Finally. Last week marked the end of Zero Month and as much as I enjoyed some of the issues, it wasn’t quite the event I was hoping it would be. I’m really excited to get back into the ongoing stories, especially with things like Rotworld and Rise of the Third Army coming up this month. Anyway, here are my thoughts on a few books from week four of Zero month.
This issue of Aquaman takes a break from the “Other League” arc that has been running since issue #7. This is a double-edged sword. On one hand it’s nice to get away from the present day events as the Others arc as been overlong and overwrought, but at the same time all this really does is break the momentum of that storyline. The issue begins in a cinematic fashion as Ivan Reis and Joe Prado depict Aquaman swimming through the deep as the opening credits role. I really can never say enough about how much Reis and Prado bring to this book every month. As for the story, there are some nice moments such as when Aquaman saves a father and daughter caught in a storm or meets Vulko and discovers his Atlantean heritage. However, there isn’t a lot of meat to the issue as it end just as things are about to get truly interesting. Johns is setting up some Game of Thrones-esque power struggles that I’m sure will come to a head in the upcoming Throne of Atlantis crossover with Justice League. Since it began this series has been mostly style over substance, which is a shame when you have a creator like Geoff Johns who in the past has been defined by his strong characterization of DC’s B and C-listers. I can’t help but wonder if the task of writing three monthly titles while acting as the Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment is taking its toll on Johns. Rumor has it that Johns will soon be leaving the book, which may be for the best considering the upcoming launch of his second Justice League book.
Batman Incorporated #0
Grant Morrison just never lets me down. This issue of Batman Inc reflects back at the entirety of Morrison’s Batman run and puts it through a lens that any savvy New 52 reader can follow. I was a little bummed that Chris Burnham wasn’t on art on this one, as I really like how he has become the de facto Inc artist at this point. However, after seeing Frazier Irving’s pages I was reminded just how much I enjoy this frequent Morrison collaborator. Irving’s work here is even more impressive than his work in Batman and Robin a few years back, and that is saying something. It was nice to see the various members of Batman Incorporated spotlighted, some of who were making their New 52 debut. I hate that Morrison is having to sidestep the wrench that the New 52 has thrown in the final chapter of his multi-year Batman epic, but issues like this help out a lot in mending the hurts.
Red Lanterns #0
While Zero Month has hurt the momentum of a lot of DC books, it has actually allowed writer Peter Milligan to produce the single best issue of the series yet. Milligan details Atrocitus’ origin, much of which has been seen before, in way that makes the character even more tragic. We see the events in Atrocitus’ live that makes him lose hope, love, and fear, ultimately leaving only pure rage behind. I honestly can’t believe this was written by the same person who wrote Atrocitus like he was in an angsty high school Shakespeare play at the beginning of the New 52. Also, the art by Adrian Syaf is the best art the title has seen since its inception. Finally, I have to say I really appreciate a story that finally clears up this character’s origins for me. I’ve read all of Geoff John’s Green Lantern, but I never really understood the whole Five Inversions/Empire of Tears thing until now. Based on the cliffhanger at the end of issue #12, I look forward to Milligan returning to these characters. The first year of Red Lanterns was a major disappointment, but this issue gives hope that Milligan can turn it around in year two.
Scott Lobdell tested the waters in last month’s Superman Annual, but now he is joined by his Red Hood collaborator Kenneth Rocafort for his debut on the Superman series proper. Like the Supergirl #0 issue from last week, this issue looks back at Krypton before its demise. This time the story focuses on Jor-El, his discovery of the planet’s impending doom, and the subsequent consequences of the discovery on his family. We get to see the debut of the phantom zone and mention of the Eradicator, which now appears to be the leader of a doomsday cult bent on causing the destruction of Krypton. Much like in Supergirl, we see a character on Krypton who should not even exist yet. I won’t spoil who it is exactly, but the appearance of said character (as well as his attire) seem to suggest some big things happening in the future of the Superman titles. Whether this is due to cloning, time travel, or some other sci-fi trope remains to be seen. A short epilogue at the end of the issue is filled with continuity teases such as the appearance of the great horn from early issues of Superman and Stormwatch, showing that that plot thread has not been lost even through the constant creative shuffle of both books. How that item, and the one who wields it, tie in to the fate of Krypton, Earth, and the omniverse (is that the new name for the multiverse?) remains to be seen. Overall there is a lot to be excited about. While this was a mostly plot heavy issue, there was also decent character development for Jor-El and his wife Lara. I cannot go without mentioning Rocafort’s outstanding art work. This guy ranks up their with J. H. Williams III and Francis Manapul as one of the most striking and creative artists at DC right now. It’s refreshing to see this kind of artistic talent on a Superman title. While I’m still now convinced that Lobdell is the Superman writer we need right now, I am extremely interested in what he’s doing. If he can at least keep this level of quality, I’ll be sticking around.
Holy cow, I was not expecting to enjoy this so much. I’m sure I’m in the minority, but I wasn’t the biggest fan of Snyder’s Court of Owls storyline in Batman. It started out well and has some really amazing issues (issues 1, 5, 8, and 10 stand out as particularly good in my mind). However, the story’s length, the increased $3.99 price tag halfway through, and the lackluster final issue really hurt my overall impression of the arc. The prospect of a further expansion of the already bloated story wasn’t overly enticing, but as Guillem March’s preview pages began to creep out I couldn’t help but feel a little excited. After reading the issue I can say that it is hands down the best book of the third wave of New 52 titles, and the underlying concept is one of the best of any DC book out there. Talon follows escape artist Calvin Rose, who is on the run from the Court of Owls. Like most Talons, Rose spent time honing his skills as a child performer in Haly’s Circus before he was inducted into the Court. There are so many wonderful potential stories to be told about this concept and the character in particular. Rose is about the same age as Dick Grayson, so it’s likely the two would have interacted during their time in Haly’s Circus, and may have been friends. One must wonder how Batman will react to a rogue Talon, even one with good intentions, running around. The biggest thing that struck me, however, is the striking similarities between Calvin Rose and another classic DC character, Scott Free A.K.A the New God “Mister Miracle.” Both characters are master escape artists with the ability to escape from situations that no other individual would be able to, and both used their skills to elevate them from their dire circumstances. In Calvin’s case this is his abusive father and the Court, while for Scott this is adoptive world of Apokolips. The parallels are just so uncanny, I can’t help but wonder if Snyder and James Tynion IV have something up their sleeves. Even if there is no Fourth World connection, Calvin Rose is a great new addition to the DC universe, one that I’ll definitely be following in the future.