UPCOMING REVIEWS (AUG 1-7)

Action Comics #12
(Morrison, Bryant)
– With Grant Morrison’s announcement that he’ll be leaving AC after issue 16, we now know that his sprawling, revamped origin for good old Superman actually will have a conclusion! This month, Morrison continues his tale of “The Forgotten Superman” as well as another back-up – this time featuring Perry White – that will again add more depth to Superman’s world.

Animal Man #12
(Lemire, Pugh)
– Now that Buddy Baker and Alex Holland are finally teamed up, it’s time to dive into the realm of the Rot. Unfortunately, this “Rotworld: Prologue” will mostly be a recap of the last year’s events in both Animal Man and Swamp Thing.

Avengers vs. X-Men #9 of 12
(Someone, Kubert)
– As we enter Act III of Avengers vs. X-Men, the Phoenix Five’s weakness has been revealed and Namor is down for the count! How will the the Scarlet Witch use her newfound ability to excise the Phoenix to turn the tides for the Avengers? I know this is completely out of left field, but as a Young Avengers fan, I want to see some Patriot, Wiccan, Hulkling, Stature, Speed, and Hawkeye II! Hey, a guy can dream.

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #2 of 4
(Straczynski, Kubert)
– Last month, Nite Owl saw the first meeting of the group that would become the Watchmen, including the first team-up between Nite Owl and Rorschach. This month continues Dan Dreiberg’s journey to prove to himself that he’s worthy of the Nite Owl mantle.

Earth 2 #4
(Robinson, Scott)
– Now that we’ve been properly introduced, it’s time to see Earth 2 Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkgirl in action! Also, the Atom of Earth 2 makes his debut, along with more insight to the Grey and this universe’s Solomon Grundy. James Robinson has stated that he intends to build up this world before putting the JSA together, and he’s doing a fantastic job so far.

Justice League International #12
(Jurgens, Lopresti)
– It’s the “Funeral of Rocket Red” as the team deals with the fallout of their adventures thus far. Seeing as this is the last ‘official’ issue in the run – not counting the Annual issue later this month – Dan Jurgens will be pulling out all the punches to send out this fantastic series in style.

Swamp Thing #12
(Snyder, Paquette)
– All DC has released for press info is that this issue “continues from Animal Man #12” which is just a recap. Hopefully, we’ll get to see some actual action happen here. If both issues turn out to be a recap, a single review will be written for both Animal Man and Swamp Thing.

4-Sentence Reviews
– Dial H #4
First X-Men #1 of 5
Hawkeye #1
World’s Finest #4

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4-SENTENCE REVIEWS (JULY 25-31)

Batman: The Dark Knight #11
(Hurwitz, Finch)

After a mediocre initial story arc, and a “Night of the Owls” chapter that didn’t actually feature Red Robin fighting a Talon at all – like the cover of the issue promises – Greg Hurwitz has stepped in to bring Scarecrow into the ‘New 52’ with style, and he does so in spades. Unlike the increasingly doom-and-gloomy Scarecrow pre-reboot, Hurwitz’s take on Jonathan Crane is rooted in pure insanity – he gleefully kidnaps children and exposes them to his fear gas, mimicking his own father’s tactics years prior. The eighth page is a striking and apt example of the feeling Hurwitz achieves, in this case mostly because of David Finch’s artwork: (in three panels) a child is on a teeter-totter, then Scarecrow can be seen in the bushes, and finally, the child is gone. It’s a subtle, yet explosive point in the issue that leads to even more ridiculousness – Scarecrow’s hyperbolic needle gloves really push the crazy point across – culminating in the best issue of Batman: TDK to date.

GRADE: A+



The Flash #11
(Manapul, Buccellato, To, McCarthy)

11 months into the ‘New 52’, and The Flash is finally getting a little less convoluted and little more character-driven. While Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have been having fun putting Barry Allen through the revamp ringer – he’s in a relationship with Patty Spivot instead of Iris West, the Rogues have been retooled as much more deadly foes, The Flash is blamed for a mass power outage in the Gem Cities, etc. – the series thus far has been somewhat light on real character development. Sure, we get to see Barry trying to balance his civilian life and his career as the Flash, but it always felt somewhat dry until this issue. A candid conversation between Captain Cold and Barry – as he has started a new life as “Al”, a bartender at a Rogues bar in Keystone City – makes each character much more relatable than they’ve been in previous issues, a welcome breathe of fresh air from a series that’s been stuck in a single gear for a while.

GRADE: B+

Green Lantern: New Guardians #11
(Bedard, Kirkham, Batt)

In an era of comic books that demands larger, more comprehensive arcs, it’s sometimes hard to make an individual issue stand on it’s own feet, especially considering it’s placement in the arc as a whole – Green Lantern: New Guardians #11 suffers from this “filler issue” syndrome, wherein most of the events that take place in the issue are either a continuation from last issue, or a set-up for the events of next issue. Filler episodes of TV shows are some of the most boring, and even thought the New Guardians take on Larfleeze this issue and Sayd the Guardian reveals that is was she who stole the multicolored rings and manipulated the New Guardians into existence, this issue fails to really be engaging. The most interesting moment of the issue is when Larfleeze destroys the corporeal construct of Glomulus, the rotund alien that’s been traveling with the NG’s since the first issue and developed a friendship with Kyle Rayner. And sure, Glommy was a character that’s been around a while, but he wasn’t all that important, and the fact that a major fight between members of every Lantern Corps – as well as B-story panels of Invictus destroying the planet Aello in the Vega system – doesn’t incite more excitement is a problem.

GRADE: C-

Justice League Dark #11
(Lemire, Janin)

Jeff Lemire continues his fantastic run on Justice League Dark this month with big revelations, cool magic stuffs, more John Constantine. Felix Faust and his Demons Three have been giving the JLD a hard time for a few issues now, so Constantine barters his way into the Black Room to retrieve a few items to help them stop the mad wizard before he can gain access to the room himself. Lemire is taking his time with this story, as it’s poised to set up some major changes for magic in the ‘New 52’, including the appearance of Timothy Hunter, a character created by Neil Gaiman who hase the potential to become “the greatest mage the world had ever known”, as well as the inevitable moment when the Black Room becomes a toy store for DC’s magical villains. Usually, plot-driven arcs get under my skin due to the lack of true character development, but “The Black Room”s purpose as a prelude of sorts to upcoming events gives it a pass in light of future potentials.

GRADE: B



National Comics: Eternity
(Lemire, Hammer, Donovan)

For it’s ‘New 52’ reboot, DC endeavored to include more titles grounded in realism, including Blackhawks, Men of War (and it’s subsequent replacement, G.I. Combat), and James Robinson’s “Savage” run on DC Universe Presents. With National Comics: Eternity, writer Jeff Lemire presents a tale of Chris Freeman, a police coroner with the power to bring recently deceased persons back as ghosts for 24 hours in order to solve their own murders, allowing them to find closure and move on in the afterlife. While the origin and basic set-up remain the same, Lemire puts his own, dark spin on Kid Eternity, bringing him into the 21st century with a story about Darby Quinn, a seemingly innocent murder victim who is revealed to have been shot in self-defense by his young female tenant. Lemire’s use of modern criminal procedure style to bring Kid Eternity back into the fold is genius, and while the twist with Quinn’s innocence is somewhat expected, the resulting meeting between Chris and a mysterious man who knows about Chris’ abilities is completely captivating and leaves me only wanting more (why is this only a One-Shot?!?!?)

GRADE: A

BEFORE WATCHMEN: COMEDIAN #2 of 6

STORY: Brian Azzarello
ART: JG Jones

Again with the silly cover! What is that trail of blood on a sandy path?
I mean…river.

With it’s rag-tag artwork, silly period piece dialogue, and obtuse symbolism, Comedian #1 is my least favorite issue of Before Watchmen, by far. That being said, this month’s issue in Eddie Blake’s life is better. Of course, this just means it isn’t god-awfully terrible. Instead, Brian Azzarello pens an issue that’s just feels unnecessary and boring.


Comedian #2 takes place exclusively in Vietnam, a fact that becomes more and more grating each time  Azzarello’s characters feel the need to spell out the controversial nature of the war, which happens roughly every other page. Yes, we readers know that the Vietnam “conflict”was a terrible, horrible situation – this information doesn’t need to be beaten into our heads because we already understand. It’s as if Azzarello doesn’t know that students learn about the Vietnam War (however sparsely) at least once during their education.

Overall, this issue just seems like filler. A lot of talking goes on, and Blake kills a Vietnamese soldier with no regard for decency. I’m a pacifist, so it’s hard to watch a psychotic killer like Eddie Blake murder a (somewhat) defenseless man in cold blood. The fact that this scene churned by insides proves that, at least a little, Azzarello’s attempts to convey the mood and temper of the Vietnamese jungle are paying off. Azzarello also hits on the drug trade that was supposedly operational in order to fund a war that wasn’t actually a war. In excrutiating detail, a handful of officers discusses the full scope of the situation and how to better raise money by getting more American citizens hooked on drugs. It’s a very odd conversation, one that feels too ‘matter of fact’ to have actually taken place in real life. I’m sure it did, and I hope the actual talk didn’t sound as redundant or condescending as this one does.

One of the biggest complaints I had last month was that Azzarello was trying to make Eddie Black relatable – a majority of the issue was dedicated to showing how Blake became a strong family friend for the Kennedys. The biggest improvement in Comedian #2 is how much of a douche bag Eddie has become. He talks about war like it’s a pissing contest, and he slaughters without remorse. There’s still that opening scene with Eddie and Bobby Kennedy at a Muhammed Ali fight, but even there, Blake is a stoic asshole who only sees things in black and white. America = Good. Vietnam = Bad.

While this shift in Eddie’s behavior definitely gives this issue a whole lot more credence than the previous, Azzarello still can’t figure out how to fix this series biggest problem: it’s necessity. Did anyone really want a six-issue series detailing the horrid actions of the Comedian during the 1960s and 70s? Wasn’t it enough to know he was a huge dick? Wasn’t that part of what made the character so great? If Azzarello continues to change retcon – like he did last month when it was ‘revealed’ that Eddie never shot JFK – and take us down a path of pointless darkness and machination, this series is going to burn out much faster than it’s release schedule.

GRADE
C+

TEEN TITANS #11

STORY: Scott Lobdell
ART: Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund

It seems that my issues with Teen Titans and Superboy in the first nine months of DC’s ‘New 52’ had a lot more to do with the N.O.W.H.E.R.E. arc than I realized. While I still feel that Scott Lobdell’s scripts are a bit long in the tooth for a pair of series about teenagers, I’ve been enjoying both titles loads more since the end of “The Culling”. A big part of this change of heart comes from more character development, something Lobdell neglected in favor of a convoluted, painfully intertwined plot.

Teen Titans #11 kicks off with a bang, as Kid Flash, Bunker, and Solstice come under attack by Loose Canon, a surly blue fellow who can feed on energy then weaponize it (similar to, say, Cable or Ms. Captain Marvel). It’s actually a fun little fight scene that ends when Cassie stops moping in her room and over-charges Canon, causing him to burn out. The actual fight really isn’t all that important, while the reason for the fight boils down to Bunker’s mistake. After hearing of Red Robin’s intention to disband the Titans – in last month’s issue – most of the team disagreed with Tim’s course of action. Bunker takes things into his own hands and puts out an ad on Craigslist to recruit new members. Obviously, things don’t turn out well, but the entire episode does a great deal to bolster Bunker’s personality. Unlike Red Robin, Superboy, and Wonder Girl – who have all been revamped – Bunker is a brand new character, a fact Lobdell has been taking advantage of in Teen Titans, as well as in Superboy, where the gay Mexican guest-starred earlier this month (what a weird sentence to type).

Lobdell has been deftly building up Miguel Jose Barragan as the team’s heart and soul. Red Robin is too buys brooding, Kid Flash never takes things seriously, Superboy isn’t an actual member of the team yet, Cassie is a total basket case, Solstice is still trying to figure out how to lead a normal life, and Skitter is barely even seen these days. Bunker gets to be the straight man – the most normal character of the bunch – who has to deal with his teammates craziness. And to be honest, the whole Craigslist idea isn’t that bad in today’s modern age of technological communication.

Side note that really has nothing to do with the rest of the issue/this review: Superboy looks like he flew out of 1994. It’s 2012, Scott – wearing shades at night, black tank tops, and motorcycle gloves went out of style with Culture Club and Clear Pepsi.

The main focus of Teen Titans this month comes down to Wonder Girl and the mysterious Silent Armor she wears. After quickly defeating Loose Canon, Cassie seems to lose all control over the ancient armor “forged in the heart of the Sun…” Without much wanring, Wonder Girl attacks and defeats Solstice, Kid Flash, and Bunker before Red Robin and Superboy show up to find Cassie begging for death before she takes another life. Brett Booth makes the right decision to withhold showing the readers the full power of the Silent Armor until the final panel. Instead of revealing the blood-thirsty version of Wonder Girl mid-issue, Booth keeps her off-panel while using the Titans’ reactions to convey the horror of their friend taken by a godly power.

GRADE
B

AQUAMAN #11

STORY: Geoff Johns
ART: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Jonathan Glapion, and Andy Lanning

While he gets out all of the cosmic-level threats and crossover bonanzas with Green Lantern, Geoff Johns saves the scandal and intrigue for Aquaman, a series that has been one of the ‘New 52’s best titles, not only for it’s fantastic arcs and high-caliber artwork, but also because this is a character who has never really been treated right, so Johns is doing everything he can to right that wrong. “The Others” started off rather vague, only sparingly giving readers small amounts of information regarding the team Arthur was on before the Justice League. Most of this arc has been about Aquaman’s relationship with his arch-nemesis Black Manta and how it differentiates from old DCU canon, even on a metafictional level. So it’s nice that in Aquaman #11, Johns gives us a little more character development for some of the…well…other members of the Others.

“The Others” is starting to feel like ‘Arthur Curry’s Asshole Hour’ because he just can’t seem to be nice to any of his former teammates. While the King of Atlantis may have shown some compassion to some persons during the run of “The Trench”, all of that seems to have been washed away in favor of a far more pig-headed version of Arthur that wont listen to anyone else and makes rash, impulsive decisions that hurt him and those around him. And while I’m confident this is all part of Johns’ plan for Aquaman, it’s a bit disconcerting to see the character so violently shaken from his generally stoic presence. Then again, having to deal with a vengeful criminal who happens to be a genius super villain can push a man.

If the Justice League is supposed to be the cool kids club, then the Others is definitely the nerd table. Aquaman himself straddles the line between mainstream and alternative, while the four other remaining members all have some quirk that keeps them from enjoying an actual life outside their powers. Prisoner is haunted by the memories of his military squad and their families – he constantly feels the pain of having lost his surrogate brothers, while simultaneously feeling empty because he had no real family of his own. The Operative – whom we discovered is an elderly gentleman last issue – assumes the thankless mantle of the “nameless agent working for every side…” then using those relationships to garner support when need be. As evidenced by his age, the Operative seems to believe his actions are necessary to keep the world spinning, so to speak.

Vostok quickly becomes the most interesting of the team after his quick tale of growing up in a Russian isolation chamber (with literally no human contact at all) in preparation to be the nation’s greatest Cosmonaut, a dream that faded when the program was cancelled and Vostok was released, left to wander a world full of creatures and things he have never seen. Vostok admits to the team that he’s been on the moon for two years, “waiting for you to contact me.” Even on a team of misfits, Vostok is ‘out there’. All of the Others are outsiders who don’t fit into normal society, and they came together because of this fact.


“The Others” continues to be dynamite. Johns is weaving an intricate melodrama that’s less about the sinking of Atlantis and more about Arthur Curry’s relationship with his past. While Black Manta represents the worst of Aquaman’s history, the Others represent the best of his younger days. Unfortunately, Arthur is only focused on defeating Black Manta, forsaking the help of his allies and opting to rush in by himself. Black Manta’s big find at issue’s end also promises big things for the next issue.

GRADE:
A

GREEN LANTERN #11

STORY: Geoff Johns
ART: Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, and Tom Nguyen

With Geoff Johns and Green Lantern, there’s never really a down moment. That’s not to say ‘there’s never a dull moment’, because frankly, there are from time to time.”Secret of the Indigo Tribe” was one such instance where Johns’ perspective as GL-series team leader led him to overestimate how interesting the narrative was as it’s own arc. Fortunately, this month kicks off “The Revenge of Black Hand” that was teased last month when William Hand committed suicide to escape the imprisoning nature of the Indigo Tribe, only to be resurrected by a brand new Black Lantern ring.


Black Hand gets a good reintroduction in these pages as one of the DC universe’s most twisted, sadistic, evil villains. As depicted back at the beginning of the Blackest Night event in 2009, William Hand’s family life was less than perfect, leading William to murder his entire family which put him on the path to be the avatar for the Black Lanterns. His power now restored, Hand travels back to Earth and resurrects his entire family as the beginning of his personal army of the dead. Even without the Blackest Night connection, this scene is super, super creepy; Hand has a conversation with the corpses of his family members while they all sit around a dinner table watching William eat. BN was really the last time Johns got to cut loose with the ‘misery and death’ talk, yet he comes back to it with a passion – Hand pledges, “I’m going to kill as many people as I can in as many ways as I can. And then I’m going to raise them from the ground and they’re going to do the same thing.” In two speech bubbles, Johns successfully gets the major focal point of the story arc across to readers as well as making any reader squirm in their seat just a little bit. Some villains take an entire six-issue run to get to their point, and more often than not, these characters still feel underwhelming. Black Hand under Johns’ guidance has always been frightening, but now he’s downright sickening (and not in the drag queen sense).


Hal & Sinestro’s side of things is a bit more boring until they get their hands of the Book of Black once again. The duo heads to Korugar to fetch the Book of Black, giving Johns yet another chance to remind readers just how hated Sinestro is on his home planet. Normally, this kind of redundant fact inclusion grates on me, but Johns has used it sparingly since the “Sinestro” arc, and for new readers, it can be helpful to remember that Sinestro was once one of the most hated criminals in the universe. The real meat of their journey to Korugar this issue comes when they open the Book of Black to see what else they can learn about the Guardians’ plan to eradicate the Green Lantern Corps, a conspiracy that’s been building across the four Green Lantern titles for some time now and will come to a front his October in “Rise of the Third Army”.


Here’s what Hal and Sinestro’s vision tells us:
–> There’s a new Green Lantern coming (the Arab GL that’s been in teasers and appears on the cover of Green Lantern #0).
–> The Guardians will get their hands on John Stewart to torture and/or kill him.
–> Kyle Rayner is destined to become a Red Lantern (*snore*…DC already did this with Guy Gardner).
–> Guy Gardner is in jail.
–> Atrocitus has command of the Manhunter robots.


Couples with what Sinestro saw in his original vision back in Green Lantern #6:
–> The Guardians will murder the entire Green Lantern Corps (to make way for the Third Army)
–> Sinestro will be taken as a member of the Indigo Tribe (done and done)
–> The Guardians will somehow use the White Lantern rings to execute their plans.


There seems to be a lot (like, a lot) of prophecy and premonitions floating around with not a whole lot of story advancement to back it up. Sure, these revelations are pretty cool (save for Kyle going Red, which is just a silly retread), but one page of awesome images from future events isn’t enough to save Hal and Sinestro’s lacking narrative. Even their banter feels hollow and flat this issue.


One of Geoff Johns’ strongest points as a writer is his ability to create huge, cosmic events that change the landscape of the world he molds. Unfortunately, DC seems to be shying away from imprint-wide events, sticking to family series crossovers (like Batman’s “Night of the Owls”, or Young Justice’s “The Culling”) in order to make each part of DC’s line stronger on it’s own before deconstructing it down the road, which we all know is a question of ‘when?’ rather than ‘if’. The teaser promo for “Rise of the Third Army” doesn’t include Hal or Sinestro anywhere in the image, a startling fact seeing as both Hal Jordan and Thaal Sinestro are two of the franchise’s most recognizable characters. I’m sure Black Hand will fit into the scheme of things somehow, which will Bring Hal and Sinestro into the fight as well.

GRADE
B-

UPCOMING REVIEWS (JULY 25-31)

Aquaman #11
(Johns, Reis)
– “The Others” continues as we learn if the team ever actually can work as a…team. This is one of DC’s best series out right now, and still people aren’t reading it as much as they should!

Before Watchmen: Comedian #2 of 6
(Azzarello, Jones)

– Last issue, Brian Azzarello pretty much totally missed the point of Before Watchmen, opting to make Eddy Blake seem like a good guy who just happened to be implicated with the Kennedy murders! Uh-oh!


The Flash #11
(Manapul, Buccalleto)
– The last few months has seen Flash meeting a number of his Rogues through a seemingly connected series of events. The Flash #11 introduces Heatwave to the ‘New 52’ in Manapul’s steely art style!

Green Lantern #11
(Johns, Mahnke)

– With the Indigo Tribe down, it’s time for Geoff Johns to turn his sights on resolving the loose end of Black Hand and his BRAND NEW BLACK LANTERN RING! But without the Anitmonitor powering the Black Lantern (and Necron…dead?…), how will William Hand get his revenge against Hal Jordan and the Indigo Tribe?


Justice League Dark #11
(Lemire, Janin)
– “The Black Room” continues as the JLD finds its way deeper into ARGUS and in a rematch with the Demons Three! Plus, John Constantine finds something interesting.

Teen Titans #11
(Lobdell, Booth)

– Wonder Girl’s origin! Plus, the secret of her armor that’s slowly killing her. Hopefully, Scott Lobdell will find some space to give the other kids a bit more character development as well.


4-Sentence Reviews
Batman: The Dark Knight #11
Green Lantern: New Guardians #11
– National Comics: Eternity #1
Superman #11