Holy Hell were there a lot of books out this week. I seriously don’t think I’ve ever spent so much on comic books in one day. DC basically has a Geoff Johns Day, Grant Morrison finishes up his Happy! trails and blind maniacs in Daredevil! 3-2-1 Comics!
3 – DC Comics
Batwoman #17 – Writer: J.H. Williams III, W. Hayden Blackman; Artist: J.H. Williams III
The Batwoman/Wonder Woman team-up of the “World’s Finest” arc comes to a conclusion in Batwoman #17. Medusa and her mythic hordes have unleashed Ceto: The Mother of All Monsters and reality is being torn apart, or as Kate put it “disemboweled.” Blood is shed on both sides of the battle, a hero returns to fight and some shocking revelations are made – what more could you want? The one criticism I may have is that the fight in this issue was over too soon. The funny thing is when I think about it, this fight has been going on for at least three issues – so really that criticism is more of a compliment of wanting more. J.H. Williams III specializes in double-page-spreads, but I’ve gotta say that my favorite page was the more simplistic first page (simple for Williams is different than simple for most though.) Gotham is being torn apart by the gargantuan Ceto, worlds are colliding and there is a lone girl in the center of the street; its a chilling and beautiful visual. One thing I liked about the “quick” resolution of the battle was an action that our heroines made that was perfectly compatible with Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman. The end had two big surprises, one of which I didn’t actually notice until a second read. God bless J.H. Williams III. Please don’t ever leave this book.
Final Grade: ★★★★½ 4.5/5
Green Lantern #17 – Writer: Geoff Johns; Artist: Doug Mahnke, Dan Jurgens, Phil Jimenez
Ok, there were plenty of quality DC books out this week from a plethora of excellent creative teams, but dammit I couldn’t just pick one Geoff Johns book to review – they’re too good! Sure, Green Lantern Corps and Green Lantern: New Guardians also came out this week, but Green Lantern is undoubtedly the spine of the entire franchise. After “Rise of the Third Army” finished up, we jump head first into “Wrath of the First Lantern.” We open with the classic pre-New 52 story of renegade guardian Krona witnessing the creation of the universe. This once again indicates that the Green Lantern titles are unabashedly free of reboot restraints. The main story is told through Baz’s eyes, but the true star of this issue is the First Lantern himself, Volthoom. Volthoom’s twisted reliance on emotions and the Guardians’ imprisonment of him is a retcon that so perfectly fits into Johns’ entire run. Now that we know this is Johns’ last arc, we are reminded of how he made Green Lantern a top-tier hero in the first place. The old school style of Dan Jurgens and Phil Jimenez is an excellent choice for the Crisis on Infinite Earths – inspired prologue. Doug Mahnke proves once again that he is a master of Green Lantern art. In particular there is a wonderfully lavish double-page-spread where Volthoom looks through the key points of Ganthet’s life. Mahnke’s art coupled with Johns’ history-weaving script make this a fabulous comic book. So far “Wrath of the First Lantern” trumps “Rise of the Third Army.” No contest.
Final Grade: ★★★★★ 5/5
Justice League of America #1 – Writer: Geoff Johns; Artist: David Finch
Along with Green Lantern and Justice League, Justice League of America #1 solidifies Geoff Johns as the winner of this week and the ruler of DC Comics. Along with Aquaman, there are many different storylines (barring crossovers) in each book. But what Justice League of America proves is that Johns has been sprinkling in little details here and there that have been building up to the forming of this team. Geoff Johns’ mastery of such careful orchestration is admirable. The premiere issue of Justice League of America is standard “role-call” introduction, but the most promising aspect of this book is that the seas0ned Johns will be taking hold of characters like Hawkman, Catwoman and Katanna – who have all had very rough starts in the New 52. Though I’m not completely sold on this new take on Martian Manhunter, I’ll give it some time. David Finch is certainly a talented artist, with detailed action scenes and gritty style, but I worry that his characters will be indistinguishable without their masks – a frequent problem with Finch. Regardless, besides an awkward-looking action shot of the Justice League, Finch proves his worth. With a little bit of Justice League reference, a quick intro to the new team’s members and a taste of mystery, this is a pretty solid first issue. Check it out if you haven’t already.
Final Grade: ★★★★ 4/5
2 – Image Comics
Happy! #4 – Writer: Grant Morrison; Artist: Darick Robertson
Very often in the entertainment industry, artists can be shoehorned into a certain mold or stereotype-based perception. Unfortunately I may have fallen prey to this in regards to Mr. Grant Morrison. I expected an off-the-wall and delightful fantasy like Joe The Barbarian or Flex Mentallo. In truth, Happy! is more in line with The Filth or The Invisibles, as it paints a disturbing picture of humanity’s less desirable attributes and habits. The final issue begins with hero Nick Sax trying to find the captured girl Hailey, his daughter. Most of the issue comprises of the final showdown between Nick, the faceless villain Mr. Blue and the deranged pervert kidnapper Santa. Despite the degenerate nature of its characters, the story of Happy! is pretty simple: a man who has lost his soul gains redemption by putting the life of an innocent above his own…and of course a flying blue horse. It’s an old story, and in this setting feels a lot like Sin City. Darick Robertson has spent many years pencilling the violently depraved, so he fits right in with this tale. Robertson has a nack for conveying the dark and dirty vibe Morrison is going for, and makes you wince in discomfort at scenes like the one where the nasty Santa is shooting up heroin with his pants down on the toilet. Overall it was a pretty average tale: not bad, but not great.
Final Grade: ★★★ 3/5
Saga #10 – Writer: Brian K. Vaughan Artist: Fiona Staples
Ok, if you haven’t realized it yet, Saga is a pretty cool comic book and an even cooler sci-fi story. This month we have Marko and his mother finally finding ghost babysitter Izabel, while The Will and Gwendolyn are closing in on our heroes. Things get pretty bombastic when our groups collide, but before that we have a quiet flashback to the moment where Alana and Marko decide to become fugitive lovers. It’s the kind of tongue-in-cheek scene that Brian K. Vaughan excels at – advancing the narrative while outright talking to the audience about the comic itself; you can tell Vaughan enjoys writing scenes like that. Penciller/Colorist/Inker/Letterer Fiona Staples once again impresses with loveable character interpretations and epic space scenes that need little or no dialogue to convey their weight. I would really love to see Vaughan’s scripts for Staples, that probably say something like “Ok, I’m thinking something like a planet-sized alien fetus, can you do that?” Insane ideas and profanities aside, Vaughan’s true skill has always been in investing the audience in his characters. I really enjoy the budding friendship that has formed between Alana and her new father-in-law, which wisely overcame the cliche of in-laws hating each other. Identically, Vaughan takes a turn with a character that will surely have the fans pulling their hair out. This is the mark of a great writer and a great story.
Final Grade: ★★★★½ 4.5/5
1 – Marvel Comics
Daredevil #23 – Writer: Mark Waid; Artist: Chris Samnee
Daredevil #23 opens with the kind of recounting of Matt Murdock’s origin that Frank Miller would include at the start of every issue back in the 80s. But surprise! Mark Waid pulls the rug from under us and reveals a twisted homage to the Daredevil origin – someone is trying to recreate Matt’s accident to gain his “radar sense.” While half of the story is about Daredevil cleaning up the streets of these “radar-powered” individuals, the other half deals with the possibility of his best bud Foggy being diagnosed with cancer. It is with this story beat where Chris Samnee’s art blends quite well with Waid’s script. Samnee’s style is reminiscent of Darwyn Cooke’s, with a simpler and more animated-series approach. It nails the kind of Daredevil story that Waid has been aiming for: one that is optimistic but realistic and tragic but not dark (though I do like depressed Daredevil.) All of the events that have been happening in Daredevil since Waid started have brought us here, but this issue also works well as a standalone because of its narrative backbone that has roots deep in the Daredevil origin and mythos.
Final Grade: ★★★★ 4/5