This week, we’ll be looking at ALL STAR WESTERN #9, THE FLASH #9, GREEN LANTERN #9, and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #686. It’s old western Talons, gorillas, Hope, and the Ends of the Earth.
First up is ALL STAR WESTERN #9, which is altogether quite a schizophrenic issue. Not a bad one, it just juggles a lot of story threads. Obviously the first is finishing up that whole business with the August Seven, the group of white nationals that have been carrying out terrorist acts against immigrants. And despite the comic setting up the group to be visually diverse, the conflict amounts to a disjointed brawl.
Sometimes as a comic reader, I mistake the appearance of a group of varied individuals as being indicative of varied fighting styles. In fact, we barely know anything about most of these people. Though most likely, the August Seven will be back for later issues. It’s not often Jonah Hex leaves his enemies alive, so we might just have recurring villains here.
According to the cover, this issue ties into that whole Night of the Owls event. Not directly of course, this book is set a hundred years before Bruce Wayne even became Batman. No, what this issue has is a good old fashioned Talon doing good old fashioned killing at the behest of the Court. And it shows up for maybe five pages and then buggers off. Presumably that plot will be resolved next issue, otherwise the Talon only has to do with Jonah Hex because Hex’s business is centered around Gotham these days. It’s like All Star Western is an unofficial member of the Batman group.
Two other points to this issue. One, we meet a scarred female gunslinger gunning for some wealthy landowner that swindled her family out of their land (and out of their lives). I think this woman might have appeared at some point during the previous run, though I can only infer that from the context of Hex’s reaction upon seeing her. And the current backup story wraps up with Blackhawk and Cinnamon cornering the prey they’ve been seeking for the past two issues (in between their respective and contrived origin stories). It was an alright backup all things considered. Next time, we’ll be meeting another DC western character: Bat Lash!
Next on the list is THE FLASH #9, and the introduction of Gorilla Grodd into the New 52. For those unfamiliar with the Flash’s rogues gallery, Grodd is a psychic gorilla from an ancient and technologically advanced gorilla civilization that somehow humans don’t know about. And he has a habit of eating brains to gain the knowledge of the previous owners. The writers basically retained most of this premise for Grodd, though they’ve made the gorilla’s less technologically advanced and more just psychic to a degree. Their city-wide cloaking from outsiders being a product of mental illusion rather than science, and the civilization is painted as being much more superstitious than before. Although they do basically worship the Speed Force which they know for a fact exists (it gave them their intellect and powers), so I guess superstition doesn’t apply when you’re right.
I personally like how writer Francis Manapul is tying the various parts of the Flash’s mythos together in a more cohesive whole. It means there’s less elements that just don’t fit the tone of the book. Furthermore, the reimagining of the gorilla society gives it more believability. It seems more vibrant and alive, and a lot easier to accept than just a gorilla city built on super tech. Plus it draws on that old idea of a lost city in the middle of the veldt. Though I’m not sure where it’s supposed to be now. They refer to the Mayans a couple times, but the gorilla city was always in Africa. I’m confused now.
Also for some reason, the Flash briefly suffers from amnesia. For narrative convenience it makes sense, given that somebody has to play the idiot so the gorilla elders can explain their legends and portents of the Speed Force and the heralded one who would be the Speed Force’s avatar. It’s just really cliché and dumb that a book doing so well in the writing department would fall back on amnesia of all things.
Last of the DC books is GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS #9. This issue centers around Saint Walker and the Blue Lantern Corps, which is always a delight. Of all the lantern corps flying around, the Blue Lanterns got the very least amount of development. So it’s nice to see them doing things for a change. Unfortunately for them, it’s a battle against an invading army of the Reach.
This bit of backstory goes into Blue Beetle territory. When Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle died in a book leading up to Infinite Crisis, his name was succeeded by Jamie Reyes, who in contrast to the first two Blue Beetles had much more than simple enhanced abilities or a wealth of gadgets. He came to be bonded to a piece of alien technology that acted as shapeshifting armor. Well as it turned out, according to the previous Blue Beetle ongoing before the new 52, the armor was in fact a damaged alien parasite used by a race (or military force, I’m unclear on the details) to force individuals of a planet to destroy their home and reap the resources on the Reach’s behalf. By all appearances, this backstory is the same in the New 52, even though Jamie’s origin was changed to accommodate Infinite Crisis not being canon anymore.
So the Reach seek to conquer worlds and strip them of resources, and they’ve set their eyes on Odym, homeworld of the Blue Lanterns. A bit more on the Blue Lanterns. They’re basically universally acknowledged as the weakest of the corps when on their own. They can’t make constructs or shoot beams on their own, unless a Green Lantern is around. Plus, they’re a perpetually understaffed organization, made of a people selected by existing Blue Lanterns personally and trained for a great deal of time for the job. And naturally, since they use Hope as a power, they’re made up of religious types, and have little experience with war.
All that makes it really sweet when they hold their own against an army of vicious warriors. They’re losing of course, but not for lack of trying.
I found this issue to be really interesting from a thematic standpoint. You of course have the Blue Lantern Corps, the eternal underdogs in the emotional spectrum, now without their founders (two guardians now forced to work for other corps) and facing a military force that wants to not only beat them, but eat them. One of the blue lanterns has a crisis of faith, illustrating how fragile the power of Hope is in the face of overwhelming odds. Heck, we even have a parallels between the corps and the Reach, with Saint Walker and Khaji-Kai respectively. Both are acting leaders of their respective groups, one because all above him are gone and the other by differed authority. And when the two blue forces clash, it’s made clear that, if left uninterrupted, a blue lantern could potentially free an enslaved Reach warrior from his mind-controlled captivity.
If there were any single issue that summed up the blue lanterns and showed them at their best, it’d be this one. It’s a really good installment, making me want to read the next issue and see how these people – people who would otherwise rarely fight – are able to avoid absolute obliteration. The only problem with this is, of course, that this issue also reminds us about the trend of systematic dissolving of the various corps. It’s really a shame too, since the Blue Lanterns have been the only corps around that hasn’t beforehand gotten real action. Or recognition.
Here’s hoping that All Will Be Well.
The final book this week is AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #686, and the penultimate installment in the Ends of the Earth storyline. So far, Spiderman, Black Widow, and Silver Sable trotted all over the globe trying to stop Doc Ock’s plan to build a planetary shield, estensibly to solve global warming. But just as Spiderman feared, Doctor Octopus doesn’t want to help humanity. He wants to burn everything away so life can die along with him. And thus we start this issue with the world burning.
Except not really. I don’t really want to spoil what’s actually going on, but what’s occurring isn’t quite what it seems, and in the end someone switches sides. Not saying who, or to what side, or why. Just throwing that out there, and saying it was pretty neat.
Frankly, there’s no way Marvel would allow this book to ruin their entire world, even if it is Spiderman. And despite the fact that the book just yanked our chain with bogus tension, I’m not all that mad. I wouldn’t be anyway, I’ve seen this enough times before that nothing surprises me. But the issue as usual is strong enough to pull off the scam. Not to mention it’s strong enough to be really entertaining, witty, and emotional at times.
Not much else to say, really. Everything’s winding down to the main event, so we’ll just have to see how the writers end the Ends of the Earth.