Welcome to our weekly DC Comics reviews. Ray Goldfied is the prototypical DC fan, while I’m looking for books I can recommend to non-DC or even non-comics readers.
This week features all the Robins of nearly every iteration except, hey, Stephanie Brown who is absent this week from Batman and Robin Eternal. However, another seemingly forgotten Bat character is back instead!
Beyond the Robin War, there’s also Gotham Academy, Prez, Gotham by Midnight and then a whole host of DC books that are only middling to fair and on their last issue or two.
First, let’s check in the the Bat-kids:
Batman and Robin Eternal #9 – James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder, story, Jackson Lanzing & Collin Kelly, script, Roge Antonio, artist
Corrina: Buy It.
Ray: A pretty big change of pace this issue, as this excellent series switches gears and brings in a pair of creators new to the DCU. That would be Lanzing and Kelly, the writers behind Hacktivist, on script duty for this arc.
The main plots we’ve been following until now mostly take a backseat this issue, with Cass Cain still absent after her traumatic flashback last issue, and Harper Row and Dick Grayson only appearing in a short segment where they discuss Harper’s absence and battle it out over Harper’s recklessness and anger. There’s also a flashback segment where Bruce infiltrates Mother’s lair as a customer – only for her to reveal she already knows he’s Batman and hint that she expects him to come back for a custom Robin at one point. It’s a creepy segment that continues to deepen the mystery of Mother, but the flashbacks are definitely a slow burn.
The meat of the issue, however, is in the main story involving Jason and Tim infiltrating Santa Prisca and quickly coming face-to-face with its most famous resident, Bane. Bane’s kicked the Venom, which probably explains why the boys are able to hold him off for so long. I’ve got to say, this is the best-written Bane since Gail Simone’s Secret Six, bringing him back to the complex but ruthless warrior who holds a fierce loyalty to the army he leads. His country’s been taken over by the Church of St. Dumas and his former loyalists recruited into their number, which leads Tim and Jason to reluctantly agree to a temporary team-up against their common enemy.
The Church has an interesting mix of a creepy sci-fi vibe with hints of genuine healing magic at work, but before Tim and Jason can fully explore, they’re exposed as intruders and find themselves up against the Church’s secret guardian – the religious fanatic Azrael! So Cass isn’t the only long-lost Bat-character returning, and I’m impressed with both Azrael’s design and just how well the writers call back to his…less lucid periods early in his run. In general, it’s extremely impressive just how well Lanzing and Kelly slip right into writing these characters despite never writing a DC book before. The consistency on this title is incredible, and despite the absence of the character I’m mainly here for, this was one of the best issues of the run.
Corrina: I wouldn’t say one of the best issues, simply because I’ve no idea who Tim Drake is supposed to be anymore, with the last three reboots and his somewhat inconsistent characterization in this series, but I suppose he and Jason Todd make enough of an odd couple to be interesting and the addition of the anti-hero Bane (instead of villain-style Bane) is a nice touch.
What caught my eye, mostly, is Azrael! For those not familiar with the backstory, Azrael was the first person to replace Bruce Wayne as Batman in a long-running arc that long-time Batman readers have dubbed “Az-Bats.” It was part of an explanation for why Batman doesn’t use robot armor but that’s gone by the wayside now. However, the other point of the Az-Bats era is that Batman doesn’t have to go over-the-top with violence to be effective. Thereafter, Azrael got his own series which was about a young man who’d been brainwashed picking up the pieces of his life. But he hasn’t been heard from in at least a decade and it looks like we’re back to the “brainwashed dispenser of dubious Justice.” Whether it’s Jean-Paul Valley under the cowl right now is uncertain. But I’ll note that Mother brainwashes people, as did the original Church of St. Dumas, so there’s a connection somewhere in this.
I’m enjoying this series most as a ride through all of Bat-history. Still dubious about the whole “Batman has a hidden secret thing that’s evil.”
Robin War #1 – Tom King, script, Khary Randolph, Alain Mauricet, Jorge Corona, Andres Guinaldo, and Walden Wong, art.
Corrina: Not Sold.
Ray: One of the patterns in comics that I’ve noticed lately is that the line-specific events – think Night of the Owls, Spider-Verse, Sinestro Corps – tend to be more consistent and overall excellent than the line-wide events. Based on this oversized first issue, it looks like we can add Robin War to that list. This is one of the most packed, exciting first issues of a crossover I can remember, with distinct shades of Civil War (Marvel) along with parallels to real-world events.
Like all panics and crackdowns, it begins with a tragedy. A young Robin is caught in a confrontation between an armed robber and a policeman and makes a misjudgment that leaves both the criminal and the officer dead. Outrage and panic grips the city, allowing ambitious Councilwoman Noctua to force through the Robin Laws, a series of restrictive regulations that allow any teenager with Robin memorabilia to be arrested. A racist cop even goes so far as to arrest Duke based on his red shoes, but Duke quickly makes his escape. With parents in a panic, Riko finds herself transferred to Gotham Academy, which we’re going to follow up on in that book. As the Robins try to discuss how to handle their crackdown, they get paid a visit by another Robin – the real one, Damian Wayne, who is no fan of the movement using his name. Meanwhile, Jim Gordon – who opposes the law, but believes it’s better that he takes in the kids than leaving it to less ethical people – is sent to round up the entire group. This confrontation draws the attention of both Jason and Tim, as well as Agent 37. And Duke convinces the guilty Robin to turn himself in – only for the kid to be murdered by a Talon before he can. Yep, they’re involved.
The Court of Owls – which Councilwoman Nocturna is trying to get an invite to despite her less than elite origins. Unlike Civil War, it does seem there is a very clear villain behind this crisis, but the crisis itself feels very organic, spinning out of the types of panic and overreaction we’ve seen in our world. Zero tolerance policies at schools, anyone? If I have any quibbles with this book, it’s that this basically seems to blow up the We Are Robin book after only one arc, and I’m wondering where it’ll go from here. But King (and a veritable army of artists) turn in an incredibly compelling, action-packed first issue that sets the stage for a local but massive event. I’m hoping that this spotlight will boost the sales of both We Are Robin and Gotham Academy, two exceptional Bat-books that need more attention.
Corrina: Our first big disagreement this week. Why am I so disgruntled about this book? Because I was sold on the We Are Robin concept, the teens of Gotham trying to do their part, especially when their parents are either absent or not up to the job. I loved seeing that community build but now it appears Alfred set them up to be killed, which makes Alfred look like a chump. Gordon too, since he gets jobbed this issue.
I’m not sure how this Robin movement can recover from this crossover event. I know, it should boost sales of the other books but at the cost of destroying the concept I liked in one of them?
Normally, I’d applaud all the official Robins crossing over with this new movement but since most of what’s done is yelling and fighting with each other, it’s less compelling that I wanted.
Also, and this is not the fault of the creators on the books, but I hate the Court of Owls. I can’t take the concept that Batman, who can outthink the Justice League, having not ever noticed the Court until recently. So, yeah, two pet peeves against the book already which have little to do with the actual story.
On the actual story, seeing Damian be contemptuous of other Robins is funny, in a Damian-kind-of-way, and having Nocturna around as the villain is an interesting choice. But I’m shaking my head at the concept, still, and that’s not likely to change.
Aside: the Robins reminded me less of Marvel’s Civil War and more of the Batman gangs in The Dark Knight Returns that Batman co-opts.
Harley’s Little Black Book #1 – Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, writers, Amanda Conner with John Tims, artists, Dave Johnson, inks
Ray: As popular as Harley Quinn is right now, a second book for her was inevitable. This bi-monthly anthology by the same writing team, focusing on Harley teaming up with other heroes from around the DCU, is really more an extension of the main title than anything else, but the good news is that if you like that book, you’re going to like this one!
And I think they picked a very good note to start off on, because who hasn’t wanted to see Harley Quinn team up with Wonder Woman? One of the things I like about this issue is that this could have actually gone very smoothly – if Harley wasn’t Harley and prone to making terrible choices at every turn.
While interrogating a thug in Coney Island, Harley uncovers a plot by a low-level villain – the Barmy Bugger, whose name is mispronounced throughout – to attack Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman happens to be Harley’s personal hero – as shown in a hilarious segment where her childhood fandom inspires her to take revenge on some bullies. It doesn’t really fit in continuity – if Diana wasn’t around until six years ago, then how was Harley still in elementary school and fangirling over her? – but it’s funny nonetheless. So, naturally, Harley mails herself to London in a shipping crate, nearly gets arrested by some Z-list London heroes, knocks out Wonder Woman and steals her costume to take out the Bugger, and winds up getting bailed out of a bad situation by Wonder Woman – who woke up naked and winds up squeezing into Harley’s costume to join the fight. They then go out for an epic bender with said Z-list heroes. It’s all very light, silly, and slapstick-y, but it reminds me of the best issues of Harley’s main series, where it fully embraces the absurdity. I’m hoping future team-ups in this book make me laugh this hard.
Corrina: A Harley Quinn/Wonder Woman team-up shouldn’t work, especially with one of the main jokes involves swapping costumes and yet….Diana is written with just the right amount of resignation in this issue and she’s more “in character” than in her own title book. She’s trying to see good in Harley because that’s what she does.
And Harley is trying to be good, and instead creates mass chaos, which is what she does. So, as I noted, FUN.
Superman: Action Comics #47 – story by Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder, words, Pak, pencils, Georges Jeanty, inks, Karl Story, Wade Von Grawbadger
Ray: The conclusion of the Wrath storyline, as Vandal Savage’s machinations come ever closer to fruition and endanger those close to Superman. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the last issue involving Superman being taken over by Wrath’s shadows, but it makes more sense in context now that we know the point – it’s not about showing Superman’s weakness by taking him over, it’s about showing his strength. We pick up with Superman battling the possessed Frankenstein and struggling to keep his mind, but we also finally get some backstory on Wrath, aka the Mayor of Metropolis.
She’s a woman who always struggled and looked to Superman as a symbol of hope – until she lost her mother when Brainiac collected the city. Then she saw Superman corrupted by Doomsday, and during his last disappearance she took Savage’s offer for more power. That power corrupted her and fed off her anger. That gives Superman an idea – and he surrenders to the shadows, allowing them to fully flow into him because he believes he’s strong enough to take them on without giving them anger to feed off. He travels into the shadows themselves, as Wrath attempts to unnerve him by taunting him with visions of his friends reacting with horror to what he’s become. He uses his new power to stop the bombs falling over Metropolis, and before anyone can see what he’s going to do with his new power, Vandal Savage sucks it back into the mystical box and removes the shadows from the battlefield. I can’t say I cared all that much about mystical shadow powers, but I will say this issue did one thing very right – showed us what makes Superman who he is, and that’s his inner strength. The Pak Superman books continue to be by far the best on this front.
Corrina: As Ray said, this book tries to show the positive side of Superman but it’s bogged down by referencing the past stories in which Superman *is* the menace that Wrath believes him to be. It’s almost gotten to the point where all Superman does is put people in danger, rather than saving them. Maybe he should join Torchwood.
But, as Ray said, there’s a glimpse of the old Superman here as he takes on the darkness believing he can control it but then it all ends abruptly, at least for me. Perhaps Pak was told to cut the storyline short? Perhaps we’ll get a better storyline coming up? I can hope!
Prez #6 – Mark Russell, writer, Ben Caldwell, penciller and cover artist, Mark Morales, inker
Corrina: Buy It.
Ray: When this series started up, I said it felt like an absurdist parody of the American political system, taken up to 1000. Of course, that was before a certain giant-haired candidate made habitual lying a regular part of the campaign. Feels a bit less absurd now. Unfortunately, the main character still feels like a bit of a cipher and the crises she faces are too absurd to be taken seriously. The focus shifts to Cat Flu, which killed Beth’s father, and Senators from both sides of the aisle plan to solve it by creating a system that allows them to patent the DNA of cats, in alliance with Boss Smiley. They even name the bill after her father, making her look bad when she vetoes it. She retaliates by finding a way to patent the DNA of those Senators, essentially making it illegal for them to exist unless they repeal the bill. She then creates a plan to create internment camps for all cats, leading to jokes about “Death Panels for Cats”.
I will, however, give the book points for one very amusing character in the former Warbot turned committed Christian who winds up being Beth’s new bodyguard. If this character had been introduced earlier, I think this series would have been stronger. The ending promises more to come, but given the sales I think that’s iffy. This was an interesting experiment, but unlike Corrina, I don’t think it ever quite hit the mark.
Corrina: Our second big disagreement of the week, as usual on this title. For me, it’s coalescing from pure political satire into some deeper concepts, exemplified by the A.I. Warbot who becomes Beth’s new bodyguard, and the Death Panels for Cats. That was part of parcel of the outlandish concepts that have been a hallmark of the series from the beginning.
The patent element as a legal switcheroo is great and it’s not that far off from companies who are patenting or want to patent certain aspects of DNA right now. The creative team didn’t pull that one out of thin air. Like most satire in this book, it’s just a shade off from the realistic. In many ways, this whole series reads like one big Onion article–funny, and so on-point to the real world it’s almost not satire.
Green Lantern #47 – Robert Venditti, writer, Martin Coccolo, Billy Tan, art & pencils, inker, Mark Irwin
Corrina: Don’t Buy.
Ray: A fresh start for Green Lantern on Earth might be just what this character needs, as I’ve felt like the space setting is a bit played out since Johns covered so much of what there is to see and fight there. So the prospect of Hal heading back to Earth to see his brother and his family sounded intriguing – much the way Hal going to space was a novelty at the beginning of the Johns run, him returning to Earth now is unique as well.
Most of the issue was pretty strong and character-driven, with a fascinating series of bookend segments, but a mean-spirited twist disappointed me and left me hoping for a fake-out. After sorting out affairs in space and leaving Virgo in charge of Trapper’s monitor bracelet, Hal returns to Earth and drops in on his brother – and is nearly arrested for violating his new alarm system. He gets a haircut, and then heads out to the Coast City carnival with his niece and nephew.
Unfortunately, a mysterious figure is hanging around the Carnival – solicits have revealed this to be Sonar – and he sabotages the Ferris Wheel while the kids are riding it, leaving Hal’s nephew unconscious and possibly worse. I’m really hoping this is just a scare tactic to motivate Hal next month, because I am REALLY done with dead kids in my comics.
However, even with that, I’m definitely hooked because of the framing segment. In the opening, two Sinestro Corps members are killed by a mysterious GL with a blood grudge against Sinestro. The cliffhanger reveals this to be…Parallax. The original Hal Jordan Parallax, complete with gray hair. A holdover from Convergence? Maybe. Either way, I am thrilled to see one of my favorite 90’s anti-heroes back and I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out. Some issues, but a promising start to a very different new arc for GL.
Corrina: For someone who is not a fan of Hal Jordan, adding another version of him, arguably the most arrogant one in Parallax, is not a selling point. I will say this promised to be more interesting than ‘Hal travels randomly about space basically not accomplishing much.’ I’m still not certain what that was about aside to give Hal long hair.
But if you are a Hal fan, and a long-time DC reader, this new storyline might catch your attention.
Gotham Academy #12 –Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher, writer, Karl Kerschl, art
Corrina: Buy It.
Ray: As the first year of this unique, inventive series wraps up – and we say goodbye to initial series artist Kerschl, who will be sorely missed – the kids’ pursuit of answers and their missing friend takes them to Arkham Asylum itself, the site of most everything creepy in Gotham City.
When we last left off, Maps and Olive returned from their search for answers about Olive’s mother to find Maps’ older brother missing, taken from his tennis tournament. After sending their Clayface-powered friend home with Maps’ parents in disguise, the girls recruit Pomeline and Colton for a mission into Arkham to try to track down Kyle. I’m really loving the interplay between this group of friends, from Colton’s smugness and troublemaking that is backed up by throwing himself into danger when his friends need him, to Pomeline’s acid tongue that she often regrets. These kids feel real. They soon find Kyle in a perilous position, behind a locked door, on a crumbling ledge. Meanwhile, Olive is lured away from her lookout position by signs of Calamity, and chases down what she thinks is her mother – only to find her “counselor” Dr. Hugo Strange, whose plot is finally revealed, along with the nature of Calamity.
What, you didn’t think Strange was on the level, did you? This guy can never turn over a new leaf. While the main plot of the series so far is resolved this issue, it ends on an ominous note that makes clear that the specter of Calamity is far from gone from Olive’s life. This has been an incredibly entertaining first year, and I can’t wait for a focus on some of the other characters in coming issues. Here’s hoping the excellent Robin War brings some much-needed attention to this title – it deserves a long life!
Corrina: Seconding Ray that this series needs to have a long life. It’s inventive, it adds more and more pieces to the great storyworld that is Gotham, and it has brought us memorable characters like Olive and Maps. It’s also provided a new perspective on certain villains and eventually revealed that Gotham Academy isn’t so much Hogwarts as the school for the children of supervillains, like Clayface.
Including Hugo Strange as a mastermind was a wonderful idea. He’s always been able to manipulate Batman and others and it makes sense that he’s been the one trying to manipulate Olive.
I’ll miss Kerschl, who is in rare form with his unique panel constructions in this issue, especially in the cutting back and forth between Strange and Olive, and in the depection of the now-defunct Arkham Asylum.
Midnighter #7 – Steve Orlando, writer, Aco with Hugo Petrus, pencils & inks
Corrina: Buy It.
Ray: Orlando has had only seven issues to make us care about a character who was usually used as a stock “Extreme Batman who happens to be gay” type before. He’s done the amazing feat of not only making us care and root for his happiness – and then making us feel the gut-punch when it’s all ripped apart. Last issue’s ending was a bit ambiguous, but now we know – Midnighter’s boyfriend Matt is Prometheus. He was always Prometheus. It was all a long game to get close to the world’s deadliest hit man and take him down. Looking back there were some clues, namely the unique hair, but it’s a great reveal that was hard to predict.
I know a good number of people, myself included, have a bad taste in their mouth about Prometheus given his God-awful previous appearance in Cry for Justice, but I’m happy to say that the New 52 version is much more in line with Morrison’s master criminal as opposed to that story’s giggling sadist of a supervillain. The showdown between Midnighter and Prometheus is tense and choreographed incredibly well, with a shocking conclusion that shows why you don’t try to manipulate Midnighter. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people are upset by Matt, who a lot of people liked, turning out to be a villain in disguise, but the end of the issue makes clear why Matt was never going to be a long-term character anyway – Steve Orlando understands that in the end, there’s only one man for Midnighter and they just need to work things out. This issue is a fantastic combination of great action and some excellent character work towards the end. This continues to be one of the strongest new titles out of DC.
Corrina: I’m not sure what to think of the reveal that Prometheus and Matt are one and the same. On the one hand, it’s somewhat refreshing that the old femme fatale trope is flipped on its head for a gay relationship, But at the same time, it’s an old and tired trope to be betrayed by one’s lover or have that person be revealed as the mastermind all the time. Plus, I kinda hate Prometheus and never got the point of him even when Grant Morrison wrote him, so I’m biased there. (He seemed like a Taskmaster knock-off to me rather than unique.)
To the creative team’s credit, I never once thought Matt was our Big Bad until the end of last issue. What do we have left after this arc? A fully rounded character that is no longer an EXTREME version of Batman but a person in his own right, and the promise that somehow, Apollo and Midnighter will be back together. I hope the series has a long life.
Gotham By Midnight #11 – Ray Fawkes, writer, Juan Ferreyra, artist
Corrina: Buy It Before It’s Gone.
Ray: The penultimate issue of this cool horror-based comics takes the crises that were facing the team in the last few issues and blows them up to epic size, rather poor timing, given that Detectives Corrigan and Drake were apparently killed at the end of the last issue. An ancient demon rises up from the Gotham river, and with it summoning the spirits of all the wronged dead from the history of Gotham. This ranges from the zombified corpses of the recent dead rising out of the morgue to the angry ghosts of centuries-old murder victims screaming through the air. There’s a nasty personal streak to the threat that you don’t often see in zombie thrillers, as people are actually seeing the family members they lost rise up against them.
The GCPD is quickly overwhelmed, even with the help of Bat-Gordon, but the tide turns when Corrigan and Drake return from their seeming death. Any relief doesn’t last long, though. The demon is gaining control of any wronged dead in the city, and Jim Corrigan is a murder victim. Corrigan starts losing control of himself, as the demon begins the process of possessing the Spectre himself. As the war seems to be lost and the Spectre rages out of control, he’s stopped dead in his tracks – by the arrival of a second, female Spectre, who seems to be on the side of good. Sister Justine, perhaps? Either way, there’s a lot to cover in the final issue of this series, and it’ll be missed. I hope this creative team gets a higher-profile Bat-book in the future. It’s been well worth a read.
Corrina: I never thought I’d find a take on the Spectre better than the Ostrander/Mandrake series years ago but now I have. The murdered dead of Gotham rising up? Well, given Gotham’s history, that’s heckuva lot of ghosts.
Ray encapsulated what happened well so that I want to concentrate on the art, which has always provided this series with a unique look. It’s not just the foreground images, like the ghosts or the Spectre being possessed or last issue’s car crash off the bridge. It’s the background, with the different colors swirling and the use of light and darkness in each panel. Without the art, it’s a nice horror plot. With the art, this series is something of a masterpiece.
Cyborg #5 – David F. Walker, writer, Ivan Reis, layouts, Felipe Watanabe and Daniel HDR, pencillers, Albert Oclair, Julio Ferreira, Andy Owens & Juan Castro, inks.
Ray: It’s not a big surprise that Ivan Reis is missing issues regularly on this title. He’s always been not quite a monthly artist but it’s still a slightly ominous sign given that the artist is in flux and the writer just signed on to do two books at Marvel. After a fantastic first issue, the story’s slowed down a bit and focused on introducing the threat and the character’s support team in STAR Labs. The issue opens with Vic and his team battling monsters sent by the Technosapiens and barely escaping, while leaving one of Vic’s legs behind.
This allows us to get a full demonstration of just how his new regenerative powers work once he’s back at base. We also find out the origin of these Technosapien villains finally – essentially, they use the same technology that Cyborg does, but it’s out of balance and impossible for them to fully control. Cyborg is the “tuning fork” that can center them and give them full control. I’m also interested in the growing relationship between Vic and Sarah, and the interaction with his father. However, when the comic shifts back to battles, it becomes a bit jumbled and doesn’t hold my interest as much. The cliffhanger is mainly just Vic and his allies in the Tekbreakers jumping right back into battle. I’m still enjoying this book, but I’m hoping it wraps up this initial story fairly soon and has more time to focus on Vic himself.
Corrina: This is the first issue where Vic’s character, mostly hidden behind the action, revealed itself in various quips and in his confidence (over-confidence). It may have been too much to introduce time travel and dopplegangers of people that we’ve barely met on this world already, and tossing everyone into a worldwide battle raised the stakes perhaps too much.
But I’ve always loved Vic and I hope the book survives whatever creative changes are to come. I admit, however, the stories themselves haven’t been the advertisement for the character that I’d hope.
Batman Beyond #7 – Dan Jurgens, writer, Stephen Thompson, artist,
Corrina: Needs More Terry.
Ray: Now that the Brother Eye storyline has finally wrapped up, this title can shift its focus to the actual characters and give us a better view of this Neo-Gotham. Giant killer robots are rarely conducive to character development and world building. While it’s definitely a step up, I feel like the title is still a bit too bogged down by unlikable characters and it really makes me miss the old Batman Beyond comics released under the Digital First line.
The better of the two plot lines has Tim and Barbara Gordon expanding their partnership, as she helps him repair the Bat-suit (good to see the two smartest Bat-kids using their talents to figure out Bruce’s last few mysteries) and we get a little bit more into what is haunting this version of Barbara Gordon. I’m much less interested, however, in the story of Matt McGinnis, who seems to be going down a bad path. He’s becoming obsessed with tech he found, dealing with shady pawnbrokers, and sneaking into the abandoned city of Metropolis, all while very sullen and sarcastic. While I sympathize with the character losing his brother, he’s sort of been a pill since the title began. Still, there’s hints of this title improving down the line, with fan-favorite villains the Splicers showing up soon. I hope that this title is able to distance itself from Futures End fully and find its groove.
Corrina: I miss those digital-first Beyond titles, especially characters like older Superman struggling with being a widower, and the various new members of the Justice League. That future world had its problems but it was nothing like this dystopian future under Brother Eye. So glad he’s gone, along with the now-pointless Futures End, but I’d hoped for a true reset, with hints of Terry coming back.
Instead, it seems that Tim will eventually act as Matt’s mentor, once Matt gets over his revenge and trauma. That could be interesting, but I suspect the title will be over long before then. Jurgens does such good work on the Lois & Clark book but he’s been stuck with a bad concept on this one from the start.
Lobo #13 – written by Cullen Bunn & Frank Barbiere, pencils by Robson Rocha & Ethan Van Sciver, inks by Jonathan Glapion & Ethan Van Sciver,
Corrina: Final Issue. Phew.
Ray: This is the final issue of this new take on Lobo, and it pretty much ends as it began – with a whole lot of violence. When we last left off, Lobo had been poisoned by a mysterious drug that led him to become even more unstable than usual and sent him on a quest to kill the Multiverse’s most dangerous targets – including Hal Jordan. Most of the issue involves Hal and Lobo scrapping while Hal tries to defuse the situation and Lobo continuously sees him as other enemies. One thing that amuses me about this issue is that it actually feels like this is more classic Lobo than new Lobo. There were a few times in the issue, with Lobo looking more unkempt and deranged, where I started wondering if this was doppelgänger Lobo back for revenge, but no. The issue ends with Lobo being rescued by his employers in the assassin’s guild – only to stab the person who cured him of the drug. Classic Lobo. This is one of the better issues of this series in a while, although I just don’t think there’s much Cullen Bunn and Frank Barbiere – two very talented writers – could do with a flat character like this.
Corrina: Classic Lobo makes no difference to me in this bleak and nihilistic title. I suppose if the book continued, it might add more humor, which I gather fans of Classic Lobo enjoy.
But I’m glad it’s gone and Lobo fans might be happy that it seems to have reset this smooth, suave bounty-hunter back to the crazed character they enjoyed.
All-Star Section Eight #6 – Garth Ennis, writer, John McCrea, artist
Corrina Don’t Buy.
Ray: The conclusion to this super-weird miniseries is here, and I do have to say that after the absurd first five issues, this one is sort of a nice change of pace. That’s not to say it’s good, but at least no members of the Justice League are defiled. When we last left off, Superman picked up Six-Pack to tell him it was time to go home, and he takes him to the Fortress of Solitude where they have a philosophical discussion over whether the entire DCU is actually a drunk man’s dream. Meanwhile, back at the bar, Grapplah kills himself for some reason and Dogwelder does something horrible. The tone of this series wavers wildly, from absurd comedy to tragic pathos with less than a page in between them, and it just doesn’t work. DC tried a few really experimental miniseries in this new wave, and some of them unfortunately just didn’t work at all. I doubt we’ll be seeing these characters again, and I kind of wish Ennis and McCrae had just let Hitman lie where it was with a near-perfect ending.
Corrina: It just don’t work. Yes, and that comment by Ray could apply to the whole series. I guess we’re back with “it’s all a dream,” which is fine but how do I get back the time I spent trying to make sense of all this mess?
Teen Titans #14 – plotter, Scott Lobdell, written by Will Pfeifer, penciller, Rickon, Inker, Trevor Scott
Ray: So, good news and bad news. The good news is, Greg Pak is taking over this title come February! He’s an incredibly talented writer, and there’s a good chance he’ll be able to weave something interesting out of the flawed status quo that has plagued this title since the New 52 began. The bad news is…this issue.
In the aftermath of last issue, the Teen Titans are under arrest as we are informed several times over the course of the issue that teen heroes are being cracked down on across the country because of Robin War. So this is a tie-in, but not a subtle one. Then, suddenly, an issue of Doomed breaks out all over the place. Alpha Centurion attacks the team and helps to round them up, then pursues them when Tim leads an escape. But before Alpha Centurion – and his team of alien allies wearing the same uniform – can capture them,
Reiser/Doomsday shows up and attacks Alpha Centurion due to his crush on Wonder Girl. Who thought “Hey, you know what’ll fix Teen Titans? A heavy dose of the lowest-selling title in our entire lineup that we just cancelled.” Power Girl’s new powers manifest again, and the Teen Titans go on the run as outlaws. Meanwhile, Tim rendezvous with Red Hood to discuss the event that will be followed up on in Red Hood and Arsenal. I’m looking forward to the new creative team, because this issue was an unfortunate mess. Still, a slight tick up from last issue, mainly due to consistent art.
Corrina: I assumed Lobdell wanted to reuse the characters from Doomed. No, adding them here doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, and I feel bad for Pfeifer, who wrote the script, possibly as clean-up duty in a title that hasn’t worked for years. I hope DC leaves Pak alone to create something readable.
Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #17 – written by Trina Robbins, art by Chris Gugliotti
Corrina: Buy It.
Ray: A full-length story this month, focusing on Diana and Cheetah. It starts when Barbara Minerva breaks into Diana’s home, weakened and seeking her help. It turns out the serum she gets her powers from are dependent on a specific berry that is getting rarer and rarer – and is now threatened with extinction by a Lexcorp run science station. Diana and Cheetah head on a mission to get her what she needs, and stumble upon a bizarre factory straight out of the Island of Doctor Moreau, where animals are being mutated into partially human. It’s a weird, oddly charming story with a much softer take on Cheetah than I’ve seen in a while – she’s essentially redeemed via the love of a tiny talking kitten – but it has a lot of fun visuals and fits nicely into this title’s occasional indie vibe. Going to miss this unique look at one of DC’s most important heroes when it’s gone after next month.
Corrina: Gugliotti’s art reminds me of the best work of Dustin Nguyen–it looks painted, the expressions are adorable, and it suits the whimsical tone of Robbins story. And can I stop here and say it’s good to see comics pioneer Robbins on a Wonder Woman story? Because it is! It’s a sweet issue for many reasons but that is one.
Batman: Arkham Knight #11 –
Corrina: Don’t Buy It.
Ray: This title feels like it’s been in a holding pattern for a while, unfortunately, with lots of behind the scenes scheming by the villains and not all that much plot advancement. Bruce recently got out of a particularly tight spot courtesy of the Calendar Man and is now having significant doubts about his ability to continue indefinitely as Batman. I did like the scenes between Bruce and Alfred this issue, although Bruce seems a bit out of character at points. Meanwhile, Scarecrow and Arkham Knight are testing a new model of fear gas, and they have the perfect test subject – Bane, who is losing his mind in the basement as he revisits the most traumatic parts of his life. There’s nothing technically wrong with this series, but it’s slipping a bit into the same problems as the past Arkham series did – they can only go so far before they start treading water, since they’re only prequels to the main story.
Corrina: The series is basically what it claims to be: a story based on a video game. It does that part of itself well, filling in corners of the story, but there’s nothing new or compelling here for Batman fans over the regular Batman comics. There’s also nothing horrible either, so if your appetite for Batman stories is unparallel, this book wouldn’t be a bad addition to the pull list.
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 these comics for review purposes.