It’s been a long day. Let’s end it off with a mercifully short pull list. We’ll be looking at BATMAN #13, DEMON KNIGHTS #13, SCARLET SPIDER #10, and BLOODSHOT #4.
BATMAN #13 begins the long-awaited “Death of the Family” story arc in the Batman books. A year ago, Detective Comics ended its first issue with the knowledge that the Joker – Batman’s greatest and most infamous villain – had his face removed, at which point he disappeared to parts unknown. According to this issue, an actual year passed since the Joker split, and now he’s returned to save face and kill everyone Batman loves.
As an aside, if an entire year passed in the comics, does that mean we’re possibly moving outside comic book time? At least so far as the Batman titles are concerned? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of compressing the timeline to a five year period? Just saying.
My interpretation of this storyline so far is that DC wants to start the Batman franchise off fresh, in this case by having the returned Joker repeat the crimes he committed when he first came on the scene. But we’ve got notable differences, mainly that his modified Joker Toxin that caused victims to frown to death as opposed to smile to death. In fact that’s a consistent theme in this issue: the Joker is back, but as a warped version of his former self (even compared to his “normal” warped personality). Accentuating this theme is the Joker’s face; the one he had cut off and, upon returning, taped it on and stretched over what remained of his face flesh. We rarely get a good look at him visage, which serves only to heighten the sinister quality of the villain. As if he died, and came back, but came back wrong.
Again, more wrong than his normal self.
Issue thirteen is divided into two parts, the larger of which being Batman dealing with the Joker’s return to psychotic villainy, and the shorter being a short scene establishing the Joker’s increased overall cruelty. Now I know the idea of the Joker being somehow more cruel is nigh inconceivable, but I can’t spoil what it entails because it also preludes a scene that occurs in the main narrative. I can say it involves the Red Hood costume, which makes a reappearance. This left me scratching my head, considering I kind of assumed from the Batman zero issue that they’d properly “reveal” the connection between the Joker and the Red Hood near the end of the storyline.
Otherwise, this issue was fantastic. Scott Snyder continues to be an amazing writer, and his work needs to be read to be believed. Seriously, go out and buy this book! If you aren’t put off my macabre subject matter, you should be reading Snyder and Capulo’s run on Batman.
And somebody who actual follows the various peripheral Batman books like Nightwing or Batgirl, tell be how those are going. Should I read the issues related to Death of the Family?
Next is DEMON KNIGHTS #13, set primarily in hell. Yes, Actual Hell. At the conclusion to the previous story arc, Etrigan discovered to his dismay that the path to Avalon was closed. Having promised Lucifer he’d deliver Avalon into Hell’s clutches, Etrigan decided the next best thing would be to burn his entire team and send them all to hell, with the exception of Jason Blood for obvious reasons.
So now the whole group minus Jason are in hell. Let the horrific and ironic torments commence!
Basically everyone gets a little scene showing how they’re made to suffer. Al Jabr mainly just sits and watches things burn, tempted by demons to drink (in defiance of Islamic law) and generally made to confront his scientific/non-supernatural worldview. Exoristos is held by bonds in the sea, unable to return to her home of Amazonia. Vandal Savage is poked by sharp sticks by his own bastard children. Xanadu basically acts as the servant of Etrigan, not allowed even to show signs of individual thought. Shining Knight in a humorous bit is forced into a “wedding”, and must choose between a male and female demon (b/c he/she refuses to divulge his/her gender), though I suspect they’re both dude demons, just one in a dress.
Incidentally, Shining Knight being virtuous (and having drunk from the Holy Grail), is the only one badass enough to be able to escape his/her torment. Because awesome.
Probably the most important here is Horsewoman, because we finally get some backstory through her thematically significant damnation. We learn her name is Sarah, and that she had an affinity for animals since childhood. And also that she’s paralyzed because of a horse trampling her; the fact that she was paralyzed is something to my embarrasment I never picked up on until now. I always assumed she never walked because of some side effect of her horse affinity that denied her the right to do so, not that she just couldn’t walk.
This makes a lot more sense now that I think of it. Makes a lot of prior scenes with her make sense. Once again, I’m dumb.
Let’s get back to Minimum Carnage with SCARLET SPIDER #10. Carnage jumped into this machine that sent him and his allies into the Microverse, because the Marvel Universe makes one’s head hurt almost as much as the DC universe. Sometimes I think the two companies competed to see who could confuse readers more. I’m still not sure whether rebooting decades of continuity is any more confusing that keeping the decades of continuity. At least DC doesn’t have to deal with that one crossover with the cast of Saturday Night Live.
Massive tangents. Too massive, considering I have a lot of work to do and not enough sleep in between it.
At this point, Scarlet Spider and Venom meet proper, illustrating the two’s different personalities: Venom as played by Flash Thompson is a soldier with a desire to do good; Scarlet Spider as played by Kaine is a tired, jaded former villain who only recently came into this thing called “wanting to live”. Naturally this almost breaks the team-up before it gets started, since Kaine wants no business in fighting Carnage now that he’s shrunk to subatomic size. Since we’d have no story, I’ll presume he spent his off-panel time realizing he should probably still do something because morality.
Oh, and Venom’s symbiote goes crazy for a bit and tries to kill Kaine. I’m informed this happens sometimes. Who wants to bet having an alien organism he can barely control will come back to haunt Venom in this storyline alone?
The Microverse is weird. Lots of nondescript skylines (which exist despite being inside atoms), and bug people. There’s not a lot of theming in the various characters that inhabit this admittedly extensive tiny universe. And fairies. The Microverse seems to act as the host to fairies. Fairies with sonic scream attacks for whatever reason.
The Microverse is weird.
Nothing much to say besides our heroes get down to small business, and the two meet two independent groups. We’ll probably spend the next two, maybe three issues seeing them dirk around looking for each other before proper progress is made. Whatever, let’s move on.
BLOODSHOT #4 introduces us more formally to Pulse, that girl with EMP powers Project Rising Spirit had chained in their science basements like a bunch of huge creepers. She does have a real name, but I care so little I’m just calling her Pulse for the interim. In the process of getting her backstory, we learn the specifics of what happened the last time she and Bloodshot met, and the circumstances behind him having to go on a rampage killing hundreds of people.
As with everything in Bloodshot, it involves nanomachines. Nanomachines that apparently “evolved” in the body of some guy. Because that’s science, right?
If I’m coming off as judgmental, it’s because I’m overdue on sleep. I’m actually quite enjoying Bloodshot, and the next issue sounds promising. Enjoying it more than Harbinger, to my chagrin.
How are Valiant’s books faring for everyone out there? Does the prospect of a more insane Joker interest you? Are you saying it’s about time the Demon Knights went to hell? Did I do a good enough job explaining what the Microverse is? Leave a comment below.