In part one, Zero Month continues at DC comics, where we see the end to two series. Also something from Dark Horse. We’ll be looking at BATMAN #0, DEMON KNIGHTS #0, RESURRECTION MAN #0, THE SHADE #12, and THE STRAIN #8. In part two, we’ll check out what Marvel and Valiant have available.
BATMAN #0 surprised me in that DC seemed to genuinely realize everyone and their mother already knew the Dark Knight’s origin, and have worked to skirt around it. Last week Detective Comics showed us Bruce’s post-orphan making training to be a ninja; now we see him back in Gotham and ready to fight crime, but not yet as The Bat-Man. The fact that his parents died was only mentioned in passing in either issue, which for me is a breath of fresh air.
Who is Bruce Wayne going up against first? None other than the Red Hood gang and the eponymous helmet-wearing gangster himself. Or one of them at least. Might be the Joker as well, it’s not yet clear. Though he does talk, act, and smile like a guy with a few screws loose. Could this be leading up to that “Death of the Family” storyline I’ve heard about?
Well we won’t learn that for a while, since that storyline ends mid-way through with the message “The Story Continues 2013”. Best guess is the next storyline will end in like six months with a flashback finishing this story, where it’ll probably be revealed that the main Red Hood is indeed the Joker. So when that comes, I want everyone to act surprised on account of me solving the thing before it even came about. Maybe.
The latter part of the issue also shows us scenes of the first three Robins prior to their tenures (on the same night as it turns out). Dick Grayson in the circus, Jason Todd as a street thug, and Tim Drake as a brilliant middle school student. And also Barbara Gordon gets a scene, but I recommend checking out BATGIRL #0 if you want her origin. Tell me about how that goes, I have other stuff to read these days.
Next up is DEMON KNIGHTS #0, where we learn the origin of the demon Etrigan, and his erstwhile companion/partner/cellmate Jason Blood. For those who either haven’t kept up with my posts on Demon Knights or aren’t familiar with The Demon, Etrigan was a character created by the legendary Jack Kirby during his brief period at DC comics (this also being the period he created the New Gods and OMAC). As we see here, Etrigan was a lowly rhyming demon who tried to rise through the ranks of hell. Fed up with that crap, he tried to become king of hell by raising an army and usurping Lucifer’s throne.
While that’s going on, we see Jason o’ the Blood (just Jason this time) in his apprenticeship to the wizard Merlin. And Merlin sees very well Jason’s growing rage, deciding he needs to give the lad a grand purpose to prevent a tragedy. Long story short, Merlin seals Etrigan in Jason’s…form I guess, and the two are bonded forever. I liked this issue, especially given how little time we’ve had to spend with these two over the last several issues. With such an ensemble cast, individual members get what characterization they can – though this series is nothing if not great at doing just that.
It’s one of the series I predicted wouldn’t last very long; RESURRECTION MAN #0 marks the end of the (current) adventures of the man who can’t stay dead. I admit I haven’t had the opportunity to read the original nineties Resurrection Man series, so I can only judge this from the perspective I have. And it’s a damn good origin/finale.
Issue twelve ended with the death of all but Mitch Shelley, the Body Doubles, the detective Rebecki, and the mysterious director of The Lab. As such, we learn that the Director is none other than…Mitch Shelley. Specifically the evil man Shelley “used to be”, though even that is an insufficient description when you realize the Mitch we know – the good Mitch – is a copy created due to Tektite shenanigans. It’s an entire thing that resulted in there being two Shelleys, one wanting to steal the other’s power and vitality.
Oh, and there’s the matter of both Heaven and Hell demanding Shelley’s soul. That’s also addressed in this issue. Almost too conveniently when you get right down to it. Everything ends with Mitch free to do whatever he wants, so presumably he’ll show up wherever DC want him. If I have the chance anytime soon, I’ll reread the thirteen issues and give a retrospective.
For now, we’ll add to that list of ended and to-be-summated series with THE SHADE #12. After endless hints in the pages of Starman and beyond, James Robinson finally showed us how Englishman Richard Swift became The Shade.
A lot of this makes more sense – and is more satisfying – to those who’ve read Starman, especially to the end. I haven’t yet read through more than the first two omnibuses, but I know enough to recognize what’s going on here. But I think those who don’t know more about the Shade than what’s in this series, the issue gives more than enough context. It’s a prequel, so it’s not like knowing everything he did after that would ruin the experience.
It’s a thing to be read for oneself, being so long built up, so I’m loath to spoil anything for the reader. Suffice to say, dark magic rituals and an evil (sinful?) dwarf are involved, at it ends with Richard Swift becoming a being in command of the shadows. If any criticism comes to mind, it’s that the art is chaotic. Not all the time – it’s great work from artist Gene Ha – just during the critical “transformation” scene, where I had trouble figuring out what was going on. Between the intended purpose of it and the Shade’s narration, though, it’s hardly worth complaining about.
In summation, a great end to one of the best miniseries I’ve read this year.
Last for today is THE STRAIN #8, where real deal plot developments occur. For real! Also some stuff with the Hispanic guy who got arrested and put into a prisoner transport while his friend was turning into a vampire. He gets out of that. I mention it because I’ve felt bad not mentioning him at all. The reason is because that plotline, while itself interesting, is sort of peripheral right now, and gets advanced just a bit every issue or so. As such, it’s hard to find chances to talk about it.
In the main plot, Doctor Goodweather et al. travel to some places trying to find answers and warning various people about the oncoming vampiric shit-storm brewing. Mostly Eph’s ex-wife and son. It’s nice, touching family stuff.
Oh, and we get to see The Master for the first time. He’s a creeper. Not in the sense that he’s going to explode if he gets too close, but in the sense that he’s pretty freaky looking.
Would you enjoy a vampire apocalypse story with Minecraft Creepers? Are you excited for The Joker’s return? Are you enjoying Demon Knights as much as I enjoyed OMAC? Do you want to know what the hell a Tektite is? Have you not yet read Starman? Anything you want to complain to me about? Leave a comment or rant below.