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Detective Comics Digs Even Deeper

Griffin

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[Danny Elfman Theme Plays]

You know, a lot of people seem to think that nothing happened in Detective Comics #954. I find that rather strange, since to me, a ton of stuff happened. Sure, everything is subjective and I guess if someone’s not reading the dialogue and just looking at Marcio Takara’s wonderful inky shadows, then I suppose they’d have a point. But that’s not really how you read, uh, literally anything, since to read requires actual reading of text.

I guess my overall point is that I’m one of those people that loves feeling smart for paying attention. And that’s just how Tynion writes scripts for Detective Comics, so perhaps that means I’m also easy to please. Well. That’s certainly possible, but Kate wasn’t even in this issue and I still loved it. Bam, proof it’s not just Kate existing that makes me love this book.

Anyway, tons of stuff happened and just like my War Games theory back during The Victim Syndicate, I was right on the money! It’s all about an earthquake. But we’ll come back to that. For now, actual thoughts on other things. Not too many this time, (shocker, I know!) as this was super straightforward for how complex it actually is. Just what happens when you seed things so well.

Well, that, and when you trust your audience to come to the right conclusions.

The Batman Gambit: Demon’s Head Edition

It doesn’t matter what or who Bruce believes. Distrusting Jacob and locking him in a cell gets him screwed over with the League of Shadows. Trusting Ra’s Al Ghul with information about the League of Shadows and releasing him from a different cell screws him over. And that’s kind of great because in neither situation did he actually make the wrong choice with the information he had at the time. Ra’s played his hand perfectly here, as he almost always does, and got the Dark Knight to do exactly what he wanted him to do: shut up and think.

No, really. That’s it. That was the whole point. Take it step by step: he leads Bruce through the sequence of events that caused him to forget the League of Shadows—which by the way is an awesome subversion of Bruce not being aware of another ancient conspiracy; he was!—the how and why of it, lying just enough to convince him that he’s not up to something else. Bruce buys it, lets him out and is immediately paralyzed by something the anti-toxins in his system could not possibly counteract. See, the choice of paralytic is important to note, though. Yes, Ra’s mocks that he will still be able to think unhindered while unable to move, but…

That’s his entire plan. That is Ra’s Al Ghul’s last hope to beat Shiva. If he knew how to beat her, he would have. He doesn’t, but he’s willing to risk everything on the chance that Batman can figure it out if given just the right motivation and circumstances: a situation where he can’t fight back, but is forced to think of a way out with all of his knowledge of the League of Shadows restored.

It’s the perfect set-up.

But that doesn’t answer another question I’m sure many of you are having, and boy is this a fun one. You’re probably wondering, unless you’re a giant DC nerd and can somehow remember a 13-year-old polarizing mini-series and/or who Zatanna is (or her father Zatara), just what on God’s green earth this was supposed to be:

Oh, my friends. What we have here is one of the single gutsiest things Tynion could do. Rebirth’s all about bringing back the old and merging it with the new, but this? This is one of those things a lot of people would have rather forgotten about altogether.

Identity Crisis: Redux

Back in 2004, DC published a limited series called Identity Crisis centered around the mysterious murder of Ralph “The Elongated Man” Dibny’s wife, Sue. Those two were the heart and soul of the JLA for decades, and it was heartbreaking to see Sue murdered. And it was especially disconcerting that even Batman was having trouble figuring out who the murderer was! Yeah, long story short that tale is not as awesome as it sounds. It was super dark and depressing and weird.

Oh, sure, I know it sounds pretty freaking amazing to watch the entire superhero community of the DCU band together to solve and unsolvable murder of one of their dearest friends (Doctor Mid-Nite did the autopsy for God’s sake!) but that’s not at all what happened. To make a weird story much shorter: Ray “The Atom” Palmer’s ex-wife Jean Loring killed Sue because…she was jealous? It didn’t make sense then, still doesn’t. And also she killed her by stealing Ray’s belt and growing inside of Sue’s brain.

Anyway, at some point during this investigation, Captain Boomerang killed Tim Drake’s father for some reason (I told you this was weird and dark), and also it’s revealed that Doctor Light (the first one) actually broke into the JLA Watchtower years ago and raped Sue Dibny. Yup.

So, the JLA arrives and subdues Doctor Light, and Batman quickly leaves because he’s got stuff to do in Gotham. The rest of them, having realized that Doctor Light is totally aware of their secret identities, take a vote on whether or not Zatanna, the Mistress of Magic, should wipe his mind and basically lobotomize him into someone totally ineffectual. It’s not a unanimous vote, but it passes and Zatanna wipes Doctor Light’s mind.

Except this happens right at the very same moment that Batman returns to the Watchtower, as he was still concerned for Sue’s well-being. And he is not happy with the whole lobotomizing thing. So the JLA calmly talk to him and explain—I’m just kidding they mindwipe the last ten minutes from his brain.

Obviously, he eventually figures out that this happened, since he is a detective, and that paranoia and distrust nearly destroys the world since the spy satellite he created—okay, look just go read Infinite Crisis if you want that story. It was awesome, but this part wasn’t.

It’s all kinds of messed up, and for Tynion to bring it back, especially for Zatara-based magic to be the source—hooboy.

Thankfully, it makes perfect sense this time around! It was a supervillain that wiped Bruce’s mind from figuring things out he wasn’t supposed to figure out, not his closest friends and allies! So, yeah. That’s about ten thousand times better, in my opinion. Plus…right, yeah, Zatanna and her father Zatara are famous for their use of magic by saying the words backwards. In times long past, Bruce trained with Zatara in order to understand how to defend himself against magic when he was learning how to be Batman, and he and Zatanna kinda had a thing during that time. So that’s back! But, ideally, not the other part. Where she wiped his mind.

Everything make sense? Awesome. On to the Earthquake! Sort of.

7:03 To Midnight

After Jacob, Cooper (who is totally Shore Leave from The Venture Bros.) and Dom are rescued by Simon-sans-Garfunkel and The 90s Kid, along with the rest of the Colony. Jacob immediately asks about Kate’s body, and Simon tells her that Shiva took her.

And these two small moments are incredibly heavy. For one, Cooper, who gets pretty far into Camp Gay territory, has to be a clear and present reminder of what happened to Kate at West Point. This is a soldier he trusts, but I find it hard to believe that he doesn’t also hate him on some level for forcing him to think about the literal years that Kate lost due to what more or less amounted to bad timing.

There’s that, and then there’s the bit about the body.

Bad enough that Jacob thinks he murdered Tim, a kid not that much older than Beth was when she was taken from him, but now he’s got to focus on not making the same mistake he did almost twenty years prior: never finding Beth’s body.

If you’re wondering why Jacob isn’t chewing losing his freaking mind right now, it’s not because he doesn’t care or because he’s that hardened a soldier. We just saw him punching industrial super-glass until his fists were bloody in a vain hope to get to Kate. No, this is him trusting her to still be alive. Because if he doesn’t, then he’s making that same mistake he did with Beth. Giving up before confirmation.

Anyway, just before the Colony exfiltrates to their airship, The 90s Kid does something to Tim’s memorial display. I figure there’s a fifty/fifty shot that he stole the costume and is gonna run around in it. I don’t think he defaced it; he really seemed to like Tim even if it was as a rival. Maybe he left some tech there he always wanted to share with him, like he said way back in Detective Comics #937.

Moving on to the earthquake:

[tw_gallery type=”gallery,slider” height=”200″]

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Fault line. Sink. He said swallow” back in Detective Comics 951. Yup, that’s an earthquake machine of some kind.

But who’s going to stop them? Oh, most certainly not Simon-sans-Garfunkel. Batman? I doubt it. He’s a little busy. Batwoman? Probably too preoccupied with the whole bleeding out thing. Even if they were still in the fight, Jacob’s right in his assumption that there’s no way they could take on this army on their own. Once again, subverting the Inverse Ninja Law. Even more than that, though, Clayface is goop while Azrael and Batwing are MIA.

So, that must leave…

I was actually going to say Midnighter since he has teleporter doors, but that works too! And it’ll be way more awesome. Those are ninjas are only mostly dead, by the way. Probably.

NEXT WEEK: BATWOMAN #2! And absolutely nothing else.


DETECTIVE COMICS #954

Writer: James Tynion IV

Pencils/Inks: Marcio Takara

Colors: Marcelo Maiolo

Letterer: Sal Cipriano

Images courtesy of DC Comics

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

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Unrighteous Retribution Unfolds in Saga

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If there was ever any doubt about Saga‘s creators’ ambition to create a deep narrative, it was dispelled like twenty issues ago. Hell, maybe you even knew it at first read. Wherever you look, there is something to see in this comic, something to laugh or cry over. Aside from promising features and solid story and character development, another feature that can ensure a title’s relevance is longevity. And there’s no better way to guarantee longevity than by introducing a new (efficient) baddie, which this issue is all about.

Things seem relatively calm in the throes of Alana’s painful but necessary abortion. Nobody is hot on Hazel’s trail. Thus, the conflict must come from somewhere else; otherwise, it would come off as a vulgar contrivance. For this reason, somebody else suffers the debuting antagonist’s hatred: Billy, aka The Will. Last time we saw him, a villainous presence incapacitated him right after killing Sweet Boy. Today, we see the fruition of that deed. Little happens, but there is much to say, nevertheless.

Issue #47
“Does everyone you meet end up dead?”

It makes sense that this new villain, Ianthe, takes up the cover for the issue, seeing as how all of it takes place in her living room. In terms of demeanour and style, she certainly conveys the magnificent asshole feel. But as we’ll soon know, her acts and character will imbue her with impunity, a key ingredient in the making of a despicable baddie. Interestingly, during his slightly physical, mostly emotional torture, we get to know a lot about The Will. More accurately, the key moments in his past that have led him to become this haunted, not-quite-heroic-not-quite-villainous figure.

With the use of a magical device plugged to Billy’s head, Ianthe brings out his memories, going as far as his childhood. Sophie and he were children in a broken home, where their father abused them. Things took a turn (for better and worse) when their uncle Steve came to pick them up. Things looked ripe for returning to their mum, who was successfully recovering from her alcohol addiction. But daddy dearest would have none of it. In fact, he was about to punish Sophie for writing a letter about the things he did. This triggered an active and definite response from Steve.

By the by, Uncle Steve is a Freelancer. He went by The Letter. And he axed the kids’ dad right in front of them. Although Billy’s expression is completely neutral, one can distinguish the sowing of a seed in the child. This was most likely the moment when Billy and Sophie chose their path – so nobody else would for them. Ianthe begins her villainous discourse after this sequence. She discusses her motivations and delight in reviving her captive’s ghosts, you know the drill. She is exacting revenge on the former Freelancer because he killed her fiance. Heartbreaking.

His name was Hektor, and he was a security consultant in Sextillion. Sounds harmless enough, and forgettable enough. Of course, this rings no bells for The Will, or for us. We get a visual cue when Ianthe removes her mask, but I literally had to go back to Saga‘s early issues to know who the hell this guy was. I don’t think that was an oversight on Brian’s part—rather a way to underline just how forgettable he was. And that’s because he was one of the goons trying to stop The Will from getting Sophie out of Sextillion. So, fuck this guy, and fuck the validity behind Ianthe’s vengeance.

Not that she believes The Will. Then again, she probably wouldn’t care.

The second memory Ianthe replays is the moment when The Will decided to get a sidekick. He still had hair back then and was in the middle of a mission with The Stalk. The usual banter and bicker goes on as they slaughter all the X-Files-style grey guys around them. The teasing chemistry between them is palpable, even at their current platonic bond. Well, I say platonic, but they’re basically agreeing to get together and fuck right after they’re done with the job. And the rest is history. The Stalk marks the second person in The Will’s life who is of utmost importance. Dead like his sister, though, she continued to haunt him via hallucinations.

So far, Ianthe hasn’t been pulling up any noteworthy vulnerabilities to exact her revenge. That is, until the third memory, featuring Gwendolyn on the green planet of wacky meats. Naturally, Ianthe pinpoints her as his weak point, an asset to inflict proportionate pain to The Will by killing her. Sinister. However, something is discussed in this memory that also captures Ianthe’s attention. Gwendolyn talks about Marko, Alana… and their offspring, Hazel. Being a diplomat (basically an untouchable criminal), Ianthe realizes she can use this information to her advantage. And if state villains have taught us anything, she’ll be willing to do horrendous things to gain this asset.

With The Will as her prisoner, Ianthe takes off and joins the pursuit, bringing heat to a path going cool. Alas, let’s not forget, she also brings a promise of carnage upon The Will’s beloved. And there’s no guarantee she’ll stop there. Lying Cat and Sophie may be in peril as well. As Ianthe’s potential for cruelty was early proven when telling Bill she made a rug out of Sweet Boy, we readers are left to shudder at this new villain’s approach. Because of all things that can make an already dangerous villain more of a menace, purpose ranks high.

Stay tuned, lovelies. A vengeful scourge is about to unite our heroes’ and The Will’s path. Expect a catastrophe for the whole family to enjoy.


Saga Issue #47 Credits

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Artist: Fiona Staples

Images Courtesy of Image Comics

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Batwoman Isn’t Built For One-Shots Or Fill-Ins

Griffin

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[Danny Elfman Theme DOES NOT Play]

Wow. Just…wow. Okay, I was already keenly aware that any solo outing for Kate needed a very strong writer to actually work. Someone who did the homework, and understood that you can’t just throw her at things and expect it all to make sense later. That’s all a given, considering how atypical a character Kate Kane became. She’s not idealized. She’s not an icon, or an immovable concept.

All of that I knew. After Batwoman #11, written by Kate Perkins* and illustrated by a criminally underused Scott Godlewski (Copperhead was great until he stopped doing the art) however, I learned something new. I learned that Kate is just not a character built for one-and-dones or fill-ins. Because that was the single worst Batwoman story I’ve read since that time she got raped by a vampire for like eight issues.

Pictured: someone who can write Kate. Not pictured: that time she got raped by a vampire for eight issues

Which, okay, not a super high bar, but it’s still worse than that abysmal hyper-goyish Batwoman “Hanukkah” story from last year’s DC Holiday Special…which was also written by Kate Perkins. She just wanted pie or something. It was bad.

Anyway, the problems Batwoman #11 has are emblematic of how this kind of story just doesn’t work for Kate. And, wouldn’t you know it, there’s even a meta-textual reasoning behind all of it, too! Because of course there is; it’s Kate.

Kate’s continuity has always progressed forward since 2006, having never actually been reset or rebooted. She’s in a weird position that leaves her extremely well-characterized, but also makes it nigh impossible to write her “passably”. That is, mediocre. She’s sort of all-or-nothing just due to her own context.

This is also why cameos for her are either pitch perfect or laughably bad. For example: Kate’s brief appearances in Mother Panic and Red Hood and the Outlaws were excellent (though the latter had a weird art problem where it didn’t match the tone of the script, but that’s minimal), while her extended existence in Batgirl and the Birds of Prey was…abysmal.

More to the point, the fact that Kate has never actually stopped developing (EVEN ANDREYKO KNEW THIS AND HE IS THE WORST) means that any narrative where she’s the focal point in which it’s just “filling dead air” isn’t going to work. And no matter how you look at it, that’s exactly what Batwoman #11 was.

It was a series of beats that were hit by a writer who seems to have a very odd “blueprint” of what a Batwoman story needs to have to be a Batwoman story. Despite the fact that that’s not how any kind of story works, unless it’s supposed to be formulaic by design. Perkins seems to be under the impression that a Batwoman story is the following things:

  1. Reference Family
  2. Fuck up
  3. Relate to Larger Arc, somehow
  4. Kate blames herself and mopes

In all fairness, this is technically correct from a certain point of view. If I were to explain how to write a Batwoman story, I’d probably tell you make sure her family is somehow involved. Aside from that…you kind of need to understand who Kate is if you’re going to have her mope or blame herself.

You have literally never done this.

Uh. No. That’s the opposite of what Kate does. She doesn’t get distracted like that while working, because that’s the only time things “make sense” for her. Also, that’s not how you soldier. I don’t have an issue with her getting clocked on the head by Pyg (his Grant Morrison Weird Factor justifies quite a bit) but I do have a problem with inverted characterization. Also, hey, uh, you can’t just like drop a huge revelation like Beth used to wear glasses but Kate didn’t on us???

They’re twins. Identical twins. That’s not how this works. We have NEVER seen either of them with glasses before, and also it took me several tries to realize that the one in the pirate costume wasn’t Beth because literally every other flashback we’ve ever seen with those two had Beth be the happy one trying to cheer a mopey Kate up.

That’s sort of an important tonal through-line that Perkins wanted to subvert without realizing how confusing and inconsistent it would be? Or…got them mixed up? Or just didn’t care? I have no idea. Look, this whole issue is just one big hot mess. Julia Pennyworth, an SAS operative who unlike Kate actually is a professional soldier getting captured by Pyg and…being helpless for the entire story after being absent from this book since issue #4 is just really stupid and bad.

Kate’s inner monologue is overwritten to the point where any nuance that may have been there is drilled into the dirt. Her tattoos are, once again, missing, despite those actually being super important, and everything Kate says sounds like someone trying to do a really half-effort impression of how a good writer writes Kate.

What even is this

She still talks “weird’, but the wrong kind of weird. “Creepazoid” is very much the wrong decade, to put it lightly. And then it just sort of ends, with nothing happening or changing (since it couldn’t because it was a fill-in and that’s still the largest issue) and we’re back exactly where we were so we can slip into another flashback issue next month. Which would have been perfect right after #10, but alas that was not to be. As for why that is, why any of this exists at all, well, it’s pretty simple.

Because, uh, yeah, Perkins is gone now. Bennett is back next month, hopefully forever, but…see, here’s the thing: Bennett is about as busy as a writer in her industry can get without literally dying. Not quite Brian Michael Bendis, but y’know he was just in the hospital for like a month so…probably better that she’s not doing that.

As of this moment, she is/was concurrently writing:

  • Batwoman
  • DC Bombshells
  • Animosity
  • Animosity: The Rise
  • Animosity: Evolution
  • Sheena: Queen of the Jungle
  • InSexts
  • Josie and the Pussycats
  • At least three other things we don’t know about/I couldn’t find/I forgot about

Can you guess which one on that list can actually have a fill-in writer? It’s Batwoman and only Batwoman. Ironically, the one thing that absolutely should never have a fill-in was the only one that truly could due to how schedules work with the Big Two.

God, this is just gonna be bad in trade, huh? Ugh. I’d shoot the fail counter up by 52 or something but this isn’t Kate Kane’s fault; she doesn’t choose her writer. If she did, she sure as hell wouldn’t choose Perkins, that much I know for sure.


[*Editor’s Note: The name of the writer for this issue has been corrected from Kelly Perkins to Kate Perkins throughout.]

Images courtesy of DC Comics

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A “Beer Swilling, Lady-Wooing” Valkyrie Is Coming To Marvel Comics

Dan

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From Rocket Raccoon to Yellowjacket to the Collector, Marvel has made a habit of rescuing characters from the depths of nerd trivia night and sending them straight into the mainstream. Their most recent success in this pattern has been Valkyrie, a character best known for anchoring one of the Avengers’ C-squads and being one of the few bisexual heroes in comics. Despite a misstep or two regarding that last point, Valkyrie’s portrayal in Thor: Ragnarok by the phenomenal Tessa Thompson was considered by many the best part of an already fantastic movie. Marvel seems to have agreed, with Entertainment Weekly announcing that the company announcing that Thompson’s rendition of the Maiden of Valhalla will migrate from screen to page as a part of their comics universe.

Fans of the blonde haired, spear chucking,  pointy boob-armored heroine that’s been around since 1970 need not worry. Perhaps as a response to their controversial decisions with a Female Thor and a Black Captain America, Marvel has not “recast” Annabelle Riggs as the host of Brunnhilde. Instead, the new Valkyrie will exist alongside her more venerable counterpart as a member of the Exiles, a dimension-hopping team of misfits that has paid host to heroes like Spider-Gwen, Deadpool, and longtime member Morph.

The new version of this team, created in 2001 by Judd Winnick, will be written by poet and SFF author Saladin Ahmed (Black Bolt) with an art team that includes Javier Rodriguez (Batgirl: Year One, Daredevil) and Alvaro Lopez (Royals). Valkyrie will be joined by Kamala Khan(a dark, older version of the shapeshifting teen hero), Iron Lad (a time-shifted version of Kang the Conqueror), Wolvie (an X-Baby version of Wolverine), and Blink (a veteran of the Exiles with teleporting abilities). The team will be lead by a version of Nick Fury.

Writer Ahmed has been bullish in his enthusiasm for the new Valkyrie, describing her as a “tankard-draining, maiden-wooing, giant-slaying thunderbolt of a woman.” Thanks to a quote like this, and the backlash the film faced for downplaying Valkyrie’s bisexuality, there is little doubt in anyone’s mind that this Valkyrie will be a WLW. Now if they could just get that on screen…

The new series of The Exiles will be released on April 11 as a part of the Marvel Legacy relaunch.

Please support your local comic shop.


Image Courtesy Marvel Comics

 

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