Tuesday, July 31

DC Comics – Aug 2012

Reviews, commentary, and general reactions to the DC Comics that were released during June that I received at the beginning of July. [ Link to previous month ]

With any luck, I'll actually get this written up before I receive my next shipment (which is already en route).

Before I jump into the comics, July was of course the month of the annual San Diego Comic Con. I was extremely disappointed that for the first time in several years, DC did not post podcasts of their panels at the convention. Those have always been interesting to listen to, hearing the creators themselves discuss their work and what's coming up. Reading the various reports on news websites, even on DC's own website, is just not the same. Somewhat better was Sean and Jim's long discussion of the DC news on their Raging Bullets podcast, ep. 314. That's mainly how I “participated” in SDCC this year.

Unless I'm blurring in news items that came out through another avenue than SDCC, the two main things I want to mention are 1) the news that Tim Drake was never a Robin, and 2) that the upcoming Green Lantern story, “The Third Army,” will be written in such a way that someone reading only one of the four GL franchise titles will be able to follow and enjoy it. As to 1) Tim never being a Robin – really? It's another example of how they really didn't think things through thoroughly enough at the beginning of the New 52, because I'm pretty sure early issues of both Batman: The Dark Knight and Teen Titans referred to his time as Robin. I guess it's kind of like the initial status of the new Teen Titans as just the latest group to take that name and what eventually developed that this is the first incarnation of the Teen Titans. Is it a minor point? Sort of, except that it gives the lie to their claims last year that they knew what they were doing. No, they are largely making it up as they go along, which is how the earlier reboots after Crisis on Infinite Earths and Zero Hour ultimately ended up creating as many or more continuity problems than they fixed. I really believe that the only way to successfully pull off something like this is a complete reset, wiping the slate clean, not taking up a universe five years in media res with the history of those five years being pretty much up for grabs. It doesn't mean that I don't think there's been a lot of good stories being told now, but most of us comic fans are almost obsessively compulsive in our desire to know how it all fits together, and for it to be consistent. Anyway, that's just my two cents worth. It has to do with the fundamental conception of the New 52, which I think is ultimately flawed. As to the execution of the stories, it had been my understanding from last year's Comic Con podcasts that the intention was to make the individual titles more reader friendly, without the compulsory crossovers to fully follow a story that had become quite an annoyance, and the 2) “Third Army” announcement is in line with that. So was the recent “Night of the Owls” event in the Batman books. Not so the “Culling” in the “Young Justice” family of books – but I'm getting all three affected titles, Teen Titans, Legion Lost, and Superboy anyway. But a couple of months ago there was a crossover between Justice League Dark and I, Vampire that was not written that way. I'm reading JLD in hardcopy and I, Vampire in digital, and to have the full story in hardcopy I had to buy the latter that way just for that month (those months? – I forget). A minor annoyance. A bigger annoyance was the continuation of the story from Justice League International #10 over into Firestorm last month. I do not buy Firestorm, and hence I have a big ol' hole in that story. Long and short, since I am currently only buying Green Lantern, the announcement regarding “The Third Army” is quite welcome to me. If events share characters, tell the events from their respective perspectives – that was very well done a few months ago in a scene shared between Nightwing and Batman. Or you can slip in an appearance of a character from one title to the other without making it an explicit “This story is continued in [the name of the other title, so sucker you've gotta go buy it too!].” And then you can refer to whatever event as having happened. That's okay. But if I'm collecting one title, a coherent narrative should not depend on me buying another title that I don't want to. Like Firestorm. Sorry, never cared for him.

At the risk of “news” outweighing issues this month, there were a couple of other notable developments outside San Diego. One was the revelation that George Perez's experience on the New 52 Superman was not all that rewarding. Apparently even for this industry star, editorial interference was such that ultimately he threw up his hands in disgust and jumped off the book at the first opportunity. That makes me sad. But the fact is that, when I met him at New Orleans Comic Con in January and told him I was enjoying his work, his reaction told me all was not well. At that time just the first few issues had come out, and as later issues came out subsequently the story did go off the rails. It's not that he said anything when I met him, it was just the slight grimace on his face. I guess the frustration did ultimately become too much for him, however, because he ultimately did come out with his side of the story. As I said, it makes me sad. He – and we the readersdeserve better than that. (Here is some other good commentary on it.) Secondly – and also Superman-related – it was recently announced that Grant Morrison will be leaving Action Comics and Batman, Incorporated in the near future. The latter doesn't surprise me at all. I knew his Batman, Inc. story was not open-ended. I was hoping he'd stay with Action and its marvelous redefinition of Superman for a while longer, however. Speculation has already turned to who will be his successor there. My money right now would be on Sholly Fisch, who has been knocking it out of the ball park in the backup features there, writing stories that expand on and complement Morrison's very well. But who knows.

And now, on with the show....

Earth 2 #2
Age of Wonders”

We are introduced to the New 52 Michael Holt Mr. Terrific immediately as he pops out of some kind of dimensional rift directly from his issue #8, the last issue of Mr. Terrific. I wasn't getting that, so this is my introduction to Michael – a character I really liked in the pre-Flashpoint context of the JSA. There's a wealth of Easter Eggish information presented here in his first view of the new world he's appeared in, including the fact that “Steppenwolf [is] still beleieved to be hiding somewhere on Earth.” Almost as immediately, Michael is greeted by Terry Sloan (the Golden Age Mr. Terrific) – who seems to be evil – and overcome.

Jump to Jay Garrick, still conversing with a dying Mercury, who warns of a greater danger than Apokalips before bequeathing to the human his powers and dying. One interesting fact is that the dying god claims to have been held prisoner for “these half-score years” – since the Apokaliptian invasion when we saw him appear to Wonder Woman? – but a half-score is ten, not five. Anyway, the “World Army” shows up, immediately assumes Jay is a hostile – and he runs as Mercury crumbles (implicitly, although we don't actually see his end. Testing the extent of his new speed, Jay saves a couple from mutant creatures called “Apokarats,” is again accosted by the authorities, revs up and ends up running all the way to Poland before he knows it – where Hawkwoman (? -girl?) confronts him as if she knew he was coming – “you sure took your time getting here.”

Alan Scott arrives in Hong Kong and sets off on a bullet train into the countryside with his lover Sam, proposing to him just before the train blows up.

This is another excellent issue, showing obviously lingering effects of the now-five-years-past invasion, both psychological and ecological as well as political. Social? Could such an event have made the issue of homosexual marriage as implicitly fully accepted here on Earth 2 more so than it is in the real world?


Worlds' Finest #2
Rebirth II”

Power Girl and Huntress vs. Hakkou – whose name apparently can “even mean 'Radiation' in Japanese” (at least Huntress seems to think that, although a quick check through online translators has “radiation” translate as hoshasen). Eventually Power Girl falls, leaving Huntress to face the radioactive monster alone....

The best stuff in this issue is actually in the flashbacks. Five years ago: Kara and Helena quickly realize the extent of the changes in this new universe, which even extend to themselves on some level – Kara's powers seem different and her Supergirl costume won't burn. My theory: Kryptonians in the Earth 2 universe have only the powers of the old Golden Age Superman (although I think she and Kal were both flying in issue #1, and she says “at least I'm still invulnerable,” my emphasis on still) and she is now being powered by the main DCnU's sun to the level of “our” Superman and Supergirl. The two immediately develop a bit of friction over the issue of their going back to Earth 2. Kara is, however, convinced that the Darkseid who attacked the DCnU Earth – has it yet been referred to as “Earth 1” in-story? – is the same as attacked their own world, and therefore knows the way between the worlds. Weeks ago, we see Kara secretly using her powers to support her company, with the knowledge of her aide. In an undated (but implicitly recent) “flashsideways,” a Gotham Bank accountant is picking up on Helena's five-year-ago theft from Bruce Wayne. I can't wait for the “father” and “daughter” to meet!

This continues to be an intriguing story supported by great art in both present (George Perez – was it simply his stature in the industry that seems to have protected him from reprisals for speaking out so openly, or was it writer Paul Levitz?) and Kevin Maguire (past). I'd be hard pressed to say whether I'm enjoying Worlds' Finest or Earth 2 more – both are a blast, and since writers Levitz and James Robinson are getting the chance to build their “Earth 2” niche from scratch there's a sense that they're really beholden to no prior untold stories (except insofar as WF is actually taking place in the main DCnU).


Action Comics #10
Bulletproof”

Nimrod the Hunter is tracking Clark – and he finds the link between Smallville and Metropolis. Interestingly, Clark is still wearing the “tee shirt uniform” most of the time. Superman brings down a child murderer, but in a wonderful bit of characterization then ends up caring for the bastard's pet mice. But his interaction with what seems to be a still-fairly-new Justice League – this must be sometime subsequent to the first story arc in that title where they all meet – it's clear he doesn't think the group is being proactive enough. We get to see Clark palling around with Lois and Jimmy – then seem to die in a suicide bombing at the Daily Star building. Superman brings down Nimrod when the Hunter comes to his apartment afterward, but the world thinks that Clark Kent is dead. But the story ends with the Little Man recruiting Nimrod into the Anti-Superman Army. Oh, and there's a mysterious two-page vignette of a hitchhiker making his way toward “Metropolis/New Troy,” having “come home to this planet of my birth to assume control.”

So just six more issues for Morrison. I grieve already.


Absent Friends”

Sholly Fisch's backup has Clark's friends exchanging stories about him over drinks as Superman looks on sadly from afar. It's very poignant. How can Clark Kent be such a loner after that? Well, how can he turn up alive is the bigger problem...!


Justice League International #10
The Burners”

Fresh off of a side trip to Paris that was apparently related in last month's Firestorm – that yielded no leads on their attackers – Batman, Booster, Godiva, Batwing, Guy, OMAC, and August General are back in the US. They surrepticiously visit their injured teammates in the hospital, then get a lead on the terrorists. It sounds like a powered version of the Occupy movement. They are ultimately defeated by one of them who can turn their various technologies and powers against them.

I'm a bit sad to see this title go. I generally like the characters. But frankly it just hasn't gelled for me.


Detective Comics #10
On the Brink”

I can't follow this story. I don't care. Something about fake Batmans (Batmen?), Mr. Toxic, the theft of some experiment critical to research into time travel, and so forth. Yawn. Waitaminute-- a Large Hadron Collider in a Gotham City office building--?

Two-Face in “The Big Fall”

Ditto.


Review (Batman News.com thought more highly of it than I did): http://batman-news.com/2012/06/06/new-52-detective-comics-10-review/

Batwing #10
Fight or Flight”

Batwing comes upon some kind of smuggling operation into West Africa while investigating a casualty on a booby-trapped pirate boat. Nightwing comes in to help and they end up in China, where they are confronted by a Chinese man who transforms into a dragon – introducing himself as “LONG! … Do you know what Long means in Chinese? … It means Dragon!” Anybody remember Sixteen Candles...? Anyway, unknown to them, the mastermind of the operation is the Penguin in Gotham City.

This does continue to be an interesting peripheral exploration of a little-seen corner of the DCnU, even if, as the reviewer assesses, it doesn't really live up to its potential.


Stormwatch #10
Digging up the Past”

This issue sees a renewed emphasis on Stormwatch secretly keeping tabs on the newly emergent super-beings. They call Batman a myth, spying on him immediately after the events of “Night of the Owls.” They're also tracking Superman, but don't know his alter ego as Clark Kent. Apollo expresses unease about the secrecy surrounding Stormwatch itself.

But the main action of this issue is dealing with a crisis in France where an archaeologist has unearched a misplaced “Phreno-Module” which takes him over (phreno- < Greek phrenos “midriff, heart, mind,” here used in that third sense, I think). It's a weapon created by the Shadow Lords for an earlier incarnation of Stormwatch in dealing with its own time of crisis; it “taps into violent parts of the brain. But the user should have training... ...and supreme mental control....” Of course, even without training, Midnighter manages to deal with it until Jenny Quantum can pull some mumbo-jumbo and save the day. The incident prompts Engineer to tell the others of the time in the 18th century when Stormwatch tried to go public with catastrophic results, effecting an intriguing data dump just when I was considering dropping the title. In the end, Apollo reveals why the very idea of secrecy eats at him so – hint, it has to do with his sexual orientation and the secrecy with which he coped with it during his youth.

There's also a two-page side-shift to Emma, who is still held captive by Harry, who's preparing for a strike against Stormwatch.


Superboy #10
The Mysterious Mystery of Mystery Island”

Oddly, I love that title.

Superboy and Wonder Girl wake up together alone on a deserted question-mark-shaped tropical island after the desperate escape from the Colony. Pretty much immediately they have to fight a dinosaur, but then they have some quality time that gives us some insight into both characters, who have a smoldering attraction for each other. Then they discover a hatch that leads downward … to another, upside-down version of this same prehistoric world – ?

It's a good character-issue with some really nice art by Sebastian Fiumara that continues directly into Teen Titans.... In the case of these two titles, it doesn't necessarily have to be an event to criss-cross over, which I'm so used to by now that I almost didn't think of it when I was addressing the issue in my opening above.

Review: http://comicboxcommentary.blogspot.com/2012/06/review-superboy-9.html (even though the url says 9, it goes to 10)

Batman #10
Assault on the Court”

It's the aftermath of the Night of the Owls. Batman discovers that the Court of Owls has committed mass suicide, but something's not right. He realizes that the whole identity of his friend and mayoral candidate Lincoln March was a ruse. In the ruins of an old hospital for children with a tragic past, Batman confronts March – who is now a Talon but retains his full mental faculties. We get the traditional villain's data dump – but March claims to be Bruce Wayne's brother, abandoned by their parents. Not surprisingly, Bruce rejects that notion and the issue ends with them about to throw down. … One thing we find in this issue is that Bruce kept the bullets that killed his parents. I'd never thought about it, but you know he would.

The Fall of the House of Wayne, Part 2 of 3”
The story of Alfred's father, continued. Well, apparently there was a second Wayne child, at least in utero, three years younger than Bruce. Something about Martha Wayne's plans for the children's hospital provokes the Court of Owls, who threaten the unborn child and by story's end there is an implicit impending assassination attempt at the corner of … Lincoln and March.

You know, if having a so-so, average quality of stories overall means that excellent Bat-titles like this must be balanced off by dreck like Detective and Dark Knight, so be it. Maybe that's the explanation. The Universe requires a balance.


Batman and Robin #10
Terminus: Scar of the Bat”

After a “family portrait” that goes a bit “wrong,” Damian challenges each previous Robin – including Jason Todd who wasn't part of the portrait sitting (“Guess my invite got lost in the mail.”).... “Day or night, when you least expect it, I'm going to defeat you at something you feel unbeatable at. … [T]hen I'm going to take something personal of yours as a memento and hang it in my room.” Red Robin (doesn't the challenge beg the question of whether he was ever indeed a “Robin”? – but that's being nitpicky) follows Damian to the Cave, and they end up fighting until Tim atmits his own desire to kill during the recent events of the Culling in Teen Titans et al. In side-scenes, Bruce and Alfred discuss Bruce's decision not to tell the others of Damian's recent killing of Nobody, and argues over the issue of trust. There's also some strange set-up for the upcoming story about someone/-thing called “Terminus” that really felt intrusive.

This issue has some good character interaction including our first real scenes of Tim in the context of his rightful (in my opinion) place in the Bat-family. On the other hand, some of the character growth of Damian, especially with regard to his relationship with Dick, seems to be out the window.


Batgirl #10
All Snug in Their Beds”

Batgirl has a bit of an internal debate about the proper agency and method of advancing the general welfare against the background of new vigilantes in town – the Disgraced, three agents of a new, female, Knightfall. What is the deal with the obviously psychotic Charise. Barbara's roommate Alysia really is a naïve liberal nitwit. There's reference to her having met a new guy just a couple of days ago (two issues ago, if memory serves and it's indeed her unwitting meeting James Gordon, Jr.), then she's been in a holding cell for two days for resisting arrest during an Occupy Gotham protest against Wayne Enterprises – and hoped Babs would use influence with her father on her behalf.

A decent issue: The art is good, even though it's not Ardian Syaf. The writing is of course good – it's Gail Simone – despite the noticeable sympathy with the Occupy Movement. Notice that there is an appearance by Lois Lane which seems of no consequence as such. I had to resort to Wikipedia to find out what rhabdomyolysis is.


Demon Knights #10
The Once and Always King”

“Look! It's a pirate sea serpent! … That is something I have never shouted before!” So opens the issue with a shout by Vandal Savage. And by the next page we learn that the sea serpent's name is Molly!

As the Demon Knights approach Britain and then ride across Cornwall toward Camelot, which appears to be Glastonbury Tor including St. Michael's Tower on top (which is actually from the 14th century, I believe),
 [pictures]
they encounter various animals transformed into monsters according to their basic natures. Ultimately they confront an undead, corpselike King Arthur – but then they themselves start transforming....

This issue is full of little tidbits of goodness. I think it was last month – the month of my data-loss – that we had some explication regarding the recurring archetype of Camelot, which I associate with Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers.

Boy, Paul Cornell really does like that word, “swiver,” doesn't he?


Legion Lost #10
No Home for Heroes”

The lost Legionnaires arrive back in the 31st century one year after they had departed, to find a dead Earth in ruins, with no Legion of Super-Heroes but their own memorial statues in the ruins of the headquarters. When they head back in time again, they crash back into the 21st century where the time bubble shatters again in the crater where the Colony had been. While Wildfire and Dawnstar set out to reconnoitre the Antarctic – oh, good Lord, is it Arctic (Ravagers) or Antarctic?! – Gates transports the others back to New York City. Where ARGUS has detached an agent to work with Homeland Security in “captur[ing] or cancel[ling]” these mysterious new metahumans by deploying its own anti-metahuman team. Using Timber Wolf's local contact as bait, a sniper shoots Timber Wolf.

So far I am so much more enjoying the new writer, Tom DeFalco, than Fabiano Nicieza before. For whatever reason, Nicieza – whom I have really liked on other titles – just didn't gel for me.

A few questions: What is Tyroc's prophecy? What is Yera's secret? Why the secrecy?


Justice League #10
The Villain's Journey, Chapter Two: The Belly of the Beast”

We get parallel stories in past and present. Three years in the past: A dying David Graves makes some kind of pact with some fallen Tibetan gods. In the present: The Justice League in their satellite realize that whomever took on their individual foes last issue now knows information on their weaknesses. They debate the varying amounts that each of themselves know of the others' secrets. Then the satellite is invaded by Graves who takes them down by manifesting their weaknesses, proclaiming that he's revealing to the world that the League killed his family. I doubt that's the way it happened.

Shazam! Continued”

The Vasquezes realize that Billy Batson is more troubled than they had known. Billy sneaks out to visit the tiger Tawny, whom he says is the first thing he remembers since his parents. Freddy Freeman follows him and, I believe, finally starts to break through his shell. In Iraq, Lex Sivana finds the tomb of Black Adam and releases him.


Wonder Woman #10
Vows”

Diana basically teaches Hell the meaning of Love. She wins her freedom from the creepy little twit and then takes a parting shot, so to speak....

Actually, this seemed to be a better issue for the first few pages, to the point that I was second-guessing my recent decision to drop this title (this being the last issue I preordered) – then here comes another bad play on words – monsters attacking Diana: “Your life is over! … You're nothing but meat now.” – “Meat?,” she retorts, “Meet an Amazon.” – and my resolve strengthened. I want nothing more to do with this title while Azzarello is on it, and in fact his name has become a disincentive for me to pick it up.

Not everyone has the visceral dislike for this series that I have developed, however. My colleague still likes it, as far as I know. It being summer, we don't talk nearly as often as when he's just two offices down.... And there's the reviewer below:


Supergirl #10
Rescuer”

Having tried to overload Siobhan's father Black Banshee with her energy, Kara ends up trapped inside him. Everything appears to her in images from her memories and Kryptonian myth. She encounters Siobhan's brother Tom. In medievalesque old Kryptonian armor she fights Black Banshee in the form of a Flamedragon, defeats him, and she and Tom are freed. Siobhan then absorbs her father into herself – and returns to normal. There is a reunion of brother and sister just before they all have to flee the authorities who catch up to them and try to apprehend Kara again … a sequence that is getting a bit tiresome. In the epilogue, it looks like the villainous Simon from the earlier issues is back, with a new body.

My main question – and I'm sure I'm not alone – is whether the evil influence of her father will eventually turn Siobhan evil and we'll have the villainess Silver Banshee back again. Personally I hope not – she's Kara's first friend here on Earth and I hope instead she becomes the core of a new supporting cast. Hey, if we're almost a year in and Kara still can't speak any Earth languages, she needs somebody!


Batwoman #10
To Drown the World, Part Five”

The jumbled story continues. I'm not going to try to abstract it here, just wait until next month's conclusion then maybe go back through all six parts and reorder it to see if it makes more sense. It has to.


Batman, Incorporated #2
Eye of the Gorgon”

The story of Talia al'Ghul, retold Grant Morrison-style, which means incorporating virtually everything from all versions of the character, rewritten to fit his conception. We therefore see recognizable panel references to the first saga of Ra's al'Ghul way back circa 1970, including the sword fight in the desert that served as the climax of that great story. There are of course plenty of elements I don't recognize. The gist is that ultimately Talia is pissed because Batman refuses to be with her. Interestingly, she is drawn very youngish-looking which they first met and Damian was conceived – see this Batman Chronology Project blog entry that discusses the implications of this story.


Birds of Prey #10
Heat Seekers”

The Birds meet Batman, who disapprove of them and Batgirl's association with them – even though they helped out with the Night of the Owls. Poison Ivy was indeed frozen last issue during the takedown of the Talon, but had previously requested of Canary that she be taken to a spot in the Amazon Rain Forest. But their plane is shot out of the sky. Mysteriously, they survive the fall, only to be confronted by animate hostile plants – whereupon Black Canary demonstrates her hitherto unknown power to use her sonic cry to create flight just like Banshee's always been able to do over at Marvel. I'm not sure if she'll be able to carry on a conversation like Sean Cassidy can at the same time, however. Anyway, Ivy is restored, seeming to be a bit surprised that her teammates actually followed through....


Catwoman #10
And All That is Left is for Me”

We find out more about Dollhouse – not the TV show. This guy (gal? See review cited below) seems to be seizing addicts and prostitutes, detoxing them by force, and then organlegging their innards and taxiderming the posed bodies. (I don't think “taxiderm” is a valid verb form, but it ought to be. “Taxidermying” doesn't sound right.) Selina tracks him down and confronts him in a firefight from which she is saved by Spark – who had previously abandoned her because of her obsession. We get some insight into her character: “Why you?!,” Spark demands, “Why do you care so much about some street trash getting taken –” – “BECAUSE I WAS TAKEN!!,” she screams back at him, then more quietly, “And no one helped. … No one... No one... came to get me.” Passionate kiss. Little does she know Spark is working with the dirty Gotham cops to take her down … so it's a good thing she makes her first voluntary contact with the good cop Alvarez, I guess. She's gonna need an ally.


Nightwing #10
The Tomorrow People”

Nightwing is being framed for a murder – remember, a couple issues ago we found out that one of his escrima sticks was found at a murder scene. A corrupt Detective Nie is probaby behind it. The Deputy Mayor is, however, working with Gordon – in direct contravention to Mayor Hady – to clear Nightwing and bring Nie down. Nightwing traces a tattoo found on the victims and finds a new cultish gang in Gotham. In his other life, Dick is also working to settle Haly's Circus down as the foundation for a revival of Gotham's Amusement Mile. But the only potential investor for the project is Sonia Branch … whose original name was Zucco. I like that they're following up on that plot from before Flashpoint, including the unwilling attraction that Dick feels for the (at least supposedly – I actually hope so) good daughter of the man who had his parents murdered.


Legion of Super-Heroes #10
Choices”

Since the United Planets forbids Legion action to rescue Brainiac 5 and Dream Girl, an informal task group of resignees and trainees head for Dominion space, where Brainiac 5's genetic markers are being harvested and manipulated to create a new Dominion caste. Dream Girl foresees the arrival of the rescuers … but also that one of them will betray them all. Besides Star Boy, Duplicate Damsel, Bouncing Boy, and Comet Queen, we are introduced to new characters Mwindaji (ability: long-range tracking, so a replacement-in-training for the missing Dawnstar?) and Otaki (ability: mindsense, whatever that means). Oh yeah, at the beginning of the issue Cosmic Boy bungles a secret raid into the Dominion Embassy, which doesn't endear the UP bureaucrats to the Legionnaires' plight.


Aquaman #10
The Others, Chapter Four”

Aquaman and Black Manta fight as Shin continues telling Mera the background of their cycle of vengeance. I don't really like the idea of Aquaman killing Manta's father, even if it was accidental. Anyway, Black Manta is collecting the Others' artifacts for some unknown reason, ultimately getting Ya'wara's globe before he teleports away – to where Mera and Shin are.

Sometimes I find Reis' art a bit hard to follow even though it almost always looks spectacular. The main exception is Mera's face at certain points, which I think I've commented on before.


Superman #10
Secrets & Lies, Part II”

This is a good albeit unremarkable issue. The consequences of Superman's secret identity being outed – well, with the wrong guy being fingered – is exactly what you might expect, with villainess of the story Anguish striking at Superman through “his” loved ones. Except that it turns out that she is a more pitiable than villainous villainess. Again, interesting albeit unremarkable. But the real villain, the irresponsible blogger, does get his from the guy whom he'd wrongly accused of being Superman, in the form of a broken jaw. And Superman manages to reestablish the basic idea that he has cultivated that he has no “secret identity.”

A couple of musings: What's with Superman's neck at the top of the antepenultimate page? (I'm not taking the time to count from the beginning.)
Either Lois is pretending not to know that Superman is Clark Kent or she really doesn't know. Again, I wish they'd be consistent – and come down one way or another. There's a forced-feeling callback to the current Action Comics arc, which does have to do with the issue of his secret identity. And the last page does return to a one-page continuation of the mystery of the Russian sub, which appears to have a monster of some kind aboard....

Superman being the granddaddy of all super-heroes, I do wish DC could get their act together and bring his own title back to the level of greatness it deserves. These past few issues have been serviceable, but not really there.


Batman: The Dark Knight #10
Hollow Man”

I am sick and tired of the grotesque that pervades much of the DCnU. Half of the villains look like zombies with bad makeup. Others are the kind of taurocoprophogeny (a new word I owe to Jerry Pournelle) you get on the cover and first page here – Scarecrow happily sewing his own mouth shut. But I will say (again) that Finch draws delicious babes!

What begins as a mystery centering around child abductions with a twist – the children are returned, changed – takes another twist when Gordon is seized and tortured by fear gas since it's the Scarecrow. I can't say this is any improvement as an issue, although to be fair there are a lot of interesting pieces. They just don't make a whole.

But we get to see Bruce's newest girlfriend dump him. She's a concert pianist, and I do wish the comics medium allowed a sound track, because Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit (here) is outstanding. Since they bring it up, the distinction of police vs. vigilante brutality with regard to Batman is a non-starter unless laws in the DCnU are significantly different than our own regarding “state actors” – Law and the Multiverse has addressed it here. When he appears, Damian's “voice” comes across all wrong – “I dunno”?, “You know”?, “Or at least to not try'n kill everyone”? Nevertheless, we do get a nice page showing the human side of Batman as he sympathizes with and comforts, within his ability, one of the abused children. This ain't his forte!


Justice League Dark #10
The Black Room, Part 2”

Hmmm... Trevor's assistant is named Von Eeden … they were originally one person who underwent mitosis.... Not really. Trevor Von Eeden is, however, a great comic book artist.

Madame Xanadu is still having apocalyptic visions, now of Constantine himself telling her she must get the Books of Magic from him – she can't let him keep them! Meanwhile, the group joins Constantine in the House of Mystery and only later discover that anyone accepting an invitation into the House are bound to it, and to Constantine. We get a short history of the Books of Magic, which seems to maybe be related to what's going on in Demon Knights. Here, it turns out that Felix Faust let himself be captured to infiltrate ARGUS and be brought to the Black Room. He left the Demons Three as a booby trap to bring the Books of Magic to him once he's inside. Uh oh.

The House of Mystery was, of course, a long running DC suspense/horror title.

I am really liking Jeff Lemire, the new writer, and Mikel Janin's art is in the running for the best of the entire New 52. At the very least, it is perfect for this book – very atmospheric.


Teen Titans #10
Saur Feelings”

All of the surviving Teen Titans reunite – except for Skitter who is still missing – on the freaky weird dinosaur island. Even Danny the Street is there, who in the end seems to sacrifice himself to teleport them back to Earth, although we are left with a sign for “Danny the Alley.” We actually get to see the Titans interacting as kids, and this may be my favorite issue of the series. Red Robin has a crisis of confidence, which inspires Bunker to talk sternly to him, while Kid Flash and Solstice have a moment. We got a whole issue of Superboy and Wonder Girl, and there's more here, but there's also an awkward reunion of Wonder Girl and Red Robin.


Digital

I, Vampire #10
Waiting for the End of the World”

As Andrew Bennett fights Mary, a squadron of Van Helsing plans approach, and the Professor and the Van Helsing leader debate moral issues. The Van Helsings attack – Andrew's plan is going very wrong, but the Van Helsings seem to fall 'way too easily … until they get back up as zombies!

Yes, they went there.


The Ravagers #2
Shadows of the Past”

Well, it turns out that one of my comments last month was based on a misreading. Lightning's real name is not Ayla, but rather Alya. I plead that this is entirely too similar to another sometime lightning-wielder in the DC Universe, albeit a thousand years in the future.

Anyway, we get a bit more on Harvest's plans. It seems he wanted “[his] children” scattered across the globe, for which Caitlyn Fairchild has served her purpose and is to be eliminated. However, Beast Boy was not meant to be released just yet, and the guard who was to have secured him is literally fed to Harvest's agent of this issue, Shadow Walker.

Meanwhile, the group Caitlyn rescued continues to fragment. The Shadow Walker comes for them but is ultimately defeated. In the epilogue, Beast Boy has a dream about Brother Blood (an old Teen Titans villain/cult leader).

For all the negativity I've seen about this title, I'm still enjoying it two issues in. I am, however, going to keep it digital at least for now.


Smallville Season 11 #10-12
Guardian, concluded”

Superman and Hank Henshaw fight until Clark manages to turn him off. His consciousness remains trapped in the head of the robot body, however, although it's now in the custody of STAR Labs. Meanwhile, Ollie and Chloe discover that the astronaut who crashed in the Queen Industries space ship was in fact Chloe … of Earth Two … which is gone. Then she dies. But Superman then finds that Lex actually used the whole event to “paint” him with a form of radiation that now allows him to track Superman anywhere. He and Lois must part so soon after making a life together....


And to end with a bit of fun,

Superman Family Adventures #2

… in which Bizarro appears – as well as Supergirl's pals, the Tweener Titans! (Thanks, Anj, for the term – see review: http://comicboxcommentary.blogspot.com/2012/07/review-superman-family-adventures-2.html )

And that's it for this month.

Cheers, and Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 23

A Bit of a Scare

Last Friday night I had a bit of a scare. Our power went out very suddenly. That's not unusual in Natchitoches. But, when I went outside as I usually do just to see if it's just my house, our street, etc., there didn't seem to be any of the normal sky-glow from the heart of town just a mile or so away. Not terribly unexpected. Then I noticed an odd phenomenon. I was seeing random flashes all around me, but I was hearing no thunder and seeing no lightning bolts. Nor did the sky seem cloudy, at least directly overhead, the only clear view of the sky since our area is called “Pecan Park,” being an old pecan orchard with a good number of trees that survive to this day. Indeed, I could see a fair number of stars. And the random flashes continued. At 9 pm, it being still almost 90 F, I thought of heat lightning, but again, I was seeing no bolts – in any direction. Living in Louisiana, having weathered a couple of good-sized hurricanes in Baton Rouge during the '90s – most notably Andrew – I've seen transformers blow. And that's what I immediately thought of.

My son had, a few minutes before, headed out to take his girlfriend to where she leaves her car when she comes into town. (She lives about half an hour away, and usually she drives about half way and he picks her up at a conveniently located parking lot.) After several failed attempts, I finally reached him and found that she had talked to her mother and found out that their little town was without power as well – which meant that the effects were considerably wider than just Natchitoches. My home's wifi depending on power to work, I had no luck accessing the cellular data network to see how much wider the effects might be. So I started trying to call my brother, who lives in Alabama. Several failed calls passed before I managed to briefly talk to him – not even long enough to ask the obvious question. So I started attempting text messaging, which will often work when calls will not (I have no idea why). It was quite some time before he responded and my mind was somewhat put at ease to find out that everything was all right there – although I still had no idea how widespread the outage here really was.

In the end, it all obviously came to nothing. Our power came back up after about an hour. Once Internet access was reestablished, it was easy to determine that there were indeed scattered storms in the area, and likely the outage was related to those in some manner. Or, possibly, it was indeed heat lightning. Whatever the cause, it was indeed a local outage. But the experience was one to make me think. It was very surreal. For about an hour I had no real contact with the outside world. No Internet. No information, which in this day and age I am used to having at my fingertips 24/7. As I was talking to my brother about it later, I suggested he look up the term, “Carrington Event.” Because that's where my mind had gone.

There is a danger in being a bit of an overeducated geek who has a lifelong fascination with space and science. For several years I've been aware of an approaching danger that actually comes around roughly every eleven years or so. Most people think of sunspot activity, which waxes and wanes in an eleven-year cycle, as a bit of an inconvenience that will occasionally interfere with cell phone service. The potential consequences are far more harrowing than that. We are currently in a period of increasing sunspot activity and solar flares that will max out next year, 2013. In fact, just the day previous to our strange power outage, on Thursday, the sun had spat out another massive solar flare, just the latest of many in the past few months. The 1859 Carrington Event resulted from the largest solar flare ever recorded. Besides giving rise to aurorae visible as far south as the Caribbean, it caused widespread telegraph failures and even fires as the electromagnetic surge induced currents of such magnitude that the existing lines could not handle them. Were such an event to occur today, the effects would be far worse, as described in this article on the National Geographic website: “What If the Biggest Solar Storm on Record Happened Today?” Imagine what happened a few weeks ago in parts of the northeastern United States, including Washington DC, as a result of what's called the “2012 North American Derecho” – several days without power – extended to weeks, months, or even years in the worst-case scenario.

What would such an event look like as it was happening? I don't know. But in my imagination last Friday night, I wondered if what I was seeing was indeed cascading transformer failures. Obviously not. But at the time, it gave me pause. Catastrophic solar flare induced power outage a danger from which we have little protection, and virtually no preparation has been made. Which is foolish, because solar-flare induced power outage not only has happened before (the 1989 Quebec Blackout) but will surely happen again. It's only a matter of time. And the current solar cycle reaches its most active next year.