Bottom of the Pile - Feb 9th, 2017

This is absolutely late, and from now on I'm going to do my best to make these on time from now on.  For now, welcome to 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).
One of the things I love about Alters is just how cocky Chalice is.  For one thing, I'm a sucker for a good, cocky hero.   But it also makes sense--her civilian life is about to go through a change that she can't actually control, so for her to have so much power as a superhero, it's got to be an empowering rush of excitement that makes it hard to be anything but overconfident.  She can be in two places at once, open portals to other locations, travel into alternate universes, and that's just what we've seen so far--we don't really know the fullest extent of her powers.
This issue takes place after what looks like a tiny little time skip--Chalice has joined the "Gateway Army" and is helping them find Alters to help them against Matter Man, while as a civilian Charlie has joined a support group to help her deal with coming out to her family and friends.  Alters so far is working like the old 80's/90's comics--there's just enough of a personal life to remind you that this isn't just a person walking around in a mask 24/7, while not so much to drown you and make you forget this is technically a superhero comic.   It's a sharp change from most of what we get now, where so many heroes are basically only friends with other heroes, date other heroes, and have either no job or work in a place where they have no need to keep up a front about their identity.   It's gotten to the point where there may as well not be any secret identities.

The end of the issue sees Chalice's arrogance get her into a bit of trouble though, as she finds herself caught and bound up by a group of Matter Man's flunkies.  Still, for a person who can literally manipulate her atoms as she pleases, I do have a bit of a tough time worrying about her being "captured" at all...

Deathstroke - 22

It's nice to get answers before an issue ends.  When they revealed Raptor was going to be Deathstroke's opponent, I was stumped for a second.  Raptor could barely beat Nightwing, a member of the Titans.  Deathstroke is a frequent opponent of the entire group of Titans, a group Raptor couldn't even annoy, much less threaten.  So, much as I love seeing a recently created character make a reappearance in someone else's book...I couldn't see a fight between the two characters ending in anything less than Raptor getting his head severed and in anything over two pages.

Solution?  Give Raptor Deathstroke's Ikon suit--the thing that withstood several punches from Superman because of its "gravity sheath" (force field).   Yup, that'd do it. 

Justice League America Rebirth
"What's coming is bigger than me."  "Heroism is a community."  Hm.  As tired as I am of Batman being shoe-horned into everything, this raises some questions.  During DC Universe Rebirth, Wally explained to Barry how the timeline had been altered and weakened, how relationships had been removed, even.  That same day Barry related all that information to Bruce. 

No matter how cosmic the case might be, he's still the World's Greatest how much does Bruce know?  How much has he figured out?  Could he be trying to re-build the broken superhero community on his own, in preparation for a threat he's not even fully aware of?  This is after all, the man who created a back-up psyche/personality in his mind in case his brain was hacked.  Dude's always been seven steps ahead of everyone else.

Of course, we've been given an overview of the JLA for the next year and it doesn't seem to have any Rebirth threads we know of, and Batman's meant to be working with Barry in their solo comics this April to follow up on their part of Rebirth, so this is probably nothing...right?

Detective Comics - 12

Or well, y'know.  I thought that, till Cool Robin Tim Drake pointed out the exact same thing, but in greater detail.   Here he is explaining not only what I noticed, but that Batman has essentially got his hands on every aspect of the superhero (and supervillain) world, granting him more intel than his New 52 self has ever had before.  After that, they only hint that "Dark Days" are coming this year--which I can only assume points directly to the Batman-focused DCU event later this year.

I was beginning to think that had no/little connection with the meta story of Rebirth, but it's looking more and more like that is the next part of that story.  And now we know how Batman can be at the center of a DC Universe event without it focusing entirely on Gotham.  Hrm.

If I have any problem with "Rogues Reloaded", it's that it's not the story I wanted it to be at first--the last Rogues story.  Even though it's centered around what the Rogues want to be their last heist, it's obvious that's not what this is.  At a time where the Rogues have been looking more heroic than they've ever been thanks to DC's Legends of Tomorrow and Captain Cold's brief stint in the Justice League during the waning days of the New 52, what's happening here is the Rogues are re-establishing themselves as an important part of the criminal underworld and re-establish themselves as some of the most dangerous villains in the Flash's Rogues Gallery.   Writer Josh Williamson has even allowed the story to go a tiny bit meta here, talking about how the Flash (and even Central City) would much prefer the Rogues as heroes.   It makes sense--ideally, all heroes should want their villains to be good guys instead.   And when the Rogues have always kept Central City protected from the real threats (see: Forever Evil), well.   It's easy to look at them in a different light than Gotham looks at the Joker.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps - 21
I honestly hope he was there literally just to save the chipmunk.   Double points if the chipmunk is a Blue Lantern that lost his ring.

New Super Man - 17

This issue of New Super-Man made me very, very sad.  Because I realized that with this Kon-El is probably never coming back.  Not Young Justice "angry" Kon-El.  Not N52 "overthinking, mostly psychic powers" Kon-El.  Certainly not Geoff Johns' emo/overly serious and existential Kon-El.  No, the over-confident, sunglass-wearing, wise-cracking goofball from the 90's who lived in Hawaii and went on weird science-y adventures.     Y'know--this guy.  I won't see him again, because Kenan Kong has basically taken his place. 

Think about it: He was "birthed" in a lab with his powers coming from dubious means.  A lab which has good intentions but the means are often shady, bordering on villainous.   He's still learning how to use his powers, with more developing the longer he uses them, and there are cases where he outright doesn't have his abilities.  (Superboy's powers were telekinetic in nature, and would actually shut off if he were unconscious.)  He's a skirt-chaser, and kind of a jerk but he's improving out of a desire to be a hero/live up to the legacy he's inherited.  Kenan Kong pretty much is 90's Superboy, and while I'm glad someone's taken on The Kid's legacy, I'm definitely gonna miss the original. 

Also this issue had some really cool stuff about Kenan getting a trainer/mentor as well as introducing a new rogue for our heroes that gets into the complex subject of just how different Chinese society is from ours.  There's literally a point in the issue where Batman (of China) says, "Don't tell me you're one of those Pro-Democracy wackjobs!", a sentence I'm absolutely certain no other of Batman has ever thought of saying.  It adds a different layer to these heroes, because they really ARE trying to maintain the status quo--which adds a ton of story potential when someone asks: "What happens when they stop trying to maintain it?"   And even better, "What happens if they start working against it?"


Should've known this would make a come back.   And with this, the first arc of Superwoman ends and Big Blue hasn't been anywhere in sight to save it from Lena Luthor literally trying to dismantle the thing chronally and subjugate the population with an army of Bizaress and Superman's old rogues gallery. 

It sounds weird to say, but I'm actually more excited to see what comes "after" this arc.  Or at least, I kinda am--Phil Jimenez is leaving and we're getting a new writer in April, which makes me sad.  Nothing against K. Perkins, it's just that Phil had a perfect balance down when it came to this massive cast of characters and I'm bummed that he's leaving when there's so many more questions left to be answered: why's N52 Lois Lane stuck in Lana's head?   What happens with Atomic Skull?  What's wrong with her powers--actually, I assume Jimenez answers that before he leaves, but still.  I was comfortable with the team as it was, and change is scary.  Still, I plan on supporting this book as long as it features the eclectic cast it does.

Titans -12
Honestly...Garth was kind of asking for this.  It's not even that he was sexist--more than anything he was mocking Nightwing's moves--but if you ask to get punched in the face, you really shouldn't be surprised when you get punched in the face. 

Plus, who mocks Nightwing's butt-kickin' skills?  Much as I'm tired of Batman, he IS the best.  And Dick Grayson trained under him, so what are we doing here?  When was the last time a member of the Atlantean Royal Guard did anything noteworthy?

At any rate: the reason I think this book works in a way a lot of Titans attempts since Devin Grayson's run haven't, is twofold.  For one, it's just nice having teams from pre-New 52 actually ACT like they did pre-N52.  Second, unlike nearly every other version of the Titans in years, this isn't really a rip on the Wolfman/Perez run from the 80's.  It feels like it, but the line-up is missing Beast Boy, Starfire, Jericho, and Cyborg.  No, these are the FIRST Titans--hence the frequent appearance of Mal Duncan and Bumbleee.  That's a unique dynamic that isn't played upon nearly enough, and combining that with all the mysteries that surround the team because of Rebirth-related stuff, and you've got a book that's hard to put down.

Transformers: Till All Are One - pg 6

There's much bigger events going on even in this very issue, but I wanted to call attention to this scene because of how strange it is.

After awakening the Titan (the interstellar-traveling mega cities that the Cybertronians are living in) of Cybertron, Starscream has gained almost unilateral control over the planet.  So for you Game of Thrones fans, imagine if the most manipulative character on the show suddenly attained the Iron Throne.  Now, let's take it further: imagine, if that manipulative bastard...was crazy.

After millions of years of backstabbing any and everyone he could, a few years ago Starscream actually betrayed someone who was genuinely a decent 'bot, one who only wanted the best for his fellows.  Then, his best--and probably only--friend in Bumblebee was killed during the Dark Cybertron event.   The two acts together have caused him to start hallucinating.  At this point he seemingly sees a version of Bumblebee all the time, and converses with him so regularly he doesn't even try to hide it anymore.

Now that you're aware of the context, let's examine these two panels again.  This is Starscream literally arguing with himself, and either he's trying to explain to himself that there isn't a good side to him, or he's trying to convince himself that there's a small scrap of a redeemably decent person inside.   And that conversation is how we get the Mad King of Cybertron.  Long may he reign...?

Unworthy Thor
Spoiler alert: I hated the ending to this comic.  After nearly two years of watching "the Odinson" hobble around without a hammer OR an arm, I'm pretty pissed that when he finally tries to get a new hammer we have to wait an entire month before we see if he can wield it.

But I don't dislike the comic itself too much--there's just too much to love, starting with his response to Thanos' emissary Black Swan when she threatens to bring his decapitated head back to the Mad Titan: "Thanos already has a head.  'Tis guts he is sorely lacking." 

Of course, it seems in all these years Thor has never figured out what does or does not make one "worthy".  Though this is an inspiring speech, Thor still seems to believe that merely slaying dragons or fighting armies of ice giants determines whether or not one is "worthy".  It makes sense--the Norse gods were a pantheon of fighters through and through.  But still, the inscription on that hammer and Thor's failure to lift it for so many years makes me know that "worthiness" isn't whether or not one can fight the hardest battles--it's a state of mind and heart.   Or at least, that's what I'm going with--until I guess Thor punches someone in the head and automatically gets the "new" hammer.  Then I'd clearly be wrong, I guess.

Wonder Woman 
Veronica Cale was easily one of the best parts of Rucka's last run on Wonder Woman.  Initially meant to be a foil for Diana the same way Lex Luthor is for Superman, she was the co-founder of Cale-Anderson Pharmaceuticals, her distaste for Wonder Woman broke down to the idea that she was simply diametrically opposed to everything about Diana.  She thought a message of peace was childish and naive, she disliked that everyone seemed to hand Diana the respect and adoration she'd had to earn through years of hard work--ultimately Diana's very mission seemed to be an insult for her.

With that having been said, I'm bummed out that it seems as if Veronica's reason for hating Wonder Woman this time appears to be the misplaced hatred she has for the gods after they kidnapped her child and (presumably) left her to rot in Tartarus since she has spent five long years failing to learn the location of Themyscira.  Her previously irrational (and yet, entirely rational) hatred of Diana felt more real--more permanent.  This version of Veronica likely just hates all gods.


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