Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What I've Been Reading 2012

So it's been a few weeks...more than intended of course...but at least in that time I've gotten some serious reading done! I'm now ONLY three weeks behind in my....umm...additional weekly readings and have managed to plow through quite a number of collections since that AvX blog. Let's jump right in!

First up was some back-to-back Robert Kirkman love starting with the "Invincible" Compendium.  Another of his Image books, this one was a book I'd been told repeatedly to read but, since I wasn't getting to it, a friend of mine got it for me as a birthday gift. Well I can say that I'm glad I waited to read it because it was great to read this story...well at least its first half...in one collection! 

To sum it up as much as possible without ruining too much, this one is the story of a kid named Mark Grayson whose father is a superhero and then said kid discovers that he too has superpowers!  It's a story of father-son relationships, of the dynamic in a family with two heroes, a family in which the heroes aren't having to hide it from their family...just the rest of the world of course.

Yet it it also a coming of age story, a tale of betrayal and disappointment, of friends and lovers...essentially it is a tale of life as told through the POV of a superhero kid. High school, college, girlfriends, teams, villains, friends, and aliens are all a part of this tale and by the way, it is quite graphically violent.  That is a trait of this series that I find very intriguing not because I'm a blood mark, but because of the color scheme of this series...it's bright and vibrant, alive I guess you could say, a stark contrast to that other Kirkman work of note: "The Walking Dead".

"Invincible" is available right here  in a handy-dandy Compendium that collects not only the first 47 issues of the series but also the Zero issue, an issue of The Pact series, and also excerpts from the 2004 Image Comics Summer Special.  I can't recommend this book highly enough and I cannot wait until there is a Volume 2 Compendium released, which I would imagine will come out shortly after the 100th issue is released.  That is, after all, what happened with "The Walking Dead"...

...and speaking of:

Continuing my Kirkman run, but mostly inspired by watching the 3rd season of the TV show, I reread the first Compendium of "The Walking Dead" that covers the first 48 issues of the now 100+ issue series as well as a story from the 2005 Image Comics Holiday special.  This marked the first time I had reread the old stories since my initial reading of them and it was quite interesting to compare them to the storytelling choices made for the AMC series.

Suffice it to say, and as anyone who has read the series knows, the comic and its TV adaptation share many similarities but the show diverges from the comic book continuity in many ways.  Some of those reasons may be due to the constraints of the medium, some may be conscious decisions, and some may simply be a choice of how the story best evolved.  There are characters that exist in the comics but not on the TV show and vice versa...at least not yet, but I can confidently say that I am ECSTATIC that the TV series has gone down its own version of the path first laid out in the comic. 

Some story beats are missing and are thusly missed, some changes have actually been for the better I'd say, and ultimately I must say that I prefer this to seeing a straight up adaptation of the comic book.  That could easily come off as soulless and going through the motions...the way the "Watchmen" movie kind of did in its almost complete marriage to the source material.

As for the comic book itself, it was just as engrossing on the reread as it was when I was first introduced to it some years ago...and at least a four years after the book initially started.  I feel like I read it for the first time around the time of "Secret Invasion" when Kyle Durden may have brought some issues on a St. Louis road trip.  I know he is directly responsible for introducing it to Kenny King and a few other people...

Anyway, it is quite telling how, despite knowing the fate of these characters by the end of the first 48 issues, I am still quite shook up by the way Lori dies or by what happens between The Governor, Michonne, and Rick.  The evolution of Glenn still is one of the most interesting aspects of the story and there are so many little moments, so many artistic decisions, that add to the story in ways my words can't quite encapsulate:

That look speaks volumes in the context of the pages, and I strongly suggest if you are a fan of the show but haven't read the books, or if you just dig well written character drama, then click here and pick up the comic.  It's violent, as one would expect in a zombie apocalypse scenario, and in done in B&W art as you can see from that image, but the lack of color...yeah it does nothing to dull the impact of the brutality, to lessen the blow of what these characters go through as they struggle to maintain their own humanity in the face of such inhumane circumstances...

To put it bluntly, I don't really give a damn about Thor.  As a comic book character, he was not someone I was every particularly interested in and pretty much only read Thor when he was included in some other book or story I actually was into. So the reasons I chose to pick this book up were two-fold.

The first being the fact that Warren Ellis wrote this book and that I have an increasing interest to read his material. Realizing he wrote this story also made me realize all of the other things he wrote when I was younger that I read with no care as to who he was like Excalibur, Doom 2099, all three Counter-X books, Wolverine, some Ghost Rider issues, and the "Sword of Damocles" chapters of the Wildstorm "Fire From Heaven" crossover.

The 2nd reason I bought the book...it was only $4 at the Discount Book store which is ridiculously cheap for a hardcover...and their pricing has, in fact, led me to buying many things I would not otherwise have bothered as you'll see.

Well this one picks up in the middle of some story with Thor dying and just runs from there into a rather entertaining story, albeit with some Mike Deodato art that is...inconsistent I suppose I will say. The guy does some good stuff but I also find him to be a bit all over the place in his older work and not very detail oriented ever...just check out his "Dark Avengers" and tell me if you think every female character is built the exact same. I think he's a good artist for covers & pin-ups but not necessarily the greatest for panel-to-panel work.  That being said, I would still rather look at his comics than a great deal of the people doing monthly work now...

As for the story, it was a refreshing take on Thor as he wasn't running around speaking in his Asgardian pseudo-Shakespearean style and threw his lot in with The Enchantress.  Ellis' intro pretty much sums up the idea behind the whole thing:

"Worldengine is a four-episode story intended to rip apart the Thor we know and retool him for the next century or, at least, until the next time you fancy retooling him. There are, of course, sound economic reasons for doing this, which have been explained to me in length, but they are less important to me, in the long run, than the artistic needs of the book. It’s been the same for thirty years, this comic, and as much as we all respect the legacy of Jack Kirby, I honestly think he would not be pleased to find the comic the same as it was when he started it. Kirby was foursquare for change."

As an adult, I would have loved to read more of Ellis' run on Thor (sadly it was only these four issues) but I don't know how I would have taken to it had I found this book when it first came out in the mid-90s.  Now, it is an intriguing look at early Ellis super-hero work.  Grab it here if you're interested...

Mark Waid and Captain America...that is a subject that could easily take up a blog all by itself and perhaps I will have to do that some time. Starting in 1995 and running through 1999 (with a slight interruption by Rob Liefeld's horrendous Heroes Reborn Cap series), Waid helmed Cap through a return of The Red Skull, some heavy political issues, hero worship, a shattered shield, and the return of the most important woman in Cap's life (thanks to Ed Brubaker): Sharon Carter.

This is a smart series, and controversial for one particular issue included in the Red Glare HC pictured above.  It's a 1999 issue focusing on Red Skull from his own point of view, inside his own head, so to say it was...racist...would be an understatement.  Now that may sound like a bad idea but this is the Skull, a Nazi mind you, telling his own story so of course it is going to be racist!  Still, Marvel edited the thing in its original release, Waid took his name off the story, and it never say the light of day in its original version until the HC was released in 2011. For more on the subject read here on CBR with a Waid interview.

Cap, kind of like Thor, was a character I didn't have a great deal of interest in until I began to read the Brubaker run starting with "Winter Soldier" (a run I continued to follow into Bucky's series but from the Cap angle I stopped following with the "Shattered Heroes" labeled arc). So with that, combined with my interest in Mark Waid and the rave reviews I had been given from friends who had read the books, oh yeah AND the fact that I got all of the HCs at the discount book store for like $6 each, I ventured into Waid's world of Cap.

Go buy this...seriously, it's just an awesome take on the legendary character and one that is just as interesting, in a completely different way, as Brubaker's take on the character, plus you've got some great artists in Ron Garney & Andy Kubert to flesh out the story.  This is where Sharon Carter's role in Cap's life begins to take shape, this has to be where Brubaker pulls some of his Cosmic Cube  ideas from, and it really puts the pieces in place for Brubaker's usage of Red Skull as well. 

The concept of hero worship and it's potential effects on both the hero & his worshippers that Waid plays with is one that I don't know if I've really seen in a Marvel or DC comic, and I guess...in many ways...I'd say that Waid's take on Steve is more fascinating than Brubaker's for me.  Honestly it is the character of Bucky/Winter Soldier that I always found most intriguing there...

Waid, during the movie hype, also did the "Man Out Of Time" mini focusing on the time frame just after Cap was resurrected (albeit in a modern period) that I read when it was initially released but have not read it since I purchased it last week in the discount store.  I will...part of my next batch of readings...but you, if you haven't read these, click right here to order them yourself.

Jason Aaron, Duane Swierczynski, Cullen Bunn, Rick Spears, David Lapham...
Mico Suayan, Arturo Lozzi, Travel Foreman, Dan Brereton, Timothy Green II, Khari Evans, Hatuey Diaz...

That's the talent responsible for "Immortal Weapons", a collection of one-shots starring the assorted characters from the Immortal Iron Fist issues penned by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, and Swierczynski. 

The quality varies from chapter to chapter, the highlight probably being the Fat Cobra & Iron Fist stories for me, but if you have read any of the Immortal Iron Fist run, then this series is a nice addition to that.  Again, another steal from the discount book store for only $4!  Man I wouldn't be reading ANYTHING if it wasn't for that place... 

Pick up this book here.

By far the strangest thing I found at the discount book store...the place sells nothing by Marvel books EXCEPT for the very, very occassional 2000AD books like this and something else I'll mention next.  For some background info, 2000AD is a UK comic book that has featured the talents of Moore, Grant Morrison, Alan Davis, Neil Gaiman, and Mark Millar just to name drop a few.  This was a collection of these short stories called Tharg's Future Shocks that were written by numerous creators and they were usually 2-3 pages in length, self-contained, and to me, read like something written for The Twilight Zone...if the Zone was taking place in a galaxy far, far away with seriously alien cultures.

A intergalactic handyman, time-hopping scientists, alien invaders, universal pirates...these are just a few of the concepts that Moore tackles in these short format stories.  It's such a difficult thing to sum up this book in any simple format, it is truly something you would have to check out for yourself.  Simply put, it is not remotely what I expected to read and that is NOT a bad thing...check it out here.

And in the continued vein of the 2000AD books, I also found some Judge Dredd there...and more importantly Dredd as done by Grant Morrison & Mark Millar as well as art by Carlos Ezquerra who I found out is one of the Dredd creators. This would be a character with whom I have absolutely zero knowledge about...never say the Sly Stallone movie, never read the crossovers with Batman, no se nada!

Yet despite by lack of knowledge, I felt completely comfortable reading this book as well as the "Crusade" one I also picked up.  You get a good feel for just who Dredd is as well as just what the whole premise behind his world really is...handy little recap blurbs at the start of every 5-page chapter really help as well.  Art is pretty good to look at too...

So now I am kind of intrigued to read a little more Dredd stuff so perhaps I will investigate that but if you're interested in reading some Millar/Morrison co-work then pick these up right here.  They are a quick read but a fun one!

This one was yet another cheap pick-up at the discount book store and was sold on the name that dominates the cover (obviously Marvel knows that too) as well as the John Romita Jr art.  I don't know anything about The Eternals (also obviously a theme for most of the books I get on discount) but this was quite a fun & exciting read for me, not to mention wonderful to look at as I have been a fan of JRJR for as long as I've been a comic book fan.

Long story short, this is a tale of God-like beings who don't remember that they are God-like AND if you're a fan of Matt Fraction & Ed Brubaker's Uncanny X-Men run that introducted them to San Francisco...this is the story where that Celestial in the park comes into play.  Another great pick-up for a great deal and another one I can highly recommend to everyone.  It's on-sale right here.

I feel like I'm forgetting something else I've read in the last few weeks but I'll be damned if I can remember what it is after all of that, plus reading my weekly purchases.  I can tell you that right now, with those, I am of course digging Batman & the beginnings of The Death Of The Family. I am also pretty keen on the Rotworld stuff so far and, if you're a fan of both Garth Ennis & Grant Morrison, then I suggest you scoop up the first two issues of Happy because it is a Morrison comic but you can smell the Ennis on it. 

Speaking of Ennis, it was goodbye to The Boys this month...holding out hope for a complete collection Omnibus sort of thing...

Punk Rock Jesus by Sean Murphy is another great one...

Haven't had a chance to read too much of the Marvel NOW yet but I can say Mark Waid's Hulk book has some promise, that All New X-Men is an interesting premise that I am curious to see how it will sustain an on-going, X-Men Legacy is getting me to buy a 2nd issue but the jury is still out there, Uncanny Avengers has potential if they can get a regular shipping schedule going (sad to say that after only one issue), and we shall see what Cap, Thor, and the two FF books bring to the table.

Also, if you want something fun, but not so easy on the eyes...I am liking Scarlet Spider & Venom but I find the art lacking all too frequently...

In the DC corner...pick up Red Hood, by far the most improved book of the New 52. Talon is also quite a fun one, especially for those bitching (myself included in there sometimes) about the existence of prior continuity.  Talon is a book free of any loose ends, free of any ties to the Old 52, it is a clean slate character that we are all learning about for the very first time.

Not sure what I have on tap for the next one I write, but in the meantime...and as a strong example of my buying things at the discount book store because they are cheap...I've got a Fallen Angels HC, an X-Infernus TPB, and a X-Men: Phoenix: Warsong TPB to read!  I would have never bought any of those under any normal circumstances but hey...it probably cost me $15 total for all three.

I also plan to read, for the very first time, the entire run of Gaiman's Sandman!


Hey if anyone wants to buy me some X-Mas presents:

Friday, October 26, 2012

AvX or if you prefer...why it might all Captain America's fault...

So at first I was planning on sitting down and re-reading the entire 13 issue series (Zero issue + 12), none of the tie-ins...not Versus or Uncanny or Wolvie & The X-Men, nada, and see how it read in-completion on its own merit.

...Then I changed my mind...

Well, not exactly...

See I am still going to do that, just not right now.  Rather I am going to sit here at my computer on October 26th, and right down what my more immediate thoughts are on Marvel's big crossover of the year without notes or even a single issue of the comic right in front of me.  These are simply the notions that come to my head when reflecting back on the last six months that was supposed to change the face of the Marvel landscape.  Did it? I guess I will see when I get to that point in my random train of thought of which I guarantee will contain multiple jumping of the tracks. 

After I'm done with this...rambling (?)...then I will sit down, read the crossover in a proper fashion, and add on to this blog with my post-reading reflections, demarcating the date to show when I start the re-read. On to the stream of consciousness:

First off when I think of the idea of Avengers versus X-Men, I think of something more along the lines of what Civil War was with the Pro-Registration vs. Anti-Registration idea. 

It's a story where you can truly get behind one team or the other depending on whose perspective you agree with and essentially that is how I felt this story started out with Captain American deciding he needed to take Hope into custody to protect the world from the Phoenix Force while Cyke, who has been banking his hopes for the mutant race on this girl for the last five years (real time), wants to let the Phoenix Force come and save them all.

Okay now given the whole conceit of this story being their differing opinions on Hope & the Phoenix Force, my immediate question was why the hell does Captain America suddenly give a flying fuck about the Phoenix and on what personal experience is he basing his fears?

The original Phoenix, the one who took on Jean Grey's form, had zero interaction with the larger Marvel U outside of one panel with Spider-Man and Dr. Strange acknowledging something was happening...no Cap to be seen there. He, nor any Avenger save Beast, were a factor when she killed the planet of the broccoli people, came back to Earth, ended up on the moon, and sacrificed herself when Cyclops couldn't bring himself to kill her.

The next time we saw the Phoenix force it was in the form of the time-traveling Rachel Grey and she was nowhere near the power-level of her "mom" nor was she ever the Dark Phoenix threat...nor were there any Avengers...

Let's see then we have the dance of the Phoenix around Inferno time between Madelyne Pryor & the real Jean Grey around who had been hanging out recovering in a chrysalis at the bottom of the ocean since the Phoenix entity assumed her form. Rachel Summers was back in the picture around that time too and was rocking some kind of Phoenix power. No Dark Phoenix threat there...no Avengers either.

Jean reclaimed some aspect of the Phoenix power during a jaunt into space with X-Factor with the Celestial War. Not to get too detailed but Jean was struggling with her own memories, Pryor's memories, and the Phoenix as Jean Grey memories all residing in her brain and was shifting personalities.  It all got resolved, no Dark Phoenix threat here...

Over the years, various writers have teased at a full-on return of Jean Grey as Phoenix, including her redonning the Grey & Gold costume and reclaiming the codename, but it wasn't until Grant Morrison that Jean Grey became the full-on Phoenix...just in time to die at the hands of Xorneto (don't ask). From there the Phoenix force splintered...I guess....because Rachel Summer (now Grey) still had a piece of it, the Stepford Cuckoos had some, Quentin Quire did at one point, some Shi'ar guy had a sword made of a piece of the Phoenix, it came back to Earth in a pair of 'Song mini-series' barely acknowledged anywhere but of which elements have been used (Stepfords & Quire) elsewhere. All that random Phoenix-ness but in none of it did Captain America get involved nor seem to give a damn about what was going on with the mutantverse but more on that in a second. 

My point in all that Phoenix talk, the initial thought that went through my head in this whole Cyke-Cap debate, was that only once in it's comic book history was the Phoenix ever depicted as the universe destroying threat, only once was the Dark Phoenix ever truly in existence.  The odds are that it won't be a bad thing for the Phoenix to come back to Earth & given how many times it emerged between Dark Phoenix and AvX, it was uber-irritating to have that be treated like the ONLY Phoenix incarnation that ever occurred.

That's just a random assortment of Phoenix images for your perusal...only two of them were evil, the rest were benevolent and heroic types.

So back to Captain American real quick, he's a dick...bottom line...from a story standpoint, from a character standpoint, if some guy who had never shown the least bit of interest in your life suddenly swung by your house and told you that everything you're doing is wrong and that he's going to tell you how to run your life and your family and that he knows better than you, how would you feel? 

Because that is essentially how I read this completely out-of-character version of Captain America...he's a bully and a dick and is talking about issues which neither he nor Tony Stark nor the rest of the Avengers really know anything about and Scott reacts accordingly.  That is why in the title up there I say Captain America might be the one to blame here and this entire knee-jerk reaction from he and The Avengers could very well be the cause of all of this crap that goes down over the rest of the story.

For a story that is 13 issues long overall, it certainly felt like the escalation of the conflict is very rushed though when it could have used some time to truly build up to it. I mean it's not like there was any real concern from the Avengers or Cap about what Scott had been doing on Utopia for the last few years. It was just "hey don't do that" then "ZAAAP eat my optic blast"....

Then we get a Wolverine I don't know if I recognize who is flip-flopping from side to side and rather indecisive about where he stands which is not a Logan I really have ever seen.  He is, and has always been, a man of certain honor and conviction, obviously based on the nature of Schism (which, by the way, drives me nuts when the characters actually refer to it as "the schism" when they talk about the Cyke/Wolvie situation). So his whole sleight of hand or indecision or whatever it was supposed to be with Hope just, well it just didn't work for me him saving her then deciding to turn her over to the Avengers. 

And in that same vein, and I did warn my mental train would jump tracks, what the hell was up with this:

Seriously what the hell was up with deciding to, out of nowhere, merge the Iron Fist history with the Phoenix Force history?  Wasn't feeling it, didn't see the point, just felt like a forced way to create a shared back story and a way to kill time with Hope by having her train in Kun'Lun.  It disappointed me the way Hope became an afterthought in a story she should have owned but then again, I suppose if she had been an actual part of her own story the AvX maxi-series would have been a much shorter mini-series.  Instead we get the split of the Phoenix Force between these five:

And, from what I can recall, not a great deal of explanation for the reasons why it bailed on Hope and took those five instead.  My brain tells me that the Phoenix Force was always intended (by the entity not the writers) to be split over some form of multiple people, hence the Five Lights but now one is dead so it looks like Phoenix is finding the next closest thing and ends up in five of the most powerful mutants around.  Still this is all assumption because to the best of what I remember in the mini, the issue wasn't really addressed as to why the Five Lights mattered and their presence was nonexistant after all that build up, but I guess we shall see with the re-read later on if this question was answered.

So the Five go about saving the world but slowly are losing their shit because, as it often does "absolute power corrupts absolutely" and in the meanwhile Captain America is making the situation worse by rallying his troops to....stop them from saving the world and exacerbating the 5's control over their pieces of the Phoenix Force.  So it is a bad thing that Cyke & crew are stopping war and ending famine because of what they MIGHT turn into if they lose control over the Phoenix force.  Regardless of the fact that all of them DID lose control, the battle was being fought by Cap & The Avengers based on the idea of what MIGHT happen...

Cyke is obviously getting more out of hand as the story progresses, Magik is keeping Avengers prisoners in Limbo, we get a neat little callback to House of M with the "No More Avengers", Emma Frost knows she is losing control, Namor goes batshit and decimates Wakanda which then leads up to the whole Highlander twist.  "Kill" one Phoenix entity and its power then disperses between the remaining hosts...cute.  Namor gets beaten first, then Colossus & Magik knock each other out thanks to Spidey (probably the best issue of the whole series because Peter Parker comes off amazing...yes that pun was intended), leaving Emma Frost to get taken out by Cyke to officially make him the complete Phoenix.  Then, just to insure we know he is the big bad of the series and that it is absolutely impossible to take his side, he offs Professor Xavier to which I utter "really?" and then groan because it is possibly the tenth time I have seen him "die" in my comic book reading career. Besides...that body was a clone body anyway, not even the original Charles Xavier body, just his original brain...look up the original Brood story if you are curious...

So now Cyke is the Dark Phoenix and I seriously believe this wasn't JUST a case of Scott Summers losing control here. As with the original Dark Phoenix incarnation, he had a prodding factor.  For Jean Grey it was the machinations of Mastermind and the Hellfire Club that truly allowed the darker side to take charge. In the case of Cyke, Namor, Collosus, Magik, and Emma Frost I do believe it was the constant barrage of Captain American and his army that kept pushing and pushing until that above image became a reality.

So after 12 issues of build-up to this moment, it does make sense that murdering Xavier would be the final push over the edge...it is just so unfortunate that Xavier has become such a non-factor that his death is nowhere near as meaningful as it SHOULD be in my mind.  Charles Xavier had become irrelevant to Cyke after the revelations of Deadly Genesis in which Scott found out Chuck hid the existence of brother Gabriel from him and Alex....

...Speaking of which, how is it we got no interaction between Cyke & Alex after Havok returned to Earth where Scott at least said "hey what happened to our other brother anyway?"...

The state of the relationship between Chuck & Scott not withstanding, I'm not saying a...sober...Cyclops would be just as willing to kill of Xavier, just saying that Cyclops had written Chucky out of his life in anyway that truly mattered.  Hell, mutantkind had basically written him out and his opposite Magneto had become Cyke's right hand man and do you know why?  It's because Cyclops achieved what NEITHER of them could...he unified the majority of remaining 198 (or whatever number it was) post M-Day.  He may have segregated them to an island but they were generally together (like Xavier wanted) and weren't trying to slaughter humans (like Mags wanted once upon a time).  In fact, Cyclops had even put his team out there as a force for good a la The Avengers or FF if they were wanted but the government, under the leadership of Norman Osborn mind you, screwed the pooch on that one.

Yeah so killing Xavier is a whatever gesture after all these years and for me didn't have the weight of say...Nightcrawler's death during Second Coming.  That brought tears to my eyes, that was powerful...

So after all this fighting, after intentionally putting all the power of the Phoenix into the hands of one man, the day gets saved by Hope (finally becoming relevant to a story that should have been her's all along) holding hands with Scarlet Witch (the cause...kind of, apparently Dr. Doom has some blame thereby making Wanda look not quite so evil...of all this to begin with with her "No More Mutants" wish) and wishing for "No More Phoenix".

Cyke goes to jail (which kinda reminded me of Xavier post-Onslaught), a new mutant spontaneously generates powers thus somewhat justifying Cyclops' stand in the first place, and Captain American FINALLY realizes that he might have some responsibility in creating this situation in the first place. Glad it took him 12 issues, forcing an empty war based on MAYBE and WHAT IF, and nearly destroying the globe to realize that one...

Overall I can say this was an empty war and not one in which the reader really had the option of choosing sides after a certain point.  It wasn't something that crossed my mind until a conversation with one @DukeMcNulty but yeah, I would say Marvel took the idea of choosing sides completely out of the equation at a certain point.  When it became obvious that the Phoenix Five were off their collective rocker and tossing dudes in Limbo if they were dissenters, the possibility of even supporting their efforts went out the window...multiply that feeling times a thousand when Cyke killed Xavier.  By then end it wasn't a Civil War type battle where both sides had valid points, it was more like Shadowland where one guy ended up completely batshit and nearly irredeemable.

Which brings me to the biggest, most nagging thing for me about this whole crossover.  The Cyclops we saw at the end of AvX, the "see I was right" Cyke that has been portrayed in Consequences, that Cyclops WOULD have become the reality even without the possession by the Phoenix Force.  Hear (read?) me out...

Ever since the beginning of Morrison's New X-Men run, and stemming from his possession by Apocalypse, we have seen Cyclops grow into a true leader, a force to be reckoned with, all the best elements of both Xavier and Magneto to be frank.  Following M-Day he had to kick it up another notch because he was now fighting for species survival, the birth of Hope took him down an even darker path because he allowed her to be shipped off in time to protect her (as he did with his own son who would become Cable), he formed X-Force to take care of problems in a very direct, murderous fashion, took on a piece of the Void (who knows if anyone remembers that plot point), exiled his people to their own nation, then saw Hope return and his goal start to come to fruition when she began to activate new mutants.  Then the Phoenix force shows up and of course he thinks it's a sign that he's been on the right path all along despite his questionable actions and decisions.  He was the guy ultimately willing to take any bullet, to risk everything, to become the villain if it meant his people were saved. That path would either have led to glory or to gore, and honestly if you extend it down a slightly longer timeline, if you allow for his increasingly militant nature to consume him, Cyke would have lost his shit all by himself without need for the Phoenix Force.

That is where I think I have an issue...I hate the out that possession allows for, that's a big part of the reason I hated Shadowland.  Daredevil didn't need to be possessed to fall down that hole, his entire life had been heading there since the day Kevin Smith killed off Karen Page and then Bendis, Brubaker, and Diggle sent him through 900,000 forms of hell.  That possession gave him an out and made it so Matt Murdock wasn't quite so terrible a person...same goes for having Dr. Doom play a role in Wanda's breakdown...takes away from the reality of what happens when people lose it all.  I know reality is a loose term given we are playing in the world of superheroes, but part of the fun is putting them in a real situation and seeing how it would play out. 

Every day people...good people...they break, they lose their minds to depression and heartbreak and sadness and fall to pieces in often horrible ways.  Multiply that times a million for the world of superheroes and you can see what happens when a person of great power naturally loses their control. Daredevil would have killed Bullseye on his own, Scarlet Witch would want to get rid of the people she blamed for his troubles, and Cyclops would willing go down a dark path to save his people...they didn't need outside influences to push them down that road and having that just gives them an out to make them seem not quite so bad.

As far as the aftermath, well again thanks to @DukeMcNulty, I was given a nugget to think about.  Cyclops did all of this terrible stuff under the influence of another entity...a cosmically powerful, potentially world destroying entity, but an outside force nonetheless.  When did Daredevil, Scarlet Witch, and Winter Soldier all commit their worst crimes? And did that stop any of them from becoming Avengers or put them away in jail?  Hell part of my problem with the new DD series initially was how the Shadowland stuff was just swept under the rug like it never happened and Murdock just started lawyering it up again like no big deal.  It's not exactly unprecedented for some hero to commit terrible acts under the influence of another force and end up protected by their fellow heroes.  To be fair, off the top of my head, only Wanda, Scott, and Xavier as Onslaught nearly decimated the world though...

Not a big fan of some of the ways Cyclops has been portrayed post-AvX....I do think he would proudly walk around wearing a "Cyke was right" T-Shirt but I do not, could not, ever see him calling himself a martyr for the cause.  My perspective on Cyke is that, despite all of this, despite killing his one-time father figure, he would tell you to look at the evidence and then tell him if you still think he was wrong. Scott Summers would not back down from his convictions even under lock and key, but the Cyclops I have seen evolve in the last ten years would not want Wolverine to "martyr" him, much less refer to himself as one, unless he was perhaps doing it to get one last "fuck you" at Logan for picking the side he did.

Do I think Cyclops is irredeemable? No, no I don't but I do think he has a loooooong road to travel before he can show his face in public. I also would like to see more of the general public's reaction to the events of AvX...it was series I actually think could have benefited from a Frontline-type book rather than the overall pointless Versus series. How did the public view these mutants saving the world, feeding them, ending wars? How did they view Cap & the Avengers trying to stop them?  What's the feeling towards mutants now?  These are the questions I have and I guess I will have to see if they are answered in any form, if the wake of AvX is long-lasting or only felt in the MarvelNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!! short-term. 

Well this rambling is at a logical close I suppose...I will revisit this subject after I have a chance to sit down, reread the series, and take notes as I go. Until then, I've got half of the Invincible Omnibus Vol. 1 to finish reading, half of "Clash of Kings" to finish reading, and a bunch of other random discount bookstore Marvel Hardcover purchases to knock off too!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Green Lantern & The New 52: Pulling on Threads...

Before I get to the meat of this one, let me take a second to harken back to my last Bat-Centric blog and point out another mention of Tim Drake as Robin from "Batman & Robin" that was pointed out to me by Brian Thomer aka @PAComicExaminer:

Also something else that has occurred to me in the light of the fact that in Batman #13 it is explicitly stated that The Joker is coming back after a year away which means that Detective Comics #1 was one year ago, which means any Zero issue story marked "One Year Ago" took place around the start of the New 52, which means Damian's "Year and a Half Ago" moment of meeting Bruce (while he was still Batman & before he disappeared for a year) took place around 6 months prior to the beginning of the New 52, which means he has only been Robin for very a short time at the start of the New 52, which means it would be quite difficult for Dick to have been Batman for a year, which means I am going to make my f'n head explode trying to make sense out of it meaning sometimes I wish I could still think like I did when I was a little kid and not really care about this all continuity making some semblance of sense. End scene...

Waiiiiiiiit a second, another thing came out during NYCC after I wrote that opening paragraph, something playing into all that.  Courtesy of Bleeding Cool, Dan DiDio, Jim Lee, and Bob Wayne claimed that Tim Drake was NEVER intended to be a Robin and that the trade edits were intended to maintain the status quo they wanted in the first place.  Okay well,  I'm not going to argue my personal feelings on the whole "Not Robin" idea but rather point out that both the 1st New 52 Batman collection AND Batman & Robin collection came out with references to Tim as Robin before the edited Teen Titans collection came out. 

SO if the "Not Robin" stance on Tim was ALWAYS intended, then who fucked up A YEAR AGO when the New 52 began and then fucked up again in May & June when the collections were released? I mean did the ball get dropped by numerous people here or did the top level forget to tell everyone else that Tim was never supposed to be a Robin?  Too much to get DC Comics to just say "yup, we fucked up"?  Regularly scheduled program time now...

I almost feel like I should start this off by saying that I am a big fan of Green Lantern with Geoff Johns at the helm.  Prior to the day I was given "Rebirth" as a gift, I hadn't really kept up with the adventures of GL in his own book and aside from reading Hal Jordan in "Death of Superman", the only GL I had every really known was Kyle Rayner via his inclusion on the JLA team first penned by Grant Morrison.

Suffice to say that I was hooked and quickly got my hands on the "Emerald Twilight" story to see what happened with Hal Jordan as I had experienced his villainous side in "Zero Hour" and other major stories like his sacrifice to reignite the sun in "Final Night" and his dawning as The Spectre in "Day of Judgement".

After reading "GL: Rebirth", I quickly snatched up all of the collections I could, caught up just in time for the finale of the "Sinestro Corps War", and have continued to read the core book as well as "Green Lantern Corps", "Emerald Warriors", "Red Lanterns", and "The New Guardians". From the original DCU into The New 52, I have followed the exploits of Hal Jordan, Kyle Rayner, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, and the rest of the GLC. 

I have enjoyed the story within the GL book probably more in the New 52 than I did in the latter months of the Original DCU. Sadly the same can't be said for GLC, The New Guardians, or Red Lanterns, at least not initially, but GLC & New Guardians have turned a corner for me in recent months.  Unfortunately I still find Red Lanterns to be a chore to read and if it wasn't for the manner in which I read it, I would have stopped long ago...

Now that the pleasantries and whatnot are out of the way, let me get down to the meat of the thing....my exploration of the threads that make up the current Green Lantern universe and what happens if you follow them back to their origins.

This is where the current face of the Green Lantern corner of the DCU was born...the day Coast City was annihilated by the machinations of The Cyborg Superman Hank Henshaw & Mongul.  Some would argue it began here...

...and that the story started there runs all the way through to this...

...and continues into the most recent issue #13. Yes, I do believe that that belief is right, but only partly right, even my thought that it began with the destruction of Coast City is only PART of the story.  See I firmly believe that the current face of the GL-verse, the face that Geoff Johns has worked so hard to construct, is quite dependant on a number of factors that pre-date his time in DC Comics and thus, obviously, pre-date the creation of the New 52.  This is not a statement on the quality of the New 52, this is not a judgement on the story that HAS Been told thus far in the last year.  Rather it is my look at the events of the Old DCU that played into the formation of the GL Johns-verse and my wondering how/if they fit into the New 52.

First up:

The Anti-Monitor & The Original Crisis.  This might seem like an odd place to begin but it is one of the two most essential elements of the current GL-scape in the New 52.  As we have learned over the last year, the events of Blackest Night still happened in some format in the world of the New 52.  Whether or not they are absolutely identical is not known, but highly unlikely given the involvement of the JSA members and the fact that the death of one Barry Allen (who obviously hasn't died in the the New 52) was a part of the story. 
Well at the core of the Blackest Night story, or rather at the core of the Black Lanterns was a certain BL Battery on the planet Ryut, the battery that powered the zombie tribe, just like the one on Oa powers the Green Lanterns.  Well the power source of that battery was none other than the Anti-Monitor!  How did he end up there you ask?

Well that makes another aspect of a certain old DCU story required in some format or another, and that story is none other than the Sinestro Corps War!  See in the Sinestro Corps War, the Anti-Monitor was part of an alliance of Sinestro, the Cyborg Superman, Superboy-Prime, and the Parallax entity (brought to "life" by possessing Kyle Rayner).  As the SCW neared its conclusion, the Anti-Monitor was near defeat following the detonation of the Central Yellow Lantern battery and was ultimately tossed into space by Superboy-Prime where the Anti-Monitor crash landed on Ryut and was consumed by the BL Battery.

Why did Superboy-Prime toss Anti-Monitor into space you ask?  Well that is also very dependant another aspect of the Old CU, probably the most important story in the history of the Old DCU actually, Crisis on Infinite Earths.  See Superboy-Prime was a resident of Earth-Prime where he was the only superhero of that Earth but it was destroyed by the Anti-Monitor during the Crisis.  Prime joined up with the heroes of Earth-One to stop Anti-Monitor but is exiled to a "paradise" dimension along with three others from alternate Earths including a Lois Lane & Superman from Earth-2 and Alexander Luthor from Earth-3.  Once there he grows frustrated and his punching of the walls of reality create changes including the resurrection of Jason Todd and inconsistent origins of Superman over the years. Eventually he, along with his trio, break free from their "prison" and the subsequent events are known as "Infinite Crisis".  In this crisis we see Superboy (the clone Superman) die, Superboy-Prime go nuts and kill a lot of people, and eventually get locked up inside the Science Cells on Oa.

Wait, what's up with the Superboy who is a clone of Superman you ask?

See that leads to the other story of the Old DCU that I believe is absolutely crucial to the mythos of the current GL-verse:

Superman died...killed at the hands of Doomsday, between the first issue of the New 52 Swamp Thing and recent comments by Grant Morrison at a comic-con, we can confirm that Superman died AND was in fact killed by Doomsday in the New 52.  Beyond that, the question is very much up in the air...well, to an extent.  It is safe to say that in the New 52, the Return/Reign of Superman story did NOT happen in anyway similar to how it happened in the Old DCU.  Superboy was only "born" around the time the New 52 started, meaning he could not have taken part in any story prior to this and Steel in the New 52 is not of the same origin as the original which we've seen in Grant Morrison's Action Comics. No clue if the Eradicator or Hank Henshaw have existed in the New 52, but in SOME FASHION this story needs to have taken place because it is where Coast City was blown up the Cyborg Superman & Mongul.

Why is it so integral that Coast City blew up?

Well Coast City's destruction is what set all the wheels in motion that brought us to this day as far as Hal Jordan's character go.  Hal went nuts following the events of Coast City, tried to use his ring to resurrect the city, but was shut down by the Guardians.  Hal then went to Oa to try and get the power he wanted and ultimately ends up killing all the Guardians save Ganthet as well as Lantern Killowog and the rogue Sinestro who had been imprisoned in the Green Lantern Battery.  Hal takes the name Parallax, tries to rewrite time in Zero Hour, sacrifices his life to reignite the sun in Final Night, becomes the Spectre in Day of Judgement, and that all lead to his resurrection in Rebirth. 

So within the story of Hal Jordan, just to get to what Geoff Johns established in Rebirth, we need Hal to decimate Oa (very likely because we saw a trashed Oa in the New 52 version of GLC #1 prior to Kyle Rayner getting his ring) and for Sinestro to be freed.  We need Hal to have been possessed by the Parallax entity, for it to have somehow survived his sacrifice to reignite the sun (as it did in the Old DCU) and for Hal to have been Spectre with the Parallax entity riding shotgun.

It has been established courtesy of Phantom Stranger #0 that The Spectre exists in the New 52 but, at least in its initial appearance, it is Jim Corrigan who is possessed by The Spectre.  Now this happens at some non-descript time but I couldn't imagine DC introducing Corrigan as the character in the Zero issue only to have him NOT still be Spectre in the following issues. 

I'm not even touching on the issues that play into the history of the assorted Earth GL's.  Did Xanshi still get destroyed in order to shape the character of John Stewart and actually give added weight to his destruction of Mogo (a pre-New 52 event btw)?  Was Kyle Rayner still possessed by the Ion entity or does his New 52 tag of Torchbearer have some different meaning?  Was Guy Gardner still in possession of a yellow ring at an earlier point in his career (it seems he was still possessed by a red ring)?

Those are all just pieces of the Old DCU that play heavily into the shape of the New 52 and while I've chosen to focus on the GL-Verse, specifically Hal Jordan, in this rant, I think it is safe to say that DC's decision to keep GL & Bat history relatively intact creates some problems with elements of the Old DCU.  For GL these are what I consider the key ingredients to have happened IN SOME FASHION for the shape of the current New 52 world:

1) The existence of an Anti-Monitor (power source for BL battery)
2) Coast City destroyed
3) Hal Jordan as Parallax, destroying Oa (partially confirmed)
4) Hal Jordan freeing Sinestro & Parallax entity from the Power Battery
5) Hal Jordan as Spectre
6) Sinestro Corps War happened
7) Blackest Night happened (this has been confirmed)
8) War of the Green Lanterns happened (Krona needs to exist for the events of Red Lanterns)

I am sure I am missing something here as I am trying to do this from memory as opposed to notes this time, but I hope you get the idea.  There are just certain key elements with the Old DCU that had to have happened in some fashion for the current Geoff Johns/GL-Verse to really make sense.  They don't have to be perfect, they don't have to have happened completely identical to the way they happened in the Old DCU, but they do have to have happened somehow. 

Coast City must die, Hal Jordan must have been evil...they are as important as Luke Skywalker seeing Obi-Wan die on the Death Star in "A New Hope" or Dexter being found in a pool of his mother's blood on "Dexter".  They are integral components of an origin story that I had hoped the Zero issues would be used to confirm or flesh out, but sadly that was not in any of the four GL series.  GL #0 told us the origin of a new character, New Guardians #0 gave us nothing origin-based, Red Lanterns #0 was a serious waste, and only GLC #0 gave us anything origin based and, while I enjoyed the look at Guy's back story, it did not fill in any of the blanks I have discussed above.

This isn't a cry for answers, not yet at least, rather this was just an exploration into how the Old DCU events could/should tie into the events of the New 52.  I will be very interested to see if DC Comics does anything to cement any aspects of the old world as part of the new, or if they find a way to rewrite these histories in a logical fashion.

Thus far they have done a subpar job with the Bat-world, creating inconsistencies in time and logic, particularly with the birth of Damian Wayne and their lack of a backbone on the Tim "Drake"/Robin situation as mentioned at the start of this rant.

I hope maybe, just maybe, they will solidify the ground on which the New 52 Green Lantern world is built rather than just the half-assed "everything still happened" explanation we have gotten over the last year.  I know it's a lot to cover in just 14 months of time, but I sincerely hope that maybe in the next 13 months the portrait of GL history is painted with more clarity.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Nerd Rage, Tim Drake, and DC's 5 Year Plan...

I have written about this before, I have discussed it with friends and with various people online, some share my annoyance and anger, some just think I should let it all go...but unfortunately, with all of the time and energy I have invested over the years in following my favorite characters and their stories....I just cannot seem to do that.

What am I referring to? What has me feeling all sorts of nerd-rage?

That pesky beast known as continuity, both internally and externally. Whether it be part of the story, or something as simple as the numbers on the cover of the book, I am someone who firmly believes that continuity is important. No this is not some backlash against the New 52 for, theoretically, tossing it all out of the window.

The truth of the matter is that DC did NOT toss it all out the window, that's pretty damn obvious from reading comics like any of the Green Lantern or Bat-Family of books. Also pretty clear from the reading the likes of Animal Man or Swamp Thing that their pre-New 52 continuity, or at least the parts penned by Grant Morrison & Alan Moore, are still pretty much alive and well.

This is more of an outrage at the lack of continuity in many aspects of the New 52, so lacking that it is positively screaming off the page, and also making it plainly obvious to all that any sort of "New 52 Bible" is a complete myth. There is no sourcebook, there is no greater tapestry that anyone is following, and it is becoming increasingly clear as a result of this Zero Month.

I have read about some inconsistencies between the Zero issues and what was previously established in earlier issues of the New 52 books, but honestly I don't really care about anything outside of the Bat-Books and GL-Books. I do read some of them, some of them I actually pay for, but I don't have decades of emotional investment in any of those. I definitely would not be buying Action Comics if not for Grant Morrison, nor would I give Aquaman a shot if it wasn't for the team on that book.

The only thing that has truly mattered to me in DC has been Batman and Green Lantern...the former since the day Bruce Wayne had his back broken and the latter since the day I was given GL: Rebirth as a gift about six years ago. So I am going to jump straight to what has, no doubt, been the biggest point of contention for me with any of this and it's a problem of DC's own making, one the fans questioned as soon it was announced, the 5 Year Plan.

The 5 Year Plan is totally a logical one for DC to enter the New 52 with IF you're doing a clean reboot. It gives writers plenty of room to create back stories for these new takes on classic characters, to tease at the hidden years and unveil the mysteries over time, and either continue the history as it was or tweak some (or all) aspects of these origins. Unfortunately for DC they did not do a clean reboot for the worlds of Green Lantern and Batman, in fact those worlds have largely remained intact, and as a result there is a...well to put it bluntly...a SHITLOAD of history that would happen in only five years!

Let's delve into the world of Batman...

At first it seemed that DC had Batman existing behind the scenes prior to that "Five Years Earlier" mark in which Justice League took place, and even longer than the "Six Years Earlier" mark in which Action Comics seemed to be set initially.

Well the story of Bruce in the New 52 chronologically begins with The Dark Knight #0 which traces us through the days immediately following Thomas & Martha Wayne's  murder up until Bruce's 18th birthday where he confronts Joe Chill and heads off to Tibet on the last page. Detective Comics #0 which is marked as "Ten Years Ago" at the beginning of the lead story is also set in Tibet, then it jumps to "Seven Years Ago" in the back-up where Bruce returns to Gotham. 

Batman #0 is then earmarked at "Six Years Earlier" and Bruce Wayne is still just Bruce Wayne, no Batman in sight, thus shooting the whole idea that he was in the shadows all to hell. The back-up here, marked at "Five Years Ago", shows us the birth of the Bat-Signal but also shows us Barbara Gordon, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake as they all see it for the first time. We know his back was broken at some point and that he had an extended absence in which Dick Grayson took over as Batman for a year.  There has been a lot that has gone on in Bruce's life in just five years based on the events of the New 52 and as a result we now have some problems that, to me, just further show there is no real plan to the New 52....

Let's start with Dick Grayson. Putting aside that visually, Dick seems to age a decade in just a few months, and the fact that Nightwing #0 takes an easy way out by just setting the story "A Few Years Ago...", I still find this timeline to be very, almost impossibly, short. Too short for Dick's tenure as Robin to have been anything more than an eyeblink. From his parents death in NW #0 until his debut as Robin it is listed as "Months later...", and based on the panels in Bats #0, it is safe to say Bruce has been active for an extended period of time by this point. A year? Two? Who knows exactly, but it seems, based on Batgirl #0, that Dick was at least Robin until the "Three Years Ago" frame.  So then when does he become Nightwing? In the Old DCU, his transformation into Nightwing came along with his Titans membership, but based on these two images (from Bleeding Cool), it seems DC couldn't decide if the Titans ever existed prior to Red Robin:

They actually removed panels between the release of the original issue on the left and the trade on the right!  I guess they couldn't decide whether or not there were ever other Titans teams prior to this going to print in September 2011.  Then some time in the ensuing year DC decided there weren't any other incarnations of the Titans so they just big brothered it out of history in the trade and hoped no one would notice.  As you'll see in the Tim Drake blurb below those panels weren't the only thing they did this to in the Teen Titans book.  But speaking of Titans, and Nightwing, check out this panel from Red Hood #1:

For those in the dark, all of those names were members of the Titans in the Old DCU, so it is quite obvious this dialogue is intended to evoke the idea that these characters were still connected in the New 52.  It is possible that this dialogue between Starfire (Dick Grayson's Ex-Wife in the Old DCU) & Arsenal has nothing to do with any form of the Titans, but it would just seem an odd thing to bring up if DC had intended there to never be another Titans team (obviously they didn't think about it hence the edit in the Teen Titans collection).  The other thing about those names, at least two of those characters have been introduced in the New 52 already, Vic = Cyborg who has been in the Justice League since his New 52 debut and Gar = Garfield/Beast Boy who popped up in Teen Titans/Ravagers but seems to have no connection to these guys.  A slight aside from the Bat-verse there but it does touch on how it ties into the larger DCU....

Back to Nightwing, it has also been established that he did indeed serve as Batman for one year during Bruce's...absence, and Damian was his Robin.  So if Dick stopped serving as Robin in the "Three Years Ago" range, Jason Todd served & died in the "Two Years Ago" range, Tim Drake was around in roughly the "Two - One & 1/2 Years Ago Range", and Damian has been Robin since roughly the "One Year Ago" range, how long could Dick have possibly served as Nightwing?  Maybe two years tops?

Skip to Red Hood #0 and the intro of Jason Todd to the Robin guise. This book is completely devoid of any "X Years Ago" markers to put it in context but Jason does remark, after being taken in as Bruce's ward and having been told the secret, that he put in "six months of intensive training hell..." before becoming Robin. So going on the idea that Dick stopped being Robin in the "Three Years Ago Range", that would mean Jason was Robin during the "Three - Two Years Ago" range and is obviously Robin for some duration before Joker kills him (we also get a confirmation in this story that Joker was still Red Hood at some point), Red Hood #2 shows us a scene taking place "A Year and a half ago" with post-resurrection JT but pre-Red Hood, meaning this is taking place in roughly the same time frame as the introduction of Damian to Bruce and that JT was not dead very long before being resurrected by Talia Al Ghul nor has he been running around with the red bucket on his head for very long either.

As far Tim Drake, well he has been the star of Teen Titans since the dawn of the New 52 sooooo....

Like Red Hood, Teen Titans #0 does not have an "X Years Ago" timeframe stamped on it either but, based on the events within all taking place after Jason Todd's death, it is safe to say Tim's intro to the Bat-world goes down in a very narrow window in the "Two - 1 1/2Years Ago" range. Any earlier and it risks bumping into JT and any later and it overlaps with Damian's introduction & Dick's one year spent as Batman. Oh yes, and there is that whole pesky problem of whether or not Tim Drake was Robin in the New 52....let's look at DC's glaring inconsistencies around Tim's tenure as Robin. For that, I need some visual aid:

See both of those images, the one on the left from Teen Titans #1 & the right from Batman #1, see how both of them refer to Tim Drake as a former Robin?  Those actually exist right?  I am not seeing things right?  Then explain this image I also got from Bleeding Cool which is pulled from the Teen Titans collection:
So wait...now Tim is only Red Robin?  He was never Robin?  But what about those mentions in TWO DIFFERENT COMICS that he was a former Robin and is now Red Robin? Well DC must have felt no one would notice them changing it for the trade.  I mean since the company line about Tim Drake apparently changed sometime between September 2011 when issue #1 was released and September 2012 when the trade was released, they had to cover their tracks.  The funny thing is, that image from Batman #1 I pulled, that is NOT from the actual issue. 
Nope, that's from the "Court of Owls" Hardcover collection that was released in May 2012...which means they changed their minds about Tim as Robin between May when "Batman: Court of Owls" was released and September when "Teen Titans: It's Our Right to Fight" was released.
Now what about Barbara Gordon and her role as Batgirl in the New 52.  We have been told previously that, come Batgirl #1, it had been four years since Babs was shot by the Joker (meaning The Killing Joke is still canon). Now jump ahead a year to the release of Batgirl #0, and jump back four years in history for the start of this story.
Now if this is "Four Years Ago" it also means it is around "One Year Later" from the Bat-signal story. Babs dons the mock Bat-costume for the first time and encounters Batman for the first time as well, and he is flying solo.  That doesn't necessarily mean Dick Grayson isn't Robin yet though. We also get a couple "One Year Later" pages in which Barb quits being Batgirl and gets shot by Joker....
...so that puts this time frame at roughly "Three Years Ago" relative to present day and the Robin in question still has to be Grayson due to the relationship history between him and Barbara that has been established as still existing in the New 52. So that means it was less than "Three Years Ago" since he quit being Robin and Jason Todd took over. 
Now, as  I mentioned earlier, JT stated he trained for six months before taking on the Robin mantle which means, even if Bruce took him on as soon as Dick quit, it would still put JT in the role of Robin starting at the "Two & 1/2 Years Ago" mark.  One would have to assume that he was Robin for at least a few months and that there was some gap between JT & Tim Drake but still, this is all starting to run a little tight and we haven't even touched on Damian yet.
Now as for Damian, we kick it over to Batman & Robin #0 for his origin.  First I feel it is very important to point out that Damian has been firmly established as being 10 years old when he made his debut in "Batman & Son" and that he subsequently spent a year as the Robin to Dick Grayson's Batman.
As for the book itself, it starts at "A Year & 1/2 Ago" (meaning Damian is roughly nine years old) before it jumps to the generic "Before" label where we see Damian complete a nine-month cycle in an incubator. So based on the idea that he was ten years old in his debut, this would be roughly "Ten Years Ago"...
Jump ahead again to an unmarked time, but a time when Damian is obviously a few years older...four possibly, and he finds a cape & cowl in Talia's room.  So if Damian was born "Ten Years Ago", and is at best four or five years old in this scene, it puts it at "Six Years Ago" or "Five Years Ago".  I think it's pretty safe to say that there was no Batman in existence for Talia to have one of his cape & cowl sets, or if there was, it would be a character in his infancy, and obviously Talia's interaction with him came waaaaay before Batman was even an idea in Bruce's mind.
Back to the story, we then learn that Talia is withholding the name of Damian's father from him until the day comes when he bests her in combat on his birthday.  So we then experience four more failed birthday fights over a series of panels, and they run back into the "A Year & 1/2 Ago" scene from the opening page.  Which means we likely saw his 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th birthday over the course of these fights with Talia, all leading to his 10th birthday where he defeated Talia, learned about his father's identity, and culminating in a panel copy of his debut in "Batman & Son".
So regardless of if he is a product of actual sex between Talia & Bruce or if he is a scientifically engineered test tube baby as his "Who's Who" bio suggests, Damian's timeline does NOT fit into any of what has been established in Batman's New 52.  If he is a sex-baby, Damian would have to have been produced almost immediately after the story in Detective #0 set "Ten Years Ago".
Now what about the cast swirling around Batman but with a little more distance? People like Batwoman, Catwoman, Batwing, and the Birds of Prey? 
Well as for Batwoman #0, you get a definite timeline of the distance between her first interaction with Batman and Kate Kane's debut as Batwoman. 
Batman saves her at an unspecified time, but we are told that after that rescue, Kate operates for a few months as a vigilante around Gotham.  We then are told she is put into training by her father, away from Gotham, for at least three years. Meaning, if Batman saved Kate in his first few months in the gear, it would put the completion of her training in the "Two Years Ago" range of the New 52 at the absolute earliest.  There's no real time references beyond that but we do know that the story of Kate's sister as told in the Old DCU is still considered canon so I would imagine that her presence in Gotham as Batwoman probably began somewhere in the "One Year Ago" range.
As for the Birds of Prey #0 issue, that book is set "One Year Ago"...umm...that makes no sense because this is treated as the first meeting between Canary & Batgirl but previous New 52 BoP issues had established that the girls had known each other for years. PLUS, this "One Year Ago" would also be before Babs stepped back into the Batgirl costume..hell she would still be in the wheelchair I believe.  Big error there...
And I can't even figure out how to wrap my head around Catwoman #0 because it just bounces around time randomly with a couple "A few years ago" and "One Year Ago" blurbs, even a "Long Ago" one too!  Unfortunately none of it makes sense, it actually uses a part of the stupid Batman Returns Catwoman origin that I have hated basically as soon as I started reading comics and learned about the Year One origin. That Frank Miller hooker origin is, once again, written out and none of these seems to have the least bit of meaning.  If I had to hazard a guess, the bulk of Catwoman's story takes place about "Four Years Ago" in the New 52 but that is purely a guess.  Oh, and I also appreciate the "Who's Who" blurb talking about her joining the Justice League which hasn't even happened yet.
As for Batwing, the bulk of the story , the part that ties it into Batman that takes place in the "One Year Ago" time frame.  This presents a problem because...well...if Dick Grayson was Batman for a year, then when did that happen? It seems as if his stint only recently came to an end when the New 52 started so it would seem that he was actually in the Batman role "One Year Ago" not Bruce Wayne.  Bruce was...absent...whatever the hell that means, DC hasn't really defined if he was dead or not only going so far as to saying the crisis events didn't happen in the New 52. 
They have stated that Bane broke Bruce's back so maybe that was when Dick filled in? Still Bruce not dying and being sent through time by Darkseid presents a whole mess of problems of its own as it is basically the foundation of Morrison's multi-year epic. That time travel experience essentially had Bruce laying the foundations for his own creation, it created Dr. Hurt, spawned Batman Inc, so on and so forth.
And speaking of Batman Inc, and Batwing, in another bit of continuity WTF, I am at a loss to understand how Batwing is running around all willy nilly considering he appeared to die in the last Inc issues of the Old DCU AND THEY ACKNOWLEDGE IT IN THE NEW 52 ISSUES WHEN THEY TALK ABOUT ALL OF INC FAKING IT!!!! Not to mention the inclusion of The Outsiders and talk of how ELEMENT MAN WAS IN THE JUSTICE LEAGUE!!! Essentially Morrison was given carte blanche to cart over every aspect of Batman Inc from the Old DCU into the New 52 regardless of how it jives with the rest of the New 52! I love Morrison as any readers of this blog well know but this just makes everything all the more confusing, and I have to wonder if that "Metamorpho in the Justice League" comment will be edited out of the collection next year. As for the formation of Inc, that whole story in #0, while unmarked in timeframe, would also have to take place in that same "One Year Ago" frame as Batwing #0 since that story is part of the recruitment drive as well.  At least Inc #0 acknowledges that the events of Morrison's Old DCU run are still part of this story as we get a few pages from "The Black Glove/Club of Heroes" arc, a take on the time travel, and a reminder that Bruce witnessed the future.
So if we start with Batman #1 as "Year Zero" than the roughest timeline for this world I can concoct looks like this I suppose:
11 Years Ago - Damian Wayne is born
10 Years Ago - Bruce enters Tibet
7 Years Ago - Bruce Returns to Gotham
6 Years Ago - Bruce is formulating Batman
5 Years Ago - Batman in action
4 Years Ago - Dick becomes Robin, Barbara becomes Batgirl; Catwoman debuts
3 Years Ago - Dick quits as Robin, Barbara quits as Batgirl, Jason Todd becomes Robin
2 Years Ago - Jason Todd dies; Tim Drake becomes Red Robin; Batwoman debuts
1 1/2 Years Ago - Damian Wayne becomes Robin; Dick becomes Batman; Jason Todd returns to life
1 Year Ago - Batman Inc is formed; Birds of Prey forms
Now - Barbara becomes Batgirl again; Joker cuts his own face off; Court of Owls; all the current story arcs
Wow...all that and I haven't even touched on the world of Green Lantern yet and I certainly don't want to run on any longer here in this one either.  I will have to save my look into the GL-Verse for another blog, but suffice to say that I think, in its own way, the world of Hal Jordan is just as convoluted in the New 52. That is a direct result of DC's insistence that everything GL still seems canon, or perhaps it's their willingness to let Geoff Johns have the same carte blanche as Morrison, maybe from Column A & Column B. Only DC knows....