In recent weeks, CW’s Arrow has taken a somewhat darker turn, and it all has to do with how the metaplot concerning the League of Assassins has developed and the large shadow that the season villain, Ra’s al Ghul, has begun to cast on the characters. He is a downright manipulative bastard and since Oliver has refused to take up his offer of becoming the next Ra’s al Ghul, the current incumbent has seen fit to take it upon himself to make sure that Oliver does what he wants, no matter who has to die for that, criminals or innocents or both.
Last week’s “Suicidal Tendencies“, while it involved the Suicide Squad for much of the episode’s running length, was pivotal in what it made Oliver confront when it came to the League. Maseo is wholly sworn over to the League and he is now on a mission to destroy the Arrow’s reputation in Starling, on orders of Ra’s al Ghul. And this creates problems, not the least of which is Ray confronting the Arrow while decked out in his brand-new ATOM suit. And on the other side of the world in Kaznia, the Suicide Squad team does a few really unexpected things, things that really made me love the likes of Deadshot and Cupid. Oh and there was a wedding involved, which was kind of fun amongst the darkness.
The Flash last week ended on a pretty exciting note: Barry doing some real time travel finally, amid a whole host of other complications for the scarlet speedster that leave him in some of the most complicated situations of his life as a superhero. With all that happened in last week’s episode, what I wanted out of the episode this week was to go big and go explosive because it is a pretty big freaking moment for everyone involved on the show, and the trip getting there was certainly one to talk about and go home to.
In this week’s episode, “Rogue Time“, we have the consequences of Barry time-traveling as he did. Like I said, it was a pretty big moment, with him going back in time almost an entire day, and this episode lays out just what that is going to cost him in the long run. For one, though Cisco doesn’t die in the “new” day, and Barry is able to ensure that Mark Mardon is caught well in time, the Rogues are back in town and they make life hell for Barry. And all the complications of time travel mean that it is not just Barry’s superhero life that is affected, but also is his personal life, especially his relationships to two other characters.
Note: This review contains some major spoilers about this episode.
When CW’s Arrow went on break back in February, the final minutes of the 15th episode of the 3rd season provided us with one of the biggest twists to date on the show: Ra’s al Ghul, the Demon’s Head and leader of the League of Assassins, wanted to make Oliver Queen his successor, the next Ra’s al Ghul. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Hold your horses there! What!? Yep, pretty damn big twist and something that needed a lot of clarification from a story perspective. Which is where the returning episode from last week, “The Offer“, came in.
The episode last week laid out exactly why Ra’s al Ghul chose Oliver as his successor instead of his own daughter, Nyssa al Ghul, who has been quite the force on the show ever since her debut in the middle of the second season. In a war of dual identities where much of the good he has done has been twisted and rendered ineffective, Oliver seriously considers the offer, and the journey to get to that point speaks volumes about how he and his friends and allies have developed over the last three years, and the long road that lies ahead of them all.
We currently live in one of the greatest periods in comics history. First, superhero movies have become the real BIG thing on the box office and there are several studios scrambling to get a slice of the big pie it is and create some lasting legacies. Second, superhero television has continued to grow at a breakneck pace in the last three years, surpassing most expectations I dare say, even after all the previous greats that we’ve already had. And leading the charge for superhero television right now is CW’s The Flash, which has done much to incorporate comic-book concepts in a realistic way for the audience and also balance the humour and the grim realities really well.
About a month ago, The Flash left us off with a great episode that did much to cement the place of yet another superhero in the incredible line-up of CW’s other characters, Firestorm. The episode also finally gave us a good view of Gorilla Grodd, in an epic scene that involved Harrison Wells and General Eiling as well. Returning this week, the show kind of got back to the basics as Clyde Mardon’s brother Mark Mardon returned to Starling to avenge his brother’s death, while also moving forward with the whole “identity of the Reverse-Flash” plot that has been swinging about in the story for a good while now.
There haven’t been any “Comics Picks of the Week” articles for a while, and the major reason for that is because I’ve just been too caught up with other stuff and I just can’t be… well bothered. It just takes too much out of my time to keep these titles going, especially when Wednesdays also see me trying to get through two TV shows and doing reviews for them. Though, that situation has kind of abated now.
Anyway, this week’s surprise hits were Batman: Arkham Knight #2 and Gotham Central Book 1 from DC. It was a relatively small week for me since I didn’t read all that many new titles and most of those were middling. Ongoing greats were Django/Zorro #4, John Carter: Warlord of Mars #4, Fantastic Four #643 , Inhuman #12, Aquaman #39 , Catwoman #39 , and He-Man: The Eternity War #3 among others .
Not much of a secret of late that ever since Selina took over as the Head of the Calabrese-Kyle family that things have been heating up between the various crimelords of Gotham. She is a completely new element thrown into the picture, someone who never worked well with any of the others, being a lone wolf of sorts, but now she is suddenly at the head of the entire pack. Since taking over from the previous writer, Genevieve Valentine has been crafting a pretty incredible tale with the “former” Catwoman, and artists Garry Brown and Lee Loughridge have clearly enjoyed going to town with the new status quo of the titular character.
With all that Selina has been through of late, there are still plenty of challenges ahead of her and this past week’s Catwoman #39 presents one of the many ways in which she has started to bounce back after all the setup of the previous issue. This time, she takes Roman Sionis head on and even attempts to influence the Hasigawa family. Her enemies are all converging on her, and Genevieve shows that Selina is at her best with her back to the wall. This issue also presents some new opportunities to the artists, and they deliver quite well on the expectations.
The first two installments of The Eternity War have been very impressive. Writer Dan Abnett did some great work in the now-cancelled ongoing and then he ported all of that to the new series, where he has finally pitched He-Man against Hordak in a mass epic war that is something straight out of a fantasy novel. And it is glorious. Utterly glorious. It also helps that artists Pop Mhan and Mark Roberts have given him ample support and have put out some really great visuals that perfectly capture the feel of the setting and the franchise at large.
The newest issue from this past week takes a break from all the He-Man stuff and instead focuses on a character I’ve dearly missed in the new series, She-Ra aka Princess Adora aka Despara aka He-Man’s sister. She has been conspicuous by her absence so far, but in this issue Dan Abnett deftly segues her arc into a mission for the new Sorceress, Teela, and shows what happens when She-Ra goes after her former Horde comrades. And along the way, we get more awesome visuals by Pop and Mark, who have a great handle on how to depict all the glory of She-Ra.
I remember back in the first season of Arrow, there were a ton of breaks in the show. It was as if we couldn’t go a straight month without one break in-between episodes or something. It was quite frustrating for someone like me, who hadn’t really watched shows “live” before, binge-watching entire seasons being more my thing, and so it was one of the few things I didn’t like about Arrow. But I’ll admit that when an episode leading up to a break is as awesome as the mid-season finale back in December, or this week’s episode, “Nanda Parbat“, then things are very different.
“Nanda Parbat” this week is one of the most intense episodes of the third season yet, and also one of the best to date. Last week Thea found out that Malcolm had used her in his war against the League of Assassins, making her commit Sara’s murder. It was an emotional moment for everyone involved and the new episode picks from that point, affecting everyone once again. Thea makes a dangerous choice and then it is up to Oliver and Diggle to figure out a way out of this jam, while Felicity and Ray continue working away at his ATOM suit, which we finally saw in full!
In recent months, Geoff Johns’ Justice League seems to have found a new lease on being awesome after all the unpleasantness of the Forever Evil crossover, and has become one of my most anticipated titles in any given month. The current story arc with the AMAZO virus is incredibly by all accounts, and it is really nice to see a comic that mixes in supervillains working alongside superheroes work out so well. Plus, who can really fault a comic where the Justice League has to depend on Lex Luthor to save the day and even work with him on it? Crazy, I tell you!
We have seen in the previous issues that as far as the AMAZO virus is concerned, the fate of metahumans everywhere and even the world hangs in the balance. And all that stands between this supposedly sentient and ever-evolving virus and the world are Lex Luthor, Superman and Wonder Woman. Batman was a part of the action too, but unfortunately he too has “fallen” and is now part of the enemy host. What this issue does really well is show off the antagonism between Lex and Superman in a great way, while Wonder Woman gets some of the most amazing action sequences that a female superhero at DC has gotten in the last three and a half years.
With Brick out of the picture, and Oliver back from Nanda Parbat or wherever it was that he “fell” while fighting against Ra’s al Ghul in a duel, it was time for the show to move on to grander things yet, such as Team Arrow dealing with their central element being back in the picture, and Oliver learning how much the city and his friends have changed in his absence. And at the same time, we also got to see some really nifty stuff elsewhere as Oliver finally comes clean with Thea about his… extracurriculars, which in itself was handled maturely by the writers of the episode.
In this week’s episode, “The Return“, we have Thea and Oliver on Lian Yu, training to fight against the League of Assassins. Malcolm wants Oliver to regain his killer instinct, the one he displayed when the two of them had their big showdown in the season one finale and which Oliver did not have during the season two finale against Slade Wilson, and so the Dark Archer puts into effect a really dangerous plan that just might see both Thea and Oliver dead. With the return of the awesome Manu Bennett as Slade, this episode would have been great on its own, but we also get to see Oliver and Maseo come to Starling in the flashbacks, and those sequences expose something deep-rooted with the show.
CW’s The Flash has full-on moved into the second half of its debut season, and by all account it is doing a terrific job. The mid-season finale changed a lot of things for almost all the characters and the show’s return from its break has been nothing short of phenomenal. Of course, there are the occasional hiccups (which show doesn’t have them?) but by and large, The Flash has been a tremendous success for comic book properties, showing explicitly that you can have humour and seriousness at the same time without compromising or overdoing either. That really is what The Flash is all about.
This week’s episode, “Fallout“, picks up from where the last week left off, with Firestorm set to go nuclear and Barry and Caitlin racing to avoid the fallout. Well, it turns out that Harrison Wells’ quantum splicer did its trick after all and the good guys are able to separate Ronnie from Dr. Stein. But of course, the tale isn’t done because General Eiling is on Firestorm’s case and much of the episode deals with the back-and-forth between them, and we learn that General Eiling knows far more about what goes on at STAR Labs than anyone thought he did, and he also comes prepared for every eventuality. Almost. As great as the episode was though, the stinger at the end was beyond awesome and incredible. Totally fangasmic in the best way possible.
In December of last year, DC kicked off its New 52 version of the Secret Six with a new series by Gail Simone and Ken Lashley. The first issue introduced Catman to us in detail while also covering the other members of the team roster, and it ended up being one hell of a story combined with some equally great art. As a fan of Gail’s work in general, and having read a previous Secret Six graphic novel, this was definitely one of my highly-anticipated titles of the Fall’14 season, and the book did not disappoint.
This past week’s Secret Six #2 carries on directly from where the first issue left off some 2 months back. We continue to get some great background information on Thomas Blake aka Catman, while at the same time also coming to understand the group of misfits assembled together by some mysterious character for some so-far-unexplained objective. Gail Simone continues to delve rather fantastically into what makes each of these characters tick, especially Catman, while on the other side Ken Lashley and the other artists also turn out some magic.