Part one of this week’s pull list includes the books from DC and Marvel: DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS #11 (featuring Vandal Savage), BATMAN BEYOND UNLIMITED #6, DAREDEVIL #15, and AVENGERS VS X-MEN #8. Part two examines the books from IDW, Dark Horse, and Boom!
First on the list is DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS #11, which concludes the three part storyline with DC’s premiere immortal supervillain, Vandal Savage. The SWAT team sent to capture the copycat Cherry Blossom Killer have been slaughtered, and now Savage’s daughter is in the metahuman murderer’s grasp. And it’s here we finally learn the purpose behind the emulation of Savage’s crimes. But Vandal Savage isn’t about to let the attempted murder of his progeny and the affront to his ancient gods go uncontested.
This issue raises the question of how much responsibility does one person have over the crimes he or she caused to happen by proxy. How far does the cycle of violence go before it stops being the fault of the originator? How much responsibility should a victim hold for crimes they commit as a result of being victimized? One of the themes DC seems to want to explore as of the New 52 is how fantastic powers, ancient magic, and super science would affect the world. Basically, DC is trying to be more like Marvel. And while I would prefer DC stick to its guns and not copy another publisher wholesale, this storyline does prove that there’s merit in the plan.
Also worth noting about this issue is that the cover is a lie. At no point does Kass, Savage’s daughter, actually fight the killer with a knife, nor is there any sort of deal being made at any point. It’s clear from the end of the issue that Savage will escape imprisonment and reenter the DC villain scene proper, but nothing suggests Kass had anything to do with it.
Next is BATMAN BEYOND UNLIMITED #6, which returns to the three story format it had going for it, and which I think was where it was comfortable. Any more than three stories vying for the space in a four dollar issue just makes the whole thing seem crowded. At least it is with this book.
It begins with the Superman Beyond storyline already in progress, where Lex Luthor’s daughter (what is it with DC and having the female children of supervillains these days?) has given stolen nanomachine technology to Solomon Grundy. Grundy for those not familiar with DC lore is an undead, mostly plant-based villain whose appearances, motives, and personalities vary wildly depending on the story. His character concept is directly based on the old nursery rhyme of the same name, and first appeared as a villain to the Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott.
Which will be familiar to those currently reading Earth 2. I’ll get to that when I do.
Anyway, DC plays with Grundy as a concept a lot. In the pages of Seven Soldiers of Victory by Grant Morrison, the Witch-People of Limbotown animate their dead as slaves, referring to them as Grundymen, which bear a resemblance to Solomon Grundy. These sort of establishes that “Grundy” might be less of an individual, and more a class of being that resurfaces time and time again, accounting for differences in character and motivation.
In this case, we’re talking about the Solomon Grundy of the animated DCU. As of now, Grundy is a mob boss in Metropolis who, despite being still pretty thuggish, is more intelligent than previous appearances in the animated universe. Also worth noting is that Grundy really ought to be dead at this point, since his character was apparently killed off for real at the end of Justice League Unlimited. But as stated above, Grundy has a habit of coming back to life whenever he wants, and I like this incarnation.
Also there’s some stuff in this issue about an asteroid belt of kryptonite rocks that Luthor set up to finally orbit the Earth, all in a long-term plan to defeat Superman even after his death. Is that important?
The second part of this issue has the future Justice League visit Apokolips and see how things got even worse with a giant world destroying snake flying around. Or better. We learn Darkseid, the tyrant god of Apokolips, is no longer the tyrant god of said flaming suck planet. He and High Father, leader of New Genesis, visited the Source Wall in order to learn how to defeat the Midgard Serpent. It went about as well as can be expected when the plan revolved around looking straight into the Anti-Life Equation and hoping for the best. High Father is just gone, absorbed by the light, while Darkseid became blind and now clings to the world, existing between life and death, and not worthy to rule Apokolips. So his estranged son Orion of New Genesis (long story) now assumes the throne.
This is basically what we learn this issue. It’s more about getting us ready for the inevitable climactic showdown next issue. It is nice to see the status quo shifted around; it’s one of the strengths behind this series I think. We’re not on the main DC Earth, so the writers can really stretch things beyond what would normally be allowed.
Third and final of the storylines in this issue is the beginning of “10,000 Clowns”, where Gotham city gets enveloped in chaos due to an influx of Jokerz from all over the country. So much stuff is going on that future Batman has to pick and choose dangers to solve, leaving others to the recently upgraded police arsenal. Terry meets up with Dana and the two share a moment over the latter’s hospitalized father and the brother who started all this.
And we learn future Batman has finger beams. No really.
I love this comic.
Moving on to Marvel’s offerings this week, DAREDEVIL #15 attempts the impossible by trying to make total sensory deprivation interesting. In the previous issue, the Man Without Fear was captured by the Latvarian finance minister for hijacking the financial data of several crime gangs and depriving the country of potential revenue in fees and holding charges. The punishment? Secretly exposing him to an experimental cloud of nanomachines (a lot of nanomachines this week too, now that I think of it) that enter his brain and perform surgery that nullifies his senses. And this issue starts with us confirming that Daredevil has been recaptured, and completely unaware of what’s going on.
His mission: escape before his brain is dissected for science. The problem: he doesn’t know what’s going on around him, so he can’t even be sure there’s an escape that must be made.
This is a great issue, partly because of how it conveys the feeling of total sensory denial. Except then it cuts to a more objective perspective, where we as the audience see what’s going on. From a dramatic standpoint, this was inevitable. But it undermines the audience’s involvement in Daredevil’s plight when we can see and read the speech and know things he’s not privy to. If there’s one flaw in the issue, it’s that.
We also get more insight into the mentality of Doctor Doom’s citizens, namely from two guards and a nurse put in charge of the senseless hero. We don’t learn a lot about them, but there are subtle touches that imply humanity, which is always good.
Finally we have AVENGERS VS X-MEN #8, where Namor goes to town on Wakanda and the Avengers. This was an event that was just bound to happen, either this or Namor betraying Cyclops in an attempt to take control of the Phoenix Five. Heck, that might still happen if the end of the issue is to be believed.
I find this issue very well illustrates the uphill, nigh impossible task it is to take on the empowered X-Men at this point. For multiple reasons, some of them spoileriffic. To give the scope of this battle, pretty much every Avenger remaining throws all they have at Namor, and it’s barely enough to match the guy who isn’t exactly thinking straight or strategically. And then things get worse. Simply put, this conflict won’t be won by trying to beat it into the ground, and this fact is painfully obvious by issue’s end. If the Avengers want any chance of winning, it’ll be through indirect means.
Or a deus ex machina. Just because the story has been good up until now doesn’t mean it can’t pull out a crappy resolution at the end. It happened with One More Day.