Tuesday, November 12, 2013

New-ish Comics!: The "Villains Month" Edition (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Earth 2 #15.1/Desaad #1:  Occasionally, I have a problem reading the DCnU, given my lack of historical knowledge of DC comics in general.  I only really started reading DC in earnest in 2010; before then, I was an occasional reader of the Bat-books.  So, although I'm familiar enough with the Bat-family's history to be intrigued (and occasionally outraged) by the "fresh take" that the DCnU has brought, I'm often left baffled in other books when a detailed knowledge of the character's history is required to understand what the author is doing (particularly when I'm supposed to be intrigued by how it differs from the character's DCU analogue).  This issue is a case in point.  I'm not really sure who Desaad is, making it difficult to follow (or care about) this issue.  At the very least, his goal is pretty clear, seeking someone named the Tunneler to help him return to Apokolips.  I failed to understand two things, though.  First, he seems to discover how to create Boom Tubes on Earth 2, since he uses one to approach the artist with whom he seems to be obsessed.  As such, why can't he use it to go to Apokolips?  It's possible that he doesn't have enough power, but Levitz doesn't make that clear.  Second, the Tunneler has something to do with Michael Holt, given that Desaad sends his agents to Holt Industries to acquire him/it.  We haven't really seen boo of Holt since he appeared and just as quickly disappeared under the manipulation of Terry Sloane, so, honestly, Holt's connection to the Tunneler is probably the least mysterious thing about him.  But, we learn that the Tunneler has been taken from him and it's unclear if Desaad knows where he is by the end of the issue.  Moreover, I'm not really sure how anything depicted here relates to the events currently happening in "Earth 2."  Basically, this issue is essentially what I expected Villains Month to be, which isn't a compliment.

Batman #23.2/Riddler #1:  Honestly, I've never been a huge fan of Riddler.  Snyder gives us a textbook Riddler story here, with him using an elaborate scheme to exact revenge against someone who wronged him years earlier.  But, I can't say that I care.  (Maybe I'm just over the Riddler given that I'm playing "Batman:  Arkham Origins" and his character is as annoying as ever in it.)

Earth 2 #15.2/Solomon Grundy #1:  Kindt does a good job of explaining how Solomon Grundy got his rage, if you will, showing him as a poor abattoir worker (and newly minted father) whose cruel boss pays his wife for sex.  His wife is driven over the edge after their most recent encounter and kills herself, causing Solomon to go on a murder spree.  The part that I don't get - and that Kindt probably could've explained - is how Grundy gets his powers.  The events that I just described happened in 1898.  After Grundy kills himself, he falls into the river next to the abattoir and something...happens, turning him into the zombie that he normally is.  But, Kindt doesn't explain what happened.  Instead, we burn a few pages of Grundy searching for "the green man" in the present, with no explanation of why he's motivated to find him.  Although Kindt hits the right emotional notes to describe the tragedy of Grundy (as Kubert did with the "Batman #23.1/Joker #1" issue), I'm still kind of shocked that he didn't explain Grundy's supernatural origin or obsession with the Green Lantern.  We know that the latter comes from some sort of Green/Grey dichotomy from his previous conflict with Green Lantern, but Kindt could've helped flesh out that concept here.  Again, it's another missed opportunity.

Batman #23.3/Penguin #1:  Whereas "Batman" #23.1 and "Earth 2" #15.2 deal with the origins of some of the DCnU super-villains, Tieri sticks to a similar script as Snyder in "Batman" #23.2, showing how the Penguin is taking advantage of the absence of Batman.  I honestly expected more stories like this one from "Villains Month" and the fact that I enjoyed this one so much probably reflects that.  I particularly liked how Tieri embraced the Penguin's status quo, showing him as reassembling his power base after the assault on his criminal empire by Emperor Penguin in "Detective Comics" (making me wonder why it wasn't part of that title's "Villains Month" issues).  Penguin is particularly bold here, murdering three illusionists trying to fleece him at his casino and engineering the fall of the Governor of the state where Gotham is located, who also just happens to be an old friend from boarding school who used to protect him from bullies.  Whereas we've seen attempts to make Joker and Solomon Grundy into sympathetic characters with these "Villains Month" issues, Tieri does no such thing here, showing the Penguin as the brutal, remorseless killer that he is.  I can't say that it's a necessary read, but it's probably the "Villains Month" issue that does its job the best for me so far.

Batman #23.4/Bane #1:  "Villains Month" authors so far have focused either on origin stories (Joker, Solomon Grundy) or showing how the super-villains are taking advantage of the disappearance of the superheroes to push their agendas (Riddler, Penguin).  (I'm not really sure what the Desaad issue was, so we'll just ignore that one for now.)  Tomasi seemingly couldn't make up his mind, so we get both here.  Bane spends time in Santa Prisca so that we can get lectured by pretty much everyone about his origin and philosophy, but, after he leaves via ship to Gotham City, we learn that he plans on building his own army from freed Blackgate prisoners to take over Gotham.  Something that's always bothered me about Bane but didn't become clear until this issue is that I've never understood why he cares about Gotham.  Tomasi makes it clear that he wasn't like most super-villains, who come to Gotham to tangle with Batman.  Bane wanted Gotham itself, but why would a kid from a Caribbean country care about Gotham?  Tomasi never really explains it, making both his origin story and the present story fall flat.

Batman/Superman #3.1:  Similar to my problem with "Earth 2" #15.1 and #15.2, this issue had less of an impact to me in part because I'm not sure what I'm seeing here.  Whereas I've been an intermittent reader of the various Bat-books for years, my knowledge of Superman is pretty much limited to "Doomsday" and "Funeral for a Friend."  In those series, Doomsday was simply a mute alien bent on destruction.  Here, he's the same, though he's wrecking Krypton rather than Metropolis.  But, similar to my complaint about the Solomon Grundy edition of "Earth 2," Pak stops short of giving us a full origin.  Just like we never discovered how Grundy got his powers, we never learn here how Doomsday eventually made it to Earth (or from where he came).  Instead, Pak diverts attention to Zod (who, we learn in this issue, made his career in defending Krypton from Doomsday), who's apparently speaking to a young Supergirl from the Negative Zone.  It seems an unnecessary diversion, given the questions about Doomsday that remain on the table and the fact that we don't really learn much interesting about Zod or Supergirl here.

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