‘Secret Six’ Goes Mystical In an Excellent Overall Week From DC

Cover to Secret Six #7, image copyright DC Comics
Cover to Secret Six #7, image copyright DC Comics

Welcome to our weekly recap of DC Comic’s new releases. Ray is the prototypical DC reader and I’m the agnostic, lapsed DC fan.

When this week was good, as with Secret Six, Titans Hunt, Martian Manhunter, Black Canary, Gotham Academy, Batman & Robin Eternal, Doctor Fate and Justice League, it was very good. Also excellent was Clean Room #1 by Gail Simone and Jon Davis-Hunt, the new Vertigo mature readers comic, and that earned a bonus review at the end of this column.

When it was bad, well, it was awful. Wonder Woman and Superman/Wonder Woman hit new lows.

I’ve arranged these in my reading order, on the theory that they’re the ones new readers might pick up first, but Ray and I are definitely on the same wavelength this week.

Secret Six #7: Gail Simone, writer, Dale Eaglesham and Tom Derenick, artists

Ray: 9.5/10: Book of the Week

Corrina: Buy It!

Ray: This is not only a great Secret Six issue but it pleasantly surprised me by being a fantastic backdoor pilot to a possible revival of one of my favorite New 52 titles, Justice League Dark. When we last left off, Black Alice helped the team escape the Riddler only to mysterious collapse near-death. But that’s not where we pick up. After a truly bizarre opening segment involving a goat being fused with a fly, we head to the otherworldly House of Strangers, a surreal location in the side of a mountain where the magicians and supernatural beings of the DCU meet. The gathering forces include heroes like Phantom Stranger, Swamp Thing, and Zatanna, and villains like Faust, Klarion, and Eclipso. There are even cameos by obscure characters like Dr. Occult and Baron Winters as they discuss the threat to their existence – Black Alice.

Seems she’s draining the forces of the world’s mages as she uses her powers, and when the forces of magic run dry, something horrible is going to return. The mages discuss whether it’s worth sacrificing her life to protect the world of magic, and even the heroes are forced to admit this might be the only option. Back at the hospital, Big Shot is keeping watch over Lori as her condition fluctuates, and Catman tries to get the rest of the team to bond while they wait. This is a hilarious segment, especially in Strix trying to play basketball, although I really didn’t need to ever see Ferdie in a cheerleader’s outfit. This is interrupted quickly, though, by Etrigan attacking, keeping the rest of the team at bay while Klarion, Black Orchid, Faust, and Cheetah go after Lori in her hospital room. Big Shot does his best to protect the girl he’s come to see as a daughter, but is quickly overwhelmed by the mages – until Black Alice wakes up with the powers of seemingly dozens of mages, shifting into an otherworldly form. It’s a great big-scale magic adventure like Lemire’s JLD was, while also keeping that unique Secret Six vibe that no one but Simone can pull off. Fantastic stuff.

Corrina: Hey, Blue Devil was in that mystical scene as well. This issue does a tremendous job of showing how bonded the Six are while simultaneously showing just how messed up they are individually, leading to a memorable game(?) of basketball. That it can juggle those moments with a far larger mystical plot is due to the skill of the creators.

That opening sequence with all they mystical characters of the DCU that had my inner fangirl jumping for joy. I’m not sure how new-reader friendly this issue is but in this case, I don’t care. All a new reader needs to know is there’s a bunch of DC mystical characters that badly need their own series again, written by this creative team. Take a huge bow, art team, because juggling that many characters, in a setting that’s also a character, and making each of them distinctive is done so well that it’s seamless.

I’m less enamored with the “we must murder someone for the good of the world” plot regarding Black Alice but I expect that trope to be flipped on its head at some point. Putting Big Shot with his protective instincts at the head of this iteration of the Six has been a brilliant idea and I expect he’ll be a large part of the solution to Alice’s issues.

Titans Hunt #1, Dan Abnett, writer, Paulo Siqueira and Geraldo Borges, art

Ray: 8.5/10 

Corrina: Buy It.

Lian Harper, Titans Hunt
One of this kids has got to be Lian. But the other? Image from Titans Hunt #1, copyright DC Comics

Ray: It doesn’t take much to be the best Teen Titans comic in the New 52. That’s a really low bar to pass, given how hard the franchise got hit by the reboot. But that’s exactly what this comic is, and while it’s not perfect, I enjoyed it a good deal. The story is split into separate segments, focusing on different members of the classic Teen Titans squad.

In the first, Roy Harper is traveling through a small town when the seemingly random sight of a water tower triggers memories in him, sending him spiraling and falling off the wagon. He buys alcohol from a corner store clerk named Gnaark, who references the name “Speedy” and promptly calls his sponsor once he’s done. Dick Grayson, meanwhile, is on a mission to stop the sale of some Atlantean lungs to a corrupt businessman, when his mission is interrupted by an Atlantean bent on vengeance – Garth. I could have done without Tempest being a ruthless vigilante who kills the bad guys in this version, but such is comics nowadays. Donna Troy is only seen briefly, on the road and haunted by memories at a pier. Mal Duncan wins an Oscar for his movie score, but is hit by some sort of strange flashback as he makes his way up to the stage. And at the center of it all, Lilith Clay – now working as an addiction counselor, serving as Roy’s sponsor, and keeping tabs on all of them via secret files. Her reaction when she sees two little girls – one of whom looks a lot like Lian Harper – playing in the waiting room is interesting, and it’s very clear there is some sort of huge conspiracy going on here. I’m not sure exactly what the deal here is yet, but I can’t wait to find out. After four years, the Titans may finally be back.

Corrina: This is more than classic Teen Titans, this is old-school Teen Titans from even before the Marv Wolfman/George Perez team that kicked this property’s popularity up to the stratosphere in the 1980s. This is Gnarrk showing up, and Mal Duncan being remembered as musical and Karen being included along with Mal. Somewhere, Bob (The Answer Man) Rozarkis is smiling.

Is it new-reader friendly? I hope so, as it sets up one of those classic “time has been rewritten” plots and the four main characters should be familiar enough to even the most casual fans. Long-time Titans fans will recognize that we’ve been dropped into what seems to be part of the timeline for the original Titans Hunt arc in which a demi-God sent a strike team back in time after the Titans. This plot was one of the last before the Wolfman/Perez book fell apart and it’s not as fondly remembered as the rest of the run but it did lead to two Dick Graysons running around for a while and that’s never bad. But for the sake of this series, it offers readers a chance to rewrite the current Titans in a way that includes the best of their history and discarding some of the more recent, truly awful versions. (See below.)

Who are the two kids Lilith sees in her waiting room? As Ray said, a sure bet one is Lian Harper, the daughter of Roy Harper and Shiva, while the other remains a mystery. My guess is Donna Troy’s stepdaughter but it could also be one of the younger female Titans, such as the original Terra, or Kole, or Mira from the future. The stepdaughter might mean the return of Terry Long and no one seems to be calling for him, so perhaps it’s better if she’s someone or anyone else. But given Donna and Terry’s son was at the heart of Titans Hunt, Terry is bound to show up sometime. Get ready for that red afro, people!

Martian Mahunter, er, one of them. Image copyright DC Comics
Martian Mahunter, er, one of them. Image copyright DC Comics

Martian Manhunter #5, Rob Williams, writer, layouts, Eddy Barrows, pencils Diogenes Neves, Guest inks, Marc Deering

Ray: 9/10

Corrina: Buy It.

Ray: Equal parts screwball comedy and sci-fi/horror movie, this is one of the oddest books in DC’s stable – and one of the best. The idea that J’onn J’onnz, a character whose biology is totally alien, would be able to split himself into different facets of himself for safekeeping, is fascinating. Like a shapeshifter’s version of the Horcruxes. Another one is introduced this issue, an old man named Mould who is fully aware of who he is and where he comes from, and is waiting on an island for the others to find him. But before they can get there, the rest of them have to make it through an airport.

The rest of the people who turned out to be parts of J’onn are traveling, with Mr. Biscuits in a giant duffel bag and his little friend tagging along, leading to many hilarious misadventures. The mood whiplashes rapidly, though, once Mr. Biscuits says goodbye to Alicia – and she’s quickly targeted by White Martians in disguise who try to capture her. There’s also an Aquaman cameo, as he shows up to help the Pearl get to shore safely, and is rewarded with a kiss. It’s kind of fascinating that Rob Williams has created a book full of completely original characters – who are all the same character who hasn’t appeared in the book in months. The monsters in this title are the best in any sci-fi book I can remember, and I’m hoping that more people give this title a try. It’s one of the most original comics on the stands.

Corrina: Something absolutely amazing is happening in this title as the full scope of the story becomes clear. Splitting J’onn into multiple people has led to questions of identity. Several pieces of himself argue existential existence with each other. Some of J’onn is disabled or a woman or Mr. Biscuits and the latter often free-associates to hilarious effect. The enemy, the White Martians, are almost a side issue to me because watching all of the Martians interact, especially in the airport sequence, is priceless.

Shapeshifters can be anyone. In this title, they are everyone. As much as I want J’onn to win this fight against the White Martians and save the Earth, I fear the day all the different pieces of himself bond because I’ve fallen in love with each one. Don’t touch Mr. Biscuits!

This is a riff on the classic alien invasion but it’s so much more than that.

Black Canary #5, Brenden Fletcher, writer, Pia Guerra, artist

Ray: 8.5/10

Corrina: Buy It.

Ray: Another excellent issue of the superheroes-meet-Jem-and-the-Holograms comic we never knew we wanted until now. After rescuing Ditto from Bo Maeve’s only vaguely threatening kidnapping last issue, the Black Canary band is planning for a huge gig and traveling. On one of their stops, Dinah is accosted in the middle of the night by what I assume is the new White Canary and has her blood stolen. As the team arrives at their next gig, it’s revealed that it’s now a battle of the bands, as not one but four of their old rival bands are there to challenge them on stage. It’s all a bit absurd, but in that kind of fun, ridiculous way that really works. We also get some much needed background on the rest of Dinah’s band – meeting the adoring family of one of the members, and getting hints that another member’s family may be much less supportive. The only real member of the cast who feels like they don’t belong is Kurt Lance – but that might be intentional. He’s an outsider who doesn’t really fit into Dinah’s new life.

The appearance of Bo Maeve as a last-second challenger isn’t a big surprise – but her debuting her new synthetic canary cry on stage is. Loving this title and looking forward to where the Black Canary road trip goes next.

Corrina: This book takes a bit of a breather to focus on character and that’s a great thing, especially with Guerra still subbing in for Annie Wu on art. That’s like Aaron Rodgers tapping out for Tom Brady to come in as a sub. Fun fact I learned when talked to Wu and Fletcher at New York Comic Con: each of these bands in the battle of the bands is named after a classic Canary foe. That’s a deep cut and indicative of the care being taken with a character buffeted by being reimagined for the new 52.

Maeve makes a great new antagonist and, hopefully, a new long-term Canary foe. Kurt’s inclusion doesn’t feel forced, and Canary’s juggling of the obligations of family (the band) and superheroing is perfect. Yes, I’ve been won over by a series that I was initially dreading.

Gotham Academy #11, Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher, writers, Karl Kerschl with Msassyk and Mingjue Helen Chen, art

Ray: 9/10

Corrina: Buy It.

Ray: The book’s strength has always been in its quiet character drama and low-key mystery vibe, with the big threats often turning out to be other kids who are less evil than victims of circumstance, like the daughter of Clayface we found out about last issue. So the question is, can this creative team keep up when the story gets very big and very creepy? After reading this issue, the answer is a definite yes. The Gotham Academy crew is going on a field trip to watch Kyle play in a tennis tournament, but Olive and Maps have other plans. They plan to break into the Gotham archives to finally find out the truth behind Olive’s mother’s disappearance. This leads to the girls playing vigilante and sneaking in through a skylight. While Olive looks through the files, Maps meets up with Red Robin – who mistakes her for one of the We Are Robin crew, a role she is more than willing to play along with when she thinks it could mean future team-ups.

But Maps being adorable and a well-written Tim aside, the issue gets serious and creepy in a hurry when Olive finds out the truth. Her mother isn’t the first Calamity. It seems to be some sort of supernatural malady that afflicts every member of their family – and she’s next in line. Calamity then shows up, lighting the building on fire and attempting to drag Olive with her in the creepiest segment this book has done yet. The girls barely escape and get back to Kyle’s game – only to find out he’s gone mysteriously missing. This is one of the best Bat-books, and it looks like it’s going to stick the landing on a much more high-octane storyline. This book deserves a long life.

Corrina: This book is developing into a more static version of the Runaways and I meant that in the best wayHere are children of super-villains except they’re not running away from Gotham, they’re trying to survive inside it. Not an easy proposition, given Gotham is, well, Gotham.

While the book is dealing with parental abandonment and family curses, it also offers a huge dose of fun and that’s usually centered around Maps, who steals every scene she’s in.  Yes, she makes a terrific Robin, and her plan to break into a facility reminded me of young Tim Drake, so their team-up works on several levels, as does the book.

Batman & Robin Eternal #1, James Tynion IV, story, Tim Seeley, script, Paul Pelletier, Scott Eaton, Tony Kordos, Marc Deering, Wayne Faucher, art

Ray: 9/10

Corrina: Buy It. 

Image copyright DC Comics
Image copyright DC Comics

Ray: The mystery deepens as more members of the Bat-family meet Cassandra Cain, and Mother’s forces continue to close in on their targets. When we last left off, Cass had just met Jason Todd, and he promptly pointed a gun in her face. One would expect this fight to be a curb-stomp, given how good Cass is. It doesn’t quite work out that way, as Jason deploys new cyber-armor and fights to kill, almost getting Cass on the ropes before Grayson and Tim show up to derail the fight and explain they’re on the same side.

I justify this by the fact that Cass probably wasn’t expecting any of the Bat-boys to fight to kill, but I still have a quibble that Jason seems a lot more brutal and a lot less smart than he usually does. However, Cass and Steph finally meet this issue, which makes me very happy. Harper collapses from her injuries, so the Bats take her to the Batcave to be patched up, and they try to get more information out of Cass. I’m kind of amused by how clueless the Bat-boys are here, and the girls are totally stealing the show. I’m already looking forward to Harper and Cass exploring the Batcave next issue.

After another brief flashback segment to Dick and Bruce’s fight with the Scarecrow and their first encounter with fear gas, Dick explains what he knows, and it becomes clear that Mother’s next target is the amnesiac Bruce Wayne, who is currently attending a Gotham function and is cornered in the kitchen by an army of assassins. There’s a bit less action in this issue than the last two, but it’s made up for with some great character moments. This series seems really focused and consistent so far, so I’m hopeful it’ll be even smoother and more effective than the first Eternal was.

Corrina: Yes, there’s no way Jason wins against Cassandra. I’ll handwave it as Cassandra not wanting to hurt Jason and instead reaching out to him instead. (This has nothing to do with the fact that Jason is my least favorite Robin. No, nothing at all, right?)

This title moved fast by bringing together Dick, Jason, Tim, Harper, Steph, and Cassandra together already and tossing them into the Batcave, which is a great sequence all on its own. However, the issue reads like a lull between action sequences, with the next one promising to be in the rescuing of Bruce Wayne from an assassin. Hey, who needs Gotham with all these guys, plus the We Are Robin team, plus Batgirl, plus Damian still around and about? (No, Babs hasn’t shown up yet but she should, yes? Damian is less certain.)

I’m still side-eyeing the overall plot of “Bruce was an evil manipulator” of young boys but I’m enjoying the book despite that. Also, is this the Mother from Gail Simone’s run on Birds of Prey? Inquiring minds want to know.

Doctor Fate #5, Paul Levitz and Sonny Liew, storytellers

Ray: 8/10

Corrina: Buy It but needs quicker pacing. 

Ray: This series has been a bit more irregular than some of the best of DC’s more offbeat new wave, but it’s still a compelling and intriguing read, if a bit slow. One of the concepts I like the most about this series is that the idea that even “phenomenal cosmic power” isn’t all that useful if you don’t really know how to use it – as we see when Khalid nearly dies fighting off a team of three pathetic looters using the flood to steal flatscreen TVs.

Khalid’s supporting cast is still pretty strong, although I get a bad vibe off the new romantic rival for Shaya, whose only real character traits seem to be that she’s religious and determined to break up Khalid’s relationship. That’s not a character. Things pick up a good deal in the second half of the issue, when Anubis pays a visit to Khalid’s father in the hospital, leading Khalid to pull him out of there and lead the evil Jackal on a chase through the city. Anubis offers him a deal – he’ll heal Khalid’s father if Khalid surrenders the helmet. Khalid, who never wanted the power, agrees, and Anubis heals his father – only for Anubis to betray him and seemingly blind Khalid. It’s been a bit slow to get here, but I feel like it’s really hitting its groove now. Looking forward to where it goes after the first arc concludes.

Corrina: Khalid’s a great new character, a sort of male Ms. Marvel, thrust into powers that he doesn’t understand. Unlike Kamala Khan, he hasn’t had time to set his feet because he’s been immediately attacked by a mystical enemy. This should be compelling but, unfortunately, the plot seems to be “Khalid uses helmet, learns more, wants to give it up, evil God attacks” not once but several times. There should be more forward momentum by issue #5 but there’s not, reminding me of Levitz’s recent run on World’s Finest where the characterization was good but the stories tended to stall.

However, this is a title that deserves a chance, and characters who deserve to be added to the DC pantheon. Here’s hoping the comic survives and thrives and that Liew continues to deliver the goods on art.

Justice League #45, Geoff Johns, writer, Francis Manapul, artist and cover

Ray: 8.5/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy It.

Ray: Obviously, some big stuff went down last issue – starting with the death of Darkseid at the hands of the Anti-Monitor. In the aftermath, Anti-Monitor and Grail flee, leaving the League to grapple with the new status quo, which comes with some massive new powers for some of them. We already saw Batman take on the power of the Mobius chair and become the new God of Knowledge. Flash has become the new Black Racer, and is struggling to keep two personalities under control, as he attempts to harness the power of living death. The best versions of the Reaper are more a force of nature rather than a villain, and it seems that’s what they’re going for her. Superman, now the God of Strength, seems to have been consumed by his new power and uses it to destroy Luthor’s armor, before exiling him from Earth and leaving him to die on Apokalips. Shazam apparently becomes something called the “God of Gods”, but he has so little page time that we really don’t know what that entails yet.

The really interesting stuff happens when Luthor is captured by some refugees on Apokalips, and lies that he’s a prophesied savior who is said to show up when Darkseid falls. This sounds more like Superman, but the truth never stopped Luthor before. To prove himself, he has to undergo a test of the Omega Effect – and emerges with the powers of Darkseid! Needless to say, things are really hitting the fan now. It’s the kind of story where big things happen that you know won’t stick, but you’re going to enjoy the ride anyway. Next up is the spinoff titles focusing on these new Gods, before the next issue. And we’re only halfway!

Corrina: Ray loves this because it’s a classic Justice League-type story with worlds at stake and many pieces moving, plus it also shows off Johns’ fondness for villains. However, I still don’t care about Lex Luthor, I’ve seen Darkseid stories one too many times lately, and while having the League transformed into New Gods is interesting, it also makes them all deeply unpleasant and arrogant.

Just what I want in my heroes.

Serious DC fans are probably lapping this up with a spoon but I’m just seeing more of what I’ve seen gone before and it’s not holding my interest. However, there is the Manapul art and that manages to suck me into the story despite my cynicism.

Bizarro #5, Heath Corson, writer, Gustave Duarte, artist

Ray: 8/10

Corrina: Buy It if you’re a long time DC reader.

Ray: As this oddball mini approaches its close, it shifts genre once again and becomes a heist/prison break adventure. Last month saw Jimmy and Bizarro at the mercy of ARGUS agents as they were finally cornered. Turns out the agents don’t want to arrest them, though – they want their help to break into Area 51 and get their hands on the technology within. The story jumps back and forth a lot, starting with Jimmy and Bizarro heading to Las Vegas to stay at a Lexcorp Hotel, where Bizarro proves to be a secret savant at poker, winning them a giant stack of money – which he promptly blows on fancy suits.

Unfortunately, while there he picks up Jimmy’s cell phone and winds up overhearing his boss talking badly about Bizarro, furthering his belief that he’s being played. Inside Area 51 as prisoners after a snafu, Bizarro picks a fight with Kilowog’s bully of a cousin – only to be bailed out by the fact that his Chupacabra is the scariest thing in the universe. They wage an exciting escape – with a surprise art cameo by Rafael Albuquerque – but Colin leaves to be with his fellow aliens, and Jimmy and Bizarro have a massive falling out over what Bizarro heard, leaving Jimmy stranded alone in the desert. With only one issue to go, will the bromance be restored? This has been a fun series so far, and I’ll definitely miss it after next month.

Corrina: Duarte’s art specializes in over-exaggerated characters and actions and that works perfectly for a humor title. The team has been having fun playing with different tropes throughout the series, like the town stuck in time, or the road trip, and this one is the great escape. It’s a lot of fun, especially the confrontation with General Sam Lane who’s in charge of the alien “holding facility” but Bizarro’s backwards speak is beginning to wear on me and the humor could wear thin on a continuing series, so it’s probably for the best that the series ends next issue. It’s been a great trip and I’m thrilled DC allowed humor comics into its line again.

Green Lantern: Lost Army #5, Cullen Bunn, writer, Javier Pina, artist (though he doesn’t have a cover credit.)

Ray: 7/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy It.

Ray: This series, now retconned as a miniseries, is pretty much the definition of a decent GL story. There’s nothing really bad about it, and it’s fairly exciting throughout, but it’s also not breaking any new ground. What it essentially breaks down to is a big-scale prison break. The few remaining GL Corps members have been captured by the Lightsmiths and are being harvested for their GL energy. The only one small enough to escape is B’dg, the GL squirrel who is able to sneak into the storeroom and get them their rings back. Those that don’t have rings are given light-staffs, the primitive weapon from the past universe. A big battle with the evil army ensues, and J’ruk is struck down in battle. All looks lost, until Krona and Relic show up with their ship, rescuing their allies that will one day become their enemies. The GLs head for the one safe haven in this universe – Mogo – only to find that it’s already come under attack by the Lightsmiths. It’s a solid, exciting read that promises to have a big finale, although I’m ready for the GLs to come home.

Corrina: Hey, another Great Escape issue! That makes two this week. This was my favorite issues of this series so far, so perhaps I’m just a sucker for Great Escapes or perhaps it’s because the pacing quickens and it looks like the end-game to our heroes being lost is in sight.

Those who like the animated Green Lantern will find John Stewart’s characterization close to that one, complete with military flashbacks, though I’m not sure showing him as a killing machine adds that much to his characterization. Overall, this is a book just for Green Lantern fans but it’s being done competently, unlike some other titles below. ::cough:: Wonder Woman::cough:::

Yes, we've reached a new low in Superman/Wonder Woman, image copyright DC Comics.
Yes, we’ve reached a new low in Superman/Wonder Woman, image copyright DC Comics.

Superman/Wonder Woman #22, Peter J. Tomasi, story and words, Doug Mahnke, penciller, Jamie Mendoza, Sean Parsons & Johnny DesJardins, inkers

Ray: 3/10

Corrina: No. Just, No.

Ray: Easily the weakest of the stories in the new Superman status quo, the bigger problem might be that this is simply a title that doesn’t work on any level and not even talented writers like Soule or Tomasi can save it. The main issue seems to be that this title brings out the worst in anyone. In most of the other books, Lois Lane’s side of the story is shown in a sympathetic light. Here she gets punched out by Lana Lang. In other titles, Superman is more concerned with the villains stalking him than he is with his powers. Here he’s literally willing to throw himself into the sun to get his powers back. He’s also willing to make some sort of deal with Parasite, apparently. We’re supposed to be invested in Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship, so when Superman tells Diana that he’s not sure he loves her anymore, we care. But we’ve given no reason to do so. Their fight just makes me hopeful that maybe there won’t be need for this title anymore and we can stop watching great writers try to save this concept.

Corrina: This title has, from the beginning, not just been so much the weakest of the Superman titles but one of the weakest the DCU puts out and no matter how much talent is thrown at the concept, it never seems to work. But it’s reached new lows this issue with Lana Lang punching out Lois, something that seems from a Silver Age comic with Lois and Lana fighting over who gets to marry Superman. Yes, we’ve gone back there, though it’s not about marriage this time. Thanks, whoever made this editorial edict. Not.

But, hey, Superman is just as bad, an unlikeable jerk obsessed with getting his powers back and willing to break all his own rules to do it, like making a deal with Parasite or telling Wonder Woman he doesn’t love her while he’s in the midst of doing something stupid. Oddly, Diana comes off somewhat okay this issue with her “hey, let’s talk about it when you’re not busy plunging your ship into the son.”

But Clark isn’t a mean person. He never has been. He is here and that’s sad.

Doomed #5 – Scott Lobdell, writer, Javier Fernandez, artist

Ray: 3/10

Corrina: Avoid.

Ray: There’s a glimmer of an interesting concept in this title, in the idea of two roommates, each with their own secret identity, dancing around each other to preserve their secret. That could be a lot of fun – in a title that was much better than this book. Instead, this book drums all the fun out of that concept by making the two guys as mopey as possible, particularly Roman, who is possessed by some sort of ancient Roman spirit and becomes Alpha Centurion. The main plot of the issue is Superman tracking down Reiser to bring the Doomsday infection under control, which mainly consists of recapping Doomsday’s origin, and then getting into a pointless slugfest when Reiser loses control of himself and attacks.

Then Alpha Centurion shows up, because his mission is to fight monsters, and they fight – and then a bigger monster bursts out of the Earth to fight all of them. The best thing I can say for this title is that it’s a bad comic in a harmless way that doesn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth – which is more than I can say for two other books.

Corrina: Yay, Alpha Centurion is included! Boo, Alpha Centurion is written as a jerk.

Yay, Superman shows up to help Reiser sort through his transformations. Boo, Superman is busy being a jerk.

Yay, we find out more about why Reiser transforms. Boo, we don’t find anything new.

This is a story with elements that should be interesting but works out to be awful instead. But, as Ray said, it could be worse.

page from WW #45. No, he never gets more interesting. Image copyright DC Comics
page from WW #45. No, he never gets more interesting. Image copyright DC Comics

Wonder Woman #45 -Meredith Finch, writer, David Finch, penciller, Brad Anderson, colors.

Ray: 2/10

Corrina: Double Ugh.

Ray: Well, I guess I have to eat a little crow. I’ve felt that this title was getting better for a few issues, while Corrina insisted that it was just as terrible. Well, every bit of good will I had for this title was sucked out with this relentlessly ugly issue that fridges one likable female character and wants us to believe it fridged a second. Aegeus continues to be a fairly pathetic villain, more like a jealous frat boy than a serious threat, but the amusing novelty of this wears off quickly when you see him grovel before the mystery Goddess who is pulling his strings. Donna, meanwhile, is bonding more with her new blue-haired friend and learning about London, when her friend’s evil boyfriend comes back and starts beating her up. Donna tries to interfere, and her friend gets killed in the process via a blow to the head. Donna wants to kill the guy, but Diana shows up to stop her, and Donna decides that Diana is to blame for everything. Donna doesn’t have time to take it out on Diana, though, because Aegeus shows up and tries to shoot Diana – but hits Donna instead, apparently turning her to stone. It’s then revealed that the Goddess of Peace is the one behind everything for some reason. I’m a fan of mythologically-based stories, but the ugliness in this issue is just completely unsuited for a good Wonder Woman story. Fortunately there’s Sensation Comics out there for a few more issues.

Corrina: I was skeptical of Meredith Finch taking over as writer, given her limited experience, but despite what I said in previous reviews, she has improved and has remembered Diana’s compassion. But a major title like WW is not a place to practice and David Finch’s cheesecake-heavy art doesn’t help her storylines. Perhaps with another artist, this book might be passable.

Or so I thought until this issue when what looked like a breath of fresh air last issue and some fine characterization of Donna and her new friend, are simply blown up. The new adversary remains a screaming idiot, and it’s all just awful. Ray recommended Sensation Comics but for those looking for well-written Wonder Woman, try DC Bombshells too.

Teen Titans #12 – Scott Lobdell and Will Pfeiffer, writers, pencils by Ian Churchill, inks by Norm Rapmund

Ray: 1/10

Corrina: Triple Ugh.

Ray: So, today DC released the best Teen Titans comic in the New 52. And they also released this. I don’t know who thought bringing Scott Lobdell back on this title was a good idea, but it soon becomes clear why he’s co-writing. Because this issue is a massive throwback to the horrible earlier TT run, complete with all the Titans being criminals of some sort and the return of one of the worst villains in DC history, Harvest. The four core Titans – the ones calling themselves Red Robin, Kid Flash, Superboy, and Wonder Girl, although only the first really resembles the character at all. The others are either mass murderers of some sort, or some bizarre callback to 90s symbiotes. They argue a lot, recap their origins, and give a lot of exposition until Harvest shows up, rants a lot, and convinces Superboy to go back into stasis for some reason. The people who ship Tim/Kon will find a lot of ammo in this issue, as Tim tries to convince Kon not to give up on himself, but the problem is these versions of the characters don’t have much of a believable relationship. In general, this issue feels like an attempt to make us care about terrible versions of beloved characters who, at this point, really need to go away. Bringing the Lobdell run back up like this was possibly the worst move the title could have made. At this point, I really don’t know if the TT property, at least this generation, can be saved before the next reboot.

Corrina: Hey look, it’s a recap of all the lousy storylines that have been featured in this book since the new 52 relaunch. How fun. Um, not. It’s readable, but it only serves to show just how bad these new characters have been and why this series has fallen apart.

I guess/hope our new versions of Superboy, Kid Flash and Wonder Girl are going to vanish. Pretty please, and can they take Harvest with them?

Bonus Reviews!

Clean Room, image via Vertigo/DC Comics.
Clean Room, image via Vertigo/DC Comics.

Clean Room #1 by Gail Simone, writer and Jon Davis-Hunt, artist & colorist

Corrina: Buy It!

I will never look at white Teddy Bears the same again.

That’s a testament to not only the strength of the horror in this debut issue but also my overactive imagination. This issue has gore but it’s well-placed. Instead, the iconic image is going to be that white Teddy covered in blood. Essentially, there is some otherwordly monster insinuiating itself into the brains of certain people and this world’s version of Scientology is a large part of it. To say more would be spoiling but if you love horror stories, you want this book.

Ray’s Out-of-Continuity Reviews:
Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Four #12 – written by Brian Buccello, art by Mark S. Miller.
6/10
Year Four concludes not with a bang but with a lot of haggling, as Zeus consolidates his hold on Earth and seems to be making plans to rule it as an absolute monarch, while the governments of Earth launch nuclear missiles at Themysrica as a last-ditch attempt to destroy him.
Things are resolved when Superman returns from Apokalips to destroy the nukes, and Highfather arrives on Earth to meet with Zeus and convince him to leave Earth. It’s only the reveal that the Source Wall itself disapproves of Zeus’ actions that convinces him to leave and return the Earth to Superman. Batman goes deep underground again, while Superman issues a new ultimatum to the governments of earth and regains his role as absolute ruler. Meanwhile, Luthor’s Bizarro project gets loose, leading into the final year. I’m hoping this series rebounds a bit with the finale.
Batman: Arkham Knight Genesis #3 – written by Peter J. Tomasi, art by Dexter Soy.
5/10
This issue finally reveals the full origin of Jason in the Arkham Knight world, and it’s an ugly story, even more so than the one from the comics. In this version, Jason got jumped by the Joker, captured, and taken to Arkham Asylum. Instead of being killed like in most versions, Jason was tortured by Joker and attacked by the entire rogues’ gallery while he was hidden away in the Asylum, but he never broke – at least not until he had been there for six months, and Joker showed him footage of Batman with a new Robin. That’s where his mind snapped and he became the madman we now see working with Scarecrow. It’s certainly a grim origin, but it lacks a little something compared to Jason’s classic origin. Some stories just don’t need a grittier update.
Disclaimer: Corrina received these copies for review purposes. 
Ray Goldfield is a Writer/Editor for Grayhaven Comics, as well as the author of two novels currently in editing. A comic fan for over 20 years, particularly of DC and Superman, Batman, and the Teen Titans. Now that Cassandra Cain is coming back, he will not rest until DC greenlights a Young Justice: Season Three comic. 

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.