Bottom of the Pile: Jan. 25th, 2017

I've been away for awhile, but expect this site to start getting regular updates next week.   But for now, let's just enjoy the longest running column on JiH, Bottom of the Pile.  If you didn't know, Bottom of the Pile is a column where I take some of my favorite comics (anywhere from 5 to 10, depending on the week) and talk about them.  It can be anything from funny commentary, exploration of the themes and ideas being used by the author, or even a flat-out mini-review.   The hope is that I get you interested in the comic itself, because if it found its way here there's a good chance I think it's one of the best on the stands that week.  Please feel free to share this column as many places as you like, and comment if you think it's good (or if you think it's bad).

This week was apparently all about foreshadowing.  Come see what I mean.

Action Comics
This week's Action Comics is the culmination of the "Men of Steel" arc, where Lex Luthor and a powerless Superman face down a pair of intergalactic killers bent on ending Lex after looking into the future and seeing he (somehow) takes over for Darkseid on Apokolips.

What I find most noteworthy about this issue, and this arc in general, is writer Dan Jurgens' treatment of Lex.  What I'm used to is a Lex that's a megalomaniac.  A guy who, while absolutely brilliant, is so consumed by his hatred of Superman (and occasionally, aliens in general) that he's willing to do anything--kill or hurt anyone--in order to finally bring Superman down.  Sometimes even when Superman's not around, they'll show that Lex is a villain that makes Joker looks like some random street punk--ruining careers or having someone disposed of just for not living up to his often absurdly high expectations.  But "Men of Steel" is re-classifying Lex Luthor as a half-decent guy.  There's no irrational hatred of Superman, no mountain of bodies hidden away that chronicle his meteoric rise to the top.  This arc posits that this Lex isn't a villain...just someone who's kind of a jerk, but even then he's mostly trying to help.

....Of course, that doesn't seem like it's going to last.  The way Superman gets the two killers to leave is by having the one with future sight look into his own future.  They both leave, but later reveal that Lex is still meant to try and take over for Darkseid, as well as point out a handful of other threats coming Superman's way.  Soon.   Between this and what's going on in the main Superman title, I can't help being excited--Superman hasn't had THIS much going on inside his comic in what feels like ages.

Detective Comics
The second half of "Batwoman Begins", which is kind of an ironic title because it's not really about her origins at all.  But it is about how her newest mission gets started, which is going to see Kate Kane and her captive father (revealed in the first arc as the head of The Colony, a militaristic group meant to emulate Batman while carrying out black operations) take on all the people attempting to abuse a strange new serum developed from the monsters that our heroes took down during the Night of the Monsters Bat-crossover.  It's the start of how Batwoman gets her own comic book again, and even co-written by the next Batwoman writer so hopefully we're in for a quality story when the series starts next month.

For now, let's talk this issue--in which head member of The Colony trained to take down Batman and Batwoman infiltrates to free Jacob Kane.  What I've always found curious is how they try to make Batwoman's mission out to be so different from Batman's.  Here we get a bit of a speech about it, and I'm still a bit lost.  Batman wants to stop crime--so he's in the middle of a city that's about as crime-infested as it gets.   Batwoman wants to stop war, so she's hanging out in a country that hasn't seen war within its borders in over two hundred years??   That's hyperbole, but I feel like if her mission is to stop all wars (equally as impossibly daunting a task as Batman's, so I like that part) then she shouldn't be anywhere near Gotham.

Hopefully the Batwoman ongoing will address a bit of that.  In the meantime, this was another stellar issue from James Tynion IV, and I'm looking forward to the inevitable start of the League of Shadows arc.   Sidenote: I feel like post-Flashpoint Bruce has been incredibly sloppy about his secret identity.  He outright showed his face to Joker at some point, and the way Kate found out is like he was daring her to figure it out.

Future Quest 

As much as I hate to say it, Future Quest has become the weak link in this H-B revival.  Even though it's got a great writer and some all-star artists doing phenomenal work...there's already a confirmation that this book has an end date, when I'm pretty sure it was an ongoing at first.  On some level, I get it--Future Quest didn't draw eyes the way the iconoclastic Flintstones or the dystopian Scooby Apocalypse did.  It couldn't have--ultimately these are the forgotten superheroes from a forgotten era of Saturday Morning Cartoons, reborn and recast in a world that best remembers them from the Adult Swim parody series from the early 2000's.   It was always an uphill battle, and if we're being completely honest--it probably wasn't the best idea to start out selling these characters to people by immersing them in a year long story arc when no one remembered them except geeks like me.

Still and all, seeing an old-school pulp hero like Race Bannon be given one of Space Ghost's power bands was pretty sweet.  To say nothing of the multiple *other* cool moments this issue had--like Frankenstein Jr's upgrade, the Impossibles riding through a panicking city street doing crowd control, even Dr. Quest and Dr. Zin finally seeing a threat big enough to work together.  This book is jam-packed with crazy cool moments for fans of H-B's action heroes. 

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps
This issue ultimately drives home my initial feeling about what this run on the Green Lanterns was meant to be: a contrast to the constantly war-torn years of the character where the team has its back against the wall and is always losing members and seeming like they're barely qualified to be the protectors of the town of Mayberry, nevermind all of creation.   From issue one it's been an all rise, no falls run where the Lanterns are consistently confident, powerful, and clever.  No matter how bad the situation seems before they get there, once they arrive they make everything okay.   It's the kind of sentiment we need lately, and something the Lanterns have needed for years to finally earn that feeling of being a group of bad-asses actually wearing something worthy of being called most powerful weapon in the universe on their fingers.

Here we're looking at a standalone issue that focuses on the future of the planet Xudar, home of Lantern Tomar-Tu.  It's sixty years in the future and we have an old grandmother telling a story to her children about the day the Lanterns saved them from Brainiac and Starro the Conqueror.  It's kind of weird initially--as she has way too much information about the Lanterns and what went on, but...well.  I won't spoil it.  I will say it feels more like the ending to someone's run rather than a random mid-point, but perhaps it was to set up the page you see above, where it looks like a lot of really cool things are being foreshadowed...and that's without what seems to be a new War of Light sparking (heh) up sometime down the line.

I just want to say how awesome it is to be excited to be a Green Lantern fan for the first time since Geoff Johns left the book back in 2013.  I honestly didn't have much faith in Robert Venditti after Relic, but Rebirth Venditti has done nothing but right by the characters.

Justice League vs. Suicide Squad
And here we are, at the end of Justice League vs. Suicide Squad.  I don't normally do the DC vs. Marvel thing as I honestly love both universes--but I absolutely have a favorite child, and the completion of Justice League vs. Suicide Squad makes it worthwhile to do a comparison just for a moment.

Justice League vs. Suicide Squad was billed as DC's all-important "event" for the start of 2017, much like Marvel's Civil War II was Marvel's super-important event for last year.  The genesis of both obviously came from the films, what with Marvel having Captain America: Civil War launch in the middle of 2016, while DC did Suicide Squad last year and has Justice League in the works for this year and likely decided "Hey, why not let them meet" was a good enough impetus for a small phase of their Rebirth meta-story.  And yet, when its all said and done that's about where the similarities end.

DC successfully set up an aggressive weekly schedule for this event that took them from the middle of December until the end of January, and made every issue hit its street date, while Marvel started with a nearly as aggressive bi-weekly schedule and quickly saw multiple delays, eventually having the final issue release months after it was initially meant to come out.  JLvsSS was entirely self-contained to the event itself and the two comics it affected, while Civil War found a way to infect every cape comic Marvel published besides Darth Vader. And while Civil War II has relied on the oh-so-tiresome idea of heroes fighting one another, Justice League vs. Suicide Squad got back to the basics: the good guys punching the bad guys in the fucking face.  Certainly, at the end of the day JL vs SS won't be making anyone's Top 10 Superhero Events list--but it was dumb fun and something I actually looked forward to every week to see how it played out.  Meanwhile Civil War II started by killing one of my favorite characters over at Marvel and ended by killing off my second favorite character in superheroes.   So I'll admit to being salty.

Event comparisons aside, let's talk about how this ends.  JLvsSS sets up for Steve Orlando's Justice League of America series next month pretty perfectly, particularly when you count the one-shots they paired up perfectly with the event.  And there's hints for the Fatal Five as well as the Justice Society of America, who hopefully finally pop up when Scott Snyder finally does DC's big summer event as they've been hinted at for awhile.

I think the only thing that bugs me is the reveal that *SPOILER*

Amanda Waller set this entire thing in motion so Batman and the Justice League wouldn't shut down the Suicide Squad for good.  I can't imagine the death tolls that must've occurred when Eclipso shrouded the world in darkness and had people giving in to their darkest impulses all Purge style just so Amanda could keep planting bombs in people's heads.  I'd be more pissed about it, but Suicide Squad 10 gives her a more suitable epilogue that makes her victory at the end of this an easier pill to swallow.   Now let's see what happens with "Task Force XI".

Optimus Prime
Thundercracker is just, the best.   If you haven't been keeping up with this universe, Thundercracker's story is basically he was a Decepticon who came to Earth when Megatron and his army finally won, and became a victim of a question I've always wondered: "When the bad guys win, THEN what?"  Asking himself that question, Thundercracker legitimately could not find an answer, and so he left the Decepticons altogether and became a loner, eventually becoming a screenwriter and picking up a puppy named Buster. It's such a unique, unexpected twist that adds humanity to a character you couldn't have cared less about beforehand.  When they finally cut off the lights on the IDW-verse, moreso than almost any other character, I hope him and Buster just get to fly off into the sunset and be happy.

Anyways, it's been awhile but this issue of Optimus Prime might've finally hit it.  That perfect balance of Cybertronians dealing with Earthlings that "Transformers" had combined with the politics and intrigue that Transformers: Robots in Disguise was so good at.   I've been known for saying--at length--that bringing Earth into the picture always makes for a more boring Transformers comic, but I guess it helps when it's bad-ass G.I. Joes that they interact with the most and not boring ass Spike Witwicky.    There's a lot of stories happening all at once in this issue--from the backstory of Optimus Prime's first meeting with the Decepticons while solving a police brutality case, to Optimus continuing to try and be a diplomat with the council of Cybertron and its colonies, to the group trying to inspect the Junkions which landed on Earth out of basically nowhere.  But what's impressive is that all the plates are spinning at exactly the right pace--it doesn't feel like any one story is getting too little time, or is so boring it should just be cut in favor of far more interesting stuff.

I'm legitimately enjoying where this story is going for once--and Optimus Prime is actually just as good as Lost Light, which I honestly didn't think I'd find myself saying.

Star Trek/Green Lantern

I know the story here is all the Lanterns are running out of power--including Larfleeze who literally takes his Lantern everywhere...and presumably Saint Walker even though he can run off the ambient hope of the people around him...but I think the truly concerning thing is that Carol has donned a red shirt!   She should've watched the show--now her life might be in danger!

The Odyssey of the Amazons

Great Hera('s purple prose)!  This book combines a writer I have nothing but respect for in Kevin Grevioux (A.K.A., the creator of The Blue Marvel, one of the MU's coolest newer heroes), characters I love in the Amazons, and lots of mythology and history--all things I love, but it kind of gets in its own way a bit with the overdone narration.    While I'm enjoying the nostalgia--this feels like I'm reading a book from the 60's or 70's--you could literally strip out half the narrative captions in this book and you'd lose literally nothing from the story.   Sometimes less is more.

Still, I'm all on board for the new way we're handling the Amazons--as what basically appear to be lady Highlanders.  Ageless women with advanced natural abilities and fighting prowess who seem to be popping up all across the world, and are joining up with the Amazons after Hessia and a few others were sent by Hippolyta to find them all.  This issue does end with several of them being brutally murdered though, so hopefully we can tone down on all that as we move forward.   Several of their kin have been kidnapped by Odin, so we're heading right into an anachronistic Norse/Greek mash-up.  

Wonder Woman 
Well, Diana wanted the Truth...and she finally got it, and the result basically broke her.  Realizing that not only are all her memories false about visiting home, but that she's never been and can't return home--she spends the entirety of this issue locked in an insane asylum.  Her friends Etta Candy, Steve Trevor and Barbara Ann Minerva do most of the work this issue in keeping both her and themselves safe, while Veronica Cale and Doctor Cyber circle around them in an attempt to get information about the location of Themyscira out of our Amazonian Princess.

This is essentially the part where Diana has to go through a trial to come out a better, stronger person.  And for once I'm actually glad about the New 52 making all the heroes and their support systems disconnected, because my first thought when seeing Diana and her friends hiding was: "Why not just call the Justice League?"  Because that's what you'd do pre-Flashpoint--everyone was friends/shaky allies with everyone else, so you'd just ring up your Justice League contact and have protection until Diana figured it all out.  But instead the drama and tension are amped up exponentially, because they have to be that much smarter in order to avoid getting caught, and I'm loving it.

By the end of this, I'm hoping Rucka allows Diana to finally return home--and the truth behind the Amazons and the gods are finally unlocked.


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