Bottom of the Pile: This lie is afraid of me. It should be.

I'm a little late with this week's column and I apologize for that.   So as not to waste any time let's just jump right into it with a look first at this week's Marvel stuff.

All-New X-Men

The X-Books are currently going through some Apocalypse-related crossover (that has nothing to do with the film, but exists almost certainly because of the film) that I'm like, half paying attention to.  If you were unaware, there's a tiny clone of Apocalypse that's been running around the X-books for the better part of three or four years, and in this week's All-New X-Men he's wound up in the past hanging out with a young version of the original.

I'm not sure what bugs me about this, but I just hate the idea that Apocalypse started out as a decent person.  Here's a guy who's responsible for the deaths of millions in the past, and potential millions more in the future.  I don't want to see when he used to hug puppies and danced like no one was watching.  It's okay to have a version of him reform, but the "he wasn't bad at all, until..." angle bugs the hell out of me.

Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man
Setting aside the slight awkwardness of the "he's gonna put on a costume and fight you" line here, this mini-series is meant to focus on Peter in the lead-up to this second Civil War.   I'm only one issue into it and I'm already thinking that whichever side he joins, he'll end up switching by the end.  If that happens, by Civil War III ('cause there has to be one), I want the leaders of both sides treating Peter like the kid no one wants to pick for their pick-up game.  "I don't want him, you take him!"  "He's eventually going to screw me over, you take him!"

Seriously though: the fact that Peter doesn't instantly join the side opposite Tony Stark makes this whole thing with Ulysses the future-sighted kinda questionable.  Plus, the way he conveniently second-guesses himself without doing so...I'm still on the train that he's either a villain or being used by one, until further notice.   Speaking of, meanwhile, over in the other major Civil War tie-in comic this month..

Civil War II: Gods of War
We have Gods of War, a mini-series that focuses on Hercules and his battle with the Oncoming Storm, a group of new gods based on the aspects of technology that rule humanity now, who've been gradually wiping out the old gods from several pantheons.   And what a coincidence that Ulysses can't see this incredibly important, major threat coming for the Earth.   It's things like this that make me want to stick with my current prediction: Ulysses is here for a reason.  And he's either a time-traveller who can only predict things that happened in his timeline, or he's causing what he's predicting.


For some good comics, it takes a while for them to hit their proper stride.  Sure, others do it from the jump and get the publicity that comes with it, but sometimes it can take an arc or two before the author's properly settled in.   For the current DD team, that comes with issue #8, where everything seems to     The shading of the pencil art combine with the muted colors to give that perfect noir feel that's the exact opposite of Mark Waid's light-hearted run of the last five years, while writer Charles Soule provides this clever story of Matt Murdock in a poker tournament while looking for the Black Cat, culminating in a beautiful "mental" fight scene between Matt and his last opponent--a man who never loses because he's a telepath.

Even the last page is a nice little twist, hopefully finally addressing something that's been bugging me for quite some time: Spider-Man's broken relationship with the Cat, ruined ever since Otto sent her to jail when he ran into her while in Peter's body.

New Avengers

As we approach (for whatever reason) the second Civil War, I'd just like to point out: I've never liked Maria Hill.   Let's backtrack: in 2005, when head of SHIELD Nick Fury first heard about the Superhuman Registration Act, he was absolutely against it.  He was a guy who'd been in charge for ages and knew just how the information could be misused.  Maria Hill?  All for it.   How'd that wind up?  With Norman Osborn in charge of HAMMER, a re-worked version of SHIELD.  So...terrible, basically.

And now here we are with her attempting to catch former X-Man Sunspot, AKA Robert DaCosta--the current leader of AIM who's re-worked the once evil organization into the super-science wing of the Avengers.   And here she is claiming that DaCosta's done a heel turn.  This, just weeks after having been found out that she was running a black-ops known as "Pleasant Hill", where she collectively mind-wiped every supervillain she could find with the help of a sentient cosmic cube, replacing their memories and forcing them to live out lives not unlike what you'd find in your average episode of Andy Griffith.   I'm pretty sure this breaks every possible human rights law in every first-world country you can think of, and yet somehow she's the one talking about a "heel turn", because "power corrupts".  Neat wrestling/TV Tropes references aside, I'm absolutely certain the only person who's had a heel turn as of late, is Maria Hill.

Venom: Space Knight
I can't express how much I hate this.  If Spider-Man isn't dealing with Venom in his films yet (and he won't be for quite some time), by all accounts Venom isn't even a B-List character.   In other words, the changes you make to him right now can be permanent.  And as much as I hate the idea of a villain starting out good, I hate when they go backwards on reformations even more.  Spider-Man's long past the point of needing to have symbiotes for enemies, and if we're being honest, Venom: Agent of the Cosmos just looks cooler than Venom: Lethal Protector or whatever. 

The story is that Venom was asked to bond with a guy who's immense hatred and disdain for beings other than himself re-awakened the angry, disturbed part of the symbiote--and reminded it of it's first host, a being who apparently murdered an entire city.  So now, feeling guilt at acting out in the last issue for being told it would be "de-commissioned", Venom's gone from "klyntar" to "symbiote" again...and is taking Flash along for the ride. 

Again, I can't stand this.  It goes right back to the idea that characters in comics can never properly evolve or move forward, and that's pretty frustrating.  Just let Flash have the awesomely cool adventures backed by his haphazard crew of Snake-hair lady and the two murderous pandas.  (..Panda panda panda...)   Don't go backwards, especially not for the sake of "really looking forward".  Because in five or six years, the symbiote will be back on Eddie Brock again somehow, just in time for Spider-Man 3.

Earth 2: Society
Earth-2 was meant to be the book where DC New 52-ized the Justice Society characters, all of whom originally were from a separate Earth from the versions of the DC characters everyone knows.  But eventually, several changes to the creative teams and one extremely poor weekly event later--Earth 2 was a shadow of its former self, now taking place on a completely different planet after the original world was destroyed battling against Darkseid and his armies. 

Earth-2: Society has been the story of the survivors of the original world and how they eke out a living on this new planet.  It's been mostly solid too, but with the advent of Rebirth and the reveal that the "true" Justice Society is still around on Earth-1, there's only a matter of time before this book meets its end, right?  And I think this is how it starts: with this world's characters trying to take advantage of a technology that can turn this world into the original world they had destroyed.  

It's a little sad, really.  Society hasn't been a bad title, nor are these characters particularly unlikable...but I'd be lying if I said I don't prefer the originals back, or if I said there's room enough for both.  Not with this book selling far less than 20,000 copies a month.   Here's hoping there's at least a happy ending for them.

Action Comics
 While we're talking about Rebirth, over in Action Comics...I'm not sure what's going on.  The "hook" here is that Lex Luthor is basically going around calling himself Superman, complete with a power-suit modeled after his dead former adversary.  This brings the "real" Superman out of hiding almost unbelievably quickly, along with a mysterious "new" Clark Kent.

The biggest thing floating in everyone's minds right now is the reveal in DCU: Rebirth that both this "older" Superman and his family, as well as the now dead Superman, aren't who they seem.  And if writer Dan Jurgens is in on that, it certainly looks like it here.   I'm not sure it's ever been very Superman to try and start a fight with Lex Luthor, especially one with what should be over a dozen years of experience with a much older version of the guy.   This whole thing makes Supes look like anything from an impostor to someone who simply doesn't care about the safety of the people in Metropolis.  It's a tad out of character, and I hope they don't write it off as just "Lex Luthor's existence makes Superman stupid".

Detective Comics
Detective Comics writer James Tynion IV is awesome and so I want him to win, but...the comic nerd in me just wouldn't shut up while I was reading this issue.   The whole time I found myself nitpicking:

-  Kate isn't shocked at Bruce revealing who he is, and honestly I'm tired of people "easily" figuring out secret identities.   Bruce and Clark's IDs have typically been the hardest to crack, and personally I think it should always be that way.
- Since when is Steph a super-genius.  Why is Steph a super-genius?  Don't you have Batgirl for that? 
- Tim's been doing this so much longer than Batwoman, she's really got no business commanding him.  Dude was Robin for years before he lead Young Justice, then the Teen Titans.  He's had more years under his belt leading super-teams than Kate's had in costume.   The sooner we restore the entire timeline the better.
- How is it so easy for people to have tech better than Bruce's and they aren't from space?

The addition that actually makes the most sense is Clayface.  Again, watching a villain reform is cool when you stick to it--and the scene in which Batman recruits him is actually pretty sweet.  I'm hoping that, plus the overall idea of these guys versus an army of evil Bat-people, will help wash the less palatable bits of this issue down, but overall I'm just happy to have Tim and Steph back in Gotham, together.

Aquaman: Rebirth

Aquaman: Rebirth is as close to perfect for what I think these Rebirth one-shots should be.  It's definitely one of the more...verbose comics you'll read this week, but Dan Abnett pens a tale that manages to introduce a new villain threat to Aquaman, reinvigorate an old one, develops the social structure of Atlantis, and remind us what's still in-continuity for Arthur going forward in terms of both his origin and his stories during the N52 era.   For instance, Geoff Johns' "he doesn't talk to sea life, he controls it", is still very much canon.  And why not?  It sounds too cool to ditch.

It also sets up a new status quo going forward for Arthur, as he tries to spearhead (haha...I'll show myself out.) a land colony of Atlantis for the purpose of being more diplomatic towards the surface.  If we get to see more of Atlantean society during Dan Abnett's run, I'll count it as a win.  If they actually let Arthur have some small success creating this colony I'll call this a landmark (I should really stop this) run. 

 Flash: Rebirth
One of the strangest things about DCU: Rebirth is that it sets up this massive mystery that's affecting all of the DC Universe, and yet no one seems to be trying to deal with it...until now.  After his run in with Wally West, Barry rushes over to Batman to try and work out more of the details.  To begin with, we finally learn how that iconic button ended up in the Batcave, but there's a lot more to it.

If they let things play out consistently like this, I wouldn't be mad.  Flash and Batman are the first two people to learn about this major, cosmic crime occurring in the DC Universe--and that makes sense.  They're two of the DC Universe's best detectives, right?  But eventually (hopefully), they've got to expand their search net wider--and include more superpowered individuals.  I just hope they don't let this plot thread drop next month and leave it lying dormant until Geoff comes back in 2018 with some massive event.    Titans. The Legion.  The Justice Society.  Atom.   Even books like Blue Beetle and Shazam.  All these major parts of the DC Universe should, hopefully, point more and more towards DC's biggest mystery ever.  

If I'm right, we'll see the first signs of this in October...right within solicitation distance of the San Diego Comic Con.

 Wonder Woman: Rebirth
Comic of the week still goes to Wonder Woman: Rebirth, though.   Greg Rucka returns to write the queen of all superheroes, and I've never been more excited to see what happens to her next.  Though this issue could have spent a little more time to explain exactly what caused Diana to start to notice the inconsistencies in her past, it's still an excellent prep for what's coming next in the Amazonian Princess' life.    It shows off the multitude of origins that she's experienced in the past twenty or so years, then sets us up for what's coming next, as it should.

Wonder Woman feels more in-character than she has for the vast majority of the N52.  She's every bit the warrior she's always been but far less willing to immediately dive into battle without all the facts.  There's an awesome scene in the middle of the issue where she decides to cut right to the heart of things and use the lasso of truth on herself(!) to figure out what's been going on.  It's a cool visual and it makes perfect sense--how else would you be able to shatter the illusions around you than to use something that shows the truth in all things?

Speaking of that: this last page is probably the most bad-ass thing I've seen all month, with Diana telling a false reality itself that it should be afraid of her.  It's my deepest hope that when all this is said and done, they ditch that wrong-headed "Diana is the Goddess of War" bit and make her back into the Goddess of Truth, an idea that I always thought worked well for a character like her.  In any case, Greg Rucka wrote what's in my opinion the best Wonder Woman of the last ten years or so, and right now it's looking like he's come back for seconds.  Sweet.

Next week: Even more Rebirth, Astro City, Transformers, Civil War, and Guardians of Infinity.  Can't wait.


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