Friday, July 12

DC Comics – July 2013 New 52 Month 21

Reviews, commentary, general reactions, and random notes on the DC Comics that were released during May that I received near the beginning of June. Caution: Spoilers ahead! [ Link to previous month ]

Here I am, back again, a little late because we had our family vacation at the beginning of June which put me behind getting and starting to read my May-released comics. Then, by the time I finished the Man of Steel post (link) I was a bit blogged out.

And, not really meaning to start out on a downer (again), because there are a lot of things I liked in the comics I read, the various news items that hit in the past month or so make me less and less able to get excited about DC Comics as a brand. Particularly damning was yet another disheartening creator rant, another creator basically walking out and telling DC (and Marvel) “A pox on all your houses!” (link) This time it's Paul Jenkins, who wrote Batman: The Dark Knight for a while after David Finch figured out writing is a lot harder than it looks as well as Stormwatch after Paul Cornell left that title. Whether or not I really cared that much for what he wrote, in either case, is immaterial – something is dreadfully wrong there. A company can't piss off that many creators otherwise. Where there's smoke....

Then there was the unwelcome – and as far as I know – unannounced extension of the lag time before the dollar-drop on day-and-date digital comics from one to two months. I was availing myself of that discount for what new digital comics I was buying, taking the hit of waiting a month to pay that dollar less. I just can't bring myself to pay full price, especially when it's $3.99, for something that is ultimately as precarious in my real ownership as DRM'd digital comics are. If I could archive them on my own hard drive, back them up, not be dependent on using a software platform that, honestly, may or may not be here in the future, that may be different. But I can't. And waiting two months? – hey, by then, maybe I can live without it anyway. In other words, this is a disincentive for me to buy their day-and-date digitals.

Mid month, the early online solicitations for September-released comics hit (link). In “celebration” of two years of the New 52, DC is doing a dumb “Villains Month” gimmick. Made dumber by instead of simply highlighting an associated villain for each ongoing title, no, they're suspending their monthly titles for the month and publish 52 (?) specials in several “families” … sort of. Four Superman titles, one a week, numbered as per the previous month (therefore #23) point 1, 2, 3, 4 – e.g. Superman #23.1, #23.2, etc. No Supergirl. No Superboy. Oh, but there is – rather are – four Action Comics – #23.1.... Several titles get that treatment – a lot of titles fall by the wayside altogether. Dumb dumb DUMB. Gimmicks, gimmicks, gimmicks. Having read Marvel Comics: The Untold Story just a month ago, I say it again – DC Comics in the early 2010s is looking a whole lot like Marvel Comics in the early 1990s. And that ended up with Marvel Comics in bankruptcy. To make a long story short, it's another disincentive for me, and I will pre-order less DC Comics for September than I have in the New 52 era. (Right now I'm planning on about 19 or 20 as opposed to 26 for August. [Later note: Well, I ended up ordering 22.])

Oh, and whereas the bulk of DC Comics have indeed “held the line at $2.99” for the past several years, all of these “Villains Month” Specials will be $3.99. With lenticular 3D covers. AAARRRGGGHHH! [Which means, of course, that I'm paying DC more money for that month than usual. Yes, I keep feeding the beast. And I expect them to stop? I am part of the problem....]

Finally, DC announced two new titles for sometime after September. Legion of Super-Heroes has been cast aside not for a remolding of the Legion into a sort of Justice League, but rather a new Justice League 3000 that will have little or no connection to the Legion – but look like bastardized versions of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Flash. Only Giffen, DeMatteis, and Maguire make this look remotely interesting, and if Giffen doesn't stop mouthing off he's going to kill what curiosity I have, as well as hope that they might be able to duplicate their old Justice League International success.

The other new title is Superman/Wonder Woman.



A friend of mine who is a fan of both characters is not even going to be picking this up. I think he's speaking for many when he says he's not interested in seeing stories – much less a series – about what is ultimately an uninteresting “romance.” Superman belongs with Lois Lane, DAMMIT!

But, God help me, I'm buying both JL3K and the Superman-Wonder Woman “slash” book. [It's a sickness....]

Seriously, these kind of team-up books are hard to pull off as an ongoing (unless it's a natural story-driven pairing as Huntress and Power Girl in Worlds' Finest), and I would rather they not even have started up Batman/Superman. Better would have been a revival of The Brave and the Bold, with the first arc being Batman and Superman, then the second arc being Superman and Wonder Woman, then.... But in this day and age those quasi-anthology books don't seem to thrive.

And that is all 'way more than I wanted to write to begin what is typically a grotesquely overlong monthly round-up post. Especially since it's all so negative. Really, I don't like to be. But damn it, DC's making it hard. Anyway, let's just jump to the comics.

Justice League of America #3
World's Most Dangerous, Chapter Three: The Forest and the Trees”

Unfortunately, this is not a good one to start with. This issue was several weeks late shipping, hence the last-month's-gimmick fold-out cover. It should have been read before last month's Catwoman, because it sets up the dumb plot to have Catwoman get captured and thrown into Arkham so she could break out and infiltrate the Secret Society – see my comments last month to that issue. Honestly, I'm not really getting anything out of this title, and once the “Trinity War” event is resolved in a few months, I'm pretty sure I'm dropping it.

Earth 2 #12
The Tower of Fate, Part 3: The Man Who Was Fate”

Okay, this is better. Thank God. Unfortunately, see last month's news that James Robinson is leaving. The announced replacement (with DC you never know if it'll pan out) is a bit of an unknown quantity to me. I've only just started picking up the first digital issues of Injustice: Gods Among Us, being put off initially by what I was hearing of the plot, to check out Tom Taylor. Surprisingly, given that I don't particularly like that plot – which was reportedly dictated to him – the writing itself is, so far, really good and does overall capture the characters. Hopefully he can do the same with the Earth 2 microverse.

Anyway, here Doctor Fate fights Wotan, coming to an uneasy accommodation with Nabu. There is more explicit use of Egyptian mythology and imagery than in the past. Meanwhile, Hawkgirl and Green Lantern have been tracking the mystery of why Alan's lover Sam was targeted and killed, finding a deeper mystery of dead Apokoliptian Parademons in cold storage. Then the Green takes Alan off to Boston where Doctor Fate, Flash, and Jay Garrick's mom emerged from the magical dimension. Fate defeats Wotan while Green Lantern and Flash work together to hold off the World Army, then takes them all to Alan Scott's home which he opens up to them. Finally there is a sense of a team coming together – just in time for news to hit that Steppenwolf is in Dherain and the world is about to attack.

Excellent issue, as usual.

Worlds' Finest #12
The Price of Fame”

This is a typically episodic issue with different artists for different beats. Power Girl's appearance in Supergirl happens between scenes in this issue, because that's where she actually gets her “new-old” costume – an odd decision on the part of DC for such a monumental and, frankly, clamored-for change to take place outside “her own” title.

As hinted on last issue's cover, only Helena and Karen can see DeSaad rather than the illusion of Michael Holt. Therefore they have to flee. And the attacks on Starr Industries continue, until DeSaad himself attacks Karen's island home and personally slaughters her workers and friends, including her main aide whom I'm pretty sure was in love with Karen. Power Girl and Huntress find the horrific scene and swear vengeance on DeSaad. Noteworthy in this issue is a short bit where Power Girl explains to Helena her love of the limelight – just as she's forced to give it up.

Action Comics #20
Hybrid, Part 2” – “The World of Krypton, Part 1: Discovery”

In the main story, we get what I think is the chronologically earliest appearance of Dr. Shay Vertias and a cryptic reference to a previously unseen adventure that apparently brought she and Superman together, the “Stream of Eternal Maelstroms.” When are we ever going to get the scoop on this intriguing character? So far, the post-Grant Morrison Action has continued to be great, even with Andy Diggle's prematurely reduced involvement this issue. Lex engineered a nanite virus to mutate Superman and others around him as part of a scheme to discredit the Man of Steel and put himself forward as the savior of the world. So this story is still playing on the idea of humanity's lingering distrust of Superman, but with Lex's constant agitation and the post-9/11 climate of fear and suspicion compounded with the palpable trauma the DCU has obviously gone through at the hands of super-beings in recent years, is such a xenophobic tendency really surprising? It's not the DC that I'd ideally like to see – it's 'way to Marvelesque, and when it's used as a story crutch it gets tiresome, but when it's done well – as, I think, here – it can make for good stories.

In the beginning of a new series of backups, Jor-El misses a Science Council meeting because he's discovering a lost civilization that might not be extinct. Meanwhile, Lara, who is some kind of guard to the Council and incidentally disdains Jor-El, witnesses the beginning of some kind of coup by a figure who had better be Zod....


Detective Comics #20
King for a Day” – “Empire of the Son”

We get a very abrupt end to the “Emperor Penguin” story, but with a hint that Ogilvy is not really down and out...

In the first story, Ogilvy has taken a cocktail of serums – Venom + Man-Bat + something from Poison Ivy – that go together to make him super-humanly strong and fast. He beats up Batman and literally hangs him from the highest tree … not “'til dead,” however, because the charges against Cobblepott didn't stick, and he's free just in time to help Batman, who wades back in and takes Ogilvy down with prejudice, like the monster he is. That's the key – at first he fought Emperor Penguin like a man. Anyway, the epilogue has Cobblepott concede the people of Gotham's acclaim to Bruce Wayne in favor of the safety of the shadows, even as another hot and inappropriately dressed assassin looms on the skyline. She looks very Amazonish.

The backup has more on the origin of Ogilvy in the context of his repositioning himself as “Emperor Blackgate,” his “Emperor Penguin” venture not working out so well. But what the hell was that creature hitherto “the Boss” of Blackgate?

Justice League of America #4
World's Most Dangerous, Chapter Four: The Good, the Bad, and the Shaggy” – Martian Manhunter in “Trial by Fire”

Catwoman's subterfuge is discovered and her brains are blown out at point-blank range, execution style. Yeah. Right. Meanwhile, the rest of the JLA is searching for her, and fight Dr. Ivo's “Shaggy Man” android. Another of those DC villainous characters I have no use for. Never have. Somewhat interestingly, Dr. Light is at least for now working for ARGUS. Maybe the appeal is wondering if he is still the pedophile and pervert he had become before the New 52, and when will he go bad.

Overall, I find this comic has an unappealing cast in an uninspired story. And Booth's art this issue does not make it any better. Substitute artist? – already?

And I really don't like the overall portrait of Martian Manhunter in the New 52, making this maudlin story purporting to explain his vulnerability to fire in survivor's guilt a snooze. I'm more and more certain that I'm dropping this book soon as “Trinity War” is done. You know, that New 52 Cross-Over Event that's been teased now for nigh on two years. The one I'm looking forward to mainly so it will be over. DC needs to put out a tee-shirt for the fans: “I Survived Trinity War.”

Superboy #20
A Wretched H.I.V.E.”

I think this is the first post-Lobdell issue, i.e., a new writer, Justin Jordan. I'll reserve overall judgment, but I immediately do not like the story structure of a teaser scene that then shifts back in time to begin showing how we got to that point – but doesn't, at least not in this issue. The gist of the main story is that the New-52 Doctor Psycho tries to establish contact with Superboy, but only when they're both attacked by agents of HIVE does Superboy agree to work with him.

Batman and Red Hood #20

This issue takes place before Red Hood and the Outlaws #19. Carrie Kelley is pressing Bruce to know where Damian is, and ends up hired by Alfred to take care of Titus the dog a few days each week – which I'm sure Bruce won't particularly like. Bruce recruits Jason to go with him to Ethiopia against the bounty hunters who gunned for Damian per Talia's contract. No killing, of course – but he does permanently kill the nerves in the bounty hunters' hands. But his real reason for bringing Jason along was that, in the country where the second Robin was killed by the Joker, he tries to get Jason to remember how he was brought back to life. Understandably, this incenses Jason, leading to a fight. In a non sequitur tag, Two Face contemplates suicide.

This is still the one series that is really dealing with a Batman unhinged by grief over Robin's death. I think that when Bruce told Carrie that Damian would call her in a few days he was not lying – he really believes he'll find some way to bring him back. But he's progressing – no, burning – through his former wards and allies at a pretty good clip, here, albeit not in order. I really do wonder what the future of this book is, though.

Batman #20
Nowhere Man, Part 2 of 2” – “Ghost Lights, Part 2 of 2”

In the lead story, Batman defeats Clayface and manages to protect his own secret identity. Along the way he ends up in a garbage compactor with Lucius Fox à la Star Wars, and busts out using a scrapped prototype Bat-suit that looks just like Batman Beyond. I don't think it's ever explained exactly why it had been scrapped. Clayface torments him at the end with the visage of Damian – big mistake. The story concludes with Bruce and Alfred indulging in virtual reality “home movies” of Batman and Robin. I wonder how these stories connect up with what Peter Tomasi's doing over in Batman and XYZ, especially given Bruce's seemingly better spirits here. For instance, his assuring Alfred that “I'm not losing myself this time. Not like I did with Jason” just before they immerse themselves in memories.

The backup concludes the Will o'the Wisp story. Superman is weakening because his body rejects magic – an interesting facet. Batman opens himself to the ghost of the teenager who conjured the spirit regarding his and Clark's friendship, and manages to incant the Will o'the Wisp away just in time. Finally, he thanks Clark for the concern which brought him to Gotham. It's a pretty good little character story.

Constantine #3
The Spark and the Flame, Part 3: The Big Smoke”

This is another book I'll probably drop after “Trinity War.” It's good enough, but probably a better read in trade. This issue completes the first story arc with the destruction of the Compass in John Constantine's typically devious trickster way.

Justice League #20
Prologue to Trinity War, Chapter 2: Secrets” – “Shazam! Chapter 12”

In this continuation from last issue's main story, the three new kids (Firestorm, Element Woman, and Atom) take on Despero in the Watchtower satellite as it falls from orbit, but in the end it is Martian Manhunter who appears and takes him out. Despero has a Kryptonite ring, but a sliver of the stone is missing. The Watchtower crashes at Happy Harbor, Rhode Island, and the Justice League moves into a cave for temporary headquarters. There is a bit of an epilogue to the prologue, an exchange between Superman and Batman about Batman's contingency plans – and we find that the reason he has a problem with Superman and Wonder Woman hooking up is that his only plan to take down Wonder Woman if such becomes necessary is indeed Superman. Finally, the Atom is revealed as a Justice League of America spy for Waller and Trevor. This story is continued in Justice League of America #5....

Okay, Cyborg can't 'port the big guns up to the Watchtower to confront Despero because it's falling out of orbit and therefore its position is changing. That makes absolutely no sense, seeing as two objects in space are always moving in relation to each other unless they are moving together on exactly the same vector, which I would imagine happens so rarely as to be essentially never. A satellite in orbit is moving relative to its orbital focus; two planets at remote positions in space, such as Earth and Apokolips, are moving relative to one another. That's just bullshit.

In the interminable backup about the Hero Formerly Known as Captain Marvel, Billy learns Adam's background, as part of which revelation the wizard reveals that the power of Shazam may flow through families. I bet “family” includes foster families … and the other “Bromfield kids” really need the power by the end when Adam threatens them. I still say this is headed toward the Flashpoint model of all seven kids combining to form Shazam.

Supergirl #20
Home Invasion”

Well, new writer Michael Alan Nelson sure knocked it out of the ball park with this his first issue – taking up right from a cliffhanger in the middle of a story arc. This is good stuff! Kara's undersea Kryptonian Sanctuary's A.I. ultimately decides that Supergirl's the clone, expels Power Girl, and sets about trying to eradicate Supergirl – exhibiting a dry sense of humor right from the start, on page 1: Supergirl: “Sanctuary, stand down!” – Sanctuary: “I can't do that. Primary genetic conflict dictates immediate action. A clone has been detected.” – Power Girl: “I am not a clone.” – Sanctuary: “Chance of clone: 93%. Doppelganger: 44%. Random imposter: 13%. And a repeating .0457% chance of quantum anomaly. Ergo – clone. / Though I could be wrong.” – Power Girl: “You think?” – Sanctuary: “No. Not really. Please remain still while eradication protocol is implemented. Your compliance is greatly appreciated.” And so it goes for the whole bloody issue. Hilarious! Ultimately, Supergirl gets to demonstrate her smarts and teamwork with Power Girl – trapped outside the dome – to destroy Sanctuary (well, almost, as suggested by the epilogue), which is the biggest misstep of this issue if it's truly gone. It could be a great addition to the supporting cast of this book. I immediately like it as much as I like Booster Gold's A.I. Skeets. (If, on the vanishingly small chance Sanctuary ever appears in a film and requires a voice actor, it has to be Jim Parsons. Reread those lines above in Sheldon's voice. – See?)

And there's other good character interaction as Nelson slides right into the place vacated by the departing writer Michael Green. Supergirl might lose her home in the end, but she does gain a big sister, a relationship which I hope continues to be reflected here and in Worlds' Finest. Particularly funny is her commentary on Power Girl's new costume – which Supergirl thinks she's too old for! And again, Asrar's art shines, skillfully depicting Power Girl as indeed an older version of Supergirl. Aaaand more (ahem) developed. The cover could use a little toning down in that area, but other than that (which I would have no problem attributing to editorial mandate to emphasize PG's most … memorable … feature...s …), perfection.

I don't think there's anything to criticise here. This is as close to a perfect comic issue as I've seen in the New 52. It's that good.

Birds of Prey #20
The Cruelest Cut”

Don't you just love it when artists draw characters so disproportionate as to be caricatures? As here, where Starling's head is both too small and perched on a giraffe's neck. So many artists today don't have a basic grasp of anatomy – most often of the female form – it's sad.

Anyway, this issue happens before Batgirl #20. Starling – who, not for the first time, I think, but it never seems to stick with me, is called Evelyn – really does betray the Birds, although she tries to broker an alliance between them and her cohort Mr. Freeze. Canary will have none of it. Freeze does find the secret of the Owls' regeneration. Starling and Batgirl fight to a stand-off. When Freeze and Starling ultimately flee, Batgirl takes Strix out to thaw, only to find Calvin Rose attacking – see Talon #20 below.

An interview I read with writer Christy Marx recently says that Starling is out of the Birds for now. Count me disappointed.

Batgirl #20
A Splinter Where My Heart Should Be”

Well, it seems to me that Birds of Prey is further out of synch with Batgirl than indicated there. I did not care for this issue. At all. Barbara is having a crisis because she believes she killed James Jr. Problem is, James Sr. believes Batgirl killed his son as well, and swears to bring her in. Logically, this should be reflected in the other Bat-books because surely this would cause a rift between Gordon (and the GCPD) and all of them. There's also a very confusing chronology within the issue with the epilogue seeming to happen before the prologue, unless that's some pretentious non-sequential story-telling device. Other bizarre developments include the introduction of a revolting new Ventriloquist. I generally like Gail Simone's writing, and this title, but if this were my first issue I'd never touch it again. And if it continues down this road I may be departing anyway.

Batwoman #20
This Blood is Thick: Cells”

The DEO really does have Beth, and uses her to leverage a deal with Kate – Batman's identity for the Kanes' freedom from the DEO. Then when Kate gets back to Maggie's, she finds her family – Maggie, Jacob and his wife, and Bette – basically doing an intervention. Bette bugged her, and they heard it all.

Is Kate's dissing Bones' “Scout's honor” a commentary on the Boy Scouts' traditional anti-homosexual stance? – if so, it's a bit juvenile, but even more so shows how current events can pass attempts at topicality by.

Nightwing #20
Flying Blind”

Dick's still in Chicago, still looking for Tony Zucco, who is secretly working for the mayor and knows Nightwing is on his tail. Chicago hates “masks,” but has a new villain who happily takes on Nightwing by issue's end.

Higgins continues to introduce new supporting cast, including Dick's new roommate who typically hates “masks” and already had a female roommate who's not actually supposed to be there just now but who unexpectedly finds dick in her bed which the guy had sublet! Both look interesting, but I miss what was being developed before, particularly the Capulet and Montegue budding romance between Dick and the daughter of the man who killed his parents. If I didn't know better, I'd think this “new direction” resulted from a new creative team.

It's a good issue, but I'm hoping this Chicago mission is just a phase.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #20

A.k.a. “This Is Your (Crappy) Life, Jason Todd.” The little mysterious guy tries to show Roy and Kori that Jason wanted the memory wipe, and in so doing reveals that Kori is not so memory impaired as she's been putting on, as well as that Nightwing is indeed still part of her story. I may try going back and reading the early issues of this book with that spin in mind. There's more to the little mysterious guy than he lets on, though, and meanwhile Green Arrow has discovered that the Outlaws are all targets of bounty hunters and sets out to save Roy “again.”

Legion of Super-Heroes #20
Vanishing World”

X minus three issues.

Things continue to go from bad to worse for the Legion as leader Phantom Girl apparently bugs out back to Bgztl, Polar Boy and Invisible Kid are in the ghost dimension, Black Witch and Glorith save the Sorcerer's World from Validus by taking it out of this universe altogether, Brainiac 5 and others sit around moaning, and Chameleon Boy and Ultra Boy appear back on Earth in time to see Persuader standing over a dead Duplicate Damsel.

Aquaman #20
The Others in “Skinwalker”

And now for your regularly-scheduled filler issue. As such, this one is better than most. It feels like they're grooming anOther new title. Based on how much I enjoyed this filler issue, which is not by Geoff Johns but rather by John Ostrander, I may be in. Basically, the Others (what the hell does that name even mean? – “other” than what?) accept a mission from Aquaman to retrieve one of the lost Atlantean weapons from an Apache reservation in Arizona, and along the way seem to pick up a new member.

Note that this issue's cover is the first of my books this week to sport the Man of Steel advert cover banner. Preaching to the choir.

Superman #20

Scott Lobdell has varied from tolerable to gibberish on his other books in the New 52, but so far I've really been liking his Superman, especially post-H'El. The cover seems very retro to me, in a good way. Basically, it's an Orion vs. Superman slugfest until Wonder Woman gets involved, surprised and a bit awkwardly because Orion and Wonder Woman have been together in her title, which I haven't been reading (but incidentally it appears that the events of that title are happening concurrently with her other appearances in the New 52 – a colleague and I were speculating that they were in the past or future), and it appears there's been kissing involved. Anyway, it turns out that Hector Hammond has been hiding out in Superman's brain, causing some kind of hallucinations to him and others around him, maybe living vicariously? It also makes him privy to some dangerous information, but Mother Box deals with that – perhaps not fully as it turns out. The cliffhanger seems to hint at a tattered shred of a memory of an idyllic life married to Lana Lang remaining in Superman's subconscious.

Batman, Incorporated #11
The Batman of Japan in “Interlude: A Bird in the Hand”

This is the month for fillers, isn't it? Grant Morrison lets Chris Burnham write an adventure of the Batman of Japan and his hot little sidekick Canary. Burnham channels Morrison, all right – it's truly bizarre – but it's not really memorable.

Talon #8
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark”

Calvin Rose is dead. Long live Calvin Rose. Or is it “un-live”? Calvin Rose did die last issue, but here he's reanimated by the Owls to find that Casey and Sarah are being held hostage for his toeing the Owls' line. And tortured for good measure. His first mission is to put down the renegade Talon whom the Birds of Prey call Strix – and this issue ends on the very same cliffhanger as Birds of Prey #20, to be continued in the next issue of that title. Meanwhile, Bane and Sebastian Clark are on Santa Prisca preparing an all-out assault on Gotham City.

The next issue or so will tell me whether this book can keep my interest now that the hero is, you know, dead!

Batman: The Dark Knight #20
Down, Down, Down”

Well, like I didn't see that coming. The Mad Hatter has kidnapped Natalya, and he ultimately kills her by dropping from a helicopter directly onto the Bat Signal when she won't be his “Alice” or reveal Batman's identity. All right after Bruce has given in to Alfred and is considering giving up The Mission for her. Since we know Batman will neither stop nor turn into an outright “Punisher”-type character, he either has to foreswear any relationship or realize that his only hope is someone who can give as good as she gets. I imagine Talia's out at this point, and not really an option anyway. Catwoman, on the other hand....

Justice League Dark #20
The Horror City, Part 2: The Nightmare Gospel”

This title is really going through a dry spell for me. Or maybe this issue will read better in trade. I don't know. I don't care for Swamp Thing, and don't think Flash really fits in. But with Flash's help, the JLD finds the House of Mystery and the current Big Bad, who claims to be Madame Xanadu's son Doctor Destiny.

Teen Titans #20
Only Begotten”

This issue mainly provides back story on the New 52 Raven. The cover has nothing to do with the issue other than that Red Robin acknowledges that he's not been acting quite like himself lately – which is a stretch. The Titans are split on trusting Raven, then her three Trigon-looking brothers show up.

Is that a thought balloon I spy on page 2? – they're so rare these days. And Lobdell seems to be channeling Chris Claremont at that point as well with Kid Flash's bathetic self-doubt!

Earth 2 Annual #1
Secrets and Origins”

This is basically just another issue of the series, most notable because it introduces a mysterious new Batman for Earth 2, but it also focuses a bit more on Atom as well as introducing Captain Steel, Mister Miracle, and Big Barda. It does further the story gearing up toward another world war – i.e., the world vs. Steppenwolf's Dherain, while revealing that the New God Kanto is also trapped on Earth 2. Quid plura? It's James Robinson. It's Earth 2. It's great.

Except, all things being equal, I'd prefer not to introduce new analogues to the big three.  If they're really needed, return Huntress and Power Girl to Earth 2 (but keep those new identities) and reform Fury.

Batman: The Dark Knight Annual #1
Once Upon a Midnight Dreary”

This is a great standalone story. Bruce Wayne buys Batman a night off – on Hallowe'en – by luring the Penguin, the Mad Hatter, and Scarecrow into essentially a haunted house and letting their own inner demons torment them. It has some clever bits, especially early on when they're filled with bravado and mutually grousing about Batman. But I don't see how it could possibly happen any time in the present – I can't see Batman being so blasé about Scarecrow and especially Mad Hatter being on the loose after what Hurwitz himself has put him through at their respective hands in the main series.

Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual #1
Trust Fall”

This is definitely part of the narrative, fitting between issues #20 and 21. Green Arrow inadvertently leads Cheshire to the Outlaws' headquarters, and she gives them a run for their money. Meanwhile, Jason discovers the truth about his mercenary assassin life whose memories had been stripped away from him – and he is horrified, fleeing. By the end, Green Arrow is revealed to be scouting for Trevor, but he cuts a deal for Trevor to leave the Outlaws alone. Nevertheless, it seems that Cheshire's assault was more a scouting mission for Bronze Tiger and the League of Assassins ….


Smallville Season 11 #50-53

First we had the rather muddled end of “Valkyrie.” Cat Scaggs has a pleasing art style, but she definitely needs to work on her narrative skills. Right now, she is a much better cover artist than she is a story-teller. In short, Lois and Lana defeat Corbin, but Lana no longer has her Kryptonanite (not a typo)-endowed powers – but she does have a purpose and accepts Lois and Clark's love for one another.
Then we have the three concluding parts of “Argo.” 1) Booster Gold and Skeets are being aggressively interrogated by Nidrigh. Kara is enraged by the desecration of Faora's tomb, and attacks Earthgov troops. Which brings her into conflict with Clark who defends them a fights her down – whereupon they each independently get word that Argo is under attack by Doomsday, which popped out of a Boom Tube. 2) Booster Gold and Skeets break out of captivity. The Legionnaires discover that Argo is responding to Doomsday's attack by launching a Gravity Bomb at Metropolis. The Legion try to intercept it but fail. Superman fights Doomsday, ultimately determining that the only way to destroy it is to push it into the sun – but he knows he will not be able to escape the sun's gravity well. 3) This is where it breaks down. The conclusion seems rushed and hard to follow, and it seems like Booster and Skeets' role was forgotten. Suffice it to say that all works out in the end, with an inspiring scene of the Legionnaires making a human chain to pull Superman out of the sun. In the end, Argo and Earth are suddenly at peace and cooperating. Obviously, a lot happened off-screen. Did the introduction of the side stories a few months ago compel a last minute restructuring of the main story arcs? “Argo” is the first nine-parter we've had; previously the stories have been twelve-parters. If so, I am not happy. What had up until now been a very good story that I enjoyed up to this final chapter kind of went pfffft. And the Legion gets shafted again. No, I am not happy at all.

And that's now it for the digital stuff that I'm keeping up with more or less as it appears.  I do read quite a bit of other digital, but it's often older stuff, often from the '90s, that I missed during my long all-but-abstention from comics (graduate school), and I may or may not blog those individually or in the occasional "Quick Hits," but with the demise of I, Vampire, as well as DC's greedy extension of the wait-for-digital-discount, I'm far less likely to pick up a monthly digital, and the weekly digital-first stuff I find kind of hit or miss.  I am occasionally dipping into some of it, but not consistently.  As I said above, I am also catching up with Injustice:  Gods Among Us, and surprisingly given what I'd heard, I'm liking it.  So far it seems far less a Superman story than a study of how the other heroes and villains would react to him going all Irredeemable on them.  And I just read in #5 probably the best Harley Quinn and Green Arrow story I've ever read.  I have high hopes for the writer taking over Earth 2.  
* * *
So this has been a really mixed month – some really good stuff (Supergirl) and some really bad stuff, but a good bit of blah. And developments at DC continue to give the impression that management and editorial are in shambles.  That's what's most worrisome.

I'm not feeling so cheery right now, but I do thank you for reading.

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