Monday, June 29, 2015

Justice League #38


The Amazo Virus Chapter Three: The Secret

Geoff Johns Writer
Jason Fabok Artist
Brad Anderson Colorist
Carlos M. Mangual Letterer
Tony Harris, after Mike Sekowsky and Murphy Anderson Flash 75th Anniversary Variant Cover
Amedeo Turturro Asst. Editor
Brian Cunningham Group Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
By special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family

For some reason, Jim Lee returned to Justice League to draw this one, random cover. And it may have been a last-minute decision, since the comic still credits Fabok and Anderson. The cover is nice enough, although nothing particularly spectacular. Everything is kept as vague as possible, yet slightly contradictory if you really break down Batman's "strange new powers." Lee's artwork is always welcome — I just think it's really odd that he spent so much time away from this series and returned for a cover that I think Fabok could have and should have done himself.


In January 2015, DC celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Flash with a series of variant covers. Of course, this anniversary marked the debut of the original Flash, Jay Garrick. But that didn't stop DC from almost exclusively featuring Barry Allen in these covers. My comic shop gave me this variant, and I kind of wish they hadn't. It's just awful. The pencils, the coloring, everything. I like the idea behind paying homage to the classic The Brave and the Bold #28 from 1960. But the execution is simply awful. Flash looks demented, for lack of a better word. I guess the buildings look pretty cool, but what's the point when all the characters look awful?

Our story begins with Steve Trevor informing the unseen President Obama on the current situation. This is helpful if you haven't read the past couple of issues, but if you have, then it's rather repetitive and tedious. I don't know why DC refused to show Obama's face in this issue, when he has clearly been shown several other times in the New 52.

Anyway, our story really begins with the fight between Superman, Wonder Woman and Patient Zero. Batman, who's been infected, holds back a bit, as black blood and ooze starts pouring out of his eyes and mouth. But suddenly, Batman re-enters the fight by emitting a powerful sonic blast that knocks out Patient Zero. Batman tells Superman that he's blind, but can still "see" through echolocation. He says that Luthor's been withholding the true nature of the virus, and Batman says he hears a voice before passing out. As Superman and Wonder Woman gather up Patient Zero and Batman, a group of infected individuals roam the streets, chanting, "Us."

Five miles outside of Metropolis, at the basecamp for the infected, Bullet gloats about how he killed Lex Luthor, only to see that he was protected by a wall of ice. Captain Cold gives a rather boring speech about the power of glaciers, and points his cold-gun at Bullet. The would-be assassin quickly turns and opens fire on Cold, but his cold-field slows all the bullets down, rendering them harmless. Cold then freezes Bullet, presumably killing him.

Luthor then awakes Neutron from his medically induced coma to interrogate him. Lena protests her brother's action, but he shouts at her, saying his whole crisis was Neutron's fault. Luthor reveals that Neutron used to be Metropolis power plant security guard Nathaniel Tryon. He was transformed during a meltdown, and sought revenge on those responsible until Superman stopped him. Now, the Amazo Virus has robbed his ability to control radiation, and he's developed every kind of cancer Luthor can see. Luthor tells Neutron he can save him, but first he wants to know who hired him. But before Neutron answers him, Superman and Wonder Woman arrive with Batman and Patient Zero. So Luthor ends his interrogation to get to work.

After analyzing Patient Zero's blood, Luthor sadly discovers that Ikarus is just as sick as everybody else. His ability just happens to be able to mimic other powers, but Luthor won't be able to make a cure from his blood. So Luthor asks for some of Superman's blood, saying he exposed him to the virus four years ago. When the virus failed, Luthor put it in cold storage. Superman is furious to learn that Luthor knew he had the necessary antibodies in his blood the whole time, and waited until now to say something. Wonder Woman calms Superman down, saying Luthor is still their only hope at curing the virus. And Luthor now demands immunity for all potential charges before he develops an antidote.

Batman then interrupts their conversation with another sonic blast. He and the rest of the infected Justice League members rise up together and speak with one voice, saying that they are the dominant species.

The Good:

I guess the big takeaway from this issue is the Justice League being infected/possessed. But we've seen this before, and recently, too. The Joker just showed that it's pretty easy to take control of the Justice League, so I'm not really worked up about this. I'm also completely indifferent about Batman's new bat powers. We all know they're temporary, so why worry?

The Bad:

Little to no Flash. Well, Flash did say, "We," and he did stand up at the very end, but that's hardly enough Flash for my liking or the purposes of this blog. Hopefully the infected Flash will do something interesting next issue.

Captain Cold does not kill. They didn't explicitly say that Cold killed Bullet, but they didn't say he survived the attack, either. From the art, it pretty much looks like Bullet won't be able to come out of that. And since Luthor was so intent on learning who's trying to kill him, you'd think he would have wanted to interrogate both Neutron and Bullet. He should have either told Cold to defrost Bullet, or shouted at him for killing a valuable source. But more importantly, Cold never should have killed Bullet in the first place. That's a complete betrayal of his character. Leonard Snart is a criminal with a high moral code, who often goes out of his way to not kill people. He easily could have, and should have, only frozen Bullet's arms and legs.

Patient Zero is no worthless. Why did we waste all that time tracking down Patient Zero if he ultimately has no bearing on the story? His blood won't cure, and he doesn't seem to be causing all the infected to rise up and speak in one voice — he just seems to be part of it. And why didn't anyone suggest looking at Superman's blood? Or even Wonder Woman's? I know she's a god and he's an alien, but they're also immune to the virus that knocked out Aquaman, Shazam and Flash. Someone should have thought about finding out exactly what is protecting them.

Final score: 2 out of 10

Next: The Infected

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Justice League #37


The Amazo Virus Chapter Two: Patient Zero

Geoff Johns Writer
Jason Fabok Artist
Brad Anderson Colorist
Carlos M. Mangual Letterer
Fabok & Anderson Cover
Darwyn Cooke Variant Cover
Amedeo Turturro Asst. Editor
Brian Cunningham Group Editor
Superman create by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
By special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family

The cover shows Batman and Wonder Woman trying to prevent Superman from killing Lex Luthor, which is an interesting enough concept. However, nothing even remotely similar to this scene happens in this issue. Superman doesn't even appear on the same page as Luthor, and there's only a passing, obligatory conversation about how Luthor might have caused this on purpose. The cover tells one story; the inside pages tell another. Luckily, my comic shop was able to give me the variant cover for this issue.


I love Darwyn Cooke's art, and I love this cover. It hearkens back to the bright, optimistic roots of these characters. The lineup is an odd hodgepodge of the old and new rosters, but it still works. Mainly, I'm happy just to see these characters smiling again. Superheroes can and should be happy from time to time. My only small nitpick with this cover is that it's sideways. It is slightly awkward, but not at all a deal breaker.

Our story begins with a quick glimpse at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. All the flights have been canceled, and everyone is evacuating the place as fast as possible. A woman had a brief manifestation of telepathy before dying. As Lexcorp employees in hazmat suits attend to her, one of them requests Firestorm, but is told that he, too, is infected. So we don't see Firestorm, and I still wouldn't call him a member of the Justice League, but a reference to him was kind of nice.

In Metropolis, Superman and Batman have located Patient Zero, whom Superman has identified as a Lexcorp research pathologist named Doctor Armen Ikarus. Batman observes Ikarus' vitals with his haz-bat suit, and Superman makes fun of him for the name. Batman claims it was Robin's idea. The comedic aside is soon interrupted as Ikarus' eyes mutate to mimic Superman's heat vision. After knocking down both heroes with a big blast, he sprouts a pair of gigantic wings and flies away.

We then check in on Lex Luthor, who is visiting his sister, Lena, and trying to explain to her why someone would want to kill him. Lena asks where the would-be assassin, Neutron, is, and Luthor explains that he's with the other infected members of the Justice League. The Amazo Virus took away Neutron's ability to create and control radiation, but it did not take away the radiation already in his blood, which has made him very, very sick. Luthor explains to Lena how the virus affects normal people, and she asks him how he could create something so awful. Luthor talks of how many people meta-human criminals kill each year, and how no prison can hold them. But Lena calls her brother out for lying.

Superman and Batman follow Patient Zero's trail, and Superman talks about his distrust for Luthor, even proposing that Luthor intentionally released the virus to set himself up to be the hero. But Batman doesn't agree with that theory. They finally find Patient Zero, and Wonder Woman comes out of nowhere to join the fight. She wraps her lasso of truth around his neck and asks how he became sick. But Patient Zero answers by saying, "I am not sick. We are not."

Captain Cold tells Luthor that Patient Zero has been found, but Luthor still seems worried about the health of the Justice League. Cold makes a sarcastic remark about Luthor never intended this, which makes his boss quite upset. Luthor says there are things the League doesn't know, and this is far worse than anyone could believe. Suddenly, Luthor is attacked by the man named Bullet we saw last issue.

Back to the main fight, Superman finally subdues Patient Zero, and Batman tries to collect a sample of his blood. But Patient Zero retaliates with another blast of heat vision, spilling the vial of blood and shattering the haz-bat's visor.

The Good:

Patient Zero is a slightly intriguing villain, in that he mimics superpowers organically. But he's a really flat character. Superman tells us he has a wife and kids, but we don't see them, so why should we care. I also found it odd that Geoff Johns named him Ikarus, right after Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato had a big run in Detective Comics involving a man who produced a drug called Icarus. In Detective Comics, the reference to the boy who flew too close to the sun is more fitting than it is here.

The Bad:

Little to no Flash. It's interesting how Johns works valiantly between story arcs to update and expand the Justice League roster. But when he actually dives into his five- or six-part stories, he almost always finds the roster to be too big, and has to do something to cut it down. And without fail, the Flash is one of the unlucky ones to be left out.

Tedious storytelling. Johns wasted so much time reiterating everything we already knew. Just in case we missed the first two issues of Amazo Virus, we're given lengthy, detailed explanations from Batman and Luthor. I guess this series requires so many reminders because it is frequently delayed and interrupted. Ironically, though, this issue that seemed most weighed down by repeated information actually came out right on time. Also, Superman displayed a severe lack of urgency. He casually cracked jokes with Batman, then took his dear sweet time tracking down Patient Zero, just so he could remind Batman that he doesn't trust Luthor. Yeah, we get it! You, and the entire Justice League, were moments away from arresting Luthor just 24 hours ago. And my last storytelling complaint is of the empty cliffhangers. Are we really to believe that a complete nobody is going to kill Luthor? Or that anything bad is going to happen to Batman? Come on, Johns! We're smarter than this!

Final score: 3 out of 10

Next: The power of ... Batman!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Justice League #36


The Amazo Virus Chapter One: Quarantined

Geoff Johns Writer
Jason Fabok Artist
Brad Anderson Colorist
Carlos M. Mangual Letterer
Fabok & Anderson Cover
Amedeo Turturro Asst. Editor
Brian Cunningham Group Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
By special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family

Our cover is a bit hyperbolic with the blood dripping off Superman's shield and the undead, zombie versions of Aquaman, Shazam, Cyborg and Flash. But it was kind of neat to frame everything inside the international symbol for biological hazards. And the best part of this cover is it does something this series hasn't had in quite a while — the artist who drew the cover also drew the inside pages. That's just a very basic comic book rule that I wish would be followed more often.

Our story begins 24 hours after last issue ended. A big chunk of Metropolis has been quarantined, but some looters have stayed behind to take advantage of the open banks. Superman and Batman (wearing a hazmat, or haz-bat suit) quickly find the three men and inform them that they're very sick. But the men say they feel better than ever, and even believe they can take on the heroes themselves. One of them shoots flames from his mouth and eyes, but Superman easily takes him down with his super-breath, while Batman tasers the second man before he can attack.

The third man poses a slightly bigger problem, as he creates a small black hole. But it doesn't last too long. Superman notes the man is going into Stage Three, and he begins vomits violently and loses control of his powers before his heart stops. Batman is able to revive him with his defibrillators, but his visor was cracked during the man's meltdown. Batman insists that the seal hasn't broken yet and he's fine, but Superman worries about him risking his life like this to find Patient Zero.

We then see that only Superman and Wonder Woman are immune to the virus. Even though he's an Atlantean, Aquaman is sick, and Shazam's magic also failed to protect him. They're in a private hospital room along with Power Ring, Cyborg, Flash and Lex Luthor's would-be assassin, Neutron. Luthor is caring for the infected heroes, and he is most perplexed by the Flash. Even though the speedster can normally burn through any virus in a matter of minutes, this one has him laid up. And Luthor isn't sure what to make of his vital signs, not having a prior reading of what is normal for him.

Wonder Woman pays Luthor a visit and asks how long her friends have to live, and Luthor says they'll die within 24 hours if he doesn't find a cure. They then meet with Steve Trevor to give him a status update. More than 520 people have been infected and most have been taken to the makeshift base camp and put into induced comas to await treatment. Luthor explains he created the virus to mimic Professor Anthony Ivo's Amazo android, which could mimic the abilities of any metahuman it encountered. Luthor says he intended to have his virus suppress violent metahumans' abilities, but ultimately shelved the project when it proved too controversial to the White House.

Luthor reminds everyone that the virus was only released after Neutron attacked him. He explains that he was able to get into his suit and get Bruce Wayne and his sister, Lena, to safety before any of them were infected. And the rest of the Justice League became infected while evacuating Metropolis. Luthor explains that the virus essentially affects metahumans the way it was intended to, but it's effect on normal humans was a surprise. Luthor suspects the virus must have mutated after infecting the first human, Patient Zero, who has yet to be located. Luthor explains that the virus breaks down into three stages: First, the patient experiences flu-like symptoms; in Stage Two, they develop a metahuman ability; and in Stage Three, their bodies begin to break down, and die. Luthor says he can save the infected and the Justice League, but he needs to find Patient Zero first.

Captain Cold reports to Luthor that Lena still hasn't been infected. Cold asks how the Flash is doing, and has a hard time containing his glee at the news. Cold then gets down to his job as Luthor's head of security, asking his boss who he thinks would have hired Neutron to kill to him. But Luthor can only say the list of people who want him dead is a long one. We then see a shadowy figure named Bullet accept an offer from an unknown individual to kill Luthor.

Steve Trevor reports that all airports across the nation have been closed, and the outbreak has been reported as far west as Central City. Trevor argues with Superman about Luthor's role in this disaster, saying he is their best chance of solving the problem. Batman and Superman then find Patient Zero, a very large and intimidating man, who seems quite pleased to have found the two heroes.

The Good:

This is the official start of a story, which is kind of nice in this series that is often weighed down by stalling, filler issues. But just because something is happening, that doesn't mean I necessarily enjoy what's happening. Luckily, it wasn't all bad. I enjoyed Luthor's bewilderment at the Flash's inability to beat the virus, even if that was a brief scene. I just wish we could have had a similar explanation for the other members of Justice League.

The Bad:

Inconsistent virus. This issue very clearly explains that Superman and Wonder Woman are immune because they're not human. But Aquaman's not human, either, so why is he infected? And, technically speaking, isn't the Flash the only true metahuman on the roster? Cyborg is a human enhanced by technology, same with Jessica Cruz and her power ring. And Shazam's powers are based in magic. So what's going on with all of them? Also, I find it highly convenient that Luthor and Batman avoided the virus when they were the closest ones to it at the time of the outbreak. Overall, I think the concept of the Amazo Virus is a good one, but its setup was faulty.

Final score: 4 out of 10

Next: Target: Lex Lex Luthor

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Justice League #35


The Amazo Virus Prologue: The Outbreak

Geoff Johns Writer
Doug Mahnke & Ivan Reis Pencillers
Keith Champagne, Mark Irwin, Christian Alamy, Ray McCarthy & Joe Prado Inkers
Brad Anderson Colorist
Carlos M. Mangual Letterer
Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis Cover
Amedeo Turturro Asst. Editor
Brian Cunningham Group Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
By special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family

Hey, look at that! We have a Justice League cover that actually features the Flash! True, nothing like this happens in this issue, but it is still a pretty neat image — the moon is an especially nice touch. And, lucky us, we Ivan Reis actually drew a few of the inside pages this time. However, he wasn't the only penciller, and we had five inkers to make the art quite inconsistent.

Our story begins with Lex Luthor's 8 a.m. press conference, which he begins by mentioning three separate disasters the Justice League recently responded to, presumably that very morning. Cyborg, Shazam and Wonder Woman saved a bunch of girls from some lunatics in Bialya; Luthor, Aquaman and Batman rescued a capsized boat in Indonesia; and Superman, Flash and Power Ring responded to an earthquake in the South Pacific. Jessica thought it was odd of Flash to bring ice cream to the children, but he points out they could use something nice and happy right now, and he even gets some ice cream for Jessica. Naturally, her favorite flavor is pistachio.


In short, Luthor says the Justice League has taught him the value of unity, which is why he's pleased to announce Lexcorp's partnership with Wayne Enterprises to make the world a better place. The rest of the Justice League members are incognito in the crowd, and Diana asks Clark Kent how long he thinks this partnership will last. Clark says it'll last long enough for Bruce to learn all of Lex's secrets, and Clark's confident that nobody can hide anything from Batman.

Not to be outdone by Lex, Bruce gives a passionate speech himself about his parents, and even sheds a tear or two to win over the crowd. With the press conference over, Lex invites Bruce inside his building, while Bruce quietly makes sure the Justice League is in position. Shazam is hanging out with the hoodied Cyborg and wanting a hot dog, while Barry Allen is joking with Jessica Cruz about how he could have pantsed Captain Cold on the stage. But Jessica is worried about being surrounded by such a large crowd, and even Aquaman, stationed on a rooftop, agrees that it's too soon to bring her out in the field.

Lex sends everybody away and takes Bruce deep into his most secret, secure facilities. Bruce asks to see where he made the clone of Superman, and Lex gladly takes him to the tank where he's growing a new Bizarro. He says he misses the Bizarro that was killed by the Crime Syndicate and wants to have another sidekick, just like Batman has all his Robins. Bruce then asks to see Lex's private lab. Lex wonders how he knew about it, and Bruce says he guessed. So Lex takes Bruce into an even more secret and secure lab, where they're met by Lex's paralyzed sister, Lena.

Lex proudly shows off his work studying the various forms of kryptonite and the weapons he developed to take down an army of Kryptonians should the Phantom Zone ever be breached again. Bruce asks how he can trust someone who abandoned his own sister, saying he knows how Lex tried to heal Lena but failed. Lex says he'll be able to cure her this time, and that he'll be there when Bruce fails someone he loves.

Meanwhile, Aquaman spots someone else wearing armor on another nearby rooftop. The man suddenly jumps off the building and is engulfed in flames. Superman tries to catch him, but he's thrown back by a large explosion that works its way clear down to Lex's private lab. An unseen voice calls the man Neutron, and says he'll have his life back once he kills Lex Luthor. Cyborg and Flash start evacuating the building, and Lex tells Bruce to help his unconscious sister while he puts his power suit on.

Aquaman dives down into the lab and battles Neutron directly, who tells his boss that killing Aquaman will cost extra. Neutron creates another fiery blast, and this time it shatters Storage Unit X, which horrifies Lex. Bruce asks what's in that container, and the computer answers, saying "Exposure to the Amazo Virus imminent. Infection begins now."

The Good:

Well, there's not really anything that stands out to me in this issue. It's purely a setup for the next multipart trade collection, and nothing particularly interesting happens here. The issue is mostly comprised of long-winded and repetitive speeches by Lex and Bruce. And ultimately, I really have to question Batman's logic here. Did he really think he'd acquire enough evidence to arrest Luthor on his first visit to Lexcorp?

The Bad:

Again, I really don't have much to say here. This was just a very lukewarm issue. Flash's joke about pulling down Captain Cold's pants bordered on the stupid, uncharacteristic humor Johns often gives Barry, but I'll excuse it in this case, as I believe Barry was just trying to help Jessica feel at ease. The art was inconsistent, but not terribly so. Everything was just sort of ... meh. Wait until next issue for something to actually happen.

Final score: 5 out of 10

Next: America quarantined!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Justice League #34


Injustice League: Epilogue Unlikely Allies

Geoff Johns Writer
Scott Kolins Artist
Andrew Dalhouse Colorist
Carlos M. Mangual Letterer
Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis Cover
Amedeo Turturro Asst. Editor
Brian Cunningham Group Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
By special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family
Special thanks to Sterling Gates

The cover shows the Justice League's new 10-man roster, including Captain Cold, who has done very little with the League so far, and the surprise addition of Jessica Cruz, aka Power Ring. It's a very boring pose, but Reis' work is solid as always. But once again, we get a completely different artist working on the inside pages — just one of my pet peeves with comic book covers.

Our story begins with the Flash hunting down Captain Cold. Flash scolds him for returning to a life of crime so quickly after being given a second chance. Cold tries to explain that he was stopping a bank robber, but when Flash asks him why Cold's holding the money and the security guards are frozen, Captain Cold can't explain himself. As Flash beats up Cold, he transforms into Leonard Snart's father, telling his son he'll never amount to anything. The Flash/father then asks Snart what he wants for breakfast.


Yep. Turns out it was all a dream, ended by Lex Luthor's assistant, Mercy, asking Snart what he'd like for breakfast. Mercy tells Snart he has a full day ahead of him, needing to take more tests for insurance purposes, then meet with his new security team to analysis the latest threats against Luthor. She's had Snart's uniform cleaned, and offers to clean his gun, but Snart refuses to let anyone else touch it. Snart heads to the bathroom and while shaving (with his blue goggles/glasses still on for some reason), he's visited by the Mirror Master. Sam Scudder asks Snart when he's returning to the Rogues and why he's even working for Luthor in the first place. After a quick glance to make sure he's alone, Snart says he's there to pull the biggest job of their lives.

Meanwhile, in downtown Metropolis, Superman and Lex Luthor are battling Gorilla Grodd, who has somehow escaped the Mirror World after being imprisoned there in Rogues Rebellion. Also, Grodd is naked and not using any super speed, although he is attacking Superman telepathically. Luthor blames Superman for attracting threats like Grodd to Metropolis. Superman brushes him off, and quickly knocks out Grodd with one punch. So Luthor changes the subject, asking why Batman needs to be on the Justice League. Luthor says he's paying all the team's bills now, so Batman's bank account is now unnecessary. Superman says Batman brings several intangible qualities to the team and quotes Albert Einstein: "Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile." But Luthor only laughs at that greeting card response.

At S.T.A.R. Labs in Detroit, Shazam is hanging out with Cyborg, who's being repaired by his dad, Dr. Stone, after nearly being killed by Power Ring. Shazam gets real impatient when he sees reports of the Grodd fight on TV, so Cyborg tells him it's OK if he leaves to help Superman and Luthor. Once Shazam is gone, Cyborg tells his dad about the vision Power Ring gave him, and says he wants to interface with it again to get a better glimpse of it. But Dr. Stone warns his son that if he reconnects with the ring, he could become trapped inside it.

On the Justice League Watchtower, Flash is using the satellite's equipment to examine the ring on Jessica Cruz's finger. Flash confirms that she's wearing one of the most dangerous weapons in the universe, and admits he doesn't have any good news for her right now. Jessica worries what would have happened had the Justice League not stopped her from burning down all of Portland. Flash tells her to stay calm, and begins to instruct her on how Green Lantern rings channel the bearer's willpower to help them overcome fear. But this ring is from a parallel dimension and has a will of its own, amplifying Jessica's fear and feeding off it. Jessica asks if she's stuck to an evil ring that can take control of her anytime it wants, but Flash says it only gains control when she's most afraid. The Power Ring then begins talking to Jessica, telling her she's always afraid. This naturally makes her very afraid, and she's soon engulfed in green flames. Flash tells her to stay strong like she was before, and that ring can't do anything she won't allow it to. But Jessica only continues to lose control.

We then cut to Luthor and Wonder Woman delivering Lexcorp supplies to a third-world country. But Luthor suspects Wonder Woman only wanted him to accompany her so she could interrogate him with her lasso of truth. Wonder Woman does want to talk, but she chooses not to use her lasso. She asks him why he does the good he does, and Luthor says it's usually to improve his public image and acquire more money and power. Wonder Woman points out that these people don't care how much money or power Luthor has — they're just grateful for the help. A small girl then surprises Luthor by presenting him with a flower and hug. And Wonder Woman tells him to just say thank you.

Back on the Watchtower, Flash is racing around Jessica, containing all the monsters Power Ring is creating. Flash tells Jessica that all his experience with these rings has taught him that all will be well.  The ring tells Jessica that Flash doesn't understand what she's been through, and Flash answers by saying he would understand if she'd talk about it. He adds that he doesn't need to know any specifics, and that it's not up to him to help her. Green Lantern taught Flash that how much you let fear consume you is up to you. This finally gives Jessica the confidence to take control. All the fire and monsters disappear, but Jessica remains in a green outfit. Flash congratulates her, and suggests they visit S.T.A.R. Labs to see if their scientists can figure out how to remove the ring. However, Jessica says she doesn't want to take it off, but learn how to use it.

We then return to Lex Luthor toward the end of his very busy day. He signs off on the partnership between Lexcorp and Wayne Enterprises, and he gloats just a bit about how he got Bruce Wayne to finally change his mind. Bruce tells Luthor he's no different from the inmates at Arkham Asylum, only he's more dangerous since he can hide in the open. Bruce tells Luthor they'll catch him sooner or later, but Luthor only smiles and says Superman told him the same thing years ago. Luthor then leaves for a press conference, and Bruce discreetly tells Superman that Luthor took the bait and they'll be able to arrest him tomorrow.

Luthor's press conference was brief. He announced his official inclusion with the Justice League and said he'll have more exciting news at 8 a.m. tomorrow. Afterword, late at night, Luthor meets in secret with Owlman, whom he's promised Superwoman's child to.

The Good:

Flash actually does something. It's been forever since Geoff Johns gave the Flash something good to do in this series. And this task of working with Power Ring is very fitting. By default, Flash does know the most about Green Lantern rings, and his emotional temperament makes him ideally suited to provide the necessary encouragement. Plus, he's more than fast enough to handle the situation when things get out of hand. I liked watching the Flash do this a lot more than watching him take Wally West to a baseball game. However, I felt it a little odd to have Flash say "All is well," a quote from his days as a Blue Lantern in the pre-New 52 universe.

The Bad:

What the Grodd? When we last saw Grodd, he was a near-unstoppable being in Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion. He had been rescued from the Speed Force by Johnny Quick, and added psychic powers to his super speed. The Rogues then worked together to banish him and a bunch of other dangerous villains into the Mirror World. But we were given no explanation as to how they escaped. But even worse than that, the Grodd we are given in this issue is very clearly the pre-New 52 version of Grodd. He's treated exactly the same way he was during Johns' and Kolins' run on The Flash, where Grodd never wore clothes and only had telepathic abilities, represented by a pink gorilla biting the person's head. I suspect Johns needed some random villain for Superman and Luthor to fight, and he gave Kolins free reign to draw whoever he wanted. And neither of them, nor the editors, bothered to make sure this Grodd was consistent with the New 52 version of the character. Also, it is downright criminal to have Grodd appear in a comic and not have any connection to the Flash.

Final score: 5 out of 10

Next time: The Amazo Virus!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Batman and Robin #33



Robin Rises Cold Justice

Peter J. Tomasi Writer
Patrick Gleason Penciller
Mick Gray Inker
John Kalisz Colorist
Carlos M. Mangual Letterer
Gleason, Gary, Kalisz Cover
Matt Humphreys Asst. Editor
Rachel Gluckstern Editor
Mark Doyle Group Editor
Batman created by Bob Kane

The cover shows us a scene that's becoming quite common these days — Batman taking on the Justice League. However, I am glad to see it's an updated roster with Shazam, Lex Luthor and Captain Cold. Notably absent are Superman and the Flash. And the Robin Rises Part One title is misleading, as this issue actually takes place after the standalone Robin Rises: Omega. As for the art? It's pretty lackluster. But at least we know what the inside pages are going to look like.

I'm a bit lost on the story, but apparently Batman's dead son, Damian, has ended up on Apokolips somehow. Batman wants to go there to save him, and the Justice League, well most of them, are trying to talk Batman out of it. And Frankenstein is there for some reason, but he doesn't say or do anything and walks away first chance he gets.

Anyway, Aquaman makes a fairly compelling argument, telling Batman that their responsibility is to Earth and they can't go off planet for personal missions. Batman says they need to stop Apokolips before it attacks again, but Luthor says this is really about Robin. Cyborg says they're not prepared to take down Apokolips, and he puts his hand on Batman's shoulder to try to reason with him. But Batman uses some gadget to shock him, teleport away to the Watchtower and fry everyone's transporter tech.

Captain Cold asks if Batman always plays by his own rules, and Luthor responds in the affirmative, calling it invigorating. Shazam says he can fly up to the Watchtower to stop Batman, but Wonder Woman holds him back, saying they need to do this together. And Luthor gets to work on fixing their transporters.

At Justice League Headquarters, Batman opens up the chamber containing a special suit for him called the Hellbat. But before he can pull the suit down, the rest of the Justice League shows up and Cyborg shuts Batman away from his armor. Batman kind of throws a fit, and says that there's a chance to bring Robin back to life. Batman says the Hellbat suit was specifically designed to handle situations just like this, and Wonder Woman reminds him how all the original members of Justice League worked together on that suit to help the one human member of the team. Superman forged it in the sun, Green Lantern added his power, Cyborg some technology, Wonder Woman some magic, and Flash did ... something to it.


But Batman is still determined to go to Apokolips. He tells Cyborg to allow him access to the suit, but he refuses. Captain Cold then points his gun at Batman's head, and the Dark Knight retaliates by starting a bit of a fight on the satellite. However, Batman is quickly subdued by Aquaman and Wonder Woman, and he surrenders.

Bruce goes back home and throws another fit, destroying Damian's grave. Superman pays him a quick visit, apologizing for the loss of Damian. He knows Bruce will turn him down, but he offers to help anyway. Once Superman leaves, Batman head to the Batcave to plot his next move with Alfred, Batgirl, Red Robin and Red Hood.

The Good:

The big takeaway from this issue was that the Justice League worked together to create a suit of armor for Batman. Unfortunately, we are told nothing about this amazing suit. What exactly did each hero add to the suit? What can it do? I wish that Tomasi could have described this suit in as much detail as Scott Snyder described Batman's anti-Justice League suit.

The Bad:

Little to no Flash. I guess Flash was too busy helping Wally with his algebra homework to help stop Batman from going on a suicide mission. It really is odd how many stories show the entire Justice League except for the Flash. If anybody can find the time to take part in every little adventure, it's got to be the Flash, right? How can 15-year-old Billy Batson spend so much time hanging out with the Justice League?

Final score: 4 out of 10

Next time, we'll see the Flash actually hang out with his teammates in Justice League #34.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Flash #32


Cold Call

Robert Venditti & Van Jensen Writers
Brett Booth Penciller
Norm Rapmund Inker
Andrew Dalhouse Colorist
Dezi Sienty Letterer
Booth, Rapmund & Dalhouse Cover
Amedeo Turturro Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Group Editor

I find it interesting that the same month Justice League's cover felt a month too late, The Flash commits the same sin. Mirror Master does not appear in this issue, and if you remember last issue, this is not how the Flash killed him — he just left him to be shredded by his own mirrors. The text, "Who will he kill next?" tries to justify this odd image, but I'd much rather see something that actually happens inside.

Our story begins 12 years from now in Central City. Leonard Snart, formerly Captain Cold, is dying in a cancer ward, and his doctor doesn't seem too sympathetic. She makes a snarky comment about how foolish he was to fuse his DNA with his freeze gun, not knowing or caring that Deathstorm reverted Snart's DNA back to normal. As the doctor leaves the room, she says Captain Cold has sent enough patients to the E.R. to have a whole wing named after him.


And once she's gone, the dying Rogue is visited by the blue future Flash. Back to now, in Central City, the current Flash is out running past even more anti-Flash graffiti. I really wonder who all these Flash haters are. Anyway, Barry gets a phone call from Patty, who initially uses the lame excuse of needing coffee filters to talk to her boyfriend. But then Patty admits she's just worried about Barry, who's been running himself rather hard lately. Barry tells her he's still investigating the case of an old crime group being killed by stolen weapons. There are only two members of that group still alive, and Barry has learned one of them lives in the peaceful suburbs, so he tells Patty not to worry about him on this mission.

But once Flash arrives at the house, he feels like he's in a living Salvador Dali painting. All the rules of physics have been broken, as the house and nearby trees are oddly warped and fused together. Inside, Flash finds the former criminal being killed by an old villain named Merge. Whatever he touches with his gloves becomes fused together, which isn't too big a deal when he combines a lamp with a TV, but it does become rather troublesome when he combines the wall with the floor. Flash jokes that Merge would have made a killing in the modern art scene, but Merge says he'll settle on killing the Flash, and he causes the house to collapse.

Flash is easily able to escape the warping, twisting mess of a house, and he accuses this villain of not being the real Merge, who was apparently right-handed. Flash knows Merge's gloves were also stolen from the evidence room, and says the real Merge was smart enough to know not to directly confront him. The thief admits Flash is right, then shows off another weapon he stole, Gravitor's gun, which he uses to weigh down the Flash with a field of heavy gravity. Flash knows from experience he can overcome this effect, but this thief is ready for him, reversing Flash's gravity just as he builds up some speed. With his gravity much weaker, Flash's momentum sends him up into the sky.

Twelve years from now, the future Flash apologizes to Snart for missing his death the first time around. He tells him how he'd been losing time through the years thanks to the time travel by him, Daniel West and Grodd. Flash says this problem caused him to fail to prevent horrible accidents caused by the Trickster and Mirror Master, as well as the death of Wally West. Flash reminisces about the time Captain Cold joined the Justice League, and he admits being quite upset by that at the time. But now, he says he admired how Cold was able to put his past behind him and move forward. Flash says he can't do that anymore, and is now on a mission to kill his younger self to prevent all the bad from happening. He then holds Snart's hand and cries as his former enemy dies. Flash makes sure to be gone before the doctor returns, who is actually quite glad Snart is finally dead. She says her son was on a third-grade field trip to the dam when Cold froze the river, giving her boy nightmares for a month.

Now, high above Central City, Flash is able to fight his momentum and weakened gravity by spinning his arms to create two whirlwinds to push him back down to Earth. He lands a little harder than he intended to in a pond, and is surprised to see Patty there waiting for him. She reminds him that they put a GPS tracker in his suit after he disappeared during Forever Evil, and she used it to see he was flying high above Earth and decided to come out to try to help. With the thief gone and Barry's gravity still weakened, Patty tells him to call it a night and helps him back to the car. But Barry remembers that he needs to take Iris and Wally to the baseball game. Patty angrily shoves her boyfriend away, and says that he makes time for everybody but her.

Later, at Diamonds Stadium, Barry has decided to attend the game anyway, despite Patty's very valid and emotional complaint. Little Wally is in his usual punky mood, complaining that Barry didn't get them tickets to to the Miners basketball game. Barry gives him a very boring and long-winded lecture about the beauty of slowing down and appreciating the finer things in life. Wally just kind of glares at Barry until someone hits a home run. Both Wally and Barry start cheering, and are suddenly buddy-buddy.

The Good:

I am so frustrated with this series right now. The art, the story, everything. It's all a big disappointment and departure from the great series I once loved. If I had to say something good came from this issue, it's that we saw the blue future Flash actually does have a remorseful side. However, his sweet deathbed visit further negates the cover, as he didn't kill anyone.

The Bad:

Captain Cold's doctor. At first, it took everyone forever to realize Captain Cold had actual super powers. Now, it's taking everyone even longer to learn he lost those powers. So to blame his cancer on that is pretty weak. Just say he got cancer. Or talk about how changing his DNA back and forth messed him up. But even worse than that, what's the deal with the doctor's attitude? Your poor son had nightmares for a month, so now you're going to openly resent this dying man? The way future Barry talked, it sounded like Captain Cold served honorably in the Justice League for about 12 years. So how can this doctor ignore the 12 years of good he did and focus on the five years of non-lethal crime he led?

Barry is an idiot and a jerk. I hate that he only figured out Merge was a fake because he was left-handed — something that was not at all demonstrated through the art. Barry should have been able to figure out the pattern by now. And after his failed fight with the thief and Patty arrives, Barry asks "How'd you find me?" Doesn't he remember installing that tracker in his suit? But none of this compares to his horrible treatment of the woman he lives with and claims to love. Why didn't he tell her about the baseball game until like five minutes before it was supposed to start? And when Patty justifiably gets upset with him, why didn't he either bring Patty with him, or even better, tell Iris and Wally to enjoy the game themselves while he spends the evening with his girlfriend. It's pretty obvious that Venditti and Jensen want to end the Barry-Patty romance, but they're tearing it apart at the expense of Barry's character.

Illogical meet-up with the Wests. It still doesn't make one lick of sense for Barry to be so eager to spend so much time with Iris and Wally. It's one thing to sympathize with a kid who's lost his family, but to go all out for an ex-girlfriend like this? Really weird. And this dynamic only gets weirder, as Wally and Barry's relationship turned on a dime, and ended up with them cheering on the game arm-in-arm. It makes me just a tad uncomfortable to see Barry wrapping his arm around a 12-year-old boy he barely knows. I'd be fine if they had some previous positive experiences together, but it really feels too soon at this point.

Final score: 2 out of 10

Next time, let's take a quick detour with a passive Flash appearance in Batman and Robin #33.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Secret Origins #10


The Secret Origin of Firestorm

Dan Jurgens Writer
Sean Chen Pencils
Mark Morales Inker
Travis Lanham Letterer
Romulo Fajarod Jr. Colorist
Amedeo Turturro & Brian Cunningham Editors
Firestorm created by Gerry Conway and Al Milgrom

The cover is by Bryan Hitch, and as you can tell, focuses on the main story in this issue — Batgirl. The cover is just a bit too cluttered for my tastes, trying to show the entire life of Batgirl in one image. And I find the coloring just a bit odd.

Like all the other Secret Origins issues, this has three stories — Batgirl, Firestorm and Poison Ivy. The Flash only appears (briefly) in the Firestorm story, so that's all we'll focus on. The story is told by Tonya Lu, friend of Firestorm, who decided to start recording their amazing adventures on her computer, not worried in the slightest of an enemy finding her writings and using it against her heroic friends.

Ronnie Raymond was the high school's starting quarterback and a lock to receive a scholarship to play ball at a major university. Jason Rusch was the school's top science student, set to receive an academic scholarship. Being complete opposites, both kids naturally hated each other, until they were both caught up in one of Jason's experiments. They were both transformed into a separate Firestorm hero, but later, they were fused into one, and now can only turn into Firestorm when they touch. Ronnie controls the body, and Jason's in his head, helping him with the science part of their job as a superhero. Tonya briefly goes over Firestorm's big adventures, including him being recruited by the Justice League.


Tonya finishes her story, and both Ronnie and Jason are quite pleased with it. They then argue over who will direct the Firestorm movie, and fly off into the sunset.

The Good:

The art. I've never heard of Sean Chen before, but he really impressed me. Usually, the art is pretty substandard for backup stories inside nontraditional comics such as this series. So it's refreshing to see some solid art here. Chen is by no means perfect, but he handled Firestorm and his crazy villains quite well, as well as the Justice League.

The Bad:

Little to no Flash. I can't say I was expecting much since the Flash has had very little to do with Firestorm in the New 52. But since I am scoring these comics based on how the Flash is portrayed, I have to dock a point when he only shows up in one flashback panel.

Firestorm isn't on the Justice League. I've just reviewed a couple of issues of Justice League, and Firestorm wasn't even mentioned in them. I guess he did help them out during Throne of Atlantis, and he was present during Trinity War and Forever Evil, but he has had no contact with the League since. So it bugs me that this issue implies he's with the team. I would have rather had this issue talk about Firestorm's horrific role during Forever Evil — how he had most of the Justice League trapped in his head — and what he's done since.

Final score: 4 out of 10

Next time, we'll return to the main series with The Flash #32.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Justice League #33


Injustice League Chapter 4 Puppet Strings

Geoff Johns Writer
Dough Mahnke Penciller
Keith Champagne Inker
Andrew Dalhouse Colorist
Carlos M. Mangual Letterer
Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis Cover
Amedeo Turturro Asst. Editor
Brian Cunningham Group Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
By special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family.

The cover is pretty simple, but effective. Everybody's reaching for the Power Ring, well, everybody except for the Flash. But we've already established that the Flash is little more than a background character in this series. Regardless, I still like this image. It still is a shame that Reis is only on cover duty. But I guess Mahnke's art isn't completely unbearable.

Our story picks right up where last issue left off. Jessica Cruz is momentarily stunned, Cyborg is knocked out, and Lex Luthor is threatening to destroy Niles Caulder's spine if he doesn't call off his Doom Patrol, which is locked in an epic battle with the Justice League.


Well, I guess epic battle isn't quite the best description. Elasti-Girl literally begins to fall apart when Batman fails to immediately recognize her, and Negative Man basically refuses to fight. Luthor tells Caulder he knows about all his dirty secrets, including several failed experiments who faked their deaths to get away. Robotman takes on Aquaman, and Flash and Wonder Woman confront Element Woman. Flash tells her the League was looking for her, but she doesn't believe him. Luthor and Caulder then start going round in circles with their accusations, as Caulder insists Luthor set him up several times.

Jessica then wakes up and before Shazam can do anything, the Power Ring creates a large green flash that is seen by an unknown person addressing the Anti-Monitor. Power Ring's big light show also knocked everybody down, ending the Luthor-Caulder standoff. Once everybody regroups, Batman asks Luthor what he's doing here, and Luthor tells him he's learned the Power Ring is controlled by fear. So Luthor has come up with a plan to disrupt Jessica's emotional connection with the ring, and he asks Batman to have the Justice League keep the Doom Patrol away long enough for him to do his work.

Luthor then hits Jessica with an electrical shock, but Caulder throws a bomb at him, saying Luthor's methods aren't strong enough. The Chief points out that the Power Ring is already rooted in Jessica's veins, and the only way to take it off is through psycho-surgery. Luthor retaliates against Caulder, but Batman saves him, and calmly approaches Jessica. He gives her a heart-warming pep talk about controlling her fear, and it works because he's Batman. With Jessica calm, the Power Ring powers down and she returns to normal. Batman tells Luthor the League held the Doom Patrol back for him, and they didn't Luthor's help.

But later, on the new Watchtower, which Luthor provided, Batman seems to change his tune. He tells Superman and Wonder Woman that asking Luthor to join the Justice League is the smartest thing they can do right now. Both Superman and Wonder Woman protest, but Batman convinces them it's the best way to keep an eye on Luthor and Lexcorp. So, with the full League present, Superman officially welcomes Lex Luthor into their ranks. He does, however, say they have a few rules to go over.

The Good:

Well ... I'm happy Lex Luthor finally, officially joined the Justice League. I would have liked a bit more discussion on the topic, though. I mean, what does Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg think? But who cares about them, right? Sadly, that was the only small positive I was able to glean from this too short and too expensive issue.

The Bad:

Little to no Flash. Once again, time after time, Geoff Johns relegates the Flash to the background. I know he's had a hand in the Flash TV show, and he constantly talks about how he loves the character, but it never feels that way in this Justice League series. Luckily, Flash was given one quick line to Element Woman, but what came of that? Did Element Woman just slink away into the shadows with the Doom Patrol, never to be seen again?

I'm not really mad at this series anymore — just disappointed. I subscribed to this series to see Lex Luthor, Captain Cold and Shazam. Not the Doom Patrol and certainly not Jessica Cruz. They just bore me to tears.

Final score: 4 out of 10

Next time, we'll take a quick detour with a brief Flash cameo in Secret Origins #10.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Justice League #32


Injustice League Chapter 3 Birth

Geoff Johns Writer
Doug Mahnke Penciller
Keith Champagne Inker
Andrew Dalhouse Colorist
Nick J. Napolitano Letterer
Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis Cover
Jim Fletcher Bombshell Variant Cover
Amedeo Turturro Asst. Editor
Brian Cunningham Group Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
By special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family

It feels like it's been forever since we've talked about Lex Luthor and the Justice League, and that's mainly because every other appearance of the League failed to include or mention Luthor. So, I guess it's good to be reminded by this cover that Luthor has figured Batman's secret identity. But most of that happened last issue, and this issue doesn't even talk about that shocking development. And I'm kind of sad that Ivan Reis didn't also draw the inside pages, since I like his art more than Doug Mahnke's.


Since I've added Justice League to my pull list (at Captain Comics in Boise, Idaho), I've randomly received the variant cover for the title, which is all right by me. I'll never understand why this Bombshell craze is so popular right now, but this cover looks nice enough. I would've chosen Element Woman instead, since Platinum has had so little to do with the Justice League. But actually, maybe Platinum was the better choice after all. According to Wikipedia, the first time the word "bombshell" was used to describe a pretty woman was about Jean Harlow in the 1931 film Platinum Blonde.

Our story begins with a very quick peek at Superwoman of the Crime Syndicate, mainly to remind us that she's still in prison and is still pregnant. We then get a flashback to one week ago, where Element Woman was rescued by Dr. Niles Caulder. During Forever Evil, Element Woman was injured to the point where she couldn't control her molecules and was temporarily stuck as a gas. As Dr. Caulder, who prefers to be called Chief, helped her become stable, he convinced her that the Justice League doesn't care about her anymore, and she needs to join his Doom Patrol, along with Robotman, Negative Man and Elasti-Girl.

Now, in Portland, Oregon, we see the Power Ring has taken over Jessica Cruz and is causing quite the commotion, basically setting the whole city on fire. And the first group to respond is the Doom Patrol. Jessica tells them the ring's in control and it can't come off her finger. So the Chief tries to shoot her, but Element Woman blocks the bullets. Elasti-Girl notices a nearby apartment building is on fire with lots of people still trapped inside. Robotman wants to save them, but the Chief tells them their priority is stopping the Power Ring before it kills more people. Suddenly, the Justice League arrives via Cyborg's boom tube, and promptly rescues everyone in the building.


Meanwhile, Captain Cold is called in to Lex Luthor's office. Luthor asks Leonard Snart to work as head of security for Lexcorp, promising to pay him more in a week than he's earned in a year. Snart seems excited by the promise of so much money, but their conversation is soon interrupted by Lex's assistant, Mercy, reporting that the Justice League is battling Power Ring in Portland.

Back to the battle, Cyborg convinces Shazam it's OK to attack a girl in this instance, and Shazam's lightning blast creates an opening for Cyborg to interface with the ring. The ring talks to Cyborg, introducing itself as Volthoom, the first bearer of the ring who was imprisoned within in thousands of years ago. Volthoom shows Cyborg how his world was destroyed and how he's drawn to the weak and fearful, like Jessica Cruz. Jessica and her friends accidentally witnessed some bad men secretly burying a body. The men killed her friends, but Jessica got away and spent the rest of her life in hiding. The Power Ring then tells Cyborg it wants to create a fire large enough to be seen across the Multiverse so the one who destroyed Earth 3 will be able to find Superwoman's child.

The ring then expels Cyborg, and Jessica is momentarily knocked down. Niles Caulder rushes to her side, ordering the Doom Patrol to hold the Justice League back until he retrieves the Power Ring. But Lex Luthor suddenly appears behind Caulder and tells him to call his freaks off or he'll blow a hole in his spine.

The Good:

Well, I guess it was kind of neat to see the New 52 version of the Doom Patrol, even if the Chief was a bit over-the-top. But ultimately, I'm more interested in the new Justice League that was promised us after Forever Evil. I want to see Lex Luthor, Captain Cold and Shazam. And while all three were present, they took a backseat to Jessica Cruz, who I don't care for, and the Doom Patrol, which only mildly interests me.

The Bad:

Little to no Flash. Once again, the Flash is only a backup character in this book. He could have easily saved all the people in that apartment by himself, or get closer to Power Ring before anybody else. Hey, that would have been neat — to see Flash try to vibrate the ring of Jessica's finger! But we got none of that. All we saw was Flash saving a cat and a dog and that was it.

Startlingly slow storytelling. Geoff Johns has often been accused of "writing for the trade" and unnecessarily padding things out. That was especially true in this issue, in which he spent two whole pages to tell us Superwoman is still in prison and still pregnant. And then another two whole pages to tell us Luthor wants to hire Captain Cold. And lets not forget the many panels and speech bubbles telling us stuff we already knew, or repeating something that was said two pages or one issue ago. This comic book has 20 pages in it, about half of which could have been trimmed down, and the whole thing cost $3.99. Weren't these higher-priced comics supposed to have more content?

Final score: 3 out of 10

Next: Lex Luthor vs. The Chief

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Secret Origins #7


The Chase

Robert Venditti & Van Jensen Writers
Miguel Sepulveda Penciller
Scott Hanna Inker
Andrew Dalhouse Colorist
Taylor Esposito Letterer
Bryan Hitch and Alex Sinclair Cover
Amedeo Turturro Asst. Editor
Brian Cunningham Group Editor

Our cover gives us something we've seen a million times — Barry being struck by lightning and doused in chemicals. It is a classic image, though a slightly tired one. And Hitch's art doesn't really do anything. Altogether, it's just a rather lackluster image.

Before we get started, I have to admit I have prejudice against the concept of this comic. As a series, I think Secret Origins had a lot of potential — as long as it focused on lesser-known characters or characters whose origins changed vastly after Flashpoint. The Flash does not fall under either of those categories as a live-action TV show has boosted his popularity, and his comic-book origin is still quite similar to the one presented shortly before Flashpoint in Flash: Rebirth. And let's not forget that just two years before this issue, Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato did a fantastic job of telling Flash's New 52 origin story in The Flash #0. That comic is still quite easy to find, especially digitally. So really, the only way I could get excited about retelling the same story in the same continuity would be if I were given additional details the previous storytellers omitted. Let's hope my wish is granted.

The framework of our story is Barry visiting his dad in jail on his mom's birthday. It's a fairly one-sided conversation as Barry recounts his life in excruciating detail. I don't know why he'd waste his visitation time telling his dad all this stuff he already knows, but that's his choice.

Barry's story begins on the last day he saw his mom alive. Nora Allen tied young Barry's bowtie and wished him luck on his big race that day. After school, Barry excitedly ran home to show his mom the ribbon he won, but a couple of older kids teased him about getting so worked up over a participation prize. When Barry gets home, he finds the place a mess, and his dad, splattered with blood and kneeling over the body of his dead wife. The cops soon came and arrested Henry Allen. They all said it was an open-and-shut case, but Barry felt like they were missing something he couldn't quite remember. But that nagging feeling of a missing memory prompted Barry to dedicate his life toward finding the real killer.

Barry tells his dad about how he went to college and studied forensics under Professor Carlson, who chided Barry for his constant tardiness. Barry says he had no one to celebrate his graduation with, seemingly forgetting his guardian, Darryl Frye. Barry talks about how he got a job as a police scientist, and stayed late one night to work on his mom's case. That's when he was struck by lightning and bathed in an odd mixture of chemicals.

Barry healed quite, and didn't get any scars from the accident. He doesn't explicitly tell his dad he gained super speed, but he does come pretty close. We see some flashbacks of Barry accidentally running to India, and of stopping a criminal from stealing a cop's gun in the police station. Barry talks to his dad about the importance of a police uniform, which must be odd for Henry, since Barry doesn't wear a police uniform. But his words are paired with a montage of Barry creating his Flash uniform and stuffing it in a ring.

And then, for some reason, Barry tells his dad about some of Central City's most notorious villains — Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Gorilla Grodd, the Trickster, the Reverse-Flash, Heatwave, Tarpit, and Black Mold. I guess Barry was trying to tell his dad how important it is for him to fight crime as a police scientist, but he basically talks as if he were the Flash, saying the villains think up wild gimmicks "to slow me down just long enough for them to get away with the crime." Barry also talks about filling the cells at Iron Heights to protect the innocent people of Central City, and we see Girder's hands sticking through the bars. There are also a few more hands sticking out that I don't recognize, including a pair of large, crab-like claws.

When Barry mentions how he wants to free his dad, Henry finally speaks, telling him to stop wasting his time. Henry says they have to accept the jury's ruling, and that being Barry's father doesn't make him innocent. But Barry tells him he's not just trying to prove his dad's innocence — he's convinced there's someone out there who has gotten away with his mom's murder, and he wants to bring him to justice. Barry again mention an important detail he just can't remember from his mom's murder, and we see there actually was another person in the house, hidden in the shadows. The guards then take Henry away, and Barry runs off as the Flash, vowing to never stop chasing the truth.


This issue also includes the origin stories of Huntress and Superboy, but neither of them deal with the Flash, so I'll skip them.

The Good:

Added details. I wanted more details, and I got more details. I would have liked a few more, but I should be appreciative with what I have. This issue gives us an added element of Barry missing a key memory of his mother's death. That has potential to be a pretty interesting development, as long as it's handled well. But the detail I got most excited about was the inclusion of Professor Carlson. He was introduced as a murder victim in The Flash #26 — the first New 52 Flash issue without Manapul or Buccellato. I was annoyed by Carlson's forced appearance in that issue, but I am quite pleased with Venditti and Jensen for digging up this random character and using him in an appropriate manner.

The Bad:

Barry's race. In issue #0, Barry's mom was killed the day after he won the spelling bee — an event much more suited for a bowtie than a 100-meter dash. Venditti and Jensen strengthened the continuity by including Carlson, but they weakened it more by missing this detail. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if it was a footrace or a spelling bee — I personally find the race rather cliché, and enjoy the focus on Barry's intelligence — but the fact that it changed annoys me. It only takes a couple of minutes to dig up the old issue and thumb through it to check for inconsistencies. And it saddens me that none of these writers or editors took the time to do that. They're the professionals — so why do I care more about this stuff than them?

Absent Darryl Frye. He was a big part of Barry's life growing up and the murder of Nora Allen. If these creators took the time to mention Dr. Carlson, why couldn't they have at least thrown in Darryl's name once? We see the vague outline of a police officer who possibly could have been Darryl, but that's not near enough for me. In The Flash #29, Brian Buccellato laid to rest the notion that Darryl was Barry's biological father (that was a legitimate rumor back then), and he presented a truly exciting notion of Daryl conspiring with Henry to make sure Barry never learns who really killed Nora. I really want to see someone pick up that thread. It didn't have to fully be laid out in this issue, but it could have been alluded to.

Sloppy presentation. The art inside is considerably worse than on the cover, and I didn't like the cover that much. There are a lot of odd facial expressions and inconsistencies. On the page of Flash building his suit, it looks like he's putting a cloth suit in the ring, but when he launches it out of the ring, it's in a bunch of different pieces like the metal armor it's supposed to be. And there's a speech bubble pointing to Henry instead of Barry in the emotional climax at the end. I'd also say the overall framework of this story is sloppy, as well. We don't find out Barry's talking to his dad until the very end, so Barry's words don't seem that odd when you read them for the first time. He's mainly addressing the reader, but it could be anyone — his girlfriend, a member of the Justice League, whoever. But once you learn it was his dad all along, half of this conversation doesn't make any sense. Why would he talk to his dad like he didn't know any of these things? And could he come any closer to saying "I'm the Flash" without using those exact words?

Final score: 3 out of 10

Next time, we'll finally check back in on the tenuous Lex Luthor situation in Justice League #32.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Flash #31


Through a Glass Darkly

Robert Venditti & Van Jensen Writers
Brett Booth Penciller
Norm Rapmund Inker
Andrew Dalhouse Colorist
Dezi Sienty Letterer
Booth, Rapmund & Dalhouse Cover
Amedeo Turturro Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Group Editor

Our cover shows the Flash grotesquely covered in open sores and fungus. This is presumably the work of this issue's new villain, but sadly, nothing like this happens inside. And that's a real shame, because I kind of would like to see a story where Flash has to fight off a serious infection. Theoretically, it would be pretty easy for Flash to overcome it with his super speed, but a gifted writer could find an interesting way to make it a serious challenge. But that's not the story we get here.

Our story begins now in Central City, which is surprisingly covered in a lot of anti-Flash graffiti. Perhaps young Wally West has stepped up his game, or maybe the long-forgotten Dr. Darwin Elias is using this graffiti as a passive-regressive way to get back at the Flash. Anyway, we see a man in a black suit and gold gas mask chasing a guy named Rick. Rick says they had a deal, but the guy in the suit says Rick must have known he wouldn't let him live, as he sprays him with a sinister-looking gas.


Fortunately, the murder was captured on bystanders' cellphones and put up all over social media. When Barry Allen arrives on the scene, he takes a look at one of the witnesses' phone and immediately recognizes the masked man as Black Mold — a former villain who's been inactive for the past few years. Captain Darryl Frye, also at the murder scene for some reason, was initially upset with Barry for spending all his time talking to the witnesses, but when Barry made the Black Mold connection, Darryl said he should get full reinstatement to the crime lab. I wasn't aware Barry still hadn't been fully reinstated. He hasn't seemed to be limited in any way at his job.

Anyway, Iris West soon shows up at the murder scene and rather unprofessionally asks Barry again to spend time with her nephew. Barry reluctantly agrees to help, and Iris schedules a playdate for latter that day. (I'm not sure when any of these events are taking place. Everything seems to be late at night or very early in the morning.) Patty Spivot, who also coincidentally is working at this murder scene, is understandably jealous to see Barry make plans with Iris and Wally. Patty points out that Barry hasn't been sleeping lately or spending any time with her, his live-in girlfriend. Barry promises he'll make time for her, and Patty warns him about running himself into the ground.

Sixteen years from now, the blue future Flash arrives in front of the Central City Museum of Natural History as it's hosting its 75th Annual Charity Gala. Apparently the future Flash only intended to come back four years, as he's happy he made it to the gala in time.

Now, in the Central City Police Station Downtown Precinct, Barry does something that the police should have done a long time ago — take stock of which weapons were raided from the evidence room during the Crime Syndicate's attack. Director Singh finds Barry in the evidence room, and is predictably unreasonably upset with him. But Barry says he's learned more about last night's homicide. Off panel, he tracked down the real Black Mold, who's in traction in the hospital. Apparently he also escaped during Iron Heights during the Crime Syndicate attack, but somehow angered the crazed villains from Earth 3 and was beaten half to death.

Barry has also learned that the victim from the Black Mold case and the victim from the Mogul case were both part of a robbery crew that was arrested seven years ago. And through some more digging, Barry learned that two other members of this crew were reportedly killed by some villains named Squall and Pica. But as with Black Mold and Mogul, their weapons were also stolen from the evidence room. Barry suspects all these weapons might be in the possession of one man now. Singh unreasonably orders Barry to look into this case on his own time, but he does admit he hopes Barry's wrong.

Sixteen years from now, we see that not only is Darryl Frye still working, but has been promoted to chief of police. But despite his high rank and old age, Frye is on duty tonight, protecting the rude and drunk mayor at the museum gala. Suddenly, Mirror Master appears in the museum and creates a bunch of mirrors in the main room. He instructs the partygoers to deposit their valuables into the mirrors, and when they resist, he takes the mayor's wife hostage. The mayor begs the cops to surrender their weapons, and Frye agrees, ordering his men to do the same. The blue future Flash then arrives, and shoves Frye into a mirror, to which Frye oddly curses at him and tells him to stay out of this.

Now, Flash is running around the perpetual twilight of Central City, investigating the two other murders that were hastily written off as the work of Pico and Squall. Flash finds nothing at the first location, but shortly after entering the second location, he's approached by detectives Seborn and Parker. For some reason, Flash decides it'll be better to explain himself as Barry Allen, so he quickly takes off his uniform before speaking with the cops. He tells the detectives he found a connection between the murder victims, but Singh told him to work the case on his own time. Seborn and Parker say they were the ones who originally took down that crew seven years ago, and they also realized those criminals were being picked off. Barry asks if they've found anything, but they haven't, saying all the murder scenes are almost too clean. They then mention that it's a quarter to 8, and Barry realizes that his watch is running slow and he's late to meet up with Iris and Wally.

At Civic Park, Iris is quite upset at Barry for being late, and Wally is mad at the world. When Wally sees Barry was Iris' special guest, he flips out, saying, "He's the guy who busted me for terrorizing the city with a can of spray paint." Barry angrily remind Wally he was vandalizing freshly repaired buildings with anti-Flash graffiti, and he asks him why he hates the Flash so much. Wally says it's because Flash put his uncle Daniel in jail and didn't save his mom from the Crime Syndicate. Wally then storms off to the car, leaving Iris to beg Barry to give him another chance. She admits she doesn't know anything about her nephew, since Wally's mom never brought him around. But Iris feels Barry can relate to him because of his family's history. So Barry agrees to take them to a Diamonds baseball game later that week.

Sixteen years from now, Flash has shoved all the cops and guests into the Mirror World, which amuses the Mirror Master, who is also impressed by Flash's new costume. But when Frye puts his gun to Mirror Master's head, he falls right into Flash's plan and escapes into the real world. Flash promptly breaks Mirror Master's arm, steals his mirror gun, and hands it to Frye, telling him to wait a couple of minutes before freeing everyone from the Mirror World. Flash then explains to Sam Scudder that a freak earthquake will soon strike, not causing a whole lot of damage, but enough to shatter windows and mirrors.

Flash shows Sam tomorrow's newspaper, which says 11 people were killed during Mirror Master's robbery. Flash explains that he's from four years in the future, and the "current" version of himself was unable to save those 11 people because the Speed Force is ruptured, causing him to lose time and constantly be late. Blue Flash says he's going back to fix everything, but first he wants to make sure idiots like Mirror Master never hurt anyone again. The earthquake then begins, and Flash takes off, leaving Mirror Master to be killed by his shattering mirrors.

The Good:

Building a decent mystery. I kind of like where this main story is going. Someone has taken advantage of the chaos caused by the big Forever Evil event, and has made off which a bunch of powerful weapons left behind by some obscure villains. It's a pretty neat plan, and for the most part, I really like how Barry's putting it all together. There was one critical scene that occurred off panel, which bugged me, and I wish Director Singh would be a bit more supportive, but otherwise, I think this a pretty nice mystery for the series.

The Bad:

Iris West. Seriously, Iris, what the heck? You are interrupting Barry at the scene of a murder to beg him to spend time with your wayward nephew. I can't believe nobody called her out for that unprofessional behavior. And why on Earth does Iris insist on forcing Barry and Wally together, even after Wally made it perfectly clear that he hates Barry, since he was the guy who arrested him? I know Barry also lost his mother, but it doesn't make a lick of sense for Iris to want Barry and only Barry to be the positive male role model that saves Wally from a life of crime.

General lack of logic. I have enough small complaints to add them together to one legitimate complaint, I feel. First is David Singh. I know he's under a lot of pressure to close cases quickly, but when Barry presents him with so much evidence and logic connecting several small cases into one big one, shouldn't the director of the crime lab show some support? Four former associates have been murdered in a short period of time. This isn't something to sweep under the rug and solve off hours. Next is the future Chief Darryl Frye. Mirror Master arrives, takes a hostage, and Frye immediately surrenders. But when Flash shows up, he tells him not to get involved and curses him. Shouldn't Darryl be a little grateful at the sight of the Flash here? Or did he think he could take down Mirror Master by himself without a gun? And lastly, why did Wally describe his vandalism as "terrorizing the city"? That hardly seems like something a 12-year-old would say. I know Booth has a hard time drawing him like a 12-year-old — he makes everyone too tall — but couldn't Venditti and Jensen have given him some more age-appropriate dialogue, like "I was just having fun" or "goofing off"?

I also don't agree with the future Flash's logic, but at least he does have a logic to his actions. He's worried about his ultimate plan failing, so before he starts that, he's going to revisit some of his biggest failures. I think he should go straight back to the time when the Speed Force first ruptured, and not waste any energy on what happened after that moment. But that's just my opinion.

Final score: 4 out of 10

Next time: Now that we know who the Black Mold is, we can take a look at Venditti and Jensen's retelling of Flash's origin in Secret Origins #7.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Batman #36


Endgame Part Two

Writer Scott Snyder
Penciller Greg Capullo
Inker Danny Miki
Colorist FCO Plascencia
Letterer Steve Wands
Cover Capullo, Miki & Plascencia
Assistant Editor Matt Humphreys
Editor Mark Doyle
Batman created by Bob Kane

The cover gives us a rather haunting, and pretty cool image of Superman infected with Joker toxin. The best part is the judicious use of color. By only showing the red, Superman's creepy eyes and the blood on his chin and hands are dramatically emphasized.

We pick up right where we left off last time, with the Joker-infected Superman attacking Batman in an opera house. Since the Dark Knight can't reason with the Man of Steel in this state, he enacts his anti-Superman protocol of his suit — a fist filled with microscopic red suns, curtesy of Ray Palmer. Batman lands a few good punches with this fist, but Superman soon retreats to the street. Batman's suit has built-in plasma shields to deflect Superman's heat vision, so Superman brings down the entire building behind Batman.

This damages the suit to the point where Superman is able to destroy the red suns, and lift the whole thing up high into the sky. Superman tears apart the suit, leaving Batman exposed. He tells Batman that Joker wants him to beg, but Batman responds by spitting "kryptonite gum" into Superman's eye. This finally takes Superman down, and the two heroes fall into the ocean.

Later, Batman is able to take Superman, Flash, Wonder Woman and Aquaman to A.R.G.U.S. headquarters to recover. He's learned that Joker individuated his toxin for each Justice League member — using magnetized filaments for the Flash. But Batman has administered each of them an antitoxin of his own making, and he estimates they'll recover in four to five days.


Batman then realizes that Joker was able to infect these heroes when they were at a charity event at Gotham Children's Hospital last month. He then is kind of captured by the Joker, but the Flash's involvement in this storyline has come to an end, so I'll just leave it at that. The backup story, "Saved," presents another psychotic alternate to Joker's origin, but once again, no Flash.

The Good:

After last issue, I was demanding to know how Joker was able to infect four of the most powerful heroes on Earth. In this issue, my demand was met, although it wasn't quite as satisfying as I would have liked. At least Batman briefly mentioned how Flash's toxin worked, but he didn't say a word about any others' — except for Cyborg's, and he wasn't even in these two issues. It's just a little disappointing with how meticulously everything was explained last issue to have everything just casually mentioned in throw-away lines.

The Bad:

Little to no Flash. For a while, I was convinced the Flash wasn't even in this issue, until I took a closer look at the panel above. Yep, that is a super closeup on the Flash's Joker smile, and that's all we see of him. I would have liked a better view. I also would have liked to see exactly how Batman got Flash and the others to A.R.G.U.S. in the first place, especially since I didn't think Flash was that injured last issue. I guess we have to assume the Joker's toxin went into overdrive, rendering the heroes pretty much useless at the end. But I will not accept the notion that it'll take the Flash five days to recover from this — magnetized filaments or not.

Final score: 4 out of 10

Next time, we'll return to the main series with The Flash #31.