Big comics week! I have four new issues this week. And they arrived early, too, which made me late for work but so worth it. So, this week I have Aquaman battling undersea mobsters, Batwoman battling to save the future, the Justice League battling monster toys and Wonder Woman fighting assassins side by side with a badass Etta Candy.
Let’s get to it!
Aquaman #27: Underworld (Part 3)
Recap: Aquaman has been kicked off his throne and is trapped in Atlantis where he has fashioned himself into an undersea version of Batman, defending the undercity and its people. He even has a “Robin”: the mute girl called Dolphin who has some pretty neat powers herself. At the end of the last issue they were captured by Kadaver, enforcer for the underwater mafia boss Krush. Meanwhile Mera remains on the surface, searching for a way to break through the magical barrier to rejoin Arthur.
Krush recognises Arthur as the not-so-dead king, and plans to use him for leverage but first he needs to prove Arthur’s true identity. Arthur, not being an idiot, stays quiet, so in true super villain fashion Krush puts Dolphin in a tank with a very hungry sea monster to get Arthur to talk. Arthur of course (not being an idiot) says nothing but uses his super telepathy to turn the beast away from his friend. Of course, since he’s the only one who can do that it’s as good as waving a sign saying he’s the dead king, but what else could he do? Krush’s triumph last just as long as it takes him to figure out that a very hungry sea monster is now free and, you know, kinda peckish. (Why are villains always idiots?) Aquaman and Dolphin escape during the chaos.
It’s actually really badass as well as funny. And the best bit was the chewing out Arthur gets from Dolphin when it’s over. The artist does such a great job with her expressions! It’s basically why’d you give yourself away, you twit? Couldn’t you see I had it?
I am really loving Dolphin!
Two other threads thicken the plot: the Widowhood appear to be allied with Vulko but have some agenda of their own. And on the surface Mera approaches Garth/Tempest of the Titans – formerly Aqualad- for help. She believes his knowledge of Atlantean magic can break through the barrier. He is so not keen on this plan.
Batwoman #6: Pax Batmana
After a five issue arc delving into Kate Kane’s past, Pax Batmana now shows us her future, or a future. Our only clue as to how far in the future this is comes in the time stamp “Year Five in the Reign of the Bat”, but the characters are drawn to appear much more than five years older. Gotham has become a city divided: the “Old City” appears to be a facist state controlled by an army of robotic Bat-men, and “Free Gotham” exists precariously in its shadow. We see Kate/Batwoman, leading an army of her own, accompanied by Jason Todd/Red Hood. Her mission is not very specific but the core of it is clear enough: she’s there to clean up a mess she feels she contributed to creating.
This is just her arrival, and much of the issue is devoted to set up and introspection. Toward the end, Kate makes contact with the police in Free Gotham which ends badly and with a shocking death.
Throughout, it is clear that the villain of the piece is using the Bat symbol, and is even Batman…but nothing is said to suggest it’s Bruce Wayne. The final panel of the issue reveals the identity of this evil Batman. After the recent arc in Detective Comics I was expecting it to be Jean Paul Valley aka Azrael, but the reveal is much cooler than that. Looking forward to the next issue!
Dark Nights: Metal #1
I am a little reluctant to review this one because there is so very much packed into it that I am bound to miss important details. After the two-issue setup, this issue kicks off the story proper. We open with the Justice League in some kind of gladiatorial arena, forced to fight robots designed to counter their specific powers. There’s a possible hint of things to come here as each member’s weaknesses are exposed. Naturally it’s Batman who figures out the escape route. As they fly back to Earth, a panicked Alfred reaches Batman with the news that something terrible is happening in Gotham: a mountain has appeared in the middle of the city. Our heroes puzzle their way inside and discover some kind of cryogenic chamber and a bunch of androids. Before they can fly investigate, a woman calling herself Lady Blackhawk appears and insists they all accompany her to a mysterious island where, she promises, they will learn the answers.
Well…sort of. The answers are pretty convoluted and, I think I’m going to need a primer to accompany this event because so many characters appear who I’m sure I should recognise if I were more of a comic nerd than I am. When they have names I can look them up, but its hard to Google a panel. Well, I will manage somehow.
Disappointingly, we don’t know much more at the end of this issue than we already knew from the two prequels. The “Nth metal” is capable of bestowing superpowers, and is vanishingly rare. It comes from a “Dark multiverse”. An evil power in that multiverse is planning to invade, and indeed has been planning this for a very, very long time. What the issue does is deepen the mystery of why Batman is at the centre of this, and has a terrific final panel as Batman finally discovers the confirmation he’s been searching for…and can’t quite believe it. I think that’s my favourite thing about this: so far two issues have ended in a similar way, with Bruce/Batman completely confounded by something he’s found. In The Casting it was because he failed to get his answers. In this issue he gets them, and is utterly flabbergasted by it. It’s such a novel twist on the world’s greatest detective. I love it.
Wonder Woman #28: Heart of the Amazon (Part 3)
Here is what makes Wonder Woman different, and the most special, of the superheroes. In the previous issue she was betrayed and almost killed by the doctor, Dr Crawford, hoping to use Wonder Woman’s blood to cure her own genetic disease. This issue opens with Diana alone, laying flowers on Dr Crawford’s grave. While the issue doesn’t dwell on it, it’s clear that Diana is tormented by her failure to save the doctor, even with everything the woman did. Etta expresses what, I think, most of us would: that she deserved her fate, but nothing shakes Diana’s compassion.
Etta, still recovering from her own injuries, is on medical leave and Diana has agreed to keep her company at home. Its lovely to see them simply being friends and having what’s essentially a girl-talk before the action resumes in the form of an assassin who takes a shot at Diana through Etta’s window. While Diana easily avoids the first shot, and defeats this one assassin with the aid of a totally badass move from Etta, she is only the first of many: some mysterious new enemy is prepared to pay highly for Wonder Woman’s death.
In any other week, this would have been my favourite. As it is, I think it’s slightly edged out by Batwoman’s brilliant final reveal.