With the prologue to Rotworld over with, we have the rest of the week’s books to talk about. These include DETECTIVE COMICS #12, EARTH 2 #4, DIAL H #4, DAREDEVIL #16, THE DEFENDERS #9, and AVENGERS VS X-MEN #9. A lot of good, and a little bad.
With that in mind, let’s get the bad out of the way first with DETECTIVE COMICS #12 and the end of the Mr Toxic plotline. Put simply, this three issue story confuses me. One of the problems I’ve had with this run of Detective Comics is that after the Dollman five-parter from the beginning, the writer doesn’t seem to know what to do with this book. So he proceeded to do mostly nothing special, and in this case nothing comprehensible.
So issue ten had Batman stop a bunch of identical men dressed identically as Batman from robbing an armed car of lab materials. The same lab where a bunch of people got melted, presumably by the villain Mr Toxic. Batman goes to the lab, confronting Toxic while one Dr Mardar is being zapped in a large hadron collider, only to find out that Mr Toxic also looks exactly like Mardar, as the fake Batmen did. The Mardar in the machine died in issue eleven, only at the end to spontaneously revive in the morgue and team up with Toxic again.
From there, things get fuzzy. There’s a scientist in hiding who gives cryptic clues as to what Mardar is trying to accomplish, there’s a lot of talk about large hadron colliders and the many things they can apparently be used for in this universe which they probably can’t do in real life, and there’s some kind of ooze that absorbs chemicals and radiation. And I still for the life of me don’t know what the hell Mardar was trying to accomplish, who Toxic was in relation to Mardar, or why his genetic carbon copies degenerated and how I could tell between them from Mardar himself who also degenerated.
I’ll admit there was a thread of logic and almost a plot here, but a plethora of details remained muddled and confused, not helped by the flawed perception of science this book seems to have regarding nuclear and subatomic power. What exactly was accomplished here? It’s stuff like this that makes me seriously consider dropping the book entirely, which isn’t looking so bad right now.
But then of course there was the backup story. This ones a one-off since the Two Face story from previous issues ended inconclusively. And it does two things: 1) it makes Detective Bullock, longtime Batman supporting character, look like an asshole instead of just an insensitive meat-head; and 2) it reminds us that the Joker is still at large without his face, and it looks like he’s coming back.
You know, after the zero issue that retells Batman’s origin story for the billionth time. Because there remains still people that don’t know Batman’s origin.
Thankfully, EARTH 2 #4 fares much better at continuing the story from previous issues. Here we meet yet another re-imagined character from the JSA, in this case Al Pratt, The Atom. In the Golden Age, Al Pratt was a physically adept athlete, but gained super strength and the ability to channel atomic energy through his fists. It seems this version retains that power, but also adds the powers of growth possessed by the previous continuity’s Atom Smasher, Pratt’s godson.
So as with Alan Scott gaining his former son’s gayness because the latter no longer exists in this continuity, it would appear The Atom also had his successor’s qualities folded into himself because Atom Smasher doesn’t exist here. It’s economical at least.
This issue also pits The Flash, Hawkgirl, and Green Lantern against the natural enemy of the emerald defender of the Earth, Solomon Grundy. And yes, that is basically the same Grundy currently menacing Metropolis in Batman Beyond Unlimited, albeit from a different universe. Makes sense, given that Grundy was always first and foremost a foe of Alan Scott. I wonder if his appearance in Batman Beyond Unlimited had anything to do with the one here in Earth 2.
It could just as easily be because he appeared in Batman: Arkham City. Who knows? The dude gets around.
Just as the fourth issue of Earth 2 finally sees plot threads converging, DIAL H #4 sees many mysteries getting solved. These include: who is Ex Nihilo? Who or what is Squid? Why did Ex Nihilo collect so many “empty” people? What is that monster made of nothing and what were the villains trying to accomplish? And what lies beneath Manteau’s mask? All these and more come out this issue.
And it’s only issue four. The reason OMAC – the series I consider this series’ spiritual predecessor – came to such a disappointing end resulted from it establishing many mysteries and potential future plots that it didn’t get a chance to resolve. Writer China Mieville meanwhile seems to understand the need to get a good story going as quickly as possible, and I like that.
It helps that I also like the amazing abstract stuff this story is going for. Nullomancers? Void wranglers? Dudes made out of nothing stealing jewels so as to eat the glitter coming off them? It’s so gloriously willing to go beyond anything you find anywhere else, I can’t help but love it. And that’s not counting the stuff from previous issues. Any series can have laser beams and reversing the polarity of the neutron flow; DIAL H has people turning into heroes made of chimneys and Napoleonic soldiers commanding pelicans and scientists working with nothingness itself! That’s hardcore!
Also Nelson dresses up in a cape and factory tools to bamboozle some mobsters. Just because.
Moving on to Marvel, DAREDEVIL #16 looks to be a major turning point for the series and for the titular Man Without Fear. Finally rescued from nanomachine-induced senselessness and the Latvarian military, Daredevil sits by while his fellow Avengers try to clear his head. Manually, by way of Ant Man/Giant Man/wife-beater Hank Pym.
I would go into Hank Pym’s entire deal, but I really don’t want to. There’s a reason he didn’t appear in the Avengers movie.
Anyway, this issue is partly a dissertation on how blindness affected Matt Murdock, but also partly how his origin parallels that of Hank Pym. It’s hard to describe, but by the end of the issue the two seem to understand each other better…How much you want to bet this won’t ever be touched upon in the comics again? Whatever, this happened, and the fact that Ant Man (or is it Giant Man?) has to run around a brain at microscopic size reminds me a lot of Justice League: Rise of Eclipso.
This isn’t necessarily a good thing. Although that did have shadow spiders wearing top hats, so what do I know?
Remember that time, by the way, earlier in the series where Daredevil had to go underground to stop the Moleman from stealing coffins, including his father’s? Yeah, that’s relevant again. You didn’t think the writers just threw that in just to add superheroics, did you? Turns out this was rather important to the whole “Matt Murdock stops being depressed all the time” subplot brought up way back in the beginning of the series.
Moving on, we have THE DEFENDERS #9, an issue vying for best thing I’ve seen all summer. And I just saw The Dark Knight Rises.
For those wondering, the movie was good. Go watch it, and know that future Batman movies will probably be sillier from here on out.
But back to THE DEFENDERS, who prove that a comic doesn’t need convoluted plots so long as they have the team running around an alternate 60s Marvel universe where everything is a Bond-esque spy thriller. It has all the spy thrills. All the inter-organization intrigue. All the people shouting declarations of loyalty to Hydra. All the massive gunfights. All the casual misogyny (WARNING: Sequential Smart and affiliates do not actually condone misogyny). And all the Frankenstein Hitler.
This comic has Nick Fury (played by David Hasslehoff as channeled by Sean Connery) fighting a Hydra controlled by Frankenstein Hitler! With cranial scars and neck bolts and everything! I love this comic.
If previous issues were a love letter to old school pulp adventures, this issue is a love letter 60s espionage fiction. And it’s glorious! What does this have to do with anything? Better question is who cares? The story had the team be removed from the regular universe for a bit, so it had fun with what time it had. My only regret is that Nick Fury never punched a hippie or got himself out of an overblown death trap.
So to wind down from that explosion of campy goodness, we end with AVENGERS VS X-MEN #9, where Spiderman gets almost beaten to death by characters that are supposed to be good guys. Lovely.
Honestly, I’m with Linkara on this when I say it’s getting really old that every major event Marvel puts out results in heroes fighting other heroes. Don’t be confused, AVX has gotten really good and the fact that the conflict is stupid at least seems like the point most of the time. But when was the last time the heroes of the Marvel universe came together en masse to just fight evil people? Can we go back to that?
And no, the Skrull invasion doesn’t count.
Within this issue, the Avengers continue being trounced by the Phoenix Five, now down to the Phoenix Four since Namor ended on the receiving end of a massive beatdown. Unfortunately, that resulted in his portion of the powers cosmic being divvied up to his comrades, making what would be a daunting task for a large contingent of Avengers to beat even one impossible to replicate without cheating.
And yes, cheating occurs in this issue, since we’re coming up to the final acts of this storyline and the Phoenix crew need to start falling. It’s as clever and as funny as I make it out to be, though it too probably can’t be replicated given who remains on the X-Men side.
Here’s hoping the crossover, which has been doing very well lately, can continue this good streak on to the finish. It’s never too late to start sucking, after all.