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Futures_End_Vol_1-0_Cover-1

ROB PATEY’S FU#$TON OF FUTURES END REVIEWS and SPOILERS 9/24/14

ROB PATEY’S FU#$TON OF FUTURES END REVIEW
Thoughts and Thoughtful Reviews on ARMAGEDDON 2014

Hey there, hi there, ho there FiftyTwoKateers, it’s September again and we all know what that means, some BIG September events, which should not to be confused with the BIG August events that are only tangentially tied to the Passover pass off from the January events that launch the year.

I kid,I kid…sorta. Event is simply a marketing term at this point that really holds the same impact on story as a little thing we once simply called arcs and continuity. Anyone who keeps asking, “where the universal synergies have gone,” are the same stubborn bores who will never drink from the grossly misnamed event troth in some futile battle to take the word back to the past.

So, just chill. This FUTURES END catch-up is not an event summation, merely a state of one arc, five years from now, but started almost forty years from now, but not before we get the exposition about a war between Earth-1 and Earth-2 that I think will be starting very soon from now as FOREVER EVIL collides with FUTURES END…the part that is now.

Futures_End_Vol_1-0_Cover-1FUTURES END 1-19
Writers: Azzarello, Giffen, Jurgens, Lemire
Artists: Zircher, HI-FI

I was at first confused on FUTURES END’S purpose. Need proof? Watch me choke on my piss poor prognostications with this quote from my issue one review:

The D-list gathering is, essentially, the death, dismemberment and disenchantment of every hero festering on the bottom rung of the sales charts. No one is safe, as a neophyte in consciousness Eye begins to rip the DC universe asunder. StormWatch, which I faithfully stayed with much longer than I should have, is blown to smithereens. Green Arrow gets smashed and Firestorm is such a ball of self loathing it’s amazing he can fly without crying uncontrollably. One might think I’m not a fan of this book with this description, but here’s where the schadenfreude kicks in.

WRONG. FUTURES END has been less about making these characters simple paste on the side of a wall; it’s actually making them all kinds of awesome. Grifter and his little psychotic pre-teen ball buster of a sidekick, Fifty-Sue are awesome and hilariously self-aware, and the Firestorm flake-out has actually become a rather complex little dance of power as a now bullying team of left behind Justice Leaguer’s try to keep what little power they have left in their ranks.

As the main title to this universal arc (not event), FUTURES END has been a fun exercise akin plot wise to the 90’s favorite ARMAGEDDON 2001. Its far, but not too far, peeks ahead give us a true voyeuristic look at our heroes legacy versus the romanticized history when timelines are played with too far from now. FUTURES END is also old school JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL sarcastic, with Azzarello keeping the story very grounded in today’s more self-aware comic sensibilities.

FUTURES END seems to not be fucking around with the meaning of literal. Because things are looking mighty bleak in the following FUTURES END solo stories that sit behind the glorious moving covers that when stacked sound like a fat person jogging in corduroys.

So where will our heroes be in the far…ish end of the future?

(For anyone who cares whether I like these books or not, please consider their order to be that barometer)

FUTURES END THIS WEEK 9/24/14

FUTURES END FLASH 1FUTURES END FLASH 1: Come for the amazing Brett Booth art and stay for the moral conundrum, time antics and story payoff delivered by Roberts Venditti and Van Jensen. I was a big naysayer to bringing Barry back after having spent a lifetime with Wallly, but boring personalities aside, the book has always been solid. I was almost of a mind to yell no when Wally was introduced, simply because it felt forced since Barry and Iris weren’t knocking gold winged booties. Bad Optimous, because since the Valiant boys have come in and brought forth a mysterious blue flash from the future the book continues to accelerate in amazing. Five years from now, Blue Flash reveals his true face to Wally and Iris, unfortunately its after he pastes their brother and uncle Daniel, the reverse flash. Blue bails on tomorrow as best as he can considering the speed force time fractures to show up and get pummeled by a silver speeder. Barry facing his killer self, Wally imbued with the speed force finally and an uncertain tomorrow gave this FUTURES END entry my top billing of the week and goosebumps for further issues of FLASH.

Futures-End-Superman-1FUTURES END SUPERMAN 1: With the cat out of the bag already that Billy Batson has been taking up the Supes mantle after Sally Struthers convinced Clark Kent he would be best serves digging for water in a dying continent, I walked into this one with a fair amount of skepticism. Surprises do happen kids because Jurgens wrote the hell out of this confrontation between Lois Lane and Shazam with the hood on her big mouthed reporter lady ways jeopardizing the illusion that Superman is still in action. Weeks’ pencils are superb as the talk is perfectly counterbalanced with a distress call to fight an old foe that eventually leads to a glorious epiphany.

FUTURES END HARLEY QUINN 1FUTURES END HARLEY QUINN 1: The brain child of Palmiotti and Conner has been breaking the 4th wall worse than Christopher Walken reading his cue cards in…well everything. Thankfully direct DC deprecation has been outlawed in the future and only good ole’ innuendo remains. After a raucous Castaway spoof complete with her Wilson, our favorite albino sexpot wanders into an Apocolypto Incan tribe. The cover don’t lie folks, she does run into Mr. J. How did he get hisface back? Shut your whore continuity spewing mouth and enjoy the Joe Versus the Volcano themed fun.

booster-gold-futures-end-1-standard-coverFUTURES END BOOSTER GOLD 1: This would have made it higher on the list if this was 1987 and I knew what the hell Booster Gold was up to right now. I read a ton of DC books, because that has always been my deep dive universe. I love Booster of yore and it was that nostalgia that brought me to imbibe his New 52 life. My sentimental tolerance is thin though, and the new JLI fell flat for me and I think readers by its immediate canceling. Anyway…somehow Booster ended up being jettisoned haphazardly across the time stream like Sam from Quantum Leap. 1800’s Gotham, 31st Century Metropolis and Kamandi end days even. Now, the real surprise is good so I won’t ruin it here, but I can’t bump this up on my pecking order. Sloppy art handoff to a cavalcade of contributors and no context of setting or moment before leaves this title low. Jurgens did fine, but when a guy who reads about 48 of the 52 titles each month goes, “huh?” Something is rotten in Denmark’s editorial department.

FUTURES END’S PAST FEW WEEKS

FUTURES END BATMAN 1: Bruce Wayne is crippled and trying to muster up some gene tech that will let him make multiple Batman’s since the Batkids seem to have delivered lowered expectations, or are in hiding like Tim Drake. An odd juxtaposition to the vehement clone hating he’s showing Ra’s over in BATMAN & ROBIN. It’s also odd considering the events of…

FUTURES END BATGIRL 1: Where Babs has actually gathered a trio of Batgirl power including old favorites like Harper Rowe and Stephanie Brown. Gail Simone’s writing simply shined in the beginning of this issue with a wedding day disaster perpetrated by a certain crazy brother that pushes Babs into full-on Bruce Wayne vengeance mode. Her first step is a very clever double agent move where she learned the tricks of bad guys before delivering a final solution. The only times I really bemoaned the books’ choice were when Babs wore the world’s worst Mexican wrestler outfit after Bane training and then the wretched after school special moment where Babs says she never took venom she simply became a roided out freak. I know, drugs are bad hmmmm, kay? But I have to believe if bulking up was the answer to thwarting crime the bat brain trust would have brought more brawn to the table a while ago.

BATMAN ’66 MEETS GREEN HORNET 1 REVIEW – Boo Not Bam

batman 66 meets green hornet 1 coverBATMAN ’66 MEETS GREEN HORNET 1
Writers: Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman
Artist: Ty Templeton
Publishers: DC and Dynamite
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka – Optimous Douche, Ain’t It Cool News) 

Given my malaise towards camp and kitsch, I thought for sure I would hate the BATMAN ’66 series that inspired this crossover. Wow, was I wrong. Jeff Parker and Richard Case worked the Bam and Kapow, while they delicately inserted today’s cynical sensibilities without ever compromising the camp.

Now, given my adoration of the prior ’66 effort and my love of Kevin Smith (Jersey boys stick together), I couldn’t see where this would fall off the rails. Well, now I know exactly where this title careened into a truck full of orphans was the complete lack of reverence for the original TV series, or the recent success of the comic book. Forced, muddled and an utter exercise in who gives a shit are the watchwords of this crossover that no one asked for.

To put prejudices at bay, I find Smith to be a .750 hitter on the comic front. I loved his Daredevil and Green Arrow run (before anyone wants to get on me for GA, look at how much was carried forward from his seeds). Now, I also know what the deal is 99.99% of the time when two writers are credited on a book. Generally the greater name is charged with plotting and editorial, while the lesser name does the heavy lifting on dialog. I actually have no problem with the plot that brings Britt and Bruce together on a train carrying priceless art. I also liked (in theory) Dick Grayson going on a date. So I’m not really knocking Smith, Garman on the other hand is more directionless than a Garmin.

The opportunities to play double-entendres abound, I mean these are big fat hanging softballs over the plate. Garman, the past host of the very funny Joe Schmo show, is Stevie Wonder at the bat. Whenever there is a chance to zig, he instead zags with a deluge of dialog that is not funny, ironic, nor in tonality with the original TV show or the Parker book. I’ve met Adam West, he couldn’t have remembered this much dialog if he tried. The sentences are too long and too forced to truly be any iteration of Batman. Not once does he revel in this playground, but rather plays it very safe on the see saw like an asthmatic fat kid.

Now, a prejudice I do have is the fact I hate Green Hornet. But I’ll say that Britt and Kato are probably the most likeable and realistic characters in this book. From the time the billionaires meet on the train, to when they finally suit up and start fighting the bad guy, a man who shoots glue, I really found myself in the Hornet’s corner. That’s sad considering I’ve only half-read most Green Hornet books after some earnest initial tries, while I have about twenty-five longboxes of the Bat in my basement.

I was even less than impressed with Templeton, but that is more stylistic taste versus quality. Something about Case’s work on the original ’66 made me think of a cleaner and more detailed Mike Allred. Templeton draws some very HEAVY lines, almost to the point of distraction. We have to remember that these characters have deep rooting in the public zeitgeist, too much deviation as was the case when the heroes were in their civies, can really loose the visage you’re trying to emulate.

My editor always asks us to say something nice about a book. The Alex Ross cover RULED!!!! Would love to get a version of his ’66 Batman for my man-cave, assuming it is minus this book title, sans the Green Hornet  and adds an in her prime Julie Newmar.

FUTURES END 2: D List Characters/A List Quality

futuresend2coverFUTURES END 2
Writers: Brian Azzarello, Keith Giffen, Dan Jurgens, Jeff Lemire
Artist: Jesus Merino
Publisher: DC
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

I fear my review for issue 1 of FUTERS END came across much harsher than I intended. I have some grudges still for some of the new 52 character iterations and at the end of the day I need to take the same harsh pill I l jam down the throats of others who have issues with character changes I could care less about, in essence “time moves on, get over it.” But when it came to characters like GREEN ARROW and STORMWATCH my rage blinded my objectivity, for this I apologize to DC and more importantly to you the comic buying public.

Instead of my paragraphs of ranting about where characters had been, I should have focused where they are now, which unveils the intent of FUTURES END – clean deck amidst a yarn of time travel, treachery and yet another redefining of the word superhero.

I will dare say this second issue truly moved me. Building off last issues demise of a now bearded Ollie Queen, the few superheroes that still have solidarity five years from now come to pay their respects. It all comes across as a truly heartfelt endeavor as Animal Man delivers a truly beautiful eulogy for a relationship we’re just getting introduced to over in JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITED (yes, this book will want you to reassess your feelings on JLU 2 also dropping this week). It was during these moments that I felt my Giffen and Jurgens of old appear from seemingly the ether. The follow-up dialog to the eulogy where Firestorm is confronted about choosing a booty call over league business was so reminiscent of the JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL of my youth it inspired me to pleasure myself to the Bangles “In Your Room.”

The source of venom aside from Firestorm’s negligence was our first introduction to Mr. Terrific five years from now. I don’t get the transformation, but he is now far more Kanye than his New 52 beginnings of Will Smith. His outing of secret identity for a better Q is store is very different from the cerebral detective who was exiled to EARTH after low sales. The JUSTICE LEAGUE has always had a hard time getting along in the New 52, but there is enough friction in the future to power Cleveland.

I hate to call this book the D-List parade, because it diminishes the quality. Even though these characters had a bitch of a time supporting their own books, mashed together they are pretty great. Throw in a high B+ lister like Batman Beyond beginning his break into Brother Eye, an inquisitive clue dropped to Lois Lane, and the shroud lessened a bit around our ultimate villain, the plot really did move despite the maudlin mentioned above.

Also, Jessus Merino drew the hell out of this, again…the funeral…the funeral.

It’s also nice to see another weekly done good like BATMAN ETERNAL. As opposed to done bad like COUNTDOWN. Personally, I don’t care if it takes 14 writers and 12 monkeys on aderal to get a book done, as long as they all mesh.

These guys mesh.

BATMAN #28 Review – No Awful Waffles Here

Batman 28 CoverBATMAN 28
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Publisher: DC
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche -Ain’t it Cool News)

For anyone who has bitched and bemoaned the New 52, plug your piehole because your universe is back…sort of.

In a time only alluded to as “soon,” BATMAN 28 catapults us in time from last issues Zero Year escapades to a time about 5 years from now. I applaud all of DC for holding this one close to the vest, not only did I see the two major players of this issue appearing, but I also had no idea BATMAN ETERNAL was going to take place in the day after tomorrow. When I interviewed Snyder at New York Comic con ’13, he mentioned ETERNALS would focus on the side characters in the bat-universe, but didn’t once mention who those characters would be or that they would be future incarnations.

So who’s here? How about Harper Rowe for starters. Our little friend from the narrows is a bit more grown up and fighting the Gotham imposed police state tooth and nail as the character BlueBird.

While Batman shows up in this issue, he’s far from the star. He only appears after Harper is deep inside the layer of Gotham’s new kingpin of crime, Catwoman. That’s right kids the “will she, won’t she” rooftop tussles of early 52 books have resulted in a Selina scorned.

Why exacty  is Harper scratching her way into Catwoman’s layer. Apparently in the future the Narrows is a place of mass infection with a disease that makes Ebola look like a head cold. The only one with the cure for this plague is the Cat.

The surprises don’t end there though. When Selina opens the safe holding the cure, we see the one and only waifish waffle lover Stephanie Brown in a scene from a bondage flick.

/End scene

I refuse to hate on the New 52. The best way to be seen as an old codger is to simply dismiss anything new as rubbish. Have all the choices been my cup of tea? No. Is a 39 year old man DC’s sole demographic – FUCK NO! While I would never be so naïve to request perspective from a comic book audience, I will say it’s a fool’s errand to lament time, and a blond man’s folly to ignore that which you don’t agree with. With BATMAN 28 I truly believe the New 52 haters could find a home at DC again. Also, if this truly is a secret glimpse at BATMAN ETERNAL, then you might have a home moving forward. For Gen X, this is the DC we imagined as kids. Where Bruce would be a healthy Boomer greeting people at Wal-Mart by day and guiding the next generation of crime fighters at night. While Bruce is a little closer to 50 than 60 in this “soon” time, I’ll take it. Greta book and a much better teaser for BATMAN ETERNALS than past efforts. I thought for sure the thing was going to be a modernization of G.C.P.D. Now that it’s a future look, this Elseworlds boy is hella sold for the first issue. I just caution Tynion to ensure he doesn’t copy BATMAN BEYOND as he zooms Back to the Future

 

 

EARTH 2 ANNUAL 2 REVIEW – PROOF DC NEEDS TO PLUCK A FEW MORE VIBRATIONAL STRINGS

earth 2 annual 2 coverEARTH 2 ANNUAL 2
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Robson Rocha
Publisher: DC
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche. Ain’t It Cool news)

Yup, I’m back again to get in all y’alls face places about EARTH-2.  I’ll get on my alternate reality soapbox in a minute, but first the platitudes. Tom Taylor has no proven he doesn’t just get alternate realities, he simply gets what makes an amazing comic. This issue will make you feel more for Batman (yes even despite the slight view askew vibrational differences in “canon”) as a crime fighter, a man and a son than we have seen in a very long time. While the character of the new Batman is new to Earth 2 continuity, this issue quickly catapulted him to the top of my favorites. I say this after screaming “Are you fucking kidding me?” when he appeared a few issues ago. I applauded the decision to kill off the holy trinity in Earth – 2 and giving the Golden Age Justice Society new relevance post FLASHPOINT. I did not want Batman, now moving forward, I don’t want to see this book without him.

We’ve seen this alternate twist on Batman before, most recently in FLASHPOINT. Yes, it’s Thomas Wayne under the cowl. However, in this timeline, Martha did not become the Joker, and Tom’s deviances run much deeper than the pursuit of the all mighty dollar.

What we haven’t seen is Thomas this authentically demonized before. Thomas is a junkie…and he’s still using while he is Batman (get to  more on that in a sec). Personally, I’ve been waiting for a hero to arise with this much of a monkey currently on his back rather than a forgotten memory. The visible pain makes the act of contrition, like becoming Batman, much more impactful. 

One of the reasons this resonated so deeply for me is DC editorial’s courage on this book to cement the age Earth-2 and all of its residents. We are given the point black exact year when Joe Chill “kills” the Wayne’s in Crime Alley (1979). We know the exact date that Thomas met Dennis Falcone and saved his life, the exact moment he met Martha, and the first time the three of them shot up some medical student procured Laudanum (1971). We are bestowed with crystalline accuracy the moment Batman, the true Batman is born (1973), and the day he discovers that Thomas faked his death so he could begin to pay for the deadly events his selfishness put into motion (1994). This issue made me realize how just damn important time is in making a story matter. Without it we are more trapped in amber than and regurgitation of plot lines could induce. If UNWRITTEN tells us anything, fiction is as real as we are willing to make it, and we will only make it real if it has the courage to reflect the same constraints we face day-today, of which time is the greatest.

For all of the naysayers who say there are no consequences because it as an alternate reality, I say the problem is with your system of beliefs. Consequence is merely measured by your own aesthetic distance. Also, I’d like to say the word “reboot” and clarify that it’s mere existence means there is no true continuity to any of the major iconic branded superheroes living in the main book titles. This is honestly the perfect place for anyone who loves DC, but has been put off by the changes in the New 52. The dark pall that has been cast on Earth Prime is absent from this land. There is still a Great Generation beacon of optimism to this alternate earth despite the Darkseid attack that obliterated Superman, Wonder Woman and OG Batman.

And after we learn that dark version of the new Batman’s past, that optimism shines through at the end. If anything in our world right now is hunky dorey, it’s the lives of the Baby Boomers. They reaped the spoils of the last great economic boom and they are in wayyyyy better condition than their parents were in their mid sixties. Now of course our parents couldn’t be Batman for their second careers (that’s why they clog up the entrances at Wal-Mart with their cute blue vests), but Thomas can thanks to a drug that gives him the vitality of Bruce for an hour at a pop. Discuss amongst yourselves the Hourman nature of this change. Personally I think batman is much more than physical prowess so I’m OK, with a more cerebral father figure to guide Red Tornado Lois and Aquawoman back over in Earth-2 proper.

If you were on board for the concept of EARTH-2 when it was released in the New 522 Second Wave, but for whatever reason didn’t jive with Robinson’s writing, there’s a new sheriff in town. I will caution though to NOT rejoin the EARTH-2  main title right when Taylor took over a few months ago. It’s too abrupt as Taylor took the book over almost mid-page from Robinson in the middle of the arc. I just finished EARTH-20 and I can say that’s a safe place. Yes, even with the confusing statements I just made about red Tornado Lois and Aquawoman. If you’re a DC fan of old, you’ll get it quick enough.

I usually wish my favorite new creators Godspeed to loftier titles or places of power within comicdom, but I am selfishly going to hold back that adoration for Taylor. He has truly created wonderful alternate universes for DC with first INJUSTICE, and now EARTH-2. In a time when ELSEWORLDS are a forgotten memory, Taylor is my crack dealer and I will gladly buy all the wares he wishes to peddle. If he can muster the story prowess from his well spring of creativity, DC would be wise to resuscitate a few more vibrational strings along the quantum plane.

FOREVER EVIL 5 ADVANCE REVIEW – So Evil Your Pinky Won’t Leave Your Lip

forever evil 5 coverFOREVER EVIL 5
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: David Finch
Publisher: DC
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain;t It Cool News)

The slow drums of Evil we’ve been saying have taken too long to hear in the distance are now a Neil Pert, ear bleeding, arena rock solo. This issue is brimming with so much eeeevvilll, you’ll find your pinky trying to attach it self to your lower lip.

While I’ve loved the juxtaposition of rooting for the bad guys, there has been too much set-up and not enough ass kickery in this series thus far. Issue 5 rectifies all. We finally shift full focus from the Justice League doing time in Firestorm’s mind to an all out real world fight for survival.

When last we left FOREVER EVIL proper Batman and Catwoman had just ran into the Luthor League and then all of them were jumped by Deathstroke and the other sell outs to the Syndicate. Quick side note, more Luthor and Bizarro in main continuity please, comic gold watching Ego and the Bear interact. While on the other side of the subterranean world, Sinestro set his direct sites on the pussified Green Lantern, Power Ring.

I’ll save you the suspense; Sinestro takes out the anti-Hal in one of the most creative ways I have ever seen. Kudos to Johns for imagining this scene, and to Finch for rendering the bloody, stumpy, aftermath. The big mystery to be seen next is who will get stuck wearing this asshole ring until death’s sweet release.

The ultimate tension though comes in the form of “who will lead this ragtop group forward.” Batman’s arrogance by insisting he must lead the crew because killing is bad (hmmmm kay?) was charming if it wasn’t so blatantly naïve. It did set-up a notice zinger for Catwoman though. Luthor is of course in charge and his ranks swelled after Deathstroke’s team is…liquidated and in some cases liquefied.

Once ranks are settled Johns wisely takes us back to the Syndicate (a presence we needed a little more of in all the Crossover titles IMHO). These guys have transcended beyond their initial pastiche. Their own private melodrama is actually way more intriguing  than watching them simply overthrow. I would honestly read an EARTH-3 book (get writing DC or I set up a fanfic blog) if this dynamic of lies, adultery and general deceit has always been their norm.

My only complaint with this plot and action driving issue is the Malcom McDowell slayer on the last page. That’s right folks, the entity that destroyed Earth-3 is also responsible for bringing together Picard and Kirk. The Nexus is here in all of its ELO album cover glory. I hope there is something really really dark behind that pink ribbon and I don’t mean Guinan.

BATMAN 25 REVIEW – Zero is Hero for Continuity

batman25 coverBATMAN #25 
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

Personally, Zero Year is EXACTLY what I wanted from the New 52. It’s clear, concise and the continuity is seamless. Take last week, for example: a superstorm threatens Gotham and Metropolis, and our heroes in both towns are being molded by this force of nature, one internal and external crisis at a time. If you want the inward reflection I highly recommend last week’s ACTION annual as Clark tries to wrestle a storm. The outward forces shaping came in the form of DETECTIVE where we see a young(ish) Jim Gordon dealing with corruption in the GCPD as the storm and Gotham’s blackout rages on.

There’s nothing big or bombastic like Parademons. It’s giving us time to get to know the characters – an osmosis of change instead of a slap to the face. It allows old continuity to carry over organically, in an explained fashion. Zero Year is my start of the New 52, even if historians end up disagreeing. I also think it’s a salvation for any fans who felt shunned post-FLASHPOINT. I’ve talked with a lot of fans, I’ve heard a lot of grievances about the “youth”anizing of our heroes, I’ve heard (and agreed with) the confusion caused by the 5 years before in some titles and the present in others. Zero Year is the fix, folks. Please come back–the universe is far more welcoming right now.

Zero Year also lets DC keep FOREVER EVIL humming without the oft fan complaint that other books aren’t acknowledging the event. Whoever’s idea this “event” was, you deserve blowjobs while eating ice cream.

The last arc of BATMAN introduced us to a pre-faceless Joker. Now, the Riddler is the focal point, but at the same time isn’t. As much as he is the overarching villain causing the blackout in Gotham, sending Batman on a goose chase of epic proportions, other forces seep into play to provide nice vignettes against the grander threat.

Our two new introductions come in the form of one Pamela Isley, a young botanist intern who is on the crime scene when some scientists are force-fed bone growth serum that turns them into marrow trees. Fangeezers can guess where this is going, but the mystery for noobs is firmly in place until Isley gets her foliage on.

The other threat is a resurrected Golden Age baddie by the name of Dr. Death. He’s made a few appearances in the new 52, but they have been few and far between. They’ve also never been this gruesome and in your face. The thing I liked best about this character is an origin shrouded in book-end mystery. The book opens with a flashback of a unit in some desert shithole uncovering a trap door. Flash forward to Gotham, the blackout, Isley bones and a turncoat Lucius Fox possessed by death. Then we flash back to the desert shitscape with a Humvee simply driving away from the mysterious hole.

A grand story driven by smaller beats has been missing from this universe for too long. As much as I enjoyed “Court of Owls”, I’ve been reading comics for 30 years. My brain could fill in holes or back story to make the proceedings come alive in a way a new reader couldn’t.

Before I walk away, two more things. Capullo did yet another amazing job on the art duties. He truly gave the piece a differing tonality between the bookends and main storyline. Snyder also did a great job coordinating the events of last week’s DETECTIVE COMICS #25 for synergy with the man who is Jim Gordon. While cynics will say DETECTIVE was just the origin of the bat signal, there are subtler beats redefining Gordon as a person.

With wafts of Frank Miller’s DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, I’m far more intrigued by this latest BATMAN “Zero Year” arc than I was the last one–and I loved the last one.