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

Hellblazer 259

This week, I wanted to kick things off by talking about Hellblazer 259 and why this book is growing on me. I’ve mentioned on the podcast multiple times that I’ve only jumped on the Hellblazer bandwagon recently. I’ve actually been collecting it over the past year or so and was considering dropping it, not due to quality, but that I never actually was reading it.

When my comics arrive each week, I look through my stack and grab the first five to six books that catch my eye and those are my starting point. Those are usually the ones where the story has my so captivated that I just need to know what is happening next.

Hellblazer had become one of those titles.

Spoiler alert: (Scroll down for more)

John’s relationship with Phoebe, who is currently but hopefully not permanently deceased, is what’s really grabbing me. You know the age old threat of daddy bringing a shotgun to the door when his daughter brings home the boyfriend? Well, when John shows up, he should bring a bazooka. Not only did she die because of him, but he did a number of awful things to her. This included using magic to rekindle their relationship. The irony is that she was already considering getting back together with him when he did this.

That’s what I like about reading John’s story. He’s human. Sure he’s this know it all when it comes to the supernatural but even basic human interaction seems to escape him. Socially, he is a mess. He isn’t particularly respectful or nice to anyone. He has intense insecurities about himself and the fact that any woman, that he could really care for, could even love him.

So why do people like Chas and Phoebe get pulled into his world? It’s because deep down John is one of the good guys. He does care. It’s often very hard to see it and many times he doesn’t realize it himself. The thing is, when he sets his mind to accomplish a task, he will cross a ton of taboo boundaries to complete it, many times at the cost of his own soul.

Chas is loyal because of not only for what he did for Tricia. (Note: I am guessing Tricia is his daughter. Please excuse me long time fans. I am learning the ropes here.) I think this dialogue says it all: “John’s a mate. All right, he’s got some strange ideas, and people who spend too much time with him tend to have a run of bad luck, but he’s all right.” He’s the kind of guy that Chas can’t completely articulate why he likes him but he knows there is something about this guy that makes him good. He’s drawn to him even though he is very rough around the edges. I have to laugh because if he got any rougher, you’d get razor burn just shaking his hand.

When it comes to Phoebe, it looks like the classic “girl meets bad boy, bad boy is detached and heartless, girl will definitely get hurt” relationship. It does fit but it’s also not that simple. She sees the part of him that Chas does. She probably couldn’t ever put it into words that someone else would understand but she sees something in him. It feels very real because even as I write this, I have a hard time articulating what is so likeable about him. I think we all know or have known someone in our life that we have had that kind of relationship with. You like them but you are awkward or even ashamed to admit it to others.

John has made attempts to saved Phoebe’s body and soul from death. He is trying to cheat death. In his own mind he is making things right. The overarching question: Is John doing this for selfish reasons or because it is the right thing to do? I am not sure.

Phoebe is currently in hell. John’s handling of that will show us a great deal there. In 259, he encountered some things that are only fit to be in a horror movie. It also included a great flashback to the start of his relationship with Phoebe. This is a pretty solid jumping on point to see if this book is right for you as much of the current continuity is laid out in this issue.

I want to shout out the artwork of Simon Bisley and Jamie Grant. The mood and tone set by this issue feels very dark and creepy. There is a ton of emotion there as well as in many panels John’s face and posture tells many different stories. It’s visually clear that this man has a very low opinion of himself but that he hides it well with cockiness when necessary. Surprise, frustration, joy and even fear creep into this character throughout and pull us into his world.

John’s discovery that he is in hell is a brilliant segment visually and through dialogue. He comes across a girl named Kathy who he is familiar with. She is trapped in a bathroom stall with a guy named Troy who is telling her over and over again how he killed his parents. She seems doomed to relive that tragic relationship and some bad decisions she made as a personal torment of her own. You can see it on her face and in the environment. It was just a really well thought out way to make us a part of that discovery.

Hellblazer is currently one of many books that demonstrate what I love about great comics. John’s mistakes make me connect with my own humanity and mistakes that I have made in relationships of the past. I love that I feel like I am not sure what advice to give him on whether or not he should give up or keep trying when it comes to Phoebe. That just feels natural. It’s something you encounter when dealing with relationship advice with friends or family.

If you haven’t checked Hellblazer out, it’s dark, irreverent and creepy. There’s also some really intense humanity in the book. Give it a shot. If you do or currently read Hellblazer, email me your thoughts at ragingbullets@gmail.com. I might even sneak some of them onto our podcast.

Sean “DrNorge” Whelan

Biting the Bullet Intro

I’m Sean Whelan. If you’ve listened to Raging Bullets, you know I am one of the cohosts. You’re probably asking yourself: “Why on Earth would you write a column with all of the hours of podcasting you do?” The honest answer is that there are always topics we don’t have time for on the show that I’d love to discuss. Even with doing this on the web site, I’ll always have more I want to chat about. This is another way for me to stretch my creative muscles and have some fun chatting about my love of comics.

This might also give me a chance to chat about some things outside of DC Comics that don’t really fit our show format. This could be anything from comics outside DC, movies, gaming, and other general musings. Since it is on our site, I’ll focus as much on topics that would normally make our show as possible but will take advantage of that freedom from time to time.

My current plan is to release this at least once a week or so depending on podcast preparations.

Feel free to shoot me your comments to ragingbullets@gmail.com and thanks for reading. I am not pretending I am a great writer but hope these submissions will be of some entertainment to you.

Superman Secret Origins and Smallville

Superman: Secret Origin #1

I’ve been looking forward to this day ever since they announced this book.  Was it last summer in San Diego?  I can’t remember.

Regardless, it was worth the wait.  I’ve never seen pictures of Christopher Reeve as a child, but I’m pretty sure it looked a hell of a lot like Clark Kent.  The art of Gary Frank is amazing and is perfectly placed to tell this story.

One of the main criticisms I’ve heard about this miniseries (before it even hit the stands) is that Superman’s origins have been told numerous times and that doing it again would only muddy the waters even more.  After the first issue, I don’t think that is the case.  Geoff Johns smartly decided to pass on the parts of the story that have never been changed.  We all know that the ship landed in the path of Jonathan and Martha Kent as tiny Kal-El arrived as the sole survivor of a doomed planet.  We get it; it doesn’t need to be rehashed once again. 

I must say that I had a little chuckle when the name “Chloe S” showed up on Pete’s cast.  And as much as Smallville is chalked up to being something of an alternate universe when it comes to Superman’s origins, the presence of Chloe Sullivan—however tangential—proves just how much the show has affected Clark Kent’s childhood.  The scene where a young Clark Kent saves Lana from a tornado, the appearance of his heat vision and the reason it first appears, and even the appearance of the Kent barn and house are all very reminiscent of a certain origin show now entering its ninth season.

The final page, with Clark vowing never to wear the Superboy suit again, is of course a perfect place to end the first issue and lead into his adventures with the Legion of Super-Heroes.  I don’t know about anyone else, but this title is going to be at the top of my pile for the next five months.

Smallville Season Nine Premiere: “Savior”

So many things excite me about Smallville right now that I don’t even know where to start.  First of all, don’t think it should be overlooked that Tom Welling is now a co-executive producer on the show.  It might seem like a minor detail, but I think that he probably is—more than any other actor to play the Last Son of Krypton—very in tune with the character.  His new role has brought him out of his media-shy shell a little.  He made his Comic-Con debut this summer to a room full of screaming and extremely enthusiastic fans, and also gave a very interesting and engaging interview for TV Guide about his new role and the upcoming season.  This guy knows the character and will make sure that the origin is done right.

After seeing the premiere tonight, I am confident that this has the chance to be one of, if not the best, seasons ever.  Clark has started his training, he’s wearing the “S” on his chest (and let’s not worry about the fact that he’s not wearing the red and blue right now because we all have moments of rebellion), and it looks like he’s finally going to be getting together with Lois. 

How far in the future did Lois go?  Not as far as I thought, that’s for sure.  In fact, I was sure that they (the writers and producers) wouldn’t give us a specific time frame but instead divulge information like “this happened right after …” as opposed to saying she went one year in the future.  It was a very smart move on their part now that I think about it, though.  If in fact this is the last year of the show, they have a very nice way to wrap things up and send them out in style.  I won’t go in to too much detail right now, but those flashes of Lois’s future at the end of the show alone are enough to make me very happy.

And this new Clark?  Oh, wow.  He’s so determined.  He’s so confidant.  And he’s so…smitten and obsessed with Lois, which brings up another point.  Clark isn’t the only one who was questioning why he isn’t flying yet.  I’m pretty sure millions of fans have thought the same thing over the last eight seasons.  But we finally have an explanation, and it’s one that I buy 100 percent.  Why can’t he fly?  Because he still sees himself as a human, and humans can’t fly.  I buy that.  I really do. 

Callum Blue IS Zod.  End of story.  I can’t wait to see how his story plays out this season.

We have so much to look forward to this season.  I am, in particular, looking forward to Speedy showing up in the sixth episode this season, “Crossfire.”  Let’s also not forget the Wonder Twins, Roulette, Toyman, and I’m sure many others along the way.  Life is good for Smallville fans.

Next week…

More Origins and Omens.  And I still need some of those covered, so be sure to e-mail me at gutterlife@gmail.com or post a comment on the forums if you’d like to give a helping hand.

More Origins and Omens

More Origins and Omens!

Sorry about skipping a week, but school work waits for no one.  Anyway, here’s the next installment of “Revisiting Origins and Omens,” in conjunction with the six-month anniversary of the stories appearing in DC titles as well as the upcoming one-year anniversary of this column.  This week: Teen Titans and Mon-El.

Teen Titans

At the time, the Teen Titans were trying to figure out the whole business with the Dark Side Club and bring it down.  Many of the heroes they might have looked to in order to fill some roster spots had since been subjected to the Arena and were found within the pages of the Terror Titans miniseries.

Regular readers of Teen Titans also knew that a great number of changes were going on with its membership, as was recapped in the Origins and Omens story.  Ravager went bye-bye.  Miss Martian went on sabbatical (which was later revealed to be an undercover infiltration of the Dark Side Club), and Robin flew the coop to take care of business back in Gotham.  Oh, and Red Devil wasn’t Red Devil anymore.  He was just Eddie.  And let’s not forget about Wendy and Marvin, especially since we’re still seeing the effects of that particular storyline.

I specifically passed on revisiting the Teen Titans Origins and Omens story last time because issue #74 hadn’t been released yet and there is a specific image I had a feeling was going to be brought to light.  And has fate would have it, our dear Eddie Bloomberg saved the world despite having no powers, thus proving that powers doth not the hero make.  Anyway, we knew this was coming, thanks to Scar.

Let’s see, what else did Scar see happening?  Um, a Kid Flash uniform?  I think we can all safely assume that Bart is on his way back to the Teen Titans very shortly.  Ravager beating down Wonder Girl? It’s no surprise that they don’t like each other.  I have no doubt that this will happen many times before they ever become BFFs.

So here’s what is still bothering me.  First of all, there’s an image of Wonder Girl kissing a Beetle.  But here’s the thing: I don’t see any Blue in that Beetle, which leads me to believe that she somehow becomes involved with the Black Beetle (and aren’t we supposed to find out who that is pretty soon in Booster Gold?).  And we also have a silhouette of a pregnant woman.  Somehow, I just don’t see it being Bombshell.

Mon-El

The month of Origins and Omens brought to the Superman title a monumental change.  For once, Superman wasn’t going to be appearing in his own title.  Instead, the character Mon-El would be taking the lead, along with the Guardian.  So once he was mysteriously cured of his lead poisoning, this brief back-up was important because it set up who Mon-El would be on Earth and what direction his life would take for the time Superman was gone.  And wouldn’t you know it, he went back to Smallville and talked to Ma Kent for advice.

They set up a nice identity for Mon here, having him go by the name Jonathan Kent and being from London.  Really, Jonathan Kent sounds British.  I never thought so when it belonged to the original JK, but when it comes to Mon and his identity, the name just seems to fit.   

As for the Omens page, we once again have some images that have already come to fruition and others that have yet to play out completely.  We know that Jonathan joins the Science Police, and that the Guardian is a…uh, guardian of his real identity.  The smack down between Atlas and Mon-El just recently happened, though I’m sure it’s not over.  I wonder about the bald man in the upper right corner.  Is that supposed to be John Henry Irons?

So far Mon-El and Sodom Yat have yet to meet, though Mon has been given some crystals by the Green Lantern that filled in some of the blanks about Daxam.  But the image given here is that there is going to be more than a little bit of a misunderstanding of some kind, so much so that they fight.  Hmm…I wonder. 

And of course, the one that finally seems to be starting is what I imagine is a relationship between Jonathan and Jamie Harper, formerly of Gotham City and niece to the original Jim Harper.  Jonathan and Jamie recently became partners in a plain clothes Science Police unit in the Superman Annual and the sparks were there.  Yeah, they are sooo going to get together.  Too bad that lead poisoning is going to come back and either kill him or force some kind of recreation of the Phantom Zone.  Or, could he just decide to go home to Daxam?

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

Thanks again for reading.  Don’t forget to ask questions or add anything I might have missed on the forum.

Revisiting Origins and Omens

Revisiting Origins and Omens

Two things.  First, it’s been six months since DC went and gave us all these mysterious Origins and Omens stories with our good friend Scar as the narrator.  So, I thought it would be interesting to revisit a couple of them for the upcoming weeks and see how those images and stories that were foreshadowed have come to light, and which ones have yet to have meaning to us.  Second, we’re creeping up on the one year anniversary of Life in the Gutter and I figured I should do something special to commemorate the occasion.

This week, we look at the Origins and Omens stories of Black Canary and Brainiac.  (Note: Some of these stories are from books that I either don’t read or have only recently started reading.  I will list these at the end of this column, and if anyone would like to volunteer to write something up about the Origins and Omens found in that particular title I would love to feature it here so we can have a complete look at these stories.)

Black Canary

“A poet of the planet Gaia once wrote, ‘Love lift us up where we belong.’  The archer and the siren believe their love has lifted them up where they belong.  They are mistaken.”  Actually, three poets share the credit for the line.  Buffy Sainte Marie, Will Jennings, and Jack Nitzsche wrote the song “Up Where We Belong,” and it was sung by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes.  Movie buffs will remember that it was the love theme from An Officer and a Gentleman.  But, that’s neither here nor there. 

The origins portion of the story takes us back to Dinah’s high school days, complete with black hair and absolutely no hints of the kick-ass kind of woman she’s going to turn out to be.  Personally, I think it’s a nice touch to show just how unsure she is of herself as a student in high school.  She doesn’t go out of the house when she has a zit, and she obsesses over being popular and whether or not a boy likes her.  And she talks.  A lot.  I mean, really.  If she kept her mouth shut for a minute, she probably would have noticed how much it was bothering her (presumably best) friend Sam that she was constantly obsessing over this one particular guy. 

Sam suggests that Dinah scream to get rid of her frustrations; his mom is a shrink and has her patients do it often to help them cope.  So Dinah screams, and what appears to be the first occurrence of Dinah’s sonic scream knocks Sam across the football field with its force.

The next visual we see is Dinah (with blond hair as Black Canary) knocking out a window with her sonic scream and an innocent bystander coming in contact with the sound.  The doctors tell the patient’s relative that he is deaf for the rest of his life, since the noise—whatever it was—damaged the hairs inside his ear to the point that implants are not even possible.  The patient, whose name is revealed to be Sean, is unable to hear what his brother and the doctor are talking about, as well as what the anchor on the news is saying.  But he sees a picture of Black Canary, and—presumably, with the help of closed captioning—discerns that she is the cause of his deafness.  The determined and downright pissed look on his face says it all.

Those of you following along at home know that the creepy dude with the blaster in the upper right of the omens page is this same person, now calling himself Discord.  His coming out party in Star City included killing his brother and shutting off all the sound in the city, among other equally bad acts that didn’t even get mentioned.

Another person we see (in the upper left) is the unbelievably cooky and delusional Cupid.  We know she has a thing for the Emerald Archer, and she goes to great lengths to show him just how much she “loves him,” including killing most of his rogues gallery, minus Merlyn.  Yeah, she just turned him into a vegetable.  Lovely girl, isn’t she?  Has she held a gun to his head yet while she kisses him?  We might see a redefinition of the term “shotgun wedding.”

As for the rest, we haven’t seen Speedy in a while, but artist Mike Norton told me at Chicago Comic-Con that she’s in issue #24, so whatever is going on with her will be coming up soon.  The rest of what we see if various instances of Ollie and Dinah being at odds with each other, which is something that’s been happening with increasing frequency.  

Brainiac

Oh, Lex.  Ye be the sculptor and we are the clay.  At least, that’s what he thought until Brainiac told him otherwise.  The story is simple and to the point.  General Lane is in possession of Brainiac and Lex has been given the task of unlocking the alien technology, which is appears he has.  Lex also believes himself to be in control of Brainiac, but the Brain InterActive Construct soon informs him otherwise and reveals its plans to Lex.

Okay, so Lex isn’t in control of Brainiac, but Scar tells us the Book of Black says there is someone Lex will have control over, but he is dead.  For once, Scar says, he questions the Book of Black.  And with good reason.  If the  large image of our beloved Superboy wasn’t a hint six months ago, I’m sure anyone who read Legion of 3 Worlds #4 is now deeply concerned for Conner and what role Lex will play in the new Adventure Comics series.

Help, anyone?

Below is a list of the Origins and Omens stories that I could use help with, either because I don’t read that title or only recently jumped on.  If you’d like to recap one of these for me, type it up and send it to gutterlife@gmail.com and I’ll include it in the upcoming weeks.

Booster Gold                                                  Justice Society of America

Green Lantern                                                 The Outsiders

Green Lantern Corps                                      Vigilante

Thanks again for reading and we’ll keep following up on these stories in the upcoming weeks.