Thankfully, only enough to fill one post this week, so let’s get cracking. Includes BATMAN #12, RESURRECTION MAN #12, DEMON KNIGHTS #12, SCARLET SPIDER #8, and THE STRAIN #7. It’s some classic good-natured hero-on-hero violence, sewers, and the turning point for several books.
With the Court of Owls/Night of the Owls storyline wrapped up, BATMAN #12 finishes the first year rather unconventionally. Those who followed this book for the last six months or so may recall a short scene following Batman escaping the Court where he almost expired from his wounds. And his life was saved by a young woman named Harper Row, who literally jump-started his heart with jumper cables. Not having read all of Scott Snyder’s work in Detective Comics, I assumed this was a character introduced there that I just never met, because I didn’t recognize her. Turns out if I had, I’d have been more confused, because it’s only in this issue where we learn who Harper Row is and how she knows Batman.
An electrician working for the city to maintain the century-old power grid, Harper Row came from a home with an abusive father (learning to fix the things he broke in his rages being the inspiration for being a handy-woman), a home she left along with her gay brother to live on their own when it became clear to the courts (that is the municipal courts, not the owl court) that their father had no business raising them. Naturally her brother suffers abuse for his lifestyle, leading to the two being saved by Batman from the brother’s thuggish schoolmates.
Much of the issue revolves around setting up Harper’s backstory and how she came to be a more…zealous fan of the dark knight. To the point where she’s now actively trying to aid him in his endeavors, something Batman isn’t happy about as even prior scenes can attest. Also Harper had a backstage hand in some of the events over the course of the last year, namely when it came to Batman stopping a random underworld villain in his investigations.
So the natural question on anyone’s minds: is this issue worth my time or should I just skip it and go to the upcoming zero issue? Well nothing plot-related happens except filling in some background details here and there. But I enjoyed this issue, and I think I know why. It focused on character, which in my advancing age of early twenties I find myself appreciating more than mysteries or straight-up brawls. Especially compared to the brawls, in fact. I don’t want people thinking that issues between major arcs are all by default filler. Filler is a term I ascribe to those stories in a serialized work that do nothing but fill time, and this issue doesn’t just fill a slot between issue eleven – the end of the first story arc – and the issue reiterating Batman’s origin story.
Believe me, so far as “filler” goes, there is far worse. Far, far worse out there.
On from a comic in transition to a comic nearing completion, RESURRECTION MAN #12 promises “The Shocking Truth That Changes Everything!” As utterly generic as that statement is, at least it’s accurate. Shocking twists surface that causes one to re-evaluate all previous events, not that I intend to spoil them. As I mentioned, Resurrection Man is one of a number of books DC decided, for whatever reason, to end at issue zero; one of the others being Justice League International.
Thinking about it, JLI also added OMAC to their ranks partway through. Why do you hate OMAC so much, DC? JLI wasn’t even that poorly selling, at least compared to other, more terrible or mediocre books.
Due to some betrayal last issue, Shelley has been captured by The Lab (chief contender for most generic thing in comics this week), and forced through a virtual reality machine that pits him against powerful super foes like the Justice League and freaking Darkseid. Somehow being able to virtually replicate real-life ways of killing him, the scientists – headed by Mr Hooker – attempt to gather as much data on Shelley’s abilities and how his resurrecting trait works.
See, Shelley and a number of characters in this comic have things called Tektites in them; basically nanomachines again but with the power to confer some kind of enhanced life on the person with them. But the tektites work differently on different people, like the Body Doubles having a healing factor, Shelley never staying dead, or Hooker’s functional immortality (the downside being he also can’t heal damage, it just doesn’t prevent him from living).
This of course informs us why Hooker wanted Shelley’s power swapping pushed to the limit. Make him fight a virtual representation of some threat so powerful, he has to return with a power that can actually kill Hooker off for real. I notice that Shelley almost had to take Darkseid’s Omega Beams to the face. This doesn’t actually happen and Shelley gives Hooker what he wants even with the power he obtained to defeat the entire Justice League, but it makes one wonder. The powers Shelley returns with reflect how he died – they try to be whatever would have prevented Mitch’s death in the first place – so what kind of powers would he have gained that would allow him to counteract the power of the god of Apokolips? And more so, the power that is basically ensured to kill whatever it aims at without fail?
By the way, that bit with Hooker wasn’t the real game-changing spoiler I was talking about. There’s a reason this series ends with the zero issue, usually reserved for telling a character’s backstory.
Next is DEMON KNIGHTS #12 and the fight against Morgaine Le Fey. Classic Arthurian foe of Camalot both in the lore and in the comics, Morgaine Le Fey is the sister of Madame Xanadu and King Arthur, and a powerful sorceress. Naturally ’twas she who corrupted the remains of Camalot, created massive beasts, and wrought evil upon the land. The reason? That too is spoilery, though it has everything to do with Merlin’s corpse.
Vandal Savage summed up the villain’s plan hilariously as usual, though for the sake of protecting those that want to read the comic for themselves (and because I’m loath to repeat how he summed it up because it’s naughty), I must unfortunately abstain.
Point is, we have another turning point in the comic. This one ends the Avalon quest (as it is now, at least), and after the zero issue – where we learn how Etrigan became bound to Jason Blood – we start a new story arc. And let me tell you…
…it promises to be hellish. In a good way, if such a thing is possible.
Moving on to Marvel, SCARLET SPIDER #8 pits our reluctant anti-hero against a group of legitimate (if conceited) super heroes, The Rangers. They’re a bunch of southwest themed superheroes, though I was under the impression that Houston had no superheroes before Kaine swung into town. Maybe it’s just that Houston had no permanent heroes, and The Rangers fly all over Texas and the surrounding states.
Or maybe it’s just the writers forgetting things. Forgetfulness in continuity can potentially turn out much worse, I assure you.
The Rangers themselves were refreshing. I like when books take the time to flesh out their setting details, and in superhero comics that means making superhero groups that, while not necessarily around all the time, at least are known to exist wherever the comic takes place. Assuming these guys weren’t some obscure group revived from the annals of Marvel comics history, we have the potential for great new stories. I could see these guys having a spinoff miniseries at least.
We’re naturally led to believe this issue that Roxxon, the resident multinational corporation, is the obvious villain. That way, we’d be surprised to learn that their motives in this case are noble, if more unethical in their methods of achieving it. Unfortunately for the comic, I am genre savvy like no one’s business (and grow more so with each day of reading TV Tropes), so I saw through the deception fairly immediately. However, I must always remember that not all comic readers share my level of genre savvy-ness, and the comic does do a good job painting the company and its CEO as unscrupulous bastards.
Not that comics seem to think corporations are anything else. Which is just prejudiced. When will the hateful anti-business bigotry end?
That was a joke by the way, for the sake of the internet, which seems incapable of taking one. I should never underestimate the internet’s inability to take a joke.
Last on this week’s list is THE STRAIN #7, where a man goes into the sewer and almost gets attacked by vampires. There’s more to it than that, but that’s basically the gist of an entire subplot. While Ephraim, Dr Martinez, and the awesome Abraham Setrakian deal with the police/FBI pinning a “murder” of an infected person on them (ostensibly to stall for time while the infection spreads), a rat-catcher named Vasiliy Fet investigates why the rats beneath New York are pouring out of the underground en masse. Naturally vampires are involved.
Also the investigation requires Fet to travel beneath the site of the World Trade Center to get to the sewers. Because we all love being reminded of one of America’s greatest tragedies. Not that it being the ruins of those buildings is played up more than a token mention by an incidental character. In fact, most of this subplot doesn’t go anywhere, though I hesitate to say there isn’t a point. It does serve to indicate that, with the coming of the vampiric hoards, the New York underground will become a vile haven for bloodsuckers.
A haven and a perfect place for the infection to fester where it’s hard to hard to, even if authorities manage to try containment. It’s like trying to brush away mold, only for it to thrive in the deep cracks of tile. Except replace mold with pale undead abominations.
We learn in the main plot that Setrakian has crossed paths with the rich guy in league with the vampires, one Eldritch Palmer. First, with a name like “Eldritch”, you really have no choice but to become a supervillain. Second, it’s really convenient that old man Abraham has yet another point of reference concerning the vampire war brewing here, in this case knowing exactly who the guy practically masterminding the entire operation is. I don’t want to complain because this is still a great comic, I just think everything seems too convenient.
Have anything to add? Want to tell me off for including too many spoilers despite my best efforts? Leave a comment below. Feedback is always appreciated.