Animal Man #22
Animal Man continues to be one of my favorite series on the market, but I feel like this issue is wasting a wee bit of the potential set up in the aftermath of Rotworld. Two months ago I gave issue #20 a 10 because it was this amazing, meta story framed by Buddy’s indie film Tights, but also used social media to illustrate how Buddy would be treated by the public in real life. He’s not an alien with a hidden identity who broods in a space station above the Earth; he’s an average guy, a family man grieving the loss of his son who just happens to have superpowers.
But now the series is treading a little too deeply into classic superhero comic territory, with Buddy tracking maniacs that torture animals and the reveal of a new big bad in the final panel, Brother Blood. Now I have a bone to pick with that. First off, Animal Man is probably the most mature series in the New 52 and that reveal felt like the sorta shlock I like to avoid in superhero comics. It’s also become a trend in the New 52 of having these big splash panel reveals of famous villains, forgetting the fact that this is supposed to a reboot and a lot of us, like yours truly, have no idea who these assholes are. The reveal moments seem to read “oh boy, you guys remember THIS villain? Well now he’s in the New 52, aaahhhhhh!!!!” Yeah, but no. I don’t know that guy so the reveal has no dramatic weight for me. It’s just some goofy asshole in a weird costume I know nothing about. Often they don’t even really make a big deal of reintroducing the character, they just assume we all know who it is and/or we’ll look it up on the DC Wiki. Hey, DC! Don’t half-ass your reboot, alright?
However, it was nice to see Buddy so vulnerable and I like the paparazzi just ruthlessly chasing him down even when he’s pursuing a crazy murderer. I also liked all the stuff with Maxine and Socks and the Shepherd in the Red, even if it didn’t really move the plot forward all that much. It’s basically just Maxine realizing that no matter how hard she tries, she can’t bring Cliff back from the dead. Socks continues to be my favorite character (I mean, come on, he’s a talking cat) and I thought it was funny that he and Shepherd have a rivalry.
But yeah, I dunno about the Buddy plot, it seems to be spiraling a bit out of control. I would have preferred a more self contained “Buddy on the trail of bad guys” story that was more about him trying to deal with his grief than some larger story about a villain trying to steal his powers via blood transfusion. We’ll see where this goes, but I wonder if Jeff Lemire isn’t just phoning it in while he focuses on Trinity War.
This was a great issue. So Batwoman’s on Batman’s trail, agreeing to the DEO’s request to take the Caped Crusader down. So much of the issue followed Kate as she gathered intel on Batman, first by tracking down Bane, who was clad in a sweet winter version of his outfit, and then interviewing four of Batman’s incarcerated rogues, including Black Mask and Professor Pyg. This was my favorite sequence even though I really only knew who Black Mask was and only recognized Pyg from his appearance, but J.H. Williams III put in little text boxes explaining who each of the four were.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Kane family is actually double-crossing the DEO, as they plot to spring Bette from DEO’s holding cells. This introduces us to Jacob Kane’s old black ops squad the Murder of Crows, which just made me think of Game of Thrones. This kinda came out of left field and felt a wee bit comic book hokey to me, but the assorted cast of silly military characters was cool, very reminiscent of movies like Predator.
I still can’t get over Director Bones. Again, this is a pre-New 52 character that DC just assumes we’ll know, but since I don’t I find it consistently hilarious that the leader of this clandestine government organization is a walking, talking skeleton and no one seems to notice or acknowledge it. There just all, “durr, hey Director Bones,” not “OH MY GOD IT’S A TALKING SKELETON KILL IT KILL IT.” But I love the character, especially his penchant for cigars, Hawaiian shirts and fishing.
I’m also kinda fuzzy now on why the DEO wants to take Batman down? Like, I’m sure Bones said it 10 issues back or something but now I don’t really get it. I guess because Batman operates above the law, but I don’t know why this is under the realm of the DEO as they’re the Department of Extranormal Operations and seem to mostly deal with supernatural threats. A quick Wikipedia search tells me that the DEO deals with superhero threats (isn’t that like, what the JLA does?) so I guess they see Batman as a threat… but like, why? It doesn’t really matter though as the story has been building to this since the beginning: it’s been well established that Batwoman and Batman don’t see eye to eye and view each other as potential threats, so it will be sweet to finally see the payoff to that premise.
Note: So I just found out Director Bones isn’t actually a skeleton, he just has invisible skin and organs which is way less cool than a chain-smoking skeleton, but whatever. Again, why does DC assume I’ll just automatically know this shit?
Justice League of America #6
Trinity War rages on and continues to get weirder and weirder… which is awesome. If there’s any one praise I can give the event so far, it’s that Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire are masterfully balancing the ridiculous number of story elements and characters and managing to squeeze almost everything in there every issue without it feeling overstuffed.
What was refreshing was that the Justice League vs. JLA battle didn’t last very long. This event has been billed as a Justice League war, but that seems more like a marketing pitch than an actual premise. Halfway through the issue the two leagues are tentatively working side by side, as no one really believes Superman intentionally killed Dr. Light. Well, Amanda Waller might, which is why she has Supes strapped into some creepy chair that blocks his heat vision. Supes is also suffering lasting effects from his exposure to Pandora’s Box, feeling weaker and suffering from a cough. Another hero who gets messed up is Flash, who’s blasted with sonic energy by Vibe and then later describes feeling slow and weird. As you know, they gotta power Flash down half the time just to keep him from doing everyone else’s job.
Though the issue is narrated by the Question (which is awesome), the de facto protagonist is Wonder Woman, who first travels to visit the Greek god of blacksmiths Hephaestus, as she assumes he is the one who constructed the Box and will know how to help Superman. Of course, he didn’t build the Box and here’s where things get a bit muddled. Hephaestus says that Zeus and the Pantheon, themselves terrified of the Box, left the Box in an Athenian temple for Pandora to find, but in Trinity of Sin: Pandora #1 Pandora finds it sitting randomly in some forest several thousand years before Sumeria existed, and thus several thousand years prior to the existence of temples. But, like, whatever. It’s a comic book.
Since she don’t know shit about magic (despite being magic?) Wonder Woman seeks out the Justice League Dark, who are examining the rubble that was Xanadu’s shop. Xanadu’s fate is left a mystery, and this was the only scene featuring the JLD. Pandora and the Phantom Stranger were also nowhere to be seen, but there’s only so much Johns and Lemire can cram into one issue, so I didn’t really mind, especially as the Question was brought to the forefront. He meanwhile sneaks into A.R.G.U.S. HQ to rescue Superman, enlisting him in his quest to uncover “the evil behind the evil.” Speaking of which, we get another brief glimpse at the Secret Society and their somewhat leader the Outsider, a character I thought was brand new or some kind of mystery but apparently existed pre-New 52. He’s clearly not the man in charge, not “the evil behind the evil,” who better be someone pretty freaking cool after all this hype.
Honestly, I think Trinity War is just getting better and better. Super weird, super magical and a well-balanced story. I really liked the character interactions here, especially the Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman trinity. I often take issue with the fact that Justice League Batman and Batman Batman seem like completely different people, but here Batman read 100% Batman and I loved that he’s just straight up honest to Supes about making a widower and killing the dad of three little girls. I liked how sick and pathetic Superman seemed, and the way he called out for Wonder Woman to comfort him. My favorite line was from Shazam however, who when told by Zatanna that he should probably stick around following the big fight, says “you can’t make me.” Ohhhh, Billy Batson. You’re such a little shit.
Wolverine MAX #9
This is the last issue of Wolverine MAX I will be reading. Frankly, I can’t believe I lasted for nine issues as this has been such an exercise in mediocrity. I knew from the get-go that this was basically a marketing tool for next week’s The Wolverine film, but I would have been fine with that if the story was good or if there was, you know, an actual story at all, which there isn’t really.
I mean, from the get-go this shit was mad cheap. The first arc was all about Logan’s time in Japan, cutting between him in present day investigating a deadly plane crash he survived and his time being a yojimbo with Sabertooth. It was okay, but it felt like a story that had probably been better told a dozen times before, and was basically just Marvel going, “hey don’t forget, we have a movie coming out this summer that’s all about Wolverine in Japan. This comic is tangentially related to it, so buy it you dumb fat fuck.”
Then it shifted to Los Angeles and I was like, great, maybe now the series will go off on its own and not try to marry itself so much to the movie. I’d say it kind of gave up on being a promo for The Wolverine, but it also kinda gave up on being a story. It’s just another one of those “stories” where there isn’t a plot, just a bunch of stuff that happens. Logan goes to L.A. Logan meets a porn star. Porn star betrays him. Logan kills a bunch of people, learns nothing. Deus ex machina!! Logan gets a note telling him the answers he seeks are in Las Vegas for some reason. Road trip!!
So that’s why I decided to quit this series, because nothing happens in this issue, just a lot of gravelly, ham-fisted narration and Logan driving his bike. It’s just turning the wheels, month after month after month. Logan sticks up for the little guy, beats some people up. Meets another mysterious stranger. It’s just the same shit repeated ad infinitum, and like, why do we have to do the amnesiac Wolverine plot again? I saw X-Men thirteen years ago, man, let’s do something different. At the very least, they could just have each issue be a tit-infested gore fest to justify the MAX label, but outside of the occasional claws through face sequence, there isn’t much here that’s “gritty” or “adult” outside of a lot of “fucks” and “shits” and stuff. Either give me visceral thrills or a good story, or both, but neither? Man, fuck off, Wolverine MAX.