All-Star Batman #6
Batman travels to the North Pole to stop Mr. Freeze from unleashing an ancient virus trapped in the permafrost, killing everybody on Earth except those who’ve been cryogenically frozen, like himself and Nora.
Jock’s art absolutely steals the spotlight, but everything in this issue represents some of comics’ most talented at the top of their game. This is one of the rare books where the normally background art of lettering, by Steve Wands, goes noticeably above and beyond. Wands uses a typewriter-esque courier font that compliments Jock’s almost screen-print layered style and also translates Snyder’s largely prose take on this narrative.
Snyder is running on all cylinders, too. He opens the issue with a reference to, appropriately enough, Robert Frost; but quickly turns this second arc of ASB into another genre experiment. There’s something undeniably The Thing about this first issue; and if the first arc was a roadhouse flick, I can definitely see this one going in a paranoid horror direction. And there’s still a number of Snyder’s favorite tropes in here, too, like using biology as a metaphor for narrative themes, particularly when it comes to how bodies combat disease.
As a side-note, Snyder seems to un-retcon the changes he made to Freeze and Nora’s relationship, which I bring up only to prove that yes, I have been paying attention and am ready for the midterm, professor.
Slade’s flashback revealing how he got the name Deathstroke concludes in a chaotic shootout in Serbia when Slade prioritizes getting paid over completing the mission, and in the present, Dex explains how he plans on finally, and legally, taking Slade down. Meanwhile, Joseph gets examined by Dr. Villain, who explains the origin of his and his sister’s powers. And, in Minneapolis, Rose reconnects with her mother’s family, and kicks the ass of some losers who make the mistake of hitting on her.
This issue is labeled as the conclusion to this arc, but nothing about it feels particularly conclusive. The end to Slade’s flashback still has him trapped in Serbia, and in the present, he’s still in prison. Joseph’s share of the story is largely plot-less, mostly just filling in some background; and Rose’s part feels more like a beginning to a story of her reconnecting with family.
This issue also doesn’t feel like it plays to Priest’s strengths as a character writer. We never really get inside anyone’s head in this issue; we don’t get to see the gears turning or how people try to hide their real emotions and plans from the other characters. There’s a lot of exposition here, but there’s really no telling what it’s trying to set up.
I’m strongly considering becoming a trade-waiter on this series, but I have no idea when to actually hop off. Also, DC doesn’t do trade solicits until months after they would be useful for this kind of decision because fuck me, amirite?
The Flash decides it’s finally time he tracks down the Rogues, who have been eerily silent as of late, and discovers that he’ll make more progress in his investigation as Barry Allen.
The return of the Rogues has been something I’ve been looking forward too since Rebirth, and discovering how this creative team is tackling this series. The Rogues are Flash’s most iconic villains, and I’m excited to see this team’s take on the classic match-up, especially how they plan to use the new Wally West.
Ironically, this issue is a slower start than I would have expected. It’s a lot of Flash running around looking for clues, and it never feels like there’s any real impetus for him to suddenly care about looking for the Rogues. As he mentions in the book, he’s already busy with handling Central City’s current criminals; and the last time he saw the Rogues, they were heroic. (Also, what happened to Captain Cold being in the Justice League?) The end reveals that the Rogues do have a sinister plot, but it’s based entirely on the Flash stumbling upon a secret hideout, and I don’t even understand how the Rogues knew how and when he would do so?
Maybe this arc will get better when the Rogues actually return, but this first issue has left me a bit cold.
Wonder Woman #14
Wonder Woman’s year one ends with Diana confronting Ares, aided by some of her own Patrons. But Ares’ plan doesn’t stop with him, and Diana and Steve have to rush around the world to stop his agents from starting a global war.
This finale, like the arc in total, has pretty much everything one could ask from a Wonder Woman story: Diana showing strength and courage through compromise, extending her hand before unsheathing her sword. We see her pushed to the limits of her mercy and hope, only to redouble her efforts to remain committed to her truths. At the end of this book, we see Wonder Woman fully realized, dedicated to protecting the world from war by protecting the peace, by taking the high road.
Rucka and Scott have, once again, reconstructed Wonder Woman, just in time to make her crack again with the upcoming arc.
Green Valley #4
After holding a funeral for Indrid, the Knights of Kelodia go out in search of the wizard’s dragons.
Confronting the very sudden death of their fellow knights force Bertwald, Ralphus, and Gulliver to face their feelings and other lies they’ve been telling themselves and others. Bert’s stoicism fails him in the fallout of a second great loss in his life, and he begins to lash out at Ralphus, who tries to comfort and reassure him. Surely, I can’t be the only reader getting some romantic vibes from their relationship, right? Meanwhile. Gulliver has to try and convince himself that he still is a capable warrior after having to confront his own lies about being a dragon-slayer.
When they ride out the next morning, there is an uneasy tension between them, the question of what they can do against such an overpowering enemy hangs over everything. And then they find the dragons, and are forced into taking action, regardless of how prepared they might be.
This issue pulls off a weird balancing act, taking us from a very high-emotion funeral to a quiet expedition without a real segue or transition to really explain how the characters calmed down between scenes. It represents a major tone shift, and that’s before the tone abruptly changes again with the appearance of the dragons. It’s the sort of transition that a movie might be able to help along with a music cue or clever editing, but comics don’t have those sorts of benefits to control the pace a reader goes through them.
Hopping out of another transport, Shipwright again meets up with the Inspector, who uncovers another clue to Shipwright’s past. And later, Shipwright checks into a motel, and tells the receptionist there about what he was doing before the incident.
There’s a large spatial disconnect between the first and second half of this issue, but one that’s segued nicely by a flashback; and besides, this isn’t a story where everything necessarily has to make sense so long as it flows nicely. Shipwright can teleport, after all.
The second half is the largest amount of straight exposition we’ve gotten yet, and does quite a bit to further fill out Shipwright’s background, where he is now, how he got there, and why. There’s a good bit of Ellis’ doom-saying involved in the origin, and a sci-fi means of preventing it that ends up backfiring. It also does a great job of answering some key questions without completely spoiling some of the bigger mysteries this series still has up its sleeves. It gives us just enough answers to get us asking more questions.