The DC Comics You Should Be Reading

Comic Books Entertainment Featured Columns GeekMom Weekly DC Comics Capsule Reviews

Each week that we recap the latest offerings from DC Comics, we invariably gush over a B-list book or character that deserves a much wider readership. That’s true this week too, as Constantine: The Hellblazer, Gotham Academy, and Starfire all are given high marks but all except Starfire are at the back of the pack in sales.

In print, Deathstroke‘s ‘meh’ title is selling more than Grayson, DC: Bombshells, Black Canary and We Are Robin. Martian Manhunter, Secret Six, Doctor Fate and Omega Men are bottom sellers. Gotham Academy, one of the freshest and most interesting ideas in the Batman mythos in ages, is selling only 16,000 print copies a week, which boggles my mind.

Either regular DC readers are unwilling to read anything even slightly  different than their basic superhero story, non-DC readers haven’t gotten the word that these non-flagship titles are inventive and fascinating, or people are buying a bunch of them digitally and, hence, the sales aren’t reflected in print.

It could be a combination of all three but I hope it’s the last reason because that means more people than it seems are reading the lower-selling print books. ( doesn’t release exact sales numbers.) But, otherwise, some of my favorite books are going to be canceled. No! If you haven’t tried any of the above, please give them a shot.

(These figures are from November 2015, with a few sales figures taken from the October 2015 rundown. Let’s hope, at least, that the Robin War crossover spurred some interest in the lower selling Bat-books.

Now back to our regularly scheduled reviews….

Constantine: The Hellblazer – Ming Doyle & James Tynion IV, writers, Riley Rossmo, finishes and cover, Brian Level, breakdowns

Ray: 9/10

Corrina: Buy It!

Ray: This book is absolutely at its best when it’s delving into the dark and creepy underworld of the DCU and balancing it with some twisted humor. When we last left off, Papa Midnite had Constantine’s new flame Oliver held hostage in order to get his attention. Turns out Midnite’s dark magic club has been taken over by some corrupt demons who stole it from under him, and he needs Constantine’s help to get it back. To “motivate” Constantine, he has his Basilisk bite Oliver, necessitating an antidote that can only be found in the Club. Although I don’t particularly like a same-sex rehash of the same old “love interest in peril” spotlight, one scene where Oliver refuses to take the Basilisk’s bait and condemn Constantine was good.

However, the issue really takes off when the two anti-heroes break into the Midnight Club. Rossmo is SO good at creating elaborate, creepy settings, and with Constantine and Midnight under glamours as demons, they’re able to have the run of the place. I loved how Constantine was able to figure out a near-impossible problem using his street-wise guile – the building is built over a non-magical shell, so it’s possible to bypass the dangerous magical traps by…taking the stairs. And on a personal note, I am thrilled to see one of my favorite ’90s villains, the pompadoured demon Neron, back in a major role. This feels like a fascinating horror twist on Ocean’s 11, and I can’t wait to see how the two reluctant allies get out of this. This is one of DC’s most underrated books.

The MIdnight Club, image copyright DC Comics
The MIdnight Club, image copyright DC Comics

Corrina: I spent a good five minutes examining all the artwork in the Midnight Club, hoping to spot easter eggs. Alas, I’m not steeped enough in Constantine’s mythology to have recognized any but I bet there are some in there. The story also, as Ray says, highlights John’s intelligence and outside-the-box thinking. He’s human, he’s sort of a demon, and he belongs in neither place. His disguise as a fun-loving demon with an agenda is a good metaphor for Constantine himself and the beauty of the character is that he knows this himself.

With Ray on not liking the “love interest in peril” plotline but perhaps that’s just a way to show, eventually, why John is single. I know people have been skeptical about the reboot but this is one of DC’s quality books. You should be reading this, if you have any interest in horror at all.

Gotham Academy #14 – interstitials written by Brenden Fletcher, interstitials pencils and colors by Adam Archer, interstitials inks by Sandra Hope; ‘Animal Sanction’ written by Derek Fridolfs, illustrated by Dustin Nguygen; ‘Queen Glee’ written and illustrated by Katie Cook; ‘Scottie Dog,’ written by Hope Larson, ilustrated by Kris Mukai

Ray: 7/10

Corrina: Buy It!

Ray: This comic’s been through a lot of changes, losing key artist Karl Kerschl and playing a part in the Robin War crossover which threatened to drive a rift between Maps and Olive. That seems to have been smoothed over quickly, and this “Yearbook” arc seems to be more of an anthology than anything as various guest creative teams drop by to help Maps and Olive reminisce about their past year at Gotham Academy.

I have a feeling a lot of people are going to love this issue, as some of the stories have a very quirky, indie vibe, but for me they just felt a little too light and lacked the fun, creepy aesthetic of the previous issues. Fletcher handles the framing segments, while three short stories make up the rest. It was a blast to see the Lil’ Gotham creative team of Fridolfs and Nguyen reunited on a short story involving Professor Langstrom and his were-sheep, my favorite of the segments. Cook’s story involving an evil Glee club plotting to brainwash everyone at the school to…like the Glee club was my least favorite of the three, as it was almost aggressively cute. And aren’t Glee jokes a little played out? The third story, by Hope Larson and Kris Mukai, is an interesting one focusing on Professor MacPherson as a teenager when she attended Gotham Academy. It’s has some interesting commentary on fair-weather friends and…ghosts? Fairies? Boy band members? Not sure, but there’s a fun mystery to it. Overall, a fun read for GA fans, and everyone should find at least one segment they like, but this is definitely an acquired taste.

Corrina: Any issue which include Dustin Nguyen’s artwork is bound to be a favorite of mine, and this story with the were-sheep will remind readers of the fun had with Nguyen’s off-beat take on the Bat-Family in Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl book. That itself is worth the price of this issue.

I suspect this issue is an anthology either because DC wants to bring in new readers and give them the flavor of the title via pulling in fans of Cook, Nguyen, and Hope Larson. I hope it works because, as we keep saying, this book needs to stay around for a long, long time.

Starfire #8 cover. copyright DC Comics
Starfire cover. copyright DC Comics

Starfire – Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, writers, Emanuela Lupacchino, pencils, Mirco Pierfederici, pencil assists, Ray McCarthy, inks

Ray: 7/10

Corrina: Buy It.

Ray: It amuses me that Starfire’s solo title has essentially become a Shoujo manga, with the story being dominated by her complex love triangle involving Dick Grayson and her new friend Sol. The first part of the issue has Kory and Dick teaming up against the secret evil agents who are trying to get their hands on the top-secret tech that Kory destroyed last issue. There’s a lot of fighting in a graveyard, Starfire manages to fight them off, and Dick and Kory say goodbye for now. That leaves Starfire open to go to Sol and sort out their issues, eventually sharing a kiss – before some mysterious thing starts happening in the pool.

I’m finding this take on Starfire overall fun, but I am a bit worried that they’re taking her adorable naiveté over the top, essentially turning her into a ditzier version of Miss Martian who repeats cute malapropisms a lot. My favorite segment in the issue, though, had to be Atlee convincing the Sheriff to join them on a trip down to her underground world. If the actual world is as amusing as her description of it, that should be one entertaining issue.

Corrina: I keep wondering just how much of Kory’s malapropisms are her having fun with everyone around her. If she spent enough time with Dick to develop a romance, then she’s not nearly as confused about Earth manners as she pretends to be. I hope that’s a revelation down the line. She’s smart, she would have figured out that’s a good way to get people to laugh around her.

I loved seeing Dick and Kory together again but it felt oddly hollow, as Kory is such a different character now than in the original Teen Titans series. I suspect, however, that fans of the original animated series would enjoy reading this one, as this Starfire reminds me of that one.

Robin War – Tom King, writer, Khary Randolph, Alvaro Martinez & Raul Fernandez, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Steve Pugh and Scott McDaniel & Andy Owens, art.

Ray: 8.5/10

Corrina: Buy It.

Ray: The small-scale crossover that has taken over the younger Bat-books for the last two months comes to a close, and King once again delivers a strong story that brings great moments for several of the Bat-family’s newer stars. I did think this felt a bit more like a standard crossover/action comic than the rest of the event did, but conclusions often do.

When we last left off, Damian Wayne had cut a deal with the Court of Owls to join them in Dick’s place, thus saving the rest of his allies in the family. However, it soon becomes clear that Damian hasn’t actually switched sides per se, since he spends more of his time trying to warn the rest of the Robins off and telling them to leave him alone, that he did what he needed to do. He easily takes out Jason and Tim, leaving him in a one-on-one fight with Duke, who doesn’t go down nearly as easily as the previous Robins (Which makes no sense, but Duke’s role fit thematically).

There’s a lot of great commentary in this issue about exactly what a Robin is, and what it takes to stand up against evil. There’s one little-seen Robin, Trevor, who starts the issue coming off like a coward and winds up being one of the biggest heroes of the issue. I’m hoping he appears again in future issues. The big twist, where Dick joins the Court of Owls to free Damian, promises to have some interesting repercussions for his book – I love triple-cross stories.

How many secret organizations does Dick belong to now? It also throws the entire concept of We Are Robin into flux, as Duke and the others seem to have lost faith in their mission in the wake of the loss of one of their own. I feel like the first issue of this event was brilliant, essentially doing a much smarter version of the concept of Civil War, but once the Court of Owls became clear as the big bad, it felt a bit less unique. Still, this is one of the most consistently enjoyable DC crossovers in a while for me.

Corrina: If you compare this to other DC crossovers, it’s indeed the best of them. But that doesn’t make it outstanding, only merely good.

My favorite moments had to be the crew of Robins–Jason, Dick, Tim, Damian–training the Robin gang. Duke Thomas isn’t lost in the shuffle and that’s a good thing. That Duke is able to hold out longer in a fight with Damian than Tim or Jason may not make sense on the surface but it’s more subtle than that. I suspect we’re supposed to believe that Duke’s plea reached Damian and that’s why he held back. Whereas, Damian knew his fellow Robins could probably take it. (And they may have been holding back.)

It’s the conclusion that makes me give this just a “very good” rather than excellent grade. I admit, my bias against the Court of Owls has been showing but it’s like this group can never be defeated ever, despite whatever is lined up against them. That doesn’t work for me because that means the Court always beats the Bat-Family, and everyone has to lose sometime. That the Owls don’t strains my suspension of disbelief, as does Dick agreeing to be “part” of them. I know, it’s a triple cross but, jeez, enough already.

Green Lantern Corps: Edge of Oblivion – writer, Tom Taylor, art, Ethan Van Sciver

Ray: 7.5/10

Corrina: Better. Not Great.

Ray: Taylor and Van Sciver step in to continue Bunn’s GL story, as the Corps are still stranded in Relic’s dying universe. Left adrift by their less-than-trustworthy allies Krona and Relic, the Lanterns are hiding out on Mogo and are desperate to find their missing allies and get back home. Mogo is able to emit a solar flare that locates Iolande’s group of Lanterns – but that’s not the only people they attract.

A giant meteor starts bearing down on Mogo. The Lanterns are able to block it, but it reveals itself to be not a meteor at all but a traveling city. The Lanterns then come under attack by a powerful giant named Dismas, who easily defeats them. It’s only the intervention of his ally Auras, a fellow giant, who stops him. They’re the guardians of one of the few remaining surviving cities, and they’re looking for a way out of the dying universe as well. The GLs are torn on whether to take the risk of welcoming thousands of unknown alien species back into their universe, but despite Salaak’s logical arguments, Kilowog makes it clear that their job is to help those who need it.

To no surprise, though, there are some sinister, dangerous elements in the group of aliens – as adorable fish Lantern Mukmuk finds out when a mysterious tentacled force captures him and drains him of all life-force. Van Sciver’s art is great in action scenes, and Taylor manages to set up a fairly compelling new conflict. I’m curious to see how this proceeds, although I’m still ready to see the GL Corps get back home.

Corrina: This new setup gives the Corps a purpose and, most of all, introduces a semi-permanent setting to ground the next story arc. I like the imagination behind the various cities, though it does remind me a little too much of the setup of Convergence (is that connected?). But the existence of many cultures and all the various Lanterns gives the creative team a chance to play around with new concepts.

The concept also gives Van Sciver a chance to shine, and he does, drawing everything from the giant alien guardians to the adorable fish Lantern. I expect the visuals on this are going to be great fun.

Given that this book meandered all over the place before becoming a “breakout from prison” story, it’s a huge improvement, and focusing on the many lost cities may make me forget that I hate this lost pocket universe thing. Yes, another thing that’s a pet peeve. I’m cranky today.

Batman and Robin Eternal #15 – James Tynion IV & Scott Snyder, story, Jackson Lanzing & Colin Kelly, script, Christian Duce, artist

Ray: 8/10

Corrina: Azrael fans, Take Note.

Ray: Lanzing and Kelly take the helm on their second story arc, and the quality stays strong – there really hasn’t been a weak link in this entire story. I’m a bit disappointed to see Harper and Cass completely missing from the issue after the last arc’s powerful emotional moments for the characters, but it does feel like it’s been a while since we checked in on the other members of the Bat-family. Tim has seemingly backstabbed Jason, knocking him out in an attempt to get into the front door of the order of St. Dumas, delivering Jason to their front door. Unfortunately for him, Azrael is less than happy or trusting. While Jason is thrown deep in a pit/cell, Tim faces off against Mother’s most fanatical “son”.

This new version of Azrael is a pretty compelling villain, a good distillation of his more unstable elements during his initial run. After a brief fight, Azrael agrees to take Tim to see his leader, the current St. Dumas. This mysterious man, who literally serves as the church’s power source, quickly sets Azrael and Red Robin against each other once again in a duel to become his new right hand. In a flashback segment, we get to see Scarecrow psychologically profile Batman for Mother, but this issue’s flashback feels more out of step than usual – it has little to no ties to the main story. In the end, Jason and Tim manage to escape, but not before St. Dumas unleashes a super-potent fear gas that hits Jason – causing him to see the Joker coming for him. I’m guessing much like this issue was a spotlight for Tim, next week will be Jason’s moment. Not my favorite issue of the series, but definitely enjoyable for Azrael fans.

Corrina: The most interesting revelation for this issue for long-time Batman fans is that this Azrael is Jean-Paul Valley as well. Tying St. Dumas into the search for Mother makes sense as a way to bring back Azrael and the always weird Order of St. Dumas but, in my pet peeve of the week, it means that Batman has been unable to stop Mother, the Order of St. Dumas and deal any kind of killing blow to the Court of Owls. That’s three losses, all against super-uber-secret-societies who never seem to make any mistakes. Next thing you know, Blofield and SPECTRE will show up. Wait, they won’t, because SPECTRE actually loses now and then.

Putting aside my crankiness, it’s a good issue, even if Tim betraying Jason was an obvious fake-out. I’m glad there’s some character development for Tim, who lost over 100 issues of development when DC rebooted his origin with the new 52. The big plot thread left hanging, by the way, is Tim’s activation by Mother in the early issues of this series. I wish that would show some forward momentum, but in a weekly series, some things will have to be drawn out. This is an engaging book for anyone who enjoys the Bat-Family, despite my gripes.

Superman/Batman #28 – writer, Tom Taylor, pencils, Robson Rocha, inks, Dexter Vines

Ray: 7.5/10

Corrina: Decent.

Ray: Taylor begins his run, which may just be an arc but there’s no confirmation yet. Taylor’s always been a good writer, and this flashback tale continues that streak. However, I have to say I’m a bit disappointed to see the intriguing team-up of Superman with Bat-Gordon cut short.

Speaking of Gordon, though, one of the oddest coincidences of this comic is the way it in some ways recreates the plot of a recent arc of Detective Comics – involving Batman using his CSI skills to investigate the murder of a giant alien being in an unusual situation. The issue begins with Superman pulling off a daring space rescue, saving an astronaut after a mysterious projectile hits her space station – only to see that the projectile was actually a gigantic alien astronaut, who has been murdered and sent rocketing through space. On Earth, Superman helps Batman and Commissioner Gordon fend off Clayface, and then recruits Batman for a mission on the moon to help him puzzle out the mystery. However, as soon as they get close to figuring out the mystery, the drone watching them detonates, and we see that a mysterious alien has hired Lobo to kill Batman before they get too close to the mystery. Batman and Superman are able to find evidence on the victim that points to the source of the killer, though – Krypton. So it seems there’s another Kryptonian out there. A fun start, and it’s good to see the classic team back together, although I hope to see what Taylor can do with the present Batman and Superman as well.

Corrina: I noticed the similarity as well, almost immediately, to the SF mystery that Gordon handled in Detective. Perhaps both creators have been reading Isaac Asimov’s SF mysterious lately? The classic team-up is welcome, as well as the out-of-continuity story. So far, nothing ground-breaking but a big step up from the “outsider Superman” of the previous arc.

Earth 2: Society – Dan Abnett, writer, Jorge Jimenez, artist

Ray: 6.5/10

Corrina: Better But It Probably Won’t Save the Book

Ray: This book has a creative team switch too, with Abnett taking over for Daniel Wilson, although I didn’t actually know about it until this issue. This switch wasn’t promoted by DC at all, unlike Batman/Superman. And this is definitely a title that needs some fresh blood. So what do I think of the new Earth 2?

Well, it’s definitely a significant improvement. The story is a lot less busy and the art a lot less dour. The world seems to be opening up a bit again. The story is bookended by Hawkgirl investigating a weird monolith out in the desert, and finding a secret base manned by Amazons – and led by Wonder Woman’s daughter Fury. Fury’s a character who really got short shrift in the old Earth 2 title, so I hope for some interesting stuff with her here. The rest of the issue deals rather heavily with politics, as the heroes gather together to try to figure out what the world needs. However, their meeting is interrupted by a monster attack, and after the heroes fight it off, they discover that two rival cities are blaming the other and are on the verge of war. I’m not all that fond of the idea of anti-“Wonder” sentiment on this world, as it’s a trope that feels way too Marvel-esque. I will say, however, this is the first issue since the relaunch where I’ve felt like this world might have enough potential again to sustain itself. I’m willing to let Abnett win me back to Earth 2.

Corrina: Agreed on the significant improvement! If this had been the first issue of this rebooted serious, I would’ve been excited for the title’s future. This change takes the title out of the bleakness mire. Instead, it has compelling problems but not ones that feel insurmountable.

In other words, it reads like the story of people colonizing a new world and encountering problems should read, instead of the oddness of flashbacks and in-fighting among the heroes that dominated the first seven issues. If you’re mildly intrigued by the concept, this is an issue to flip through. It just might be your thing.

Catwoman #48 – Frank Tieri, writer, Inaki Miranda, art

Ray: 6/10

Corrina: Bland.

Ray: Man, do I miss Genvieve Valentine. Last issue of Catwoman wasn’t terrible, but it was basically a cliche storm of crime comics. This issue…is basically more of the same. In case anyone thought there would be a mystery about who was setting Catwoman up for the murder of her fence, it’s revealed right off the bat – corrupt cop Vincent Scagnetti, a notorious mob liaison who is so bad at this that he has the blood of his victim still on his shirt as he attempts to arrest Catwoman. She manages to escape and goes after one of the people she believes is setting her up – Penguin. After a back-and-forth of threats, Catwoman winds up sucker-punched by Clayface, Penguin’s bodyguard. Escaping once again, she tracks down one of the few allies she has left – Killer Croc. At least, she thinks he’s an ally until he gets word of the million-dollar bounty on her head and turns on her as well. So Catwoman is pretty clearly alone at this point, but this story feels a lot like the stuff we saw in the 90s pre-Brubaker. I will say Inaki Miranda’s art in this issue is pretty damn good, but it’s all in the service of a fairly forgettable story.

Corrina: Ray hit the nail on the head. Valentine, we miss you on this title! I may not have loved everything about her run but it was high-quality, layered storytelling, fitting for an anti-hero like Catwoman. I also agree that this new take feels like a Catwoman story from before Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke revamped the character. The lasting legacy of that classic run seems not to be a more adult sensibility for the character but rather the “goggles Catwoman” costume whose zipper is usually down. :sigh: The plot is standard, predictable, and mostly ‘meh.’ Bummer.

However, Miranda’s cityscapes are lovely.

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

Ray: 5/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy.

Ray: It’s the finale of Sean Ryan’s arc before Tim Seeley takes over next issue, and it resolves most of his recurring plot lines in a hurry. When we last left off, Vic Sage had unleashed failed Suicide Squad member Black Manta to track down Waller and his team. When Waller’s right-hand woman Bonnie discovers his plot, Sage kills her rather abruptly. Bonnie was never all that much of a character, but this is still sort of a disappointing turn. Once that happens, the Squad infiltrates the headquarters and faces off against Sage and his goons. The only really interesting moment in this issue is Deadshot – who had been dealing with a nagging injury for most of this run – pulling off a crack shot and saving Waller’s life. At which point Waller immediately betrays them and goes back on their promise to free them at the conclusion of this mission. So everyone pretty much winds up right back where they started, although I did think the final conversation between Deadshot and Waller was well-written. Looking forward to what Seeley does with this group of characters.

Corrina: Yep, reset button firmly ‘hit’ or, at least, the button that puts everyone back in their places. Except for poor Bonnie, who seems to be a sacrificial lamb to prove that this Vic Sage is a cowardly jerk. Such a random use of Sage makes me want to run to my Denny O’Neil/Denys Cowan Question trades to wash the taste out of my mouth.

Someone tell an original story with this team. Quick.

Red Hood/Arsenal – Scott Lobdell, writer, Javier Fernandez, artist

Ray: 2/10

Corrina: ::sigh::

Ray: I’m reminded of the Office episode with the “Five days since our last nonsense” sign. DC needs a sign with “___ days since someone tried to make Subterranea a thing”. And we’re at zero. The weird underground kingdom that ruined the Nocenti Catwoman run is back, as Arsenal and Joker’s Daughter have been kidnapped by the weird residents of the city under Gotham. Arsenal is being tortured and interrogated by some rather incompetent torturers in leather gimp masks, while Joker’s Daughter is at the mercy of Charon, the former ruler of the city who she deposed in Catwoman.

Meanwhile, Jason is in search of his teammates and arrives in the city (after a halfway decent segment involving him swimming underground and finding the hidden city), only to be met with a group of local residents who view all outsiders with suspicion and immediately attack him. So all three of our team members are essentially caught up in stock plots that don’t really go anywhere. And no, Joker’s Daughter is still not adding anything to this book.

Corrina: Just when I thought this title might suck me in, with romantically tragic opening that includes the legend of the underground city.  I found that idea pretty damn cool and had no idea came from the Nocenti run of

But then the rest of the issue is awful and I wanted to shake my first and say “Lobdell!!!” when the so-called Iron Rule showed up. So very extreme 90s. Just no.

Out of Continuity Reviews:

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – James Tynion IV, script, Freddie E. Williams II, art and cover.

Ray: 8.5/10

Corrina: Fun!

Ray: The first issue of this miniseries was a lot of fun, but it had one problem that happens with a lot of crossovers – the two heroes don’t actually meet until the last page. Fortunately, that just means things pick up very quickly this issue, as the Turtles and Batman react exactly as you’d expect to meeting four talking giant turtles/a man in a bat suit – they fight. It’s almost a requirement in crossovers that the heroes fight when they meet, but Tynion manages to make this old trope fresh. It’s very clear that Batman isn’t taking this fight very seriously, and is more just trying to get the measure of these weird creatures. Meanwhile, the Turtles are perfectly in character – Mikey is star-struck, Raphael wants to destroy Batman for taking his Sai, Donatello tries to reason with him, and Leo puts up the best fight. Mike’s continued fan-boying over Batman back at the lair is hilarious.

There’s also a great hook that gives the crossover a sense of urgency, as Bruce Wayne and Lucius Fox discover when researching the evidence from the other world – the DCU’s renders the mutagen in the blood inert. So if the Turtles and Splinter stay on this world too long, they’re going to revert back to normal turtles and a rat. It doesn’t start to happen this issue, but it’s a nice sword of Damocles to hang over their heads. And while the heroes get all the press, I have to say I really enjoyed watching Shredder utterly handle Penguin and his henchmen with ease. The IDW Shredder is definitely one of the most intimidating and competent versions of the character. As a huge fan of both properties, I am loving this book.

Corrina: I had no problem with the main characters not meeting in the first issue simply because the story dropped us into stuff already happening, rather than making us read a lot of setup. Tynion’s gift for dialogue helps when writing the Turtles and, even though I haven’t read a TMNT comic in ages, made each character distinct. This feels like an organic story rather than a story smashed together to take advantage of crossover appeal. Still, fans are not forgotten: watching Shredder and Penguin interact is a whole lot of fun. I look forward to more of Splinter/Batman.

Batman ’66/The Man from U.N.C.L.E. writer, Jeff Parker, Penciller, David Hahn, inkers, Karl Kesel & David Hahn

Ray: 8/10

Corrina: Good all-ages story

Ray: The less high-profile but no less entertaining crossover from the 60s finally introduces its respective heroes, as it unearths some interesting connections between the two properties and sets up a unified and dangerous threat. As the agents of U.N.C.L.E. investigate the mass Arkham breakout, their handler Alexander Waverly reveals that his top suspect is Bruce Wayne, a key donor to Arkham – and that he has an in to Wayne Manor, courtesy of his old friend from the service, Alfred Pennyworth. I’ll admit a soft spot to anything that references Alfred’s military and spy history, so I love this.

Meanwhile, the villains are taken to an underground lair where a mysterious unseen figure inducts them into THRUSH, UNCLE’s evil rival organization. It all reaches its climax at a Wayne Manor party, where Napoleon and Illya work their way into Wayne’s inner circle – and Napoleon charms Barbara Gordon. However, the party is interrupted by Egghead and the rest of the villains, as they crash the party with THRUSH technology, steal an experimental satellite, and get away, leaving the party with Ivy’s giant plant-men to contend with. It’s a great, old-school spy thriller that perfectly combines the vibes of both properties. Glad to see ’66 continuing, and I hope to see more crossovers in the future. Dare I hope for Bionic Woman?

Corrina: I’d love to see the Bionic Woman! This title has morphed, somehow, into an all-ages Batman book where crazy adventures can happen. The longer the comic runs, the deeper the storyworld becomes, adding a depth that wasn’t in the television show. Still, no danger of silliness disappearing, even with the addition of the U.N.C.L.E Agents. And did I detect a bit of a wink to the slash fandom featuring our two agents? I believe I did.

Clark Kent takes to the playboy life. Image copyright DC Comics
Clark Kent takes to the playboy life. Image copyright DC Comics

Superman: American Alien – Max Landis, writer, Joelle Jones, illustrator

Ray: 2/10

Corrina: What the Heck is This?

Ray: This week we got an origin story that sheds new light on a less-know period in the life of a classic hero. We also got American Alien. The first issue had some endearing moments, but every successive issue feels like it’s trying to give us the weirdest, most cynical take on Superman ever.

This issue has Clark winning a trip to Cancun, only to have his plane crash in the Caribbean. He saves the pilot and swims to a nearby Yacht – and then gets picked up and gets mistaken by a bunch of drunk rich kids (including Ollie Queen and Victor Zsasz) for the guest of honor – Bruce Wayne. As he tries to explain, he’s pulled aside by a young woman named Barbara Minerva (yep, that’s her) who explains that Bruce never shows up to his parties and Clark might as well play along. This includes a scene where Clark complains about how the price of caviar could be used to help lots of people, but mostly so we can have lots of scenes of Superman partying, getting drunk, and having casual sex with the future Cheetah. After a predictable breakup with Barbara at port, he heads off – and we see Bruce Wayne watching him on closed circuit camera from Ra’s Al Ghul’s headquarters.

Then we get a weird one-page story where Mr. Mxyzptlk taunts us that more people remember him than us, so maybe he’s real and we’re not. This is one of the weirdest Superman comics I’ve ever read, and it’s a good example of how some flashbacks and origins really don’t need to be told. I would have been just fine never knowing about Superman’s college party days. Joelle Jones’ art is pretty good throughout, but it’s a shame it’s wasted on a Superman story that adds nothing to a well-known origin.

Corrina: What the heck is going on with this series? First, it grounds Clark in reality and hints that Smallville joins together to protect his secret ID from the outside world, which is excellent, and then issue devolved into a weird hostage action flick, and now I don’t know what issue hopes to accomplish.

It’s not that I object to Clark partying or finding first love but Bruce Wayne’s yacht is an odd choice. (Is Bruce watching the whole time? That’ll add fuel to the Bruce/Clark shippers.) Also odd is pairing Clark with Barbara Minerva. I disagree with Ray that the sex is casual–it seems to mean far more to each of them than that. That Clark would have a youthful fling makes perfect sense but couldn’t we use someone from his own mythos? The future Cheetah is, I guess, supposed to come up when Superman encounters Wonder Woman but it’s still random. Why not use Lori Lemoris to broaden Clark’s world?

Clark’s idea that he has a responsibility to the wider world, which dovetails with Barbara Minerva’s goals, reminded me a bit of Superman: Birthright. Not good for this series, as Birthright is a much better story.

My main reaction to this issue is that it’s just plain dumb. Yet, it’s selling far more than most of the other books in this recap. The power of a Hollywood name. And, to be fair, the power of Jones’ excellent art.

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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2 thoughts on “The DC Comics You Should Be Reading

  1. “Either regular DC readers are unwilling to read anything even slightly different than their basic superhero story, non-DC readers haven’t gotten the word that these non-flagship titles are inventive and fascinating, or people are buying a bunch of them digitally and, hence, the sales aren’t reflected in print.”

    I have a theory about this.
    For the last 30+ years, Marvel and DC’s marketing strategy has revolved around so-called ‘Events’ involving characters from across their lines, and promising lasting changes to their ‘universes’. The result of this has been taking focus and attention away from their characters and onto their fictional universes themselves. This has been especially true at DC, many of whose Events have revolved around changing or modifying the structure and rules of their Universe.
    This has resulted in a system where characters who interact with and participate in these events, and in making these lasting changes to the universe, are seen as important, or ‘core’ characters, with characters who don’t interact as much with the universe as a whole, or whose stories are largely inconsequential to the meta-narrative, are seen as non-essential or tangential characters.

    In several cases, these tangential characters are seen by those crafting the meta-narrative as expendable, as can be seen when Marvel’s Canadian Superteam Alpha Flight were wiped out en masse in an Avengers storyline in a handful of panels, when the teenage Young Warriors died to trigger the ‘Civil War’ event, or where the cast of DC’s short-lived science fiction series, The Darkstars, were similarly wiped out in the pages of Adam Strange. DC has even killed of beloved but minor characters like the Ted Kord incarnation of the Blue Beetle, or the Ryan Choi version of the Atom, and these tangential deaths have emphasized that these characters are unimportant in the ‘larger scheme of things’.
    Even now, we’re seeing the upcoming ‘Civil War 2’ event promoted as starting with the death of a major character, and speculation is rife over which character is sufficiently expendable.

    What this means is that readers have been trained to categorize these characters, and to prioritize the ones who will be important to the meta-narrative. Remember, this has been happening at least since ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ and ‘Secret Wars’ in the 1980’s, and the vast majority of readers have been operating under this system for their entire comics reading life. So the two big companies have had a lifetime to condition their readers to categorize titles as ‘important, must-read’ and ‘tangential, will probably just be cancelled anyway’.

    The best hope to defeat this self-fulfilling prophesy is the influx of new readers who haven’t existed in this mind-set for their entire lives. Readers who’ve come on board because they love ‘Squirrel Girl’, ‘Starfire’, ‘Batgirl’ or ‘Ms.Marvel’ and don’t really feel a particular tie to the overall universe or meta-narrative, who still want to read stories about characters because they like the characters, not because they’re considering how the character works as a cog within a greater engine.
    But yes, if DC wants to know why ‘Omega Men’ isn’t selling, it’s because they trained and conditioned readers not to buy it over the last 30 years.

    1. There is much truth to what you say. Why invest in a new character when DC will kill them off. I admire DC for taking chances and many of these titles, (including PREZ, which I forgot to list) stand alone without continuity. But when the company basically says “if you love the DC world, you must read these crossovers or miss out” and you have a limited budget, you’re going to grab the event stuff, and not take a chance on Martian Manhunter or Black Canary being great.

      Which is too bad because Teen Titans was once DC’s biggest hit, a title that basically came out of nowhere from a concept that had been twice canceled. It turned into a property that led to revitalization across the board and several animated shows that must have brought DC in some serious money.

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