The Stack 12/05 – Green Lantern, Shazam, Doomsday Clock, And More!

by Sage Ashford

This might be my favorite week of the year. Green Lantern and Shazam are the kind of books that would belong on best of lists if they hadn’t launched so late in the year.  And as Doomsday Clock approaches its final third it’s only becoming stronger and stronger, even if it’s got an impossible legend to live up to.

Batman #60
“The Tyrant Wing Part 3”
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Mikel Janin & Jorge Fornes
Color Artist: Jordie Bellaire
There’s a chance this isn’t Thomas Wayne–King could be going for some kind of mega swerve, but I doubt it.  King wrote The Button alongside Josh Williamson, and it’s not a hard stretch to assume Wayne somehow survived that story but never said anything. There’s certainly a question of why he’s working with Bane, but if anything I suspect he’s frustrated by Bruce continuing to be Batman after he was told not to. Thomas Wayne wasn’t a good person by any means, so this could be a form of harsh love.
But that raises further questions, and those are the ones that leave me most interested in the next issue.  How did Thomas meet Bane?  And where’s the betrayal come in here?  Because if this Batman is Thomas Wayne, he shouldn’t have that much loyalty to Bane, and certainly less to him than to his own son. Also, there’s an additional sadness present here in this story if this is Thomas, because jeez–how tragic is Bruce’s life if even his own father’s turned against him?
Also: A major part of this story is Gordon beginning to separate himself from Batman because he’s been losing it, tearing his way through the city to find some proof that Bane is running Arkham. But we’re already aware Batman hasn’t really lost it, plus…how much different is this from the norm?  These people who left Arkham…are they any less guilty of their crimes?  He’s beating on Maxie Zeus, a confirmed murderer, and the KG Beast–a dude we know basically tried to kill Nightwing.  We can argue the morality of beating on people who are mentally ill in an attempt to stop crime, but he’s been doing that for decades. What’s the difference here?

Blackbird #3
Writer: Sam Humphries
Artist: Jen Bartel
Layout Artist: Paul Reinwald
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Letterer: Jodi Wynne
Designer: Dylan Todd
Editor: Jim Gibbons
This is it. This is the hook I’ve been looking for since the end of the first issue.  The second issue was stronger, but this is that reveal I needed. It’s three issues in, but learning that Nina’s mother isn’t just alive, but the head of some magical coven and controls a giant monster?  Yeah, that’s the stuf.
As someone who watched their own life shift and spiral downwards after the loss of their mother, I’ve identified strongly with Nina. I get the sea of emotions she’s been lost in since the beginning, and I’m fascinated with what this page means.  Our entire focus for the story has been Nina being damaged because she lost her mom, and her actions up to now have all been about trying to find her kidnapped sister. But unless this is a bait-and-switch and her mother isn’t really alive, everything we’ve known up to now has to be thrown out.  And I love situations like this, where sudden changes early on force the reader to adapt at the same time as the character, because everything we thought we knew was wrong.
Also, wow.  Jen Bartel’s art is, as usual, transcendent when it comes to developing unique fashion styles for people. Nina’s mom looks like she’s ready to snatch some wigs, so I’m going to be disappointed if we don’t see exactly that in the next issue or two.

Doomsday Clock #8
Writer: Geoff Johns
Illustrator: Gary Frank
Colorist: Brad Anderson
It’s safe to say a few things at this point.  With four issues remaining, the focus of this story was never about “fixing” DC’s continuity, and it was a mistake to market it that way.  That’s an element to what’s happening here, but it’s not nearly as prominent as they initially claimed it was. That brings me to the second point–this is clearly a Superman story.  The moment he appears the comic feels so much stronger, and as usual Johns nails what’s special about the character.  He’s not just an inspiration to the man on the street–he inspires his fellow heroes, and is so singularly unique that even in an era where everyone believes all of America’s metas are a part of a strange government project to get ahead in a new arms race, Superman manages to stay exempt.  I mean, he’s Superman, right?  He stands for everyone. Or at least, he did until the end of this issue.
I also love how Johns manages to throw doubt on the validity of some of our heroes’ origins. Firestorm’s always been two minds inhabiting one body, but without getting to see things from his perspective we see how people could believe so much bad about him. He sounds unhinged, constantly arguing with a “voice in his head”, even when you’ve known him for decades. The end of this issue is going to have some adverse affects on him as a character, but I do wonder if we’ll even get to develop that, since the end of Doomsday Clock should put us in a very different position than we were when all of this began.

Martian Manhunter #1
“A Prisoner”
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Colors: Ivan Plascenciax
This isn’t a bad story, and its probably got the most accurate depiction of Martians doing the nasty we’ll ever see.  (“We’re…we!!” is going to stick in my head for awhile, honestly.) But did we need J’onn to be a crooked cop on his Earth?  Wasn’t part of his tragic origin that he lost his family through no fault of his own? This feels like we’re getting dangerously close to him either being responsible for Mars’ destruction, learning he could’ve stopped it but didn’t, or at the very least thinking he deserved it. Who was asking for this?  Granted, this all becomes more entertaining if we learn this isn’t actually J’onn, but that someone else has made it to Earth and has been living a life much like J’onn has for the last few decades.

Shazam #1
“Shazam and the Seven Magic Lands”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Dale Eaglesham
Colorist: Mike Atiyeh
So pure. This might be my comic of the week. We forget because we don’t see him do it as much these days, but Geoff Johns has this uncanny power to highlight the best, classical elements of a character while also folding in new ideas that expand their mythology in a way that feels natural. It’s what makes him, in my opinion, the best superhero writer in comics, and while he hasn’t been around much lately this is as good as anything from his 05-09 days, easily.
Picking up from the New 52 origin he told back in 2012, we’re reintroduced to Johns’ own version of the Marvel Family, a group so diverse it can feel a little over the top…at least until you remember Captain Marvel’s Golden Age origins. If we’re trading characters like the Lieutenant Marvels and Uncle Dudley for Eugene and Darla, I think we traded up.
Of course, the quality is rarely a problem with Geoff Johns. It’s that he can’t ever stay on a book for any real length of time. We’re barely one issue in and Geoff’s already introduced enough potential ideas for several years worth of storytelling–what’s the secret of the Rock of Eternity.  There were seven magical wizards–what happened to them?   These are just the questions hinted at in this issue, nevermind stuff from Shazam’s past: the Wizard has been connected to other pantheons before. could we see that here?  What about some of Shazam’s other villains–Mr. Mind, Dr. Sivana, and Black Adam, who had a family of his own at one point?   All of this is up in the air, and the issue ends with a story that could possibly have nothing to do with any of it. Is Geoff going to stick around long enough to do with this character what he did with Flash, Green Lantern, and Justice League? Or is he going to bounce after a year like with Booster Gold?  Or two years like with Aquaman?
Of course, when my complaint is a concern that we won’t get enough of someone’s take on a character, we’re in a great spot. So I can’t wait to see what stories he has in store for the World’s Mightiest Mortal…and the rest of his family.

The Green Lantern #2
“Darkness Visible”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Liam Sharp
Sometimes a creator comes along and presents their own version of a decades old concept, and its radically different but so distinctive that it defines what that idea, character or concept is going forward. The Avengers was where you put all your B-tier characters until Bendis came along. Iron Man was a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders and largely serious about everything until Robert Downey Jr. played him in 2008. I say that to say Liam Sharp’s version of Oa is how I want Oa to look every time its depicted from now on. The place usually looks pretty pared down and basic, but Liam’s turned it into this massively populated hub smothered with all manner strange alien architecture, and it feels like how Oa should’ve always looked. It should be aiming to make all of its Lanterns–across hundreds of star systems in the universe–feel comfortable, incorporating what works from each culture to improve the planet as a whole.

West Coast Avengers #5
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Daniele Di Nicuolo
Color Artist: Triona Farrell
A lesser writer would’ve forgotten this. A “reality show” gimmick in the Marvel Universe shouldn’t ever be done without answering how everyone feels about it in the wake of what happened in Stamford, Connecticut. That story informed half a decade’s worth of Marvel Comics storytelling, and not dealing with it might feel like you’re not letting continuity constrain you, but what you’re actually doing is saying there’s no point to a shared universe. But Kelly Thompson is not a lesser writer, and she knows how to introduce bits like this to offer a greater context to the universe without letting it drag her story down.

Uncanny X-Men #4
“Disassembled Part 4”
Writers: Matthew Rosenberg, Kelly Thompson, & Ed Brisson
Artist: Pere Perez
Color Artist: Rachelle Rosenberg
In other news, there are times when continuity is…bad. And it almost always involves the X-Men. Just hearing the story of the Age of Apocalypse timeline is reason enough for people to give up on standard superhero comics.
See you in seven.

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