Monday, September 30, 2013

Amazing Animation: Dot and the Line

Amazing Animation brings you a curated cartoon every Monday and Friday 

Relive the classic Chuck Jones cartoon, The Dot and the Line! One of my favorite cartoons of all time, this touching love story is also one of the most artful articulation of animation's power. Motion, dot, and line. This is what makes cartoons. Chuck Jones deconstructs the artform to amazing effect. Perfect!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Art Display - Francesco Francavilla's Breaking Bad Posters!

Relive Breaking Bad Season 5.2 with the amazing, minimalist posters of Francesco Francavilla! My current-favorite comic artist (Black Beetle, Batwoman, Batman: Black Mirror, Zorro, more!) made a new poster for every episode this season. I compiled them here for fun-viewing purposes. If you want to see more posters, for seasons 1 & 2, check out Francavilla's Tumblr and Blogger.

The Finale: Best of Villains' Month

How does one judge a comic event? On readability alone? On the event's impact on the company's universe? Should gimmicks factor? Villains Month was very readable in the way buzzfeed articles are readable. Occasionally, there's a really good one, but usually they're just something to focus on with your eyes. A handful of books this month were awesome, most were good-fine, a few were boring. But overall, if you're curious to read a ton of villain stories, you won't be massively disappointed. Though, it seems pretty obvious at the end of Forever Evil everything goes back to normal--I wouldn't be surprised if nothing changes in any book. Maybe it'll herald Justice League of Canada to trump J.L. America. Finally, the 3-D covers: will anyone give a shit about these when they see them in back issue bins of the future? My guess is: only ironically. The best thing I can say about these 3-D pics were that they make the book sturdier. With only 3 or 4 exceptions, most of these looked fucking dumb. They kinda moved; not really though. In a time where the average person has familiarity with 3-D rendering of 2-D images (movies; 3DS video games; TVs; etc.), this holographic, tilt-your-head-right shit just doesn't cut it. Why not just draw better covers? Frank Quitely drew in 3-D in We3; make covers like that! Maybe DC just found a box of holographic paper, or something. Gotta make money somehow, I guess?

Below, I recommend 18 books of the 56 books. That's a pretty bad ratio. However, almost every book was readable. Most were boring. Less than five comics were totally confusing. Nothing especially offended me (however, the way DC marketing demands women be represented on book covers is gross). But no one is going to be talking about these issues very much come Wednesday, Oct. 2. Let's tally the points, yes?

Week 1 garnered 47 points out of 65.

Week 2 garnered 49 points out of 65

Week 3 garnered 48 points out of 70

Week 4 garnered 45 points out of 60

The Villains' Month grand point total comes out to out of 189 points 260 points possible.

That gives Villains Month a C- in point quality, which is more or less exactly how I feel about it. The above mentioned books worth reading were good--nothing especially spectacular--but everything was pretty readable. The problem is, every book had so many expectations to meet. They had to either a) set up a story line in an upcoming series arc or tie-in mini-series or b) try and develop the Forever Evil story that's coming out way to fricking slow. I bet that book's last issue won't even sell a quarter of what the first issue sells because who's going to care about this semi-interesting, yet ineffectual, event in April 2014? Why didn't they release one a week? There must be some reason...maybe they hope Forever Evil will sell well thanks to the tie-in mini-series' that surround it (Arkham War, a Superman one, I think a third). However, if they just did release a Forever Evil each week, with a different artist drawing the book they could have had an event with more cohesion and more reason to read all the issues. I don't think the editors expected readers to want to read all the issues, but rather were hoping you'd just pick up ones that sounded neat. I feel like if the issues were all trying to see out the same great premise, what would villains do if the heroes were dead, the comics would have all been better. Like, what if these tyrants ruled everything scenarios. However, most of the books were origin stories. Even already-established New 52 villains retold their origins (Sinestro, Croc, Harley Quinn, tons more) I'm tired of origin stories, New 52! It's second year now! This is what you restarted for!

And another thing: is it even useful to quantify the qualitative judgements I gave these comics? My opinions were greatly skewed upon a) my preference or pre-familiarity to the character), or b) if I liked the writer/artist already. I tried not to grade like this, but I liked every Kindt story except one; I enjoyed Marv Wolfman and Jim Starlin's origin stories, even though they were wordy and didn't feel very New 52. I also think I goofed up by making the point values so high. With these books, there was little difference between 3s and 4s, 2s and 3s. The next time I mass review books, my scale will be

3 - Great! Really enjoyed it, highly recommend it. Lots to think about.

2 - Fine. Enjoyable enough, as popular media is designed to be. Nothing especially thought provoking.

1 - Bad book. Hard to follow or very boring. Looks stupid. Not worth reading.

0 - Laughably bad. How did they fuck it up so much? I'm angry, this is a score of anger. So, read it?

Now, if you just want to read the good ones, here's a place to start. I didn't go back and look at scores for this; I just chose the ones that stood out as good in my memory.

Batman had a lot of books each week (4) and it was the only part of the DCU that had a unified plot for the books. The lot ranges from good to average. These are my favorites most to all-most. Joker's Daughter introduced a seemingly-gimmicky new character into the New 52 in a smart and compassionate way. She's a weird teen who hurts herself and often realizes she's too powerful for even herself to control. I feel really bad for this homeless schizo. Ventriloquist further revealed the backstory of Gail Simone's reimagining of this old character. I used to think Albert Fish and his little doll were a total joke; Simone's version, however, is quite horrifying. This is exactly what I want the New 52 to do: reimagine and reinvigorate old characters (it was a semi-origin story as this character already appeared in Batgirl). Snyder's crew did well with Riddler, providing a pretty great riddle and no more origin re-hashing. Matt Kindt managed to do a really great origin story by hybridize the many Harley Quinn origin stories that have existed throughout her many media appearances (even though I think Suicide Squad did this). Mr. Freeze was a continuation on the story set up in the Batman anual last year. It also distinguished this Mr. Freeze from the one he's based on (the Animated series version) by making him much more insane. He used to love his wife, now he loves an idea of his wife that he made up because he's nuts. Man-Bat was pretty good too! He fought She-Bat. Honestly, if you just read the Batman books you'd have read the best part of this event. But that's a given since Batman's always had the best villains, right?

Superman, on the other hand, always had stupid villains in my opinion. Not that they weren't cool, but they were usually literally stupid, brutish, and strong. They still are, kind of. But Greg Pak did a great job fleshing out the world of Krypton before the explosion. We see how Zod betrayed his people, Doomsday got a hold of the negative zone, Cyborg Superman was a post-Kypton invention, and how Braniac came and blew it up and more. Also, with all these crisis happening at once, it makes sense that the utopia was able to be destroyed by a robot army (they had defenses down due to something else). If it wasn't for the rest of the books, which were all really bad (especially Branaic) this would have been a really great collection of comics. In any event, Greg Pak knows a lot of cool things about Superman.

Matt Kindt did origins for Sinestro and Solomon Grundy that were both neat. Kindt really takes a Grant Morrison approach to origins, embracing the characters' many versions and multiplicities, and finding ways so they can be many things at once. Also, best Solomon Grundy story where the nursery rhyme is integrated I've ever seen. First Born adds an interesting new villain to the Wonder Woman-verse. I'm not caught up, but it seems like this book takes a lot of influence from Sandman and Fables. Plus, the art's real neat.  The Flash's Rogues are always a hoot. The Black Hand is like a black-lantern zombie of the Rot, and I hope he comes back soon. Speaking of the rot, the Arcane book talked of two characters, revealed their past in a non-originy way, and best of all, added a lot to think about to both Snyder's New 52 Swamp Thing and the Swamp Thing-verse in genera (i.e. more Green/Red/Black). And, funny kinda but the only two books I bought this month were: Creeper and Dial E for Enemy. I bought Dial E because it's the end to my favorite series. I bought Creeper because it had three styles of art and a story written by I think three people. Everything added into a weird crazy mish-mash that is so totally Creeper! He's a Japanese samurai ghost now. Isn't that neat?

On DC Villains generally: the defining characterization of DC villains is childhood trauma. This narrative is increasingly more boring to me. First, it's a lame way to win sympathy for a character. Oh, Reverse-Flash isn't responsible for turning time backward and almost ending the universe--it's his dad's fault! Cheetah didn't mean to be a blood hungry savage beast--her mom made her that way! Sheesh who cares? Everybody's got parent problems; few then put on a costume and work out their frustrations in a strange, BDSM-esque ritual with superheroes (who are also usually the product of childhood trauma). How about a villain who's truly ideologically opposed to the ruling hierarchies in society? Or, a super villain who really was profoundly wronged by the hero they choose to arch? Or a demon? I don't know! But not everybody needs to have a bad childhood. That's boring. Enough of that!

Great Strips! - Breaking Bad Extra!

Everyone's excited for the Breaking Bad finale tonight. Let's converge our excitement upon a fan-made comic detailing what would happen if Walt and Jesse were paid to like Twinkies. This strip brings up a great point though: can we expect Breaking Bad comic book fan fiction? I hope so!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Amazing Animation: Bee & Puppycat!

Amazing Animation brings you a curated cartoon every Monday and Friday.

Natasha Allegri, a storyboard artist for Adventure Time and the creator/comic-writer of Fiona and Cake, released an awesome new show on Frederator's Cartoon Hangover. It's perfect! How could you not love a cartoon where the first scene the main character gets fired and harassed by donut munching cops? The show goes far-out, but stays for a subtle, real world type of humor. The visual influences include, classic Myazaki, Sailor Moon, Ranma 1/2; but the humor is a drier Adventure Time. The digital sound effects create a nice rhythm for the jokes. for every joke. Do you hear Tom Kenny as the bug and monster? Puppycat is a voiced by a vocaloid, which is a weird synthesizer voice program! Check it out! I ever so hope this cartoon gets more episodes! 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Great Strips! -- Daily Routine

I recently found out that Peter Bagge is going to be presenting a slideshow on Margret Sanger at Chicago's best bookstore, Quimby's Books. So, I've been re-reading Bagge strips and boy are they just a laff-riot! That is, laughter accompanied with chaos and violence. COME SEE BAGGE W. ME!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Villains' Month pt. 4!

This is it! The final recap! Who's Joker's Daughter?! After I review these last books, I'll tally the points and write a conclusion piece about whether this event was worth anybody's time/money. There's less books this week than any other. Where's Forever Evil 2 already?!


Joker's Daughter (Batman: The Dark Knight 23.4)

This is the big one. The one DC undercut vendors on orders twice: oh yeah, 3-D covers baby. The one that's pre-selling on eBay for approximately $100--and I'm holding a 3-D with ungloved hands!). Is it because comic speculators are building false demand for a likely scarce quantity? Or, is everyone's excited to find out when Joker had a kid? Well... Before I give massive spoilers (which I will, so preemptive warning), this book is good. It's at times sad, exciting, and most of all, creepy. And it's written by Ann Nocenti, who wrote a lot of solid scripts this month (with this book being the highlight). Joker's Daughter seems to be based on a convincing reality of a teenage outcast high school girl. Especially when she's, (NOW! NOW ARE THE SPOILERS OF THE WHOLE ISSUE!) revealing her quietly abusive childhood. This girl (name yet to be revealed) was born abnormal to parents who praised normativity over everything else. Her face was covered in birth defects, she was obsessed with death and killing, her neurosis started manifesting itself in self-mutilation, and eventually she runs away from a family who already decided to abandon her to a mental institution. Before she leaves home, she cuts off her face. Yes, this is dramatic, but the way it plays out is actually pretty sad. An ugly girl thinks ugliness is the only identity she has to embrace. It reminded me of Dollface from Twisted Metal (but in her case, her male boss cut her face off as sexual punishment) and the protagonist of Chuck Palhinuk's Invisible Monsters (who, again spoilers but nbd, blows her face off with a gun because she thinks she's too beautiful). In short, Joker's Daughter is a new take on the face mutilation trope I've seen around, and an interesting take none-the-less. Then, she beats down the current Sewer Governer (leader of a small sewer-people tribe) and takes his Ruling Vest Made of Pennies (great detail). She mutilates all the men in the tribe and forces them to allow the women to become head of the house hold kinda like the Cheetah tribe from last week's Cheetah issue. Then she uses ugliness to control her subjects just like her father did to her. But wait? Why's she called Joker's daughter?! Joker had a kid, sent it to an unloving family in the suburbs, and is just waiting to take her back?!#$%! No, not at all. Before Joker's Daughter becomes governess of the sewer-trube, she finds Joker's old face floating in the sewer lake! Remember in Death of the Family when Joker's cut off face disappeared (I don't, but I assume that happened), well this girl found it. And, since she cut off her own face, she wears it perfectly. So she's not really Joker's daughter at all, more of a spiritual daughter, a kindered spirit? And to be honest, this character is not going to make a big impact on the DCU for at least a while. She's going to be a villain on Catwoman, which I suspect is the Batfamily's lowest read title (total guess here). So maybe one day Joker will meet his spawn, but that day won't be until at least 2014 (again, total guess). The only thing I didn't like was the cover, which makes the character's bust too big (the comic says she's anorexic and her bust is much smaller inside the book) and making her look like a dirty porn teen was weird. Plus the 3-D was bad. Regardless, 5 Severed Sewer Faces out of 5.

Bane (Batman 23.4)
People always joked that Bane looks like a Luca Librea wrestler--and now he is one! Or at least, he's Mexican, uses wrestling moves, and acts very theatrical. He is not, however, the badass Bain from the Dark Knight Rises. He's a militant Latin figure who steals chemical Bain-toxin from the military (because like all South American Communists, he wants our expensive chemical weapons). Then he commandeers a ship, sails to that super-jail that got broken into in Forever Evil 1 (was that Arkham?) and breaks everyone out. It's a set up to Forever Evil: Arkham War (of course it is). Really, the best part is the wrestling in the beginning and when Bane punches a little girl because she gently touches his hand. This book is pretty dumb, but funny too! 3 Skull Wrestling Masks out of 5.

Killer Croc (Batman & Robin 23.4)
This issue is kind of boring and definitely contradictory to the awesome Killer Croc plots set up in Batwoman (with art by Franco Francavilla). We get to see Croc as a little kid, as a circus performer, and a petty crook--until the end of the issue where Croc ascends to king of the sewer criminals! This is where the aforementioned Batwoman story picks up; Croc's king, and then finds out he's also the prophet of a strange race of reptile people who have been around for centuries. One of the reasons J.H. Williams quit Batwoman is because he couldn't pursue this storyline, which sucks because it seems like it'd make Croc a prophet to the Reptilian (David Icke's idea that the world is run by reptiles in disguise). To DC's credit, that's very similar to Night of the Owls; it'd turn Gotham into a city crawling with masonic-esque crime syndicates. The issue offers but a glimpse of King Croc, though we do see a lot about crooked cops that run the dock. It seems one of the cops was nice to kid Croc once. I don't care. I really only care about the sewer criminals and the Reptilian. Maybe the sewer territory will come back in Forever Evil: Arkham War. 2 Shapeshifting Alien Reptile Kings out of 5.

Man-Bat (Detective Comics 23.4)

I love Man-Bat. This issue was pretty perfect for a Man-Bat story, offering new twists on the character and amazing Man-Bat-Action! It starts with Man-Bat and She-Bat, continues to a humanization of the dude who actually turned into Man-Bat (yes, total Jackel/Hyde rip-off, but it's always been), and ends with Man-Bat the Vigilante! I like Man-Bat a lot: he's a monster with bat genes, yes--but he can be so much more. Usually, he's just a goon or a menace (or in video games, a substandard boss). He's hard to kill, and that's about as far as most writers take him. Then you get Grant Morrison making a bunch of ninja Man-Bat clones, which is interesting, but still making him a soldier. I like the freak of super-science Man-Bat--and making him into a vigilante ups the ante on this! Of course he'd try and do good, he was trying to do good when he made a serum that turns people into Bat-Men; likewise, of course he'd screw up, over do it, and kill people--because he made a stupid Bat-Men serum! Also, great art in this issue--some really great She-Bat on Man-Bat violence in those first pages. I'll stick around for the Detective run if it keeps up this quality. 5 Screeches of Justice out of 5. 


Metallo (Action Comics 23.4)
Metallo is a sad villain, as he is but a pawn of the military industrial complex. The US military wants to put a super soldier inside of a mecha suit. They do, and even pay to upgrade it for a painstaking three years. During this time, the soldier inside of Metallo is forced to sit in lonely isolation. Of course, he goes insane after three years. Then, he goes to Iraq, kills a bunch of innocent people--but it's not his fault! He internalized military doctrine, then went crazy after years of super-science experiments in sensory deprivation! So, the US general sets a new mecha suit solider (this one likely also crazy, but still follows orders) and the two "die" in a self-distruct explosion. If the comic ended there, it would have been a really refreshing one shot. But no, it somehow connects to Forever Evil: Arkham War, because Scarecrow comes and gives Metallo a coin. Whatever. Still a solid Superman one-shot, 4 Military Weapons Gone Awry out of 5.

Parasite (Superman 23.4)
Parasite used to be a deadbeat bike messenger who accidentally rode his bike into a living pile of evil goo. Then, after a trip to STAR labs, he was found to be Parasite! A really strong super-monster guy who can absorb energy. This is overall dumb. But, the fight between Superman and Parasite is pretty awesome. If Superman hits him with an attack, he absorbs it! Neat. But, it says this takes place between Superman 20-22 on the first page, implying that this story doesn't matter at all. It sets up nothing at the end. And, like I said, it's pretty dumb. But the art was good. Superman is in it, which is weird. I like how Parasite can be both a creepy alien looking dude, and a gigantic mass of digusting goo muscle. But honestly, is that a reason to spend $4 on this? No. 2 Bike Messenger Accidents out of 5. 

Doomsday (Batman & Superman 3.1)
Throughout this month, Greg Pak's been weaving together a really bad ass history for pre-explosion Krypton. I understand why Zod betrayed Krypton, started a false war, and harnessed Doomsday now. I see why the planet was on the path to extinction. In some ways, the New 52 Krypton is a warning: if you get too militaristic, too caught up in scientific progress, too modern for your own good, you die. Also, I love Pak's detailing of how Krypton came to be. Pictured below is the House of El, an old faction of Supermen who roamed the universe long before earth's creation. This is the perfect sounding book: I badly want a miniseries about these people. Also, it turns out Doomsday can talk through Zod, and the both tell their origin to baby Supergirl. I wish Pak was allowed to write every Villains issue, because then the Super universe could have done something really interesting in unifcation. Alas, there does not seem to be a Superman U. Forever Evil continuation. Whatever the case, at least we get Doomsday made of plasma energy. 5 Negative Zones out of 5.

Justice League

Secret Society (Justice League 23.4)
This book isn't about the old-school Secret Society, but instead the Earth-3 evil-versions of our favorite heroes that make the whole Villains month--and Forever Evil--possible. I liked what we learned here. How Owl-Man lost his Nightwing; why he imprisoned our Nightwing; what it's like for the Joker on Earth-3; how Evil-Alfred was able to plan the dimension swap that allowed Forever Evil. However, the story was told rather dryly. Also the art was weird, it looks like 2-D computer models placed in a 3-D background. I still haven't read Trinity War, but I assume there's more Earth-3 somewhere. I really hope that the world sticks around somehow, maybe the same way Earth-1 exists with occasional graphic novel releases. This issue balances progressing the event narrative, delves out backstory, and fixes old gaps. 3 Evil Alfreds out of 5.

Black Adam (Justice League of America 7.4)
How convenient is it that the Shazam hardcover comes out today and so does this great Black Adam one shot! With this issue, Black Adam becomes one of the most politically charged villains in the DCU. Some might argue, this interpretation of the character is questionably racist toward middle-eastern people. On the first page, we flashback to an unspecified Arab country where a brutal dictator is seen ruling with a spiked-club. He's a brutal despot putting these Arabian people down--until Black Adam comes to liberate them in the name of freedom and lighting! Uhh...well, thousands of years later, an Arabian man against the war between the Middle East and the US (again, it's vague, which makes it kinda racist but also kinda allegorical), finds a mystic scroll. He is accidentally killed by friendly fire from the Arabian army, and his wife yells Shazam! to make him into Black Adam. Black Adam beats up the Arabian army, storms into the Arabian palace, and smashes the leader of Unnamed Arab Country on the head with a rock. Then, he sits atop a throne and declares no rulers! Ultimate freedom! All of this stuff sounds like racist American propaganda--but might actually be astute American satire in consideration that Black Adam is a villain. See, perhaps the allegory could be, Black Adam is the USA. He's trying to "liberate" Arabia (is that even a real place?), but the only way he knows how is by electrocuting everybody with lightening. Yeah, that's about right. Overall, this month showed me, I need to stop ignoring Geoff Johns work. I just thought of a blog-post to rectify this. 4 Evil American Super-Villains out of 5.

Aquaman/Green Lantern/Wonder Woman

Ocean Master (Aquaman 23.2)
Ocean Master thinks he's the rightful heir to the Atlantian throne--though, I bet Aquaman begs to differ. I've never heard of this dude before, but he's actually pretty neat. He can do everything Aquaman can do, but he can also touch you and make you bloat and rot like a fish. It's gross. He breaks out of jail (as seen in Forever Evil) but can't help himself from saving humans he empathizes with. Like the guard who brought him water (he mercy kills) or a mother with an 8 year old son (he talks to). But all and all, the dialogue in this comic comes off sounding corny, like Ocean Master should gleefully cackle after his every line. I like the art, but I'm still not going to start reading Aquaman. No matter how hard DC tries, I doubt I ever will. 3 Ocean Oligarchies out of 5.

Sinestro (Green Lantern 23.4)
I finally understand the backstory of Green Lantern's "greatest foe?" I do not know if that's the case, but Sinestro is definitely cool. He's also a Fascist alien overlord, like all the other Green Lantern villains. In a way, the Green Lantern Federation is a United Nations-esque organization that defends against the tyranny of fascism throughout the universe. Matt Kindt pens an exciting and comprehendible origin for Sinestro, told from the character's point of view. Sinestro used to be a powerful Green Lantern. In his "brilliance," he decided to build a crime-free sanctuary planet instead of policing an entire galactic sector like a Lantern is supposed to do. To accomplish this crime-free planet, Sinestro creates super-powered police robots and constantly survailes all citizens, all the time, including their location, productivity and heartrate! It's like NSA times...uh, I dunno ten? Maybe twenty? Regardless, Hal Jordan freaks out and Sinestro is banished to the anti-matter universe. There, he creates the Yellow Lantern rings and becomes that nefarious purple bad guy we all know and love today. So where does Sinestro Corps fit in? Are they bad guys? And was the initial Sinestro Green Lantern title at the beginning of the New 52 in the past? Each week, my Lantern curiosity grows. 4 Yellow Power Rings out of 5. 

First Born (Wonder Woman 23.2)
This simple story was told well with great accompanying art. It was also written by Brian Azzerallo, so that's nice. Ares learns from three Oracles (who've shapeshifted into the bodies of three girls from the inner-city) that the First Born is just that. He's the first born child of Zeus and Herra. He was cast from Mount Olympus and condemned to earth. He quickly learned how to survive--through sheer hatred--and built a giant castle. Then, he challenged Heaven to a war. He lost and fell into a giant pit for 7000 years. Now he's back for a rematch with Heaven. This sounds like a passable Greek myth. I am not caught up on Wonder Woman, but I can only assume First Born will be the next story arc. 4 Abandoned Infant Gods out of 5.

Point Total: 45/60

Come back tomorrow for the overall point total and a event wrap up!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Great Strips: Misery is a Cigarette!

I found this weird public service announcement on the back of a Mad Magazine (specifically, issue 109). If you smoke, you'll get eaten by a shark, become a Nazi, and join the Klan. It's that simple.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Amazing Animation: Space Ghost meets Batman!

Amazing Animation: Here's a great cartoon worth spotlighting. Find more on Mondays & Fridays!

I love starting off blog-columns with Space Ghost! This new cartoon one is no exception. Batman: The Brave & The Bold is a cartoon targeted toward younger viewers, but gained an older audience because of it's willingness to showcase esoteric DC heroes who could never have a cartoon of their own (Blue Beetle, Metamorpho, Bat-Mite!). In 2011, Paul Dini and friends wrote Space Ghost into the series. As it turns out, Batman has a totally badass space ship, he can breath without oxygen, and he's friends with Space Ghost. This cartoon is probably the best Space Ghost has looked in any of his cartoon-iteration; in the old 1960s Saturday morning series, he usually used one power per episode as to not go over budget. In this cartoon, he uses every power in his arsenal to stop the space dinosaurs. The cartoon ends with a really morbid pun. Check it out!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Villains' Month Reviews pt. 3!

Two weeks down, two more to go. Books have been either origin stories or Forever Evil tie-ins. Whatever the case, this event extended the New 52 universe bigger than before! Let's find out which books are good this week with points!


Scarecrow (Detective Comics 23.3)
It’s common knowledge that Batman has the coolest villains; in a way, his rogues are the reason this month-long event can happen. Now, it’s revealed all the Batman comics are connected! Scarecrow teeters on the brink of sanity as an ex-psychologist turned madman. Can he keep himself focused, and his ambitions in check, to become the ring-leader of a Gotham crime syndicate made from ex-Arkham Asylum inmates who want to rule he city? Find out in Forever Evil: Arkham War (a comic I’m going to have to keep reading post-Villains’ Month). This issue’s Scarecrow is delightfully meta--talking directly at the reader, looking past the panel, and explaining the conventions of villain stories. Thankfully, we don’t here anything about Scarecrow’s origin (not only did that already happen in Batman: The Dark Knight, almost every other freaking book is an origin). Instead, we see how a crazy bad guy can convince other crazy bad guys to listen to him. The book’s a little confusing as it references issues that come out next week, but I bet everything will sorta make sense come Arkham War. 4 Burlap Masks out of 5. 

The Penguin (Batman 23.3)
After being usurped by Emperor Penguin--a stronger, scarier, and more ruthless penguin-themed crime boss from a recent Detective Comics run--Penguin is forced to relegate his crime skills to running a casino. After some punk magicians tell Penguin he’s no longer scary, he loses it and shows them who’s scary. Then, when a senator tells Penguin he’ll have to close his casino, Penguin frames him for prostitute murder and makes the guy go all R. Budd Dwyer. This issue was neat because it told a self-contained Penguin story without being an origin or a tie in. Honestly, not enough books did this. Plus, Penguin’s pretty funny--you almost want to root for the creep. The art is good too--look how menacing that hook nose protrudes!
4 Weaponized Umbrellas out of 5.

Ra Al Ghul's League of Assassins (Batman and Robin 23.3)
This pseudo-origin tale doesn’t reveal Ra Al Ghul’s he genesis, but rather shows the massive scope required to become an all-powerful cult leader, martial artist, and necromancer. Al Ghul’s started creating the League since before 1285AD. We see Ghul’s influence increase throughout the 20th century, garnering more and more power. Eventually, he finds Batman and mistakes this meeting as his chance to harness the perfect man. Of course, we know Batman is the only person who can truly topple the League of Assassins. Batman already wrecked Al Ghul’s psyche by accidentally killing his daughter and grandson. One man built the League, one man is going to bring it down. Ghul refuses to join the fun of Forever Evil and instead opts to set up an upcoming story in Red Hood and the Outlaws (which I’ll never read). Unfortunately, we learn nothing more about Ghul’s dungeon full of Damien clones despite everyone ever desperately wanting to know more about it. 3 Lazarus Pits out of 5.

Clayface (Batman the Dark Knight 23.3)
Clayface is a stupid idiot and he hates being reminded so. That’s the main point of this basically pointless one-shot. It starts with Clayface doing muscle for a heist in the sewer. When the scam’s leader calls Clayface dumb, he murders everyone (and totally proves their point). Then, it flashes back to Clayface’s time as an actor. He admits to having quite a temper, and says that he “became Clayface” in an act of revenge against a director he beat up (for calling him an idiot, of course). This is a really weird origin--Clayface willingly choosing to be a monstrous freak because of a grudge. Anyway, Clayface finds out there’s a Secret Society of villains, tries to get a membership, but can’t because he’s a stupid idiot. Upon finding this out, he kills everyone (again, proving their point). Then, Clayface signs up for a gold heist, and decides to kill everyone: because he’s a stupid idiot. Unlike the Clayface of Batman: The Animated Series, who was tragic, not stupid, and became Clayface on accident, I don’t care about this character at all. Plus, the Clayface character design is too blocky and clean. He’s a melting monstrosity. He should look creepier. 2 Mutant Face Putty Creams out of 5.


Lex Luther (Action Comics 23.3)
This issue details the events in Lex Luthor’s life leading directly up to Forever Evil. His escape from prison, plastic surgery to fix a gross face burn, his control of the space program, and his ruthless murdering streak (don’t get in his way). I like the New 52 Luther because he demonstrates how evil and selfish industrial capitalists always act. This issue is kind of stagnent though, and doesn’t do much for the Forever Evil plot as a whole. The art is nice, as seen in the Robot Luther splash page above. Overall though, nothing much happens here. 
2 Robot Mecha Suits out of 5.

He'l (Superman 23.3)
Scott Lobdel writes really boring comics. There’s way too much text in this confusing story and all of it sounds stilted and strange. He’l was put in a coma, but then he wakes up, and decides to rule Krypton (see imbedded image). Zod and Jor-El team up to try and stop He’l, but they fail. We’re supposed to buy Superman Annual #2, but I won’t do that. This story is the opposite of Greg Pak’s Zod issue from last week; where that makes you want to find out more about Krypton  pre-explosion, the characters in this He’l issue make you glad the rock blew up when it did. The only redeeming aspect to this book is the art, which manages to tell the story way more efficiently than you’d expect with such a clunky script. 2 Prodigal Alien Sons out of 5. 

Justice League

Dial E for Enemy! (Justice League 23.3)
A fitting final farewell to my favorite DC comic. Dial Q (for Qued) gets you a super-villain power. Likely, Dial V was reserved for Vehicle. Somebody gets ahold of a Q dial, and a new artist draws a new villain on every page. The Centipede, of course, wants the dial back for himself (and his employer), but the dial proves too powerful...or maybe just, unpredictable? Whenever the case, obviously the art is awesome. The complexity of a concept like this would be lost if not for China Meiville. Only he can balance the insanity. When you read closely, Dial H the series works exactly like a super-dial: it has a vast and beautiful logic that you're never going to figure out. 5 Imagination Generators out of 5.

Eclipso (Justice League Dark 23.3)
Apparently, Eclipso’s been running all over the New 52 fringe and all I’ve done is miss him. He’s in Demon Nights, Catwoman, Sword of Sorcery, and Team 7 (I’ve never even heard of those last two). Apparently, he’s a demon that lives in a crystal and needs a human host to escape. This story is adequately creepy--the demon convinces his human hosts that he can make their lives perfect, then just ruins them worse than ever before--making Eclipso the prime personification of sheer evil. Plus, the art is amazing--very moody with strange and effective paneling. The story’s end doesn’t really pay-off to anything (it’s neither connected to Forever Evil nor a future story arc), but it was still a fun read. Now, I want to go explore those crannies of the New 52 I missed. Black Magic Crystals out of 5.

Shadow Thief (Justice League of America 23.3)
I have no idea who Shadow Thief is. She hardly seems like a villain, although she's a spy. She wears a cool suit made of shadows and exposes a government conspiracy run by aliens. Both cool, not necessarily villain things. Shadow Thief is kind of a mix between Trinity from the Matrix and Aeon Flux from the cartoon. The story is fine, but doesn't build to much and doesn't connect to anything else. It's about a spy who finds out their employers are not who they seem. Apparently Shadow Thief is a Marv Wolfman creation, who initially fought Hawkman. She was in Crisis, Infinite Crisis, she's stuck around. I'm not sure why, but maybe it's because her costume is cool and she is sexy. Actually that's probably why. 3 Dimensiometers out of 5.

Green Latern/Flash/Swamp Thing/Wonder Woman/Teen Titans

The Rogues (Flash 23.2)

The Flash books have been a standout in this event, for they both advance the main book's story and the event's story simultaneously. Grodd called back to an old arc before he became a main villain; Reverse-Flash was hiding in the background all along); now The Rogues both pledge to defend Emerald City and try and rule it. I guess that's also a reoccuring theme building in Villains month. Bad guys want to rule stuff. Anyway, the team dynamic of the Rogues is just like old timey bad guys, they have a code. I bet if this book was a monthly series it'd be regularly interesting. The Rogues steal a million dollars, have reservations about splitting it up, and Captain Cold details an origin. The story is kind of all over the place, and the dialogue is lame (someone says cray-cray as a dramatic line) but the concepts are neat. 4 Anti-Heroes out of 5.

Black Hand (Green Lantern 23.3) 
I love the color symbolism in the DCU. Green is growth, like plants (Swamp Thing; Green Lantern; Poison Ivy). Red is life (Animal Man). Black is rot (Anton Arcane, Black Lanterns). Black Hand is a necromancer lantern soldier who's power ring can raise the dead and rot the living. I think he was a main villain in Blackest Night (every week, my Green Lantern ignorance embarrasses me more and more). In this issue, Black Hand goes around, kills some cops, and raises a cemetery of dead bodies. It's totally awesome. I hope soon a cross over with the red, green, and black occurs (but one bigger than Rotworld). The art in this comic is also interesting; not as technical as Jim Lee, but more in the emotive style of Jeff Lemire. It's really dark and evocative. One day, I'll know what Green Lantern is all about--until then, I'll just be like a little kid who thinks, "Aw man! This is neat and confusing!" whenever I read his books. 4 Death Grips out of 5. 

Arcane (Swamp Thing 23.1)
Perhaps my love of Swamp Thing makes me bias, but this was one of the most interesting and complex issues so far of the (villains') month. It's titled, "Arcane", not Anton Arcane. He's there, and we get to see his life after Rotworld failed (he's in a Garden of Eden paradise, which to him is hell because nothing can ever rot). Rotworld also set Abigail Arcane as the new avatar of the black (so Swampy's sworn nemesis) and we get to see what's going on with her too. In flashback, we see the entwined origin of Anton Arcane's terrible fathering (which makes it more understandable that Abby might have an Oedipal-inspired longing for her father's direct opposite, a man made of plant matter). We see Abby's traumatic life on the run from her evil father. But the story also extends the mythology of the New 52 Swampy (a girl Swamp Thing makes a one panel appearance). This issue certainly does a lot of stuff, but it doesn't read like anything more than a good story that's answering questions set up since Swamp Thing 1. It looks like Anton Arcane is going to escape prison and come for Swampy (well of course he will, he always does), but how will Abby's role as the Rot's avatar effect this? The issue is even able to set up questions for the future of the series. 5 Rotting Rabbit Feasts out of 5.

Cheetah (Wonder Woman 23.1)
Brain Azzarello made waves by changing Wonder Woman's nemesis from Cheetah to Ares. And this pretty good origin issue makes a case for why Cheetah still cool. Cheetah was a woman named Barbra Minerva. Raised in a female tribe of Amazonian-esque warriors, Cheetah was forced to participate in a brutal hunting ritual, resulting in her getting stabbed with an ancient God-killing sword. When a non-God gets stabbed, they turn into a god--or more specifically, a Cheetah person. Cheetah also has a strange habit of eating her enemies hearts. This issue shows an interesting civilization seemingly run by fascist, Spartan-like women (I didn't think the Amazons killer their young senselessly). However, I'm overall glad that New 52 Wonder Woman's greatest foe isn't a jungle-cat lady. That idea is only so cool (especially compared to the vast, historical epicness of Ares: God of War). The issue ends with Cheetah getting caught up in the battle of Forever Evil, so let's see how that goes. 3 Enemy Hearts out of 5.

Deathstroke (Teen Titans 23.2)
Deathstroke is a gun for hire in the war on terror. He fights other assassins, reveals his origin as a bomb expert guy in the Bosnian war, (like the main character in the Hurt Locker), kills a Latin American president, and explains his motivation for killing for hire: money to will to his daughter. The story is just fine, but the art is fantastic. There’s a bullet that looks like it’s shooting out from the page, like Frank Quitely’s art in We3. Plus, two-page spread where Deathstroke rides a gigantic rocket. Even a sweet bullet that pops out of Deathstroke’s eye socket. Just look at how well the above panel spread conveys the action! 4 Teen Killers out of 5.

Point Total: 48/70