Bottom of the Pile: March 15th, 2017

If Kate's thing is "doing things Batman can't" she's going to end up with a very small wheelhouse that includes "knitting" and "has sex with girls".  I know you wanna get mad at that second one, but...let's be honest here: if you take Selina out of the equation, when was the last time Bruce slept with anyone at all?   Jezebel Jet was ten years ago, and she was revealed to be a villain.  Dude's been "Bat-dad" more than "Gotham's most eligible bachelor" for years.

In any case, Batwoman's adventures begin with her tracking down people who've bought the Monster Serum and intending to use themselves as biological WMDs only to wind up tracking down the organization selling it to--where else--a place where she has deep, emotional ties: Coryana, a place that looks more like DC's Madripoor every time they flashback to it, a place where crime lords rule and anything goes.

But nevermind all that--Batwoman just sold me this issue with the inclusion of my favorite new addition to the Bat-family during the New 52-era, Julia Pennyworth, Alfred's daughter!  Julia was such a bad-ass and easily my favorite part of Batman Eternal, so having her here and not forgotten thanks to Rebirth left me all giddy.  She plays off Kate Kane like a much younger Alfred; with the same wit and being just as indispensable as her father--though I hope she gets to be a part of more missions than her dad is.

Green Lanterns
When I first heard about this Doctor Polaris arc I was kind of bummed out.  Polaris is the coolest-looking villain Green Lantern's ever had but in twenty years of reading comics I've never seen an actually good story about him, and I didn't think this arc would break the trend.  But it's barely one issue in and I would say I was already wrong by the way they've developed Polaris as this disturbed individual diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and with a very relatable goal of just trying to save his brother from cancer.

Of course, from the solicitations, the "twist" for this arc is that Polaris is so unstoppable that Simon and Jessica will have to make the ultimate decision of putting Polaris down for good.  This is a decision that makes the arc even better--Polaris isn't the Joker, or Circe, or any of a hundred villains who could be killed and you wouldn't feel for in the least.  He's barely a villain at all in this timeline--he's only been a threat to those who have threatened him, or gotten in the way of his goals.  He's not the Joker...he's Mister Freeze.  And before this arc is over I get the sense that either Simon or Jessica is going to be changed forever.  Probably Jess--she's a little too bouncy/spunky this issue.

Justice League
I'll say this about Bryan Hitch's run--he's certainly trying.  Like, so many fans are writing his work off as purely average but honestly I just feel like it's just not clear what he's trying to do just yet.  Because he's got the high concepts--from the second Justice League: Rebirth hit the stands we've seen Hitch's team go up against impossible threats with reality-warping powers and triumph.  It's not an accident that they've faced two cosmic-level problems in the two major arcs the series has had thus far, and both of them have tried to draw on the powers of the Justice League members--these are the kind of purposeful choices that make me think Hitch has wanted to work on Justice League for years, and he's happy to cut his teeth writing here as he figures stuff out.  And to be perfectly fair?  On a surface level, it's the most reminiscent things have been of Grant Morrison's run on the team in years.  And yet there's something missing...something ephemeral, just out of reach, that keeps it from reaching the heights of that legendary run on JLA in the late 90's/early 2000's.

Having said that, this Timeless arc where members of the Justice League have been split across time in order to stop a being seeking to alter reality so that the Justice League would never have existed, started out grabbing my attention by placing each team member in different spots of DC's history.  Unfortunately it lost me again this week by not focusing on some of the fascinating timelines our heroes were dropped in--from the 26th Century with a collective of Earth GLs, to the 31st century with a kid Brainiac 5, not letting those areas develop just a little bit felt like a bit of a missed opportunity.   Then on another level, I'm kind of getting worn out now.   It hasn't even been a year since DC Universe: Rebirth, and this is the second threat in months trying to fight back against Dr. Manhattan.

It sounds cool at first--Manhattan is somehow the king of all cosmic beings, standing head and shoulders above people powerful enough to transport Earth's entire timeline to the end of universe, and the cosmic beings are doing everything in their power to stop him from coming and doing...whatever it is he's going to do.  But the fact that this is happening in various ongoings instead of a weekly series, or a bi-weekly series even...makes me think a lot of this is incidental.  Like, at the end of it all you would have only needed to read just one six issue mini-series and none of what's happening here or any other ongoing will even matter.  And that's just...frustrating, honestly.   The idea of a two year meta story putting the DC Universe back together is unquestionably cool to a continuity geek like me, but the execution is leaving me wanting.

Rebirth has created so many weird situations.  Situations in which some characters are living portions of their lives over.  And it can be like Green Arrow, where Ollie meets Dinah all over again and although the actual events are new the primary story of the two characters meeting and falling in love is basically the same thing.  Or it can be like here with Nightwing, where Nightwing's basically re-living the 90's where he leaves Gotham and becomes the protector of Bludhaven, only it's being reframed in the context of the modern events.   What Damian's complaining about is actually a chapter that Dick had already closed long before Damian even existed.  He went to Bludhaven, became it's "Batman", only to eventually leave after a mission gone way wrong and the city to get turned into nuclear ash after Chemo is chucked at the city.   That's an entire portion of his life that he's basically reliving now--only so many key details are different.  A steady love interest that may possibly turn into the mother of his child.  A completely different career when he's not Nightwing.  And a kid brother that's his former sidekick, threatened by the idea of a Dick Grayson not living in Batman's shadow.

Speaking of...I totally get Damian's appeal.  He's kind of the ultimate expression of a false sense of masculinity combined with what happens when two parents can't keep it together and give even the slightest sense of normalcy to their child's life.   He's this complete jerk who has all this false bravado and puts on this show of needing to be the alpha male in every situation that doesn't involve his father, who he always feels the need to prove himself to, but deep down he's this hurt little kid that doesn't know how to communicate that he doesn't want to be alone.  That he's afraid--ironically not of any of Gotham's insanity--but that the people who he cares about will reveal they don't care about him.   It's some deep shit, and Tim Seeley explores that in intimate detail in a way that will make even the staunchest Damian hater feel for the character.

....But still tho.  Fuck this guy.  I embrace having him as a major part of Detective Comics and even Nightwing on some level, but the rest of this push he's getting from DC needs to be over.  

So the "New 52" and "Pre-Flashpoint" Superman were actually one in the same, and had been split into two parts. On some level, this solution is kind of elegant in a comic book-y way.  It calls back to the classic Superman Red and Superman Blue storyline, and that's neat in a "I know too much about comics" sort of way.

But then at the same time, this just raises more questions.  Who split Superman in two?  Why?  And in a meta sense, why did we need to say both Supermen were one and the same when Earth-2 didn't do that, and the Earth-1 Superman went away right before Crisis happened in Alan Moore's classic "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow"?   This is ultimately why, although I'm loving what DC is doing with Rebirth, it frustrates me that we even have to do it at all.   The New 52 was a creative misstep that tried to shuck DC's morass of a continuity and instead shook free all the legacy and generational aspects that made the company stand apart from Marvel and make the universe unique.  So now they're trying to fix narratively what was originally an editorial issue, and it's just making DC harder and harder to understand by just reading the comics.  Sure, I get it but I spend so much of my time researching what goes on in the background--the "inside baseball" of it all.  It would be so hard for me to point to Superman Reborn when it was done and explain why a non-comic book fan looking to get into Superman would have to read it, and that's sad.

The Wild Storm
It's as if Cole here doesn't remember there was a whole era of warfare in which we had no computers and yet there was plenty of spying being done on one another. Anyways.

The Wild Storm continues being one of the best comic books DC Comics is publishing right now, finally placing those WS characters back in their own universe where they belong.  What I love about this is that Warren Ellis has made this story so simple, and yet there are so many moving pieces you feel smarter than you should reading it.   The base concept is simple--a young woman named Angela Spica did a heroic act that involved her showing off some technology that no one should have ever known she had.  Because of that, now every major intelligence organization in the world is after her.  We're only two issues in, but now we're seeing the fallout from Angela's actions as all the various factions begin to mobilize in response to what she did in the first issue. 

I'd be lying if I said I was familiar with all the WildStorm characters, but I know enough to find myself excited and wondering how all this spycraft will eventually work out.  That means there's probably going to be a lot fewer brightly-colored costumes, but hey--you can't have everything, right?

Amazing Spider-Man
And here's our first hint that very soon, there won't BE a Parker Industries--and if there is, Peter certainly won't be running it.  This is something that Dan Slott has admitted to very recently, and it kind of bums me out even though I knew from the beginning this wasn't something that Peter could keep up.  It's not even something the fans co-sign--they're all way too happy with the idea of him taking pictures at the Bugle, or being some science teacher, instead of actually fully living up to his potential like he has been over the course of Slott's run.

His time as head of Parker Industries really hasn't been that detailed--most of the time he's been dealing with "smaller" threats, rather than major, organizational ones like the one that kicked off this book two years ago.  Fortunately with this issue we're back on that level, as Peter begins to track down Norman Osborn after finally finding out his location from the Kingpin in the fall-out from The Clone Conspiracy. 

I suspect taking Osborn down will take everything Parker Industries has, and as a result he'll either be ousted as CEO or the entire company will fail.  Hopefully it's the former, as I legitimately can't justify Pete's Spider-Man life being responsible for an international company failing and putting hundreds, if not thousands of people out of work. 

Uncanny X-Men
We end Uncanny X-Men with an epilogue that's meant to be a transition issue between Cullen Bunn's Uncanny and his upcoming series X-Men: Blue.  When Magneto formed this "most dangerous X-Men", he recruited Psylocke to both have a psychic as well as someone willing to take the darker paths to help protect mutantkind.  And he got it, only Psylocke has a bit more of a conscience than Erik does, and as a result she ends up leaving not long after their first big mission wrapped up, claiming to mostly be fine with what Magneto was doing, but also that she would kill him if she ever felt like he had gone too far.

Well, the events of Inhumans vs. X-Men in which Magneto sided with the clearly insane Emma Frost to wipe out the Inhumans could certainly be described by many as "too far", and thus we end up with Psylocke hunting Magneto down with the intention of killing him.  In the process, we learn the fates of the remaining members of Magneto's team...before Psylocke eventually stabs him with the focused totality of her psychic powers and brings the life of Magneto to an end.   Y'know...or not.

Ultimately, this issue feels like a waste of 20 pages.  There's no concrete finality to the fates of Magneto's X-Men that you wouldn't learn in a recap of the next comic you saw them in.  Psylocke making good on her promise would be cool if literally the NEXT page he wasn't brought back to life thanks to Exodus and Elixir, rendering the one major thing that happened in the book moot.  The final fight between Magneto and Psylocke isn't even all that creatively choreographed.  There's literally no reason to read this book other than to discover that Psylocke is being taken off the board for the near future...maybe.

For a book that was basically my favorite X-book from my least favorite period of the X-Men (the "Inhumans era"), it's kind of a bummer that it came to an end like this.  But that doesn't make me any less hyped for X-Men: Blue next month I guess, so its...fine?

US Avengers
I went into this assuming it'd be one of Marvel's far-too-plentiful tie-ins for Monsters Unleashed, but nope--to my surprise it's a one-shot starring US Avengers member Gen. Maverick, a.k.a. The Red Hulk.  Quickly, I just wanna run down all the reasons you should buy this issue: it's not a Monsters Unleashed tie-in, it has Deadpool, Al Ewing does a fantastic Deadpool, AND it also has a ridiculous German mad scientist.

Plus, I'm pretty sure this is the best thing with the name "Dawn of Justice" released in like....ever.  I can't think of anything called "Dawn of Justice" that could even hope to compete.  I mean, not in ANY medium, connected to superheroes or not.  Gosh, I hope anyone who might have named their project "Dawn of Justice" might take notes at what such well-told superheroic silliness looks like so they don't ruin any other projects they might have with the word "Justice" in the title...

Grant Morrison's Avatarex

Avatarex has been on the shelf for a while, but it's rare that a Grant Morrison comic comes out and I'm not over the moon for it so it kind of doesn't matter?  Anyway, this issue the great super-warrior meets up with "The Man", an old drunk who just happened to be in the same bar as Avatarex's partner, Varun.  By all accounts, he had spent decades waiting for the super-warrior to come by, passing the time by having an arm-wrestling contest with every person he meets, promising to grant them their heart's desire if they win, and asking for a drink if they lose.  Makes as much sense as far as letting the day go by as anything else.

At any rate, Avatarex finds himself humbled by "The Man" when he tries to arm-wrestle him only to lose like everyone else.  That's when we learn the old man knows who Avatarex is, and has volunteered to train him and help recover the stolen super-weapons.   But what's more interesting here is that briefly, it seemed like Grant was setting up rules to keep Avatarex from using his amazing powers to create a utopian society on Earth a la Miracleman.  Because that's the first thing you think of when you see a guy with powers like this appear on Earth that's got good intentions.  You don't go, "Why don't you punch Lex Luthor?", you go "WHY HAVEN'T YOU STOPPED WAR?"   The answer here is that, this old guy will apparently kill you if you try to circumvent your purpose.  This allows Grant to tell the superhero stories he wants to tell, rather than locking him in to telling the same kind of deconstructed superhero stories that have existed for nearly forty years now.


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