Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Paul Pelletier
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain
“I’m going to make a prediction, and even if my crystal ball has more clouds than clarity this is a belief I hold to the core of my being: Geoff Johns will one day helm the DC comic line as Editor-in-Chief (if he so chooses).” Optimous Douche, February 2010
I didn’t fully understand the implications of this prediction when I made it that cold February morn. I figured if my words became true, it would be in the contextual model of business as usual. Once Johns had some more salt and pepper on his temples, he would take the top spot from Didio and, like Dan, occasionally write a few books.
I of course got wrong the instilling of a holy trinity in control, the folding of the comic line under the main WB banner, the Hollywooding of the comic line which will come to full fruition once the NY offices close, and of course Johns’ true control title of Chief Creative Officer.
What reality has wrought is AQUAMAN #25: basically the end of Geoff scribing monthly books, presumably to give the other media channels in the WB a fighting chance against the miraculous Marvel movie machine. Honestly, with the casting away of GREEN LANTERN and there being no real Justice Society except on EARTH 2 the only thing left pouring out of Geoff’s keyboard is JUSTICE LEAGUE.
It’s been a great run, but good-byes are always sad, this one even more so for the reasons I just mentioned. It’s one thing when a writer leaves a title; it’s another thing altogether when a beloved writer is absconded from the bullpen to be locked away in the executive ivory tower.
Out of all the New 52 offerings, I’ve found AQUAMAN to be the most intriguing. I never personally cared about the character outside of small snippets by seminal writers. Johns kept me engaged, though, for 25 issues. Not all DC titles had the same consistent staying power being printed or making it into my longbox.
It was touch and go at first: I dug the perpetual fish out of water jokes because I’ve made plenty and I find suffering at someone else’s expense sort of hilarious. After a few issues, though, I got in line with the purists – the waaa waaaa Charlie Brown walk off can’t work forever for a hero. It’s one more joke, not a symphony. What kept me in the game, though, was the true heart Geoff was bringing to the title with Mera being Arthur’s continued champion in the face of ridicule. Any man who has found a good partner knows how much their smile can brighten even the gloomiest of days.
Also, it was great watching the king shun the ocean for life as a landlubber until destiny had a different idea. “Just when I’m out, they pull me back in”, lamented Michael Corleone, and I think it resonates here as well. Great men simply can’t escape being great.
The return to the sea was just as engaging: the perceived betrayal by Vulko, the actual betrayal by the men who helped Arthur acclimate to life on land, THRONE OF ATLANTIS that wiped out half the Eastern seaboard and resuscitated the JUSTICE LEAGUE’s anemic storyline, and this final battle with the Dead King made this reporter consistently care about the DC life aquatic for the first time in 25 years of comic collecting.
Johns gives us a satisfying conclusion to the Dead King saga. Some of it was expected, like Arthur regaining the throne, Vulko being absolved of wrongdoing because of his fierce devotion to Arthur’s line, and finally Arthur and Mera living happily ever after. Some events were surprising, like the little black guys from the trench being one of the seven sunken kingdoms of Atlantis and fighting by Arthur’s side once he flashes a little bit of scepter; also, the king of Xebel showing up looking for a fight to launch the next arc. Some of it was WTF inducing, like Orm now shacking up with a woman he helped during FOREVER EVIL. I always thought Orm hated us land-dwellers, but I’ll admit I could have missed something in the deluge of event books.
I’ll admit now, I fear for the future. Books seem to lose some staying power when other writers are plopped into Johns’ plotlines. Johns lays down so many different tangents crafted by his unique voice, it’s akin to other writers trying to pick up after Claremont left X-MEN. Writing a title and marrying it are two different experiences; the prior produces a few trades while the latter inexorably changes the character and the universe for years to come. Anyone trying to pick up after Johns walks away is left with the latter, after he has mined the grandeur dry, leaving only fragments of mediocrity for follow-up. I might be wrong this time. Make that, I hope I’m wrong this time. I’m not done with AQUAMAN, even if Geoff is. I thank Geoff for his time and service, and I truly wish him his heart’s desire moving forward. I would caution, though, to never fully abandon the rocket boosters that helped him leave orbit.
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Nicola Scott
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka – Optimous Douche Ain’t It Cool News)
Let me just start with the fact I’m a fan of EARTH 2. Actually, I’ve always been a fan of all alternate realities, especially the ELSEWORLD titles that helped give us engaging stories when main continuity had entered the dark ages.
While I was initially a naysayer of the New 52 EARTH 2, basically because it was born to keep 52 titles on the shelves versus its original incarnation to provide a home for the aging Justice Society, I jumped in anyway. I was surprised to see it truly was a different world; far more advanced technologically, a world government (something that just makes sense in an age of heroes) and, most importantly, the Trinity was executed when Darkseid invaded it seems every Earth in the “5 years before.” Was it slow at times? Sure, but anytime you’re introducing a political and sociological infrastructure to new readers the action is going to take a back seat. Just look at the “Star Wars” prequels for indelible proof.
Now, the baton has been passed from Robinson to up and comer Tom Taylor. I’ve been singing Tom’s praises since I discovered him on the comic/video game tie-in INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US. I then discovered Tom did a great indie adventure book called THE DEEP, an underwater title akin to “Lost in Space”, which is now in negotiations to be made into a cartoon. On the DC side, Tom gets alternate realities. With INJUSTICE he’s told a riveting tale of a totalitarian Superman policing the world and has garnished it with clever character-appropriate dialog.
With EARTH 2 #17, Tom is thrown right into closing out Robinson’s last story arc–an odd choice when shifting writers; usually the newbie is allowed to start fresh from square one. However, Taylor picks up the attack on Steppenwolf (Darkseid’s leave-behind from the attack 5 years ago) as the World Army invades the nice little chunk of land he absconded. Tom does get two new characters to play wit,h and I’ll be honest, this was a big WTF for me. The reveal is that Superman and Batman are back. If you want to know a little bit more about these characters I highly recommend SUPERMAN/BATMAN, which chronicles an encounter with their Earth Prime counterparts in a time before the Darkseid invasion.
Well, at least we are led to believe it’s the original two, but I have my doubts. Maybe Batman is real, but as I watched Superman eye-laser Steppenwolf in half, I have serious doubts this guy is the real deal.
I hope Taylor can bring a little more notoriety to this title. It’s a well-built world that I think has festered at the feet of more easy press pushes. It’s also well done from a character standpoint. While our golden oldies have been updated for a new age, they hold many tenets of the Great Generation since their world is…well, a shitload greater and grander than ours. Finally, Nicola Scott deserves to get more eyeballs; the pictures in this title have always been grand and great where appropriate and perfectly subdued in quieter moments with the likes of Dr. Fate.
I normally don’t recommend new readers jump in mid-story like this, but if this really does signal the return of two thirds of the Trinity, I think these inception moments will resonate into the next arc and beyond.
SUPERMAN WONDER WOMAN 1
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Tony Daniel
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
I learned one truism when I got married 13 years ago that I find holds water in about 90% of relationships, “Women marry men hoping they’ll change, men marry women hoping they won’t.”
I think Charles Soule agrees with me, because as perfect as Superman is, Wonder Woman is damned and determined to make him better. He’s powerful, but untrained. Good of heart, but unwise towards the world. He’s the greatest man to walk the earth, but needs the veil of mediocrity found in Clark Kent to honor his earth upbringing. These are the things Wonder Woman plans to fix. Honestly, I smelled wafts of an impending break-up between these two powerhouses more than I saw the buds of a relationship ready to flower. Because while men are capable of change, the process is slow and no matter how much we love, certain tenets of the self can not and should not be changed. Wanting to live a life of humility and simplicity is a much different personality trait than not hitting the laundry basket or leaving the toilet seat up. Hell, Clark isn’t even willing to show Wonder Woman his frosty bachelor pad much less clear a dresser drawer or make a giant pink key for her own entry.
This book is the deep emotional and character deep dive I’ve been begging for from books like JUSTICE LEAGUE. I get it, JUSTICE LEAGUE is an all-ages bombastic battering ram of conflict, to take a quiet respite like SUPERMAN WONDER WOMAN 1 portrays in its first issue would probably upset a lot of Fanbabies. Fangeezers though, who have been tempered by years of co-habitation with the gentler sex actually appreciate books where we see how this life of frenzy actually affects them as human beings.
Don’t think for a second this issue is without action. Soule’s pacing coupled with Daniel’s able art bops us back and forth between these discussions of self and the harrowing heroics of rescuing an entire naval battalion of naval forces from impending doom. While the issue starts with Wonder Woman getting in some gal talk during a sparring session with one of her fellow Gods and Clark trying to manage Kat Grant’s ambition for their Huffington Post knock off, Soule perpetually thrusts the book forward from earlier to now to show some great plane crashes and the complete destruction of a naval carrier.
The threat at first seems to merely be a nasty whirlpool created by some thermal dynamics at the bottom of the ocean. What causes that heat though, is a threat as old as Nirvana.
Doomsday is back folks and Daniel welcomes him with some massive scale carnage that will turn the stomach of even the most stalwart horror fans. I’m of two minds here, and part of my apprehension stems from New 52 continuity versus what we’ve known for years and the issue DOOMSDAY 1 during Villain’s Month.
I’ve never been clear on whether Superman has ever been fell by Doomsday’s massive meat hooks in New 52 context. The entire “origin” of Doomsday took place on Krypton as a young Kara is told of her Aunt’s battle against the creature with the help of Zod. However, the book of El also relays a prophecy of a day when Doomsday will return and kill the house’s greatest champion. During these scenes Superman has a mullet, which we all remember from the 90’s, and he looks much older than his New 52 visage. Who the hell had a mullet between 2006 and 2011 and didn’t live in an area still waiting for cable TV? I know, I know, comic time is it’s own beast. but at what point do we cry uncle from the confusion. Did the book of El tell of a time yet to come? Will mullets and perms be all the rage in 2014? It’s the problem that comes with trying to reboot, while still keeping pieces of your old boots on your feet.
Even though it has never been implicitly stated, I believe Superman does know Doomsday simply by a recognition of fear in this issue. I’ll also assume his death did take place between in the five year before dark time. It doesn’t jive with JUSTICE LEAGUE behavior in later arcs of the New 52 nor what actually happened during his death in 93 (that Justice League was not the new one by a long shot. I mean Booster Gold and Blue Beetle anyone?). All of this would sit better if the artist and DOOMSDAY 1 simply skipped the oh so 90s character renderings, but whoever said comics are for the hyper-literal (even though we all go there).
Misgivings and continuity nits aside, I’m happy with SUPERMAN WONDER WOMAN from a sheer content standpoint. I’m not happy about having to buy another book each month or the face FOREVER EVIL is completely ignored, but again that’s comics. I guess sometimes the needs of the one title, do outweigh the needs of the many.
Here are just some of the people I’ve helped already! Submit your questions in the comments or via email – because this is the face of caring!
How much stuff can you stuff in a stuffy when a stuffy’s stuffed enough stuff?
Great Question Carlos,
For the answer I’m going to bring in a ringer from the special side of the Sesame Street tracks – the one and only Snuffaluffagus. Snuffy Enterprises has been the premier crafter of Snuffy Stuffy Sacks since CEO Oscar the Grouch learned the tax breaks one can get from hiring the mentally handicapped.
According to Snuffy who drooled into a cup for four minutes before answering, “Ohhhh Big Bird.” I retorted, “I’m not Big Bird asshole, I’m just tall and blonde.” This led to another four minutes of drooling and Snuffy defecating on Mr. Hopper’s stoop. I asked the question again. “Ohhh Big Bird,” this time I just let him continue, “you can stuff as much stuff as you want into a Snuffy Stuffy Sack, but you could also just grab any other sack and stuff stuff into it too I guess.”
This was when Oscar the Grouch crawled his legless body out of the garbage can and shot Snuffy in the head.
So there’s your answer Carlos, Oscar the Grouch is a dick who exploits the mentally handicapped. And stuffy sacks hold a lot of stuff.
Why do we drive on PARKWAYS and park on DRIVEWAYS?
Great Question Paul,
For this answer we must travel back to the end of the 19th century. During this time motor cars or “iron horse whore movers” as the our ancestral idiots called them. were enormous pieces of shit. Not only did one need the arms of a butcher to start the fuckers, they would only go a quarter of a mile before requiring more coal and 87 more cranks.
As such, the first roads were built close to parks so men (the only ones allowed to drive back then) could easily move their whores from their park congregations into their rumbleseats. One needed to be near the whores because they were so damned tired from operating their whore mover.
And thus the Whoreway was born.
The term Parkway was used as code when leaving the wife behind in the kitchen.
As for the term Driveway, this was so women would stop driving into the house when they earned the right to drive and vote in 1992. “DRIVEWAY…living room.” “DRIVEWAY….kitchen” “DRIVEWAY…our child.” “DRIVEWAY…are you fixing your makeup in the mirror again…look out for bedroom!!!!!”
Who would win in a fight new 52 john constantine or vertigo john constantine – and how would he do so?
Great Question Dom,
First, we should explain what New 52 is for those out there who don’t live and die by the comic medium – the poor poor misguided souls. And I think in this explanation you’ll find my answer…
The New 52 was a direct result of Dan Didio losing the DC bible. The DC bible is the only tome to hold the full and actual continuity for some of our favorite Super Heroes like BATMAN, SUPERMAN and Ambush Bug.
When I say Didio lost this tome I don’t mean he dropped it in a toilet, he actually lost it when rescuing Jim Lee from a Taiwanese Lady Boy prostitution ring. To pay off debts from Rob Liefeld’s departure from Image and subsequent bankruptcy of that comes from losing such an immense talent, Lee had to sell his body six months a year at Buckingham palace. Charles and Camilla have standards after all.
So after paying off Lee’s release fee to the royal family, the DC universe had to start from scratch since no one could remember what the hell happened prior to Novemberish 2011.
They called together a great summit of today’s brightest comic minds at the palatial Greensboro, North Carolina airport Holiday Inn to carefully craft a new universe, a universe where the number 52 would become a lynchpin for all civilization. When aked why not 7 or 12, Didio simply said, “because Gleep from the Super Friends had 52 testicles, and we stand behind Gleep.”
It was further decided at this great summit, that the new universe would be best served if all of these modern myths and legends were youthenized to the point where they look like they aren’t old enough to drive, were given features and body frames that were as effeminate and androgynous as possible, and would all possess a collective IQ that added up to…you guessed it…52.
Infer away from here about John Constantine
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Pete Woods
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
VIBE is an important book. Not just because this interdimensional conduit will be the go-to FLASH buster in the newly formed JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA, aka the real JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK (when you think about their mission). It’s also not because it puts Johns back in his wheelhouse of humanizing his heroes by focusing on the family dynamics that make all of really tick. I’d say VIBE is most influential in showing us the panels we missed from JUSTICE LEAGUE 2…I mean…5…fuck, you know what I mean…years ago. I’ll also say that Johns dropped a few possible Easter eggs in here that could make VIBE the herald of the long promised opening of the Multiverse. Yes, the last point is utter conjecture on my part, but a girl can dream can’t she.
OK, VIBE, known for most of this issue as Carlos Ramone, is hired as the FLASH buster for Amanda Waller’s new JUSTICE LEAGUE buster JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA. Forgive me, I meant to say appropriate detainment measure in the event Flash requires persuasive assistance in future choices. It’s the least interesting part about Carlos, and it happens at the end of the book. Although, I will say it’s nice to see the naïve view of a team that’s essentially being founded out of cowardice towards change. For the real doings go see my review of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA.
Now, what I liked best was the book’s second virtue – family and genuine every day slices of life before our teeth get kicked in by the fantastic. It’s amazing how pivotal Detroit has become to the New 52, but I’ll allow this geographic narcissism since my first book is coming out soon and it’s set my home town, Philly. First rule of writing, write what you know. Personally I would rather see authenticity through experience than some of the trite clichés writers use about towns they haven’t been to (WE DO MORE THAN EAT CHEESESTEAKS). So once we’re intimate with the location we meet the Brothers Ramone. Good for DC on racial diversity, good for Johns for never turning to stereotypes. Between these guys, Baz and Billy though, I will say we’re having a run on of impoverished characters, but I’ve seen specials on Detroit, so this just might be closer to reality than I care to admit. Anyway, the Brothers Ramone were at ground zero when Darkseid attacked…2…I mean 5…I mean 7…dammnit…years ago. Carlos, his jocular older brother, who will be the salvation of the family by getting into college, and his younger gadfly Brother who just wants to play soccer and mooch are all the first victims of parademon bloodlust. Lil bro hides, big bro dies and Carlos is forever changed by being caught in the wake horizon of a Boom Tube. 5 years later, Carlos is trying to save more money when not phasing out of space time. It was pretty funny watching him work in an appliance store given his affliction for not showing up clearly on camera. These little moments made me care much more about Carlos’ fate when he unleashes his full VIBE awakening on the parademon that killed his Brother.
Speaking of little moments. What Johns did in 4 pages in this issue, I didn’t once feel in the first 12 issues of JUSTICE LEAGUE. This was what we needed to see more of, less posturing and big attacks. I actually would have given JUSTICE LEAGUE, leagues of leeway had it a sister book like this being published in tandem at the same time. But, since other books were in the here and now, I mean then and when, all we got were the broad strokes. VIBE shows us just how much pain Darkseid wrought upon this world. I also would recommend EARTH 2 if you want to see another close intimate portrayal of the Darkseid invasion. It’s a pivotal moment that I always felt deserved more…justice.
Now again, this is mere conjecture on my part, but again I am going to conject. I could have sworn when the A.R.G.U.S. agent was explaining Carlos’ powers he said he exists between dimensions. I could also have sworn he said that Boom Tubes are interdimensional gateways. I think when Carlos isn’t Flash busting it would be fun to see him traveling the 52 worlds. I don’t read Previews because playing out these scenarios is an important part of the hobby for me. As I understand things Morrison won’t be doing DC books shortly, and short of getting Warren Ellis on board, it would be nice to see what Johns and VIBE can do with the most controversial revelation from FINAL CRISIS.
To say I dig VIBE is an understatement. I’ll admit I don’t love his costume, but Woods supported Johns pacing in spades – to the point it sometimes in felt like individual panels were moving. Johns is the type of writer that works best on pages with more panels plain and simple. Woods just says show me where to draw.
Read KATANA and VIBE before you read JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA. No matter what the covers say, trust me.
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA 1
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: David Finch
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool)
Purpose: I’ve asked one thing from the JUSTICE LEAGUE since waaaaayyyyy back in the post FINAL CRISIS days, have a purpose for bringing together a LEAGUE. Back then the blunders were egregious, with the Holy Trinity picking heroes like baseball cards (and this is not hyperbole) to bring together a LEAGUE, because you know…there’s always been a JUSTICE LEAGUE.
Then came the New 52 and with it the promise of salvation. Not only were we getting a JUSTICE LEAGUE, but also a return of the Bwahahaha JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL, a new JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK to handle magic threats, and finally oversight for all heroes in the form of STORMWATCH.
I’ve made my thoughts well known on these titles, but here’s a synopsis. Johns should not create with Lee. Before anyone throws goddamn sales numbers at me I will remind you that the 4th Batman movie was a box office success. People are sheep and marketing easily leads the masses, I know firsthand, I’m in marketing and my soul is one step above lawyers on Satan’s most wanted. When we peeked past the marketing though, the first two arcs of JUSTICE LEAGUE were wafer thin. I have my theories on why, and it basically equates to the fact that Johns is indie film and Lee is big budget and never the tween shall meet. Johns is not your splash page writer and Lee is not a cramped panel artist. Disagree if you like, but I haven’t heard a better theory yet. JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL was less bwahahaha and more just plain awwww, hence why it’s no longer with us. STORMWATCH, don’t even get me started. It has been a mess since day one choking on its own hubris. These folks were supposed to be the ones who watch the WATCHMEN, but since they can’t get shit straight in their own house all we’ve gotten are a bunch of slap fights between Apollo & Midnighter and some kind of shadow council…or shadow puppetry…I’m not sure. I like JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK, but part of that adoration lies in the detractors’ claims it doesn’t feel like it’s part of the universe. Fair enough, but at least it’s original.
JUSTICE LEAGUE redeemed itself with Throne of Atlantis, and I believe whole heartedly that JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA will rectify the missteps of the team books that have come before.
Not only does JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA have a purpose, but that purpose is steeped in actual continuity. Its purpose is also right in line with the marketing hype and a stark reflection of the current 99%ers feelings towards the 1% who pull our collective marionette strings. You want to know, “Who watches the WATCHMEN” or in this case the JUSTICE LEAGUE? Then you need look no further than JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA.
While this is a straight-up introductory tale, Johns does a great job of keeping the book moving without it being a straight up Mickey Mouse roll call. He also builds off the history of the New 52, without making it required reading. Basically, there’s a pervasive fear in the government and leading the rabblerousing is our own favorite Queen of conspiracy theories, Amanda Waller. Uncle Sam fears the JUSTICE LEAGUES allegiance to the planet at large, and the US of A wants a way to ensure countermeasures should the JUSTICE LEAGUE side with someone other than the Stars & Stripes.
Now since Waller has her hands full with other skullduggery in the DCU, she turns to the Old League liaison Steve Trevor to corral and manage this new group. This leads us to a part of the book that confused me, but still left me enthralled. We’ve always known Waller will manipulate people to get her way, but she takes it to new heights in this book and I can’t tell if her concerns were genuine or simply pushing Steve’s buttons.
The kiss between Superman and Wonder Woman that made a thousand Lois Lane fans spontaneously combust apparently wasn’t only viewed by readers. American satellites caught this precious moment as well and got the think tanks pontificating on the damage these two could cause. We’re not just talking the shockwaves from bumping uglies, but also what could happen if these two could and would actually procreate. Again, Waller is a manipulative little gal, so did she mention this to get Steve to sign-on or was it a genuine concern? Maybe a little of both, but it does push Steve over the edge to go recruit his addition to the team CATWOMAN.
Just in case the purpose was unclear, after we see vignettes of each character as Waller and Steve discuss their place on the team, the issue ends with a direct match on who in the JLA will take down who on the JUSTICE LEAGUE. Some are clear jumps – Baz against Hal, Martian Manhunter against Superman and Catwoman against Batman. The match-up of Vibe against Flash makes sense, but it makes even more sense if you read VIBE 1 this week. But there are a couple I match-ups I question like Hawkman against Aquaman and Katana against Wonder Woman. In one case they could escape each other by going to their natural habitats and in the other case I think simple sword wielding does not make equal class balancing in a fight.
Finch and Johns go together perfectly and even in the heavy talky scenes between Waller and Trevor, the panels were visually engaging.
So, what about GREEN ARROW who is so prominently displayed on the cover, well that dear reader is a mystery that comes with the price of admission. His fate lies squarely in plot that wild rive this first arc forward.
I’d like to walk away with a suggestion for DC. Your team books are finally starting to come together, but your work is far from done. With the creation of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, I know have even less of a reason to read STORMWATCH, which is shame because they are characters I once loved Pre-52. At some point you need to either shit-can STORMWATCH as a the failed experiment it was or actually commit to its place in the DC Universe. Most fans will deride what I’m about to say, but I think the only salvation lies in a cross-over amongst the LEAGUE books and STORMWATCH. “We’re the JUSTICE LEAGUE we’re in charge! Fuck you, were the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA and we’re in charge bitches!! Fuck all y’all, we’re STORMWATCH and we’ve been in charge since Jesus was in diapers!!!” I know crossovers are a verboten phrase, but when well-planned and crafted they can once again be as epic as they were initially intended to be.
Writers: Johns & Tomasi
Artists: Mahnke & Pasarin
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
This week’s offerings of emerald might simply can’t be read apart. Well fine…I guess technically they can, but it’s like Donny without Marie (“Soldier of Love” anyone), Corey Feldman without Corey Haim (Meatballs XII vs Lost Boys) and Prince Charles without Lady Di (Camilla Parker Bowles is like fucking a lazy tranny – bowls indeed). Solitary existences are fine, but when the sum is greater than the parts and they both sit side by side on the shelf, why deny yourself the full pleasure?
Rise of the Third Army was bemoaned for its “eventyness” at the outset; especially in light of the fact the light brigade has been part of one “event” after another since the days of Rebirth. If we take away the marketing hype and the PR spin though, what the GREEN LANTERN universe delivers are simply great cohesive stories that just so happen to intertwine through three books. Personally, I’ve become immune to the 42 point font, marketing clarion calls on covers, no longer considering these “events,” rather simply the universal cohesion that makes the comics medium a unique experience impossible to emulate elsewhere from cost efficiency and speed-to-delivery.
GREEN LANTERN 16 finally answers (in part) the perplexing fan question of “Why Baz?” I’m not saying the curmudgeonly answer of meeting a diversity quota is wrong, I’m sure that was part of the decision to give this Michigan native the Sinestro/Hal Jordan hybrid ring. However, the measure of a man goes far beyond the color of his skin or whether he looks up, East, or West to find Mecca/God/Shaka Ri.
After last month’s tussle with the Guardians new prodigal sons, The Third Army, this issue kicks off with Baz somewhat exonerated for the van bomb that obliterated the abandoned automotive factory. This was of course only after his, and appropriately named FBI agent Feds’, Silence of the Lambs style hunt and chase with the true culprit. Now with the government off his ass, he can focus on learning more about the emerald power bestowed upon him and hopefully start protecting earth. Given the fact the Guardians training program is on official hiatus, the universes’ favorite chipmunk B’dg takes the place of Killowog in schooling Baz on all things Lantern. Of course, B’dg was coming to earth to get the man Hal Jordan to assist in thwarting The Third Army, but few have yet to realize Hal and Sinestro shuffled off their mortal coils a few issues ago. Thanks to the Ring’s 8-Track though, both Baz and B’dg learn the final fates of Sinestro and Hal and now have another mission to add to their queue.
Chipmunk jokes, an rational explanation on why Baz is still wielding a sidearm along with the most powerful weapon in the galaxy, and a tender moment with family are all part of Johns’ recipe of goodness that fans love. It’s these character moments inside the wrapper of universal implosion that have reinvigorated GREEN LANTERN under his charge. It’s a recipe, in my opinion, all comics should follow. Without the dance between the microscopic moments feeding the macroscopic plot, a story will seem hollow or boring. GREEN LANTERN remembers that the entropy facing the universe only matter when you care about the people heading for the abyss.
GREEN LANTERN CORPS 16 is another wonderful exploration of this zoom-in and zoom-out effect I just mentioned. Tomasi wonderfully takes the baton from Johns and starts CORPS a whisper after the events in GREEN LANTERN 16. As has been the case with the past issues of CORPS since the New 52 explosion, the book centers on the doings of Guy Gardner and John Stewart in their battles against The Third Army.
John’s story is the easiest to encapsulate so we’lls tart there. He’s basically trying to remain under the Guardian’s radar as they strip GREEN LANTERNS of their wonderful toys. John is also trying to learn what happened to the remains of the GREEN LANTERN planet, Mogo, as he’s presently being used to power a world destroying device (and in an interesting twist, regain sentience). John’s mission is trying to save the universe, but also find a little self-redemption for enacting the final solution against Mogo so many months ago. I never get tired of Stewart, he carries as much emotional weight as Hal Jordan, yet gets half the air time. I’m glad to see CORPS rectifying that.
If we look at the book chronologically and sheer presence of page count, Guy Gardner ends up the focal point of issue 16. Stewart’s interlude keeps the main plot moving, but Guy’s moments are the most memorable. Stripped of his power ring and held in detention for being mouthy without a ring to back it up last issue, we kick off with Guy in the pokey. His alliterated siblings pay a visit to their jumpsuited brother only to be interrupted by the third army, Baz and B’dg. Again, the movement between books was seamless, but if you’re too cheap there is exposition that will get you up-to-speed on why Baz and B’dg have come looking for a ringless lantern. Basically, any port in a storm. The issue ends with Baz, Guy and B’dg moving off to overturn the guardians, thwart The Third Army, and somehow pull Hal and Sinestro back from the great beyond.
I’m all for sub-universe cross-overs. Again, I won’t even call them cross-overs, it reeks too much of an “event.” All titles within a specific “family” should play “just the tip” with the happenings of other books. The Rise of the Third Army does go deeper than normal cross pollination, but each book is rewarded for this, not hindered. The Rise of the Third Army is GREEN LANTERN at its best, which says a lot given the delicious biscuit wheels on this gravy train have been moving non-stop now for almost half a decade.
Ahh yes, I should also mention Mahnke and Pasarin did their usual amazing jobs on art duties with cinematic angles and truer angst on character’s faces as doom descends upon them. Of special note though is the same seamlessness of art between books that we had with story. Their work apart can be close, but usually not this close. Which makes me beg the question “Isn’t it tough to draw while spooning?”
DEATH OF THE FAMILY: BATMAN 16, BATGIRL 16, BATMAN & ROBIN 16
Writers: Snyder, Tomasi, Simone
Artists: Capullo, Gleason, Benes
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
A King, a bride, a prodigal son and a silver domed serving platter seeping with blood: This isn’t a Don Mclean song; it’s the latest happenings in the Joker’s reign of terror against the Bat-Clan. “Death of the Family” is the panacea of how events should be run, with the sum being greater than the whole of the parts while not forcing readers into imbibing every mother-loving book to understand what the hell is going on. Synergy has also been the mantra of this series. Each book has kept chronology straight and truly built off the last and this week’s books are the absolute proof in the proverbial pudding.
Now, since I’m a completest I’m reading every tale, even the ever so tangential DETECTIVE, but this is my compulsion at work, not a mandate from DC. Every character has their beef with the Joker, and with only a few weeks left we now stand at the precipice of his grand plan’s fruition.
Before we pontificate, let’s SEE what these penultimate series of books have to tell.
Snyder delivers the most esoteric of this week’s offerings, with the motivations of the Joker still only being understood by him and him alone. He’s blathered abo;ut breaking up the family for issues now, so Bats could reach his full potential, but the means to accomplish this end seem haphazard at best. However, when dealing with a psycopath it’s probably best not to understand. When last we saw Bats he was on his upward climb into the mouth of madness that is Arkham Asylum. Now Bats is cowl-deep in the crazies following a maze of gore that lead to his throne. Yes, the King has returned and his court consists of Penguin, Two-Face, Riddler and of course the Jester himself. Why Joker is anointing Batman remains unknown, the joy in this issue remains firmly steeped in Joker’s twisted sense of humor. Endomorphic inmates dressed as the JUSTICE LEAGUE, flaming horse torpedoes, and a double cross on his accomplices are what keep the pages turning. The issue ends as all will this week, Joker gently lifting the lid on a silver domed serving platter.
Gleason still wins the award for creepiest representation of the Joker’s rotting Halloween mask. It’s attached, but not really. It’s intact, but not really. It’s creepier than Poltergeist’s Carol Ann in a movie with the two chicks from The Shining, really. While I’m still partial to Joker’s macabre puppetry with his flesh mask in last issue, Gleason does a great job of still making this the face of fear. Likewise Tomasi hits ever psychological chord expertly to make Damian believe he is in a mano-a-kido against dear old Dad in a fight to the death. Obviously it’s not, but Damian’s belief rips off his emotional scabs to reveal an epiphany that not all “bad” guys should be killed. As with BATMAN, the last page is the Joker serving Robin…something under a silver domed serving platter.
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate an unraveling of the mind. No, not Joker’s, that ball of yarn has already been undone. Barbara’s sanity is what’s at stake in issue 16 as she becomes the wedded wife of Mr. J. Why is the Joker suddenly interested in betrothing BATGIRL, well, we’re still not sure. Again, it has to do with tearing the Bat-Clan asunder, but it’s still inconceivable “how” Joker’s scheme will all come together. Benes balances beauty with horror in this issue, giving us one of the best rendered Barbara’s we’ve seen. I’ll also say there are a ton of other artists on this book, but not once was the shift jarring or out of place. Each artist hand-off was so perfectly timed with the movement of the plot chapters; I honestly thought the changes were merely Benes making stylistic shifts for mood. This issue also answers the age old question about how long Barbara was Oracle (or merely wheelie-bound) in the New 52. The answer, about a year. Simone delivers her final piece of goodness in redeeming James Gordon Jr. (sort of). Since Snyder took Jimmy J on in DETECTIVE, he has become one of my favorite new Bat villains. And clearly one of the Joker’s favorites as well. This issue, as with all others this week, ends with the Joker revealing something to Barbara under a silver domed serving platter.
All right, now let’s speculate. The serving platter at the end of each issue this week is a pretty good indicator that Alfred is what’s for dinner. I find this to be too easy and convenient. I still don’t believe we are to take the “death” in “Death of the Family” literally. It’s too easy, and Snyder has already alluded to the fact Joker wants BATMAN separated from the family, but not necessarily shuffling off any of their mortal coils to achieve this end. Also, to kill Alfred would do anything BUT tear the family apart. Let’s be honest, they would band together to pound the Joker into white jelly if he touched one combed over hair on Alfred’s head.
Basically, we still don’t know Jack…or Joker.
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Burnham
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
“You know what Jason Todd? I helped kill you 25 years ago. I was one of the legions who dialed 1-900-KILL-TOD and felt my parents’ wrath when the bill came so my voice could be heard. I felt a modicum of guilt for the decision and then felt the weight of that guilt subside with your return. All of my remorse went away when you found a good comic book and true direction in RED HOOD. However, after BATMAN INCORPORATED 6, I take it all back. I’m glad you died and I’m pissed you got to bang Starfire, because anyone who messes with BAT-COW will feel the wrath of Damian Wayne and Optimous Douche.”
OK, that feels better.
I chided Vol 1. Of BATMAN INCORPORATED. While I dug the idea of a bunch of Batman’s running around and once I got past the Knight & Squire issues I felt the execution was top notch, I just could not get past Bruce Wayne’s public declaration of financing BATMAN. I felt it was akin to giving Clark Kent contacts and still expecting us to buy his ruse. Essentially it opened the kimono WAY TOO far for comfort (and stretched the believability that comic denizens are really that obtuse).
Vol 2 though has completely shifted gears. Instead of Bruce travelling the world recruiting, all of his BATMAN’S have come back to the aerie in Gotham to battle Leviathan and their seductive mistress, Talia Al Ghul. Without the public declarations, trite cultural tropes, and Batman especially acting like an Amway salesman to get people on board, BATMAN INCORPORATED took on a persona I could get behind with the fullest of support.
The series also introduced BAT-COW, probably my favorite character of the NEW 52. I have no bovine fetish, what I adore is what BAT-COW symbolizes in my favorite Robin to date, Damian Wayne. Raised by assassins, spoiled beyond belief, and smarter than the average bear, Damian the little prick is easy to portray. And before you give me a petulant “ttt,” think about it. I’m right. For issue upon issue people wanted to beat this kid as he sassed off to Dick Grayson while Batman was on his sojourn through time. Since the return though, Robin the scared and is this issue reveals truly unwanted little boy has never been explored. Morrison rectified this with BAT-COW. In the adoption of this doe eyed creature we see the sad and all too often plight of only children befriending and anthropomorphizing animals for friendship. And it doesn’t hurt that the adoption took place in perfect juxtaposition with his killer side in BATMAN INCORPORATED 1.
Another reason I’m fully enamored with this volume, and this particular issue, is that Talia gets the best of all the worldly Bats and it’s up to the OB (original bats) to save their foreign asses. Squire, my least favorite of the international crew is hanging on the precipice of death at the end. I give a big Bally Ho to any writer that’s willing to off cockney stereotypes; with Morrison leaving DC I would pay him personally to rewrite My Fair Lady with Eliza turning to prostitution and heavy drug use at the end.
It wasn’t all shits and giggles for me this issue though. First there’s Jerk-Off Jason who takes a direct stab at BAT-COW in the Bat-Cave as the four Robin’s monitor Batman’s progress towards Talia in her abandoned warehouse maze of doom. Then there was a further blow to the fragile Robin ego. Hands down, Burnham draws my favorite version of Damian, making him look like a true little boy with a chip on his shoulder. What we hadn’t seen before in Robin though, was pain. In the past any emotional scars were firmly scabbed over with attitude. With Morrison’s words and Bunham’s art, my heart broke a little when she said the only reason for Damian was to have spare parts for Ra’s. It’s an epic blow to the little scamp that Talia then pours lemon juice on in the form of an epic cliff-hanger of danger to Damian or all of Gotham. I’m not going to say what it is, but the Judgment Scales on the cover will give you a clue and it’s a perfect swan song before Morrison he says sayonara to DC for a while.
I’ll buy anything with BAT-COW and receive a modicum of enjoyment from it, but in the hands of Master Morrison every BAT-MOMENT is Kobe instead of ground chuck including BATMAN INCORPORATED 6.
Oh, and fuck you once again Jason.
No other title in the New 52 has polarized fandom like JUSTICE LEAGUE. From one side the popcorn eaters have said it’s a tantalizing thrill ride that thankfully hasn’t gone too deep into morose waters of heavy emotions from the team and global angst. I believe the word “fun” is the term they often use. Also, the K-5 set have gone absolutely gonzo for JUSTICE LEAGUE, making Johns and Lee comic books’ Phineas and Ferb.
Then there are the comic erudite, those who have read so many books that they expected JUSTICE LEAGUE to not only traverse new grounds, but to do so in a way that would bring forth an originality of content that would leave Grant Morrison agog. My complete objectiveness has allowed me to see both sides. I was forgiving of the first few issues mainly because of the excitement surrounding the New 52. I didn’t feel we could pass judgment until an antagonist surfaced.
Well, that villain came and went in one page. Literally! With one two-page splash decrying “I am Darkseid,” a Parademon Cocksicle sticking out of the ocean, and a one page trip to Apocalypse, the world’s greatest heroes banded together and no one was really sure why, least of all our heroes. Again, I was forgiving, trying to look at the whole universe and DC’s mantra to offer books to fans of all ages. I figured if the kids dig it, groovy, I’ll simply go wade in more adult waters.
Then arc 2 turned the tide, but not in a good way. The five years before excuse went away, yet coming forward a half-decade offered no maturation of this team. And nothing jibed with each hero’s solo title. Barry and Hal were still the two Corey’s. Azzarello has been portraying WONDER WOMAN as a dark God slayer and protector; in JUSTICE LEAGUE she liked ice cream. SUPERMAN is all over the map from title to title; in JUSTICE LEAGUE though he just moped and hit things while SUPERMAN and ACTION battled for “whose personality is it anyway?” And the second arc’s story was just meh. Not a ton of fun watching the world’s greatest heroes Battle their psyches.
Then came the kiss that made the fans of Lois Lane spontaneously combust from blood boiling rage, but it also moved the needle ever closer to an intriguing team dynamic for JUSTICE LEAGUE. Couple this wanton super affection with BATMAN slapping a Bang Bros. secret camera on Superman’s back and we began to see wafts of the Johns we know and love.
Some will say this change was spurred by Lee hitting the happy trails. I don’t think any of us know how Lee and Johns developed the story, so this is true speculation. If Lee was plotting things though, with the art coming first, this theory more than treads water. Johns needs smaller panels with faces to thrive. Big bodacious poses just ain’t where he’s comfortable. So with the right artist in place and some real personality for the remaining team members we enter the first big cross-over for JUSTICE LEAGUE with “Throne of Atlantis.”
JUSTICE LEAGUE 15 delivers on its 42 Point Font cover exclamation – this is indeed A BOLD NEW ERA! And it succeeds for every reason the past 14 issues have faltered.
Epic destruction is the order of the day. After a missile test is sabotaged it sends a barrage of ballistics that give the denizens of Atlantis the Long Johns deep fryer treatment. However, not every mermaid and merman end up cooked, there’s still plenty left to initiate Phase I of the Atlantean Attack plan to…wait for it…drown the Eastern seaboard. After watching countless hours of the Japanese Tsunami on YouTube I figured I would pretty desensitized to comic destruction. Ivan Reis does wonderful work though trumping reality with epic size waves that send Metropolis and Gotham (sing it with me) uhnda da sea, uhnda da sea…Lois, it’s better down where it’s wetter just wait and seeeeeee. If you appreciate good art, there’s a two page spread that one could stare at for five minutes – you’ll know it when you see it.
One could argue that we’ve had big images in JUSTICE LEAGUE prior and that the Darkseid run had thousands of parademons. The problem though was every single page was a bombastic spectacle, with issue 15 the epic is juxtaposed with the closer views of real life. Arthur helping Batman catch a criminal. Superman and Wonder Woman finally going on a date in their civvies (with a very nice explanation on why glasses are such an effective disguise). And of course the grand reveal that Aquaman helped craft the plans that drowned several million people.
Another phenomenal aspect of this JUSTICE LEAGUE arc is the grand villain, the King of Atlantis and Aquaman’s half-brother, the fully Atlantean Orm. All right, I’ll admit I’m cheating here. All of the Orm build-up happened over in AQUAMAN’S title, but honestly what fan of DC isn’t reading AQUAMAN right now? He’s the most interesting thing in scales since Daryl Hannah took a bath in Splash and he’s probably the most three dimensional character in the DCU right now. Also, JUSTICE LEAGUE should be an amalgam that brings books, titles and events together, instead of trying to be the fulcrum from which the universe expands.
For once SHAZAM wasn’t the best thing in JUSTICE LEAGUE, but make no mistake the back-up that should be a full title, continues to deliver. Billy lets adulthood get to his head and we leave with the first encounter between Billy and Black Adam.
Throne of Atlantis is to action, what Death of the Family is too horror – together they show that the superhero genre has many places to go yet other than deconstruction.