Bottom Of The Pile: Oct. 25th, 2017 – Detective Comics, First Strike, Justice League, U.S. Avengers, X-O Manowar

by Sage Ashford

I tried to get this done a little earlier than usual, as Paris Games Week starts on Monday and there’s a show I’m dying to cover. In any case, this is a shorter list than the week before, as I was able to prioritize some of my favorites a little more easily. Let’s get started!

Detective Comics #967
“A Lonely Place of Living Chapter 3”
Writer: James Tynion IV
Pencils: Alvaro Martinez
Inks: Raul Fernandez
Colors: Tomeu Morey & Jean Francois Beaulieu

Detective Comics #967 is a pitch-perfect book. I don’t make that statement lightly, but literally all of the scenes in this issue plays out exactly the way you would hope. It feels like a return to those 2008-2010 days when every single Bat-book coming out was on point, whether it was Morrison’s Batman and Robin, Yost’s Red Robin, or Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl. Watching Bruce fret over Tim after he’d escape like a proper father. Having future Tim Drake show up to meet Alfred, but even that version of Tim, a character at his lowest point both emotionally and morally, doesn’t hurt Alfred because no one that’s truly part of the Bat-Family hurts Alfred.  That’s not even counting the bits like the “Gotham Knights” mention or Tim bringing up Conner. It’s all designed masterfully.

Even this scene plays off the discussion every hardcore Bat-fan has had at least once. The legacy of the Bat has always meant the most to Tim Drake–his entire motivation for becoming Robin to begin with was to keep Batman from going too far, from tarnishing that very legacy. But he always fell a little short from the other Robins. He lacked the natural athletic talent of Dick. He didn’t have the killer instinct of Jason. He was never “truly” Bruce’s son like Damian. But in this one scene he easily lays the question of who’s the best Robin to bed, defeating them all at the same time using the one thing he always excelled at above every other member: his intellect. He’s always been the best detective, the smartest Robin, and it’s that skill that makes a future version of Tim, with the drive equaling Bruce’s, legitimately unstoppable.

There’s going to come a day when Tynion leaves Detective for good, but hopefully that day’s a very long way off from now.

First Strike #6
Written By: Mairghread Scott & David A. Rodriguez
Art By: Max Dunbar & James Raiz
Colors By: Ander Zarate & David Garcia Cruz

In all fairness, I haven’t been reading First Strike very closely. I think Mairghread Scott’s a great writer, but ultimately First Strike has been told in the most haphazard way I think an event can be told. Some of it’s a sprawling mess and it’s got too many tie-ins that all launched way later than they should have, even if the main story isn’t all that bad.

Having said that, when they revealed this book was actually a stealth launch for their Visionaries stories, my hype level went through the roof. As toyetic as 1980’s cartoons were, they also had some of the most creative designs and ideas for cartoons of all time, and Visionaries is a series that deserves far more attention than it got in the 80’s. It’s placement is pitch-perfect, too; at a time when our society is more obsessed with technology than ever, the Visionaries mythology of a world where technology was thrown away in favor for a return to magic makes for the perfect antagonists going forward for the Hasbro-verse.

Honestly, my only regret now is that Hasbro doesn’t have the rights to some other 80’s and even 90’s properties, like Centurions, SWAT Kats, or Pirates of the Dark Water–I’d love to see this world expand from the Hasbro-verse into just an all-purpose “Toy Universe”.  Either way, it’s hard to complain too much–this was a teenage Sage’s dream, getting stories that still capture the essence of all my favorite cartoons from the 80’s and 90’s, but with more complex characterization and storytelling.

Justice League of America #17
“Panic in the Microverse Finale”
Writer: Steve Orlando
Penciler: Ivan Reis
Inkers: Julio Ferreira & Oclair Albert
Colorist: Marcelo Maiolo

We’ve talked about this before, but in the months and weeks before Rebirth, there were rumors that all the books would be connected for two years straight, leading into a massive story at the end. DC wrote that off as insane, but with every month that seems to become more and more true. They aren’t direct tie-ins, but all over the DC Universe we can see the effects of what will be the beginning of Geoff Johns’ and Gary Frank’s Doomsday Clock max-series. This entire arc had been building up to finding Ray Palmer, discovering that he was lost in the microverse while trying to stop a storm that would end the lives of everyone in the microverse, as well as eventually reach the normal physical universe and cause massive havoc there as well.

But here we discovered the cause: somehow, a being from outside the multiverse has punched his way through, with the next page of this issue revealing an ominous blue hand that likely belongs to Doctor Manhattan.  Between this, the events of Detective and Action right now, and even how the Justice League has been having the League fend off countless cosmic beings from beyond space and time, because they’ve all been afraid of a powerful being like nothing they’ve ever seen, at this point is there any doubt?  It might not have been a forced crossover, but clearly a ton of people have opted in to give this last Rebirth story the scale and intensity it needed.

U.S. Avengers #11
“Cannonball Run Part 1: Hey, Bugface, Where Are You?”
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Paco Diaz
Color Artist: Jesus Aburtov

I was pretty baffled by this issue of U.S. Avengers, but I think I understand what’s going on here.  We know from experience that dictators will often give themselves odd names to emulate characters and people they like, and place even more absurd demands on their people, forcing them to obey. What if you took that, and combined it with an alien society where the aliens received many of the signals we’ve transmitted on television and radio frequencies for decades now?  We already know those signals will continue out into space forever–eventually, if there’s an alien race they would have to see them, right? Maybe despite our best efforts to create the most dangerous weaponry, the thing we have that really affects our neighbors in space is our culture?

Granted, that doesn’t explain why the Avengers ran into aliens posing as 1930’s style gangsters Clyde and the Ant Hill Mob with a spaceship version of Chugga Boom, but hey, it’s a working theory.

X-O Manowar #8
“Emperor”
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artists: Clayton Crain & Renato Guedes

Despite seeming like the easiest win that Aric has ever had, somehow Matt Kindt turned the end of Emperor into quite the pyrrhic victory.  He ends the last battle against the emperor of this alien planet with ease–taking a one-one-one battle and easily winning it even without his armor, killing the emperor with his bare hands, but….

From the very start of this story he wanted to be rid of the armor, but now he’s more dependent on it than ever. The woman he fell in love with sees him for a different man than he was when she loved him, and has now abandoned him. And he left Earth in order to be free of the burden of being a ruler, and yet now is ruler over a bigger kingdom than he ever was when he was just over the Visigoths. It seems old habits die hard…

Still, X-O Manowar is unquestionably one of the best books on the stands. Where else are you going to get a space opera crossed with low fantasy and a barbarian king?

See you in seven!