Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Not-So-New Comics: The November 15 Edition - Marvel (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

OK, here we go, the all-Marvel edition of November 15 reviews!

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #147:  One of the challenges for new readers here is we’re clearly picking up a story Duggan's been telling for a while.  For example, Peter tells Rich he believes the spies within the Nova Corps are part of a “militaristic splinter faction of the Shi’ar Empire” that isn’t happy the Nova Corps has returned.  Moreover, that group seems to be the Raptors, one of whom is inexplicably armed with Mar-Vell’s Nega-Bands.  All that clearly didn’t happen last issue.  But, Duggan is at least keeping us moving with the story at hand.  As part of their effort to root out spies within the Nova Corps, Peter and Rich arrive at an outpost Commander Adsit worried had gone rogue.  However, they learn the outpost went silent after they discovered a traitor alerting the Shi’ar they have an Infinity Stone.  Dun-dun-DUN!  My only real complaint here is Duggan gives short shrift to Peter and Rich’s reunion.  OK, it’s funny Peter punches Rich because he’s mad he wasn’t Rich’s first call.  But, really?  No one told Peter?  It's totally unbelievable Peter didn’t know because, as Rich tells Peter, even Gamora knew.  After all, Gamora and Peter had a knock-down, drag-out fight about Peter’s complicity in Rich getting stuck in the Cancerverse during “Original Sin."  But, she failed to mention he’d been saved?  I want some bro-hugs and man tears, stat!

Amazing Spider-Man #791:  OK, I admit, when Rubylyn tells Peter in so many words he only got the job because Robbie treats him like I son, I really wish he would’ve shot back that he’d been working at the “Bugle” since she was in short pants.  But, I guess that’s not Peter.  Slott wraps up this opening arc nicely.  Robbie makes Peter the new science editor at the “Bugle,” responsible for publishing a Sunday supplement every week.  Peter and Robbie seem to dispense with the idea Robbie doesn’t know Peter is Spider-Man, as Robbie stresses the flexible work hours in his initial conversation about the job with Peter.  Slott will hopefully do more with Peter's science-team members as a supporting cast than he did with the Shanghai PI staff, who Slott seemed to think we would magically remember after they appeared in a few panels and weren’t seen again for several issues.  I'm hoping something more along the lines of the Horizon staff.  Turning to the action, Slott honors the spirit of Legacy by delivering a one-and-done story that feels like today would've been a complicated, six-part cross-over event.  A wealthy industrialist named Tony Star...er...Xander Zynn (you know he’s a bad guy because his initials are X.Z.) is creating robots to be put in homes next year.  Bobbi is working security for him, and she gets Peter and his team a tour of his facilities.  When one of the bots tries to kill Colin (the guy Peter corrected last issue) after he fiddles with it, Peter literally jumps to his rescue.  However, he and Bobbi raise a collective eyebrow when the robot asks him to kill it.  Mockingbird and Spider-Man return that night and, long story short, it turns out Zynn captured Quicksand and turned her into the personality matrices.  (That’s some pretty evil-genius stuff right there.)  Peter assumes it’s Sandman, but he's surprised to learn it's one of the Thor’s villains; Bobbi assures him it can’t be all about him.  Slott purposefully leaves some loose ends here:  Bobbi expresses concern to herself Peter is still spending as much time as Spider-Man as possible, Zynn will clearly return, oh, and Harry and Liz’s nanny is stealing blood from the boys.  Overall, this series is starting to feel like it did during the "Big Time! hey-day of Slott's run, though I'm sure we'll go the rails again and have Aunt May become Venom.

Ben Reilly:  Scarlet Spider #10:  Given the scream that ends this issue when Ben looks in the mirror, I assume we’re going to see the degenerative disease has once again scarred his face after he almost beat Silas Thorne to death.  So freaking clever, that Peter David.  Instead of a soul meter, we get Ben’s face as our measure of how well he’s doing in winning back Soul Points (TM).  Meanwhile, the new Hornet is also named Silas, and Dusk arrives on the scene.  However, we’re first introduced to her when she’s spying on the woman who killed the taxi driver last issue; we learn the man she's visiting is her father, Mysterio.  Also, the little girl who made friends with the old woman we’ve seen a few times has glowing red eyes, which can’t be good.  In other words, man, we have a lot going on here.

Hawkeye #12:  The best part of this issue isn't just the amazing banter -- and, man, it is amazing -- but the implication Kate and Laura have hung out together many times.  I'm pretty sure they've never canonically met, but Thompson makes it clear they have a warm relationship.  To be honest, it's not hard to believe they get along well.  It just sort of makes sense.  Also, Thompson does a great job of scripting a pretty normal conversation; Laura talks about how Gabby changed her life, and Kate admits she has problems asking for help.  It's pretty rare to see an extended conversation that has nothing to do with advancing a specific plot.  As I mentioned in another review, Thompson's holistic focus on Kate and her life is this series' greatest strength, and it's on full display here.  I can't wait to see what she does with Clint.  (Also, Lucky and Jonathan, Gabby's pet wolverine, playing together is adorable.)

Peter Parker:  The Spectacular Spider-Man #297:  I don't understand why they keep calling Teresa Peter's "half-sister."  She's either his full sister or not his sister all; they can't just split the difference.  At any rate, this issue is a thrill-a-minute as Peter has to escape the S.W.A.T. team without his Spider-Sense (thanks to Natasha helping the Gray Blade test its parameters in issue #1) and without revealing he's Spider-Man.  Zdarsky really goes to town, showing us why Peter's smarts are his greatest asset.  The S.W.A.T. commander has apparently "sworn an oath" to the Gray Blade, and I'm not entirely sure how it suddenly became some sort of cult.  Like, aren't they just a S.H.I.E.L.D. splinter group?  Do people really need to swear oaths?  Also, I get the commander is on board with the goal, but isn't someone going to raise an eyebrow when the S.W.A.T. team basically destroys an entire apartment complex searching for Peter?  I mean, it's New York after all.  The best part, though, is obviously Jonah saving Peter and then immediately telling him he owes him thousands of dollars for all the Spidey photos he bought over the years.  Good luck with that, Jonah.

Spider-Men II #4:  After four issues, Bendis finally let's us know what the point of this series is.  It turns out this Universe's Miles' wife Barbara died.  The Kingpin attended the funeral, coming after the death of his own wife, Vanessa.  He told Miles he was so grief-stricken after Vanessa died he hired all sorts of people who could return Vanessa to him, and he discovered the existence of other dimensions where she lived.  This knowledge was comforting to him.  However, Miles wants more:  he hired Taskmaster to find a dimension where Barbara -- his Barbara -- was alive.  I still don't see how this Miles and "our" Miles have anything in common other than a name, but hopefully Bendis will get there.  Meanwhile, our Miles confirms that he knows his dimension no longer exists and that only a few people (including his resurrected Uncle Aaron, according to the most recent issue of his series) know that.  Given we've had two full company-wide events since "Secret Wars," it's probably time to wrap up this nagging question.

X-Men Blue #15:  I guess this cross-over event was fun.  I know it was supposed to be some meta-ode to the X-Men's history, as Mojo sent the X-Men against their greatest villains.  But, somewhere along the way, I think I lost the plot (literally).  He was supposedly using the "mental energy from everyone who watches his programming" to terraform New York into another corner of the Mojoverse, but I'm not entirely sure why (let alone how) he was doing that.  But, the X-Men (actually, Magneto and Polaris) foil Mojo's plans, somehow severing his link to the Mojoverse and stranding him and his flunkies in New York.  Apparently, a secondary objective was setting up the Mojo news network on Earth, so that should be fun.  Separately, can everyone stop ranting about the fact Magneto is supposed to be dead?  He's been dead a hot minute.  It's not like when Jean Grey returns; I get why someone would be surprised by that.  Also, he's been on the X-Men's side ever since Scott set up Utopia.  I don't get why Kitty is still treating him as an archenemy, particularly given, as Colossus reminds her, he saved her life.  Pet peeve #3 means you don't get credit for using a character to point out a plot inconsistency.  I'm trying to be open-minded to this reboot, but, honestly, I still find moments like this one happening way too often.  It was nice to see Longshot, though.

Also Read:  Champions #14; Mighty Thor #701; Star Wars:  Darth Vader #8; Star Wars:  Dr. Aphra #14

Not-So-New Comics: The November 15 Edition - DC, Image, and Valiant (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

I don't think I've ever had to split up a review before.  But, for some reason, I got 18 comics this week, and I can't fit all the labels in one post.  So, here we go readers, the first split weekly edition!

The Batman Who Laughs #1:  Not surprisingly, this issue is grim.  The Batman Who Laughs is created when Bruce finally snaps and kills Joker.  He does so after Joker not only dissolves Commissioner Gordon in acid but seems to have his minions lining up families so he can kill the parents in front of their children and Batman.  (This part is inspired in its evilness.)  But, Bruce doesn't go to the dark side just because he killed Joker.  Joker brilliantly has a toxin release the moment he dies, and it slowly but surely rewrites Bruce's brain patters so his moral code is in line with Joker's.  Before he dies, Joker tells Batman it was time for them to evolve together.  You'd think the darkest moment would be when Bruce tricked Barbara, Dick, Jason, and Tim into the Batcave's training room so he could kill them all.  This moment is chilling, and Tynion builds to it well.  Bruce confesses to the four of them the virus has him in its grips, and they think Bruce is telling them he wants them to kill him.  Instead, he reveals he needed them distracted while the virus took full control of him, since they would've noticed the change had they not been distraught.  He then shoots them with automatic weapons.  (Did I mention this issue is grim?)  But, no, the darkest moment is when Bruce infects Clark and Jon with black Kryptonite so they are driven to rip apart Lois.  Yup.  Every terrible device is a perfectly constructed nightmare for each character, showing how well Tynion really understands them.  The only mystery we're left pondering is who the figure wrapped in bandages is; Bruce has been narrating the story to him.  Presumably we'll learn more in "Dark Nights:  Metal."

Justice League #33 ("Dark Nights:  Bats Out of Hell" #4):  This issue reads like a bad after-school special.  Cyborg and the Justice League spout a never-ending series of clichéd sports metaphors to cover up the fact the plot makes no sense.  We learned in a previous issue that Cyborg’s Mother Box is comprised of “Element X,” apparently the holy grail of all these metals and something the Batman Who Laughs needs 
to achieve his goals.  (It seems to be distinct from Nth metal, but I'm not entirely sure.)  The Mother Box itself asks Victor to surrender to it completely so it can take out the Dark Knights, but Victor refuses, deciding to hold onto his humanity.  He does so partly because Raven encourages him to do so telepathically, but I honestly have no idea when she appeared on the board.  Is she even a character in the DCnU?  No idea.  The script here is so cheesy you actually find yourself wishing he’d have surrendered.  I’d rather endless “pings.”  At any rate, this new Victor (“Cyborg One Million, baby!”) is apparently connected to the Multiverse and he now can do anything, like free the Justice League.  They then free Dr. Fate, Deathstroke, and Mister Terrific, who were apparently also captured when the Justice League was in "Flash" #33 (though I don’t think that was made clear at the time).  Everyone then makes a tactical retreat, and the original teams resume their missions to collect the Nth metal while Victor takes Flash and Raven on a “Hail Mary” pass mission.  In other words, we end exactly where we started this mini-series, except for Victor being free.  This issue is really the only miss in “Dark Nights:  Metal” so far, but, man, it is seriously a miss.

Batman #35:  If there's a moment that encapsulates Batman's relationship with Talia, it's her crawling to him to tell him she like Catwoman after Catwoman stabbed her in the back with a sword.  Catwoman and Talia may fight over Batman in this issue, but it's not by any stretch of the imagination a stereotypical catfight.  They might be using swords, but they're actually having a conversation.  Talia tells Catwoman the story of how harsh her father was in raising her, giving her a sword the day she took her first steps, and Catwoman tells Talia she never met her father, so no one ever gave her anything.  Talia tells Catwoman Bruce is her (Talia's) only equal, and Catwoman laughs at the pedestal on which Talia has placed Bruce.  She shows her unique insight into him by telling Talia he is broken and cracked.  Moreover, he's obsessed with a childish vow he'll put above all other vows, including the one he eventually makes to her.  But, she loves him, so she's stuck with that.  Talia really legitimately accepts that.  King and Jones really make that clear.  Talia realizes she not only doesn't see him the same way Selina does but also that Selina probably sees him more clearly.  She basically gives them her blessing.  Selina manages to defeat her and makes her way to Holly, asking her (and not demanding from her) that she return to Gotham and confess that she murdered 237 people so Selina can be happy.  Meanwhile, Dick and Damian sit vigil outside Khadym, and Dick correctly posits that Bruce wants to be happy, but that requires asking something of someone and it's hard for him to do that.  By the time Bruce and Selina meet the boys outside Khadym, the Batfamily really feels like a family.  Jason and Tim aren't Dick and Damian.  Bruce's sons are essentially picking up their father and step-mother from the airport after their honeymoon and, man, am excited.

Bloodshot Salvation #3:  Lemire has always been a guy with a plan, and he proves that again here.  Project Omen comes online and deactivates all operating nanites just as Bloodshot is ready to kill Daddy; he suddenly becomes human again, and Daddy sees it as divine intervention.  However, we know this “turn-off” period doesn’t last, since Soviet Man and Viet Man save Magic and her daughter from Rampage in the present.  They then take her to a woman named Punk Mambo who connects her with Ray’s consciousness.  It turns out he’s not dead, as everyone thought:  he’s stuck in 4002.  It's obviously unclear how he goes from seemingly getting beaten to death on Daddy's farm to physically transported to 4002, but I’m sure Lemire will get there.  In the meantime, he’s keeping us guessing as he always does.  I shook my head as Daddy proclaimed God had saved him from Bloodshot and set his followers on him, a brilliantly timed moment Lemire has clearly been planning from the start.  Jeff Lemire, everyone.

The Realm #3:  Jesus, every time you think this issue can’t get darker, it does.  First, the most interesting part of the story is our various groups all seem to be converging on the same spot.  The teenager from last issue, Eli, leads the group to safety on the surface, and Will and Molly debate whether they can trust him as they search the area for “locals.”  At camp, David plays with some glowing rocks, which seems to imply he has some magical powers.  Meanwhile, the bearded warrior from the last two issues attacks the goblins who survived chasing the party underground.  (The creature that appeared at the end of last issue attacked them just as they were close to catching Will and company.)  Will and Molly find the kid who awoke in the ring of fire last issue, and we learn he’s been on his own for weeks.  He’s then hit full in the chest with a spear.  It looks grim, but the cover for next issue shows him stitching up his own chest so...maybe it's not.  The only group that doesn’t seem to be converging on this spot is the team of orcs Eldritch “helps” in their fight against an unknown enemy.  The lead orc, Redjaw, dismisses his assistance (he threw some spells from his dragon) and later complains to his human lover that Eldritch has found favor with their master.  Based on these comments and the goblins’ chatter at camp before the bearded guy attacks, it’s clear the mystical forces that came to Earth follow not only the same master but also the same religious beliefs.  At any rate, the authors seem to be building to a major conflict as everyone makes first contact.  It's early for them to kill off everyone, so we'll see how that goes.

The Wild Storm #9:  We continue to get more information about Marlowe's home world in this issue.  We learn it was hierarchical:  the more syllables in your name, the less important you were.  John had eight syllables with a “u” sound in the middle, meaning he was an individual of no particular value; Kenesha had three syllables in her name, making her an exalted servant of the ruling class; and someone called “Emp” (“one syllable, ruling class”) was the head of their expedition.  At some point in long-ago Japan, John had to kill a bunch of samurai to retrieve an important artifact, “the old technology” Emp apparently kept under his bed.  (Said item appears on one of the work benches in the shop Marlowe prepared for Angie.)  Meanwhile, at IO, Ivana makes Miles aware Jackie’s “air gapped red team with event shielding” exercise is happening, and, under questioning from Miles, Jackie confesses she’s securely trying to see if she can extract data from Skywatch station.  Miles warns her not to do anything without his authorization.  They also discuss something called Project Thunderbook, a “Directors Eyes Only” exercise the previous director, John Lynch, ran that was so secretive a dozen people killed themselves the week after he quit and three buildings mysteriously caught fire.  Even Miles doesn’t know what it was, but Jackie informs him Cash was part of it.  Also, Jackie’s assistant Mitch previously made Jackie aware John (but known to them as third-party contractor “Wilson Flowers”) escaped Hightower.  Mitch isn’t too bright, because he uses all sorts of location-tracking software despite Jackie telling him not to do so.  It probably means Zealot is going to kidnap him next issue after Skywatch ordered her to keep a closer eye on IO.  As I frequently say about this series, curiouser and curiouser.

Also Read:  Nightwing #3

Monday, December 18, 2017

Not-So-New Comics: The November 8 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batman:  Lost #1:  Long-time "Batman" readers will probably do a better job of picking out the meaningful nods to his history that pepper this issue.  But, Snyder manages to make his point clear even without that.  Bruce is stuck floating through his own past, and Barbatos foils his every effort to escape by telling him he's nothing special:  Barbatos has been the driving force behind his entire existence, setting up every moment in history that brought about his creation so he could serve as the doorway.  Barbatos makes Bruce doubt everything, even convincing him Barbatos has really been the detective, not Bruce. This attack at his will leaves him unable to break free of his history, doomed to constantly repeat it and face the fact Barbatos has allegedly been directing it from the start.  Snyder has been painting such a dark picture over these last few months that you almost begin to believe Barbatos, and it's this belief that makes you realize how full of despair Bruce must be for believing it as well.

Detective Comics #968:  Tynion wraps up this story well by essentially not providing us a definitive conclusion.  The tension in the issue comes from Future Tim using the suit Ulysses is holding at the Colony helicarrier to re-activate the drones, sending them after Batwoman.  He takes down the guys in the Cave in pretty quick succession and then takes Tim with him to the Belfry to finish off Batwoman himself.  But, he's misunderestimated his control through Brother Eye.  Apparently, in his world, Batwing didn't take over the Belfry, so Tim was able to run his routines through Batwing's servers, buying them a window of time.  Plus, some of the equipment in the Batcave was running off older servers, allowing the guys to fly Batplanes to take out the drones.  (Jason is needless to say thrilled, and the moment Bruce has to end his squabbling with Damian with a simple, "Boys, focus," is hilarious.)  Brother Eye knows it's defeated, so he prepares to return Future Tim to his time.  He never reveals what Batwoman does, and Tynion doesn't really give us a reason for it.  Presumably, if he really wanted to "save" Tim by removing the threat Batwoman poses, he'd tell him.  Of course, it's possible he did off-panel, and we'll learn that later.  If not, I'm not quite sure I'd buy it.  Even Nightwing at one point asks if they could all just talk, and I don't get why Future Tim doesn't go that route.  (Per pet peeve #3, I'm not giving Tynion credit for having one of his characters point out a illogical part of the script.)  At any rate, he leaves begging Tim to enjoy the time he has before everything goes wrong, and the last panel shows how upset Tim is by this entire arc.  I'm certainly excited to see where we go from him.  We still haven't really explored Tim's return, since he was so busy fighting Future Tim, so I'm hoping Tynion takes some time to do that over the next few issues.

Falcon #2:  Barnes seems to be playing Blackheart for a fool, and I'm honestly not sure how I feel about that.  We learn Blackheart has decided to take over Earth as a way to earn a seat at the table where the most powerful beings in the Universe gather once a year to tell their best stories.  Apparently when he asked his father Mephisto for a seat he banished him to the seventh circle of Hell for a millennium.  Maybe take the hint, Blackheart?  But, he doesn't, and he's decided Dray is going to rule Earth once he conquers it, earning him said spot at the table.  But, Dray seems an...odd choice for a ruler, as he makes it pretty clear he's only there to get paid.  You may also be asking what anything here has to do with Falcon, and you'd be asking the right question.  The disappointing part is Barnes' script is so solid when he focuses on Sam, particularly in his interactions with Dr. Voodoo and Shaun.  The conversation flows so naturally you feel like you're actually watching the conversations.  But, these nice moments are overshadowed by Blackheart's chaos, and it leaves me still wondering how I feel about it all.

Moon Knight #188:  Whoa.  I mean, holy fucking shit.  I can't remember a series that started without the main character actually making an appearance, but that sense of anticipation just helps add to the tension of the issue.  But, it's not the only source of tension.  The story focuses on a psychiatrist, Dr. Emmett, who previously treated Marc Spector but who I don't recognize from the Lemire/Smallwood run (the only one I've read).  She's treating "the Nameless One," a patient who served in the Army but burned several soldiers to death after they tortured him (stripped him naked, forced him to drink urine, etc.).  He claims to have experience a religious awakening in doing so, and Emmett recognizes the parallels between his story and Marc's.  She decides to introduce him to Egyptian mythology as a way to help him process his trauma.  She tells him the story of Amon Ra, with the sun often representing the "sovereignty of masculinity," and Khonshu, with the moon representing femininity and the power of insubordination.  At this point, it becomes clear Bemis is creating an archenemy for Marc, and the issue becomes chilling.  Emmett visits the military hospital where the Nameless One was originally treated, and a patient there accosts her.  Before the orderlies drag him from her, he tells her he was in the same platoon as the Nameless One when the incident happened and that he managed to burn those soldiers with his hands still tied.  Emmett is called to Ravencroft for an emergency, and we learn the Nameless One attacked one of the nurses, ripping off her nose because she didn't believe he was a god.  When he asks Emmett his name, she offers Khonshu, and it's a reflection of her hope he's accepted the redemption she was offering.  Instead, in her words, he accepted Amon Ra's power as the abuser, and he sets her and the institution on fire, pleading to destroy Khonshu.

Star Wars: #38:  Something Gillen does surprisingly well here — even for someone with his considerable talents — is get the mood of the series right.  As a new author getting his shot at working with such iconic characters, I’m sure it was tempting to go balls-to-the-wall here, to tell a story reminiscent of Aaron’s opening arc.  But, he’s more subdued, because the characters are more subdued.  They’ve had all sorts of experiences in the last few months:  they destroyed the Imperial weapons factory on Cymoon 1, they’ve escaped Grakkus on Nar Shaddaa and Darth Vader on Vrogas Vas, they’ve been stalked on Sunspot Prison, they steal a Star Destroyer to rescue Tureen VII, they saved Luke (again) from the Screaming Citadel.  In this issue, they’re still trying to find a base, and you can tell they’re tired.  Leah may be indomitable, but everyone else has an edge.


Titans #17:  I haven't been a huge fan of this series for a while, but Abnett delivers one of his better issues here.  We learn future
Diana Troy, calling herself Troia, has traveled to the past to kill the Titans, saving herself 80 years of heartache.  WTF, you ask?  Diana is apparently immortal; as Karen dies of natural causes in 2091, Diana loses the last of the Titans and wonders why she bothered caring in the first place.  Abnett makes it pretty clear Troia is insane here; it's a much different conversation than the one Future Tim has with his counterpart in "Detective Comics."  She goes on a murder spree after Karen's death, killing everyone from Darkseid to Wonder Woman (for telling the lie in the first place).  My only real problem with this issue is the question why it took Diana so long to get here.  Abnett has been advancing this story through Psimon's grim warnings for months, and it seems to me like Abnett had a number of more straightforward ways to go here.

The Wild Storm:  Michael Cray #2:  OK, the art is terrible, but the story is solid.  First, Michael has Trelane hire him a team of three support staff to help him with his missions; he auditions them in a steampunk VR game.  We've got Hector Morales the trap-builder, Leon Carver the strategist, and Victoria the assassin.   He then poses as a Afghanistan vet to get transported to Queen's island, where Queen immediately IDs him.  They're in hand-to-hand combat before you know it, and Michael disintegrates Queen's arm.  Queen advances on him. but Victoria has apparently followed him and takes out Queen.  It's a surprising moment; I thought this story was going to last longer.  But, when Trelane reveals Michael's next target is dirty cop Barry Allen, it appears Hill and Ellis have a bigger story planned.  Is Michael going to kill his world's versions of the Justice League?  We'll have to wait and see.  Meanwhile, throughout the issue, Michael is examined by Dr. Shahi, who reveals he's not dying of brain cancer.  Instead, he has some sort of secondary brain (a "second layer" of "normal synaptic processes") coming online, but she refuses to tell him more.  She wants to cure him; he wants to be able to use the power to take out the bad guys.  We'll see how that goes.

Also Read:  Generation X #8; Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #32; Uncanny Avengers #29; X-Men Gold #15

Friday, December 15, 2017

Not-So-New Comics: The November 1 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batman:  The Devastator #1:  These tie-in issues have really been much, much better than I expected them to be, and this one is no different.  Like the other authors, Tieri makes this Batman’s pain palpable, and he had a rougher road than pretty much all the others:  he had to turn himself into Doomsday to take out a crazed Superman.  He talks about the moment as building a wall of bone around his heart so he could do what he never thought he would have to do, and Tieri does a great job of reminding us how hard it is for Bruce to trust someone in the first place.  Unlike the other issues, though, this one is also directly related to the main plot, as Barbatos has this Batman steal the tuning fork from the Fortress of Solitude and place it on the mountain in Gotham.  It seems pretty clear it’s going to interact with the battery Superman is powering in the Dark Dimension (per "Dark Nights:  Metal" #3), and that doesn’t seem to bode well for our gang.

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy #146:  Duggan does a great job of establishing the status quo while also throwing us right into the middle of the action.  Someone’s sabotaging the Nova Corps from the inside, so the Guardians agree to help root out the traitor(s).  The Nova Corps' new commander Scott Adsit — yes, that Scott Adsit — sends Ant-Man and Gamora to a fleet of ships sending a distress signal, and they discover Ultron is spreading his virus through the passengers.  (It’s grim.)  Meanwhile, Peter discovers Richard Rider is still alive, and I can’t wait for that bro hug (and for Richard to ask why he’s blond and in possession of two real eyes).  I dropped this series during Bendis’ run after stories like "The Black Mirror,” where it just felt like he had no idea what he was doing with the team.  I like Duggan, though, so I’m excited to see what he does with this crew, particularly if it involves Richard joining.  Moreover, the Fraternity of Raptors presumably means the “Darkhawk” #51 issue Marvel is publishing in January is going to play a role here.  I almost literally can’t wait.

Batman #34:  OMG, this issue is the best issue ever.  I’m almost loathe to review it, because it feels like ruining it’s magic (the second time, I believe, I’ve said that about one of King’s issues).  It just has all sorts of amazing moments between Bruce and Selena, where her personality in particular shines like a diamond.  It reminds you why he’s attracted to her, why she’s a challenge for him.  She seems to treat Talia as simply a rival for Bruce's affection in her banter, but King makes it clear she understands the threat Talia poses perfectly well.  Moreover, Bruce’s detective work is spectacular as he deduces the gunless, tongueless ninjas Talia sent after them were just there to tire them.  We're also treated to more excellent Dick and Damian interactions, with Damian actually thanking “Richard” for coming with him, and Dick telling him he’s with him all the way to the end.  (I think I have some sand in my eye.)  King's Damian is just a damn treat:  he tells Superman (who prevents him and Dick from entering Khadym) he’d simply sell his soul to a demon (“blah blah blah”) and use magic to kill him instead of kryptonite like everyone else tries. Supes wisely tells him he believes him, but also that Jon probably wouldn’t want to go adventuring with him anymore.  In other words, this issue is a tour de force of characterization and everyone should read it right now.  #issueoftheyear

Batman:  White Knight #2:  Murphy really is telling a sprawling (in the best way) story here, as Jack tries to stay on track in his push to save Gotham.  Hilariously, we learn cheerleader Harley replaced original Harley at some point without Joker noticing.  This revelation comes as cheerleader Harley refuses his proposal (because she loved him for the chaos), and original Harley knocks her on her ass and accepts the proposal (because she loved him for him, but left him after she realized he loved Batman more than anyone or anything.)  It’s remarkably clever, not just as a joke but as a sign of how completely demented Joker had become.  Original Harley (or Harleen) also serves the role of psychiatrist for us, explaining the pills are working because Jack has a chemical imbalance that exacerbates the personality traits that made him the Joker in the first place.  It means all those traits are still there, and Murphy makes it clear Joker is stalking Jack every step of the way.  All that said, perhaps the most intriguing part is the revelation that the fate of Jason Todd is unclear.  In the past, Harleen fled to Batman as Joker was beating Jason to death, but, when they arrived on the scene, Jason was gone.  If I had to guess, Jason will return, revealing he left because he couldn’t stand the violence any more.  That would strike a blow to Bruce.  Murphy also does a great job of showing Bruce rattled as one of his peers admits he (and pretty much everyone else) has used Batman’s war on crime to rake in profits (in this guy's case, flipping real estate in the poor neighborhoods where Batman is active).  Murphy showing Jack/Joker as a hero of the 99% is particularly topical, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see the themes he develops here appear in the mainstream Bat-books soon.

Captain America #695:  Waid makes the right call in starting from a place of hope.  He’s going to have to spend a whole bunch of issues detailing a world where not everyone trusts Steve anymore.  But, honestly, the world right now is grim enough.  We don’t need to lose all hope.  Waid has Cap travel to a small town in Nebraska he saved from a group of white supremacists called the Remnant right after he was unfrozen.  They renamed the town after him, and they hold a Captain America festival every year.  They believe in Steve, even if some people are mad he didn’t return from “the trap” earlier than he did.  Steve isn’t just there to soak in the adoration:  his intelligence sources discovered a reformed Remnant was going to attack the festival, so he’s on hand to stop it.  Waid clearly has big plans for the Remnant, and he seems to be inspired by the “debate” we had during the inauguration when someone punched Richard Spencer.  Waid is clearly on the “always punch a Nazi” side, and Cap is the living embodiment of that principle.  Waid sometimes gives short shrift to characters’ emotions (see his current "Avengers" run), but he’s pretty on target here when it comes to the townspeople’s adoration for Steve.  A grown-up version of the girl Steve saved ten years earlier is there, a stand-in for the reader when it comes to Cap inspiring us.  I hope Waid maintains a firm grip on those emotions as he has Cap navigate this strange new world.

Iceman #7:  After the OG Champions make short work of the Sentinels (since, after all, they're not fully programmed Sentinels), Bobby and Judah resume their date.  Grace makes the brilliant call of having Bobby refuse to dish the next morning after Angel tells the team he didn't come home that night.  I like the idea of Bobby having some privacy, even from us.  I don't need this series to descend into gay porn, after all.  (Hopefully someone'll just handle that on DeviantArt.)  Instead, Bobby tells the story about how he was a sexist asshole the first time he met Natasha and how she (unsurprisingly) called him on it.  The guys give him a gentle ribbing for his awkward attempt at hitting on her, but Darkstar tells him not to be embarrassed; he doesn't have to be, because it's part of the journey that brought him to where he is now.  Bobby holds onto his newfound sensitivity by visiting the Sentinel engineer and encouraging her to contact one of his old professors at UCLA, since she should be teaching mechanical engineering and not working in props.  It's a lovely moment:  he comments on the importance of having professors believe in you.  In the end, he finds himself at the Mansion enjoying life happening around him.  But, he also realizes the X-Men don't need him in the same way anymore so he decides to move to Los Angeles!  Hurrah!  My wish came true!  Complicating matters, his mom discovered his younger self (Lil' Bobby, as Warren calls their younger counterparts) is in the present.  Again, there are moments where I feel like we're off a beat or two in this series, but Grace seems to have a better handle on Bobby with each passing issue.  I'm definitely here for the long haul. 

Peter Parker:  The Spectacular Spider-Man #6:  I said a few issues ago this series is becoming my Spider-Man series, and this issue proved it.  It’s the most emotional Spider-Man issues in years, and it reminds me of the good ol’ days.  Zdarsky might’ve been hired to write a funny Spider-Man, but he delivers two amazingly multi-faceted characters in this issue as Jonah and Peter go head to head.  Each one gives as good as he gets, as Jonah argues hiding behind the mask makes Spidey a coward (noting cops have to live with the consequences of their actions) and Peter reminds him he’s used his power and wealth to try to kill him several times (and endangered civilians' lives in the process).  But, Jonah is left broken when Peter tells him he’s nothing, admitting his vendetta — something he promised Marla he’d get past, as Zdarsky reminds us — is the only thing he has left, since it’ll be the only thing to prove it all hasn’t been futile.  Zdarsky does a brilliant job building the tension to this moment, and it’s released when Peter reveals his identity to Jonah, to convince him he’s not alone.  Wow.  Just wow.  It’s really a spectacular (heh heh) issue, and every Spider-Man fan should read it.  For years now — really, ever since “One Day More” — Marvel has bent over backwards to make sure its characters’ continuities doesn’t change.  But, they throw off that caution with abandon here, and it’s well worth it.  Game fucking on.  Move over, Slott.  Our new Spider-Man storyteller is here.  #issueoftheyear

Spider-Man #234:  Wow, a lot happens here.  First, Fabio returns, and we learn he left because he’s in love with Lana and he figured Lana would fall into Miles’ arms after he beat up Hammerhead for her.  He’s thrilled to see Miles is instead dating Barbara, but Miles is a little stupefied when he learns Lana loves him.  For her part, Lana is having a rough time.  Her mother is someone called Bombshell (as I’m sure long-time readers know), and she’s just been freed from prison as the result of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s collapse.  But, Lana makes it clear she’s a hero now and tells her mother that she never wants to see her again.  Miles decides to follow an ambulance not in his uniform as part of his ongoing uncertainty about using the Spider-Man identity.  But, most importantly, Uncle Aaron is back as the Iron Spider, thanks to Ceres the weaponsmith.  He’s putting together his own Sinister Six (including Bombshell) to steal a decommissioned S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier.  Interestingly enough, he outright says this Earth isn't his world, which again raises the question how much everyone here knows about their current circumstances.  Miles is going to have a rough few days.

Also Read:  Justice League #32; Nightwing #32; Astonishing X-Men #5; Avengers #673; Star Wars:  Darth Vader #7

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Not-So-New Comics: The October 25 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

For some reason, I didn't really have a lot to say about the October 25 releases.  It's not necessarily a bad thing; they were all really solid issues.  "Ben Reilly:  Scarlet Spider" #9, "Bloodshot Salvation" #2, "Detective Comics" #967, and "Nightwing:  The New Order" #3 all significantly advanced their plots, and I thoroughly enjoyed "Quantum and Woody! #0.0001½.  But, I guess not much seemed particularly noteworthy.

Dark Nights:  Gotham Resistance (Teen Titans #12, Nightwing #29, Suicide Squad #26, and Green Arrow #32):  I finally had to admit I was enjoying “Dark Nights” so much I decided to go back and buy these issues.  (I read "Nightwing" #29 when it was released on September 20.)  The authors do a great job in keeping the story connected issues to issue as some members of the Suicide Squad and Teen Titans get possessed by the Batman Who Laugh’s Damian while the other members join with Green Arrow, Mister Terrific, and Nightwing to get to the heart of Challengers' Mountain in the middle of Gotham.  It actually helped reading these issues after reading "Dark Nights:  Metal" #3, since it's clear the music and voices Dick is hearing is Bruce telling him not to come rescue him.  Dick doesn't exactly hit the nail on the head in interpreting that message, deciding instead Bruce is dead or lost.  (That said, he was a helluva lot closer to interpreting the message correctly than Clark was.)  The main outcome of this cross-over event in terms of the larger story was Damian seemingly mortally wounding his counterpart with Nth metal.  Mister Terrific arrives to whisk the remaining team members — Damian, Dick, Green Arrow, and Mister Terrific — to the Oblivion Bar, as we saw in "Dark Nights:  Metal" #3.  Here, Green Arrow reveals what they've learned about the Nth metal, setting the ball rolling for the rest of the series.  Beyond just advancing the larger plot, the authors really show the despair the characters are beginning to feel, particularly Dick and Harley; you understand why Dick is such a mess in “Dark Nights:  Metal” #3.  The only criticism I have of this mini-event is I didn’t really buy Harley and Killer Croc feeling some sort of patriotism for Gotham, but it’s a minor complaint.  All in all, it's a solid event that anyone reading "Dark Nights:  Metal" would benefit from reading.

Flash #33 ("Dark Nights:  Bats Out of Hell" #1):  This issue starts immediately after Superman enters the Dark Dimension, as Murder Machine and Devastator arrive to steal the tuning fork (as seen in “Batman:  The Devastator” #1).  Interestingly, Devastator destroys the fork, saying he’ll bring it to Barbatos only after he rebuilds it.  Why would he need to rebuild it?  Is that going to provide the loophole the League needs to defeat Barbatos?  Meanwhile, Barbatos kidnaps the various League members from their missions to lock down more Nth metal, separating Arthur, Barry, Diana, and Hal from their partners and sending them against their Dark Dimension counterparts.  This entire event has been building to this moment, and I can see why these issues were sold as essential to the overall story.

Amazing Spider-Man #790:  OK, first, I have to say, I could overlook a lot here just given how beautiful the art is.  Honestly, in 35 years of reading Spider-Man comics, I can't remember them ever looking as good.  (Yes, I'm not a McFarlane fan.)  As mentioned in the letters column, Immonen really has an amazing (heh) ability to convey motion; at certain points during Peter's fight with Johnny and later Clash, it really felt like I was watching a movie.  But, the good news is I don't have to overlook anything.  Slott is telling a really bang-up story.  I love the idea of Peter committing to going on an apology tour, showing how solid of a guy he is; as Harry says, most companies would've just sent some lawyers to sign the settlements on their behalf.  I'm also glad Slott is continuing to keep the Robin Hood version of Clash here.  I even liked Peter continuing to somewhat uncharacteristically look the other way when it comes to Clash, as he does here when Clash steals back the tech he developed for Parker Industries.  It was a little questionable previously, but something about it now feels like it reflects Peter's new worldview after the fall of PI.  Is he really going to sweat Clash stealing back the technology he himself created?  He has bigger fish to fry.  Meanwhile, I wonder if the developments in "Uncanny Avengers" means Johnny is going to buy back the Baxter Building.  (Are the Avengers going to live there?)  It seems too perfectly timed for it not to be true.  In other words, Slott and the art team have really hit a home run when it comes to a Legacy story that feels and looks like the Spider-Man stories of my youth, and I hope it lasts as long as possible.

Also Read:  Batman:  The Merciless #1; Detective Comics #967; Nightwing:  The New Order #3; Bloodshot Salvation #2; Quantum and Woody  #0.00011/2; Rebels:  These Free and Independent Starts #8; Ben Reilly:  Scarlet Spider #9; U.S.Avengers #11; X-Men Blue #14

Monday, December 11, 2017

Not-So-New Comics: The October 18 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Batman #33:  As Jason says, when Damian cries, you know it’s bad.  King does a really lovely job with this issue.  My only real complaint is Jones uses lines like Liefeld does.  Although it works when depicting Bruce and Selena in their rugged Bat and Cat of Arabia outfits, it doesn’t work at all for faces:  Dick looks like he’s suffering from some sort of wasting disease, Jason looks like his skull has been broken so often his face no longer holds together, and Damian looks like Tim.  But, King’s script is the winner here.  Alfred is forced to break the news to the boys that Bruce proposed to Selena, and they’re suitably surprised/appalled.  (Damian refers to her as “that woman,” implying he’s not exactly excited about his new step-mother.  I look forward to King exploring that relationship.)  Jason is the funniest (not surprisingly), accusing Duke of falling down on the job as Robin for not brightening Bruce’s dark side “and all that crap” so he doesn’t marry a villain.  But, Duke points out Damian is Robin, and Damian starts to cry.  Everyone is again suitably surprised/concerned.  Jason worries they’re all going to die, and Dick goes to comfort him.  Damian reveals why Bruce and Selena have broken into Khadym, as a call from Superman to Alfred has implied:  they’re going after Talia.  In Khadym, Bruce and Selena are essentially on their honeymoon, and King really plays it for all its worth.  A suicide mission is essentially their foreplay.  I’m not sure why Talia is locked past a gate no one can legally pass, but I’m sure King will let us know soon.  At any rate, I’m just thrilled by the focus on the family in this issue and hope King maintains it throughout the arc.

Generation X #7:  There's enough teen angst in this issue to power Tokyo.  Benjamin likes Nathaniel, Nathaniel likes Benjamin but worries Quentin does as well, and Quentin maybe likes Nathaniel but maybe doesn't.  Its all...amazing.  This issue is all about Benji learning how not to be passive in using his powers.  Nathaniel encourages him to trust himself, and Benji almost single-handedly saves the day by snatching the nano-Sentinels.  (It turns out they're not actually non-Sentinels; it was all a trick Kade put together to confirm Quentin was working with the X-Men again.  But, details.)  Quentin encourages him to take it to the next level and tell Nathaniel how he feels.  But, when Nathaniel retracts from his touch for fear of using his powers, Benji falters.  Quentin teases him for it later, telling him he goes after what he wants.  Nathaniel?  I guess we'll see.

Mighty Thor #700:  The weird thing about this issue is, despite it running 55 pages, nothing significant really happens.  Than A story involves Odinson trying to save Karnilla and the Norns from Malekith's forces, as Malekith and his allies seek to free themselves from the destiny the Norns weave.  These pages are just breathtakingly beautiful work from Dauterman, as he displays his usual genius when it comes to panel layouts.  Karnilla eventually falls, and she foretells the death of a god, begging Odinson to ensure Jane doesn't die.  On the very last page, Mangog arrives (freed by K'ythri and Sharra as part of the Ultimate Judgment), and he confronts a re-hammered War Thor.  That's pretty much it.  Jane fights a pretty uninspired fight with She-Hulk in a nod to the long history of Hulk and Thor fights, and Throg makes an appearance.  But, for $5.99, I can't say it's all that impressive.

Nightwing #31:  In a great example of pet peeve #2, this issue has nothing to do with Orca, despite the title on the cover promising it does.  In fact, one of the Whale Enders gang members Dick and Helena confronts specifically mentions Orca isn’t in the game.  Other than that, though, this issue is mostly solid.  We get a fun comment about Dick being good at what he does (between the sheets) from Helena, but it all ends predictably when she realizes Blockbuster - a mafioso - was the one to give Dick the tip on where the Whale Enders were going to pull a heist.  In retrospect, I probably should’ve realized Dick and Helena weren’t long for this world as a couple.  Meanwhile, Shawn goes to Pigeon’s place to warn her about the impending metahuman war in Blüdhaven, but discovers Raptor’s mask, realizing they’re working together.  Raptor goes after Blockbuster in full view of a group of kids from the future business-leaders club, and he’s forced to become Blockbuster in front of them.  Dick later eavesdrops on him refusing to allow his henchmen to kill them (he pays for college instead), and he’s assured Blockbuster does have a moral code, as he swore to Helena.  Higgins is making it pretty clear, though, Dick is playing with fire, and Raptor really does seem the perfect guy to call him on it.

Peter Parker:  The Spectacular Spider-Man #5:  This issue is fun, but exists in an entirely different continuity from "Amazing Spider-Man:"  Peter has his own apartment (and isn't living with Mockingbird), Flash is hiding from everyone (and not having Betty throw him a surprise party), and Peter is trying to date a stand-up comedian (and not Mockingbird).  I get it's supposed to be the "fun" series, and it is, but, seriously, someone has to exert some sort of editorial control here.

The Realm #2:  We have a lot going on here.  Will and his party start on their journey, and we learn Dr. Burke, one of the two scientists in the party, has a secret cargo.  Molly tries to convince him to tell Will what the cargo is and what his plans are, but Burke says the fewer people who know about them the better.  Will continues to be his charming self; as I said last issue, it's a refreshing break from the taciturn ranger we've gotten ever since Stryder made his first appearance in "The Fellowship of the Ring."  Molly is also fun, and their banter is a highlight of the issue, especially when it comes to teasing Rook about being exactly the taciturn ranger Will isn't.  We also get some additional information about the setting.  Molly's associate Laszlo gives David, the other scientist in the party, a gun, and David expresses his discomfort with it.  We learn Burke outright refused one, and Laszlo finds this pacifism ridiculous; as he says, it's been ten years since the "weird shit" started and it's unlikely to stop.  Other characters and stories appear in short sequences:  the bearded sharpshooter we saw last issue takes out some goblin and orcs attacking his town; Eldritch tries to convince his master's council he's not hiding anything from them; and a boy awakens inside a ring of fire on a farm.  It's all a reminder of Haun and Peck's grand plans.  The issue ends with the party under fire from goblins and forced to flee into a the basement of a collapsed building.  They're under pursuit, and a teenager offers to help the party escape.  I'm sure he has no ulterior movies or anything.

The Wild Storm #8:  Ellis has Marlowe do something unprecedented here:  he tells Angie the truth (more or less).  Marlowe walks her through the history of his people, or, at least, the parts of that history he's OK with her knowing.  The races on his planet were a "cooperative clade;" in the Earth context, it would mean Neanderthals and all other forms of humans evolved with us.  (As Angie observes, it's why he's distinct biologically from John and Kenesha.)  Eventually, an expedition was sent to find other intelligent life, but our Universe doesn't have much of it because of the Gaia Bottleneck, where life develops too slowly to survive.  (Davis-Hunt does an amazing job here, showing us abandoned or nearly abandoned planets that make the imagination swell, each panel a story untold.)  Eventually, they found Earth, but they had problems with their ship; since interstellar travel and communication is expensive and difficult, they were presumed lost.  I thought this entire description was fascinating.  Most science-fiction stories portray alien civilizations with an almost unlimited amount of resources, but Ellis' story is all about restraint:  few planets host intelligent life, it's hard to communicate and travel interstellarly, etc.  In the present, Jacob says the Halo Project's goal is to help humanity move past the Bottleneck by combining his people's materials with our technology's cutting edge.  Good stuff, right?  Of course, it's not that simple, as we learn when Kenesha asks Jacob whether he told Angie why they came to Earth and he confirms he didn't.  But, he's given her access to his lab to fix her suit, on the condition she gives him a data dump on it now and later when she's finished.  His goal is to find out how advanced IO really is (mostly so he can figure out whether they know how to kill him).

Meanwhile, at IO, one of the teams going through the Razor C.A.T.s' camera managed to get a shot of Cole before he put on his mask; Jackie (who we learned last issue is IO's chief of analysis) tells Craven that Cole was an IO operative they thought was dead.  She and Craven then focus on Adriana's spacesuit and come to the conclusion the wild C.A.T. might actually be a Skywatch C.A.T. operating outside "the Treaty" on Earth.  To Jackie's mind, it explains why they can't ID Adriana or Kenesha, because they're not technically on Earth.  I thought this entire sequence was fascinating, because it's really, really hard as an author to have characters believe something the reader knows isn't true.  It usually robs the storyline of suspense, since you know the characters will inevitably know what you know.  But, it's the opposite here, because you wonder what havoc IO is going to wreck before they discover the truth, that they've got an entirely different player on the board.  Separately, in an amazing sequence showing just how talented the art team is, we're introduced to the Doctor in this issue, a woman from a long line of such doctors who psychically heals people.  One of her patients doesn't awaken from one of her sessions, and she has to go into her subconscious to find her.  It turns out she was hiding from the Doctor in order to evaluate her.  In her hunt, the Doctor encounters an odd-looking creature with a beak who I assume is like the Daemon Zealot encountered in issue #6.  This experience confuses her, so she goes to the Doctors' private heaven (called the Hospital) for a consultation.  It turns out the woman is the one we saw in issue #3 who can hop through technology.  Her name is Jenny Mei Sparks (aha!), and she's a techne, "a spirit of the mechanical arts and sciences" the Doctors say is usually a planetary defense mechanism for times when the Earth is threatened.

It's clear from this recap Ellis is telling an incredibly detailed story; sometimes I just don't know what to say.  It's amazing to me that he and Davis-Hunt managed to get all that information in this issue, while Davis-Hunt still had the space for long sequences of wordless panels, from Jacob's interstellar exploration to the Doctor's guided trip.  One thing that intrigues me, flipping through the last eight issues, is we have all sorts of stories they've barely even touched upon yet, like Voodoo's and Zealot's.  Moreover, Ellis is doing a great job of making it clear - to us and the characters - that the discrete developments over the past few days - Angie activating the suit, Michael Cray leaving IO, etc. - were unexpected and troublesome.  Curiouser and curiouser.

Also Read:  Batman: The Drowned #1; Champions #13; Journey to Star Wars:  The Last Jedi - Captain Phasma #4; Spider-Gwen #25; Titans #16; X-Men Gold #14

Friday, December 8, 2017

Not-So-New Comics: The October 11 Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Dark Nights:  Metal #3:  Snyder tries to do too much here, but I understand why he does so.  He clearly has big plans -- even bigger than the ones we've already seen -- and he needs to move us quickly to where we are at the end the issue.  As a result, this issue is a little rushed, but I think ultimately it'll be worth it to see where Snyder takes us.

It starts really, really well:  we get an adorable scene where Damian and Jon are playing guitars in a field in Smallville as Bruce, Clark, Diana, and Lois watch.  It's the most warmth I've ever scene displayed in a DC Comic, to be honest.  Bruce tries to thank the group for all their support after he was forced to confront his darkest fears during the recently concluded war, and they all make fun of him for how bad he is at expressing emotions.  But, then it turns out it's just another nightmare:  Barbatos evolves from Bruce's form to attack Superman, and we learn Clark has been fighting these nightmares for lifetimes.  But, Diana saves him by putting her Lasso of Truth around him to get him to see the "real" world.  He awakens to a scene that combines "The Matrix" with Scientology:  Clark and Diana are attached to the outside of a skyscraper along with thousands of other people.  (Capullo goes for broke with these scenes, as the people are basically Day of the Dead skeletons.)  Clark leaves Diana to take on Barbatos, but gets his ass handed to him.  Flash saves him just in time, taking him to the Oblivion Bar, a safe space in a pocket dimension where all the other heroes are located.

Everyone is significantly worse for the wear as we learn they've all failed in their attempts to displace the Dark Batmen from their cities.  (Dick is particularly shaken, and I may need to read "Gotham Resistance" now.)  The towers are really generators, and Superman realizes Barbatos wants to pull our world into the Dark Dimension.  At this point, Green Arrow reveals the Nth metal can hurt them.  Dr. Fate and Mr. Terrific are able to locate three stashes of Nth metal through its connection to the other reactive metals in Steel's hammer, Fate's mask, Plastic Man's egg, and Deathstroke's armor.  Diana starts splitting up everyone in teams to go mine the metal, but Superman dissents when Mr. Terrific reveals the last signal is coming from the Dark Dimension.  Clark says Bruce used a code word in his last dream that he and Superman developed to signify trouble, and Dick confirms he can also feel Bruce trying to reach him.  Superman realizes Bruce is sending the signal from the Dark Dimension, but Dick says they shouldn't go after him.  Dick argues they should fight Barbatos as Bruce would've wanted them to do.  However, Dick is also shaken by how dark Bruce's soul is, something they've all seen through these perverted forms of him.  Damian is outraged, attacking Dick.  One of the most crushing scenes is Damian clinging to Superman after he informs the group he'll save Bruce.  Dick and Damian's sense of hopelessness conveys just how overpowering Barbatos' ability to kill hope is.

At any rate, the teams are forced to flee the bar as Batman Who Laughs and his Robins find them.  (Kendra made it clear she was against saving Superman exactly for this reason.)  As the other teams arrive at their destinations and start hunting for the Nth metal, Flash and Steel accompany Superman to the Fortress of Solitude.  Superman reveals the coordinates for the Dark Dimension were close to the ones for the Phantom Zone, and he thinks the Phantom Zone might be, as Flash says, a "permeable membrane" between our dimensions.  Steel attaches himself to the Antenna and Flash supercharges it, creating an energy link to the Dark Dimension.  (Just go with it.)  Superman travels there, only to realize he was wrong.  Bruce was sending songs in the dreams, not words:  the two chords of the song the kids were playing were D then C:  "don't come."  Superman is the battery, and with his arrival in the Dark Dimension the circuit is complete.  Shit is going down, y'all.

Amazing Spider-Man #789:  Brand.  New.  Day!  Slott has Bobbi toss off that comment as a wink to us, and, man, it worked.  I'm loath to trust Slott here, because I've been disappointed so many times before.  But, this issue feels exactly like the issue I've been waiting for him to write every since the excellent "Big Time!"  Peter's interactions with Bobbi are amazing, the scene with Robbie at the "Daily Bugle" was great, and I cheered when Harry and Liz kissed.  Even Betty and Flash return!  (No, no, no, don't get your hopes up too high, JW.  It's all a trick!  Peter is going to make a deal with Mephisto to get Mjolnir and become Spider-Thor.  You know it.)

Slott does an excellent job of immediately establishing Peter's current status quo.  After one date, he's living on Bobbi's couch.  She notes it's been weeks and she's managed to find an apartment and a job, but he's sitting on her couch wearing her shirt.  He's avoiding Harry's calls and the media, as they report constantly about the implosion of PI.  However, he's incensed when the "Bugle" runs a critical story about him, and he confronts Joe in the newsroom.  But, Joe's not having it:  he notes Peter's incompetence resulted in working-class people like his Uncle Ben losing they jobs, and Peter accepts he's right.  He also notices the science writer has gotten something wrong in his article about Pym micro-processors, and Slott seems to be setting up Robbie hiring Peter as the "Bugle's" new science writer.  Meanwhile, Betty invites Peter to Flash's birthday party.  He's accosted by an angry mob on the way, and he bails on the party after hearing everyone (including MJ) talking about how royally he screwed up everything.  (This scene is important, too.  Slott fanwanks us by having someone refer to the time they bought Petey furniture when he was down and out the last time, but MJ says he's way too old for that now.  It's part of the tone Slott is striking, that it's time for Peter to act like an adult.  It's a little harsh and not entirely fair, but also maybe a little true.)  Everything looks up later when Bobbi tosses Peter his Spider-Man costume and they go patrolling.  They save a food truck from the Griffin, and Spidey wins over the previously hostile crowd in so doing.  Slott seems to be setting up "Peter Parker No More!" redux, as Spidey kisses Mockingbird and realizes life as Spider-Man is going well.

Immonen, von Grawbadger, and Gracia make this book (and Peter) look better than literally ever.  (Peter can lie on the couch in sweatpants for all future issues and I'd buy them.)  That said, my only complaint is they occasionally make him look too young.  As fetching as he looks in a tight t-shirt staring into the refrigerator, he looks about a decade younger than his friends.  It's not just a nitpick:  it undermines the story Slott is trying to tell.  Peter should look like an adult if we're going to expect him to act like one.  But, it's a minor complaint.  Slott has me (even me!) hopeful we're returning to form here.  Fingers crossed.

Detective Comics #966:  This series has dragged lately, but it isn't now!  This issue is one of the most gripping I've ever read, particularly when you consider it's also a time-travel story.  Tim and Future Tim talk while occasionally fending off Doomsday, though Future Tim doesn't reveal anything too specific about how he got this way.  In fact, our only real hint before the issue wraps is a flashforward to his timeline, where Anarky comments to Spoiler about an event involving Clayface setting everything in motion.  Instead, Future Tim lays out his road to Batman and strikes a theme in doing so, saying certain patterns are set.  For example, Dick's reality is as a circus kid, so he eventually leaves Gotham and starts a family.  Jason's reality is as a tragic story, so he winds up losing an eye and a leg and living as a homeless drunk.  Damian's reality is a violent arrogance, so it's heavily implied Future Tim has to kill him after his "Batman" #666 iteration practically burns Gotham to the ground. Tim refuses to accept he's going to become Future Tim, but Future Tim agrees to use his technology to travel to Tim's present.  As he departs, Future Tim encourages Tim to make peace with Conner, but Tim doesn't know who Conner is.  Future Tim is shocked, and he reviews the present timeline thanks to his Batcomputer (who he creepily calls "Brother").  He realizes this timeline has been tweaked (heavily implying he's from the DCU timeline), and he cuts Tim's arm.  When he realizes he, too, has a scar, he realizes he can save Tim from his future by killing the person responsible for it:  Batwoman.  Although this issue is super-talky, you get the sense Tynion has laid the groundwork he needed to lay and we're about to see some honest-to-God fireworks as Future Tim goes after Batwoman.

Falcon #1: This issue is a mixed bag.  Like Slott in "Amazing Spider-Man," Barnes has Sam return to being a street-level hero as he decides to solve the gang problem in Chicago.  It's exactly what you'd expect Falcon to do.  Barnes also does a great job with Patriot here.  I was never really a fan of the "new" Falcon, whose presence on Sam's team always felt forced.  Conversely, Rayshaun is a great character that Marvel slowly developed over time.  He has the same urgency to be in the field as Joaquin did, but his character also has more depth as a result of him seeing the devastation of Las Vegas firsthand.  Spencer didn't really do much to develop Joaquin as a character; he woke up one day as a falcon-human hybrid and basically saw no downside to that.  Rayshaun is an improvement.  That said, both Sam and Rayshaun seem to be heading for a rude awakening.  Listening to Sam, gang violence is basically just a reflection of poor public-policy choices; John Gotti would've become a florist had he been given the right incentives.  It's here where Barnes makes the odd decision of revealing the gang violence is happening because Blackheart is the mayor and one of the gang's leaders is beholden to him.  It removes all agency from everyone, from the people making those bad public-policy choices to the gang members themselves.  I'm hoping Barnes uses Blackheart as a metaphor for evil, a reflection of the fact some people really do embrace violence as the preferred way to solve their problems.  If he doesn't, it's going to undermine the story I think he's trying to tell.

Ms. Marvel #22-#23:  I somehow missed issue #22 when it was released, but it wraps up the Josh arc pretty well.  Josh is unapologetic for the decisions he's made, but Willow doesn't turn him into a total villain:  he believes in his cause (whatever it actually is, because I can't exactly say I understand it for sure), but he doesn't believe in the extreme measures Basic Becky is willing to take to further it.  Kamala makes the insightful point that she didn't believe Josh is this person, but sometimes you have to believe people when they tell you who they are.  It's...dark.  But, issue #23 is a breath of fresh air as handsome Kareem arrives from Pakistan.  This sequence is amazing for a number of reasons. First, Kamala's homeroom teacher wants her to show around the new Pakistani exchange student, and she and Nakia are outraged the teacher thinks somehow she knows him despite Pakistan having 200 million people.  But, of course, she does.  (Her parents didn't tell her because they were too busy helping Amir and Tyesha prepare to move to their new apartment before the baby comes.)  Second, Mike hilariously pretty much throws herself at him, and it lightens the mood a bit.  I have to admit it's good to see Kamala's supporting cast.  Willow also does a great job with the Red Dagger and Ms. Marvel's interactions, with Kamala furious he's already got a legion of Instagram fans (thanks to his surfer's hair) as they try to stop a runaway train.  (Also, I think they included a "Station Agent" shoutout in here, and, if so, mind blown.)

Star Wars:  Dr. Aphra #13:  The thing that's always so fun about this series is you're never really sure what Aphra's plan is.  For example, in this issue, you're left wondering if she arranged the auction of Rur specifically to steal the artifacts she returns for cash at the end of this issue, or if she really did intend to auction Rur and just had to steal the artifacts to make the best of a bad situation.  With Aphra, you just never know.  The ending is even better (and I'm not just talking about the Beetee-narrated letters page, which should continue now and forever).  After re-reading the entire arc, it's pretty clear Gillen is writing for the trade.  Aphra mentions not expecting to get a happy ending in issue #11, a theme that comes up again in this issue.  Initially, I couldn't figure out the connection to the Museum of Bar'leth, one of the two places where she returns the aforementioned artifacts.  I had to re-read issue #12 to realize Aphra returned some of the artifacts to the Shadow University and then clearly sold the rest of them to the Museum.  That's our Aphra.  I'm also not sure if I'm supposed to recognize this "Dukan," a name mentioned by a group of figures who accosts Aphra on the beach at the end of the issue.  (See her aforementioned inability to have a happy ending.)  I don't remember Aphra killing alone named Dukan before, but I guess we'll see.

Uncanny Avengers #28:  First, I have to thank Izaakse for finding an excuse to keep Johnny Storm in his underwear.  He's in them so often I was almost surprised to see him wearing honest-to-goodness clothes later in the issue.  Izaakse isn't just great when it comes to delivering Mr. Easy-on-the-Eyes Storm.  His panel work is really spectacular, and he uses a number of layouts that evoke the 1960s, just what a Legacy issue demands.  It's not just the artwork that invokes the Legacy idea.  Beast and Wonder Man meet at a Midtown bar to marvel at how they find themselves in such poor shape.  Beast is finally coming to terms with how he's let his uncontrolled ego push him into a series of bad decisions -- from bringing the original X-Men to the present to doing nothing to stop a fascist dictator from taking over America.  For his part, Wonder Man recounts his "dead/alive/angry/dead again/alive again/angry again" history, and it's a wonder he's not totally insane.  The duo find themselves stopping Whirlwind from escaping the police and decide (again, in keeping with the Legacy theme) to return to basics.  Zub is taking two great characters who Marvel has criminally misused, drawing a line under their past, and relaunching them into the present.  But, he doesn't stop there.  I was wondering a few issues ago why Jan wasn't leading this team, and she actually answers that question here. It's not because she isn't a leader; she just isn't the leader of this team.  She notes everyone looks to Rogue for leadership; in fact, they're all still on this officially disbanded team because of her.  It's 100% true, and I have to really applaud Zub for this insight into the characters.  As I've said before, this series to me is the Avengers series.  With Johnny suddenly coming into Reed's money and Dr. Voodoo summoning mini-Juggernauts to rebuild the Mansion, it's pretty clear we're on solid footing here for the foreseeable future.  Avengers assemble!

The Wild Storm:  Michael Cray #1:  Right off the bat, I’ll say the quality of this issue is notably different from “The Wild Storm.”  Not that the issue is bad, but everything about it — the writing, the art, etc. — feels like a copy of the original.  Michael gets his first assignment from Trelane:  he’s to infiltrate Oliver Queen’s “Sanctuary” and steal his technology.  Wait, The Wild Storm has its own Green Arrow, you ask?  Apparently.  He seems to be a variant of the television version, as all the details don’t exactly match:  for example, both his parents (not just his father) died in the shipwreck that left him stranded.  What’s the Sanctuary, you ask?  Well, I’m glad you did.  It’s a version of the island where he was stranded, where he plays “The Most Dangerous Game” to keep his skill sharp.  It’s not the only sign he’s insane.  His font is notably different:  rather than the regular font everyone else uses in The Wild Storm, he speaks in all-caps, italics, and quotations.  Trelane stresses she wants him for the technology, but notes Michael is a better person than she is, so he’ll probably want to stop Queen from killing veterans.  Along the way, we get a hint of Cray’s supernatural powers; whereas he destroyed Marlowe’s spur in “The Wild Storm’ #1, here he blows up a mouse living in his new house.  He's as sad as we are.

Youngblood #6:  Bowers advances the plot significantly here, though we don't really have any more answers than we did at the start of the issue.  The kids battle the Byrne gestalt while Badrock and Shaft (well, mostly Badrock, since Shaft is missing his arm) take on Diehard.  The kids realize they're in trouble when the gestalt eats one of the Chapel twins (though I'm not really sure if they're twins now, because the one getting eaten refers to the other one as "Chapel").  Badrock winds up throwing Diehard into the room where the gestalt is, and he's appalled when he sees the seemingly dead kids.  Badrock sacrifices himself to the gestalt, claiming he knows how to beat it after it connects to him and he's able to see its thinking.  The gestalt explodes, and Badrock emerges as a normal teenage boy.  Nine days later, we discover Man-Up is slave labor for some paramilitary leader in Morocco, and the team - comprising of Dolante, Supreme, Vogue, and the speedster whose name I can't remember -- arrives to rescue him.  I'm really enjoying this series, and I'm intrigued to see what happens with Badrock.  Is he now a cyborg like the Byrnes?  But, I also feel like I'm struggling to get a grip on everyone, because Bowers is more or less writing for the trade here.  I complained in a previous review that the extensive use of flashbacks in the first five issues made it difficult to follow the team coming together, and it's a problem I still can't remember one of the team members' names after six issues.  But, I was also excited by the advertisement announcing "Bloodstrike" coming in January 2018, so it's a limited complaint.

Also Read:  X-Men Blue #13