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A Girl Reads the Comics
An inexperienced fan reacts with joy, pain, and wtf? to her monthly comics
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22nd-Nov-2011 09:08 pm - Future of the Blog
babs on computer
I wanted this blog to be a recap/review site for all my monthly comics, acting both as a reference source when I've forgotten what happened last month and as a forum for discussion for other fans, but it's recently become clear to me that I just can't do that during the school year when I'm working full time.  Maybe I'll go back to that format over the summer.  For now, though, I'm just going to talk about the things that made the biggest impression on me as a reader without worrying about recapping plotlines.

So, thoughts:

Batman:  So amazing!  Remember what I said about me not liking the new issues as much as they deserve because I kept unfairly comparing them with the awesomeness that was Snyder's run on Detective Comics?  Well, that's not true anymore.  Now that we're deeply into the storyline, I'm completely invested and sweet mother of bats, the Court of Owls is scary!

Batgirl:  Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today to say goodbye to beloved hero, compelling character, and awesome role model Barbara Gordon.  Who this new person is that bears her face and name - she who loses every battle, whether it's against Nightwing or her new villain, and fails in every goal, whether it's finding new love or saving hundreds of people on a commuter train, whose author, in fact, is so committed to making us watch her lose that she has villains completely and nonsensically change their MOs just to make her fail -  we know not, but she is not the Barbara Gordon we know and love, and we tire of watching her get physically, emotionally, and metaphorically beat-up on every page.  Perhaps one day, in the turn of infinite reboots, Barbara Gordon may return but until then, we will mourn her passing.  Rest in peace, Babs.

Wonder Woman:  Instead of advancing the plot, we have been "treated" to a long and detailed discussion of the romance between Hippolyta and Zeus, which apparently resulted in Wonder Woman's birth.  Now, the title still looks like it's going to be good, but I have mixed feelings about this new revelation.  While it does explain why Diana is so much stronger than the other Amazons and grounds the series more fully in Greek mythology, it makes a man the source of Wonder Woman's female power originate in a male source (inherited from her father) and worse than that, from Zeus.  Zeus, the serial-rapist and dead-beat dad who, even on the rare occasions when he bothers to seduce lovers rather than abduct victims, is too much a coward to protect them or his children from his wife's wrath and too much a sociopath to leave them alone even when he knows they will probably suffer and die as a result of him not keeping it in his pants.  This is not a guy you would be proud to have as a lover or a father, yet Diana's mother speaks of their dalliance with reverence, which makes me think less of her, too.  All in all, learning of this was not how I wanted to spend the entire issue.

Green Lantern, New Guardians:  The aliens chase Kyle to Oa where we learn that the guardians are equally pissed at Kyle mysteriously being chosen by all the rings and are unwilling to listen to or help him.  I still don't know the premise of this series.  Does DC have a rule that #2s must have nothing happen in them.

Batwoman:  Continues to be awesome.

I will probably no longer write about every issue I buy, but I'll try to keep my reactions to the ones that do move me to type posted on Wednesday from now on.  Except for tomorrow, when I will be in the middle of a 6-hour drive to spend Thanksgiving with relatives.  But after that.
27th-Oct-2011 06:04 pm - Green Lantern #2
babs on computer
In the hallway outside the apartment he's just been evicted from, Hal Jordan is given grief by Sinestro about what a mess his life is without the ring and attacks him with his bare hands.  That goes about as well as could be expected, and Sinestro further disses Hal by calling out his ring-slinging - unlike Sinestro, who imagined and created a better Korugar, Hal has allowed Earth to remain a disunited world with wars and stuff.  This gives more credence to the idea that Sinestro's transgressions have, in his own mind, been in the service of protecting his homeworld as he was sworn to.

Sinestro uses the lantern energy to create a subordinate ring for Hal - one that Sinestro can turn off at will and that can never be turned against him, but that in all other respects (so far), Hal can use like his original ring.  This is another thing that I bet Green Lantern rings are not supposed to be capable of, and it shows the creativity and skill of Sinestro.  The fact that he can do this reminds me that both Sinestro and Hal were considered the best Green Lanterns of their times and I'm more excited than ever to see them work together.

But before we find out what Sinestro wants Hal to do with the ring, Hal rushes off to help with a collapsing bridge conveniently so close to them that they can hear the cries.  Hal is his old self, building constructs, catching falling victims, and hitting on pretty women he's rescuing (on the same night he and Carol had their big fight, cause he's classy like that.)  Sinestro turns off Hal's ring and demonstrates his superior abilities by rebuilding the bridge and replacing the car's and people nearly instantaneously.  Hal seems like he's about to grudgingly thank Sinestro for saving everyone when the crowd rushes Sinestro and thanks him for their lives, calling out "Thank you, Green Lantern!" as he flies away in discomfort.  Although Sinestro claims to be disgusted with the way Earth people see Green Lantern as a superhero when he could be "so much more," I think he must be feeling conflicted about being addressed the way he must once have been across his sector.

Hal seems to know that Sinestro's offer is a loaded gift, calling it a "monkey's paw," but before they can really get on with their conversation, one of Sinestro's hench-lanterns pops up from the river and attacks (apparently he damaged the bridge to lure in the GLs).  Hal helps in the fight, Sinestro kills his henchman and finally tells Hal what's going on:  the Yellow Lanterns have enslaved Korugar in his absence, so he wants Hal to help him destroy the Yellow Lantern Corps.

Thoughts:

This was a pretty decent issue.  Lots of action, and possible character development for Sinestro if I'm reading between the lines correctly.  Hal seems to oscillate between dumb as a post and as smart as usual (not as smart as any of the Bat family, but by no means unintelligent), but I hope they fix that next issue.
24th-Oct-2011 09:56 pm - More # 2s
babs on computer
I'm going to try to catch myself up by not letting myself read last Wednesday's crop of comics until the one from the week before are done.  So without further ado:

Batman and Robin #2

Bruce and Alfred are watching Damian while discussing his and Bruce's relationship.  Bruce is concerned that he won't be able to "fix" Damian after what Talia's put him through.  Later, Bruce gets Damian from his room to go rustling arms dealers (there's a nice little interchange where Damian requests that Bruce knocks and Bruce apologizes and promises to respect his privacy more in the future - good give and take).  Bruce praises Damian's restraint in this fight as opposed to last issues, and they leave the thugs tied upside down to a streetlight for the cops to find, but as soon as they leave "Nobody" shows up and slits the villains' throats.  Back at the Batcave, Damian trains again while Alfred and Bruce discuss Bruce's parenting style (Alfred thinks Damian needs to hear an "I'm proud of you" from Bruce), but after Bruce leaves, Damian catches and kills a bat with one hand for no particular reason, considers what he's done, and tosses it deeper into the caves.  Alfred looks on in almost cartoonish distress.

The next morning, Bruce adopts a Great Dane and is confronted by "Morgan," aka Nobody, a former training partner of Bruce's (have we seen this guy before) who believes that working with the cops in the first place and "franchising" Batman in the second "distorts the clarity of their mission" and that "Ducard (whoever that is) would be disappointed" and calls what he's doing an "Intervention."  He sets off what seems to be a bomb with a trigger on his collar, but it just sprays confetti on some nearby kids as a distraction to cover his escape.  In the final panel, Bruce tells his new dog that it's going to be Okay.

Thoughts:

Batman and Robin is my surprise hit of the new 52.  It was one of the ones I bought not sure if I would like it enough to continue buying, but it continues to impress and entertain me.  The complexity of the relationship between Bruce and Damian continues to fascinate me as the pair seem to be taking two steps forward and one step back; I am intrigued by this Morgan guy, his place in Bruce's past, and their inevitable eventual showdown; and the pacing of the action continues to be excellent.  I also like the way they're using Alfred as a character who, unlike Bruce, knows exactly what Damian needs but can't quite nudge Bruce into seeing it too.  I'm really excited to see where this story goes.

Batgirl #2

Batgirl unfreezes to go after the Mirror and again messes up the fight from being out of practice.  Unlike the thugs from last issue, though, the Mirror is a formidable opponent and manages to throw her down to the street after declaring that she is on the list as Batgirl as well.  She saves herself, barely, and back at the hospital the surviving cop tells Jim Gordon Batgirl is back so that we can get a reaction shot with so much emotional conflict and turmoil that we know for certain that he knows exactly who Batgirl is.  Batgirl herself traces the Mirror to a graveyard and after the Mirror says something cryptic about how it would be fitting if Babs could kill him with a flamethrower, he kicks her ass at least twice.  Batgirl notes that she's never fought a villain who sounded this much like a zealot (he asks her if she "found her true face" in his mirrored cloaks) before sirens chase him away.

Babs makes it home, and her new roommate patches her up and tries to convince her to call the cops or go to the hospital, but Babs manages to convince her not to without telling her what's going on - yet.  She goes on a date with her physical therapist who looks suspiciously like Dick Grayson, so after Nightwing's mention of readheads in his first issue, it seems that both of them are trying to get together with people who remind them of the other one.  Babs irritates the hell out of me by saying that the guy wouldn't split the check even though she offered and is therefore a "gentleman" and "good guys" get her every time.  It is perhaps not the author's fault, but she has stumbled across two of my greatest pet peeves.  Number one, I hate it when guys refuse to let me split the check even though I say that I want to - it's condescending, and it makes me think that they're not going to listen to what I say or respect my choices in other aspects of dating as well.  Number two, it fills me with honest-to-god feminist rage when women are told to judge men based on the stupid rules encoded in the anachronistic concept of "chivalry," because chivalry and chauvinism go hand in hand very well.  This doesn't mean that every guy who opens doors and picks up checks is a sexist pig, but chivalry, for different reasons, is equally in vogue among assholes and truly wonderful guys, as are there, in my experience, a roughly equal number of truly wonderful guys who let women open their own doors and pick up their own checks because they think it shows a proper amount of egalitarian respect as there are guys who are unchivalrous because they are selfish.  This is not a good metric for judging men, and I have real life friends who do look for these behaviors when evaluating a guy's potential and are almost always hurt by it because this is not a good measure of inherent decency and morality as women have been implicitly taught to think.  It makes me crazy!

Moving on from me being unreasonable, Babs questions not-Dick about why he thinks she was singled out for a miracle, and it's not until, when listing all the ways she is deserving, he calls her smart that Babs realizes that she is, like, smart, and that flame-thrower thing was totally a clue, and maybe she should do some research on it and see if she can figure it out because she's smart!  On the bright side, it does get her into the library again, which is nice since she used to be a librarian (unless that's gone from continuity.)

Barbara does indeed figure out who he is (an ex-military guy whose whole family burned to death in a car crash in which he was the sole survivor and who sees his survival as a punishment that he now kindly frees other survivors from by killing them in the way they were meant to die), and she breaks into his apartment only to find that he expected that and is explaining to her on video screen that he's killing the next guy on his list by putting a bomb on a train and he wants Batgirl to witness it.  Next:  Nightwing.

Thoughts:

If it didn't come through in my recap, I was seriously disappointed in this issue.  Maybe it's my fault; I might be over-sensitive to my female characters losing - I didn't react this way to Nightwing losing his fight.  But it seemed like most of this issue centered around Batgirl getting beat up or outsmarted by the villain.  I get that she's still supposed to be raw, traumatized, and vulnerable from her recently-cured paralysis, but I think in this issue she crosses the line between vulnerable and weak, and I do not pick up superhero comics to read about weak characters.  She doesn't seem to know what she's doing here.  And as much as I love Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson together, and want to see Batgirl and Nightwing work together, I do not have a good feeling about this story continuing in Nightwing.  If Nightwing's going to help her out with this villain, as the cliff-hanger seems to imply, than Barbara Gordon, newly re-minted Batgirl, is going to need a man to rescue her from her first costumed villain in her first major story!  Couldn't they have let her take out one Big Bad by herself first?  Or *shock and horror*  let her come to his comic and help him out?  I don't know, maybe I'm wrong about where this is going.  I get the feeling in this issue that while Barbara Gordon used to be paralyzed and that is still canon, she was never Oracle, because Oracle would definitely not underestimate her foes more than once.  I just hope she gets over it soon and I get a more confidant heroine.  You're supposed to be better than this, Gail Simone!

Batwoman # 2

During a fight with some new minor criminals, Kate and Bette discuss Batman's offer for Batwoman to join Batman, Inc., which Kate apparently told him she'd think about.  I love that Kate was honored in this way, and I like that she seems to have more confidence in Bette since she's letting this conversation happen during the fight.  Kate is not sure about the overall wisdom of the organization, or about taking orders from Batman.  She also tells Bette that she will have to choose between "the Colonel" and Kate (her uncle and her cousin), which I think is a bit unfair.

Next day (apparently it's winter in this storyline, since there's snow everywhere), Detective Sawyer confronts DEO agent Cameron Chase during her morning jog, and Chase gives the detective her card, saying that Sawyer's at the top of her "who is Batwoman list," but can get off it if she gives her a more viable suspect.  That night, La Larona takes an altar boy from the church where a service for her latest victim just occurred, and Kate and Sawyer have their date.  Sawyer unloads about Agent Chase and says that if she did know who Batwoman was, she'd bring her in herself for interfering with her case.  Kate declines an invitation to spend the night, but says she definitely wants to see Sawyer again.  

Sawyer is called to a supernatural crime scene where the mutilated corpses of were-beasts and other not-quite-human things from a gang working under the religion of crime, who seem to have tangled with a new rival gang.  Chase is on seen and asks Sawyer for a rundown of what she thinks happened, which she gives accurately to the approval of Batwoman, who is looking on from a distance.  Batman meets her on the roof and gives her the rundown on Agent Chase, warning her that the woman is motivated by hate, not duty, and won't mind ruining the lives of innocent women in order to unmask her.  He also says that while he's OK with her thinking the Batman, Inc offer over for a bit longer, it won't be on the table for ever, and advises her to keep Flamebird benched on the La Larona case until she knows exactly what she's dealing with because "dead sidekicks tend to come back from the dead.  As supervillains."  I get that he's bitter, but that seems a bit harsh - would he not be advising caution if Jason had merely died?  Still, it's the one slightly off note in a great scene.  Even from the limited dialog, you can tell that Bruce and Kate are completely comfortable relating to each other as equal colleagues and Batman seems like he'd be OK no matter what her decision about the Incorporated.  

Later that night, Batwoman is caught going through Sawyer's files, and says "It all started at the Boathouse, didn't it!" before running off (her relationship with Sawyer as Kate probably made her forget that the detective doesn't approve of Batwoman and she shouldn't be sharing so candidly.)  Sawyer calls Chase and tells her where she can find Batwoman as Kate heads to the Bouthouse alone, commenting as she wades into the waves that coming there without back-up or anyone knowing about it is behaving like the dumb chick in a horror movie.  (With Batman telling her to bench her sidekick and her mentor/father persona non grata, I guess she doesn't have much of a choice from her perspective.)  Something unseen pulls her under in the last panel.

Thoughts:

Reading it the first time, I felt like nothing much happened and that was going to be my only criticism.  But now that I've read it over, I think we did get a good chunk of story.  There's some good character development, Chase seems like she'll be an interesting secondary villain, there's some good conflict with Sawyer being set up, and we can see Flamebird's approaching character arch where she will finally get to prove herself.  I guess the A storyline with La Larona didn't get advanced much, but that seems a fair price to pay for what did happen.  I especially liked the Batman/Batwoman conversation and the way it was framed so that the panels fit inside each of their batsignals.  Nice issue.

I am tired now.  I will save Green Lantern #2 for tomorrow.
20th-Oct-2011 07:19 am - Number 2s - At Last!
babs on computer
Week of 10/5/11

Action Comics #2

My earlier question about how they were going to keep Superman imprisoned is answered - apparently, with constant electrocutions. Lex Luthor has him strapped to an electric chair and is zapping him every time he moves with people monitoring his responses.  They keep giving him reports like "He's X-Ray opaque," but Lex is pissy because his people keep calling Superman "him" instead of "it," and "it's" an alien, not a person.  A nameless general barges in and starts yelling about how torture is unacceptable on American soil (I like this guy already) but when he learns he can't shut down the program, he resigns in protest.  Lex says that anti-torture laws only apply to humans and fails to get a blood sample from Supes for obvious reasons.  They try lethal gas this time.

Meanwhile, General Lane is interrupted from his project trying to put a dent or a scratch of any kind in Superman's cape with the news that Lois is at the gate trying to get in.  Lois pleads for Superman's freedom, bringing up not only the fact that he saved her life and the lives of everyone on the train, but also giving her father a folder she's put together of accounts other people have given about Superman saving them.  It's nice to see a reporter who still does her legwork.  The general asks a soldier named John Corben to talk Lois down for him (he seems to be her ex), but the only thing he seems to take from this conversation is that Lois is more concerned with stopping Superman from being held without trial and experimented on than getting back together with him(John).  While there is definite chemistry between Superman and Lois when they do meet in a few pages, I'd like to think that Lois Lane would be as dogged in her pursuit of truth and justice if this were any other superhero.  John seems narcissistic, paranoid, and obsessed.

Lex decides to talk to Superman, stating that they found "the rocket" (which Superman doesn't seem to know about) and they know that it's really "a bullet fired from an alien gun."  He seems to think Superman is the first of an invasion force.  He also thinks that Superman is a shapeshifter, showing him a goat-like thing with a space suit in a glass case and claiming it's his true form, which Superman finds hilarious.  (Is this the DCnU Krypto the Superdog?  Rest in peace, boy.)  Meanwhile, Superman has used their conversation to recover enough to send a few microwaves from his eyes that zap the computer equipment in the next room without harming the people.  With Lex unable to shock him, Superman easily escapes.  He gets his cape back and finds the rocket, which is playing a recording in Kryptonian mentioning Kal-el, Jor-el, Lara, and Krypton.  When he touches it. it goes crystalline like the fortress of solitude, and he tells it to protect itself until he comes back.  He melts some guns and makes it to the elevator in time to meet Lois, who has stolen John's pass key.  He gives her a cheerful greeting before bouncing off.

Later, John, in a transparent attempt to impress Lois, volunteers for a super-soldier program even though it's not tested.  Afterward, Lex talks on a cell phone, asking what response Superman was supposed to give to "Krypton" and demanding to know who he's been talking to.  We pull out and see some sort of spaceship orbiting the Earth.  End.

Thoughts:

Another really good issue.  Lex Luthor seems like an interesting villain, in that he does have a point that Superman is scary and dangerous, but he's still obviously a sociopath.  Potential new villains are set up in John and the mysterious aliens.  Lois shows herself as a capable reporter with a strong moral center and a willingness to get into trouble for a good cause.  The showdown between Superman and Lex Luthor was fun and exciting to read about.  I have nothing bad at all to say about this issue.  Good job.

19th-Oct-2011 10:12 pm(no subject)
babs on computer
The reason why I am so late with my comics is that I've been stuck with this one for so long.  I have really mixed feelings about this issue, because I really enjoyed the storyline itself but I found that the changes made to the status quo removed everything I loved about what was, prior to Flashpoint, my second-favorite comic (after Birds of Prey.)  Nonetheless, I'm going to power-through and hopefully be caught up by next Wednesday.  So, without further ado:

Week of 9/28/11

The Flash

I've been an occasional graphic novel reader since I discovered Sandman in college, which led to Bone, Maus, Blankets, Understanding Comics, Persepolis, and the occasional super-hero gn I'd heard about and knew was good - Batman:  Hush, Batman in Black and White, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow, Marvel 1602, etc.  I grew up with superhero cartoons, most of them forgettable Saturday morning fare, but a few like Batman:  The Animated Series peaking a life-long interest in superheros.  I wanted to jump into the monthlies, but I was afraid of starting in the middle of a storyline and kept waiting to hear something about a good place for new readers to begin.  That place, I decided, was Battle for the Cowl.

I was, of course, horribly wrong as Battle for the Cowl turned out to be a continuity celebration riff with complicated interactions between everyone I'd never heard of in the Bat community (I even had to look up Jason Todd), but Wikipedia helped me out and I stuck with it.  What branched me out of Batman was the Zero Issue for Blackest Night which, as you may remember, was a Free Comic Book Day issue that contained a scene in which Barry Allen and Hal Jordan discuss the death of Batman over Bruce's unmarked grave.  I am not digging out the comic to confirm, but the impression I have in my memory is that the conversation went something like this:

Barry:  I can't believe that Bruce is dead.  I'll miss him.  I understand his wishes to be buried with his parents yet maintain his secret identity, but I wish we could have given him the memorial he deserves.  How's Robin taking it?  Oh, there's a new Robin?  I like him already.  Do you think Bruce will come back the way we did?

Hal:  What you fail to appreciate, Barry, is that Batman's death is all about me.  Were you aware that no one came to my funeral when I died?

After reading this comic, I made 3 decisions:  1) This Blackest Night thing will be a good way to introduce myself to the non-Batman DCU and I should buy all the tie-ins *wince*, 2)  Hal Jordan is a jackass*, and 3)  I loved Barry Allen.  He was empathetic, hopeful, and focused on his own recent return from the dead only as it related to the death of his friend.  Immediately, I bought all the back-issues of The Flash:  Rebirth.

What I found there was utterly confusing to new readers.  There were way more speedsters than I had previously imagined.  I had at least heard of Wally West and Bart Allen and could figure out pretty easily that Jay Garrick was Golden-age Flash, but I didn't have an exact idea of their relationships.  Jay's from a parallel universe?  Wally has two kids of his own?  And who the hell were Jesse Quick and Max Mercury?  And the Black Flash?  The Reverse Flash?  The Speed Force?  What was going on?

But instead of being alienated by all this confusion, I loved it.  A whole network of similarly-powered heroes who form a supportive, mutually loving extended family?  I loved it!  This was different than anything I was reading in the other hero books.  These people had non-angsty homelives but remained heroes.  All the living adults were happily married and treated their non-powered spouses as important, respected, equal partners.  And all the craziness with the Speed Force was, in my opinion, a bonus.  If I didn't love wackiness, I wouldn't be reading superhero comics.  This was fun, it was unique, and it was, most of all, different from Batman.  Because we love Batman, but if every hero were driven by trauma and beset with dysfunctional romantic/familial relationships, it would be boring.

Welcome to the new 52, where Barry Allen is driven by trauma and surrounded by dysfunctional romantic/familial relationships.

As we start out, a suddenly unmarried Barry Allen is on a date with Patty Spivot at a technology symposium.  I am immediately upset by the erasure of Barry Allen and Iris West's marriage.  First of all, the "Flash family" idea is perhaps what I loved most in the comic, and while I knew that that wasn't going to continue in the DCnU, I had hoped that Barry, Iris, and Bart would at least fulfill that role somewhat.  Second, her absence creates unimaginable continuity problems, the most glaring of which is Bart Allen's existence.  Bart Allen, as you may be aware, is Iris and Barry's grandson from the future sent back in time to fix problems with his metabolism.  He's still Kid Flash.  Where the hell did he come from now?  But Iris and Barry's relationships have affected continuity in a multitude of other, nearly as troubling ways.  Iris is Barry's anchor that he thinks about to get out of the Speed Force.  Has he never entered the Speed Force now?  She's the one person he killed for when she was threatened by the Reverse Flash one too many times.  Did this never happen?  Her relationship with Barry led to Barry and Wally having a pre-existing relationship before Wally became Kid Flash.  Is Wally even still in continuity?  The Flash can travel into alternate dimensions by vibrating at certain frequencies. You know how he discovered this power?  Back when they were dating, a children's entertainer backed out of some charity event Iris was hosting and, to impress her, Barry was all, "You want me to see if the Flash can come instead?  Cause I could totally give him a call.  We're tight."  He discovered that ability onstage while performing for the children. Does he no longer know about the parallel universes?  Is there even a multi-verse in the DCnU?  This is so much worse than Superman and Lois Lane - at least there they could claim that they were hearkening back to an earlier time in the comics.  There's never been a time in Flash comics where Barry and Iris weren't at least dating.  Barry Allen was Iris West's girlfriend before he ever became the Flash!  Third, I like Patty Spivot, I like Barry Allen, and I like Iris West.  Now they have a love triangle that's going to cause them all pain before Barry and Iris inevitably get together and poor Patty is left heart-broken.  This is made worse by the fact that they're really cute together on their date.

Also on the first page, Barry mentions a new green monorail design that should run on a new type of theoretical renewable energy by a Dr Elias, which I mention in case it turns out to be a mad-sciency thing related to the mystery.

Finally getting to page 2, high-tech soldiers attack the Symposium to steal a "portable genome recorder" and Barry becomes the Flash, disarming and chasing them into a helicopter, which he falls off clutching one of the henchmen and that genome recorder thing.  He ditches the henchman in the upper floor of a skyscraper and crashes through to the sewer beneath the street where he's found floating by Iris West, who witnessed the fall.  (Interestingly, everywhere the Flash falls creates a hole, so he apparently can't vibrate through walls anymore.)

Barry Allen sneaks back into his regular identity just in time to get called to a crime scene where he discovers that the henchman he ditched as the Flash is 1) dead and 2) his old college buddy Manuel.  Awkward!  Outside the crime scene, Iris calls Barry by name and tries to get him to tell her if the Flash is really involved in a murder, saying she'll call him tonight.  It's clear they have a history, though unclear whether it's personal or professional (reporter/source.)  At the crime lab, he learns that security tapes prove Manuel was left alive by the Flash before dropping dead of something mysterious.  He is also warned not to leak anything about this story to anyone.

Back home, Barry's portable chemistry set tells him that Manuel's DNA has been altered while he screens a call from Iris, who texts that she knows he's home and if he won't talk to her over the phone, she's coming over.  How pushy and annoying she's being here depends on the relationship they've had, but I still find I like her less for this.

Barry's door opens unexpectedly and it's Manuel!  But before he can explain how he's there and dead, the door is broken down and they are chased down the fire escape by someone unseen.  They run through the city and the park, with witnesses to the chase occasionally dropping what they're doing to run after Manuel as well, so it's clear some sort of network is after him.  When they reach the park, Barry "accidentally" trips and falls into the river to give himself the chance to become the Flash underwater, allowing him to super-speed and catch up with Manuel.  But when he gets there, he finds that the co-conspirators have caught up with him...and they are all also Manuels in different clothes, including some of the henchman's uniforms from earlier!  This is a pretty neat twist, and I have to say I enjoy the storyline so far, but DC cannot deny that it is a confusing one and I fail to see how this is any less baffling or off-putting to new readers than it would be if Barry and his loving wife Iris had been at the Symposium.  There is also a serious possibility that new Iris might be terrible and annoying, but I'll see how she's portrayed in later issues.

So, I'm glad The Flash is out of my system.  Hopefully, I will start on the #2s tomorrow.

*an opinion that has been somewhat softened by reading Secret Origins, but that I still basically agree with.
8th-Oct-2011 01:32 pm - New 52
babs on computer
Week of 9/28/11

Superman


We begin with corporate drama as the Daily Planet has merged with its multi-media competitor Galaxy Broadcast System and everyone's smug, preachy, and afraid that the newspaper will lose its integrity.  Lois and Clark have a fight about the decline of print media in which Clark looks like an idiot.  Lois has been promoted in the merger and is now in charge of the TV news.

On an alien planet, an alien blows a horn.  The narration box tells me to learn more about him in Stormwatch #1.  I tell the narration box to go stuff itself.

A security guard in some building somewhere goes to check out a mysterious fire that keeps appearing on the security cameras but not generating heat.  Elsewhere, terrorists hijack an oil tanker in the mistaken belief that Superman is out of town and are dumb enough to fight him when he shows up.  Superman picks up the tanker, intending to hurl it into space before it blows up in the shoot-out between cops and crooks.  Lois leaves the party celebrating the merger to help with the live coverage of the story.

The tanker suddenly blows up and the idiot news anchor says it looks like Superman did it (cause that's so much more likely than that it was the terrorists), and Lois orders the news copter to get closer to get better footage.  We see a confused Superman hit by a fireball coming from a building that seems to be consumed by living flames.  As Superman battles the "living fire" thing, Lois angers her boss by ordering her news crews to leave the area and get out of danger.  But she then orders Jimmy Olsen to illegally hack into surrounding security cameras and get footage that way.  This is one of the few parts of the issue that's well done, as it shows that Lois is both an efficient professional unafraid to give orders and a compassionate heroine unwilling to sacrifice lives for the story.

The battle goes on way too long, the fire-thing shouts in a strange language but Superman picks up the word "Krypton."  He throws the planet from the old Daily Planet at it and takes it into space where it disintegrates due to lack of oxygen.  There's some dumb phlebotinum about how the stuff the fire creature touched was not set on fire but transformed into fire and thus harmlessly changed back when it left.  Clark receives praise for the article he's written describing the battle after a fortuitous interview with Superman, but we have been reading the article in narration boxes during the battle and it was terrible.  As an objective account of the battle, it failed because he kept delving into melodrama and describing Superman's emotions at the time which he presumably learned from the interview; as an interview about the event it failed because he never once quoted Superman.  And knowing that Clark Kent is Superman makes the whole thing seem disgustingly self-indugent.  In fact, it reads like a Superman diary entry mysteriously written in the third person.

Clark goes to Lois's apartment to apologize for their earlier argument and finds her in bed with some guy.  With his super-hearing, he hears them discussing him as he leaves and she interestingly says that she and Clark never got together because he never really lets anyone get close.

Thoughts:

It was pretty bad.  This issue epitomizes for me what's wrong with the New 52:  there's a lot of changes to enrage and confuse old readers, but the resulting issues are not any less confusing for new readers!  Lois and Clark no longer being married doesn't make the fight scene we just saw any less frustrating and confused, and the new villain is not rendered any more accessible by the merger of the Daily Planet and some other company.  Too much time was spent on stupid office politics and I have a sneaking suspicion that we're going back to the pre-Crisis interpretation of Superman where Superman was Kal-el's real identity and Clark Kent just a disguise he occasionally puts on, while I'm partial to the interpretation wherein Clark Kent, decent farm-boy and noble reporter, is the real person and Superman a disguise he puts on when he wants to save lives.  Anyway, though whole thing was pretty dumb and I won't be buying any more.  If DC wants to make Superman more "relatable" they should forget about making him younger and start telling better stories with him.

Aquaman

I refuse to recap this issue as almost the entire thing was a series of stupid jokes about Aquaman's internet-reputation as world's lamest superhero, which is apparently widespread in-universe.  The jokes are about how Aquaman's reputation is completely undeserved, which, no shit:  he's a superstrong king of a superstrong race who can not only command an army of Atlanteans any time he wants to but can use anything living in the substance that covers 70% of our fucking planet as his own personal army/network of spies.  It makes no sense that the people who've seen him fight with the Justice League would actually ask him how it feels to be a living joke.  Here is what you need to know about this issue:  1) Aquaman has gotten back together with Mera (apparently marriages are allowed in the DCnU as long as they were not previously stable ones), 2) he's decided to return to his roots, abandoning Atlantis and living on land (which will in no way result in a coup in Atlantis that causes the Atlanteans to try to invade the surface world yet again, I'm sure) and 3) he doesn't talk to fish.  He talks to the higher ocean mammals like whales and dolphins, because only their brains are capable of conversation.  Fish, he simply mind-controls.  ("God, what a lame hero, his only power other than superstrength is mind-controlling sharks!") Hopefully, now that they've gotten this people-are-shocked-when-Aquaman-orders-fish-at-a-restaurant dumbassery out of their systems we will get a real issue next month.

The Flash will get his own post later as he's one of my favorite characters and I want to discuss the changes there in-depth.  Hopefully I will get both that and Action Comics #2 done before Wednesday.


4th-Oct-2011 10:02 pm - Week of 9/28/11
babs on computer
This was, overall, a bad week for DC comics, and since nothing much happened in each of the issues, this is going to be a quick entry.

Green Lantern:  New Guardians

We rehash Kyle Rayner's origin story, but with no indication that this is a flashback or in any way occurring in the past.  Way to confuse new readers DC; even I double-taked at all the dead guardians, thinking for a second that it might be a new plotline.  It's pretty much the same origin we already know, except that Ganthet trains him a bit before taking off and Kyle's soon-to-be-refrigerator-stuffed girlfriend is nowhere to be seen.

Back in the present, yellow, red, and violet ring-bearers are "decommissioned" in the middle of battle and their rings search for replacement sentients.  One of the former-Star Sapphire's colleagues saves her life and vows revenge on whoever "stole" the ring.

On Earth, Kyle Rayner saves a bunch of people from a collapsing crane and is taunted by a small boy for not being Hal Jordan and for making his uniform look like he was wearing a green bib.  Does anyone like scenes like these (an ungrateful mundane taunting the hero who just saved his life for not being as cool as another hero?)  Because I find them super-annoying.  Rings of every other color appear and choose him, and he barely has time to feel surprise or dismay when violet, yellow, red, and indigo Lanterns appear to reclaim their colleagues rings by force.

Thoughts:

If the end of this issue was the beginning, it would be a fantastic issue.  Instead, nothing much happened and I'm going to have to buy issue two just to find out the premise of the new series.  I suppose the flashback was supposed to remind us that Kyle Rayner was a messiah figure for the Green Lanterns and suggest that that's why he may have been chosen by the other rings, but it went on too long and was confusing.  I hate scenes where fan replacements yell at superheroes.  First of all, they never answer the criticisms, just have the critics act so wholly inappropriate that they seem ridiculous.  Second, in the world of the comic, people ought to be grateful to the hero of the comic and just shut up about him not being as cool as that other guy because he's saving lives - making them angry-fans stand ins implies that angry fans should shut up and be grateful because the writers are...making comics in the first place?  I don't even know.  It's stupid, and, as we'll later see, almost the entire plot of Aquaman.  The writers also missed a golden opportunity here to fix the Star Sapphires.  Because other corps are gender-neutral in hiring, the Star Sapphires could stop being ridiculous love-obsessed-female stereotypes and start being a goofy, satirical look at the irrational nature of romantic love with just a few small changes:  make the costumes less absurdly revealing, and add some men to the corp.  (Making them actually violet instead of clearly pink would help as well.)  Apparently, DC decided that while all marriages are atrocities that need to be edited out of continuity immediately regardless on their effects on characters and past storylines, having an entire corp of flying female stereotypes was an ain't-broke, don't-fix-it situation.  I would really like to learn more about what is going on with Kyle and all the rings, but I'm so annoyed that I got so little story out of this issue that I'm considering not buying the next one out of spite.

I have to work now, so it looks like I will continue being late and will finish up this batch of comics some time tomorrow.
30th-Sep-2011 08:32 am - Remaining Bats of the New 52
babs on computer
Week of 9/21/11

Batman


I want to say right off the bat (pun not intended) that I don't like the art in this issue.  I don't think the artist is intentionally bad, like I do the Green Lantern guy, but the style's not to my taste.  (I know that the writer comes first on the list of names on the cover of a comic, but I can't identify whether the names that follow are Penciller - Inker or Cowriter - Artist or whatever so I hesitate to name names when talking about the art.)

We start off with Batman inner-monologing about a contest the Gotham Gazette runs where people finish the sentence "Gotham is..." with three words or less.  Words like "damned" and "cursed' are used a lot, as are the names of villains, such as "Gotham is Two-Face," meaning a city of conflict and paradox.  Among the most frequent answers is some variant of "Gotham is Batman," which Bruce appreciates.

As he is thinking about this, he is fighting what appears to be a mass-breakout from Arkham with all his best-known villains involved.  Then the Joker shows up and, while indulging in entirely in character Joker-type banter, proceeds to help Batman with the fight.  This does not surprise Batman at all.

Later, Batman explains to Jim Gordon that he was investigating a guard on the take who decided to open all the cells to create a diversion while he got away.  Jim asks about the Joker helping him, but Batman tells him it's ridiculous.  

It appears that Batman is meeting with the Joker in the Batcave and showing him his new computer interface contained in his contact lens that will allow him to be in constant contact with the bat-computer, but Bruce asks him to take off the "E.M.P. mask" and we find Dick Grayson underneath.  He is concerned about the effect of this constant link-up on Bruce's mental health, but they meet up with Tim and Damian in Wayne Manor proper before the conversation can continue.  (Damian is adorably wearing red converse with his tux.  He's such a little punk.)  They go to a fund-raising event and it turns out that the "Gotham is.." narration boxes were actually just quoting Bruce's speech as he implores his listeners to think more on what Gotham will be and invest to rebuild the city.  Vicki Vale introduces him to a new mayoral candidate (Lincoln March) of whom I am already suspicious, but he overhears Jim Gordon talking about a developing case on his cell phone and skedaddles.

Batman meets up with Harvey Bullock, who comments that he notices Batman has reverted to his original type and shows him a cadaver pinned to the wall with many knives.  Harvey says that the name the man used was false, they have no idea who he is, and that the knives were strategically placed to avoid all major arteries and organs so that the man remained alive and in pain for a very long time.  Batman takes one of the knives, which is an antique throwing knife with groves filled with mercury to improve accuracy through the air.  They have owls painted on them, and Harvey wants to know if Batman thinks they have anything to do with the old wives tale about the c-, but Batman interrupts him with "I know what you mean."  I do not know what Harvey means.  Let him explain it to me, Batman!

Batman first notices the smell of paint thinner and lights up a near-by canvas, causing the words "Bruce Wayne will die tomorrow" to appear in flame.  He also gets some DNA from under the victims fingernails and uses the new interface to send it to the bat-computer, and Alfred sorrowfully tells him that the match came back as...Dick Grayson!  Dun, dun, dun!

Thoughts:

I don't know if this is a mind control storyline or an elaborate trickery storyline, but I implicitly trust Dick Grayson.  After "The Skeleton Key," I don't think there's anything Snyder could have done that would not have disappointed me, and while solid, I can't stop comparing this issue with its worthier predecessors.  It's like the next thing Shakespeare did after Hamlet.  However, I did really like it, I'm intrigued by the twist at the end, and there are really nice character moments throughout.  For example, when Batman first meets with Harvey, Harvey mentions that he's noticed that Batman's reverted to his original type.  This issue does, however, render Detective Comics more confusing.  There, we had Bruce on the run from the police who have been ordered to attack him by Mayor Hardy, with only Jim Gordon trusting him the same as always.  Here, he meets up not only with Jim, but with Harvey Bullock also and neither of them mention the conflict or make any attempt at secrecy.  It almost gives credence to the fan rumor that Detective Comics was originally intended to be a year one like Action Comics but changed into a present-day at the last minute when it was too close to being done to be materially altered.  If Jim Gordon hadn't lit an existing bat-signal in that issue, I'd whole-heartedly believe it.  As is, I'm still suspicious.  I wish I had more to say about this issue on its own merits but I think I'm being too unfair in comparing it to what came before to talk anymore about it, so I'll simply conclude with:  buy pile.

Nightwing

Dick Grayson is happy and excited to be back in his Nightwing costume, and despite a little disappointment that his Batman days are over, I am too.  I didn't get to read much of the original Nightwing run (basically just what crossed over with Birds of Prey enough to be included in their graphic novels) but I liked what I saw of the character in Battle for the Cowl, and think that it's a better permanent fit for Dick than dark, brooding Batman.  (Though I will say that in terms of the costume itself, I preferred what he wore during Battle for the Cowl.  The light blue fit his character better while still looking badass, and the black and red's such a striking pallette I'd prefer it to be the sole property of Batwoman, who wears it better.  And I hate the red eyes in the mask.)

Nightwing crashes through the window of a subway train in order to take out a psychopath in S&M gear who's stabbing commuters.  He does so easily even though th bad guy is much bigger, but interestingly the blood from the people he's killed pools across the villain's bare chest in a rough parody of Nightwing's own stylized bat-signal, which likely has symbolic importance considering what comes later.

On his way home, Dick swings past Haly's Circus, which is back in Gotham for the first time since Dick's parents' died.  Though he's visited the circus before in other cities, he's been finding excuses to avoid them in Gotham and is not entirely sure why.

Elsewhere, a man with brown hair and sunglasses gets off a bus and viciously slays the two guys who try to mug him.

Next day, Dick goes to Haley's circus (apparently Dick not only lives in an apartment in the bad side of town, but is such a slob that he leaves his costume right out on the floor after patrols even though one of his walls is essentially one giant window.  Does he secretly want to get caught?)  He realizes that the real reason he's been avoiding the circus is that Gotham twists the things you love, and he doesn't want his circus twisted.  Dick remeets the ringmaster, a clown who's understandably upset about the fact that they only have a green wig for him in Gotham (are they trying to get him killed?), and an acrobat about his age.  She introduces him to her new partner, whom I originally thought looked suspiciously like the guy getting off the bus, but on second read his hair is longer and if they've been in the city for three days he wouldn't just be getting off the Greyhound.  The acrobats talk Dick into trying the trapeze again, but he screws up intentionally so he'll look out of practice.  

Walking home, Dick is thinking about possibly hooking up with the female acrobat while she's in town, commenting that redheads drive him crazy (then get back together with Barbara Gordon like I want you to!), when he's atttacked by what is obviously a professional assassin in a costume with wolverine blades on his wrists, who calls him by name.  The cops show up and start shooting at the assassin while Dick ducks into an alley to get into his Nightwing gear.  I can only assume that Dick thought the cops would be fairly safe since they have guns and the assassin only knives, but the assassin does a somersault, lands between them, and takes out both their throats with one swipe, so it looks like Dick left two Gotham cops to die just so he could get into costume.  I really don't think we need that kind of ambiguity in the first issue.

As Nightwing and the assassin fight, the assassin claims that Nightwing has no idea who he's protecting.  "Dick Grayson is the fiercest killer in all of Gotham.  And he doesn't even know it."  Dick's surprise allows the assassin to strike at the water tower behind him, and the water slams him down onto a dumpster far below where he feels two of his ribs break.  Issue ends with the assassin standing over him.

Thoughts:

I really liked this issue.  It's nice to see Dick back as Nightwing, I loved the stuff with the circus, and the tie-in with Batman is definitely going to be interesting.  Right now my theory is mind-control, but we'll see what the writers do.  I would have found it more interesting if the assassin had been more of an anti-hero, going after Dick because he's "evil" but unwilling to kill innocents who get in his way, but I guess they wanted to put Nightwing in danger right away.  I'm really looking forward to issue 2.

I know I'm a week behind, but I will try to finish up the current week's comics before Wednesday when I start buying my #2s.  I have to say I was disappointed in this week's crop, so hopefully it won't take as long.
26th-Sep-2011 09:03 pm - Non-headliners of the New 52
green lantern, the flash
Week of 9/21/11 Continued

Green Lantern Corps


Out in Space Sector 3599, two Green Lanterns are escorting a prisoner when an invisible being invades their ship and cuts everyone in half.  He says something about the force of will and the force of destiny, whatever that means.

Meanwhile, back on Earth after having lived on Oa, Guy Gardner and John Stewart are both struggling with the fact that they never bothered keeping their identities a secret.  Guy Gardner can't get a coaching job because the school is afraid his enemies might attack during a game, and even if they believed he could protect the kids if that happened, their insurance is too high.  John has designed a building so safe he believes it will stand up to the superhero battles his city is prone to, but even his Green Lantern status is no help in convincing the firm that hired him that they should invest money in anything beyond the barest minimum safety requirements demanded by the city's building code.

Somewhere on the underwater planet Nerro, light shoots through an ocean that looks inhabited by intelligent aliens.  They seem distressed.

Guy and John sit on a satellite and discuss their disappointing day and how they are both failing to reclaim an ordinary life.  After wishing they had started out with masks like Hal and Kyle in the first place, they decide to re-relocate to Oa, arriving just in time to hear ta distress call from sector 3599 reach Salaak.  Apparently, replacement Lanterns for the two who died in the beginning of the issue are being killed as quickly as they are chosen.  John and Guy volunteer to round up a team (which despite what seems to be promised by the cover, disappointingly does not include Soranik, Kilowog, or Arisia) and check it out.  They land on the underwater planet, where the oceans have been dried up and the entire underwater species we saw has died and is being fed on by pink vulture things.  The bodies of the replacement Lanterns have been stuck up on pikes in the carnage to send a message.

Thoughts:

I really, really hate it when entire planets of nameless, faceless people are destroyed.  It never carries any emotional weight since we never know anyone from that planet.  Genocide should not be a throwaway plot point.  It's a cheap trick, and it's disgusting.

None of the alien Lanterns I'm interested in reading about appeared in this issue, I found myself less interested in Guy' and John's struggles to attain normal life on Earth than I would have expected, and I don't find this first villain at all intriguing.  All of which actually makes me really happy because it means that this is a title that I don't have to buy.  Victory for my wallet!  

In all seriousness, though, the issue wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either.  It was simply there.  So far, Kyle Rayner's been my favorite Lantern (remember, I've only been reading since Blackest Night), so I'll have to see what happens with New Guardians.

DC Universe Presents:  Deadman

I really like the concept of having a title that showcases third-teir DC heroes with their own miniseries before moving on to the next one.  We start off strong here with what seems to be a Deadman:  Year One sort of issue.

Our story opens with Deadman saving the live of washed-up stuntman Albert Albertson who, according to Deadman, has harbored a secret death wish ever since his parents named him Albert Albertson.  Six months ago, Albert attempted a jump in his motorcycle and Deadman, in possession of his body, used his acrobatic skills to ensure that he landed in the safety net.  In a further flashback we learn that Deadman was originally the performance name of Boston Brand, an extremely selfish acrobat who left no one to mourn him when he died.  After his death, he was approached by a blue god called "Rama:  She who balances" with a deal - if, as a ghost, he possesses the people she sends him to at the most critical moment of their lives and helps them however they need it, he will atone for his selfishness in life and be able to move on.  If he refuses or fails, he will be trapped as a ghost forever.  Deadman asks how he can call her if he needs her, but she says that one does not call a god:  the god calls you.

After the flashback within a flashback, we meet Deadman's current case:  a suicidally depressed Iraq War veteran with both his legs amputated and a devastating case of survivor's guilt, being the only survivor from his convoy.  The psychiatrists don't know how to help him. What on earth is Deadman supposed to do?  Before helping Johnny, Deadman seeks advice from a medium he knows from his circus days, possessing many different people to talk to her.  But despite her profession, she reacts first with disbelief, then fear, and finally anger, saying she wouldn't help Boston even if she did believe it was him because he was such a jerk when he was alive.  She seems to repent of her words almost immediately, but Deadman's already gone.

Back in Johnny's apartment, Deadman reflects on the 12 souls he's helped so far.  Six of them he thought he knew what to do with, the last being Albert Albertson whom we saw him helping in the beginning of the issue.  After Ablert, however, he was given six assignments that he had no idea what to do with, starting with a preist struggling with his faith - was he supposed to solve this man's dilemma with acrobatics?  It's a pretty intriguing two pages - a lot of these people have stories that I'd like to see - but there are two problems with it.  First, it reads like two of the panels were transposed:  The bottom middle of the "knew what to do with" page is a scientist obsessed with "finding a mathmatical solution to the purpose of the universe," and I can't see how circus-acrobat Deadman could possibly help with that, while the bottom middle panel of the "didn't know how to help" page is an elderly man who will "die alone, too proud to dial his son's number," and it seems to me that Deadman could easily solve that guy's problem by calling his son.  Second, there are only two women in this group of twelve, and one of them is an offensive walking stereotype: the stripper who strips to get back at Daddy yet ultimately still loves him.  (Interestingly, Brightest Day involved twelve characters who were returned from the dead, again only two of whom are women, and one of them was the only character that died, if you don't count Deadman, which I don't because being dead doesn't preclude telling stories about him.  It's probably a coincidence, but it's odd that the 12-2 ratio with only 1 of the 2 deemed worthy of having interesting stories told about her should come up again.  Why the same numbers?)

After having dealt with the last 6, and now with Johnny the suicidal war vet, worst of them all, Deadman is reevaluating all the people he's helped and starting to think that he may have failed them all (I guess saving Albert's life that one time won't help him in the long run with his secret death-wish.)  Deadman finally possesses Johnny, declares that he's not afraid anymore, loads a gun, and holds it to Johnny's head.  This makes the god Rama appear immediately, and Deadman says, "You're probably wondering why I've asked you here."  End-issue.

Thoughts:

The real problem with sexism at DC is not that it's so flagrant and offensive (though sometimes it is), but that it's so unintentional.  I doubt anyone noticed that the double-page of characters Deadman's helped only had two women on it or that one of them (half of them) was an offensive stereotype.  This is the real reason they need more women working at DC.  Someone has to point this kind of thing out - and do it often enough that the men start to pay attention to what they're writing and notice themselves when they've written something that portrays women unfairly.

That said, there was a lot of good in this issue.  I love the direction they're going with with Deadman and find this portrayal far more interesting than the guy who simply had to save the day by lending his acrobatic skills to those who needed them at exactly the right time.  What was Deadman supposed to do with these people with psychological issues?  I love that in next issue, Deadman is apparently going to be angrily questioning his god - I love it when characters question God, no matter what the answers are.  I even love that Rama refers to herself as a god and not a goddess.  I don't find a problem with Deadman pointing a loaded gun at Johnny's head because I think that it was pretty clear in context that he was doing it to get Rama's attention and probably wouldn't have pulled the trigger if she hadn't appeared.  I look forward to reading about their conversation.  This is not nearly as good as Wonder Woman, Batwoman, or Action Comics, but it's definitely going in the buy pile.

I wonder who DC Universe Presents will be featuring after Deadman.
24th-Sep-2011 01:06 pm - Women of the New 52
babs on computer
New 52 - Week of 9/14/11 Continued and Week of 9/21/11

I'm a week behind on the comics now, and it's going to be tough to get caught up by Wednesday since last week I bought 5 comics that I need to talk about instead of three (I also buy both of DC's all-ages comics for my library, but I've decided not to review those.).  So I'm going to try breaking them up thematically.  So we'll start with Batwoman and Wonder Woman.

Batwoman

We start off with the preview pages that went out in the comics almost a year ago when Batwoman's solo series was first planned:  La Llarona, a creepy, pale woman whose face continually shifts between beautiful young woman and skeletal corpse floats into a Hispanic family's home and freezes them in place.  The background suddenly looks like it's underwater as the corpse-face says that she needs the children.  (Throughout the scene the woman switches between first-person singular and plural.)  The beautiful face apologizes as she begins weeping a small stream into the boy's open mouth.

Suddenly, Batwoman bursts through the window, and I cannot emphasize enough how cool it looks to see her hard black-and-red pallette intrude on this background of washed-out blues and grays.  Batwoman shoots a grappling hook at La Llarona, managing to grab her arm and drag her towards her, but before this can turn into a battle, she disappears and so do the children.  Batwoman promises the weeping parents that she will save all of the children.

At GCPD, the parents tell their story to Detective Sawyer, whom we last saw as Kate Kane's potential love-interest, and call Batwoman "the dark red angel of the night," which has got to be one of the coolest nicknames in the comics.  Dt Sawyer can't promise to save the children, but does promise never to stop looking.  As she walks the parents out, she finds Kate standing in the entryway looking at a wall of cop pictures which includes her former lover, Renee Montoya, aka "The Question."  Sawyer reveals that she knows Kate and Renee's history, and with one ambiguous glance back at Renee's picture, Kate and Sawyer make long overdue plans to go out.

Later that night, Kate shows cousin Bette Kane, formerly Flamebird of the Teen Titans and currently Batwoman's new sidekick, her headquarters and ignores all of Bette's questions about why she no longer talks to her father.  She also reveals that she has burned Bette's Flamebird costume and that Bette will be wearing a janitor-type jumpsuit with a mask until she "earns" a uniform - not a costume.  Most of this conversation takes place while they are changing to go on patrol, and I just want to say that if you are going to do fan-service at all, you should do it like this - so that it's organic and feels natural to both the plot and the characters.  It's much better than the "it's vital that Zatanna be having this conversation on speakerphone while she's using her magic to undress for a relaxing bubble bath" that I'm used to.

Cut to the Department of Extranormal Affairs, a government agancy that I have not been reading long enough to be familiar with but that Wikipedia says is supposed to monitor super-powered individuals to prevent threats to the public yet is plagued by rogue agents who try to take down superheros.  A cigar-smoking man with a black skull for a face (or possibly mask) sends an attractive female agent to Gotham to discover the identity of Batwoman, citing as his reason the MEDUSA organization Batwoman fought in her last storyline as their cause of interest, and mentioning that they don't know exactly what happened or how she was involved because Col. Jake Kane classified everything.  (He also says that they've given up on figuring out who Batman is since they keep coming up empty - I would suggest they try again now that Bruce Wayne has come out as his backer.)

Meanwhile Detective Sawyer has found the drowned body of one of the other 16 kids that La Llarona has taken, and discusses the case with Jim Gordon.  The only things you need to know about this scene are 1) including the 3 from the beginning of this issue, La Llarona is responsible for 6 drowned children and another 13 missing, 2) her name comes from a South American ghost story about a peasant girl who lets her kids drown, drowns herself out of guilt, and returned to attack other people's children and 3)  both Sawyer and Gordon are deeply moved by the loss of these children.

Kate and Bette are now undressing again - this time to change back into civilian gear - and discussing the recent fight against theives dressed as pool balls (seriously).  Kate thinks that Bette is not taking this seriously enough and she had to look over Bette's shoulder the whole night.  Bette thinks that after fighting Deathstroke with the Teen Titans, she need not take clowns like this seriously and she knew that one of them was behind her and would have taken him out if Batwoman hadn't done it first.  They are interrupted by Jake Kane, who's  come uninvited to try to reconcile with his daughter.  Kate yells that he's unwelcome and reviews their backstory for Bette:  for years, she thought her mother and twin sister had been murdered, but Jake knew that her sister Beth survived and never told her - later, Beth seemed to have returned as the supervillain Alice, Jake figured out her identity and didn't tell Kate, and during the fight, Beth fell from a plane into Gotham Harbor and presumably drowned.  She also accuses him of doing nothing to find her sister during their childhood, even though last time they discussed this he claimed that he never stopped looking.  She walks out on her dad and heads to the most recent crime scene, where she's met by Batman, who's come to offer her a proposition.

Thoughts:

This is possibly the best comic from the new 52 so far.  It's full of action and character development, the art is exquisite, and I'm at the point now where I would happily read about this character going to the supermarket as long as these writers were handling it.  Rob Bricken over at Topless Robot thought that, while good, this issue wouldn't convince new readers to fall in love with the character.  I respectfully disagree.  Her coming into that washed out world as a "crash of red" is possibly the best superhero entrance I've ever seen, and introducing her through the words of the anguished parents she helped who are looking to her for hope of their children's return really cements her as an important hero.  We see a woman who's tough and compassionate, with a professional, almost soldierly attitude towards crime-fighting and a complicated personal life that includes strained familial relationships and recent trauma, yet she doesn't whine about any of it.  I don't see how you could not love this character and I can't wait to see what happens with her next.

Wonder Woman

A man later revealed to be Apollo is showing off the view from his skyscraper to three beautiful women who don't find anything amiss with the fact that he looks like he's made of iron and has glowing yellow eyes.  Well, it's the DCnU, perhaps inhuman appearences are not uncommon.   Saying that his father is missing and he needs information, Apollo turns the girls into his oracles, and they narrate the following vision sporadically over the ensuing pages:  "There is a storm gathering just beyone the horizon and the one responsible shall rule in fire."  They can't see the one responsible due to the smoke, but it wears a crown of thorns and a cape of blood, and the blood is falling on a naked woman at its feet.  Zeus has abandoned "fate" to someone who can choose to blow away the smoke.  Zeus wants one of his children to kill another and take their place.  But "he" doesn't exist yet.  (I think they're talking about the child of Zeus that will do the killing, but they may be talking about Zeus himself - perhaps choosing to be reborn as this child?)

While this is going on, we see a naked woman in a cloak of peacock feathers (possibly Hera or one of her minions, since peacocks are her symbol) remove the heads from a white and a black horse with a scythe.  Human torsos emerge from the holes, turning them into centaurs.  Hermes warns some random woman that assassins are coming after her and her child, but she just wants him out of her house until the centaurs attack, when he tosses her a key that transports her to Wonder Woman's apartment, where she is sleeping in the nude.  Telling the girl to call her Diana, Wonder Woman dons her battle gear (in the previews, I didn't like Wonder Woman's new outfit, but in context it does look like minimalist armor), and tries to take the key, but it transports them both back to the house where the centaurs are torturing Hermes.  They emerge, Diana kills them both in a rather awesome battle, and a dying Hermes emerges from the cabin to reveal that the random girl is pregnant by Zeus and Hera is trying to kill the child.

Back at Apollo's pent house, the oracles finish their vision as the sun comes up, transforming Apollo into a being of fire which burns his oracles and their charred bones fall to the ground below as he contemplates the meaning of what he's heard.

Thoughts:

I really liked this issue.  I love the mythology tie-ins and the complex relationships among the gods, who, as the issue points out, have the world's most messed-up family.  The woman Diana is protecting seems like she'll be interesting - she's an angry little thing who threatened Hermes with a shotgun, but recognizes and seems to trust Wonder Woman.  The battle scenes were great.  The art is good.  Honestly, the only thing wrong with this issue is that we didn't see much of Wonder Woman in her own issue:  it spent more time even on Apollo than on her, and we only really saw her fight.  But the issue did make it clear that they are going to be focusing on the warrior aspect of her character, and if, now that they've set up their dominoes, Diana has a more leading role in her own comic, this is going to become one of the best of the new set.

Next post:  the two non-headliners (Green Lantern Corps and DC Presents), and I will finish up with the other Bats, hopefully before Wednesday when I'll be picking up Aquaman, The Flash, Green Lantern:  New Guardians, and Superman.
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