The Stack: May 1st & May 8th, 2019 – Savage Avengers, Batman/TMNT, Justice League, Shazam! & More

by Sage Ashford

You can tell we’re approaching the summer, because everything seems to be about big events, lately. A major event for the Champions, a Crisis for the Turtles, and the League tries to fight off the forces of evil as creation itself is on the verge of being erased…or dying. The smallest thing happening here is Hal Jordan trying to escape his ring as it starts to run out of charge and can’t maintain the integrity of the world inside it.

Avengers-Savage Avengers #1
“Make Mine Avengers”
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Stefano Casselli
Color Artist: Erick Arciniega
If I have one major problem with this, it’s that we’re already talking about what happens after the event that’s currently running. This is a problem that both DC and Marvel deal with occasionally, but it’s particularly something Marvel struggles with, because they run multiple events throughout the year.  It’s hard to sell me on the danger of the War of the Realms when Tony’s here making jokes.
That said, finally letting the Avengers and the Avengers 1,000,000 BC crossover is exactly where things should be going now. It feels like all of the teams Aaron’s introduced are going to clash sooner rather than later, and of course Tony is the character they sent into the past.  The clash of the ultimate man of the future being stuck so far in the past humans haven’t even left their caves yet is too fertile an idea to resist, even if Tony’s traveled through time in several adventures in his past once already.  Plus…what’s an Avengers team without Iron Man?

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III #1
“Crisis in a Half-Shell”
Script: James Tynion IV
Art: Freddie E. Williams II with Kevin Eastman
Colors: Jeremy Colwell

It’s hard to call Batman/TMNT anything less than a runaway success.  It went from a meaningless crossover in the vein of Spider-Man/Batman that somehow garnered two sequels and an animated film. James Tynion has gotten to live out the childhood dream of every 80’s and 90’s kid who grew up seeing Batman and the Turtles and wondered what it would be like to see them team-up.   But somehow, it’s only now that Tynion gets to handle the fun part of things.  It’s easy to do a simple cross-over, but now Tynion is drawing on the combined canons of both universes, pulling the name of DC’s biggest crossover while combining it with 1990’s-era Amalgam comics, with a splash of Turtles Forever.
We’ve entered a world in which Bruce Wayne was a young child who lost his parents…and was found by Master Splinter, who happened to be raising four mutated Turtles. He decided to train them all in the way of the Ninja, which helped out Gotham once it began to be taken over by The Laughing Man and his Smile Clan, an amalgamation of many of Batman’s deadliest villains with Shredder and the Foot Clan.  We learn early on this is because of the machinations of Krang, which explains why a Gotham that has Batman AND the Turtles isn’t a utopia already.
This is off to a fantastic start, but what I really want here is for Tynion to deliver on the promise of this page.  “It only gets bigger and weirder from here.”  That’s exactly what this book needs to do.  The door is already open, so there’s no reason why we can’t include all the most famous versions of the Turtles–the 2003 team, the 2012 group, the 2018 newbies, and maybe even the ones from the 1990 film, though drawing that might be a big ask even for someone talented as Freddie Williams. The wider Turtles multi-verse is begging to be explored, and what better place than here, where we’ve already combined two worlds to tell stories once before.

Champions #5
“Old Friends and New”
Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Juanan Ramirez
Color Artist: Marcio Menyz

The O5 is a moment in history that, in hindsight, had more bad than good to it. But one of the best moments it did have, was allowing Cyclops–the most long-suffering of Xavier’s teenage soldiers–to have a proper childhood.  To feel like he was doing good without constantly having hatred slung in his face just for being born.  And bless Jim Zub for not ignoring that part of his history off now that Cyclops is back as an adult: Extermination went out of its way to explain that all the characters got to keep their memories going back to the past.  Most of that was so that we wouldn’t have to regress Iceman’s character development, but having Scott get to keep the part of himself that got to be something other than an X-Man?  That’s a delightful bonus.
The end of this issue has a great closing moment as well, where Scott gets confronted by his brother Alex for not being there for the team, only for Scott to say he had been there for his team.  It’s the kind of thing that literally only Scott can say, a man who has always gone the extra mile to defend his friends and teammates. I wouldn’t be against him returning to the Champions for awhile as a co-leader who mostly just kept the adult heroes off their backs, if only for a six to eight month stretch.  Over the years, Scott has sacrificed more than almost any other member of the X-Men to protect the mutant race.  Hasn’t it been enough? Consider this: before his stint with the Champions, Scott had never been with a team that wasn’t connected to some X-Group. Everyone else gets to go to the Avengers or the Defenders or Excalibur, but he’s constantly fighting for a dream that wasn’t even his in the first place.  It’d be nice to have him get away from that from time to time.

Detective Comics #1003
Story and Words: Peter J. Tomasi
Penciller: Brad Walker
Inker: Andrew Hennessy
Colorist: Nathan Fairbarn

I will take literally anyone under the mask of the Arkham Knight, including a teenaged girl who we’d never heard of before now, as long as it’s not Jason freaking Todd. Now in truth, Todd is very possibly responsible for an entirely different secret organization that operates at a far higher level, if the Bendis section of DC’s Free Comic Book Day one-shot “The Year of the Villain” we got a look at is anything to go by.  Nonetheless, that’s still a jump over one of the most disappointing reveals in comics history.
Still, it does drive one to wonder why in all these years Batman hasn’t done anything about Arkham.  It didn’t used to be such a cliche–but sometime between the mid-90’s and today, Arkham Asylum hasn’t just been a joke, it’s been a worn joke.  On one level, it functions as commentary on how prison seems to do little more than increase the recidivism rate of the people who are serving their sentences there. But on another, the revolving door nature of the location and everyone running the place being evil to some degree leads me to wonder why Bruce can’t step in and do something.  Yes, it would change the nature of the stories we could believably tell for a while…but that’s the point.  Everything feels cyclical in a way that’s bad rather than purposeful, and we could use a shake-up that lasted a decade or so.

Justice League #23
“The Sixth Dimension Chapter 4”
Plot: Scott Snyder and Jorge Jimenez
Words: Scott Snyder
Art: Jorge Jimenez
Colors: Alejandro Sanchez

I completely whiffed on my Perpetua theory, though I remain attached to the idea that there’s a “version” of her somewhere that isn’t built wrong.  That said, the Sixth Dimension has presented an interesting dilemma for our heroes–the opportunity at a perfect world, if they’re willing to sacrifice billions of lives in the process. By all accounts, the world they’re being shown here is virtually “perfect”–everyone’s upgraded and become a more powerful, better version of themselves while Earth is permanently at peace.
The question, however is this: is this actually a false choice?  Batman’s being asked to kill Superman–his best friend–because he’s the only person who couldn’t ever agree to a plan like this. In doing so, he erases the only threat that would stop the World Forger from rewriting their current universe and replacing it with the new one.   The idea being, when their universe is judged, it’s managed to achieve Justice Formation, and won’t be erased.  But can they truly achieve Justice by killing one of the purest souls that ever lived?  To say nothing of the countless lives that would have to be locked away to make this a possibility.  Isn’t this method the exact opposite of Justice from the beginning? I could again be overthinking this, but this really does feel like World Forger’s “trick” is setting their multiverse up for being erased, and that’s exactly why the Justice League have to ignore his attempts to stop what Lex and his group have begun.

Shazam #5
“Shazam and the Seven Magic Lands Part 5”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Marco Santucci, Dale Eaglesham, Scott Kolins, Max Raynor
Colorist: Mike Atiyeh

I gotta admit, of all the arguments I’ve heard to go vegan, “so you don’t get murdered by a bunch of talking animals who think you’re a monster”, is easily the best.  Actually “talking animals” alone would probably do it.

The Flash #70
“The Flash: Year One Chapter One”
Storytellers: Joshua Williamson & Howard Porter
Colorist: HI-FI

I was absolutely not interested in a story about the Flash’s past when the future and present of the character and the DC Universe as a whole, especially when I’m tired of origin stories. It feels like with DC’s constant rebooting we have to come up with a new origin for these characters every other week, but when I think about it the last concrete origin for the Flash came with 2009’s Flash: Rebirth.  Credit to Geoff, but a new origin every ten years might actually be the best idea if we’re really interested in keeping things fresh for potential audiences.
But I think what really sold me are the last two pages, where somehow Barry testing his powers leads to him traveling several decades in the future and meeting his older self, a Flash struggling in a war against The Turtle. Now without knowing where this goes next, the first thing I wonder is whether or not this is the so-called “Forever War” Williamson has been hinting at for the better part of a year–does the Still Force and the Strength Force and the Sage Force finally get out of hand and Flash has to figure out a way to put them away for good again?  Or is this just a bit where we introduce the Turtle for a “funny bit”?

The Green Lantern #7
“Emerald Sands”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist and Colorist: Liam Sharp

Morrison and Sharp team up here to tell a story about Hal’s one, true love: the Power Ring.  It feels weird, but it’s also the single constant in Jordan’s life over decades of storytelling. Carol came and went, he runs through jobs as only a fictional character could. And hey, ultimately the last straw to him eventually going insane and giving in to Parallax was when the Guardians shut off access to his ring.
That’s a little facetious, but Hal has absolutely done some absurd things to get his ring back if it’s been taken from him. So in a story that’s just as much prose as it is traditional comic storytelling, we get this weird one-shot.  It’s the continuation to last month’s big cliff-hanger, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not  terribly important to the overall narrative.   In fact, if we’re being honest it’s the goofiest story, but that’s exactly what makes it great: Morrison’s willingness to reduce the Green Lantern’s powers to what he always said it was: a wishing ring, capable of the impossible.  Whether that means stopping bombs capable of wiping out planets, or having a world fit for a gothic fairy tale at it’s center.

Young Justice #5
“Seven Crises Part 5”
Script: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: John Timms, Kris Anka, & Evan “Doc” Shaner
Colors: Gabe Eltaeb

I’ve been on the fence about Bendis’ Young Justice after the first issue. It’s had a lot of questions I thought he might ignore, and a bunch of Bendis-isms for dialogue. But this issue serves as a huge turn-around as we finally see what happened to Tim and Steph before Young Justice started.  There’s a bunch of really cute shout-outs to the original 2003 version of the team, and we get to peel back a bit more of the New 52 coating on these characters to unveil the beautiful histories that lie underneath.  I will say, it’s a bit questionable that Zatanna was able to see into their histories so easily considering Dr. Manhattan seemed to have been going out of his way to wipe out anyone who found too much out about what he’d done, but I’m willing to overlook that.  Partially because I like having these two come closer to their old selves, and partially because Doomsday Clock is taking what feels like an eternity.
Having said all of that…if Tim Drake remembers everything, he’s still a bit brighter as a person than he should be.  The other Tim Drake lost both his parents and multiple girlfriends to his life as a superhero. He and Steph broke up because their paths started to diverge too much, then she pretended to die without telling him, and that isn’t really something you can keep from your significant other of multiple years.  Does this mean the two of them have to eventually break up again?  It’d be a great way of restoring continuity and building drama…but I’m pretty sure that’s a change literally nobody wants to see, myself included.
And somehow, I’ve written nearly three hundred words without talking about the main plot of the story: something something Lord Opal, something something resetting Gemworld. Okay, I’m probably doing that a bit of a disservice, considering the more likely source of Gemworld being reset again and again has to do with Earth constantly resetting and redoing it’s own history. The theory is there has to be consequence to resetting everything…but can there be? No matter what happens here, Doomsday Clock is still wrapping up in four months, and there’s no way the DC Universe is the same in it’s wake. Hopefully Bendis has a clever solution to this problem in his back pocket.

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