Assassin’s Creed : Director’s Cut AKA Gaming on the Cheap

Biting the Bullet 1/16/10

I know it has been a little bit since the last column. With the holidays and work on the podcast, I had to take a little break. I wanted to kick 2010 off with a game that I am really enjoying on the cheap .

I have a Steam account and recently purchased Assassin’s Creed: The Director’s Cut for my PC. I am a big fan of games sent in some form of historical past. Actually this applies to comics and television as well. This is one of the sandbox games similar to some of the Spiderman, GTA, and Infamous games that have been released in recent years. Basically, that means there is a living world with a main quest. You can choose to follow the main story or go on side adventures along the way. There are also tasks to complete to give you more bang for the buck.

It’s set in 1191 AD during the third crusade. You play Altair, an assassin who is part of a guild. The problem is you start off as the black sheep of the guild who is demoted for not following the main rules of the guild. This serves as an excellent way to give the character a history as an assassin but also to explain the need to go through a tutorial to “prove” you belong.

During the game, you discover that you aren’t actually Altair but actually a distant ancestor from our present day who is part of a complex science experiment. The technology in the present day is being used to manipulate a person’s DNA to unlock past lives of their ancestral line. It’s a cool concept. It also opens up the opportunity to play as different characters in different eras. I haven’t played Assassin’s Creed II yet but know that this is the premise.

I like the concept that there is a code you have to abide by. You can’t kill innocents or you violate the rules of the guild. There is a stealth component where you need to blend in. The object isn’t to “run and gun” or kill everything in sight. The object is to infiltrate, eavesdrop, pick pocket and kill when directed.

Exploration is necessary to open up memories and unlock the game’s world, the premise of you leaping into a past of an ancestor serves as a great tool to explain why you can’t go everywhere at first. You get to new places by remembering those places. The deeper your connection to your ancestor, the more of that ancestor’s memories you unlock. It makes the world feel alive vs being unable to explore for a nonstory related reason.

Overall the world is very rich and for $19.90. It has been well worth the purchase. Thanks for your patience. I plan to get this more regular now that we are past the holiday season.

Seven Souls and Seven Soldiers

Seven Souls and Seven Soldiers

The ancient Egyptians postulated seven souls.

Top soul, and the first to leave at the moment of death, is Ren the Secret name. This corresponds to my Director. He directs the film of your life from conception to death. The Secret Name is the title of your film. When you die, that’s where Ren came in.
Second soul, and second one off the sinking ship, is Sekem: Energy, Power, Light. The Director gives the orders, Sekem presses the right buttons.

Number three is Khu, the Guardian Angel. He, she or it is third man out…depicted as flying away across a full moon, a bird with luminous wings and head of light. sort of thing you might see on a screen in an Indian restaurant in Panama. The Khu is responsible for the subject and can be injured in his defense – but not permanently, since the first three souls are eternal. They go back to Heaven for another vessel. The four remaining souls must take their chances with the subject in the land of the dead.

Number four is Ba, the Heart, often treacherous. This is a hawk’s body with your face on it, shrunk down to the size of a fist. Many a hero has been brought down, like Samson, by a perfidious Ba.

Number five is Ka, the double, most closely associated with the subject. The Ka, which usually reaches adolescence at the time of bodily death, is the only reliable guide through the Land of the Dead to the Western Lands.

Number six is Khaibit, the Shadow, Memory, your whole past conditioning from this and other lives.

Number seven is Sekhu, the Remains.

-William Burroughs, The Western Lands.

The above lengthy quote was taken from the last novel by William S. Burroughs, The Western Lands. It was published in 1987 and is the third part of a trilogy that essentially summarizes Burroughs’ life, his philosophy, and his literary and cultural influences. From reading Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol, The Invisibles, and various interviews over the years, I found that Burroughs was a significant influence on his work. It was pure happenstance that I was reading both The Western Lands as well as Seven Soldiers around the same time. I was also listening to a lot of Material, an avant-garde funk band whose 1989 album Seven Souls features William Burroughs reading sections from the novel. But now that I think about it, was it happenstance or was it something else? This is Morrison and Burroughs we’re talking about so it’s hard to dismiss magical calling outright. The texts and music could very well have acted as a kind of sigil charged with meaning and connections.
So I set out first to connect the seven souls of man with the Seven Soldiers of the story:

Ren–Zatanna
Sekem–Frankenstein
Khu–Shining Knight
Ba–Klarion
Ka–Bulleteer
Khaibit–Guardian
Sekhu–Mr. Miracle

Ren–“Top soul, and the first to leave at the moment of death, is Ren the Secret name. This corresponds to my Director. He directs the film of your life from conception to death. The Secret Name is the title of your film. When you die, that’s where Ren came in. This more or less corresponds to Zatanna, at least with regards to the director aspect. It’s Zatanna who ultimately unites the seven soldiers into a single purpose, though they themselves don’t know it.
Sekem–“Second soul, and second one off the sinking ship, is Sekem: Energy, Power, Light. The Director gives the orders, Sekem presses the right buttons. I put this with Frankenstein. He was brought into existence with energy.
Khu–“Number three is Khu, the Guardian Angel. He, she or it is third man out…depicted as flying away across a full moon, a bird with luminous wings and head of light. Sort of thing you might see on a screen in an Indian restaurant in Panama. The Khu is responsible for the subject and can be injured in his defense – but not permanently, since the first three souls are eternal. They go back to Heaven for another vessel. The four remaining souls must take their chances with the subject in the land of the dead. The flight aspect is analogous to Shining Knight, simply because of the horse. She also sustained the odd injury or two and her appearance (with the bound breasts) is of someone wounded.
Ba–“Number four is Ba, the Heart, often treacherous. This is a hawk’s body with your face on it, shrunk down to the size of a fist. Many a hero has been brought down, like Samson, by a perfidious Ba. The treacherousness of Ba follows with Klarion, who takes control of Frankenstein and becomes the leader of the Sheeda, also, the animal/witch-folk connection with the familiars as well as the Horigal beast that is a combination of the two.
Ka–“Number five is Ka, the double, most closely associated with the subject. The Ka, which usually reaches adolescence at the time of bodily death, is the only reliable guide through the Land of the Dead to the Western Lands. Alix Harrower, before she became the Bulleteer, was a teacher. Specifically, she was a teacher for autistic children. Very much a guide for children lost within themselves. This in addition to her looking after an infected Helen Helligan (if that’s not a Silver Age name I don’t know what is) and helping her to stop her sister’s marriage as well as taking care of Sally Sonic by driving her to the hospital, make the Bulleteer/Ka connection seem a little more logical (well, as logical as something like this ever can be).
Khaibit–“Number six is Khaibit, the Shadow, Memory, your whole past conditioning from this and other lives”. Guardian is, if nothing else a man haunted by his past. However, he overcomes his doubt to become a true hero.
Sekhu–“Number seven is Sekhu, the Remains.” Mr. Miracle. Dead, buried, but risen again.
Ok, so what does all of this mean? Well, I think, just as the seven souls are part of man, the seven souls represented by the seven soldiers are combined, the soul of the DC universe. Of course the question has to be asked: why not the big three, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman? They, more than any of the other characters, are the heart and soul of the DC universe as we’ve been told so many times.
Well, for me the true soul of the DC universe lay with its secondary and tertiary characters. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are icons, known all over the world and known independently from their comic origins. The DC universe is populated with so many diverse types of characters, from the silly to the horrifying. What DC is all about as a created universe can be seen in these seven little-known characters.
Zatanna/Ren/The Director: The voice of direction and continuity. Sometimes this voice can get lost or the director loses sight of the goals or objectives. But in the end, the course is set and all doubts are cast aside.
Frankenstein/Sekem/Energy, Power: Strength, Determination, Will. Physical and mental characteristics required of all heroes. Frankenstein does not stop in his quest to destroy the Sheeda. He pursues them to Mars and one billion years into the future. Also, it doesn’t hurt that Frankenstein is a resurrected character, both from the dead and from obscurity. But more on that in a bit.
Shining Knight/Khu/Guardian: A knight is symbolic of a quest, and like the characteristics mentioned above, a hero without a quest to fulfill isn’t much of a hero. Also confounds our expectations and adds a crucial element to the superhero mythos by having a concealed identity.
Klarion/Ba/Heart and animal instincts: Klarion is guided by instinct and a whimsical, care-free attitude. Like the others of his race, he has a close relationship with his animal familiar, a totem from which he can draw great power. Like so many other heroes in the DC universe, this connection to an animal is important both for the strength it gives as well as its power as a symbol.
Bulleteer/Ka/Guidance: The Bulleteer is unabashedly feminine and embodies all of the characteristics of the classic hero: strength, compassion, beauty, and wisdom. She is the embodiment of the feminine superhero archetype, though she fights against it at first. After all, it was the fetishization of that archetype that led to the death of her husband. But like all heroes, she accepts her calling in the end.
Guardian/Khaibit/Memory, Legacy: Jake Jordan inherits the mantle of the Guardian, a trait unique to the DC universe, where heroes can retire and pass on their legacy to a younger generation. Jake Jordan is also a haunted man, haunted by mistakes he made in the past and tirelessly works for redemption
Mr. Miracle/Sekhu/The Remains, Death, Sacrifice, and Resurrection: Sacrifice is expected of all heroes. So often the ultimate sacrifice, death, is called upon for a story. But true heroes hardly ever stay dead. Occasionally a hero will die and pass their legacy on to another, but more often than not, the hero simply rises from the dead and continues fighting. Shilo Norman inherited the name of Mr. Miracle, and in his story he makes the ultimate sacrifice for the good of humanity, only to rise again.
In conclusion I just want to thank you for reading this far. Seven Soldiers had a profound impact on me as I’m sure you can tell. In it, Grant Morrison has crafted a near-perfect statement on the possibilities of superhero comics as well as its rich history, and has done so using characters that, while largely unknown or forgotten, embody all of the archetypes of heroic fiction–the soul of the DC universe.

By David Faust

The Journey is the Destination: Grant Morrison and Batman R.I.P.

The Journey Is the Destination:
Grant Morrison and Batman R.I.P.

It has often been said of Grant Morrison that he doesn’t know how to end a story. However, I think it’s not so much that Morrison doesn’t know how to end a story, more that he focuses intensely on the journey and it is this journey that defines the characters, and not the end. Take for example The Invisibles, The Filth, and Doom Patrol. Neither of these books had really what you could call a big climax but as each story progressed, incredible things happened along the way to change the characters and alter the worlds in which they exist. Granted this type of storytelling is not for everyone and especially in serialized fiction, we expect and often get a grand Earth-shattering conclusion to the stories we read. More often than not though, the world changing climaxes are either retconned out of existence or are just stepping stones to the next line-wide crossover. The comic book medium is so vast and with near limitless possibilities, I think there is plenty of room for new and interesting methods of storytelling; one where great revelations happen along the way and not in the last issue.
Since Grant Morrison took over writing Batman with issue 655, he has been bringing together all of the eras of Batman stories and putting them into a context that not only explains the more fantastical stories from the past, but also strengthens the character of Bruce Wayne as well as the extended “Batman family.” It’s also worth noting that Morrison took over writing Batman not long after the DC Universe’s most recent line-wide event at that time, Infinite Crisis, which had some impact on all of the DC characters and their monthly titles. The timing was right for a close examination of the Batman character and his considerable history. All of this came together in the most recent six-issue storyline Batman R.I.P. with art by Tony Daniel. Ostensibly, R.I.P. is about a mysterious organization called The Black Glove, which has appeared for the express purpose of breaking Batman. Other characters include Bruce Wayne’s most recent love interest Jezebel Jet, Dr. Hurt, a shadowy figure connected to Batman’s past, Bat-Mite, a fantastical element taken from the Silver Age stories who exists here as a figment of Bruce Wayne’s imagination and a kind of advisor. Finally of course, Batman’s long-time nemesis the Joker who, under Tony Daniel’s pen looks more horrifying than he has in years.
Batman R.I.P. takes us through every age of Batman, from the pulp-inspired Golden Age beginnings (names like the sinister-sounding Black Glove, Dr. Hurt, and the temptress Jezebel Jet) to the psychedelic Silver Age fantasies and to the bronze and modern age toughness. It’s important to remember that when Batman debuted in 1939, he was really a pastiche of characters taken from the pulp magazines of the day, characters like The Shadow, The Spider, Doc Samson, as well as the cinema: The Mark of Zorro and The Bat. Morrison populates the R.I.P. storyline with characters and concepts that seem to be taken wholesale from this pulp tradition. A shadowy and villainous organization known only as The Black Glove, a mysterious figure called Dr. Hurt, and a femme fatale called Jezebel Jet seem tailor-made for old pulp magazines and stories.
In the 1950’s and 60’s, Batman stories took a radical turn for the fantastic. Science Fiction elements, like Batman traveling to other planets and dimensions took over. For many years afterward, these stories seemed to be something of an embarrassment for DC and often went unacknowledged. It’s understandable considering these stories came about as a way to make Batman seem more kid-friendly in the days of the Wertham hysteria and the rise of the Comics Code Authority. However, Morrison saw something of worth in these sometimes surreal stories and decided to bring them back into continuity after a fashion. They now exist as hallucinations from a time when Bruce underwent a severe drug and sensory deprivation experiment; his stated reason for doing so being that he wanted to better understand a deranged mind like the Joker’s. The idea of a League of Batmen; a group of costumed men inspired by Batman also returns, first in the earlier Black Glove story arc and again in the last issue of R.I.P. Another concept from the Silver Age making a return to Batman continuity is Bat-Mite. Originally, Bat-Mate was an imp from the Fifth Dimension, now he has returned as a figment of Bruce’s imagination, as Mite explains it: “Imagination is the fifth dimension.” The most interesting concept resurrected from the Silver Age is the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh. Originally appearing in Batman 113, The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh was an admirer on another planet who adopted the Batman’s methods and a colorful version of his costume to fight crime on his own world. In Morrison’s hands, the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh becomes a kind of backup personality that Bruce can assume if he is ever in extreme danger. Probably the greatest strength of Morrison’s Batman run and the R.I.P. storyline in particular has been the way he took these lost stories and made them a compelling part of the current Batman canon; a difficult task, but like Batman himself says in 681: “difficult, but far from impossible.”
The Bronze and Modern age stories saw Batman pulling away from the Science-Fiction and fantasy of the Silver Age into a darker and a comparatively more realistic world. The Batman stories from the 1970’s, especially those written by Denny O’Neil and Steve Englehart are often credited with saving the character, along with the iconic artwork of Neil Adams and Marshall Rogers. In these stories, Batman became a lot tougher, at time he seemed almost like a James Bond-type character. While he did not travel into outer space, he did often travel to other countries to combat evil. From the beginning of his run, Morrison gave us a more outgoing Bruce Wayne, in contrast to the cave-dwelling paranoid obsessive he had become just before Infinite Crisis. The Modern age, and in particular Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s monochromatic retelling of Batman’s origins in Batman: Year One came just after DC’s grand universe reboot Crisis on Infinite Earths. This was a “back to basics” re-imagining of Bruce Wayne and his obsession to fight crime and the things that influenced him. Morrison touches on this in the epilogue of R.I.P. where Bruce and his parents, having just exited the theater after seeing Zorro are walking out to meet their fate. Young Bruce talks about how great it would be if Zorro were real and fought crime in Gotham. His father remarks that if someone like Zorro existed in Gotham he would be put into Arkham Asylum. Zorro-in-Arkham. The last words spoken by Thomas Wayne become Zur-En-Arrh, the trigger phrase of Batman’s mental break as well as his backup personality.
The journey that Morrison takes us on in Batman R.I.P. is one of summation. Through it we see almost 70 years of Batman comics consolidated into one six-issue story arc. Along the way there has been much speculation about the outcome of the story and when the final issue arrived this week there was in some people maybe a feeling of being let down. It’s safe to say that Bruce did not die in the fiery helicopter crash, a scene seemingly lifted from Batman 429, the last issue of the infamous Death in the Family arc, where the Joker, after killing Jason Todd appears to die in a helicopter crash, only to return again in Batman 450. We are given vague hints that Dr. Hurt might be “the devil”, a possible reference to a time back in the early 1990’s when the Batman books added some darker occult elements to the stories, like the Dark Knight Dark City arc (Batman 452-454), Detective Comics 616, 617, and 622-624, and Morrison’s own Arkham Asylum graphic novel as well as his Gothic storyline .from Legends of the Dark Knight issues 6-10. Morrison also alludes to Damien, Bruce’s son with Talia Al Gul, taking on the mantle of the bat in a dark future and selling his soul to Satan in return for the safety of Gotham City in his current run in issue 666. So, there aren’t any deaths, at least not any important ones and the last issue of R.I.P. ends with the future of Batman in some doubt. What was the purpose of the story, and why Batman R.I.P.? If I had to guess, I’d say that this arc was a way to lay-to-rest everything we have come to know about Bruce Wayne and Batman. As for the purpose, I honestly don’t know. It’s entirely possible a reboot is on the horizon once Morrison finishes his Final Crisis story and Neil Gaiman finishes his upcoming Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? Story. We could be seeing a brand new Batman in 2009, at which point the character will turn 70 years old. Just in time for a new beginning perhaps.
Before I end this, I really want to say a few more words about Batman 681. This issue more than just about anything else I’ve read hit me on a very personal level. You see, the very first Batman comic I ever bought; in fact it was also my first DC comic and pretty close to being my first comic book ever, was World’s Finest 269 from 1981. The first story, “Buried Alive,” by Gerry Conway is about a “nobody” crook who captures and buries Batman alive. This story completely captured my young imagination and I read it so many times over the years that the book just fell apart. But seeing Batman in a similar situation at the beginning of issue 681 completely took me back to those years. It almost felt like I was discovering this amazing character all over again.

By David Faust

Man, Myth and Superman: A Look at All Star Superman

Man, Myth, and Superman.

With their twelve-issue run on All-Star Superman having come to an end, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely have given us something that has often been talked about, but not often seen: Superman as American mythology. It’s all the more impressive that this was achieved by two Scotsmen, which on the surface could seem quite unusual, but this sort of thing has been happening for years. In a recent interview, former Talking Heads front man and visual artist David Byrne said of his long-time collaborator and friend Brian Eno:

Foreigners, maybe starting back in the 1960s, were kind of the first ones to hook onto American rock and roll; Little Richard, or the blues. Brian said he finds gospel music very amazing, whereas a lot of people here, if you’re dialing on the radio, would just skip through those stations. You kind of ignore the stuff because you just figure it’s out there, so you don’t need to know about it. Sometimes it takes foreigners to kind of point it out and say you’ve got some amazing stuff going on in your midst. And the foreigners will do a version of it and sell it back to you.
http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/article/feature/145622-interview-david-byrne

This I think is very similar to what has been happening with American comics since the 1980’s. Writers and artists from other countries have been, for years now, telling amazing stories based on their own perspective of the American comics they grew up reading. And in turn, the stories they have been telling often seem so new and fresh to us. One of the great Platonic Ideals of America is that it is a place where people from other countries can realize their dreams and aspirations.

But back to the story itself. From the beginning, Morrison was working in elements and themes taken wholesale from Greek mythology along with elements of Hebrew mythology as well, specifically the one page/four panel retelling of Superman’s origin in issue one, like the story of Moses and the appearance of (a somewhat re-imagined) Samson in issue three. Professor Quintum, an important character throughout the series, is very much like the Greek titan Prometheus, even referring to himself as having tried to steal fire from the sun. However, unlike the titan of mythology, Quintum is not punished for his actions, but is instead rewarded later by Superman when he gives Quintum his DNA and the DNA of Lois as a means to continue the legacy of Superman. Again, this strikes me as a unique and ultimately American revision of the Prometheus legend, where one is rewarded for his endeavors to serve humanity rather than punished.

In All-Star Superman, we see a Superman who is very much a god among humanity, but it is in the face of this god that we see the reflection of the ideals of humanity: truth, justice, and the drive to improve ourselves and those around us. One interesting point in the story is that Superman needs humanity as much as humanity needs Superman. In an early issue, Professor Quintum remarks that all clones of Superman so far have resulted in imperfect Bizarro creatures, but with the combined DNA of Kal-El and Lois Lane it is assumed that the addition of humanity to Superman’s alien DNA is the key to continuing the legacy of Superman. Kal-El is the world’s greatest hero not only because of his alien origins and physiology, but also his very human and idyllic American upbringing.

Tying all of these ideas together is the basic story of this heroic god (actually demigod seems more appropriate). From the beginning where, through his actions as well as through the machinations of his nemesis Lex Luthor, Superman is told that he is slowly dying, we watch as he confesses his love to Lois and grants her his powers for a short time, travels back through time to have one last moment with his father, confronts members of his long-dead race who, while as physically strong as Superman, and outnumber him two to one, are unable to defeat him because of who he is. In issue #10, (in my opinion one of the best issues in the series) Kal-El creates life, which in turn evolves and ultimately creates its own version of Superman as a fictional character—possibly our own universe. Until the final confrontation with Lex Luthor where Superman ultimately triumphs yet in a way sacrifices himself to save the Earth by going into the Sun to repair the damage caused by Solaris, the tyrant sun.

Like all enduring myths and stories, All Star Superman is both simple and very complex. Take for example the portrayal of Superman’s enemies Lex Luthor and Solaris. Until the last issue of the series, all confrontations between Superman and Luthor are by proxy; whether Luthor talking to superman through his “human suicide bomb” or Superman as Clark Kent talking to Luthor in prison. We learn a great deal about how each sees the other. Superman sees Luthor as a disappointment to humanity—a man with immense intellect and resources who has done nothing in all of his years to better mankind. Luthor sees Superman as an alien intruder holding humanity back, but this is only his way to justify his own actions and an excuse for not helping to make a better world, since it’s clear he despises the world and everyone in it. Solaris, a uniquely Morrison creation is an interesting character in its own right; a version of the thing that gives Kal-El his great abilities that wants nothing more than to destroy him as well as Earth itself. In the end Superman defeats Solaris, overcomes his own impending demise, and defeats Lex Luthor, but the victory is short-lived since Superman has to leave Earth and everyone he loves to repair the damage to our sun caused by Solaris. In the end this is also a kind of victory for Luthor who finally has a world without a Superman, at least until Professor Quintum can perfect his cloning technique and continue the dynasty of El, similar to how Morrison described it a few years ago in the DC 1,000,000 storyline.

It has been said by many that All Star Superman is quite possibly the greatest Superman story ever written and I find it hard to argue against that (although I would have liked a Brainiac appearance). Morrison and Quitely have given us something that will be written about and puzzled over and reinterpreted for many years to come. And for that they have my eternal gratitude.

By David Faust

Final Crisis #7

Turn Me on Dead Gods: Final Crisis #7

Anyone who knows me knows that my twin obsessions in this life are music and comics. And inevitably my enjoyment of one is often filtered through the other. When I sit down to read an issue or a whole storyline I often put pair it with an album or two that I think will compliment the story I’m about to read. Also, while I’m reading a comic I’ll make associations between the words and pictures with certain sounds and lyrics. That’s just me and that’s how I read and I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember. For my first couple of read-throughs of Final Crisis #7 I opted not to choose any background music because I wanted 100% of my attention to be focused on the story in front of me. However, while I was reading this issue–the end of a very large crossover story spanning the whole of the 52 worlds in the DC multiverse–one piece of music kept playing itself over and over again in my head and that piece was the string crescendo and cymbal crashes followed by silence and then the piano chord at the end the Beatles’ song “A Day in the Life.”

It could be because that sound always made me think of chaos and climax or it could be because we see Zillo Valla’s Yellow Submarine (from Superman Beyond) in the beginning. This time this ship is being piloted by Captain Marvel, who we learned in Superman Beyond #2 was sent by Superman to warn the multiverse of the coming apocalypse and to gather heroes to help stop it. We see in the ship a gathering of Supermen from the various Earths as well as Renee Montoya. When we see Captain Marvel and the ship they have stopped at an unknown Earth where Superman and Wonder Woman are both black. Not only that, but on this Earth, Superman is President of the United States (I see what y’all did there). One interesting point in this sequence is that the black Superman is called away from the White House by the “Wonder Horn” a gift to the Amazons that plays the “Music of the Spheres.” I’m going to digress here for a moment because this small bit of information becomes very important later in the story. The Music of the Spheres is a philosophical concept that originated with Pythagoras. Basically the idea is that everything in the heavens—Earth, sun, moon, stars, planets, all revolve within their own spheres and this movement, as well as the connections between the spheres, can be described as music— a blend of harmonics and geometry. This is a concept that has always fascinated me for obvious reasons. Anyway, back to the story.
We next see the JLA Watchtower, but something about it is amiss. First, it’s still floating in the red energy indicating that at the multiverse is in full-on Crisis mode, and second, the Watchtower seems to have bonded with Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. In the fortress we see Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, Supergirl, and Captain Marvel gathering together mementos to record what has been happening on Earth—the struggle against great evil and the sacrifices made by the heroes to stop it. While at the same time, robotic versions of the JLA heroes newly arrived from another alternate Earth are trying to destroy everything around them in a nihilistic suicide attempt. We see also that this act of “techocide” is thwarted by none other than Lex Luthor and Dr. Sivana. A rocket fires from the Fortress/Watchtower carrying the records of all that has happened in the hopes that somewhere and at some time it will be discovered and people will know what happened.

Next we see Superman holding the body of Batman confronting Darkseid. Darkseid is noticeably wounded from his fight with Batman. Superman also recognizes the body that Darkseid inhabits as being that of Dan Turpin. Darkseid knows that Superman destroy life and attacks Superman with his legion of followers—humans under the control of the Anti-Life Equation. It’s at this point at the two Flashes, Barry Allen and Wally West arrive with Omega Beams and The Black Racer hot on their heels. The Black Racer (Kirby’s Fourth-World version of Death) instead takes the mortally wounded Darkseid, just as he fires the bullet that killed Orion in Final Crisis #1.

The story then returns to the Watchtower/Fortress where Superman is attempting to build a version of the Miracle Machine that he saw in the last issue. We see also, that Luthor and Sivana, along with Will Magnus, Dr. Miles Caulder, and other scientists, both mad and super, are helping to build this machine. From there we see the continuing battle first around the Checkmate Castle where both OMACS and Biomacs are fighting desperately to give the people inside enough time to complete their “black gambit”—the safe transport of everyone they can to another Earth in the multiverse. Above the Earth we see Green Arrow and Black Canary floating in a gravity-less Watchtower, and on the Earth we see the appearance of the sigil of Metron that The Ray took down when he went last issue. The sigil is a letter of the alphabet of the New Gods that means “freedom from restriction” and disrupts the Anti-Life Equation. Note that the deteriorating condition of the watchtower establishes this scene as taking place chronologically before the earlier scenes in the Watchtower/Fortress with Jimmy, Lois, and the others. Back on earth we see the Super Young Team along with Sonny Sumo fighting against the remnants of Darkseid’s forces. At this point it would seem that the battle should be over. Metron’s sigil has spread over the planet and Darkseid has been destroyed. But this is not the case. Something even larger than Darkseid is looming on the horizon and the multiverse is being torn apart. Lord eye, the Checkmate computer system is in the process of shitting down its doorway to the other Earth in response to this impending destruction of the multiverse, which would kill of the people currently in transit. Hawkman and Hawkgirl destroy Lord Eye and save all of the people inside disappearing in a blinding light. The Super Young Team and the others managed to escape thanks to Mr. Miracle’s Mother Boxxx, which generated a Boom tube and transported everyone to the other Earth. This story is related by Renee Montoya to the Supermen aboard the Monitor’s ship.

The story then shifts back to the place and time immediately after Darkseid’s demise. Wonder Woman, still infected with the virus form of Anti-Life arrives with her Female Furies to attack Superman. Luthor also arrives with Sivana and numerous villains still under the control of the Anti-Life Equation delivered through the Justifier helmets they all wear, but Luthor now controls the helmets. It’s here that Luthor and Superman agree to team up in order to end the war as well as the destruction of the multiverse. In this section we see scenes from the past as well as the future juxtaposed together. This gives us the sense of a story being told as well as time fracturing in the midst of this crisis. To avoid further loss of life, Superman and the other heroes are shrinking down the remaining population of earth and storing them until the crisis is over. Wonder Woman also relates to the children present how Frankenstein, a living creature composed of dead flesh was immune to the Anti-Life virus she carried and was able to save her. When she recovered, she bound Darkseid’s body with her lasso and freed the remaining people from the control of Anti-Life.

Although the body Darkseid inhabited was destroyed, his spirit was still alive and on Earth. Superman at last completes the Miracle Machine save for its power source. Superman hears the Music of the Spheres and understands what it is; that “the worlds of the multiverse vibrate together and make this sound…like an orchestra.” Superman sings this music and the spirit of Darkseid is at last destroyed, cast into a black hole. In the absolute silence that follows Superman’s defeat of Darkseid, he hears a faint sound coming from Metron’s chair and discovers the God-Fire, Element X; a source of energy powerful enough to activate the Miracle Machine.

Just before Superman can power up the machine, Mandrakk the Dark Monitor (the twisted and corrupted form of the original Monitor seen in Crisis on Infinite Earths) appears with the vampire Ultraman. We see that Mandrakk has drained both The Spectre and The Radiant, agents of God, not the New Gods, but God God. Meanwhile, the Green Lanterns who had previously been unable to get to Earth are able to follow Mandrakk’s machines through the barrier. Superman takes the Element X and uses it, along with the solar power stored in his body to activate the Miracle Machine. Just then, Captain Marvel arrives along with every version of Superman in the multiverse to combat Mandrakk and his forces. Nix Uotan, the fallen Monitor who was resurrected as the Judge of All Evil joins the battle along with the Animal-Heroes from earth 35 as well as the Pax Dei—The Angelic army of God. Uotan also summons the Forever People as embodied in the Super Young Team, thus showing the limitlessness of his power. Mandrakk and the vampire Ultraman are no match for the mighty forces set against them. The Green Lanterns combine their power and drive a stake through Mandrakk, killing him and at last ending the crisis.

Next we see time has passed and the world is slowly putting itself back together and the people are dismantling the remnants of Darkseid’s invasion. We next see Nix Uotan on the Monitor home world addressing the other Monitors. He tells them of what happened and he tells them that they can no longer interfere with the multiverse. We see also that, through Darkseid’s fall, the Gods of New Genesis are reborn. Uotan will also rebuild Earth 51, his earth that was destroyed back in the Countdown storyline. Nix Uotan then says goodbye to his love, Weeja Dell before fading away. Uotan then wakes up on Earth, but an earth that now knows it’s not alone, that it’s part of a vast multiverse.

In an epilogue we see an old man, an old man who was once Anthro, the boy visited by Metron and given power back in the beginning of issue #1. He has spent his life keeping the flame given by Metron and learning the secret of the powers. As he dies, a bearded Bruce Wayne puts his utility belt on him and begins drawing a bat symbol on the cave wall.

Well, I’m not sure if the above can really count as a summary, since summaries are usually shorter than their subjects. But like every issue before, so much happened in Final Crisis #7. This was the culmination of work that began around 2006, and possibly even before. Essentially, I see Final Crisis as Morrison’s current exploration of themes he has been working on and expanding upon since his Zenith stories from the late 1980’s. From Zenith to Animal Man to Doom Patrol/Flex Mentallo to JLA to The Invisibles/The Filth, to New X-Men, to Seven Soldiers and now to Final Crisis. Morrison has always had a deep fascination with fictional worlds, the rules that govern them, and their influence on the real world in which they inhabit. Along the way he uses ancient philosophical concepts, esoteric mysticism, modern theories of psychology and perception, and large doses of popular culture as a way to examine and grasp these worlds and by extension maybe understand our own world a little better.

Final Crisis challenges our perceptions and challenges the way we take in information. The fracturing of the multiverse as it was presented in the story is reflected in the way the story is told, from the jagged and layered panels to the fractured and disjointed time and ordering of events, especially in issue #7. As I said before, this serves to bring the reader closer to the events happening in the story. Our unease and confusion is mirrored in the unease and confusion of the characters. The art, with its reliance on close-up shots also serves to give the story an immediacy that can sometimes be lost in large-scale events.

In the end though, I can’t say whether or not Final Crisis is better than Crisis on Infinite Earths, however I do feel that it’s a worthy successor to that storyline and I do think it’s probably a little better than Infinite Crisis. However one thing that all three share is that and their ends, we are left with the feeling of great change and hope for the future. We see that the Earth has gone through a great hardship, but its people endure. In the real world, we see many possibilities for new stories with new characters as well as new aspects of familiar characters. It’s all up to whoever comes next.

By David Faust

Superman Beyond #1

Beyond the Infinite: Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1.
Ever since the first issue of Final Crisis came out a few months ago, a lot of people have been wondering where are the great cosmic struggles that were in the center of the two previous Crisis stories. The answer is right inside the pages of Superman Beyond #1. For this, the first issue of a two-part story, Grant Morrison completely explodes with a visual and mental feast unlike anything I’ve seen before. This of course is helped by Doug Mahnke’s art as well as the fact that a large chunk of the book is in 3D. This is the comic book equivalent of the “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite” section of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The story opens in the midst of a heated battle between Superman and an unknown foe. We’re then taken back to the scene in Final Crisis #3 where Superman is confronted by the Monitor Zillo Valla and is told by her that she can help Lois if Superman will help her. It’s here that we get an explanation as to what the Bleed, or the Ultramenstruum is: a substance that doesn’t just exist between universes, but binds the multiverse together. Also, it is a substance of both immense healing and destructive power.

As they are walking to the Monitor’s ship the Ultima Thule, which is essentially the Yellow Submarine, we’re also introduced to other powerful beings that Zillo Valla has gathered: Captain Marvel from Earth 5, Overman from Earth 10, Ultraman from the Anti-Matter Earth, and a very Dr. Manhattan looking Captain Atom from Earth 4. We know and Superman knows that the ship is under attack, but we can’t see from what.

Once Superman adapts 4D vision (and we put on our 3D glasses) he sees the universe as it really is. He also sees what is attacking the Monitor’s ship and it’s here we get our first glimpse of the (possible) mastermind of the Final Crisis, beyond even Darkseid; The Echo of Midnight. Superman and Ultraman are able to divert Echo of Midnight to the Earth 51 universe, where all life on that Earth was destroyed in the battle between Superman Prime and Monarch in Countdown.

After a more detailed introduction of the main players, The Ultima Thule, powered by Zillo Valla’s weakening heart gets stranded beyond the Multiverse into limbo–a land where there are no heroes and nothing ever happens, and it’s here in Limbo where Morrison really unleashes his love for metafiction–a topic he has explored previously in Animal Man, Doom Patrol, Flex Mentallo, the latter part of The Invisibles, and The Filth. Limbo is populated by long forgotten characters of the DCU (I only recognized Ace the Bat-hound). Conversing with Merry Man, a jester-type character and one-time member of The Inferior Five (had to look him up in the Comic Book db), Superman notices the Library of Limbo. At this point in the story, Morrison is going back to is love for the stories of Jorge Luis Borges, first seen in the “Crawling from the Wreckage” arc in Doom Patrol where, like the Borges story “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”, a fictional universe is slowly consuming the real (or actually another fictional) universe. Inside the Library of Limbo, like Borges’ story “The Library of Babel” resides every book that ever was or ever will be written in the form of one book inside a glowing sphere. Superman and Captain Marvel attempt to take the book back to the ship in the hopes that its infinite memory will be able study the book and find a way to repair itself. In attempting to remove the book from the library Superman and Captain Marvel inadvertently catch a glimpse of the history of the Monitors.

In the beginning, there was only one Monitor, “an abstract infinite intelligence, a conscious living void,” and through his probing of the multiverse he discovers something he had never before encountered: stories. Life, death, heroes, villains, love… and never having encountered the concept of stories, the Monitor had no defense against them and they began to enter his world, again not unlike Borges’ “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.” He is finally able to seal the breach until all that remains is a giant Superman, covered in divine metals like a great monolith on the Monitor’s home world. But still, stories spread like a virus and as the one Monitor becomes many, stories soon spread about the purpose of this great, rusting monolith. Soon we learn that the stories of the monolith arise from a great fear that the Monitors all share, a fear of “the Beast in Darkness”, “holocaust”: Mandrakk, the Prime Eater of Life. Gazing upon the Sepulcher of Mandrakk, Superman and Captain Marvel are suddenly and violently jolted back to their present, with Captain Marvel turned back into Billy Batson who can’t remember his magic word, and who says prophetically, “the thing most despised will save the thing most beloved…ultimate good is ultimate evil…”
Superman, takes Billy Batson back to the ship and encounters Captain Atom whose senses, once dampened by drugs that kept him focused, are now opening beyond the infinite. Superman then goes to confront Zillo Valla about the nature of Mandrakk and he finds her draining the blood from Overman, who originally joined her in the hopes of finding his cousin (currently on Earth 1, as seen in Final Crisis #3). She says that Overman’s sacrifice will save everyone. Captain Atom calls out for Superman, saying “The sky…the sky just shattered.” The last image we see is Ultraman holding the book from the library, and behind him the vast (to the heroes, but in actuality is Monitor nanotechnology ) eyes of Mandrakk.

In Superman Beyond, Grant Morrison seems to be providing us with a summary of not only his superhero work, but of his entire created output to date. The concepts we see in this issue: world ending terror, metafiction, influences both cinematic and literary, are being brought together in an overall story arc that almost feels like the last word on superheroes, which of course it really isn’t, and once the dust has settled and Final Crisis has come and gone, there will always be something new on the horizon. But more and more I get the feeling that whatever new thing comes along will always be filtered through our understanding and experience of Final Crisis.

The 3D sections did a great job of creating a dazzling, but very disorienting world, and while it was difficult to focus on the story while being confronted with this amazing artwork, in the context of the story it makes a lot of sense. Like the heroes and villains gathered together, we are also being confronted with a world we can barely understand.

The theme that seems to resonate the strongest in this issue is that of metafiction, and of fictional universes taking hold in reality. The debt that Morrison owes to Jorge Luis Borges is huge with concepts like the Library of Limbo and the book inside (very much like the Aleph; a point in space from which you can see everything in the universe, from the story of the same name) as well as the idea of a fictional universe infecting the real world like a virus, lifted wholesale from his stories.

In the space of just one issue, Superman Beyond has brought an amazing amount of depth to the larger Final Crisis story, and as for where the story goes from this point, like the heroes and villains in it, we can only wait and make (largely incorrect) guesses.

By David Faust

Intro

Greetings everyone! I’m David Faust and welcome to 4-D Vision, my own little corner of the Raging Bullets site (Thanks Sean!). By day, I’m a teacher working in a Korean university where I teach English conversation. I’m also in the process of completing my M.A. Degree in Humanities. My thesis will be an exploration of Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis and Seven Soldiers of Victory. This column is, in a way, a tool to help me get into the habit of writing a little more critically about subjects for which a feel very strongly. For this column, I will attempt to explore the DC-Universe works of my all-time favorite writer, Grant Morrison. I’ll be focusing exclusively on the stories set within the DC Universe and not any of the Vertigo titles. After all, better minds than mine have been tackling stories like The Invisibles and The Filth for a while now, and I doubt that there is much I can add to that conversation. The entries won’t follow any sort of pattern, they’ll just be about the books I’m reading and enjoying. I will try to post about current titles as much as is possible, but work, studies, and domestic responsibilities will ensure that I don’t spend too much time reading and writing about comics. From time to time, I might throw together an non-Morrison entry or two if the mood strikes. At any rate, if anyone reads this, let me know what you think. My e-mail is faustdpatgmaildotcom. You can also find me on the Comic Forums, The Eleven O’Clock forums and a few other places here and there.

Enjoy.

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