Weekly Comic Review #15

Countdown 27 (Paul Dini & Sean McKeever-writers, Carlos Magno-artist) 

I almost feel as if this issue of Countdown should be called “Come and Read DC’s Other Event Titles.”  Not only does this week’s Countdown reference DC’s Death of the New Gods mini, but it also starts the ball rolling on the upcoming Salvation Run—which, apparently, deals with a super-villain prison on another planet.

 

First, the New Gods thingamajig.  Last week, Forager comes to get Jimmy Olsen’s help in locating the missing souls of the dead New Gods.  It seems (and isn’t this just the way?) that whoever is stealing New God souls could, theoretically, destroy the universe.  I don’t know about you, but stopping someone from destroying the universe sounds like a good idea to me—the universe is, after all, where I keep all of my stuff.  Mr. Olsen agrees with me, and agrees to help Forager (I wonder if it has anything to do with her being an alien chick in body-armor?) and they Boom-tube out of Metropolis. 

 

Now, on to this whole Salvation Run deal. If you remember (and, really, you should remember…it’s important, dammit!) someone’s been rounding up DC’s super-villains.  Since the Suicide Squad is involved, it should come as no surprise that Checkmate is involved—for those who don’t know, Checkmate is kind of like The Men in Black for meta-humans, or the Company on Heroes.  It seems that Checkmate is transferring all of the Earth’s villains to this place called “Salvation” (thankfully, our Rogues-on-the-run, Trickster and Pied Piper, rescue Two-Face and learn this much).  According to DC’s unstoppable press machine, “Salvation” is an alien prison planet—I guess Checkmate couldn’t afford Reed Richard’s freelance fee to build them a prison in a pocket dimension—and this storyline is supposed to get us salivating for DC’s Salvation Run.

 

Elsewhere in Countdown…Mary Marvel (poor…sweet…lost Mary) wipes the floor with Shadowpact.  (And here I though a dude wearing my nana’s quilt and a talking chimp would be able to stop “Black Mary.”)  I wonder if Mary is going to tear through each and every magic-user in the DCU.  I also wonder if Billy’s ever gonna get off his ass and save his sister…Holly and Harley arrive on Themyscira and Holly wonders if this so-called Paradise Island is really Prison Island…Darkseid shows more than a passing interest in Karate Kid and Buddy Blank’s journey to the Command-D bunker (and why is he holding up that little chess piece of The Boy Who Would Be Kamandi?…on Earth-8, Jason seemingly turns traitor, blasting Donna Troy in an attempt to show Monarch that he’s serious about joining his side.

Daredevil #101 (Ed Brubaker-writer, Michael Lark-artist) 

More than anything else, this month’s issue of Daredevil showcases how Matt Murdock is the most guilt-ridden character in comics.  Sure, Bruce Wayne dresses up as a bat and trounces criminals and Peter Parker has that whole dead uncle “power and responsibility” thing, but no one can hold a candle to Matt.  He’s an Irish Catholic for fuck’s sake…he’s hard-wired to feel guilty.  Toss in his father issues and the fact that almost every woman he’s ever loved has been murdered, and you can see how absolutely fucked Matt is.

Case in point: his wife Milla has been targeted by Mister Fear for no other reason than the fact that she’s married to Daredevil.  Mister Fear’s been mincing around Manhattan, dosing people with his fear toxins, and generally making Matt’s life miserable.  Under the influence of these chemicals, Milla accidentally pushes some poor schmuck into the path of an on-coming subway.  To make matters worse, the toxins are still pumping around her bloodstream, forcing the courts to decide that she’s currently mentally unfit to stand trial.

Now, maybe I’m over-simplifying, but if I was Matt, I’d put on my little red outfit and get out there and kick some Mister Fear ass.  What does Matt do?  He mopes and sulks and feels sorry for himself.  Guilt, kids, it sucks.  I mean, he’s going to be so preoccupied, that he’ll probably not even notice that The Hood—a.k.a. the new “Kingpin of All New York Supervillains”—is in the background pulling all sorts of strings.

The Flash #233 (Mark Waid-writer, Freddie E. Williams, II-artist) 

It was only a matter of time.  Wally returns from wherever the hell he’s been for the last two years, wife and kids in tow, and the first thing he does after getting back into the super-hero swing of things is dress his twins up and take them out on patrol.  That sort of thing would not go unnoticed for long, and in this issue of The Flash, the Justice League pays the Wests a little visit to talk about their parenting skills.

The League shows up to help Wally polish off the invading squid aliens (who were only attacking Earth because we’re air-breathers and their planet was attacked by another race of air-breathers) and, once that’s taken care of, decide to have a little sit-down with Wally and Linda.  It seems that the League doesn’t think it’s such a hot idea to let kids run around playing super-hero.  Roy brings up a good point: when he and Wally were teen sidekicks, the world was a lot safer.  Things are a lot different now and the League wants to protect little Jai and Iris. 

Another writer could have botched this pretty easily.  But, and I’ll admit to being somewhat biased, Waid is a pro.  He gets into Wally’s head, showing the reader that Wally’s initial reaction is to grab his kids and get the hell out of there.  Maybe Wally would have done that at one point, but he’s grown a lot since he first picked up the mantle of The Fastest Man Alive.  Instead, he and Linda explain that Jai and Iris are growing at an advanced right—aging about a decade in a single year—and that they never know when the twins will have another growth spurt.  They could be twenty tomorrow.  Thirty or forty a week later.  Dead in a month!  They made a decision, as a parental unit, to let their kids live life to the fullest—even if it means super-heroing before puberty—because they could be dead tomorrow.  Of course, Waid gives us a standard “dun-dun-dun” moment when he reveals that little Jai has overheard the entire conversation.

This issue is the first one drawn by Freddie Williams.  I know a few people who aren’t all that jazzed that he’s taking over the art chores on this book, but he’s done just as good a job on this book as he does every month on Robin. 

Gen 13 #13 (Gail Simone-writer, Kevin West & Sunny Lee-artists) 

In my opinion, this is issue wraps up Gen 13’s retconned origin.  Most folks would probably say that their origin wrapped once they escaped from under the thumb of Tabula Rasa.  I say no.

What makes this issue feel like it puts a pin in the kids’ origin is their encounter with the Creepy Harry Potter Clones of Gen14.  It’s a showdown between Nature and Nurture.  The kids of Gen13 were created to fill certain roles for Tabula Rasa’s clientele.  But, for reasons that are not expressly explained, our kids developed their own personalities, became their own people.  It’s a bit schmaltzy, sure, but underneath the T & A, Gen13 always had heart.  Although it was created to profit from the popularity of X-Men, the kids of Gen13 always struck me as having more of a family dynamic, like Fantastic Four.  With one or two exceptions over the years, there have only ever been the five kids in the book (with John Lynch frequently playing the role of father-figure), allowing for a real cohesion among the different personalities—as opposed to the revolving door at Xavier’s mansion. 

Gotham Underground #1 (Frank Tieri-writer, J. Calafiore-artist) 

I picked up this book because one of the early reviews likened it to Gotham Knights, which was an old Bat-title that (in theory) focused on all of the members of Team Bat.  But, then Bruce started getting ridiculously paranoid and pushed everyone away—even, for a time, loyal Alfred.  So, you couldn’t have a book about Team Bat when there wasn’t really a Team Bat anymore.  Skip ahead a few years, Bruce has mellowed just enough to understand the need for teamwork (at least when it involves people he’s trained personally), and that brings us to Gotham Underground.

GU is a nine issue mini-series that, at least from first impression, deals with two storylines.  The first is the reorganization of Gotham’s gangs in the wake of Black Mask’s death.  The second is the revelation that Penguin’s been using The Iceberg Lounge as an underground railroad to smuggle super-villains out of Gotham.  The first storyline introduces us to Tobias Whale—a massive, albino gang boss who used to torment Black Lightning and was clearly based on Marvel’s Kingpin.

The majority of this first issue deals with Bruce going undercover at the Iceberg as his standard alias: Matches Malone.  As Matched, Bruce can spy on Penguin’s activities without standing out too much.  He sees a gathering of Gotham’s super-villainy—Two-Face, Mad Hatter, Hugo Strange, Scarecrow—all itching to get the hell out of Dodge…er, Gotham.  The issue ends with the Suicide Squad busting in (those bastards!) and, among other things, bashing Bruce/Matches in the dome with a pitcher of water, making a rather nifty Bat-symbol shaped puddle on the floor.

If that’s all a bit too heavy for you, check out the scene where Robin answers the call of the Bat Signal, only to have Ol’ Jim Gordon berate his skulking abilities.  

Green Arrow: Year One #6 (Andy Diggle-writer, Jock-artist) 

Ollie’s retold origin reaches its obvious conclusion.  China White is defeated.  The island’s native population is freed.  The cavalry (in this case, ironically, the Navy) arrives.  Ollie returns to civilization with a new purpose: he will actually help people.  He won’t simply pay to go to charity events and get wasted.  He’ll actually take up the mantle of Green Arrow to help the downtrodden. 

As a whole, this was a pretty good Year One story.  There were a few slow points here and there, but you were actually able to watch Ollie progress from self-centered billionaire asshole to the super-liberal crime-fighter we all know and love.  Extra points go to Mr. Diggle for a parting joke that references the (now) three different origins for Green Arrow.  Before heading back to the States, Ollie worries that the story of his exploits on the island will bring too much global attention to the quiet natives.  He offers to tell the press that he encountered pirates or hippie pot farmers on the island, not a multi-national criminal syndicate that was trying to grow super-heroin.

Robin #167 (Brandon Thomas-writer, Freddie E. Williams, II-artist) 

This month, DC gives us a nice, little filler issue of Robin.  In the wake of a break-out at Arkham, Bruce and Tim split-up to get things under control.  Tim’s left to deal with Riot Act (a painted Joker wannabe) and Lock-up (another transplant from Paul Dini and Bruce Timm’s superb Batman cartoon). 

One of the joys of this book—and, I’ll admit that I just thought of this now—is getting inside of Tim’s head.  Bruce is a master at what he does, so even when an issue lets you peak inside of his head, it isn’t all that revealing.  It’s different with Tim.  You see his though process.  You see how he incorporates what Bruce has taught him with his own experiences.  He tells you how dangerous what he’s doing is (for himself and any innocent people who happen to be in the area), and you believe it.  We all know that nothing bad will happen to Tim, but we understand that he knows it “could” happen, and that’s enough.

Like Matt Murdock, Tim’s got a bit of a guilt problem.  His best friend is dead.  His old girlfriend died when she tried to be Robin (although, to be fair, Steph would have lived if not for the actions of the suddenly and inexplicable evil Leslie Thompkins).  His dad died.  On top of all of this, this was that recent situation with wannabe-hero Dodge.  So, we can see how Tim could be a bit tense.  Tense enough, it seems, to beat a dude to a bloody pulp—sure the guy was one of a gang of scumbags who had taken a bunch of folks hostage, but turning his face into hamburger might have been a bit much. 

All of this leads to a grave-side promise to Tim’s dad, Jack.  It’s a standard graveside super-hero promise.  Tim’s going to fight the good fight as a way to honor his father’s memory.  What makes this one different is that Bruce makes the same vow.  Unlike Dick Grayson and Jason Todd, Bruce had actually known Jack Drake before Tim became Robin.  Jack was a neighbor and friend to Bruce (as much as Bruce Wayne has friends), and it’s possible that watching Tim standing over his dad’s dying body is what snapped Bruce out of his paranoia spiral.

Ultimate Spider-man #115 (Brian Michael Bendis-writer, Stuart Immonen-artist) 

Bendis continues to expertly show us why it sucks (or should suck—I mean, a super-model wife—really??!!??) to be Peter Parker.  Norman Osborn has broken out of The Ultimates’ headquarters.  He’s gone on television and played the ol’ “I’m a helpless victim of a super-secret government agency” card.  How many times have I heard that one?  Since Norman (a) knows Peter’s secret identity and (b) is a complete and total sociopathic nut-case, it’s safe to say that Pete’s life will continue to be interesting for a while.

After his throw-down with Electro, Peter wakes up in a prison cell.  He’s been nabbed by SHIELD and put under lock and key in the Triskelion.  Pete thinks he’s under arrest—as does Kitty Pryde, who takes it upon herself to break her ex-boyfriend (a redhead AND a brunette with superpowers…come on!) out of the clink—but, as Carol Danvers explains, Peter’s actually being used as bait to lure Orborn to the Triskelion and, SHIELD assumes, his recapture.  Of course, Normie’s too busy running around frying his old lawyer and accountant to give a damn where Peter is at the moment.  That’s why SHIELD decides to send Peter and Kitty after Osborn, after many humorous uses of words like “Gobliny” and “Goblining.”

Quote of the Week: 

“I’m getting lectured on child safety from a man who’s gone through four Robins?”—an understandably pissed Wally West to Batman, and the rest of the Justice League, in The Flash #233.

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