Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea
Disappointing non-conclusion (no, not just the lack of any deaths or resting in peace), but satisfying issue nonetheless would be the best way to describe the final chapter to Batman RIP.
To be honest, I loved the opening pages of this issue. It was like a different Grant Morrison was writing this compared to earlier issues with how it flowed. That's not to say it's been 'dumb downed' or whatever generic Morrison fanboy derogatory remark is being tossed about at detractors for this storyline, as it still very much maintains that Morrisonian style we've all grown to love, but it is a noticeable change from the jarring scene changes and obscure references mashed together in previous issues.
As I said, though, the opening was great. It features Batman trapped in a coffin and buried in a shallow grave by the Black Glove as we see them gloating over their victory, Joker coming back to bite them in the ass and the eventual return of Batman, 'back from the dead', all intermixed with a flashback to 52, which added a little more depth to the story and should have been revealed to the readers months ago, preferably back when he first started seeding the whole Black Glove storyline. I was also a little confused as to how Batman got back in his normal costume when he was in the hobo costume and maskless at the end of the last issue.
Regardless, these few inconsistencies only really came up on my second read through for this review and they didn't even register the first time through, making them only footnotes and non-factors in my opinion.
After the stirring opening, I was a little let down by the rather dull final act. It simply consists of Batman beating up random Black Glove goons while Dr Hurt spouts off about how he's really Bruce's father, Thomas Wayne, and Batman rebutting him the whole way. In the end, it didn't feel like there was any closure as to who Dr Hurt was, which I assume was the intent, and the whole speech about how 'he's the piece that doesn't fit', etc, just seems to be Morrison's way of telling fans he doesn't even know or care who Hurt is and won't be explaining it, so we shouldn't care either.
Finally, the storyline wraps up with Batman pursuing Hurt, who was escaping in a helicopter piloted by the 'evil Batman' from earlier issues, and it crashes, 'killing' everyone on board, including Batman. This lead to a rather breath taking splashpage of Nightwing holding the tattered cape and cowl, which I assume means he'll be taking it up in a few months time. Well, I suppose they weren't really killed, but everyone aboard disappears and we get an epilogue with Batman missing for several months, which I guess is supposed to be the RIP part of the story.
I wasn't expecting a death or the Batman persona to be killed off or anything drastic as such, but the entire Black Glove storyline felt forced to begin with and then, to have Morrison just wash the whole organization away with nary an explanation felt cheap and unfulfilling to me and I felt a bit cheated after waiting for answers to the numerous questions posed by their appearance and intimate knowledge of Batman and Bruce Wayne.
Also, many of the cameos by people from previous storylines over the past year of Morrison's run felt forced and offered little to the actual story. Talia's only point to this story, who's arrival seemed important a few issues ago, was to unleash the ninja Man-Bat's on Jezebel Jet during the epilogue. That evil third Batman also comes out of nowhere as the helicopter pilot and does nothing for the story. Damian driving the Batmobile and running down the Joker-driven ambulance was another, as was the one or two page appearance of the League of Batmen. It was as if Morrison was pandering to his fans with these wasted pages, which didn't really add anything to this story or conclusion. This is doubly so when you consider several pages from earlier issues were wasted on some of these characters in a faux build up that was never delivered on.
Verdict - Must Read. As a single issue, I think this was the strongest in the Batman RIP storyline and, combined with the last issue, redeems a story I had almost written off. However, as a concluding chapter to a story promising the death of Batman, with mountains of hype surrounding it, I think it fails to deliver any kind of definitive ending, good or bad, which is rather disappointing in the grand scheme of things. Mostly a Must Read for the impact it will have on the coming months, but a good issue on its own, as well.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #7
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by Paul Pelletier
Guardians of the Galaxy has been a great read since its conception several months ago, but it's never really had that one defining issue yet to set the tone for the book. That all changes with this issue as Abnett and Lanning have delivered what I'd consider the best issue in the series.
The oddest thing about this issue is that I can't really pin-point what exactly makes it so much better than the previous issues. It has the same action packed story, lots of great one-liners from the varied cast of characters, several plotlines being progressed and even hints at future storylines that every other issue in the series had, but it just flowed so much better than previous issues and hit all the right notes for me and has me genuinely excited about the series for the first time since it launched.
So, what happened this month to have me speaking so highly of this issue of Guardians? One thing might be the way DnA perfectly weaved in and out of several different plot threads throughout the issue. Whether it was the future view of the Badoon ruled Earth or the hints at the upcoming War of Kings storyline or even the jumping back and forth between the various former members of the Guardians and the current makeshift team put together by Rocket Raccoon, this issue just flowed perfectly.
Another thing I really enjoyed was the return to action of several Guardian members, including Bug, who was left off the team when the book launched for some reason, Mantis, who had been confined to inactive duty for no apparent reason, and Groot, who'd been busy regrowing in a pot since the end of Annihilation: Conquest. Seeing everyone back in action again was a nice change of pace and these characters added some much needed dynamics to the book.
Speaking of Annihilation, this issue reminded me very much of the initial Annihilation event and its prologue issue with how it set up the Badoon threat, followed the various character subplots and ended with a compelling cliffhanger which sets up events for future issues.
In regards to the Badoon, in the future segment of this issue, it showed the future Guardian team fighting back against the Badoon, who had conquered Earth and most of the universe. The rest of the issue focused mainly on the current make shift Guardian team fighting against an unknown enemy, which turns out to be the Badoon initiating the very plans that lead to that future domination.
To me, this was a brilliant time to reintroduce the Badoon as I had been wondering where this alien race was during all these major cosmic events, which makes up one of the bigger empires in the universe, up there with the Shi'ar, Kree and Skrulls, and it looks like DnA haven't forgotten about them either. After the events of Annihilation, Conquest and the Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire, it looks like the Badoon are finally going to be making a move and I wonder if they will play into War of Kings, which was hinted at during the Drax segment of this issue, or if it will be confined to the GotG title.
As for what was going on with everyone else in the issue, Drax and Quasar went looking for Cammy, who was seemingly forgotten about after the first Annihilation, and a fortune teller hints at both the War of Kings event and the possibility of Moondragon still being alive. Meanwhile, Gamora and Warlock are busy hunting down the Church of Universal Truth and Warlock professes to wanting to take over the organization, which leads me to believe we may be seeing the possible return of Magus. Finally, Starlord ends up in the Negative Zone at the feet of Blastaar, who may end up being another player in the upcoming War of Kings based on what I'm seeing here.
Verdict - Must Read. All-in-all, this is a picture perfect comic where everything flowed together perfectly to form one great read from start to finish.
JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA KINGDOM COME SPECIAL: THE KINGDOM
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Fernando Pasarin
While this JSA Kingdom Come one-shot shares many of the same problems as the previous specials, I found I enjoyed it far more than those previous offerings.
In fact, this read a lot like it would be the next issue of JSA as opposed to a random one-shot filling in unnecessary details, as the previous two one-shots did.
However, that is both a blessing and a curse, as, while I'm enjoying the current JSA, it reads painfully slow as the story taking baby steps forward with every issue. This issue is no different as it takes its time exploring the changes in personality of the recently beautified Damage and the other worshippers of Gog. It is the sixth day of Gog's walking the Earth and he is taking a day of rest. While resting, he asks these followers to spread the word of his good deeds to counter those of the non-believing JSA members.
Damage is more than happy to do this for Gog and, while speaking with media, is confronted by Atom Smasher and Star Spangled Kid, which leads to the typical super hero conflict. After some lengthy talk between Atom Smasher and Damage, it appears Damage is beyond redemption and full enthralled with Gog at this point, even going so far as to destroy his father's former home and all the remaining mementos of said father, much to Atom Smasher's dismay.
Just as Atom Smasher is about to take revenge for this, the JSA and, shortly after, Magog show up to put an end to the fighting. Gog has summoned everyone back and Magog teleports Damage away before anything can come of the JSA's arrival.
However, to mark the seventh day of Gog's labours, he demands that all that follow him kneel before him and worship him as a god, leaving everyone in shock, mouths gaping open and unable to fathom the change in Gog.
Verdict - Check It. While I did enjoy the issue more than previous Kingdom Come specials, it still suffers from the extreneous nature of these stories and whether or not they actually needed to be told. Much of this issue could have been summed up in 3-4 pages in a regular issue of JSA as opposed to forcing us to pay for this extra issue. JSA fans will still enjoy this issue and, again, I did, too. For everyone else, there's little point to picking this up.
Written by Dan Abnett
Art by Wellinton Alves
The big revelation about new Nova centurions from last issue is mostly glossed over in favour of spotlighting these new characters, their personalities and showing them off in action.
In fact, the entire explanation amounts to Worldmind telling Nova he activated these other members while Nova was sleeping over the past several months and when he was shut down a few issues ago, these new recruits all received distress signals and are just now catching up with Nova on Earth.
It was an interesting way of going about their introduction and makes sense in regards to how Worldmind usually acts, but I was kind of expecting more. At the very least, more than a page of dialogue saying, "Oh, I activated them in your sleep.".
Despite my misgivings over the rather simple and brique explanation of their arrival, I think the new recruits add a nice dynamic to the book and add some much needed momentum after the lackluster Secret Invasion tie-ins. I'm also looking forward to seeing where they go with Nova's power levels. I'd hate to see him reduced to the old New Warriors-level, but I imagine the sharing of the Nova Force with these new members, as well as the hundreds of new recruits they all returned to at their current base of operations on Earth, will have negative impacts on his power levels.
Speaking of the new recruits at the end, the Worldmind, while Nova was away, apparently recruited hundreds of humans, including Rich's brother, as new centurions. I can't imagine this will be permanent, but I hope, just as Nova, as a character, was becoming one of the more well rounded and interesting characters in the Marvel Universe, they don't dilute and drown him out in a sea of new Novas.
Verdict - Must Read. Much like this week's Guardians of the Galaxy, this issue does a lot to renew my faith in the cosmic line and has me pumped for both Nova and GotG again after some disappointing tie-in issues. Great issue with great introductions to several new and interesting characters.
THOR: MAN OF WAR #1
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Clay Mann & Patrick Zircher
Let me get this straight. For the first act, we have Thor and Brunhilda kicking the crap out of each other. Then, a giant frost giant shows up and a few other Asgardians join in on the asskicking. Then, they all go out and get drunk for a couple days straight before Odin shows up in the motherfu--ing Destroyer armour to kick the living crap out of Thor? Do comics get any better than this? This is what we call a license to print money folks.
While the issue lacked the subtler charms of previous versions, the amount of awesome contained within these pages more than makes up for it. If you were, for some reason only god, or Odin, in this case, knows, disappointed with the slower paces of pervious issues by Fraction, Zircher and Mann, this one more than makes up for them. Yes, issues with Thor wrangling a blood colossus, killing millions of skeletons and slaughtering trolls and giants can be considered slow paced in comparison to the wall to wall action of this epic issue.
Furthermore, after the confrontation between Thor and Odin, the rampaging and petulant Thor of this era is defeated and we're given a great scene between the two as Odin gives Thor his first lesson in humility, robbing him of his memories as a god and forcing him to live as a mortal in simpler times. It was a satisfying conclusion to this trilogy and a great addition to the Thor mythos in my opinion.
Verdict - Must Read. Can't wait for an oversized hardcover of these issues. If any comics deserve the treatment, these Ages of Thunder stories do. Zircher and Mann did fantastic jobs here and it'll be a real treat to see their work. If you haven't picked any of these up yet, for shame, but you might be better off waiting for the eventual trade at this point and getting one of the best series of books of the year.