you guys have made it clear that's not the case.” And from his inner'logue once he's beat them down: “I was too late to help the people here. … Not that I had any responsibility to help them. … But … there is something about avenging them that feels – right?”

In some ways, this and the other of Scott Lobdell's books I'm getting – Teen Titans – are almost parallel stories in a biweekly comic. That are converging in the next issue. I'm enjoying both these books more than I expected to – this one because I had come to like the pre-Flashpoint Conner Kent so much, that one … well I get into that below.


Batman and Robin #4
Matter of Trust”

I don't have a lot to say here. I'm still enjoying this comic, both story- and art-wise. Here we get more philosophical debate about the killing of criminals in the context of more strenuous interaction between Bat-father and -son, which is of course the heart and soul of this book. And we find out who Morgan is – the son of Bruce's old trainer Henri Ducard.


Batwoman #4
Hydrology 4: Estuary”

I repeat myself over and over. This book is rendered absolutely beautifully, if maybe a bit fancily to the point it can get in the way of following the narrative. But it's very possible to get lost in the beauty of J. H. Williams III's artwork, like little else I've ever seen in comics.

As to the story, the first few pages are rather brutal – a juxtaposition of Bette, back in her Flamebird gear, going up against a criminal and basically getting cut to pieces, against her aunt (? – cousin?) Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer having hot and steamy lesbian sex. This is clearly adult material … my one real complaint against the book is why DC markets it as “T+”? Anyway, the juxtaposition continues as Batwoman finally makes headway on the mysterious Water Spirit Woman case while remaining totally oblivious to the fact that Bette is in the hands of the DEO, fighting for her life (and losing, although that's not entirely clear, so maybe there's hope for her yet), and that Cameron Chase is now hot on her tail. So to speak.

A couple words about Kate Kane/Batwoman's sexuality. It made a huge splash a few years ago that the new Batwoman is a lesbian. While my own personal morality would rather they hadn't gone that route, it is very much part of who the character is, and handled realistically and tastefully. For all my qualms against the rating of the book, it's not handled in a prurient fashion. The scene cited above doesn't show anything, but it doesn't have to. I can accept the character of Kate Kane as she is, according to the admonition, “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” I'm certainly not going to throw out a book this outstanding because I don't agree with the morality of the main character. Were it to turn into some kind of militant homosexual diatribe, well, yeah, but it's not that and hopefully never will be.

Man, that Cameron Chase is cold. To the critically injured Bette Kane: “Listen to me, please. I'm, um, Nurse Torres. You're in the hospital. … We've done everything we can for you, but you've suffered extensive injuries. … We can't save you. … I'm sorry.” Holding her hand, she continues, “… I need to call your parents, your boyfriend, anyone. … Please, I don't want you to die alone. If you can hear me, give me a name.” Bette manages to murmur, “Huh... Kate... Kate Kane...” – “Now that can't be a coincidence,” Chase steps back, folding her arms – you can hear the change in tone from the false sympathy to the cold government agent coming through the words on the page. She has what she's looking for. – An unnamed attendant warns, “She won't last the night. Not here, anyway.” – Chase's orders: “Change her dressings, roll her out, and drop her at Gotham General.” Wow. I got the Chase trade paperback that came out last month, her series from the '90s (early J. H. Williams III artwork). I am so looking forward to reading it!


(Heh, this idea of writing shorter blurbs for each issue all at once at the end of the month just ain't working out that way, is it?)

Batgirl #4
The End to Dreams”

There are more hints as to the circumstances of Barbara Gordon's mysterious – miraculous? – healing in the form of dreams. It has something to do with a clinic in South Africa and began a year ago with her father hesitantly telling her about it. Anyway, she figures out how to use Mirror's family memories to lure him in and defeat him. She then spends Christmas Eve with her new roommate, Alysia, and we end on a shocker cliffhanger ending when an older virtual lookalike shows up on their doorstep … “Barbara? … Don't you recognize me, Barbara? … I'm your mother.” Hey, at least she brought some kind of gift.

Some hint is dropped on the same page as to the rest of Babs' family when Alysia queries her, “Hey, shouldn't you be spending Christmas Eve with your family?” – “It's just my father and my, well, my brother.” She goes on, “Dad's working tonight, I'll see him in the morning. … I'm used to it. It's okay.” The brother? Could it be James, Jr., from the immediately pre-Flashpoint Snyder run in Detective Comics? No wonder she would hesitate over him … but in the New 52 chronology, if Batman's only been around from five to ten years, and if the great Batman: Year One is still in continuity (during which he was born), Junior is one precocious five-to-ten-year-old! Not to mention that, assuming this is Commissioner Gordon's similarly red-headed first wife, also named Barbara, she's only been gone five to ten years, making Babs currently seventeen to 22 years in age since near the beginning of the issue her reappearance is set up via Babs telling Alysia that her mother walked out on them when she was twelve years old. Is that long enough for mom to think her daughter wouldn't recognize her? Of course, Babs was nowhere to be found in Year One, which necessitated a later ret-con that she's really Jim Gordon's brother's daughter, adopted by him at some point … with at least one story hinting that, well, she's nonetheless his biological daughter anyway. Not that I really believed that one. But if so, maybe this is her biological mother and it's been who-knows how long. It's confusing as all get-out.


Demon Knights #4
In: Merlin Watches the Storm”

Heh. See how “Storm Watch” is hidden in this issue's title? Another think keeping me getting these two dense and so far difficult to follow series is the obvious connections and the idea that reading them is going to pay off big time.

Anyway, through a vision, we basically get to relive the backstory of the Shining Knight along with her (yes, you read that right, although most of her companions don't know that) – a knight of Old Camelot as introduced in Grant Morrison's great (and even more dense, difficult to follow, but very rereadable with pay-off each time – that's Morrison for you) cluster of mini-series Seven Soldiers from a few years back. She ended up at some point impaled against a tree but was saved by Merlin and the Grail, which is now lost. She is continuing the quest to find it. An interesting artistic choice in the telling of the story of the Grail is the image of Christ and the Last Supper, which is basically DaVinci's. Shining Knight wakes from her trance shouting about the “Demon Knights.” Jason Blood (?) asks, “Is that us?” In the last pages, Horsewoman is revealed as a traitor – at least that's what it looks like but I suspect it's not what it seems.


Legion Lost #4
Coseismic”

I really wish I liked this book more. It is quite a disappointment. It shouldn't be. I mean: It's the Legion of Super-Heroes, my favorite all-time comics group, the only thing I've bought consistently and faithfully since I was a wee tyke of six years old, so nigh on 45 years. It's by Fabian Nicieza, whom I've liked writing anything else I had occasion to read him on. He's not a writer that I follow, per se, but whenever he's taken up anything I was reading anyway I knew I was going to get good, solid story-telling, sometimes very good. The art is by Pete Woods … ditto. But the whole here is less than the sum of the parts. Mainly, I think it's that I find the 21st-century setting boring, especially since so far it's not been used effectively as far as I can see other than to throw these 31st-century characters a thousand years out of their element. Yawn. It would be better if somehow it were perceptibly tied into the nature of the New 52, but if it is I can't tell. Enough of my grousing. It's Legion, I keep telling myself, knowing that if it's being published I'm going to get it. I'm not breaking my run after a lifetime.

Anyway, this time it's Dawnstar's turn to deliver the inner'logue as the other time-lost Legionnaires continue tracking their not-so-dead-after-all teammate Yera trapped in the Okaaran Rrdrjj (or something like that). Meanwhile Tellus and Dawnstar go up against the villain (?) Alastor, who also has Carggite DNA and thus … outnumbers them.

Yawn.

Matthew E. has a better assessment, even as he expresses dismay that Nicieza is leaving after #6 – Review: http://legionabstract.blogspot.com/2012/01/legion-lost-4-review.html

Justice League #4
Part Four”

I've probably complained about this before and doubtless will again, but it really annoys me to have the issue title and credits placed on the last page.

Apparently the mix of technologies that went into the armor/cybernetic body that Vic Stone now sports included Apokaliptican (how?), giving him abilities and insights such that when he pops through a Boom Tube he can start to tell the assembled heroes about what he sees … “He's coming … right here...” Just in time for Darkseid himself to BOOOOOOO OOOOMMM (yes, the sound effect is broken right in the middle) in. Sideways. I don't like the sideways double-page splashes either. Green Lantern: “I'm guessing that's the bad guy.” Batman, flexing his arms palm-to-palm isometrically: “Good guess.” Then we're treated to another double-page splash, this time right-side-up at least, wherein Big Bad basically hands six heroes their asses all at once, CHOOOOOOOMM. And finally another splash page, one this time, of Darkseid's ugly mug pronouncing, “I AM DARKSEID.

My own snarkiness aside, another enjoyable but kind of fluffy issue. It just doesn't feel very meaty. But it looks pretty, and it's filled with the little character bits that have come consistently throughout, as the imperious Aquaman (Imperius Rex? – nah, wrong aquatic character) introduces himself. There's plenty of testosterone-driven posturing from Hal, who starts out with, “Aquaman? I thought Aquaman was a sketch on Conan O'Brien.” I don't watch Conan O'Brien, but I have seen Craig Ferguson's “Advice from Aquaman.” And it's impossible to name all the sport that's been made of this character by so many comedians and sit-coms – something that Johns is playing with in Aquaman's own book. But it's getting a little old in-story. Just have to remind myself this is five years ago … which brings up the question of how he could be a joke on anybody's show since I get the impression this is more or less his debut, although Batman recognizes him, and Wonder Woman hails him almost as an old friend. – Same page, Aquaman: “... I don't see a leader.” – Batman: “Then you're not looking at me.” – Green Lantern: “Give me a break.” And more, but I'll leave it at that.

One of the funniest segments comes later, as Hal … well, he looks like he has his hand on Wonder Woman's rump as he proclaims his intention to get some military helicopter pilots out of harm's way: “I'll get them out of the choppers and to safety. Not to be a good guy like the Flash, but because I want to impress you. Most of what I do is about trying to impress people.” – Batman: “What?” – Hal: “No, I … What'd I just...?” – Wonder Woman: “You were touching my lasso.” – “So what?” – “It makes you tell the truth.” – “Are you laughing, Batman … At a time like this?”

The art is outstanding, of course. But it appears my (and many others') prediction that this would be the first of the New 52 titles to ship late, since it is drawn by notoriously slow artist Jim Lee, has come true. It won't really affect me, since I get my comics a month at a time and the next issue turned out to be only a week late but shipped within the same month, but what happened to the much-ballyhooed ultimatum reported at San Diego that the muckety-mucks in DC Comics' management delivered that lateness on the New 52 would result in immediate replacement of the dilatory creator? Oh, wait, Jim Lee is one of those muckety-mucks. Nice to see he's leading by example.

This is another dollar-extra, thicker comic … in which you get about twenty pages of story plus extras. Here, though, the extras are frankly a waste. Who cares about personnel dossiers from STAR Labs? And the drawing guide for the new Flash uniform. Maybe somebody cares. It ain't me.


Wonder Woman #4
Blood”

There is a framing sequence in which Apollo and Ares (who looks like Kevin O'Neill's Allan Quatermain from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but needing a beard trim) discuss the opportunities offered by their father's missing status. Their father being Zeus, of course. Following from the revelation last issue, Wonder Woman doesn't deal very well with her new knowledge, heading off to do some clubbing in London. Strife has tagged along – does she really think Wonder Woman wants her company? – even as, back on Paradise Island, Hera confronts Queen Hippolyta. So I guess Hera didn't know Wonder Woman's (hey, she doesn't want to be called “Diana,” right) true parentage? Wonder Woman has a heart to heart with the new girl, Zola, who in some weird way is something of an stepmother to her – ? –, which makes her repent her haste to turn her back on Paradise Island. She returns – too late. She finds her sister Amazons transformed into snakes and her mother turned to clay. (Everything I've seen online says stone, but I think the irony must have it as clay.)

Jim Shooter skewers this issue and the whole new Wonder Woman series thus far on his blog: here, here, and here – hey, he wrote them out of order. I have a lot of respect for Shooter and generally enjoy his blog immensely, but all I can say here is that I'm liking this series a lot. My opinion is more in line with the following …


Supergirl #4
Escape”

Kara is trapped on Tycho's space station, imprisoned within a tube of some kind, tormented by Kryptonite – which we know was already familiar to the Kryptonians as a mortally radioactive element before the destruction of their world. The sympathetic commando from the team that attacked her in issue #1 and with whom she connected helps her in an escape attempt but is killed by Tycho for his effort. Tycho holds her at bay by threatening a red sunstone, which she also recognizes and hopes may hold the secret to her mysterious transportation to this strange new world, demanding a drop of her blood. She makes a break for it and does escape, destroying the space station and severely injuring Tycho in the process … but when he spies a spot of her blood on a guard's shirt he cackles weakly but insanely, “heh heh hehhhh … I win.” Meanwhile, although she grabbed the sunstone on her way out, it's cracked and she despairs of retrieving any data without “a console.” She hesitates to ask “Kal,” and wonders, gazing at the stars, “What if I just try to … fly home?”

What can I say beyond that I am enjoying this series quite a bit, as fearful as I was going in, but I don't want to belabor that any more. It looks like Tycho's going to be back, with a vengeance, and probably a lot more powerful as a threat.


Batman #4
Face the Court”

As much a I like Scott Snyder's writing, he is one of the worst malefactors as far as putting the issue title and credits at the end rather than the beginning. While I don't mind so much as far as the credits go, in my opinion saving the title for the end should be reserved for very rare and effective instances. I've been reading Julian Darius' Improving the Foundations: Batman Begins from Comics to Screen, and he makes a great point regarding that film's placement of the title at the very end, that symbolically the whole film has been leading up to the point where “Batman Begins.” I'll do a review of the book once I've finished it. My point is, that unless there is some kind of symbolic purpose in its placement at the end, the title should go near the beginning. (I'm too lazy, however to see where the sequel's title, The Dark Knight, is placed within that movie.)

Anyway, as to this particular issue: After he survives the blast in the owl's lair he found last issue, most of this chapter is Bruce telling Dick that he knows that there is no “Court of Owls” because as a child soon after his parents' murders he tried to find it, ultimately following “clues” that led him to be trapped in an abandoned building for a week, almost dying. The lesson he took from that experience was not to recklessly follow his emotions rather than the evidence. This conversation takes place as his equipment analyses the remains of Alan Wayne. Following the clues found thereby, Bruce descends into the sewers where Alan died – and is ambushed by the Talon, finding himself trapped in a kind of labyrinth.

One interesting plot point along the way is that we, along with Dick, discover that Alfred has apparently been drugging Bruce in order to get him to rest.


Birds of Prey #4
Absolutely Mental”

Starling defuses Black Canary's head-bomb by knocking out out, then with Poison Ivy and Katana she manages to shut down the other head-bomb cases on the train, but they find out that the true scheme is far more than human bombs. They call in Batgirl for help invading the enemy's lair. At first, they seem to find nothing there, but Starling deploys her new “laser” (that's what she calls it anyway – I don't think a laser works that way) that Canary's “new boyfriend at Wayne Enterprises” designed for her to detect the enemy's light-bending “invisibility” suits. They are revealed to be surrounded – but as they prepare to do battle against seemingly impossible odds, a voice sounds in all their heads before they appear in a deserted, rubble-strewn street, without Batgirl. “Next Month: One of Our Birds Has Gone Missing.”

I think it's pretty apparent that despite my own lingering hope that during the time Barbara Gordon was crippled she did briefly take up an identity as Oracle and head up a “Birds of Prey,” that just didn't happen. There's no allusion to such when she appears, just a brief exchange between herself, Canary, and Starling – Canary: “Thanks for the extra muscle, Batgirl.” – Batgirl: “Hey, always happy to avenge the almost-death of a friend. … So, what are we looking at, Starling?” So, there is the sense that they've worked together, and Babs considers Dinah to be “a friend,” but nothing more than that. Interestingly, Batgirl is unfazed by the presence of Poison Ivy – recall Starling's rather violent initial rejection of the idea of working with her.

For me, Starling is hands down the best new New 52 character. At least I don't think she had any progenetrix/prototype in the pre-Flashpoint or Flashpoint worlds. I did notice one minor snafu artwise – Starling has a big bandage on her left upper arm and shoulder except in one shot (the one where Batgirl enters the picture). I don't generally look for those, but that one I noticed.


Catwoman #4
You...still in the game?”

Selina manages to get away from the cops while torching Lola's building, destroying the evidence of their connection. At the funeral, she encounters an old friend who volunteers to fence for her, but she silently swears to herself to leave friends out of her dealings from now on. We see a brief vignette of a GCP detective who is putting together evidence linking a number of burglaries that will implicitly lead him to Selina. She, however, is now focused on stealing from drug dealers, but is unexpectedly attacked by a metahuman calling herself Reach who throws her around with crackling-blue energy tendrils. When Selina fights back, she ends up blasted a few thousand feet into the air. Even if she lands on her feet this time ….

I'm not sure where this is going, but it seems the death of Lola has affected Selina deeply, possibly sending her more over to the side of the angels? For that reason, I liked this issue more than the following reviewer did, but much of what he says is dead on, especially about how quickly Selina counters the GCPD's very good reasons for at least wanting to question Catwoman about Lola's murder. I mean, just 'cause she got away and dropped a dime on Bone, they drop the investigation?


Nightwing #4
South Beach Connection”

Haly's Circus is in Miami, where Barbara Gordon shows up almost catching Dick and … I can't remember her name … in bed. Not that Babs seems to have any problem with his new ginger girlfriend. But it is funny that others in the circus notice that Dick has a “type.” Anyway, Babs has followed a recent foe called “Spinebender” who is looking to sell some stolen microchips, and is using a request for Dick's help to make up a bit after their rather strained parting in last month's Batgirl. They share an adventure vs. Spinebender, a shapeshifter, thwarting his plans, then part ways without having sex. – Well, the way the New 52 Bat-books in general, and Nightwing in particular, have gone so far, once again I wondered – and would have been quite disappointed if they did. Not that I think they don't belong together – frankly, I do, but the casual sex has been a bit over the top for me in some cases as I've mentioned. So has the violence and grotesquerie in some cases, but that's not here either. This is just good, fun, superheroics (well, sort of super, since part of what attracts me about the Bat-books is that the heroes, at least, are not metahumans, just highly trained). Only in the last couple of pages does the overall plot of the mystery surrounding Haly's Circus advance a little, when Dick finds a mysterious book with a list of names in it, the last of which is his own.

Review: http://batman-news.com/2011/12/23/new-52-nightwing-4-review/ – to answer his question, I agree that McCarthy's art better suits Nightwing than Barrows, pace the latter.

Legion of Super-Heroes #4
Not What They Seem?”

Basically, to answer the cover question, Chemical Kid manages to muck with Renegade's metabolism and take him out. Meanwhile, the Legion team on Daxam investigating why a Daxamite is offworld in the first place, discovers that Res-Vir (Renegade) had been working with the restricted substance, Kryptonite, in the form of a meteor fragment (shades of Smallville) he had “found.” The rare element is critical in the formulation of Mon-El's anti-lead-poisoning serum. In the seemingly unrelated story thread – at least I don't see exactly how it's related, except that it's what Brainiac 5 is mainly concentrating on, participating only virtually in the “away” missions – inspired by something Dream Girl says Brainy perceives that the key to Glorith's powers is … time. Whoa. Didn't see that coming. (Yes I did.) Anyway, having taken out their powerhouse and discovered how they acquired him, the Legionnaires send the Dominators packing.

Are there hints Shady and Mon might be reconciling? On the last page she's no longer crying over Earth Man, but here tells him, “It's good to have you back … and acting like yourself, too. It's been a long time.” “You have no idea how long, Shady...” he agrees, “No idea.” Neither do I.


Aquaman #4
The Trench: Conclusion”

Aquaman and Mera descend into the Trench, where they find an ancient Atlantean ship crashed. They continue a philosophical debate regarding the Trench creatures and the developing possibility or probability that they are just a desperate race resorting to drastic means for survival. But they find the people from the seaboard town imprisoned in cocoons attached to the wall of the Trench, being kept fresh for later. Philosophical qualms regardless, Aquaman rips the entire wall away and sends Mera pushing it to the surface, himself defending the rear. He is eventually forced to rip open a volcanic vent releasing magma to seal the creatures in. Although he has saved the surface people, he is again dissed by the cops although a kid runs up and takes away the sting by proclaiming him his favorite superhero ever. I'm that kid. Moreover, the original cop who sought his help shows up at the lighthouse, bringing an orphaned dog to them. Mera seems delighted at the prospect of teaching “Aquadog” to swim. Aquadog … that's a twist I'd've never foreseen! The issue ends with a one-page forecast of a future story – regarding the mystery of “Who Sank Atlantis?”

Incidentally, here's a picture from New Orleans Comic Con.   When I saw them I was never in a position to take a picture, so I swiped this one off the Internet. According to the Wizard World Facebook posting, she made the costumes herself. And she fills it well...


[Edit:  And what's even cooler?  According to the Aquaman Shrine blog's first comment to its notice of this couple, I take it she's the geek and her husband "agreed to be Aquaman"!] 

Review: http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2011/12/29/aquaman-4-review/ , complete with a great suggestion for the dog's name.

Superman #4
Mind for the Taking”

Much of the issue deals with the police and news aftermath of last issue's events, primarily the disappearance of Heather Kelley. It turns out that she's okay – but lying for Clark? His mental lapses are getting more worrisome – then he blanks out and finds himself back in his first apartment (which was the center of the action last issue), fighting the creatures from issues #1-3. In the end, he's overwhelmed as they adapt into the form of a swarm of cockroaches. They keep talking about purging him. Wild speculation time – they seem to be elemental in nature. Are they in some sense the Earth's antibodies. I don't think that would fit their mantra of “Krypton!” … or would it? Maybe they see Krypton as the source of the infestation.  They also seem mechanical – they speak of being made for their purpose … by Superman – ?

This is the first issue, I think, that ends on a true “cliffhanger” as opposed to being a contained incident in a continuing story arc. As I mentioned, Ispecifically thanked George Perez on Saturday for the consistently satisfying experience each issue of this series is providing as an issue rather than as a chapter that really doesn't work except as part of a multi-part story. Sure there are continuing elements, plots, subplots … but this is the right balance of serialized storytelling, in my opinion.


Batman: The Dark Knight #4
Welcome to the Jungle”

Well, one reveal blows one of my theories out of the water. In a drunken rant, Gordon makes reference to the events of Detective Comics as being contemporary, that he's still recovering from. Frankly, I have no idea how these two series could fit together. At some point I'll have to try and work that out … but not now. I get the feeling that there will be no really workable resolution.

This issue raises a lot of questions. Literally – a page and a half that I guess is meant to point toward the major theme of this story arc, Batman/Bruce's doubts. “It's going to happen. Someone's going to get hurt. Someone who relies on you. Maybe Flash. … What if he can't keep going? What if you and he were wrong and the toxin metabolizes? … What if you finally find a girl you can trust, but you still can't have her? … What happens when she inevitably finds out she can't trust you? … What will happen to your oldest and dearest friend [Alfred] if you keep pushing him like this? What if his blood pressure medicine stops working? … What are you going to do the day you lose him? … What about Jim Gordon... have you damaged him enough yet? … All the times he's covered for you. And now he needs you. Is this how you repay him? … It's going to happen, and you're going to be the one to blame.

That's somewhat interesting, but overall.... Let's see – fear toxin-based steroid threat? – I'm sure everyone was as shocked as me at the “reveal” on the last page. Along the way, Batman is attacked by Poison Ivy's guard-plants, analyses a coded message that she left him (man, she really is working on the side of right now isn't she?), finds the villain's possible hideout on an island where he is attacked by 'roided up Deathstroke, then confronts [reveal]. Ho. Hum.


Justice League Dark #4
In the Dark, part four: By the Light of the Moone”

Deadman and June Moone end up besieged by another June and decide to take Shade up on his offer – but she doesn't pass through the portal and loses her protector. Zatanna goes up against Junes and must teleport away, ending up with Shade. Constantine confronts Madame Xanadu – he seems to be putting things together and knows she is the cause for the Enchantress's madness – which is having an escalating effect across the country. I continue to be amazed by Mikel Janin's art.


Teen Titans #4
Danger Squared”

Our young … metas? – Tim Drake's not, but he's lumped in with them, apparently, by such as NOWHERE … have all assembled in New York City on New Year's Eve 2011-2012. Red Robin and Skitter and Blockade are at Tim Drake's penthouse. Kid Flash and Solstice show up in a manner that's not entirely clear – to any of them, either. Wonder Girl is in New York trying to find Red Robin – whatever she got from the thug she had at her mercy in the hospital last issue has apparently convinced her she'd better throw in with him. She's ambushed by Superboy. The two young'uns (who were lovers in the pre-Flashpoint world, but those were different characters) immediately feel some chemistry. He beats her down anyway. Then he questions where the others are, not knowing they are right behind him.

I'm honestly enjoying this title far more than I expected to. But Red Robin's naming them off the cuff as “Teen Titans” still feels like these are imposters. By the way, I think his implication in an earlier issue that this is a new incarnation of an old team was a snafu … despite the fact that if Dick, Wally, Gar, etc., were not all Teen Titans with Koriand'r at some previous time as intimated in Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 (shudder), what did Roy (or was it Jason? I don't remember, and I'm not revisiting that travesty of an issue just to find out) mean...? I think some of the creators weren't really clear on what the “history” of this supposedly “five years established” New DC Universe was as they were writing the early issues, which contributes to an impression that this was pulled off rather quickly and not entirely thought through. But as an series on its own, especially as paired with Lobdell's Superboy, this is turning out to be better than I expected. I just wish there were a realTeen Titans” series.


Legion: Secret Origin #3
Connections”

Brainiac 5 is with Admiral Allon on the fleet guarding the wormhole by Anotrom, which seems controlled in a manner beyond United Planets science. They head off another ship coming through it from … wherever … by “crossingthe T.” Been reading naval warfare, eh, Levitz? Phantom Girl brings information on the invaders to the Security Directorate. The Science Police are rather discomfited by R. J. Brande's growing army of “children,” for whom he has a dream inspired by legends of Superman. But things continue coming together for the nascent Legion of Super-Heroes … and although Brande's dream is far beyond a glorified bodyguard, mysterious assassination attempts continue against him. One is thwarted by Invisible Kid.


Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes #3 (IDW)

Well, finally, crew of the NCC-1701 (no bloody -A, -B, -C, or -D) Enterprise and the Great Darkness Saga Legion come together. I'm a bit disappointed it is with the requisite comic-book fight scene, but they get past it pretty quickly – mainly Spock and Brainiac 5 recognise how illogical it is. So they exchange histories instead – a couple of double-page montage spreads (the Legion one includes Superboy and Supergirl! – this being a licenced publication, I wondered) – and determine that they are not in an alternate universe but rather an alternate time-line. I take it that an alternate universe would mean their homes are “out there,” while an alternate time-line means – oops – it's not, and we've got to engage in some more time travel to restore their home worlds/universes/time-lines. Anyway, they are immediately assaulted by a Fatal Five reimagined Star Trek style, e.g. the Punisher counterpart is a Gorn, the Emerald Empress is … d'uhhh! … a Green Orion woman, and Validus looks like a Mugato. No problem, working together, they overcome the villains, seize their time platform, and split into two teams....

I never thought I'd say this when it was announced that the Moys were doing the art – I really liked them on the “Reboot” Legion in the 1990s, and I think I heard they've done Star Trek for IDW – but the art really looks rather clunky in this book. What's up?

Note: Extra points to those readers who identify and explain the two somewhat obscure Star Trek references above.

* * *
Digital comics ...

Batwing #4

Two weeks after the previous issue, David is still two steps behind Massacre, who kills another member of the Kingdom.  Something about this gets him remembering about ten years ago when along with his brother Isaac he was a child soldier for a savage African warlord.  The warlord eventually pushes them too far, they rebel, and Isaac ends up dead.  David escapes, but steals back, captures the warlord, and leaves him for his enemies to find, swearing that he will never again take a life with his own hands.  In the present, he determines not to keep chasing Massacre, but rather to beat him to his next victim.


I, Vampire #4

Andrew heads out for a bite (so to speak, ending up sharing in a dumpster-dive for discarded blood packs behind a hospital, although I wonder if they really discard expired blood that way), discovers a "newbie" vampire who has fought against his baser hunger because he almost killed someone he loved.  In trying to show him that with the willpower to enable vampiric abilities comes the willpower to overcome the hunger, Andrew inadvertently unleashes the newbie's killer instincts, and has to clean up his own mess.  And then finds out just who that "someone he loved" was....  Oh yeah, he has a short confrontation with John Constantine.


Review:  http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2012/01/02/i-vampire-4-review/

Cheers, and thanks for reading and reading and reading....



Sunday, January 29

Wizard World New Orleans Comic Con 2012


I went to the second Wizard World New Orleans Comic Con 2012 yesterday. It was actually held yesterday and today, but my base of operations in south Louisiana is my sister-in-law's in Lafayette, two-plus hours away, and we needed to drive home to Natchitoches today anyway. So it was yesterday only for me. In that one day, however, I accomplished my one major goal – and got a bonus to boot!

My one major goal was to get a stack of hardcover and trade paperback collections signed by one of the modern legends of comic book art, George Perez. And I did, to the number of about a dozen. The hardcovers included both publishers' editions and some of my own library bound volumes of the original comics. I also got two individual comics signed by him – New Teen Titans #1 from the early 1980s and this year's new Superman #1 (Jesus Merino was sitting right beside Perez, and I got his autograph on it also).

When I'd heard that Perez was going to be at this year's Con, I had at first envisioned getting a sketch from him, but a little investigation had revealed that he no longer does ad hoc convention sketches, but rather does a limited number of sketches over the course of the convention as auctioned off beforehand through the Internet, with the proceeds to go to Hero Initiative, a very worthy charitable cause benefiting particularly the older comic book creators who had notoriously bad (or even no) benefits such as pensions or health insurance and now find themselves facing increasing financial hard times as age catches up to them. I tried to find out if he were doing such for this convention, but could find no information. So I had resigned myself to not getting a George Perez sketch …

… Until, after waiting in line to get up to him for about an hour I realized that the reason that the line was moving so slowly was because he was indeed doing quick sketches. Deciding what character I would want him to sketch was no problem – I had decided long ago that if I were to ever get a chance, I would ask him for a sketch of Aquaman and Mera, for two reasons. First, as I've indicated before, Aquaman was my first favorite superhero, and I've always liked the family aspect of his adventures; and second, stylistically I see a lot of similarities between George Perez and another of the greatest comic book artists ever, one very much identified with Aquaman during the 1960s, Nick Cardy. I had a moment's pang of disappointment when, after he had signed the various books I presented to him, I asked if he would possibly be able to do a sketch of the pair and he regretfully said he was only doing single-character sketches, but I had half-expected that answer. I then watched in amazement as he got down to sketching and one of my dreams took form in a mere five or six minutes.


Do you see what he did there? He worked in a picture of Mera after all!  If you don't see it here, scroll to the very bottom of this post.  I am immensely proud to have this sketch – which will be framed and, my wife permitting, will hang in a place of honor in our living room – , and to have met and be able to express my appreciation to Perez for the years of enjoyment he has provided me, from the early 1970s (I first remember him working on Marvel's Avengers ca. 1974). And yes, I specifically did thank him for the fact that, among all the titles of DC's New 52, his Superman title is almost (if not completely) alone in offering a satisfying reading experience both as single issues and as a continuing story. (Perez is writing the first half-dozen or so issues and providing “breakdowns,” which I understand to be layout sketches that Merino then provides the finished art to.)

One final comment: I was inside the con from a little after noon until about six. During that time, every time I would pass by the table where Perez was set up there he would be, cheerfully sketching away or signing books, chatting with the fans, seeming to truly enjoy what he was doing. He is a professional's professional and my esteem for him only grew through the day.

In addition to George Perez, I also got some books signed by Barry Kitson, mainly my library-bound collection of the first two years or so of his and Mark Waid's Legion of Super-Heroes. He was also doing sketches, but his would be better termed full-on finished drawings, complete with color. I would have loved to get one of his as well, but whereas Perez's sketch of Aquaman … and Mera (!) … was accomplished in five or six minutes, Kitson seemed to be taking at least an hour apiece. His line was barely moving, and I could easily see that there was no way he would get to me in the time I had at the con. During the breaks he would sign books, however, and also very personable.

I emphasize how engaging both of these artists were because, although the vast majority of comics creators I've interacted with in the half-dozen or so conventions I've attended have been very open to interacting with their fans, I have run into a couple of the big names (who will here remain nameless) who seemed to consider their convention appearance to be a chore and their fans to be a bother.

Besides meeting these two creators for the first time and chatting with a few others that I had met before, I also wandered around the vendors' stalls and spent quite a bit of money on discounted merchandise. I lost track of how much I spent by late in the afternoon, and haven't gone back and worked up a final tally. All in all I had a great deal of fun.

As I indicated at the beginning, this was the second year that Wizard World has sponsored a New Orleans Comic Con. It was noticeably bigger this year … and the one complaint I have is that it seemed to be a bit less well organized, particularly in the admissions area. None of the volunteer staff giving “guidance” seemed to have a clue as to what was going on, leading to conflicting instructions and a wait in line to get in that I know was longer than it had to be. I didn't experience but was hearing complaints that the convention floor map was inaccurate in the placement of some of the creators, but the only ones I was looking specifically for – Perez, Merino, and Kitson – were right where they were supposed to be. Finally – and this is not specifically the organizers' fault, I would say – late in the day I was hearing grousing from some of the vendors that while there were a lot of people looking around nobody was spending any money.

But from my perspective, as I indicated above, this NOCC was a success beyond my expectations. I have a sketch by George Perez!

Cheers!
* * *
Here follow a few random pictures I took with my iPod Touch through the day, just to give an idea of what the con looked like.  I apologize for the quality of some....

About 12:30, from where I was standing in Perez's line.
It's New Orleans.  It's Carnival Season.  It's the Krewe of Chew-Bacchus!
It came around every half hour or so, with various cos-players drifting in and out of it.
And so forth....
... with some kind of starfighters bringing up the rear.
A comics vendor...
and some more...
A booth selling tickets for the right to get an autograph from Stan the Man.
Besides Stan Lee, there were a number of other big name celebrities, actors, and the like.  With all due respect to them, however, they are not who I was there to see, and although in my wanderings I did catch glimpses of some, I did not seek them out or pay for the right to meet them.

And finally, George Perez at work:



and The Prize: