It feels a bit like beating a dead horse, but Geoff Johns really does put all of his best work into Aquaman these days, telling stories that progress the current state of affairs, while also alluding to the past to flesh out Arthur Curry as a person, a hero, and the king of Atlantis. Aquaman #0 tells the rather necessary tale of how Arthur learns about his mother, his royal heritage, and his kingdom of Atlantis. Normally, it wouldn't be easy to fully explain all of these plot elements, but Johns introduces Vulko - an Atlantean loyal to Arthur's mother who has lived on land for years searching for Arthur - who tells the tale without sounding like he's just reading from a textbook. While "Underwater" doesn't tie into the events of the current "The Others" arc, it beautifully and effortlessly preludes the upcoming "Throne of Atlantis" crossover between Aquaman and Justice League.
Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #3 of 6
I've been a self-surprised fan of Ozymandias since it's first issue - Len Wein made a rather bold choice of presenting his series as Adrian Veidt's autobiography, told in the first-person, and covering most of the genius' life from childhood through his early days in the Watchmen. While I tend to shy away from inner-monologue-style writing such as this, Ozymandias is such a vain egotist that it totally makes sense that he would write his own autobiography in such a style. This month, Ozy faces off against the Comedian: the showdown I never thought I wanted to see, and it might be the most beautiful and elegantly written meeting in the entirety of Before Watchmen thus far. Eddie Blake is being slaughtered in his own title, but Wein makes it a point to show how the Comedian can be a force for absolute destruction, while also having a conscious that makes sense with his personality and misgivings about humanity, et al.
Captain Marvel #4
While I've been enjoying Captain Marvel, it's starting to get a bit complex - Kelly Sue DeConnick is throwing a lot of new information readers' way, without a whole lot of follow-up to make it mean anything beyond face value at this point. Beyond the somewhat directionless plot, Captain Marvel #4 might be my favorite issue of the series thus far - DeConnick is exceptional at writing a powerful lead female character without condescending Carol Danvers down to female-related stories (not those kind of 'female-related'...), and it shines in this issue especially. Still time-lost in 1943, Carol is getting closer and closer to understanding why she's there, and why the Banshee Squad was affected by the same white light that brought Carol there in the first place. As a series, I'm still on the fence when it comes to DeConnick's vision for the future, but on a month-to-month basis, she's writing one of the wittiest, most intriguing titles currently published.
The Flash #0
The Flash has been one of the best series DC releases each month, and it's due to the incredible creative team of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato who have taken a somewhat aimless character - after being resurrected by Geoff Johns in 2008 - and turned him into one of the most multi-faceted, surprisingly intricate characters in DC's cannon. The Flash #0 is a fully realized "Issue Zero" that gives weight to Barry Allen's accident that results in his super speed, his eventual decision to become The Flash, and how his father's innocence in the case of his mother's murder was the root of it all. Manapul and Buccellato drop a big bomb concerning Barry's family, but the best part is that they don't make it clear what the bomb actually means - does Barry lose sight of his original drive only to find a new one, or does this new information serve to strengthen his current resolve? Ultimately, it feels like it should be up to the reader to decide Barry's motivation, and that's a freaking incredible way to tell a superhero story.
I, Vampire #0
For a fringe series about vampires and death cults that came from the Vertigo line, I, Vampire has been doing very well for itself under the watchful eyes of Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino - it hasn't been cancelled, it's selling relatively well for it's position in the 'New 52' lineup, and it's had the same creative team for 13 straight issues. The origins of Andrew Bennet could have been easily phoned in as an attack by a vampire from Cain's lineage, leading to Andrew's connection to the original vampire. Instead, Fialkov pens a confrontation between the aristocratic Bennet and the scourge known as Cain, resulting in Cain's power being imprisoned within Bennet and turning him into the first true vampire. This issue was a chance for Fialkov to write a period piece - something that's extremely hard to pull off - and does so with eloquent dialogue, just the right amount of flair and emotion, as well as Andrea Sorrentino's haunting visuals to help push the horror of coming face to face with the right hand of evil.
Justice League Dark #0
This was the Justice League Dark #0 we all wanted to read: the origins of John Constantine and his relationship with Zatanna. Jeff Lemire brings readers a bloody fun, action-packed adventure that transports the British bastard from his hometown to America looking to learn magic from Nick Necro, the most powerful mage in the New York City. Necro and his girlfriend Zatanna eventually take Constantine under their wing, and Necro proceeds to teach the younger two all he knows about the world of magic. Of course, Nick get's too big for his britches, and eventually seeks out ultimate knowledge through the Books of Magic and a cult known as the Cold Flame that was nearly wiped out by Zatanna's father, Zatara. Constantine and Zatanna work together to defeat Nick, only for Lemire to reveal that Constantine could have probably saved his old friend, but instead wanted to be 'top dog'.
National Comics: Rose & Thorn
Thus far, the National Comics line of one-shots has been compelling and interesting, firs with Eternity, then with Looker, and now with Rose & Thorn, a tale about a girl with a severe case of multiple personality disorder. Rose is a shy, somewhat unpopular girl who becomes chummy with the popular kids seemingly overnight...even to herself - Rose doesn't remember anything, but soon starts getting text messages and 'Facelook' emails from Thorn, her erratic alter-ego. Rose's father was murdered years earlier, and Thorn intends to find out who killed him and why; a great way to start a series, perhaps, but trying to cram this much story into a one-shot feels like a big build-up with no pay off. I really, really wich DC would make Rose & Thorn into a least a mini-series, as it has such great potential for being a quality series that's not focused on superheroics or action-based stories.