DCU in 2010 and More

Okay, so I know it’s been a few weeks since my last column, but life is still kicking my butt.  The good news is that as of the 18th, I’m on vacation for two weeks.  Therefore, look for me to be a little more visible as far as this column goes.  I feel like I have quite a bit to make up for.

DCU in 2010

The big news this week comes from DC’s Source blog.  They decided to be in the holiday spirit and give us some big announcements this week, so I’m going to take the time to talk about some of my favorites from this last week.

Earth One OGNs

I was sold on these just from the art that was released.  I made the image of Superman by Shane Davis the wallpaper on my computer at school.  And I’ve never read anything by JMS, but his take on the character of Superman sounds interesting and unique, so I’m definitely going to be buying this immediately.

The Batman OGN with Geoff Johns and Gary Frank also looks like a winner.  I was completely blown away by the image of Alfred that was released.  Now that’s a guy I believe could kick some ass. 

But as excited as I am for each of these separate projects, I’m even more excited that we seem to be getting another line of “Elseworlds” tales that stand on their own.  My understanding at this point is that these will be ongoing.  Love it.  We have tales of the Multiverse again.  And really, what’s not to love about original stories that aren’t tied down by continuity?

War of the Supermen

We knew this was coming.  And now, we know when.  Free Comic Book Day brings the #0 issue, much like last year’s FCBD brought Blackest Night #0.

The super-books have really been heating up lately, especially with the events of this week’s Action Comics #884.  I honestly never thought I would see the day where Lois Lane would quit the Daily Planet and Perry would let her leave.  This situation with her father and his little division of Kryptonian haters is escalating quickly, and I can only imagine what is going to be done to amp it up in preparation for this event.

Wonder Woman renumbering to #600

I’m sure many of us have been following this to some degree, whether we’ve been advocates of it or not.  Personally, it doesn’t matter to me because I didn’t even start reading this volume until issue #17 (or so).  Sure, I have the trades since the re-launch, but I don’t have the history that some people have with the character.

 Still, I love that Dan DiDio recognized how passionate some fans were about it and came up with a plan that he followed through with when the fans came out in mass.

Return of Bruce Wayne

Okay, I know I said this was full of my favorite pieces of news the Source put out last week, but I have to mention this even though I don’t really like that it’s happening so soon.  Sure, the art from Andy Kubert of a pirate Bruce Wayne is crazy good, but it’s just too soon. 

I think my hope with this mini-series is just to show that Bruce is still out there somewhere, but not necessarily ready to come back to the present just yet.  I’m really enjoying Dick and Damien as Batman and Robin right now.  It’s a change of pace that I think will really pay off once Bruce does come back.  But for it to pay off fully, I think he needs to be gone—really gone—more than a year.

 Legacies and History of the DC Universe

 As a fairly new reader, I’m not really familiar with some of the older characters.  So naturally, I’m all over this.  I’ve always tried to learn as much as possible about the legacy characters so that I can better understand the current ones, so this will be a treat for me.

And this week’s comics…

I have just one thing to say about this week’s comics.  Booster Gold. One panel.  Wow.

Okay, so maybe that’s three things.  But still, I stared for a good five minutes.

Oh, and I really enjoyed the Donna Troy story in Titans #20.  I was a little weirded out that the blond waiter’s name was Tom, though.   As much as I would like to see Donna happy, I don’t want her to have Diana’s sloppy seconds.

One more thing

I just have to say that I had a very engaging conversation with Mart on the forums about the direction of Renee Montoya’s character in the Question co-feature.  The last time I mentioned it on here, my comments were strictly based on the art.  Through our conversation though, I was able to figure out why I was bothered.  Part of Renee’s allure in the past has been how messed up her life was.  But now, she appears to have it all together, even though we haven’t had the luxury of seeing how she did it.  I don’t believe for a second that taking up the mantle of The Question automatically solves all her problems.  And that’s the main problem I have.

 Thanks, Mart, for breaking my mental block and for engaging in some interesting conversation.  It came at a time for me when I needed something to talk about other than teaching. 

gutterlife@gmail.com

By Mandy Stegall

JSA 80 Page Giant 2009

Biting the Bullet: Justice Society of America 80 Page Giant

Warning: This is a spoiler filled commentary on the 80 Page Giant.

When I originally read that Geoff Johns was leaving the book, I was really worried. JSA has been, in my eyes, one of the flagship superhero team books since it’s launch with James Robinson as writer. When Goyer and Johns took over, they continued to make this book a must read title. The book was eventually relaunched with Johns once again at the helm of a much larger cast and really was engaging. This book has been essential reading since the launch of both of the most recent series. Needless to say the key writer of the series leaving was not something that made me happy.

I am also a huge Fables fan. When I heard that Willingham and Sturgis were taking over, my worries started to shrink. Here are two authors very familiar with dealing with a large cast and making sure characters have arcs that spotlight them. They are also excellent at creating huge overarching stories that build over time. Once I had their first Justice Society of America issues in hand, I have been thrilled with the results. I am once again JSA happy.

DC has been publishing more of these 80 Page Giants recently. I had a ton of fun with the Justice League of America offering and am pleased to say the JSA one has put a similar smile on my face.

This book is a collection of interlocking short stories, each with their own beginning, middle and ending. Yet they are interconnected to a larger overarching story effecting the Brownstone. The premise is that former Dr. Fate, Hector Hall, was working on a spell to warn and deal with attacks on the headquarters. Because it hasn’t been perfected, when it issues it’s warning, it has unexpected results that take the team through time.

This works out really well. Different creative teams get a chance to do some serious character exploration with the various members of the JSA. It’s also our first chance to see (aside from the preview pages already published) to see Sturgis and Williams II work their magic on the team. They will be working together on the upcoming JSA All Stars and the presentation in the 80 page giant really has me stoked. The creative team really worked extremely well together on Final Crisis Aftermath: Run and it’s fantastic news that we are getting them on a monthly.

“Memory Lane” is the opening arc by James Robinson and it features Cyclone and Mr. America. I loved this story because it deals with the real problem when you adopt a legacy identity, you have to live up to it. Can you fit into the costume? This story is a great balance of humor with Maxine forgetting much of the concrete events of the story due to not always listening 100%. That being said, she always captures the big picture. It is not the clothes that make the hero. She is not afraid to be vulnerable and when she opens up, she shows she is so much more than the scatterbrain that she often appears to be. I love this duality of the character. Mr. America reminds me of a golden age style concept and it’s great to see a man come to terms with adding to that legacy.

The art shifts between the All Stars team and each of the features works really well for this story. It gives you the feeling that illusion and magic are involved and this adds to the story. All of the teams really put together some fantastic material so it’s a wonderful book to admire artistically. It’s a $5.99 book but with 80 pages of content, the story feels very large and gives any JSA fan a ton of value.

“Heart of Steel” reminds us that sometimes having super powers can be terrifying. Imagine if your actions and events around you could make you less human? If you would change at a molecular level? Would you continue to try and be a hero? Would you spend more time trying to find a cure? Citizen Steel has been a great character with a ton of room to explore further.

Members of his family have been victims of a villain attack that turned them into Steel statues. They try to warn him of upcoming dangers, due to a newfound ability to connect with them, due to his own affliction. Somehow it feels all the more heroic that he continues fighting in spite of all this.

“Amazing Grace” shows us Amazing Man, gaining a new ability. He starts off a bit misguided and even seems to lose his powers for a bit but learns that all people are worth saving. He gains some true revelations about what being a true hero is all about.

Each of these arcs seems to build to the coming storm for the JSA. I loved Freddie Williams take on Dr. Fate and the new Wildcat. It’s no secret that I am a fan of his artwork but he’s really stepping up his game with this book. Each of the members of the team look fantastic in this annual.

The remaining arcs focus on Wildcat, Damage, Power Girl, Cyclone and more. There are many young heroes on this team and they have their own emotional and physical difficulties to overcome. There is a ton of variety to this team which offers up some unique storytelling opportunities. If you dismissed this 80-Page monster, do yourself a favor and pick it up. It’s a nice, self contained read that is satisfying but yet still hints at some major turmoil for the team’s future.

What I’m digging…

And finally…the last of Origins and Omens!

 

One million plus apologies for the long absence, friends.  All I can say is that school has been royally kicking my fanny lately. 

But I still owe you all the last two of the Origins and Omens stories: Secret Six and Wonder Woman. 

When it comes to the Secret Six, I have to admit that I don’t know much about Mad Hatter, who narrates this particular tale about the Six.  He gives an origin of each of the members, complete with editorial comments.  Better yet, it rhymes!  Aren’t we so lucky? 

Now, at this point, just about all of the “visions” seen on the last page have come to pass.  We see Wonder Woman throwing down with Jeannette, Bane in full on venom mode, and Deadshot completely tied down.  And Ragdoll being…well, Ragdoll.  Most important through all of this though, is the realization that Hatter has it out for the Secret Six.  And while that particular plot point hasn’t really come to the forefront of the story-telling yet, it’s definitely something to think about as the months go by.

Wonder Woman

 

I’ve long contemplated the exact meaning of Hippolyta visiting Tom in the hospital and telling him the story of Diana’s birth for quite a few months.  And of course her statement when walking out of his hospital room, “Be wary of my daughter,” could have any number of meanings.  But since she was previously discussing love and Diana’s history of being loved by everyone on Themiscyra, I tend to believe that Hippolyta means that Diana has never had to work for love.  It’s always come to her, which could lead her to take it for granted.  And, as we have learned in the months since this story appeared, it can also lead her to jump to conclusions about those she chooses to spend her time with.

Even though we see in this story that Tom is walking away from her (and we know from a couple of months ago that he did exactly that), I don’t know that I buy that their relationship is over.  With Tom’s new position with the Global Peace Agency (as part of Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape, which I thought was amazing, by the way) I can see their paths crossing once again and causing them to work together at some point.  For that matter, is Tom even still with the DMA and are they still partners when Diana Prince decides to make an appearance?

Enough of that, though.  We also see in the O & O story that Amazons are pregnant!  With no congress, for that matter.  And then there’s those pesky Manazons.  Curse them, I hate them more and more by the issue, even if they are making for some interesting story-telling.

And then, Diana with blood on her hands.  Oh, that’s the big one, right?  Is Diana going to have to kill again?  My guess is that the difference between this and her killing of Max Lord is that she will have more remorse this time.  That is, of course, if she really does kill someone.  Huh, maybe she’ll just kill Achilles.  I’d be okay with that.  Or Alkyone, too.

What I’m Digging Right Now:

I can’t just limit this to books.  I just…can’t.  It amazes me that even though I’m almost three years into reading comics, a character comes along—one who’s been around for a good, long time—that renews my interest and keeps this hobby new and exciting for me.  To make it easier on myself, I’ve split this up into characters and books.  Consider it a kind of Speeding Bullets segment, only this is the print edition.

Characters (in no particular order):

 Alura Zor-El

I absolutely loved the flashback in the latest issue of Supergirl #47 where some past moments of Alura and Zor’s are shown.  The fact that they came from different guilds is apparent in the way they think, and although it seems as if Zor-El had a lasting impact on Alura’s way of thinking, she still is doing the kind of thing that someone from the science guild would do. 

But at the same time, I can also really see the pain she is going through when trying to deal with the loss of her husband.  This last issue really shows that he was her moral compass, and she is lost without him.  I love getting these insights into her character.  I can’t say that I like her exactly, but at least I feel like I understand her better now.

Huntress (Helena Bertinelli)

 Honestly, I know more about her from the Justice League Unlimited cartoon than I do from the actual comics.  But her recent appearances in Streets of Gotham (a two-issue arc with Man-Bat that I loved) and Batman #693 (am I allowed to start ‘shipping Dick and Helena?) really make me want to know more about her. 

I get that she’s not exactly traditional in her methods.  Hey, someone has to fit the ambiguous hero quota, right?  I want to see more of her.  I guess I should go back and read some Birds of Prey, huh?  But still, I’m totally on a Huntress kick right now.

Batgirl (Stephanie Brown)

This girl can be so messed up sometimes that you can’t help but love her.  She wants to make all the right decisions, but she’s doesn’t exactly have the best track record.  But before all is said and done, I think she’s going to be a great Batgirl. 

 I really need to keep an eye on this friendship between her and Barbara.  It’s not quite there yet, but I know it’s coming.

 Steph is encountering some very unique on-the-job training, and that’s what makes her so appealing to me.  She knows she’s made mistakes in the past, but instead of wallowing in them, she’s setting out to make sure it doesn’t happen again. 

 Booster Gold

 Honestly, I don’t even know where to start with this guy.  That scene in the last issue where he goes back to Ted’s funeral?  I wanted to cry.  Really, I did. 

 I think what gets me so much about Booster is knowing the kind of “hero” he started out being.  I remember reading 52 (in trade, and one of my first that wasn’t Superman) and thinking this guy was a huge tool.  I was relieved when I thought he was dead, because he annoyed me that much.  So when he redeemed himself and I saw how he changed, I was grateful.  I like him much better as Rip’s partner.  The story line that just completed about the death of the Teen Titans was great, and I’m glad that I decided to jump on board with this character.  He’s definitely worth it.

 Books

 Justice Society of America

Why am I just now starting to read this book?  Oh yeah, because I had to get over my “these are Golden Age heroes I know nothing about” complex.  I have to admit that the upcoming JSA-based Smallville movie played a big part in making me want to get familiar with the characters.  The fact that Freddie Williams II is drawing the new JSA All-Stars book didn’t hurt matters much, either.

But yeah, I started reading with this last arc that started.  And? Loving. It.  I now feel like an idiot for taking so long to start reading such a cool book. 

 Action Comics

 I really am on a Nightwing and Flamebird high right now.  I love the sleeper storyline and how it ties in to everything else that is going on in the Super-books right now.  Chris might not really be an adolescent anymore, but he still has this youthful exuberance about him that is very infectious, even if he currently looks like he’s 90 years old and circling the drain right about now. 

 I can’t say that I’m really in love with their new uniforms, but I do love that they have S-shield belts that they wear.  I bet Zod would be really pissed off if he saw Chris wearing that.  Wow, there’s just so many story possibilities with Chris and Thara that I don’t want to see them leave Action.  Hopefully they’ll stick around for a while.  I’m really growing attached to them. 

Detective Comics

 Uh…that first issue of Batwoman’s origin story?  I might have fainted with the realization of who Alice really is.  That issue was just so…gut wrenching.  But of course, I would expect nothing less from Greg Rucka.  He has this ability to always surprise me.

 I will admit that the first story arc had some confusing moments for me, but that first issue of the “Go!” arc cleared up everything.  And now, I find myself waiting patiently (or not so patiently) for the day the new issue comes out.  Kate and Renee’s first meeting.  I’m there.

As for the Question’s co-feature, I still don’t know that I’m sold on the new look for Renee that goes with Cully Hamner’s artwork.  I know that it’s just a personal preference, so I don’t judge the whole story on just the art.  The story is good, but I sometimes feel like it’s being glossed over for space’s sake.  If anything has become apparent with these co-features, I think it’s that they have to be written in a different way than a regular 22-page book.  I’ll hold out final judgment for when I see it in trade.  Maybe then the story will read better.

But I’m still in love with Detective Comics. 

Okay, so I hope this huge column (by my standards) makes up for being absent the last couple weeks.  Trust me, I wasn’t just being lazy or decide that I just didn’t have anything worthy of words. 

gutterlife@gmail.com

By Mandy Stegall

Dragon Age Origins

Biting the Bullet November 16, 2009

Gaming has been a hobby of mine since the days of the Atari 2600. There’s a ton of really enjoyable games on the market but I am a sucker for a game with a great story and good solid game mechanics.

I recently purchased Dragon Age Origins for my PS3. I have really enjoyed Bioware’s past offering but this one is really a step up. It has a terrific balance of strategy, a solid graphic engine, and a story that pulls you in to the world.

Any good role playing game offers a wealth of customization options. Dragon Age is no exception. From the start, you create your character from a variety of classes and races. The nice thing about this is that many of the options influence the “Origin” story that you go through during the game. It also influences the conversations with characters throughout the game. It’s a small detail but something that really pulls you into the game.

Combat is very well handled. You can choose to have characters operation on their own to preset instructions or flip between characters during combat, as needed, to make adjustments. This is a game where it benefits to know the characters in your party and to utilize the varied skill sets to make your party stronger. This is crucial because you want the class system to have a purpose. It also increases your strategic options. If you are failing to handle the problems in a certain town or with a certain boss, return to camp and change up your team.

Each of your companions, which you pick up along the way, has their own story. It pays to get to know them as they often open up interesting quests that increase the strength of your party. I also like that conversation choices and actions you take throughout the game influences their feelings and overall respect of you. It pays to consider which party member as best to travel with based on their overall morals. If they share similar beliefs to you, they will appreciate the way you handle situations and those relationships will grow stronger.

The world in Dragon Age is being overrun by a group of evil demons called Darkspawn. These creatures are taking over the world in a way that feels very Lord of the Rings. You do head off on a quest to build an army to defeat them but it isn’t that simple. The world is currently in a state of political turmoil as some questionable figures are taking advantage of this situation for their own political gain. They make your task much harder. This adds a reality to the world. It feels alive.

Overall, this is a game that I have not been able to put down. I have 20 hours in so far and with all of the side quests and downloadable stories, I am just getting started. This adds a ton of value to the purchase. If you are a role playing game fan on any level, don’t miss this one. It’s incredible.

Heroes, FlashForward, V

One of the reasons I decided to write a column was to have a chance to talk about some things outside the show but that also fit into geek culture. I’ve been really thrilled with the fall season so far. There have been a couple of interesting new shows but an old favorite is really stepping up this season, in a way it hasn’t since season 1.

Warning: Spoilers on Heroes, FlashForward, and V through November 5, 2009.

HEROES

This week’s Heroes was my favorite episode of this season so far. I loved seeing Hiro get a chance to shine. Sure, he makes for excellent comic relief but there is a ton of heart in the character when he is written at his best. I think what works for him is that he is a vulnerable character. He is not afraid to show realistic fear and yet tries to find a way past it to fulfill what he perceives is his destiny. While I can’t imagine them killing him off, I do like the sense of disbelief that I genuinely feel concern for him.

Journeying to the past to once again attempt to correct his failure in saving Charlie was awesome. At first, I wasn’t sure about how I’d feel with revisiting this but it truly paid off. Hiro is desperate to save her. This is in his eyes “love at first sight” he really connected with her. I also really enjoyed the tiny details in place to try and make sure that changing her death didn’t alter events we have already seen. I am a huge fan of time travel material and appreciated the steps taken to focus on this.

Hiro vs. Sylar is a race against time. Hiro is already at a disadvantage because of his medical condition but we see him really push himself to the limits of exhaustion to counter Sylar. This “white hat” cowboy vs “black hat” cowboy scenario was well developed with Hiro showing us initially how scared he was of Sylar. In spite of this, he kept stopping time and used some very cool chess moves to show he has been heavily influenced by events he has witnessed and been a part of. He has to cross some lines he normally wouldn’t for love. Sappy? Definitely. Darn cool? You bet.

The additional step of getting Sylar to cure Charlie was a nice twist. His pushing that Sylar would die “alone” adds an interesting motivation for Sylar to possibly stick with Sullivan and the carnival later. Although I still think all bets are off when he finally gets his memory back. I wonder if on some subconscious level he is currently reacting to that? I am not sure how much of him is currently in his body if at all so we’ll see.

The cliffhanger with Mohinder and Sullivan was cool because I was really starting to wonder when we’d see him enter into this season. Suresh is a character that needs to get back to his roots this season. He became really unlikable for awhile there and I am looking forward to seeing him in a new story line.

This season overall has made me a believer again with Heroes. While I have enjoyed the past seasons, they lacked the “punch” of the first season. They really seem to be getting the show back on track. If you jumped off, check out the episodes at nbc.com and feel free to email me with your thoughts either way.

FlashForward

I am going to go with a pretty general overview here of the concept of FlashForward. I am loving this show and just want to rant and rave about it.

If you don’t know the concept, all around the world people fell asleep at the same time for a couple of minutes. During that time, they all dream of April 29th or 30th depending on the time zone.

Over the course of time, they start to realize that people that saw each other in their dreams, had the same dream. These weren’t just random visions. They are seeing the future. For some, this is a blessing. For others, this is a curse.

Imagine seeing an important relationship end. What would you do? Would you try to prevent it? How?

What if you didn’t have a vision? Would you assume you were dead? Sleeping?

What if something good happens? For instance, a loved one that you buried is somehow back with you in a vision.

The engaging part of the show is not only the wide variety of visions, but the reactions and motivations that come from them. Can you beat destiny? Is foreknowledge enough to change to future or does it ultimately cause the future? I am curious to see where this goes.

The show is slowly unfolding the mystery of why this happened. There are definitely villains in this series but we don’t have a clear picture yet of what is driving these events. How much of this was calculated and how much an “accident”? This keeps us connected with the main characters who are racing to solve the mystery in hopes of changing elements of the future before they happen.

It’s pretty engaging. If you are watching it or decide to check it out, I’d love your comments.

ABC.com does have all the episodes so far. I highly recommend watching it from the beginning.

V

This was a series I had a mixed reaction to when I heard about it. Don’t get me wrong, I was a huge fan of the previous series. I loved both miniseries, the television series, books, comic, etc. The concept was very cool to me. I wasn’t sure if there was a need or reason to redo it.

The pilot episode aired this week and I was pleasantly surprised. On the surface, the concept looks very similar. The” Visitors” come to Earth under the banner of peace and they are looking for our help. These aliens present themselves and trying to save their dying planet with resources that we have in abundance. In exchange, they will assist us with technology that will improve our lives.

It all seems great right? They offer universal health care stations. They have the ability to cure most diseases. (Although I have my own theories that not all of the “cured” are actually the same people any more. I think they are being replaced by visitors, but that isn’t revealed in the show. I am just speculating.)

Not all people agree that these are saviors. A resistance is starting to form of people who are convinced this isn’t the first appearance of the aliens. They believe the Visitors are playing off of our current economic turmoil and there are clues that seem to hint at them causing many of the problems within the world to all them to swoop in and “fix” the situation. They have evidence that there have been Visitor sleeper cells operating of Earth for quite some time. They set up current world problems for the purpose of creating mass loyalty from the people of Earth so they can ultimately use their position to wipe out our race.

The twist is that not all Visitors agree with this. They are politically and morally divided just like humans are.

Concepts of greed and self advancement are a center piece of this show. Would you sell out your soul to advance your career? Would you sell out your family, friends, or race to be a part of a socially popular Visitor initiative?

The first episode introduced a great deal. Yes, it plays off of the overall concept from before but adds enough modern drama and current political topics to really make it contemporary. I am curious to see what the overall long term plan is for this series. So far, the first show has me excited for next week. I hope it maintains this interesting start. We’ll see.

Sean “DocNorge” Whelan

Batman Unseen #1

Warning: Spoilers on Batman Unseen #1

Batman Unseen #1 is the new limited series from Doug Moench and Kelley Jones. I was a fan of their collaboration on the main title years ago so really enjoy seeing them back together for these offerings. The first issue kicked off great. We get to see a classic Bruce Wayne story, complete with Black Mask and a scientist driven mad by his desire to solve the problem of invisibility.

The hook in this series is Batman’s personal dilemma. He’s work hard to create this supernatural image to scare his opponents but what happens when word starts to get out that he might be just a man. What happens when even just one villain starts to stand up to him?

Part of the joy of reading a good, solid, Batman story is seeing this man find ways to do the impossible. He uses not only strong physical training and combat skills to overcome his opponents, but he also incorporates a psychological element to give him an edge. If that isn’t working to the same level, it makes his job harder. He has to fight more that he used to. He starts to get worn out. This initial issue shows his physical and mental frustration over this. His discussions with Alfred show us that his goal isn’t always to fight and often having to fight at all is a loss. He wants to use the Batman as a image to strike fear and to decrease incidents. What happens when that seems to be losing it’s punch?

The scientist, Dr. Glass, gets hooked up with Black Mask. Although he doesn’t know that is who his benefactor is. He is working on a serum to turn a person invisible. This would obviously be of interest to any crime organization.

Dr. Glass doesn’t have time to gather any willing test subjects so he tests the serum on himself. Initial treatments take away the visibility of his skin. Later treatments take away the muscle tissue. As you can guess, this begins to play with his mind and we get the horror movie scenario where he begins to commit murders. It is interesting to see how the need for vindication and acceptance as a valid scientist does seem to work and make sense in these scenarios. He was turned down for funding every time so he takes this opportunity to make use of the serum.

It’s clear Glass doesn’t feel the need to answer to his “unknown” benefactor. Also, Black Mask doesn’t trust him so is having him followed. What does Black mask want with the serum? What are Glass’ ultimate goals? How will all of this drive Batman to the next stage in his development?

I know somehow this will lead to Bruce upping his game and becoming more effective as the caped crusader. The timing of this story is perfect. We have the old Black Mask here and a new Black Mask in the current books. We have Bruce Wayne trying to make his role as Batman something larger and see Dick Grayson facing similar issues. I find seeing Bruce Wayne’s humanity in this very engaging and hope the series can keep up this character driven exploration. Issue 1 felt very classic.

What happens when villains recognize that a man in a cowl is just a man in a cowl? We’ll see.

Guest Writer : Lantern Savage

We have a guest writer this week!

I’m in the middle of finals this week, so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to post the Origins and Omens recaps that Lantern Savage sent me. He wrote something up for all six of the books I wasn’t familiar with, so he wins the Rock Star Award. And consequently, he gets to claim the “prize money.”

Without further ado, on with the show…

Green Lantern #38:

While a few of the Origins and Omenseseses have already taken place in recent issues, the Green Lantern’s Omens have yet to actually take place.

First of all, we see what I can only assume is Katma Tui cuddling her zombie self up to John Stewart. We’ve seen Katma rise with the rest of the Black Lantern Corps, but we haven’t actually seen her meet up with Stewart just yet. Will John Stewart get to see his wife “die” for the third time? I’m figuring yes.

Hal Jordan and Sinestro back-to-back against a bunch of shadowy figures? How could this be!? Well, we saw the beginnings of an uneasy alliance between Hal and Sinestro in this War Of Light in the latest issue of Green Lantern (#45), and one can only assume they’ll be continuing their team-up as they battle the Black Lanterns.

Black Hand kneeling! OMG! He also has his palm on the ground, which could mean… just about anything. Maybe he’s catching his breath. Maybe he’s looking for a lost contact lens. Maybe he’s heralding the arrival of an undead army to destroy the universe. Take your pick.

The last image of interest is something I can’t explain at all. Alan Scott, a man in a Spectre-like green cloak with a Green Lantern symbol, and a dude with a goatee and cool blue threads are in magical-light handcuffs, with a few Guardians pointing at them. “It was you, Alan Scott! You ate all the cookies!” I’m fairly sure we haven’t seen this scene as of yet, and these Guardians are looking very much alive. It’s possible that two of them are Ganthet and Sayd, but who is the third? They appear to be bald. Could it be Scar? Surely not.

Green Lantern Corps #33:

Again, we have a mix of events passed and events yet to come.

At the top-left we have an image of the two Green Lanterns (whose names escape me right now) who went searching for the pieces of Anti-Monitor, and ended up sucking on the wrong end of a Black Lantern battery. Got a funny feeling we won’t be seeing those two guys alive any time soon.

Ka-boom! An unknown Lantern is knocked off his feet as a Green Lantern symbol explodes in front of him. Could that be the Green Lantern battery?

Next up is Kyle Rayner getting all kissy-faced with Soranik Natu, which we’ve seen already. But wait– that’s Jade in the background! She’s looking very much alive and in her normal costume, but I’m assuming this is a reference to the events we just saw in Green Lantern Corps #40… unless we’re yet to see Jade’s resurrection…

A smaller pic of Sodam Yat and Arisia seems to have them pitted against a bunch of Red Lanterns, or a bunch of Daxamites. Hard to tell, though Scar’s narration indicates “rage”.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the page, a war-damaged Kilowog meets with a Guardian. Possibly Ganthet?

Lastly, the creepiest part of this page is a horde of children wearing Sinestro Corps uniforms (but no visible rings), stepping over the bodies of what appear to be Green Lanterns Isamot and Iolande. That could also be Vath Sarn amongst the bodies, but they’re a few shades too purple. Are these Yellow Lanterns Kryb’s “children”?

The Outsiders #15:

I don’t think we’ve seen any of these take place yet, though some of them are generic enough that I may have just forgotten them.

Geo-Force and Black Lightning are throttling each other in the top-left corner. I think Black Lightning is trying to get Geo-Force to give back Batman’s utility belt.

Deathstoke has his mask pulled up and he’s shooting the hell out of everything.

Alfred is punching some poor blond guy in a jewellery (jewelry, for the Americans out there 😉 ) shop.

A whole lot of tiny Metamorphos are trying to jump in a brunette woman’s mouth, Army Of Darkness style.

Owlman’s being blasted by a big pink beam of light.

Yellow light is blasting out of Halo’s eyes.

The Creeper is covered in blood (why wouldn’t he be!).

Interestingly, the same Scar narration appears in both Green Lantern Corps and The Outsiders: “Something wicked this way comes. And the only thing that these primitive creatures will do is exactly what they have always done when darkness engulfs them… their souls will be torn by hope and fear… love and hate… and rage and solace, as they cling uselessly to the belief that justice and redemption will rule the day. They will fight and die in this war… and as foretold by the black… they will be consumed.”

I can’t place any of these events specifically in recent issues of The Outsiders. Maybe they’re yet to come…

Booster Gold #17:

Booster’s is another of the Origins And Omenses (Omenii?) where some of the images shown relate to things we’ve seen, and some we haven’t.

We have Booster taking off Black Beetle’s helmet, revealing his true identity, assumably. I’m sure we’ll be seeing this in the near future. The silhouette of Black Beetle has a particularly prominent nose and chin, so I’m wondering if this all but squashes my “Black Beetle is probably Booster Gold” theories…

A dinosaur! Rarr!

Aaaand the Teen Titans, featuring the classic versions of Kid Flash, Robin, Starfire, Beast Boy, Cyborg, Raven and Donna Troy. We got to see all these guys killed (and saved again) recently in the latest issues of Booster Gold.

Justice Society Of America #24:

There’s a few scenes here that I recognize, and a few characters that I don’t!

At the top of the page, Jay Garrick reaches for the Obsidian egg while Magog beats the crap out of Wildcat Jr. and Damage. Maybe this is a reference to Magog’s throw-down with Wildcat Sr., or maybe this is a scrap we haven’t seen yet?

Further down the page, Cyclone, Stargirl and Jakeem Thunder have a conversation at the Justice table, while the silhouettes of the rest of the JSA stand in the doorway. Looks like the shadowy figures of Hourman, Liberty Belle, Wildcat, Alan Scott, Dr. Mid-Nite, Citizen Steel or possibly Dr. Fate, and perhaps Judomaster. This is probably referencing our upcoming splitting of the JSA team.

Alan Scott fights a beardy man with some kind of power over vines or plants. Anyone recognize him? (It’s Brackbriar Thorn, so I’m told.)

Mr. Terrific lies in a pool of blood, after being stabbed in the back by the All-American Kid a few issues ago.

Mr. America, Wildcat and Judomaster do battle with a huge, grey, scaly, reptillian-lookin dude with a crimson hood, a huge sword, and cloven feet. Who in the world is that??? Either way, we haven’t seen him turn up recently in the JSA.

Vigilante #3:

I’ve been trying to keep up with Vigilante, but it always seems to drop to the bottom of the reading pile when there’s about six thousand issues of Blackest Night to read. The Origins And Omens section from this issue seems pretty straightforward looking back at it now… all except one image.

The two biggest images on the page are of Cyborg standing on Vigilante’s hand, and Wonder Girl holding Vigilante tied up in her lasso. It’s a tough page for ol’ Dorian. These two images reference, of course, the Deathtrap crossover between Vigilante, the Titans and the Teen Titans.

We see Vigilante unmasked (or is that unhelmeted?) with a crop of blonde hair. Vigilante would change his hair color (along with his face!) several issues later.

Vigilante shooting his guns! We would later see that in… every single issue of Vigilante.

The only image I don’t recognize here is a picture of Wonder Woman tied up with her own lasso. Uh… hold on… that’s not Wonder Woman, is it? Kinda looks like a skinny dude wearing a classic Wonder Woman costume. Or maybe an old lady. I definitely don’t remember any crossdressing Wonder Woman cosplayers in any recent issues of Vigilante… but I could be wrong!

Until next time…

I only have two O&O stories left, which I believe are Wonder Woman and Secret Six. Coincidence? Probably not. Regardless, things should be getting back to normal by that time and I can start reviewing books again on a more regular basis.

Vigilante 10

The Vigilante Challenge
Warning: This will be somewhat spoiler filled through Vigilante issue 10.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Mid Ohio Con. Marv Wolfman was one of the guests and I had the chance to chat briefly with him about Vigilante, as I was getting a book signed. He mentioned that sales numbers weren’t so great on the book, which really motivated my thoughts for this column.

Vigilante has been a book that has filled an important area in my reading experience. It’s a great mystery. When this new Vigilante appeared in Nightwing, it brought about a few questions for me. Was this Adrian Chase back from the dead? Was it a completely new character? Was there any connection to the previous series? What is the overall hook into this series? Why should I care?

I really have enjoyed the gradually unfolding mystery to the identity of Vigilante. We find out early on that Dorian is his name but not much else. He can adopt a new identity ala the film “Face Off”. This enables him to use his civilian identity to infiltrate organized crime and to gain information from the inside. This is an interesting story element. If things get too hot, he can change his location, identity and contacts to redirect his war on crime. This has the possibility of keeping this book very fresh as each new identity could completely change the way he operates. It could also change the supporting cast.

He has adopted this role to make up for the death of his wife. He is somehow responsible and it’s really clear that he wasn’t on the side of the angels before. What drove him to change his allegiances? What was his role in the death of his wife? How did her father play into this? We learn he is a part of organized crime but we don’t know the details of his relationship with Dorian. Every issue fills in more of the pieces but has us asking more questions.

Another twist on the series is that he is being hunted by the FBI for killing an agent. As you can guess he is not responsible. He seems to have a code which is to avoid killing police. The partner of the deceased agent is the one hunting him. It’s partially out of revenge for the death of her partner but I also feel she is angry that he keeps escaping from them. You can feel her frustration come off the page.

Friend of the show, David Baron, does the color work on this book. The whole artistic presentation is very gritty and edgy. It has a very unique atmosphere. Dorian’s focus is on his war on selected crime organizations and his point of view drives the style of the visuals. It looks like a good crime film.

Vigilante isn’t like anything else I am reading. I would be very disappointed if it got cancelled. As we learn more about Dorian, it just brings about more questions about his background. Marv mentioned that rereading the series will reveal many clues that were presented in earlier issues that point to the solutions of those mysteries. That type of storytelling really grabs me. I love books featuring the top tier characters but it’s great to follow the adventures of some of the B and C listers. Their books tend to view the world VERY differently. If it sounds like a book that you are interested in, issue 11 kicks off his new status quo so it’s a great issue to try out.

Please feel free to send my any comments to ragingbullets@gmail.com or visit our forums. If you try out Vigilante, I would love to hear your thoughts. No matter your experience. It’s always fun to chat comics. I may air some of them on the show.

Sean

Origins and Omens

Origins and Omens: Oracle

Choosing to recap Oracle and Nightwing this week is interesting, mostly because the Origins and Omens stories were immediate predecessors to Battle for the Cowl.  In fact, the end of the Oracle O&O says, “To be continued in Oracle: The Cure #1.”  That right there should be a good indication of the events that were foreshadowed in those pages.

The Oracle O&O doesn’t have much left to surprise us with, especially if you read Battle for the Cowl, Oracle: The Cure, and are currently reading the new Batgirl series.  Oh, and let us not forget the end of the Birds of Prey series.  In fact, that’s what I got from the image of Black Canary’s backside—an indication that they would no longer be working together on a regular basis.  Other images are almost straight from the pages of The Cure, like the one of the dead and bloodied person at the computer and the weird creature that seems to be coming out of the computer.  Is that what Oracle’s friends saw right before they went to that online community in the sky?

The image that sticks with me the most though is the one of the Batgirl uniform on the bed with Barbara giving it a good long look.  Without spoiling too much of what is happening with our new Batgirl, Stephanie Brown, let’s just say that Barbara isn’t all that happy with Steph taking up the cowl.  I actually like the presence of Babs in this book, and I hope in the coming issues we see her take on the role of mentor like the Bryan Q. Miller has been showing up to this point.  It’s still very obvious that Babs misses those days, even though she was constantly in danger.  Her biggest beef with Steph is that she (Steph) is not trained up like she should be, and is therefore a danger to herself more than anything.  And no one is more qualified to train a Batgirl than the original Batgirl herself.

Origins and Omens: Nightwing

 

As I mentioned above, these O&O stories immediately preceded Battle for the Cowl, so it should be no surprise that Dick is not once shown in any uniform other than the one he wears as Nightwing.  There are, however, many references to his life post-Battle for the Cowl.  More on those in a minute.

I actually want to take a minute to talk about the Origins section of the story, which shows Dick taking Barbara skydiving for her birthday.  As a fairly new comics reader, I know they were once involved, but I’ve only ever seen allusions to it.  I have yet to read a book where they were still a couple (suggestions, anyone?) so seeing their easiness with each other was new to me.  I love that even though they aren’t together anymore, they’re still friends and don’t appear to harbor any ill will toward the other. 

I also loved that Barbara was still being the detective and trying to figure out where Dick was taking her.  Also loved that Dick wasn’t saying she was right, but instead tried to distract her and make comments about loving her sarcastic wit.  These are the types of characteristics that make me want to read them together more.

And if that last Omens page is any indication, they might be getting back together soon.  Maybe? Please.  I don’t know much about them as a couple, but maybe what broke them apart can be the same thing that brings them back together?  Again, please.

Dick training with someone younger than himself in the Batcave while a vile-looking woman watches…it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that he’s with Damian and that Talia is the one watching.  Keeping tabs on Junior, is she?  Upset that he’s trouncing around as Robin?  Who knows.

Oh, and someone wearing a very Batman-like glove is holding a gun to Dick’s head.  I’ll take “Crazy Former Robins” for $500, Alex.

Scar has some very interesting commentary on those involved in Dick’s life in reference to Blackest Night as well.  “Something wicked this way comes.  And the only thing these primitive creatures will do is exactly what they have always done when darkness engulfs them.  Their souls will be torn by hope and fear, love and hate, and rage and solace.  As they cling uselessly to the belief that justice and redemption will rule the day.  They will fight and die in this war, and as foretold by the Black, they will be consumed.  By the light.” 

My translation of that, knowing what we know from Blackest Night so far, is that parts of them will die during the war (having to face down their dead loved ones has to leave a scar in some way), but they will ultimately be saved by the presence of light, as opposed to darkness.  They will overcome and survive to fight another day.  That’s what I think, at least.

Why am I only starting to read this book now?

 

So I managed to pick up the last few issues of Justice Society of America this weekend, starting with the arc started by the new creative team of Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges.  I ate up these issues.  Seriously.  I had been very reluctant to pick up this series for a couple reasons (that I’ll have to go into another time), but the announcement of a second book because of the dynamic of the characters was intriguing to me, especially since I did know that there was a mix of older and younger heroes within the team.  What would make the team split?  I was curious, so I decided to give it a shot.

I love Stargirl.  She could easily become one of my favorite characters, I think.  Geoff Johns just recently announced that Stargirl would be one of the JSA members in his Smallville episode, “Society.”  I immediately went to Wikipedia and read up on her, which in turn led me to read more about Atom Smasher, and so on and so on.

I now consider myself hooked on Justice Society of America.

Help, please?!?

Some of these Origins and Omens stories are from titles that I either aren’t currently reading or only recently started reading.  In these cases, I don’t feel completely comfortable dissecting these since I’m not entirely familiar with the storyline and the characters.  If you would like to help me make sure that this re-examination of Origins and Omens is complete, please e-mail me at gutterlife@gmail.com or leave a comment in the forums.

Here are the O & O stories I need help completing:

Booster Gold                                                  Justice Society of America

Green Lantern                                                 The Outsiders

Green Lantern Corps                                      Vigilante

Origins and Omens

Origins and Omens: Justice League of America

Oh, the Justice League.  So much drama.  While re-reading this Origins and Omens story on the DC website, it occurred to me that so much has happened with this franchise since these were originally published.  Dwayne McDuffie was ousted as the writer, and with it went the inclusion of the Milestone characters.  Funny how Icon was featured on the last page of this Omens story, making it look like he would play a major role in the direction of the League in the future.  Well, here it is six (now seven) months later, and we’ve seen him how many times?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I find it hard to put too much credence on this story simply because of the new direction the League is apparently going to be taking now that James Robinson and Mark Bagley are taking over the book.  The League that might have originally had Icon among its members is now going to have…wait for it, wait for it…Congorilla.

I do have to mention the bit regarding Red Arrow and Hawk-Girl.  Now that we all know what happens to Hawk-Man and Hawk-Girl, those couple pages have more weight.  Roy basically giving Kendra the shove off only pushed her toward Carter.  Way to go, Roy.  Kendra surely isn’t going to call now.  And if she does, she’ll just rip your heart out…literally.

 Supergirl

Once upon a time, I remember hearing about how horrible this book was, and how DC should just put the character out of her misery by canceling the book.  Now, it’s honestly one of my favorite books to read every month. 

 This Origins and Omens story doesn’t really offer any new insights months later, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Kara is still torn between two planets, and I don’t think that situation is going to be remedied any time soon, especially considering the big plans DC has for Superman in 2010.  I have no doubt that it’s not just Superman who is going to have a big year, but his whole family of characters. 
Seeing the Silver Banshee in that Omens page obviously alludes to something that’s coming down the pipes in the near future, as she is on the cover of December’s issue #48.  It’s hard to believe that Kara would have something going on outside the hunt for her father’s killer (with the exception of Superwoman, but that’s the next paragraph), but it looks like she’s not going to get much of a chance to rest.

 And as we learned during the Supergirl Annual, Lucy, a.k.a. Superwoman, isn’t quite dead.  In fact, it appears that she might have had a type of resurrection.  What intrigues me about the whole situation is that when she was discovered, some of General Lane’s men said that Gen. Lane would not be happy that she’s still alive.  What could that mean?  Could there be a rift between Lucy and her father, causing Lucy to change her allegiances?  Oh, that would be interesting.  I might even be able to get behind a story like that, simply because it’s just wrong for a bad guy (or gal) to be wearing the symbol of the House of El.  It’s just fundamentally wrong and it makes me cringe just thinking about it.

Lana’s sick.  We know this.  We might also be getting closer to knowing what exactly is wrong with her, but since her sickness isn’t a primary storyline, my guess is that we’ll have to wait for a couple more months.

 Oh, and it looks like Kara is kissing someone over on the right side of the page.  My only question:  Human or Kryptonian?

Wonder Woman #36

I just can’t go without mentioning this issue.  I honestly can’t think of another writer who would put Giganta and Diana sitting on the beach talking about their guy problems.  Okay, so maybe it was just Diana venting, but I still found it humorous. 

In fact, this issue was full of quotable quotes.  Alkyone stating, “This is a marriage of state only.  There will be NO physical congress.”  That one alone is great. 

And here’s the thing: Unlike some people, I don’t think this is the end for Diana and Nemesis.  Sure, it appears that their relationship is over.  And Tom certainly was not fond of Diana making assumptions about their future, but I think that by saying that they are done and will never revisit the possibility is doing these characters a disservice.  Tom’s last lines, after the end of “Lasso Vision,” have a bit of a double meaning.  “Everything will be fine.  Now that we are what we are.”  He made it very clear that he doesn’t feel like he belongs, but considering what being in “Lasso Vision” is like (Diana called it “the greatest intimacy two beings can ever know,” which likens it to Amazon sex), I can imagine that in time he might feel differently about Diana’s aspirations.  I mean, really, Polly is just too adorable for her not to show up again sometime in the future.  OH! I see a Booster Gold storyline lurking…

Help, please?!?

Some of these Origins and Omens stories are from titles that I either aren’t currently reading or only recently started reading.  In these cases, I don’t feel completely comfortable dissecting these since I’m not entirely familiar with the storyline and the characters.  If you would like to help me make sure that this re-examination of Origins and Omens is complete, please e-mail me at gutterlife@gmail.com or leave a comment in the forums.

Here are the O & O stories I need help completing:

Booster Gold                                                  Justice Society of America

Green Lantern                                                 The Outsiders

Green Lantern Corps                                      Vigilante