Bottom of the Pile: May 24th, 2017

Action Comics
I'm abstaining to see how this story plays out first, but this is quite the selection of top-tier Superman villains for the latest formation of the Superman Revenge Squad.  They're missing some of his more powerful/dangerous foes like Luthor, Doomsday, and Brainiac, but this is still enough to take the Man of Steel down.   And I'm all for raising the stakes--the Sinister Six have been a crucial part in some neat Spidey stories--but at a certain point I do end up wondering how the hero can survive such an onslaught back to back?

There's a point where Clark heads up to the Justice League satellite and meets Bruce while hunting down the Eradicator, but it just made me wonder why you wouldn't call the whole Justice League if you knew this big an array of villains was coming after you.  I get that Superman "never loses", but everyone has a limit.  So like I said: I'm cautiously waiting to see how Jurgens gets Superman out of this one without some kind of ridiculous asspull.  Still, good on him for raising the stakes high enough for me to be worried about the most powerful DC Comics hero.

Ben Reilly - Scarlet Spider
Thus far, Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider has managed to several set itself apart from every Spider-comic by showing us two Peter Parkers whose set of morals are both in different states of decay.  While Ben is somewhere with a rich woman claiming he can cure her dying child in order to save his own life and make some money in the process, Kaine here is threatening to waterboard a largely innocent woman...with boiling hot water. 

You want to say there's no version of Peter who would do either of these things, and yet here they are.  Peter David has taken the genius tagline of the last Scarlet Spider series ("All of the power, none of the responsibility.") and is seemingly running with it.  And even though this series feels very 90's to me (the one Spider-Man comic I remember owning was one where Ben was trying not to get killed by Kaine), I'm down with seeing how far PAD can take this, especially if Ben and Kaine eventually have to work together for some reason or another.

Detective Comics
There was a time when, right after Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown was my favorite Bat-character.  I couldn't tell you why, I just thought she was the perfect foil for Tim, capable of bringing him back down to Earth when he got too into being a member of the "Bat-Family".   Later, Bryan Q. Miller's run on Batgirl where he convinced everyone that Stephanie was the best person to take over the role with Barbara doing her Oracle thing and Cass having become her own woman, just re-confirmed my feelings on Steph.   More than Dick, more than anyone else on the team she's the closest to being a "regular person", and that's something that's necessary when you spend every night staring into the abyss the way "Batman and his Gotham Knights" tend to.

That's why it's so frustrating to see Stephanie get such an upgrade in intelligence only to pick up the Idiot Ball, plot-wise.  Following the events of "The Victim Syndicate" and the "death" of Tim Drake, Steph decided that Batman's way was wrong, and that it was simply better to let the police handle it.  Since then apparently, she's decided that she still wants to fight crime, but that it works better if people think the cops did it all, taking out the "symbolism" that Batman is thought to be such a fan of.

But Gotham already existed without Batman, and that's how it got the legacy it has today.  Crime-infested, mob run, with more corrupt police than honest ones.   All of Bruce's sacrifices might not have fixed the city, but he's offered it hope.  And this issue just drives home the point that Steph is alright taking that hope away, even though it should be obvious the villains will just keep coming.  Because Batman didn't create the bad guys--the murderers, the rapists, the thieves; they created him.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps' latest arc has been about a guy named Saarko, who came back in time because the Sinestro Corps was eventually destroyed when the remaining members all joined the Green Lantern Corps in the future.  Wanting to wipe out the GLC and rebuild a Sinestro Corps that followed the will of his namesake, Saarko planned to destroy the Green Lanterns and Sinestro Corps before they could even learn how to get along.  

During the final climactic battle between Saarko and Hal, who'd tracked him down while the Corps fought off Saarko's creatures, an explosion ends up taking Saarko's life, something Kyle manages to witness just as he arrives.  This leaves Kyle wrecked, because the end of the issue reveals that Saarko is the son that he and Soranik end up having in the future.  

A rather smart twist, the problem is in how the story's set up.  Hal is the focal point for a story wherein the major plot twist affects a character that isn't Hal.  The end result is that the whole story has this...unfortunate hollow feeling to it that I don't think the creators were aiming for.  This is something Kyle should've found out earlier in the arc, and something he wrestled with before finally doing what he had to to take Saarko down, even if it meant taking the life of his future child.  Instead he finds out at the end, leaving the last page a shot of a somber Kyle mourning the loss of someone who he had no dealings with, aside from seeing him pass.  It's a bummer, especially when the rest of the issue is solid and filled with some good art and great character moments, but not every arc is going to be perfect.

Wonder Woman
The purpose of Themyscira stands unveiled--it's a hiding place for Ares, who willingly surrendered being the god of war in order to walk away from the encompassing madness that came with running wild for so many centuries.  Initially frustrated by the knowledge that her home is merely a prison, Ares points out that Themyscira and its society is no prison, but rather what happens when humans let go of their need for war: an island of paradise.

Amazons restored from being a needlessly war-like island of rapists?  Check.

Then Rucka goes on to tie the past and present stories he's been telling together by showing Diana confront Phobos and Deimos, who have been seeking their father since his capture, in order to reclaim his power for themselves.  They do battle with Diana's sisters, but without the blessings of the gods, their fight is a lost cause....until Diana faces off with them.  How does Diana defeat the gods of fear and panic?  With love.

"The only hope for peace is to teach people who are full of pep and unbound force to enjoy being bound... Only when the control of self by others is more pleasant than the unbound assertion of self in human relationships can we hope for a stable, peaceful human society." - William Moulton Marston, creator of Wonder Woman

This has been Diana's purpose from her very inception.  To be capable of force, to wield great power, but to use it as the absolute last of last resorts when she can use her words, her love, instead.  She was always meant to reform, rather than defeat her opponents.  Turning her into the god of war were always vast misunderstandings of how the character worked.   And so here she is, being bound and using love to overcome her greatest threat.  Because how can fear OR panic deal with love?

Welcome back, Diana. 


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