Batman and Robin #38
Story: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Patrick Gleason
It's a bird! It's a plane! It's... Damian Wayne? Yes indeed, Damian is back from the dead, and he has superpowers. Now that Damian is back from the dead after the events of Robin Rises, it's time to establish the new status quo. Pete Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, one of the longest running teams on any book since the New 52 reboot, start to look at Damian and how he reacts to the new powers he received after his resurrection. And it starts out rough. Damian was always impetuous at best, and flat out aggressive at worst, and the new powers he demonstrates aren't helping. Flight, invulnerability, and super strength are a suite of powers that can be easily abused, and Batman clearly is concerned that Damian, who has a history of homicide, might just abuse them. We see a patrol, and Damian flings himself into danger with no concern. In all fairness, if I knew I was bulletproof, it would be hard for me to not just go for it. But Damian has once again proven he has a hard time taking orders, and so once again, Batman scolds him. But as the issue progresses, we see Damian's death and return have left more scars than he lets on. It's nice to see that Damian is suffering nightmares about the circumstances of his death; death has to be traumatic, especially at the hands of someone you loved. The trauma of death and resurrection is something rarely touched on in super hero comics. And after Damian's nightmare, he once again disobeys Batman and flies off. Tomasi then once again uses Alfred as the voice of reason to Batman, telling to have a little faith in Damian. I think Alfred might have some experience dealing with an angry, traumatized young man of exceptional abilities. Tomasi and Scott Snyder on Batman have both done tremendous work with the relationship between Batman and Alfred, really making Alfred the sage adviser who Batman listens to and is almost always right. This is not the Alfred of Gotham, this sort of gruff, angry badass uncle. I like an Alfred with a real paternal streak, something that really works when he serves as a father figure to all these young men. The issue ends with Damian going to Atlantis to tie up a thread from the "Hunt for Robin" story, and it's a scene that really shows the growth that Damian has gone through since his introduction as a spoiled brat. Seeing how Damian reacts to the deformed clones of himself is touching, witnessing that Damian has really learned to care about others. I'm hoping that Tomasi and Gleason continue their run for quite a while after Convergence to further explore the changes to a character that I've come to really love.
Story: Noelle Stevenson & Shannon Watters
Art: Carolyn Nowak
Somehow, I'm not surprised that the day at Lumberjanes camp where everyone can just kick back and do their own thing is not as relaxing as it sounds. The second arc of Lumberjanes begins with Mal and Molly going off to have a picnic while April, Ripley, and Jo decide to try to get some of the more mundane badges that monster hunting time preclude (they promised to not do anything exciting til Mal and Molly get back). While the trio provide the comic relief throughout the issue, with April frustrated about getting the boring badges, the issue's heart is Mal and Molly on a date in the woods before the action starts. I've rarely seen those early sparks of infatuation and love played out as well in comics as I have here. As Mal talks about her friends at home and all the fun she would have had if she hadn't been shipped off to camp, artist Carolyn Nowak paints Molly's face showing all the doubt that someone can feel when they think that the person they have feelings for doesn't have the same depth of feeling for them. After ten issues, it's really impressive how well rounded these characters are, and how much the reader has come to care about them. Of course, this is Lumberjanes, so pretty soon the craziness starts, as Mal and Molly see the Bear Woman, and follow her through the woods and fall through a time portal behind her. There's another charmingly awkward moment as the girls land in the past in one of the classic romantic adventure poses and there is some adorable blushing. And not only are there time portals, but pretty soon there are dinosaurs! And you know anything with dinosaurs gets a thumbs up from me. Lumberjanes is one of my favorite comics coming out right now, and it looks like it will be moving into even surer footing now that it's into its new life as an ongoing. Also, the issue title of "Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fondant," is one of those puns that is so groanworthy that I have to laugh; I love those puns.
The Valiant #2
Story: Jeff Lemire & Matt Kindt
Art: Paolo Rivera and Jeff Lemire
The Valiant finds a way to move from its excellent first issue into an even better second issue. After the stakes and characters were established last issue, this one brings the Eternal Enemy front and center, hunting down neophyte Geomancer Kay McHenry in the form of Mr. Flay, a boogieman from a childhood story Kay loved. Co-writer Jeff Lemire draws the storybook sequences, which works perfectly. Lemire's style is slightly off the norm, not the same realistic lines as series artist Paolo Rivera, and that art works because of the fairy tale aspect of the story and because it seems of another world. Speaking of Rivera, his work on Mr. Flay/Eternal Enemy is really impressive. It's an incredibly creepy design, both in it's hideous monster form as the Enemy and as it's evil gentleman form as Flay; that sort of elderly gentleman thing hearkens back to classic vampires and The Gentlemen from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and is great horror trope. Aside from Kay and the Eternal Enemy, with see Eternal Warrior and Ninjak retrieve someone who will be of use in this battle, and an end of issue appearance from Bloodshot painting him as a white knight, a role he will be unaccustomed to, I am sure. There's also a last page that is so classically superhero that it made me smile. I've realized that The Valiant takes a lot of classic tropes, not just the monster, but some superhero tropes, the hero's journey for Kay, the man haunted by his past failures for Eternal Warrior, and shines them up and fits them together as if they were meant to be together all along. It's a perfect introduction to the Valiant universe, while still rewarding long time readers. Seriously, if you like superhero stories, The Valiant is a book not to be missed.
And Dan Grote bids a fond farewell to a Matt Signal favorite...
All-New X-Factor #20
Words by Peter David
Art by Carmine Di Giandomenico, Will Sliney and Lee Loughridge
Cue up the sad Boyz II Men song. Either “End of the Road” or “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.” Your choice. We’ll wait.
We here at the Matt Signal have made no secret of our love for Peter David and his band of misfit mutants, so without belaboring the point, we’re sad to see another incarnation of X-Factor go after only about a year in service.
But David and artist Carmine Di Giandomenico go out the only way they possibly could: with robot sex and a cliffhanger ending that would make Alf jealous.
If the upcoming Secret Wars is intended to be a greatest-hits tour of the Marvel Universe before it ends, All-New X-Factor #20 is the Peter David version of that. In addition to the book’s main cast, we get a visit from Miguel O’Hara, aka Spider-Man 2099, who offers a glimpse into the rewritten future. Without spoilers, it’s a future David fans have seen before.
The good news is, it looks like David wants to pack up his pets and move them to his other book. X-Factor’s final pages reveal Serval CEO Harrison Snow’s true intentions for the team, which tie in closely with the world of future Spidey. Also tying things together neatly is Spider-Man 2099 artist Will Sliney, who drew the O’Hara scenes.
Oh, and I think this bears repeating: This book has robot sex in it. Suffice it to say Cypher and Warlock are now eskimo brothers.