DC Reviews for 8/26: So That Was Lois’ Big Motivation?

Batgirl #43, copyright DC Comics
Batgirl #43, copyright DC Comics

Welcome to our reviews of this week’s DC Comics. Ray is the long-time DC reader and I’m the more skeptical, lapsed DC reader. This week, we find out why Lois Lane outed Clark Kent as Superman in Superman #43. It’s not as bad as I expected but it doesn’t quite work, either, Ray’s in love with the old-school Batgirl vibe present in Batgirl #43, and We Are Robin has become a must read.

Of course, there are a few clinkers. I’m totally bored with Sinestro and Deathstroke. And Teen Titans? Maybe DC should toss the Batgirl creative team at it. Check out the end for how several comic adaptations of the DC Universe.

Batgirl #43, Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart, writers, Babs Tarr, artist, Juan Castro, inks (pages 17-19).

Ray: 9.5/10 Book of the Week

Corrina: Buy It.

Ray: I’ve said before that I think this book probably would have been served better if it had been the product of the hard reboot coming out of Flashpoint, as opposed to a soft reboot after Gail Simone’s run. The difference between the two Batgirls is so drastic that I’m not surprised a lot of people can’t fully embrace it.

That’s a shame, because it’s fantastic, and even my annoyance over Oracle being erased can’t ruin that for me. This title is easily the closest DC has ever gotten to capturing the same zeitgeist that lifted Ms. Marvel, Runaways, and Ultimate Spider-man into fan favorites. It’s got a perfect balance of superhero action, personal drama, and the two intersecting in interesting ways. While Barbara is dealing with both her father’s role as the new Batman and the return of her best friend Alysia – who’s getting married to her longtime girlfriend Jo – a new crisis emerges as Barbara’s friend Luke Fox’s tech company comes under attack by an escaped tiger that kills an engineer.

When Barbara’s friend Qadir is blamed for the attack, Barbara pushes this mystery to the top of her agenda. There’s tension between Barbara and her computer backup Frankie, as Frankie wants to start taking a more active role in the hero business, which Barbara resists out of fear for her friend’s safety. However, that doesn’t stop Frankie from getting a surprising and very unexpected scene at the end of the episode. Meanwhile, both Jo and Barbara’s Professor friend Jeremy seem to be carrying secrets, and it becomes clear that Jo has gone back to the radical collective where she met Alysia – and may be involved with the tigers, a second of which attacks another tech company. The cliffhanger reveals the new villain, but not their identity. It’s a packed, incredibly fun issue, and after a slightly rough start, this has turned into one of DC’s best books.

Corrina: I was ready to say “waitaminute, this book is a nice book but…” to Ray but then I read his review and realized that, yes, I’m one of those DC fans who can’t quite get past the loss of Oracle. More, I want to see more of Barbara Gordon’s intelligence and I didn’t enjoy the tiger. That seemed so random.

However, the pacing in this book is great, and the art is adorable, just right for the adventures of a college student, and I love that the supporting cast is so varied.  But I don’t love it the way I loved Oracle. And I suspect that’s my real problem with this book because I loved the previous incarnation of Stephanie Brown as Batgirl, in a run similar to the tone used for this new version of Barbara Gordon.

So, if you have tweens who want to read fun a Batgirl, buy them this. If you have cranky old-school DC fans who still want Oracle, I’ll just direct you to the Chuck Dixon-Gail Simone trade paperback collections of Birds of Prey.

We Are Robin #3, written by Lee Bermejo, art by Jorge Corona, Khary Randolph, Rob Haynes

Ray: 9/10

Corrina: Buy It but…

Ray: The Bat-line has done an amazing job in recent months in diversifying in both characters and tone, and this book is one of the best examples. It’s also one of the best examples of a realistic take on teen heroes since Runaways. One of my favorite scenes comes early on, as the team’s tech coordinator Shug attempts to talk them through an incredibly challenging bomb defusing process where they have to dodge speeding trains – only to be interrupted by her mother, who just brought home dinner and is insisting that she join them. There’s a good sense of humor through the issue, but the main plot is tense as it gets.

Ratcatcher, controlling the homeless of Gotham City in the aftermath of the Joker’s attack, has set his followers into a frenzy, causing riots in the streets. He’s also rigged the Gotham subway line with bombs, set to blow up the city’s transportation hub. This leaves the Robins trying to save the city by defusing the bombs one at a time and then jumping out of the way of the passing train. The new Batman eventually shows up to try to defuse the riots and warn the Robins off the streets, making it clear that this new Batman has far less tolerance for teen sidekicks. Shug eventually sends a customized train to spirit the team to safety, but shell-shocked member Troy decides to stay behind and defuse the final bomb – a decision that goes terribly wrong.

My only complaint is that Troy had very little development before this went down, which makes his sacrifice fall a bit flat. However, the final scene that reveals the identity of the man behind The Nest – Alfred Pennyworth – is fantastically written. This book continues to develop into one of DC’s best.

Corrina: One thing you need to know: Ray loves Alfred. That makes two of us and I’m especially pleased that I was right about Alfred being behind all the Robins.

But I have one big concern about this issue and that’s the death Ray talked about. One, killing off a Robin this early would seem to indicate that Alfred has as little problem with putting kids in danger as his foster-son, Bruce Wayne, who saw two Robins killed on his watch. (Though both Jason Todd and Damian Wayne are back.)

We don’t know why Alfred formed the Robins or how and I suspect it will be because most of the kids who join the Robin “gang” needed a focus lest they get into worst trouble. But it’s concerning that the creative team went straight to a death in only the third issue. Duke has already lost his parents and the rest of the Robins have various issues that offered much story conflict. I don’t believe the death was needed. But, in any case, I hope it’s the last one for a long time. This is such a great premise, and with such a large cast, the story possibilities are endless. (Which is another reason why I was bummed it went straight for ‘dead Robin.’) I hope the fallout from Troy’s death was worth going there.

Psst…if you like Runaways, readers, there’s a new Runaways series out now from Marvel Comics written by the awesome Noelle Stevenson. You can find the first 3 issues on Comixology.com. No collected edition yet.

Justice League of America #3 by Bryan Hitch, inks by Daniel Henriques

Ray: 8.5/10

Corrina: Buy It

Ray: This title continues to be a strong, new-reader friendly Justice League story with a strong hook and some epic visuals every issue. However, I can’t help but feel that this is the latest manifestation of a story we’ve seen in almost every major Superman story in recent years.

When we last left off, the Justice League was scattered. Green Lantern and Flash were sent to parts unknown, while Wonder Woman found that the Gods of Olympus had abandoned their post. Superman and Batman, meanwhile, found themselves at opposite ends over the actions of the Kryptonian God Rao, who was seeking to create a utopia on Earth. This issue, Rao’s actions start taking on a slightly more sinister air, as he travels to Africa, and not only terraforms the desert to end hunger, but deposes the warlords and dictators hurting the continent. This raises the ire of the United Nations, and Rao makes clear that he has no intention of stopping.

Meanwhile, Flash and Green Lantern awaken on an ancient battlefield, and GL’s ring identifies it as Krypton from a quarter-billion years ago. As Wonder Woman tries to figure out where her Gods went, Flash is pulled back in time to the present day, while GL forges a truce between the warring forces on ancient Krypton and they agree to take him to the temple of Rao. This issue doesn’t feel quite as packed as the last few, and Rao’s story is starting to remind me more than a bit of Ulysses and Wrath, but it’s still a very entertaining read

Corrina: Yes, yes, this is absolutely a repeat of a story we’ve seen before. It’s not the only one to feature the JLA either, as the Darkseid War still is yet another example of “world-ending consequences possible, but with Darkseid.”

And, of course, Rao is going to be exposed as a bad guy. Why else wouldn’t we let him do what needs doing, which is creating world peace in the right way. And, hey, no one is feeding people to Rao like the demon Jasmine in Angel who brought peace to everyone but secretly murdered a whole bunch of people. Oh, wait, I hope that’s not the plot twist.

But what sets this apart is that the basics of the story beats are beautifully drawn (because Bryan Hitch) and because it lead us to ancient Krypton to explore Rao’s origins.

I am, however, tired of people destroying the Olympian gods. Worst. Pantheon. Ever.

Sorry, Clois fans. This is just a tease from Superman #43. Image copyright DC Comics
Sorry, Clois fans. This is just a tease from Superman #43. Image copyright DC Comics

Superman #43, Gene Luen Yang, writer, John Romita, Jr., penciller, Klaus Janson & Scott Hanna, inkers.

Ray: 7.5/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy It.

Ray: Well, here it is, as the main question of this run is finally answered – why did Lois Lane reveal Superman’s secret identity to the world? And I’ve got to say, it could have been handled far worse.

The issue opens by thankfully putting last issue’s tension between Lois and Clark mostly to bed. Clark is recovering from his injuries at the hands of HORDR last issue, which have left him mostly drained of his powers (as we’ve seen for months in other titles). They talk things over, and Lois has a lot of questions but makes clear that Clark’s secret is safe with her. It’s actually one of the better scenes between the two of them in a while.

Then things go downhill quickly when HORDR hacks Lois’ phone (after hitching a ride inside Jimmy, it’s implied), and continues to blackmail Superman. The mysterious villain wants Superman to return to the base to be tested further, or his identity will be revealed. Superman goes along with it, and Lois follows along to try to keep him safe. HORDR demands a demonstration of the solar flare power, only to attempt to drain him dry. Seeing this, Lois decides to release the information because it’s the only way Superman will be free of HORDR’s influence. Before they can fully hash out her decision, Sam Lane and the US military shows up to arrest Superman and he goes on the run. My biggest issue with this story is how both Clark and Lois seem to be unwilling to understand where the other is coming from, both with her reaction last issue and his in this one. Still, for a story that looked like an utter disaster coming in, I have to say I’m sort of pleased.

Corrina: “It could have been handled far worse” is damning with faint praise but there it is. It wasn’t evil scheming Lois who wanted a scoop and justified it with “the world had to know.” It was naive Lois, assuming that the consequences of Superman’s identity being outed wouldn’t be as bad as they were.

Why Lois, a veteran journalist, couldn’t predict a backlash effect against Superman, I have no idea except “plot reasons.” So, yes, it could have been worse. Instead of vindictive, Lois is dumb. It’s sorta an improvement…I guess?

The scenes with Lois and Clark in the beginning of this issue are sweet and again the pair prove they have more chemistry than Superman and Wonder Woman ever had.

Aside: I’ve become tired of the U.S. Military showing up to arrest superheroes. One, the military can’t just arrest people who are citizens of the United States. It would have to be local authorities who would have to charge him with some crime, as the military has no jurisdiction to arrest non-military members. Two, even if that’s different in DC Storyland, I’m becoming sick of the military being full of reactionary and semi-evil villains. We can do better by those who serve in the military, even if they are fictional.

Gotham by Midnight #8, Ray Fawkes, writer, Juan Ferreyra, artist

Ray: 8/10

Corrina: Buy It. 

Ray: This horror-based Bat-title seems to have found a comfortable groove, settling into a routine of dealing with creepy cases of the month while also carrying an overarching storyline involving the investigation by internal affairs into the goings-on at the Midnight division. The issue opens with an eerie segment as two hot-headed TV pundits are having an argument on their popular point-counterpoint talk show, and the angrier they get, the angrier people on the streets get. Minor disputes escalate into physical fights, and soon Gotham is caught in a massive riot. Officer Drake is caught in the riot and injured, bringing Jim Corrigan in to investigate. It soon turns out that anywhere this show was playing, people started attacking each other. Teaming up with Dr. Tarr, Corrigan breaks into the headquarters of the TV station this show is coming from and battles through a powerful psychic hate wave that threatens to unleash the Spectre again. Soon, the horrifying truth behind these two pundits is revealed in a scene worthy of EC Comics.

The investigation subplot is also strong, as it soon becomes clear that one of the IA investigators seems to be carrying a grudge against the Midnight Division. In many ways, this book feels like a well-done police procedural – unlike the actual Gotham City police procedural on TV. It’s episodic right now, but it feels like it’s building to something big.

Corrina:. Horror lovers should buy this book. It’s creepy, though, as Ray pointed out, the horror plot this issue is basically a throwaway as TV anchors sell their souls to incite riots and become more popular but eventually consume themselves.

What sets it apart for me is that I care about the cast members. How do I know this? Because I’m worried about Detective Drake losing her job, I’m worried about Corrigan and how he deals with the Spectre inside him, and I’m worried for Gotham if they should ever lose these people doing a completely thankless job.

Especially when other cops decide to bring up Corrigan on murder, the big twist in this week’s issue.

I often wonder if Jim Gordon (now Batman) will intervene in all this, though he’s not on the police force now. I can’t decide if inserting Gordon Robot Batman into this series is a good idea or not. Not, if he’s in costume, but a Jim Gordon in civilian guise, stepping in for his group of supernatural detectives would be welcome.

In any case, I wish the television show Gotham would hire Ray Fawkes to write for them.

Dick and his evil twin. image copyright DC Comics
Dick and his evil twin. image copyright DC Comics

Grayson #11, Tom King, writer, plot by Tim Seeley & Tom King, artist, Mikel Janin

Ray: 8.5/10

Corrina: Buy It

Ray: After a slightly rough first arc, this book has found its footing in a major way, and has streamlined the rather convoluted spy thriller into a great chase comic. The issue opens with a fantastic set piece in the skull-lined catacombs of Rome as Tiger comes under assault by the mysterious assailant targeting Agent Grayson’s partner – revealed as an insane Agent Grayson himself, apparently. That doesn’t last long, though, as the real agent Grayson emerges to battle his evil doppelgänger.

The two have a tense battle as Dick tries to figure out his impostor’s identity, and it turns incredibly trippy midway through as the villain uses SPYRAL tech to turn Dick’s vision – and the comic – into an acid trip. The impostor uses every bit of information they’ve collected on Dick to try to unravel him psychologically, and it’s only due to Agent Tiger ripping out his hypno-implants that he can see the fake Dick for who they are – the presumed dead Agent 8, his lover Alia. Her agenda is yet to be fully revealed, but what we do know is that Dick agrees to cover up her involvement and blame it on Maxwell Lord – but they quickly quits SPYRAL and decides to head back to Gotham for the first time since his “death”. This title’s set up a lot of really interesting new elements, and I can’t wait to see how they unravel.

Corrina: Two very pretty Dick Graysons fight for much of this comic. I need to thank whoever made the art assignment on this book.

However, I’ve always had two problems with this comic. One, I’m not entirely sure what’s going on and plot events occasionally baffle me. For instance, I thought Fake Dick agreed to blame it all on Maxwell Lord by hynotizing Real Dick. (Yes, I typed that with a straight face.) The second problem is I was never sure why Dick was embedded with Spyral in the first place. What was he trying to prevent? When it was revealed this issue that Grayson wondered why he was even doing this anymore, I was happy.

But then it was revealed he quit because maybe he didn’t know the real truth? I’m not sure.

But I’m pleased beyond measure that this “everyone believes Dick is dead” is going to end. For that alone, I’d recommend this issue.

Aquaman #43, Cullen Bunn, writer, Trevor McCarthy and Jesus Merino, artists

Ray: 8/10

Corrina: Aquaman fans only

Ray: Cullen Bunn’s run on Aquaman has gone the route of Wonder Woman’s previous run in many ways, taking a character whose niche in the DCU has never been quite as locked down as others, and making their world far more grounded in fantasy. The parallels this issue become far more explicit, as the three main questions of the series are answered. We open with Aquaman returning to Atlantis in the past to tell Mera about his discovery of the other Atlanteans – only for her to react in a very OOC way and declare him a traitor. Hunted and on the run, he turns for help to an unlikely source – the Greek God Poseidon, last seen in WW. He gets new powers out of the deal, but also answers. It seems Thule wasn’t always a separate kingdom, but was once part of Atlantis until it was taken over by a dangerous cult known as the Thule.

It’s good to see Bunn following up on Johns’ and Parker’s reveals about the history of Atlantis. I was a little less interested during the present-day segments, when Aquaman battled alongside his pursuers against a stone behemoth. Not bad, but too many characters who haven’t been firmly established yet. The last segment resolves the biggest problem I had with this run – Mera’s characterization – by revealing that Mera has actually been held captive, and Atlantis is being ruled by her evil sorcerer sister Siren. This run is taking a level up, and I don’t think Aquaman’s ever had a consistent string of good runs like this before.

Corrina: This run is well-written and I like the reveal of Thule once having been part of Atlantis, rather than being a random foe. However, two things are starting to kill things for me in this arc.

One is that this story is moving so slowly. This issue could have been the beginning of the arc and it would have worked just as well. All the essential information is in here, rendering the previous parts unnecessary. So there’s no level-up here. There is the revelation about Mera being held captive but that one made me roll my eyes. His hostile wife is actually an imposter! Where have we seen that before?

Uh, where haven’t we seen that before?

Harley Quinn #19, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, writers, Chad Hardin, artist

Ray: – 7/10

Corrina: Buy It

Popeye as we've never quite seen him before. Image copyright DC Comics.
Popeye as we’ve never quite seen him before. Image copyright DC Comics.

Ray: This series has been a bit off its game since it came back from the Convergence break. The new status quo is great, involving Harley recruiting a gang of Harley acolytes to handle some of her business and beat up deserving people. This has created a lot of funny new characters and some great interactions. While Harley’s original Coney Island friends are great, they could get a little old at times, so a bigger supporting cast is welcome. So what’s the problem? Simple, it’s been three issues and we’re still tying up a story involving one of the worst villains I’ve ever seen in a DC comic. It’s a sailor who eats some weird alien weed that looks like spinach and turns into an evil version of Popeye. That’s it, that’s the whole concept.

Popeye is quite the dated reference to begin with, and the character doesn’t do much besides yell and get into fights. It’s a huge relief when he’s finally defeated and cured at the end of the issue. Things get a lot funnier when Harley finds out the secret of the Harley Quadruplets, and Sy-Borg begins his own investigation, setting up the next arc. This book should find its footing again, but this story arc sort of shows that it’s a lot harder for comedy books to get away with being off their game than dramatic books. See also, Section Eight for a far more glaring example.

Corrina: Now, wait a minute! Popeye also loses his clothes the longer the issue goes on, a sight gag that I found quite funny. Maybe I’m just more fond of Popeye cartoons. I also find it amusing how hard Harley works to do the right thing, even though her idea of the right thing veers into blackmailing the Mayor of New York into leaving her alone to create her own private security force. Yes, that does sound like a lousy idea but it’s a funny one.

And Harley is horrified she’s gotten kids into this and I liked her protecting and apologizing to them. It’s also interesting that, every now and then, we’re reminded that she’s actually a psychiatrist. So, yeah, not laughing out loud as I sometimes do but I remain happily entertained by this book.

Cyborg #2, David F. Walker, writer, Ivan Reis, penciller, Joe Prado, Ray McCarthy, and Scott Hanna, inks

Ray: – 8.5/10

Corrina: Buy It

Ray: The first issue of this series was one of the most instantly engaging first issues to come out of DC in a while, giving us a new, fuller perspective on Victor Stone’s life while introducing two rival alien civilizations – one obsessed with harvesting and assimilating his technology, the other seeking to destroy it. This second issue doesn’t quite live up to that standard, but it continues to build a really solid foundation for an excellent run.

One of the things I really like about David Walker’s take on Cyborg is the way he grounds his life and superpowers in the real world. Cyborg may be able to do extraordinary things with his tech, but he’s also subject to people with no respect for boundaries, and the segment about the rude questions he faces constantly will resonate with any person with a visible disability. I’m less interested in the tension between Victor and his father, as it feels like we’ve seen this kind of father-son dynamic before. Another strength of this issue is in the idea that other people would want the kind of enhancements Cyborg has. Tech implants have yet to be regulated, and this issue has an amputee seeking out a cybernetic arm and eye – only to catch the unwanted attention of one of these sinister alien civilizations. It’s a bit of a slower burn, but I still highly recommend this issue if you want to see one of DC’s biggest up-and-coming heroes get a great solo run.

Corrina: One of my favorite elements about Vic Stone has always been his insistence on remaining human despite the technological state of his body. Once he became comfortable with who he was in the classic Marv Wolfman/George Perez stories, Vic was always the most human of the Teen Titans.

That characterization is continued here, as Vic continually reminds scientists that he’s far more than a machine and that’s why the first issue hit me so well. However, this second issue, as Ray said, is more confusing and I’m not sure that I love the idea of focusing so much on Vic’s tech as the source of the major conflict in this first arc. I recommend this but I have my fingers crossed that it turns out well.

Sinestro Rising #14, writer, Cullen Bunn, penciller, Robson Rocha, inker, Jonathan Glapion

Ray: – 7/10

Corrina: For Sinestro Fans Only

Ray: A surprisingly quiet issue after a number of action-packed ones, this done-in-one story focuses on the indoctrination of a new member into the Corps. A small, child-like alien who was stranded on a desolate planet after a spaceship crash killed his family, he has been waiting there for an unknown length of time until a ring comes and claims him for the Sinestro Corps. When he meets Sinestro, he seems timid and the exact opposite of what the Corps are looking for, but Sinestro insists that the ring wouldn’t have chosen him unless he was worthy.

He explains that he’s the son of scientists, and as he explains his family’s methods, a picture starts to emerge that explains why he might have been chosen – his family were twisted experimenters kidnapping living specimens from alien worlds. Sinestro pairs this new member, Nax, with his daughter Soranik, and they investigate the body of one of the victims of the Paling – only for Nax to display his power in disturbing fashion on the body. This issue is a very slow burn, but Nax has promise as a creepy new anti-hero for the GL universe. I’m liking what they’re slowly revealing about Sinestro’s plans, including his new use for the Manhunters, but this issue didn’t quite live up to the last few for me.<

Corrina: I keep hoping this story will catch me and so far, it hasn’t. Again, Bunn has a way with creating icky if cool visuals, such as Nax’s powers. But it all feels very surface. The thing with having an anti-hero head up a story is that we need a reason to root for him to win at some point.

Sinestro is basically scaring everyone around him, and I keep hoping someone kicks his smug ass. Except he keeps being right, and that annoys me, and then anyone who might oppose him is written as having an impossible task, so I can’t get into rooting for them either.Whether Sinestro wins or loses matters not to me, and that’s the way of it with me and this comic.

Flash #43, Robert Venditti & Van Jensen, writers, Brett Booth, penciller, Norm Rapmund, inker

Ray: – 6.5/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy It.

Ray: This title has taken a bit of a level up with the escape of Henry Allen from prison and the arrival of Eobard Thawne and his speed force minions as Flash’s new enemies. There’s a sense of urgency in this title that wasn’t there during the interminable evil Flash plotline. Thawne also makes for a far more compelling, machiavellian villain than the previous Reverse Flash ever did. A good amount of this story feels like it’s bringing the title much more in line with the TV series, as this issue reveals that Thawne was likely responsible for Nora Allen’s murder, and Henry Allen has known this and kept quiet, taking the blame to protect Barry. But with Thawne returning, Henry was driven to desperation. The prison break plot line, and the interaction between Henry, Barry, and Captain Frye is all very strong here.

Weaker, as usual, is what this title does with Wally West. Wally’s calmed down a little since we first saw him, and has a new hobby in building and racing cars. However, when his hobby lands him in danger from a caricatured evil football coach angry that he messed up his field, Barry steps in to protect him and solidifies their relationship. The entire portrayal of new Wally and his interaction with Barry has been cringeworthy from the start, filled with cliches, and I’m hoping the Flash TV series does it far better. Still, this title has definitely seen worse days and the main story is pretty good.

Corrina: Henry Allen’s escape is well done? As far as I can tell, Henry planned a prison break that unleashed dangerous people on Central City and injured numerous civilians, and it was all to find the Flash to tell him to protect his son, Barry.

What?

If he can organize a prison break, how come he can’t figure out a non-violent and less showy way to get the message across

I have no idea, any more than I have any idea why Barry feels so compelled to help Iris’s nephew Barry, or why a coach would even yell at kids in the first place, save to create a confrontation that perhaps makes Barry and Wally bond?

Sloppy plotting all around in this book. I guess fans of the show might be interested but I’m not.

cover copyright DC Comics
cover copyright DC Comics

Prez #3, Mark Russell, writer, Bend Caldwell, penciller/cover artist, Mark Morales, inker

Ray: – 4/10

Corrina: Buy It

Ray: This series started with some interesting ideas, but it’s hamstrung itself from the start by its rather strident tone. The original Prez was a strange, gonzo relic of its time, with an offbeat but lighthearted tone. This Prez seems to come from a far more angry era, more concerned with stating what it feels is wrong with the era. As Beth Ross prepares to be inaugurated, she recruits cabinet members and dismisses old party hacks.

The allies include a Neil DeGrasse Tyson clone and a stay-at-home dad who goes on communist rants about the Smurfs. Meanwhile, the bad guys are led by Boss Smiley, the corporate executive who torments his employees with a cruel productivity system that punishes them for being late by seconds while using the bathroom, among other indignities. Beth’s speech at her inauguration at the end of the issue feels like it’s heavily cribbed from the Obama playbook. I have no issues with political comic books, even those that take a specific viewpoint, but this comic is like some odd hybrid of Aaron Sorkin and the Wachowskis, and it just doesn’t work. Points for ambition, none for execution.

Corrina: I like hybrids of Sorkin and the Wachowskis!

We have an unusual disagreement here because I’m usually the one who dislikes something while Ray likes it. I love the political satire on this book, which strikes me as sometimes far too close to the way our political system actually works. I didn’t see the stridency that Ray did, unless he’s referring to the need for medical insurance that treats everyone equally, rather than separating those who can afford good healthcare and those who can’t.

I’m not sure how this story will turn out but it makes me think, it’s nice to see people believe they might still be able to change the world, and the satire is imaginative. Go buy this book before it vanishes.

Justice League 3001 #3, Keith Giffen, neurotic, J.M. DeMatteis, paranoid, Howard Porter, insecure

Ray: – 2.5/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy It

Ray: You’ve got to admire a title that points out its own problems in text. The best scene of this issue is Lois Lane, undercover as Ariel Masters, complaining that her plan seems to be taking forever and nothing really seems to be happening. Likely unintentional, but wonderfully meta none the less. Now, why is Lois Lane an evil criminal mastermind who killed Superman?

Because this series is really, really weird. The issue has a few high points in some interesting interaction between Batman and Superman, as well as a few decent scenes involving the JLI crew fighting Turtle Boy, but they’re few and far between. Too much of the issue is devoted to characters being horrible to each other, and exploration of Guy Gardner’s gender identity (he’s a man in a woman’s body, to put it succinctly), and Supergirl, who was set up as a new POV character last issue, only has a few short scenes this issue. I continue to be puzzled how this series continued post-Convergence, given the sales and reception.

Corrina: Nah, I don’t have to admire it. (I know but, hey, perfect set up.)

Why is Lois Lane an evil mastermind who wants to kill Superman? Um, I have no idea because it makes no sense, and has no real point, as this series has no real point. Poor Supergirl, stuck in the middle of this.

However, the idea of a intergalactic government signing off on Starro taking over a whole planet to “take care” of them did sound a realistic note, so props for that part of the story.

Another series that should (deservedly) not be long for this world.

Titans #11, Will Pfeifer, script, Ricken, art

Ray: -3/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy It.

Ray: A distinct improvement from the terrible previous issue, which accentuated every problem I have had with this entire era of Teen Titans dating from the very first issue of the reboot. At least the team doesn’t try to kill each other this issue, which is a step in the right direction.

We open with Red Robin escaping from Manchester Black with an unconscious Raven in tow. With Raven recovering from a psychic attack, the team makes plans to break into the highest security prison in Metropolis, the Maw, to prove Superboy’s innocence. It seems Despero may have been behind the attacks and Superboy is being framed. The Elite’s role in this issue is fairly minimized, with Manchester keeping them behind the scenes as he releases the prisoners with the team inside, causing a riot. The team is cornered by Despero when Superboy appears, looking to clear his name. It’s inoffensive as this series goes, but this series isn’t going anywhere until it resolves its main problem, which is that none of its main characters are particularly likable.

Corrina: Not trying to kill each other is good. Better would be anything I could care about in this series full of unpleasant people doing stuff for reasons I can’t figure out. That’s Robin’s plan? Break into a prison. Yes, it is stupid, and, no, it doesn’t make sense at all.

Just no. Someone just stake this series and get it done.

Deathstroke #9, written by Tony Daniel and James Bonny, pencils, Eduardo Pansica, inks, Sanou Florea

Deathstroke and his really big, glowing sword. cover copyright DC Comics
Deathstroke and his really big, glowing sword. cover copyright DC Comics

Ray: – 2/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy It

Ray: This Lapetus storyline seems to be taking forever, and it’s getting worse as it goes. The idea of Deathstroke being armed with an enchanted weapon to kill a God has some promise, but the execution has been awful. After journeying through hell with Wonder Woman, they find Themysrica under assault by Lapetus’ hordes. Most of the issue is just them hacking through armies of demon zombies, until Superman shows up and instantly attacks Deathstroke, pretty much acting more like his 30th century incarnation than the actual Superman. Eventually Wonder Woman is able to calm him down after a pointless slugfest, and they realize they’ve been ignoring Lapetus while he’s been wreaking havoc. It seems like every issue here ends with them finally about to face Lapetus, and then something delays it. Will next issue finally bring this to an end?

Corrina: This series seems to be taking forever. The idea of Slade Wilson getting possessed by a god-killing sword is interesting but then it devolves into a god saying cliche things and swatting at people, and a lot of shouting, and Wonder Woman fighting other people and being fierce.

Oh, and we had another fight tossed in where Deathstroke seemed to hold his own with Superman? Uh, no. Ray’s wondering where this plot will end. I’m wondering the same about the series.

Alternate DC Universe Reviews:

These are stories that take place out on their own, so I grouped them together and I’ll let Ray handle them, as he likes them.

I might have been interested in the Arkham Knight book if it didn’t remake Jason Todd into a true psychopath but, basically, not so much.

Batman: Arkham Knight Genesis #1 – story and words, Peter J. Tomasi, art by Alisson Borges.

8/10

I’ve been digging this series of game tie-ins a lot more than the previous ones, and that continues with this spin-off miniseries focusing on the villain of the story. The issue opens with the murder of c-list villain Ratcatcher and the rescue of Hush by the titular character, who seems to have his own agenda aside from the plans of various villains to destroy/control the city. And as soon as he takes off his mask, it becomes clear – the Arkham Knight is none other than Jason Todd, a much more extreme version of his villainous turn as Red Hood in other books.

His flashback also makes clear that this will likely be a darker version of the character, from the fact that his father tried to sell him as a baby to a mob boss to pay off a debt, to the fact that he was a budding career criminal before he got involved with Batman. This issue sets up Jason’s rescue of Batman in a tense shoot-out, and his subsequent reformation and recruitment into the Bat-fold, but there’s a sense of dread over the whole thing as you know something is going to go very wrong. Tomasi’s always had a pretty strong grasp on Jason’s character. I’m not a big gamer, but this comic has pulled me into the story well on its own.

Batman ’66 #26 – written by Jeff Parker, art by Jesse Hamm

7.5/10

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed in this series is the way Parker is able to introduce iconic bat-villains created after this series in ways that feel perfectly in line with the series. That’s the case with this issue’s debut of Poison Ivy. The story opens with the apparent murder of Louie the Lilac, the z-list Bat-rogue apparently poisoned by a kiss.

Batman investigates the toxin and traces it back to the Gotham Botanical Gardens, where he visited often as a child – and befriended the owner’s young daughter, Pamela. But after Dr. Isley was poisoned by a rare plant and left Gotham, dying soon after, he never saw Pamela again. That is, until now. This story reminds me a lot of the Batman: The Animated Series Poison Ivy, complete with plant minions and giant venus flytraps. It’s good fun, even if I did call the ending twist involving Louie a mile away. I watched Lost too! Still, it’s a fun issue that adds a great character to this Batman’s rogues’ gallery. And now that we have Ivy and Harley, I demand a Gotham City Sirens issue in this universe!

Justice League: Gods and Monsters #3, written by Bruce Timm & J.M. DeMatteis, art by Thony Silas

5/10

After a really promising start in the spotlight issues, which set up a trio of intriguing alternate versions of the DC Trinity, this main miniseries has just not lived up to that potential at all.

Dr. Psycho has transformed himself into Imperiex, a giant robot with plans to take over the world. That’s about it. He rampages across the world as Superman and Wonder Woman attempt to stop him but are overwhelmed. Surprisingly, it’s Kirk Langstrom who manages to weaken him using his psychic vampire abilities and draining his energy. Things get a bit more interesting in the aftermath as President Waller tries to figure out the new world order with the emergence of these three powerful metas, and Lois Lane – whose father died in the attack on Mumbai – wages a media campaign against these more brutal heroes.

It’s an intriguing concept for the world, but unfortunately, past the opening chapters, the execution just isn’t very interesting.

Ray Goldfield is a writer/editor for Grayhaven Comics, as well as the author of two novels currently in editing. He’s a comic fan for over 20 years, particularly of DC and Superman, Batman, and the Teen Titans in particular. Now that Cassandra Cain is coming back, he will not rest until DC greenlights a Young Justice: Season Three comic.

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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.