It’s time for Part 2 of the Comics Rundown. Here I’ll be doing mini-reviews of certain series while also highlighting my favourite lines and awarding each issue a score out of ten. In this first part I’ll be focusing on Action Comics #23.1: Cyborg Superman, The Flash #23.1: Grodd, Green Arrow #23.1: Count Vertigo, Green Lantern #23.1: Relic, and Superman #23.1: Bizarro. Also I should mention that there be SPOILERS in these reviews. You are warned!
Action Comics #23.1: Cyborg Superman
Since the big reveal at the end of Supergirl where we learned that the Cyborg Superman was not Hank Henshaw but was in fact her father Zor-El, my anticipation levels were at an all-time high for this series, eagerly awaiting illumination as to how this all transpired. The answers are laid bare for us in this Villains Month offering, a tale that flips between Zor-El pre-Brainiac and post. The pre-section takes place on Krypton, Zor-El and his brother Jor-El at odds in regards to how to save the populace of Krypton with Zor-El wanting to use Brainiac tech to bottle the city of Argo while Jor-El wants to build a ship, the plans of which he gives to his brother. Zor-El is stubborn but in the end relents, builds one, and sends his daughter Kara away as his wife Allura questions his decision. She asks that if he had so much faith in himself why would he send her away and then really cuts to the bone by stating “I wish you could have been a better scientist like your brother.” Ouch! He succeeds with his plan though he cannot fully control the bottled city and eight months later his wife dies in his arms. In the later months, post-Krypton, sensing the hopelessness of the situation, Zor-El sent out a call of help to Brainiac of all people and this call is answered after Allura’s death. Brainiac recognizes him as the brother of the greatest Kryptonian ever, Jor-El. He decides to make him “perfect”, augmenting Zor-El’s DNA and RNA to more resemble his vastly superior brother, gracing the crest of the great house of El across his chest, stripping away his memories, and replacing a good deal of his flesh and organic material with metal and technology. Brainiac then sends him out into the universe wanting him to find other beings that are worthy of perfection. The Cyborg Superman goes to the planet Kampara and tests its citizens to find someone worthy until he comes across two brothers who are hungry. He informs them that he will feed the one that kills the other only to reveal, after the act is committed, that the food he is offering is the body of the murdered brother. Whether he was subconsciously living out his deep-seated jealousy towards Zor-El or not, the brother flees and the Cyborg Superman declares that everyone on the now devastated planet failed to live up to his lofty standards. He ends the issue alone in the universe once again, concluding this illuminating and heart wrenching tale. We learned more about his origins including an explanation of his looks though I can’t wait to see how he goes from seeking others for perfection to where he was at in Supergirl currently.
Zor-El: Earth is a cesspool of sub-literate barbarians. They’re only happy when they’re killing something.
Brainiac: He will have no need for those memories. They, like so much flesh, are superfluous. What need does a man truly have of an organ abused by cowards and lovers? To craft the ideal Kryptonian, strip the unnecessary. Replace with the indispensable. What remains…is perfection.
Brainiac: Sadly, perfection is a flower lost among the countless weeds of the universe. Go. Search the universe for other specimens worthy of perfection. If you find any suitable subjects…bring them to me for transformation. I seek to grow my garden.
The Flash #23.1: Grodd
I’ll be the first one to admit that I always found the Grodd portions of the New 52’s Flash series to be the weakest of the bunch so when I was presented with this issue with Grodd as the star my hopes were pretty low. That said, it actually was better than I thought it would be as Grodd proceeds to get all philosophical with us. We learn that the villain was freed from the Speed Force by the Crime Syndicate just in time to ruin the gorilla-human coexistence as they were erecting a statue of the Flash. Grodd reveals that he has grown exponentially stronger having evolved during his time trapped in the Speed Force and subsequently manages to overcome a combined assault from his fellow apes and their human compatriots. Realizing the situation is lost, Solovar tells the apes to stand down as he has seen enough bloodshed and is in turn held prisoner for all to see. Victorious, Grodd renames Keystone City as Grodd City and acknowledges that he has everything he ever wanted before proclaiming that he is bored before taking off, the “To Be Continued in Rogue’s Rebellion” greeting us at its conclusion. While it was an improvement over previous Grodd outings, it still was nothing spectacular for me personally and I for one will not be kneeling before Grodd anytime soon…
Grodd: Was my life preordained or do I choose my path? Is destiny something we invented to justify our actions…or is there really a grand design? Burdening a child with the notion that he is destined for greatness is not a weight that is easily shed. I refuse to be crushed beneath it.
Grodd: Humans. Take a good look at us…we are better than you. Your day is over. And those of you that live on to see the glory of Gorilla Nation do so at my whim. I rule man and ape alike! Kneel before Grodd!
Grodd: We are an incongruous species. Savage and strong, yet we are intelligent and have mental abilities. Our cultural rite of passage dictates that we kill our father to take his name, yet the leaders preach peace and passivity. These two cannot coexist any more than I can be both a product of evolution and destiny. So, what am I? I feel no more regret for killing a human than I would for crushing an ant under my heel. Death means nothing to me. I exist. I dominate. I am a force of nature. I am without peer. Who am I? I am a contradiction.
Green Arrow #23.1: Count Vertigo
A Villain’s Month title by the same creative team as the ongoing series? Now this is more like it! The promise of learning the new origin of Count Vertigo, modernizing him for the 21st century and thusly forcing me to one day go back and update my Character Spotlight had me excited. With this level of anticipation things could come up short but…they did not disappoint. In fact it was everything I hoped it would be. I’ve made it known that I simply love what Sorrentino has been doing on this title and he delivered once again in a tale that was both tragic and beautiful to look at. Vertigo’s new origin started off relatively intact from his original with his mother and him fleeing the country after rebels overthrew the government but that was the extent of the similarities. His mother unjustly blames her son for their current situation and eventually seizes the opportunity to make some quick cash by selling him to Crius, a mental institute that performs experiments on him. All this time, the perspective of the flashbacks have been in first person view, seen through his young eyes until it shifts during the epic first time he uses his powers on the other children at Crius who were bullying him. He eventually rises up and turns on Crius before going back to Vlatava and claiming his birthright. In the present day, in between the flashbacks, we see Count Vertigo go through the dilapidated former facility of Crius until he meets up with the individual his men had finally captured….his mother. She’s ready to be freed, to take part in her son’s fame and fortune his new status affords him but he will not reward the women who tossed him away and murders her before proclaiming that Green Arrow is next. Overall, they certainly did a nice job of updating his origin while coating it with a much darker subject matter. The art was mind-blowing (no surprise there) and this issue left me excited to see the Count Vertigo-Green Arrow confrontation that is going to come to a head in the coming months.
Dr. Witchell: H-how could you?! We took you from nothing. You would have died alone, on poverty. We gave you power. We made you better!
Count Vertigo: You made me a weapon!!! …And no one will use it but me.
Count Vertigo: My name was Werner Zytle and I was to be the Count of Vlatava…but now I am something more. I am Count Vertigo.
Count Vertigo: Burn the body and then burn this place to the ground. I want it to be as if it never existed.
Green Lantern #23.1: Relic
So far Relic has been a pretty generic new edition to the Green Lantern mythos and has definitely left me wanting. This issue looks to illuminate the villain’s past, something that is much needed. So did it convince me that he is a worthy foe for the Green Lantern Corps and the rest of the Light brigade? While I wouldn’t go that far, at least we now understand why he has such a bad attitude towards them. The entire issue is vastly different from the other Villains Month offerings this week as Relic doesn’t utter a single sentence, it doesn’t feature any panels but rather full-page spreads, and the entire issue is narrated like a storybook. We journey to a time long before our universe existed where the Lightsmiths wield the powers of the emotion spectrum through staffs instead of rings. Relic (called that because they think he is a relic because of his preference for the old ways) is a scientist who warns them that their use of these powers are draining the universal reservoir and that if they continue to use them, they would fade and the entire universe would collapse in on itself…which of course happens. The issue ends with Relic rushing to the source wall and becoming trapped in it until he is awoken in the pages of New Guardians many, many years later. We see that he tried to convince the Lightsmiths with science and debate but now he realizes that they only understand violence which explains his antagonistic approach to the rest of the Lantern Corps. While it made for a quick read, it was well written but I’m still not caring for Relic as a character. At least we got a grander sense of who he is though and what the upcoming “Lights Out” crossover will be about.
Narrator: If it was proof the Lightsmiths wanted, then he would find it. To save creation was his calling now.
Narrator: The Lightsmiths had mocked his theory about the reservoir. In the end, they proved the reservoir’s existence by exhausting it.
Narrator: Forever a scientist, what else could he do but pass through? If this was his final moment, then he would fill it with discovery.
Superman #23.1: Bizarro
For an issue that has Bizarro in the title, Bizarro actually takes a backseat to Lex Luthor. Anyone taking a look at the cover and thinking that is what kind of Bizarro we are going to get…would also be sadly mistaken. What does happen is that Lex Luthor combines the genetic structure of Superman, from a blood sample he secured, and combines it with a young man leading to disastrous results. Lex was trying to create a Superman who would obey him but the cells have an adverse reaction to the test subject turning him into a mindless rampaging monster. Lex manages to destroy the subject and takes away that a human-Krytonian hybrid is not possible, vowing his next one will be a straight up clone of Superman, 100% pure Krytonian. The issue ends many years later as said test subject (B-0) looks ready to make his debut, “To Be Continued in Forever Evil” teasing us at the end. Overall, this issue was disappointing and one of the weakest Villains Month issues of the entire week. Besides some well-written Luthor lines, the rest was pretty generic with the only thing that really captured my imagination being on the last page.
Narrator: This is a tale of imperfection. It begins with an ending and ends with a beginning. A villain is the hero, and a hero is the villain. Its main character remains behind the scenes. It ends in birth, and it begins–in blood.
Lex Luthor: Why am I doomed to be continually surrounded by small minds?
Lex Luthor: What bitter irony. I wanted a better Superman–a perfect Superman to do my bidding. Instead, I got a hulking, uncontrollable brute with more brawn than brains–just like Superman.
And that is Part 2 complete. Agree/Disagree with my reviews? Comment below!