Really late, but we’re doing this finally. Here in part one, we look at the offerings from DC comics and the independents, including DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS #10, BATMAN BEYOND UNLIMITED #5, THE SHADOW #3, and ADVENTURE TIME #5. In part two, we’ll look at the books from Marvel comics.
Picking up where we left off, DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS #10 has Vandal Savage and his daughter Kassidy flying to the site where the copycat killer abducted his most recent potential victim, the daughter of a prominent senator. Along the way, we get some more backstory on how Savage’s capture affected the rest of his family, as well as some more banter between the two. But more and more, it becomes obvious that the copycat killer somehow knows Savage’s methods and the rights of his ancient gods. Too much about them, given it unlikely he’s an immortal. He’s most certainly devious however, as the team soon learns.
There’s not a lot here to talk about that wouldn’t be spoiling the plot, though I like how the writers play up Savage’s advanced age. He actually demands a sextant at one point because he thinks he can chart the way to the killer’s hideout by the stars, particularly stars that aren’t around anymore. The main problem I’ve found is a general lack of real details concerning the killer. This is a good thing in that they don’t want to show their hand too soon, but it also means he’s barely a character. Though what is there does add a sinister atmosphere, so that helps.
Moving on, BATMAN BEYOND UNLIMITED #5 simplifies matters in comparison to previous issues by focusing on advancing three plotlines instead of four. Just so you know, it’s the future Justice League on Apokolips plotline that gets put on hold this time. Instead, we get a new plot involving straight up future Batman to replace the Mad Stan plot. It’s actually more of an interlude between that and picking up that bit with the Jokerz.
In this interlude, we’re reaching back to the very beginning of the original TV show. It introduces us to one J Chill, descendent of Joe Chill, classic Batman villain. I admit I don’t know all that much about Chill, though he’s apparently the guy who killed the original Batman’s parents in that alley. Mirroring that, our new J Chill (whom is never referred to by name, this being told from his perspective) worked for the company that employed future Batman Terry McGuinness’ father. Chill acted as a member of the company’s secret squad of enforcers, and it was he who carried out the murder of Terry’s dad at his boss’ order. Since then, Chill spiraled into depression, losing his job when his bosses were taken down by Batman, refusing to look for a new job because of his guilt, and living on welfare at the bottom level of Gotham’s slum areas.
Until that is when he stops burglars from robbing him of what little he has, and he becomes inspired to use what remained of his old outfit to fight back. Fight back against…evil? He seems to want to become a force for good, but will Joe Chill’s successor be like a Batman, or more like a Punisher?
I loved this little story. It draws upon Batman Beyond lore to the furthest extent and creates something both new and classic for the setting. And it creates rich pathos for a character most viewers of the show never even thought about. What ever happened to the guy who actually pulled the trigger on Terry’s dad? Nothing good. How long it takes for Chill to make his appearance in Gotham as a vigilante remains to be seen, but I for one can’t wait to see it unfold.
In the flashback storyline, we finish the origin story of Warhawk and how his parents got back together. It also explains what ever happened to those Thanagarians after the Justice League finale, and how Warhawk eventually helped them overthrow the guys who conquered their planet, and overcome their issues with race purity and all that. And how Jon Stewart ceased to be a Green Lantern.
About that, there’s a part where he’s getting booted out for spoiler related reasons (it involved a gun and using a gun on a guy). And then when he’s chewing out the Guardians for being assholes (their poor leadership traits being consistant even in the animated universe), Jon’s eyes suddenly glow red. What? Maybe it’s setting up stuff for the future, because otherwise I’ve got nothing.
Finally there’s the bit with Superman in the future. Lex Luthor’s daughter uses her father’s tech to steal nanobot designs used in the super cops. And tries to give them to a mob boss to stir up trouble. Also Superman notices his weakening strength, and how much he needs to protect Earth even if the Earth doesn’t need him. Oh, and there’s a reveal in anticipation of the next issue with the mob boss, and I have trouble understanding the implications. Let’s just say there’s a guy who is apparently back despite his being dead in this continuity, and he’s acting entirely inconsistently with previous incarnations. Still not sure how this works. Not that I mind; it makes me intrigued.
Going to the independents, THE SHADOW #3 makes me progressively hesitant about following this series. The Japanese conspirators meet with the oft cited Buffalo Wong, bandit general of China, and we finally learn what it is they’ve come for: a special rock – probably radioactive – capable of powering a deal ray. Naturally they want the death ray to gain an upper hand when they strike out against their enemies (i.e. the US), but are having a hard time stomaching the corpulant, foul-smelling, ill-mannered Wong.
Did we mention Wong smelled? It’s kind of important.
Meanwhile, The Shadow tries to find Kondo (to kill him), and goes to a nightclud specifically to attract as much attention to himself as possible. That was he could have as many assassins gunning for him, which he could then interrogate…after killing them of course. Did you forget one of the Shadow’s abilities is to communicate with the dead? He can do that. And he also gets in trouble with one of his superiors, who feels The Shadow is overstepping his authority on the mission.
I’m starting to seriously question why I’m even here. True, the parts where the Shadow fights dudes is cool and all, but it feels like the comic is just repeating itself. Cranston’s loyalty to the US is questioned, his lady assistant is reprimanded for not understanding the gravity of their situation, Kondo acts with precision while his partner voices his hatred of dealing with Wong, and it all ends with some Germans getting killed…even though they’re supposed to be fighting the Japanese.
Oh, and some high ranking Japanese guy reminds us he’s a pedophile. We get it comic, the guy likes ’em young. We know he’s the bad guy, and not even the guy actively trying to kill the Shadow. I can’t even remember who this guy is other than him being a pedophile.
In fact, this is becoming a major problem with this book. I have trouble remembering who anyone is and what they’re trying to accomplish, except by virtue of them repeating their sole character trait over and over. There’s a solid story in here somewhere, but the presentation is muddled. It’s only now I know what anyone is trying to accomplish in terms outside of just killing someone else because they oppose them. I had such high promise for this book, but for some reason I can barely put into words the whole thing seems like an extended cloudy haze. As if the narrative actively opposes my brain forming a solid progression on what’s happening, and compensates with repeating the same things over and over.
If that makes no sense, it’s only because it’s kind of how I feel every time I crack one of these issues open. When I went to grab this one off the rack, I felt kind of nauseated and really hesitated on whether I should. This is not a good sign when I feel sick just thinking about the comic, yet I cannot put together a concrete reason why. It’s like I’m in the Defenders, and the Concordance Engines are doing something to me, but I’m unable to voice what it is to people.
So to get to a much better comic, ADVENTURE TIME #5 is a lot more self-contained than in the initial story arch. It’s like an episode of the show really. It’s got a simple beginning – BMO the robot tasks Finn and Jake to run in a straight line to determine who deserves a cupcake – and then spins off into another plot. In this case, they meet an alternate version of Ooo that’s basically the same place but with a number of slightly different details. And this is like a couple hundred miles away from regular Ooo.
It’s actually pretty weird, with a human(?) boy named Adventure Tim who is like a combination of Finn and Jake into one body – complete with two personalities sharing a mouth. And he or they refer to many characters that are just alt versions of Adventure Time staples. They even fight the Mice King. All of this by the way is lampshaded to the extreme. It’s this kind of thing that makes me love Adventure Time, though here I’m left with a lot of questions. Mostly dealing with a lot of fridge logic behind an almost identical place with almost identical people doing almost identical things, and all being not in some alternate universe but rather just a certain distance from the main setting. And if I start listing the questions this raises, I’d be here all day and lose my damn mind.
Thankfully, I doubt this will come up again and won’t affect the show either. Although it was really funny when the alt versions of the characters already have an alignment chart for a number of their compatriots. Just because the actual plot gives me a headache (which may or may not be a leftover from The Shadow) doesn’t mean it’s not still hilarious and inventive and sometimes even pitch black at times. BMO spends its time trying to build creepy Finn and Jake robots. Specifically creepy robots…as in it seems dissatisfied with the level of creepiness in already pretty unsettling robots. It’s this kind of thing that makes me love Adventure Time.
The side stories on the other hand continue to be hit or miss. The main side story isn’t really a story so much as an excuse for the artist to experiment on an artistic level with the characters. As in, they go through a window and pop up in famous art paintings, both realistic and abstract. And then the artist is shown on the panels penciling the first page of the story. It’s weird, but in a different way than the main plot. And I don’t know what to make of it.
There’s also a one page story with the Ice King and Marceline. It’s okay.
That about wraps up the books from DC and the independents. Next time it’s the Marvel stuff.