Collision Courses

Planets, perceptions and pipsqueaks go BOOM in my batch of comics for September 19, 2012. The planet is none other than Krypton, true birthplace of the Smallville, Kansas-raised Superman. But this telling of the alien world’s demise happens in the 0 issue of Supergirl, as told by writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson. Artist Mahmud Asrar and colorist Dave McCaig’s reliably stunning teamwork is on hand, too.

“Krypton will die,” says rogue scientist Zor-El, as he contemplates sharing his conclusion with the rest of his people. He stands before his daughter Kara as she floats unconscious in a tank of fluid. At his remote lab, far from the eyes of distinguished scientists like Jor-El (Superman’s father), he prepares her for a journey she doesn’t know she’s about to take. “Krypton will die. My daughter will not.”

The planet’s weather towers have been compromised (as seen last week in Superboy 0), and tremors wrack Argo City’s spiraling citadels. As Kara and Zor-El travel among them, they glide in an elegant machine that’s surely solar-powered. Or, maybe I just think so because McCaig sets most scenes with incredibly warm amber washes. This allows the rich red and blue costumes of the Kryptonians to pop. Asrar dresses them in a futuristic combination of royal cloaks and armor, reminiscent of Marvel’s Asgardians (Kara’s mother especially, who could pass for a female Thor in her winged helmet).

By the end, Kara and her father reach yet another strange chamber, this one housing an egg-like pod. Surprising her, Zor-El lets her try on a House of El uniform that’s off limits to those who’ve yet to “pass the trials.” She does so ecstatically, then grows too weak to resist being carried to the pod. As it launches, Kara escapes the bright green apocalypse that’s made our planet such an interesting place for the last seventy years.

Over in Daredevil, a much more Earth-bound title, blind attorney Matt Murdock finds himself unable to trust the super-senses that carry him over rooftops and into trouble. This issue, almost two years into writer Mark Waid’s run, offers yet another stellar dose of cleverness and intrigue. Chris Samnee‘s art, though more than half of it features conversation, is beautifully buoyant as ever.

Lawyer Foggy Nelson, recently split from his unpredictable partner Murdock, meets a man whose sister is in trouble. She’s the nurse and physical therapist for gangster Victor Hierra. Upon finding his body completely drained of blood (between one second and the next), she ends up complicit in an impossible crime. Coupled with the aquatic drab of colorist of Javier Rodriguez, Samnee makes a fascinating premise an irresistibly consumable read. The world they create is dangerous but fun, and will merit frequent revisits once the run ends.

As for Daredevil himself, we don’t immediately see him with a switch of the scenery. We’re first treated to Murdock returning from a date with Assistant District Attorney Kirsten McDuffie. He’s forced to close his apartment door in her face, smoochless but certain that he can hear a familiar heartbeat within. That he finds former wife Milla, blind like him and last seen in a mental institution, is a credit to Waid’s willingness to connect his work with that of other writers. Milla is a vestige of hipster scribe Brian Bendis’ six grim years on Daredevil, an era that Waid has sought to eclipse with his swashbuckling approach to the character.

Here, Milla’s appearance helps throw ole’ Horn Head into work. Foggy calls him, asking for help investigating the Hierra situation. During an always welcome penthouse melee with clueless goons, Daredevil sees a drug lord named Salazar run for the elevator. He then “hears” the man fall through an empty shaft with his radar sense. Once the elevator opens, however, the floor’s intact and Salazar is nowhere. Combine this oddity with Foggy’s in-person confirmation that Milla is still in a padded room, and you’ve got an unmissable next issue.

Back down the hall, Geoff John’s new Justice League is an unmissable issue in its own right, as we finally see the result of multiple back-up stories starring the incorrigible Billy Batson. Gary Frank has been drawing the orphan’s adventures with the darkly-rendered realism he brings to everything (most recently Batman: Earth One). The boy thinks his foster parents are imbeciles and his “siblings” idiots. But he does occasionally feed a tiger named Tawny at the zoo, so there’s hope…

While running from the Bryer clan, teen bullies that pick on his disabled brother, Billy helps himself onto a train car. An apparently magical train car, that delivers him to the doors of the Rock of Eternity. This fortress of mystical relics is also the home of the heroic entity Shazam, and the prison of The Seven Deadly Sins (Greed, Sloth, Envy, etc.). Here, Billy speaks at length with  a scraggly old man, who is, “the last of the council of the wizards and the keeper of the Rock of Eternity.”

After the keeper expresses doubt about Billy, he says,”Of course he’s not the one I seek… Why is the magic wasting my time with these flawed people? The Dark One has been released.” Bratty Bill is stunned that the keeper could hope for a perfect person. He replies, “People are horrible. They disappoint you. They let you down. I’ve spent my life learning that… Good people get swallowed up. They get taken advantage of. They disappear.”

This heart-felt railing against the injustice of life is vintage Johns. It comes across as the world-weariness of someone with a chip on his shoulder, and the writer will slowly raise the character from this lowly state to someone we can root for.

The keeper, after this talk, sees that Billy has great potential for good, and invests him with the power of Shazam anyway. This means that, upon speaking the word “SHAZAM” with honest intent, the boy takes a lightning strike, no matter where he stands. He then transforms into a larger, less refined version of Superman (or so it seems from the outside).

But the first thing Billy does with his awesome new power is cripple a mugger and ask the victim for a cash reward. His foster brother Freddie says, “We’re gonna be rich!” Not {ahem} if the Justice League have anything to say about it. This is their comic, after all, and the BOOM of a Shazam/Superman fight can’t hit soon enough.

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