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This week (14 August 2013), “Zero Year” continues in Batman #23, and it’s the Trinity War in Justice League of America #7. Then things get even more epic in East of West #5 and Saga #13 returns from a hiatus.
This week, we’ve also featured reviews elsewhere on the site for the kick-off of Marvel’s Infinity #1 (Marvel).
Scott Snyder continues his exploration of the earliest days of Batman, leading to a pivotal turning point in his career this month. The cynics out there will no doubt spring on the fact that a larger “Zero Year” crossover has just been announced, but there’s something quite bold about Snyder taking a complete break from the forward momentum of the series to go back and tell his version of the origin story. The measured pace of the arc pays off in a magnificent and iconic moment at the end of this issue, something that wouldn’t have been possible in a more rapid-fire comic. The duality of everything Batman touches is explored, with Red Hood admitting that he was also born in the moment that Bruce’s parents were murdered in crime alley, and it’s a worthy addition to the Batman canon. From the burning of Wayne Manor to a bloody pulp of Bruce Wayne, Capullo shines once again in this issue. The scale and layouts of the crucial final pages requires more than a moment’s pause on each panel, keeping with the deliberate pacing of Snyder’s narrative. Joined by James Tynion IV for a supplementary story in Norway, Rafael Albuquerque’s haunting art is all blues and whites, lit by the yellow glow of hope that Bruce Wayne will one day bring back to Gotham. Regardless of how this ends, “Zero Year” will become an essential part of your Batman bookshelf for many years to come.
If there is one thing readers of East of West have to accept, it’s that you’re in for the long haul when you sign onto Hickman’s latest epic. In this issue, he pops open the lid a little wider to reveal not only some of the contents of the apocrypha, but the nature of the relationship between Death and his wife, Xiaolian. The latter is no longer a captive in New Shanghai, and inside has become a great power overnight. What she reveals to Death gives his quest a new direction, and one that ensures that their fates are inexorably linked for some time to come. After the bloodbath in the last issue, this outing is far more about exposition, and in that fashion, the pace slows down somewhat. Yet this allows Hickman to go deeper, and for Nick Dragotta to explore elements that have remained hidden. While the book is occasionally discouraging in its uneven pacing, we get the impression that this will make more sense when it is all put together. The premise alone is guaranteed for many years worth of stories, and if reading a serial monthly has taught us anything, it’s patience.
Credit has to go to DC for pulling together the “Trinity War” in a fashion befitting some of their bigger crises over the years, even if it is becoming increasingly obvious that this is all leading up to the “Forever Evil” events of the next few months. Indeed, the first few pages seem like they’ve already made the jump, before the appearance of Pandora before a curious Lex Luthor brings it all crashing together. Perhaps the strongest element of this event has been its ability to tie every loose thread together, so that each issue is an integral part of the intriguing whole. Last week’s The Phantom Stranger #11 was a strong standalone, for example, but its ramifications are still being felt here. From Martian Manhunter’s mind-invasion of Doctor Psycho to the too-cool-for-school final panel with Wonder Woman, Doug Mahnke is easily now the go-to guy for this kind of epic. Throughout this whole saga, Johns and Lemire have worked seamlessly together to bring their respective titles into line with each other. When the dust settles, we hope this momentum continues and all of the titles remain as compelling as this event arc has made them. Richard has reviewed this issue in more detail over at Newsarama.
Coming back from a four month hiatus, this issue begins the third story arc of one of the most awarded new series of the last year. Writer Brian K Vaughan had previously promised a tonal shift with this arc, and following the tragedies just before the break, it’s not an uplifting one. In fact, with so much anticipation built from the last issue’s ending, Vaughan pulls hard on the hand brake to go back and fill in some of the gaps. Perfectly workable as a jumping-on point for new readers as well, the issue is split into three parts, each explaining what the characters were up to in the lead-up to last issue’s cliffhanger. The deliberate withholding of information will undoubtedly be frustrating for established readers, but its reminiscent of tactics the author pulled in the sublime Y: The Last Man. The art Fiona Staples is one of the most distinctive aspects of this series, and here she gets to work on at least three distinct settings. As Alana battles an animated set of bones in the action climax, we get a taste of what the next five issue have to offer. For now, we’re just glad Saga is back. Richard has reviewed this issue in more detail over at Newsarama.
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