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Detective Comics Drops A Meta-Narrative Bomb




[Danny Elfman Theme Plays]

You know what you don’t see too often anymore? Nine panel grids. They’re the old standard, sure, but experimental layouts have become more and more common over the years. So, when you do see a nine panel grid, you’re typically gonna think that it’s for a very important reason. Most of the time, you’re correct. This is one of those times.

Fresh off of his stellar work in the equally fantastic mini-series Midnighter and Apollo, Fernando Blanco renders our opening flashback in a way that is best described as “Oh God She Just Destroyed The Grid”. Okay, not really an adjective but that’s what happened. Shiva slaughtered those Colony soldiers so fast that she broke the panels. In layman’s terms: everyone is going to die.

But, let’s back up a bit since there’s a whole lot going on here. Heh. A lot going on in Detective Comics. What else is new? Well, for starters, Ra’s Al Ghul allying with the Colony. Because that’s the implication here. Now, you have to ask yourself: why? Why would Ra’s al Ghul, the Demon’s Head, the nigh-immortal leader of the League of Assassins, a centuries old eco-terrorist group, join forces with a top secret black ops branch of the U.S. Army?

Why would Jacob and Ra’s ever see eye to eye enough to pool their resources against anything, when Jacob’s whole thing is fighting terrorists just like Ra’s? Well, the obvious answer is the one right in front of you. Shiva and her League of Shadows presents a threat so massive and so terrifying that Jacob Kane actually negotiated with terrorists. But that’s not even the best part.

No, the best part, by far, is that League of Shadows isn’t what you think they are. It’s not what thought they were, initially. You take a look at all the pieces, though, and you start to see the picture that I’m all but certain Tynion is attempting to paint. Something that is difficult to believe was unintentional. And it is an uncomfortably familiar image. Extremely so.

But we’ll get there.

The One Where Kate Isn’t Stabbed

Look, it’s like a motif with her or something. Always with the stabbing, specifically the heart. Don’t believe me? Re-read ElegyCrime Bible, 52, and Batwoman (2011). Then take a look at the solicits for Batwoman #2 (2017) and the variant cover of Detective Comics #953. So much stabbing. Anyway, our heroes are very quickly overwhelmed by the League of Shadows, taking out Batwing and Azrael in a matter of seconds thanks to, presumably, magic katanas. Bruce and Kate huddle up and finally decide to unleash their giant “I Win” button, allowing Clayface to, once again, prove he’s by far the single most valuable member of the team in a fight.

Curse your sudden yet inevitable future betrayal, Basil. I’m gonna miss you so damn much.

Meanwhile, Cass sneaks up on Shiva, and they unknowingly re-enact about twenty or so issues of her original Batgirl ongoing in just under three pages. I’d show the similarities here, but there’s really no need. It’s not like I’m trying to prove Tynion is subverting War Games all over again.

They meet, they fight, Cass gets her butt handed to her because, just like the first time around, she won’t kill. Except there’s a deviation. And it’s not just that Cass learns that Shiva is her mother in the first encounter—that was slowly revealed over a very long period of time back in the early 2000s. No, this time Shiva is not, well, as she says later herself, she’s not playing.

This isn’t a game to her the way it used to be. This is probably one of the largest swerves for those of us who know the old stories. Shiva, who used to be called Lady Shiva and I kind of liked that absurd contradiction the honorific gave her, used to operate under a very specific and masochistic goal. She was searching for a good death. Shiva would cultivate and watch the world’s greatest martial artists, wait until they were in their prime, and then strike, hoping they would be skilled enough to kill her. None ever could.

Clearly, this is no longer the case.

At best, they survived their encounter in a stalemate. Or they won because she was being mind controlled by Gorilla Grodd, but that one was pretty debatable. Mind control has a habit of impairing one’s inherent abilities since they aren’t in full control of themselves. I’m pretty sure that’s the one Bruce is referencing when he said he won. Honestly, it could be another instance but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter which specific fight Shiva threw. What matters is that she did. And that, instead of seeking her own “good death”, she apparently wants to kill everyone else.

Which is very, very bad. That constant search for the right person to kill her and assume the role of the next Shiva—yup it’s a title; her real name is Sandra!—well, that was more or less the only thing that stopped Shiva from slaughtering everyone to achieve whatever the hell she wanted. And as we saw both in the flashback and with how quickly she got the better of Bruce, unless Cass can figure out how to beat her, she’s going to get what she wants. Everyone dead.

And honestly it’s kind of awesome seeing Shiva just completely curbstomp Bruce. The fact that he doesn’t kill is a pretty huge handicap in a fight, and it needs to be addressed like this more often. But, even if he was willing to kill, Shiva would still beat him into the ground. She’s Shiva. She’s the second most deadly non-metahuman on the planet. The first being, hopefully, her daughter.

Pbbbth, hopefully? Of course she is. That’s how this works, just you watch.

Oh! And this little moment got to me:

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Do I even need to say it?

Kate Kane And The People Who Love Her And Want To Talk To Her? (And Also Duke)

That…title doesn’t sound right, but okay I guess. After Clayface reveals that Luke and Jean-Paul vanished in his arms along with the League of Shadows (those katanas have got to be magic), what remains of the team returns to the Belfry. Kate gets a call from Renee, which amusingly goes straight into her helmet. Because of course it does. She starts warning her that, hey, remember how everyone thinks that Batman killed the Mayor? That’s still a thing.

And also literally everything has gone to hell.

What I wouldn’t give to see their texting history…

Aside from getting major Gotham Central vibes, along with, ironically, War Games, this is just so adorable. It is. It really is. This is five issues Renee has popped up in since Rebirth began. Literally every time has been, in some small way, about rebuilding their old relationship into something that won’t just explode in their faces. Well, except Batwoman Rebirth. That was just flashback sex.

Anyway, after that whole thing, Kate forgets that Duke is a Black man while making a snarky comment about getting shot by the police. Because of course she does. Turns out, Duke’s been doing exactly what Jacob told them to do last issue: cross reference the Colony database with the Batcomputer to figure out how many people shouldn’t exist in Gotham. The number is, surprisingly, fifty-seven.

It’s not that I’m surprised at the number itself, but rather that it wasn’t fifty-two. Why wouldn’t it be? This is DC. It’s kind of their thing, especially with Kate and Renee running around. Duke heads off to regroup with Batgirl and the Birds of Prey in a nice bit of shared-universe nodding, and expresses some pretty heavy concern for Luke and Jean-Paul. But mostly Luke.

After he’s gone, Clayface tells Kate that her dad wants to talk to her. Which honestly begs the question as to how Clayface knows that. Was he watching the monitor? Or, just watching him in the cell? Is there a button he pressed that alerts somebody? I dunno, this is just really funny to think about.

The League of Shadows

This is where it gets scary. Not “oh that was spooky” scary, but actual, palpable fear. If I’m right, that is. Again, it is extremely difficult to believe that, considering when all of this was written, this was unintentional. And I’m not talking about Shiva’s sadistic psychological torture of Jacob in his own ops center. At least, not specifically. Though that does complement the meta-narrative.

Let’s just take it one step at a time, since it’s a lot to swallow.

I want you to look at this moment, really look at it, and consider where you may have seen this before. Where you may have heard this before. Why it’s important that Jacob be the one to say this, and why it’s equally important that Kate is the one to hear it. And not just hear it, but understand.

Jacob. You’re married to a nice Jewish girl. Would it kill you to maybe remember that? “Grab Catherine and your things and run.”

He goes on to say that Shiva is “made of evil” and that, again, she needs to run. Now, you have to ask yourself, why would Jacob, who operates exclusively in the morally grey, ever call something “made of evil”. He knows what he does. He knows what he’s done, and what he’s tried to do. He has never denied these things to Kate. So, when he says evil, I think we can safely believe he means that. It’s not hyperbole, especially considering the unprecedented fear and panic he’s showing Kate right now.

You’re looking at a Jewish man begging his Jewish daughter to run from a threat that cannot be reasoned with. From a force whose only goal is her and everyone else dead. The city has already turned against her and her people, just like Renee said. Nowhere in Gotham is safe. The only options are to fight, and almost certainly die, or run and possibly survive.

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We’re talking about a threat, an ideology really, that cannot be killed. Something that very few even believe exists, even if it did at one time, let alone willing to acknowledge. The way the League of Shadows spreads, the way that they’re depicted, the way that Bruce denies their existence—it’s all so familiar, isn’t it? And not just that. Let’s not forget that these aren’t all foreign threats. That was one the largest contentions regarding what Jacob was doing during Rise of the Batmen. The League of Shadows were everywhere and nowhere. They were in Gotham. They were hiding in America.

An old “lie”. A secret army made up of the deadliest killers on the planet hiding in plain sight whose only goal is to spread chaos, and by extension fear. And thus, hatred. And they could do it because it was bit by bit, not all at once. A build so meticulous and slow, yet clearly visible to those who looked, that the only way to stop it was to kill those responsible before they grew too powerful to stop. Like a virus before it spreads too far into a population.

And last, but most certainly not least, a group of people poised to fight this very threat that no one will listen to. That the higher authorities, nor individuals, will believe. Because they aren’t a threat to them, specifically. Not yet. But when it’s too late, and they do become the targets, as all of Gotham is right now, then they believe. Then they understand, for a time.

See? This is how it started. This is exactly how the Nazis took root,  how they gained power throughout the late 20s up to their “peak” in the 40s. And it’s how they’re still doing it. They never stopped. They never left. They hid, sure. In plain sight. They were quiet, and started small all over again. But when the moment was right, they came back in force.

Let’s Just Take A Second And Breathe, Okay?

Wait, wait, just—hold on. I know, that’s a big thing to say. And to be clear, I’m not saying that the League of Shadows are the Nazis. They’re not Hydra. It’s not an easy one-to-one comparison, and it is not supposed to be. It is, however, the same method. The same tactics. The same reactions from everyone else. It’s something that we’ve discussed on our forum, but weren’t quite sure if we were reaching too far, or if we were on to something.

And I hope I can convince you that it’s all but impossible for this to be unintentional. The Colony is lead by a Jewish man, fighting an organization that operates almost exactly the same way that the Nazis did and do. Yes. Do. Present tense.

Before you say that I’m only making this argument due to recent events, I’m not. There has been a spike of white supremacist hate crimes, anti-semitic or otherwise, in the past few months, yes. That’s true. But it wasn’t out of nowhere. It was a slow build that, again, not enough people saw. And if they did, they denied that it was really Nazis, or their modern contemporaries. And for the same reason that Bruce denied the existence of the League of Shadows; it didn’t seem possible.

There is a strong cultural misconception that Nazis only existed before and during the Second World War. This is not true. They look like anyone else. Often sound like anyone else. But now they’re not hiding because they don’t need to. Just like the League of Shadows. Again, not a one-to-one comparison, but you have to admit, it seems incredibly unlikely that this was accidental.

And really, if I am right, how is that bad? How is it a negative that Batman is fighting people that are kinda like the Nazis in pretty much every way except the specifically targeted genocide? Unless you make a case that Gotham is that equivalent, and you honestly can. Population is huge.

But, c’mon, how could this possibly be a loss? If you ask me, it can only make this better. And I’m sure some of you may be thinking “they’re doing this in response to Nazi!Cap”. Well, you could be right. But consider that that was first revealed the exact same day that DC Rebirth began, and that these storylines were planned well in advance. It’s possible that some of the lettering and wording was massaged to better fit that meta-narrative, and if it was, well, that’s kinda great too. But if it wasn’t, that just makes it more powerful.

Either way, we as readers win.

Ahem. Anyway, there’s, uh, two more things I wanted to talk about.

The Two More Things I Wanted To Talk About

Batwing and Azrael are fine, and I’m betting it has something to do with how they were stabbed. Jacob talks about being stabbed in just the right way, and he shows the scar. It’s in the same place that Luke was hit. Jean-Paul was stabbed in the back so…I mean I guess they could have pulled the same trick. I’d assume as much since he hasn’t had his arc yet. Plus, he’s Azrael. He just got here!

And also that Bruce is getting really good at hugging.

That’s like, his third since Rebirth started! He’ll be a hug master at this rate.

So, yeah. Leave your thoughts either here or on the forum, if you’d like. Still love this book, and I love it even more than I did last time. Which is just really freaking crazy, y’know?

Next Week: BATWOMAN #1! Are you excited? I’m excited!

All images courtesy of DC Comics 


Writer: James Tynion IV

Pencils/Inks (pgs 1-3): Fernando Blanco

Pencils/Inks (pgs 4-20): Christian Duce

Colors (pgs 1-3): John Rauch

Colors (pgs 4-17): Alex Sinclair

Colors (18-20): Allen Passalaqua

Letterer: Sal Cipriano

Griffin is an Entertainment Writer operating out of the Chicago area. He likes puzzles, deconstructing other puzzles, and talk show branded ice cream flavors.



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.

Dont fall for it Ollie

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.

And at this moment I clapped for Shado

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.

If it looks like Im a Juan Ferreyra fanboy, its because I am. You cant deny this isnt an amazing piece of art.

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.

The sacrifice felt around the world, I nearly cried

Images courtesy of DC Comics 

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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.

This is the appropriate level of “wow” that anything called a ‘god’ deserves.

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.

I’d make a “Next Time, Gadget!” joke, except that Dr. Claw doesn’t deserve to be slandered by association like that.

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.

A completely silent woman being literally guided by the hand. Why yes, that is exactly what I think of when I think “Wonder Woman.”

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.

Notice how they don’t even look at Wonder Woman?

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

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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…

Issue #49
“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.

Saga Issue #49 Credits
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Images courtesy of Image Comics

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