Green Lantern: New Guardians #23 Review

(w) Justin Jordan

(a) Bradley Walker

** SPOILERS AHEAD!! **

** NO SERIOUSLY…MAJOR SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW **

Since Green Lantern: New Guardians #21, Justin Jordan has been making the title his own. Where before it existed as almost a side-story to the main going-ons of the GL universe, Jordan has integrated major plot points into the series that puts it on par with Green Lantern proper. The introduction of Relic in issue 21 set the ball rolling towards “Lights Out”, the month-long GL crossover that finds the scientist from the previous universe attempting to extinguish all the emotional light from the current universe. Relic is a bad ass villain and Jordan has already cemented him as a true force to be reckoned with; he’s not evil, he’s extremely intelligent, and his only desire is to see the “lightsmiths” eradicated from existence. Green Lantern: New Guardians #23 brings the hammer down as Relic takes the first big step in his quest by attacking the new homeworld of the Blue Lanterns, Elpis.

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The last time we saw the Blue Lanterns, their first homeworld, Odym, was being attacked by the Reach, a parasitic alien cult bent on universal conquest. Basically, the Blues just can’t catch a break even though they’re the least aggressive and least violent of the various colored Corps. But perhaps that’s exactly why they keep getting attacked. One of Relic’s best elements is how little he speaks — all the words that come out of his mouth are important. At the same time, Relic doesn’t wax poetic and explain everything in detail to every opposition that stands in his way. No, Relic is a pragmatic scientist who doesn’t have the same tendencies as most of the maniacal villains that populate the DCnU. Perhaps it’s a symptom of originating from a universe that preceded our own or maybe Relic’s just stoic and understated. Either way, he’s much more menacing than many of the other new villains introduced in the ‘New 52’. But his most heinous crime happens on the final page of Green Lantern: New Guardians #23.

Justin Jordan killed Warth.

Warth was a Blue Lantern introduced by Geoff Johns during the era in between “Sinestro Corps War” and Blackest Night where the various Corps of different colors were explored in depth. Warth was the second Blue Lantern to be recruited after Saint Walker was chosen by Ganthet and Sayd, the two Guardians of the Universe who decided existence needed more hope. He was a big elephant who had Buddhist tendencies and he was a fantastic, fantastic character all around. Warth sacrifices himself to save Kyle Rayner, Saint Walker, Star Sapphire Carol Ferris, and the Templar Guardians as Relic drained the Blue Lantern central battery and destroyed the planet. It’s an incredibly touching scene that made me tear up more than I’d care to admit. But the fact that I became emotional at all is a testament to how well Jordan is handling this series.

Green Lantern: New Guardians #23 is my favorite issue of the entire series, hands down. Justin Jordan has set up an amazing prelude to “Lights Out” that can stand on it’s own as well as serve as a jumping-off point for future stories. It was painful reading Warth’s death, but in the end, it shows how much Jordan cares for these characters that he’s not simply forgetting about them on Elpis just to use them when the story deems it necessary. Though he killed off Warth, Jordan shows he respects the character much more than previous writers.

GRADE

9/10

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X-Men #4 Review

(w) Brian Wood

(a) David Lopez

After a quick “Primer”, Brian Wood follows up his initial arc with X-Men #4, a stellar issue that highlights two key relationships in this series that will continue to be important going forward. I’ve never been a regular reader of Wood’s work in the past, but his ‘Marvel NOW!’ X-Men is one of my favorite titles to come out of the initiative. The fact that it’s an all-female team is indeed interesting, but it’s not the focal point because the roster isn’t padded out with C-list mutants. Each character is there for a reason and it makes sense, so why not write a series about them?

The first relationship Wood highlights is that of Jubilation Lee and Wolverine. The main catalyst that caused the formation of this specific lineup of X-Men was Jubilee’s unannounced return with a baby. Logan and Jubilee have always had a special connection, but that friendship wasn’t expounded upon in the first three issues. X-Men #4 features Jubilee and Wolverine taking a road trip around southern California, simply having a good time. There’s no fight in the middle, no nefarious scheme brewing underneath them the entire time, and no mind control to be had. It’s just two very good friends who haven’t seen each other in a long time hanging out, and it’s fantastic. What used to be father/daughter-esque has turned into a mutual respect and admiration between old buddies. Then — like the cherry on top of the nostalgia express — Wood takes the duo back to the mall where Jubilee was first recruited by the X-Men way, way back when. The first three issues of X-Men highlighted Woods’ talent for writing a 90s-style action without it coming across as overkill. X-Men #4 shows how well he can adapt that talent when writing a more somber plot line.

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The second relationship explored is between Storm and Rachel Grey. Near the end of “Primer”, Storm made the difficult decision to end the life of Karima Shapandar — a friend of the X-Men who previously had been in a coma for months and months — when she was possessed by the genocidal sentient virus villainess Arkea. In the end, Rachel’s protest caused a hesitation and Karima was able to exorcise Arkea from her own body. In X-Men #4, Rachel confronts Storm and challenges her leadership role in the X-Men, et al. It’s a surprisingly bold accusation that kind of makes sense. I like Storm as a character, but her personal politics and cultural affluence often frame her decisions. In this case, she made the wrong decision about Karima, but she’s unwilling to back down when Rachel demands some sort of acknowledgement of wrongdoing. Storm and Rachel have their fight while overseeing the rescue of a crashing jetliner by Rogue, Psylocke, and Kitty Pride. Wood is able to get his action sequences in without forcing a massive battle or giant explosion. Both Storm and Rachel have valid points concerning their position on the issue of crossing the line when there’s a perceived necessity. Both women want what is best for their teammates and students. And both of them are stubborn, proud fighters. It’s no wonder they’re butting heads this early in the game.

X-Men #4 is a fantastic single issue that’s already on my top ten for the year. The two plot lines are easily digestible without being overly simplistic or dull. Brian Wood is writing character-driven stories with 90s plot-driven stories and it’s working surprisingly well each and every month. I’m glad Jubilee is back in the main fold of things in the X-Men universe because aside from the fact that she’s a great character that has been sorely underused in recent years, it’s the perfect time for a 90s-era X-Man to come back because her style from back then isn’t too far off from what goes for fashionable today.

GRADE

10/10

Batman and Nightwing #23 Review

(w) Peter J. Tomasi

(a) Patrick Gleason

Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s deconstruction of Bruce Wayne after the death of his son, Damian, has been fascinating. Each issue since Batman and Robin #18 has featured a different Bat-ally and shows a different part of Bruce’s despair over Damian’s murder. That first “Requiem” issue was probably the most emotional, but Batman and Nightwing #23 comes in at a close second. I don’t want to say I knew this issue was going to be great, but Tomasi knows how to write Dick Grayson and he especially knows how to writer Bruce and Dick’s relationship.

Similar to every other issue since Damian died, Batman and Nightwing #23 finds Bruce obsessing over one thing: Damian’s final days. Bruce decides to hook himself into an ‘Internet 3.0’ fully-integrated, insanely advanced virtual simulator in attempts to prove he could have saved his son’s life. It’s a futile effort because even if Bruce does prove himself correct, he’s just proving that he failed without a doubt, nothing more. I can’t tell if this is some weird, Batman-y stage in the Kubler-Ross model, or just Bruce going through the motions, but it’s painful even to see Bruce forcing himself to relive time with his dead son.

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Nightwing is one of the best Batman characters because Dick Grayson was destined to be the only one of Bruce’s allies who can actually tell him the truth without getting shut down almost immediately. Dick knows when to push Batman and when to let him go his own way. It took a long time for these two to get to the place they’re now in — with Bruce respecting Dick’s decisions and taking his advice to heart — but the result is that Bruce has a true confidant who can achieve more with a few simple actions than others can with weeks of effort.

Alfred Pennyworth also takes home an award for Best Supporting Actor with his own time on the Internet 3.0 simulator where he never lets Damian leave the manor in the first place. Bruce and Alfred have a shared moment of pain that helps them both move past the desire to literally relive the past. It’s hard to see a character like Alfred cry because he only stows away his stoicism for great, great tragedies. Patrick Gleason also does a tremendous job conveying these emotional weights through spot-on facial expressions and body language that makes these characters look sad and depressed.

I teared up for Damian Wayne when I got to the end of Batman and Nightwing #23. Seeing Alfred torture himself by trying to change an unchangeable past is heartbreaking. These “Requiem” issues following Damian’s death have been haunting, intense, emotionally challenging, and generally fantastic reading. It’s not often one death can provide so much material without it feeling like overkill. Batman and Robin has been one of my absolute favorite series since I started reading the ‘New 52’, and it continues to impress me each and every month.

 

GRADE

9/10

Spotlight: Justice League Dark #23

(w) Jeff Lemire

(a) Mikel Janin

How is Jeff Lemire outperforming Geoff Johns at writing an event that Johns himself developed? “Trinity War” has been a lot of fun so far, with ups and downs that have kept readers guessing and wanting to know more. The odd part, is that Johns’ issues simply can’t hold a candle to Justice League Dark #22 and #23. Of course, Justice League #23 has yet to be released, so I can’t speak to that. Also, Justice League of America #6 and #7 bill the two as co-writers, though both issues feel more like Johns’ work than Lemire’s.

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In truth, Justice League Dark has been the best part of “Trinity War”. A large part of that is due to Mikel Janin’s absolutely beautiful art on every single page. Joe Prado and Doug Mahnke are great in their own rights, but Janin is able to capture each character in this story almost flawlessly. Each character has a unique look to set them apart from the others. And the close-up on Element Woman looked damn near photorealistic. Janin’s style may not have as many lines and crosshatching as other artists, yet he’s able to achieve a realism so bright that it makes you stop and simply admire how good of an artist he truly is. This is hands-down some of Janin’s best work and it shows.

** SPOILERS AHEAD **

Justice League of America #7 was a filler issue to lead up to this week’s Justice League Dark #23. While not a whole lot happened in the former, the latter is stuffed with various pieces moving around the board. Wonder Woman loses control of the ever-intensifying Pandora’s Box, A.R.G.U.S.’s headquarters are gone, Amanda Waller is under suspicion for setting the whole thing up in hopes the various Leagues would tear each other apart, and Pandora’s still just dicking around without much of a purpose. The biggest and most important of these events is Pandora’s Box, obviously, but Pandora herself is also interesting insomuch as she’s not interesting at all.

“Trinity War” is about not only the trinity of Justice Leagues, but also the Trinity of Sin: Pandora, The Phantom Stranger, and The Question. And while the other two have their levels of importance, I was under the assumption (as I believe many, many people were) that “Trinity War” would focus a bit more on Pandora and her connection to the DCnU. Well, we got a bit of her backstory in the first two issues of her solo series, but if you aren’t reading that, then good luck finding any importance in Pandora whatsoever. All she does in this issue is run around shooting her guns aimlessly and without regard. At one point, it feels like she’s purposely protecting Stargirl, but the moment fades and even if it persisted, why would Pandora go out of her way to protect Stargirl? There’s been no previous connection between the two characters and it felt a bit silly to throw that in so far into the game.

Even though Justice League of America #7‘s big, last page revelation was that Wonder Woman was in possession of Pandora’s Box, she loses control almost as quickly as she gained it, leading to it’s new owner who is simultaneously the first and last person I’d expect to see holding the most evil box in all of history: Shazam. Billy takes the box from Wonder Woman hoping to put an end to the fighting only to be possessed by it’s evil magic that uses Shazam’s power as a conduit to infect all magic throughout the world and other dimensions. It’s a breathtaking scene made even more intense by Janin’s stellar artwork. Pandora’s Box also turns Shazam’s costume from red to black, insinuating the return of Black Adam in some way. Shazam is one of the most powerful characters in the DCnU, and it’s a lot of fun to watch him beat down three Justice Leagues at the same time.

Justice League Dark #23 is the only issue of “Trinity War” I could imagine someone reading without wondering what was going on the entire time. Jeff Lemire is able to make the issue function as a self-sustainable issue that is enjoyable whether you’re reading “Trinity War” or not. Now, I can’t say for certain it would be a fun read if you haven’t read the previous four chapters because I have read every issue of the event so far. That being said, Lemire makes sure to include a quick overview at the beginning of the issue, the three plot lines makes sense in their placement and how they connect to one another, and the battle against Dark Shazam is contained enough to entice almost any DC fan to pick up a copy just to marvel at all the characters involved in one brawl.

GRADE

8.5/10

The Week in Revue (Aug 21-27, 2013)

Spotlight

Justice League Dark #23 –> “Trinity War” Part 5

(w) Jeff Lemire

(a) Mikel Janin

DC Reviews

Batman and Nightwing #23

(w) Peter J. Tomasi

(a) Patrick Gleason

Green Lantern: New Guardians #23

(w) Justin Jordan

(a) Bradley Walker

JLA’s Vibe #7 –> DC Comics News Review!

(w) Sterling Gates

(a) Pete Woods

Marvel Reviews

Captain America #10

(w) Rick Remender

(a) John Romita Jr.

X-Men #4

(w) Brian Wood

(a) Lopez

Uncanny X-Men #10 Review

(w) Brian Michael Bendis

(a) Frazer Irving

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No matter what Brian Michael Bendis does, he cannot convince me to get behind Cyclops as an antihero. The point of the current run of Uncanny X-Men is to showcase Cyclops as a terrorist on the wrong side of the law for the first time in his life. This is an important time for Scott Summers because he now perceives humanity as a hostile entity hellbent on mutantkind’s destruction — the exact opposite of what he was taught by Professor Charles Xavier. Bendis’ Uncanny X-Men is supposed to highlight the duality of Scott’s situation and how perception is everything when it comes to civil rights. If Xavier and Magneto were once analogies for Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X — in respects to their methods of achieving social equality — then Cyclops is symbolic of the Black Panthers, an organization that had very good intentions but often fell into discord and chaos due to a truly defined lack of direction. But that’s a very, very loose metaphor.

It was fair game to hate on Cyclops before Avengers vs. X-Men and the horrible events that happened at the end. Now, Bendis is trying to make him seem multifaceted and more well-rounded. Instead, it’s painfully obvious that Cyclops is still the self-entitled ass he’s always been, he just now has a different cause to fight for and it happens to be against popular opinion. What really irks me the most about Cyclops in the ‘Marvel NOW!’ era is how smug he acts. Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magneto, and Magik — the only non-new mutants in the bunch — are all suffering form malfunctioning powers. For a man whose middle name was responsibility, it’s downright frustrating to see Cyclops seek out and train brand new mutants when he doesn’t have his own house in order.

Mostly, Uncanny X-Men #10 truly brings home the idea that Cyclops is just a dick. Scott’s ego got big when he became a symbol of mutant oppression. Whether he earned the label or not, he’s hammed it up on more than one occasion like he’s the true mutant leader. This month, media outlets are reporting a massive protest in support of Cyclops and his more aggressive agenda. Without thinking twice, he whisks his new students directly into the public eye which ends up not being the public eye at all, but rather a trap set to catch the egomaniacal Cyclops. It’s obviously a trap. It’s so damn obvious you want to smack Cyclops and tell him to get his thumb out of his butt and stop being a whiny little jerk.

GRADE

7/10

Thor: God of Thunder #11 Review

(w) Jason AaronThor_God_of_Thunder_Vol_1_11_Textless

(a) Esad Ribic

Perhaps it’s an editorial decision, or maybe it’s just how things are going right now at Marvel, but this is now the third recent story arc I’ve felt ended on a rather flat note even though it was a whole lot of fun to read. Age of Ultron, a few months back, was fun because it was a time-traveling cluster-f*ck that ended with a sharp left turn and a big load of craziness that writers are still trying to unknot. Then, Sam Humphries’ insanely fun, all-female X-Men ended it’s three issue opening salvo with a quick, ‘deus ex machina’-style cop out that was not satisfactory. Now, Jason Aaron’s epic God Butcher saga in Thor: God of Thunder comes to a close in the eleventh issue, yet it contains only a fraction of the epicness seen in the ten that come before.

** SPOILERS AHEAD, YE WHO CONTINUES **

The most exciting part of Thor: God of Thunder #11 is Dark Thor handling two hammers and ending Gorr, the God Butcher, once and for all. But that only takes up a few pages of the issue. I don’t want it to sound like I didn’t enjoy this issue because I very much did. I only expected a grander finale than Aaron delivered. Though, in some ways, it seems appropriate for an enemy who detested the pomp and circumstance surrounding gods to be deposed of in such a quick and unceremonious way.

Fortunately, Jason Aaron does a phenomenal job with the dialogue in this issue to fill in the gaps before and after Dark Thor goes to town on the God Butcher. The conversations between the different versions of Thor are some of my favorite from the writer and the character. The three Thors represent the three aspects of Thor’s internal struggles: he will always feel the the desire to please Odin (and the resentment that comes from it) of the young Thor, he will always have the kindness and compassion of Thor the Avenger even though these aspects make him weak in the eyes of his enemies, and he will always be reluctantly destined to be the greatest and most powerful god of all like King Thor. Jason Aaron just knows how to write Thor. Some black metal band from Sweden needs to write an album based on this storyline.

GRADE

8/10