The Anti-Nexus

52 WEEK ELEVEN
“Batwoman Begins”
Written by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka & Mark Waid
Breakdowns by Keith Giffen
Art by Joe Bennett, Todd Nauck, Jack Jadson & Marlo Alquiza
Colours by Alex Sinclair
Letters by Nick J. Napolitano
Published by DC

DAY 75 – In Washington, Ralph Dibny continues his passionate investigation into the Cult of Connor by jumping three members in a park late at night and trying to intimidate them into getting some information on the ringleaders – particularly the one that stole his wedding ring. By the time he realises that the members are actually young kids – and that the one he has pinned down to scream at is a girl – it’s too late to salvage the situation. One of the other kids whacks him with a bat (and there is a helpful ‘WHACK’ provided by the artists) and they run off, leaving Poor Ol’ Ralph in the familiar state that has allowed me to indulge in the use of superfluous capital letters. His mobile rings but it isn’t Fire (the only superhero helping Poor Ol’ Ralph at the moment) with some information on the case, it’s Bernie from Opal City Storage, telling him there’s been a burglary… In the words of Julius Caesar – “Dumb-f*cking-luck…”

Or maybe that was John Cusack in Grosse Point Blanke, I don’t know, I get them muddled up…

DAY 76 – In Gotham, Renee Montoya and Charlie “The Question”, who apparently doesn’t yet have an established surname but it may well be Szasz, await the arrival of Kate Kane in a park. Renee looks adorably cute when she sees Kate, her ex, walking towards them and nervously tries to assert herself. Similarly, Charlie is ever-so-slightly on the charming side of smug as he hears what the women are not saying to one another and enters the conversation himself. Whoever’s drawing this scene – well done. Anyway, Kate has investigated her family’s property holdings and traced the warehouse on 520 Kane Street where Renee and Charlie were attacked six weeks ago to the Ridge-Ferrick Holding Company based in Gotham. She doesn’t get any information in return, which pisses her off. Renee is curt and Charlie is jaunty. Whilst whistling. Jaunty whistling, not curt whistling. Important to be accurate.

The Question keeps his files in a van! Awesome! Eventually, giving Renee enough time to smoke eight cigarettes, he ascertains that Ridge-Ferrick is a subsidiary of HSC International Banking, which is in turn a legitimate front for Intergang. It is led by a woman named Whisper A’Daire and her bodyguard, Abbot. You just can’t imagine Batman looking up some paper files in the Batmobile while Robin leans on the hood, lighting up. Well, you can imagine it well enough, probably. You won’t get paid for it though. Uh-uh. Not unless you’re Frank Goddamn Miller. That was a bizarre segue into saying that Charlie and Renee are being observed and overheard by someone in a Bat cape in the building across the street… if only we knew who it was…

Later that night, the non-dynamic duo breaks into HSC and overhears a meeting about getting a new shipment of arms from Kahndaq. Arms as in weapons, not actual arms… though with Black Adam, who knows? They get caught by a really big wolf, which knocks them into the room and changes into Abbot. Whisper is there and uses her serpent-styled powers to extract truthful information from Renee, then literally throws them to the wolves… only she doesn’t actually throw anybody… and they’re not wolves but “were” wolves… or Wolve-Americans… please don’t sue me…

Then…

The Bat-Woman Strikes!

She promptly kicks ass with a nifty weapon best described as a “double batsabre”, saving the day and stopping Renee from shooting one of the Wolve-Americans. Or are they Lunarly Challenged Persons? Anyway, there’s an amusing split-legged moment when Renee realises this is most certainly not Batman… and another amusing one when she realises how hot Batwoman is… and another one when she realises who Batwoman is… and another one when Charlie notes the intra-gender chemistry… and, all in all, this is probably the most well-written scene in all 11 issues so far.

DAY 77 – In Opal City, Poor Ol’ Ralph is shown the damage by Good Ol’ Bernie. His storage space has been tagged by the Cult of Connor and broken into, though nothing is immediately obvious as missing. Elsewhere, we see his wedding ring… on a mummified finger… on a mummified hand… on a mummified arm (not a weapon this time)… on the mummified body… of Sue Dibny… dressed in the clothes the Cult apparently stole… surrounded by Cult members as they begin a resurrection ceremony, with Cassie Sandsmark presiding over the body…

Yikes.

Meanwhile, the “History of the DCU” feature wraps up by covering the events of the Infinite Splat. Then Donna Troy’s magic orb, which once may have belonged to Harbinger in some other continuity, notes that although Jade died in space battling Alexander Luthor’s hands, in another version of the story it was Donna Troy that perished there. Um, what? Oh, and then a Monitor turns up and gives her the Stunner. DC needs to learn to leave well enough alone. This “history” has been nothing more than an “overview”, with so many intentional oversights to be explained in other titles that the whole feature is rendered largely pointless. It could have tried to at least clarify Donna Troy but apparently that is not the case, since the last page makes about as much sense as everything else she’s touched lately. Character consistency is usually a plus, but not in her case. Would anybody strongly object to her being permanently vetoed from publication?

Grade: B

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #20
“Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow”
Written by Mark Waid & Tony Bedard
Pencils by Barry Kitson
Inks by Adam DeKraker and Mick Gray
Colours by Nathan Eyring
Published by DC

Last issue consisted mainly of a self-contained story, with a side order of set-up. This issue consists mainly of set-up, with just a half-portion of story for afters. Perhaps the disproportionate servings are due to Waid’s scheduling difficulties leading to Bedard assisting him on the writing front and, as is usually the cause, too many cooks do indeed spoil the broth. ‘Spoil’ is too harsh a word, so let’s just settle for ‘weaken’. This is still a perfectly good issue by all the usual standards, it just is not quite able to scale the heights previously set by the series.

The main plot is still Brainiac 5’s convoluted attempt to resurrect Dream Girl (though, really, can raising the dead ever not be convoluted?) and we do at least get to find out exactly what this involves and what roles Element Lad and Light Lass have to fulfil. In a cute touch, Brainy has even managed to find an old L.E.G.I.O.N. ship in which to make his stand. It all hinges on two universal constants – energy and information – and Brainy’s ability to direct the correct form and amounts of them to Dream Girl’s perfectly-preserved body at just the right time. However, while the ‘energy’ portion of the plan comes for a particularly precarious part of the galaxy, the ‘information’ section is supplied by the similarly saved stiff that once was a major threat to the Legion. Combining these two elements cannot possibly lead to anything but trouble, and that trouble will hopefully unravel next issue. It might be a little peculiar to think of an intellect as advanced as Brainiac 5’s intentionally concocting such a perilous plan and then leaping straight into it without a moment’s hesitation, yet his natural arrogance and genuine belief in himself is a perfectly logical counter… as is being in love, though intelligence could not possibly be compatible with that…

Elsewhere, the United Planets begin to undermine the Legion in perfectly legal and non-hostile ways that lead to further dissention among the core group. This irritated reaction to the recent changes in the status quo of the LSH/UP relationship is somewhat expected, yet unfortunately it is compounded by the persistent presence of Dream Boy and Supergirl (they’re always friendly, never annoying, therefore they’re always annoying) and an outbreak of violence among Colossal Boy’s people in Big City. They’ve never caused any problems before, yet something or someone has their youngsters riled up enough to randomly assault the regularly-sized populace outside their city walls. They’re all detained, however. Thanks to Supergirl, which is not only not irritating to the rest of the Legion but it is not even capable of not thinking of not being annoying. Right?

There are strings being pulled here… plot threads being woven, from Brainiac 5 to the giants to Cosmic Boy’s decision to perhaps be in love to the underground robotic rebellion last issue… feel free to get tied up in the net when they’re all pulled together. Take it from me; it’ll be worth the wait.

And, if you need further convincing, this issue contains the notion of Bizarro-Brainiac. YOU’RE FREAKING MY MIND, WAID!

Grade: B

SHADOWPACT #3
“The (Short) Year of Living Dangerously”
Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Cory Walker
Lettered by Pat Brosseau
Edited by Joey Cavalieri
Published by DC

Hmm… to continue buying or not?

Just so there’s no confusion, this is not a bad comic. Walker’s familiar minimalist, light-hearted drawing style is as suited to the Shadowpact group and their adventures as it is to Invincible in his titular Image book. The characters themselves remain oddly appealing, in particular Blue Devil for his Hellboy-lite manner, Nightshade for her expected ability to exploit my fondness for snarky brunette girls, and Detective Chimp for every single conceivable reason known both to mankind and the greater cosmos. The underdog sentimentality Willingham afforded the group grounded DAY OF VENGEANCE and made it by far the most accessible and enjoyable of the Countdown mini-series – even if, by the end, it was more concerned with establishing a new status quo for The Spectre and Captain Marvel than anything else.

Actually, that’s probably the main complaint about this series – that the group haven’t really done anything. The first issue set them up nicely, with Superman and Hal Jordan effectively passing them the torch for all matters magic, yet since they entered the blood barrier surrounding Red Rock they got thoroughly one-upped by the Pentagle, the bad guys, and now it concludes with them surviving due to the actions of one of their opponents. True, they do rally with a decent scrap later on – Detective Chimp proving to be the most vicious fighter in their ranks – but there’s no denying this story lasted one issue too long.

Still, there’s nothing but promise here. For some good ol’ fashioned DCU superhero fun it remains the most likely to prove a long-term success. Hopefully it won’t take too long to really get flowing, since I have limited allocations for monthlies and that Richard Donner & Geoff Johns ACTION COMICS in October looks mighty tempting…

Grade: C

TRANSFORMERS: STORMBRINGER #1
Written by Simon Furman
Art by Don Figueroa
Coloured by Josh Burcham
Lettered by Robbie Robbins
Edited by Chris Ryall & Dan Taylor
Published by IDW

Ah, that’s better!

The IDWTFU, as I’ve unhelpfully taken to calling it, got off to a faltering start with INFILTRATION. A few welcome innovations (the Autobots sporting holographic human drivers in their vehicle modes) and updates (they both came to Earth in the present, not millions of years ago) were not quite enough to offset the rather limp and muddled storyline, though the concluding issue was certainly great fun. Still, the premise and the characters were all introduced effectively and the eventual introduction of Optimus Prime was for once a segue into the next story rather than a deus ex machine.

This time around, we get to see what Prime has been up to on space station that passes for the Autobots HQ nowadays. It’s not that the Decepticons have taken control of Cybertron, it’s that neither of them can live there anymore due to a calamitous battle against the titular villain, represented by some very familiar faces here, including one of Furman’s favourites. When trouble flares again, Jetfire and the Technobots are dispatched to investigate… only to find their luck can’t fare any better.

It makes for a very promising opening. IDW “guaranteed no humans” in their solicitation text for the series, which saves us from dealing with any of the pseudo-political pretension that pestered so much of Dreamwave’s G1 material, or from the stock teen-angst that permeated INFILTRATION. We’re out in space with giant robots gearing up to kick some arse against a seething, creeping, nearing evil force, which is how the best of Furman’s TF work has usually been constructed. Even better, it is represented here by some truly astonishing artwork, with not only Figueroa’s character designs and dynamic breakdowns deserving credit but Burcham’s extraordinary colouring work too – check out the Stormbringer engulfed by flames on the first page, or the fainted, haunting flashback scenes.

It’s also worth noting that Prime is depicted quite differently here than in the past. His extraordinarily noble addiction to preserving the sanctity of all sentient life is his defining quality, yet in recent years it felt as out of place as the Golden Age Captain America would be in today’s Marvel Universe. Now we have a more level-headed and grounded military leader; more realistic, if that’s possible. His memories of what happened to Cybertron continue to plague him (including a memorable moment when he fights alongside Megatron, who can’t bring himself to leave Prime behind on the battlefield, which should tell you how dire the threat from their mutual enemy was) and upon receiving Prowl’s message, which we seen him send in INFILTRATION, he won’t dash off immediately but monitor the situation and wait for updates. Presumably he will recover some of his bravado in due course but, for now, it is a refreshing take on a well-known character.

Things look good for the IDWTFU..

Grade: B

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