Waiting for the Trade – Demon Knights

So yes, it’s been close to six months since I posted here. Basically I got a job teaching in September, and to anyone who thinks teaching is a part time job allow me to chortle merrily in your general direction. And then I proposed to my longtime lady and we’ve been planning a wedding. So yea life’s been happening but without further ado let’s talk comic books.

 
Waiting for the Trade

By Bill Miller

 
Demon Knights (vol.
2): The Avalon Trap.

By Paul Cornell,
Diogenes Neves and Bernard Chang

Collects Demon Knights
8-12 and 0

Why I Bought This: Demon Knights trade collection 1 is the best
New 52 book I’ve read yet. I would almost certainly have purchased the next
collection under any circumstances, but the fact the second volume promised to delve
deeper into Arthurian lore made it a priority purchase.

The Plot: When
Merlin is murdered the Demon Knights are tasked with going to Avalon in an
attempt to resurrect him.

For those not familiar with the series premise it is a
basically a Justice League style team up book set in the middle ages with half
the members being immortal characters that are still active in the current DC
Universe such as Madame Xanadu, the Demon Etrigan and Vandal Savage as well as
new characters Shining Knight (a Grail knight from Camelot), Horsewoman (can
talk to horses), Al Jabr (super scientist/inventor type) and Exoristos (an
Amazon from Paradise Island).
 
As always spoilers follow after the break

 

Chapter 1 – A majority of the team feels Vandal Savage meant
to betray them in the last arc and was not just going undercover with the
Horde. In flashback we learn that Madame Xanadu is in fact Nimue (of Arthurian
mythology). We then get the history of her relationship with Jason Blood. Later
the Demon recalls the same facts of the relationship in a very different light.
Back in the present Merlin is working on a spell to restore Camelot when he is
murdered by a cultist who seems to be possessed by Lovecraftian horrors.

Chapter 2 – The royal family of the City of Alba Sarum
reluctantly hire the team (only agreeing to do so because of Shining Knight’s
presence) to take Merlin’s body to Avalon in hopes that he can be restored
there. Xanadu, who is from Avalon, is confident this will work. They board a
boat (and we learn Shining Knight’s Pegasus can talk) and are attacked by a Sea
Serpent in the first cliffhanger. Then in Hell we see Etrigan meet with Lucifer
and offer to steal all the souls in Avalon for Hell including the souls of his
teammates and Merlin.

Chapter 3 – The sea serpent is being rode on by pirates in a
bit of awesome; however Xanadu and Savage team up to kill it and then accept
the pirates’ surrender in exchange for safe passage. They arrive at a village
near the border of the ruins of Camelot and we hear tales of monstrous animals
and other horrors are coming from the ruins. The heroes continue their journey,
kill a ludicrously large wolf and finally find Camelot where a new tower stands
over the ruins. They are then attacked King Arthur as the tower’s dark magic
mutates everyone but Xanadu.

Chapter 4 – So the mutagenic effect has apparently
transformed everyone into a twisted version of their innermost desire. Al Jabr
becomes a MODOK-like creature of super-intelligence, Etrigan is a Demon King,
Horsewoman is a centaur, Vandal Savage is a Neanderthal version of himself,
Exoristos is painfully deformed and Shining Knight is herself physically but
now has so much pride she has no interest in helping any of the others. They
manage to work together long enough to fight off some Lovecraftian wolves but
when Undead Arthur tries to use the waters of Avalon to heal them they all
resist. He douses them anyway. While most of the team is then happy to be
restored, Etrigan is the exception and he and the now human Arthur battle. Once
separated the rest of the team is curious why Xanadu was not affected. She
reveals her past as Nimue/one of the fey and that she is Arthur’s sister.
Arthur relates how Avalon restored him from the dead after a century or so but
when he got back to Camelot the dark tower had been erected and transformed him
and the land. The heroes decide to storm the tower and defeat an Earth
Elemental in the process. In the cliffhanger we learn the tower belongs to
Morgan Le Fey and this whole quest to restore Merlin is a trap she has set.

Chapter 5 – The heroes enter the tower and discover it is
larger inside than outside as Jabr finally accepts magic is real. They find the
Round Table with dead knights in the chairs and a pentagram scrawled on it.
Also dead is one of the ladies of Avalon, Tui (sister to both Morgan and
Nimue). Also Horsewoman discovers the tower is draining their life forces just
by being inside it. That tidbit makes the heroes decide to retreat only to be
cut off by a legion of mutated animals. Shining Knight decapitates a bear but
it explodes in poison gas and KOs everyone.
They awaken to find themselves chained to a wall in the formation of a mystic
symbol. Morgan’s use of dark magic has taken a toll on her body so she intends
to use the Demon Knights to make Merlin’s body immortal then transfer her soul
into Merlin. Of course like every super villain Morgan has to leave the room
after setting up her deathtrap. Etrigan escapes by switching places with Jason
Blood then switches back again so he can burn the alter and disrupt the spell.
The heroes attack Morgan and since she can’t revive Merlin she attempts to
switch bodies with Nimue only for Arthur to jump in the way of the spell. Arthur’s
will holds her at bay long enough to order Shining Knight to restore Merlin and
carry on the legacy of Camelot and then he plunges Excalibur into a mystic fire
Morgan had burning which explodes seemingly destroying them both. The tower
collapses but everyone makes it out in time. Etrigan suggests continuing the
quest to Avalon but Nimue is unable to summon the mystic barge that takes the
sisters there presumably because of whatever Morgan did to erect her tower and
corrupt the land. Once Etrigan learns the quest is lost he angrily teleports
everyone to Hell.

Chapter 6 – In a flashback issue, we see that Etrigan’s life
in Hell was unpleasant and he once led a failed rebellion against Lucifer. We
also see in Camelot that Jason Blood was apprenticed to Merlin as a scribe as
he had no talent for magic himself, and was unhappy in the position except for
when he was flirting with Nimue. Merlin gets some bad advice about Blood from
Morgan le Fey so that when UFOs inexplicably attack Camelot he binds Blood with
Etrigan as Camelot falls.

 

Critical Thoughts:
This is really the best modern comic book I’ve read from any company since
DnA’s run on Guardians of the Galaxy
ended in 2010. I really enjoyed the hell out of the team coming together first
volume and this second volume is even better as it delves deep into Arthurian
Lore, which is among my favorite genres in fiction. Morgan’s layered plan gives
these issues a lot of momentum and her portrayal at the end feels both on
target and makes for a fun payoff. Furthermore the art is stellar at times,
particularly in some of the big action splash pages.

Among the team members the love triangle with Xanadu,
Etrigan and Blood continues to be intriguing. The fact that some team
members (Etrigan and Savage) are unrepentantly evil also gives it a real anything can happen at any time feel. Shining Knight’s story is not as interesting but then the Grail Quest to me has always been the least interesting part of the Arthurian Legend. The lesser team members
aren’t given as much to do in this volume but they are being  pushed aside for the more interesting members
of the team so I’m okay with that and we are still getting small hints into their pasts as well.

Honestly this is one of the most original books to come
along in years if not decades. I can’t think of another team superhero book
that has ever been set in the Middle Ages before and so far the exploration of
the concept and setting has been fantastic. If you want something different
than everything else on the market then check this title out.

 
Grade A+. Highest
Possible Recommendation.

 

 

Waiting for the Trade – Hawkeye

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
Avengers: Hawkeye
by Mark Gruenwald, Steven Grant, Stan Lee, John Byrne & Don Heck
Collects Hawkeye # 1- 4, Tales of Suspense #57, Marvel Super Action #1, Avengers #189 and
Marvel Team-Up #95.
Why I Bought This – This was another of my Avengers movie week frenzy purchases. In this case Hawkeye is my second favorite of the core Avengers. This is also focuses on his relationship with Mockingbird and they are my second favorite comic couple of all time. Throw in that Mark Gruenwald (who is basically tied with Roger Stern as my all-time favorite comic writer) wrote the main story arc and this was something that needed to be in my collection.
The Plot – Hawkeye, on hiatus from the Avengers, is working security for a private company when he and Mockingbird stumble upon a supervillain conspiracy. Also we get some of the earliest appearances of Hawkeye and Mockingbird reprinted as well. Spoilers ahead:

Chapter 1 – Hawkeye is trying out his new sky cycle. We see him with his girlfriend Shelia and some of his co-workers at Cross Technological Enterprises and he reflects on his origin and his new post-Avengers success. Hawk’s night off is interrupted by an intruder alarm at Cross Tech. The intruder is Mockingbird and they meet for the first time in a flirty battle. Mock plays the ex-SHIELD card and tries to tell Hawk that she has information on a conspiracy to build a mind control device at Cross Tech but he arrests her anyway. However he can’t shake what she said so he investigates on his own, leading to him being ambushed by a squad of generic thugs. They capture him and toss him in abandoned well where Mockingbird has also been stashed. Shelia reveals herself as one of the bad guys and they attempt to drown Hawk and Bird in toxic waste. The heroes escape on Hawk’s sky cycle but Hawkeye is broken hearted.
Chapter 2 – Hawkeye discovers his apartment has been cleaned out by Cross Tech, so Mockingbird takes him in and shares her origin. An assassin comes for Hawkeye in his sleep but the heroes drive him off. They break into Cross Tech and have a second battle with the assassin with Hawkeye scoring a hard fought victory while Mockingbird steals the bad guys’ plans.
Chapter 3 – Oddball and Bombshell are called in to take out the heroes. Oddball is a juggler with trick balls similar to Hawkeye’s trick arrows, while Bombshell is a chick with fire-based weapons and explosives. They blow up Mockingbird’s apartment but the heroes escape. Hawk touches base with Cap but decides to solve this case without Avengers’ aid. We get the up close and personal battle between the hero and villain pairs. Bombshell takes out Mockingbird, while Hawkeye defeats Oddball but then Bombshell ambushes Hawk from behind to give the villains the win.
Chapter 4 – The heroes awake chained to a wall and Crossfire is revealed as the head villain. His mind-control machine causes uncontrollable rage in all those who hear a sonic pulse it emits. His plan is to kill Hawkeye and then use his machine at the funeral to get the Avengers to kill each other thus taking them off the board for his plan for world conquest. He decides to test his machine on Hawk and Bird and locks them in a room without their weapons. They battle ferociously but Crossfire turns his machine off so the heroes will absorb the horror of their situation. Hawkeye uses that moment to bite down on one of his sonic arrowheads thus deafening himself. When the machine is turned back on he remains in control of himself and is able to defeat Mockingbird. He then feigns collapsing from exhaustion and when the villains come to check on him, he steals Oddballs weapons and defeats all three of them. He checks on Mockingbird and is afraid she’s dead. She revives and they kiss. We cut away to a honeymoon suite where Hawkeye and Mockingbird have eloped.
Chapter 5 – In his first appearance Hawkeye is working at a carnival when he sees Iron Man stop a Ferris wheel from breaking. This inspires Hawkeye to become a super hero but on his first mission stopping a jewel thief the police mistake him for the criminal. While on the run he bumps into Russian spy the Black Widow and instantly falls for her. She talks him into attacking Iron Man for her. We get an extended fight scene with classic Stan Lee choreography. Eventually Widow gets caught in the crossfire between the two and Hawkeye rushes her to safety while a convenient fog storm prevents Iron Man from following.
Chapter 6 – A black and white story of Mockingbird using the alias Huntress. She has been assigned by Congress to ferret out corruption in SHIELD, and we get a fairly straightforward non-superhero spy story of her in Mexico looking into an agent that she went to academy with. It’s actually fairly brutal and more like a pulp story than a Marvel story. The spies don’t even have the usual SHIELD tech as it is all guns and knives and realism. Anyway Mockingbird breaks up this corrupt batch with everyone in the story who isn’t her ending up dead. She finds some papers that indicate Nick Fury may be corrupt.
Chapter 7 –Hawkeye gets the job at Cross Tech that started this trade as he tries to prove he can make it on his own as a hero. Deathbird from the Shi’ar Empire of all people break into Cross Tech on Hawkeye’s first day. Apparently she’s been exiled to Earth and thinks there some tech here that can get her home (in another galaxy, that’s some private company). Anyway they fight and Hawkeye wins.
Chapter 8 – Spider-man (as Peter) is at the airport when he sees a woman being accosted by a group of men. He turns to Spidey while she ends up handling herself quite well and is revealed to be Mockingbird. Spidey learns her attackers were SHIELD agents and assumes she must be a villain after already helping her escape but she uses one of SHIELD’s flying cars to escape. A SHIELD agent named Deladin brings Spidey in to apprehend Mockingbird and says she’s out to assassinate Nick Fury. The plan is to use a Fury LMD to lure Bird out so Spidey can capture her. The plan works but when Spidey captures her, she has microfilm showing the corruption in SHIELD. At this point Deladin reveals himself as a counter agent and attacks the heroes with the Satan Claw (usually used by Baron Strucker of HYDRA). He actually defeats both heroes and is about to kill them when the real Nick Fury arrives and disarms him. Bird attempts to give her evidence to Fury only to be shot by other SHIELD agents, who didn’t know she was working undercover. Fury rushes her to the hospital and vows to finish the job she started in weeding out the corruption in SHIELD.
We also get Hawkeye and Mockingbird’s entries from the 1980s Marvel Universe Handbook.
Critical Thoughts: I liked everything about this. Hawk and Bird are still a fabulously fun couple and both characters shine in both the main story and the various back-ups/reprints.
I’d read both the main story and the Marvel Team Up issue back in the day and both hold up as thoroughly excellent comics. The main story in particular is exactly the kind of story that makes Gruenwald one of my favorites from pacing to the heroes’ interior monologues this is what super hero story telling should be. The fact that none of the heroes or villains in this story have superpowers and yet it feels perfectly at home in the larger Marvel Universe is another credit to Gruenwald’s ability to tell a perfect superhero adventure story. The finale with Hawkeye deafening himself in order to save the day is also the kind of heroic sacrifice with lasting consequences you don’t see very often. Throw in the Hawkeye gets married at the end of this and this was clearly a status quo shattering story for the character, which again is very rare for a mini-series.

I’d never read Hawkeye’s first appearance but it’s great. Let’s face it Stan Lee in the Silver Age creating iconic characters that have lasted 50 years is always excellent. Nuff’ Said.
The Mockingbird pulp story is so different than 99-percent of what Marvel usually publishes that I enjoyed it just for the novelty.
The other Hawkeye story was also a new read for me; and while not as overwhelmingly great as everything else here it was still a perfectly acceptable comic book and sets the table nicely for the main story.
Grade A+. If you like Hawkeye and Mockingbird then you need to own this.

Waiting for the Trade – Avengers

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
Avengers: Under Siege
by Roger Stern and John Buscema
Collects Avengers 270 – 277
Why I Bought This – As I mentioned a few times the week of The Avengers movie I purchased several trades. This collects the most famous story of the Roger Stern era and Stern is perhaps my all time favorite comic writer (it’s either him or Mark Gruenwald) in large part because of his work on the Avengers.
The Plot – Baron Zemo assembles a small army of supervillains to take down the Avengers in a coordinated assault on the mansion all so he can get revenge on Captain America for killing his father. Your Avengers at the start of this story are Wasp, Cap, the second Captain Marvel, Black Knight, Hercules and Namor. (Spoilers ahead):

Chapter 1 – New Yorkers are protesting the Avengers recent decision to admit Namor as a member due to some of his prior supervillainy in the pages of early Fantastic Four. Moonstone decides this would be an ideal time to pretend to be a widow of a man killed by Namor to incite the crowd to riot. The Avengers deal with the riot and Wasp recognizes Moonstone and they battle one on one for awhile until Black Knight intervenes to defeat Moonstone. As she is hauled off to prison Absorbing Man and Titania are impersonating the police guards in the truck and take her to meet Zemo (as yet unidentified). Namor learns his old foe Attuma is holding his current girlfriend Marina (of Alpha Flight) hostage and leaves to rescue her on his own.
Chapter 2 – Hercules and Wasp continue to argue as part of an ongoing subplot from this era where Hercules resents taking orders from a woman. Wasp goes home to cool off and runs into Paladin, whom she was having a casual relationship with at this time. Wasp and Paladin are interrogating the new Yellow Jacket in prison (Hank Pym’s secretary who stole one of his costumes to become a supervillain six months prior to this story) when Screaming Mimi and Grey Gargoyle arrive to bust her out of jail. The heroes are quickly overwhelmed but Wasp gets out a distress call. Unfortunately only Black Knight is available to answer as C.M. is in space, Cap is out of state traveling via motorcycle, and Hercules broke his at a bar following the argument with Wasp. We end up with a fairly well choreographed three on three fight with the heroes winning. They capture Mimi and Gargoyle but Yellow Jacket escapes. Namor radios the team for help in his rescue mission.
Chapter 3 – The Avengers and Alpha Flight team up to rescue Marina. After the heroes win Marina flees from Namor due to drama of her alien heritage (part of an ongoing Alpha Flight subplot). Namor decides to stick by her anyway and quits the Avengers in order to do so.
Chapter 4 – We finally see Zemo and throughout the issue the full Masters of Evil membership is revealed as the Masters use surveillance cameras to spy on the Avengers, all of whom pursue various individual subplots. The Masters include: Zemo (son of a Nazi, no powers), Moonstone (flight, intangibility, enhanced strength and laser blasts), The Wrecking Crew (four members, all enhanced strength and their leading has a magic crowbar), Blackout (control of the darkforce dimension including making solid objects ala Green Lantern), Mr. Hyde (more enhanced strength), Goliath (enhanced strength near Wonderman levels when human-sized plus growth powers to further increase his strength), Fixer (super science gadgets), Tiger Shark (enhanced strength., sharp teeth, water breathing),Yellow Jacket (costume allows shrinking, flying and energy blasts), Absorbing Man (absorbs the properties of whatever he touches) and Titania (enhanced strength). When their surveillance shows all the Avengers are out they storm the mansion and take Jarvis hostage.
Chapter 5 – Black Knight is first to come home. He is ambushed by Mr. Hyde and severely beaten. They use his comuni-card to call Captain Marvel and when she arrives Blackout zaps her into the darkforce dimension. Cap goes to Wasp’s home and alerts to what is going on (he stumbled onto Zemo’s plot in his own book battling Whirlwind and Trapster in an issue not collected in this trade). Wasp sneaks into an air duct and finds where Jarvis and Knight are being held, and Jarvis warns her Hercules is about to walk into a trap. Cap and Wasp try to divert, but Herc is very drunk and refuses to follow Wasp’s orders. He storms the mansion alone. Cap and Wasp try to back him up but Fixer turns the mansions defenses on them defeating them both and capturing Cap. Hercules defeats Tiger Shark only to be attacked by Hyde and the Wrecking Crew. He’s holding his own until Goliath and then the supervillains beat him to death.
Chapter 6 – Wasp rushes Herc to the ER (the Masters tossed his body out of the mansion) while Zemo gloats to Cap. Ant-Man 2 arrives at the hospital having seen the incident on the news and offers to assist Wasp. The doctors pronounce Herc dead but then his heart starts up on its own; he is however in a coma. Zemo sends Absorbing Man and Titania to the hospital to capture Wasp. Zemo destroys Cap’s personal possessions in front of him and then has Hyde torture Jarvis in front of him. Wasp and Ant Man somewhat improbably defeat the two villains.
Chapter 7 – Captain Marvel escapes from the darkforce dimension by using a portal created by the Shroud when he generates his black fog power. She meets up with Wasp, who has also called in Thor to help. Dr. Druid sees TV coverage of the mansion (which is now enclosed in a Darkforce cube to prevent police and the military from helping the imprisoned Avengers) and he decides to help as well on his own. Wasp has power cut to the mansion, which enables Black Knight to teleport his magic sword to him (Zemo & Fixer were keeping it in a stasis field). He uses it to free himself and Cap and they take the fight to Mr. Hyde. Wasp has CM burn into the mansion from beneath and the assembled team helps finish off Hyde. Druid walks through the darkforce wall with his mystic/mental powers as Ant Man takes out Fixer by surprise. Thor takes out the Wrecking Crew and depowers the three who aren’t Wrecker (they got their powers by Asgardian magic originally) only to be ambushed and pummeled by Goliath. Moonstone attempts to flee and C.M. gives pursuit causing Moonstone to crash into a mountain and break her neck. Druid attempts to deal with Blackout but is shot from behind with a tranquilizer gun by Zemo. Zemo orders Blackout to send the entire mansion into the Darkforce dimension.
Chapter 8 – Thor gets his second win against Goliath, while Cap squares off against Wrecker in a pair of well done battles. Druid uses his telepathy to free Blackout from Zemo’s mind control headband but the ensuing fight causes Blackout to die from a brain hemorrhage. Cap confronts Yellow Jacket, who just surrenders without a fight because as always Cap is the man. C.M. returns to melt all of Zemo’s weapons. The Avengers surround him but Cap demands a one on one fight and it ends with Zemo falling off the roof of the mansion. In the aftermath of the battle C.M. comforts Cap as he mourns the loss of the stuff Zemo destroyed in Chapter 6 and the injuries Zemo caused to Jarvis and Hercules.
Critical Thoughts: The story is as excellent as both I remember and its reputation. Stern in my mind is the definitive Captain America writer (his work on Cap’s solo title is perfection and that carried through in his long Avengers run), and in general I really liked his team of Avengers with Captain Marvel, Black Knight and Hercules all among the best second tier members in team history in my view. This is an epic story with epic fight scenes and yet It also includes plenty of character moments for both heroes and villains. Indeed it’s probably little wonder that a decade later Busiek used these same Masters of Evil for his Thunderbolts because despite the large crowd here several of the villains are given unique motivations throughout the story. (Indeed the only real downside to Thunderbolts is we lost some great Avengers villains like Goliath when they reformed). Zemo also emerges from this story as clearly the #2 all-time Captain America villain; and I have no problem with that.
If there is a downside to this trade it is that the Namor chapter with Alpha Flight is boring (and filled with characters I don’t care for), but that’s one chapter out of eight and it has nothing to do with the main story so that’s a fairly minor criticism.
Grade A. If you like either Cap or the Avengers and you’ve never read this, you should. Nuff’ Said.

Kona Crush Reveals His Grandfather was a Clown by Trade

Hi Scott-
Long time, no talk.  Hope you are doing well.
Not sure you remember this, but apparently Crush didn't like Doink because his grandfather was a clown.  No, seriously.  Discovered this while working on this week's new induction.
http://www.wrestlecrap.com/newinduction1.html
Take care, my friend!

RD

Thanks!  You'll happy to know that I bought Death of WCW in Kindle format because I had an Amazon gift certificate, so hopefully you got a couple of bucks out of it.  Maybe wanna throw a plug for my latest Kindle book covering all of 2003 somewhere?  http://www.amazon.com/Scotts-Blog-Doom-Presents-ebook/dp/B0093EGBB6/ref=la_B001JS89P0_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1346987145&sr=1-6
Anyway, considering the color scheme of Crush's tights at the time, I think it was pretty safe to assume that his family was made up of circus performers.  Hell, he even had experience painting his face!  

Waiting for the Trade – Spider-man

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
Spider-man: Election Day
by Marc Guggenheim & John Romita Jr.
Collects Amazing Spider-man 583-588 plus some Extras
Why I bought this: Primarily because Bargain Graphic Novels was selling it for $3 a few months ago. But price aside this wraps up all of the storylines that kicked off the Brand New Day era—including resolving the mystery of Menace, the mystery of the Spider-Tracer Killer and the mayoral election that was backdrop for the Menace and Jackpot stories from day 1. I’ve only read about 50-percent of Brand New Day but in general I found the continuing plot threads interesting enough to want to see the finale.
The Plot: An injured Spider-man battles Menace while Peter’s police officer roommate Vin Gonzalez faces prison and Harry Osborn deals with personal drama against the backdrop of NYC’s mayoral election. Also Spidey meets President Obama. Spoilorized chapter breakdown’s follow:

Chapter 1 – Following another spider-tracer murder, Spidey takes a bullet in the shoulder from a police helicopter. Meanwhile Carlie Cooper (not yet Pete’s girlfriend) figures out how to track spider tracers. Spidey, delirious from his gunshot wound, dreams that Harry is Menace. Harry proposes to Liz Hollister (daughter of one of the two mayoral candidates). Pete returns home to tend to his wounds, and narrowly avoids Carlie who discovers a bag of spider-tracers under Vin Gonzalez’s bed (fellow cop & Pete’s roommate).
Chapter 2 – Lily doesn’t accept Harry’s proposal and then leaves when her father calls before they can discuss it more. Vin comes home just as Pete leaves to deal with Menace despite his wounds and thus misses Carlie confronting Vin about the tracers. Carlie gets Vin to confess to being involved with the Tracer killings, which actually aren’t killings at all; rather the cops are placing the tracers on the bodies of the victims of underworld/mob crime to drum up public support for law enforcement to take a vigilante (namely Spidey) off the streets. Carlie wants to arrest Vin but the other cop at the scene is involved as well as this is a larger police conspiracy. Menace gives Spidey a severe beating enroot to defeating him, however rather than killing him, Menace delivers Spidey to the police, who arrest him. Harry decides to surprise Lily to get her to reconsider and walks in on her unmasking as Menace.
Chapter 3 – Harry is horrified by what he’s discovered causing Lily/Menace to give her origin, which like every Goblin who isn’t an Osborn involves finding one of Norman’s old journals and using that to raid some old hideouts for weapons and Goblin Formula. And also all of her attacks as Menace are to help get her father elected, although he himself has no knowledge of her criminal activities. Then after she finishes confessing, she accepts Harry’s proposal. However, she when she leaves Harry gets out his Goblin weaponry.
Chapter 4 – Matt Murdock prevents the police from unmasking Spidey and once that’s resolved he advises him to stay put and stand trial. Carlie takes her complaint to a sergeant and is still getting nowhere as we get a glimpse into what makes her tick as a cop. Meanwhile the other corrupt cops decide to frame Vin and Carlie for everything and Vin is arrested. In prison the convicts are beating Vin and plan to kill him, forcing Peter to break out his cell to save him.
Chapter 5 – Pete saves Vin and breaks them both out of prison. Harry puts on his Green Goblin mask. Carlie goes to Al Hollister for help but one his aides calls the cops because she feels as a candidate he can’t seen harboring a fugitive. Menace attacks the police to free Carlie (as Lily she and Carlie are longtime friends). Spidey fights Menace and loses again. She’s about to strike the killing blow when Harry intervenes and together he and Spidey give her a Goblin-serum antidote. She is then arrested on national television just as the election results come in giving the win to her father. Harry pulls Spidey to safety so he can pass out on a roof away from police. Vin turns himself in and clears Carlie off any wrong-doing. Hollister resigns as mayor before being sworn in, while we see the various corrupt cops rounded up and arrested. Pete and Harry talk about Norman’s legacy and Lily. Norman visits Lily in prison, welcoming her to the family.
Chapter 6 – Spidey’s wounds are treated by Night Nurse. We see Pete doing his usual guilt trip/responsibility thing for Harry and Vin’s problems in the fallout from the last chapter. Vin gets six months in jail as part of a plea bargain for testifying against the other cops in the conspiracy. Pete meets Flash at the airport and learns Flash lost his legs in combat, when Flash tells the story of how he says he was inspired to be a hero by Spider-man; Pete feels guilty about that too and takes his frustrations by beating the crap out of some cyborg as Spidey.
Chapter 7 – We see Spidey’s trial. Matt Murdock gets him off with a little help from Iron Fist and Black Cat.
Chapter 8 – Peter is sent to cover Obama’s inauguration for the Daily Bugle. Chameleon tries to switch places with Obama. Spidey thwarts him. Spidey is honored to meet the president.
Chapter 9 – Spidey and Cap foil a bank robbery by crooks dressed as Lincoln and other historical figures. Afterwards they are talking about politics and Cap confesses to once using the Cosmic Cube to listen in on the Gettysburg Address.
Critical Thoughts: Generally I liked most of this. Structurally the concurrent reveals, complications and resolutions in the Menace and Spider-tracer mysteries are very well done. Ignoring how Marvel got there (which is beyond terrible), I think the actual Brand New Day era was a big improvement in the tone of Spider-man storytelling, with much more of an emphasis on supporting characters (both new and old); and as I’ll happily argue in favor of Spidey having the best supporting cast in all of comics that’s always a good thing.
The fight scenes with Menace are well done with Spidey’s wounds upping the stakes a great deal. I will say there is a panel in the second fight that rings incredibly false in my mind, which is Spidey when thinks he is going to die before Harry arrives, the writers have him think of Gwen. Look I’ve said before I find Gwen to be the least interesting of Spidey’s five major love interests over the year, but beyond my personal preference Gwen has been dead in comic time for about 8-years so for Spidey to still be thinking about her above all others feels much more like an editorial mandate than true to the character. Especially if you consider JMS made it cannon that Pete and Gwen never slept together. But even beyond physicality he had relationships with MJ and even Felicia that were last far longer and involved far more trust and mutually shared highs and lows than he ever had with Gwen. It’s one thing for Pete to still carry around the guilt of Gwen’s death, especially in a Green Goblin story arc; it’s quite another for him to still be hung up on her after all this time.
As for the back-up tales, the Spidey and Obama meeting is funny and overall I liked it for what it was. I also really liked the Spidey and Cap story: as a Cap fan I thought that if Cap was going allow himself one selfish moment something like time-traveling to the Gettysburg Address rang true to the character.
Grade B: I’m not sure how this will hold up in a vacuum if you haven’t read the first two Brand New Day trades, especially since all of the new supporting characters featured here except Carlie are out of the series already. But within the context of its time period it’s a well delivered payoff to 30 issues of build-up. And from a classical sense it does feature lots of strong Harry moments, plus a major change to Flash’s status quo in the epilogue so even taking the newer characters out of it, it would seem to be a solid addition to Spidey lore.

Waiting for the Trade: Batman vs. Bane double comic & movie review

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
Batman: Knightfall – part 1 : Broken Bat
by Doug Moench and Chuck Dixon.
collects Batman 491-497 and Detective Comics 659-663.
Why I Bought This: I actually bought this 20 years ago when it was relatively new. I think it was mandatory in the 90s to own both this and Death of Superman. I found it by accident while cleaning about three months ago, and decided to reread it before the movie came out. Finished with about a week to spare, I got busy with work and didn’t have time for a review until now.
The Plot: Bane comes to Gotham and releases the inmates in Arkham Asylum. Batman has to fight his way through them over several days. And when Batman is exhausted, Bane attacks and defeats him.

Chapter 1 – Bane frees the inmates at Arkham. Batman and the police fail to stop Joker and the rest of the more dangerous inmates from escaping.
Chapter 2 – The Mad Hatter possesses some generic thug type looneys and Film Freak. He sends Film Freak to spy on Bane, who discovers and kills him. Batman crashes the Hatter’s tea party and defeats him.
Chapter 3 – the Ventriliquist teams up with an over-sized thug named Amygdala and begins looking for his favorite puppet. Batman defeats the over-sized thug while Ventriloquist escapes. Robin faces a henchman of Bane’s named Falconer and loses, but the villain retreats instead of capturing him as part of Bane’s larger plan.
Chapter 4 – A knife-wielding psycho takes a girls school hostage. Batman defeats him, although a few cops and students die first.
Chapter 5 – Killer Croc is seeking revenge on Bane, who broke his arm in some prior book. Robin encounters Bane and is quickly defeated.  When Killer Croc attacks. All three are washed away into a flooding sewer.
Chapter 6 – Robin saves himself. Joker teams up with someone named Stirk, who apparently has fear powers. At Joker’s behest Stirk attacks Comm. Gordon but Batman saves him. Joker decides to team with Scarecrow instead and the two of them kidnap the mayor.
Chapter 7 – Firefly is setting things on fire, and has apparently upgraded his costume to whatever he used to have to a flying armor suit with a flamethrower. Batman fights him but he escapes, while Robin looks for clues in Firefly’s past. Batman fights him again and the two fall into a pit of fire.
Chapter 8 – Batman saves himself but takes some bruises and Firefly escapes again. Poison Ivy kidnaps Gotham’s elite (including Bruce Wayne and Luscius Fox), while Joker uses the mayor to lure the police into a trap. Bruce changes to Batman and defeats Ivy and her thugs. Joker’s trap blows up killing several cops.
Chapter 9 – Riddler’s thugs abandon him because he won’t go forward with heist since the news is so busy with the other psychos they are not reporting on his riddles. Batman fights Firefly in a zoo, while Robin takes on Riddler in a TV studio. The heroes win both fights but Batman is more exhausted than ever.
Chapter 10 – Batman saves cops from another of Joker’s traps. He takes a whiff of Scarecrow’s fear gas, which causes him to flashback to the death of the second Robin pushing Batman into an enraged state and he severely beats Joker until Scarecrow fires a bazooka causing another flooded tunnel.
Chapter 11 – Batman saves the mayor from the flood. He then takes on Bane’s three thugs and wins before Bane confronts him at Wayne Manor.
Chapter 12 – Batman is out on his feet before the fight begins, whereas Bane has super strength. He pummels Batman effortlessly and then breaks his back.
Critical Thoughts: This really isn’t a very good story to be honest despite its fame at the time. It’s mostly just a very straightforward series of fights, and to be honest I’ve seen better fight scenes frequently and often.
Also Bane has no real motivations. He just shows up in Gotham wanting to take down Batman for reasons that are never elaborated on in this trade. He doesn’t even know the Bruce Wayne connection until half-way through the story (and he discovers Batman’s secret ridiculously easily considering how long Batman’s A-list foes and Gotham’s organized crime have failed to turn anything up). In a lot of ways this story is a clear example of creating an event first and a story to get there second. I suppose the same thing could be said of Death of Superman (which preceded and obviously influenced this) as Doomsday shows up out of nowhere with no real motivations for an extended fight scene in that one too but I’d at least argue that fight scene was better paced. Plus that story had the novelty of coming out first and really the surprise of anything being able to hurt Superman carried it better than this. (Plus “Reign of the Supermen” is a tremendous follow-up story, whereas Azrael taking on the mantle of the Bat and failing is nothing Marvel fans hadn’t seen 5-years earlier with “Cap No More” and to a lesser extent in Thor and Iron Man as well).  
Grade D+ – Batman is a rightly given credit for having a great rogue’s gallery so seeing several of his foes in this story stops it from being terrible. For a character I never heard of, I actually found the Firefly stuff the best part of this story. Riddler’s chapter is also a nice look into his motivations. But overall reading this again did little for me.
Bonus movie review: Speaking of doing little for me, we have Dark Knight Rises. I saw this opening weekend but didn’t bother to review it until now because it borders between meh and truly terrible so much that I wasn’t motivated to write about it. At this point my opinion leans closer to this being another failed third superhero movie much in the same vein of Spider-man 3, X-men 3 and Superman III.
The only thing I really liked about it was Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. Otherwise Bane is just as flat and uninteresting in this as he is in the comics. I find little of what happens once he conquers Gotham to be credible, and I find the nuclear bomb time limit to be completely arbitrary so that Bruce can recover from his injuries. The back-breaker scene is also pretty flat compared to the comic book version. I also found the political imagery downright bizarre and distracting. Whatever Nolan was going for on that front fails completely.
Furthermore I don’t buy for 10 seconds that there has been no crime in Gotham for 8 years or that Batman/Bruce would fall into utter despair for that long a period of time over the death of some chick. Hell I think Batman only suits up three times in this entire film (once to fight Catwoman and test the Batwing, once to lose to Bane and for the finale.) So yea, far and away the weakest of the three superhero films this summer and probably the second worst Batman film ever made after Batman 4 with Mr. Freeze. Grade D.