This is it. This is what we’ve been waiting for. Ever since Williams and Blackman left the original Batwoman ongoing, and the subsequent extremely questionable narrative choices by the replacement creative team, Batwoman fans have been justifiably guarded. The last time they followed her solo adventures, they got burned. Burned so badly, in fact, that they in turn literally set fire to two very specific issues of Batwoman. There are videos, so you can google that if you wish. I’m not going to link them.
Point being, there would always be doubt surrounding any attempt to make a Batwoman solo book all over again. Even if the creative team behind her relaunch is basically perfect for the job—and holy crap they kinda are—there’s simply no avoiding that trepidation. Greg Rucka himself could have spearheaded this whole thing and I’m not convinced it would have made people feel any more confident.
So, I guess this is a long-winded way of saying that, hey, stow your fear. Drop your guard. I’ve said it before, but I’m saying it louder now since this issue is overflowing with incontrovertible proof of something totally inescapable:
Batwoman is back. Every panel of every page oozes Kate Kane. Every line by Epting, every methodically colored inch by Cox, every word scripted by Bennett and co-plotted by Tynion, every expression, every action; it’s all Kate. It’s all a triumph.
To quote Bennett:
“She fights, and she fails, and she splits her lip and bruises all the way to the bone and she claws up through the mud and keeps going.”
Perfectly apropos to describe the meta-narrative surrounding her return, don’t you think?
Bond, Bats, and Monsters
The overall tone here is Bond. Back when the cover for #1 was revealed, that was my first thought. It looks like a 60s spy movie poster, but without the misogyny. Or racism. Or obligatory christian heteronormativity. So…I dunno, all the theoretically badass spy parts of Bond, including the cheesy one-liners? Sounds about right. Regardless, when I first saw it, I was blasting the 007 theme on a loop while trying to figure out if I should wait for prints of the damn thing to be available (if they ever are), or just get it printed and framed myself. I have yet to decide, but I want it.
Now, truth be told, I have not actually read Brubaker and Epting’s Velvet in its entirety, but others have told me that Batwoman‘s “International Woman of Mystery” aspect is pretty similar to which I responded “Okay yeah but…is she gay and Jewish?” They said no, and that’s the end of that.
Seriously though, if Epting and Cox (whom I must sincerely apologize to for accidentally omitting him in my tweet regarding a topic we’ll get to in this review…total space cadet moment) managed to replicate something that was already awesome, and apply it to someone as objectively amazing and impossible as Batwoman, what’s there to complain about?
Excellence is excellence. Brilliance is brilliance. Plus, it’s an established fact that Kate loves spy novels. One of her favorites being Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice, so it’s rather perfect.
Anyway, on to the present. Kate’s internal monologue is a rare thing. Outside of a single instance, it didn’t exist in her 10-issue run on Detective Comics, and it very briefly appeared in short bursts during the Williams/Blackman era of the New52. Typically, we don’t really get to live inside of Kate’s head. Her actions have always spoken louder than anything else ever could, but when we did know her thoughts it was damned effective. Batwoman #1 is no exception.
We start with pain, Istanbul and searching for a name in a rather clever homage to Kate’s very first solo outing, way back in Detective Comics #854:
Turns out, every target she’s tracked so far has been rather indiscriminate in how much suffering they wanted to cause with Monster Venom. Her mark this time, a Dr. Martine, doesn’t necessarily look like your run-of-the-mill white supremacist looking to slaughter hundreds, if not thousands, as gruesomely as possible, but then that’s sort of the point, isn’t it? If the League of Shadows can operate the same way, it stands to reason that Batwoman will be punching entire dental records out of any and all modern nazis that she comes across. Much like her Bombshells counterpart.
Which she explicitly states that she did, and we all just know that there’s no way in hell she’s complaining about that part. Maybe not the sleepless nights, but hey. Sometimes you gotta break a few fascist faces to make a honest omelette. Or something.
Dr. Martine monsters up, because Kate screwed up and didn’t manage to get the actual bioweapon away from him (this is a glorious running theme) and calls for backup: Tuxedo-One. Which is so perfect. And who should that be? Why, none other than Julia Pennyworth herself, hiding out on Kate’s mobile bat-base yacht that has a helicopter Kate still presumably can’t fly! British SAS operative and daughter of the one and only Alfred Pennyworth. Last we saw her was back in Snyder’s Superheavy arc, and it’s great to see her again. You put her and Kate together and there’s so much snark that it just makes sense.
The call signs, by the way, are callbacks to Snyder’s run on Batman, wherein Alfred was Penny-1, Julia was Penny-2, etc. They make a lot more sense in context with Batwoman than they ever did with Batman, in my opinion, but it was cool then and it’s still cool now. Except like, now it’s about 50% cooler. Because Batwoman.
Kate and Julia exchange extremely domestic banter (Kylie and I have already concluded that they are not banging but that’s like another two thousand words so just trust us, or debate us) while Kate strangles the monster’d up Dr. Martine. With chains and lanterns. He goes back to normal, which reminds me so much of that time at the end of Go when Kate punched Abbot so hard he literally un-werewolf’d, and after screaming about The Many Arms of Death (title drop!) he’s killed by a knife to the forehead.
Kate gives chase to the assassin, whom she totally-doesn’t-at-all recognize as Tahani, but she gets away…leaving her fancy Knife behind. I should keep a counter on how many times Kate just really screws something up. Not in any malicious sense, of course. Her fallibility is explicitly why we love her so damn much here at the Fandomentals!
You know what? I’m gonna do it. We are currently at four failures, and counting. One: failing to stop Dr. Martine from monstering up. Two: failing to stop the assassin. Three: failing to catch the assassin. Four: failing to get the name she wanted. At least, at first. Oh, and I guess…five? She lost that bet. Let’s go with five. Put it up on the board!
Goddamn, I love this book.
Boats, Bette and Brooding
Kate returns to her motor yacht, the Sequoia, which is thankfully not the same boat her family skedaddled onto at the end of Batwoman Annual #1, with Julia making snarky comments about how ridiculous their cover is for all of these trips out of the country. It’s rather well-established that Julia isn’t a fan of her father serving the Waynes for reasons she cannot fathom (because raising their son is hard to wrap your head around?), but I guess she’s willing to go globetrotting with someone who doesn’t brood instead of breathe.
Also, interesting note: Kate’s first ops center was a giant tree. Her yacht is named after a tree. S’kinda neat.
Anyway, Kate slips out of her uniform and, gasp, actually has practical attire underneath it?! And it’s still correctly color schemed?! And she’s not tiny and skinny? Epting and Cox, we salute you. I really shouldn’t have to call attention to doing things right, but even Williams drew the “larger-than-life-glowing” sequences of Batwoman in a way that was anatomically exaggerated. Though, that was purposeful and effective. Others, just had her naked under there, which makes no sense.
Also Kate shaved her head again, but I imagine that’s because it’s really damn hot in the Middle East and her uniform is almost pure black. It wouldn’t be the first time she’s been sweating like a pig in that thing, after all.
Moving on, Julia makes a rather important remark that I would typically describe as “blink and you’ll miss it”, but then again, if you’ve heard the name “Bette” before in context with Batwoman, I doubt you could actually miss it. Even if you did blink like, a ton. Like, even if you fell asleep while reading that panel, I’m not sure you could actually miss it.
First of all: that’s six on the counter; she didn’t get Bette anything from the Bazaar that she kinda trashed. Coulda grabbed something in the confusion, you know.
Second: so that’s where Bette’s been this entire time! Oh, man, and it couldn’t be more perfect. After all that time looking up to Kate as this inspirational figure—which she failed to live up to every single time despite that not actually discouraging Bette at all—she finally found something to fight for. The family name. And also honor and all that jazz, which sounds super familiar, for some reason.
Regardless, I’m even more psyched to see her again, now. She’s really not just a kid anymore. I love it.
Also, if you take a closer look at this entire undressing sequence, you’ll notice that Kate’s skin actually transitions from stark white to her normal tone. This clever little piece of art direction, thanks to Cox’s stellar color work, cements that this story is explicitly through Kate’s eyes. Not just a basic POV, but more of an unreliable narrator. Which is kinda great, if you think about it. All the more ways for Kate to set an entire island on fire.
I mean, she totally will. Not on purpose but, it’ll happen.
Moving forward, Julia says that fancy…tech stuff is…tracking the…jesus christ, just look at this abomination:
I—okay, that’s seven for the counter now because that is the single most impractical monitor I have ever seen.
I know everything needs to be kept Bat-themed to keep everything on brand, as Raptor would say, but good lord! The text strings are getting cut off the edge of the screen! Why would anyone build this?! Was this Tim’s idea of a personal challenge before he “died”? Try and create an OS that intelligently adapts to the ludicrous shapes of the monitor it is using? Did Harold Allnut ask Bruce what kind of batcomputer Kate would need and he was just like “go nuts”?
Epting, I swear, this is…brilliant. Just beyond brilliant. Seriously, neither Kate nor Julia seem particularly pleased with it so it just tells a story all on its own. One of stupid and/or ambitious design goals. Seriously, not even Batman would have a computer monitor shaped like his symbol. He might have like, an shell around with that shape, but never the actual screen. I hate everything about this and yet I love it because it is exactly the kind of unintentional extra that Kate exhibits by more or less breathing. Rather than brooding, of course.
Even though she totally does that, too. Just not as intensely. Or without reason.
After Julia is all coy about Kate having never heard of the island nation of Coryana, Kate has a mini internal swearing fit and goes up to the deck to relax and think about that year she spent as a trophy lover for an international crime syndicate’s leader. Guess she couldn’t really forget Safiyah, huh?
Julia joins her on the deck with martinis in hand, because of course she does, and teases her about the presumed brooding. And also about how Kate is super focused on “doing what Batman can’t”, which means she’s been talking about that this entire time instead of it just being this personal goal of hers that she doesn’t verbalize. This is both hilarious and apt.
The short answer, so far, to that question is “operate in broad daylight in a way that doesn’t look ridiculous”. Which is pretty impressive, since meta-textually, there’s a damn good reason that Kate would prefer to work in the light. It’s about not having to hide who she is, both as a Jewish woman and as a lesbian. And as someone who suffers from PTSD. The shadows are effective, but not when you want to make a statement that needs to be loud.
Things like, well, Bennett already wrote a great example:
If there ever comes a day when DC Bombshells isn’t relevant, that’ll be a miracle.
Anyway, Kate cuts through all of Julia’s charm and asks her what the hell she’s really doing there, helping Kate. Is she Kate’s babysitter, her Q, or Bruce’s spy? Julia responds by not…responding. Because she’s a giant snarky troll and knows her reaction can be read about two thousand different ways.
And failure to get a straight answer out of her super-spy handler. That’d be number eight.
Julia skips the part where Kate gets to ask follow-up questions and tells her that the Belfry’s entry regarding Coryana was more or less the same as the Canary Islands but also labeled, presumably, by the “late” Tim Drake as a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Which is a “twist of the knife”. Twist of the…oh. Hah! I get it. It’s because of the plot twist that Tahani is the assassin known as Knife. Stop reading the script, Julia! Kate is a master at puns and cheesy one-liners, so she’ll figure out what happens next!
Then, Julia asks Kate what Coryana is, which means that she failed to keep her past as tightly held a secret as she thought. Ding!
Hiding in Plain Sight
This is, by and large, the single most powerful moment in the issue. It’s also one of the best Kate Kane moments ever. And no, I’m not talking about that bit about her burial at sea, or her the fact that she didn’t care if she lived or died anymore since she couldn’t find a new sense of purpose. Those are poignant and evocative, too. Very much so. But this? This is…different. This is a whole new level of savvy that, well, to be quite honest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like this. Neither has Kylie.
And it’s not like we aren’t on the lookout for this level of awareness—we are. We once tried to name all the primary media characters not written by Larry David or Woody Allen that spoke Yiddish as something that wasn’t exclusively for a joke/actually made sense and we came up with…the grandparents from Rugrats. That’s it. That’s all we could find or remember. Though that was before Snapper from CW’s Supergirl did it, so that’s three instead of two I guess.
Look, the point is that there really aren’t all that many Jews in media. 99% of the time, it’s “half-Jewish” (which is not actually a thing but that’s a whole other conversation), since only the father of the character is Jewish due to jewishness being passed matrilineally, because that lets the writers say they’ve got a Jewish character without actually doing anything or addressing it like it normally would be literally every day of their lives.
Think Annie Edison from Community or Felicity Smoak from CW’s Arrow. That’s just how it is, so when we’re confronted with something so drastically different due to its accuracy and appropriate understanding of an all too familiar sense of dread and fear…it’s rather shocking. Because people don’t get it. It’s weird for Jewish people to see themselves represented in a way that is both organic and displays a deep, empathetic understanding of what it actually means to be a Jew living in the world.
So, when something like this suddenly appears it’s…well, it kind of seems impossible.
This is scary. It’s real fear, much like last week’s white supremacist meta-narrative becoming all to clear. Kate is a Jewish woman and she is very far from home. There was an interview many months ago where Tynion talked about how he and Bennett wanted Kate to be so well known across the world, due to her partying and drinking and “scandalized” removal from the Army, that she could walk into the dingiest back alley bar in Cairo and they would know her drink of choice.
At the time, I thought this meant “they know she’s gay and rich.” Not “they know she’s gay, rich and Jewish.” But that’s what this is. Rafael patches Kate up, shaves the side of her head so she can get stitches, and reminds her that she’s not an unknown right now. She is not truly hiding who she is, though part of Kate clearly understood this. Of course, Rafael makes two false assumptions about Jewish people that tell us just how smart Kate was about this.
And boy, oh boy, was she smart.
The first is rather simple: “All Jews keep Kosher”. Yeah. Not true. I don’t. Have you ever had crab? Or burgers? Crazy! Tons and tons don’t keep Kosher, but plenty keep a Kosher kitchen which basically means they keep Kosher at home, but not when eating out. Middle ground because that’s like, our thing. Even so, this is an extremely common misconception that is very deeply ingrained into the cultural consciousness when it comes to what non-Jews know about Jewish people. As such, many assume that Jews cannot eat or drink something unless they know for sure that it is Kosher…which is sorta true for the people who do keep Kosher, but not to some intense degree that Rafael is implying. Which is honestly part of what makes this so perfect: he has no idea what he’s talking about.
Second, though, is a lot more subtle and far more impressive.
Kate’s a target, and a big one. Terrifying enough that she’s queer in an area that no one would call safe (not that Gotham particularly is…), but she’s also a woman. And to top it all off, she’s Jewish. The amount of hate she suffers through…well, I can empathize with two-thirds of it, let’s go with that. Question is, how can she shake people from her trail that would want to do her harm? How can she up her chances of survival and hiding who she is? Exploit the hell out of her tattoos. It’s not why she got them, but she’d be a fool not to use them to her advantage. I’d bet good money that any and all flashbacks we see will have Kate wearing something sleeveless or with a very low-cut back so they are always on display.
See, it’s a common misconception that Jews cannot get tattoos. Since, if they do they can’t be buried in Jewish cemeteries as it is considered self-mutilation. There was a time when this was true, but it hasn’t been for quite a while, at least in the vast majority of Reform and Conservative sects. Even some Orthodox sects are starting coming around to the idea of dropping that rule, since if tattoos are a form of self-expression, why would that also be considered self-mutilation?
Kate knows all of this. Rafael, along with pretty much everybody she could ever possibly meet on her years long booze-cruise, do not. So yes, it would normally “throw people off” that she’s Jewish, as it apparently did rather well. After all, according to Rafael…it’s just a rumor, even though it’s true. His comments about blood and pain and scars require no explanation.
Kate is who she is, no matter how hard she tries to hide it: an angry Jewish lesbian woman. Who is sometimes out for justice. Occasionally with a gun. But not like, crying for Justice—okay, I’ll stop because you can’t hear the drum snare.
So, yeah. That’s what that is, and it’s going to stick with me, and many others, for a long, long time. More than that, though, is that this was written by two non-Jewish people. And if I didn’t know that for damn sure, I’d assume they were. That’s how perfect this is. That’s how spot on. I know Bennett did exhaustive research into Judaism when developing DC Bombshells, but I never imagined that she’d get it on a level this deep. Bombshells didn’t need to be subtle; its Jewishness is front and center and a big focus.
But this? This is so far beyond that. This is different. This is something else. This is phenomenal.
Sure, queerness and Jewishness have a decent amount of things in common. How the world reacts and treats both groups, and the suffering along the way, but—well, Kylie said it best when we discussed this at length: it’s all about the language of the oppressed. Neither James Tynion IV nor Marguerite Bennett are straight, so with enough research, hell, apparently anything’s possible.
Right. Anyway, moving on from that. Just gonna kick the counter up for failing to hide her full identity from strangers and keep on going. Or for cracking her head into a rock while being a drunken dipshit. Take your pick.
Loose Lips Sink Ships, Kate!
After Tahani reenacts the ending of The Godfather, where Safiyah is apparently Michael Corleone and Kate is…whoever the hell his wife was, and Rafael ominously narrating about finding things, we snap back to the present as the Sequoia approaches the coast of Coryana. We’re back in Kate’s head again, and it seems like she’s ready to burn the whole damn island to the ground.
She reminisces about pain once more, focusing on the emotional and psychological kind rather than the physical. Then she considers what one would have to do to cause themselves more pain, which is just par for the freaking course for her and that other lady who she keeps reminding me of. And then she…gets off the ship by using a random chain to swing across—seriously, Kate? It’s the middle of the day! If you keep doing crap like this your supposedly perfect stealthy approach is going to mean nothing. Well, even if that does happen, at least nobody remembers who—
Okay. Okay, that’s fine. You coulda tried to, y’know, not respond to him but I guess you got caught up in the moment of seeing an old friend. It happens. To you. Pretty much only to you, but that’s what happens when you don’t dissociate with a persona. Regardless, he seemed nice. You remembered him fondly. He’s an ally, then. He can help you…
Dying. Because of something you did. Dying because of something you did. In a comic published on The Ides of March. Goddamnit, Kate. You and your dramatic irony.
Welp. Guess we’re in for one hell of a ride, huh? But, uh bad news about that, friends. Batwoman #2 won’t be out until April 19th. That’s five weeks instead of four.
NEXT WEEK: We get to find out if Kate survives getting stabbed with magic swords! Again! Doesn’t that just sound exciting?
Well, I think it does.
Writers: Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV
Pencils/Inks: Steve Epting
Colors: Jeromy Cox
Letterer: Deron Bennett
The Trial of Two Cities Turns the Tone of Green Arrow
Hello, good readers; it’s been quite a while since I’ve done something on Green Arrow for you to all in enjoy. In part, I blame that on DC for changing the series from a bi-monthly release to once a month. Believe you me, I very annoyed about this, because now I have to wait twice as long for the next exciting issue and I am quite impatient. Yet, we can find solace in the fact even if we have to wait an extra two weeks for the next chapter in our favorite story, we know that the quality will not falter. Thirty nine issues in and Green Arrow is still one of the best titles DC has to offer. Not only is the story still as engaging as ever, but Juan Ferreyra has been featured as the artist so much recently that he’s crossing the line from occasional artist to permanent. I really hope that happens because he is one of the best, if not the best that DC has to offer right now, kudos to his talent.
As the new year comes along we are finally getting the end to the arc started last year, The Trial of Two Cities, as well as the sub-arc within the last two issues called The Fall of the Red Arrow. Not only was this part of the series over a year in the making, but it has marked a serious change in tone for the series. Not to say the series itself is depressing in retrospect, but for a while now Oliver has not known more than some major defeats at the hands of the Ninth Circle. Just to list a few things that have befallen Oliver Queen: publicly disgraced and framed for the murder of a secretary (a major plot point for this arc but we’ll get to that later), lost control of Queen Industries to a patsy of the Ninth Circle, failed to save Seattle from becoming Star City, lost friends both literally and figuratively, and strained his relationship with Dinah.
All in all it’s been a great year for us as readers, but definitely not for his character. That’s one of the reasons why the ending issue for this arc was so important. As the old adage goes, Oliver Queen has no where to go but up at this point. That’s not to say he’s seen not seen some victory here and there. The last arc so brilliantly showed that he we ready to join a higher tier of superheroes to the point where even the Justice League added their voices to his cause in a finale so moving, I couldn’t help but be proud for being a part of it for this long. The series needed this win; for once we see Oliver reach the masses with the truth and the strength to overcome his personal demons and discover who his true family is, the ones who will stick with him and us through all the good times and the bad. Now lets look at all the factors leading this to be one of the best arcs in the series and how they changed the future of Green Arrow to something that fans will surely clamor over no matter how long the wait between issues.
The Return of Moira Queen and The Fall of the Red Arrow
This one hit like a ton of bricks but also felt kind of shallow at first glance. Dysfunctional family has always been a major part of Oliver Queen’s life whether it was his actual family or his super hero one. In the previous arc to the Hard Traveling Hero, before Seattle succumbs to the influence of Cyrus Broderick and Mayor Domini we discover that Oliver’s father was a member of the Ninth Circle, be it for whatever moral reason he sold his soul to the devil. It’s only natural that Oliver would revert back to an almost child like sense of hope at the return of his mother. Call it being not the most emotionally healthy reaction on his end, but after all he’s been through with the revelations of his father, it’s hard not to understand how he feels, even if it is misplaced and we know it.
It’s let on pretty early that Moira is trying to get back into the Ninth Circles good side after a massive failure on her end with some destroyed satellites thanks to Ollie and Hal Jordan. In response, Dante (the de facto leader of the Ninth Circles) employs Shado to kill her while Moira brings Cyrus back from the brink after his fiery aftermath with Ollie. Eventually, she convinces Oliver to help recover a lost fortune that went down with the Ninth Circle ship/fortress, the inferno. Typically she betrays and leaves him for dead, yet another betrayal on his list. But at least it leads to Dinah saving him and to one of the best fights in the series so far.
With Cyrus falling victim to Shado her list of allies grows thin, yet almost in the nick of time, her former lover and assassin, Malcolm Merlyn, escapes Diggles’s custody and runs to join her side. In a three-way fight, Malcolm and Moira take on Oliver, Dinah, and Emi, while Shado tries to get a Moira no matter who is in her way. It’s exciting, full of intense action and heart break.
The tides turn when Emi selflessly takes an arrow to the chest that was meant for Oliver as a gift from his dear mother. Shado may not have been the best mother, but seeing the probable death of her only daughter sends her into a rage so fierce that both her and Moira plummet into the unknown, but not before Shado can brand her forehead with an arrow. Granted Emi does survive, but that selfless act on her end broke our hearts and filled our eyes with so many tears. It’s not known whether the two or one of them survived the ordeal but for once we saw Shado give her rage into something pure and I have a much greater respect for the character, whether she lives or dies. I definitely can’t say the same for Moira. Diggle also returns to the fold and saves Dinah from Merlyn, and comes back to team arrow for good.
The Trial of Oliver Queen
The other plot in the center stage for this arc was the trial of Oliver Queen. As stated, and of course known if you read this comic, Oliver Queen was disgraced early on in the series when he was drugged by Shado. She had put him on a boat with one of his secretaries named Wendy Poole. What followed was a smear campaign that left him look like a murderer and a drunk, up until now he thought it best to stay dead to serve Seattle as a full time Green Arrow. Though once he realized what Seattle was to become, he came back to the open as Oliver Queen leading to his arrest for the murder of Wendy Poole. Of course, he did not make things better for himself when he left Seattle again just days before his trial to the dismay of his lawyer. Of course things happened between and during the case that would lead to one of the best wins to date for Oliver.
While he was away earning the respect of the Justice League, Dinah was on the hunt for the section of the Ninth Circle that was still kidnapping the homeless and underprivileged of Seattle. The actual discovery she would make was far more important than she would imagine, Wendy Poole, the supposed dead secretary was still alive though very traumatized and damaged. It was not clear if she would speak to the court on Ollie’s behalf or she could even speak at all. Meanwhile the Ninth Circle did it’s best to try and destroy an sort of defense Oliver had. This is where making friends comes in handy as every single attempt is stunted gloriously by various members of the Justice League.
Now this is exactly moment where everything changes, and I swear I nearly through my comic with tears of victory and glory. Oliver, finally on the stand, almost ends up condemning himself in order to expose the Ninth Circle. He gives his lawyer a gold bar worth enough money to quiet all her troubles she’s had to deal with while defending Oliver. With the world watching, including the Justice League, Ollie finally exposes the enemy eluding him for so long and brings them into the light. With perfect timing, Wendy works up the courage to make herself known.
Between this and Hal Jordan’s digital proof, Oliver is finally free of his bonds and what an amazing victory this was. The arc ends with Oliver finally using his money for great things: a grant for the Seattle PD in the name of Chief Westburg to show the victorious dead will always be remembered, the repair of the intercontinental train to restore unity to the world, new renewable energy projects to save the planet and the natives who were harmed by the pipeline, and finally a new home for the forgotten and unwanted populace of Seattle.
Everything that made Green Arrow and Oliver Queen so special came into clear focus with this wonderful end to an amazing arc. I can’t wait for what is next for all those who enjoy this series. I truly hope that the readers, like Ollie, take a long deep breath to remember all he’s been through and what makes us love him and his family so much, because we all know the next conflict is just around the corner. This time Oliver and we will be ready for it.
Images courtesy of DC Comics
Pointless Flashbacks, Clunky Exposition Equal Another Atrocious Wonder Woman Issue
Gather round my friends for yet another installment of absolute garbage that is masquerading as a Wonder Woman series. Issue #42, part 2 of “Amazons Attacked,” has everything that we’ve come to expect from the talents of James Robinson: extensive focus on every character except Wonder Woman, unnecessary flashbacks to “explain” plot developments that are unconnected to the current story, and exposition & lore that is just staggeringly bad. Truly, this issue has it all.
But never fear, for I have finally decided to stop being angry—or even disappointed—over the sheer depths that this series tries to plumb. Instead I’m just going to lean back and let the filth wash over me because, really, what other choice do I have? If I let this comic continue to tear at my psyche there wouldn’t be anything left, and I won’t give it the satisfaction of taking me down with it. It doesn’t deserve my sanity.
Instead I’ll just shake my head and move on, because it’s not worth dwelling on.
Recap We’ll waste some time with Jason and then kick the mythology of the New Gods around a bit
The issue picks up immediately where the last issue left off, with Jason reappearing to Diana and Steve Trevor at A.R.G.U.S. Headquarters. Diana again asks him where he’s been—the comic specifically makes it clear that she’s had to repeat herself—and Jason can’t explain what happened to him or where he got his new armor. All he can do is say that it was “a dream of giants” as his hazy flashback shows him towered over by indistinct, gargantuan figures.
I’ll give the issue this much credit (but no more): the extended panel of minuscule Jason dwarfed by the beings that he can’t comprehend finally gives the series a scale and majesty worthy of the Greek pantheon and the New Gods. The surrounding explanation is vague and meaningless, and Diana’s expressive warmth to have him back makes no sense given that it’s only been a week and in the last issue she wasn’t even sure if she should be concerned at all, but that one panel at least got something right.
Before they can dig more into what this all means, Steve is approached by an A.R.G.U.S. operative who tells him to report immediately since Grail has been located in Bavaria. It will take several hours for Steve and the Oddfellows to get to Germany, but Jason helpfully explains that he now has new powers (that he can’t explain), so he can fly even faster than Wonder Woman and get the two of them to Grail very quickly. He takes off carrying Wonder Woman, and Steve belatedly says that he’ll meet them there.
As they fly, Diana observes that Jason is being very quiet. Jason says that he is reflecting back on everything that has happened, specifically how he first met Grail.
The comic cuts to a flashback of Jason’s encounter with the Deep Six, who had ambushed him on the Aegean back when he was living as a “mere” fisherman. The Six attack him one at a time, each helpfully naming themselves in the third person which Jason mocks in his recap. Jason defeats five of them until the sixth manages to gain the upper hand. That was when Grail appeared from a Boom Tube, saving Jason’s life in what he can now realize was an obvious setup to earn his trust.
Jumping back to the present, Jason finishes his story as they approach Grail’s location after only twelve minutes of flight. Grail has overwhelmed and is about to kill the Wild Huntsman, a German superhero, but Wonder Woman has Jason throw her so that she can reach the scene even faster and knocks Grail aside. As the two of them fight, Jason is swarmed by Parademons, the footsoldiers of Darkseid.
Wonder Woman manages to ensnare Grail in the Lasso of Truth and force her to reveal Darkseid’s plan, which is to collect the various New God relics across the earth and use them to create a connection to the ‘energy’ of the Greek pantheon and Themyscira. As she speaks, though, Grail has been concentrating and preparing herself, and because of her combined Apokolips/Amazon heritage she is able to break the lasso and make her escape.
The issue ends back at the temple of the New Gods in the Amazon jungle with Darkseid planning an attack on A.R.G.U.S. Headquarters to claim the last of the relics and activate his machine.
Review Maybe we can pretend this is some sort of avant-garde art and that’s why it doesn’t make sense
Boy am I glad that I decided to stop caring about this series, because if I did care….whoooo would this issue do a number on me.
First off, there’s the fact that (like every single issue so far) Diana simply isn’t the main character. It is—again—an issue meant to explore the backstory of Jason and talk about how all of this story is about him. He’s re-introduced as now being more powerful than even she is, with explicit dialogue to that effect as Jason talks about how he’s even faster than she is now and how his control of the elements is even more easy and natural than it was before. Two issues ago his story was about how he needs to grow the hell up, and now he’s already coming back as the new Big Power guy in the story.
We also get another flashback to his early life, four pages where Diana is theoretically present in the sense that Jason is telling this story to her, but during which she neither appears on the page nor has any dialogue. In fact, I counted, and Diana only has twenty-seven lines in the entire issue, which doesn’t even average out to two lines per page. Several sequences have her completely dialogue-less, even when she is on-panel. Jason, on the other hand, gets to give multiple speeches, and even Steve Trevor (Who only appears on four pages total) gets to have lines on pages where Diana is completely silent.
In fact, speaking of Steve Trevor and the way this series seems to go out of its way to deliberately sideline Diana, there’s the way that the A.R.G.U.S. operative goes to him at the beginning and tells him about Grail. When Wonder Woman—the SUPERHERO—is standing right next to him.
You might be inclined to say that it’s because Diana isn’t a member of A.R.G.U.S. and so the operative is just sticking to her official chain of command, except that Steve is also not a member of A.R.G.U.S. He works for the Picket, a completely separate government agency, and has neither authority within nor obligation to A.R.G.U.S. James Robinson clearly wants Steve to go back to working for A.R.G.U.S. given the way that it’s the primary agency of the series, but he hasn’t actually written that happening. He’s just stopped mentioning the Picket and hoped that the audience has forgotten about it.
But let’s back up a bit to that flashback again; the original flashback to Jason’s early life and his confrontation with the Deep Six was in issue #35. That’s seven issues ago, enough space for a different (competent) series to have written two full story arcs, or even an event minseries. It was published four months ago, which is time enough for other comics to have already begun publication and subsequently been cancelled. We have moved past that story, and returning to it now makes no sense. Most readers would likely have flat-out forgotten about it, and those who remembered probably just didn’t care.
And if they did care, if for some reason a reader really did want to know just how it was that Grail managed to trick Jason, well they would have been disappointed because this new flashback doesn’t actually answer any questions. We might know how Grail first introduced herself to Jason, but how she convinced him to turn against the father-figure he knew and loved (Hercules) there’s no mention at all. It is literally not even addressed how Grail turned “I saved your life” into “Now help me kill your loved ones” since the flashback just stops after she shows up.
Getting to the issue’s climax, the problem with the ‘reveal’ of what Darkseid’s plan is is that it isn’t a reveal. Diana might be hearing it for the first time, but we aren’t. Since it is literally just a double-page of Grail talking, and talking, and talking without the audience actually getting any new information, it is painfully dull and pointless. When you cap it with Grail somehow breaking the lasso of Truth, I just….I can’t even.
I will just close this review with a clip from Justice League Unlimited, which I linked in an earlier review, and which shows how Darkseid should handle regaining control of Apokolips instead of whatever the hell this plan is supposed to be.
It really should be that dang easy for him.
Images from Wonder Woman #42 Courtesy of DC Comics
A domestic turdstorm brews in Saga
Last Wednesday I managed to finally completely catch up on Spawn, the original Image comic series. I’m talking about (so far) 283 issues, and that’s just the main run. And you can bet that, at several points of this lengthy history, Spawn has exhibited a few failings in the writing department. Todd McFarlane’s pen notwithstanding, we can reasonably expect the story to get a little trite, a little dull; formulaic after so many issues. Some may call it the inevitable drying of the well of ideas. While things are considerably fresher in Saga‘s case, one might occasionally dread this series going the same way. Namely, every time the family reaches a state of peace and solidity.
Drama is the factor of engagement for many genres. We need that bitterness to distinguish the sweet serenity of reunion and the momentary notion that things may end up well. But we cannot expect Alana, Marko and Hazel to be broken up and feel as engaged as in issues past. If the outside threat via Ianthe’s vengeance will be the toughest baddie so far, the inner rift must also be an entirely different beast…
“This story will be the death of us”
As I’ve tastefully described in the title, most of the conflict of this issue develops under the Rocketship’s roof. Therefore, we’ll trim the meat by first looking at what goes on outside. With a naked Will in tow, Ianthe discovers they had just barely missed Marko and his family. Although this is a detriment to her plans, her resolve is not dampened in the least. In fact, she villanously revels in the chaos she will unleash once she reaches our heroes. Interestingly, the main focus of her actions has migrated to this end, whereas the grief for her dead fiance is an aspect exclusive to her hatred for Will. Silver lining in this ominous setting is Will himself, who looks quite a bit healthier.
Of course, that’s most likely a side product of the abuse he endures at Ianthe’s hands. Nonetheless, he may be yet competent enough to turn the tables on Ianthe if the time comes. As a side note, one of the morsels of emotional abuse Ianthe dishes out is the impression that Will’s actions are inconsequential, playing only to others’ relevance. This assessment is both kind-of-right and wrong. In very loose terms, Saga is indeed the story of Hazel and her parents, but he has definitely and dominantly taken full reins of his region of the narrative. So, if not only for basic comeuppance, we may look forward to Will proving Ianthe wrong in this regard in particular. Or perhaps even a comeback for his former friends.
Now onto the main course proper. This gets a little soap opera-ish.
The general state of things inside the Rocketship has been pretty swell. It would seem the greatest inconvenience is the fact that Marko can occasionally hear Sir Robot and Petrichor having intercourse late at night. But problems beneath the canopy of safety begin to arise from contrasting wants, particularly in two ways. First, Sir Robot is starting to develop feelings for Petri. Given the circumstance, he may either be an impulsive killer or a complete sap, as you do. However, while not confirming nor denying reciprocate feelings, Petri sees their nights of passion as a temporary ride, mostly due to the difference between their races.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The existing taboo by the coupling of Alana and Marko’s races extends to this pair as well, given the Robots’ political alliance to Landfall. There’s also the matter of Sir Robot’s royal lineage, regardless of his denial and discarding. While sad, it appears the most sensible course of action in order to avoid the same kind of persecution Alana and Marko endure on a daily basis. And speaking of which…
Here comes the second contrast in wants: Upsher and Doff vs. Alana and Marko. By now, the journos are in the know about the fugitives’ story, but this was certainly off-the-record. Bringing the topic back up is not the most polite thing to do, so Upsher tries a second time, with an incentive: a source protection program. If they get to tell their story, the newspaper can use powerful magic to “transubtantiate” Alana, Marko and Hazel’s bodies into amphybians in order to protect their identities… and to end their persecution, once and for all. It’s expensive magic, but considering the potential story they’re sitting on, it really looks like a expense the Hebdomadal would be more than happy to afford.
It’s certainly a tasty deal. Hazel’s parents would be right to accept it. But they’d also be right to turn it down, which they do, out regard for Hazel’s biology. Plus, they are skeptical on the impact such an article could have on the war. It may baffle some and force some massive PR gymnastics, but it could ultimately do little in the grand scheme of things. Such is life, such is war. Although disappointed, Upsher and Doff still swear secrecy on the story. However, Sir Robot did overhear their conversation.
In the meantime, Hazel and Squire have a bit of a quarrel. This thing tends to happen between siblings. One accuses the other of taking a beloved toy, things get a little physical. Babysitter Ghûs intervenes to try and cool this down. Things get verbal, and somebody says something truly hurtful — tears ensue. Both tragic and commonplace at the same time, the kids touch each other’s world by something personal, linked to trauma they endured across their lives. For Hazel, it was believing Squire took Ponk Konk, unbeknowest to him, a memento of joy prior to a heartbreaking rift in her family. For Squire, it was Hazel mocking him for not having a mum.
Naturally, Hazel regrets that immediately. The conflict breaks off in the end, with Ghûs ashamed and convinced he could have handled it a lot better.
The issue ends with a conversation between Sir Robot and the Hebdomadal duo. Although it may not be the story they originally set out to get, the disgraced royal offers them a tasty consolation price. A little story he got in a brothel back in Pervious from a Robot sex worker. This lady serviced a Landfallian soldier with a nasty pre-sex guilt streak (awkward). Fella emotionally spills the beans on Phang’s doom, revealing it was an inside job at the hands of the Landfall coalition. It’s dirt all over. Sir Robot had no interest in sharing this information. But then he heard about that source protection program…
Sir Robot looks pretty secure he can convince Petrichor to become an amphibian. And he’s sure his son will do as he’s told. The formal royal looks ready to seal the deal, but we know robots pretty well by now. One thing is to listen to their words. Another is to read their faces, and see what they truly feel, want, and in this case, dread. Despite his apparent security, he is truly hoping they’ll say no.
As of now, the ramifications of such a deal menace to cause major ripples within and without this Rocketship household. Stay tuned for the age of chaos, likely to befall this galaxy.