Friday, June 28, 2013

Batman: The Dark Knight #7

"The Final Curtain"

Paul Jenkins Writer/Co-Plotter
David Finch Penciller/Co-Plotter
Inker: Richard Friend
Colors: Jeromy Cox
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Assistant Editor: Rickey Purdin
Editor: Mike Marts
Batman created by Bob Kane

This issue didn't need a Dialogue Assist, and it did feel more like a Paul Jenkins story. But that doesn't mean I liked it, though ...

The cover is by Finch, Friend and Cox, and I can't stand it. Bane just looks awful. The coloring was a little weird — what's with that burnt orange background? — but the black-and-white version doesn't help at all. It's weird. David Finch is a great artist, but every now and then, he'll just fail. I think he had about a 50% success rate with Bane, with most of that success coming in the last issue.

Our story picks up on Harmon Island, Gotham City, where Batman and Bane are still battling. Bane picks up a big rock (again) and throws it at Batman. Somehow, Batman is able to hide in the splashing water and manages to escape. He quickly makes his way to the lighthouse, where he finds Poison Ivy trapped in a glass tube. He frees her, and she tells him that Bane created an antidote for his new venom. Batman says he already has the antidote (which he found in his Bat-plane). Ivy stresses that Bane needs to ingest the antidote and Batman formulates a plan.

Batman heads to the top of the lighthouse, and gets Bane's attention. Bane leaps from the ground to the top of the tower and beats up Batman. Bats uses some kind of taser gun to burn away Bane's mask, but Bane pounds him pretty good and knocks out the Dark Knight.

In Kansas, Superman is encouraging Flash to keep running, even though he's already been going nonstop for over a day. Flash eventually collapses in a cornfield and finds that he successfully burned off the toxin. Superman wants to take him to a hospital, but Flash insists on helping Batman.

Batman, meanwhile, is being dragged down the lighthouse stairs by Bane. Bane takes him to the edge of the cliff and prepares to throw him into the sea. Batman pulls out the antidote, but drops it. Before the vial hits the ground, Flash catches it and makes a joke about littering. Batman then shoves the antidote into Bane's mouth, then pushes the enormous man off the cliff. Bane hits the rocks hard, and Flash says, "Well. He really let himself go, didn't he?" The villain is then carried away in the surf while Batman and Flash watch from above.

Later, we see Jai taking a bath. She receives a message from Bruce Wayne, who wants to break up with her. White Rabbit enters the room, and we find out that someway, somehow, the two girls are the same person.

The Good:

It's over! No more Batman: The Dark Knight for me — at least for a while. This issue was quite terrible, but I did learn something recently in an interview with Paul Jenkins on the Word Ballon podcast. Predictably, he spent most of his time talking about the current failures in Marvel and DC with their storytelling techniques and how they treat their creators. It is really interesting, and he made a lot of good points. Also predictably, he avoided going into too much detail to protect the innocent. But he did say a few things that helped me understand this disappointing run on The Dark Knight. He said David Finch was originally supposed to write the series alone, but he was having trouble with the script, so he called up his good friend, Paul Jenkins, and asked him to help out. Jenkins said his initial plan was to start with a big, splashy arc with lots of characters to attract some attention, then he'd start to write the kind of stories he wanted to write. He listed issues #2 and #3 as his highlights, and said the real trouble started with issues #5 and #6, when he got sick of being told to re-write his work, and flat-out refused to do so, hence the Dialogue Assist credit. Jenkins also admitted that he rarely reads comics and is unfamiliar with current continuity and many characters. When he was asked to write Deadman, he had to look him up on Wikipedia.

So what does this all mean? It means I probably never would have enjoyed Jenkins' run even if DC didn't interfere too much and give him ridiculous instructions like preventing Batman from sitting down (that's a whole separate issue). I hated issue #3, but Jenkins spoke fondly of it, so I think there is a major disconnect between what he values in a comic book and what I value. I also was a little shocked to hear of a comic book writer who doesn't read comics. I think is evidence that Jenkins very likely did not realize the current Flash was Barry Allen, and had Wally West in mind with all his quips and moments of immaturity. I can't confirm this, but it makes sense, doesn't it?

The Bad:

Lame resolution for Flash. So, for the past four issues, Flash has been circling the globe, while Batman has desperately sought a cure for him. Turns out, all he had to do was run a little bit longer. That's it? He just ran and ran and ran, then collapsed, then immediately hopped back up and was 100% fine. There's a lot more to the Flash than that! They could have solved his dilemma in so many more interesting ways. And again, what was the point of having the Flash in this story at all? The only constructive thing he did was catch that vial. Seriously, that's it. Here's a quick re-write: Batman does not drop the vial and never gets the Flash involved in this story, and we don't have to suffer with a Flash that doesn't act like the Flash.

Heroes that don't act like heroes. The first was Superman, who declined to join Flash in helping Batman fight Bane. Why didn't he go there? Flash new who Bane was, so Superman surely must have, as well. I guess he figured an exhausted Flash and a beat-up Batman would be enough to take down Bane. He was right, but he still should have helped. Our next unheroic moment comes from both Batman and Flash. Batman shoves Bane off the cliff and the two heroes just sit there and watch the bad guy wash away with the tide. Yes, we know Bane wouldn't die from such a fall, and Batman says, "He'll be back," but isn't it the heroes' responsibility to apprehend the villain and lock them up so they won't come back and cause more harm? Just knocking him off a cliff and hoping he survives doesn't cut it.

What was Bane thinking? Now, I only read half of this story arc, so I might be missing the finer details to Bane's plan, but what was the point of him creating an antidote to his new and improved venom? Just in case he got tired of being stronger and smarter? And speaking of being smarter, all he did was mindlessly beat the crap out of Batman while delivering long-winded, rambling speeches. Yeah, are you sure this venom actually made you smarter? I mean, it made him strong enough to jump to the top of a lighthouse (a bit of a stretch for me), but it didn't make him smart enough to realize he could have conceivably thrown Batman into the sea from the lighthouse. Instead, he wasted a lot of time dragging him down the stairs and holding him over his head on the edge of the cliff. At that point, he was just asking for Batman to beat him. I also have no idea how Batman got that antidote, but I'm going to give Paul Jenkins the benefit of a doubt and assume he answered this in his last issue on this title, #8.

Over-sexualized art. Finch flirted with crossing this line in earlier issues, but here I felt he went out of his way to throw in some eye candy for his 13-year-old male fans. Poison Ivy was naked for no apparent reason, then we got nice, big shots of White Rabbit and Jai taking a bath. And after Jai got out of the tub, she wrapped herself in a tiny towel, that barely covered the important parts. I find this kind of tactic to be off-putting and it takes me out of the story. It's just like a great movie that has a random and unnecessary sex scene. The story should be interesting enough without having to resort to such practices.

Final score: 1 out of 10

Next time: I'm quickly approaching my 50th post on this blog, which I plan to celebrate with something special. But before I get to that, I will review the brief, yet interesting hallucination of the Flash in Resurrection Man #12.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Batman: The Dark Knight #6

"Run Rabbit Run"

Paul Jenkins Story
David Finch Art
Joe Harris Dialogue Assist
Inker: Richard Friend
Colors: Jeromy Cox
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Assistant Editor: Rickey Purdin
Editor: Mike Marts
Batman created by Bob Kane

"Dialogue Assist" is an unusual credit. According to Paul Jenkins, DC was unhappy with his script, so they hastily asked to Joe Harris to re-write the story. That's what he said, anyway. For myself, I can tell there's a difference between the dialogue in this issue and the last two I reviewed. The story itself is just as dumb as the others, but the way the characters talk and what they say is markedly different — probably for the worse.

The cover is by Finch, Friend and Cox. Sadly no Alex Sinclair this time, but I doubt even his coloring could have saved this cover. We get Bane in his classic pose of breaking Batman's back over his knee. It's not a bad image in and of itself, but it's been done before. A lot. I also don't care for David Finch's Bane. It's like he decided to exaggerate every already-exaggerated feature of Bane. Too many tubes and veins and even muscles. The Dark Knight Rises taught us Bane could be an intriguing character without being bigger than the Hulk, but Finch believes otherwise.

Our story starts on Harmon Island, Gotham City, with Batman feeling the lingering effects of Scarecrow's toxins. For the 75,678,954th time, Batman sees his parents die. Superman then wakes him up. Apparently he showed up last issue to beat up Batman and save him from this new toxin.

Batman realizes that Superman saved him by pushing him past his tipping point, and that surge of adrenaline counteracted the drug. That also means that unless the Flash is pushed past his tipping point, his running will only charge the toxin like a battery. So Batman sends Superman to save the Flash, while he chases after White Rabbit.

Meanwhile, Jim Gordon is apprehending the Great White Shark, who was the last of the escaped Arkham inmates (there was some kind of jailbreak in previous issues that I missed). Gordon wonders where Batman is, who has caught up to the White Rabbit at a lighthouse. She is joined by the Scarecrow, who lunges at Batman, but is easily taken down with some knock-out gas. White Rabbit then asks Batman how the Flash is doing (she apparently knows he pricked his thumb at Poison Ivy's lab).

Superman finally catches up to the Flash and tells him he has to keep running, even though Flash complains about having circled the globe six times already. Superman describes the drug like a snake bite, and says they need to find a way to get the venom out of his bloodstream. At the word venom, Flash realizes they aren't dealing with just a new Scarecrow toxin.

Batman then begins to question White Rabbit, when Bane suddenly joins the conversation. He fights Batman for a while, and he throws a rock at him ... it was a big rock. Bane also talks a lot. He mentions breaking backs, but ultimately explains that he used Poison Ivy and Scarecrow to help him make a purer, more volatile derivative of venom. He used several test subjects (Two-Face, Clayface and Deathstroke I assume). Bane also claims that this new venom makes him smarter.

The Good:

I wish I had something good to say about this issue, I really did. I love Batman and I love comic books, but this is not a good story. It just isn't. I don't mean to be negative, but I've got to be honest.

The Bad:

Messy story/dialogue. Everybody seemed to talk an awful lot without really saying anything. And most of what they did say didn't make much sense. I don't know what was going on between Paul Jenkins, Joe Harris and DC, but the end result was an extremely disappointing introduction of Bane to the New 52. And this problem only gets worse when you factor in the character's popularity from The Dark Knight Rises. The man who broke the Bat's back deserves better.

How dumb is Batman? I was kind of happy that the Flash realized they were dealing with Bane, but why didn't Batman? I mean, I thought it was pretty obvious. But then again, this issue has several problems with deciding how much the characters should know. Like White Rabbit, for instance. How did she know about the Flash? She wasn't there at Poison Ivy's lab! Or maybe she was, I don't really care. This is such a dumb story.

What was the point? I kept asking myself that question while reading this issue (and all issues on this Dark Knight run). Like, what was the point of having the Scarecrow here if he wasn't going to do anything? And Great White? I guess they wanted to give us a quick update of the Arkham uprising that Wonder Woman was quelling (except she wasn't in this issue). Of course, it isn't fair for me to complain about that when I haven't read issues #1, 2 and 5, but I can complain about White Rabbit. It seems to me, her only purpose is to look pretty in ridiculously small underwear. I think Bane could have manipulated Scarecrow, Poison Ivy and the others all by himself. He did just say this new venom makes him smarter, after all.

This Paul Jenkins run on Dark Knight has been pretty disastrous. This issue got a new person to write the dialogue, but the end result was the same. Luckily, I only have one more issue to do.

Final score: 2 out of 10

Next: The vengeance of Bane!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Batman: The Dark Knight #4

"Welcome to the Jungle"

Paul Jenkins Writer/Co-Plotter
David Finch Penciller/Co-Plotter
Inker: Richard Friend
Colors: Jeromy Cox
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Assistant Editor: Rickey Purdin
Editor: Mike Marts
Batman created by Bob Kane

The cover is by David Finch, Richard Friend and Alex Sinclair. Just like the last cover, this directly shows a scene from the issue. But also just like the last cover, we quickly find out that this scene doesn't matter too much. However, the image is pretty straightforward and kind of exciting.

Our story begins with Batman investigating Poison Ivy's lab. It appears there was a recent fight there, suggesting that Ivy may have been kidnapped. Suddenly, Batman is attacked by some giant vines.

The Dark Knight easily escapes the plants and then contacts Wonder Woman. The mighty Amazon, however, is unable to assist Batman, as she's busy tracking down Spellbinder and the Electrocutioner, who recently escaped from Arkham Asylum. Batman decides to continue to work his case alone, and searches Poison Ivy's lab for clues. He eventually finds a paper with a strange code on it.

Meanwhile, Jim Gordon tries to call Bruce Wayne and seems pathologically depressed when he doesn't answer.

Batman returns to the Batcave to crack Ivy's code, while Alfred serves him an ice cream cone. Apparently Alfred has ice cream all the time to help him concentrate. Batman cracks the code, which gives him access to a bio-electronic relay system, which he in turn uses to pinpoint Poison Ivy's chloro-pheromone signal on Harmon Island. So Batman takes off in the Bat-plane with his ice cream cone. As he flies toward the island, he worries about letting down his friends, like Alfred, Gordon, his new girlfriend, Jai, and the Flash.

The White Rabbit spotted the Bat-plane as it was taking off, and she may be responsible for the strange events that follow. First, Batman discovers a small present on the plane. He opens it to reveal a little green bottle, possibly an antidote. But before he can run it through his computer, he is attacked by Deathstroke. Batman realizes he is supercharged from the same drug that Two-Face was on (in issue #2, I guess) and Clayface. Deathstroke rips Batman out of the plane and tells him that he isn't working for anyone, but just really wanted to kill Batman. He then cuts the Bat-plane in half, just as Batman makes a narrow escape. He lands safely on the island and makes his way toward a run-down shack. Inside, he meets the Scarecrow.

The Good:

Nothing really. The art was decent, but nothing special. The story, itself, was seriously flawed.

The Bad:

No Flash. This is a Flash blog, so when we only get one panel of him, I'm going to hold it against the issue. Here, we only got a brief reminder that Flash is running nonstop for his life, which leads me into my next point.

Weird Wonder Woman appearance. Since Batman just sent Flash out on an endless run, he decided to try to get some extra help, which I think is a good idea. He can only get in touch with Wonder Woman, who basically just says, "You're on your own because I'm busy fighting your bad guys." Batman immediately agrees with her and decides to try to help Flash by himself. Um, doesn't Batman have tons more allies he can contact, like Nightwing, Batgirl, Robin, Catwoman, Red Hood and probably anybody else from DC? I mean, the Flash is dying! Get some help! Even if he couldn't have gotten anybody else there quick enough, it would have been nice to see him at least try.

Randomness bordering on the bizarre. I feel like there were a lot of things thrown in here just because the creators wanted to see them, regardless of how they fit with the story. First there was the obligatory and inconsequential plant attack in Poison Ivy's lab, even though Ivy herself wasn't present. Then there was Jim Gordon drinking his sorrows away because one of the richest, most powerful men in the world wouldn't answer a phone call. Then we had Alfred enter the Batcave with two ice cream cones in his hand. And then Deathstroke literally showing up out of nowhere for no reason. He lands on top of the Bat-plane, which at that point was at 4,000 feet in the air, then he cuts the plane in half with his sword. I don't care how strong that toxin made him, he should not be able to accomplish such a feat.

So much stuff in this issue makes you yell, "What?!" and "Why?!" Overall, it is quite dumb, but not overly painful. Possibly because this is still in the middle of the story, and there is a lingering sense of hope that things will resolve in the end. Also, there is always a fundamental aspect of excitement whenever Batman's villains start teaming up, no matter how poorly executed the story may be.

Final score: 2 out of 10

Next time: According to my research, the Flash doesn't appear in Batman: The Dark Knight #5, and I'm not quite willing to spend $2 on that yet. So, from what I've heard, Batman fights Scarecrow and gets doused with the toxin, but Superman shows up in time to save the day. Flash returns to the story in issue #6.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Batman: The Dark Knight #3

"Catch Me If You Can"

Paul Jenkins Writer/Co-Plotter
David Finch Penciller/Co-Plotter
Inker: Richard Friend
Colors: Jeromy Cox
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Assistant Editor: Rickey Purdin
Editor: Mike Marts
Batman created by Bob Kane

The cover is by David Finch, Richard Friend and Alex Sinclair. It's not a bad image and it does actually portray a scene that happens in the book. I don't like White Rabbit's outfit, but I'll get into that more later. First, a little background for why I'm reviewing this now instead of H'el on Earth.

So I've been trying to review all the Flash appearances in chronological order, but I realized that I have missed a few for several different reasons. First of all, these issues came out long before I started reading the Flash, so my Flash radar didn't alert me to this title. Secondly, the Flash really makes a very brief cameo in these next four issues that feature a ton of different characters, so it was pretty issue to overlook him. And lastly, I never paid much attention to Batman: The Dark Knight because it was pretty dumb-looking.

Now the last complaint may not be entirely fair. Writer Paul Jenkins recently quit DC and gave a very scathing interview complaining about the way DC and Marvel do business. He specifically mentioned his run on Dark Knight and said that after the editors were done with it, the story didn't look anything like what he submitted. So I can't completely blame him for this story being bad. Then again, there's always the chance that Jenkins could be shifting blame for his own failures. I haven't read anything else by him, so I can't really compare. I do know, however, that from that interview, Jenkins complained a lot about having to be constrained to continuity and said DC wouldn't let him write the kind of stories he wanted to. He said his big idea for the Flash would've been to blow off one of his legs and have Barry Allen deal with being a cripple. So there's a good chance that I wouldn't have enjoyed Jenkins' work even if it wasn't heavily edited.

Anyway, Batman: The Dark Knight is difficult to place chronologically and continuity-wise. In fact, most Batman titles have this problem. I've heard many Batman fans struggling mightily to figure out when each of DC's 20 or so Bat-titles take place. I'm not reading any other Bat-titles, so I only have my knowledge of the Flash to go off. Here, the Flash acts like a young, new hero. He makes lots of mistakes and generally does not act like the mature Flash he is in his own book. So I'm going to say this story took place before The Flash #1. It's the only way I can accept his very un-Flash-like behavior. Well, almost accept his behavior. On to the story!

We start with Batman fighting a super-strong Joker on a train. The White Rabbit is also there, and she apparently gave the Joker the drug to make him huge. I guess Batman encountered this in earlier issues, because he warns Joker that the drug quickly wears off and causes its user to bleed from their eyes. Right on cue, this starts to happen to Joker, and Batman reveals that the real Joker is left-handed, making this impostor Clayface.

As the drug wears off, Clayface freaks out, but eventually collapses on top of Batman. White Rabbit then tries to inject the Dark Knight with that serum, but she hears the Flash approaching, so she makes a quick getaway. Flash then bursts into the train rather messily.

Flash tells Batman that he got his distress call 10 minutes ago, and he came as soon as he finished saving a burning building and fighting giant space aliens. Batman asks if he saw a girl running away, but Flash didn't and assumes Batman took one too many hits to the head. Flash then complains that he jammed his thumb breaking through the wall.

Batman takes Clayface to the police, and he threatens a cop to leave him alone. He then goes on a date as Bruce Wayne with a girl named Jai, who acts an awful lot like the White Rabbit. Batman then goes to the Batcave to run some tests on the drug that was given to Clayface. It acts like Scarecrow's toxin, but it takes away fear instead of causing it. It eventually overloads the brain, causing the bleeding eyeballs. The toxin is derived from a very rare plant, so that means Poison Ivy is likely involved. Batman decides to go investigate with the Flash.

The two heroes arrive at Poison Ivy's lab, and Flash quickly pricks his thumb on a thorn. Batman tells him he needs to run to speed up his heart rate so he doesn't metabolize the toxin. Flash apologizes and takes off, while Batman searches for Poison Ivy alone.

The Good:

Nothing really. If there would be one redeeming point to this issue, it would be David Finch's art, which isn't too bad. It isn't that great, though — I was really disappointed with his Clayface. Finch does draw a pretty girl, but I think he enjoys his pretty girls a little too much. White Rabbit's outfit is completely ridiculous. Take away her thigh boots and sleeved gloves, and she's basically wearing a corset and a thong that's way too small to use as underwear or go to the beach in. How is that outfit comfortable? Especially when you're running around fighting Batman! Just ridiculous.

The Bad:

Awful Flash. If this was Bart Allen, I wouldn't be so upset. But this is Barry Allen, and he is acting nothing like the Barry we see in The Flash, or even Justice League. Let's start from the beginning: White Rabbit HEARS him approaching. That should never happen. If Flash is rushing to someone's aid, like Batman's, then the second you hear Flash, he is standing right next to you. You shouldn't have time to recognize the sound, toy with Batman a little bit more, and then get away before Flash shows up. I don't care how fast that train is moving. Next, why did the Flash rip a huge whole through that train? Was he trying to be intimidating? It would've been a lot more intimidating if you just vibrated through the train and got there before the bad guy got away! Then, why are you doubting Batman and complaining about your sprained thumb? Man up, Flash! It's truly remarkable how such a brief scene can have so much wrong with it.

Unoriginal story. I really feel like I've seen this before. Let's see ... Making Joker big and strong was from the video game Arkham Asylum, revealing the Joker to be Clayface was from Arkham City, an anti-fear toxin was from Batman: The Animated Series, and making Flash run to counteract a poison was from the Justice League: Doom movie. Perhaps this was intentional. Perhaps the target audience was 13-year-old boys (hence the pretty girls) who had never read a comic but have played a few games and seen a few movies. I, however, consider comic books to be the source material, and I expect original stories — not a rehashing of notable events. Yes, the White Rabbit is an original character (at least I think so), but she was rather uninteresting and kind of confusing. Maybe her superpower is to avoid the Flash.

Why was the Flash even here? He arrived too late to help Batman fight Clayface and then for no reason, Batman invited him to search for Poison Ivy, which he wasn't even able to do. It would have been nice had they threw in a line about Batman wanting to test the Flash, but we got no such thing. I guess Jenkins and Finch wanted to show how intense this toxin is by making the Flash have to run around the world to get it out of his system. But how did Flash even prick his thumb? Wasn't it established in The Flash #1 that his suit is made of metal? Oh, that's right, Jenkins doesn't care about continuity. But that doesn't excuse him for randomly throwing characters into his story and doing nonsensical things. Like Clayface for instance. Forget why, but how did that toxin affect him? He's made of clay. He shouldn't have blood. Apparently he does. I didn't read the first two issues, so I can't complain about not knowing why Batman was fighting him and White Rabbit on a train. I'll begrudgingly let that one go.

Well, I hated this issue, but it wasn't completely unbearable. I wouldn't recommend picking this up, though. A lot of Flashpoint fans may be intrigued about Flash teaming up with Batman again, but sadly this is not the Flash-Batman team-up we deserve.

Final score: 2 out of 10.

Next: Where have all the flowers gone?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

DC Universe Presents #0

So once upon a time, DC launched the New 52 with a couple of fringe, experimental titles that probably had a 5% percent chance of being successful. These titles included Mr. Terrific, O.M.A.C., Hawk and Dove, and Blackhawks. To nobody's surprise, all these titles were canceled by the time DC hit the one-year mark of the New 52 and wanted to tell origin stories in their Zero issues. To make it up to these canceled titles, DC gave them all a brief origin in DC Universe Presents #0.

Now DC Universe Presents was supposed to be DC's testing ground. It would feature a bunch of different characters in one- to five-issue stories in hopes of finding somebody popular enough to earn their own title. That never happened. Deadman was given the first five issues, then Challengers of the Unknown got three, three more for Vandal Savage, one for Kid Flash (where he fights dinosaur teenagers), four for Black Lightning and Blue Devil, one for Arsenal, one for Starfire, and one for Beowolf (that also featured the Flash ... sort of). And then DC decided to cancel DC Universe Presents. I think the main idea behind it was a good one, but it was poorly executed. First of all, the book had an unwieldy title. I think it should have been called something more simple like DC Showcase. Secondly, most of the characters it chose had an extremely low chance to succeed. These were virtual unknowns in the DC Universe and could only make it on their own with the absolutely best writing and art in the world. But the best creator usually get to work with the best characters. I'm sad DC's experiment failed, but I guess they should get credit for trying.

Anyway, I missed this issue when it first came out because the Flash's appearance in it is so brief. He appears on one panel in the Blackhawks story during the Darkseid fight. Since you can't buy only that Blackhawks story, I will briefly review all five stories in this issue. Oh, and the cover? I don't know who did it and frankly, I don't care. It's the standard Zero Issue cover, but it's missing Deadman, which sucks for him because he started the DC Universe Presents title. So now, on to the review (I'll try to get through this as quickly as possible).

"Origins Matter After Cancellation"

Story and Art by "Unstoppable" Keith Giffen and "Immovable" Dan DiDio
Inks by "Uncontrollable" Scott Koblish
Colors by "Unsaturated" Hi-Fi
Letters by "Infallible" Travis Lanham
Edits by "Irredeemable" Harvey Richards
O.M.A.C. created by Jack "The King" Kirby

In Metropolis, two years ago, Mokkari at Cadmus is developing a virus to create an unstoppable killing machine, but he needs to find the right host, which he predicts to have a one-in-a-million shot at. Cadmus is being funded by Maxwell Lord and Checkmate, who is using the satellite Brother Eye to spy on Cadmus. We find out that Brother Eye was created by Batman with Mother Box technology to keep tabs on all the super humans on Earth, but Brother Eye became sentient and grew too powerful. So Maxwell Lord decided to destroy the satellite and steal all the information it had acquired. But before he could do this, Brother Eye took control of the O.M.A.C. virus, disguised it as an ordinary flu shot, and gave it to Kevin Kho, who became the One-Machine Attack Construct.

"Mister Terrific"

James Robinson, Writer
Tom Derenick, Artist
Mike Atiyeh, Colorist
Dave Sharpe, Letterer
Kate Stewart, Assistant Editor
Joey Cavalieri, Editor

Michael Holt, one of the smartest men on the planet, has decided to become a superhero named Mr. Terrific. He has created a special T-mask and T-spheres to make himself more powerful. In his studies, he came across the "Ninth Dimension" and decided to enter a portal to visit it. On his way, he sees images of his past, such as the death of his wife and son. He then sees images of his future — he joins the Earth 2 Flash and Green Lantern, fights Power Girl, and is killed by a man in a suit. The portal suddenly forces him out and he can't remember anything he saw, but vows to return as soon as he can.

"Balance of Power"

Writer – Rob Liefeld
Artist – Marat Mychaels
Colorist – Matt Yackey
Letterer – Dezi Sienty
Assistant Editor – Rickey Purdin
Editor – Rachel Gluckstern

Deep in the cosmos, the god of chaos, War, and the goddess of order, Peace, argue about their respective avatars, Hawk and Dove. We learn that Dove was originally Don Hall, but he was killed, so his girlfriend, Dawn Granger, became the new Dove. War and Peace bicker and argue about ... well, nothing really. And then the story ends.

"Mother Machine"

Tony Bedard Writer
Carlos Rodriguez Penciller
Bit Inker
Guy Major Colorist
Carlos M. Mangual Letterer
Chris Conroy Editor

At the battle of Metropolis five years ago, the Flash(!) and the rest of the Justice League fight Darkseid.  Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are searching for one of their teammates who was kidnapped by parademons. They find her, but they were too late — she has already been turned into some kind of evil robot. The Blackhawks free her from Darkseid's control, but she runs away from them and becomes her own villain named Mother Machine.

"Instant Karma"

Tony Bedard Writer
Scott McDaniel Artist
Guy Major Colorist
Dave Sharpe Letterer
Harvey Richards Editor
Deadman created by Arnold Drake

Boston Brand was a circus daredevil until he was shot and killed. He apparently was some kind of a jerk, because the goddess Rama Kushna decreed that he needed to serve penance as the super-powered Deadman, with the ability to possess other people's bodies. The first body he possessed was that of the man who murdered him. Basically, Deadman screwed up and accidentally caused the death of an innocent old lady. But he did make sure the murderer went to jail. Later, Deadman decided to follow Rama Kushna's advice and use his powers for good.

The Good:

Nothing. There is nothing redeemable about this issue. Avoid it at all costs. I apologize for making you suffer through this review.

The Bad:

No Flash. Yes, he does appear in one panel, but it's not a particularly exciting or original panel. If you want to see Flash fight Darkseid, go pick up Justice League #1 through #6. It's much better that way.

Uninspiring art. Everything just seemed sloppy and rushed. Maybe this was a last-minute decision by DC, but that doesn't excuse the poor quality of this book. There was not a single page that I enjoyed, and ultimately I felt like this issue was a complete waste of $2 (for the digital version).

Bad writing. Maybe part of this complaint has to do with the shortness of the stories. Nobody really had enough room to do anything with. The Deadman story had the most potential, but it felt rushed, almost like Tony Bedard had to hastily cram his story into a smaller page count. On the other hand, it felt like Rob Liefeld had absolutely no story for Hawk and Dove and just kind of stalled to fill up the pages. I was also unimpressed with the "Immovable" Dan DiDio. I've never read any of his stories, but when somebody is co-publisher of DC, I'd expect them to be one of the top creators around. Jim Lee is one of the best artists of his generation, but what great story had DiDio written?

Mother Machine. I'm going to pick on her because this was the story the Flash "appeared" in. Mother Machine makes no sense! If you read the first six issues of Justice League, you'll see that the parademons were kidnapping humans to turn them into more parademons. So why was this random lady chosen to become this ultimate robot of death? Also, this random lady has no name! I re-read this story half a dozen times, and went searching on the Internet and could find nothing! How am I supposed to build a personal connection with somebody that doesn't even have a name?

What was the point? I kept asking myself this over and over during this issue. I know that DC brazenly stated that "Origins Matter After Cancellation," and all these stories ended with some version of a To Be Continued, but seriously, what was the point of giving us the origins of cancelled titles? Let's pretend that I was a huge Hawk and Dove fan and I eagerly picked up this issue back when it was on the shelves, and even loved the whole Peace vs. War debate. What do I do after this issue? Pick up the back issues and hope and pray for Hawk and Dove to return somehow? Or what if I really loved this Mother Machine character? When and where would I see her again? Honestly, I don't think there were any fans who fit into those categories, nor were there any new readers who were enticed by the cover alone and bought this. The only people who bought this issue were OCD collectors like me who bought it more out of a sense of obligation than anything else. And that is why this book has failed.

Final score: 0 out of 10

Next time: Do you remember the time Flash teamed up with Batman to take down Bane? I kinda missed it, so now I'm going back to review Batman: The Dark Knight #3.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Flash #17

"Gorilla Warfare Part 5: The Way Home"

Script by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Art by Francis Manapul
Colors by Brian Buccellato
Letters by Carlos Mangual
Associate Editor Chris Conroy
Group Editor Matt Idelson

So Matt Idelson went from Editor to Group Editor for whatever reason. Anyway, the cover is another classic by Manapul and Buccellato. Flash is triumphant, as we knew he would be, and in a bit of parallelism, he is beating his chest like a gorilla. But it's not at all cheesy. It's simple and powerful.

I am very fortunate to own a physical copy of the sketch variant (got it cheap through eBay). It is simply gorgeous and the prized piece of my small, but growing, Flash collection. Now if only I could get a sketch variant of Flash #1 ...

Our story begins with our hero and villain in the Speed Force, where scenes of your life play by in the sky. We see what happened to Grodd after his encounter with Flash, and we're given some insight into his mind. He believes Flash stole his birthright, then buried him under Gorilla City's ancient temple. Grodd felt the elders committed treason by leaving him for dead. Eventually, General Silverback rescued him and Grodd inspired an army by proclaiming himself the Lightning Bearer — the Chosen One. He put to death all who opposed him and led the invasion of Central City. Now, he is in the Speed Force, giving the Flash the option of who dies first — him, or his friends.

Flash chooses none of the above, so Grodd lashes out at Iris. Flash steps in front of the punch, and his armor begins to shatter like before. This time, however, it repairs itself instantly and Flash explains again that he is King of the Speed Force. He then proceeds to beat the snot out of Grodd, but the fight isn't entirely one-sided.

Just outside Central City, the Army remains on standby in front of the perceived ring of fire. Meanwhile, Darryl Frye and his task force manage to breach the football stadium. Darryl figures out how to disconnect the machines and Glider pulls them up into Mirror World through a large sheet of ice hanging over the stadium. She can't quite get all the machines up there, so Turbine helps push them up with a whirlwind. The elder gorilla rejoices at his freedom when the connection is broken from the human hostages, including Forrest, who utters the classic line, "Those damn dirty apes ..."

Once the mirage disappears, the Army sees the coast is clear and charges into the city. Darryl is pinned by a gorilla (I'm going to say it's General Silverback), and is saved when the gorilla is shot and killed by Patty Spivot. A tank rolls into the stadium and the Rogues immediately retreat to the Mirror World. The gorillas, feeling abandoned by their king, also begin to retreat. While rushing to their pods, a couple of them find Solovar, who is still barely alive. They rescue him and head back for Gorilla City.

We return to the Flash, who is rather enjoying his fight in the Speed Force. The rampaging wooly mammoth also wants to join in the fun, so Flash rips off Grodd's helmet, slams its big spike in the ground to pin Grodd by his cape, and scoops up Iris before she is trampled by the mammoth. The wooly mammoth instead scoops Grodd up in its tusks and carries him far away.

Flash tells Iris he can get them all out of the Speed Force, but she worries that means Grodd could escape as well. Flash assures her, however, that while the Speed Force has many doors, he's the only one with a key. He loads everybody up in the tank and then pulls it out of the Speed Force, and drops it right in the middle of the football stadium.

We then see Turbine being reunited with his wife and daughter, but it is only an illusion created by Mirror Master, who would like Turbine to join the Rogues. Captain Cold tries to join the conversation, but Sam angrily reminds him that Lisa is the new leader, not him. Glider then takes over by announcing their next items of business: first, getting the civilians back to Central City (including Daniel West), and second, finding out what all their new toys are worth (including the gorillas' machines and Dr. Elias' monorail).

Speaking of Dr. Elias, we see him return to his lab in Central City one week later. He is on his feet, but must use a cane after Glider nearly killed him. His lab is a complete wreck thanks to Grodd, and it appears that all the Speed Force energy has been taken. However, Elias opens a secret panel on the floor, revealing a few more battery cells. He says, "Okay, Flash ... now it gets serious."

We then cut to Barry Allen, being interviewed by a detective. Barry is telling him the same story being told by Iris, Albert, Gomez and Marissa, which is that none of them remember anything after being sucked into the Speed Force during the Captain Cold fight three months ago. The detective assures Barry they'll be able to reverse his death certificate, but he can't make any promises about him getting his old job back. Darryl, who was sitting in on the interview, pulls Barry aside and tells him that he knows he's lying, but trusts he has a good reason for it.

Barry then bumps into Iris, and they briefly discuss how odd it is to have no memory of the Speed Force. Iris does, however, suddenly have wooly mammoths on the mind. Patty then finds Barry and gives him a big kiss, while Iris awkwardly sneaks away. Patty asks if everything's okay, and Barry says, "I think so ..."

One month later, a mysterious figure in a mysterious location says, "Move forward. He always says move forward. But it's time he learned ... sometimes ... you gotta go in reverse." There's an explosion and we someone wearing armor similar to the Flash's, except it's black.

The Good:

The art. I'm so glad Francis Manapul was able to draw this whole issue. Sometimes at the end of big events, artists (Jim Lee) burn out and have to recruit extra help, leaving the climatic issue with less-than-stellar artwork. That is not the case here! Every page is so beautiful and well-done — I am even happily buying every Flash issue twice (one print copy and one digital copy).

The story. What an ending! So many loose ends were tied up, but there is still plenty of fodder for future issues. I loved the less-is-more approach to this, in that the Flash didn't have to do everything by himself. He entrusted the city to his friends and villains/allies. There were a lot of people involved and they all got something to do. And the Flash finally got somebody he could punch a few times! But what really makes me happy was that this issue didn't just wrap up the past five issues of Gorilla Warfare, but it extended all the way back to Flash #1. That's the continuity I crave!

A confident Flash. Not to sound like the Flash had ever been whiney or emo, but most of the past issues gave us a slightly depressed Flash that was constantly second-guessing himself. He did have good reason, with all the stuff that happened to him, but it was so refreshing to see him finally rise above all that and be the confident, butt-kicking hero we all knew he could be. He basically said, "Game over, Grodd" and that was that. And what really makes this moment so rewarding is having seen the journey Flash has been on over the course of this series. He has grown up now and moved to another level in his superhero career.

The future looks bright. This was the finale, so it ended lots of stories and closed lots of doors. But for every door that was closed, another was opened, creating an intriguing future for the Flash. Solovar survived, perhaps to become another ally for the Flash. Turbine was being manipulated by the Rogues and might join them with their giant Speed Force energy battery cell. Daniel West is now free to possibly fight against the Flash or help him. Patty is reunited with her boyfriend and now knows his secret identity. Iris is back, and probably wants to hook up with Barry again. Dr. Elias has also survived and has vowed to renew his fight against Flash. And, of course ...

The Reverse Flash. I was kinda sad when I heard this new Reverse Flash wouldn't be yellow, but once I saw this black costume, I fell in love with it. This last page didn't tell us much about this new villain, but the prospect of having him around is incredibly exciting.

The Bad:

Nothing. I can't think of anything this issue could have improved upon. I liked how they handled Grodd, he's stashed away for now, but could easily return. I liked how all the minor characters were involved. And I liked how the Flash acted here. Yes, he did joke around a little bit, but it never felt annoying or out-of-place to me. It was simply a masterpiece of a comic book.

Final score: 10 out of 10

Next time: Through the magic of the Speed Force, I will reverse time and review some issues that I previously missed. First up, DC Universe Presents #0. Did you know the Blackhawks were involved with Darkseid's invasion? Did you care? Well, apparently not too many people cared because that book got canceled. But for the completion's sake, I will cover that story and all the other little stories from failed titles in DC Universe Presents.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Flash #16

"Gorilla Warfare Part 4: Love and Sacrifice"

Script by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Art by Francis Manapul
Colors by Brian Buccellato
Letters by Carlos M. Mangual
Associate Editor Chris Conroy
Editor Matt Idelson

I thoroughly enjoy this cover by Manapul and Buccellato. I love the action, I love the colors, but I don't love the Arrow ad. (It's just not a very good show. Too much like Smallville, i.e., superheroes for girls.) So let's enjoy the black-and-white version.

Unlike the busy, experimental cover of issue #15 (which I didn't really care for), this cover is simple, bold and effective. It's the main protagonist versus the main antagonist, and that's all you need here.

Our story begins in Central City, five years ago. Barry Allen is on a date with Iris West on a very windy day. Their playful flirting is interrupted when a strong gust scatters Iris' papers. Barry quickly catches them (maybe a little too quickly), but sees the papers are related to the recent arrest of Iris' brother, Daniel. Feeling like Iris is only using him for his police connections, Barry angrily ends the date.

Now, Barry is sitting on a bed, telling Patty Spivot about his plan to turn himself in to Grodd. Patty naturally isn't too happy about this plan, but she trusts in Barry. He apologizes for concealing his identity, but she says they'll talk about that later and sends him away with a kiss.

The Flash can feel everyone who has been touched by the Speed Force, so he uses that ability to track Grodd down to Dr. Elias' laboratory. He wishes he could've promised Patty he'd come back, but knowing what he's going to do, he can't do that. But he has resolved to do whatever it takes to stop Grodd and save the Gem Cities.

Back to the fight in Central City, the Rogues have taken high ground on Captain Cold's ice wall. As a couple of buses of human hostages approach, Weather Wizard knocks the gorillas off with some lightning. Heatwave then traps them in a ring of fire, and Glider sends out her ribbons from inside the Mirror World to guide the buses through the ice. One of the bus passengers is Daniel West, who is not happy with idea of going from prison to the gorillas to the Rogues so quickly. Darryl Frye and his team then show up to take on the apes.

Cut back to five years ago, Iris is visiting Daniel at Iron Heights Prison. He is furious with her for not being able to enlist Barry's help, but she seems genuinely guilty about being dishonest with Barry. Daniel writes her off and Barry, as well, calling him a wet blanket.

Now, Iris is inside the Speed Force, hiding from a rampaging wooly mammoth in an old Soviet tank. Her companions, Albert, Gomez and Marissa are kind of panicking, but Iris is able to keep everybody together. They try to get the tank operating, when Albert suddenly begins to glow. He causes the tank's main gun to fire, which pushes the tank off the cliff.

We return to the Flash, who is now in chains and being lectured by Grodd for cowardly only using his powers to maintain the status quo instead of changing the world. When the Flash doesn't respond to Grodd's monologue, he throws a spear at the Flash, but it seemingly disintegrates before it reaches his face. The Flash had been gathering his energy during Grodd's speech and opened a portal that transported him and Grodd to the Speed Force.

Grodd seems a bit caught off guard at first, but then Flash explains everything and Grodd feels his powers grow exponentially. Flash, however, is also confident, and proclaims himself King of the Speed Force. But before these two titans can begin their fight, Flash feels another presence, even stronger than Grodd's. The old tank then crashes down right in front of them, and out pops Iris.

The Good:

The art. Fabulous as always, this issue had lots of big "money" action shots and Grodd has never looked better. I also imagine Buccellato had a lot of fun with the Rogues, flashbacks and the Speed Force providing him a wildly diverse pallet. Or maybe that just meant a lot of extra work for him. Either way, I sure enjoyed looking at this issue. Not even reading — just taking in the pictures.

The story. Just because the art is amazing, that doesn't mean the story was lacking in any way. This was such a fun read, especially after I felt they held back a little bit in the last issue. This issue was the perfect setup for the climatic finale of this Gorilla Warfare arc that I have enjoyed so much. All the pieces were put into place, and there still was a healthy amount of action, too. After I read this issue, I basically did nothing but pace back and forth in my room, waiting for issue #17 to come out. And that is the ideal response for the second-to-last part of a story.

Iris' relationship with Barry. Their tumultuous relationship in the past was referenced clear back in issue #3, so it was great to finally get to see exactly how that all went down. Yes, what Iris was doing was pretty bad and not fair to Barry, but I think he also overreacted a little bit, which I think is a great touch to make it more realistic. Relationships aren't one-sided affairs. I also like the idea of Iris still having feelings for Barry five years later. Another fun thing I picked up on this time in these flashbacks was that Daniel really dislikes Barry. This could help improve his case to be the Reverse Flash. (Sadly, I won't get to that for a while. I have lots of back issues to go through first.)

Flash's new power. I love seeing the Flash use his powers in non-running ways. Lots of people say that all he does is run fast, but they obviously have never read a Flash story. Manapul and Buccellato have put the speed mind to good use, and now we see the Flash willingly enter the Speed Force. Not only that, but he has enough control to take in just one other person with him. And without a cosmic treadmill! Even though the cover said they'll be fighting in the Speed Force, I just assumed they'd end up there by accident, so I was surprised and pleased to see what they did inside.

The Bad:

Hmm ... well, I guess Flash and Grodd could have exchanged a couple of blows before the tank landed in front of them, but that is a teeny, tiny, inconsequential complaint. This was a flat-out great issue.

Final score: 9 out of 10

Next: King of the Speed Force!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Flash #15

"Gorilla Warfare Part 3: Flash Forward"

Script by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Art by Marcus To and Ryan Winn (pages 1-11) and Francis Manapul (pages 12-20)
Colors by Brian Buccellato and Ian Herring
Letters by Carlos Mangual
Associate Editor Chris Conroy
Editor Matt Idelson

As always, our cover is brought to us by Manapul and Buccellato. I appreciate that they tried something new, and I like the concept, but I think the execution was lacking just a little bit. The red coloring and the letters on the cover make it kind of hard to tell exactly what's going. Luckily, I have a black-and-white version that solves that problem.

Here, we can see Elias with a beard, Patty with a scar, and all the other major players in the game. Except for Forrest, who (sadly) does nothing in this issue. After you read through the issue, the cover does make more sense, but I don't think it was particularly eye-catching for a new reader. And I guess that's what happens when you experiment — you win some and you lose some.

Our story begins with Patty Spivot recalling the hell of a year she just went through. The city endured a massive blackout, an attack by the Rogues, and now a gorilla invasion. Twice, she thought her boyfriend was dead — first by Mob Rule, then during the Flash-Captain Cold fight. Now, she has found out that Barry is not only alive, but also the Flash. Grodd has just tried to impale Flash with a stop sign, but Solovar sacrificed himself to save him. However, Flash was still knocked out by the attack.

Patty, not caring that Barry is the reckless vigilante she hates, tries to save her boyfriend by throwing rocks at the giant, super strong, super fast gorilla Grodd. Turbine tries to stop her, but then they notice Grodd's speed energy has worn off, taking a toll on his body. Turbine uses this moment to start hurtling a bunch of rocks at Grodd, while Patty rushes to Barry's side. Solovar is in bad shape, but still alive, and he manages to remind Patty to tell Flash that the mind will always be faster.

Just outside Central City, the Army has arrived in a bunch of tanks, but they can't see anything through all the smoke. Their sensors also read that the area is highly radioactive, so they form a perimeter until they can figure out what's going on.

Inside the football stadium, one of the gorillas worries how long the elder can maintain the telepathic image and what would happen if the humans saw through it. The elder tells him they must obey their king, something he failed to do once and will not do again. The stadium stands are full of people being used to provide the elder with mental energy, and it looks like Forrest, the Pied Piper and Director Singh are among the captives.

Outside the stadium, the Rogues prepare their plan to save the people from the gorillas. Captain Cold creates a large wall of ice, upon with the Mirror Master appears.

Far from the fighting, a weakened Grodd has slowly made his way back to Dr. Elias' lab to get more speed energy. He realizes these battery cells are unsustainable and he must have the Flash to truly acquire this power.

Back in the fray, Daniel West is still looking for his sister, Iris, while he's being chased by gorillas. But when he sees some people get captured, he tries to help out. However, his heroics only get him caught and knocked out.

At Broome Hill, Central City, just inside the gorilla perimeter, Darryl Frye arrives at Malaya Lago's house. (She's the mother of Mob Rule, in case you forgot.) Malaya leads Darryl upstairs to where Barry is lying unconscious on a bed and Patty is telling him nursery rhymes. Turbine is also there, standing guard. Darryl assures Patty that Barry will be able to bounce back and he tells him that he's assembling a task force with retired vets and anybody he can round up to make a last stand against the gorillas. Turbine says he'll join Darryl because if this city is lost, then he'll lose his chance to return to his home and family. While Patty and Darryl encourage Barry to wake up, his speed mind activates and he sees three potential scenarios for the future. (Note: These scenarios are a bunch of fragmented images with no words, so I'm doing a lot of speculating here. But I guess that's OK, since these are all just hypothetical futures that don't really happen.)

In one future, Barry kisses Patty, then heads out with the Rogues to a direct confrontation with Grodd. They fight valiantly, but are defeated, and Grodd rips off Flash's armor and kills him with a sword.

In another possibility, Flash joins Darryl's task force and they head to the football stadium to save the people, including Patty, who has been captured and fitted with a mind draining cap. Flash and the police start to win, and in their excitement, they tear down the gorillas' machine while it's still connected to the elder. His mind is overwhelmed and in the resulting feedback, he fries the brains of all the connected humans, killing Patty.

In the last scenario, Flash teams with the Rogues and they plan to invade Elias' lab to collect the remaining speed energy battery cells. They're met by the gorillas and Heatwave seems to lose his temper and there's a big explosion. Some time passes and the gorillas have pretty much taken over the city, killing lots of people. An underground movement forms with Patty, Turbine, Singh and the Pied Piper. Patty has a big scar on her face and Turbine has grown a beard. Using a motorcycle, Patty was able to steal a battery cell to help recharge the Flash to his full power.

Dr. Elias, now with a beard, is working for Grodd and has built him a large lightning rod tower to collect and store more speed force energy. The Flash and his team attack the tower. Elias flips a switch that creates a large vortex above the tower and sucks everything up. Flash, Patty and Grodd are hanging on for dear life, but they're eventually pulled into the vortex. Without the Flash to expend the speed force energy, the world is eventually consumed and destroyed.

When the visions started, Barry at first thought he was dying. But then he realized he was seeing things that hadn't happened yet. His body is paralyzed but his thoughts are racing forward, but he realizes all the scenarios he sees lead to defeat. He feels Patty beside him and feels her love. That gives him the strength to slow down and find the right answer, which is for him to turn himself over to Grodd. Barry then wakes up, shouting Patty's name.

The Good:

Unique storytelling. The last half of the book was something I've never seen before. Yes, it was kind of difficult to tell exactly what was going on, but I rather enjoyed the extra effort it required. The art, of course, was fantastic, and I loved how all those pages connect together to form one very long, very awesome image. Plus, it's always fun to see what-if scenarios involving our hero's death and the end of the world.

Patty's resolve. Patty has been a pretty good girlfriend, but it seemed like her relationship with Barry was going to end, especially after issue #10. But here she surprised me. Her love for Barry outweighed her hatred for the Flash and she risked her life by taking on Grodd. And her "Criss cross, applesauce" scene was one of the most touching moments of this series. Sure, Patty isn't Iris, but I think she's worthy of dating the Flash.

Multiple story lines. Some people might not like having to keep track of so many people and so many different things happening at the same time, but I love it. I enjoy complex, intricate stories that involve a lot of pieces that interact with each other. Although the first half of this issue didn't advance things as much as it could have, I thought it did a good job of giving us an update of everything that was happening. I also enjoyed the little detail of the elder's mirage also affecting the Army's computers.

The Bad:

This isn't so much a complaint as an observation, but the art in the first half was a bit lackluster. Of course, compared to Manapul's work, almost everything seems lackluster, but I have enjoyed Marcus To's previous work on this title before this issue. This time, he had a new inker (I assume) in Ryan Winn, who inked too heavily for my liking. The last half of this issue was absolutely amazing and worthy of compelling you to pick up this issue (or several copies of it), but the first half could have been a lot better. So that's why I'll have to keep the score a little lower.

Final score: 8 out of 10

Next: The road not taken!