The return of Peter Parker was all the buzz days prior to the release of Superior Spider-Man #25, and I wondered, “why do it now?” Issue #25 makes it crystal clear why and while Dan Slott stated there is a subtle nod to Peter’s return in this issue, his and co-writer Christos Gage’s definition of “subtle” must include the use of a sledgehammer!
While the announcement of Peter’s return was welcome, I only wished it could have been revealed exclusively in the pages of Superior Spider-Man #25, but that’s not the world we live in, even less so if you write about comic books. There is, however, much more going on in the pages of this over-sized 25th issue. The Goblin Wars are about to begin, and Norman Osborn is intent on learning who is under Spider-man’s mask; poor Carlie Copper is transformed into a new Goblin family member “Monster,” and Hobgoblin is planning is own defense against the Goblin Underground.
The book kicks off with the Avenger’s finally arriving on the scene to stop Superior Venom, and the action is all out and intense. Even Thor is little match for Ock-Venom. While the Avengers deal with Venom, Iron Man visits a recovering Cardiac and dying Flash Thompson, and it’s far from pleasant or comfortable for everyone involved. It is indeed a jammed packed issue with plenty of consequences.
Slott and Gage also bring the public at large into the mix as they begin to question Spider-Man’s tactics and wage their own revolt against Spider-Man’s minions and robots. All hell is breaking loose, and it’s entertaining and full of excitement. During the battle to regain control of Venom is when the real surprise moment occurs, and rather than spoil what’s already flooded the internet, I suggest simply reading it and letting in all sink in. It’s brings much more impact and fun that way.
Humberto Ramos’ work is so tailor-made for this story and without it would lose a lot of the fun that still resides even in Spider-Ock. Ramos’ sense of action and flow is big and bold and action-packed without apology. That’s what makes it great! The Green Goblin looks his best in Ramos’ hands as do many of the outrageous villains in Spider-Man’s world, but he knows what his art is and uses it for maximum impact and appeal.
This is one of the most exciting issues in the run to date. By the end of the issue Octavius is back to his scheming deceptive ways but by now very few people are believing it. While I am happy that Peter is making his return, I freely admit that Superior has been a very good book and in many ways wish there will be a way both Amazing and Superior could coexist. Maybe Slott has the way that can happen and for a lifelong die-hard Peter Parker fan that’s saying volumes. Superior won me over and for those who jumped off after Amazing #700 you are doing yourself a disservice. Much has to happen before April, and I for one am looking forward to what’s to come.
Earth 2 is quickly becoming one of my favorite books, and writer Tom Taylor lets chaos reign with no pretense that any characters resemble anything you’ve ever seen before! Superman is evil, Lois Lane is the Red Tornado and Batman uses a gun, and that is literally just scratching the surface. Taylor rips a page right out of his Injustice playbook and turns everyone and everything you ever thought you knew on its head. He takes the idea of Earth 2 and makes the most of alternate takes on characters. It’s fun, surprising, shocking and action packed!
Since Taylor took over writing duties he continues to go full-bore with reinventing Earth 2. Last issue’s twist of Lois as Red Tornado takes on a more relevant tone as she takes on Batman. She thinks Bruce has gone mad, but there is no clear-cut stance on who is actually under the cowl – a signature of Taylor’s to keep you guessing. He also introduces readers to Aquawoman and a new twist on Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen. It’s such a fun read, and the discoveries and twists will make the fanboy in you jump for joy. Taylor knows how to navigate these waters better than most, and Earth 2 hits on so many high notes you may need a sedative after reading.
Artist Nicola Scott thrives on this book and Taylor uses her skills to Earth 2’s advantage. Shifting between Superman verses The Flash and Batman’s attempt to gain allies in the coming war with Darkseid, Scott understands what makes these characters different from DCU proper and excels at meeting the challenge Taylor presents. The book is fast paced and Scott never loses the reader in the mix but guides the eye with grace and power.
Earth 2 is just so much fun and in a world where anything is possible. Taylor and Scott never fail at providing top notch action, suspense and shock. However, Taylor avoids shocking for shocks sake and carefully plans each twist and reveal for maximum impact and dynamic storytelling. If you’ve ever wanted to see Superman at his worst and Batman doing what Bruce will never do then don’t pass on Earth 2. It’s a take on those heroes we know and love that imagines possibilities without restrictions which makes for an excellent and exciting read.
I have been back and forth with Action Comics since the beginning on the New 52, and now with Greg Pak taking over writing duties with Aaron Kuder handling the art, I am firmly back on Action! Pak brings a new tone to the title that is more intently focused on the “action” side of Superman. It reads like a classical superhero story but still feels fresh and exciting.
From page one the action begins with Lana Lang, literally, running for her life from an unknown and terrifying monster. After fighting down to her last bullets Superman arrives to take on the fight, and it’s as knock down and drag out as a man verses monster battle can be. Pak pulls no punches and makes a statement to the reader about what kind of Superman story he is going to tell, and as readers we should be thankful. Pak slows down the pace just enough to give us a glimpse of when Clark first got his heat vision on the Kent farm and how that all correlates to the aggressive and fearful reaction Lana, her assistant and now the military have to the current unknown beast.
Thrown into the mix of this battle is an attack from the military on Superman from someone only known as the Ghost Soldier, and the comparisons to Superman fighting the real monster becomes even more crystal clear. The action is off the chart, but Pak manages to drive home some larger points on how everyone reacts before actually giving logic and reason a place in the conversation. Well done and without bludgeoning readers over the head becomes a nice balance to the overall story.
Aaron Kuder steps up to the plate and delivers quite a showcase of his skills. The action is fluid and the chaos that appears on the page is still easily maneuvered through without ever losing track of what’s going on. Nothing is more frustrating than a high impact action scene that gets muddy and clouded with noise, but Kuder knows how to avoid all those traps which makes the action more of a symphony rather than a cacophony. His flashback scenes at the farm strike a nice contrast as well and never lose the impact of the well crafted panels.
This is a new Action Comics, and the first issue from this creative team has set a solid tone for what’s still to come. There’s no earth shattering twists or deep dramatic darkness, but that’s just fine by me. This is Superman at his best, most honest and most heroic. Seeing Lana back in the mix was nice as well, and Superman musing about her is a detailed glimpse into the man within Superman. Well done, well executed and something for Superman fans to celebrate!
Harley Quinn has always been a fan favorite and finally has her own monthly ongoing series in the New 52. Harley Quinn #0, written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, who approach this issue having Harley imagine what it would be like to have her own comic book and who might draw it. It quickly becomes a fourth wall breaking back and forth between Harley and seventeen artists who each draw a single page of Harley in different scenarios and situations based on each artist’s well-known styles. As first issues go, it develops no long-term plot line, and only focuses on the fun, chaos and craziness Harley’s character embodies. It’s a chance for Conner and Palmiotti to go off script, have fun and rattle off inside jokes with some of the best known and up and coming artists in the industry.
While I was expecting something a little more serious and dark for Harley, this was ultimately a fun, entertaining issue. I fully expect issue #1 to be the true beginning of her first story arc, but this was a book that takes full advantage of the character and the medium. The art was amazing and the inside industry jokes were spot-on as well. While it can be disconcerting to have a new artist on each page, much like Justice League of America #23.3 (Dial E) during villain’s month, Harley Quinn was a perfect match for such a stunt. It’s seems as though all the artists who participated thoroughly enjoyed being involved and had a good sense of humor to poke fun at themselves; some about their style, the money they make or their ability to get a monthly book out on time, just to name a few. It’s all very tongue-in-cheek and reminds readers of the kind of upbeat fun that comics can provide.
Needless to say I enjoyed Harley Quinn #0 thoroughly and carefully examined each artists work several times over. It was great to see someone like Bruce Timm treat us to his original animated series version of Harley and his ability to joke about the power he wields within the DC offices. To see such artists as Mike Adlard, Adam Hughes, Art Baltazar, Tradd Moore, Darwyn Cooke and Walter Simonson in a single book is a real treat and makes it so enjoyable. Amanda Conner is the standout here but Chad Hardin, who finishes out the final pages of issue #0, will be the regular artist, and based on his work here, it will be something to look forward to starting in issue #1.
Even though this issue doesn’t actually kick off Harley’s first story arc, it is a fun read. The art is tremendous and the fourth wall aspect is funny and entertaining at the expense of all the artists involved, and that’s refreshing to see. This isn’t a necessity to pick up, but it’s worth getting simply for the art alone, and even though it was unexpected it still captures Harley’s appeal to fans. This showcases great talent with a great character and promises a series readers are sure to love.
Superman/Wonder Woman was one of the top books this week, and writer Charles Soule is quickly becoming a top favorite of mine. Issue #2 kicks off right where issue #1 ended with Wonder Woman in a heated battle with Doomsday, who we as readers know, but this is Wonder Woman’s first encounter with the monster. The dynamics of this team-up was intriguing, and Soule has made it formidable and exciting. Having Wonder Woman face Superman villains and vice verse is a great concept and Soule, in only two issues, has made it a great read.
The majority of the issue deals with Superman being introduced to Wonder Woman’s family with Apollo being the main focus, and the interaction is crazy good. This is the age-old scenario of the boyfriend meeting the family but with superpowers and super egos involved. Apollo is arrogant and condescending to Superman, and while he may get the best of him early, Soule sets up a fist-pumping comeback from Superman. While Wonder Woman can hold her own there is a funny “cute girlfriend” moment from her as Superman handles the situation, which is something we rarely see from her.
Tony Daniel has a lot to work with; in the opening fight from Doomsday followed by Superman and Apollo’s chest thumping match, he makes the most of it. His art really shines with the action and pacing plus several slashes that really sell the intensity and power of all these characters. The final panel with the reveal of the next villain to emerge is simply spectacular with its effectiveness.
If there were any complaints to be had it would be the ending of the fight with Doomsday. It wasn’t quite clear at the moment, and I was slightly confused by the time Superman makes his arrival. It’s all cleared up a few panels later, and that’s only a minor complaint at best. The whole of this book is great, awesome and exciting on all levels. I had my apprehensions when the book was announced but Soule has alleviated any doubt and has me chomping at the bit for issue #3! This is a terrific book to get in on if you are new to the DCU and for longtime readers it encompasses all the best attributes and strengths of these two characters for one of the best and highly infectious new reads in the New 52!
Writer Scott Snyder is on record about his initial fear at taking on Batman’s “Zero Year” story line, but he should feel very confident in where this will stand in the Batman mythos. He and artist Greg Capullo continue to build on what we mostly already know, but add touches and tweaks that make this one entertaining and exciting ride. This story will stand the test of time and will serve as the new measuring stick for the future of Batman stories.
Batman’s battle with the Red Hood gang is over but things are just starting to pick up after the Riddler has blacked-out all of Gotham. With the threat of a massive storm approaching, there is so much to contend with that it will make your head spin. The opening pages are interesting, but a mystery and the main focus of this issue, which kicks off with Batman running from Gotham police. Here, Capullo has thrown his take on the first Batmobile, and it’s like nothing we’ve ever seen or would have imagined. It’s a perfect fit, in both function and style, for Bruce in the midst of his personal discovery as Batman.
There is a new villain on the scene, and again Snyder and Capullo break the mold of what we might expect plus we get another first appearance, simple yet stately, of a well-known character from Batman’s world. This issue, to me, focuses on not the physical strength and gadgets of Batman but his intellect. Snyder shows us the detective, in action, as he works through the Riddler’s blackout and the identity of the new villain with CSI like skill and precision. This is followed by some great gamesmanship between Gordon and Bruce outside Wayne Manor, which again showcases Batman’s mental strength and toughness.
Snyder throws in a twist by the end – that even as a longtime Batman reader – still came as quite a surprise and will keep you guessing. Capullo simply chews some scenery here, especially with this new villain and how he carries out his crimes. It’s grotesque yet somehow weirdly artistic and right in Capullo’s wheelhouse. There is also a fitting back-up story by Snyder, James Tynion IV and Andy Clarke focusing on Harper Row that shows the origin of her strength with an awesome spread that acknowledges all the Zero Year tie-ins.
“Batman: Zero Year” continues to hit on all cylinders and Snyder’s writing and Capullo’s art are off the chart. It’s always a bit daunting to tackle a new take on a well-worn hero’s beginnings, but this is something special and more than I think most fans were expecting. It’s fresh, yet familiar. Epic, yet personal. Snyder and Capullo are pulling off no easy feat here and fans should only be excited with anticipation as for what’s to come!
When Amazing X-Men was announced I was under whelmed and quite frankly a little on X-Men overload. But when I saw that Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness were on the title I immediately added it to my ever-growing list. There was still the lingering doubt whether or not we really needed an additional X book, but much to my relief Amazing X-Men is a welcome addition to the family.
Fans have long clamored to bring back Nightcrawler, and now they get their wish. Aaron’s approach to bringing him back from the dead is methodical and well thought out. It begins with Nightcrawler in Heaven with a heavy heart. He admits, as a man of faith, that it’s everything he believed it would be but he struggles with the unease of unfinished business back on earth. His reflection is short lived with the return of Azazel, in full-blown pirate mode, looking for a fight and Nightcrawler happily obliges. Aaron fuels this battle with plenty of BAMF’s, action and giving it teeth with Nightcrawler’s love of a good sword fight.
Aaron also returns, what many X titles are lacking in, fun and lightheartedness. Bringing an oddly naive Angelica Jones, aka Firestar, into the Jean Grey School gives its characters time to show off the upbeat mixture of characters. This plays right into Aaron’s hands as he does so well on Wolverine and the X-Men: the fighting/flirting of Storm and Wolverine, Bobby’s scolding of an uninvited Warbird into his locked bedroom, and Beast at his most fun since the launch of Marvel NOW! This all leads to the discovery of an infestation of BAMF’s, and the arrival that sets the course for the rest of the arc.
Ed McGuinness is a perfect fit for this title, and Aaron give him plenty to work with here. From the battle in heaven between Nightcrawler and Azazel with its fluid, exaggerated action and detail to a slew of BAMF’s and swordplay is a thing to behold. McGuinness handles it all in stride and precision: to the Jean Grey school and the slew of characters, which can seem crowded and confusing, but McGuinness’ style makes for relative clarity.
My only question is where Firestar fits into this mix and why she’s here. I’m sure Aaron has a plan but for now she seems unnecessary given the crowded group we already have at the school. Overall this is a really fun, entertaining read and Amazing X-Men is off to a great start in Aaron and McGuinness’ capable hands. The return of Nightcrawler was well worth the wait, and I love how Aaron has a much more complex plan for his return rather then explain it away with a time travel or clone simplification. While many of the X-books have been very good, this is a return to the camp, fun and joy an X-Men story can be. It’s well worth your time to pick it up or add it to your pull-list.
Superman Unchained makes a welcome return this month with issue #4, and the book continues to be great. Scott Snyder, who loves the slow burn of a good villain, does some his best here with Lex Luthor and his exposition with Jimmy Olsen about the future of all heroes, but especially Superman’s demise. Luthor uses paper origami dolls to represent the complexity but ultimate fragility of life and death, which Snyder knocks out of the park. Jimmy is in the worst possible position with no help insight and only Luthor left to twist his mind.
Superman continues his fight in Tokyo against Ascension and their drones with Wraith by his side. Snyder uses this opportunity to have Wraith teach Clark things about his powers, how they can be used and how they will grow in time. It’s a unique take on the teacher/student relationship while drones fire red kryptonite bullets exposing a weakness Clark doesn’t fully understand. Wraith and Superman work well as a team, and the battle is high intensity and excitement, which Jim Lee details so well but who also gives a nice balance between Superman’s action and Jimmy’s slower interaction at Lex’s hands.
There is a lot going around in this issue about the death of Superman. Lex explains who will cause it, and Lois is told by one of the crash survivors that Superman doesn’t have long to live. It’s all very mysterious, and there is an introduction of a shard, much like a crystal of Superman’s, which is the key with all the answers. Again, Snyder is a master at setting a larger mystery in motion with what seem like simple solutions, but longtime readers know it will go much deeper than you can imagine.
This issue is chock full of action, suspense, mystery and intrigue, and Snyder and Lee wouldn’t have it any other way. The best part for me is the look inside of Lex’s mind, and his evil really shines here with his torture of Jimmy. Snyder makes what seems innocuous come alive to be dark and dangerous, and as readers we are better off with this story in Snyder’s hands. There is plenty of Lex stories where he is the ultimate villain, but Snyder takes it too a new level. Saying Lee’s work is a thing of beauty is like saying the sky is blue, but it is awesome and exiting work as always.
I missed Superman Unchained, and this issue reignites the excitement the book brings to comic book shelves. This is classic superhero stuff but with enough new touches to make it feel brand new. I’ve often been asked by new readers what is a good place to start reading Superman and Superman Unchained is usually my response because it’s a great place to start and an excellent continuation to what has come before.
Superman has returned to Earth 2, murdered Steppenwolf and is now the herald for Darkseid, and that’s only the first three pages. Do you really need any more reasons to be reading Earth 2?
Last issue was the final for writer James Robinson, and he went out with about the most shocking ending of any comic book this year. When Robinson announced he was leaving, I admit, I was worried about the book and it’s direction after the writer’s stellar run. However, most of those fears were alleviated when it was announced Tom Taylor (Injustice: God’s Among Us) was taking over and that the art will continue to be handled by the amazing Nicola Scott.
So how does Taylor kick off his run? With an opening panel that is no joke. Superman, with all the fire and brimstone he can muster, calling out, “All hail, Darkseid,” and returning the new Batman to literally destroy anyone in his way. One thing that Taylor has proven with Injustice is that his characters are clear in their declarations, and Earth 2 is no different. Superman’s destruction of the world army makes Steppenwolf’s battle look like a slap-fight. There is only one detective who knows what it’s going to take to defeat Superman, and on Earth 2 his bat symbol is red, but his determination and ability are equal to our Dark Knight.
The only remaining vessel of the World Army is also the prison of the world’s most dangerous and unpredictable villains. It’s up to Batman to make sure they are fighting on his side but that will be no easy task. The one major spoiler from this issue was online the week prior to the issue’s release, and I won’t spoil it here for those who might not have seen it or if this is their first go round with Earth 2. Needless to say it’s another major shock to the system, and by the end of the issue the ramifications will ripple through this arc. It’s like no other re-imagining of a character that I have ever seen, short of Superman’s, and Taylor is pulling no punches with the direction he is taking this book.
The one constant has been Nicola Scott’s art, and she is running wild here. From Superman’s all out assault, to Batman’s reemergence and Dr. Fate’s battle, it truly is a sight to behold. Her action, motion and detail is so spot-on and equal to the punch Taylor uses in his writing. This is a great issue and an outstanding beginning to Taylor’s run on Earth 2. Robinson’s work was left in excellent hands, and if you haven’t been reading this book before and you like to see your heroes and villain’s in a new and twisted light — then get this immediately.
One of the biggest mysteries since Forever Evil began was the notion that all three Justice League teams were dead. Up until now it has only been spoken about as an assumption. In issue #3 we get, at least, partial answers to what happened to everyone after the Crime Syndicate’s attack via Batman and Catwoman, the only surviving members of any Justice League. I suppose you can say Cyborg is a survivor as well, but you would be using that term extremely loosely. Batman describes the attack after he brings what’s left of Cyborg back to S.T.A.R. Labs and Victor’s father, followed by a touching and heartbreaking panel between father and son.
The explanation of the missing Justice League members is still somewhat vague, but we do know now that Deathstorm is turning out to be one of the most powerful and dangerous members of the Crime Syndicate. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor is planning his attack with his version of Bizarro, and there is some very light-hearted interaction between the two, which is a rare moment of levity in this story. Lex has a plan, and as the story continues we are experiencing very formidable heroic actions on the part of Mr. Luthor.
The best of all the action happening is the last half of the issue with Ultraman against Black Adam, and Deathstorm and Power Rings verses the Rouges. Black Adam is a worthy opponent for Ultraman but quickly finds out his real power and the literal meaning of “shut-up.” Power Ring, while having very little spine, has a ton of firepower, and Deathstorm’s abilities continue to surprise. Even though these replacement “heroes” stand their ground it is obvious they are still vastly overmatched.
This was, without a doubt, my favorite issue of Forever Evil so far, and this issue is the one that really starts to bring the bigger picture together. Johns is an expert at big universe events and maintains that level here. Finch’s art is great, as always, and it’s nice to see his depiction of a less-wimpy and more violent Power Ring this time. This is also the first issue that starts to answer some questions, which are many, and one which begins to unite some of the villains. It’s also nice to see Lex, even as a villain, as something so much more. This is how Lex wants the world to see him, and this is the first time, with our own eyes, we get some real insight as to what that vision looks like.
We finally get our first “team” together, some brutally violent action, another great take on the Rouges as group and more devastating victories by Ultraman, Power Ring and Deathstorm. I loved it. This event is starting to take shape and feel more complete and cohesive, and I can’t wait for what’s next. This issue brought out the fanboy in me and there is plenty here that will get you gushing like one, too.
Part 10 and the conclusion is here in X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2, and it is a doozy! Everything leads to this, and it is a battle for the ages. Past, present and future X-men battle the future brotherhood with a dash of S.H.I.E.L.D. who have some nifty new Sentinels. From the opening page this is non-stop action, and when the Sentinels arrive the affects will be catastrophic and deadly to some. This final chapter pulls no punches, literally, and with the mass of X-Men on the battle field, you might want to do a second pass to make sure you don’t miss anything.
This is the issue I was waiting for, and Brian Michael Bendis pays off in a big way. There is still plenty of witty banter and one-liners abound but make no mistake this is all action, and the aftermath will be felt for some time to come. When a battle rages like this one there is bound to be some who lose control. It begins with Majik as her anger leads her to a moment as Darkchilde, but the true loss of control will be most devastating from future Jean Grey now known as Xorn. Everyone steps up in a big way in this battle, but they are simultaneously equally vulnerable.
Bendis wraps up this issue nicely with not one but four epilogues which were each written and drawn by various Marvel talent. It works so well because it is a chance for all the X-Men to find their place in this new world, and some choices will shock you. Wolverine makes a strong declaration for his school; Jubilee gets time with her son from the future and gets some much needed closure and reassurance. Others make choices, which will continue the ripple effects the Battle of the Atom begun. It is by far one of the better Marvel events of the year with a satisfying payoff and actual repercussions throughout the X-Men story lines. All in all it was worth the investment and sets up what’s to come in 2014 quite nicely! Easily one of the better X events of recent memory.
Damian: Son of Batman#1 begins at the Gotham City Tricorner Docks, “some years from now,” but from the looks of the art not too very far from the present day either. Andy Kubert handles both writing and art duties on this mini-series, and it’s always a pleasure when he’s on art, and from what I read not too shabby on the writing aspect either. We see Damian and Batman at the docks in can what only be described as the nastiest pile of dead bodies and dead fish one could dream up. Now if you’ve seen any of the online previews for the book then it’s no secret or spoiler that Batman dies at the hands – or actually fins – of a Joker fish. Not quite the dramatic death you would expect for Batman, but effective nonetheless.
Damian goes to his mother, Talia, and grandfather, Ra’s al Ghul, for help in avenging the death of Batman, and we get a nice recap of Damian’s conception, birth and ultimate betrayal of the al Ghul family name. Talia is crystal clear on her disappointment, but Ra’s al Ghul actually gives a bit of honor to the Batman legacy and something for Damian to strive toward. A little out of character, but it’s been established early on that things aren’t as clear as they seem.
If you love seeing Damian taking out villains with violent recklessness then the rest of this book is for you. This is pure Damian without Bruce in his ear about his methods of eradicating villains. Alfred attempts to fill that void but his words fall on deaf ears. Kubert draws a mean Damian and great action sequences. One interesting scene has Damian at a confessional with a priest who knows an awful lot about Bruce Wayne and Batman. Interesting to see if this plays out in a bigger plot line.
Damian: Son of Batman was about what I expected, but that didn’t make me enjoy it any less. It’s a pure action revenge tale, at least from the outset, and I had a lot of fun with what Kubert puts down on the page. There is a twist at the end that will change the trajectory of this story, and it will leave your head spinning and wanting issue #2 to get here even quicker.
Damian fans will love this book, and it’s a fitting tribute after what happened in Batman Inc. #8. Damian’s death is avenged here – and the gloves are pulled off! Enjoy this “future” story for what it is: a kick-ass Damian punching and killing villains story. Batman wouldn’t approve, but Damian fans will!
With all the craziness in the Marvel universe including Infinity and Battle of the Atom it’s nice to sit down with the Uncanny Avengers and their simple battle against the apocalypse twins, Uriel and Eimin. All they have to do is prevent the rapture of all mutants by a now abducted Scarlet Witch at the hands of dead X-Man Banshee. It’s as easy as a walk in the park with the Four Horseman of Death. OK, not so simple but far less complicated than most of the other Marvel events.
Writer Rick Remender has crafted one of the finer books in the slew of X-Men and Avenger titles, and the Apocalypse twins are quickly becoming one of the better villains to threaten all mutant-kind in some time. The power to kill a Celestial moves them to the head of the villainous class. Scarlet Witch has been manipulated, and once again, becomes the lynch pin, but unlike previous events, she has learned something from her past betrayals which ultimately may be the only way to actual save everyone.
Remender’s battles are not only rich in character but deep in emotion. Havok and Wasp’s relationship drives much of the action in their fight with Captain America against Banshee, and it doesn’t get more emotionally scarring than what Wolverine is enduring at the hands of reborn horseman, Daken. Wolverine is the most vulnerable as he’s ever been, as he faces the son he murdered, and there is a real fear that his recovery is anything but inevitable this time. Daniel Acuna’s art is fantastic as usual! He handles the different realms of existence on Uriel and Eimin’s ship with ease. He also balances the contrast between regal elegance and violent rage in a way that feels organic and natural to such supernatural plot devices.
We find out the true nature of Scarlet Witch’s plan for the rapture, but how Rogue and Sunfire interpret it sets-up a violent confrontation that should once and for all settle the score between Scarlet Witch and Rouge. Remender is crafting these twists and turns into a volatile mixture ready to explode in an instant much to the reader’s delight. Uncanny Avengers is the Marvel title X-Men and Avengers fans will find rises to the top and sets the bar as high as Remender did with his last run on Uncanny X-Force. This book is at the top of my pile each month and rarely fails to entertain. A must read for all X-Men and Avenger fans.
Issue #24 of The Flash concludes the battle with the Reverse Flash, which offers up revelations, heavy emotions and a renewed sense of duty from Barry Allen as someone more than a hero.
Issue #25, next month, will mark the end of writer Brian Buccellato and artist Francis Manapul’s run on The Flash but they depart to take up the creative duties on Detective Comics. Unlike many of the heated and often public departures from creators this past year on several DC titles, Buccellato and Manapul felt that the time is right to move on from The Flash, and this issue comfortably settles in to begin the wrap up their run.
In a classic plot line of time travel, through the speed force Barry must stop Daniel West from killing his father in the past but not before he manages to kill three of Barry’s friends in the process. It will take more than physical force to stop the Reverse Flash, and Barry must use his criminal training in psychology to make Daniel realize the consequences of this abuse of the speed force. Rarely do I like to use the term “a great jumping on point” but in this case it holds fairly true. Buccellato uses this issue to reflect on what has come before and tries to make clear Barry’s understanding of how his power works. So for new readers it can serve as introduction as much as it can serve as a wrap-up for long time readers.
While Barry uses this chance to defeat Daniel, it also forces Isis to come face to face with the horror her brother has perpetrated, his lack of remorse and willingness to do it all over again. Ultimately, it’s Barry who has the harshest of revelations to come to terms with, and both Buccellato and Manapul are more than willing to have Barry understand that his dual lives needs balance. To become a better Flash Barry needs to slow down for life’s quieter moments least he becomes the villain.
Francis Manapul’s visual depictions of travel and battles through the time stream are always a thing to behold; the spreads during his final battle with Reverse Flash feels like some of his best work to date on this series. The details seem to go on forever and a reader could spend significant time reviewing every inch.
Finally, even as Flash grows in his understanding of the how’s and why’s of the speed force, Buccellato still leaves a bit of mystery. Part of Barry’s growth is his willingness to accept he may never be able to grasp the true magnitude of his power source because in the end it’s more about responsibility and constantly moving forward. This issue is both moving and inspiring. Buccellato and Manapul are one step closer to leaving The Flash much better off than when they found him.
Battle of the Atom is one step away from its conclusion, and the fight has gone from a battle to all out war among the past, current and future X-Men. This chapter kicks off with Xorn controlling present day Cyclops and using his emotions for Jean Grey against him, which goes a long way to show her true power. Now that all the different factions have been fully exposed as to who are the “true” future X-men and who are future Brotherhood of Evil mutants, lines in the sand are drawn and teams are assembled.
Slowly more and more lingering questions are getting answered but confusion is still at a fever pitch. It’s difficult to process all the information, so instead, let’s get to some fighting and sort the rest out later. What is of note is that the evil mutants consisting of Xorn, Raze, Beast, Charles Jr. (paralyzed by Colossus), Ice Hulk and a now very dead Deadpool have control of the original X-men and have to resort to plan B. Plan A, sending back the originals back in time, failed, but why it failed is still a mystery.
The Brotherhood now plan to recreate the original X-Men’s first battle with Magneto at the Cape Citadel – hoping to draw in S.H.I.E.L.D. – effectively having all hell break loose. The battle is massive and the chaos is on full blast, which is what we have all been waiting to happen, and we finally get it in the form of massive splashes and full page spreads, and it’s glorious. It’s still difficult keeping track of who’s who as we now have, in many instances, three different versions of the same character fighting themselves. The one caveat: Back in part three of this arc, young Scott almost died, which would have wiped present day Cyclops out of existence, but now no one seems to give that theory a second thought while punching a past or future version of themselves!
I like Jason Aaron’s writing, and he’s perfect for this issue as he seems to get to the action much faster than other Marvel writers. The time to fight is now, and that’s why Aaron gets this issue. Artist Giuseppe Camuncoli works wonders with such a mass of characters while total havoc is being wrought, and he seems to be having a blast with all the posturing and fists flying. It looks cool, too. While I’m thrilled that the punches are being thrown and sides have been taken, I still find it incredibly tedious when big arching questions, which litter this crossover, are met with such vague answers and statements. I find it even more frustrating when the characters in the story acknowledge how lame it is in their dialogue. I don’t fault Aaron for this as this entire series has been plagued by this.
In the end, the final chapter is setting up to be even larger in scale as the war continues when S.H.I.E.L.D. gets involved and Xorn manipulates the outcome to skew in the Brotherhood’s favor. I’ve been in all the way for Battle of the Atom and one can hope that there is a big payoff when all is said and done, but if some of the biggest questions are still met with vague generalizations it very well could fall flat on its face.
Aquaman#24 is an issue full of origin facts and many that will turn the tale of Arthur Curry on its head. Writer Geoff Johns begins by recounting the night in Amnesty Bay when the Queen of Atlantis got her first glimpse of the surface world while rescuing Tom Curry and fell in love. This union establishes Arthur to be the rightful King of Atlantis, or so we thought.
The story jumps to the present where we find Arthur awakening after six months and being watched over by the last person he trusts, Vulko. But what Johns is going to do in this issue is reveal the Secret of the Seven Seas and the truth behind Arthur’s ancestors. To do so, Aquaman must sit atop the Dead King’s throne and let the ice encase him to show the story of the builder and architect of Atlantis, Atlan.
Johns develops this, as he does most of his stellar comics writing, by showcasing what a beautiful home Atlantis was and the efforts of Atlan to bring all the seven realms together in a united, peaceful and mighty kingdom he would rule. But conflict rears its ugly head as Atlan’s brother, Orin, will bring nothing but death and war which is first revealed in a shocking display of violence and horror. Johns has always mastered writing deep family stories ripe with rifts, dissension, fear and dysfunction when it comes to Aquaman, and his telling of the fall of Atlantis between good and evil brothers is no different.
Atlan barely survives Orin’s attack, but while he escapes, his wife and family will fall at the hands of Orin and his soldiers. It tears away at the very fabric of the reader, and you can’t help to understand and sympathize with Atlan’s retaliation and the collapse of the great nation Atlantis had become. Artist Paul Pelletier does some spectacular work here as he is very effective with the sharp contrast between Aquaman’s recovery in the cold Antarctic and the warm golden majesty of Atlantis. The scenes of Orin’s betrayal and attacks are sparing in graphic violence but highly effective by what is illustrated. The full-page spread of the collapse of Atlantis is dramatic and powerful in panel layout and execution. Stunning work.
Among the already revealing answers behind the three kingdoms that survived and evolved after the fall of Atlantis, the real gut punch Johns throws at the reader in the end is a stroke of genius. It’s a shock, but in the scope of the overall story gives Aquaman much greater depth and lays out a very intriguing set of issues and questions that will elevate Arthur even more than Johns has done already since the launch of the New 52. Aquaman continues to be more interesting and more prominent with each story arc and this issue is proof positive.
The Battle of the Atom has reached a fever pitch, and All-New X-Men brings forth even more future X-Men, yet there is still much to be resolved in this massive X-book crossover. So far so good, and here is hoping the best is yet to come. Brian Michael Bendis is great with dialogue, and as one would imagine, we get a lot of that here, but there is much that needs explaining.
The issue kicks off in the distant future, where for the first time in history, the United States has elected a mutant president, but during the inaugural speech things go terribly wrong. This chain of events sets the future Hank McCoy on a warpath, and that can’t be good for our current mutant dilemma in the present. There are so many mutant X-Men from so many different time periods you almost need a scorecard to keep track, and Bendis even acknowledges that in some of the dialogue.
So who are the good future X-Men, and who are the bad? That question won’t be answered here, but we certainly get more pieces to the puzzle. We get a glimpse of what makes future Beast go ballistic, and it’s a safe bet his group are the ones with the least desirable intentions. But one thing is certain, anyone jumping into the future NEEDS TO GO HOME! That much is crystal clear. There is plenty of the classic X-Men humor here, as well, as Iceman can not fathom why there is an Ice Hulk version of him and now an old man Wizard version of his future self. And Colossus is rocking the greatest mustache bar none!
Artist Stuart Immonen does great work here; his style is a classic and clean superhero boldness. Immonen’s splashes seem to literally jump off the page, and there are plenty of huge moments in this book that he has little trouble making pop. His facial expressions really bring home the emotion, comedy and drama that comes in droves this issue.
By the end of the story, all the players are in place from all time lines in the present and things should explode from here. Marvel and Bendis have been doing a lot of time jumping and space travel as of late, and I can only hope that a big change is behind all this effort. If you haven’t been fond of many Marvel events this year, The Battle of the Atom has been a solid interesting read, and now I’m in for the duration. If you can keep track of all the multiple versions of characters, what time they’re from and why they need to either go back or fight for an all-new version of the future, then this is your crossover. It’s not as complicated as it seems, and all in all, it’s been well worth the investment.
Now that Villians Month is over you would think that you would have to time to catch your breath, but thanks to Forever Evil mastermind Geoff Johns, that is the last thing you will get to do by the end of this issue. Geoff Johns does some of his best work when he visits the darker side of comics, and Forever Evil is quickly becoming signature work. Now that the Justice League is no more who is left to fight the Crime Syndicate? The answers just might surprise you. The New 52 is in utter disarray, and the players that still remain have the will, but do they have the way against such a formidable force as the Crime Syndicate? Not since Blackest Night has Johns gone to this degree of savagery and darkness, and I for one couldn’t be happier with the results.
Lex Luthor is a survivor, and he means to unleash whatever is necessary to save Earth from Ultraman and his cronies. There is a lot of set-up here, but there is also a lot of forward progress and the twists and turns are only seemingly beginning. Lex has had a project in place for years – touched upon during his Villains Month issue – that will now have to be unleashed and who is a perfect companion to Luthor, now himself a hero. Meanwhile, we get a glimpse of the Crime Syndicate and their inner struggles dealing with Nightwing and the prisoner they brought with them from Earth 3 yet to be revealed. There is a lot of misinformation between our trinity of villains, Owlman, Superwoman and Ultraman, as Johns plants the seeds of double crossings and back-stabbings. Least we forget that Luthor can be as cutthroat as the best when he unleashes his pet project who may or may not turn out to be a familiar face.
The Teen Titan’s seem to be the last line of defense in this hostile takeover, and their battle with Johnny Quick and Atomica is as swift as it is cruel. But nothing quite sets the tone for this battle as the single page announcing, “This is a job for Lex Luthor.” The visual alone is one for the ages. No one matches the intensity of a story like David Finch does and his work in Forever Evil #2 is top-notch. His subtle details and strength of action is a perfect match to Johns’ story. Some of his finest work is the final reveal of Luthor’s project, and he adds just the right amount of intensity and fear at his introduction.
Villains Month was a lot of fun and a great distraction, but now it’s time to get back to work, and Johns and Finch have certainly rolled their sleeves and are up for the task at hand. Forever Evil may turn out to be a defining piece of comic book work for everyone involved, and the New 52 is better off for it all. For anyone who had trepidations when it came to the reboot of DC’s universe, it’s time to be reassured that there was a plan in place all along and that Johns knows what he is doing. By the final few panels, you will get to see what remains of the Justice League and the answers may be more terrifying than the questions. Johns is great when he walks on the dark side, and Forever Evil #2 is proof positive!
Fantomex has always been one of my favorite characters since first being introduced to him in Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force run. Now he has his own “MAX” title, and it’s all that and a little bit more.
For starters, this has to be my favorite cover this week from Francesco Francavilla, which oozes with noir delight. I haven’t read many “max” issues from Marvel, but once I saw Fantomex was getting one I had to jump on board. Writer Andrew Hope kicks off this title with Fantomex stealing something of great value from Project Omega Zealot, and Hope does not let us forget that Fantomex is an internationally renowned super criminal. This story is focused, not just on Fantomex, but also special agent Rhona Flemyng and her pursuit of him. Simple enough, but of course, this is a comic, so it isn’t that simple.
Agent Flemyng fails in spectacular fashion in her attempt to capture Fantomex, and now she is being added as a consultant to an extremely dangerous and violent trio of the U.S. Department of Justice. Hope really uses the “Max” label on this book for maximum effect without being crude or over-the-top. Fantomex has a very “friendly” relationship with Eve as for anyone with the slimmest knowledge of Fantomex might expect. She seems slightly more sexually aggressive than I anticipated, but it’s all done in good fun and characterization. The language is mild in my opinion but punctuates just the right moments. Hope also runs with his ability to show graphic violence and surprisingly not from Fantomex, but agent Flemyng’s new partners, Stirling, Macready and Guant, the last of which is the most violent of all.
Hope also has a little fun with both super-sexy spy Macready and a not so hidden agenda with agent Flemyng, and I’m not one to complain. Really, no complaining here. What’s most intriguing is the weapon that Fantomex has brought back with him on his heist as it’s as dangerous as it seems to be alive. It’s a mystery that I’m sure will have some legs. Artist Shawn Crystal does an outstanding job on this issue with the stylized panels that will focus on singular action and over exaggerated sense of motion. It’s a thing a beauty and raises the total cumulative value of this book by several degrees. It’s as much fun to read as it is to see, and this is a creative team that I hope sticks around for the duration.
Finally, Hope shows us in just one page some of the tragedy Fantomex suffered as a child through a dream sequence and all the dialogue is in French, which I found to be a brilliant move of Hope’s part. By the end, we get to see that Fantomex may have his issues but that his heart is in the right place. This first issue intrigues me, and I am expecting great things from what I’ve seen so far. Fantomex is an anti-hero and one well deserving of this non-censored Max title. For the easily offended, you may want to pass, but if you like a good story and great art you should definitely be picking up this Fantomex Max.
Earth 2 has been an under appreciated book from DC, and for those not reading it you’re missing out. Earth 2 #16 pulls out all the stops and will have you shell-shocked by the end. James Robinson made his announcement that he’ll be leaving Earth 2, and with what he pulled out of his bag of tricks this month it makes his departure even more depressing. Robinson has been killing it on Earth 2, and now that Villains Month is over, it’s all out war with Steppenwolf and his hunger dogs Beguiler, Bedlam and Brutaal leading the way. Make no mistake: This is war, but this is a very one-sided affair. The violence and mayhem are at an all-time high in this issue, and the World’s Army barely stands a chance.
Robinson is in top form here, and the characterization has come full circle as we get a final glimpse as to what makes his “dogs” tick. This is a scary bunch and Earth 2, with seemingly no equal, makes for a better story with a hero who literally stands no chance of winning. That’s what we get here, and it’s great! Robinson also uses a nice touch narrating the battle of Steppenwolf versus the Wonders of America, Flash, Dr. Fate, Damage and Green Lantern, who now has his ultimate chance at revenge, battle without fear. The embedded reporter is something we as American’s have become all to familiar with, and to use that voice seems very fitting and natural.
Artist Nicola Scott does some outstanding work here by giving real scope and size to such an enormous battle, and with details that are stunning. Scott must have gone wild with this canvas to work with, and her multi-paneled take during action sequences had a smooth flow and direction – not easy to do with such chaos to interpret on the page.
In the end after the devastation of the World Army and the very and possible death of a hero, Robinson throws one last head-spinning twist our way. Once Steppenwolf declares victory and addresses the camera for the embedded journalist, which keeps rolling, we get the biggest shock this series has ever delivered! Again, with the very best in writing, it will leave you guessing and questioning everything you know about Earth 2, Darkseid and the battle for Apokolips in issue #1. Earth 2 had some of the best action and surprises of any comic I’ve read this week, and I highly recommend picking it up from the very start. Because by the time you read this issue, you will be more than happy and satisfied that you did!
One of the fun traits of DC’s Villains Month titles has been the change up in creative teams on each book, and for the most part it’s been fine simply because many of these stories are either origins or one-shot tie-ins to Forever Evil. That all changes here as Wonder Woman regular – and only – series writer, Brian Azzarello, maintains his duties as First Born takes front and center. This works so well for the story as it maintains a consistent tone as Azzarello fills us in on one of Wonder Woman’s more mysterious nemesis’ history.
Apollo serves as host in this issue as he asks the Oracles to fill him in on everything there is to know about the first born of Zeus, as he is dropped off bruised, battered and bloody at the King of Olympus’ feet. The Oracles maintain their modern day dialect from the streets of Los Angeles, and my only complaint is having to read the dialogue filled will “likes” and filler words. It suits the style Azzarello has established of the god’s living in an upscale modern society, but it makes it nonetheless irritating after awhile. I’m sure it’s what Azzarello was going for, and if so mission accomplished; it just took me out of the narrative from time to time. That aside, the story is as solid as Wonder Woman’s entire run has been, and this tale is as epic in scope as suits the mythological story deserving of the gods.
The only change in the creative team this time round is ACO takes over the art duties, and his style is ever so slightly less abstract than Cliff Chiang’s, but ACO has a strong sense of illustrating a tale that begins in the streets of Los Angeles and moves into the grand scale of Greek mythology. ACO style fits nicely and nearly seamlessly within what we’ve come to expect for Wonder Woman. It also helps that series regular colorist Matthew Wilson is onboard, as well as the color has been an integral aspect to the feel of the book.
The tale of First Born is epic and grand, and as usual, Azzarello and his team pull it off with little trouble. It feels big, and overall this is a great story. It’s an origin told from a point of view that resonates as less historical and more of in the moment, which is rarely easy to achieve. Once we are exposed to First Born’s upbringing and his ruthless nature to survive we can see that he will remain and possible become an even bigger and badder player in Wonder Woman’s world, and I can’t wait to see how he will be used. It ends on a note that will leave you guessing a bit, but with Azzarello at the helm I’m sure it will be a rewarding development. The best villains book to me were the ones that seem to slide right into whatever the main ongoing story is about, and First Born fits that to a tee. Fans of Wonder Woman will not be disappointed.
Wolverine and the X-Men #36 is part 5 of Marvel’s latest event, “Battle of the Atom,” and so far we have had several twists and turns, but much to my chagrin less action and fighting. What is interesting in this chapter is the battle going on telepathically between future (old) Jean Grey versus Emma Frost, original (young) Jean Grey and the Stepford triplets, all of which isn’t revealed until a short time later in the issue. Writer Jason Aaron brings some more action to the pages with Wolverine taking on both versions of Scott Summers (well, mainly a young and pissed off young Cyclops). The last three chapters of this crossover featured a lot of talking heads and debates, or at least it seems that way, and Aaron does maintain a lot of humor that flows through the dialogue, which keeps the pace of this issue brisk.
What Aaron brings to the “Battle of the Atom” is shifting the focus from the long running question on whether or not the originals should deal with what has gone so horribly wrong in the future causing that timeline’s X-Men to show up and join the fight. Majik is the key to the answer, and her abilities to time jump will shed some light on the horrors these future X-Men claim exists. We get sucked into believing it because of Jean’s willingness to fight herself, and Deadpool finally finding a way to end his misery for good. Something has got to be off-the-charts-evil to cause those actions, right?
If anyone is capable of jumping into the fray of these multiple timelines it’s Aaron as he demonstrates so well in his other title, Thor: God of Thunder. We get a glimpse and a hint that things are as bad as they seem when young Jean Grey forces future Jean to show her what the future holds. Within a split second, Jean’s eyes are opened to some sort of horror that changes her entire thought process. Majik ends up physically transporting young Hank and Bobby to the future, and they get to see first hand what is going on. Without spoiling the issue, all I can say is that there is some very conflicting and confusing information coming from all sides of this fight, and I am no closer to understanding what the future exactly is for these X-Men.
I don’t read Wolverine and the X-Men on a regular basis, so I am unfamiliar with artist Giuseppe Camuncoli, but he does nice work here. While not as cartoony as say a Chris Bachalo, Camuncoli’s style fits nicely within the other X-books I do read regularly and the other titles involved in this crossover, All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men. Camuncoli’s action sequences are some of the best with a tremendous amount of dynamic feel to them.
Wolverine and The X-Men #36 is a turning point for the “Battle of the Atom” storyline, and if you have been reading the other titles and chapters then you cannot afford to miss this issue. Aaron does a huge amount with the dialogue and action to propel this story forward as his moves are seamless through the present and the future time. This book gets high marks from me because it kicks off a new direction for “Battle of the Atom,” and it came at just the right time.
Batman’s final contribution to villain’s month rests squarely on the venom fueled veins of Bane, and the level of violence and sheer mayhem he causes is what we have come to expect, but it’s still nonetheless shocking. Writer Peter Tomasi starts off the death count by Bane literally partially decapitating one of his minions when he invites him – hell – all of his followers to try and kill him. When the daughter of one of Bane’s soon-to-be victims catches Bane just prior to her father’s final breath the resulting reaction is both surprising and disturbing. Bane is looked at by some, not many, but some as an actual hero. Tomasi is relentless with Bane’s attacks and writes him as evil as he has ever been.
The bulk of this issue takes place during the Blackgate Penitentiary breakout orchestrated by Bane. Tomasi gives us a unique look into the mind of Warden Zorbatos as she struggles with futility against the prison uprising. For once we see a Gotham official clearly say and express how much it sucks to be in charge of such utter chaos. Bane instructs his team to use Scarecrow as a tool to spread fear and helplessness against such a hostile takeover.
Bane is like many of the Bat-villains in his desire for random chaos, confusing and fear to control not only Gotham but Batman, as well. It’s only vaguely alluded in the beginning that Batman is nowhere to be found in Gotham, and Bane uses that as a spark to ignite the fire. This issue will also lead directly into Forever Evil: Arkham War #1 and has the same feel as the Scarecrow’s villain title in Detective Comics #23.3 especially in the final panel as Bane overlooks Gotham.
Graham Nolan’s art is very solid, and he draws one menacing looking Bane with a newly oversized tank of venom now strapped to his back. Nothing really jumps off the page, but I like Nolan’s work as a whole and it serves the story well. Overall, Batman #23.4 is a good Bane story without having to rehash origins but still giving a nod to Bane’s upbringing and his escape from prison. It focuses directly on Bane’s role in the upcoming Arkham War, and it will be interesting as it parallels Scarecrow’s own story. Bane’s involvement in Forever Evil is poised to be more heavily entrenched with the main villains who want to run Gotham, and through this issue of Batman it’s poised to be epic.
This is the first Villains title for the new DC series Batman/Superman, and it features none other than Superman killer, Doomsday. I have been looking forward to this one since its announcement as I have been a fan of the title. Full disclosure: I manage a local comic book shop, and I have heard many mixed reviews of the Batman/Superman book that span the full spectrum of criticism. The biggest complaint I hear is fans like the story and concept but have been turned off by the art of Jae Lee. The knock on Lee was surprising as I have been a longtime fan of his work all the way back to the ‘90s with his creator owned title Hellshock from Image. However, that all changes here with this Villains takeover as Brett Booth has assumed the art duties and fan favorite Tony Daniel does the cover. Booth’s work is definitely more palatable to the average comic book reader, and I have always liked his work, as well. Booth does top notch work as usual, and I will be interested to see if the title picks up steam and support because of the change.
The story itself was above average for me, and Pak delivers and expands on the legend of Doomsday; make no mistake this is all about Superman’s family. The issue begins on Krypton, years ago, during “Remembrance Day” in which Lara recounts the attack by Doomsday and the destruction he inflicts. In the story, Pak does an excellent job getting all the characters involved, none more surprising than Lara, who comes off as a serious bad ass as she takes on Doomsday herself. Pak also throws in a very terrifying and menacing looking Colonel Zod who delivers an exciting battle against Doomsday. Again, Booth also serves up the goods with great dynamics and flow.
The story is abruptly interrupted by a young Kara Zor-El’s scream from her nightmares of Doomsday’s attack. Pak then shifts the story in a more mythological tale as her father recounts to her the story of the Last Knight of the House of El. I would be remiss not to mention Pak’s nod to the polybag cover from the 1992 “Death of Superman” when Kara’s father pulls out the book of legends. The art here is outstanding, and Booth gives it a more highly stylized illustrated style with the most evil looking Doomsday I have ever seen. In the end, Pak’s story is a mixture of origin, legend and an ongoing narrative; don’t expect any Batman references because this is all about Supes. I’m not quite clear as to where this story leads, if at all, to a resurgence for Doomsday, but the events have been put in motion, and one can hope it leads to a bigger story arc for the Batman/Superman title.
The initial Earth 2 crossover for the book, issues 1-3, seemed highly confusing, especially for newbies, and this story would be a nice way to get readers, new and old alike, onboard for a straight-up good versus evil arc. Overall, this issue would have been better served as the first rather than fourth as I feel more people would have jumped at it with little hesitation with art easier on the eyes and a story easier to digest. It’s definitely a very solid issue and one of the better villains books of the week if not the entire month.
This is only the second Villains Month title for Aquaman, this time featuring Ocean Master, and it is a nice bridge from the time Orm lead the attack in the Throne of Atlantis crossover and his escape from prison at the end of the Trinity War. This is not an origin as some villains’ books have been, but a story arc that firmly tells Ocean Master’s side of the story throughout the Aquaman storyline. Writer Tony Bedard writes Orm as a sympathetic character and spells him out as one at the end of the book. Even though many of Ocean Master’s actions have not been by definition good, he is painted in such a way that his actions are motivated by good intentions.
The majority of the title plays out during the Belle Reve breakout, and Bedard lets us know Ocean Master has zero interest in those that make up the Crime Syndicate or their motivations in breaking out all of DC’s villains. Orm is motivated by one simple goal: to return and re-take the throne as Atlantis’ King. He doesn’t get involved with the chaos surrounding his trek back to sea, and the few heroic actions he does manage to pull-off are mere by-products of his desire to get home. Bedard makes this feel more like an integral part of the Aquaman story and less like a stand-alone one-shot. Few books throughout Villains Month have attempted to blend in with the title it takes over, and Ocean Master has been the best example of this so far.
Artist Geraldo Borges’ work also blends fairly seamless with the style and look of Aquaman’s regular run, and it helps that series colorist Rod Reis works his skill here to help maintain the feel. Borges does a nice job making Ocean Master look more heroic in his stature versus a villainous look. He renders Orm’s outfit to make it pop off the page and keeps his design as slick as it is sharp. Ocean Master’s look is quickly becoming one of my favorites, and Borges’ work raises the bar. I give credit to the creative team all around for making this villains title solidly look and feel like a part of the regular series, and whether by design or not, it works extremely well.
Ocean Master is one of the better titles in this final week of Villains Month, and it makes it very interesting where Orm goes from here based on the final page of the book. It’s a cliffhanger that would transition nicely into Aquaman #24, and my hope is they follow through with it. There’s just a ton of good stuff here, and this was just simply a great read. I highly recommend it for ongoing fans and noobs alike.
In this final week of villains month from DC comes the book that I found the most surprisingly entertaining of the bunch, Superman #23.4, aka Parasite #1. Writer and artist Aaron Kuder brings a fresh take and a slice of life feel to a character I have never seen in this light. Kuder also brings a vibe to the book similar to Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye with lots of fun and tongue-in-cheek humor.
The story begins with Parasite standing on the edge of a high rise contemplating ending his existence due to his insatiable emptiness and hunger, which is detailed in such a way you will find yourself running to the fridge for a snack. Cut to three weeks prior and let the comedy ensue. Before Joshua Michael Allen became Parasite, he was a bike messenger in Metropolis and a very poor one to boot. He hates people, traffic and his job, and it shows. He suddenly becomes unemployed due to his run-in with what could only be described in glorious detail as a giant booger monster. He hates Metropolis even more because of incidents such as this.
S.T.A.R. Labs contacts the pre-parasite bike messenger, and in an experiment gone wrong Joshua becomes the Parasite, and so begins his unending hunger. When he finally battles Superman he discovers that only the power from the Man of Steel can fill his emptiness, but it can’t be sustained as he can’t beat Superman or his fuel runs dry.
Like most of the villains books very few take place or are directly linked to DC’s Forever Evil event and many, like Parasite, are origin stories. Kuder seems to have a lot of fun with it and uses art techniques such as words as full on graphic elements, as opposed to just sound effects. He uses it to great effectiveness when the events transpire after his injury from booger monster, losing his job, his girlfriend and literally all hope. It’s also where we get the origin of the code name Parasite. Another impressive piece of art is a full page after Joshua’s transformation as he goes apartment to apartment trying to live a normal life as Parasite. There are enough details and underlying storytelling that make the issue a page to study not just read.
All in all, this is one of the single most fun issues of all the villains titles, and it actually piqued my interest in a character like Parasite. I would like to see Kuder work on more DC characters due to his ability to inject a lot of life and character into his storytelling, and hopefully this is the book that will make that happen. This issue doesn’t advance the Forever Evil plot or even Superman’s own story, but it’s worth picking up if you enjoy a more light-hearted take on superpowers and those who posses them. Superman #23.4 is definitely the standout issue in the final week of Villains month, and it also will make you seek out some of Kuder’s previous work and look forward to what he does in the future.