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Across the DC Universe #45

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Welcome back to Broken Frontier’s weekly issue by issue roundup of events from every corner of the DC Universe! This is where to come to catch up on what’s been happening with your favorite DC characters and how events in their books affect the DCU’s recent "Bigger Picture". We also point out any interesting continuity tidbits, link to suggested background reading and examine any pertinent questions raised by events in the week’s releases.

Spoiler Warning: Read no further if you’ve not had your DC fix this week and don’t want to hear about key story elements.

Red Robin #2

Continuing his quest to find Bruce Wayne, Tim Drake/Wayne finds himself attacked in Paris by a group from the League of Assassins. This leads to him making contact with their master Ra’s Al Ghul. Meanwhile, in South Africa, the creature picking off members of the League claims another victim and in flashback we learn more on how Tim first took on the Red Robin identity.

Crossovers: Batman: Reborn

The Bigger Picture: Members of the League of Assassins were most recently seen in the employ of Talia Al Ghul in Azrael: Death’s Dark Knight #s 1-3.

Detective Jamie Harper is pictured here in flashback as a cop in Gotham. As seen in the latest Superman books she has now transferred to Metropolis where she is going by the first name of "Billi".

Notes: Ra’s Al Ghul utters the classic line "Language Timothy" to Red Robin. Probably a coincidence, but perhaps Chris Yost is a fan of the 1980s BBC sitcom Sorry!, starring British national treasure Ronnie Corbett, as that line was a favorite catchphrase in the series.

Questions: What is the nature of the creature killing off the League of Assassins? Why is Ra’s also so convinced Batman still lives?

Green Lantern #43

Learn the Secret Origin of the Black Hand. The Blackest Night arrives with William Hand killing himself and being "resurrected" by Scar as the embodiment and first ring-wielder of the Black Corps (much like the GLC’s Ion, the Sinestro Corps’ Parallax or the Star Sapphires’ Predator)...

Crossovers: Prologue Blackest Night

The Bigger Picture: This story leads into the events of the previously published Free Comic Book Day Blackest Night #0. It’s a big payoff of plot threads from the last few years regarding Black Hand. For more on this character see my BF colleague Fletch Adams’s excellent account here of the life and times of the Black Hand, published on Broken Frontier earlier this week.

           

Black Hand explains the impermanence of death in the DCU with the following intriguing line: "Death has been cheated many times in this universe.... because someone allows it." This isn’t the first time Geoff Johns has posited an in-story explanation for the revolving door between life and death in the DC Universe. Kid Eternity was used as a kind of metaphysical doorstop by Brother Blood to keep said doorway open in Teen Titans #31 (Feb 2006), allowing characters to slip between the two planes.

Continuity Corner: Black Hand has a vision of many deaths that have occurred in the DCU in the last twenty-plus years, some of which lasted longer than others. For the morbid amongst you wanting some background reading then there are plenty of trade opportunities to witness the depicted heroes and villains meeting their maker. Some of these are listed below with links to collected editions for your perusal:

Aquagirl and Barry "Flash" Allen died in 1985’s Crisis On Infinite Earths. The Golden Age Atom was killed by Extant in 1994’s Zero Hour. Identity Crisis saw Jean Loring murder Sue Dibny, Firestorm slain by the Shadow Thief and the original Captain Boomerang shot dead by Robin’s father Jack Drake. For the last moments of Superboy and the Freedom Fighters Black Condor II, Phantom Lady II and the Human Bomb then check out the Infinite Crisis collection; a series that also saw the demise of the Psycho-Pirate courtesy of Black Adam’s fist.

Blue Beetle died in DC Countdown to Infinite Crisis #1 (2005) and his killer, the JLI’s Maxwell Lord, got his comeuppance in the 2005 Sacrifice arc. The original Terra met a perhaps justified end in The Judas Contract in New Teen Titans in 1984.

The first Question and the Elongated Man passed on in the weekly series 52 while Final Crisis claimed the Martian Manhunter and Bruce Wayne and its spin-off Final Crisis: Revelations saw Dr. Light executed by the Spectre for J’Onn J’Onzz’s murder. Clark Kent’s death was at the hands of Doomsday in The Death of Superman arc in 1992-93.

           

Hal Jordan sought a redemptive end in the Final Night in 1996. Ollie Queen was blown to pieces in Green Arrow #101 (Oct 1995), Kilowog died in Emerald Twilight and Bart Allen was slaughtered by the Flash’s Rogues in the final issue of The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive. It would appear Jean Loring did die in Countdown to Mystery although that was not explicit at the time.

Questions: Who, or what, is the true force behind the Black Lantern Corps? To what extent will Black Hand use his knowledge of the secret identities of the DCU’s denizens?

Superman: World of New Krypton #5

For refusing to execute an escaped Phantom Zone prisoner last month, Superman is put on trial for treason by his fellow Kryptonians. Despite being found guilty, General Zod uses his influence to have Kal-El pardoned as part of the Kryptonian religious holiday of Nova. Later, as the festivities are in full flow, Zod is assassinated in front of his people...

Continuity Corner: There’s a certain irony in seeing Zod putting Superman on trial for his life given the events of John Byrne’s Superman #22 (Oct 1988) wherein the roles were reversed. In that memorable story Kal-El ended up executing the Phantom Zone Criminals of the Pocket Universe, including a traditional, but alternate, version of General Zod.

Questions: Was General Zod finally achieving a grudging respect for Superman or was there something more sinister going on? Who assassinated Zod and why? Is he really dead or is this all part of a greater scheme?

Batman #688

Three weeks in the future Dick Grayson is receiving a vicious beating in the Batcave from an unknown attacker. In the present much of Gotham is welcoming its new Dark Knight although the Penguin is feeling the pinch on his criminal activities. And in the background Two-Face is manipulating both his enemies into confrontation...

Crossovers: Batman: Reborn

The Bigger Picture: Timelines could be fluid here but we can assume, for the moment anyway, that events here take place before Dick and Damian’s falling out in Batman and Robin #2 and after the Penguin returned to Gotham in the recent Titans/Teen Titans/Vigilante crossover "Deathtrap".

Questions: What is the identity of Dick Grayson’s assailant? How far will the Penguin/Two-Face enmity escalate? Has Two-Face worked out the identity of the new Batman?

Booster Gold #22

Booster goes back in time to discover the exact point in the past that Black Beetle altered time by killing Dick Grayson last month. Travelling back to the Titans’ first confrontation with Deathstroke and his son, the original Ravager, Booster and the New Teen Titans are all seemingly killed when the Black Beetle enters the fray. Meanwhile, at Vanishing Point, Rip Hunter is seriously injured in an explosion after discovering someone is raiding his HQ for information...

Blue Beetle co-feature: Maria Boole, daughter of the Unimate robots’ creator, is revealed to be behind their reactivation. Maria appears plagued by some form of techno-organic infection that she needs her father to cure. When Jaime’s friend Paco does some investigating of his own it’s up to Blue Beetle to extricate his friend from Maria’s clutches...

The Bigger Picture: For more on Deathstroke’s other offspring and their father’s equally malign influence on them check out the aforementioned "Deathtrap" crossover in Teen Titans/Vigilante/Titans.

Continuity Corner: Events here retell the story from New Teen Titans #2 (Dec 1980) with the requisite Booster-centric spin on them. In that story Deathstroke’s oldest son Grant Wilson was empowered by the H.I.V.E. as the Ravager to take down the Titans. In the original he was eaten alive by his powers but in this timeline Black Beetle infuses him with chronal energy to stop that from occurring.

Questions: Who is the Black Beetle’s mysterious boss and is there still a link to the Time Stealers? Is this the same person tapping information from Vanishing Point’s systems? Who is the Black Beetle and were the hints as to his identity in Blue Beetle #36 a red herring? Blue Beetle co-feature: Why is Blue Beetle’s scarab so violent since it was rebooted?

Rounding up... Cain is back and he wants his home returned to him in House of Mystery #15... Earth-50’s spotlight falls on Stormwatch: PHD #22 this week... In The Warlord #4 Ned Hawkins, the invading intruder from the outer world who has become the lost world’s new "god", is shown to have some at least tangential links to Deimos and there are the clearest hints yet that Travis Morgan’s previous interaction with the DCU has been retconned out...

In R.E.B.E.L.S. #6 Vril Dox and team take the battle back to Starro, whose latest conquest is the homeworld of the Dominators. Interestingly Kanjar Ro is shown on his home planet Dhor which would imply this takes place after Blackest Night (he was arrested by the Green Lantern Corps in Trinity #52 and has been imprisoned on Oa since as seen in recent issues of Green Lantern Corps). Or it could just be a minor continuity error...

Green Arrow and Black Canary #22 is the conclusion to the battle with Discord, the super-villain that Black Canary inadvertently created. There are also more insights into BC’s origins and yet more evidence that Oliver Queen’s methods are getting decidedly more violent (which makes his enthusiasm for a more proactive JLA in Justice League: Cry for Justice #1 last week even more plausible).

Fanboy Moment of the Week

You know what’s coming don’t you...? Two words: Wednesday Comics.

It seems churlish to pick out any of the strips as favorites but I can't help myself here and will highlight Palmiotti and Conner's Supergirl, the Kuberts on Sgt. Rock, Gibbons and Sook's trip to the world of Kamandi and Kyle Baker's Hawkman. Ask me next week which ones I enjoyed the most and I'll probably give you a completely different selection. Well done to all concerned! You've warmed the cockles of an old fanboy's heart.

That's it for our latest roundup. Join us next weekend for another session of R&R in the DCU. Until then please feel free to post commentary, criticism and corrections below and thanks for reading!

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Comments

  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Jul 13, 2009 at 6:06pm

    It would be ever such a nice Easter Egg if that "Language Timothy" line was a nod and a wink to the sitcom Sorry! but I'm probably reading far too much into it. Then again a couple of years back the last MARTIAN MANHUNTER book had supporting characters all named after players in the Manchester United team so who knows?

  • Fletch Adams

    Fletch Adams Jul 14, 2009 at 1:09am

    That's a whole lotta dead people...good stuff, as always Andy - thanks for the pop for the Black Hand piece

  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Jul 14, 2009 at 11:52am

    Hey no probs Fletch - you saved me a truckload of work there... I should be thanking you! ;) Yes lots of dead people and not enough room to cover them all (that could have been an article in itself) so I concentrated on the bigger names whose deaths were actually shown rather than mentioned and those with available trade reading. Still somehow managed to miss listing Wonder Woman's death in Wonder Woman #125 though (at Neron's hands). WIll amend that later. Would have been nice as well to list where and when the resurrected characters returned to life but there are only so many hours in the day. Or is that days in the week?

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