Justice League of America #4
Geoff Johns knows how to bring the hype. With the prelude to Trinity War kicking off in June, Johns ramps things up in JLA’s third issue, its best yet. This series just keeps getting better and better, and man am I excited for the New 52′s first major event.
Now, all I really want to talk about is the big cliffhanger at the end so I’m gonna go ahead and issue a big SPOILER WARNING in case you haven’t read the ish yet.
Okay… you good?
Alright. So Catwoman got shot. In the head. At point blank range. With a ray gun?
The whole issue was building to this moment and Johns did a great job of creating an underlying sense of dread for the reader. At the same time I didn’t really see the twist coming, for a variety of reasons. For starters, this is a superhero comic book and superheroes rarely die, and even when they do death is rarely permanent. Second, Catwoman is always so cocky and sarcastic; her confidence belies the fact that she’s often in incredibly life-threatening situations. Also, she infiltrated the Secret Society under the pretense that she’s a villain too, and easily broke free of her initial bonds. So you really think she’s going to talk her way out of it, or at the very least be rescued by Martian Manhunter at the last second. But nope, headshot, execution style. Catwoman tells her mysterious captor (presumably the leader of the Secret Society and someone I feel like I should know if I were a bigger DC nerd) that if he kills her Batman will come for him to which he replies, “good. That’s what we want.”
This makes me feel like the Secret Society’s goal here is to turn the three Justice Leagues against each other and that they plan to pin Catwoman’s murder on someone within the JLA to get Batman all hot and bothered. Though the event hasn’t officially kicked off yet, I wonder if this is the catalyst that sparks Trinity War. Is the Death of Selina Kyle the moment that turns the DC heroes against one another?
The thing is, this death makes me as excited as it does nervous. On the one hand this was a bold story move and a great way to get Batman and Green Arrow and Superman and Martian Manhunter to peach each other, but on the other hand it’s a superhero comic and Selina’s death may turn out to be completely meaningless, with some impressive feat of deus ex machina saving her from the bullet to the head (for example, what if the Selina we saw get shot was just one of Ivo’s robots, albeit a more advanced one with blood?).
The cover for next month’s issue #5 shows a military casket with the hands of Martian Manhunter and several other JLA members draped over it and the solicit info implies it will deal with the fallout following Catwoman’s death. Buuuuttttt the actual Catwoman series by Ann Nocenti shows no signs of stopping and has solicits for the next three months. Apparently Catwoman is fighting Penguin in Gotham at the same time she’s getting her fucking brains blown out. So how does that work out?
And that’s what worries me. Is Catwoman really dead? Is DC even going to acknowledge it if she is? Are they going to cancel Catwoman? So as much as this cliffhanger makes the book, it also breaks it a little because it leaves the reader wanting for more concrete resolution. If this were an episode of The Wire I’d be like, “okay, cool, that person is dead. They won’t be on the show next episode because there’s a hole in their brain.” But this is a DC comic book, and I’m not as sure. If Johns had put a stamp on it I think the issue would have been a tad more satisfying, but still, this was a great installment and another awesome precursor to Trinity War.
Star Trek #21
Billed with the subtitle of “After Darkness,” this issue of IDW’s licensed series picks up right where Into Darkness left off and ties it in to the subpar prequel comic, Countdown to Darkness. We learn right off the bat that Captain April’s plan to break the Prime Directive and supply the indigenous population of a primitive planet with advanced weaponry was part of Admiral Marcus’ long term goal to spark a war with the Klingon Empire.
The issue succeeds in the same manner that it fails. It’s nice to get some elaboration on some of Into Darkness’ murkier plot points, but it also highlights the film’s innumerable flaws. Just hearing Kirk and April talk about Marcus’ plan reminded me of how ludicrous the whole “bodies in torpedoes” plotline was. Worse is the inclusion of Pon Farr, a condition from the original series where Vulcans go into blind hyper-rages when they’re in heat and can only recover by having crazy, kinky, pointy-eared sex. That’s cool and all, but it immediately reminded me of how Spock and Uhura’s relationship makes no sense.
And that’s sorta the overarching problem with the IDW series and Into Darkness in general. In the original 2009 reboot, Spock and Uhura’s relationship seemed cool. Star Trek 2009 was all about taking the original TV show and making it sexy and cool and more exciting while simultaneously defying Trekkies’ expectations. Spock and Uhura are dating! What a twist!!
On the surface those sorts of twists worked because it made Star Trek feel new and put a definitive J.J. Abrams stamp on the new universe. But now that the franchise is continuing fans like me have begun to pick apart its intricacies and the results aren’t always pretty.
Why exactly are Spock and Uhura dating? How did they start dating? For one thing, Spock is Uhura’s superior officer, so ethically the relationship is kinda sketchy. Second off, they’re different species and have seemingly nothing in common. Uhura is peppy and spunky and likes to party. Spock is an emotionless half Vulcan who kinda acts like an asshole most of the time. But no, they did it in the first movie and now they gotta run with it, so franchise writer Roberto Orci and comic series scribe Mike Johnson come up with contrived reasons for the two to continue to be together.
There is stuff to like here. I like the comedy that springs from Spock’s pon farr. And I like that they’re still building up this Klingon War. Problem with that is I predict that’ll be the plot of the next movie, and who knows how long it will take for that to hit theaters (especially as Into Darkness did not rake in the domestic gross Paramount was hoping for). So are we going to be forced to sit though forty some issues of people talking about a Klingon War that Johnson can’t actually do anything about because he’s waiting for Orci to write it into the threequel and then let Damon Lindelof fuck up the ending? Because that would be miserable.
The Wake #1
What an awesome way to start a new series. Batman scribe Scott Snyder sets the stage for his ten-issue creator-owned Vertigo miniseries with this first installment, and promises nine months of awesomeness. The Wake has everything I love in it: strong female protagonist, weird obscure science, sea monsters, mystery, and dual storylines, one set in present day and another two hundred years in the future where man lives in a seemingly apocalyptic Waterworld scenario. There’s even an epilogue set 100,000 years in the past where a prehistoric cave painter is being sealed into a cavern by his kin and stabs his own eye out with a weird futuristic device. So right off the bat, there’s a lot of intriguing elements to the story that draw you in; the question is whether Snyder can bring it all together and make it pay off.
He’s a great writer, so I’m confident he can, and he ended the “Death of the Family” arc in Batman so masterfully that I’m officially, 100% a Scott Snyder fanboy. Even if the resolution to this epic story turns out to be a tad disappointing, I’m positive the ride will be a blast. The characters are cool, particularly our no nonsense protagonist, Dr. Lee Archer, a cetologist (cetology is the study of whales, dolphins and porpoises) who’s recruited by the Department of Homeland Security due to her proficiency studying whale song. Deep under the ocean near Alaska, the DHS has replicated an unnatural yet whale-like sound that Archer heard previously during a traumatic event that’s left shrouded in mystery. Other scientists are recruited and brought to the deep as well, each with different specialities. The DHS recruiter tells them they are studying a tissue sample, audio recording and ancient relic all in one.
That relic turns out to be a creepy fish man monster sitting in a tank in a straight jacket that seems to be emitting a dangerous subsonic frequency and/or has psychic powers. Really, that alone is enough to get me to pick up all ten issues, and the great dialogue and fantastic art only add to the experience. Sean Murphy’s gritty style and muted palette perfectly match the story and reminded me a lot of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy. And again, I’m a sucker for strong female leads (I’m a natural born Joss Whedon I suppose), so it’s always nice to see a woman in comics who has a real job (scientist!) and doesn’t walk around with her ridiculously fake boobs hanging out.
Yes, you could say the pop culture references here are too obvious. The Abyss, Sphere and really any creepy thriller that takes place at the bottom of the ocean all come to mind, and I couldn’t help but think of Prometheus with the whole “we’re a bunch of scientists who are begin paid a lot of money to go on a mysterious expedition but have no idea why” conceit. But Snyder puts his definitive stamp on the book and it feels like an original story inspired by other works rather than a carbon copy.
I’m really into marine biology, btw. It was my favorite class in high school. This comic was basically written just for me. Thanks, Scott Snyder.
Brian Wood has been on a roll ever since he completed his Vertigo series DMZ, about a new American Civil War where the demilitarized zone is Manhattan. It was DMZ that put Wood onto my radar years ago when I bought the first volume and got him to sign it at an independent comics convention in New York’s Puck Building. Hell, one of my most recent scripts was a TV pilot based on DMZ.
So the guy’s got cred, and that cred has now landed him gigs on multiple high profile projects. First was Dark Horse’s new Conan the Barbarian series, then Star Wars and Ultimate Comics: X-Men. Now Wood has jumped on an even bigger title and one that has created a lot of buzz, the all female X-Men team. A lot of fans thought this was a marketing gimmick but as I already mentioned, I’m all about the ladies so the premise appealed to me. Just like with Scott Snyder’s The Wake, Wood’s female characters feel like real people and artist Olivier Copiel does them justice with his pencils. The book works because it doesn’t point out to the reader that all the X-Men here are chicks, it just comes naturally from the story itself, and unlike a lot of the Marvel NOW! titles this is much more accessible to new readers like myself. Sure, the villain is a walking, talking, billion year-old bacteria named John Sublime that I’ve never heard of, and I’m only familiar with the X-Women I know as a kid from the animated series (Storm, Rogue, Jubilee, Kitty Pryde) but Wood tells the story in a way that makes sense without ever holding the reader’s hand.
I think my favorite part of the book was Jubilee taking care of the baby. I don’t know much about the character outside or her yellow rain jacket and the fact that she can shoot bolts of light from her hands, but it just felt so right. This is a comic, about women, written by a man, but telling a character-driven story that I feel real women could relate to. Jubilee as a young mom, wanting to give this orphan kid the same future she was given? That’s a universal story anyone can relate to.
I always prefer DC over Marvel and I’m always wary of the X-Men because there’s so many of them and their mythology is so dense and convoluted… but this is one X book I can get behind. You can bet your ass this is going on my pull list next month.