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Green Lanterns do the Impossible

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In this week’s Green Lanterns #21, our heroes conclude the “Polarity” story arc featuring the original Suicide Squad villain, Magneto… er… Doctor Polaris. When we left them, the Green Lanterns had found Neal Emerson’s sanctum where he had stolen away his terminal brother Seth so he could use magnetism to save him. But things were not going well…

I said I got this. What part of I got this do you not understand?

Flatlinin’

Each issue of this story arc has taken a look into the mind of Neal Emerson to see his internal struggle. On the inside, Neal’s personality argued on a “Lex Talk” stage with the Doctor Polaris side of himself for control of his body. When Neal was close to Seth, his brother came onstage as a counterpoint to the villain, and it looked like Neal might be able to escape. But then the unthinkable happened, and Seth’s heart stopped.

This issue opens with imaginary Seth giving Neal a pep talk. He believes in his brother’s ability to save lives and change the world for the better. Outside in the real world, things aren’t going so well. Neal struggles to save his brother while Simon looks on. Simon’s best friend and brother-in-law Nazir was terminally ill until Simon miraculously saved him, so Simon knows what Neal is going through.

When the Lanterns make a move to help, Neal snaps. He restrains the heroes and goes into action to save his brother, who is fading fast. His magnetic particles aren’t working like they should. Simon has used his ring to inexplicably save Nazir and even drive the rage from a Red Lantern (which is supposed to be impossible, but Comics!)

Please?

Neal reluctantly agrees to let Simon try and save Seth. It’s a long shot, but nothing else is working. Simon tries his best. He’s been where Neal is, and really wants to save Seth, but it’s no use. Simon doesn’t quite know how he’s saved people before and doesn’t seem to be able to call on that aspect of his powers at will.

This is a tragic end for Seth, and the last straw for Neal. Inside his head, he’s still reliving childhood memories with his brother, but then abruptly he’s standing on a darkened stage all alone.

Watch Out for the Watchtower

Doctor Polaris appears to have taken hold, as Neal dons his outfit, leaves the lanterns behind, and heads outside. His animosity toward the Justice League members boils over, and using his magnetism, he wrenches the watchtower from orbit with Cyborg still aboard.

The Lanterns Lantern up. They’ll need full power if they are to save the watchtower, and everyone within the crash zone. Jessica and Simon working together pull out all the stops and manage to crank their willpower to 11. Even as they work, Simon is still doubting himself. Seth’s death reminds him of what happened with his friend Nazir and the fight they had a few issues back.

Despite Simon’s doubts, they are able to save the day. Unfortunately, Polaris’s diversion allowed him time to escape. Inside Neal’s head, the Doctor has taken a firm foothold without Seth to oppose him. Doctor Polaris convinces Neal that the Green Lanterns are at fault, and he vows revenge.

That revenge will have to wait. As Jessica is reassuring Simon that Seth’s death wasn’t his fault, they are called away to space by their rings to planet Mogo, and the Green Lantern Corps.

Emphasis on Teamwork

This issue brought the Polarity arc to a tragic end. Despite his own efforts, and those of the Green Lanterns, Neal Emerson lost his brother, and with it control of his own mind. It’s a sad outcome Neal Emerson, as the last shreds of his own humanity die with his brother. Doctor Polaris is the one driving now, and he’s sure to return for revenge on the Lanterns. Given how poorly the Green Lanterns did against him in straight combat, it will be a tough test for the duo, and we can’t wait for his return. It seems that good things can come from comic event books after all. (Surprise!)

Fortunately, we’ve also seen how powerful the Green Lanterns are when they work together. From the beginning of Green Lanterns Rebirth, it’s been an uphill struggle for Jessica and Simon to work as a team. At first they actively disliked and fought against each other. Eventually, through their various trials they have come to learn each other’s strength and weaknesses, and to help each other improve as heroes. They’ve even become friends and learned to rely on each other as a team, which is great to see.

Now it’s on like Donkey Kong.

In this issue, their time together comes to full fruition as they are miraculously able to send the Justice League’s satellite headquarters back into space using only their willpower. They’ve never been stronger as a team. Even after it’s finished, they talk through Simon’s doubt from not saving Seth, and you can really see how far they’ve come. We also really love the way Jessica’s ring talks now. She’s taught it to use human idioms and call her “J-Bird” which is hilarious, and keeps the issue light when it’s in danger of too much darkness.

The art this issue really steps things up. The pencils and inks are exquisitely detailed and along with the dynamic color and shading, really bring out the emotion of the intense scenes. This is as good a the comic has looked, and was a great addition to the climax of the Polarity storyline.

Yellow Horizon

We’re excited to see what happens next as the Green Lanterns are called into space to meet up with the rest of the Green Lantern Corps. This isn’t a full-on crossover, so you won’t have to read the other Green Lantern book to follow along, but it helps to know that the rest of the GL Corps has teamed up with the Sinestro Corps, wielders of the yellow light of fear. It’s possible that the Lanterns’ team-up will be tested by adding a couple of yellows to their group, which considering Jessica’s checkered past with fear and anxiety, could be a turbulent ride.

It’ll be fine though.

The Lanterns have done the impossible more than once on Earth; now it’s time to see how they handle some cosmic danger. We’ll be back to find out in a few weeks.


Green Lanterns #21: Polatiry chapter 3

Writer: Sam Humphries

Pencils: Robson Rocha

Inks: Daniel Henriques and Joe Prado

Colors: Alex Sollazzo

Letters: Dave Sharpe

Images Courtesy of DC Comics

Ian is an amateur nerd and geek-of-all-trades. His main obsessions include Star Wars, superheroes, and movies nobody else seems to like. His children grow increasingly annoyed by his “Dad jokes”.

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Greg Rucka Is Being A Poopy-Doopy Dude About Batwoman

Griffin

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[Danny Elfman Theme Plays, Despite Your Protests Greg]

For the uninitiated, Greg Rucka is the name of the guy who modernized the character of Batwoman. Well, him and Mark Waid, Grant Morrison, and Geoff Johns came up with basic idea (e.g. she exists and is gay and jewish) in 2006, but really it was Rucka who would go on to write what is unanimously considered to be her foundational and character-defining text: Batwoman: Elegy. For eleven months back in 2009 and into 2010, Kate Kane took over Detective Comics. Everything from her relationship to her father, to the way in which she outed herself, to DADT, to Sophie, to her drunken stupor, to her training; everything Kate has done in the decade and change since that eleven month run stems from those same stories. Well, mostly. I’m obviously excluding the short-lived Andreyko era.

Anyway, I was surprised to learn the other day that Greg Rucka and Michael Lark (the primary artist on Rucka’s seminal Gotham Central as well as their creator-owned Lazarus) were doing an AMA on reddit. I actually found out about it after it had already happened, because I’ve been in the middle of moving and haven’t really had a chance to sit until kind of right now. I read through the thread and was…surprised at what I (and by “I”, I mean friend of the show @talkingbatwoman on twitter) found.

…what the hell? What does “not my Kate” even mean? Also, what in God’s name was your original intent with Kate, because buddy, let me tell you, if it wasn’t “angry queer Jewish woman screams for right to exist/justice/purpose” then it probably sucked. Not only that, but to go out of your way to say that the folks who continued Kate’s story made some stupid decisions and now everyone else has to cover for them is…wow. That’s so mean for no reason! I get that maybe seeing a character you have a strong personal connection to that you created being written by someone else can be uncomfortable, but your standing rule for working at DC Comics is, and has been for some time: “I’ll always come back for Kate and Diana.” And he did with Diana. Twice.

Yes, you’re the guy who made Kate Kate. Credit where it’s due. And you’d come back for her. Except you wouldn’t, because who she is now isn’t who she’s “supposed” to be, so, uhm, in what way, exactly? I’ve been trying to figure out what fundamental change Kate has undergone that is a strong deviation from Elegy, but it just doesn’t seem to exist. At all. I thought at first maybe it was the whole “Bruce Wayne is Kate Kane’s cousin” thing, even though that was an Andreyko idea and not a J.H. Williams III/Blackman idea, but it’s clearly not. While that change could have swallowed her, it clearly hasn’t because Jacob and Beth are still around. If anything, it further contextualizes Bruce more than it does Kate.

So, what’s different from Elegy to now? Superficial stuff. Kate used to fight lots of supernatural things, but now she doesn’t. Now she goes after her most logical unwinnable/undefeatable foe: the war economy. It’s infinitely more interesting and a far greater fit than the occult, even if that was a fun thing to watch and opened up a lot of kabbalistic possibilities should someone choose to go that route. Plus, the military industrial complex won’t ever stop existing, so a timeless foe is always a good thing. Especially when it is perpetually poignant! Plus, that means she’ll always be fighting literal terrorists. You know, like the people who kidnapped her family and murdered her mom.

What else? Hmmmm, well, she used to refuse working with Batman. Except for all the times when she did and was super chill about it.

Okay, fine, that time it was technically Dick as Batman, but she did work with Bruce Pre-Flashpoint as well.

Is it that they brought Beth back to life? I kind of thought that was a weird example where ressurection offers far more avenues for narrative than keeping her dead ever would. Kate’s heritage is one of her greatest character strengths, so having her twin sister and her father around makes more sense than just her dad. The trauma is still there, since Beth was brainwashed or something for twenty years, but hey, they’ve got each other. I find it hard to believe that that’s the thing Rucka think fucked Kate up. Since, y’know, he left it ambiguous in Elegy if Beth survived the fall or not.

What about Kate proposing to Maggie? Aside from the fact that it didn’t actually happen (kinda glad it didn’t because that means Renee still has a shot, but that’s another conversation), Rucka was the one who suggested they could have a relationship in the first place within Elegy itself. They met at a GCPD fundraiser, both wearing tuxedos and acting gay as hell.

Really starting to grasp at straws here. Maybe it was her involvement with the D.E.O.? That didn’t actually change her character at all, but…y’know, it was a thing that happened. Was it that she chose not to feel guilty about Beth’s death anymore when she was facing the Weeping Woman? I guess it could be that, but that’s not really changing any fundamental aspect of her character. That’s just…how grief works. Also it wasn’t her fault in the first place? Which is what Rucka wrote.

Look, I meant it when I said you could trace everything back to Elegy. That’s just how phenomenal a story it is. People haven’t been writing from the New52 series of Kate these past few years, Greg. They’ve been trying to capture and expand your Kate. The one who chose integrity over the closet and drank herself half to death because she had zero purpose in life. The imperfect, snarky, almost comically hot mess of a woman who wore a uniform, not a costume. You wrote that, Greg. The Williams and Blackman stuff almost never comes up, like at all, and if it does it’s mostly Batwoman #0, or something to do with Bette or Jacob or Catherine. Not because it was bad, far from it, but because it wasn’t the foundation of her character.

You can claim that they changed Kate so fundamentally that you can’t even read her anymore, but even if that’s true it doesn’t make you look that great. It means that what others saw in Kate, Tynion and Bennett most recently, were thrown in without thought or were the result of a “misinterpretation.” Which means Elegy isn’t nearly as great as we all think it is. On the other hand, if this is just a bruised ego and you feel bad that you didn’t get to write all this cool stuff with Kate because you poured your heart and soul into making her who she is…grow up, dude.

The mark of an excellent and lasting character in this industry is that another author can pick them up and use them to a far greater effect than the creator could have ever conceived. Which is something you should know, because you literally did that with Renee, it’s why we all love her so much.


Images courtesy of DC Comics and @TalkingBatwoman

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Will Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey Cure the Testosterone-Poisoned DCEU?

Dan

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Are men canceled? The jury is still out. But it may be that their once assured grip on all things comics has finally slipped. And one can look no further than what has happened at Warner Bros. and DC with the DC cinematic universe. The dark and gloomy film nerd pandering schlock of Zach Snyder seems to have finally run out of steam after the failure of Justice League, and not even the outdated comic geek quips of Joss Whedon couldn’t save them. Finally taking cues from the success of Patty Jenkins and Wonder Woman, DC has added, of all things, women to their creative teams. First, Ava DuVernay was placed in charge of Jack Kirby’s New Gods, then Batgirl replaced Whedon with Christine Hodson. Now, Deadline has announced that Cathy Yan will be directing the upcoming Harley Quinn vehicle Birds of Prey. Not only will she be the second female director in the DCEU (Birds of Prey will precede New Gods) but will be the first Asian woman to direct a superhero movie.

Yan is a relative newcomer to the film world, but she’s not unaccomplished.  Born in China and raised in Hong Kong and the US, Yan has studied at Princeton and NYU, where she got an MFA from the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts. Before getting into film-making, she wrote for the Wall Street Journal. She wrote and directed multiple shorts before making her debut with Dead Pigs, which received rave reviews at Sundance.

Birds of Prey, which will use Christine Hodson’s script, has been a long-awaited addition to the DC canon. Long tied closely to writer Gail Simone, who made her name writing for it in 2003, Birds of Prey has stood out as a mostly-female team of heroes operating adjacent to the hyper-masculine Batman family of books. Its membership has revolved around Oracle (Barbara Gordon), who finally found her footing post-Killing Joke as a hyper-competent hacker and information broker, and Black Canary, who gets a break from Oliver Queen by acting as Oracle’s main operative. Other major members include former “mafia princess”  Huntress and the time-displaced Blackhawk, who acts as the team’s pilot. Many of the biggest female heroes in the DCU have passed through the ranks of the Birds of Prey, including Big Barda, Vixen, and Katana (her katana traps the souls of its victims.)

Margot Robbie’s production company LuckyChap is co-producing the film as a feature for Margot’s Harley Quinn. While Harley herself has never been a member of the Birds, her girlfriend Poison Ivy has (albeit as a ploy), and the team acts as a foil to Quinn and Ivy’s Gotham City Sirens as women in the Bat-universe.

This won’t be the first foray onto the screen for the Birds of Prey. It comes after a short-lived WB series starring Dina Meyer, and a disappointing (as always) attempt by Arrow to base an episode on the series. The film adaptation will be produced by Robbie, Sue Kroll, and Brian Unkeles and their respective production companies. Robbie was instrumental in Yan’s selection, as she was firm in her conviction that woman should direct the film. Other Quinn-centric films in the pipeline include an Ayer-free sequel to Suicide Squad, some unfortunate “rom-com” called Harley vs. The Joker, and Gotham City Sirens. Birds of Prey will enter production this year, as soon as Robbie finishes work on Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.


Image via DC Comics

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The penultimate issue of ‘Amazons Attacked’ is as bad as everything that came before it

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On a very superficial level, issue #44 of James Robinson’s Wonder Woman series gives us a lot of what I’ve been asking for: Wonder Woman is fighting Darkseid one-on-one since she’s the supposed star of the series, the human foot soldiers of A.R.G.U.S. are overwhelmed by the forces of Apokolips since they logically can’t compete with superior alien powers, and Jason’s contributions are minute and easily mocked.  Looking at just the surface, this is exactly what I would want out of a Wonder Woman-titled comic book.  So, with all that said, we need to recognize just how bad this series is when even when they give us exactly what I ask for, it’s still an unmitigated pile of hash.

That’s not easy to do.

Recap When does it end?  WHEN DOES IT END?!?

We pick up in the Amazon jungle, where Darkseid has just used New Gods technology to transport the A.R.G.U.S. HQ building to the jungle.  He and an enraged Wonder Woman are engaged in personal combat, and when Grail tries to intervene and attack Wonder Woman she is herself taken down and carried away by Jason swooping in from the side.

The comic cuts over to Steve Trevor and the Oddfellows, who are being swarmed by Parademons.  Steve verbally recaps what has happened and tells the A.R.G.U.S. troops that they don’t have time to help their wounded or dead, they need to break through the Parademons at once and get to Wonder Woman.  Wonder Woman in turn tells Steve not to worry about her, and instead focus on fighting what’s in front of him right now.  As Wonder Woman and Darkseid go back and forth, the Female Furies that Diana had freed and armed in the last issue break through the A.R.G.U.S. troops and steal the relics which Darkseid had wanted for his machinery.

It sure is a good thing that Diana released these two and gave them back their weapons…wait…

We switch back to Jason and Grail going at it, where Grail tries to guilt him from the fight by reminiscing how they used to be lovers. Jason, however, isn’t suckered by the attempt and dismisses their past as lies and deception.

Ultimately Darkseid’s minions are able to finish their work, and a Stargate is opened connecting to Themyscira. Diana attempts to fly through to warn them of what’s coming, but she is violently rebounded from the portal. Grail, however, can go through, and she attacks the Amazons with a ray device that she and Darkseid had built from a smattering of different sources. The Amazons are transformed when struck, and come back through the portal as monstrous creatures.

Review Can we just say “this blows” and leave it at that?

I’m honestly a little stupefied at the way that James Robinson can take the elements that I have been specifically asking for — Wonder Woman back as the primary actor, Jason literally sidelined and mocked, and Steve Trevor no longer inexplicably triumphing over super powered aliens — and still produce pure drek like this issue.  It’s almost impressive.  I’m even tempted to compare it to an Ed Wood masterpiece as “so bad it’s good”.  The only problem with that comparison is that it isn’t so bad it’s good, it’s just bad.  Again.

Let’s start outside of the issue itself, and focus on the cover.  This is where the “it’s almost what I wanted, except horrible” truly begins.  The issue caption is “Wonder Woman, alone…against Darkseid!” and that’s a suitable dramatic caption.  It’s especially nice with the promise that Diana will (finally) take front-and-center in her comic again.  Except…Diana isn’t alone.  Steve Trevor is there fighting against the Parademons and Female Furies, and Jason is fighting Grail, who was likewise attacking Wonder Woman.  They’re all interlocked in the giant battle and the comic is frequently cutting back and forth between them, including dialogue between the entire group.

She is truly alone except for all the pesky friends and allies by her side throughout the entire issue

Diana isn’t even alone in the philosophical sense, let alone actually being physically isolated.

Into the comic itself, we run headfirst into problems with the bridge between the last issue and this one. Issue #43 had closed with the lead-up to the final showdown between Wonder Woman and Darkseid, with dramatic pronouncements by both of them as Diana decreed “No quarter asked for.  None given”.  Taking the time to speak like that sets up the fight as between controlled, earnestly deadly warriors.

In the opening of this issue, however, Wonder Woman is practically in a frothing rage as she screams and hammer-fists Darkseid with wild abandon. If I didn’t know better I would have assumed that there was an entire scene we didn’t see where they had already fought, and this change was what happened after Wonder Woman had lost control due to what happened off-panel. How did she go from ‘making speeches’ to “YOU MANIAC!”?

I don’t deny that this is a very cool shot — one of the only cool shots in the issue — I’m just saying that you lose points when you go from speeches using the historical meaning of the word “Quarter” to just shrieking rage

It doesn’t connect between the issues, and that is a basic level of tradecraft in writing a multi-part story. Forget all my other criticisms of the story and characterization, since for those you could at least make the argument that James Robinson was trying for a different angle (You’d be wrong, but you could at least make the argument). This is just failure at the elementary creator level, and for somebody who’s been writing comics for as long as James Robinson has it’s simply unforgivable.

Now we’re going to get into the actual story itself, and on its own merits it’s just a flop.  As they fight, Darkseid talks about the ways that Wonder Woman has beaten him in the past, and that her pathetic showing now doesn’t compare.  This is probably a reference to Justice League: Origin storyline, which was adapted into the animated film Justice League: War, and the problems here are threefold.

Number one is the fact that this story explicitly has not happened anymore; that is a New 52 story (The new origin of the Justice League after Flashpoint) and is no longer canon in Rebirth.  Number two is the fact that even if this story was in continuity, it didn’t happen in this series.  It happened in the Justice League title, so even longtime readers of Wonder Woman who have been reading the series since the New 52 won’t know what these events refer to unless they’ve read a completely different series.  Number three, and this is the biggest problem, is that it is James Robinson himself who is writing Wonder Woman as being unable to challenge Darkseid, and then having Darkseid mock her for it.

Dear all authors everywhere: If you feel that this is a weak representation of the character, THEN DON’T PRESENT THE CHARACTER AS WEAK

This isn’t clever or meta dialogue, and you don’t get points by having the characters themselves point out that what’s happening is poor writing. It’s just proof that your writing is poor, because you can’t even compensate for the story continuity that you yourself are trying to force into being.

Then we get to the way that Jason distracts Grail to keep her from interfering in the fight between Wonder Woman and Darkseid.  First off, I did not need to learn that Grail and Jason were lovers during their brief alliance.  Not only has this been completely unmentioned and unaddressed beforehand, without even the barest hint or reference to a past relationship when Jason was explaining to Diana why he sided with Grail, but it’s another example of the sexist nature of James Robinson’s writing on this series.  I might really hate the character and how she’s been used in the series, but Grail is a superpowered evil half-Amazon/half-New God warrior, she doesn’t need to be relegated to the role of femme fatale who seduced away Wonder Woman’s brother to their side.

Then there’s the fight itself and the incredibly awkward way that Jason literally flies in from the side, tackles Grail, and flies her away from Wonder Woman.  It’s almost comical.  This strikes me as James Robinson deciding that he needs Wonder Woman and Darkseid to fight one-on-one, but he couldn’t actually think of a way to keep Grail and Jason out of it so he had them literally fly away from the scene together.  Similar to the way that, on the next page, Steve Trevor announces that he’s coming to help Wonder Woman and she tells him to stay and deal with his own thing instead, when they are not shown with any kind of radio equipment that they could have been speaking to each other with.

This is Jason literally just carrying Grail away from the fight

Throughout these fight scenes Lashina and Mad Harriet are running around A.R.G.U.S. HQ collecting the relics that Darkseid needs, and I feel the need to scream at this point because the reason these two are running about is that Diana freed and armed them in the last issue.

This issue doesn’t even contain an oblique reference to these events, not a single thought-bubble of grief as Diana says to herself “Curses, if only I hadn’t let them go” when they kill somebody or help Darkseid launch his invasion of Themyscira.  It’s simply not addressed at all that Diana freed the mass-murdering enemy soldiers so that she could beat them for information.

Steve Trevor’s scenes are just as bizarrely incompetent as the rest of the comic.  When he first appears he gives a verbal recap of the events to the people around him, even though they are in the process of experiencing the very events he is describing.  This would have made perfect sense as a thought bubble or a narration box, two comic devices which were specifically invented to convey information to the reader that can’t be contained in dialogue, but instead Steve decides to start monologuing.

…This isn’t even “stilted” dialogue, it’s downright inhuman.

In what world do people talk like this while in the middle of the event they’re describing?

The frequent cuts back to Steve and Oddfellows fighting Parademons and the Female Furies are practically copy/paste sequences, as each one is just Steve saying “We’ve got to win!” with a background of people fighting.  They don’t contribute anything to the issue and don’t advance (Or even hold back) the plot.  It’s just that James Robinson had put them into the story and couldn’t think of what else to do with them.

This entire issue is a mess in a whole new direction from the the preceding comics.  It’s just shoddy any way you look at it.  Even trying to get back on the rails for what a Wonder Woman comic should be — with Diana fighting the main villain one-on-one and at the center of the action —  the execution is just bizarrely clunky and halfway twisted so that a lot of it doesn’t make any sense.

Where can this possible go from here?


Images from Wonder Woman #44 courtesy of DC Comics

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