Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Scot Eaton, Wayne Faucher
Aquaman is best as a series when it is basically Game of Thrones underwater. The Crown of Atlantis arc has pretty much been that as Aquaman has been fighting to hold his crown despite the dirty politics and backstabbing that has been going on. By the time this issues ends he may end up losing much more than his beloved title.
Scot Eaton and Wayne Faucher’s art give this book that larger than life feel. The opening pages of Aquaman riding gigantic sea creatures was impressive to behold. Gabe Eltaeb’s colors have a vast pallet making Atlantis look both beautiful and otherworldly. Aquaman can look awfully silly if the wrong tone of color is chosen. Eltaeb circumvents that issue and gives poignancy to what could have been corny character designs.
The Crown of Atlantis did what good arcs should by furthering the story in an exciting new direction and leaving the door open for the next arc to be even better. One where loyalties are tested to their fullest and Aquaman is left picking up to pieces of the world he once knew. Dan Abnett has been quietly building quite the Aquman story since Rebirth and I look forward to where he takes this book next.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Many have already heard of the big reveal that happens on the final page of this issue, and for those who have not been staying current with this Batman series, it may seem strange from afar. In reality, it is a major character moment that has been building since Tom King first took over this series. After ‘The Button’ crossover, a lot of hype has been built around Superman: Doomsday Clock and what that means for the DC comic book universe. I have a feeling though the biggest impact ‘The Button’ will have is with the character of Batman.
During that event Batman got the chance to do something he had not done since he was a child. He communicated with his father ever so briefly. Due to reality and time hopping shenanigans he came face to face with Thomas Wayne from the Flashpoint universe. Thomas pleaded with Bruce to stop being Batman and try to be happy. Considering the history of Batman a moment like that will do wonders to his psyche.
King decided not to focus on that right away we instead got what was perhaps his best Batman issue yet with The Brave and the Mold. Thematically it ties in wonderfully and again touches on the psyche of who Batman is as a person and a hero. Is he doing what he is doing to avenge his parents or is there something more?
Some may find issue with King’s lyrical dialog. By no means is it attempting to be realistic, instead focusing on stylistic banter that resembles a twenty-first-century version of iambic pentameter. With this issue, we see how that style of speaking contrasts when he is speaking to someone like Gotham Girl versus Catwoman. There is a level of familiarity and openness with Catwoman that does not exist with other characters.
Batman is one of the few series at DC right now that is not getting by simply by being familiar. King is attempting to take one of the longest running characters ever on a journey, unlike anything he has ever been on before. It is a journey that is not necessarily dictated by whatever villain he is facing off with, but rather one where Batman does some serious self-reflection. Batman was told to live a normal life by his own father, a father that clearly knew the same pain that he did. What we are seeing is if Batman or Bruce Wayne even remembers what normal life is like anymore. I see his actions at the end of this issue not a proclamation of love rather a desperate attempt to find the normalcy that has evaded him since that faithful day his lost his parent. The only question is if he will ever be able to find it.
Dark Days: The Forge #1
Writer: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV
Artist: Andy Kubert, John Romita
Dark Days: The Forge is a glorified zero issue that lays major groundwork for the upcoming Metal event that will be impacting nearly all DC comics this upcoming summer. Much is revealed in this issue that will have many fans asking some major questions. The issue, however, is if you are not very familiar with DC lore prior to The New 52 you may be left confused by nearly everything this is showcased in this book. Clearly, something major is going on and this is the very beginning. For some it may be a better choice just to wait until it gets fully started.
Long lasting DC fans that have loved stories like Crisis on Infinite Earths and even The Dark Knight Strikes Again will certainly have a lot to be excited about. Characters that have been forgotten about for nearly decades now appear to be coming back in a major way. This is the type of book that will lead many to jump onto social media or other platforms searching for additional clues and easter eggs.
The issue is made up of a series of short stories that give a small glimpse and hint of what is to come. Much of that mystery is surrounding the properties of Nth metal and how its impact on the universe is much more far reaching that initially understood. Batman has apparently been searching for answers to this mysterious unbeknownst to his closest allies. He has gotten too close to answers causing forces to unite and strike back against him.
So what you are left with are a bunch of small pieces to a very large puzzle. This puzzle does not even have a picture on the box to refer. Isolated this issue is all about potential. If the sole purpose is to create excitement it works, however with the caveat that you have an understanding of past DC continuity that was supposedly wiped away. In addition, it is not the most satisfying way to read a comic when you are basically given what is a series of trailers to stories you cannot read for a couple of months. There is a fine line between creating excitement and creating frustration. This somehow ends up accomplishing both.
Action Comics #981
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Jackson Herbert
Superman haters often complain that it is impossible to construct a compelling story because he is just so powerful. How can you have stakes when your hero can do just about anything? Well with this arc Dan Jurgens’s answer to that is to create a team of three separate Superman villains in Cyborb Superman, The Eradicator, and General Zod, all of which nearly took him out on their own previously. Honestly, that is a pretty good answer.
In a way, this Revenge arc is a mini event that ties in elements from the Superman series as well as Suicide Squad. Now all these pieces that were once separate, like Amanda Waller taking control of Zod for her own personal goals, are all coming together in this storyline. As Superman faces off against these three individuals the world watches as the Man of Steel is perhaps for the first time over his head due to the foes he is facing. Adding to the pile of awfulness is the trip he took to the Black Vault that has left him in a state of disarray. What is revealed by the end of this issue does come off as a silly direction to go, but since Rebirth Jurgens has made Superman stories that should not work actually work. Plus it appears Superman will be getting some much-needed help next issue from some of his super allies as well.
Jackson Herbert’s art works as it fits into the typical DC house style we have seen with this series and other main DC books. One issue is his depiction of Zod lacks any consistency. Depending on the panel his age tends to fluctuate. Minus that small gripe he gets the job done.
Action Comics has been hit or miss with its different arcs and so far Revenge is turning out to be a major hit. One full of big adventure with the type of world-ending stakes you want in an Action Comics story.
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason
Artist: Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza
The one character that benefited the most from Rebirth was no question, Superman. DC used the opportunity to craft some of the best Superman stories in ages. Somehow the kiss of death of most characters, that being getting married and having a kid, lead to a much more personable Superman. Clark Kent’s relationship with his son Jonathan become one of the best things going in comics. It allowed the stories to be smaller and more down to Earth. We even had a great issue that was based on Clark Kent and family going to the county fair.
Since the start of this year, however, a lot of that folksiness that made this series such a pleasant read is gone and replaced with some insane stories involving Superman working with other dimensional versions of himself and other comic book craziness. With issue twenty-four we get a small bit of what made this series great once before, unfortunately, it still comes off as a story that is much bigger than it needs to be.
The issue does not open well as we have a two-page spread full of unimportant characters and what feels like endless dialog balloons. This issue is very much a call back to Action Comics #775 where Superman previously faced off with Manchester Black. Where the problem lies is this is rehashing nearly the same conflict that was dealt with prior and not adding much. Yes with Jonathan there it does add a new wrinkle, but what is odd is how unconcerned Superman has been about Jonathan these last two issues. Tomasi got so wrapped up in his homage he forgets the personal element that made it such a fascinating. I have hope he can bring it back in the next issue based on the way he ends this installment. Once this arc is completed hopefully this book can get back to what made it so great when it first relaunched.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Core #22
Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Ethan Van Sciver
Now that Yellow and Green Lanterns have established an uneasy alliance issue twenty-two is the first major test of their truce. The Planet Vault is being robbed and it is up to the Lanterns to stop it and save the day. Robert Venditti made the right choice by not making their first test some sort of universal disaster as the Lanterns deal with this threat rather easily. By doing this Venditti can allow this trust to build until it eventually implodes.
Hal Jordan shows his hand as it is clear he is not fully trusting of the Yellow Lanterns. He clearly is looking for any reason to break the truce and is still not fully willing to buy into this new status quo. Venditti also gave a great little moment with Jon Stewart as he shows some out of character excitement. Seeing Stewart quietly cheering to himself, “I did it” provided a welcome laugh out loud moment.
Ethan Van Sciver returns to art and how I wish he was on this book full-time. His facial designs have so much detail and paneling allows to book to flow very smoothly. This was one of the quickest reads I have had with this series, although I did make sure to go back and just soak in some of his art more.
It was a welcome to see these Lanterns facing off against more than themselves. The differing color Lanterns idea has become stale at this point so anytime the focus is on a different villain it is a breath a fresh air.
The Flintstones #12
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Steve Pugh
It is safe to say that The Flintstones will go down as one of the biggest pleasant surprises in the history of comics. When the first promo images were released for this along with the other Hanna Barbera series the majority of the world scoffed at the very idea of this project. While the other series like Scooby Doo Apocalypse have left a lot to be desired, Mark Russell and Steve Pugh’s Flintstones has been one of the best comics since its debut. It is a series that will only grow in notoriety as more people learn about its brilliance.
Issue twelve is a bittersweet moment as it marks the end of this fantastic book. Not wanting over extend this idea is admirable, but still, it is hard to let something so consistently good go. In reality the sharp social and political commentary that makes The Flintstones what it is could only last so long. Rarely do comics or really any form of entertainment end before there is a sharp dip in quality. Part of being a great creator is knowing when to move on to something new.
This issue works as a wrap-up of some of the major stories that have been building during these past twelve issues. A testament to the power of this series is how it crafted one of the most fulfilling narratives around a bowling ball and his relationship with a vacuum cleaner. Objects that were just cheap gags in the original cartoon where the heart and soul of this series, which ties into one of the biggest surprises of this last installment. For a series that was mighty critical of the human race and our society, this had a much more upbeat and optimistic outlook.
During the issue The Great Gazoo is giving his assessment on humanity and its downfalls but why there is reason to be hopeful. Within that framework we see Bam Bam and Pebbles attempting to better understand the conflict between science and religion. The result is one of the best explanation for the need for religion I have read. One that is not critical nor ignorant to its problems. The Church of Gerald has been a consistent source of humor but here it became something more.
Steve Pugh also needs to be praised for his work. No one else could have made this book except for him. That look that many people criticized at first was key in making the tone perfect. If this looked too cartoony it would not nearly be as effective and if it was too realistic it the irony would be absent. I truly hope these two work on so much more in the future.
If you are still hesitant to read this series get over that as quickly as possible. Go back to issue one and get ready to experience twelve issues of genius. This final issue may not be the best one so far but it is a fitting end to a special book. I can safely say we will never see a book like this ever again.
Martian Manhunter/Marvin the Martian Special #1
Writer: Steve Orlando, Frank, J. Barbiere, Jim Fanning
Artist: Jerome K. Moore, John Loter
After The Flintstones showed how great it could be a book that involves Martian the Manhunter and Marvin the Martian teaming up should not be scoffed at as easily. Maybe it is possible to take what was done in that book and replicate it in a new way with this pairing. Although Martian the Manhunter/Marvin the Martian Special #1 is not to the level of The Flintstones it too is much better than it has any business being. Also, it’s the only place currently where Martian Manhunter is a featured character. Further proof of the strange world that we live in currently.
J’Onn is attempting to use a space gate to seek other possible Martians that may exist in the vast cosmos. What he does not expect however is a character like Marvin to appear from an entirely different dimension. Steve Orlando and Frank, J. Barbiere give us an altered version of Marvin that is still bent on destroying Earth, but for deeper reasons than it is blocking his desired view. This Marvin is looking to destroy Earth before their hateful and dangerous ways can spread and destroy other worlds, like what happened in his universe.
An alien coming to Earth to destroy it due to its dangerous ways is by far not a groundbreaking story. It works though due to its connection o J’onn and the struggles he has had with the human race. Aaron Lopresti’s art ties this all together. He creates a Marvin that resembles the original design but fits into this more mature version.
For those who were hoping for a more classic Lonnie Toons take there is also an enjoyable backup story that is in the vein of all those classic Marvin the Martin cartoons. It was a smart move covering all the different bases as it showcased different ways they could continue this idea if so desired.