Batman takes Dick, Jason, and Damian to the Fortress of Solitude to recover under Superman’s protection while he prepares to confront Bane. Meanwhile, Bane sends his henchmen to collect more of Batman’s allies before stepping out of the shadows.
This issue plays out a lot like a game of chess between Batman and Bane, with the former moving quickly to protect pieces before the latter can get to them, mostly unsuccessfully. He also sends Alfred and Gotham Girl to Arkham for the latter to be treated by Psycho Pirates in isolation.
While Finch and Miki give Batman a gorgeous double-page splash of him perched dramatically on a roof, King gives the best scene in the issue to Jim Gordon, who fares the best against Bane’s henchmen out of all of Batman’s allies.
By the end of this issue, the board is set, and we’re left with just Batman and Bane.
It’s been sixty-something days after the last arc, and Dick and Shawn have been a couple. We see some key moments in their relationship through each of them talking about it to their friends and family. It’s very “tell me more, tell me more.” And then we see where it went wrong.
I’ll admit, when after the first couple pages of this issue, I was expecting things to go in a Bare Naked Ladies direction. Thankfully, this book isn’t that predictable or bad. I actually really liked how this issue relates its plot almost entirely through each person’s testimony of the relationship. I also like how it doesn’t devolve into he-said-she-said. Every scene is a new point in the relationship from either Dick or Shawn’s perspective. Also, it’s a nice relationship; they like and understand each other, and they make up after they fight.
The end does feel a little too sudden, but is as good a lead-in to the next arc as any.
Late one evening, Jon helps his friend Kathy find her cow that wandered off the farm, and her grandfather who went looking for the cow. Their search leads them to Deadman’s swamp, where things begin to get weird.
This is a cute little kids-on-bikes style oner. Visually, it’s a lot darker than previous issues of this series have been, which fit’s the issue’s creepy Stranger Things-ish tone it seems to be going for. There are, however, a few moments of humor – especially at the beginning and end – to lighten things up. There are also quite a few blatant references to Justice League Dark, although the issue does leave it ambiguous whether or not its events actually happened.
Having learned about joy, loyalty, compassion, and love from the dreams of Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman; the White Mercy decides to help the Batman and Wonder Woman rescue Superman – and the world – from Mongul.
This arc’s ending is great, delivering on the emotional through-line set up during the arc, and handily resolving the plot with a neat variation on the Batman vs. Superman fight. It’s a pretty simple ending, all things considered, but it ties everything up in a really nice bow.
Green Arrow #17
While Seattle PD buries Chief Westberg, Oliver Queen builds a new bow and makes a plan to take down Malcolm Merlyn. The first third of this issue shows Oliver’s bow making, reaching out to Victoria (the journalist), to ask her help in taking down the Ninth Circle, and how the Ninth Circle plans to control Seattle’s new Mayor – Nathan Domini. The last two-thirds are an extended chase and fight sequence between Green Arrow and Malcolm Merlyn, as the latter chases the former through Seattle’s surrounding wilderness.
The first bit risks dipping into the overdramatic, with Ollie narrating over his mostly-shirtless bow-making and the funeral by discussing the symbolism of the yew tree, but the second part reminds me of some of the best episodes of Samurai Jack. A good chunk of that is because of Schmidt’s very geometric figure-drawing, but an even greater part is because of how he lays out the pages to show off the same action from multiple perspectives, which gives a strong impression of constant movement. Where a lot of comic book paneling feels equivalent to cinematic cuts, Schmidt’s layouts feel much more like panning across a scene, which feels much more fluid.
Consider Emerald Outlaw another great, fun arc in the bag.
The Wild Storm #1
Like many of his #1’s, Warren Ellis’s The Wild Storm drops us in the middle of a world already running at full speed and slowly catches us up. We start with a cold open: Lucy Blaze (codename: Zealot) calls in a cleaning service after a mission turned into a murder. A few blocks over, Priscilla Kitaen – a pop-star who goes by Voodoo – picks out some Manhattan billboards to advertise her new album on. She passes by Miles Craven, who runs some sort of research lab, and his husband while they’re getting coffee; and they’re interrupted by Angela Spica – one of Miles’ researchers, who asks him for more funding for a project she’s working on that’s currently inside of her and making her bleed profusely. Miles denies the funding, and Angela walks away only to notice Jacob Marlowe – the CEO of a technology brand, HALO – crash through a window and begin to fall from his skyscraper office. Angela activates her project, which covers her in some sort of Predator style Iron Man armor, and she saves Marlowe’s life. We then find out how Marlowe came to be flung from his office as he recounts the details to Adrianna – his not-quite-cybernetic, and mostly not-alive assistant; and also through Michael Cray – an assassin for IO, HALO’s biggest competitor – who is being interrogated by his boss, Miles Craven.
Follow all that? Good. Because also there are/will probably be aliens showing up somewhere down the line.
For as many plot threads as The Wild Storm #1 introduces, it’s surprisingly readable. This sort of thing is Ellis’ bread and butter, and he deftly introduces his preferred science-fiction and conspiracy motifs through his usual sardonic dialogue.
Ellis’ work on the original WildStorm books with Brian Hitch is often regarded as the birthplace of the “wide-screen comic,” which introduced more cinematic elements to comic illustration; but for this return to the universe; Jon-Davis Hunt seems to be going for a more prestige-television feel. It swaps an epic scope for more intimacy. Each page and panel is put together like a piece in a puzzle. There are no broad sweeping moments, everything is exact and precise, reflecting the conspiratorial machinations of some of the characters. Everything in this issue ticks along like a well-made clock, even when plans go wrong.
Kill or Be Killed #6
The first part of this issue follows right from the end of the last one, showing how Dylan escapes being pinned by a couple cops in a diner bathroom, and the unnerving calm that washes over him as he does so.
Dylan then narrates over the story of Lily Sharpe, a homicide detective who pieced together all the clues Dylan left behind without really even knowing he existed. Lily isn’t just a good detective because she was the only one who managed to link the three murders, but because unlike so many other cops she works with, she hasn’t yet become apathetic. She continually pushes back against her colleagues and bosses, eventually subverting them in order to get closer to taking this vigilante killer down. The most interesting part of her character comes near the end of the issue though, when she reveals why she’s so attached to this case that everyone else thinks is all in her head: it’s because she knows the vigilante thinks of themselves as the good guy.
That’s the quality that really makes Lily an excellent foil for Dylan. Dylan felt powerless until he felt forced to take another life, and justifies his actions and apathy towards actually changing by claiming to be a good guy. Lily has fought against apathy her entire life, and works within the system to achieve justice even as that system works against her.
Sex Criminals #16
It’s back! It’s finally back! And the letters section! I missed that most of all.
Thankfully, given that it’s been the better part of a year since this book was last published, this issue starts with a brief and comic re-cap of pretty much everything that’s happened from issue #1 up to this point. After that, we start off with all our main players talking in a diner about next steps. Alix explains to the table how outmatched they are by Kegelface, which causes Jon to storm out of the diner, followed by a very embarrassed Suzie. The two argue for a bit, but decide to spend the weekend fixing things by making plans for their relationship and having lots of sex. This is a comic about people who love each-other. They put in the work.
Gosh, I missed this book so much and I’m so glad it’s back, and that the letters section is back, that I really can’t fairly review it. It’s everything that I missed seeing it my pull every month for the past eight or ten months or whatever. Jon and Suze are just such a believable and adorable couple, and I love how their arguments are always about real problems that they find ways to work through because they love each other and want to make things work. I love how they always find ways to make the harder parts of their relationship fun for one another. I love how this book is about sex and crime but is never rude or mean. And I love the community that writes into the book to support each-other and make each-other laugh and how Matt and Chip always seem down to clown with that community.
My favorite comic is back, guys.