Bat-Characters: You Get a Comic & You Get a Comic & You Get a Comic!

Welcome to our weekly recap of DC Comics’ latest issues. Ray Goldfeld is the prototypical DC reader, while I’m mostly interested in a good story over everything else, though there are times when my inner fangirl it runs away from me.

To paraphrase Ray as he sent the reviews, we went Bat-Gordon by a slim margin over Bat-kids and Wildstorm Batman. That means that Detective Comics, Batman & Robin Eternal and Midnighter are at the top of our list. Plus, an outstanding issue of Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman. Let’s savor that because it’s not going to be around for long.

Plus, Scooby Doo encounters Phantom Stranger and the Spectre!

Batman: Detective Comics #45, Peter J. Tomasi, story and words, Marcio Takara, artist

Ray:- 9.5/10 (Book of the Week)

Corrina: Buy It!

Ray: I’m always a big fan of true genre-bending stuff, the kind that fuses together two concepts that should have no business working together but somehow work brilliantly. That’s the case with this issue of Detective, which seamlessly fuses a murder mystery plot with a creepy cosmic horror/monster plot.

Superman, Justice League, Jim Gordon
As you can see, they really need a detective. Image via DC Comics

When we last left off, Jim Gordon was recruited by the Justice League to help them investigate a murder – it’s just that the murder happens to be of some sort of 200-food giant, its bones buried in the tundra. Gordon is able to use his forensics skills to determine the cause of death, and further exploration of the nearby caves uncovers a second corpse. Add in a mysterious gelatinous waterfall, as well as a rampaging smaller version of the monsters still looking to devour anything that comes nearby, and the story turns creepy quickly.

The resolution of the plot also explains the bizarre, out-of-nowhere scene last issue involving the people who are drowned and had their eyes stolen. When Gordon puts the case together, what started out as a story of murder and monsters in the Arctic eventually becomes a tragic story of a family struggling to survive and sacrificing what’s needed. While Gordon’s detective side is the core to this story, and makes him invaluable to the League, there’s another side to him as well. That’s a father, and the ending to this issue really pulls that in in spades. I never thought Jim Gordon could actually make me feel bad for a giant rampaging monster, but that’s the power of Tomasi’s excellent writing. A pleasant surprise, and a fantastic issue all around.

Corrina: If you’ll recall, my skepticism was in full view with the first issue of this arc as Jim Gordon in the Justice League, even in a robot Batman suit, seemed not to fit. And, yet, this second half of the story won me over, especially with the poignant scene at the end.

The reason why this and other stories of Gordon/Batman have worked as well as they have is that they’re concentrating on the man behind the suit. We’ve all seen heroes with supersuits before, from Iron Man to Batman Beyond, and, thankfully, the storytellers handling Gordon seem to know that. By peeling back that layer to a character with a history nearly as long as Bruce Wayne, creators have made Gordon’s run as the character unique and fascinating. That’s true in this story as well, as his role as a police officer and a father come into play. (And it also reminded me of the dynamic I loved with Justice Society and older and younger heroes mixed together.)

However, one nitpick: there’s not nearly enough evidence for Gordon to deduce exactly what happened. The comic handwaves that by having even Gordon point out it’s just a theory, but still, it was a chance for the detective skills to be showcased. But, hey, a nitpick of an outstanding issue that will hit you in the feels.

Midnighter #6, Steve Orlando, writer, Aco, penciller, Aco with Hugo Petrus, inks

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Buy It

Ray: It’s always good to see an LGBT hero deal with more mundane facts of life, such as house-hunting with the SO and meeting the family. Of course, this being Midnighter, all this is precipitated by Multiplex attacking their apartment in the middle of breakfast and wrecking the place. A ballet of combat that puts most action movies to shame ensues, and Midnighter makes sure that Multiplex knows he’s his favorite villain – he can kill him as many times as he wants and Multiplex will keep coming back for more.

The apartment is destroyed, and Midnighter sets it to rebuild using sentient urban tech (shades of Stormwatch member Jake Hawksmoor?), but before they can move back in, Matt gets a call from his father. Seems he’s been assaulted by someone who has a problem with his son dating Midnighter. Whether this is because Matt is gay or because Midnighter is a superhero, it’s not made totally clear but that doesn’t stop Midnighter from vowing to hunt the culprits to the ends of the Earth. It soon becomes clear that something is very wrong in the small town, though, as Midnighter’s powers of prediction and instinct don’t seem to be working.

The last half of the issue is basically a never-ending slide of shocking reveals, with one person after another turning out to not be what they reveal – concluding with a reveal about Matt that will definitely tick some people off, and brings back one of the most prominent missing villains to the DCNU. Whether Matt is actually a villain all along, or there’s something more to the story, I suppose no one could expect Midnighter to play house for too long before something upset it. This continues to be a thrill ride of a comic that is easily the best thing to happen to the Wildstorm Universe in a long time.

panel from Midnighter #6, image via DC Comics
panel from Midnighter #6, image via DC Comics

Corrina: Ray’s outlined the plot, so let’s talk a little bit about that shocking reveal. It turns out both Matt’s father and Matt are either being mind-controlled by Midnighter’s enemies, that Matt was evil from the start, or that Matt has been replaced by a double.

In other words, it’s the old “switch out the significant other/or make them evil” trope. Except, this time, it’s not a girlfriend, it’s a boyfriend in that role. Now, given the history of women in comics, I’d be more than raising my eyebrows at the use of this trope with a hero’s girlfriend. I’m not sure I like using it with a boyfriend either, for the simple truth that the trope is so overused. But the first four issues of this series gained my trust, so I’ll see how it all shakes out.

Meanwhile, the art is still gorgeous, especially in that action sequence Ray mentions.

Batman & Robin Eternal #5, James Tynion IV & Scott Snyder, story, Steve Orlando, script, pencils, Scot Eaton, Ronan Cliquet, Steve Pugh, pencils. Wayne Fauche, Ronan Cliquet, and Steve Pugh, inks

Ray: – 9/10

Corrina: Buy It.

Ray: After last issue’s hiccup, things get very much back on track with Steve Orlando as we learn more about Cassandra Cain and tensions begin to rise between the Robins. The issue opens with Dick and Batman trailing Scarecrow years ago to a meeting with Orphan, but before Crane can double-cross Orphan, a younger Cass appears and holds a knife to his neck. Batman and Robin sweep in, but the Cass and the villains have disappeared. In the present day, Dick Grayson pays a visit to Tim’s parents, who have been hypnotized to believe that Tim died in a car crash years ago. It becomes clear that the original Lobdell story may not be the truth after all, but before Dick can investigate further, Poppy shows up and attempts to kill them.

Meanwhile in Gotham, Cass and Harper are investigating a mysterious church that Cass is fascinated by (and name-drops an iconic character from Batman past). Before they can dig further, Orphan emerges and resumes his attempt to kill Harper and psychologically destroy Cassandra. Harper recognizes him somehow, which means there’s going to be a lot to be revealed here – we know they have some connection. While some people are going to have an issue with Cass chopping off Orphan’s hand in the fight, I wouldn’t be surprised if he shows up with a new one – this kind of villain tends to – and I was much more interested in the growing bond between Cass and Harper at the end of the issue.

Back at Tim’s parents’ home, they activate a defense system that Tim installed to trap Dick and Poppy, but Dick manages to escape only to be confronted by Tim himself. Bruce’s secrets are already starting to tear the Robins apart, and I’m sure that’s not going to stop any time soon. Packed issue, and it seems this is definitely back on track to be a fantastic run.

Corrina: It’s clear at this point that unless a reader starts with issue #1, they’ll be completely lost in all this swirling plotlines and multiple characters of this book. So, yes, buy it, but only if you’re buying the entire series. Otherwise, wait for the trade to read the story from the beginning.

We get little payout so far from the “Mother takes over Tim,” cliffhanger from last week, save in little hints of conflict in the argument between Tim and Dick at his parent’s house. At least, we think they’re his parents. Traditionally, Tim’s parents were rich Gotham business people but then DC rebooted with a weird story about Tim’s origin that’s only marginally tied to Batman. (For the first origin, find the wonderful “A Lonely Place of Dying.” For the second, no, you don’t want the second.)

While Ray loves the conspiracy plot, it’s one of my least favorite tropes. (No, I didn’t like Court of Owls either.) However, the characters hold me to this book, though I could do with much less Jason and far more Stephanie. Cassandra Cain shines as her original self, a characterization that lasted over 100 issues and I’m glad to see return.

Despite my niggles, this title is a feast for the Gothamite.

Harley Quinn/Power Girl #5, Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, writers, Stephane Roux and Flaviano, artists

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Harley Fans, Buy It!

Ray: I haven’t been the biggest fan of this series, but this issue had exactly the kind of insane, anarchic Harley action I like best. Last issue saw Harley, Power Girl, and Vartox defeat what they thought was the Big Bad – only for the actual Big Bad, the Harvester of Sorrow, to emerge. A giant head in the sky who feeds off suffering, he’s like some refugee from a 1960s comic that Jack Kirby wrote while on the good painkillers.

Harley quickly gets sucked inside his head, and the Harvester puts her into a machine to steal all her negative emotions. However, it soon becomes clear that her mind is too weird for the monster to handle, and it backfires, unleashing the absolute worst part of her personality – the Joker. Harley then proceeds to blow up the creature’s head, then drops down and rips Vartox’s mustache right off his face. Fortunately, it grows back instantaneously, because he’s just that manly. Then once the threat is gone, Vartox pulls out the teleported ring – and promptly proposes to Power Girl. It’s all pretty slight and silly, but that’s really what Harley is at its best.

Corrina: I will interrupt the Harley creative team admiration society to note that if you love the skewed humor of this title, go find the blink-and-you-missed it reboot of G.I. Zombie. Much of its humor is similar to this title.

Back to Harley and Power Girl.

This issue showcases Harley’s insanity as a superpower, able to topple God-like being with a single leap inside them, with Harley a sort of Jonah to the Harvester’s whale. Unfortunately, it also unleashes Harley’s crueler side but, hey, Vartox didn’t seem to mind too much. It’s Power Girl playing the straight person, still unsure of what’s going on, and that works too.  A fun miniseries overall.

Bat-Mite #6 – written by Dan Jurgens, art by Corin Howell

Ray: 8.5/10

Corrina: This book was mysteriously missing from my review stack. I call shenanigans!

Ray: This gleefully irreverent miniseries comes to an end this issue, as Bat-Mite continues his quest to perfect the world, faces his arch-nemesis, and finally returns home. The issue opens with a hilarious parody of the Presidential election, as Bat-Mite reboots the campaigns of struggling politicians. Rapping Bernie Sanders is probably the funniest thing you’ll see this week. Even Bat-Mite can’t help Trump, though. Bat-Mite’s offer to help Obama winds up setting off an international incident, though – not even Bat-Mite can just teleport into the White House.

While flying around Washington, Bat-Mite discovers Gridlock’s secret identity on a billboard, confronts the Senator – and winds up getting captured again. Before Gridlock can show him the lost pilot of Galaxy Trek and then kill him, he tricks Gridlock into teleporting them inside the show – only for Gridlock to quickly get captured by the heroes as an outsider. When he returns, though, the Sentry Silent is waiting for him to take him back to face justice for his interference. He says farewell to his new friends and is taken back to his home dimension – where the Justice League of Mites welcomes him back, on probation. He then teams up with them to save the world from the dreaded Canceltron, every superhero’s worst enemy. It’s been a light, silly comic, but a lot of fun. This book is going to be missed.

Corrina: Boo, this was missing from the review stack that DC sent me. Hey, guys, I like this one. It’s been refreshing to see DC try some humor books, even if they’re only miniseries. Perhaps it’s better that they are miniseries, because the jokes can wear thin.

Bye, Bat-Mite! Until the next time DC needs a breath of fresh air.

Justice League: The Darkseid War: Superman #1, written by Francis Manapul, art by Bong Dazo

Ray – 5/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy It.

Ray: The idea of Superman acting distinctly un-Superman-like due to outside influences would be an interesting one – if it wasn’t for the fact that Superman hasn’t really been acting Superman-like for the longest time. Francis Manapul and Bong Dazo are the creative team here, and they do a capable job on the merits, but it doesn’t help that Superman’s new powers are the most ill-defined and least unique of the lot so far. He’s more powerful, has a new color scheme…and doesn’t seem to care much about humanity anymore. He abandons an alien he just defeated, causing it to create an inky black ooze that starts covering Metropolis. He goes to his local diner, only to treat all his friends like garbage and destroy the place while demanding a piece of pie.

As the ooze takes over Metropolis, Jimmy is able to briefly get through to Superman, and Superman fights off the ooze before fleeing for space to try to protect people from his new powers. There’s a lot of little details in this issue that just didn’t work for me, such as Perry White’s oddly cynical view of journalism, but it’s the sense of deja vu that hurts this issue the most. Superman needs to be recognizable before a story like this can shock us.

Corrina: This is a spin-off special from the current “Darseid War” saga in Justice League. To justify buying it, it needs to stand on its own, rather than as an adjunct to that series. I was hoping for a fun Superman story but, silly me, that’s not the point of the Darkseid War, a grim epic that gives absolute power to various League members.

Which, as Ray points out, is almost redundant for Superman, especially how he’s been written mostly as an aloof loner for the past few years. That makes this book not only frustrating but boring, because it seems like more of the same.

Justice League: The Darkseid War: Flash #1, Rob Williams, writer, Jesus Merino, artist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy It.

Ray: The better of this week’s two comics dealing with the Justice League’s transformation into Gods, although I didn’t think either of them came close to last week’s exceptional Batman issue. This one focuses on the pairing of Flash with the God of Death, Black Racer, and Rob Williams and Jesus Merino do a good job with the clear dichotomy here. Barry Allen has always been focused on protecting life, as both the Flash and in his civilian guise, so it’s no surprise that he resists the Black Racer’s influence. The Racer needs a host, though, and it’s not the type to take no for an answer.

What ensues is a high-intensity race between the two forces of speed, as they desperately try to get what they want and Racer taunts Flash that all he needs to do is take one life to complete the transformation. There’s a brief tease that Iris may be the life in danger, but in the end Barry decides to outwit the Racer and destroy him, choosing that as the life he takes. All that does, however, is unleash death, free to reign without restrictions. Seeing this, Barry is forced to take his destiny in hand and become the Black Racer. It’s a good issue in terms of Barry’s character, but it’s all sort of an extended lead-in for a foregone conclusion. Still, an entertaining read for Flash fans and New Gods fans.

Corrina: Uh, did we really have to have a sequence again in which Flash has to decide to save a loved one or let her die to save the world? Maybe it’s the television show and Nora Allen’s death coloring my perception, but Iris is just in this book as a prop for Flash’s moral dilemma. Such as my distrust of DC that I assumed that Flash would indeed kill Iris, so, at least she’s alive.

Yes, death is necessary to life, so Flash accepts the burden, except does the Black Racer truly control Death for the entire universe? How? We all know what Death looks like already. Ask Neil Gaiman.

In any case, it’ll all be undone soon. That wouldn’t be a problem if the journey was compelling but, alas not. It is, however, probably the best Flash story that Flash fans will get in comic form for a while, given the current arc of the regular book.

Green Lantern #46, writer, Robert Venditti, Penciller, Billy Tan, Inker, Mark Irwin

Ray – 6.5/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy It.

Ray: The overall cast in this title is probably its weak link right now, as the supporting cast of Virgo, Trapper, and Darlene just isn’t very interesting. However, Venditti still does one thing really well on this title, and that’s action. Aside from a brief interlude with the supporting cast in the beginning, the entire issue is devoted to the final showdown with Black Mask. Hal seeks out Relic’s help, as the only person powerful enough to restrain the insane zombie-maker and put him back in the Source Wall. Black Hand is one of the creepiest villains in GL’s roster, and this issue does him justice on that front. Relic, though…I’m not certain about the decision to transform him from the big bad of Lights Out into a random foil who shows up occasionally and can be tricked into looking the other way while Hal slips away.

Eventually, they manage to trap Black Hand and he disappears into the Source Wall, and Hal decides to head back to Earth for a vacation. Of course, that vacation isn’t going to be calm, as mysterious rebels are exporting weapons to Coast City to cause chaos. It’s been years since Hal was on Earth for any length of time, and I think it’s a good move – space feels a bit played out for GL right now.

Corrina: I’ve been hard on this book because I never liked Hal as a character but I found this issue enjoyable. It seemed full of the big space stuff that Lantern stories do well, and the art, especially on the use of the Source Wall and Black Hand’s absorption into the artifact. Reminded me of some way-out space concept stories that I’ve enjoyed.

However, I’ve not quite understood why Hal is traveling the universe so far, and so I’m not sure why he says “hey, time to head home to Earth.” Um, okay?

Green Arrow #46, Benjamin Percy, script, Patrick Zircher and Fabrizio Fiorentino, art

Ray: – 8/10

Corrina: For Horror Fans, Buy It

Ray: The turn of Green Arrow towards the supernatural and creepy has been really pronounced in these last few issues, but I thought that this issue was probably the clearest and most entertaining of the arc so far. We find out a lot more about Catalina Flores’ motivations – her cousin has been taken by the Skeletons, so she has a personal stake in fighting this cult. As she and Green Arrow head into Mexico, they’re quickly betrayed by a border guard who contacts the cult.

With the Day of the Dead approaching, people in skeleton costumes are all around, but it still doesn’t take long to come across the real villains, as Tarantula is captured and Ollie is lured into their trap. As the leader of the skeletons plans to marry off his creepy son to Catalina’s cousin, it’s revealed that her main motivation for teaming up with Ollie was to lure him here – the plan was an exchange of Ollie for her cousin. Naturally, though, the villain has absolutely no intention of following through on their deal. They never do. While it’s not groundbreaking in any way, the issue is full of creepy visuals and it’s got quite a few memorable scenes. Patrick Zircher’s art is the real highlight here, delivering an incredibly unsettling vibe throughout. Between this and the upcoming werewolf arc teased in the annual, it seems that this book’s new horror vibe isn’t changing any time soon. I’ve been iffy about it since it started, but this issue shows a lot of promise.

Corrina: After several issues of the creative team, I can safely say that they’re excellent at horror and DC should toss a Vertigo title at them where they’d shine. This issue is a stomach-turning horror tale centered around the Day of the Dead and it does bring back Catalina Flores from obscurity. Those are all good things.

What it’s not is a good Oliver Queen/Green Arrow story. He’s incidental to what’s happening and could easily be replaced by a generic private eye or investigator, and his dog could belong to anyone. It seems the team is using GA as a tentpole for the horror stories they want to tell. These stories are entertaining but Green Arrow feels completely superfluous to his own title.

Lobo #12, written  by Cullen Bunn and Frank Barbieri, pencils by Robson Rocha, inks by Ruy Jose

Ray – 3/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy It.

Ray: This title is ending next issue, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to really make much of an impact before it goes. We’ve seen Lobo travel around space assassinating Lanterns for Sinestro, but that seems more like a plot point from Sinestro than anything else. This issue finds him back dealing with his Syndicate of assassins, and he winds up getting poisoned by a mysterious drug when protecting a shipment. That leads him to spend most of the issue having hallucinations at inconvenient times, including right when talking to his boss, which leads him to strangle her. She orders him captured by the Syndicate as punishment, and he escapes, deciding to go off the grid and kill anyone he wants to – starting with Hal Jordan, apparently. With no characters to really like in this title and a lot of generic violence, there isn’t much to recommend here.

Corrina: Somewhere in this book is a glimpse of the Lobo that most DC readers know, the crazy bastich who’s also appeared in various animated forms. I guess that’s good for fans of the character (I am not one.)

I won’t miss the title. Or the pointless gore.

Ray’s Out-of-Continuity Reviews:

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #16 – written by Caitlin Kittredge and Jason Badower, art by Scott Hampton, Jason Badower

8.5/10

A really strong issue, with two stories showing different sides of Wonder Woman. The first takes Wonder Woman into a realm rarely seen, as Coffin Hill writer Kittredge and Simon Dark artist Hampton tell a creepy story involving a black market for monster children and Diana teaming up with one of her more obscure villains, Echidna. I’m always a fan of Diana dealing with mythology, and this story is a look at the darker side of that. Hampton’s art is gorgeous as always, and the story manages to find a great balance of eerie and optimistic.

I was an even bigger fan of Jason Badower’s short story in the back, focusing on the friendship between Clark and Diana and the different way they approach their job as heroes. One thing I love about it is the way it shows just how many ways Diana helps people that are out of the norm for superheroes. And further proof that the pre-Flashpoint dynamic between these two was far better.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #13 – written by Sholly Fisch, art by Dario Brizuela

8/10

Gotta love just how much of DC history this book gets into when it’s at its best. The Mystery Machine crew usually deals with fake ghosts, but this issue teams them up with some real ones – the Spectre, Deadman, and the Phantom Stranger – as they investigate the mysterious disappearances of their fellow phantoms.

The plot is a good deal more complex than this title’s mysteries usually are, and the villain, evil mage Tannarak, is a surprise. There’s a lot of cool surprises when it comes to the way they get the better of him, and the last-minute twist is sort of in line with the way Scooby Doo usually ends. One thing that I like about this book is that I think it’s introducing a lot of kids to some of the less popular characters from DC. That in and of itself makes this book a valuable entry in DC’s roster.

Batman: Arkham Knight #10 -written by Peter J. Tomasi, art by Richard Friend, Viktor Bogdanovic, Julio Ferreira, Ig Guara

7/10

I’ve never been entirely sold on Calendar Man as a serious villain, especially as the Arkham version of the character seems to be some twisted combination of the character with Humpty Dumpty. However, this issue is actually somewhat creepy, as Julian Day has developed an elaborate revenge plot that somewhat parallels Joker’s attack on Jason Todd in the side miniseries. However, it’s really Jim Gordon who gets the best scenes in this comic, as his ongoing campaign for Mayor and his conversation with Officer Cash show a really solid handle on the character by Tomasi. Tomasi’s really made a huge comeback on the Bat-line in recent years, and it’s good to see him continue to have a strong run here. I’m wondering how long it’ll go on, given that it’s leading up to the game, though.

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.

Disclaimer: GeekMom received the comics for review purposes.

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.