Friday, August 31

DC Comics – Sep 2012

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

Justice League #12 alternate cover
released to Entertainment Weekly
The main bit of news that I recall from the past month came out just a few days ago, the “news” that they're going back to the old well of making a couple of Superman and Wonder Woman. Who knows how long it's going to last. And if anyone believes that in the end the classic trope of the Superman-Lois-Clark triangle won't reassert itself, come on. There are certain things in this universe that are so immutable as to be considered a cosmic law. “S-L-C” is one of them, whether it takes the form of the original “rivalry” (open or not) between Clark and Superman for the affections of Lois, or is (as for much of the past two decades) in the form of their marriage with Lois knowing full well the dual identity of her soul-mate.
Interior frontispiece from
Action Comics #600 (May 1988)
And the Superman-Wonder Woman match has been toyed with over and over through the years – see this post at iFanboy. It is, as Wonder Woman stated in Alan Moore's “For the Man Who Has Everything” (cited and scanned in that post), “Too predictable.” But not in the same way as S-L-C, and no doubt not enduring. In fact, notice how similar the imagery here is to that of Action Comics #600 from the Byrne era. Others notice it as well. Why believe this will have any more lasting effects? It has something of a “shock-value” character to it, nothing more, I think.

Secondarily, within the past few days we're getting more confirmation of the chaos at DC editorial and how that's impacting creators and their work – and driving some of them away entirely. See this article regarding Rob Liefield. Confession: I don't believe I have anything he's ever done. I haven't been reading anything in the New 52 he was on. He's a quite controversial figure. What little I've looked at of his art just looks grotesque to the point I wouldn't call him an artist at all. Nevertheless, he's a Big Name with some fan following. Somebody likes him. He's touted as a Big Name. But see here what he has to say about his exit from DC. It seems quite balanced – and quite in line with what drove George Perez off Superman. Again, I don't think this whole endeavour was in any way thought out before they dived into it half-assed. They – and we – are lucky as hell that it has worked out as well as it has.

In the last couple of days a couple further bits of news have been dropped: 1) There's going to be a new Justice League of America title, with – wait for it – Geoff Johns as writer. Hopefully it will be better written than the “main” Justice League is. It will feature the New 52 return of his first (I think) creation for DC, Stargirl Courtney Whitmore, a character dear to his heart whose personality he based on that of his late sister, also named Courtney, who was tragically killed in the 1996 explosion of TWA 800. The downside of this is that he is reportedly leaving Aquaman. 2) Judd Winick is leaving DC altogether – reportedly it's not over the same issues as drove Liefeld away. He'd already been announced as leaving Catwoman. I'd been enjoying both of his titles although I've found him a bit inconsistent in the past.

One final note – really a snide question: Did anyone who might even remotely be interested not know that The Dark Knight Rises would be in theatres and Imax on 20 July (the banner at the top of every DC comic coming out before that date)?

Anyway, on with this month's comicky goodness. Note: With this entry, I'm adopting a slightly different method of transcription. A single slash / means a break in word balloons or caption boxes that are nonetheless closely associated. A double slash // means a totally separate balloon or box. A triple slash /// signifies a panel or page break. If it's one continuous speech (whether narrative, dialogue, or inner'logue), it all remains within one set of quotation marks. I'll continue distinguishing between speakers by means of dashes between sets of quotation marks.
* * *
Earth 2 #3
Jade Knight”

In the alternate reality that houses “Earth 2,” the Green Energy that creates the Green Lantern is the Power of the Earth, which is sentient and chooses Alan Scott as its this age's champion against an new Evil that is coming, one which will make the Apokolips War seem “inconsequential.” Despite Alan's pleas, the Power cannot return Sam to life, and when he accepts the Power the ring which he had been about to betroth himself to Sam becomes the focus of his Power because it is “something close to [his] heart.” And Green Lantern makes his debut helping other victims of the train crash. Meanwhile, Jay Garrick learns that Hawkgirl has been around for a while, and is rather disdainful of him as a newbie, but recruits him anyway, having been sent to his location “by Fate” – which of course he doesn't understand and professes no belief in. And also meanwhile, the Grey – the power of decay? – resurges, sucking the life out of various places around the US including Washington DC, taking humanoid form as Grundy, intent on drawing the new green champion to itself and killing him “again.”

Continued greatness, including an interesting tie to the ideas of the Green and the Rot (?) in other DCnU books … none of which I'm reading, so I'm not up on how that conflict is playing out in the regular DCnU, but it is – this month's books have a big double-page ad for a multi-issue cross-over among several of those books: Animal Man, Swamp Thing, and Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE – “Rotworld”

My only quibble – and I'm probably the only one who feels this way given how widely it's been reviled through the years – is that I think there should have been some more elements of homage in the new costume to that of the old Golden Age Green Lantern – not necessarily red shirt and purple cape, but maybe a dark red or even brown element to the new costume. (Similarly, I think silver for Hawkgirl's costume just looks wrong.)


Worlds' Finest #3
Rebirth III”

More paralleled present and past sequences.

In the present, the fight in Fukushima continues. Hakkou says something about them coming to this world, seeming aware of their other-dimensional origins. They overload him with radioactive coolant. Kara seems especially vulnerable to his radioactive touch – is it because he's a “little piece of home,” to paraphrase Lex Luthor in Superman: The Movie? And her vulnerability is especially contrasted with Helena's unnatural resistance to radiation, a fact observed in-story but “explained” by her reference to “Dad always [saying] we had an unnaturally high immunity to all sorts of poisons.” Uh, I don't think it works that way. On that very same page there is a pretty egregious typo of “rotegens” for the Roentgen unit for measuring radiation exposure. I think Levitz had a bit of a bad day there …. Anyway, the radioactive coolant gives the Dynamic-looking Duo a respite, but just makes Hakkou stronger – and he attacks the Ginza in Tokyo … my guess is that the visuals here are as accurate as the ones in other foreign locales we've seen the new Helena visit, both in her own miniseries and here. Well played, my friends. Kara avoids his touch this time, and literally bats him into Tokyo Bay with a telecommunications tower (and as I write that I think, “That pun has to have been unintentional!”) –

And in the past, 45 months ago at the London Eye (see what I mean, although the gondola-cars are not that big), Kara and Helena meet and discuss their predicament. There's a strong indication that on Earth 2 “you ha[d] to be born to be a Robin.” It would have been funny if Helena had expressed some incredulity that here there seems to be or have been more than one.... So far they've had no luck identifying the “souvenir” that came through with them. Interestingly, Kara has difficulty learning this Earth's computer programming language, so she just decides to buy the requisite expertise; she refers to Terry Sloane as a computer genius. 24 months ago, when Kara learns that Michael Holt (ironically, the “Earth 1” Mr. Terrific as Sloane was the Earth 2 version – or is it? I've decided I am going to pick up the one-volume trade of that eight-issue New 52 series; although it was cancelled quickly, it seems it could be essential reading for the Earth 2 corner of the DCnU) is doing dimensional research, she decides to seduce it out of him, hence what I knew from the beginning was a character named “Karen Starr” in the New 52 Mr. Terrific series. Here we get a second, I think, visual homage to the famous “Power Girl boob window” of fan-boys' fond memories in the fetching white dress she dons.

This is another great issue, although every other commentator I've seen observes the unlikely notion that Helena could survive radiation poisoning. Anj in his review below does attempt some speculation as to why, however. Once again, story-wise I find the hints of their past and how these events relate to Earth 2 more interesting than the contemporary story. Since Perez undoubtedly cannot handle an ongoing monthly month-in month-out, I'm ecstatic that Maguire is sharing the art duties and the way they're doing it. It clearly sets apart the two narratives, and Maquire's depictions of the lovely young ladies is a fitting complement for the character bits while Perez plays to his strength with the rip-roaring action sequences. I mean, just look at the playfully devilish expression on Kara's face as she heads plots her alliance with Holt.  It's up there.


Action Comics #11
Superman's New Secret Identity”

With Clark Kent “dead,” Superman has established a new guise as fireman Johnny Clark, but he's having second thoughts. He consults Batman because his new ally always seems like the smartest man in the room (semi-spoiler: I know from the Internet that Superman will accomplish something next issue that the Bat probably couldn't, but even that is a different kind of smarts). We find that Earth has, doubtless due to events in early issues of Action and Justice League, come to the attention of extraterrestrials, leading to several recent attacks and attempted invasions, including “Metalek” at the beginning of this issue. Consulting the computer in his new satellite headquarters, Superman wonders if the Collector of Worlds might actually have been a force for good in that while something called “the Multitude” has been destroying worlds, the Collector was at least preserving something of those worlds before the destruction – the Collector was not the destroyer as we had assumed. But Krypton's death was not due to the Multitude because Jor-El had impossibly driven it away, so we still have that mystery. The stranger from last issue is revealed as the New 52 Captain Comet – seemingly a much more sinister figure now – who detects that Lois Lane's precocious niece Susie Tompkins (another in a long line of Grant Morrison's out-of-left-field-and-cool-as-hell revivals of obscure Golden-Age characters) is another mutant like him Lois is critically injured in Metalek's latest attack, and Comet takes Susie. When Superman interferes, he is mentally overwhelmed – and physically overwhelmed by surrounding passers-by under Comet's mind-control....

Clothes Encounter”

In this lighter little side story, a couple of tourists find that Superman's first S-tee-shirts were ordered wholesale from a local shop – and why he has the different colors. Of course, now every tee-shirt shop in Metropolis claims to have been the original!

Such continued excellence – both stories. But what's “The Shocking Reason Behind His New Secret Identity” (cover) …? It ain't the only cover hype this month.


Justice League International #11
Final Victory”

If there were a “DC Villain Looks Like a Quasi-Zombie” Drinking Game, I'd be as drunk as My Old Drunken Mentor.

The team manages to rally against its attackers and win, but at the cost of seeing a couple of their members unleashed, as well as a couple of fatalities among their attackers. This issue is largely narrated by Green Lantern Guy Gardner, who gains a bit more respect for August General in Iron and Booster Gold. This victory does go down as a “win,” but the brother of one of the slain terrorists gains his power and a thirst for revenge, so it ain't really over. And if this is the “Final Victory,” what do next issue (the last) and the upcoming Annual hold for the end of this series? Apparently not going out on a high note....

By the way, in the “News” category, just yesterday Geoff Johns did hint that there is some future for these characters.


Detective Comics #11
Radioactive!”

There's something about a scientist cloning himself and using a little-bitty large hadron reactor to create antimatter to use for time travel into the future. This is not even fun to try to make fun of. Batman's scream on the last page sums up my reaction to this story. To this book.

Two-Face in “Squared Up”

Ditto.

I'm really wondering why I'm getting this even if it is one of the Batman titles. I probably wouldn't keep on if Tony Daniel were not leaving. Thank God he's leaving!

Review: http://batman-news.com/2012/07/04/new-52-detective-comics-11-review/ – after reading his opening, I say Big Bang Theory must work comments on issues 10 and 11 by Sheldon into upcoming episodes!

Batwing #11
I See All of It Now”

Bat- and Nightwing – can I call them the 'Wing Boys? – fight Long long enough for Batwing's technology to download the data they want, then they are out and back to Africa, where Batwing's aide Matu's family has just been killed in a terrorist attack. Matu is given passage into the closed country of Tundi, his familial homeland now ruled by Lord Battle, for the funeral. But once there he discovers a massive secret oil industry – then is shot as Batwing listens in. Meanwhile, Batwing has followed the the trail revealed by the data to Uzbekistan, finding and alerting Batman in Gotham City of Penguin's sale of a nuclear bomb to somebody. I'm not sure how it all goes together, but it looks like the Justice League International appears in the next issue – maybe they'll go out in style here....


Stormwatch #11
Devolver”

This continues to be a really hard title to get my mind around. I like the sense of history that keeps coming into it, but sometimes it doesn't at all feel like its part of any DC Universe, even nUniverse, despite the presence of the Martian Manhunter – who something in the back of my mind is telling me I heard somewhere that he's on his way out of this book. Sometimes I wonder why I keep getting it month to month rather than reverting to trades, but can't bring myself to pull the trigger on dropping it.

Anyway, it turns out the Devolver was created by a secret race called the Hidden People, a Neanderthal group that's been fighting a long war against the human – well, Homo Sapiens Sapiens since the Homo Sapiens Neandertalensis were humans too – “Usurpers,” taking on earlier incarnationsw of Stormwatch through time, perfecting the Devolver. This issue ends looking like Stormwatch fell into a trap such that what seems to them like a victory really sowed seeds for their ultimate defeat by infecting Engineer with some kind of “virus” of which she and they are unaware. Along the way we learn more about Engineer's origin and relationship with Harry Tanner, as well as another couple of pages purporting to forward the Tanner plot.


Superboy #11
Brothers in Harm”

This issue not only starts out in media res, some time after the end of last issue, but also seems so sketchily told that we're only getting the hilights. Superboy and Bunker have stricken out on her own without the other Teen Titans who are staying in Red Robin's penthouse. Bunker discovers that Superboy is basically a bank robber. When the city is attacked by a giant robot, Detritus, they defend it. Superboy now knows of the other “Supers” – Superman and Supergirl – and is trying to take ownership of the S. This includes getting a tattoo. Yay.


Batman #11
My Brother's Keeper”

As they fight all around and over Gotham City, Lincoln Marsh spins his tale to Batman, including the claim that he is the Wayne child thought dead soon after a premature birth brought on by an automobile accident, ultimately taken in by the Owls and cultivated to be the Owls' heir to the Waynes. Batman defeats him of course, but is left with no body and plenty of questions. The story ends with a quiet exchange between Bruce and Dick, and Bruce's conviction that his parents were ever truthful to him – as well as that the Owls would be back.

The Fall of the House of Wayne, Conclusion”

Tells the aftermath of the car “accident which caused Martha to misscarry, Jarvis Pennyworth's fate at the hands of the Owls, including a letter he left warning Alfred never to come to Wayne Manor – a letter which burns up unread. Again, we are left with questions....

Wow.


Batman and Robin #11
Terminus Branded”

Again, there are two concurrent stories going on … and only one is interesting. That's the one continuing Damian's war against the other Robins, this time Jason Todd, who does seem to have come to grips with his own demons and declares he's not going to “bring the pain to a ten-year-old,” but thus ends up with Damian riding away whistling with Jason's red hood mounted to the front of his bike. The other continues the story of those who consider themselves maimed by Batman and intent on turning the Bat into a symbol of fear for the citizens of Gotham City, and who ultimately goad Batman into a less than well thought out plan. We do get a funny exchange between Gordon and Damian regarding a ten-year-old driving. For me, the Damian story itself is well worth the price of admission. Is Jason's characterization here consistent with how he's shown in Red Hood and the Outlaws? I do wish the “main story” – which seems to be giving us the titles – were more interesting too.


Demon Knights #11
In: The Darkness That Was Camelot”

All of the Demon Knights except Madame Xanadu have been changed into their usually-pretty-scary “ideals” – and they want to stay that way. They are confronted by a changed King Arthur, who manages to get them into what's left of Camelot and sprays them all with some kind of water which changes them back. Arthur then tells the story of how he returned from Avalon and has been ever since fighting the monstrosities that are proliferating across Britain – and that are slowly winning. When he discovers the purpose of the Knights is to resuscitate Merlin, he agrees to lead them: “Well then. / I march with Knights once more. The Knights of the Demon. // This is not Excalibur. And you are not the Table Round. / But both are of quality. Both will suffice – /// – the world shall have one more day of Arthur.” … We find that Glastonbury Tower as shown was indeed erected centuries after the fall of Camelot (it's actually 15th-century; see last month's post). And we find that all that's happening is a trap by Morgana la Fay, ret-conned (?) as Xanadu's sister.


Green Lantern #11
The Revenge of Black Hand, Part 1”

This is the first issue of the New 52 Green Lantern series I've bought. As explained in my post regarding the first collected volume, I opted out of the entire Green Lantern franchise, at least as monthlies, with the reboot last year. But after a while I regreted that decision, at least with regards to the main series (and I'm rapidly wearing down with regards to Green Lantern Corps as well, I think), and decided to add it back in. According to the solicitation, it looked like this would be a good starting point, and in a sense maybe it is, bearing in mind I don't know exactly what's been going on in issues #7-10. But in all likelihood the second collected volume will comprise issues #7-12 – so if I get it I'll have duplicates of #11 and #12, and maybe #0 which comes next depending on where it's collected – I probably will do that, however, rather than buy #7-10 as back issues. My main question here is how easy is it to jump in at this point, having read #1-6? This will be a somewhat more detailed write-up than I usually do in these monthly round-ups, partially to address that question.

First off, I know who Black Hand is, at least – the facilitator of the Big Bad of the major line-wide event a couple of years ago, Blackest Night. Last I saw him at the end of that story, he was a captive of the Indigo Tribe.

The story opens with Sinestro having also been captured by the Indigo Tribe, who now release him into the custody of Hal Jordan – and negate the bond between Sinestro's and Hal's rings. “It means the ring you constructed for me – / – does whatever I will it to now. /// Including affecting you.” And Hal blasts Sinestro onto his ass. He grins as he says, “Sorry. /// I wanted to make sure it worked.” Sinestro is pissed – when is he ever not? He points out that Hal should have concentrated on getting Black Hand – Sinestro maintains he could have eventually freed himself. And now Black Hand is missing. He apparently suicided to escape the Indigo Tribe's custody, but of course there's no body. There is some residue that is just like the substance of which the Black Lanterns were made. Uh-oh.

On Earth, Black Hand resurrects his family as Black Lanterns and they have a happy family meal – Chinese take-out. I kid you not. All the while he's yammering on about his plan: “I'm going to murder as many people as I can in as many ways as I can. / And then I'm going to raise them from the ground and they're going to do the same thing. // I won't be the outcast anymore, Father. / Everyone will be like me. /// And the world can be one happy family.” Charming.

Meanwhile – unknowingly tracked by the Guardians, who realize that a second Green Lantern is now with him – Sinestro takes Hal to Korugar, and to the Book of the Black, telling him of a prophecy it contains. They have a vision of the coming War of the Third Army, at the end of which they're not on Korugar anymore – but rather popping out into the Hand family “living room” (is it still? – “living,” I mean...).... “We have guests,” observes Black Hand in a deadpan voice.

So, should I not have started here? Heck if I know yet. I actually caught on that Sinestro getting access to the Book of the Black and the imminence of the prophecy plays off of events that were actually back in the first collected volume, which, remember, ended with Sinestro essentially drafting Hal back into service for a second time. But did it really take them four issues of story, to (I assume) get to Nok (the Indigo Tribe prison planet) – I take it, to get to Black Hand – and have Sinestro taken captive for whatever reason? That's pretty slow. What else might have happened? I'll find out eventually, but actually I don't feel like I missed that much. Four issues. Should I not feel like I missed much? Is there really that little to the story?


Batgirl #11
Heart of Cold Steel”

Batgirl fights Knightfall (that is a really unfortunate name given its connotations in Batman lore) and her three stooges, although what they really want is for her to join them in some bloody ultimate solution to Gotham City crime. Basically, kill all bad guys. Batgirl is overwhelmed, but rescued by Detective McKenna. The detective tells her the story of Charise (with whom she's on first name basis), whom it is implied was wrongly committed to Arkham Asylum after her parents' murder, and there witnessed horrors, especially during “a breakout – the breakout” from Arkham – when McKenna herself froze and couldn't shoot one of the inmates holding a guard hostage, leading to the death of her own husband – the guard. Why is she telling her all this? Because when Charise was released on appeal, “under suspicion of jury tampering,” she started contacting various figures, implicitly recruiting them to her cause – among them McKenna. Oh, “[A]nd there's something else. / They have someone in your organization. /// They have a mole, Batgirl.” And Batwoman is shown outside, communicating with someone: “Confirmed. They're both there in the location you predicted. / I'm going in.” Huh– wha– ? Who has a mole, presumably in Batman, Incorporated? Is Charise working for the DEO that Agent Chase recruited Batwoman into a while back? That makes no sense.

There're also a couple of pages advancing the plot of how brother dearest is seducing Barbara's roommate. That's not going to turn out well.


Legion Lost #11
The Enemy Unseen”

I continue to marvel at how much better this title seems now that Tom DeFalco has replaced Fabian Nicieza on the writing chores – which surprises me because I've always liked Nicieza before. He just didn't click here, however. The story, is above all, more straightforward.

Timber Wolf ends up surviving despite the primitive 21st-century medical care, but Tyroc and Yera are captured by Meta-Marines after an issue-long battle. Meanwhile, Wildfire's containment suit continues its progressive failure, threatening him with permanent dissolution (which I don't quite get, since he's been shown outside the suit on multiple occasions in the past), while Dawnstar and Tellus detect and chase down Alastor … again … with bad results. Alastor possesses Dawnstar. Timber Wolf wakes up and tells Gates of a time-travel-based mysterious witness protection program called Echo, and wonders whether they could have an Echo handler hidden among their number.

I'm having a hard time getting an idea how common time travel is in the 31st-century of the Legion. The existence of the Echo Program implies its common enough, but hasn't it only recently been developed (according to the recent Legion Secret Origin  miniseries)? Whatever. Im sure Echo is somehow connected with Kid Flash's presence in the 21st century, with the mysterious woman who's appeared a couple of times in Teen Titans being his handler.


Justice League #11

A friend who reads mostly Marvel decided to pick this title up. This was his first issue. Subsequent to his reading it, we discussed what I've called the “Marvelization” of DC, what with the increasing acrimony between teammates, seemingly regular fights between heroes, and the generally darker tone of the universe, especially in how the heroes are regarded by the world. That's a theme that was brilliantly explored by Busiek and Perez in JLA*Avengers most of a decade ago. For the record, I do not like the Marvelization of DC, but it makes my friend feel right at home! I guess if that's what DC's looking for.... Incidentally, dropping into the middle of both stories (JL and Shazam), he was confused as all get out but is going to stick with it, I think. (I was amazed to find that he knows next to nothing about the original Captain Marvel or his origin, which knowledge finally pays off a little bit in this issue if you have it.)

As to the stories....

Atonement”

I can't figure out if Graves is just incompetent with the League being equally incompetent in always being on his tail but never close enough to catch him, or manipulating them and they're just dancing to his tune. They follow him from the satellite to Steve Trevor's sister's house, but he jumps away just as they Boom Tube in. Trevor's sister berates Wonder Woman for how she broke Trevor's heart, making her feel guilty and driving her to recklessly try to go off solo against Graves. Green Lantern tries to hold her back. They fight. Graves televises the fight to aid in his deconstruction of the Justice League's image. Cyborg Boom Tubes them all to Graves' latest destination in Tibet, the Valley of Souls, where the heroes are presented with apparitions of their lost loved ones – including Wonder Woman who sees Trevor. He tells her she is too late.

There is a bit done with an inherent liminality in Cyborg's nature. He can perceive a cavern when they appear in the Valley – with his human eye. The other's can't. Batman explains, “According to Graves' book, only those walking the line between life and death can see the entrance to the Valley of Souls.” – “I'm not partly dead, am I?” Cyborg asks. I'm not sure I'm convinced by Batman's curt, “Of course not.”

Shazam!, Chapter 5”

The newly resurrected Black Adam is not happy, until Lex Luth– – Sivana – tells him he can help him find the Wizard. Billy Batson and Freddy Freeman are vandalizing the car of the rich boy with whom Billy fought. They are seen. Billy draws the mob of rich kids away from a hiding Freddy into a chase, managing to just beat them onto a subway car. But on the trip, the car undergoes some mysterious change, and deposits him not onto a subway platform but rather into a mysterious cavern.


Supergirl #11
OutSider”

While Siobhan is at work, Kara and Tommy go out on the town. Once again, Kara's unfamiliarity with Earth leads to her committing a faux pas, helping herself to a piece of the pizza being carried to another table by a passing waitress. It's not the first such stumble, even in this issue – earlier, she seems uncomprehending of Tommy's embarrassment when she appears in the room while he's clad just in a towel … of course, Tommy himself was dressing in his sister's living room – which Siobhan properly berates him for when she comes into the room a moment after Kara returns. Anyway, Kara's senses run wild again, then she's attacked by a new villain, I think the same as we saw at the end of last issue. There I thought it was Simon, but I don't think so. Ultimately she manages to fine tune her heat vision to burn out what she perceives as a nanotech suit. But the experience convinces her that she's putting her new friends in danger just being around. She regretfully parts from them.

Okay, she still has no understanding of English – well, except for “Hello.” She also hasn't eaten nor slept since arriving on Earth. Do Kryptonians have to either? How long has she been on Earth at this point. My impression is that if you add up what's happened so far, it doesn't amount to a whole lot of time.


Batwoman #11
To Drown the World, Part Six”

Finally, the end of this jumbled story. The gist is that Sune who is also Maro gets away. Chase considers Batwoman to have betrayed her and let the cultists take the kids. Medusa still stands. Bette comes out of her coma just in time. And Kate and Maggie make up.

This is not the way to write a story. Non-sequential narrative is one thing. Throwing all the pieces up into the air and letting them fall where they may, not so much. At some point I may put in the effort to go back and laboriously figure out what is the chronological order of all the pieces, read them that way, and see if it means anything, but right now I'm not inclined to put in that effort.

But J. H. Williams III is coming back on art duties for the next arc, so we ought to have the outstandingly beautiful (if sometimes hard to follow) art back – not that it's been bad the last few issues, by any means. The art hasn't been the problem. And maybe this narrative sturucture was just an experiment in story-telling. If so, it failed.

As always, in my opinion. Which is the main one that counts to me :-)


Birds of Prey #11
Tangled Up Inside”

My first thought upon seeing the opening page was, “Holy cow!, the chairman of that corporation must be an alien! – or a caveman!” And this is not the only picture of his deformed head.  Compared to what we've gotten in previous issues, the art here takes a distinct turn for the worse. And when I looked at the credits to see who we have to thank for that, I noticed something else entirely – the colorist's last name is Eltaeb? – eltaeB? – Beatle? Actually, as far as I can tell it must be a real name, he appears with a fairly wide range of attributions in ComicBookDB mainly as colorist. And his reatively lengthy autobiography there makes him sound like a rather affable chap. But his name made me do a double-take. As to the art overall, Trevor Foreman came on at issue #9; the new name co-listed here as penciller is Timothy Green II; or it could be the inkers – four of 'em. Whatever, it struck me as a marked drop in quality.

Anyway, luckily the cover by Stanley “Artgerm” Lau is gorgeous … but does Ivy have a “camel-toe”? … To get to the action of this issue, go to the Amazon Jungle and take a left turn … 'way left. Of course, it centers on Ivy's environmental-wacko characterization, so I guess it was inevitable. Anyway. It turns out last issue's events were just a ruse by Ivy to get the Birds to the Amazon where she infects them with a toxin that will kill them unless they work for her in a new wave of eco-terrorism. If they die to avoid joining her, the toxin will be released to infect the world. So it's off to the first target, the Dubai oil corporation whose chairman is of questionable provenance. This is certainly not going to rehabilitate Black Canary's image!


Catwoman #11
I'm Just Refilling My Coffers.”

Selina manages to recruit Detective Alvarez to help her against Dollhouse – but Dollhouse outwits them, as well as Spark, whose double-dealing last issue doesn't get followed up here just yet. Dollhouse kidnaps more street people and Alvarez. And Penguin seizes Selina's friend Gwen.

Probably the funniest part of this issue is when, in the midst of a fight at the beginning of the issue trying to get Alvarez to just listen to her rather than arrest her, Selina throws off a neighbor who can hear and comes to the door by feigning an orgasmic scream of ecstasy.

That's what kind of book this is, though.


Nightwing #11
Tomorrow Can't Wait”

It turns out that Nie is not framing Nightwing, but really believes him essentially guilty of attracting danger such as what killed his lover and fellow cop back in issue #1. Sonia reports to Dick that the bank won't approve the investment in his Amusement Mile project because they consider him a risky investment due to the attempt on his life at Haly's Circus a few issues back (if they only knew!). Dick doesn't take this very well, believing that she had killed any chance he had – only find out as she walks away angrily that she was the only board member in favor of the investment. Making Dick feel like a … dick. Later, Dick and Damian converse in the Batcave, making reference to the feud between Damian and the various Robins – which includes Dick, of course – that's going on in Batman and Robin. Damian helps Dick see something that he'd overlooked in investigating who was framing him. Specifically, it's an insightful comment Damian makes about the importance of making statements, which is the reason for his own outfit – “You think I wear yellow and green for fun, Grayson?”


Legion of Super-Heroes #11
Betrayal”

The rescue squad successfully penetrates the Dominion homeworld, but is betrayed by Comet Queen and captured, partially because Brainiac 5 insists on going back to retrieve his “irreplaceable” force shield belt. Back home, Cosmic Boy berates Mon-El, who snaps back at him. I hope this doesn't portend a return to the “Mon-El cracks under stress” characterization that I remember from back in the day.

Brainiac 5 exhibits a hitherto unknown telepathic/telekinetic ability – but it's made a story point by him snidely pointing out that there's a lot of things people don't know about him. We also learn that he's the product of five generations of selective breeding.

Somebody doesn't seem to know how a “rogue comet” acts at the beginning of the story. And later the term telepathic is used where telekinetic would be more correct.

You know, I wish I could write more about this book. I'm enjoying it well enough. It's a good, reliable read. Having Levitz on the Legion is a blessing. But this is not the best that the Legion has been. It's not “wowing” me. And that makes me a little sad. And I can understand why it's languishing mid-lower list in sales. What does it need? I can't say.



Aquaman #11
The Others, Chapter Five”

I really don't care for the nameless chapters. It makes it so obvious that this story is really written for the trade and cannot stand alone. Which it can't.

We get more history of Arthur and the Others, including the introduction of the last member, Vostok, who encourages Arthur to let them all help him against Black Manta. Arthur refuses, claiming (unconvincingly) that ti's not because he doesn't care for them but rather because he does. Emo much? Y'know, much as I've been liking this run, a “badassification” of Aquaman that thought was actually working for me, I beginning to think that this Aquaman is maybe developing in a direction I don't like. He's just not very likeable. He's not quite there, but getting close. Maybe it's not a Bad Thing that Johns is reportedly leaving this title.

Anyway, meanwhile Black Manta steals Shin from Mera's custody and teleports away. Damn there's a lot of people, villains and heroes, who can teleport these days. Aquaman ends up observing them at the island tomb of the first king of Atlantis, where Black Manta is unearthing a previously unknown Seventh Relic – without Shin's willing cooperation. Arthur witnesses Shin pledging that he will not betray Arthur again, and realizes that Shin is not working with Black Manta.

Incidentally, Vostok looks very much like a Jack Kirby creation in his visual style. [ picture ]


Superman #11
Combat”

Secret of the Suit Revealed!” trumpets the cover. Really? That it is changeable, morphing its form and color? Haven't we known that from the very introduction in Action Comics? I really don't like covers overly melodramatic to the point of being deceptive.

On a double date, Lois and her New 52 boy-toy whatever-his-name-is are intent on setting Clark up with her sister Lucy. And despite the fact that he stood her up on her arrival at the train station a couple issues back, they actually hit it off. Then news of a catastrophe in Russia ends the evening. Superman ends up in a confrontation with something that came from another dimension in the Bering Sea and was retrieved by the Russian sub. It counters his powers – and the suit – and defeats him. Appearance-wise, he looks like the bastard offspring of Doomsday and a Predator.

Hey! I've got an idea. Since the suit is morphable, maybe that's a way we can just do away with this not-so-hot new design and go back to the classic design.


Batman: The Dark Knight #11
Cycle of Violence”

Bruce's Ukrainian girl friend tries to be understanding of his difficulties, but they're interrupted by news of Gordon's kidnapping and Batman is immediately on the case. This looks like a standard Scarecrow horror story with some graphic mental torturing and traumatization of children. One of whom may be Jonathan Crane's own son. Do we really need these kinds of stories? Batman finally gets a lead from the little girl-victim with whom he bonded last issue (the only good things I've seen in this story), tracks Scarecrow down, and gets ambushed by a face full of Fear Gas. Again. Sigh of exasperation. This title continues to be horrific, both in story and in story matter, but the new writer is telling a somewhat more compelling story within that stricture. It's a bit scattered, hard to follow, and definitely not for the squeamish.

By the way, isn't the trope of Gordon getting kidnapped by a psycho a bit overused of late?


Justice League Dark #11
The Black Room: Part Three”

Yeah, I really need to get up to speed on Tim Hunter and the old Books of Magic series. Xanadu sees him as the only hope to save the world from Constantine when the latter gets access to the Books of Magic. Unfortunately, Tim's given all his magic away. Meanwhile, the battle between ARGUS and Faust continues. Constantine uses the threat as his way into the Black Room, but it turns out Faust is still ahead of them. He has a mole in ARGUS. And so Dr. Mist betrays them and turns on Constantine....


Teen Titans #11
Wonder Wonder Who”

We find that the lingering possibility of Red Robin abandoning the team inspired Bunker to really pull a smart move and put out an ad for new teammates! – And gave Red Robin's penthouse address! Of course, it's answered by some random blue-Hulk wannabe douchebag who tries to take them down but ends up himself taken down by the armored-up Cassie – but the fight seems to catalyze some radical transformation in her (as well as allowing some hitherto unseen dude to narrow in on her location – what's that all about?). Cassie soon attacks her teammates and takes them down, except for Superboy and Red Robin who are not there at the penthouse. When the latter two arrive, Cassie has a moment of lucidity and begs them not to let her kill again.

I'm deciding more and more that I just don't really care for Lobdell's writing. This title was so much better in the past couple of issues that were written by Tom DeFalco.

When Dinosaurs Walked the Earth”

Three “dinohumanoids” seem to have followed the team back from “Dinosaur Island” along Danny the Alley. Kid Flash discovers them and is going to follow them into his own story in DC Universe Presents #12 then back to Teen Titans #12. But wait – I thought Bart was lying unconscious in the penthouse?


Digital

The Ravagers #3
Blood”

Brother Blood. Never liked him in the original Wolfman-Perez Teen Titans, nor since. And not now, it seems.

After a few pages basically introducing another Grotesque Satanistic Doomsday Criminal Cult to the DCnU – why would anyone ever begin to follow a loon like Blood – or Kobra – or.... – we get a misleading “splash” page of Caitlin Fairchild recoiling in what looks like fear before something that's in the viewer's direction. Oh – we see it's her charges plunging into a pond or pool naked, which shows us why she's recoiling, and shows you why I put “splash” in quotes.... Mainly that page serves as a illustration around which is her inner'logue which includes a rather ridiculous juxtaposition of ideas right next to each other: “[They were t]rained to survive at all costs … // … to disregard any thoughts of personal safety in battle.” Sounds badass until you think about it. – Huh?

Anyway, Caitlin, Ridge, Thunder, and Lightning encounter Brother Blood cultists, fight them until Blood himself shows up and seems to make nice by healing Lightning of injuries suffered in the brawl – until he somehow immobilizes Caitlin and Ridge while torturing Thunder. Meanwhile, Beast Boy and Terra have a run-in with locals as they try to catch up to the others, then come upon a Brother Blood blood sacrifice in progress....

Oh boy. Still don't like Brother Blood.


I, Vampire #11
The Drowning Man”

From Andrew Bennett's inner'logue: “Technically, I think they're actually mummies. // Not zombies. // In case that matters.” Well, I'm glad we cleared that up. They are corpses animated by some kind of Egyptian necklaces – except that elsewhere it's also called an infection that can be spread. Things get worse when some vampires bite some “zombummies” (my term, and I think it looks dumb too). “So... / zombie vampire vampire hunters?” is Andrew's exasperated reaction. Then things get worse still as some “mumbies” (nope, no better, so they're just “zombies”) start making reinforcements in a nearby town. And, oh my, Stormwatch is about to get involved!

All that and the Professor and Tig manage to survive the Van Helsings' plane crashing.

Damn I like this book.

Incidentally, from the beginning I've wondered. What exactly is that get-up Mary's wearing? It looks like pretty much nothing except some body-paint. Is that right? So what are the “Batman” fins coming out of her forearms?


Smallville: Season 11 #13-15
Detective,” Parts 1-3

#13) After several weeks of unwilling separation, Clark and Lois manage to arrange an overnight … er, a “conjugal visit” … at the Fortress. Clark is working on a way to neutralize Lex's radiation tracker, and we find that the sentient Jor-El program shut itself down once Clark accepted his destiny. In Gotham City, Batman and a red-headed female Nightwing confront an Intergang receipt of weapons from a contact in Metropolis … named Joe Chill. #12) Lex observes that Superman is now more active than ever. How exactly does Lois explain Clark's absence? A teleporting criminal (using LexCorp tech, of course) holds a bunch of kids hostage for money. We get the first appearance here of Metropolis cop Dan Turpin since the Bryan Q. Miller-scribed episode “Bulletproof.” One neat little bit has a foolishly brave little boy named Billy standing up to the criminal before Superman arrives. A little girl tries to hold him back. What's neat is that these two kids look for all the world like very young versions of Billy and Mary Batson, although she's unnamed. #14) Bruce Wayne and his assistant Barbara arrive in Metropolis for a meeting with Lex Luthor. Lex declines being brought into a development project for “Zero Point Energy” that Wayne, [Michael?] Holt, and [Ted] Kord are putting together. Superman interrupts their lunch meeting “to … discuss” “something urgent” with Lex – the use of his tech by the hostage-taker. Lex, of course, has a perfectly logical reason he's not in any way invoved. Batman breaks into Stryker's Island Prison to interrogate Bruno Manheim, the heart and soul of Intergang – and a convert to the Religion of Crime. (The Latin at the bottom of The Crime Bible, Vivete gladio perite gladio, means “Live by the sword, die by the sword.”) Superman interrupts – and gets a supercharged punch in the jaw from Batman.

Except for her hair color, this Nightwing could very well be Stephanie Brown as initially announced. In characterization, she certainly acts more like Stephanie than Barbara Gordon. Consider me one of those Stephanie Brown fans who really resents what they've done to the character – i.e., nothing – and would have really appreciated having the bone of at least something of a revival in the Smallville context and by her writer as Batgirl tossed our way, but Nnnoooo, DiDio couldn't let that happen. His latest comments on the matter over at Bleeding Cool just piss me off. “Stephanie was never Nightwing, there was no reason to put her in the comic … Smallville is about Superman and not Batman, so there's no real point in putting Stephanie in to appease a small amount of fans, and the writer of the comic.” Well, Barbara Gordon was never Nightwing, either, dude! And you sound like you're arguing against putting any other heroes in Smallville if it's just about Superman. I don't give a shit if “[DiDio] was clearly rather annoyed about the situation”. So'm I. I think he's also being quite disrespectful toward one of the better writers they have now, who is sadly not represented on any of the New 52 books.

Just had to get that off my chest.

I do not like the Chris Cross art here nearly as much as Pere Perez on the first story arc. It's workmanlike, but no more than that.

Review:

Superman Family Adventures #3

More great, childlike but not really childish, fun meeting the rest of the Super Pets, and learning “The Hole Truth” about why Superman got a new suit without his old red trunks. I actually like Art and Franco's reason better than the Kryptonian armor in the main DCnU.

* * *
And that's it.

What? It's not enough? :-

Cheers, and Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 26

Neil Armstrong, R.I.P.

(1930-2012)

Once again the passing of a public figure important enough in the formation of who I am overcomes my reticence to jump on the blogosphere obituary bandwagon.

Along with much of the world, seven-year-old Kent sat mesmerized in front of the TV to see mankind's first steps on another world on the evening of Sunday, 20 July 1969.  At that moment, like millions of other kids of my generation, I conceived a deep interest in science, astronomy, and the like.  Like millions of other kids, I wanted to grow up to be an astronaut.  That didn't happen.  I didn't even become a scientist -- although I was an engineer for a time, and did try to join the Air Force as an engineer (severe myopia shot that down).  Star Trek had, sadly and ironically, aired its last new episode only six or seven weeks before (3 June), but by the next year I discovered it in early syndication and that conception was nurtured to manifest itself in my life-long love of science fiction and fantastic fiction in general.  Had I not been primed for it by the sense of wonder inspired by Neil Armstrong's first steps onto the moon, however, no one can say what course my life would have taken.

To play off the words spoken from Tranquility Base six or so hours before those steps, "The Eagle has ascended."

Ad Astra!  As Jerry Pournelle states in his blog entry of last night, "We will be back."