Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War Vol. 1

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I knew the Green Lantern storyline was building up to something, but I never would have guessed it would be something this huge.  Sinestro. Hank Henshaw. Parallax. Superboy-Prime. The Anti-Monitor.  These heavy hitters join forces to bring down the entire Green Lantern Corp and everything it stands for.

I now see how so many previous storylines pay off, and how seemingly random plot details play into the larger story.  The Sinestro Corp is waging a war against the GLs, systematically murdering all that cross their path. The Corp is fractured, spread thin across the universe, forced to fight opponents at every turn.  Kyle Rayner has been taken over by Parallax, while Hal Jordan is searching for Guy Gardner and John Stewart, both of whom have been captured by the Sinestro Corps.  Elsewhere, Killowag and a host of lanterns are trying to prevent the destruction of Mogo. The Lanterns are facing a host of challenges, with their victory never certain and often unlikely.

What’s great about this story is that yes, there’s plenty of action, but we also get deeper explanations into a few of the bad guys as well, particularly their motives in all of this.  Sinestro’s are pretty clear, as he’s been operating under the same M.O. for quite some time.  Interestingly, we learn that what Hank Henshaw hopes to gain out of all of this is death.

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The Anti-Monitor (whose appearance incited a minor gasp from me just because I actually know who he is) promises to end Henshaw’s life if their mission is successful.  While these scenes are brief, it helps to explain why so many threats to the universe are joining forces, making for a more believable story.

With all of this going on, we also get the privilege of seeing the Guardians sit in their citadel, arguing about whether or not they should choose to believe in the prophesy that is literally playing out all around them.  Being the idiots they are, they choose to ignore it, and rather than accept the truth, they re-write the Book of Oa. Their first change? Giving all Lanterns the power to use leathal force (read: kill) members of the Sinestro Corps.

God I really hate the Guardians. Their entire schtick has always been “no killing”. Now, all of a sudden, killing is okay, all because it suits their purpose??  Somebody please knock some sense into their little blue heads, because they have wielded power for far too long.

Armed with this new ability, the Lanterns regroup to engage in battle once more. Unfortunately, they don’t realize the larger scale plan.

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The Guardians realize that the Sinestro Corp wants to capture Earth, the center of the multiverse.  Given that their enemy clearly knows the meaning of 52, you would think the Guardians would think it wise to share that information with their GLs as well. Nope, instead they keep them in the dark and the enemy descends on Earth with practically no defense to speak of.

Those Guardians. Ya gotta love them.

Wait…no you don’t. Punch them in the face.

The Sinestro Corps War is far from over, but this was an incredibly solid first act.  Most interesting is that this story is clearly a product of its time, yet never feels like a diatribe about our current state of political affairs. The closest it ever comes is when the following observation is made:

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This comic is the product of a fearful post-9/11 society, and quite honestly it’s probably one of the only trades that could get away with being such.  By moving the story into space, the reader is far enough removed from these similarities to be able to overlook them should they choose, yet the observant reader can’t help but notice the similarities to our own world.  Geoff Johns (seriously, this guy writes everything) crafts a story that comments on the state of our own world while still providing escapist entertainment. It’s easy to overlook this subtlety and just focus on the story at hand, but the brilliance in this piece needs to be acknowledged.  It’s not preachy, but the references are definitely there to be unearthed by the astute reader. It made the comic more enjoyable for me, helping to ground this space odyssey in reality.

This was a truly solid beginning to the Sinestro Corps War.  Johns’s deft hand has rebuilt the GL lore from the ground up, and while the story is not yet complete, I have no doubt in my mind that it will play out in a grand (and possibly cataclysmic) manner.

Now I’m off to go finish the story, because at this point how can I not?

-Jess

The Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side of Green

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The title of this trade makes me think of Kermit the Frog. In my mind it just sounds like, “It’s not easy being green”, and I can’t disassociate the two. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

So much happens in this latest Green Lantern Corps trade, and it’s clear that the storyline is leading up to something pretty major.  The first half of the trade introduces The Corpse (god I love a good pun), sort of the CIA of the GLs, a super covert team who does what the GLs are too good to do. I’d focus on this storyline, but given that Guy Gardner’s memory is wiped at the end of the arc, I’m choosing to believe knowledge of these events may not be very important short of knowing that The Corpse exists. So, moving on.

The latter half of the trade introduces new troubles for our GLs, specifically Guy Gardner, as another GL accuses him of murder.

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Now, Guy may be an insufferable asshat, but he’s no murderer.  The problem is, all of the GLs want to follow protocol and bring him to Oa for questioning, after confiscating his ring, that is.  You can imagine how well that goes over.

On the run, Guy follows the only lead he had and travels to Mogo.  There he discovers that the planetary lantern has been infected with some sort of virus, which is infecting other lanterns and controlling them.

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It’s up to Guy Gardner and a handful of GLs to figure out how to stop this virus from spreading. Ultimately, Mogo just puts himself in the path of an Asteroid, and the impact kills every last vestige of the virus. Of course, now the question remains as to how Mogo contracted this virus, and whether a malevolent being/group is responsible (this is a comic, so the answer to that is a resounding DUH).

Interspersed throughout the story are comments by the Guardians, mentioning a prophesy that they have chosen to believe is a false trail.

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This prophesy was revealed to Abin Sur and eventually helped cause his death, but the Guardians think it is merely a tactic to instill doubt and fear among the Corps.  They disregard any further mention of it, but obviously it’s going to play into something big.  Seriously, why are the Guardians even allowed any control of the universe?? I feel like they make some pretty damn huge mistakes.

I didn’t love this comic, but it was good for what it was.  There are way too many characters in The Green Lantern Corps comic for me to focus on any one’s story, with seemingly side characters vying for top billing.  It sometimes makes for a rather disjointed story, with too many focal points for the story to flow smoothly.  Still, it was a decent story overall and it’s clearly leading to something much bigger.  I’ve got a handful of Green Lantern trades ahead of me on “the shelf”, all in a row, so I can’t wait to see where this whole storyline goes. With this sort of buildup, I have a feeling it’ll be pretty epic.

-Jess

Pocahontas (1995)

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My feelings about Pocahontas are quite varied, and have only become more so as I get older.  This is the version of the classic legend I grew up with, yet as I grew up I learned that the movie takes plenty of artistic liberties with the story. Once I reached college and took a class on Jamestown, with a heavy focus on the legend of Pocahontas and John Smith, I realized how little of this story was based on historical fact. The real John Smith was in his late 20s, while Pocahontas was 12; there is no record the pair had any sort of romantic relationship, nor that they even interacted with one another, save for a brief entry in Smith’s notoriously exaggerated personal journals.  Disney’s version latched onto a small detail in history and based their movie on this larger than life legend.  Knowing that it’s not true, how then do I approach this film?

Essentially, you have to take this movie with a grain of salt.  Yes, the names of many characters are based on actual people, and some of the broader events are true, but all of the details were made up for this film.  By viewing the story as a fictional account of life in a real point in history, one is able to appreciate the story for what it is, without being distracted by what’s real and what’s not.

Now, on to the actual film. Pocahontas is groundbreaking in that it’s the first Disney princess film to feature a non-white protagonist.  Even more surprising is that the film allows Native American culture to be a key aspect of the story, with the characters speaking their native tongue and alluding to their own belief system.  This is a pretty big leap forward for a company that, a mere 30 years earlier, was depicting Indians as cultural cliches in Peter Pan.  Here their culture is accepted for what it is, with beliefs in spirits and nature being handled with an over-arching air of sensitivity. Never mocking, the film acknowledges that different beliefs rule over different cultures, never portraying the “white man” as superior to the Indian.

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“Colors of the Wind”, the most beautiful and memorable song in the film, shows Pocahontas explaining to John Smith that one must listen to nature in order to truly appreciate it, and that seeking to possess the world with no understanding of it will leave you incomplete. It’s a pretty heavy message for a kid’s film, but even as a child I remembered appreciated the sentiment.  Moments like this make me wonder if such scenes played a larger role in shaping my generation, and may explain why ours is more aware of the importance of conservation or protecting the environment than previous generations. Sure, it may be a bit of a stretch, but it’s also entirely possible. These movies helped shape our childhoods, and there’s no doubt that we were influenced by their messages, whether we know it or not.  This song remains one of my favorites, and feels even more relevant as an adult.

Given such heavy topics as conquering new lands, the concepts of “us versus the savages”, and greed for gold, it’s obvious that Disney needed to throw in some comedic relief to balance out the story.  This humor rarely comes from the human characters, and instead is shifted to the animals in the film, specifically through Percy the dog, Flint the hummingbird, and Meeko the raccoon.

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I had forgotten just how much I love Meeko. The precocious and always-hungry raccoon causes mischief and mayhem everywhere he goes.  In later Disney films, such comedic side characters feel forced, infusing humor into the story that falls utterly flat, even for a child.  Here though, the humor balances the rest of the story and is truly funny throughout the film.  Meeko is cute and expressive, and his actions never detract from the more serious-minded aspects of the film. Instead, he almost represents the childish side of the story; as the humans interact and try to figure out how to coexist, Meeko is focused solely on doing anything he pleases, causing harmless trouble for anyone he comes across, race or species be damned.  He’s charming and innocent, yet doesn’t have that feeling of annoyance that so many humorous cartoon characters elicit as we get older.  Meeko’s humor feels timeless, and remains funny even twenty years later.

Disney concludes the story with a much more hopeful ending than what history really presents us with. A part of me is somewhat annoyed by this; after all, it’s stories like these that explain why so many people don’t know true history. They simply know the legends that have been perpetuated, even if there’s little to no truth in them. I think I’d prefer it if the characters’ names had been changed, if only to help differentiate the story from actual history.  The film would lose some credibility and weight by doing this, and seeing as how the movie is over two decades old, it’s hardly an issue at this point. Still, there’s always that nagging feeling that this film is just a bit off due to its inaccuracies.  Even so, it’s a beautiful story nonetheless, with a positive message for young viewers. If anything, it’s a great way to bring up the events of early America with children without having to expose them to the harsh realities of the truth.  The fact that Disney even attempted to cover such a volatile moment in history is surprising, and that they managed to do so quite well is even more impressive.  Overall this is a beautifully told story; sure, it may not be entirely factual, but then no legend ever is.  Watch it as historical fiction, and surely you’ll agree.

-Jess

Green Lantern – Wanted: Hal Jordan

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As Geoff Johns continues his run on the Green Lantern series, we start to see the larger impacts his vision is making on the DC universe.  These changes are exciting, while the means of creating them are sometimes a little funny. Still, Johns walks the fine line between suspending disbelief and outright absurdity. While I didn’t love every single moment of this trade, it was definitely a game-changer.

First things first: There’s a brand new Corps in town. This time it’s the Sinestro Corps, led by (you guessed it) Sinestro, whose yellow power rings seek out people who have the capacity to instill great fear in others.  In this story, the ring settles on Amon-Sur, Abin-Sur’s crazy son who was hell-bent on destroying Hal to reclaim his father’s ring.

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There’s a whole big “I hate you Hal you don’t deserve the ring blah blah blah” storyline, but it all leads up to this moment. Amon-Sur is whisked away to begin his training as a member of the Sinestro Corps. I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of him.

Also, bonus awesome scene: The ring originally went to Batman and offered him membership, but he refused.  This was a brief scene, but it was really freaking cool.  If anything, it’s pretty awesome validation for Batman that he is, in fact, a great beacon of fear (as though we didn’t already know that).

The second half of the trade takes a different spin, with poor Carol Ferris being mind-controlled by a purple crystal (again).  This time though it jumps over to Hal’s most recent romantic interest, Jillian, aka “Cowgirl”.  The battle with Hal and these women ultimately leads to the revelation that there are a bunch of different colored power batteries/rings, which all control different emotions and will likely collide in a fantastic way.

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This is included more as a teaser than anything else, but I’m pretty excited to see where this all goes. I was vaguely aware that there were different colored rings, but it’s fun to finally get an explanation as to what they are and what they can do.

What I didn’t love so much about this storyline was the blatant and grating romantic triangle that formed between Hal, Carol, and Jillian.  At first I just took this to be a brief “Carol and Hal have history, but it’s time to move on” inclusion, until the very last page of the trade, in which this is revealed about Carol:

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Ooooooof course.  Now that Hal is finally trying to move on, put this past relationship behind him and begin anew with Jillian, it only makes sense that Carol would suddenly be divorced. After all, this is a soap opera….oh wait, no it’s not. Maybe this shouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but the love-triangle schtick has been overplayed across various forms of media, and I’m just kind of sick of it at this point. I get its purpose as far as creating tension and drama, and forcing the hero to choose between two loves, but I’ve just read similar stories so many times that I want something different.  I’m sure for the next handful of issues Hal will be struggling to deal with his feelings for both women, trying to decide which he should pursue. If I had to guess, I’d bet he ends up back with Carol; there’s history there, and fans would probably be more excited to see them finally settle down than to watch Hal choose a relatively new character.  Of course, that’s just what  would want, and may not appeal to the main demographic as much, so we’ll see.  While I may not know exactly who he’s going to choose, the path to get there is pretty clear-cut, and just really feels unnecessary for an otherwise compelling storyline.

In summation: Abin Sur’s son throws a hissy fit and wants GL dead, Batman could have been member of the Sinestro Corps, and Hal Jordan finds himself in a cliched love triangle after a purple crystal adheres itself to two women he cares about.  Just another average, ordinary day in the life of a Green Lantern, I suppose.

-Jess

Superman: Last Son

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It’s always fun when a comic has two different storylines going on: the first is the more clear cut narrative, the events of what’s actually going on in the story; the second is more subtle, hinting at emotions or decisions that the main character must make, generally in the form of an internal struggle.  Superman: Last Son is one such comic.  The surface story focuses on the appearance of a mysterious boy in Metropolis, who bears striking similarities to Clark in terms of strength and powers.

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Clark is drawn to this boy and feels a need to protect him, knowing in his gut that he is a fellow Kryptonian. Unfortunately, he happens to be the son of General Zod, born in the Phantom Zone and abused for years by his father.  After finding a looppole in the zone, Zod sent his son to Earth and soon follows with a legion of villains, who choose to use their power to lord over humans. Superman battles Zod and ultimately banishes him back to the Phantom Zone, but unfortunately the young boy must be sent back as well. It’s a sad goodbye, and the comic closes with at least a hint that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the characters.

The secondary story, and the one I found more compelling, is Superman’s struggle with accepting that he will never have children.

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Superman must come to terms with the fact that not only will he never have children, but that he is truly the last generation of his race, and can do nothing to carry on Krypton’s legacy.  The appearance of a young boy from his home planet drew Clark in, providing him with a possible future in which a child could be raised.  Clark and Lois even plan on adopting the young boy at one point, naming him Christopher and deciding that they can at least try to be a family. This dream is cut short as Christopher is forced back into the Phantom Zone, and with it any chance Clark had at having a Kryptonian child.  Watching Clark’s pain as he struggles to accept this was incredibly compelling, and made the larger story more intriguing because of it.

While this wasn’t my absolute favorite comic ever, it added a new layer to the Superman mythos that needed to be explained. Superman has no hope of ever continuing Krypton’s legacy, and given everything he’s been through this must be incredibly difficult to accept. He tries so hard to be human, but ultimately he isn’t.  Still, he has no one (save Supergirl) that he can relate to as a Kryptonian, leaving him in this odd in-between place, not truly human but not part of any Kryptonian culture either. It’s not a position I envy, and it helps shed light on Superman’s real life, proving that although he has powers, his life is far from perfect.  These small distinctions help make the character feel more real and complex, showing the sad reality of being the last son of Krypton.

-Jess

Batman: Death and the City

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Paul Dini continues to prove that, when it comes to Batman, he can do no wrong.  More specifically, he can do no wrong and continues to write comics that read like episodes of Batman: The Animated Series (and I mean that as the highest of compliments).  This collection continues his genius run on Detective Comics, with Dini exploring Batman’s exploits around Gotham City as he encounters a host of criminals.  It’s rather fitting that I’m reading this run just as I’m smack dab in the middle of watching the entire Batman: The Animated Series show, as I’m able to see so many parallels and references to the beloved classic that I might have otherwise missed had I not been enjoying them concurrently. It must be kizmet, and all that.

There really isn’t a single issue in this trade that I didn’t like, but obviously certain stories stood out to me more than others. The first to catch my eye was the first in the trade, with the reintroduction of Scarface, this time on the arm (and hand) of someone other than the classic Arnold Wesker.

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Wesker is still very much dead, but that hasn’t stopped good ole’ Scarface from resurfacing.  Now in the hands and mind of Sugar here, we get the same old Scarface we’ve always known, just with a brand new host.  What’s so brilliant about this twist is that Scarface feels very much the same as he always has, even though technically it’s a brand new character behind the crazy.  Sugar has adopted the Scarface persona, but Scarface is so hypnotic and convincing that I often forget that the puppet isn’t actually alive.  It takes skill to get your reader to buy into the whole “puppet as gangster” schtick without it feeling contrived, yet somehow Scarface just works in these stories.  Wesker was such a timid, easily forgettable character most of the time that it’s not too hard to replace him with someone new. No, Scarface is definitely the star here, and as long as he continues dishing out his brand of old-school gangster punishment, I’ll be happy.

Following up on this lady-Scarface storyline, we’re greeted with a tie-in a few issues later in a Harley-centric issue.  Here, Harley is stuck in Arkham, but she’s trying really hard to go straight and get released.  Bruce Wayne keeps shutting her down (who can blame him?) and it looks like she’s stuck for now.  That is, until Scarface has her broken out of the asylum  so she can pull a job for him. She goes along with it for a while, but eventually double-crosses Scarface and calls the GCPD (who in turn call Batman) so that she can be brought back into custody.

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I’m a big fan of the “Harley tries to be good” storylines, and although I may be shunned by some people for saying this, I think I might actually prefer her stories when she’s not paired with the Joker. I enjoy those, but Harley’s allowed to be her own person when she’s not being used as Joker’s punching bag, and I find her far more intriguing as a woman slowly emerging from the haze that was her love for a madman, and how she struggles to return to a life of normalcy.  It doesn’t help that Dini’s version of Harley is by far my favorite incarnation (he invented her, after all, so it makes sense).  Nobody else can quite write her the way he can, and I relish every appearance she makes in one of his works, because I know without a doubt I’m in for a treat.

Speaking of Joker, we got a two-parter in this trade staring the Clown Prince of Crime, although it wasn’t clear at first.

 

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Masquerading as the illusionist Ivar Loxias, Joker traps Zatanna and Batman, only revealing his true identity after ensuring that they can’t escape.  Of course, while Joker provides a lengthy summation of just how he came to take over Loxias’s identity, Batman manages to break his bindings, forcing Joker to flee.  He’s eventually apprehended with the use of a rather ingenious spell on Zatanna’s part through which, in an ironic twist, she forces the Joker to laugh uncontrollably.  The Joker’s storyline here was great, but what really stood out to me were the subtle (and sometimes overt) references to past events. Batman still hasn’t forgiven Zatanna for the whole “Namtab Pots” debacle, and his mistrust almost leads to the magician’s death.  Only upon realizing his own ability to make mistakes is Bruce finally able to forgive her, acknowledging that “they’re only human”.  It was an important moment for the pair, and while it’s sad that Zatanna’s life had to be endangered for Batman to realize this, that’s always the way, isn’t it?

Overall I really loved these Paul Dini stories, and honestly can’t help but wish they had been made into Batman:TAS episodes.  Dini’s writing lends itself so well to on-screen adaptations, and I would have loved to see these further stories brought to life on the show.  I’m still perfectly happy with the comic version though. I haven’t peeked ahead on “the shelf”, but I’m hoping this isn’t the end of his run, and that I have plenty of other Dini-written Batman stories to look forward to.

-Jess

Black Adam: The Dark Age

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What happens when an already unstable godlike entity goes completely off the deep end and tries to bring his lady love back to life? That’s the question that Black Adam: The Dark Age answers. Adam tries to deal with losing his powers (Captain Marvel having conveniently changed his magic word, vowing to never tell Adam what it is), while also concocting a rather ingenious plan to bring back his dead love, Isis.  Followed by a score of loyal followers, Adam steals Isis’s remains from their final resting place.

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He then takes them to a Lazarus pit, hoping the pit’s magic will be enough to revive her.  It works, but only momentarily, and so Adam must find another means of bringing Isis back.  Enter Faust, the villain who was trapped in Doctor Fate’s tower at the end of 52.  Faust says he can help revive Isis, but that Adam must retrieve the shattered pieces of Isis’s amulet to do so.  He imbues Adam with the ability to draw upon Isis’s latent powers still residing within her bones, so that whenever Adam says “Isis” he becomes Black Adam once more.

He travels the globe searching for pieces of the amulet, trying to avoid drawing upon Isis’s powers as much as possible. Of course, there’s a bounty out on his head so virtually everyone is trying to hunt him down and kill him, making any hope of being covert practically impossible.

Through his travels there’s an incredibly random scene in a diner in which Adam asks the guy behind the counter what he’s making. What follows is perhaps one of my favorite comics pages ever.

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I always figured that when Captain Marvel said he made Adam’s magic word something he would never say, it would be something like “forgiveness” or “regret”.  I should have known.  This is the quintessential innocent boy, after all. Of course he would make Adam’s new magic word, “Chocolate egg cream”.  I laughed way too much at this scene, especially the juxtaposition in the above image of Adam just sitting there as he realizes what has happened while the young boy next to him is in shock.  It was a moment of levity that helped break up the otherwise dark and serious comic, and one that was much appreciated.

Back to his old self, Adam retrieves the final piece of the amulet and returns to Fate’s tower, where Faust awaits to perform a spell.  Of course, the spell goes awry and Isis isn’t revived, with Adam flying off in despair, believing his love to be lost to him for all eternity.

This is Faust though, and there’s always more than meets the eye. Turns out he switches Isis’s bones with Ralph Dibny’s, and after Adam left he revives Isis to her former glory.

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The comic closes with Faust and Isis exiting Fate’s tower, as Adam struggles with his grief.  I’m not quite sure what Faust has in plan for Isis at this point. Was she merely a means of escaping the tower? Does he plan on using her as leverage against Black Adam?  The future is unclear, but all we do know is that Isis is back, Faust has escaped, and there’s no doubt that they’ll be hell to pay when Adam realizes Faust’s trickery.

So to sum up: Black Adam steals a body, drink a chocolate egg cream,  and goes on an around-the-world adventure, while Faust acts in typical “Faust-y” manner, tricking people into doing what he wants.  Egg cream aside, it’s pretty typical fare, but all in all a pretty solid comic.  Drawing upon numerous past events, this trade feels like a bridge between two storylines, and I’m curious to see where it all leads.

My only complaint: Once he realized his magic word, Black Adam can change the word to be anything he chooses. Um…no, I demand that he has to say “Chocolate Egg Cream” angrily in the middle of a battle. I would pay good money to read that.

-Jess