Sunday, April 29

DC Comics – May 2012

[Link to last month]

This month sees the advent of the new DC Entertainment logo – only a few years after the introduction of the “DC Swirl” logo. I'm not sure what the nickname for this one will end up being – “DC Page Flip”? In any case, just for a little historical perspective, here's a picture of the logos that have graced the covers of over seventy years of DC comics, along with the year each was introduced.

Unfortunately, the effect of the debut of the new logo is diluted a bit since it's incorporated into a banner across the top of every. Single. DC. Comic published this month, publicising DC's “We Can Be Heroes” drive for aid to the people of the Horn of Africa. Laudable cause. Lousy timing for the launch of the new logo.

Action Comics #7
Superman's Doomsday Decision”

This issue opens with Superman literally taking a running start and jumping into space with the help of a makeshift ramp – all the way to the Collector of Worlds' ship. Gaining access, he finds a number of shrunken cities and is confronted by the Collector, which give him a choice that centers around the philosophical debate of nature vs. nurture – he may save one of “his” cities, Kandor from his lost homeworld of Krypton or Metropolis from his adopted world of Earth. Being Superman, he refuses and declares a third choice, to fight for both. He dons white Kryptonian battle armor which is among the artifacts displayed by the Collector, which armor then shifts colors into the familiar red and blue pattern that we identify as Superman's. An in-story explanation will evidently have to wait.

Meanwhile, Luthor is finding out how bad a deal he made … Lois really ought to have broken that finger he dismissively shushed her with.

The best lines in this issue: “We are the colony of the Collector of Worlds. … On Yod-Colu We began as C.O.M.P.U.T.O. … On Noma they called Us Pneumenoid. … On Bryak: Mind2. … On Krypton – where you were born – We were Brainiac 1.0. … On Earth – We were Internet.” – Grrnf, indeed! Another excellent issue, although again the artistic quality seemed inconsistent despite a single penciller and single inker being credited.

Steel in … Meanwhile”

John Henry Irons is busing working in the sections of Metropolis that were not taken by the Collector, acting as a hero even as his inner'logue commentary focusses on the Metropolitans themselves rallying as heroes. Another fine writing job by Sholly Fisch, who's handled all these Action Comics backups. I see from the Comic Book Database that he (she?) has been around since the late 1980s, but only here have I taken notice. Mostly I think it's because he's mainly worked in the “all-ages” comics for both DC and Marvel. DC – don't let him get away!

Review: – although I interpret Steel's inner'logue at the beginning to mean that he's on Earth, not in the newly bottled city center of Metropolis: “New Troy is the heart of Metropolis … Or at least it was, until about an hour ago – when New Troy suddenly vanished. … Yes, 'vanished.' … Superman took off to find out who or what was responsible – And to bring the city back. … In the meantime – The city still needs a hero to keep things together here on the ground.” His commentators set him straight, though.

Justice League International #7

It's the immediate aftermath of the explosion which left several members of the nascent group critically injured – and at least Rocket Red dead as well as the two UN handlers. Whereupon insult is added to injury when the UN orders what's left of the group disbanded, and Booster Gold comes under further attack. He's being thoroughly whipped when Batwing shows up.

This issue seams to signify a major shift in membership as well as the status of the UN's own super-team. Can Rocket Red really be dead? – I think there's still something to be developed out of that scene in the previous issue. … Although he wasn't publicly up there with the team … since, you know, the UN didn't want him as a member … Batman was there nonetheless, surreptitiously observing the ceremony, and has headed off on his own search for the attacker – who is right here, giving Booster a beat-down. Attacker? – well, agent – because he's being directed in his actions.

“In their darkest hour ...” (proclaims the cover) here we have another issue that I found more compelling than their first “mission.” The reviewer below doesn't agree –

Detective Comics #7
The Snake and the Hawk”

Long and short, it turns out the Penguin has been orchestrating everything to eliminate his competition in Gotham City. It's a confusing, muddled story right to the end. From the cliffhanger ending last issue, Batman and the latest love of his life turn out to be in a giant ice-maker set to grind, but they escape when he has Alfred maneuver the Bat-Sub to crash through it. The Bat-Sub would be underwater, right, therefore would strike below the waterline, right, therefore would sink the Iceberg Lounge, right? There are other bits but I just don't care enough to comment. But hope springs eternal – at least we're at the end of a story arc, maybe the next will be better...?

Review: – The reviewer is right about Daniel's art being top-notch. His writing's turned to crap, though.

Batwing #7
But There Were Consequences For Us.”

As the Bat-allies search Gotham City for the last two members of the Kingdom, Batman and Batwing fly from Africa, questioning Steelback along the way. They learn of the devil's deal the Kingdom made with the last standing dictator they'd been fighting against to keep the People's Army from being destroyed. It led to the massacre of the warlords' army of children. In shame, the Kingdom disappeared. Nightwing and Robin find the missing Kingdom members too late to forestall their deaths, and find themselves facing Massacre … and Steelback's armor. It was pretty obvious to me who's wearing it – their old civilian advisor, who was outraged by their betrayal.

I continue to really enjoy this title. The shift in locale to Gotham for the present-day action made the shift to Dustin Nguyen's art a bit less jarring than it might have been, but I prefer the previous look by Ben Oliver – unlike the reviewer below, who also declares himself to have been getting bored with this title of late, but to like this issue better. We agree on the last point – this issue is good.

Random thought inspired by an ad on this review web-page that might not stay, but hey – Every time I see Bane in the upcoming Dark Knight Rises I think of the Gimp from Pulp Fiction … even though it turns out the Gimp would look more like the comics' Bane than DKR's (in my opinion)
The Dark Knight Rises
Bane in the comics
The Gimp from Pulp Fiction

Stormwatch #7
Supercritical, Part One”

Mysterious radiations from Chernobyl lead Apollo to investigate, and even he is nearly overwhelmed. He's saved by the Martian Manhunter and Jenny Quantum, while Jack Hawksmoor mystically converses with the sick old many that is the city depopulated by the Chernobyl disaster (being tended by healthy young-appearing nurses Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which cities recovered from their bombings). Martian Manhunter reveals his confirmed suspicions regarding the scope of what they face: “They are an ancient enemy, known to my people. … They have been to this universe once before, and almost destroyed it. … They exist in a parallel dimension, unaware of our existence. In their plane, gravity is a commodity. They came here once before to mine for it. And in so doing they destroyed countless galaxies. … I believe the reaction at the Chernobyl reactor created a subatomic particle we call a Pradesh Graviton, which the miners saw as a beacon. … They're going to come back. And they are going to tear apart our universe. And there is nothing we can do to prevent this from happening.” Guess we're all about to find out how [insert species endangered by humans' extracting resources] feel.

Well, the mindbendiness is still very much here with the new writer, Paul Jenkins. Is this a carryover Paul Cornell plot? … I found the artistic narrative even more confusing at times with the advent of new artist Ignacio Calero.

Huntress #6 of 6
Crossbow at the Crossroads, Part Six”

Is there some meaning to the title of this arc, “Crossbow at the Crossroads,” that I'm not getting? I've held off on asking until the end, but it seems pretty generic.

Isn't that an endearing “Oh crap!” expression on the cover?

Helena is on the run from the Italian authorities, wth a billion-Euros price on her head – so naturally she confronts the son of dead Ibn Hassan in his stronghold on the Island of Capri (and we get some more nicely authentic visuals). Rather surprisingly, when he begs for his life, she cuts him a deal, assuring him that if he continues to follow in his father's footsteps, “<I'll show you what it's like to be a hunted animal … even if I have to track you across the desert. … And about the billion-Euro price on my head … I just take it as a compliment. … How about double or nothing? … If no one collects in a year … donate two billion to charities for abused women. And if you've kept your promises, I won't kill you. Bye.> Back in her civilian identity, she still finds it hard to get out of Italy – then Kara shows up, and off they fly into the pages of World's Finest … in two months.

This has been quite an enjoyable, pulpish little read. I did notice one artistic faux pas – at one point Helena springs out of a pool of water with her hair immediately dry and bouncy. I always notice that kind of thing mainly because I remember so well being stricken by the realism of Dave Cockrum's depiction of Legionnaires dripping wet in one of the stories in Superboy #202 (Jun 1974).

Superboy #7
Untamed Rose!”

Rose opens a can of whupass on Superboy, in retaliation for him causing her to lose Caitlin – she doesn't listen long enough for Superboy to reveal that he actually took Caitlin to safety. Superboy is captured and ordered dissected – or the proper term would be vivisected – and Templar expresses hope that he may contain a cure for his own condition. Along the way Superboy hallucinates (?) a different location, and also learns that he's not the first of NOWHERE's clones. There are two postscripts: 1) Caitlin is in protective custody, but not happy that her mission into NOWHERE is compromised; 2) Wonder Girl appears and sucker-punches Rose, itching for a rematch with Superboy.

This issue is a Lobdell plot but a DeFalco script. I don't recall if this is another of DC's creative team shifts that's happening around about now, or whether it has to do with the big crossover that this is leading up to.

Batman and Robin #7

I usually complain about an overabundance of full page splashes, but this time I don't begrudge them because they are used so well to convey moments of exceptional emotional impact. Here are three:
 And they punctuate one of the most powerful and brutal fights I've seen in a while, partially because we've been building toward it so steadily.

The long and short of the story is this: Morgan Ducard a.k.a. Nobody almost goads Bruce into killing and betraying his ideals, and in the end does succeed in goading Damian into killing. “Next: Atonement.”

This has shaped up into a fantastic story. I particularly liked Bruce's response to Damian's question, “Did you think I betrayed you, Father?” – “Not for a second.” – A long pause. – “Well, maybe just a second.” … Right before Damian does betray the ideal that Bruce has just barely managed to uphold.

Batwoman #7
To Drown the World, Part Two”

It's been four weeks since Bette was attacked. Taking up immediately from last issue, Batwoman beats Scythe and “descythes” him. Whereupon not only does the man begin wailing for his hook – but the hook starts wailing for its body! “What th–?” doesn't even begin to convey Kate's shock, which compounds as Scythe metamorhoses into some chap named Rush, who I'm apparently supposed to know since she does. “Rush?! … What happened to you?” “You promised to protect me!” he accuses, but is he talking to Kate or the hook?

And then the nonlinear character vignettes take off again, just like last issue – in fact, continued from last issue: Jacob with Bette three weeks ago – Is she showing some response?; Kate and Maggie two weeks ago – Abbott of the Religion of Crime interrupts their breakfast to bring Kate information on Medusa's leader Falchion; Two months ago – a sacrifice of three girls incarnates Bloody Mary, whose real name is Mary Worth? (Nooooo.....); One week ago – Maggie captures “a snake” (her words) named Sune, who has nothing to do with the snake-skinned woman who used to associate with Abbott – her name was Whisper A'Dayre (I think), and she was a ginger. Apparently about the same time, we get another moment with Agent Chase, Batwoman, and her new tech, as well as orders – Batwoman is being sent to extract Sune from GCPD and Maggie's custody.

Back in the present, Falchion natters on about the fertile field of Gotham's superstition, and evidently Kate's as bored with it as I am because she just says, “FALCHION!Let's get on with it!”

Much as I do like looking at J. H. Williams III's art, Amy Reeder's is easier to follow as a story – at least at the micro level of the individual vignettes. How all those vignettes fit together at the macro level … that's not an artistic issue but rather a writing issue.  Yes, it's pretty explicit from the time-stamps, but trying to keep so many jumping around multiple issues straight in the mind?  Not so easy.

Batgirl #7
A View From Below”

Hey, DC! It's definitely possible to overuse a given narrative structure – in this case the nonlinear, beginning in media res structure that seems to crop up more and more. But that's where this issue begins – in media res, where Batgirl is barely managing to survive a fight in the sewer against Grotesque. Then we bounce back to Barbara sparring with Black Canary as they engage in some girl-to-girl talk, which is all juxtaposed with Babs' mother finally meeting with Jim Gordon and starting to explain her abandoning them nine years ago (which means Barbara is 21 now, because previously she said her mother left when she was twelve). Then Barbara heads off on a mission to thwart a robbery. We go back to the aftermath of the fight, where Batgirl unmasks a henchman and is shocked to recognize him as one of the Joker's men that awful night three years ago.

Is Batgirl still being outfitted by Bruce? I would imagine so, especially after last issue. … You know, I'm not sure I'd want to be in trouble waiting for her help! … The flashback scenes this issue sport a different penciller, which is a different way to give the main artist a breather rather than replacing him with a full-on guest artist.

Demon Knights #7
In: The End of All Things”

Every time I look at this cover I see the Scarlet Witch.

“Ah, you must be the Demon's Knights. I was told to find you. … Their Highnesses of Alba Sarum wish me to speed you to their city. … Be joyful! You have protected our nation and its people. … Here today you have won a great victory.” These words appear on the last page, spoken by a herald to the Demon Knights as they survey the devastation of Little Spring. The Knights are wounded. The key to their victory was Vandal Savage's double treachery, but even so they only survived because Horsewoman brought the troops of Alba Sarum to their aid. In the course of the issue, Madame Xanadu was restored to youth but then injured, the Shining Knight was also injured. And I'm sure there was more. But at this point, their victory tastes like ashes.

Legion Lost #7
When Katia Cries--!”

The editors – Brian Cunningham, assisted by Darren Shan – suck on this series. It's appallingly unprofessional. I've commented on it before. Elementary grammatical and spelling errors. This issue, on page 5 jumps out a simple misuse of the form “principal” where “principle” is meant.

Getting past that, however, I'm surprised – given my general like of Fabian Nicieza in the past – to say that Tom DeFalco, the new writer, is much better, at least on this series. Surprised because, if I've read much by DeFalco it didn't impress itself on me enough to remember his name, and there has been a general outcry since the announcement that did not predispose me to like the change. But frankly, I've been very disappointed with Nicieza's execution of this title from day one, and I enjoyed this issue much better. I'm not enough of an analytical critic to say exactly why – but I did.

The “lost” members of the Legion are in New York, in a quandary over how to proceed. They're also being tailed by a local lowlife. Timber Wolf catches him and is tipped off to a drug gang, taking them down and stealing their money. One problem solved – although it causes the Legionnaires some moral anxiety. Is that what they're here for?, is this what they're reduced to? Tellus detects a girl (Katia) nearby, suffering. After debate, their rescue mission is aborted when it turns out she's in a hospital, in a coma. Tellus stays with her mentally as she dies, giving her some peace and receiving some as well.

A few other comments. Tyroc plays a very diplomatic role in this issue, recalling to me his characterization in the love-it-or-hate-it “Five Years Later” Legion. What is the secret that Tellus is carrying? Why is no one apparently noticing Gates' mutation? – something I've wondered before even if I haven't commented on it.

Even though I enjoyed this issue better, I still see this series as superfluous and only get it because it's Legion. If I had my druthers they'd resolve it, get them back to the main title, and concentrate on having one top-notch Legion title rather than diluting the brand. If you are going to have two, make them both relevant, and if they could pull off a “bridge” title connecting the Legion brand with the rest of the DCnU, that would be cool. So far, this one does neither, in my opinion

Justice League #7
The Villain's Journey, Prologue”

Here is a fleshed-out version of the notes I jotted down as I read this issue – what I usually use to refer to as I compose my write-up, but here delivered in more raw, albeit “decoded” and expanded form …

“We need the real heroes” comment by a bystander is sure to breed resentment among the police and other “real world” figures who risk themselves for others … see the inset face at the bottom of that same page (3) as the Justice League Boom Tubes in. Cyborg's connection with Apokaliptian tech is central to his character and this book. “Orb of Ra”? [I knew it sounded familiar, just couldn't place exactly what it is – the DC Wiki probably is currently pre-Flashpoint, but here it is.] Is this story really present day? – the people seem caught up in the initial super hero enthusiasm which comes off as very different from the portrayal of the heroes and their interactions with the public in other books. The characterizations seem off, mainly in that there doesn't seem to have been any real development in the heroes as characters or as a team in the five years since the previous issue. Taken alone, this book is entertaining enough, but it seems not to fit well with the overall New 52. The jubilant man in the fawning crowd making a “JL” with his hands and proclaiming them to be “Super Friends” reaches the level of caricature. The attitude of Congress, receiving a report from liaison Steve Trevor of A[dvanced] R[esearch] G[roup] U[niting] S[uperhumans], is much more suspicious and in line with the overall New 52. Nevertheless, as I read though page after page this just gets worse and worse: Trevor's interaction with the JL, Green Lantern's frat-boyish demands, Batman's demand that Justice League International be shut down is totally inconsistent with his portrayal in that book (could he really be that … two-faced?) And finally, in one of the lamest aspects of this opening salvo of the second story arc, it looks like David Graves, the author who seems to have dubbed them the “Justice League” and called them “Gods Among Men” last issue is the budding villain of the issue/story arc title. Shock! Horror! How could it be?

Gene Ha does a good job complementing Jim Lee's style as the artist for this issue (how many issues?), so it looks good. But frankly the story was crap.


I'd actually read this as a digital download when it was available free the day the issue was released. Not to be a Nattering Nabob of Negativity, I didn't care for it either time I read it. I love the original, the only real-to-me Captain Marvel as a character and a concept that is intrinsically upbeat, childhood wish-fulfilment, in some ways the perfect super hero archetype for kids, a reminder of a simpler, better time. Maybe it really wasn't, but in memory it is still yet green. The darkening of the concept in various attempts to make it “relevant” seems to me to be an exercise in futility, because it just does not work. And DC throwing in the towel on the very name of the character since Marvel will not let go of the trademark on the name “Captain Marvel” and changing it to “Shazam” makes the situation worse. Better just to retire the property altogether. Won't happen. DC will continue to try to milk it, and pervert it, in an attempt to exploit it, and while the stories that result may end up being readable or even good in and of themselves, they will not be Captain Marvel.

Just had to get that off my chest.

Just a couple of comments. Dr. Sivana, now a Luthor-clone even in looks, is collating numerous reports from around the world of ordinary people swept out of their everyday lives to encounter an old man who then declares them unsuitable with the Legend of Black Adam – seeking magic in a bid to save his family where science has failed. And we meet Billy BRATson … er Batson … who is thoroughly unlikeable. The last two pages are a typical Geoff Johns teaser sequence, laying out the new motif of the backup feature “each and every month in Justice League”: “Billy Batson is trouble. But rouble is relative. For centuries science has ruled the world. Now magic is returning. And an ancient, brutal evil with it. If the world is to survive the plague of horror on the horizon, Billy Batson must embrace his greatest wish. And learn his greatest lesson. Billy must become … SHAZAM!” And we see the new Capt – er, Shazam – visually not that much different except that the flap of the cape now is a full-blown hood (not a bad touch).

It looks impressive. I'm just not that excited by it. Thank God I have my two-volume library bound collection of the 1990s Jerry Ordway Power of Shazam series, the last time Cap was done right … and since this is my creation, I had the volumes stamped on the spines with the rightful title: Captain Marvel.

After the two features we got what looks to be a new text page feature, a double-page spread that appears to be advertisement/cross-promotion executed by DC “family” of titles. Not a bad idea, but I would rather have a letter column – especially would I rather have a letter column than what I consider to be the useless “All Access” page at the very end. [See previous rant about letter columns.]

Wonder Woman #7
Il Gangster Dell'Amore”

“The Gangster of Love,” eh? Say it with Oswald's voice from Drew Carey, low and sexy, with a hint of a smirk … and keep a straight face: “The Gangster of Luhhhhhve!”

Wonder Woman, Hermes, and whatever-his-name-is find Eros – see title – who takes them to the bestial-looking Hephaestus. They seek weapons to “bargain” with Hades for Zola. Hell attacks and Wonder Woman discovers the reason for the lack of male Amazons. In the night she attacks Hephaestus to free her enslaved (and newly realized) brothers, but they beg her to leave them be with their Master. It's maybe a more straightforward issue, but the quite unsettling portrayal of Wonder Woman's Amazons as female rapist-murderers of hapless seamen (which, come to think of it is a pun about on Azzarello's level … and there I did it again!), while in accord with Greek legend, still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

This book just got dropped from my pre-order floppy pull-list. So Wonder Woman is my first official drop from the New 52 (I don't count Red Hood since I never really expected to go past #1). I'm replacing it either with Green Lantern (main title only) or with the new Ravagers title since I'm betting it's going to be so intertwined with Superboy and Teen Titans as to be an all-but-necessary read. I'm sure my colleague who still likes this title will keep me up-to-speed, and I can always pick up the digitals or the trades.

Batman #7
The Talons Strike!”

Batman has managed to get away from captivity, the current dead Talon has been taken in for study by Alfred. It turns out that the Court of Owls are using ancient tech based on Electrum to animate corpses as weapons. The current one is Dick's grandfather … and Dick's body contains the same tech in the form of a filling through the connection of Haly's Circus with the Court of Owls. Dick takes exception to Bruce's developing antagonistic paradigm of Bats vs. Birds. And the Court of Owls unleash an army of Talons on Gotham in an image that looks like the Wizard of Oz's flying monkeys (which scared the shit out of me any I think every other kid who saw that movie at a young age).

Well, obviously we now see Batman and Nightwing coming together … very closely – see Nightwing below. Their stories, I mean – that's not meant as a double entendre.

Review: – I see I wasn't the only one who wondered who the heck was that girl “Harper” who defibbed Bruce with jumper cables in the back of the van at the beginning of the issue. I have to ask, however … what “posts” were they clamped to? Ayiyiyiiiigh!

Supergirl #7
Graduation Day”

The showdown between Kara and the four World Killers in New York City. Reign yammers on about how she – it? – woke in an abandoned Kryptonian facility with an imperative to conquer and destroy. Kara is determined to protect the innocents of this world that so far has really done nothing to endear itself to her. I am so happy that, contrary to what their own prepublication information led us to believe, they are going with this characterization and not the hostility toward Earth that she might, quite frankly, be justified in given the grief she's caught so far. But she's being beaten until she figures to turn one World Killer's power against another, critically wounding it. Reign … backs down – unwilling to lose one of her – its? – “siblings”? – “race”? – but does get in a parting shot that there's a fifth World Killer out there. My speculation is Doomsday.

So the people of Earth get their first real introduction to Supergirl, and she's clearly acting as a hero. This bodes well. But she still knows no language but Kryptonian. This has got to change.

Continuity-wise, I think Kara goes from here to her encounter with Superboy, then her appearance in Superman.

Birds of Prey #7
Brain Damage”

Everything goes all wrong as Choke is revealed to be their new ally Trevor – but he's planted triggers in the Birds so that Starling almost kills two of her teammates and Ivy can't exist as both human and part of the Green. Then Katana kills him and the team falls apart. Canary is in shock and Batgirl comforts her. Then Katana calls and says that the soul that is now in her sword – Trevor – is not really Choke! Could it have been someone else manipulating him and playing everything via a trigger?

Nightwing #7
Turning Points”

Saiko is Raymond, a childhood friend of Dick's long thought dead. I think we already knew that. He tells Dick that Haly's Circus is a training ground for assassins for the Circle of Owls. Young Dick was to be one of their recruits, but when he left the Circus after the death of his parents, the Circle took the friend instead. But then the Circle deemed him unworthy and left him to die. The list of names in the book is the string of assassins.

This exposition is given while Dick and Saiko fight. Dick defeats him, of course, and saves the audience of the benefit performance – with surprising help from Raya.

On that page where Raymond is falling and Dick catches him by shooting a grappling harpoon through his leg – OW! – merits more than the “ARH!” that is shown.

After a chilly encounter with Raya who is under arrest, having confessed yet giving him the silent treatment when he asks “Why?,” we get a duplicate of the scene with Dick and Bruce in the Cave from the Batman issue, which ends with Dick headed off to investigate a double murder involving one of his escrima sticks.

Those parallel scenes in Batman and Nightwing are a good way to handle “crossovers.” This isn't the first time I've seen it used, and it must be used judiciously, but telling the same scene from the differing perspectives of various participants as part of the narrative within their own title is a way to uphold DC's “promise” that New 52 crossovers would be more reader-friendly for fans who might be regular followers of only one affected title. It's far superior, in my opinion, than the practice of a narrative that bounces explicitly from one title to the other – like is happening in Justice League Dark and I, Vampire, and will be happening in Superboy, Teen Titans, and Legion Lost as I understand it. It is not at all necessary to be reading Batman to understand from the scene in Nightwing just what's going on and how it relates to Dick.

Catwoman #7
But There's No Harm in Taking a Good Hard Look.”

Oh, look, it's that same “Oh crap” expression that the Huntress had! Like mother, like daughter … er, sort of, maybe, who knows ….

Selina and her new partner/fence/intended restraining influence have been carrying out a spate of high-price auto thefts. The good cop who had been putting pieces together about her then secretly let her go rather than see her murdered in GCPD custody again puts pieces together – but is told not to go after her. He does so anyway and gets the drop on her via a setup tailor-made to draw her in like catnip. But a new meta (from whom she'd unknowingly poached a car theft earlier in the issue) rescues her – on her own bike (He screeches to a halt, “Get on.” – “That's my bike,” she protests. – “I know. It's nice. Can we go?”) – and proposes an alliance. He goes by “Spark.”

Nice touches: Good Cop's joke – “What's the difference between a good cop in Gotham and Bigfoot?” – “Some people say they've actually seen Bigfoot.” – “Amen.” … New fence Gwen's attempts to restrain Selina's self-destructive impulses include forbidding her having sex with costumed crime fighters.

New artist Adriana Melo (not the cover artist) is less mangaesque than what we had before, but a little clunky. It had me thinking of Ramon Bachs, which is not a good thing, but overall the art wasn't bad.

Note: That is an accurate Ferrari symbol on the key on the cover, and as Selina says at one point inside, a Ferrari 2011 California is about $190,000 (per the Internet, $192,000).

Legion of Super-Heroes #7
Phoenix Rising”

No, not Jean Grey. Chinese nationalism. That's what the main plot driving this issue (and last) is, it turns out. Elements of a budding Chinese separatist effort are put down by the team at the Sea of Fire and at Dragonwing's sister's – with help from reinforcements, and we mainly get to see the now-costumed Harmonia cut loose. It's impressive. Dragonwing and Chemical Kid separately get a bit more insight into the reality of being Legionnaires.

Also, the Dominators are still working on creating a lead-proof Daxamite army. Mon-El gives in to Brainiac 5 and plans to call a leader election. Chameleon Boy admits that he got lucky in not getting killed for a fleeting moment of carelessness.

It's interesting how Levitz is adding to the richness of 31st-century Earth, which is not so united, in ways that I don't remember him exploring back in his classic 1980s run. Portela's art shines more and more each issue, but we won't have him next issue. Instead we are treated to returns by “classic” Legion artists Steve Lightle (yes! – from the aforementioned 1980s run … I just hope it's not as disappointing as the Moys' return to the Legion in Star Trek-LSH has been!) and Yilderay Cinar (very good on the just-previous run, but isn't that a bit too recent to laud as “classic”?).

Aquaman #7
The Others”

At the get-go, Black Manta chases down a Middle-Eastern girl (full burqa and veil) in the Brazilian jungle – Kahina the Seer – and kills her, taking from her some artifact. (This scene caused a bit of a controversy among Iranian-Americans because Kahina, the first [?] Iranian super heroine makes it all of eight pages before being killed.) Meanwhile, Aquaman and Mera are working to save a bunch of fishing boats from a mysterious storm then go to Dr. Shin seeking answers about the Atlantean relic Aquaman has from two issues ago. Via Shin's TV, we find that “Aquawoman” is still wanted by the authorities for her “brutal attack” on the lecherous grocer and assault on police officers last issue; who called him on the phone then hung up? The relic shows a brief hologram of a man proclaiming, “<Atlantis is in danger.>” A great-deal-less-than-half-clad jungle girl Ya'wara appears hell-bent on killing Shin in revenge for Kahina. Since these people all seem to know each other – and jungle girl is on first name basis with Arthur – Mera demands to know what's going on, “AND WHO THE HELL IS SHE?” Mera does have green eyes, you know. There is a final image (from Shin's notes?) of a very young Arthur with others who include Ya'wara and Kahina. It's an intriguing beginning to the second story arc.

Superman #7
To Hel and Back”

One mark of a good inker is how they adapt and let the style of individual pencillers shine through. Jesus Merino's finishes of George Perez's layouts looked different from his finishes of Dan Jurgens' pencils. Just saying, but that's just one dimension of the new creative team that launches this issue – Keith Giffen scripting his co-plot with Dan Jurgens, and Merino finishing the latter's pencils. Much as I revere George Perez, I'm hoping this signifies an improving shift in this title.

We open with Superman in the midst of battle, feeling like he's being called out. We're treated to the clean-up crew's cynicism that they're the ones having to pick up the pieces. Cut to the Himalayas, where we see strange creatures in some complex under the mountains sporting the skull seal that has cropped up here and there. Their leader has detected a Kryptonian on Earth. There is a footnote reference to Stormwatch #5 and 6, where this creature crashed on Earth, and also to Grifter #6 for an explanation of something about unique human energy patterns. I get the former, but don't remember what that's about; I don't get the latter, don't intend to, don't really care. The leader's name is “Helspont” but he looks like a cross between Dormammu and the Ghost Rider (so what if they're both Marvel?).

Anyway, Clark is having a hard time keeping up with three simultaneous conversations with Lois, Jimmy, and Perry, one of which will have consequences later. His inner'logue laments his inherent conflict of interest since being assigned to the “Superman beat.” At STAR Labs, the attacker he defeated earlier reanimates and comes for him at the Daily Planet. Clark is at pains to keep his identity secret – then they are teleported to Helspont. There is a nifty snippet about the Kryptonian “biotech” armor, but I'm not sure what it means. In the confrontation with Helspont, Superman finds out a bit about Earth's place in the cosmos. “This world's propensity for spontaneous genetic mutation dates back to the earliest recorded history. … The God Veil is thinner here than on any other world save for the Twin Worlds, the Dark and the Light in perpetual conflict [obviously Apokalips and New Genesis]. … Even the wretched Guardians have seen fit to place a sentry among them. … Why is this world not a Daemonite dominion?” Because that's what Helspont is – a Daemonite. Which, since I didn't read any Wildstorm Universe titles except for most of Planetary, means exactly nothing to me. Yes, it's a Wildstorm carryover. See here. I can't say I'm especially happy with how this Wildstormization of the DCnUniverse is going.

As Helspont rebukes Superman for his impertinence in not submitting to him, Lucy Lane ends up stranded at Metropolis' Weisinger Plaza Memorial Station – her pickup was what Lois was arranging with Clark.

Batman: The Dark Knight #7
The Final Curtain”

The battle with Bane in this roundrobin (?) of clashes with Bat-villains concludes. Batman finds and releases the captive Poison Ivy – who is depicted as green here. Superman pushes Flash to the point that the Venom is nullified. Flash is then instrumental in defeating Bane.

On the last page we find out there is a connection between Jai and the White Rabbit.

Next: Tweedledum and Tweedledee. That I did not see coming. When was the last time these two were seen? Is there an Alice in Wonderland motif going here?

I could repeat the snark and criticisms from previously, but frankly it ain't worth it. Id est quid est. And this White Rabbit's hot. So's Jai. So's Ivy, for that matter. Finch can draw hot women. Yessir he can.  Who cares if they all look the same (except White Rabbit's white, Jai's brown, and Ivy's green) -- they're all smokin'!

Justice League Dark #7
Red Blood, Dark Magic – Part 1 of Rise of the Vampires”

Cain, the progenitor of Evil, was released by the death of Andrew Bennett. He is stealing all magic, which is making the Justice League Dark's powers and abilities go wonky – and some dialogue as well, so much so that I wondered if this were written by someone other than Milligan. Madame Xanadu dispatches John Constantine and Deadman to the Afterlife to bring back Bennett, and herself on a mission to get aid – which sounds as if it will come at great personal cost. There is a full on War of Vampires in Gotham City. In addition to the cameo by Batman through the crossover events with I, Vampire, Batgirl is also part of the fray for a brief time, long enough to almost get bitten, and long enough for her to reveal that Batman has warned her about Zatanna's group. Man, since he's worked alongside Z even in issue #1 of this series, then goes dissing them behind her back like he's doing the JLI, maybe he is that two-faced. Yes, I said it again.

I, Vampire #7
Blame It On Cain – Part 2 of Rise of the Vampires”

I got the hard copy since it's part of the numbered crossover. Yeah, DC, you got me. This time. Don't count on it next time.

Through Bennett's debate with a disembodied voice in the afterlife, we get a bit of background in a magnificent double-page spread marred only by a tiny panel of Andrew Bennet in “Deadland” (my term). Stylistically, it looks a lot like a Gustave Dore engraving. Artist Andrea Sorrentino's blog presents it without the clutter of word balloons:
Link to Source
Cool. Cain met his match sometime in the past at the hands of an army of mystical warriors, undepicted except for what must be Etrigan.

Since the War of the Vampires seems to be centered in Gotham, we get to see some shots of the Bat-family's involvement. Things aren't going quite the way that Mary envisioned. Cain has usurped control of her minions. So she switches sides and starts helping the Good Guys – I did not see that coming.

Teen Titans #7
Assault on Project 13”

All this out-of-order narrative is just getting tiresome. Face it. You guys aren't Quintin Tarantino. Sometimes it works. Most times it don't.

Tipped off by newly revealed member Danny the Street – which explains certain mysteries such as how Kid Flash and Solstice got from Antarctica to the door of Tim's penthouse as well as where Superboy was in his own issue this month (it was not just an hallucination) – the Teen Titans reluctantly join Red Robin in an attempt to rescue their recent assailant, Superboy, and end up attacked by a one proclaiming himself a creation of NOWHERE. We learn a bit more about Templar.

I must say that for the various low opinions I've seen expressed about Scott Lobdell, I'm enjoying this. Of course, he's still the writer of Red Hood and the Outlaws ….

A note's characterization of Wonder Girl's sucker punch of Rose as a “fight” makes it out to be more than it was.

Legion: Secret Origin #6 of 6
Time and Again”

Bgztl could be in a different time as well as a different dimension? That's new. But it gives Brainiac 5 the inspiration he needs to come up with a means to close off the wormhole threat. It turns out that the wormhole was the Time Trapper's gateway by which he/it manifested him/itself to pre-emptively destroy the Legion by killing R. J. Brande. When it's destroyed, the Trapper is sucked back into his/its dimension.

Overall, this was not a bad little introductory expansion series. Saturn Girl's comment unfavorably comparing Ultra Boy to Superman had to sting.

Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes #6 of 6 (IDW)

Although Kirk in the “present” ends up in a classic Kirk philosophical debate outwitting the Emperor, it's the team in the past that saves the day by realizing that a lack of imagination on Vandar the Stone's part led him to be too specific in whatever verbal ploy it was he used to entrap Q. It was just a matter of time before they realized that as time travellers they could simply give Q an order to follow – to free himself. The time lines realign, and the reader is deprived of the chance to see the teams taking leave of each other. There is an epilogue with Q visiting Flint – clearly now one and the same as Vandal Savage even in the ur-Star Trek universe – discussing alternate universes.

Overall, this was a disappointing miniseries. It was okay, but no more. It seemed like little was happening. It was very decompressed. Most of all, the art was blah. In this case, I wish I had received one of the alternate covers: The one by J. K. Woodward is beautiful, and merited apost on the artist's blog detailing his process.

* * *

DC Universe Presents #7
Challengers of the Unknown:  "Pre-Empted"

Back in Metropolis, with no evidence of what seems like a dream, or explanation of why they're not dead, the Challengers are using the cover of their revived show to get the resources to study the amulet that initially, it turned out, brought them to Nanda Parbat.  They find other stones.  Part of the group heads off to the Teutoberger Forest in Germany where they end up fighting animated statues.  The two left continue studying the amulet are killed by a reanimated creature calling himself the Forgotten Lord, animating Ace's body just after they discover a lead to Doctor Thirteen.

Smallville: Season 11
Issues #1-3

This is something I know some in Smallville fandom were hoping for (Sean and Jim on the Raging Bullets podcast, among others), a continuation of the TV series like is being done through Dark Horse with Buffy the Vampire Slayer Seasons 8 and 9.  Like Buffy, this might be considered "canonical" in that one of the writers for the TV series, Brian Q. Miller, is writing.  And he's paired with his artist from the Stephanie Brown Batgirl series that fell victim to the New 52 Notaboot.  So I expected good things.  I got good things.

Six months after the series finale, Clark is in the suit -- and flying.  Actually, it's a slightly modified suit from the series finale, one that I like better than the New 52 Kryptonian bio-battle-armor-whatever.  It takes the best of the classic suit and combines it with aspects of the new into the best of both worlds.  

The issues drop every Friday via the DC Comics app through iTunes, 99 cents a pop.  It looks like each issue is about half the length of a standard $2.99 print comic, so I think we're getting a pretty good deal.

Here's what's happened thus far:
Issue #1)  Guardian (apparently the title of the first story arc or "episode" since the title repeats for subsequent issues):  We catch up on our main characters.  Ollie and Chloe are still in Metropolis; Lois and Clark are not married but living together [aside:  That's the main aspect of the show, especially later seasons, that I didn't care for, the sexuality.  Call me an old fogey.  I am.]; Lex is hale and whole, looking out over the city (with his "henchman" Otis).  Lex waits for a glimpse of Metropolis' new hero, Superman, as he blurs into space (noticing the changed costume).  Superman saves a Russian space station from some kind of energy wave.  Overall, it's a good quick introduction to the hero, his confidence and humility, and the public's, his friends', and his enemy's view of him.
Issue #2)  We find out that this suit is also armored -- lead over his heart against Kryptonite bullets.  Remember, there is a large amount of "meteor rock" in this universe.  There's also some metacommentary on the changing "S" symbol.  Clark and Lois disagree over whether he should reveal his alien origin to the world -- the wake of the Apokaliptian threat might not be the best time.  That's reemphasized in a meeting between Lex and General Lane in which Lex proposes as alliance with the government to weaponize space, and although Lane seems willing to give Superman the benefit of the doubt for now, he's willing to take him down if there's reason to.  Finally, Lex encounters Clark in the street, knowing of but not remembering their friendship (and skeptical of it as well) -- then he hallucinates (?) Tess.  Is she wearing the same clothes as when he killed her, complete with the blood?
Issue #3)  Superman saves Green Arrow's life and they pal around a bit, but mainly in this issue Lois visits Chloe in the Watchtower, where Chloe is investigating the Russian space station's telemetry ... and discovers that the energy wave/space storm concealed a spacecraft coming down to Earth.
Overall, I'm loving this.  Sometimes you can hear the actors' voices, even though Lois in particular looks nothing like the actress who played her.  Actually, the only one who is really captured facially is Tom Welling as Clark.  But this is a fine continuation of the TV series.

Cheers! And thanks for reading … and reading … and reading ….