DC Comics New Direction: Week 2

I went into this week’s books with skepticism, especially given the premise of the new Detective and Batman issues, with Jim Gordon in a mechanized Bat-suit.

But for the first time in a long time, I enjoyed nine out of the 12 issues DC sent for review and the Vertigo anthology, Strange Sports Stories #4, had enough weirdness to recommend it.

gordon batman
Interior page of Batman #41. Image via DC Comics.

Batman #41: Scott Snyder (writer), Greg Capullo (pencils), and Danny Miki (inks)

It’s difficult to make the man inside the Batsuit distinctive with so much action happening around him. However, Scott Snyder, who did a terrific job with Dick Grayson as Batman, does a similarly excellent job with Jim Gordon, nailing his dark sense of humor as he vaults into his first action as Batman: “First, you’re not plummeting. You’re swooping. Swooping. Second, you did not leave the stove on.”

Gordon also uses his detective skills on the fly to realize that smashing the big, nasty electric thing isn’t the way to win the fight. Still, I miss the mustache. And the glasses. Plus, I’m not sure how I feel about a Jim Gordon with six-pack abs. Niggles.

Buy it: Yes.

Batman: Detective Comics #41: Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato (plot), Brian Buccellato (script), Fernando Blanco (art)

Though this story can be read separately from Batman, it is the companion tale detailing the reasons Gordon stepped into the Batsuit. Harvey Bullock is in perfect form, grumpy and cynical, and, well, apparently in love. (He’s even cranky about that.) Bonus—the long-missing Renee Montoya shows up and she’s on Team Gordon Batsuit. It also explains a little of the preview where Gordon seemed rather bloodthirsty.

This direction for Batman is off to an excellent start. Perhaps we could get either of these creative teams on the hot mess that is the Gotham television show?

Buy it: Yes.

Batman/Superman #21: Greg Pak (story), Ardian Syaf (pencils)

What you need to know: Superman has less powers than usual, but is still strong enough to beat up your average bad guy and his secret identity was outed by Lois Lane. Yeah, I have more problems with the second than the first. Pak tries hard to sell this as justified in a phone call between Lois and Clark, but it’s just a terrible development and I hate it. Clark goes to Bruce for help, but instead finds only Alfred in the Batcave, who breaks the news of Batman’s “death” to him. Clark doesn’t fully believe him, which puts him in the same boat as all the readers of the Bat-books, who know Bruce is coming back.

Buy It: It’s well-written, I love Syaf’s Gotham, and I’m curious about the interaction with Gordon Batman, but do I hate this whole “outed Superman” story concept. If you can stomach it, buy it.

Constantine the Hellblazer #1: Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV (writers), Riley Rossmo (artist)

DC tried to make John Constantine a “regular” DC character instead of leaving him under the Vertigo label, where he was free to be as cynical, as sexy, and as morally gray as possible. Bad move.

Good move: reversing that trend. This new series picks up where the Vertigo version of Constantine left off, meaning John is as much of a bastard as he ever was. He’s tricked into “helping” a former demon who’s also his occasional lover. John, naturally, refuses to be used. Along the way, he flirts with a diner owner, reconfirming his bisexuality, and has an amusingly bloody encounter at a dry cleaners. Great start. Old-style Constantine fans should check this out.

Buy It: Yes, but it should carry a mature readers’ label.

Gotham Academy #7: Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher (writers), Mingjue Helen Chen (art)

Oh, look! That rare creative team that has a woman on writing and art. Just making a a note of that, in a good way.

Damian Wayne enters the Academy, seemingly for good. Or does he?

I love the out-there imagination of the creative team on Gotham Academy, the diverse cast, and the skewed look at the children of Gotham’s elite, including Damian. It’s sort of like Hogwarts, but creepier. The issue is nominally about series regular Maps accidentally commanding people to do things depending on what she writes with a cursed quill. This ends up with Maps and Damian with their hands stuck together. It’s cute and sweet and I wish there would be more Damian in Gotham Academy’s future. One niggle: While this art is atmospheric, picks great angles, and I love the various faces, there are times when I lose the storytelling thread in the panel sequences. Frustrating for such an imaginative book.

Buy It: Yes.

Starfire #1 interior page, image via DC Comics
Starfire #1 interior page. Image via DC Comics.

Starfire #1: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti (writers), Emanuela Lupacchino (pencils), Ray McCarthy (inks)

Women on art and story. That’s two in a row, DC.

The issue? Hmm… the story is that Starfire settles into the Florida Keys with the help of the local police in the form of the lovely Sheriff Gomez. This story is a classic “alien getting used to Earth” tale, and it’s funny, sweet, and a great time was had by all. I handed it off to my younger daughter, sensing she’d enjoy it. She brought it back laughing, which is a definite endorsement. Yes, Starfire is sometimes naked (strategically covered), but it makes sense in the context of this story, unlike, say that issue way back with the New 52 where she was a blank slate for sexual fantasies.

Buy It: Yes.

Catwoman #1: Genevieve Valentine (writer), David Messina (art)

I’ve missed an issue or two of Catwoman since Valentine took over and that’s a mistake because so much of this story depends on what has happened before. Briefly, Selina Kyle has taken over one of Gotham’s crime families in an attempt to clean them up from the inside. She’s also given up the Catwoman suit. Mostly. In this issue, she finds out about Bruce’s supposed “death” and breaks down in private, her grief conveyed beautifully by Messina’s art. Selina’s also having doubts about moving her pieces into place, as the human cost keeps getting higher.

Buy It: Yes.

Harley Quinn #7: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti (writers), Chad Hardin (artist)

This issue is titled “A Gang of Harleys,” and that’s quite literal, as Harley has recruited a gang of followers to help her clean up her neighborhood. They’re also available for paid services, as Harley has quite a few mouths to feed now. It’s ridiculous like all of the Harley stories in this series but it’s also fun, like all the issues in this series. Oh, and Popeye shows up. Yes, I mean that Popeye.

Buy It: Yes.

New Suicide Squad #9: Sean Ryan (writer), Philippe Briones (artist)

Classic Suicide Squad stories have bad guys taking on really bad guys, and sometimes doing awful things in the process. This issue invokes those classics with a mission sending Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, and Black Manta to infiltrate a new terrorist organization that is fighting American imperialism. The initiation is brutal and includes murder, which none of our three anti-heroes mind that much. Love the banter between Manta, Deadshot, and Boomer at the beginning.

Buy It: Yes.

Earth-2 Society #1: Daniel H. Wilson (writer), Jorge Jimenez (artist)

So much for a happy ending for the refugees from the Earth-2 of the New 52. It looked like they could resettle nicely on the new home given to them at the end of Convergence. But instead, we open with some of the refugee ships crashing, and then flash forward to a cadre of scary villains who even terrify the villainous Terry Sloan. Dick Grayson is the new Batman, I think, though he’s crippled in the flashback. Love the artwork, but I wasn’t in the mood for yet more grim-dark for these people.

Buy It: Not enthused.

Section Eight #1: Garth Ennis (writer), John McCrea (artist)

I have no idea what this book is or what it wants to be. Okay, I do; it just doesn’t succeed at it.

The story is about a nice guy who loves arts, but drinks and then maybe hallucinates being a slobbery hero and gathers a similar team of misfits. Along the way, they encounter various version of Batman: Jose Garcia Lopez old-school Bats, broken-back Batman, mourning over Robin/Jason Todd Batman. I guess I’m supposed to be amused, but instead I’m scratching my head. Want some excellent Garth Ennis cynicism and weirdness? Go read Preacher. Not this.

Buy It: No.

Red Hood/Arsenal #1: Scott Lobdell (writer), Denis Medri (artist)

This is a relaunch of the Red Hood and the Outlaws comic from the New 52 that featured the aforementioned semi-brainless version of Starfire in the first issue. The comic did improve from there and acquired a following. This issue has Roy Harper mourning the loss of his relationship with Starfire by going on an operation alone. But his best bro, Jason Todd, isn’t far behind. By the way, I still hate Roy’s trucker hat.

Buy It: If you liked what was going on with the earlier series, I guess. Otherwise, no.

Disclaimer: GeekMom received these items for review.

Writer, Mom, Geek and Superhero. though usually not all four on the same day. Author of the award-winning Phoenix Institute Superhero series and the steampunk novel, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract.