Written by Joel T. Lewis
The dramatic conclusion of the Batman and Two-Face road trip from hell reveals some sinister details about the lengths Harvey Dent will go to accomplish his goals. Facing an angry mob of ordinary citizens who have come to stop Batman’s mission, Batman, Lark, Two-Face, and their captors are at a bit of a disadvantage. Not that that fact deters KGBeast from brandishing his automatic weapon hell bent on mass murder. Batman, in a desperate attempt to free himself, Lark, and Two-Face while also protecting the citizens on the shore, severs the mooring lines that keep the riverboat casino docked with a batarang. Depriving the Beast of his long-awaited messy massacre, Batman sends his former soviet foe into a rage while escaping his clutches aboard a giant floating poker chip. As Batman and company float downstream towards a waterfall, he triggers an explosion which sends the riverboat, with KGBeast, Penguin, Great White, and Black Mask careening into the shoreline, safe from a deadly plunge while Batman, Lark, and Two-Face are able to survive their tumble over the waterfall using Batman’s cape.
The trio finally arrives at the Arkham family estate after a brief appearance from Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum who succumb to an impatient thrashing courtesy of Batman. Meanwhile, Alfred pleads with Gordon and Bullock to not descend the staircase hidden behind the clock in Bruce Wayne’s study. Gordon takes the butler aside and asks one final time for him to contact Batman and call him off. Alfred tells the commissioner that that is impossible and Gordon responds with stern resolve. Tonight the Batman must be exposed. Batman uncovers Harvey Dent’s hidden cure but before using it he runs one final test to insure it is indeed what Dent promised. It is not.
Batman turns on Two-Face, who is in the process of transitioning over to the Dent personality and the three of them clash over their current predicament. Harvey developed a formula that would allow the personality within him that was strongest to triumph while chemically burning away the lesser identity, effectively committing suicide as Harvey Dent. Also, it was Harvey, not Two-Face who unleashed acid rain on Gotham in the first issue of All-Star Batman which kick started this whole storyline. Harvey, weary from the endless struggle with Two-Face didn’t develop a cure for his worse half, but a solution to his conflict. Batman calls this solution a surrender and is appalled. Dent makes one more startling revelation, pulling out a cell phone and calling Alfred. Finally, the reason behind Alfred’s betrayal in issue one is revealed! At the beginning of Batman’s career, in a rare moment of weakness, Alfred approached and hired someone to kill the Joker. Though he came to his senses and called off the hit within hours, the money he had wired to the assassin came from the same dummy fund that they had used to construct the Batcave. Dent was able to track that information and apply the leverage that led to Alfred shooting down the Batplane.
Alfred begs and Dent demands that Batman administer the formula immediately or Gotham will be showered with the same formula, chemically dividing the citizens into camps of saints and monsters. Seemingly trapped by Dent’s scheme, Batman hammers him into the ground outside the Arkham Estate. Beating Two-Face and Dent out of disappointed frustration, Batman injects Dent. Surprised by the Dark Knight’s agreement, Dent calls off his biological strike and waits for the final transformation to begin. But something is wrong, the formula doesn’t seem to be working.
Batman, unbeknownst to Harvey Dent, anticipated an incomplete formula or some tampering by Two-Face getting in the way of curing his friend so he took certain precautions. While laid up in Harold Allnut’s workshop Batman and his old ally worked up a booster that, when taken with Dent’s formula, would burn away the Two-Face persona. Since he did not anticipate the sinister lengths that Dent had gone to in order to end his inner conflict, Batman deals out a just and fitting fate for his two-sided foe. Instead of Dent’s formula, Batman injected Two-Face with just the booster. Taken alone, this booster would prevent one personality from ever being burned away chemically as Dent had planned and would chemically shift how Harvey Dent and Two-Face would transition from now on. The conflict between Harvey Dent and Two-Face would now be a matter of will alone. If Harvey fights harder to gain control of their body on a certain day, he will win and if Two-Face fights harder he would gain control. Batman takes away Harvey’s ability to surrender to Two-Face and leaves them in a constant struggle of sheer willpower; a fitting reminder of how Harvey Dent’s force of will inspired Batman. Batman and Allnut also added a sedative to the booster which makes Harvey drop to the ground when he realizes his fate.
Batman has little time to bathe in the glow of victory though because as he turns to Lark to help him take Dent back to Arkham, KGBeast appears once again. This time the ex-soviet assassin appears at the end of a spear driven through our hero’s back. Snyder jumps back and forth between Gordon’s SWAT strike team descending the hidden staircase at Wayne Manor and Batman and KGBeast’s brawl. Batman is saved from Beast’s promise of capture and torture by gunfire coming from the angry mob of citizens they left at the dock just a few pages before. This new attack enrages Beast but before he can open fire on the mob Batman tackles him, sending them both over the edge of the cliff behind the Arkham estate. The mob, grateful to their savior and horrified at what they had planned to do to him, peers over the cliff to discover Lark holding Batman’s cape. Snyder then cuts back to Wayne Manor to reveal that Gordon and Gotham’s finest have descended the hidden staircase only to find a mundane man-cave. Gordon seems relieved as he responds to one of his men, “What do you think, Edmunds? He has some mechanism that takes you down the wrong stairwell if you’re not the Batman. Something his own butler doesn’t know about?” Gordon smiles as he orders his men to leave the mansion. Narrowly escaping the rocky plunge Batman and Lark turn towards home and the once-angry mob parts to let them pass in peace.
In the “My Own Worst Enemy” arc Scott Snyder delivered a fresh and fun Batman story with enough fan service and innovation to satisfy veteran fans and newcomers alike. All-Star Batman is accessible enough for you to jump right in and pays tribute to the history of Batman in a unique way which makes it a lot of fun to read. Developing an intimacy between the young Harvey Dent and troubled Bruce Wayne was a brilliant choice which enriched the history of those two characters and I’m excited to see what Scott Snyder does with the villain Batman faces next: Mr. Freeze! Until next time, Geek On!
Written by John Edward Betancourt
If there's one particular part of the comic book world that is starting to gain more and more of my attention, it's the indie comic book business. Because in a world filled with mainstream heroes, it's nice to know that there are still artists out there completely and utterly dedicated to non-mainstream stories and some of the stuff that's coming out of these smaller comic book companies, is absolutely amazing.
Take for example Creephouse Comics. This Denver based company is one that we've highlighted before due to their awesome work in capturing the wonder of 1950's horror in their comic Teenage Love Zombies, and they recently decided to once again tackle a popular genre and provide everyone with their own take on the natural disaster/animal hybrid horror story that SyFy pioneered to popularity with their new comic book...BEARCANO.
The plot for this particular book is largely immaterial, because well...the title says it all. You take a volcano and a bear and mash them together and you're treated to a violent and fiery monster that murders the ever living hell out of everything it encounters and let me just say it now, this book is completely and utterly magnificent. There's comedy to be found in just about every frame as the BEARCANO unleashes its fury on anything and everything and the no holds barred approach when it comes to this book results in moments that are so hilarious, I had to put the book down for a few moments to get the laughs out of my system...so I didn't ruin my brand new comic.
But, what impressed me more is the sheer fact that this is also one intelligent comic book as well. Because the book offers far more within its pages than just carnage and gore, it's quite the satire of modern America as well. Our obsession with celebrities and social media and so much more are examined and lampooned in this book in similar comedic style, giving the story some incredible depth and setting it apart from any similar narratives in this magical sub genre meaning that when all is said and done, BEARCANO is the kind of comic book that truly has something to offer everyone and it's a book that you should get your hands on as soon as possible.
Which brings us to the million dollar question, how do you get it? That's easy, head over to the BEARCANO page at Creephouse Comics' website and snag your copy today, and if you act quickly, you'll be able to get your hands on a special edition of the comic (limited to 50 issues) that includes a one-of-a-kind BEARCANO pin and sticker and is also autographed by writer Kevin Gentilcore. Either way, just make sure you get your hands on this book and treat yourself to a unique story that entertains and enriches the mind and oh yeah...features bears made of freakin' lava and a bigger body count than all four Sharknado movies combined...
Written by Joel T. Lewis
When we catch up with Jake Lockley at the beginning of issue 8 we find him in the custody of the New York Police Department being interrogated by two oddly familiar policemen. These are the same asylum orderlies that have hassled Moon Knight throughout this run. After peppering him with questions, these goons leave a confused Lockley to talk to Detective (formally Doctor) Emmet. Lockley is in a pretty tight spot as Emmet explains all that their investigation has revealed. The cab he drives is registered to a Jake Lockley, which must be an alias because his prints show him listed as Marc Spector in the police database. Plus, the shady costume they found in his cab isn’t going to help prove his innocence either. Emmet asks Spector about his history of serious mental health issues and asks if he remembers telling a story about werewolves on the moon as they brought him into custody. Frustrated and confused Spector demands for a second time to see his lawyer claiming he had nothing to do with the murder of Gena and her customers. As the page turns Spector shifts over to Steven Grant on the set of Moon Knight, a major motion picture. Grant yells, “Cut.”
Grant appears to be directing an interrogation scene starring Jake Lockley and Detective Emmet. Confused, Grant agrees to let the actor playing Lockley try it again. As the camera rolls Grant shifts back into Spector in the interrogation room with Emmet, and Spector says, “Action.” Reeling, Spector learns that Emmet thinks he might be the serial killer that they’ve been calling Midnight Man in the press. Spector begs to be released so that he can go after the real Midnight Man but his pleas fall on deaf ears as Emmet calls in the orderlies/policemen to take him to the holding cells. Spector breaks free of the goons and manages to dodge the shot Emmet aims at him as he escapes. Changing into the mantle of Moon Knight he hits the streets in pursuit of Crawley, desperate for information on the Midnight Man. Crawley reminds Moon Knight that he’s sold his soul to Anubis and can’t help him because he’s not really there. Moon Knight cannot accept that and coerces a location out of Crawley and upon arriving there discovers Midnight Man holding Marlene hostage. As the two hooded and caped figures square off Midnight Man breaks character and complains about one of his lines.
Spector is Grant again and he yells “Cut” as the actors portraying Moon Knight and Midnight Man on the set of the movie complain about the lines they’ve been given and the holes in the plot. They even reference how unlikely it would be that Crawley would know exactly where Midnight Man was going to be. Grant is unsettled by this and learns from one of his crew that some sound might have bled through from the adjacent sound stage. Marlene confirms this, telling Grant that it's “some space werewolf thing.” Grant suddenly remembers that he was bitten by General Lupinar on the moon as Captain Spector and as blood trickles down his shirt-collar he runs off the set towards what he thinks is the adjacent sound stage. Grant emerges onto the moon in the middle of the werewolf invasion and watches as General Lupinar stands over the bleeding body of Marc Spector. We actually get to see Grant, dressed as he was on the movie set, and Spector as two separate entities in the same panel.
As Spector grapples with Lupinar on the moon, Steven Grant moves through the moon base, then Jake Lockley’s New York where Moon Knight is still grappling with Midnight Man, and back to the sound stage. Breaking away from their separate fights Lockley, Spector, and Grant all run for exits in their separate realities. Though their surroundings and pursuers are different, each man runs for the exit calling for the same person: Marlene. The final page of the issue is the triumphant return of artist Greg Smallwood and boy it was good to see him again. Captain Spector, Grant, and Lockley dressed as Moon Knight all emerge onto the sands of New Egypt from the first 5 issues of the series and are greeted by Marc Spector in his signature white suit. The panels curve into the shape of an exclamation point as Spector speaks, “Hey fellas, thanks for coming. We need to talk.”
This topsy-turvy issue and its brilliant cliffhanger do a great job setting up the climax of the “Incarnations” run. As the three identities of Moon Knight bleed and bend into one another we accelerate towards a conclusion that will hopefully result in some grip on reality. Until next time, Geek On!
Written by Joel T. Lewis
When last we saw the caped crusader he was at the mercy of Harvey Two-Face and a group of thugs affiliated with the Court of Owls called the Talons. Batman seemed to be defeated as Two-Face poured acid into his eyes. Luckily, we find out in the opening panels of issue 4 that Batman’s cowl has a built in shield that protects his flesh from the adverse effects of an acid bath. However, as Two-Face points out, it is the vapors of the acid that can do the real damage and Batman is rendered blind. This doesn't stop him from breaking free of the Court of Owls goons with the help of some nifty projectile panels built into the batsuit. Activating the echolocation component of his suit, Batman is able to trade blows with these thugs alongside his sidekick Lark.
Two-Face breaks free and manages to flood the tunnel they've been fighting in and slips away up an access tunnel. Lark and Batman are trapped underwater by cables tied around their ankles courtesy of the Talons. With Lark’s visor leaking and Batman’s echolocation array shorting out Batman uses the only trick left up his sleeve: sound. Attacking the Talons’ sensitive eardrums underwater with Lark’s harsh rock music, Batman and Lark manage to escape and subdue Two-Face once again.
Aboard a biplane, Batman confides in Lark the rest of his and young Harvey Dent’s childhood schemes as his eyesight slowly recovers. The troubled boys had made a pact: that they would kill the other boy’s tormentor. Harvey would kill Joe Chill and Bruce would kill Harvey’s father. But then Harvey's father sent him something at camp. When he would beat his son, Mr. Dent would flip his double tailed coin, saying if it came up heads he wouldn't touch his son. Harvey receives his father's coin in the mail but it has been recast as a double headed one. This symbolic gesture from his father meant he would never hurt his son again. Batman describes the shift in Harvey that day like this, “He wasn't seeing the world as it was, but how he would make it. It's not analysis. It's not acceptance. It's force of will.”
Though young Bruce knew that his friend would be beaten again by his father, the man he grew into admires the willful optimism that defined Harvey Dent from that day on. Scott Snyder adds another layer to the intimacy between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent with this final revelation. Harvey taught Bruce the power of the human will at a very young age. By refusing to see the world as the twisted cruel place that wrenched Bruce’s family from him and compels his own father to beat him, Harvey shook the hatred and conviction in his young friend. Through sheer force of will Harvey Dent would see the world as a better place. This is the fire that fueled his career as a public defender, and in a very real way it's the fire that inspired Bruce to don the cape and cowl.
As Lark hands Batman Two-Face’s coin, another biplane smokes and veers off course in the background and a familiar pair of combat boots land between Batman and Lark. A black glove snatches the coin from Batman’s hand just before that boot hits the back of his head and the lights go out. KGBeast has returned and he's taken Batman, Lark, and Two-Face to an abandoned casino riverboat where Black Mask, Great White, and the Penguin meet them to discuss their fate. After trading insults and muffling Batman’s quips, the three mob bosses reveal that they've conspired with Harvey behind Batman and Two-Face’s back.
As a safety net in case Batman wasn't able to get Two-Face where he planned to, Harvey planted a tracking device in himself so he could be found and killed before wreaking more havoc with his blackmail material. But one good twist deserves another: as Penguin moves into extract Two-Face’s blackmail codes from him the riverboat shakes from an explosion. Two-Face was aware of his tracking device and pushed the signal of it a little further to a group of people who have a vested interest in seeing the villain walk free. Still struggling to see as a result of the acid bath, Batman asks Lark who has come to save Two-Face and is shocked to see and hear the answer: they're just regular citizens and they're not here to negotiate. Can Batman and Lark defend themselves against ordinary citizens? Will Two-Face finally be rid of Harvey Dent, or will it be the other way around? Until next time, Geek On!
Written by Joel T. Lewis
Recently I found myself overwhelmed and frustrated during a recent visit to my local comic shop. I had just heard the news about Carrie Fisher’s passing and was in an awful funk: drifting from section to section and while I brought home some pretty sweet Issues of West Coast Avengers it made me sad to think that that trip wasn't as fun as it normally is. So I decided to write out some of the things I’ve learned from my comic book collecting experiences that help me make the most out of a trip to the comic book shop, to remind me how magical it is to shop for these incredible books and to help out anyone else who might be feeling a touch overwhelmed about starting their own collection as well.
Your First Trip
When going to a comic shop for the first time it's important to remember that the name of the game is fun. Comic books are meant to be fun: the colorful heroes, the wacky villains, and action-packed issues are for everyone so don't feel out of your element in a comic shop.
Before you visit a comic shop check their website to make sure there are no events going on when you're planning on visiting. Lots of comic shops host trading card tournaments, auctions, and other events that are really cool, but might interfere with your trip. You don't want to squeeze around tables and chairs to get to the comics and you'll save yourself some funny looks from those attending the event.
A note about comic shop owners: in my experience the owners, or employees of comic shops can vary from super polite and helpful to stoic and stand-offish. Despite their attitude, owners are more often than not huge comic book fans and it never hurts to ask for a recommendation. Usually it's helpful to have a hero or specific interest in mind when asking for a recommendation Example: I'd like something with a female main character set in space or I'd like something quirky but not necessarily about a superhero. In the event that the owner of your local shop is rude to you don’t be discouraged from collecting comics, we’re not all jerks! Do not allow yourself to be treated rudely, you can always find another shop to call home.
When a shop-owner is nowhere in sight, or if you’re too shy to ask (which is perfectly fine) I've found that going with a friend who has their own comic collection is very helpful especially on your first trip to a comic shop. They'll usually know the lay of the land and will be able to steer you towards the unique stuff. Plus, they will be thrilled to introduce you to their world and will leap at the chance to visit a shop themselves. While I will try to cover as much as I can to help with your comic shop experience in this article, there really is no substitute for a fellow nerd buzzing with excitement to show you around.
When starting your comic collection, I've found that your greatest ally is the dollar comic section. Typically, these sections are full of issues that don't have bags or boards, are haphazardly organized, and are the best place to discover new heroes. You get to feel the ink on your fingers as you search through the boxes, you get that great smell that only loose comics have, and you can pick up a bunch of different titles without breaking the bank. These bargain bins are a great way to try on a hero or two for size before committing to hunting down every issue. Also the beauty of the dollar comic is that it's meant to be read. You don't have to worry about the quality of the issue or its value. So you can pick it up and thumb through it again and again without worrying about ruining it. It is important to know that in this section it is rare to find a first issue or a complete run and when you’re starting out and that’s okay. I know the frustration of finding issues 2, 3, 7, and 8 with none of the fillers in sight, but that’s the beauty of comics, you can read around the gaps and then you have something to hunt for the next time. This is also a great section for judging a book by its cover. Though I wholeheartedly believe that a comic book cover lets you know whether or not you will enjoy the story inside, this is not always the case (see my article on Image Comics’ Trencher). The dollar section protects you from investing in a title whose cover promised one thing and whose contents delivered another.
Another ally to the new comic book collector is the Trade Paperback (TPB or trades) section. These are bound editions of comics that collect a number of issues in one volume. These will save you some money and the strife of tracking down obscure issues in a series. They also serve as great starter sets for new collectors. Some of my favorite trades are the Marvel Essential Series volumes. They're a great set of books that collect the first appearance of Marvel superheroes and allow you to follow that character’s story from the very beginning. The Essential series is great for filling in the holes in your collection but the only drawback is that the issues are in black and white. Most trades nowadays are full color and collect 5-10 issues at a time. They're great for saving space on your shelves, easy to keep in good condition, and don't break the bank.
Now most comic collectors have strategies and resources that they go to when planning a trip to the comic shop and I just wanted to share a few of my own that have helped me make the most of my trips.
Make a List
Usually comic book shops organize themselves by publisher (Marvel, DC, Image, Vertigo etc) and then alphabetically under those headings. So I've found it's helpful to keep a list of the issues I have and the issues I want in an excel or google sheets spreadsheet. This format allows me to get everything alphabetized quickly and prevents me from buying duplicate issues. Also having a google sheet accessible from my phone allows me to edit it as I shop.
When making a list of issues I want to pick up there are a few strategies I employ. When searching for issues I'm missing from a certain run I like to search for them on mycomicshop.com, in addition to being a huge comic book vendor themselves they have an intuitive website that allows you to see pictures of every issue’s cover art and they give you a ballpark price so you can plan your budget. Also their archive even has pictures of the issues they don't have available so you know what issue number and cover to look for. Something else that I thought was really cool about their website is that they list all the variant covers in a series too which has helped me pick up some pretty sweet issues.
When I'm not filling in gaps in a series, I'm usually looking for appearances of a specific hero (usually Moon Knight) in different comics. One of the most valuable resources I've found for tracking down these issues is comicvine.gamespot.com. This site hosts a pretty exhaustive catalog of comic book characters and their appearances in different issues. While the website has its quirks the research they've compiled is impressive. A word of warning though: when they list all appearances of a character they mean all of them, even translations into French and Spanish. Be sure to double check that the issues you write down are in the language you read and will be available in your country. Also, I've found that sometimes when a character is listed as appearing in some of the bigger comic book events like Flashpoint or Civil War that appearance can be underwhelming. Unless your character is central to the plot of those stories an appearance can be as small as a silent cameo in a splash page (a panel taking up one or two whole pages) of a New York battle and that's it. This won't be a problem for the more well-known heroes but the more obscure ones get included but not showcased.
Stick to Your List
Comics can get expensive. Depending on the scarcity and condition of specific issues $8-10 a pop is not an uncommon price point for comics and believe me, that adds up fast. So it is important to budget for a specific set of issues and stick to it. Allow yourself about ten dollars of cushion to account for something cool you may not have researched but if you establish a budget beforehand sticking to it makes a big difference when you step up the register.
Give Yourself Enough Time
Comics contain entire worlds. It's easy to lose track of time between their pages so make sure you give yourself enough time to explore especially the first time. Depending on the size of your local shop I recommend giving yourself 1-2 hours so you don't feel rushed.
I love comic books and everyone should feel welcome in a comic book shop. Hopefully this article will inspire some aspiring collectors to make a trek out to a shop and will help the veteran collectors out there make the most of their next hunt. Please feel free to comment and share your comic shop strategies below. I'd love to hear some new ones. Until next time, Geek On!
Written by Joel T. Lewis
In this issue we get a more intimate look at the lunar dystopia of Captain Marc Spector brought to life in previous issues by artist James Stokoe. We catch up with Spector as he pilots his starship Moon Knight One against a legion of space werewolves who have taken over the earth and driven what remains of humanity to a lone outpost on the moon. This is humanity’s final stand. As Spector and the sinister General Lupinar trade passes above the surface of the moon, artist Stokoe throws silvery crescent moon fighters at the swarm of red predator ships that have come to end mankind. The panels are spectacular with the pale shimmering surface of the moon clashing against the black cloud of empty space while fighters dart and blaze deadly fire at each other.
Then as Lupinar and Spector play out one final deadly game of chicken Marc struggles to focus as he slips into the reality of cab-driver Jake Lockley for a moment, then back to the moon, then back again. Stokoe’s visual style collides with Francesco Francavilla’s as Spector speeds toward Lupinar on the moon and Lockley’s cab smashes into an oncoming car on the mean streets of New York. The next page shows us Spector’s ejector seat cushioning his landing on the surface of the moon and Lockley thrown from the crumbling mess of his cab. This page is particularly striking because of the similar color pallet that bleeds through both artists’ panels. The orange and yellow of the two crashes smooth over what could’ve been a jarring transition between the neon streets of New York and the cold rocky surface of the moon. Spector emerges from the tangled wreck of Moon Knight 1 and calls to his co-pilot Frenchie. Hearing no response, Marc turns to survey the wreckage.
Frenchie is dead for the second time this series (issue 4) but that is not the most unsettling thing we discover as we turn the page. Spector is still on the moon but this is not the moon or Captain Spector as drawn by James Stokoe. Instead of his wrecked Starfighter, Marc sees Jake Lockley’s cab smoking from the crash. As Marc discovers Frenchie’s fate Francavilla takes over for Stokoe, depicting both the cab from Lockley’s reality and Captain Spector, spacesuit and all. This transition indicates an important shift in the story. In my last recap I outlined the brilliance of using three artists (four if you include Greg Smallwood, and you should always include Greg Smallwood) to separate Moon Knight’s personas and their corresponding realities. By giving each identity a distinct visual style we are able to distinguish who’s doing what while also experiencing how jarring it must be for Moon Knight to constantly shift between these realities. Lockley’s cab and his artist’s (Francavilla) appearance on the moon shows how thin the divisions between Moon Knight’s identities have become. Events, characters, and the artists that draw them are bleeding into each other and the reader slowly starts to appreciates how damaged Moon Knight’s psyche really is.
Luckily this particular madness abates after just one page and Lockley and his cab are back where they belong and are drawn by the correct artist. Shaken from the crash and his shifting identity Lockley shuffles towards the familiar neon lights of Gena’s Diner. Then we’re back on the moon with Spector as he watches the barrier protecting the moon base shatter. Spector rushes to attack the wolf responsible: General Lupinar. Stokoe’s panels leap off the page as they trade blows and beams of energy. Marc stands dumbfounded as he watches a horde of bloodthirsty space wolves pour into the last outpost of humanity. Numb with shock, Spector is defeated by Lupinar who bites his neck inviting him to turn and join the dominant species.
We then shift back to Lockley who’s reeling from this latest switch. Shaking off his vision of the moon battle as a concussion-induced hallucination he finally makes it to the door of Gena’s diner. As the entry bell tinkles, Lockley senses that something’s gone horribly wrong, and he’s right. Gena’s is a blood bath and Jake has only enough time to call her name before sirens blare and a police officer with a bullhorn arrives. The cop calls him Marc Spector and informs him that he’s under arrest. Spector is spiraling out of control again but Lemire continues to deliver a spiral so unique and fresh that all I can do is enjoy the ride and patiently wait for the next installment. Until next time, Geek On!
Written by Joel T. Lewis
In issue 6 we catch up with Hollywood producer Steven Grant on the set of Marvel Studio’s newest film, “Moon Knight” and things are not running smoothly. Leading man Marc Spector storms off-set after a boom-mic operator ruins a take and an amateur director struggles to maintain control of his crew. Fed up with the day’s shooting, Grant and leading lady Marlene make their way home in an oddly familiar yellow cab.
As they drive away Marlene encourages Grant to take over the film as director and reminds him of a fundraiser he's organized later that night at Mercy Hospital. The same Mercy Hospital where Marc Spector was a patient just a few issues ago. Grant and the cabbie lock eyes at the mention of the mental institution and suddenly Steven Grant melts away and Jake Lockley emerges into the techno-noir world brought to life by artist Francesco Francavilla. After discovering Crawley by the side of the road Lockley discovers that jumping off the pyramid as Spector in issue 5 didn’t end his madness. He’s still being manipulated by Khonshu and can’t distinguish between his personalities or their respective realities.
Puzzled and frustrated by Crawley’s revelation Lockley opens the trunk of his cab to don the mantle of the Moon Knight, only to find himself Steven Grant again. As Grant struggles to make sense of what just happened, Marlene tries to reassure him, asking him if he’s taken his medication. Grant finds himself at the fundraiser at Mercy Hospital where he encounters the orderlies who abused Marc Spector in issues 1 and 2. Dismissing them as bumbling waiting staff Grant then discovers that he was once a patient at Mercy Hospital. Before he is able to learn more Grant is interrupted by the inept director of his film apologizing for the wasted day on set. Grant fires the director and informs him that he will be taking over the film. Marlene tells him how proud she is of him but calls him Marc not Steven. Confused, Grant retreats through a doorway to be alone with his thoughts but steps out onto a gritty Moonbase as the Starfighter Pilot Marc Spector. You didn’t forget the space werewolves did you? As Marc and his co-pilot Frenchie prepare to launch their crescent shaped Starfighter against the incoming threat of Space Wolves under the command of their one-eyed commander, General Lupinar, the issue ends with an ominous “To be continued…”
As Jeff Lemire takes us through so many transitions of Moon Knight’s identities it wouldn’t be difficult to get lost: between Grant, Lockley, and Spector, Lemire’s wouldn’t be the first Moon Knight series to be confusing. But somehow this run accomplishes the desired unease in the audience as we feel some of the confusion that Spector does but it also keeps us one step ahead. This is accomplished through the coordination of three very distinct artistic styles. In addition to the brilliant Greg Smallwood who has been the main artist of Moon Knight 2016, Marvel has turned to three talented artists to bring the worlds of Steven Grant, Captain Marc Spector, and Jake Lockley to life. Wilfredo Torres brings a crisp cleanliness to the world of Steven Grant: depicting film sets and movie stars that surround Grant as he navigates Hollywood. While Torres’ polished panels take up most of issue 6, James Stokoe’s cacophonous pages make up in density what they lack in number. Stokoe is given a mere ten panels at the end of this issue to flesh out the Moonbase world we were introduced to in issue 5 and he doesn’t waste a single frame. We know where we are, what Spector’s role in this world is, and who the enemy is very quickly. It is perhaps too clinical to describe an artist’s work as efficient, but Stokoe’s work in this issue certainly conveys a lot of detail in just a few pages.
While both Torres and Stokoe interpret Marc Spector’s separate identities with care and skill, the highlight of this issue, at least for me, is the world of Jake Lockley brought to life by Francesco Francavilla. While Jeff Lemire captures the gruff streetwise voice I’ve always associated with the Lockley persona, I have never seen an artist present a setting and atmosphere so well suited to a character. This technicolor noir world that Francavilla creates is Lockley through and through. The neon glow of the late-night clubs bathes every panel in its exaggerated light and I’m taken back to that first series of Moon Knight where Lockley investigated the seedy spots that were too rough for Steven Grant. In a series that I have time and again praised for its reverence for its source material, Francavilla’s artwork pays tribute to Jake Lockley in a way I’ve never seen before and it is simply stunning. Until next time, Geek On!
Written by Joel T. Lewis
In my excitement to talk about silly gadgets in my last All-Star Batman article I may have neglected to fill in a few plot details that are crucial to following the story. So here’s a quick recap of the rest of Part 2:
In a flashback Scott Snyder reveals that Great White, Black Mask, and Penguin have hired Anatoli Knyazev (KGBeast) to kill Batman in order to protect their secrets from seeing the light of day. Knyazev agrees provided he is allowed to be messy about it. Also, we see Alfred and Lark discussing the difference between the cartoonish villain that Lark grew up seeing on TV and the twisted evil Two-Face that Batman faces today. Alfred believes that the good half of Two-Face causes the evil side to act more extravagantly so that he can be caught. The transition between the two personalities seems to begin just before some of Two-Face’s more cartoonish crimes. While discussing Harvey and Batman’s plan to cure Two-Face, Lark is shocked to see the molecular structure of the cure Dent was working on is very similar to the substance that drove his family crazy. Lark tells Alfred that Bruce is walking into a trap and rushes off to warn him. After trading blows and quips with Two-Face, Batman ends up tied up in the back of a police van speeding toward the shadowy outline of KGBeast. He opens fire and issue 2 ends by showing the Beasts standing in the wreckage of the police van.
As issue 3 begins Batman is tasked with fighting the artificially enhanced KGBeast one-handed as the unconscious Harvey Two-Face is tied to his left hand. Snyder treats us to a detailed catalog of the Beast’s weaponry and superhuman reflexes as he and Batman trade blows wielding only a gauntlet of bat-symbol brass knuckles. As Knyazev closes in for the kill, Lark appears and drives a car into the middle of his back. Batman helps Harvey into the vehicle and they escape, headed for a nearby safe house. As the Beast staggers to his feet, Snyder adds an especially playful element to the issue: the Royal Flush Gang appears on their signature Flying Ace hovercraft in the sky above the Beast asking which way Batman has gone. Knyazev says nothing and blasts them out of the sky. One of my favorite aspects of the All-Star Batman series has been the freedom that Snyder exercises with Batman’s Rogues Gallery. By setting up a narrative where Batman and Two-Face move rapidly from place to place dodging new threats left and right, we can see a complex, recognizable team like the Royal Flush Gang for a panel or two without feeling cheated when they are dispatched so quickly. Snyder barrels over and through villains the way Batman has to, and it’s awesome to see little cameos like that.
Speaking of cameos, the host that welcomes Batman and company to the safe house was an unexpected surprise that made me smile as a Batman fan. The mute inventor Harold Allnut is not one of the more famous members of the Bat-Family but in his early days as Batman, Bruce Wayne relied on Allnut for his gadgetry and the maintenance of his vehicles. Every character in All-Star Batman is given a detailed caption almost like what Batman would read through a heads-up display, and the one Snyder gives to Allnut could not be more appropriate: “Harold Allnut: Genius Inventor. Mute. Family.” By including Allnut in this issue, Snyder reinforces something subtly different about Batman in this series. By choosing Duke as a sidekick, but not as another Robin it seems that Batman is attempting to break a cycle of sidekick dysfunction that has plagued the Bat-Family for years. Dick Grayson’s rebellion, Barbara Gordon’s paralysis, Jason Todd’s murder and sinister resurrection, are all examples of the dark shadow Batman has cast over the people he allows closest to him. Harold’s inclusion here is not just a nod to the die-hard fans who will remember the quirky inventor but an example of a relationship of Batman’s that has not ended in ashes. The warmth and gratitude that Batman expresses to Allnut shows camaraderie and compassion in a character who too often appears as an alienating ivory tower.
As Allnut tends to Harvey and Bruce’s wounds, Duke reveals the formula Harvey was working on to include a volatile ingredient that led to his mother’s current insanity. Batman is convinced that the formula will work and is hell-bent on completing the journey. After a fair amount of prodding Duke manages to get the answers from Bruce we’ve all been waiting for: where is this house they’re heading for and why is he so determined to get there no matter the cost. Apparently, Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent bonded over their trauma as boys at a summer retreat for struggling children. Bruce’s anger at Joe Chill for the murder of his family and thirst for revenge worried Alfred so he sent him off to the Arkham Family Mansion where he met young Harvey Dent. Dent’s father was an abusive drunk and the boy was sent to the retreat for surprising his father one night and leaving him tied up for a few days. The boys became as close as brothers and though the retreat was closed after the summer they met there, they planned to reopen it when they became men so that others might benefit from friendships like the one they shared. But then Dent’s accident turned him into Two-Face and the vision the two boys shared was shattered. That house was where they were going, and their boyhood friendship was the reason for Bruce’s determination to help Harvey.
In my article on the first issue in this series I was struck by the intimacy that we were going to get from the road trip scenario. By positioning Two-Face and Batman so close together and isolating them from the towering spires of Gotham City, Snyder set up a dynamic rarely seen in Batman comics. But with this brothers-in-trauma history between young Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent, Snyder adds so much weight to their relationship and so much intimacy to the men that they grew into. It really makes you reevaluate your perception of Harvey Dent. To me he has always been the upstanding Public Defender twisted by a cruel accident that fractured his personality, but now I see a boy who could’ve grown into a hero very similar to Batman himself if not for some tough breaks.
Patched up and nearly to their destination Batman, Lark, and Two-Face continue their journey via fan-boat only to be ambushed yet again. As the battle rages on Two-Face hints to Batman that he and Harvey may not be so split as he once thought, that perhaps when Bruce thought he was talking to Harvey it may have been Two-Face playing a part. Two-Face also reveals that he was listening to Bruce’s touching story about two struggling kids and their pure friendship and accuses him of polishing a tale that might not be so savory. Batman barely has time to process this horrible thought before Two-Face treats him to an acid bath straight into his eyes. Bruce’s eyes go dark as the issue ends. Will Batman ever see again? Is there indeed a cure for what Harvey has become? What didn’t Bruce tell Duke about his and Harvey’s friendship? Until next time, Geek On!