Another crowded first of the month. It’s also a week of beginnings and ends, in many respects. In part one we’ll look at what DC put out this week. Includes DETECTIVE COMICS #13, ANIMAL MAN #13, SWAMP THING #13, GREEN LANTERN #13, EARTH 2 #5, and DIAL H #5. Part two looks at the offerings of Marvel.
I really ought to have used last month to drop this title, and now I’ve lost my chance. DETECTIVE COMICS #13 breaks the long cycle of mediocrity and nonsensicality that’s been a hallmark of the run up to this point. Remember when Batman fought Mr Toxic and his clones? Or was he the clone? Why was there so much radiation and cloning involved? This issue made so much more sense.
Then again, Zardoz made more sense than those three issues of confusion. And Zardoz starred Sean Connery in a red leotard, fighting science wizards with drawn on beards proclaiming the villainy of the phallus.
Moving right on track, and the Penguin is back. Yes, even though he factored into the storyline immediately before the aforementioned confusing times, and had his own miniseries, Detective Comics brought him in as the villain again. By no means is this bad, because while it’s not as good as the miniseries, the Penguin at least seems relavent and a tad sympathetic here than in previous issues. His plan? Hire assassins to kill/stall Bruce Wayne long enough to steal the chance to name a community center after his mother out from under the billionaire playboy. Even hardened crime lords want to be remembered for good things.
If you’re wondering why the sudden change in quality from the absolute horse-crap from previous issues, it’s that the creative team was changed to John Layman and Jason Fabok. We’ve only got the one issue so far, but I can already tell we’re back to actual detective-like stories in our Detective Comics. As opposed to whatever that was with the radiation clones and the large hadron colliders.
As usual, we also have a backup story, this time with art courtesy of Andy Clarke, the guy who contributed to BATMAN #12. It’s a one-shot story featuring the Penguin’s right hand man and him breaking in one of the new thugs in the crime lord’s employ. And how the criminals who live and work in Gotham exist with the shadow (and fists) of the Dark Knight ever upon them. This was a really good story, since it brought the book back to its roots as a street-level examination of Gotham and its criminal underworld. Reminds me of the last time DC made a bunch of zero issues, and the half dozen bat books variably talked of Batman as a force bearing down upon the criminal element.
But I digress. Great issue all around, and more in line with what I expected from the title more than a year ago. Instead of what we got. If you’ve held out following Detective Comics for the last year, now’s the time to jump on.
Oh, and before I forget, this one is a two-issue storyline. Because issue fifteen will involve us in the immanent Death of the Family event.
Since the two are so tightly linked, we’ll talk about ANIMAL MAN #13 and SWAMP THING #13 as one entity. Rotworld jumps into full swing in these two issues, diverging into the twin storylines to be advanced in their respective books: The Red Kingdom in the pages of Animal Man, and The Green Kingdom in Swamp Thing. Useful I think to divide them so readers don’t feel pressured into having to read both to understand what’s going on. As I predicted, one could just read their preferred series, and ignore the other.
Though there are a few things to keep in mind that make them not entirely independent of each other. As a result of Buddy Baker and Alec Holland jumping right into a Rot trap, the two were spit out of The Rot in different places one year later. The Rot descended on the Earth and killed basically all life except those last holdouts of the Red and Green respectively. Almost every hero died off, except those with a connection to the Red or Green, or those special anomalies. We’ve got Beast Boy from the Ravagers (who I still think should have remained green in color, because the common conception in the public comes from the Teen Titans animated series); Black Orchid from Justice League Dark (also for some reason Constantine is still around back in the Red city); Poison Ivy from the Batman books (is she still part of the Birds of Prey?); John Henry Irons aka Steel, who “survived” by turning himself into a robot; and Deadman, because he’s a ghost.
One of the things I noticed was that both books showed scenes of the fall of the world to Rot forces. In Swamp Thing, Poison Ivy has a blackened, obviously Rot-infested arm that’s not explained there. It IS however explained in a flashback scene in Animal Man, where she got bitten by a monster. If the Swamp Thing book doesn’t touch upon how it happened in later issues, it means you’d only ever know what’s up with that if you read Animal Man. Then again, you might not care.
Regardless, two great issues that are best read together, though they impart the same bits of knowledge: the world was overrun by decay, only a few bits of life remain, and everything blows. And also the two heroes’ supporting cast haven’t fared well. Let’s leave it at that.
Speaking of green, GREEN LANTERN #13 marks the point where “Rise of the Third Army” goes into full effect. The Third Army is rising, though slowly. The issue really isn’t all that much about them, so much as it is about our new GL Simon Baz getting acquainted with his new power ring. He (and the audience) finally witness the nature of the message left by Hal Jordan and Sinestro: he was chosen for his ability to overcome great fear, don’t go to Oa because it sucks, find their allies Arkillo and Carol Farris, and don’t trust the Guardians. Basically everything a budding space cop needs to know to flail uselessly about while trying to survive the universe’s biggest restructuring project.
Also Barack Obama makes a cameo. Because that won’t date this comic by the year 2017 (or 2013 depending on how the election goes).
As stated, Simon flies around, trying to make sense of his new lot in life while everyone in the world seeks his capture/death. The government (complete with a ubiquitous Amanda Waller cameo to compliment the Obama cameo) are rightly concerned with a suspected terrorist getting his hands on a Green Lantern ring, as does the Justice League though I suspect for different reasons. Hal did apparently quit the Justice League after I stopped reading their book. Is it a sign of my discontent with what DC did to the JLA that I found their appearance to be the most dreaded in the book? All I could do was groan just from them being there.
Is it also wrong I found the Rise of Eclipso more enjoyable when it comes to a JLA story than the main story now? Especially considering that era contained none of the “core” members of the League?
I keep going off on obscure tangents. This was also a great issue because we’re learning a lot about how Simon’s situation affects his family. And his relationship to his brother’s wife, given what happened to said brother. It’s good stuff, man. Once again, it’s a great time to be a fan of Green Lantern.
Even if the Green Lantern is from a different universe. EARTH 2 #5 finally sees an entire collection of rebooted Justice Society characters engaging Solomon Grundy. Adding to the growing nods to pre-Flashpoint continuity is a world army corps of agents called the Sandmen, lead by their leader Dodds. My inner JSA fan just had three joy heart attacks and a happiness stroke. These guys have only a small scene, establishing their ability to “phase” across vast distances, a process that requires an assitional supply of air (gas masks?).
So in addition to the classic Earth 2 characters that are either dead or in another universe, we have Green Lantern Alan Scott, Flash Jay Garrick, Hawkgirl, the Atom, Dr Fate, and now the Sandman. Oh, and passing references to Red Tornado, Captain Steel, and Wildcat. I love you James Robinson, I really do. No homo.
What? Oh, the plot! Yeah, Green Lantern et al join forces to fight Solomon Grundy, and we get more information on the force that set him loose: The Grey. Keeping with the themes of color-based abstract forces of life and death, The Grey represents a kind of death force on Earth 2 that opposes the life force of the planet. It’s pretty interesting stuff the comic does with the concept. It even makes the Grey half-way decent. Sure there’s villainous intent at work, but we’re actually provided a reason as to why it’s doing what it’s doing.
Instead of just the Rot over on Earth A, which seems more like an unambiguously evil force with no depth. No offense to Animal Man and Swamp Thing, but the Rot is kind of simple.
Sweet merciful crap we’re running long. Getting on track to forward progress, DIAL H #5 pits Kent Nelson, Manteau, and Squid against Ex Nihilo the nullomancer and Abyss, the being made of nothing that’s been driven mad. And by the assorted filly frocks of Fabian Cortez, I adore this comic. Plenty of heroes can be strong enough that nothing can defeat them; it takes true skill to fight nothingness itself and kick its nonexistent ass!
This issue roughly marks the end of the first storyline in Dial H. All the Squid, Ex Nihilo, Abyss, and even Manteau questions are answered here. Or enough to draw the events to a close. And what a close it is. Not to mention once the Abyss thing is cleared up (or packed up as the case may be), we’re shown something that both entices us for later issues and terrifies us at the same time: somewhere in paradox space exists at least one individual – probably more – that actually know how to use the Dials the way they were meant to be used.
The way they’re used does not bode well for anyone unfortunate enough to fight them.
I can’t stress how much people should already have been reading Dial H. It’s amazing. But it’s also amazingly abstract, which turns a lot of people off. To these people I say stop trying to make sense of it and just approach the book on its own terms. Damnit.
If nothing else (he he he), realize that it’s a story about a fat guy and an old woman using rotary dials to fight nothing from across space and time. And as chickens made of hoops. It’s too strange not to be seen.
Did any of what I just said make any sense? Did anything from the previous run of Detective Comics make sense? What do you think of Rotworld so far? Does the thought of the current Justice League fill you with as much dread as it does me? Have you still not read anything from James Robinson? Leave a comment below.