‘We Are Robin’–Gotham’s Own Takes Control

Welcome to our weekly reviews of DC Comics releases. Ray Goldfield is the prototypical DC reader, while I’m the voice of those who have to be truly convinced to buy something.

This week, we continue to have a serious disagreement about the merits of the political satire, Prez, but remain solid in support of the Gotham-centric titles, especially Gotham By Midnight and We Are Robin. As for other superhero-led titles, this wasn’t a good week for second tier characters. Ray also takes a look at at the digital-first Batman ’66 comic at the end of the post.

For our review of the wedding issue of Batgirl, check out our spotlight post.

page from Prez #5. copyright DC Comics
page from Prez #5. copyright DC Comics

Prez #5 – Mark Russell, writer, Ben Caldwell, penciller, Mark Morales, inker
 
Ray: 2/10
 
Corrina: Buy It!
 
Ray: I am really not sure what this comic is supposed to be or who it’s supposed to be for. The previous issue felt like a liberal wish-fulfillment comic of a President who took on big business, outlawed drones, and looked after the little guy. This issue almost feels like an arch-conservative parody of that President.

I mean, Beth Ross embarks on an actual apology tour. She goes to Vietnam, Nicaragua, Iraq – even Japan – to ask for forgiveness for America’s sins. She meets with “insurgents” in Pakistan to try to make peace between them and the government – although the nature of their insurgency is never really explained, making it more of a talking point than anything else. In addition, the series goes into some odd conspiracy territory, implying that pharmaceutical corporations are keeping cures for major diseases (in this case, Cat Flu) locked away from the public in order to enhance their bottom line.

Then there’s a strange subplot involving a war droid that goes rogue, finds refuge in a Church, and tries to become human. I’ll salute DC for trying something new with this book, but unlike the also odd Omega Men, this one didn’t come together into a compelling narrative so much as a strange collection of political jokes.

Corrina: What Ray sees as a strange collection of jokes, I see as incisive political satire just one degree off from what’s currently happening, especially if you read the election news. For instance, anything involving Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

As for the odd political conspiracy, that’s exactly how business speculation works. Stocks go up more on the promise of something than the actual thing, especially if the actual thing isn’t certain to be a success yet. Heck, Amazon stock kept going up when it was losing money. There’s also truth in the fact that drug companies often make more money in drugs like Viagra or acne medicine than they do with life-saving cures. So, the extrapolation worked for me.

The entire comic works for me, especially as there’s an interesting struggle with the man who used to kill people with the drones having to reassess his life. We already do have people using drones to kill, though under strict supervision and with (I hope!) care. But drones are freely available now and it’s not a big step to think they might be used in private security.

This is an experimental book, that’s true, but it’s also an insightful one. For anyone with an interest in politics, it’s well worth reading.

We Are Robin #5 – Lee Bermejo, story, Jorge Corona, art

Ray: 9.5/10 (Book of the Week)

Corrina: Buy It!

Ray: One of the things that’s always fascinated me about Gotham is the heroes who live below the radar, in the sections of Gotham that don’t get as much attention from the heroes. That’s where We Are Robin hits on something brilliant, creating a team of young heroes who are really by the people, for the people.

The first few issues were a bit chaotic, as sans Duke we didn’t know anything about these characters. That’s been changing over the last few issues, as we got to see more about Riko last issue and this issue turns the focus on Izzy, a girl who has been fighting against the streets longer than most of the Robins. Namely, the streets in the form of her brother, a violent gang member who is obsessed with getting her to join his second “Family” and isn’t above using violence to get his way. Not surprisingly, this makes Izzy one of the more hardened of the Robins and very dedicated to the cause.

The Robins continue to deal with the fallout from Troy’s death two issues ago, and the issue has a really nice scene dealing with the psychological impact of growing up in a city full of monsters and psychopaths. Things take a more dramatic turn midway through when Alfred, in disguise as the leader of “The Nest” pays a visit remotely to the Robins to brief them on the mission and let them know what comes next. In many ways, this title is as much Alfred’s story as it is the Robins’, showing us what comes next for him now that Bruce’s mission is over and all Alfred’s learned in his time as the Batman’s right hand is turned towards a different purpose. And did I mention that the Court of Owls is skulking around, killing homeless people and recruiting new soldiers? It’s all leading up to the coming Robin War, which will hopefully get this excellent title the attention it needs to boost its sales.

page from We Are Robin #5, copyright DC Comics
page from We Are Robin #5, copyright DC Comics

Corrina: Ah, so that was the Court of Owls at the end? I wasn’t certain.

It strikes me that this team is basically a whole batch of Jason Todds–the forgotten kids of Gotham who want to do something with their lives but they’re trapped by family circumstances and even by Gotham’s history. Like Todd, becoming a costumed force-for-good improves their lives. They already have targets on their back and they’re turning the tables to take control instead.

It’s also a disparate group, from Duke Thomas to Izzy, to the Robin with a mob connection. It’s their common desire to do something meaningful that unites them, something Alfred discovered when he formed them.

Still, Alfred’s involvement makes me concerned. One, he should know that violence isn’t always the answer. While the point of view here is that he’s giving these kids a higher purpose (and that’s true enough), he’s using the same methods he used to criticize Batman for: that violence is the way to salvation. In the 1970s, Bruce Wayne was as concerned with the Wayne Foundation and using money and social programs to address problems in Gotham’s lawless areas as he was with beating up bad guys.  I wonder if we’ll see these Robins put to use as other than foot soldiers at some point. I hope so.

Gotham by Midnight #10, Ray Fawkes, writer, Juan Ferreyra, artist

Ray:- 8.5/10

Corrina: Buy It.

Ray: Ferreyra’s art on this title is one of the best things to happen to it, giving it a perfectly creepy pulp horror vibe that is much clearer and more capable at portraying the fast-paced storytelling in this arc than Templesmith’s more abstract style was.

Last issue, things went from bad to worse for the Midnight Squad, as Jim Corrigan, under interrogation from internal affairs, allowed the Spectre to come out and rip apart two innocent police officers. Corrigan is confused and covered in blood when we pick up, leading Detective Drake to try to rush him out of there to safety while their fellow officers pursue them. Ignoring the fact that they’re essentially trying to run down the wrath of God in a car chase, they lead them on a fast-paced run through Gotham, ending in an explosive finale that leaves our two lead characters’ fates in question with only two issues to go. There aren’t many questions answered here, but the growing mystery of the Spectre’s true nation is fascinating. Maybe even better is the B-plot, as Dr. Tarr investigates the strange urban legend growing in the Narrows – and finds that his late friend Sister Justine may not be totally gone after all. There’s a creepy, haunting vibe to this issue that is very reminiscent of one of my favorite titles from DC past, Simon Dark.

Why do all the cool, creepy Gotham titles never last?

Corrina: Yes, we’re nearing the end of this title and it feels like we’ve only scratched the surface of what it could be. For instance, where’s our mystical Ragman? Would his Jewish origin have clashed with the religious powers of Sister Justine?

So many stories left in this concept.

Corrigan/ Spectre has always been a wild card, from uber-powerful enough to move planets to the current Spirit of Vengeance, but the notion that Corrigan’s own darkness and anger is causing the Spectre to kill is a new one and raises all kinds of questions. Is he truly in control or not? Lisa Drake’s desperation and fear come across all too clearly as she attempts to protect everyone, even Corrigan. Everyone, that is, save herself, as the last panel sequence with the car going off the bridge makes clear.

I loved Templesmith’s art. I love this art. Both have their strengths. Ferreyra is particularly good at faces and just the right amount of gore.

Robin, Son of Batman #5 – Patrick Gleason, script and pencils, Mick Gray, inks.

Ray: 8.5/10

Corrina: Buy It

Ray: The team changes up this issue, as the odd group of Damian, Maya, and Goliath gets a new member – in the form of Damian’s mother, Talia. After a recap of some more of Damian’s conquests during the year of blood, we catch up with him as he attempts to return another of the artifacts he stole – only to be met by a mysterious swordswoman who fights him to a standstill before revealing herself to be Talia. Damian is in no mood to make amends with the woman who killed him, although I will say that any attempt this title is making to walk back the villainization of Talia in Morrison’s run is very welcome. She attempts to stop him from returning the article, but Damian is determined – only for it to turn out for Talia to have a very good reason.

The artifact resurrects Den Darga, an evil supernatural priest who is determined to wipe out every last trace of Al Ghul blood on the planet. He activates the temple’s self-destruct and collapses into an ocean volcano, leading our heroes to escape via an elaborate and thrilling scene that reminds me a lot of Indiana Jones. That’s one of the best things this title has going for it – the high adventure vibe. In addition, I am still really enjoying the dynamic between the three main characters, and I’m curious to see how Talia’s presence affects it. I did find the new villain a bit lacking in personality and motivation, though, coming across as more of a generic evil maniac. Still, there may be room to grow here, but this is one of DC’s more enjoyable titles.

Corrina: This book has been hit and miss for me, as while Damian’s characterization is clear, the story sometimes indulges in panel or storytelling jumps that can make it hard to follow. Not so this issue, which could serve as a jumping on point for new readers.

The most poignant scene is the one in the preview, where Damian introduces Maya to his “brothers,” his mutated clones who are now happy, if not exactly carefree. It’s a sweet moment with a character who is anything but, which makes Darga’s attack on them all the more vicious.

I never liked Morrison’s Talia or how she seemed so one-note and ruthless in her pursuit of…wait, I’m not quite sure what she was after at a certain point, besides seeming to want to destroy her son and Batman. Perhaps the Lazarus Pit corrupted her mind after some time and now it’s right. I’m not certain but her appearance here works.

Grayson #13 – script, Tim Seeley, plot by Tim Seeley and Tom King, pencils, Mikel Janin, inks, Hugo Petrus,

Ray: 8/10

Corrina: Buy It.

Ray: After last issue’s detour to reveal Dick’s status as not-dead to his friends and family, it’s back to work for Agent Grayson. The issue kicks off with a segment that’s gotten quite a bit of flack, as Dick is strip-searched upon re-entry to Spyral. The scene is very tongue-in-cheek, but I can see why it’s ruffled a few feathers.

Thankfully, it’s back to business shortly after as Dick is paired with Agent Tiger on a high-seas mission. Tiger Shark is back, and the high-stakes pirate has set his eyes on a civilian vessel and the valuable rug it has on board. The vessel plans to return it to the tribe it belongs to, but Tiger Shark has other plans. Janin’s art is fantastic as always, especially in the fast-paced scene where Dick takes to the masts and defeats Tiger Shark in acrobatic style. The banter between Dick and Tiger is great, and it’s always great to see a well-written Tim make a guest appearance. There’s an intriguing new mystery teased, involving a mysterious woman, a Spyral Agent, who has been spying on Batman and
Robin for years.

I will say my interest flagged a bit when we shifted to the God Garden in a subplot dealing with Ladytron. Steve Orlando may have been able to spin gold out of Midnighter, but that’s the exception and most Wildstorm characters don’t hold my interest. Grayson is still one of the densest books on the stands, and that usually works in its favor, including in this issue. Even with one dud of a subplot, the issue is enjoyable.

The page that caused some debate on Twitter. copyright DC Comics
The page that caused some debate on Twitter. copyright DC Comics

Corrina: The title has done a smart thing in allowing Janin to showcase Dick’s romantic appeal, especially earlier in the run with a lovely dance sequence, and the meta-commentary as Dick fought, well, himself. This is a creative team that knows Dick is considered the sexiest man in DC Comics.

It went over the line this issue with the fan service. The strip search, fine, but the fact that the female scientist is smiling over his naked body while supposedly doing something professional was creepy, not funny, to me. Maybe it was meant to be? If the scene had been with a woman, and a male doctor was joking about enjoying examining her assets, it would have been a problem too. It was a minor annoyance, but I think there are limits to the fan service I’m willing to tolerate for any character and insinuating a grope of someone naked because a doctor just can’t help it hit mine.

But, back to Pirate Dick on the high seas taking down the enemy, a terrific sequence. Like on Midnighter, I lose track from month to month of the overall goal of the series. Does Dick feel his services are best used while working for Spyral, not that the mission given to him by Bruce is over? Well, he is buying time while the rest of the Bat-crew works on a solution. There’s that.

Justice League – The Darkseid War: Batman #1 – Peter J. Tomasi, story and words, Fernando Pasarin, penciller, Matt Ryan, Inker,
 
Ray: 9/10
 
Corrina: Don’t Buy It.
 
Ray: Pete Tomasi has long been one of the best Batman writers on the stands, even though his work with Robin tends to get more attention. However, he has the perfect balance in his Batman of the obsessed crusader for justice with the more human touches that make Batman who he is. This is essentially a “lost story” taking place before Endgame, like all of Justice League’s current arc, so it feels a bit out of step with the rest of the Bat-line, but that doesn’t stop it from being an exceptional Batman story.

As we know, Batman is now the God of knowledge and in possession of the Mobius Chair. To no one’s surprise, he’s used this to enhance his war on crime, sensing people’s intentions to commit crime and dealing out karmic punishments before they can ever hurt anyone. A trio of would-be armed robbers are dropped in Antarctica with barely enough resources to survive until rescue. A violent drunk planning to murder his ex is teleported to Themysrica and left in the hands of Amazons who have no tolerance for his type. Both Alfred and Gordon do their part to try to get him to hold on to his humanity and realize that he can’t be a full-time guardian of utopia, but the temptation of the Mobius Chair is too strong – especially when he believes it can finally give him closure on his parents’ murder. He tracks down Joe Chill in prison and puts him through a twisted “This is your life”, leaving him terrified and cowering when he returns, with no memory of what he’s learned.

That resolved, Batman turns his attention to his next mission – tracking down the Joker once and for all. This issue may be unusual territory for Batman, and could have gone very wrong in the hands of a lesser writer. But under Tomasi, it’s a story that shows just how compelling a character can be in a unique, atypical situation.

Corrina: Not so compelling for me. Batman with limitless power is an interesting idea but other than the conversation with Gordon about the misuse of power, the issue mostly bored me.

Perhaps it’s because I see Batman less as a man driven to vengeance than I see him as Gotham’s Guardian. Bruce’s confrontation with Joe Chill was drawn from a classic Batman sequence in which Batman reveals his identity to Chill. I realize this was a homage to that original sequence but I thought it added nothing to it. I wanted to see Batman do more than revisit his greatest hits.

It’s not a bad story but it’s also not a story that interested me. Much like this entire Darkseid War sequence.

Sinestro #16 – Cullen Bunn, writer, Pencils, Brad Walker and Ethan Van Sciver, inks, Drew Hennessy and Van Sciver.

Ray: 8/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy It.

Ray: I haven’t been the biggest fan of the last few issues of Sinestro, finding them a bit spinning in place in the aftermath of Sinestro’s takeover of the galactic security forces. However, this issue takes him and his inner circle back to Earth to meet with one of his allies during Forever Evil – Black Adam.

I’ve always been a fan of the ruthless but honorable Adam, especially under Johns and writers who take their cues from him. It seems that Black Adam fought the Paling in the future, and as Sinestro plans for war against the emotion-leeching villains, he seeks Adam’s council. Adam at first seems more interested in showing off the ruthless way he rules his country and how everyone defers to him, and it’s kind of amusing to see the freakish Corps members try to fit in at a royal celebration. Then. Sinestro and Black Adam are off on a quest into the royal tombs of Khandaq, where they discover the truth behind the leader of the Paling who Adam killed ages ago – it’s a Guardian of the Universe. And he’s not dead anymore. It’s funny, but out of all the GL titles right now, the one that feels the most like a classic GL title – is the one starring the villain.

Corrina: I haven’t read Forever Evil, didn’t know Sinestro and Black Adam were acquainted, and while this issue has terrific artwork, especially in the sequence where Black Adam literally lords it over a party, this book still doesn’t grab me. Sinestro brings his entire corps to a party on Earth? Aren’t they supposed to be patrolling the galaxy somehow? And, yes, Adam talks a great deal about how he has to show Sinestro the story of his battle with their mutual enemy, but it seemed like filler that they had to spend the issue being pleasant at parties rather than getting to the main event. I guess it depends on how much you like the Black Adam/Sinestro team-up.

Batman and Robin Eternal #4 – James Tynion IV & Scott Snyder, story, Steve Orlando, script, Scot Eaton, pencils

Ray: 7.5/10

Corrina: If reading this comic, buy it. If not, skip.

Ray: Orlando’s first issue as script writer still has a lot of good things going for it, but there’s some worrisome bits about characterization slipping in there that threaten to blow a lot of the good will this comic has going for it.

When we last left off, Bruce Wayne was surrounded by an army of Mother’s agents wielding axes – at his own welcome-back party. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem for him, except that his fighting skills went away with his memories. Fortunately, Dick is on hand to bail him out, and Bruce briefly recognizes the voice of “Mr. Sparrow” from Grayson when he does. Dick is outnumbered, but the playing field is evened when the Robins gang shows up, crossing over with the Bat-family proper for the first time. It’s a fun, dynamic action scene, and I really like the interaction between Dick and Duke as a mutual respect between the two Brotherhoods of Robins develops.

The big problem in this issue is one of characterization, namely of Stephanie Brown and her perception of Cassandra Cain. Between yelling for Harper to zap her and drag her back, and referring to her as “barely even a person”, there’s an ugly streak to her personality that matches the murderous instincts of Jason towards Cass in the previous issue. Given how close Cass and Steph were in the previous continuity, that’s disappointing – but I will say Harper and Cass’ growing friendship is a lot of fun. As for the cliffhanger, showing Tim may be in league with Mother – well, I’ll take it with a grain of salt just like I did the first issue’s cliffhanger. At least we’ll find some interesting things out about Tim that will contradict Lobdell’s take. Not a bad issue, but this series needs to sort out its characterization if it wants to set up a new Birds of Prey here.

Corrina: The fight sequence between Dick, the Robins, and the Mother-controlled guest went on a little too long for me, and the infighting between Jason, Steph, Harper and Cass grated on me. I suppose with a weekly series with multiple creators, it’s to be expected that I like some issues less than other.

This is one of those I like less, though I like the pacing of the overall series, as they move from one crisis to the other, and that this Tim Drake is closer to his original characterization than any in a long time. But I object to Dick just being the pretty, acrobatic one. This is a character who historically has shown the ability to be a master strategist and, even in Scott Snyder’s Batman run, a formidable detective in his own right.

Those are kinda quibbles, as I’m hooked on this series and expect to remain so.

Cyborg #4 – David F. Walker, writer, Ivan Reis, layouts, Felipe Watanabe, penciller, Scott Hanna & Wayne Faucher, inks

Ray: 7/10

Corrina: Cyborg fans, yes.

Ray: After a very promising first two issues, this title is losing me a bit. David Walker’s characterization of Victor Stone is great, but the title feels like it’s dropping us in the middle of an event comic when the book’s barely started, quickly throwing multiversal aggressors and alternate versions of characters at us right out of the gate. Last issue ended with Sarah Charles – or a second version of her – stepping out of a portal and revealing that she was the one that “killed” Victor in the Convergence preview story. (Which, by the way, the fact that those previews were only available in unrelated Convergence titles and play major roles in the story is a big failure of DC marketing for this new line)

She reveals that the reason she’s out for blood is because she came from a world where it was Silas Stone and his wife who were injured in the accident, and Silas’ obsession with fixing his wife led to experiments that unleashed a techno-plague on the world. Beyond that, the issue is full of action and fast-paced, but it doesn’t advance the story all that much. Reis is already down to layouts, with Filipe Watanabe filling in on pencils. With Reis taking a break on art and Walker doing two new titles at Marvel soon, I wonder how long this creative team is going to last.

Corrina: It’s issue four and we’re already up to a cross-universe invasion of unstoppable cyborgs that threaten the world, never mind a cranky alternate universe version of one of Vic’s closest friends. Usually, I like stories that move fast but, in this case, the plot hasn’t allowed me time to get to know any of the characters well, not even Victor.

I also noticed the change on art (though this isn’t the only book where that’s happened this week). I want this book to succeed. Victor Stone is a compelling character and that it’s focused on the relationship between father and son is a great hook. But I fear while it’s fun and readable, it hasn’t shown the high quality as yet needed to break out from the pack.

Aquaman #45 – Cullen Bunn, writer, Trevor McCarthy, penciller, John Dell, Art Thibert & Vicente Cifuentes, inkers

Ray: 7/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy It.

Ray: Last issue’s creepy detour into Aquaman getting raped by deception is swept under the rug as expected, and that’s probably for the best as I wasn’t expecting this title to deal with the heavy implications.

Instead, Arthur finds himself wounded, poisoned, and stranded on an alien planet. It quickly becomes a battle to survive as he finds himself surrounded by alien beasts. It’s only due to the intervention of some locals that he survives, and wakes up in their care. This mysterious planet soon turns out to have ties to Thule, as one of the hideous War Engines shows up, wreaking havoc. Once the danger is past, Arthur is welcomed by the alien society and shown their city, although he can’t understand their language. It soon becomes clear that this society fought a previous battle with Thule – and they know Aquaman from there, from the world before Atlantis sank. There’s a lot of information to absorb in this issue, and it doesn’t all entirely work, but it’s a new start for this comic that has a good amount of promise. Looking forward to finding out more about this world.

Corrina: The aliens and their world are eye-popping and the best part of this issue, as McCarthy shines. But I was a bit lost in all of it. This is a complicated storyline with Thule already, an alternate world-in-exile run by those who want to destroy our civilization for theirs, and throwing a new world into it, as well as making Aquaman their time-lost is making it harder to follow.

As for Aquaman and his rape by deception, yes, that’s brushed under the rug, as these things often are and shouldn’t be. When I sorted out my collection a few years ago, I discovered that I had collected every Aquaman run since the Aparo issues in the 1970s. Yet, if I were buying this run, I’d have stopped numerous issues ago.

Deathstroke #11 – written by Tony S. Daniel and James Bonny, art by Tyler Kirkham.

Ray: 6/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy It.

Ray: After the disaster of the previous arc, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this issue. It’s not particularly good, per se, but at least it’s a fast-paced, energetic action comic that delivers what it claims to – pitting Deathstroke against the Suicide Squad in Belle Reve. When the issue picks up, Deathstroke is retraining his fighting style to account for the eye he ripped out last issue, when he gets word that his daughter’s house has been targeted. When he gets there, he finds a body – but it’s not Rose, rather another girl made to look like her with a message taunting him. The message makes clear that this is an old grudge from his Suicide Squad days, so he goes to attack Belle Reve and hunt down the Squad. A big battle ensues, with a little too much gore for my tastes, but the Squad is written fairly well, especially Deadshot.

Overall, this comic still seems to be a thinly veiled excuse to have Deathstroke blow things up and stab people, but at least it’s finding more entertaining excuses for this now. Hopefully once Deathstroke finds Rose, they’ll actually give her some characterization unlike most of her appearances in the New 52 – I miss Johns’ Ravager.

Corrina: I agree with Ray that this comic is an excuse to have Slade kill people and blow things up. I disagree that this is a more entertaining excuse. At first, I thought Rose was dead but, no, it’s another woman. That does not make it any more interesting to me, as using Rose as bait is one of the least interesting things that could be done with Rose Wilson.

I also don’t understand what the heck the whole battle is about. Or why this comic exists.

New Suicide Squad #13 – Sean Ryan, writer, Philippe Briones, artist

Ray: 5/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy It.

Ray: One of the biggest problems with this story is that it seems like plots that should be very simple tend to drag on and on, long past when they’re still suspenseful. There’s a kernel of an interesting idea in this comic, dealing with the metahuman drug trade and the Squad’s attempt to infiltrate it.

This quickly descends into their infiltration falling apart and them winding up against an army of roided-out thugs. The Squad’s individual subplots continue to linger, with Deadshot having a nagging injury and Harley being unable to find any joy in her killing after traumatizing the kids during the last arc. However, most of the main developments this issue go to Waller, who finds a conspiracy between the corporation she works for and the Lazarus Pit mining op, causing her to go rogue. When Sage finds this out, he detonates all the squad’s bomb implants – which is probably one of the laziest cliffhangers I’ve seen in a long time. Yes, I’m sure the entire squad is dead next issue. This title is far from DC’s worst, but it’s just forgettable at this point.

Corrina: Waller jumped to conclusions at light speed, deducing an international conspiracy from a label. Um, okay. I’m guessing the creative team wanted any excuse to use her in the field. But, in the field, Waller is just another gun-totting badass and far less unique that her previous incarnation as the Squad’s controlling boss, always one step ahead of everyone else. No, I never needed a pretty Waller. I need an interesting Waller.

I liked the idea of a metahuman drug trade but it seems to me that sending in the Suicide Squad undercover might not be the best way to spy on people. And, no, the Squad isn’t dead. Note: unlike Ray, I do like Harley’s lingering sadness.

The Flash #45 – Robert Venditti & Van Jensen, writers, Brett Booth, Vicente Cifuentes, Ale Garza, pencillers, Norm Rapmund, inker.

Ray: 4/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy It

Ray: Well, the main question on everyone’s mind – no, Wally doesn’t seem to have his powers yet after getting hit by lightning last issue, although it could just be that they haven’t manifested yet. He does play a fairly major role this issue, coming up with a daring engineer move to break through the force field that Thawne has trapped Flash and the rest of the CCPD inside.

While I’m certainly glad that sullen juvenile delinquent Wally is a thing of the past, the transformation to whiz kid seems a bit abrupt. The bigger problem this issue, though, is Darrel Frye and the rest of the city. Professor Zoom’s plan works a little too well, turning everyone against the Flash with relative ease. I thought Flash would take the blame for casualties, but no – he manages to get everyone out safely with Wally’s help. That doesn’t stop Frye from blaming him, vowing to arrest him, and saying he never brought anything but trouble. Joe West you aren’t, Darrel Frye. Zoom himself remains a fairly generic, mustache twirling villain, even going so far as to kill one of his minions by stealing her power when she discovers that he plans to take Flash’s power for himself. We’ve seen pieces of this story in the Flash in many other stories, and this one doesn’t have anything to really make it stand out.

Corrina: The main question on my mind: did this book get any better? The answer, as Ray illustrates, is a definite ‘no.’ The plot, with the bad guy trying to turn a city against a hero, is a trope and this story offers no new take on that. In fact, it offers us Darrel Frye yelling at Flash a lot, a death to motivate Wally (really?), and a kid, Wally, who is a better engineer than anyone else trapped inside the bubble. Um, okay?

If Flash television fans are looking for a good comic, this isn’t it.

Justice League 3001 #5 – Keith “Knucklehead” Giffen, J.M. “Imbecile” DeMatteis, Howard “Lamebrain” Porter, creators

Ray: 4/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy It.

Ray: Probably the best issue of the series, although that’s faint praise indeed. There’s a couple of plot lines in this story that could have some promise – if the characters were a bit more compelling. We’ve got Guy Gardner grappling with a complication in their new female form – the regeneration was done on the cheap, and the original personality in the body has started to reassert itself, threatening to burn out the new heroic mind. Fire and Ice, meanwhile, are plotting to put the old gang back together but can’t stop arguing.

I was most interested in Supergirl and Batman teaming up to track down the new, violent Robo-Batman terrorizing Takron-Galtos, and this one actually paid off with a fairly interesting twist at the end, potentially adding a new hero to the team (albeit one that has some interesting ideas about heroism). The issue ends with a weird chibi short featuring Wonder Woman and Flash where the main source of humor seems to be how horrible Wonder Woman is. There’s a few shades of something promising here, but it doesn’t quite add up to enough due to the execution.

Corrina: The most interesting thing about this comic is the tongue-in-cheek nicknames the creative team gave to themselves in the opening credits. It’s nice to see Supergirl in the comic but she’s stuck in the same “why does this comic exist” void that the rest of the cloned DC characters are stuck in.

This is a comic that’s too grim to be funny and too unpleasant to be interesting. I can’t help wondering what this creative team could do if they’d been free to do whatever they wanted with this comic, instead of being stuck inside this awful premise.

Superman #45 – Gene Luen Yang, writer, Howard Porter, artist

Ray: 2/10

Corrina: No.

Ray: I don’t think I can get across the problems with this title effectively without kicking things off with four words – Superman in fight club. Yep. That’s the main plot here. There’s a lot of other issues here as well – Superman’s cold treatment of Lois Lane doesn’t really fit with the way he’s portrayed in other titles, where he at least seems to understand that she tried to help him. He’s on the run, trying to search for more clues to Hordr’s true identity, and a brief battle with some of his minions doesn’t really shed any new light. There’s some really oddball things about Superman’s moral code in this issue. He has qualms about sneaking into a nightclub because of a lecture Pa Kent gave him when he was a kid, but he doesn’t blink when he beats an enemy and the enemy seemingly disintegrates – reasoning that the villain must not have been truly human, so he doesn’t need to think about it. He then gets pulled into a fight club for forgotten gods, where he battles ancient legends in gaudy costumes.

It’s all ridiculous, bland, and absolutely not Superman in any way. It’s odd – this new storyline has been used for good plots in two of Superman’s books, while the other two have fallen completely flat. 50% isn’t a great success rate, so I don’t think this new status quo will be lasting too long.

Corrina: I feel like any creative team stuck with this premise deserves some sort of medal. And Porter needs two metals, for doing excellent art on this and Justice League 3001. Yang wasn’t given a choice in the premise of an angry Superman on the run across America after a mysterious foe. His idea of a fight club for gods of pantheons that are dying out because no one believes in them is off-kilter enough to be work, though Superman getting involved is a bit much.

The overall problem is Superman and his anger, and frustration, all of which is almost as unpleasant to read as his Justice League 3001 counterpart. I’ll just go back and re-read my Lois and Clark comic from a couple of weeks ago.

All-Star Section Eight #5 – Garth Ennis, writer, John McCrea, artist

Ray: 1/10

Corrina: Hell, no.

Ray: Speaking of comics I can’t believe DC actually came out, this issue isn’t quite as disgusting as the previous two. What it is, however, is the single oddest comic DC has ever put out. Last issue saw Six-Pack find out his true name. This led him to get blackout drunk, and he wakes up in the company of the Phantom Stranger. You know, the Phantom Stranger who had a fairly long and complex solo series a few years back? Yeah, here he raps and curses a lot.

Occasionally he turns the verses over to Etrigan and lets the Demon drop a reference to the fact that he was once written by Garth Ennis. In jokes can be fun, but this is just sort of overwhelming and takes you out of the book. Six Pack is taken to Limbo where the rest of Section Eight is waiting, and they curse at him and insult him, and then he’s taken back to Earth where Superman comes looking for him. So…okay? This is a comic that’s utterly devoid of any likable characters, and it even tends to make its guest-stars unrecognizable. It’s all over next issue, and I can only imagine what “Surprises” it has in store for the final issue. Garth Ennis actually has a lot of affection for Superman, so maybe it’ll surprise us? Maybe?

Corrina: The in-jokes take you out of the book? I was already out of the book before any in-jokes because Phantom Stranger’s appearance with a semi-naked backup female band was odd and weird and wrong.

More to the point, it wasn’t funny, and I think that’s where Ennis was heading. Hard to tell in this mess, but that’s my best guess. Maybe it will all turn out to be just a dream.

For those who’ve paid for this book, I’m so,so sorry.

Ray’s: Digital First Review:

Batman ’66 #28 – written by Jeff Parker, art by Dean Haspiel, Lukas Ketner

8/10

This series is ending in December, a sad ending to one of the longest-running and most popular digital-first DC books. And it’s a shame, because it’s consistently putting out some of the most entertaining Batman stories.

There’s two stories this month, both by Jeff Parker with art by Lukas Ketner and Dean Haspiel respectively. The first focuses on the Scarecrow, who I feel has been a bit overused lately. However, this issue has a really interesting twist, going back to Crane’s rural childhood and finding the one thing that truly scares the Scarecrow.

The second brings back the new Batman ’66 version of Killer Croc, a former henchman of King Tut’s who ingested a potion and was transformed into a crocodile-man. Although he has a more outlandish origin than the classic version, it’s a cool portrayal of the iconic Croc who used his horrifying appearance as a weapon. And the whole while, Parker keeps the tone perfectly in line with the lighter style of Batman ’66. This book is definitely going to be missed.

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. 

Disclaimer: GeekMom received the DC Comics for review purposes. 

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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.