Bottom of the Pile: April 19th, 2017

Astro City
It's amazing how Kurt's characters can draw from so many sources that they eventually take on a life of their own.  Like, this girl is clearly something like Deadpool--she's not only aware that she's a comic book, but she can hear what are seemingly cosmic beings when they refer to her or her father, the superhero known as The Gentleman.  At the same time, her wholesomeness and ability to "summon" a super-powered adult when trouble is near makes her a lot like Billy Batson/Captain Marvel.

You wouldn't think that combination would work well, and yet it leads to this heart-warming (and heart-breaking) tale of this immortal girl, who despite being stuck as a child forever, has irrepressible levels of optimism.  A girl who lost her father but wished so hard to have him back that he re-appeared....with superpowers, no less!  Of course it's later revealed that he's a figment of her psychic abilities, but to generate someone that powerful raises...a lot of questions about what else she can do, and I hope this isn't the last time we see her.

In the meantime, I do feel like the Broken Man's story has gone on long enough--it's been 43 issues!  I'd love to see that wrapped up while we move on to other things.
 
Batman
The long-awaited "The Button", billed as the technical "continuation" of the DC Universe: Rebirth storyline from last year, finally begins here in Batman #21.   It's a story that reminds me that even though Tom King is easily one of the most talented writers working in comics right now, he still just doesn't "click" with me.   For instance--this issue very smartly pulls from Watchmen by aping it's panel layout--nine panels on a 3x3 grid--but it doesn't do very much. 

We pick back up with Saturn Girl who's apparently in Arkham Asylum and freaking out over a murder that's destined to happen while suddenly believing Superman will fail at a crucial moment and leave everyone dead.  It's a far cry from the confidence she exuded in the Rebirth special, but then it's been a year and she's being pumped with dangerous drugs.  In the mean time, the bloody button Batman found in the cave lands next to the Psycho-Pirate generates a strange energy that causes Bruce to call Barry and bring this strange case back to the forefront.   Only...the Flash is a minute away, and Reverse-Flash (who's got a grudge against Bruce for his father murdering him in Flashpoint) appears.   What follows is a bloody, brutal, (mostly!) one-sided fight that's beautifully brought to life by Jason Fabok and makes even me want to root for Bruce for once. 

The only thing that saves Bruce from being murdered is Eobard Thawne getting distracted--once by Thomas' letter to Bruce, the one remaining tie the Flashpoint universe has to this one...and then by the Button, which promptly transfers him somewhere "else".   Where ever he goes, when he returns he looks like...that up above, burning with a mysterious blue energy that eventually only leaves a corpse and claiming he saw "god".   Whatever he saw, it definitely isn't merciful--it's been leaving corpses just like Thawne's all over the DCU.

Unquestionably, this is a moving issue.  But...it's not what I picked it up for.  There's tons of questions floating about with respect to what's going on in the DC Universe, and this basically just dicked about and killed off a character they just brought back last month rather than answering any of them.  It's absurd considering there are only four parts to this story in the first place--you're either not going to reveal anything in the next three or this issue was largely unnecessary.  Emotional resonance is key to creating a great story, but this story feels like it should've taken 12 pages to be told rather than 23.   I do like the dread that's stretching across the DC Universe, though.  You'll see a lot more of that later...

Batwoman
I would love to know the amount of force you'd have to be capable of exerting to completely lop off someone's hand using what appears to be only a switchblade.

That said, it seems like we're getting a look at Batwoman's future through her past, as we examine more of what happened during her "Lost Year".   Like Bruce, there was a road that Kate had to take in order to be the hero she is today, and I'm imagining that road comes with a lot of bad decisions and emotionally unhealthy relationships. ...That sounds like the opposite of what Bruce did, but if she can get her shit together then that'd make her a better Batman than Batman.

In any case, during Kate's lost year she found herself on the island of Coryana, a place that was unknown to the larger world until...whatever Kate did during that lost year that ended up making everyone take note.  Kate's girlfriend at the time, Safiyah, was the owner of a bar and peacekeeper between the various gangs that had divided the island up and each ran things their own unique way.  After Kate left (for reasons we'll learn later), so did Safiyah, and as a result Coryana just ended up falling into the hands of these corporations with little to no resistance.   But now that the business Kate had dealing with the Monster Serum from the Night of the Monster Men crossover has brought her back to the island, it's only a matter of time before the "no resistance" part changes, at least.

What I like here is that we're very rapidly developing a supporting cast for Kate--she's already got Julia serving as her support/Alfred character, now she's developing this network of potential characters that could work with her and supply her information.  Y'know...if they all survive this storyline, at least.


Green Lanterns
 So here's the culmination of Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz working together this past year (and twenty-one issues): When an attempt to bring Dr. Polaris' brother back to life fails, Polaris decides to respond by dropping the Justice League Watchtower on the city that caused his brother to pass away.  With no one around to help, both Lanterns are forced to work together in order to propel the satellite back into orbit and save both the city (and probably the nation) from certain death.   They do it by working together--total faith in each other.   This, from a girl who couldn't even generate a single construct less than a year ago.   This, from a man who believed his partner to be totally unsuited for the job and the ring when they were first paired together.  Simon and Jessica have both literally saved the world together.  They've come a long way, and right now I think they might be my favorite platonic couple in comics.

....Which of course means someone's going to get the bright idea to try and make them date.  But, that's later. 


Superwoman
It's weird, but the "Super-Family" has never actually been all that close in modern/post-Crisis comics.  Aside from like...Nightwing, the entire Bat-Family all operate out of Gotham and run into each other constantly even when they aren't on a team together.  But the Super-folks?  Coming out of Crisis they were so focused on making Superman the "Last Son of Krypton" that they refused to allow Supergirl to exist.  When they did, her origins were so complicated that they eventually just got rid of her and created a Supergirl with the classic origin.   But neither was ever especially close to Supes, they would meet during massive crossovers and that was it. 

It was roughly the same with Superboy.  They made a clone of Superboy and he promptly bounced down to Hawaii, and even when that (bestest) era of The Kid ended, he just went and joined the Titans and lived in Smallville, not Metropolis.   It seems like something you'd be used to seeing--the Super-folks all teaming up--but it's just not common unless it's a major event. 

Having said that, it looks like that won't be true for long, as solicits point to a new incarnation of the Superman Revenge Squad that's going to demand the attention of every member of the Super-Family to deal with.  From the looks of things its going to be intense, so hopefully Superwoman gets her powers back soon!

...Which reminds me: both Lana and Kenan got their powers essentially the same way, so why did one have to give theirs up and not the other?  I sense a needlessly complex retcon coming soon....

Trinity
Superman sounds legit scared here, and when you think about it...that tracks.  It was one thing when reality was changing as a result of their own actions like during Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis.  That was reality aligning itself in different ways, but this is an entity with its own will and own agenda doing it for reasons that remain unknown to the Justice League.  ....Or anyone else for that matter, since if you try to find out more about who's doing all this you wind up smoked. 

I'm still kind of back and forth on how I feel about this whole thing---some weeks it feels like we're just repeating "the red skies" all over again.  And then sometimes it just feels like this massive, terrifying cosmic mystery that DC is taking its time on.  But the way all three of the biggest heroes in DC Comics sat down and tried to work out the possibility that their very reality was being altered, actually taking this attack on their histories semi-serious, made for a great read.  

Wild Storm
 There were a ton of panels I could've used for this month's Wild Storm, but this is the one that kind of sums up the world the most.  This issue just personifies all the things Warren was going for: massive conspiracies about secret organizations that control the world in the shadows, black-ops teams that do work without anyone ever being aware of it--and hidden wars that occur between nameless soldiers in faceless armies.   If you felt like the last two issues were bereft of any action, this one has it in spades while also keeping up the story and filling in the gaps for Angela Spica.

We're still not to full-on superheroes yet, but I'm convinced this isn't the book for that.  You show off superheroes in a comic that hasn't spent its first three issues trying to show all these government boogeymen squaring off against one another. 

Invincible Iron Man

 In just six issues Riri has become my favorite of Marvel's new "diversity hires".  I mean, she's a fucking Iron Man fangirl!  She just recited what happened in Iron Man #200 with the same sort of geeky enthusiasm I would, and I'm sorry but I just can't hate her for that, it's absurd.  Come to that, so's the idea that a man who's spent decades of his life as a superhero and saving the world didn't have a single genuine fan until now.

This issue of Invincible Iron Man sees Riri on top of the world--she's offered the opportunity to work out of Tony Stark's lab (she's gonna turn it down), work with MIT again and have all her work be funded by them (she'll definitely turn that down), and finally she's offered an opportunity to join the Champions, which might be the most logical thing of all for her to do.   She's got so many opportunities she's figuratively drowning in them, and it's leading to her being overwhelmed. It makes sense; one day you're just an average teenaged girl genius that's going to school at MIT.  The next?  You're fighting supervillains and working with people you've looked up to all your life.  It's a lot to take in, and no one's giving her any time to think.  I predict a legendary explosion next issue.

Having said all that: I would love to know why people continue to think the Hall of Armors--which has been destroyed at least three different times--still exists. 

US Avengers 
Al Ewing continues to have some of the best hidden commentary in comics, as  Hydra!Steve Rogers talks with Roberto and explains how annoyed he is by Roberto's eagerness to act as if he has impunity all the time.  The key line is at the end, "You think you can come swanning in--with your lofty principles, your elitist attitude--and fix us?  How dare you!"  

There's been a sentiment of anti-elitism in America dating back almost to its foundation, when we disliked the English for being a bunch of stuck-up, elitist bastards.  But lately its stretched to our own people, and sees America work against its own best interests by voting against the super-smart, the well-read and well-educated because they're "elitist" and thus think of themselves as "better" than everyone else.   It's a strange argument that takes high levels of brainwashing to swallow--wanting so badly to work against the people that care about you just because they seem "too smart".   Even the line about being fixed is one of those odd, jingoistic things where Americans can look at the country and know it's broken but when someone says they want to "fix it", there's some kind of weird angry reaction.   As if its alright to know its broken but that its wrong to say it.

Anyway, I guess Secret Empire is our chance to get Axis Steve Rogers--y'know, that thing no one asked for.  And while this issue was fascinating there's a good chance I might be out of US Avengers until the Secret Empire storyline comes to an end.  I came here to read Al Ewing and his team doing their own thing, not working inside of someone else's story.

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