Green Arrow, Vol. 2 – Island of Scars

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Green Arrow, Volume 2: Island of Scars is a collection of books that don’t run together and are instead more in the mode of a collection of individual tales and not all where Green Arrow is the main focus. In this volume is also an appearance by The Black Canary, not the kiddie pop version we are currently seeing wander in and out of Batgirl comics, but the real Canary. Here, she is not Barbara Gordon’s singing sidekick, no here, she is a sensuous and deadly woman. This is the real Black Canary, a member of the Justice League, a superhero who is quite capable of handling herself and doesn’t need saving. In fact, quite strong enough to be the one doing the saving.
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This volume also tells the tales of the Green Arrow’s new apprentice, Emiko Queen. Ollie’s half sister, this teenage girl has the fighting skills of a ninja and the angst of anyone who is ready to battle but finds herself constantly held in check. A collaboration between Emiko Queen and Damian Wayne would be a fun and bloody comic.

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I have never really been a Green Arrow fan and have never seen a single episode of the television show. I have always seen him as more of a throwaway character. A supporting cast member to the relationship between Batman and Superman. But there are glimpses of a true superhero here. One whose idealogy conflicts with his actions. Ollie, unlike Bruce Wayne, is as much a part of his Superhero persona in and out of the costume. The emergence of new characters that are as different from him as could be is a true risk, as it has the Green Arrow questioning himself.

I enjoyed this collection and think I’m very likely to start following this comic line as we are seeing actual growth in the character which is rare in one that has been around for so long.

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The Unworthy

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Of all the events to come out of Marvel’s Original Sin series, one of the most impactful took place in Original Sin #7 when Nick Fury leaned into the ear of Thor and whispered. With that small act, the power of Thor changed hands from Odinson into the hands of Jane Foster. While this can be seen as another of Marvel’s overt acts of political correctness and pandering to the current rages of social media by turning the Thunder God into a woman; and not just any woman but one who is dying of a terminal disease. It has, perhaps by accident, because I cannot in all good faith give Marvel’s current creative regime this much credit, given rise to one of the better comic books on the market. No, I am not talking about the new Thor with Jane Foster wielding Mjolnir, but of the displaced Thunder God, Odinson and the comic called The Unworthy Thor.

 

Odinson, the original Thor, Prince of Asgard and son of Odin, is having a tough time of it. When he is sober, because depression and mead are his best friends, is struggling with coming to grips with his loss. His loss of his identity, his loss of his hammer, and after joining a battle he was not equipped for, the loss of his arm. After he decides that the current Thor is indeed worthy of wielding the hammer, he must now come to terms with the truth that he is not and the words whispered by Fury are true.

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Thus, begins the quest, but is it one? It doesn’t begin that way. It begins much more like Odinson is just running away. On his trusty flying goat, his axe that does not fly back when he throws it and a prosthetic arm that will outlive him, Odinson journeys. But you cannot have been the great Thunder God and not have pissed off some people along the way. People who now see Odinson as weakened and this as their opportunity to enact their revenge. But in all this there is the word of an all seeing creature that speaks of another hammer. Another Mjolnir, belonging to a dead Thor on a dead world. A hammer calling out for a new master.

 

With fan favorite, Beta Ray Bill, Odinson goes in search for this abandoned hammer. But first he must battle  the Collector and all manner of dimensional creatures, even those sent by Thanos himself. But even more so, he must come to grips with the battle that rages within himself.

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There is so much to this book that it is surprising that this is a Marvel comic. It is being written like an independent comic book that puts plot and story over flash and artwork. But don’t get that wrong, the artwork is awesome and ties so well with the journey of Odinson. This is a throwback to the old Thor comics before he got so involved with only Earth and the Avengers and buffing Tony Stark’s iron suit. This is the Thor that waged war with the galaxies worst villains and took part in bloody battles between the Gods. Battles that which, were not always a foregone conclusion that he would win.

 

It is also the mental and emotional story of a fallen God. A God who lived so far above the rest of the world that his mere presence should have nations bow. A God that has learned a dark and painful truth.

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There are those who will see this book as another in Marvel’s attacks on the Christian Right and religion in general. Perhaps they are right. Which is why I don’t give Marvel too much credit here. In fact, I think they may have simply stumbled over creating a truly fine book and perhaps one of the few Thor storylines worth remembering. It is certainly much better than the Jane Foster Thor right now and that is no knock on a female Thor. It is just that much better. What they have done, something they have failed to do in the past, is bring about Thor’s humanity. In doing so, they have elevated this character in ways I’m sure they did not intend but am eager to see them explore.

Also it has Beta Ray Bill and the Marvel universe has been lacking in his absence. Kick in a harsh and tyrannical Collector, Thanos and some very dark and evil characters and you have what may be the best Marvel comic this year that no one is reading.

All-Star Batman, Vol.1 – Scott Snyder

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All-Star Batman Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy marks the return to the character by fan favorite and Batman genius, Scott Snyder. After Endgame and what has to be one of the most successful runs as writer of the Batman comics, Snyder stepped away from the main franchise line after DC’s Rebirth and has ended his hiatus with this new comic series; All-Star Batman.

In this comic book tale, Batman has the opportunity to help his old friend Harvey Dent rid himself of his alter-ego, Two-Face forever. Only two things stand in his way. Batman has to get Harvey clear across the country for the procedure and Two-Face has set in motion a plan to stop the Dark Knight. There is a bounty on their heads and betrayal at the hands of Batman’s most trusted allies.

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What has always separated the Batman from other comic book heroes is the storytelling and in the hands of Scott Snyder over the last few years; we have had some of the best Batman stories to have graced the comic book page in a very long time. This is why Rebirth, with a new writer and new artist and new characters, the ill-fated Gotham dude and Gotham dudette were met with such luke-warm fan fare. By myself as well, though I have to admit I am beginning to warm up to some of the DC Rebirth storylines, but that is for another time and another blog.

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Snyder has always been a smart writer, not relying on the Batman mythos to sell his story but more than willing to step outside the norm and with All-Star Batman, he has created a kick-ass road trip story filled with angst and regret and violence and blood and more blood. John Romita Jr.’s artwork lends a harsh and gritty line to the story and Two-Face is perhaps the best villain to kick this series off. The history between Batman and Two-Face, or better said between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent goes back to when they were children and Snyder explores that here as well as a deadly and horrifying pact between the two.

All-Star Batman is its own series and doesn’t really work with the timeline set in the other Batman books. That is fine because it stands so well on its own. This is one of the better books to come out of the the throes of Rebirth and one to eagerly follow!

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Who’s got the Button? – Batman 21 & 22 & Flash 21 (Rebirth)

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One of the biggest mysteries and tantalizing clues to come out of the confusion of DC’s recent Rebirth is the yellow smiling Button with a drip of blood on it; hidden inside the Batcave. You would have had to have been on a distant moon not to recognize the Button as belonging to the Comedian of The Watchmen comics. A classic series from 1986 -1987 by the great Alan Moore. The Watchmen comics take place in a world where there are no Batman and no Flash and no Superman, so the possibility that in all the madness that has been DC’s Convergence and the Rebirth, the two worlds are now to collide has had comic fandom on edge.

Now, a full year later,  in Batman 21 & Flash 21, the story begins.

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The Button has been a puzzle the caped crusader cannot quite work out. What is it and how did it wind up in the Batcave. More so, why is it emitting a radioactive frequency. When it acts up even more, Batman reaches out to The Flash and as he waits, someone else arrives. Someone who wants the Button. Professor Eobard “Zoom” Thawne, the Reverse Flash, the man who murdered the Flash’s mother. The Batman is no match for Thawne who proceeds to beat the crap out of him. But before Thawne can finish the Batman the power of the Button transports Thawne and then returns him. But what comes back is dying and decomposing at an incredible rate. As he dies Thawne cries out that he has seen God.

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This week the tale continues in Batman 22.

Flash and Batman, using something call the Cosmic Treadmill, travel back to the Flashpoint, where the power and frequency began. Flashpoint, if you have never read that particular storyline, do so, it may be the best Flash story ever told. They appear in the Batcave where the power is centered. A Batcave occupied by that timeline’s Batman; Dr. Thomas Wayne. Thomas is awaiting his death as the armies of Wonder Woman and Aquaman invade Wayne Manor. When Bruce appears with the Flash, Thomas and Bruce, father and son, face the enemy together.

Thomas Wayne – “You were my world, son. I delivered you myself…and the moment I saw you…I knew every choice I’d ever made had been the right ones…because they led to you. You’re the greatest gift this life has ever given me. And there is more I should have shared in that letter, so listen to me…DON’T BE BATMAN. Find happiness. Please. You don’t have to do this. Don’t do it for me. Don’t do it for your mother. Be a father for your son in a way I never could be for you. Let the Batman die with me…”

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This is not your normal Batman book and the Button will not be your normal comic book story. No, DC is planning something big. The Batman. Flashpoint revisited and still to come, the Watchmen? No, Convergence was a tease. This appears to be the DC story of the year right here.

Bruce (as a child) – “I’m sorry I fell into the cave, dad.”

Dr. Thomas Wayne – “Sometimes we fall, son…but always remember…Waynes never stay down…WE RISE.”

 

Monday’s Mutant is the Orphan-Maker

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One of the more unique mutants to come out of the X-men stories and in this case the X-Factor storyline is the tale of Nanny and her strong-arm associate knows as the Orphan-Maker. Nanny was the leader of the lost boys and girls, mutants who didn’t have parents and Peter the Orphan-Maker was the first of her group. But for her to find more children, Nanny directed Peter to kill their parents, thus orphaning them.

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The Orphan-Maker first appears in X-Factor #31, circa August of 1988, when he is held captive at Mister Sinister’s orphanage for mutants. He is deemed uncontrollable and sentenced to death by Mr. Sinister but is saved by the cyborg Nanny. He becomes the first of her lost boys and girls. Nanny decides that she wants to save more mutant children and to do so they must be orphans just like Peter, so she comes to the conclusion that to do this, the parents of young mutant children must die.  Peter than becomes, the Orphan-Maker.

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While on the surface this seems ludricrous, keep in mind this is from Nanny who is in fact a cyborg. Mutant children were being abandoned and disowned by their families and then being used by Mister Sinister for evil. Orphaning them and saving them was the logical conlclusion. These plans run afoul of X-Factor after Nanny and Orphan-Maker take Dazzler and Havok captive. With a little help from a young mutant unknown to the X-men at the time, Colossus frees Dazzler and Havok but find Storm, converted into a child. The young mutant who helped later turns out to be Jubilee.

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Orphan Maker is a mutant but does not show any mutant powers and in fact seems to derive all his abilities from his power suit. He is also never able to intellectually grow beyond the thinking of a child. Though they would fight the X-Men and their various teams in the late eighties and nineties, they would soon disappear from the face of the mutant landscape.

 

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