Monday, July 4

Batman and Robin #24, Birds of Prey #13, Red Robin #24, and Superman #712 (8/11)

“The Streets Run Red, Part 2 of 3: Exit Strategy”

Continues directly from last issue. The overall theme is that the ultimate aim of the grueling training regimen that the Bat-family endures is to be adaptable. They never know what threats they may be faced with and must be prepared to “think quickly and act quicker.” It's a lesson Jason Todd recalls from his youth as the second Robin, and that Dick Grayson Batman emphasizes to Damian Wayne, the current Robin. By the end of the issue, being adaptable has led to the latest Dynamic Duo entering into an uneasy alliance with their sometime opponent, Jason, who takes up again his identity as the Red Hood. “This sucks,” Damian proclaims. “Nobody knows that more than me,” agrees Dick.

“Hostile Takeover, Part Two of Two: No Sentence Shall Be Commuted”

Continues directly from last issue. Since Oracle has lost contact with the team infiltrating “Junior's” headquarters, it's up to Huntress and the Question to head to the rescue. Meanwhile, Junior beats the snot out of Dove and Black Canary – seriously injuring the former. She seems all but immune to the Canary cry. We find a little more about Junior – “that she was some awful prodigy that ran the entire west coast crime syndicate, with nothing but a phone and a notepad. … That's the problem. There's nothing. No e-trail, no paper breadcrumbs... She's done exactly the thing I can do the least about.” (See more about this truly sick character here – even though I read the first collection of the current Secret Six series a couple years ago, I didn't make the connection right off.) Desperately, playing on Catman's obvious feelings for Huntress, Oracle consults with him, and is finally inspired to another avenue of attack: “There's only one thing that Junior hates,” Catman informs her. “Exposure. She hates to be seen.” - Oracle's monologue: “Okay. Okay. The who freaking weirdo unmappable building is offline, not computerized... No data flows in or out. But it still has the basic human needs covered, and they are computerized, by the grand municipality of Gotham. That's heat, water, sewer, and … And the lights.” The lights burst on – blinding Junior – just as Huntress enters the fray and kicks her down a stairwell shaft. The Birds get Dove to medical attention in time. The issue closes with Oracle relieving Canary of field leadership (“You haven't been the same since … well, since the divorce [from Green Arrow]”) in favor of Huntress – and vowing that they will take on Junior again: “We ... have one good reason to go back. She hurt my girls. And if it takes forever, she's going to pay for that. Who's in?”

But it won't be next issue, apparently – which is announced as a two-parter by another writer, Mark Andreyko, who spotlights “the original Phantom Lady's return to Gotham City!” The preview cover image looks like it will be either set in the past or at least recall the earlier World War II era as part of its plot. A two-parter will run out the pre-September issues. Looks like this was Gail Simone's swan song on the Birds.  Will this hanging plot thread ever be taken up again? Things like this will be a litmus test as to how much a “reboot” the post-Flashpoint relaunch will really be.

“7 Days of Death, Part Two: It's Not Paranoia...”

Finding himself the real target of the “Assassination Game” (last issue, not that I really gave much of a synopsis there) – fighting for his life, Tim Drake muses over the question of “why do so many people make killing their life's work--?” Thoughtful young man, although maybe this isn't really the place...? By the end he finds that it's his inquisitive nature that has led to him being “targeted for death in this tournament....” Captured by a couple of babe-o-licious assassins (if you ignore the brunette's black-void eyes with dark energy pouring from them), he finds that it's because he “seek[s] to learn too much. The secrets surrounding the ancient art of killing are meant as a divine promise to knowledge and power – and can not be usurped by one who strives for order. It is unexpected irony that to obtain these ancient secrets, you must die tonight … because I wanted nothing more from you than the very essence of life, Timothy. Though your flesh dies now, know that your spirit will be honored – and you will live on – through the child you are about the give me...” She drops her clothes and Tim's eyes bug out … “Next: What a Way to Go!”

“Lost Boy: A Tale of Krypto the Superdog”

This is a rather irritating practice that seems somewhat more prevalent these days than in times past, although that may be more of an impression created by us simply having more information about upcoming issues than was once the case – a last minute change from the solicited story to a “file” story. I first suspected that what happened here was that DC realized at some point that their current schedule was going to have “Grounded” ending in July, with a “lame duck” issue coming out in August before the “relaunch” of September. Oops. Way to guarantee sales in the tank! Better to pull a “bait and switch” in June and put the “lame duck” issue out then, with the climax of “Grounded” coming out as the climax of the current series – I thought that may have been their reasoning. But inspection of the solicitations doesn't really support that theory. Here are the original solicitation texts:

Original solicitation for Superman #712 to appear in June: Meet Los Angeles’s newest super hero in the latest Chapter of “Grounded”: Sharif! But Sharif discovers that in today’s current cultural climate, some people don’t want his help – they just want him gone. Can Superman aid Sharif and quell a prejudiced public, or are there some problems too big even for the Man of Steel to solve?

Original solicitation for Superman #713 to appear in July: What could possibly make The Man of Steel decide to stop being Superman? Superboy and Supergirl catch up with him in Portland, Oregon, and they want answers!

Original solicitation for Superman #714 to appear in August: Superman hits Seattle for his last stop on his “Grounded” walk across the country, and it is in that city where everything will come to a head! The mysterious woman who has been following Superman all year makes a desperate final move, one that may cost the Man of Steel that which he holds most dear!

Three more parts of “Grounded,” three more months (June-July-August) to get them out. I really don't know what's up. If there are really three more parts to the “Grounded” story, DC has a scheduling problem if they don't want the conclusion to be delayed until after the relaunch. Or, I have seen some speculation online that DC is not wanting the controversy that will doubtless attend the publication of a story with a Muslim/Arabic hero encountering American prejudice – a story that arguably would be meaningless in a couple months anyway. Whatever. We'll see if the “Sharif” story actually appears.

Anyway, the current issue as it stands was written and filed away some time ago by Kurt Busiek. It's a charming little tale of Krypto's anguish after the death of Connor Superboy in Infinite Crisis and the subsequent disappearance of Superman during the gap between that story and the “One Year Later” period that followed. A lot can be done without dialog (since Krypto can't talk, and we don't get the “cheat” of listening in on his “thoughts”). Makes you really feel for the pooch, especially in the last panel which has him lying morosely on an asteroid next to where the Smallville DPW manhole cover had come to rest when he and Connor last used it to play Frisbee-catch. If it had still been J. Michael Straczynski scripting “Grounded,” this probably would have been a superior story to that … but Chris Roberson has been doing very well picking up the pieces there so maybe not. Oh well. It's a good story in itself, but just another interruption to "Grounded" (this is the third or maybe fourth - I'm not bothering to look it up).

Just because every time I read a Krypto story I always think of it, here's a link to a great one:  Starwinds Howl, by Elliot S! Maggin, who also wrote a pair of great Superman prose novels back in the late 1970s-early 1980s.

No comments:

Post a Comment