Swamp Thing Oozes Into a Zombie Mystery in This Week’s DC Comics

Welcome to our reviews of this week’s DC Comics. As always, Ray Goldfied handles the plot recaps, while I riff on the highlights and lowlights. (Looking for last week? Look here!)

Swamp Thing is back, Hal Jordan and Parallax are both on Earth and Superman in the video game is still evil and now we have the full slate of reviews, including the latest issue of Batman & Robin Eternal, plus more Bombshells, and a fine detective story for Jim Gordon in the latest issue of Detective. 

Spoilers for all issues. 

Batman and Robin Eternal #14 – James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder, story, James Tynion IV, script, Fernando Blanco and Roger Robinson, art 

Ray: 9/10 (Book of the Week)

Corrina: Finally Sold on the Series

Ray: I know Corrina named this issue as her favorite of the series, and I’m really curious to see why. I’m partial to last week’s Cass-centric issue. That’s not to say this issue isn’t excellent, though. The story is split fairly evenly between flashback segments and present-day segments. In the past, Bruce and Dick take the fight to Scarecrow and Batman dispatches Robin to defuse a bomb on the roof – so he can confront Scarecrow personally. Scarecrow makes an attempt to surrender, saying Mother’s deranged plan to essentially lobotomize a generation of children with intense trauma goes too far, but Batman has other ideas. He agrees to give Scarecrow protective custody only if Scarecrow goes back inside Mother’s organization and reports back to him. It’s pretty clear at this point that Batman’s involvement with Mother is all a deep-cover operation, and any regrets he had are all about not being able to do enough.

Meanwhile, in the present day, Mother has set up the base to terminate with Dick, Harper, Cass, and the evil Orphan inside. Orphan, however, isn’t willing to cooperate to get them all out alive, as he’s still a true believer. Cass’ penchant for self-sacrifice becomes clear as she willingly takes a knife through the hand to protect Harper without flinching, and the bulk of the issue becomes a mad dash to escape an army of killer robot defenses that the lair has set up to take them out. In between the chaos, though, we get some great scenes between Harper and Cass and a fantastic speech by Dick Grayson about why he still has faith in Batman. It’s like Tynion wanted to put all the worries people had about the portrayal of Bruce to rest with this issue. If the person closest to Bruce still believes in him, shouldn’t we? It doesn’t have quite the emotional punch of last issue, but it’s another fantastic installment in one of DC’s best books. I’ve never seen a weekly that maintains this level of quality on all fronts.

Corrina: My fondness for this issues goes to this scene, and full credit to Tynion, because he is great with dialogue.

Dick Grayson, Nightwing
Panel from Batman & Robin Eternal, image via DC Comics.

That scene is not only a great comment on Batman but also a nice encapsulation of who Dick Grayson is. And perhaps I love this issue so much because it proves that, no, we’re not going down the path of Batman becoming someone too morally complicated to be the hero that he is.

Midnighter #8 – Steve Orlando, writer, David Messina, penciller, Gaetano Carlucci, inks

Ray: 9/10

Corrina: Buy It!

Ray: This continues to be one of the most pleasant surprises in the entire DCU. Who knew that what Wildstorm needed to be relevant again was to go completely and totally insane?

The focus of this book continues to be an interesting mix of done-in-one stories dealing with weird technology with some background conspiracy involving the various spy organizations that Midnighter tangles with. This issue has one of my favorite threats of the month – a shadowy hunting organization that mutates multiple creatures together to create Chimeras, unfortunate super-beings for hunters who have gotten bored with killing ordinary wild animals. As one of these monsters rampages around the city, Midnighter is joined in his battle against it by a new hero, with the power to sense the aura of animals and split these mutated creatures apart into what they were supposed to be. I’m pretty sure this new guy is supposed to be an updated B’wana Beast, although the name is probably never used for good reason.

It’s that love this title has for the weird and obscure elements of the DCU that makes Orlando’s writing stand out. It’s in the background, but the issue also does a good job of dealing with the fallout from Midnighter’s incredibly nasty breakup last issue, and introduces a few new supporting cast members. The end of the issue brings back one of the former threats of the month and sets Midnighter up for another crossover with Grayson next month. Much like Omega Men, this is one of the best books DC is putting out, and it needs more eyes on it!

Corrina: Those who watched Batman: The Brave and The Bold will remember B’wana Beast, whose power was considered quite icky but managed to make an impression in his appearances. That character has some unfortunate racial implications but what this issue does is grab his power set and his heroic ideals and placed them into this new hero. It’s fun, it’s as weird as Ray says, and it’s entertaining as hell. That last can be said about the whole series.

DC Comics Bombshells #8 – writer, Marguerite Bennett, art by Maria Laura Sanapo, Laura Braga

Ray: 8.5/10

Corrina: Buy It, Of Course.

Ray: Coming off last issue’s classic issue, which was one of my favorite single issues DC put out all year, this issue was almost guaranteed to be a letdown. And sure enough, I found my attention flagging a bit during the opening segment, which focuses on Wonder Woman and the US army battling against an army of resurrected Nazi zombies.

The action here is good and the visuals are creepy, but given the great characterization in some of the other segments, it feels like anything involving the supernatural threats is the weak link. Things pick up in a big way, though, with the latter two-thirds of the issue. While Mera entertains the troops, Kortni fills Kara and their allies in on her past, involving a British traveller who was her biological father. Seeking help to get her adoptive father back from the Russians, she seeks out Mr. Whitmore in Britain and finds a kind, gentle man – but one who has no desire to see his daughter continue to fight the good fight and instead wants to protect her and give her a comfortable life in his manor.

It’s a good commentary on how sexism was pretty endemic in the WW2 era, even among the good guys. Meanwhile, Kara is really written well here, as she grapples with her fears that she’ll be forgotten as Kortni finds her second family. It’s good to see someone is using Supergirl well, despite her seeming banishment from the main line. And in the cliffhanger, Mera uncovers something dark and terrible in the deep. There’s a lot of plot lines intersecting in this book, and most of them are incredibly compelling. Easily the best of the alternate universe books DC has put out.

Corrina: It’s like this series is about five different Elseworlds all wrapped into one, and all of them nearly equally compelling. Basically, when I read this, I’m glad to have new chapters to the stories and I keep wishing for me. But I suppose I should be grateful that even this single book exists.

Green Arrow #48 – storytellers, Benjamin Percy, script, Patrick zircher, art

Ray: 8/10

Corrina: Still Not Quite a Green Arrow Book.

Ray: Meanwhile, in the world of weird coincidences between Marvel and DC, a politically outspoken superhero has been infected with something that is turning him into a wolf-man. That amusing little comparison aside, this issue is a massive improvement from this book’s jumbled last arc.

It picks up directly from the annual, which saw Ollie fighting an army of villains infected with a werewolf-like virus, only to be infected himself. Since then, he’s isolated himself in a cabin in the woods, trying to get control of the virus. He’s staying with an old friend who lost a son recently, but it soon becomes clear that Ollie isn’t the only Lukos-infected individual wandering around the woods. There’s a creepy minimalism to the story – a lot of wide open spaces and Ollie alone with his thoughts. When the monster does show up, it’s incredibly effective. I will say that the big twist involving the identity of the monster roaming the woods is a bit predictable, but it still leads to a powerful climax. The idea of Ollie slowly losing his identity to the Lukos virus is handled compellingly here, and Zircher’s art does a great job with the monster effects. My only real problem is that this title continues to jump around in a lot of odd ways. First, Ollie is battling to get his company back from murderous terrorists. Then he’s down south battling supernatural gangsters. Now he’s a werewolf in the wild. This issue on its own is strong, but I want to see more of Ollie and Emiko fighting crime together in Seattle soon!

Corrina: I agree it’s a massive improvement and this storyline with the wolf men keeps reminding me of a pre-Crisis Black Canary story that featured a Wolf Man who turned out to be an ally. That one also took place in the wilds of the Northwest. It is good to have Ollie’s inner voice sound more like himself, as I remain convinced the last arc was an original storyline that was altered (badly) to fit into this title. It’s always been clear that Percy and Zircher have talent and I’m glad to see them concentrating more on Oliver than other story elements that push him aside.

Batman: Detective Comics #48 – Peter J. Tomasi, story and words, Fernando Pasarin, pencils, Matt Ryan, inks.

Ray: 8/10

Corrina: I’m Already Missing Jim’s Inevitable Retirement From Batman

Ray: Now that Jim’s part in Robin War is over (although the crossover is still going), the new Batman is back to business, as Pete Tomasi’s run starts to fit into a groove. I really like what he’s doing here – incredibly bizarre cases solved by old-fashioned police work. Last arc brought us a dead giant in the arctic with giant bones that could be analyzed by forensics. This issue brings us a dead George Washington lying in the alley. Tomasi’s got a good balance of showing us where Gordon excels – the Detective part of Batman, and where he doesn’t, which would be most other parts of Batman.

This issue also had probably my favorite scene in any comic this week, a hilarious segment involving Barbara and Jim calling to check up on each other and both father and daughter lying through their teeth as they fought criminals while claiming to be having a quiet night at home/the movies. I was hoping the writers would have fun with both Jim and Barbara keeping their secret IDs from each other. As for the villain, he appears to be some sort of madman who dresses innocent victims up as prominent figures in American history and then brutally kills them and mounts their heads on his wall. I’m…not really sure what to make of this, but points to Tomasi for coming up with some seriously bizarre villains for our heroes to fight. I also really liked the scene between Jim and Harvey as they puzzle over the case. Not as groundbreaking as Snyder’s run on Bat-Gordon, but definitely an entertaining second helping.

Corrina: Gordon’s Batman reminds me of the Bruce Wayne Batman of Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams. That Bruce wasn’t the omnipotent warrior who never suffered setbacks. He was close to what Gordon is in this story: a superb detective and hand-to-hand fighter who ends up triumphing because he’s smarter and more stubborn that his foes.

Bruce Wayne grew into, well, an entity who is never wrong and never loses. I hope when he takes up the Cape and Cowl again, he’s a bit closer to BatMAN rather than BatGOD. In the meantime, I’ve always enjoyed watching Gotham’s regular detectives solve a mystery. My only complaint? Where’s Renee!

Action Comics #48 – story, Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder, words, Pak, pencils, Kuder and Rafa Sandoval, inks, Kuder and Jordi Tarragona

Ray: 6/10

Corrina: Is It Over Yet?

Ray: The idea of a big bad surrounded by his various evil children as they all try to impress him by taking shots at the hero is not a bad one, and I think it could have been great if Vandal Savage and his various children – Wrath, Hordr-Root, and the now-deceased Bend – were more compelling villains. As it is, Savage’s generic plan for mass destruction continues to escalate as Superman is increasingly obsessed with getting his power back and taking the fight to Savage. This includes getting an experimental suit from Steel and Lana Lang, that will give him flight and enhanced power again. There’s just one drawback – it’s powered by Kryptonite and it’s not fully sealed off yet, so Superman only has a few hours of use before it kills him. Still, he puts it on and takes the fight to Savage’s spaceship, along with an assist from the recently canceled Justice League United. It’s great to see Stargirl and Animal Man again, among others, but they don’t get to do all that much before being canceled. Eventually Wrath starts to turn against Savage, but it’s too late and Superman and Wonder Woman are sent plummeting back to Earth with Superman’s suit malfunctioning. It’s a passable fight comic, but I’m pretty much ready for de-powered Superman and his various desperate gambits to be over with.

Corrina: Vandal Savage is more interesting as a mysterious and untrustworthy ally than he is as an enemy. In this fight against Superman, he’s almost reached omnipotent mustache-twirling levels. Maybe that’s why I’ve become uninterested in the story. I’m glad it looks like it might be moving to a conclusion but having Superman basically go on a suicide run didn’t work for me. I know, the writers set it up this way, as he’s become more desperate over the last few issues to protect those that he loved. It’s more that I’m not buying the entire premise but I’m sure everyone reading these reviews is sick of me saying that.

Batman Beyond #8 – Dan Jurgens, writer, Bernard Chang, artist

Ray: 5/10

Corrina: Almost Interested.

Ray: Now that the Brother Eye plot line is over for the most part, I was hoping for this title to get a little lighter and start feeling more like the original Batman Beyond. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be going in that direction, as there is very little in this version of the future that is light or good. The main plot line has Matt McGinnis on a pilgrimage to the destroyed city of Metropolis, with the cyborg arm of Green Lantern in his possession, apparently in search of answers about what happened to his brother. Matt’s been such a little pill since this series began that it’s hard to sympathize with him, despite him going through some very real trauma. Meanwhile in Neo-Gotham, Terry clashes with Mayor Luke Fox (yes, that Luke Fox) over the city’s treatment of refugees from Metropolis, in a plot line that feels like it’s trying way too hard to be current and timely. In between this, we get an extended flashback to how the Justice League died during the initial invasion of Brother Eye. It’s so puzzling that this book is written by the same person behind Lois and Clark, one of the most optimistic books in the DCU. This book feels like a relic from an older era of the New 52 that I am not keen to revisit.

Corrina: Is Matt being a pill or is he taking steps that could bring his brother back from the dead? I thought I saw a ray of hope for Terry’s eventual return with Matt or maybe it’s just my wishful thinking that Matt isn’t just being whiny kid and that this plotline will be interesting.

The arguments over the refugees only served to remind me how grim this world has become and that bummed me out about the whole series again. As for the differences in Jurgens’ writing between this and his other book, I’ll note that Tomasi has similarly different levels of quality with his different DC books. Editorial direction too heavy, perhaps?

Telos #4 – writer, Jeff King, pencils, CArlo Pagulayan and Igor Vitorino, inks, Jason Paz, Marc Deering and Jose Marzan Jr.

Ray: 3/10

Corrina: Won’t Miss This Series.

Ray: This series is coming to a very early end in two issues, not the biggest surprise for a book that is essentially a crossover between the long-cancelled Threshold and a spotlight for the villain of the poorly-received Convergence. Telos has essentially been cast as a pawn in an ongoing war between Brainiac and the evil ruler of Colu, Computo, over one of Brainiac’s children. The big problem is, absolutely none of these characters have any real personalities. Computo is a generic villain who talks in vague threats and pompous statements, while Brainiac backstabs everyone in sight at least several times an issue. In the end, Telos is able to help Techne get away and defeat Computo, while heading off on a new quest himself. Jeff King’s Convergence wasn’t terrible, more just overly stuffed with characters, but this book is an example of how you just can’t have a good comic if you don’t have any good characters to fill it with. Of all the dozens of DC characters who people would have been thrilled to see with their own title, Telos definitely isn’t one of them. Hence, six issues.

Corrina: I have trouble reading this book because the plot seems so squished together with so many charaters and I’ve just been thrown into the middle of a story where I missed several chapters. I wonder if that’s due to the impending cancellation and the creative team rushing story elements that would have played out in several more issues. This was obviously a failed experiment. I’m more intrigued with how it was given the go-ahead and if this story was altered or changed from that than I am in the series itself.

Swamp Thing #1 – Len Wein, writer, Kelley Jones, Illustrator,

Ray: 8/10

Corrina: Good Jump-on Point for Newbies

Ray: I was always going to be a bit of a hard sell for this book, simply because I consider the previous Swamp Thing run by Scott Snyder and Charles Soule to be one of the all-time high marks for the New 52. That was such a brilliant reinvention and expansion of the concept that any other take on the character was bound to disappoint me. Still, the creative team of Swamp Thing co-creator Len Wein and super-creepy Batman artist Kelley Jones is impressive, and from the start the series has a fun, creepy vibe.

To no surprise, the series makes short work of dispensing of most of the big concepts that Soule left us with, via a throwaway line that Alec Holland has ceased communicating with the Parliament of Trees and retreated to his old Louisiana swamp. The script is very moody and does a good job of capturing the haunted vibe of the Bayou, but it’s a little slow on plot. The first half of the issue is mostly narration and Swamp Thing wrestling an alligator – which, admittedly, is a lot of fun to watch. Things pick up when Swamp Thing rescues a couple from quicksand, only to find out that they came there looking for him. The couple’s son was the victim of a risky college experiment to raise the dead, and wound up in a coma – until he woke up and disappeared, and is now targeting the other participants in the experiment for revenge as a rampaging zombie. There’s a fun horror vibe to the title, and Jones’ art is excellently creepy, although I still can’t help but feel like Swamp Thing has been set back to an era of the character that doesn’t quite hook me like the character used to. Still, for a six-issue miniseries, the first issue sets up a good storyline, and it’s good to have the characters of the Dark line making a comeback.

Corrina: Admittedly, this creative team brings back Swamp thing to basics, which considering Wein and Bernie Wrightson co-created Swampy, isn’t a surprise. I like the character best in his swamp, being pulled into strange elements in the regular world, rather than the whole overarching mystical element. It brings the character down to Earth and makes him matter to those around him, such as the couple who just want the truth about their son. The fear made the revelation of what happened to their son hurt, and hurt is always a good thing when reading a horror comic.

The art that's on my Kelley Jones Batman t-shirt. Image via DC Comics
The art that’s on my Kelley Jones Batman t-shirt. Image via DC Comics

For those new to the characters, this is a chance to try him out. There’s a darkly humorous fight with an alligator, an unusual anti-hero, and a villain the reader feels for, due to knowing the people who love him. I have a t-shirt of one of Jones’ Batman as Vampire panels and he should be mentioned more as one of the great ones.

Green Lantern #48 – writer, Robert Venditti, artist, Martin Coccolo, peciller, Billy Tan, inker, Mark Irwin

Ray: 8.5/10

Corrina: Skippable.

Ray: I am really liking this new storyline, which is bringing a fresh vibe back to Green Lantern after a series of space adventures that just weren’t very exciting anymore. I’m still a little dubious about immediately endangering a member of Hal’s family to cause drama, but this issue just reveals that his nephew is in a coma with a head injury of unspecified severity, so that can easily be undone as soon as the drama is no longer needed. This issue packs a lot of action into one story, as we start with Hal heading to Gotham City to compare notes with Jim Gordon’s Batman on the new Sonar. The cover shows the two heroes fighting, but that doesn’t actually happen – something I’m glad to see.

The updated Sonar makes for a seriously threatening villain, however. Gone is the generic supervillain of the pre-Flashpoint era, who was more of a running joke for Hal to beat up. The new Sonar is a dangerous terrorist leading a cult of followers for the liberation of a small Eastern European region, complete with minions who are perfectly willing to die for him in the most shocking scene of the issue. The series is a little vague on what Sonar and his group actually stand for, but that’s for the best – GL manages to create a new terrorist villain without actually stepping in any political minefields. I’m most excited about the final segment, though, which has Parallax from the pre-52 era showing up in this world and finding out that Coast City is still standing. Determined to keep his tragic history from repeating itself, he vows to destroy this world’s…Hal Jordan. As a huge fan of the sinister Hal from the Zero Hour era, I’m really excited to see how this character’s presence in the new DCU plays out.

Coloring book variant cover art by Mike Allred, image via DC Comics
Coloring book variant cover art by Mike Allred, image via DC Comics

Corrina: Replace your “not very exciting” to “semi-pointless” in reference to the old plotline and I’ll agree, Ray. I also agree something new had to be done and bringing Hal back to Earth works. To a point. The good is Hal talking to Gordon Batman and Hal in a hospital waiting room, talking to a relative of one of the patients is one of the best scenes I’ve seen in this series.

However, not so thrilled with Hal’s instant anger and wanting to hit things, given he’s an experienced hero and shouldn’t be just wading in right now. At least he did some research first. Also not thrilled with the “kid in jeopardy” plot line that sets off Hal’s search for Sonar. But at least I recognize this Hal as human. As for Parallax, that promises to be a very “meta” storyline and one steeped in continuity events. Not my thing.

Parallax, Emerald Twilight
Green Lantern Vol 3 #48. We’re coming full circle with the new issue #48. Image via DC Comics

Trivia: When I was looking for images for Green Lantern #48, I found the cover for an issue of #48 of the Volume 3 Green Lantern series, which was part of the Emerald Twilight story that led to the creation of Parallax.

Out of Continuity Reviews

Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Five #1 – writer, Brian Buccellato, artists, Mike S. Miller and Iban Coello

Ray: 7/10

Corrina: Only If You Like Evil Superman

Ray: The final year of Injustice kicks off, and the smartest thing this issue does is bring the focus back to the core conflict – a dark, corrupt Superman trying to rule the world as various powers scheme around him. The previous two seasons suffered from spending far too much time on powerful outside forces that we knew weren’t going to be able to unseat Superman, first Trigon and then the Olympian Gods.

This brings the story back to where it should be, and kicks off with Superman at his lowest point. After Plastic Man’s daring jailbreak of his son in the annual, all the villains Superman locked up are back among the free, and coming after his fellow heroes. As Superman rounds up as many as he can, Batman cuts a desperate deal to keep the rebellion alive, forming an alliance with the Rogues. But a far bigger threat is coming, in the form of Doomsday, who crashes to Earth and proceeds to beat Superman within an inch of his life. Then Bane joins the party. Overall, the main story is a bit too reliant on big action, but I’m enjoying the side stories, particularly anything involving Batman. I’m wondering how Buccellato will bring this story to a close, since it’s essentially an elaborate prequel to the video game.

Corrina: Superman vs. Doomsday where we’re kinda rooting for Doomsday? That is an interesting take and if I was interested in the Superman as Dictator plot, it might just get me to buy the series. I’ll say that those who liked the earlier years of the Injustice comic should like this and those who didn’t probably won’t be persuaded to change their minds.

I do still love the Plastic Man’s epic escape with his son, however. We need to get that creative team on a Plastic Man book.

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.

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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.