Bottom Of The Pile: Nov. 29, 2017 – Batman: Creature Of The Night, Hal Jordan & The Green Lantern Corps, Mystic U, Sword of Ages, Transformers: Lost Light

by Sage Ashford

Another week, another stack of comics. But don’t worry, I’m here to guide you through!  Welcome back to Bottom of the Pile, where I talk about some of my favorite comics on a week to week basis, the series that I personally save until the end because who doesn’t save the best for last? This column can range from commentary on the state of a given series or comics as a whole, pointing out similarities between issues, to mini-reviews; both because because I love shaking it up and also because I’ve got the attention span of a goldfish crossed with an overactive puppy. So let’s talk comics…

Batman: Creature Of The Night Book One
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist, Colors and Cover: John Paul Leon

Over a decade ago, Kurt Busiek did his own take on Superman in Superman: Secret Identity, a story that was essentially Earth-Prime Superman’s origin, and a sort-of “What if a kid got Superman’s powers in the real world” kind of thing. It was a lot more realistic and low-key than any Superman story I’d ever seen before, but Kurt Busiek’s unique talent for finding the fantastic in the mundane still managed to captivate my attention for the full run of the story. Still, despite giving us the most down-to-Earth version of the character ever, Superman: Secret Identity still felt like the kind of optimistic Superman story that would fit for the Man of Steel.

Now Kurt’s doing a similar take on Batman, where echoes of the Batman’s origin happens in the life of a young child named Bruce Wainwright in his mini-series, Batman: Creature Of The Night. Though I’ve got a feeling that in this story we won’t quite get to see the same kind of optimism. Over the years, the legend of Batman has grown so much that we’ve come to romanticize the tragedy that is his origin, glossing over just how traumatizing a young boy seeing his parents brutally murdered really is just so we can “get to the good part”. So much of what we believe to be “cool” in Batman involves mental illness–to swear vengeance on criminals at the age of eight is cool, but to carry the pain with you long enough to make good on it twenty years later?

There’s no way that’s healthy, and there’s no way the guy who did that is going to rise up and become one of the greatest heroes ever. And so while I’ve got full confidence in Kurt not to do anything that would ruin the legacy of Batman in this comic, the way this first issue is narrated does make me believe that little Bruce Wainwright is not going to get the happy ending he wants and become the inspiring Caped Crusader which stories have turned the Batman into over the ages.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #33
Twilight of the Guardians Part One: “Smash and Grab”
Writer: Robert Venditti
Penciller & Inker: Jack Herbert
Colorist: Jason Wright

In truth, Hal Jordan and the GLC has only had one creative misstep–Soranik should not be following in the footsteps of her father, period–and other than that has been a pitch-perfect restoration of the Green Lantern Corps. It’s made the Green Lanterns actually feel powerful again after years of seeming like generic, easily-dispatched cops, and brought back the sense of hope and optimism that made the beginning of Geoff Johns’ run so infectious.

But not only that, this series has successfully re-incorporated a number of major villains to the world of Green Lanterns. Not too long ago we were dealing with Hector Hammond, and now we’re getting an even better group of villians: the Controllers, a group of aliens who sought to enforce order on the universe in a more…absolute way than the Guardians did.   Johns gradually phased them out of his own run as the Guardians themselves basically became so controlling and manipulative that they were no better than the Controllers, but with this new group of Guardians not being nearly as awful at their jobs it makes the Controllers relevant again.

What I always enjoyed about the Controllers is that unlike the Guardians they were constantly trying to improve on their past creations.  One appearance they were creating Suneaters, the next they were making their own police force in the Darkstars–they never really seemed to know what they wanted to make, and that’s why hopefully with this appearance I hope they have a completely new, equally inconsistent mission statement.  Or a return of the Darkstars, as a second police force patrolling the universe would make for some great conflict going forward.

Mystik U Book One
Writer: Alisa Kwitney
Artist: Mike Norton
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire

I’m not sure how to feel about this book. Alisa Kwitney and Mike Norton have pretty excellently crafted a unique magic-based school populated with classic DC characters from all their most well-known magic properties, but its hard to overlook how this is basically DC’s own version of Harry Potter. Though then again Harry Potter is basically Tim Hunter from Books of Magic, and I guess they do say that the very best artists steal.

Setting that aside, this book’s been a long time coming. Initially meant to be a part of the DCYou, DC’s half-step between the New 52 and Rebirth, Mystik U was put aside for reasons unknown and didn’t get a chance to properly launch until now. It’s a good thing too, because whether I think the base idea is a bit cloney or not, this was a solidly written, beautiful comic book using some of DC’s coolest, woefully underused characters. You’ll get to see Enchantress, Cain and Abel, Mister E, and even more in a veritable who’s who of magic-based characters, as Mystik U is set in a world where the magic heroes battled an unseen opponent and were soundly defeated until they turned back time. It feels something like an occult version of X-Men Evolution.

If anything, my biggest problem with this book is that currently it’s only a mini-series.  This channels the quirky, “anything is possible” feeling of early Vertigo but updates it for the modern era, and its absolutely something that should be given ongoing status if the creatives involved are so inclined.

Sword of Ages #1
Created, Written, & Illustrated By: Gabriel Rodriguez
Colored By: Lovern Kindzierski

I often wind up focusing on Big Two or licensed stories with Bottom of the Pile. That’s not because I don’t like independent comics, it’s because far too often we just seem to get the same indie stories: dystopia, dystopia, horror, dystopia, more horror. Outside of that it’s snoozy slice-of-life stuff that my attention span is too short to get through. It’s not often that something breaks through all of that and manages to really appeal to me, but Sword of Ages does exactly that.

A mix between space opera sci-fi and high fantasy, Gabriel Rodriguez is giving us the retelling of Arthurian myth we deserve. Recasting the lead role with the bad-ass barbarian Avalon, this book feels more like Conan or Red Sonja than the typical King Arthur story so far—the world is wild and untamed, and though Avalon has the backing of her old teacher Merlin, we’re still a long way from building any kind of Camelot in this world where slavers and evil empires still abound. It’s still very early days with this book, but so far it’s the kind of bold new epic I’ve been waiting on for years, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next. If you somehow missed this last week, make sure you go back and get your hands on it–it’s going to be something special.

Transformers: The Lost Light #11
The Mutineers Trilogy Part Two
Written By: James Roberts
Art By: Jack Lawrence & Alex Milne
Colors By: Joana LaFuente

“The Mutineers Trilogy” tells the story of what happened to the crew of the Lost Light after they ejected Rodimus and the others for allowing Megatron to stay on the ship with them.   Personally, I always had a problem with the attempt to turn Megatron into a decent person–the sheer scale of destruction and genocide he was responsible for in-universe means he doesn’t really get to reform, y’know? Roberts spent over a year trying to tell the story in such a way that you could like Megatron, and while I think he’s unequivocally one of the most talented writers of his generation, I’m still not sure he stuck the landing by the end.

But at the same time, the head of the people in charge of the Mutiny–specifically Getaway–are a specific kind of twisted that actually does make them worse than Megatron. No matter how you feel about the Decepticon commander, his initial rebellion meant something. It was a refusal to accept a corrupt status quo, one that accepted and even perpetuated some of the most vile acts a government can commit upon its people. From apartheid to playing with its citizenry’s own memories to make them more “pliable” subjects, there was absolutely a reason why Megatron’s uprising managed to have such a following that it split the planet in half.

And along those same lines, Getaway has basically engaged in much of the same behavior that caused Megatron to become who he was in the first place. And as insane as it is, he may very well be an even worse evil than Megatron ever was. At least he believed in a cause greater than himself–Getaway’s cause is just so everyone can admit he was right, and he’s willing to toss away lives against their will in quite the horrific fashion just to prove his point.  These past two issues have really gotten away from all the emotional baggage that came with the remaining cast and gotten into some stuff that really makes a reader’s skin crawl, and I hope we get a little more of that before we just go back to Rodimus and the others.

Due to some problems actually getting my comics, this column was much later than I wanted it to be, so more likely than not you’ll see the next one a lot sooner than seven days from now.