Spotlight: Batman Incorporated #13

(w) Grant MorrisonBMINC_Cv13_qd0etomkpt_

(a) Chris Burnham

“This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.”

Eliot’s words ring true for Grant Morrison as he brings the his seven year long Batman saga to a close with Batman, Incorporated #13, an issue that reminds readers that epic doesn’t have to be grandiose, and true meaning can be derived from hollow actions. The story of Leviathan and Batman’s worldwide crusade to end a network of pure evil that even infected Gotham City began before the start of Batman Incorporated, Vol. 1, and Talia al Ghul’s influence over the Dark Knight’s life began long before that. Batman Incorporated in the ‘New 52’ is the endgame to Morrison’s Batman saga, wrapping up years of intricate storylines, emotional swelling, and some of the lowest and most desperate points in Bruce Wayne’s life. Morrison has put the Caped Crusader through quite a bit in seven years, and this final chapter not only does Batman Incorporated justice as a series, but it closes Morrison’s run with Batman at a point that challenges future creative teams to play with and expand upon what’s been built as well as what’s been torn down.

** SPOILERS AHEAD. READ THE ISSUE FIRST. OR DON’T. I’M NOT GOING TO TELL YOU WHAT TO DO. **

Batman Incorporated #13 opens with the showdown between Batman and Talia, swords in hand. Each of them exists, emotionally, at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to their son Damian’s death. To Bruce, Damian was everything. Damian was his only son, the future of the Wayne name, the future of Batman, and the future of Gotham City. While he was still a father to his son, Bruce believed Damian could be anything he wanted to be, and Bruce was just fine with whatever Damian would eventually choose. Though they swung through the city at night as a crime fighting duo, and even though Damian held a sword to Bruce’s nose at their first meeting, Bruce and Damian’s relationship wasn’t much different from many kids and their fathers; they simply didn’t understand each other.

To Talia, Damian was a failed experiment, raw data used in her conquest to destroy Batman once and for all. At one point, this fact may have been different; Talia may have once loved the idea of Damian as a son, when he was very, very young. But when Damian decided to leave the League of Assassins and join his father in Gotham City, Talia became resentful and created Leviathan as revenge. Well, that and Batman creating an international web of allies. “You chose to make war. I gave you an unbeatable villain. I did this all for you, in my spare time,” Talia laments as she watches her former lover crumble under the influence of fatal poisons. Talia never loved Damian because he was never more than a tool with which to strike at the Dark Knight. How do you break an unbreakable man? Destroy the thing he holds most dear. In hindsight, Damian could never have survived past Morrison’s Batman work.

Leviathan is an incredible Batman villain. But Leviathan is not Talia al Ghul, nor is it the grotesque, hyper-enhanced clone of Damian Wayne, the Heretic. Leviathan is the idea of evil that overtook those who had nothing else, and chose to follow it’s tempting call. Leviathan promised a new world order, and the more people that joined the cause, the closer to that goal Leviathan could get. How does one punch and kick a creed, a religion, or a superstition? For Bruce and Robin, the fight was against Talia. They looked away as the bigger picture was staring them in the face; Batman Inc agents found dead, more and more recruits to the cause of Leviathan, Talia’s training of a ‘roided out Damian hellbent on murdering Batman and taking his place. These are things Bruce should have prioritized. Instead, Leviathan manipulated Bruce’s mind to suit it’s own needs.

The tension between Bruce and Talia is what makes Leviathan such an unbeatable, yet nearly nonexistent enemy. Talia even so much as admits to Leviathan’s frailty when she explains that, “If I fail to return, Leviathan will release it’s hold on Gotham. Kill me and save your city. Kill me or I kill you.” Without Talia, Leviathan is nothing, but she has nothing but Leviathan with which to fight her dark detective. This is it for Batman and Talia.

Whether you subscribe to Grant Morrison’s wacky narrative style, his Batman saga has been a landmark of DC comics over the past seven years. Throughout his runs on Batman, Batman and Robin, and finally Batman Incorporated, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, Morrison rewrote the book on Batman. He gave us Batman’s son, then took him away. He killed Bruce Wayne and let Dick Grayson wear the cowl before Bruce came back. He made Batman go global, and the implications were mesmerizing. There have been many great Batman stories, and many great Batman arcs, but a Batman saga; that’s all Morrison. Batman Incorporated #13 is the end of Morrison’s Batman story, but it’s not the end for his characters or his various plot points. The final pages of this book bring up a whole slew of unresolved issues that leave things open for the future. Damian Wayne and Talia al Ghul may be dead, but what does that mean for Batman, Leviathan, and the League of Assassins? We’ll all just have to keep reading.

GRADE

10/10

The Week in Revue (July 31 – Aug 6, 2013)

Spotlight

Batman Incorporated #13

(w) Grant Morrison

(a) Chris Burnham

DC Reviews

Batman Annual #2

(w) Scott Snyder

(a) Wes Craig

The Flash Annual #2

(w) Brian Buccellato

(a) Sami Basri

Trinity of Sin: Pandora #2

(w) Ray Fawkes

(a) Daniel Sampere, Vicente Cifuentes

Marvel Reviews

Guardians of the Galaxy #5

(w) Brian Michael Bendis

(a) Sara Pichelli

X-Men #3

(w) Brian Wood

(a) Olivier Coipel

Aquaman #22 Review

(w) Geoff Johns

AQM_Cv22_2xfan5xsw8_(a) Paul Pelletier

Aquaman can seriously not catch a break. Let’s start at the beginning.

First, Aquaman has to deal with the Trench and the monsters breaking out of it like whoa. That’s enough to make you pissed because guess what, Aquaman isn’t the king of Atlantis so this shouldn’t be his problem. But he deals with it anyway because he’s a good guy and doesn’t like seeing people being killed by vicious half-man, half-fish cannibals.

Next, Black Manta decides he wants to be a bigger dick than normal and starts killing off members of Aquaman’s superhuman team of which he was a member before he became a part of the Justice League. And because of their sordid history, Aquaman goes off to find Black Manta alone without the help of the Others even though it was their teammate who was murdered, as well. “The Others” ended with another one of Aquaman’s oldest friends being murdered before he stops Manta. So, it’s still a win?

Then, the crap hit the fan when Atlantis is attacked. Though Atlanteans are supposed to be hundred of years more advanced than humanity, they don’t comprehend the fact that humans have no idea Atlantis doesn’t exist. A conspiracy to coax a war between Atlantis and the surface world to get Aquaman back as King of Atlantis? No way, man. Surface dwellers who don’t know about us maliciously attacking our secret city miles beneath the ocean? Absolutely. So Aquaman is caught in between his step brother leading Atlantis and the Justice League trying to save the city of Boston. Aquaman manages to stop all the fighting, but he has to be king, which he’s not terribly excited about.

Now, even though he only did it to stop the war between Atlantis and humanity, Aquaman’s title as King of Atlantis is being questioned by some Ice King that likes to talk in circles. I get that one must have an air of mystery about oneself, but if you ask someone to talk about what they know about you, it’s polite to correct them if they’ve heard wrong. Instead, old Frosty Tips thinks it’s acceptable to try and freeze Aquaman to death. Ancient baddies love bein’ vague, and Icicle Party doesn’t disappoint when it comes to being broad and general in the way he speaks. Who is Mr. Icy? Someone from the past. Why is he so mad? Because someone did him wrong. Why doesn’t he like Aquaman? What, you don’t already know? The Ice King is an ass and just isn’t all that menacing by himself. Too bad he has the entire population of Atlantis’ broke down sister city in the Bermuda Triangle standing behind him now…

Aquaman #22 is fun because the Ice Wizard Numero Uno is a villain steeped in platitudes about destiny, rightful places, and dishonor. In many ways, Icy McFreezePants is the epitome of classic villains of the DC universe who don’t have much to say beyond “I’m right and you’re wrong”. It’s catty, and it’s a bit like Ice Cakes is a twelve-year-old girl whose friends are hanging out with the new girl.

GRADE

8/10

Captain America #9 Review

(w) Rick RemenderCaptain-America_9

(a) John Romita Jr.

** FAIR WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THIS ISSUE AS WELL AS Y: THE LAST MAN AND UNCANNY X-FORCE (VOL. 1) BE WARNED!!! **

There are three occasions I can name where I shed a tear over a comic book. The first was during Y: The Last Man when Agent 355 was murdered, then later in the series when Yorick makes the hardest decision of his life by giving his monkey, Ampersand, a peaceful death. The third time was during Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force, at the end of “The Dark Angel Saga”, when Psylocke is holding Archangel — an apocalyptic version of Warren Worthington III, the man she once loved — as she uses her psychic ability to link their minds and live out an entire lifetime of joy, happiness, and love in the last moments of his life. While all three instances involve death, they have another connecting factor that’s just as powerful: the main character loses a part of his or herself completely. For Yorick, losing the love of his life and his best friend turned him from the cheerful, charmingly annoying man we know throughout the series into a cold, jaded shadow of his former self. For Psylocke, losing Warren meant losing her ability to hope. Betsy Braddock lost her confidence the day Archangel died, and she hasn’t regained it since.

While Captain America #9 didn’t make me well up, it came damn close. At the end of the last issue, Sharon Carter arrived in Dimension Z on a rescue mission to find Steve and bring him back home. Unfortunately, she showed up just as Steve was breaking through to his adopted son, Ian, who’d been brainwashed by Arnim Zola to kill the man who raised him. Sharon shot Ian because she couldn’t see that Ian was beginning to see the light and come to his senses. And while the actual sequence was devastating and heartbreaking, it’s really the fallout here in Captain America #9 that packs the real emotional punch.

Before we even get a chance to process Ian’s death, Sharon tries to explain to Steve that he has not been in Dimension Z for 12 years, but rather only a matter of minutes. She surmises that Zola may have used some drug or mind-altering chemical to make Steve believe he’d been on the run for over a decade. Sharon’s revelation means that Steve’s relationship with Ian may have never actually existed in the first place. Remender purposely leaves the answer open during the course of this issue because speculation is often a whole lot more fun than just being told what’s up. Did Zola implant the idea of Ian into Captain America’s head as a massive blow to the Sentinel of Liberty’s confidence and spirit? Did Steve hallucinate the entire thing as a side effect of Dimension Z’s atmosphere and biology? Or does time simply pass differently in Zola’s new world?

Rick Remender does a phenomenal job conveying Captain America’s emotions. Death in comic books is too often understated, but Steve’s total emotional breakdown over the death of his son is a dramatic triumph. It would feel cheap had it been done any less well. In the end, it doesn’t matter if Steve’s relationship with Ian was real or not because the emotional fallout is very, very real and it has shattered the spirit of the United States of America. Even though Steve kills him, Zola still won because he took what made Captain America who he is and broke it, simple as that.

GRADE

9.5/10

Spotlight: Justice League Dark #22

(w) Jeff LemireJL_DARK_22_r1_xxx580bfg5_

(a) Mikel Janin

It’s came as no surprise to me that Justice League Dark #22 is the best chapter of “Trinity War” yet. What is surprising is just how well Jeff Lemire captures the essence of this Justice League crossover and presents it in a way that makes sense. Both Justice League #22 and Justice League of America #6 were good about creating a mood for the crossover, but nothing much else. Sure, some pieces on the metaphorical board get moved around, but it’s early in the game so the big plays can come across as rushed. Justice League Dark #22, on the other hand, finds Lemire adding the final piece to this “Trinity War” soup by bringing in the JLD in a more direct role.

I want to start off by saying how much I enjoyed Mikel Janin’s artwork. This isn’t to talk bad about either Doug Mahnke or Ivan Reis, but I’ve been a huge fan of Janin’s work the entire run of Justice League Dark, and this issue has some of the finest pages he’s done to date. The facial expressions, the consistent looks, the compelling backgrounds; it all adds up to the best looking issue of “Trinity War” yet, hands down.

Confusion and misinformation were prevalent themes in the first two chapter of “Trinity War”, but Justice League Dark #22 is more about sifting through those perplexities to find a clear direction for the event as it moves into it’s second act. Obviously, the Justice League Dark get roped into the conflict this issue, but their involvement is less about egos and more about preemptively stopping the end of the world. John Constantine is very well informed, and it seems that he even knows more than the Greek gods about where exactly Pandora’s box originated. So of course, Constantine has his own agenda. Add to that the Phantom Stranger and the Question stoking the fires of distrust and paranoia between these teams and you’ve got the perfect set-up for the downfall of superheroes.

The major change that takes place in Justice League Dark #22 is the blurring of the lines between the three Justice Leagues through deception. The Phantom Stranger and the Question each have their own plans for how things will play out. They each want something, but we don’t yet know what either desire is. It’s because of them that members of each team start questioning their values and morals when faced with the tough decision of having to stand against one’s teammate. In the The New 52 #1, the Free Comic Book Day 2012 issue from DC, the final splash page depicted a massive brawl between the members of all three Justice Leagues. The curious part was how allies were seemingly fighting against one another. Now we know why. Now we know that outside forces are shifting the tides of this war in ways we still can’t completely comprehend.

Justice League Dark #22 is the best chapter of “Trinity War” yet. It closes out the first act of the event with a grace and elegance not seen in the first two chapters, and the artwork alone makes this issue worth the buy. Every issue of “Trinity War” introduces new ideas that complicate the situation further, but JLD #22 is the first instance where these new concepts felt organic and made sense during the first read-through. I couldn’t recommend this issue more highly.

GRADE

10/10

The Week in Revue (July 24-30, 2013)

Spotlight

Justice League Dark #22 –> “Trinity War” continues!

(w) Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes

(a) Mikel Janin

DC Reviews

Aquaman #22

(w) Geoff Johns

(a) Paul Pelletier, Sean Parsons

Batman/Superman #2

(w) Greg Pak

(a) Jae Lee

Constantine #5 (DC Comics News Review!)

(w) Ray Fawkes

(a) Renato Guedes

Marvel Reviews

Captain America #9

(w) Rick Remender

(a) John Romita Jr.

Hawkeye Annual #1

(w) Matt Fraction

(a) Javier Pulido