DC’s Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman got off to a really great start last year, but somewhere along the way, it kind of lost its momentum with some really odd stories that seemed to be shoehorned in, for no reason at all. And that’s kind of why I felt turned off from the experience of reading the comics, and even writing the reviews, because I didn’t want to review what I saw as less-than-expected. There were some good stories in the middle, sure, but mostly, it was all just rather boring.
Thankfully, issues #33 through #35 provide something of a revival in that respect. Some of the recent stories have been really good, and I think that it is this arc, Vendetta, that puts it all into perspective. Written by Josh Elder, this arc is all about a fateful encounter between Diana and Ares, set against the backdrop of a racial civil war in a war-torn African country. It feels simplistic at first, but it has a great message, and that’s the true value of it. The art by Jamal Igle, Juan Castro, Wendy Broome and Deron Bennett is also fairly decent, though it could use some improvements.
DC’s He-Man: The Eternity War has been kicking butt since it started. Spinning out of the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series, this new book has really ramped up everything that was great about that series, and given it a new context, one that is grander and just generally more epic. While I loved the contributions from the early creative team on that series, the change of guard with Dan Abnett as writer made things so much better, and The Eternity War has pretty much delivered on everything that I could ask of it, month after month.
Issues #4 and #5 continue the tale of Hordak’s all-out invasion of Eternia as the big bad himself has come to the world now, intending on destroying his enemies in a final all-out conflict. He-Man and his sister She-Ra have done much to head him off, what with He-Man and She-Ra leading an army of Serpent Men against Hordak’s forces, even as the rest of the loyal Eternians do their own thing. But things are really heating up now, and even as one of He-Man’s oldest enemy returns, the future of the war to save Eternia is very, very uncertain, because if there’s one thing that defines this setting, it is the constant betrayal and deception that is employed by the villains.
Since it premiered back in 2012, Arrow has not been a show to ignore the dark corners of the superhero psyche. Again and again we have seen some really horrible things happen on the show, whether it is torture or mutilation or what have you and betrayal of the self and betrayal of the family is something that has been a running theme on the show. Season 3 itself got off to a really grim tone last year, and recent episodes have shown that this theme isn’t going anywhere and that the times are indeed wholly dark for Team Arrow.
Episodes 18-20 of the show have been very interesting from a story perspective. Oliver’s secret is once again out in the open as Ra’s al Ghul intensifies his… pressure on Oliver to become the next Demon’s Head, and with this come some true heroics from the team. And not only that but we also get to see Ray Palmer become a hero himself, as he begins to embrace the difference he can make alongside Team Arrow and even perhaps as a part of it. But that is all overshadowed by what is happening in the flashbacks, where Oliver and the Yamashiros’ freedom has become anything but.
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.
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.
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 .
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!
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.
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.
It isn’t a secret that CW’s Arrow has had an amazingly good season 3 as far as I’m concerned. I’ve loved pretty much all that we’ve seen on the show so far in the 2014-2015 season, and the greatest thing definitely has to be the fact that Starling City has gone bring the Vigilante’s city to a City of Heroes. Season 2 actually had that whole latter theme going on, but it was more a transitionary thing, and it is season 3 is where it all starts to really come together. And along the way, characters like Thea Queen and Laurel Lance have improved immeasurably since their earliest appearances on the show, while the others like Felicity Smoak and Oliver Queen among others have continued to grow.
Two weeks back the villain Brick, who has set himself up as the new power in the Glades, set the stage for a hostile takeover for all of the Glades, pushing out both policemen and city officials. We’ve already seen before that Team Arrow minus Oliver has really struggled against Brick before, so them going up against the big bad once again is perhaps not the best idea, but then, the way it is all handled in episode 12 shows how Team Arrow has grown into being more than just Oliver’s allies of need and circumstance. And this theme carries on over in episode 13 from this week when we see how the team functions when it is whole once again.
In the world of Swamp Thing, the new Machine Kingdom has made some incredible advances in a very short amount of time, going so far as to create its own Avatar, thereby picking one of the titular hero’s greatest enemies as its champion. And the battle that has followed from that has not been kind to the hero or his closest allies either. In fact, Swamp Thing and the others are losing the fight, and that’s where the fun really comes in I think, to see the hero tested beyond what you’d expect, and to see the incredibly rich lore of Swamp Thing really come alive.
In Swamp Thing #39 from last week, we pick up from where we left off in the last issue, namely with the cliffhanger of Swamp Thing being confronted by his own formally mortal body, now reincarnated by the Machine Queen to serve as her ace in the hole. The new issue is absolutely brutal in its execution, and writer Charles Soule sets a brutal pace for the reader. Losing to the combined power of his doppelganger, the Machine Queen and Arcane, Swamp Thing is now in for the battle of his life, to eke out the smallest measure of victory from these dark events.