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#21 Cybersnark

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Posted 10 June 2018 - 07:57 AM

Bruce-as-Batman was at Superman's funeral (he stopped a crime in progress and threatened to drop the offenders off a building but for respect for the man they're burying today), which suggests that Knightfall takes place shortly after the death of Superman, and probably before the four "pretenders" had established themselves to Batman's satisfaction (and, by extension, with the League still in shambles post-Doomsday).
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#22 G-man

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Posted 10 June 2018 - 01:31 PM

OK.  I hadn't noted just how Knightfall had fit in with the Death of Superman arc.

All I recall from skimming that storyline was that Batman came off badly, to a villain whose design and character left much to be desired.

OTOH, IIRC, I think this was first of the "Gotham City is on its own" storylines that I am aware of.  Whether this was also the foundation of Batman's driving other heroes out of Gotham trope, I cannot say.

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#23 Virgil Vox

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 05:47 PM

View PostG-man, on 10 June 2018 - 01:31 PM, said:

OK.  I hadn't noted just how Knightfall had fit in with the Death of Superman arc.

All I recall from skimming that storyline was that Batman came off badly, to a villain whose design and character left much to be desired.

OTOH, IIRC, I think this was first of the "Gotham City is on its own" storylines that I am aware of.  Whether this was also the foundation of Batman's driving other heroes out of Gotham trope, I cannot say.

/s/

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I'll admit that Bane's initial design leaves a lot to be desired but he is a pretty strong character. He is extremely intelligent and is always one step ahead of Batman. As for Batman, he has been through a really tough time lately and his refusal to allow anyone to help him during the outbreak leads to his downfall.

I'm not sure I would classify this as a "Gotham on its own" story. Yes, Bane breaks Batman's back but Jean Paul takes over as Batman soon after and defeats Bane rather quickly. Gotham isn't left without its hero; it just has one more willing to get his hands dirty.

I think Contagion is the first story where Gotham is left alone, followed by Cataclysm and then No Man's Land.
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#24 Virgil Vox

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Posted 19 July 2018 - 03:17 PM

Batman: Knightfall Part Two – Who Rules the Night

The second Knightfall trade is good but not great. The story is a little too disjointed so it doesn’t flow as well as the first trade. Characters make random decisions that make no sense. Jean Paul’s transformation into a deadlier, crazier Batman is handled with all the subtlety of a bull in a china shop.

The trade has a riveting start, with Bane throwing Batman’s broken body into Gotham’s Times Square and declaring that he now rules the city. It immediately grabs your attention and raises the stakes. As Alfred, Robin, and Jean Paul rush Bruce to the Batcave there is a sense of dread. Bruce has given up, and he may not last the night.

The tension from this opening chapter is immediately done away with as Robin spends two issues reminiscing about how he and Batman faced Two Face not long after the Arkham break-out. The issues aren’t bad, but they are jarring and bring the main narrative to a screeching halt.

It isn’t long after that Bruce decides to make Jean Paul Batman. (I will be referring to Jean Paul’s Batman as AzBat to distinguish him from Bruce’s Batman and because that is what the fandom has labeled him). He makes this decision because Gotham has descended into chaos and Bruce knows that the symbol of the Bat is a powerful one.

I would argue that giving a young man that much responsibility soon after that young man discovered that he had been brainwashed all his life by a cult into becoming an assassin and that he occasionally goes into a trance when his training, called the System, takes over, is a bad decision but I’m not Batman.

Jean Paul pretty much goes crazy right after he dons the cape and cowl. I have no problem with him being more violent than Bruce. Given his background and training, that makes sense. However, he immediately decides that he has to be the ultimate Batman and better than Bruce. He starts treating Robin like dirt. He goes after Bane, even though Bruce made him promise not to. There is just no subtlety to his actions. The writers are basically bludgeoning the readers over the head with how different this AzBat is from Batman.

Not that there aren’t good moments. In the Scarecrow trilogy (inserted rather randomly into the middle of the book interrupting the flow of the story) we get a peek into AzBat’s thinking. Scarecrow has brainwashed a bunch of college students into dressing up like him, going to different parts of the city, and setting off fear bombs. He keeps one brainwashed student with him. They end up on the roof of a building with AzBat and Anarky.

Scarecrow tells the student to jump, secure in the knowledge that AzBat will save the innocent and let Scarecrow get away. AzBat doesn’t do that, however. He lets the kid jump and keeps his grip on Scarecrow. Luckily Anarky saves the student. When he asks AzBat why he let the student jump, AzBat responds by saying that he weighed one life against all the lives the Scarecrow might take if he got away and decided it was worth once innocent life to save the lives of other people. It is a cold and calculating way of looking at things, but at least it gives us some insight into AzBat.

I liked the Scarecrow issues. I am biased in that I have always been a fan of Scarecrow and I will usually read anything with him in it. That said, it is a good story with Scarecrow trying to become the God of Fear by dosing all of Gotham with his fear gas. Also, it does a good job of giving readers more insight into AzBat.

So let is talk about the new costume. I am in the minority because I actually like the new costume that AzBat dons at the end of the trade. Yes, it is very 90s extreme with too many pockets but I think it looks good. Plus, there are in story reasons for why Jean Paul makes the changes to the costume that he does. I think it is a good design. I don’t think it would fit Bruce, but for a new Batman that was raised to be an assassin and was thrust into the role without a lot of training it works.

One thing that disappointed me was Bane. Not the character, because he is still a master villain here but the fact that his reign over Gotham is so short lived. He starts consolidating his power over all the gangs in Gotham but by the end of the trade the new Batman has defeated him. It felt like a lot of build up with little pay-off. I understand the reasoning, though. To make AzBat feel like the true Batman he has to do something that the original Batman couldn’t, which is defeat Bane.

The fight between the two costumed men is great. It is well drawn and well choreographed. It also has emotional resonance. The mayor of Gotham is sick of the police and wants to see Batman bring down Bane, so he orders the police not to interfere, which rankles Gordon and the others. They basically have to stand on the sidelines and watch the fight go down.

Then there is the question of whether AzBat will kill Bane. He has already proven himself to be much more violent than Bruce and it isn’t that much of a stretch to believe he could kill Bane. In the end though he relents, and lets the police haul a broken Bane away.

Of course, for AzBat to truly become Gotham’s new Dark Knight (or maybe dark angel since that is how Jean Paul refers to himself) Bruce has to leave. This is accomplished by having Bruce’s doctor, Shondra, and Tim’s father be kidnapped. Bruce tracks the kidnappers to Santa Prsica, and heads there with Alfred. Catwoman also hitches a ride for reasons unknown though they are revealed in her own title (which I will be reviewing).

I have no problem with that because it gives Bruce his own story and keeps him from learning just how far Jean Paul has gone off the deep end. My main complaint is that neither Bruce nor Alfred take the time to inform Tim that his dad has been kidnapped. They tell Jean Paul they are leaving and then just leave. Alfred leaves a short note with no details for Tim to find later. It just feels callous on the part of the two men not to at least take a few minutes to tell Tim in person what has happened.

Tim does handle himself well here. He tries to keep AzBat’s worst tendencies at bay and is the voice of reason, even if AzBat won’t listen.

In the end, Who Rules the Night is a good read but it doesn’t have the same power as the first trade. It isn’t bad but it wasn’t as good as I was hoping it would be.
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#25 Virgil Vox

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Posted 04 November 2018 - 07:44 PM

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Superman: Funeral For A Friend

I’ve had a hard time writing a review for this because there’s so much going on in this trade. The events take place over a fairly lengthy amount of time and feature a large cast of characters.

Overall this was a good trade. I think Superman is one of the few comic characters that you could realistically do a story like this about simply because he was the first superhero and he was so important to the DC universe. This trade examines his death and the impact it has on the world, though mainly the focus is on Metropolis.

There aren’t a lot of plots that carry through the entire trade. The main one concerns Project Cadmus attempting to steal Superman’s body. They try to take it right after he dies but are stopped. They then steal it after he is buried in his tomb. Eventually Superman’s body is recovered and placed back in the tomb, but Cadmus got what they needed to create the clone that will become Superboy.

It was a good plot and showed just how beloved Superman was. A lot of people take part in trying to recover his body. This is where Lois shines, having the Underworlders help her sneak into Cadmus and taking down some of their guards. Supergirl also gets some good moments from this arc.

A looser plot is the vacuum that has been created now since Superman is gone. Crime has skyrocketed, and no single hero can do what Superman did. Supergirl is the obvious successor and does her best, though she is being subtly manipulated by Lex who wants her to help but not too much.

Instead we see heroes like Gangbuster, the Thorn, the Guardian, and Sinbad. Bigger name heroes like Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, the Flash, etc. do show up but they have their own cities to protect. In a nice Christmas issue they carry on Superman’s tradition of answering letters to Santa.

I felt that this trade tackles the issue of grief and how people process it quite well. Better than I had imagined it would, anyways. Lois and the Kents have it even harder, since they can’t admit that Superman was Clark. In fact, for a lot of the trade Clark is simply presumed missing as a lot of people are thanks to Doomsday’s rampage. In a poignant scene the Kents, unable to attend the funeral for Superman, bury a shoebox full of items from Clark’s childhood. It was sad and moving.

My only complaint is that the focus is on Jonathan. It is his grief that is front and center while Martha is simply there. Jonathan has all the touching flashbacks to Clark’s childhood and seems to have all the grief. I wish they would have focused on Martha more.

It is also Jonathan who seemingly rescues Clark’s soul in the afterlife and brings his son back to life. That was definitely a weird issue as Jonathan was essentially in a coma and traveling the various afterlifes populated in the DC universe. Of course, after Jonathan saves Clark’s soul he wakes up and we see that four new Supermen have appeared, and that Superman’s tomb is once again empty (though this time it looks like Superman simply got better and walked out).

Funeral is definitely another part in a giant saga but it is well written with some good artwork. It does a good job of showing the huge impact Superman’s death has had on the world and how hard it is to fill his shoes. It also does a decent job of setting up the new part in the saga, Reign of the Supermen.
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#26 Virgil Vox

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Posted 20 January 2019 - 10:44 PM

Batman: Knightfall Volume Two – KnightQuest

The previous Knightfall trade I reviewed was Part Two, and now I’m reviewing Volume Two. The reason for this comes from the fact that DC has released this story line multiple times. The first time they released it they did so in three trades: Broken Bat, Who Rules the Knight, and KnightsEnd. This skipped over all the issues featuring Jean Paul as Batman as well as the issues where Bruce searches for Shondra and Jake Drake.

DC released the saga again in bigger volumes, including this one which collects all the issues from the year or so when Jean Paul was AzBats. However, there were still issues missing so DC released the saga again in omnibus form, collecting pretty much every issue connected with this event that they could.

It doesn’t stop there though. DC released the Knightfall issues again not too long ago in honor of the saga’s 25th anniversary. They have divided the massive omnibuses up into smaller trades to make it cheaper for fans to buy. I will probably get the trade that collects all of the prologue issues that introduce Bane and show him plotting against Batman as well as the trade that collects the issues where Bruce searches for his missing friends.

I’m finding it hard to review this trade because it is so massive. It is 655 pages long, for Pete’s sake. There really is no overarching narrative. The trade is made up mainly of single issue stories and two or three issue stories. Towards the end there is a running sub-plot involving the serial killer Abattoir but that is it.
This review will be rambling (well let’s be honest and say more rambling) than my usual reviews so I do apologize for that.

Let’s start by talking about Jean Paul himself. This trade dives into his character much more and better than the last trade did. It examines why he is more violent than Bruce and why he is such a different Batman.

One of the main reasons is the System. This is the brainwashing that the Order of St. Dumas (which included his father) performed on Jean Paul all his life. The System takes over at random intervals and Jean Paul has to fight it. The System is what wants AzBat to be a murderer.

What makes the System interesting is that it manifests itself as two apparitions. The first is Jean Paul’s father, the previous Azrael assassin. He wants his son to embrace the System and be the assassin he was born to be. He urges his son to be more violent and to murder his foes.

The other side of the coin is St. Dumas himself. He is appalled at what the Order has done in his name and sees Jean Paul as a way to break the Order. He wants AzBat to be a dark savior to Gotham. He has no problem with AzBat being violent as long as he doesn’t murder anyone and as long as he treats the citizens of Gotham well and sees them for the innocent people they are.

This makes for an interesting dichotomy as the two apparitions vie for AzBat’s attention. A nice wrinkle is the fact that Jean Paul doesn’t know if the apparitions are real, implanted by the System, or a manifestation of his subconscious. In the end it drives him deeper into madness.

The writers do a good job of showing why AzBat makes the choices he does. He ultimately sees Bruce as a failure as Batman and wants to do the opposite of what Bruce did. This causes him to get rid of Robin because he thinks a side kick will only slow him down. He exiles Robin from the Batcave and seals off the majority of the entrances so the teen hero can’t come back.

It is also why he uses more force. He believes it is the only way to truly rid Gotham of crime. He thinks that using kid gloves on criminals is why Bruce never really seemed to make Gotham a safer city.

In the previous trade he was willing to let a college student die so that Scarecrow wouldn’t escape and continue to terrorize the city. That is taken to its next logical step here. Eventually AzBat comes to believe that killing some of the villains that plague Gotham is the right thing to do.

What I find interesting is that he isn’t totally wrong. How many times did Batman capture the Joker, lock him up in Arkham, only for the Joker to escape and kill more people? When AzBat squares off with the Joker and defeats him, the Joker even makes mention of this. He says he will spend some time relaxing in Arkham until he decides to break out and commit more crime. Unfortunately for him, AzBat isn’t down with that and almost kills the Joker until the police intervene.

My main problem with how the writers end up having AzBat decide to kill a man is that he doesn’t actually make the decision. AzBat has chased the villain Abattoir to a foundry. In the fight Abattoir ends up dangling over a vat of liquid metal. He is barely hanging on and begging for AzBat to save him. St. Dumas and Jean Paul’s father appear, telling AzBat to either save or kill the villain. Frustrated, AzBat says he chooses neither option and for the two apparitions to work it out.
While this happens, Abattoir loses his grip and dies. Sure, it is a shocking moment but it doesn’t have the power it could have if AzBat had actually made the decision to kill Abattoir. All he can really be accused of his not saving the villain, which is exactly what Batman did in Batman Begins.

Afterwards AzBat has no remorse over the death of Abattoir, even though it led to an innocent man dying. (Abattoir had kidnapped a man that was a member of his family and put him in a death trap Jigsaw would be proud of that would slowly kill the man. With Abattoir dead, the police had no way of finding the victim in time and he dies). In fact, the death makes him feel righteous.

Let’s talk about his costume again. I said in the last review that I liked it and I stand by that. I think it looks good. It does go through some alterations here. About half way through the trade Jean Paul decides to make a few changes based on events in some of the stories. He changes the helmet and adds a connection to the Bat-computers. It basically looks more like a medieval knight’s helmet with a red oval on it. He also adds his own stylized Bat-symbol to the chest, which I thought was a nice addition.

At the end of the trade he makes a few more changes. The cape becomes more metallic, I guess, and adds an additional layer of armor to the suit. He also makes his batarang launcher into a fully automatic batarang launcher capable of shredding villains in seconds. This look I didn’t like.

The stories here range from great to bland. The Joker and Abbatoir stories are great, definitely highlights of the trade. Both of the stories are spread throughout the trade, starting in the background before coming front and center.

I also liked the Mr. Freeze issue, which is a one and done that is essentially a horror comic with Freeze in a morgue hunting down the workers.
The Tally Man issues are also pretty good, with some lovely artwork and an interesting new villain with his own twisted origin.

There’s a single issue where Batman helps a woman from South America find the baby she sold to support her other children. It was just okay. I could have done without it.

Several issues deal with the Clayface family. I hadn’t realized that there had been multiple men and women taking the Clayface identity but here they are, and two of them have reproduced. These issues contribute to the overall Abbatoir story line. They are okay but not great.

New Blood Ballistic shows back up and teams up once again with AzBat. I liked the issues but the villains are just stupid. They are basically 90s punk rockers that just happen to be the Three Stooges. Seriously. I’m not sure who thought that was a good idea.

In the end, this is a large trade covering almost a year of story lines of Jean Paul Valley as Batman. It definitely has its ups and downs but I think it works more than it doesn’t. The examination of Jean Paul’s psyche is fascinating and it is interesting to see him get more violent as the trade progresses. I feel it is a testament to the fact that without his support network Bruce might have gone the same way as Jean Paul.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
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It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman

#27 Christopher

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Posted 21 January 2019 - 06:49 AM

The original 1940s Clayface was a horror actor named Basil Karlo who used his expertise in makeup to disguise himself (presumably inspired by Lon Chaney, despite being named after Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff). It was in the Silver Age, when the book took a more sci-fi turn, that we got the first shapeshifting Clayface, Matt Hagen (the one the Batman: The Animated Series version was named after).
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#28 RJDiogenes

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Posted 21 January 2019 - 05:22 PM

View PostVirgil Vox, on 20 January 2019 - 10:44 PM, said:

The other side of the coin is St. Dumas himself. He is appalled at what the Order has done in his name and sees Jean Paul as a way to break the Order.  

This is a cool idea to incorporate into the character. One of the recurring themes in human history, which always leads to death, doom, and assorted chaos, is that of the group or movement that starts off as a positive force and but eventually is corrupted by its own good intentions and becomes its own evil twin.

Quote

What I find interesting is that he isn’t totally wrong. How many times did Batman capture the Joker, lock him up in Arkham, only for the Joker to escape and kill more people?  

While this is true, it's more of a construct of postmodernism than a valid commentary on The Batman. After all, the Joker et al keep returning because DC needs to bring back popular villains to sell their books, not because The Batman is a failure. Maybe they should do a graphic novel that is the antithesis of Dark Knight Returns, wherein Batman is at the end of his life and has lived to see a Gotham free of weird super-criminals.  They could call it The Knight At The End Of The Tunnel.  :lol:

Quote

New Blood Ballistic shows back up and teams up once again with AzBat. I liked the issues but the villains are just stupid. They are basically 90s punk rockers that just happen to be the Three Stooges. Seriously. I’m not sure who thought that was a good idea.  

Actually....
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#29 Christopher

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Posted 21 January 2019 - 06:37 PM

View PostRJDiogenes, on 21 January 2019 - 05:22 PM, said:

While this is true, it's more of a construct of postmodernism than a valid commentary on The Batman. After all, the Joker et al keep returning because DC needs to bring back popular villains to sell their books, not because The Batman is a failure.

Yes. Also, in the early days, the Joker often appeared to die at the end of his stories, so it wasn't like he escaped from prison every time. (Although there was one story that started with the Joker surviving execution through some fluke and being set free because the sentence for his crimes had already been carried out. Of course, Batman and Robin soon put him away for a new crime.)

Also, the Joker's lethality has been escalated quite a lot over the decades. He was a killer in his early years, but was toned down to a colorful thief by the late '40s. He became a killer again in the '70s, but only of specific individuals he targeted in his crimes. His mass murder in The Dark Knight Returns was supposed to be a shocking escalation beyond anything he'd done before, part of the overall extreme dystopian future the book portrayed, but later writers missed the point and duplicated TDKR's extremes in the present-day, mainstream Batman comics. So we got the paradox of the Joker becoming an extreme mass murderer yet still being subject to the same revolving-door story structure used when he was a gimmicky bank robber. What's more, I gather that recent comics have escalated characters like the Penguin, the Riddler, and even the Mad Hatter to the same level of mass slaughter and mayhem, so the Joker isn't even exceptional anymore.
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#30 Cybersnark

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Posted 22 January 2019 - 10:54 AM

Yeah, it's the same slavish dedication to the status quo that means that the character-arc-resolving cures/redemptions of Ed Nygma and Harvey Dent end up getting undone in short order.
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#31 Virgil Vox

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Posted 03 February 2019 - 08:33 PM

Quote

This is a cool idea to incorporate into the character. One of the recurring themes in human history, which always leads to death, doom, and assorted chaos, is that of the group or movement that starts off as a positive force and but eventually is corrupted by its own good intentions and becomes its own evil twin.

It is a good idea and I hope it is followed up on. Azrael gets his own series after the Knightsend story so maybe we will learn more about the Order and how it has changed over time.

Quote

While this is true, it's more of a construct of postmodernism than a valid commentary on The Batman. After all, the Joker et al keep returning because DC needs to bring back popular villains to sell their books, not because The Batman is a failure. Maybe they should do a graphic novel that is the antithesis of Dark Knight Returns, wherein Batman is at the end of his life and has lived to see a Gotham free of weird super-criminals.  They could call it The Knight At The End Of The Tunnel.  :lol:

I know it isn't a valid commentary on Batman but it works to justify why Jean Paul takes a more extreme approach to dealing with criminals. He believes that Bruce failed because he has been Batman for years and Gotham hasn't improved. Of course Gotham can't improve because then you have no need for Batman and thus no Batman comics.

Quote

Also, the Joker's lethality has been escalated quite a lot over the decades. He was a killer in his early years, but was toned down to a colorful thief by the late '40s. He became a killer again in the '70s, but only of specific individuals he targeted in his crimes. His mass murder in The Dark Knight Returns was supposed to be a shocking escalation beyond anything he'd done before, part of the overall extreme dystopian future the book portrayed, but later writers missed the point and duplicated TDKR's extremes in the present-day, mainstream Batman comics. So we got the paradox of the Joker becoming an extreme mass murderer yet still being subject to the same revolving-door story structure used when he was a gimmicky bank robber. What's more, I gather that recent comics have escalated characters like the Penguin, the Riddler, and even the Mad Hatter to the same level of mass slaughter and mayhem, so the Joker isn't even exceptional anymore.

Yeah, I feel like a lot of writers took the wrong ideas from comics like TDKR and Watchmen and I think comics have suffered because of it. Like you stated, Joker has become a mass murderer of epic proportions yet the way he is handled hasn't changed. It is also sad that other villains, not just Batman's, have also become mass murderers. Writers keep having these villains do bigger and more horrifying acts and then have to top themselves constantly.

Quote

Yeah, it's the same slavish dedication to the status quo that means that the character-arc-resolving cures/redemptions of Ed Nygma and Harvey Dent end up getting undone in short order.

That's the comic industry for you. Everything will eventually return to the status quo, even if it takes a while. Look at Barry Allen. He was killed off and Wally took his place and was the main Flash for decades and yet DC wanted Barry back and so they brought him back and shoved Wally aside. Hell, the entire concept of the New 52 was to erase all the legacy characters and start fresh with the regular status quos.

Wonder Woman and Justice League America Vol. 1 by Dan Vado, Kevin West, and Rick Burchett

While this trade has a new name and trade numbering, it is the continuation of the Justice League series from the Superman and Justice League America Vol. 2 trade.

Author Dan Vado takes over writing duties from Mr. Jurgens, while Kevin West takes over primary artist duties.

I had never heard of Vado before this. I found an interview where he talks about his run on Justice League followed by writing duties on Extreme Justice and the reasons for him quitting.

At first, I wasn’t too impressed by Mr. Vado. His opening two part story was just okay and featured some pretty lame villains. His Guy Gardner is more misogynistic and combative and extremely off-putting.  However, after that story is out of the way everything improves dramatically. There is also an explanation for why Guy has become even more of a tool. I ended up loving this trade.

Kevin West has a style similar to Dan Jurgens, which is nice. It’s a clean style that doesn’t over sexualize the female heroes and is easy to follow.

There are some changes to the League in this trade. Black Condor and Agent Liberty are gone. No mention is made of where they went but that’s okay. They had such a small role in the previous trade that losing them here doesn’t hurt anything. The real Bloodwynd has opted to remain with the team as well.

That makes the active roster Wonder Woman, Guy Gardner, Maxima, the Ray, and Bloodwynd. Ice quit, Fire no longer has her powers, Booster has no future suit, and Beetle isn’t sure he wants to be a hero anymore.

I like what Vado has done with the team and their plight. Beetle is more or less suffering from PTSD after his fight with Doomsday and doesn’t want to put the costume back on. He saw that no one cared that he was in a coma aside from his League friends. At the same time, so much of his life has been about being a hero he doesn’t know what else to do.

Ice might have quit but she still has a presence in the book in a sub-plot running through most of the issues. It sees her returning to her ice kingdom home and discovering that her younger brother Ewald has more or less taken over and plans on invading North America. Ice also gets a new costume and it looks good.

Booster eventually gets a new suit courtesy of Beetle. It’s an old Rocket Red suit with a few modifications. It allows Booster to be a hero again but the suit isn’t perfect and quits working on him a few times. It is also just a truly terrible design.

The second story is where this book comes to life. A pair of human looking aliens (Blake and Corbett) crash land in America. The Justice League responds and discovers that the two aliens are political prisoners running from a race of reptilian aliens. Wonder Woman offers them sanctuary. The problem is that President Clinton has already spoken to the Kerillians and promised to extradite the prisoners. He sends Captain Atom a team of soldiers with heavy duty fire power called the Peacekeepers to take Blake and Corbett away from the JSA. Diana refuses, leading to a fight scene and a political stand-off.

The story line is great because it has a few twists to it and is more than just your standard superhero comic. Diana is correct when she says that the Earth needs to create some kind of extradition law to handle cases like these and that they need to evaluate Blake and Corbett’s guilt or innocence before handing them over. I also appreciated that Wonder Woman and Captain Atom came to blows over what role the government should have over the Justice League and what the right thing to do is instead of it being an ego thing.

The twist is that Blake and Corbett are actually villains who had planned to kill the Kerillian president and who attempt to rape Fire. It was a bold move to make the Justice League on the wrong side and harboring deadly fugitives but Diana says that her point about extradition still stands.

This leads into the next story line as it is revealed that Guy has actually been an evil clone this entire time, replaced by aliens who plan to conquer the universe with evil Lantern clones. The real Guy shows up, leading to a big fight between the real Guy, the JL, and the evil clone. These issues were well done and I was happy to have a reason for Guy acting so out of character. Apparently Vado did not know about this evil clone thing at first and the editors changed the dialogue he had given to Guy to make it fit with the plot without telling Vado. Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t happy about be kept in the dark or having his work changed, especially when fans started directing their ire at Guy’s personality change at him.

The last story in the trade (aside from a Bloodlines tie-in that I’ll review separately) sees the Ice sub-plot come to the fore. She has been imprisoned by her brother Ewald who has a mysterious and powerful benefactor helping him take over. The JLA finds out and rides to Ice’s rescue. Beetle even suits up, though he is still reluctant to do so. Fire also goes with the team despite not having her powers. Beetle provides her with some experimental weaponry.

Those last few issues are great, full of some well drawn action scenes and nice character moments. Ewald is a powerful threat, and he gives the League a run for their money. Ice does eventually bring him down, but declines to stay and rule. She wants to leave with the League and continue to help people.

The mysterious villain is seen saying that Ewald’s defeat is only temporary and that Earth’s fate has already been decided. Hopefully this is a plot that will be followed up on.

I highly recommend this trade, especially if you have read the two previous trades in this run. Vado does a fantastic job of picking up where Jurgens left off. He shows that he can handle the characters and come up with some fascinating plots. I love that he has the characters actually deal with the ramifications of the Doomsday battle. The villains are good (aside from the Extremists at the start) and provide a nice threat for the League. I think the roster has settled down nicely and this is a pretty good League. It may not have the heavy hitters but it works.

Bloodlines: Justice League America Annual – Only the Lucky Ones Die! By Loebs, LaRocque, Jones, and Stegbauer

Here we are introduced to New Blood Terrorsmith. Originally he was a regular guy named Jack who had a crappy life but blamed all his problems on other people. His bad luck continues when he is attacked by two Parasites, Lissik and Venev. He survives but changes and looks like a dime store vampire. He realizes he has the power to transform any one he touches into a monster, and uses the power to get revenge on, well, everyone.

Meanwhile the League is doing its best to contain the Parasites but aren’t having much luck. They are producing PSAs with Maxwell Lord to warn the public about the Parasites. That was something I appreciated, because up until this point it seemed like no one was really connecting the dots between all the Parasite attacks.

Lord also brings in three New Bloods to help the League fight the parasites. They are Slingshot, Shadowstryke, and Krag. They are about as 90s as they come but the writer does attempt to give them some personality and background. Shadowstryke saw his entire family murdered by the parasites and is reminded of that event every time he uses his powers. Krag is basically the Thing and he can’t feel anything through his thick, rock like skin. It isn’t much but at least it is something.

The League becomes aware of Terrorsmith since he hasn’t kept his powers much of a secret as he turns a lot of innocent people into rampaging monsters.

Honestly, it was hard to like this guy because he has such a crappy personality and he has no real remorse for what he is doing. He does help the JLA at the end when they finally capture him. It turns out that if he concentrates he can do more than just create monsters. He ends up giving Fire her powers back, but it is only temporary as the League discovers that everyone that was turned into a monster eventually changes back.

It all leads to a finale where the League confronts Lissik, Venev, and Angon as they attack a unity rally that is being held. The League manages to run the parasites off and Terrorsmith escapes as well.

This was an okay issue. It isn’t one I would be likely to just pick up and read by itself. I did like that it slightly advanced the overall narrative with the League warning the public about the parasites and the parasites themselves saying that they are in the second stage of their plan so they can’t afford to lose anyone.

Bloodlines: Adventures of Superman Annual – Blood Relations by Kesel, Grummett, Hannigan, and Pepoy

The other Superman replacements had their own chance to go up against the parasites and now the Kid of Steel gets his. Superboy is resting in the hospital after destroying the bomb the Cyborg Superman launched to destroy Metropolis when Maggie Sawyer busts in and asks for his help with the parasites. Superboy finally understands what it means to wear the “S” so he agrees.

Unluckily for him, four parasites are in Metropolis. Pritor, Lissik, Gemir, and Glonth have come up with a plan to get all the spinal fluid they need. They have taken over a building and pretend to be philanthropists intending to feed the homeless. They plan to attract the majority of the city’s homeless population in one night and feed.

While that is going on a young woman from Canada named D.C. Force arrives in Metropolis with her uncle Harry. D.C. is the only member of the Force family not to acquire superpowers yet and she and her uncle hope to run into a parasite since they have heard that some of the victims gain powers. Not the best plan but it does end up working. D.C. changes into Sparx, one of the more well known New Bloods who would pop up every now and then in various DC books. As her name implies she has electrical based powers.

I really liked this issue. Since it was written by the men who created this version of Superboy they obviously have his voice down and do a good job of giving his supporting cast small roles. D.C. and her uncle are fleshed out characters you root for even as they do something really stupid. Heck, we even get a fun Bibbo cameo.

The threat from the parasites is ramped up since Superboy has to go up against four of them. Their plan is actually pretty good, and could have worked if not for Superboy and Sparx (along with Maggie and the SCU).

Superboy shows he has what it takes to be a member of the Superman family as he holds his own against the parasites though it was lucky for him that Sparx showed up when she did.

This issue also reveals what the parasites are up to. We are shown a giant vat in their ship filled with green liquid and writhing tentacles. It seems the parasites are feeding this creature, called the Taker, the spinal fluid so that it will grow to giant size and feed on the Earth. The stakes have just been raised big time.

This was one of the better Bloodlines annuals and comes highly recommended. It is a good story with likeable characters and plenty of action.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
--Jor-El


It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman



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